it’s been a tradition of mine in the month of december up to christmas day itself that i would select and play an album held dearly in my belongings which for reasons unknown has been left on the shelf encasing itself in too many layers of multi-storied dust. the 1st of this month always seems to suddenly drop itself into my daydreams with a jolt, hence this process hasn’t always been strictly adhered to. this year though, to try and focus myself on this self-imposed agenda, and frankly to focus on just about anything with a strength of inward hope, i shall endeavour to put down a few lines on each title and publish them here along with a hastily (un)composed snapshot or an old one which had a direct link to the particular song or album. i suppose this has really always been my replacement for a festive fifty. let’s face it many of these titles (yet to be picked) will either be loved as a direct result of hearing tracks played by uncle john or those which i am in no doubt he would have played. so, whilst this is a self-indulgence for me, i hope you can hear up there because if it were not for you i most definitely would not be here writing into this black-hole creative void. salutations mr peel, this random selection is a miniscule attempt at a life-time’s thank-you x
25/12/18 low : christmas [kranky 1999]
ok, confession time. i’m not really into the whole christmas record thing and as for carol singers, well, they can be just left alone outside whistling into their own cold breathed huddle. bah, humbug! you don’t find me caterwauling the latest hairy les miserables’ anti-hit outside people’s front-doors. you might hear it from my kitchen window, but hey, i’m scaring the pigeons. it’s worthwhile. so yeah, apologies good people. admittedly there are a few exceptions worth tuning a festive fork for... the greatest christmas tune, which as it happens is also a great song; fairytale of new york. a bold, rousing anthem which can be played all year round as far as i’m concerned and remembering the talent of kirsty maccoll is always a good thing in my book. wizard’s i wish it could be christmas everyday and merry xmas everybody by slade because they very simply take me back to easy youthful nostalgia watching top of the pops with hardly a care in the world. jona lewie’s stop the cavalry for blindingly obvious reasons and wham’s last christmas which is a cracking song and the more i’ve learnt about george michael since his death i’ve come to realise what a jolly decent bloke he was. so, there it is, christmas in the palm of one hand. luckily, the other hand has plenty of room for low’s christmas. which, for serving purposes is a christmas album. the songs are based around christmas themes but it is an album in its own right. right? it’s low at their humblest. not exactly their slowest but relaxed and pensive. taking stock of all they have, can offer and be thankful for. from the immediate frivolity of just like christmas, ritual being of if you were born today (which is a song befitting of any low album), mimi’s angelic blue christmas, taking down the tree’s slightly eerie post-christmas routine, to the meaning of it all (i guess?) one special gift. this isn’t an album of joyous whistles and bells, more a reflection of time which rolls around every year. i’m not a religious person so please forgive if i misinterpret the sum of its deeper parts but i’m convinced these songs mean more to alan, mimi and zak than the commerce involved (as they themselves suggest). listening to the eight songs, even if only once or twice a year, they raise a smile and make me feel lucky to be around. above everything, this album reminds me to forget all the commerciality for a few moments and offer something to those without. in these dark governmental times i like to support those without a home, donating a little to the amazing folk at shelter. if you can, please do. always with gratitude, low, you are very very special people.
available all formats from low bandcamp
thank-you all who’ve read and indulged in my not-so literary jumble of words entitled 25 ways to a john peel xmas. merry christmas to everyone, to john(s) and those we are without. hold your loved ones tightly. jules and martha, forever... xx
24/12/18 arab strap : ten years of tears! [chemikal underground 2006]
something of a rarity arab strap, it’s always hard knowing where to place them. arriving from rebellious poptone beginnings and casiotone delinquency, through hybrid electronica and beyond, they fervently broke new ground to forage in their own sub-genre of the murder ballad, i.e. life, via the most beautiful of strings, bells and whistle accompaniment this side of a posh frock and coat do. for decades aidan john moffat and malcolm middleton have prowled the indie badlands in styles truly of their own making. pints and cocktails in hand proudly proclaiming we are here, this is our music, this is us. take it or leave it. just as chemikal underground is an (ongoing) ordnance survey of scottish independent music, arab strap is the bold-as-brass voice and sound of scottish independence. i would tag mogwai here too, but they’re not too fussed about using lyrics! i can’t remember where i first heard their noodle-soup pop and heavily-drawn (in style and text) speech, but it was most probably on peel. at first it was just the language which drew me, and i don’t just mean the bad language. even though i’m hundreds of miles south i’ve always had an affinity to scotland. at an early age i chose the country over england in footballing terms - their supporters always more passionate, volatile, yet approachable and friendly. i guess it’s the underdog thing too. my dear departed (scottish) father worked his life, wrecking his body for fuck all. we didn’t have much but in our english council estate home but there was always the sweet smell of whisky and lush drones of his accomplished accordion song. those very tones heard in recent years through some of aidan’s solo journeys. and so from youth my musical input was also stirred by scottish roots. the likes of skids, the associates, fire engines, etc... in truth it doesn’t matter where music originates, it’s the passion and feeling instilled, but i do adore the lilt though. just a word, any word spoken with a scottish accent. it seems to have more meaning. more threat, more love. james graham of the twilight sad is in current receipt of adulation, yet without mr moffat i doubt he’d have the confidence to sing with such scottish absolution. and aidan’s words are indeed absolute. the common thread running through arab strap is mere existence. every nook and cranny examined, often beyond the threshold of public’s self-imposed profanity. “it was the biggest cock you’d ever seen”; the opening line of packs of three is followed by one of the most glorious (everyday) love songs (afternoon) soaps you’ll ever hear. equally, the bitter and sweetest pills exist astride. without restraint, remorse or sanction these ten years... rifle through drawers and then some. loaded of course, by the unlicensed poetry of moffat, but the musical variants of malcolm middleton are integral. the unbreakable bond can be heard touching early rose-red flushes of the fall, drag-through of slint and by a gradual refinement of acoustics and orchestral elements reach the crescendo-high of there is no ending. on the way, enjoy quiver-moments from the live playground, electronic (s)urges of turbulence courtesy of bis, the shy retirer’s flawless, immaculate alternative-pop and a few (cassette) oddities including a drinks-ladened (i presume) it’s a heartache cover and a christmassy prank-call to occasions which cracks me every time! the real gem, and the reason i chose this title today over all of their sublime catalogue is the girl i loved. this song shouts arab strap to me. musically it’s exquisitely serene (yet powerful) on which aidan pens a majesty of love and unleashed hatred in equal measure. “so, the girl i loved before i fucked you’ll always be. but the woman you’ve grown into is no woman for me”. never afraid to lift veils from their hearts and minds, exposing the deepest cuts from the dark rooms of humanity. these two wrote of sexual exploits, drug and alcohol recreations, the mundane and extraordinary and if you’ve never experienced the laughter and tears this 20 track is a fine party primer. bung it in a carrier bag with six cans or spirit (in whichever form takes your fancy) and walk the evening streets until you find a mirror-ball swinging. it’s christmas eve boys, about time for another comeback. aye…
available from chemikal underground
23/12/18 erasure : pop! - the first 20 hits [mute records 1992]
find myself a little low-pace this morning. it could be the greyness outside, drizzle easing down the windows blurring the not-so-many hues of said grey. maybe the quiet is off-putting? discounting the rush of tyres of course, as they career toward the early doors of shopping mall hell? or more likely it’s me. i very rarely sit in silence. sometimes it’s a joy just listening to the back-garden sparrow-gang’s raucous chatter. i always imagine them raging at the bloody pigeons stealing their feed. same goes for our neighbouring twin blackbird pairings serenely crooning with that “funny sound a blackbird makes” [a line by mark lanegan which always makes me smile, as i am doing now). but that’s a late afternoon, evening pleasure. usually, there would be music. or, if not the broiling anger derived from bbc news. today though, nothing. no desire to switch on to the outside world. so, having sat here the best part of an hour, too empty to even refill my coffee cup, eyes are finally allowed to wander over the many shelves of cd’s. if nothing else, i need to pick a title for these 25 years... and it will have to be a cd as am definitely too lazy to venture downstairs again. i’d already bypassed the vinyl on the journey to refill the bird feeders. oddly, the mind must’ve clicked to some long-forgotten factory setting as rapidly crisscrossing the a-z’s no cherished title (and they are cherished every one of them, artists gave their all for my treasure-trove of moments, memories and future sighs) leapt out crying ‘play me, play me again’. i seem to be devoid of any ritualistic musical thinking. try harder. reverse it, z-a... a sudden spark, it’s a sunday. a sunday morning, always a different feel in time to the rest of time. in younger days, some records loaned themselves to specific hours. aphex twin’s selected ambient works... and cypher 7’s decoder were drivers to work through the night and on an end of week sunday when a lift was necessary it would be something easier (i would say cheerier but i find joy in the most depressive of sounds)... shall we say, recordings possessing a more mass-consumptive quality. ministry’s work for love always does the job, though al tends to reach in and literally wrench your heart out, still beating. this particular sunday morning, a jewel with a higher sheen and a few speckles of unloved dust is needed. eureka! pop! bloody hell, it only takes a few minutes and that drizzle still muddying the panes washes rainbow and more importantly, the inside of a blank head goes disco. the first 20 hits, plus one. pop! indeed. andy bell’s glamorous vocal affection and basildon’s electrical boy wonder vince clarke can always be relied upon to change an outlook. they glide. their music glides through and melts inside. the sound of a warming, snug home. a safety zone for periods of being ill at ease, like just now. this duo always touch the soul and if there is an album overflowing with more colour and happiness than this one, then please present it, wrapped and baubled to everyone this christmas. go on santa, i dares’ ya! pop! a little slice of heaven (if you know what i mean).
available from mute records
22/12/18 arthur loves plastic : sperm warfare [t.e.q.music? 1995]
it always breaks my heart hearing this (which is why i don’t press play too often). released not long before the empty quarter’s self-induced finality, sperm warfare is one of those rare recordings to pass through my hands which had real crossover potential. and not only that it was fucking great music too. sadly, back then all of my knowledge and contacts were in the left-of field and we neither had the wherewithal or cash to do right by it. so, using the same network of distributors and shops who sold portion control, vanishing heat, lagowski and ghafran pretty much drew blanks. needless to say i took it personally and along with various other factors decided to call it a day with t.e.q. in my mind it shouldn’t matter how music sounds and in which category it (has to) fit(s), every release should be taken on merit and allowed every chance to succeed. obviously i was/am in a miniority. i do remember the day i first heard arthur loves plastic. from the ashes of a much-admired electro-pop outfit then there were none, a cassette popped into the po box from bev stanton, one-half of ttwn. i’d collected the mail as usual on the way to work (the empty quarter was a full-time task, but we had day-jobs to finance it) and planned to listen to this sperm warfare in my lunch-hour. within the first couple minutes of hearing i knew this was something very special and by the end eager for it to be a teqm release. the first pings of i love you and snazz-jazzy, rolling sample of souvenir gleefully shot at my synapses, i’ve never had a better lunch hour. this was my idea of the ultimate boozy work’s meeting! and to this day i have never ever been so excited on receiving and hearing a demo tape. sperm warfare had to be mine. it would stand out by a long-mile against the other material we were promoting, but as i only ever used my own inbuilt methodology i did not give one fuck what anyone else thought. surely i could make this gloriously happy house work within the empty quarter framework? it ticked the electronic boxes after all. but, it was mainstream. it was pop. every track screamed perfection, raging at me they deserved to heard by the masses. and that might be the problem. i always wanted teq releases to be received by as many folks as possible but deep-down knew they only served that small alternative sector of the record-buying public. that fact was wrong in my world, but sadly true if being honest. arthur loves plastic though, the cat who loved bags (yep, we had one too) and his musical narrator bev stanton had a set of songs which easily popped into populist dance blueprints, and without i might add, any damn cheese. tripping the merry lines of happy house and song-accelerated techno every track bristled with rolling percussion, highest-flight path sequential pleasures and pimped with juiced-up samples. this was enhanced brain-dance. this was euphoric and complete with a nine minute version of its standout souvenir, yeah yeah yeah.., the sundays’ sampled-one. sheer bliss. but my kind of bliss which didn’t fit the teq agenda of followers at the time. so, there it is, if ever there was a case of sticking to what you know rather than ploughing on blindly it’s this release. i had never really learnt this trade properly and as i’ve stated before i’m a control freak.i thought it would be possible to blag my way into the realms of commerciality with this set of sublime, solid-state material... wrong, with a capital w. and so, the ending of everything was just a stone’s throw away. i shall take to the grave how badly i let bev down. she was and still is an exceptional musician who continues to record and dj throughout america. sperm warfare should have been her entrance into the mass appeal of say, moby’s playground and if i had my time over on hearing the tape i would’ve jumped on a tube and taken it to mute’s offices. instead i chose to be a little idiot and blew it. all i can do now is urge you all to follow and support arthur loves plastic’s thrilling electronic music, old and new. in another lifetime bev i’ll re-release sperm warfare and the zero state and place in them in the hands of those who can.
21/12/18 the twilight sad : here, it never snowed. afterwards it did [fat cat records 2008]
it wouldn’t be christmas, or any other day to be honest, without a few miserable scotsmen caterwauling around this ramshackle home. thankfully. strangely though, this little set rarely gets an airing. many years ago i wrote a few gushing words about the sad’s performance with the royal scottish national orchestra at paisley abbey, well, here, it never snowed... is reminiscent (minus the orchestra and pomp of course). also the digital acres of found bytes of live acoustic performances retrieved from the tube that is you share it’s feeling too. and that’s the metal of this band. they are equally at home in the studio, pumped for full throttle live shows and willingly stripped down to soulful cores in the most intimate of settings. this six-track falls neatly between the latter two, reworking material from their debut album fourteen autumns and fifteen winters. based around the use of fan organ these versions truly showcase their inventive approach to recording and unforgotten experimental inspiration. a main control here often weaving james graham’s not-inconsiderable voice [understatement] through immaculate-conception drones. the musicianship of andy macfarlane is so very easily overlooked where this band is concerned and he excels in pushing these familiar songs into new textural forms. the stark ambience bestowed upon cold days from the birdhouse allows james to release venomous chords and mapped by what surrounded them becomes an unstoppable tidal fury of dense feedback. hedonistic in both poetic beauty and tonal engagement. the title track is the most straight forward of presentations, but vocally mouthed wide and proudly on this unused song from the fourteen winters... recordings. james’ similarly roars with the rhythmic push of walking for two hours. closure is given in the simplest of gestures, a cover of daniel johnston’s some things last a long time… i’ve nothing more to add other than it’s exactly why the twilight sad can reach the very heart of me with the merest flicker of a note or sigh. if you hold james graham, kathryn joseph and marcus mackay’s outlines project dear then this mini-album is in many ways its precursor. the opening draw of and she would darken the memory hasn’t even been mentioned so, whilst eagerly awaiting the band’s fifth full length it won/t be like this all the time if you have previously missed the 30-odd minutes of here... treat yourself now. i suggest a play over the festive season when there’s a lull in cordial proceedings. tuck yourselves deep into a favourite armchair, pack a wee bottle accompaniment and dissolve yourself into a glass of warmly expressive sounds. no ice.
20/12/18 colourbox : colourbox mini-lp [4ad 1983]
to this day, the mini-album colourbox unleashed on the world remains one of the most outrageously glorious and strange records ever recorded for a mass market. to avoid any confusion at this point, i’m referring to the one with the horses doing horsey things on the cover, not the self-titled album released later. both should be staples of every record collection but this extensively extended play is something else. i can only imagine the conversation with ivo: “we’ve got these four superb soulful dance/pop tracks and possess one of the rangiest, sensual singers so, what we’re gonna do is fuck about all over them” (just like the horse). “erm, ok then do it“, agreed the svengali. and the results? bloody genius. absolutely full-on fucking unique genius. even after two versions of their breakdown twelve pretty sure nobody knew the brothers martyn and steven young, ian robbins and plush voice of lorita grahame would knob-twiddle to such great unknown, overloaded (yet balanced) effect. i’ve had the pleasure (and displeasure) of hearing some of the most difficult of music, but this is so exquisitely disjointed after a short while it all makes perfect sense. the unease of listening at first intrigues. then heightens the senses and soon becomes so intrinsically pleasurable it hurts! any of its four tracks could have been recorded straight from the cuff and consumption friendly. the quality of musicianship and production was there, inbuilt. as were the songs, all of them. but who needs dullard dj’s playing hit tunes when colourbox themselves can turn shotgun into a meandering crawlspace of rhythm and glitch, or keep on pushing into a pulsating mass of echo and effects. they envelope nation in rampaging percussion and bathe the closing justice in a glow of signalling synths. the trickery pokery used on the vocals is the record’s trump card though. lorita grahame’s hellishly slick and graceful tones are manipulated, stretched, dropped, chopped, repeated and re-aligned, yet still emerge through the excesses of multi-layering as being the true essence of palpable lyrical songs. this mini remains decades on as studio experimentation at its finest. i still fiddle in the dark looking for a category light switch; dub for non-steppers? freeform-electro? psycho-studio-mafia pop? no-fux-fx? … a lightbulb moment has literally just flickered and offers up youth and ben watkin’s the empty quarter project in vague comparison, though of course their illuminating work was instrumental. colourbox would of course go on to record some magnificent electronic dance, but their output was always full of irregular turning points too. keep on pushing was indeed released as a 7” in ‘pop’ form and i defy anyone to disagree that it and the likes of you keep me hanging on were as good as anything madonna recorded in her heyday. they melded reggae and dub and funk and soul and, and... into one massive great open-lid rainbow box. all of their output is cherished but this self-titled (just shotgun for some) mini-lp is a breathtaking, untouchable masterpiece. quite simply one of the greatest records ever made, electronic or other. for steven young, rip.
available from 4ad with additional material
19/12/18 bill nelson : chimera [mercury records 1983]
there’s a whole lot of surface volume where the output of bill nelson is concerned. even in middle age i haven’t nearly begun to scratch at it with any real purpose. i tended to dip my toes in phases. there’s the textural thrust of be-bop deluxe and upper-cut thrust with new wave blueprint sound-on-sound (red noise is a particular fave). his countless soundtrack-styled works offer a daunting task to play catch-up, but in the early eighties he released three albums, all three work of immense value. quit dreaming and get on the beam, the love that whirls and chimera, a trilogy which wasn’t actually a trilogy. all absolute in their depth of playful textures, working the musical divide of the popular and obtuse. whilst quit dreaming... opened the door to quick-fire, if irregular pop-songs, the love that whirls filled the same room with sweeping [new] romantic orchestrations, keeping its cultural door slightly ajar for heightened senses to calm. so, to the third of this series of tension-built, consumer-proofed recordings. the insatiably high, sublime chimera... set emotions to ultra. there is no door and the roof becomes sky, its six tracks remove all air, filling mind and spirits with complete and total unbridled joy. from the real adventure’s opening kick to the beautifully tempered future of another day, another ray of hope’s fade - a song which honestly rains tears of happiness down me every single time - chimera is as it’s fifth track states a glow world of pulsating rhythms, far-eastern-flavoured electronics and technology-moulded guitar. all blessed by bill’s observing voice in serene isolation. time just flies, that’s a sign of how well made these four-to-five minute songs are and the record as a whole. chimera stuns the system. endorphins rush. every play does indeed feel like another new drug and nothing else really sounds like bill’s perfect pop. japan possibly, mainly due to the noodling basslines, but this short-lived phase of his has no real peers. it is astonishing that this album exists without any commercial success. clearly the marketing clones at the major label were too busy shifting other lines (or doing something else with lines). thankfully the pristine shimmering palette of chimera and other two albums of this non-trilogy were repackaged and made available again so it is still possible to hear some of the finest, entrancing and worthwhile commercial music ever recorded. if ever we needed a ray of hope it’s now. play and repeat, keep me covered in your many textures mr. nelson. i must thank @rogerquail (yes, he is that roger quail) and his superb mylifeinthemoshofghosts blog for leading me back here today as his next piece will be on bill at the limit club in 1981. he is an unmissable read, support him.
18/12/18 stuart warwick : the butcher’s voice [stuart warwick 2013]
here is a human being who could make you insanely jealous. put him in a room, large or small, with/even without a keyboard, he opens his mouth by the tiniest amount and an all-encompassing passionate sound fills the entire space. he can make you stand dead-still just listening or sit there and burst into tears. the bastard! i remember hearing him for the first time at the de la warr pavillion, my better half dragging me across the country for marc almond. i’d never heard of the support before but after a few seconds would never ever forget. and frankly, i’ve been trying to tell the world about him ever since, because anything stuart warwick touches is simply pure genius. the butcher’s voice is his fourth album, second under his own name. the first two released using his jacob’s stories guise, as he was when i first heard that night. this new album is a continuation of themes on love, life, religion, man and man’s hate, which, to put mildly is a generalistic overview. above everything, to label a neat little box, stuart warwick is a singer-songwriter. he uses electronics. sometimes sparsely allowing the sparkling hedonistic quality of his breathtakingly natural voice to shine. sometimes he adds other elements; orchestral/strings, and occasionally all-out percussive for mutual dancefloor excursions. but, of all the effortless beauty, it’s the strength of poetry which prevails from the man. he is funny. he is camp(ish). he is cabaret. he is serious and once made me cry just listening to a few of his words whilst on a post-round - j. brooker. he is art. he just is… see i told you he is a complete and utter bastard. who else could make lines like “call the mortician” and ”cadavre with a big mouth” operatically fly on what is essentially a popsong? albeit a visceral, no-holds popsicle called dame binned cow. on the butcher’s voice the stage beckons for man with a pussy’s piano and angelics to echo around a packed theatre whilst the title track is a pure radio anthem to which a commercial audience should sing, tap their feet and clap along to. way beyond uplifting. meantime, melancolonica and cherished muscle simply do what stuart does best. the man opens his heart and makes me listen intently just as i did on that first night. there is perhaps one artist who i would dearly love to hear him and that’s gavin friday. i’m pretty damn sure they would get along like a house on fire! the two being remarkably similar, both of stunning voice and cutting wit. the younger just needs that break or two. stuart even acts on the odd video by the twilight sad and recently trod the stage-boards. along with his writing and musicianship he defies any one mere category as a performer. make him a star, the world would truly be a much better place. he’ll lead you through every emotion possible. funny and intelligent, when you hear him you’ll be glad you’re alive. and tell him you so dearly hope this album from 2013 will be followed very very soon…
available on cd and dl from stuart’s bandcamp [parts of this article were previously published 070413 on louder than war]
17/12/18 sink ya teeth : sink ya teeth [hey buffalo 2018]
it’s a little bit of a cheat putting this album into my 25 ways... as sink ya teeth’s debut is without doubt one of the albums of 2018, but i have no doubt that mr. peel would have been all over it. he would’ve had this duo from norwich in session and broadcast some of their many recent live performances with a certain ratio. the mancunanian legends took maria and gemma along to walk in platinum soul(ed) shoes so we really should share in the heat from their very own haunted ballroom... of course, i’ve already jotted a few lines back in the summer when this album first slammed its bounce into the cranial but since then the band’s profile has soared and momentum increased. sink ya teeth worked tirelessly on their profile as an insatiable motivating live dance act, so clearly the pair’s musicianship was of high calibre, but could converting those moveable expressives be tricky? not a bit of it! welcome to the future of new future’s funk. it’s a rare thing to find a self-produced, living-room recorded album marrying itself to the leftfield but found parked and thoroughly at home on a commercially-viable kerbside. ten tracks absolutely murmur, bubble and burst, providing a glitterball twilight world of soul-drenched vox, electronics and epic restless percussives. driven by joyous funk-laden grooves, especially through gemma cullingford’s bold, effervescent basslines, they build a precision journey of dark elevated house and post chill. appreciable both on a sweat-filled floor or steamy kitchenette. they have tunes, big tunes. substitutes piles on cabs’ microphonies-era overloading sequences and control rhythmically dazzles, never quite reaching an expected level of aggression, and all the better for its makers’ control. maria uzor’s vocals soothe and sway throughout with a range of depth, restraint and call. on glass she gives an almost goldrapp[ian] performance (maybe think colourbox, or lonelady too), yet measures hazily on the noodle-soup of if you see me, a real highlight of the album. others include the a popular history of signs’ mirroring of petrol blue - guessing these ladies are far too young to remember them, but gemma’s bass here could be andrew jarman’s - pushin’s spiky chant and the claustrophobic close-down of the law, set adrift with complimentary bass-hookery (the only real new order reference i can really suggest here despite other reviewer’s claims). in essence, these 37 minutes ignite, glide and frequently side-kick with a sheen rarely felt in a debut and sink ya teeth have provided themselves with one hell of a blueprint to work and grow from. onward 2019…
widely available and via sink ya teeth
16/12/18 lagowski : redesine+ [zoharum 2013] s.e.t.i. : final trajectory [loki found 2013] geomatic vs. lagowski : cosmochemistry [m-tronic 2013]
highly prolific but never underestimated. though criminally ignored in some quarters who really should have taken andrew lagowski to their printed and online souls some decades ago (you know who you are). this electronic guru propelled himself once more into the digital breach, voyaging through three very different dark matter excursions. hot on the reissued heels of nagamatzu vinyl slabs and the visionary leviathan dl (under his legion headline) here are three more variants from his multi-circuited brain... redesine’s shimmering electronics from 2009’s download with four additional sources for this compact edition courtesy of the polish zoharum label is a glowing circulatory world where percussive momentum is maintained through driving multi-levelled sequences and resonant pulses. glimmers of past industrial flavours marry techno-inductions and heady tribal ceremonies. the groundswell of soundscapes here could easily find a home on shelves laden with the more intelligent of bill leeb’s delerium output (before commercial saturation point was reached with that particular project). personally here, andrew’s subtle use of voice samples is a heavy and welcome feature for me as over the years the never-ending pile of faceless electronica expelled in the name of creativity (mainly bland or just plain bad) has made me somewhat cold to much of the soulless mass of switchery-pokery. this album as with all lagowski’s work is so very far from being soulless. from skylanes v.8 deep cosmic roll, on through the hard glitch twitch of wm32c_07 and the velocity movement of from without v.13, redesine+ offers variety and constant hooks within an array of electronica forms. for anyone who may not know the artist’s vast catalogue this may just be an ideal starting point… ... if on the other hand your spectrum of electronic listening lies in a colder environment then lags also listens in and interprets the cosmos through his s.e.t.i. project. a whole ‘other’ experimental ambience final trajectory is one 58min 26sec piece constantly moving and shifting through deep space and time (recorded over 30 years). anyone with an interest or knowledge of the universe we inhabit will wonder if this is andrew’s interpretation of its sounds; his own search for extra terrestrial intelligence. or perhaps he’s offering us a tool? a vision-soundtrack for any user to headphone up, close eyes and listen, imagine and explore. just the title alone evokes a journey through space. i therefore imagine a capsule adrift, slow moving through sheer blackness occasionally locking on to an object whereby sound levels increase, vibrating in short bursts before the undertow into nothing calls again. strange, otherworldly (no pun intended) fathomless voices burble indecipherable language. static pulses. radio signals. all seemingly untouchable from the shell of a human body as the dark void rolls infinitely on. until… end code. we are almost certainly not alone… … and andrew isn’t alone on cosmochemistry, collaborating with geomatic who produces highly rhythmic tribal landscapes tinged with eastern influenced electronics. whilst not knowing the kind of input and how each artist worked in unison i can only presume the dark foreboding production has more than the one hand of lagowski’s involvement. the whole album is a massive winding, deeply resonant crawlspace driven by heavy damning beats, with the opening plasma spirals setting a highly persuading immersive tone where machined voices similar to the strange unworldly sounds of s.e.t.i. rise through a haze of complex electronic atmospherics. interdimensional drags and rips its fabric very much from industrial roots and the sequences of neutron superfluid could sit very easily astride redesine+. he who saw the deep closes drawing forces from all corners of the project; patterning rhythms, mechanised organisms and an array of spatial sounds. though much darker cosmochemistry reminds of solar enemy’s less vocalised trails through space and its calling eastern mantras also reflect upon the late bryn jones’ work as muslimgauze. it’s a fine album elevating itself way above many electronic contemporaries and pure evidence that machines require a high level of human interactive intelligence to be fully effective as timeless art. nb. there are two additional remixes which seem sadly formulaic (unlike cosmochemistry) and unnecessary, totally going against my last remark regarding the album and electronic music as a whole. i have learnt and should point out that these mixes were not endorsed nor even wanted by lagowski or geomatic so with their blessing these two tracks shall forever remain persona non grata! set phasers to fatally stun after track 9 to avoid any disappointment.
15/12/18 aereogramme : seclusion [undergroove records 2004, sonic unyon 2006]
somehow this album gets neglected whenever i reach for the aereogramme. and that’s a shame as i lose myself in them an awful lot. both a story in white and especially sleep and release saw me through many a rough day as carbon disks took on more and more water, eventually losing the battle in offering music as a saleable commodity. after which the band left chemikal underground and during one last paddle by me seclusion also surfaced. i do remember actually selling quite a few of these, but for me, never truly struck with the force of said previous epics. my own copy therefore gets left on the shelf, leapt over for their return to chemikal, the sublime swansong my heart has a wish... which even now eeks out a little more with each listen. it’s criminal lethargy on my part really because there is one track on seclusion which is beyond sheer perfection (if in glorious isolation) and the complete six-packed mini (plus two video tracks) is a fairly neat, if untidy listen. i never expected this bunch of underrated scotsman to be this spit n’polished though, edges completely rounded from the off. even craig’s vocal cloaked beyond necessity on the opening inkwell and what on the face of things is a pretty direct song gets bogged down by a somewhat odd production. its drum patterns are courageously oblique but sound absolutely deadened, such a waste. dreams and bridges livens things and follows much loved alternate textures, switching modes throughout even giving craig a chance to scream his lungs out on a small section. though once again buried in trickery and mix. at least we’re getting closer... to the pearl. the one song i would gladly pay admission for again and again... the unravelling, a cinematic progression through seismic waves of composure, restraint and aggression. three levels so beloved of aereogramme, intertwined within moments. through chords, rhythm or purely breath. an absolution of intricacy, the song sounds far less knob-twiddled (industry term) than the sum of seclusion. irony! in completion, its complex eleven minutes could score the very darkest of noir and is simply breathtaking. seclusion’s second high is its softest moment and true to form titled i don’t need your love. this beautifully seductive song (with lyrical strings attached) fades as a cover of lightning strikes the postman enables a group workout including a few flaming solos. the song fits perfectly with craig’s delivery [no pun] and lyrically could have even been one of his own. the drama ends with an instrumental alternate score where i think the pun was indeed intended! in summation, it’s been really hard to write negatives about a band i adore so much, but the whole doesn’t work for me. perhaps it’s the mix - the seemingly uneven mix - or a playful grip whilst using alternative tech? or it may well be my own ears are faulty! let’s face facts though, they did set their own bar so damn high having to follow sleep and release. distill seclusion down to the unravelling through lightning strikes... and it’s up there. right up there with everything the greatest post-rock band ever recorded. by writing this i realise i need to embrace and give seclusion more of my time. in fact give each and every aereogramme, the unwinding hours and a mote of dust song more of me. especially after craig’s retirement bombshell this week. my heart does indeed wish that you will never go.
available from sonic unyon
14/12/18 psyche : insomnia theatre [new rose 1985]
during one of the many, usually weekly trips, into the big smoke in search of vinyl refreshments, on this particular day i’d taken the extra effort travelling to the west of the west end and the original rough trade shop. back in those heady days it was possible just to stack up in the virgin megastore as their racks were actually filled with indie product, but, a nice day, sun was shining so central line tube to ladbroke grove and a wander to the holy grail. always a buzz to visit and being honest a little daunting. these guys knew stuff, they really knew their beans. they knew people and most importantly they knew music. all music. everything peel played and so very much more. anyways i had the safety of my long overcoat (bought secondhand somewhere along the kings road a few years before and worn until it died, or rather thrown out many years later by jules much to my dismay) so, eyes down firmly into the racks. not even a nod to the counter staff, one of which may or may not have been nigel. i also have no recollection of anything else bought that day other than insomnia theatre. i loved the cover. about as stark and striking as they come. it was violent, blood spilled but beautiful. and textured, which set the painting perfectly. track titles mirrored the horror and it was 2x12” (in cabs’ 2x45 style), in the electronic section so what could go wrong? purchase made. oh, the band? psyche, a duo from canada whose music i was yet to hear until reaching home. who subsequently became one of the most important bands, or rather people, in my life. in mine and jules’ lives. so the needle dropped on mr eyeball ooze and this mass of sequence and vocal driven mania kicked off, right from the off. the percussion perfect too. i loved the archaic, almost barbaric drum machine sound. so precision, so switchblade perfect. maggots next. slower, prodding. that voice is left to wail and slither, the unmistakeable rasping terror of evan panic. clearly an accomplished vocalist with some range. musical duties were all at the hands of anthony red, the cover stated. judging by these initial tracks including children carry knives he must be influenced by film-score. john carpenter, tangerine dream, elements of fad gadget, suicide and then wrench got really nasty. a hell of pulsing aggression screamed over with every last sinew and the dirty, early electronics of soft cell hit hard, only harder. psyche were writhing in the guts, deep in the gristle. it was exhilarating. but on hitting the second disc the duo seemed more refined. an instrumental eating violins and reflective dreamsleep of on the edge. more proof of soundtrack acknowledgment surely? this was a mere lull in the system as the absolute noise anthem brain collapses kicks the final side into overdrive. both vocal and machine become one whole in a mass of glorious sound. it must be hard to reach that level again so they fuel out on one of evan’s finest songwriting sculptures wink of an eye. evidently, these guys had my attention and i needed to know more. letter posted, airmail. to cut the long story... we became friends. darrin (evan panic) and stephen (anthony red), the huss brothers slept on our floor and we met their lovely, adoring parents - god only knows what they thought their sons were up to in the basement! for a short while we ran the official psyche info service. unleashed a tape, released a vanishing heat (offshoot project) cd and remain in touch, though not as often as we should. a brotherly duo of immense talent with a vast legacy of material. sadly, stephen became ill many years ago and couldn’t travel beyond his native canada so psyche has been darrin’s vehicle for decades. he made europe both his home and working playground and continues to ensure psyche remains at the forefront of electronic music today. that incredible voice of his brings such pleasure and emotion and stephen’s full-on musicianship lives forever as early psyche material and through his solo works. stephen died in 2015 and as i write in disbelief he’s no longer around, will always remember the sweet, kind and gentle man who made such glorious cacophonies, yet always sat so quiet and contemplative in our ilford flat in those very best of times. all four of us then in our early twenties making the most of what we had and could do. plans and more plans to plot. for stephen, rip.
available from psyche bandcamp along with stephen’s solo material
13/12/18 son of sam : rich and famous [rouska records 1987]
after writing of a-pop i had to give that unreleased compilation an airing, or rather spooling. hitting play i actually got no further than its first track having encountered one of those eureka-esque moments, helped in no doubt by the track in question being called fireworks. a song which is right up there as one of my faves, yet possibly to never see the light of day, so please forgive my waxing lyrical about that and move along to son of sam’s long-playing banger rich and famous. similarities between andrew jarman and chris bishop are many; both approachable and friendly, driven through their music and utterly brilliant songwriters. though on both writing and delivery front they were quite different, the latter edging a tad further than serene! chris had a blunted edge, which through a lilt of wit and odd sarcastic notes could razor that smile off your face at any moment.., very slowly! son of sam took no prisoners. their brand of electro-pop-bop barbarism craved success. from the darkest recesses of the collapse of ancient funk cassette and the golden age of disco mini (both on final image) to the numerous twelves and this full album on the enigmatic rouska label theirs’ was a leftfield aiming itself right at the force-field bullseye, but without the required almighty big fucking marketing bang. if anyone could steer son of sam into the mainstream it was richard rouska though (how i so wish we’d released that wmtid version of tragedy single on the sly as we’d discussed). at first, second and third glances it seemed a match made in heaven... the world rejoicing in a chorus of moan bloody moan, ruthlessly wailing from every radio 1-stifled speaker. of course, as with many a masterpiece emanating from indie back then mainstream acknowledgment didn’t follow. perhaps chris’ writing was just too clever for the shiny people? “sometimes it’s hard to understand the words of popular music. but, it holds the secrets of the fortunes that it brings. sometimes it’s hard to understand the words of love they’re talking of. because it looks just like a pig that taught the world to sing”. that’s from the opening song, and it’s called starch! how insanely fucking brilliant is that. but the biz just didn’t get it. get son of sam’s intelligent swipes at them, at life and the preposterous shiteness of it all. the faux-rock of millennium beats per minute played out on organs and whistles. cain’s drinking deluge clipity-clopping overflows into the mellow awkwardness of goodbye junkie jim; “self respect don’t count at the bank of disneyland” tugging the strings. flipping the disc cuts ‘n’ bruises is a big big tune and reminds of the dave howard singers, minus a wheelchair whiplashing of course. incidentally dave’s manager wouldn’t give me a track for in motion (no bitterness pete just a lifelong sulk. just imagine how i’d feel if the tape had been released!). nature’s made a mistake is upgraded from its previous final image, and in true sos fashion is a twist of love tale, resplendent with guitar jangles before we all get ready to join in as moan bloody moan sets off on its anthem. bloody-hell it should have been longer though, we all do adore a good moan, surely? after that high only a sullen organ accompanied by she weeps croon fades everyone into the centre label. i should point out of course, at this late stage that son of sam also included the not-inconsiderable musical talent of robbie stokes and this album is subtitled eight songs of greed. their only full album it is one of the truly unsung slabs of independent vinyl ripe for resurrection. absolutely unique, rich and famous remains nine-tracks of right-from-the-cuff, electro-funkish interbreeding which is my idea of what popular music should really be all about. warts ‘n’ all.
12/12/18 a popular history of signs : comrades [jungle records 1984]
there was always a serenity about a popular history of signs. which is something of a dichotomy when their songs represented the hammer and sickle of a band with intense socialist beliefs and dignity befitting of the human race. a collective steered by the considerable writing skills and exquisite, effortless vocal delivery of andrew jarman, who with the calmest of breath could both persuade a just fight or loving caress. throughout the eighties they were a staple for me, suiting both my electrical stimulus and political leanings (still do, on both fronts). i think i first heard them with their insanely catchy fast-paced if she was a car twelve-inch. elongated to beyond its very last beat - very much in stylee of the era - making every last vinyl groove count. the two songs on its flip, stigma and guernica flowed through electronics and mood, lyrically focusing on ‘outsiders’ and war. clearly a band with messages integral to their sound. needless to say earlier singles were hunted down and contact made. andrew was indeed a good heart and happily gave tracks for a never-released compilation tape of mine. he was also a fine bass-player, thus propelling the rhythm of a-pop songs not only with words, especially so on comrades. this was sadly their only full long-player other than the much later england in the rain mini-album and is a concise blend of direct, yet contemplative messages. a rare sound which could often supply the dancefloor and in equal measure, snug of home. their main triumph was ease of listening, due in the main to andrew’s bewitching vocal (and message). strangely it never really broke through into the mainstream of ‘electronic pop’. perhaps, due to their considerable craft, or indeed the strong socialist messages. i guess a reasonable listening comparison might be shriekback who too flirted with funkisms and overall sound was similarly wide open, unchained by singular definition. although much-loved they always came across as arty-buggers and just that little beyond daily reach. a-pop did cruise the independent charts with both a strong following here and in europe, especially spain. the messages of october already, the title track and lenin [“lenin, he was a good man. he had a way with words...”] clearly finding communal spirit there. the whole album did indeed offer some kind of hope at a time when its uk wasteland was besieged by a new insidious breed of oppression brought about by thatcher’s imperialistic, greed is everything governance. comrades offered a space to seek refuge and realise there was more than ‘self’ out there. whilst she was busy as a crooked fucking bee flogging off the country’s possessions (including the council houses surrounding my own), these arms were open, ready for embrace. “we shall be companions. we’ll walk arm in arms. we shall be comrades. two flags flying the breeze...”. such wishes. such joy.
11/12/18 pink floyd : the piper at the gates of dawn [emi 1967]
as a child i was exposed to two different sides of the pink floyd. from a very young age it was a saucerful of secrets and this, their debut. original copies proudly played to a five or so year old me by my youngest brother andy and recently departed middle brother john. both significantly older than myself by some degree. yes, i was a mistake, in many ways. at the other end of the psyched spectrum my eldest brother rob would play the wall endlessly when i visited his place fairly regularly, i’d have hit the fourteen or fifteen mark by then. oh how i remember the high doses of sheer boredom that seemingly endless double album dealt and to make matters worse his alternative was invariably lynne’s war of the worlds soundtrack. another bloody perverse double album of utter tedium. needless to say, marks were indelibly inked. therefore, only the quirks, the liveliness and oblique, the happy sad madness of barrett-era floyd have a permanent home in the racks and in my heart. from this era - mid-late 60s - everything does pale into comparison with the velvet underground though. whereas reed, cale, nico an co. were full-on blown fuses, a total waring of the senses (at least on their first two albums), floyd proffered an air of quintessential english summer within their strangeness. a hazy sunshine, soft breeze always with that threat of unwanted warm moisture hastily lashing down from jerky, grey-edged clouds. and it’s the jerkiness i really truly love of them. whether from barrett’s narcotic-exploding narration, the angular poise of multi-layered feuding strings or interstellar overdrive’s final minute or so which through its disruptive production sparks all manner of inner-cellular happenings… crank up the volume around 08.40, pull those speakers close and enjoy. even on the ‘straightest’ of tracks like the quite simply sublime lucifer sam this fifty-odd years-old recording is still some kaleidoscopian listen. yeah, that’s not an actual word but more than acceptable at this adjectunction! there are moments of thrilling bewilderment such as the disfigured rhythm nurseries of flaming, the gnome and scarecrow, yet even the complete innocent twattery of bike has a menace. or perhaps some black obsidian cloaking? whatever, it’s some finale and reminds how we should allow a little more syd to grace our formulaic drone lives. add a little nonsense, jangle and discordance, take up thy stethoscope and walk. use and lose it, lose yourself in it. of course, just about anything and everything has been written about syd and the floyd, so this piece is really just old news but it’s always worth retracing personal musical journies. my love of music was pretty much inseminated by a close family environment initially. my brothers’ love of everything rock to psyche, folk to mod. even my dad’s perfect accordian playing dexterity. and peel of course. all now joyfully thrown at the walls of memory. outline maps navigated, filled and still filling my own independent path from pop to the frankfully unlistenable. wading through the wankingly pretentious (as floyd became without barrett), able to embrace a very few godlike geniuses who often touch us in the moments we least expect. “i know a room of musical tunes. some rhyme, some ching, most of them are clockwork. let’s go into the other room and make them work”. for john (fry) rip.
widely available, vinyl edition from pink floyd official
10/12/18 the legendary pink dots : the gethsemane option [metropolis records 2013]
thirty-three years in existence [now 38!] working in and around the peripheries of electronics and psych experimentation it is truly remarkable how a band could make a record as utterly enthralling as this. especially when you realise this is around their fortieth album (and there have been many many more since). the legendary pink dots still consist of voice-extraordinaire edward ka-spel and phil knight – both of whom create under numerous aliases as well – with the addition of erik drost on guitar and bass (boy can he tremble the room) and raymond steeg’s engineering complexities. and complex the gethsemane option most certainly is… and sinister, definitely sinister. not only through ka-spel’s wisdom words of societas gained through his mature eyes, but the all-absorbing hypnotism of its electrical journey. electronica purists must surely stand open-mouthed at its deep resonance, meaningful ambient washes, guitar-fed shimmers and those all so-important, yet occasional body-endurance bass lines. but, it is the voice which sets the dots apart from any scene, genre, or however art has to be tagged these days. edward’s vocal approach nods a wink to syd barrett and quintessential english post-folk innovation and this tethers a rhythm to the seven song structures of this album. a star is born hints dark magick with boards of canada-styled crushing sweeps while his voice leers through an “iridescent light” blinding this “cruel world”, and that opening sets many a tone. pendulum slows, with damning words crawling over gong-like, shaking synths before that (yes, that) bass line – a very very deep post-rock bass line – rips through one more dimension taking centre stage for once as ed’s disfigured voice vapour-trails a blurred soundscape. the garden of ealing peels back more of england’s lost heritage and reveals the unseen political intent of some of ka-spel’s lyrics on this album. ‘we are just a small island’ repeats the sample - all so relevant now as the monied elite seek to bludgeon through a brexiting of europe at this very moment of re-write.. swathes of guitar, electronics and glitches, precision factory cut until grey scale marches with sequential beats as ed’s voice quite literally scares the shit out of you! esher everywhere i’m pretty sure further damns this country’s current wonderful, caring right-wing government and its surrey core of affluence and privilege. this anthemic prom-stomp referencing the riots is a calling for a removal of the tory party and their agenda of widespread social cleansing. “we’re all in this together” cameron lies, conning the british public from within his esher borders. powerful. so true and saddening. this track means so much to me personally that the final a stretch in time could cease to exist but that would be very unwise as its seven-or-so minutes are a mesmeric slab of quivering electronics and crushing sound; “you always leave the gas on”... having risen from the decaying roots of east london industrial lpd and their terminal kaleidoscope cast off to holland, through the open-minds of european mainlands and often drift to american audiences via their association with skinny puppy. this duo and collaborants over decades have managed that rare thing in creating a sound truly original and most importantly worthwhile. the gethsemane option was their first for the u.s. metropolis label and put in my own simple terms, is a fucking masterpiece. it reminds this constant listener of coil’s finest musick to play in the dark 1 and just as these hands naturally gravitate toward that album, now one hand parts and reaches for the gethsemane option in unison. “shining out like a platinum pepsi can in a mountain of 33 year old grapefruits”. ed, i’ve borrowed your own line - more or less - from a previous life encounter but it does describe pretty much how this album stands aloft over the deluged waste of digitalism and electronica. i bow to thee, let your infinity waltz continue… [parts of this article were previously published 090913 on louder than war]
available via metropolis records
09/12/18 deutsch amerikanische freundschaft: die kleinen und die bosen [mute records 1980]
d.a.f. was probably the first band to really get the message across that sometimes it’s the feeling, the energy, often the sheer snarling delivery of a lyric which matters most. whether that be in native tongue of the writer or its receiver. just the emotion of instrumental music can touch the soul and so it is non-english vocals can do the same (for me, being british), in fact offering a far more cathartic experience. that intense examination of sound, of every phrase. looking for entry points other than reaching for the translator. along the way i’ve embraced a large number of artists from overseas who narrate through their mother tongues; xmal deutschland, sigur ros, metal urbain, die krupps, lisa gerrard (speaking in sound) and even elizabeth fraser who frequently walked heavens truly of her own making. amongst many others who’ve taken, and continue to return me to places way beyond the straight lines of housing estates and narrow agenda of suburban sprawl. even if i had little idea of what they were actually singing, but, more often than not leaving a vague comprehension through tone alone. a case in hand... gabi delgado’s expression was/is without restraint. his, a language of anger and discontent, at least that’s how i read daf then. robert gorl’s pummelling raged. a further driving spectrum of synth-lines and squeals and random interloping guitar scrapes left me in no doubt they (the said duo and kemner, spielmans and haas) meant, if not violence, then way beyond a physical threat. this was a neu punk for me forcing its way out of my rattled speaker(s)... the first time i heard them would have been in throttled mono via mr. peel, if not when their session was aired in december 79, then definitely in the bright (ha!) new age of 1980. a fourteen year-old discovering a worldly wealth of noise about to be lavished by this, the band’s second album (produkt der... their debut, still takes some ploughing through) before pairing down to be the duo masters of sequentials everyone recognises and the blueprint for all manner of nitzer ebbers. die kleinen… is without that spit-polish, absolutely primitive in its entirety. a savage onslaught of studio paranoia and ultra-adrenalin live recordings. the basic sound of what would follow for decades is pretty hard to narrow down but the guts are there. gabi’s howl and gorl’s pitiless rhythms. muscle-bound electro-punks of latter days just revelling in the sinews of punk itself. avant-punk if you like. i dare anyone to listen to was ist eine welle and not agree it pisses on anything which emanated from 77’s 100 club. the album is thrillingly loud, effortlessly so and thankfully (in this instance) lacking the logistical know-how of conny plank who was mainly on engineering duty. every electronic enthusiast must surely possess alles ist gut through to fur immer, plus the many solo and reformation works, but sometimes it’s necessary to rid yourselves of the glamour and relive that sweaty edge of youth again. die kleinen und die bosen might just get you ready for riot because this damn country of ours needs something to light its citizens up.
available as part of the das ist daf box set via groenland
08/12/18 martin rossiter : live at the unitarian church, brighton [drop anchor 2013]
the resurrection of st martin has been a long-time second-coming. as forthright frontman of gene he prowled the live circuit and charts for many years and frankly, the world should be glad he’s back in all his pomp and glory. about time too, we need some intelligence about the place. his recent jaw-droppingly stunning debut solo the defenestration of... album gave the wider public exposure into his newly paired-down passions last year and now he’s allowed us a more intimate glimpse of earlier progress via this download live set recorded in brighton a couple of years before. it was may day 2011 when workers were serenaded by his uplifting tones and caustic tongue. the lucky lucky blighters… if you’ve loved and maddeningly hit that play again button over-and-over after the last notes of defenestration in the past months then do I really need to tell you this is more of the same? well, yes it is and in a good way. what you’ll hear is the base of said debut; three points on a compass, i want to choose when i sleep alone, drop anchor, my heart’s designed for pumping blood (“and sod all else” which i don’t believe for a minute martin), where there are pixels and lighter moment i must be jesus. this latter song still lacking it’s required audience participation and general arms-in-the-air-waving – do hope people will get it soon. there are also amazing versions of gene classics’ somewhere in the world, is it over, olympian and speak to me someone. everything framed by rich percussive piano. such a perfect simple accompaniment to the many scenes this saint plays out with his voice. good and hearty. you’ll want to do nothing else but listen material and just maybe belt along with whilst peeling spuds and stuffing the turkey/getting inventive with a nut roast. better still do it every day before, we all deserve a large dose of cheer right now. owners of the defenestration of st martin need no excuse to purchase and cherish this pure emotive performance but if toes haven’t been dipped into solo rossiter waters yet then have a wee paddle here before diving off the deep end. i’m sure martin will always throw you a life-buoy if you get into trouble. at least I think he will? yes he will, you’ll end up buying both and maybe the live at bush hall dvd too.
07/12/18 buzzcocks : entertaining friends [emi 1992]
today wasn’t meant to be a buzzcocks day. very rarely has there been one here for decades. i’d already started writing about a very different subject study yesterday after publishing day 6’ harmonia, but the sad news of a much loved, much embraced (by everyone) figure from manchester’s punk to pop meant i really should retrieve one of jules’ albums from her less-than-alphabeticalised collection. personally all i can muster is a well-worn harmony in my head 7” one of the finest singles ever recorded, but written and sung by steve diggle and today is all about pete shelley. despite not ever owning a single album i always appreciated buzzcocks’ energy. if ever a band had that perceived ‘englishness’ it was them and shelley’s cheeky, effervescent grin (even when he wasn’t actually smiling) shone through. he always appeared to be the kind of bloke you’d want as a friend and colleague. there with a laugh and stinging comeback when required, and most importantly the drive and passion to create that elusive end product. right there with the spiral scratch. indirectly therefore, he’s a part of everyone’s life who has ever created, made and sold without big bucks and the whipping hand. “i don’t know what to do with my life. i don’t know what to do with my life” opens entertaining friends, the obvious choice for me to spin. a live recording made in 1979 by ‘four people from manchester who make music’. “i don’t know what to do with my life...”, of course you bloody-well did! and what a great life, the very best life. here, from their initial years condensed into eighteen songs, a set taking in ‘sixteen’s rollicking drama, sounding like siouxsie and the banshees i kid you not (though garvey’s bass was not severin’s!), proto-rock of nothing left, the screeching oblique strategies of noise annoys, rash rush of orgasm addict and the highest flying beautifully, oh-so-utterly perfect-with-a-sly-swipe power pop of promises, everybody’s happy nowadays, what do i get? and ever fallen in love...? oh shit... they were one of those bands who always played in memories, in the soaked-up sponge of the psyche. with the presumption they always would be. there was no need to buy the records, because i heard them everyday in that harmony in my head. i’d grown up with them, but not needing them. so many choices offered up by uncle john, but pocket-money and low wages meant musical decisions led to wins and losses. that old mate hindsight now calls once again and points out i will never witness buzzcocks’ cheery-leery attitude at altitude. their everydayness as art-form. their so very-well-written and executed fucking great music. pete shelley, these too late words are for you. we only wish you could read them, roll your eyes and return with some quick-fire rebuttal, a happy dismissal. mind, you will need the practise though, you’ve mark e. to spar with up there. r.i.p.
06/12/18 harmonia : musik von harmonia [brain 1974]
i think everyone aware of me knows where i stand with kraftwerk. it’s not so much a disliking, i’m simply sick of their ‘it’s-a-given’ godlike status and the endless rehashing of their own product. remixes after robotic remixes, by them. it’s bloody painting by the same numbers used in the first place. kraftwerk’s initial albums were highly creative 1/2, r&f, autobahn to computer world, all sublime. they were then, when released. i do not need updated versions, and i can’t emphasise that plural with any firmer prod of this finger. so, when delving into the territory and term krautrock (as we must) neu! forever reign supreme. every album michael rother and klaus dinger made surged forward with diversity and unsurpassed momentum. eno pilfered from them, both for himself and bowie. now, just imagine the recordings that quartet could have made together, not to mention one almighty hallogallo during the processes. i continue to revel in all neu! especially neu! 75. it’s breathtaking work. good for the soul and inward motorik battery. but, for this 25 purposing i need something less laser-worn (sadly the vinyl left the building long ago) and an album which was only replaced to digital form last festive season i think. being so familiar it then had a joyous unwrapping, a play and shelved... rother, moebius and roedelius, the communion of neu! and cluster, oh how i should play you more. the drive of motorik and esoteric ambience in one vaguely blissful marriage. immediately the dotted line of musik von harmonia propels itself with repetitious extravagance before a friendly tangled tug of war between these players of patterning and the oblique inherently merge on sonnenschein. track 3 seemingly a clear path, but bombarded by off signals and very much more than weird production. dino overflows with rother’s wondrous guitar, still nothing else can match it and an ultimate high lulls the senses before ohrwurm scares the living daylights out of everyone and thing. copied by many a drone artist, but none of them ever get the random elements in the right (wrong) places to blacken the darkness. ahoil is a serene interlude before the fade in of psyched-motoriks and the final cascade of journeying multiple pianos, rhythms, and noise; hausmusik’s freeflow of ‘other’. a work experimental in every sense, yet easy to imagine with. i really need to hear inside it more, hear the very essence of diy. not a bunch of little rich boys and their robots in sight. neu!, cluster and harmonia (and others) breathed an air of communal punk in their ramshackle boxes and wires. it’s easy to picture one mr. peel silently in the corner feeling the insistent energy, gently smiling and contented. he knew. i wish i’d been older at that for him to tell me.
available via groenland
05/12/18 eric random : words made flesh [klanggalerie 2016]
this unrivalled gentleman of electronic, experimental and multi-cultural soundisms has always appeared on the fringes. consistently producing bodies of work of such subliminal splendour, yet seemingly looking over shoulders at all the shiny people strutting their polished electrical signals to the adoring masses. it’s so hard to figure why his work never really noodles into the psyche as it so rightly should. late 70s tiller boys exploits with pete shelley had previously flown right by, but i think i first came across his name via the some bizzare album in jell form with a track which anxiously sidles its way into being with a freakish swelling of outer jazz, but actually bears little relation to jazz at all! quite brilliant, as was the whole of the finest compilation ever to exist. bravo stevo! anyways, the next time eric’s handsome coattails fell over my senses was through cabaret voltaire’s doublevision imprint. being the cv devotee the transmorphic electro-funk of mad as mankind and time-splice hit good and hard. electronic to the core but full of tantalising other-worldly flavours. compelling listening. then, he dropped off my radar and shamefully my magnified glass left looking out for other assorted clues in the maelstrom of independently indie music. fast forward into the 2010s and both ltm and klanggalerie were releasing past, recent, unreleased and into the future random work. orders placed. played catch-up. and in catching up discovered he was actually part of exquisite nico’s the faction. i really should have paid more attention... solo, a flurry of activity. man dog’s switched-on eastern mantras and in 2016, words made flesh. a twelve track set of highly moveable tunes with and without random’s suave half-spoken vocal, either wielded (vaguely) straight from the cuff or linked with precision processing. eric loves a little eastern spice but here the high percentage is western influence. the easy option would be to say kraftwerkian, but there are far more levels to these flesh and words. except perhaps the assembly-line robotic go figure, ironically phrasing ‘so perfect. so neat’ ... ‘this world goes on. and on’. an homage to dusseldorf visions perhaps? that’s the obvious out of the bag, i prefer to think of the whole as a new form of organic tech for now, right now, beautiful and intrinsically textured. somehow, through some inbuilt magic he makes me want to reach in and feel these sounds. ride the diverse waves, leap inside buried programs and allow soft rhythms to breathe new life within. the key is that words made flesh provides such an immediate soulful uplift - despite the real world itself being in such dour straights - its vast depth and broad range of patterning, all so bright and bubbling. in essence this is an electronic pop album of rare mobility and class. painting light from darkness, with slivers of interjecting burroughs and a little mallinder wrangler-mangling vitamin. if only this was available in tablet form to pop in a glass of water first thing in the morning for a fast intake of effervescent sparkle. the sound of now, eric random’s readily available addition to your immune system.
available from klanggalerie
04/12/18 cabaret voltaire : plasticity [plastex/instinct 1992]
i’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site of bands who have always remained with me. moulding my intensive urges to create and more than anything care in times of much needed internal well-being. i conversed with the passage, portion control and psyche (and a few others) but cabaret voltaire always appeared to me as being on another level. a higher plain of intelligence, way above my unassured, wide-eyed-in-awe weekly wage grade. gut level always saying i couldn’t possibly reach out to richard h. kirk and stephen mallinder (and chris watson), them being so low-tech (high tech back then) savvy and street cool. but, they did talk with me, on shelves, in racks and boxes. on vinyl, compacts, vhs, dvd’s and assorted tapes of varying degrees of legitimacy. peel sessions included naturally! in my mind - and i still believe this - they were the single most important electronic band of our time. i know that would be kraftwerk for most, but it’s cv all the way for me. in sound and visually too through their unique use of video, both commercially and performance. cabs is not a legacy built around rehashing old tunes, but one of inventiveness and advancement. from the ultra-experimental and razor-edged populist, through pure dance intoxicants and soundtrack theory to sheen-polished pings. that’s why they will forever stand so mighty above the german posse. they were conquerors in all their many phases and i appreciate everything. 2x45 is my own preferred platinum of their vast catalogue though. bridging the gap between rough trade intensive obsessions and soon-coming full frontal assault on media and dancefloor, but at a guess it’s aired around once a month so for the purposes of this exorcism plasticity leapt into the cd tray. an album which strangely is not played that often but could actually be a good initial reference for (god forbid) anyone to start the navigation around cv’s extensive c.v. the work flows between a subjugated form of the bleep-house of body and soul, rhythm theories of, say, groovy, laidback and nasty and stylised composite soundtracks with an extensive use of film cut-ups. a feature used with purposeful intent throughout their work. the ‘flow’ is something in which kirk and mallinder truly have no peers and the build from ground zero 0:00 through to track 4 is a heavenly experience. in fact the album has the feel of how the very best dj’s approach their craft. creating an environment of highs and lows, house climaxes and downtempo breathers and as such plasticity needs to be experienced in entirety. it’s also a set to engage the mind. a glowing headphone area of intensive digital mapping in which to search for clues of re-used, repeated and re-focused ph(r)ases, single sounds locked into new formations of dub trance or elevated intelligent techno. the flow does make it unnecessary to pinpoint tracks but inside the electronic revolution and the closing soulenoid (stream at the right time) are the essence of plasticity. differing movements smoothed into one rotational objective; that all encompassing flow. or as put to me via the powerful medium of twitter just now, mal thinks of plasticity as being ‘fluid’. spot on of course, lucky to be worthy now in middle age to converse with such legends! the only thing missing here of course is his golden voice, either in formal or treated tones. but there are plenty of other titles or his latest wrangler exploits to travel there with. needless to say if plasticity is out of reach there are numerous others to seek and deploy...
essential cabaret voltaire : mix-up, the voice of america, red mecca, 2x45, the crackdown, micro-phonies, the covenant the sword and the arm of the lord, drinking gasoline/gasoline in your eye, code, eight crepuscule tracks, groovy laidback and nasty, body and soul, plasticity, the conversation
some titles available via mute
03/12/18 the presets : beams [modular records 2005]
keeping the theme, keeping things unreal from down under. although not sure if the great man had played any of this aussie duo’s material before his early departure in 2004. much of beams slots into the outer fringes of electro(nic) dance though so i will assume am still keeping it peel. let’s face it he would play anything. no barriers or borders, it’s why we loved and still love him so. i first stumbled on the presets back in the days when music tv programmes would show actual music videos. the two geezers in fast shots looked like the kind of nutjobs i’d been craving whilst sheep on drugs were laying their rabid overcoats to rest. are you the one? was said track. rolling around like listening in some flea-bitten mobile home, ragged speakers dolling out its dirty electro and rasping synthetic vox. a love song of the lowest denominator, quite something which wouldn’t be out of sync on p.c.’s psycho-bod or any of said drugs. sold. album bought. immediately kranked for its opening get-yer-breather-in-first instrumental. a good move as are you the one? kicks next. whilst this blinder is the steel-toe dr. marten, branded presets are not short of a few classic 8 holes, brogues, a cambridge and many of those newly-fangled colour options all ready to click n’check. out. just remember to slam that steel and brake first before allowing down down down to drop its nasty tasting tribal techno - ‘and you might wish to pair that with i go hard, go home sir’. girl in the sea is beep beep pure, replete with whisky chaser vocal. a track which truly deserved to crossover the line run by space-helmets daft punk, with whom these presets have toured extensively. not afraid to noodle they fill-up on intriguing instrumentals worms, black background and hill stuck. the latter wouldn’t be out of kilter with red mecca era cabs. i’ve no idea if portion control were in julian hamilton and kim moyes’ inspirational racks down under but girl (you chew me up) has me leaning toward them again and perhaps the instrumentals which run through the whole album are referencing step forward? whatever, this album is one which may well have flown over your cuckoo’s nest, or been emptied from the stacked trolley, but there’s still time to play catch-up and enjoy its electro-laceups. and play more… literally bad up your betterness via sleazy downtempo and let beams float you away on strings and acoustics into a spatial oddity of giant white rabbits. well, that’s what the title track did to me, but i guess that may have been the meds. once awake I never really followed through properly on the band’s later work... an essence of the great trickery of beams can be found on apocalypso (my people and talk like that; anthems) and despite owning pacifica it’s too bold, but in too shiny a way. too human! so boys if you do happen to read this switch me on again. i would dearly love to know if we shared any teenage portion control obsessions if nothing else. oh yeah, and about those rabbits, or sheep…
available via the presets
02/12/18 dead can dance : dead can dance [4ad records]
after hearing low technology again the memory had already decided to play this album today… walking into one of my favourite live venues in london (the lyceum in the strand) in anticipation of seeing fad gadget and pink industry the band added to the bill already on stage was dead can dance. john had already opened my ears to this antipodean delight, and possibly because i hadn’t expected to see them there, right in front of my eyes, they literally blew everything away that night. there is something magical about jayne casey so of course pink industry were sublime, but frank tovey appeared so static, lacking all of his theatrics and playing straight from the records. nothing wrong in that, but in an arena like this next door to the city’s opera heartland i wanted at least whipped cream. this was early 1984. i think i’d already bought dcd’s debut album, but can’t be sure. whatever way round before or after possession, this was their ‘rock’ phase. though not rock in any normalised state. imbued within were slivers of abstraction and tribal mewings like the dangerously invasive frontier or musica eternal’s daunting procession of cascading plucked strings. and that voice. who in their right mind would allow lisa gerrard’s grandiose ‘other’ languages to writhe and shimmer all over a rock album? odd, but oh so intriguing. and so, the needle drops hard with the opening carcrash instrumental the fatal impact and the trial’s driving speed steps further on the accelerator where we first encounter the depth, the sheer beauty of brendan perry’s voice (yeah, obviously he sounds a little like scott walker). beyond these initial grooves a pattern appears to emerge between songs teetering on the edge of acceptance - fortune, threshold, wild in the woods etc - and transcendental glimpses requiring gerrard’s unique vocal tapestries such as ocean. they all create a heady mix and after this album under their dead can dance umbrella and solo works move away from any other conventional dalliances (other than the associated garden of the arcane delights ep) directing travel so worldly, so extravagant, generous and omnipotent. i have followed them blindly, both in awe and with gratitude and assuredly my senses have rebelled again and again.
01/12/18 pink industry : low technology [zulu records, 1982]
in truth any of jayne, ambrose and tadzio’s recordings should rightly be played and heard every single day of the year. they all share such rare exquisite beauty, beguile and shine and follow similar paths building upon levels of production and sound. this, their first album is the only one to have been reissued (apart from compilations), a fact which is criminal when you consider the amount of dross dolled out again and again and again by lesser mortals. in truth my fingers tend to fall onto their second album who told you, you were naked? which has a flow unsurpassed on any of the bands three albums (as well as having a great title) but today it’s appropriate to focus on this debut as i must have heard them on peel around the time of its release. or maybe before? probably, but in the recesses i can still hear creaking doors eerily lumbering from my lo-fi speaker(s) making its mark forever. needless to say of everything that track remains my favourite and because of it at that time i had visions of creating music mixing the sound of this song with the repetitive sequencials of cabaret voltaire. that plan lasted all of about five minutes as i soon discovered i was no musician! somewhere deep in the vaults are a few lyrics I’d written, but hopefully they’ll remain firmly cemented in the walls. anyways, for those unititiated into the sensuous world of pink industry stand ready, motionless on command because there was nothing and there is still no-one who sounds like them. they were driven by the primitive rhythms of a drum machine, sparse drifting electronics and jayne casey’s soothing, yet oh-so unsettling and totally dominant voice. all tethered and buoyed by bouncing basslines, often twice over. this debut is so absolute, so dynamic and demanding, the expertise of its makers smothering the listener in a world of alternatives. processing sounds in the age of low technology, retaining the raw edges only a human touch or voice could achieve with so much emotion and affection. feel the drama of enjoy the pain and send them away, ride the abstracts of heavenly and blow out the candle with the sorrow of is this the end? jayne and ambrose had a grounding in pink military but with tadzio the trio, for a very short while danced a twilight line of blinds’ drawn mystery and just out of reach fingertip pop. i loved them and sadly the world lost tadzio forever. they were one of liverpool’s finest and i remain at attention in hope someone will please please please me and reissue everything.
possibly still available on reissue cd including their first ep and unreleased material from isegrimm