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.

The M M & M 1000 – part 45

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. The end of the Rs.

MODERN LOVERS – Roadrunner Once / Roadrunner Twice (Beserkley 1 1977)
The rhythm’s straight out of the Neu motorik! handbook. The bass line is equally hypnotic. On top of it, Jonathan Richman’s vocal is almost a chant, with the chorus a primitive response of “Radio On”. It gives the song the sense of the monotony of night time freeway driving, with just the radio to break the tedium.

LONNIE DONEGAN – Rock Island Line / John Henry (Decca 10647 1955)
The UK skiffle boom started with Lonnie Donegan, Beryl Bryden and Chris Barber doing short sets of American folk-blues songs such as this one by Leadbelly during the interval at gigs by Barber’s jazz band. With Donegan singing and playing guitar, Bryden providing a washboard rhythm and Barber the stand-up bass, the blueprint for hundreds of skiffle combos was set.

DAVID BOWIE – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide / Quicksand (RCA 5021 1974)
Cabaret singer Camille O’Sullivan does a superb version of this at her live shows, with the accent on the Brel like melodrama of the song. Chuck in Mick Ronson’s sinister guitar climax and you have one of Bowie’s best songs of the Ziggy era.

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD – Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman / A Child’s Claim to Fame (Atco 6519 1967)
Despite the rock cliché title, this is one of Stephen Stills’ best tunes, with the harmonies a kind of trial run for those that made CSN superstars.

JACKIE BRENSTON – Rocket 88 / Come Back Where You Belong (Chess 1458 1951)
A classic rock ‘n’ roll record. The first rock ‘n’ roll record? Many claim so, but it’s a pointless debate. No one record was beamed in from the future to provide a rock year zero. It’s a debate about something that has no answer.

HERBIE HANCOCK – Rockit / version (Columbia 4054 1983)
Jazz purists like to snort haughtily at Herbie Hancock’s excursions into the mainstream, but he’s always managed to incorporate things like funk, disco and in this case electro without coming across as a tourist or a bandwagon jumper. This isn’t jazz. Even so, Hancock’s playing still retains a definite jazz-like looseness even on something as stripped down and robotic as this.

REM – (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville / Catapult (IRS 9931 1984)
“Rockville” was REM’s most straightforward statement up to that point – a sixties soaked country-rock tune with a singalong chorus. It could almost have been a Monkees tune.

BARRY ANDREWS – Rossmore Road / Win a Night Out With a Well Known Paranoiac (Virgin 378 1980)
A genuine cult record. Not widely known at all, but generally loved by those who do know it. Andrews was the keyboard player with XTC, and “Rossmore Road” was a lush, melancholy hymn to the eponymous suburban street. The B side is a cracked, rambling semi-jazz thing along the lines of Joni’s “Twisted”

THELONIOUS MONK QUINTET – Round About Midnight / Well You Needn’t (Blue Note 543 1947)
In my mind, the finest tune to come out of the bop era, and much covered. The melody is fairly simple, romantic and wistfully nocturnal, despite some quite unusual chords. It’s been covered a zillion times (Robert Wyatt’s is the best), but nothing has the same evocative noir-ish atmosphere as this 1947 recording.

THE FALL – Rowche Rumble / In My Area (Step Forward 11 1979)
Amazing to think that thirty years on, the Fall are still making great records. Powered by a tinny organ riff and tribal drums, this invective against Big Pharma (as no one called it then) still sounds as fresh and exciting as the day it came out.

DR FEELGOOD – Roxette / Route 66 (United Artists 35760 1974)
THE SPINNERS – The Rubberband Man / Now That We’re Together (Atlantic 3355 1976)
LINK WRAY – Rumble / The Swag (Cadence 1347 1958)

So many songs on this list are built upon an outstanding, but simple bass line. These three very different tunes are all examples of that. “Roxette”, the Feelgoods’ finest three minutes, has a punishing three note bass riff over which Wilko Johnson provides a clipped guitar harmony. Add Lee Brilleaux’s growling, angry vocal, and you have a menacing tale of the adulterer caught red-handed. The Spinners didn’t enter the disco era with generic pap like so many of their peers, but came up with this beauty kept afloat by a boinging rubber bass that has the same in your face repetition as Giorgio Moroder’s synth riffs. On top, the harmonies were as lush as ever. Link Wray’s “Rumble” is a prowling beast that almost plods along on a slow walking bass line that gives the guitarist free reign to sketch the most primitive of melodies with a series of thrashed chords. It’s dirty, sullen and delinquent – the perfect rock record.

DEL SHANNON – Runaway / Jody (Big Top 3067 1961)
Conventional rock history will have you believe that pop music was all bland and sugary between 1958, when the original rock & roll era burned itself out and 1963 when the Beatles arrived on their white chargers to save it. Piffle. Link Wray, Johnny Kidd, the Wailers, Sandy Nelson and countless others kept the primitive rock flame alive during this period while Motown, Stax and southern soul were blossoming. Even mainstream pop acts like Del Shannon were coming up with records that were as sonically adventurous as they were catchy. “Runaway” has a great proto-synth break, a great chorus and a futuristic, effects-laden production. It’s far more forward-looking than anything the Beatles managed until 1965.

SLY & THE FAMILY STONE – Runnin’ Away / Brave and Strong (Epic 10829 1972)
I’ve said it before in these pages, but I find There’s a Riot Goin’ On close to unlistenable. The tunes are fine, but the production is muffled and worn with all the dynamics squeezed out of it. “Runnin’ Away” emerges more or less unscathed, mainly because it’s quite a downbeat, introspective tune to begin with.

ROY ORBISON – Running Scared / Love Hurts (Monument 438 1961)
The Big O’s bolero. Da-da-da-daah, da-da-da-daah goes the rhythm. Tango? Not sure, but it lays a dramatic foundation for Orbison to build on with one of his typically grandiose, emotionally raw melodramas.

KATE BUSH – Running Up That Hill / Under the Ivy (EMI KATE1 1985)
I’m not a huge Kate Bush fan. It’s not her voice, which many people find irritating, but her tendency to over-produce and over-complicate things. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that this track is an absolute marvel. The production is as dense as they come, but it all fits together to give it a real sense of propulsion. And the song glides brilliantly over the top (in all senses of the phrase). A stunning achievement.

More soon