A Few Forthcoming Releases – January 09

Some of the new albums slated for early 2009.

5th Jan
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON – Environments 2 (Jumpin’ & Pumpin’)
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON – From the Archives Volume 5 (Jumpin’ & Pumpin’)

12th Jan
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino)
BRETHREN OF THE FREE SPIRIT – The Wolf Shall Also Dwell With the Lamb (Darla)
KTL – IV (Mego)
MERZBOW – Hodosan (Vivo)
THE LOW FREQUENCY IN STEREO – Futura (Rune Grammofon)
VARIOUS – Factory Records – Communications 1978-1992 (Rhino)

19th Jan
JAH WOBBLE – Chinese Dub (30 Hertz)
MENDOZA – Si Me Duermo… Choco (Static Discos)

26th Jan
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Working On a Dream (Columbia)
DÄLEK – Gutter Tactics (Ipecac)
JEM COHEN / SMZ / VIC CHESNUTT – Empires of Tin (DVD) (Constellation)
LARS HORNTVETH – Kaleidoscopic (Smalltown Supersound)
MERZBOW – 13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 1 (Important)
MY BLOODY VALENTINE – Isn’t Anything / Loveless remasters (Sony)
THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – Field Studies (Magic Bullet)
VARIOUS – Complete Motown Singles Volume 11a (UK) (Universal)

2nd Feb
CHRIS ECKMAN – Last Side of the Mountain (Glitterhouse)
DAKOTA SUITE – The End of Trying (Karaoke Kalk)
HARMONIC 313 – When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp)
VARIOUS – Rough Trade Shops – Counter Culture 2008 (Rough Trade)

9th Feb
MOS DEF – The Ecstatic (Downtown)
NELS CLINE – Coward (Cryptogramophon)
RAYMOND SCOTT WOOLSON – Broken Things Mended (Clairecords)

16th Feb
MOUNTAINS – Choral (Thrill Jockey)

23rd Feb
PAN AMERICAN – White Bird Release (Kranky)

2nd Mar
GRANDMASTER FLASH – The Bridge (Strut)

9th Mar
TIM EXILE – Listening Tree (Warp)


Album: PHILLIP WILKERSON – New Smyrna (Clinical Archives CA198 2008)


The cover makes New Smyrna appear like one of those Ibiza ambient chill out compilations. Covers can be misleading. Phillip Wilkerson’s album has its share of ambient moments, but this is much more of a minimal affair. Most tracks are based around microtonal clicks and pops, fleshed out with loops that range from dream house synth washes to small scale electro melodies; from drones to micro-house rhythmic clusters.

There is a lot of repetition and very little progression within each track. What you get in the first minute is more or less what you get in the final one. There is plenty of variation between the twelve tunes, but each is set on its own course, with the minimum of change. This kind of structural rigidity is fine in itself and lends a hypnotic quality to some of the pieces. Others, though, feel a little hollow and outstay their welcome long before they draw to a close.

Closing track “Afternoon Recess” is very different to everything preceding it – a twelve minute electro-house tune that is more akin to Lindstrøm than anything else on New Smyrna. Generally, this is a good set that would have benefited from tighter editing. It’s available as a free download from Clinical Archives

1 New Smyrna 9:05
2 Sand Dance 7:30
3 Ambient Digression 6:22
4 Fayalite 5:36
5 Rum & Sour 4:55
6 Sons of Ares 6:10
7 Signal Groove 4:50
8 Joy By Moonlight 8:21
9 Prominent Lineae 7:04
10 Arc Tangent 6:20
11 One Day in 2012 7:00
12 Afternoon Recess – New Mix 12:42


The M M & M 1000 part 10

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. We’re on to the Cs now.

JONI MITCHELL – California / A Case of You (Reprise 1049 1971)
Blue isn’t Joni Mitchell’s most musically adventurous album, but it is her most emotionally true and pure. There isn’t a weak song on it. “California” is a paean, not so much to the titular state, but to her old days in Canada, whereas “A Case of You” is a beautifully evocative portrait of punch-drunk love.

DEAD KENNEDYS – California Uber Alles / The Man With the Dogs (Alternative Tentacles 95-41 1979)
Jello Biafra’s nightmarish vision of a kind of flower-child fascism seems almost twee when viewed against the nightmares of Reagan and Bush II. In some ways, though, it’s quite prescient considering Arnie’s dad’s dodgy past back in Austria.

FIRE ENGINES – Candyskin / Meat Whiplash (Pop Aural 10 1981)
Edinburgh’s finest the Fire Engines took time out from their breathless post-punk squawk-rock to deliver a (relatively) gentle singalong pop tune. Of course, it’s still as abrasive as anything, but you can whistle it.

THE BREEDERS – Cannonball / Cro-Aloha / Lord of the Thighs / 900 (4AD 3011 1993)
Undoubtedly the Deal twins finest three minutes, “Cannonball” has a Pixie-ish quiet/loud dynamic, but somehow manages to be both off-kilter and more-ish at the same time.

THE SUNDAYS – Can’t Be Sure / I Kicked a Boy (Rough Trade 218 1989)
COME – Car / Last Mistake / Submerge (Sub Pop 115 1991)

The Sundays arrived on a tidal wave of hype, hailed as the Smiths with a sweet girl-next-door singer. Nerdy adolescents swooned by the thousand. The band could never live up to such expectations, but “Can’t Be Sure” is a lovely song and Harriet Wheeler’s voice is like a spring flower in first blossom. Thalia Zedek is the anti-Wheeler. World-weary, battered, beaten but defiant. Come songs exist in a state of near emotional and physical collapse. Most sad songs have a wistful melancholy about them. Not Come’s. “Car” is the agony of loss writ real and writ ugly.

BESSIE SMITH – Careless Love / He’s Gone Blues (Columbia 14083 1925)
Bessie Smith had been recording for several years, but “Careless Love” was the record that made her name. Reputedly a million seller several times over, such statistics are hard to verify in the pre-chart era. It nevertheless deserves its reputation as one of the greatest blues recordings of any era.

BRIAN WILSON – Caroline, No / Summer Means New Love (Capitol 5610 1966)
Billed on 45 as a solo effort, Pet Sounds’ beautiful closing song was an odd choice for a single. Its sentiment – the disappointment of seeing a girl growing into a fully-functioning, independent woman – is more than a tad misogynist. But then Brian Wilson has never exactly been a fully-functioning, independent man, so it’s perhaps forgivable.

PREFAB SPROUT – Cars and Girls / Vendetta (Kitchenware 35 1988)
From Langley Park to Memphis is one of the most eighties-sounding records ever made. The production is all gloss and sheen with absolutely no depth. “Cars and Girls” survives relatively unscathed. A great song – about a million times less annoying than “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

SLOWDIVE – Catch the Breeze / Shine (Creation 112 1991)
Generally pilloried in the press at the time – even their own record company didn’t appear to like them very much – Slowdive turned out to be one of the most influential acts of their era. The formula was simple enough. Guitar chords processed into long drones, funereal pace and sad tunes. The Wonderstuff they weren’t. For that much alone the world should be eternally grateful.

EVERLY BROTHERS – Cathy’s Clown / Always It’s You (Cadence 1348 1960)
Teenage cruelty is not a new phenomenon. “Here he comes – that’s Cathy’s clown”. Ouch! Poor sap.

GO-BETWEENS – Cattle and Cane / Heaven Says (Rough Trade 124 1983)
I grew up in the suburban home counties. Grant McLennan grew up in rural Queensland. There’s not a great deal that the two have in common, but “Cattle and Cane” transports me back to the bucolic summers of a childhood spent in eastern Australia as if it were my own. That is the mark of a powerful song.

NEW ORDER – Ceremony / In a Lonely Place (Factory 33 1981)
Both the last great Joy Division song and the first great New Order song. By rights, it really shouldn’t sound so damned uplifting, but there’s no denying that it is four and a half minutes of unfettered joy, even if Barney gives the impression that he hasn’t the faintest idea what Ian’s lyrics are about.

More soon

Album: NEIL YOUNG – Sugar Mountain. Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise 49839 2008)


Sugar Mountain is the third in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series, confusingly numbered 00 (after previous volumes 02 and 03). It was recorded over two nights at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan in November 1968, just a couple of months before Young’s self-titled debut album hit the shelves. Like the previously issued Massey Hall show from 1971, this is a solo set, but the two are very different beasts. This earlier show is much looser and spontaneous, peppered with anecdotes, reminiscences and other rambling monologues.

Sound quality, as you’d hope, is very good, and the set largely consists of a mixture of Buffalo Springfield classics and songs from the solo debut. The title track is the same take that appeared on something like three early B sides as well as the 1977 compilation Decade, but nothing else has been issued before.

Neil Young was a largely acoustic affair, so the versions presented here aren’t radically different. “Last Trip to Tulsa” is as rambling and weird as ever. More interesting are the (necessarily) radical reinterpretations of the Springfield songs. “Expecting to Fly”, in its original incarnation, is a sweeping orchestral lament, but it holds up well as a stripped down acoustic ballad. “Mr Soul” translates from a Stones like rocker to a jaunty folk tune with little difficulty. Most surprising is how well the intricate and multi-part suite “Broken Arrow” stands up. It oughtn’t work, but does.

The Massey Hall show gave us acoustic Neil at the peak of his powers. Sugar Mountain is more a soiree amongst friends – more intimate and with funny moments. To say it was essential would be to stretch things somewhat, but it’s certainly enjoyable.

The DVD contains a DVD-Audio recording of the gigs (which refused to play on my PC for reasons I’m not entirely clear about) and a five minute video trailer for the forthcoming archives box (which did play). Talking of which, the scheduled release date for the ten DVD / Blu-ray collection is February 24th. Amazon US are taking advanced orders at an eye watering $310.49! That’s £200, give or take. Recession, what recession?

1 Emcee Intro 0:45
2 On The Way Home 2:51
3 Songwriting Rap 3:12
4 Mr.Soul 3:13
5 Recording Rap 0:30
6 Expecting To Fly 2:38
7 The Last Trip To Tulsa 8:35
8 Bookstore Rap 4:26
9 The Loner 4:41
10 “I Used To…” Rap 0:37
11 Birds 2:16
12 Winterlong (Excerpt) & Out Of My Mind – Intro 1:38
13 Out Of My Mind 2:07
14 If I Could Have Her Tonight 2:34
15 Classical Gas Rap 0:40
16 Sugar Mountain – Intro 0:29
17 Sugar Mountain 5:46
18 I’ve Been Waiting For You 2:04
19 Songs Rap 0:37
20 Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing 4:43
21 Tuning Rap & The Old Laughing Lady – Intro 3:06
22 The Old Laughing Lady 7:25
23 Broken Arrow 5:08


Zavvi goes into administration

Details here.

It’s never good to see companies going belly up and people losing their jobs, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. The problems stemmed from Zavvi’s distributor being part of the failed Woolworths group, but I think the days of the soul-less music and DVD supermarket were pretty much numbered anyway. I wouldn’t give HMV too long, although they might benefit for a while from the elimination of a competitor.

Of course, what will follow is a load of ill-informed garbage about the death of the CD, or more accurately, the physical form of recorded music carriage. Logically, the arguments are sound, but then logically, vinyl should belong to the Victoria & Albert Museum by now, and not be a growing sector of the market.

Humans are acquisitive creatures, by and large. For many people, the joy of owning an artefact – be it a book, a record or a painting – is as great as the actual corporeal experience. Music isn’t a thing. A novel isn’t a thing. But there is a joy in a well-stocked library, or in groaning shelves of vinyl that is about more than just the words or music.

Funnily enough, I was talking to one of the guys who works in Monorail (Glasgow’s incomparable leftfield record shop – a kind of mini Rough Trade, but cheaper) last night, and he was saying that they’ve been defying the recession / depression, with continuing healthy sales. But then, a trip to a shop like that is akin to being a member of a secret club. You rarely leave with just what you came for, and who knows what intriguing new stuff you’ll get to hear / be recommended / buy on a whim.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fopp began a mega-sale today. I couldn’t even get through the door of their Byres Road branch, so they must be doing something right! Fopp’s selling point is discounted catalogue. If you’re not careful, you end up buying things you never even knew you wanted before you went in. It’s a model that’s served them well over the years. Only ill-thought out over-expansion brought the chain to its knees last year. A case of buying what they couldn’t afford. Ironically, I would say the greatest danger to Fopp’s survival is now their saviour and parent company HMV. It’s a weird twist of fate.

The M M & M 1000 – part 9

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Whizzing through to the end of the Bs.

MADONNA – Borderline / Think of Me (Sire 29354 1984)
Eighties dance-pop at its best.

UNDERWORLD – Born Slippy / Born Slippy .NUXX (Junior Boys Own 1995)
Pounding techno-trance with stream of consciousness vocals. It still sounds as euphoric today as it ever did.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Born to Run / Meeting Across the River (Columbia 10209 1975)
Another obvious selection, I suppose. Bruce’s Spectoresque anthem of teen rebellion is a thing of unfettered joy.

GIL SCOTT-HERON – The Bottle / Part 2 (Arista 225 1976)
It’s a sad irony that the vibrant, righteous author of this anti-alcoholism anthem ended up a crackhead.

SIMON & GARFUNKEL – The Boxer / Baby Driver (Columbia 44785 1969)
Another well-thumbed classic tune. Li-le-li, li-le-le-li-li-le-li, li-le-li (boom).

THE SMITHS – The Boy With the Thorn In His Side / Asleep (Rough Trade 191 1985)
The Smiths were always at their best, for me, when Johnny Marr provided sunny, uplifting melodies to contrast with Morrissey’s innate miserablism. Although B side “Asleep” is one of their best exercises in morbidity.

THE CURE – Boys Don’t Cry / Plastic Passion (Fiction 2 1979)
Thirty years old now, the Cure have never made a better pure pop record as far as I’m concerned.

THE POGUES – The Boys From the County Hell / Repeal of the Licensing Laws (Stiff 212 1984)
Booze, rain, taverns, disreputable landlords, and stacks more booze. Perhaps the quintessential Pogues song.

DON HENLEY – The Boys of Summer / A Month of Sundays (Geffen 29141 1984)
In which one of the figureheads of seventies excess satirizes eighties excess, and somehow gets away with it, with the help of some memorable lines and a damn fine tune.

THE DOORS – Break on Through / End of the Night (Elektra 45611 1967)
I’m of the school of opinion that Jim Morrison was a fat, misogynist drunk rather than some mystical, poetical spirit. Even so, the first couple of Doors albums are undeniably good. “Break on Through” whizzes past, borne aloft by a vital bass organ riff.

WEST STREET MOB – Breakdance – Electric Boogie / Let Your Mind Be Free (Sugar Hill 460 1983)
One of the seminal electro tracks to come out of early eighties Brooklyn.

THE GUN CLUB – The Breaking Hands / Crabdance / Nobody’s City (Red Rhino 89 1988)
I was never much of a fan of Robin Guthrie as producer. Too often he seemed to sap all the dynamism out of records. “The Breaking Hands” is one notable exception where his trebly guitar sheen fits amazingly well with Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s southern Gothic crew.

SIMON & GARFUNKEL – Bridge Over Troubled Water / Keep the Customer Satisfied (Columbia 45079 1970)
It may be over-familiar, but the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production combined with Artie’s most soulful vocal ever, never fail to hit the spot.

JIMMY REED – Bright Lights, Big City / I’m Mr Luck (Vee-Jay 398 1961)
There’s a lazy, almost drunken lilt to this tune which is completely missed by the zillions of pub back room blues bands who have covered it over nearly half a century.

THROWING MUSES – Bright Yellow Gun / Like a Dog (4AD 4018 1994)
Post Real Ramona, the Muses moved more and more into fairly straight hard rock, and away from the quirky and original signatures and structures that characterized their early records. They still managed to pull some great tunes out of the bag, though, and “Bright Yellow Gun” is as good as any alt-rock tune of the era.

SAM COOKE – Bring it on Home to Me / Having a Party (RCA 8036 1962)
Sam Cooke could sing the phone book and make it sound soulful. “Bring it on Home to Me” is a love song that sounds like a Gospel tune.

BO DIDDLEY – Bring it to Jerome / Pretty Thing (Checker 827 1955)
Bo Diddley made plenty of great records, although, to be fair, they rarely diverged that much from his basic template. “Bring it to Jerome” has a kind of eastern raga feel to it which makes it stand out a bit from some of his others.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN – Bring on the Dancing Horses / Over My Shoulder (Korova 43 1985)
Like Simple Minds, there was a precise point when the Bunnymen went from making vibrant and compelling records to over-produced, slick and empty FM rock. This was their “Don’t You Forget About Me” – a good tune, but really the end of the line as far as interesting music went.

PUBLIC ENEMY – Bring the Noise / Sophisticated (Def Jam 440754 1988)
The best single of the eighties? Very possibly.

VAN MORRISON – Brown Eyed Girl / Goodbye Baby (Bang 545 1967)
They were playing this in the supermarket yesterday (which makes a change from bloody Xmas songs). It’s one of those songs that are pretty much ubiquitous, but unlike most, doesn’t make you want to tear your ears off every time you hear it. Still sounds pretty fresh, actually.

MILES DAVIS – Budo / Move (Capitol 15404 1948)
The tunes that Miles recorded with his nonet in 1948/9 were some of the most remarkable and forward thinking jazz tracks of the post-war era. “Budo” and “Move” were tow of the best. All are now readily available on The Birth of the Cool, of course.

INNERZONE ORCHESTRA – Bug in the Bassbin / mixes (Mo Wax 49 1996)
Is it jazz or is it techno? Frankly, who cares. This ten minute bass and percussion dominated piece was a long way from the futuristic techno that Carl Craig recorded under his own name, but remains one of the best and most influential tracks of the mid nineties. It proved that jazz/dance crossover needn’t be spliff-toking noodling.

GIRLS AGAINST BOYS – Bulletproof Cupid / Sharkmeat (Touch & Go 115 1993)
It’s the bass, stupid. A great rumbling, tumbling bass riff that drives the song along like a racing car. I’ve barely ever even noticed the rest.

JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – The Burning of the Midnight Lamp / The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice (Track 604007 1967)
L(aughing) S(am’s) D(ice). Do you see what he did there? If anything, the A side is trippier with a monster, panning riff and space rocket effects. Cool.

EVERLY BROTHERS – Bye Bye Love / I Wonder If I Care as Much (Cadence 1315 1957)
Boy, they could do some schmaltz (check out the hilarious “Ebony Eyes), but there’s no denying that there were few who could do close harmony better than the Everlys, as this early classic of theirs attests.

More soon