Friday, August 28, 2009

Ten Songs No. 4

1. Juice Aleem - 'KunteKinteTarrDiss' (from Jerusalaam Come)

After finishing Kodwo Eshun's More Brilliant Than The Sun, this comes as a pleasant surprise: emerging from Birmingham, from his own world and environment and networks, with an aesthetic already iron-forged, another seismic triumph for Big Dada in the British hip-hop stakes. The vein of righteous anger that runs through so many of these songs, like 'BRIGHTON' through a stick of seaside rock, reaches its apogee on this: telescoping together the astral-Afro futurism of Sun Ra and the justified vitreol of the Rastafari end of the Jamaican inheritance, here he is a black Dr. Who, "straight back from the future, back from the past", landed in Britain '09, the scene set by the fragments of dubbed rude-boy vocals and white 50s voices straight out of the first hip-hop productions (The Hellers' Life Story sampled on 'Adventures on the Wheels of Steel'), the spooked edge of a sound from a time out of joint. With judicious, relentless pacing, he lashes with verbal fire all those prepared to lose their self-respect and forget their culture - "Since when the fuck was it cool to be a rent boy?!" - the Jamaican inflection rising in his voice as if it were a guilty reminder of their origins, vocodered on the choruses into the electro Voice of Doom. Social justice is theological justice is sonic justice: the white hegemony of history ("Show me yr white Jesus, make me take off the safety") is reverse-engineered, the illusory pseudo-world of capital disappeared, the people called to regain the "New Jerusalem mothership connection". The glad day is always heard ahead of time.

2. Sa-Ra Creative Partners - 'Traffika' (from Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love)

It gets impossible to tell whether or not this is cynical, celebrating the decadence of typical gangsta-made-good narrative ("Cocaine is running through yr brain, in New York city!"), or condemnatory, setting the sins of drug-running against the proferred escape of cosmic Afro-futurism, so animated is it by the electro-narcotic power of its production. It's probably the most exuberant song on this 2-disk set, aside possibly from 'Cosmic Ball', abetted for nearly its entire length by the Gary Bartz Quartet, liquidised and etherised with omnipresent synthetics; they've certainly no objections to narcotics, but perhaps get their kicks from elsewhere.

Edit: oh fuck it. I've nothing useful to say about this. I just like it, that's all.

3. Can - 'Yoo Doo Right' (from Monster Movie)

Do I have to write about this one? It's just that I have nothing especially clever to say about it. You sure? Alright, fine. It sees the band at its most deceptively simple: a caveman-primitive groove, as if the rhythm section of Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay were playing at 33rpm to the rest of the band's 45, but one that can suddenly mutate or drop out altogether, its combination of perfect mindlessness and intelligent subtlety presaging techno. It can keep going, you imagine, forever, and keep surprising and entrancing you for that long as well, always evading critical analysis. Malcolm Mooney's vocals - what Frances Morgan calls his "Gnostic gospel" - are just as brilliantly meaningless: "Drum beat twenty-four hours a day"; Michael Karoli's guitar moves, seemingly without warning, from rhythmic support to grainy, technicolor abstract noise. Sublime.

4. Diana Ross & The Supremes - 'Stop! In The Name of Love' (from Motown Forever)

Kodwo Eshun's wrong: it's not merely the case that the mnemonic of the sample makes the rest of the original track from which it was strip-mined boring. Admittedly, the chorus of this song, which I first heard as part of Steinski and Double Dee's 'Lesson No. 1 - The Payoff Mix', is a punctum of stunning proportions - but that's not to denigrate the totality of the song, which reprensents one of the most finely honed products of arguably the greatest pop machine of the 20th century. The surprisingly middling tempo, the rhythm converted further into timbre by dots of glockenspiel and tambourine replacing the snare, the high organ droning away underneath like a half-heard cry, and the breath-machine of vocals: the tinge of vulnerability in "Haven't I been good to you", echoed in the voice of a conscience knowing it won't be heard - "Think it o-o-ver". And then, surging into desperation on the chorus, hands out, the organ jumping, the nagging mnemonic chattering away in the background like the voice of guilt - "Baby baby baby" - and the constant dilemma of the economy of desire: "But any time that we are together/I'm so afraid of losing you forever". There is no escape.

5. Electrelane - 'I've Been Your Fan Since Yesterday' (from home-made compilation/Singles, B-Sides & Live)

For the smell of salt air, and everything else left behind.

6. Charles Mingus - 'Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting' (from Mingus In Antibes)

One of my finest finds, as far as secondhand CDs go: picked up at Birmingham's The Diskery, a bootleg version of this astonishingly fine set from possibly the best of Mingus' 60s line-ups, including both sure-touch drummer Dannie Richmond (whom Mingus famously bullied and bent into the role) and Eric Dolphy on alto sax alongside Booker Ervin. I first heard of this through, as always, Marcello Carlin (scroll down to entry for June 17, 2004), and Dolphy's solo on here - preceded by Mingus' exhortation "Talk about it Eric!" - is as brilliant as it seems. Curson and Ervin aren't quite as bad as Marcello makes out - the former's hummingbird trumpet flurries are really rather nice - but Dolphy, in the midst of an already loose structure held together by the rhythm section, getting increasingly agitated and aggressive as it goes on, knocks them into an amorphous cocked hat, the other horns scaling riffs in the background as he stabs the air with lusty honks and screeches, a vertiginous explosion that eventually bursts out of its context, previewing the kind of full-register runs and abstract clucking noises that Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders will be making in 5 years' time. Mingus's shouts of "Woo!" as he enters the final moments, before dropping into Richmond's brief solo, are wholly justified. That, at about 10 minutes in, it suddenly dissolves into a cacophony of falling screeches, only to come back together into the central riff, is some testament not only to Mingus's tight organisation, but the stunning thinking of these players.

7. Golden Oaks Three Billion - 'Tequila Sunscraper' (from 'Weekend Picnic' CD-R)

I happened to see these gentlemen - a trio of Jefferson Starship, from local noise wrecking-crew Sunshine Republic, Alan James Read, boss of noise label Krayon Recordings, and bass clarinettist Jerome Richards - play an impromptu basement set a short while back, which ended with the latter smashing his instrument for no apparent reason. That performance was considerably harsher than this: a near-narcotic drift through the same warm, supernaturally bright territory as Emeralds, or Birchville Cat Motel's Gunpowder Temple of Heaven, dusted with snaky, insinuating trails of clarinet. Lovely.

8. Blackpepper - 'Vqarekk' (from 'Vqarekk / Colour/Color' 7")

It's excellent to see DirtyDemos so productive again, and nice to see new product from Jason Kerley, whose Blackpepper alias has so far had so little in the way of recorded evidence. This, the a-side from the new 7-inch, is a lithe and heady piece of decidedly non-pomo jungle that harks back to the rave-stabs and rhythmic convolutions of the first Rufige Kru 12"s, before mutating into first something briefly resembling LTJ Bukem, then equally briefly one of the more 8-bit-infected wonky artists. In short: CHOON.

9. Xela - 'In Misericordia' (from In Bocca Al Lupo)/Philip Jeck - 'Below' (from Stoke)

Horror music: the really malevolent thing is not what is there, but what isn't. 'In Misericordia', from one of last year's most criminally underrated albums (alongside Burial Hex's similarly spooky Initiations) is the calm before the storm of closer 'Beatae Immortalitatis', whose tearing noise and explosive percussion are foreshadowed by the soundcloud that smothers this song, manifesting the low-level unease that dominates the album, buzzing like a hornet swarm enclosing your head. 'Below' translates the dark, ancient grain of In Bocca Al Lupo into mechanical parataxis: the Freudian slip in the turntable, the fatal compulsion-repetition, the crackle and drag of memory painfully audible in the static, the increasing degradation of the sitar sample at its centre, disrupted by what sounds like automated scratching.

10. Skullflower - 'Drenched In Moonsblood (Waxing Gibbous)' (from Malediction)

The seventh trumpet
sounding the depths of black fog.
(Not a "prose poem".)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Keeps Mankind Alive

"I am left alone
With no echoes to the amen
I dreamed of. I am saved by music
From the emptiness of this place
Of despair. As the melody rises
From nothing, their mouths take up the tune,
And the roof listens. I call on God
In the after silence".
-R.S. Thomas, 'Service'

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ten Songs No. 3

In case you haven't guessed by now, this is a weekly feature. A kind of personal Top 10 for the week, although the ranking doesn't necessarily imply relative value judgements.

1. Sunn 0))) - 'Alice' (from Monoliths And Dimensions)

"A gentle collapsing" - Talking Heads, 'The Overload'

2. Robyn - 'With Every Heartbeat' (live at The Wiltern, Los Angeles, from Robyn Live In LA)

Before you ask: yes, I am the archetypal sad bachelor - threadbare dressing gown, glass of whisky, thick glasses, the cat sleeping on yesterday's newspaper beside me, getting vicarious pleasure out of the young, successful and glamourous, whilst pretending to be a pop-culture connoiseur. So, on Thursday evening I was watching this live recording of Robyn on VH1. Her live set-up was excellent: basically The Moritz von Oswald Trio, but better, her tiny frame squashed into a black bodysuit beneath a black cloak, set against that slash of peroxide hair, kohl-black eyes set in delicate Swedish skin (OK, that just sounds creepy...) And this was the penultimate song before the encore. And and and and... and I maintain that this song is to the latter half of the 00s what 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' is to the first half. It may well be what this decade is remembered for. She's stood at the mike, centre-stage, and that kick pattern starts, and after a minute, two minutes maybe, the arpeggios start layering. The syllables, breath and colour plastered between the breaks in the beats, an incantation with the twinge of fragility tugging in the vocalese stretchings of each word, that you can see her straining to make ("We can make it bet-ter some tiiiiii-ime", and you know that time will never come), its humanity articulated in the first-love thud of synthetic percussion (one of her besuited backers came up behind her and started playing what may as well have been Linn syn-drums, bringing to mind some other culprits we know). And then, the moment that everything drops out, and the clear sky fills with the technicolour contrails of disco-strings, shamelessly and acrobatically dipping and swelling, and the vocal comes back between showers of synth: "And - it - hurts - with - ev-e-ry - heart-beat", Robyn hands-on-chest pumping in time as the kick comes back in, and and and and and and. And life, for 5 minutes, will never cease, and the light will never go out.

3. Mike Westbrook Concert Band - 'Marching Song' (from Marching Song Vol. 1 & 2)

You don't need me to tell you.

4. Beyonce - 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)' (from I Am... Sasha Fierce)

This is what I miss out on by not listening to the radio. More fool me. Talk about auto-theorising pop: the video shows Ms. Knowles engaging in dance-moves more cyborgian, more body-negating, than anyone since Grace Jones; the bizarre electronic gauntlet-thing she's wearing by the end of it - which, according to Zone Styx Travelcard is, in a marvellous piece of circuitous (ha!) coincidence, a homage to Michael Jackson before-the-fact - I at first mistook as a robot arm. (The video for the last single, 'Sweet Dreams', pulls in (unconscious?) references to Metropolis and Helmut Newton. I mean, really...) Rather like the last 50 Cent song I heard (yes, I am that far behind things), the production is light year's ahead of the sentiment (I'm unsurprised to find that the same team was responsible for Rihanna's 'Umbrella'): electro's arcade-game myth-science telescoped into the 21C., a hail of bleeps over relentlessly staccato clicks, the chorus joined by what sounds like a cyborg crunking. Needless to say, I've got it on repeat right this second.

5. Gowns - 'Mercy Springs' (from Red State)

After being reminded by a facebook status by F. the other day, I listened to Red State on the way to Brownsea Island. It was chilly as we started crossing Poole Harbour, but the sun picked up as we came in. There were cormorants perched on harbour markers and the rocks by the east end of the island, spreading their wings to look like revenants from prehistory. And, long after the blurred illumination of 'White Like Heaven', this springs into ear-view with pitch-black oscillator rumbles and the half-heard voices for four minutes. The bad-trip atmosphere turns deadly, slashing guitar and drums exploding from the swamp, ending with a coda of electromagnetic ghost-voices that sound like a premature end: "Take all shine out of me".

6. The xx - 'Crystallised' (from xx)

I approach this with caution because, in case you didn't already know, this kind of subtlety often passes me by. Mild dyspraxia (and hence autistic-spectrum status) and years of isolation during that period when you're supposed to, uh, 'grow up' mean that I'm mostly emotionally illiterate when it comes to pop. If it doesn't have loud or weird noises, my attention begins to drift. Hence why I so much admire the likes of Lauren Strain or Petra Davis, who's written on the group, who are able to articulate shades and colour where avant-blockheads like me see monolithic black, or whatever. So sue me if the first thing I thought when I heard this was: Young Marble Giants. That is, if they had grown up on post-Timbaland R&B. There's such a quiet pull to the song, even down to the way they use samples of minimal, ticking percussion instead of real drums. As with YMG, it's almost as if they're challenging us to think them dull - slightly more self-conscious than YMG's quality of sounding like an overheard private conversation; there's a slithering obliquity to it that suggests emotional states more complex, more interstitial than their voices suggest, complicated again by the understated confidence of the backing, its layers perfectly pleated together - a world where everything hovers on the brink of resolution. "Go-o-o slow."

7. Pulp - 'Babies' (from Intro)

Alternative blogosphere orthodoxy states this is one of the ones you're not supposed to like - too indie-ish, no acid/techno influence (although the bloops dotting the track like paint-flecks on a Jackson Pollock canvas, and the rising white-light synth on the chorus and the ends of the verses owes some allegiance). But I can't say that I care: this is one of those perfect moments of pop alchemy when everything falls into place just so, the push-and-pull of sex so perfectly mapped by Cocker's lyrics (and not just the lyrics, even down to the meaningless "My God!", "Alright!" and "Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!"), the obsessive interest, the power of teenage carnality balanced against the distance of retrospection (something that will crop up again in 'Disco 2000'), the stench of 70s interiors, the smallness and sordidness of it all against the melodrama of Cocker's delivery (cf. the ice-cold provincial cabaret lothario of 'Razzmatazz'). And all this buttressed by the interlocking architecture of the track, the bass propping up strata of electricity from Candida Doyle's synths (cf. Stereolab's 'Wow and Flutter'), the irresistible pull of that guitar...

8. Wolves In The Throne Room - 'Ahrimanic Trance' (from Black Cascade)

From the Pacific north-west's finest practitioners of ecological black metal, the point where their landslide noise becomes both most punishing and most ghostly. For the first half, the guitars deliver a relentless mid-range scree (they're remarkably robust for black-metallers - no under-nourished Norwegian lo-fi screech for them), Nathan Weaver's contorted screech sounding like a man emptying out his organs. Then, they stop, crack and buckle into a mist-filled ambient interlude, before rudely dropping you into an even more harsh environment. When that in turn tails out into an extended outro of spectral distortion, hi-hats picked out in the fog, closer to the breakdown of Sonic Youth's 'The Sprawl', you know you're in special territory.

9. De La Soul - 'Me Myself and I' (from 3 Feet High and Rising)

The lapses into naivety ('Tread Water', schoolyard tales like 'Jenifa Taught Me') are more than excused by the wonderful concatenations of samples, the bouncing, overbright architectures of the backings, the primal joy in wordplay, the absurdist pleasure of the between-song skits (you can really tell how young they were when this was recorded). Particularly, here, it's the squiggling earworm of a synth and the cut-up 'ahahahahahaaaaa' on the chorus, essentially breeding wonky 20 years before the fact, creating everything gangsta should have been (note the p-funk/Ohio Players quality of the synths, later re-deployed on Dr. Dre's first solo productions), already passing the mid-80s future the mid-90s boom-bap revivalists wanted to preserve.

10. Robert Wyatt - 'N.I.O. (New Information Order)' (from Dondestan (Revisited))

I'm still not sure I agree with Jon Dale about Robert Wyatt's 'solo solo' records. They feel curious in comparison to the group works: more 'serious', slightly austere, in some cases ('Worship') oblique to the point of attention-drift on my part; there's a bare, what-you-see-is-what-you-get quality to them. (Am I wrong in attributing this to the post-punk effect - demystification, the interrogation of the audience-performer, the flat absurdism of Art & Language? It was certainly in the air when Wyatt recorded the singles that made up Nothing Can Stop Us, and the ex-punks recognised Wyatt as one of their own...) Rock Bottom and Shleep - even the at-times-terrifying Comicopera - still feel more comforting, more profound. Nonetheless, there's something very poignant about the jaundiced sarcasm of this song, not least because of the delivery - the electronically-stretched "freeeeeee" in the middle, the sadness of his voice muted from the likes of 'Sea Song', over splashy cymbals and hovering organ, the bass a malevolent presence in the background. This morning, as I was walking by the sea-front, there was a wargames demonstration going on out in Poole Harbour, as part of the Bournemouth airshow, faux-marines skidding around in dinghies, larger ships looming further out, towards the site of the eventual surf-reef. It was perhaps the most absurd thing I've seen all summer, scarily banal. "Save a bomb on Union flags./Privatise/the sea/Privatise/the wind."

Thursday, August 20, 2009


2nd Birthday and Ishihara present:

Sideshow Showroom

Friday 21st-Saturday 22nd August, at the old car showroom next to the Winchester, Poole Hill, Bournemouth.

12 noon-6pm:

Art by Roy Brown | Laura Burchett | Anna Chrystal | Liam Diaper | Fordvogeltechnik Research Laboratory | Harriet Fleuriot | Paul Hartley | Liam Herne | Jake Hitchens | Paul Hurley | ishihara | Jason Kerley | Bill Leslie | Adam Lewis – Jacob | Melinda McCheyne | Peter Morphew | Sebastian Pape / Dave Walker | Andrew Stacey | Jane White / Amanda Byrom | Max Galbraith | Jake Hitchens

Friday, 8pm till late:

Max Pashm

The Holy Roman Empire
Little Boat
No Context
DJs: DJ Reebok Pump, Sheep in Wolves Clothing, Planar

Saturday, 8pm till late:

Dr. Meaker

One Man Destruction Show
DJs: Dj Ibiza Sunrise and Dj Ayia Napa STD, Planar

£5 entry both nights


Club Anemone presents:


Tuesday 8th September, 7.30-11.00
The IBar, Bournemouth
£5/£3 NUS entry


Krayon Recordings presents:

Infinite Light
Vanessa Feltch

Sunday September 20, doors 6pm
The Winchester, Poole Hill, Bournemouth
£5 entry

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ten Songs No. 2

1. Burial - 'Etched Headplate' (from Untrue)

A conversation with T. the other week reminded me that I still hadn't heard the second Burial album. Of course, anyone in the least still interested in crackling melancholy as opposed to toxic-technicolor synths is outmoded, dead, living-in-the-past. Apparently. There's much less of a sense of science-fiction desolation than on the first album, now flooded by a real, familial grief - when the sample at the beginning mentions "hardcore", it's very different from the "ancient ways, the old skool ways" on Burial's 'Gutted'; "he's not setting out to hurt people. He's got a lot of love in him". Now, even the streaks of voice from 'Archangel' have devolved into blurs, high feminine syllables like gas escaping over barely-there tinkles of percussion, pulverised by what would be hoover bass if it weren't so amorphous, erected like walls to either side of the main track. It's impossible to tell whether, on the chorus, the voice is saying "I can't take any more of this life", or "your life" - the object of desire indistinguishable from the subject, sound and body smashed by a desire unfulfilable in a world as cold as this.

2. Tricky - 'Aftermath' (from Maxinquaye)

It is the LP's pivot in more ways than one, in which all voices become equal in the endless replay/relay of the technological ether; in which anything can come back to haunt you, in which anything can become haunted. Just as Voodoo redeploys harmless images of Catholic saints, so Tricky plus Martika [sic] plus Mark Stewart use a David Cassidy lyric, no less, to essay ontological uncertainty: 'How can I be sure? In a world... that's constantly changing?'... 'Let me tell you about my mother'... 'Ghosts'... Replicants? Electricity has made us all angels. Technology (from psychoanalysis to surveillance) has made us all ghosts. The replicant ("Your eyes resemble mine...") is a speaking void. The scary thing about "Aftermath" is that it suggests that nowadays, We All Are. Speaking voids, made up only of scraps and citations... contaminated by other people's memories... adrift..." - Ian Penman.

3. Public Enemy - 'Night of the Living Baseheads' (from
It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back)

One of my favourite memories is of the one time I DJed, back in the days when I actually had friends in Bournemouth, and dropping this. The percussion and piercing sax loops, occasionally cutting out into torrents of scratched voice-fragments and crackly samples, are as beautifully and intricately sculpted as any symphony; indeed, it exceeds and rejects standards of 'musicality', a vector to another and wholly stranger realm of sensation.

4. Frank Wright - 'One For John/China, Part 2' (from
JazzActuel, disc 2)

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley may not be able to write for shit, but they know a good record when they hear it, damn them. One of the best songs on a fine boxset, a firestorm of sound from Muhammad Ali's torrential drums and Bobby Few's piano, both of which have ceased, by this point, to be anything even vaguely resembling rhythm instruments, and become sound-sources and massive timbre-generators in their own right. Wright and Noah Howard on the horns recreate the Trane 'n' Pharoah double act with stunning aplomb.

5. Kate Bush - 'All The Love' (from
The Dreaming)

You know, I'm still pissed off at Michael Bracewell describing Kate as "pop's equivalent of the mad girl in the attic" exuding "a mixture of mawkish sentimentality and ultimately seductive melodrama" in
England Is Mine. Patronising much? (Then again, Lord alone knows why he's allowed to write about music - all his other descriptions in EiM are dull, and his Wire review of the Joy Division reissues two years ago managed to make even them sound unexciting.) This is from one of the albums Bracewell passes over in silence, presumably because it's too 'eccentric' for his delicate taste. The verses are as strange and delicate as an exotic spider's web, Bush's voice, a fragmented whisper, weaving a Gothic monologue ("The first time I died/Was in the arms of good friends of mine") among empty spaces dotted with a choirboy's eerie ululations, piano and radio crackle that anticipates the Burroughsian disco of 'Waking the Witch' three years later.

6. Tony Oxley Quintet - 'Stone Garden' (from
The Baptised Traveller)

First, a rhetorical question: WHY IS THIS OUT-OF-PRINT, AND NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH SHARING BLOGS? No doubt it's available on some torrent somewhere, but I always feel vaguely ill when using those things, so this is the only song I have from this album (via the always excellent Destination:Out). It's still indisputably wonderful, though: a combination of the most exciting edge-of-the-seat powers of free-improv, from a line-up containing most of its luminaries (Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Oxley), and the tenderness and melodic capability of the best of British jazz (Kenny Wheeler, who'd later help to define the ECM sound, contributes some extremely sharp and malleable flugelhorn). Such a beautiful sense of space, texture and motion.

7. Scatter - 'She Moves Through The Fair' (from The Mountain Announces)

"Scatter’s version of ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ and Directing Hand’s of ‘Lowlands’, both songs of death, haunted by the ghosts of the loved, are heartbreaking, as mysteriously sad and resonant as the photograph in Ted Hughes 'Six Dead Men'; ‘She Moved…’ is savage in its building intensity, Finnish expat Hanna Tuulikki attacking the lyrics like an ecstatic text, chomping words into ululating syllables, Neilson’s free percussion erupting all around as massed stringed instruments build a laminate wall of noise... the ghosts of the past reiterating in the future of avant-garde art bleeding back into the present."

8. C. Spencer Yeh/Ryan Jewell/Jon Lorenz - 'Untitled' (from Krayon 7" 'Live At the CAC 7.21.08')

Seeing as Krayon haven't labelled the two sides of this single, you're never quite sure which you'll get before you drop the needle. Which is actually rather marvellous - a simple aleatoric tactic worthy of Cage. One side, though, is distinguishable by a thin band of denser grooves near the centre. What it represents, after several minutes of menacing insectoid scrape and chatter, is a minute-long blow-out that, if like me you've been turning the volume up in order to hear more closely, will pierce you through the skull.

9. John Coltrane - 'Love/Consequences/Serenity' (from

Well, after Rashied Ali's death, I had to listen to it again - the only studio recording made by the sextet line-up, including Pharoah Sanders, before the departure of McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, who objected to having to play above the young firebrand percussionist. In contrast to the relentless assault of the first side, it moves from a pleasant Jimmy Garrison bass solo to Trane picking up the melody, so intimately played you'd think the sax was right up against your ear. And, gradually, the luxurious draperies of piano and minor percussion gestures build up behind him as the horn grows sharper and more piquant. The perfect structural support of Jones and the almost textural approach of Ali offset each other as Sanders joins in with Trane's almost effeminate flutters of breath and the song builds into a rave-up of stunning proportions. (Also recommended is
Interstellar Space, the last full studio recording made by Trane, a decidedly astringent duo album with Ali.)

10. AMM - 'Metamorphic' (from
The Nameless Uncarved Block)

I think is the one I was listening when this gestated. The strange, groaning emptiness of its soundworld certainly made the isolation of Warwick seem more bearable at the time: clouds of metallic colour, steel and verdigris; the sudden rattling bursts of Eddie Prevost's snares and Keith Rowe's alien howl, the perfect touch of John Tilbury. It all seemed to hold together with the
rightness of organic sound. It was hard to believe the outside world shouldn't sound like it. ("The music's different here, the vibrations are different. Not like Planet Earth. Planet Earth's the sound of guns, anger, frustration. There was no-one to talk to on Planet Earth." - Sun Ra.)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ten Songs

1. Coil - 'Triple Sons and the One You Bury (live)' (from ...And The Ambulance Died in His Arms)

Having heard The Ape of Naples, I'm beginning to agree with Penman's view of it; this should have been the last Coil album, instead. As the creeping background of bleeps behind grows ever more roiling, Sleazy and Thighpaulsandra's blurting glitch interventions bursting the fabric, Jhonn Balance intones a litany that straddles the borderline between love and death ("Aphrodisiac/Necrodisiac"). The Iraq War was still a painfully open wound when this live performance was done, and it becomes a reiteration of the most harrowing portions of Derek Jarman's film of War Requiem: a lament for the transmogrification of young men into dead flesh, for the necessity of death. "The one you bury" elides into "the one yewberry", the poisonous and tempting fruit of the tree most associated with death; "I drank from a cup of mercury" he sings, the toxic substance regarded by alchemists as one of the secrets to eternal life. Balance would be dead within a year, killed by a fall that some have imputed as an indirect suicide, disoriented by the alcohol he was addicted to.

2. Arthur Russell - 'In The Light of the Miracle' (from The World of Arthur Russell)

Like knowing what it is to be loved.

3. Richard Youngs - 'A Storm of Light Ignites My Heart' (from Beyond The Valley of Ultrahits)

The moment you know you've lost it is when you can't find the words for a fucking pop song. Beyond... is framed as Richard Youngs' "pop" album; certainly, the early songs on here are as impeccably well-constructed and summery as anything on Kompakt's Pop Ambient compilations, but this doesn't fit so well into that category. If anything, it reminds one more of 'Summer's Edge II' from The Naive Shaman - the same bubbling analogue, the rumbling drums and cymbals, the same distant guitar out of the electric lava-flow of River Through Howling Sky. This is pop-sized, though - under 4 minutes - and flush with jouissance, with Edward Wilson's 'biophilia': the hill-top view opening up a landscape pulsing with love, the central chant escalating and overwhelming as it pours on towards the end. "WITH A STORM OF LIGHT, IGNITE MY HEART."

4. Miles Davis - 'Yesternow' (from A Tribute To Jack Johnson)

Although 'Right Off' is the more immediate track, including some devastating guitar noise from an uncredited Sonny Sharrock, this is perhaps the best post-Bitches Brew exemplification of the subtle side of Miles' electric aesthetic, including Teo Macero's cut-and-paste wizardry. A Michael Henderson bass loop and similarly in-the-pocket drums from Billy Cobham serve as backdrop to Miles' devastating trumpet smears - a piercing, lonely sound, as if he were, each time, breathing his last - and accumulating layers of organ/electric piano and slowed-down guitar. When, halfway through, the ghost of 'Shhh/Peaceful' from In A Silent Way appears out of the murk, Miles gently blowing over the top, the audacity is surprising and strange, as if the listener's hearing has gone, and you've started hearing double. "The first thing to do, is to consider time officially - ended" - Sun Ra.

5. GAS - 'Untitled 3' (from Konigsforst)

Alternative title: Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog.

6. Little Boots - 'Remedy' (from Hands)

She's a tough one, Victoria. The presentation is perfect: dresses and hair a close cousin to Roisin Murphy, keyboard fetish (not analogue, admittedly, but still), indie-girl-made-good. The sound is sumptuous, flush with electricity, mainlining synthetics; glitterball alchemy. You have to wonder, though, why, given the rejection of sex for sound - "Stop, stop praying/'Cos I'm not playing" - we have a shot of her sprawled on the dancefloor like a higher-class Dannii Minogue. I'm reminded of Hayley Avron's live review several months ago: "Why don't the boys take a turn shimmying for their supper?" In other words, is it possible to buy into the pop dream without it mutating you? As they say, like the monkey's paw, capitalism gives you what you want, but never quite in the way you intended...

7. Alan Skidmore Quintet - 'Imagine' (from Once Upon A Time)

After Rob Young's 'Visionary Jazz' primer, had to return to this remarkable concatenation of talents - Tony Oxley's brilliantly deft violence on the drums, Harry Miller (perhaps the closest thing Britain had to Mingus in terms of forward-thinking bass), Kenny Wheeler's plangent precision, the leader's own acidic sax, recalling Pharoah Sanders at his most sandpaper-raspy. And, towards the end here, John Taylor's piano drizzling McCoy Tyner showers over the ensemble, it gets as cosmically lovely as anything in his catalogue

8. Ludwig van Beethoven/Detroit Symphony Orchestra - 'Allegro - Allegro - Allegretto' (from Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral")

The last three movements, on my own digitised vinyl copy of the symphony, picked up for 10p at The Salvation Army (the same place as possibly the world's saddest music, the 'Pathetique' of Balance's predecessor in mourning, Tchaikovsky). They form a perfect model of musical expansion and contraction: the effervescent (and evanescent) joy shapes of sunlit violin and silvery clarinet ceding to a chiaroscuro cloud of strings, the constant movement of a field mouse darting through the grass, expanding again and again into explosive cracks, drizzling on down. And then, the smell of wet countryside.

9. Our Love Will Destroy The World - 'sadnessfinalamen' (from Krayon split 7")

The spring to Gunpowder Temple of Heaven's snow-blind winter - a born-again voice, working with much the same elements as always (voice-shards, fragments of what might be distorted sax, raw, hovering tones accruing detail with each cycle), and the usual stunning depth of field, but with a new lightness. Figments of acoustic guitar, overtly psychedelic backwards echoes, a hallucination of colour as overloaded as Stan Brakhage's films or Derek Jarman's Super-8s to set against the white-light overkill of Gunpowder... or the ashen wasteland of the Black Boned Angel albums. (Bark Haze (Thurston Moore's duo with Andrew 'Gown' Macgregor), incidentally, populates the other side. Purchase is recommended.)

10. Current 93 - 'Red Hawthorn Tree' (from Sleep Has His House)

This is one of the songs that I'm not allowed to like; when I was recently trying to write a short section of text about C93, I had to keep looking over my shoulder. No-one will touch these guys with a barge-pole, save The Wire and whoever keeps Cold Spring in business - and perhaps rightly so, given the Douglas P years, the appearances of Troy Southgate and Tony Wakeford on various albums (Stewart Home can tell you all about that), David Tibet's ever-proliferating range of things to sell to fans, the esotericism. An editor's opinion of them as "bullied-at-school crypto-fascist hipsters" seems an exemplar of the critical consensus. Most of the people whose taste I most respect despise them, utterly. But, sod it, if they have to be a guilty pleasure, they'll be a pleasure nonetheless.

A slow, half-waking pulse of harmonium and guitar, Tibet quieter than usual, a breath as intimate and close as nightwood. A trumpet puncturing the fabric, glockenspiel dotting the canvas. The stillness, the unearthly radiance of Rossetti's Beata Beatrix. When I heard this, it had the sense of déja vu, of the return of something known and lost - revenance. A dream in which the face smudged from your life swarms into your "sightless view", out of the dark of the woods. "My flight from your face/Must finally destroy me/I had always hoped/This world could be complete for me." No, no it can't.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Krayon Recordings Presents:

Glockenspiel (
Gish & Richard Preston Duo (
Golden Oaks Three Billion (

Sunday 2nd August, 8-11PM
£3 entry.
IBar, Bournemouth


Contemporary Music Nights @ KUBE:

The Red Clay Collective (free-jazz quintet feat. Jon Lloyd)

Wednesday 5th August, 8PM
KUBE Gallery, Poole (map)
£5/£4 concessions



What Price Wonderland
Mr. Atkinson
No Context
Can't Swim Won't Swim

Friday 7th August. Doors 8, first band 8.30.
IBar, Bournemouth.
£3 entry.