Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Fine Art Of Surfacing.

This is for whoever just asked about it and because, as I mentioned last week, I Don't Like Mondays either.

It is now thirty years old and this is an original - Ensign Records ENROX11 on vinyl.

(click the image to open in a new tab)

Once the hell raiser himself, now long the voice of worldwide compassion, but at least one of his daughters tows-the-party-line. That is so rock-n-roll but, with Peaches as a name, who can blame her? It is, however, still a great album.

Here, as a complete aside, is another picture from Acoustic+ on Friday - live and local:

Ladyraz live at Acoustic+, 25 September 2009.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Recode - Live and Local 2

I've seen plenty of great new and less-than-new acts this summer and they have come from most continents, so perhaps that might result in a sense of overload?
It is still however a very special thing to be able leave home for a venue that is ten minutes away on foot. The music is good, and £4 ($6.50, €4.50) for four bands is a bargain and almost all in my experience are well worth seeing.
Yesterday evening the acts at Acousic+ were all good but one was quite remarkable for the publicity and mobilisation of their fan base, which was obvious from the moment one arrived at the venue, but publicity does not always a good act make!

That for me was Recode but in this case it lived up to the hype. Formed just ten months ago it is not only good musically but also amazingly professional.
It was actually (guitarist) James' 21st birthday and what a way to celebrate it!

That is in itself not enough but it also has a definite, tight, clean and complete sound that is certainly not immediately derivative and also great original songs.

Wonderful. Stand-out songs for me are 'Consequence' and thus described "this one is a newbie" 'Today'.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beacons, Black Ice and crossed-wires

It is autumn here now even though the weather is still remarkably good generally. This evening when driving from work I took the back-route home, which is through some woods, and while there was the faintest drizzle in the air you didn't need that or the slowly changing colours of the leaves to indicate it because you could just smell that it was now autumn. The UK is not a country of great climatic extremes, or indeed climate at all, which is probably why we are obsessed with the random variability of our weather instead.

Now why have I mentioned that you might ask? Well, much music has associations in as much to say it goes better with some seasons or weather or other associations (even if the they actually have to be experienced in foreign climes). If that were not true then surely the attractions of Ibiza would be no more than those of the Isle of Wight. (The latter does, to be fair, however host two major festivals and is thus trying very hard indeed and the sun shone at Bestival 2009, I am told.) I also think that opening a festival is an unenviable task...

It is often like this. There is always an amazing feeling when I come across an album that is show-stopping, which I was quite unacquainted with, but this is it seems even better if it happens live and that is why I waited ten days to order the album. [It arrived today, hence the comment.]

To hear a full set by a band live in such circumstances, and then twice in one day, was something quite new to me and I wondered if the album would then prove a disappointment in some way. Not a bit of it... it is a wonderful album and while much of it has ostensibly weather related themes, predominantly winter ones, they are as much metaphorical as literal.

In fact the album could equally well have been called 'Crossed Wires'. This is the interior artwork on the CD (Bella Union - BELLACD199) but the front cover has a clue to this even though the wires are barely above the snow.

It is very difficult to chose any favourite tracks but Black Ice is an obvious contender.

Black Ice

I took the bus down Bathurst Street and saw where,
all the lonely people meet down there.
I sat on a pile of cigarettes and blew,
icicles with one sharp breath towards you.

There's black ice, no sign.

Temper me and temper this I've tried,
to fit in everything in a small time.
The winter brings a heaviness, this weight,
is a hand over the things I shouldn't say.

There's black ice, no sign.

They are a seven-piece, much given to changing and swapping instruments, so even their festival-opening set on the 'The Big Top Stage' Friday lunchtime was a fairly complicated affair. It was however as nothing when compared to their 'surprise session' appearance at 2am Saturday on the tiny stage in the Tipi Tent, not least because for some of it they were joined by fellow Torontans 'The Acorn'.

That made eleven of them on a tiny stage and it was another blistering performance.

Now try to sort out the out all the wires.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Don't Like Mondays.

Autumn isn't so bad, even though it is Monday and one that marks the point at which for the next six months it will be dark more than it is light. It is however, with the exception of the six weeks from the start of December to early January a very good time for new music.
I did note, with minor dismay, that Sir Cliff Richard was at #40 in the BBC singles chart yesterday and please don't even consider an attempt at UK Christmas #1 .
That quibble aside, and if I have enough new music, I'm pretty contented. Last Saturday somebody asked me about my favourite albums of 2009 and, while slightly informative, I hinted that it was my hope that at least a quarter of them haven't even been released yet as it is still only September. I am still finding ones that in truth should have been worthy of inclusion in my lists for 2007 and 2008 and the long-list for 2009 is looking like a challenge to come in a couple of months time.
The sheer diversity is perhaps what intrigues me most but then again that is the target I set myself back in 2000. Pop is most certainly still not a dirty word but the fact is that, almost a decade later, not only am I sticking to the original concept it has also evolved into something far beyond what I envisaged and that surprises and pleases me in equal measure.

Three very different 2009 releases - all excellent in their own genre and all on vinyl.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What next?

More musings from EOTR 2009 which, it has to be said, was a very difficult festival to describe and all the better for that. There were so many great sets that I'll probably never mention them all but Alela Diane, on the Garden Stage Saturday afternoon, should be mentioned (it was also an amazing set) just for this alone and if you want the lyric for this song then just ask... It's better known than I ever dared suspect and plenty of us were singing along!

'Matty Groves' live and acoustic.

The song appears, very much like this, on Fairport Convention's 'In Real Time - Live 1987' and yes I have that on vinyl. It was such a surprise and, when the first chords played my first thought was 'surely it is not, it simply can't be' but I was wrong again.

For the lyric to the song, and some discussion, see:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Me Oh My (and the matter of Pet Deaths).

I'll steer away from reminiscences of EOTR 2009 for a moment, in favour of those started at Latitude 2007 and here is why...
One of the artists I saw then was Cate Le Bon and I mentioned that her début album 'Pet Deaths' would soon be out. That was now more than two years ago and it still isn't (although the 10" EP Edrych Yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg appeared in 2008). That album has, for various reasons, gone the same way as the pets...

It has however been replaced by this one, Me Oh My, which is out soon on Irony Bored Records and if you want a bonus DVD to come along with it then Rough Trade in London is the place to look:

Friday, September 18, 2009

The end of one thing is just the start of another.

This time last week I was in North Dorset at 'End of The Road 2009' and it has taken me rest of the week to really come to terms with what that actually meant to me. Lots of awesome acts, that is for sure, but also rather more than that and so I've already bought a ticket for EOTR 2010.

I've long thought that to be the first act on stage at a festival must be an invidious task and at EOTR 2009 that fell to Toronto-based Ohbijou on the 'Big Top Stage' shortly after mid-day on Friday.

This was my introduction to EOTR and "holey-moley this is just amazing" is merely to quote lead vocalist Casey Mecija at some point mid-set; and it could very easily have gone downhill from there but it didn't, there is no doubt about that.
In fact, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Ohbijou became only the second act I have ever seen perform a full live set twice within 24 hours!
There was no shortage of amazing acts...

At 11:15 pm on Friday night Beth Jeans Houghton conspired to take an absolutely packed 'The Local' stage by storm.
She has received good reviews but this was a truly awesome set. When 'The Horrors' were unavailable due to illness on the Big Top Stage Saturday evening she was game for a bigger venue and, while I didn't catch that performance, she was by all accounts more than equal to filling that stage too.

The one act that defaulted at Latitude 2009 I was able to see at EOTR 2009, on the Tipi Stage, and that was Sweden's 'First Aid Kit'. They were amazing, as I had been led to believe they would be, but I didn't expect them to play even one song with such a surprising pair of instruments.

Autoharp, six-string banjo and a judiciously updated cover of 'Universal Soldier' - written and originally recorded by Toronto's Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1964.

If these had been the only highlights, but they most certainly weren't, it would still have been a pretty good weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

End Of The Road 2009 ... and back again.

I went there, now I have returned... so was it what I expected?
Yes and no, because I couldn't actually decide beforehand (and such musings nearly led to me taking the A30 in the wrong direction at Shaftesbury) quite what it would be like. If it were like Latitude scaled down by a factor of five would that be for better or for worse? Beyond that, I had no idea whatsoever and to go to a festival so close to home yet with such gnawing ambivalence, which I felt very much when on my way to Latitude the first time, was a bit of a surprise in itself.
The best way I can sum it up is that it was a little bit like being older and possibly wiser but going to a new school!
Needless to say everything went well, as oft-times it does, and so the picture above is that of my well-thumbed book that is now replete with marginal notes and other sometimes random musings.

What is the general set up?
That is something you might quite reasonably ask so here are a few pictures to set the scene...

A tiny tent and the 'Big Top Stage' on Friday morning.

An hour later... 'Big Top' across the arena.

The main stage, and the only outdoor one of the four, is the 'Garden Stage' and it is quite surprising because it does have a faux-Tudor cottage at one corner...

...but there is more, although I seem to have forgotten the Italianate temple and pagoda.

Folie à deux - another view of the Garden Stage.

I can see why comparisons with Latitude are made and they are valid up to a point. They are however not the least bit the same. If you want the possibility of acts that will be troubling the charts this year then Latitude has the edge but if not or you are looking for something new or simply less mainstream then, while Latitude is good for that too, End Of The Road is ideal. This is only in part because of its smaller size but more a result of the rather particular tastes of those who book the acts.

Moon rising over the Tipi stage at 3am Saturday.
It is a truly wonderful venue regardless of its various shortcomings!

I haven't even mentioned ANY artists yet and please don't even ask me to choose which festival I like the best.
Maybe it is just me but my answer is both of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why music really matters (Part 2).

If I had arranged the timing myself (I didn't, how surprising is that?) it could hardly have been better. Illegal file sharing is, just as the name suggests, illegal as things stand. That much is a given but what should be done about the parlous state of the (major label) music industry? The reasons that it has ended up this way are certainly not subject to any obvious consensus of opinion.
The UK government has suggested a scheme under which, after warnings, persistent illegal sharers would be forcibly cut-off by their ISP. You might think that would be supported by all sectors of the music industry; that is not so and some of them have now chosen to make public a very clear manifesto:

To sum it up, rather crudely I admit, it states that things have changed and no amount of wishing, or legislation, will be ever be able to turn the clock back and it is a conclusion that is not new. It is also one with which I concur.

It has not been possible to un-invent nuclear weapons but where there is a will a way can be found to limit the consequences and, had that not been the case, the last thing we would be talking about now is the 'major label' music industry. If there were any of us to talk about or do anything at all in the 'nuclear winter' I rather suspect that whatever music we could make would be more important than ever.

Or, to put it in a much more recent perspective, where would we be now if administrations of all flavours world-wide had reacted to the financial catastrophe, that was September 2008, in the way that the 'major labels' did to the impact of the internet and, thus, inevitably, downloading (whether legal or otherwise)?
I hate to think...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why music really matters...

This time tomorrow evening all requisite bits and pieces will be packed in readiness for Friday morning and three festival days but that somehow seems strange.
I can drive to Latitude now without a road-atlas and when I get there it seems pretty much familiar; now I'm going to a much smaller festival taking place thirty miles away, so no big deal, but a map is something that I will certainly need and in many ways it feels a bit like starting over again even though I know that is totally irrational.
This time it is different however: in 2007 there were several times on the drive to Suffolk when I wondered if, once there, I might just turn back and come straight home again. That is however now extremely unlikely, even the weather looks good, and to be honest I can't wait to see what it is like.

I am in fact in a mood that might best be described as curious in all senses of the word, which is probably good in the circumstances, and
everything I have been told or read about it is complimentary.
This brings me to another point which is that I haven't been doing a good job here recently. There is so much that I would like to post but simply never get around to writing and, worse still, much more that I'd like to know but never have the time to read or certainly discover for myself even though I am lucky enough to receive numerous updates from various sources.
Some may wonder why and I have, from time to time without ever doubting my reasons. The exact circumstances are remarkably different but today, thanks to a featured blog courtesy of CYBER PR/Ariel Publicity I realised that perhaps the real reasons to continue are, perhaps, less the desire to be read (as such) and more the wish to participate in a perceived greater whole and for no obvious financial reward - perhaps a surprising outcome in this day and age.

To sum that up here is the interview with Ariel Hyatt and I think it is quite remarkable:

Nicole Rivera of Pop Reviews Now

Pop Reviews Now is a run-of-the-mill music review blog that posts reviews, raves, rants and the occasional music news.

Q: What has to be done in the technological sense to monetize music to a greater degree on the internet?

A: As a blogger, I don't think I actually have the right to answer that question BUT if it were purely my opinion, I'd say make the music available to every single country. Where I live in right now doesn't have any digital music for sale whatsoever and physical albums here not only cost a ton of money, they come very scarcely as well - it's like that for third-world countries. To me, everyone has a right to listen to music that moves him/her regardless of social standing, geographical location or whatever can hinder capitalist companies from reaching them. Making music available to anyone and everyone on the internet will let the artists earn what they need to live and make more music while reaching wider audiences. That, in my humble opinion is what should be done.

Q. Where do you see the next trend in social media? What else can be done in terms of having an online conversation? What is the next "What are you doing?" question?

A: Social media? I'm not very good at predicting trends in networking but Twitter is the big thing right now - they might create a vide-centric Twitter or something. Like you take a short video and upload it but it's just some wild dream I picked out of my head. As a blogger, I'd love the next 'what are you doing?' question to be 'what are you listening to?' but that's highly impossible - not everyone listens to music 24/7 like me and a few friends.

Q. What inspired you to start broadcasting/blogging? It that still your source of motivation?

A: I started blogging for numerous reasons and I realized that I keep on blogging for even more reasons. Blogging for me is all about the writing - I want to be a writer so badly but since I'm still in school, there's nothing I can do about it. Blogging is my sanctuary - when I'm extremely stressed all I do is whip up and post and I feel like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I write about music because it's in my blood. I come from a legendary music family in the Philippines with roots traced to European composers and my father produced albums for the biggest and most influential band of the 90's and 2000's - the Eraserheads. I can play basic instruments and I'm a member of one of the most prestigious countries - music is something I was born to purse but I love it so much that even if I wasn't born with these ties I'd do it anyway.

Music, like writing has the ability to relax me so the minute I put those two together I'm doing something I truly love doing. Over my short time as a blogger, I've realized that I blog to have my opinions and my thoughts voiced out to as many people as possible but I've discovered a deeper reason for why I blog.

I blog to fight for what I believe in. The mainstream music industry has taken away the little respect I have for them by deleting a review of mine with a legal download link given by promotional companies, sanitizing artists, denying me and everyone in my country of music and flat-out disrespecting creativity by doing those but I still blog because it's a way to fight. Blogging is a way for me to show the principles I was raised with and prove to everyone that I'm not someone powerful people can boss around or hurt - I'm a person and I deserve to voice my thoughts in the best way I can.

Q. What are some things bands can do to get your attention to be featured on your broadcast/blog? Do you ever cover a band that you are not particularly fond of musically?

To answer the second question, I only feature an artist I don't musically like if I have something to say about him/her or if it fits with the principles I'm trying to get across. Otherwise, if I don't like the artist I don't feature him/her. To me, all bands have to do is show me that they're a few things. I look for creativity, musicality, technical ability and good songs in an artist but before that I listen to see if he/she knows what he/she's doing or if the song is just a repetition of a generic pop hit. After I hear those things I find a song that I personally like. I can't really describe my personal taste well because I listen to whatever I like - I am very fond of beautifully-crafted melodies though.

Q. Will major labels ever be the gatekeepers again, or have they lost all of their power to the internet forever? Can they somehow return to prominence?

If they get their acts together, stop being stupid and start respecting the artists they take in then they might be able to return to where they were ten years ago. To me if they're gonna think of returning to prominence they have to take in artists who really are artists and not some random singers they find on the street with absolutely no talent and creativity. They have to learn how to respect music as it is and not force artists to change their art 'just because it won't sell' - that's not right.

Record companies have to develop the ability to be ahead of everyone else - the reason why they lost out to the internet is because they failed to use it to their advantage back it its early days, thinking it wasn't important (my dad was told that by a record company executive here when the internet was just gaining momentum). They have to lose the capitalistic mindset and get some musicians to run the company - the music can function without the industry but the industry can't so they have to learn to RESPECT it. Simple as that, really.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The end of... what exactly?

The end of summer perhaps, the End Of The Road Festival maybe, but nothing is really quite as simple as that.

These are not abandoned, or merely washed-up like the sea-weed.
They are above the tide-line while their owners take some time away from the rat-race.

Music still has something of a hiatus over the summer too although arguably much less of one than it did a decade ago, and the four weeks on the run up to Christmas are still pretty poor, but the three months between them are usually good. It is more appropriately a time to consider the beginning of what comes next. It just goes round and round, albeit with very different durations and influences, but ultimately returns again at least in essence.

Nothing starts and nothing ends and so 'Ellipse', the latest album by Imogen Heap, would be a very good place to pick up the thread.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The future beckons...

We don't know what it holds other than to say that it is pretty certain that it will happen regardless. I am planning on being party to it in 2010 and, this being so, I've just bought a ticket for Latitude 2010 (15 - 18 July 2010). Pre-sale tickets are available at 2009 prices for a limited time only.

I also have no idea whatsoever who the chosen artists might be (but I can already think of a few that might be on my wish list) and since it has not disappointed for three years in a row I see no reason to expect that it will do so next year. In fact not knowing, until relatively late in the run-up, is just a part of the anticipation and excitement!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

An oasis does not a desert define.

It is, I suppose, the music headline of the summer festival season - Noel walks out on Liam and the rest of the band mid-tour, saying that it is all over for Oasis forever. How very rock-n-roll it all is, just like it was in the 1970s and 1980s. If there is one thing that surprises me it is that it hadn't happened once or twice already, another is that it might actually be good news.
The fact is that, while it is obvious that both parties are not going to live on a poverty-fuelled diet of baked beans and chips from here on (unless out of choice), both could be successful, particularly without the weight that they seem to bring to bear on each other, and musical variety could well be the winner for the listener.
The cynics, myself included, have considered the thought that it is merely à propos a future reconciliation - and the cash-machine that might go with it - but only time will tell. I admit I'm not a huge Oasis fan, though also not a hater. The possibility of collaborations is of more immediate interest to me. As Jack White, Damon Albarn and many others have done, once away from their alma mater, the brothers Gallagher could both cut it and that might result in something out of their current mould.
On the other hand, Oasis or not, Manchester is hardly a musical desert. In my "I've Just Listened To" list I mentioned a newly released item by two Mancunians and here it is...

To say that the album artwork is basic is an understatement: it is hand stamped.

It is not going to sell thousands, whatever its merit, because it is a 12" vinyl-only release and also limited to 300 copies worldwide. Was it thus ridiculously expensive? Well no, actually, £7.99 plus the usual p&p.
The miscreants behind it are one half of 'Pendle Coven' - the 'Demdike alter ego' witch (sic) Elizabeth Southerns was identified with - and actually Miles Whittaker. The other contributor is Sean Canty, a notable vinyl collector across all imaginable genres, plus some more besides, and he is much involved with the 'Finders Keepers' label.
It might sound like folk territory but, in fact, it is total cross-genre electronica and is certainly none-the-worse for that.