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…

April’s Narc Content #2: Album Reviews

CarterTuttiVoid – Transverse (Mute)

Factory Floor ‘get’ what Throbbing Gristle were about so much more so than any number of faux-shocking industrial fuckwits. So it’s natural -and brilliant – that Factory Floor’s Nik Void and Throbbing Gristle’s Chris & Cosey have worked together.

Transverse was recorded at last year’s Mute Short Circuit festival, using studio tracks as a starting point for a series of improvisations of quite amazing intensity. Each is driven by a brooding, insistent rhythm pattern, the trio adding shards of guitar, wordless vocals, stabs of synths and effects, layering these more heavily on each subsequent track until V4 is a maelstrom of bewildering noise and stuttering rhythm. At times it sounds like an early 90s ‘ardcore rave track dissected and reassembled and I wish to hell I’d been there.



Volcano The Bear – Golden Rhythm / Ink Music (Rune Grammofon)

While Volcano The Bear sound like nothing else you’ve heard, we’re gonna need some reference points to get us through this absolute mindfuck of an album. Take some Residents, some Nurse With Wound, lots of Sun City Girls, some recent freak folk, some early Soft Machine and perhaps some of that brown acid you were warned about and you’ll be in roughly the right part of the scary, moonlit forest where you’ll find them beating out martial rhythms on animal bones and saluting some long forgotten pagan spirit with out-of-tune trumpets and muezzin wails. Nothing this fucked up should be so much FUN.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn improv.



We Are Knuckle Dragger – Tit For Tat (Sapien Records)

Sometime in the 90s the boundaries between metal, hardcore and punk blurred and old gits like me got confused. But if the end result of all this genre inbreeding sounds like We Are Knuckle Dragger, it’s all good.

The local hardcore heroes’ debut album is 30 minutes of bruising, relentless energy. What hits you first is the churning low end, which is why getting Steve Albini to record makes sense (he worked similar magic with Mclusky). There’s nothing fussy or complicated here – as is the Albini way, WAKD clearly recorded this live and fast and it pays off. There’s enough Fugazi-style spikiness to keep it interesting but essentially Tit For Tat just rocks like a bastard.



M Ward – The Wasteland Companion (Bella Union)

M Ward is fast becoming the T-Bone Burnett of his generation, the ‘go to guy’ if you want to tap into America’s musical heritage. He’s worked with everyone from Zooey Deschanel to Bright Eyes and never seems to pause for breath.

Hence his 6th album being largely recorded on the road and boasting an impressive rollcall of guests – from Deschanel to Howe Gelb to Steve Shelley. And the album is… okay. He always gets the sound he’s after – be it Roy Orbison echo or prairie shuffle – but few of the songs connect. It’s perfectly pleasant to listen to but nothing really sets the heart racing. Watch The Show is interestingly spooky, his Daniel Johnston cover is cool, but Ward needs to come up with the songs to prove himself more than just a talented mimic.


April’s Narc Content #1: Live Reviews

Wishful Thinking: A Tribute To Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson: Chris & Cosey / Attila Csihar – Tyneside Cinema, March 17th

This tribute to Sleazy was in part an attempt to hint at what his commissioned AV piece would have been if he hadn’t passed away in 2010.

Bells, Tibetan singing bowls and chimes emanated from the balcony, focussing us, calming us as a precursor to former Mayhem singer Attila Csihar’s performance. Augmenting his phenomenal, apocalyptic voice with overtone (throat) singing and multitracking, he mixed in tracks of ‘silence’ recorded in Durham Cathedral – muffled voices, bells ringing, doors shutting, a distant telephone. Projected images (the beauty of youth, the inevitably of death), more astonishing vocals from Csihar and a spectral figure moving sombrely round the cinema drew the piece to a close. 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.

Chris & Cosey – so unassuming behind their laptops and effects – performed a handful of live remixes of tracks from the final Throbbing Gristle album, Desertshore (a cover of the Nico album). Initially a rather unremarkable electro chug (albeit with some really pummelling drums), things soon improved with Cosey adding gorgeous vocals, cornet and treated slide guitar, and an amazing recorded contribution from Anthony Hegarty. 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.


Killing Joke / The Icarus Line – Newcastle Academy March 13th

The Icarus Line started life as a fairly straightforward west coast punk band and you can’t help thinking that would have gone down better with a largely indifferent but occasionally outright hostile Killing Joke crowd than the Birthday Party / Stooges retreads they offered tonight. Frontman Joe Cardamone worked hard but was never going to win over the Joke faithful who knew exactly what they wanted and were about to get it.

The last time I saw Killing Joke was in the mid-80s and this gig, with the reunited ‘’classic’ line, wasn’t much different. The sound is still impressive verging on bombastic, and Geordie really is one of the very best guitarists of the whole post punk era. It’s hard to keep up with what apocalyptic predictions are possessing Jaz Colman these days but he still comes on like a cross between a maniacal shaman and a panto dame, all puppet moves and grandiose gestures.

To be honest, the first half of the set – mostly new stuff – dragged a little. But once they dug into the archives for Wardance, Psyche and an especially epic Love Like Blood you realized that for all the sturm und drang, Killing Joke can still be an amazing live band.


Future Islands / Warm Digits – Cluny 2, March 8th

I haven’t seen a bill this upside down since The Flaming Lips decimated Teenage Fanclub years ago.

Let’s start with the losers, then. Future Islands came with a whole heap of Pitchfork-based love and I’m at a loss to understand why. Take away an unremarkable bassist and some very predictable electronics (with none of the magic of New Order, a frequent reference point) and you’re left with a pompous buffoon of a singer – equal parts Vic Reeves’ club singer, Russell Crowe and Lee Evans – who’s idea of stage craft is to repeatedly slap himself round the face and prance about like a boxer.  Their success is mystifying.

Thank god, then, for Warm Digits – a revelation to me even if they’re old news to everyone else on Tyneside. On a stage crammed with so much kit it looked like a hacker’s bedroom, the duo faultlessly set about reworking a near- perfect set of influences (motorik Neu grooves, Kraftwerk synths, DFA cowbells, a dash of Tortoise and Errors) into something genuinely warm and new and exciting. They made me grin all over my stupid face for the entirety of their too short, non-stop set and nothing Future Islands did after could take that grin away.


Valhalla Rising
April 12, 2012, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Movies | Tags:

That was intense. Equal parts Malick, Herzog, Apocalype Now, Idi I Smotri and all sorts of other brooding horribleness. Amazing soundtrack too