Thursday, February 2, 2017

Strings of Desire - #9

GIBSON ES-175 (ES75)

A big old jazz semi, the Gibson ES-175 (ES75) is such a beautiful looking guitar that some of the crimes against music committed on it can only be forgiven.

Originally aimed squarely at the decidedly hip jazz noodlers, it was co-opted by the more progressive end of the musical spectrum and forced into service to augment tales of druids, dragons and oceanic space mysteries late 60's early 70's.

However, those crimes have fallen under the statute of limitations and we can now all luxuriate in it's beauty and thrilling tone. Just check out 'High Land, Hard Rain' to hear Roddy Frame reclaim the 175 for us all!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hornsey Lane Bridge


Smoke thick destinations
 
Smoke thick destinations
cradled in the hollow depths
she lay pristine and permanent
gazing at the high up in the sky
wrapped in the warmth of release
a delicate radiance softly absorbed
hushed whispers evaporating
into the diesel inflamed tumult

blue tinge to snow white skin
the early morning view
from the other side of the road

 underneath Suicide Bridge.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mark Fisher RIP


Sad news from the UK is the passing of Mark Fisher, cultural theorist and inspirational music writer. 

Fisher's influential K-Punk blog was widely admired and wide read. Fisher used a cultural theorist's perspective to examine underground and mainstream music, from his original fascination with Roxy Music and The Jam through to Burial, via Japan and Rufige Kru. He was also a founding member of Warwick University's Cybernetic Cultural Research Unit (with musician and label boss Kode9), and a lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths in London. 

In 2004, Fisher released Ghosts Of My Life, a book that covered a wide range of topics and shared his personale mental health struggles. The book also explored Fisher's ideas on "hauntology," which is a method/theory of understanding the world when culture has lost momentum at the "end of history." 
"Hauntology is a coming to terms with the permanence of our (dis)possession, the inevitability of dyschronia," Fisher wrote in a blog post in 2006. "I repeat, I re-cite: hauntology is the closest thing we have to a movement, a zeitgeist, at the moment (and one of the uncanniest aspects of it is the fact that there seem to be very few lines of explicit influence among the artists involved)."
Fisher followed up in 2009 with Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? Which argued that since 1989 capitalism had portrayed itself as the only valid economic-political system. 
His final book The Weird and the Eerie was published in January 2017. His loss will be keenly felt by many, not least for the that fact that the most recent book he was working on, had a truly mouth watering title Acid Communism. One can only dream...

A fund has been set up to help his wife and son. Please donate if you can.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bands I wish I'd been in #6 - Aztec Camera



It's been a while...

Things have changed, you have changed, so have I and yet. We can't ignore the past. 

I suspect that I've already mentioned this but... way back, in the way back. There was a band from East Kilbride named Aztec Camera (partly after 'Camera camera' by Teardrop Explodes). They aimed to blend The Fall, The Clash, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Wes Montgomery, The Flying Burrito Brothers and possibly Love into one rather joyous cheeky little melange of jazz chords, intelligent lyrics, checked shirts and raucous gigs. 

Aztec Camera first appeared on a Glasgow cassette-only compilation of local unsigned bands on the Pungent Records label. The band's first UKsingle release was sold as a 7" by Postcard Records—a Glasgow-based independent record label co-founded by Mr Edwyn Collins and Dame Alan Horne in 1981. The single featured the song "Mattress Of Wire" and a rather beautiful b-side entitled "Lost Outside The Tunnel". They also released in  "Just Like Gold" and "We Could Send Letters" in the same year. An acoustic version of the latter song appeared on a compilation album, entitled C81Following the two 7" releases with Postcard, the group signed with Rough Trade Records in the UK and Sire Records in the US for their debut album. 

At this point, the band was officially a quartet: Roddy Frame (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Bernie Clark (piano, organ), Campbell Owens (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums, percussion). Their debut album was produced by John Brand and Bernie Clarke at ICC Studios in Eastbourne. The stand out single was "Oblivious", which Roddy unashamedly admitted was an attempt to get the band on TOTP, which didn't make him a bad person!


During the recording process for the album, Frame apparently used a different guitar for every song. For the song "Orchid Girl", Frame explained in 2013 — during the 30th anniversary tour — he was attempting to merge the influences of his favorite guitarist at the time, Wes Montgomery, and punk rock icon Joe Strummer. I was actually in the studio the day that Roddy recorded "Orchid Girl" and it is still one of the most remarkable moments in music of my life. (Apologies for the 'drop).

Allegedly, in a late 1990s television interview, Frame explained that a "boy" image was associated with him during this era, and that he was annoyed by it at the time, as he was taking his music very seriously—"you don't want to be called 'boy'; especially when you're listening to Joy Division"—but he eventually stopped caring about it. - Seriously Wiki, is that in any way relevant?

Anyway, throughout the whole High Land, Hard Rain tour/time I followed the Aztecs around the UK and loved every single minute. We were collectively the Boy Wonders!


The Boy Wonders

I brought you some francs from my travelling chest
You'll spare me the thanks 'til you know I'm the best
So come Hogmonay when love comes in slurs
Resolutions I'll make and you can label them 'Hers'
We threw our hands up high we, nearly touched the sky,
We clicked our heels and spat and swore
We'd never let it die

All those boy wonders
Sold their medals when they saw this train
Now this boy wonders
When he'll feel the fall of honest rain
I came from high land where the hopefuls have to hesitate
Now this boy wonders
Why the words were never worth the wait
I'm waiting, waiting.In pastel paper pink over grey
We wrap, wrap, wrap and chuck, chuck away
The poor excuse they peddle as their prose.

Dry your tears, tie your tongue and you're never sixteen
And I'll give you a glimpse of the hard and the clean
And my travelling chest will be open to you
And boy will you learn that you haven't a clue
I even asked my best friend but he could not explain
It hit me when I left him
I felt the rain and called it genius,
Called it genius.


All those boy wonders
Sold their medals when they saw this train
Now this boy wonders
When he'll feel the fall of honest rain
I came from high land where the hopefuls have to hesitate
Now this boy wonders
Why the words were never worth the wait
I'm waiting, waiting.
In pastel paper pink over grey
We wrap, wrap, wrap and chuck, chuck away
The poor excuse they peddle as their prose.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bands I wish I'd been in #5 - A Certain Ratio

A Certain Ratio (ACR) are a post-punk band formed in 1977 in WythenshaweManchester, England. While originally part of the punk rock movement, they soon added funk and dance elements to their sound. This coincided with super funking drummer Donald Johnson joining. They are sometimes referred to as "post punk funk". The band's name was taken from the lyrics of Brian Eno's song "The True Wheel" from the 1974 album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).

The group's longest serving original members are Martin Moscrop (guitar, trumpet), Jez Kerr (bass, vocals) and Donald Johnson (drums, vocals, bass) who joined after the first drummer less single (All Night Party/Thin Boys). Two of the original members subsequently left the band: Simon Topping (left in 1983 for Quando Quango and later joined T-Coy), plus guitarist Peter Terrell, who left in 1982. Keyboardist Andy Connell, who joined in 1982, left to form Swing Out Sister in 1985.
A Certain Ratio's first recording contract was with Factory Records in 1979. They released The Graveyard and The Ballroom only on cassette in 1980. This led them to put out  To Each..., released in 1981. Their first album was blighted by a studio technician who reset all of the panel prior to the final mixdown. The impact of which significantly hindered the final pressing, with the final mix not truly reflecting their new found funky dynamic.
Despite being signed to Factory (and the labels notoriously industrial aesthetic) ACR were heavily influenced by the NYC funk scene. Their sound incorporated latin tinges too. Their magnificent second album Sextet featured NYC vocalist Martha Tilson and captured the funky vibe that To Each... had hinted at.  
This was followed up by I'd like to see you again, the cover of which showed the band in the Hacienda nightclub. The album took the band even further away from the bleaker landscapes of the traditional Factory artists (Joy Division, Section 25, Crispy Ambulance etc). I'd like to see you again was the last album to feature Topping and Terrel.
The second age of ACR is regarded by some as their best. The keyboard work of Andy Connell and sax of Tony Quigley fleshed out their sound. As someone who saw a lot of the band at this time (Lance Corporal Franks of the notorious ACR Barmy Army reporting for funk patrol sah!) their gigs became euphoric events. 
Studio albums Force and Good Together followed (the latter their first for a major label). The album failed to produce a hit, leading to the band's departure from the label, which whilst I'm sure was very frustrating for the band was never important for their fans. In the early 1990s, they signed with Rob's Records, owned by New Order manager Rob Gretton.

The trio of albums they released in the 90's acr:mcr, Up in Downsville and Change the station all hit the spot. With the title track of the second of those albums in particular becoming a firm favourite on the PNUK dancefloor (@ The Foundry, Shoreditch) at the turn of the millennium.
In 1990 Creation Records reissued the albums on CD and in 2002 Soul Jazz Records reissued the albums with bonus tracks (but using the same masters as the Creation editions.) Further re-issues and a live recording from 1980 have also been made available on the LTM label.
A Certain Ratio were initially managed by Tony Wilson. They feature in the film 24 Hour Party People where Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan) described them as "having all the energy of Joy Division but better clothes." Martin Moscrop was Musical Supervisor of 24 Hour Party People.

I reckon I must have seen the band over 30 times and from the very first gig at the basement in Brighton to the most recent one in East London they have consistently sent me home happy with their unique mix of Manc samba, punk and fundamentalist funk!

Although the band does not play full-time any more, they continue writing, recording and performing. Jez Kerr has released a thoroughly enjoyable solo album 'Numb Mouth Eat Waste' and it is hoped that the band will follow up their 2008 release Mind Made Up in due course. And if they are looking for a second guitarist to splatter wah wah guitar all over their funk, then I am available!

Personal ACR Top 10

1. Si firmir o grido (Womad festival live version)
2. Knife Slits Water (12")
3. Rialto (Sextet)
4. Sesamo Apriti - Corco Vada (I'd like to see you again)
5. Flight (12")
6. Do the Du (Casse) (12")
7. Brazilia (12")
8. Mello (12")
9  Guess who?  (12")
10. Abracadubra (Sir Horatio 12")

Album[edit]

  • The Graveyard and the Ballroom (December 1979) – FACT 16 [cassette] 
  • To Each... (1981) – FACT 35 
  • Sextet (1982) – FACT 55 
  • I'd Like To See You Again (1982) – FACT 65 
  • Force (1986) – FACT 166 
  • Good Together (1989) – A&M ACR 550
  • acr:mcr (1990) – A&M 397 057-2
  • Up In Downsville (1992) – ROB20 
  • Change The Station (1997) – ROB50
  • Mind Made Up (2008) – reissued via LTM (2010)

Singles[edit]

  • "All Night Party" / "The Thin Boys" 7" – FAC 5
  • "Shack Up" / "And Then Again (live)" 7" – FBN 1
  • "Flight" / "Blown Away" / "And Then Again" 12" – FAC 22
  • "Do The Du (Casse)" / "The Fox" / "Shack Up" / "Son And Heir" 12" – FACUS 4
  • "The Double 12" " (12" 2 x 12", 7 tracks) – FACT 42 – Italian Import inc FAC 22 and FACUS 4
  • "Waterline" / "Funaezekea" 12" – FAC 52
  • "Knife Slits Water" / "Tumba Rumba" 7" – FAC 62-7
  • "Knife Slits Water" / "Kether Hot Knives" 12" – FAC 62-12
  • "Guess Who?" (Parts 1 and 2) 12" – FBN 17
  • "I Need Someone Tonight" / "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" 12" – FAC 72-12 (
  • "Life's A Scream" / "There's Only This" 12" – FAC 112
  • "Life's A Scream (Edit)" / "There's Only This (Edit)" 7" – FAC 112P
  • "Brazilia" / "Dub" 12" – FBN 32
  • "Wild Party" / "Sounds Like Something Dirty" 12" – FAC 128
  • "Mickey Way (The Candy Bar)" / "Inside" / "Si Firmi O Grido" 12" – FAC 168
  • "Greetings Four" EP – "The Runner" / "Inside" / "Bootsy" / "Fever 103" (all session versions) 12" – MASO 70004
  • "Bootsy" / "Inside" 7" (Australian only) – FAC 1667
  • "Bootsy (Remix)" / "Mickey Way" 12" (Australian only) – FAC 16612[9]
  • "The Big E" – A&M
  • "Backs to the Wall" / "Backs to the Wall (Dub)" / "Be What You Wanna Be" (ACR version) 12" – ACRY 517
  • "Your Blue Eyes" / "Thin Grey Line" / "Coldest Days" 12" (also on 7") – ACRY 534
  • "Won't Stop Loving You (Bernard Sumner version) / "Repercussions" (ACR remix) / "Love Is The Way" (Instrumental) 12" – ACRY 540 – UK No. 55[7]
  • "Won't Stop Loving You (Bernard Sumner version) / "Won't Stop Loving You (Norman Cook remix) / "Won't Stop Loving You (Cook Instrumental) – ACRY 540 – This was essentially a hurried re-press by A&M in an attempt to push the single up the singles chart (it failed).
  • "Good Together" – EP – A&M 12"
  • "Shack Up (Machine)" / "Shack Up (Man)" / "Shack Up" (Norman Cook remix) / "Party Up" 12" – ACRYDJ 590 – Promo only
  • "The Planet" / "Loosen Up Your Mind" 12" – 12 ROB 2
  • "27 Forever (Bubble Bath Mix)" / "27 Forever (Fix Mix)" (both remixed by Jon Dasilva) 12" – 12 ROB 5R
  • "Mello" / "Dub" / "27 Forever" (Jon Dasilva remix) / "Moist Dub" 12" – 12 ROB 6R
  • "Tekno" / "Tekno" (Way Out West remix) 12" – 12 ROBS 18
  • "Soundstation Volume 2" EP – "Samba 123" (Fila Brazilia remix) / "Yeah Boy" (Sons of Samarkand remix) / "Yeah Boy" (DJ Die) 12" – 12 ROBS 22
  • "Shack Up" / Human League – "Being Boiled" 12" – SJR 57-12 (Soul Jazz Records)

Compilations and live albums[edit]

  • A Certain Ratio Live in America (Live Album, 1985) – DOJO 47 (Castle Communications)
  • The Old and the New (Singles Compilation, 1986) – FACT 135
  • Looking for a Certain Ratio (Remixes, 1994) – CRE159B
  • Early (2002) – SJR60 (Soul Jazz Records)
  • Live in Groningen (2005) – LTM 2443

Thanks to Wikipedia for discography!