A Few Forthcoming Releases: Nov 2009

The usual monthly round-up. Fairly slim pickings as the release schedules are dominated by X-Factor pop fodder, compilations, remasters, reissues, box sets, old live albums etc. etc.

Nov 2nd

  • 2562 – Unbalance (Tectonic)
  • CIRCULASIONE TOTALE ORCHESTRA – Bandwidth (Rune Grammofon)
  • DEFRAG – Lament Element (Hymen)
  • DJ SPOOKY – The Secret Song (Thirsty Ear)
  • FELIX – You are the One I Pick (Kranky)
  • NIRVANA – Live at Reading (Universal)
  • OOIOO – Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey)
  • PHILL NIBLOCK – Touch Strings (Touch)
  • PORT ROYAL – Dying in Time (N5MD)

Nov 9th

  • BENJAMIN GIBBARD & JAY FARRAR – One Fast Move (Atlantic)
  • BIBIO – The Apple and the Tooth (Warp)
  • BLACK TO COMM – Alphabet 1968 (Type)
  • EVAN PARKER – House Full of Floors (Tzadik)
  • GITHEAD – Landing (Swim)
  • GRANT HART – Hot Wax (Wienerworld)
  • MELT BANANA – Melt-Banana Lite Live Ver 0.0 (A-Zap)
  • MERZBOW – 13 Japanese Birds Volume 10 (Important)
  • RYUICHI SAKAMOTO – Playing the Piano (Decca)
  • SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN – Seven Storey Mountain (Important)
  • SLAPP HAPPY – Live in Japan May 2000 (Voiceprint)
  • TIM CATLIN & MACHINEFABRIEK – Glisten (Low Point)
  • VARIOUS – Warp 20: Unheard (Warp)

Nov 16th

  • ANNIE – Don’t Stop (Smalltown Supersound)
  • DAVID GRUBBS – Hybrid Song Box.4 (Drag City)
  • PETER HAMMILL – In the Passionkirche, Berlin 92 (Voiceprint)
  • RADIAN – Chimeric (Thrill Jockey)
  • RAKIM – The Seventh Seal (SMC)
  • SOFT MACHINE – Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre 1971 (Reel UK)

Nov 23rd

  • MILES DAVIS – Complete Miles Davis (Sony)
  • TOM WAITS – Glitter and Doom (Live) (Anti)

Nov 30th

  • DANIEL MENCHE – Kataract (Mego)

Jan 11th 2010

  • LAURA VEIRS – July Flame (Bella Union)

TV: Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany

After last week’s generally fascinating, if slightly flawed, Synth Britannia (no mention at all of Suicide, and some of the chronology seemed a bit iffy to me), BBC Four’s music documentary series moved on to look at some of the biggest influences on both the synth-pop movement, and indeed all post-punk and electronica music that’s happened since, from Acid Mothers Temple to Alva Noto and all points in between.

Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany is rather a grand title, and it immediately apologised for the term. Krautrock was coined by anglocentric British journalists and has unfortunately stuck ever since to the various amusement / irritation of the musicians themselves. But at least their music was accepted here – in their homeland they remained, by and large, obscure. I remember when I first met my German friend Olly in the early nineties, I breathlessly waxed lyrical about all the German bands that I was a big fan of, and was astonished that he’d never heard of half of them. I’d simply assumed that acts like Cluster, Faust, Neu! etc would all be household names in Germany, something that turned out to be far from the truth.

The programme offered 1968 as year zero for the movement, suggesting that everything before then was Schlager and classical music. Although that’s certainly true for the electronic and experimental bands that followed, surely things weren’t that simple. After all, many British bands cut their musical teeth in Hamburg at the start of the sixties, and other ex-pat acts like the Monks were pretty successful in their adopted land. There must have been some indigenous equivalent, surely.

That question aside, this was an hour stuffed with great anecdotes and superb archive footage. Those interviewed were a great bunch of characters with intelligent, dry humour and none of the rock star pomposity of their Anglo-American prog-rock equivalents. The central theme was that this wasn’t a scene as such, but a bunch of disparate groups from all over the country whose music was equally eclectic, but whose philosophy was strikingly similar – to create a new art music for Germany untainted by the past and yet specifically German rather than a poor facsimile of the dominant Anglo-American forms. And to challenge the West German establishment, something still riddled with relics of the Nazi era. They succeeded, and collectively became a massive influence on much of the interesting music made in the last thirty years. Indeed, most are probably far more widely known today than they ever were in their heyday.

Nearly all of the big players were present and correct – Amon Düül, Popol Vuh, Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Neu!, Harmonia, Can, Faust and, of course, Kraftwerk. The only serious omission was Ash Ra Tempel. There were some great stories – Amon Düül’s uncomfortable association with Andreas Baader and Ulriche Meinhof; Faust being sold to Polydor as the German Beatles (?!); Damo Suzuki’s bizarrely spontaneous induction into Can; Klaus Schulze’s admission that he still had no idea how to properly work his first synth that he’s had for nearly forty years. And also some superb archive footage, including the pre-electronic Kraftwerk. Implied, but not explicitly said, was the contention that Eno was little more than a thieving magpie, appropriating ideas from his collaborations with Cluster and using them in his work with Bowie, that archetypal chameleon.

Cramming all this into an hour inevitably felt a bit rushed. But it was great that somebody had the foresight to step outside the usual Anglo-American axis and tell the stories of the makers of some of the twentieth century’s most forward-looking and influential music.

For UK residents, it’s on the iPlayer.

The M M & M 1000 – part 46

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. This is the first part of eight that deal with the S’s.

REM – So. Central Rain / King of the Road (IRS 9927 1984)
“So. Central Rain” is one of the best songs of REM’s peak IRS era, a yearning, flowing and hypnotic piece. The B side is a cover of Roger Miller’s ‘classic’, a song I loathe. Back when I was at University in Hull there was a jukebox in the Union Bar, and Miller’s song was a favourite of the bar staff, so you could guarantee that you’d hear it two or three times a night. It drove me up the wall! On reflection, maybe if I’d spent less time in the bar and more in the library, both my sanity and my degree would have been better.

LOVE SCULPTURE – Sabre Dance / Think of Love (Parlophone 5744 1968)
Aram Khachaturian transcribed to guitar by Dave Edmunds and friends. It works and it rocks. Definitely not to be confused with ELP’s later pretentious, overblown and ridiculous classical ‘interpretations’.

MASSIVE ATTACK – Safe From Harm / mixes (Wild Bunch 3 1991)
With its rolling bass line taken from Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” and unforgettably sinister video, this is one of the very best tracks that the band have done. It’s eerie and atmospheric and menacing with Shara Nelson sounding both fearful and defiant as 3D turns up the creepiness up to 11 with his tongue twisting asides.

STONE ROSES – Sally Cinnamon / Here It Comes (Revolver 36 1987)
Innocent and untainted by ego and hubris, “Sally Cinnamon” is a pure and simple jangly pop tune that owes as much to Sarah Records as it does to the Smiths.

FLYING SAUCER ATTACK – Sally Free and Easy / Three Seas (Domino 48 1996)
More about this here.

POGUES – Sally McLennane / Wild Rover (Stiff 224 1985)
A song about farewells, friendship and pub culture that has both the rousing camaraderie and beer-fueled sentimentality of drunken comrades saluting one of their own.

DIZZY GILLESPIE QUINTET – Salt Peanuts / Hot House (Guild 1003 1945)
“Salt Peanuts” is one of the defining tunes of the bop era. Written by Gillespie and drummer Kenny Clarke in 1942, it mirrors the cry of a street vendor whilst racing dizzily around the central theme.

ROLLING STONES – Satisfaction / The Spider and the Fly (Decca 12220 1965)
Some songs are so over-familiar that they become jaded. I certainly wouldn’t sit down and decide that I need to listen to “Satisfaction”. Why would I? I’ve heard it a zillion times. Every note is imprinted in my brain. Writing this now, it’s churning away in my head. That’s no fault of the song, though, and to exclude it on grounds of over-familiarity would be churlish.

LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANI FIVE – Saturday Night Fish Fry / part 2 (Decca 24725 1949)
This two part comic song about a raid on a dance and grub joint is done without anger or bitterness, but simply told as a humorous story. The thing is, it didn’t need to be angry or bitter. Seeing the funny side of a situation that would be all too familiar to Jordan’s audience was a coping mechanism. Listeners knew too well the kind of brutal raids that happened by violent and racist police forces and didn’t need a lecture about it. Just the recognition that it was happening, and pushing the fact into the mainstream was enough. By dressing anger in humour, things can be said that would otherwise be suppressed. It’s the strength of satire.

UNCLE TUPELO – Sauget Wind / Looking For a Way Out / Take My Word (Rockville 6089 1992)
A vinyl only single release that didn’t appear on CD until the release of the Anthology album ten years later, “Sauget Wind” is in some ways the archetypal Uncle Tupelo song. It takes the form of the Depression era working class ballad and updates it for the modern era, both musically and topically. The Sauget Wind is the late twentieth century equivalent of the thirties dustbowl. Instead of soil erosion and barren land, the wind brings pollution, poison and sickness. Chemicals pumped into the air by industries whose first and only concern is profit, aided by authorities ideologically allergic to any kind of regulation.

DRIFTERS – Save the Last Dance For Me / Nobody But Me (Atlantic 2071 1960)
After accidentally inventing the ‘wall of sound’ with their first hit with the new look Drifters, Leiber and Stoller reined things in a bit production wise for this Pomus and Shuman penned song. It was lighter, less dense, but still profusely orchestrated and a pop-soul benchmark.

JAMES BROWN – Say It Loud – I’m Black & I’m Proud / part 2 (King 6187 1968)
Does was it says on the tin. One of the records that defined the political and social upheavals of 1968.

GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE – Scorpio / It’s a Shame (Sugar Hill 790 1982)
“Scorpio” is one of a number of tracks that Flash himself didn’t appear on. With its vocoder vocals, it’s much more in tune with the burgeoning electro scene and the likes of Hashim and Cybotron than it is to hip hop. It rocks, though.

More soon

Music Timeline


That’s the link for an ongoing project that will eventually see a complete chronological timeline of musical development from prehistory to the present day. There are plenty of others on the web but they generally lack much in the way of detail, or are specific to one topic. This one is intended to break down the (artificial) boundaries between different genres and cover all types of musical culture. There’s a long way to go, and inevitably some areas are going to be covered much better than others, but I hope that it will eventually be a useful, comprehensive and reliable information source.

I started it something like two years ago, primarily as a database for my own use. Since May I’ve been gradually building it up as a website – the link’s been there on the left. I didn’t want to publicise it too much because there wasn’t a lot there. It’s still very much a work in progress – the last 45 years are conspicuous by their absence – but gradually the gaps are getting filled in.

Have a look – any feedback, help or corrections will be appreciated.

Oxjam Glasgow Takeover 2009


The annual Oxjam jamboree takes place in Glasgow this weekend (Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th). For a measly eight quid, you can get access to 15 venues and over 100 acts plus a few secret special guests (I know who some of them are, but am sworn to secrecy)

The Saturday venues are the 13th Note on King Street, the Metropolitan in Merchant Square, the ABC and the V Club on Sauchiehall Street, the marvellous Britannia Panopticon on Trongate, Blackfriars on Bell Street, the Vale on Dundas Street and Sloans, Argyle Arcade.

On Sunday, the action takes place at the Brunswick Hotel and Basura Blanco on Brunswick Street, Pivo Pivo and the Admiral Bar on Waterloo Street, Capitol on Sauchiehall Street, McChuills on the High Street and Mono in King’s Court.

Annoyingly, I’m working both nights down in the arse end of Govan, so I’m going to miss it all.