I've had a heavy phase recently, possibly prompted by being asked to write a history of genre in black metal, and then a re-reading of Albert Mudrian’s excellent Choosing Death and a trawl through Bolt Thrower, Pig Destroyer and Napalm Death; before looking out a buncha obscure new-release American black metal for my Muso’s Guide column (last Monday of every month, read it now kids) and stumbling upon/remembering that one of my favourite people in music has a new band, and new records out. As I summited the volcanic mountain at the centre of this ancient city, contemplated the shortest day and the lengthening of daylight thereafter; then stumbled between jostling drunks and addicts and xmass shoppers (and tried to determine which of the three I should avoid more) I remembered this bizarre, challenging and important new black metal record. Enter Adam Black Savage and his new thoughtful and tasteful musical experience, Cemetery Piss.
In the dying embers of a meaningless year, in the midst of critics picking through the debris and pulling out their hair; re-spinning early-runners trying desperately to find something that could come together to be called an end-of-year list. The truth, we’ve found, is that there isn’t a list. A tired net of no-hopers and high-minded misfires is all you can hope to string with this year. But there is still good stuff getting made and getting out. The life-changing bands aren’t touring the world, they’re plying insane quality between the arcade machines and the fire exit in some smoky bar on a Wednesday night. But don’t despair, the number of audionauts may have fallen to new lows, but our lords and masters wisely press their wisdom into metallic tape, vinyl and hidden in ones and zeroes for posterity. Regular readers (and their psychoanalysts) will know I have a fondness for glacial doom. Melodic and intellectual explorations in blue whale-heavy formats. Also I have a fondness for female vocalists (female anything really) AND I also think Britain does this shit better than most countries, because we’ve got the oppressive climate and the national self-loathing; and so the new Tartarus/Graanrepubliek/At War With False Noise records split between two of Britain’s most excellent female-fronted drone doom bands is so up my street it should be downright illegal.
I will never ever be a critic unless I have calculated stupid contentious opinions (like the people who say Equilibrium is better than the Matrix or the people who say Garden State is watchable) so I’m going to tell you all about why you should totally make Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell number one (ignoring the fact their record comes out limited to 100 and will never ever sell more than some whiny x-factor shit smear cacophonising a classic that is played at shit people’s funerals). So, behold my unusual and contentious opinions!
When you complete your initiation into music criticism, when you still have warm calf’s blood on your face after gutting it with a snapped Oasis record. Your nether region is still strangely vibrating from the midnight ritual, and you have collected your critic papers, your obligatory stupid haircut and small idiosyncratic foibles (and there’s many a good tune played on a small foible) you are, at the most solemn part of the ceremony, handed a metal tin containing a single small red pill. You are informed that taking this pill will erase the memory of any single song. If you ever hear something that changes your world, convinces you that music isn’t the transcendent art form you always knew it was but actually was the greedy soulless hustle everyone keeps telling you it is. If ever you hear this song, take the pill, and you’ll be able to go on being a critic. “You’ll know when the time is right.”
[Disclaimer: Do not click this link. Do not expose yourself. If you feel you must damage yourself, seek out the number for the Samaritans in your country. This is present only to illustrate that like an inoperable eyeball cancer or a mushroom spore from outer space, Rebecca Black continues to make 'music'.]
[Disclaimer: Do not click this link. Do not expose yourself. If you feel you must damage yourself, seek out the number for the Samaritans in your country. This is present only to illustrate that like an inoperable eyeball cancer or a mushroom spore from outer space, Rebecca Black continues to make 'music'.]
It’s a nightmarish world at the moment, and getting worse. I’ve been asked by a variety of music-purveying places for me Best O’ Tha Year assumptions, which is ridiculously forward. Not that there’s much on the horizon of this porridge hurricane of a year, but I don’t know that I could pick out a Best O’ 2012 just yet, I’m finding new things every day. I’ve already said that if we did such a thing in this fine virtual establishment [we don’t: Ed] there would be a few things up for the title. Chiefly Bong’s superb Idle Days on the Yann, which you can still get all digital noncorporeal like from a few places. And the wonderfully serpentine leftfield underground smash by ZX Electric, about which I shall rant for the next 400 words. Tally ho.
End of year lists? I shit ‘em. I’m not doing one, partly because I haven’t heard every piece of music this year and there is always always something that comes totally out of left field and blows away what I thought was great from each year. See: Man’s Gin’s Smiling Dogs in 2010, Liturgy and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan in 2011 and Frisk Frugt’s weirdness from last year. Basically, fuck your Gregorian calendar and all its idiosyncratic nonsense. The year ends at the solstice anyway motherfuckers. That be the change, from shorter days to longer ones. Really we have two years every 365 days. One where it gets progressively better (culminating in the summer solstice) and another where it gets progressively darker and worse and worse until Christians come along and build a church in the middle of your circles, breaking up the laylines and forcing you to spend the following thousand years standing in WalMart praying to a god nobody really believes in that they’ve still got those funny mittens you think you saw because the person in the office you secretly harbour a smouldering loathing for might like them and you haven’t got him anything yet. Way to go humanity in general and Jesustianity in particular. Instead of some pathetic end of year list just designed to rile up fanboys, I’m going to just spend the month of December chewing in detail through some of my fav records of this year. Singles, EPs, whatever. Surf the 2013 tag to find tons more of this stuff. We won’t be rehashing anything [except your tired descriptions of things – Ed], so if you want to know why Deap Vally are great or Savages are something you should hear or Heliotropes are still my absolute darlings, then go back and read it!
Fuck xmass. Fuck your pagan trees and your corporate Santa and your Jesus-freak nativity scenes. Fuck the Daily Mail and Rill O’Bile-y’s “war on Christmas” (turn on a television for five minutes to disabuse you of that fucking notion). It might have been a good one, but final reports say comet ISON is just a cloud of dust and burned memories after its close encounter with the sun. And I’ve got the perfect announcement and the perfect record to get this non-xmass mood. Electric Wizard are good again. They are also embroiled in legal troubles over their forthcoming album. Electric Wizard’s overlooked (especially by me) Legalise Drugs and Murder 7” is actually good. I considered it simply another piece of Leckie Wizard’s steady slide from life-changing super-slow doom to really pretty tedious and retrograde regular doom.
Well sumumabitch. I done and made another mix tape for y’all. This time turning away from the thudding heavy guitar repetition mantra workouts of mix one, and towards the heavy mantric workouts of what is nominally dubbed ‘doom metal’. Invoking doom, hopelessness, some of it formless, some of it with purpose. Bands from all over the world, and bands making amazingly different music. Contrast the opening three, why don’t’cha just to see what I mean? Abstract weirdness of the Chewers, followed swiftly by A Very Old Ghost Behind the Farm throwing open the noise doors (might want to be quick on the volume dial, headphone users and cohabiters) following swiftly behind those two is the third contrast, the thudding Let the Churches Burn by Suma, which I play to most people as an example of a perfect doom record. Incidentally, anyone wants to pull a Sleep and repeat that thudding nodding riff for an hour and a bit, layer some solipsistic vocals over the top, that’d be Just Fine.
Dead Skeletons exploded across the CabVol stage on Sunday night. I was there, as they flooded the place with smoke and ended with a thrilling distortion finale. Support by Helicon, fresh from slaving away in the Glasgow psyche salt mines. As usual, seventies-style photos because I’m a bad photographer and the lighting was pants.
I try to keep my critical reflexes as sharp as possible. It can take time to come to terms with things you’re asked to review or comment on. There is a certain amount of digestion required around especially difficult properties before an equilibrium of opinion is reached, it’s important to exercise your opinion muscles as much as possible as a critic to minimise this turnaround time and quickly identify what your lasting opinion on something will be. I find my opinion on a video game can take many months to settle, while I can often judge a song from a single attentive listen. Of course things can change, records I hated five years ago I have revised my opinion on and vice versa, and controversial opinions upon revision have tended to cement themselves; but as a critic you have to keep these turnarounds to a minimum, and keep a reliable framework of opinion, so that people can follow you and judge against their own opinions how to judge a recommendation from you.
Repetition is the death of magic - black magic doom and ritualistic rock and roll - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #185
Sleep’s shamanistic totemistic solipsistic clarion call was a game-changing religious yardstick, yet to be matched. Dopesmoker was a piece of music in the same way the Pacific is a bit of water. In the ten years since the complete version (not that Jerusalem heresy) has been fully explored and digested, least of all on this very patch of barren internet real estate. Ever since, ritualistic repetition has been in vogue. In a first here at the blog, we’re bringing you a mix, of my own creation, of the best most recent mantra spouting religion-startin’ motherfuckers out there today. Inspired in part by the absolutely cracking new Saturnalia Temple record, which, if you haven’t got, you need.
(and if you haven’t yet seen it, I pity you).
“Think we’ll ever find intelligent life out there?”
Funnier than the Godfather, more arthouse than Jaws, scarier than Star Wars. Forget the Exorcist and the French Connection, Taxi Driver and the Deer Hunter, one film is more important, substantial, necessary, weighty and funny than anything else from that decade, and it is John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s wonderful Dark Star. If you haven’t seen it (and let’s face it, you haven’t) Dark Star is Waiting for Godot meets Dr. Strangelove, or 2001:A Space Odyssey meets Blackadder Goes Forth; it chronicles the tedious adventures of the four remaining crew of the ship Dark Star, who are on a seemingly endless deep-space mission to destroy entire planets using sentient bombs, as their ship steadily fails around them and they try to keep themselves entertained.
Halloween special? I hear you ask. No, fuck off and die in a ditch unmourned by everyone, there’s your Halloween special.
Why not have the single Dead Comet, by Dead Skeletons, from the EP of same name released later this year. I’m sensing more of a Briany Jonestowny Massacrey sorta vibe from this one. It’s definitely chilling and a far cry from Dead is God, which I still like the best. The video is cool and I’m looking forward to the EP. Still spinning the ORD re-release, which you should be too. Head over to bandcamp and yawp gimmegimmegimme urgently at once!
The importance of the Velvet Underground was outlined to me at an early age with the explanation “The first Velvet Underground album sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought a copy started a band.” Another person described all of music as “the space between the noise of Metal Machine Music and the silence of 4’33””. The great rock critic Lester Bangs said “Lou realized the implicit absurdity of the rock ‘n’ roll bête-noire badass pose and parodied, deglamorized it”. My first experience of Lou Reed was, the same as many people, Walk On the Wild Side, and I’ll never forget that creep from the first verse “shaved his legs/then he was a she”. I remember fascination that this was so seemingly inoffensive, and yet had such subversive clout. I learned from Lou Reed to approach life with total honesty, not the hostility with which Ginger Baker seems to slice through existence, but a complete and total honesty and freedom from falseness or courtesy.
You know it’s a lean year for music when the first article I write in over a month concerns a disappointing album. Oh how I wanted to love this a lot. I do love some of it a lot. Several tracks showed real promise for this album, but their allure was deceptive, leading me on to believe that these first few morsels of Moon Tides was wholly representative of the remainder, and alas that was not the case. Pure Bathing Culture make music in the realm of what could broadly be described as “Indie Pop,” a tag I am loathe to explore due to the majority of what I hear being pretentious and meandering; forsaking structure and songwriting ability for a certain “mood” or “experience.” Don’t get me wrong: the dreamy, hazy atmosphere that a lot of indie pop aspires to is truly appealing to my ears, but the marriage between atmosphere and songwriting is often sadly mismatched. Safe to say I’ve been lured in many times by a track that achieves this balance only to find the rest of the album is an exercise in style over substance. And unfortunately I’ve got to say that’s what’s happened here.
We all like rock and roll because for all its Billboard chart prostitution and the forty-year long corporate dentistry de-toothing it has received; rock and roll is still a little bit naughty. Like riding a motorbike or drinking. That’s the point of rock and roll. That image of the phallic guitar, standing tall over fans. Rock singers spreading themselves out, arms up, legs apart over the crowd, those are great images and going to a rock show, even something as corporate and monosyllabic and glacial as Franz Ferdinand has a little sumthin’ sumthin’. The new Arctic Monkeys album passes the fourth wall by being entirely empty of menace or violence or intrigue or power.
“Soon we all slept except the helmsman, who kept the ship in the mid-stream of Yann.” - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #182
Or:- “Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?”
The future is here. Salute the new world order. Heavy music is so far beyond Sabbath that their ages-old paradigm for religious rock and roll ceases to have any relevance in a world spiralling out of control. Their wide-ranging bomber-command music has been condensed into a microchip and burned with as much data as possible. The humungous crumbling statues of Buddha and Christ have no meaning and our own gods, built from wires and machinery by other machines increasingly resemble the Monolith. The stars are lining up. Technology is your god. The soundtrack is by Bong.
So what exactly is music? This extremely rare music I froth about most weeks that is probably heard by a handful of people. Does it change the world? Is that what I’m doing here? We live in hope. You know what it is, the only thing it is, the only thing that counts? It’s fucking cool. Spiritual carbs, jolly woo-woo wah-wah for the anima; a synthesis of the self, by someone else. A lens through which we briefly glimpse our own being indescribably. It’s also fucking cool. You know what’s cool this week? Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (that’d be seven ‘Pigs’ kiddies. Bands, what can I say?). Pigs7 are dropping a split with blog faves the Kosmiche Tot, I haven’t been able to hear the full thing yet but Pigs7' part is pretty sweet.
The fight is over, you can give up now. We lost. Chauvinism, anti-feminism, the androcracy, all that won. Some time ago. When women started unironically pole dancing for exercise. But quite a few nails are being hammered into female empowerment’s coffin by child star turned rolling-news burnout Miley Cyrus. Daughter of contemptible Billy Ray Cyrus and star of Hannah Montana. Miley, like Britney, like every single child pop star before her all the way back to Elvis is in the midst of a choreographed and planned ‘shock’ phase, which involves a couple of public blowouts, a ‘shocking’ video, nude magazine shoots. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a stint in police custody and some drug possession to come. All planned and pre-approved, natch. The reason I’ve been driven to write about this is the endless discussion this has caused, and I’m here to say. Do not give in. Every time you click on a Miley Cyrus story, every time you watch a video, you’re telling that website and all others that Miley Cyrus content gets hits. You’re further cementing in the minds of those who run major news websites that this shit works, and that real news, that Syria story you spent half the time on, that doesn’t work anymore. You want Miley Cyrus news, give your clicks to a celebrity website, they at least are set up for this. Don’t go to Huffington Post, don’t go to Guardian, or Telegraph, or anywhere else because you are genuinely contributing to the smothering of online journalism in its crib.
(With the exception of this post, because you might have given me a click, one of the five I will receive today, but I also declare a blackout on Miley Cyrus, I will never in these pages again write about that presexual fuckdoll or her inbred family or her butt fucking fans again.)
Seems I’m doing a lot of writing about films. Don’t worry, this isn’t something I’ve done because I’ve conceived a spite against the subscribers; musically this year is lying with broken legs at the back of the pack waiting for some supersonic under-and-over head surgery to take away the pain so I’ve been indulging other mediums. The world of video games occasionally coughs out a marvel but for the most part is as puerile and adolescent as society expects it to be so I’ve been watching a lot of movies and telly (box sets, none of that commercially interrupted bullshit) so I pen the occasional article, can you dig?
Or: Psychedelia is dead, long live psychedelia.
“You can go to Jupiter, you can go to Mars, you can go right to hell in all your fancy cars”.
Batton down the hatches, buy bigger locks for bigger doors and bigger guns to shoot through them. Shop-window-dummy whores clog the airwaves and corporate goon malaise has spread from the adverts to the deejays. Bloodthirsty gangs of yuppies in pastel shirts with foaming mouths roam the streets looking for people to preach to and Priuses to agree about. Chelsea Manning goes away for longer than murderers and Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and Blair get to wring their hands of their crimes, if not all the blood that’s on them. Dare I say, we’re all in a pretty dark place. What we need is a new revolution. The whole world is in a desperate situation. And last week’s Pussy Riot repeat revolution didn’t help as much as we thought here in the bunker. We’re going with a slightly different tone this week. Totally in fact, re-cross the iron curtain to Echo Park Los Angeles and meet 5-Track. We like to say we cover new-ish music, and the word ‘ish’ is doing even more work than usual today. His greatest work, Backatcha Pod People is looking kinda old now, but it’s still damn good so you ought to go out and say ‘gimme! gimme! gimme!’. It was only fairly recently in a particularly tough bout of existential angst that I realised what a Neil Young distortion piece it was on top of the psychoDylan overtones. So while you contemplate the personal existential horror of your own bleak existence, and these modern times of universal crisis, it seems appropriate to take a break and contemplate 5-Track’s nouveau psyche.
Michael Bay is a name in cinema circles synonymous with the death of narrative cinema and our slow slide into corporate-sponsored multiplex mediocrity. His early work; police comedy Bad Boys and fun Die Hard rip-off the Rock showed a middle-of-the-road action director, but his preachy tedious rubbish from then on, Armageddon, Pearl Harbour and the Island indicated that anything with his name on it was to be avoided. The less said about the ongoing Transformers debacle and Bay’s ill-fated Platinum Dunes production company whose stated goal seems to be to ruin great eighties horror films. His new film divided opinion before it came out, and has split the critics and the public upon release (yes, I know America, you got it at the start of the summer, we’ve had to wait).
I continue to live in hope that one day, and may it be very soon, one of those “spunk trumpets” from One Direction will do something so shameless and outrageous that they will totally fall from public favor. (Not that I have any personal vendetta against the band members per se, they’re just a symbol of manufactured, fake marketing schemes that pass for bands these days, and being irresponsible young adults with hoards of adulating female admirers and the world at their feet, it seems that if any of Cowell’s army is going to screw up and ruin their public image, it’d be them) Hopefully it would free a lot of teenage girls from the biggest hysteria they’ve been through since Justin Bieber’s false paternity allegations, but I don’t care about that as much as that it would prove a point that we all should know but too many of us ignore: people are scumbags. Everyone has a dark side, people will always let you down, and no matter how much they try to hide it, or you try to ignore it, it’s in there somewhere. It might be hidden very well, the good in people’s lives may very well outdo the bad, but people do have a dark side and it will out, sooner or later. Another point is that celebrities, while perhaps being admirable in their profession, might not be admirable as a person. (Wish I’d written this three years ago so I could make a Tiger Woods joke) Again, something we should and probably do know, but often forget. Anyway, this preamble obviously had a point to it, so I’ll get to it. Kanye West is a scumbag, in my opinion. From accusing GWB of being a racist on live television to interrupting Taylor Swift collecting an award to impregnating Kim Kardashian, I feel the guy is somewhat lacking in the class department. He’s still a public savior, however, thanks to the undeniable quality of his music, with his last solo album sweeping Album of the Year awards, and Niggas in Paris getting constant airplay rotation. I think with this latest offering, mind you, Kanye is actually making a point to make his music as unlikeable as his persona.
It would seem these days that Jesus freaks, paranoid Nixonians, goons and whores and vampires and sycophants and politicians have railroaded this world with their malaise, contempt, despair and mislaid good intentions into a pretty nervous and wrong place. There are sad and deprived people in the world so utterly poor and poverty stricken that all they have is money. It seems the middle east is in terminal decline, we’ll just stand overhead and keep feeding guns and ammunition to both sides in a possible effort to exterminate all the brutes. Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, we’re civilising Yemen and Pakistan with our own blinding light of American sunshine, dropped from impersonal drones onto children, parents, schools, towns and occasionally people who deserve it. It’s times like this that we need Pussy Riot.
Altered States of the Union: Rituals at In Search of Space towers, shit, at the whole Whine, Women and a Shag or Two bunker have ground to a complete and utter spiritual halt. Firstly myself and my chief co-conspirator were engaged in holidaying proceedings. I embarked on my annual pilgrimage to the only things in the known world bigger, heavier and more momentous than the riffs I seek; the mountains of the far northwest highlands. There I ate hearty, drank (not-so) hearty and enjoyed good company in superb weather. Ask Adam about his trip to visit our spiritually bereft but nevertheless beautiful American cousins, both coasts no less. After that I was engaged in a partial spate of employment, I wrote about the heaviest thing ever, and I started a column for Muso’s Guide where I basically do this every month; accompanied by a riffless gulf of ennui from which I am only just returning with the help of that totally free OM live thing which you all ought to get yersels. Because meditation is the practice of death.
After godless motherlode Sleep proved that the future would indeed belong to the Hashishian, intrepid mung worshippers have been forever asking, in between wheezing coughs and Melvins B-sides ‘from whence sprang this God-given yawp?” and more precisely, where can we get more of the stuff, raw, from the source? And thus commenced a mass dive into the back shelves of record shops, the back pages of the more obscure weeklies. A few progenitors were identified. On one hand the Doors, with their religious lyrics and Blakesian Williamness, another the MC5’s garage freerock, still more pointed to Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer as invented the distorted blues that built the songs of Sleep, the Melvins. Thus one of the greatest back catalogues ever assembled (and still growing) comes down to a sea of proto-Zeppalike bands with nothing to recommend them, and precious few beautiful, iconic gems as yet unassimilated into the modern culture, and a wealth of spectacularly idiosyncratic bands, too weird to live, too rare to die. Every so often, when the angst gets too much and I have to close the curtains and take to smoking opium through an eight foot hookah and wearing the masters robes just to get through the day, what I like to do best is trawl the history books and dig out something or other that scratches my very particular itch. Hooboy have I found a cure-all fuckin’ record. It comes from the world-changing post-sixties heyday of 1969, and it comes for you!
My annual meditation session approaches babies so finally this dark cloud that’s been hanging over may finally depart. For ten beautiful days technology free, ten spectacular days absorbing and meditating in a restful sense amongst the towering scenery of the north Highlands. You can keep your Magaluf-skirting booze-cruise motherfucker because I’ve got nailed the exact thing that gives me spiritual calm. It’s been too long since I meditated. Full academia (which is now over, well done me) and various other projects (keep it dialled on Ripple Music ‘s all I’m sayin’) have kept me away from your sweet ears babbies but I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m struggling to think of something to give you my musical opinion on that you ain’t already had, or is just a re-tread. New Jex Thoth is worth checking out, the same old fairy-songs as sung by Thorr’s Hammer ambiance. Also the back-alley feel of the new Man’s Gin I haven’t yet absorbed but they’re a solid bunch. Tommy Concrete also has a new book out. I try to avoid this y’see because once I’ve focused y’all on a certain trip (the Tommy Concrete trip for instance) I don’t feel the need to trumpet all their latest work unless it is of utmost spiritual importance and Not To Be Missed. I’ve been working on fiction, but I feel like this blog, at least from my end, has rather lost its way. I intended it to be an antidote to the no-brainer 50-word NME mob churning out garbage, to cover interesting Melvins side cuts and selections of cream skimmed from the underground. O’course that doesn’t preclude us from commenting on the new chart-topper if we feel the meditative usefulness of such an activity. I didn’t want to have blog darlings, but the world situation is so nervous and wrong that terrible useless confused garbage clutters up my release schedule and high-quality music has been far away. I don’t know where this is going, by the way. Really what I want is to sink into the treacle of the best of Reverend Bizarre or Ramessess, but there doesn’t seem to be anything like that on the airwaves… but then it wouldn’t be. Have you heard of Black Norse, me neither, until a few weeks ago when I noticed one of the many promos, free copies, links and fickle magazine ‘best buys’ that had sneaked into my burgeoning collection was a little Jackson Pollock-covered thing called Black Norse.
It must be rather frustrating, as a musician, to try and convey ideas in your head to other musicians with whom you are playing. No matter how precise the explaination, no matter how accurate the demonstration, no other musician is ever going to perfectly match the sounds in your head. They can come close, but no cigar. Bill Evans managed to completely circumvent this problem on his album Conversations with Myself by using overdubbing, something unprecedented in jazz music in his day. Yet it wasn’t done as a gimmick, some sort of tape experimentation a la Messrs. McCartney and Lennon, no. The idea was simply to expand upon Evans’ own ideas beyond what was physically possible if he were playing solo. As he says himself in the liner notes: “Another condition to be considered is the fact that I know my musical techniques more thoroughly than any other person, so that, it seems to me, I am equipped to respond to my previous musical statements with the most accuracy and clarity.”
Another of my little indulgence pieces for you today (although I suppose really, ALL of these articles are indulgence pieces) as I was thinking; “well, it’s been almost a year since I’ve written about Bob Dylan” and in my mind, that’s just not good enough. However, I hope to do more than just praise the music, as that’s been done to death already, not least by me. There is a specific point I wish to make about the nature of rock music, the direction in which Dylan’s music was firmly established by the time he performed this concert in 1966.
Regular readers of this blog will know I have an occasional affinity for videogames, and regular readers of my twitter (you poor saps) will have noticed I have a specific affinity for top-down neon murder activity playset Hotline Miami. Those familiar with Hotline Miami will know that the music is a huge part of the game, and as music in videogames is an undervalued resource it seems important to discuss one of the few times they have got it right. In Hotline Miami the music is foregrounded and is a crucial component in the game feel, so this will be a discussion of Hotline Miami as well, because the music doesn’t exist in a vacuum within the game.
At last! I am finally free from the straightjacket of revision and examinations, a day I have oft longed for, but scarcely thought would ever appear since I began studying for these exams waayyyy back in late March. One would think that in the time it’s been since my last article I would have accumulated a backlog of ideas, pieces of music I’ve just been itching to write about, but this isn’t quite true… I tend to eschew any attempt to acquire new music in this stage, merely relying on a few old favorites as my solace and reward for a hard day’s work. So I have no new work to write about. But enough of my non-problem. (I can read and write. That alone gives me an advantage over half a billion people in this world. This isn’t a complaint, just an explanation) Just because I’ve no new music doesn’t mean I have no music. Today I bring to you the delightfully quirky Do You Like My Tight Sweater? from Anglo-Irish duo-couple (at the time) Moloko. The title of the album is supposedly the chat up line used by the very beautiful Roisin Murphy, lead singer, to Mark Brydon, musician and producer. I for one am glad Brydon was amenable to her advances because it gave rise to the formation of this delightful duo, and this, their debut. One of those albums that refuses to be ignored, every time I think I’m done with it, the desire to listen to it overwhelms me once more.
Fifty years on, Detroit still rocks - Seeking pleasure with the Pleasure Seekers - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #173
Right, bannerhead time, right over this whole review in red and yellow stripes – police line, do no cross – warning to all readers, this blog is going to get blue and get pretty personal too so if you’re at all prudish, one, get over yourself, we all do things, alone and in various parings and the sooner you get over that the happier you’ll be and two, in the meantime you’ll be right turned off by this here piece of prose. You were warned. Any relatives accidentally clicking on this, please please please stop reading now.
This post has been languishing in one of my computer's less reputable digital orifaces, so if some of the references seem a little out of date it'll be because I haven't proofread it since I finished it. Deal.
I want credit for spotting Heliotropes. I wasn’t the first, I ain’t that big headed. But I believe if you track back the tag on this very blog you’ll find reference to the band being the Next Big Thing and the Cure For What Ails Us. Usually my predictions for the future come true because they’re pessimistic (although realistic, ‘cause they come true, geddit?) but I’m really overjoyed as I listen to the stream of their official debut (out on Manimal Vinyl, go forth and consume!) that Heliotropes have come of age. They have drunk of their milk and emerged more in themselves, more confident and more muscular in their instantly identifiable brand of ‘poppy doom’. Sadly now that Spin are ranting about them I realise they’ve grown up and don’t need internet gutter snipes like me anymore.
It seems appropriate at this time in my life to dedicate myself even more wholeheartedly to the study of black metal. Just as my gaming experiences have continued a slow spiral down into reflexively exploring the less wholesome parts of my own psyche, with dispiriting and dehumanising violence from Spec Ops: the Line and Hotline Miami and joblessness still enduring, anything less than pitch-black iss immediately discarded. I can only sit and read William Blake and Nietzsche in spurts, intercut with restless sleep, horrible headaches and real heavy things.
(as in, written by an idiot)
|Graffiti in the basement recording studio of Helvete record shop.|
“Black Metal is like Black Magic without the chocolate” David Wood.
Black metal is first and foremost a subgenre of abrasive heavy metal music, but like all genres doesn’t stop at musical sound. Some will claim black metal is a theatrical gesture, some say it’s a way of life or an act of rebellion. It’s associated with the countries of Scandinavia and Norway in particular. Musically it strains at the edge of listenability, even for people who are self-confessed fans. The fusion of many aesthetics of 1980s death and thrash metal and hardcore punk, as well as occult doom rock dating back to the 1960s; and ideologically drawing on Satanic, or pre-Christian Pagan views of western Europe, black metal of the 1990s was confined geographically and ideologically. Today, the old models have been blown apart, now black metal emanates from sweaty basements in back alleys of every city of the world. The rebellious streak of Norwegian black metal is bent to rebel against American ideals, Cobalt’s own brand of melody is more inspired by Hemingway and Hunter Thompson than any musical tradition, Botanist’s one-man San Fran ‘green metal’ combines hammered dulcimer sound with an environmental message, Janaza takes the elements of black metal violently opposed to organised religion and sings “burn the Quran”. There are even Christian black metal bands, who are regularly hounded out of venues by fans of ‘true’ black metal. This article should function as a beginner’s guide to Black Metal; its musical legacy, its preposterous and violent history, ludicrous iconography, and the new divergent artists and their clash with the established order. I’ll interweave these, as they are interwoven, to paint hopefully a canvass of a very confused, contradictory and thriving group of people.
One of the many things in life that continues to amaze me is how the tiniest and happiest of coincidences can have profound, long lasting effects. To use a home-grown example, if I hadn’t been on Pink Floyd’s Bebo page about 7 years ago and noticed a guy with a cool display picture leaving a comment about how much he liked the band, and I hadn’t left him a message when I noticed we had similar taste in music, I wouldn’t ever have come across my co-conspirator Steven and you probably wouldn’t be reading this today. (Perhaps you wish you weren’t) Anyhow, the point of this of course relates to the subject of today’s article, Gavin Bryars’ 1971 arrangement known as Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Not a composition: an arrangement. The happiest of coincidences brought this piece to light for, I believe, the better of many who hear it.
(EDITED: 17th May 2013 01:00GMT)
Reproducing the good and bad decisions of the past - Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats above their station - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #168
People seem to quite like these ‘state of the union’ type posts where I cast my half-hooded whisky eye over the last few putrid years of culture’s most vestigial feature, the continued prevalence of all levels of rock and roll. From stadium-filling geriatric clowns to fresh-faced up-and-comers rocking out right beside the fire exit, so young the show concludes with the cutting of the umbilical cord. It doesn’t fit together, it’s a disorganised clusterfuck, there’s no weekly podcast or magazine to tell everyone what to listen to or what to do, hence why you still get Nu Metal bands even though most of us would rather fellate a nailgun than slip out of our opium coma long enough to remember the early 2000s. I’ve been predicting rock’s ultimate rise out of the murk of nerd-dom and return to the culturally relevant stage again, god help us all. Thankfully Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are here to make sure rock and roll stays a trainspotting pastime, by being bored, retrograde, hopelessly tied into all the iconography that makes “70’s inspired” rock bands so bloody insipid.
Put down your phone, switch off the TV, hammer a bone through your nose and do the dance of the eight arms; or: assume the lotus position and imagine you are drifting into the desert; or: sell the house! Sell the kids! I’m never coming
home back. Go out, find a shop, buy a beer
and tool the streets swigging lazily until some basement jive drifting up at
you through a darkened stairwell inspires you to go down and join the party. Do
all this, because Los Tentakills are about to drop us a real full-length album
for the first time. The Glasgae-based space-bound arts collective, known for
insane tribal shows and total dedication to the cause. Still the best kept
secret of the Glasgow underground, if they ever do explode across the world
scene, bringing their kitschy Americana as the speed of sound, it’ll be like a
multi-coloured paint-bomb exploding across the airwaves and there will be no going back.
The Heavy Company? Weren’t they the band we were plastering as the Next Big Thing a coupla years ago? Whatever happened to them? Well they released a cracking little live EP last January but since then it’s all been quiet. Turns out they’ve been distilling their southern rock right down into soul, boiling off almost all the distortion and more grinding elements from their southern rock until it’s pure gentle sipping for 37 uninterrupted minutes of their debut album. Replacing the latterday-Clutch-bothering is a whole strain of Hawkwindy/Floydy sortof spacestuff that fits really nicely. The Midwest Electric is definitely something to tune in to.
(Or:- How I learned to stop worrying and love.)
I always write live reviews this way. Hunched over the laptop, eyes and brainpan burning from the morning sunlight, fingers poised over the keys waiting for the caffeine jolt to hit like a bolt of lightning and animate me into action on the previous night’s excursion. It’s different this time because gig and morning hangover haze are presided over through a fug of disease and cold. Ye gods you ain’t seen the Kosmik Deed until you’ve seen them while tripping off the scale on a frontal lobe and sinuses packed tight with pain concrete, or swiftly setting clay. Piecing together the photos, the awful pain and the raw interview recordings feels like decoding the contents of a Vegas hotel room on a nightmarishly bright Sunday morning. What the hell happened here?
|Kosmik James, freelance guitar abuse.|
Do you like your hearing? I conceived a spite against mine ever since I heard the solipsistic shamanistic shudder of doom metal juggernauts Bongripper many years ago. Their Chicago-based Sabbath-bothering riffage has been trundling up to Edinburgh for the last few months, so I took my ears down there for a good hard thrashing. Also in attendance were Edinbugger doom-babies and photographer-assaulters Atragon and rowdy Liverpudlian lads Conan, who made an almighty noise. Pre-booked Humanfly had van issues, so were not in attendance, and Bongripper arrived in a taxi at 10:45pm after thirteen hours of travelling but didn’t dare let down the side as they launched into a brutal bit of eardrum bothering. The evening reached a surreal nadir when Bongripper bass completely dropped out, and guitars continued until the low-end rumble resumed, but not before bass player Ron brained himself on the overheads (clearly labelled ‘heids!’) and threw a particularly metal fit at his own instrument. I’ve never seen anyone try to attack something they’re wearing before. Despite all the taxi-no sound check-head bang-bass dropout the Bongripper show was one of the sweatiest and most punishing I’ve witnessed since Sleep tore up the Arches in Glasgow roundabout this time last year. So time to clock in and take the Bannerman’s challenge. Lose five pounds in ten minutes? Sweat it away.
(Kwest The Madd Lad – This Is My First Album)
It’s a cliché we all hear: record companies are greedy, overbearing manipulators, pressuring their artists to sell out, sucking their talent dry and casting them aside when they’ve outlived their usefulness like an old loofah. The assumption is so commonplace I worry it’s being reduced to stereotype because this sort of thing really does go on, often to the ruination of passionate musicians who ended up being the victims of circumstance, profit margins and different priorities. I often find, however, that generalizations like this fail to bother me unless I can relate to it, unless I hear the story of a certain person who has suffered as a result of this experience. (To go to that famous quote of uncertain origin, but often misattributed to Joseph Stalin, “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic”) Well, here’s a very real experience from a talented guy that I’d like to share with you.
I only get my rocks off when I'm peaking - The spirit of Sabbath lives on, but not where you think - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #163
Ye gods! Is it that time of the week again? A sunny Saturday, simulataneously Roadburn Saturday (where many fine darlings of this very blog are doing their best to rend the space-time matrix asunder with the sheer amplified power of the unintuitive Godhead), 4/20 AND mutha’fuckin’ Record Store Day? Yew’betcha hombre, and another thing. Iiiiiiiiiii’m back! That’s right! After a brief sort-of hiatus where instead of writing about music I wrote about writing about music, if you see? No? Well if you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should do because you’re automagically entered into a competition where you could win twitter updates from me) you might know for the longest time I’ve been assembling a gargantuan dissertation-shaped thing about music journalism, music journalists, and trying to find a job. If you want to hire a pre-emptively washed-up hack with a penchant for the slightly weird of the rock world, please let me know. I’ve contacted Vice but I don’t think they’ll give a job to a prick like me so I’m all unemployed. Time to bask in the post-coital glow of a finished dissertation and enjoy unemployment. And listen to Groundshaker’s excellent Got Those Blues on repeat, because I can and will.
(Or:- why you and your entire family deserve to die in nuclear Armageddon for being wrinkly out-of-touch old scrotes).
The future is getting better, honestly. Don’t think that nostalgia and email hating is all I’m about (I also like the Wire). I just downloaded Bobby Dylan’s latest, the Tempest at long last. I trumped for the iTunes LP because I was tired and broken, thinking it was just some MP3s and a soulless dickless little JPEG. When I got down to it, however, I discovered an anomalous button hovering around which read “Play iTunes LP”. As Duquesne Whistle got going I was treated to a full screen album cover (big as a 12”) and a little bit of interactive liner notes to play with. Lemme tell you it’s just as fucking good as LP, or CD, or hearing the fucker live (okay, let’s not go crazy) and now I’m going to tell you why.
There aren’t too many genres in which you could not only get away with making something as bizarre and esoteric as The Unseen, but to be applauded and rewarded for it. Yes, one of hip hop’s greatest modern producers Madlib came onto the solo scene back in 2000 with one of the most thoroughly bonkers albums the genre has ever seen, yet I’ll be the first to admit that something about it is simply irresistible. Supposedly conceived and recorded during a week-long binge on magic mushrooms, every song on this warped record gives you a hazy vision of Madlib’s experience, like gazing through a fog into the doorway of his mind, like pursuing him down the rabbit hole in the wake of his psychedelic ramblings.
The proto-Sabbatheans and the pre-Zeppalikes - The alternative hall of fame - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #161
I’ve been saying for months that my magic crystals and observances of exclusively Capricorn in the night sky tell me rock and roll is back. Back to being cool after a few awkward years out of favour. I thought this deserved an agonisingly long reappraisal of the whole scene because a whole new generation will be asking “from whence sprang our guitar worship?” It’s very easy, with the false 20/20 power of hindsight, for those of us in our youth in the year 2013 to assume rock and roll is the sort of thing that’s always been with us. It’s correct. Rock and roll channels the basic impulses that flow in our veins. The desire to be near other people. Warmth, and light of dancing around the fire in the days before amplifiers and pickups. Rock and roll has always been with us, but it’s easy to forget that for a few hundred years at least, rock and roll was effectively silenced, and only with fifteen years of hard work did it come back in force for the purest wave of reheathenisation the word has ever known. It’s easy to forget these artists, to buy into the myth of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath rising from the earth like ghosts when the time was right, but they didn’t. They were the product of a culture, and that culture is more available than ever. Most of these bands released only a few records. Some released under different names, some didn’t release much of anything, and bootlegs are all that exists. Some of the members went on to future success and we have that future success to thank for their prominence now. We also have to thank the ‘illegal’ online file-sharing communities whose dedication to duty and cool distinction between legality and morality have allowed these records to spread and expand in importance and prominence. The magic of YouTube, of blogging, of file sharing, is that once concerts that existed for only a few short hours to a handful of people can now spread across the globe to thousands, and records that released a few dozen copies in selected San Fran back-street record shops can now be copied endlessly. This is only an account, an interpretation of the creative and very corporeal chaos of the rock and roll business, the protest movement and the counter culture across a whole hemisphere of the earth for fifteen years of sound and fury. There will be steps I have missed, I attempt only to give a reading. Contributions to this article are more needed than ever before, please email us your own suggestions of forgotten pre-Sabbatheans and proto-Zeppalikes, send me your own potted history. I sit and await your correspondence.
The only thing today stopping me from collapsing due to the spastic pain of a shattered spine was the red-hot fuel-injected caffeine-punch of Hey Colossus new album. Now it won’t come as much of a surprise that these Quietus darlings are good, because everyone and their fucking talentless dog-fucking writing spawn have said this shit is thee shit but I thought I’d throw my tiny ineffectual hat in the ring and say you’d all be best equipped going right over to MIE and shelling out whatever they’re asking (they should ask four times as much, and it’d still be a bargain) because the orchestral-staffed heavy-rockers have gone and done it again.
It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to an album and been utterly perplexed by its contents, but bravo Newspeak, you managed to give me an album that provoked such a reaction. My initial reaction was simply “what on earth?” and after a couple of listens… it’s still much the same. I came across the album when I saw it listed as an “Indie Classical” album on eMusic (a neat alternative to iTunes offering more out of left field offerings such as this one) and was rather curious to figure out what an “Indie Classical” album would sound like. Turns out it sounds nothing like what I expected, or probably what anyone expected.
|I had to have a picture of something, so here's Aldo and his harmonica. No connection to the text.|
Ten years since the blinding sunshine of American shock and awe freedom lit up the Baghdad skyline, it’s important to look back on ten years of fearmongering and misery and financial disaster; and what’s happened to music since then. I sometimes endure horrifying waking caffeine-deficient headache nightmares of Steve Bartels, Peter Edge, Tom Corson and Joie Manda slavering blood in a hotel room. Manda arches his back as it sprouts with hair; his jaw opens in a painful scream as it extends, snapping and cracking and melding his bones to his new preternatural shape. Edge and Corson sniff at him with their animalistic snouts as the moonlight dances in the grooves of self-awarded gold records dusted with cocaine. Steve Bartels hangs from the ceiling in the corner of the room, licking blood from his fangs and smiling as the werewolves devour what is left of Miley Cyrus. The hotel room is filled with wailing guitar sounds of some already-rejected rock act tape and the LA heat makes the whole room simmer. Edge pants with blood on his breath as he sodomises Corson and Manda uses his doggy tongue to lick Bartels’ balls. This has been going on for hours and the internal fluids of aspiring young starlets have begun to seep into adjacent rooms; there is a scuffling noise outside and the door explodes inwards in a shower of expensive splinters that sends the table, the gold records and the cocaine tumbling into the carpet, the three wolves scuttle into the corners of the room and cower underneath Bartels as the riot police storm in. Corson catches an MP5 bullet in the shoulder and snarls as the smoke clears. Steve Barnett emerges from the cupboard, head bowed and hovering ethereally about six inches off the floor. Two police heads implode instantly and they dissolve as messy piles of cartilage into the carpet, the remaining officers still in the hallway drop into a trance and raise their weapons into their mouths. Tears stream from their eyes as they pull the triggers, spraying skull fragments and brain matter across the walls. As the wolves devour what was left of the point officers Barnett turns to Bartels and smiles and nods.
“Quickly!” says Bartels, “Bieber is in town, and Taylor Swift is saying at the Marriott”. With that the wolves disappear out of the window. Barnett hovers down the steps and stops just long enough to strangle the night porter with his mind. The three wolves crowd up in the Marriott parking lot, staring up at the rows of identical windows. Trying to remember which is Taylor Swift’s hotel room they booked before leaving the office.
Written under caffeine deficiency by Steven.