Saturday, 19 April 2014

Thalia Zedek Band "Six"

Thalia Zedek Band "Six" (Thrill Jockey)

Thalia Zedek recorded six songs for her sixth major studio album since the temporary dissolution of her previous band Come, so the reason for the album title is obvious. Thalia's songwriting has always burnt an emotional torch that illuminates the darkest places. "Fell So Hard" is a directly personal song, addressing the intensity of feeling in two relationships, her first lover and last lover. "Julie Said" is even heavier, a lament for a dead friend that could almost be a lullaby for graveyard sleep. The mood remains steadfastly downbeat with no noisy finale like her previous album "Via." Since then there's been a change of drummer, but you'd hardly notice. Two tunes dispense with the Band's bass, piano, viola and drums. The instrumental "Midst" and the apocalyptic finale "Afloat" find Thalia alone with her guitar. The gently powerful "Afloat" was written just after Hurricane Sandy's destruction of the New York studio by where she recorded "Via" but its lyrical imagery stands as strongly as a metaphor for emotional isolation: "And now we all know how far we can float, And now we're all islands." Since recording the album, Thalia's performed a full band version, but the fact that this solo rendition is the album's highlight shows just how superlative her songs are. David Michael Curry's viola and Mel Lederman's piano always accentuate the melancholy, but Thalia can easily stand alone. In the past she's covered Bob Dylan and Lou Reed songs, but unlike them she's never released anything remotely forgettable. There's a cover song here too, Freakwater's "Flathand," and it comes as no surprise that it's the weakest track. The only genuine negative criticism that could be levelled is over brevity; "Flathand" is an older recording so perhaps it would have been cool to have included "Searchlight" from a now out of print Australian tour CDR and her cover of the Animals "House of the Rising Sun." But then "Six" would not have been six songs.    

April Records

This is the new music I enjoyed listening to so far in April 2014:

Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock 2LP (mind altering instrumental mayhem)
Gallon Drunk - The Soul of the Hour LP (their best album yet signed by 3/4 of the band)
Mike Watt - Hyphenated-Man LP (signed "Loves the Fall")
Lorelle Meets the Obsolete - Chambers CD

Therapy? - A Brief Crack of Light
Lumerians - The High Frontier
Satelliti - Transister
Superchunk - I Hate Music

A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Boston Spacechips - The Planets are Blasted
Sunn O))) - Flight of the Behemoth
Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu
Giant Sand - Cover Magazine
Giant Sand - Long Stem Rant
Giant Sand - Purge and Slouch
Iggy Pop - Nuggets

Hoping to get the Bardo Pond records store day album later.

Monday, 7 April 2014

March Gigging Mania

In March 2014 I attended these musical gatherings:

1 MANTIS: Francis Dhomont, etc

2 MANTIS: Trevor Wishart, Kairos, Danny Saul, etc (Martin Harris Centre)

7 Gum Takes Tooth, Bad Guys, 2 Koi Karp, etc (Islington Mill)

8 Electric Electric, Cowtown, Sport, Well Wisher, Plank!, Barberos, Doctrines, Housewives (Klondyke)
8 Locean (Fuel)

12 Thalia Zedek Band, The Franklys, Lily Oakes (Garage, London)

13 The Noise Upstairs (Fuel)

14 Grails, Lilacs and Champagne (Soup Kitchen)

15 Danny Saul, Rosanne Robertson, H, The Digitariat (Eagle)
15 Kurt Dirt (Guts for Garters, Star and Garter)

20 Aaron-Couper, A Belied Guaniko, Chalaque, Firm Friends (Dulcimer)

27 Lightning Ensemble, Stephen Grew, Alphabet (St Margarets Church)

28 Dean Blunt (Soup Kitchen)
28 Mika Vainio, Ninos du Brasil, Evol, Source Direct (Islington Mill)

29 The Stranglers, Nine Below Zero (Big Academy)

Gigs I enjoyed the most: Thalia Zedek Band and the Stranglers

Best band I'd never heard before: Electric Electric

Funniest performance: Trevor Wishart "Encounters in the Republic of Heaven"

Loudest performance: Source Direct (or so it seemed; the Stranglers could have been louder as they played a much bigger venue but I didn't have to keep leaving the room due to punishing volume)

Most boring band: Lilacs and Champagne (Eagles play Tortoise)

Most difficult band to see whilst they played: Grails (Soup Kitchen stage is way too low)

Best drinks: Wildwood organic cider at Islington Mill and Fuel and Old Rosie cider at the Eagle Inn. No toxic artificial sweeteners, no hangover. Westons cider should be sold at all venues.

Best venue: Martin Harris Centre (perfect sound, no talking over the music)

Best heckle: Me shouting, "Its a bloke!" after Danny Saul played the Eagle, quoting Trevor Wishart's brilliant voice mutation piece that hardly anyone else at the Eagle had heard performed at the MANTIS electroacoustic weekend earlier in the month.

No one annoyed me at any of these gigs, not even the Franklys fans talking too loud whilst Thalia Zedek Band played as I stood close enough to the PA and viola amp for it not to bother me.

White Hills & Gnod @ Deaf Institute 21.10.13

Space, the final front ear. These are the voyages of the Starship Gnod, or at least one of them. Every trip is different; that's one of the joys of Gnod. It didn't take much to imagine them being a bunch of sci-fi space pirates piloting their craft into unknown galactic regions with the power of music: Jamie Robinsons projections shifted like vectors on a hyperspace map on the big screen behind the array of consoles high up  on the Deaf Institute stage. A deep moaning drone from Paddy and some longer duration distorted growls and grunts from Marlene and Alex seemed less vocalistaions than extra texture to the mutating technoid stomp'n'stagger that fuels their latest incarnation. Problems for Paddy with a rogue beat dropping in the wrong drive were quickly corrected by chief engine ear Chris, as they set the controls for the heart of the blck hole. Have guitars become too primitive for these beings? Certainly not for White Hills whose primal psychedelia connects the basic rock nerve centres to synaptic super novae. Their first scorching song "Forever In Space (Enlightened)" sums up in it'd title the feeling of spiritual unity that the best music can bring to a gathering of listeners, and was a perfect opener, sweeping everyone along with it's relentless momentum. White Hills are a band wo dress up for the occasion and make an effort to look like they rock. Guitarist Dave W had daubed heavy eye make up on his face and bassist Ego Sensation wore a velvet hotpants suit and they even had their amps covered in glittery material to keep the sound sparkling. With "In Your Room" and "Pads of Light" they delivered a double dose of compact psyche-blast number one hit singles from a parallel existation, followe dby the longer, slower "Song of Everything" where Dave ehorted everyone to open their eyes, minds and hands to take in "The Internal Monologue," the tripped out drone ambience that heralded the title track of their urrent album "So You Are... So You'll Be," a collision of Stooges riffing brutality ans spaced out monotone vocals theat eventually slowed to a backwards drum free guitar crawl like a hungover sunrise. After the most deranged "Daed" I've heard them play they were off for a bit before returning to shred up another old standard "Three Quarters" in extended form. Sadly they didn't play the brilliant closing instrumental form the album "MIST (Winter)" but you can't always get what you want. As the culmination of four days of gigging, including two days of the Carefully Planned Festival, this was perfect.   

Monday, 31 March 2014

Slint Blunt Vainio Adamson Stranglers‏

Last weekend was one of the best. I met up with lots of old friends and made a few new ones. On Friday I saw "Breadcrumb Trail", an informative documentary about Slint, at the Cornerhouse. My favourite part of the film was the letter from a five year old girl signing herself Dr Ill in response to Slint's request on the back of the "Spiderland" cover for any female vocalists interested in singing for them to get in touch. She wrote to tell them that she was much too good a singer for their band and wasn't interested. My friend Christian offered to pay for me to see Dean Blunt at Soup Kitchen so off I went to that with him and Eddie to check out some music new to my ears. Former Pan Sonic rhythm'n'noise experimenter Mika Vainio was at his explosive best at Islington Mill later, and Source Direct had me dancing about a bit even though I had to go stand outside the main room every ten minutes or so as it was cranked up so loud. Two attacks of intense strobes in one night (Dean Blunt and Evol's onslaught at the Mill) was a bit too much, and I ended up covering my face with my hat. Paddy from Gnod joined in on Mill roaming drum with Ninos du Brasil.

Saturday began with a new shortened version of "The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" on Radio 4, for two hours or so morphing meaningfully into Radio 42. At the Town Hall that afternoon Barry Adamson of Magazine and The Bad Seeds was being interviewed by Dave Haslam, whose Debris fanzine I used to read before ever setting foot in Manchester. Barry was humourous and entertaining and the discussion could've gone on twice as long. Afterwards I headed to the Northern Quarter to buy tickets for Fat Out Fest ( and Mike Watt (13.4 Ruby Lounge) and then took a quick look at the Cornerhouse Hiker Meat exhibition before heading south to see the Stranglers last British gig on their 40th anniversary tour. They probably played the best gig I've heard them play, with four ornately framed screens above showing notorious scenes from their past and video clips: "Midnight Summer Dream" accompanied by big black panther and little black cat; "Nice'n'Sleazy" with the strippers. After opening with "London Lady and "No More Heroes" I think they played at least one song from every studio album. The big surprise oldie we didn't expect to hear was "Peasant in the Big Shitty" and closing the main set with "5 Minutes" and "Hanging Around" was perfect. It was not yet time to die. Jet Black only played on four songs, "Golden Brown," the singalong number one that should've been "Always the Sun" and "Genetix" and the final two drummer encore of "Tank" with Dave Greenfield firing off big explosions. It was Dave's birthday and he donned a silly birthday cake hat with way too few candles for "Threatened." Baz Warne and JJ Burnel did a silly waltz to "Thrown Away" described by JJ as ther disco number. The first three song encore found them adding an over the top drum solo to the end of "Something Better Change." Other soongs they played included: Peaches, Walk On By, Was It You?, Nuclear Device, Duchess, Skin Deep, Never to Look Back, Valley of the Birds, Time to Die, Lowlands, Freedom is Insane, and in the first encore Norfolk Coast, All Day and All of the Night. After they took a bow and "Meninblack" played us out I headed to the Night and Day where Warm Widow had been playing but it was all over. People were hanging around outside and soon lots of Warm Widow friends headed to Gullivers where the Stranglers were on the jukebox and I got a generous glass of wine Warm Widow bassist Zak Haha was celebrating the remains of his birthday. So Zak and Dave Greenfield share a birthday and both played a gig on their birthday and it was one of the best days ever: the midnight summer dream had begun and I walked on by.

NOT RIGHT: A Porcine Stooge Error

Scott Asheton died recently so I thought I'd write something about Iggy and the Stooges. Ron Asheton is already dead. Stooges bassist Mike Watt brings his Missing Men to tour Britain soon (Manchester Ruby Lounge 13.4) and they will probably play at least one Stooges song. Last time I saw him he played "Funhouse."
The first time I heard the Stooges was somebody's request for "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on Annie Nightingale's Sunday evening show on Radio One, probably in 1984 or 1985. I taped the song as I was aware of the Stooges from Sex Pistols' cover of "No Fun." I misheard the name of the band and wrote 'Piggy and the Stooges' on the tape. I have always been a little disappointed that Iggy had no 'P' at the start of his name.

The first time I saw Iggy Pop he headlined the Reading Festival and didn't come close to the energy of the Ramones who probably hadn't been reading much before playing their "Too Tough to Die" set. He was also upstaged again next time by Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Silverfish and Babes in Toyland at the same festival. Nirvana played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" before it was a single and before most of the people had heard it and the crowd erupted like nothing I've seen before or since. Kurt Cobain, the Ramones and the Asheton Brothers weren't too tough to die but maybe some of their songs could be? The entire human race could be annihilated by an asteroid tomorrow so rock'n'roll might yet die.
Some people get better as they get older, or maybe they just improve because of the talents of those playing with them. Certainly the next time I saw Iggy Pop at the big Manchester Academy he had a harder heavier band and was on top form, dancing around more than any of the younger bands I already mentioned. This might I have been around the time of "American Ceasar."
Outside again with the Stooges, in a field somewhere outside Leeds was the real deal. Both Asheton brothers were then still living and the mighty Mike Watt was on bass. More people from the crowd got up on stage than was probably safe, they played most of the songs from their first two albums and "My Idea of Fun" and were well worth the trip. With Idlewild playing before them there was never any fear they'd get upstaged, but this was (almost) the band who inspired Sonic Youth, a rejuvenated band who had an energy to rival Sonic Youth and Iggy with the Asheton brothers had a magic that he didn't otherwise manifest.
My favourite Stooges song is "Not Right." I first heard its monstrous riff rsiing from the evil fog of Sonic Youth's "Bad Moon Rising." In 1985 that was the weirdest record I'd ever heard. The reformed Stooges would later record "The Weirdness" but it was nowhere near as weird as Sonic Youth were halfway through the eighties. The first time I saw Sonic Youth was the most exciting gig I ever heard, on the "Daydream Nation" tour at Kilburn National. Mudhoney supported and both bands came back for a second encore, a cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Thurston Moore pulled down Mark Arm's trousers then Mark Arm dived into the crowd. That's NOT RIGHT.
The Asheton brothers live on in this: it's NOT RIGHT.

Rewind to Bargain of the Month

Two oranges, a lemon, an apple, some carrots and three red onions; five recent copies of New Scientist magazine and Mark Kermode's book about "The Exorcist" film for free from
Maybe when I have eaten and read it all I will have the knowledge to become a New Exorcist of Science. I haven't actually seen "The Exorcist" film but enjoyed a recent Radio 4 adaptation. I much prefer radio to film or television as I like to imagine my own imagery. I also do not want my mind infested with subliminal corporate advertising crap.

13.3 A trip to Notting Hill Exchange proved fruitful. Ten pounds of Caty Pepper tape money filled my bag with bargain bin CDs by the Stranglers, Sebadoh, REM, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Cold Specks, Henry Rollins, Urge Overkill, the Dauntless Elite, Arab Strap and best of all Emily Jane White's most recent album "Blood / Lines." Strangely a prettyboy band was shooting a video in the basement whilst I was down there. Just before I climbed the stairs the singer knocked a microphone so they had to retake. When I told the two exchangers upstairs one of them remarked "Amateurs!"

13.3 £13 of Caty Pepper tape money got me a Glacial LP "On Jones Beach." This is a stunning droning improv collaboration between Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, Necks drummer Tony Buck and a bagpipe player called David Watson released by Three Lobed records. SLOW IS CERTAINLY GOOD. Even so the first side sounds good sped up at 45rpm. I commend it to your faces as one of Mr Ranaldo's finest finest 42 minutes and it nicely compliments the Rhys Chatham "Harmonie du Soir" CD I bought at the same time. They can spin loops around each other eternally.