Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lady's choice

You know me beour? She bought some records in Nottingham too.

Saint Etienne Finisterre

I think someone in the shop recommended this. I have not listened to it closely but it sounds pretty good. I notice that it has a song on it called ‘B92’ – about the popular Belgrade radio station?

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Ballad of the Broken Seas

This is a delightful country-ish record on which Campbell’s thin voice is contrasted with Lanegan’s growl to great effect. Although billed to both of them, this is essentially Isobel’s record, with the songs almost entirely being written by her. She also oversees production, and wisely chooses to hang the tracks on the music rather than her voice. But yeah, this record’s a gem, check it out man.

Sigur Ros ()

Back in the day Sigur Ros seemed very exciting, but when Irene bought their debut album (or what passed for their debut in whiteyland) it seemed a bit boring compared to their singles. So I lost interest in them. But now I am glad that my beloved has bought this, because it is great, delivering on the spectral otherworldliness their singles and early live performances promised. Deadly buzz.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Er ist nicht mehr ein Problembär

Bruno der Problembär has been killed by hunters in Bavaria.

There are unconfirmed reports of an Ursine army massing and preparing to wreak bear vengeance on the South Germans.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Virtual Glastonbury

Pretend you are at Glastonbury. Almost as exciting as the real thing. The best festival of its kind in the world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pop is dead, and we have killed it

BBC cancels Top Of The Pops, because no one watches it.

Sad news indeed, for anyone who remembers such things of wonder as Morrissey machine-gunning the audience or the guy from Utah Saints shouting out "Utah Saints! U-U-U-Utah Saints!" during TOTP's anti-miming campaign. Or Gary Glitter joining the domino clad Timelords for 'Doctorin' The Tardis'. And so on.

Nottingham Blues Explosion

They have some record shops in Nottingham, notably Selectadisc and Fopp. I did my best to keep them in business.

Kate Bush Aerial

You know, Kate Bush returns after years away with new album about cleaning her young fella’s kecks. It does not have the far-reaching madness of her earlier works, yet it is rather engaging. I struggle to remember any of the individual tunes (bar the washing machine one and the pi one), but the record washes over me oceanically when I listen to it, so on balance I will judge this a HIT.

The Fall 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong

They were playing The Fall in Fopp while we were in there, I had had a little drink, and this little puppy was the result. And this is not even the record they were playing. This covers the band’s career from its earliest days to the relatively recent past. One thing I was struck by was how relatively stable the line-up was for a long period of time, with essentially the same people being in the band from the mid-1980s until the New York unpleasantness. This contrasts with the perception I had had of the Fall having a line-up that changed every week or two.

It was nice to renew my acquaintance with ‘Totally Wired’, though it’s a pity that neither ‘I’m Into CB’ nor ‘Who Makes The Nazis’ made the cut. And where’s ‘Glam Packet’? And all those other songs?

Cornershop Hold On, It Hurts

Bought so that I can complete the Cornershop album set on teh iPod. This is their first full album, still rather guitar heavy but with occasional twinges of sitary stuff or Wiija spoken word. I have always loved it, and demand satisfaction from anyone who asserts that ‘Born Disco, Died Heavy Metal’ era Cornershop somehow represents a time before they chose quality.

Joy Division Substance

Again, iPod fodder. Also, my vinyl copy skips on the odd track. My new theory on Joy Division is that people go on about Ian Curtis too much. Great as he is, he is not what makes the band, and Joy Division is at its least interesting on songs (like ‘Atmosphere’) which hang solely on his voice. You really see the converse on tracks like ‘Dead Souls’, where Curtis is almost irrelevant to the track’s brooding power.

I’m still waiting for some pop slappers to cover ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in the style it deserves.

Ramones [first album]

The first couple of listenings had me thinking that this was grand but that all the songs really do sound the same. I’ve got into it more since then and started to realty get off on tracks like ‘53rd & 3rd'… man, being a psychotic rent boy in mid 70s New York, that must have been cool.

v/a Keeping The Faith: a Creation Records Dance compilation

What, fifteen years late I get a copy of this popular Creation Records dance compilation? This is great fun, featuring many of your favourite tunes, including the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy’s cover of ‘We Love You’, Terry Farley’s mix of ‘Loaded’, the dancey mix of ‘Soon’, and much much more. I like it.

“Charley Says”

This being a two DVD sets of public information films. It was nice to be frightened once more by old favourites like that one where the spectral figure lures children to their deaths in canals, or to marvel again at the extreme seriousness of the “Think Bike!” guy. There were also some I’d forgotten, like the water safety one with the grim voice over “She survived. You drowned”. What was it with the 1970s, were people always falling into stagnant pools of water?

The overall effect, though, of endless ads about people getting run over by cars is to generate a fear of leaving the house. But of course, you’re not safe there either, given that you could accidentally burn the place down around you. Blimey.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Olive Skin, Blood Mouth

My old flatmate Gavin Kostick has written another play. It's called Olive Skin, Blood Mouth and is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses. It's on in the Project next week and is being performed by students from the Gaiety School of Acting. So expect a large cast and incredibly intricate layers of subplots. More details.

High Rise

There is an interesting piece of photojournalism on BBC News about high density urban living in Hong Kong, focusing on one particular housing estate. It's part of their Urban Planet suite of articles.

It's interesting how positive the high rise dwellers are about their homes, not just in the negative sense of comparing them to the horrifically cramped conditions in which they lived before they were built, but in a positive sense whereby they are seen as places of community and positive social interaction. The people there do not seem to miss private open spaces like gardens, as there is plenty of (unvandalised) public open space. This reminds me of a visit I made to Zarautz in the Basque Country once, where high rise living seems to be the norm for everyone of normal income levels, with children enjoying themselves happily in the play areas between the blocks.

Unproblematic living in high density accomodation seems to be the norm on the European continent and elsewhere, with the Anglo-American world inhabiting an arena of exceptionalism where high rise living is seen as intrinsically hellish (see, for example, Robert Calvert's Ballard-inspired lyrics for Hawkwind's 'High Rise'). I would love to read a convincing explanation for our exceptionalism.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Magic of Comics

You will recall that I was recently in Nottingham. This town is blessed with Page 45, the UK’s greatest comics shop, so we went there and bought some comics. My beloved bought Bigfoot’s autobiography. Sadly, she has no blog of her own and so cannot tell you about it, but I thought it was pretty funny. I picked up the first of those Strangehaven books, written and drawn by Gary Spencer Millidge. My homie Wood likes this title. The book treads a kind of British fantasy road, with signposts to things like Children of the Stones, The Prisoner, The Wicker Man, or Twin Peaks (this last not actually British, obv.). Following an accident, the main character finds himself stuck in the rural locality of Strangehaven, with events conspiring to make it hard for him to leave. Stuff happens. As the first book, it’s all a bit introductory.

But what do I think of it? Well, in some ways I thought it was a bit meh, a kind of witches cauldron of random weirdo events with no obvious sense of there being any overall narrative sense to it. On the other hand, I devoured the book, greatly enjoying it while reading it, and am very keen to acquire the second volume. So I reckon that despite the urgings of my intellect, at some bestial level this book greatly appeals to me.

In retrospect - I'm really selling this comic short, it's a bag of fun. If I wasn't such a slackass I would have bought and read all the subsequent issues by now.

The other book I bought was The Birthday Riots by one Nabiel Kanan. I bought this because I stumbled across a copy of it last time I was in the shop. It’s about this guy who is involved in a campaign by some independent to become mayor of London. Meanwhile his schoolgirl daughter is becoming more politicised by the increasing racism towards Gypsies (Roma or Travellers, or both, I don’t think they are clearly defined). This book and the writer have things going for it, but overall it’s not that good. Politics is central to the book, but the author does not present it in any way credibly. The idea that now, or in the near future, the itinerant communities of England will in any sense present the kind of force that can stage monster riots in central London is frankly laughable. The ability of a candidate to suddenly leap from third place to front-runner by saying “We really need to do something about transport in London” is also a bit unrealistic. Likewise, the depiction of the gypsy folk in the story seems a bit half-baked, with the author just inventing a major aspect of their culture as a plot device.

The sexual politics are a bit strange too. The mayoral candidate brings a woman onto his election team. She is quite attractive. Her very presence indicates that the candidate is a sell-out.

So what’s good about the book? Well, I liked the art and aspects of the characterisation, and it has nice moments to it, but overall the political stuff is a bit suckass.

Dude, this is weird...

You must click on this link. It starts off normally enough, but then...

I must thank my good friends on ILX for this.

Even Union Busting Cockfarmers Can Have Funny Ads

All right thinking people still boycott them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Trip To Trumpton

My beloved and I went to Nottingham recently, to meet with people from the Internet. On the Friday night we saw some local band with them. I can’t remember what they were called, and seem to remember they were a bit bland, but they did look a bit like Right Said Fred, so they can’t be all bad. There was an indie pub quiz after that, but we slipped away with a Brazilian friend to go to a shoegazing club night called Sonic Cathedral. There were a couple of performers due. First up were Sennen, who were a bunch of younger lads playing the crazy shoegazing sounds they heard about from granddad. These were truly wonderful, delivering the kind of stuff you expect from people playing this kind of music – walls of sound, droney relentlessness, and barely noticeable vocals. So we loved them, in contrast to the beered up locals who complained about their not having a proper singer.

The next act was Mark Gardner, that attractive young fellow from Ride. He’s a bit older than he used to be and maybe has let himself go a bit, so I don’t think he’ll be showing up on anyone’s bedroom wall now. The actual performance was somewhat bizarre, in that Gardner was playing on his own, accompanying his vocals on an acoustic guitar. He played a variety of Ride and new songs. As you can imagine, old Ride tunes got the strongest reactions (somewhat to his annoyance), though they do lose something without the effects-driven arrangements of yore. Gardner did nevertheless try to counter all this by sampling his guitar playing and then looping it back and playing more guitar lines over it. This worked well on tracks like ‘Drive Blind’, but in the main I felt that the tunes suffered from the lack of guitar washes. So, oddly, the bunch of no-hopers called Sennen essentially blew their inspiration off the stage.

Then we got a bit *tired* and went back to our hotel. There we watched a bit of some amazingly bad film in which Michael Madsen delivered spectacularly bad dialogue.

The following night saw us attend a disco in the Rescue Rooms. We had our own room, the great unwashed had theirs, but there was some intermingling. Both DJs were a bit variable, but it was nice being able to go somewhere else when ours was playing shite like MJ Hibbett’s cover of ‘Boom Boom Shake The Room’ (unfunny ironist covers bad song by cockfarmer, rubbish results). It was particularly entertaining to join the lower orders while their DJ was playing ‘Seventeen’ by Ladytron, indeed, though we were drawn back to the room of eliteness when the DJs there took a rock direction. Somewhere on the internet there are pictures of me rocking out to ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, but I cannot share them with you.

The next day we met a big shot in Games Workshop for a power lunch, and then bought more records. After that we hung out that Welsh guy we’d met with Marc the last time we were in Nottingham, and to live the dream we made our way to the Olde Trippe To Jesulameee pubbe for pints. This is a very old pub at the foot of the hill on which the castle lies, in which crusaders used to go for a pint.

We also visited Birmingham briefly, checking out that roundy building and generally feeling that we were characters in a Dexy's Midnight Runner video.

There seem to be loads of Real Ale pubs in Nottingham. One day I will get my krewe over there for a real ale pub crawl. Nice.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Sure they never gave him a chance"

This was sadly uttered by a friend of my father, when Charles Haughey was forced to resign as Taoiseach of my country.

He also mentioned how Mr Haughey would often shake hands with people in his constituency as they came out of Mass on a sunday, "and he gave a fifty pound note to everyone he shook hands with".

Monday, June 12, 2006

Not all theatre is good: "The Bacchae"

Maybe you are familiar with this play by popular Athenian playwright Euripides? Like most Greek tragedies, it is about the terrible consequences that ensue when you defy the will of the Gods. In this one, Dionysius disguises himself as one of his priests, and arrives in Thebes with a gang of mad drunken women (the titular Bacchae) to bring the city his cult and the gift of the vine. The King of Thebes rejects the cult, and then suffers an awful fate.

In this Abbey Theatre production, the setting was moved to contemporary Baghdad, and they attempted to present Euripides’ drama as being somehow relevant to current events in Iraq. Unfortunately, the play does not really have any points of reference readily applicable to the War on Terror stuff, so any attempts to create them seemed very forced. There was a great “for fuck’s sake” moment when some dude was brought on stage in an orange jumpsuit and a hood, and the Theban King’s being presented as a US general seemed very meh.

Beyond the fundamentally misjudged attempt to add contemporary relevance to this piece, the production just wasn’t really up to much. The actors generally seemed a bit ploddy, delivering the kind of over-acty performances you get when Greek tragedy goes wrong. This might be a feature of their demoralisation at the attempt to shoehorn the plot into modern Iraq. Or perhaps the lumpen script sucked the life out of them. The last time I had seen a Greek tragedy in the Abbey, it was a wonderful adaptation of Sophocles’ “Antigone”. That time they had got Nobel prize laureate Seamus Heaney in to write a modern English verse text for them, but with “The Bacchae”, the director just did it himself. Maybe this is something you are better off leaving to the experts.

There was more than no good stuff in the production, nevertheless. The Bacchae themselves had the sense of wild abandon that the followers of Dionysius should evoke, and Andrea Irvine did the lion’s head bit in a manner that does justice to one of the most powerful scenes in the history of western theatre.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

B&S Jump The Shark?

Rather than expect you to read another long post here, I could just post a link to the Sinister mailing list archive, where the following formed the bulk of two posts I submitted. Unfortunately, the Sinister archive is down, and looks like remaining so.

Belle & Sebastian released a new album, back in... February? A couple of days before that they played a gig in Dublin. I lived the dream, not merely going to it, but meeting with some other B&S fans beforehand for a walk in the Botanic Gardens before visiting a pubbe for some booze. The Botanic Gardens were great crack… we got to stroll around the green houses and then outside we saw the poison garden and the world’s tartiest squirrels. We were also amused by a sign in the greenhouse beside the venus flytraps, warning that triggering the traps for amusement could result in death.

Down at the concert we arrived to find that support band The Brakes were already onstage. I found myself thinking that their riffy guitary sounds were just what I needed in my several beers in state, but others thought that they were a bit on the lame side. They are meant to feature some of British Sea Power, a band that in retrospect I reckon were not up to that much.

B&S themselves played a stormer… I have mentioned previously that I had become a bit sick of seeing them live. Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the gap had left me much better able to appreciate their live skills and rapport with each other and their audience.

They played a fair amount of songs I did not then recognise, presumably from the new album. One particularly epic unfamiliar track was introduced to me as ‘Your Cover’s Blown’… apparently it was a b-side to ‘Wrapped Up In Books’, a single from the last album. Looks like I may have to start collecting B&S singles again. I was also amused to learn that Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant”is now considered an old Belle & Sebastian album. They did however play more than no genuinely old songs, and hearing ‘Electronic Renaissance’ live means that I can now die in peace.

I could not resist acquiring the album shortly afterward when it became available. You know that “Guardian” newspaper? This fellow called Alexis Petridis wrote a review in it where he warned of how B&S fans are scary people who respond in threatening fashion to any criticism of the band. Well might he know – he is apparently a former subscriber to the Sinister mailing list. Ironically, Mr Petridis then went on in his article to reproduce the party-line position of old-school Sinister subbers, which is that B&S stopped being any good once people other than Stuart Murdoch started writing songs or singing. I’ve realty had it with this lazy line, which neglects to point out the pleasures that derive from listening to a record and hearing several voices singing. Also, the Sinister Position conveniently forgets the many clunkers Stuart himself has written.

I showed my disapproval of Mr Petridis’ article by mailing him a human ear.

Anyway, back to the album. For this one, the band went to America and worked with some producer guy who is apparently relatively well-known, but not so well known as Trevor Horn (producer of last album, keep up!). However, the album is to some extent of a piece with “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”, being heavily produced in a way that previous B&S outings were not. It’s just maybe not as good. Actually, it’s definitely not as good – where DCW was a career highlight, this is the kind of record where you start to wonder whether you can finally give up on your favourite band.

Or so it does on a first listen. Subsequently it goes ever better on the ear, and it is very possible that by the time you read this I will have concluded that The Life Pursuit is the greatest work of art the human race will ever produce.

But what does it sound like? Like I said, it sounds produced. The songs, particularly towards the beginning of the record, have the kind of jauntiness you get from people who listen to a lot of disco and Northern Soul (without actually sounding that like disco or Northern Soul). Later tracks are mostly a bit less engaging or a bit subtler, with ‘Dress Up In You’ sounding the most like something from one of their pre-DCW albums. Some of the others seem a bit unformed, with ‘We Are The Sleepyheads’ being particularly guilty here. And having two down-tempo whingers to finish off the album was probably a major contributor to my initial impression that this record was a bit duff.

I wrote the above some time ago. Since then my opinions have changed. Basically, I now feel that The Life Pursuit is not that good a record. Some tracks are likeable, notably 'Sukie In The Graveyard', a dancefloor classic, but over all it's a bit gloopy. As most of the songs (and all of the duffers) appear to be written by Stuart Murdoch, maybe he should consider letting the others write even more of the tunes.

The packaging of the new records is nevertheless impeccable.

Not very fierce shame of New Jersey bear

Cat chases bear up tree. Twice.

Er war kein Problembär.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Dog Was Lost But Now He Is Found: TEH FIERY FURNACES

So I went to see THE FIERY FURNACES, the sibling spouse combo from America. I’ve only ever seen this lot live – on record they are nothing to me. They were playing in Whelans, which is near where I live. They had a support act. At first I thought the support act were local, and I was thinking “these chaps seem a cut above the usual loser outfits who infect this town, maybe I should offer to become their manager”. I went into a long mental reverie about how I’d have to say to them something like “Kids, your music is great. What you need is a manager, and I’m the man to take you on. However I have some essays to write for spy school, so I won’t be able to start for a week or two. How about it?”.

It turned out they were foreign, and did a neat line in mumbling their name incomprehensibly. They had a pretty tight rhythm section and a young lad on keyboards with a great line in nerd-chic. He seemed to be evolving towards doing funny dances when he wasn’t playing on tracks. The band's overall sound suggested post-punk influences, electronically tinged. After they finished, I asked them their name, and learned that they are called Scissors For Lefty. So now you know. I wish them every success in their endeavours.

The Fiery Furnaces have gone all rock… big riffola action from the siblings of doom. Boy FF seems like a well-adjusted fellow, belting out his very fiddly sounding guitar lines, while Girl FF delivers her vocals with an hair of studious neuroticism. I recognised one of the song from ATP – something about not wanting to be late – and they also did a song about how Girl FF had lost her dog (but don’t worry… he was lost, but now he is found). Other songs had lyrics about different subjects.

I don’t know much about music, so I wouldn’t understand any of that talk about unusual time sequences, but I see what people mean when they talk of the band’s impressive but unusual playing style and tendency to stop and start in a strange manner, coupled with the singer’s oddly direct yet detached vocal style, and her lyrics about odd subjects. Like that one where the whole song lyrics seemed to be about how she had gone to bed he night before without changing out of her clothes and now her hair was all matted. Mad stuff, especially as the song’s contemporary component was all about how she did NOT want to brush her hair. People are weird.

Talking to people afterwards suggested that the Fiery Furnaces on record typically are rather electronic, but the recent album has gone down a much more hard-core riff action route. With this tour they have apparently re-engineered their old electronicy tracks to make them sound all riffy. Riffs are great.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The magic of live music: LOW in the Temple Bar Music Centre

You know what Low sound like, hein? If you don’t like them I’ll hardly persuade you. This gig rocked, anyway, with the ever-fascinating Mr & Mrs Low dynamics being a source of great amusement. As a visual presence, Mrs Low is incredible, like some uncool 1970s housewife who got rhythm (eh, this is a compliment). I hope she never cuts her hair. Mr Low remains an engaging fellow. They’ve had to change the other guy. He seems to do the job. It’s a shame they didn’t introduce him.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Comics Roundup 5/6/2006

Oh yeah, wasn't I going to do a weekly round up of comics acquired? Perhaps so. This week I picked up two things.

Local #5, by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly, is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That's why I bought it, as I have a friend who has moved there. I figured that if it was rubbish I could post it to her and she might get mild amusement out of seeing her town in pictorial form. It turns out that the story is about a disturbed woman who moves to Halifax. She seems to have problems with the truth, and behaves in an increasingly erratic manner in the arthouse cinema in which she works, before skipping the town. The story is quite affecting. Since then, I read a bit more about this Local comic. It seems like the creators have designed it such that each issue tells a self-contained story, even though the issues together form an ongoing narrative. I am sufficiently interested by this title that I will probably go and look for other issues of it, possibly today.

My Inner Bimbo #1 of 5 is by Sam Keith. Keith is a fairly cultish comics figure, despite being the co-creator of the massively popular Sandman book. His cultishness comes from his art style, which does not readily lend itself to depiction of guys in spandex twatting each other (for all that he is currently drawing a Batman title). His preferred subject matter seems a bit extreme too, often being about women in scarily abusive situations. Maybe you have read his Four Women comic, which is both brilliant and unflinching in its narrative exploitation of a WOMEN IN PERIL storyline. Anyway, This title does not seem to be driven by an abused women theme, but its sexual politics are still a bit weird. The main character is this porn-obsessed old guy in the midst of some kind of breakdown. The pornographic images he looks at have started talking to him (and not in a good way), and now his subconscious has produced a fantasy lady for him, and made her (subjectively) real. It's all pretty bizarre and somewhat heavy going, but at this stage of the game I have to say that I like it.

Other comic things - if you have not jumped aboard The Exterminators yet, then you should do so. This is a comic by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore about down at heel pest exterminators in Los Angeles, and gets a lot of its mileage from how horrible roaches are. Amazingly, the title managed to survive the early extermination of the most amusing character, and continues to go from strength to strength.

I'm also interested to hear that DC are talking about doing another series of Seaguy, the comic by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart that was bought by almost no one but is among the very best things they've ever published. The story thus far ended on such a miserably downbeat note that it would be really nice to see it continued.

One more thing: There was an interesting discussion on I Love Comics about the Women In Refrigerators trope, this being the tendency in comics for Really Bad Things to happen to female characters.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

iPod Top Ten (as of 4/5/2006)

I've done this previously. Then my iPod crashed and I got a new computer. Now I am doing it again.

1. Philip Glass & The Kronos Quartet ‘Journey to Inn’ (from Glass: Dracula) – 7 times (last played 19/4/2006)

2. A-Musik ‘Aktuelle Kamera’ (from Das Beste Aus Der DDR) – 7 times (last played 29/3/2006)

3. Electrelane ‘The Partisan’ (from Axes) – 6 times (last played 15/4/2006)

4. M.I.A. ‘Pull Up The People’ (from Arular) – 6 times (last played 3/5/2006)

5. Popol Vuh ‘Aguirre I (Lacrime Di Rei)’ (from Aguirre (orig. soundtrack)) – 6 times (last played 19/4/2006)

6. Joe Meek ‘I Hear A New World (I hear a new world (I head a new world))’ (from I Hear A New World) – 5 times (last played 4/5/2006)

7. The Doors ‘Break On Through’ (from the untitled first album by The Doors) – 5 times (last played 4/5/2006)

8. Oktoberklub ‘Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst’ (from Das Beste aus der DDR) – 5 times (last played 29/4/2006)

9. Tangerine Dream ‘Birth Of Liquid Pleijades’ (from Zeit) – 5 times (last played 22/4/2006)

10. Electrelane ‘One, Two, Three, Lots’ (from Axes) – 5 times (last played 18/4/2006)

11. Oktoberklub ‘Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst’ (from Das Beste von Oktoberklub) – 5 times (last played 15/4/2006)

12. Electrelane ‘Atom’s Tomb’ (from Axes) – 5 times (last played 13/4/2006)

13. Electrelane ‘Gone Darker’ (from Axes) – 5 times (last played 8/4/2006)

So what can we say about this? Obviously, I have been feeling the Electrelane love since I got Axes. Poor Oktoberklub suffer from having their song on two different albums. I typically listen to DDR music while on my way to German class, hence the frequent appearance to this folk-pop masterpiece. ‘Aktuelle Kamera’ is more the introduction to the East German news than actual music, and shows up here for similar reasons. M.I.A. is both brilliant and favoured by randomness, and the Glass, Popul Vuh, and Tangerine Dream tracks are there as soundtracks to scary roleplaying games. The one big surprise has to be the Doors track… not that it is anything other than brilliant, I’m just surprised I’ve listened to it so much. I think it must be having it on the same playlist of my favourite tunes that the Joe Meek track is on that does it, yes yes.

It's interesting to see the East German news music and 'Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst' have stormed back into the charts, while others have dropped out. Much of this is down to my not having ripped all the same stuff onto the new computer (or copied over the stuff from the old one). Time will tell whether Shakira reclaims her rightful place.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

CARGO CULTE - considerable return

Talking of which, here is a recycled piece about a concert I was at recently. On stage were United Bible Studies, Slomatic, and CIRCLE. I have already mentioned this concert.

Some of my friends are more broadminded than others. The other day I was talking to some folk about music, when the subject of Estel, United Bible Studies, & the Dublin improv scene generally came up, a somewhat odd juxtaposition as Estel have never seemed that improv based. Anyway, it was asserted most assuredly by come of my associates that the Dublin improv scene generally is mostly rubbish, and that Estel & United Bible Studies are the two worst bands in Dublin EVER. My beloved suggested that our conversants were working to an old-school rockist pre-punk perspective where only virtuoso musicians are allowed make music. I largely bit my tongue (ow), as at that point I was unfamiliar with United Bible Studies and know next to nothing about the Dublin improv scene; Estel, meanwhile, are probably the most impressive live band I have seen in Dublin in recent years, at least prior to their split.

Anyway, it was with some amusement a few weeks later that I found myself at a gig being promoted by one of the post-Estel factions and featuring United Bible Studies on the bill. It turns out that some of the UBS know one of my other friends (let's call him "Mark"), so without realising it I was sitting at a table with them before they played. Good job I didn’t say “I am really looking forward to seeing United Bible Studies, I hear they are the worst band in Dublin EVER”.

UBS were the first band on the bill. What did I think of them? Well, they are not the worst band in Dublin EVER. And they are a game of two halves, with their sound being an odd dialectic between nicey folk-tinged stuff and weirdo improv madness. They tended to flit from one to the other in a devil-may-care style. And there were loads of them onstage, always a good thing. At one point they reminded me a bit of Avarus, only they’re not *that* good. There was also a bit where the singey bloke was going on a bout Jesus in a repetitive manner, and it did strike me as being a bit derivative of that ‘Mary Mary’ track by Can, but not so much that I’ll be reporting them to the Central Improv Plagiarism Court. And you know, having influences is not crime. So yeah, United Bible Studies, they’re grand, and I do not understand the loathing their name excites in certain quarters. I dunno… | think one thing people tend to forget with improv is how funny it all is. I got great mileage out of watching the band arse around with finger symbols and ash-trays and then looking at all the po-faced punters in the audience.

Slomatic were up next. These fellows were from up North, and are one of those heavy metal bands. It’s great that someone is still making this kind of music, and so loudly. They must have found the experience a bit weird, though, as the audience was mainly composed of Dublin scenesters, not people known for their love of early Metallica. That said, they weren’t obviously carried out of town on a rail, so maybe metal is where it’s at with today’s hipsters. Slomatic come from the loud, slow, (almost) no-vocals school of metal, though they still have drums and play music which would sound terrifyingly fast compared to the likes of ((((SUNN))))). I enjoyed them a lot, and certainly had my tiredness swept away by their military onslaught.

The last band were called CIRCLE, and they were the one people were here to see. Maybe you have heard of them? They are from Finland, and they’ve been going since the early 1991. People had recommended them highly to me, hence my presence. There seemed to be four of them – a drummer wearing a mask over his eyes, a hairy rocker on bass, a topless catamite on guitar, and Jimi Tenor’s heavy metal brother on keyboards and vocals.

CIRCLE cooked up a bit of a racket. At first I thought maybe they sounded a bit like some kind of Hawkwind tribute act – not a problem, certainly, but not exactly the future of music. Their own sound became clearer to me as the gig developed. I don’t know if this was because they played more unique tunes or if I became more discerning, but either way they sucked me into a new dimension of sound. For all that some people were describing them as being somewhat metallic, this seemed more trancey and rhythmic than that adjective would suggest, and the whole thing was a bit more art-rocky. The chap’s singing in foreign obviously helped, with the crazy sounds of Finnish making him sound like he was blessed with glossolalia or speaking in tongues or some such.

"Mark" got a bit relaxed and danced like a loon at the front. I was a bit *tired* and hogged the seats. Part of the fun with the gig was playing spot the hipster… there were so many of them here, with every second person being someone from a band, someone from a club night, one of those people you see at every gig, or me.

Deadly buzz, basically. Go and see CIRCLE if they come to party your town.

On the way home we noticed that STRING-FELL-OWS is still open.

I always skip the long, dull posts on other people's blogs, so I apologise for inflicting this on you.

Gestetner Love

So this evening I nipped down to Anthology Books, to briefly stick my nose in at some kind of grand opening they were having for some zine-related exhibition they were having. The place was pretty rammed so I made my excuses and left, resolving to return and peruse the stuff they have later.

Nevertheless, I picked up the flyer-zine for the exhibition. It was of interest, but I was struck by how focussed it was on a world of zines separate to that with which I have been involved. Part of this might be to do with the zine definition they offered, which seemed somewhat tendentiously to offer a distinction between "zines" and "fanzines", with the latter cast as an immature version of what flowered into the kind of zines the exhibition is interested in. On the other hand, the world of zines with which I have been involved - gaming zines and amateur press associations - are so intrinsically cultish that it's not surprising that no one outside their immediate circle is even aware of their existence.

Anyway, to set the record straight, here are my three greatest ever Irish zines:

THE MYSTERY OF THE PYRAMIDS: Published by an endlessly changing troupe of people, this Diplomacy and FRP zine's finest hour was perhaps Ken's report on an attempt to test the mystical powers of scale replicas of the Great Pyramid of Cheops: "I was unable to ascertain whether meat left in a scale replica of the pyramid remains fresh indefinitely, as unfortunately our dog smelled the bacon and ate it".

Now Eat The Rabbit: Published by my old friend and quaffing partner William Whyte, this was also notionally a Diplomacy and general postal gaming zine, NERTZ's greatness lay in William's general writing about stuff and its letter page. While I have since explored the by-ways of the Internet, electronic media has nothing on this for range of discussion.

Frank's APA (Irish in so far as it has been published from Ireland for much of its existence and has a plurality of Irish writers): Oh you know, people write about music and stuff. Much of what appears on this blog is recycled pieces for Frank's APA, but you probably know this already.