Full Moon

Moon Duo arrived on stage on Tuesday night at the Dancehouse, taking up their places inside the four-sided tent set up for them to perform inside, Ripley with guitar stage right in jeans, t-shirt and trucker cap and Sanae Yamada stage left behind a rack of keys and synths, in silver smock and black PVC trousers. Behind them drummer John Jeffrey, long haired and channelling the motorik beat of Klaus Dinger but faster and louder. At the back of the stage three projectors throw films, patterns, colours, shapes, roads, tower blocks, snowstorms and fractals onto the trio as they play, an intense and stunning lightshow. The strobe flashes away and at times the backlighting throws up Moon Duo in silhouette, on the screen at the front, giving the impression of two Moon Duos playing at once.

During the dozen or so songs they barely look at the audience, instead locked into each other and the groove. The synth chatters away between songs, the sounds of birdsong and crickets. John Jeffrey triggers the drum machine and then piles in on the live kit and they’re off, Sanae filling the venue with drones and noise, synth bass and texture and the drums powering forward, glorious repetition. Over the top Ripley finds the space to glide over the top, his guitar playing alternately Stooges like riffs and dripping, molten solos. The twin vocals are smothered in reverb. Opener Flying kick starts the evening, a half paced shuffle with spacey, cosmic synths. Most of the rest of Stars Are The Light, released just a few weeks ago, is aired, the drones, melodies, phased vocals and the lightshow bouncing round the stage and the room. The dreamy Lost Heads is a psychedelic delight, The World And The Sun is way out, up into the rafters and into the sky. Centrepiece to the set is the epic White Rose, the ten minute highlight of 2017’s Occult Architecture Vol 1, a synth driven, dark ride into the night, a menacing and ferocious slow burn. The main set closer Sevens is half Hendrix and half Neu! Ducking under the back wall of the tent the Moon Duo trio return for an encore finishing with their cover of Alan Vega’s Jukebox Babe, a two note synth bump and grind, guitar lines fired off as Ripley croons the pared back lyrics. Sometimes the most memorable gigs take place at the weekend, everyone fired up by the freedom from work and lubricated, singing along. Sometimes though they can take place on a cold and sober Tuesday night, tucked away in small art deco theatres away from the bigger, brighter lights. Moon Duo are on fire at the moment, playing to small audiences and showing the possibilities of music that dates back decades but is still just up ahead. If they’re playing anywhere near you, go see them.

White Rose

Declaration Of Dub

The fourteen tracks that make up King Tubby’s 1975 album Dub From The Roots came as some kind of epiphany to me back in the 90s. Spread across two sides of vinyl the album showcases Tubby’s skills and prowess at the mixing desk. The whole album is swamped in reverb and delay, a wash of sound effects with the bass riding on top or underneath). Drums and percussion bounce around, flourishes of organ and guitar drop in and out. Rimshots ricochet between the speakers. Backing vocals get pushed up front briefly. Timeless, outer space music.

Declaration Of Dub

Plastic Bag

Andy Bell, guitarist in Ride, is on a creative streak. Not only have Ride put out a new album this year and Andy released his dreamy, cosmic GLOK album but he’s now put out a 7″ single under his own name as well. Plastic Bag is four minutes of introspection and beauty- some ambient noise, Eno-esque piano, slowly drifting, delicate vocals and a guitar line carried in from over yonder. Sounds like it could play over the end credits of a film as the road and the hills recede into the distance and the screen fades to black. Magical.

The single is only available as part of a singles subscription club through Sonic Cathedral. £100 gets you a series of limited singles released between February and December this year. It’s here. All depends on how flush you’re feeling.

Monday’s Long Song

Monday morning, back to work and deep into the gloom now as the clocks went back on Saturday night and the sun goes down in the afternoon now. Here’s something to ease the pain. This is Manifesto by Shape Of Space, a track that is a ‘Balearic chugger of the highest order’ to quote the duo that made it. Having bought this and listened to it multiple times over the last few days I can confirm they are correct.

The Big Sleep

There’s a film channel on Freeview called TCM which shows a random selection of movies. Recently I noticed that they were scheduled to show The Bog Sleep and The Maltese Falcon so set the box to record both.  I was a big fan of film noir back in the 80s and early 90s, watched both these films and others, especially those with Humphrey Bogart in them. I read some of Raymond Chandler’s novels. This week there was a night when everyone was out and I settled down to watch The Big Sleep.

Bogart plays a private detective Phillip Marlowe hired by General Sternwood to settle a problem with some gambling debts one of his daughters (Lauren Bacall) has accrued. Carmen (Bacall) wants to stop him. She suspects that what her father really wants is to find Sean Regan, who vanished in mysterious circumstances a month earlier. From there on in the plot thickens to involve a bookseller, some blackmail regarding indecent photos of the younger Sternwood daughter, a very flirtatious scene in the bookshop and implied sex, a casino belonging to Eddie Mars, several visits to a house where the body of the bookseller Joe Geiger is found, a beating for Bogart, some resolution of plot issues, Bogart and Bacall suddenly falling in love and the death of Eddie Mars, shot by his own men when Bogie tricks him into going outside. All good film noir stuff.

The film was made during the war- there are a few wartime moments such as a female taxi driver and poster of FDR- but its release was delayed until 1946 so the studios could rush release all the war films they’d made. It was criticised on release for being difficult to follow and confusing. Marlowe sometimes makes deductions that aren’t shared with the audience. The death of chauffeur Owen Taylor is unexplained. It’s not especially confusing but there is a lot of back and forth, people going to and from places rapidly. There’s little character development, it is all plot. And it does look old- really old. But Bogart and Bacall are superb, the lighting is dramatic, there’s a grittiness about it that appeals and script is witty and fresh. Everyone, Bogart especially, smokes constantly.

A couple of pop culture things leapt out. Firstly the line ‘now wait a minute, you better talk to my mother’, taken by Coldcut, who have been posted here several times this week now, and used in their 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid In Full. Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness Mix) was a pioneering example of the art of the remix, a record that gave Eric and Rakim a hit, spliced in vocals from a recent hit from Ofra Haza and introduced the world to the much used ‘This is a journey into sound…’ sample.

Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness Mix)

When Marlowe (Bogart) visits Eddie Mars’ casino Vivian (Bacall) is singing (backed by The Williams Brothers including Andy). The song is And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine, a jazz song written by Stan Kenton. One of the lines she sings refers to a girl being ‘a sad tomato’- the lines go ‘she’s a sad tomato/she’s a busted valentine’.

In 1994 Michael Stipe would use the same line in R.E.M.’s Crush With Eyeliner, a line that has always jumped out at me as being such an odd expression. I’ve no idea if Stipe got it from The Big Sleep or from a different version of the song but it seems reasonable to assume he watched the film late night on tour in a hotel room. Stipe follows it with ‘she’s three miles of bad road’.

Finally, as this picture shows, the younger of the two Sternwood girls must have been one of the inspirations for the look Ridley Scott gave Sean Young in Blade Runner (Martha Vickers, second right).

Blind Faith

I’ve posted this before, Sensurround’s 1992 progressive house single Blind Faith, a record made by a group containing John Robb (then stepping outside the punkier environs of The Mekons). The 12″ had a 7″ mix and this one by Dean Thatcher, a dreamy, chunky, chuggy piece of early 90s progressive house.

Blind Faith (Aloof Mix)

When John Robb, Andy Piper and Patrick Simons originally recorded Blind Faith they constructed it around some rather well known samples- the rain and piano from Riders On the Storm, the mellotron from Strawberry Fields Forever, a blast of feedback from the intro to I Fee Fine- and for obvious reasons the samples were removed from the finished released record. But thankfully someone has uploaded the original version to Youtube so we can enjoy it in all its unofficial, 60s pilfering glory.

Zobi La Mouche

This song came my way recently on social media, one I’d long forgotten about, and was surprised I’d never posted before- in fact I’ve not posted anything by the band before. Les Negresses Vertes were a Parisian group who formed in 1987, a bunch of friends fired up by punk and a musical stew of influences that used to be called World Music. Accordion and acoustic guitars, brass, percussion, various members singing vocals, an upbeat busking style, bags of energy and very much their own thing. In 1988 they released an album called Mlah which was well received and which I had a copy of on cassette. Later on, in 1993, a collection of remixes was released, which is where they crossed back into my life and record collection, an album including remixes by Massive Attack, Gang Starr and Norman Cook and this one by William Orbit. If truth be told, the William Orbit one doesn’t quite do what I thought it might at the time, no liquid, skyscraping, electronic journey into the cosmos, but it has definite off kilter charm, some very persuasive rhythms, buckets of joie de vivre and is, dare I say it, quite Balearic.

Zobi La Mouche (William Orbit Remix)