Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Fire! Orchestra - Exit!

Sonically Speaking

Sonically stunning! I use the word ‘sonic’ occasionally in reviews to suggest, obviously, sound, but I tend to think of a ‘landscape’ of sound or a tonal aura or something similar – you see, it’s getting linguistically ridiculous already, so ‘sonic’ seems to sum up a reference to sound whilst saying significantly more than just ‘sound’.

This album is more than just sound. So ‘sonic’ is going to get me started on describing it. It is definitely stunning. From the crescendos and explosions of the full orchestra – itself battling with the sonic [there it is again] booms of the saxophones and horns – to the vocal pyrotechnics and sound-poetry, to the actual growls of a solo saxophone, to the pandemonium of the erupting orchestra [I’ve just written this as I nearly ejected out of my chair at about 20 minutes into Part Two of this two-parter when the concluding crescendo of this amazing amalgam of sound (I probably mean ‘sonic’) suddenly detonates] to the almost conventional jazz melody to the everything else that gets thrown into this stunning sonic sink [too much now?], this is an album where if you’d pulled your titanium socks up over your head and welded them to the top of your scalp it will still blow them off in a nanosecond at any one of its many dynamic peaks of sound.

One of these first brilliant peaks is three and a half minutes into Part One where the three-beat bass line has been building and the vocal singing/chanting has been screaming and then the orchestra and brass and guitars and quite a bit in addition goes ballistic with its first glorious fusion of sound.

The Swedish core trio of Mats Gustafsson [saxophone/The Thing], Johan Berthling [bass/Tape] and Andreas Werliin [drums/Wildbirds & Peacedrums] is joined by Sten Sandell piano/electronics, Raymond Strid drums, Mariam Wallentin voice, Sofia Jernberg voice, Fredrik Ljungkvist baritone sax/clarinet, Andreas Söderström guitar, David Stackenäs guitar, Joachim Nordwall electronics, Joe Williamson bass With Emil Svanängen, Niklas Barnö, Magnus Broo, Emil Strandberg, Mats Äleklint, Per Ake Holmlander, Anna Högberg, Elin Larsson, Christer Bothe n, Jonas Kulhammar, Sören Runolf, Tomas Hallonsten, Joel Grip, Dan Berglund, Tomas Mera Gartz, Johan Holmegard, and more [courtesy Amazon product desciption], and I mention these to give a sense of the musical collective as well as a visual representation of the numbers at work here. 

I wrote the above visual representation before I found this image...

This is free jazz and avant garde and rock and sound poetry [written by Arnold de Boer] and one of the most exciting things I’ve heard for a while. Lest you think it is just monumental noise – and it is this – the opening vocal shouts and echoes and whistle noises and found sounds at the beginning of Part Two are beautiful and sonically calming. But then.....

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


When she’d announced our relationship was
going down the pan, I still didn’t expect to find
those Lovehearts at the bottom of the toilet bowl,
not yet flushed away - and that took some time
as they nestled into the nadir of the bend. Love Bug,
Hold Me and Just Us, expressions of affection
dissolving into mixed messages before finally
having nothing more to say and romance at an end.

With Valentine’s Day only weeks away, this has
been the most final of lavatorial executions, love’s
farewell repeating as a watery neologism in the
surprise of a fluid reminder further down the line.
Like lifting the lid on a once-lovers’ exposé
here is the real dishing of dirt as it all washes away.

[Just storytelling!]

Adam Ant - Adam Ant Is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter

Definitely Not Bullshit

In a musical world of Auto-Tune expectancy, Adam Ant’s latest is as far from this device as a slow train starting a very long journey to AT but already broken down. That’s its first refreshing quality. A second is the ramshackle and/or eclectic content – depending on your aural leanings – and a first listen is going to be the special experience because you genuinely can’t be sure of what will be coming next.

The album opens on single release Cool Zombie with blues slide guitar and signature Adam howl in the background, an engaging marriage of unexpected/expected sounds. Somewhere also in the background is the singular vocal accompaniment that loudly Ohs its varying tones above this and most songs on the album in varying degrees of untunefulness.  The next two songs are quite neutral for me, and then fourth Vince Taylor is an acoustic homage to The Playboys rock’n’roll singer/frontman, a song that chugs rather than rocks and which has Ant’s vocal drifting a little awkwardly in and out of the mix. This has a demo-freshness about it, as well as its earnest reverence. Fifth Valentines is dominated by a tuneless groan and other exhaled noises, a sprawling narrative that will take a number of listens to unravel [from its length and entanglement with those domineering sounds]. Perhaps the noises are a sonic metaphor for the pain and hurt of the storyline.

As I write this I am into my second and third listens and that ‘special’ experience is already beginning to wane a little. Sixth track Darlin’ Boy brings this realisation to the fore as it continues with its busy-ness of many voices, including the cloying Oh always overhead. The middle of the album though does deliver, with eighth Punkyoungirl mixing clever lyrics with grunge guitar, and the raw singing like a teenage garage band delivering its teenage lovers’ angst. Ninth Sausage is a sweet song almost establishing its sweet melody, though again fighting with the over-exuberance of the tuneless Ohhing [who the fuck is that?!]. Tenth Cradle Your Hatred is an extended apology – one senses a mix of honesty and hyperbole here – and again there is a pop simplicity that appeals, harmonies working for a change, and strong echoes of New Radicals for me.  

Two of my early favourites are the eleventh and twelfth track juxtapositions of punk Hardmentoughblokes [shades of Ian Drury] and heavy metal Shrink. Delightful full-on examples of their respective genres, the latter with a monstrous dropping bass noise.  And my definite favourite is the sweet acid-folk of thirteenth Vivienne’s Tears – a love song kissed beautifully in the fresh innocence of its writing and performance.

There are three more tracks, making seventeen in all. Of course too many, but then it wouldn’t be the categorisingless album it refreshingly [or otherwise....] is. Though I should just mention that hardcore Adam Ant fans will find sixteenth Bullshit as signature a sound as you’ll get on the album, and gloriously so.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Threadbare Fables - Ian Seed, [Like This Press]


I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey - no I haven't - and I don't have to as it has been quoted or broadcast enough in the media for me to have picked up a strong dose of its content, but I bet it isn't as sexy as the following:

And now that I have aroused your interest with this piece of poetic foreplay, my serious point on the sensuality of writing is how Ian Seed's opening vignette in his excellent Threadbare Fables appeals not  because of its sexual suggestiveness but because of the humour that takes us further into its possibilities.

The prose-poem fables in this immediately accessible and engaging pamphlet remind me of Matthew Sweeney's absurd and surreal poetic strorytelling. What I like about Seed's is how his too deal in mystery and unknowing, and though suggesting so much they never define or finalise. They are a wonderfully 'easy' read, and by this I mean you can cover them all quickly - if you wish: you might want to speculate and ponder after each indivdual tale - but they then stick with you, like images swiftly seen but leaving a strong impression, and you instinctively imagine afterwards and for some time resolutions or even reasons for what preceded their events.

There are a few recurring themes/ideas - a dieing/dead father; taking an unexpected route - but overall there is a breadth of genuinely imaginative yet brisk stroytelling.

The pamphlet is simply but beautifully produced by likethispress with hand torn cover and insert paper and individually hand-stamped lettering. Threadbare Fables can be purchased for only £4 [if there are any remaining] at

Rock Candy Funk Party - We Want Groove

Bonamassa Again

Joe’s no slouch - that is self-evident with his regular releases, guest appearances and live performances – but what impresses above and beyond this is the sustained quality of what he does. The instrumentals on this album will rock your funky socks off, or as with fifth track We Want Grooves, simply soothe and soothe and soothe. It is almost unbearable, the precocious talent Bonamassa exudes [he is such a key player here]. Recorded live over ten funked-out, 70s/80s time-warped days, the collective also features Tal Bergman [drums and production and great opening solo on Animal Work], Ron DeJesus [guitar], Mike Merritt [bass], and Renato Neto [exquisite keyboards]. Put on your shiny suit, push the sleeves up to just below the elbows, and funk the candy.

Pride and Prejudice - Happy 200th Birthday

Today is the 200th birthday of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

I may have commented on this before, but I recall as a teenage socialist student refusing to read and study and admire the work of an author concerning herself with the privileges of the upper classes and the irrelevancies of their social preoccupations. It wasn’t until much later that I learned to appreciate the often caustic criticism of this social world within which she necessarily restricted her commentary – focusing on what she knew rather than extrapolating on what she didn’t – and also to appreciate the brilliance of her class satire, primarily through the depiction of character, with personas we could joyfully detest or those with whom we could share in the mild mockery whilst developing an accompanying empathy.

My favourite Austen novel is Mansfield Park. Whilst not providing the sustained humour of Pride and Prejudice, the story of a dull and drab Fanny Price’s journey to true heroism is compelling, especially when coupled with the attending narrative drive that portrays in excruciating detail the nasty, obnoxious and priggish Mrs Norris, but who we then see receive at the book’s end one of the most righteously acerbic authorial pummellings of all time. This is Austen revealing the significant depths of her critical but artful analysis of a shallow world.

I loved teaching this book and hopefully conveying to students at the time of study the value of Austen which took me personally longer than it should to discover. I haven’t always convinced those I would want to persuade of the importance of her and the English canon – I don’t know how you can appreciate the role of the novel without reading and appreciating: Dickens’ withering and emotive social commentary [and language pyrotechnics]; C Bronte’s incipient modernism [unconscious revelations vs. the propriety of the Victorian novel]; Austen’s considerable charms outlined above; Hardy’s poetic pastoralism [and tragic trajectories], and Lawrence’s actual and absolute modernism [and later abject misogyny]. 

Lest the preceding paragraph sound too sanctimonious, I will readily admit that I am woefully ill-read when it comes to contemporary novels.

Getting Vinyl

A Getting Vinyl Day is always a good day, but today was a great day:

Sunday, 27 January 2013

John Fairhurst - Hungry Blues EP

Hungry For More

Wild Wigan bluesman John Fairhurst [he may not be all that feral, but the image I’ll post, the growling vocal and actual home town are supportive of the alliteration] turns out five self-penned blues stompers on this EP. Opener Up On The Hill reminds of Beefheart, and second The Snow Lies Deep of Broughton, so this also adds credence to the rawblues image. That said, acoustic tracks like I Don’t Know present a folk-blues tone – the voice still appropriately coarse – and the simplicity of guitar, harmonica [both Fairhurst] and drums [James Breen] reflect a strong traditional base to his writing and performing. Closer Hungry Blues has fine acoustic blues slide and picking – supported by the Hungry Blues Choir and producer Alex Beitzke on harmonium.

I’m keen for more and looking forward.