on music beyond mainstream


2014 21 Dez

Travel time: time travel

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In Düsseldorf I think it’s called the U-Bahn. In Glasgow it’s called the Subway. In London, the Underground. In Paris and Newcastle it’s called the Metro.

I don’t know what the Barcelona one is called, but I travelled on it once, in another millennium. So long ago that that its stations were plastered with advertising for the film Trainspotting – and in that fact a mild warm irony passed me right by at the time. Trainspotting in the Barcelona Subterranean. The film Trainspotting (in places quite literally) is more u-bend than U-Bahn. And in the Barcelona Subterranean, collecting train ID numbers is no pastime.

Train travel and time travel: two fun subjects. Maybe one day I’ll go on NYC’s infrastructure. A new exhibition by photographer Danny Lyons looks mindblowing – link here and exhibit info here. It’s all in the ordinary. Diane Arbus this ain’t. You can almost hear the insects in these photographs. Genius.

Underground railways may just be tunnels and electricity, but they add a layer to the cities who built them. Suddenly your connectivity drops, and your map loses its topography, and submits to colourful schema instead. Every single trip on a Subway system is (or should be) a reason to be cheerful.

2014 20 Dez

Me singing

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This is me singing. Singing a Joy Division song (with altered words) back in 2007. Tempus fugit, and no mistake. Lyrics:

Yes to the centre of the city where all roads meet waiting for you


And the depths of an ocean where all hope sank
Searching for you

I was running thru the silence without motion waiting for you

And I am like a ghost by the window in the corner.
I found truth

MP3 file here.

  1. Aphex Twin – Xmas_Evet10 [120][Thanaton3 Mix]
  2. Harold Budd – Jane 16 (For Pale Saints)
  3. Charcoal Owls – He’s Always In There
  4. Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band – Down River
  5. Aphex Twin – minipops 67 [120.2]
  6. Russell Haswell & PAIN JERK – Electroacoustic Sludge Dither Transformation Smear Grind Decomposition nO!se File Exchange Mega Edit
  7. Claude Debussy – The Snow Is Dancing
  8. Edgard Varese – Octandre III: Grave
  9. The Style Council – Our Favourite Shop
  10. Korrupt Data – Cryogene
  11. Harald Grosskopf – Emphasis
  12. Terrence Parker – Saved Forever
  13. Hieroglyphic Being and the Configurative or Modular Me Trio- Strange Signs In The Skye
  14. Rustie – Velcro
  15. Squarepusher/Z-Machines – Sad Robot Goes Funny

2014 19 Dez

Songs of 2014 (top 15)

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  1. Charcoal Owls – Wild Cards
  2. Coldplay – Midnight
  3. Ghostface Killah – Love don’t Live Here No More
  4. Eno/Hyde – Daddy’s Car
  5. Young Fathers – Just Another Bullet
  6. YG – My N****
  7. Simple Minds – Blood Diamonds
  8. Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
  9. The Style Council – It Didn’t Matter
  10. Sun Kil Moon – Ben’s My Friend
  11. The Durutti Column – The Rest of a Life
  12. The Twilight Sad – Last January
  13. DJ Mustard – Down on Me
  14. Peter Murphy – The Rose
  15. Daft Punk – Da Funk

“It is illegal to cross German pedestrian crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. Offenders risk a fine and payment of all costs in the event of an accident.”


In the UK, I look at the traffic ‘stop’ light rather than the pedestrian ‘go’ light to inform my road-crossing decisions. I guess the problem is that with unfamiliar lights at unfamiliar angles, you mistake one for the other. Anarchic though the UK may seem, it has a very low rate of road traffic mortality – arguably the lowest in the world. Probably down to the fact that the cities’ roads are so choked that nothing passes faster than about 4 miles an hour. I once spent £17 on a taxi from Euston to Liverpool Street that took over 45 minutes. 3 miles, if that. Could have made the journey on foot in around the same time.

The incident happened on Jülicher Straße, Düsseldorf, April 2013. I crossed the road. A BMW beeped so loudly and insistently that I knew immediately I’d done something wrong. Broken some crucial rule. Blasphemed in the church of the place where the tyre meets the tarmac. Embarrassment poured into my soul like a the contents of a boiling saucepan knocked off a stove, (or some equally daft simile).

In the UK, the BMW beeper would have just seen me through the rearview mirror either shrugging “what gives?” or (more likely) flicking the V-sign. Just an ordinary set-to, no offence taken or given, despite the beep and the V-sign. On Jülicher Straße, though, I just swallow my sharp momentary discomfort and walk the fuck on.

Some time later (the next day, I think it was) I am in Derendorf, and I walk past this scene:

And I laugh. And no motor beeps back.

2014 14 Dez

Sueño escoces

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2014 6 Dez

21 thru 30 + an N.B.

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21. The Seer of Cosmic Visions by Hieroglyphic Being and the Configurative or Modular Me Trio (Planet Mu)
22. A Better Tomorrow by Wu Tang Clan (Warner Bros.)
23. Benji by Sun Kil Moon (Caldo Verde)
24. 10 Summers by DJ Mustard (Virgin EMI)
25. The Last Transmission by The Heliocentrics and Melvin Van Peebles (Now Again)
26. Faith In Strangers by Andy Stott (Modern Love)
27. Chronicle LX:XL by The Durutti Column (Kooky)
28. Dead by Young Fathers (Big Dada)
29. Der Fünfte Himmel by Asmus Tietchens (Bureau B)
30. Will To Be Well by Dalhous (Blackest Ever Black)


(N.B. I am buying my copy of the David Sylvian record today. Fnac in Paris didn’t stock it. Not that it would feature in the 2014 list anyway, now that I think about it. If it’s anything like his previous four albums, it exists in a space far beyond my capacity for lists.)

2014 26 Nov

In Paris …

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… smoking kills. Maybe not as efficiently as a nuclear bomb, but easier on the wallet and a lot more fun. Only 7 Euro a packet from the local Tabac. Notice how the Marlboro name is now a ghost on the front of the box – it’s embossed there, but no black typeface. In the UK, the box says “SMOKING SERIOUSLY [line break] DAMAGES HEALTH”. Well, sorry UK government, but I have never smoked “seriously”. I smoke unseriously, with a smile. In fact some days I don’t smoke at all. But “Fumer tue” somehow sounds more threatening. Maybe I’ll stop. For a few hours, anyway.




In the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris this afternoon it’s not Marlboro that kills me, but a painting by Miklós Bokor. I noted the title mentally as “The Impossibility of Existence” but am now unable to find it on Google. I spent a full ten minutes staring at it. (The painting in the Musée, that is, not Google.). It interests me how an abstract work can have such an emotional effect when you know nothing about its story. Paris’s Musée d’Art is of course known for being home to Raoul Dufy’s La Fée Électricité, which is colossal in scale, but it was Bokor that kicked a hole in the cosmos for me today.



The Lowry gallery in Salford is part of a gleaming waterfront development that also houses what is probably the biggest agglomeration of media offices outside of London. From some angles you’d think you were in MedienHafen Düsseldorf or the London Docklands. Old Trafford is not far off though – whose big red Manchester United sign glowing in the northern dusk is a reminder that the waterfront here isn’t built on the banks of the Rhine or the Thames, but the Manchester Ship Canal.

Maybe it’s the contrast between this brave new high rise city-within-a-city and the content of Lowry’s art, but when you see this artist’s work in this location it would be difficult not to react emotionally to it. When I was there earlier today, one work in particular had me transfixed. A simple pencil sketch of an industrial landscape. (You can view it here. But it doesn’t translate to digital that well.) In the centre left of the picture are two cooling towers, and behind them, two chimneys – one vertiginously tall, the other not so tall. But the emissions from the cooling towers have blocked out the visibility of the middle section of both chimneys. So you’re left with the upper third of these structures looking like they float a couple of hundred feet in the  smudged grey air. The chimney to the right looks as if it’s wearing a stovepipe hat – like Isambard Kingdom Brunel used to wear. Like a captain of industry recast as smoke-spewing automaton. LS Lowry is, of course, known principally for his artworks having loads of people in them. This one is more like dispersal zone – everyone’s inside the industrial infrastructure, working themselves (probably literally) to death. So maybe when you view this work in the context of LS Lowry’s oeuvre as a whole, you anthropomorphise them chimneys. If you really study the picture, though, there are two discernible human figures in there – but they are ghostlike and faded, an almost cynical presence – but it’s your guess as to where the cynicism comes from, or whose it is. The sketch is a work of complete fucking genius. Just wow. Wow. Coincidentally, I’d been looking at some Piranesi etchings on the internet just yesterday – and I’m no art critic (as the above proves) but I see something in them that’s similar. Piranesi shows the mathematical workings, Lowry examines their effect on the 20th Century English soul. You cannot come away from either Piranesi or Lowry without feeling that art is – above all – loads of great fun.

Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave is the new album by The Twilight Sad. When I put the CD into the CD player, for a few seconds it sounded like the amp was fucked. I actually had to remove the thing and put it into another CD player just to check. There aren’t many records that make you assume your audio equipment’s fucked – and it’s always a good sign. It means that the recording’s been properly thought out, an optical illusion for the ears. Trompe l’oreille?

Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave is housed in artwork that isn’t dissimilar to the band’s previous recordings.Images that ask questions, showing narratives occluded by the snap of an imaginary camera shutter. Moments lost in time.  On this one it’s pictures that have the feel of comic strip frames, frames that depict moments on the periphery of heavy events. In one disturbing image, a figure falls backwards arms spanned, in a park. Not the bloody cross on top of Calvary or a dream home heartache in Malibu: some ordinary small town in some hinterland. Emotional impalement in a colourless everyday setting.

Musically speaking this – to my ears at least – is a heavy deal. The vocal treatments are astounding – it’s like listening to the regrets of someone that has recently died, in a swirl of tonality that manages to place the voice in a location where it never sounds like complaint. Grunge this ain’t.  And each successive listen reveals more. What we have here is a parallel universe – an audibly Scottish one. But it’s got no tang of Edinburgh Castle or Buchanan Street. It’s its own thing. Dark, half-rural, universal, monochrome, desperate, controlled, anguished – but invigorating and very alive. Like Lowry’s graphite industrial nano-cosmos or Piranesi’s metal mathematical ultraworld, this record is a black and white winner.


SYRO’s packaging (see picture below) is amusing. It looks like a lengthy supermarket receipt, and breaks down the retail price of the release into very small bits. Apparently, my 12 quid (or whatever it was, maybe a tenner) included these contributions towards the following:

£0.08256 for the disc itself
£0.00133 for journalist travel expenses between Paris and London
£1.0989 for royalty to Richard 50%

Among the 200+ things listed in the itemization, none of them appears to be a joke. But there is a sense of play here. Are we meant to guess the price of a Eurostar ticket from Gare du Nord to St Pancras, add in the expensive breakfasts served on the train, plus maybe a taxi fare from King’s Cross to the location of an interview? And then divide this by £0.00133 to arrive at the magical number of the initial print run? I know I won’t – but hey, that’s just me.

The record itself is immune to reviews. Words just seem to bounce off it. Some have valiantly given it a shot, though, and here are a few of my favourite bits from reviews:


Addictive surround-sound electro-funk
(Adam Workman, The National, United Arab Emirates)


The physical act of reviewing Aphex Twin has often been the sonic equivalent of describing a hitherto-undiscovered chemical element
(The National, UAE)


Almost plays like a greatest hits set
(Mike Diver, Clash magazine)
(Note: I like this quote as I have no idea – none! – what that actually means,
which is a good thing, I reckon!)


… imagine the world of music as a Gotham-like city with all its players and fakers, but now, here, instead of the Batman logo projected above the rooftops we have RDJ’s grinning face. A not exactly benign presence
(Amazon UK reviewer)


I love records that are impossible to describe, because it tests your abilities of description to the limit. It also means you have to dispense with trusty old standbys like comparison to another artist. Either you get it or you don’t. If you do, you can’t say quite why you do. And if you don’t you’re like “there’s nothing to get”.

This is how I would review SYRO.

On first listen it sounded dense. By the tenth listen (out of about 15 or 16 listens so far) it was making less sense every time I heard it. Compositions seem to start about a third of the way through. Old music making equipment sounds seem to have been recorded using old recording equipment, then had some (not all) of the dust wiped off with newer technology, so it sounds both retro and now at the same time, and neither. So far, so fucking weird.

Dense as in layered and detailed. Not dense as in inaccessible. I’m fairly sure four of the tracks are actually two versions of two tracks each. Maybe, maybe not.

A really, truly, great and amazing work is SYRO. Maybe in around ten years or so I will have a proper review ready. For now, this is a journey into synaesthesic sound, short-span time travel and strange corridor dreams that you don’t remember the next morning but instead form a generalised part of consciousness. And if that sounds pseudy, just wait for my review of the next one.


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