Thursday 21 May 2020

The Texture and the Flavour

My Dad did it for years. The former Mrs S did it for a while. A number of my friends are doing it on a regular basis. Our mutual blogging chum John Medd is a past master at it. My social media platform of choice is full of photos showing the results of complete strangers doing it. I'm referring of course to the baking of bread. And now, at the ripe old age of 60, I can report that I too am belatedly getting in on the act, after giving further consideration to a comment I left over at Alyson's place last month....

'While on a birthday Skype call with a couple of friends last week, they each impressed me with tales of their respective sourdough bread making exploits. I absolutely love sourdough, but haven’t got the first clue how to make it – nor the patience to try I suspect. Also, if I did somehow manage to make an edible loaf, I doubt that it wouldn’t last more than five minutes before I demolished it! I try not to eat too much bread in general, but have little willpower where a fresh, warm loaf is concerned. 
Towards the end of his life my Dad got into baking his own bread, baking two loaves at a time – one for he and Mum to use straight away and one to put in the freezer for later in the week. It took him a very long time and lots of tweaking to perfect his own particular tasting recipe, but it was well worth the effort. The highlight of any visit home was a big toasted slab of Dad’s bread. When he died suddenly in 2007, his last loaf was left in the freezer. A couple of weeks later, Mum and I defrosted and shared the loaf, knowing that we’d never taste his bread again – it was quite a moment.'

So last week I had a go at baking my first ever loaf of bread. Fully expecting to have to chuck away my first half a dozen failures (as I recall my Dad doing all those years ago), I attempted the most simple, straight forward, plain white loaf....... and was frankly astonished to produce a surprisingly edible debut effort.

This week, still flushed with success, I, perhaps over-ambitiously, attempted a boule and added a selection of seeds into the mix. The result was visually a little lacklustre, but the seeds improved the taste considerably. The long term aim is to move on to sourdough, but patience is a virtue, I have to learn to walk before I can run.

In the old world, I was scheduled to catch up with Mark Lanegan in concert again this week, but it was not to be. Here he is with Screaming Trees back in 1992 covering The Small Faces.

Screaming Trees - Song of a Baker

Monday 18 May 2020

Monday Long Song

This one's been in the bag for a while, as you'll appreciate if you glance over at your calendar. The Eighteenth Day of May's particular take on hazy psych-influenced folk lasted a little over a year and then they were gone, leaving just the one self-titled album behind them. I took the CD for a spin in the car just a few months back and it sounded every bit as good to me as it did when I first bought it 15 years ago, so I was surprised and delighted to spot an imminent double LP re-release featuring a bunch of additional rarities and demos, which I ordered without hesitation.

My self-imposed rule for the Monday Long Song feature is that it has to be over seven minutes long to qualify, making today's offering at just shy of 6½ minutes my shortest ever, but hey, it's the opening song from a very fine album and, well, take a look at the date. Then listen to more here.

The Eighteenth Day of May - Eighteen Days

Thursday 14 May 2020

Times Were So Tough, But Not as Tough as They Are Now

The cancer that attacked your lung last year, then moved to your brain, has finally taken you. We'd been given notice that the end might be near, but nevertheless we're reeling. The one comforting aspect in all this is that you were at home with your amazing wife and daughter at the end, not locked down and out of reach in hospital.

Inevitably, since the news came through, I've been poring over photos, reigniting memories of when the five of us really were as thick as thieves - the fun, laughter, jaunts, music and, it has to be said, substantial quantities of alcohol. One day I'd like to be able write more about you and our exploits, but right now the words won't come.

We had some bustin' times though didn't we?

The Jam - Thick as Thieves

Monday 11 May 2020

Monday Long Song

When it became clear that long cultivated NYC-related plans for my recent 60th birthday were destined to come to nothing, I decided to allow myself a vinyl treat or two to make up for the disappointment. One of the records I picked up was a copy of 'Platte', the 2003 LP by Electric Orange. To quote the band's blurb, they've been delivering '...krautrock and psychedelics from Germany since 1992...' Their catalogue is substantial and a smattering of it can be found here. It's well worth a poke about if you ask me, I mean who could resist dipping into an album entitled 'Krautrock From Hell'? Meanwhile, back at 'Platte'.....

Electric Orange - Holzbock

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Richard Swift Day

I've spent most of my walking time over the past couple of weeks looking upwards in vain for any early sign of returning swifts, walking into lampposts and nearly getting run over in the process. Yesterday morning I woke up and without even getting out of bed, saw three of them looping around in the sky through the dormer window! They have arrived! It's an annual event I've come to christen Richard Swift Day and May 5th is the earliest on record - or at least in the 9 years since I moved into Swede Towers and started keeping records. When the final swift disappeared from the local skies last July, I honestly believed it would be the last time I'd see them from this location, but with all thoughts of selling the house on hold for the time being, I now get to spend one more summer in close proximity with these amazing creatures.

Richard Swift died two years ago at just 41 years of age. He left a superb body of music of his own as well as production work for The Shins, Kevin Morby, Foxygen, Laetitia Sadier and, notably, Damien Jurado, for whom he produced the excellent 'Maraqopa' trilogy of albums between 2012 and 2016. Jurado released a fine new album 'What's New, Tomboy?' a few days ago, which contains 'Ochoa', a tribute to his late friend and collaborator Richard Swift.

Damien Jurado - Ochoa

Monday 4 May 2020

Monday Long Song

If I'm walking along the river, down the lane or around the fields, I'll never take any music with me. There are more than enough noises coming from the skies, hedgerows and trees to keep me entertained for hours. When I'm on a mission though, marching along the road across the marsh and heading into town, I'll sometimes stick the earbuds in and listen to a few tunes on the way. That's exactly what I was doing one day last week when today's long song popped up to add an extra spring in my step.

Mouth (or rather 'mouth', no capitol letter apparently) formed in Cologne in 2000. They are and always have been a three piece, although the individual elements of the band have fluctuated from time to time over the years. Their latest release, the 10" 'Past, Present, Future EP', arrived last summer and is a collection of oddments stretching back to 2002. The EP saw Mouth's return from a hiatus following the tragic death of bassist Gerald Kirsch in 2018. Kirsch features prominently on 'Chase '72', a well titled studio jam recorded in 2017. Check out more of the band's music here.

Mouth - Chase '72

Greatest Hits