Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coming Soon...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Skin Mitten Mix Up No. 001

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We Are Two

My friends, let us look around us. In the grand scheme of things, we are but amoebic specks on the timeline of existence. Civilised humanity has gradually worked itself to a gateway of pointlessness over the last 10,000 years or so, and whilst we might look at achievements such as our worldly wide information superhighweb, built on a backbone of filth, and believe we are advancing beyond all recognition, against the back drop of the 15 billion year old universe, we aren’t much really. Aren’t much at all.

And so what significance can we attribute to the second anniversary of this very vehicle for melancholic out-pouring that you find yourself wading through at this moment of a blink of a fraction of history? Well, shit loads, obviously.

We could go into a bit of depth and detail as to the significant steps on the evolutionary path that we’ve achieved, but truth be told or something, there is not enough time in the day, or adjectives in the lexicon to cope with our skills – needless to say though, your occasional kind word makes it all worth while. Honestly.

Take this one for example, received from Mr Hopkinson’s Computer, who joins us in our celebration, by having a go at some Bjork-ing. Textbook.

Mr Hopkinson’s Computer – Birthday

And with this introspection that our ludicrous measurement of time deeming that another passing of 365.25 days made up of 24 hours made up of 60 minutes made up of 60 seconds gives us, we retort with this – we are a'changing. Like a caterpillar retreating into it’s pupae, we are going to sleep for a while. But when we come back, we will be a beautiful butterfly. Or possibly a moth. Or maybe we might just stay a pupae. Hmm.

Until then, as an apparently suitable footnote, where do I find myself on this most celebrated of days? In a hotel room far too far North, with the sound of a power shouting class booming down the hallway, and the suspected dramatic view of the English countryside obscured by genuine proper rain. How wonderfully apt. To add insult to injury, due to my little tripette, I’m missing a night of high falutin in New Cross, where PNAK are churning out their spasticated krautings. We’re going for a walk now.

PNAK – Experimental Croquet

Tiny Dancer

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Night

We all like new things, don’t we. A bit of new. A new thing. Nice bit of something new. A lovely slice of new. A visit to Newington. A trip to New World. Two tickets to New please. Have you seen New lately? Tell him I’m looking for him. I’ve just booked an appointment with Dr. New. I’d love to see your new. Gone on, show us your new.

Oh, okay then.

The name’s War. Gary War. Which is the best name I’ve heard for about three days. But then, it’s been a good couple of weeks for names. I met a man called Wayne Tantrum this week. And last week, a man called Gavin Savoury. Both true, both brilliant. But neither of them can tell me about the future, whereas Gary War most definitely can. I don’t believe in time travel and all that old shite, because my puny human brain can’t conceive the fourth dimension, so I’m stuck with the same old three. I’m not that upset about it, but if you are, the lad War has written a song which I believe is atuned to the most highly developed of the human senses, and is really the instructions on how to enter the fourth dimension and build a time machine. This is it.

Gary War - Hope For The Future

Q: What is the thing that would happen if you locked half of Electrelane in a dark room for seven days and seven nights, with The Lightning Tree piped in on repeat, in 2001?

A: Aleks And The Drummer

Thank god.

Aleks And The Drummer - Szcz

And finally, it is new, but it isn’t new. It is new, because I haven’t heard it before, but it isn’t new, because I’ve heard it before. Well, when I say I’ve heard it before, I’ve heard Meddle before, and god knows I’ve heard the Bladerunner sound track before. And now Mirror Mirror sound a bit like playing them both together at the same time, but so they play together as one thing. And I haven’t heard that before, so therefore it is a new thing, and it counts as such.

Mirror Mirror – Lock Up Your Sons

If you believe what they say, all this lot of new have got records coming out soon. I’ll keep an eye on them, but I’m not sure I trust them.

And finally, confirmation of some sadness that has been floating around – Yellow Swans have called it a day, and what’s more they’ve said so. I fucking love Yellow Swans, even if ashamedly I’ve only been listening to them for a couple of years. In a rare moment of out pouring, they opened my mole-like eyes to much, and therefore they will join the pantheon. They’ve still got some live dates to play, and I’ve never seen them live, so if anyone is off to Barcelona for the 20th of June, and they’ve got room in their suitcase, I’m not much trouble. Cheers.

Yellow Swans – Police Eternity

Tiny Dancer

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Great Work Must Have Many Sides

The practice of going out somewhere is a fickle mistress. On the one hand, you get to see stuff, some of which you might even quite like. On the other hand, you have to deal with people, and as we are all well aware of, the majority of people are rubbish. It’s a fine line, and one which should not be crossed without a great deal of thought and consideration.

But so buoyed were the Tiny Dancing team by the success of our recent excursion to Camden, we did it again last week. Not exactly the same you understand – although the visit to Shah’s was once again a triumph – as this time we voyaged off to Kings Cross to see DeVotchKa at The Scala. Credit for this one has to go to Stardust who at his persuasive best persuaded us that it would be a good idea to go and see a band none of us had ever really heard before.

Now, this breaks a golden rule of the fine line crossing. If you don’t have an idea what you’re letting yourself in for, you can easily run foul of people. But everyone deserves a slice of good fortune every now and again, and by god, we got ours. Not only were DeVotchKa a bit of a revelation, but the only person who offended me was a portly man sporting a teutonic ‘tache who seemed intent on thrusting his arse towards me at every opportunity. Not bad, considering.

So good were the surprisingly small band (as in number of members rather than stature), with their massive tubas, drummer drumming whilst tooting on a trumpet, multi instrument wielding genius and plaintively voiced lead, Debris was at one point thought to be seen jigging about a tiny little bit. It’s not been confirmed, but smoke, fire and all that. Apart from a genius cover of Venus In Furs, two songs stood out on the night, both from How It EndsEnemy Guns, because the start sounded a bit like the start of Dolphin by Shed Seven, and the titular How It Ends, because Nick Urata sounds like Roy Orbison on it, and that’s as high an honour as I can bestow upon a man. Get that album and their newer one here.

DeVotchKa – Enemy Guns

DeVotchKa – How It Ends

The day before, I’d gone all cultural, and wandered to The Young Vic to see Olga Neuwirth’s operatic attempt at Lost Highway. The mere thought of it is enough to scramble the mind, but alas, it was a bit rubbish. Where David Lynch manages to imbue the film with a terrible, intensely claustrophobic sense of foreboding dread, with each pan of the camera threatening to reveal a new horror at every turn, the fully viewed stage, whilst impressive, left nothing to the imagination. And where Lynch manages to capture the disconcerting and strange so perfectly, moments like the party scene were clichéd down to what people might think weird is, rather than actually being weird, because it’s weird.

The final nails in the coffin were a particularly badly judged turn as Mr Eddy, and the operatic second swathe, which rendered the dialogue laughable, when really, no-one should be laughing. An exercise in form and concept over content, and as a result, a shame.

That said, the continuous orchestral score was rather excellent. Over the 90 minutes of the piece, the music was the only element that reminded of the fear that should thread throughout. In an ideal world the score would be recorded and released, but given the relatively short run assigned to the performance, it can’t be likely? So instead, here are some of the more likely moments from the film soundtrack, from Angelo Badalamenti and Trent Reznor, who also produced it all. Get it for obscenely cheap from here.

Angelo Badalamenti – Fred & Renee Make Love

Angelo Badalamenti – Red Bats With Teeth

Trent Reznor – Driver Down

Of course, being the theatre, no-one was overtly annoying, although being the theatre, that was quite enough to start with.

I’m staying in tonight.

Tiny Dancer

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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Songs Of The Anaesthetist

A shiny new present arrived in the post recently, all the way from the Amazon. It's called Lifetracks and it's by Mr Tom Middleton, one of my top 20 ambient music heroes (I have a lot of ambient music heroes). Tom Middleton was one half of Global Communication who were doing their thing way back in the nineties, the other half being Mark Pritchard.

As well as creating one of the slowest albums ever with 76:14 (here we give you the last track on the album, 12:18. It's a choral piece that has always put me in mind of the lapping of waves on a beach and is simply beautiful, especially the reprise at 7 minutes 30. It's also excellent for falling asleep to - in a good way), they were also partly responsible for one of my favourite albums in Remotion, a compilation of seven remixes for other artists (and a couple by themselves including one under their Reload guise) that manages the tricky business of hanging together as an album in it's own right.

Not only that but they also recorded an electro funk odyssey under the moniker Jedi Knights, nearly got sued to high heaven by George Lucas and then wrote the bona fide CLASSIC deep house tune The Way / The Deep (I'm going to leave you to seek this one out - it's too good to give away). Since then they have gone their own ways, recording under various names and DJing themselves silly all over the world - nice work if you can get it. For full information I can do no better than direct you towards the excellent and informative Reloadonline here.

So it was that I gave Lifetracks a spin - and I must confess did so with some trepidation, hoping that Tom would have not lost his magic. I was rewarded for my faith with an album of shimmering beauty. Recorded over a period of nine years, and linked inscrutably somehow to the Big Chill festival where Tom has played several times, each track is "inspired by history, people, places and experiences". There are two good reasons for buying this album:

1) it's bloody lovely; and

2) it has a really nice picture of a coastal scene in the fold out booklet. Nice touch.

For your listening pleasures:

Tom Middleton - Optimystic

Reload - Le Soleil Et La Mer (Global Communication Remix)

Global Communication - 12:18

Jedi Knights - May The Funk Be With You

Crisp Debris

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Richard Godwin Is Alive And Well And Living In London

Here at Tiny Dancing HQ we attract all manner of waifs and strays from all over the world, bringing us their wares to show. More often than not we hear them out, nod sagely, thank them for their interest, give them a bowl of soup and then send them back from whence they came, "filing" their offerings with all due deference in an appropriate place; leaving posterity to judge where we dare not.

So it was with some trepidation that I opened a parcel left on my desk accompanied by a note from Tiny Dancer, flecked with blood and sick (he’d been for a liquid lunch with Debris I believe), saying, "Stardust old man, have had this sent to us - not quite sure what to make of it - needs measuring against the great male chanteurs, which is your area of authority. Leave it up to you to see if it's worth a post or if we should send him away with a flea in his ear."

The package was entitled Brel And Other Gallic Horrors and contained the usual stuff about being a fan of the blog, although he did reference a Brel posting I had done – the lad had done his research. He referred us to his cover of the Brel song Next, which some of you may know from Scott 2, and which Richard Godwin, for such was his name, had re-interpreted with his own translation from the French.

Taking my quill, I scribbled a reply along the lines of "Will have a listen tonight... Next! I bet it’s rotten, can’t wait!". I then called in Casanova Cox, a grubby faced urchin that we use for running errands, playing pranks, satisfying Debris’ carnal appetites and occasionally allow to write an article about some rightly forgotten band from the Britpop era. I gave him a shiny penny and sent him over to TD.

That night, after I’d feasted on my usual dinner of opium and whores I lit a fire, opened a collection of poems by the Metaphysicals, poured a glass of single malt and let the gramophone do its work on this Richard Godwin...

The first track I listened to was Next!. Now the thing with Brel is that almost all versions of his songs that the English speaking world has heard have the long shadow of Scott Walker looming over them. He worked from the translations of Eric Blau and Mort Shulman from Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris and very much brought out the bedsit romanticism in the songs through his persona of the sensitive poet for whom reality is a disappointment and people’s nature is too base. It’s that reading of Brel that’s prospered to this day to the extent that artists don’t so much cover Brel as cover Scott Walker covering Brel.

Godwin’s interpretation is arguably a lot closer to Brel and the tradition of the bawdy, whisky soaked balladeer, who drinks and drabs all day and must confront his demons alone at night. It’s a good version, notably for the guitar arrangement; Godwin really is a very good guitarist.

So a nice start, but it takes more than a "nice start" to get past the strict quality control at Tiny Dancing... then I listened to The All-Stars, one of his own compositions, and was sold. Melancholy loveliness of the highest order, beautiful lyrics and again some great guitar parts.

A quick glance of his influences on MySpace, apart from Leonard Cohen, didn’t turn up who it was reminding me of, although it’s a great list including most of my favourites. He actually really reminds me of Lambchop, but also, musically, Jarvis Cocker when he does more downbeat stuff, particularly some of the songs on This Is Hardcore (listen to The All-Stars from about two minutes thirty and tell me I’m wrong).

It was at this point that I realised we needed a Tiny Dancing field trip to go and see the man in action, so we donned our cloaks and set out.

A very nice curry in Euston was followed by Dancer, Debris and I venturing to Tommy Flynn’s of Mornington Crescent to sup a few ales and keep one eye on the football whilst hiding from the dull support acts. Once the danger had passed we wound our way closer to the stage to catch his set and also to get away from a very smelly old man who had taken a shine to Debris. It was well worth the trip.

The performance was really rather marvellous and lived up to what I was hoping for from the recordings that I’d heard, with a couple of unfamiliar songs at least matching what’s already out there. Currently everything is vocals and guitar, which means you have to make an effort to listen and unfortunately Flynn’s wasn’t the best venue for this as the occasional shouts supporting Arsenal or Liverpool trampled over some of the subtleties of the set. I for one am hoping that the future will bring a brass section as then I think the world will hear just how good the songs are...

I encourage you all to check out one of his upcoming London shows which you can find on his MySpace page as we all thought he was great and I for one will certainly be going back for another look at some point. As an inducement here are Next!, The All-Stars and Variety for your delectation. If you like these then you can also hear Josie and One Of Many on his MySpace page here.

Richard Godwin - Next!

Richard Godwin - The All-Stars

Richard Godwin - Variety

Ricky Stardust

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Monday, March 31, 2008

When The Music Changes So Does The Dance

What happens when you make everyone put their electronic guitars away, and make them play the saxophone instead? Jazz happens. Jazz.

Now, there used to be much to be afeared of in jazz. Go into any jazz shop, and you instantly felt the unease in the air. Earnest, serious men in the main, rifling through the racks with a quiet, furious determination, looking to fill the gaps in their closely guarded collections. And it wasn’t a place for the ignorant. You needed to know your stuff. It was no good liking something purely because you liked it. Oh no. You needed to know exactly what it’s all about, the timbre, the voice, the scale that confines the action, the character of each individual musician, the history. It also helped if you smoked a pipe.

Yes, there used to be much to be afeared of in jazz.

But no more.

Fulborn Teversham are a prime example of why not. Half made up by Chief Jazzer’s Seb Rochford and Pete Wareham, who kick about in Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear amongst others, it’s got saxophone, squelching synths and mental vocals courtesy of Alice Grant. And it’s all over the place. In fact, it might not strictly be jazz. But then again, it might. Hmm. What it definitely is, is cracking, and Empty Shell is one reason why. There’s more to download here. And once you’ve done that, buy the album.

Fulborn Teversham – Empty Shell

For something a touch more traditional, we look to Led Bib. Traditional in that they’re arranged, and they veer off into proper jazzing at times – but then they turn back on you with duelling saxophones, Bowie covers, and fx laden keys. This track should give you an idea of what’s going on and to persuade you to buy their latest album Sizewell Tea, but most of all go and see them live, because they tend to kick off a bit more, and give it a bit more freedom. Like playing the theme from Cheers for instance. But in a good way. Album here.

Led Bib – Stinging Nettle

And last but not least, we have Chik Budo, the arch infiltrators, slipping their jazz in under the radar stealthed over with all kinds of distorted bass and synths, and possibly even occasionally, a little bit of the funk. Battling saxophones again but this time far removed from the traditional, more towards the art and the rock, and rightfully so. This track is NYNX – but it’s rather short, apologies for that. I’ve got another one of their tracks on a cd somewhere, but after three days searching, I’m arsed if I can find it. Which is what you get when you haven’t got your cds in alphabetical and chronological order (eh Debris?). They’ve got a single out soon, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime this is a brief beauty.

Chik Budo – NYNX

They tend to gravitate towards each other these jazzer types, so be on the look out – nodding, tapping of feet and clicking of fingers is obligatory.

Tiny Dancer

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What We Find In Dusty Corners

One of the best parts of moving house, as I recently did, is packing up all your CD's and coming across a load that you simply haven't listened to in years. Even in my alphabetically and chronologically arranged collection (I know, I know...) these albums have somehow managed to disappear from my radar. Listening to them again now, it seems the reason for this is that many of them fall into the 'average albums with one standout track on them' category. These include:

1 - Radio K-A-O-S by Roger Waters - Not a terrible album by any means, but if I tell you that it's a concept album featuring a Californian DJ talking to a Welsh man who has a Stephen Hawking voicebox in the last 30 minutes before a nuclear war, all overlaid with heavy mid-80s production that makes it sound like Dire Straits, I think you'll appreciate why this one doesn't get played that often. Still, track one - Radio Waves - is jolly enough.

Roger Waters - Radio Waves

2 - Gone Again by Patti Smith - As I recall, this album was hailed at the time as a return to form, and indeed it is a very competent album, but my God it's hard work. It's just so damn miserable. Not miserable in an exciting Joy Division / Depeche Mode / The Cure way, just miserable in a kind of serious, adult way. That said, I really like Beneath The Southern Cross (which features impressive guests with John Cale on organ and Jeff Buckley on backing vocals).

Patti Smith – Beneath The Southern Cross

3 - Music Is Rotted One Note by Squarepusher - Like Aphex Twin, but with jazz. That, my friends, is a recipe for an unlistenable album - it's simply not something the world really needs. Except for My Sound which is just glorious; a long, dark, looping jazz riff that steps up subtly every now and then to wrap another layer around itself.

Squarepusher – My Sound

4 - Wild Mood Swings by The Cure - The Cure's 1996 album is not one of their best but even an average Cure album is never a bad thing; Want and Club America are both good tracks and Gone! - presented here - is a decent bit of jazzy whimsy in the horn-laden tradition of The Lovecats.

The Cure – Gone!

5 - Radar by Earthling - Released in 1995 at the height of trip-hop, this one defies the category in that it is actually an excellent album that is overshadowed by the first track 1st Transmission, which is so good the rest of the album seems average in comparison, even though it's really good. Mau's lyrics on this one are genius:

I know who I am -
I'm not who you think I am

Whistlin', hummin', thumbin' a ride
Driver won't you take me to the other side?
I'm a book, a poem - by Leonard Cohen
Son of the Dice Man and I won't stop throwin'
I'm Boris Karloff - the man they couldn't hang
I'm a ruffneck romantic talking that slang
I'm Jesus Christ superstar
Driving around in an old yellow car

Earthling – 1st Transmission

If you like Portishead, Tricky et al I strongly recommend you buy this album - here's one more track, Planet Of The Apes in case you should require further persuasion.

Earthling – Planet Of The Apes

Crisp Debris

As a cheeky footnote, if any of you fine fine people find themselves in the fine fine neighbourhood of New Cross tomorrow night, and you find yourself feeling particularly saucy, you could do worse than nip along to the Amersham Arms where The Gluerooms will be 'happening'. And what's more, Tiny Dancer will probably be playing some records in between the turns. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, only time will tell.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Beginning Has No End

So we played them on the podcast, and posted them with as tenuous a reason as possible, and now five days after it’s release I can confirm what I suspected - Fuck Buttons have made the best album of the year so far, and it’s going to take something pretty special to better it in 2008.

If you haven’t got Street Horrrsing yet, you could stop reading this now and get it from here - but bear in mind you can download it all without too many problems as it’s all over the place, and whilst you’re piecing it all together, you could read why everyone else thinks it so good, so I don’t have to bother to go into it all again.

And once you’re done buying or downloading and had a listen to it all the way through, come back here and download Lets See If Any Ghosts Are Here Yeah? and suss out where it all started. I don’t know how long it had been knocking about, but my increasingly patchy memory seems to suggest I picked it up as a home spun cd-r around this time last year. Or something like that. Give or take a couple of months. Probably.

Fuck Buttons – Lets See If Any Ghosts Are Here Yeah?

Although consisting of one track nearly 30 minutes long, it’s clearly the blueprint for Street Horrrsing – from the chiming start not quite reproduced as Sweet Love For Planet Earth, moving though what would become Ribs Out, the recurring sounds and motifs of power synths and distorted screams, and culminating in more or less exactly what would become Colours Move. Missing is the most impressive passage of the album, the section of Okay Let’s Talk About Magic through Race You To The Bedroom / Spirits Rise to Bright Tomorrow, which clearly demonstrates how far important progress has been made in a relatively short time.

Even then, it’s still interesting to see where things started out, and the influence that a record deal, Mogwai production and the needs of the music industry have had – from the splitting of the album across six tracks when it still holds together as one continuous piece, to the editing for a seven inch release which although handy and serving a purpose, seems to go against everything else the band puts together.

Despite the various luminaries appearing at the Camber ATP, Fuck Buttons are by far and away the turn I’m looking forward to seeing most, but for those that can’t bear the thought of chalet life for a weekend, they’re playing with Battles and Liars at the Astoria on the 14th of May, which surely could be splendid? If you’re in North America, they’re all over the place right now. Buy the album. Because you should. And this is a bit special as well.

Tiny Dancer

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Strong Devoted

You get a lot of bands in London. Sometimes it seems like you can’t move for swarms of drainpipes and meaningful haircuts. They’re everywhere. You can’t go to Sainsburys without tripping over a Jing, a Jang, a Jong or whatever the fuck they are, or a winkle-pickered synth-rocker making sure the walk down the High Street hasn’t undone all that hard straightening work.

What’s more, the vast majority of them are absolutely appalling, and I say that from a position of some experience. There was a time not so long ago when it seemed all I was doing when I wasn’t sleeping, eating or selling my soul to the devil was going to see friends in bands in the vast gallery of London’s toilet venues. Most of said mate’s bands were okay, but they tended to share the bill with some horrific excuses for people that come together to make music that others might enjoy. The odd excuse might have a redeeming feature, like the lot that had a bassist who was the spitting image of Diana, Queen of Hearts (God Rest Her Soul), despite being a chap. And the steady Chinese water torture drip of earnest young men with acoustic guitars, and a following of his family and friends from the Home Counties. They were always quite entertaining, in a soul crushing way.

To make matters worse, most of these terrible, terrible bands tend to think they are the future of music, and are on the brink of that first deal that will propel them onto the inevitable road to international mega stardom that their undisputed talent so richly deserves. Whether they believe that because they have absolutely no taste whatsoever, are completely and utterly clueless, or just need to justify their petty existence so their world doesn’t fall in around their ears, I don’t know. But yes, you get a lot of awful, terrible bands in London.

So it was genuinely unusual to overhear a conversation between two band members that was concerned with what they were going to do on stage in about half an hour that wasn’t deluded nonsense, but a truly nervous desire to do what they could do, and hope that the assembled throng would understand that it was good. They weren’t going to force it down throats, they were going to put it out there, and leave it up to you to decide. And so it was that I witnessed such a thing walking down the street in front of two Broken Records, on the way to see their first gig in London last Tuesday at the Soho Revue Bar.

Those with their ear that tragically close to the ground may well have caught a previous whisper about a band causing a bit of a stir in Edinburgh over the last year or so, and though such types are thankfully few and far between (myself obviously included) there were still enough of them (us) to fill a strip club to the point where people had to stand on the poles and podiums to get a decent view. Those whispers that had been popping up here and there seemed to include a lot of mentions of Arcade Fire, but once the band begin, it’s pretty obvious that those comparisons are a little bit lazy.

Yes, there’s an indecent amount of instrument swapping going on. Yes, there’s a slight vocal similarity. Yes, there are accordions and strings, and all kinds of things – but, believe it or not, people were doing this before some splendid Canadians appeared a few years ago. In the hands of Broken Records, the sound is far more indigenous – violin, cello and trumpet combine for moments that remind of Belle and Sebastian. On a new song (sorry, didn’t catch the name), piano and trumpet come together to evoke the melancholy of Christmas EP Mogwai. When things pick up pace, it may even get a bit Celtic Soul Brother, although probably less soul, more pop. And with it all, there’s just enough mishap to stop it all getting far too shiny far too soon. Lyrics are earnest and wrought with intent, without straying into wincing teenage soul searching. The two Broken Records were right. It is good.

There are still a couple of moments that remind you that it’s relatively early days, and that there’s still a way to go. The inexplicable and repeated breakdown in A Good Reason seems incongruously shoe horned in the absence of something better to do, and the occasional bass line or melody pops up that needs a bit more thought rather than settling on the easy option.

But that’s probably being a bit harsh. You get the feeling that these things are already getting sorted out as we go along, even if we get just a 25 minute set that’s truncated because at the moment, there’s nothing more to give. For a first foray into London’s unforgiving pit of mundanity, it’s actually a bit of a triumph. You just have to hope it’s not all happening a bit quickly, that the already signed single deal with a nicely positioned small yet perfectly formed label doesn’t make it all seem a bit too easy. You just really, truly hope.

If you have a look at their myspace, you can still order their first home made EP, and to tempt you here are a couple of reasons why you should. But better still, get yourself along to one of the increasingly long list of toilet venues they’re playing in the foreseeable while you still can - they’re not going to be playing them much longer.

Broken Records – If The News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It

Broken Records – Nearly Home

Edit: Song By Toad has put up an acoustic Broken Records session, and it is a corker. Find it here.

Tiny Dancer

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Do I Dare Disturb The Universe?

It was my birthday recently. I don't ordinarily deal with birthdays particularly well; anything that reminds me of the number of years I have wasted getting to my current lowly position in life is frankly unwelcome - but the creeping black horror was tempered somewhat with the receipt of a lovely present from Tiny Dancer; a CD by a German techno dude I had not heard of until then, Stephan Bodzin. The album is called Liebe Ist... and has two of the most important things a good German techno CD should have - brilliantly clean, crisp pumping tunes that throb with dark energy and more essentially, a really cool minimalist sleeve. I would describe his music as... well, as exactly what you would expect German techno to sound like really. Check out Turbine and then buy the album from here.

Stephan Bodzin - Turbine

Points of interest culled from his myspace page are that his influences are listed as Kraftwerk (makes sense), Motorhead (those crazy Germans do love their heavy rock) and, er, Miles Davis. I'm finding it hard to get my head around that last one - the king of improvisational avant-garde jazz somehow doesn't fit in with the precision sounds of Bodzin, but there you go. We also like the fact that the production company Bodzin has set up - Herzblut Recordings - sponsor a local kid's football team, Union 60 Bremen. What a genius idea - I can't wait to see this catching on everywhere else.

Listening to this album reminded me of Circulation's 2000 album Colours, which whilst having a much more laid back housey / jazzy sound, also features extremely exact production values. On both albums I would warrant that there is literally not a single sound out of place - truly music made by machines. Take a listen to White to get an idea of what I mean.

Circulation – White

And what the hell, whilst we're knocking about chatting techno why not wrap your ears around the tune that introduced a harder, darker edge to house music back in 1991 and virtually invented techno, Joey Beltram's Energy Flash. Rather depressingly I have just calculated that most of the kids out there in club-land were toddlers when this came out, whereas I clearly remember it being played on the radio at the time of its release. God, I hate birthdays.

Joey Beltram – Energy Flash

Crisp Debris

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Monday, March 10, 2008

This Is No Declaration, I Just Thought I’d Let You Know Goodbye

Belle and Sebastian are my favourite band ever.

There, I’ve said it.

I first found them back in 1997. It was at a time when I was actively looking for a band I could call my own. Up to that point I felt like every artist I loved had been fed to me by someone else, whether that was trawling through my dad’s record collection and finding Bowie and Floyd; or if it was John Hunt copying the Beatles’ 67-70 album for me (with the tape running out two thirds of the way through Across The Universe; I still expect it to cut off every time I hear it) or Tiny Dancer playing me His ‘n’ Hers in Richard LeRoy’s car; or Simon Baker and Crisp Debris forcing me to buy The Queen Is Dead. I was always coming to the party late.

Then one Sunday Night on Stuart Maconie’s Radio 1 show I heard The State I Am In and I knew. I just knew. Sometimes you do just know, don’t you?

Dog On Wheels came out a week after and I bought it immediately and listened to the four tracks contained on it 6 times in one day. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I grew up with Britpop; Indie music was chart pop music to me. I didn’t have to trawl around in obscure record shops and read fanzines like people had to a few years before. Blur and Pulp were in Smash Hits for God’s sake (not that I bought Smash Hits...). I wasn’t aware of Felt and I wasn’t aware of Postcard Records and I certainly had no knowledge of what C86 was.

Dog On Wheels sounded like unfinished demos. You could hear the strings squeaking and the voices occasionally going a bit out of tune and the odd note being dropped. It was like the band had recorded it on a tape recorder in their bedroom for their own use (which isn’t too far from the reality) and let me have a copy of it. It felt like they’d let me in on a special secret.

Over the next few months or so they released two other EPs, Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3, 6, 9, Seconds Of Light, the latter of which got Single of the Week in both Melody Maker and the NME and people started to pick up on them a bit more and they were no longer my secret. But I actually didn’t mind, I was spreading the gospel with the best of them and managed to convert most of my friends along the way.

Once I’d exhausted the EPs I found out about If You’re Feeling Sinister and their unavailable debut album Tigermilk; their first two long players. I remember buying Sinister and realising that before I had been dealing with 4 tracks per release and it taking ages for me to tire of them, so the concept of getting ten new tracks at once was immense; I wondered if I’d ever be able to process it all.

B&S always say that Sinister is their most complete collection of songs and I think I’d have to agree with that. The run of the first six songs up to Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying, Stuart Murdoch’s mission statement, is extraordinary and for me I can’t think where it’s been bettered.

Next I tracked down Tigermilk to a church in Greenwich and paid more than I’d ever paid for a record to have it. Everyone knows the story of how that album came to be and if you don’t then you can look it up, but really the album is a miracle. Sinister may be their best but coupled with Dog On Wheels I think Tigermilk is my favourite thing they’ve done and still defines what was great about them to me.

Over the years after this and with varying degrees of inconsistency on their albums my love for them was kept alive by seeing them perform more times than I can remember. The first time was at the Bowlie Festival that they organised down at Camber Sands in 1999 that has since transformed into All Tomorrow’s Parties. They headlined the Sunday night and I was nervous all weekend thinking that something would go wrong and it would be cancelled. I have a bootleg of the gig but it doesn’t approach how great it was.

Other highlights would be hiring a box to see them at Royal Albert Hall and all of us shouting for Stars Of Track And Field until Murdoch acknowledged us with "Sounds like we’ve got some athletes in tonight". I suspect we enjoyed it more than he did... It would be many more gigs before I’d finally get to hear them play it, but God, when it finally happened it was worth the wait.

Another one that comes to mind is when they played the Astoria. My friends and I had tickets for the Friday night but I was sitting in work on the Thursday knowing that they were playing then as well and was unable to resist going down to the Astoria on my own and paying through the nose for a ticket from a tout. I’ve always been someone who gets too excited and has to open their presents before Christmas.

I guess I should also mention the time I went to watch them in Barcelona with Tiny Dancer and Casanova Cox of these pages. We stuck around at the after-show in the bar upstairs from the gig and it was then that I met Stuart Murdoch. It didn’t go well. For starters I was sober, which at the time was something of a rare state to find me in and not when I’m at my best. I won’t go into exactly how the conversation went but Murdoch left hastily fearing he was going to be beaten up and have his hat stolen by three English boys who have stalked him across Europe. Thank God Isobel didn’t turn up.

Oh Isobel...

The day Isobel Campbell and Belle and Sebastian parted company was my Beatles splitting, Kennedy being shot and Altamont all rolled in to one. I loved Isobel and I think in many ways I’ve been chasing an Isobel figure ever since. After she and Stuart David left the band things were different. Murdoch himself has said that one of the big reasons why he didn’t want them to leave was that he didn’t like it when the original line-up of a band he loved changed and worried that the magic would go with them. They went on to make their most commercially successful record in Dear Catastrophe Waitress but he was right; it wasn’t the same.

But Murdoch was still there and so were some great songs. I’m A Cuckoo, If You Find Yourself Caught In Love and the Good Vibrations-esque Step Into My Office Baby are all as good as anything they’d done before and the first two in particular were high points lyrically. And in the end, for me, B&S always started with the lyrics. As soon as I heard:

My brother had confessed that he was gay
It took the heat off me for a while

The deal was done.

In the sleeve-notes for Dear Catastrophe Waitress Murdoch names his canon; "Larkin, Cohen, Lawrence and Moz." As a list, it will do. Of that ilk, Murdoch is lyricist of his age. He knew his people and he spoke to them about things they cared about in the way that they felt it themselves. He remembered; he understood. Hell, he’d spent so long ill in bed that despite being ten years older than his audience he still thought and acted in the same way as them. In the same way as us.

Think of me as a friend
Not just the boy who plays guitar

He said, and we did.

In many ways his lyrics changed my life. Aside from opening up the indie scene to me (for good and bad) it led directly to me buying a guitar, forming a band and writing songs and meeting many people who will probably stay in my heart forever.

He’s on the list now; I’ve added him; he’s in the Pantheon. "Larkin, Cohen, Lawrence, Moz and Murdoch." I’m left with the memories and a number of questions...

Who will be next writer to make it on to that list? I don’t know and it’s probably not for me to say; it’s for people who are younger than me and still haven’t found their writer to choose who follows. They are out there, scribbling away in their bedroom somewhere, biding their time. Don’t worry, they’ll come.

Will any band or songwriter ever mean so much to me again? It’s unlikely; I think you only have that kind of thing once and at a certain age.

What will Belle and Sebastian do next and how will I feel about it? Their last album was not great by any means and they’ve been silent for some time. I don’t know whether it’s a misstep which will be followed by a return to form or the end of a great run. I suspect the latter but either way I know it won’t be like it was and really it hasn’t been for some time.

They’re no longer "My Band". They’ve changed and so have I; it’s all over now but by God we had some times didn’t we? Yes we did.

The Tracks

Belle and Sebastian are releasing an album of tracks they recorded in sessions at the BBC. As a geeky fanboy this is stuff I have from taping them off the radio at the time and I put it all together and produced my own version long ago. If they choose the right things then it will be their Hatful Of Hollow as there is some great stuff that they’ve never released and some versions of songs that are better than what we have on their albums. My favourites are the ones I present here.

First there’s a version of I Could be Dreaming which Stuart sings at least twice as well as his vocals on the original. When he sings about killing his friend’s abusive boyfriend or taking on some local kids who are having a go at him you actually believe him capable of it.

Belle and Sebastian – I Could Be Dreaming (Radcliffe Session 1997)

Next there’s Magic Of A Kind Word which is Isobel’s best vocal performance and also the best thing they never released.

Belle and Sebastian – Magic Of A Kind Word (Peel Session 2001)

And finally is The Loneliness Of The Middle Distance Runner. For some reason, although the recorded version hardly differs at all from this one, this is twice as good. I can’t put my finger on it but it seems to have more life and the right level of melancholy in Stuart’s voice to change it from being average on record to one of the greatest things that they ever did.

Have you seen The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Runner
When he stops the race and looks around?
I’ve left the stage
You’ve seen it now

Belle and Sebastian – The Loneliness Of The Middle Distance Runner (Live on The Apocalypse Tube 1999)

Ricky Stardust

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