on music beyond mainstream


The Redeemer got a few spins in my CD player when it was released, but for some reason it’s become a mild obsession over the past week or so. It’s a very focussed work – you find yourself listening to it in its entirety rather than as a 5 shuffle jumble (i.e. what most albums are – only 5 tunes are ripped because only half the album is worth eartime, then they get played out of order because, well … fuck order).

Where was I? Oh yeah: focus and order. The Redeemer seems to tell a story. The lyrics allude to a break-up. The pain being expressed seems new, acute, intolerable, and crashes in waves over the main character (if it is a character: I guess I mean, the speaker/singer of the words/lyrics. Which aren’t documentary, and therefore – even if ‘true’ still can’t by their nature be un-fictive).

A strong sense off absence clouds the record, voicemail messages pop up here and there (some rendered largely incomprehensible due to volume or background noise) but the picture is clear: people at the jump-off point in the process of estrangement not speaking directly to each other, using machines instead. Cold mean unsoft machines. It’s a great counterpoint to the record’s skillful mix of sadness, possible depression, anger, regret, and slight madness. I don’t mean clinical madness, I mean the good madness, I mean “a bit bonkers”. Like, Sparks are/were bonkers. Devo were just annoying. I guess that’s the difference between being bonkers and otherwise.

There are few albums that you can open up and get into like a novel. In fact, other than The Redeemer, I can only think of two offhand: one is “Spiritualized’s “Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”. A very real story that isn’t social realism that takes you inside the mind of a junkie falling in love, getting his heart broken, then teetering right on the edge of an o.d. The question of whether he dies or not is left open. The other novel-album is Ghostface Killah’s “Fishscale”, a multi-threaded story about a group of drug dealers – part novel, part graphic novel, part opera, part comedy skit – and complete fucking genius.

The Redeemer doesn’t end on a note of hope. An automated voice says “You’ve no more messages”. Is it my imagination or is the automated voice saying this with an almost imperceptible note of disdain?


2015 24 Jan

Desert Island Celtic 10

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1. Promenade – U2
2. Ship of Fools – John Cale
3. If It Really Is Me – Polygon Window
4. The Sky And The Ground – Pierce Turner
5. Did Ye Get Healed? – Van Morrison
6. Into The Valley – The Skids
7. Sheepshagger – Niall Griffiths
8. A Monk Swimming – Malachy McCourt
9. Working Class Hero – John Lennon
10. Riches – Deacon Blue

There are 6 Celtic nations. Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. I guess if you were born in Ireland to Welsh parents, brought up in Cornwall and resident in Scotland, I guess you’d know what it feels like to be a Celt. Would it show up in your music? The edge of Europe, the constant weather fronts moving in from the Atlantic, making rain not bad weather, just weather.

Some reviews appeared – but it’s difficult to know what is being said.

The breakbeat backings are now heftily blokeish where before they were disciplined and junglist … If Syro was an inquisitive artificial intelligence, scurrying this way and that on neat and pointless tasks, then Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 is like the organic consciousness it was drawn from, its owner now tinkering with jigsaws in a retirement home … It’s pretty damning when one of the most arresting tracks on your EP is a 17-second snare drum solo.

Mostly, though, you suspect Richard D James makes this sort of music as a challenge – to his audience, and to himself. On those terms, it succeeds admirably.

Me, I don’t like this EP. I love it. Even if I didn’t, it still sounds like an artist who knows exactly what they’re doing. In many ways it’s far more accessible than the critically praised (but probably equally misunderstood) SYRO, some of whose modulations are so totally bonkers that they make less sense on each successive listen. This new EP is stuff with easily discernible patterns in it. Jazz with no swing. And no aural kaleidoscope going on. Avantneojazztastic improvised waste disposal system dreck this assuredly ain’t. Does it sound Celtic? To me, it does – more so than Tristan und Isolde, at any rate – which is a Celtic classic in its own right, of course.

The sky is indifferent. Almost to the point that, if you concentrate on its indifference, you feel something a bit like travel sickness. Maybe it’s its limitlessness. Have you ever wanted to go to space? You’re already there. In the suburbs of barred spiral galaxy.

Under this indifferent sky, the intertidal zone holds more hope. It is a relief from the infiniteness and the greyness above. An indistinct low hill is partially obscured by sand dunes. There is a narrow band of gold midway between the beach and the horizon, but it makes no sense, since the cloud cover is complete. Maybe there is a break in the cloud somewhere far off, and the sunlight is bouncing off a lake.

It’s impossible to tell what time it is, or even what time of year it is. Maybe in the early afternoon sometime close to an equinox. My guess would be the autumn equinox. There’s a stillness, an alive kind of deadness in the air. A hope.

It’s high tide, but the water isn’t crashing. It’s shallow, and unnaturally blue given that a) this is the Atlantic Ocean at its shallowest. Step in and you would be lucky if your ankles got wet. Also b) the sky is grey, so why is the water blue? Maybe perception is partly projection – some tricking, well-meaning part of the brain has coloured the water blue when it isn’t. This is a form of automatic magic.

There’s a low wooden dinghy, a beach hut and a dog. The dinghy has a small indecipherable name plate. The dog is obviously not wandering. Its attention is fixed on something within its line of vision. Its expression is dog-like: hyper-attentive, slightly comedic.

The beach hut is largely non-mysterious. It presents no narrative. The only thing it does is ask you to project whatever you can, since there’s so little to perceive. For me (and probably only me) it says two things. One, ‘my door is closed but unlike an advent calendar, there’s nothing inside, or if there is, it’s mundane stuff – maybe a pair of old lime green flip-flops that aren’t going to get worn again, and maybe a mass market paperback book with sand in its leaves’.

Two, ‘I look a bit like one of those hellfire and brimstone churches you sometimes see in Scotland, whose congregation numbers fewer than ten, which is just as well because there’s no more space for more believers here’. The roof is apex, not pent. And you can almost see a mascot there. Is it a small, black Jesus? A displace Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy? Who Knows? Fuck knows …

The sun is singing sparkles
On the gutters of Hackney down on me
And the canals are the sweetest cut of all
Deep and and grey like blue snakes
Like bruises
And the weeds explode like dreadlocks turning architecture to dust

Doing spacewalks thru Lewsisham at 2am

Through the checkerwork of leaves, the moon flung spangles, dancing coins

All the trees in the park stood up and started dancing
Naked and excited in a luminous bliss
And all the billboards
On the bus, they shouted:
Better start running
Salvation is coming

I go slipping away

And your perfume was the best thing that happened all day

People take drugs
Fuck up their lives
Kiss butterflies
Kiss it goodbye
Broken mornings
Too late to die
Make a decision,
Change your life

Life erupts
All around us

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron

And iron ablaze
with that mountain to climb
And a world to save

I’ve got pockets full of solutions to the world
I’ve got barbecues
Like footballs perched on green glass balconies
Where dereliction used to fester
Where the coffee bars spread
And weak lights flicker eternal

Are you still bowling around after dark?
Blowing your slope and hope in the wind
I lit a little fire from your chimney spark

It’s by the light of the plasma screens we keep switched on all through the night while we sleep

Dancing on the graves of le Corbusier’s dreams
Concrete boulevards
Laughter from the sun
Trellick Tower, Bayswater blind man
All across the network, always on windy stations
Graceland, Alaska, New Orleans

The night slips

Suburban Knight – The Worlds (Transmat)
Moodymann – Misled (planet e)
Underground Resistance – Punisher (UR)
Rhythim is Rhythim – It is what it is (Transmat)
Model 500 – No UFOs (Metroplex)
Drexciya – Take Your Mind (UR)
UR Presents Galaxy 2 Galaxy – Windchime (UR)
Jeff Mills – Berlin (Tresor)
MK – Somebody New (KMS)
John Beltran – Morning at the Window (Delsin)
Blake Baxter – When we used to play (KMS)
Robert Hood – Analog track (Ghost) (M-Plant)
World Power Alliance – The Seawolf (UR)


2015 17 Jan

The Rogue Film School

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“The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as a bouncer in a sex club or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense for poetry. For those who can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within.

For those who have a dream.

Next Seminar
Los Angeles, January 20-23, 2012
Location tbc”

So the next seminar ia two years ago at an unspecified location? I guess Werner knows how to attract time travelling psychics. People who really can direct.

Your head’s like mine, like all our heads: big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there! But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over. The world turns our key and we play the same little tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are.

The wires are down. The wires are down. Nothing works here anymore. The road is so quiet now, the day was all blue and broken. When I held you I was strong, but I held you too long.

Stars were falling across the sky myriad and random, speeding along brief vectors from their origins in night to their destinies in dust and nothingness.

Heckling sparrows, vast electron cloud of gnats on windless water.

Quand on n’a plus rien en soi, quand on n’a plus de refuge,
Quand on ne peut plus fuir – quand on ne sais où courrir,
Noir comme la nuit, oui, noir comme mon âme.
Noir comme les eaux – dans lesquelles je sombre.

I took one Draught of Life —
I’ll tell you what I paid —
Precisely an existence —
The market price, they said

Do not expect perfection in this story.
I have never believed in the possibility of exactness.
There are no straight lines in Nature therefore only by a series of approximations
do we perceive truth.

I have tried to perceive truth through simplicity,
for simplicity is the essence of truth,
and sustains it.

And I have tried to achieve this in the knowledge and spirit
that it is not enough to earn a living but to earn a life worth living.


There has to be an age of ‘overcome’.
The systems which are,
Which are on the run to destroy
Humankind’s nation
Humankind’s inwardness
Humankind’s ability.
What for me is a true capital and which, as a side effect,
Last not least destroys nature,
And us.

2015 12 Jan

Desert Island Reggae 12

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1 Matumbi – Music In The Air
2 Keith Hudson – Civilisation
3 Gregory Isaacs – Soon Forward
4 Bim Sherman – Just Can’t Stand It
5 Linton Kwesi Johnson – Bass Culture
6 Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
7 King Tubby/Scientist – Hackney Stations
8 Steel Pulse – Babylon Makes the Rules
9 Bob Marley – Redemption Song
10 Cutty Ranks – Limb By Limb
11 Sound Iration – Holshe’s Dub
12 Jimmy Cliff – Wonderful World, Beautiful People

2015 11 Jan

21 September 2014

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