Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fisking Adam Thirlwell

Where to start? At the beginning. Or not quite: the first sentence just about holds up. 'In 1967, André Labarthe filmed a conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Fritz Lang.' The second is trickier but passable. 'It was called The Dinosaur and the Baby.' Labarthe's film was called that, not the conversation. 'Godard, along with François Truffaut, was then at the head of the new tendency in French film, the Nouvelle Vague.' No. Eight years before Truffaut and Godard had part of what had been a new tendency. By 1967 it was all over.

This is pendantry, of course, but Thirlwell's style calls for that. His erudition, such as it is in these matters, seems to be lightly worn, and if occasionally he makes weird (kind of Martin Amis-y?) interjections -- 'But youth is elusive. Youth is complicated.' -- we can count them as stylistic flourishes, a form of phatic speech. Everything is transparent, everything clicks together. Except, as above, it doesn't.

The style, which he shows no sign of giving up on, is 'deceptively simple'. The more confidently and simply something is stated, the greater, or at least more annoying, the deception. 'The Nouvelle Vague put cinema into the street'; 'Bazin's two heroes were Robert Bresson and Roberto Rossellini'; the protests around the sacking of Langlois 'culminated in the May évènements' (someone's been watching The Dreamers); 'The essayistic tendency was patented by Godard'.

It's the last quotation that's perhaps most damaging, since the whole essay is based on the misconception that the nouvelle vague comprised only the filmmakers who started out at Cahiers. In that respect and others it's a very old-fashioned piece: in other quarters, 2009 seems to be the year the 'Left Bank Group', which included the real pioneers of the essay-film, finally gets its due. Thirlwell instead tells us the story about Godard not directing Bonnie and Clyde for the umpteenth time.

The simplicity is misleading in other ways too, simply because reality is elusive. Reality is complicated. So when Thirlwell says 'The Nouvelle Vague, so canonical, so assured of its own history, was really the joyful experiment of a few excitable friends,' we have to be prepared to be told later that it 'believed in a utopian politics, constantly trying to invent new means of cinematic production.' Neither assertion is true, though at least the second acknowledges that the nouvelle vague depended on harnessing the 'means of cinematic production' and that this was not always joyful. (I don't know what 'so canonical' is meant to signify here.)

For the Nouvelle Vague was truly young - the directors' experiments remain contemporary. They are still a shock. And their lesson is delight.

How 'young' are Rohmer's films, how 'delightful' Chabrol's? Nonsense. How, after all this memorialization and hero-worship, its mythology accreted over decades, is the nouvelle vague a shock to anyone?

Friday, April 24, 2009

RIP Big Man - Marilyn Chambers (Addendum)

Marilyn Chambers - Benihana [ysi]

What is it about porn stars and Disco? Most famously there's tracks from Dennis Parker ("Like an Eagle") and Andrea True ("More, More, More") but even Marilyn Chambers had a go with "Benihana" in 1977. It looks like she made a play for the mainstream that year, also appearing in Cronenberg's vampire-armpit flick Rabid.

In truth "Benihana" is nowhere near as good as the aforementioned songs but it has a nice intro, is breezy and plays the post-Donna Summer, post-hardcore moan card to endearingly stupid effect near the end. Unh yeah, unh yeah.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Neutral and Independent

Sir Richard Bishop - Ka'an Azzaman [ysi]

Omar Khorshid - Ka'an Azzaman [ysi]

Here's a simple compare and contrast between a track from ex-Sun City Girl Sir Richard Bishop's forthcoming album The Freak of Araby and the piece by Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid that it covers. Both are sumptious and spacey pieces of guitar and percussion and for once Bishop may have been out-freaked.

Bishop writes:
When I began my recording session back in December the first song I recorded was “Ka’an Azzaman” which is a cover song written by Elias Rahbani, born in 1938 and one of Lebanon’s finest song writers, arrangers and composers (I am half Lebanese just so you know). The version of this song that I was familiar with was an instrumental version by late Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid (1945-1981) who is one of my favorite guitar players of all time, and quite unknown to a lot of people.

Sex with the Headless Corpse of the Virgin Astronaut

Giuliano Sorgini - John Dalton Street [ysi]

“John Dalton Street”, the main theme from The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (or Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti in the original Italian) is rather gorgeous considering that it’s taken from a film that was classified a video nasty in the run up to the Video Recordings Act of 1984. But then, of the original list of 74 nasties, only eleven are now banned outright (mainly for showing Nazis molesting women), with Manchester Morgue passing uncut on reclassification in 1992.

In truth it’s not that gory, but it is tense and is one of the few proper zombie films set in Britain prior to 28 Days Later and Sean of the Dead, albeit a Britain shot partly in Italy by a Spanish Director and with an almost entirely Italian cast who seem to have been given only the direction; to look as much as possible like they have never visited the country. Even English sounding star Ray Lovelock was actually born and raised in Italy. More strangely there’s an inexplicably American police inspector played by Arthur Kennedy, an actor who pretty much appears as that-one-American-guy in Italian movies after roles at home dried up. In this film he is, as you’d want an American cop washing up an Anglo backwater to be, a supreme dick: “You’re all the same the lot of you with your long hair and faggot clothes, drugs, sex and every sort of filth. And you hate the police don’t you?” “You make it easy”, Lovelock reasonably replies.

Despite the title, the bulk of the film plays out in the ‘Lake District’ with only the most cinematically exciting part of the film—which is actually the title sequence—taking place in Manchester as Lovelock closes up his antique shop, wraps a scarf around his face then escapes on his motorbike from a Manchester shown to be almost more apocalyptic than the zombie filled countryside. Under acid skies he steers his bike through smoke-belching traffic jams, surgically masked passers-by, dead birds and a flasher, before passing through desolate industrial zones before reaching the calm of the countryside.

Giuliano Sorgini is mainly known as a library composer (though his imdb listing does include tantalising sounding soundtracks for Porno-Erotic Western and Naked Exorcism and the breakbeats, jaunty flute and mile-marker strings of “John Dalton Street” could pass for a library track called “Escape” or suchlike if it wasn’t for the almost subliminal atonal organ and the rattling percussion that stays a few moments too long for comfort.

The title sequence isn’t on YouTube, but here’s a video by the heavy-as-fuck Electric Wizard which incorporates some parts of it:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Womb on Legs

The Geraldine Fibbers - Fancy [ysi]

We’ve spoken before of our love for Bobbie Gentry’s 1969 Southern Gothic country hit “Fancy”, a glittering piece of solid-gold, greatest-of-all time gutter-to-penthouse braggadocio that makes everything on similar subject matter by, I dunno, Jay-Z sound like weak sauce. Anyone can make it selling drugs but how many have bragged that they’ve done it selling their arse? And who, after writing a song like that has then still been in the position where they can sing about getting put on the game by their mother on an early evening variety show? (See below for the YouTube clip of that).

“Fancy” is a great song before we even get to the ludicrously overstuffed embarrassment of riches that is the production; Muscle Shoals session whizzes cramming in funky drumming, ominous string swoops, jauntily mocking horn parts, sweetly cooing call and response parts and a breakdown that sounds like a hayseed Timbaland. The delicate overload of the original makes it a hard song to cover if, like the Geraldine Fibbers, you’re operating in the post-grunge-explosion shitstorm when major labels were signing anything that could be prefixed ‘alt-’ in the hope of someone turning a profit. The fake-indie (Virgin subsidiary Hut) self-titled mini-album that “Fancy” comes from has a (hidden) track where The Geraldine Fibbers team up with Beck but whilst he managed to turn his smarmy faux-irony into a lasting career, Geraldine Fibbers records were easier to find as ex-promos in the quid bins of second hand shops than new in the racks of the megastores even as they came out—they were too country for alt-rock kids and too alt- for alt-country bores..

After mystifyingly dropping some of the best lyrics in the song (“now in this world there's a lot of self-righteous hypocrites who call me bad and criticize mama for turning me out no matter how little we had”) the Geraldine Fibbers focus on the snare snaps of the original then swap that versions steely restraint for a constant build into fiddle scree and guitar squall that finally tips into a final section of an imagined reality where the Fibbers are car radio staples, all Rolling Stones ‘woo-woo’s.

There’s some great Youtube comments for this clip too:
wamij2 (1 day ago)
bobbies puss was first .... hot slut knew wen to exit.

kindofobvious (2 days ago)
youtube recommended this to me. This abstract shack. This womb on legs. ...
I like it.

whuju (1 month ago)
holy f&*king S%@t. I've been a hip hop head most of my life and I'm absolutely in love with this song. SO REAL!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mix Up

Now that he's no longer writing songs like "Pissfun", "Rapeday" and "Wriggle like a Fucking Eel" with ludicrous power-electronics group Whitehouse, William Bennet has reinvented himself as the italo-disco playing DJ Benetti. You can download a mix of his in the Bleep43 podcast series. And when I say Whitehouse were ludicrous it's meant in the best way, they were fucking hilarious the one time I saw them live.

Bleep43 also have a Messiaen podcast. Now that's a name that doesn't crop up in mixes too often.

Over at Lower End Spasm there's a recording of Crazy Cousinz playing some UK funky at the Night Slugs first birthday party.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Once Hunted for Boars, We Now Hunt for Knowledge

Here's hot new web 2.0 site We Are Hunted schooling us all on what's popular out there. And apparently it's "Whispering Your Name" by Alison Moyet, from her 1994 number 24 album Essex. Remember, you heard it there first because We Are Hunted isn't just any online chart, it's the Online Music Chart. With capitals.

Did I Mention My Woman?

Chris Hodge – We’re On Our Way [ysi]

Like Bobby Gentry’s “Fancy”, “We’re On Our Way” is a work of compact maximalism that sometimes plays out like a list of how many of my favourite ingredients are crammed into it’s two minutes fifty seconds: choir, bongos, sitar, organ and a guitar figure a bit like the one on The Thirteenth Floor Elevators “Slip Inside This House” for starters. Plus enough oohs and aahs for a seventies German porno, and despite most of the lyrics being a goofy UFO fantasy Hodge still manages to inform the listener that his “woman’s a sexy lady, she makes love like a dream”.

Currently Hodge’s super-minimal homepage (resplendent with non-functioning buttons to buy from i-Tunes) is Google ranked below “Chris Hodge used trucks, commercial vehicles, lorries, vans, trailers and prime movers” but in 1972 Hodge must have thought he had it made after being signed to the Beatles Apple Records label. Instead he went nowhere with this sole release, possibly because his whole shtick seems so much more 60s than 70s, or possibly because he had the wrong backers at Apple—Ringo discovered him and, weirdly, Yoko’s ex-husband produced the track. Still, dope as fuck and there are cheap picture sleeve copies on e-Bay all the time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Engineers of Desire

Desire – Under Your Spell [ysi]

Another year, another project from disco king Johnny Jewel who really is taking the Italians Do It Better label name/bumper sticker to heart when it comes to fertility. I suppose that they do say of him that “he has no decision, he’s just trying to sell a vision”. As Desire (and there’s only fifteen other artists called that in Discogs) he has recruited Montreal based singer Megan Louise for more tracks that mine his characteristic pensive synth and echoed-guitar disco sound. Desire are breezier and poppier than the emotionally spaced-out Chromatics and lack the occasional Southern rap keyboards of Glass Candy. As with the Jewel produced Farah 12” the tracks are occasionally dual language but this time it’s the more pop-friendly French rather than Farsi. There is something very teenage about Desire, something gauche and about feelings being felt for the very first time. Synthetics strings keep things buoyant whilst Megan Louise sings with an easy melancholy glide that makes shopworn lyrics about being under a spell and “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all” slip down easier than they possibly should.

There is another excellent Desire song for download from the Italians Do It Better blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


When Warren G first jacked Michael McDonald’s sublime “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” for his almost as good “Regulate” it seemed kind of, well, weird as fuck to me.  Mainly because I was a pretty deluded punk rock kid who, like a lot of my naïve contemporaries, viewed Public Enemy as the rap norm and anything which deviated from their heavy and righteous political programme as suspect. I certainly didn’t consider, y’know, AOR fluff to be a suitable basis for hip-hop. In retrospect it seems a fit as tight as two pieces of a jigsaw. McDonald’s adopted Los Angeles is twenty miles from G’s native Long Beach, and McDonald’s music—the early solo tracks and those with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers—tells part of the tale of California in the mid-70s—early 80s just as much as g-funk tells the part of the tale of the early-to-mid-90s.

I’m less sure what to take from the unexpected appearance of McDonald on a dubstep track by the straight-outta-Leeds Pangaea. His voice is blanched out beyond meaning with extreme reverb Burial-style, possibly due to inner city alienation or because expressing emotion too directly is a bit icky innit or simply as a contrast with the itchy and bone dry layers of percussion. I gotta say though, dubstep crew should start repping for the UK with samples of obscure jams by homegrown talent like Hue and Cry or M People.

And just so no-one can say that at Rocktimists we’re not down with the dubstep sound of six months ago I’ve also been enjoying Skream’s “Galassia”, a twenty-seven minute entry into the Nike+ Original Run series. I’m never going to use this for its intended aerobic purpose but unlike LCD Soundsystem’s patchwork “45.33” it does seem possible. (I did pitch Nike a series of fifteen second run for the bus tracks by grindcore groups but no go). Really though, just as Burial suggests the sound of zone one to three London night buses, the sleek, ever accelerating variations on simple two-note bass swing and kick of “Galassia” suggest late-night driving at speed, like a 21st century response to Giorgio Moroder’s ”The Chase”. Or possibly the spiralling synth-swells and almost disco syn-drum sounds reference the galaxy that 'galassia' translates to from the Italian.

Pangaea - Router (Original Mix) [ysi]

Pangaea records for Hessle Audio and tracks are available from Boomkat.

Skream - Galassia (Radio Edit) [ysi]

RIP Big Man - Marilyn Chambers

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thai Funk ZudRangMa

One thing lost since high-speed internet became common, at least to me, is emerging from a record shop having slapped down cash for something never seen or heard of before entering. The ability to download stuff before it’s released has had an effect (although there’s still plenty that I can’t find that way), as has the related shrinking of shop inventories, but mainly it’s because I get mailouts for most shops I go to that mean I’ve scanned everything new before even leaving the house.

So it was a surprise when I last visited Soho’s excellent Sounds of the Universe and the Thai Funk ZudRangMa compilation CD jumped out at me as a weird unknown. The sleeve is brightly coloured handsewn Thai fabric stapled inside a plastic bag with a card tab giving minimal info. It turns out that it’s a compilation of Thai funk and disco tracks from the late-60s to the early-80s which is surely one of the few under-fished waters left (if Sublime Frequencies or someone have put out ten comps like this, then forgive me).

Even when the packaging is cracked open there’s nothing beyond band names and track titles to provide any orientation; it would be nice to know who these bands were and why this music was produced. Instead there’s some spiel about how “music has no nationality, no discrimination, no boarder” signed off by the ‘Deephouse Brotherhood’, but if it’s anything sophisticated or nuanced you’re after, then don’t listen here; this is raw and stupid music with absurdly hissing hi-hats and rip-offs aplenty. Pretty much all the disco tracks are covers. There are two versions of Boney M’s “Rasputin” with new lyrics which, brilliantly, follow each other on the CD, moving from lo-fi but relatively faithful to a droning one-chord variation. ‘King of the talking music’ Plearn Promdan tells jokes over a sublimely muzzy “Ma Baker”. The Hot Pepper’s beautifully titled “Get on Train, Go with Bus, Elephant Ride, Put Up Tent” incorporates “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Boogie Nights” for two of it’s four sections.

Whilst the Thai bands are able to replicate the four-to-the-floor of the disco tracks, on anything funky they flatten out the swung beats, much as British beat groups did to the blues songs they glommed. A cover of B.T. Express song “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” emerges fairly faithfully but elsewhere there’s a track that sounds like a pop version of “Orgone Accumulator” by Hawkwind, whilst “Nam Man Pang (Expensive Gasoline)” (Fela Kuti-esque title!) is straight clonking fuzztone psych-rock complete with dunderheadedly monomaniacal guitar solo.

Plearn Promdan - Sam Bai (Jolly) [ysi]

Sroeng Santi - Nam Man Pang (Expensive Gasoline) [ysi]

I bought this CD from Sounds of the Universe though they are currently out of stock. There are still copies available from the label that released it, ZRM Records, whose shop also has a second-hand copy of a Thai single by someone/thing called Man City Lion!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rocktimix 02 – On Swirl Vertigo

Yesterday I posted a first attempt at a prog mix, one which was rejected by the friend I made it for on the grounds that it boasted pretty much zero prog content. So here’s the second attempt which really is 100% pure progressive through and through. Except maybe Donovan and Kevin Ayers. And the Castle Rhythmic Electronic Music track which is from a sixties seven-inch of Radiophionic Workshop style jams. Google brings up zero hits for it so it must be pretty obscure.

Despite what the title says, not everything on the mix was released on the Vertigo label. It was called that so I could do really crappy hand drawn version of the Vertigo logo as the cover of the CDr.  I think this mix is from March 2004.
Quiet Sun – Sol Caliente
Led Zeppelin – The Wanton Song
May Blitz – In Part
Kevin Ayers – Song For Insane Times
Savoy Brown – Hellbound Train
Babe Ruth – The Mexican
Donovan – Get Thy Bearings
Colosseum – The Kettle
Castle Rhythmic Electronic Music – Automaton
Kraftwerk – Ruck Zuck
Black Sabbath – The Wizard
Zakarrias – The Unknown Years
Os Mutantes – Mao Refrigerador Nao Funciona
This Heat – Repeat
Thin Lizzy – The Rise and Dear Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes
Welfare State and White Noise – Silence is Requested in the Ultimate Abyss
Yes – Heart of the Sunrise
Rocktimix 02 – On Swirl Vertigo [ysi]

Monday, April 06, 2009

Rocktimix 01 – Death to the 20th Century

I’ve just moved house. The number one lesson I learned is that owning over two-and-a-half-thousand vinyl LPs and 12”s is abject idiocy. By the time I’d shifted them out of a basement into a van, then out of a van and upstairs in the new house I hated them more than I obviously must hate myself in order to end up with them in the first place. Possibly I should have learned this the previous three times I moved house.

One thing I did find was a stash of CD-Rs of mixes that I’d made in the past and because the one thing the internet lacks is blogs posting mixes (and because it still sounds good) here’s one of them. In fact it’s the first mix I ever did, on Valentine’s Day 2004. I’d like to brag that there was a hot chick waiting in my bed for me when I was done, but I’m pretty sure I retired to a lumpy futon alone.

The only reason I made it was because a friend of mine made an all-prog mix and after listening I drunkenly claimed I could make a make a mix that could stamp his into the dirt. Which I did. He may have had DJ skills, decks and a mixer but I had the nous not to mix in Hanna-Barbera themes after King Crimson. This first mix was actually rejected by him though, on the grounds that instead of very much recognisably prog it consists of radiophonica, psych-pop, Stereolabia (<-- the punchline to a funny Lætitia Sadier gag) and tracks that sample or are by Grand Funk Railroad. The actual all-prog mix will follow tomorrow.
Oneida – Turn It Up (Loud)
Japanese Noise Band – At Random
Ray Cathode – Time Beat
Guiliano Sorgini – John Dalton Street
Broadcast – Test Area
Bleekmen – Untitled (Side A)
Metabolist – Identify
DJ Shadow – Hardcore (Instrumental) Hip Hop
Goblin – Mad Puppet
Paul Lansky – Mild und Liese
Bob Seger – Dr Fine
Mouth – Catch a Cab
Avalanches – Yamaha Superstar
The Horizontalist – Sudden Death Overdrive
Stereolab – Dear Marge
Mainhorse – More Tea Vicar
Bleekmen – Untitled (Side B)
Clearspot – Moonman Bop
Atomic Rooster – The Rock
Grand Funk Railroad – Nothing is the same
Bob Seger- 2+2=
The Equals – Stand Up and Be Counted
Rocktimix 01 – Death to the 20th Century [ysi]