January 31, 2010
Quick review on the new Four Tet album, ‘There Is Love In You’ (nice hippie title!) here. There are some fantastic tracks ranging from mellow electronica through to some quite uptempo 4/4 business all very much in the chopped and fx’d mould of music that Kieran Hebden specialises in. My favourite track is the rolling ‘Circling’ which builds, stops, then builds again. Think it could be a grower as an album and another quality release on the Domino label who along with XL are ticking the ‘doing it right’ box at a major label level.
January 31, 2010
The pink balloons atop the four foot tall Altec 7 cinema speakers are deflated, spent and shriveled like ball bags in an outside privy on a winter’s morning. The lists of cocktails that decorate the walls have long since been mixed. The night lit by fluorescent shots long since sunk. No more limes to slice. No more lemons to be squeezed. No more gaigen swearing at the overworked bar staff. The Lowrider posse. The samurai. The photographers. The dancing girls. Girls in tracksuits, see-through sheer dresses, and corn-rows. The Rosies. Have all gone.
The couch beside the decks left vacant now the Metro is up and running. The gorgeous jazz-singer out of sight and out of mind. My eyes, long accustomed to the dark and the smoke, watch the dB-display attached to the vintage UREI. A flickering pulse amid the empty glasses and overflowing ashtrays. 6 AM in a basement bar in Ebsiu, that’s fun but uncomfortable with more than thirty people. There’s only five of us left.
An irresistible force feeds Coldcut through infinite loops. Reflecting sadness off a thousand mirrors. I hammered this when it came out. I was living above an off-license at the wrong end of Upper Street. Naked to the top deck of the No. 19. If it’s tonic water youze want, it’s tonic water you’ll get. Bandulu do Acid Jazz. One for the Land Of Oz regulars who swapped writing graffiti amid the violence and whores of Streatham Hill for Thailand and a dragon’s warm embrace. Electric counterpoint and a key change bring new horizons. A rare feeling of great optimism. (Little Fluffy) Clouds in a blue sky. Ships at a distance have all men’s dreams on board.
Voodoo echoes through an empty city at dawn. Rattling down the black line. Post-coital techno. Sexed with strangers on a lonely come-down grey journey home from North to South. My love she lives on the Tulse Hill Estate. Dresser strewn with make-up. Cold wooden floor strewn with fashion magazines and clothes. Silverfish in the loo. Woozy with cider. Sick for another drink.
Nineteen years later sunshine betrays the cold on a lonely afternoon in Kohinata. I haven’t spoken to a soul all day. Waiting for the kids to come home. Thoughts move to the frozen snows of Karuizawa. A retreat from the world half-way up an active volcano. Home seems too long ago. Tokyo is too hard. I need a place to hide awhile. I am not Tereza, like Sabrina I’ll disappear.
Some strange cargo, back in another basement. This one on Seven Dials. Running with Fat Cat and GPR. Out-drinking Bjork and freaking out Scanner. Wandering the Mermaid Theatre in a haunted cowboy-shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons. Big apples and star dancers. The ghost of A Gravitational Arc Of Ten sings the blues. Rez over everything. White silence on Almeida Street, bar the ringing in my ears.
Heavy skies give (fallen) angles sway. Airto swings into the theme to Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected. Bar-owner Batch gives his last thumbs-up. Marbo, who was feigning sleep, gives me a round of applause, but I can’t tell if it’s in jest. A standing ovation before stumbling up the stairs and out towards the cold morning and the station. Skipping breakfast from the restaurant opposite that specializes in horse meat sashimi. The streets of Ebisu empty save clean-up squads washing the roads and picking up drunks. Guys in tight black Beatles suits. Girls in floral mini-dresses and cowboy boots.
So much is different. But so much remains the same.
Coldcut: Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force)
Koh Tao: Sun Down
Steve Reich: Electric Counterpoint
Primitive Painter: Levitation
James Yorkston: Woozy With Cider
Mark Isham: Mrs Soffel
In The Nursery: Incidental Guilt
Stange Cargo: Million Town (Kruder & Dorfmeister)
Detroit Grand Pubahs: Skydive From Venus
Craig Leon: Nommos
Ellis Island Sound: Angels Way
Adam K (a.k.a Waldo a.k.a Gentleman Mixer) is back with his thoughts on the wonderful world of Bill Withers and his ‘Live At Carnegie Hall’ album.
It’s just past the beginning of the year and no one gives a damn about anything. Everything is rubbish with a capital bish. No one has got any of the money they didn’t have in the first place and everyone’s on a diet of bad news and broken dreams with the Nutty Professor II (The Klumps) on a loop behind your eyes. The snow came so quick your postie still looks like he’s been frozen mid-post by the Snow Queen for cavorting with centaurs (the dirty cove). Cadbury cream eggs are on sale. Things are rotten. But is there a small chink of light I can see? Something reassembling good times, cheer and the nectar of human joy swilling around our chinked mugs? Yes yes YES –second in the occasional trawl of lost wonderful albums – Live At Carnegie Hall by Bill Withers.
This is a live album which is not feted or fawned over by the rockist establishment and never appears in any lists of the best album ever, let alone best live album. It’s ignored and only really known by a happy breed of the great and amazing (hands up!). If you meet someone with this record you can cross them off your twat list straightaways and maybe even start a family with them. A good friend swears his love for Bill Withers was the hook that sealed the deal on a romantic engagement. It sounds like a shaky premise for a relationship and it’s not one that is normally on the top of the filter questionnaire list of dating uniformed men dot com but tosh, it’s a pretty damn perfect way to set off into the sunset. The converse is true too though; if your potential other half likes the Levellers you can kill them and the Judge wouldn’t even give you 50 hours of community service with Boy George. The good Judge would shake your hand and the clerk of the court would garland you with flowers and the bells would ring out.
Back to the album – you can buy it for 5 quid from Amazon (other virtual dream destroying warehouses are available) and that 5 quid will be the best you’ve ever spent. Yes, even better than the 5 quid you’re using to buy some Italian disco cast-off which you and 360 other sad beens are looking for to impress the other 359 ( the other 1 already has it from a charity shop for “like 50p”) in a futile disco pissing contest. Collecting in this form is all about individual possession and is not about engagement, enjoyment or gardener’s question time or everything else which makes us better.
Of course I digress, if you wanted linear go and read a phone book. You know where it’s going and you can laugh when you get to Mr.Nipple. Back on message. Mr Withers is an artist that never gets the recognition he deserves. Most of his albums have a patchy CD release if released at all and his only exposure is Dr Fox hammering “Lovely Day” on Heart FM when the temperature reaches 17 C (i.e. the temperature under which he can crawl out from under the algae riddled stone where he hibernates). Mr Withers is in fact up there with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and perhaps even edges those two through the sheer bristling humanity that surrounds his work, enveloping and bathing the listener in a glow of inspiration. You’ll forgive my hyperbole because it’s all a sky high fact because we’re talking about Bill Withers and this album. For a moment let’s cast off cool and the strictures it coerces upon us, directing us like a shadow nervous system. I know when you listen to this record a feeling of community energy pours out of the speakers and soars like an astral projection of light dissolving clouds and bleaching the moribund grey which coats everything. Friends, I am not a religious man but this is pure testifying business.
Mr Withers recorded this live album over two nights in October 1972 with a band which was essentially Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (minus Charles – who was too busy raising young Eazy E who, on reflection, probably didn’t spent enough time on the naughty step). He was only two albums down, which may seem rather early to issue a live album, a bit like Leona Lewis writing her autobiography “Leona: The story so far, 21 years of being confused by P.T.O written on both sides of the same piece of paper” but at 35 years old he was by music industry standards past it. Coming to music relatively late after a spell in the navy and working assembling aircraft his reluctance to embrace the music industry was pretty established and he did not walk the showbiz line. This is shown by the subject matter of the songs on this record, celebrating his grandmother, Vietnam veterans, friendship, middle aged women’s’ fears about relationships and, err, cold baloney. But the beauty of this record is the performance.
Sure the band’s performance is awesome – the opening 8 minutes of “Use Me” is high grade organic funk, loose and greasy yet tight as two coats of paint. Clearly the band gels and there is real love in their playing swirling around Bill. However the performance that leads this through the roof is Bill’s. Every time the audience sighs, cry or sings out with joy they confirm everything I as a listener feel about Bill on this record. The soul of the man sings out, contemplative, tender, and very funny. Just as great as his singing is (and it’s perfect), it’s his spoken introduction to the songs that are the strongest threads running through this. The two minutes in which he expounds on his relationship with his Grandmother before “Grandma’s Hands” are at points incredibly intimate and at the same time hilarious drawing in the audience and us. He just sounds like the purest soul in the world and time in his company feels like it validates everything rubbish going on anywhere. The best thing with these spoken interludes is that they are a conversation with the audience. There’s no performer’s ego here just the purest communication you get from one on one sharing – that‘s a special quality when in fact he’s singing to 2,000 people in an huge hall.
Hearing his voice points to why I think Bill Withers is a great artist. He sounds like he’s perhaps just as sad and weary as we may be, maybe wary of what we all struggle through but there’s a keen sense of hope, love and support. This is why I think as an artist he endures, he doesn’t sugar coat life but brings a sense of community. Throughout this album there’s a great deal of dark and light imagery, acknowledgment of the dark and of pain but knowledge that there is light and there is humanity out there. The pinnacle of this is “Hope She’ll Be Happier”, a resounding late night lament to a lost lover of pouring emotion as Bill wishes his ex well. Bill acknowledges there is a “darkness over which I have no power” but his love is so strong for her in truth seeing her happy is just as important to him as his brooding which will in time recede. At points Bill sings alone but at the key moment the strings surge forward and it’s heart stopping.
The finale is an epic 13 odd minute telling of Harlem and Cold Baloney which builds like the Amish in Witness, steady Rhodes funk breaking down into a marvellous call and response section with the audience singing like a recently assembled Gospel Choir. This breaks down into individual jams by the band (the bass driven Melvin Dunlap moment is so on point) but is so loose and the audience is with them all the way. The message in this track after the catharsis of this record is that the only way is up and we’re all going to Wembley.
With such a talent you wonder why Bill isn’t out there performing and saving our souls again. I can’t wait to see the next screening of the recent documentary on Bill, “Still Bill”, to find out.
Coincidentally “ Still Bill” is showing on the 21st February 2010 at the Prince Charles Cinema near Leicester Square at 1pm – tickets available here. You know what to do (i.e. see Still Bill at the Prince Charles, buy this album and send me photos of yourself in the bath).
January 29, 2010
January 29, 2010
Amazing video from Detroit’s The New Dance Show featuring A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Blow Your House Down’ and 33 1/3 Queens ‘Searchin” (probably my favourite house record). Can someone do us a mix of tracks like this of dirty old bassline house please and send it in for the site. Shout us here if you can. Gerald is taking part in the Red Bull Music Academy which is happening any time around now so we look forward to hearing some stories from that. We have heard the list of other guest speakers and have to say it’s sounding pretty stunning.
Thanks to Emma Warren for the link. Red Bull ahoy.
January 25, 2010
Good interview from Expletive Undeleted with Andrew Weatherall discussing being narky in the early days, MP3s and the reforming of PiL. Refreshing to see something raw in this day and age. Nice work chaps.
Thanks to Andy C for the heads up.
January 23, 2010
Great Arena last night on BBC4 covering the work and life of Brian Eno. Eno gave Arena access to observe him working in the studio and talking with friends and colleagues including Richard Dawkins, Malcolm Gladwell, David Whittaker and Steve Lillywhite. The program is available until Friday 29th January 2010.
Here he talks about his favourite productions.
“Produced by Giorgio Moroder, it’s an amazing production. Putting the crudely mechanical, duugguder dugguder dugguder, this kind of Germanic robot thing, against the incredibly sexy emotional organic gospel singing. It sounded so far ahead of people who thought they were making modern music.”
The Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows
“Again very important for me because it was very clear that song didn’t exist before it got to the studio (plays the song on a guitar). You know… It wouldn’t have been, well I am sure it wouldn’t have been as crappy as that (referencing version he just played) but that’s the kind of thing it would have been and yet it turned into this amazing jet stream psychedelic fantasy piece and entirely to do with electronics and with the use of the studio and with a lot of brilliant open minds.”
“Then the Velvet Underground – that’s production of restraint. You have to admire people who say the best thing I can do for this piece of music is defend it against the recording industry ’cause I am sure there were all sorts of people sitting around saying ‘ooh you should get a proper drummer, it’d be so much better with a proper drummer, instead of that woman who can only hit one drum at a time’.”
He then went on to talk about his life growing up in a small town in Suffolk which was surrounded by air bases (both American and British) and in turn had 17,000 GI’s within about 5 miles of the town.
“As the town was the closest place for them to go for entertainment there were lots of coffee houses in the town, which had jukeboxes, which mostly had American music on because the clientele were mostly Americans. So from an early age i was hearing really, really good doo wop and deep southern R&B. I’ve still got some of those records. ‘Life’s too short’ by The Lafayettes, which was not a doo wop song but a very mysterious single that meant a lot to me. The main rhythmic element in it is just someone playing rim shots, playing on the edge of the snare drum, there’s no big drums in it. So you have this very sparse background feeling and this urgent singing over the top.
I was always impressed by music I couldn’t penetrate the mystery of.”