Half An Hour Of The Charlatans

The Charlatans have weathered many, if not all, the storms that could be thrown at a band since their arrival in 1989 and still they keep moving. A Covid delayed thirtieth anniversary box set and tour has been completed this year and in September they play Manchester’s New Century Hall as part of a week of celebrations for that venue where they’ll play 1992’s Between 10th And 11th in full plus ‘all the hits’. Singer Tim Burgess regularly proves himself to be the nicest man on Twitter and his listening parties lit up lockdown back in 2020. They don’t just rest on their laurels either- 2015’s Modern Nature is among their best work and the follow up, Different Days, showed they still wanted to press forward. Tim’s solo albums are full of ideas and good songs. None of this is what many would have expected from the five piece that stepped into the light in 1989 with Indian Rope. 

Todays’  thirty minute mix focusses on their swirly, heady, psychedelic side of the group’s songs, a Hammond organ- led stew, with a couple of remixes thrown in, perfect for a bit of mellow/ wigging out on a Sunday. The Norman Cook remix is a 2016 Record Store Day release, a beautiful Balearic version of a song from Modern Nature. Come In Number 21 opened their third album, 1994’s Up To Our Hips, produced by Steve Hillage- the 10: 40s edit here is somewhat unofficial. Opportunity is on debut Some Friendly (and thinking about this now I probably should have included Opportunity Three, the Flood produced remix and superior version). Another Rider Up In Flames is from Up To Our Hip. Chewing Gum Weekend is from Between 10th And 11th, the first album to feature guitarist Mark Collins. Imperial 109 is one two B-sides from their 1990 hit single The Only One I Know. Sproston Green closes Some Friendly and most of their gigs (the US single version I’ve included is slightly shorter, losing some of the long organ led intro- not the best version but it worked better here). Sproston Green is a small village near Middlewich, Cheshire, home to a couple of hundred people, a pub and a parish council noticeboard and not much else. The village has lost its signs on occasion,  light fingered Charlatans fans taking it away from the side of the A54 in the dead of night. 

Half An Hour Of The Charlatans

  • Trouble Understanding (Norman Cook Remix)
  • Come In Number 21 (10:40’s 21 With A Bullet Edit)
  • Opportunity
  • Another Rider Up In Flames
  • Chewing Gum Weekend
  • Imperial 109 (Edit)
  • Sproston Green (US Version)

Saturday Theme Twenty

Two minutes and nine seconds of fuzz guitar and motorcycle engines from 1966, courtesy of Dave Allen And The Arrows. Dave Allen, fuzz guitarist, worked on the soundtracks of various teen and biker movies in the 60s, including The Wild Angels, the Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra film from which Andrew Weatherall took the famous sample that opens Primal Scream’s Loaded (but that’s another story).

Dave plugged his Fender Jazzmaster into a Mosrite Fuzzrite to make his guitar sound like a motorbike. In 1966 he had a regional hit in Texas and Ohio with Theme From The Wild Angels, retitled Blue’s Theme in 1967 and re- released. Blue’s Theme has more fuzz per square inch than any other record from that time, Link Wray included. It is fuzz incarnate, a surf/ garage/ psyche crossover that reeks of engine fumes, leather and grease. 

Blue’s Theme

Switch On The Sky

One of the general truths of travel is that it doesn’t really matter where or how far you go, you take yourself with you. Writer Neil Gaiman said as such (‘wherever you go, you take yourself with you’) and fellow writer Haruki Murakami said something similar (‘no matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself’). All three of us had moments while we were on holiday where Isaac’s death hit us in some way. Going to a very hot island four hours away by plane and spending the time on beaches and by the pool wouldn’t have floated Isaac’s boat at all- he didn’t like beaches, would have found it much too hot, wasn’t great on planes and getting him up an down all the steps from the hotel to the street below would have been difficult. In some ways that’s why we chose to go somewhere like Gran Canaria- it being so different from the car and ferry, French campsite holidays we’d done with him was all part of our thinking. We’re still getting used to being a family of three- being somewhere a long way from home where you don’t know anyone compounds this in some ways. No one we met or spoke to knew what had happened to us or what we brought to Gran Canaria with us. Lou says there are times when she wants to tell people, ‘we’re not a family of three, we’re a family of four’, but dropping it into conversations is really difficult- there’s no easy way to do it and it goes off like an explosion, leaving people wrong footed, shocked and apologetic.

Last Saturday, 30th July, was eight months to the day since he died and we all felt it at different time during the day. It never leaves you does it? Grief and loss always find ways to come out of nowhere and punch you again. It still sometimes feels like being winded, a physical pain in the chest. I felt it sitting on the balcony one evening, music playing through the crappy speaker I’d brought with me, sun shining on me, cold beer in hand, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a wallop of pain.

Lying on a sun lounger on the beach and thinking back to the room in Wythenshawe hospital in late November, it all seemed a bit unreal again, that we’d ended up where we were/ are, and being away without him briefly felt wrong. We went to one of the beachside cafes for a beer and some chips and some shade. As we sat down we all noticed the TV screen hanging over the ice cream counter, showing one of Isaac’s favourite programmes- Mr Bean (and bizarrely one of his favourite episodes too, the barber shop one). Sitting drinking a pint of very cold beer (price 1€ 50) and watching Mr Bean made us all smile, pulling us out of the loss and the tears we’d all felt a few minutes before. In some way, via Mr Bean, he’d come with us. 

This song, Switch On The Sky, came out the day we flew. Mark Peters is a guitarist from Wigan. His Innerland album came out in December 2017, an instrumental/ ambient record with eight tracks all named after north- west landmarks. The following year a beatless ambient version was released and a remix album too called New Routes Out Of Innerland. All three were big favourites round here (you can listen buy at Mark’s Bandcamp page). Switch On The Sky is the first single from the follow up, Red Sunset Dreams (out in September), and has Dot Allison (formerly of One Dove) on vocals. It’s a gorgeous, slightly forlorn, gently psychedelic song with guitar, bass, pedal steel, synths, banjo and ukulele and masses of swirling reverb. If you buy the single at Bandcamp there’s also a lovely hazy shoegaze/ dub reworking called Switched On. 

It’s our 27th wedding anniversary today, another first to go through. We were young when we got married (Lou 23, me 25) and we had no idea what lay ahead of us or the circumstances we’d find ourselves in all these years later but that’s the way life goes I suppose. Here are a pair of 27 songs to celebrate, both from favourite bands of mine. First, an A Certain Ratio song from 1991, the early 80s Factory post- punk funk being updated with something much more early 90s (but still laced with a tinge of Mancunian melancholy).

Twenty Seven Forever (Jon da Silva’s Bubble Bath Mix)

Second, Half Man Half Biscuit and a song from their 2002 opus Cammell Laird Social Club, wherein Nigel’s efforts at romance are repeatedly rebutted- ‘I said ” would you like to go the zoo?”/ She said ‘yeah bit not with you’/ 27 yards of dental floss and she still won’t give me a smile/ I’m King Euphoria, she’s Queen Victoria/ 27 yards of dental floss and she still won’t give me a smile’

27 Yards Of Dental Floss

Happy anniversary Lou. 

Starlight

I’ve already written about A Mountain Of One’s Stars Planets Dust Me, one of 2022’s album highlights, a sun- baked, existential fever dream, Balearic cosmic dance spliced with prog and tripped out yacht rock. Some of it feels like the music you hear when you’ve nodded off on a sun-lounger and are just waking up, not quite sure where or when you are. The song Stars- all of this with a sunset bound guitar solo running through the middle of it- has been remixed and was released as a single at the end of July.

The pick of the three remixes is from Glok. Regular readers here will know that Glok is Ride’s Andy Bell, a man currently responsible for two of this year’s other best albums (his solo album Flicker and Glok’s Pattern Recognition) and who has toured the UK and Europe twice already, once playing his solo Space Station set and once with Ride playing Nowhere. The Glok Starlight Dub is a delight, all echo laden vocals, chuggy drum machine rhythm and lots of space, stripped back Mediterranean dub.  


The Yo Miro remix is faster, smoother and sleeker, a poolside disco version. The Arveene Remix shuffles in, piano to the fore with hints of the Hill Street Blues theme and then the synth bassline starts to bubble away, a lush laidback groove. 

Wednesday’s Long Song

We got back from Gran Canaria in the early hours on Monday night/ Tuesday morning, Manchester welcoming us with drizzle and road works in a reassuring kind of way. Ten days in Gran Canaria was very much what we all needed, sunshine every day and not very much to do other than slow right down and potter between the pool, the beach and places to eat and drink. Usually when we go on holiday we’re taking days to go out and do and see things, visiting cities and historical or cultural sites (and record shops). In Puerto Rico there wasn’t much of that- a fantastic array of cactuses aside- so we ground to a halt. Much of the time it was too hot to do very much at all, the mercury rising to the mid- to- high thirties most days. On the descent from 30, 000 feet into Las Palmas airport my right ear unblocked itself, the congestion around my sinuses shifting completely which was worth the holiday in itself (even if I can feel it returning as I type this). 

While we were away it seemed like there were a lot of interesting musical releases which I’ll spend part of this week catching up with. One of them was this, a David Holmes remix of Orbital’s Belfast, part of a 30th anniversary album the Hartnoll brothers have released to celebrate three decades of music called 30 Something. Belfast came out in 1991 on the III 12″ along with the tracks LC1 and Satan. Belfast was named after the experience Orbital had playing in the city after Homes booked them to play at the Art College in Belfast in May 1990. David’s remix doesn’t radically alter the original, instead tweaking it, updating it from 1990 to 2022 and just making it a bit moreso. Twelve minutes of euphoric blissed out splendor (with a tinge of melancholy)

Here’s the original from the III 12″ single with the famous sample of soprano (singer not gangster) Emily Van Evera, a sampled voice that appeared on The Beloved’s The Sun Rising a year previously. 

Belfast

Where Do We Go On A Saturday Til The Morning Light?

Back in February I started writing some guest posts at Ban Ban Ton Ton, Dr. Rob’s one stop shop for all things Balearic, electronic and dance music oriented. I haven’t posted any links here since I wrote about Richard Norris’ February Music For Healing, a twenty minute long ambient track called Chrome, and Nina Walsh’s Music To Fall Asleep To and then in March the new album by Belgium’s Rheinzand, Atlantis Atlantis, a record shaping up to be one of 2022’s best. Last month I went to the launch party for Disco Pogo, the relaunched Jockey Slut magazine. Mo and Charlotte from Rheinand were one of four people scheduled to DJ in Electrik in Chorlton. At an opportune moment I spoke to Mo and told how much I like the album and that I’d reviewed it for Ban Ban Ton Ton. In response he gave me a big hug. 

Since March I’ve written a further six reviews, hopping around Europe and the world musically, with more in the pipeline. In chronological order then, with links to Ban Ban Ton Ton where you can listen to many of the tracks from the albums- 

Field Works- Stations

An album in two parts, the first a set of recordings done by Stuart Hyatt (in association with The National Geographic Society and The Anchorage Museum) where Hyatt used microphones and ground recording devices to record the sound of the earth. He then added human voices to create a found sound/ ambient ten track album that is frequently beautiful. The second part sees the ten tracks (Field Stations) remixed. My review at Ban Ban Ton Ton is here

Société Étrange- Chance 

French instrumental three piece cooking a storm- there are references and comparisons to A Certain Ration, King Tubby, Tortoise, Adrian Sherwood, Can and Jah Wobble in my review which you can read here. Six echo laden, post- punk/ cosmic instrumentals.

Andreas Kunzmann- Album

Austrian 90s IDM/ techno made for home listening. Lots of fun and very engaging. Read more here

The Balek Band- Medicines

Back to France, Nantes to be more exact, and some delirious, open minded dance music, a melding of synths and electronics with live instruments to make some lovely, exuberant, shape shifting Balearic/ cosmische/ nu disco/ house/ whatever else you can think of. Read and listen here

BSS (AMS)- Bredius

Mysteriously titled artist and EP from Amsterdam, Dutch ambient techno with splashes of Detroit and Blade Runner and more besides. Four track EP, my review is here

Rich Ruth- I Survived, It’s Over

Nashville ambient/ instrumentalist Rich Ruth made the excellent Calming Signals back in 2019. His new album builds on the sounds on that album and the trauma of a carjacking outside his home to make one of 2022’s most far reaching records, righteous drone/ ambient/ spiritual jazz. Read more here

For those of you who’d like a Bagging Area meets Ban Ban Ton Ton uptown primer/ sampler I put this together, a forty minute mix featuring one song from each of the albums reviewed above. 

Bagging Area Meets Ban Ban Ton Ton Uptown 

  • Field Works: Station 2
  • Field Works: Station 4 (Afrodeutsche Remix)
  • BSS (AMS): De Regenboog
  • Andreas Kunzmann: Sputnik Rave
  • Société Étrange: La Rue Principale Grandrif
  • The Balek Band: Cosmic Barry
  • Rich Ruth: Doxology
  • Rheinzand: Atlantis Atlantis

There will now follow a break in transmission until early August. School finished yesterday and we’re getting away today, off on our holidays for ten days in the sun in the Canaries. See you all when I get back. Adios amigos. 

Go On

I was reminded of this poem earlier this week while reading something else, sweltering in the heat we’ve had hanging over us. It’s called The Dead and it’s by US poet Billy Collins.

‘The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a warm afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,

which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes’

It was the final reading at Isaac’s funeral last December, read by the celebrant at the graveside. I found it in a poetry anthology I have and it seemed appropriate. How we managed to do anything last December baffles me looking back, never mind plan a funeral- it seems now like we were alternating between being on numb autopilot and stumbling round in a fog. I haven’t thought much about the poem since the funeral but reading it two days ago, sitting and sweltering in the heat we’ve had hanging over us for the last few days, it moved me (again) and I was struck (again) by the sentiment in it and it seemed to provide some comfort in a way I hadn’t considered when I chose it back in December. 

I’ve not been very well recently. In the middle of May I developed a cough which refused to go away for six weeks. After three weeks of coughing I went to the doctors and they sent me for various tests- a chest X- Ray, blood tests and so. All came back clear. It was suggested I might have developed asthma and I was prescribed an inhaler which made no difference. Just as the cough started to clear up I went deaf in my right ear (nearly four weeks ago now). At a rough estimate I’d say I’ve got about 10% of my hearing in that ear. It’s muffled and feels blocked and no matter what I do I can’t pop it. It seems my sinuses and eustachian tube are blocked but nothing seems to be unblocking it and as well as being incredibly frustrating (not being able to hear is grim) it veers between uncomfortable and painful. In the morning it has sometimes cleared but as soon as I get up and stand up, it fills up again. At times the tinnitus in the right ear is very pronounced too (although that was there before it got blocked). Since going back to the doctor I’ve been on a steroid nasal spray and decongestants but nothing seems to be working. I’ve had some hay fever in the past but nothing like this. I don’t know if the pollen is particularly bad this year- some reports say it is- and maybe my hay fever has been exacerbated by having Covid last December, everything inflamed by the virus, or if the stress of the last seven months has poleaxed my immune system, or if it’s something else, but having never been a particularly ill person, it’s really affecting me being unwell for so long. I can’t help but feel it’s in some way connected to Isaac’s death and the aftermath of all that. Apart from anything else, it’s really affecting my ability to listen to and enjoy music, which is shit. 

This is new from Panda Bear and Sonic Boom, a summer infused slice of Beach Boys style psychedelic pop called Go On with a Troggs sample contained within it’s grooves. An album follows in July. It’s got little to do with either the Billy Collins poem above or my medical woes but it’s a feel good piece of music for the middle of July and even heard in mono lifts me up. 

Machine Music

Machine Records is based in Cardiff, a production line of electronic music emanating from South Wales. Their Bandcamp page is a treasure trove of releases, umpteen singles, albums and EPs going back to the mid 00s. Here’s two of the more recent ones. Out soon is an EP by Cardiff artist First Third, a three track release called 1, 2. The two main tracks, 1.1 and 2.2, are glitchy electronic pieces, patterns and structures set up and then altered. As well as these two there’s a remix by label boss Dan under his Stereo Minus One name. All three tracks can be bought here, in New Zealand dollars. Is there a ley line that connects Cardiff and Wellington? And is First Third named after Neal Cassady’s rambling, freewheeling autobiography? 

Also on Machine Records, out last month, is Stereo Minus One’s Lodestone, a thirteen track album which finds some weird new spaces, sounding a bit like the industrial works of South Wales, coal mines and engineering plants, taken over by computers. Again, glitchy but with some industrial ambient, reminiscent in paces of the 90s/ early 2000s work of Richard D. James. In some places, Other Worlds for example, it’s all quite unsettling, in others more contemplative. Miserable Miracle has echoes of Two Lone Swordsmen (the late 90s era output, and Tiny Reminders). Rewind is one minute of repeating, filtered sounds and a rattle. The album is here. It finishes with a mix of Alarums by Cape Canaveral which is in a similar place to a lot of Pye Corner Audio’s music from the last couple of years, murky, submerged, experimental but enthralling electronic shapes. 

Wrote For Luck, Takes Me Higher

There was further sad news at the weekend with the announcement of the death of Paul Ryder aged fifty eight. Paul aka Horse was brother of Shaun and the bass player in Happy Mondays, and when you listen to their records you realise how much of their unearthly groove was due to his basslines. Self taught and trying to copy the basslines from Motown, Parliament and Funkadelic and house records, his basslines are the foundation on which the Mondays were able to base their chaos. I first saw them at the Mountford Hall, Liverpool University in March 1989, a gig like no other, the entire room dancing from front to back, the stage a shadowy blur with Shaun sitting on the drum riser to deliver his stream of consciousness street poetry for most of the gig, Bez appearing through the dry ice, grinning and bug eyed. Paul and guitarist Mark were left and right, shrouded in darkness churning out their weirded out funk rock grooves and noise. They finished, as they had to, with Wrote For Luck.

Wrote For Luck (Dance Mix)

This performance has the band in full flight on Club X in September 1989. Club X was on Channel 4, one of the channels late 80s, late night programmes aimed at catching the youth audience. 

RIP Paul Ryder.

Another long lost/ never seen before TV performance from the 1989/ 1990 period came my way a few days ago, this time loved up rave heroes The Beloved. The group are miming (unlike the Mondays) but this clip of them doing Your Love Takes Me Higher on Hit Studio International, recorded at Limehouse in London, is rather good and a perfect little time capsule.

Your Love Takes Me Higher is a superb piece of house- pop, encapsulating the optimism and wide eyed feel of the times. The Beloved duo Jon and Steve have expanded to a full band for TV appearances drafting in friends, everyone giving it everything, all long hair, long sleeved t-shirts and baggy jeans. 

Your Love Takes Me Higher (Demo)

Monday’s Long Song

A swift return to these pages for Jezebell with the release last Friday of their three track Jezebellearica EP. Two of the three have been released previously, the slinky groove of Le Funk Et Moi and the White Ilse stomper Stop Bajon (Primavera), summer songs built around the works of Max Berlins and Tullio Piscopo. The lead song, Jezebellearic, is seven minutes and forty three seconds of laid back, easy going charm, a groove and song that according to Jesse ‘just seemed to write itself’, pushed along by a lazy vaguely familiar bassline. It is sprinkled with the voice of legendary DJ Alfredo, the father of the Balearic Beat and resident of Ibiza since 1976, who picked up the residency at Amnesia and proceeded to play the contents of his record collection, a unique and eclectic blend of rock, pop, dance, soul, jazz, soundtracks, instrumentals and eventually house to a crowd of pleasure seekers from all over the world who ‘all knew each other by their first name’. Jezebellearic is magic bottled, a feeling compressed into bytes. And much more. Get it here and name your own price. 

In the track Alfredo lists some of the records he played, including this one from Art Of Noise in 1984. How’s that for cooling you down on the hottest Monday of the year/ decade/ century?

Moments In Love