Isolation Mix Thirteen

Lockdown ends today- at least, that’s how the government and the media have been portraying it with occasional reminders that social distancing and a 2 metre gap might be important. The government have largely dropped the daily infection figures and death toll from their bulletins. You don’t want to be depressing people at this stage of proceedings with doom and gloom, not when there are pints to be drunk! The media have been splashing stories about Super Saturday, Independence Day and the End Of Hibernation. It does look like they deliberately chose July 4th so they could call it an Independence Day. Meanwhile, Leicester is in lockdown, the R rate in London is apparently creeping above 1, there are Covid hotspots around the country, the deaths are still well over one hundred every day, and lots of people are talking about a second wave and a second spike without the people in charge actually wanting to do anything about it. We are still shielding, the medical advice we received this week is that due to our son Isaac being in the extremely vulnerable category we should stay in isolation until August 1st. Despite a few minor changes to our lockdown lives, we are still very much in isolation.

This mix is an hour and eight minutes of music with a folky, ambient, pastoral tinge with some Balearica and guitars thrown in, some old stuff and some brand new- some birdsong and synth ambience to start and finish, blissed out tracks from Seahawks, Apiento and Ultramarine, Green Gartside solo and as Scritti Politti, acoustic guitars courtesy of Nancy Noise, Michael Head and Barry Woolnough, some understated brilliance from The Clash and Sandinista!, Julian Cope covering Roky Erickson, Thurston Moore covering New Order and Jane Weaver’s cosmic/folky weirdness.

Stubbleman: 4am Conversation

Seahawks: Islands

Nancy Noise: Kaia

Green Gartside: Tangled Man

Barry Woolnough: Great Spirit Father In The Sky

The Clash: Rebel Waltz

Thurston Moore: Leave Me Alone

Julian Cope: I Have Always Been Here Before

Jane Weaver: Slow Motion (Loops Variation)

Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band: Picasso

Scritti Pollitti: The Boom Boom Bap

Apiento: Things You Do For Love

Ultramarine: Stella (Stella Connects)

Stubbleman: 6am Chorus

Day Or Night No One Knows

It’s a funny thing- over the years since Daydream Nation came out I’ve fluctuated in my appreciation of Sonic Youth. Working backwards from Daydream Nation threw up lots to enjoy (Bad Moon Rising, EVOL, Sister) and then forwards as well but with more mixed results. I loved Goo but there are swathes of their albums from the 1990s and 2000s I missed and was fine about missing. I bought and enjoyed NYC Ghosts And Flowers and Murray Street but completely missed and still haven’t heard Washing Machine and A Thousand Leaves (both highly rated I think). I sometimes think they seem like style over substance but when they hit the target they hit it good and proper.
Thurston Moore doesn’t come out of Kim Gordon’s 2015 autobiography Girl In A Band too well and he can come across as bit worthy on punk documentaries. I saw him play with his group in Manchester last year. I’d gone along on a whim in a way and was glad I did. It looked interesting, the venue is a former garage across the road from Strangeways prison, MBV’s Debbie Googe plays bass in the band and his Spirit Counsel album last year was a good if infrequent listen.  His cover version of New Order’s Leave Me Alone had pricked my attention too, a really good take on the song. Sometimes maybe you’re just more in tune with things than at other times. Three weeks ago I posted his lockdown release, a nine minute instrumental for three guitars called Strawberry Moon. Last week Thurston announced the release of an album recorded back in March, just before lockdown hit. By The Fire has Debbie on bass and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on the drums on some songs plus Jon from Negativland. In advance he put out this single, Hashish. According to Thurston the song is ‘an ode to the narcotic of love in our shared responsibility to each other during isolation’. The opening guitar drones and atonal picked notes followed by the thumping drums and wasted vocals are exactly what you’d expect from Thurston Moore and if this had been a few years ago I could easily have shrugged and moved on but right now they are hitting the spot completely.

Monday’s Long Song

Thurston Moore’s Strawberry Moon, a nine minute piece played on/for three guitars, in that New York, experimental minimalism, Glenn Branca, Spirit Counsel vein he’s been exploring. Thurston is a resident of London right now not New York. You can take the boy our of New York but you can’t take New York out of the boy. Strawberry Moon was recorded and released the same day, 3rd June, a celebration of the first full moon of June 2020. A good, go with the flow, piece of music.

Spirit Counsel In Salford

I spent Sunday evening at The White Hotel in Salford. First things first, the venue is not and never has been a hotel. It is down a side street surrounded by derelict buildings, some empty lots, a few down at heel shops and takeaways and Strangeways Prison just across the road. If the building looks like a 1970s brick and corrugated iron converted garage, that’s because it is. The steel shuttered doors are still in place and at one point Thurston uses one to play his guitar. Beer is served from the pit that once would have been used to work on the underside of cars. It is not salubrious. It is dingy and smells of oil. It is, therefore, the perfect place for some noise. Thurston Moore has always tried to keep one foot in punk rock and rock ‘n’ roll with the other in the avant garde and free jazz and this show does both but with the foot in the avant garde more firmly planted. No vocals, no singing, just three guitars and drums, the final night of a European tour with his band including Debbie Goodge, ex- My Bloody Valentine, on bass. The gig consists of one song, played for an hour, a version of the first disc of last year’s three disc Spirit Counsel album. You might think finding spirit counsel in a converted garage in Lower Broughton could be tricky but Thurston and band do their best to lead us towards something transcendent.

Opening with a long ambient section, drummer Jem Doulton splashing the cymbals with beaters as the guitarists tune up (or detune up). Eventually the guitars start to hum and feedback gently and Thurston stands, head back and eyes closed. As the noise builds they wait, coming in together on Thurston’s nod of the head, then stick in that groove waiting for him to nod his head again, tension and release. Later on as the noise builds he shouts the changes over the music ‘1- 2- 3- 4’, the group piling in or dropping out bang on the 4. The hour long piece, Alice, Moki And Jayne, keeps circling back to a four note guitar part and although it looks improvisational it’s clearly all very well rehearsed. When the four note refrain has reached the end of its part the band crash into some heavy riff rock or growly three guitar rhythms. At one point a beautiful chorus like melody takes over, the group locked in and hypnotised. There are freeform parts and drumless parts- in one section Jem pummels the cymbals over wailing feedback, shards of cymbal noise ricocheting around. There’s a long feedback section, Thurston pushing his guitar against the steel shutter, over his head and then throwing his arms around the guitar. Freakout and meltdown. Repetition and flow. There are echoes of Sonic Youth, some of the chords and the playing the guitar with screwdrivers or pens on the neck of the guitar but it’s also absolutely not Sonic Youth.You could watch it and think that it takes itself a little too seriously, that this is the practice room stuff of much younger men and women, jamming for hours without ever really getting anywhere, rock musicians playing at being avant jazz. But it’s real and coherent, physical and powerful and as good a way to spend an hour in a garage on a Sunday night near Strangeways as you’re going to find at this stage in proceedings.

On A Thousand Islands In The Sea

Thurston Moore is going to release three 7″ singles in November and each one will have the same B-side, a cover of New Order’s Leave Me Alone. I’ve said before that I’m not a massive fan of covers of New Order songs. Lonelady’s recent cover of Cries And Whispers and Galaxie 500’s slow burning take on Ceremony are two of the few exceptions. Thurston’s cover will join those ranks, a rather lovely and chilled out take on the song, starting out quite Byrsdy and ending with a restrained squall of acoustic guitars and feedback. Thurston recorded in his version in Salford, Sumner and Hook’s hometown, dipping his scuffed Converse into the River Irwell and coming up trumps.

New Order recorded the original at Britannia Row in Islington in 1983 and it closed their Power, Corruption And Lies album, a quantum leap forward from 1981’s Movement. Hooky’s divine bassline and Bernard’s acidic guitar spiralling around each other for ages before Bernard starts singing his plea for solitude. People often cite Age Of Consent and Your Silent Face as the singles that Factory should have released from Power, Corruption And Lies if Factory and New Order had been in the business of something as mundane as releasing songs as singles that had already appeared on albums. Leave Me Alone is right up there with those two songs, a gem surrounded by jewels.

Leave Me Alone