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2017 25 Apr

The Kinks

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North London, December 2002. Having no idea that 15 years later I’d time travel back to this moment via memory, I didn’t bother taking notes. What mobile phone did I have? Probably a Sagem, probably dual-band model with WAP, the shitty mobile internet precursor. What was I wearing? No idea, but I do know that (for reasons now long forgotten on account of being too silly to remember) I didn’t wear denims for a full five years between 1998 and 2003, when in 2003 bought a pair of £50 Zoo York jobs out of a skateboard shop. But this was still 2002 and that was the following summer, so I was probably wearing £12 black cargo pants from either Millets or the army surplus store. I was rocking a utilitarian look and style was not my middle name. (During those 5 years there was also a 2 year period where I didn’t have a CD player (or a record player) or a television. It was a good experiment, and you’d end up reading broadsheet newspapers and books and whatnot out of complete boredom. I especially enjoyed The Karamazov Brothers but felt that Russian doesn’t translate well into English and that what I was reading was not Dostoevski but a series of approximations that missed the poetry of the original. Same with Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin – you can get the metre but you can’t get the spirit.)

Finchley isn’t a name that means an awful lot to me. It was Margaret Thatcher’s constituency during the 1980s. I believe McDonald’s also had a „Hamburger University“ there. I think I may even have gone to gawp at the outside of it in hopes that some hamburger knowledge might seep by osmosis into my brain. And apart from occasional trips to Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington, I don’t think I’ve really ever been back to North London, good though it is, since last week. Anyway, the other Finchley sightseeing I did was to go to the Clissold Arms pub, where The Kinks had played their very first gig 39 years before – in 1963. I always liked The Kinks – and part of the reason why is their balance and subtlety. They never overdid the cheeky chappy wacky 60s bit, they never overstated anything much, never went headlong into rock with a capital R, and recorded a body of work that is always worth revisiting. The other thing they never overstated was production values. And yet, there they are. Listen to Big Sky off the Village Green album. The recording levels are turned up way too high on the drums and the guitar, but the vocals are as clear as polished glass. The drums on old Kinks records always have that elemental feel. But I wasn’t thinking about this stuff then. The record on the radio that week was „Don’t Mug Yourself“ by The Streets. One England had faded into the sepia-coloured folds of memory and another had appeared. Not on top of it, but in place of it. And it’s appropriate that „Don’t Mug Yourself“ reminds me of being at The Clissold Arms, because The Streets, remind me a bit of The Kinks – real without descending into social realism, ambient without even trying, and about as English as it gets.

North London, April 2017. Times and perspectives change. (And I’m wearing Levi 511s.) Battersea doesn’t feel like Battersea anymore – not in a good or a bad way, just different. Nine Elms is something else, it’s a physical space, yes, but, but psychogeographically it’s almost locationless, like an airport – a swirl of hope and anticipation and a question: how will it age? Battersea and Nine Elms are of course south of the Thames, but bear with me. Walk north for an hour (over Vauxhall Bridge and far away) and a half, in a straight line, and – boom – you’re in Maida Vale. And it’s preserved. Even the tube stations at Maida Vale and St Johns Wood still have the indefinable northness about them. What’s on the radio, who knows, fuck knows. Pasta at Allora on Boundary Road, maybe a limoncello or two, then home to sleep.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Nine Elms. The Jago it ain’t.

 

 
 

He: Wake up, I need you.

She: In your dreams!

 

 
 

 
 

The album Warszawa by Superfamily must be a decade old by now, and it’s not a record I’ve ever read a review of or heard anyone talk about, maybe I talked about it in the posts that went into to Papierkorb. Who knows? Fuck knows. One of the specific things I love about this record is its time travel theme. The first track is even called ‚Time Travelling‘. But you can’t make out the lyrics to that one too well as the vox are vocodered, presumably garbled during their journey through space-time.

A quick digression: if you listen to Kraftwerk’s Computer World (the title track from that LP) very closely, the lyric goes:
 

Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard
Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard
Crime, travel, communication, entertainment
Crime, travel, communication, entertainment

 
Then it goes like this:
 

Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard
Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard
Time travel, communication, entertainment
Time travel, communication, entertainment

 
And music is the perfect medium for time travellers. Kraftwerk knew this. Superfamily must have too. Anyway the other thing I love about Warszawa is that it doesn’t obscure its influences. You can hear the influence of The Killers in particular. But rather than this producing a simulacral effect, the opposite happens: the artist is free. A simulacrum is only a simulacrum if it’s unknowing or cynical. Originality is what it is, but the guarding of originality is unoriginal, as is is its curation. Warszawa is a record of its time, despite the time travel. (Tourbillon and on and on, Mireia, wherever u are.)

And then there’s a twist. A perfect denouement. The Suffering (the closing track) shifts from The Killers suddenly, gloriously, to a Daniel Lanois influence worn on its sleeve so vividly that it could be a sleeve tattoo. It’s there in the vocal presentation, the metre and the whatever the word is I’m looking for here – saudade? Eraritjaritjaka? Ghostiness? The song breaks down like this – central character heads to the city centre on a Saturday night but leaves at 8pm cos there’s „nothing new“, heads along a „sandy street“ (James Joyce reference?) to home. „First I froze and then I turned the key“. Vocoder kicks in again. For like 6 minutes. Night turns to day. The protagonist then gives us a precis of what just happened: he went home but she was gone, the lights still on in the house. And now it’s morning in a day that’s „young, grey and gold“. A big ending. No time travel though, as the closing words of the song and the LP go like this:
 
 

It’s a sin to go back in time. Move it on move it on, move it on, move it on

 
 
Then you realise this is an urge to time travel to the future, and it is why the song is fucking genius. Because living day to day is that forward movement. There is no exit. The future is that mountain.
 
 
 

 

2017 24 Mrz

Humanz

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It’s been a good week in music. Enjoying Fiction/Non-Fiction, then the new Drake mixtape appeared, with some ace tracks like Madiba Riddim (potential lifer) lovely stuff. Then 4 Gorillaz tracks appear on YouTube, complete with animated clips.

The Gorillaz tracks are affecting, especially „Andromeda“ with its joyful but fucked-up feel and repeated phrase „take it in your heart“. An intriguing mix.

So you go find an interview, and you find this: Simply put, we’re in transition, we’re turning into something else,” Albarn said of the album’s narrative. “The album kind of came from this dark fantasy. Just imagine, the weirdest, most unpredictable thing that changes everything in the world. How would you feel on that night? Would you go and get drunk? Would you stay at home? Just watch TV? Would you talk to people?

Wow.

Here is a photo picked at random to go with this post:
 
 
 

 

2017 18 Mrz

Fiction / Non Fiction

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Fiction
 
Today I was hanging out with ghosts watching ghost football in a stadium overgrown, whose greenkeeper has probably not been seen since ’67. Ghost pies, ghost Bovril, ghost match. Back of the spectre net.
 
Non-fiction
 
Today (after I was done with the ghosts) I heard Olivier Alary’s wonderful Fiction / Non-Fiction. I have no idea how I found it, or indeed who Olivier Alary is, but this was the record my ears needed. Lately I’ve been listening to bits of Trance Frendz by Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm as well as Brian Eno’s otherworldly Reflection, maybe they primed the brain for this. Listening to it is like stepping into a dream. No point in looking for meaning here or using adjectives or finding comparisons. This will be on the 2017 list for real. Lifer? Too soon to tell.
 
 
 

 
 
 

More here: 130701.com/release/fiction-non-fiction/
 

2017 18 Mrz

Metal Lifers

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Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales. Just stunning. The recording / production have never dated. Like a lot of the best metal, there’s a strong sense of humour here. A towering work of art.

Venom – Black Metal. Arguably (probably) instigated an entire genre. I’ve never read up on the history of Venom, but there has to be a punk rock influence in here – the whole enterprise is gloriously free of the past.

Motorhead – Motorhead. Apologies for the lack of Umlauts. But yeah. From start to finish, just a great record. Love the subtle use of distortion: not overstated, saying „this band is too loud for the recording apparatus“.

Slayer – Reign In Blood. It kind of didn’t get any better than this. The LP is about 24 minutes long – and it’s difficult not to love an LP that does so much in such a short space of time. It’s an exhausting listen, in much the same way as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is an exhausting read, despite being only covering about 100 pages. I’m pretty sure Seb Rochford has mentioned Slayer in interviews more than once. Maybe that’s why Acoustic Ladyland clicked first time I heard them? Who knows. Fuck knows. But that’s given me an idea. I will do a Jazz Lifers at some point.

Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden. Great tune after great tune. Not sure how metal this is though. I hear elements of prog in it, elements of the genre known as „pub rock“ (which despite the slightly pejorative connotation, was not a bad genre). The intro to Phantom of the Opera – amazing.

Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time. Tempus fugit. By now there was a different singer, and the band were very much in the metal sphere. Brilliant use of operatic vocal style in the line „tiiime is aaalways on myyy siiiide“. I think this LP is themed around time travel, but I haven’t ever read the lyric sheet so I don’t know for sure. A time travel themed metal record with a track named for an Alan Sillitoe short story. What’s not to like?

There are other records that could conceivably also fit here – 1984 (Van Halen). Surfing With The Alien (Joe Satriani), 1989 (Ryan Adams), Streetcleaner (Godflesh), Diadem of 12 Stars (Wolves In The Throne Room) and others. But where does rock end and metal begin?

2017 12 Mrz

Finding a New Lifer

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q) What’s a „Lifer“?
 
a) Something that goes into your playlist and never leaves it. Even if it’s years between listens, it’s something that never leaves you.
 
q) what is this new Lifer you found, and how did you find it?
 
a) the song is „Swap Places“, the final track from The Apartments LP No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal. I was on Amazon looking for an old Bathers CD second hand, and No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal popped up in the recommendations. It has fantastic cover art. It would have been foolish not to check out the music.
 
q) What got you about the music?
 
a) I mislike the word „authenticity“ but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Something about the vocal reminded me of The Go Betweens (whose Streets of Your Town is another Lifer of mine). After a couple of listens I looked up the band on Wikipedia and whaddya know – the guy used to be in The Go Betweens. Must be the accent made me think of it. What really got me, as well as the authenticity, was the lyrics. The situation they describe is unbearably sad and obviously not fictitious. Which dispenses with the need for metaphor or figurative language.
 

If I could do your dying for you
If I could do your dying for you
You know I’d swap places in a New York minute
The wooden box would have me in it

The opening credits of BBC’s Arena programme are imprinted in the brain of (I’d reckon) most people who grew up in the UK between the 70s and the 90s. The theme tune was beguiling, aching, mysterious, meditative, mental, transcendental. So much so that the BBC would (reportedly) receive letters every week asking what this music was, and where could they buy it?

At 1 minute 42 seconds, the BBC Arena theme tune doesn’t ever outstay its welcome. It fades in, you start to really dig it, then it fades away before your brain is sated. So you end up playing it 4, 5, 6 maybe 7 times in a row – no exaggeration. Then something interesting happens. The last 10 seconds or so of the recording are mainly silence.

But crank the volume right up just as the music fades, and there’s something there, 2 or 3 seconds of – what – is it the end of this track or the start of another? It sounds too interesting to be an outro, but it’s more or less hidden, and so quiet that sometimes you think you only imagined it. And your brain can’t help but wonder – what is out there? What’s beyond the veil? Tout est vert tout d’un coup.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Here is a picture of a hill.

Historicity is problematic. But as John Edgar Wideman once said, all stories are true. So listening to Gavin Bryars‘ „Jesus‘ Blood Never Failed Me Yet“ the story that your brain builds up around it is what it is. A fragment of found music, a handful of notes. A lost soul who duty will not track down, throwing spirit and poetry into an indifferent grey atmosphere. Arbitrarily swept onto magnetic tape, then augmented by orchestral backing some time later. Must be a hymn. Must have provenance. Must be artifice. Moondog still stands in the rain on the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. And Tom Waits was always good at found sounds and cover versions (he got to the heart of Daniel Johnston’s „King Kong“ for sure). And Waits‘ rendition of Jesus‘ Blood – fucking genius rendition – doesn’t subtract from what precedes it. It takes you back to the original, reframing it in a context outside of social realism.


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