Monday, February 26, 2007

Music For A Restless Sleep

The Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night
U.N.K.L.E. - An Eye For An Eye

I am in another place, another world maybe. It doesn’t feel right. The balls of my feet have tensed right up, and my fists follow suit. Shadows dance around me, and my senses are heightened by the paranoia sapping at my soul. I have no choice. I start to run. Run as if my life depends on it. I glance over my shoulder; hoards of people, all seemingly armed, and all chasing me. But why me? What do they want? What have I done?

I was running faster than I thought I ever could, but as they got closer and closer, I could almost feel them clawing at my back. They were everywhere and I couldn’t stop. “I can run, run, run but I sure can’t hide.” After what seemed like hours of jumping over fences and scaling walls, evading capture by spare seconds or inches, I made it to a remote farmhouse surrounded by trees. I knocked on the door and a beautiful young woman answered. She made me a drink but said very little. I did not need to explain my situation for her to understand that I had obviously been set up. She was on my side. She was stunning to look at, naturally beautiful, and far too good for me. Strands of her long fair hair kept falling across her face, making her smile every time she swept it back behind her ear. She wore a light dress that fitted her slender figure perfectly. Her eyes were filled with compassion, and her gentle hand reached out to comfort me. For some reason she wanted to make everything all right, but I knew that she too was in danger, and I had to run again. I thanked her for looking after me, but our eyes met, and neither of us wanted to look away. She placed her soft hand on my trembling shoulder, and slowly leaned in for a kiss. A kiss would not have been right, and I can’t trust anyone, not even myself it seemed. So I had to run again for hours more, the same fences, the same walls as before, until eventually, I fall, and don’t stop falling for an age.

Another sudden awakening and I was in a cartoon world, like an even more sinister version of the Smurf village. The paranoia again enveloped me as my mind raced with so many unanswerable questions. As I looked around, I saw a cave a few feet away. A clever hiding place or somewhere to go and never come out of? I went in, and the deeper I roamed, the lighter the cave got, eventually revealing a grizzly pile of weird looking bodies. However, the bodies were not quite human; they were more see-through, cell-like, and missing their eyes. “What is this? Who’s doing this?” Again, I ran, soon to be chased by bigger versions of the cell creatures, a great evil, and soon I was lucky enough to end up at the same remote farm house to seek sanctuary with the same beautiful young woman who had so entranced me previously. I knocked on the door and as she opened it, I could feel her eagerness. I told her that I didn’t care what I had seen or what I knew. She again looked longingly at me; our lips grew closer together, taking an age to meet. A lingering kiss. A buzzing noise. A bolt of light, and she was gone, gone, gone.

Official Electric Prunes website
Electric Prunes fansite
Buy The Electric Prunes from Amazon
U.N.K.L.E. website
Buy U.N.K.L.E. from Norman Records


Friday, February 23, 2007

Just A Little Higher: Tales from the Dub House Disco

Music takes you… Lord, you know it’s true. This week, I have been walking my usual route to work; from London Bridge, past HMS Belfast and Ken’s house, over Tower Bridge and on into St Katherine’s Dock, but the musical soundtrack playing through my headphones meant I was anywhere but there. My feet were treading the pavements, but my mind - courtesy of Guerilla Records and their seminal ‘Dub House Disco’ compilations - was soaring up, up and away, back to 1992/1993. I don’t know whether this music has dated or not but it still sounds great to me, a timeless reminder of a carefree period in my life. I feel lucky to have been around prior to the Criminal Justice Bill and the resulting corporate sponsorship of every single festival and event, which seems to me to have which sucked the life and soul out of the scene. The free party movement was nearing its inevitable swan song, and the underground was just that. I felt like an exclusive member of a secret club full of the hedonistic, all operating on roughly the same wavelength as me. I don't think I'm trying to say things were better then, but I probably am. It's inevitable I'll remember my past through a pair of rose-tinted Lennon-specs. I guess everyone feels the same about their youth. I hope so anyway. There’s no way I’d want to do it all over again; it’s gone now, part of the past and I’m happy to have escaped with my marbles just about intact. But the memories are still so intense and with the aid of the music, I can recreate some moments. Here’s three songs from the ‘Dub House Disco’ albums, along with the hugely subjective and hazy memories they conjure up. These were the songs that were playing in the clubs, and the soundsystems in fields across the West Country and beyond; blasting out of the stereo's of cars parked up in lay-by's for illicit late night smokes; thudding out of speakers in the box-like rooms of my Halls of Residence in Bath... these are mine – what are yours?

D.O.P. - Groovy Beat (Rock-It Mix)

I’ve come back from college to my hometown for the weekend. I’ve only been away for about three weeks so everything there is still new and a bit awkward. It’s good to be back with old friends where there’s no pressure or questions about who I am and what I want to be. I’m me; able to slip into familiar old routines like a comfy pair of trainers. I’m here; sat in Dat Geezer’s attic bedroom, which he rarely leaves after a mugging left him in a neck cast. We’re surrounded by dark, heavy-bound Persian rugs covering both the floor and the walls, along with other global nick-nacks he’s collected on his travels. The whole room is bathed in the alien, bluey glow of the UV light he’s so proud of. His bucket bong, constructed from a cool box and an old 2-litre coke bottle is still smouldering in the corner of the room. We’re all wrecked, eyes like strawberries and lungs painful from the Marlboro Red baccy he insists on adding to the mix, contemplating whether we are capable of heading to the pub for contact with the real world. There’s no rush though, Optrex Red Eye will save us when the time comes. Until then, we all lie back and listen to Dat Geezer’s favourite tune - D.O.P’s ‘Groovy Beat’. It’s a bit naff really; “groovy” is a Sixties concept innit? But Dat Geezer loves it, and he follows the vocal line with a lazy finger, drawing the rhythm in the smoke-filled air and mumbling the words, ”Rockin’ to the rhythm of a groovy beat…”. It has become his anthem (we’ve even invented our own words to gently take the piss, “Chilling in the bedroom with the UV light”) and the tune is synonymous with the secluded room where we waste endless hours escaping from whatever it is we can’t face up to, or just getting plain wasted.

React 2 Rhythm - Intoxication (Clubfield Mix)

It’s New Years Eve 1992 – a DiY free party in a marquee pegged into a field just outside Bath. It smells of childhood camping holidays; grass trampled underfoot and damp canvas, combined with the less innocent, robust honk of loaded spliffs and sweaty bodies. I’m shy as always, finding it hard to let to go, even when under the influence. The vibe is good though, the tent is packed with smiley people and the music is incredible. I want to join in, but something is holding me back. I see my brother’s girlfriend Jo, dancing nearby. She’s wearing a pointy Peruvian woollen hat with flaps that come down over her ears, and looks a bit like a pixie. I point to the hat, “Can I wear it?” I ask. “I need a disguise.” She laughs, shrugs and hands it over. I pull it onto my head. It’s a bit itchy but lovely and warm. I feel cocooned and safe. This is more like it. I start to dance, near to the entrance, my hair poking out from underneath the hat. A girl I know walks straight past me, so I tap her on the shoulder and it takes a while for her to recognise who I am. Perfect. The disguise is working. Safe in the knowledge I don’t look like me anymore I start to let go. Strangers ask me for pills. Even better, I look like a drug dealer. I laugh to myself. The music is getting better. The MC isn’t some babbling imbecile, he isn’t really an MC at all, just some sound northern dude who only interrupts the sounds to make important announcements. Someone’s left their VW Camper parked up on the verge outside – the police will tow it away unless they move it now. The Leftfield remix of React 2 Rhythm’s ‘Intoxication’ drops. I don’t know this at the time, but I get a tape of the DJ’s set a few weeks later and I hear the spiel about the VW, then the tune. It’s the one with that funky, gasping beat, the ‘Voodoo Ray’-esque vocal and rolling Italia house piano. It’s hard to do anything other than bounce around like a nutter, so I do. Snug in the Peruvian pixie hat, looking like a pill dealer, finally I dance with something approaching abandon.

Dr Atomic - Schudelfloss (High On Hedonism Mix)

Another DiY party, this time in their hometown of Nottingham, in 1993. It’s held in a warehouse space underneath a shop. It’s free, but you won’t get in if you don’t know anyone. My brother knows someone, Big Sam, who gets us on the list. He’s about 7ft tall. There’s me, Ben, his girlfriend Jo and our mate Bob who drove us here. Almost safely, apart from going the wrong way down a one way and getting in trouble with the police. We’re in now though, and it’s big and dark and dusty but all good. We stick together, though everyone’s friendly. Bottles of acid punch are going around and we take tentative sips, not wanting to overdo it in a strange place or swallow any of the floating ‘bits’ as who knows where we’d end up. People stand around, waiting for the bottle and our approval, which we signify with grateful saucer eyes and grins. We crunch our way through some aniseedy Happy Shoppers, small and innocent, red and white. They live up to their names, not that I want to go shopping or anything, but we’re all happy, everything starts to go whoosh and we gradually slip in synch with the night. DiY are on fire, and musically the highlights keep on coming, each song better than the one before. We alternate spazzy dancing with heading up a set of rickety wooden stairs to a dusty room with a single broken window looking out onto the street below. It looks like it used to be a gym, with old weights benches to sit on and chill out, or in my case, exchange nervous glances with other wild-eyed ravers, take sharp intake of breaths and try not be overwhelmed by everything combined. Somewhere in all of this, Dr Atomic’s ‘Schudelfloss’ is played, a sweeping, euphoric house song with a kick. “My mind is glowing!” No shit? Mine too! The song coincides with me and Ben finding ourselves surrounded by five beautiful girls, identically dressed in tight, white tops, smiling approvingly, encouraging us to dance with them. I keep thinking they’re going to pick us up and carry us away, out of the warehouse and into the night sky. They probably don’t exist, or if they do, not in the context in which we imagined them the following morning. By the end of the night, the whole DiY crew are massed behind the decks and one of them sticks on Hardfloor’s ‘Acperience 1’ and the roof comes off the place, before we’re all sent on our way.


Hardfloor - Acperience 1

I can’t mention it and then not post it can I? Acid purists would definitely disagree (probably correctly), citing works by Pierre, Mr Fingers, Adonis etc, but I truly believe ‘Acperience 1’ by Hardfloor is the finest example of what can be achieved with the Roland 303 and a drum machine. 9 minutes of acid madness, courtesy of Oliver Bondzio and Ramon Zenker, a German duo who should surely be in straightjackets by now, considering how much time they’ve spent locked in small studio rooms, lost in the silver box. Previously on this blog, I declared ‘Rez’ by Underworld to be the ultimate last song of the night. I’d still stand by that, but this would run it a close second. In fact, both of these songs together, played in whatever order you fancy, would absolutely kill it. ‘Acperience 1’ builds from the thumping bass and crashing cymbals, with layer upon layer of tweaking acid squelch, and no matter how many times I hear it, it does me every time. Canny DJ’s will gently pitch it up as the song progresses to the final crazy snare rush, and sit back and laugh as the dance floor turns into an asylum.

Search eBay for the 'Dub House Disco' compilations
Guerilla Records discography
Official Hardfloor website
Buy Hardfloor from Amazon
DiY entry at Fantazia website
DiY Discs discography


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Honey, I’ve Got Rhythms I Haven’t Used Yet

Coldcut - Say Kids (What Time Is It?)
Coldcut - Beats & Pieces

It was 20 years ago today… well, not quite today, but it was just over 20 years ago that Coldcut first dropped ‘Say Kids (What Time Is It?’), introducing sample-based music to the UK scene and changing the history of music in the process. First things first – 20 YEARS!!! It’s almost impossible to believe it was that long ago, as it still sounds so fresh and the idea of a purely sample-based record feels like a modern concept. But facts is facts, and 1987 was the year. I first heard it on Dave Pearce’s radio show and was instantly hooked. It was littered with samples from films and telly programmes and snatches from my beloved rap records. My favourite bit is when they fuse James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ break with the vocal from The Jungle Book’s ‘King of the Swingers’; ridiculously simple and brilliantly executed. Despite being made up of segments from so many different sources, the trick was how they made it sound like one single piece of music – a seamless organism with not one sound out of place. ‘Beats & Pieces’ came next, released on their own aptly named Ahead of Our Time label and following an identical blueprint, this time based around the crashing drum sample by Led Zep’s John Bonham from ‘When the Levee Breaks’ and another dazzling selection of samples from the most unexpected sources. The moment that always stuck with me, and nicely sums up the irreverent ethos of Matt Black and Jonathan More, is the scratch up of Verdi’s ‘The Four Seasons’. It’s such a naughty and disrespectful thing to do – to take something so revered and classic and cut it up in such a throwaway manner. Genius. They went on to enjoy Top 10 success with ‘Doctorin’ the House’, which featured Yazz on vocals, and alongside Bomb the Bass’s ‘Beat Dis’ provided inspiration for the fledgling acid house scene in the UK. All of this happened in the space of one breathless year, and has been followed by 19 more, taking a similarly dynamic and pioneering path, including a number one single with ‘The Only Way Is Up’, under the guise of Yazz and the Plastic Population.

I could write about Coldcut forever – the seminal Solid Steel mix show on Kiss FM, their defining remix of Eric B and Rakim’s ‘Paid In Full’, BPI Producers of the Year in 1990, setting up the excellent Ninja Tune label (founded in 1991, still going strong), collaborating with the likes of Mark E. Smith, Lisa Stansfield and Jello Biafra, releasing the greatest ever mix album (‘Coldcut: 70 Minutes of Madness’), inventing the concept of the video DJ and launching their own real-time video software VJamm – the list of their achievements is endless. Add to all that the brilliant catalogue of their own music they have released year after year, and you may start to realise how incredibly special they are. Everything they’ve done has been different from what has gone before, they’ve never rested on their laurels and are constantly pushing the boundaries and looking to do something new. To call them innovators doesn’t really seem like enough, so I’ll go one stage further - if there were a Nobel Prize for Music, Coldcut would be worthy recipients, not fecking Bono. I’ve only scratched the surface, so if you’re not up to speed, please have a good old rummage through their 20 year career – I’ve no doubt you’ll love what you find.

Coldcut's official website
Buy Coldcut from the Ninja Tune shop
Coldcut My Space
Search eBay for rare Coldcut material
Coldcut discography
Ninja Tune website
VJamm website


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spaced Out, Glazed Over

Primal Scream - Screamadelica

Which came first - the song or the album title? That is the question that I am posing today, by posting two songs named after classic albums, which didn’t feature on the albums themselves. Or was it the other way around? And does it really matter? Probably not, though I’m pretty sure Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ came out of the recording sessions for the seminal album. Following ‘Screamadelica’ was always going to be a near-on impossible task, so the band headed to Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee with Weatherall in tow and recorded ‘Stone My Soul’ and a cover of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s ‘Carry Me Home’, both smacky strung-out blues numbers with Gillespie in full comedown mode. These two tracks, along with ‘Movin’ On Up’ and the aforementioned ‘Screamadelica’ made up the ‘Dixie-Narco EP’, which was released in 1992 on Creation Records, and reached #12 in the charts. ‘Screamadelica’ (the song) featured Leftfield’s Paul Daley on percussion, and was co-produced by Weatherall and Boy’s Own’s Hugo Nicolson. Over a sprawling 10 minutes, the only vocal of note comes from Denise Johnson (who also sang on ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’) though there are a few samples chucked in for good measure. The entire production feels more like a Sabres of Paradise track than Primal Scream, though the writing credits are given to Innes/Young/Gillespie so they must had a hand in somewhere along the line. There’s some lovely brass from the Kick Horns on the go, as well as a joyous flute. It’s basically a pretty fine summer track with a loping beat, made solely for Bobby G to clap his hands and dance around to.

Ride - Going Blank Again

In the case of ‘Going Blank Again’, the phrase was coined by the band as a sarcastic swipe at the critics who claimed they were vacant and had nothing to say. Perhaps they named the album first and then decided to write the song (”I’m glazed over, no one’s home”). Or maybe they wrote the song, planning that it would go on the album, but then it was left off. The song (an Andy Bell composition) is brilliant and could easily have fitted somewhere on the album, though I’m sure there was a good reason why it didn’t feature. It eventually popped up as part of the ‘Twisterella EP’, (also released on Creation Records in 1992), along with two other great tracks, ‘Howard Hughes’ and ‘Stampede’. Its three minutes of chiming Byrdsian guitar pop, with gorgeous harmonies between Mark and Andy, and some typically awesome drumming from Loz. I will always remember it for the lyric, “Chairs and tables move around, but I just stay the same” , as only a couple of days before buying the EP, I had moved all the furniture around in my bedroom during a bout of miserableness brought on by a difficult relationship I was in at the time. Of course, it didn’t make me feel any better, but then I heard the song, thus sealing my belief that Ride wrote songs just for me.

Buy Primal Scream from Norman Records
Buy Ride from Norman Records
Search eBay for the 'Dixie-Narco EP'
Search eBay for the 'Twisterella EP'
Primal Scream website
Ride fansite
Primal Scream My Space
Ride My Space


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Escape from Newport Pagnell

Windmill - Fluorescent Lights

Newport Pagnell is a small market town in Buckinghamshire, one of many blink-and-you’d-miss-it towns scattered all over the country where nothing ever happens. I should know. I grew up in one. It has an iron bridge, a few churches of minor historical interest, is the home of the Aston Martin, and the only place in England where parchment is still made. Still awake? Emerging from this distinctly underwhelming setting comes ‘Puddle City Racing Lights’, the exceptional debut album from 26-year-old former Newport Pagnell resident Matthew Thomas Dillon, recording as Windmill.

‘Puddle City Racing Lights’ represents Dillon’s first recordings in a proper studio, following countless songs made on a four-track in his bedroom, intended only for the ears of himself and his close friends, and a low-key 7”, released on Static Caravan last year. For this first studio foray for Windmill, members of the Earlies’ live band and Ian Smith (formerly of Alfie) joined Dillon, along with co-producer Tom Knott, and the results are simply stunning. Informed by a love of US indie (think Guided by Voices and Mercury Rev), Dillon drives the album along with his singular vision and heartbreaking croak of a voice, reminiscent of Neil Young, or more bizarrely, Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin. Dillon’s piano is the dominant force, backed up by thrilling, pounding drums and widescreen production techniques straight from the Phil Spector manual. If this is the sonic level he is reaching at this early stage, the thought of what he might produce given time to develop his skills is mind-boggling.

Lyrically, the album centres on themes of escape and emotional breakdown, with locations ranging from airport departure lounges to the tilting trains of Tokyo. The Mercury Music Prize panel need look no further than right here when they’re drawing up their shortlist later on in the year. ‘Puddle City Racing Lights’ is that good. Once it’s in your CD player, it’s hard to get out again and these instantly memorable, timeless songs are worthy of a special place in all of your hearts.

‘Puddle City Racing Lights’ is released by Melodic on the 9th April 2007.

Windmill at the Melodic website
Windmill My Space
Newport Pagnell website


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Night That Celebrates Itself

If you are a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that The White Noise Revisited is crazy for all things shoegazey so it stands to reason that we'd be big fans of the successful club night and fledgling label, Sonic Cathedral. In celebration of the release of the label's third single and short nationwide club tour, we sent Dave to interview founding father Nat Cramp to chat about how they have resurrected the much-maligned genre and taken it forward into the 21st century. For your listening pleasure, Nat has kindly given us an exclusive demo version of The Tamborines’ ‘Sally O’Gannon’, the first 7” release on the Sonic Cathedral label. And in case you were wondering what a sonic cathedral sounds like, we’re posting ‘Avalyn II’ by Slowdive, an ethereal classic from the band’s first 12”, released on Creation Records in 1990. As a final offering, you get Amusement Parks on Fire's blistering cover version of My Bloody Valentine's 'You Made Me Realise' - aren't we good to you? Take it away Dave and Nat…

Nat Cramp - Mr Sonic Cathedral

The Tamborines - Sally O'Gannon (Demo)
Slowdive - Avalyn II
Amusement Parks on Fire - You Made Me Realise

What goes around comes around, and if what went around in the first place was damn fine music, then for a second coming we should give thanks. The place for this is at Sonic Cathedral, a night that celebrates an early 90s revival, revelling in the timelessness and influence that “shoegazing” bands such as Ride, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain still hold today. However, as Nat Cramp, the minister behind the prayers points out, it is as much about celebrating the music made now as it is the music from the past.

Dave: In your words, what is Sonic Cathedral?

Nat: It’s the night – and now the label – that celebrates itself. That tagline is obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the intention of Sonic Cathedral is to celebrate the music and the bands that fashion has ridiculed, ignored or left behind.

D: How did it all come about?

N: About three years ago a friend started a club playing all the Madchester-era stuff, so I half jokingly said the logical next step was to start a night playing all the shoegaze records from the early ’90s. Then I realised that at that time – 2004 – there were plenty of bands around who were obviously drawing inspiration from those very same records. A few months later, there we were with The Radio Dept playing the very first Sonic Cathedral night…

D: What do you classify as “shoegazing” exactly? I loved Ride, and have one House of Love record, am I a shoegazer?

N: It’s very hard to classify – especially as it was originally a slightly ironic term with negative connotations. When bands such as Ride and Slowdive went to America, however, the irony was lost and it became simply a descriptive term. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that a lot of indie records from the early ’90s do sound similar – probably because they were all influenced by My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain. There’s that huge wall of white noise and an underlying sense of melancholy all going on at the same time. I can’t tell you whether you’re a shoegazer or not, but if you like Ride or The House Of Love I know you’ll like Sonic Cathedral.

D: So would you say that Sonic Cathedral, musically speaking, looks backwards or forwards?

N: Definitely both. You’d run out of records pretty quickly if you just played tunes from 1991. We also play the records that influenced those bands – that takes in anything from the Velvets and 13th Floor Elevators to Neu! and Nancy Sinatra – and bands they in turn influenced such as M83, Secret Machines, Ladytron etc. It makes for a pretty eclectic mix. It’s the same with the bands we get to play and the people we get to DJ – we often have a new band playing alongside a DJ who was originally in one of the bands that influenced them in the first place. Everything seems to come full circle and there are always some surprises to be heard.

D: Many of the Sonic Cathedral nights that I’ve been to have been sold out. Why do you think it is so popular, and did you expect that when you first started out?

N: I was nervous when the first night happened – so much so that it was supposed to be a one-off indulgence. But as soon as the doors opened a stream of people wearing old Slowdive T-shirts piled in, along with loads of kids who weren’t even born when ‘Isn’t Anything’ came out it was obvious that I should make it a regular thing.

D: Do you have any major influences, musical or otherwise, that inspired you to set up Sonic Cathedral?

N: Nothing but a love of music in general and fond memories of all those great records coming out when I was 17 or 18 – all those Slowdive EPs, ‘Nowhere’, ‘Loveless’ and so many more in quite a short space of time. Growing up in Devon I never got to see Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine play live either, so I always wonder whether that spurred me on – I didn’t want to miss out this time around!

D: Who are your favourite band(s) that you have had play at Sonic Cathedral?

N: I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons. I always try and ensure that the bands and DJs complement each other to make the whole evening an experience rather than just another gig. I’m not just putting bands on for the sake of it. One of the occasions this worked best was when I got Damo Suzuki over to play with The Early Years – an amazing night.

D: Anyone you’d not invite back again? Why not?

N: There are a couple that haven’t quite worked out for one reason or another, but I’d rather not say who.

D: Your dream Sonic Cathedral line-up would be…?

N: The Slough Festival of 1991 (Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse etc) relocated to Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Dom in St Mark’s Place, New York, with special guest headliners The Velvet Underground.

D: What was your favourite record of 2006?

N: Apart from the first two singles on the Sonic Cathedral Recordings label (by The Tamborines and Mark Gardener) it was a dead heat between The Early Years’ self-titled album and ‘Passover’ by The Black Angels.

D: Any tips for us to listen out for in 2007?

N: The debut album by Maps is going to be incredible. Imagine a Venn diagram of Sigur Rós, Spiritualized and Boards Of Canada – they’d be the bit in the middle.

D: And what does the future hold for Sonic Cathedral? Any further dates or planned releases on the label for instance?

N: In February I’m doing five dates around the country (Norwich (3), Manchester (11), Nottingham (12), Leeds (15) and Reading (25)) with a number of bands including The Early Years and Maps, then two dates at The Legion in London (22, 26) with Troubles (featuring four ex-members of Hope Of The States) and The Black Angels headlining. The third single – SCR003 – is out on February 12 and it’s called ‘Something For You’ by Sarabeth Tucek, a singer-songwriter from LA who has sung with Smog and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The original is like a countrified Nico, while Tim Holmes and a multi-instrumentalist called Rupert Clervaux have done a really cool, droney remix for the AA-side. It’s an amazing record and I’m very proud to be releasing it. Steve Lamacq has already chosen it as his single of the week on his 6 Music show and other DJs, including Sean Rowley, have fallen for it too. Sarabeth will be playing two of the forthcoming Sonic Cathedral dates in Reading (Feb 25) and at The Legion in London (26). It’s going to be a busy month!

Fact check 1: All these people have DJd at Sonic Cathedral in the past -

The Telescopes; Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3); Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3/Spiritualized); Emma Anderson (Lush); Phil King (Lush); Russell Barrett (Chapterhouse); Ulrich Schnauss; Maps; Tim Holmes (Death In Vegas); Ladytron; Beyond The Wizards Sleeve; Engineers; Secret Machines; Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins)

Fact check 2: All these people have played live at Sonic Cathedral in the past -

The Radio Dept; Engineers; Amusement Parks On Fire; Mark Gardener & Goldrush; Jim Reid; The Morning After Girls; Televise Sing-Sing; The People’s Revoltionary Choir; Mainline; Greenspace; Howling Bells; Paperlung; Sennen; My Visor; Dead Meadow; The Lea Shores; Serena-Maneesh; The High Dials; Loz Colbert; My Latest Novel; Fields; iLiKETRAiNS; The Tamborines; The Lovetones; Cyann & Ben; The Sky Drops; The Early Years; Kontakte; Damo Suzuki; The Strange Death Of Liberal England; Deep Cut; Maps; Pete Fijalkowski; Longview; The Second Floor; Model Morning; Sarabeth Tucek; The Black Angels; The Flowers Of Hell; Troubles; The Ponys; Headlights

Visit the Sonic Cathedral website for details of all the remaining dates on the tour. The Early Years, Maps and Model Morning play The Social in Nottingham tonight - buy tickets here
Visit the Sonic Cathedral shop to buy the single by Sarabeth Tucek which is released today, along with the previous 7s by The Tamborines and Mark Gardener
Sonic Cathedral at My Space
The Tamborines at My Space
Great Slowdive fansite
Search Norman Records for Slowdive
Amusement Parks on Fire website
Buy Amusement Parks on Fire from Norman Records


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Does my sweet William sail among your crew?

Fairport Convention - A Sailor's Life

I’m going to throw you all a bit of a curve ball today, by confessing myself to be a closet folkie, and extolling the virtues of the fantastic ‘Unhalfbricking’, the third album from Fairport Convention released on Island Records in 1969. Both my parents are huge folk fans, so I guess it’s inevitable that despite periods spent in denial during my teens and twenties, the music would seep into me and become something I am increasingly coming to realise is really rather special. I have the beard, I enjoy drinking the odd pint of bitter – it was only a matter of time…

‘Unhalfbricking’ was a milestone album in the British folk movement, as it was the moment where the group discovered the folk rock sound, for which they would become best known. It was the first album where the vocalist Sandy Denny took centre stage, after the group’s male vocalist Iain Matthews left the band. It also marked the first appearance of the supremely talented fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who would become a full-time member of the group soon after.

For ‘Unhalfbricking’, the band was given access to a load of unrecorded Bob Dylan songs by the producer Joe Boyd. Of those selected, it was their French translation of ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’ (‘Si Tu Dois Partir’), which gave them their only UK chart hit. The album also featured two Denny compositions, including the wonderful ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’, which has been covered by artists including Nina Simone, Lonny Donegan and Cat Power.

The standout track on the album is the band’s 11-minute take on the traditional song, ‘A Sailor’s Life’, which was suggested by Denny, and would become the template for British folk rock. The song is a tragic tale of love lost at sea, and the band’s epic arrangement puts me in mind of The Doors, or even the Velvet Underground in places, as Swarbrick’s superb fiddle scratches and drones against the music. The first half of the song belongs to Sandy Denny, and her hauntingly powerful vocal performance. It’s almost impossible to believe she was only 22 when she recorded this, and her ability to take her voice from 0-60 in an instant is truly something to behold. If the first half is Denny’s, the remaining five minutes belong to the band, as they hit their collective stride in a masterful demonstration of telepathic musicianship, recorded in one take. The duelling guitars of Richard Thompson’s beguiling solo and Simon Nicol’s sturdy back-up ebb and flow, and combine superbly with the verging on the funky drums and bass of Martin Lamble (who tragically died in a car accident shortly before the album’s release) and Ashley Hutchings.

The British Asian singer Sheila Chandra felt the song was a precursor of what would become World Music, fusing Indian structures within the framework of British folk. She reckoned, “(‘A Sailors Life’) …was a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music, going from Vedic chanting through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale.” Even if you think you don’t like folk music, give this song a try and you may find you surprise yourself.

Fairport Convention website
Buy the remastered edition of 'Unhalfbricking' from Amazon
'Unhalfbricking' at Fairport Convention fansite


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Full Metal Jacket KAOS Platoon

KAOS - Court's In Session
KAOS - You've Got The Time

I first heard Brooklyn crew KAOS on John Peel's radio show. I’ve mentioned it before but I still don’t think people truly appreciate how on it he was when it came to hip hop. He played most of the tracks from the album 'Court's In Session' on its release by Bad Boy Records (not to be confused with Puff Diddly’s Bad Boy Entertainment) in 1988, and I recorded them all and made a homemade cassette copy of the album, which I played to death. It’s one of the rarest and most sought after hip hop albums of all time, which isn’t that surprising as it is packed with raw cuts of the highest calibre.

Part of the album's appeal also lies in the fact that the KAOS crew featured one Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez, who helped produce the album and, alongside DJ BOO, scratched up a storm all over the record. Kenny Dope would go on to have massive worldwide success as part of Masters at Work, alongside Little Louie Vega, as well as scoring a massive club hit with ‘The Bomb’ under the alias The Bucketheads. Another future house music luminary who had his hand in with KAOS is Todd Terry, credited as the album’s producer alongside K-Dope, and hailed as “the incredible unit beat machine Mr Todd Terry” by the crew’s MC King Grand. Weirdest thing is, neither Kenny nor Todd make mention of their involvement with KAOS on their official biographies. Maybe they’ve talked it up in interviews, but I can’t find anything on the net. If I’d produced it, I’d be shouting about it from the rooftops as it is the dopest shit.

I’ve posted the title track ‘Court’s In Session’ which uses a slowed down sample of the classic ‘Think (About It)’ break, crashing cymbals, various tough guitar samples and King Grand’s swaggering brag-raps. You also get ‘You've Got the Time’ with some state-of-the-art beat programming from Todd Terry, sampled choral sections and live chants to give it the feel of a jam, and K-Dope rocking the transformer scratch on the theme from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

Walking rap encyclopedia Freddy Fresh is selling his very own copy of 'Court's In Session' on eBay, but be prepared to dig deep as it always changes hands for silly money!
KAOS discography
Masters at Work website
Todd Terry at Trust the DJ


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Extortion(ately Good) Racket

Jake Slazenger - Megaphonk
Jake Slazenger - ERP

The shelves in our lounge have finally given way under the heavy load of CD’s I’ve been piling on them over the past couple of years. The CD’s were stacked double deep, and in shifting them out in readiness for getting new shelves fitted, I came across loads of albums and singles I had completely forgotten I owned. I have unearthed some proper gems, and my gain is yours too as I intend to post plenty of tracks from this forgotten archive over the coming months.

I came across an extensive collection of music by the insanely prolific Mike Paradinas, perhaps best known under his µ-ziq alias. These days, Mike P is often overlooked (and the irony of the location of his music in my collection is not lost on me!) by the hardcore electronic heads, who hero-worship Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Autechre, but seem to have a lack of respect for Mike P and his undoubted skills. I think this is mainly down to the fact that he is perceived to have compromised his own talent in favour of promoting less worthy artists on his own label Planet µ, which seems to release a ton of records every month, the quality of which varies greatly.

Mike P released two absolutely essential electronic albums as µ-ziq, ‘Tango N’ Vectif’ (1993) and ‘Bluff Limbo’ (1994), both released by Rephlex, which I will definitely be coming back to soon. But I wanted to kick off by posting some tracks from Jake Slazenger, one of many of Mike P’s many alter egos. ‘Makesaracket’ by Jake Slazenger was released on the brilliant Clear Records in 1995. Clear’s speciality was an updated form of old school electro, cunningly titled nu-skool electro, which as well as taking on much of sensibilities of the original music, also utilised tag-graffiti style typesetting to give the initial releases a truly authentic feel, along with lovely clear vinyl for extra loveliness.

As well as being the first full-lengther Mike P released under an alias, it was also the first artist album Clear released after a succession of top 12s from artists including the Jedi Knights (who debuted on Clear), Plaid and Tusken Raiders (also Mike P). ‘Makesaracket’ was Mike P letting his curly barnet down and having a right larf with some feel-good, funked-up electro. That’s not to say the music was frivolous, but if you check the opening track ‘Megaphonk’, you’ll get the general idea of where his head was at. A cheesy melody line worthy of usurping the ‘Grange Hill’ tune in the affections of all kids of the 1980s is the central motif, with some big ole fat dustbin drums and seriously groovy jazz hands letting rip on the keys all combine to make this an absolute corker - the sort of song that can make your day. ‘ERP’ demonstrates Mike P’s superlative drum programming skills, as he cuts loose on the 808, applying a touch of Mr Muscle to some old school electro beats, leaving them sparkling like they're brand new. A whopper of a bass drum and another shit-eating grin of a melody completes the picture. Fresh is the word…

Jake Slazenger returned last year, a full decade after the release of his second album 'Das Ist Ein Groovybeat, Ja?' on Warp Records. Buy the comeback 7" from Boomkat, and keep yer fingers crossed for another LP!
Search for Jake Slazenger on eBay
Jake Slazenger discography
Illustrated Clear Records discography here
Planet-Mu website


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Put It In Your Pocket For A Rainy Day

The Beta Band - Dry The Rain

I used to drive my two best mates from the shabby suburban town we went to school in, over to the slightly bigger shabby suburban town almost every week. On a Monday, we would regularly cut our important A-level classes either to play on Rave Racer in the arcades, or to buy records. Often, when we could afford it, we would do both. These were great days, and were probably more important in terms of making me who I am today than actually going to those English Literature classes did. One week however, I didn't go, and to my horror they both came back to school the next day with copies of The Beta Band's debut EP ‘Champion Versions’. My heart sank to such a level that just recalling this feeling is making me sad right now. To hell with A-levels, mock exams, football practice, trying to impress that girl in the year above, all of it meant nothing to me because I didn’t own that record. The excuse they offered, "They only had two" meant nothing to me either. How could they do this to me? I was without what I knew would be the best record I would now never own.

To his great credit, one of those friends actually just gave me the record a few years later. I am still chuffed at that act of selflessness, and that piece of vinyl is one of the most cherished in my small but perfectly formed collection. I still absolutely love listening to The Beta Band, and those first ‘Three Eps’ in particular, are as good as anything that gets an over-hyped release these days.

The Aliens - The Happy Song

Since the Beta's split, we have had Steve Mason's solo outing as King Biscuit Time, and it’s not that I dislike it, I know Joe loves it, but for me it just doesn't click in the same way that The Beta Band did. However, made up of former Beta Band members Gordon Anderson (aka Lone Pigeon), Robin Jones and John Maclean, The Aliens seem to pick up the vibe from those early Beta Band EPs. Last year's debut ‘Alienoid Starmonica EP’ saw a sense of experimentation and fun in abundance. ‘Only Waiting’ and ‘Robot Man’ were exceptional, and the follow-up single, ‘The Happy Song’ is an unashamedly perky feel-good pop jaunt that bounds along like a children's nursery rhyme mating with an over zealous musical cheetah. It does make me happy when I hear it and it makes me smile, something I seem to recall doing a lot more of back in the days when I used to cut school to go and buy Beta Band records.

The Aliens' new single ‘Setting Sun’ is released on 5th March, followed by the album ‘Astronomy For Dogs’ on 19th March. The Aliens play Hertford Marquee on Weds 7th Feb and the London Scala on Thurs Feb 8th.

The Aliens on My Space
The Aliens website
Buy The Aliens from Norman Records
Buy The Beta Band from Norman Records
The Beta Band website
The Beta Band at My Space


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Stop, Look and Listen...

Mink featuring 2wic-e the Trouble - Hey! Hey! Can U Relate?
DJ Mink featuring The K.I.D. & Carruthers - Hey! Hey! Can U Relate

One of life’s great mysteries is why ‘Hey! Hey! Can You Relate?’, a brilliant slice of British hip hop from Nottingham’s DJ Mink and 2wic-e the Trouble (aka The K.I.D. and Carruthers), remains the only thing they ever did. The track is sheer quality, in both the incarnations I’ve posted here, but there was to be no follow-up. There are rumours of some other tracks from The K.I.D. in circulation, but as far as I’m aware nothing else from the collective was ever committed to wax. Mink did some production and scratching here and there, but never scaled these heights again. Mores the pity.

Originally released on Mark Brydon’s Nottingham-based FON Records (FON stood for ‘Fuck Off Nazis’) in 1989, ‘Hey! Hey! Can You Relate?’ is credited to Mink featuring 2wic-e the Trouble. This track is a fully paid-up member of the proper banger club, with hard as hell breakbeats, an awesome array of funk samples, and 2wic-e the Trouble’s fluid raps. They’re not the greatest MC’s by any stretch of the imagination, but their rhymes work perfectly with the track, and Mink proves himself to be a decent scratch DJ, demonstrating his ample skills towards the end of the track.

One year on and the track was picked up by the fledgling Warp Records to become their fourth 12” and first non-techno release. Somewhere along the line, Parrot from Sweet Exorcist got his mitts on it and transformed it into a prototype-bleep-rap-monster, complete with a freestyle flute that makes the track, giving it a sunny disposition that inspires face-aching smiles on even the surliest of faces. This version featured on the groundbreaking Warp compilation ‘Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove’, and the original was remixed by Luke Vibert for the Warp 10th Anniversary collection ‘10+3’. The Warp 12” often pops up on eBay, changing hands for about £15, but I’ve never seen the Fon release for sale anywhere.

Search eBay for 'Hey! Hey! Can U Relate?'
Buy ‘Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove’ from Warpmart for only £5.99