Friday, January 26, 2007

Blog Gap Bollocks-Ah!
As predicted, my return to the working world has rather slowed down my blogging efforts - I haven't even had time to find any more kick-ass YouTube content for Carl Impostume's delectation.

By way of apology, I'd like to turn your attention to this excellent blog and this interview with the mighty, magnificent Mordant Music, conducted by K-Punk himself. Turns out that these guys have really hip taste in music (Richard Youngs!) I believe that one of them was also in a Bark Psychosis-esque UK post-rock band called Deadstock. What's not to like?

That's my latest Recently Played list from work, above. Almost completely lacking in abstract electronica because it's not really good music to work to but don't take that to mean I haven't been keeping up on the work of M Rosner, Tu M' et al. Y'know... all your faves.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coil - Live in New York.
Take that, Carl!

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Bloody Valentine Live Videos.

Why not, eh?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Oh, Honestly!
Here's what I listened to at work today (as usual, click on the image to take a closer look). Looks like t'ings are a little heavier over at Brady's house. Deicide? Talk about guilty pleasures!

But it's not about guilt, is it? It's about embarrassment! When Woebot dances to his top ten, he isn't trying to do something shameful, he's trying to embarrass himself. Growing up as Fall fan in a small town, I quickly established a psychological link between enjoying music and feeling embarrassed. That would explain my love of Current 93, then.

Sadly, the only thing that I find embarrassing about the lists I've been posting is how predictable they've been. Unlike Carl's, my lists don't contain any glaring oddities (at least, for anyone who reads this blog). Therefore, in the spirit of making an absolute tit of myself, I'd like to confess to two bands I particularly like, who will never become critically acceptable, let alone cool:

(i) Leatherface.

(ii) Half Man Half Biscuit.

There, I said it.
The New Honesty.
Carl admits to liking Sinead O'Connor's reggae album.

Matt dances to his top ten and confesses to attending a posh school.

Above are two iTunes playlists from my computer at work - most recently played and most often played, respectively (click on the images for a closer look).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You Can See My House from Up Here.
While I flinch at the thought of praising a corporate behemoth, I must confess to having had a lot of fun with Google Maps recently. For those of us in the software game, it represents a pretty good illustration of some cool things that can be done with Rich Internet Application technology.

I'm also pleased that the behemoth seems to be prioritizing its Blog Search service. It was thanks to said service that I found a blog post from the UK which describes my top ten list as "The best 2006 list from an individual blogger i have seen so far". You like me! You like me!

Monday, January 08, 2007

My appreciation of "Clara", Scott Walker's song about the execution of Mussolini has increased no end in the wake of the whole Saddam debacle. I say "appreciation" but "enjoyment" would be a more honest word. How my enjoyment of a song can be tied in to such awful events is beyond me. Clearly, the conundrum that is The Drift will only grow more complex over time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Current Listening.
A lot of bloggers like to post "current listening" lists and I often wonder how authentic they are. There's a part of me that would like to sneak into the culprits' homes and see what's actually sitting next to their stereos. Therefore, in the spirit of openness, here's what's actually in my current listening pile at home. I've been listening to a lot of stuff over the last few days, so it's a big pile but I swear that the list is 100% honest. Readers are invited to talk about their piles in the comments box. Oh dear, that didn't come out right.

King Sunny Ade and his African Beats - Synchro System LP
Boris - Pink 2LP
Can - Limited Edition LP
Can - Future Days LP
connect_icut - LA (An Apology) test pressing
Dr. Alimantado - Best Dressed Chicken in Town LP
Ekkehard Ehlers - Soundchambers LP
The Fall - Nord-West Gas LP
Fe-Mail - Voluptuous Vultures 10"
Fennesz - Plays 10"
Ghostface Killah - Fish Scale 2LP
Happy Mondays - Madchester Rave On 12"
Happy Mondays - Pills'n'Thrills and Bellyaches LP
Bert Jansch - It Don't Bother Me LP
Joannah Newsom - Ys 2LP
Round Four - "Find a Way" 12"
Round Five - "Na Fe Throw It" 12"
Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer LP
Ramon Sender - Kore/Desert Ambulance LP
Skream - "Midnight Request Line" 12"

Belbury Poly - The Owl's Map
Coil - Musick to Play in the Dark Volume One
Coil - Musick to Play in the Dark Volume Two
Peter Maxwell Davies - Job
kode 9 + the spaceape - Memories of the Future
Mordant Music - Dead Air
Value Village People - Extreme Makeover: Audio Edition
v/a - John Peel: Right Time, Wrong Speed 1977-1978

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What Kind of Software Do You Use?
One of the good things about having some extra down-time over Festivus is that I've been able to work on my Max patch. Here's a picture of it, so that you can all bask in its reflected glory (click on the image to see a bigger version).

Back to work on Monday, which will doubtless slow my posting rate down considerably. Still, I've given you plenty to chew on.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Very pleased to see that so many Blogglebum Cage 2006 picks have made it into The Wire's year-end round-up. Indeed, a couple of my faves topped the overall list (Burial is record of the year, with The Drift coming in second). Probably the most personally pleasing placing, though, is A Life Without Fear at number seven. Boo-Ya!

There's a point to all this, by the way. I've noticed a great deal more general agreement among discerning music fans over the last year or so. During the last few years, it's seemed like you could have the exact same taste as someone, without having heard any of the same recent albums. Now, it's as if the disturbing paucity of really remarkable stuff is forcing a lot of thoughtful listeners to the same conclusions. I guess that's a bad thing but I find it oddly cheering.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two More Great Albums from 2006.
The real problem with end-of-the-year lists is that one tends not to hear a lot of the best stuff from a year until the following year. Two cases in point are The Owl's Map by Belbury Poly and Dead Air by Mordant Music. Certain reliable sources have been onto me about these albums for quite a while now but it took birthday gift giving from folks in Blighty for me to actually get them. Both are immediately extremely striking and - of course - definitively hauntological. I can see myself seriously falling for this stuff over the coming months.

There seems to be a minor debate going on as to whether a piece of music can be simultaneously dancable and hauntological. I'd like to offer "Fallen Faces" by Mordant and "You Hurt Me" by Burial as two prime examples of hauntological floor fillers.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Electronica Obscuritities: explorers_we by farmersmanual.
It's been so long since I did one of these that I don't even remember what number I'm up to. Part of the problem has been that so many of the albums I want to write about are associated with Vienna's Mego label. It seems rather unfair to all the other labels and scenes that produced great electronic music during the 90s and early noughties.

Still, if there's one imprint that demands an urgent critical rehabilitation, it's the one that Peter “Pita” Rehberg recently relaunched as Editions Mego.
You see, Mego has an undeserved reputation for unrelentingly harsh glitch formalism. It's pretty hard to square this with the actual music produced by the artists most closely associated with the label: the memoradelic drift of Fennesz, the mutli-layered avant pop of Noriko Tujiko, the confounding playfulness of General Magic, the sensory overload of Pita.

Sure, Mego records often come with a great deal of harsh and austere surface noise but this is almost always used with a whimsical good humour and towards perception-bendingly psychedelic ends.
No one act embodies this element of the Mego sound better than farmersmanual. I first became aware of this Viennese collective when I saw explorers_we referred to as “indescribably odd” in a review for some other record. When I finally tracked explorers... down, I wasn't disappointed.

Actually released on Russell Haswell's Touch-related Or label, explorers_we was conceived as farmersmanual's master-work and is certainly the most ambitious realization of the core Mego aesthetic. Indexed as 60 one-minute tracks, the CD moves gradually from delicate processed room tone to jabbering vocal cut ups via sparse glitch beats and all manner of granular tomfoolery.

The band went on to put out the longest album ever released (the three-day DVD ROM RLA) but explorers_we still stands as their crowning achievement. Do yourself a favour and – as farmersmanual themselves used to say – “pump chaos into your mind”.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Leckie Trilogy.
While record shopping in Seattle recently, I discovered a copy of Nord West Gas, a German album that compiles some songs The Fall recorded with producer John Leckie during the mid 80s. Of course, I already had all the music but I regularly have dreams about buying obscure Fall compilations in foreign cities, so I had to get it.

Listening again to this music, which hit me so hard as a teenager, I'm more convinced than ever that it's the best and most important ever made. There's a healthy relativism in the rock discourse nowadays but it can only go so far. The three albums that Mark E Smith and John Leckie made for Beggars Banquet are not only my favourite albums of all time, they're also, objectively, utterly without equal.

That said, this is clearly too great a topic for a hastily written and poorly proofread blog. All I can offer, in this context, is a handful of scattered thoughts and reminiscences. I do this in the confidence that great sages of all kinds will be pondering and writing about the Leckie trilogy for as long as human civilization lasts.

A while back, my friend Cheryl asked me which Fall album she should get. Someone had told her that This Nation's Saving Grace – part two of the trilogy – was the one to go for. Strangely, I felt unsure about reinforcing this common wisdom, worrying, perhaps, about throwing a relative newcomer in at the deep end. While The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (Leckie trilogy part one) is my favourite LP of all time, I can't deny that This Nation... is the most well-realized album the band has ever released. As such, it's an extremely dense and somewhat imposing piece of work.

Perhaps the best place for newcomers to start is, oddly enough, at the end. The third - and most approachable - Leckie album, Bend Sinister, has fallen out of favour with critics over the years but it's hard to understand why. Perhaps it's due to the same prejudice which causes many critics to label Hex Enduction Hour as the band's peak while ignoring everything that came after. This, in turn, is probably related to the assimilation of Brix Smith's West Coast guitar stylings and – perhaps more significantly – Leckie's pro production skills into the band's armoury.

Quite how professional was Leckie's approach to producing The Fall, though? At his first session with the band, he mic-ed everyone up and told them to play a song. Halfway through the number he demanded that they stop playing and leave the studio for five minutes. During this break, Leckie walked around the room putting the guitars slightly out of tune. When the band returned, he found the noise they made more to his liking.

Leckie actully toured with The Fall during this period, as their live sound-man. Apparently, he had a habit of turning all the channels up so far that he would regularly destroy the VU meters on venues' mixing desks. Still, even Leckie had his limits and when Smith insisted that Bend Sinister should be mastered from a low-quality cassette copy, Leckie vowed to never work with him again. Turns out Smith was right – the album has a muffled, distant sound which is oddly beautiful and distinctly hauntological.

Hauntology is a significant issue here, in fact. Like all great Fall works, the Leckie trilogy albums are an uncanny blend of the mundane and the mysterious. I recently argued that they have a similar spirit to Coil's two Musick to Play in the Dark volumes, which are overtly hauntological in their use of magical imagery and vintage Radiophonic electronics. As Leckie tells it, Smith would actually hang out with members of Psychic TV whenever The Fall were recording in London.

I'm not sure that Coil were still involved with PTV at this point but I still find the story to be fairly telling. Really, it's just a clumsy way of hinting at the true occult power of these albums. To get the real story, you simply have to experience them.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Little Birthday Gift to Myself.
It's the laughter I miss the most.