Suffering as a little bit of time taken for yourself…

I was thinking of proroguing Partly Porpoise for five weeks, but then I asked myself, would you notice the difference?

(Somehow “shit-show” no longer suffices.)

 

I’m going to close my eyes and think of happier times…

I’ve had a few days up in that London, pretty much “living it large” (as I believe the young folk would have it). It was a groove and a gas.

By the end of the stay, I felt like a minor prince, strutting purposefully from place to place, airily waving my plastic at obliging shop assistants, waiters and purveyors of fine wines and vinyl, all of whom duly prostrated themselves before me. Even the barriers at tube stations ceded to my all-conquering card (that was a revelation, I can tell you…) Of course, I bought a sackload of CDs, more books than I strictly need and generally spent money with a flash and ease that I knew I would regret when back in the real world. (And so it proved.)

But enough of this, I’m sure you’re saying, did I see any music?

Oh, indeedy…

White Fence, Oslo, Hackney

I’ll admit, of recent I’ve lost track of Tim Presley’s dizzyingly varied output, since the first Drinks record in fact (didn’t even know until yesterday that there’d been a second one). He’s a widening gyre of feverish activity for sure, with all sorts of releases in the four years since I wrote this in 2015. He seems to career from one corner of the “difficult” room to the other – one minute he’s thrashing away like a good ’un with Ty Segall, the next he’s all atonal prickliness and dense lyrical forestry with Cate le Bon. It’s a job for an old guy to keep up, you know.

I’m not really up on London venues – I’ve not seen a gig in the capital for years – but the Oslo seems like a decent spot, with a hipsterish bar/restaurant beneath the concert hall. It was something of a novelty booking a table and getting vegan burgers and craft beers before the show (when in the metropolis…), and only wending our way casually upstairs when Presley and band had finished their chicken wings at the next table.

We did actually see most of support act Robert Sotelo but I didn’t really get it to be honest. I’m all for bands reading lyrics off crib sheets (it suggests a certain crisp freshness to the material after all), and it may be that his music “owes as much to Davies and McCartney’s unashamed belief in melody as it does to the uncertainty and confusion that comes with mid-thirties existentialism” (ahem) but nothing worked for me really. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a singer look as ill-at-ease.

All forgotten, a couple of hours later though, by which time White Fence had jogged athletically through a 90-minute, 15-song set that was definitely wearing the le Bon dungarees from Presley’s wardrobe, in something of a contrast to the last time I saw him.

Most of the songs came from the recent I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk record or from Presley’s solo album Wink, and unfamiliar I was with them, I really enjoyed it. There was nothing from (what I’m calling) his Ty Segall records and although the familiar slashed, trebly freakbeat chords were never far from the surface (all played in his own distinctive high slung, Hollies fashion), there was not so much of the garage punk freakouts that characterised the time I saw him in Bristol.

There’s actually a clip of part of the Oslo gig on YouTube, but it’s not quite as good as this one, shot a couple of weeks earlier and pretty much the same (save for the neatly tucked in beige tank top Presley sported for the whole of our steamy evening).

 

Despite looking so relaxed in the bar beforehand, it seemed to take a little while for things to settle as it were, but once he did, Presley and band gave pretty good gig (particularly the second guitarist Josh Popowitz and getting-down-to-business drummer Phelan Handley – not at all sure about these names…), the set gradually getting more frayed and psyche as the evening thrummed on.

The hall itself was a classic rock venue, in the bar-along-one-side, sticky-floored fashion of the Fleece, and the sound was probably even better, and so the recordings came out pretty well.

I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk

Clue

Live on Genevieve

Until You Walk

I have a few White Fence / Tim Presley / Presley & Segall records to catch up on now…

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying

A blurry, self-indulgent few days up in that London has very much wrenched me from the voluptuous and comforting embrace of Cumbia. It’s been a whole lot of fun – I’ve drunk too much and spent way too much money – but the main focus was a blistering White Fence gig in Hackney – something of a rude awakening, I can tell you.

I love and respect you all too much, however, to blast straight into the flash and sparkle of Tim Presley’s latest conflagration, so here’s something roughly half way between…

Question Mark and the Mysterians

The inevitable mooch around Berwick St record stores yielded a 27-track “Best of…” CD (Yes, there really were 26 others) which was absurdly cheap and I was unable to resist.

To be fair, the collection is pretty strong, full of grimy fuzz tone and the ever-present sound of farfisa, which belies the image of the band being the archetypical one-hit wonders, and generally does what it says on the box. “96 Tears” is of course the ultimate earworm, so obviously approach with caution…

(Oh! What’s that you say? You want it in Spanish? No problem…)

 

What a gas.

The cutest, dumbest keyboard riff wreathed all over the familiar sound of sixties adolescents rueing their luck in the bitter and (vaguely misogynist) ways of the young dude. Irresistible and best not thought about too deeply.

Here’s an interview with Question Mark done in 1990, looking a lot like Sky Saxon, to my mind, and sounding rather full of himself. He manages to avoid answering questions about how they wrote the song, how old he is, why they thought of the band name (I’d hoped there was some sort of Gerry Anderson link, but no), and generally trying to make it sound like there’s always been a masterplan.

 

I wouldn’t bother with all 39 minutes but if you give it the first 5 or 6 minutes, you’ll get the general idea and tone – including such choice quotes as “There’s always more to my songs, I don’t like to be too obvious” and “Every one of my songs do (sic) have meaning – very profound and deep meaning” (something Trumpian about the latter…).

I’m not too keen on smart, savvy Question Mark, no matter how unconvincing it sounds. I’d much rather have the original inarticulate, naïve Question Mark, who’d clearly rather be goofing off with his mates down on the boardwalk somewhere…

A bit like this, in fact

 

Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on.

¡Venga mariposa!

The rain is currently lashing away in Hammer fashion at the windows of our rented Brecon cottage, and with the forecast unpromising for the weekend, I can’t help but think of the hardy souls who are currently packing for Green Man. I consider myself retired these days but I will no doubt feel some envy and regret when people start messaging and tweeting once it starts.

Right now though, not so much…

It’s a classic Welsh August in short, and I can’t think of many things less like the equatorial sounds of Cumbia. Nevertheless, a chance encounter on YouTube recently reminded me what an absolute wealth of exotic, goofy sounds there is in Latin America and as a result I spaffed away a bunch of downloads at my favourite online emporium on newish forms of Cumbia.

And lo!

The hoary clouds start to roll away…

Malphino

A couple of the EPs and single tracks I took were by a band of cheery souls calling themselves Malphino, who are apparently “an outer-national, mystical band from an imaginary tropical island that has dreamt up a cinematic score and audio backdrop to their idyll”. Seems credible…

Here they are doing a sweetly guileless track from their Welcome to Malphino album for Worldwide FM.

 

You’ll have noticed that Malphino, amongst others, employ the services of a tuba instead of a bass. This is a rare and lovely thing – an instrument my uncle used to play in his time with the Cinderford Brass Band but not one you see a lot of, even in the sort of hipster circles I like to frequent. If you can look past the comedy tones though, it’s a great sound – deep, stentorian, unequivocal…

There’s a bit of a piece about Malphino on the Sounds & Colours site which is worth a read, if you can cope with the disappointing news that the mythical land the band hail from is actually South London. Whilst you’re there, you can also download a track from the band’s debut LP, Visit Malphino. There’s also a longer interview with the band here.

The record was released last year by Lex Records but is currently out of stock (indeed appeared to sell out as I was browsing), although earlier EPs (El Lava de Gabacho & Lalango) are great and are available on eMusic. In the meantime, here’s another clip of the band busking in a Colombian butcher’s stall at Brixton Market, performing “Fabiola Amapola” from Lava de Gabacho

 

 

Obviously, I vigorously approve of bands playing their local butchers. I’m also very much in favour of the odd change of tempo, and in this case, a song that appears to get ahead of itself and has to take a self-conscious breath to regain its cool (before dashing off all over again…)

In fact, there’s all sorts of reasons to love this song. Who doesn’t like a ukulele? A tuba solo? A nimble-fingered accordion? (Many people of course, but let us not speak of these types). The version on the EP actually includes a demented pipe organ and an over-enthusiastic cowbell. Yee-ha!

The rest of the EP is great galloping fun too, a super-abundance of accordion, Walken-esque levels of cowbell and the ubiquitous tuba, plus guest appearances from flute, a brass section and even a bit of feedback-y dissonance – this just on the opening track, “Cumbia Policia” (And that’s a picture in itself – bandoliered accordionists and guiro players tumbling out of an on-two-wheels Black Maria as it careens around a corner).

All tremendous, contagious stuff, and if that doesn’t raise a smile on even the dullest of Welsh days, then you, my friend, are flat-lining…

¡Cumbéalo!

The previous two Augusts have yielded a flurry of posts as a welcome by-product of a week getting it together in the Welsh hills, and you’ll no doubt be hoping this year will be much the same. I’m presuming this but on the other hand, knowing the unreliable nature of this fitful venture, you may just have to be happy with what you get.

Whatever, this is an absolute doozy.

Alex Mendoza y sus Poetas del Ritmo

And so again, we’re enjoying seven days of constructive loafing in the Welsh countryside. Reading (Moby Dick), walking (in the rain, of course), drinking (sherry, mostly), chatting (shit, mostly) – you know, generally sticking it to the Man.

Stand by…

As I may have intimated in my last hurried post, there’s a whole wave of Cumbia breaking upon these shores at the moment. I quickly dashed off the last post moments before we set off on a walk across hill and down dale in the temperamental but never less than impressive Brecon Beacons. Throughout the morning, I can honestly say the fragile notes of Alex Mendoza’s timid, brittle guitar didn’t leave my head in the couple of hours we were out.

 

This isn’t really Cumbia at all, as I’m sure you’ve worked out – the trebly surf guitar gives it away as Peruvian chicha – but the loping Colombian rhythms and the itchy & scratchy sounds of the guiro tell us we’re not a million miles away. I love the mishmash of reedy guitar lines warmed up by the sympathetic chords of farfisa-style organ, all given a lop-sided drive by the distinctive rhythms of South America. It’s all going down rather well…

And if you’re not immediately won over by that sleeve…

Disappointingly, aside from the fact that he’s a Peruvian guitarist, there’s pretty much nothing about Señor Mendoza available on the Internet that I can find. I gather the driving force behind the record, however, is Max Weissenfeldt who provides the eight-armed, Tony Allen-style drum patterns behind the record and pretty much is the Poetas del Ritmo.

He’s also the band leader of Berlin-based crate-diggers, the Polyversal Souls and has his own label, Philophon, who release all manner of World treasures. There’s a nice little interview with the fellow here although it does suggest that he might be one of those musical kleptomaniacs who’ll be off somewhere else soon. The fact that this first appeared three or four years ago and there’s been no follow up that I can find, maybe confirms this.

Or maybe, they just thought “We’re not going to better this…”

Here’s a clip of another of his ventures with the Polyversal Souls and Ghanaian singer Guy One. It’s also pretty nifty…

 

So, about that bottle of Amontillado (not going to drink itself, after all…)

I can feel it coming…

 

A cumbia frenzy!

 

 

I’m powerless to resist…

¡Subame el monitor!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that there are few things as insufferable as a teacher launching into his insufferably long summer holidays, so I won’t go on… But hey! It’s summer!

(Actually, once you start there are quite a few universally-acknowledged truths that spring to mind:

  • Isn’t August fantastic? – sorry I wasn’t going to do that…
  • Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy (to mix my writers up)
  • Who doesn’t like wearing shorts?
  • Boris Johnson shouldn’t be anywhere near no 10
  • No matter what Simon Reynolds says, the Pop Group are a fiendishly hard listen – and frankly, why would you bother? Life’s far too fleeting and precious a gift to waste time on that Jesuitical nonsense)

That last one’s a bit random.

Although… not as random as you might think – I’m trying to do to bit more “pop” music, these days.

Spanish Pop

One of the other universal truths that continues to present itself to me is that learning Spanish is still proving to be a stubborn nut to crack – I’d imagined that after a couple of years of ill-disciplined and haphazard “study”, the language would’ve opened itself out to me in inviting and triumphant fashion. I thought by now I’d be prattling away like a good’un, learning interesting and street-wise new idioms and generally impressing all my friends with my easy membership of the continental elite. Sadly (if inevitably), this has not proved to be the case. I still speak like an inarticulate teenager and I suspect sound like the equivalent of one of those bemused, pitiable Japanese tourists you find yourself behind in the queue for a train ticket.

To remedy this, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is to listen to more Spanish music. This has been something of a challenge, as you can imagine, not because there’s a shortage (there’s obviously loads, most of it pretty dull – the Spanish do like an auto-tuned voice…). The problem is, of course, my own lofty pickiness.

But in the interests of trying to improve my language, I’ve tried to swallow my pride and listen to a bit more Spanish pop. And actually, against all my better judgement, I’m quite enjoying it.

Here’s Julieta Venegas from Mexico, who is apparently massive around the world and even a grammy award winner, I believe, hardly a crate-digger’s discovery but she does play the accordion (which is never a bad thing – a universal truth, if you like…)

I can’t work out whether I’d be turning my nose up at this under other circumstances (and presumably saying I preferred her early records), if it wasn’t for the fact that she sings in Spanish and such is my current obsession. But hey, the video’s fun (and includes women eating flowers and farting butterflies – another universal truth, if ever I heard one…).

 

Moving back into more familiar PP territory, the twitter feed of proper Bristol legend Big Jeff has introduced me to Catalan duo, Za! who remind me a lot of Siesta!, another wantonly-punctuated band I wrote about a while back (but who seem very quiet these days…).

Hard to see this pair winning a grammy, to be fair… A drums and keyboard/knob twiddly sort of affair, they make a vast and frequently dissonant racket that affords few chances to practice your speaking & listening skills but is enormously exciting. There’s some kraut-y electronics, some tribal sounds, a sprinkling of Sun Ra and loads and loads of overexcited shouting – a heady brew, in fact.

There’s a fair bit of mischief afoot too…

 

I can’t find much online about Za! past about 2015 – their Soundcloud page is pretty old, although there are quite a bunch of recordings there to enjoy, including this:

 

I think Jeff saw them a couple of years ago at Primavera, and they’re still playing dates in Spain – I’d imagine an evening with Za! might be quite a rousing affair… If you watch this last clip, there’s quite a lot of interview but even that’s quite fun, and the live stuff’s breathlessly exciting and includes a version of the above track “Subeme el Monitor” (which I reckon translates as “pump up the volume”)