Adam Khan is one of our occasional writers and here he is, as the title says, with a review of the new King Creasote and John Hopkins album. He’s also made a Spotify playlist to go along with the mix so check that under the review while you can as it’s all change with Spotify soon (cutting half the music unless you are a subscriber etc…).

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This is a great record to get lost in. It’s only just come out a few weeks ago but already I’m evangelical about it. If you love half of the stuff on Test Pressing and in particular those mixes or artists celebrated here that absorb you then this is a great record for you. Previously I’ve written about great albums from the past that I treasure and wish to share with anyone who seeks the same feeling from records that I do. But as you know there’s no time line to really astonishing records, they don’t go in and out of fashion, they exist of themselves.

So what does it sound like and why does it triumph over the other avalanches of releases? It starts with field recording of a Scottish Café and slowly a muted piano seeps in subtly transforming into a vibrating echoing hum (“First Watch”). Slowly emerging through these sounds (a gentle combination of found organic and electronic sounds) is the delicate voice and guitar of King Creosote (“John Taylor’s Month Away”). I knew of him vaguely but considered him previously as one of the legion of born again folkies clutching a copy of the Band’s Big Pink and scratching a ratty beard. Yes, this is in the tradition of other dark modern/vintage records (a bit like those faux weathered tables you can buy which someone has gone at with their sister’s knit comb) but the electronic washes of Jon Hopkins add an angelic choral atmosphere (“Running On Fumes”). I’ve recently been singing with a group of 30 people and that feeling of being lost in a beautiful noise that you are making is so striking, maybe I’m particularly alive to this. “ Bubble” and John Taylor’s Month Away remind me of the scene in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” where the characters stumble in the morning into a baptism by the river, where the white clad congregation pick their way through the woods slowly adding their voices to “Down to the River To Pray” which slowly builds.

I particularly like “Bats In The Attic” because of the female voice that joins the King which is just magical. I’ve listened to this record about 15 or so times and it just runs in and out of my consciousness. The best time to listen I’ve found is late night or early in the morning as I walk through the woods near my house especially on the recent bright light mornings. Others have compared this to Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” which is not wrong but I’ve always felt there was a coldness at the heart of that record, in that every piano note seems to be have recorded separately and then placed down like a exhibit with white gloves. Great care but no emotional warm. This record has much more warmth and it ebbs and flows so naturally that I don’t know where it ends and where the background sounds of real life start. Honestly, I’ve had to take my headphones off at points to check whether sounds are creeping in from the day or from the record. That’s a beautiful form of disorientation and for that reason alone I recommend this record to you. This is a great record to get lost in. Let us know if you agree.

Here’s a playlist to go along with the mix.

[Adam K]

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Our Adam has a night to plug. Sounds like a fun one – Ed…

Gettin Hectic is the occasional party I have been involved with for the last 11 years. We’ve criss-crossed London venues, been feted in newspapers, The Face and even had a party in New York and its twin city of Leicester. Now we are laying it to a timely rest with a huge jamboree at Vauxhall’s Hidden night club.

The night will be the equivalent of the last day of term when you could bring in buckaroo, a massive Boy Scout ging gang gooly where loads of girls from the next field have invaded and brought Lambert & Butler, hooch and poppers. Music-wise, it’s like your over excited little brothers are slapping together hip hop, funk, soul, house, rock and/or roll and those odd records that blow up every party. Damn, I nearly made it through without any clichés. We’ve got a great venue, we have lots of friends but we would like even more….. Gettin Hectic – we were never being bored.

[Adam K]

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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).

[Adam K]

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All blogs of whatever shape and form be it earnest fan wank splurges, car boot arrays of old tat and faded schmutter or supine schmaltz (check out RIP Mum to see why Cilla Black is tanning her hair in preparation for a comeback) or those purveying nuggets of nourishment for the more occupied browser (like this blog of course dear reader) rely on casual copyright infringement of some sort.

When it comes to copyright theft, we’re all giddy looters strolling out of Curry’s with a flat screen and a Phillips Senseo on judgment day. Tracks, pictures or whatever are fenced through the blogs and generally it really encourages and supports the creative industries as people exposed to the goodies then reach into their pockets. One of the last sentences is a joke.

However, at least some blogs offer up what is not generally accessible and not just a copy of Mamma Mia filmed in Jakarta by a St Vitus Dance sufferer with a weak bladder. So, weak justification out of the way and until the content providers put in place worldwide licensing agreements we’ll have to turn a blind eye to situations like the following. One of the last sentences is a joke.

Not many people post lyrics or poetry or some sort of beautiful collection of words which were strung together with care that flake off the emotional veneer that coats us. That’s why I present below the lyrics to a later Ian Dury song, You’re The Why. It was recorded by Robbie Williams and it’s a rare occasion where listening to the actual song completely ruins the underlying composition. Williams does what he does and that’s all you need to know.

Now read this until I return with something a bit more thought out and finished because if this makes you sit down and think about life and perhaps some love, lost, won, indifferent or unspoken and smile then that’s as good as any smart remarks in a world where being professionally chippy is what passes for engagement.

I shuffled through the modes of bad behaviour
And hankered for the desolated dawn
I couldn’t cope with yet another saviour
To steer me from the way that I was born

Then like a ton of bricks the dawn descended
Recalcitrance was hurtled to the floor
The citadel lay breached and undefended
You brought a love I’d never known before

I’ll want you till the seasons lose their mystery
I’ll need you till the birds forget to fly
I’ll love you more than anyone in history
Wherever there’s a wherefore you’re the why

I shuffled through the modes of bad behaviour
And hankered for the desolated dawn
I couldn’t cope with yet another saviour
To steer me from the way that I was born

Then like a ton of bricks the dawn descended
Recalcitrance was hurtled to the floor
The citadel lay breached and undefended
You brought a love I’d never known before

I’ll want you till the seasons lose their mystery
I’ll need you till the birds forget to fly
I’ll love you more than anyone in history
Wherever there’s a wherefore you’re the why

[Adam Khan]

Like everyone this week I have constantly asked myself “what would the Red Hot Chilli Peppers have done in this situation?” and then done the complete opposite. Tiresome propulsive bass lines have been banished, lengthy trousers sported and all sports or any physical activities that would play out like a Pepsi-max advert for virgins have been gratefully dismissed. It’s been pretty enlightening as I’ve realised that George Clinton is actually pretty shit and I have stayed away from any friends who may be dealing with some sort of drug issues fearing for my life that a mawkish ballad that “meant loads to me dude” was nearby.

Drug abuse is pretty passé and in the world of nightlife has become as much small talk as the weather is for the day time grapple between people who work with (hate) each other (writes Melanie Phillips). It’s socially acceptable to droll out a litany of your chemical intake and imbalances because that is the same as announcing “it’s humid but not close which is nice”. Recall each time you announced how (insert Danny Dyer adjective) you were and let the oozing realisation of what a sad state of affairs you are overcome you. Like many of us our measurement of what a good time equates to is when we were so metaphysically cocooned that we could not relate to or comprehend friends, physical objects, concepts of time or the tail of toilet paper wrapped around your legs on Burnt Oak Station platform. Own up we’ve ALL been there!!! Shit I’m writing Michael Macintyre jokes (a man still getting mileage out of pulling a face and saying the word “hob nob” repeatedly (in different accents – each one remarkably like that of a prize cunt) until everyone scratches the blood from their ears praying for silence). You might as well have been locked in a box with sherbet dib dabs poured into every hole until congealed and congregated in your gut the fizzing sugar paste explodes an internal vomiting wave coating your digestive system. And for what? What joy and nirvana has this plethora of ambrosia blocked our senses to? Why are we drug rich, spiritually poor? What have we missed? Jesus? Some Roy Ayres album we were bothered about for 4 minutes in 1993? The notion that House music is more relevant than Bobby Brown (play New Edition and Don’t Be Cruel back to back and then throw your Nu-Groove Collection into Banardos)? No, none of the former but the love of the genius of Neil Sedaka and his joy.

What a digression! But without it, best beloved, you would believe my eyebrows so arched that they are holding up my forehead. No I’ve not come to the guilty pleasures orgy party late, chap hanging out to find the last of the ironic man secretions has already been cleaned off the warm body of what “is really cool this week in ES magazine.” I speak with a total love of all things Neil. The man is a colossus and perhaps only for a handful of songs. Coupled with a voice that has retained a pureness of tone through decades that is delicious light and as gay as cotton candy made into my little ponies but stitched together with joy plus a joyful bitchyness on any youtube duet he’s doing (a shameless scene stealer). He was on the One Show this week, sullied by that Happy Shopper experience no doubt but still holding his end up knowing full well that every trend of cool sprouting from the 20 century and beyond, riding the waves of those totemic values of black, gay and Jewish which underpins all that is great streams forth from that smile, that comb over and his songs. In part II we shall examine Neil in detais, how he helped make “Heart of the Congos”, his relationship to Sir Victor Uwaifo, the essence of joy and looked in to the internet lie that Jerusalem was written by a prophetic William Blake told by the angels that Neil plays the Royal Albert Hall on 30th June. Any postcards describing Neil as cheesy, corny or old showbiz will be forwarded to the Test Pressing Thought Crimes Department who are already far too busy trying to work out when Level 42 officially became shit (“but shep petting-zoo did a mix of “Running In The Family”..).

TO BE CONTINUED…

[Adam Khan]

Adam’s back and with spring arriving he’s brought some bossa nova…

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967)

There are three truly great Frank Sinatra albums. Rockists are well aware of the first, “Songs For Swinging Lovers” (it’s no. 205 in Q magazine’s songs that “Jeremy Clarkson reads Mein Kampf too”). Friends we shall discuss that fine record again when we get to overlooked techno meisterwerks part 4. Trust me the horns pummel and stab like Derrick May’s fat fingers on his Korg whatzitmecalledit and the banter infects every Pet Shop Boys song of note.

The maudlin massive are steeped in the second “In the Wee Small Hours”. A record which foresees Burial’s “ Untrue” by five decades and distils the self loathing and minor key menace of every vital headphones only experience but which is notably absent from every big chill happy clap-a-thon chill-out-in-a-basket session. The third and the reason why we are gathered here today tugging our cufflinks, allowing only a glimpse of a slither of sleeve, is because we are here to honour the understated majesty of Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim.

In 1967 whilst twenty people were expanding/losing their minds whilst casting aside all strictures of the square society (other than the requirements of their trust funds), Frank Sinatra entered the studio with Antonio Carlos Jobim and ran through the Brazilian sugar spun songbook and three other American standards in two days.

From the assured take on “The Girl From Ipanema” and over the course of some 28 minutes, orchestras swell and trickle like empty breaths as the most lovesick horn section ever sounds a heartbroken clarion. In the pocket of this delicate backdrop, the master of songs, at his least refreshed but at his most tender, sings songs of romance rebuffed, rejected and unrequited (the same pain three times). This is no bar room croon but a shimmering interplay of music and voice that creates the lush jungle evening in your room like “Where The Wild Things Are”.

The majority of the songs are the pledges of an overlooked lover. At his age Frank’s voice was heart weary, he’s been through it all and he knows better than to feel this way about a dame. Balanced against the aged swinger are the words of Anton Carlos Jobim which try to rekindle the lost loves. Frank’s love at the time Mia Farrow was soon to slip off to become the mother of a demon in Rosemary’s baby. We could read into this but I’m sure this recording was another gig.

Getting down to the nitty gritty, the highlights for me are Frank at his most tender with the orchestra roaming behind him on “Dhindi” and “ Quiet Nights”. In “Dhindi” the most sublime moments occur when the music drops to a delicate brush leaving Frank almost unaccompanied comparing himself “to a river that can’t find the sea”. The effect is repeated on “Quiet Nights” where Frank’s cry of solitude “the meaning of existence, my love” ends with a single muted trumpet’s lament, a riff repeated throughout the song.

At points, Antonio Carlos Jobim actually joins in a couple of songs adding some low key touches which should push this record into the hands of all those who skin up to “Solid Air”. The pairing is most notable on “How Insensitive” and in fact it’s not a duet but an intervention because Frank’s in trouble, the heart ache is too much and his friend has to carry the weight.

Bossa nova has always been shot through with uplifting melancholia, a beautiful sadness, saudade, and this seeps and spills over this record.

[Adam Khan]

Adam’s back, and this time he’s aiming his sights firmly at those lovely message boards we all can’t help reading.

10 Ways To Start A Fight On A Music Forum.

1. On a dance board have a user name which involves the words ‘DJ’. ”Funk’ Funky’, ‘The Funkanator’, ‘Funk You For The Music The Songs You’re Playing’ or ‘Kool Bones Frankie Bones’. On a rock board refer to yourself as ‘Sir Rocks A Lot’, ‘Rockarolla’, The Rockanator’ or ‘Cliff Richards’. On Latin boards call yourself ‘Mr Big Bongos’ or ‘You Wouldn’t Believe The Size Of My Bongos’. On a jazz board call yourself ‘Modal Mover’, ‘Pyramid Scientist (nu-jazz lover)’ or ‘Eton educated, for gods sake mum hide the green wellies, we‘re living on the front line here (Sanderstead) listening to Tabitha’s Alice Coltrane triangle solo’ etc…

2. Find out who is the godhead artist or DJ which the message board is built around and announce how they’re not as good as they were. In fact ‘back in the day no one thought they were much cop’.

3. Slag off a radio DJ that specialises in the genre loved by the board or a Heat Celebrity – pick a side first. Are you ‘they are brilliant and really nice in person (I’ve met them loads) and suffer media intrusion’ or ‘culture-sucking vortex piece of shit’.

4. Indicate your support for the Palestinians. Nothing sorts out a complex international quagmire than 30 people whose knowledge stretches to what they’ve heard in a pub, what they remember from a sixth form general studies lesson, or through a friend of a friend who knows someone in Amnesty. You’ll be amazed at how many people who are bang into fidgit house but have never ever posted before, run down some pretty comprehensive pro-Israeli talking points (‘but of course I’m only here to talk about the latest Dubsided release’).

5. Get some key facts about the musical genre the board is all about – wrong. For example, ‘Herman’s Hermit’s owned the States well before the Stones and were mates with Muddy Waters’, ‘Tony De Vit bit his style from Eddie Halliwell’, ‘Balearic started off in Leeds in 1990 at the Shaven Monkey club – I should you know as I was the muppet playing Matt Bianco extended mixes!!!!?!! (lots of laughing emoticons)’.

6. Indicate that Margaret Thatch was not all bad – ‘When Sade sang about the sweetest taboo she wasn’t talking about getting it up the laundry chute but fondly remembering the milk snatcher’.

7. Talk about ‘chicks’. Mention that the old love life is not going to good with vague implications that you don’t understand women but hey does anyone? Use an emoticon of a pacman stabbing a female pacman then an emoticon which is winking. If irate female posters (all three of them) get really stressed just edit their posted responses so they all start, ‘As a woman….’.

8. Big up a track that has never come out and never will cos you made it up and stick Henrik Schwartz’s name behind it as one of his early spec mixes.

9. Indicate that your take on things ‘back in the day’ is VERY different to what people with lots of posts think.

10. If on a UK board, stick up for a region fanatically and include its musical output. Don’t pick the South West as no one gives a monkeys.

[Adam Khan]

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