Tuesday 8 May 2018

Album: Stretchmarks - The Stretch m​-​ARKhives

'Can you imagine Doobie in your funk?' - George Clinton

'You fake the funk / Your nose got to grow' - Bootsy Collins

I like my Funk uncut, but who doesn't? However, around 1978, a funny thing happened; white kids extracted seminal fluids from the recently deceased corpse of Punk and spiked everyone's drinks with it at the mutant disco. The bands born of that experiment wouldn't be content to play Funk lite or heaven forbid 'blue-eyed soul'. Oh no. This was a different beast altogether. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Time is a trick of the mind, as Rip Rig & Panic once suggested, so I'm here in 2018 listening to music that's 30 years-old but actually inspired by music that was 10 years-old then. Geddit? There were a bunch of lads living close to the eye of the 'Madchester' storm but not about to embrace the whole Summer of Love, E'd-up, Rave on scenario, as stated in this lyric: 'no way ( i'm getting laid back )\ there's no way I'm getting laid back, I'm going to attack attack attack attack attack!\ e-sucking teepee heads' (No Way / E-Sucking TeePee heads). Too young for Punk but keen on Funk, Jazz, Improv and more, they conjured up the spirit of '78, the one that had some contorting themselves and their music into shapes formed by Punk, Free Jazz, Dub and, er, 'experimental' Rock.

At a time when white music lacked 'attack' (the E-ffect) but dabbled in the 'baggy' version of Dance music or a straight-up take on Techno, Stretchmarks got themselves into another, 1978 state of mind. You could say that, like E-heads (tee-pee heads), they were escaping reality, but who can blame them? Me, I was coming down after a decade of discovering Jazz whilst dancing to Rare Groove and Hip-Hop. At my Soho cellar bar club, a friend would tell me of the chemicals he'd ingested and describe 'the scene' but I thought 'never mind the Balearics', what about Public Enemy? 

Anyway, here on The Stretch m​-​ARKhives are a set of tunes never released at the time. 1988 wasn't the place for them and today? Yes. Why not? We can all do the time warp. It's...fun? To an old fart like me who still treasures Defunkt or The Pop Group above most contemporary bands it's a treat anyway. As the world edged towards becoming a zone of zero funkativity in 1978 what The Pop Group followed by Rip Rig & Panic along with James Chance then Defunkt did was a blast. Little did I know that Defunkt's Joseph Bowie had a brother, Lester, would provide such a source of pleasure in the next decade, or that the creator of the very words 'Rip Rig & Panic' (Roland Kirk) would do the same. One door (Punk) closed, another (Jazz) creaked open a few years later.

Sorry, but I can't help referring to my musical past, it's so intertwined with that of Stretchmarks. Despite and because of the clear influences, this is a fascinating release. All the relevant names I've mentioned are fed into the sound. No Wavers DNA are also in the, um, DNA, as in Arto Lindsay-style guitar. What marks them out as very British, dare I say, are the 'eccentric' lyrics. 'lets get weird, lets get weird, lets get weird in my kidney shaped swimming pool.' (Let's Get Weird) for instance, reminds me very much of a satirical bite Jason Williamson spits out for Sleaford Mods. Likewise, in a nonsensical fashion: 'twighlight or dawn, i'm yawning at the sudden similarity.\ lobster or prawn , i'm certainly no Jaques Cousteau when it comes to the sea.' (Puddle of Love).

Free-form, funky, raw and ridiculous, Stretchmarks proved it was possible to fake the Funk without fear of serious nose growth. I'm enjoying this album very much and that's no lie. The CD with bonus tracks is worth getting if only for Cosmic String and No Reason. You can buy it and the vinyl version on the Bandcamp page. Band member Matt Wand's words are also, as always, worth reading.

Correction: I've just learnt that only Rex, the guitarist, was actually too young for Punk.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Logical Progression (LTJ Bukem) / Logical Regression (25 Years of Goldie Oldies)

The best thing about Good Looking records was that because most started in an ambient fashion they made mixing easy for someone like me, who never learnt beat mixing when I was a DJ. I preferred to join the thematic/style dots, as befitted an eclectic DJ.

To say that was 'the best thing' isn't strictly true, of course. I only did so in order to reel out an old story from the days of mobile DJs which, I assume, still exist. In the mid-70s a friend once knocked at my door and asked if I wanted to go into the DJ-ing game with him. I was interested until he told me the cost of the turntables. So he went ahead anyway and on one night declared over the microphone that the best thing about the Elvis record he'd just played were the scratches at the end. Not that he was a proto-Christian Marclay-type sonic experimentalist or anything; he simply wanted to wind up the Teddy Boys in the hall. 

No, I'm not that old, but you'll have to take my word for the fact that in 1977 Teddy Boys still existed. There were frequent running battles between them and Punks down the King's Road. His comments sparked another battle between those two tribes on that night. He asked us if we'd stand in front of his speakers to protect them, which we did. Luckily, both the Punks and Teds were more intent on damaging each other.

22 years later, how have Good Looking records aged? That's what I wondered, staring at the 99p double CD, LTJ Buken presents Logical Progression, in the charity shop this morning. At that price, I could find out the answer. Also in the shop was Radiohead's OK Computer, for even less, 69p, yet despite being tempted I couldn't even part with that measly sum in order to satisfy my curiosity regarding what many consider to be a 'classic'. Whenever I've seen Radiohead performing on TV they've annoyed the hell out of me. Having passed up on OK Computer at that price, I shall never know if I can find anything worthwhile in it. Yes, I could go to YouTube, but cannot be arsed.

I did buy a few Good Looking singles at the time (1996) but preferred labels with more bite, like Metalheadz or No U-Turn. Bukem brought a kind of sophistication to the Drum'n'Bass scene, not that others didn't try to do the same, just that he made a mission out of it. All these tunes are polished to a high sheen. I'm on the verge of saying 'you can't polish a turd' but that would be a little harsh. My problem with a lot of these tunes now is the very thing that marked them out as Good Looking records in the first place; that gloss and, in places, 'soul' crooning all over the shop. I confess that the desire to have repeat phrases run through Jungle and D&B tunes gets on my nerves now. At the time I would have forgiven it if the drum and bass were hard enough. 

So I've run through both discs and my only, admittedly weak (sorry) opinion is that a lot of the tracks are OK, running to good when the rhythm gets going. It's kind of D&B Easy. To many, I know, that will translate as 'classical', especially those thinking themselves too smart for ruffneck tunes featuring gangsta/JA vocal samples (just my kind of thing!).

Talking of Metalheadz, 25 Years of Goldie (Unreleased And Re-Mastered) was a Record Store Day release (limited copies available at a later date) and right from the opening bass on Rufige Kru's I Walk The Dog you get that feeling, the one you had back in the day, the tingle of anticipation....then...here come the drumz! - and the incessant, ominous future noize splicing your brain - you know, the way Goldie and co. did. Rob Playford & Goldie's Shadow VIP is a corker too, the la-la-la-la vocal (?) enhancing what is already a demented percussion workout with trademark chainsaw bass flipping it into the realms of a psychotic treat which segues nicely into Rider's Aftermath wherein that vocal mutates into a mechanised refrain whilst Playford and Goldie proceed to beat you into a bloody pulp (and you love it). Although you're either helpless flat on the floor or jumping around the room by now (possibly even middle-aged Junglists can still do that) Stormtroopa delivers the coup de grâce, rewinding your mind (if not body, though you wish it were true) to times when you could and did go mental to Metalheadz records.

Friday 27 April 2018

Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6

There seems to be little left to say about John Coltrane or Miles Davis, although such is our (human) nature plenty of prose about them will no doubt pour out until the end of the world. I was going to 'review' Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6, but thought better of it, then thought differently again and so on...

...my head bounced to and fro as if I was an audience member at one of these gigs, assuming Coltrane had that effect, which he surely did. Today we're oh-so-wise about What Happened Next but it's not hard to imagine, having closed off retrospective wisdom, how shocking Coltrane's playing was in 1960...

...it's even shocking now in the context of a band tour under the name of a legend playing standards and future classics from Kind Of Blue to all intents and purposes supposedly not 'just' but no more than a 'cool' god playing Modern Jazz but...

...what happens, no-one could predict. What happens is a draft of things to come not just from Coltrane but a generation of iconoclasts out to smash what used to be Jazz into pieces, albeit very large pieces in the form of 20-minute voyages of discovering just how far they could go when blowing and in the process alienating many Jazz-lovers, just as Miles Davis would do towards the end of the 60s with Bitches Brew...

...talking of which, on this tour, at times, Coltrane manages to make Miles Davis sound like The Past, no mean feat, although it's easy to exaggerate what happened. The fact is Coltrane was in a bad mood most of the time and wanted out; the sound of a prisoner sawing at his shackles doesn't always make for comfortable listening but neither does most of what he would unwittingly unleash in the form the The New Thing...

...some of the crowd at the Paris gig definitely weren't happy, as we can hear by the whistling when, having briefly dipped back into the theme on All Of You Coltrane goes way off-message and to those without the ability to see into the future may well have sounded as if he'd lost the plot completely like an amateur in a cutting contest...

...what Davis thought during the process is anyone's guess but 'Muthafucker!' is one good guess. He had, after all, suggested Coltrane try taking the horn out of his mouth when he told his boss he didn't know when to stop, but the Free thing would be very much about not stopping, or more to the point, not being concerned about neatly tying up a tune (what tune?) in the tradition of improvising as it was known up until the 60s when through a hunger for taking a magical mystery tour Afrocentric blacks and radical whites engaged in a process of developing what would become known as just Improv, rather than 'improvisation', thus, ironically, shortening a word but considerably lengthening the nature of the beast unleashed by the likes of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and the UK's own Joe Harriott who, it must be said, deserved more than he got in terms of recognition and, to be frank, lifetime, but instead is a cult figure in musical history, unlike Coltrane, who despite living for 6 years less than Harriott had the drive, ideas, connections etc to make more incredible music than most tenor players could manage should they live forever and there was tough competition, not that he was in competition except regarding polls; the likes of Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter who, having 'scrambled eggs' with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers was called up for duty in Davis' next Great Band, which set a pace of their very own whilst others took to roaming Free range, which Davis had no interest in or respect for therefore making the wild electric storm blown up by him in the late-60s ironic, eh?  

Did I blow for too long with that sentence? Oh well, consider it a homage...

Monday 16 April 2018

Album: Sonae - I Started Wearing Black

Sonae started wearing black some time ago - I'm not sure that's a good thing but I defer to her right to do so - me, I don't like black or wear it, except shoes for work. The negative connotations are obvious, although that aside, without a care for what it may suggest, black is popular, mainly in the office. People are lazy, knowing that anything goes with black. I understand. If your base sartorial colour is actually a colour, you have to work on the rest of the outfit. The problems of life...

Meanwhile, Sonae's music on I Started Wearing Black is not quite as Dark as the title suggests, without being cheery either. Personally I'm wary of cheerful people. I think they must be a bit simple, but at the same time, envy (a little) their ignorance-is-bliss state of existence. I don't know what shiny happy people listen to (Beyonce?), but it's probably not this kind of music. Among the highlights is Dream Sequence (with Gregor Schwellenbach). Except there's nothing 'high' about it; instead, a beautiful quasi-orchestral feeling of a half-remembered dream. On this and throughout, Sonae loads the track with atmosphere courtesy of concrete-type sound. She has mastered the art of texture to the point where it becomes an art form, as opposed to a cheap easy route to supposed 'haunting' auras, hauntology-by-numbers.

Thankfully, when she decides to use a beat, it doesn't sound like a tokenistic nod towards feeling obliged to liven things up but, as in the case of the title track, an organic evolution, executed with taste. The stripped back metallic beat, when it comes, is even more effective on White Trash Rouge Noir. Quality product.

Monday 19 March 2018

Modern Music is Rubbish! (?)

There comes a time when you really have no interest in such things as 'Junglepussy In the city centre of Ghent, in northwest Belgium' (Quietus headline today). This time comes earlier in some people's lives than others. To say I have only just arrived at that point as I near 60 would be a lie. For a few years now (how many, I cannot count because a gradual development has no definite beginning) I have had such thoughts when faced with contemporary music news.

I could lay the blame, not on Mame, but J.S.Bach; to be precise, his cello suite No.4, which I started playing half an hour ago. It took less than a minute for me to think what all great music is capable of making us think, namely: "This is superior to everything" (except the relatively few other truly great pieces of music I own). The subject in the back of my mind is how middle-aged listeners relate to contemporary music, not that which inhabits the narrow specialist field they may still explore should they be interested in contemporary music, but the 'contemporary' as covered by the larger sites.

Unfortunately, even defining 'contemporary music' is not as simple as it once was, in the olde days when vinyl was all we had. That cassette-only album (but on Bandcamp) your Noise-making friend released recently is still, basically, contemporary music. But the fact that it will not even register on supposed indie-minded sites means that, by inhabiting the very furthest margins, it is beyond being recognised in the contemporary field. 

Pop music may not be aimed at my age group but that does not stop those within the demographic occasionally (or even frequently) blowing their tops about the state of modern Pop. Within most of us there's a trip mechanism liable to be set off at any time by the mere appearance on screen of a modern Pop star as, say, part of of newspaper's front page. Watching coverage of Glastonbury is asking for trouble, yet sometimes we do so to reaffirm prejudices.

We know that musical appreciation is subjective but that doesn't prevent us from making 'definitive' statements sometimes, by which I mean statements which we are convinced are correct, 100%, no question. This is problematic if one tries comparing say, Slade to Ed Sheeran. Both made/make music for teeny boppers. The thing here is that one made music for me, when I was a teeny bopper, which immediately makes Slade better. Ed Sheeran will be better, in 30 years time, for those who love him now, than whoever kids worship then. Apologies for stating the obvious but part of this process must inevitably be the laying out of facts in order to try and find a truth.

As I said to friend in a pub recently, the only chance contemporary music has of trumping what's gone before is by using new technology in such a way as to truly make something new. But it is only those who have 'heard it all before' who must endure that curse/blessing. Yes, we saw Bowie's first Top of the Pops appearance when it happened and we watched the Sex Pistols 'live' on the Bill Grundy Show. Perhaps we also felt the rush of Jungle when it was new and so on. Such experiences taint us terribly, partly because they are firmly placed in the museum of groundbreaking Musical Events. Those who place them there will be from various generations, of course. Older (than me) people will have seen Bill Hayley's first UK tour, Dylan's first electric set and so on. 

What irks some of us, after a few decades, is the site of further additions to that hall of fame. It's as if we have the right to lock the doors of that museum when we think there can be no more worthy additions. One case that springs to mind is is the 90s 'Cool Britannia' phenomenon. I remember well that neither Blur nor Oasis were thought of as actually groundbreaking, original or sensational by seasoned veterans of the listening game. The former were 'mockney' jokes, the latter, Beatles imitators. With some catchy tunes. You don't need me to tell you that for many they too are now deemed worthy nominees for the Hall of Fame. Well, they're already in there. 

As far as the professional music press goes it serves them to maintain a continuum of Great Music for obvious reasons. People's earnings depend on it. This is no cynical conspiracy by 'old' editors, but simply a matter of employing young writers and letting them be enthusiastic about all that music which sounds fresh because to them it is despite easily available evidence to the contrary. 

Although we have the potential for rational thinking, we humans are prone to being irrational. You've noticed? Rational thought and logic aren't easily applied to music. It takes a very cool head to be rational about all this. But isn't music supposed, among other attributes, to arouse a degree of passion? The very thing about the music we love is most likely to blow rational thinking away. There are few greater sounds, for instance, than a Charlie Parker solo. Agreed? Of course not, unless you also happen be a fan. 

Perhaps, when all is said and done, talking/writing about music is a futile exercise. Here on Include Me Out I've written a great deal about music yet I could not begin to describe/explain what it is about a Charlie Parker solo that is so very special. Professional Jazz critics could explain it technically, but no more define the mysterious thrill than I can.

I may think them 'wrong' but I enjoy hearing friends declare a Frank Zappa album to be mind-blowingly brilliant. What worries me more (here's the crux) is seeing the same comment tagged onto a Level 42 album on YouTube. OK, they were a random choice, of course. It would be easier to say Kanye West. Or a contemporary Pop group, but I couldn't name one. Do Pop groups still exist, or are they a dead breed, replaced by solo artists? Is it time for bingo yet, nurse?

My final point is that I'm as capable as any idiot of declaring modern music (within the general field) to be RUBBISH!...

You see how easy it is? To return to J.S.Bach, as he once said: If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord. The best I can do it restrain myself as often as possible.

Thank you

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Various - (not) open to question

Whilst the New Year may be open to question the quality of the work on this album is not. Furthermore, you're invited by the label to make your own additions to these tracks, the first layer 'is created within the collaboration of MƩCHΔNICΔL ΔPƩ and Les Horribles Travailleurs', so the challenge is set, although this is very much in the spirit of collaboration rather than competition. As always, the bar is set high here but why not (re) create? Remake/remodel (should be a Roxy Music title...oh, it is?). 'You are invited to finish this soundwork by altering\adding layers etc. to the first layer, which can be downloaded from Bandcamp'. As it stands it's very good.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

New Year: So What

Let's start the New Year with a whimper...@',mn,mn,qwwwwwhhhhhhhhherrrr'

Fact is this year's going to be the one that sees the downfall of the music industry due to it's incessant gnawing of itself like a doped-up rabid labradoodle, foaming as it very slowly chews its own leg off and keeps going as far as it can reach until it's stinking innards spool out across everything but don't worry, you will be immune to the putrid, poisonous substance due to years of injecting the antidote in the form of JS Bach, James Brown, Bernard Parmegiani and other names involving capital 'B', or 'L', or 'D'...how about 'D'? Don Cherry, Defunkt...that's enough, that's the ABC of it, your alphabetically registered pantheon of  ....music people...the countermeasure to all the crap...

On the subject of letters...

That one's called AB...there's more of my art over here

Whatever...or, actually, all my art work this year will be part of a series called So What...why? I reckon it's the most common response.

In 2018, though, let's not be blase about things, least of all what we love the most and what we make...

Thursday 28 December 2017

Aclds - Fuadain Liesmas

Under the radar, off the map...such terms hardly do justice to Chris Douglas' non-place in the what we might call 'the music world', even the 'underground electronic' version. No surprise then that Fuadain Liesmas  has not, to my knowledge, appeared in any end-of-the-year charts. As Dalglish, O.S.T. and Scald Rougish, Douglas has persisted in making music for any reason but the desire for publicity or, perhaps, praise. Not that I believe he wouldn't welcome recognition. Searching for reviews of this album I've found no mention other than on this blog and, of course, Boomkat (because their job is to try and sell music). 

Describing the carefully crafted sounds here would be a challenge for most would-be critics, yet that's no reason for it's apparent invisibility; many writers are better equipped than me to talk about 'abstract' sound and do so regularly. Nonetheless, here I am...on the edge of...reviewing what eludes easy categorisation. 

Negin Giv, being just 30secs long, might be a good place to start (and end?) since it is, in microcosm a snapshot of Douglas' methodology....his ability to...punch holes in ...the space-time continuum...? If I improvise, forgive me. Free-flowing word scrambles might suit talk of Jazz, but  Fuadain Liesmas being so meticulously composed I feel duty-bound to attempt the same in writing. And fail. 

OT-IntVxEs 1 is typical of what goes on here, which is not to suggest that it's all predictable from the outset (only in...approach to sound). Rather, I mean, in creating melancholic (?) tones which in other hands would signal mere ambient eternal drift somnambulism, Douglas scatters brittle components throughout. No sleeping here. No daydreaming 'bliss'. Only on Hrm Clng or Dtn#09_Ed do we find what feels like a place of rest, albeit one derived from an afterlife (?). After what? This is life, in all it's restless, skittish, uncertain gravity. 

Perhaps ambiguity renders such albums unpopular; not 'difficult listening' - that, surely, is in the ear of the beholder. Albums that gain attention often shout something, even if in a thoroughly minimalist, quiet fashion. Is the popularity of Ambient a result of what many perceive to be a  politically turbulent world? An escape from that madness? As if the world has ever been stable. Whatever, the thing to do is make music which speaks of either 'the street', or technological trickery in the service of an adrenaline boost. Songs, naturally, are always in favour. Fuadain Liesmas offers no such musical certainties. It's neither flash nor pleasingly serene. Ultimately, I can only say 'It is what it is'. You can get a taste from the stream below, but to fully savour what Chris Douglas has created, I suggest you buy the CD from here.

Sunday 17 December 2017

2017: Albums of the (y)Ear

RTomens, 2016

WHAT? forgive me. I dunno. WHEN? last year. I mean, this year, 2017. In PC world nobody's memory works so I must consult this blog, scroll back in time (one day everyone will have mental bookmarks implanted, won't they?) to see which albums might be considered memorable worth mentioning in a round-up...

So here goes...

Broken Ground  - Christian Bouchard

Structures And Light - Group Zero

Some People Really Know How To Live - Shit and Shine

Hesaitix - M.E.S.H

Fuadain Liesmas -  Aclds
review forthcoming

Monika Werkstatt - Various

A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound - Roland Kayn (this didn't even make the Wire charts!?)

Entertaining The Invalid - Various

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Collaborative Soundworks by Les Horribles Travailleurs / MƩCHΔNICΔL ΔPƩ

Texture, abstraction, atmosphere...mood music for the apocalypse in your head. Who is not enduring small (or large) psychotic trauma on a daily basis? It's the modern world...in which other modern people go about their business, answering 'it' with just a 'sigh'. 


Pay what you want but somehow you will pay it all, (play it all) back...

Friday 8 December 2017

Collage / King Tubby / Underground Resistance / Self-Portrait

All The Marks Of Identity Are Swept Away, RTomens, 2017

Wonder why...I'm not myself of late...

Self-Portrait, RTomens 2017


Wednesday 6 December 2017

Art: Monk's Mood - Tribute To Thelonious Monk

RTomens, 2017
 Three art works from a series I made in honour of Thelonious Monk. The music is taken from his tune, Monk's Mood.

RTomens, 2017

RTomens, 2017

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