Thursday, 29 September 2016

Version City #54 - The Blackeyed Susans sing Tina Turner

The Blackeyed Susans draw from the fertile pool of talented Australian players, featuring a floating line-up that has included members who have also served time with The Bad Seeds, The Triffids, Ed Kuepper, The Dirty Three and The Surrealists. The origins of the band stretch back as far as 1989 and they still play shows today, though have released no new music since 2003's 'Shangri-La'. In 2001 The Blackeyed Susans issued 'Dedicated to the Ones We Love', an album of covers. Much of the source material for the project was unsurprising - Big Star, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley etc - while other selections were less predictable. Take Mark Knopfler's 'Private Dancer' for instance. A hit for Tina Turner in 1984 and here given an effective New Orleans jazz funeral style arrangement.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Rachael Dadd & Will Newsome

After a short mid-season break, I was back on the gig circuit just before the weekend to see Bristol based musicians Rachael Dadd and Will Newsome. Rachael collaborates extensively with artists such as Francois & The Atlas Mountains, This Is The Kit, and Rozi Plain and also has a clutch of releases under her own name, the most recent of which, the beautiful 'We Resonate', featuring among my favourite albums of 2014. On Rachael's current tour her collaborator is her sister Betsy, an animator and film maker. As Betsy's 30 minute film plays on a screen behind the stage, it's accompanied by a live uninterrupted suite of songs from Rachael at the piano. At the outset Rachael explained that this was something very different for her, which indeed it was, but it was nothing short of a triumph - I was completely lost in the presentation for the whole half hour. I asked her after the show if she had any plans to document the audio/visual performance at some point and she appeared very keen to do so - I really hope it happens. Following the film portion of the set, Rachael played a few songs from 'We Resonate' in a more familiar style, accompanying herself at various times on guitar, banjo and ukulele, before calling support act Will Newsome to the stage to duet on 'On We Skip', from an album the pair made together in 2008.

Will Newsome's solo supporting set was every bit as compelling as Rachael's. He plays the kora, an instrument I've been fascinated with since picking up Toumani Diabaté's 'New Ancient Strings' album in 1999. The kora is an unfathomable instrument to me - it faces the player who usually appears to be keeping a half-a-dozen tunes going at once, in spite of barely moving their hands. As if that wasn't enough to keep him occupied, Will sings too. His set was a treat and the performance of 'Not a Dead Bird' was particularly memorable, featuring an intricate extended instrumental passage. Here's Will introducing an al fresco version of that very song, followed by the 2014 video for Rachael's 'Strike Our Scythes' and finally the two of them together on the original studio recording of 'On We Skip'

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Vanishing Twin

Formed in 2015 by members of Fanfarlo, Neon Neon, Broadcast and Floating Points, Vanishing Twin's debut LP, 'Choose Your Own Adventure', should've already been with us by now, but has apparently been delayed until next Friday. The band make a warm and inviting pop noise, tweaked with a gentle hint of esoteric psychedelia. Their videos are very cool too.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

An Ear Inflamed On My Dog Chain

                                  The 2016 Small Wonder mock-up                                   The original shop

(Continued from the previous post)

After leaving the British Library, I jumped onto a Victoria Line train at Kings Cross and took myself over to Walthamstow, where, in an empty unit at the top of the High Street (just a couple of hundred yards from its original location), a mock up of the old Small Wonder record shop frontage has been created as part of the Punk Waltham Forest series of events. Stepping inside revealed a virtual continuation of the Punk 1976-78 exhibit I'd visited an hour earlier, with displays of flyers, posters, photos, sleeves and other memorabilia relating to Pete Stennett's hugely important shop and record label. While browsing the collection I fell into easy conversation with two other visitors of a similar vintage to myself, who had dropped in on their way to the British Library's exhibit. We sat for a while and exchanged our individual memories of the punk and post-punk years in general and Small Wonder in particular. It turned out that in spite of having been loyal mail-order customers in the late 70s and early 80s, neither had ever been to Walthamstow before in their lives. After half an hour or so, we all shook hands and went our separate ways, they on to the British Library and me off down memory lane, because unlike them I know Walthamstow very well, or at least I used to - I spent the first 15 years of my life in the place.

My family moved out of London in 1975, one year before Small Wonder opened, though initially I returned regularly, to visit friends and also to buy records from Pete. The last time I crossed Small Wonder's threshold was probably late 1981, a couple of years before it closed down. Gradually my trips to Walthamstow became less frequent, until they stopped altogether - in fact before last Monday, I hadn't walked around the old home town in over 30 years.

One bitterly cold winter day in early 1978, I dropped into Small Wonder and, after a bit of a rummage through the racks, approached the counter with a couple of singles. Pete smiled at one of my purchases and paused as he was about to drop it into a bag. 'Do want him to sign it?' he asked, gesturing to a shivering figure sitting on the floor next to an old two bar electric fire. The record in question was 'Safety Pin Stuck in My Heart' and the man trying to warm himself was Patrik Fitzgerald.

Patrik Fitzgerald - Safety Pin Stuck in My Heart 

(Buy 'Safety Pins, Secret Lives and the Paranoid Ward: The Best Of Patrik Fitzgerald 1977-1986' here.)

Monday, 19 September 2016

Silence is a Rhythm Too

Last Monday, I headed over to the Euston Road to check out the Punk 1976-78 exhibition at the British Library. It's a small, but often fascinating exhibit, surprisingly heavy on ephemeral items, flyers, fanzines and posters - things that one might have thought would've been lost over the past 40 years. Among the other items on display are a couple of original Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood t-shirts from the Sex boutique on King's Road, the original cassette of The Clash's first interview for NME and the only known document in existence to be signed by all five Sex Pistols - Glen Matlock's official resignation letter from the band. I personally lingered longest at the wall of punk 7" sleeves - surprised at how many I still knew after all this time and how few I failed to recognise.

Overall, the exhibit rightly gives time and space over to some of the important female artists of the period (Slits, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie etc), though somewhat surprisingly, the blurb on the poster at the entrance overlooks them altogether, singling out only the Pistols, Clash and Buzzcocks by way of introduction. Fortunately when Viv Albertine of The Slits visited the show she remembered to take along a felt tip pen. I took a quick snap of her handwritten thoughts on this glaring omission. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Here are The Slits with a fantastic tune that actually falls outside of the exhibition's timeframe (it was released on a split 7" single in 1980), but it just doesn't get an airing often enough.

The Slits - In the Beginning There Was Rhythm 

(Punk 1976-78 is on at the British Library until October 2nd, admission free.)

Saturday, 17 September 2016

British People in Hot Weather

We're back home in Norfolk after a week down in olde London town. What was that bloody weather all about? Temperatures in the mid 30's with ridiculously high humidity does not make The Swede a happy boy. I had a big wobble on Monday and genuinely thought I was going to pass out while I was on the Tube, even though I'd kept my water intake high. To top it all, the car's electric windows jammed shut on Tuesday and have refused to open since - there's no aircon, it's been utterly stifling. As I type this though, it's 19° and raining steadily - absolute bliss. Time to start catching up with what's been going on while I've been away.

The Fall - British People in Hot Weather

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Ultimate Painting

Ultimate Painting, the band formed in 2014 by James Hoare of Mazes and Jack Cooper of Veronica Falls, return with their third LP, 'Dusk', on September 30th. The first taster from the album is the insistent and ever so gently kosmische, 'Bills'.

As a bonus, here's one for our pal Jez over at A History of Dubious Taste. His heavily interactive version of Radcliffe and Maconie's 'The Chain' must give him a few sleepless nights, but the resulting feature is fast becoming totally addictive - long may it run. As you read these words I'm still out of town and so may miss out on making a weekly link suggestion for the very first time. Here's hoping that this doesn't break the chain.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Plaint of Lapwing

Much as I thrive on stumbling across and sharing new names, previously unknown record labels or unearthed half-forgotten treasures, there is a select bunch of singers, songwriters and bands about whom I could happily blog to the exclusion of all others. These are artists whose restless creativity has woven itself into the very fabric of my life, with every release being warmly welcomed like a new addition to the family. One such artist is Alasdair Roberts, a man whose work may be rooted in the folk tradition, but actually extends far beyond mere genre limitations. His latest LP, 'Plaint of Lapwing', is a collaboration with James Green of The Big Eyes Family Players and is released on Clay Pipe Music, a delightful London based label run by illustrator Frances Castle. Each release on Clay Pipe comes in carefully conceived limited edition packaging designed by Frances, with 'Plaint of Lapwing' being no exception. The packaging, of course, would mean nothing without content and this album sits comfortably among Alasdair's finest. It's also one of his more accessible for the casual listener, the warm analogue feel of the record belying the file-sharing nature of its creation. Find out more here.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Red Gold & Green #8 - Sounds Unlimited

We're about to head out of town again. Mrs S has a 3 day trade fair over the weekend in London's trendy Shoreditch, meanwhile I'll be ticking off a few odd jobs for my elderly Aunt in downtown East Ham. It'll actually be over a week until I rejoin y'all in a live and direct capacity, as said Aunt is having a cataract operation while I'm there and lives alone, so I want to hang around until I'm sure she's back up to full speed and able to fend for herself - she's a force of nature, but at 87 years old you can't be too careful. On the same day as one Aunt's operation, another Aunt over in Bethnal Green celebrates her 89th birthday. She's a little more frail, but also lives alone. She has vision problems too and is currently enduring horrendous monthly injections into both eyes, though hopefully will be up for a spot of birthday lunch while I'm in town.

I've scheduled a couple of posts to keep things ticking over in my absence, but I'll leave you for now with 'Road Runner' by Sounds Unlimited, a Herman Chin-Loy production from 1971 (or 1973 depending on who you believe). Prepare yourself for a particularly unsettling interruption at the 1½ minute mark.

Sounds Unlimited - 'Road Runner' 

(Find this and many other crucial tunes on the 2004 Pressure Sounds compilation, 'Aquarius Rock: The Hip Reggae World Of Herman Chin-Loy'.)

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chook Race

We've been spoilt by an abundance of exceptional Australian releases over the past couple of years, the most recent example of which is 'Around the House', the 2nd LP by Melbourne three piece, Chook Race. If you like guitars that jangle, choruses that chime and you have an fondness for the early sound of the Flying Nun label, then you should really make it your business to check this one out. I'm actually finding it hard to listen to anything else just at the moment, it's that good. Hear the fabulous 'At your Door', watch a live version of 'Hard to Clean', then check out the whole album here.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Red Gold & Green #7 - The Soul Brothers

I was laid low by a nasty bug for much of last week, though I couldn't rightly tell you if it was of the 48, 60 or 72 hour variety, as I became so feverish that time no longer had any real meaning to me. I poured with sweat, then became teeth-chatteringly cold, then hot, then cold, with the cycle repeating over and over again as I thrashed about in vain search of sleep. I seem to get these bugs about once a year - here's hoping that was the last one for at least the next 12 months.

Ace Studio One session band The Soul Brothers (also known as The Soul Vendors) featured former Skatalites members Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevitt, though they quickly moved towards the emerging rocksteady sound. The 1967 Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd production, 'Hot and Cold', is an instrumental version of 'Let the Light Shine' by The Ethiopians, released the same year.

The Soul Brothers - Hot and Cold

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Since We've Fallen Out

The new King Creosote LP, 'Astronaut Meets Appleman', is just hours away and has already garnered a clutch of favourable reviews from the music media. I posted 'You Just Want', the first taster from the album, over a month ago (here). I was getting excited then - imagine the state I'm in now. While 'Astronaut Meets Appleman' may be the official Domino Records follow-up to 2014's 'From Scotland With Love', Kenny has hardly been idle in the interim. 'From Scotland With Love' was actually one of three LP's he issued in 2014, the others, 'Loose Tea On His Wynd' and '3 On This Island', were both ridiculously limited editions and already change hands for big money on the interweb (I own neither, if anyone's feeling generous). 2015 was a slightly quieter year, with just one full length release, 'Småvulgär', limited again, though this time on CD only. In April this year KC issued 'King Creosote & The Queens of Brush County', a collaboration with female artists reinterpreting a selection of his songs and in May, 'The Bound Of The Red Deer', another collaboration, this time with Canadian musician Michael Johnston. The latter is an absolute must have and bucks the trend by remaining widely available to order. The standout tune for me from 'The Bound Of The Red Deer'  is an intense reworking of the already terrific 'Since We've Fallen Out', which originally appeared on the 2010 Burns Unit LP, 'Side Show'. Here it is, to listen only. Read more and buy the album here.

King Creosote and Michael Johnston - Since We've Fallen Out

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