Sunday, July 31, 2011

Forbidden Fruit, Part 4 – Music Sounds Better Without You

The fourth and final part of my account of my attendance at the Forbidden Fruit festival.

If I did not have a ticket for both days I would not have gone back on Sunday, but as it was we decided to head down early to catch the Trinity Orchestra (i.e. the student orchestra of Trinity College Dublin) performing the album Discovery by Daft Punk. This rather did what it said on the tin, and was a big bag of fun. They may have cheated a bit by having a proper drum kit and electric guitars and bass, but it still was entertaining to hear those uplifting dance tunes played by different instruments. They also had people (perhaps from the Choral Society) doing vocals, both lead and backing. Of these I particularly loved the bloke doing the high vocals to 'One More Time' and then the closer 'Too Long' (for which he was joined by another bloke on high vocals). They also had a woman singing 'Digital Love', who was endearingly mad for it.

So basically, Trinity Orchestra = total awesomeness. I hope they do this Discovery show again sometime*. Maybe they could broaden their repertoire slightly and throw in Stardust's 'Music Sounds Better With You' or some tracks from the JUSTICE album as encores. But whatever they do, they're fine by me and were definitely worth trekking up to Kilmainham for.

After them, however, there was nothing on I wanted to see until the evening. And even the things on in the evening (Caribou, Battles, the Aphex Twin) were acts I would like to see, but I would not like to see them at Forbidden Fruit. So I cut my losses and went off with my beloved to have afternoon tea in Café Notto (catching them just before their erratic closing times) and then came home. After a bit we went out for a nice Indian meal, a far more pleasant way of spending the evening than enduring whatever questionable delights Forbidden Fruit had to offer us.

Looking back on Forbidden Fruit, I find myself feeling all nostalgic about Indietracks – a festival not full of wankers and run by people who have given some thought towards what makes for a good festival experience. Who knows, maybe I will be crawling back there again next year. I won't be crawling back to Forbidden Fruit.

* They did, but I was going to Richard Thompson that night.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Martin Skidmore

I was going to say a few words about the late martin Skidmore, but other people have done so more effectively than I ever could (e.g. see Tom Ewing's post on Freaky Trigger). Instead I would just recommend you have a look at either FA (his comics discussion website) or his Japanese arts website.

Forbidden Fruit, Part 3 – Some Positivity

this is episode 3 of my account of the ghastly Forbidden Fruit festival

After Yo La Tengo I was seriously thinking of just cutting my losses and heading home for a nice sherry or a warming cup of cocoa, but my beloved persuaded me to stay on for the headliners, who were admittedly the main reason I had come down to Forbidden Fruit in the first place. And these people were… The Flaming Lips, a band I had basically not seen since their tour after the first Bowlie Weekender (or maybe I also saw them at an early ATP). Back then, they were a somewhat avant-garde indie rock band, sometimes associated with Mercury Rev, who were beginning to achieve some recognition on the back of bizarre live shows and the sheer attritional force of a band that will not stop plugging away. Since then, the Flaming Lips had become surprisingly popular and were now almost a default festival headliner band, largely on the strength of a truly spectacular live show. My beloved persuaded me that this was something we had to see – that no matter how squalid Forbidden Fruit was, we had to bear the horror and stay to see the elephant.

I appreciate that, at this stage of the game, I am basically the last person in the world to see the Flaming Lips spectacular live show, so maybe I do not need to say too much about it. Still, something must be said. It is… spectacular. They come on through a door on a screen on which super-bright images are projected, while the audience is bathed in strobe lights. The sides of the stage are filled with randomers dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips gets into a giant ball and rolls across the audience. Balloons, confetti, and various other objects are blasted in the vague direction of the audience. Basically, this is the thing to show anyone who moans about how today's bands don't know how to put on a show*. The Flaming Lips had me grinning like a lunatic and seemed to, briefly, create a sense of genuine audience community. I fact, I actually had a pleasant conversation with a stranger who asserted that she was the actual giant woman on the screens behind the Flaming Lips (she had changed her hairstyle in the meantime, apparently).

And the music? You do hear people saying that for all the Flaming Lips amazing visual treats, the actual music is a bit pedestrian. I cannot agree to this, it still sounds way more avant-garde to me than anything you would normally get headlining a festival for trend people. OK, so they are not Boredoms, but it is intriguing that this kind of music can still find something approximating to a mass audience. That said, they do occasionally drift off into bland ballad territory (e.g. that dreadful 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' song) but they soon come back to something off the wall.

I am surprisingly unfamiliar with the Flaming Lips on record, but they did play some songs I know. Sadly, not so much from the recent album Embryonic, so we did not get to join in with the animal noises on 'I Can Be A Frog'.

Still, all good things come to an end. The initial sense of audience community largely wore off as drunken munters started telling each other i) how much they were enjoying the gig and ii) how drunk they were. Once the Flaming Lips finished, I made my excuses and left.

* I am indebted to Sarah Dorman for this insight.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Forbidden Fruit, part 2 – Some Actual Music Content

This continues my account of the recent Forbidden Fruit music festival event in Dublin. Part 1 here.

That said, I did manage to see some bands. Jape were coming towards the end of their set when we arrived. Last time I saw these, they were the one-person electronic-pop act of the ubiquitous Richie Egan. Now they seem to have mutated into a fairly generic Irish indie band. I thought they could have tried harder with their stage costumes. Jape's music does still have this quirky electronica aspect, but the blue jeans* and characterless short-sleeved shirts they sported did them no favours – surely this is a band who should be wearing spangly capes and silver jump suits?

Spies are another local band. They suffered from my having taken against the festival and also from being a bit too loud to hear properly, but maybe they were not all that bad. They had a certain Joy Division influence, but I could have done without the singer's shouting all the vocals. Or maybe his mic was just turned up too much. Still, nice haircuts.

I actually liked Kid Karate, another local band. These are one of those bands with only two members, one of whom sings and plays guitar, the other of whom drums. To get away with this kind of stripped down line up, you need to be good at what you do – and Kid Karate were. They were probably the hardest rocking band we saw all weekend, and I wish them every success. The singer wore very tight trousers.

[I subsequently discovered that one of Kid Karate featured in the lamer "reality" TV programme Fade Street (the one set in some friends' old flat on Fade Street), so I am embarrassed at having admitted to liking them].

I thought Yo La Tengo played well, but they are less fun at festivals than at normal concerts, because the shortened time available means they just play the music and cut out the amusing chit chat that makes them normally so entertaining. Or maybe they have cut out the chit-chat at normal gigs as well? It has been a while since I saw them. Still, I was impressed by their music, but I did not enjoy their set at all. Having all their beautiful quiet songs drowned out by festival goers' inane conversations really sucked the life out of me. I really do not understand why these people go up in front of a stage to converse loudly with their friends, surely there are any number of other places they could go where they would not be annoying people who were trying to listen to the music? Sadly, I fear that those of us trying to enjoy the music were something of a minority.

* Never trust a man wearing blue jeans.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forbidden Fruit, part 1 – The Horror Begins

I had this great idea. There was this festival on called Forbidden Fruit – and I would go to it. This festival was on in the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham, so I would be able to walk down and back from it without having to bother with any unpleasantness about camping or travelling to a festival site in some remote location. And there were people playing at it I liked the idea of seeing – The Flaming Lips, Caribou, Yo La Tengo, Battles, The Aphex Twin and various other we're-here-too acts. Nothing can go wrong, I thought, as I bought myself a two-day ticket. My beloved did the same.

A sinking feeling descended as I arrived at the festival site. In retrospect, I find myself wondering whether the problem was with me rather than the festival, but a number of rubbish things struck us almost immediately. Firstly, the music was too loud. OK, I know, that sounds like a real old man complaint, but the music here genuinely was too loud, with massive sound leakage from the different stages to each other. In front of the main stage, the sound was so loud that it was ear splitting and also ended up sounding too distorted for the music to be properly appreciated. This seemed to be the same on all the other stages we went near.

It was also striking that for all that Forbidden Fruit site looked very nice, it was all still being run on the classic take-the-money-and-run model of Irish festival organising. When you go to a proper festival, one thing they always do is give you a programme of what is on, where it is on, and maybe some kind of information about the acts so that you can go "Oooh, Anal Plexus – never heard of them before, but their write-up sounds interesting, let's check them out on the Internal Probe stage". Well there was none of that here. We had the forethought to print off a running order from the Internet before coming down, but it gave no information on the performers, so there was nothing to indicate whether any of Spank Rock, Carte Blanche, Ham Sandwich, Cast of Cheers, or Ignored Playaz would be worth checking out*.

The other thing that is always nice to do at an outdoor festival, especially when the weather is nice, is to drink an alcoholic beverage of some sort. One immediate problem with Forbidden Fruit was that it was sponsored by Bulmer's, makers of a [redacted for legal reasons] cider beloved of [redacted for legal reasons]. The festival may have been part of their ongoing attempts to re-brand their product. I was open to the idea of at least giving their repulsive alcoholic fruit juice a try, but this proved impossible. Despite the festival being sponsored by a manufacturer of alcoholic drinks, there were so few bar outlets on site that it rapidly became the case that to sate one's lust for booze would require enduring a queue of at least 45 minutes before you got near the bar. Now, I like a drink, but I hate queuing, so this became, for me, a dry festival**.

Some of the other festival attendees were a bit more dedicated in their quest for alcoholic refreshment than I was, so later on the day the place became rather messy – it became increasingly apparent that this was a festival for boozed up event people. Loud as the main stage was, it was increasingly difficult to hear bands over the sound of people telling each other how drunk they were or carrying on their inane conversations. The poor toilet training that afflicts so many Irish men also reared its head. Rather than make their way to the perfectly adequate toilets, for a great many it was preferable to urinate against the perimeter fence, in full view of the entire festival. Some of the fellows who did manage to make their way to the toilets could not fully grasp how these things work – rather than wait a minute or two for a free portaloo or a space at a urinal, they simply expelled their liquid waste at the nearest inanimate vertical object. Small wonder this country is in such a crisis.

* These are all actual bands who were playing at the festival.

** With all the "what is this shit music?" consequences that implies.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

When Paul McCartney Attacks

Paul McCartney Man on Fire
Paul McCartney, Wings, et al.
Mecca Macca discs 1 & 2

I must do an in-depth analysis of these and check which tunes feature on both collections. I mentioned Man on Fire a while ago – it was compiled by a guy in Points of Divergence, an alternate history APA I was in for a while, and is supposedly a compilation from another world where Paul McCartney never joined the Beatles and instead made his name primarily as a record producer, releasing the occasional piece of experimental electronica under his own name and occasionally dabbling with his own band. It is a stunning piece of work by the compiler, as he put together a CD booklet to go with the discs, with all the text therein all sticking to the conceit that this is a compilation of bits and bobs by a respected producer largely unknown outside muso circles.

But if this is a record that came my way ages ago, then why am I writing about it again? Basically because my interest in Paul McCartney has been revived again, thanks to the Macca Mecca compilations of McCartney relative obscurities from one of my correspondents in Frank's APA. There is surprisingly little overlap between the two sets – just 'Check My Machine', Front Parlour', 'Maybe I'm Amazed', 'Secret Friend', 'Summer's Day Song', 'Temporary Secretary', and 'What's That You're Doing?' appear on both. This may signify something.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

v/a "A Mighty Wind" OST

You know this… it is the soundtrack to the Christopher Guest directed film about the folkies. I liked the film and remember liking the music in it, so I thought I would like this. But sadly, it turns out not to quite pack the same oomph, for all that the Mitch and Mickey tracks retain their poignancy and the other tunes are enjoyable pastiche. That said, the album is still worth getting (particularly at the price I paid for it) simply for 'Blood on the Coal', a song by the Folksmen about a train crash in a coalmine.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sathanao "Bsossbum: Georgian Church and Sacred Music"

OK, first up, this record is not really called Bsossbum, but the Georgian characters for the performers (Sathanao) look a bit like the Roman characters B-S-O-S-S-B-U-M and some muppet entered it onto the iTunes Gracenotes database under that name. I've left it like that on my iPod because it is funny.

But what does the music sound like? Well, it is choral music. And if you have ever heard those Trio Bulgarka women who show up on Kate Bush records and advertisements for cider then you broadly will get the idea of the singing style on display here. Apparently Georgia and Bulgaria argue over who owns some of these songs, such is the similarity in the choral tradition across these Black Sea countries.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Broadcast "Mother is the Milky Way"

This was an e.p. sold at concerts on one of Broadcast's last tours. But fret not, gentle reader – I have not turned into one of those people who pays loads of money for rare records, as I just downloaded it from the internet. It is basically the same kind of stuff as the Broadcast / Focus Group record… in fact this might even be a collaboration with the Focus Group. But one thing that is very striking about this to me is the extensive use of sampled birdsong, to such an extent that listening to this while walking around I am never sure which is the recording and which is ambient noise. I must burn a copy to disc so that I can listen to it on my proper stereo at home. Maybe loads of little song birds will come along to listen to their friends on the record.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

v/a "Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-70"

This compilation comes from the ever-dependable Ace Records and is one of those things that does what it says on the tin – if you want 60s beat and pop music sung by Japanese girls then this is the record for you. It also comes with fascinating sleevenotes about the artists and Japanese music generally at the time, which was heavily influenced by Bossa Nova, of all things. The production is great too. There is not really much more to say about this, except that it is almost like the perfect record. However, I was interested to read that a great many of these girl singers were hafu - with one Japanese and one occidental parent. Apparently such people had considerable perv appeal in Japan during the period in question.

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Nippon Girls

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Possible over-eating link to obesity, say Scientists

Scientists might finally have discovered the root cause of the obesity that afflicts so many in today's world. After extensive research, researchers from the University of North Carolina reckon they have made something of a breakthrough. Their research suggests that obesity may be linked to consumption of large amounts of food. In particular, it seems to be the case that people who eat larger meals and a greater number of meals per day are more likely to be obese than their abstemious fellows.


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big-boned pandas

Friday, July 15, 2011

v/a "Rajasthani Street Music"

A former member of Frank's APA gave me a copy of this great CD, recorded on his travels in India. I understand that this forms the rough cut of what will one day be a Sublime Frequencies release. As such you can guess what you are getting here – lots of people banging away at various kinds of folk music. Some of it is devotional, some of it seems to be wedding music, and a lot of it seems to be Indian gypsy music of one sort or another. There are a couple of really beautiful tracks with a woman from the Dewara family singing away on them*.

One thing I found interesting about the presentation of this was how many of the performers were named. This makes for quite a comparison with Streets of Lhasa, the most similar Sublime Frequencies record in my possession – on that one the performers are described ("man with vocal", "man and child with erhu", "terrifying child singing unaccompanied"), but not named. I do not know if there is any significance to so many of the Rajasthani performers here being named (or the Tibetan performers on the other record remaining anonymous), but it did make the people here seem a bit more individualised musicians and a bit less like a faceless procession of funny foreigners.

On a purely technical level, I was very struck by the quality of the recordings here. From talking to the compiler, I understand that he was working with very basic sound recording apparatus, but he has managed to capture a very atmospheric sound lacking in obvious blemishes.

I look forward to the appearance of the commercially released version of these recordings, as it will be interesting to play compare-and-contrast, if any record shop in Dublin deigns to stock it.

*she is either Alaap or Sharwa Dewara; I'm afraid I don't know enough about the people of Rajasthan to be able to say which is a woman's name and which a man's. The man is (presumably) her husband, and he has a nice singing voice too.

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Street Panda

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time, officer

The Bavarian Oompah Band and The Big Bavarian Band
German Bierfest Favourites
Red Army Choir Russian Favourites

I was in Oxfam, they were having a sale, these were cheap, the money raised goes to charidee. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. No further questions until I have talked to my lawyer. Anyway, the Bierfest record is not as much fun as the other Bavarian Beer Festival record I have, mainly because it does not have overdubbed sounds of drunken revellers in the background. The Red Army Choir record, meanwhile, is not as camp as I was hoping for. In fact, after hearing the singing of the massed army choirs of North Korea on the Radio Pyongyang album, the Red Army Choir sounds surprisingly puny. Small wonder that socialism failed in the Soviet Union and yet, thanks to the Juche Principle of the Great Leader Kim Il-Sung, the continuing efforts of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, and the emerging guidance of the Charming Leader, Kim Nor-Bert, it continues in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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good time panda