Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Unthanks salute the magic of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons

You may have heard of The Unthanks. They are Becky and Rachel Unthank and some musicians from an English region who made their names singing local folk tunes. They came to Dublin recently, not to sing their usual repertoire but to treat us to covers of songs by Antony & The Johnsons and Robert Wyatt. I went along. Because the helpful people who run Whelans gave the door opening time on the ticket, but not the concert start time, I missed the first number of songs. This turned out not matter too much as they began with the Mr Antony tunes, and I have adopted an anti-Antony position for no good reason other than a dislike of bald people. However, as I am not that familiar with the music of either Mr Antony or Robert Wyatt, for all that I officially wuv Mr Wyatt, it took me some time to realise that I had not missed the good stuff. And in fairness, the Mr Antony tunes I heard did not sound that dreadful, so maybe I should re-evaluate my animus towards that hipster-friendly artist.

The Robert Wyatt set was notable for the non-inclusion of any of the covers that for me are the most notable tunes by that man. So there was no 'Shipbuilding', 'Biko', or 'Stalin Wasn't Stalling'. But they did play 'Dondestan', which features the wonderful lyrics "Palestine's a country / or at least it used to be / Fellahin, refugee / Kurdistan similarly". To this the Unthank sisters added in a bit of clog dancing. Their performance of 'Sea Song' (an odd Robert Wyatt love song) was then rather affecting.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Acid Mothers Temple and the Flying Butter Elephants of Doom

Yesterday I mentioned seeing the Sisters of Mercy. They were playing on the same night that Acid Mothers Temple were visiting Dublin for the first time in ages. Deciding which to see was something of a dilemma, but we resolved it by travelling down to Cork the next day and seeing them play an afternoon gig there. And it was a free gig, meaning that we easily recouped the cost of overnight accommodation, train travel, and a slap up feed in the wonderful Café Paradiso.

The Japanese sensations provided us with all kinds of astonishing guitar freakoutery that must be broadly familiar to anyone who has seen them before. As it has been quite some time since they last trod the boards in Ireland, I had almost forgotten how good 'La Novia' is. For younger readers, this is the one where they take an Occitanian folk tune from the south of France and start it off with throat singing vocal harmonies, before adding in loads of guitars for the traditional freakoutery. The start of the piece sends tingles down my spine every time, partly because their record links it to the unfortunate history of the Albigensian religious community in the south of France.

Acid Mothers Panda

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Sisters of Mercy

I went to see the Sisters of Mercy in the Olympia Theatre. Because I am useless, I left it really late to get tickets and ended up sitting in the gods. I was however not quite so useless as some of my former Goth friends, one of whom bought tickets but then forgot what day the concert was on, another of whom intended getting tickets but then forgot about it and arranged some inescapable family horror on the evening in question. This made me feel really brainy and together by comparison – result.

The Sisters of Mercy battled dreadful sound, the perennial Olympia problem. So it was that I thought they were incredibly daring, opening with an unrecognisable new song, until the chorus of "First and Last and Always!" came out through the undifferentiated sludgy sound. Fortunately things picked up a bit as the night went on, to such an extent that tracks became recognisable and started to sound somewhat appealing to the ear (for songs by Sisters of Mercy).

The concert maybe worked best as visual spectacle. Some artists like flashy stage shows and gaudy costumes, others go the high-tech route and play in front of screens showing all kinds of amazing images. The Sisters, on the other hand, simply filled the stage with dry ice, so that most of the time you could barely see the band. This was quite funny.

Pandas of Mercy

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fish Tease Shakira Attacked By Sea Lion

Colombian pop star Shakira has been attacked by a sea lion. She was taking a picture of the wild animal when the beast "roared in fury". It is believed that the aquatic mammal mistook the camera for a fish and thought the popular singer of such songs as 'Suerte' and 'Hips Don't Lie' was teasing it.

Shakira's brother was on hand to carry her away from the giant beast, which seems not to have actually inflicted any injury on her or made any real attempt to do so. Shakira did however hurt her hand slightly.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The True History of England

Anthem of the ScrollsAnd we went to a performance of the North Sea Scrolls. Or a concert-lecture experience at which the contents of the North Sea Scrolls were discussed in words and song. These scrolls, discovered in the North Sea or thereabouts, reveal the true history of England in the recent past. They were revealed to us by Andrew Mueller (sometime music journalist, famous as the only one of his kind to like Toasted Heretic), Cathal Coughlan (formerly of Microdisney and the Fatima Mansions) and Luke Haines (formerly of the Auteurs, Baader Meinhof & Black Box Recorder), all clad in colonial garb and pith helmets. They also had a woman with them to play cello, but she wore normal clothes and may not have been a prophet in the same way they were.

The night went like this. Behind the musicians a photograph would be projected. These changed for each song. Examples of pictures featured included the following:
- Jimmy Saville introducing Frank Bruno to the Yorkshire Ripper.
- King Zog of the Albanians
- soldiers marching through a desert carrying a huge picture of some guy
- a Pearly King
- Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa I
- many more (see my Flickr page for further details)

Andrew Mueller would then introduce each scroll, revealing the astonishing revelations it contained (who would have thought, for instance, that the last round of the Northern Ireland conflict had been kept since the early 1970s by Australian tribute acts? Or that Ireland conquered England in the 1950s, later installing Martin Cahill as proconsul?). One or other of Coughlan or Haines would then sing a song about the contents of said scroll. Our favourite tune was probably the one about how the occupiers of England recruited Morris dancers as a feared collaborationist militia, the song being called 'The Morris Men Cometh'.

For the encore Coughlan and Haines sang two of their own songs each. I found myself wondering if maybe I should investigate the work of Cathal Coughlan, as he has an attractive crooner's voice and an ironic yet heartfelt approach to lyrics. Haines himself did 'Leeds United', which made me happy, and one from his recent concept album on British wrestlers of the 1970s.

Someone at work asked me whether it all worked. I would have to say it did. The evening featured all new songs and lots of poncey spoken word stuff*, but there was a distinct lack of awkward audience shuffling and muttering or people shouting "Play 'Town to Town', you cunt". This suggests that people were enjoying the challenging nature of the evening, thought the fact that Coughlan and Haines have reputations as hard men may have put people off getting lippy.


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*with an amusing and somewhat self-referential joke about the Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters record, too complicated to explain here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #12: T---'s Ween TOAD

T---'s Ween TOAD [CD-R]

[What is a TOAD? Why, it is what we in Frank's APA call CD-Rs or other forms of music that we give to each other. It is an acronym from the days of the cassette tape. And what is this Frank's APA? For now that is a mystery that must remain unresolved.]

This is the CD-R with which T--- introduced Ween to the members of Frank's APA. Here in Panda Mansions we have been playing it to death, becoming great admirers of how Ween manage to jump from one genre to another with great mastery. It is also interesting how the band can be such rofflers, without at any time sinking into the world of novelty bollocks. Many of the funny songs transcend mere humour and become things of wonder in their own right (though there is maybe something rockist about the idea of "mere humour", as though real art has to be serious). The deadpan delivery and general musicianship help a lot.

Looking at the tracklisting here again, I am left thinking that with most of the best songs, humour is largely incidental to their appeal. So even if you feel that humour died in Auschwitz, you probably would still find something to enjoy about this collection of tunes. Even without humour, though, most of the tracks here have something of the weird about them.

The collection also features the song 'Your Party', with guest saxophone from David Sanborn, a tune whose lyrics will condition how I think of parties for the rest of my life.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #11: "Rajasthani Street Music"

v/a Rajasthani Street Music [CD-R]

Seb Bassleer, one of my Frank's APA pals, recorded this on a portable tape deck while travelling around in India. Some of these tracks and others recorded by Seb are due to be released commercially later this year by Sublime Frequencies. The music here is a selection of pieces performed by street musicians in Rajasthan, which you could probably guess from the record's name. It is very engaging gives a great sense of being there. My favourite tracks would probably be the ones with the beautiful-voiced woman of the Dewara family.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #10: "Níl Sé Anseo"

v/a nlgbbbblth CD 11.14: Níl sé anseo [CD-R]

And this is a CD-R compiled by one of my colleagues in Frank's APA. It collects music, advertisements and spoken word pieces from Ireland in the 1970s and early 1980s. The compilation is an evocative vision of a time and place that seems somewhat like our own and yet oddly different. The priests talking about the best way for people to enjoy their holidays in Ballybunion sound particularly like something from another planet. In all my years in Frank's APA, this is the first compilation by a member that really sounded like it deserved a commercial release (or to be widely bootlegged).

I can imagine a great many people of my age enjoying it for its Proustian qualities. The young people or people from outside Ireland would like the anthropological window it opens. But sadly, I do not think this is available from anywhere anymore.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #9: "The Wicker Man"

Magnet & Paul Giovanni
The Wicker Man OST [1973]

This soundtrack album to the much loved film splits broadly into two – firstly we have a selection of songs, composed by one Paul Giovanni (who appears in the film – he is one of the singers in the pub) and played by a group of musicians formed for the film who called themselves Magnet. Although they are original compositions and although Mr Giovanni is from somewhere in the United States, the tunes conjure up a British folkie ambience. The second half comprises the incidental music from the film, itself often arrangements of olde folk tunes (one of which appears on Richard Thompson's 1000 Years of Popular Music record). These feature snippets of dialogue – just enough to remind you of the darkness that lurks behind the pagan idyll of Summerisle.

image source

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #8: "Black Goat of the Woods"

Black Mountain Transmitter
Black Goat of the Woods [2009]

This is that album set up to sound like the soundtrack to some low budget 1980s horror film. And it is all figured as one track so you will probably not get to hear any of it on the favourite tunes of 2011 CD-R I have still to compile.


image source

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little John and Nikitas

Greece is famous these days mainly for riots and its imploding economy, but there are other things going on there. Such as the release back into the wild of Nikitas and Little John, two bear cubs whose wild mothers abandoned them. The two little bears have spent the last nine months in a rehabilitation centre, where they have been learning survival techniques. And now they have been brought out to a specially dug den in which they will continue their winter hibernation before emerging as free bears in the spring.


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Favourite Albums of 2011 #7: "1000 Years of Popular Music"

Richard Thompson
1000 Years of Popular Music [live] [2006]

This is the one where Richard Thompson plays a selection of popular tunes from the last thousand years (somewhat biased towards the music of the 20th century). To the extent that this project is famous outside the circles of obsessive Richard Thompson fans, it may be because it features the beret-wearing troubadour singing the Britney Spears classic 'Oops, I did it again'. With that song he foregrounds the creepy manipulation of the lyrics, making it sound like one of his own cynical and miserable love songs. And being sung by an old cynic you do get a sense of how disturbing these lines are when sung by a supposedly naïve teenage girl. The other standout track here is probably 'Bonnie St. Johnstone', a grim folk tune with lyrics about lonely childbirth and infanticide, or the jaunty 'So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo', which is in some kind of mediaeval French and so could be about anything.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dog Adopts Piglets

Six abandoned little piglets were recently brought into an animal sanctuary near Berlin. It is thought that some prick who likes hunting had killed their mother. The sanctuary is providing for the physical well-being of the piglets until they can be released into a nature reserve – and Baby the Bulldog is looking after their emotional needs. Baby has adopted the piglets, who are almost the same size as she is, and has remained by their side since they arrived in the sanctuary. "She thinks they're her own babies", says sanctuary employee Norbert Damm.

Baby is apparently a serial adopter, having previously mothered raccoons, cats, and other animals.


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Favourite Albums of 2011 #6: the first album by the Tom Tom Club

Tom Tom Club
[Untitled First Album] [1982]

Many readers will already be aware of this record, the side project album from the Talking Heads rhythm section, joined by their friends and relations. You have probably heard 'Genius of Love', from it, perhaps on Stop Making Sense. Well it's all like that – infectious dance floor beats and naïve vocals, maybe with a slight undercurrent of danger or maybe not. I like it as a piece of uplifting pop perfection.

previous review (with panda)

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #5: "13 Most Beautiful"

Dean & Britta
13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests [2010]

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips play music to accompany screenings of Andy Warhol screen tests – short silent films of his various associates in the Factory. Warhol apparently tended to show the screen tests in groups of thirteen billed as the Thirteen Most Beautiful Girls, or Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys, or Thirteen Most Beautiful People, and so on; hence the album title. The album is a mix of original tunes and covers, chosen to go with particular people's screen tests. Some of the tracks feature production input from Sonic Boom, so it can sound a bit Spacemen 3-esque. There are also nods towards Galaxie 500, Dean Wareham's much-loved former band. It is all a fascinating piece of musical product and I listen to it wishing I could experience Dean & Britta performing it live to accompany the films.

previous review

image source

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #4: "Witch Cults of the Radio Age"

Broadcast & The Focus Group
Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age [2009]

This is that record on which Broadcast collaborate with Ghost Box label artist the Focus Group. I am not quite sure how the collaborative process works here but the end result sounds much more like a sound collage than Broadcast's usual work. My limited exposure to the Focus Group suggests that their typical output is also rather collagey. However in this case the album's offerings come across like a collage of sounds made by Broadcast.

The album has a somewhat occult and ghostly feel to it, like we are hearing fragmentary echoes from another age (hence the title, obv.). And this spectral character is lent a certain poignancy by the recent death of Broadcast's Trish Keenan.

previous review

image source

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #3: "Embryonic"

The Flaming Lips
Embryonic [2009]

There are a lot of people who say that the Flaming Lips have gone all conventional and unadventurous. I think they need to listen to this album. Maybe it is not the kind of unconventional and adventurous that earns the respect of the more outré-loving members of Frank's APA (in whose pages this first appeared), but it is rather out there compared to anything Joe Normal listens to*. Not that there is anything wrong with what Joe Normal likes, but it is great that this kind of semi-psych weirdo music can find something approximating to a mass audience.

As previously discussed, the record cover seems to feature Wayne Coyne being born out of a woman's lady parts.

original review

image source

*I expect some disagreement with this proposition.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #2: "The Lord of the Rings"


Bo Hansson
Lord of the Rings [1970]

A slight cheat here, let us be honest, as I have heard this record before, but I have never owned a copy or listened to it that closely. To recap, the late Mr Hansson was this musician guy from Sweden or somewhere like that who produced this record of musical pieces inspired by Tolkien's novel. The individual tracks have names corresponding to episodes in the book, though it has to be said that the early parts are a bit over-represented. Much of the music is driven by organ playing and sounds that could have come from a synthesiser, were there such things back in 1970. The overall effect is quite otherworldly and suitably suggestive of the fantastic realms of Tolkien.

original review

image source

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Favourite Albums of 2011 #1: "The Fallen By Watch Bird"

I decided to compile a list of my favourite records of 2011 – the albums that came my way in 2011 that I most liked, regardless of the year in which the music was recorded. I also decided to reject base-ten numbering and have ended up listing 12 records – nine albums and three CD-Rs. Over the next two weeks my end of year reconsiderations of these records will appear, starting with this one:

Jane Weaver
The Fallen By Watch Bird [2010]

In late 2010 I went to the Belle & Sebastian curated Nightmare Before Christmas. Jane Weaver was on the bill, but I did not go and see her, largely because I had never heard of her (and she might also have been on at an inconvenient time). I did later see a copy of her album being sold at the merchandise stall and noticed that it was a co-release between Bird Records and the interesting Finders Keepers label. Thinking that it looked intriguing I took a punt on it. Thus it was that I acquired what became my favourite album of the 2011.

In broad outline terms one might class this as belonging to the world of the singer-songwriter. That summons up the image of some insipid character strumming away on an acoustic guitar, inflicting adolescent poetry on the listener. This record is not like that.

The first couple of tracks segue into each other, presenting us with an almost psychedelic piece complete with semi-occult stream of consciousness narration from Susan Christie (one of those people who keep guest-starring on Finders Keepers records), before leading into the record's title track, a piece relying on a variety of instruments with nary an acoustic guitar in sight. I gather this is meant to tell some kind of story about loved ones across the sea and birds flying back to bring good tidings, but frankly it is a bit oblique and I treasure more the strange sense of longing it communicates. This is all helped by Jane Weaver's voice, somewhat understated but capable of communicating real emotional depth in a subtle manner. After those tracks we are in acoustic guitar territory, but the sound stays away from the bland singer-songwriter clichés and draws more from a neo-folk spring of creativity. It is all very beautiful and I am still listening to this record over and over.

my original review

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Get that shit off my blog"

Kerry Packer was a media tycoon in Australia. He had his own TV channel. One evening he was watching his own channel and was so appalled by the low quality of the programme* that he rang in to say "Get that shit of the air". The programme went to a commercial break and than an announcer revealed that for "technical reasons" they could not continue with the programme and were going to show an episode of Cheers instead.

I am taking a similar iron broom to Inuit Panda. One thing I am rather dissatisfied with is the appearance of my 2011 and 2009 NaNoWriMo attempts here. They do not fit in and I really should have posted them somewhere else, or not at all. So, I have deleted almost all of 2009's Furry Folk and will shortly do the same for Organisation Man.

Of course, if anyone for some unknown reason wants to read either of these, contact me and ask for a PDF copy.

*Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos

image source

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

War and Peace 2012

War and Peace is the famously porky novel by Leo Tolstoy. It concerns Russian society in the time of the Napoleonic Wars. This year I am reading it a chapter a day. Why? Well, it is one of those books that I have always meant to read sometime, but its size has previously proved off-putting. However, a chapter a day is a very manageable way of digesting such a big book in bite-sized portions. This is also an ideal year in which to read a chapter of War and Peace each day. The book has 366 chapters (in some editions; others combine them in such a way that it has less), and this is a leap year, so the fit is perfect. Also, 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the central event of War and Peace.

So, I encourage you to join me in reading Tolstoy's classic a chapter a day. Now, I know what you are thinking. Given that we are now well into February, you are thinking that it is too late to start on War and Peace, that you will not be able to catch up. Well, you would be wrong. The chapters in War and Peace are pretty short, so much so that it would be no great hardship to read two or one-and-a-half a day until you have caught up. I urge you, therefore, to seize this once in a lifetime chance to read this great novel that people are always meaning to read sometime.

If you are reading the book, then why not check out the awesome Facebook group for those of us reading it this year? Words cannot describe how amazing this group is.

Image source

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Manchester After Man

James Chadderton presents these photographs taken of Manchester in the future, after the coming apocalypse has left it empty of people.

The pictures can be inspected in detail at the Incognito Gallery, in the city's northern quarter. After seeing them you should flee for your very life.

errrr, that exhibition has closed now… I wrote the above post ages ago, but then forgot to post it. Life is hard.


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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Birds Learn to Cooperate

In an astonishing development, scientists report that in Italy there exist mixed colonies of lesser kestrels and jackdaws. On the face of it, this is unusual. Lesser kestrels are birds of prey and would be known to take down smaller birds like the jackdaw. Jackdaws, meanwhile, are opportunistic foragers who would not normally be averse to raiding the nests of other birds like the lesser kestrel. It seems, however, to be the case that the two species have formed a working arrangement. The presence of the lesser kestrels deters other predators from going near the jackdaws, while the kestrels seem to have subcontracted the work of watching out for larger and more dangerous enemies to the raucous jackdaws.


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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Man Eats 64 Year Old Lard

A man in Germany has eaten a 64 year old tin of lard. Hans Feldmeier had originally received the tin as part of an American aid programme in 1948, but put it away for emergency use and forgot about it. When he found the lard again he tested its suitability for human consumption and then ate it all up with some black bread. "I just didn't want to throw it away," said Mr Feldmeier.

Readers may be interested to learn that that the tin in question is of Swift's Bland Lard, the same type of animal fat that appears in the popular Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots.

Hans Feldmeier Image Source

Terrifying humanoid lard tin image source

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Ancient Prophesy

I have uncovered a terrifying prophesy of the ancient ones concerning the last days.

And there shall come a monster with two heads and two bodies.

And though they shall be two, they shall have one name.

They shall invoke the name of God, yet they shall not be of God.

Wheresoever they shall go, there shall be heard the wailing of maidens.

image source

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

France salutes Shakira

France has made the Colombian singer Shakira a Chevalier de L'Order des Arts et des Lettres, an honour previously bestowed on TS Eliot, Clint Eastwood, and George Clooney. Shakira reports that she is honoured to have had this award bestowed on her by a country like France that has contributed so much to world culture.


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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Guest Star Irene talks about Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope Night, Dublin, 2nd November

And now we have a special treat for all readers – a guest post from the mysterious lady who goes only by the name "Irene", talking about an event back in November that I also attended but failed to write about.

"Transformation, musical alchemy – this is my theme, as Kaleidoscope dips in and out of time commemorating and celebrating all the living and the dead, the new and the old, old-new and new-old-invoked, empowered, charged: a kind of sonorous hexing. Yes, hex: to bewitch. German and Swiss immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the late 17th century spoke a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch. In this dialect hexe was the equivalent of the German verb hexen, "to practice sorcery." The English verb hex, first recorded in the sense "to practice witchcraft" is borrowed from Pennsylvania Dutch, as is the noun…."

Thus spake Bernard Clarke, presenter of Nova on RTE Lyric FM and general modern music guru. Yes, he does go off on one occasionally, God bless him. But we let him rattle on, knowing that eventually he'd shut his yap and let the musicians do their thing. 2nd of November is All Souls' Day and has spooky pre-Christian roots, hence Bernard's shiteing on about witchery.

Kaleidoscope Night has been going for nearly two years, and seems to be based more or less on the old salon idea where people gather in a small, informal group to dig some live performances of new music. It also echoes a sort of 1960s beatnik "happening", only with classically-trained musicians. The people involved are from the classical avant-gardey end of Dublin's music scene – there's a big overlap with the Crash Ensemble (Ireland's Bang On A Can or Kronos) and the Ergodos lot. We went along with our friend Tim, who plays some music but is more from the trad/bluegrass end of things. The venue is a rather plush upstairs room with bar, low lights, groovy 70s décor etc. Nice.

First up was guitarist/composer Enda Bates and his hexaphonic guitar, or as I like to call it his Fucking Hexaphonic Guitar. I don't know why I'm so exasperated by the idea – it might just be that for me it is indistinguishable in appearance and sound from any ordinary electric guitar. So I don't see why the "hexaphonic" element merits any mention. Enda Bates would probably differ. In his own words, the hexaphonic guitar "provides six discrete audio outputs, one for each string. This multi-channel output can then be processed and spatialised to a loudspeaker array, transforming a standard electric guitar into a new instrument for the performance of spatial music." Which sounds great, but srsly, it sounded just like a normal guitar to me. He did two pieces, one of which was slightly ambient and pedaltastic and the other of which was picky and John Faheyesque. Maybe he needs to do a double-header with some guitarist with a normal guitar so we can tell the difference.

Next we had clarinettist Paul Roe, performing Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, which were composed in 1919 (i.e. post-Rite of Spring). They were all quite short and varied, two out of three using a low clarinet (one slow and haunting, one a bit more improvvy and jazzy) and the last one pitched higher and sounding a lot more up for it and vivacious and complicated. I don't know if Stravinsky was listening to jazz at this time – I think Paul Roe said one of the pieces was a follow-up to his Russian Songs), but there was a lot of jazz there to my ears. I liked these.

Then the Ergodos Musicians, largely composed of familiar faces from various modern music collectives (boy, do these fellows love to collaborate), did some rather beautiful and appropriate-for-the-encroaching-winter vocal liturgical music. The first selection was from Léonin, called Viderunt Omnes Part 1, from 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The second was the "Kyrie" from the Messe de Nostre Dame by 14th-century composer Guillaume de Machaut, which is apparently very famous if you know about such things. The two lady singers Michelle O'Rourke and Nora Ryan did that glacial medieval counterpoint thing, and the cello and clarinet accompaniment was suitably understated. The pieces were in some way arranged by Garrett Sholdice, another composer who pops up a lot on this scene. Why don't I listen to more of this kind of music?

After the interval, the beatnik-happening quotient was upped by a performance by poet Dave Lordan. I approve of this mixing up of artistic endeavours and didn't find the poetry completely fatuous or annoying. This is surely a result. Matters were helped by the fact that I know Dave slightly from my political-activism days, and he's a top fellow.

Finally, well almost finally, we had the Quiet Music Ensemble. As their name suggests, they specialise in … quiet stuff. There is probably a very elastic definition of what constitutes "quiet", because surely you can't just play Morton Feldman all day. Or maybe you can. Anyway, they did two pieces, one an improvisation and the other by Susan Geaney called Vacuum. I found both pieces quite similar in that they both reminded me of Salt Marie Celeste by Nurse With Wound. Maybe amplified creaky cello noises and minimalist electric guitar and saxophone will do that. Anyway, a nice spooky finish …. Except that then all the various musicians (or those that weren't occupied at the bar) got up on stage for a bit of a jam. It pretty much followed the template of all jams, in that the musicians probably got much more out of it than the audience.

And that was it. Not bad for a dank, dark Wednesday night in November.

bye bye Irene

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flyer image source (which is actually the Kaleidoscope website... watch as they trace the link back and then send Enda Bates to get hexaphonic on my ass)

Bernard Clarke image source

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

When Wake The Morlocks

The pictures are from a website put together by people who have been exploring the closed off spaces underneath London, from abandoned Tube stations to the now shut-down Royal Mail line for transporting post. I urge you to have a look at their website, where there are more pictures and accounts of the most amazing urban adventures. There is also a certain amount of blah blah situationist stuff, but I suppose you can get away with that if you are travelling down the forbidden paths of the Under City.

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