Friday, 31 July 2009

Blur - B-Sides (1990-'99)

^ Best song they ever did, period...

First off, this has nothing to do with the group's chequebook-balancing reunion - something I really couldn't care less about. It's a measured selection of 20 of the best B-sides and non-album tracks, including 2003's white label 'Don't Bomb If You're the Bomb'. Gloss over that though, because the meat of this is focused on the good stuff - offcuts from the Modern Life Is Rubbish era (possibly the last choking plea for sanity from indie rock Britain produced) which particularly draw attention to the influence of a little band called Wire.
Blur's initial submission to their label Food for their sophomore album was rejected for being too weird, so of course it has some of the best songs. They often suffer from the B-side syndrome of great ideas laboriously stretched out to song length, but what else did you expect? This includes most of (but not all) of the much-revered 'Popscene' EP. It's garnered mostly from the box set of their singles released in 1999, and if there are any particularly impassioned requests for the rest of it I'd be up to fulfilling them.

Unfortunately I was only born in time to see them touring the portentous Think Tank in 2003. What a fucking jip.

modern life is sadistic water torture

^Or was it this?

Film: Noroi / the Curse (2005)

There are some exciting uploads on the way for you readers, real and phantom alike. Until then here's an above-average J-horror film I just viddied on the Boobtubes:

Noroi is a healthy mixture of profoundly scary and unintentionally funny, for some reason I can't make up my mind about it, which is either a sign that it's not that good or repeated viewing is required...

One day, maybe, the world will be treated to a horror renaissance on a par with the first time we saw Ringu or the Blair Witch Project; back in those dark, formulaic days of the Hollywood slasher revival. But Noroi isn't it. Still worth watching if you have the chance (i.e. now), it's essentially a hybrid of those two aforementioned classics: a chiller presented as a documentary of real events, incorporating the slow-moving but effective demons 'n' curses template of Japanese horror. True to that form it avoids cheap shots and pummels you with dread (a little too densely at times I thought, something that bothers me about another, much more confusing J-horror standard Ju-On/the Grudge); so when the camera finally gives you a 'money shot' you wet your proverbial pants.

It's an interesting, if relatively minor, deviation from the long worn-out formula of girls with long hair over their faces, creepy psychic children and confusing plots with loose ends.

Things to look out for:
Mr. Hori, the comic relief;
Approximately 7:38 on part 11;
Fetus ghosts


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Klaus Mitffoch - Klaus Mitffoch (1984)

Lech Jaierka - bass/vocals (went on to a long solo career)
Krzysztof Pociecha - guitar/backing vocals
Wiesław Mrozik - guitar/backing vocals
Marek Puchała - drums/backing vocals

Since I am primarily of Polish descent, a mind-bendingly good Polish album is something I hold very dear. And in case you needed reminding, the flourishing generation of Polish musicians in the wake of punk all created under (and were frequently censored by) the vigilant policing of the Soviet Union, which by this point was losing it's tenuous grip on Eastern Europe. There is a lot of great music from Cold War Europe, which will find it's way on to this blog, but I consider the sole album by Klaus Mitffoch to be one of the best.

Wikipedia cites Klaus Mitffoch as being Poland's answer to Gang of Four, and while the influence is obvious and welcomed it just doesn't do them justice. (And remember this is before a GoF influence constituted the lame-dicked, chart-topping dirge of the media's 'post-punk revivial' in the early Noughties).
Klaus Mittffoch, as the song 'Nie jestem z nikim' states, are not with anyone, and display a quality that Gang of Four and, understandably, most of their Polish peers did not possess - a sense of humour and playfulness. The album might broadly be described as the ultimate collage of new wave/cold wave (the icy synth-led European equivalent) madness with occasional progressive tendencies... well it might and it just has!
Every song is packed with hooks delivered at outta-my-way speed, but just when you think you have them pegged Klaus Mitffoch will rein it in and deliver a glacial classic like some twisted interpretation of Magazine's 'Permafrost', or make an unexpected timechange. But they rarely slow down enough to stop barking profound-sounding slogans that I am shamefully ill-equipped to interpret.

^This is a good example although there are better songs - it starts out very 'Gang', goes coldwave in the chorus then has a funny bridge.

The band don't want you to take them too seriously either, there are some weird near-psychedelic passages and unexpected flourishes that persist in shaking things up. And unlike much 'cold wave', the production never feels like it's indulging it's own sense of hopelessness, in fact the clean and compressed effects are used as tools for Klaus Mitffoch's own nefarious ends, and only serve to shine a light on their playing ability (I'm sure some digging would reveal they were a jazz fusion outfit in the 70's or something).

This new upload originally came from the sterling Proskynesis blog which is a real treasure trove, go visit, and download the 'Fala' compilation if you want to get to the bedrock of Polish post-punk. The strange logic behind this repeat upload is something along the lines of: EVERYBODYMUSTHEARTHISNOW.

Now as the man says, 'have a nice day and go fuck yourself'.

Jestem tu jestem tam / here I am here I am

Januscz x

Monday, 27 July 2009

Los Shakers - La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto's Bar (1968)

Hugo Fattoruso - guitar/piano/harmonica/vocals
Osvaldo Fattoruso - guitar/vocals
Roberto 'Pelín' Capobianco - bass/backing vocals
Carlos 'Caio' Vila - drums/backing vocals

Do yourself a favour and download this now, and listen while you read. Because this is a good one, a real diamond in the rough that was 60's international beat pop. By this I mean that, regrettably, there were very few non-Western groups of the the era that weren't direct cash-ins on Beatlemania, or the worldwide popularity of the Stones and the Kinks.
Everything was carbon-copied from the 'four-headed monster' template: the haircuts, the songs (normally just making minor alterations to the chord sequences of the latest hit, if not just simply releasing no-frills cover versions), the teen exploitation movies, the 'cheeky' parent-baiting personalities... It doesn't sound too promising so far does it?

Similar to the Japanese 'Group Sounds' wave of commercial pop, South American groups were dragging the early 60's beat template well into the latter part of the decade, long after the fickle trendsetters in the US and UK had moved on. The band being presented here, Los Shakers, played rowdy beat pop and were modelled after the Fab Four, while their 'rivals' Los Mockers were Stones clones. That's not to say there weren't great original songs being produced in the region, or even a few classics albums (that I'm aware of), the most infamous example being Brazil's Os Mutantes. What made that album so great was the reappropriation of epic, psychedelic chamber pop with traditional music styles, making it a Sgt. Pepper's-inspired album that sounds totally Brazilian (this individuality, of course, earned them only the ire of the government).

^ This is Los Shakers' biggest garage-like hit from the 'Invasion' era, and the best example of their lasting legacy in 60's Latin beat... 'La Conferencia' doesn't sound like this, but I love this track as it lives up to their one-dimensional name.

So that's all very well, but in 1967 Los Shakers had also been listening to this Sgt. Pepper's, and like everyone else must have realised that things would never be the same again. This revolution came from the band that was their bread and butter, the very reason for their existence. They had to move on.
By this time the Shakers had made their mark as leaders of the 'Uruguaryan Invasion' (which for some reason was mainly an Argentine phenomenon); and like the Monkees in America, they were a talented band on a commercial leash who were beginning to get itchy feet.
The 1968 loose-concept extravaganza 'La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto's Bar' is the result. This is a ridiculously good high-pop album and a criminally overlooked world contender. Not only is it all the more respectable for incorporating Latin candombe and tango styles into the mix (yet still sung in English), but it's a huge leap from the restrictive beat formula they stuck to previously.
Predictably, the EMI label execs couldn't see past their pay cheques, and dropped Los Shakers for not producing an LP of 3-minute hits. I'm sure if Los Shakers had stuck it out and waited for the Argentinian market to catch up, this might have been better received. Unfortunately it was not to be and this was their last album-proper.

It's all a bit mystifying, especially as to the modern listener every song on 'the Secret Conference of Toto's Bar' is instantly catchy. Sure, the first half of track one has a vocal line that sound uncomfortably like 'I Am the Walrus', but that's where the Beatles-hijacking of old ends.
It may not be startlingly original, it may be sung in broken (but charming and comprehensible) English, and it may also be in the same symphonic ballpark as Sgt. Pepper's and Pet Sounds; but the songs more than speak for themselves and some real classics come to light.
The band is easily as tight as those Other Guys, their harmonies are up their with the Wilson brigade, and their songwriting and composition skills didn't seem to suffer from a career languishing in pastiche. In fact, you'd swear they had been secretly practising for this moment all along...

Una descargar muy especial, incluyendo obras de arte!* @320kbps, remaster with (good) extra tracks
Uno Dos

*disclaimer: I don't speak Spanish. Please correct me.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Set: Iration Steppas Meets Zion Train (UK Dub)

Iration Steppas Meets Zion Train
Recorded @ Dub Club 29 October 2000, Dingwalls, London
Length 1:09:24

Iration Steppas meets Zion

What: great soundsystem clash featuring Leeds' finest Iration Steppas versus Zion Train (London-based but initially formed in my old hometown of Oxford!)

What??: A disorientating blend of dub, dancehall, roots, ragga. Hiss is not bad, but if it bothers you lower the treble, and it goes without saying push the bass.

As it turns out, Zion Train are headlining the value-for-money Endorse-It-In-Dorset festival which takes place in one of the most beautiful country settings in England, if you are local and have never been I strongly suggest checking it out. (That's coming from somebody that abhors festivals with a passion).
Also on the bill are my favourite unsigned pop experimentalists Henry's Phonograph, all their stuff is free to download and they 'get it', apparently.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Fall - Fall In A Hole (1983)

^Click to enlarge. Awkard New Zealand 'zine interview

The third live album here, for you trainspotting Fallites. Recorded on the August, 1982 NZ leg in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington respectively. Back when I posted Totale's Turns I claimed that it was the best Fall live album (by definition one of the greatest live albums ever), and 'Fall In A Hole' only narrowly fails to top it. But if TT, with it's dictaphone-in-the-audience, anti-punk recording quality, was too much for you to stomach, then you'll love the comparatively clear fidelity on this.

There's yet another 'best line-up ever' documented here, the almighty double-drumkit powerhouse of repute and myth, playing all the 'hits' from the sonic riot that is the Hex Enduction era. The remaster is excellent, with depth as well as volume to the sound, a whole disc of extra tracks which essentially just turn this into a double album, and I have included scans of the well-worth-reading Sanctuary liner notes.

'Fall In A Hole', which as you are listening might as well be one continuous wet-dream of a Fall set, positively crackles with malevolent garage oomph showcasing the band for what they were and still are 27 years later under Smith's guidance - a great live band. My credentials only extend to one gig at the Oxford Zodiac for the Fall Head Roll tour, but recent footage doesn't disappoint, they still play LOUD.
I imagine one would have been similarly blown away by hearing the Monks in a dank German club in the mid-60's. But listen to this and just bear in mind: this is 1982, this is Culture Club, Bucks Fizz, the rise of 'popular capitalism' and buckets of yuppie wank.
And here were a band commanding your attention with social-surrealist poetry barked over driving, post-industrial, Can-like anti-grooves played at 'ilevin', with all the conviction of a Group completely and utterly Alone. Brilliant.

Threat (art)

Friday, 24 July 2009

Krautrocksampler by Julian Cope, .pdf scan (1995)

Quite simply if you've ever read anything about the unfortunately-named and disparate 'Krautrock' movement of German experimental music, you will know how important this tome is. In fact, there's no way I'd be typing this if Julian Cope hadn't written his book, and you probably wouldn't be all-too aware of Can, Faust, Guru Guru, or the rest either... Who can say?
But one thing's for certain - Cope's comprehensive guide to this late 60's/70's 'genre', first published in 1995 and still out-of-print (why, why, WHY?), revived interest in many of the pivotal groups to such an extent that sales were boosted and remasters issued - see the excellent Can albums on SACD (I don't know what they're for either, but they'z gold ).

As you probably know, despite mostly underwhelming sales, various Krautrock bands had an incalculable influence on young musicians the world over, on punk and beyond (Johnny Rotten insisted Tommy Vance play all 20-odd minutes of Can's Halleluwah when guesting on the fucking awful Capital FM), and nobody did more to bring this to the attention of a pre-Wikipedia public than Julian Cope. I didn't have my own computer until 2007, but it was constant mention of this book in music rag reviews and articles on the subject that kept my mouth watering at the prospect of ever actually reading the damned thing, laying eyes on the legendary 'Krautrocksampler Top 50'...
Essentially, it lives up to all the hype.
You are getting here, from the (sort of) printed word, what you can't get in bite-sized chunks from online encyclopedias: reams of detail in the accounts, the Druid's passion for the subject and what must have been many years worth of painstaking research. Not only that, but Julian Cope is beyond fantastic as a writer, and his enthusiasm comes across so fluently in his verbose rants and masterful anecdotes you will finish up convinced he is a genius.
Check out the sublime Head Heritage site to see of what I speak.

One glance at the listening figures on will show you that Krautrock is not only common property in the 21st century - it's actually popular ! And how could that possibly be a bad thing?

Here in two parts in .pdf form (you'll need this to read it), it's a bit harsh on the eyes trying to read a book from the monitor so be kind to them; unfortunately it's the best you'll get without forking out or learning German:

***Get sauer***
The credit for this is obviously not mine, I came across it many moons ago in a thread on the best general music forum there is, It seems to have been floating around on torrents for a while.

It's just as well Jules' solo career since the Teardrops has been extremely patchy, because he's excelled in all non-musical endeavours. Here's a fascinating, and periodically chuckle-worthy, televised version of his other highly-acclaimed scholarly work, 'the Modern Antiquarian':

Art: Stephany Yepes Lozano (de Colombia)

A most intriguing artist/designer based in Bogota, with aspirations to relocate to Berlin. She works in ink and watercolours and there are some real beauties on the Flickr. Some great collage work, portraits and what (I think) is some nifty pattern design.
If you are particularly taken, leave a comment! (I'm sure she would appreciate).

Ms. Lozano also kindly supplies you with one wonderful thing per day via Tumblr.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

V/A - Sub Pop 200 (1988)

^ Monkey? Back? Geddit?

Apparently in the 80's some American people started a label as a launch pad for this thing called 'grunge' that sounds a bit like punk and a bit like metal, whilst not quite settling for either. I never understood all the hoo-hah myself... I lie of course, early grunge is a wondrous, marvellous thing, second only to a testosterone drip.

Sub Pop 200 is the second label sampler from, er, Sub Pop. Still one of the most successful independents to this day (one might argue that's down to major-label distribution deals but this is beside the point), the music may have broadened out a bit and calmed down for the most part, but there are still some great bands on their roster, the Flipper-meets-Jesus Lizard antics of Pissed Jeans being a favourite.
Here's the list.

This compilation though, is a five-star snapshot of the times, capturing the nascent Seattle grunge scene when it was still a homegrown explosion of scuzzy distortion, tattered jeans and plaid. No international unit-shifters here in 1988, no copycat, watered-down nonsense, and a fair few surprises.

^ Great fat blokes in rock & roll - how many can you name?

For the most part you get hot and heavy, revved-up, slowed-down hardcore mixed with 70's hard rock theatrics; but look out for an acid-munching wall of FX from Screaming Trees, lo-fi college radio stalwarts Beat Happening with easily their least annoying song (a Suicide-esque dirge), the tedious spoken word of Steven J. Bernstein and the de-tuned home recording of the Thrown Ups (great track).
The best thing about Sub Pop 200 though is not just the quality of the obscure bands, but also the total absence of sheen that would characterize the later albums of the more successful groups, bar the obvious exceptions. I guess in 1988 they were still young, filthy and hungry... that's certainly how it sounds.
Oh, and almost all of these songs are exclusive to the compilation. Whatever happened to the fine tradition of the label sampler? Cracking semi-relevant article here.

So, Sub Pop 200 - yet another reason to thank our lucky stars that Black Flag decided to grow their hair...?

@320 + art

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Skip James - Complete Recorded Works (1931)

Taken from my dodgy scan of the liner notes:

''Nehemiah Skip James was born in 1902, and raised on the Woodbine Plantation near Bentonia, Mississippi. He became interested in music around 1909, after hearing Green McCloud playing Drunken Spree on the fiddle, backed by guitarists Henry Stuckey and Rich Griffith.
After World War 1, Stuckey and James, together with Jack Owens, developed the Bentonia style. In France, Stuckey had learned an open E minor tuning from some black soldiers (who he believed were Bahamians), and this tuning, picked with three fingers in complex patterns, became the basis of the guitar pieces Skip was to record in 1931. Only Drunken Spree, pattern picked in A, and Special Rider Blues, in open G, are exceptions, and for all its charm, there is a great gulf between Drunken Spree, basically a vocal tune plus accompaniment, and the tightly knit pieces, for voice and guitar are equal expressive partners, that James composed in the new style. In the early 20's, he took up a hobo's life, meeting a whorehouse piano player named Will Crabtree in Arkansas, learning a good deal of piano technique from him. In 1931, James auditioned for H.C. Speir, Paramount's Mississippi talent scout, and was despatched to Grafton, Wisconsin on a two year contract which he hoped would eventually free him from manual work. (Paramount shortly went broke during the Depression, and Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues, composed at the session, became personal as well as topical).

Seldom can there be seen a more impressive start to a recording career than Devil Got My Woman, a seamless pattern of counter-tenor voice and eerie, hollow guitar, each taking up and embellishing the other, to form perhaps the single most poignant blues about failed relationships between men and women.
On Devil, as on most of his songs, James achieved an unrivalled unity between the content of the words and the sounds of the music to which they are set. The generally dour, pessimistic mood was at one with James' own misanthropic philosophy; even the spirituals don't seem very consolatory, and the blues seem intended rather to display and justify James' anger and sorrow than to provide a purgation of them. His guitar playing, always remarkable, reaches a summit of musicianship on I'm So Glad, a lyrically insignificant song used as the basis for a display of sensationally fast and accurate fingerpicking; his thumbwork on the bass strings is especially noteworthy.''

^ I chose this as it will probably be his most familiar tune today, ever since it's
appearance on a certain Coen brothers film, the popular soundtrack to which
revived public interest in bluegrass

''Just as sensational and even more individual, is James' piano playing which is like no other on record. Staccato and percussive, it functions, like his guitar work, as a response to and elaboration of his vocal lines. Sometimes he contributes additional percussion by stomping on a board placed in front of the piano; the frequent independence of this rhythm from that laid down on the keys will repay attention, and is another indication of James' mastery, alike of musical ideas and their execution. 22-20 Blues, made up in the studio, contains one of the most remarkable piano breaks in blues, with spectacular glissandi, and his transformation of Leroy Carr's How Long How Long into a manic buckdance is almost as extraordinary.

It's not surprising that a musician as individual as Skip James had little stylistic influence on others. Robert Johnson increased the 22-20s calibre to 32-20, and Johnny Temple and Joe McCoy also made covers of songs by him; but their versions owe little to the originals beyond the words. Skip James was simply too much of an individual, too much of a genius, to be easily copied. Relocated in the 60's after years of preaching, strip mining and farmwork, he made a short comeback, dying in 1969. He still retained much of his talent, and all of his suspicion, both of the rest of mankind and of what he called the 'music racket'; but he never equalled the astonishing performances he had recorded in 1931.''

Chris Smith, 1990


Skip James - Vcls, guitar, piano, foot-tapping
All songs by James, except Hard-Luck Child by unknown

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Nostalgics 01

Now and again 1979's 'Metal Box' resurfaces from the murky depths of a Mariana trench that is permanently etched into my psyche. It was always an obsession but I don't think this trench was dug until the day I played the album on a pair of hand-me-down standing speakers, a bargain from my flatmate, and first cautiously turned up the bass dial on the amplifier. It was the same dial that brought roots and dub to life via the Trojan Dub Box and Super Ape.

This is all the more significant since honourary rasta John Lydon met many of the artists on those records himself on his infamous trip to Jamaica, before returning to record the first two PiL albums. I have a recollection of an anecdote from the Lydon autobiography, essentially recounting how he and the great Don Letts went to an authentic soundsystem dance in a rough part of Kingston. Within a few tokes of powerful Jamaican skunk these Eastenders were unaccustomed to, they fell unconscious under a palm tree, carried on the sub-bass. They awoke to find the performers, the crowd and all the equipment gone! For some reason it's a powerful and soothing image, whenever I recall it it's as if I were there myself...

It's 'Metal Box' though that takes the dub template to new spaces and fuses it with experimental German rhythms, among other things. I will post it someday, hopefully when it is remastered, because in many ways it's my favourite record. 'Poptones' is about a kidnapping/murder, I am guessing.

Drive to the forest in a Japanese car
The smell of rubber on country tar

Hindsight does me no good

Standing naked in this back of the woods

The cassette played Poptones

Can't forget the impression you made

Left a hole in the back of my head

I don't like hiding in this foliage and peat

It's wet and I'm losing my body heat

The cassette played poptones.
Miss bleeding heart
Looking for bodies
Nearly injured my pride

Praise picnicking in the British countryside.

Yoko Ono - Fly (1971)

^Screenshot from the Fly short

The second album by Yoko Ono. Her first was 'Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band' with the fluctuating supergroup that included John Lennon, and at variously Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Phil Spector, etc. It was a companion piece to what is considered Lennon's most accomplished solo album 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band'.

'Fly' is definitely up there with the debut, a record that is variously avant-garde and jam-oriented - groovy even - but always experimental in it's approach. For the most part it sounds like nothing else from the period, the only music that came close was the budding 'krautrock' scene, and this was unfortunately lacking in Ono's kabuki-theatre wailing (which is like Marmite, except if you don't appreciate the spectrum of it's abrasive/beautiful range then you're a dick).

Unlike 'Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band', which was at times loud and fast and today is still hailed as proto-punk, 'Fly' is more spaced-out, much longer and more of an all-round Fluxus (the Japanese Dada-inspired art collective Yoko represented) statement.
Not only was the gatefold sleeve stuffed with sublime frames from the 'Fly' art film and instructions for performance taken from Yoko's 'Grapefruit' book; tracks were culled from various installation pieces (Telephone Piece, Toilet Piece, Airmale is the soundtrack to Lennon's 'Erection' film). On record you will also hear the use of mysterious, specialist 'instruments' custom-built by Joe Jones, a Fluxus artist whose idea it was to evoke emotions yet to be illuminated by sound vibrations.

^ From Grapefruit, to be performed by the reader. Ono's background in conceptual and performance art is all but evident on 'Fly'

Also, if you're a Beatles fan it's interesting to hear the rhythm section of Klaus Voorman (the man responsible for several iconic Beatles record covers) and Ringo thrashing out weird jams with Clapton and Lennon atonally banging away in the background. It feels like they have all been infected with the Yoko virus, and the results are electric.

So this is a must-have, as everybody from Sonic Youth to David Bowie would testify (if that's the kind of convincing you need). Lennon and Yoko's later musical collaborations would get a lot more direct and conventional, the feminist themes a lot less oblique; and in the singularly idiotic 'Yoko Vs. Beatles' debate these great records and Ono's light-hearted and accessible take on the avant-garde have all too often been forgotten. For shame, as you will hear.

This upload is at 320, and it's one of the recent Rykodisc remasters with two bonus tracks and artwork included. Needless to say, if you really, really like it go out and buy the CD - the packaging of the reissue is special.


Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Mops - Psychedelic Sounds In Japan (1968)

Recycled from an old MeineSpace post, this needs sharing. I'm not the only person to post it but if it helps them get more listeners on then what the hell...

Link - ripped@320kbps

Here we have an album that at it's worst is a historical curio and a comedy album; at it's best a world-class garage romp.

The Mops were, from what I've heard, the rawest and weirdest of Japan's sanitized 'Group Sounds' era. Group Sounds was a fusion of Western rock and Japanese popular music - which for the most part was melodramatic tripe and pretty much all manufactured, with creative control going to the record executives.

As with most Group Sounds bands they began as a Ventures-esque instrumental rock group, before taking on the mantle of drug-influenced blues and rock music emanating from overseas to become Japan's first bona fide psychedelic band. This was not the idea of the Yardbirds/Stones influenced group of course, it was the Mops' management who molded them into hippies as stipulated in their new record contract (see album cover).

However LSD was impossible to procure in Japan at the time and as well as putting on the most dazzling light shows to cement their psychedelic credentials (the other Group Sounds were catching on fast), the Mops would often play blindfolded to disorientate themselves.

So as well as being trippy dippy and lyrically darker than any Group Sounds band at the time ('please kill me' in the 6/8 time 'Blind Bird'), what does this alien interpretation of 60's vogue have to offer?

For a start I was struck by the garage influence, there's a lot of fuzzboxed guitar and it certainly packs a wallop; and when the Mops are in full swing (playing their own songs) the vibe is great too: Masaru Hoshi's perpetual, trebled guitar solos coming from somewhere off in space and the band keeping a frenetic groove under some brilliant freewheeling blues-psych.

^ Vintage pop cameo. Dig those ponchos!

All sounds good so far, non? But now I have to address the infamous cover versions of psych standards and the all-English vocals.

When the Mops are attacking these songs in their extremely bloken Engrish and their own inimitable style, it can work ('Somebody To Love' sounds great, singer/guitarist Yoshiro Hayakawa must have spent days getting the 'L' on 'love'); but the rest of the time you just can't help but giggle, and there are certainly a few comedy moments on the album such as the adorable ode 'San Franciscan Night'.

There is an element of humour when listening to this strange record, being as it is a heartfelt tribute to/cash-in on a Western pop culture... just totally naive and a lot of fun. None of this would matter if the songs weren't great.
On the whole it's magnificently done, they manage to work in everything from harpsichords to a Misunderstood-style sense of doom - but there are some flaws. See: the inept sitar racket of 'Unforgettable Memory' and the musically competent but slightly comical covers of 'White Rabbit' and 'Light My Fire'.
The pros far outweigh the cons though and it definitely belongs in your 60's collection.

Unfortunately when the album surfaced, Group Sounds was on it's last legs - Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were beginning to catch the attention of Japanese youth... The Mops were dropped =(

And this is where we leave our (magnificently named) heroes, who would cunningly move with the times and re-brand themselves 'New Rock'. It was left up to other, hairier bands to make history in this area...

Cope, Julian, 2007. Japrocksampler: How The Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds On Rock 'n' Roll. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Film: Japanese Nouvelle Vague

^ Sunna no Onna (1964)

You may or may not be aware of a thriving underground on Youtube (i.e. videos cheekily given irrelevant or coded titles) of uploading collections of non-English and experimental films - much to the delight of at least a couple of thousand souls that are lucky enough to stumble upon these playlists.

I've encountered several users out on a mission to educate and save you and I the high prices of British Film Institute or Criterion Collection DVDs... Here's one of them:
From that page scroll down a bit to the video entitled 'HS' for Hadaka no Shima (Naked Island) - it's probably the best of early Japanese new wave from Kaneto Shindô. Or at least the best in this particular style - Shindô sticks to an old school Japanese film technique which to more impatient viewers might just be equivalent to 'not a whole lot happening for a long time'.
If you are one such viewer, please, just sit back to appreciate the framing, the mise en scene, the heartbreaking events depicted, the breathtaking beauty of the damned locations and shut up.

Right now I am living out my most sacred Japanese New Wave (nuberu bagu) fantasies and binging on films that haven't even secured a PAL DVD release as of yet (Europe always comes last, which is ironic because we probably watch the most foreign films).
There are of course plenty of sources for streaming full-length videos, but the majority of these seemed to be filmed on a mobile phone camera, tilted to one side and peeking out from under somebody's coat. So long live Youtube and 10+ intermissions per film!

However, if you've got a free evening and want something a bit more 'eventful', have this definitive industrial/cyberpunk body-horror film instead. Don't argue, just watch (and bemoan the soulessness of CGI):

Chris Morris - The Chris Morris Music Show (1994)

^'On The Hour' - groundbreaking news satire with yet another exposure of the sadistic British
right-wing tabloid institution
(the tape is obviously fake, I believe 'Neil Kinnock' is played
by Steve Coogan)

Satirical genius (a word I never use lightly) Chris Morris: if you're a Brit you probably know him better for his one-off TV shows that send up a moral panic-prone society, and it's po-faced news media which stokes the fires of PC/reactionary paranoia. But he's also had a long and fractious association with BBC radio - The Chris Morris Music Show was one of many live broadcasts he produced and presented (credit has to go to him for being great with mash-up sound editing and pastiche songwriting too).
Like 1992's innovative serial 'On The Hour', the Chris Morris Music Show features all manner of controversial stunts often with none-the-wiser interviewees; and Morris presenting us a warped, but depressingly familiar, version of reality.

Apart from going out of his way to bait any listeners without a sense of humour, his taste in music is also delectable; the playlist is a great mixture of classic funk/soul and prime cuts of indie rock and hip-hop from the early-to-mid 90's era (although they don't all escape mockery and 'embellishments'). One song he plays is below - I totally forgot about this, frankly amazing promo from everyone's favourite giant baby. Reminds one of 'Eraserhead' slightly (Pixies actually covered the Lady in the Radiator song, available from this post)

Highlights of the show so far include Chris getting a blowjob from the producer over Beefheart's 'Tropical Hot Dog Night' and offering students a GCSE exam hotline, where he reveals exam questions to callers.
You can stream and download all the radio rips from those (comparatively) golden 1990's right here. It's a long-running and unrivalled fansite for all things Morris, and it's got bloody everything.
Each show is an hour long, I've done three and cracked a rib.

Morris' last project proper: if you hate scenesters and think Shoreditch in London (or just all of London) should be reduced to a smoking crater littered with student guts, WATCH 'Nathan Barley'

Friday, 17 July 2009

Jake Thackray - La-Di-Dah (1991 collection)

A real treat for yuz here. To celebrate my purchasing of the Jake In A Box retrospective, I present here a 22-track compilation of Jake Thackray recordings, taken from his tenure at EMI in the late 60's and early 70's with a couple of live tracks from later in the 70's. To my mind he's at his best as you see him on stage: solo with an acoustic guitar; but I was pleasantly surprised by the producers' restraint in embellishing his songs in the studio - all of them are gold. So - no flies on me!

Thackray's bawdy, verbose and often hilarious folk songs don't at all betray his reputed stage fright, a fear which eventually led to his premature retirement from performing. However this wasn't before he completed many sessions for the BBC, played the Royal Variety show and recorded his debut in 1967, a door down from the Beatles at Abbey Road... (although he's not always exactly wholesome family entertainment).

'So, what makes him so damn great?', I hear the voices in my head cackle.

Over an idiosyncratic finger-picking style, Jake tells quirky and satirical stories with whimsy, wit, raunch (always in good taste) and the occasional dash of absurdism, all in an exquisite Yorkshire brogue. Not unlike Nick Drake with a sense of humour (Nick was a fan apparently). He's been called 'the North Country Noel Coward', but this doesn't do him justice at all. Thackray taught in France for many years, and was essentially responsible for introducing the chansonnier tradition to these shores. The video below is his translation of George Brassens' 'Le gorille'.

I was introduced to the songs of Jake Thackray after seeing a 2006 BBC Four documentary aired to mark the revival of interest following his death in 2002. Shamefully, it's taken me this long to properly exploit my curiosity. He is all the more appealing for his detatchment from that contemporaneous music scene of psychotropics and Eastern mysticism; right up there with 60's traditionalists like Ivor Cutler and the Kinks circa 'the Village Green Preservation Society'.

'The Thack' just wrote great down-to-earth songs with a mastery of the English language we don't often see in this day and age; his pastoral songs always put me in a rustic frame of mind and almost make me proud to live in the countryside (see: 'North Country Bus', probably the most impenetrably colloquial song on here, or not? Non-Brits leave yer feedback!).

Ripped@320 mit artwerk
Supplement the first
Supplement the second

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos No.2 & No.3

No fancy-pants titles here, just a clearly-labelled tin from one of the great composers (and one of the greatest pianists the world has ever seen). These pieces come from classical's late Romantic era - right at the turn of the century; so it's like armies of butterflies waging war in your gut, with the benefit of centuries of musical development and compositional trends. The perfect access point into classical music if ever there was any.

It's not my intention to patronise in the slightest, but here is the wikipedia definition of 'concerto' if you can't quite put your finger on it:
The term Concerto (from the Italian: concerto, plural concerti or the anglicised form concertos) usually refers to a three-part musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.

This recording is performed by Bernd Glemser and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. But don't worry if that sounds dodgy, this is from the Naxos label, which always comes up trumps with a no-nonsense approach, it's like the industry standard.
Rachmaninov completed No.2 in 1900, No.3 about a decade later:

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

('Op.' stands for 'opus', or 'work')


Oh, sorry - I mean REBOOT. The 'rebooting' of the Substix franchise is still being shot by a fat-arse Hollywood sycophant, except now the lighting director has been dismissed and we are officially DARK and GROAN'D-UP.

The blog fell in to quiet disrepair because I was saying nothing to nobody. It was a dead duck.
So the new remit is just the music - with links to streaming movies and other dribs and drabs. All the files will be hosted on another server blablabla, but more importantly it's all 320kbps all the way (No FLAC, my connection is shit) and artwork where possible. There will be genre tags, there will be no-nonsense titles... Why, I can hardly contain myself!

Why should you download or watch what I post without question? Because I have maintained a near-jobless existence for at least three years, let 'friends' fall by the wayside and at times attained reclusive status; but in all this time I've been listening to shit, reading shit and watching shit. Most of it was good shit. Now I will share the best of it.