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Saturday 30 September 2023

Saturday Live

It would be utterly remiss of me, irresponsible even, to do a long running series of bands playing live (on stage and on TV) without including what is possibly the finest television appearance of any group ever. 

In 1988 Tony Wilson's late night series The Other Side Of Midnight had a performance by Happy Mondays, at that point a group most definitely on the way up. Bummed, their second album and released in autumn '88, is a record unlike any other, a delirious Ecstatic stew with funk rhythms, off kilter guitar chords, big rubbery basslines, a dense Martin Hannett sound and Shaun Ryder's unique approach to lyric writing, snatches of nursery rhymes, Mondays in jokes, Salford street slang, lines stolen from films and all kinds of improvised weirdness. On The Other Side Of Midnight Tony, their record label boss and biggest cheerleader, introduces them proclaiming his 'profound devotion to the cause', and in a bright white Granada TV studio, they lurch into Performance, looking like they just wandered in off the street and started playing.  

The music is not entirely indie, not entirely dance, something different- scratchy, strange, out of key. Shaun in big glasses and neatly centred- parted hair, shakes his maracas and spins his lines. Bez, the lightning rod, the talisman, the puppet with no strings, dances in a world completely of his own. During the instrumental break Shaun and Bez twist around each other, Bez circling, Shaun conducting. It's something else. As the performance finishes, Mark Day's chicken scratch guitar and PD's organ wheezes its last, Shaun gives a sly side eye grin to the camera. He knows what's going on. He knows what they're on. Everyone else will catch up next year. 

I saw them live around this time at Liverpool University, 3rd March 1989, a life changing gig in many ways. It certainly changed my perceptions of what a gig could be like, not just a bunch of people staring at four men on stage and clapping after each song while the front few rows bumped into each other. The whole room danced. Shaun spent the gig seated on the drum riser, never even standing up, a victim of the night before possibly. Not that it mattered. His voice was loud enough and the focal point visually, through the clouds of dry ice, was Bez. 

After that I saw them quite often between 1989 and 1991, always good but never quite like they were that night. In March 1990, by that point several steps up the fame ladder, they played a big gig at GMex in Manchester. The setlist included some of their older songs (Tart Tart, Kuff Dam, 24 Hour Party People), some of Bummed (Lazyitis, Do It Better, Performance), some from the breakthrough Madchester Rave On EP (Clap Your Hands,  Rave On, Halleujah) and some from the forthcoming and with Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches (the crossover hit Step On and God's Cop). By this point they'd expanded to include Rowetta on backing vocals and on Lazyitis Karl Denver is borugh on stage to join Shaun on vox. They finished as they always should, with the riotous peak Mondays' song Wrote For Luck.

The gig was filmed and broadcast on Granada and later available commercially on VHS.  There were many occasions on returning from a night out the tape got pushed into the video player and we spent a hour marvelling at Happy Mondays in full flight. 

Friday 29 September 2023

Weatherall Remix Friday Thirteen

The afterglow of last Saturday night's Spiritualized gig has had me diving back into their back catalogue all week, in the car and at home- 1997's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space mainly but also Pure Phase (from 1995), and the pairing of  Everything Was Beautiful and And Nothing Hurt (2018 and 2022). It seemed an obvious choice for today's Weatherall Remix Friday to feature the 1998 Two Lone Swordsmen remix of Come Together (the encore at New Century Hall last week and an utterly thrilling blast of psychedelic rock, a lurching, furious hymn/ lament to serious drug addiction). The Two Lone Swordsmen remix goes somewhere very different indeed. 

Come Together (Two Lone Swordsmen Mix)

'How big are your eyes?' a dislocated voice enquires as other indistinct voices and noises swim around. A taut detuned guitar line and what could be FXed horns appear. The voice goes on, to no one in particular, 'What of the sun?' Two minutes in there's a crash of noise, some drums rumble and then a dirty, broken breakbeat kicks in. It goes on, a quite unsettling piece of music, a cacophony, squawks of sax and bursts of trumpet, bass and rums the only real constant, Jason's expansive, symphonic, psychedelic rock spun into the outer edges by Weatherall and Tenniswood for fifteen minutes. Vinyl only, 1000 copies, embossed cover. 

Thursday 28 September 2023

No One But Me

There's an enormous five disc edition of The Wicker Man out this week, a 50th anniversary celebration of the film. The box contains three versions of the film (Director's Cut, Theatrical Cut and The Final Cut) along with all manner of extras- interviews, trailers, documentaries, commentaries and photographs. There's more info at the BFI shop. The final disc is a CD which has grown from a Katy J Pearson cover of Willow's Song which was on her Sound Of The Morning album. Willow's Song is from the film and supposedly sung by Britt Eckland, played by the band Magnet (Britt apparently struggled to hold a tune even when equipped with a bucket and Willow's Song was actually sung by Rachel Verney. Or possibly Annie Ross). Written by composer Paul Giovanni, Willow's Song is haunted 1973 psychedelic folk, genuinely beautiful, a moment of calm with a darkness residing inside it too. 

Katy J Pearson's cover is psychedelic/ motorik, a krauty four four beat kicking up and echo laden guitar. As well as Willow's Song the box contains several other songs from the film covered by Katy. 

The CD also contains a pair of new versions of Katy's Willow's Song, one a far more folky cover done with alt- folk group Broadside Hacks, the acoustic guitars and folk arrangement transporting it back to Summerisle in 1973 with visions of Edward Woodward, pagan rituals and Britt. 

The other is a seven minute remix by Richard Norris, a slowed down dub folk remix with long trumpet notes and deep bass. Katy's voice eventually glides in on top, floating over the dubness. Richard's recent immersion into dub sounds and production as seen in his new Oracle Sound label, is paying off massively with this remix, a track crying out for a vinyl release. 

Credit where it is due- earlier this week Khayem featured the Richard Norris remix over at Dubhed as part of a 2023 mix he put together, marking the slow fade from summer to autumn. All three versions of Katy J Pearson's cover have the shiver of autumn about them, the dusk falling sooner and the mornings cooler and mistier even if the trees are still full of green leaves. 

Back at the tail end of 2021 Sean Johnston put Hardway Bros aside for a while and released a cover of Willow's Song as The Summerisle Trio, a collective formed with Duncan Gray and singer Sarah Rebecca (later expanded to The Summerisle Six for the This Is Something 12"). Willow's Song was only available as 7" vinyl on Golden Lion Sounds, backed with The Emperor Machine's chunky self explanatory dancefloor monster Dance Your Tit Out. The Summerisle Trio's cover is less folky than Katy's cover, the drum machine and synths casting an electronic shimmer behind the vocal. You can listen to it here

Wednesday 27 September 2023

More Dreaming The Dream

In August I wrote about Richard Sen's compilation album Dream The Dream, a ten track collection of UK ambient techno/ progressive house/ tribal house/ breakbeat. The labels don't really matter too much- the music's what matters and it's a brilliant snapshot of early 90s underground dance music, spaced out sci fi sounds, thumping drums, glassy synths, trance rhythms, music that is the result of a revolution taking place and full of wide eyed wonder at what new technology can do. Richard Sen has remixed three of the tracks from the album and they're out as an EP, available digitally at Bandcamp. All three are keepers. Unable to remix using the individual stems, Richard sampled various parts of audio and then added his own synths and drum parts, keeping the spirit of the original track but with his own essence added.  

The first is UVX's Elevator, a ten minute remix with pounding drums, bleepy synths, whirly FX and ghostly backing vox, a remix that is both moody and euphoric. 

The second track is Sen's remix of Bandulu's Amaranth- Love Lies Bleeding, eight minutes of dark ambient techno fun, an insistent throbbing synthline, propulsive drums, rattling snares and lasers. 

The third is the hardest, built on a punishing kick drum and massive wigged out topline- Mind Over Rhythm's Kubital Footstorm, the sort of thing that causes crowds to lose their collective minds. 

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Burning Groove

Everyone loves a cover version, don't they? In 1987 Mike Watt, suffering from depression in the aftermath of fellow Minuteman D. Boon's death, pitched up in New York and stayed with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore for a while, playing bass on some of the sessions that would become the EVOL album. In an effort to get Watt active and enthusiastic about music again they hatched a plan that become Sonic Youth offshoot Ciccone Youth. Watt covered Madonna's Burning Up (as Burnin' Up) playing all the instruments (except for a Gregg Ginn guitar solo). Watt's cover is rough and ready, fuzzy and lo fi, a thing of beauty in many ways. 

Madonna's original dates from 1983, early 80s New York dance pop that has buckets of charm and some key Madonna tropes already well in place.

Burning Up

The sessions Watt played with Sonic Youth resulted in this cover of Madonna's 1985 smash Into The Groove.

Into The Groove(Y)

Like Watt's cover it's lo fi and sounds made for ghetto blasters and C90 cassettes, with grungy bass, a hissing drum machine and handclaps and Thurston's ultra- drawled vocal. When playing in the studio Sonic Youth would play the original version through one of the channels and fade it into and out of their own version. Yes, I'd love to hear a recording of that too. In the meantime here's Madonna's Desperately Seeking Susan associated single. if you get both playing at the same time on your computer you might be able to recreate Sonic Youth's experiment. 

Into The Groove

When Ciccone Youth's album The Whitey Album came out in 1988, a few months after their landmark Daydream Nation, many people assumed they were taking the piss or covering Madonna ironically. Thurston says this was most definitely not the case, that they loved the song, danced to it in NY clubs and were paying tribute to the woman who'd played in two No Wave bands, including one (spinal Root Gang) that eventually transformed into Swans. Sonic Youth loved that someone from their downtown scene had broken out and become huge. 

The Whitey Album probably overdoes it, fifty minutes when it could have been a really good twenty minute EP but Sonic/ Ciccone Youth were into sprawling records in 1988. The album includes the track Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu, a track with J Mascis on guitar and the first time I was aware of Neu's existence and Ciccone's cover of Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love, a cover with a vocal recorded by Kim in a karaoke booth and the video filmed with her lip syncing, looking cool as fuck in cut off jeans, while footage of the Vietnam War is projected behind her. 

Bizarrely, Robert Palmer had already crossed over into the US 80s indie- punk scene with his cover version of Husker Du's New Day Rising, played live at San Diego University Amphitheatre in 1987.  

Monday 25 September 2023

Those Tracks Of Time

Towards the end of Saturday's Spiritualized gig at Manchester's New Century Hall, the ceiling a mass of coloured lightbulbs and 1960s modernist moulding, the lights from the stage bouncing off the enormous mirrorball and the word Bar illuminated, the sold out venue's crowd were caught between staring at what was going on on stage and looking around the room at the lightshow. One of those moments where you realise you're watching something special take place. 

I haven't seen Spiritualized play live for a long time. The current line up has Jason seated at the right hand side of the stage, Fender Jazzmaster in his lap and shades worn all night. Next to him three backing singers, the drummer, bassist, two guitarists and the keyboards/ organ/ synth/ pedal steel player whose contributions underpin a lot of what happens tonight. Most of the songs played are from the last two albums, 2018's And Nothing Hurt and last year's Everything Was Beautiful, a pair of albums that were recorded at the same time and released apart. There are long songs, songs stretching out for seven and more, gradually building, the instruments coming in in layers, reaching huge crescendos. There are moments of hushed, fragile beauty, Jason's weary voice sighing and quiet as pedal steel and bass surround him. At one point towards the end, for several minutes of intro, the loudest sound any of the nine musicians onstage are making is the synchronised fingersnaps of the three backing vocalists, the almost ambient backdrop punctuated at the end of each bar with a crisp click. 

There are moments of loud, three guitar psychedelic/ showgaze rock, an explosive sound filling the room. The second song tonight, She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like A Hit), is a lurching blast of garage rock. Let It Bleed (Song For Iggy) was full on, Detroit rock transformed by the nine piece band. Jason deals in the classic lineage of underground rock, the sounds, the chords and the lyrics of those bands and songs. At times Spiritualized can play like a very well polished garage, expansive garage band or bar band. At times, when the sounds are swelling and all the musicians are all playing in unison, it's like an amped up Elvis in Vegas band, Jason's voice the human, vulnerable element at the centre as he whispers and croons about souls on fire, the best thing you never had, being your man and shining lights. 

Always Together With You, currently sound tracking a national lottery advert, is a highlight. The thumping, gliding groove and triple guitar attack of Here It Comes (The Road ) Let's Go is countered by the spectral beauty of Sailing On Through, both songs showing Jason's four decade career of blending garage rock and The Velvet Underground with country, gospel and blues didn't necessarily peak with 1997's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. The Morning After, from And Nothing Hurt, opens with Velvets guitar, bumping driving bass and Jason's lines about Janey and her problem with the modern world, 1969 Lou Reed transported to 2023. It catches me unawares briefly, the instruments dropping out as Jason sings the line, 'Every mother wants to die before her children do', making me draw a sharp intake of breath. The band re- enter and plough on, everyone getting louder, the rhythm faster and then multiple strobe lights go off for, bright white lights against black space. 

The Morning After

The set finishes with Sailing On Through, a short, desperate and delicate song. Jason applauds us and mutters the only words he says to us all night, 'thank you', twice. After a few minutes they return for So Long You Pretty Thing and then Come Together. Come Together is everything about them turned up to the max, a song that grinds into gear, three guitars sounding like thirty, and Jason singing about heroin addiction, Little Johnny, all fucked up, dulling pain and killing joy. It is immense, a garage rock song that sounds the size of a continent, the backing singers piling in on the chorus, 'come on, come together'. Exhilarating, powerful and transcendent music, Spiritualized at the limits. 

Come Together (Live) 

Sunday 24 September 2023

Forty Minutes Of Tracey Thorn

A January 1995 episode of Top Of The Pops came up on the repeats on BBC4 recently including this performance of Protection, Tracey Thorn and Massive Attack in imperious form. Protection is one of the 90s best songs, a genuine jaw dropper on first and subsequent listens and a song its impossible to turn off once it starts. Tracey's voice is perfect for the song, her singing a perfect blend of strength and hurt and her lyrics, switching the gender around mid- song, spin the song around. Protection, the album, came out in  September1994. Following up Blue Lines was never going to be easy but Protection mainly manages it with the title track and others- Karmacoma, Sly, Better Things, Three and Spying Glass, some of their best songs. The cover of Light My Fire less so maybe. But Protection is the towering achievement, a song that even mid- 90s Top Of The Pops can't ruin. 

Tracey's songs and recordings outside Everything But The Girl, both solo and with other people, are many and various. I thought, having listened to Protection a few times and then heading to the Andrew Weatherall remix of Tracey's Sister from 2018, that a Tracey Thorn solo/ collaboration mix might work. And it does. 

Forty Minutes Of Tracey Thorn

  • Protection (Brian Eno Remix)
  • Raise The Roof (Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Remix)
  • Sister
  • Sister (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • Moving Dub
  • Night Time
Protection came out in 1995, one of the singles/ songs of the 90s. The 12" came with this Brian Eno remix, a ten minute ambient affair. It had already been the lead song on the album Protection, released in 1994 and an obvious choice for a single. 

Raise The Roof was a 2007 Tracey Thorn single, and on her solo album Out Of The Woods. Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve, Richard Norris and Erol Alkan's psyche outfit, twist it into new shapes and spaces.

Sister was the lead single from Tracey's 2018 album Record, a song with Corinne Bailey Rae and Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa on board. Tracey sings the line 'And I fight like a girl' and makes it sound like the toughest, most menacing line she's ever sung. Andrew Weatherall 's remix (and the dub version too) are ten minutes of late period Weatherall brilliance, chuggy, dubby remix splendour. 

Moving Dub is from No Protection, the Mad Professor dub version of Massive Attack's Protection. Moving Dub, with Tracey on vocals, is Better Things sent through the dub blender. 

Night Time is a cover of a song by The Xx, released as a standalone solo EP in 2011. It has husband Ben Watt on guitar. The Xx asked Tracey to cover it for a compilation of covers of their songs by their favourite artists they were planning. It never happened except for Tracey's cover. Drums, programming and production were courtesy of Ewan Pearson. 

Saturday 23 September 2023

Saturday Live

Lost Village is a small festival in the woods in wildest Lincolnshire. Four Tet played there this summer, as he has done before. He's been playing enormodomes in the US recently along with Skrillex and Fred Again, which didn't look like it was up my alley at all, gigantic crowds and DJ sets with huge drops and rebuilds. His set at Lost Village though is a different animal, still full of crowd pleasing moments but on a much smaller, more intimate scale. The full two hours is at Soundcloud, freshly uploaded a week ago and a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, the ebb and flow of tracks and FX, rhythms and sounds constantly being tinkered with, the cutting between and layering tracks over each other, the long transitions and segues, the music always moving forwards. The appearance of LFO, early 90s bleep techno at its best at forty minutes is a superbly worked moment. 

Earlier this year Four Tet released a single track called Three Drums, eight minutes of classic Keiran Hebden. It starts in a fairly non- descript way, a slow beat and hissing hi hats and washes of synth but as it unfolds it takes on all kinds of new sounds and shapes, the synths becoming a wall of colours, stopping and starting again- his DJ set above in miniature. Really beguiling stuff. 

Three Drums

Friday 22 September 2023

Fluffy Inside

I have to say, I expected more from utopia. It always seemed like it would be better than this. 

I missed this album when it came out in July and haven't caught up with it until recently but it's yet another hit from the run of great releases from Exeter's Mighty Force label this year- KAMS, M- Paths, David Harrow and AP Organism have all lit up 2023, following last year's Long Range Desert Group, Golden Donna and Boxheater Jackson albums. Fluffy Inside is the work of Paul Alexander and this album, Nylon Corners, is a fully realised ten track acid masterwork, the 303 and analogue synths building hypnotic, endlessly rewarding tracks. There are burbling basslines and intricate spiralling toplines, bleeps and waves of atmosphere, cavernous space and insistent floorfillers. The album is at Bandcamp, available digitally and on CD. All ten tracks are worth your time and attention- try these two.

Opening track Initial Pattern starts out in deep space, a bassline from the outer reaches cutting through the bed of FX. An acid squiggle works its way forwards, gathering steam. Whooshes shoot in from the edges. The sounds warp and weave, morphing slowly around each other. 

Over The Shoulder is a seven minute trip, the thump of a kick drum and hisses of percussion joined by the bassline, everything picking up pace and pushing onwards. A ringing synth sound nags away, fading in and out. Insistent acid techno. 

Thursday 21 September 2023

More Bands In Places They Shouldn't Be: A Vinyl Villain Guest Edition

I spent last Thursday evening in the company of JC, the man behind the long running, standard setting blog The Vinyl Villain. He'd travelled down from Glasgow overnight and we met for a few drinks and a catch up taking in two legendary Manchester pubs- The Briton's Protection (grade II listed, serving beer since 1806- the year not the time- with a mural of the Peterloo Massacre down one wall) and The City Arms (a pre- Hacienda haunt for many back in the day, situated just across the road from Fac51). Earlier this week JC sent this to me. A few weeks ago I started an irregular series of Bands In Places They Shouldn't Be including Echo And The Bunnymen on Wogan, Prefab Sprout at Alton Towers, Ice T on The Late Show and Aztec Camera on Pebble Mill. I've got a few ideas lined up for further editions in the series but in the meantime JC has stepped in with a Bands In Places They Shouldn't Be Scottish Edition. Without further ado, then, over to JC...

I was quite tickled by Adam’s previous posts in which he dug out some classic video clips of performances or appearances in the most unlikely of places.  So much so, that I’ve come up with a few more, all of which feature singers/bands from Scotland.

First up are Aztec Camera and a rendition of Walk Out ToWinter that was broadcast on Switch, a series aired on Channel 4 between March and September 1983.  It basically took over the Friday evening slot that had been occupied by The Tube, starting one week after the end of the first series and ending one week before the second series began.

Look closely and you’ll see that the normally immaculate Roddy Frame and his bandmates are wearing identical and hideous tracksuits.  That’s because the footage was from the afternoon rehearsals when they did their bit to help the camera operators and lighting technicians do their thing, returning later on for the actual performance that was broadcast.  Only thing is, the band decided not to perform the new single and thus leaving the record label a tad upset. Which is why, no doubt after much pleading with the producers of Switch, this footage was shown a few weeks later. 

Back in the days when the BBC actually were half-decent at putting out music shows, they came up with the idea of a 24-hour broadcast across BBC 2 and Radio 1, which was given the imaginary title of Rock Around The Clock.  I think there may actually have been a couple of these, with the shows being a blend of live performances from concert venues, studio performances, interviews, videos and specially commissioned film clips.   It also saw musicians dropping in for chats, as was the case when Edwyn Collins, Paul Quinn and Zeke Manyika were interviewed, from recollection around 1am, and it’s fair to say they were up for having a bit of fun.

I’ll divert for a few minutes, as the same show also had Billy Bragg and Echo & The Bunnymen in the studio at an even later hour.  They teamed up for an unforgettable cover of a Velvet Underground number.

Turning now to the first band ever to play at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, the cavernous venue on the banks of the River Clyde to which all the big names would flock after the legendary Glasgow Apollo was closed down and demolished.  History records that UB40 were the first to play in what became known as Hall 4 in 1985, but the truth of the matter is that a little-known local act called Snakes of Shake were the first as evidenced by this clip which went out on The Tube in 1984:-

OK….the building was still under construction, but let’s not split hairs.

That clip was part of a special on Scottish music that was broadcast by The Tube.  You’ll have to bear with me on the next one as I can’t find a segment where it’s just the song.  

It’s a seven-minute piece of film, in which presenter Leslie Ash turns up on a very wintry day in Dundee for a chat down in the dockside area with Billy Mackenzie.  The interview takes place on what appears to be a tug boat, while Billy then mimes outrageously to the Associates song ‘Waiting For The Loveboat’ on board the HMS Unicorn, a 200-year old frigate that operates as a museum/visitor attraction in Dundee.  The music begins around 4 mins and 24 seconds in.

You’ll have spotted by now that many of these clips are courtesy of the hard work of an individual who goes by the name of ScottishTeeVe who has taken hundreds of hours to take his VHS etc recordings and put them up on YouTube for our enjoyment.  All the clips thus far, I also have on dozens of different videotapes that are in boxes in a cupboard beneath the stairs, but I just don’t know how to now put them in places where they can be shared and enjoyed more widely.

I’ll finish off with a cheat.

It’s a clip that doesn’t feature anyone from Scotland, but it was filmed in Glasgow on 3 June 1990.

The location is Custom House Quay on the banks of the Clyde. It was part of ‘The Big Day’,  one of the centrepiece events in a year-long set of festivities to celebrate Glasgow being designated as the European City of Culture.  An all-day music festival that was free of charge across various locations, with the big-name acts performing on stages at the main civic square or in the largest of our inner-city parks.  Some more niche acts were put on at Custom House Quay, one of whom was Billy Bragg.  He didn’t let on that he was going to be joined for part of his set by some friends from America:-

You can see that the location is full to capacity, with maybe a couple of hundred folk sitting down and maybe as many again standing up at street level.  No mobile phones, so no way of letting anyone know that Michael Stipe and Natalie Merchant were singing their hearts out.  I don’t have this clip on video, for the simple reason that I was out on the streets that day, among what was estimated to be a crowd of 250,000.  Nor did I see it on the day…..I was half-a-mile away enjoying the one stage where the music was quite eclectic, watching the likes of Aswad, Nanci Griffith and Les Negresses Vertes put on great shows.  It wasn’t until the next day, reading the newspapers, did I learn about the Custom House Quay happening.  The performance has become the Glasgow equivalent of the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976 with thousands claiming to have been there.

Massive thanks to JC for this time capsule, a hugely enjoyable post. 

Wednesday 20 September 2023


Smokebelch, the Sabres Of Paradise track that will most likely outlive all their others turns thirty today. The 12" single was released on 20th September 1993. The fact that this is three full decades ago will make some of us feel very old. In some ways the intervening thirty years have gone in the blink of an eye but in some ways the release of this record and the world as it was then do feel a very long time ago. I was twenty three when it came out (there's that number again), just starting my teacher training course. Looking back at who and where I was then and who and where I am now it does feel like thirty years. At the same time I can clearly recall buying the 12" in HMV on Market Street, a small quantity of them in the rack at the back of the shop. I can clearly remember taking it back to the flat I shared in Altrincham and playing it over and over. It's remained close to me ever since- in December 2021 we played the Beatless mix at Isaac's funeral, at the graveside. 

In tribute to the record and to celebrate its thirtieth birthday today I thought I'd sequence the various version together, fifty minutes of Smokebelch. It's not exhaustive- the Flute Mix is missing (originally appearing on the B-side of the David Holmes remix 12" and I don't have it digitally) and so is the later, Two Lone Swordsmen version done in memory of Ali Cooke for the Cut The Crap three CD compilation.  

Sabres Of Paradise- Andrew Weatherall, Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns- based the track on LB Bad's New Age Of Faith, a 1989 release written by Lamont Booker. Keyboards on Smokebelch were played by Les Jumeaux, a duo also known as In The Nursery who remixed Sabres' Haunted Dancehall in 1994. The painting on the sleeve was by Richard Sen, graffiti artist, raver and DJ/ producer in his own right. The names came from Andrew noticing smoke pouring from cooling towers (someone,somewhere on the internet had a fuller version of this anecdote but I can't find it at the moment). 

The Beatless version came out later on in 1993, a 7" single given away with initial quantities of the album Sabresonic (also thirty this year, in a couple of months time. I'll come back to that nearer the time). It is four minutes of ambient gorgeousness, the twinkling melody notes pulled out and dancing like the light from the stars. 

Smokebelch I also turned up on Sabresonic, a echo- laden rhythmic monster, kick drum banging away with metallic cymbals and distorted bassline. Darker and with some '93 Weatherall techno menace, the light only appears halfway through with the alternating long synth notes. Meanwhile the drums power onwards. 

The  Smokebelch 12" single, thirty today as I keep saying, came with two versions- the Entry and Exit versions, each coming in at nearly twelve minutes. The two mixes contain those same sounds put together in a different order- the ticking, matchbox percussion, that warm bassline, the squelches, rumbling timpani, synth strings, the dancing woodblock topline, the pianos and synths, snares and thumping kick drum. Nothing fades in or out slowly, everything is lightswitch style, turned on and off, in and out, the different elements layered perfectly. We noticed over the months that followed that it worked in multiple situations- it was euphoric and ecstatic in clubs and in a crowd and could be reflective and more melancholic played at home or in a lower mood. The Exit version is pacier and taken at a greater speed. 

The David Holmes remix came out a week later clad in a yellow sleeve rather than the red one, a fuller, more intense version made for mutating dancefloors into seething messes, an acid squiggle added to it, whistles, rattling marching band snares, breakdowns, more piano and the majorettes carrying us down the road for several minutes at the end. 


  • Smokebelch (Beatless Mix)
  • Smokebelch I
  • Smokebelch II (Entry)
  • Smokebelch II (Exit)
  • Smokebelch II (David Holmes Mix)

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Necessary Genius

Necessary Genius came out yesterday, the new single from David Holmes ahead of his album in November, a fourteen track album titled Blind On A Galloping Horse. Necessary Genius rides in on a rattling drum machine and gliding synths, a kraut/ cosmische spliced with 80s electro- pop celebration of outsiders, artists, misfits, dreamers and believers, with vocals from Raven Violet. David's list includes Tony Wilson, Sinead O'Connor, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Angela Davis, Andrew Weatherall, Nina Simone, Terry Hall and Samuel Beckett in its rollcall of cultural inspirations, of people to believe in, alongside northern soul, rock and roll, agitprop and refugees. It's the latest in Holmes' recent run of songs that once over send me straight back to the beginning, clicking play again and again. This one sounds like a classic 7" single from the glory years of that format, a short sweet blast of sideways pop music and clarion call.

Necessary Genius comes after Holmes' pair of singles It's Over, If We Run Out Of Love and Hope Is The Last Thing To Die (released in 2022 and 2021 respectively) and the long awaited release of that pair of songs on vinyl is finally happening in early November. Those two songs have been played round here as often as any others released since 2020 and I suspect Necessary Genius will follow suit with the rest of Blind On A Galloping Horse following close behind. 

A few weeks ago David made his monthly God's Waiting Room radio show at NTS a two hour tribute to Sinead O'Connor, finishing with a ten minute version of his remix of Orbital's Belfast with the vocal from Nothing Compares 2U mixed into it and then fading into an excerpt from an interview with Sinead. David read my blogpost and very kindly sent it to me. Up now for a limited time. 

Nothing Compares 2 Belfast

Monday 18 September 2023

Monday's Long Song

Sundowning originally appeared on Mark Peter's album from last year Red Sunset Dreams, a song with Dot Allison on vocals, and then in remixed by Richard Norris form on The Magic Hour EP from March this year. Now it's out as a live version, eight minutes of dappled guitar lines, reverb, melodies flowing with occasional bursts of something heavier. I saw Mark support Marconi Union at Yard in Cheetham Hill earlier this year, playing solo with backing tracks and Sundowning was a highlight, Dot's vocals floating through the PA with Mark's playing. This version was recorded live at The Band Room in Farndale, Yorkshire in April with Dean Roby playing bass guitar, giving this version some hefty bottom end and the drums from Richard Norris' remix. Mark's Wigan guitar heritage is evident- the feedback and wall of guitar from three minutes on could be Nick McCabe with Verve in the early 90s. 

Sundowning refers to the state of confusion dementia patients enter into, occurring in late afternoon and evening. You can buy the live version at Bandcamp- all proceeds from the sales will go to Dementia UK. The Magic Hour with Richard Norris' remix, two new, non- album tracks Alpen Glow and The Magic Hour and a track with BJ Cole remixed by Dawn Chorus and The Infallible Sea is here. It's out on yellow 10" vinyl and is worth every penny. 

Sunday 17 September 2023

Forty Minutes of World Of Twist

World Of Twist have come up in my internet world a couple of times recently and it seemed too good an opportunity to resist to sling some of their best moments together into a single forty minute mix, one side of a C90 tape in old money. The group's back catalogue is fairly slim- a 1991 album, Quality Street, a handful of singles and remixes and a pair of BBC radio sessions, one for John Peel and one for Mark Goodier. My first encounter with them was on a Manchester compilation album, the swirling song The Storm already getting mentions in the music press. After that I bought everything they released, seeing them live twice, once in Liverpool and once in Manchester. 

World Of Twist formed in Sheffield in 1985, disintegrated, and then reformed in Manchester in 1989, many of the members living in the Withington/ Didsbury area where I grew up. The line up of singer Tony Ogden, guitarist Gordon King, Andrew Hobson on synths, Alan Frost (FX, visuals, synths), MC Shells aka Julia on 'swirls and sea noises', Angela Reilly (visuals) and drummer Nick Sanderson found press and a record contract quickly, caught up in the feeding frenzy of late 80s Manchester. They took the driving rhythms of northern soul, 80s indie rock and late 60s psychedelia, the end of the pier, faded glamour of seaside towns like Blackpool and fused it all together. Their live shows had slide shows and projections, trippy effects, glitter curtains and rotating signs with the words Rock And Roll on them. Tony Ogden, floppy hair centre parted and black leather jacket, had a stage stance that was like a young Elvis (if Elvis had been from Stockport rather than Tupelo). They finished their live gigs with a cover of The MC5's Kick Out The Jams. If Pulp (who travelled a similar road to much greater success) had covered Kick Out The Jams it would have been draped in knowing irony, Jarvis giving it high leg kicks and an arched eyebrow. World Of Twist, after an ascending Blackpool Ballroom organ intro, attack Kick Out The Jams in deadly seriousness. I really liked them. 

There was a feeling that Quality Street missed the boat. By 1991 the Manchester tide was going out and the album, largely produced by Richard Norris and Dave Ball of The Grid with Martin Moscrop of A Certain Ratio and Cliff Brigden also at the desk, never seemed to be loud enough, no matter how much you turned your volume knob. The press went from full blooded praise to very lukewarm in months.  They called it a day in 1992 when, having begun work on a second album, Tony decided he didn't want to sing any more. Gordon King and Nick Sanderson went on to Earl Brutus. Sadly two members are no longer with us- Tony Ogden died in 2006 and Nick Sanderson in 2008. 

Forty Minutes Of World Of Twist

  • The Storm
  • Lose My Way
  • Blackpool Tower (John Peel Session 1991)
  • She's A Rainbow (12" Version)
  • This Too Shall Pass Away (Chat)
  • Sweets (Barratt 200 Mix)
  • I'm A Teardrop
  • Sons Of The Stage (12" Version)
  • On The Scene
  • Kick Out The Jams (Live at St. Andrew's University 1991)
The Storm was on the demo tape that got them a deal. It came out several times as a single with their cover of She's A Rainbow on the B-side, variously with Martin Hannett and/ or The Grid on production duties and Hugo Nicolson and Spencer Birtwistle from Intastella engineering. It starts with thunder and sound effects, then the swirly organ and rapid fire drums kick in. Indie night floor filler. 

Lose My Way opened Quality Street, a strong start to the album with its trumpet part, hammering four four drums and Tony's full throttle vocal and lyrics about love and lust. On The Scene is from the album too, an album track that is the closest they came to the Manchester sound, swirly indie- dance from 1991. 

Blackpool Tower is from a John Peel session, 25th June 1991 along with versions of Lose My Way, St Bruno (otherwise unreleased) and Kick Out The Jams. Blackpool Tower became part of a ten minute song called Blackpool Tower Suite, released on 12" in late 1990 with The Storm and She's Rainbow.

She's A Rainbow was one of their signature tunes and the record company threw it out multiple times looking for a hit. It's a cover of a 1967 Rolling Stones song, one of highlights of the Their Satanic Majesty's Request album, and one of Martin Hannett's last production jobs. The 12" version opens with some lovely, gnarly distorted guitar before the famous piano line comes in. 

This Too Shall Pass Away was the B-side to the single Sweets (and in its 'proper' form appears on Quality Street). The song is a cover of a 1964 Honeycombs single. On the Chat version Tony's vocals have been replaced by samples of people talking about Norman Wisdom, gardening, artichokes and potatoes and other everyday matters. 

Sweets was a sugary pop song, lovely stuff. The Barratt 200 Mix  came out on the 12" and CD single.

I'm A Teardrop is a great little song, recorded for a Mark Goodier session in September 1990, two and a half minutes of indie- guitar pop. 

Sons Of The Stage was on the album and a single and if it was all they had ever released, it would be more than enough. Like Hawkwind streamlined and rebooted for the early 90s, the song is a rush of indie dance, northern soul and early 70s sci fi psychedelia. It's a magnificent achievement. Tony's lyrics describe the sensation of being the singer on stage, with the band powering away around him and the crowd a seething mass in front of him. 'The beat breaks down so we pick it up/ The floor shakes down but it's not enough/ The beam is up and kids are high/ I see them move and it blows my mind/ The floor's an ocean and this wave is breaking/ The head is gone and your body's shaking/ There's nothing you can do 'cos there is no solution/ You gotta get down to the noise and confusion...Out of our minds on the stage...'

Kick Out The Jams is a cover of The MC5's famous high octane 1969 song. This recording is live, from a gig at St. Andrew's University in 1991, World Of Twist marrying their devotion to music with the rundown pleasures of British seaside resorts, utter conviction. Kick 'em out. 

Saturday 16 September 2023

Saturday Live

Last Sunday the northern contingent of The Flightpath Estate DJ team (me, Martin and Dan) played a near seven hour session at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats. The set up at the bar is lovely, the DJ kit, complete with a rotary mixer, and sound system are first rate. We played there in April to a select crowd of Sunday afternoon and evening drinkers. The crowd this time was, over the course of the day, more select i.e. smaller, with a few friends of the Flightpath coming down, a smattering of afternoon drinkers and a handful of enthusiastic bar staff and their friends in the evening. 

Needless to say we had a blast, six hours and forty seven minutes of records pulled out of bags and boxes and spun. Last time we took forty five minutes each and after that rotated every few records. This time we played three records each back- to- back all day, which kept everyone more involved and meant we were living on our wits a bit more, constantly responding to what the previous two selectors had put on. This made it a bit more hair-raising with the mixing and transitions, not always being entirely sure how the record you were taking over from ended, but it was great fun and who really cares what the mixing's like on a Sunday afternoon? 

The set was uploaded onto Mixcloud by Blossom Street Social on Tuesday this week and has so far been listened to 152 times. One of the Mixcloud tags was, a bit mystifyingly, Yacht Rock (along with Balearic and Electronica. I think Dub might have been more fitting but there you go). I'm not sure we played any Yacht Rock (except possibly my selection of a song from David Crosby's If I Only Could Remember My Name album and even then....). We did not set out on this adventure with any ambitions to top the Mixcloud Yacht Rock chart but at the time of writing this we were third in that chart so a few my listens might hoist us to the pinnacle. The full set can be listened to here. It's pretty laid back and chilled for the first three hours, gets a little more uptempo in the final third when Mr Weatherall makes an appearance on a few occasions. It might be best consumed in chunks unless you've got nothing at all to do today. This is what we played and who played what...

[0:00] Malcolm McLaren - Paris (The Emotional Curvatone At A Given Moment In Time And Space by Youth)
[15:00] Art of Noise - Moments In Love (Beaten)
[20:00] Coyote - Nothing Rests

[25:00] Mike Harper – Lay It On Me Baby
[28:00] Rainbow Crunch– Lookin' Back
[33:00] Rodriguez – Sugarman

[36:00] John Barry - Midnight Cowboy
[39:00] Sonlife - She Misses You
[42:00] Floyd Hunchback Group - Wet Dreams

[44:00] Rod McKuen and San Sebastian Strings - The Gypsy Camp
[45:00] David Crosby - Tamalpais High (At About 3)
[48:00] Gal Costa - Milho Verde
[52:00] Dream Lovers - For Belgian Friends

[58:00] Unloved - Strange Effect
[1:01:00] Fireflies - Freeze Me
[1:06:00] Justin Robertson & Tim Burgess - Yes It Is

[1:10:00] Bob Lund - Cool Summer
[1:16:00] William Eaton Ensemble - Kayenta Crossing
[1:19:00] Penguin Cafe - Cantorum

[1:26:00] Penguin Café Orchestra - Music For A Found Harmonium
[1:29:00] Julian Cope - Beautiful Love
[1:32:00] The Durutti Column - Otis

[1:36:00] Tommy Guerrero - Come Together
[1:39:00] Technova - Atmosphere
[1:43:00] Timothy J Fairplay - Plymouth Planetarium

[1:48:00] Four Tet - Two Thousand And Seventeen
[1:52:00] Persona La Ave - Surfer Girl
[1:58:00] Matty - Blood

[2:01:00] Alex Kassian - Lifestream
[2:07:00] Andy Bell - Our Last Night Together
[2:12:00] Coyote - Kate's Bush (Nocturnal Edit)

[2:18:00] RPM - Sortie Des Ombres
[2:23:00] Scha Dara Parr – N.I.C.E. Guy (Nice Guitar Dub)
[2:28:00] Barcode - Love Anybody

[2:35:00] Andy Davis - Over And Over
[2:40:00] JIM - Still River Flow
[2:45:00] Gaudi Meets the Rebel Dread - E=MC2

[2:50:00] Sinead O’Connor With MC Lyte - I Want Your (Hands On Me) (Dance Mix)
[2:55:00] Siouxsie And The Banshees - Peek-A-Boo (Big Spender Mix)
[3:01:00] Talk Talk: Life’s What You Make It

[3:09:00] Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
[3:13:00] LCD Soundsystem - Yr City's A Sucker
[3:18:00] Fad Gadget - Back To Nature

[3:23:00] Liquid Liquid - Cavern
[3:28:00] Woolfy - Looking Glass (Extended Mix)
[3:33:00] The Aloof - On a Mission (Stanley Mix)

[3:40:00] Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart - Visions Of You (The Secret Love Child Of Hank And Johnny Mix)
[3:50:00] Transglobal Underground - Temple Head (Pacific Mix)
[3:55:00] Saint Etienne - Speedwell (The Aloof Mix)

[4:01:00] Colourbox - Looks Like We're Shy One Horse
[4:06:00] Ashley Beedle vs Warbox - Da Soun A Ear (Dubplate Mix)
[4:09:00] Blue - Circle Line (Rootsman Remix)

[4:17:00] Pama International Meets Wrongtom - Tomorrow's Dub Today
[4:20:00] Dub Syndicate - 2001 Love
[4:24:00] Wrongtom Meets Rockers - Dub In The Supermarket

[4:28:00] SOP - Ysaebud
[4:32:00] African Head Charge - I'm A Winner
[4:35:00] The Clash - Ghetto Defendant

[4:40:00] Fujiya & Miyagi - Ankle Injuries
[4:45:00] R3mote - Freefall
[4:48:00] Pink Elln - Human Perc

[4:52:00] Cavern Of Anti-Matter - Kool Boy Narcosis
[4:54:00] Rude Audio - The Grinning
[4:59:00] Twice Of Love - 24 Hours From Culture

[5:04:00] Psychederek - Screamadereka (Hardway Bros Meet Monkton Downtown Disco Dub)
[5:12:00] Jeremy Deller - Voodoo Ray (JD Twitch Optimo Mix)
[5:19:00] A Certain Ratio - Good Together

[5:24:00] Waxworth Industries - Take The Book (D.M.X)
[5:30:00] Venetians - Son Sur Son (A.W. Edition Uno)
[5:35:00] Confidence Man - Bubblegum (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

[5:42:00] Dolle Jolle - Balearic Incarnation (Todd Terje's Extra Dell Mix)
[5:52:00] Chris & Cosey - Exotika
[5:58:00] Last Rhythm - Last Rhythm (Ambient Mix)

[6:02:00] Fontaines D.C. - A Hero's Death (Soulwax Remix)
[6:07:00] Confidence Man - Out The Window (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
[6:14:00] Sly & Lovechild - The World According To Sly & Lovechild (Soul Of Europe Mix)

[6:23:00] Trentemoller - Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider Go!!! (Andrew Weatherall Prinz Mix)
[6:29:00] La Ruta - Kibbo Kift
[6:37:00] Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
[6:45:00] Two Lone Swordsmen - Work At Night

Friday 15 September 2023

Weatherall Remix Friday Twelve

Back in 2013 Andrew Weatherall was on the crest of a new wave, his skills as a remixer in demand again, a new generation of artists wanting his magic dust sprinkled over their work and the man in fine form, producing remixes that took in a variety of styles and influences- dub, post- punk, kraut, Balearic, acid and more all showed up across a slew of remixes. This one found a sweet spot somewhere between indie- dance and techno, the sugar psychedelia of Australian band Jagwar Ma rejigged with a tough drum track, juddering synth sounds and singer Gabriel's compressed vocal. 

Come Save Me

Moving to London Jagwar Ma's Jono Ma- the man who does the guitars, synths, drum machines, samples and production- found himself in studio space adjoining Mr Weatherall's, in a facility in Tottenham. In 2016 Jagwar Ma released a second album, Every Now And Zen. In 2017, having sent the stems and tracks next door Andrew provided a pair of remixes of the song Give Me A Reason, one making it to a 12" release. These are a step away again from the Come save Me remix, a version which could easily have soundtracked mayhem at indie nights on dancefloors in 1991. These are more spacey, the rippling cosmische extended for up to ten minutes, waves of synthlines flowing over minimal, pattering electronic drums. The second one goes further still, a stripped down electronic dub version with distorted voices, bending the original song and its remix into new shapes. 

Give Me A Reason (Weatherall Meets Jonnie Two Heaters Uptown Part 1)

Give Me A Reason (Weatherall Meets Jonnie Two Heaters Uptown Part 2)

Jono found the British winter tough, shivering in his studio space, wrapped up to beat the cold. The Facility 1 landlord brought him a heater but one was not enough. Hence the remix titles. 

Thursday 14 September 2023

Peyote Plains

I still try to get out and walk daily if possible. It's a habit I got in the first lockdown and have tried to keep going ever since. It gets more squeezed when work starts again and autumn kicks in, night falling earlier and chores piling up, but it always feels worth making the effort even it's just a fifteen minute amble round the block. We're lucky in that where we live in south Manchester the river Mersey is only a few minutes away, the banks easily walkable and several different length walks available.  I was out a couple of evenings ago, on my own with my headphones in. One of those crushing waves of grief that come periodically (daily/ every few days) broke over me, leaving me feeling pretty broken. They happen when I'm on my own, in the car or on my bike or walking. I've learnt to let go and accept them but they're not very pleasant sometimes, a feeling of quiet desperation. As I walked on the tunes I'd cued up on my phone turned from ambient to acidic and thumpy. The one below- Peyote Plains by Dirt Bogarde- came on. I grinned involuntarily and almost stopped walking and started dancing, a lone man on the banks of the Mersey throwing shapes and waving his arms in the air. It was only the presence of a dogwalker and a jogger that stopped me. The power of music to transport is second to none. 

After last month's release, the post punk menace and tension of Tenth Floor Down, Dirt's come back with Peyote Plains, a welcome return to the acid chug and an atmospheric slo- mo thumper dedicated to the ceremonies of the tribes of The Great Plains- wobbly bass, cries and chants, sirens and a repeating melody line that will embed itself for hours after hearing it. Buy it at Bandcamp

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Double Dub

Accidental/ ambient art- this is the detail of a large piece of plywood boarding up the windows of an empty shop in Chorlton with a small piece of black tape stuck in the centre. If I set out to paint something like this deliberately, it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as this. 

Richard Norris has taken a detour recently. Alongside his always excellent monthly twenty minute ambient/ deep listening excursion Music For Healing (the most recent release in that series is the autumnal Equinox 9) Richard is now making dub and has a new label to put it out under- Oracle Sound. The first volume of Oracle Sound is out in October with three deep dubs available to listen to in advance- Lightning Version, Birthday Dub and Sodium Haze. This is dub created from scratch, allowed to unfold over long periods of time, beds of echo and space, ambient/ drone backdrops, kicking rhythms and lovely warm bass. You can find Oracle Sound Volume 1 here. Subscribers to Richard's Bandcamp can get hold of the twenty minute long Shark Tooth Dub, experimental, ambient dub that glides on and on. 

More dub now, of the dubbing out already existing songs variety. Panda Bear and Sonic Youth's album of last year Reset has been dubbed out in full by Adrian Sherwood. The original album was a brightly coloured, sweeter than sugar blast of 60s psyche- pop. Sherwood has applied forty years of dub experience at On U Sound to the songs, re- imaging the songs, breaking them down, smothering them in dub FX, pulling basslines and drums/ percussion to the fore, adding new horns/ melodica lines and adding those cymbal crashes, whirrs, gurgles and thick bottom end.  I could post every/ any version from Reset In Dub but perhaps its best just to go for Getting To the Point Dub.


Tuesday 12 September 2023


This is brand new from Roger Eno and ahead of an album in October called The Skies They Shift Like Chords... Tidescape is minimal and for want of a better description ambient/ neo- classical, a four minutes forty seconds meditation on staring out at the sea, led by Jon Goddard's ringing guitar high note and a low key bed of other instruments- I can hear an organ and a clarinet I think, maybe something else too. It comes with a video that has slow moving, grainy footage of an empty beach at sunset, a dilapidated pier, and the sand and sky a blurry wash of browns and greys with the faintest hint of sunshine as a pale yellow horizon. If you're anything like me you may find it all profoundly melancholic but it does also manage to leave you feeling ok. I think.

Roger's brother Brian also has a slow moving, melancholic, ambient track inspired by the endless flux of the beach, this one from the soundtrack to Derek Jarman's Jubilee in 1978. 

Dover Beach