Speakers Push Air

Then I Saw His Face…
April 22, 2012, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Art, Miscellaneous | Tags: ,

And now I’m a Belieber.

Read: The Savage Detectives
April 21, 2012, 11:04 am
Filed under: Bookshelf, Reading | Tags: , ,


“the search for a place to live and a place to work [is] the common fate of all humanity,”

Funny old book, this. The first section – an account of the lives and loves and passions and battles of young poets in 70s Mexico City is sad and thrilling and brilliant at conveying the way the obsessions of our youth wither or get supplanted and how losing that kind of feverish obsession is heartbreaking but inevitable.

The middle section, which in part I guess looks at what happens when we stay obsessed, is wonderfully done – a series of interviews with bit players and friends, lovers and enemies,  all with amazingly discrete and distinctive voices and characters. But in the end it becomes confusing and indulgent and dull and led to me giving up.

But that’s been bothering me so today I skipped to the last, short section where the escape from Mexico City that ends section 1 is resolved in a kind of matter of fact tragedy…

Not sure, finally, what I think. The first and third sections have some brilliant writing and would probably have made for a pretty good novel in themselves. But I suspect the middle section is ‘the point’, somehow, and here it just got away from me.

April 21, 2012, 8:57 am
Filed under: Miscellaneous | Tags:

Iggy Pop is 65 today. How unlikely that would have seemed in 1970.

Randy & Earl – Staggerin’ On
April 18, 2012, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Admin, Mixes, Stagger Casts | Tags: , ,

been an age since I posted any links to my sister blog, Randy & Earl’s Record Club. Which is dumb, but there you go. Anyway, it’s been pretty busy, especially with Jared / Brother Earl on a big New Orleans tip of late. And the Stagger Casts keep coming – up to 44 now. So go take a look.

National Sleazy Day
April 18, 2012, 11:13 am
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Narc, Radio | Tags: , , , , ,

When I reviewed the Sleazy tribute gig for Narc magazine, I originally wrote a much longer piece which – understandably, at nearly a thousand words – didn’t get used. Bear in mind that it was written as if for Narc,  so it’s in the same sort of style I’d use to write there: nothing too florid, not assuming too much prior information from the casual reader etc. Anyway..

Wishful Thinking: A Tribute To Peter ChristophersonTyneside Cinema March 17th
Musick To Play In The Dark with Rob YoungTyneside Cinema March 17th
Radio Boredcast – A Tribute To Peter ChristophersonBasicFM March 17th / 18th

I should declare an interest here – I’ve long been fascinated by Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and his work with Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Coil, Threshold House Boys Choir and Soi Songs. I even have two tattoos based on Coil artwork. So when I heard that a whole day of the AV Festival’s programming was to be given over to a tribute to Sleazy, I couldn’t have been happier.

The day got underway with a significant chunk of Radio Boredcast – the internet station run by Basic FM and programmed by Vicki Bennett of People Like Us for the duration of the AV festival – being given over to Sleazy and his works. Friends and collaborators introduced often quite rare selections of his own material and music he was influenced by (and in some cases had on  his iPod at the time of his passing). So Leonard Cohen, Thai folk music, Arvo Part and Kelis all got played. It was interesting and exciting radio, and a perfect way to get in the mood for what was to come. NB: the playlists can be found here

Rob Young is a damn fine music critic and writer (his work in The Wire is always engaging and astute and his book about English folk, Electric Eden, is essential). So he was almost the ideal person to present a fairly brief talk about Sleazy’s life and work (perhaps David Keenan would have been even better, given that Young quoted liberally from Keenan’s book England’s Hidden Reverse throughout). In the Tyneside Digital Lounge, Young accompanied his talk with snatches of Sleazy’s music and a series of slides – artwork, press photos and the like. The technology seemed to be beset with glitches occasionally (Sleazy would have approved) but stopped proceedings being too dry and gave things a certain atmosphere. To be honest, although Young’s talk did capture some of the spirit of Sleazy – holy fool, digital mystic, village idiot, part ad exec and part shaman – I expected more analysis, more of Young’s impressions of what Sleazy’s music achieved, rather than an informative but fairly obvious biographical rundown. In a room full of people who probably knew all this stuff, it seemed like a slightly missed opportunity. It was a smart move to finish by playing Coil’s Broccoli in its entirely – a song that initially appears a little silly but actually touches on death, family, the quotidian versus the universal. It was also good to hear that Sleazy’s prolific promo work included Cliff and Van’s Whenever God Shines His Light On Me.

After a 2 hour gap which saw a fair number of Sleazy fans wandering around a particularly bleak rainy city centre (and largely settling into Wagamama), it was time for Wishful Thinking, a tribute to Sleazy in sound and film. Sleazy had actually been due to compose a piece for this AV Festival, to be performed at Durham Cathedral where his father had been Vice Chancellor and where Sleazy had been troubled and transported by the cathedral and its choir. While there’s no clear record of what he had in mind, the first half of the tribute was programmed in the spirit of what he might have come up with.

The performance (which ended with screenings of two Coil-soundtracked Derek Jarman movies and Philippe Garrel’s The Inner Scar) started with Attila Csihar taking the stage, a sombre giant, while a number of percussive sounds – bells, Tibetan singing bowls, chimes – were played from the balcony. Atmospheric and unsettling, they provided an ideal precursor to Csihar’s astonishing vocal performance. Formerly the singer in (in)famous Norwegian death metal band Mayhem and now a regular Sunn O))) collaborator, Csihar not only has a phenomenal, apocalyptic voice, especially effective when multi-tracked, but is also adept at overtone (or throat) singing. The second part of his performance involved the playing of backing tracks which were recorded in Durham Cathedral itself – a ‘silence’ manifesting as muffled voices, bells ringing, doors shutting, a distant telephone. After some time, a series of projected images (essentially the beauty of youth and the inevitably of death and decay) and some further vocals from Csihar drew the piece to a close, but not before a cowled figure covered in lights had appeared at the edges of the venue, moving in suitably spectral fashion. It was the sort of performance you could either mock for its portentous or lose yourself in – I recommend the latter: it was powerful stuff.

It’s strangely pleasing that Chris (Carter) and Cosey (Fanny Tutti) look so unassuming behind their laptops and effects units considering their CV  – ‘wreckers of civilisation’ who tweet about their cat Dexter. The music they performed tonight had a difficult gestation it would take the whole of this review to explain, but what we got was live remixes of tracks from the final, as yet unreleased, Throbbing Gristle album Desertshore – a cover of the Nico album of the same name which was a big influence on Sleazy. Initially things were a little disappointing, the first track a fairly unremarkable electro chug although with some really pummelling beats, the second – with recorded vocals from Blixa Bargeld – more of the same. But the next two – with Cosey adding gorgeous live vocals, cornet and treated slide guitar and an amazing recorded contribution from Anthony Hegarty – were fantastic. The short set concluded with an entirely new track, featuring the processed and overlaid voices of Sleazy’s friends and collaborators repeating the phrase “Meet me on the desert shore” to fairly heartbreaking effect.

 Postscript: It’s the curse of still being out in the sticks that I didn’t see a fraction of the things I wanted that went on during AV12: As Slow As Possible, but even so, in the course of about 10 days I saw or experienced amazing performances from Nurse With Wound, Chris & Cosey, Attila Csihar, Forest Swords, The Caretaker and Pye Corner Audio (all for free, thanks to Narc Magazine). Stuff like this reminds me that Newcastle is a great city and London isn’t necessarily the only place stuff like this happens.

Bowery Movement
April 17, 2012, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, MP3 | Tags: , ,

I’ve already mentioned how stupidly excited I am about the impending Afghan Whigs reunion. A handful of shows and then… gone again. I hope Greg ‘Muthafuckin’ Dulli doesn’t renege on that: I’d rather a brief, glorious return than a risky full-on reunion full of compromises and disappointments (especially judging by the new tracks on their Unbreakable compilation).

In their prime, Afghan Whigs were one of the most astonishing live bands I’ve ever seen. Moving in a few short years from what was basically a grunge band – a cut above the rest, but still – to something more akin to a full on soul revue band, by their end it was more like a Vegas show than some flannel-clad rock thing. Dulli – a quasi-menacing blend of Joaquin Phoenix, Elvis and a failed chubby mobster – was, to him at least, a guilt-racked sex machine who was more likely to drop TLC lyrics than Kick Out The Jams. Or slip into some Al Green and just about get away with it.

I saw them a bunch of times, the last time at the height of their excess (and Dulli’s too) and I thought then that maybe they’d finally gone too far. The backing singers and percussion I could handle, but it was the jazzy looking dude on electric piano that sealed it.

But I’m here to tell you, brothers and sisters, I was all kinds of wrong. The soul brother number one fantasy playing out in Dulli’s head was a beautiful thing and we were honoured to see it before the wheels came off his narcotic wagon.

In tribute to that, a rare thing for this blog, a whole album. Or bootleg, anyway, of the band really tearing it up in New York City in 1998, with a full New Orleans brass section. And a bit of a Tupac cover. The soul, R&B and hiphop referencing medleys. The endless patter and ludicrous segues, the brass solos, the lot.

If they’re anywhere near this good in May I’ll explode.

Afghan Whigs – The Bowery Ballroom, New York City 1998 (220mb, 2hours)

1. intro
2. papa was a rolling stone / blame, etc
3.  going to town
4. debonair
5. when we two parted / ex-factor
6. my curse
7. uptown again
8. what jail is like
9. 66
10. band intros / fountain and fairfax
11. faded
12. jam
13. more jam
14. california love / talk
15. more talk
16. john the baptist
17. talk
18. papa was a rascal
19. king only
20. omerta / vampire lanois

(the bootleg was originally in a bunch of badly separated and tagged mp3s so I’ve stitched them back together)

April’s Narc Content #3: Singles Reviews
April 16, 2012, 2:12 pm
Filed under: 7"s, Narc | Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know if it’s because it’s sunny or my meds are kicking in, but the singles pile is VERY healthy this month.

Teenage Blood from Tom Williams & The Boat isn’t bad at all, a rousing country-ish take on the kind of ‘big music’ The Waterboys used to trade in. Not breathtakingly original but pretty stirring nonetheless. Dreadful name though. Sticking with country-ish, All The Crooked Scenes by Ellen & The Escapades is decent enough in a Walkabouts kind of way. Again, not especially original but it has a pleasing gallop to it.

I’m a big Talibam! fan and No School is a wonderful mess – clunky white boy rapping over a lurching, percussive racket that barely makes it to the end of the track without collapsing. Great name too (Tom Williams, take note). Another band I already love, The Miserable Rich have worked their string-laden chamber pop magic again with Under Glass. It’s got cellos, people!!! Meanwhile, Pulled Apart From Horses release their best single yet with Wolf Hands – still pretty hardcore but catchy as hell, and lyric of the year so far – “when i was a kid, i was a dick, but nothing changes”. Excellent.

Let’s take time out from all that ceaseless positivity for a trio of deeply rubbish releases. When I played Clouds I genuinely thought it was a mislabelled Wild Beasts track. Weird Shapes / Wild Beasts – easily done. But no, they really are that derivative. Docked a point for the most pompous website ever (so that’s minus 1). Similarly unforgiveable is Shine On You by Strangers, like a synth pop soundtrack to a Sanatogen advert. A ‘lighters up’ anthem for try-hard aunties. As for Hold Me Now by Premise Beach (another shocking name), I just don’t know what to say. Whiny songwriter stuff with a production budget and a particularly disgusting guitar solo.

Thankfully, Django Django have surprised me with a really great single. Storm is clever without trying too hard, catchy without being inane and it kinda stomps. Santigold has seemed a bit lost of late, but Disparate Youth is just brilliant – soaring and epic, a bit Fever Ray, chock full of lush synths and fembot vocals, perfect for the radio on a sunny day. Which is where we came in…