Death is not so easily defeated…

web_Alasdair_Roberts_02_by_Kim_Ayres (1)I’ve had these recordings knocking around for a while but not got round to doing anything with them…

I think it’s fair to say you really have to be in the right mood to appreciate Alasdair Roberts’ piercing, disconsolate folk forms, which may well be the unconscious reason why I’ve not really explored these recordings until now. We saw him supporting Bill Callahan in the cavernous spaces of Bristol’s St George’s. Now, Callahan’s getting a certain amount of love at the moment, not least because he appears to have “cheered up” a bit. Reviews of Dream River frequently cite Callahan’s apparent contentment (somebody even referred to him being “lucky in love”). Well, if this is true, I’m not sure I really want to look too deeply into Alasdair Roberts’ particular well of loneliness…

Alasdair Roberts

Having said that, once you’ve taken the step, there’s something irresistible about the man’s earthy songs – they shimmer and flicker like something half-buried in someplace rather unpleasant. I referred to his charms as being “Presbyterian” in the Bill Callahan post, and that being the case you might have expected him to have shone a little more brightly in the transcendent surroundings of St George’s in all its austere glory. But actually, Roberts seemed uncomfortable and didn’t make much of a connection with the Callahan-hungry audience. The recordings I made are marred slightly by the sounds of uninterested punters wandering off to the bar.

The poor wretch’s musings continue to fascinate this particular punter, though, and for once I was happy to listen to a good half hour of one man and his guitar – no banjo, no Jews’ harp, no loop pedal, just one player unremitting, strident, charmed…

Fair Flower of Northumberland

Farewell Sorrow

Don’t you ever, ever forget it…

Witching-Waves-Pic-VPME-600x433Don’t seem to be getting much time for new stuff, these days. But these guys seem worthy of a mention…

Witching Waves

Probably time to get something crude and trashy going on these pages.

And Witching Waves, an abrasive, bored-sounding two piece currently gigging around London, fit the bill pretty well. Emma Wigham and Mark Jasper are a drums/guitar combo with no apparent use for the spineless subtleties of keyboard or bass (or, if the videos are representative, even cymbals) but they can certainly club out a tune with some guts.

There’s a formless attraction to hearing someone bashing a series of trebly, finger-shredding chords out of an electric guitar. And nine times out of ten, it still makes me stop what I’m doing and start that dumb head-nodding thing you do at gigs.

Not a lot of biog information around about Witching Waves (I’m OK with that too…), but they do have Tumblr, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp pages where you can listen to various demos and previous releases. They are also apparently in the process of releasing “Concrete / Chain of Command”, an ultra-rare, wilfully obscure 100-only cassette single (which you can also download, thankfully) on Scottish label Soft Power Records. Have a listen and tell me you didn’t drift off at some point and start nodding gormlessly with me…

Ayahuasca!

downloadBeen looking around for something modern I liked from Latin America. There’s a few western-sounding bands around, all sounding pretty good but not exactly Latin. Here’s something though…

Anarkia Tropikal

Anarchy Tropical are a Chilean band of ne’er-do-wells, who, if the YouTube clips are anything to go by, seem to be having an immoderate amount of fun arsing around with punk and Chicha rhythms. Wheedling farfisa sounds and impossibly brittle Chicha guitars, wind themselves around off-beats and loping Cumbia bass lines, wrapped in by the all-encompassing rhythms of what looks to me like a man playing a cheese-grater but which is of course the merengue staple rhythm instrument, the guiro (as any fule know…)

Listen to the crazed, high spirits of “Ayahuasca”, and you’ll get an idea of how exciting a mixture it is:

This track appears to be free to download from their SoundCloud page along with the whole of 2013’s “La Verganza de los Brujos”, an album chockfull of witches, wah-wah and Cumbia zombies. It must be a helluva experience seeing this lot on stage. I’ve seen them billed as “anarcho-cumbia” and once you’ve seen the clips, it’s hard to argue with that…

 

 

Oh go on! Here’s another – their tribute to the Mirlos:

 

And she talks softly, sees through me, says something I can’t hear

Mutual_Benefit-3I’m struck by a number of disquieting thoughts as I make this post. Back in the day, most of the stuff I wrote about was what you’d broadly call Americana-based records – slow tempo, pensive, somewhat rootsy. If you had beards and/or played banjos, you were in, my friend.

Fast forward seven or eight years, and the preconditions for a plug on Partly Porpoise can now be said to centre on being either infectious and Latin-based (in some form or other) or straight up bonkers psychedelic. Along the way, there’ve been extended stays in the Welsh foothills, the sweatshops of German motorik and even the sticky nightclubs of late-sixties Addis.

I’m not fussed about the butterfly nature of my musical consciousness (actually, I’m long since resigned to the way my palate veers drunkenly from one thing to another, tend to go with it without complaint…). What bothers me, is the thought that I may well be missing great records that don’t happen to be in tune with my current tastes and manias. What else has been going on while I’ve been gazing loon-faced at this month’s pretty stones?

Fortunately, some records force themselves upon me no matter what else is going on…

Mutual Benefit

It’s a dumb name, right?

This alone is a decent reason for having missed this record when it came out last year but I can claim another reason could that I’ve heard no mention of this amongst my ear-to-the-ground twitter pals – I’m either very, very cool, or the opposite of very, very cool. Answers on a postcard…

According to their Wikipedia entry, Mutual Benefit centres loosely on the singer-songwriter talents of Boston musician Jordan Lee and have made a number of semi-official releases of their own, before Love’s Crushing Diamond, their official debut surfaced last October.

I’ve got to say, it’s just a beautiful, beautiful record. It’s full of delicate melodies nurtured carefully and at the same time carelessly, fragile little songs that blossom and go to seed over the course of five or six heady minutes. There are quivering keyboards, pastoral guitars, banjos (yes!) layer upon layer of random jingles and even the occasional jangle.

No freakbeat or Cumbia here…

With Us Soon

The unexpected bonus of a relatively free Sunday has meant that I’ve been able to do a bit of work on the pond, go for a walk by the canal and even consider a bit of a post for the long-suffering, patient readers of this Blog.

I bought the new Temples record the other week, which has had some good words said and written about it (plus a few not so good), but I’ve listened to it just a couple of times since. Haven’t really managed to form a coherent opinion of it yet, however, because a couple of whispers amongst the in-the-know Twitter folk I like to surround myself with have given me these two sticky delights to stuff myself silly with…

Morgan Delt

MorganDelt_AlbumArt-608x608You can read about Morgan Delt here on his Trouble In Mind page and read the first couple of lines (if you’re like me) of the Pitchfork review here, but I’d rather think of him as another of the Jonathan Wilson-style West Coast, sunfried aliens that emerges from time to time, album and musical persona, fully formed and ready to go.

If Wilson’s records come from the land of Seventies Laurel Canyon though, you could probably say that Delt’s self-titled LP has been hot-housed in Sixties Haight Ashbury with a more than (un)healthy dose of bonkers English psychedelia in there. It’s a lot of fun. Here’s the opener Make My Grey Brain Green from the record, really gooey, freaky stuff…

 

 

The other record that has had me capering around at the wheel in an unseemly fashion this couple of weeks is another self-titled effort from this bloke:

Doug Tuttle

doug tuttleTuttle is another Trouble In Mind alumni, where he released two records with another band I’m starting to explore, Mmoss, from whom he’s recently split. His own record is a beautiful mix of Byrds-y psychedelia with a huge nod towards Teenage Fanclub (indeed I Will Leave could have come straight off Songs from Northern Britain). As a record, full of keening organs, distorted vocals and engineering trickery, it’s damn near perfect, if not quite as exhilarating Morgan Delt’s; and if next Christmas I’m not banging on about it in my End Of Year lists, then it’s either been a helluva year, or I’ve been having a helluva Christmas…

Here’s the opener track of this record too, With Us Soon:

 

 

This is a record I’ve not finished with yet.

Giving praise in a quiet way…

Bill-Callahan-02A very welcome and unexpected surprise came my way last week, and truth be told I’m still a little flushed …

Having day-dreamed through the fifteen minutes or so that tickets were available for Bill Callahan’s trip to the august surroundings of St George’s in Bristol, I was resigned to missing out. I told myself that I’d seen him before (I have) and that he’d not been all that good (he wasn’t), but well, you know…

Bill Callahan, St George’s

Anyway, out of the blue my generous chum @coleser scored an extra ticket and suddenly it was very much on and all memories of a rather uninspired performance at Green Man were dim and ever so distant. (To be fair to the man, I’m not sure standing awkward and misplaced, on a huge main stage in the lugubrious Welsh rain would be first choice surroundings for a song-writer of his type. And he didn’t have an album as good as Dream River to draw from, either…)

Speaking of misplaced, the Presbyterian charms of Alasdair Roberts seemed to go largely unappreciated as an opener for the evening. I though he was rather fine (and I did make some recordings, for another post, perhaps), but there wasn’t much of a connection with an audience who were perhaps impatient for the main fare of the evening.

Resplendent in check shirt and jeans, with his guitar worn high, like a member of the Hollies, Bill Callahan came on with three musical sidekicks and with little preamble moved straight into my favourite track from Dream River, opener The Sing. It was tossed away casually almost but still sounded brilliant, and left me rueing a missed opportunity to go to the bar and quote song lyrics at the same time (“Ah, I see what you did there, only the fifth guy this evening, that’ll be £7.95, sir…”). Probably best thing al round…

Callahan’s weighty, world-weary baritone seemed to fill the huge space that St George’s provides, and with an uncharacteristically adventurous band lifting him throughout, the cavernous expanses were at times filled by a very big sound indeed.

Over the course of the following two hour set, I think Callahan played pretty much all of Dream River, (just Small Plane was missing) and made lavish use of his impressive songbook, including a roguishly needy version of Dress Sexy For My Funeral which I particularly enjoyed. Other highlights for me were “America!”, “Summer Painter” and an enjoyable, fractured version of “Please Send Me Someone to Love”.

I’d been anticipating a good recording, with the still, sonorous surroundings of St George’s always being a good bet for a good deep sound, and I think the recordings reflect that.

Dress Sexy For My Funeral

America

The Sing

Summer Painter

No YouTube footage from St George’s, but there’s this clip from Dublin last week…

Master Sleeps

5340Apart from the ongoing Cumbia and Latin psych obsession (yeah, that’s still going on, I just sensed I was boring you….), one of my chief sources of new music continues to be the Liverpool Psychfest Twitter feed. There’s going to be a lot of this, come September…

Hills

Not to be confused with fellow label mates White Hills (pah! As if…), Hills are a fuzzed up psych-rock outfit from Gothenburg with an ear and a right foot for a bit of a groove, in a Can sort of way. The record I’ve just downloaded from Emusic, Master Sleeps, was originally released in 2011 (although I certainly missed it) and has now just been re-released on Rocket Recordings. It’s a dense, magnetic affair with more than a hint of Ripley Johnson in it, as gothic fuzzy guitars weave in and out of each other and combine with organs and bass to create a something of a dark psychedelic tapestry (if you will).

Hills are apparently good buddies with the only other Swedish wah-wah band you’ve heard of – those wild, be-masked Goat fellers who’ve been taking these shores by storm (peaking with a mention on these very pages). I think they’ve shared the bill a good few times too – now there’s a rider I’d like to see…

Here’s Bring Me Sand from Master Sleeps, which pretty much tells you what you need to know about Hills – harmonium drones, ragas, echoing krautrock. It’s all good…

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