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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to….the House sound of Frankie Knuckles April 5, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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I was standing on the edge of the dancefloor towards the end of last Friday night. Only went for a quiet pint and in search of another, later, quiet pint I ended up in front a DJ who was playing the famous Rhythm Controll acapella.

In the beginning, there was Jack, and Jack had a groove.
And from this groove came the groove of all grooves.
And while one day viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared,

“Let there be HOUSE!” and house music was born.

“I am, you see, I am the creator, and this is my house!
And, in my house there is ONLY house music.
But, I am not so selfish because once you enter my house it then becomes OUR house and OUR house music!”
And, you see, no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all.

You see, house is a feeling that no one can understand really unless you’re deep into the vibe of house.
House is an uncontrollable desire to jack your body.
And this is our house and our house music.
And in every house, you understand, there is a keeper.
And, in this house, the keeper is Jack.

Now some of you who might wonder,
“Who is Jack, and what is it that Jack does?”
Jack is the one who gives you the power to jack your body!
Jack is the one who gives you the power to do the snake.
Jack is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm.
Jack is the one who learns you how to walk your body.
Jack is the one that can bring nations and nations of all Jackers together under one house.

You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in OUR House.

And this is fresh.

You can get very tired of nightclubs and we all have but that speech, bellowing preacherman over an almighty kickdrum, felt as true then as it has always done. This is fresh.

House is a bit of a funny thing to define sometimes, ever changing in style but utterly consistent in ideal. Hedonistic for sure but all the old cliché about togetherness and release is really what has kept people coming back for three decades now. House is a feeling and it’s in our bones.

I had hoped to be in London last weekend for Frankie Knuckles at the Rulin 20th birthday but other not so quite weekends had finished off any travel plans. Sickened then to hear of his passing on Monday night and saddened more so. Influential or famous figures dying is a strange one but I instantly felt the loss of something. The outpouring respect all week has been remarkable and really underlines how much this music means to everyone.

Frankie Knuckles changed lives and the world for a lot of people. There have been great tributes from those who were actually there but he has been with all of us every weekend.

franks

 

The old and short version of the story goes of two New York kids getting their DJ start at the Continental Baths. Larry Levan went on to The Paradise Garage and Frankie to Chicago. As Levan’s club gave it’s name to Garage,  Frankie’s sound at the Warehouse did the same.

Nice synopsis here from Miles Simpson

The New York disco sound underpinned Frankie’s set: songs, orchestration, and big studio production. But something happened during his time at The Warehouse. As he became integrated into the Chicago scene, his slick New York musical style began to meld with the more electronic synth pop and post-punk new wave styles championed by the likes of Herb Kent on his ‘Punk Out’ radio show and by the ‘Hot Mix 5 on their hugely influential WBMX show.

This style of music was also favoured by many of the younger, often straight, kids that were beginning to attend The Warehouse parties, as well as their own regular haunts like The Playground. At this venue, a young DJ by the name of Jesse Saunders played alongside Hot Mix 5 DJ, Farley Keith Williams, or Farley Jackmaster Funk, as he was later to become better known.

Frankie was increasingly mixing this more modern music by the likes of Skatt Brothers, Yello, and Gino Soccio, with what was becoming one of his trademarks: the re-edit.

Frankie had been schooled in the discos of New York, where pioneering DJs such as Walter Gibbons had started using two copies of the same record to extend rhythmic break sections to work their dancefloors into a frenzy. This in turn saw the development of remixes by Gibbons, friend Larry Levan, and mentor Tee Scott, that took short album tracks and transformed them into longer, percussion driven tracks designed for the dance-floor.

Frankie’s edits were essentially a lower cost, more rudimentary, extension of this idea; a halfway house between live mixes and remixes, using spliced sections of tape to extend drum breaks and loop particular lyrical refrains. With the help of his friend and sound engineering student, Erasmo Rivera, Frankie rebuilt popular records, stretching out the percussive elements, making them more in keeping with the modern electronic music, which he now played alongside. This allowed him to tease his dancers with looped snippets of tracks the dancers felt they knew, building the anticipation and tension, before satisfying their need by hitting them with the song they knew and wanted.

One could argue that these re-edits were actually the first House records, and soon the original versions of many of these tracks, along with the new electronic music Frankie was playing, started to appear on the wall of his favoured record shop, Imports Etc, with the label ’As Heard At The Warehouse’. Shop staff, like Brett Wilcotts and Chip E, began to shorten that description to ‘Warehouse Music’ and then further still to ‘House Music’.

Thus, the name was born – not to describe a specific genre of music, but more a DJing style: Frankie’s DJing style.

In 1983, Frankie left The Warehouse to set up his own club, The Powerplant and  Williams brought in another DJ to fill void Frankie left and renamed the club. That DJ was Ron Hardy and the club’s new name was the Music Box. And the hotchpotch of different records that sound-tracked those heady nights and hazy mornings at The Warehouse had already made their mark on many kids that had danced to them – kids who went on to dance to Ron, the kids who were just about to become the first wave of true House Music producers and create the music to fit the name.

Record shoppers at Imports Etc one day found a new shelf where staff had selected music they heard the night before.  And House music was born. There is something deeply universal about the whole thing, malleable enough to accommodate any changing or localised trend while always arriving at the same place. People always remember their first time walking into a proper club. When it hits you and for most it never leaves.

At this point the point the music was still very much DJ lead, the ashes of disco, uptempo R&B, European imports and gospel all in the mix.  Once Frankie got hold of an early cassette of Jamie Principle’s ‘Your Love’ Chicago took off.

House was part of a democratisation of club music, mirroring artists like Mantronix and Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock’ in New York, it was now possible for one guy and few machines to fill dancefloors. House was ‘disco on budget’ according to WestEnd Records boss Mel Cheren and while Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson would travel to the Warehouse before returning to Detroit with heads full of ideas, the DJs themselves were crossing the Atlantic.

Frankie three from the back at the Hacienda

Frankie three from the back at the Hacienda

frankhacffrankhacg

For millions of people in Britain, the first sight of House music was Daryl Pandy’s – still incredible – performance of ‘Love can’t turn around’ on Top of the Pops in 1986. Within a few short years they were dancing in fields on the M25. House completely changed British culture forever.

The 90s charts were so dominated that we saw the pushback of Britpop in a move with many echoes of Comiskey Park. There were, in fairness, many elements to push back against but House, along side Hip Hop, Reggae, Rhythm & Blues, remains one of the meta-genres. Timeless, foundational and from which everything else flows. All the little tributaries arise and collapse back into the source before returning as something new. Every Summer with out fail House returns as the sound of holidays and release from the rat-race. As for Frankie, I really liked this take from David Drake.

A producer’s sound can be defined in concrete terms; in hip-hop, think of the musical signature that runs through the work of its biggest names, like Premier’s drums or the Neptunes’ guitars. For a DJ the common denominator is elusive, speaking as they do with songs created by others, and for an audience whose reaction helps mold the set’s ebb and flow. The songs Frankie Knuckles was drawn to have an effusive quality that drew from the uplift and transcendent energy of gospel. His art was, in that sense, a continuation of tradition.

But to the aesthetic mainstream of his time, he was positioned at the extreme, and it’s a tribute to his vision that much of the world soon re-centered around the approach he cultivated at the outer edge. It wasn’t the sherm-addled sonic extreme of clubs like The Music Box, the atmosphere-rending sounds of acid house. It was an ideological extreme. A strain of dance that found strength in exposing sincere, un-self-conscious emotion, values inherited from disco. Frankie Knuckles was the house producer closest to that ideal: his was a confident, muscular vulnerability. It can be difficult to identify one thread that runs through his diverse and important work. But at the core of his art—evident in his DJ sets and his production alike—is a boldness, a certainty that inverts the usual dynamic, so choices typically associated with fecklessness and weakness instead feel like the strongest possible armor.

I haven’t really posted any music here as I wanted to mark his legacy more so than anything else. His work, particularly in remixing, up until  the early nineties is pure bliss and best appreciated on dancefloor at four in the morning. Away from production Frankie Knuckles should be remembered primarily as a DJ, one harder to find in modern times, who managed to carve out something new.

When founding the Paradise Garage, the other boss at WestEnd Records, Ed Kushins said that “If people can dance together, they can live together”.

It will take a lot more than nightclubs before we get where we want to be but Frankie Knuckles at least gave us a glimpse of what’s possible.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Hex – Donette Thayer, Steve Kilbey March 29, 2014

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Hex was a collaboration between Donette Thayer of Game Theory and Steve Kilbey of the Church. It lasted two albums long, starting with the eponymous “Hex” album in 1988 and then the follow-up “Vast Halos” in 1990.

It’s an interesting one, Kilbey’s new-wave/psychedelia infused aesthetic is here and yet it’s oddly muted, perhaps because Thayer brings her own aesthetic – one positioned in indie guitar rock – and a characterful voice as well. I’m always fascinated by joint projects. How do they divide up the composition, the arrangements and so on? But this one I find particularly pleasing because while Kilbey appears to have written much of the music, his approach doesn’t overwhelm it.

I particularly like the cool quality of Thayer’s voice when set against the strummed guitars (and as an aside it’s remarkable to me that Thayer hasn’t done more over the years – a solo album from 1997 is out of print but has some great songs on it to judge from what one can hear online), warm swells of keyboard and nascent electronic percussion. There’s a detachment there. Though for all that it seems to me there’s an oddly pastoral feel to both the songs and the lyrics, and if the basslines – again often electronic – bring to mind the gothier end of post-punk (exhibit A, ‘In the Net’, exhibit B, ‘Mercury Towers’), well that’s no crime in my book.

The second album was released some years later, again under the Hex name, but it was – to my ears at least – slighter, albeit with some interesting individual tracks (as with Hollywood in Winter, see below). But this first album is cohesive from start to finish.

Diviner

Ethereal Message

In the Net

Mercury Towers

Elizabeth Green

Hollywood in Winter (from the second Hex album)

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Some songs in Irish March 22, 2014

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I’m not a gaelgoir but I do love the Irish Language. Iarla Ó Lionáird being a particular favourite of mine (A previous TWIMBLT on him).
A few years back John Spillane brought out “Songs we learned at school” and I bought it as a present for somebody and ended up buying it for myself too. Its a wonderful CD and one or two are below.
One of the big things last summer were the videos by Colaiste Lurgan. For someone like myself, who would have a radio diet of news or sports shows it was in Irish that I first heard many of the tunes they did. I really loved their version of ‘Wake Me Up’ being played after or before matches in Croke Park and much of the crowd singing along in Irish.
Poking around youtube I also found some nice versions of their own songs in Irish by various bands which I thought were great too.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Kleenex/LiLiPUT March 15, 2014

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Time for some post-punk. Really early post-punk, and what could be better than Switzerland’s all female post-punk band Kleenex, later renamed Liliput. A group(s) whose musical home would be one step away from the peerless Slits, another step away from Swell Maps, think abrasive guitars, sonic experimentation, interesting vocals and sounds… yes, a lot of sounds.

Founded in 1978 they first appeared as Kleenex, but legal action from the corporation who produced said domestic consumable saw them change it to LiLiPUT. Their first album was released in 1982, their second a post-split collection of bits and pieces a year later. They went through numerous line up changes in the space of six years but the core group was Marlene Marder and Kauldia Schiff, though only Schiff was there from start to end.

There was a massive mythology about them for years, with albums apparently changing hands for amazing prices, but you know, while that sort of monetisation of collection and music leaves me cold, for once I tend to think that the hype wasn’t entirely incorrect.

Because this is dynamic edgy stuff which compels that the listener to engage. It’s a lot more melodic than might be thought, with appealing melodies secreted away amongst the noise, but the noise, in all its multiple forms, whether whistles, whistling, grunts, groans, jagged guitar sounds, flat horns or whatever is what makes it. There’s just this sense of possibility in every track. And in each track there are sufficient ideas to power other groups for years.

For myself I have a bias to their earlier Kleenex early post Kleenex material, particularly their singles, but it’s all good (The Jatz – for example, from 1983 has something of Romeo Void about it). I would argue (for hours – at least) that Die Matrosen is one of the greatest post-punk songs ever, and it’s not just the whistling, though that’s a big part of it. But then I listen to Eisiger Wind and I think that’s one of the greatest post-punk songs, due to that guitar line, that chorus, or is it a chorus? Again, it’s that sense of possibility that one hears, and which in a sense typifies post-punk.

Absolute classics.

Die Matrosen

Eisiger Wind

Hedi’s Head

Nice (as Kleenex)

Hitch-Hike

Split

The Jatz (from later in their career if I’m not mistaken)

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to the… Breeders, Pod March 8, 2014

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Here’s an album I’ve meant to post up a piece on for years, not least because it’s one of my very favourites. Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly of the Pixies and Throwing Muses respectively along with Josephine Wiggs of The Perfect Disaster and Britt Walford of Slint (with Steve Albini on production duties) crafted something both angular, spikey, confrontational and weirdly joyous in 1990. I love the off-hand nature of the vocals. It’s almost ‘couldn’t care less’ and yet that’s not quite it. The guitars might sound throwaway, almost slapdash, the compositions almost as if they’re patchworks of songs, with curious gaps and dislocations. But those aren’t failings. There’s a slow burning intensity to much of this album, these sometimes seemingly random elements combining to produce unforgettable pieces of music.

Now it also has a Pixies lilt to it. Doe or Oh! are perfect example, with loud, quiet, odd humming/spoken vocals set against clattery drums, and it’s brilliant. It is a bit like listening into one side of a conversation. But there’s a lot of Donnelly in there too, even if I’ve read subsequently that she would have liked more of her songs included and this pushed her towards establishing the pretty great Belly.

It’s surprisingly sparse, with the music filled out by thin percussion, skeletal guitars and bass and oddly hazy vocals (the lyrics are well worth reading if you can get hold of them – and by the by kudos for the name of the group). Impressionistic, but not disposable. “Hellbound” is an oddity, sounding initially almost too metallic or punky, as if L7 had wandered through the studio. But it works. And the guitars do ramp up again here and there, throughout the albuem. “When I Was A Painter” is a case in hand, which gets… heavy… around 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Appropriately so. “Lime House” is a song that I’ve had in my head for years now, that opening guitar line manifesting itself at oddest moments. And I could say that for almost all the tracks, they burrow into one’s consciousness and stay there.

One thing about the time it was bought was just how little information there was. No internet, no wiki, no discogs and add to that the traditionally wonderfully ungiving and uninformative 4AD record sleeves.

At the time I’d heard next to nothing from Throwing Muses, so I assumed Deal did all the vocals. When I later heard Belly it was a revelation to realise just how much of an input Donnelly had had in the material, that great rasp of her voice being a signature element.

This is another group I never listened to anything else they did (bar the excellent single Cannonball from three years later) in part for fear it would be lesser and overshadow this, in part because Donnelly and Walker had moved on and whatever else while still the Breeders it wasn’t that particular Breeders. All of which is pushing me towards giving those later albums a listen! But regardless, this, this is an absolute classic.

Doe

Hellbound

When I was a painter

Opened

Limehouse

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… All About Eve, Ultraviolet. March 1, 2014

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The first time I heard All About Eve, it was the neo-hippy Flowers in Our Hair sometime around 1987 or so. I really enjoyed the track, even if I sort of hoped it was tongue in cheek. There was something about it’s 1970s schtick which was great. Of course their affection for paisley at that particular point in time saw them sliding into the orbit of Planet Goth, something that they never quite shook, and perhaps never quite wanted to. There was the famous friendship with the Mission, the fact that main-woman Julianne Regan had been herself a member of the sometimes excellent Gene Loves Jezebel, and then the small matter that many in what was to prove a revolving line-up served time either before or after their stint with AAE with a range of other bands, guitarist Tim Brichenco went on to the so-so fourth incarnation of the Sisters of Mercy.

But really their sound was goth rock pop, with the dial set firmly towards the latter two positions.

Their first album was fine, but nothing on it was as good as Flowers In Your Hair, though the submerged gothisms made tracks like Every Angel and In The Meadow which has a great last three minutes, pretty compelling. Album number two I never liked, far too twee for my tastes – which for someone who will happily listen to The Field Mice or Fantastic Something is no small feat. Later in the day, album three it was, along came Marty Willson Piper of the Church, or late of the Church at that point. There was a shift to not so much a harder sound, but a different one with the arrival of a more overtly psychedelic element. I’m conflicted about that album, my instinctive Churchophilia crashes straight into a sense that the sound was a bit too ‘sweet’ to the detriment of the overall output.

And so we come to album number four, Ultraviolet, which with the same cast – so to speak – took a decidedly different direction. It’s not so much that any residual goth element was gone, but it had morphed into something chillier, think a less dance inflected Curve, think a less mannered Cranes, all phased guitars and cool and detached vocals.

It’s an odd mix, indeed it’s almost as if it is an attempt at shoegaze by someone who had heard it describe but never actually heard it or who decided to produce it using traditional, or mostly traditional guitar effects (various pedals, phased guitar etc) rather than more (then) contemporary means. And yet because of that traditionalism – rather than post-My Bloody Valentine sonic experimentation, it sounds distinctly different to a lot of shoegaze while sharing reference points.

And it’s oddly compelling, a sort of cross between neo-psychedelia and shoegaze – perhaps most overtly on I Don’t Know which has a fantastic combination of sounds, with the guitars leaning on the former and the vocals and overall ambience drawn from the latter. And it works. Regan’s vocals are treated and double tracked in places, giving them an icy hauteur and the lyrical concerns (mostly) appear to be more abstracted than before.

The most straightforward tracks, like Things He Told Her, move along quite speedily, descending guitar lines, melodic choruses with Regan’s voice moving from whispered to declamatory. And there in the background are neatly twisting psychedelic guitar lines and Hawkwind like synth effects just to ensure we’re in no doubt as to where this music is positioned.

It didn’t work commercially and the band subsequently split, though entertainingly I see that the copy of the album on CD can be purchased second-hand for absurdly high prices on Amazon, but it’s an interesting testament to Regan’s personality that there appears to have been no acrimony, and almost all the group remained involved in her next venture, an outfit called mice which was a little too in debt to then contemporary Britpop influences, although as ever Regan’s vocals were great. She continues to work to this day and by the by, a few years back she was involved in a benefit album for Tim Smith of the remarkable Cardiacs (and there’s a connection there because a number of ex-Cardiacs members worked with her in mice).

But I still think Ultraviolet with it’s curiously dark take on shoegaze is one of her (and AAE’s) finest moments.

Things He Told Her

Phased

Outshine the Sun

Freeze

Infrared

Some Finer Day

Blndfolded Visionary

Yesterday Goodbye

I Don’t Know (from 26 minutes in)

Flowers in Our Hair (Extended Version) (from their first album, well actually an early EP IIRC)

In The Meadow (from their first album)

This Weekend I’ll Be Mostly Listening to… Billie Ray Martin February 22, 2014

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Techno, dance, electro-pop, ambient, avant-garde. Billie Ray Martin, English/German singer/songwriter/composer/musician has done all of these in a career that now stretches back into the 1980s. Born in Hamburg, living in London and Berlin she eventually wound up in…er… Birmingham (and not the one with Alabama in parenthesis).

I first heard her when listening to one of the excellent Trance Europe Express compilations in the mid-1990s. Her voice was this strange presence on a track she and techno/IDM outfit Spooky released together, a cover of Throbbing Gristle’s “Persuasion”, a most interesting track with lyrics well worth having a look at.

But what I didn’t realise at the time was that Martin had been in Electribe 101, late 1980s, early 1990s, house/techno/dance outfit, who saw some measure of pop success and in their own way created the template for a thousand tracks after. Listen to Inside Out (a cover of 1970s outfit Odyssey), which I think is a bit of a classic, not least for the nicely restrained keyboards during the verses, for a characteristic sample of their output.

A solo career followed soon after, there’s a sense she’s been dismissive of the Electribe 101 days, which is a pity because they did have some great moments. Deadline For My Memories, her first solo album, is a great document, but where Electribe 101 was all lush electronic instrumentation, here she pared away the sound, infusing it with more of an soul influence.

It’s been said by others that she manages to combine in one/many careers avant-garde experimentation and mainstream(ish) pop success. For example there’s her EP based on Warhol, or her revisits of Cabaret Voltaire tracks and as well frequent appearances in the dance charts. Quite a feat.

You’re Walking – Electribe 101

Inside Out – Electribe 101 (not the album track, unnecessary added percussion)

Persuasion (with Spooky)

Deadline For My Memories

Your Loving Arms

Planet of the Blue (from 4 ambient tales)

18 Carat Garbage (with Ann Peebles)

Systems of Silence

No Brakes on My Rollerskates (2003)

Sweet Suburban Disco (2011)

The Crackdown (2010)

Five Takes (A Song About Andy) 2012

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Songs About Pets February 15, 2014

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It has almost been a traumatic week with the death of one our goldfish………………
Over the years there were requests for pet dogs and cats from the children but not being a big fan and the fact that we both work meant that it wasn’t really practical to have a dog. Two years ago my parents in law got a dog.Both retired it was an ideal companion. Over the years they had had many dogs and cats but had been without a pet for a number of years. It was decided that as a wheeze to my children they would be told they were co owners and indeed when their grandparents are away we mind the dog and she comes and stays.
Growing up we hadn’t any pets bar a brief flirtation with some goldfish we won at a fair in Tinahealy. I’m not sure which one of my parents wasn’t a fan as my father had had umpteen dogs growing up and my mother would have had also. Indeed my grandaunt on my Mothers side trained greyhounds.Someone in the house may have been allergic to cats and dogs.
What we did have at home though was bees. We had a hive in the garden and they were fascinating creatures. Each evening my father would come in from work and go out the back , lift up the lid of the hive and have a look in to see how they were. He’d come into the kitchen and remove a few stings from his hands. One of the neighbours wasn’t a big fan of the bees. One day she called to the door giving out about being stung by one of my fathers bees. “How do you know it was one of my bees?” was the response….
There was a gang of them who kept bees. One of them a Priest, so if they saw a site they fancied, the Priest called to the house to ask. Having bees around suited farmers too. We’d often go along helping to lift hives over ditches and so on. The hives being moved with the seasons, to the heather in the Dublin Mountains, down to a spot near Rathdrum in Wicklow and one up in Leopardstown that is long covered in M50 and houses. It was quite an education between making the sections, the syrup (which you put in the hive to replace the honey so the bees can feed over the winter), extracting the honey and even learning how to take swarms. I did some Beekeeping courses too but alas when my father died I wasn’t in a position to continue with the bees.
Fast forward and constant requests from the children for a pet. In a weak moment I said ‘maybe next year’ , within an hour they had a cat named and over time there were various visits to the DSPCA in Rathfarnham to look at cats and see were there any they liked. Then came the news that one of the children was allergic to cats and that it would exacerbate his asthma….
So last Christmas my mother gave my children some money …… the idea of goldfish was aired and lo and behold next thing I was up in Maxi Zoo getting a fish tank and the children choosing a goldfish each. ‘Billy’ and ‘Ink’. Last weekend ‘Ink’ got his tail stuck in the tanks water filter. We managed to release him but part of the tail must have stayed in the filter as he wasn’t able to swim away and kept getting stuck in the filter. To filter was taken out for a few days and now…. he lies floating at the top of the tank. I’m not going to move him yet as I’m not sure what the process with a dead pet it, do we have a ‘service’ and bury him (not withstanding the amount of cats in the neighbourhood), anyway we’ll see…….
…… While searching for a suitable box to use as a goldfish coffin my daughter found some teeth that over the years she had left out for the Tooth Fairy ….. so the Tooth Fairy question was asked followed by one about the man in red ….. so the death of the goldfish has now been compounded by the truth about other mythical people :(

Starting off aptly with a song about a goldfish……..

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Wax Idols February 8, 2014

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Post-punk. The gift that never stops giving. One would think that by now it would be played out. But not a bit of it. Each generation has its own take on it. This works to varying degrees of effectivity. A few years back we saw the likes of The Soft Moon do a pretty good job of it. Silent Servant and the late Sandwell Collective took a different route through electronica and IDM arriving at a not entirely different place. It’s testament to the fact that there was no single post-punk sound, quite the opposite, it was in truth closer to a sensibility, an approach or a dynamic.

And here’s a group I mentioned at least once last year and possibly twice, Californian outfit Wax Idols, led by Hether Fortune, and their second album Discipline + Desire. It’s cool, or more than cool. It’s positively cold. Perhaps telling that they wear their influences so clearly on their sleeves, as with “Ad Re: Ian” which deliberately references Adrian Borland and Ian Curtis. But although dark it’s not goth, at least not yet.

Heavier on the Hyena-era Siouxsie, lighter on Joy Division. Hints of the Chameleons here and there (and there’s a sort of connection, see below). Other hints, particularly in the interplay of percussion and bass, of Xmal Deutschland and perhaps even the Slits.

But somehow it’s greater than the sum of its parts (even if “The Scent of Love” tips perhaps a little close to well-trodden Cure territory).

Where it really comes to life on tracks like “Dethrone” (a song that suggests serious potential for a broader appeal), “Ad Re: Ian” and “Stare Back” where the post-punk influences cohere. Yet it sounds, in a way, more chaotic than the originals. Perhaps it is the angular choruses which sound permanently on the brink of spinning away.

Elsewhere tracks like “Stay In” and “The Scent of Love” have an undertow – the strummed guitars, the doomy bass – that is familiar and yet reworked in such a way as to sound fresh. And in the layered effects, the echoed vocals on “Stare Back” and “Sound of A Void”, the treated guitars that litter the album, there’s a sense of a group unafraid to explore the opportunities that still exist in punk, eager to embrace the challenge of holding the balance between melody and dissonance.

There’s a bit of a mythos evolving around Fortune but on the evidence here, while the extraneous stuff is interesting in part – not least her insight into Mark Burgess, her voice and the music she and the group create holds up on its own terms. Great.

When It Happens (on soundcloud)

Dethrone

Stare Back (Live)

Sound of a void (Live)

Sound of a void (on soundcloud)

Scent of Love

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… just stuff I’m listening to at the moment February 1, 2014

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Here’s a bunch of tracks I’ve found myself listening to over the past month or so.

Kissing on You – Honeyblood

I already mentioned the A-side to this from Scottish outfit Honeyblood and at the time noted that the brilliant B-side wasn’t up on YouTube. Now it is. And it remains brilliant.

Kiss Tried to Kill Me – Black Spiders

English stoner rock with a sense of humour. Their second album out last year could have done with more of it.

Is This the Life? – Cardiacs

This is from as far back as 1988, the incomparable Cardiacs. This I like because it’s so unlike their usual output, bar a couple of bars towards the end, it’s like they go stadium goth/post punk for five minutes, Fields of the Nephilim jamming with U2 and the Chameleons with extra guitars from the Cult. And no harm there either. BTW, having watched it on DVD I can’t over recommend the live show it is also played during.

Molten Gold – The Chills

The Chills released one song this last year. They promise more in 2014. Thankfully the one song was a sort of classic.

Almost There – John Foxx and Belbury Poly

This is EamonnCork’s fault, since he has valiantly flown the flag for hauntology across the last year or so and here’s a sample from from Foxx and the ubiquitous Belbury Poly, prime exponents of the form. And very excellent it is too.

Andro Queen – Pixies

Perhaps their most un-Pixies track ever, and yet, and yet…

Dark Days – Public Transport

Public Transport – or rather he – is an avowed fan of Ulrich Schnauss, BOC and Aphex Twin, and here from an EP released late last year is evidence of same, but it’s combination of drones and beats and more drones and clicks.

Resonanz Therapie Musik – Pale Sketcher

This is from 2011 I think but I only heard it last month. But it’s a great slice of electronica, from a group whose output tends to the more percussive.

It’s All Lies – Hawkwind Light Orchestra

And here comes Hawkwind in yet another guise, sort of – continuing to knock them out as they tend to do.

Bound for Glory – Black Star Riders

This is Thin Lizzy without Lynott and with the addition of the spookily close to Lynott’s vocals supplied by Ricky Wainwright (born in the North… of Ireland) from late lamented (by some of us) hard rock/punkish outfit The Almighty. It’s also spookily close to Waiting for An Alibi. But not quite.

It Isn’t Love – Grant Hart

From his solo album based on the works of Milton. Yeah, that Milton.

Pegasus – GEMS

I really like this, but I think I probably shouldn’t, given that it represents that fusion of Cocteau Twins and pop that no one was asking for.

The Court of The Crimson King – King Crimson

Believe it or not never knowingly heard this song or album before last week. It’s kind of good, as is 21st Century Schizoid Man, the stuff in between on the album is interesting too. Amazing how Beatles influenced they were and how much they influenced others subsequently.

Disclosure – I Break Horses

Very much flavour of the month with their second album, you’ll see reviews (a lot of them saying it’s a bit so so, which probably isn’t unreasonable) everywhere from the SBP to the Guardian. They’re good but not quite as good as some say they are. Still a lot to like even if they haven’t quite shook off their influences, those being Schnauss, MBV, M83 and others (including a hint of New Order on this track).

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