Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Dust Blows Forward And The Dust Blows Back

Let me see now. Where was I. Ah, yes. Captain Beefheart.

"Tropical Hot Dog Night" is the one Beefheart song that even our boys can recognise. It exists on an endless playlist of 2,000-odd songs, of every hue, that I put on whenever I get a chance. (Which is not often.) It is a timeless kind of song, as are most of Beefheart's, in the sense that they exist outside of any particularly recognisable era. It is the thing that made him great, and that even Tom Waits, who tries as hard as anybody to position himself outside of the world in which he lives, can't quite manage in quite the same way.

What is interesting to me is how many virtual column inches have been filled with the Captain since his death, surely in no kind of proportion to how often people actually listen to his music. Take me, for example. "Trout Mask Replica" has been a fixture of my record collection for twenty-odd years, and it is easily one of my most cherished vinyl artyfacts, and yet it has sat on the turntable relatively little over that time. (In terms of playability, I have to say that I lean towards "Safe As Milk" and "Clear Spot". They lack the towering, over-stretching ambition of "TMR", but you can hum along to them.)

As usual, Sasha Frere-Jones writes some of the best words about Beefheart's legacy. And Reynolds gives good YouTube.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sun's going down, like a big bald head

The last two instalments in Eno's "Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea" album-promo series are now up, here and here. Whilst I am not going to be as quick as others to write off the new album, I am troubled by the fact that I am troubled by it. It starts off well, but my early impression is that the wheels fall off about one-third of the way through. I might be missing the point. (I didn't like "The Drop" much, either, except for the final, sublime track.) I intend to come back to it many times with a view to adjusting my score.

Meanwhile these clips demonstrate a sense of vitality, of the joy of music making, that doesn't really come through in the finished album. Says me, as of now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Filmworks Haiku Series Kicks Its Last


Mercifully, these will be the final two entries.

"Filmworks XXII: The Last Supper".

Liturgical Zorn:
Not what I was expecting;
Beautifully done.

"Filmworks XXIII: el General".

I just love it when
Marc Ribot does his Spanish
Moriccone thing.

Next up in The Zorn Report: the three-quarter-time report from his 2010 record-a-month marathon.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Song of the day

"Circumspect Penelope", by Look Blue Go Purple. If you ask me, LBGP have never sounded as good, or as contemporary, as they do right now. Let the revival begin!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Song of the day

"Lucy Brown", by Black Mountain. A song that demonstrates yet another strand in the musical fabric of this immensely talented band. This time, there is a strong glam / RAK Records element, which takes it away from their usual hard rock template, while the lyrics, about how it's such a drag when your "mom" finds your "stash", suggest the song would have been right at home on the soundtrack to one of the earlier Richard Linklater films.

And it's on a Sub Pop Singles Club seven-inch, yeah? Just like the good old days.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

No Hassle

Am I the only person on this planet who actually likes Robyn's "Dancehall Queen"? Heck, every time she gets written about on the Internet even now, months after this particular song first appeared, the writer seems to go out of his or her way to diss this song. It's so unfair. Anyway, it now has a video. Watch it here. (Possibly not safe for, y'know, work. Okay, seriously not.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The master's hand

Click here and here to view the fourth and fifth instalments in Eno's "Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea" project. Just do it. It makes so much more sense when his shiny dome is visibly present.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Filmworks haiku series: mobile edition

"Filmworks XXI: Belle de Nature and The New Rijksmuseum":

Two soundtracks in one.
One: A Marc Ribot showcase.
Two goes for baroque.

(Is there any rule against starting two lines with the same word?)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Teenage Radio Star


I wrote a thousand words about the death by suicide of James Freud. But it was all about me, and the bad feelings I continued to harbour in relation to what I perceived to be his takeover of my beloved Models, and why I now realise I was wrong and misguided to have those feelings. But then I read it back, and I imagined it sitting on the Internet, exposed to the public and to the possibility (however faint) that it might be read by Freud's family, and I imagined that they would not be impressed by some pathetic whining bag of misery wallowing in self-pity on the occasion of their own grief. And so I junked it.

Instead, I just want to say this: when Sean Kelly invited James Freud to join the Models, in 1982, Freud had already shown his hand in terms of shooting for pop stardom. Kelly, himself no shrinking violet, knew what he was leading the Models into, and seemingly made no effort to stop it. The Models, James Freud version, were not for me. "Barbados" and "Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight" are both, it still pains me to say, horrible songs. But that was their choice, and plenty of good, right-thinking people like those songs, and the betrayal I felt might have just as easily been directed at persons other than James Freud.

And this: no matter what else he might have done, or been responsible for, or struggled through, or carried the can for, James Freud deserves a place in the annals for "I Wanna Be Your Baby", one of the few truly great Melbourne punk-era singles, by his early band the Teenage Radio Stars.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Song of the day: totally insane edition

"Vikram Vikram", by Kamal Hassan and Illaiyaraaja. This is why I spend half my waking hours scouring the internet for music. (Memo to my employer: this is not, in fact, true.) I can almost guarantee that you have never heard anything like it in your life. And yet elements of it are very familiar: everything from Tom Tom Club to Bob James to Giorgio Moroder to (I swear) Tha Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot".

You owe it to yourself to click your way over to the estimable XXJFG and download the damn thing, while it's still up. Even if you only listen to it once. Which you won't.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Song of the day

"Eanie Meany", by Jim Noir. Every year I put together a mix CD as a part of Adrienne's birthday present. This song is an early favourite from the 2010 edition. It's easy to see why, I think. Enjoy.

Get free stuff

No, it's not a trap to lure you into mortal peril. It's just versions of four Black Tambourine songs that weren't on the compilation. Scrap that "just". Get them here. Now.

Tick, tick, tick.

What? Are you still here?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Song of the day

"Search and Destroy", by The Stooges. A Monday-morning head-cleaner. The musical equivalent of a big chunk of wasabi.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

YouTube of the day

This is the film clip for the greatest song ever made.

I have an idea that I watched this on late-night TV many years ago but I don't remember most of it.

Everybody looks so young. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not YouTube of the day

"Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea", by Brian Eno et al, the third instalment thereof. This one strongly harking back to the original "Music For Films". In a good way. I find it interesting to watch such impersonal music being put together by the hands of humans. The guitar atmospherics especially.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Song of the day


"Four Hours In Washington", by M. Ward. If Ward had called this song "Seven Hours In Tullamarine", it would have very neatly encapsulated what happened to us last Monday.

Having travelled to Melbourne for the weekend in order not to miss Adrienne's dad's 80th-birthday Yarra River boat ride, we dutifully arrived at Tullamarine at 3pm on Monday for the return leg, leaving at 4.10 and arriving in Canberra at 5.15pm, in time for bath night, dinner, and The Goodies at 8.05 on ABC2.

Or so we thought.

We checked in, made our way through the elaborate and officious security apparatus at Terminal 4, and into the rudimentary departure "lounge" (accurately described by a work colleague as the "departure compound") of Tiger Airways to await our flight. Presently, we were called to the departure gate. Where we waited. And waited. And waited. Until a voice over the intercom said: "Due to operational reasons [sic], flight number whatever has been delayed. The new departure time is 5.15pm, with a boarding time of 4.45."

So we took ourselves and our bags (and Adrienne's sister from London, who was coming to stay with us for a couple of nights) and colonised a few empty seats, breaking the boredom with a cup of coffee and a flick through a few magazines at the newsagents.

It wasn't long before 4.45 arrived. Some time after that, because of "operational reasons" (maybe, or maybe not, the same ones), the departure time was moved to 7.15. At that point one of our boys, perhaps not the one we would have expected, burst into tears. Murmurs went through the crowd, and a curious camaraderie developed. Fleeting but strong friendships were made. The renowned Australian sense of humour came to the fore: "Of course there is nobody from Tiger that you can talk to; you have to pay extra for that." [Explanation for overseas readers: Tiger is a rock-bottom budget airline. It has planes, a bit of terminal space, a few pilots, and not much more. Pretty much everything, except your seat on the plane, that you would expect to get with another airline, you have to pay extra for.]

Jules got friendly with a family from the south coast, who had bought, from the newsagents, a Bakugan toy, and started using it as the ball in an impromptu departure-lounge soccer game. Interestingly, and in a good advertisement for the Bakugan company, the thing survived a jolly good kicking intact.

Meal vouchers were handed out, reducing by roughly one quarter the airline's profit on each ticket. The food, of course, was overpriced crap, but it was the only food we had. (We discovered, too late, that the south coast crew had ordered in pizza.)

In due course we were revisited by Mrs Operational Reasons, who informed us that our flight was delayed until 10pm and we could, if we wanted, get a full refund on our tickets or agree to be moved to the 4.15pm flight the following day and be put up at an airport hotel for the night (thus plunging Tiger's return on the tickets into the red, one would imagine).

At this point, poor Stanley started to get a little bit stressed out, on account of having two non-negotiable full days of work ahead of him, and staring at the possibility of heading back to Geelong until the next available evening or early-morning flight (with another airline, obviously) and meanwhile working from the Melbourne office of his employer (which he could have done but in three-day-old clothes). Poor Stanley doesn't like being thrust out of his comfort zone. In addition, the 12-year-old, who has autism, and who is on considerable quantities of medication (which we had now run out of) and a restricted diet (ditto), also needed to be considered. (We have played the autism card before when travelling, but this time it wasn't going to work, obviously, because there was nobody to play it to.)

Meanwhile the rumour mill was saying that if enough people pulled out they would cancel the flight anyway, assuming there was actually a plane coming, in which case we would all be stuffed.

Our decision was to stick it out. We tried to get blankets and pillows for the boys, but of course there weren't any, even for those prepared to pay extra for them. I ended up reading most of a Philip Pullman book to the boys to help pass the time. Fortunately he is always very readable. Second meal vouchers were handed out. (How much money was Tiger actually going to lose in order to get us home?) This time we sensibly exchanged them for bottles of water, and ice creams all round (to hell with the restricted diet).

Gradually we were able to piece together, in a reasonably believable fashion, that there was a plane for us, it was coming from Brisbane, and when it had flown us to Canberra it would be flying some poor buggers from Canberra back to Melbourne on what was supposed to be a 7.15 pm flight.

Around 10.30 pm, I noticed some people who could conceivably have been disembarking passengers walking past a couple of glass doors some distance from where I was sitting. Fifteen minutes later, we were again called to the boarding gate (at which point cheers went up around the departure lounge), and some time later we were let through into a covered walkway, where we stood, in the chill night air, for some 10 or 15 minutes more. At this point the 12-year-old became convinced that we were never going to get home, and that, even if we did, our suitcase would surely not be coming.

Eventually they let us onto the plane. The pilot helpfully and comprehensively explained the reason behind all this messing about: "We had some issues this morning." Thanks for that.

We arrived in Canberra at 12.35 am. (Our suitcase arrived, too.) There is not much happening at Canberra airport at that time of the day. If we had had trouble getting our car out of the car park I don't know what we would have done. But all was well. (Six days later we are all still recovering, though.)

During the course of the week, and of course we have been relating this story quite a bit, it has emerged that pretty much everybody who has flown Tiger has a similar story to tell. It seems as if the date and time of your flight is, as they say, "indicative only". They will get you where you want to go, but when they will get you there is something you will find out when it happens. The other thing we have discovered is the large number of people who have flown with Tiger once only, and will not be doing so again. I suspect you might be able to include us in that category.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not YouTube of the day

More of the Brian Eno project I posted a couple of days ago. I have a feeling this one actually comes first. I don't think that it makes a whole lot of difference.

YouTube of the day

Cute animals edition. Awwww.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not YouTube of the day

Brian Eno and pals: Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea.

I'm thinking this is more interesting than anything on the album. It does sound a bit "busy", though. It will be interesting to see/hear where they take it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Song of the day


"Silver Rider", by Robert Plant. And speaking of things that remind me of Ed Kuepper, there's this. Again, we are talking here of long, resonant, ringing guitar notes, teasing at a melody without ever quite spelling it out. (I have recently been expanding the Ed Kuepper Shrine at our house, so I may be more sensitive to comparisons than usual. Nevertheless, at moments like this I am inclined to think that Kuepper is as much a part of the guitar pantheon as Fahey, Thompson, Ribot and Page. Or should be.)

The new album, "Band of Joy", is the only Robert Plant I have heard that is not Led Zeppelin. And I have to say it isn't half bad. He even gets in a little of the ol' Zep yelp towards the end. Happy days.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Song of the day

"William Tell Overture", by Spike Jones. Musical comedy doesn't necessarily date terribly well. Here is an example. The best way to describe this is "quaint". (There are other ways.)

It was played every Melbourne Cup day on the local ABC radio station. Maybe it still is. It was one of the highlights of my year, along with Christmas Day and the Melbourne Show. I had no idea what it was called or who it was by. I only knew it as the Beetlebaum song. It took the Internet no more than a couple of minutes to reveal the truth.

Apologies for the lack of activity around here. There's a whole lotta workin' goin' on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Song of the day

"Reagan Speaks For Himself", by Doug Kahn. Not a "song", really, just a collection of Ronald Reagan's own words cut up and put back together to bizarre effect. If Reagan didn't say these things, you can at least imagine him having done so. From opening cans of poison meat to breaking the backbone of America. I have been hunting high and low for this for many years; it first appeared as a flexidisc in an early issue of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's Raw magazine. The difficulty was I had no idea what it was called or who it was by. Somebody mentioned it the other day in something I was reading and *bingo*. At the time of writing it is available for download here. Those of you old enough to remember those times should do yourselves a favour.

My dream was to own a complete set of Raw. I start at number 8 and there weren't too many after that. (Oh, I also have the compilation of parts of the first three issues.) I am too scared to look on eBay because I have a feeling they remain as out of reach as they were when I used to see them sitting on a high shelf behind the counter in a book / comic shop (name lost to history) on Swanston Street. (I don't think it was an early location of Minotaur but I suppose I could be wrong. Happened before.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Song of the day

"Another Girl, Another Planet", by The Only Ones. While we're on the subject of guitar solos: they don't get much better than this.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Song of the day

"Time", by Pink Floyd. I have been giving "Dark Side Of The Moon" a good old thrashing lately. For many years I had something of a love/hate relationship with it: as an aspiring young antisocial post-punk nihilist (in my own mind) I was against it and everything it stood for. The problem was that by then its spell had well and truly been cast: I had been listening to it for a long time and had fallen in love with it. So I avoided the issue by just not playing it.

I have always been obsessed with the moment in this song, around the 4.30 mark (4.05 in the live clip I have linked to), where the guitar solo changes; it remains a guitar solo, but it spins on the head of a pin and becomes something else entirely. Without blinking an eye or missing a beat. I still don't know how they did that.

Album of the year: there has been a late challenge


It looks like I spoke too soon.

"Grinderman 2". In which Nick Cave and his band of hairy brothers continue to blur the line between Grinderman and the post-Mick Harvey Bad Seeds. The point of first Grinderman album, as it seems to me, and as I think I have said before, was not in what it was, but in what it led to: a rejuvenated Seeds on "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" But now, with Grinderman not so much a case of shaking the comfortable old sack to see what comes out as a legitimate musical project with its own history and, perhaps, defined parameters, the distinction, if there still is one, between Grinderman and Seeds is, as the lawyers would say, a fine one Okay, so perhaps Grinderman are a bit more feral, and certainly more rough around the edges, than (at least recent) Bad Seeds have tended to be, but the common purpose, the "bleed", if you like, between the two Grinderman albums and "Lazarus" is such that by now you can just as easily reach for Grinderman as for the Bad Seeds for your essential Nick Cave fix. (There are moments on this album when you wouldn't necessarily know which one you had picked up.) Album of the year? I don't suppose so, but in another year it coulda been a contender.

"Le Noise", by Neil Young. Two words come to mind when I listen to this record: "Ed Kuepper". One man, one guitar, and the mother of all effects pedals. At a couple of points during the course of the record I could swear that he was going to start singing "When I First Came To This Land". Listen to the start of "Someone's Gonna Rescue You" with your eyes closed. Make up your own mind. (I think the particular Kuepper record I have in mind is the live album "With A Knapsack On My Back".) Young's vocal register is a fraction higher, but there isn't a lot in it. You couldn't really say the child is the father of the man, because they are both no longer spring chickens, but you know what I mean. Or maybe you don't. Daniel Lanois cops a lot of shit, but come on: "Time Out Of Mind". "Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks". "Yellow Moon". That Emmylou Harris album. And now this remarkable beast. What's a guy gotta do? Seriously. Album of the year? It might be, if only I could get the chance to play it at the volume it deserves to be played at.

"Belle And Sebastian Write About Love", by, well, duh. It's been a long wait. It's another good B&S album. We really are spoiled, aren't we, when we can even entertain a discussion about the relative merits of this album versus that album or whatever. Just enjoy it. That's what it's for. Album of the year? Yes, of course, if I was in (yet another) cardigan phase of my life. So, no. Or at least, not today. (Irrelevant aside: note the coincidental titles of these two, not dissimilar, records, also bearing in mind that both appeared after a lengthy hiatus suggesting we would never be blessed with them -- "Belle And Sebastian Write About Love". "Bart And Friends Make You Blush". See what they did there?)

"North", by Darkstar. It continues to amaze me how much raw emotion can be worked from the sounds made by machines. The Human League. Kraftwerk. Telefon Tel Aviv. Junior Boys. Air (although their palette is broader). And now Darkstar. Some records, and I'm not talking lyrics here, I'm talking sounds, or combinations of words and sounds maybe, have a certain, well, I don't even know what you would call it -- a "quality"; an "X factor" -- that hits me like a punch in the stomach. If "North" doesn't have that effect on you, I can imagine it might leave you seriously underwhelmed, because its surface alone, in the context of what it is going to be, inevitably, compared with (Hyperdub long players, of which there have been few, in particular; the future of dubstep, in general), may well, as your stockbroker might say, surprise on the downside. (In which case I feel sad for you, but I understand.) Me? I have a feeling that this record will be with me for a long, long time. Album of the year? I think it might have been, if only I had enough time to take it in, to absorb its lessons, to live in it. And you can't do that in a couple of months.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Song of the day

"Out Of Tune", by Real Estate. And, surprise surprise, here it is. The fact that it starts off like a lost Marine Girls song, and is able to totally avoid the disappointment that would usually be felt around these parts when it turns out to be something else entirely, speaks volumes for how good this song is. And it is. The two-guitar thing I was talking about before? Right here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Song of the day

"Walking About", by Venom P. Stinger. A full-throated roar from beyond the gates of Hell. Well, Melbourne. Featuring a couple of guys you might recognise.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Song of the day


"Younger Than Yesterday", by Real Estate. I have been listening to this band quite a bit lately. I like the cut of their jib. Or is that "gib". Mostly the vocals sound like they bought their microphone from the same dodgy shipment that seems to have finished up in the hands of most of today's Brooklyn bands. But it's the guitars that stand out. They get a kind of two-guitar interplay thing going. I'm not saying we are in the realm of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, or even Red Symons and Bongo Starr, at least not yet, but there is a real chemistry here, and the thing they do they do just right. And when they do it, I'm theirs.

I have their self-titled album, bought and paid for. They have a new single, "Out Of Tune", which could end up on these pages any day now. But this song is from the "Reality" EP, which came out either before or after their album. (I have chronology issues.) It stretches out over four and a half minutes. It has a very likeable twang to it, and just the faintest hint of a drawl. (Although in truth they are about as "country" as Galaxie 500.) There are moments when I am reminded of The Gun Club. I wish I had more opportunities to say those words.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Addiction of the week

This site.

Just one more click ...

Just one more click ...

Just ...

One ...

More ...

Clzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Filmworks Haiku

John Zorn, "Filmworks XX: Sholem Aleichem":

"If you like this sort
Of thing then this is the sort
Of thing you will like"

(A bit pathetic, really -- the haiku -- but it keeps us motoring through them. Not too many more now. This one has our friends the Masada String Trio, backing some accordion and harp. You know how I feel about the accordion.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Song of the day

"The Pearl", by Espers. In which, in a somewhat unexpected turn of events, side two of Brian Eno's "Before And After Science" is reinterpreted through the filter of Joe Boyd's production work circa 1969. It even has some Robert Fripp-style infinite-guitar-loop shenanigans. And to complete the picture, the title of the song is also the title of one of Eno's most highly regarded albums.

Espers: Eno fanboys (and girls)? Just a hunch.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Song of the day


"Why Cant [sic] We Live Together", by Sade. (There is no apostrophe on the back cover or inside the gatefold, but mercifully one appears on the label.)

Once every couple of months the YMCA Auxiliary holds a garage sale in and around what looks like an old scout hall near the playground at Yarralumla. There are a few shelves of dusty boxes of dusty vinyl taking up most of one room. I usually have time to get through only a couple of boxes before Carl has ransacked the boxes of old McDonalds toys and such, usually managing to enhance one of his many incomplete sets, and is ready to leave. (We seem to have roughly ten McDonalds toys for each time we have visited that godforsaken place. I suppose it keeps them out of landfill.)

Thus, even though there seems to be very limited turnover of records from one year to the next, I often manage to uncover something that induces a smile. Today, that something was a seemingly unplayed copy of the first Sade album. I was transported back to 1984, the second year of the fabled Nicholson Street shared household. My 1984, musically, was a mixed bag. The first Jesus and Mary Chain album. Talking Heads' "Speaking In Tongues". David Sylvian's "Words With The Shaman", with Jon Hassell. (Also Hassell's own "Dream Theory In Malaya".) Eno's "Apollo". The Michael Brook and Brian Eno album (which I never could get intom although not for want of trying). U F@cking 2's "Unforgettable Fire" (purely on account of Eno's involvement -- see the pattern here?). "Porcupine", by Echo & The Bunnymen. The Smiths. The first two REM albums. The Dream Syndicate's second album, "Medicine Show". Weekend's "La Variete". "Einstein On The Beach". And Sade. What she was doing in there I could never have explained (I may well have had the hots for her, based solely on her singing voice), and when, a couple of years later, I had dived headlong into an unruly diet of Einsturzende Neubauten, Foetus, Sonic Youth and the like there was really no room for her silky smooth tones. (Funnily enough, it was a comment I read somewhere by Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo about Sade, possibly ironic but also possibly not, that got me thinking that I may have been wrong.)

Of course, Canberra's glorious spring weather is the perfect listening environment for something this perfect. It might be slightly ersatz "soul", but you can't fake quality, and quality is all over this record. According to SFJ, writing in the New Yorker, she and her band are still going, and going strong, 26 years later. She sells, like, more records internationally than anybody, and yet you never hear anything about her. Sounds like a good business model.

All I really wanted to say, though, is, and this may sound to some like sacrilege: there is really not much between her version of Timmy Thomas's "Why Can't We Live Together" (apostrophe rightly reinstated) and Massive Attack's cover of "Be Thankful For What You Got". Which, before you start your hate mail, is not intended in the least as a slight to Massive Attack.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Song of the day

"Get Behind Me", by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. In which the absence of any kind of recognisable verse-chorus-verse structure, the unchanging rolling and tumbling blues and general ramshackle anybody-can-do-it skiffle-billy playing, and the singular nature of Lanegan's post-adenoidal growling/gurgling, lead to the conclusion that if this had been inadvertently included as the lead-off track on any of Dylan's post-"Time Out Of Mind" albums, not too many people would have even noticed. (The fleeting appearances of Isobel Campbell, peering around the corner from time to time from the edge of the frame, might give the game away to the attentive listener.)

The Filmworks Haiku Series Continues

John Zorn, "Filmworks XIX: The Rain Horse".

(This one's a bit lame. I would also just like to say that this is one of my favourites in the series. It is a fine and very lyrical example of small-ensemble playing.)

There is nothing quite
Like a well-recorded and
Well-played piano.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

YouTube of the day

Here.

I can't believe I haven't seen this before. It somehow conveys the pure essence of Yo La Tengo.

If you listen attentively, you will also notice that "Sugarcube" is a fine song, in anybody's language.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Album of the year?


They said it couldn't be done. I said "Phooey".

They said it was too early. I said "No, no, no". Oh, wait, that was Amy Winehouse.

Up until now, I had assumed that the race for that bogus but necessary title, album of the year, would be a two-horse affair between Espers' "III" and "The Courage of Others", by Midlake. They are both albums that reward, no, demand, repeated listening. Although I am totally into the Midlake at the moment (it was wrong of me to say that it doesn't have a "Roscoe"; it may actually have two or three), I suspect that it is the Espers record that may turn out to be the more lastingly "significant" of the two.

As we turn into the back straight of 2010, however, a third horse, which has been slowly creeping through the field, its vision obscured by the other contenders, has suddenly broken into a gallop and overtaken them all. That record is "Swim", by Caribou.

It has taken me some time to get past the fact that "Swim" isn't "Andorra" part two. It has none (or very little) of the luscious pastoral electro/acoustic psychedelia of that album. My early impression was that this quality hadn't actually been replaced by anything at all in particular, and thus I struggled to find a way in. But piece by piece I found myself being drawn to it, and now I'm in the kind of phase that I don't get into all that often these days, where this is frequently the only record I want to listen to. A similar thing happened last year with the Junior Boys' "Begone Dull Care", and so it was surprising, but also perhaps inevitable, that Mr Greenspan's (no, not that one) name turns up on the credits for "Swim". There is a similar attention to detail in the two albums, a sense that each individual sound has been given a serious amount of care and attention, and tweaked until, like the littlest bear's porridge, it is Just Right. You wouldn't want this quality in everything you listen to, but when it works it's more than a bit special.)

"Swim" may not be a terribly "immediate" or "direct" album, but, like "Andorra", it turns out to be totally psychedelic in its own way, and is almost overstuffed with wonderful passages, sounds and ideas. I still find it impossible to imagine that Caribou's songs are constructed, essentially, out of bits of other people's records: they seem too organic for that. Ah, the mysteries of the creative process. I suspect if I were a musician I would be even more in awe of this record than I am.

"Album of the year", then? What about Joanna Newsom, I hear you cry. Tracey Thorn. Real Estate. Tunng. Numerous African reissues. Tindersticks. The Magnetic Fields. The Fall. (It's been a long, long time since I would have seriously considered nominating a Fall album as the best record released during a particular year, but there is none of the usual best-record-since-whatever over-egging about "Your Future Our Clutter", it's a genuinely urgent, intense, compelling marvel.) Woods. Emeralds. Jeremy Jay. Tame Impala. "Total 11". jj. Ellen Allien. The Books. Julian Lynch. Lindstrom and Christabelle. Max Richter. A few others that I have no doubt forgotten to mention. And what about the unknown albums still to be released in 2010? (Not forgetting, either, the other two records mentioned earlier.) And that's without even acknowledging the existence of the elephant in all of our living rooms. [Hey, wait, James Murphy might be a big bloke, but he's not *that* big -- Ed.]

But this is where I sit, or "swim", for now.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Version therapy


*Yawn*. Another Lee "Scratch" Perry release. How many thousand must there be now? New. Old. Repackaged. Dubious. Authentic. Troubling. We have had them all.

If I am being honest, my own preference is for the cavernous depths and endless spatial vistas conjured by the likes of King Tubby (and, leaping into the present, the almost palpable echo chamber created by Rhythm & Sound -- not even Jamaican) to the bizarre sound effects, scatological ravings and cow noises so often tossed off by Perry.

But you can't deny Perry's power and influence, and I do swear by "Arkology". And original seventies releases such as "Super Ape" and "Blackboard Jungle Dub". And numerous albums with his name on them somewhere, such as "Party Time", by The Heptones, and "War Ina Babylon", by Max Romeo. And countless Black Ark singles.

And so here we are in 2010 and Pressure Sounds, the venerable reggae reissue and archival label, gives us twenty more Perry dubs, packaged together under the title "Sound System Scratch". If I understand the back story properly, they are all culled from a collection of one-off dub plates never before heard outside of the Jamaican sound systems of the seventies.

I first caught the dub bug in about 1979, the tail end of the period documented on this disc, when I started listening to what was then 2JJ, which ran a "spiritual" program of a Sunday evening. (If churches played music like this they would have a few more parishioners.) There wasn't much scope for acquiring Jamaican records in Fish Creek, so with the reinvention of 2JJ as 2JJJ this music was lost to me until the reggae reissue boom (which ran in a curious parallel with the lounge music boom) of the 1990s.

Hence there are many people, I am thinking in particular of the Murray Nashes of the world (he being the only person I have ever met who actually had a lot of this stuff on original, ganja-soaked vinyl), who are much better educated about this kind of thing than I am, but I think it's fair to say that I have dived a reasonable distance below the aqueous surface of seventies dub. And I am very pleasantly surprised to be able to say that (1) I don't recall ever having heard any of these particular tracks before and (2) they are all first rate. First rate, I tell you.

Many of the basic rhythm tracks will be familiar to regular listeners. "Big Neck Cut", for example, comes from a track known to me as "Dreadlocks In Moonlight", which appears on "Arkology", and which itself is a close relative of Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves", and the approximately twenty thousand "versions" that song has begotten. (Or is that "begat"? Begorrah!) This version, though, has Perry's own vocals replaced by some lovely female chorusing. "Lama Lava Mix One", the longest track here at five and a half minutes, is not a million miles away from "Onward Christian Soldiers" (and features the smooth tones of Augustus Pablo's melodica). "The Rightful Organiser" comes from what I think is a Pablo track, but I can't quite put a finger on it. (It's one of the relatively few times that Perry puts himself into the mix, and on this occasion it works well, probably because it's the exception rather than the rule.) And so on.

Much of the disc is resolutely lo-fi, which perhaps confirms the putative nature of the source material. Perry's ego and tiresome self-promoting is put aside and his considerable talents are applied, instead, in the service of figuring out just how far "out" this music could go while still being recognisable as "music". The opening track, "Dub Plate Pressure", at times approximates metal sheets of white noise. And there is not a fake cow noise to be heard.

All in all, this is solid gold Lee "Scratch" Perry from start to finish. As such, it qualifies as perfect Friday afternoon listening around these parts.


Song of the day

"My Love", by Paul McCartney & Wings. When I was nine years old, and I only knew this as a song on the radio, I thought that it was the greatest song I had ever heard. It extracted from me emotions I never knew I had.

In 2010, it tells me two other things: first, how much of McCartney there must be in "Abbey Road"; and second, that when McCartney gets it right, it can't be gotten any more right.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Song of the day

"Imagination (Is A Powerful Deceiver)", by Elvis Costello. This is a very attractive little song, in the vein of songs like "Alison". It appears as a bonus track on one of the many reissues of "My Aim Is True". Well, it may appear on more than one, but it is certainly on the one I own, which is a two-disc set from 2001. But enough of that.

This song was, apparently, recorded in 1974 or 1975. Imagine that! It is not a huge leap, I am surprised (and pleased) to notice, from a song like this to, say, "Clown Strike", from 1994's "Brutal Youth", which is perhaps the last genuinely "great" (my opinion) EC album.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Filmworks Haiku

Today: John Zorn, "Filmworks XVIII: The Treatment."

As a small child I
was very traumatised by
an accordion

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Song of the day

"Train To Barcelona", by Akufen. The title evokes "Trans Europe Express". The synths have the same pristine, almost stainless-steel quality as "Tour De France Soundtracks". Every one's a winner, baby.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Song of the day

"When The Saints Go Marching In". Apologies to Collingwood supporters, but we wouldn't like to see St Kilda lose two Grand Finals in succession. So we will be barracking for The Saints. Plus, we lived there before moving to the Nation's Capital, so we have a certain tenuous allegiance anyway. (Although it is difficult to see anybody resisting the overwhelming strength of the 2010 Collingwood machine.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Correspondence

Our excellent friend Bart wrote to let us know of an interview he gave to Mess + Noise. Bart is not one for self-promotion (understatement), so we figure he must be pleased with how it went. It is certainly comprehensive. You can read it here. Warning: contains photos.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Song of the day

"Jeepster", by T. Rex. What I had never noticed until today is how close to country this song is. Heck, even the guitar solo exudes a goodly amount of yee-haw. Meet me at the corner of glam and Nashville: it's an idea somebody should grab and run (or boot scoot) with.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Song" of the day

"In The Mood", by Ray Stevens. If you were going to put out a record in the nature of this one, with its fake chickens singing the melody line of "In The Mood" (yes, that one), don't you think you would do it under an assumed name, in order to keep your reputation intact? (If, that is, you had any reputation left after scoring a worldwide hit with "The Streak".) Or do you subscribe to the theory that any publicity is good publicity?

And anyway, which one is the real Ray Stevens: the instant novelty artist? Or the somewhat soppy balladeer?

People who produce "comic" film clips soundtracked by this song and put them on YouTube are Only Making It Worse.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Song of the day

"No Word From China", by Pel Mel. It's Nostalgia Friday around here, it seems.

Watch it on YouTube and you get a surprise introduction by our hero Mr Dave Mason, as seen on Countdown.

Filmworks Haiku Series

Regular followers (both of you) would be aware that I am endeavouring to keep pace with John Zorn on his 2010 album-a-month mini-marathon. I had, it may be recalled, previously embarked upon the foolish task of writing something about all of his Filmworks releases. I stalled at "Filmworks XVI: Workingman's Death". Aware, as I am, that there is a new Filmworks a-comin', and troubled, as I am, by things getting out of sequence, it seems that I am now required to cover seven Filmworks releases in short succession.

You don't want to read essays on these things. You either already have them, couldn't care less, or have made up your mind already. So I present the first instalment of the John Zorn Filmworks Haiku Series.

Starting with: "Filmworks XVII" (on the Tzadik catalogue it doesn't have a subtitle).

Voodoo percussion
Ribot gets his reverb on
And Zorn plays the sax

(Series to be continued, god damn it.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Song of the day

"Black Country Rock", by David Bowie. Had to bust out some pre-Thin White Duke Bowie after watching "The Kids Are All Right", a film which, as the title doesn't quite say, is "Alright" but which isn't, as the title does say, "All Right".

This proto-glam-metal stomp was a staple of my shared-household days and it is a pleasure to revisit it.

What, you thought I would be putting on "The Laughing Gnome"?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Zorn of the Month Club: Second Quarterly Report


Six months in, and John Zorn is still on track for the unlikely goal of releasing an album a month during 2010. What did the second quarter produce? Three months. Three albums.

First off, in April he came out with "The Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days", basically a companion piece to "In Search of the Miraculous", from the first quarter's batch. The same core of musicians are involved, it has the same feel of relaxed chamber jazz, perhaps there is a nod or two to the Vince Guaraldi Trio. (Not for the first time.) The difference this time around is that, as he so often does, Zorn seems to have thought to himself, what can I do to shake this up a bit?, and answered, I know, I'll bring in Marc Ribot. And, as is always the case, Ribot rises to the occasion by doing (a) exactly what Zorn tells him to and (b) whatever the heck he wants; sometimes both at the same time.

May's release was "Dictee / Liber Novus", a disc of two of Zorn's "modern composition" pieces. I think I have said before that I find this side of Zorn hard going. I can't really criticise (or "critique") it, because I don't really have the vocabulary. I just can't see myself coming back to it like I do with, say, his Masada repertoire. Nevertheless, there are some passages of gorgeous romantic lyricism tucked away in here, like little easter eggs hidden in a briar patch.

And speaking of Masada, it was about time we had another instalment in the Masada Book II: The Book of Angels series (wasn't it?), and in June Zorn obliged with "Baal", the fifteenth such instalment, played by the Ben Goldberg Quartet. Clarinet is the lead instrument here. The album starts off all bright and breezy, but heads off towards the abstract by the halfway mark. Once again the problem may lie with me: I tend to find the clarinet a touch wearing in large doses. However, if I put all of the Book of Angels discs into a playlist and shuffle them up, the tracks from this album feel right at home, so it clearly does what Zorn wants it to do; it just doesn't (quite) do what I would have liked it to.

So, if we are keeping score, I would think maybe one and two-thirds out of three would be about right this time round. But with more around the corner (including a new Masada String Trio disc -- woo-hoo), that is really more than enough to go on with.

Song of the day

"Stuck On You", by Sardine v. This particularly haunting and gorgeous song was by Sydney early-'80s band Sardine v, yet another of many diverse bands and musical projects by, or involving, the late Ian Rilen. If you only know him from the somewhat rowdier X, the melody and lyricism contained within this song will be a surprise.

I was reminded of this song by its appearance on a recent FACT mix, curated by Mogwai. You can download it here if you're quick. Aside from "Stuck On You", I was particularly taken by two songs, one taken from each of the so-called cold-wave / minimal-wave compilations that came out earlier this year, and which have confirmed me in my original impulse that I should own both of them. "Must ... have ... analog ... synths ... Must ... have ... analog ... synths ..."

Sunday, September 05, 2010

YouTube of the day

Here.

It was even more entertaining in the days before everybody and their dog was wearing aviator glasses.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Songs that always make me cry, part 2

"Perfect Day". But only Glenn Gregory's recording of it on B.E.F.'s "Music of Quality and Distinction", not the Lou Reed version. The only time Lou Reed makes me cry is when I think about how he sabotaged  the Velvet Underground reunion concerts all those years ago. It still makes me mad. (At least, he sabotaged the show that was recorded and turned into the CD and DVD. An archivist friend-of-a-friend once told me that he has recordings of all the concerts and every other time Reed stuck closely to the script. Which, if it's true, well, sheesh.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Song of the day

"Caroline", by The Field. Has Axel Willner been listening to "Dark Side Of The Moon"?

(Available on the new Kompakt compilation/overview/scene report, "Total 11".)

2010 is not 1960

Where in this blighted modern era would you find an ad like this one in a mainstream, large-circulation, non-music-focused magazine?


(Found in the New Yorker magazine, 26 November 1960. As usual, click to enlarge.)


Friday, August 27, 2010

Two songs that make me cry every time I hear them

1. "It Was A Very Good Year", by Frank Sinatra.

2. "Cat's In The Cradle", by Harry Chapin.

I have no idea why they do that. They just do.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Song of the day

"Tobacco Road", by The Nashville Teens. I heard this song today, as part of a very entertaining mix that can be had at Aquarium Drunkard, and it brought back some hazy memories of days long past. Specifically, Melbourne circa 1982 to 1989. Was it a staple of somebody's radio programme on 3RRR? Or was it covered by one of the local bands I followed back then, let's say the Huxton Creepers or the Sacred Cowboys? I suspect I will never know. Still, it's nice to welcome such a fine song back into my life.

It looks like everybody had a go at it. A version by the Blues Magoos appears on "Nuggets". Jefferson Airplane and Eric Burdon and The Animals can be found doing it on YouTube. Wikipedia tells me that Jimmy Page plays on the recorded version, but you can't always trust Wikipedia.

"The British group with the American name."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Song of the day

"Golden Age", by Beach Fossils. This song has something that the rest of the blog-huggin', zeitgeist-surfin', rainbow-chasin' class of 2010 don't have: Postcard guitars! Ah, God love ya.

Coincidence of the day: SFJ has some tasty Orange Juice YouTube goodness over on his Tumblr.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Song of the day

"The Plague", by Scott Walker. Is it just me, or are there times during this song when, if you closed your eyes, you would swear that the singer was Iggy Pop?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Song of the day (2)

"Dad", by Thug.

Not safe for work.

Or home.

Song of the day

"Get Back", by Woods. The knife-slash electric guitar that coruscates this song (I'm not sure if you can use "coruscate" in that way; I don't have time to check) entirely wrecks the mood of this otherwise gently gorgeous song. On the other hand, it also makes the song complete.

I don't entirely understand Woods. I can't figure out whether they just get so excited about their songs that they want to just slap them down and get on with the next one, or whether they actually work at making themselves sound so ramshackle. Either is good. Sometimes they make me think of a slightly feral Mercury Rev. Which is also good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

8.45pm update

Hi.

It's all good here.

I just can't seem to find the words.

Let's assume that normal programming will resume shortly. It usually does.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Song of the day

"Happy", by Best Coast. In theory there is no reason why I would have any interest in Best Coast. They do nothing I haven't heard before and nothing, again in theory, that I am not by now entirely jaded by.

But enough of the theory. A song like this comes on and it's like somebody has opened a window and in has come a blast of pure, fresh and clean 1989 air. All 1 minute 45 seconds of it. No time for beard stroking when that happens.

Featuring, as too few songs do, the word "cranky".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Song of the day

"Babelonia", by School of Seven Bells. The thing about School of Seven Bells is that, while they may have all the right looks, and all the right moves, and all the right influences (and two magnificent voices), what they don't have, at least yet, is the ability to write songs that are strong enough for them to stand out as themselves, rather than for their good "taste" or whatever. For now, they seem content to generate echoes, admittedly very tasty echoes, of, amongst others, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil.

Take "Babelonia". If you ignore the drum programming, which sounds like it has come from another decade entirely, the song is pure Stereolab. (Stereolab, of course, famously made a career out of sounding like their influences, but they had so many things to draw on that the sum of the parts amounted to a very large number.) Which, in the absence of any new Stereolab product, well, this song will just have to do. And it does. Quite nicely.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Song of the day

"Calypso Frelimo", by Miles Davis. In which Miles grabs time in his long, thin fingers and stretches it further than you could imagine it being stretched. And then stretches it some more. But, being Miles Davis, he gets away with it.

Fans of Super Mario Brothers (or residents of houses where one member of the household is, not to put too fine a point on it, obsessed with the little plumber) will be surprised to recognise within its grooves a particular recurring three-note bass motif. Just one of the many ways in which Miles Davis predicted the future, and continues to do so.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Song of the year?

"Voi Parlate, Io Gioco", by jj.

Maybe, maybe not. But from where I am sitting, right here, right now, on the shag pile (not exactly), there is nothing I would rather be listening to.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Listening Wind

Today's soundtrack was brought to you -- well, me -- by Sasha Frere-Jones.

First we have "On The Corner", by Miles Davis. This is an album I cannot listen to without thinking that  Brian Eno and David Byrne must have been listening to it, either separately or together, while planning the strategies that became "Remain In Light".

Then it's "Cupid & Psyche '85", by Scritti Politti, an album I don't, in any sense, "need" to hear. But it can't hurt to do the actual listening thing every once in a while.

And "You Are In My System", by The System. A Robert Palmer-free zone.

And "The Golden Age Of Wireless", by Thomas Dolby. Here is another record that I have no recollection of ever having owned in any form, and yet upon hearing it for the first time in what must be decades every note, every shimmering sonic inflection, comes flooding back. I probably acquired a tape of it from Roger and thrashed it for a while until it got stuck in the machine and snapped. Cassettes were like that. Roger was a big Thomas Dolby fan. (He was also a big Martha and the Muffins fan, which I could less understand, but to each his own.) There are so many perfect songs on this album that it seems ridiculous that I could have lived my life without its presence, however fleeting, for so long. The song I find most affecting in 2010 is "Airwaves". Even though Trevor Horn had nothing to do with this record he is, in a very real sense, all over it.

Finishing off with "I Am Not Willing", by Moby Grape, which I have clung onto, in a kind of gentle desperation, ever since I first heard it, courtesy Art Decade, a couple of years or so ago. Not, of course, to be confused with its opposite, "Willin'", by Little Feat. Although they do make the perfect couple.

Song of the day

"The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love", by Jens Lekman. I can't imagine what kind of day it would be when a new Jens Lekman song wouldn't be the song of the day. Extra-specially when it's yours for an email address.

Friday, July 30, 2010

YouTube of the day

Galaxie 500 live. Something I never had the chance to see. The perfect soundtrack to Mike McGonigal's oral history of the band that appeared a while back; what a happy, sad, sweeping narrative trajectory that was. A bit like their music.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Song of the day

"Come With Me", by ceo. As promised (see yesterday's entry), another improbable vocal sample threads its way through this song: "I need the griddle"? I suppose it could be from a campfire scene from some old-timey cowboy movie. (The song is also a fine example of present-day Swedish pop maximalism, complete with a gentle nod to "Brazil" (a song best known in its Django Reinhardt incarnation, but most memorably covered, if almost unrecognisably so, by the very wonderful Tav Falco's Panther Burns).)

ceo appears to be one half of The Tough Alliance, who seem to have some kind of mentoring role in relation to jj, who have a song on the Internet called "ceo Birthday". I don't know. You figure it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Song of the day

"No Sell Out", by Malcolm X. There is a passage early on in this song (a song which, I often wonder if it would exist but for the trail blazed by "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", and in which I should not be, but am, surprised to notice a similarity with "Buffalo Gals") where, to this day, I swear the vocal sample has Malcolm X saying "brown windsor soup ... windsor soup ... windsor soup". Of course, I could be wrong. I'm not sure how that would fit into a speech about stamping out skulduggery and flim flam, and not compromising.

(Also, am I the last person to pick up on the irony, if irony it be, that "Keith LeBlanc" translates from the French as "Keith the White"?)

Coming tomorrow, weather conditions permitting: further misheard vocal samples.

Song of the day

"Stumbling 22nd St", by Moon Duo. Or, "We've got a scuzzball and we're not afraid to use it."

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Department of Forgotten Songs

One of life's mysteries has been solved.

Approximately 28 years ago a small fragment of song got stuck in my head. It has run around up there, appearing from time to time, ever since. I have made many attempts to hunt it down, all fruitless. All I had was the vocal line "press the button, hear the sound, elevator up and down", and a sense that the song was in the style, loosely, of Plastic Bertrand.

A few months ago I visited a work colleague's house for lunch. Music was playing. It was another song I hadn't heard in years: "I Like 'Lectric Motors" (you can -- and should -- watch it here), by someone called Patrick D Martin. Last night, while on the trail of Shanghai Au Go Go and other Melbourne early-eighties synth nostalgia, I stumbled upon this page, which was offering to share with me a mini-album by Patrick D Martin (thanks, pal). What the heck, I thought to myself. It's probably all rubbish apart from "'Lectric Motors", but you never know. (It's the thrill of the chase, don't you know.)

So today I listened to it. I got to a song called "Police Paranoia" and thought, that's funny, I could swear I have heard this before. I got to the next song, "Press The Button", and I realised, almost instantly, that this was the song that has eluded me for all these years: "press the button, hear the sound, elevator up and down".

And you know how you wait so long for something, building up expectations in your head that are inevitably dashed on finally getting it? Not this time. It is exactly how I remembered it.

What's weird though (aside from the back cover photo, which in its own way is kinda beyond weird) is that if you had asked me at any time before this year who Patrick D Martin was, I would have said I had absolutely no idea, and yet three of the seven songs on this record -- a record I had no knowledge of until last night -- I have had sitting in my head for almost 30 years. I assume that what happened was that these three songs were, at one stage, on high rotation on 2JJ, in those halcyon days when I spent as many of my waking hours as I could tuning in to the tenuous radio signals that made the journey all the way from Sydney to Fish Creek (weather conditions permitting), fading in and out such that more often than not you weren't able to catch the announcer telling you what he had been playing (or, if it was Mac Cocker, which it often was, you probably couldn't understand what he was saying even if the signal was clear enough to hear it). Which would explain why I may never until 2010 have heard the words "Patrick D Martin", even though his music has played a disproportionately large part in my life.

Today has been a good day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Song of the day

"I Cried All Winter", by Shanghai Au Go Go. Melbourne band from the early 1980s. I saw them play at the Tote in Collingwood, fairly early on. They comprised one intimidatingly cool guy and two intimidatingly gorgeous (to my naive country-boy eyes) girls. They used a drum machine and what would now be called "vintage synths" but then were just synths. In the Melbourne of 1983 they were very much on the cutting edge. Listening to this song now, what is surprising is how close it sounds to 2010. If you played this, and followed it with, say, "Love or Music", by Soft Metals, you could be forgiven for thinking that music had gone nowhere since 1983. (Not that there would have been anything wrong with that.)

YouTube of the day

It's always time for some vintage Talking Heads.

(via Aquarium Drunkard)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Song of the day

"My Love", by The Bird And The Bee. It's a pleasure to wake up with this song going through your head. From "Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future", yet another in the increasingly long list of Albums That Pitchfork Completely Missed The Point Of.

Travels in the third person


So.

He had been putting it off for so long he had managed to convince everybody, himself included, that it was never going to happen. But a felicitous and timely invitation, together with fortuitously available accommodation in the vicinity of the place, drew him out of whatever shell he had erected around himself, and he knew that it was time.

His researches uncovered the important information that the farm had been split up and sold off, to three different owners, identities unknown, since he parted with it, ten years ago. He found this knowledge distressing at first, almost as if somebody that he once knew had died unexpectedly. But, once assimilated, it actually made his decision to go back there easier. There was no more unfinished business, no half-severed ties. He could be a comfortable stranger.

Nevertheless, he had no idea what he might find there, and less idea how he would psychically handle whatever he did find.

They travelled due south, a direction they had never been before. An hour or so out of Canberra, the temperature briefly dropped below zero. At Bombala, the drinking fountain in the park, even though it was in direct sunshine, was covered with ice. They stopped for lunch in Cann River, which he had first visited in 1972, on Grand Final day, an unusually high-scoring affair between Carlton and Richmond, and which he last passed through in the May school holidays of 1979.

The mind does funny things. When they turned into the main street of Bairnsdale he remembered that this was where he had bought the cassette of Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell", many years ago. When they turned onto the road from Morwell to Mirboo North he thought of the lengths to which his father went to find a cure for his bad back. He remembered that they included acupuncture, and that nothing that he did really worked. When they went through Mirboo North he recalled going to Sue Williams's 21st birthday party at a restaurant there, and he wondered where she might be now. When they got into the hills around Leongatha, with their green paddocks dotted with Friesian and Jersey cows, he was home, in a way that Canberra will never be home, and yet at the same time his elation was tinged with the certain knowledge that this will never be his home again.

He spent time around Leongatha. He was surprised to discover that he had forgotten his way around its back streets. 84 McCartin Street has new front steps, and has lost its tree ferns, but otherwise looks just like the house he left for Melbourne 20 years ago.

He took the boys to visit their grandparents in their permanent home at the Meeniyan Cemetery. One of the boys discovered other Emmersons: it appears that persons unknown (but suspected) have had the graves of his father's parents (who died before he was born), and two or three other relatives, just names to him (although one of them he might vaguely recall being mentioned by his father in relation to a fatal boating mishap), relocated to a central part of the cemetery. He was aware that they had been buried outside the modern boundary of the cemetery but he had never been able to find their graves. He took the time to stand before the graves of his uncles Jack and Charlie, who had been such a presence in his childhood. He felt less emotional than he anticipated. He felt peaceful. Among friends.

Fish Creek. The town has undergone a renaissance as an artistic and latter-day hippie centre. It looks good. This made him happy. The board listing deceased members of the bowling club contains a number of names he didn't expect to see: a reminder of the time that has passed since he was a part of the life of the town.

He drove down the one and a half miles of potholed dirt road to the farm. He drove to the top of the hill, got out of the car, and listened. He listened to the silence. The silence, there, is a very big silence, and he had forgotten it. He had a curious sensation of travelling back in time, but of having travelled back to a universe that was not the one he left. It was undoubtedly the same place, but some things were not how he expected them to be. (If you have read the second book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, you might think of Will taking Lyra to his Oxford (which is similar to, but different from, hers), and Lyra's surprise and confusion upon looking around: yes, I recognise this place, but where is this, and this, and this.) The house has been done up and hidden from the road by generous tree plantings. The dairy, which his father built with his own hands, and which carried sounds and smells of its own, is gone. A new wetland has been created. All the big, spooky old cypress trees have been cut down. They walked down the road that used to go to the dairy, and up the other side (via a straight stretch of road that wasn't there before) as far as he felt comfortable going. It is a public road now, but still he felt a little bit like a stalker. He pointed things out to the boys as they went; told them stories. He expected them to say "Yes, dad, can we get back in the car now?", but they were actually very attentive, very good. He took in the view. Like the silence, the view is very big. The sky goes on almost forever. It is a view he can see with his eyes closed, but it was nice to be able to see it with eyes open. Two wedge-tailed eagles circled the air currents far overhead. They, too, were a part of his childhood: eagles lived in a dead tree on a remote part of the property for many years, but they had been gone for a long time. He thought he heard them whispering, "Yes, you have come back. We have come back, too."

He realised that he had forgotten the sound your boots make as you walk over waterlogged ground. South Gippsland is a very wet place, and this is a very wet year. Canberra is a very dry place and has been in drought most of the time he has been living there. You do not hear water underfoot in Canberra. It is a lovely sound. He had been missing it, without even realising that he had been.

He knocked on some doors. He said hello to people he has not seen for a very long time. He was relieved to see that the years have been good to them. For some of them it is the first time they have met the boys (who were so patient, and so friendly, he was very proud of them. He was in their position once, when his father took him on something of a pilgrimage back to Malmsbury, his father's own childhood home, meeting "old" people and having no idea of who they were or what he was even doing there.)

He got to catch up, and this was the reason for his going back, with numerous relatives on his mother's side. They are entirely the nicest people you could ever wish to know, and on all of the available evidence this has rubbed off on the next generation.

And then it was over. The question of whether he will go back there again seems much smaller now. To have gone back after ten years, and seen that the farm, his dad's farm, is in good shape and in good hands, was something he needed to do. Now it has been done. It was okay. He was okay. (Although he wonders whether the appearance of silent but real tears numerous times while watching "Toy Story 3", a couple of days later, was some kind of emotional aftershock.)

Later, back home in Canberra, which somehow does now feel like home in a way that it didn't before he embarked on this journey, he sits down and smiles. He closes his eyes and sees the green, rolling Gippsland hills of the mind, hears the shucking sound of rain-sodden ground underfoot, the cows tearing grass from the ground, the sound of baby calves calling for their mothers, of milk tankers driving along the main road late at night. It is true what they say: you can never go home again. But you can go to some pretty nice places that just happen to feel like some kind of home, that may even have been home once, a long time ago. And you can be happy in the knowledge that they will always be there, and that enough of what you remember so fondly will always remain, so that, if you do go back there later on, sparks of memory will catch fire and rise up into a bright and warming flame.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Song of the day

"ILU", by School of Seven Bells. Not necessarily in the sense of being the best song of the day (although not necessarily not in that sense, either) but certainly in the sense of being the most unexpected. This sounds as if it has sprung, fully formed, from the distant and (mostly justly) maligned land of the post-new-pop mid-eighties. It's all Fairlights, "In The Air Tonight" drums, echo on everything, and generally carrying an AM radio sheen that makes it more hyperreal than real (although it sounds at times like Kevin Shields must have wandered into the studio occasionally and mucked around with the settings). Whichever of the twins is doing the singing makes it work as a "real" song, too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chair of the day


























Ad found in the New Yorker, August 1960.

(Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Song of the day

"Pure Affection", by Eternal Summers. What we have here is a good old-fashioned K Records feel bolted onto something that sounds like the quieter moments (yes, they do exist) of Sonic Youth. A little bit special.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Song of the day

"Everlovin' Man", by The Loved Ones. Another fine, albeit slightly unhinged vocal performance from the acid-tinged late sixties. And it's from Australia. We heart local content.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

We're going to take a short break now

But we'll be back after a while.

Two weeks, actually. We're off to a cabin in the woods, to revisit some old, old haunts, and to prove that, as they say, "You can never go home any more".

We will likely miss two or three entire music trends while we are away. Woe is us.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Song(s) of the day

"It's Gonna Rain (Pt 1)" and "It's Gonna Rain (Pt 2)", by Steve Reich. This is one of those accidental discoveries that changed the future of music. The surprising thing about it, though, is how damn danceable it is, considering that there isn't a doof doof to be found. Listening to it this afternoon I couldn't sit still. Of course, it's just possible that that might have been in some small part due to the day's serial caffienation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Song of the day

"Old Fangs", by Black Mountain.

Watch the video. Cars. Beards. Aviator Glasses. Mystical, uh, "chicks". Lights radiating out from people's heads. What more do you want?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mashup of the day

"How Soon Is Independence?", by Go Home Productions.

For generations, young men (and not so young men) have strived to find a song that can be successfully mashed together with The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?".

Now, after countless hours of human suffering and personal sacrifice, and most likely many cups of coffee, one man has found the solution. That man is Mark Vidler, a.k.a. Go Home Productions. He has climbed Bootleg Everest. Humanity is in his debt.

I might have known that Beyonce would be involved.

You can listen to it over here. You can even watch it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

GOAL!!!

Being precisely one-eighth Swiss (my mum's mum's parents were both from Switzerland, although they met in Gippsland), I was pleased to wake up yesterday morning to the news that my fractional ancestral home had defeated Spain, an Actual Soccer Playing Nation, at the World Cup.


Imagine if Switzerland hosted the World Cup. They could replace those wooden trumpet things, which make it sound as if the whole of South Africa is permanently under attack from swarms of killer bees, with alpenhorns.


Is the World Cup draw truly random? Wouldn't it have been interesting if North and South Korea had been in the same group. Or if, say, in the 1942 World Cup America had played Japan, or England had played Germany. Was there even a World Cup in 1942? There kind of was, but it ran for six years, and the playing field was larger than usual.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vernacular

I spend a bit of time hanging out at the local skate park, chaperoning the ten-year-old through an emaciated and oily forest of "youth". (I actually don't mind doing this. It gives me a chance to observe. Today's active child is tomorrow's "youth", after all, and it allows me to do some research unobserved: unobserved because I am of such an advanced age that I do not actually appear to them in visible form.) Language is an issue here, and the ten-year-old understands that just because the bigger guys use it doesn't mean that he can, so don't even think about it. He's cool with that (for now). But sometimes a gem slips out that demands to be catalogued.

One such: "Hey, don't do that. I almost shat out my own heart."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

YouTube of the day

Here.

Don't believe what they say. Nostalgia is what it used to be.

When is the cravat revival?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Song of the day

"Bouree", by Jethro Tull. By God, it must be over thirty years since I have listened to the music of Jethro Tull. But in those intervening years this song has intermittently snuck its way back into my head, by processes unknown. Listening, now, to its parent album, "Stand Up", with those thirty extra years of growing up (well, a bit) and accumulating musical knowledge (I hope), it strikes me that Tull weren't as sui generis as I have long assumed: like some Appalachian yokels transplanted into Middle-Ages England. What I hear now is a band that, flute solos aside, is something of a mid-point between The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin and the English folk revival. I had a bad feeling I would cringe on going back to this. I was wrong. (How many times have I written those words?)

My take on the career of Jethro Tull (still going!) is that an analogy can be drawn between them, The Bee Gees and Status Quo. All three had a kind of heyday in the late sixties / early seventies, until they either lost their way or the world moved away from them. But whereas Ver Quo and Ver Bee Gees reinvented themselves in the later seventies as boogie-heads and disco-pants respectively, with huge degrees of success, Ver Tull's (or, more accurately, Ian Anderson's) strategy in those dark days was to play a long game: basically, to keep on doing what they were doing, maintaining integrity and a loyal fan base, until that fan base had become wealthy merchant bankers and what have you, able to spend large amounts of money on concert tickets every year or so, buy extravagant Tull merchandise, live recordings and reissues, and basically keep the cash flow positive over the long term. (You would probably say Quo have done something similar, and maybe add in Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span as well, although in the latter case there isn't, correct me if I'm wrong, such an identity between those bands and one individual.)

I'm rambling.

My best memory of those years of being South Gippsland's Number One Jethro Tull Fan Under The Age Of Fifteen? Going into Clark's Sound Centre, in McCartin Street, Leongatha, and asking its esteemed proprietor, Mr Clark, for the cassette of their (then) new double-live album, "Bursting Out", which he happened to have in stock. "Ah, yes", said Mr Clark (in an effort to be seen to be hip to what was goin' down, although in truth he would have been much more comfortable discussing Dixieland jazz with old-timers), "that's one of his best albums". "His". At that moment I lost my faith in the adult world. I was going to have to do this thing on my own.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Song of the day

"Falling Down a Mountain", by Tindersticks. In a world where Internet hype knows no bounds, bands are famous not so much for 15 minutes as for 15 mouse clicks, and their mothers still have to hang around to change their nappies before they go on stage; in a world where blockbuster releases take up all the remaining space; in that world, one band continues to sail just under the radar, year after year, making music just as good as they made back when you were taking notice. I'm talking about Tindersticks. "Falling Down a Mountain" is their second album in their new, stripped-down line-up. The previous album, "The Hungry Saw", had them testing the waters. This new album is a triumph. The sound is subtly different from the old days (mostly due to the smaller number of players involved, and the loss of their string and brass arranger, Dickon Hinchliffe). They have now discovered that less can, indeed, be more. And still, Stuart Staples rides atop it all, his voice, if anything, getting better with a little bit of wear and tear.

The album opens with the title track, six and a half minutes of slow drift, carrying with it clearly intentional echoes of "Walk on Gilded Splinters". That is a brave thing to attempt: like going for a triple somersault with double reverse pike while blindfolded. Naturally, they pull it off with aplomb.

(And did I ever mention that "Tiny Tears" is most likely the greatest song of the last 20 years? Well, there's no harm in saying it again.)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Zorn of the Month Club


As if he hasn't flooded the market enough with new recordings over the last couple of years or so (gotta spend that Macarthur Fellowship money somehow, I suppose), John Zorn announced at the start of this year that he would bring out a new CD on the fourth Tuesday of each month of 2010. Is it even possible to do that? Will there be any cheating involved? Will the best-laid plans of mice and men do whatever it is that they do?

Time will reveal all. But, in the meantime, we have had five fourth Tuesdays and five new Zorn records. (Six actually -- or maybe even seven -- but we'll get to that.) First out of the box was "Mycale", the thirteenth installment of the ongoing Book of Angels series, otherwise known as the Masada songbook, book two. The Book of Angels is starting to build into something substantial, in terms of quality as well as quantity. I found it difficult to get a handle on what he was up to early on -- the fact that each release was by a different artist, with little or no overlap of individual songs between them, made it hard for the music to develop an identity of its own, particularly when the shadow in which it sat was the extraordinary body of work known as Masada, with its large number of very memorable and excellent individual songs, all of which were first sent off into the world by Zorn's very own Masada quartet, which allowed them to develop a strong and recognisable template before Zorn introduced the many and varied reworkings, and live recordings, that followed.

The original quartet seems to have been put to bed (although a variant of it came together for volume 12), so book two inevitably comes across more as variation than as theme. But repeated listening, and in particular shuffling between them at length, reveals, perhaps unsurprisingly, a uniformly high standard amongst the releases. If Zorn knows one thing, it's what he is doing. "Mycale" is a quartet of female voices, putting words, or things that sound like words, to Zorn's music. It is necessarily of shorter duration than most of the other releases. It would be too intense, too draining, if it went much beyond the allotted 33 minutes. It might not be the one I come back to the most often, but there is a lot going on here and it does repay concentration.

The fourth Tuesday in February brought with it "In Search of the Miraculous". This appears to be part of a new series of works by Zorn called "Odes for the New Millennium". It is lyrical chamber music, perhaps you might call it chamber jazz if you had to bang a nail into it from which to hang a particular shorthand description. The opening theme sets the tone: melodic piano and vibraphone, with restrained drumming lurking in the background. You could put this on in a fancy restaurant and it wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.  Which, y'know, when you're talking about John Zorn is actually a remarkable thing. He seems to have been working with melody and restraint rather a lot lately: the difference being that he no longer seems to feel the need to break the mood with passages of noisy skronk (which, obviously, has its place, but it does mean you don't get to introduce most of his music to the squares, even though they would like much of it).

March: Zorn's Dreamers ensemble, what I have come to think of as his "such fun" outlet, came along with their own take on Book of Angels, "Ipos". It perhaps doesn't need to be said, but this is a delight from beginning to end. The music is constantly changing, but almost invariably the changes raise a smile. (If Dreamers sound like any other Zorn combo, it would be Naked City as they were on parts of the debut album and, most directly, on "Radio".) Anything with Marc Ribot on board is bound to be quality.

The Tzadik site lists not one but two Zorn releases for April. Which one is the Zorn of the Month Club entry? The first is Zorn and Fred Frith improvising in the studio. There is a side of John Zorn's work that I have to allow others to make sense of. In the absence of anything to grab onto I find this type of unstructured improv impossible to enjoy, and hence impossible to listen to. I know that's my bad.

The other April release is another Book of Angels volume: number fifteen, "Baal". It is by two-thirds of the Jamie Saft Trio (responsible for the essential Book of Angels volume one, "Astaroth") with a different drummer, Kenny Wollesen -- another Zorn regular -- plus Ben Goldberg on clarinet. It promises to be very klezmer. I haven't heard it yet.

May has promised us one of Zorn's modern-composition pieces, from which I will probably keep my usual distance. I doubt that it's reached our shores yet.

Have we reached saturation point? Well, I haven't, anyway. (And nor has this been all: in February he also snuck out a reissue of "Chimeras", "a child's adventures in the realms of the unreal" (but which would more likely induce nightmares), with some reworkings and additions.) There is enough of a something-for-everyone feeling about what has come out so far (or has been announced -- a second Masada String Trio recording of Book of Angels material!; a sequel to In Search of the Miraculous) that he might just be able to pull this crazy stunt off, and without scraping the bottoms of any barrels, either. Stay tuned. (And then he will probably somehow top it in 2011: a disc a week, perhaps? I'd better resurrect my own survey of the "Filmworks" project, before it's too late.)


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Song of the day

"You", by Ellen Allien. Ms Allien has long been our hot German DJ babe of choice. (Mind you, we have creepy middle-aged-man kinda feelings towards Ada, too.) Ellen's new album, "Dust", is a much more direct and straightforward affair than the relatively diffuse tones of "Sool". But I don't think anybody was expecting "You", a sub-three-minute slice of dream-pop comprising bass guitar, actual drums, and clean guitar lines straight out of the Robert Smith playbook. It is as striking as it is out of place. (Although it's only out of place if you approach your musician of choice with preconceived ideas of what they will sound like. As we do.) As we have now said three times running, "girls just wanna have fun".

Friday, June 04, 2010

Song of the day

"Dancehall Queen", by Robyn.

I figured that I wouldn't hear a fresher pop song this year than Germany's winning Eurovision entry. [Aside: for the last week we have had a ten-year-old going around the house singing "Balkan Balkan Balkan" and doing a very special little dance. Some days you hope they never grow up.]

But I had forgotten that Robyn had an album coming out. This song, which had previously appeared under the name "No Hassle" in various corners of the Internet, looks more backwards than forwards, but what Robyn manages to do, as few Europeans before her have managed, is to tackle serious reggae grooves and not come across sounding totally, um, "white". The Clash got it right after a couple of false steps. Rhythm and Sound, obviously. Well, The Police [he grudgingly acknowledges], whom Robyn might in fact be shouting out to in the brief "eeyo-yo-yo" passage. Anybody else? As for Robyn, she's a natural. This song will dislodge whatever is stuck in your head, and it will stay there until, well, until you play any other of the first six songs on the album. [Aside two: is it an album? Eight songs? Twenty-seven minutes? I think I have bought "albums" by KC & The Sunshine Band that have been that short, and a lot of early long players weren't all that long. What else are you gonna call it? It's too long to be  a "mini-album". It's definitely not an EP.] (The last two songs are quieter affairs, and take the record in a quite different, but not in any way lesser, direction.)

As we said yesterday, girls just wanna have fun.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Song of the day

"A Little To The Left", by The Renderers. Her voice, somewhere between speaking and singing, narrates a fragmented tale of, well, it's a bit hard to tell, really, but it doesn't sound promising, and is probably not going to end well. (Who is Jeff Rose?) She hovers, fragile, above a spartan backdrop of acoustic guitar, (what I assume to be) mandolin, brushed drums, and the sound of (again what I assume to be) New Zealand birdsong. It takes six minutes, six minutes in which the listener, particularly late at night, is transfixed like a rabbit trapped in the headlights. Like the best short stories, it takes hold of you from the start and never releases its grip. It is perhaps an anomalous curiosity that at the point when it threatens to burst open into something bigger, it bears similarities to The Scientists' "Swampland". (It bears no resemblance to The Birthday Party's "Swampland".)

The album it comes from, "Monsters And Miasmas", I cannot recommend highly enough. (Yes, I am talking to you.) 

It is an interesting thing that one can be acutely attuned to the emergence of any news of further musical activity by, say, David Kilgour, The Clean, The Bats and The Chills (in the case of The Chills, maintaining something of a forlorn vigil, year after year, in the increasingly unlikely hope that we will get new material before Martin Phillipps dies of old age), while equally worthy groups like The Renderers, The Terminals, The Verlaines, The Cakekitchen and any of the seemingly hundreds of bands Hamish Kilgour may be involved with at any one time, can continue to plough their own fertile fields, ignored since the tail end of the 1980s. Heck, I had no idea until recently that either The Renderers or The Terminals were still going.

One the one hand, I feel somewhat guilty for not keeping the flame burning for any of those latter groups (it's not as if I don't like what they do). On the other hand, it is kind of comforting, in a selfish way, to know that the music is out there, waiting for me, waiting for the moment when I need to turn to it.