Monday, 16 May 2022

Monday Long Song

'This is a Mindfulness Drill' by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (featuring vocal turns by Sharon Van Etten, Perfume Genius and Moses Sumney) is a 2021 re-imagining of 'Sapphie', a 1998 LP by Richard Youngs. 'Sapphie', an album very close to my heart, contains three long songs, including the breathtaking 'Soon It Will Be Fire', my entry point to the great man's music. I almost went with Van Etten's version of 'The Graze of Days' today, which is pretty darned impeccable, but instead here's Sumney's beautiful reading of 'Soon It Will Be Fire', followed by the achingly raw original. I honestly can't recommend these albums highly enough.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - Soon It Will Be Fire

Richard Youngs - Soon It Will Be Fire


Monday, 2 May 2022

Monday Long Song

This week's long song is a no-brainer. Legendary keyboard maestro Klaus Schulze passed away last Tuesday, just four months shy of his 75th birthday. The impact Schulze and his kosmische chums made on my young ears was considerable (here) and remains so, even if these days the sounds of bubbling modulations and subtly sweeping synths have to compete with my own constant internal soundtrack of screaming tinnitus. 

Schulze was 29 years old when 'Moondawn' was released in 1976 and, having already passed through the ranks of both Ash Ra Temple and Tangerine Dream, was five albums into a long, extremely prolific solo career. 'Floating' opened proceedings on solo LP No.6.

Klaus Schulze - Floating

Monday, 25 April 2022

Monday Long Song

The Dylan Group out of Washington DC were all done and dusted by the time I stumbled upon their music in the early noughties, leaving behind a slim body of work released between 1997 and 2000. I'm pretty sure that I bumped into the bafflingly titled 'Gazer =[(Shoe)(Star)]2 + Beat' on my virtual travels around the internet, which prompted me to hoover up their entire catalogue on my actual travels around the many second hand CD stores situated in New York in those days. Back then I would to fly out to visit my cousin and her family with a half empty suitcase and return home loaded down with so many dusty $0.50c CDs that I could barely lift it. Anyway, all these years later this sparse, persistent tune is still the one of theirs I return to the most. (The occasional dubby echo on the drums always reminds me of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'.) Dylan Cristy and Adam Pierce, who did most of the heavy lifting with The Dylan Group, are better known for their day job as members of Mice Parade.

The Dylan Group - Gazer =[(Shoe)(Star)]2 + Beat

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

A Series of Brief Obsessions #5 - Vertical Montanas

The previous instalment in this series detailed my 18 month obsession with Jonquil and this single sits neatly alongside that obsession. Vertical Montanas were a ten-piece amalgam of the aforementioned Jonquil and fellow Oxford combo Youthmovies who, after originally making plans to guest on each other's recordings, ultimately decided to form a whole new band together. These two songs, recorded in 2007 and released on a pink vinyl 7" single the following year, comprise their entire output. Both of these unconventional tunes featured heavily on my CDr compilations at the time.

Vertical Montanas - Thick Mugs

Vertical Montanas - Of Scramblers; Rotting Birds And Gullies... The Trawlers, Crabs, The Caterpillar Tracks

Friday, 15 April 2022

Friday Photo #21

Tomorrow it'll be exactly 60 years since this photo was taken. It's the second in a series of annual birthday portraits taken of me in front of the family radiogram, a series that stretched until my 21st birthday in 1981 (see more examples here and here). The relatives must have been round, as I'm dressed in my best bib and tucker (the bow-tie was something of a fixture in the early days) and keen to show off my first ever bike....or more accurately trike. Dad was one of eight children so there were no doubt Aunts and Uncles aplenty on hand to spoil me rotten on my big day. Mum, like me, was an only child, but her own Mum, my dear old Nan, was probably not too far away from the action either. If you squint you might be able to make out an Easter Egg or two nestled among the birthday cards atop the radiogram, even though my second birthday actually fell a few days before the Easter weekend of 1962.This year it's the first time that my birthday has fallen on an Easter Saturday since the day I was born in 1960, having only coincided with that particular date on three other occasions in the 20th century, in 1927, 1938 and 1949.  

I'll be at work from 7 till 5 tomorrow, as the last minute rush to buy whatever Easter Eggs we have left reaches a no doubt chaotic and panic stricken crescendo. Then home for a chilled beverage or two in the evening.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Monday Long Song

Covid re-entered my workplace three weeks ago and has spent the time since cutting a swathe through the store. The staff have been dropping like flies. Fortunately most cases have been at the milder end of the spectrum, but several have been knocked sideways by it, suffering all kinds of unpleasantness. Those of us who've mercifully remained thus far untouched by the virus have been putting in extra hours in order to try and keep the shelves filled. Approximately 200 of us work at the gaff in total, though lately there have been times when it's felt distinctly like the Mary Celeste. There just aren't enough healthy pairs of hands to get the work done. I mention all this only to explain the recent virtual radio silence from my end. A long overdue catch up with my Aunt in London this past weekend had to be postponed too, as I worked throughout. Hopefully another week or so should see staff levels returning to something approaching normal and I can reschedule a visit for later in the month. 

Although I'd obviously much rather so many of my co-workers weren't under the weather, I can't deny that the substantial overtime is financially welcome, following my own lengthy period on the sick with shingles over Christmas. Speaking of which, while I was laid up and laid low, the last thing I felt like doing was shaving - so I didn't. And I never started again. Right about now I'm in week 20 or so with yer actual beard, I've not trimmed or tidied it at all and it's beginning to get pretty wild in the chin area. I'm not exactly sure where I go next with it to be honest, in fact I'm not even 100% certain that I like having a full beard at all (I've only ever sported the occasional goatee before now), but what I've discovered I really do like (a lot) is not having to shave. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

A Series of Brief Obsessions #4 - Jonquil

Sandwiched between the lo-fi sonic experimentation of  2006's 'Sunny Casinos' and the mutant disco of  2012's 'Point of Go' came 'Lions', the endearingly oddball folktronic sophomore album by Oxford combo, Jonquil. Throughout 2007/8 Mrs S and I fell hard for these guys. The cover mounted CDs issued with The Wire magazine provided all sorts of interesting avenues to pursue in those days and so it was with No.17, which featured A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Fridge, Husky Rescue and Kammerflimmer Kollektief  - all favourites at Swede Towers at the time, as well as introducing us to the music of the aforementioned Jonquil.

For 18 months Jonquil's name seemed on everyone's lips, but for some reason it never quite happened for them. During this period they recorded entertaining alfresco performances for the la Blogothèque Take Away Show series (available on YouTube in two parts here and here), plus had the distinction of becoming the band I've had to travel the least distance from my house to see, when they rolled up at the pub at the bottom of my road in July of 2007. 

As I mentioned at the top, Jonquil continued their journey in a different musical direction before apparently petering out, but lead singer Hugo Manuel eventually found acclaim under his synth-pop alias of Chad Valley, with whom he released four albums between 2011 and 2018.  

Jonquil - Sudden Sun

Jonquil - Whistle Low

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