Thursday, 14 September 2017

Let's Get Physical (Graffiti) & Nico's Political Incorrectness

"No-one wants CDs anymore" said the woman working in the charity shop. What? Even charity shops have turned their back on the old format? Well, this one had anyway. Streaming and free files have killed the CD, which now has the same status vinyl had ten years ago, exceptions being the niche home-baked, hip independent limited edition type. As for everything else, the more common stuff, it seems to be available at very reasonable prices second-hand. Vinyl, however...well, you know the story.

The absurd value placed on vinyl today is a good thing for those of us who've been buying it since the 70s. It means that, should we be a little cash-strapped or, in my case, wanting a book that's a little expensive, we simply cull the vinyl collection and sell to trade shops for prices we'd never have got ten years ago.

Meanwhile, I've taken to buying CDs again, mostly in charity shops. Don't ask why; I suppose I'm perverse that way. Plus, all that stuff on the hard drive is great but you know how that goes. Whereas the physicality (ha-ha, that's what they say about vinyl) of the jewel case is something else...more...demanding. Yes, ironically, when people compare the effort needed with vinyl to the ease of mouse-clicking the third (seemingly forgotten?) way is the disc in the case and the medium it requires, the hi-fi (I think that's what they're still called). Nowadays I regularly burn files to disc to lighten the hard drive's load but more to the point hear music on a better system.

Talking of physical, yes, this morning's purchase was Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, the vinyl version of which I sold last year. This CD double is a suitably hulking (for CDs) thing. Of course it doesn't have the charm of the original card sleeve's clever images-in-windows design but I can live without that.

The case is ugly, but then, so too is the music, in a way. Playing it again, I was reminded of what a monstrous beast Led Zeppelin were. I mean, the sheer excess of mid-70s Rock behaviour, matched by the grossly overdone riffs and solos...the slow drag of In The Light...the folksiness and the clunky funkiness. But then, the grotesque weight of it appeals to me, as does the production, which is both raw and somehow...grimy. 'Originally recorded on analog preserve, as closely as possible, the sound of the original recording' it says on the back. I thought the idea of CDs was to improve the sound! Confusing, isn't it? Crisp, clean digital precision versus 'the original sound'. So which I'm hearing is a mystery. That's alright. The best of it still sounded great, played loud, of course.

Again, what was said in a charity shop: this morning, as I paid for Physical Graffiti, Velvet Underground were playing on the sound system. I couldn't resist sharing my admiration for them with the girl behind the counter. She replied by saying she could only play them because the manager wasn't there and went on to explain that her boss regarded Nico as a racist, therefore banned. I suggested that presumably Wagner's music could not be appreciated either before a quick summary of my thoughts on politically vetting artist. She smiled, not wanting to engage in a deep discussion, which I didn't either. I'd said my bit and walked out, thinking about all that.

Firstly, I had no idea Nico was 'racist', but having since read a little about her and it seems she made a few suspect comments. Secondly, if anyone wants to shun an artist for comments made off the record (literally) that's their business. When they make racist records that's another matter. Of course, I can easily ignore what artists have said because I'm neither Jewish nor black. Neither am I gay. As a pro-feminist gesture, should I start researching my favourite artists' attitude and behaviour towards women? If I should ban those who are guilty of misconduct, how much music would I have left? That may seem like a selfish attitude, but so be it. If you wish to politically cleanse your collection, feel free.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Shit and Shine - Some People Really Know How To Live

Shit and Shine. Some People Really Know How To Live. Editions Mego. Available now.

You want more? That's enough.

Unless you're unconvinced of Shit and Shine's genius, brilliance ability to pulverise your skull so bad it's good, not like Noise, not like that kind of terror - terror that comes to dance...on your grave - what larks, Pip! And so on. Shit and Shine party like: it's the end of the world, like nothing else matters,'s 1999 only better, but I can't remember music from 1999, can you? Instead, imagine a future where right-thinking maniacs have distilled the essence of bastard hip-hop DJs, Autechre's evil brother, Alec Empire circa Hypermodern Jazz...imagine what you like, I don't care.

In case you think Shit And Shine are all bluster and boulder-sized beats, they can be more minimal, as on Girl Close Your Eyes, which is still sinister.

Unless your computer speakers are shit hot, don't think you've heard things properly. The things here demand proper speakers. With bass. Make them wobble. Get a car with a bass-heavy sound know, like the kind that annoy the fuck out of you when they drive past, but play this Shit And Shine album LOUD instead...and drive them mad. It should be a crime, foisting your music on others like that. Unless your music is this album.

If you don't like it, as the sample on Raining Horses says: 'Get out of town'. Editions Mego

And this here's the best music video I've seen for a long time...

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Not Moanin' About Mingus At The Proms

Ah Um, RTomens, 2017

Watched Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited at The Proms on Friday night with some trepidation, as I'm sure many Mingus fans did, but thankfully no crimes were committed in His name. Black saint and occasional sinner Mingus is not to be messed with. At times the orchestration veered towards over arrangement but never crossed the line between remaking tunes and totally ruining them. As you know, Mingus was a masterful arranger without ever losing the blood, guts 'n' blues born in fingers that can sound as if they're ripping the very soul from the man in order to express himself. 

But who's the crazy dude with the pink hair holding a baritone? Leo Pelligrino, actually, as I found out later. His hi-energy ass-wiggling, comedic and sometimes sassy intro to Moanin' was a delight. Mingus might have been turning in his grave but I loved this as pure entertainment which injected spirit (albeit the spirit of both a clown and great Texas R&B honkers of the past) into the night. 

Leo's in a band called Too Many Zoos. Their Bandcamp page is here. More of my art here.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sote - Sacred Horror In Design / Philippe Petit - Buzzing But Not Hung Up On Hip

Ata Ebtekar aka Sote with Arash Bolouri's santour (Persian hammered dulcimer) and Behrouz Pashaei on the long-necked, four-string setar. That's the technical information. What else? It's an astonishingly good electroacoustic album which perfectly fuses tradition with synthesised treatments expertly rendered so as to frequently blur the boundary between both. Yes, that good. Opal Tapes

Phillippe Petit is, as I'm sure you already know, an artist worth following. An artist, that is, in the deeper sense of the word. Few can rival his track record over the last few years and Buzzing But Not Hung Up On Hip simply strengthens his position. Clunky title aside (we hardly need reminding of the superficiality of modern 'hip') the album is a fine antidote to all that is fashionable and the sonic 'bearded' efforts (eh? hope you know what I mean, because I don't, not knowing what music 'hipsters' prefer).

Petit has no truck with fads, preferring to not only forge his own supremely talented compositions but bring on board collaborators. Mind you, I'm not happy with the 'rockin'' Second To Last Thoughts, but at least it confirms he's human (therefore, can make errors). It stands out like a sore thumb. Si Parla Italiano is much more like it, if 'it' exists in Petit's world since he is eclectic. It's an excellent hybrid of tape manipulation, 'free' sax and Jazz trumpet with an increasingly frantic electric bass rhythm. 

As with Sote, Petit conjures fantastic electroacoustic forms, but in a different fashion. Sounds and the shapes they form constantly shift and there are too many instruments featured to mention. Suffice to say it spreads out through dark space to the superb Cymbalomentums (imagine John Barry on a bad trip) and many other points.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Martin Hannett - Homage to Delia Derbyshire

If you buy into the idea of Martin Hannett as a 'genius' producer then this is definitely the master at play rather than work. And why not? I hear there are tapes of Lee Perry's homage to Phil Spector knocking around, but perhaps that's just a silly rumour.

It's makes sense that Hannett would be into Delia Derbyshire and all things Radiophonic even if whilst he was crafting the atmospherics that make many Joy Division tunes so amazing most listeners would have been oblivious to both. Thankfully the wonders worked in the tape-splicing lab by BBC sound scientists of the 60s have been revealed to more of us in the last decade through compilations and file-sharing sites.

I'm more of a Daphne Oram fan but that doesn't prevent me from enjoying this compilation of spare time doodles by Hannett. It's actually a mixed bag regarding styles. On some tracks he blatantly mimics Radiophonic lite with melodic little outings whilst others have a more improvisational 'jamming' feel. The 'meat', however, come in the form of Track 9, a ten-minute salvo of deep drones, cuts, beats and speed variations. Elsewhere there's Easy Listening and library-music-goes-Rock.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Label: COMA †‡† KULTUR

COMA †‡† KULTUR is a label name but could also describe the net-induced state we find ourselves in when spending too much time gazing at this screen. In the process of seeking out good music it's easy to become consumed by the zombie death brain rays that are a by-product of this thing. Even supposedly pleasurable pursuits such as listening to music can turn our minds to mush as we first walk, then stumble before free-falling into the black hole.

Thanks to a network relationship I've been receiving COMA †‡† KULTUR information for some time but only got 'round to really investigating the label this afternoon. If this blog has any point other than to keep me occupied for a few hours it is to highlight good things and this is one. The latest release is below, which as you'll discover brilliantly adapts the musique concrète approach to it's own end. The roster of artists all represent a certain sound aesthetic of rough-hewn, sometimes brutal but always thoughtfully constructed composition and all works are 'name your price'. Go have a listen.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Roberto Bola-no

Image result for bolano 2666

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin...

Once upon a time I may have felt intellectually inferior to those who were not only able to read but waxed lyrical about 'difficult' novels. Thankfully, those days are over. Perhaps this is simply due to my age, as in the passing of enough years to render me confident in my taste having sampled many things, including Trout Mask Replica.

I do not like long novels. With this in mind, I recently bought Roberto Bolano's 2666 because it sat there on the charity shop shelf priced at £1.49. For that paltry sum I could afford to be...'brave'...or 'adventurous', whatever you might call it. 'Stupid' is a word that springs to mind now.

I felt like a challenge. I jumped in with a view to taking each page as it comes rather than worrying about how many were left. The first part, The Part About The Critics, was not engaging but I read on about their relationships and the quest to find their favourite author. I noted many little stories within stories and descriptions of dreams. These rang alarm bells but I persevered. Regarding literature about literature I felt that Bolano's friend, Enrique Vila-Matas, did a much better job. No matter. I continued reading.

The first part finished I paused. There seemed little point wondering what that was about. I know what it was about. I only wondered if it was about more than it seemed to be about. In other words, had I missed a meaningful subtext? I paused for a couple of days before starting The Part About Amalfitano. I read several pages before, not slamming it shut and hurling it across the room, but calmly closing the covers and placing it on the pile of stuff we give to the local charity shop.

So that was 2666. All I can say now is if anyone can read it and gain pleasure in the process they have my best wishes, but not my admiration.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Sun Ra on Bandcamp

Greetings from London where, from my exclusive residency, I deign to broadcast my thoughts to you, the common person of the street, being a place I rarely dare visit for fear of catching an awful virus or worse still, be forced to endure the kind of music played in high street shops. As you may have read, though, I did venture out last Thursday night to see The Fall at the 100 Club, the repercussions of which I am still feeling; not due to alcohol abuse, but social network conversations about said musical event and especially the physical condition of Mark E. Smith. That will teach me for raising the subject and reaping the seemingly endless responses when I should have known His followers are many and obsessive.

My main mission today is about Sun Ra. I'm not sure how long these albums have been on Bandcamp but I only saw an FB notification today and I suspect it's a recent creation. Somehow this seems likes a special development if only to help spread The Word and allow many non-believers to at least sample his cosmo-message on something other than YouTube, where they are likely to be plagued by advertisements, as we all are. A friend asked me where to start and although I suggested a few albums it felt like merely scratching the surface of His infinite sound universe. His recordings are finite, but once on Sun Ra's strange celestial road I feel time has little meaning and the the process of discover seems endless.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Fall at the 100 Club

Standing in the 100 Club last night Dan wonders "Is this the fall of The Fall?" Dan's in a band called Gutters. He's from Up North too, like Mark E. Smith, but is not quite as famous. Like Smith, Dan is a poet of the oblique and deserves recognition. You can hear his band's debut album here

I feel ashamed. A little embarrassed. Because 40 years later I 'get' The Fall. Please forgive me. I've been busy. Busy getting into Jazz, for instance. And Drum'n'Bass. Busy going off on tangents to find John Adams and Pierre Henry. Busy listening to anything but The Fall.

Last night I stood listening to The Fall because Dan had a pair of hot tickets for a show that sold out quickly and chose me to accompany him. I felt honoured, not only by that but being in the presence of Mark E. Smith. That would soon change. 

Now that I'm wise I feel stupid. How could I have ignored The Fall for so long? So I've spent some time watching interviews and documentaries, as well as listening. There's a lot of listening to do; so much that I feel I'll never catch up.

We're in the 100 Club, desperate for a view of the man but the stage is low, affording only glimpses of band members' heads but not Mark E. Smith, who's seated. It's ironic that having eluded me for so long, even when in the same room I still can't see Mark E. Smith. Serves me right. When I do eventually glimpse him between audience heads, lurching across the stage, mic so close to his lips as if he wishes to eat it, he doesn't look good. 

How will you look when your'e 60? Yes, but for 60, Mark doesn't look good. His face seems bloated, contorted in a kind of agony rather than anger. It's as if he is trying to devour himself and the audience through this ritual. Is he ill? Is he on steroids? Has a kind of illness plagued him since 1976 and the formation of a phenomenon that would allow him to try and exorcise the demons over the following decades? That hard exterior, was it always in place, having thickened over years of stupid questions from journalists and TV presenters? To be working class and not ordinary. To be dogged by dumb reporters always after an angle, never coming close to understanding what he's about, eager to pigeonhole and gradually feed on the enigma, to taunt, to mock someone who is contemptible of them.  

He has osteoporosis. Some audience members won't know that and those who are young may consider him a crotchety 'old man', albeit a legendary one. There's a danger of this being a freak show. The trouble with time and society's attitude towards the old is it turns us all into freak shows if we live long enough.  At this stage of The Fall's life, Mark E. Smith's one-man rebellion against the idiots is in danger, not of commodification or commercial appropriation, but worse, becoming a joke. Like Glastonbury, like Punk, turning into another spectacle, an ex-revolutionary alternative rendered impotent, merely another form of entertainment.  

Halfway through the set Mark E. Smith has gone AWOL. It's something we sense more than see. The word soon buzzes through the room. The band play on. He has a reputation for disappearing. Even I know that, but it's still a shock. Where is he? Is he that unwell? We were told later by security that he'd had an asthma attack. But his vocals resume. How can this be? Pamela Vander, his partner and manager, appears on stage shouting his name, encouraging the crowd and finally pointing to the far corner of the room, where the dressing room is, telling us he's over there. She proceeds to try and crank up the energy level of the audience with 'come on' gestures of her upturned hands whilst stalking the stage. It works. Someone throws a plastic glass and as the band play on I get a rush of excitement that reminds me of Punk gigs long ago. In his physical absence, Mark E. Smith has intensified everything. More than that, the band are playing tight, raw, high-energy, motorik-type off-kilter...Rock 'N' Roll! That's what this is. Not everyday, generic beat stuff for kids but deep, gnarly grind from a parallel universe version of 1950s Las Vegas strip joints fused with avant-garde Northen No Wave. 

The disembodied vocals of Mark E. Smith performing from the dressing room have set the whole thing off-kilter. It's as if we're witnessing a magic trick. As if he is indeed a god, or a ghost, communicating from another realm. The band had been strong so far, forward in the mix, perhaps to compensate for Smith's fragile performance? Without him on stage they more than rose to the occasion. I have read reports of crowds turning nasty when Smith has disappeared. They paid good money to see him, right? But here, at the 100 Club, that wouldn't happen. The band gave the crowd no opportunity to get frustrated and drove on. I for one was well and truly beaten into submission anyway.

That was my first Fall experience. It may be my last but it will certainly never be forgotten. Mark E. Smith and The Fall had been absent in my life for a long time, the fact that He came and went again so quickly seems fitting. 

Photos by Dan Cohen.

Postscript: I've since found out that the tall man standing near me who looked like BBC reporter Jeremy Vine was actually him. He's posted a short piece of footage on his blog.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Jean Kent: Devil Woman

Whilst watching Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948) last night I informed LJ that I was going to start a Jean Kent fan club. I get these urges to honour artists when it's too late. The last one was Cherry Wainer and I had one other eager member but despite our efforts few others seemed to want to join. Imagine my disappointment at the world's refusal to share our admiration for a woman who played the organ the way she did, sometimes with her dog by her side!

Back to Jean. She has something of the devil about her, not only in her fine performance as rebel Gwen Rawlings in Good Time Girl (1948) but her hat in Sleeping Car to Trieste, which features what look like a couple of horns. I wonder if that was the director's intention? Sorry, no pictures available, so you'll have to watch it to see what I mean. It's on YouTube, as is Good Time Girl, a superb British crime drama which predates the teen panic flicks of the 50s wherein rampant 'beatniks' smoked weed, danced to Rock'n'Roll (or Trad Jazz) and generally threatened to destroy the fabric of Western democracy. As if foreseeing the teenage rampage to come, Good Time Girl is a big warning to kids who might go off the rails or, as Gwen does, have the misfortune to get screwed over by a spiv even though she's no angel herself and...well, no spoilers.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Raymond Scott - Three Willow Park

Three Willow Park, the new Raymond Scott collection, is here and has been entertaining me for weeks. I know I don't have to tell you about it. You already know. Don't you? Who are you again? 

Scott's playful experimentation is like a parallel BBC Radiophonic universe of dedicated DIY pioneering electronics (us Brits had Daphne Oram in her oast house, a little later) - it's all a joy, the joy of Raymond Scott's toys as he tinkers to create rhythm samples and ripple effects - an antidote, you might say, to the DoomTech of so much contemporary electronic music (Goth just won't die, in whatever form!). 

But should any of those jokers dare dismiss Scott's recordings they should think again about what he achieved, how devoted he was to finding new sound and therefore paving the way, bleep-by-bleep, for many tech-heads to come. Scott was scientist of sound but a commercially-minded one (no epic Stockhausen-like sonic operas for him!) and as such, I should condemn him, perhaps....because he could be seen as the very worst example of making soothing sounds for big business - but - listening to much of this selection, how can we criticise him for that? Besides, I do like the whole visual culture of the space-age/cold war electronic vanguard, perfectly encapsulated in the title and sound of IBM Probe, for instance. I can detach my political self (seeing the insidious imperialist corporate/war complex) and savour this music.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Toby Esterhaus - Technotheque

Forget 'Cold Wave' here's Cold War tinkering with electronics, tailor-made for those of you with Good Taste - I spy a classic example of tech-no music, flying under the radar of most press, no doubt, just as anyone toying with a fictitious espionage moniker should do -

- enter Kek-w, no less, trench coat collar turned up against the bitter wind as he stalks the shadows of East Berlin's mean streets trying escape attention BUT it is my duty to put him under this lamp in a bid to expose his shady manoeuvres -

- if not exactly a themed album, there are suggestions, as in titles such as the Vienna Incident, Stuck In Stuttgart, Unfilmed Chase Sequence and The Informer but forget film noir Blade Runner cliches as per usual when electronic music turns future detective - Esterhaus presents not cinemascopic sound drama but micro-film snapshots & Technotheque is all the better for that -

- he frequently throws us off the trail with jokes about Steve Strange, a sci-fi B-movie Martian skit and even some Ac_id but don't be fooled, his prints are all over this playful, eclectic, dark/light little masterpiece which in my book punches far above it's weight and deserves your attention so that you may enter the Technotheque, join Toby at a table in the corner and try to discover what he knows. Available from Eriksoisdance

Monday, 3 July 2017


,,,,,,,,,,have you heard the news from Neptune? the Arkestra asking me this morning at Work as I climbed three floors to mine because two of the lifts are broken so the queue was massive me starting to pant but not wanting to display signs of exhaustion in front of those also climbing behind me - I should have been listening to some energising Techno-thump like people in gyms do but sod that & anyway,
what's that got to do with Buried Treasure's release of Alan Sutcliffe material? NOTHING!
other than......
Sutcliffe's synthitones could well be broadcasts from Neptunians - like - first off, LIKENESS (ACM conf. California) is very B-movie sci-fi cold war soundtrack & well, so is most of it & you may think 'Oh not another retro-sounding electronic album' but it was recorded in 1972-3, not quite so retro as all the planets Americans were forbidden from visiting but did anyway in the name of killing communists, I mean aliens.
this compilation is brief but brilliant
aside from raw pure synth experiments there's the 14minute SLIDESHOW of Cage/Schaeffer kaleidoscopic concrete components which really is (and I mean this) one of the best examples of the tradition you will hear.
top marks to Buried Treasure!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Kurt Weill's Die Sieben Todsünden / Oneirika by zeitkratzer + ELLIOTT SHARP

on the day that I found Kurt Weill's Die Sieben Todsünden for 50p (need I tell you how good it is? of course not)'s appropriate that I should also listen to Oneirika by zeitkratzer + ELLIOTT SHARP - the berlin connection - would Weill have approved? who knows? (not of my pairing, but of the avant-orchestral Zeitkratzer) something about them tells me he...might? what a fantastic pointillist-action-sonic sound this is - all over - drums pound, saxophone scribbles (march of death like horrendously portentous on VI - of what? the death of something/war against something & to transport american Sharp's composition to berlin of cabaret-era berlin theatric the nazi national socialist death camp figurehead grinning in the wings). Really first class. even, at times, bernard Herrmann-esque horror strings plus everything that's great about Zeitkratzer, here taking a chance on John Cage (apparent inspiration for Elliott's composition) the upward/downward dance of strings on VIII is stunning...

otherwise, Oneirika offers everything you want from music (unless you're in the mood to dance/relax/hum along) - it's total music, all-encompassing, from deft atmospherics to a deluge of noise.
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