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

 

Happy Christmas

Diego Maradona and Dayglo Maradona both wish you a very happy Christmas. Feliz Navidad.

Rock Section (Andrew Weatherall remix)

Winterland

It was Christmas Eve babe and… here’s Mark Peters, the guitar and synth shoegaze/ambient maestro behind the Innerland albums and he has a four track single out called Winterland. The lead track is a lovely, atmospheric Yuletide thing called The Box Of Delights.

Versions of Silent Night and Jingle Bells follow with chiming guitars and sleigh bells and then a superb Maps remix of The Box Of Delights. Well worth £3.00 of your money.

This, The Specials on Top Of The Pops on December 18th 1980, is the only acceptable appearance of Christmas jumpers I can think of. Do Nothing.

Happy Christmas to you all, have a good one, whatever you’re doing and whoever it is with.

Twenty Nineteen: An End Of Year List

I read an article recently that claimed that making end of year lists was merely an attempt to forestall death, that ranking and ordering things is for people who have an unnatural fear of death and who must be constantly trying to leave things in order before they go. A bit dark perhaps. A similar argument says that making lists is an attempt to place order on a chaotic and uncontrollable world- and one glimpse at the news will confirm that the world is both those things and getting more so- and people (men mainly) feel that if they can rank their albums/books/films then they have at least controlled a part of that world. So, with all those things being as they are, here’s my end of year list. It doesn’t seem to have much in common with the end of year lists I’ve read in the ‘proper’ music press or websites- so I must be out of step with what’s really the best of the 2019. All I can offer you is what I’ve loved the most this year and some examples to sample.

Singles/songs/remixes/e.p.
There’s a lot of chuggy, cosmic, Balearic, ALFOS style releases in this list, a top 30 for 2019, a golden year for music that evokes outer space, Mediterranean beaches and/or basement clubs thick with dry ice.

1. Silver Apples Edge Of Wonder (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Released for Record Shop Day in April this remix is nine minutes of total joy, a dream turned into sound- the pitter patter drum machine giving gentle propulsion, the bouncy keyboard riff and metallic sounds echoing round and round and the softly sung vocal- ‘waves, waves, Neptune’s metronomes… relentless heartbeat of the sea’.

2. A close second was this three track release from Pines In The Sun, Albanian Balearica via Brighton. I know next to nothing about them but the wordless, sunshine shimmer of Sun and the gorgeous sprawl of Zig Zag Sea (plus Duncan Gray’s remix of the latter) soundtracked much of my summer.

3. Apiento‘s single Things We Do For Love came out back at the start of the year, a slow motion dance floor shaped ode with synth bass and whispered vocals. My main regret is not being quick enough to get a copy of the limited run of 7″s.

4 and 5. A Certain Ratio have spent the year celebrating their fortieth anniversary and released this pair of superb songs, one a previously unreleased cover version from 1980 that was intended to be voiced by Grace Jones, the dark funk of House In Motion and the other a very Mancunian remix of their Dirty Boy single (featuring Barry Adamson and the voice of Tony Wilson), remixed by Chris Massey. The Dirty Boy remix in particular has floated my boat.

From this point onward there are a slew of singles, remixes and e.p.s that I’ve enjoyed this year, loads of brilliant music showing that 2019 has been a really good year. The next dozen or so especially  have all been on heavy rotation.

6. Moon Duo Lost Heads
7. Meatraffle Meatraffle On The Moon (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
8. Four Tet Teenage Birdsong
9. A Mountain Of Rimowa A.M.O.R. e.p.
10. Plaid Maru (Orbital Remix)
11. Hardway Bros Chateau Comtal
12. Scott Fraser and Louise Quinn Together More
13. Four Tet Anna Painting
14. GLOK Dissident
15. Roisin Murphy Incapable (plus the pair of incredible Crooked Man remixes/dubs)
16. Craig Bratley Message To The Outpost e.p.
17. Field Of Dreams No 303
18. Fjordfunk Exile (including the Hardway Bros remix)
19. The Comet Is Coming Summon The Fire
20. Ride Future Love
21. A Man Called Adam Paul Valery St The Disco (Prins Thomas Remix)
22. KH Only Human
23. Shape Of Space Manifesto
24. Warriors Of The Dystotheque Things In The Shadows (Tronik Youth Remix)
25. ⣎⡇ꉺლ༽இ•̛)ྀ◞ ༎ຶ ༽ৣৢ؞ৢ؞ؖ ꉺლ e.p.
26. Shunt Voltage Link Up/ See It In Your Eyes
27. Boy Division Hot Pants
28. Dan Wainwright Keep Me Hangin’ On (with Hardway Bros dub remix)
29. Duncan Gray Much Much Worse/ Where Clock Goes
30. Terr Tales Of Devotion (including the Prins Thomas Diskomiks)

Four Tet/Kieran Hebden has had a particularly good 2019, always innovative and entrancing and producing some of the best moments in a variety of guises and across a series of releases, including a live album recorded at Ally Pally in the summer that I’ve only just started listening to.

Albums
I’ve bought and listened to what seems like an enormous amount of albums this year. The internet and streaming has made individual songs the focus again, a return to the halcyon days of the 7″ and 12″ single and their B-sides, and occasionally people write about the death of the album and the forty/seventy minute format (depending on whether its a vinyl album or CD). Looking through my pile of records and CDs and lists of downloads the album looks in really good health to me. There’s more breadth to my album list, a wider variety of sounds and styles. I’ve fallen into an ambient/drone wormhole many times this year, a wonderful place to stay for extended periods. Psychedelia and cosmic psych rock has been at the front of the pile a lot. These are in no particular order, the first eight I genuinely couldn’t pick between in terms of a favourite or a ranking, they’re all the albums of the year.

Glok Dissident
Andy Bell (the guitarist from Ride) released the surprise of the year, a rich, gorgeous flotation through cosmic psychedelia, motorik drums and West German sounds, awash with floaty, dreamy synths and guitars. From the Tron-esque sleeve to the luminous green vinyl to the grooves contained within everything about this album was spot on.

Richard Norris Abstractions Vol. 1
Richard Norris has been exploring ambient music throughout 2019 (and before). This year he has released a pair of albums, Abstractions Vol. 1 and 2, filled with extended repetitive sounds, loops of melody, chimes and washes, drones, ambient noise, waves of reassuring sounds- deep listening. This year has been a car crash in many ways. The whole Brexit debacle, the constant noise and feelings of loss of control over our politics and culture, the sense of loss and the feeling that we’re being driven over the edge by fanatics. This album has helped me switch off from it. I can put this on and it works in a calming way that nothing else does. If there’s an N.H.S. left in five years time, this pair of albums should be available on prescription.

Meatraffle Bastard Music
Bastard Music is a strange record, surreal, bold and in places very funny. A vision of dystopia set to a ramshackle beat and some memorable melodies. Lyrically it deals with everything- nationalism, the exploitation of workers, Brexit, living in London versus living in the country, immigration, the price of renting, sexism, science fiction, activism, everything… but it’s never overbearing or humourless and the lyrics and vocals force you to listen to it rather than just have it on. Musically it’s lo fi synthy disco, horns and Pulp Fiction guitars, home made rhythms, reggae and post punk. In some ways Bastard Music makes no sense and in others it makes more sense than any other album released in 2019. It’s an amazing record in lots of ways not least in the the song Meatraffle On The Moon, one of the very best things I’ve heard this year- a song that really should be up at the top of the singles list with Silver Apples and Pines In The Sun- a dub pop exploration of  human workers enslaved and working on the moon, their comradeship and valiant attempts to survive with only the meatraffle to look forward to. Semi- stoned drums, a snaking horn, dub bass and the ace vocals.

Moon Duo Stars Are The Light
My favourite guitar/synth/drums psych- rock explorers put out their latest album in September, Stars Are The Light, and have found a new love of disco and dance music and ecstatic grooves. It’s still clearly the work of the band who made the darker, heavier Occult Architecture albums but now with their faces turned to the sun. The synths and drums dance around, the rhythms are aimed at the feet and lighter than before and the twin vocals are airy and optimistic. Their live show in October was an immersive psychedelic experience. I don’t think there’s an album I’ve bought this year that I’ve listened to more than this one.

Steve Cobby Sweet Jesus
One man cottage industry from Hull, Steve Cobby dropped Sweet Jesus onto the internet live back in the summer, twelve songs recorded in his shed, taking in cool Balearic vibes, lush instrumentals, downtempo funk and synths and lots of acoustic guitars. The opening song, As Good As Gold, inspired by Led Zep’s third album acoustic guitar picking folkiness in mid- Wales with added mellotron, has been one of my favourite tunes of 2019 and one that I keep going back to. There’s something about it that really hits the spot in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

Rich Ruth Calming Signals
This album from Nashville resident Rich Ruth is often described as ambient but it’s not ambient in the rain- falling- while- lying- in- bed- with- the- volume- slightly- too- low Brian Eno sense. It’s an instrumental album, nine songs that take in minimalism, repetition and drones, a beautiful soaring, squawking saxophone, built around synths and guitars. On first listen you’re never quite sure where it’s going to go next and in places it is utterly gorgeous.

Richard Fearless Deep Rave Memory
This only came out recently so I’m still getting to know it but it is a perfectly paced and sequenced, intricately constructed techno journey. Completely absorbing and in places edge- of- your- seat tense, taut techno but with some beautiful melodic passages and some pulsing, calming tracks too.

Underworld Drift Series 1 Sampler
I’ve mentioned this project and album twice recently so don’t intend to say much else. The best Underworld album for ages. Try this one…

These eighteen too, roughly in the order that they’re listed in below. A bumper year for the long player round here.

L’epee Diabolique
Steve Mason About The Light
A Man Called Adam Farmarama
Bob Mould Sunshine Rock
Private Mountain Blue Mountain
Mark Peters Ambient Innerland
Stiletti Ana Ab Ovo
WH Lung Incidental Music
Rude Audio Street Light Interference
Kungens Män Chef
Acid Arab Jdid
Solange When I Get Home
Plaid Polymers
Rose City Band Rose City Band
Jane Weaver Loops In The Secret Society
Joe Morris Exotic Language
Lana del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell
Mythologen Antisocial Background Music 2017- 2019