one faint deluded smile

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Some Questions About Hats

Mystical Beast talks about Slapp Happy with a false lead just to trick all those Neil Murray fans out there. You may also read my page (on what surely must be the greatest pop band of all time) if you have the desire or the will or the stomach.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

not maxed out yet

Where I continue finding music to listen to...

A Girl Called Eddy: Does the rest of the world (bar these antipodes) stock the non-alcoholic drink "Clayton's Tonic"? Do other countries use "clayton's" in the way we very often do, referring back to the brands original advertising - "the drink you have when you're not having a drink"? If not then they're really missing out on a very exciting way of discussing A Girl Called Eddy. She is the Aimee Mann we can have whilst Aimee's finishing off her next masterpiece. As you'd expect, AGCE's lyrics aren't quite as touching and her melody's aren't quite as memorable but it's still quite likeable if lacking any real punch.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw: A guy from Neural Milk Hotel doing slightly off-putting wacky psychedelic music. Lots of banjo and accordion and organ and so on brushed with some light electronics. Gave me a headache last time I listened to it - not conducive to re-listening.

Adam and the Ants - Dirk Wears White Sox / Kings of the Wild Frontier: These have just been re-issued and the reviews all pointed to a belated critical elevation above the level of well crafted and supremely advertised pop rock. One of my only real brushes with the famous came when I stood next to guitarist Marco Pirroni at the Wag Club in London in 1984. He was all dressed up in his ant finery and had a couple of lovely ladies hanging on his arms. He was also surprisingly tall. The club (and the hip parts of London) were in a big band jazz fixation at the time so Marco hung around for a few minutes while "Take The A Train" was doing it's business, looking completely bemused until he and his entourage left in a huff. BTW, one or two good songs on 2 cds indicates to me that my initial impressions were on target - "Ant Music" is still a fantastic song.

Carla Bley - Social Studies / Mike Mantler and Carla Bley - 13 and 3/4: We're getting into the area where you can see them drifting up their own backsides (although some would say that was always the case). Social Studies shows a noticeable decline in inventiveness although it still has many of the qualities I like about her work. 13 and 3/4 is very, very solemn composers at work, thank you very much.

Buffalo Daughter - Pshychic: The one, great, great track (Cyclic) mixes spaced out Gong-like synths with minimalist organ repetitions and the rhythm guitar style used by Heart or The Runaways. Then it adds a vocal line slightly reminiscent of "White Lines" but sung by a Brazilian pop star. The rest don't quite meet this odd-ball mark but it's a wonderful find none-the-less.

JJ Cale - To Tulsa and Back: Cale's slowed-down, back-porch take on roots music was a constant among the surfers and dope heads in 70's Australia. Therefore, I hated it without even thinking about it. But, as with many of the bands I forcefully detested at the time, I've come to acknowledge their melodic craftmanship if nothing else. Nothing much has changed musically for JJ in the intervening 30 years - here you find the easy backwoods shuffle, the mumbled drawl that constitutes his singing style and the no frills classy musicianship. The lyrics are mostly appalling but I can ignore them quite easily. All in all it's much better than the current crop of roots musos like Ben Harper and the millions like him.

Campag Velocet - It's Beyond Our Control: Slightly avant UK rock band with an abiding love for A Clockwork Orange. The shouty vocals get in the way and the songs remind me of too many other English bands but they do it all with style. I don't know if that means I like it.

Dogs Die In Hot Cars - Please Describe Yourself: As per Campag except they don't go on about ACO and utilise a reggae beat every so often. Absolutely annoying.

Bill Fay - Time of the Last Persecution: Another hard done by singer/songwriter from the early 70s whose output is only now being re-discovered (at least by me). A thin voice over non-standard song structures and up-front string arrangements with a slightly psychedelic feel. A 'grower' as they say.

Bobbie Gentry - Chickasaw County Child: I knew "Ode to Billie Joe" and "Fancy" from my earliest transistor listening in the late 60s but this comp is a real revelation. The country soul stuff is all wonderfull, ranging from the semi-talked epics, though lovely string filled ballads and onto R&B / rock stompers. Unfortunately, it's obvious that her producers felt the need to make every secound song follow the template of Ode but we can only try to forgive their venality. This also includes examples of her earlier crooner / folk-pop material which is less interesting but still quite excellent in parts.

Philip Glass - 600 Lines: 2 pieces of harsh minimalism from 1968. Almost too brutally rigid for their own good.

The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me: The music is pretty much standard Chicago rock - hey, just what we all need: more descendants of The Stooges and The MC5. But the vocals are a cross between the stream of consciousness poetry of Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings and the bleary rantings of Denis Leary.

Holy Modal Rounders - 4 releases: Sorry, I just don't get it. I know they're favourites of many people but, come on, it's all a joke, isn't it?

Klang - No Sound Is Heard: The new band for ex-Elastica guitarist Donna Matthews. A stripped down take on indie with new wave twists and a penchant for the weird flourish. Excellent stuff from someone who, by all accounts, should be long gone.

Langley School's Music Project: What seemed like a good idea for the single track I'd heard wears very thin over a full length cd.

The Lilys: A tinge of R.E.M., a tweak of Rain Parade and a pinch of The Church. Mix with Brit-pop. Results may be a bit flat.

Terry Reid - Seed Of Memory: Fairly interesting blues rock singer / songwriter with a easy style, good songs and lovely musicianship. Sort of like Free or similar bands. He played live with the Stones and was asked to sing for Led Zeppelin but he pushed Plant at them instead. Seemingly not bitter at all.

Reigning Sound - Too Much Guitar: I agree.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Le Jazz Hot

I was playing "Musique Mechanique" in the car a few days ago. My partner Annette asked who it was and I told her the truth: it was indeed Carla Bley, a name that immediately brings up loathing in her spine. Bley's over the top, melodic rock-jazz-opera "Escalator Over The Hill" was on seemingly endless repeats when she shared a house with our friend Steve many years ago. Unfortunately, in between this he also played noisy improv by Bailey, Benninck, Frith et al and so the pain given by these masters of "tin cans down an alleyway" was mutated into a abhorrence of Bley as well. Mind you, hearing Escalator... more than once a month would probably drive me into an insane rage.

She looked puzzled for a minute or two and then asked me "If you hate jazz so much, why do you like this"? And that's a very good question to which I had no immediate answer [except some ridiculous guff I tried to make up on the spot, fooling myself that I knew all the reasons, even if I couldn't explain them verbally].

I do dislike jazz. There's no getting around that very basic fact. I think it's the displays of musical 'chops' that sticks in my guts so much - the self congratulatory smiles as the applause wells up yet again after another tiresome, lengthy solo; the condescending tone that the musicians and fans use for those who "just don't get it"; the reliance upon technique as the be-all and end-all to some sort of nirvana. However, I'm not too blinkered to know that there are jazz players who transcend the problems that I have with the genre. I can listen to them and understand why someone may want to stand up, clap their hands vigorously and show some appreciation. But overall their output still doesn't connect to me like other music does. I own a few Miles Davis releases and a Bill Evans Trio or two (and a few Bley and Mantler) but that's about it, really. I don't listen to them very often.

But I do own a lot of records where jazz tinges are added to the mix. The Pentangle are a prime example (or any other folk band / singer with Danny Thompson on bass, really). I dislike folk music almost as much as I dislike jazz but combine the two and I immediately fall for it. Pop + jazz: fantastic - Everything But The Girl at their highest career point made me swoon. All those 50's and 60's crooners like Sinatra, Martin and Julie London wouldn't exist at all if the music didn't have jazz elements. Jazz-rock: without The Soft Machine and early Henry Cow the shape of my own small creations would have been vastly different. My much-loved lounge music (Baxter, Esquivel, etc) is basically jazz that has been strictly controlled, flattened and parsed into easily digestible catch phrases. And that's exactly what I adore about it.

Carla Bley's music is a bit like this as well (or, at least, the 70s releases are). There's a weird, non-jazz quality to her writing that appeals to me. Maybe it's the addition of rock band elements that twist the music away from straight jazz. Maybe it's the strict control of orchestration that manages to get rid of the "free" elements of jazz which I find so annoying. Under the soloists there is still a big brass-laden band reading music and playing the notes exactly how she wants them to be played.

I can just imagine her with a ruler, whacking Gato Barbieri on the fingers if he dared to play one note longer than expected. He would answer simperingly "s-s-s-sorry Ms Bley. I won't do it again" and then blubber uncontrollably into his sax.

Monday, August 09, 2004


There's always a lot of criticism of Pitchfork Media and it's sometimes deserved but in the past week it's had at least 2 terrific things:

Firstly there's another fantastic review by Dominique Leone, this time on the new Fripp and Eno CD. It manages to be enthusiastic but deftly critical and shows an understanding of their work that most other reviews have lacked. It also puts my thoughts about it in their rightful place - eager amateurism.

Then there's possibly the best of the recent interviews with Matt and Eleanor of the Fiery Furnaces which finds them in a talkative mood and is full of their trademarks jokes and spitefull sibling interplay.

Good work, PFM. Rating: 8.56789342

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Drowning In Sounds

I feel that i'm way over the edge with acquiring new recordings. Last month i wrote down the names of anything new that looked like it might even vaguely interest me and / or was something i'd missed from way back when. And got them. Completely ridiculous; there is no point, surely, in getting this much music.

Except, ofcourse, that there's some fantastic things in the bunch...

oren ambarchi - grapes from the estate
as always - "how can this be made by a guitar".

appliance - are you earthed?
i sort of liked their 1st album but thought it was too slavishly motorik for it's own good. this sounds less krautrock and so the vocals are more prominent somehow, making comparisons to other UK groups a bit more obvious. they are no more but this was a good finale.

biosphere - autour de la lune
deep, humming vibrating bass with swirling mid range loops and occassional high pitched mini-chords with shifting frequencies. i loved the tones as soon as i put it on and the reminiscences to the very, very first synth piece i ever commited to tape helps as well - although, ofcourse, this is much more refined than my Roland SH-3 masterpiece. another 'band' to scrutinise thoroughly.

carla bley band - musique mechanique
michael mantler - hide and seek
nick mason's fictitious sports - nick mason's ficticious sports
the bley family in all it's glory. MM was the last carla album i recall with any fondness. it has an infectious, happy quality that belies the title's intent. my favourite sections are where the band stops and piano does a few short solo breaks - like all the band members have a go at in Roxy Music's Remake/Remodel. the nick mason was supposedly a label cash-in on the popularity of pink floyd at the time but, instead, it's all written by CB and has some great moments including robert wyatt's clear singing and chris spedding's riffing on the 1st track. i think H&S is the most recent mantler release and it's not as depressingly obtuse as some of his earlier pieces. still can't write a melody for quids, though.

robert fripp - exposure ; god save the queen / under heavy manners ; let the power fall ; radiophonics (soundscapes vol 1) ; that which passes (soundscapes vol 3)
after enjoying the new Fripp and Eno so much I thought I should give Fripp's solo work another try. a lot of this stuff is Frippertronics based and some of it works spectacularly well - let the power fall especially - whilst some is a bit more genericly ambient to me - radiophonics et al. exposure is his first (?) solo LP and it's a mix of looping, mid 70s Crimson metal and some awfull rock songs. uneven but that guitar sound still draws me back.

the danielson famile - fetch the compass kids ; tri danielson volume 1 (alpha) ; tri danielson volume 2 (omega) ; brother danielson - brother is to son
that voice can kill an infant, i'm sure. maybe that's his reason for existing? it is an acquired taste but then: i like weird voices. give me dagmar, banhart, newsome and david thomas over anyone with a less screeching style. this doesn't mean that i like everything the famile puts out by any stretch of the imagination. every release has at least one terrific track but their overall effect is lessened by too many changes in songs and, yes, too much of that voice.

brian eno - here come the warm jets ; another green world ; before and after science
There's very little I can say about these records that is new or insightfull as they're simply a deep, deep part of my early interest in music. I just can't stand back from them at all: I still play them all the time. Instead read K-Punk's excellent stuff on Eno and Glam and Close Your Eye's look at HCtWJ. However, I can talk about the remastering job endlessly (until all consciousness is wiped from the readers gaze). I acquired the remastered Taking Tiger Mountain a while back and was particularly underwhelmed with the sound. These aren't that much better although AGW does hint at the hidden depths people keep talking about. Maybe it's just my ears but I really can't hear much difference between these and the 80s release cds. Although I can understand Simon Heyworth's attitude - very, very carefull digital transfer with the best equipment and nothing else - the fact remains that there is a LOT of tape hiss. And tape hiss just gets worse over the years. A little bit of noise reduction would have made a difference... and some extra tracks too.

donovan - sunshine superman ; hurdy gurdy man
another 60s artist whose work i never really explored and, yet again, they're full of great things. why did i wait till they were 40 years old before i investigated them? i can vaguely remember the singles from my crystal set days, sitting awkwardly on the fence with the 'aerial' attached to the metal roof of the neighbour's garage, but that's about it. his voice is clear and the words are precisely sung and there's a rich tone springing up from time to time. maybe the best psychedelic pop of the 60s? seems like it to me at the moment.

pinback - summer in abaddon
most bands have a style of music writing that they stick to throughout their lifetime. pinback are no different but the very things that appealed to me on their 1st releases - carefull note positioning and bass / guitar interplay - are now so dully re-examined on their new one that you wonder if they have any other ideas at all.

and i have very little to say about these ones...

pink grease - this is for real : supposedly glam but more garage rock to me
savath and savalas - apropa't : thanks mark
sigur ros - () ; von brigdi : i enjoyed the new ep so here's the others
sufjan stevens - a sun came (2nd edition) : not as great as i'd hoped
supergrass - life on other planets : definitely the final throes
various artists - country got soul volume 2 : a few wonderfull deep voiced talking tracks
the bees - free the bees
the fiery furnaces - demos / live london 2003
eastley / toop - doll creature
belle and sebastian - books ep / live @ black sessions
essra mohawk - primordial lovers MM
margo guryan - 25 demos
the concretes - the concretes

Sunday, August 01, 2004


There's only one good article in the June 2004 issue of Uncut magazine (which has yet another Beatle on the cover, god save us). It's in the "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" section where journo's write up a page of salacious real life gossip regarding stars they've met. This time it's by editor Allan Jones and is all about John Martyn and the famed concert which was finally released as Live At Leeds.

The general gist of the story is as follows... Martyn, bassist Thompson and guest guitarist Kossoff are all extremely pissed before the concert and the aggression level is very high. Kossoff gropes a woman, is bashed by the boyfriend but tells the others that a gang did it. So being a sort of gang themselves they rush out to do a little bashing themselves. When they realise it was just one bloke, Martyn turns around and punches Kossoff in the face with Thompson following up with a whack to the side of his head. Then, somehow, they get on stage and play a gorgeous, gentle long piece of jazz/folk/ambient that belies their general antagonism to everything. However, after the concert, Kossoff breaks a bottle over Martyn's head so he proceeds to bash Kossoff mercilessly until he "opens the door, blood all over the front of his shirt, holding Kossoff like laundry, which he then drops to the floor and kicks".

Now this is the same man whose mild mannered songs from around this time are just plain spectacular. "Solid Air" is one of my favourite albums with it's deep, booming acoustic bass and half mumbled, somnambulistic vocals. So it's strange to hear that he had a violent fucked up side. I'd known that 'he liked a drink' as his display at Wollongong University in late 70s readily testified and I had heard some other things about his hostility but it still comes as a shock to know that beautiful music can still be created by someone with so much violence in them.