Archive for March, 2010

The Birds at Midnight

March 29, 2010

March 21st 2010

Walking home from work at around half past midnight, I take the usual cut through from the University, passing the place where Claudia Lawrence was last seen a year previously. It takes me through the grounds of a hospital along a badly lit path, which at this time of night (and after the Friday that was the final day of term) is populated by no-one. To my left, someone has scrawled a slogan that I have forgotten, though the memory of its being there remains. The path opens out at the hospital entrance, where perhaps 25 geese are picking at the grass. They make almost no sound as I pass. I turn out on to Thief Lane, where the usual stumbling-drunk students are absent, as are the convoy of speeding taxis. I take the pavement alongside St.Lawrence School, and stop just short of the entrance when I hear the tell tale call-reply of two owls in the trees opposite. I stand and listen, the distant rumble of the east road to my back, the hidden grounds of the hospital behind the old wall in front. I don’t see the owls moving through the air, the bedroom lights of the hospital residences means my eyes are unable to adjust to the dark as much as I would have liked. Their calls criss-cross the leafless branches, they fly silently between them. Despite the time of night, as I head onward through Daysfoot, a blackbird is singing in the hedgerow which marks the path.

January 30th 2010

On my way to work, walking the reverse of the route mentioned above. Of the four street lamps that light the path, one is not working. As I approach it, a barn owl flies in front of me, perhaps a metre from my head, crossing from an oak in the field to my right to the wide tall trees at the rear of the hospital. It is the only time I have seen a owl in the wild, despite hearing them almost nightly in my garden. My next door neighbour in Luton used to keep them in a cage in his back garden, and fly them on a tether. I remember waking one night to the sound of scratching on the tiles of the roof above my room; the owl had escaped and was cleaning its claws. The neighbour knocked on the door and asked for help. As I was already awake, and with a box of dead mice that he provided, we (me/Dad/neighbour) managed to coax the owl back down. A few years later the neighbour and his kids moved to Brighton, and were replaced by a new family, the father of which died from a heart attack in his work van whilst driving down the Dunstable Road (I remember asking if he had crashed, and being reassured that he managed to pull over in to a side road). They too moved away, shortly after the funeral. I think I was perhaps fourteen at the time.

Nov 26th 2002

Two days after my birthday, I woke up from some semi-slumber to find the world disguised beneath thick fog. My University halls were a ziggurat, my room a panoramic double at the top with two of the four walls made entirely of windows. Across from me, bleeding out across the dense grey, the muted gleam of the opposite residence. I opened my windows to better see the spectacle, perhaps even to touch it in that way you sometimes imagine you can with a thing that appears so solid and thick. The halls of residence were built on a gentle slope (in fact the whole University was) with the ‘ground floor’ being forty feet higher than the ground and passage between buildings conducted on thin concrete walkways. At the bottom of this slope, perhaps two hundred metres from my room, a man made lake. Fog was apparently a regular occurrence, but I was yet to experience it. Looking out of the open window, it remained sadly intangible, as clouds do. I changed my clothes, grabbed my minidisc recorder and the awful gooseneck microphone I had at the time (not a field recordists best friend) and wandered down the internal staircase five floors to the bottom. Nobody was around and through the half light, cast by the street lamps on the service road, shapes grew, merged, dispersed. I walked out on to the grass in front of Halls, where I could just make out the glow from my own room. Voices ricocheted across the concrete gully between the opposing pyramids. I walked for maybe thirty minutes, still partially asleep, periodically checking the levels on the recorder.

What I wanted was to capture the environment I was walking through, the odd mood I was in, the time of day, the way the fog and the architecture was funnelling sounds in a way that reminded me of Mitchell’s description of the weather bouncing off telephone wires out on the Canadian prairies; ‘the night wind had two voices…one that keened along pulsing wires, [and] one that throated long and deep …the swarming hum…’*. It was a sound so unnatural it troubled me for days afterwards. It was a kind of quiet I found terrifying. I rediscovered the minidisc this week, whilst rearranging some furniture upstairs, and after reacquainting myself with what is now archaic technology (which I still prefer to mp3) I transferred the one 30 minute audio file to my computer. The wave form was a line with sporadic peaks and long unknowable silences that, despite the absence of any real aural markers, still transported me to the place I had recorded it. Whilst listening back to it I thought that to the ears of anyone else it would simply be some vague crackle that begins and ends with uncertain footsteps on a flight of stairs.

February 13th 2010

Again on my way back from work, this time after some brief snowfall which had frozen hard to the ground. I’m still getting used to wearing glasses, and try and stay on my feet in crappy workshoes by spending the entire journey staring at my feet to make sure I don’t slip on the ice. I am, as ever, distracted from this. The walk along the usual cut-through is tricky, as rather than concentrate on the ground, I look through the wire fence to the field where three horses live. I can hear them moving in the dark. At the end of the path, I emerge on to Heslington Road. The beams cast by passing cars and alike throw the light across the ‘anti-glare’ surface of my glasses at unexpected angles. I take the short cut at Daysfoot Court again, where a single bright white bulb in a lamp post illuminates the path. As I pass underneath it, the air becomes full of ice crystals. I am surprised enough by this that I stop still and watch. In every direction I turn, ice crystals spin end over blue tinted end, brought in to being by the combination of this particular lamp light, the glasses and the cold frost-filled air. As I slowly move off, the glittering twirling shards change colour, prism-like, hurtling across the light spectrum before disappearing in to darkness. I make my way home tentatively, briefly looking up at the stars above the church tower. When I get in, I climb the stairs and write down the following on the post-it notes next to the bed: Street lamp, ice crystals in the air. I stick it to my glasses so that I find it when I wake up, though I doubt I am likely to forget the strange experience.

March 18th 2010

My parents had been visiting since Monday. On the Thursday, with rain forecast to push in from west to east, we decide to risk visiting the coast at Flamborough Head (which I mistakenly confused with Spurn Point, a fair way to the south on the Humber). On the approach road, we pass the old lighthouse, the top missing after a violent storm and subsequent fire a long while ago. Its replacement stands a little back from the headland, part of the Trinity Research Station. There’s also a café that is closed and a toilet which has no working sink. The car park is quite busy with minibus and coach groups who take the well trodden paths out along the cliffs. A park bench part way to the headland is covered in flowers and cards. I see an old couple walk over and read some of the messages that have been left behind. Dangerously close (as my Mum mentions and I ignore) to the edge of the cliff, we peer down to the sea. The cliffs have fallen in to the water at various points, and large boulders protrude from the surf. Colonies of gulls and guillemots take to the sea, diving out of sight for fish, and returning. On the whitewashed wall of the research station, a kestrel lands, and sits watching us until we move away. Around the far side of the research station, we see where the falling limestone cliffs have created columns of rock where birds gather. Later in the year, May or June time, puffins nest here in great numbers. There is still one limestone arch remaining, not dissimilar to Durdle Door. The whole area is being pulled apart by salt water, water that near the shoreline is an amazing turquoise blue. As we are about to leave to return to the car, Zoe points out a strange bobbing rock a little way out in the water. There are birds circling about it, those already sitting on the water move away from it or take flight; a seal, its huge black liquid eyes blinking in the grey afternoon. It stays for a moment, looking up at us, and then dips under a wave.

We move up the coast to Bempton. It is a truly extraordinary place. Farmers fields extend away from us to the end of the land, a fence the only indication that the earth falls away to the sea. We walk down a narrow track alongside the field, the wind biting, the clouds massing to our left. I am slightly unsure as to whether or not the trip is going to be worth it; there is no sign of any birds. I am not a bird fan especially, but I feed them and watch them in my garden, and I try to maintain an interest in the natural as much as I can**. As the path comes to an end at the fence, an alcove is cut as a viewing platform, along with three more further along. It is at the point of entering the alcove that the sound hits you: the combined calls of thousands of sea birds perched on the cliffs slightly below the viewing area, wheeling, diving, fighting, fucking, feeding. I have never heard sound like it. The cliffs are 400 feet high, considerably more stable than those at Flamborough, and populated by kittiwakes, guillemots and razor bills. It is one of only two places on the British mainland where you can see nesting gannets. They are bizarre and slightly frightening creatures; their wingspan is huge, their eyes are decorated with a menacing black streak, and they glide effortlessly on the winds buffeting the coast line. It is both natural and unnatural, though the latter is probably the result of having not seen them before. The sea is relatively shallow down below, so they don’t dive in that way so beloved of nature documentaries. Thirty or forty guillemots bob out on the coming waves. I watch them for a while. A volunteer at the reserve arrives with some kind of binoculars that resemble a telescope. He is here to look for puffins (which Zoe is also dying to see). It is too early for nesting, as I mentioned, but they come in at the end of March/start of April, to scope out potential sites. The man points one out to me in surprise, but I am unable to spot it amongst the guillemots and it has flown around the rugged promontory before I am even looking in vaguely the right area. As compensation for missing this, I spot four harbour porpoises heading out to sea.

We move up toward the next alcove, the sound from the birds disappearing as soon as we step back from the edge. To the left (the sea to the right) is the eerie monolith of the decommissioned RAF Bempton. It was a radar triangulation station during WWII. Concrete pillars, arranged in a triangle, stand totem-like in the field. I assume they are part of the original listening equipment; they remind me of a considerably more advanced version of the concrete sound mirrors on the south coast (Dungeness), which fell out of use with the development of radar***. The buildings of the compound are overgrown and broken in to large crumbling pieces, concrete huts with roofs caved in, vacant spaces where doors and windows should be. The wind, another keen one conjured from the sea, creates the illusion of a distant steam train moving through a valley as it passes through the gaping holes in the structures. The landowner allows people to explore the site with prior arrangement and on the proviso that it is entirely at their own risk. From the photos of the inside of the site that I have subsequently discovered, it is something I would really like to do, though it is quite a challenge to reach from York, mainly because of the lack of car. As I walk along the cliff, I think about the building sites I used to visit with Chris when we both moved back to Luton after University. We were partially nocturnal then I suppose, and almost always drunk, clambering through scaffolding, wandering the outlines of rooms and later, when nearing completion, the formal structure of an actual functioning building. All these spaces are out of bounds now they have taken on their intended roles, but we have walked through the transitions, their developmental stages, their constructive adolescence. A jumper, perhaps left behind by a contractor, was thrown (by us [probably me]) into a miscellaneous pipe when we first visited the site. It fell impossibly slowly, the sound of the impact at the bottom twisting up the pipe, a sort of hollow tubular ringing.

At the last viewing point, the cliff is at its highest and I feel briefly uncomfortable at my proximity to the drop. There are thousand of birds here, hanging to the edge of the country, riding the wind out on to the water. Looking down from the viewpoint, I again see a seal, out in the brawling surf. I wonder if it is the same seal from further along the coast. Slightly to its left, a gannet skims the surface of the water for a rising fish, and the seal dives away. The rain has arrived by this point, and up the coast Filey is submerged beneath it. We turn to head back. A shotgun sounds somewhere behind the derelict military base, echoing amongst the empty shells of buildings. In front of me, a startled skylark darts out from the tangle of last years crops and leaf mulch on the field. It flies an erratic path toward me, eventually landing on a fence post nearby, flustered, looking about itself for tell tale signs of danger. I watch it for a moment, this bird joining the growing list of wildlife I have seen for the first time in the wild. After a minute or so it takes off again, in to the sky-wide approaching rain clouds, towards the now silent concrete installation.

* Mitchell, W.O. (1947) Who Has Seen The Wind, Toronto, pg. 191
** York is not as good as Luton in terms of the birds it attracts…where here my garden sees dunnocks and robins, there you get Sparrowhawks and woodpeckers. The Dales fared slightly better though, the still snow capped hilltops featuring grouse and snipe.
*** Yorkshire has its own sound parabolas at Redcar, Kilnsea and Boulby.

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FOI + WAT + TSU = TRIBLASTER, or, THE ANGRY OESTROGEN PRINCIPLE

March 23, 2010

Tom’s memorial contribution –

‘1

So one day at the age of maybe fourteen I’m sat at home doing nothing, and a friend a couple years older calls and says I should come over if I have nothing to do because he and a friend have figured out how to play old console games on their PC. And he puts the earpiece up to the speaker which, as promised, is playing a piece of music which I instantly recognise. It is Yuzo Kushiro’s ‘Into the Millenium’, which the heads of course know as the title theme to Sega’s Phantasy Star IV, and I’m kind of slack-jawed as this piece of music brings back the visual of the game, how that title screen looked, how I felt playing it for the first time, how exciting things were then. This piece of music goes like this:

bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun bun-un-bun
wheet wheeeeet wheet wheet
(bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun)
wheet wheeeeet wheet
(bun bun bun bun-un-bun)

2

Also, something like eight years later, an undergrad drinking in the postgraduate association, I meet someone on a music tech course who’s hoping to get an article published which takes as its starting point the various iterations of Koji Kondo’s overworld theme for the Zelda series, which a pint later we end up singing:

dun-dun!
do-do-do-do-do!
do do-do-do!
do d’d’do do-do-do!

3

Now you probably don’t need me to tell you I was obsessed with video games as a kid: for a while they were my main and only interest, in fact. And it’s a sort of space, mentally, that music would take over for a couple years. (I’m simplifying: there was all sorts of pulp-fic and lit. going on at the same time, but.) But what’s odd to me is how incidental my memories of the two overlapping are: neither of those two pieces of music transcribed up there would I have been aware of as such, as music qua music, before the anecdotes I attached them to.

4

Year 10 and Year 11, as a certain type of Year 10 or Year 11 schoolkid will, I spent a lot of time at the houses of my steadily dwindling circle of friends, playing videogames and listening to music. The canon: There is nothing left to lose, by the Foo Fighters. Perfect Dark. ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’. Goldeneye. Sonic Adventure. Nevermind. Chu Chu Rocket. Late Metallica. Various wrestling games I never cared for or got good at. Late Red Hot Chili Peppers. A sort of Mario Kart rip for the PlayStation called I think Speed Racer, possibly Speed Racers. Command and Conquer, on two PlayStations, on two TVs, via link cables in a friend’s loft.

5

Probably about this time the first anecdote up top comes from. Maybe a little later.

6

Sixth form for the first time I had a PC of my own, and less friends I saw regularly. This was probably when my forays into online existence were most pronounced, it was definitely when I first started playing online games. This was sort of limited by my crappy connection and not knowing what to buy: Deus Ex online, for a while, and then Team Fortress, where I would be the only sniper with a 1000ms-plus-ping. Now, there were a couple records I used to play when I did this – I remember 25 Years of Rough Trade Shops getting an airing – but the number of things I played eventually dwindled down to just PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. Which I can’t hear now without I’m working out how to shoot things.

7

So for four years or so I gave up videogames in the attempt to have a social life. With mixed results.

8

The next time I was actually addicted to the things was my last year at university, when I developed a Nethack fixation. Nethack, for those of you unaware, looks kind of like this and is like a Fighting Fantasy novel gone fractal:

This was about the time of the second anecdote; point of fact, I think the conversation went on to take in my Nethack fixation, which was kind of a big deal to me at the time. This game I soundtracked, mainly, with Marnie Stern’s In Advance of the Broken Arm.

(At this point the numbering system adhered to in the previous sections appears to go awry. The present editor is unsure whether this material belongs to the same draft as the previous, and would like to note that the order here is provisional and has been arrived at by a process of guesswork.)

xii

as i meant to say: when we’d get together in our lofts, and play masculinity-asserting music and pretend to shoot one another, what was the music, then, and where was it? given that one of the socially accepted functions of loud, fast music is to soundtrack the anti-social socialising of young, antisocial men? what would someone as fundamentally anti-macho as kurt cobain feel about his work having to share a stage with load?

B

pj harvey as subverting cock-rock; marnie stern as subverting eddie van valen. the angry oestrogen principle

nethack as subverting the principle of fun, enjoyable pastimes

EIGHTY-SHIT

so by playing rid of me when pretending to shoot strangers on the internet, can i claim i was engaging in a subversive praxis? i mean, i would of course dearly love to be able to claim i was engaging in a subversive praxis. but: what if, as an act of borrowing, it reduces the music in exactly the same way as the loft stuff? what if i was just too much of a pussy to admit what i wanted was good old nevermind the black album nevermind the black album over and over?

0

there is such a bad movie on in the background while i am writing this. also, now i think about it, i can totally remember the synth sound of the bit where alys dies

7.1

can we imagine a videogame culture which doesn’t rely on borrowed machismo? one which finds other ways to be in the world?

7.2

it probably wouldn’t look a lot like nethack, which is kind of autistic as fuck

7.2.1

marnie stern’s guitar playing and the process of playing nethack:
both obsessive-compulsive in the best of ways

i

so wait, what did the anecdotes this guy started this essay with have to do with this again?

Ω

comin’ up man-sized
skinned alive
wheet wheeeeet wheet wheet

Recollective Countdown

March 20, 2010

As a companion to my memory ten a few weeks ago, Liam has put together his own recollective countdown. Countdown makes it sound a bit like they’re in order of importance, but I don’t believe this is the case; it’s just a device for building tension. Shit…rereading the article, Liam addresses this point already.

‘Initially when I was set the task of writing about music which had connotations and attachments to specific moments and places in time I had planned on writing about a Van Morrison Greatest Hits album which reminded me of a long car journey from Luton to Fishguard when I was barely five years old. Sadly not much can be retrieved from that period on account of my age and feeble mind, some might say little has changed. Instead I have chosen to follow suit and indulge in a top of the pops style top 10 countdown although the countdown will be chronological rather than based on popularity.


10.  The Simpsons – Do the Bartman
Like many who were exposed to cultural upheaval of the media sensation of The Simpsons without quite understanding it in any depth, I latched on to the Do The Bartman single on tape (which has still survived in my musical menagerie to this day) and wore it like a badge. This track reminds of prosperous times within my childhood, mostly visiting the Dunstable Road McDonalds (which is now a library) on a Friday night and my sister giving me and my dad her gherkins.


9.  Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle
Not quite old enough to understand the myth surrounding this album and ironic tone of Snoop’s lyrics it simply reminds me of a time when I earned some street cred in junior school. The swearing and gunshots on the tracks were enough for other kids at school (mostly young asian boys) to befriend me in the hope of me allowing them to copy the album onto tape and then subsequently abandoning me. The fashion dictated that baggy red jeans with some kind of graffiti etched onto the arse pocket and wearing a Naff Co bomber jacket meant you were from “the street”. The album was not mine of course but my brother’s so my street cred was essentially borrowed.


8.  Supergrass – I Should Coco
This album represents my first deviations in cultural independence. Supergrass were not my favourite band at the time, in fact Madness were but the album came free with the CD player I received for my 12th birthday. However, the occasion was a solemn affair. This album reminds of dealing with the confusion and frustration of being the child in the midst of my parent’s emotional tug of war/divorce, failing at integrating into a new neighbourhood/shithole, the social pressures of high school/educational purgatory and my new oversized bedroom. Many years later I would regret selling the album to my brother for just £5 which was probably spent on second hand Megadrive games or McChicken sandwiches.


7. The Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Q magazine has seldom played a part in recommending anything life affirming but at the tender and gullible age of 14 I went out and bought Surfer Rosa because I’d read Kurt Cobain had cited them as a key influence on Nirvana. So blown away by the gnarl of Black Francis’ hollering, the bombast of Dave Lovering’s drumming, Kim Deal’s steady but catchy harmonies and Joe Santiago’s random and raucous riffing remains something I still airguitar to despite being able to play some of the more basic hooks. Memories are conjured of countless Saturdays spent deciding what to do with the day in the extension room of Lee’s old house on Telscombe Way or spending weekdays after school at Pank’s talking longlingly (bawdily) about girls in our year.


6. Kid A – Radiohead
Sixteen is no age to begin attending gigs. A sunny day in September 2000, Matt and I attended my first major gig*, Radiohead inside a giant tent somewhere in Victoria Park. Somehow along the way we got lost thus walking nervously through east London terraces and mile high rises. This album not only reminds me of waiting in a queue alongside some gimpy looking twenty somethings making offensive claims that songs from “The Bends” were just filler since “OK Computer” and “Kid A” or a posh oik who seemed to know all the roadies moving Radiohead’s gear by name or of the possibly preteen girls bawling to the set despite only vaguely knowing the lyrics to “No Surprises” but it reminds of the excitement from the anticipation of the album’s release and excitement over the future after the purgatory of high school. It reminds me of the summer between high school and college where a small group of friends would go to each other’s houses, usually Matt’s, and we would hear live performances which Matt or Chris had acquired via Napster of what we were to expect when Radiohead released their fourth album. Even now if I hear “idioteque” with enough jars of alcohol in my belly I will dance like a spaz in the vain hope of mimicking Thom Yorke. It brings a chill to my bones to realise this was nearly 10 years ago.


5. Dntel – Life Is Full Of Possibilities
After hearing some people refer to Dntel on various livejournal alt music pages I investigated myself and taking the risk and purchasing an album by an artist I’d never heard before of a genre I wasn’t entirely aware of. The artwork intrigued me most. It summons the fading sentiment of being “different”, feeling part of a secluded online community of cultured loners and the time when exploring new music was on the power of word of mouth alone. It also reminds me of a time when I spent a day in central London trying to find the album in both the gargantuan HMV stores and the UK’s largest Virgin Megastore to no avail but having better luck at the now defunct Select-A-Disc on Berwick Street and being impressed by the staff’s eccentric and in depth knowledge of music. It also reminds me of the deterioration of a relationship.


4. The Pilot Ships – There Should Be An Entry Here
This is my break up album. After the collapse of a near 3 year relationship I immersed myself in rebuilding relationships with my closest friends. A summer of debauchery, hang overs and full time work as a painter/decorator in my previous college meant enjoying the diversity in Matt’s range of CD collection. I could have easily chosen Sofa’s “Grey” or Murcof’s “Martes” but The Pilot Ships was the only album I managed to purchase that summer and thus the memory of it favoured it some longevity. Sometimes when I listen to this album I can remember the chucklesome conversations that filled the boredom of literally watching paint dry. On one occasion Matt and myself challenged ourselves to create parodies of the classically racist Irishman joke, not exactly in keeping with the albums morose tone.


3. British Sea Power – The Decline of British Sea Power
Dual memories. One is living in squalor in north London during my second year of university with my only longstanding friend since that time, Nick. British Sea Power were playing at ULU, neither of us had tickets, we turned up hoping to get tickets, both got entry to the gig via the corrupt and illegal process of using touts, Jeffrey Lewis in support, giant bear on stage, amazing gig. The other is visiting Chris in Lincoln whereby he told Matt and I that he had saved the singer Yann’s life as he nearly fell from the stage at Chris’ local pub. This album also reminds me of the time we stalked Alan Titchmarsh at a book signing at Lincoln’s bookshop Ottakars.


2. Smog – A River Ain’t Too Much To Love
Fate has a way of playing the soundtrack to your life. The outstanding track from this album is “Mother Of The World” which resonated with the events taking place in my life. I had just finished university with a grade below what I had actually scored in the exams but was marked down after a random oral test, an attempt to move to Cambridge with my beloved friends had fallen through after hitting a snag and later that year my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The timing of this both poignant and morbid album could not have coincided better.


1. Fionn Regan – The End Of History
Another with dual memories. One is of sitting in a hostel in Warsaw, Poland, playing black jack while the rain beat down on the window pane preventing us from seeing the sights on our final evening in the Polish capital. After leaving Poland we both learned that evening the storm killed 60 people, we were totally oblivious and I snored through most of the night. The second memory is spending my first summer with my girlfriend Ellie before she went to university and my attempts at turning her onto my kind of music (which it pains me I’m still trying to do one day she will learn to love Radiohead like I do). The album reminds me of the more sensuous moments where simply spending time together in a field or in her dad’s old Mini Cooper driving somewhere to find somewhere to go for a walk usually somewhere between Stopsley village and Hitchin.’

*I would class Radiohead at Victoria as my first major gig as well, though my first real gig, on a much smaller scale, was Ian Dury and The Blockheads at (I think) Venue 27, which then became The Temple (?). Although it is probably a fabrication of memory, Ed O’Brien signalled to us via the medium of returning hand gestures we made during the course of the set. Thom Yorke didn’t engage the crowd except to say ‘I’m not saying much today as enough shit has been said already’. This was in response to the Melody Maker review of Kid A that came out that week. Time seems to have been kinder to the band. They had a large roaming light in the sky, projecting the evilish Teddy face that was their want at the time. Mile End tube station was closed afterwards, and we walked to Bow, which we had inadvertently found earlier in the day during our misc roaming of Tower Hamlets, as Liam mentions.

Additionally, Martes is a great album.

Band Names That Were Never Used

March 13, 2010

Danny asked me my opinion on two band names the other day. This coincided with my finding an old notepad file of band names in a long forgotten folder (whilst clearing my hard drive of unnecessary stuff…the usual…old PhD proposals, music I secretly hate, Jovian porn). Many are animal related, some are from song titles. It seems fairly obvious why they were never used, but feel free to take one. I’m not entirely sure when they were written down, so it’s possible someone else might have come up with the same ideas independently, and now have a prog band named River of the Replicants.

Badger Temple
The Art of Parties
Blue Rocket Protocol
Salamander Theory
Puppy Coalition
Britney Cornell and the Fabulous Noise Company
Messy Usher Method
Iron Seagulls
River of the Replicants
The Viola In My Life
Sons of Pioneers
My Tiger, My Timing
The Wednesday Evening
March of the Fuckers

Silk and Dogs – Liaoning

March 9, 2010

Download (Right Click+Save As)

’40 years in a building in the northern suburbs of this little version, but never naked and cowering behind a rock from the red threat. I was seen as if I had become the red threat, retreating from the old ways, of factionalism, fighting the fractional destruction of the mighty north east when the overseas came inland. I did as told but only when I thought it wise, and moved away when I thought it not. We held him, shivering on the hillside, and made the pact to battle with all, united across the vastness of peoples…when light was split between what is today (well a loose version of it) and what could have become – an unending war. Betrayed as straying from my own gun shaking khaki capped allies, and moved/removed to the east four years on from the war to end all wars. There was always conflict though, even after ninety three, when the other two were gone and I could sail further east, to volcanic land and distant recollections. They called me. Ignoring pleas to return, to bestow, to grant credibility to faltering ideology. Neither/nor. Asleep one year after the turn, and enshrined as addict, abuser, failed peacemaker; not simply following my old Generalissimo to the summit, but making him see, if only for a moment, a differing path.’

____ _____ was born in Liaoning province on or around 1898. Liaoning was made using piano fragments from a recording by a well known resident who grew up in the second city of the province.

The Place(s) of Trees + Albums of the Week

March 4, 2010

Youth was spent amongst trees, in woodland of limited size that seemed much bigger at the time. On a recent revisit to 3 and 4 (3 with Chris, where we attempted to find some of the places we inhabited as children), the scale was gone, the wonder of child-like seeing no longer present, just confused memories of possible events, which I have decided to write down.

  1. SG was shot by a pellet gun here. The woodland that I once knew as The Icehouse Plantation is part of the Putteridge Bury estate, now owned by The University of Bedfordshire, which is a University of sorts. They have a miniature steel observatory in their garden. My brother and me ran around there in the days when Dad ran his business out of the Victorian glasshouse. People shot pheasants nearby. I recall this as being similar to ‘Danny, Champion of the World’ only with a large amount of Japanese vineweed around the small pond at the entrance to the estate and some fat faced kid jumping on a trampoline in the caretakers house nearby. We played a lot of football on their lawn when they were on holiday. The actual Icehouse Plantation is to the left of the long drive that leads to the old house, perhaps a half mile or so south on the map from No.1. The reason I was there with SG is that he had some porn stashed there, and obviously this was interesting. They turned out to be the unpleasant readers wives style publications, women with the sort of tits that resemble two fried eggs hanging from a nail. He took a piss up a tree at some point. When he was new at our school I went to a birthday party of his where I won a cassette of Showaddywaddy. I never listened to it. He had incredibly short finger nails, and bit the cuticles away until he was bleeding. I saw him occasionally when we were older as he lived nearby. For a while he had a problem with heroin, but after kicking the habit at some stage in the last five years he set up a business which prints use-by dates on to the surface of eggs. Eggs have been mentioned three times.
  2. This woodland/copse never had a name. It ran along Selsey Drive up to Wandon Park, mostly hidden behind a wall. We rarely went in to it. A man lived there, in a cardboard and plastic sheet house. He apparently collected carrier bags, perhaps to shit in to. He had a ferret which he used to walk on a lead around the small patch of grass on the other side of the wall. He tied his trousers with a rope, which used to hang down to nearly his shoes. A telephone company has built a mobile phone mast on the small patch of grass.
  3. This is the most significant woodland for me, always known as Great Hayes; it turns out this name is an accurate memory. There are perhaps too many recollections associated with this space to write down now, so I will go with two important ones, and return to others another day. From these tree-based memories, it is clear that pornography was clearly an important part of growing up. The numerous dens constructed by myself and our little cabal were usually facilitating the protection of Club and Razzle (and other titles I’m sure Stokes will remember) from the likes of PE, KO’K and alike. The number of times porn was stolen and rediscovered is impossible to count. One instance involved myself, Stokes, RL and IS. Porn had once again changed hands, and we had lost out to the aforementioned letters, PE, KE and KO’K. They had a hiding place somewhere. I am in the wood with Stokes, RL and IS in front. The wood is snow covered, the field barren and enveloped in dense freezing fog. RL and IS have an argument sometime after we have build ice foundations to a temporary hideout. IS chases RL in to the field where they scuffle. I watch on, Stokes alongside. The figures grapple in the snow. RL picks up a log, and swings it at IS, hitting him in the head. He falls to the ground. Everything is silent and cold and looks a lot like the opening to Fargo. RL runs. On our way back home with the injured IS, RL emerges from amongst pine trees with a bag full of porn, the collection we had lost in the last battle. He holds it out to us as an apology. The other memory is of some sort of chase, with JE (who resurfaces from time to time, largely so Broughall can ‘kick the shit’ out of him metres from his home), but I’m not sure if it is him we need to hide from. We’re out of breath, stung from nettles, my ankle throbbing from a fall over a tree stump. Panting, sweating, we lie on the rough earth in the wheat field, hidden by the tall swaying crops. In amongst the high grass, thin trees and shining bracken, a man with a golf club hacks and slashes away at everything, periodically stopping to listen and yell. Is he looking for us? Is he related to the earlier chase? A summer afternoon spent running and paying attention to the sound a man makes on the ground when he walks, or when a metal pole passes through the air. We eventually leave, once we are sure the angry man has also left.  A week later I find a discarded golf club, minus the top, which I decide to use as a weapon for myself (others had makeshift weapons too…MH has a slingshot of some kind, made with a goggle strap…there was also ‘Brick-on-a-Rope’). Being chased happened often.
  4. This small bit of woodland sits in the middle of Butterfield Green, equidistant from the carpark on the A505 and the Stone Age hill farm remains that no-one seems to know about around Bradgers Hill. Someone was sexually assaulted there once (in the wood, not the hill farm); I was barred access by police tape and fear of what might have happened. A path ran through the middle, opening up in to long grass at one end by some old rusted football posts that had been stacked together. I sat there one summer’s evening with Michelle, Mick, Cherelle and Zoe before we all moved away to University. This became the opening to Sunshine and Power Lines, a book I wrote whilst at University. It was/is a catastrophic romance set in a city that is constantly rearranged by sand and steam from underground fissures. Nearby to this spot was a tree I had once thought of as a good site for a den, but many other people used it for the same thing, so it was ultimately worthless. I find it interesting to think that without ever meeting the other people, we all managed not to destroy each others constructions in the tree. Much later, I went there with Chris, who didn’t remember using the tree for such a purpose; to be fair, it could have been a number of different people other than Chris who were there originally. We hooked up contact microphones to the trunk and branches, and struck them all about using a variety of different woods from the area. We recorded the results. The tree sounded like a xylophone.

Albums of the Week(s)

This last week and a bit or maybe even two weeks I have been enjoying the following:

1. Balmorhea – Constellations

2. Toro y Moi – Causers of This

3. Fort Dax Archive (no image but visit here to download it from Fort Dax’s site without feeling the pang of guilt from illegal MP3 acquisition)

4. Polar Bear – Peepers

5. Trembling Bells – Carbeth

They are not in order of preference this week. I spent much of the weekend recording basic structural tracks for a collaborative ‘hip-hop’ project, and my brain is apparently unable to form proper thoughts related to the description and criticism of music because of this. Instead, it’s just a five item list of things that are good, and should be listened to by others.

A Silk and Dogs based update on Monday.


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