Monday 31 August 2020
Back in the days when pocket money dictated the length and breadth of my expanding musical horizons (and record collection), the humble budget LP played a key role. 'The Faust Tapes' and Gong's 'Camembert Electrique' were welcome additions to the household in 1973, the two of them combined coming in at just over a quid. Amon Düül II's 1969 debut album 'Phallus Dei' was also repackaged and reissued at around the same time, on the otherwise largely middle of the road Sunset label, at around 69p. My pals and I swooped on it it, how could we resist that far out sleeve? We each took our copies home, later re-grouping to share our thoughts. At the tender age of 13 or thereabouts, we of course had no immediate frame of reference for the proto-Krautrock racket coming out of the tiny mono record players in our respective bedrooms, though when we listened to the LP together, I vividly recall that we particularly enjoyed singing along to the '...give me a lamp...it's going to be weird...' line at just shy of the 4½ minute mark on 'Luzifers Ghilom'.
Amon Düül II - Luzifers Ghilom
Wednesday 26 August 2020
After work one evening in 1997, I clambered into a friend's car and together we drove 50-odd miles to see Swedish band The Soundtrack of Our Lives play a show in a small Essex pub, on what I presume was their first UK tour. I'd blagged the tickets from a record company rep. He had one pair to give away and no-one else working in any of the record shops in the whole of East Anglia had shown the slightest interest in the band, but from the moment I'd heard their debut single, 'Instant Repeater '99' the previous year, I was smitten. I'd pursued the free tickets, concerned that the gig might've already sold out, so convinced was I of the band's greatness. I needn't have worried. To this day it's still the least populated concert I've ever attended. If there were any paying customers at all, the number definitely didn't stretch to double figures. To their credit though, The Soundtrack of Our Lives played as if they their very, ...ahem..., lives depended on it. They were bloody magnificent.
Several years ago I sketched out an idea for a Desert Island Discs series for this blog, but, like so many other things, I never got around to completing it. 'Instant Repeater '99' was high in the running order for that series and it remains my absolute favourite song of the 1990s, by any artist.
(Fun fact: There were two bands supporting The Soundtrack of Our Lives that evening. In the middle were a local combo whose name has been lost in the mists of time. First on were a bunch of youngsters who'd travelled a very long way to play in front of the proverbial one man and his dog, but they too threw themselves into their set all guns blazing. It was Idlewild.)
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Instant Repeater '99
Monday 24 August 2020
I dig all the various Soft Machine permutations from across the years to some degree or other, but I'd particularly like to thumb a lift on any passing time machine that could whisk me back to witness the Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Robert Wyatt line-up in full flight. Fortunately, while I'm waiting for someone to invent said time machine, there are far-out clips like this one to keep me grooving.
Monday 17 August 2020
As regular readers will know, the mighty Kungens Män and their many offshoots have become regular fixtures in my house and on these pages over the past few years. 'Trappmusik', their most recent long player, was issued in February and in September Automatism (¾ of whom also play in Kungens Män) release their second full length effort, 'Immersion'. At the time of typing, only 32 of the of the 300 white vinyl limited edition LPs remain unspoken for on their Bandcamp page, so if you like the sound of 'Heatstroke #2', you'd best get you skates on.
Thursday 13 August 2020
A song cropped up on the radio recently that sent me whizzing back to a specific moment of a relationship I shared in the mid-1990s. J & I had been mates for some time before it became more and we ended up spending over two years together. We laughed, we went to a ridiculous amount of gigs, we went on holiday to America, we got silly drunk, we had a lot of fun. Everything in the garden was rosy. Then J introduced a notion. Perhaps saying that she wanted to settle down there and then would be to put too formal a stamp on it, but she was certainly looking for some form of....commitment. I wobbled, clearly thrown by the thought, even though at this point I was already in my mid-thirties. In reality I was an immature, overgrown teenager and selfishly I didn't want our innocent, unencumbered fun to end.
Inevitably and quite rightly, J eventually kicked me into touch. I was pretty upset, but somewhere deep inside I knew it was the right move for her and for where she wanted to go in life. She eventually married and had four fantastic kids. J & I have remained friends and I even went to her wedding, ultimately becoming pretty good mates with her husband. I've been to a number of gigs with him over the years, including one in 2019 with their oldest son who's now in his twenties.
So the song and the memory that sent me spiralling back? Late one evening in the Summer of 1996 (from this remote distance it feels like it might well have been the most carefree evening of my entire life) J & I fell laughing out of a bar, drunkenly stumbling and weaving our way through the completely deserted town centre. A favourite song of the day came to us and together, staggering along arm in arm, we sang it loudly into the night air, joined only by the echo reverberating from the dark shuttered shopfronts. When it came to the chorus, our impromptu, but appropriate amendment of the lyric saw us collapse to the ground in fits of giggles.
'...we're trashed, you and me...'
Monday 10 August 2020
2001’s 'The Glow Pt.2' was an important record in the earliest days of my relationship with Mrs S. It was she who introduced me to the music of Phil Elverum, who was at that time trading as The Microphones, and together we followed his prolific journey, off and on, throughout our whole relationship. Elverum actually put The Microphones name to one side in 2003 when he issued the first of a steady stream of records under the Mount Eerie moniker, the most recent of which, 'Lost Wisdom pt. 2', a joint LP with Julie Doiron, coming late last year.
For his latest release, 'Microphones in 2020', Phil Elverum resurrected his former nom-de-combo to deliver a single 44 minute, largely autobiographical song, over the course of which profound personal memories jostle with odd, seemingly mundane little observations. It's more structured than Mark Kozelek's particular style of stream of consciousness, though if you're a fan of that artist, there is undoubtedly something for you here.
Elverum has put together what he describes as a '...powerpoint karaoke slideshow...' to compliment the LP.
Monday 3 August 2020
Side two of Lonnie Smith's terrific 1971 LP 'Mama Wailer' is taken up by the 17½ minute 'Stand' - and it's a tune of two halves. For the first eight minutes and twenty seconds it's a pretty darned funky and at least partially recognisable reinterpretation of the Sly & the Family Stone classic. At 8.21 however everything changes, totally. The superstar rhythm section of Billy Cobham (drums) and Ron Carter (bass) lock in to an incredible, ultra-tight, pulsating groove, over which both Grover Washington (sax) and Jimmy Ponder (guitar) throw wild solos, before Dr Lonnie Smith himself reappears to scatter random bursts of stardust across his keyboard, like so much psychedelic confetti. Proceedings gradually peter out as if the individual players are one by one collapsing with exhaustion, which given the pace of the piece, is eminently possible. It's a bloody wonderful, exhilarating ride.
Lonnie Smith - Stand
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