Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Personal Best - Favourites Of 2011

Well I guess it's that time of year, pretty much every mag, blog or website has some sort of 'best of' roundup, so why should I buck the trend and be any different!

Thought I'd compile a little disc length download of some of my favourite musical  moments of 2011.
So in no particular order, let's begin....

TV Ghost - Mass Dream

This kinda got under my skin after initially not really connecting with it. It's a strange record which takes a musical theme and runs with it through almost all of the tracks, I guess you could argue that it creates an album that sounds samey, but that's what I like about it, the continuity of sound. Wiry Guitars, taught rhythms, the strange scream/warble of the vocals. I guess the nearest bands sound wise that come to mind are Pere Ubu, The Scientists and the garage tremblings of someone like The Cramps. The singer/ lyricist Gick stated in an interview elsewhere, and I'm paraphrasing here.."I take all the things I dislike about modern life and use them as a basis for songs and music". This, you might think is a recipe for a slightly depressing turn of evens, but far from it, the taught pulsings of TV Ghost slowly unravelled and kept me coming back for more.

Fujiya & Miyagi - Ventrilloquizzing

You could argue that it's business as usual with Fujiyama & Miyagi with their latest offering, but for me those motorik Krautrock rhythms, and the repetitious vocal simplicity are what I like about them. I guess their major touchstone would be Future Days era Can, but that you could argue is heavily filtered through decades of minimal dance music and a nod and a wink to other artists of a similar ilk such as Echoboy or Whitey (bot curiously from Manchester)

You can hear them playing some of this live in an earlier post on Sound Mirrors here from earlier in the year.

The Advisory Circle - As The Crow Flies

The yesteryear transmission from Belbury Parish have warmed the cockles muchly this year. For me, this is one time Hauntology inspired Jim Jupp's finest record to date. Packed to the brim with otherworldly, half recognised samples, simple electronic melodies and the tinge old tobacco, this is a psychological treat for people of a certain age. The theme of the album is based around the changing of the seasons, and the in-constancy (is that even a word) of the everyday. For me there are big nods to bands such as Broadcast and Boards of Canada, so if you like these fellows. maybe this is for you. Plus, a big bonus for me is the beautiful artwork of Julian House, whose visual ideology holds the whole Ghostbox genre under his retro fixated spell.

Brian Eno - Drums Between The Bells.

This is a record that has accompanied me on many a journey and walk, it really is a thing of great beauty, and for me, his best work in years. Eno composes the music, and the vocals/ spoken words are from a variety of sources, from the poet Rick Holland, to people whose voice he just likes the sound of that he met down the gym. Now this could reek of pretension, but for someone of Eno's stature, it works well. The 'songs' cover variety of themes from the lofty to the everyday. Some tracks are just instrumental, whilst the majority have some sort of vocal accompaniment. As I said, it's a real thing of beauty, and if you need a few minutes peace and quiet, it's something I dip into often. The album 'Sleepwalkers' by David Sylvian has a similar vibe about it, and is another I couldn't recommend enough.

The Lumerians - Transmalinnia

Three years on from their debut self titled mini LP comes 'Transmalinnia', a wonderful dark psych epic from Lumerians, which, whilst not ploughing quite the same furrow of the debut EP, certainly inhabits an adjacent field. Swirling organs, droning guitars, tribal drumming and deep in the mix laconic vocals are the order of the day. To give you a flavour, if they made a Charlie Manson inspire movie, these fellas would more than be up to the task of sound tracking it. On the surface they are similar to bands like The Black Angles and Wooden Shjips, but there's definitely a dark streak to these fellas the others don't come near to.

Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues  Melancholy Jam

Vulnerability isn't something that you usually associate with hip hop, but this debut by Ghostpoet isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, which makes for an album which is all to human in it's content. The sound musically is similar to Tricky or Massive Attack, but don't let that put you off, he's flying a different flag. Describing himself as a rapper with a lisp and some stories, he's much more than that. It's refreshing to hear someone telling everyday stories of their life and struggles instead of mucho bravado about guns bitches and ho's. Like Scroobious Pip, another hip hop artist/ poet making music and rhymes in a similar vein, it's a rewarding listen.

John Foxx and the Maths - Interplay

John Foxx is someone I've loved and admired ever since my 13 year old self marveled at the strange and stark future offered up by the epic Underpass single, way back in 1980. Unaware at the time of  the record of his previous involvement with Ultravox, I've followed his career for many years, not always liking what I've heard, but always admiring his relentless pushing forward. Interplay is a wonderful collaboration with analogue junkies The Maths, made wholly on period analogue synthesizers, it's a real step back to those wonderful years of the seminal Metamatic, albeit heavily filtered through 4/4 dance floor conventions. Ahhh, if only more chart music sounded like this, I'd be happy as a pig in shit.

Magazine - No Thyself

Spurred on by the success of a live reunion of a few years ago, here we have a brand new album by a once seminal post punk band. I gotta admit, Magazine are one of my fav' bands ever and I wasn't really looking forward to hearing this new material upon release and held back a while before getting a copy.
Well, what can I say, the music is definitely Magazine shaped, but as to the vocals/ lyrics, well, ahem, lets say some tracks are OK, whilst a few are more than a little preposterous, but hey, it's Howard, and I'll forgive him whatever.
Still a better effort than my next favourite at of the 80's, the Bauhaus reunion album 'Go Away White' really WAS a pile of shite.

Julian Cope - The Jehovahcoat Demos

Sometime head and psychedelic explorer Julian Cope releases filler from seminal 'Jehovahkill' album period, but would it be any good?
I gotta admit, I was really excited when I heard this was gonna be released, Jehovahkill, alongside Peggy Suicide and Autogeddon are by far my favourite Cope releases. The guy was really channeling something at the time, dunno what was in that Avebury water, but he certainly was a-full of it.
Now, I gotta be honest, 'Jehovahcoat' is not all great, hell, some of it isn't even good and stinks of more than a little of barrel dragging, but for all it's faults, it's an album I've returned to again and again, cos' the good bits are just soooo good, and TBH, it's still head and shoulders above much of his 'Black Sheep' output, which finds our be-German leathered Julian so far up his own rectum, I'm sure he's not smelt fresh air for quite some time. Here's hoping he revolution-ises himself back into reality at some not to distant future point.

Moon Duo - Mazes

Second album by Wooden Shjips offshoot. This isn't wholly great, straying somewhat into the territory of 'Da Shjips' but again, has enough of interest to keep me returning. Still ploughing that motorik Suicide meets Psych vibe, there are a few standout moments on this record, though in all honesty, I prefer the debut, it's a little rawer, which is something I'll always treasure,  always preferring the burred edges, and buffed corners to the polished and pristine, just the way I am.

Nightbeats - Night

 Dunno anything about Nightbeats, who they are or where they're from, but I love their Crampsian take on garage rock/punk. Sometimes a coming on like the 13the Floor Elevators, at other times more like Australian garage monsters The Scientists, it's a heartfelt guitar trebled din with more than a whiff of patchouli and joss stick about it, and screams of days spent sleeping and night out in the psychedelic basement.

Psychic Ills - Hazed Dream

You'll notice that for me, Sacred Bones Records have been the label of the year, with no less than three albums from the label on my list (Moon Duo, Psychic Ill's and Religious Knives) and like Ghostbox, they have great label identity/branding throughout.
Psychic Ill's came to my attention through various posts on the Head Heritage unsung forum, a few of the peeps there whose taste I trust said I'd enjoy them, and dang em' if they were bang on the money. Coming on a LOT like Spacemen 3, they have that same droned out/ blissed out vibe about them, with the odd gospel/country tinged detour, this is definitely a record to kick back with, pop open your favourite beverage and hit the repeat button.

Tarwater - Inside The Ships

Whilst for me not quite up there with  Spider Smile from 2007, it's a return to form of sorts, and a long time coming. More instrumental than recent recordings, having a more Silur like vibe to it for me, but no less enjoyable because of it. Its sad that there are less 'sung' tracks, as the laconic, chocolate melting delivery of Jestram is what I like about Tarwater. That feint German accent, has a real European exotica feel to it, it's measured tomes and choice of words. Musically, Tarwater are never less than interesting, investing their electronic shifts and swings with Krautrock/ post rock diversions and impeccable production values, they truly are one of Europe's great unsung recording acts.

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

Getting production assistance from non other than Beck, this is a killer of a record, and one I can honestly say I'd never have expected from one time Sonic Youth noise terrorist Thurston. I guess this was written during the parting throes of his longtime marriage to fellow 'Youther' Kim Gordon, another shock from earlier in the year. This record has accompanied me on many a meander, beautifully orchestrated and played gently on acoustic guitar, it's a record I never really thought I'd enjoy, but it's just so damn good. Why this isn't all over the airwaves beggar's belief, as Thurston opens up with songs of real heartfelt wonder and honesty. Fantastic...go out and buy it NOW.

Religious Knives - Smokescreen

Onetime Double Leopards produce new group and super psych jams.
This is another of those great Sacred Bones releases, a label that's shaping up to be a psychfest dreadnought. There's not a record I've heard from this label that I haven't loved. This album is awesome. Drenched in heavy heavy reverb, it's a wonderful and slightly un-nerving listen, tribal drums (check), deep drone guitar (check), reverbed vocal (check) largactil (check) al the things for a slightly disturbing 60's themed drug fest in fact, just don't put it on if your having a bad might not ever come back.

Wooden Shjips - West

Whilst not my favourite Shjips album, in that they probably stray nearer to Loop territory than they ever have before, this is still a mighty fine record that benefits from a bigger production values, and instrument separation. If your familiar with the band, then I guess it's business as usual, but they make a din I still enjoy, and am very much looking forward to the next one.

Suuns - Bambi EP

Now, if you've followed this bog for a while, you'll already know i adore Suuns. Kinda like a meaty Canadian Clinic with dance floor tendancies, and a krautrock backbone, these boys have more than rocked my world this year (though sadly missed em' live due to work, grrrrrr). Anyhow, rather than post something from the album  (available here folks) or EP I thought I'd add the A-Side from the limited 12" 'Bambi'. .

This'll probably be my last post till after Xmas and the new year, so have a good one, and as as Wizard once sand

"I wish it could be Christmas every day ay ay ay"

Have a good un!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Assorted Pictures From Recent Walks

I don't get to blog as much as I used to, any free time is generally spent with family or out walking. Thought I'd compile a few shots taken on recent(ish) walks.

Hollow Way - Waseley Hill

Not A Great Picture, But I Like The Light

Another poor shot, but I like the Hammer Horror like atmosphere it evokes...Clent Village Church, Worestershire

Burdock near Hartshill Warwickshire

Oak Leaves In Sunlight...I've a crappy cheap camera, but I like the 'heat haze' effect it gives to the background

Hartshill Warf

Wood boring beetle tracks in an old Hawthorn near Hanbury Worcestershire

Meant To Flip This But I Like it As It Is

Snowstorm coming in on The Lickey Hills

Piggy Hedge on the back of Ragleth Hill, Shropshire

Last Vestige Of a Rainbow, Ragleth Hill, Shropshire

Weather Front Moves In, Ragleth ill Shropshire

Ashes Hollow, Long Mynd, Shropshire

Old Hawthorn, Ashes Hollow

View From Long Mynd Towards Telford

Two Bristol Greats...Glaxo Babies and The Pop Group

Glaxo Babies - Put Me On The Guest List.

This was originally released in August 1980 as a mid priced (£2.95) LP containing B-sides, Alternate versions and hard to find tracks from a prior incarnation of the band. Of all the Glaxo Babies releases I think this is my favourite. It holds together better than the follow up,  'Nine Months To The Disco'  and is head and shoulders above the later art rock leaning of the release. Falling squarely within the political post punk/agit pop leanings of better known bands like Gang of Four, The Au Pairs and The Mekons. On first listen 'Put Me on The Guest List' doesn't stray far from the formula. Edgy, spartan shards of guitar work of funk/dub bass-lines and regular/ metronomic drum with howled/screamed/ shouted vocals. For me though, they had that mystery X-Factor  that took them beyond their better known bretheran. And, in a cyclical twist that occurs regularly in music, the themes touched upon in the songs are oddly prescient of our life and times.

If you fancy a listen, Here it is.

The Pop Group - Assorted Live 1980

This falls squarely within the bootleg quotant, but is no the less enjoyable for it, and has a fair to good sound quality considering the tapes age.

The Pop Group were one of the oddest bands to form in the post punk era, eschewing the stripped down D.I.Y. leanings of many artists in favour of avant jazz leanings, hard funk rhythms and hard left political leanings they were not the easiest band to connect with on initial spins of their records.
Releasing two official albums 'Y', and 'For How Much Longer Will We Tolerate Mass Murder  and a hand full of bootlegs and semi official LP's which covered much of the same ground as the official releases.
Upon finally fragmenting due to internal tensions in 1981, their musical legacy continued on in bands such as Rip, Rig & Panic, Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Head Mark Stewart & The Mafia and the afor mentioned Glaxo Babies.

If you fancy a listen to this erratic and exhilarating band live, you can Here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

On The Surface, Two Unrelated Releases.

I was lucky to enter my teens during the heyday of post punk and new wave, an time when just about anything seemed possible, and new musical genre's and styles seemed to come thick and fast, year on year.
These two records seem to exemplify the 'anything goes' ethic adopted at the time and taken right through much of the 80's underground and the various scenes.

Anyhow, here are two albums which on the surface seem unrelated, but if you give them a spin, you'll see, sonically speaking, they both plough a similar furrow and are enhanced with a little studio trickery to boot.

Gary Clail's Tackhead Tape Time.

First up is a firm fav' pulled from the vinyl racks.
Gary Clail's Tackhead Tape Time was first released in the UK in 1987 and is an album that came to fruition during the birth of sampling. The record is a soundclash of harsh, almost industrial flavoured hip hop and beats onto which are projected an assortment of political samples and and Clail's sung/spoken lyrics. The Wimbush, LeBlanc, McDonald funk machine are perhaps at their sparsest here, but the On-U-Sound vibes of Adrian Sherwood gel it all together with spectacular results.

Tackhead's website has a press release from the time which gives a hint of what this records about...
"Tackhead is both a group and a sound system. Tackhead are Keith LeBlanc, Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Adrian Sherwood, while the 'Sound System' is operated by deranged MC Gary Clail. Keith, Doug and Skip are responsible for some of the best funk rhythms to have come out of the U.S.A. in the last decade having played as the Sugarhill Gang rhythm section and for Tommy Boy (notably Keith's Malcolm X, Beatmaster, etc.) and for countless other producers and labels in New York and New Jersey.
Adrian Sherwood has run his own On-U Sound label for seven years, having issued records with Mark Stewart & Maffia, Prince Far I, African Head Charge, Dub Syndicate, Singers & Players, Lee Perry and many others. He has worked for Depeche Mode, Einst?rzende Neubauten, Simply Red, etc. doing select and original mixes.
Tackhead have collectively recorded and co-produced several exceptional 12" singles and one LP - a masterpiece Major Malfunction, credited to drummer Keith LeBlanc. New album by Tackhead, Friendly as a Hand Grenade is due for release in early 1988.

So, who and what you may ask is Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System?

The Tackhead Sound System has been operating for just over two years, first appearing with its namesake Tackhead and Mark Stewart & Maffia during their awesome live shows. More than simply adding 'support', the sound system and M.C./operator Gary Clail provide a non-stop assault of unreleased tracks, re-mixes and out-takes of studio recordings made by the Tackhead crew. These tracks are twisted and dubbed live through the P.A. mixing desk while maybe three rhythms, sound effects and chants play simultaneously. During all of this Gary endevours to 'express' himself, usually on a megaphone through the microphone and all done from the P.A. desk in the middle of a club, hall or wherever the show may be.

Some people have called Gary a rapper. Gary is in fact an ex-scaffolder and second-hand Cortina salesman from Bristol, England, and sees his new role as chanter extraordinaire as his true vocation. "

If you think this may be your thang, listen Here.

Clail went on to some critical/popular acclaim and a minor chart success in 1991 with his second solo album 'The Emotional Hooligan'and single 'Beef'. It's dub inflected beats and strong social message, are as apt in today consumer driven society as it was 20 years ago, when we survived in a similar economic climate.

XTC - Explode Together - The Dub Experiments (78-80)

On the surface, you'd expect an XTC record to have nothing to do with the above Tackhead release.
Better known laterly for their  Beatle-eque songwriting vibes and originally for their 'new wave' singalongs 'Making Plans For Nigel' and 'Sgt Rock' and their English 'folk' of 'Senses Working Overtime',  Explode Together...' is an extraordinary release for the band. Comprising elements of Three Ep's, The first part being a freebie 12" 'GO+' given away with initial copies of the 1978 album 'Go2'. All tracks are dub-versions of tracks from Go 2, respectively: "Meccanik Dancing", "Jumping in Gomorrah", "Battery Brides", "I Am the Audience", and "The Rhythm.

The second and third parts, 'Takeaway' and 'The Lure Of The Savage' are the result of singer Andy Partridge' (Mr Partridge) 1980 solo album 'The Lure Of The Savage'. Again using studio trickery and dub elements, he crafts an interesting, if not always comfortable listen. Both sessions were apparently recorded during studio downtime during the first few XTC releases.

Have a listen Here.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Liars - B- Sides and Compilations Compiled

It's no secret I'm a massive fan of U.S. noise hipsters Liars. Of the glut of 'altern/ underground' bands that arose in the early 2000's, Liars are perhaps the ones that still sail closest to the wind in being not afraid to try something new. Whilst there are a few overlaps sound-wise with their five studio albums, each does have it's own distinctive 'vibe' and sound.
The first LP released in 2001/2 - 'They Threw Us In A trench And Put A Monument On Top was a wonderfully tense and angular affair, with careening post punk scratch guitar against a fervent Gang of Four style wired funk bass and drums, and a 'running round the block' vocal urgency that was infective. It was love at first spin, and became one of my albums of the year (nay decade).

This was followed by a total change of direction in 2004 release ' They Were Wrong So We Drowned' Haunted 'Halloween' tribalism was the order of the day. With a big nod to the forbidding 1985  Sonic Youth album 'Bad Moon Rising', easy listening it certainly was not (hear a live recording of this tour from an earlier post here) but it succeeded in bucking the 'punk funk' audience that seemed to have coalesced around the band. Rumour has it that they totally scrapped the follow up to 'They Threw Us In A Trench...' in order to follow their twisted occult leanings out in darkest mid state New York. Worried that the original follow up was to much like the debut, they threw the baby out with the bath water and totally re-realised their vision in 'They Were Wrong'.

2005 album 'Drums Not Dead' was upon initial listens, a bit of a disappointment for me I must admit. Whilst on the surface it appeared to follow a similar vein to 'They Were Wrong...', albeit with a more electronic sheen, it did take a while for it to reveal it's layers, and I spent quite a lot of time worrying that they had shot their bolt musically speaking. In  the years since it's release, it's a record I've warmed to immnesley, and if not quite as out there as 'They Were Wrong...' or as Insistent as their debut, it's still a mighty fine record.  There is a concept at work, with Mt Heart Attack turning up as a theme on several tracks. All that said, It's worth the entry fee for the heartbreaking beauty of 'The Other Side Of Mount Heart Attack' alone

The next album came two years later in the eponymously titled 'Liars'. An altogether more electro psyche affair, it has more than it's fair share of alt. 'rockers' but for me has a certain 'downer' feel to it as well. Sweeping from Jesus and Mary-Chain style 'Spectorisms' to almost dream pop moments, it's a real return to form music wise.

'2010 release Sisterworld was for me, the pinnacle of their experimentation, in the same way that Bowie's 'Scary Monsters and Super Creeps' seemed to take a little of what went before and mixed it all up, Liars did the same with Sisterworld. Encompassing great Kraut grooves (Proud Evolution) alongside slightly sinister ditties to suicide (Scissor) and ode's to the goof off lifestyle (The Overachievers), for me, this is their 'Tour de force' musically.

Which brings me to the point of the post...the bits between the bits, the uncollected debris of their career, compiled for your delectation into two neat discs worth of oddities and out-thereness.

Liars - B-Sides Compiled goes something like this...

Part 1......

1. Pillars Were Hollow And Filled With Candy So We Tore Them Down
2. Everyday Is A Child With Teeth

3. Rose And Licorice
4. All In All A Careful Party
5. Dorothy Taps The Toe Of The Tinman

6. We Got Cold, Coughed And Forgot Things
7. You Know I Hate Stupid Phones
8. Every Two Hours With A Ducks Fan

9. Leaving For Dubbo In A Panda-Bear

10. Skull and Crossbrooms
11 Broom

12  Sex Boy
13 The Fountain And Its Monologue

14 The Frozen Glacier Of Mastadon Blood
15 Bingo! Count Draculuck

16 Do As The Birds, Eat The Remains

 And Part 2....

17 Sunset Rodeo

18  Mimic The Hurricano
19 Volcano Police

20 Panic Button

21 Leopard On My Right
22 Dear

23 Red Dirt
24 Dear God

25 Cycle Time
26 HouseClouds
27 Pure Unevil
28 Plaster Casts of Everything

Tracks 1-2 taken from the 'Fins To Make Us More Like Fish' EP
Tracks 3-5 taken from the split LP with Oneida 'Atheists Reconsider'
Tracks 6-8 taken from the 'We No Longer Knew Who We Were' EP
Track 9 from Split 7" with Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Tracks 10-11 taken from the single 'There's Always Room On A Broom'
Tracks 12-13 taken from the EP 'We Fenced The Gardens With The Bones Of Our Own'
Track 14-15 taken from the single 'It Fit When I Was A Kid'
Track 16 from the 'Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack' single
Tracks 17 'Sunset Rodeo' free web download
Tracks 18-19 taken from 'Plaster Casts Of Everything' single
Track 20 from the 'Worried Noodles' compilation album
Tracks 21-22 from 'Leopard On My Right' single
Tracks 23-24 from the 'Houseclouds' single
The rest are a few A-Sides

If you fancy a listen - get it Here....