Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning’s a bit of a concern isn’t it?

I’m not talking about whether to do it or not (please!) or even how to get out of doing it (use your imagination!). I can see it’s got to be done and all that, and if pushed will even concede that the house does kind of look and feel a better place afterwards. I guess I’ve got no quarrel with it at all. In theory.

No, the reason it always leaves me feeling a bit queasy, is this. Once the curtains are down and spinning happily in the washer, the furniture’s been moved back and the nozzle’s been put back on the hoover, you think you can start to relax. There’s a certain inevitability, however, about the next stage – the Sorting Things Out stage, AKA the When Are You Going to Throw Those Out? stage.

Usually this applies to a stack of carefully kept magazines, or a pair of old trainers. But looking particularly vulnerable these days is a large rack of treasured LPs that have not been played for quite some time. Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid this becoming a bit of a Situation, I go to the special effort of being seen playing a couple of them, but I don’t think I’m fooling anyone…

Anyway, I was flipping through them idly this week, came across this, and thought I’d try something:

i Am Cold – Rip Rig & Panic

(The “i” is probably important)

It’s a peculiar record, being a double album of sorts, except that both disks play at 45, so it’s more like a double 12” single, if you can have that. Rip Rig & Panic were some sort of post punk experimental band with jazz leanings, which kind of makes them sound pretty unusual but as far as I can remember they weren’t the only band doing this sort of thing at the time.

They were led by a feller called Gareth Seger, but are probably chiefly remembered now for the fact that a young Neneh Cherry sang with them. Throughout this particular record, her step-father Don Cherry plays trumpet although I don’t think he was a regular. i Am Cold was their second LP and it’s a pretty wild affair in places.

I seem to remember buying this in the aftermath of going to see Pigbag at Cheltenham Town Hall, my first ever gig, and one that my friend Martin claims was a seminal gig for the area. I think there was some kind of connection between the bands (The Pop Group?), but I’m not too sure – they’ve always gone together in my mind, although in truth Rip Rig & Panic were far more adventurous and (let’s be honest) difficult to listen to.

If you were there at the time, you’ll know what to expect and there’s probably nothing I can do to persuade you to give it a listen. But what I would say is that although it’s definitely patchy, some of the better tracks (Reality Asylum, Tax Sex, Epi Epi Arp Woosh) stand up pretty well, still.

Anyway, I’ve ripped this from the vinyl using my trusty iRiver, for your listening pleasure. I haven’t done this before but I think it’s come out OK. I’ve followed the track listing on the back cover (which helpfully refers to North, South, East and West sides, rather than the more conventional 1, 2, 3 & 4 you might have been expecting. Crazy guys!), but I should say that in some places it’s pretty hard to tell where one track ends and another begins, so there could be a couple of mistakes. (The North side was a particular bugger to work out I can tell you…)

i Am Cold – Rip Rig & Panic

I wanted another life, from a spark you came.

[J’avais envie d’une autre vie, d’une étincelle tu es venu.]

Got along to Calmer yesterday evening at Cheltenham’s Slak Bar. Before reappearing last Autumn, Calmer had had a long hiatus for most of the year, and I’ve somehow not really caught back up with it. So I was glad to be able to get over this time and see Bristol’s Safetyword and French duo Vialka.

Safetyword announced themselves as being from Bristol but a read through the info on their website tells you they’re actually all from the Isle of Man. They played a fast tight set which was all rhythm changes and sharp electric guitars. I enjoyed them but their set seemed to swing from excitement to confusion a little too often. I must be getting old (well…). Thankfully the sun broke through the clouds pretty regularly and there were some great Beefheart-ish, Battles-y tracks coupled with some endearingly eccentric vocals.

Their site is worth a visit, not least because they’ve been more than a little generous with the downloads they’ve made available there – two whole EPs as far as I can tell. They’re well worth a listen, I’d say, as will be there album “Man’s Name is Legion”. I’ll put a couple up here, and the rest are available here.

Foot Oven

Daily Bread


There were a few of the same elements in the Vialka set – the frenetic guitar work, the bewildering rhythm changes, the different song phases. But they were, in all honesty, far more exciting and altogether more of a spectacle. Guitarist Eric Boros skipped up and down this fret board energetically and showed a fondness for British post-punk and Zimbabwean jit, in equal measures. The real star, though, was percussionist Marylisse Frechville, who battered away deftly on her kit and on a child’s xylophone, whilst singing (well, yodelling) in French. And as if that wasn’t enough, at certain points she came out from behind her kit and danced or sang unaccompanied in front of the tables of the Slak audience.

She was wild. And not a little disturbing, an impression not entirely dispelled by her dress, her mannerisms or by the swimming cap she was wearing to which she’d taped her mic.

It was clear to me that Vialka are using a tradition of European music that I just don’t know enough about to be able to write about without making myself look foolish. But it was all refreshingly different and terrific entertainment. They went down really well with the rest of the Calmer audience and deserved the calls for more that I could still hear as I nipped off to catch my bus.

Vialka are in the middle of a bit of a monster tour, playing in Bristol in a couple of days, amongst other places, before doing what seems like a load of dates in China and then Australia. The world is clearly a small place to Vialka.

The Vialka site also makes available a lavish collection of tracks for you to download, and I’ll put a couple of my favourites here. But inevitably they don’t really do justice to the live performance. I’m afraid I can’t even find a particularly good YouTube clip to attach.

But you’ve still got time to catch them in Bristol…

Village Mentality Part Two

Trop Tard

Stories without words

So here’s my second post of slightly difficult music – sounds that come from, well, fairly close to the edge, the bright orange perimeter fencing, shall we say…

Voices and Organs

In my mind I’ve bracketed Voices and Organs along with Locks mostly for dumb, lazy reasons – they sit next to each other on my media player, for example, they’re both IODA discoveries and both turn out to be on Emusic. Oh, and they’re both weird (that’ll be the other one).

To be honest, though, they don’t really sound much like each other at all; whereas Locks are all broken beats and unexpected choices; V&O are about uneasy acoustics and gothic impressions, more like an American Cocorosie, without the mad women in the attic.

The Western Vinyl site says this about their record, Orphanage:

“Voices and Organs is a musical project which started in the Autumn of 2004 as a collection of short stories… these stories turned into songs and songs turned into a record soon to be released on Western Vinyl as Orphanage. Rooted in the group’s love of fiction, the record deals with childhood/adolescent isolation through a series of short stories about a young boy and girl in an orphanage.”

The comment about short stories I find interesting, not least because there aren’t really many voices on the record, and the ones there are are used for harmonies, or are buried way, way down in the mix. If this is fiction, it’s fiction without, well, any words.

I don’t really mind, though, and in my head I can square this by imagining stories being read over the top of these backdrops of sound. Stories that don’t end well, I’d say…

Voices and Organs are principally the work of a feller called Per Lindmark, and are based in Sweden. According to their Myspace page, there is another record on the way, which “will be beautiful”. Well, I reckon Orphanage has a certain fragile beauty to it, to be honest, so the new one sounds like it’ll be worth a listen as well.

There are three tracks from Orphanage made available for you by the people of IODA, all of them worth hearing…

Any Day Now (mp3)

Melodika (mp3)

Idle Words #2 (mp3)

Buy at eMusic

Voices and Organs

It looks like I’ve got a little George Washington of the mouth

Leading a fairly straight and unremarkable life, it’s often rewarding to hear music whose orbit veers wildly away from my own. May be we should all take the time to embrace a little weirdness once in a while, and so I’ve got a couple of posts here from bands who are unquestionably “out there”.


Locks are Theo Katsaounis and Patrick Scott from Chicago, and you’d have to say that their music is, well, innovative. Actually, call it what you will (lo-fi, experimental, DIY), basically they make stuff up, using samples and instruments in ways Joe Average here could never imagine. Read this, from the Static Station website:

“Bad Words was created slowly and randomly over the course of a year being assembled and performed in Patrick’s apartment and it’s basement. Recorded by the band, with no budget meant “anything goes” and it did. Need a snare drum sound? Sample an oven door. A synth tone? how about wiring a mixer backwards so it feeds back on itself. Reverb? How about a mic in the ductwork of the apartment with someone singing in the other end? A beat? How about someone dropping a box and swearing? All these sounds are found on Bad Words and in no way are they arbitrary, everything seems like it was put there on purpose, even if it was just a happy accident.”

I like the sound of this, and the dropping box and swearing sample is on the first of the tracks I’m posting here. Never occurred to me that “shit” repeated does sound a little like brushes on a hi-hat… Read more about Locks here.

Bad Words is their ep/album, released on Static Station, last August, and you can of course get it on Emusic.

Quit Fanning Yourself, You’re Making Me Hot

Fly Information (mp3)

Tempermentalista (mp3)

More On This Album

[I’m having another look at IODA Promonet, at the moment, which is why some of these links look a little different…]

Tent Pegging

Went to the latest Acoustica evening at the Guildhall on Friday, where Vijay Kishore was returning for the second time. I wrote about the previous time I saw him here. He was pretty good, though, to be honest, he was pretty much the same as last time I saw him. I dunno if I’ve grown older and fussier in the past couple of years but although his voice still sounded out of this world at times, the songs didn’t sound as strong this time and the whole performance lacked some of the lustre of the previous time.

I do remember, though, that the last time I wrote about Vijay, his manager suggested firmly that no, I couldn’t post any mp3 here, but I could embed a video from YouTube. Well at the time I hadn’t quite figured out how to do this, but hey, I have now.

So I will:

I do also have something else that I’ve stumbled upon whilst trawling through a couple of different labels…

Steven R Smith / Hala Strana

Hala Strana is the stage name of one Steven R Smith, an American musician who apparently played in “fabled” (or was it “legendary”?) space rock band Mirza. (No, me neither…) I don’t really know a whole lot about him than this and what you can read for yourself on Wikipedia etc. (I do like the sound of a fretted spike fiddle, though…)

Anyway, Smith produces these dark (very dark) guitar pieces that are heavily influenced by Eastern European style. Lots of strings and bows over the top of some pretty distorted guitar work, and I have really developed a taste for it. The songs I’ve heard remind me a bit of the Velvet Underground but also have made me think back to those tracks by Ignatz that I became rather hooked on a few months ago.

There are tracks available at both Emperor Jones and at Soft Abuse, two terrific little labels that I need to return to, both of which offer some great downloads. I’m posting the three strongest ones here but there are more tracks available. You can also buy at least two of the albums on Emusic (here and here).

Streets of Raised Platforms – Hala Strana

Tent-Pegging – Steven R Smith

Blood Partridges – Steven R Smith

Thoroughly melancholic stuff…

Every day is just like starting over

I don’t seem to have been out much in the last couple of months. Not “out” out, as such. Haven’t seen any music since this, and although my corner of the UK is hardly a hotbed of social activity, I’ve still managed to miss this, this and also, the launch of my friend Richard’s own album, and the resulting party. I wish him all the best, and will try my best to bring some little morsel or other from his Men Diamler record.

So anyway, this week, I broke my 2008 duck and got along to see Art Brut at our fabulous old Guildhall, and what a cracking evening it was.

Support band A. Human were an earnest bunch but weren’t really up to much. Not even the presence of my new Skytec stealth mike, burning a hole in my pocket (well, collar) could induce me to record any of their set. Good effort, fellers, and all that, but it was a pretty dull affair in truth.

Art Brut

Art Brut came on not quite seeming how I imagined they would, and until Eddie Argos came on stage, I’d say they looked pretty much like every other NME cover band. He cut a chubby-faced friendly figure, and as my friend Martin pointed out, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Peter Kaye.

He came on in a slightly over-stretched brown suit and tie and rather endearingly declared that every item of clothing he was wearing, he’d bought in Gloucester the previous day. I enjoyed his between song banter and easy manner on stage – he looked like he was enjoying himself.

The songs were great, and the atmosphere got pretty rowdy on the dance floor at times (or so it looked from my safe vantage point at the back – not that I couldn’t, you understand…). To be honest the whole thing felt like a real bone-fide gig (I seem to go to more than my share of seated affairs these days…), and this impression was cemented when a real bone-fide fight broke out on the dance floor, during a spirited version of Emily Kane. Doormen rushed into the audience and dragged out the two scuffling miscreants. The years rolled back, I’ll tell you…

“Gloucester!” called a clearly bemused Argos from the stage, “Twinned with Altamont…”

The encore was particularly strong with a really wild version of Formed a Band, which took place completely on the dance floor, Argos nominating members of the audience to form bands with each other.

I did manage to record most of the gig, only spoiling three or four of the songs by talking over them. The new mike turned out to be pretty sensitive, and was on a few songs sensitive enough to pick up a number of shouted conversations between where we were stood and the stage (I ask you…) – I’ll know better next time.

Anyway, these were some of the best tracks on a really good evening:

Emily Kane

Post Soothing Out

My Little Brother

Lesson Learnt

The whole evening – part one

The whole evening – part two