one faint deluded smile

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tins Cans Down An Alleyway

db from the gs2 back cover

Derek Bailey died on Christmas day so I thought I'd post some of his stuff:

mp3: Praxis
mp3: The Lost Chord

These are both from the 1976 album "Guitar Solos 2" with Bailey, Fred Frith, GF Fitzgerald and Hans Reichel. DB has 3 tracks on it but I only posted 2 because... "Virginal" and "Praxis" sound like one big piece to me except for a small stop in between them. I put in "The Lost Chord" because it's an example of his dry-as-dust and sour-faced humour. A part of him that wasn't often acknowledged. For more - read the full Wire Invisible Jukebox interview at the back of Ben Watson's biography.

I've always had a problem with music that is as abstract as Bailey's - all the free improv stuff linked with Incus, etc to a certain degree. I can handle Frith's range of improvisations much better because all his tracks seems to have some sort of flow in them - an effort on his part, I believe, to impart a song-like structure to sound work. I get the same feeling from Henry Cow's improvs too.

But Bailey is more dedicated to the pure art of playing, listening, responding and asserting that is all wrapped up in free improv. And it makes the tracks appear formless or, at least, my mind can't handle the form that it's making. I don't think there's any doubt that he is a superb guitarist - this stuff might seem easy to play but I know from limited experience that it's very, very hard to pull off with anything other than clumsiness.

I only saw him live once - in an East End London council town hall ante-room playing to about 10 people including me. He walked in, picked up his guitar, played for 60 minutes, stood up and walked out without once looking at or acknowledging the 'audience'. It was one of the weirdest events I'd ever witnessed.

So - here's to Derek, a true one-off.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

End Of Year Madness

the good life, apparently

So... 2005 has almost ended and I'm as glad as I've ever been to see 12 months go by.

I shouldn't feel that way - my work has been great, satisfying, even; I'm making music again and, because of this, I've made some new friends (it's pretty good music too, btw) ; my health has been OK; I've lost some weight for the 1st time since it's inexorable upward trend started in 1986, etc, etc.

But living in a climate of fear and loathing has simply worn me out. I really can't abide the current Australian government and the self-serving populace that voted them in. Not that I'm bitter and twisted, mind you. Oh no. And where is that special knife?

[Any of that previous paragraph could send me to gaol under a raft of current laws - ridiculous, really.]

I don't know whether this abhorence has been converted into a similar feeling for the music of 2005 but I simply haven't found one great album made this year. There's still lots of good tracks out there but it seems like there's some sort of holding pattern happening - roll on 2007, maybe.

In any case, here's some that I did enjoy:

Antony and The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now : it's all about that fabulous voice (even if it can annoy over the full album length)
Eno - Another Day On Earth : a bit stilted but has some great moments
Eliane Radigue - all her stuff : magical, slowly evolving electronics

EST - Viaticum (and all their previous releases) : excellent modern jazz
Tord Gustavsen - The Ground : gorgeous jazz piano trio stuff
Kammerflimmer Kollectief - Absencen : more jazz inflections with an avant touch
The Necks - Mosquito / See Through : the usual searching minimalism
[and I'll never say I don't like jazz ever again - I even enjoyed Miles Davis' "In A Silent Way" last week]

Scritti Politti - Early : at last, a proper reference for one of the greatest post-punk bands
Can - Future Days and Unlimited Edition : that excellent remastering continues
Talking Heads - Brick : the music sounds as fabulous as it should, still have to see the DVD s

As usual I made up a set of compilations to encompass all the tracks I liked (see the lists below).

Have a lovely 2006.

Celebrities, Models and Studio 54 (where my obvious lack of interest and knowledge of dance music and BPM comes into play)

01 Lippock & Morgenstern - Please Wake Me For Meals (03:42)
02 Juliet - Never Land (03:35)
03 Madonna - Hung Up (05:28)
04 Girls Aloud - Models (03:22)
05 Alan Braxe and Fred Falke - Intro (04:45)
06 Buka Band - Burka Blue (B.Morgenstern Mix) (03:10)
07 Goldfrapp - Fly Me Away (04:07)
08 Jeans Team - Wunderbar (04:28)
09 Ferenc - Diplodocus (06:27)
10 Isolee - Pictureloved (04:26)
11 Out Hud - Its For You (04:40)
12 Matthew Herbert - Celebrity (04:02)
13 Terri Walker - This Is My Time (03:39)
14 The Juan Maclean - Give Me Every Little Thing (05:23)
15 Daft Punk - Steam Machine (05:20)
16 Geneserene - Uwantme (04:02)
17 M.I.A. - Amazon (04:05)
18 Gorillaz - Dirty Harry (03:43)

This comp is a bit of a mess, really. Some great tracks and some that just don't fit well enough. But fun in it's own way, I suppose.

Spit It Out! (indie and rock - still being made after all these years)

01 Bunky - Yes, No (02:01)
02 Franz Ferdinand - The Fallen (03:32)
03 Bloc Party - Helicopter (03:37)
04 Louis XIV - Finding Out True Love Is Blind (04:11)
05 Jennifer Gentle - I Do Dream You (02:22)
06 Architecture In Helsinki - Wishbone (02:15)
07 Broadcast - I Found the F (02:16)
08 Hank - Forster Appeal (01:40)
09 Baikonour - Proto-Coeur (04:23)
10 Black Mountain - Druganaut (03:43)
11 Robert Plant And The Strange Sensation - Another Tribe (03:09)
12 Brendan Benson - Spit It Out (03:14)
13 Deerhoof - Twin Killers (02:11)
14 Devendra Banhart - Lazy Butterfly (03:42)
15 Charming Hostess - Heaven Sitting Down (03:58)
16 Tara Angell - Hollow Hope (03:44)
17 Gavouna - One Four (03:16)
18 The Shortwave Set - Slingshot (03:57)
19 Mahjongg - The Stubborn Horse (02:57)
20 Rinocerose - Bitch (03:53)
21 LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House (05:13)
22 Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (04:30)
23 Super Furry Animals - Lazer Beam (04:33)

Except for a few of these, it's been a really dire year for rock music. But it's still a form that can invogorate me. Bands' really need more synths and less guitars, desperately, or at least a better mix of both.

They Speak Of Monoxide and Many Other Things (singer / songwriters strut their stuff)

01 Maria Solheim - The Snow Has Killed (01:51)
02 Sufjan Stevens - Chicago (05:44)
03 Aimee Mann - She Really Wants You (03:19)
04 Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left (edit) (03:21)
05 Cat Power - Love & Communication (04:29)
06 Angels Of Light - On The Mountain (05:09)
07 Emiliana Torrini - Sunnyroad (03:00)
08 Bonnie Prince Billy and Matt Sweeney - My Home Is The Sea (05:41)
09 Madelaine Peyroux - Don't Wait Too Long (03:05)1
0 Fiona Apple - Red Red Red (03:29)
11 Kate Bush - King Of The Mountain (04:38)
12 Chad Van Gaalen - After the Afterlife (03:12)
13 Josephine Foster - Crackerjack Fool (02:32)
14 Camille - Ta douleur (03:03)
15 Laura Veirs - Fire Snakes (04:39)
16 Mary Gauthier - I Drink (04:28)
17 Brian Eno - Bone Bomb (03:10)
18 Lewis Taylor - Listen Here (04:05)
19 Regina Spektor - Carbon Monoxide (04:54)
20 Antony And The Johnsons - My Lady Story (03:30)

Singer/songwriters! The world is full to the brim with them. Sometimes they're naughty and some times they're nice. And most of these are full of lovely chords and melodies and personal feelings.

Meloxicam Melodies ("weird' music that didn't fit in elsewhere)

01 Jan Jelinek - Lithiummelodie 1 (06:49)
02 Boards Of Canada - Chromakey Dreamcoat (05:33)
03 Contriva - Shadow (Mo Mix) (03:21)
04 Four Tet - Joy (03:04)
05 Justus Kohncke - Loreley (02:26)
06 Caribou - Barnowl (04:58)
07 Björk - Storm (05:26)
08 Steve Reich - You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are (edit) (03:17)
09 Brian Eno - Long Way Down (02:32)
10 A Slow Rip - The Freeway Temple (06:04)
11 Tord Gustavsen - Edges Of Happiness (03:01)
12 E.S.T. - The Well-wisher (03:41)
13 Hauschka - Traffic (03:27)
14 Kammerflimmer Kollektief - Lichterloh (06:50)
15 Jaga Jazzist - All I Know is Tonight (07:35)
16 Reuber - Stadtflucht (03:00)
17 Shining - Aleister Explains Everything (03:14)
18 Strønen-Storløkken - Acrobat (02:33)

This is probably my favourite of all the comps. And I didn't even put on Eliane Radigue! From off-kilter electronics through ambient and minimalism and onto avant-jazz - the world of music continues to bring me wonders.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rhymes With Egg Bad

cartoon peter

Peter Blegvad's career has been a continuing frustration to me and the few others who really love his work. He's witty, thoughtfull, erudite, tunefull and perversely left of centre yet his releases have become less and less popular over the years. Recently, it was rumoured, he had to sell one of his few guitars to feed the family, etc. A parlous state of affairs for anyone, let alone a good singer / songwriter. At least he can rely upon his spoken word "Ear Toons" (frequently broadcast on the BBC) and his skills as an artist - "Leviathan" is one of the weirdest cartoons I've ever read and the book is just plain gorgeous.

Ofcourse, his main claim to fame is his pivotal role in Slapp Happy but I won't go through all that again. Instead I'll look at some of my favourites of his post SH career (and, yes, CC is involved):

mp3: Greaves / Blegvad / Hermann - 15 Objects...

From 77's "Kew.Rhone." - music by Greaves, "lyrics" by Blegvad and singing by Hermann. As ridiculously over-complicated as a vaguely toe tapping song can be, I think. The text is impenetrable to me (although someone must be able to decipher it's intent - hey, Ivan, care to try?) but the way they sound next to each other is just fabulous. My favourite - "hollow cone of tobacco which contains a tin coin" whose title is "dunce's trumpt (for v)". Hardly crowd pleasing, really, but intruiging to the end.

mp3: Powers In The Air

From his first solo album "The Naked Shakespeare" in 1983, produced by XTC's Andy Partridge - another failed attempt by Virgin Records to make stars of their Slapp Happy team. It's heavily bombastic (in that 80s style) with overwrought, pleading vocals, big production values (listen to those drums, for heaven's sake) and a fiddly but excellent arrangement. Hey, once again, I have no idea what it all means.

mp3: Strong, Simple Silences

From 88's "Downtime" and after any chance of a big career had passed him by. The album was rcorded late at night for cheap (or free) studio time and the songs are smaller, more Dylan-esque and, seemingly, more personal. This style would prevail over his trickster / uber-intellectual persona - maybe to his detriment. It's a surprisingly simple song but played with love and care.

mp3: Incinerator
mp3: Stink

2 tracks from 95's "Just Woke Up" and continuing the stripped down sound of Downtime by using Greaves and Cutler as the main players and with minimal overdubs. Both are bluesy in their own ways and deal with love and loss (I think). Listening back to these now I'm thinking, yes, I actually half dislike these tracks. I do have great ambivalence to Bleggers sometimes!

mp3: Blegvad / Greaves - The Black Dog

A lovely, dark, humorous spoken word piece from 95's "Unearthed". Great backing music throughout and, I suppose, similar to his current Eartoons.

mp3: The Marvellous In The Everyday

From 98's "Hangman's Hill" where his style really gels completely. The mix of the personal and the intellectual is almost flawless.

mp3: The Only Song

And I thought I'd end with another song from HH. It may be the definitive version of this perennial PB track: it just goes on and on and on..

"imagine a world where this
was the only song
and against your will
you had to sit
and listen to it all day long
until it made you ill".

I can think of nothing better in many ways.

A merry yule and a glorious new year to those few constant visitors to this tiny page. I intend to revamp it next year somehow - I think I've finally run out of old favourites to bore you with.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A LIttle Bit Of CC In The Night

an ever serious man

Chris Cutler was the drummer in Henry Cow and The Art Bears - 2 of my favourites from the 70s and 80s. But he played a minor role in my love for the music they made. I suppose this is how I feel about all drummers, really, no matter how stupid that is. There's no doubt he's a superb musician and I know that both bands would have been vastly different without his "tin cans down an alleyway" (copyright Annette) style. In fact, they would have been largely unrecognisable as the bands they truely are.

But, hey, he didn't actually "compose" any of this stuff did he? The only music writing credit he has from that time period is on the last ridiculous track of "Desperate Straights"... and the less said about that the better. He "just" hit the drums and percussion after all...

The thing is, he's been part of some of the most interesting music I've ever heard and, no matter how hard I try to ignore those damn drums, he keeps on popping up whenever I start to like something. Here's just a small taste (he's damned prolific, btw):

mp3: Aksak Maboul - A Modern Lesson

Easily the most post-punk of the tracks here with unintelligible lyrics sung by a strangled girl. Marvellous Fred Frith guitar (he's in here a bit too) and, hey, CC plays all simple as can be. All the post-Cow people removed some of their ultra-pretentions of musicianship in the 80s although it was probably never far from the surface. Aksak Maboul were a belgian group linked to the Rock In Opposition "stream" of bands started by the Art Bears and easily one of the weirdest.

mp3: Cassiber - Not Me

A-ha, now you can hear that fabulous snappy snare and the rest of the kit clattering away. Another post-punky thing and another RIO band. It's, slightly ruined by Heiner Goebbels' over-the-top shouty vocals - slightly reminiscent of Tim Hodginson's The Work in that regard - but, apparently, it's mostly based on improvised pieces honed into something more certain.

mp3: Fred Frith - Don't Cry For Me

From FF's 1st (all marvellous) solo 'song' album "Gravity". Once again, the drums are seemingly simple but the rhythm is more complicated than you first think. Similar to "War" from "In Praise Of Learning" where a steady beat chops around the place in some god-damned time signature from hell.

mp3: News From Babel - Heart Of Stone

News From Babel was a project of the heart from CC and Lindsay Cooper (another ex-Cow). This has a typical Cooper arrangement (too finicky by half) but it's topped off by Robert Wyatt's plaintive vocals. More skittering edge of the drum stuff from CC.

mp3: Pere Ubu - Waiting For Mary

Not only does CC do avant, he does avant-pop. During Pere Ubu's most commercial phase (the Fontana years) he sat in on drums and played it straight up and 4 to the floor. Their best song from this phase, easily.

mp3: Tim Hodgkinson - Hold To The Zero Burn, Imagine (excerpt)

And so back to the (sort of) start with a song that Henry Cow played live in their later days but never got around to recording (it was all hooked up with that break up / "Hopes and Fears" phase). So Hodgkinson got a couple of them all together again in the 90s to play on his mostly excreble solo LP - "Each In Our Own Thoughts" (whatever that means). This is nothing more than a re-hash of "Living In The Heart Of The Beast" but not quite as good. Still and all - CC's drums are so complicated they make my ears ache.