Tweet Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion I wonder if Brian Wilson will hear Merriweather Post Pavillion and what he'd make of it? For it seems to me that Animal Collective are now operating close to that rarefied upper atmosphere of popular music to which he ascended when he was composing his teenage symphonies to God. Brian Wilson is the only peg I can really throw my words on when describing this record. Not so much in sound per se (although Beach Boys harmonies are becoming an increasingly integral part of this magnificent and prolific purple patch in Animal Collective's career), but rather in the spirit of the whole endeavour. Like Wilson, the band's music seems to be reaching for a never ending series of crescendos, a spiralling upward drift towards a type of ecstatic perfection. And like Wilson's hymn-like songs, the band have appropriated incantatory techniques to guide the listener into the rapturous spaces their music inhabits. The dizzying blend of tribal, hymnal and mantric elements suggests nothing less than religious fervour. There is no doubt that Animal Collective are styling themselves as musical Shamans. I mean just look at the press photo of the band standing around like a bunch of freaky Branch Davidians, with a big fuck-off sun exploding out of Geologist's open palm and enveloping the rest of them. They want you to join their CULT of frighteningly beautiful freaky fucking music. And why not when it sounds this amazing? There is little point in going into first impressions of details of all the songs and their various tricks. Lots of people have already done that, and I think that misses the point of Merriweather... The album is a whole object, a polished egg-like thing of wonder. For the first time ever, the band have managed to successfully weld the disparate elements of the fiercely different musical stylings of Avey Tare and Panda Bear into an alchemical whole. Strawberry Jam could have been split into two distinct EPs. No chance of that here. There are no seams. It's pretty much flawless. What else? It's terrifically rhythmic, infused with a thunderous low end techno throb on many tracks. You could dance to most of it no problem. In fact I can easily picture long haired naked girls spinning like dervishes in a San Francisco summer to this stuff (ahem, maybe I can picture that a little too easily). Due to the airy production, the record also inhabits three dimensions in a remarkable way. After one listen I felt I stood in the middle of these songs like a gobsmacked child at a fairground and experienced them spinning and flashing around me in hundreds of colourful cycles at once. Remember on Spiritualized's early stuff that shimmering drone that threaded everything together and imbued the music with a celestial druggy essence? There is a great deal of that sorta stuff going on. Barely perceptible chimes hang in the ether like bead curtains of notes that you could almost reach out and run your fingers through. Look down and you might see low thrums in the mix shifting around your feet like sand on a drumskin. It's that freaking tactile. There's not much more I can say really. If I hear a better album than this in the coming months I'll eat my fucking hat. And if I hear a more awesome album opener than 'In the Flowers' I'll eat my dirt-stained Nikes too. Now go listen.
Tweet Before I launch into a giddy hoopla about black metal made in the basement of an exceptionally tall, alienated Californian solo dude who hates blogs, Myspace, organised religion, publicity, humanity, Animal Collective and Christmas, I would like to say...Merriweather Post Pavillion...oh my fucking God...blog soon. I dunno if Xasthur (AKA Malefic) reads blogs, but God help me if he reads this, 'cos he would already hate me. I've mentioned him (publicity), God (twice), Black Metal (Indie fuckwit tries to understand our sacred scene etc), Christmas (Baby Jesus is shit blah de blah), and his physical massiveness (he's a sort of combination between a giraffe and a hippo in corpse paint if you catch my drift-cos I saw grainy footage of him playing with Sunn O))) on youtube and he is extraordinarily big in so many weird ways). Anyway, I secretly hope he doesn't read blogs because his music suggests a soul who exists beyond the 'net, and if it exists within the 'net then it is should only be to rain blistering, molten spuds of Satanic doom on people like me who make idle chit chat out of the Dark Lord himself and/or the futility of human existence. It seems that many fans of Black Metal, and Black Metal artists themselves really do not like it when commentators outside of their cloistered scene dip into their music and admire it in what they perceive to be a casual way. I think I understand this to a limited extent due to the existential, philosophical dogma attached to Black Metal. It is not just music, but a mindset that surely feels powerful and precious. At its best, it makes a powerful musical statement. An incomprehensibly growled, but comprehensibly angry and sonically riveting attack on the state of humanity that would make the hairs stand up on the neck of any noise addict, never mind Christian. Yet, a genuinely Godless but romantic dude like me who doesn't think most humans are scum or wish for an apocalyptic, global domestos job (kills 99.9% of irritating bacteria) on the entire race, could appreciate but never really be an accepted part of this scene. Ho Hum. Xasthur wows the crowds in his inimitable fashion Anyhow, Xasthur makes thrilling music. It is frozen solid, hopelessly bleak, lo-fi (all four track yup yup) and odder than anything I ever thought possible by a solo artist. The only way I can honestly describe it is by relating most of his output to a passage near the start of Moby Dick. It is one of my favourite pieces of writing. In this passage, the narrator, Ishmael, has yet to set out on the epic whale hunt, but spends the night before in a cheap and dismal inn called The Spouter. Before going to sleep he notices a painting on the wall which fills him with a sense of mystery and dread. This is how he describes the painting... "But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.-It's the Black Sea in a midnight gale.-It's the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.-It's a blasted heath.-It's a Hyperborean winter scene.-It's the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time. But last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture's midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?" Of course, I never saw that painting because it is a flight of fictional fancy. Yet its image invades my sleep sometimes, scaring and mystifying me. This is what I think of when I listen to Xasthur. A cloud hidden inside a fog. Something gloomier than gloom, curled up inside gloom itself. A vaporous blue wisp drifting from beneath the final tricksy door of a frozen labyrinth. Something truly alien, ginormous and frightening. And better than No Age (well I like it more). MP3: Xasthur-Suicide in Dark Serenity Update: Here is another track probably more representative of what Malefic actually does. It's a a 12 minute onslaught mostly of roaring, disorientating guitars, very faint drumming and those vocals which to me are the most extraordinary thing about him. Listening to this loud makes me think of the possessed shrieks of those winged worm-beasts in Tolkien. Other times his voice sounds like a blast of wind or a sandstorm. Believe it or not, I find this track can calm me down when I am in the right frame of mind. It's meditative. By the time it is half-way through, I submit to the onslaught and feel almost buried by it, completely submerged. In a way it's psychedelic. The more you listen, the more the distortion starts to rearrange into shifting grey shapes and sounds, everything overlapping, repeating and refracting. The title indicates this too. A prison of mirrors. MP3: Xasthur-The Prison of Mirrors
Tweet It's time to blog about all those things that make Christmas great. Fetuses, space-pods, suicidal santas and marching brass bands with vaginas instead of heads. Yep, it's Christmas on Mars and the Flaming Lips have taken an exciting step beyond the cosily familiar rut in which they've mostly spent the past few (read eight) years. Nobody knew what to expect from this odd project. In Brad Beesley's stupendous documentary "The Fearless Freaks" we get to see Wayne Coyne farting around with big pieces of industrial pipe and gaffer tape in his back garden. He explains that he is making a film based on a sad movie about space which made his mum cry when he was a child, but which he never saw himself. He also explains that Stephen Drozd, the instrumental brains of the 'Lips, is the main actor in the film. Because Drozd was addicted to heroin at the time, Coyne was worried about continuity issues with Drozd's changing appearance (a bit like Chandler in friends). The whole thing looked, for want of a better description, like a demented, amateurish mess. And, to an extent, the film is exactly that. But isn't that fitting for a band who once embodied the spirit of DIY psychedelia? Who at one of their earliest gigs practically set the front of stage on fire to distract the audience from the fact they couldn't play their instruments? Ignoring the soundtrack for a second, the parts of Christmas on Mars are pretty rough. The 'Lips, God love them, can't act for shite. The editing is wonky. The plot is deliberately elliptical and leaky. So far, so extraterristial train-wreck. However, I implore someone to watch this movie and not feel their weird strings twang a little. For a start, some of the imagery is startlingly odd. It gets under your skin. Also, there is a pervading sense of sadness which will be familiar to fans of waitin' for a superman (one of the most affecting songs I know). I can't decide whether this sadness transcends the shitty acting or if the shitty acting actually contributes to it? Either way, Coyne has breathed something very alive and very sad into his deep space Christmas fairytale. Now, the soundtrack. The score for Christmas on Mars is extraordinarily atmospheric and, divorced from the film, holds its own as a powerful suite of instrumental psychedelic music. When compared to the gruellingly weak mood music that contemporaries Mercury Rev tacked onto Snowflake Midnight, this stuff is absolutely stunning. Drozd's compositions range from lonesome clarion calls from the frozen depths of space (Once Beyond Hopelessness) to swelling hymnal celebrations of the vagina (In Excelsior Vaginalistic) by way of rolling deep space Disney marching bands (The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia). MP3: The Flaming Lips-Space Bible with Volume Lumps When the book is written on the Flaming Lips' long, strange career, this will either be described as the last great thing to which they put their name or the start of a creative resurgence. I hope it's the latter. Wouldn't that be just wonderful?
Tweet Are you a hedgefund manager who feels guilty about not spending enough time in your tweenie daughter's life on account of those nights getting blow-jobs from the fillipino office cleaner? Yes? Well, fill that daddy shaped hole in her life with an outrageously expensive animatronic pet like "Biscuit" the realistic pooch. Watch as the unloved ritalin-gobbling poppet clings needily to its lifeless fur like one of Harry Harlow's poor, neglected rhesus monkeys. Then congratulate yourself on a job well done and head out for another late night at the office and some quality Xmas head. The last word on Biscuit comes from the comment section on youtube. Always an untapped seam of comic genius conkerboy700 (1 month ago) dude my dog would fucking flip out if he saw that thing! lol radioactivecrotch (1 month ago) It's great until it becomes self aware, then that girls dead!
Tweet Yup over at this link, Jim Carrol is offering a full download of Adrian Crowley's Choice music nominated album long distance swimmer. These smiling seniors grabbed it and it inspired them to swim. What might it do for you? In other news, I'm terribly intrigued by the Flaming Lips Christmas on Mars soundtrack. It is a genuine oddity and a tiny thread of hope that they haven't turned into the mound of utter shit I thought they had. Blog coming soon.
Tweet At the end of 2008 spam is making a comeback. That's the hideous and cheap meat product as opposed to the email variety (which I'm sure was never popular in the first place). I bought some recently to see what the future is going to taste like. Not good folks, not good. Here are the songs I enjoyed throughout a year full of global misery. I jigged their order around all afternoon, but in all honesty, bar one or two at the top of the pile the order means little. I can't say whether it was a good overall year for albums or songs seeing as I am so slow on the uptake; and because I hate most daytime radio, chart pop barely features on my blinkered indie-lover radar. In fact I could write a much better list for 2007. But here goes nuffing... Whatever you do, don't confuse the kit-e-kat with santie's cookies this xmas. 15: Deerhunter: Never Stops I wrote a short and quite fawning review of Deerhunter's Microcastle on Analogue. I then slowly fell out of love with the record. Strange. It was like Cryptograms in reverse. It was a record that promised a lot and then slowly kicked away my grand ideas of its greatness leaving a slightly disappointing pile of okay songs for me to prod around in for the one or two moments of magic. This was one of them. Unsurprisingly, it ends in a big fuzzy cyclone. More of this next time please Bradford. Or maybe you could appropriate some African music? I hear that's all the rage. 14: Frightened Rabbit: The Modern Leper Self loathing, confessional, alcohol dependent Scottish singers fascinate me. This is as good an example of that genre as 2008 had to offer. It might not plumb the same awesome abysses that the Twilight Sad hurled themselves into last year but it comes pretty fucking close. Advice: if you are all alone and crying into a Tennent's Super on Christmas Eve, probably play the Phil Spector Christmas album and not this. MP3: Frigtened Rabbit-The Modern Leper 13: Patrick Kelleher: Wonder Wonder is a bewitching little mystery from Kelleher's coat to wear EP. Like something you'd hear from a forest clearing while walking through ground fog on a November morning. Actually maybe Patrick Kelleher does sit alone in forest clearings during November playing his lyre. 12: Sugababes: Here come the girls I normally have a pop song to which I goof around the kitchen, hollering and throwing cringeworthy shapes to all present. This year it's the Sugababes. I've mangled it into "here come the boys", "here come the dogs", "here comes the dinner" etc... The Sugababes always knock out good singles. Haven't a clue about their albums though, but I bet this guy does 11: Sascha Funke: Mango A friend in the know tells me 2008 was a fairly lackluster year for techno and house overall. I dipped in and out of the scene like the superficial dilettente that I am and would agree with his synopsis. I loved this though. With its clamourous, almost rusty beat and brooding synths it reminds me of the sun setting over an industrial European landscape. You can also dance to it. 10: Sebastian Tellier: Divine This wonderful song makes me smile and feel a little bit gay. 9: Ricardo Villalobos: Minimoonstar Err 'dance' it may be but try dancing to this anywhere outside throwing a few quivering shapes during a solipsistic, drug induced trance in the corner of a dying house party and you will FAIL. It's an extended cut of something much shorter which appeared on his Fabric 36 mix and it, well words fail me. It is a deeply weird, deeply atmospheric black hole of a track that makes me wonder if Villalobos is of this world. 8: Grand Pocket Orchestra: Ballet Shoes Fight Like Apes made all the headlines this year. And if Jake Summers wasn't on last year's list 'twould be right up here too. Meanwhile, GPO are romping out of the Apes slipstream, packing an embarrassment of tunes, the best Irish front man going and a stage presence that comes across like a steroid-addled cross between British Sea Power and Los! Campesinos. Ballet Shoes is a terrific pop rush with cheeky plinky bits that hide it's considerable chops. Like getting laid out flat by the Incredible Hulk in a tutu. 7: Estelle feat. Kanye West: American Boy So langourous, slinky and perfectly produced. The weather was roasting on All-Ireland Sunday and I remember standing on Dorset Street watching all the scaldy-faced fans up for the final. This came out of a car window. Ah, finally summer, I thought. Except it was the end of September. *Shakes fist at God 6: Vampire Weekend: Walcott Just one cut from a nigh perfect album and which had me thinking "Walkmen" as opposed to Paul Simon when I first heard it. A brilliant, lean, indie bone-rattler that worked a treat when I DJed at an Analogue yoke earlier this year. 5: British Sea Power: No Lucifer When it comes to British rock, why do the insipid likes of Coldplay fill out stadiums while British Sea Power remain in the little rooms? I only say it because songs like this are made to fill skies. This is as good as sing-a-long indie gets. And they are so deliberately, delightfully odd. I mean look at this video. It's a puppet-centred horror show of a thing. All together now "EAS-Y EAS-Y EAS-Y" 4: Animal Collective: Water Curses 'Cos I had to put some Animal Collective in here somewhere. Genius blah blah. Fanboy blah blah. Can't put a step wrong etc. Oh and can't wait for Tickle Vultures. Sorry, Merriweather Post Pavillion. 3: Times New Viking: Teen Drama Okay so we are now in the top three territory and this is where my list gets all idiosyncratic, ultra subjective and detached from any sort of real reflection of the year's best music. But hey that's blogging. More than anything else on their (somewhat patchy after the hype ebbed) Rip it Off album, Teen Drama just destroys me whenever I hear it. Why? Quite simply because the way the sound quality throws a trebly kenipshit about 40 seconds in reminds me of the start of my favourite Guided By Voices album Bee Thousand. Yep, I am really that sad, and no, I'm not ashamed to admit this. Oh and there is also the major distorto kenipshit about 30 seconds from the end. These little things are why I listen to music. I'm not very sophisticated that way. 2: Jay Reatard: See/Saw My favourite cut off the misanthropic oik's Matador singles collection. It's a meditiation about being in a love-hate relationship with a girl who "creeps [him] out" then "cracks [him] in again" as girls have been want to do in the history of all music from spunk riddled pop-punk like this to slinky R&B. The chainsaw guitars and a melody that might have been dropped from any of Reatard's own heroes' best albums make him THE dude to watch in 2009. Oh and I am late to the Reatard canon. Had I known him last year his 'blood visions' would have been all over my list like a pubic rash. 1: Fuck Buttons: Sweet Love for Planet Earth Yay for noise. This one wins by a country mile. I don't know why, but I just love texture. In food as well as in music. Crinkly stuff. Crunchy stuff. Slippery stuff. This is all of those things. It's also twinkling, sometimes menacing, hopeful, innocent and childlike. Well done Fuck Buttons. For providing me with such consistent sonic pleasure, you win the compost heap prize of the year, the golden fruit peel. MP3: Fuck Buttons-Sweet Love for planet Earth Update: Lolomix is exactly 1 year old today. A celebratory lolomix will be made and Lolo will put the others which are now dead links on fileden or mediafire (which ahem don't automatically remove shit after a week Lolo)
Tweet I'm going to do my songs of the year thingy on monday. But before that, I want to take this opportunity to implore people to see The Clientele in the sugar club on Sunday. For some reason they never quite made it big in Ireland or England. I think they were in the strokes' slipstream. They are a magical band and well worth checking out. The sixties filtered through modern times. Wonderful lyrics. Goosebump melodies. Magnificent. MP3: The Clientele-Rain MP3: The Clientele-Reflections after jane
Tweet Did you ever take too much LSD before playing a game of Ludo with your mates? No? Well, in Kells we did it all the time. It was a bit like this... Atmosfear (also known as nightmare) utilised the ultimate technology of the day (VHS) to create the illusion that a decomposing spectre known as the gate-keeper directly addressed his terrifying commands to you and your druggy mates. Funnily enough, the feeble illusion shattered the second you rewound the video for a new game and watched him say the exact same shit. Ectoplasm, rattling windows, lightning and flying furniture not included.
Tweet Look at that for a gorgeous album cover, all aching orange memory and double exposed sadness. Unsurprisingly it comes from the Deerhunter stable. They'd be the band who are building quite the career from their strange and sickly childhood memories. This time it is guitarist Lockett Pundt's turn to knock out a solo release under his Lotus Plaza moniker. Keen Deerhunterphiles will know that Lockett has a knack for swirly weirdness and is behind a few of the memorable tunes on the gang's full-length records including the musical goose-bump generator that is strange lights, my 3rd favourite song of last year. The record is out on March 23rd and is called 'The Floodlight Collective'. Yum! I saw on Sky News earlier that Blur are reforming, with added Graham Coxon. Excitement. It's gas the way it was reported though, a real let's-look-back '90s nostalgia piece. Hands up who remembers 1995/1996? Both those summers are scorched into the screen of my minds eye. I can stir the memories up easily, smell the lynx africa, feel the excitement of getting the NME from Maguire's food store every lunch break on Thursday. The sick swooshing in my tummy when I tried to chat to girls, self-conscious of my general gawkiness. The burning thrill of a skulled naggin of vodka sinking down my gullet as I sat on a bus full of Blur fans heading to the RDS, my head full of vodka vapours, music and possibility. While both Oasis and Pulp tweaked something in me back then, it was Blur who had my heart. I guess Liam Gallagher's leery swaggering alienated me, so it was a while before I fully appreciated the thrills of Definitely Maybe. But Blur had me from day one. It was Albarn's way with a sad song rather than his tracksuited wide-boy monkeying that floored me. Badhead, This is a Low, Resigned, they all knocked shivers out of me. Later, I'd feel the same way about practically the entire Smiths catalogue and later still, Stephen Malkmus's more moist-eyed moments. As one of the characters in Peanuts once said, happiness is a sad song. Here's hoping Damon and Co. have a few left in them. Blur: Resigned (My computer won't let me upload this right now, so here is a version someone put up on youtube with a slowly pixellating piece of driftwood. Weird.)
Tweet Mam and Dad are away and all your mates are around. Sounds like time for some unsupervised games with the sinister Mr Bucket who just gained entry to your house through an open window! It's simple to play. You just put your balls in his mouth, but be quick because he'll spit your balls out if you're not fast enough!
Tweet I like this relatively new band from the States called Vivian Girls. They come from Brooklyn. We won't hold that against them, because they are likely to outlive most of the insipid, soulless, hipster trash coming out of that particular borough of New York right now. Corey and Tegan are from Brooklyn. They bet you wish you were too. The (top) above picture is of the original Vivian Girls. The Vivian Girls were a bunch of imaginary, pre-pubescent females with boy willies, who were obsessively painted by an American outsider artist called Henry Darger. He was a janitor from Chicago who suffered from mental illness and spent most of his adult life typing a book that would never be published. It was about 20,000,000,000,000 words long (or something to that effect-nobody has read it all anyway). It was probably about five or six times the size of the collected works of Tolstoy. One or two of his original works are actually in the hands of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I know this because I was part of a team of 'young curators' who had to help curate an exhibition in IMMA in 1998 or 1999 about outsider art. Lisa Hannigan was one of the other curators. I remember she had big eyes and a cool diary that was completely coated in glued down opel-fruit wrappers, but because I was a bogger and perceived her and most of the others as posher than me, I clammed up like an oyster as soon as they opened their mouths to talk to me. I was a sad reverse snob. The Vivian Girls are some of the strangest creatures in Modern Art. They are little girls painted by an older man with no formal art training. They are often naked, but instead of having vaginas they have tiny boy penises. They do ring-a-ring-rosies, frolic in meadows, fight against evil, and go on adventures together. They are not even proper drawings but rather traced from magazines. The entire Vivian Girls ouevre was discovered after Darger died. It's disquieting. Lots of odd questions hang over his life. Mostly about how innocent he actually was and whether he ever hurt anyone? Critics love the Vivian Girls for a reason. In spite of Darger's outsider status, all the Vivian Girl illustrations are classically arranged. The colour is spot on. The compositions are beautiful to the eye. Lots of it looks like old tapestries. The story, though, is mental. It's the Chronicals of Narnia multiplied by mental illness. A never ending epic about a bunch of girls with willies fighting a satanic evil. Right so that is the Vivian Girls background. Now as for the band...they are actually great, and easily one of the best late discoveries of the year, no less. The eponymous record is only 22 minutes long. In the space of those minutes it crams in Spector, Shoegaze, Lo-fi, and an endearing ne'er-care-less-attitude. Nice work! MP3: Vivian Girls-Tell the world MP3: Vivian Girls-who do you run too Update: From Paschal's country sounds two other all-girl groups worth checking out Little Claw and Beaches
Tweet For the modern 12-year-old "the challenge of a lifetime" could be anything from obesity to unplanned pregnancy. In simpler times it was SIMON, a battery powered circle with coloured pads that beep when you hit them. In this school, a flaxen haired young Jock called Johnny is worshipped by his classmates because of his ability to hit the flashing colours in the correct order. In reality, kids like Johnny bet seven shades of shite out of the semi-autistic outcasts who could reach this level of proficiency on such a duff toy.
Tweet Q1: Who would be your ideal dinner party guest? Q2: What person in the whole world do you not like? Ah fuck off. Seriously, fuck off. If I read one more 30 second Q&A with some unthinking (as opposed to unable-to-think because I'm sure most are as smart as tacks) 'sleb giving carefully calculated answers to these 'revealing' questions, I'll probably attempt to scoop the gloop out of my brain stem with a rusty kitchen devil. For what it's worth here are the stock answers (as advised by cynical PR people) to both of the above... Q1: Nelson Mandela Q2: George Bush Yawn. Why not mix it up a bit? Like if you were Leona Lewis and answered... Q1: Dead Austrian Ultra Nationalist MP Jurg Haider Q2: Cheryl Cole Then I, and many like me, would read that shit pretty hard. Or if you were Niall (don't fuck with 'Bres') Blizzard and answered... Q1: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leader of Iran Q2: Derek Mooney Right-o. First. Why George Bush? Sure, he's a bit of a global shithead, but I'd bet that no matter what sort of socially aware crooner you are there was some kid who stuck a thumb tack in your hole in fifth class that you have bigger beef with than a dead duck president of the United States who it is trendy to hate. And as for Nelson Mandela? I mean how much does your average celebrity actually care or indeed know about Nelson Mandela? And I'm talking about knowing specific things; not just that he got freed from a jail once and that self-righteous famous people like Bono and Naomi Campbell like to lick his arse. Because he is so overbooked for fantasy dinner parties I propose a screening test to save poor Nelson (who is 132 after all) from fantasy dinner overload. If I edited Hotpress or Metro the next question in all 30-second celebrity Q & As would be the following curveball... Q3: We guessed you'd answer Nelson Mandela to the last question so what is he actually known for? Answer...Umm err, something to do with black people? He was a good boxer or was that Muhammed Ali? Manager of U2? He was freed man! Errr, South Africa right? Apartheid? Yeah Apartheid wasn't that where he let Paul Simon play that gig when the rest of Africa wouldn't, right? Go Mandela! I'm thinking of all of this because I recently read 1970s NME uber-journo Nick Kent's compendium 'The Dark Stuff' and was completely bowled over by the level of access and psychological gold dust he managed to collect on some of the biggest rock stars of the day. He had an access to them and their daily lives that a journalist could barely dream of today. So where he had Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Brian Wilson spewing demented monologues that revealed them to be brilliant, hateful, sexist, smart or human to varying degrees, we now have Lisa Hannigan or Brandon Flowers lighting up the page with such illuminating revelations as the last time they said I love you and meant it ("now! I Luv U. Haha!") and what they would do if they could turn invisible for a day ("hide under stools and blow gently on other members of the Killers' scrotums. Haha!"). Just when I thought I had my albums of '08 sewn up, here comes laptop noodler Christian Fennesz, breezing by to drop a new album called 'The Black Sea'. It's his first since 2004's Venice. He's a perfectionist. Upon hearing about this record (which came out of nowhere for me), I got quite excited, quite quickly. Not least, because like his previous efforts, the album has an evocative scene on the cover to evoke the music contained within. This time it is the almost monochrome vista of a sludgy sea and a dreary beach. Heavy. Dead. The music doesn't seem to be completely like that, though. It will take a good while for me to completely assimilate it and, as such, I won't write about it in detail until it is properly in my dream bank. On two early listens I gotta say it sounds like tingly, expressive, obsessively constructed, classic Fennesz. As with the older stuff, I will hopefully still be living with this record in a few year's time. From Black Sea... MP3: Fennesz-Perfume for winter And a very bleak, very evocative MP3 that was released last year, seperate to his (sporadic) full-lengths. MP3: Fennesz-On a desolate shore a shadow passes by
Tweet It's TOOOOOYYY of the day time! As an advent distraction, and seeing as the Late Late Toy show was a pile of old man's balls, I will switch between music and toy-related posts for the month of December. Toys past and present shall feature. Today's toy is Animatronic Alf. Alf is a wise-cracking, coke-addled alien from the planet Melmac who looks like Ross Geller from Friends and talks thanks to the magic of Teddy Ruxpin technology. Shiver in horror as he tries to impress a bunch of yankee six-year-olds with a threadbare Vegas comedy routine. Alf's strangled Hah! at the end of this commercial suggests nobody is having fun, neither the kids nor the strangely adult animatronic toy. "Hey kids you like toys?" "Take my Alf toy..." "No Really, take it" More coming soon!!!
Tweet I'm a ferocious insomniac. Anything can keep me awake. The credit crisis, an upsetting Prime Time report, the smell of my own farts, cheese, the hag, existential dread, the anticipation of my alarm going off, the torturous replaying of alternative versions of humiliating incidents from earlier in the day, credit card bills, peaking oil stocks and how long it will be until we are all scrabbling through the post-apocalyptic ruins of the IFSC splintering our fingernails on unopened tins of Whiskas in the nuclear half-light. Y'know, all the usual sort of stuff. To make matters worse my bedroom has no curtains. I complained about this months ago. The letting agents then sent an odd Welshman with a grey goatee around to fix them. He drank a cup of tea, asked me if I was married, then stood on my bed in his filthy workboots to glue a new curtain rail onto my wall while rabbiting furiously about Margaret Thatcher and how the Irish are like the Welsh. He had an air of the sex offender's register about him. Afterwards, he told me that his makeshift repair job wouldn't last. The curtains would definitely fall down again he reckoned, due to their weight and the quality of my wall. Brill. Helloo pet. I'm here to fix the cur-tains. He was right. The walls of my flat are made out of dry reddy brek. My curtains have fallen down three times in a year and a half. So I spend large chunks of my nights in a rigid, waking daze. I stare at the baneful shadow of an ET doll caught in the glare of the security floodlight that happens to be right outside my room and think about bad stuff. These nocturnal panics generally have a soundtrack. I've trained myself to fall asleep with headphones on because I can't sleep without music on and I don't want to wake my flatmate. Aside from the bother of waking up with a big plastic compression sore on my right ear, my headphones are the next best thing to a sleeping tablet or a sweet slurp of quality methadone (when it's going cheap from my mates Skrem and Skrang on Custom House Quay) for sending me off to the land of nod. Over the entire course of last year, I completely wore out Stars of the Lid's sublime double album "and the refinement of their decline" as a snooze-enabler. These days I'm listening to all sorts of mad shit before bed. The only criteria by which I judge music as good bedtime listening is that it is instrumental and not too clangy. Repetitive techno is good. So is Brian Eno. Aphex Twin's more soporific output is excellent. Currently, though, it's a selection of instrumental compositions from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The BBC just released a retrospective of a lot of this stuff and it is quite essential for anyone with a passing interest in the history of electronic music. The names Delia Derbyshire and John Baker might not be as familiar to dance aficionados as Kraftwerk or Derrick May. But Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and many other peddlers of haunting electronica owe a debt to the unlikely bunch of composers who worked in the BBC throughout the 60s and 70s producing strange sound squiggles to accompany BBC radio and TV shows. The early music of the Radiophonic Workshop can at times be outrageously odd, particularly the work of Delia Derbyshire, who in spite of both looking like and having a name that made her sound like a vicar's wife, had the unfettered imagination of a DMT huffing Amazonian shaman let loose with a few Roland synthesisers and a saucepan lid. Here is her most famous piece of music. MP3: Delia Derbyshire-Doctor Who Here is something a little erm weirder, and more indicative of just how exotic some of her compositions were. MP3: Delia Derbyshire-Zivzih Zivzih Oo-Oo-Oo Many of the Radiophonic workshop pieces are exquisite miniatures and form complete little worlds. Listening to them is like peering into tiny snowglobes containing vividly realised imaginary landscapes; not unlike those enigmatic short interludes on Boards of Canada's long-playing albums. John Baker composed many of the most intriguing short works. The following MP3s give an example of his expressive style which is by turns playful, eerie and plain bonkers. MP3: John Baker-Radio Nottingham MP3: John Baker-Boys and Girls MP3: John Baker-New Worlds If you like this stuff, I implore you to seek out the retrospectives. There are, of course, other remarkable composers who I don't have the time to write about such as David Cain and Phil Young. Listening to this music is intoxicating, like going for a swim through the collective dreams of past generations of children. It's a mixture of fantasy and reality, science and magic, spun from the imaginations of talented composers falling in love with new technology and the possibilities it offered them. It's also a good remedy for not having curtains in your room.