Thursday, November 30, 2006

Melancholics Anonymous



Chet Baker - The Thrill Is Gone

The sunlight reaches through the blinds and splays its anaemic fingers across the duvet at the foot of the bed. The bedroom stands cold and alone, marooned in space. Nothing exists outside of these four tastefully decorated walls, with their shelves and paintings, books and plants. Everything is here, awake, waiting…for what? I’ve stared at the ceiling for six hours, wanting to reach over and hold her in my arms, whisper to her, laugh with her but she no longer exists. The girl who lies there now, also awake, only looks like the girl I fell in love with. Once we were like two exposed wires, crackling and sparking, dancing through the days with a vibrant conductivity but now we can barely ignite a simple conversation between us. She looks at me as if I’m some kind of sinister stranger; she looks through the television, listens to her own, internal radio. Her touch, accidental now, is hard and bruising.

When I tell people that this is my favourite recording, I’m greeted with disbelief. How can anybody gain pleasure from such pervasive misery? Well, I guess I’m a rampant melancholic (functional) and this is the finest whine love can buy. Honestly, this record makes me want to be dumped; I want to know how it feels. I want to write a song which is this free of hope and light, which is this real. This would be tragic enough for a teenager but for a man of my advanced years it’s positively wretched.

Chet Baker recorded this in 1953 before pretty much anyone was born (seriously, the world’s population in 1953 numbered in the low thousands). When he sang, which wasn’t often, we realise that his mournful trumpet was merely an extension of his voice. He sounds so flat here, beaten and defeated. This is the sound of the end, the death of love.

“This is the end
So why pretend?
And let it linger on
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone”


Written in 1931 by Ray Henderson who must have had one hell of a bad day, it is as perfect as it can be and I can’t think of anyone who could articulate it’s numbed despair as well as Baker. It’s like wading through a bathtub of liquid valium while reading ‘Without You - The Tragic Story of Badfinger’. Listen to it, then put it somewhere safe, hopefully you’ll never need it.

Chet Baker at Amazon
Chet Baker website

Domino Jones.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Power Station



Kraftwerk - Strom

Hütter and Schneider. Where would we be without Hütter and Schneider? Where would 'music' be? Where would I be, now that's the question.

This album came out in 1971 and was the music I was conceived to and today's WNR auricular prize 'Strom' (stream, electric current) was the one. You know.

Don't expect any of the Man-Machine/Computer World/Robotic histrionics, in fact don't expect any synths. This is weighty and sombre guitar, anesthetising flute, thick bass and layers and layers of tape manipulation.

In some respects it's sad but Kraftwerk consider this album as 'archaeology' a stepping-stone to the electronic music they would later pioneer. This is why it has never had a proper reissue (except bootleg CDs on the Germanofon label) and no material from this album has been performed in the band's live set since the Autobahn tour of 1975. It's my favourite album of theirs however, it'd have to be, it's in my DNA.

Old Krafty Weatherall sampled second track off this LP 'Atem' for the finest seven and a half minutes of Primal Scream ever on 'Higher Than The Sun'. So there you go.

Kraftwerk 2 on Wikipedia.
Kraftwerk official site.
Original LP Buy from Ebay. (Only a day to go, get bidding!!!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apocalypse No



Ram Trilogy - System Error (Y2K)

Can you remember the months before the beginning of the new millennium? It was a weird time. There was a palpable sense of tension everywhere you went. The dawning of a new millennium isn’t something that everyone gets to witness in their lifetime so the media hype machine went into overdrive. There was an overriding feeling that maybe we were approaching an apocalyptic D-Day and at the forefront of it all was the talk of some kind of mass computer meltdown. When the date rolled from 1999 to 2000 there was going to be a vast global system error and all computers everywhere would crash. Planes would fall from the sky. Entire cities would be plunged into darkness, sending drunken revellers on unprecedented looting sprees. Electrical faults would cause fires, burning buildings to the ground. Bank accounts would be wiped as hackers took advantage of the situation. Mighty shit would hit the fan…

Nah, not really. As we all know, absolutely nothing of interest happened. It all passed off without the slightest hitch. Unless you were down at the River Thames like I was, waiting for the WALL OF FIRE, which ended up as a pathetic blue flicker of flame, a bit like when you light a weak fart. The fireworks were good though. ‘System Error (Y2K)’ is an audio representation of what might have been. Recorded in 1999 by Ram Trilogy (aka drum'n'bass stalwarts Andy C, Ant Miles and Shimon), the opening Bukem-esque gentle twinkling effects are a misnomer, as an apocalyptic sounding voice announces the end of 1999 and drum beats that sound like the police kicking your door down storm in, accompanied by the gnarliest, growlingest bassline you ever did hear. This is nasty darkstep. Not much else happens, but it doesn’t really need to. The scene is set for bassbin carnage. So set volume levels to KILL and try and work out where the last six years have gone…

Ram Records website
Ram Trilogy discography
Buy 'Molten Beats' by Ram Trilogy from hmv.co.uk - it's the only place I can find that still has copies in stock, though you could try searching ebay

Joe.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Fantasy Band



Spiritualized - Medication (Live at the Albert Hall)
Lupine Howl - Sometimes

Along with picking your own England football XI (or whichever national team you support), choosing your fantasy backing band is a classic drunken pub conversation. I haven’t had it for a while, but the last time I did, I think I went for Loz from Ride on the drums, Alex from Blur on bass and Jimi Hendrix on guitar. It would have to be a simple 3-piece really, though if I were being clever, I would probably get Aphex Twin to tinkle the ivories. However, if you actually stop to think about it that would probably be an awful band, and not just because I might want to front it and play guitar (I play three chords badly and can’t sing). Nope, it’s just bad because it wouldn’t really work, their styles don’t suit each other and if you were to start getting really anal about it, despite picking musicians with fairly minor egos compared to most, there is bound to be a clash of personalities.

It’s a terrible idea really, even in practice, when you look at the actual supergroups that have been formed over the years - Velvet Revolver. The Power Station. Temple of the God. Zwan!!! I mean, really… OK, so there’s the odd exception – Cream and Crosby, Stills and Nash perhaps. Electronic had their moments. Mike ‘µ-Ziq’ Paradinas and Richard D. James did combine to great effect on the ‘Mike and Rich’ album. But generally, supergroups don’t work. Which is why, if I actually had to recruit three musicians to form a band with, I would look no further than Sean Cook (bass), Mike Mooney (guitar) and Damon Reece (drums). Names you’ll know I’m sure, but perhaps not those that would be instantly recognisable to the majority of the population. Individually, they were all involved in various projects (Mooney was Julian Cope’s guitarist for a while), but collectively they met as members of Spiritualized. Cook joined in 1992, while Mooney and Reece were recruited in 1995. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that during the time the trio were in the band, Spiritualized became fabled as the greatest live band on the planet, and ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’, arguably the best Spiritualized album, was recorded and released. As an engine room, the axis of Cook, Mooney and Reece was second to none. I was lucky enough to see Spiritualized live during this period and I witnessed a performance of immense power and virtuosity. It actually knocked me off my feet at one point. I’ve posted ‘Medication’ from the stunning Albert Hall concert that was released as a double live CD in 1998.

Much has been written about what happened next so I won’t go into too much detail, but Cook, Mooney and Reece were acrimoniously dismissed from the band in 1999. The short version is that the trio were sacked after threatening a strike in protest over salaries and appearance fees. New contracts of employment were drawn up between Pierce and the musicians, and the same contracts were then used to infamously fire them. Cook has always maintained that he and his cohorts weren’t fairly credited for the work they did, while Pierce remains unapologetic at how events panned out, and harbors the feeling he was being used by people who saw Spiritualized as their passport to fame. On a personal level, I don’t think Spiritualized have been the same since they left. Musically, Pierce has gone in a certain direction and I haven’t followed. It happens.

After their dismissal, Cook, Mooney and Reece formed Lupine Howl, with Cook assuming lead vocal duties, and the debut album ‘The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl’ was released by Beggars Banquet in 2001. I’m sure Cook and Mooney would be the first people to admit that their time working with Pierce influenced their sound, but it would also be churlish not to believe that musicians of this calibre couldn’t have had some say in the direction of Pierce’s music. Pierce got to keep the gospel rock and the choir, but Lupine Howl claimed the dirty, demonic, psychedelic rock‘n’roll music and the album was proof of this. Sounding far more accomplished than a debut album has any right to (not surprising considering the time they had already spent playing together), and self-produced by Cook and Mooney, ‘The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of…’ was a good album, but perhaps too fragmented to be deemed great. Cook described it as “nine schizophrenic tracks” and though this lack of cohesion is a weakness, there are moments of breathtaking quality. ‘Sometimes’ is everything in one song – tripped-out space rock and ethereal folk, building to an effects-laden, harmonica-drenched lull before the surging psych-rock freak out conclusion, with squalling horns and wall of sound guitars. Live the band were awesome, enhancing the reputation they had earned while members of Spiritualized. I saw them a few times, the stand out being a performance at the Camden Underworld in 2001. It was a pummelling and relentless audio assault, packed with more heart-in-the-mouth moments than a trip to Alton Towers. I was completely blown away and if I’d had any hair it would have been standing on end. The reviewer from the Melody Maker tried to describe what he’d heard –

“Sounds like these inhabit a unique plain in your consciousness, attacking you from every direction, astounding you while at the same time hinting at possibilities still untouched by the music. Words can’t do it justice. It’s absurd. People around me are shaking their heads in disbelief. Songs like 'Carnival' and closing song 'Tired' are both epic, 10-minute emotional marathons that, on the most basic level, fill you with utter joy. Quite simply, this is the greatest gig I've had the privilege to attend this year.”

It never really happened for Lupine Howl. Despite some outstanding reviews, the press remained split into two camps - those who sided with Pierce and therefore Spiritualized, and those who were looking to the Spiritualized rebels aka Lupine Howl to carry the baton. I guess there were more in the former camp. Also, once the hype regarding the band’s origins had died down, perhaps there wasn’t enough substance to maintain a solid fan base. Whatever the reasons, despite one more album and no official word of a split, it does appear that Lupine Howl are no more and that unrivalled bass/guitar/drums combo are no longer playing together.

Lupine Howl website (hasn't been updated since 2004 but contains good information on the band)
Spiritualized website
Buy Lupine Howl from Amazon
Buy Spiritualized from Amazon
Sean Cook's new band The Flies at My Space

Joe.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The flesh is weak, Johnny. Only the soul is immortal.



David Holmes - Johnny Favourite (Exploding Plastic Inevitable Mix)

‘Angel Heart’ is a fantastic film. For a start, watching a Certificate 18 aged 14 (as I was when the film came out in 1987) was a proper risky thrill. I’m sure da yout of today get their kicks in much more exciting ways, but for me and mine, the illicit thrill of underage movie viewing was right up there. Innocent times maybe, but there is nothing innocent about ‘Angel Heart’. I won’t ruin it in case you haven’t seen it (you must), but all I will say is that it’s the sort of film that stays with you after the credits roll, and no matter how many times you watch it, it will always leave you with unanswered questions. You start off thinking you’re watching a fairly straightforward film noir, but it soon twists off and ducks down a hellish corridor of chilling horror, voodoo worship and blood-drenched sex and murder. At the centre of it all is a sterling performance from Mickey Rourke. Sometimes I forget what an icon Mickey Rourke was in the 1980s. Now he’s all puffy of face and plastic of lip after taking a battering in the boxing ring when the decent roles started going to his younger contemporaries. But back then, if you wanted moody, enigmatic and compelling, Rourke was the man. And I will always think of Robert De Niro when I‘m eating a hard-boiled egg…

I know, I know – if you want film reviews you’ll go elsewhere. So, where’s this heading? Well, today’s track is David Holmes’ ‘Johnny Favourite’, named after the character Rourke’s downbeat private eye Harry Angel is paid to track down. Holmes eventually made his name scoring film soundtracks for the likes of ‘Out of Sight’ and the remake of ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, but this track, released by Warp Records in 1994, represents an early foray into the field by the Belfast DJ-turned-producer. While it’s not an actual soundtrack, ‘Johnny Favourite’ plays out much like a film, moving through different stages of pace and mood, before hurtling towards an incendiary denouement. The track features the briefest snatch of dialogue from the film (an eerie whispering of the name ‘Johnny’), along with samples of the trip down the lift shaft (the clanking sound that occurs throughout) undertaken by Angel at the end of the film. These elements are woven into an epic 15-minute excursion into the realms of intense percussive techno and atmospheric mood music. ‘Johnny Favourite’ was a co-production with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns from the Sabres of Paradise, and it actually sounds a lot like the Sabres output from the same period, but with Holmes playing the role normally taken by Andrew Weatherall. As a track, it takes you on an incredible journey, and on the rare occasions I’ve heard it played out, the climax tears the roof off as the pounding beats release the tension that accumulates as the song gradually builds.

Search ebay for David Holmes - 'Johnny Favourite'
Buy David Holmes from Amazon
Warp Records website
'Angel Heart' Special Edition DVD at Amazon
Mickey Rourke at Wikipedia

Joe.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A "Little" Bit Of Accidental Lightning



"Little" Johnny Taylor - Zig Zag Lightning

I was a late adopter of the iPod, but I've got one now and most of my CD collection is on it. My favourite thing about them is the way they file things, with everything so neatly alphabetised. My obsessive-compulsive side loves that. However, I haven't quite got the hang of using it, and often I find myself just pushing play on the thing, which means it will start at the beginning and play from the top of the list of the thousands of artists stored within. Curiously in my case, it's not a band beginning with the letter A. Apparently, speech marks come before A in the alphabet, so the first song on my iPod is always ‘Zig Zag Lightning’ by “Little” Johnny Taylor. It’s just as well for my impatient fumbling fingers that I think it’s a great song - a quick-tempo Northern Soul tune that I find just toe-tappingly-tastic! Quick sharp horn blasts and man, this guy has some voice!

“Little” Johnny Taylor was born in Arkansas, USA in 1943 and passed away in 2002. “Little” as his friends may or may not have called him, is regularly confused with his close namesake, and presumably taller, contemporary, Johnnie Taylor. To be honest “Little” is only on my iPod because this track is on the excellent 2-disc compilation, ‘The In Crowd - The Story Of Northern Soul’. However, based on this evidence his ‘Greatest Hits’ might well be earning a place on my Christmas list.

Maybe I could alter “Little” Johnny Taylor in iTunes and he could just become Little Johnny Taylor? But that would mean ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead would be first up, and that's a totally different kettle of fish. No, I like it the way it is, with me happily accidentally playing this song all the time.

“Little” Johnny Taylor biography
Buy “Little” Johnny Taylor’s Greatest Hits from Amazon
Buy 'The In Crowd – The Story Of Northern Soul' from Amazon

Dave.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Caballarius



Talk Talk - Desire

My old car really is on it's last legs, it spends more time languishing on the pavement than burning up the strip. What the hell it's had some great times, some fine times. Could things get any better? Was it going to have one last triumphant and earth-shaking moment. I began to doubt it but then... but then...

I went to a jumble sale and bought some cassettes for 20p each. For the car you know. A little bit o' Frankie, Macca, The Carpenters 'Greatest Hits' (and they really were great, that Karen's voice. As clear as a glass of water. "Every sha-la-la-la-lah every whoa-whoa yeah still shines." Hey 'Yesterday Once More' it all ties in!) Anyway the other cassette was Natural History - The Very Best Of Talk Talk. I got it for 'I Believe In You' which is one of those songs that can fix me to the ground stock still, immobile, dunce! Drink wine (a fair amount) then stick it on. Fucking ghosts everywhere! Amazing.

Anyway. Rain, rain, rain all weekend, on/off, off/on. You get your coat on it starts to drizzle, you look out of the window it begins to pour, nothing major just a bit rubbish, a bit boring. So I went out in the car not much to do and nowhere to go just spluttering along, I stuck the Talk Talk tape in and after a fluctuant start 'Desire' warped into earshot. The hubbub of the road seemed to fade away, the rain almost stopped, It was dynamite!

Talk Talk on Wikipedia.
Within Without fan site.
Spirit of Eden Buy from Amazon.
Spirit of Eden Buy from iTunes.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Is Where The Trail Begins...



Reigns - The Lost Black Mass Footage

This is always a funny time of year for music on the release front. Some people’s thoughts are already turning to their end-of-year ‘Best Of…’ lists, and most of the record labels are eschewing new releases in favour of entering into the annual bun fight for premium racking for their most successful releases of the year at the major music retailers. However, this leaves the field clear for the more leftfield and interesting labels to carry on as normal and release wonderful albums like Reigns’ ‘Styne Vallis’, which came out last Monday on Jonson Family Records.

‘Styne Vallis’ is something of a concept album (but don’t let that put you off), based around the legend of a lost village, evacuated and strategically flooded in 1970 to make way for a reservoir. As the brief history states, “…the vacated dwellings were left standing and are still visible at the bottom of the reservoir.” It goes on to reveal that the water quickly stagnated and became toxic, despite all attempts at purification, which is linked to the town’s reputation for crime and incest! The accompanying booklet is titled as a ‘Salvage Inventory’, and contains details of the many artefacts recovered from the reservoir banks. Bizarre animal skulls which defy categorisation, an old diving mask, a rare land-dwelling crab known as the Teipeng Mossback, the poisonous Spore Regent weed and a copy of the Styne Vallis hymn book, the words from which are contained in some of the songs on the album. I found myself becoming totally engrossed in the story, and was even suckered into googling ‘Styne Vallis’ to see if it actually existed. A lost underwater village was just the sort of thing I always hoped I’d stumble upon while roaming the Dorset countryside as a kid, but I could never have imagined it as vividly as brother’s Tim and Roo Farthing have, the creative minds behind Reigns and the Styne Vallis project.

Musically, the album is a spellbinding mix of ethereal post-rock, combined with folk guitars, chiming glockenspiels, and fragile electronics, with spoken word and computer-manipulated vocals, telling the stories of the mythical village. It captivates from the off, and puts me in mind of early Sigur Ros, or even Slint’s ‘Spiderland’, though it follows a gentler path and never really explodes as you might expect. I’m posting the album’s opening track ‘The Lost Black Mass Footage’, with it’s low slung bassline, garbled vocals and uplifting climax. This is a perfect winter album; engrossing and warm. So don’t compile those end-of-year lists just yet, as you never know what’s around the corner.

Buy ‘Styne Vallis’ from the Jonson Family Records website, where you have the option to order it with a limited edition (200 copies) 7” featuring two tracks not featured on the album for £10
Reigns website
Reigns at My Space - the blog here documents various trips made to Styne Vallis which are well worth a read

Joe.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I write rhymes and insert 'em inside your brain



Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Poison
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Rikers Island

Along with Rakim, Chuck D and Kool Keith, Kool G Rap is one of my favourite MCs of all-time. Hailing from Queens, New York and one of the original members of the Juice Crew, Kool G Rap was a clever and innovative MC. His rhyming ability was phenomenal, and by that, I mean his uncanny ability to make everything rhyme. His lyrics always flowed so neatly, with barely a moments pause to take a breath, apart from the gaps between verses where his DJ, Polo, got the chance to shine. I’ve never really stopped to analyse why he was so good, but then I read his Wikipedia entry and realised that there is an actual structure to his rhyme flow that would even impress Shakespeare. Apparently, “He trademarked the ability to rhyme the same syllables in the same combinations, though with different words, for a whole verse (16 bars long).” I’m not sure that this is the best example (though it’s one of my favourite Kool G Rap raps), but check out the opening verse to ‘Poison’, another Marley Marl produced track from the duo’s debut LP, ‘Road to the Riches’, released on Cold Chillin’ in 1989 –

“This is poison so be alert and cautious
Those who act courageous you will get nauseous
Infected or contaminated
Turn on your stereo never come radio-activated
Deadly and fatal, poison the title
My recital hits the parts that are vital
So tune in the tone of beats and poems
Polo's headphones becomes a skull and crossbones
Pull out your Q-tips, clean out the earwax
If you're still hard of hearing, I'mma scrub them with Ajax
With maximum drum so behave and remember
You're a slave to my sound wave
Faster rhymes I mastermind I have to find
A new method time after time
Write a rhyme quick when I pull out my Bic pen
Stick to an idea, the soundproof slick then
Put it on paper cause I make you hyper
Than any other rapper cause I keep my rapping riper
Like cherries or some say berries
Mandatory for the auditory and its glory
Here’s the story: rappers getting leery to hear me
G speaks in a new technique of fury
Combination of drums and noise and
Yo yo yo Polo yo this is poison”


The furious pace at which he spits the words out is amazing, and Marley’s production is also first class, with fierce and funky beats, a nagging guitar riff and the siren over the chorus; all combine to make ‘Poison’ a classic.

It’s one thing to be able to rap in this way when you’re just going on about how great you are, but another entirely to stretch out these skills over a track which tells a story or, in the case of ‘Rikers Island’ (from their second LP ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’), recalls the pitfalls of being incarcerated in New York’s largest and most notorious jail.

"C-74, adolescents at war
Put your ear to the floor, you can hear the roar
They take you out of BC, they now found you a cage
All eyes are glued to you like you're up on stage
If you're soft as a leaf, don't get into a beef
And God be with you chief if you got gold teeth
Some try to be hard, front and say I'm God
Don't know a lesson say a blessin’, you're gonna get scarred
(Yo call the C.O.) That won't be necessary
He'll watch him beat you down, and take your commissary
Inside the lunchroom, you meet your doom
Someone is lookin at you sharpenin’ a tablespoon
Use your hands like a man, don't go out like a chump
Never 'fess, bench press so that you can be pumped
If you don't got a game, you get beaten as lame
And scared as a mouse in a house of pain
So to all the jailbirds that listen to hip-hop
Move your pelvis like Elvis do the Jailhouse Rock
You might be coolin, you might be stylin
But you won't be smilin on Riker's ISLAND"


A compelling and cautionary tale, ‘Rikers Island’ paints a vivid picture over an edgy, hard-hitting Marley production that fits the subject matter perfectly.

Kool G Rap's lyrics at The Official Hip Hop Lyrics Archive
Kool G Rap at Wikipedia
Kool G Rap, still going strong at My Space
Search Amazon for Kool G Rap and DJ Polo
You can buy a great value double CD, featuring both 'Road to the Riches' and 'Wanted: Dead or Alive' from eBay here - it only advertises it as 'Road to Riches', but it is in fact this
Information on Rikers Island

Joe.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've Seen The Light And It Is Dark



I don’t think the Bristol tourist board could have been too happy by the music being produced by the city’s sons and daughters towards the end of the 1990s, despite the outward appearance of it as a hub of creativity. The so-called “Bristol sound” as pioneered by the likes of Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack painted an unremittingly bleak portrait of the influence the city could have on creative minds. Matt Elliot, recording as The Third Eye Foundation, was another resident whose recorded output was relentlessly dark and uncompromising, in particular the two albums, ‘Ghost’ and ‘You Guys Kill Me’, released in 1997 and 1998, and re-released by the Domino label last week as part of a triple CD package, along with 2000’s ‘Little Lost Souls’. Domino is faultless when it comes to re-releases and ‘Collected Works’ is no exception. Lovingly packaged in a clever foldout slipcase at a bargain price, with the original album artwork for each release, along with a booklet, plus exclusive tracks tagged onto each CD, including never heard before live material. It’s a cracker, make no mistake.

When you look back through the reviews for the albums compiled in ‘Collected Works’, a number of adjectives make repeat appearances - paranoid, apocalyptic, unsettling, doom-laden... Although listening to these albums back-to-back will leave you in no doubt that Elliot’s brand of experimental electronica is not the sort of music you’d play to pull yourself out of a deep depression, there is something hugely inspiring in music that constantly pushes the boundaries of sonic experimentation. Plus, a man who gives tracks titles like ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feline’ (in honour of a beloved cat who passed away) suggests there is a sense of humour lurking within, and by 2000’s ‘Little Lost Souls’ there was even a sense of post-millennial optimism creeping in, with a more melodic, less claustrophobic sound.

I’ve isolated a few tracks, one from each of the albums, but you really should go and buy it as it is a phenomenal body of work and you really only get to experience this from listening to the whole thing.

The Third Eye Foundation - Semtex (Edit)

I’m posting ‘Semtex (Edit)’, as it was my first introduction to 3EF, when it was released in 1996 as part of Domino’s awesome experimental 12” collection Series 500. Featuring a sample of what sounds like the Islamic Call to Prayer crossed with an air raid siren, tough junglist breaks and distorted effects, the track is as explosive as its title suggests, recalling Squarepusher at his most brutal and bloody-minded.

The Third Eye Foundation - In Bristol With A Pistol

Taken from ‘You Guys Kill Me’ is the album version of ‘In Bristol With a Pistol’. Despite despising the term, I would have to say this is classic trip hop – dark, menacing, nasty trip hop mind you, like the ASBO’ed up, hoodie-wearing, bastard son of Portishead, stalking you down a dark alley to smack you over the head and nick your wallet. Proper nasty.

The Third Eye Foundation - Goddamit You've Got To Be Kind

And acting as something of a respite, I’ve opted for ‘Goddamit You’ve Got To Be Kind’, the epic closing track from the ‘Little Lost Souls’ album. As mentioned before, there was a definite lightening of the mood for this album, as Elliot explains – “I don't think this LP is less spooky; it’s definitely less abrasive, largely because I hear enough noise in every day life, I wanted to make a ‘beautiful’ record. Something a bit sombre, something to melt hearts; that was the intention.” I think he succeeded. A frenetic sampled beatbox drives the first half of the track, at complete odds with the languid shifting strings and eerie sampled vocals, before the closing section of warm beatless ambience brings the album to a melodious climax.

Buy ‘Collected Works’ from Norman Records for the bargain price of £10.45. For three stunning albums! Plus bonus tracks! Do it! Now!
The Third Eye Foundation website
Matt Elliot at My Space
Buy The Third Eye Foundation catalogue from Norman Records
Visit the Domino website

Joe.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It jerks out of me like blood



Magazine - The Light Pours Out Of Me

You know the whole Buzzcocks/Shelley/Devoto/Sex Pistols/Free Trade Hall/Spiral Scratch punk tale. Well Magazine transcend that Rock'n'Roll Swindle. Like early Roxy Music this is very, very, very attractive exciting music, this is special. Old Momus perhaps went a touch over the top with his tribute to Howard Devoto in the song 'The Most Important Man Alive' but you can see where he's coming from. Ah Devoto. Ah Momus.

From their live LP 'Play' this version of 'The Light Pours Out Of Me' is gigantic, it's a colossal beast of a song. Original guitarist John McGeoch had just been replaced by Robin Simon and the Rock'n'Roll Pt. 1 Glitter guitar riff is even bigger than the Hannett or Leckie versions. This one is like an axe in the shoulder-blades! Ouch-ah!

Magazine Very good website.
The Light Pours Out of Me on YouTube.
Play Buy from Amazon.

Monday, November 13, 2006

McPhun In The Sun



The Ruby Suns - Criterion

This ray of psychedelic sunshine popped into my inbox last week and it immediately brightened a heart made heavy by returning to the drudgery of work after some time away. Sometimes you don’t want music to do anything more than put a smile back on your face and ‘Criterion’ by The Ruby Suns does just that. OK, so let’s get it out of the way first – it sounds like the Beach Boys. A lot. There’s even one bit about two and a half minutes in when I thought it was going to segue into ‘Sloop John B’. But any song that shares the sentiment, “You deserve to be with the one you love” gets my vote. It’s a wonderful pop song and it feels totally at odds with the lack of hours of daylight we’re getting at the moment, but serves as a reminder that it won’t be cold forever. As well as the obvious Brian Wilson influence, there’s something about it that reminds me of Ride circa-‘Carnival of Light’, which is no bad thing.

The Ruby Suns are an eight-piece lead by California native Ryan McPhun (which apparently is his real name), who relocated to New Zealand, formed a band and signed to Lil’ Chief Records, who in turn have licensed the band’s first album to the excellent Memphis Industries for release in the UK (on the 27th January 2007). The songs tackle increasingly bizarre subject matter including which shipping company to use (‘Look Out SOS!’), the story of a Kenyan zebra (‘Maasai Mara’) and what happens when you combine a skateboard wheel with a non-electric vacuum cleaner (‘Trepidation Pt 2’). It’s a brilliant collection of songs, and proof that McPhun and the band’s influences branch out beyond the obvious, their status as an octet hinting at a Polyphonic Spree-like presence when they take to the stage.

The video for 'Maasai Mara' -



The Ruby Suns at Memphis Industries
The Ruby Suns at Lil' Chief Records
The Ruby Suns at My Space

Joe.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Banging Like A Barn Door In A Force 10 Gale



CJ Bolland - Thrust

I really should post more techno. For a start, I LOVE IT, but it also completely defined my life in the early 1990s. I still have friends that call me Techno, such was my devotion to the genre during this period. So I’ll start by offering up this mighty bullet from the Yorkshire-born, Belgian-bred DJ Christian Jay (CJ) Bolland. ‘Thrust’ is taken from the album ‘The 4th Sign’, CJ’s full-length debut for the R&S label, released in 1992.

‘The 4th Sign’ is an album of forward-thinking, granite-hard underground techno, the product of a child raised by parents who ran a club in Antwerp and who grew up listening to the Belgian New Wave and Industrial music of Front 242, Neon Judgement and Klinik. Pioneering at the time, now it just bangs like a barn door in a force 10 gale where the barn the door is attached to is rammed to the rafters with bangers and someone lobs a lit ciggy in. The album consists of 9 quality tracks with no fillers, which was rare at the time as many of the DJ-turned-producers had difficulty stretching out their material to fill an album. CJ didn’t even need to include any of the tracks from his previous classic ‘Ravesignal’ 12” releases on R&S (not even the phenomenal ‘Horsepower’ which is easily the equal of Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’, but doesn’t get the props).

For ‘Thrust’, CJ keeps the beats just the right side of 130bpm to stop it becoming nosebleed gabba, though it is still harder than most. A thumping bass drum and distorted acid line drive the track along, with a succession of wild bleeps, squeaks, junior hoovers and shrill whistles that eventually give way to a proper ‘reach for the laser’ Jean Michel Jarre synthesiser moment, before it all takes off again. The climax is utterly loopy, with what sounds like a room full of wind-up monkey drummers doing battle with the whistle posse from hell. Maybe not genius, but approaching greatness, especially when you consider how fresh it still sounds over 14 years after it originally dropped.

CJ Bolland's official website
Full CJ Bolland discography
CJ Bolland at My Space
Search ebay, for 'The 4th Sign' as it's been deleted for ages

Joe.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It Should Have Been On The LP



Blur - Young & Lovely

I’ve just finished reading Julian Cope’s marvellous autobiography ‘Head-On’ (I’ve now flipped it up the other way and am reading ‘Repossessed’, which is just as good). It’s a rollicking good read for a myriad of reasons, but I found Copey’s hate-hate relationship with his keyboard player and co-owner of the Teardrop Explodes’ label Zoo Records (with Bill Drummond) Dave Balfe rather amusing. You see, as a fanatical Blur fan, Dave Balfe is someone that it is easy to dislike. As joint head of Blur’s label Food Records, it was Balfe who (perhaps unfairly) came under the ire of the band during the period around the recording of ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ when Blur very nearly self-destructed. If you watch the Blur documentary ‘Starshaped’ (which covers this period in the band’s history and is really very funny in a completely tragic way), Balfe appears with a black bar covering up his eyes. Of course, much of the band’s decline was self-inflicted, due to copious amounts of booze and disillusionment when ‘Popscene’ failed to be the massive hit it deserved to be, but Balfe’s rejection of the first set of demos for ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ on the grounds that they were uncommercial and contained no hit singles was a contributing factor. The band loved to wind up Balfe, much as Julian Cope had back in the 1980s, naming a track on ‘MLIR’ ‘Pressure on Julian’, purely to annoy him. There is one crime that Balfe should never be forgiven for, and that was his insistence that the godawful ‘Turn It Up’ stayed on the album (with the inexcusable opening line "Kazoo! Kazoo! You are mine") as he felt it was the only song that had a chance of success in America. This wouldn’t be so bad, but it deprived the album of the utterly wonderful song ‘Young & Lovely’ that all the band wanted to be included. Damon says, "It should have been on the LP. But it didn't get on there and fucking 'Turn It Up' did." The really ironic thing is that during this period Suede stole Blur's thunder and fanbase, but a track like 'Young & Lovely' is easily the equal of the material Suede were releasing at the time. With a bit of an edit and a judiciously placed string section it could have been a hit single. Imagine ‘MLIR’ minus ‘Turn It Up’ and with ‘Young and Lovely’ slipped in between ‘Oily Water’ and ‘Miss America’ as track 10. Suddenly a really good album is an absolute classic. Balfe – you are a fool. Though according to Cope’s autobiography, he always got the best looking groupies and now lives in a house, a very big house in the countryyyyyyy so I’m sure he doesn’t give a flying fuck what I or anyone else thinks of him. And luckily enough, ‘Young & Lovely’ popped up on the B-side of ‘Chemical World’ so we all got to hear it…



Ride - Tongue Tied

…which is more that can be said for ‘Tongue Tied’ by Ride. This is one hidden gem that very nearly remained hidden forever, saved only when the band were asked to put together a collection of their rarities for inclusion as part of the triple CD box set which was released in conjunction with ‘OX4: The Best of Ride’, in 2001. The box set included the 16 track ‘Best Of…’, a live album recorded at the Reading Festival in 1992 (why not Brixton?!), and a compilation called ‘Firing Blanks’ which contained a collection of unreleased Ride recordings spanning the period from 1988 to 1995. It is here, amongst the demos, covers and outtakes that you will find ‘Tongue Tied’ and gape with slack-jawed wonder at how this classic song never ended up on the album ‘Going Blank Again’, despite being in the original track listing submitted to the record labels in the UK and America. Bass player Steve Queralt takes up the story, “It (‘Tongue Tied’) was dropped on the advice of both record companies who were insisting that the album was way too long. I think they had a point.” Maybe they did Steve, but as you point out, “It is one of the few occasions where the intensity and beauty of Ride was captured on tape, everything fits together perfectly.” This is a FACT. From the opening crisp acoustic strumming to Loz’s peerless drumming (why just thump out a beat when you can cascade endlessly brilliant fills and rolls?), a classic Andy lyric and vocal, chiming Byrdsian guitars and flashes of distorted riffs, ‘Tongue Tied’ is Ride at the peak of their powers. So why the hell did the band let it go? It wasn’t just dropped, it was completely forgotten, as it never even turned up as a B-side. Imagine ‘Going Blank Again’ without ‘Making Judy Smile’ (Ride try to be The Kinks and fail) and ‘Tongue Tied’ slotted in its place between ‘Cool Your Boots’ and ‘Time Machine’. Another good’un becomes a great.

Buy Blur albums from Amazon
Official Blur website
Veikko's brilliant Blur fansite
Rare 'Chemical World' CD2 on ebay which features 'Young & Lovely'
Information on the Ride box set from the Creation Records website
Buy the box set from oxfordmusic.net
Official Ride website
Excellent Ride fansite
Buy Julian Cope’s autobiography ‘Head-On / Repossessed’ from Amazon

Joe.