Absense - dälek - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #19

If you could think of the strangest combination of two musical styles, what would it be? Dance and classical? Jazz and country? The more I think about it, the more I realize we’ve actually had a number of successful combinations of wildly varying styles; from classical and metal, (Metallica, S&M Live) jazz and rock (Steely Dan) to gypsy and punk. (Gogol Bordello) Okay, they maybe all haven’t been good per se, but they’ve been successful enough that their records have sold. A very recent and very surprising example I came across came in the form of the band dälek. (Pronounced “die-al-ek”) At the core they’re a hip hop group; composed of a rapper, producer and DJ. But their sound has more in common with industrial music, Krautrock, shoegaze or heavy metal. It’s pretty darn weird.

Heavy metal's forgotten humourists - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #24

(Or:- the greatest album the Melvins never made)

We are the dead next door
(it's up too loud)
where the dirty needles shine and litter the floor
(it's up too loud)
taste the light inject the lord
(it's up too loud)
I cut myself again because I'm so fuckin' bored
(It’s too fucking loud)

Funcrusher Plus - Company Flow - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #18

I feel that in order to make an album a classic, it has to be one of two things. It can either be an album that adheres to the norm but does it damn well, or it can be an album that completely changes the blueprint of the style of music it was made in. In other words, it can either define or redefine our perceptions about music. Anything else is unremarkable. While there’s a fine line between a good album and a great one, there’s also a fine line between a successful amount of experimentation and too much experimentation, and these are not mutually exclusive. It’s rare to find an album that gets both right, that achieves the balance between inventiveness and pretentiousness while still making good music. But when it happens, the results are quite remarkable.

Ten years alone in the Appalachians - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #23

You could have an acoustic guitar and one vocal, and it could be the heaviest thing in the world. – Scott Reeder

Don’t be fooled by appearances, I’m still deep in my heavy phase. I’m going to start talking about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s seminal nineties work of abject misery by talking about his most famous contemporary, Johnny Cash. Approach things from odd angles kids, see what you still think about things. The title track from I See a Darkness was covered by Cash in his American III – Solitary Man and it’s been troubling me for a while. Cash’s harsh over-the-hill back woods country bar singer filled with cigarillo smoke and cheap whiskey suited the disquieting surreality of the lyrics of Hurt, but when compared to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s original version, a song which is ultimately about the death of love receives through Cash’s rocky vocals a touch of distance, that same over the hill singer has seen his share of pain and this is just pain heaped on pain; Billy’s vocal is crucially different, he seems quiet, needy and vulnerable. When Cash sings about heartbreak, it is a statement about the futility of the human condition, the darkness of the spirit; when Billy sings the line “Don’t you know how much I love you?”, it makes you want to cry. It’s a eulogy from someone only loving and losing for the first time.

Midnight in Paris

Having seen 21 of the 41 films that Woody Allen has directed, I think it’s safe to say I’m a pretty big fan of his work. He has always managed to make me laugh, think and ruminate on some of the big issues in life. On top of that, watching his films brings out the wannabe intellectual in me, as each obscure reference to a philosopher, writer or jazz musician that he throws in inflates my ego when I understand what he’s talking about. It seems though that, much like the lower and middle classes since the recession, Woody has fallen on hard times of late. Not financially, but creatively. He’s had his fair share of dire films in the last decade yet continues to mechanically churn them out for some reason – money? Boredom? Who knows. Rarely have his films hit the mark with either critics or audiences since the early 90’s. But his latest film Midnight In Paris seems to be gripping both by the wrist and not letting go. Having mostly seen Woody’s earlier films (I’ve seen every film he released in the 70’s and 80’s bar two) the prospect of actually seeing a new one in the cinema excited me greatly.  And actually watching it excited me even more.

I was run down by the Grand Funk Railroad - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #22

There comes a moment, usually around the beginning of the third decade of one’s life, that things get serious. Rock and roll becomes an obsession, the drinking becomes a habit and sex becomes a weapon. You’ve got to get a job and wear a suit and get up at a respectable time and pay income tax if you want to keep collecting concert posters and limited edition picturedisks, you’ve got to give up the booze otherwise you won’t be able to make it in the world, they say. A lot of people believe this and obey. The others, the living, are prepared to retain that state of perpetual adolescence because that is living; we realise that taking things seriously is just letting all of the downers of the world win. The standard-bearers of this mindset before it was even fully realised, were Grand Funk Railroad, and their magnum opus, Grand Funk is exactly the kind of 50 foot tall exuberance required to liquefy the minds of the nonbelievers. On my gravestone I want the inscription, “I was run down by the Grand Funk Railroad”.

Self Portrait - Bob Dylan - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #17

I’m breaking a few of my own rules with this article. Firstly, I’ve generally avoided well-known artists in my articles: this is both due to the fact that I don’t need to tell you that hugely influential bands like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones are any good, plus I can’t really think what more I could say about them that hasn’t already been said in sweeter and more appropriate words. Secondly, I have always written about albums or artists that I thoroughly enjoy and would recommend to anyone. In writing about Bob Dylan, I normally wouldn’t be able to think of words with high enough appraisal to do his music justice. Thankfully however, Self Portrait is lacking in enough musical merit to make this a problem. It’s a rather slipshod album with many lows, and the few high points there are would probably be considered low points in any of the albums he released preceding this one in 1970. Yet despite its ragged and untidy nature, it’s certainly one of the most interesting albums Dylan ever released, if not musically, certainly conceptually.

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #17

Whether you believe in God or not, (I personally do) I think it’s safe to say that Man generally searches for some sort of enlightenment, focus or purpose for living throughout their lives. This search might lead to God, it might lead to a God-substitute such as money or fame, or it may lead to dissatisfaction. Some search and find meaning in something, others search and find meaning in nothing, but the point is that I believe all people search for this enlightenment; God or otherwise. John Coltrane searched through music. His saxophone playing revealed an intense desire and burning passion that could not be expressed through words. In many of his later albums, his music took on an elegiac or prayer-like quality, often meditative and yearning, as though he were searching for answers to all of life’s great questions. In A Love Supreme, his musical gifts and spirituality combined to produce the zenith of his career; a hugely powerful, personal work that reveals more of Coltrane’s innermost thoughts and desires than any interview or explanation could offer. In working with his regular quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, the music has a wholeness, a feeling of unity and belonging that came from their almost 3 year time together. While Coltrane is clearly the leader and the creator of such a masterwork, each musician shares his desire to give their all for some higher purpose.

Rise of the sonic titan - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #21

NOTE- this is a companion piece to my Dopesmoker retrospective, and as was to be expected with the whiskey-infused production that attends this series of margin doodles, this chronicles the release before Dopesmoker, Holy Mountain. Read them in chronological order if you prefer. Savour.

Rise of the Sonic Titan – Sleep’s Holy Mountain

As one might be forced to do when ascending Mount Olympus, Mount Sinai or Mount Everest; in the bong mist surrounding the change from 1991 to 1992, Sleep shed a guitarist. Leaving a man behind is never an easy decision to make, but Justin Marler’s time in Sleep was sort lived and characterised a band feebly scratching at the doors of perception, not realising the key lay in human sacrifice. Marler’s departure was simply the key to a greater puzzle. With three men, the caravan that was Sleep could move higher up the increasingly impassable mountain tracks of each of their respective minds, their first product after this split was the Volume Two EP, the fifteen minute album that marked out, like a warning shot fired across a bow, that these Sabbath devotees were about to lay down a trip so heavy it would be completely undeniable that the masters had been surpassed and supplanted by the (until then) apprentices. The following record was the now deemed classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain. With Sleep being such titans of their genre, defining it in many ways, and their discography so heartbreakingly small; every Sleep release and recording we have needs to be treasured.

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