Saturday 27 August 2016

Mark Mulcahy and Miracle Legion

Yesterday morning, while flicking through a couple of recent Marc Riley 6Music shows that I'd missed, I was surprised to discover that Miracle Legion played a session for him last week. I've been a fan of Mark Mulcahy's songs since picking up the band's 'Backyard' mini-album in (gulp!) 1984 and continued to follow his solo career following the Miracle Legion's dissolution in 1996. I had no idea they were back, though it turns out that Miracle Legion have temporarily reunited to play a few shows to coincide with a 20th anniversary reissue of their final LP, 'Portrait of a Damaged Family'. The Marc Riley session was really great (it's available here for another 3 weeks) and it prompted me to spend the rest of the day listening exclusively to Mark's music - solo, with Miracle Legion and as part of another occasional project, Polaris. Most of my physical music collection remains boxed up and inaccessible, so I was chuffed to find that all aspects of Mark's career are well catered for on Bandcamp. Here are a handful of choice nuggets.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Meatraffle at The National Portrait Gallery

As anyone who's paid even the slightest attention to my ramblings will know, I've got a bit of a thing for Meatraffle. I initially wrote about the band here and have subsequently featured their latest LP, 'HiFi Classics', over on my 'heavy rotation' sidebar on more than one occasion. While down in London on family business over the weekend, I was extremely chuffed to discover that Meatraffle had been invited to play a show at The National Portrait Gallery as part of its Creative Connections season. The high ceiling and cold walls of the room caused the band a few sound-related headaches early on, though these were quickly overcome and soon their dubby post-punk grooves were echoing through the old building. Meatraffle make a unique noise and they're very rapidly becoming my favourite band in the land. If you haven't done so already, do yourself a favour and check out the album here.

Friday 19 August 2016

Red Gold & Green #6 - Jimmy London

As I'm currently spending a few days ensconced in this nation's capitol city, it seems a particularly appropriate moment to share my favourite tune by one Trevor Shaw - better known in reggae circles as Jimmy London. Early on, Jimmy's sweet voice was a natural fit for such vocal harmony acts as The Inspirations and The Untouchables, though it was after going solo that he found his greatest commercial success, scoring a minor hit in 1971 with a cover of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. 'The Road Is Rough' appeared on the b-side of 'No Letter Today' in 1974 and gives John Lee Hooker a co-writing credit. I know of a Hooker song entitled 'The Road Is So Rough', but it bears no relation to this one, so if anyone can enlighten me further I'd be very grateful. The jaunty tune of 'The Road Is Rough' belies the determined desperation of the lyrics. Sing it Jimmy.

Jimmy London - 'The Road Is Rough'

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Live At The Fish Factory

Yesterday morning the postman arrived at the front door clutching my copy of 'Live at the Fish Factory', a clear vinyl 10" single by Collocutor, purchased in support of the band's crowd-funding initiative for their forthcoming second LP, 'The Search', which is due in November. Collocutor's 2014 debut, 'Instead', was an essentially jazz-based affair, albeit liberally laced with all manner of afro-inflected grooviness - and it's a corker. Check it out here.

The two tunes on 'Live at the Fish Factory' were recorded in January of this year - and filmed at the same time. Here's the spiritual 'Arrival'.

(I'm heading off to London for a few days to catch up with the visiting New York contingent of the family. Back after the weekend.)

Monday 15 August 2016

Julia Jacklin

Following on from my recent nod to English chanteuse Holly Macve, here's Julia Jacklin, another new name to keep an ear out for. Julia hails from the Blue Mountains region of Australia and, like Holly, has a debut LP set for imminent release. Check out this desperately beautiful acoustic version of the album's title track, 'Don't Let The Kids Win', along with her recently issued debut single 'Pool Party'.

Friday 12 August 2016


Flicking through some of my most played albums of the year so far, I'm surprised to find how many I've failed to share on these pages. You know when you're convinced you've done something only to later discover that you actually haven't? I've gone through this very scenario several times while cross-referring what I've really posted against what my poor befuddled brain is telling me that I have.

Take for instance 'The Apple Tree' by Hintermass, released in June on the ever reliable Ghost Box imprint. The band consists of Jon Brooks (from The Advisory Circle and the excellent Pattern Forms) and Tim Felton (from the much missed Broadcast). It's a record that combines big dollops of pastoral loveliness with occasional splodges of gentle blippy weirdness. Highly recommended.

Find out more here.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Dust Is Everywhere - Sweep!

Monday is cleaning day here at Swede Towers. Mrs S tackles all the intricate stuff - the nooks, the crannies, the out of the way crevices and sundry cobwebby corners that I would otherwise surely miss - while my own main contribution to proceedings concentrates on somewhat larger brushstrokes, or, more precisely, vacuum-cleaner strokes. Yup, every Monday, for my sins, I'm charged with hoovering each room in the whole house, from top to bottom. When delegating this particular task to me several years ago, Mrs S justified her decision using very sound logic - there aren't many ways in which I can mess it up. She knows me so well.

I invariably sing while I work, dragging the vacuum-cleaner behind me, its howling motor drowning out my own peculiar vocal howling. I can latch onto any random tune that comes to mind, but more often than not, for the past few months at least, one particular track from 'Human Performance', the fifth LP by Parquet Courts, has been my full-time hoovering earworm and it's easy to see why.

Friday 5 August 2016

Ryley Walker / Holly Macve


Almost exactly 12 months on from his first visit, Ryley Walker last night returned to the Norwich Arts Centre to promote his imminent third LP, 'Golden Sings That Have Been Sung'. As with last year's concert, the recorded versions of his songs serve as mere sketches for Ryley, and his two superb backing musicians, to build on - adding instrumental flourishes, extended breaks and virtual raga-esque passages that completely transfix the partisan audience. Walker's affable onstage demeanour is in stark contrast with the absolute intensity of his performance - how many other musicians invite their entire audience over to the pub for a drink after the show? Come to think of it, how many other performers give out their home address from the stage, offering a place to crash if any of us are ever in Chicago? I scribbled it down, just in case.

Talking of scribbling down, grab a pen and paper and make a note of this name - Holly Macve, Ryley Walker's support act last night. She's young, English and signed to Bella Union, though she sounds for all the world like cross between Patsy Cline and Paula Frazer. Quite incredible. The songs are as strong as the voice, but there's no album just yet. Definitely one to watch out for. 'Corner Of My Mind' is the first taste of what's to come.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

From Black & White to Colour

I was nine years old, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I arrived back at home for my tea after playing out. I'd taken my bike, so had to wheel it up the alley by the side of the house and in through the back gate. Closing the gate and looking to my right, I could see through the living room window to where my parents were watching the TV. But.........hold on a minute........something was different. The flickering images on the screen. Yes, it was Crossroads alright - one of Mum's favourite programmes. There were Meg Richardson, Mr Lovejoy, Tish Hope, Amy Turtle and Miss Tatum, all present and correct......, but the pictures were in colour! Dad had upgraded our rented black & white TV for a colour set! Overcome with excitement, I threw the bike down, ran inside and probably didn't budge again all evening. It's hard now to get across just what an seismic event this was at the time, which no doubt explains why I still remember it so very vividly. It was the Summer of 1969, but for me, the 1970's started that day.

What triggered this particular memory of one piece of technology being superseded by another? Well, over at Before The Streets Were Aired, my ever-growing repository for old photos, I've paused the usual daily black and white fare to feature strictly vintage colour images throughout the month of August. Take a look.

Before you go, check out Higher Authorities, a new band comprising Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley from Clinic, with the mighty Adrian Sherwood behind the mixing desk. Their debut LP, 'Neptune', is a dubby-psych curio that I've returned to time and again since picking it up a couple of months ago. Excellent stuff.

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