Anda jaleo, jaleo!

I know…

It’s been a busy few weeks, to be fair. The Boy moving out of his flat and shipping off to the Smoke; some mostly self-induced stress at one of my jobs, a couple of new projects and a couple of torrid afternoons with the rugby football at Castle Grim. Not a moment to spare, I tell you…

But I’m here now and that’s what counts, no?

Although I’m sure there’ll be a good few sidling off pretty quickly when they see that for this post, I’m once again indulging my Spanish fixation…

I can’t remember if I’ve written about Josephine Foster before, I suspect not, chiefly because I blow a bit hot and cold with her fairly distinctive style and delivery – its feverish brittleness to the point of mania can be a bit of an “ask” at times. I can think of a few hysterical females and lugubrious males that repel and fascinate in equal measure whose appeal is fleeting but echoing (CocoRosie, Joanna Newsome, David Thomas Broughton, Alexander Tucker, I’m thinking of you…). Sometimes, I just can’t be doing with all that nonsense and others, well, fetch out the sackcloth, Miss Havisham…

And right now, I’m there.

Josephine Foster & the Victor Herrero Band

American guitarist/harpist, Josephine Foster has a bunch of pretty idiosyncratic projects under her belt, some of which I know and others I’m still tantalised by, including a psychedelic rock album and a collection of interpretations of the poems of genuine Mad Woman in the Attic, Emily Dickinson. From 2011, however, she spent some years living in Andalusia, studying the songs of Federico Garcia Lorca and digging deep into the sounds of Flamenco music.

Flamenco is still pretty much a closed book to this punter, (it’s hard not to remember the heyday of the Spanish package holiday in the seventies and the resulting “spots” on variety shows that dominated Saturday night viewing as a child), but the resulting two records, coming out jointly with her partner Victor Herrero, are honestly gorgeous affairs. The instrumentation is simple but, I suspect, technically brilliant and there is liberal use of clacking heels, abrupt stops and (FFS) even maracas.

But I’m strangely OK with all these much used Spanish tropes, mostly I imagine because of the keening, distraught style of Forster’s own vocals. It’s beguiling. I have a friend who started learning Spanish purely because of how beautiful the language sounded, and listening to these songs, I can really see it. (His own Spanish – way better than mine – is not quite as beautiful, drenched as it is in his broad Glawster tones…)

Here’s a video of Foster talking about her stay in Spain, which is illuminating and contains a few of her songs:

 

The song she sings from about 6:50, “Anda Jaleo”, is my personal favourite, and it’s more than a little frustrating that it is broken into a couple of times by further interview.

It’s one of the songs she’s reinterpreted from the poems of Lorca and although I can’t find a version of Foster and Herrero performing it, there are many more traditional versions online, most of which are, well, pretty hard to listen to.

There is thought, this proper old-school version, recorded in the thirties by Encarnación “La Argentinita” López, which incredibly enough actually includes Lorca himself playing piano. Considering the man’s position in Spanish folklore and literary history, and his death at the hands of Nationalist militia during the Civil War, it’s astonishing that recordings of him exist. That we can have this gossamer-like thread to a very distant Spanish past is frankly jaw-dropping.

 

And here’s Foster and Herrero’s version which having none of the gravitas and rumpty-tumpty grandness of this original, fares pretty well, by stripping and slowing the song down, bringing it closer to the scrub and dust of its Andalusian pedigree:

 

I’m very fond of this version.

But saving the best till last… maybe you want to go full-blown seventies Viva España? Perhaps you’d like to see some proper package holiday Flamenco? Groups of dancers dressed like Manolito, in a full-on percussive duel which descends into a proper Guys and Dolls-style rumble?

 

C’mon, people, rise up!

Your Dreams Among My Dreams

Present company excepted, probably the only music Blog you need is obviously Aquarium Drunkard – this much has been clear for a very long time.

Back when this Blog was still in short pants, trading Panini cards and obsessing about whether to comb its hair forwards or back, I spent a formidable amount of time consulting music Blogs, snorting up freebies and collecting must-try tips. Gradually, I’ve lost interest in all that mullarkey, but Aquarium Drunkard remains an interesting and worthwhile read.

This is particularly good…

Modern Nature

I have enough trouble keeping up with Jack Cooper’s dizzying output without him releasing new stuff under different guises (a weary recourse to Wikipedia fetches up Beep Seals, another incarnation of which I was numbly unaware…). So I didn’t twig that this was even a Cooper thing, originally when I saw mention of it on Twitter. But with Ultimate Painting no more, and no apparent desire to release another solo record, a new venture has appeared in the shape of Modern Nature.

Actually, the band he’s put together here is something of a PP supergroup, teaming up with Woods’ drummer, Aaron Neveu, and Beak> keyboard player, Will Young, amongst others. But pretty much true to form, I’m maybe six months behind on it, the first release, an EP called “Nature” coming out in March, followed up by an LP (I know, old habits…) in August.

Here’s “Supernature” the meandering, compelling counterpoint to the EP’s title track:

 

Beautiful, isn’t it? And not a little hypnotic… Bella Union’s notes to it site Alice Coltrane and Fairport Convention. I’m not a fan of these sort of hybrid comparisons but I’ve got to say that pretty much nails it. Gorgeous stuff…

I’ve only heard the long player (I know…) online but it sounds like an absolute beaut, mixing the sort of unhurried mysticism of the above track with the sort of more disciplined gentle songcraft you hope for from a Jack Cooper record.

But to return to Aquarium Drunkard, one of their regular features is their Laigniappe Sessions, where guests give away a couple of tracks, usually covers, recorded especially for the site. It’s a bit of a treasure trove of quirky freebees, made in the spirit of back-in-the-day by quite prominent artists, with recent contributions from Gruff Rhys, Mikel Cronin and Damian Jurado.

Cooper has made previous recordings too. But has recently made two more with Modern Nature including a version of “Fine Horseman”. Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll be aware that I’ve recently developed a bit of a thing for the long-departed but vividly oddball Lal Waterson. That Cooper should record a cover like this is actually not such a surprise (a version of Anne Briggs’ reading of “Blackwaterside” is one of the other tracks on “Nature”) but that he should be accompanied on it by Lal’s daughter Marry is something of a coup. It’s a bold reworking with dense, claggy percussion and lugubrious saxophone all over it, preserving the damp strangeness of a song that will always stop you in your tracks.

It’s available for download, but I’m obviously not going to try to palm it off here.

Step this way, folks…

See the buildings start to really burn!

Term time has once again stolen upon us. The evenings have started to close earlier, the mornings start a little later, and I’m on the point of putting away my shorts for the season. Summer’s promise has faded.

It’s a little sombre, for sure, but pretty soon the good things of the Autumn will start to kick in properly (not least of which is the start of the rugby season, one that promises much this time round…)

In the meantime, this is brightening up my life…

The Move

 

I can only imagine the skill and craft required to pen something as flawless and keenly focused as this, and Roy Wood’s colourful genius can be summed up in these peerless two and a half minutes. Effortless and exhilarating, innocent and knowing, mainstream and off-centre, all in one and the same breathless passage.

It’s a great song that I’ve played to death since I bought the first Move album as part of my London haul. The whole record is a treasure (“Cherry Blossom Clinic”, “Flowers in the Rain”, “Kilroy Was Here” and a Moby Grape cover are amongst the other highlights) from a band I’m afraid I’ve under-appreciated over the years. Wood-less years I’m never getting back…

The clip’s notable not only for Wood’s down home accent and gleaming talent (not to mention his gleaming chin) but also the fact that I think it’s live, (although if you told me it’d been pre-recorded I’d believe you straight away, so close is it to the sound of the record).

The more I watch it, though, the more my attention has started to drift towards poor old Carl Wayne, for whom the writing must’ve been daubed upon the wall, in great technicolour (Kilroy) letters. Rarely has a lead singer looked more redundant. For most of the song he is reduced to backing vocals and novelty “ooh”s, although Wood graciously allowed him to sing the bridge. For the rest of the song, he furiously clicks his fingers and does his best to look as if he cares not one jot for his reduced circumstances. In figure-hugging white slacks and black open-neck shirt, he is starting to look like the cabaret singer, Eurovision hopeful and future star of Crossroads he would later become.

All of which is a bit unfair on the man – by all accounts he was a brilliant and attention-holding front man in the earlier days, with a great voice and a genuinely rough edge.

I found this wonderful clip from 1966 which certainly complements the sophisticated flair of the Wood vehicle of the later sixties. The first half of clip is an interview which you can skip (till about 5:30) but is notable for how young the band look and sound (although I’m pretty sure Kefford’s not actually 14), but also for the fact that Wayne is clearly the band leader at this point.

The second half of the clip is the thing though – some pretty raucous footage of the band playing a gig, in full-on auto-destruct performance art in the style of the Who or the Creation – a speaker appears in flames at one point and in best Pop Art tradition Wayne takes an axe to a TV… Happier times, I’d imagine.

Hoarse chaotic brilliance.

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…)

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