Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It's that time of the year...

I'm in alignment with something in the NME!

At the risk of sounding ancient, I remember the days when Godspeed You! Black Emperor got on the front cover (apparently leading to the worst-selling issue in the history of magazines, or somesuch). And I loved it, for all it's frequent stupidity. I got into Boards of Canada through an NME cover mount and... well, a good third of my record collection has spun off from my love of BOC: Ghost Box, Moon Wiring Club, the new Pye Corner Audio* album to name a recent handful.

And now Warpaint. Yes, a hipster band. But a really, really good one. It's just a really lovely, dark and atmospheric record. Weatherall is on production duties, and you can hear him stamped all over it. Undertow, especially, has a lovely reverby spatiousness to it. Right now it's my second favourite thing in the world.


My absolute favourite thing in the world, of course, is Umberto. Of course! Merciful Zeus, but this is one of my albums of the year. It's basically fake seventies/early eighties horror film music. In fact it really should be called Music To Stalk Teenagers By. But that would probably be wrong.

What I really love is that he (Matt Hill from Expo 70) hasn't just copied the warbly synths and artfully misplayed notes (though check Night Stalking for a class example of that) but he's got some really nasty bass terror going on. It sounds ginormous on a turntable.

You can hear a couple of tracks here. Go with Temple Room first.


* Go download it, it's only a fiver and it's really good...


Friday, 29 October 2010

The end of TG

Sorry to hear today that Genesis P-Orridge has, once again, dissolved Throbbing Gristle. Sleazy, Cosey and Chris Carter are trucking on as X-TG, but it all sounds pretty much over for another 10 years or so.

I was lucky enough to see them last year in what was one of my favourite ever gigs. I reviewed it for Clash here, if you're interested.


I will miss them. They may have frequently disappointed on record (oh come on, they did. Coil were a million times better) but live they were a fearsome proposition, and the music world is diminished without them.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

New obsessions

Deliriously weird dream last night. I was in Mirfield, my mum's West Yorkshire home town (and that of Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart). I was staying in a B&B called The Overlook. And indeed it turned out that this was the place that inspired The Shining. I spoke to the landlord, and he told me that a few years previously, he'd been jailed for murdering someone with a rope (at this point he noosed it around my neck...) but that he had been set up. Now that he had got out, he was producing music which was, “closer to Boards of Canada than Orange Juice”.

Funny how these things work in, innit? Mirfield was there presumably because my mum's just been to visit. The Shining... not sure, but I do love the film. Boards of Canada I was thinking about yesterday, and I used to know a member of Orange Juice.


It's a fine time for admirers of Radiophonic weirdness. A couple of new net labels have sprung up over the past few weeks, no doubt inspired in part by Ghost Box, but offering music with a subtly different flavour.

First up is Café Kaput, run by Jon Brooks (Advisory Circle/King of Woolworths) with art direction by Ian Hodgson (Moon Wiring Club). As seems to be the way with this scene there's a healthy dose of humour at work. The first release is an unearthing of DD Denham's lost classroom-based electronic experiments. Except that's a load of old bobbins. DD Denham never existed and it's all Brooks own work in a bleepy, bloopy John Baker style. Ruddy lovely it is too; tricksy, playful and weird. You can stream and download it here:


Then this weekend I stumbled across Pye Corner Audio. Wobbly synth and tape distortion is the order of the day, and the three tracks they've put online (from their album, Black Mill Tapes Vol. 1) have been on repeat ever since. 'We Have Visitors' builds for ages before opening up into something that reminds me of Ken Freeman's Tripods theme. 'Theme Number 4' meanwhile sounds not unlike early Boards of Canada. I was hoping to be the first to blog about these guys, but alas Mr Brooks has beaten me to it!

The full Black Mill Tapes Volume 1 will be available to download on October 31st for a fiver. In the meantime, check out the preview tracks here:



Friday, 10 September 2010

In praise of The Jellies

You probably missed ‘Jive Baby On A Saturday Night’ the first time around. After all, it only sold 30 copies. The Cambridge post-punk band’s biggest moment was getting the single played by John Peel in 1981. And then that was it. They disappeared into obscurity like so many other bands. Most of the single’s original pressing apparently ended up as landfill.

The song developed a bit of a cult following over the following years, and last month Johnny Trunk - a definite hero in these parts - reissued it on a lovely vinyl EP. The record’s largely sold out now, but you can buy the MP3s or find it on Spotify, and you definitely should. It’s an amazing tune; nearly five-minutes of crisp, stark repetition. The most basic of beats and bass, and then the hand claps drop. Boom! Minimal disco heaven.

What really sells it for me though, is the odd, distinctly amateurish guitar that comes in roughly half-way through. It’s so at odds with the song’s upbeat tone that the whole thing takes on an weird, nightmarish quality. Anyone who’s heard Boards of Canada’s ‘Nlogax’ will find ‘Jive Baby’ uncannily familiar. If Twin Peaks had a nightclub, they’d play this on rotation.

The reissue EP comes with remixes by Georges Vert (aka Jon Brooks), Trunk and that bloke out of Lemon Jelly. But while they’re nice bonuses, there’s a sense of gilding the lily. The song itself is stripped back perfection. Adding a bit of reverb, or reversing the vocals almost detracts from its simplicity.

You can hear 'Jive Baby On A Saturday Night' here:


You can also hear their other song, the almost identical Conversation, at WFMU here:


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Politically charged pop lyric of your choice

Hope everyone in the UK is enjoying the current leadership debates. Hilarious to watch Cameron and Clegg trying their hardest to each appear as down to Earth and normal as possible, while Gordon stands on the sidelines cackling at them.

Here's an interview I did for Mojo with that bloke out of Kasabian a few years back. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that it's exactly the same questions as the ones with that guy from the Police. Set questions, innit.


What music are you currently grooving to?

I saw Ennio Morricone at the Hammersmith Apollo about a month ago. I always liked his music, but live it fucking blew me away. It was just unbelievable. The Pretty Things’ S F Sorrow as well. Baron Saturday is the most amazing song. It’s one of those songs you wish you’d written. It’s kind of a forgotten album and arguably the first concept album that was big.

What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favourite album?

That’s a question you can never really answer. Two albums that changed my life are Definitely Maybe by Oasis and Endtroducing by DJ Shadow. I always wanted to be in Oasis, but Shadow’s record opened my eyes to a whole new world of music. In the same way that I got into The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces and all these sixties bands because of Oasis, Endtroducing got me into electronica and hip hop. My dream is to one day take from both of them and make the perfect album. In my head anyway!

What was the first record you ever bought? And where did you buy it?

It was George Harrison’s Got My Mind Set On You. I got
it from this place called Ainsley’s Music in Leicester
that’s not there anymore. I can’t remember how old I
was, but I liked the beat. I didn’t know anything
about the Beatles at the time, but it made me want to
move my feet.

Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever
wanted to be?

Keith Richards bends my mind! He’s everything you want to be in a band. I think he’s fucking great. There’s some people like that who just carry on living like a lunatic forever and you just think, ‘how?’

What do you sing in the shower?

I listen to music in the shower and sing along to that. It sounds good in the bathroom. I like Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up, Look Sharp. The beat sounds great reverberating on the tiles. And The Mexican by Babe Ruth.

What is your favourite Saturday night record?

Hound Dog by Elvis Presley. It’s two minutes long, and
within those two minutes you’re just ready. It makes
you feel like you’re in a motorcycle gang or something.

And your Sunday morning record?

Who Loves The Sun by the Velvet Underground. Just get on the sofa with a big bag of crisps, loads of Minstrels and that’s it.

Monday, 5 April 2010

That fella out of the Police. No, not Sting. The other one.

While avoiding work and listening to the great Moon Wiring Club ASDA mix that can be downloaded here...


...I stumbled across this short interview I did with Stewart Copeland out of the Police, many moons ago. It's one of those stock question and answer things, but I thought I'd dredge it out. They didn't run with my strap, sadly. Wonder why?

Stewart Copeland
He likes Squarepusher and urban hostility

What music are you currently grooving to?

I like a variety of stuff. DJ Spooky gave me a bunch of his records and I like them. He’s combined all kinds of urban hostility with beautiful, ethereal world elements. There’s a cool artist called Jesca Hoop who’s recording an album. Her producer’s a buddy and they’re probably gonna hussle me into recording a track with her.

What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favourite album?

I would pick any of the first three Jimi Hendrix albums, but Electric Ladyland particularly. It had the best drums and the best guitar. I would sneak into the language lab in boarding school to listen to this record because I didn’t have a record player in my dorm.

What was the first record you bought? And where did you buy it?

Help! by The Beatles. I was in Beirut. A friend of mine was going back to the States for a couple of weeks and I gave him money to buy me something American. So he bought me an English album!

Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be?

Sting. Bastard can sing! I envy John Adams. He writes orchestral pieces and his works are performed all over the world. He lives up north of San Francisco in a beautiful place. He probably doesn’t even have an agent and he needs no contact with the real world. I wouldn’t mind a livelihood that allows me to live out in the mountains with the wind in my hair.

What do you sing in the shower?

I don’t. I make political speeches. I sing to the girls in the car though. (Sings) “You’re a little bunny rabbit and I’m daddy, we’re all going out to play.” All the back seat’s squirming, “Dad! Shut up!” I try to lead them in song to keep them from fighting. It doesn’t work. I’m sure my kids will grow up scarred and demented.

What is your favourite Saturday night record?

For going out, probably Latin music. Before I got satellite radio I’d just listen to Mexican radio stations and whoever came on would be great.

And your Sunday morning record?

Either Blondie, B-52s or Jimi Hendrix. That trades with whatever my girls play me. The boys turned me onto Squarepusher and Leftfield, but they’re grown up now. The girls are into Japanese pop music. The lamer it is, the more they get a thrill.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The logic of chance

The full version of my review of the stunningly awful new Dan Le Sac/Scroobius Pip album...

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – The Logic of Chance

Remember Legz Akimbo? They were a theatre troupe from The League of Gentlemen. All they wanted was to help The Kids by putting on plays about topical issues. Unfortunately, they were rubbish. See that, Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip? That’s you that is.

Sac and Pip, you may recall, are the duo behind ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, the late noughties semi-hit which poked fun at hipsters, gangster-wannabes, musos and just about everyone else. It was a novelty record, sure, but a witty and sonically interesting one.

And now here’s their second album. It’s not good. In fact, The Logic of Chance may be the most patronising, tedious and curiously reactionary record you hear this year. It’s like being hectored by someone who gets all their news from Comment Is Free, but in the form of really bad rap. Imagine Chumbawamba recording a hip-hop album and you’re close to how piss poor this really is.

So ‘Get Better’ is a lame attempt at euphoric disco. It imagines a song that provides helpful criticism for youngsters. But if such a song exists, it isn’t this. Despite it’s ear-wormy chant of “get better”, over and over again, the centrepiece is a rant about the shortness of girls skirts and predatory teenage boys.

‘Great Britain’ is worse, ending as it does with Sac - Enraged of Tunbridge Wells - reading out knife crime statistics. It’s fist-in-mouth embarrassing, even on headphones. Other subjects include political apathy and, er, being a music snob.

This is hip-hop for people who hate hip-hop. They’ve stripped away the violence and the bullshit, sure, but also all the passion, grit, sex and fun. There’s nothing wrong with mixing politics and music, but give us some decent tunes too please.

Rating: 2/10

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A reminder

I dreamt about my dad and woke up thinking that he was still alive.

Later on 'A Reminder' by Radiohead came on, on shuffle. There’s no explicit link, but dad died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1998, probably about a year or so after this song came out, and it feels connected in my head somehow.

If I get old, I will not give in
But if I do, remind me of this.
Remind me that, once I was free,
Once I was cool, once I was me.

And if I sat down, and crossed my arms,
Hold me into, this song.

Knock me out, smash out my brains,
If I take a chair, start to talk shit...

If I get old, remind me of this:
That night we kissed, and I really meant it.

Whatever happens, if we're still speaking.
Pick up the phone, play me this song.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Upon the ritual hour, they meet beneath the trees

Brrrr... rubbish day. But! You can download a free EP by Moon Wiring Club here:


And you should, because he/they are really rather wonderful. The finest purveyor of hauntological sounds not on Ghost Box, by my reckoning.

If you like that, head on over to www.blankworkshop.co.uk and see what else Mr Hodgson and his eerie animal-faced singers have to offer.

In unrelated news, I recently interviewe Eve Myles from TV's Torchwood/Doctor Who. And what a very lovely lady she was too. You can read that at the link below, if you like.


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Breathe out

Hmm... Wrote this a fortnight ago, saved it and forgot. Oops.


Charlotte Gainsbourg’s album IRM.

Partly this is because I’m a Beck fanboy, and he produced it. You can tell – a lot of it sounds like his last album, Modern Guilt. There are also a couple of weird bits that sound like Gainsbourg aping Beck, who’s spent his career aping her dad…

But mainly I like it for Gainsbourg herself. She hasn’t got an amazing voice, but she has character, and an impressive ability to swap between soulful, sensual and scary. On ‘Me And Jane Doe’ she sounds as artfully flat as Laetitia Stereolab, and the title track has a lovely industrial buzz, as awkwardly groovy as Broadcast's 'Pendulum'. You can hear it here (and check the natty stop-motion video) http://vimeo.com/8068355.


See below for my unpublished Clash review of the re-released Psychonauts album, due out some time this month.

Psychonauts – Songs For Creatures

“Eclectic” doesn’t quite do this album, from the formerly Mo’ Wax aligned duo, justice. Over its 12 tracks, Songs For Creatures somehow packs in electro-folk, jazzy-house and Depeche Mode pastichery.

It gets off to a cracking start: ‘Circles’ is beguilingly lovely, with vocals that recall a softer Devendra. A couple of tracks later and ‘Empty Love’ is a towering analog banger. But then it all comes apart at the seams…

The album was first released in 2003, so it’s no surprise that it sounds a little dated in places, but there’s no excuse for the generic dance-lite of ‘Hot Blood’ and the tracks that follow it. ‘Fear Is Real’ aside, the album never regains its footing. Enjoyable enough, but with more filler than a branch of B&Q.

Rating: 5/10


I quite like the new Vampire Weekend album, and retract my snarky comments in the last post. It is actually quite good, though I feel a bit dirty admitting to it.

Monday, 4 January 2010

I have icicles on my eyelids

Or at least that's what it feels like.

It’s stupidly cold in Bath today. The sort of low temperature that makes being outside physically painful. I love Winter, tis my favourite season of all, but this is just silly.

Anyhow, a new track from Liars. Alright, it’s been kicking around the net for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been lazy. As ever with these guys, it grows in the listening. Really, I’m jumping around the room as I type. Also, doesn’t that opening “hrrrrrrrmmmmm!” sound weirdly like the beginning of Children of the Stones?


And you can download it for keeps here...


And a classic from that slightly patchy last album…


Had a first listen to the new Vampire Weekend album Contra today. Granted, they’re not really my kind of music, but I sorta liked parts of that first album. This time, I’m even less sure. I guess you’ve got to almost admire a band that tries their hand at cod-reggae. Don’t you?

Yeah, maybe not.


My review of Broadcast’s show at the Bristol Cube last month. A really fantastic night by one of our most perennially underrated bands.

I wonder what's the latest acceptable date for wishing people a happy new year?