Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Benefits of a week off

Getting to play six records ‘out’ is not why I still collect music, but that was the only opportunity during the latest CALL night, where the line-up was staggered and numbers were down due to the relocation and, perhaps, metropolitan aversions about suburban SE London in general and how far out the Dirty South is. (A train to Lewisham and a 15-minute walk down the A20 gets you there; props to Mike’s friend Jason who walked from London Bridge!) Trendy near-suburban New Cross and Peckham with their inner-city frisson, yes; sticksville outposts such as Lee, no. Anyway, credit to all the acts who got on with the job despite the sparse turnout, none more so than the Rules who soundchecked and jammed over my fumbling round the mixing desk.

Le Six: Peverelist’s mix of STP’s The Fall (not deliberate as this noodly 90s-style techy spacestep stayed on for the duration of my working the system out), then 4Hero’s rmx of Laswell and Wobble’s Orion, Appleblim’s Circling, Battles’ Leyendecker, The Bug’s Night Tripper ft Roger Robinson from the first album, and M.I.A’s Paper Planes. The latter is a current hit with my daughter who asks for the ‘bang-bang’ one. (Get the waterboard out now I’m making a lawless terrorist out of someone you can still count in months!) Hoping to get some footage of the Rules’ powerful post-punk cacophony up soon.

That was the start of a few days of regular interactivity at the cultureface. Maggie Hambling’s ‘Scallop’ shell sculpture on Suffolk's Aldeburgh beach is not a disposable work ripe for vandalism but neither is it something to stand and gawp at. Accordingly, my kids and I got involved with it, diving in below to shelter, clambering on and around the ruggedised stainless steel’s different shapes, or just sitting on or by this living (and inevitably dying) object and contemplating the power of the sea.

This was clearly not the view of a few aged arrivals, although their impeccable British reserve was not up to the job of telling us that explicitly. Do they appreciate such subject-object loyalism is negated by its structure and material (metal already rusting), and therefore the impossibility of this being like an unchanging artwork fenced off in a gallery, as well as its setting, given the ever-evolving Suffolk landscape on which it sits (as the site notes say, ‘the natural tendency in all things to entropy’)? Nevertheless, we got off and gave them their minutes, and took the picture of a group of girls who wanted the tourist image from the backside.

To E3 Ldn, not to catch the latest grimestars get funky, but to attend a concert in aid of a Bow church development fund. That’s concert, as in concert, the classical. Two hours of solo, duet or group renditions of Mozart, Puccini and Rossini arias, sacred and secular Tudor pieces, the ‘British Airways’ tune (Delibes’ Sous le Dome Epais), Schubert, Britten, Messaien, etc, accompanied either by piano or iTunes instrumental.

The vocal quality of each act was not in doubt, but I have not had much exposure to this type of full-on, belted out, no-part-of-the-scale-untouched performance, and I confess to occasional wilting (must have been the earlier wrestling with rebar). Accordingly, my ears were most pricked when there was material closest to my classical tastes – solo piano pieces from Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite – and I was also diverted by material that broke the mould such as an in-the-round approach to a Charles Villiers Stanford number and the modern-life-is-rubbish vocal satire of Berberian’s Stripsody (pure Waveswarms business!). All in all, a worthy exposure.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CALL night Thursday 23 April – venue switch

Next Thursday’s night in aid of the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning has switched venue to Dirty South in Lee. Here’s the venue home page, Facebook event and that Jezza's palpable excitement at the upcoming event. Flyer is below. Hope to see you there.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Does anyone want a So Solid picture disc?

Recently there has been a breakthrough in clearing out the music crap that accumulated over the years from my partner working in the business then became serious landfill when her distributors/marketers went bust at the end of last year. Check Music Magpie out, it’s an ultra-easy way of selling unwanted CDs – just put the barcode in and the CD is valued straight away. Continue through your list to get a total and then they’ll send out someone to get your stash.

We have done two or three box clearances in this way now, earning a few quid in the process but more importantly beginning to make the room they’re in a liveable space. Bloomin’ Ada, if she were to exist, would not welcome sleeping among piles of dusty sonic detritus but that would have been her option.

Just a look at the latest stuff to go flushes me with a sense of relief and administrative success, even though I didn’t do any of it. Placido Domingo, Jimmy Osmond, Geordie – the Singles Collection, Nicky Wire’s solo project, Numbers from the Beast – An All-Star Tribute to Iron Maiden and Keep it Tidy Vol 4 could all be heading to good homes now. Of course there was gear that I would likely have liked – some AR Rahman scores, Nittin Sawhney’s All Mixed Up, Fiery Furnace’s Blueberry Boat, even Deep Purple’s Live in Montreux. But I already have enough ‘back-up’ dance and rock stuff already and in fact this is a two-track process where some of my old vinyl and CDs have headed to the charity shops. If it’s not wowing enough for me to pick it up and play straight away, then it’s time they face the music. But I was lucky that I had managed to save one copy of Biosphere’s Autour de La Lune, a slow trip in space in veneration of Jules Verne’s story of the same name. Beautiful otherworldliness from Geir Jenssen.

It’s only stage 1 in the war against clutter (mountains of CDs and records would of course not be clutter if we valued this gear), now we need to get into all the old REM and Muse curios, the old picture discs and the pointless items of clothing merchandise from the major label years. We are also irritatingly well stocked on Welsh rock trailblazers The Stereophonics and the Lost Prophets. And Drive-by-Truckers.

Truth of course could never condone illegal on-selling of copyrighted goods, but it’s a mark of the times that in some channels (ie, the old-school Music & Tape Exchange/Reckless routes) most of the gear is valued as worthless so we’d give it away if we could arrange takers. Although a car boot sale on some idyllic Sunday morning on a home counties patch to pick off the rest is a possibility (I can see the pitch now – “shit rock CDs - 14 pence each”).

Seriously, does anyone want a So Solid picture disc? Commemorates sales of the Fuck It mix CD.
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Top 10 of the Decade - third entry

Vitalic - La Rock 01
(international Deejay Gigolos 2001) (series growing here)

There might be years of pre-ownership speculation about a tune you go on to love, especially if you have no idea which is the right remix or which label it came out on first or even if it is the right one. That was the case for me with Vitalic’s La Rock 01, first out on hell’s International Deejay Gigolos in 2001. A compilation favourite, notably appearing on 2 Many DJs’ first, this stalker took on its own life in the musical world and its own form in my mind, before I finally had a copy via his debut album in 2005. Ever since then it has been the one track I go to if I want rave alienation, a quick rush to a dark hole of oblivion.

La Rock derives much of its energy and momentum from an explicit repudiation of uplifting/funky mores, placing it firmly in the European industrial line. None of the pleasing gratification or pay-off we’ve come to demand from rave is evident here, unless nightmarish fairground rush is your default setting. It builds along the lines of standard techno, adding in percussive ticks and claps and little synth incidentals before the bassline signals something even nastier to come. Nihilist in the sense that it is just a banging rocker offering no salvation, in that it steals standard rave sounds and exploits them in such a way as to reject any generic discourse (does it fit into techno or electroclash, who cares?) and exists only to (dis)please itself. A grand statement of nothing-from-a-discredited-something, ill prepared to offer any resolution or way forward. A tune to accompany the collapse of culture into ground zero rubble.

The main riff – the standard digital arpeggiated line ubiquitous to the all the main popular genres but especially associated with electroclash – gradually filters out of the bass and unwinds up and down as you would expect. It could be a verse line rather than the stand-out sound but for the intensity with which it is delivered. The only other non-breakdown element adds shuddering synth lines to the cold rush, and as a piece they come round three or four times before the chink of light signals the ending.

I don’t often recommend or replay this tune to others. It’s too demanding to fit in with functional techno and trance, too unsophisticated (and too well known) for serious house afficionados and too nasty to ever convert the guitarboys; indeed you would play it to them to prove their prejudices on dance. Not necessarily due to its sonic palette, all of which are universally established, but for its soulessness, its lack of humanity. Changing domestics mean I can rarely give this the full treatment on the loudspeakers, but on the headphones, out and about late at night, I turn this up so it distorts.

Ok Cowboy is a decent album, displaying in full Pascal Arbez’s Jarre/Moroder fetish in the modern context and much lighter on the hole than Rock. But it might be said Arbez, a Frenchman living in Dijon of Italian descent (tho' this site has him born in Ukraine and living in eastern Germany), was one of those artists who struck gold on his first go. Other album highlights Poney 1 and Poney 2 also appear on that first Gigolo ep.

Arbez chose ‘Vitalic’ to get away from his techno output as Dima but there is a certain irony in that name when it will be forever associated with this death march of a tune.
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