Monday 30 May 2022

Monday Long Song

The beard, should you be at all interested, is still hanging in there (see the rather fuzzy image of my rather fuzzy chin above). It's now been over six months since I last shaved and, barring clipping the odd solitary rogue whisker, I've not touched, trimmed or styled the facial growth in any way. Come to think of it, I've not had a haircut since the beginning of January either. Liberating or laziness? Perhaps a bit of both. One thing's for sure though, however much the beard itself may irritate me at times, I really am enjoying not shaving. 

Here's an appropriately titled chunk of classic 1974 Canterbury-scene prog from Hatfield and the North.

Hatfield and the North - Shaving is Boring 

Friday 27 May 2022

Friday Photo #22

Wanstead Flats in North East London, is a detached slab of the ancient woodland Epping Forest - a 334 acre oasis of green in an otherwise heavily built up area. On Sundays, when we didn't go wandering the streets of Central London, Dad and I would often head over to the Flats. It was his old manor, an area he'd enjoyed walking around as a youngster himself. There we'd kick a ball about, play a few impromptu overs of cricket or just sit at the edge of  Dames Road Pond watching the older kids and their Fathers sailing their model yachts, a very popular weekend activity in that location in those days. After much pleading, Dad eventually brought me my own miniature yacht, made of wood and around 18 inches long, which we took over the Flats one Sunday. It was a thing of beauty, painted a glossy sky blue, with crisp white canvas sails. I was excited - over excited. As soon as Dad sat the yacht on the water and gave it the gentlest push I freaked out. We were at the mercy of the wind, which was the whole point of it for most people, but I was convinced that it was never coming back to shore. It did of course, eventually, but by then I'd made such a colossal fuss that I don't remember Dad ever taking it out with us again. Instead the yacht spent the remainder of my childhood on, and later in, a cupboard in my bedroom, before disappearing from my life completely, in that mysterious way that things do. 

I can't lay my hands on a photo of the yacht in question right at the moment, but here I am, all dressed up in my Sunday best, over the Flats one Sunday morning in 1967. 

Marc Bolan - Over the Flats (Home Demo)

Monday 23 May 2022

Monday Long Song

Back in the day, Mrs S and I were very partial to the second and third Gruff Rhys solo albums, 2007's 'Candylion' and 2011's 'Hotel Shampoo. Gruff stopped off in Norwich on his tours supporting each release, playing at the small Norwich Arts Centre on March 13th 2007 and February 20th 2011 - we were there for both shows and they were fun nights to be sure. For the latter, support came from the great Welsh instrumental surf band Y Niwl, while four years earlier a young Cate Le Bon opened proceedings with her own set before later joining Gruff to provide backing vocals on a couple of his songs, including this convoluted tale concerning dramatic events at altitude, here featuring Lisa Jên from Welsh folk band 9Bach on the original studio version.

Gruff Rhys -  Skylon!

Wednesday 18 May 2022

There Is Only This One Moment & You've Got To Make It Last

Kimberley and Robyn on stage in Cambridge last week

I've just finished a lengthy uninterrupted run of holiday cover shifts. There have been a few long stretches of late, thanks largely to Covid sweeping through the store, though it's usually a mixture of earlies and lates. This time it was all earlies, meaning 5am alarm calls every day. It's not too much of a chore getting out of bed at this time of year though to be honest, the sun is already up and the loud birdsong eases me into my first coffee of the morning. My problems start at the other end of the day. I get home by 5.30pm and after a shower and a meal am struggling to keep my eyes open by 7.30. I'm usually in the land of nod by 8. What a lightweight I've become!

You can count the number of gigs I've been to since lockdown on the fingers of one hand, but, much like buses, two rolled up together right in the middle of this intense period of work - neither of them local. First I undertook an 80 mile round trip to catch Modern Nature in Ipswich. 'Island of Noise' was one of my favourite albums of 2021 and I was thrilled to learn that the band would be venturing out East during their tour. The Smokehouse is a standing venue and Modern Nature's music can be quite subtle, not an ideal combination when it's way past your bedtime! It was a terrifically engaging performance though, the sort of show one felt privileged to be in the audience for. Highlights included the epic, Spiritulized-esque 'Build', which concluded the set in magnificent fashion and the Sea and Cake meets Neu! bliss of 'Performance'.

Modern Nature - Performance

A couple of evenings later I took my weary bones over to Cambridge for the final date of Robyn Hitchcock's UK tour. As I've mentioned many times recently, Robyn has been elevated from mere musical hero to a somewhat mythical status in my affections, thanks to the ongoing series of streamed gigs he's performed with his wife Emma since the very start of the pandemic in March 2020 - now in excess of 200 shows! Emma has often spoken about how much these weekly shows have helped them cope over the past couple of years, but I only wish I could adequately express to her just how much they've helped me (and no doubt many others) cope too. In Cambridge Robyn played solo at first, then with assorted guests, including Emma and fellow former Soft Boy legend Kimberley Rew. For the 'Brenda's Iron Sledge' / 'Queen of Eyes' finale he fronted a unique three electric guitar/two basses line-up - and what a glorious racket they made! I drove the 70 miles home still buzzing and caught just four hours sleep before my alarm roused me for another early start, but I would've quite happily done it all over again the following day given the chance.

Robyn Hitchcock - Glass Hotel

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

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