Currently re-reading (it's a perennial khazi classic tbh) the late David Cavanagh’sMy Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize- his doorstop account of the rise and fall of Creation Records - famously dismissed by Alan McGee, who doesn’t really need Cavanagh’s help to come across as a prize bell-end, as “the accountant’s tale”. I actually have respect for McGee, or at least the man he was, the insecure ginger Weedgie out for the main chance in London, propelled by pills and powder and sheer bloody-mindedness to fame and riches and POLITICAL INFLUENCE - at least for a time. His chequered career is pretty much a perfect analogue/exemplar of the Thatcher-Major-Blair (dis)continuum, as well an an object lesson in how much you can achieve while being out of your fucking nut.
Magpie Eyes - published in 2001, and inexplicably out of print ever since, as far as I'm aware - is the best book about the independent record business ever written. Cavanagh is aided ofcourse by an incredible cast of chippy/gobby/prickly/preachy (delete as appropriate), fitfully inspired characters to light the way - Primal Scream, Television Personalities, Oasis, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The House of Love, Felt, Momus among myriad other bands great and small, plus a rotating assembly of perma-blitzed Creation staff and industry hangers-on (we can only hope that there is a special place in hell reserved for PRs). The LOLs come thick and fast - all Cav has to do is record, with his well-honed deadpan detachment, who did and said what. The book forms a perfect diptych with John Harris’s Britpop post-mortemThe Last Party, a similarly clear-eyed, underrated epic of pop/social history which carefully unpicks the tangle of egos and vested media and institutional interests that led to that dubious cultural “moment” in the mid-90s (I speak of COOL BRITANNIA), and how basically the whole thing was brought crashing back down to earth when all the principals discovered a taste for smoking heroin.
Both books also evoke something I only experienced the fag-end of (if that) - a time when Soho and the West End still had a few dark places and dirty secrets remaining, and when Chalk Farm, Primrose Hill, Camden and Kentish Town were THE places to see and be seen. Surely now the biggest LOL of all.
You can listen back to last week's (June 17th) NTS show, hosted by Sanjay, here. Featuring, among others, Brunnen, Kallista Kult, The Spies, Frank Hurricane, RAP, Wir, Triple Negative and Matthew Sullivan.
Here's a mix of sorts I did on Monday to give me something to listen to this week while running errands in town, riding the train and tube to work, pushing a pram around, and trying not to spill boiling hot yuppie coffee on my infant child's face. ROK Y ROLL!
Like that overpriced, potentially baby-maiming black filter, it's been percolating a while. But in the end it was thrown together more or less spontaneously, and not particularly laboured over (as fans of EQing and properly smooth transitions will notice). A few old favourites, some recent discoveries, some brand new and forthcoming/unreleased bits for a bit of flash. Distinct spring/early-summer vibes throughout, I think...songs, guitars, voices, longing, invocation of teenage spirits (paed-ooooo!). It's also worth noting that, after 15-odd years living in big, bad capital cities, I now reside in a small seaside town that I can basically walk from one end of the other to in 90 minutes. I still come into Babylon to shovel shit at the shop and see people two or three times a week, but my centre of gravity has unavoidably shifted and I suppose too has my sensibility. This, then, is the sound of the provinces...Approach with due caution!
I was going to post the full tracklist, but Kenny reckons I should withhold it like a c**t, not sure why, he's just mean like that. By way of compromise, here's a list of who's on it: Anti-Clockwise, Thuja, Dean Roberts, Mekanik Kommando, Scythe, Edward Ka-Spel, Adopo, Brunnen, Keijo, Entlang, Letha Rodman Melchior, LST, Static Cleaner Lost Reward, Itchy Bugger, Stephen, Band of Susans and The Clean. Enjoy!
Feels like a lifetime ago, already, but on Monday we undertook a serious (I had on a tracksuit, bub) SPRING CLEAN of the shop: reordering the shop floor, renaming and/or adding helpful subdivisions to our previously unwieldy sections, yes, reintroducing used records to our offering, sure, but for the most part just throwing out vast, vast quantities of SHITE. Amazing what tat you can accumulate, almost entirely passively, in just two years. I wasn't surprised by all the ancient tupperware or the boxes full of unsolicited - and uniformly baaaad - demos/self-released tapes, but I can't say I expected to find a copy of Bear Grylls' Extreme Survivors ("a great read and not just a book for blokes", say Bookseller NZ, although Amazon reviewer SarahPoet warns: "I had thought this book would make an interesting read for my 10-yr-old son...I didn't expect the stories to be unfailingly happy, but nor had I realised that they would include accounts of girls abducted and kept in cellars as sex slaves.")
Brutal week, taking in electrocardiograms, leaky roofs, mangled salads, bus replacements, and - worst of all, and for no good reason - watching the Death Wish remake on Netflix with Bruce Willis (what's happened to his face?)
TIME FOR PUB
Some great stuff through our doors though... see below.
Mysterious, ectoplasmic, heavier-than-a-death-in-the-family tone-poems/prophecies by Swedish composer and painter Rune Lindblad (b.1923), recorded in the mid-late 1950s but sounding thrillingly and implausibly now-ish – in all seriousness you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if someone told you they were products of the early noughts UK DIY/drone underground. Dub-pocked, darkly lyrical dramas of assembled sound, studded with hypnotic free percussions that suggest some awareness of Southeast Asian indigenous musics (maybe?!) while also anticipating the sparse, dronal acid-folk investigations of Thuja and their ilk. It wouldn’t be quite right to describe this music as psychedelic, but it has an inky, abyssal, smacked-out allure that is irresistible (although you can be certain Rune was on nowt stronger than black kaffee and unfiltered ciggies). Crucially, it affords you the necessary space to think and drift and dream and contemplate and, when you’ve weighed it all up, crumple into a ball of inconsolable sadness. To carry out his work, Lindblad had to borrow equipment from Gothenburg University in the evening, and return it by sunrise – and sure enough the results exude a dissociative, sleep-deprived blooz that you just can't fake. The unspeakably mournful, glacially-paced lunar jazz of the title work is formidable, but it’s on the subsequent more rhythmic and spatial tape-pieces that things get really interesting, with whispers and intimations of, among other things, Bob Downes’ Open Music, Graham Lambkin’s nocturnal salmon-runs, the fin-de-siecle miasmas of Timo van Luijk and Christoph Heemann, and even – at a stretch - Nate Young’s Regression / Stare Case flesh-crawls. Working outside of any institution or established discipline, Lindblad’s early experiments in sound were largely unseen and unheard, although one critic who witnessed a rare 1957 performance at Gothenburg’s Folkets Hus described what he heard as “pure torture”. He couldn’t have been more right, and more wrong.
Eyyyyy-oooh! Feels like someone just installed an open, roaring fire in the shop, slid us all a dram then sconed us over the back o’ the heid with a pool cue - Nyah Fearties! shattering the sometimes lacklustre, modern idealist setting that is Hackney Downs Studios with their primitive-punk / sporron-step and gale-force, folk-wise stompers. The Wiseman brothers’ maverick spirit, finally dug-up from the 80s Scottish underground by Good Energy, rattles through a range of lyrical, HYSTERICAL hyper-violence and social commentaries on day-to-day life in Scotland from Goatfell tae Govan - the chicken shack recorded Ganjo, bass, scrap metal and scaffold-whacking sounding a bit like a young Hasil Atkins rehearsed with Afflicted Man for twenty minutes before commanding the dance at the most raucous ceilidh in history - up to their ankles in cow-pat and blasting out a deranged, pub-wise cover of the Gay Gordons before derailing into a ferocious, avant-garde punk pile-up.
Aye, GOOD FUN, if you have any idea what the fuck we are on about. Sanjay reckons it sounds more like a soundtrack to a Scottish version of Deliverance (Sanjay where’s yer troosers?!) so ye, initially difficult to imagine this jigging-juggernaut having much appeal outside of the feral, Scottish boozer circuit, BUT there’s an earthy, kitchen-sink realism hard set in “A Tasty Heidfu’” - the kind of thing you can imagine Mark E. Smith raving about if he’d ever found time or desire to compile a NWW-style list (aye right!). Great record - cult classic!
Hardcore tekno impalers / mutant waveform transmissions brought back from the grave (1993!) with more bite than ever - the inimitable, ruffneck pressure-sounds of The Mover. Ten swarms of bionic club BONKERS...true kosmic kommando musik.
Unknown Artist Music of Indonesia Folkways | LP | £21.99
STUNNING set of 1950s recordings from Indonesia, originally released on Moses Asch’s Folkways Records - a brief but insightful window into the region’s somewhat 13,000 islands and their traditional musics, as well as touching on the many foreign influences that the islands have encountered / endured.
Such is the gravity of the task set, there is so much variance in these recordings - although prominence is given to the spatial, rhythmic shadow-plays of Javanese and Balinese Gamelan, which operate on regional tone scales - such as the “Salendro” from Surakarta and the “Pelok” from Jogjakarta, which is played with seven tones to the octave (a good time to mention / confess that this edition comes with some VERY informative liner notes). These elemental teachings sit alongside sorrowful songs of a loved ones absence, joyous ceremonies of ancestral worship and throughly transportive dream-directions, delicately and intricately played on a host of bronze and bamboo forged instruments and primed to thoroughly spanner yer emotional mechanics.
Brittle, beautiful, bonce-rearranging alien jazz geometries… poised yet playful and liable to completely dish your understanding of linear time…like a 3D chess match with some future-folkloric trickster/daemon you’ve bugger-all chance of beating (literally none) yet feel compelled in your earthly arrogance to take on again and again and again. Yeah this is the real stuff. Born 1948, Ruedi Häusermann calls the medieval Swiss town of Lenzburg home. His primary allegiance throughout his prolific and distinguished career has been to absurdist music-theatre – presumably this is how you pass the time in the medieval Swiss town of Lenzburg - and an impish, volkish, very Germanic sense of humour comes across even in these formal, ultra-symmetrical instrumental pieces. But he’s not just pissing about – or if he is, the effect is serious, and substantial, and lasting. Galerie Randolph, originally released on Unit CD in '95 and named after Häusermann’s rehearsal room, is a masterpiece of latterday minimal music. Each piece begins with the same two elements: a scatter of bass-like tones played on a home-built instrument Häusermann made by stretching two guitar strings between the top of his alto sax and an amplified cup; and a series of block chords played on accordion and reeds. This base motif recurs throughout, but on each track different elements are layered on top of it: fractious free sax, modal-melancholic flute and clarinet parts, one-fingered piano melodies, distorted vocals, metal percussion, bells...and a whole array of scrapes and drones and unidentified electroacoustic phenomena. All, it should be noted, played by Häusermann himself, and deftly multitracked. The cumulative intensity of these sequences is incredible. Traditional notions of beginning, middle and end no longer hold water. For the first time in god knows how long you feel LOST. You're up scheiss creek with only an amplified cup for a paddle, and it's exhilarating. Give it the attention it deserves and trust us, Galerie Randolph's strange patternings of repetition, addition and subtraction willalter your spatial relationship to music FOREVER. Fark. Highest possible recommendation.