As Flies To Wanton Boys We Are To The Gods

The last day of the year, time to get 2019 over and done with. I said in my end of year review that musically it’s been a bumper year but in many other ways 2019 has been a headlong descent into the abyss, a continuous political nightmare with no way out for at least five years. Johnson looks set to carry out the formal separation of the UK from the EU at the end of January, getting Brexit done as he hammered home during five weeks of campaigning. His majority in parliament and electoral mandate gives him the freedom to do it as he pleases. Some kind of hard Brexit will be done by the end of 2020 with the Farage/Johnson fanboys and fan girls triumphant. Grim as fuck. In the USA imperial tyrant toddler Donald Trump is in the process of being impeached but it doesn’t seem to actually mean anything as the Republicans in the senate will fall in line and clear him regardless. Again, grim as fuck.

*shakes head, slaps cheeks, exhales*

Blogging is a good platform to celebrate the positive and to find the best in things and in these circumstances you’ve got to get your kicks where you can. I posted this clip at the end of the summer but it remains one of my highlights of 2019. Back in August Eric Cantona stood up at the UEFA to receive the President’s Award, a recognition of his commitment in helping to improve the lives of others and as ‘a man who refuses compromise, stands up for his values and puts his heart and soul into supporting the causes he believes in’. In accepting the award Cantona quoted King Lear and then went off at an even further tangent…

“As flies to wanton boys, we are for the gods. They will kill us for the sport. Soon, the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal. Only accidents, crimes, wars will still kill us but unfortunately crimes and wars will multiply. I love football.”

I ripped the audio from the clip above and have dropped it into playlists and onto compilation CDs. You can do the same if you want.

Eric Cantona speech August 2019

This came out in the summer, a long slow deep house thumper from Scott Fraser and Louise Quinn. It still sounds like a good way to spend ten minutes.

And then there’s this one from Roisin Murphy, one of the most creative, consistent and exuberant writers and performers on the planet. In June I fell hook, line and sinker for Incapable. Her next single masterpiece Narcissus came out in November and is disco perfection. I didn’t post it at the time and today feels like as good a day to do it as any.

Happy new year everyone. Have a good one tonight whether you’re in or out, going big or staying small and to quote Mr Weatherall from his monthly transmission for NTS radio ‘don’t let the grubby little opportunists drag you down’. See you in 2020 for more of the same.

Vaughan Oliver

Vaughan Oliver died yesterday aged 62. He was the man responsible for the creating the artwork that graced the sleeves of a slew of bands in the 1980s and 90s and the entire visual identity of 4AD. The selection above shows how distinctive, eye catching and beautiful his work was but also how varied. It helps that the music contained within the 12″ by 12″ squares above was always of the highest calibre- Lush, Pixies, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins, Ultra Vivid Scene, MARRS, Colourbox, Pale Saints (and also Throwing Muses, The Breeders, AR Kane, Belly… the list goes on). From the days when buying records based on the label they were issued on and when the artwork mattered as much as the music.

Here in 1991 are Lush performing their single Sweetness and Light at The Dome, shoegaze pop with a Manchester swing to the rhythm. Vaughan Oliver RIP.

 

Monday’s Long Song

Daniel Avery’s Falling Light, twenty two minutes of sounds as part of an audio/visual installation for Leeds International Festival, has recently been made available as a freebie. You can get it by signing up to the mailing list here. Opening with a piano heavily drenched in reverb and then noise, drone, haze and static before eventually being replaced techno drums and rising synth chords.

 

Rebuild

This is newish from Field Of Dreams who released the excellent No 303 e.p. earlier this year. Rebuild comes in an original mix which is an acid tinged chuggy stomper. The flipside is this, the Deconstructed Mix, which is heavy on the dub techno tip and adds space age sci fi sounds. The vocal sounds ominous but is asking for for a better life- ‘we need to stand up, fight against corruption, injustice, intolerance… rebuild, rebuild, rebuild’. Ten minutes of unseasonal but life affirming stuff.

 

Random Selections From The Shelves

On Boxing Day night sitting in the room with all the records in it we played the game where someone pulls a record at random from the shelves and we play it. First to go was my daughter, who had already said she didn’t like what my brother- in- law were listening to when she came in- ‘it’s not music, it’s just noises’ (Richard Norris’ Abstractions Vol. 2). She was given the first go and pulled out St Etienne’s 1994 12″ single Pale Movie.

Pale Movie is off Tiger Bay, the sleeve with a tiger on both front and back. I photographed the tiger above at Port Lympne safari park in Kent a few years ago. I don’t think keeping tigers in cages is a good idea (apart from the obvious conservation arguments) but the tigers at Lympne had a lot of room and seeing one close up and hearing it roar was pretty exciting. I digress. We played the single version of Pale Movie from the choice of four mixes on the single. Pale Movie is classic mid- 90s St Etienne, equal parts Eurobeat, Spanish guitar and Sarah singing lyrics about a boy and girl (‘he is so dark and moody/she is the sunshine girl’). Pete, Bob and Sarah went to Nerja in Spain to shoot the video.

I went back to the 12″ afterwards to re- listen to the other three mixes, all of which were worth giving a spin. Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, the man who mixed the song (and Hug My Soul from Tiger Bay as well), did the Stentorian Dub, a straightforward but effective clubby remix- plenty to enjoy in it with its bleepy synths and chunky drums.

Pale Movie (Stentorian Dub)

The longest remix was ten minutes from Kris Needs in his Secret Knowledge guise. It starts with an extended intro which builds into the first of several peaks. The Secret Knowledge Trouser Assassin mix goes pretty trancey with pummelling drums and Sarah’s vocals dropped in along with the kitchen sink. Kris Needs was a master of this kind of thing in the mid 90s.

Pale Movie (Secret Knowledge Trouser Assassin Mix)

Finally a remix by Underworld (credited solely to Rick Smith), the Lemonentry Mix, one that clocks in at just over four minutes, very short for Underworld at the time. Rick worked on Tiger Bay too, mixing and programming Like A Motorway, Cool Kids Of Death and Urban Clearway. The Underworld remix of Cool Kids Of Death is one I’ll come back to when I do a follow up to the Underworld remixes post from a week or two ago. The Lemonentry Mix is a slowed down, dubby affair, darker and moodier than the rest, with Sara’s vocal intact.

Pale Movie (Lemonentry Mix)

Just to show how random the following selections from the shelves were my niece followed St Etienne with Gnod and a song from their Just Say No To The Psycho Right Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine album. We played the opening song, Bodies For Money, a glorious piece of feedback guitar led noise, every instrument recorded with the needle tipping into the red and Gnod raging against late period capitalism.

Mrs Swiss then pulled out a six track maxi- single The House Sound Of Chicago and as Gnod’s noise dissolved we had Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk’s 1986 song Love Can’t Turn Around, featuring the sublime vocals of Daryl Pandy, a song that was the first US house track to hit the UK charts. It still sounds huge, crashing pianos, 808s and 303s. Magical.

Love Can’t Turn Around

Fun for all the family as I’m sure you can see.

Expressway

There’s an album of acoustic guitar cover versions of Sonic Youth songs, all texture and ambience and small hours vibes, by Belgian artist Wixel. It came out back in 2008 and lives on in Wixel’s Bandcamp page (Wixel doesn’t seem to have released anything since 2013). Welsh outfit The Long Champs have taken Wixel’s cover of Expressway To Yr Skull and blissed it out, turning it into a gorgeous, shimmering, meditative haze, perfect for this time of the year. I can’t recommend this highly enough, it’s sublime. If you move quickly- and I appreciate moving quickly two days after Christmas may be relative- there’s a free download.

Wixel’s cover versions are worth some of your time too.

What Are Words Worth?

This should perk you up after yesterday’s excesses and lift you out of your Boxing day slump. Tom Tom Club back in 1981 showing that it wasn’t only David Byrne in Talking Heads who could do inventive, forward thinking, naggingly catchy art- pop.

‘Words can make you pay and pay
Four-letter words I cannot say
Panty, toilet, dirty devil
Words are trouble, words are subtle
Words of anger, words of hate
Words over here, words out there
In the air and everywhere
Words of wisdom, words of strife
Words that write the book I like
Words won’t find no right solution
To the planet earth’s pollution
Say the right word, make a million
Words are like a certain person’

Wordy Rappinghood