Tuesday, December 26, 2006

TWNR 2006 End of Year Review

Yes indeed, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – it’s time for The White Noise Revisited end of year lists. I know most blogs did these back in November but here at TWNR we like to wait for the dust to settle before we name names.

Below you’ll find the ten albums I liked the best this year, along with Dave’s Top 06 for 06 (did you see what he did there?) and Lighthouse chooses some songs he likes. There's also a brilliant ten track mixtape featuring a selection of tracks that received our love.

We shall return in 2007 with the usual mix of songs, waffle, piffle and the odd picture I nicked off the artist’s My Space page. I’ve got a good feeling about next year on the music front – maybe because I’ve already heard three exceptional albums that I am sure will be soundtracking most of the good things that will happen to us all next year. We is Swayze - Happy New Year to all of you and as always – thanks for reading...

Craig Charles Smoking Crack In A Taxi - 10 Tracks From 2006
Working for a Nuclear Free City - The Tape
Maps - Lost My Soul
Psapp - Needle & Thread
Sunset Rubdown - Stadiums and Shrines II
Emmy the Great - Absentee
Matinee Orchestra - Run For Cover (It's Going To Rain)
Beirut - Canals of Our City
AFX - Crying In Your Face
Clark - Herzog
bravecaptain - jerusalem (feat. akira the don)

1. Working for a Nuclear Free City - S/T
It’s hard choosing a favourite but the big boys made me, so at the top of my pile we have Working for a Nuclear Free City's self-titled debut, sounding a bit like all of my favourite bands stuck in a blender, with added techno and occasional moments of pastoral whimsy. Every time I listen to it another track leaps out at me. I reviewed it back in August and was having difficulty pinning them down. Since I stopped bothering, I have come to love this album. This Manchester four-piece are destined for great things, and claim top spot as I am clueless as to what they will do next, and that my friends, is fucking exciting. Released on Melodic.

2. Clark - Body Riddle
Easily the best electronic album of the year. When I reviewed it in September, I prayed its release would sound the death knell for bog standard indie guitar bollocks. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened, as the Fratellis have since emerged and Clark never made the cover of the NME with the remains of Luke Kooks' straw hat spilling from his bloodied gob. No bother, he did make a sensational album that put up him up there with the greats of the genre. Released on Warp Records.

3. Psapp - The Only Thing I Ever Wanted
I love cats. Psapp love cats. I love Psapp. They also make sweet pop music with percussion that sounds like someone in a kitchen grabbing whatever utensils they can find and banging them together. Absolutely brilliant. I don’t much care for the Arctic Monkeys, but if it means that Domino can afford to fund and release music from bands like Psapp then they’re alright in my book.

Beirut aka Zach Condon, hard at work in the studio

4. Beirut – The Gulag Orkestar
I never expected that one of my favourite albums of the year would be written on a ukulele by a 20-year-old from New Mexico with an obsession for Balkan brass music, but it was. I avoided writing about this album at the time as I didn’t feel the need to add to the mountain of words already flying round cyberspace. But I do love this album dearly and you should too. Released on Ba Da Bing Records, Beirut has since signed to 4AD.

5. King Biscuit Time - Black Gold
The legend returned, released an album, quit music for good but thankfully came back with a new moniker, Black Affair and an obsession with 80s funk and electro. A rollercoaster year for Mr Mason no doubt, but ‘Black Gold’ was a stunning debut for his King Biscuit Time alias. The voice is iconic, the music consistently innovative and in ‘Paperhead’ he did everything I could ever want from him in one song, combining the vocal refrain from ‘Baker Street’ with synth lines lifted from 1970s kung fu flicks and an uplifting chorus that sends the heart soaring skywards. Released on No Style Records via Poptones.

6. bravecaptain – Distractions
One of the best albums this year was given away for free without any ceremony by a songwriting genius, who has since broken up with himself. This was the final musical missive from Martin Carr’s wonderful bravecaptain project, and what a way to go. I interviewed him when I was writing for Spoilt Victorian Child and he spoke at length about the album here. In ‘Jerusalem’, his collaboration with the mighty Akira the Don, he concocted my track of the year. A mutant skank stomp with the Don’s blazing anti-War on Terror raps, it is the only politically charged indictment of our countries’ current predicament that gets you dancing on the tables. This should have been number 1 forever, and inside my head it probably will be. You can still download it for naff all from the bravecaptain website – off you go…

7. Matinee Orchestra - S/T
The Matinee Orchestra sound a bit like an extremely accomplished school band coming together for their end of year project. It has a bit of everything, including a rebellious sort in the corner with a 303 who obviously wants to make techno but is being forced into playing on this album in order to pass his Music GSCE. It’s a beguilingly lovely record and one that whenever I stick on, people enquire, “What is this?” - always the sign of a great record if you ask me. Released on Robin Saville from Isan’s Arable label.

AFX on the beach

8. AFX - Chosen Lords
I was one of the saddos who bought the limited edition binder and all 12 slabs of vinyl, but when it comes to all things Aphex I am a bit of a fanatic. Plus, if I ever fall short on my mortgage payments I can always flog it on eBay. Anyway, Rephlex kindly slapped 10 of the best tracks from the ‘Analord’ series onto a single CD so everyone could join in the acidic analogue madness. Many words were spoken concerning the merits of this series, but there should be less words and more wigging out to the mental acid served up by the master.

9. Northstation – Wagtail
This album from the Dublin-based artist Steven Fanagan definitely wins the award for best packaging. Read about that here. Musically it was also a crunchy, twinkly electronic gem, with a juicy dollop of clang and a portion of fizz on the side – just how I like it.

10. The Longcut - A Call & Response
Now I’ve reached the age of 33 I don’t really do angst anymore. But if I did, the debut album from the Longcut would be the record I would be sticking on at full volume after slamming my bedroom door, and berating with the walls at the unfairness of my life, while swinging my ungainly limbs from side to side. They have a singing drummer, pulsating low riding bass lines and jagged guitars, and have made the only album in the entire NME Top 20 of 2006 that I actually own. Go figure… Released on Deltasonic.

That's me done, see you next year! Joe.

Dave's Top 06 for 06

Maps in the studio in Iceland

1. Maps - 'Start Something/To The Sky'; 'Lost My Soul/Sparks In The Snow'; and 'Don’t Fear' (Last Space Recordings)
A trilogy of singles from Maps, all perfectly formed on 10" vinyl and all simply glorious.

2. The Electric Penguins - 'Goodbye From The Electric Penguins' LP (Psychonavigation Records)
Inspiring, uplifting, beautiful electronica from Irish three-piece.

3. Working For A Nuclear Free City, S/T LP (Melodic)
So many different sounds, so many influences, yet something completely alternative, new and explosive.

4. Freelance Hellraiser - 'Waiting For Clearance' LP – (Sony BMG)
Unexpected, understated and underrated. The former mash-up king delivered a wonderful slice of original blissful dance music for grown ups.

5. Arab Strap - 'Ten Years Of Tears' LP (Chemikal Underground)
A fitting farewell for one of my favourite bands of all time, proving that they were a bit more than a couple of Scottish mumblies.

6. Hot Chip - 'The Warning' LP (EMI)
The coolest geeks in the land up the ante and the funk on their second album, and threaten to break your legs over and over.


Lighthouse Presents 10 Songs From This Year

Emmy the Great

1. Emmy the Great - Absentee
2. Sunset Rubdown - Stadiums and Shrines II
3. Laura Groves - I am leaving
4. bravecaptain - I don't know any better
5. Euros Childs - Stella is a Pygmy 3
6. Clark - Herr Barr
7. Richard James - Headlong
8. Champion Kickboxer - Perforations
9. Sunn 0))) & Boris - The Sinking Belle (The Blue Sheep)
10. Joanna Newsom - Cosmia


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bloomin' Christmas

Hello! We'll be back sometime next week with an end of year review. Until then, grab this eight track Christmas Mixtape and get in the mood for the forthcoming festivities. Thanks for reading - it means a lot. Happy Christmas from us all...

Joe x, Dave x, Domino Jones x, Lighthouse x and It's a sin x

The Ronettes - Sleigh Ride
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus - Gloucester Wassail
Half Man Half Biscuit - It's Clichéd to be Cynical at Christmas
Arab Strap - Xmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
Low - Just Like Christmas
Blur - The Wassailing Song
Wisp - Holly and Ivy
Go Home Productions - Christmas on the Block

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Return of the Choir Boy on Acid

Mark Gardener (with Goldrush) - Where Are You Now? (electric)

We’re ending the year on a high with an exclusive interview with Mark Gardener. Mark (formerly of Ride, in case you live under a stone) released his debut solo album 'These Beautiful Ghosts' back in 2005, but you might not know that as it has yet to get a full release in the UK. However, the excellent Sonic Cathedral label released an album track, 'The Story of the Eye', complete with a killer remix from Ulrich Schnauss, as a limited edition 7” last Monday (11th December).

Mark kindly took some time out to talk to TWNR about his solo career, the end of Ride, the evolution of the music industry and his plans for the future in this awesome interview. He has also donated an exclusive 'Electric' mix of the gorgeous album track 'Where Are You Now?', which is available to download for a limited period. It’s a wonderful song, with lush 12-string plucking and fantastic harmonious ‘Ahhhhing’, reminiscent of the golden era of his former band. Special thanks to Dave Newton and Nat from Sonic Cathedral for making it happen. Read on...

Joe C: Hi Mark. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for The White Noise Revisited; you are a legend on these pages. Where are you now and how are things?

Mark G: When I’m not touring around I’m now based back in Oxford after four years of living in the wilds of France and lots of time based in New York last year when I was pulling the album together.

JC: I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of your debut solo album ‘These Beautiful Ghosts’ from Oxford Music last year, but many of our readers may not even know you have a record out. How come you’ve been able to get deals in Europe and the States, but still haven’t sorted anything concrete out in the UK? Can UK residents get the album, and if so, where from?

MG: That’s a good question and one that I ask myself too! I was approached in the States and Europe by some good indie labels who were committed to releasing the album and working it along with me playing some solo and band shows to help promote it so that’s what happened and that’s been keeping me busy .

So far no English indie label that would make a difference to me releasing my own album on my own label has shown any interest so that is why it has not, as yet, been officially released in the UK. I haven’t been in a position to release the album myself in the UK as I’m still on a loss from making and funding the record. It’s not so easy to make a living in these days of free downloads etc but that keeps you on your toes and certainly keeps life very interesting!!!!! I am hopeful that in time this situation will change and the album will eventually be officially released here in the UK. UK residents can buy the album online at iTunes and a limited edition version is still available on line at Oxford Music, which will be joined by a DVD of the making of the record, with an interview, extra clips and songs early next year, as soon as the DVD has been finished.

JC: It’s hard to talk to you without mentioning Ride, as they were such a massive band for me, and for many of our readers. The weird thing is, I wasn’t that disappointed when you split – ‘Tarantula’ was a pretty awful album and it was obvious things weren’t working out between you all. The disappointing thing for me was what happened next. It was always going to be hard to follow Ride, and I was initially excited by your solo release on Shifty Disco (a re-recorded version of the gorgeous track ‘Magdalen Sky’ appears on ‘These Beautiful Ghosts’), but both The Animal House and Hurricane # 1 were a huge letdown. Was this down to unfair expectations and the inevitable comparisons? Or do you just think the bands weren’t good enough?

MG: Well, nothing lasts forever and it was time to split as far as I was concerned as the band had stopped playing to it’s strengths and we were all burnt out with it all as we hadn’t really stopped since we started. More bands should split up before they end up kidding themselves into thinking that they can kid the audience. As a musician and a music fan, I think it’s quite easy to hear when the chemistry has gone from bands and you wish they would stop, or tear up the old formula and do something new and interesting again or get a different job! More bands should split up!!!

I don’t have a problem talking about Ride so it’s okay to “mention it”! I’m at peace with my past and very happy that Ride seems to have stood the test of time, which for me is always the real test in the end of any musical or artistic venture. Now that I’ve had some time and space away from being in the middle of Ride I can listen to it all in a fresh way now and I’m also a big fan! The Animal House for me was more of a studio-based project that was only ever going to be a one album experimental project. The disaster for me as far as Animal House was concerned was signing and dealing with a major label (BMG) at a time when the majors were panicking big time about the impact of the net. So few people ever heard or knew about the record, so who knows if it was good enough, it never really had a chance. This put me off ever wanting to deal with the music industry again for a while, and played a big part in my relocation to the wilds of France to detox from all of this and feel good about writing music again.

JC: It’s taken a while, but I really feel like ‘These Beautiful Ghosts’ contains the first recordings from either you or Andy that are worthy of Ride’s legacy. There’s a depth and beauty to the tracks that make it an album I keep on coming back to. Your voice has also matured a great deal – the vocal’s are stronger than anything you’ve done before. You must be very proud. It feels like it’s come out of nowhere, though having followed your career, I know that you’ve been touring the songs for ages. Has it been frustrating having to wait so long to get the album out? I haven’t seen many reviews in the UK – has the record been well received? How important is critical acclaim to you?

MG: Thank you! I am proud of the record. I have not stopped singing and writing so I think this is why the vocals are sounding stronger than before. All of the more stripped down acoustic shows and not being able to hide behind noise have also really helped me develop the songs and vocals. It also helps when you can actually hear your voice and what you are singing which was not so easy during the Ride days! The process has not been so frustrating as I have personally funded making the record along with the good people who pre-bought the album before they had heard it through my website. It’s been a step at a time sort of project which was the only way that I could make the record and as I can’t be in more than one place at one time, I have had to play in the different countries at the times that the record has been released.

It’s always a pleasure to read positive reviews of a project that you have put so much time and effort into. I do respect some writers and mags opinions especially those that are still talking music and are not so affected by fashion and style, which seems to be the way that sadly many music magazines have gone, especially in the UK. At the end of the day I’m probably my own hardest critic and I’ve always been more concerned about what close friends think about what I am doing as I am of journalists who don’t know me and can have many other personal agendas that don’t have so much to do with music.

JC: The album is credited as being by Mark Gardener (with Goldrush). Who are they and how did you get together with them? Were you ever tempted to form a new band with them, or did you always want the record to be released under your name?

MG: Goldrush are a local Oxford band who I saw in concert a long time ago and I really liked them. Robin, the singer, offered his and the bands services to me when they realised that I was going it alone. At that time, this worked really well as we played many shows together where Goldrush would play their set and then I would do a few solo numbers and then the band would join me and back me for the rest of the night. It was great to have a group of great guys and players around and we played many great shows together. Goldrush are their own band with their own music and schedule so it was never an option for me to form a new band with them.

I’m really enjoying the freedom of being a solo artist and feeling in control of my destiny, and I do not miss moving around as five or more people and being in the same space with the same group of people all the time. I enjoy the variety and adventure of jumping around between different musical collaborations and projects. This variety helps keep me fresh, busy and inspired. I wanted to remove the veils and hiding places of band names and project names and tell it like it was which is why the album had to be Mark Gardener with Goldrush. Other musicians who played on the album include Sacha from The Morning After Girls, Grasshopper and Suzanne Thorpe from Mercury Rev, Gene Park, Cat Martino, Kaye Phillips and Clive Poole.

JC: There’s a fantastic mixture of styles on the album, but folk and country dominate. There are some heart-melting harmonies on tracks like ‘Rhapsody’ and ‘Summer Turns To Fall’. Who were the major influences on you while you were recording?

MG: The record reflects the fact that I was playing many shows solo acoustically along with many shows with Goldrush, which is where some of the more folky country feel was coming from. I wanted the record to feel pretty stripped down and direct. During my time in the wilds of France I listened a lot to records such as ‘Sea Changes’ by Beck, ‘Grace’ by Jeff Buckley, Manu Chao and The Cinematic Orchestra amongst many others. These records helped spur me on at times to keep on keeping on with my solo project. I’ve always been a massive fan of strong vocal harmony bands such as the Beatles, Beach Boys, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Byrds, The Band etc so I’ve always loved combining different vocals and voices and tried my best to create “heart melting” harmonies!!

JC: You still play a few Ride tracks in your live sets. Is this to keep the hecklers quiet, as I bet fans are always shouting out for Ride songs? Or is it because you still enjoy playing them? Can you foresee a time when you’ll just tour Mark Gardener material?

MG: I think I’ll always play a few Ride songs here and there, if people want to hear them. It’s interesting and always fun to play songs that I have written recently along with songs that I have written, sang or played on in the past. I have no problem with this and it’s a great way to test new material and make sure that it stands up with the older material. People understand that I’m moving forward with new material and I understand that people still want to hear some older songs. Plus it can be very mutually moving to air a few old songs in a more intimate and acoustic way closer to the way they were first created before the white noise!!!

JC: Sonic Cathedral is putting ‘The Story of the Eye’ out as a single on December 11th 2006. It’s one of my favourite tracks from the album – it has a nice dubby feel to it. The Ulrich Schnauss remix is brilliant as well and I’m sure his profile will help a new generation discover your music. How did you hook up with Sonic Cathedral? Ulrich has been flying the shoegazing flag for a while now, supporting all the old tunes and pioneering a new wave of affiliated sounds – were you aware of his work? If so, are you a fan?

MG: Nat who created the Sonic Cathedral club and now label has been flying the flag for a while and I’ve played some of the Sonic Cathedral club nights so this was how the connection was made to Sonic Cathedral, in a similar way to the Ulrich Schnauss connection. I think a mutual appreciation of a lot of great and at times overlooked interesting music has brought us all together. In the old Creation days the music was always driving all the connections that were happening and this feels a bit like that again which is great. I first heard Ulrich Schnauss a few years ago when I played a show in Berlin and have been a fan ever since.

JC: I know many people who are clamouring for a Ride reunion, but personally, I’m not bothered, providing you continue in this rich vein of song writing form. Having said that, sometimes I miss the psychedelic fuzz - are you ever tempted to get the old Rickenbacker out and stamp on the distortion pedal one more time?

MG: Yes... I actually played a Telecaster and stamped on a distortion pedal on my last band show in Paris and I also miss psychedelic fuzz so long may it continue!!!

JC: What next for Mark Gardener? I hear you’ve got a new backing band. How’s that working out? Will you be recording new material with them?

MG: The new backing band has been working out very well. I’m sure some new recordings will happen with them amongst a few others. I just spent a week working with Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) in France, which has been very interesting and new songs are now starting to happen along with more new and different collaborations. January and February are looking busy with shows and then... ??!?!?!?!

JC: You come across as a mellow, together guy, totally unaffected by everything that has happened to you. What’s the secret? Are you actually content with your lot, or do you still feel you have something to prove?

MG: I guess I come across in this way and I’m happy with that, but it’s not always how I feel on the inside and life outside of music has often felt anything but mellow and together for me. I think I’m as confused as the next person, but I guess I have a positive outlet for this with my music, which can also act like a kind of cathartic self-help therapy session for me and help me to try and make some kind of sense of it all! I don’t feel content and I still have a great desire and hunger to keep on making music.

I don’t know what else I would do in my life if I wasn’t doing music and I feel blessed and very happy that I can continue to travel, write and play to people and to work with other great musicians. I still feel like a kid in a toyshop when I’m in a studio and still feel a real sense of wonder with music, art, people, places, creativity and life in general.

It’s a very interesting time to be alive and making music with all the new technology, which can enable you to do so much more recording and interacting with the public and musicians without the need of big recording budgets, studios and middlemen to try to sell and make people aware of what you are doing. I’m really enjoying the feeling of being able to be more direct with the people who have been into what I’ve been doing in the past and present and to operate more independently in what feels like a bit more DIY kind of cottage industry again. So all in all “Power to the People” and long may it continue!!!!

JC: Have you got any plans for Christmas? Everyone at The White Noise Revisited wishes you seasonal joy and hopes that next year is a blinder for you, on a personal and musical level.

MG: Just to get through it!!!
Many thanks and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all at The White Noise Revisited.
My best,

Buy the Special Edition of Mark Gardener's 'These Beautiful Ghosts' from Oxford Music - there's only four copies left!
Piero's excellent Mark Gardener microsite
Mark Gardener at My Space
Buy Mark Gardener 'The Story of the Eye' limited 7" (featuring Ulrich Schnauss Remix) from Sonic Cathedral shop
Mark's US label UFO Music
Mark at Dutch label Anorak Supersport
Official Ride website
Ulrich Schnauss website
Goldrush website


Friday, December 15, 2006

Freaky Dancin'

2 Bad Mice - 2 Bad Mice (Original)
Happy Mondays - Hallelujah (Club Mix)

I went to my first Christmas party of the silly season last week, and as well as getting suitably sideways on free sambuca, I also took to the dance floor for an extended period of embarrassing shape making. I don’t get out much these days, and like the majority of the male species, I am a somewhat reluctant dancer. It’s always been this way. Even during my halcyon days of raving in the early 1990s I often found it hard to get started, spending a lot of time sat on the sidelines willing everything to click into place. Once you develop a dancing ‘style’, it’s hard to change it; you just tend to utilise the same moves for every situation. Me and my wife were in Morocco having a meal at a rather cheesy restaurant a few years ago, and we were accosted by belly dancers during the after meal entertainment, beckoning us to join them for a dance. Without even thinking, both of us quickly slipped into the trusty ole ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ dance that had served us so well in the past. The locals were probably wondering what was going on. My brother has some fresh moves, one of which involves alternately polishing either knee with his hands in an up and down motion, while pretending to dodge bullets. Try it some time, especially with a running commentary of what you're actually doing, spoken in time to the music - "Polish the knees, dodge the bullets...".

Despite being a reluctant dancer, once I get going I’m hard to stop. Certain records are always guaranteed to get me up - ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain being one rather obvious selection. I defy anybody to not want to get up, get up and get down when this one drops. I can remember when my mate Damon was asked to DJ at the Sigur Rós after show party in Belgium a couple of years back. Being a hip hop party DJ, he seemed like a rather bizarre choice, but I can vouch that at least three members of the emotional Icelandic ambient rockers went absolutely mental when ‘Jump Around’ came on, despite resembling earnest Boy Scouts who wouldn’t say boo to a baby goose holding a kitten. The MD of their record label even started up a chant for a ‘Reeeeeeeeewind’, so Damon whacked it on again and the roof came off the bar.

Which brings me to my chosen tracks for this week; a couple that are guaranteed to drag me from whatever stupor I am in and get me cutting some rug in any available floor space. First up, rave classic ‘2 Bad Mice’ by 2 Bad Mice. All this trio of studio boffins needed was a couple of pilled-up dancers and they could have smashed up the charts along with the Prodigy. The lead track from their debut 12”, released as the rave scene exploded in 1991, is a corker. That opening statement – ‘IF ROCKIN’ THE HOUSE WELL IS A CRIME, THEN LET ME BE GUILTY!” is a call to arms for me and mine to hit the floor. With its skippy, shuffly breakbeats, ginormous pulsating bassline, the female vocal and repetitive “2 Bad Mice” chant (and mini siren), plus that weird, undulating noise that spangles the mind box throughout, this is one helluva TUUUUNNNNNNNEEEEEE, though sadly one that won’t be playing at many office parties this Christmas - unless anyone wants to book me to DJ at theirs?

I’ll pretty much forgive Oakenfold for all his crimes against dance music, silly ‘Top Gun’ aviator shades and Gary Rhodes hair, for the fact that he produced ‘Pills N Thrills and Bellyaches’, plus turned in unbelievable remixes of ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Wrote For Luck’ for the Happy Mondays. In the same way that Weatherall changed the career trajectory of Primal Scream, Oakenfold had a similar effect on Ryder and co. This ‘Club Mix’ of ‘Hallelujah’ (in collaboration with Weatherall) is another surefire drag me arse onto the dancefloor tune. It may be a bit slower, but those liturgical chants have a bizarre effect on my limbs, and before you can say ‘Bob’s Yer Uncle’, I’m doing the Bez to that bass line and disappearing down a tunnel of tranced-out pianos and funky guitars. It brings back memories of a party round my friend G's house where we partied so hard to this tune our mate Boothy (sadly no longer with us) had to stick his head in the fridge to cool off. Every memory I have of this track is a happy one, which is another reason why it never fails to get me up and dancing.

If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, what is writing about music that makes you wanna dance all about? Answers on a postcard please…

Search ebay for 2 Bad Mice
Buy Happy Mondays 'Hallelujah Remixes' CD on US Import from Amazon
2 Bad Mice discography
Happy Mondays at Wikipedia


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vague Terrain

Matmos - Enigma Machine For Alan Turing

Matmos was the living liquid underneath the city of Sogo in the film Barbarella.

Matmos is a group at whose core is Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt. Matmos make intricate music using amongst other things amplified crayfish nerve tissue, water hitting copper plates, a $5.00 electric guitar, liposuction surgery, chin implant surgery, rat cages, frequency response tests for defective hearing aids, a steel guitar recorded in a sewer, electrical interference generated by laser eye surgery, Polish trains, insects, life support systems and solid gold coins spinning on bars of solid silver.

Oh yeah and Alan Turing's 'Enigma' machine.

Go to the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute website and download yourself the fantastic performance of 'A Musical Enigma - Matmos Meets Turing'. Those very nice chaps at MSRI offer a 2012MB (Yes two-thousand megabytes!) MPEG-2 720x480 resolution download for you to author your own DVD. How kind.

'Enigma Machine For Alan Turing' uses sounds made by an actual enigma machine. It’s clatters and rattles this way and that and the result is mesmerising. This is the title track from a 3 track EP that you could only get at the recent Matmos tour, you might be able to get hold of via the old Ebay, I dunno. However I certainly can recommend that you perhaps consider buying the last Matmos LP. 'The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast' I for one just can't get enough. Especially the clap of 'Rag for William S. Burroughs' which uses the very adding machines that the Burrough's family invented that were the first to provide the customer with a printed receipt. I have listened to this song more than any other this year through sun and rain, well mainly rain.

MSRI performace
Matmos Wikipedia.
Official site

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Bands Collide

From top: Maps; The Longcut; Outputmessage; Working For A Nuclear Free City

Maps - Start Something (Longcut Remix)
Outputmessage - Sommeil (WFANFC Remix)

What happens when four bright talents from the world of music collide head-on? Well, aside from the obvious bloody mess, once you’ve picked your way through the shards of bone and gory body parts, you might be lucky enough to find two brilliant tracks like there are posted here. This musical collision finds two of the standout acts from the latest crop of bands to emerge from the Manchester scene, work their magic on tracks from a pair of their equally gifted contemporaries. And, in a nod to the city’s exalted past, both remixes feature bass lines that Hooky would be proud to put his name to. Proof, if you needed it, that it’s been another damn good year for emerging talent.

First up, the Longcut get to work on Maps’ phenomenal psychedelic torch song ‘Start Something’. Stripping away much of the original track’s space rock majesty, the Longcut isolate James Chapman’s ethereal vocal over skittering drums, giving it a real sense of desperation and urgency to connect. The track builds towards a soaring conclusion featuring a thunderous low-slung bass and jerky guitars. The remix is taken from the ‘Region Two’ CD that came free with initial quantities of the recent Maps 10” ‘Don’t Fear’. Not sure if it’s still available, but try and hunt it down. The Longcut released their debut album ‘A Call and Response’ this year to deserved acclaim, fulfilling the promise they’d shown with an edgy collection of dark and brooding experimental rock.

Working for a Nuclear Free City delivered one of my album’s of the year with their eponymous debut, released on Melodic back in September. Here they are getting their teeth into their label mate Outputmessage’s track ‘Sommeil’. The original track was a highlight from Bernard ‘Outputmessage’ Farley’s debut album ‘Nebulae’, which also came out this year. The WFANFC treatment opens with some woozy melodies, reminiscent of Boards of Canada, before echoing fellow Manc’s 808 State - a case of techno music made on guitars. Dubbed out effects and another rumbling bass line complete the transformation. This remix is an exclusive for TWNR from the lovely people at Melodic as it’s not coming out until next year, when it will be available on a remix EP, released on February 5th 2007. Other artists remixing include Farley himself, with a cracking purist electro interpretation, plus My Robot Friend, American Pop Band and Person. Well worth the wait.

Buy from Norman Records
The Longcut
Working For A Nuclear Free City
Visit the Melodic website - be sure to check out the recent WFANFC podcast, featuring tracks from their debut album
Maps website
Maps My Space
The Longcut website
The Longcut My Space
Outputmessage website
Outputmessage My Space
Working For A Nuclear Free City website
Working For A Nuclear Free City My Space


Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Sun and the Sea

Reload - Le Soleil Et La Mer (Black Dog Productions Remix)

Brrrrrr.... are you cold? It seems like winter has finally arrived so gather round and let's warm our tootsies on this magical slice of electronic goodness. Heavyweights collide as Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton's Reload project gets the remix treatment from Black Dog Productions, back in the days when Ed and Andy from Plaid were still twiddling the knobs. The original track was a moment of lush ambience on Reload's otherwise pounding debut, 'A Collection of Short Stories', and Black Dog added layer upon layer of their trademark wonderful warm and twinkling melodies. Released on the 'Auto Reload Volume Two EP' on Creation Records spin-off Infonet in 1993, the remix was Mark's favourite. I'd have to agree. It's delightful and just what we need to warm us up as the temperature drops and we brace ourselves for the blizzards.

Reload website
Reload discography
Search ebay for Reload - the majority of their material is deleted, though there has just been a rerelease on vinyl of some of the early material. Buy from Boomkat
Black Dog Productions discography
Plaid website
Escape the cold - book a holiday lastminute.com


Thursday, December 07, 2006


Just-Ice - Cold Gettin' Dumb
Just-Ice - Cold Gettin' Dumb II

Kurtis Mantronik owned mid-80s hip hop. His production skills were so far ahead of the pack, the pack must have felt like slipping cyanide in his morning cuppa. During a period where hip hop was reinventing itself daily, Mantronik was the one really pushing the sonic envelope. In fact, he put the sonic envelope on a rocket and sent it to the moon. Nobody could touch him. I have already enthused about him on the piece I wrote about T La Rock not so long ago, but then I unearthed this gem of a 12” from 1987 and here I am singing his praises all over again.

‘Cold Gettin’ Dumb’ was the stand-out track on Brooklyn MC Just-Ice’s debut album, ‘Back to the Old School’, released on Fresh Records in 1986. A scorching Mantronik production, featuring the editing prowess of the late, great Chep Nunez and a dazzling array of beats, stabs and offbeat cowbells that formed the basis for the original gangster of hip hop to rasp the verses through his gobful of gold-teeth. I love the way they add mangled vocal effects to some of the last words Just spits – it’s always in the details… Apparently, Just-Ice didn’t like the production on ‘Cold Gettin’ Dumb’. He, like many, felt that Mantronik was more into his own sound than promoting the vocalist, but others argued that this gave the record a live, party atmosphere, where the MC would always come second to the music.

For the follow-up, ‘Cold Gettin’ Dumb II’ released along with the original as a 12” in 1987, the production was stripped back, with near-on six solid minutes of relentless and intelligent rhyming at the forefront of the track. It’s not hugely different to the original, but you can hear how Mantronik has sharpened it all up so it cuts like a knife. This isn’t supposed to be a history lesson, but where would music be without Kurtis Mantronik? Those alien sounding R&B and hip hop productions with sparse beats and minimal synths favoured by Pharrell and Timbaland all come directly from this source. You haven't heard the last from Kurtis Khaleel on this blog…

Buy Just-Ice 'Back to the Old School' from Boomkat
Buy Mantronix from Amazon
Kurtis Mantronik fansite
Kurtis Mantronik discography
Just-Ice discography
Kurtis Mantronik at Wikipedia
Just-Ice at Wikipedia


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam - Head To Toe

'FULL FORCE'. They're big fellas aren't they, a 7ft wall of sarcous-linebacker and their names, they have ace names to boot. Bowlegged Lou, B-Fine, Baby Gerry, Shy-Shy, Curt-T-T oh yeah and Paul Anthony. But it's the very utterance of the words 'FULL FORCE' though, WOW! that's a punch in the chops isn't it. It falls out of your throat, it's a powerhouse, it's pizzazz, it's too strong. I just love the words 'FULL FORCE'. In times of distress, just whisper it under your breath. It's a call to arms, a battle-cry. You Win Again!

'FULL FORCE' then, what do I know about 'FULL FORCE'? Ah yes 'FULL FORCE' were the baddies in 'House Party' yes that 'House Party' with Kid n'Play. My hair is very much like Christopher "Kid" Reid's by the by and it's called a 'high top fade'. 'FULL FORCE' sing the backing vocals on Bob Dylan's "Death Is Not The End" from the Infidels Sessions.

Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam (another great combination of words) with 'Head To Toe' is a song written and produced by 'FULL FORCE'. I pondered on posting 'I Wonder If I Take You Home' but plumped for this gem instead. It's the drums. Big synthesupersized drums. Like 'Human' by Human League the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis DX-7 masterpiece. They alternate between being all skippy and then trying to knock you off of your feet. What more is there to say? I don't know... 'FULL FORCE' also wrote and produced for Samantha Fox.

'I Wonder If I Take You Home' video.

Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam on Wikipedia.
Full Force on Wikipedia.
Full Force Official site.
Spanish Fly Buy from Amazon.
Chris 'Kid' Reid on MySpace. Bit of a rum top 8 mind.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Celestial Noise

The Telescopes - Celeste
The Telescopes - Violence

At the outset of their career, Burton-on-Trent’s the Telescopes were fearsomely noisy, big of hair, clad in black and obsessed with dense layers of guitar noise and bleak lyrics that referenced death, mutilation, drowning, needles and fellating gun barrels. Now, as they prepare to celebrate their 20th anniversary (they formed in 1987, though did record as Unisex for a while during the 1990s) as a recording outfit, they’re exploring the furthest reaches of electronic noise and sonic experimentation, drilling holes into their guitars and performing improvised jams of white noise and drones.

Somewhere in the midst of all this noise and madness - early in 1991 to be precise - the band emerged as a psychedelic pop-outfit with the release of the single ‘Celeste’; a ray of cosmic sunshine on Creation Records, and for me, a lost classic from this period. It was as if a completely different band had been formed. Possibly under the influence of a wheelbarrow full of acid, they burst forth with swirling organs and kaleidoscopic guitars, baggy drums and a funky bassline, along with obliquely positive lyrics about love and blessed souls and the sun falling out of the sky. In the trippy video for ‘Celeste’, frontman Stephen Lawrie is a dead ringer for ‘Screamadelica’-era Bobby G, with a natty bowl haircut and stripy top.

The Telescopes have been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, and not just with their newer, experimental material. A lot of the older stuff has been reissued, including the bizarrely under appreciated self-titled second album (sometimes referred to as ‘#’) which followed ‘Celeste’ in 1992 and is a masterpiece. I’ll be coming back to that one soon, but just so you can get a handle on what a transformation ‘Celeste’ represented, I’m also posting the distorted and dirty ‘Violence’ from the band’s debut album, ‘Taste’, released in 1989 by What Goes On Records, and reissued this year by Revola.

The video for 'Celeste' -

Buy the reissues of ‘#’ and ‘Taste’ at Revola
Brilliant interview with Stephen Lawrie on Poptones
The Telescopes at Antenna Records
A great Telescopes compilation ‘Altered Perception’ released by Space Age Recordings
The Telescopes unofficial website
The Telescopes at My Space


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Somebody Dropped Me On My Head

Click to enlarge / © Viz Comics

Eminem - Any Man

Here’s Marshall Bruce Mathers III then, right at the start, before he hooked up with Dre and became a scourge on society. ‘Any Man’ is lifted from the awesome compilation ‘Rawkus Presents Soundbombing Volume II’, which dropped in 1999 and made me take notice of hip hop again for the first time in a while. Over a dope beat from New York’s Da Beatminerz, Eminem greets us with an innocent ‘Hi!’, as if he’s just bumped into you in the street and is about to conduct a friendly conversation. He then launches into two minutes or so of high velocity fire spitting and trademark verbal brilliance in which he manages to offend pretty much everybody. ‘Any Man’ also sets out some of the major themes for the rest of his rapping career – his twisted hatred of his Mom and obsession with killing his ex-wife. This is not a track for the faint-hearted. It’s not like he pulled many punches throughout the rest of his career, but ‘Any Man’ was recorded before the infamy and demonstrates an eagerness to shock. It’s hard not to marvel at the skills on show and it’s pointless being offended. In fact, I can guarantee that Eminem would have had a much less successful career if the moral majority had chosen to ignore him. Instead, he became a folk hero and questionable role model for a generation. I've always thought of him as a bit of a cartoon character, so I was delighted to find Viz had honoured him with his own strip.

Buy ‘Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II’ from Amazon
Eminem at Amazon
'Any Man' lyrics here
Eminem at Wikipedia
Da Beatminerz at My Space
Viz website, still going strong after all these years!