Monday 22 May 2023

Monday Long Song

Shout out to our mutual blogging pal Walter at A Few Good Times in My Life for pointing me in the direction of  Australian psych trio Brown Spirits. He featured a tune from the band's new LP 'Solitary Transmissions' a couple of weeks back, that had me scurrying over to their Bandcamp page to find out more. It turns out that 'Solitary Transmissions' is Brown Spirits' 4th album, though the first through a major imprint, the first three evidentially being self released. 

Brown Spirits embellish their cosmic wig-outs with a dash of funk and a soupçon of motorik, serving up the whole dish with a welcome lightness of touch, intricate yet accessible. 'Optokinetic Response', which closes 2017's ingeniously titled 'Vol 1', has taken up more or less permanent lodgings in my brain for the past few days.

Brown Spirits - Optokinetic Response

Friday 19 May 2023

Friday Photo #42

I finished an eight day stretch of shifts on Wednesday and it was such a gloriously sunny afternoon that, even though my weary bones were heavy, I headed down to the common for a pre-dinner wander. The common is a vast open expanse that offers a selection of possible routes of varying lengths, though on this occasion I planned to simply amble out into the middle for a bit of solitude and a breath of fresh air, rather than walk the 5 miles all the way round it. Above is the view I was expecting to welcome me, as seen on a bright, chilly day back in February, but, thanks to the recent copious amounts of rainfall round these parts, much of the route was ankle deep in water when I arrived, as well as being occupied by a particularly inquisitive herd of cows. I took the hint and, after pausing to watch a hobby make several breathtaking passes in its hunt for damselflies, I turned to head back the way I came, coming face to face with a male muntjac walking towards me. He didn't seem at all phased by my presence and simply branched off the footpath, disappearing into the undergrowth.  

The older I get, the more each interaction with nature sustains me, making up for all the wasted years when I didn't appreciate such things. As I type these words a lone greenfinch sits silently in the tree outside my window while a scream of 6 or 7 swifts make patterns in the sky overhead. Earlier, over at the weir, one of the local pair of grey wagtails was shouting the odds for anyone within a hundred yard radius who cared to listen, while a little further along the river, a swan sat on its massive nest, waiting patiently for the next generation to hatch. Last year there were at least six cygnets, though ultimately only two survived predation.

Today's choice of tune, a marvellously funky South African single from 1973, is inspired by the wide open spaces out in the middle of the common, even if I was unable to experience them a couple of days ago. 

Cool Cats - Wilderness

Friday 12 May 2023

Friday Photo #41

According to Ol' Blue Eyes, New York is the city that never sleeps and that's a pretty accurate description, for the most part at least. Sunday morning, however, is when the Big Apple turns over, pulls the cover over its head and has a bit of a lie-in. From my very first trip to New York in 1992, right through to my last in late 2010, I'd be up and out of the apartment early on Sunday mornings in an effort to hit as many flea markets as possible. The fleas popped up ad-hoc on vacant lots, in crumbling garage basements and murky alleys all over the city and were crammed to the gills with the kind of tat I loved to pore through at car-boot sales back in the UK at the time. They were also home to some of the New Yorkiest New York characters I've ever encountered - outrageously loud, breathtakingly brusque and hugely entertaining to this outsider. The streets may have been quiet, but the fleas were always noisy and heaving with bleary eyed, caffeine fuelled punters.

My favourite fleas gradually disappeared on my visits throughout the noughties, with skyscrapers sprouting from the vacant lots, crumbling garages being demolished and murky alleys gentrified beyond recognition. On my return to New York a few weeks ago after a gap of 13 years, I discovered only a couple of neat, tidy, organised fleas in operation, which leaned far more towards being vintage markets, with prices to match. The hustle, the bustle, the tat and the characters all gone. I took a pass.

Instead, while the Apple stretched and yawned, I spent a couple of hours wandering the still Sunday morning streets. Photo opportunities are a lot easier to grab when the sidewalks are empty and the roads are free of gridlocked, honking traffic. Here for example is a Con Edison stack I stumbled across on the corner of Church and Duane in Tribeca, work abandoned for the weekend and steam billowing into the chill morning air.

Monday 8 May 2023

Monday Long Song

Many artists had lockdown projects, though few were as prolific in their endeavours as Bulbils, the musical alter-ego of Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington, who in March 2020 began recording an album's worth of music in their home studio each day and releasing it on a pay what you like basis via their Bandcamp page the next. I'll let them explain. 'We started Bulbils as a way to deal with coronavirus / lockdown. We aimed to record most days and upload it all here, though we've slowed down the last year or so. It's been a big comfort for us, we hope it can be of some use to you too.' To date there are 74 Bulbils albums over on their Bandcamp page (here), generally containing long instrumental pieces. If that sounds daunting, don't be put off, dive in. Aside from a couple of limited cassette only releases, the duo have largely steered clear of physical product until 'Map', a 33 track 4 CDR compilation, issued a few days ago, featuring colourful handprinted artwork by Jake Blanchard (here). The initial run sold out in a jiffy and I was very chuffed to have been quick enough off the mark to bag a copy. A second, monochrome printed edition, is up for pre-order now. 

'Friends Calling Dust Falling' was recorded on April 2nd 2020 and originally appeared on the tenth Bulbils album, 'Limbo', the very next day.

Bulbils - Friends Calling Dust Falling

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