Tweet Back in the days when my mother used to cover my schoolbooks in pattern-embossed beige wallpaper with my name on a sticker, and my music collection consisted of C60s with titles like Maximum Rave, I couldn't get enough of the charts on Atlantic 252. They tended to have a lot of poppy hardcore and rave in them back then. 'Twas 1991, ye see. I remember fuck all else about that year except spending a lot of the Summer up one particular ash tree, daring myself to climb one branch higher every day. By the time the August days were drawing in, I was hanging precariously from some bendy new growth at a height of about 25 foot when I copped the couple living in the neighbouring house. They were both standing full-frontal, and staring me out of it at eye-level. During my aborted scramble from this apocalypse of real life wrinkly-bits, I knocked the wind out of myself by falling into what botanists call the tree's crotch. My twin brother and I had an old skool '70s Hi Fi in our room those days. This abomination of a yoke consisted of two gigantic silver cuboids; one was covered in chunky dials and a tuner, and the other was a double tape deck and record player. To this, add a pair of crusty speakers that were blown to shite way back when by my Dad and his hippy brother. God knows what sort of an unholy mixture got played through them. Most likely rebel songs and Irish showband swingers. And definitely the odd Incredible String Band or Donovan tune to freak things out if it all went a bit too Declan Nerney - on my uncle, like. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I fucked the speakers? My bro might correct me if this is not true, but I distinctly remember water falling on to one in horrifying slow motion as we spazzed maniacally around the room with our one-inch-thick step haircuts bouncing disastrously out of tempo to this... and this... Sunken-faced Mancs with vicks vaporub up their bums weren't the only beneficiaries of UK Hardcore. The funny voice imploring "it's time for Trumpton" during said tune, spoke to me. It more or less filled me with an overwhelming desire to spaz around my bedroom and throw shit at my brother, like pillows. Mind you, I was ten at the time. Although, I suppose that probably put me on an equal mental wavelength to some of the monged nuttahs who featured in the tabloids every morning. Indeed, I remember us being ten and our Mam cornering us, clutching a paper, to ask if the music on our tapes was "rave". My point, and there is a point here I hope, is that chart music hasn't figured as explicitly in my life since shortly after those days. I suppose I got into in a scene (Green Day punk in my case, followed by Britpop) and suddenly the charts melted from being the central soundtrack to my life to being snippets of incidental music in my life. Yet, as I grew older and began to rediscover that pop is brilliant, I also found that the charts had turned to anonymous shite. Nobody bar Rain Man could realistically follow the quick-fire confusion of the charts any more. They were pumped with over-hyped, burnt-out earworms that pissed everyone off before they even hit the top-spot, and nothing climbed any more. In at the top, in for the drop. Things had the hyper-accelerated turnover of staff in an Eircom call centre. This, crucially, removed the whole sport of chart watching, a pleasure deeply ingrained in the heart of many pop fans I know. Moreover, it reduced the shelf-life of genuinely quality singles, thus keeping them at arm's length from the collective consciousness. But it is acknowledged that things are changing chart-wise, and changing for the better. The charts are once again a byword for quality pop. I'm no Jim Carroll, but I suspect the relatively new system of including downloads is making for a strong chart where the cream slowly rises. And best of all, where songs linger long enough to have the luxury of playing yearningly out of chippers at 4am for a few weeks, and to float on tarmac heat while youngsters' cars with rolled down windows hover impatiently at traffic lights. You might hear it from the flat downstairs. From your radio. Out of the shit radio at work. Or even from the Rover's Return jukebox in Coronation Street. But you'll hear it enough to remember it. Great chart music is everywhere this Summer, and I suspect it's great because the charts are once again on its side. I can't post MP3 chart music here for obvious reasons. But here are two youtubes of stuff I like right now. BONKERS!! Dizzee Rascal This makes me nostalgic for prime Basement Jaxx. When you throw everything PLUS the kitchen sink into a mix, it's likely to be a right proper mess. Van Helden and Rascal deserve a big prize here. Why? Because they threw the fridge and microwave in too! Yet, from such mental eclecticism, they managed to make one of the songs of the year. Paparazzi: Lady Gaga. In this promo Gaga drinks from the same oversized teacup she whupped out during the weird Jonathan Ross interview. I like how because it is the 'lesser' single from her overplayed album, Gaga appear to be messing around a lot more with her image and all her gloriously pretentious Warholian affectations during the overblown narrative. It's nearly 8 minutes long! She jerks around like an injured stick insect in a steel S&M costume for half of it! On crutches! HEYYY.... I like the song too, OK? 'Cos often-times, the later singles of loaded pop albums may lack the whizz-bang appeal of the previous releases. Yet there can be a languid insistence about them which gets revealed gradually and makes them the perfect soundtrack to a sweltering July night (see Kylie's 'Come into my World'). Or even better, can you taste that last chip from the chipper van in a town gone so still on a Summer's Sunday morning that you can hear a cow mooing somewhere as you savour it? The more relaxed pop songs drip and trickle through Summers like that. Paparazzi might be one of them.
Tweet A famous painting by the Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin depicts somewhere called the Isle of the Dead. At the turn of the 20th century, people (particularly Germans) were apparently obsessed with this dark riddle of an image and prints of it used to hang off walls in houses in that part of Europe. As much as it fascinates me, I really can't understand why someone would casually hang this freaky shit over their mantelpiece. "So eh, nice new flooring you got put in there Friedrich - but what about that picture, the one beside the cuckoo clock?" "Ahh that thing? Well, I don't know for sure - but when the kids are messing I tell them they'll get ferried over to that eternally still island by old chalky the boatman there. And chalky's boat doesn't come back, oh no. Works a treat." This post is about a Japanese children's animation by Gisaburô Sugii called Night on the Galactic Railroad, which is based on a well known Japanese story of the same name. My waffling about the freaky Swiss painting is because I can't think of a better way to put the disquieting and very alien feelings evoked by this unique animation into context. The work, difficult to find here, was marketed as a children's film when it was released in 1985. I think the marketing was something along the lines of 'a little cat goes on a magical adventure through the milky way'. Err right. On a superficial level I guess an antropomorphic cat does get on a train. And said vehicle travels through the cosmos. But the journey is as slow moving and obscure as treacle running thickly over a pane of glass, packed with more symbols than the rules of the road, and - here is the big thing...its main theme is death. Death dealt with in the same still, otherworldly manner as it is in the painting above. Now, I'm a firm believer that kids can get their heads around some fairly sophisticated shit but I doubt that even in Japan, the land of symbolism and ellipses, your average pokemon fan would have a fucking clue as to what this particular storyline is about. So lets keep the young 'uns away from this one and briefly look at it from an adult perspective. Because it really is something else. The protagonist of the book the film is based on is a young boy called Giovanni. In the film, which begins at school, he is depicted as a cat. Indeed, all of the characters in the film (bar an inexplicable appearance by a human family at one point) are cats with variously coloured fur who walk around on oddly human back legs and wear clothes. These creatures instantly lend the film an unreal feel. Giovanni is bullied at school and only one other cat called Campenella will stick up for him (note the Italian names - some of the film seems to invoke Dante's Divine Comedy). After a lesson about the milky way at school, the class disperse - excited to take part in a festival of stars later that night. Giovanni is ostracised at the festival and runs from his village into a corner of shadowy countryside under the stars. Lying in the night flowers above the village, he considers the milky way overhead and suddenly finds himself in the path of a giant steam train rattling dramatically from the centre of the sky. Once he climbs aboard, he discovers his friend Campenello and the train takes them on a languid journey through the cosmos, past beautiful psychedelic sights which slowly reveal themselves to be manifestations of various versions of the afterlife. There is a glowing crucifix the size of a galaxy standing in a curved ocean of undulating neon. The Elysium fields of ancient mythology roll past and Giovanni wants to step outside the train to pick flowers. Stranger and stranger visions and characters soon join the young lads on the train, such as a grizzled old cat who catches magical herons on the outskirts of space and turns them into sweets. A blind telegraph operator appears and, like a metaphysical Wichita Lineman, hears crackly Christian hymns of heartbreak through his receiver. As the journey reaches its end, a swirling Buddhist void at the very edge of it all, the cats are beset by heartbreaking revelations. Original trailer. Animation-wise, the film is like little I've seen. It is drawn in a deceptively simple but expressive style that is unusual for Anime. The angles of the houses in the cats' village are skewed and defy perspective. They look Italian and glow with a burnished Mediterranean light. Space, on the other hand is full of flourescence, gliding geometric shapes and general incandescent trippiness. Think the mad shit at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey but with added felines. The overall slowness is unusual too. The frame often lingers for miniature eternities on Giovanni's saucer eyes. Indeed, I found a few of the slower bits trying. A final word should be saved for the excellent music. It's composed by the electronic pioneer Haroumi Hosono and it mixes ominously structured synth composition with a Clockwork Orange style electro reworking of a few classical standards and hymns. It's suitable milky way music. I'm not even going to try and conclude what the film ultimately means. It is very enigmatic. Yet there are clear messages about how to hang onto happiness through suffering, and stranger ones for us non-Buddhists about surrendering to death and the void. One thing is for sure..the misleading tagline about a young cat going on a magical journey has probably caused more punters to exclaim "what the fuck is this shit?" than the film deserves.
Tweet Hullo, it's it's my second lash at making a mix for the 'Heap. Unlike my previous mix which consisted of ambient, late-night burblings, this is closer to what I mostly listen to generally...hangdog indie that is sometimes uplifting and other times a little shabby and sad. My idea for the mix was a fairly loose concept. I don't know if it will succeed or fall flat on its pretentious schnozz, but here goes. You know how summers aren't always a barrel of laughs? Granted, there are halcyon memories from childhood where it seems that you did nothing except spend months on end forming gangs with the lads, eating He Man bars, and running through the blurred foregrounds of memory-polaroids of the fields beyond the town. Well, that's for another mix. This one is a little more inspired by a sadder side. A tiny twitching fly in the nuclear green remains of a loop the loop whupped from your hand. Sunburned men in Celtic Jerseys - down at the Bundoran amusements to escape the marching season - nutting each other in front of their bawling kids. The first thistle burdock floating across your field of vision in August; innocent harbinger of another shadowy September to be spent growing up. And those long days in musty schools containing the odd 'belligerent ghoul' of a teacher from Morrisey lore. Download-Compost Mix: Requiem for Dying Summers Tracklisting Grandaddy: Non-phenomenal Lineage Kurt Vile: Freeway The Boo Radleys: Does this Hurt? Jim O'Rourke: Prelude to 110 120 women Woods: Gypsy Hand Adem: Everything You Need Mercury Rev: Something for Joey Patrick Kelleher*: Wonder Robert Pollard: Subspace Biographies Built to Spill: Else Guided by Voices: Jar of Cardinals The Lesuire Society: It's a Matter of Time All the songs are crammed into a 45meg zip file and should come springing out with the correct tags and in album format. *saw him and his gang at an odd collective-type gig under a block of flats on Clarendon St. Exciting, exciting time. More of these types of things in Dublin please!! EDIT: here is one more of these types of things - hooray... I would encourage anyone who will be around next Saturday and who has a taste for adventurous Irish music to pay the flyer below very close attention. Finally, a mini prize for whoever first recognises the mix picture!
Tweet Well looky here...Lolomix is back. Lolo emerged from her extended hibernation this week and bumbled into the sunlight carrying a big mix of her favourite bands from the Elephant 6 recording company. The Elephant 6 collective began in the early 90s around a core group of musicians who would form the Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Apples in Stereo among other bands. What tied these groups together (apart from the midnight goat sacrifices and lubed-up orgies in Jeff Mangum's shed) was a sort of anything goes trippy aesthetic - probably best exemplified by the Olivia Tremor Control. While much Elephant 6 music is sunny pop, some of it is plain batshit. Like broken bulb on the mad-o-meter levels of weirdness. For example, I can't listen to the mysterious Major Organ and the Adding Machine album without feeling a few brainwaves misfiring. Check out Lolo's cover. It reminds me of the famous scene in Dumbo when the poor sod gets the DTs and suffers teemining proto-psychedelic visions of eyeless elephants. Kinda apt. Download Lolomix 11-Elephant 6 Tracklisting: Olivia Tremor Control- Love Athena The Apples in Stereo- Ruby The Gerbils- The Air we Share Beulah- My Horoscope said it would be a Bad Year Circulatory System- Overjoyed The Sunshine Fix- That Ole Sun Chocolate U.S.A- Isn't a Lie . . ./Gloworm Pipes you See, Pipes you Don't- Ken Freeman Inslaved Neutral Milk Hotel- Two Headed Boy Part Two The Music Tapes- Tornado longing for Freedom Major Organ and The Adding Machine- His Pet Whistles Elf Power- New Lord Von Hemmling- A Fine Appleseed The High Water Marks- The Leaves The Minders- Hooray for Tuesday Finally - I think there is no Of Montreal on this exhaustive mix 'cos the compiler is not that enamoured with them. Enjoy :)
Tweet The local young lads are playing football in the pitch outside, and my window is open. If I let my hearing 'blur', the same way you might let your eyes if you relaxed them, their voices melt into curious repeating patterns. One fella, in the mid register, barks something like "Badjur Badjur Badjur Badjurrr" as the game ebbs and flows. Another rasps out a big skwawky "COME HEEEYURRR" intermittently, and a rarer voice sometimes breaks into an ascending "ho hO HOH!". If this miniature avant garde opera has a chorus line, it's the one that urgently burbles "HandballandballHandBALLallHANDBALL" in overlapping pubescent tones. They handball a lot out there. Underneath all this is the dead whack of ball against foot, which I guess I've heard through that window since early childhood. It's deep inside me, that sound. Speaking of Musique concrète type things, I was given an intriguing album to review a while ago. It's by Charles Spearin from Broken Social Scene and it's called The Happiness Project. MP3: Charles Spearin-Mrs Morris (Reprise) Spearin based the album's arrangements around recordings he made of his neighbours talking about what the word 'happiness' means to them. The voices' rhythms and cadences became the jumping-off points for little jazzy patterns that often lead into more expansive instrumental passages. Twee, I know. And it doesn't always work. There's a touch of well-intentioned community arts project about the endeavour. But one or two of the tracks are super and remind me of the Books' Lemon of Pink. There is an unquestionable musicality in human speech, especially in those early soupy moments before we attach definitions to sounds. At times when I am deeply absorbed in instrumental music, the passages which grab me most often sound like vocal utterances. Arresting fragments of vocal sound from my past, reeled from just outside the rim of meaning - my granny's sonorous Mayo accent floats up a chilly bungalow corridor as I lie tucked in bed and it's two nights after Christmas 1985. Except it's June 2009 and I am listening to Stars of the Lid on my sitting room stereo.
Tweet I just fell in love with a song. Hard. So hard, I'm worried that I'll be tearfully fucking it into the recycle bin next week and blubbering "it's not you it's me" to it after playing it an abusive amount of times. MP3: Woods-Rain on Woods are on the trendy Woodsist* label (Vivian Girls, Wavves) and 'Rain On' is from their new record Songs of Shame. The album is gorgeous and uncanny. It's mostly tape hiss folk, but with the odd grungetacular assault of early Mercury Rev guitar. There's no pinning down what makes it so wonderful. I'll just say the band have managed to tap into the spirit vaults of dream America, where one can sit out on a creaky porch at dusk to watch human-sized crickets square dancing with skeletons in the dusty fields. Rain on might refer to Neil Young with a rhyming couplet containing the words "setting sun" and "damage done". Lead singer Jeremy Earl sings in Young's odd falsetto too, though he's perhaps a little closer to Jonathan Donohoe in his more spooked choirboy moments. I really do not want to find out much about Woods, because I'm sure it'll wreck the illusion. *Edit: Just found out Jeremy from Woods runs the label - hence the name. Dur.
Tweet Kirikou and the Sorceress has a lot of boobs in it for an animated kid's movie. It's heaving with them. Wibbly, wobbly, nipply, child-corrupting chest weapons. Or so those puritanical Americans, who avoided the film like the plague upon its release, would have you believe. You see, Kirikou and the Sorceress is set in a tribal African village, meaning those controversial titties are of the non-erotic National Geographic variety. Indeed, I'd rather expose my (hypothetical) child to an entire village of these than allow them a solitary glimpse at the bulbous cranium of one of those plastic Lolitas, the Bratz. I found out about this wonderful movie while reading an interview with one of Studio Ghibli's resident geniuses Isao Takahata, director of Pom Poko and Grave of the Fireflies. Takahata spoke of his admiration for both the film and other works by its French/African director Michel Ocelot (who also incidentally created Bjork's Earth Intruders video). Kirikou and the Sorceress (loosely based on an African folk tale) tells the story of a courageous and mouthy little dude called Kirikou who - in an instant indication of the films folkloric strangeness - speaks from his pregnant mother's tummy. He decides to give birth to himself when she tells him that any child who can talk from the womb can surely manage his own delivery. So out he crawls, and...yikes but he is tiny! Like five inches tall tiny. Yet we soon find out that the diminutive Kirikou is very resourceful and gifted with great speed; the scenes where he rattles around the place like a tiny jet-propelled toy are comical. He's also bull-headed and full of himself like scrappy doo, but endearing rather than annoying. After the nonchalant self-birth, he immediately begins asking his mother questions about things. Where is his father? Eaten by an evil sorceress, she tells him. And his uncles? The same. Of course, Kirikou will have none of this, and moments after birth he's away off to teach the evil sorceress a thing or two. From here, Kirikou sets about a series of tasks in which he uses his ingenuity to outwit the sorceress and her fetishes (evil wooden helpers who move around in an alarmingly creepy way). He fights magical trees, a swollen water monster and eventually climbs a mountain to meet his grandad and receive the wisdom that will ultimately help him save the village. Reading the synopsis above you've probably already clocked that this is not the Lion King's Africa - Simba, for all his charms, is about as African as peanut butter and jelly. The Africa presented in Kirikou and the Sorceress is a rather stranger place, laced with the magical logic of folklore and sometimes quite scary. The art in the movie is ultra stylised. The fluidly animated characters are rendered to look elegantly monochromatic, allowing them to stand out against backgrounds of bejeweled intensity. The areas around the village are geometrical and are infused with a timeless, eerie stillness that reminds me at once of both those empty plazas painted by the surrealist De Chiricio and of ancient Egyptian sculpture. It is the jungle art that properly wows ya though. Taking the fantastic imaginings of the primitive French post-impressionist Rousseau (illustrated above) as his starting point, Ocelot paints an emerald wonderland for little Kirikou to adventure through. I could go on, but I won't - except to say that there is a smashing soundtrack by Youssou N'Dour and the film is available in its entirety on youtube starting here. Chesticles included, this is a stunning children's film.