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Friday 31 March 2023

Big Companies, Large Tentacles

This is new from Edinburgh's Eyes Of Others, a one man outfit making music he describes as 'post- pub couldn't get tin the club'. It's definitely leftfield enough although the thump of the kick drum and the 303 acid squiggle both hint that there are clubs where this could be played. Big Companies, Large Tentacles is doomy and unsettling with a vocal suggesting a man at the end of his tether, with screaming and squealing in the background and mutterings about love and Freud's chaise longue. Organ from a horror film cuts in before the acid goes off at the three minute mark. The video does little to lessen the general unease,  existential dread and rising anxiety either. Happy Friday!

You can buy Big COmpanies, Large Tentacles, together with an instrumental version and Fantastic Man remix, at Bandcamp. Eyes Of Others album is due in May on Heavenly. 

Thursday 30 March 2023

Thrill Me

The recent Unloved album, Polychrome is a succinct addition to last year's The Pink Album, the murky, moody girl group/ Wrecking Crew/ Serge Gainsbourg noir sound bent a little further out of shape. From the jerky and disorientating 60s pop of I Did It to the slow motion melancholia/ drama of Thank You For Being A Friend, You Know, The One You Never Want To Say Goodbye To it's an album I've been back to often. A remix EP has been released with new versions that take the songs further and deeper. Justin Robertson's rocking dub version of Thrill Me (Towers Of Wonder Remix) is a delight, thumping echo- laden drums, spaced out FX and a bassline conjured up straight from King Tubby's stockpile of bass. Jade's voice competes with the sounds reverberating around the mixing desk. 

Manfredas takes I Did It and warps it into a very long and strange trip indeed, a six minute first half with percussion, drums, stuttering sounds and chopped up vocals, then a pause and an equally distorted, psychedelic second half with organ, whirring noises and echoes of vocals. 

In complete contrast to both Justin and Manfreda's remixes, London duo Raw Silk refit the album's title track Polychrome as sleek sci fi acid techno. 

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Double Avery

As well as my ambient/ cosmische gig on Friday night I spent much of Sunday in two different venues enjoying DJ sets by Daniel Avery. The first was at Ramona on Swan Street, an indoor/ outdoor venue with a DJ booth inside a large teepee. The appearance, billed as The Morning After, was part of BBC Radio 6's weekend long festival in Manchester. Avery is riding high on the back of four albums since 2020 (Illusion Of Time, Love + Light, Together In Static and Ultra Truth) and a career high in the single Lone Swordsman (written and recorded in the immediate aftermath of Andrew Weatherall's death in February 2020). Lone Swordsman got an airing at Ramona and the chilled industrial ambient sounds were a part of the lunchtime set but by the time we'd finished our pizza he was upping the tempo and found a sweet spot of lovely 110 bpm thump, big warm basslines and fizzing topnotes, entrancing grooves- intense and hypnotic stuff.  

Daniel had agreed to play at Yes too, a venue a hop across town in a converted three storey Victorian house near the old Factory offices/ Paradise Factory building. Free entry and a five hour set from 5pm through to 10pm. Daylight raves are a thing now. We wandered across town, stopping off in Ancoats for a drink, in time to see him start his second set of the day, tipping his hat to the city by starting with Everything's Gone Green, New Order's 1981 classic melding of rock and dance. The crowd, a mix of the young and the middle aged, were onboard straight away and the room became a mass of dancing. He followed it fairly soon with Peak High's Was That All It Was, a disco/ chug/ Balearic highlight from the end of last year and not much later spun a very chunky edit of Primal Scream's Don't Fight It, Feel It, presumably his own work. Both venues were graced by what sounded like his own, as yet unreleased, remix of Depeche Mode along with lots of modern acid techno. Avery sets have plenty of thump- this is techno after all- but with peaks and troughs, moments of euphoria and release. 

We left around seven, it being Sunday and a school night (and having been out for several hours by this point). Somewhat amusingly, while on the dancefloor at Yes, clutching my pint and jigging around, I was approached by a woman who said hello and then asked if was 'Mr Turner'. I nodded. 'You teach my child', she said, and we both laughed, a little nervously. 

Lone Swordsman

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Yard Gig

Friday night in Cheetham Hill, just north of Manchester city centre with Strangeways prison dominating the after dark skyline, is a part of the city that stubbornly refuses gentrification. A ten minute walk up the main road from the back of Victoria Station brings you to a relatively new Manchester gig/ event venue, The Yard. Friday night's bill saw Wigan guitarist Mark Peters and Manchester ambient techno three piece Marconi Union playing. Mark stepped up to the low stage, clips from 1950s Western films playing behind him, in line with the North West England meets the wide open spaces of the prairies psychogeography of his albums (2017's Innerlands and 2022's Red Sunset Dreams). 

With backing tracks playing through the laptop, Mark plays a wonderfully chilled set of tracks. The songs and his playing reflect the cosmische guitar sounds of Michael Rother, the delay and chorus fretboard work of Vini Reilly and his own ambient guitar styles. The opening song is a new one, Cinder Flower, and there are the windswept but beautiful soundscapes of Innerland songs Ashursts's Bridge, May Hill and Twenty Bridges. Alpenglow and Magic Hour, both from a just released EP, sound full and rich as the notes fill the converted 19th century building. Alpenglow is chiming krauty bliss, as if Neu! had been from Winstanley rather than Dusseldorf, and Magic Hour is indeed magical, understated but gently heroic, the spirit of early Verve intact. Towards the close of the set, just before Alpenglow, Dot Allison's voice drifts through the PA as her vocal from Switched On The Sky floats on top of Mark's guitar and then he soars into the spaced out version of the song, Switched On.

After a short break Manchester trio Marconi Union take the stage, three figures lined up behind a bank of keyboards, synths, laptop and machines. The laptop and synth stage right kick into life and the dark, brooding sounds fill the room, lots of texture and atmospherics but with melodies and purpose too- no floating ambient drift here, but tracks with intent. There is guitar centre stage, the notes another layer of sounds on top of the machine music, along with the sometimes mournful keys/ piano.

The films projected behind them- skyscrapers shot from below, a Manchester Metrolink tram gliding slowly past from left to right-  add to sense of motion. Everything happens without explanation. There's no chat between the songs. It's impressive and weighty stuff and the room, pretty close to being sold out, is an appreciative audience. This is Strata Alt, from May last year, giving a good idea of what they do. 

Back in 2011 they recorded a track called Weightless, an eight minute collaboration with sound therapist Lyz Cooper, field recordings, piano and guitar with tones specifically designed to induce a trancelike state and aid relaxation and sleep and reduce anxiety. It has been streamed millions of times on Youtube and if you want more there's a slowed down and stretched out ten hour version here

On my way home, through a sequence of events I won't bother to go into right now, I met my wife (out on a separate night out) and we ended up at a party on Swan Street in the city centre, a party in a former chip shop now cocktail bar, and were dancing until 2am, the oldest people in the room. Later on we were wandering the wet streets of Manchester city centre looking for a taxi in the rain. 

Monday 27 March 2023

Monday's Long Song

Out last Friday and the title track from his album The Strand Cinema this is Phil Keiran's latest release- a tribute to an art deco cinema in Belfast. The Strand Cinema is six minutes and forty seconds of gorgeous instrumental music with echoes of the kosmsiche groups of early 70s West Germany, rippling synths and cinematic strings with layers of cello and violin, that make The Strand Cinema an immersive and emotive listen. The album can be bought here

Sunday 26 March 2023

An Hour Of Weatherall Covers

We all love a good cover version don't we? The reconstructing of a familiar song in a new form, the buzz of hearing someone do a song differently, irreverently or lovingly, and the nodding of the head to influences and inspirations. At times cover versions can also seem a bit lazy, a way out of writer's block or something thrown together for B-side at a late hour and under pressure, but when done well and with the right intent, they're a joy. 

In two weeks time it would have been Andrew Weatherall's 60th birthday had he lived. There are a series of events taking place nationally throughout April to celebrate this- a full on night at Fabric in London with a huge line up of DJ talent together with nights in Glasgow, Belfast and Todmorden, all places with strong Weatherall connections and crowds. I'll come back to the Todmorden one nearer the time (29th April) with more details but it does include a second ride out for The Flightpath Estate DJ team (which includes yours truly). I expect to run several Weatherall posts over the next few weeks- that's probably not much different to usual round here, he does tend to feature fairly often- and thought I'd kick off with this one, a mix for Sunday of cover versions Andrew either recorded as an artist himself or other other artists he remixed. It is not surprisingly a fairly eclectic bunch of songs and artists. It now occurs to me that I should have put the originals together as a mix too so maybe that will follow at some point a companion piece.

Fifty Five Minutes Of Andrew Weatherall Cover Versions

  • Carry Me Home
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart (A Mix Of Two Halves)
  • Witchi Tai To (2 Lone Swordsmen Remix)
  • The Drum (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • A Love From Outer Space (Version 2)
  • Sex Beat
  • Slip Inside This House
  • Goodbye Johnny (Andrew Weatherall's Nyabinghi Noir Mix)
  • Faux/ Whole Wide World
Carry Me Home is a cover of a Dennis Wilson song from 1973, a wracked funereal blues for a dying soldier in Vietnam that was written for the 1973 album Holland but was left off. 'Life is meant to live/ I'm afraid to die', he sings. Primal Scream's version which Andrew produced is from the Dixie- Narco EP, a very downbeat and beautiful way to pay homage. Andrew and Hugo Nicolson's mix of instruments and production is stunning, Duffy's electric piano at the start and the acoustic guitar and cello in the end section especially so. 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a Saint Etienne cover of a Neil Young song. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. Andrew's remix sent the song into a dubbed out bliss, Augustus Pablo- esque melodica in the first half (played by Pete Astor of The Weather Prophets), the Jean Binta Breeze dub poetry sample in the middle cutting the track in half, and then the song appearing in the second (along with the Jean 'cool and deadly' sample). 

Witchi Tai To was a 2007 single by X- Press 2, the Two Lone Swordsmen remix adding the live drums of their sound from that period and matching the Wrong Meeting albums of the same year. The original was a a 1971 single by Jim Pepper, a Native American singer and saxophonist who took a peyote chant his grandfather taught him and turned it into a hybrid jazz/ Native American song. X- Press 2's cover was sung by Tim de Laughter of The Polyphonic Spree. 

The Drum was a single for The Impossibles, an Edinburgh duo who made early 90s jangly indie- pop. The original is a Slapp Happy song from 1974. Weatherall's remix, from 1991, is a lesser known one from his early 90s hot streak, a tour de force of throwing whatever is at hand in the studio/ imagination at a remix and it working. Andrew was ably assisted by Hugo Nicolson on this one too. 

A Love From Outer Space was the calling card from the 2013 album by The Asphodells, the outfit he formed with Timothy J. Fairplay after they had bene working together on remixes and their own material and realised they had enough for an album. Andrew's vocals were a big feature of The Asphodells (following on from the Two Lone Swordsmen records of the previous few years where he stepped up to the mic for the first time since the early 80s). A Love From Outer Space also became the name of his traveling club night, with compadre Sean Johnstone, a night never knowingly exceeding 122 bpm. The original song is by late 80s one offs A.R. Kane, a duo of dreads who made spaced out dub/ dreampop. 

Sex Beat was a Two Lone Swordsmen single in 2004 and on the From The Double Gone Chapel album of the same year, a radical shift in sound and style after the pure electro of 2000's Tiny Reminders. Andrew and Keith Tenniswood becoming a garage band with Nick Burton on drums and Chris Mackin on guitar. Sex Beat was such a blast when it came out in 2004, an energetic swerve in the road to somewhere new. Sex Beat was on The Gun Club's 1981 debut Fire Of Love, a blues/ rockabilly/ Southern Gothic classic. Leader, singer and writer Jeffrey Lee Pierce pops up again in this mix in the form of Goodbye Johnny.

Slip Inside This House is a cover of The 3th Floor Elevators song from their 1967 album Easter Everywhere, the second song on Primal Scream's 1991 opus Screamadelica, a juddering statement of acid house intent after the rock n' roll opening of Moving On Up. Hypnotone's Tony Martin was involved in the production of this track too. It was sung by Throb. Bobby Gillespie is said to have bene suffering from 'acid house flu'.

Goodbye Johnny was on Primal Scream's 2013 album More Light. It came from a covers project that paid tribute to Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Weatherall's spaced out remix tips its hat to the Nyabinghi sound of African Head Charge, a big influence on Andrew. 

Faux/ Whole Wide World comes from a Radio One session from 2004. Faux was the first single ahead of From The Double Gone Chapel, a scuzzed up slice of electro- rockabilly, combining rapid programmed drums and fuzz guitars with Weatherall vocals and lyrics about the love of his life, Elizabeth Walker. As a touring band Two Lone Swordsmen had a habit of working Faux into Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World, a peerless 1977 single. At the time Andrew was recommending the new album then just released by Eric, Bungalow Hi, a record Andrew described as 'like Duane Eddy meets Aphex Twin'. The recording here is ripped from a radio session, never officially released. There was a version on the Rotters Golf Club website for a while too, part of a three song session they recorded playing at the Bloc Weekender. Of all the lyrics that swirl around Andrew's world and outlook, 'I don't do faux', is as good as any. 

Saturday 25 March 2023

Saturday Live

Last month The Charlatans travelled across the USA with Ride playing a tour of double headers, each band taking it in turns to headline. While out there The Charlatans called in at KEXP, a radio station in Seattle and recorded a half hour live set. KEXP have a load of these up on the internet (Ride did one a few years ago in fact), a session which isn't quite a gig- there's no audience for starters- but which is filmed as the band play live. The sound is always good, the bands seem to enjoy it and the filming is revealing but unobtrusive. It's good to be able to see what the musicians are actually doing on each song. You get to marvel at Tim's jumper. 

The Charlatans play four songs at KEXP- the massive, crunching Chemical Brothers assisted 1997 single One To Another, the wheezy organ- led Weirdo and the subtle, funky ode to early 90s hedonism of Chewing Gum Weekend (both from 1992's Between 10th And 11th album, an album they played in full back in September at New Century Hall, a night which revealed the album to be a lost gem) and their 1990 breakthrough The Only One I Know. 

As a contrast, slipping back in time but still in front of TV cameras, here they are in 1996 playing at Channel 4's The White Room playing One To Another and Crashin' In in front of a youthful audience. The late and sadly missed Jon Brookes is on drums, kicking up a fearsome groove. Organ and keys are courtesy of Martin Duffy, standing in for the recently departed Rob Collins who died in a car crash that year. I think this clip was the first time Martin played with them outside a rehearsal room. A week later they played at Knebworth supporting Oasis. Duffy sadly died last year too. The Charlatans are a band who have known tragedy. The final minute of the clip has the band playing the end section of Crashin' In while Tim stands at the back of the stage, grinning at the sound his band are making. 

Friday 24 March 2023

Me And Mr. Jones

This is the third of a run of posts featuring the music of Luke Vibert, courtesy of reader Spencer sending me a song each week for me to write about. We've got plans to change the nature of this collaboration a bit in the upcoming weeks so this may the end of one run of posts before the start of something new. The previous Luke Vibert posts were Disco Nasty, Luke in his Kerrier District guise, and last week's Doozit from a 2015 album called Bizaster. Today sees Luke as Plug and a track from an album from 1996, Drum 'n' Bass For Papa. 

Firstly I should probably say that this track was new to me, coming to me via the internet after a twenty- three gap. Secondly, I was never a big fan of drum 'n' bass. In the 90s dance music was a forward thinking and progressive musical form, constantly shifting and dividing, new genres and sub- genres spinning off from the centre. In that spirit I often felt I should go with the new, be open to the new forms- but drum 'n' bass never really clicked with me. I had/ have a couple of Goldie singles (inevitably), some 12" singles by Photek, maybe one or two other things but that's about it. 

Luke Vibert made so much music and in so many different musical styles under a slew of different names. His drum 'n' bass output on Blue Planet is highly regarded and Drum 'n' Bass For Papa featured highly in some of 1996 and 1997's end of year lists (it was released in the US in '97). Clicking play a week ago did made me wonder what I'd make of some mid- 90s drum 'n' bass, all these years later, a non- aficionado of the music.

Me And Mr. Jones

Luke's trademark sense of humour, love of off kilter and quirky samples is as much a part of his drum 'n' bass recordings as the rest of his work. Me And Mr. Jones starts out like cartoon horror, the shlocky sounds of 1970s Hammer House Of Horror- organ, echo, a spooky voice- and then the drums hit, rapid fire breakbeats, the jolting stop- start rhythm and deep sub- bass. The track twists and turns onwards, spitting out of the speakers as the staccato horror film strings sweep about in the background, piano runs drop in and a voice hums. The breakdown at the end, the breakbeat cutting out, brings in a a brief burst of 70s funk bass and then it's over. Luke takes two things that haven't been put together before and makes them seem like obvious bedfellows- amazingly it still sounds very fresh all these years later, a very leftfield exploration of sound and rhythms.

Thursday 23 March 2023


Monday's posting of Saturday's Angels by If? and the mention of the Lionrock remix of that song clearly worked some kind of magic on my in- car mp3 player (or it was merely coincidence, you decide). Driving home last night Lionrock's 1992 self- titled debut single Lion Rock came up and soundtracked a very enjoyable six and a half minute section of my drive home. 

Lion Rock 

Lionrock was the name of Justin Robertson's 90s outfit, a group which started out very much in the progressive house area and then as the decade went on moved into ska and Big Beat. Joining Justin in Lionrock were MC Buzz B (Mancunian rapper Sean Braithwaite) and Mark Stagg (who was then replaced in 1995 by Roger Lyons). The track Lion Rock set out their signature sound, Justin Robertson's trusty horns, a thumping kick drum and occasional interruptions by tumbling timbales. 

They followed Lion Rock with Packet Of Peace, a similarly rushing progressive house thumper but with MC Buzz B vocal, his cool, conscious rap/ poem riding on top of the music- 'I'll leave my mind beneath the mat so you can let yourself in'.

Packet Of Peace (Edit) 

Packet of Peace came with a bunch of remixes. The group's own Lionrock remix, titled No More Fucking Trumpets, opens with a distorted voice intoning 'Lionrock sound system' and then some very '93 synth sounds. The drums kick in, the warm, fat bass starts pumping and we're off on a long old remix adventure, eight minutes of lovely, trancey '93 house. 

Packet Of Peace (No More Fucking Trumpets)

Lionrock were masters of the remix, providing excellent clubby versions of songs by Bjork (Big Time Sensuality), The Shamen (Boss Drum), Transglobal Underground (International Times) and The Grid (Rollercoaster) among others (plus the If? mentioned above). They also took a song from the much derided final Happy Mondays album (Yes Please!) and turned it into Lionrock gold with their remix of Sunshine And Love. But maybe these are all best left for another day.

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Common Land

This was supposed to publish this morning as usual but I messed up the post settings so it's late- but better late than never.

This track came out last month but I only got around to listening to it recently. It's fair to say that it is so far up my street it is practically delivering itself through my letterbox. James Holden is a DJ and producer from Leicestershire (Market Bosworth to be exact, the town close to the site of the Battle of Bosworth that conclusively ended the 15th century Wars of the Roses). He hit the big time at the turn of the millennium with the trance single Horizons and then again with his legendary 2004 remix of The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake. He got tired of the life of the superstar DJ, and ten years ago headed back to the smaller stages and fields and has now returned to his roots, to the sounds of the early 90s and the records that first made an impression on him- The KLF, Orbital, Future Sound Of London, 808 State and pirate radio stations picked up through long wave radio. 

James has collected sounds from the English countryside, field recordings of birdsong, and they adorn the new single, Common Land. It opens with the very early 90s sounding synths and then drums kick in, the spirit of 808 Sate and FSOL conjured up for the 2020s. There is distorted, high pitched birdsong, repeating synth notes and then a sax part (by Christopher Duffin, a member of Xam Duo who I posted not too long ago). The more natural sounding birdsong chirrups and the sax wails, the euphoric synth notes repeat and eventually the drums come to a halt for a lovely rave ending, ready to be mixed into whatever is cued up to follow. 

Common Land references the Right To Roam protests of the 1930s, the Criminal Justice Bill protests of the mid- 90s and more recent protests about the use of land and its ownership such as the ban on camping in Dorset. He sees dance music has still having an anti- establishment power, that it can still be a force for good, bringing people together in a way which as he says, 'doesn't have to be a capitalist- entertainment- complex'. The forthcoming album, if all this wasn't enough, is called This Is A High- Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to hearing it. 

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Catch And Shake

I was watching the latest episodes of the Guy Garvey: From The Vaults series (on Sky Arts, we get it as part of our Freeview package- I've never paid for Sky anything, hitting Rupert Murdoch where it hurts every day). The series trawls through the ITV and regional networks archives of musical performances, some never previously seen, some only seen when transmitted. There are lots of clips from The Tube, Friday night teatime brilliance, and from a slew of other programmes such as Razzmatazz. The latest run has clips from 1982 (including a never before seen clip of Wah! miming The Story Of The Blues on a never broadcast pilot for a Granada music show hosted by Pauline Black of The Selector), 1984 and 1987. In 1987 with The Tube having ended Tyne Tees briefly tried to run an alternative TV chart show to rival Top Of The Pops. The Roxy was based from the studios The Tube had vacated and in the summer of 1987 attracted some big indie names- New Order did True Faith, The Jesus And Mary Chain mimed their way through Only Happy When It Rains and The Cure turned up to do Catch

Catch is a funny little song, the second single from their then just released album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, a double vinyl packaged in a bright red/ orange sleeve, a close up of some lips. It came out at the end of May 1987, not long after I turned seventeen. I wasn't a huge fan of the group at the time but had a tape of Kiss Me and only a fool would deny the pleases of songs like Just Like Heaven and Why Can't I Be You? I had, until the other night, forgotten all about Catch

It's less than three minutes long, led by a violin and Robert Smith doo doo dooing his way in. The melody is achingly gorgeous, acoustic guitars and the snare drum rattle, there's a very summer sounding guitar solo and Smith's swooning, romantic vocal, 'I remember she always used to fall down a lot/ That girl was always falling/ Again and again/ I used to sometimes try to catch her/ But I never even caught her name'.  Appearing on The Roxy didn't seem to shift many extra copies of Catch and it peaked at number twenty- seven in the charts and it is overshadowed by the band's big songs from the mid- 80s to early 90s run of singles and albums but it really hit a spot for me recently. 

I then discovered that I own Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me on CD- I don't remember buying it but there was a period when CDs became much cheaper in bulk buy deals at HMV and Fopp and I think I picked it up as the third or fifth in a buy three/ five for a tenner deal. Catch is the second song on the album. At the other end of the album and in tone and sentiment is Shiver And Shake, the penultimate song on the album and messy tirade against a former lover/ bandmate with Hooky- esque bass, noisy guitars and crashing drums. Smith doesn't start singing until over halfway through, 'You're a waste of time/ Just a babbling face/ Just three sick holes that run like sores/ You're a fucking waste'. He does at least admit the object of this hatred, who he wants to smash to pieces, makes him shiver and shake when he thinks of how they make him hate. From the sweetest love song to violent hatred, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me covers the range of human emotions. 

Monday 20 March 2023

Monday's Long Song

We had a day out to the coast yesterday, driving to Thurstaston beach (above) and then on to West Kirkby on the Wirral peninsula. Just a change of scenery, some sea (even if it's very far away due to the tide being out) and a walk along a beach does the spirits the world of good. 

Saturday's Angels by If? circled back into my life over the weekend too, first when Khayem posted the Justin Robertson Most Excellent Remix at Dubhed on Saturday. I dug out my vinyl copy and then played it several times- again, an instant way to feel better. Saturday's Angels is a slice of 1990, upbeat, shuffly indie- dance pop. The Brain Mix, mixed by Mr Monday was on the 12", seven minutes plus of optimism, synth horns and wide eyed fun. 

Saturday's Angels (Brain Mix)

I was hoping I could also post the Most Excellent remix, one of Justin's best from that period with his signature horns and drums but I don't seem to have a digital copy to hand right now. Instead as a bonus Monday treat here's the group performing live on The Word, white jeans, tambourines and dancers on podiums as standard. 

If?'s Sean McLusky was a veteran of Subway Sect and The Jo- Boxers in the early 80s, the first band I ever saw play live (supporting Madness at the Apollo, 1983). By 1990 he was a London club promoter as well as one of the three behind If? (with Paul Wells and Rob Marche). The Brain was a seminal London acid house club in Soho and Love Ranch a legendary club night running in Leicester Square between 1991 and 1993. 

Records like Saturday's Angels are time capsules, capable of performing magic. Noel Coward's quote- 'strange how potent cheap music is'- carries so much truth. Songs that were recorded in a moment, not overthought or worried about or treated as great art, can gain an afterlife that vastly outweighs what they achieved in sales or recognition at the time. This song is one of them. 

Sunday 19 March 2023

Forty Five Minutes Of Sandinista!

I think I've said before that while Sandinista! may not be the greatest Clash album, it is their most adventurous, their most inventive and where the spirit of the band truly lies. Once they realised that they couldn't play 1977 and Garageland forever, they had to move on and that led them backwards into their record collections (rockabilly, blues, reggae, ska, dub) and forwards into the future (rap, hip hop, funk). They went from White Riot to Death Is A Star in six years, exploring everything they could along the way. Joe said in Westway To The World, that they went out to engage with the world in all its infinite variety (or something similar). They were never going to be stuck playing Borstal Breakout for the rest of their lives.

London Calling was the purest distillation of this, nineteen perfectly pitched slices of Clash. Sandinista! was The Clash doing whatever they wanted across the course of a year- 1980- starting with the recording of Bankrobber in Pluto Studio, Manchester and leading them back to London, to Jamaica and to New York. The idea that Sandinista! could have been a superb single disc album or double vinyl opus or a killer EP misses the point. Sandinista! is complete Clash. The roots of all of Joe's solo career, from his soundtracks to Earthquake Weather to the three albums with The Mescaleros are in Sandinista! as are the origins of Big Audio Dynamite. Fast forward to the 21st century and Mick and Paul turn up in Damon Albarn's touring version of Gorillaz, a band playing a hybrid, pick 'n' mix version of dub, pop, hip hop, funk, and whatever else- that's Sandinista! 

Forty Five Minutes Of Sandinista!

This is not an attempt to produce a perfect version of the album, a reduced version or a best of. It's some of Sandinista! mixed together, some of the lesser known songs and the ones where the spirit of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and the rest of the cast that contributed to the sessions can be found, a cast that takes in Mickey Gallagher and Norman Watt- Roy (The Blockheads), Tymon Dogg, Mikey Dread, Ellen Foley, Don Hegarty (Darts), Gary Barnacle, Ivan Julian (Voidoids), Style Scott, Pennie Smith and cartoonist Steve Bell. There's something about the songs too which lend themselves to being sequenced together, seguing from one to another.

  • Mensforth Hill
  • The Crooked Beat
  • Broadway
  • Rebel Waltz
  • One More Time
  • One More Dub
  • The Street Parade
  • Something About England
  • Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)
  • If Music Could Talk
  • Washington Bullets
Mensforth Hill is Something About England played backwards, the tapes reversed and with bits of Joe's studio chatter from New York's Electric Ladyland dropped in, the whooshing and rushing effects fading in and out. On the album it sits between Charlie Don't Surf and Junkie Slip. Here it is a slow, experimental entry to forty five minutes of deep Clash.

The Crooked Beat is Paul Simonon's tribute to South London blues parties with a lovely wandering dub bassline. Recorded in September 1980 it was one of the last songs recorded for the album, produced by Mikey Dread who drops in some additional vocals at the end. 

Broadway is a Strummer masterpiece, a mellow, late night, jazz inflected song for the bars of NYC. Joe's lyrics concern a meeting with a homeless man and former boxer in New York, Joe riffing on the sights and sounds of the city at night, a Scorcese film set to music. 

Rebel Waltz is a true hidden gem in the group's back catalogue and the album's tracklist. The lyrics are pure Strummer, a dream of armies and the losses of war. The music is Mick experimenting with playing a waltz crossed with dub, recorded at Wessex in London. The Clash as a folk band, in the truest sense of the word.

One More Time and One More Dub have to be taken together, the superb Clash- reggae of the first half dubbed out by Mikey Dread for the second. Joe sings of the poverty of the ghettoes, the civil rights movement and the Watts riots of 1965.

The Street Parade is another lesser known gem, hidden away at the end of side five on vinyl. On release some listeners may have taken ages to get to side five. The Street Parade is about losing oneself in the crowd, Strummer disappearing into the mass. The music is gorgeous, Topper and Mick showing by this point they could turn their hand to anything and do it well, with horns and marimbas carrying a Latin feel.

Something About England is a key Strummer- Jones song, marrying English music hall with lyrics spanning the 20th century, the wars, the Depression, the rebuilding of the cities and the British class system, Joe and Mick trading verses in character. 'They say the immigrants steal the hubcaps/ Of respected gentlemen/ They say it would be wine and roses/ If England were for Englishmen again', Mick sings at the start, the racism of Farage and Braverman rooted in the late 70s. 

Up In Heaven (Not Only Here) is one of Sandinista!'s few out and out rock songs, a Mick Jones guitar song with ringing lead lines and crunching riffs. Mick sings of the tower blocks he grew up in and the lives of the people that live in them. 'The wives hate their husbands/ The husbands don't care'.

If Music Could Talk is a New York song that began in Manchester, jazz blues of late night bars and not one but two Joe vocals. The backing track was recorded at Pluto with Mikey Dread and then added to later, sax wailing and floating on top. Joe's words take in Bo Diddley, Errol Flynn, Isaac Newton and Samson. 

Washington Bullets seemed the perfect place to close (though I was tempted to put one of side six's dubs last) if only because it finishes with Joe singing the album's title over the organ as it fades out. Lyrically Joe casts his eye over the USA's foreign policy in the 20th century, Chile, Cuba and Nicaragua (and the USSR's too in Afghanistan and Tibet) with a mention for Victor Jara, the Chilean singer, poet, writer and activist murdered by the CIA backed coup in 1973. Musically it started as many songs did, Topper arriving in the studio first and messing around while engineer Bill Price pressed the record button. The others would turn up one by one and start overdubbing and soon, as Bill Price says, 'we had thirty- five songs'. 

Saturday 18 March 2023

Saturday Live

Last week's Saturday Live slot was Jane's Addiction in Milan in 1990. This week's travels ten years back in time and a few hundred miles south to another American band, although one cut from a very different cloth to Jane's L.A. rock- Talking Heads. 

Talking Heads have recently announced a re- issue package of their legendary 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. Filmed across three nights, Stop Making Sense blurred the lines between gig and film, a high concept collaboration between David Byrne, Jonathan Demme and the band. The staging, starting out with just Byrne, an acoustic guitar and a ghettoblaster, then the stage being assembled as the group joins Byrne on stage, through to the big suit of the end, was as much part of the film as the music. 

In Rome in 1980 Talking Heads are playing a gig, no elaborate set or extras, just an extraordinary hour of music from the band, already expanded beyond Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison into a six piece band capable of reshaping the Talking Heads studio sounds into a live set. Adrian Belew is on guitar, not quite lead guitar but definitely more than a hired hand- his playing uses feedback, noise and texture as much as anything as ordinary as a solo. Bernie Worrell has joined on keyboards and percussion, bringing the space age Parliament/ Funkadelic groove. Buster Cherry Jones is on bass (along with Tina) and backing singer Dolette McDonald is one of several voices along with Byrne's own frenetic, anxious lead vox. It all looks like they're having enormous fun, writing the punk- funk rulebook and sending post- punk into a new place. Equally it's easy to see why Harrison and Weymouth began to feel like side players in their own band. 

The Rome crowd are enthusiastic from the start, a wired, guitar heavy run through Psycho Killer. They follow it with Stay Hungry, from 1978's More Songs About Buildings And Food, a short song in its recorded version stretched out with an extended instrumental section, Belew's guitar and Harrison's keyboards kicking up a storm. From there they play several songs from 1979's peerless Fear Of Music- Cities, an otherworldly I Zimbra, Drugs and the never-ending, breathless thrills of Life During Wartime. It's wired, intense, life affirming stuff, confident in itself and knowing this has not been done before. They play the hit, their cover of Al Green's Take Me To The River. But, the real treats in this gig are the songs from Remain In Light, songs from an album at that point only a few months old. Remain In Light saw the light of day in October. The Rome gig is December. They play Crosseyed And Painless,  Houses In Motion, Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) and The Great Curve. These songs- fully realised, extended grooves, multi- rhythmic Afro- funk crossed with New York art rock/ post- punk, the imaginations of Talking Heads and Brian Eno running wild- played live by a group at the peak of their powers. There's no touring fatigue, no boredom with playing the hits every night, no going though the motions. Belew adds a whole new palette of guitar sounds and the danceable grooves brought by the extended line up are irresistible. Everyone switches across mics and instruments, cowbells are picked up and hit, shakers are shaken. When the gig moves towards the finale, we get a double header punch. Born Under Punches has a long intro, Belew manipulating his amp's feedback as the band stoke the groove and then Byrne slides in, 'Take a look at these hands...', Dolette crooning with him, twin basses providing a huge low end wallop. After the slow burn, intense funk noir of Born Under Punches they launch into the joyous and ecstatic The Great Curve, a jerky, amped up stream of consciousness with heavily distorted guitar playing from Belew and Afro- funk rhythms. The Romans are appropriately appreciative. 

Friday 17 March 2023

Fitzroy Avenue

Joe Duggan is a poet from Northern Ireland, currently in Crystal Palace, whose work I'm a big fan of. He writes about every day life and the lives of others, writing about the little details and the big themes. As well as a gifted writer he has a distinctive voice. Out today on Paisley Dark is a poem set to music by Warriors Of The Dystotheque. Fitzroy Avenue describes a party taking place at 47 Fitzroy, Belfast, 'various substances, Stella Artois and the vague outside chance of a result tonight'. Joe's Northern Irish accent, his use of repetition and the cosmic disco chug of the music are a perfect blend. 'It's all happening here'. Fitzroy Avenue, the video and not one but six remixes are all available today at Bandcamp

The BFP Acid- Flex Mix is a beauty, the throb and buzz of the bassline and Joe's voice, some echo and some distorted synth sounds, combining over seven and a half minutes in a sweet spot of poetry and acid house.

Joe has previously recorded with Nina Walsh and Andrew Weatherall. He recorded Downhill with Andrew and Nina in their Woodleigh Research Facility guise, a collective based in the Crystal Palace environs. Downhill came out in March 2020, just weeks after Andrew died. 'From where I live', Joe declares over the wobble of synth bass and a kick drum, 'It's downhill all the way/ To the pubs of Waterloo Street/ Derry just kind of tilts me', the phrase, 'Has anyone seen Joe? Where'd he go?' repeated again and again. 

Joe also put his words over WRF's music on Play Bingo With Me, more dystopic future machine music with Joe's voice revealing slices of everyday life.

In 2019 Joe recorded with Fireflies, another Crystal Palace based group (who also recorded a single for Andrew Weatherall's Moine Dubh 7" singles club). Fireflies are Nina, guitarist Franck Alba and Dani Cali. The five track EP, Surrounded On All Sides, opens with Joe's poem Falling Man, the tale of a man who fell 3, 500 feet from the wheel arch a plane over South London, from a flight that took off in Kenya. It's is a dark and affecting poem, full of empathy for someone who took an enormous, fatal, risk to find a better life and died trying. There is light and shade on the EP too- Leonard Cohen Knows is more reflective. You can buy Surrounded On All Sides here. Stick all of today's poetry/ music into one playlist/ onto one CD for a Joe Duggan Friday festival.

Thursday 16 March 2023

Website Rave

Exeter's Mighty Force record label is undergoing a 21st century renaissance having started up again in summer 2019. Out last month was Described Spaces by KAMs, a twelve track album of uptempo, melodic, analogue acid (with forays into related electronic areas- techno, acid house, breakbeat). This one, Website Rave, is my current favourite- a bouncing bassline, the tsk tsk tsk of the hi hat and thump of the kick drum, chord stabs, bubbling acid synths and squiggly acid synths, sirens, tons of fun and with masses of energy. The rest of the album, from openers Eagle Acid and Rubbish Outlines to packet of Crisps Acid and closer Beautiful Acid, is just as good and works played through headphones while walking as well as loud through speakers.

KAMS is James Cameron, a man with a varied backstory and long history in electronic sound, who's migrated from The Fens to South London via Leicester and spent a lifetime frying minds in back rooms. Described Spaces is available at Bandcamp

Also on Mighty Force and out in October last year is Pro- Oxidant by Long Range Desert Group, an album fifteen years in the making, the work of Tim Brown. LRDG takes his inspiration from post- punk and the early 80s scene that saw bands like Talking Heads, ACR and 23 Skidoo turn the wallop of punk into something funkier and more austere. Pro- Oxidant has crunchy drum breaks/ programming, synths, piano, strings and a wave of ambient sounds to produce music that places itself somewhere between club music and cinema soundtracks. Mad Dog State hits the spot with surging drums, big piano, layers of sound- rising orchestral strings, indistinct voices and shouts- combining superbly. Like KAMS, Long Range Desert Group's album is available at Bandcamp

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Fate's Faithful Punchline

A few weeks ago Nina Walsh rediscovered and shared a YouTube playlist made my Andrew Weatherall when he and Nina were doing Moine Dubh (the record label they formed to put out weird, off kilter folk music based in Crystal Palace). Nina said Andrew often forgot his usernames and passwords for YouTube and was constantly having to create new accounts- it's nice to know that's something that affects top DJs and producers as well as the rest of us. The playlist, Dubh Drops, is here and features an array of acts including Cheval Sombre, The Shadow Project, Hungry Ghosts, Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka- Spel, The Black Ryder, Dean Wareham, Rose City Band, The Carpenters and Negative Lovers. It also includes this gem by The Legendary Pink Dots...

Fate's Faithful Punchline

Led by finger picked acoustic guitar and Edward Ka- Spel's echo- drenched voice and eventually some strings, Fate's Faithful Punchline is moving, gorgeous and elegiac psychedelic folk. The Legendary Pink Dots are an Anglo- Dutch group, formed in London in 1980 and have since then released forty- seven albums, twenty- six live albums and forty- eight  compilations. And you thought The Fall were prolific. 

I included Fate's Faithful Punchline on my latest mix for Tak Tent Radio which went live at the weekend, an hour of songs that you can listen to here at Tak Tent or here at Mixcloud. Andrew Weatherall's fingerprints are to be found elsewhere in the mix in the form of his remix of The Impossibles from 1991 and a Beth Orton song he produced that was a B-side on the Someone's Daughter CD single. 

  • Alex Kassian: Spirit Of Eden
  • Martin Duffy: Promenading
  • Eden Ahbez: Full Moon
  • 10:40: Ninety- Now
  • Coyote: Nothing Rests
  • David Holmes: No- One Is Smarter Than History
  • Gal Costa: Baby
  • The Impossibles: The Drum (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • A Certain Ratio: Houses In Motion (Version 1)
  • Ultramarine: Stella
  • Beth Orton: It’s This I Find I Am
  • The Legendary Pink Dots: Fate’s Faithful Punchline

Tuesday 14 March 2023


My collaboration with Spencer took a week off last week- not Spencer's fault, he sent me the track almost immediately after I posted Kerrier District's Disco Nasty nearly two weeks ago. I got a bit sidetracked by things last week and the blog followed suit. Jesse said last week's posts were a wave I was surfing, especially the run from Tuesday to Friday with the pair of posts about Isaac and grief, Fontaines DC, Nicks Drake and Cave, and then the pigs and D: Ream post on Friday. Looking back at last week's posts this description of them as a wave rings true although I'm not sure if I was riding the wave or being pulled by it. Today, we're going back to Spencer's songs and a follow up to the Kerrier District track, with some more from Luke Vibert.


Doozit kicks off with a snatch of banjo and a voice saying, 'let us do unto others... before they do's it to you there'. The drums come in, and then another drum track joins, giving it a skittish feel. The bassline and synth chords lift it. There are more layers of analog sounds, a bit of dub echo, another voice, then another, 'alright! Do you like that?' and some phat rave hoover bass. It feels live, like a cut and paste hip hop DJ playing several records at once while the soundman adds some dub FX. Infectious fun. 

Doozit is from 2015 and an album called Bizarster. One of the things about Luke Vibert (and fellow Cornish techno producer Aphex Twin) is the sense that he can produce music in his sleep, a torrent of tracks filling hard drives. It feels like he can set up a skittering, catchy drum track, lay a synth melody or computer game soundtrack on top, find something to mess it up slightly and drop a vocal sample in, taken from 70s TV or a library album, before he's finished his first hot drink of the day. The tracks sound effortless and unforced, a natural flow that just happens. 

Monday 13 March 2023

Monday's Long Song

More shoegaze/ ambient techno crossover music for Monday, this one possibly the pinnacle of this run of posts (previous posts have featured Curve remixed by Future Sound Of London, Slowdive remixed by Reload and Spooky's remix of Lush). In 1991 shoegazers Chapterhouse released their debut album Whirlpool. The band were from Reading, the hotbed of shoegaze in the early 90s, but they'd been gigging since 1987 and had played alongside Spacemen 3- they also followed Nirvana on stage at the Reading Festival in 1991. 

In 1993 Chapterhouse released the follow up, Blood Music. Early editions of the album came with a second disc of remixes by Global Communications titled Pentamerous Metamorphosis. Chapterhouse had handed over the entire album to Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, rising stars of ambient/ ambient techno. Global Communications constructed a five piece album, an electronic ambient trip that stands among the best work of the period and the scene, five tracks named Alpha Phase, Beta Phase, Gamma Phase, Delta Phase and Epsilon Phase, each ten or more minutes long. There are occasional sounds or samples that come from Chapterhouse's original recordings, a guitar part here and there say, but largely Mark and Tom constructed something entirely new using something else as a starting point. 

It was re- released in 1998 with a litigious sample from Star Wars removed- George Lucas may have made nine films about a group of freedom fighters rebelling against an evil empire but he's a bit touchy about single lines of dialogue being used by obscure ambient artists. The offending line was C- 3PO saying, 'I am fluent in over six million forms of communication'. Global Communications had a side project named Jedi Knights and were feeling the Lucasfilm heat a little by 1998. 

This is Alpha Phase, sixteen minutes of progressive futurism- long synth chords, twinkles, echoes, percussion, metallic clangs, bass thumps and then more and more layers and elements, a breakbeat and laser beams, a kick drum, and eventually as we head towards the ten minute mark, strings and piano-  celestial music, not drifting or aimless but heading ever onwards. How this album isn't better known and more praised is a mystery. 

Alpha Phase

Sunday 12 March 2023

Forty Minutes Of The Asphodells

The Asphodells formed when Andrew Weatherall and Timothy J. Fairplay realised that they had recorded enough material for an album, songs that eventually became Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust (named after a poster for a shlocky 50s gay gladiators film). The album came out in 2012, a fully realised collection of tracks with a typically diverse and eclectic set of Weatherall interests- dubby leftfield disco with New Order- esque basslines, John Betjeman, Tony Wilson quotes and AR Kane. Around the time of the album there were a slew of remixes by The Asphodells, alongside other ones from the same period but credited to Andrew Weatherall with Tim co- producing and engineering (the difference between a Weatherall remix and an Asphodells remix largely depending on who was paying and how big the cheque was apparently). 

Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust took up semi- permanent possession of my turntable for a while, an album that still rewards a decade later. It was followed by a remix album with members of the Scrutton Street Axis and wider Weatherall network on remix manoeuvres- Scott Fraser, Phil Kieran, Black Merlin, Hardway Bros, Justin Robertson, Richard Sen, Ivan Smagghe, Daniel Avery, Daniele Baldelli and DJ Rocco and Group Rhoda plus Wooden Shjips for a Record Shop Day 12". There was way too much material to cover all of this in one Sunday mix so this is a just a selection for today. 

Forty Minutes Of The Asphodells

  • 200 (Asphodells Dub)
  • Glock'd (The Asphodells Remix)
  • Beglammered (Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s Remix)
  • Another Lonely City
  • Needed You (The Asphodells Remix)
  • Songs Of Pressure (The Asphodells remix)

200 a single by Baris K, a DJ and producer from Istanbul with an interest in disco and 60s Turkish psyche. The 12" came out in 2013. The remix and dub are trippy, Middle Eastern chug of the highest order with a huge synth arpeggio and whooshes riding on top of a particularly gnarly bassline. 

Glock'd is by C.A.R., Chloe Raunet's musical outlet. Chloe was previously in Battant with Tim. Andrew and Tim's remix is one of the highlights of the entire period, a slow motion, glam rock/ sci fi stomp with Chloe's French accented vocal on top. Retro but utterly modern too. 

Beglammered was the opening track from Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust, remixed by Justin and released on the remix album. Another Lonely City with its Power, Corruption And Lies bassline (played by Andy Baxter) came from the album too. 

Needed You was a remix of Berlin based band She Lies, post- punk/ dark disco. There are some lovely wobbly, throbbing sequencers and synths on this one. 

Songs Of Pressure was by Richard Sen whose links with Andrew went back to Sabres Of Paradise (he painted the sleeve art for Theme). For the dubbed out splendour of the remix Andrew added a vocal part- Andrew's vocals were a distinctive part of The Asphodells, and it seemed right that they should finish this mix off. 

Saturday 11 March 2023

Saturday Live

A short live film today, just three songs and only twenty three minutes (pro- filmed so presumably there's more of this somewhere). Jane's Addiction live in Milan in 1990. Make no mistake, we're very much into rock territory here, if not rawk territory- guitar solos, long hair, three of the players shirtless, huge drum kit, but Jane's have a couple of secret weapons that lift them above being mere 70s rock/ Led Zeppelin revivalists. One, they cook up a thunderous, danceable groove, and two, they have Perry Farrell, a shamanic, otherworldly figure with a off kilter voice, FXed by some delay to give it some shimmer. The sound of Jane's in 1990, on the back of their superb Ritual de lo Habitual album, crossed over from L.A. rock, heading somewhere else (it struck me listening to this live clip again that this is what The Stone Roses were actually aiming for with The Second Coming but various things derailed them in getting there, not least that maybe not all of them wanted to turn into that kind of band). 

Ritual de lo Habitual is one of the few overtly rock albums I own and love- the first side is five songs, opening with Stop! and concluding with the alt- rock, funky shoplifting anthem Been Caught Stealing. Side Two is a fluid, layered, loose limbed, junk shop, utterly compulsive tribute to Perry's girlfriend Xiola Blue who died of a drug overdose three years earlier. Then She Did (a song for Perry's mother, who killed herself when he was four years old) and Of Course are sandwiched between my two favourite Jane's songs- Three Days and the achingly beautiful, blissed out and understated (for them), romantic Classic Girl. Unfortunately it's not part of the film of the gig in Milan- in the film we get Whores, Then She Did and Three Days.

Three Days is an eleven minute epic trip, lyrically the tale of a three day sex and drugs threesome Perry and his partner Casey shared with Xiola. The version in the clip takes up the second half of the film, the descending bassline and shards of guitar opening the backdrop to Perry's vocal, the song building from there. The shift at fourteen forty is huge, the band shifting from atmospherics to funked up rock 'n' roll, the guitar riffing slowly working its way to the fore. Dave Navarro the launches into his solo. The drum part at eighteen minutes is electrifying and then the group come back in, on one chugging, churning chord. Then there's a bit where they take off again and Perry sings, '' 'You're a dick' she said' (or at least that's what I've always thought he sings- turns out, and I only discovered this via social media recently, he sings, 'erotic Jesus' and then, 'lays with his Marys' but it's too late, I will still always sing my version). For the last two minutes they slow down and speed up, ambient rock and The Ramones combined into one song's finale, before flying off again as Navarro spirals around the fretboard. 

Friday 10 March 2023


These pigs live in the field next to the cemetery Isaac is buried in. When we go to see Isaac it always cheers me to see the pigs scurrying around. One time we went last year, the pigs had escaped and were snuffling all over the place. They now live behind more secure fencing but still bring joy. 

About twenty years ago I had a colleague in the same department who was much older than me (he was probably about the age I am now). One Friday afternoon we were crossing the yard at school coming towards each other, rain driving in sideways and wind whipping around us. We were both trying not to lose what we were carrying while holding our coats to shield us from Lancashire's weather. As he came towards me, in his broad East Lancs accent, he shouted, 'In the words of the prophet, thank fuck that's over'. It has been one of those weeks at work this week too, so to echo my former colleague, thank fuck that's over.

One of the recent highlights of the 1994 Top Of The Pops repeats has been seeing D: Ream performing Things Can Only Get Better, a song not served well by subsequent events. Things Can Only Get Better is a million selling, massive hit single that soundtracked Tony Blair's rise to power, tainted by its association with New Labour- I'm reclaiming it. In autumn and winter 93 and into 94 it was everywhere, played in clubs and bars, shamelessly good time pop- house. Peter Cunnah was a great frontman. Around this time I had some very fetching checked trousers not dissimilar from the ones he's wearing below (although I baulked at the full suit). The band look great, professor Brian Cox plays keys, the female sax player is fantastic, everyone's breathlessly happy. By January they were at number one on Top Of The Pops

There- feel better now?

D: Ream still exist. Peter and Al MacKenzie have a considerably lower profile now than they did thirty years ago but they're still making good electronic dance music. Last year's single Pedestal was an end of year highlight and came with a remix package that included Drop Out Orchestra and Jezebell. 

Jezebell's Dizzy Heights Remix is a seven minute warm bath of Balearic bliss, treated acoustic guitars and chiming melody lines, a melodica winding its way through the song and hushed vocals just within earshot. Al MacKenzie released a tribute to Andrew Weatherall last year, the magnificent, languid Sail On, a seven minute odyssey built around a descending synth part, some throbbing sequencers and a lot of emotion. It too has been remixed, a pair of remixes that came out last month courtesy of Matt Gunn and Sven Kossler. Get them here

Thursday 9 March 2023

It's Vast And Wild And As Deep As The Sea

This is the second post written this week in response to something coming through the ether/ internet that connects me to Isaac's death. This has led to a couple of more straightforward, lighter hearted music posts being shunted back into next week. The first connection was Fontaines DC and their cover of Nick Drake's 'Cello Song that I wrote about two days ago here. The same evening I sat writing that post I got my regular email update from Nick Cave's Red Hand Files. 

Nick started The Red Hand Files a few years ago as a means of direct communication with fans, an interaction with no moderation involved, no one screening the emails or reading them for him. He gets hundreds, maybe thousands of emails a week (and says there are some people who email him weekly too). From these emails, all of which he says he reads, he replies to one, publicly, sending it out to subscribers by email and uploading it to The Red Hand Files website. You may well subscribe and read them already. 

The topics range widely, taking in all kinds of art, life, culture and personal enquiries. Recently he's replied to questions about Johnny Cash, the banning of the song Delilah, the cougar in the Hollywood hills, AI produced art, religion and spirituality, tattoos, his lyrics, learning to play the guitar aged sixty, Love Island, tinnitus, the meaning of life, and inevitably the death of his son Arthur. Nick's replies are considered and thoughtful, sensitive, insightful, funny, warm and moving. Sometimes he reaches a conclusion you didn't expect. Sometimes he admits he doesn't know. Sometimes he imparts something profound. He has experiences to share. And, the man can write. The one that popped into my inbox on Tuesday was from Dave in El Paso, USA, who wrote...

My son died almost a decade and a half ago. I don't have nearly as many dreams about him now but when I do, as when I had many, many dreams of him...he never speaks. I can be virtually right next to him in a known location. He never talks. Is there an underlying meaning to this?

This caught my attention as you can imagine. I took a breath and read on. Nick replied...

Dear Dave,

I read this question to Susie, as Arthur appears regularly in her dreams. She says she experiences him in the same way that you describe – Arthur is there beside her but never speaks. She tells me he feels hyper-present, and that he stands very close to her, and sometimes he hugs her, but that nothing else happens in the dream, there is no one else there and there is no real narrative. She says that the locations in the dream are familiar, but she has the sense of being a visitor to a different realm, and that within that realm there is an intense feeling of ‘unbounded love’. She says that upon waking she feels a residual presence of Arthur that takes some minutes to subside. I asked Susie why she thought Arthur didn’t speak to her and she said, 'because it’s a place where we don’t communicate with ordinary language.’

Dave, I asked Susie your question because she has a rich and vibrant dream life. Unfortunately, I do not. The rare dreams I do remember are extraordinarily banal and neither of my late sons appear in them. But I know Susie finds much needed respite from her loss through the softness of dreams. They are beautiful, comforting, even saving things. We can find great solace in these ‘encounters’ with loved ones who have passed on, meeting them in our memories, recollections or conversations, through signs, whispered intimations or imaginings. I am very happy your son continues to visit your dreams and Susie and I send you our very best.

Love, Nick

I've dreamt about Isaac in the year and three months since he died. To the best of my memory, it happens once every couple of weeks. Dreaming about him always wakes me up with a jolt. I am suddenly and violently awake, both eyes wide open in the dark. It always disturbs me, leaves me thrown and startled. In my dream he's so real and he's alive. Then there's a moment and it sinks in again sharply and suddenly that it was a dream and that he's gone. Each time it happens, there's a mini- loss all over again. I seem to be getting used to that more now. 

In some of my dreams he talks to me. I never remember what he was saying or what we were talking about but am aware we were talking. Like Dave and Nick's wife Susie, sometimes he's there but silent (which seems unlikely if you knew Isaac, who was rarely silent for long). Sometimes he seems to be just being there, alongside whatever other weirdness is going on. I have been having very vivid and odd dreams for the last few months- even the ones without Isaac in them can wake me up feeling a bit perturbed and unsure what is going on. I'm not sure how I feel about the Isaac that exists in my dreams. I don't think it's actually him, it's my subconscious dredging things up while I sleep. Nick Cave says above that Susie finds respite and comfort from dreaming about Arthur. I'm not sure I find that yet about Isaac- I hope one day I will. Nick and Susie and the letter writer Dave are a long way ahead of us in their grief in terms of time. I like Nick's phrasing and idea that the dream versions of our lost sons are 'encounters'. That's a way I'd like to get to feel about them I think. 

Lou dreams about Isaac sometimes and she always has the same dream- in her dream he's crossing the road outside our house, his back to her, going towards a car to be taken somewhere. She's holding a sandwich wrapped in tin foil for him but he doesn't hear her. On the occasions when she's told me about it or when I've been present when she describes it to other people, it crushes me. It has just now, typing it. 

I got Nick's book Faith Hope And Carnage for Christmas and have been reading it recently, a chapter every now and then, trying not to race through it. It is set out as a conversation between Nick and writer Sean O'Hagen, taken from a series of long conversations they had starting around March 2020. Much of Carnage is about Arthur, and about Nick and Susie's grief. It is also about Nick's faith, his songwriting and music, the transformative power of live performance of songs and how sometimes they only reveal their meaning when played live, the albums Skeleton Tree, Carnage and Ghosteen (especially Ghosteen), his childhood, the relationships with musicians he's worked with (especially Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey and Warren Ellis) and his creative projects away from music- The Red Hand Files among them. I might come back to writing about the book and what I've taken from it another day. I need to write about Ghosteen too at some point. There's one bit from the book that stood out for me even before I'd started reading it properly. On the back cover the pull out quote reads...

Sean O'Hagen: 'But surely your outlook is entirely different now?'

Nick Cave: 'Well, the young Nick Cave could afford to hold the world in some kind of disdain because he had no idea of what was coming down the line. I can see now that this disdain or contempt for the world was a kind of luxury or indulgence, even a vanity. He had no idea of the preciousness of life- the fragility... like I say, he had no idea what was coming down the road'.

This struck a massive chord with me. When I think about us, me and Lou, as younger people I feel exactly what Nick Cave describes- we had no idea what was ahead of us, that this was coming and how this would feel, how it would turn us inside out, how painful it would be, how (as I said on Tuesday) we might never be the same people again. In some ways it shocks me. We had no idea what was coming down the road. 

There's another part of the book where Nick says, 'Arthur is a regular reminder I don't really have to conform to the rules the world has laid down for me, because the world feels chaotic and random and indifferent to any rules. When I call Arthur to me and I feel him around me, as an optimistic force... I don't have to be afraid. I am aware of how that sounds to many people but this is, at the very least, a survival strategy- and grievers know. Generally, they know.'

Being a griever isn't a club any of us would choose to join, certainly not one in the circumstances of the death of your child, but it is some kind of comfort to see some of your own extreme and awful experience reflected by someone else, to know that others have gone through this too and can survive it. In some way, it helps. Trying to make sense of grief may well prove to be impossible- there is no sense to be found, it just happens, part of the chaotic and random world Nick describes above. Maybe all we can do is talk about it, describe it, write about it. Maybe the act of saying it out loud is as close to making sense of it as we're going to get. 

This song is from Ghosteen. I've got nothing to add at the moment, no description its power or explanation of it, other than to say it chills me to my absolute core and in some way brings a kind of comfort.