I really shouldn’t say it, but I just love what the water does.

Another strange and striking evening at Slak, last week.

I haven’t been to a Calmer evening for a while, but was drawn to a strong line up featuring Doveman and David Thomas Broughton. I also managed to drag my son along to his first Calmer evening, and am now hoping that it was suitably cool for him.

Actually, I don’t care much – I’m still and always impressed by just how damn groovy the whole Calmer scene is – I tell you I’d’ve been very happy to have had anything as good when I was seventeen. He should be grateful, I reckon.

Sam Amidon is a New York guitarist who came on first and played a series of bluegrass and Appalachian numbers on guitar and banjo. It was really well done, and was added to considerably by the atmospheric keyboards added by Doveman in places. Amidon has two albums available on emusic, here and here, the most recent one being a “Pick”, and also garnishing a 7.9 from Pitchfork. I shall have a listen.

Doveman’s mother actually calls him Thomas Bartlett, and he, it turns out, is a bit of a childhood buddy of Amidon – they played together in a number of bands, but I didn’t really enjoy him as much as his mate, although his songs did build up impressively. I can’t say I really warmed to his voice, it was a bit breathy, a bit, well, girly. And while we’re at it, I didn’t like the silly hand gestures he kept using.

(I’m being unreasonable. I’m listening to his record now, and it’s not half bad…)

Both fellers contribute to this Blog, Speak Peppery, which I shall keep an eye on from now on.

David Thomas Broughton

Until now David Thomas Broughton had confined himself to prowling around on the edge of proceedings, adding the occasional backing vocals from the bar, or sitting on stage fiddling with speakers and mixing things, in order to get his trademark strange noises from them.

I’ve posted about Broughton before (here and here) and have gone on at length about his voice and looping. So I’ll try not to go over any old ground here.

It is, however, a hell of voice he’s got. Words like “haunting” and “keening” spring to your mind when you hear him, and I remember being impressed with this when I saw him at Green Man. Sat a few meters away from him, however, what I hadn’t noticed before is what an odd character he really is. Dressed in the sort of grey tweed trousers I remember having to wear as a child for trips to my nana’s house, he came on stage, guitar strapped on but also carrying a tiny television set. He went on to set it up and tune it off-channel and used the white noise as atmospherics for his songs. He also used a Dictaphone or something from which he coaxed another range of hisses and pops to be used over his songs.

When singing he fidgeted constantly, punctuating his songs with coughs and yawns and at one point went through a routine of compulsive trouser adjustments. At times he was quite funny, at others a little intimidating, and certainly held the attention.

Most of the time his voice and delivery (“keening”, “haunting” etc) overcame all the other distractions; and the narrow line between weirdness and self-indulgence was generally trod quite deftly. (I say “most of the time”, at least one song was completely overwhelmed by feedback and white noise.)

Performers who leave the stage area and start moving around the tables and bar stools are almost de rigueur at Calmer, and Broughton spent a fair amount of time doing this. He also had an intriguing line in dramatic gestures – at one point he took some change from his pocket while singing, banged it on a table and placed an upturned beer glass over it, before moving back onto the stage.

I have no idea… I just know that no one had the nerve to pocket the money….

For my birthday, I bought myself a small video camera, and took this video of a fairly idiosyncratic version of Ambiguity.

(Apologies for the abrupt ending, I’m not really sure how to edit this sort of thing yet…)

Somewhere an arrow is flashing directionless over hotels of husbands and infidels…

I’ve got some proper stuff to write and a video to upload, anon, as they say, but in the meantime, have a look at this:

This record by Unbunny is one I’ve been listening to a lot recently, and it’s one I’m just loving

Letting myself down

I can be a bit of an arse at times…

Nalle

Was rummaging around the not-just-a-wonderful-name Pickled Egg site, and found some delightful but absolutely barking tracks by Glaswegian trio, Nalle.

Playing a collection of instruments including (get this) flutes, kantele, viola, bouzouki and clarinet (at least two bits of kit I’m having trouble with there…), Nalle are coming from a very different place than most of the music I listen to. I’m guessing there are all sorts of non-American sources in there, particularly as the band members are all (I think) Finnish. But as you’ll probably be aware of by now, this is great – I like hearing new things. And this is clearly a new thing, a kind of child-like, slightly mystical and completely down-right batty folky music.

I managed to find this clip of Nalle performing in Glasgow, which will pretty much do the trick…

Anyway, as I said, I can in truth be a bit of an arse at times.

I was watching this video when it dawned on me that I’d actually seen Nalle play at Green Man a couple of years ago. I use the word “seen” in its loosest sense in that if I remember rightly I spent most of the set sitting with my back to the stage talking with a couple of friends I’d met the day before. Very poor form, I know.

In fact, I think it got worse. The problem was that after a few drinks “child-like” started to sound just plain childish, and … well… a few boorish comments were made. The long and short of it is that “the piss” was liberally extracted.

I know. I let myself down, I let my friends down, in fact I let the whole school down. The only thing I can say in my defence is that drink had in fact been taken…

Anyway, it’s all good, because here’s my chance to redress an afternoon’s carelessness. Ignore the drunken buffoons in the corner, it’s lovely stuff – lush, twangy and, yes, difficult. Buy the record (“By Chance Upon Waking”, available here on Emusic), kick off your slippers and enjoy some weird exoticism…

Pickled Egg have made three tracks available for download, my favourite of which I’ll make available here. Pick up the others over there…

Iron’s Oath – Nalle

With one hand in the water running cold and clear; Fog obliterates the morning and I don’t know where I am

Hmmm, now I’m stirred into… well … action, another album I’m enjoying hugely at the moment could have featured in the Best of 2008 list I was going to write.

Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron

That record is “Lost Wisdom” by Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron. Phil Elvrum leads Mount Eerie, his previous band having been another band I’m starting to get a taste for – the Microphones. And Julie Doiron is yet another name floating around the outskirts of my current known world that also needs a little investigating.

The record they’ve made together is a beautiful, intimate affair with songs that are hard to pin down. Houses catch fire; winds, rivers and seas sweep across lives with little regard for anyone; the only signs that appear are dim shapes in the half light. Shadows, echoes and other wispy things all put in regular appearances and it’s all rather hard to grasp hold of at times. Great stuff.

I’d love to post a couple of tracks, but I can’t find any available online. There is this, though, a performance of the title track, apparently shot just days after the record was recorded. (There’s a fairly long intro, you might want to skip on to about 2:00)

I’ve also found this track by Julie Doiron available here, which is from her “Woke Myself Up”.

No More – Julie Doiron

We’re not here to apportion blame…

Hmmm… How best to approach this whole no-posts-for-a-month business?

Probably I should come clean and get on with some elaborate hand-wringing request for forgiveness. How could I be so remiss? And some old chat like that. Perhaps I could act like I’ve just been so-o-o snowed under. No time for such fripperies as posting on a Blog. Maybe I should just breeze back in and say nothing in a sort of “I owe you nothing bitch!” way. You knew what I was like before you hooked up with me, eh?

If only I could think up some clever linguistic device to help me use up a few paragraphs, and then I could get on with the music.

Oh, well, maybe they won’t notice…

I did kind of intend to post a list of some decent releases from 2008, but I’m beginning to suspect I may have missed the boat there (I dunno, what do you think?) and anyway, it’s been done by many more worthy bloggers (and by “more worthy bloggers” I mean bloggers who post more than once a month…). Although, I would say, and this’ll be my final word on the matter, the Hungry Saw? Don’t think anyone mentioned it…

Anyway, best to look to the future, I always say; we could spend a lot of time working who was right and who was wrong. Let’s just say there was fault on both sides, and leave it at that, eh?

Fulborn Teversham

2009 is alive and kicking and I’ve uncovered my first quirky gem of the year, although in true PP fashion, it’s been out almost two years already. Never mind, I feel pretty safe in saying that the Fulborn Teversham will have crept under all but the most vigilant of radars in that time. Although, quite how is beyond me, the thought of this unlikely mishmash of drums, saxes and squeaking vocals creeping past anything is hard to believe.

A quick Google for Fulborn Teversham reveals that they are the new side project of Seb Rochford. You know, the brains behind Polar Bear. Yeah, that Polar Bear, Mercury Music Prize nominees and all that (Oh do keep up!) and that they are releasing records on the magnificently named Pickled Egg label.

There is an album out at the moment, Count Herbert II, and it is available on Emusic, here. And I’m listening to it now – it’s rather wonderful, a real mixture of idling jazzy stuff and gangly honking Beefhart-style oddities. I’m loving it, and I can heartily recommend it…

Beachtune

Count Herbert II

Back in the game… Oh yes.