27.12.17

WOEBOT

Last night I had a dream. I was sitting with my father and we were watching a VHS together. We were looking down at the side of a green hill. There was a man, painted head-to-toe in charcoal-black, running around. His movements were in an exaggerated Buster Keaton-style manner. As he jumped up and down, and rolled about, and sprinted hither and thither, I thought: "This is brilliant!" It's weird, funny, and inventive - bonkers! Then I realised that it was me; I was watching a video of myself.

At this point in the video I saw that I started lying down on the hillside, my arms spread wide. And because I was covered in paint I saw that I was leaving figure-shaped marks on the grass. As I moved into another position I made another connecting shape imprinted black on the turf. Suddenly the video looped. Now I was watching the start. This time I was alone watching. There I was, close-up, painting my white face in charcoal-black paint. I pressed my face onto the ground and it left the mark of a large black W. I moved myself around and, printed the letters O, E, B, O, T in a tight circle, a rosary.

25.12.17

Covers


Check this fantastic book. A must-see for any London-based Reggae fan of Psychogeographical bent.

22.12.17

R.D. Laing on Music



Adrian Laing's book about his father is interesting and useful, but at the end of the day a bit of a hatchet job. If you want to get in touch with Laing as he really was this YouTube video is pretty much indispensable. It cuts away a lot of the bullshit and reveals Ronnie plainly as a highly intelligent, empathetic individual.

Yes, if you read "R.D. Laing - A Life" he does come across as a shit parent, a really, really shit parent - but even that doesn't negate him as an individual. Some people aren't cut out for parenthood, it's worse than a shame, it's often a disgrace, but it still doesn't necessarily make them bad people. Of course, some bad parents ARE bad people too...

If there's a highlight here it has to be Laing talking about music. Click above to play the relevant section which I've cued up. It's one of those great, insightful cultural moments in my opinion.  I talked the other day about "the window in the sky" - Laing prefers "a connection with the heart of humanity" - but yes, that's precisely why the woeful among us gravitated to music.

14.12.17

Dr Lloyd's Discs


One of my all-time favourite people Dr Lloyd Berrow, just the most beautiful guy, and a sincere, erudite and passionate music fan, has set up a record store in a van. What a fucking excellent idea!

Check out this great video where you can see Lloyd's Store - running in what looks like very inclement weather. I only wish I had more opportunities to head to Lyon!

And then head over to Mixcloud and hear Lloyd's sweet survey of 2017.

9.12.17

Sunny Murray RIP



An old comic from 1997. Wiki entry.

InterviewMeeting Cecil Taylor: "As a matter of fact, he lived across the hall from me. So through some kind of way we met, and he said 'you're the drummer' and I said 'you're the pianist.' So he said 'do you have your drums' and I said 'Yeah' and he said 'well, bring 'em over here.' So' beboppers had all sorts of controversial opinions about him, like 'are you gonna play with that cat, he's so way out."

1.12.17

Ekoplekz: Cassettera


You'd expect a cassette-only release would be an opportunity to let standards slip to "let the tape spool" so to speak. Even the title, a pun on "etcetera" implies a casual afterthought, something almost not worth mentioning. Au contraire! "Cassettera" contains some of the most martially-coordinated of Ekoplekz tracks. Hearing analogue tones (which so usually splash or splatter, belch or swagger) under such a tight leash is spell-binding.

As much as Ekoplekz continues to make music indebted to the past, the music is rich with yearning for Detroit and UK Techno, Krautrock and NDW and Close to the Noise Floor-era UK Electronics, the sounds are increasingly without precedent. Just as the titles of tracks like "Formative", "Bass 2 Dank", "Jacktrak" and "Seconds too Soon" are progressively obscure riddles in reference to old music, now requiring PhD levels of trainspotter geekishness to disentangle, so Ekoplekz' musical world has become fascinatingly opaque and almost accidentally original.

It could rarely be argued that the cassette as format adds anything to most modern releases. It can become something like a hipster afterthought; but this is not something you could level at this artist. Upstream I know that Ekoplekz has bounced his mix down to tape already. The effect is rather like a marinade. Frequencies bleed into one another as they fall into the narrower available bandwidth. Indeed the process is equivalent to a kind of Compression. Recently Compression has been given a bad rep owing to the nonsense talked about the Loudness Wars but in the recording studio it has always been a critical part of the mix, historically giving an unmistakeable fingerprint to the recording of instruments and voices.

If you've not experienced the sound of cassettes before, their sonic imprimage is something like being "pulled through" rather than being "showed" a sound; almost as though underwater towed by a rope. This might be the perfect place to start.

27.11.17

Hi-Res Audio


Good article on Hi-Res Audio at Pitchfork

Writing this in August 2016 I didn't imagine Pono would have failed in eight months time. Although it was rumoured Apple buying Omnifone (Pono's streaming partner) caused Pono's collapse - in characteristically disgusting Apple fashion they waited till the company went bankrupt before stripping the corpse of IP and useful employees. Therefore this conjecture of mine was partially born out: "I would imagine that eventually we will see things like Apple buying Apogee Digital, and probably even companies like B&W and a new marketing emphasis on high quality audio."

But forget formats - it's obviously all about streaming and hardware. "Content" nowadays is just another way to sell smart-phones and other consumer electronics like headphones and Bluetooth speakers. If someone tells you that formats are irrelevant to them, that they're just into the music, that's the elephant in the room. I would still look out for companies, but especially Apple with its new Apple Lightning adapter, looking for ways to introduce high-end DACs and "better quality" speakers. If you don't use Music, but run Hi-Res streaming on Spotify or Tidal, they still stand to gain.

Living With The Gods


If you get the opportunity check out this great ongoing series of radio shows by Neil MacGregor.

MacGregor was Anthony Blunt's protegee at The Courtauld Institute. He went on to resurrect the National Gallery where he was referred to as Saint Neil in part owing to his Christianity. Whilst Director there he turned down a Knighthood. I don't imagine he would be drawn on the reasons for doing this though I have read him discussing the collapse of faith in the UK against the backdrop of an examination of Elizabeth II's coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Reading between the lines the suggestion is that the monarch (head of the church) has presided over this collapse on her watch. MacGregor doesn't seem aggressively Christian, he shares with Jung a belief in the value of religion qua religion; as an essential tool for mankind whatever its flavour. Jung himself favored Christianity and Buddhism as our highest achievements of this order.

What I particularly like about these Podcasts, and I've only heard two thus far, is the ongoing emphasis of the importance of "the material", of objects, bodies, buildings and landscapes. I suppose one should expect this from a museum director and art historian, but equally this chimes with my own experience of the value of objects (quite different from a Marxist dialectical approach) as keys to ritual. It's chilling to reflect that the recent, horrific attack on Sufis in Egypt by radical Islamicists was, as I understand it, partly motivated by that order's use of ritualised objects out of step with orthodoxy.

If you can just catch one - try this episode. But this is brilliant on Rastafarianism. Don't miss the Object Gallery.

25.11.17

How my record collection is categorised


This is a High-Fidelity-style question isn't it? I never used to have any organisation to my record collection but a few years ago, just before I reanimated this blog, I took a great deal of time thinking out 50 categories which would contain it. Almost nothing slips between the cracks of this. There are a few tricky areas though.

The Pixies go into Indie where they sit with The Throwing Muses but they occasionally have strayed into Artcore (which is where all the American Post-Hardcore stuff lives). Gainsbourg could go in Seventies Rock - but actually he lives in Rest Of The World (always love that bin in Record Stores!) Noughties Electronic and Noughties Rock probably contain a few releases from this this decade - so sue me. It always amuses me that Belbury Poly live in the former (with my own two records natch) and The Focus Group in the latter.

Seventies Roots Rock is a great category containing as it does Folk Rock, Country Rock and the singer songwriters. Pere Ubu I have in my No Wave category - not the Post-Punk Category; which is fine for me. My well-stocked No Wave and NDW bins are source of great pride, innit. The cut-offs between Reggae, Dub and Dancehall are remarkably clinical - as are those between Hardcore and Jungle, and those between Two-Step, Grime and Dubstep (which is the smallest section I have besides the Blues box and is alarmingly full of Zomby's records). Both the African and Indian categories contain Field Recordings and Pop music.

It works! I've never looked back. Try it in your own emporium.

Avant-Garde
Classical
Sound Recording
Jazz
House
Indian
Rest of the World
Soundtracks
Nineties Electronic
African
New York House
Detroit Techno
Disco Not Disco
Belgian Techno
UK Techno
Chicago House
Disco
Post-Punk
Noughties Electronic
Noughties Rock
Nineties Rock
Indie
Artcore
Metal
Seventies Avant Rock
Seventies Roots Rock
Punk
Prog
Krautrock
NDW
Seventies Rock
No Wave
Eighties Avant Rock
Hip-Hop
Soul
R'n'B
Electro
Avant Hip-Hop
Sixties USA
Sixties UK
Grime
Dancehall
Reggae
Dub
South American
Dubstep
Two-Step
Jungle
Hardcore

Record boxes live on their own...



Reggae in the UK



Just last week I finally smacked down the cash for two records I had always wanted but which had proved elusive for years. The first, Alton Ellis's "Some Talk" is sometimes called "English Talk" and is famous for its section where Alton puts on a cockney accent "Hiya mate, a cuppa tay, a slice a cake". When he sings "I wish I had a big woman to keep this cold from off my back" - you can just imagine the young Alton moved to London from the Caribbean and contending with the bitter winter. I've spied him once or twice over the years in London - the last time when Sacha and I were with his baby in Brockwell Park - there he was, on his own, catching the breeze.

The second track is Harry Toddler's "Donkey Kick". Harry Toddler is a bonafide Dancehall MC. He's not one of the renta-ragga UK wannabes that, for instance, litter Dubstep. I don't know the background of how Wiley got him to version Eskimo but the track is possibly the ultimate fulfillment, the apogee of the UK-JA axis that ran like a thread of gold through UK Pop music. From The Beatles "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" at one end to the Nuum at the other.

It was queer to (suddenly) reflect that the two tracks are some kind of Alpha and Omega. There might be earlier or later examples - but I reckon these two are as good cases as exist. It was Luke Davis who first pointed out to me that Grime was largely made by second generation African immigrants to the UK, rather than as had always been the case with Black music in the UK, by people of Jamaican descent. However, at that stage in the early Noughties you couldn't really hear the African sonics. "Donkey Kick" is a case in point, the UK was still in thrall to the armored personality of the Jamaican sound.

Cut to 2017 and Yungen's "Bestie". This track, by an MC born in Jamaica and raised in South London, couldn't sound more African if it tried. The auto-tuned vocals are straight out of the (modern) Afrobeat textbook. The video, shot in Dubai, further scrambles the signals.



Honestly? I don't really like it. I mean, it's OK but... In the same way Stormzy leaves me feeling empty, like he's going through the motions, I don't connect with it. I know it's possibly a generational thing but actually I wonder if there isn't some fundamental component missing that I look for in music - some shade of psychic pain which I can recognise. Whatever is missing is definitely an intangible quality of Reggae.



This one J Hus's "Did You See" works the same formula, clearly African - but, yeah, more likeable!

-------
Errata: Sacha just told me it was LKJ we saw.

23.11.17

Any Major Dude Will Tell You Mix



And finally! Two years to the day since this. Leaving the very best till last. Seventies Rock.

The greatest AM Rock Radio Show you never heard.

-

The Doors - Queen Of The Highway
Led Zeppelin - Bron Y Aur Stomp
Pink Floyd - Fearless
Dennis Wilson - River Song
Serge Gainsbourg - Melody
Curved Air - Jumbo
Aphrodite's Child - The Four Horsemen
Nitzinger - King's X
The Who - Wife
The Stooges - Dirt
The Guess Who - American Woman
ZZ Top - Jesus Left Chicago
Nils Lofgren - Rock'nRoll Crook
The Groundhogs - Soldier
David Crosby - Cowboy Movie
Dennis Wilson - The Dreamer
Rod Stewart - Only A Hobo
Gene Clark - Silver Raven
JJ Cale - Crying Eyes
Grateful Dead - Ripple
Bod Seger - Night Moves
Little Feat - Easy to Slip
Man - Manillo
Marshall Tucker Band - Can't You See
Randy Newman - Rosemary
Todd Rundgren - Broke Down and Busted
Hall & Oates - When The Morning Comes
Paul McCartney - Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
Joni Mitchell - Coyote
Free - Oh I Wept
Van Morrison - Don't Pull No Punches But You Don't Push The River
Judee Sill - The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown
Linda Perhacs - Who Really Cares
Shuggie Otis - Strawberry Letter
Steely Dan - Dirty Work
Joni Mitchell - Free Man In Paris
Steely Dan - Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy
Steely Dan - Peg
Donald Fagen - New Frontier
10CC - The Worst Band In The World
Roxy Music - If There's Something
David Bowie - Golden Years
Lou Reed - Crazy Feeling
Iggy Pop - The Endless Sea
Patti Smith - Piss Factory
The Modern Lovers - Old World
Ian Dury - Clever Trevor
Dave Edmunds - Here Comes The Weekend
Ducks Deluxe - Daddy Put The Bomp In My Soul
Dr Feelgood - You're Mine
Nick Lowe - Breaking Glass

We Did It Again Mix



My Sixties Rock Mix. Strictly personal favorites.

[Even though I love them]

No Beatles. No Stones.

-

The Kinks - Harry Rag
The Byrds - Feel A Whole Lot Better
Human Beinz - Nobody But Me
The Music Machine - Talk Talk
The Other Half - Mr Pharmacist
Moby Grape - Omaha
The Kinks - Lavender Hill
Keith West - Excerpt From A Teenage Opera
The Move - Fire Brigade
The Fire - Father's Name Is Dad
Traffic - Paper Sun
The Moody Blues - Legend Of A Mind
Bulldog Breed - Austin Osman Spare
Pretty Things - SF Sorrow
Beach Boys - Way Too Long Suite
Love - Seven and Seven Is
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Stone Free
Kaleidoscope - I Found Out
Buffalo Springfield - Expecting To Fly
Them (South Africa) - I Wanna Be Rich Again
Los Shains - Il Monstro
Bob Dylan - Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Run Through The Jungle
Captain Beefheart - Grown So Ugly
Crazy Horse - I'll Get By
Muddy Waters - Let's Spend The Night Together
The Hollies - Nitty Gritty
The Nashville Teens - Tobacco Road
Van Morrison - T B Sheets
The Monks - I Hate You
The Velvet Underground - Mr Rain II
Silver Apples - Love Fingers
13th Floor Elevators - Slip Inside This House
Red Krayole - Transparent Radiation
The Soft Machine - Do It Again
Godz - Godz
The Free Design - Kites Are Fun
David Axelrod - Merlin's Project
Mighty Baby - Egyptian Tomb
The Rattles - The Witch
Pearls Before Swine - I Saw The World
Tim Buckley - I Must Have Been Blind
Joe Meek - I Hear A New World
United States of America - Cloud Song
Francois Bayle - Solitioude

18.11.17

Cadet Electric Blues LPs



"Electric Mud" and "The Howlin' Wolf Album" were efforts by Chess Records to ride the wave of electric blues coming out of the UK, to ape the likes of Cream, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. Marshall Chess, son of Leonard, was written a cheque by his dad, founded the sub-label Cadet and had had a successful experiment with Rotary Connection's debut. The motivation with these subsequent two LPs was teach the young British scoundrels how it was really done.

Curiously both artists used the same epithet "dog shit" to describe the LPs. Pretty much every critic ever has followed suit in describing them pejoratively. Truthfully the records, beyond being first rate curios (I was delighted to pick up a vinyl copy of "Electric Mud" at Permanent Records in Chicago, from its "home" so to speak), are not bad at all.

The band, playfully called "The Electric Niggers" in production, was headed by scorched-earth guitarist Pete Cosey who later went on to work with Miles Davis on his legendary electric double LPs "Agharta", "Pangea" and "Dark Magus". The pair fit squarely in rank with the Funkadelic and Hendrix LPs of the era and also have pre-echoes of the Black No-Wave of James Blood.

10.11.17

Reelin' In The Years

We're all of us getting older.

One friend's maxim is that the aim of life is stay in touch with that inchoate fury of one's teenage self - as though that's the only really true expression of a life. While for many years I agreed with that - I'm no longer sure it is true.

Carl Jung is particularly brilliant on growing old. Read if you can "Stages of Life" from his dazzling "Modern Man in Search of a Soul". I'm going to quote some big chunks of it:
"The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal standpoints and social positions, the more as if it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behavior. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them." 
"But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning - for what was great in the morning will be little at the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie." 
"For a young person it is almost a a sin - and certainly a danger - to be too much occupied with himself; but for the ageing person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world the sun withdraws its rays in order to illumine itself. Instead of doing likewise, many old people prefer to be hypochondriacs, niggards, doctrinaires, applauders of the past or eternal adolescents - all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of the self, but inevitable consequences of the delusion that the second half of life must be governed by the principles of the first." 
"For the most part our old people try to compete with the young. In the United States it is almost an ideal for the father to be the brother of his sons, and for the mother if possible to be the younger sister of her daughter."
The truth of this is driven home to me by articles like this one about the growth of Halloween on the festival calendar. Aimed at millennials refusing to abandon their childhood it's still an accusation which could be levelled broadly at the infantillisation of society.

As a pop music fan, an eternal adolescent, I'd have to conclude that these derogatory conclusions apply to me more than most. There is definitely something vampiric about clinging to pop music late into one's life. For many of us pop music was a "window in the sky", a way out of the impossible social and emotional situations we found ourselves incarnated within. But maybe, to paraphrase Jung, there comes a time when that ceases to be a viable approach to life.

What feels like an unusual thing is happening in our household. I've never pushed music on my children - but my eldest daughter, now 16, has found her own way into it. We have conversations about music. She gives me tips too. She's listening to The Clash a lot at the moment. The other day I wandered into her room and she had CAN on the stereo. She has a record player and I've been wondering recently if she'd like some of my old records? The dynamic is such that I feel a little like stepping back from music; as though it is a territory that someone else is moving into.

Another friend told me his tastes in music had changed as he had grown older. He mentioned appreciating things like Van De Graf Generator along the lines of a more mature enjoyment of bitter foods. And although I still regularly return to the same things I was listening to as a teenager, and by and large find their potency undiminished, I too have detected shifts in my inclinations.

Case in point being Steely Dan. OK, I've had Steely Dan records for years... I bought "Katy Lied" at the Woolworths in Windsor aged 16. But damn - there's something about the slick, jazzy polish of "Peg" (for instance) that really hits the spot in a way it can't have ever done before. I'm falling too for Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" (must be some kind of shibboleth). As a band they were never the same as their innocent and foolish contemporaries in rock. They parlay cynicism, cool and weariness into something you can only truly appreciate as an older soul (plenty of young people with old souls it turns out). A little like Randy Newman in that respect, but less comic. And slick to boot.





7.11.17

The Warehouse





I couldn't get the opportunity to visit Chicago without a pilgrimage to the place where it all started. I'm talking about the birth of House music and its manger.

Located in the London equivalent of something like Moorgate, on the edge of the City of London, the building which once housed the Warehouse club can be found at 206 South Jefferson Street. This section of the street is now named Frankie Knuckles Way thanks in part to the efforts of Barack Obama whose residence in the Kenwood/Hyde Park area was just round the corner from where I was staying. Locals joked with me that Trump has suspended the Obama's security unit - but the truth seems to be that he isn't living there at the moment. Nice joint by the way Barack!

My ride to The Warehouse was a diamond of a lady called Maybelle who told me she was a long-standing friend of Kanye's mother and was at high-school with Minnie Ripperton and Chaka Khan. House music wasn't her thing but she said but her daughters had liked it. Maybelle told me that Farrakhan lived, and Mohammed Ali had lived, a block from the Obamas. Nice.

I should have probably taken a snapshot of the "Frankie Knuckles Way" road-sign - I only discovered this tidbit later after combing through these great articles about the Warehouse. What isn't made abundantly clear is that the same building was also where the Warehouse promoter Robert Williams installed Ron Hardy's "Muzik Box" after Knuckles graduated to more mainstream clubs. Yeah, I mean like WTF, the Warehouse and The Muzik Box were in the same building! Vibrations.

What's happening there now? Well your roving cub reporter can authoritatively reveal it is now the home of, on the left, The Law Services of Daniel Q Herbert Associates and, on the right, Benefit Services Plus, Inc.

Logan Hardware, Chicago





Bric-a-Brac, Chicago