No chariots of fire this year! 2019, not without its considerable share of trauma and developments, has above all been a BLUR - our shop's existence marked only by the streams of piss still tiding outside New River Studios and THIS, our selection of 2019's yield, the dogs of distinction (in no particular order).
About to embark on our Christmas staff “night out” / Guinness olympics but a quick, sizeable thank you to any and all who have successfully navigated our haphazard website, visited the real life pig sty, came down to our aforementioned second birthday, or indeed had anything to do with any of the music that is very much KEEPING HOPE ALIVE.
Managed to snag the last copies of many of the below nuggets, but where we haven’t been able to do so, bandcamp will most likely have you covered. Orders placed with us after Dec 19th will ship on Jan 3rd, with £1 from every order being donated to the 999 Club in Deptford.
See yez in a couple weeks for a whole new decade of this shite.
MONOKULTUR, SKIFTANDE ENHETER
2019 was a good year for making music but I couldn't afford to buy a lot of records really. I spent a lot of time streaming rock classics like green onions by booker t and the mgs and mr watermelon man by herbie hancock while practicing blues scales, that was until I got an inflammation in my left hand after having shredded too hard (Watching metal tutorials on youtube can be dangerous). After that I bought an analouge synth and while learing how it works I realised that synth nerds are exactly the same as guitar nerds, the only difference is that the synth nerds are slightly more focused on owning things (almost like record collectors!). I learnt some midi and programming a sequencer and now the ambition is to be funky like kraftwerk with the realism of neutral (neutral is a permanent part of my musical DNA, present in everything I do). I loved the J mc farelanes reality guest LP, Ta da! And also the new mosquitoes MLP +7". Both bands has this parallell universe kind of logic going on, experimental in the best way. Best shows were spectrum, jon collin and mope grooves/LOX. 2019 will hopefully see the launch of mine and Elin's record label "mammas mysteriska jukebox", first release will be a solo 7" by Elin which will make you shit your pants.
The thing that sticks out is le guess who. And the thing that sticks out from le guess is the performance by angel the oracle and the bruthahood: a powerful and confrontational ritual seance. Blew me away and lingered in my dreams. Plus seeing ayalew mesfin: the warmest sweetest soul laid bare in his soft voice. Full of kind open hearted power.
the apex of my 50th year on this beautiful, wretched planet was a biryani cooked by sanjay followed by carla's home made brownie. observing kenny & kiran hanging a picture on the shop wall ranks as a close second. recently i've been re-reading 'in patagonia' which was prompted by hearing mark harwood's tales from santiago and many hours watching the 'crime pays but botany doesn't' youtube channel.
audio highlights included :: little skull - a light in the window will guide us safely home // triple negative - precious waste in our wake // malvern brume - exhaust trails // agathe max & natalia beylis - the garden of paradise // those rose hobart lp's // mark vernon - an annotated phonography of chance // that gewissen tape // michèle bokanowski - la plage // va - tape photo (truc) // monokultur lp // rip hayman - dreams of india and china // pancrace - the fluid hammer // lumine - quiet ends // small cruel party - cervorum simulacra // va - no order in destiny
I couldn’t afford to buy much this year, but these were new (to me) and good -
Tori Kudo and Koyo Makino - Ein Tram fur dich- black truffle lp
Mu - Mu lp (Merrell Fankhauser Band)
Jd blackfoot - epitaph for a head 45
The John Hamilton Band - plays the best of T. rex lp
Sandy Nassan - Just guitar lp - embryo
Six foot under compilation lp - Mississippi records
Miaux- black space, white cloud lp - ultra eczema
Scott Savage’s Memento Mori - Savage Grace/Gypsy Moth 45
BISON RECORDS, CAFE OTO
bison doubled its output to do 2 releases this year - eternal thanks for your support and strong adjectives all at Low Company. Glaswegians continue to nourish my existence - was predictably emotional at Still House Plants' OTO residency, lost it seeing Sarah Kenchington doing a very special brand of Wheel of Fortune for ten year olds at Supernormal, could have done loads more Letitia Pleiades' DJ sets. Ah there were loads of good bits- Áine O'Dwyer leading our choir piece sung with three Deliveroo scooters at the doors of OTO, the Dan, Rakel & Klara Froberg Experience at Colour Out of Space, loved pretty much everything PRR! PRR! & Juliana Huxtable put on Soundcloud this year and was relieved to dance to them irl, xcrsrx at Body/Head, Triple Negative everytime - butttt probably the most special was Humming Dogs at Counterflows - I knew the record was good but live it was so full of love and joy on stage that it was impossible not to feel generous and rich afterwards. They'll be coming back to the UK in spring 2020 thank goodness.
Listened to the The Reds, Pinks & Purples - Anxiety Art LP about 1000 times and finally said no to public school teaching after 5+ years in the suburbs of Gothenburg. Much of 2019 has been about 2020. And thanks for the Entlang LP.
In some rare moments of feeling blissed out during the summer the reissue of Coil's 'The Gay Man’s Guide To Safer Sex’ got a lot of play.
Maria Somerville's LP slowly worked its way under my skin, with hooks appearing which I didn't hear on the first few listens.
Sunun’s EP on Cold Light music was also one that turned my ear; dub and ambient with teeth.
Dubkasm 'shady grove' slipped out without too much fanfare but might just be their best work. A reverential yet distinctive take on various dub tropes.
There were plenty of dance 12"s I liked as usual, but not any in particular to pick out here. Suffice to say I have enjoyed the fertile middle ground between tech house, garage, electro and minimal.
Honourable mention here for Jolly Discs all of which have been staples on the stereo here at Idle Hands.
ACC RECORDS / A COLDER CONSCIOUSNESS
Back of a Receipt 2019:
Xyn Cabal, Restive Plaggona and the other Greek post-digital goths
DsorDNE and AJ Pain sorry if I say so myself
Disco Polo as WW2 "sidewalk music"
the bomb that is Franziska Lantz
the tape Bon Voyage: A Workout for the Film Solem Entryd
the lyric “a year of dead birds/a year also for us/change, if you don’t like it"
newfound love for PPK’s Resurrection
unexpected revisited love for the output of Prikosnovénie
reissue of Kriza/Vision is Lost by Vermillion Deviate with archival videos of blue latex and people burning things
Civilstjävel! vs. Headspace: 3-nil (in civilisations without boats dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police the place of pirates)
JOHN T. GAST
Things I enjoyed and used in 2019
THE SOUTH YORKSHIRE MICK HUCKNALL
2019 was a disappointing year for steak Canadians as not one was digested! Not one!
However hosting the Low Company quiz was a pleasant experience even if the winners turned out to be cheaters! Next year there will be tighter security and harsher repercussions!
Roll on 2020 and let the games ensue!_____________________________________________________________________
SPEEDBOOTH, JAM MONEY
Think I'm going to go for live musical highlights:
Pumice in Bristol, The Coolies in London, and the Alien Disko 4 street parade in Munich, featuring members of Hochzeitskapelle, Zayaendo, The Notwist, Tenniscoats, the Gutfeeling label and loads of school-kids and families, which felt like a lovely resilient end-of-year contrast to all the depressing crap.
Art favourite was Jockum Nordström's show at David Zwirner.
And my podcast addiction escalated with Weird Studies, Been All Around This World and Dynamite Hemorrhage.
MICHAEL SPEERS' DAD
Low Company's 2019 label output reviewed:
Could have been recorded in the late 70s early 80s at the Hacienda club Manchester - Factory records I think.
Bit of Joy Division vocals going on with less depressing music than Joy Division, perhaps even a little Walker Bros echo at times.
I liked the Christmas bells in Susanne, just right for the season.
Shades of black had shades of the 60s/70s, this theme continuing with the Shadows making an appearance in Vicious, when performing live does he have a dance routine?
Track 7 starts off as if its going to be You’ll Never Walk Alone, but it isn’t.
All in all for someone from back in the day it is very listenable, as it sounds like it is from back in the day.
Its unusual for me to hear German spoken and to find it calming and relaxing, so a good start.
The start is maintained by introducing some Irish/German gypsies to brighten the atmosphere.
After a good start my attention started to wander, track 7 sounded as if it was going to be onward Christian soldiers, but failed to continue in the rousing manner.
This one would have been better as an EP or perhaps 2 EPs
Disappointing as it had a good start.
You saved the best til last.
In my day this would have been very acceptable indie music with some OMD thrown in.
It is almost like a compilation of 80s music from a number of different bands.
Nice Pink Floyd voice over on track 4, followed by a little sea sick steve guitar thrown in for good measure.
Bong On introduces some OMD with a hint of Tears for Fears, culminating with a little of the Cure.
None of the above is negative criticism as this was by far the best of the 3 and would not be left on the shelf if I was the owner of a copy.
Slight negative, I almost noticed a snippet of Morrissey, but it was hopefully only in my imagination.
ELAINE & JACK
TIME IS AWAY
Ten good books read in 2019:
Sleepless nights - Elizabeth Hardwick
Murmur - Will Eaves
Mercury Falling - Robert Edric
Drive your Plough over the Bones of the Dead - Olga Tokarczuk
Red Tenda of Bologna - John Berger
Exterminate all the Brutes - Sven Lindqvist
The Mushroom at the End of the World - Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism - Cathy Gere
Negroland, a Memoir - Margo Jefferson
Max Havelaar - Multatuli
Green Len Tiles
suburban cracked collective
Rohan Rebeiro & Marria Moles solo sets on Wednesday
THUJA, THE IVYTREE ++
Five musical things I enjoyed this year:
Richard Youngs & Raul Refree - All Hands Around the Moment (Soft Abuse)
R Youngs has a ton of music available. Tucked in the with the dreamy ones (Sapphie, Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, Airs of the Ear spring to mind) are the screechy noise ones, which have their charms, but this new work, a collaboration with producer Raul Refree falls into the former category. This is an accomplished and affecting folk album with avant jazzy arrangements, think the best tracks from Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad/Blue Afternoon/Lorca period or Astral Weeks. It’s that good.
April Magazine - live shows
Despite all the obituaries declaring San Francisco dead from tech infestation, this is possibly my favorite era for bands since I have lived here. Locals Blades of Joy made one of my favorite albums of the decade last year, and I’m hoping April Magazine will do the same at some point. They might just be a live things though, you have to get down in the basement with them. Taking elements from Galaxie 500, the Pastels and Spacemen 3 but sounding like their own messy improv-y dream machine, they are not afraid to meander and fail which is why every show is different and brilliant.
Francis Plagne - Rural Objects (Hobbie Galore)
Leighton Craig from Primitive Motion pointed me in the direction of Mr Plagne’s work this year. Plagne has imagineered himself into the world of ReR Records, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Gareth Williams, WOO and the Canterbury sound via his home cassette machine. This is a place I very much enjoy. I felt the urge to collect all his stuff after surfing his bandcamps, but the insane shipping costs from Australia killed that dream.
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou - Anou Malane (Sahel Sounds)
You can’t go wrong with Sahel Sounds, but you only need to hear 10 seconds of this reissue to know you need it. Originally released on cassette in 1994, these Tuareg Guitar plus drum machine songs are catchy and blissed out in equal measure. I hit BUY VINYL in record time. Listen to it, I don’t need to ramble on.
The Chills - live in San Francisco
A glorious show…I’ve been waiting for years to see one of my favorite songwriters, Martin Phillips, and he did not disappoint. He makes other guitar bands seems unambitious and lifeless. The music is both epic and intimate. After seeing some of the newer tracks live I was led to his 2015 work Silver Bullets, which I can honestly say ranks with any of his classics. Check out “Warm Waveform” or “Underwater Wasteland”, breathtaking! Viva the Chills.
Highlights of the year:
Devils Dance launch party
All Night Flight
Chanting down Wiltshire
WHOA! 2019 the year of change for this kid.
buying records that you then put into storage
buying more that you've got no way to play
living precariously and forgetting comforts
touring with stefan
long distance relationships that fizz on arrival
solitude on the south coast
new friends/ reconnecting with old friends
getting sunburnt in scotland.
A COLOURFUL STORM
Songs that got stuck in my head in 2019:
1. Interbellum - Brechtje // Tien December Negentientachtig
2. Kallista Kult - The Earth Did a Line
3. Fabulous Diamonds - Flowers and Fade
4. Benjamin Lew - Profondeurs Des Eaux Des Laques
5. Ethik - Monologue 1
6. Ilona Chale - Rester Dans Le Silence
7. Maus & Stolle - Adore
BITTER LAKE, MATERIAL WORLD
Five Thousand featuring Blue Minute - Mondadh No More / Grace (In Times of Darkness) 12"
-I was not particularly taken by many new releases this year, but I chalk that up to less the quality of new music and more my own personal shortcomings. Still, I am grateful to have found this one. While Five Thousand's demo is well-executed UK hardcore and Amebix worship, this 12" single reimagines the possibilities of how the KLF/Extreme Noise Terror collaboration could have been and it's glorious!
Nightingale by Jennifer Kent
-Two thousand and nineteen was an excellent year for film with a number of worhy candidates for inclusion on this list (Parasite, Uncut Gems, Jumanji: The Next Level, etc.), but I would be remiss if I did not name the one that left me with the most lasting impression: Nightingale, a tale of revenge set within the horrors of the colonization of Tasmania. Weeks after seeing this film, its ushakeable imagery has continued to haunt me. Appropriate, then, that I include this film on my EOY list, as when I think of Low Company, I too think of the brutal legacy of British colonialism.
MNK Project - 妄想族 7”
-I've spent a pathetic amount of my adult life delving into some of the deepest, darkest recesses of Japanese punk and hardcore, so when, in this age of incessant connectivity, I am introduced to something that's completely off-the-grid and unknown, my heart flutters with jubilation. Formed from the ashes of Gaddess (from ADK Omnibus, Vol. 1), MNK Project released, from reasons unknown, this 7" in 1986 in a run of only 100 copies...and I managed to procure a copy. Undoubtedly, a highlight of my 2019.
-This was a big year for Knafeh, the warm, syrupy, cheesy Arab deliacy and greatest dessert known to humankind. I decided to branch out from the Syrian-run Al-Sham Sweets & Pastries in the Little Egypt section of Astoria, Queens and venture into the deep south of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to discover my new favorite bakery: Nablus Sweets...which is, inversely, run by Egyptians (shout out to Khadigah!) in this primarily Levantine neighborhood. Despite most Egyptians' inability to make proper Knafeh Na3ma or Nablusiyeh, this is the best I've had in all of the West. Mashallah!
I had a pretty mellow year—generally uneventful or a bit of a bummer. Went pretty fast though! Mostly listened to Steely Dan, hung out in Leipzig a lot, lost hundreds of hours of my life to a certain tactical role-playing game that will remain unnamed.. anyways, some notable high points:
Best karaoke sesh - March 30th after the Schofield/Eilbacher gig at West Germany (honorable mention- Cashmere Radio christmas karaoke special)
Most psychedelic experience- NNOI #4
Best value schnitzel - still Loui’s
And finally, most promising new instagram: @markandmoopie
Here's ten releases you won't find on any Tory bandcamp collection, pizza express playlist or Weiner laptop seige. Instead, a list of primitive, balls-to-the-wall freak music that we've picked up over the last year, crammed into radio shows, come out on mates labels or influenced us in some way. From Kriegshög's rabid motor punk, G.U.N's first demo, Sepsis' rotten crust metal, Deafkid's tribal brain drill to Doomshop's 50 track comp that made a mockery of us all. Heavy hitters and movers from the contemporary underground - all hail!
V/A Doomshop Records - Volume 3
Deafkids - Metaprogramação
High Command - Beyond the Wall of Desolation
Kriegshög - Paint it Black/ White Out
Sepsis - To Make Rotten
V/A - Brutal Africa - The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana
G.U.N - Demo 2019
Hyper Culte - Massif Occidental
Sansibar - Targeted Individuals
Michael O' Neil - The Binary Order
Medium veg curry
Waffle The Wonder Dog
Prince Andrew interview
Heavy Metal, ‘Savagely Beaten By Funk’
Top 5 Low Company Ailments 2019 & Their Remedies
5. Hacking coughs all round
Long-term control medications include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, long-acting beta agonists, combination inhalers, omalizumab (Xolair). Quick-relief or rescue medications include short-acting bronchodilators and oral corticosteroids.
4. Leaking again
- Bladder training
- Electrical stimulation
- Kegel exercises
3. Flash-bout of mystery illness (feeling much better now but for some reason can't stop hiccupping.)
Long-term hiccups[synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or singultus] that last for hours can be due to some nerve damage or irritation, respiratory conditions, central nervous system disorders due to a tumour or infection, gastrointestinal conditions, metabolic disorders or certain medications.
Remedy: peanut butter.
The sticky, gooey consistency of peanut butter interrupts the breathing pattern when you try to swallow it and this helps stop continuous hiccups.
- Put 1 teaspoon of peanut butter in your mouth.
- Hold it for a few seconds, then swallow it without chewing.
- If required, drink a glass of water.
If peanut butter is not available, you can use almond butter.
2. Fighting the urge to enter the reflective dwam
This one may come as less of a surprise. Chamomile has long been called a strong relaxant for its sedative properties. Minus these effects, chamomile (just like the first two items in this list) works to reduce the cravings of people recovering from reflection addiction. It helps relax some of the restless symptoms associated with withdrawal.
Tip: Use the dried leaves to make a warm tea that fights to keep your levels in check.
1. Incapable of summoning the necessary jollity
Candles are just about as necessary in the summoning process as the incense. The right candles need to coordinate in colour to the jollity you wish to summon. As an example, summoning jollity for the upcoming weekend date or to make you funnier the colours to choose would be orange, yellow, white or gold. These hues coordinate with the Sun which is the ruler of charisma and magic. In case you do not find appropriate colours, a safe bet would be black, red or dark blue.
A HAPPY RETURN, JAM MONEY ++
So many things - moving house, setting up a home, finding a new rhythm in our lives, pausing, learning every day to be a mother, finding space to create, making a studio at home happen for both of us, my painting being used for the last ever Blackest Ever Black Lp, travelling to Munich to create live visuals for Jam Money, being thankful x
ROSE HOBART, TRISTES TROPIQUES
The three albums that got me through 2019: Solange When I Get Home, Sean O'Hagan Radum Calls Radum Calls, Aldous Harding Designer. Best reissue gubbins: 39 Clocks Next Dimension Transfer, Enrico Piva Anticlima, World Standard Discover America Box. Down with: wretched self-promoters, rich-kid curators as cultural gatekeepers, smug self-regarding music crit.
JOLLY DISCS, ENCHANTE
These are just things that jump out of my memory in no particular order
Conrad Pack - The Truth / The Best EP
Feels focused and Rooted. Big fan of Conrad and Gonz’s project Superfluid and their Resonance FM show. His set at Loose Trax was one of the most unexpected and maddest I saw all year. Looking forward to hearing what’s coming next.
Junior Loves - Banner / Nore
Whole record is sick. Nore East Coast version hooked me in first but Banner has just as deep if subtler powers. Also enjoyed listening back to his Tabernacle release.
Genghis Cohn - Dybbuk
One of the most original records of the year. His sound palette seems to be conjoured out of nowhere and sounds like no one, but somehow still makes perfect sense.
Lolina’s show at New River Studios for the Low Company night was probably the most inspiring live set I saw all year. Bumpy but groovy and magnetic.
Other memorable moments - Rausch Turning restrained slow burning set bringing everyone up at the Jolly Discs party. CP Nailor playing under the flyover in Canning Town. Being mistaken for Morrissey by Wiley at Music House
* Five preventable floods all of which occurred when I was working solo shifts.
* People coming to buy/collect/chat between 4 and 4.20pm, when we’re feverishly prepping post.
* Hand-stamping and general record sleeve assembly, burning through pritt sticks and inserting hand-cut Bortom E4's Horrisont download codes in Itchy Bugger sleeves and vice versa.
* Combining six different Bandcamp accounts into our mailroom operation (just when I thought the end of Blackest had rid us of the most sluggish, unintuitive mail-order fulfilment service on the planet).
* Half full cans and ribena juice boxes in the garbage bin.
* Low Company second birthday at New River Studios
* Kiran’s ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ advice.
* Paco’s selfless curry runs to Kebabish on Ridley Road for Low Company staff lunches.
* Carla self-releasing and touring an untouchable second album
* The Army & Navy public house
SCYTHE, RAT COLUMNS
2019 was an odd duck, spent mostly in the sleepy hamlet of Perth. Dreamy beach and surf trips in the metroplex and the south-west of Western Australia keep one spiritually afloat. Musically, i enjoyed various works by Hildegarde Von Bingen, Luc Ferrari’s ‘Petite symphonie intuitive pour un paysage de printemps’, Brannten Schnüre’s ‘Erinnerungen an Gesichter’, Richard Chartier’s ‘A Field For Mixing’, Acetone’s ‘1992-2001’ retrospective, Bobbi Humphreys’ ‘Blacks And Blues’ and a compilation of early 80s femme-led postpunk/diy pop called ‘Sharon Signs To Cherry Red’. Live, a couple of quiet folk performances by Jane Harris and Only Leonie were delightful, as were fantastic performances by a new Perth punk combo called Gaffer, a new Sydney slow-core combo called Dust, and a rendering of Messiaen’s ‘Quartet For The End Of Time’ at a posh boy’s high school auditorium. DJ Yoshinori Hayashi in an old sailor’s club and DJ Hysteric in the open air were dj dance party joys. I loved the 1980 avant-public tv experience “Personal Problems” by Bill Gunn and a bunch of early Almodovar films, especially the super hot “Law Of Desire”. Lit-wise, ‘Swann’s Way’ and ‘The Magic Mountain’...who doesn’t need sleep? 2020 is sure to be a wild ride. Best wishes and New Year’s blessings to the fiends and freaks of the underground music vortex.
Pauline Oliveros began her practice of 'listening as a form of activism' in the late 1960s, when confronted with political despair. In response to bewildering events such as Robert Kennedy's assassination and a UCSD student burning themselves alive in protest to the war in Vietnam, the composer retreated into herself and began singing and playing long, continuous drones. Later re-emerging, she went on to write experimental scores or 'recipes' in self-care and therapy called Sonic Meditations... “Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.”
At the turn of the millennium, Oliveros contributed to Prayers For A Thousand Years, a collection of messages of hope written by leaders and visionaries around the world. She appealed for “an atmosphere of opening for all to be heard, with the understanding that listening is healing.”
This year, performances by Joe McPhee & Decoy and This Heat raised roofs up to the exosphere; new music by Moor Mother, Miaux, Slikback, Triple Negative, Angel Bat Dawid, Mosquitoes, Kali Malone, Damon Locks and Nkisi provoked reflection and fuelled imagination; a compilation from Smithsonian Folkways provided a reassertion of The Social Power Of Music; Topic Records - the oldest independent record label in the world - celebrated its 80th anniversary. The best things I heard in 2019 were Mike Parker's three hour set at Parallel Festival and the unearthed recording of Alice Coltrane Sextet Live At The Berkeley Community Theater 1972. I will be entering the Year Of The Rat like one massive intensely focussed fuck off earhole!!!!!!
For me, the most revelatory moment of 2019 was after a recent trip to Munich. I received an alert on my phone that a new video was ready for my attention.
Now thanks to Google Photo, whenever I feel like it I can press play and listen to a soundtrack of copyright free, emotionally-neutral, incidental Americana while I relive the precious moment I stepped through the entrance tower of Dachau concentration camp. Once again I can stroll along the barbed wire perimeter fence and marvel at the guard towers. I can take another look at the isolation cells of the internees. I can revisit the crematorium. And I can once again reflect on the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” cast into the heavy iron gates as I exit the site.
Thank you Google for tastefully arranging and repackaging my special moments. I can only hope that as we go into the new year that algorithms will continue to make decisions on my behalf and help me get the most from the content in my life.
The petrol station (in general) (especially in the summer).
Die göttliche Komödie, Dante Pasolini.
People around „The -ism in Tourism Pt2“ (Vagator), „Tribos“ (Sydney), „Ramon Pihla“ (Paris)
Hanging out with Josh.
A weekend in Tokyo.
Writing for Rokko & Jonny. Elliot Waugh.
Mikey Young LP.
Orion’s final show, The Baby & Low Life live.
Crashing on a boat in Venice & taking ‚Smarties‘ in the wiener wine-hills.
Gajek, Tyfus, Scans.
Inevitable “ten films of the year” list, I am not doing the whole damn decade…
La Flor (Mariano Llinas)...Ten years in the making, six episodes, 7 (I think) languages, 12 hours...the full blooming of La Flor is quite an experience, and more than justifies the hype that has built up around this (in certain circles, at least). Not for everyone, but if you like going to the unexpected places only cinema can take you, it’s not to be missed. I think in a few years’ time the late 2010s may even be seen as a golden era for innovative cinema, and that La Flor, Madelines Madeline and a few others will be held up as shining examples. And of course Los Chicas are great!
Knife + Heart (Yann Gonzales)...Goes beyond a mere giallo pastiche and seems to enter into the spirit of the original beast (the decor and even the disco-electro soundtrack is VERY late 70s, despite being a modern concoction), and by virtue of it being set amidst the late 70s Parisian Queer scene. Things get pretty unpredictable and strange, transforming into a scarce-these-days invocation of the spirit of the great Raul Ruiz, even, with its deft navigation of interlocking story fragments. The tone shifts effortlessly from campy fun to terror to dreamlike to poignant, so something here for everyone. Except maybe the easily offended and/or homophobic (who should be forced to watch it). The emotional kick of this one is intense and exquisite and I ended up watching this three times in 2019.
Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello)... "Is my zombie movie cultural appropriation”? Two intertwined stories. The first happens in 1960s Haiti and is supposedly based upon a true (though dipsuted) case - a man is poisoned with puffa fish scrapings and buried alive, only to be "exhumed" and, in a zombified state, put to work on a sugar plantation from which he escapes. We follow his nocturnal wanderings in beautiful day-for-night, largely dialogue-free scenes. The second story is set in the present day at an exclusive girls school for the daughters of French Legion Of Honour recipients (such places, founded by Napoleon himself, really exist). The only Haitian pupil has, shall we say, a family background in voodoo and zombi-lore. The other, privileged and white, teenagers, who of course are besotted with hip-hop and horror movies and books, don't quite know what to make of her - is she weird or cool? But then again, weird is cool. As ever, Bonello captures the teenage millieu perfectly (as far as I know, been a long time since I was a teenager...) and with a lot of humour. It'd be the easiest thing in the world for the film to lash out at posh, spoiled teenage girls and their privilege and sense of entitlement, but, as ever with Bonello, the historical, political and social context of who-and-what-we-are is everything, and that is what is examined here. Probably Bonello's most accessible and easily enjoyable film and a good access point to his work in general.
Nervous Translation(Shireen Seno)... Pretty much unique and pretty much a masterpiece. The Philippines circa the Marcos ousting as seen by an introverted 8 year old. As miniaturised (but perfectly to scale) as the functional toy cooker she uses. We never depart from a child's eye-view of things so the big historical picture is but a blip on a TV screen (Imelda's famous shoe collection does appear); a gaudy ad for a Japanese pen triggers so much more in a child's imagination. Until the real world seeps in at the end. So much that would be central in a more conventional drama (the barely hinted-at family scandal) is but a judder here. The reveries and jump cuts really evoke childhood's elastic concept of time. And what an amazing performance from the child star. A shock to the system and a beauty. More please.
Our Time (Carlos Reygadas)...The most intense scab-picking extended love triangle saga since La Maman Et La Putain only with gory bull versus mule fights, widescreen topography, timpani solos, corpsepaint, western drag and a very beautiful plane landing sequence. A headlong, expect-the-unexpected trip through rooms, landscapes and wrenched emotions.
Sophia Antipolis (Virgil Vernier)...Loose and unpredictable psychogeography of the titular region, a vast business park on the French Riviera modelled on Silicon Valley. We will never have a replacement for late legend Agnes Varda but Vertier mines one of her chief themes - the complex interconnection and push and pull between people, settings and the stories that intersect there, capturing several residents of Sophia Antipolis at times of personal transformation of one kind or another.
The Mountain (Rick Alverson)...Jeff Goldblum heralds the last days of the Great American Lobotomy. I quite liked the previous two by this director, but didn't care for their one-note "message" (comedians are sometimes sad people! rich ironic hipsters are arseholes!). In fact I dreaded similar fare here (lobotomies are barbaric! the pre-Elvis/Kerouac 50s were conformist!) but thankfully he's taken things up a notch here, especially when Denis Lavant, seemingly straight off the Holy Motors limo, a new age/spiritualist cult leader (a foretelling of the next decade's charlatanism and folly?), enters the picture and EVERYTHING explodes. All of the little stray ends which orbit the central narrative in the first half (the image of the androgyne or hermaphrodite, the questionable relation between representation and what is allegedly "real") come into play.
Jessica Forever (Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel)... Debut feature from the remaining third (or half?) of the "Ultra Rêve" group of new French filmmakers. Poggi and Vinel are younger than their colleagues and "Jessica Forever" is tres moderne with its video game/cheap CGI look and doom metal soundtrack. What it shares with Gonzales and Mandico's films is a decadently romantic and melancholic, highly personal hallucination of pulp media. Film fantastique and 70s porno/exploitation in their case, XBox and dark, allegorical childrens stories in this. In addition to "Beau Travail", "Peter Pan" casts a long shadow here: the titular Jessica is the mother figure/leader of a tribe of orphan boys. She subdues their violent tendencies and protects them from unexplained enemy forces which frequently swoop in the form of a squadron of insect-like CGI drones. The boys behaviour oscillates between gun toting machismo and quiet domesticity (they even play with kittens). There is no real "plot" to speak of and the whole thing plays out in some alternate dream-realm which is deliberately kept vague. Like Lucile Hadzihalilovic's films, this is largely a poetic evocation of adolescence and the end of childhood which, disguised in sci-fi/horror clothes, manages to walk right past all of the clichéd tropes on the "coming of age" counter.
Sedução da Carne (Julio Bressane)... Nobody on the planet makes films like Julio Bressane and words don't do them justice really as the experience is so rooted in a very personal cinematic language, but here we go... A pastoral prologue: Bressane places a camera in the base of a tree, birds, deer, a beach with fishermen, who suddenly disappear leaving footprints and blood splotches on the sand. Fade to black, the film proper. A widow of three years in conversation with a beautiful silent parrot (Bressane never lost his commitment to Tropicalia). Discussion of the parrot as a symbol of Brazil. Found footage of native folk music and rock carvings (surfaces "played" with a microphone) evokes a pre-Spanish South America. The human desire to take avian form. A discussion of man's inhumanity to beasts leads to a montage of the slaughterhouse scenes from Franju's Sang Des Betes. Then, the heroine is pursued by huge lumps of beef... Great ending too which neatly wraps the whole package up. Impressions of mortality, or just a parable on failed vegetarianism? I can relate.
Atlantiques (Mati Diop)...Mildly disappointed, but such is life and never mind. Still good though. Not as experimental as Diop's great short films and had a restrained/"on the leash" feeling to it like she had to tone things down a bit for her 1st feature. For me, the supernatural/fairytale elements of the story were taken too much on face value. Hate to compare this with Zombi Child (see above), but in that several layers of reality and unreality come into play and interact (sometimes as violent contradictions) with each other. Atlantiques was a bit too much of a linear process for my taste. What I DID like was that the central relationship seemed less like a clichéd "true love that survives beyond the grave" routine and more like a tentative teenage crush that assumed greater significance in the wake of tragedy. Plus - visually - this is INCREDIBLE, with fantastic music and sound design. The 2nd best light and sound show I've seen this year after "Knife + Heart".
Bubbling under... Grass & Hotel By The River, Varda By Agnes, Ultra Pulpe, If Beale Street Could Talk, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway
Contenders I didn't manage to see...yet...Bacarau, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, I Was At Home...But, Vitalina Varela, An Elephant Sitting Still, Synonyms
On other peoples lists and would be on mine but I saw 'em in 2018: Madeline's Madeline, High Life
Disappointments of the year:
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross)...Ross may be a great stills photographer, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a great motion picture. No more time lapse shots of clouds whizzing past. Ever. Please
Bait (Mark Jenkin)...Poundshop Jean Epstein with Series 2 Grange Hill level acting. Why all the fuss?
Monos (Alejandro Landes)... Maybe the worst I saw this year. Tiresome jungle romp which wants to be Beau Travail but settles for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)...Entertaining enough but shallow, gimmicky and politically garbled, why all the fuss?
PHEROMOANS, THE LLOYD PACK ++
My musical highlights of 2019: five new albums I really enjoyed were Nour Mobarak – Father Fugue, Bamboo – Daughters Of The Sky, Wojciech Rusin – The Funnel, Martina Lussi - Diffusion is a Force and Keel Her - With Kindness. Otherwise without any social life
to speak of I only really saw live music on TV like Stormzy and Cat Power on the Iplayer from Glastonbury which were excellent, or at gigs I've been playing at but then I'm usually too distracted. The Ravioli Me Away opera in Deptford brought a tear to my
eye but I have been crying for most of the year anyway! An astonishing sight greeted me at a deserted train station in Norfolk on a weekday afternoon in August,
before the important Needham Market vs Hitchin Town fixture - a full jazz band in swing on the underground pathway between platforms. In these somewhat bleak times I completely admired their moxy. Away from music I acquired a new cat called Spider, and developed a morbid obsession with Warren starring Martin Clunes.
Post-album/Christmas/New Year dreams:
* Buying more second hand clothes
* Learning to take naps
* Sanjay buying me a puppy for Christmas (lol he won’t)
* Stop having to eat for two
* Convincing my parents to make audio calls instead of Skype (with video and eye contact)
A few people died this year, here are three of them. Joseph Jarman, 81, American jazz composer, Shinshu Buddhist priest and member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Fumiko Yonezawa, 80, Japanese theoretical physicist who in 1996 became the first woman President of the Physics Society of Japan. Nehanda Isoke Abiodun, 68, black revolutionary, Columbia University graduate and fugitive who was living in Cuba, she worked with the National Black Human Rights Coalition and throughout her life worked to help drug addicts at numerous facilities.
Wojciech Bakowski 'Jazz Duo'
Nkisi '7 Directions'
Chief Keef & Zaytoven 'Glotoven'
Shadowax 'Nikolai Reptile'
Eliza B.C. 'Eliza B.C.'
Jay Mitta 'Tatizo Pesa'
Triad God 'Triad'
V/A 'No Order In Destiny'
JAM MONEY, A HAPPY RETURN
DIY in the home in all respects, both making new music and plugging up the various holes in our draughty old house in Norwich.
Planted an apple, hazel and hawthorn tree in the garden and spotted a peregrine falcon overhead, which I’m told nest in the cathedral spire.
Away from home I spent enriching times with friends recording new Spirit Fest music.
Played at a lovingly curated festival called Alien Disko in Munich with Jam Money (with Aimée making visuals) and accompanied Maxine Funke whose music live is as beautiful as her recordings.
Have been listening to Speedbooth, Zayaendo, the Ivytree, Carla Dal Forno, Matthew De Gennaro and a record by Reiko Kudo called 'Rice Field Silently Riping In The Night’ that brims with spontaneous vitality.
Thankful of friends, family and having the opportunity to make.
Looking forward to a couple of Spillage Fete related releases coming out next year.
ALL NIGHT FLIGHT
Highlights: All the FFFM + IDDB stuff / MONOKULTUR! / Perila on Sferic / Jon’s TTTape / Microdosing Morocco / 2.90 pints / Opening a shop / EDM beach Thailand / Tokyo chain smoking / Speedbooth / Romeo Poirier LP(s) / Bobby Would / Double Bugger / ANA rinse out at the shop / all ANA output actually / all Stroom / Karl Lindh / all YOUTH / Fish Hut Stockport / Pianola Tabi Tape / Pekler @TWH / Jon + Tom + Ziggy @TWH / Getting a railcard at 31 / Suburban Cracked Collective / Thuja / space afrika live / Roger Doyle is back ! / Akio Suzuki / Amateur Hour / Zenklas X / good friends having babies / Pomona rave / GAMBA EP ! / DJ Lyster every time / anything at the wrong speed / Notchnoi Prospekt comp / post man asking for container records / drunkenly stuffing inserts at LC HQ / really enjoying guitars again / surprise visit from Alimantado / San Miguel offers at Sainsburys / orders in the cage / gushing about Torsten / back down the U.K. techno wormhole / jam money / b&q trade card / all the dance stuff I enjoyed but didn’t commit to memory
Lowlights: Unidentifiable morning oder in the shop / damp / price of hiring power tools / traffic / Boris / US shipping costs / opening a shop / consecutive days without speaking to anyone in person / beans on toast most nights / replacing styluses / Northern (f)rail... / dead houseplants / stags not attended / questioning life’s choices / stale bread / blah blah blah it’s not so bad.
CONTAINER, PAPER BAGS
2019 food report:
Way back in March my friend Eric accompanied me on a brief American tour where for most of the shows I was the opening act for the band Daughters. At these big professional rock gigs you annoyingly have to show up really early to soundcheck and then wait around until everything is over so you can get paid, cutting way back on your amount of chill time in each city. The first of these shows was in Detroit and luckily we rolled into town just early enough to catch our friend Nick George doing one of his Dr. Sushi pop-up’s at a local tiki bar. He hooked it up HARD with a chefs sampler platter, at least ten different types of fish each, and we were both just stunned at how good it was. Best I’ve had outside of Japan I’d say. We ended up spending a lot of money at the bar on Zombies and Painkillers before heading out to the show where an aggressive old grindcore fan needed to be escorted from the building after repeatedly prying Daughters 2XLP’s from teenagers hands and tossing them at me while I played my first track.
Just after arriving back in London from this tour, my then fiancee - now wife Lucy suggested we make a Shooters Sandwich for a hike we were going on. I hadn’t heard of this sandwich before, but it’s apparently considered to be a kind of poor mans Beef Wellington. A loaf of bread is hollowed out and filled with brandy sautéed mushrooms, provolone cheese, and two steaks, then wrapped up and weighted down with all the heaviest stuff you can find in your house overnight so it becomes tight and compressed, and then cut into slices. Fucking hell it was good! We ate half of it on top of a hill about halfway between Amersham and Chalfont St Giles before cutting through someones farm where I became extremely nervous we’d be attacked by the free roaming cows.
Sometime in the Spring Lucy and I were at a printing shop near Farringdon that had a complimentary hot drink dispensing machine which the receptionist invited me to take advantage of. I almost thought she was trying to prank me at first because the selection of drinks was just absolutely preposterous. They had hot Skittles flavored drinks, which (if that wasn’t odd enough) didn’t include the ‘regular’ flavor combination, they just offered ‘tropical’ and ‘wild berry’. And then something called Bovril, described simply as ’a hot beef drink’. I had to try it. I was sold right away and then discovered its original form is that of a Marmite like spread, basically just a condensed beef paste. It’s great on toast, it can be ok in the right soup, and in drink form its amazingly helpful in easing through the hangover. I’m happy to have found out about it.
End of May/beginning of June we’d planned a trip to Spain based around two gigs I had, one in Valencia and one in A Coruña, but about a week or so before we left, the A Coruña show got cancelled. I was more than happy not to play but felt the loss of the fee in a big way…but the flights however were already paid for so looking on the bright side we had a free trip there, which you really can’t get too upset about. And I’m glad we went because it’s cheap AF there and has an inordinate amount of Michelin starred restaurants. We’d basically get up and go get a fancy meal, drink a bottle of wine, take a nap, and repeat. I ate a pigs nose, which honestly wasn’t that great, but if you get one I’d recommend not letting it get cold. We had a charcuterie plate meant for about 8 people between the two of us which was so good I almost thought I was having an allergic reaction to it because of the way the pork fat would coat the inside of my mouth. We had steaks taken from really old cows, the meat deeply marbled, tender, and musky…but good! A decadent trip!
In late June we spent an absolutely wonderful 5 or 6 days in the state of Texas, a land of many delights, and I would estimate we tried one different breakfast taco for each of the days we were there. I have not a single complaint about any of them, but my favorite by far was from Rosita’s Al Pastor in Austin. Wow. I felt a bit hectic and rushed when we showed up because we needed to return the rental car at Noon which was only about 15 minutes away. I was thinking about that harsh rental company fine popping unexpectedly into my bank account a couple weeks down the line when I least expected it and I wanted to avoid that, yet after finishing our first taco we weighed the options and decided that the sensible thing to do was to stay and get more tacos and risk the fine. They were an alchemic meld of scrambled egg, bacon, potato, cheese, and avocado on a fresh tortilla. A list of ingredients that I know sounds easy enough to replicate, but just wouldn’t come close to how they did it here. I would have to say that this was probably the single best thing I ate in the whole of 2019.
Although I didn’t discover it this year, I did have the ‘dry meat’ dish from Needoo in Whitechapel quite a lot — three times in the first week of September alone just so I could show visiting Americans how good it is. When I went with Nick Klein he accidentally (and much to all the waiters delight) spilled his jumbo sized bottle of Cobra all over the table while excitedly reaching for more and then clumsily tried to chug the foaming expulsion while using his other hand as a net to catch the spillover. He then let out a full volume shriek in reaction to the unexpected pain caused by touching the heated moist towel you receive at the end of the meal, tossing it halfway across the dining room while the same group of waiters cackled unabashedly, loving his antics. I don’t blame his excitement as it is an incredible dish — chunks of lamb (or mutton?), heavily spiced and oily, stewed to crumbling perfection. Lucy and I made a not perfect but reasonably successful version of it at home, but getting it at Needoo is the best.
We’ll treat this last entry as the dessert section and I’ll tell you about two interesting ice creams I had this year.
The first one was on this same tour back in March. Having realized that we’d be passing through Vermont on the drive from Montreal to Boston, Eric became overly excited about the idea of stopping for a ‘maple creemee’ which is a maple flavored soft serve ice cream with a higher than usual fat content thats unique to the state. On the way out of Montreal he made a few calls and got insider info about a place in Burlington where we could get one. “Oh fuck yeahhhh!” he said as we pulled up into the parking lot, “I see the sign!”. There was a sign in the window that he hadn’t actually bothered to read, because it said ‘Creemee’s in 3 days’. I broke the news to him and he determinedly marched inside trying to remain optimistic, but came back out moments later a shattered man. I suggested he start calling other places and checking and we managed to locate a farm in Montpelier that said they had it. It was miles off the highway and of course soundcheck was at like 5pm or something ridiculous so we were in a rush, but I couldn’t bear to see my friend so distraught, so we gave it a go. Honestly it was fine, an extra rich maple flavored soft ice cream, I’d have it again, but I wouldn’t have the same enthusiasm that Eric did, but it did please me to see him so happy about it.
The second ice cream was from a beach front shop in the town of Sidmouth in Devon. I was in a bad mood because I didn’t want to be in Sidmouth and I think Lucy suggested we get ice creams to try to cheer me up, which is funny because this ended up being the single worst ice cream I’ve ever tried. Interestingly enough I can’t even remember what the flavor was.. That somehow wasn’t important. It was more the mealy texture, as if the whole tub of it had been placed in the sauna until fully melted then back in the freezer, over and over again. It tasted burnt and yet was simultaneously full of little pockets of sharp ice crystals. It was impressively bad, and that did manage to cheer me up!
Excited for eating again in 2020.