Friday, September 29, 2006

Thirty Three and a Third

Aphex Twin - Fingerbib
Skream - Midnight Request Line

Today is my 33 1/3 birthday – a monumental occasion in the life of any music lover, as it is of course the standardized phonograph recording speed selected for the long-play record. I actually got the idea for celebrating this vinyl-themed event from the late, great John Peel. His family threw him a party when he reached this landmark age, as they did when he turned 45. Sadly, he never made it to 78, but I’m sure that would have been one hell of a bash.

By way of celebration, I’ve updated the tracks on the TWNR Ghettoblaster, which you’ll find over on the right. Not sure how many of you use it, but there’s 10 fresh tracks for you to check if you so desire.

You’ll be surprised to discover I am also posting a couple of songs. Well, it would be rude not to. The first, ‘Fingerbib’ by Aphex Twin, is my favourite song of all-time. It is impossible not to have a smile on your face when this song is playing owing to the sublime, joyful melodies. ‘Fingerbib’ is exquisite, fits perfectly in your pocket, is universally loved by all and will be playing at my funeral. The album from which it is taken, ‘Richard D. James’, has yet to be bettered by anyone recording music in this field. If you don’t own it, what’s wrong with you? Redeem yourself and purchase it forthwith from the link below.

For the second track I’m whacking up something fairly new from a nascent genre which I’ve yet to fully get my head round. ‘Midnight Request Line’ is by Skream, a UK dubstep producer who is set to drop his debut album in a couple of weeks. I’ve had this track on my pod for about 6 months now, and every time it comes on, a big cartoon question mark appears above my head. I love it (I think) but I’ve yet to fathom why. I won’t embarrass myself by trying to describe it, so instead here is the review from Boomkat, who seem to know what they’re talking about – “‘Midnight Request Line’ is a spooked out riddimatic piece of bassline science, with an insanely catchy floating melody punctuated by a neckbreaking snare/gunshot combo and subsonic bassline perfection to drive your ass into the skank.”

Buy 'Richard D. James' from warpmart*
Pre-order the Skream album from Boomkat
Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Speed, one of the best John Peel websites on the web here, featuring an archive of past programmes

* 'Fingerbib' is listed as 'Fore Street' on the Warp Discography, but it is the same track, under a different name. I don't know why.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Underdog's Last Stand

After a decade in operation, Trevor Jackson called time on his excellent Output Recordings label earlier on this month. In an exclusive interview with the Pitchfork website Jackson revealed that financial issues, “friends turning into monsters” and the general nightmare of running a label had caused the untimely demise of the imprint.

“I never wanted to have all my passion and enthusiasm knocked out of me," he said, "But somehow it’s happened. I simply wanted to showcase exciting, experimental, and forward-thinking music with individuality and personality.”

It’s a massive shame that the industry keeps chewing up and spitting out the real innovators, yet allowing turgid lowest common denominator dross to thrive, but that just seems to be the way it goes.

I first came across Output through the Fridge album, ‘Ceefax’, in 1997, and for a four year period after that, Output became one of those rare labels where I would buy anything that it released, knowing that there was every chance that I would love it. This blind label love is often risky, but I was rarely disappointed as releases from Four Tet, Sonovac, Gramme, Skull and The Boy Lucas became welded to my turntable. My obsession with the label tailed off a bit after this, though releases from LCD Soundsystem, Colder and the Rapture found their way into my collection.

It’s been hard to pick out a few tracks from the catalogue but these three should give you a flavour of the label.

Four Tet - Calamine (Radio Mix)

First up is Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden’s drum heavy homage to the nascent speed garage scene, ‘Calamine (Radio Mix)’, released in 1999 and still sounding progressive and unlike anything else today. Halfway through the layering of sounds becomes almost overwhelming, broken only by a skip through the radio frequencies of speed garage pirate stations (hence the title) and ending with Four Tet’s own interpretation of the genre.

LB - Superbad (Soul Substitute)

LB was one of the 65 aliases adopted by the German producer Uwe Schmidt (perhaps best known as Señor Coconut or Atom Heart). There’s a comprehensive list of his mind-boggling array of alter ego’s here. ‘Superbad (Soul Subsitiute)’ is a glitchy, acidic, body poppin’ funk cover of the James Brown classic, taken from the album ‘Pop Artificielle’, released on Output in 2000. Schmidt actually developed the software that creates the unique vocal effect heard on the album. According to the liner notes, “Raw™ does vocal simulation based on vocal resynthesis generated from original vocal raw material.” Indeed. Other tracks to get the bonkers cover treatment included the Rolling Stone’s ‘Angie’, John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ by David Bowie.

Colder - Where

Finally, you get ‘Where’ from the debut album ‘Again’ by the French producer Marc Nguyen Tan aka Colder. ‘Again’ was hailed as a fashionistas dream, fusing glacial synth pop with stark dub textures. Kind of Depeche Mode meets Joy Division – a dream combination in my book. ‘Where’ is all about the Stephen Morris-inspired drums, dubbed-out guitars and a heavily accented vocal. I absolutely fell for this album when it was released in 2003 and listened to it until I was sick of it! After a few years without, it’s been a revelation to me all over again.

As a last hurrah, Output will be making their final releases (including their 100th!) available as free mp3 downloads from the website, for one month only starting on the 1st October 2006 – keep checking the website.

Trevor Jackson’s full statement to Pitchfork here
Buy Output Recordings mp3’s from
Output Recordings discography
Search Norman Records for Output Recordings catalogue
Trevor Jackson website
Four Tet website
Uwe Schmidt information page at Wikipedia
Page with information on Colder here


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Girl With The Wandering Eye

The Hitsville House Band - The Girl With The Wandering Eye

Today I rediscovered an album I bought in 1996 after hearing one track on the John Peel show. I can still hear Peel’s voice explaining how it was to be released on Humbug Records, who described themselves as “…the Vauxhall Conference Division of New Millennium Communications” of record labels. Sold on this snippet of information, I rushed down to my little local HMV only to find they didn’t have it. Who would have thought it? Once the special orders came in, I was chuffed. I finally owned a copy of ‘12 O’Clock Stereo’ by The Hitsville House Band.

The band features the talents of Wreckless Eric, the pub rock punker and former label mate of Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe at Stiff. Frankly, the album is awful, and is a harsh reminder to me that with great expectations can often come great disappointments. However, that one song, track 3 on the album, the one song I heard on the Peel show that night, has always commanded a place in my affections. ‘The Girl With The Wandering Eye’ is a tale of forbidden lust with that near-perfect girl who would normally be out of reach but for one apparent flaw - her wandering eye.

“One eye checked that the coast was clear, while the other one fixed on me, and I was hooked, by a come-hither look, and a gaze that was, well beyond correction.”

The humorous lyrics from the perspective of the male singer inform us that the poor girl’s slight sight problem didn’t bother him for a while. But, when he hears of a possible cure, despite it being of no medical foundation, surely, he suggests, it’s worth a try? We’re left to assume that his suggestion didn’t go down too well as the singer is soon lamenting the fact that he is no longer in touch with the girl with the wandering eye. There must be a lesson for us all in here somewhere?

Wreckless Eric website
Only a few copies left of The Hitsville House Band album, available via mail-order here
Details of Wreckless Eric sessions for John Peel
Stiff Records entry at Wikipedia


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Feasting On The Innards Of A Gutted Johnny Borrell

Clark - Vengeance Drools

Remember back in 1990 when the NME was the indiest of all the inkies, they put Leeds’ bleep pioneers LFO on the cover, smashing guitars to pieces? Well, it’s a poxy old comic these days, but it could go some way to redeeming itself by reprising that scenario, but this time with Clark as the agitator, perhaps feasting on the innards of a gutted Johnny Borrell, or dining on the brains of a Kook or two. I’m not bothered what, let’s just have some gory visual representation of another triumph for a forward-thinking electronic producer over redundant meat and two veg indie guitar nonsense.

Clark’s third album ‘Body Riddle’, released by Warp Records on October 2nd, is just that – a triumph; a marvellously satisfying collection of songs of depth, beauty and no little menace. While listening to the album, I had this vision of Clark as a man sitting on a trunk filled to bursting with roaring monsters and howling demons, struggling to keep the lid on what would be a cacophony of unholy noise were he to relinquish control and set them free. Like all the greatest sonic innovators, Clark is not afraid of noise. He understands and nurtures it, taming unruly distortion and frequencies so they behave and play nicely with twinkling melodies and mangled rhythms, resulting in tracks like ‘Herr Barr’ and ‘The Autumnal Crash’, which open and close the 11-track album.

Clark does a nice line in straightforward head-nodding machine funk, on ‘Ted’ and the brilliantly-named ‘Vengeance Drools’, yet wields a subtler touch with the celestial glockenspiel symphony ‘Night Knuckles’, and a couple of short melodic interludes (‘Dew on the Mouth’ and ‘Springtime Epigram’). ‘Matthew Unburdened’ is a woozy ballroom polka with antique pianos, while ‘Roulette Thrift Run’ is more indicative of his earlier work, all playful beat trickery and distorted jazzy flourishes. Though it is ‘Herzog’ that is perhaps most astounding of all - driven by ticking percussion, swarms of analogue synths swirl and merge with dismembered vocals, creating a prog-electronic stew of stunning originality.

Clark is a man on fire – there are three exclusive free tracks to download from the ‘Body Riddle’ microsite. He is also set to appear live at a Warp Records party in Leeds, on October 13th alongside LFO and Plaid. Tickets are available here.

Preorder ‘Body Riddle’ from Warp Records and get a free 3” CD entitled ‘Throttle Clarence’ (limited to only 750 copies) containing 20 minutes of exclusive Clark material.
Buy Clark back catalogue from Warp Mart
Microsite for previous album ‘Empty The Bones Of You’, featuring a biography here
Microsite for debut album ‘Clarence Park’ here
Clark at My Space


Friday, September 22, 2006

Spray Gunk

Two Lone Swordsmen - Gay Spunk

Ignore the laddish joke of the title (or giggle if you must) and instead dive into the aqueous ambient electronica of ‘Gay Spunk’ by Two Lone Swordsmen. Taken from the ‘A Bag of Blue Sparks EP’, the duo’s first release on Warp in 1998, this is a track that’s as deep as the ocean, with layer upon layer of shimmering wonder to bathe your ears in. It ebbs and flows with undulating percussion, twanging guitars, a shifting bassline and iridescent melodies that sparkle like the sun on the sea. People often chuck around the ‘genius’ superlative when talking about Weatherall, usually with reference to his production work on Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’. Personally, I think it’s on tracks like this, in partnership with Keith Tenniswood, that he truly shows the depth of his talents. This is a gorgeous piece of music and one I will never tire of hearing.

Official Two Lone Swordsmen website
Buy Two Lone Swordsmen from Warp Mart
Two Lone Swordsmen biography
Two Lone Swordsmen at discography


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Understand, This Is A Dream

Regular Fries - Africa Take Me Back
Regular Fries - Cyanide

I recently had a sort out of my old cassette tapes, a much-loved format here at TWNR. Amongst a load of copyright infringed copies of Britpop albums and free tapes that were once sellotaped to the front of the NME, I found a hand-written C90 with the words “Fries Live” on it. I popped it in the twin deck and heard the excited tones of Mary Anne Hobbs blast back out at me -

"Tonight we have live, the hottest unsigned act in the UK. The new art terrorists. The cryptic. The apocalyptic. THE REGULAR FRIES."

This tape was in the cassette deck of my first ever car for about a month solid, after I first recorded it off the radio. It helped that the b-side is the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, live at the same gig. However, listening now it’s the Regular Fries that have made me sit up and take notice as I’d completely forgotten how brilliant they could be.

The Fries sound is a swirling funk cocktail of trippy baggy beats and slow guitar hooks, with brainwashing lyrics, which once again seduces me into believing that this space-rock/dance hybrid will take over the world. It’s then I remind myself that this was recorded in April 1998 (OK, I had to check!). The band exude an air of laidback cool to the point of being almost horizontal, yet the live set is also a relentless 25 minute workout, featuring a continuous cacophony of horns and vocal messages of space invasions and higher plains. Whatever they were smoking it was working.

"Am I a figment of your imagination? Or am I, one of yours?"

The live recording inspired me to dig out the Regular Fries albums and EPs I own, and they still sound great on record. Personal favourites as well as those posted, include ‘Dust It’ and ‘King Kong’. These tracks are available on the compilation, ‘Phone in Sick’ released after their split in 2004, and it’s well worth checking out. ‘Coke N Smoke’ - the hook-up with Kool Keith, which I resisted posting here - is probably worth the cover price alone.

The official Regular Fries website
Fries at My Space
Regular Fries vinyl to buy at Norman Records
Purchase 'Phone In Sick', the Regular Fries 'Best of..' comp from Amazon


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Play Something Happy

Add N To X - This Is The Flex (Lo-Fi Mix)

Not so long ago, I used to spend some of my spare time playing records for the public in various bars around London. I believe the technical term for this is ‘DJing’ but there wasn’t anything technical about my abilities in this department as I was (still am) incapable of mixing and rarely knew what I was going to play next, preferring instead to randomly select records from my bag and hope for the best. Self-deprecation aside, I’d like to think that my enthusiasm for music and collection of half-decent records provided me with enough qualifications to perform the task in a more than adequate fashion.

Strange then that I have very few fond memories from all the occasions when I put the needle to the groove in front of an audience. It’s not as if I was under any illusions about my status. I ain’t Oakenfold, nor would I want to be. I was spinning twinkling electronica and quirky indie (think Beta Band), sometimes veering towards the more abrasive if I’d had a pint or two, in bars on non-descript nights like Tuesday, providing background music for after-work drinkers. So why the abuse? If it wasn’t plebs braying for Oasis, it was slick accountants demanding “funky house”. When playing at a pub in East London one night I was subjected to ridicule from a perpendicular-haired Hoxtonite who claimed I was “rubbish” – his justification for this statement? That he’d heard all the records I was playing before. I’ve had the bar staff telling me to turn it down and even the organiser of one night asking if I could, “Play something happy” as I was bumming out her friend. The fact that said friend was sat outside and could barely hear the music didn’t seem to matter. And anyway, what constitutes “happy” music? Timmy Fucking Mallet? That one particularly rankled as I’d just returned from tour managing a post rock band in Europe where I’d played records to politely geeky German crowds who waited for each record to finish before asking me what it was called and scribbling the answer into their notebooks. That’s how it’s meant to be – a bit of cocking respect for the man playing the songs.

It wasn’t all bad. I even rocked it one night, playing downstairs in a pub on the Essex Road with my mate Wil (with one L, it’s not a typo). I played a few records that went down quite well, and with my ego suitably inflated, I slapped on ‘The Is The Flex (Lo-Fi Mix)’ by Add N To X. Opening with military drums and a quirky whistled melody, an analogue noise sword cuts through, making way for some bitchin’ drums and bass, lots of vocoder nonsense and sci-fi effects. Cue spasmodic dancing (yes, DANCING!) from at least 10 people and a handful of patrons trying to read the label as the record spun. Exalted, I even punched the air a few times – this was it, I had a smattering of people in the palm of my hand and I wasn’t about to blow it. Or was I? Yes, I was. The next track (can’t remember what it was) cleared the area in front of the bar that passed as a dancefloor and it was back to business as usual. Bollocks.

Official Add N To X website
Add N To X page at Mute Records
Buy Add N To X from Amazon
Contact me here, if you ever want me to come out of retirement and play obscure electronic music in your front room - only happy tracks, I promise.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pump Up The Volume

Aphex Twin - Analogue Bubblebath 3
Caustic Window - Cunt

Back in the days before the internet we used to have these things called books. If you wanted to know something, you looked it up. This was fine up to a point, but it was hard trying to find up-to-date information on your favourite musical artists. If they weren’t featured in the music magazines, you were reliant on snippets of info given by DJ’s when the tracks were played on the radio. This was frustrating to say the least.

Then along came Volume, a forward thinking UK-based label who in the early 1990s came up with the cunning idea of releasing compilation CD’s which came with free booklets containing interviews, pictures and trivia on all the featured artists. The first compilations, released under the ‘Volume’ name featured a mixture of indie and electronic acts. ‘Volume One’ for example had Throwing Muses and New Order rubbing shoulders with The Orb and The Shamen, while ‘Volume Two’ featured Lush, Blur, Pulp, Nine Inch Nails and Curve – all seminal names in early 90s music.

In September 1993, to capitalise on the growing popularity of dance music, Volume released the first instalment of ‘Trance Europe Express’, which featured tracks from the cream of the ambient, techno, house and electronic artists of the period. I can remember buying ‘Trance Europe Express Volume One’ and reading the article for each artist while their specific track was playing. It was a heavenly experience for a geek like me, both ears and brain sated with fine sounds and cutting edge information and images. The articles were always enthusiastically written and well researched and were often the first ever features done on the artists. Volume also offered a subscription service so you didn’t even have to leave your front room if you didn’t want to.

Obviously the internet has now rendered this innovation redundant, but the music and booklets of the ‘Trance Europe Express’ series are fantastic documents of a great period for dance music. With all these top tunes at my disposal, I’m sure I’ll be returning to the TEX’ series for some future posts, but for now here’s a couple of exclusives from Richard D. James, unreleased elsewhere as far as I’m aware. ‘Analogue Bubblebath 3’ was featured on ‘TEX Volume One’ and is a dark soundscape of paranoid ambience, all whispering voices and eerie chords. From ‘TEX Volume Three’ is the charmingly titled ‘Cunt’, an uncompromising mash-up of harsh drums and distorted acid recorded under Richard’s most abrasive alter ego, Caustic Window. There’s a brilliant article on Aphex contained in the booklet for ‘TEX3’, detailing his performance at the 1994 Ravestock Festival in the US. Richard played a rare live set, appearing after Deee-Lite, described as “…an intense cacophony of distortion and confusion, giving way to layers of frighteningly beautiful sound.” It’s a shame he only brings his laptop out to play these days, the full-on Aphex live experience is something to behold.

Full Volume discography
Buy Aphex Twin from Warpmart


Friday, September 15, 2006

A Wee Revolution

Arab Strap - Revolution

So. Farewell then
Arab Strap
The Last Big Weekend is here.

From the horse’s mouth - “There’s no animosity, no drama – we simply feel we’ve run our course.”

I should post one of their original compositions by way of a send off, but instead I offer you their cover version of Spacemen 3’s ‘Revolution’. It's everything that made them so great.

A crudely programmed drum machine, dissonant guitars and Aidan Moffat’s barely coherent vocal, mumbled down the phone. Suddenly the phone line goes dead and then a chair hits you over the back of the head - simple, effective and wholly original.

It’s not over just yet though. There’s a monster farewell tour of Europe and a compilation, ‘Ten Years of Tears’ (released on 23rd October), initially scheduled to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first release, but now acting as a rather neat full stop to their career.

Malcolm Middleton is currently recording his third solo album, due for release next year on Full Time Hobby and Aidan Moffat will continue to record as L. Pierre for Melodic.

Get a full list of the farewell tour dates from the official site
Malcolm Middleton website
Melodic, home of L. Pierre
Search Norman Records to buy Arab Strap, Malcolm Middleton and L. Pierre
Chemikal Underground, home of the Strap


Thursday, September 14, 2006

They Treat You Like Trash

The Flaming Stars - Like Trash
The Flaming Stars - Sweet Smell Of Success

London is the best place in the world to live. That is if you are a pessimistic, whisky swilling, heart broken, burnt-out wreck of a man. After listening to The Flaming Stars for over a decade, I can safely say that London is the only place for them. Their records evoke the atmosphere of dimly lit late-night bars, getting out of your face, missing the tube home and being dumped by the love of your life. It’s all in a nights work for a Flaming Star.

The Flaming Stars lead singer is the former Gallon Drunk drummer, Max Décharné. His deep vocals croon the downtrodden, washed-up ballads. The more raucous tunes belt out the swamp-garage-guitar-blues, with his keyboard bashed hard, lending another layer of sound, which stays just the right side of sleaze over cheese. Stated on a Flaming Stars record is that it has been “Engineered entirely using valve equipment.” You can believe it as soon as it starts. The sound certainly has a romantic old school feel to it, developed long before The White Stripes made it cool, recording at the same Toe Rag Studios.

As a 16-year-old living in a village in the arse end of nowhere back in 1995, The Flaming Stars’ tales of drunken heartbreak seemed somehow glamorous to me. Don’t worry kids, I know the dangers of drinking (and the mornings after) now of course, but still the bar room floor beckons when I put on a Flaming Stars record.

The Flaming Stars seem prolific by today’s standards of taking three years to record that difficult next album. Having previously released seven studio albums, the band were also frequent visitors to Maida Vale to record sessions for John Peel, and after the sad demise of their record label, Vinyl Japan, signed to Ace Records, who released their career-to-date compilation ‘London After Midnight’ earlier this year. The band will return with another album, ‘Born Under A Bad Neon Sign’ later in the year, and to celebrate its release will be playing The Luminaire in London on October 4th.

Unofficial Flaming Stars website here
The Flaming Stars at My Space
Buy The Flaming Stars albums at Amazon
Ace Records website


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Phuture Soundz

Phuture Assassins - Future Sound (2 Bad Mice Remix)

It’s always exciting to hear music at the point of transition and to be able to pinpoint the exact moment when a genre transforms itself into something fresh, exciting and new. In 1992, breakbeat and hardcore music began evolving into jungle, which in turn mutated into drum‘n’bass, and one of the labels at the forefront of this evolution was Romford’s Suburban Base. The label itself grew from the Boogie Times record shop, opened in 1989 by 18-year-old dance music obsessive Dan Donnelly. Suburban Base released its first 12” in April 1991, Kromozone’s ‘The Rush’, and had its first Top 40 hit with Sonz Of A Loop Da Loop Era’s timeless rave classic ‘Far Out’ the following year. The label would go on to have twelve Top 75 records, including the novelty smash ‘Sesame’s Treet’ by Smart E’s which reached # 2 during the height of rave mania – a staggering success for a label still being run by one person from a room above a record shop.

When you listen to the 2 Bad Mice remix of Phuture Assassin’s ‘Future Sound’ you are listening to a prototype jungle track. While incorporating many key elements of hardcore rave music of the time, the breakbeats are starting to be mangled into what would become the irregular drum patterns of jungle. It also features reggae influences, with heavy dub basslines and ragga vocal samples. The music is abrasive and aggressive, lacking the cartoony vibe prevalent in a lot of the hardcore rave music of the time, and this darker style would become a prerequisite of the majority of jungle music. I can remember my friend recording his DJ set from a rave on a traveller’s site in Dorset, just at the time jungle was properly breaking. He played an entire set of hardcore rave and jungle, mixed up with reggae, dub and ragga and ‘Future Sound (2 Bad Mice Remix)’ formed the backbone of that set. Every time it drops in, you can hear the ecstatic whoops and whistles of the ravers. This is a pioneering track - a stone cold classic TUNE, with a musical history lesson attached.

Suburban Base discography
Information archive for Suburban Base here, featuring audio samples and a picture gallery
Search eBay for Suburban Base catalogue


Sunday, September 10, 2006

One Band, Two Songs, Ten Years

Blur - I Know (Extended)
Blur - Black Book

‘I Know’ was the B-side of ‘She’s So High’, Blur’s debut single released in 1990. This extended version, despite being one of the baggiest songs ever made, still manages to sound uptight. It’s shiny and overproduced; a B-side that desperately wants to be the A-side and very nearly was. The Damon of 1990 is bright-eyed and bushy tailed, flinging his naïve, vacuous lyrics against the music with the air of an eager-to-please suitor with plenty to prove. ‘PLEASE LOVE ME!’ he seems to be saying, sporting a Penguin books T-shirt and adopting an affected ‘I’m On Acid’ wide-eyed stare, shaking his shaggy bowl from side-to-side. Damo is flanked by bezzy mate Graham Coxon, a Dinosaur Jr obsessive doing a pretty good impression of a white boy funk guitarist, reluctantly flicking wakka-wakka riffs and a wah-wah solo. Professional ciggy smoker Alex James slaps down another corking bendy bass line and Ginger Dave whacks out the baggy beat, commanding loose-limbed shape making from all who encounter it on the dance floor at an indie disco.

Fast-forward a whole decade, just into the new millennium, and we find an older, wiser Blur laying down some tracks to accompany the ‘Music Is My Radar’ single. There’s an organic ambience to ‘Black Book’. It has the feel of a laidback jam, with all four musicians connecting telepathically to one another with the ease of a gang who have been playing together for what seems like forever. Its eight minutes long because, well, it just felt so good we didn’t know when to stop playing. There’s an almost Doorsian vibe, with Damon’s twinkling organ work and Graham’s swirling guitar riffs. Damon 2000’s vocal delivery alternates between the gravely, world-weary croon of a proper rock star, rising to a falsetto howl that comes from deep within. He means it. He’s thrown his black book away now, yes, he has. No more groupies for Damon, he’s settling down and claiming back his soul.

One band, two songs, ten years. Not all bands are able to stay together for that long and many that do, do so by never changing tack. Blur managed it by continually evolving, sometimes with steps backwards though mostly with brave leaps of musical faith, more often than not tucked away on the B-sides of more straightforward singles. But just imagine there was nothing in between, and you heard these two songs in isolation. Would you know they were by the same band? Which do you prefer? If I ponder that question myself, it’s a bit like asking, “Who would you rather be?”. The self-conscious duffel coat wearing ninny of the early 90s, with curtains for hair and grape Converse, or the balding and somewhat more self-assured millennial JC, with less hopes and less fears, but better clothes and prospects? The answer to that question is easy. The musical dilemma – I’m not so sure.

Buy Blur from Amazon
Official Blur website


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Random Scribbles Make Sense In Context

Over on Spoilt Victorian Child we used to have that flashy telly player for when we wanted to show moving pictures. Unfortunately, this is my gaff, so I'm having to make to with embedding the You Tube player so you can get a peek of the video for the new Field Music single. Field Music made one of my favourite albums of last year with their eponymous debut, and the second album 'Tones of Town' is due to drop in January 2007. 'In Context', released as a limited edition 7" on October 9th, is a brave choice for a single as it opens with drums that sound like they were recorded in my garden shed, is structured in a rather strange way, and ends with a bass solo. But it's a bloody great weird pop song with lovely harmonies and fully endorses that "Wire produced by the Beach Boys" metaphor that's wheeled out to describe what they do. It's a great video with what appears to be random scribbling going down. Wait for the moment when the camera pans out at the end though and all is revealed.

I will be posting an exclusive track from their new album at some point before Christmas so watch this space.

Pre-order 'In Context' from Record Store - you get free badges too!
Field Music website
Field Music at Memphis Industries
Field Music My Space


Thursday, September 07, 2006

If Our Records Sound Distorted...

It’s time to bring in reinforcements, so please welcome my good friend Dave to The White Noise Revisited. His musical credentials are impeccable, and he DJ’s as part of the Eclectic Aristocracy at Shuffle in London. Head to their website for details if you’re interested, and if you go down there, shake Dave’s hand and buy the man a drink. Until then, read on as he pops his TWNR cherry – the first of many I hope…

The Sonics - Psycho
The Sonics - Have Love Will Travel

There aren’t many bands I'd consider naming my 5-a-side football team after (it’s a serious business after all), so it’s high praise indeed that The Sonics have received this honour. A 1960s garage band hailing from Tacoma, Washington in the US, over the years they have been name-checked by just about everyone, but if you’ve yet to hear The Sonics, prepare to have your ears blown off.

For me, not one LP I've heard can disseminate the energy that spills right off a Sonics record. The rhythm drives a relentless pace through a raucous and fuzzy guitar riff, backed with a vocal that screams and wails its intentions through your ears and into your brain.

The Pacific Northwest had spawned a number of garage rock bands in the early 1960s, leading some critics to claim that every town had a band like The Sonics. If that’s true then let’s hear them! Influenced by the local successes of the likes of The Kingsmen and The Wailers, The Sonics were a typical 5-piece line-up who cranked it up further than these bands, and it is their pace and energy that sets them apart from their peers. As do the vocal talents of lead singer, Gerry Roslie. “No less than the white Little Richard” is high praise indeed, but the frenzied screams over tracks such as ‘Psycho’ and the growling of ‘Strychnine’ (later covered by The Cramps) do lend an original and raw edge to their sound that still sounds unlike anything else today.

The distorted sound of The Sonics is apparently no accident, inflicted by the straining and creaking recording equipment of the time. “If our records sound distorted, it’s because they are,” says Andy Parypa, bass player of the band. The Sonics pushed studio equipment to its limits and beyond, in order to achieve the “liver sound” they were craving. If they sound like this in the studio then imagine what they must have been like when let loose on stage. I picture, in black and white, the high school dance with all the amps turned up to 10, forlorn parents and teachers shaking their heads in despair as their bewitched and demonised children thrash away with their musical instruments, jumping up and down and screaming.

Some Sonics reviews tend to criticise their cover versions but their breathless renditions of ‘Do You Love Me’ and ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ have now become the standard versions in my memory banks. One of The Sonics finest moments is their version of Richard Berry’s ‘Have Love Will Travel’. If I can get over it being used on a car advert, I might even say it was one of my favourite records of all time.

Norton Records have The Sonics back catalogue available on LP and CD, all with lovely sleeve notes that can tell you more about the band than I ever could here. There is also a compilation, ‘Required Etiquette’, featuring three Sonics tracks, and other tracks from standout bands of the time, including The Wailers and The Galaxies, available from Amazon. However, perhaps the best value Sonics compilation is ‘Psycho-Sonic’ on Big Beat, which features all the tracks from The Sonics first two albums recorded in 1965.

Buy The Sonics catalogue from Amazon
The Sonics at Wikipedia
Norton Records website
The Sonics fan site
The Sonics at My Space


A Rummage In The Trunk # 1

Penfold Plum - Blim Blom
Penfold Plum - Cute Toy

I wasn’t really sure what to write about today, and knowing how easy it is to get overly precious about these things I decided to have a rummage around in an old trunk of CD’s that I never ever listen to. I made a promise to myself that whatever I pulled out I would write about, even if it was something that my ownership of would bring shame upon me and my family. I lucked out this time, as the first CD my grabbing hands grabbed was the ‘Scribbled I Infant’ EP by Penfold Plum, released on Wichita Recordings in 2001. I don’t remember how I acquired this, and can’t recall ever having listened to it. I probably had a cursory flick through before condemning it to the trunk. Foolish boy.

This is a nifty EP of crunchy electronics, and a bit of internet research tells me it’s the handiwork of a guy called Tom Hill, who also used to be one half of Wauvenfold. It looks as if this is the only Penfold Plum release, but his My Space page has got some more music to listen to and download, and reveals him to be a man with a skewed sense of humour, rather than a po-faced chin stroker. Tom says, “If people take it too seriously, they won’t get it. I want people to enjoy what I do, even if they don’t particularly like it. I never wanna become a scratchy beard kind of act where electronica fans just try to figure out what software I’m using. I wanna smack people in the ears and and maybe show someone who doesn't like electronic music why I do.” Here to clout you about the lugholes is the short but ever so sweet ‘Blim Blom’ with it’s silly vocal and the really rather brilliant melodic plink plonk of ‘Cute Toy’. I’m definitely going to go back for a rummage in that trunk again. It’s a bit like digging for musical treasure, and today I unearthed a gem.

Penfold Plum at My Space


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's A Braggadocious Game

Ice "T" And The Time - The Coldest Rap (Part One)

Ice-T’s debut rap on the 1982 track ‘The Coldest Rap’ is often credited as being the first ever example of gangsta rap. When later asked why this was so, Ice explained that traditionally, rap music was about battles between rival MC’s. ‘The Coldest Rap’ was the first track to change the opponent to the audience. Here’s a quote from an interview with Eric Berman in 1996 -

“It’s no more rappin’ about rappin’. Instead of saying, “I'll take your DJ and woowoowoo” in gangsta rap it’s, “I'll take you and blow your motherfuckin’ head off.” Rap always had an opponent, we just changed it. It’s a braggadocious game.”

Braggadocious needs to go into the dictionary. The wild boasts of the 22-year-old Ice are rather more amusing than I’m sure he intended. After he finishes reeling off a list of all his material possessions (which include an ocean liner, an island near France and some designer pants – go Ice!) he reveals the details of his birth –

“When I was brought into this world,
My Momma never asked if I was a boy or a girl,
‘Cause I rolled over to her and gave her a kiss,
She said, “Yo’ Daddy don’t rock me like this!””

It gets even better. He proceeds to describe an evening out with a girl. After the obligatory fine wine and food, Ice takes her back to his place where they make love “in 50 different positions” all night. So far, so predictable. What you don’t expect is that, perhaps worried that we won’t believe the tales of his sexual prowess, he proceeds to imitate the girl recounting how great he is in bed. It’s very stupid and a bit Monty Python. Maybe he meant it to be so. With lines like, “We had rocked so hard, made a snooty fox bark”, I wonder if his tongue wasn’t somewhere in the vicinity of his cheek.

The track featured The Time, the band formed by future super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on keys and bass, who had Prince protégé Morris Day on vocals. Given these players, it’s not surprising that the music is damn funky, with a brilliant bass solo and sci-fi keyboard flourishes. There’s an atmospheric wind blowing throughout the track, and despite the ridiculous braggadociousness of the lyrics, Ice has a devastating pitch.

Ice-T's official website and info on Wikipedia
The official website of Morris Day and The Time here and info for The Time on Wikipedia
Search eBay for rare Ice-T vinyl or buy Ice-T albums from Amazon


Monday, September 04, 2006

Skeletal Wanks

Hardfloor - Into The Nature (South Of Detroit Mix By Richie Hawtin)

I read a great quote last year from a jaded clubber on his way home from the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Let's call him Lee, 26 from Plaistow. Lee said, "Don't get me wrong, I fucking love techno, but there's only so much you can take before it all starts to sound like a skeleton wanking off in an old tin drum." Or words to that effect. I sympathise with Lee. I also love techno, but having been on the receiving end of marathon 10 hour sets from the likes of Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills, I would have to concur. As an example, I'm posting Hawtin's epic 12 minute remix of Hardfloor's 'Into the Nature'. There's five minutes of nowt but rattling drums and percussion before the first hint of a melody comes in, in the form of sampled hunting horns. The only other addition is a scowling acid line and much tweaking of levels to cause maximum mind marmalization. It's brilliant, but as Lee points out, there's only so much you can take.

And while I’ve got you here, what the fuck is going on with Richie’s hair these days? He used to rock the shaved and very techno bone-dome, now he’s got some Teutonic bleached blonde flick, which makes him look like he’s in the Scissor Sisters. Richie Hawtin-Tin? Bizarre.

Visit the Hardfloor website and My Space
Hardfloor discography
Richie Hawtin's Plastikman website
Richie Hawtin discography


Friday, September 01, 2006

Fertilizing Daisies

East Flatbush Project - Tried By 12 (Autechre Remix)

‘Tried by 12’ by East Flatbush Project was one of the standout hip hop cuts of 1996 when it was originally released by 10/30 Uproar Records. East Flatbush Project were a Brooklyn-based collective of producers and MCs, masterminded by Spencer Bellamy. ‘Tried by 12’ featured the rapper DeS’s compelling delivery over a sparse, staccato beat and Eastern-sounding string loop. Unlike the majority of posturing gangster rap, ‘Tried By 12’ explored the grim reality of violence on the streets (“Beef starts with the shove and ends with the shovel”), revealing a mindset that it’s better to kill than be killed (“So who’d you rather be? The murdered or the murderer?”) and ending with a liturgical list of deceased friends.

The track was given a new lease of life when a series of influential electronic producers were let loose for a remix package released in the US on Chocolate Industries and the UK by Ninja Tune in 1998. The release featured reworks by artists including Squarepusher, Funkstörung, The Herbaliser and Autechre, who conjure up an inhuman slice of jagged machine funk, with the vocals manipulated to the point of incomprehension. The first time I heard it I checked my needle for fluff. The remix offers a nightmarish vision of a future music made by sonic cyborgs as well as providing a tantalising glimpse of how a hip hop album produced by Autechre could have sounded.

Buy 'Tried By 12 Remixes' from the Ninja Tune shop
Spencer Bellamy discography
Autechre artist page at Warp Records
Buy Autechre mp3s from Bleep