Isolation Mix One

‘Don’t create congestion in commonly used space’, a poster from the Soviet Union, 1950s.

I thought I’d do something new today and maybe make it a regular feature. Everyone and their dog is transmitting DJ sets at the moment. One thing we’ve all got lots of is time. So in the moments between phoning in to long video conferences, teaching online lessons, wiling away hours absentmindedly surfing the internet and social media, spending time with my family and getting my state sanctioned daily exercise allowance I’ve also put together the first Bagging Area mix, fifty four minutes of music that I’ve called Isolation Mix 1.

It’s actually Isolation Mix 1.1, the first one wasn’t quite right and I removed a couple of tracks and replaced them with some other ones. It’s a mix of old and new, largely ambient and instrumental, a bit of dub and dub techno in there and appearances from Rutger Hauer and a retired French footballer.

Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini: Illusion of Time v Eric Cantona ‘As Flies To Wanton Boys…’
Four Tet: Teenage Birdsong
Durutti Column: The Second Aspect Of The Same Thing
Richard Norris: Shorelines
Sabres Of Paradise: Jacob Street 7am
A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Keep It Dark, Deutschland
Vangelis: Tears In Rain
The Orb: The Weekend It Rained Forever (Oseberg Buddha Mix (The Ravens Have Left The Tower))
Dub Trees: King Of The Faeries (Avengers Outer Space Chug Dub)
Two Lone Swordsmen: As Worldly Pleasures Waves Goodbye…

Monday’s Long Song

David Sylvian’s name has popped up in a few places recently, largely unconnected I think (although these things usually end up being connected somehow). I read about his solo albums in Rob Young’s Electric Eden book, a long meandering trawl through British folk music and how in the 80s various people- Sylvian, Talk Talk, Cope- reconnected with visionary folk music in one way or another. Then, having moved on and semi- forgot about it he came back via social media and then came up in conversation with a friend who’s a big Bowie fan when talking about Fripp. I dug a little into Youtube but didn’t buy anything and again moved on. Then last week digging around Richard Norris’ Soundcloud page, a proper treasure trove of tracks, remixes and versions, I found his 1993 remix of Sylvian and Fripp. Richard took the original track, Darshan (The Road To Graceland), a seventeen minute epic and remixed it, shaving a minute off in the process. An ambient opening section followed by a long, funky, experimental art- pop journey with a ’93 house beat.

Sylvian and Fripp the turned up a few days ago at Echorich’s place (linked on yesterday’s post) with the dreamy two and half minutes of Endgame, ambient opening and then acoustic guitar and voice, which has sent me scurrying down a rabbithole. The Richard Norris remix of Darshan came out on a CD mini- album, only three songs long but well over forty minutes long in total. Richard Norris’s remix, the original version and this ten minute ambient psychedelic swirl re-construction from the Future Sound Of London. Float on. Ambient special as i-D noted in ’93.

 

Music For Healing

During the last couple of days I’ve been wondering whether music blogging in the current circumstances is a bit inadequate, an inconsequential thing in the face of the both the virus and the shutdown of everyday life. Yesterday our Year 11 students, who on Wednesday were still preparing for exams in May and June, left school. This should have been the end point of a process that involved the closure and release they would have got from sitting and completing all their exams, preparing for leaving school, getting ready for their prom and all those things which were some months away. Instead it was dropped on them with a day’s notice. This was absolutely necessary- we have to close down the social contact we are having with each other- but it still came as a massive shock to them. Year 13 are in the same boat, suddenly set adrift without finishing the courses and sitting the exams that would take them to work or university. I was suddenly in charge of giving Year 11 a final leavers assembly, rummaging through digital files for photographs of them when they first arrived with us five years ago and pictures of them taken during their time at school, working out how to give them the send off that they deserved. There were tears (mine and other staff as well as the kids- and let me tell you, until you’ve welled up and shed tears in front of a hall of nearly two hundred sixteen year olds, you haven’t lived). Now we are where we- a society shut down. Our eldest Isaac is officially a vulnerable person. We have been recommended to place ourselves in self- isolation for twelve weeks. So every now and then in the last forty eight hours it felt like writing about pop songs daily and sharing them with you seemed like it was becoming a pointless activity. On Thursday night I went to Echorich’s blog and his most recent post, a post called A New Reality- Songs For This Moment In Time… , containing among others the urgency of Killing Joke’s Requiem, Joy Division’s beautiful and bleak Isolation, the sheer heft of Protection by Massive Attack and The The’s always wondrous This Is The Day and it convinced me that music blogging still has a place. The next day he left a comment on my post, The Third Sound’s shoegaze psychedelia of For A While, saying ‘That was a nice escape!’. Which it is. Then Richard Norris posted a new twenty minute long ambient track from his Group Mind project called Music For Healing 1. To go with the music Richard wrote this…

‘Music For Healing 1 is the first a series of long form tracks to aid stress and anxiety relief in these challenging times. All profits go to mental health charity MIND. Please help donate to this cause if you can.
I first started writing ambient tracks on a weekly basis about two years ago, as a personal aid to stress and anxiety relief. People mentioned these tracks, the Abstractions series, had helped their mental health issues. The Music For Healing series is being written in response to these challenging times, and hopefully will have a similar anxiety relieving effect. This is the first of regular 20 minute tracks in this series. Use them as background ambience, as immersive deep listening, in combination with meditation or any other practice. Music For Healing tracks are crafted and recorded in real time with no Artificial Intelligence involved’.

So I have come to the conclusion that the sharing of songs still has a place and that while it may seem a little inadequate in the face of the gravity of the situation outside it might make someone’s day a little better for a few minutes. Just as Richard and Echorich did mine.

Look after yourselves and each other.

Audrey Witherspoon

I mentioned the remixes Andrew Weatherall made his name with yesterday. In the early 90s remix culture became the big thing, record companies throwing thousands of pounds at club DJs to stick dance beats underneath a song. Weatherall’s remixes never took the easy road, were never formulaic. In most cases the remixes were better than the source material and he was still producing superb remixes until recently.

Primal Scream have put out several Best Of/ Greatest Hits, one only last year. The one they haven’t released and would be the contender for the best Best Of would be the one that compiled Weatherall’s work for the group. The AW/PS compilation wold start with Loaded, a remix so groundbreaking and gigantic it created an entire scene and gave the Scream a career. Andrew’s remix of Come Together is monumental. I once said here that there are days when I think it is the single greatest record ever made and I don’t see any reason to argue with myself.

‘Today on this programme you will hear gospel and rhythm and blues and jazz. All these are just labels, we know that music is music’

The rest of Screamadelica that Andrew produced would be on this Primal Scream Best Of too- Inner Flight, Shine Like Stars, Don’t Fight It Feel It (and the amazing Scat Mix where Denise Johnson’s voice is chopped up and scattered over the track) and the Jah Wobble bass of Higher Than The Sun (A Dub Symphony In Two Parts). Then this, ten glorious minutes of slow groove, horn driven spaced out house, from the Dixie Narco e.p.

Screamadelica

His knob- twiddling on the other two songs on the Dixie Narco e.p. brought two other classics Stone My Soul and their cover of Dennis Wilson’s Carry Me Home, one of the very best things Bobby Gillespie and co ever did. Primal Scream’s follow up was their Rolling Stones record. Weatherall produced remixes of Jailbird. Trainspotting from Vanishing Point. The far out Two Lone Swordsmen remix of Stuka. The pair of productions he did on Evil Heat- the gliding shimmer of Autobahn 66 and the mutant funk of A Scanner Darkly. The fifteen minute remix of Uptown, a signpost in 2009 that Weatherall was back at the remix peak. The remix and dub version of 2013. That’s the Primal Scream Best Of.

In the early 90s his remixes broke genres, chucking in the kitchen sink, its plumbing, the work surface and all the white goods too. His dub remix of Saint Etienne was a moment of clarity for me, the doorway to another world, the two halves glued together by the sample ‘the DJ, eases a spliff from his lyrical lips and smilingly orders ”cease!” ‘

Only Love Can Break Your Heart (A Mix Of Two Halves)

Andrew’s remixes from this period are full of little moments to raise a smile, samples from obscure places, huge basslines, sudden changes in pace or tempo, piano breakdowns and thumping rhythms. Almost every single one is worth seeking out and almost every single one has been posted here at some point. In no particular order- S’Express’ Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, Forget ‘Em, The Drum by The Impossibles, a mad pair of remixes of Flowered Up’s Weekender, the magnificent The World According To… for Sly And Lovechild, his work for One Dove (that produced some career high remixes in the shape of Squire Black Dove Rides Out and the Guitar Paradise version of White Love and his production work on the most beautiful and most lost of the lost albums of the 1990s Morning Dove White), his remix of My Bloody Valentine’s Soon, on its own a justification of remix culture and two reworkings of The Orb’s Perpetual Dawn that take his and The Orb’s dub roots into pounding new places. Roots music.

Perpetual Dawn Ultrabass I

Perpetual Dawn Ultrabass II

Add to all these his remixes of Jah Wobble, three versions of Visions Of You, spread over twenty five minutes of vinyl and two remixes of Bomba that have to be heard to be believed. Decades after first hearing this one I found the source of the madcap intro (Miles Davis) when it had been there in the title all along.

Bomba (Miles Away)

His remixes of The Grid’s Floatation are also sublime. As a fan of The Stone Roses the moment when he drops John Squire’s guitar part from Waterfall into the ending of the track brought things together for me perfectly.

Floatation (Sonic Swing Mix)

There are so many more. The speaker shattering thump of Fini Tribe’s 101. His long tribal workout of Papua New Guinea. The sweet smell of didgeridoo on Galliano’s meandering Skunk Funk. Indie, ambient, house, dub, everything from the fringes of music’s past, ready to sample and plunder to make something new, with a sense of possibility and openness. This would all be mere nostalgia were it not for Weatherall’s continual left turns and about turns in the following years. His remixes from the last decade, again almost all posted here at some point, are of a similar high standard but he rarely if ever repeats himself. There are similarities in tone and palette but always with an eye looking forward and perpetual motion. The remix of MBV’s Soon and his remix of Fuck Buttons Sweet Love For Planet Earth seem somehow linked to me, the manipulation of noise and the intense melodies found within over crunching dance floor rhythms. I’ve not even begun to touch on his remixes with Sabres of Paradise, the treasure that lies within Sabres own records (Sabresonic, Haunted Dancehall, Theme, Wilmot, oh man, Wilmot- we were at Cream once waiting for ages for Weatherall to arrive and eventually word came through that he was delayed, wasn’t going to make it. Resident DJ and owner Darren Hughes played on and dropped Wilmot, unheard by us at that point, the whole back room skanking to those wandering horns).

Then there was Two Lone Swordsmen whose remixes were harder, purer somehow, more focused, less obvious. It took time sometimes for them to reveal themselves. The TLS albums from The Fifth Mission onward, the stoned hip hop grooves of A Virus With Shoes, the double album of juddering bass and London machine funk of Tiny Reminders, Swimming Not Skimming. My favourite of the TLS albums from this period has become Stay Down. Released on Warp from its cover art, a painting of a pair of deep sea divers, to its memorable song titles (try Hope We Never Surface, Light The Last Flare, Spine Bubbles, Mr Paris’ Monsters and As Worldly Pleasures Wave Goodbye for starters- that last one has just made me gulp) it is a self contained mini- masterpiece. Stay Down is an abstract album of short tracks, weird, rhythmic, minimal ambient music, sounding like it has been submerged and then recovered from the deep, humanised analogue IDM. Never standing still, always moving forward.

Light The Last Flare

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

 

Hulme Group MInd

On Friday night I got the bus to Hulme to see Richard Norris take his ambient/deep listening project on the road. The two Group Mind Abstractions albums he’s put out this year have remained close to my turntable since their release and should be available on the NHS- their effect as a kind of aural medicine, totally absorbing mind clearers and mood enhancers is second to none.

The event was at the Niamos, an old theatre close to the city centre, formerly the Nia Centre and before that the Hulme Hippodrome and Grand Junction. Hulme was famously the home of the Crescents and the birthplace of Factory. Now there are masses of student residences right up to the theatre, buzzing on a warm Friday night. Niamos is an arts and culture hub, cans of Red Stripe behind the bar, the faded grandeur of the theatre interior and a boho vibe. It’s so relaxed there wasn’t even anyone checking tickets on the door. I was expecting a Group Mind night for some reason and hadn’t quite realised until I got there that Richard was supporting a Brighton band/collective called Partial Facsimile. A see through screen was hung across the front of the stage with fractals, shapes and digital waves and cities projected onto it during Richard’s set. He played for just over half an hour, long drawn out sounds, warm waves of ambient noise and twinkling riffs, the 5.1 surround sound really proving its value. Sitting in the main, tiny auditorium as part of a very small crowd- there were fewer than thirty people there- the effect was striking, encompassing and enveloping. I loved it but wanted more. I’d have happily immersed myself in the Group Mind for another hour or two.

Partial Facsimile are a surround sound and visual art collective, four guitarists, three playing sitting down, and a drummer plus keys playing long, drone rock, plenty of reverb and space with FX pedals- a  little like an expanded Spacemen 3 but without the drugs and the walking with Jesus. The songs comment on modern life- commuting, social media, lives lived through screens, fake news, climate change, Brexit, immigration- and films cutting up images of the same projected onto the screen while the group play. At the end of each song a QR code appears, linking to articles and research. Pretty interesting and worth seeing even if the realisation that I wasn’t getting any more Richard Norris and his Group Mind initially left me a bit deflated. Below is a clip, a minute’s worth, that I took during Richard’s set. I don’t usually film parts of gigs on my phone but having a visual and audio record of this show seemed like a good idea- part of me wishes I’d filmed the whole thing.

Re-Animations

In 2009 Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve released a compilation album rounding up their remixes and re-animations of a bunch of artists- The Chemical Brothers, Franz Ferdinand, Late Of The Pier, Peter, Bjorn and John, Tracey Thorn, Badly Drawn Boy, Goldfrapp, Midlake, Dust Galaxy, Real Ones, Simian Mobile Disco and Findlay Brown. At the same time that album was released Erol Alkan and Richard Norris were asked to mix all their versions together into a single, hour long set for a special download edition. They went back to their versions, took some of them apart again, re-assembled them and then stitched the whole thing together. A decade later it has re-appeared online for your enjoyment, an hour of psychedelic, electronic, time shifting, retro- futuristic exploration. There should be something in this for everyone to enjoy.