Weekend listening: “High Heels Police Force”

February 10, 2018

Thanks to DJ Southwold for the lead guitar.

Protip: if you pitchshift an ordinary clarinet (and the way I play clarinet is ordinary at best) down an octave you get the sound of a bass clarinet.

Thereby saving you both the expense of a real bass clarinet and the trouble of carting it around…

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Mark E Smith: not a “national treasure”

January 28, 2018

When they started, The Fall would get bad reviews. I remember listening to an edition of Radio 1’s “Round Table” where The Fall’s new single ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ was played. The guests thought it was rubbish. They sniggered and joked. To me it sounded harsh, exciting, risky (they left the mistakes in!).

‘Kicker Conspiracy’’s prophesy was that football would turn from an “honest game” into an empty international entertainment event bloated with money.

When people die, we try and say nice things about them. This is to reassure ourselves, that the world is a kind place, in the face of the available evidence. We play their music again, to reassure ourselves that something hasn’t been lost, in the face of the available evidence. We come up with cod psychology to explain their bad behavior.

What can be missed is context, especially when the act concerned has had a long and prolific career.

When ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ was released “indie music” was a network of amateurs, chancers and record shops with music press backing and the support of one influential radio DJ. New Order were just about to make their commercial breakthrough with “Blue Monday”. ”Alternative” music had not yet been homogenised into just another genre, supported by a national radio station.

England is a place where bad things happen. The clichés of English pragmatism, the stiff upper lip and the sense of humour are tactics designed to disguise and repress the propensities of the English for violence, ugliness and discord. Scratch the surface and you find an atavistic, coldly destructive, pagan sensibility: a sharp nastiness which crosses classes, political allegiance and cultures. The works of William Blake (despite attempts to turn him into a socialist hero) and the work of Margaret Thatcher have much in common. If you try and tell that truth you are likely to be marginalised, and get bad reviews.

But it is thrilling when for a moment, or series of moments, someone who understand and embodies those impulses, and can see and describe them clearly, turns that nastiness into bitter, harsh, exciting sound.

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Mark Smith at number 1, new Fall track at number 2. R.I.P. MES

 


“Chaos of Hard Clay” by various authors

January 18, 2018

“It’s a real book!” said someone in my household when this arrived through the post.

hard clay

Do people read anymore?

Actually they read all the time, but they read screens, not books.

I’m addicted to my screens just like everyone else, but when I put them down, I often find myself picking up a book and carrying it around, like it’s a screen.

Yet, despite all this, owning a book is still exciting…

So there is now a book of short stories, on Amazon and other places you can buy things, with my name on it, along with lots of other names of other people.

G Allen Cook is the masterbrain behind this project. He seems like a very nice chap, and publishes books. You read about his publishing here. Thanks very much to him for making it happen.

I think my story could have done with a rewrite. It’s also too long, even though I had trouble making the word count…

Still, it is a real book…

Update: there’s now a Facebook promotion.


Weekend listening: “Ode to Brexit”

January 13, 2018

2018 will be the year of the Kastle synthesiser.

You have been warned…


Merry Blogmas!

December 20, 2017

So what kind of a year has it been?

At work?

Well a great year, and I’d like to thank all my colleagues at BBC Monitoring, who are not only the cleverest people I’ve ever worked with, but also the nicest.

And thanks to any other of my BBC colleagues who might be reading this. See you in newBH next year!

And to anyone at Angel Academe or in the tech sector who has been kind enough to talk to me this year.

At play?

It’s been a fantastic year for music…

There was @DeathValleyGrls in London…

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And then there was Death Valley Girls in Brighton (with The Darts !). A night I will never forget…

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(What happens in Brighton, stays in Brighton…)

And that’s before even mentioning Tanya Tagaq, Peach Club and a whole bunch of classical concerts (Beethoven’s violin and piano sonatas in a village hall in the Hertfordshire countryside…)

It was a great year for guitarists. My good friend Simon Hopkins was on fire:

As was my good friend DJ Southwold:

But… the best guitarist of 2017? Has to be whoever in L7  plays lead on their magnificent new track. “Brutal” doesn’t even begin to cover her playing on this:

Happy Christmas to anyone reading this, and I hope your new year is positive, healthy and exciting.

 


Weekend listening: “In A Sentimental Mood”

September 9, 2017

Duke Ellington wrote some fantastic music.

My hunch, from listening to his music, is that he understood that dissonance and noise aren’t horrible things to be avoided, nor are they ideological ends in themselves to attack the bourgeoisie (an opinion usually held by people who are members of that very same bourgeoisie and think by traumatizing their fellows they are going to make some kind of political breakthrough but usually end up looking pretty bloody stupid), but just another tool in the box of expression.

So I hope the Duke and his descendants will forgive my rather “smeary” moments on this version of one of his greatest melodies. I think they will because the guitar playing of Simon Hopkins is subtle, sophisticated, powerful and operating at a higher level.

Thanks to Simon (and the Duke)…

 


Weekend listening: “If I Say How Much I Love You”

August 12, 2017

I saw “Casablanca” for the first time this year.

It’s a good film. A propaganda movie. But since the propaganda is: “forgive the people you love and fight the Nazis”, it’s easy to swallow.

In it Humphrey Bogart utters the famous line that people’s problems, “…don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…”

Which seems pertinent (the headline in this newspaper from Iran apparently translates as “World in the hands of crazy people“, although what’s behind the link may have have changed by the time anyone reads this).

So although it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, it’s still pleasing that this piece of music, (dedicated to the love of my life @AndroidAnnee) has now been played over 100 times on Soundcloud.

I have no doubt that this is down to the masterful and subtle guitar work of my good friend Simon Hopkins rather than anything to do with me.

To anyone who listened, thanks.

 

 


The Taxman’s Robot Wants to Steal My Voice

July 8, 2017

I had to ring up Her Majesty’s Customs & Revenue on Monday.

I did the usual – giving up my date of birth, first line of address, postcode.

Then something odd happened. The recorded voice said that the next time I phoned up they would use my voice to identify me and that I should record my voice now so they could do so.

It didn’t ask my permission to do this, didn’t give me an opt in or an opt out. So I didn’t say anything. Eventually the voice said “we’ll do this next time”.

Oh no we won’t.

It is possible given my failing memory that at some point in the past I signed up to this. However since I’m the kind of person who has not one but two twitter accounts but still refuses to give Twitter his phone number, this seems unlikely. If I did give permission, I take it back now. This blog post means I am unticking the box.

My voice is my data. Trying to “nudge” people into  giving up a recording of their voice without explicit permission must surely be a breach of some kind of data protection or privacy policy. At the very least, the “user journey” here is poor. The assumption in the language is that I’m happy to record my voice. I should be asked, explicitly, whether I want to record my voice or not.

The last thing I need is the Government recording my voice, the recording then being hacked, and used by a criminal to impersonate me.

Here’s a recording of a short fragment of the message:

Every time an automated till in my supermarket flashes red for no reason,  I mutter to myself that these machines should be our servants, not our masters.

Resist our robot overlords!

And rebel against their designers!


Sunday listening: “High Heels Police” #blues

July 2, 2017

behind your back

with their clickety clack

you better cover up

they dont wanna see you

high heels police words

A “Wail of Sound” production.


Why @DeathValleyGrls are cool in one picture and one tweet

June 7, 2017

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(I still can’t quite believe I saw my two favourite bands of right now @DeathValleyGrls and @TheDartsUS, together, for free, only two weeks ago. Thanks to @BITCHCRAFTBTN for the night, to @simonphopkins for the hospitality and @bspeed8 for the tweet)