Archive for January, 2013

The Year

January 31, 2013

As with every year, I have compiled a list of various aspects of my life. These appear to involve a) drinking, b) reading and c) listening to music. I am intending on adding to these categories over the next twelve months.

Also, I wanted to add that the blog has been sparse of late, owing to my inability to juggle commitments effectively; it is also my intention for this not to be the case in 2014. January will also hopefully see the return of the year in review, with an expanded scope that does not simply include music. The WDT/VSTM archive will continue in January.

2013

What I remember doing:

Writing, all the time, every day. Being an incredibly inattentive gardener and watching many things die. Not travelling as much as I’d hoped to, and not seeing people as much as I wanted to.

Alcohol:

Estimated total spend: £1143 (assuming £3 a pint; the balance here being that some are more, and some are less, and does not take in to account that I tend to drink half pints).

Increase/decrease?

An increase in spending of £520, though if I used the same logic from last year, I actually only spent £571, which is less (last year’s total being £643)

Top ten beers:

10. Kissmeyer – Uusigi Syndrom
9.   Brewdog – Cocoa Psycho
8.   Chesire Brewhouse – Galaxy Blues
7.   Cromarty – Red Rye Ale
6.   London Fields – American Black IPA
5.   Beavertown – Gamma Ray
4.   Buxton – Jaw Gate
3.   Magic Rock – Dancing Bear
2.   Harbour – Imperial Chocolate Stout
1.   Brodies – Hackney IPA

(Special mention also to Brooklyn – There Will Be Black and Bristol Beer Factory – Southville Hop)

Brodies were generally grand all year, as were Magic Rock, and they would have scored more in the top ten if I weren’t self-imposing a rule about only having one beer from each brewery. London breweries did well on the whole I think, with London Field’s being pretty great, along with Pressure Drop, Redchurch and Portabello. Beavertown were also good though they managed to produce one of the rankest beers I have ever tasted…

Top ten worst beers:

10. Oak Leaf – Hole Hearted
9.   Tim Taylors – Ram Tam
8.   Great Heck – Navigator
7.   Marble – Ginger 6
6.   Camden – Gentleman’s Wit
5.   York – Dino-sore-arse (charity beer I think)
4.   Beavertown – Sour Brown
3.   Leeds – Funfair
2.   Beartown – Bearskinful
1.   Wild Beer and Fyne Ales Collab – Cool as a Cucumber

Cool as a Cucumber was undoubtedly the worst beer I tasted this year; gherkin rather than cucumber. Not refreshing on a warm afternoon. Sour Brown reminded me of a Gueuze, which I am not a fan of (I should have guessed from the name) and Camden Wit just tasted too much like Earl Grey Tea. These beers failed because the flavours used in them didn’t work. The Beartown, York and Leeds beers were simply badly made.

Music:

Top albums:

20. Danny Paul Grody – Between Two Worlds
19. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
18. Theo Parrish – Black Jazz Signature
17. M. Geddes Gengras – Collected Works Volume 1: The Moog Years
16. Darkside – Psychic
15. Arve Henriksen – Places of Worship
14. Iasos – Celestial Soul Portrait
13. Netherworld – Alchemy of Ice
12. Ben Frost – FAR
11. Clark – Feast/Beast

10. Sean McCann – Music for Private Ensemble
9.   Star Rzeka – Cien Chnmynad Ukrytyn Polem
8.   Tim Hecker – Virgins
7.   Roly Porter – Life Cycle of a Massive Star
6.   The Flaming Lips – Terror
5.   The Dead C – Armed Courage
4.   Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
3.   Jasper TX – An Index of Failure
2.   Mo7it Al-Mo7it – Jerusalem In My Heart
1.   Paul Jebanasam – Rites

My overall impression of music this year has been how downbeat everything is, in the sense of the feeling of malaise rather than the musical genre.

Most listened to tracks:

10.  Colin Stetson – The Stars In His Head
9.    Clinic – For The Season
8.    Saroos – Henderson Island
7.    Miles – Lebensform
6.    John Brooks – Twelve Woods
5.    James Holden – Rannoch Dawn
4.    Forest Swords – Irby Tremor
3.    David Bowie – The Next Day
2.    Emika – Centuries
1.    Boards of Canada – Reach For The Dead

Best compilations:

5.  Various Artists – The Outer Church
4.  Various Artists – Zirko: Advanced Music from Ukraine
3.  Various Artists – Where The Dancefloors Stand Still
2.  Various Artists – Who’s That Man: A Tribute to Conny Plank
1.  Various Artists – I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990

10 male deaths in May 2013 (in no particular order):

24th – Michael Crozier

15th – Jens Elmegård Rasmussen

5th – Robert K Ressler

26th – Jack Vance

31st – Tim Samaras

23rd – Hayri Kozakçıoğlu

22nd – Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt

16th – Heinrich Rohrer

1st – Stuart Wilde

7th – Ray Harryhausen

Intentions for 2013 (red = success):

Finish PhD
Finish Shinje
Record some new/collaborative music (completed)
Work out what exactly to do with my life once I have completed No.1 (half completed)

Additional credit achievements:

Got an actual job.
Became an uncle, twice (required no skill on my part).

Intentions for 2014:

Finish PhD (no choice on this one really)
Finish Shinje
Go cycling around the Orkneys
Find a new job
Travel more
Sort out journal publications
Pub

Comparison with 2012:

I may have consumed considerably more alcohol this year, possibly as a result of getting a new and very stressful job, but this is difficult to be certain about (the consumption that is, not the job).
I pissed around a lot less, again as a result of the above.
I read more, I slept less.
I feel like, on the whole, I did not achieve what I wanted to achieve in 2013, despite the resolutions for 2013 being fairly nebulous. Perhaps though this is just the constant anxious state we are supposed to live in now. Downbeat ending.

Summary image for 2013:

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Ralph Dorey: Hey Colossus

January 31, 2013

image for HC

 

Hey Colossus

Ralph Dorey. Some time around the turn of 2013 in E17
____________________________________________

(I’d like to add a thank you to all contributors, past and future, for the Jan Review stuff. As ever, it’s great hearing what your year has been like. Yup. That makes sense – Matt)

Liam Butler 4: Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

January 31, 2013

Damien Jurado

After many attempts by my brother, over a period of years, to get me to listen to Damien Jurado, it was not until hearing his 2010 offering Saint Bartlett I finally realised out why he had persisted for so long. Knowing that I’d missed out on a decade of material, I would later spend a small fortune catching up, another one of my economic fails. Maraqopa’s theme is a mixture of light and dark, fragility and endurance, joy and pain, tender and raw. The opening track Nothing Is The News has an airy psych-folk feel with lush arrangements, vocal layers and instrumental textures (no doubt influenced by indie white boy Shins bassist, part-time singer songster come now sought after producer Richard Swift). Life Away From The Garden offers the contrast with a down tempo song about flashbacks to the nuances in a long gone relationship supported by an eerie school choir (which reminds me a tad of SMOG’s eerie use of a school choir on Knock Knock). Damien Jurado is typical of the kind of artist indie white boys with a penchant for the obscure, you want to introduce to your friends a carefully crafted cd/playlist but don’t want acquaintances and the other scum out there listening to/hyping. If you like your American folk music this will knock your socks off but keep it schtum!

 

Liam Butler 3: Will Johnson – Scorpion

January 30, 2013

Will Johnson

I would describe myself as a part-time fan of Will Johnson’s Centromatic. I always enjoyed hearing their tracks on Uncut compilations but never made the leap of purchasing their music (only really listened briefly to one or two albums on Spotify). I was convinced to make that leap on seeing the video to the single “You Will Be Here, Mine” where the aforementioned Will Johnson dressed rather too dapper for a man of his ilk, possibly for a date, possibly for a funeral, is driven around an empty field and country lanes in a golf cart by a scantily clad, obese, booze hound. I’m a sucker for lo-fi, alt-country and singer-songsters and this album ticked all those boxes which meant it was easy to get me hook, line and sinker. Melancholic lyrics about death and loneliness complimented by husky, tortured vocals set against sparse instrumentation. It’s not all doom and gloom, “Rosanky” is an instrumental that will have you stomping and/or quietly nodding to yourself.

Liam Butler 2: Kid Koala – 12 Bit Blues

January 29, 2013

Kid Koala

The last time I listened to an album creating loops from old-school 20s blues samples was Moby’s Play, less said about that the better (do I lose indie hipster credentials for admitting that while a 15 year old boy I loved Everloving from Moby’s Play). 12 Bit Blues will not have songs featuring on Thornton’s adverts (Everloving), it will not have quirky videos starring Christina Ricci and hopefully it will not lead to Kid Koala revealing he’s played “knob touch” with various Ninja Tunes DJs. However, this album is typical of what you expect of a Kid Koala album. A DJ not the least bit concerned with creating a catchy hook with some basic beat noodling, here is DJ more concerned creating layered, warped, ambient, nuanced, catchy hooks and beat noodle soup. Jesting aside, 12 Bit Blue has some eerie but bouncey tracks and if you like your blues you can just make out a handful of the artists from the riffs and one liners which are stretched to perfectly languid effect.

Liam Butler 1: Angel Olsen – Halfway Home

January 28, 2013

Liam has kindly provided four concise reviews of some of his favourite music from 2012, which will be posted here over the next week. This will sort of round off the Review, although there will be a few more pieces published later in the year (perhaps I’ll wait until Nov/Dec time for comedy value). Any way…

Angel Olson

As any lonely, alt-country nerd will confess (because let’s face it, they’re all lonely, that’s why they’re listening to alt-country), there’s nothing more appealing than an alt-country songstress. Being the alt-country nerd that I am(albeit not lonely) I fell in love with Angel Olsen’s music voice last year when I heard her digi-release Strange Cacti EP. Much like at what I imagine finding a mint copy of Detective Comics , #27 or an OKeh 78 at a “yard-sale” would be like, Angel Olsen was a treasure I came across as a result of doing some research into artists who had worked with Bonnie Prince Billy (please check out Cairo Gang which is Angel Olsen’s other band with Emmet Kelly BPB’s long serving guitarist, Oscar Parson’s band Thomas A. Minor and Matt Sweeney’s early releases with Chavez). Halfway Home has the feel of my favourite Sun Records songs, especially those by Roy Orbison and Elvis. Sadly for me Halfway Home is another digital only release but one which justified my purchase of the album from her site as well as Spotify Premium because there is always one point in the day where I long to hear the folky-poignant Acrobat or the lo-fi  Free and sneak off to have a listen.

Random: Reflections on the failure of a relationship – NYE 2013?

January 25, 2013

New Year 2013

Philip Jarvis: 2012 in Retrospect

January 21, 2013

Sly and The Family Drone

January 2012 began horribly. Dumped, playing to a heckling crowd, fed up with my job. I had to kick myself up the arse.

I volunteered on my days off at a local museum, doing some work for a local historian. That was the first bit where I got to start sorting myself out. Volunteering, man, can’t sing its praises enough. If you’re ever in a rut, do some. It will seriously sort you out.

Having a creative block, an old mate returned from Uni and started forcing me in to jamming. I took some of the improv I did with him and used it in the Dead poets collective I was involved in.

Around this time, I was re-reading Stewart Lee’s book and read “A summer in the park” by Tony Allen. They are both wonderful and inspiring reads. I think, in particular, the Tony Allen book leaves you with this fearless desire to just try out whatever, believe in what improvising can offer, don’t worry if things fall flat on their arse, sometimes you can nail it.

The alternative comedy, poetry collective I was involved in did its longest set at a pub in Basingstoke.

We used it as a warm up for the biggest gig we would ever do, a local festival gig.

Before the festival gig, through luck, we ended up curating a couple of nights at a pop up gallery in Basingstoke. The first one was the best night of my life, even if it did involve a shambolic performance by me (involving a broken mic stand and a DIY homage to David Lynch).

The second one we curated I got to try out some alternative comedy:

The best band for me is Sly and the family drone. I must have seen them a few times in 2012; they always create an intense and euphoric show. Have to be seen before you die or you have lost.

The best YouTube video I saw in 2012 has to be:

The best book was “A summer in the park” by Tony Allen. It sorted my head out.

The best song I haven’t heard before was:

The year ended well. I got a new job I enjoy. I played my last gig in the collective I was in, and got offered to release a comedy album out on http://www.zamzamrec.org/ZAMZAM.html

I also made an e.p.

I ended up liking 2012 a lot.

Daniel J Lippard: Bjork – Debut

January 15, 2013

Part 1 of the January Review

Bjork - Debut

My first foray into Bjork’s catalogue (beyond seeing ‘Big Time Sensuality’, ‘Human Behaviour’ and the like on MTV while growing up) was Medulla. I instantly adored this record, recognising it’s stunning innovation in stretching the boundaries of what could be composed with the human voice, and as is customary a lot of the time when I have an emotional attachment to a particular record by an artist, not wanting to spoil the magic, it took me a while to delve deeper (I still to this date haven’t heard a full-length album by Tricky other than Maxinquaye).

Eventually I picked up Volta and then Vespertine. Again, I was struck equally by both the maturity of the songwriting and the breathtaking electronic arrangements, and couldn’t deny the talent of a woman rightly revered and deservedly canonised as she was by then. But, to my shame, Vespertine in particular left me a little uncomfortable. Its subject matter, however enlightening and tenderly representative it is of female desire, to the ears of an early twenties male out for whatever he could get, it was slightly unsettling in its unabashed lyrical boldness in putting all that across.

Nevertheless, I was so taken with the technical brilliance of the record that I was compelled enough to dig out Homogenic, inherited from a break up some years prior, my impression being that it was something of a junior partner in Bjork’s oeuvre (something like the ‘Lost Highway’ to the ‘Mulholland Drive’ of Medulla), however this ended up fostering an intense attachment, and to this day I listen to  ‘Joga’ and ‘Bachelorette’ with a fondness far beyond the nostalgia attached to them from the MTV days.

So, upon hearing Debut for the first time in 2012 (yes, that’s nineteen years after its release during those wistful days of watching Bjork jump around on the telly after school), I desperately wanted it to live up to the hype that surrounded it as I had grown up. My impressions of her since then being characterised by the crystalline artistry and poetic sophistication of Medulla and Vespertine, the aching beauty of Homogenic, I was also acutely aware of the potential for the ultimate canonisation of her work to be hideously underwhelming, as engaged as I had been for years by her subsequent output. Upon hearing the now-abused house piano and four-to-the-floor of ‘Crying’ after the obligatory nostalgia trip of the opening track, I was preparing myself for disappointment.

By the time I got to ‘There’s More to Life Than This’, though, my outlook had gone full circle. Utilising (more or less) the same beat, but with some ingenious sound design dropped in here and there, the track delicately espouses a tiredness with the lack of imagination typical to party culture that you’d imagine would be the wont of a thirtysomething former raver, but by using the well-worn musical template described above, somehow also tacitly asserts the life-affirming capability of the same practice for those in the infancy of adulthood.

Now, so much has been written about this album that it would be fatuous of me to give a track-by-track rundown. Coming to it as I have by means of severe retrospect, having been amazed and rebuffed in equal measure by Vespertine at a time when I lacked the maturity to appreciate it’s themes, and now approaching the big 3-0 where stock-taking in life takes up much of my thoughts and activities, I’m aware that I’m bringing a lot of my own experiences into the archaeology project. But hearing the simple, twinkling idealism that flows through Debut, in such contrast but such familiarity with her later material, I can’t help but surmise that there’s more going on here than youthful exuberance, and not because I’m longing for my own days of less responsibility.

It’s precisely because she’s clever enough to situate playful, optimistic tokens – together with some soft-handed, bashful commentary – in a dance-oriented sound palette that gives Debut its identity. The simplicity of most of the words on the album seem appropriate given the hook template of dance music, and successfully translates the vignette-cum-brand-slogan style of exactly that into a form of songwriting.  She is making the album at a time when rave is very much in the public consciousness, but takes advantage of the home listening context that was developing around it upon its release. The lyrical themes are plainly more faithful and passionate than the lust-drenched divas sampled on 12”s of the time, and indeed recall a kind of belief in youth and hope similar to the whimsy of Syd Barrett or Kevin Ayers, but harbouring no bigger sense of purpose than enjoying life in a heartfelt and intimate way. Such a theme outlasts any context it is written in.

Because of this, Vespertine now seems like the blossoming of an outlook on life that was in bud for her upon leaving the Sugar Cubes. Her later poetry becomes more illuminating with the knowledge that her self-awareness has been present all along, albeit somewhat mixed-up by interactions with others while being fairly inexperienced, something that most people can relate to when looking back at more youthful times.

The conscious, unshackled Bjork of Vespertine also pervades the effervescent, mostly fun-oriented Debut, only the object of her attention is engagement with anyone and everyone rather than a specific individual. The confusion that she speaks of in ‘Human Behaviour’ doesn’t appear to be directed at any point to herself (at least until ‘Play Dead’ at the end, which is kind of tacked-on as an extra single anyway, but does bookend the album’s thematic nicely) and shows a degree of individual completeness and maturity I obviously couldn’t grasp at that age, when I was failing to decode Vespertine. It’s admirable that she has such a strong sense of who she is and what she sees life is for, and I’m inclined to hear the body of her work as a grand narrative, where the seeds of self-realisation are observable right from the start, and come to fruition at Vespertine’s junction, where she begins to cultivate an environment around her that is consistent with her now fully rounded conception of herself and her purpose.

But I probably wouldn’t have grasped even that much now if I’d have bought Debut as a 9-year-old when it won NME’s album of the year, so I’m kind of glad I did this the long way round.

TISAR: Squarepusher – Ufabulum

January 9, 2013

So, as is tradition, the next few weeks of posts will be from previous contributors; the requirement was for them to discuss a piece of music they have heard for the first time this year, or failing that offer some sort of reflection on the year that has passed, perhaps with reference to music. I am going to kick things off today in a traditional music review manner, with a little bit about a musician who is described by Allmusic as ‘Drill’n’Bass/Experimental Jungle’.

Ufabulum

So I decided to write a straight up review this year. Normally I do something stupid, like rearrange it Burroughs-style, but I am my own worst cliché, so I have sidestepped that this year, or tried to. Squarepusher (real name Tom Jenkinson) is one of those artists whose new work I listen to regardless of what is said of it in the press. I realise that an approach to finding music that is rooted in the opinions of critics is perhaps a dumbass one, but I sometimes tend towards this; I put it down to laziness, or better yet, the fact I have forced myself in to a corner where I have to re-listen to the entirety of The Disintegration Loops so that I can make sweeping claims about how it relates to Bergsonian notions of the recollection-image. Anyway, this approach – of ‘regardless listening’ – has served me badly with Squarepusher, so I don’t know why I stick to it. The last album I fully enjoyed was Ultravisitor, and that came out a while back, with the intervening years offering patchiness (Hello Everything had a few good tracks), some sort of half-baked improve (Just a Souvenir), and general crap with a ‘full band’ (Shobbbbbbbbaleaddddder or whatever it is). Still, I stuck with it, and I feel like Ufabulum sees a bit of turning point, by which I mean a returning point….sorry…I won’t do that again

However, I also feel like an explanation is required as to ‘why Squarepusher?’, because a lot of people find Squarepusher really irritating. As with many of my most cherished musical attachments, my love of Squarepusher is tied to memory, specifically the memory of buying my first real piece of electronic music-making equipment, the Korg EA-1, an ‘analogue modelling synthesiser’; the first time I tried it out, if memory serves, was at Stuart Pearce’s house, in his living room, with me and Lee randomly bashing away at keys and twisting knobs (INSERT PUN), the sound coming out through a small and appallingly fuzzy amplifier. I bought it partially to augment what we were doing in tomfire, but also because I thought I could produce something like Go Plastic, or Feed Me Weird Things (Go Plastic has a track on it called ‘Greenways Trajectory’, and I of course allied this with the road where I lived at the time, in the sort of facile way that I did, and continue to do, with things). Obviously I had little hope of replicating anything like the jiggery-buggery of those releases, but it was nice to dream. On Ufabulum, which is populated by all sorts of analogue synth lushness and the expected but suitably rearranged helter-skelter beats that Jenkinson has almost trademarked, there is a synth line in the song ‘Dark Steering’ – it kicks in at 2mins 15seconds or thereabouts – which sounds exactly like the EA-1, a sort of rounded sawtooth (which isn’t the same as a sine wave) which is used as a kind of solo melody before the beat drops out, hovers, kicks back in at twice the BPM. This I like, despite it not actually being an EA-1[1].

I have enjoyed Ufabulum on two levels; the first is listening to each track as a complete piece of work, and perhaps comparing it to the live show of which there is a lot of footage on Youtube (many lights, a sort of Daft Punk/Orbital crossover that is resolutely not for epileptics); the second is trying to take individual elements apart and, from that, attempt to work out how it is all assembled. The second part is unlikely to work out, as trying to deconstruct something like the hi-hat and snare patterns and effects on ‘Energy Wizard’ is about as impossible as it is ‘to cut fire into steaks, or draw water with a fish-net’[2]. Again, part of this is because I have been doing a lot of deconstruction for my thesis, so I’ve started applying it elsewhere, but also because I am interested in the mechanics of the construction of these tracks. There is nothing organic about them, no slips, no deviation that isn’t a considered move and this sort of concentration and application I see as astounding, purely from the viewpoint that I apply almost none of these things to my own work. And the bass is pretty hefty the whole way through (I got a decent pair of headphones for Christmas), so I can my usual trick of enjoying mangled dance music at home, but not in a public arena.

In terms of a more straight-forward assessment, ‘Stadium Ice’ is a shit track, largely because of what sounds like a tinny guitar thrown in there (except Jenkinson says he made this entirely through programming – I read interviews if not reviews – so apparently not), and the fact it could be used as the soundtrack to Star Ocean or Infinite Undiscovery or any other subpar Japanese RPG[3]. The standouts are the opening track, ‘4001’, the beatless ‘Red in Blue’ which sits slap bang in the middle, and ‘Dark Steering’, which sounds like it might have something to do with Dune, though before you get a grasp on where it might work Jenkinson pulls it to pieces, as he does with most tracks. The ending of that track is also particularly nice. I was reminded of Akira for much of the record, mainly because there are so many towering filter sweeps which sound like motorbikes. It’s very neon-future-city-in-ruins, which again appeals to my baser-dystopia instincts.

I’m not really sure exactly what I am trying to say with all of this, except that I’m happy that Squarepusher is back to being good at putting together beats and synths, and that it reminds me of when I started making electronic music; it’s perhaps a bit of a slog for people who aren’t all that interested in Jenkinson’s trajectory as a musician, but for me it’s a nice break from listening to Francisco Lopez over and over again, with the appropriate blindfold, and then bleating on about how it makes sense in the context of some Russian literary theorist no-one gives a shit about.


[1] Wikipedia tells us that his official website used to list gear including King Tubby-style spring reverbs, Akai samplers, (S950 for early work, S6000 for later work), a Roland SH-101 synthesizer, a Roland TB-303 bassline synthesizer, a reel-to-reel tape machine, an Eventide Orville unit for digital processing, Reaktor using only home made algorithms, a “DSP4000”, a Yamaha sequencer, a MackieDesk, a Sine wave generator, an Octave “Cat” synth, some AKG414 mics and Home made + AKG analogue reverb units, as well as a DAT recorder.

[2] Bit of Rabelais there, just for the sake of a pointless and supertenuous Bakhtinian reference (I’m supposed to be writing about chronotopes at the minute, but I’m doing this): Wilstach, F. J., (1916). A Dictionary of Similes. Little, Brown, & Co., Boston.

[3] I actually like both of these games.


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