Tag Archives: Music

The Talented Mr Albini

The Shellac show at the New Parish in Oakland a couple of weeks ago was a fascinating combination of “purity” and “richness”. I’ve not really heard much stuff by Steve Albini – I’m obviously aware of his status in the music world, but it’s not really the kind of thing I’m into, so it’s passed me by. But I’m now definitely a fan of his style.

I’ve been to the New Parish before – it’s a pretty good music venue in downtown Oakland, with a small stage, mezzanine with seats, and a good outdoor area to cool off or smoke if you need to. It’s a pretty standard place, all told, down to the red and black color scheme of their website (so beloved of independent venues).

Cassie and I went for dinner at the restaurant next door first, which gave show-goers a free drink when you produced a ticket. We thought it meant you could get a beer, but it meant a specific drink – in this case it was some kind of boozy fruit punch, which was fine. It’s a Carribean-Creole place anyway, so exotic was in. While I paid the bill, C got in the line, and I was just signing when she called me out because the line was moving. I jumped up, knocked two half-full water glasses down my trousers, said “shit” very firmly, and dashed out.

So it was that I saw Shellac with damp legs.

 First up was Helen Money – Friend James had recommended we get there in time to see her play her electrical cello. I enjoyed the set. She uses the tools of the lead guitarist – effects pedals, loopers and the like – to make a variety of interesting sounds. Starting with a looped bass note, she would layer distorted pluckings or scrapings, and then kick in with a boosted melody. Some of the (songs? pieces? ugh not pieces) were more melodic, others were more atmospheric, some were pure noise. All good.

She left the stage, and there was a break while Shellac set up – and it was a surprise to see just that: Albini, Weston and Trainer on stage, plugging in and setting up. The crowd were too cool to react – other gigs go wild when the band take the stage. Instead we saw Albini and Weston setting up their disticntive metal-topped amps and cut-out Travis Bean aluminium guitar and bass. Trainer’s drum kit was front and center, with symmetrical cymbals either side.

Mid-set, Weston took questions while Albini tuned up. This was a fun section, and I’m glad the location of Uffizi was inquired after – Uffizi is of course Todd Trainer’s beloved Italian Greyhound, and the cover star of Shellac’s last album Excellent Italian Greyhound.

As for the music, of course the only song I really know is Prayer To God, which was a real singalongacrowdpleaser. I guess they just enjoyed yelling “fuckin’ kill him already” repeatedly. Dog and Pony Show was a highlight, as was an extended and rarified version of The End Of Radio. I’ve found myself humming Crow, or at least muttering the lyrics to myself.

There was a moshpit! Cute, I’ve not seen one of those for a long time. One guy with long glossy golden locks seemed very intent on getting in there and waving his tresses hither and thither. The mohawk dude was right up front. I’m pretty certain Milton Waddams was in there somewhere. Weird mishmash.

What’s this about purity and richness? I guess I mean the “purity” of just three guys, the “minimalist rock trio”, simple instruments, raw sound, lyrics stated more than sung, and how they managed to provide a loud, complex, rolling, juddering, warped (in some cases by bending the guitar itself, I think) and complete sound.

After the show we got another example of the non-showbiz of Shellac – Albini and Weston sat on the front of the stage and sold tshirts and chatted with gig-goers. I bought a black-on-black shirt, told Albini my wife loved him, he said she had good taste, we shook hands. Nice chap.

Here’s some other Albini stuff: a rather dark diary of the final tour by Big Black, where he lays into all sorts of industry people, other bands (including “Mitzi Ebb“) and describes his wading through the seedy underbellies of various cities, including a gig in a bar in Manchester that I used to go to… On a much different note, Albini has a food blog, in which he describes the dishes he makes for his wife. Real change of pace. And just to round it out, here’s a link to a poker forum in which he suddenly announces who he is and takes questions on the music biz, recording, contracts, ripoffs and so on.

Good gig, good venue. We’ve got Wilco in January, bit that’ll be very musical. We’ll see.

Cosmic Siren

I prefer the back with the triumphant statues

Back cover of said album.

I’ve got the ancient hard-drive-based iPod on shuffle, and it just played Space is Deep by veteran cosmic travellers Hawkwind, off their 1972 album Doremi Fasol Latido. It reminded me of my brother’s early efforts in circuit bending.

Circuit bending” is the practise of taking a piece of electronics capable of making a sound, and then messing with it so it makes a different sound. Some may say the new sound is a hideous cacophony. I say no.

The opening of the song has some spacey babbling synths over the gentle acoustic guitars. When I was a kid, I had a toy “laser gun”, which lit up and made a noise when you pulled the trigger. The noise could be changed by twisting a knob on the side, and Si noticed that you could make the noise sound quite a lot like the early synths on the record. Literally minutes of fun ensued.

OK, not really much circuit bending – but it is amazing to think that some crazy huge modular synth used by the band in 1972 could be reasonably emulated by a plastic toy less than ten years later. Almost wish I still had it. There’s probably an app.

While we’re talking about cosmic stuff and comic-book imagery, I’m going along to the io9.com meetup at San Francisco’s Borderlands bookstore and cafe this evening. Should be fun. I shall report.

Wedding Music – Afterparty Playlist

After the wedding venue closed up, we invited those who wanted to continue the party to our suite overlooking the Bellagio fountains. I quickly sat and threw together this playlist (all the while being told off for “being on the computer”).

Elvis Costello And The Attractions : Accidents Will Happen
Meat Beat Manifesto : Acid Again
Belle & Sebastian : Asleep On A Sunbeam
Pulp : Babies
The Beatles : Back in the U.S.S.R.
Echo & The Bunnymen : The Back of Love
Jane’s Addiction : Been Caught Stealing
Björk : Big Time Sensuality
New Order : Blue Monday
Echo & The Bunnymen : Bring on the Dancing Horses
Public Enemy : Bring The Noise
Ash : Burn Baby Burn
The Cars : Bye Bye Love
Gary Numan : Cars
Beastie Boys : Ch-Check it Out
Blur : Charmless Man
Gorillaz : Clint Eastwood
Echo & The Bunnymen : Crystal Days
Pulp : Do You Remember The First Time?
Public Image Limited : Don’t Ask Me
Simple Minds : Don’t You Forget About Me
Malcolm McLaren : Double dutch
Men At Work : Down Under
Spiritualized : Electricity
Pavement : Folk Jam
The Avalanches : Frontier Psychiatrist
Ladytron : Ghosts
Adam and the Ants? : Goody Two Shoes
Freezepop : Here Comes a Special Boy
Jungle Brothers : I’ll House You
Lou Reed : I’m So Free
OMD : If You Leave
Orbital : Illuminate
Scott Walker : Jackie
David Bowie : The Jean Genie
Depeche Mode : Just Can’t Get Enough
The Arcade Fire : Keep The Car Running
Air : Kelly Watch the Stars
Prefab Sprout : The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Saint Etienne : Kiss and Make Up
Cansei De Ser Sexy : Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
A Certain Ratio : Life’s a Scream
Blancmange : Living On The Ceiling
ABC : The Look of Love
Elvis Costello And The Attractions : Love For Tender
Jan Hammer : Miami Vice Theme
Meat Beat Manifesto : Mindstream
The Popinjays : Monster Mouth
Primal Scream : Movin’ On Up
Electric Light Orchestra : Mr. Blue Sky
Billy Joel : My Life
The Arcade Fire : Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Lemon Jelly : Nice Weather For Ducks
Elvis Costello And The Attractions : Oliver’s Army
Saga : On The Loose
Madness : One Step Beyond…
Leftfield/Lydon : Open Up (Vocal)
The Future Sound Of London : Papua New Guinea
Andrew WK : Party Hard
Depeche Mode : Personal Jesus
Fluke : Philly
The Monkees : Pleasant Valley Sunday
The Beatles : Please Please Me
The Shamen : Progen (Land Of Oz)
Madonna : Ray Of Light
Spiritualized : Run
The Beatles : She Loves You
The Early Years : So Far Gone
The Divine Comedy : Something For The Weekend
Adam and the Ants? : Stand & Deliver
The Beloved : Sweet Harmony
Soft Cell : Tainted Love
Heaven 17 : Temptation [Original Version]
S’Express : Theme From S’Express
The Sisters Of Mercy : This Corrosion
The Fall : Victoria
The Knife : We Share Our Mothers’ Health
Frankie Goes To Hollywood : Welcome to the Pleasuredome (Original 7 Inch, 1985)
The KLF : What Time Is Love
Elvis Costello And The Attractions : What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding
The Frogs : Whether U Like It Or Not I Love U
Devo : Whip It
Grandmaster & Melle Mel : White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)
Roots Manuva : Witness (1 Hope)
Busta Rhymes : Woo Hah! (Got You All In Check)
Jackie Wilson : Your love is Lifting Me Higher And Higher
Harold Faltermeyer : Axel F
Gorillaz : 19-2000

And so it was that we eventually said to our guests at 3am that we needed to go to bed. They all winked at each other, and slipped out. We fell asleep before we got into bed, I think.

Wedding Music – Dancing

This one was a lot of fun to put together, and quite tricky at the same time. We had to use stuff that people would know, like, and want to dance to. The fact the dancefloor was full almost the entire time shows we got it mostly right.

This playlist wasn’t played in order – it was designed to be set on shuffle. Despite this, and despite us telling the DJ multiple times, and despite his reassurances it was on shuffle, the music followed the order below pretty closely, at least for the first 10 songs or so.

When we were told there was only time for one more track, Cassie told the guy to put on Regret by New Order. A great tune, with a sad kind of growing-up sentiment.

There was one departure from the playlist. One guest, bemoaning the lack of Top 40 stuff being played, requested a Katy Perry song from the DJ. We’d told the DJ “No Top 40”, but we’d also told him to take requests. He asked us if it was OK to play the requested song – we said yes, so he did. The dancefloor instantly emptied, and remained empty until our chosen music was put on again. Don’t mess with perfection, guest.

a-Ha : Take On Me
Adam Ant : Goody Two Shoes
B-52s : Rock Lobster
The Beastie Boys : Girls
The Beastie Boys : Hey Ladies
The Beatles : Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Beatles : Can’t Buy Me Love
Big Country : In a Big Country (Radio Edit)
Blur : Song 2
Buddy Holly : Peggy Sue
David Bowie : Let’s Dance
David Bowie : Jean Genie
Depeche Mode : Personal Jesus
Donna Summer : I Feel Love
Duran Duran : Rio
Earth, Wind & Fire : Sing A Song (Album Version)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions : Oliver’s Army
Erasure : A Little Respect
Frankie Goes To Hollywood : Relax
Gary Numan : Cars
Goldfrapp : Strict Machine
Heaven 17 : Temptation [Original Version]
The Human League : Don’t You Want Me
Jackie Wilson : Your love is Lifting Me Higher And Higher
Jane’s Addiction : Been Caught Stealing
The Kinks : Come Dancing
LCD Soundsystem : Drunk Girls
The Libertines : Time for Heroes
Lou Reed : I’m So Free
Marvin Gaye : I Heard It Throught The Grapevine
Men At Work : Down Under
The Mountain Goats : No Children
Paul Simon : Graceland
Paul Simon : Gumboots
Pet Shop Boys : Always On My Mind
Prince : I Would Die 4 U
Prince : Let’s Go Crazy
Pulp : Mis-Shapes
Pulp : Common People (Full Length Version)
Pulp : Babies
The Ronettes : Be My Baby
Sam Cooke : Twistin’ The Night Away
Simple Minds : Don’t You Forget About Me
Soft Cell : Tainted Love
Talking Heads : Once In A Lifetime
Tom Tom Club : Wordy Rappinghood
Wang Chung : Everybody Have Fun Tonight
New Order : Regret

I’m pretty sure there was a lot of other stuff played – the DJ took some more requests from some friends of Cassie’s Mum, who really went for it as the night drew on. I recall an old Tina Turner number at one point. The last track was picked by Cassie. A very nice end to a fantastic evening – but it wasn’t over yet!

Wedding Music – Guest Arrival

Franz Kirmann - Random Access Memories
This music was for when the guests were arriving. We wanted it to be a nice ambient/”loungecore” kind of vibe, in keeping with the tropical surroundings of the venue. An extra nice touch was that Franz Kirmann was a guest at the wedding (Cassie knows him from her time at London Film School), so we wanted to include some of his music in there.

Unfortunately, the venue failed to inform us that the area the music was playing in was not open for people to enter until it was time for the ceremony, so people didn’t hear any of this music. Instead they heard some nightmarish dentist-waiting-room smooth jazz that the DJ put on. (If Jazz is for History teachers and the mentally ill, and Jazz Funk is Jazz’s deformed cousin, then Smooth Jazz is that uncle you’re scared to be alone with). It was most frustrating, as you can imagine, and it was one of a few ways in which the venue didn’t do what we wanted or what we had discussed. But never mind! Enjoy…

Air : Playground Love (Vibraphone Version) (from Playground Love )
Air : Casanova 70 (from Premiers Symptomes )
Anoushka Shankar : Beloved (Thievery Corporation Remix) (from Blue Note Remixed )
Boards Of Canada : Wildlife Analysis (from Music Has The Right To Children )
Brian Eno : Deep Blue Day (from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks*)
The Dining Rooms : Calexico (from Ink (French Edition) )
Four Tet : Hands (from Rounds )
Franz Kirmann : Little Baby Eyes (from Little Baby Eyes)
Franz Kirmann : Desordre (A Dancing Beggar Remix) (from Liza **)
Joby Talbot : The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*** )
Kirmann + Hodge : Piano Interrupted IV (from Piano Interrupted )
Kruder & Dorfmeister : Sofa Rockers (Richard Dorfmeister Remix) (from Sofa Surfers )
Nightmares On Wax : Passion (from In A Space Outta Sound )
Radiohead : Meeting in the Aisle (from Karma Police EP )
Ulrich Schnauss : Knuddelmaus (from Far Away Trains Passing By )
Ulrich Schnauss : Never Be the Same (from Goodbye****)
Wax Tailor : Unglodly fruit (from Tales Of The Forgotten Melodies )

You can enjoy most of these tracks (all the ones I could find) on this specially-created playlist I created on Spotify.

* This Eno track was also on the hugely successful Trainspotting soundtrack. It’s used during the sequence when Renton dives into an overflowing toilet to retrieve his opium suppositories which he has lost due to no longer being constipated after coming off heroin. We felt this was an appropriate piece of music for our wedding.

** Our friends Daneeta and Patrick, who were also at the wedding and did some other photos, shot the video for Liza. under their artistic collective name Elektrik Zoo.

*** I love this little piece. It’s twinkly and bleepy, and it reminds me of the music on the TV series.

**** This got me into Herr Schnauss. Beautiful wash of voice and sound. Talking to Franz (or Francois as he’s actually named) afterwards, he said that this stuff was a bit wet, and recommended some more intricate stuff. I think there’s a place in my mind for both wet and intricate. I must rest now.

Nice Mix In The Cloud

Some more great stuff from the Northern half of Both Bars On. Arpeggiated synths bringing to mind The Who, then suddenly drifting off into early Kraftwerk – I half expected to hear a clarinet or flute. Excellent database-wrangling music, especially because a lot of it sounds like the accompaniment to a schools TV program about computers.

This Mixcloud thing is new to me. Maybe I’ll have a dabble myself – it would involved sitting down and figuring out how to assemble a mix, and upload it, and maybe I shouldn’t be considering adding another project to my list of stuff I start. Maybe with a suggestion for a theme I could knock something together.

Questions raised by this mix (I ask them publicly rather than emailing the mixer for social purposes):

  • What software was used to create the mix?
  • Any ideas for a theme for a mix? (this would require a passing knowledge of what music I actually have)
  • Would anyone have any suggestions for music to accompany a short video of a cute little robot cleaning my floor?

Hello Pasadena

Cassie was born in Pasadena, CA. Her parents actually lived in neighboring San Marino, but there’s no hospital there, so Pasadena it was. she told me that when she would tell people in London she was born there, they would say, “Hello Pasadena!” and say that was where the Rose Bowl was. She wondered why so many people knew about that, and they said it was because of the Depeche Mode live album 101, which was a recording of the 101st concert in the Music For The Masses tour, in 1987-88. The concert was recorded at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, and at one point in the concert, vocalist Dave Gahan calls out, “Hello Pasadena!”. So that clears that up.

But there’s more. Another reason people in the UK have heard of Cassie’s birthplace is The Pasadenas, who were spawned out of the arse-end of the Amerophile mid-80’s. This was a dark time. Levi commercials roamed the land, spewing out cover versions of good Sam Cooke singles, which then launched the originals to the top of the charts, and put black’n’white portraits of James Dean on teen walls everywhere. There was a single good side-effect – the excess of golden oldies in the charts in 1987 did at least cause Bill Drummond to tentatively tender the following query: “What the fuck is going on?”. But the damage was done, and these cod-soul soundalikes were the result. OK, two members were born in Pasadena, but they were very much a UK group, despite the layers-thick Americana.

Here we see the lads “doing their thang” in a nicely-lit studio, in front of a flat painted to look like a train. The camera is probably on rails as well. Get them bags loaded, boys!

Even more cynical, this one was basically a list of soul greats, performed for some reason in a Woolworths warehouse piled high with boxes of unsold pick’n’mix.

Nice moves, I guess. Catchy tunes, yes. Very radio- and TOTP-friendly. Clean 80’s production. But still.

Now, I might be mistaken, but I used to be sure that a member of the Pasadenas was seen earlier in the video for I.O.U. by Freeez, an awesome slice of pop-electro produced by the legendary Arthur Baker. I think the Pasadena can be seen in the playground breakdancing sequence. Perhaps.

Interesting. Mr Falsetto there sporting the grey Roland SH-101 monophonic synth with axe-handle and shoulder strap!

The circle is complete. This exercise in Holistic Nostalgia™ has been brought to you by coffee, Cassie Destino’s Olde Tyme Smoothies and plenty of water.

Instra:mental – Resolution 653 « Both Bars On

Another smoking jammy from my peeps at Both Bars On.

Cassie made a wedding vow to take my musical taste into account when making playlists for road trips. This should be a good test – and what more healthy way to show our devotion to each other than to find stuff that sounds like it was designed to not be liked by my wife?

Bon hits all the right spots with his references – or is it like wine tasting when you get told that it tastes of blackberries and then you taste blackberries? Like I would know. As FSOL said, “It’s not my problem”.

Instra:mental ‘Resolution 653’ Album audio clips Nonplus Records by stholdings

Shave yer tongue, etc.

Greg Hawkes, Nerd Boyfriend

Greg Hawkes in full-on New Wave mode.

Nerd Boyfriend is all over the place at the moment. It’s a really nice and simple idea, with a decent amount of work behind it, and as a result the creator Roxana Altamirano is in big demand. Each post takes an old picture of a male icon of some kind (several actors, obviously, but also  architects, writers and puppeteers) and provide modern examples of the clothes they were wearing in the photo. Great for tips.

There’s a nice little interview with Nerd Boyfriend’s Roxana Altamirano here.

Today’s model is Greg Hawkes, who I had to look up, but who I am pleased to discover is/was the keyboard player with The Cars, one of my favorite bands. Their eponymous first album is often on rotation Chez Moi, especially my favorite song of theirs, Bye Bye Love. I particularly like the soaring arpeggiated keyboard solos, which I guess can be credited to Mr Hawkes. For that, I salute you.  Also for the blazer.

Parts & Labor: Constant Future « Both Bars On


Parts & Labor: Constant Future « Both Bars On.

I’ve been listening to their old album Receivers a lot recently, and it looks like I should get their old stuff too – I had no idea they’ve been around so long.

I do like their version of the folky harmonies – it doesn’t sound too folksy, which would turn me off. Lyrics are often secondary to me anyway. Voices which blend into a wash of sound please me plenty.

Even the atmospherics on their website are good.