Whirring little spinners that tickled the rough of my hands…

Well, it’s been an interesting week, involving quite a lot of work, a broken elbow and a trip to Thekla.

Which would you like to hear about? I thought so…

Avi Buffalo @ Thekla

The aforementioned elbow, with arm in sling, meant I was feeling a bit ginger as Martin and I made our way below deck and bought drinks. We were met with the sight of Master Buffalo himself manning his own merch stall, which is kinda stirring when it’s the likes of David Gedge or Laura Cantrell, but even more charming here, when it became clear that, although I see Avi Buffalo as a bit of a star, he clearly doesn’t.

We chatted and when Martin mentioned that we’d seen him play at Green Man and that I’d recorded it, he seemed keen to hear it and gave me his email address. Altogether charming and one of a long line of Polite Americans, we seem to meet.

Support acts were …OK-ish, though I’ll not be rushing to see Admiral Fallow at Green Man this summer, all a bit folk-by-numbers, nothing particularly interesting or different there. (Plus, they took an age to set up. Unforgiveable). The first band, Tripwires fromReading, were certainly derivative (UK shoegaze etc) but far more engaging and seemed to have a song or two up their sleeves. I quite enjoyed their set.

Avi Buffalo shambled on at about 9:45, looking laid back and casual, and I believe sporting something of a new line up sinceGreenMan.He had mentioned a new guitarist, George and a bassist, Barbara who I have to say was excellent. Starting the evening with the new single, How Come? and moving through a mixture of old and new material , he went on to play a pretty unpredictable set, some of it brilliant and some of it, well,  less so.

He didn’t appear to have a setlist, making decisions on the spur of the moment. He introduced one song with a less than promising “So, I’ve been doing a lot of coke lately.” and hurtled off on another tangent, dragging his poor band off with him. They looked to be struggling at times…

I thought the best performances were some of the (really strong) songs from his old record, although he did seem to be tiring of some of them and was looking for ways to freshen them up (not always successfully).

At the time, I wasn’t impressed with the new material, but on further listens, it’s actually growing on me pretty strongly. I reckon he’s been listening to a fair amount of Arthur Lee, and probably some Zappa or Beefheart too. I do reckon it needs a bit of tightening up, though but that’s OK, I don’t think the new record’s due until Autumn.

Having said all this, the hits outnumbered the misses – the man is obviously dripping with ideas, and the talent to match them. His song writing is interesting, his guitar technique by turns delicate and ungainly and his reedy vocals still spellbinding. I still love him, and I’m hopeful that his second album will be a worthy cohort to the best record of last year.

I made some recordings which have largely come out OK, and I’m posting some of my favourite tracks. There’s more if anyone’s interested.

Five Little Sluts

Weatherman Says

Won’t be around no more

How Come?

Seven Great New Records of 2010

OK, so here goes, the only porpoise-based end of year lists that matter:

Seven Records of 2010 You Should Probably Buy (although I didn’t bother):

 

  • Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens
  • The Courage of Others – Midlake
  • Swim – Caribou
  • The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
  • Before Today – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  • Have One on Me – Joanna Newsome
  • Oh and the Kanya record , I suppose (can’t be bothered to look up what it’s called)

(Actually, I did buy the Caribou record – it was hugely disappointing, and made me wonder if any of the magazine pundits who put it in their Best Of lists had actually heard The Milk of Human Kindness…)

Seven Great Nearly New Releases of 2010 that I bought instead:

 

  • Gather, Form and Fly – Megafaun
  • The Evangelist – Robert Forster
  • Everything is Possible: The Best of Os Mutantes
  • Champion in the Arena – Jackie Mittoo
  • Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
  • Alice – Tom Waits
  • Lyre of Orpheus – Nick Cave

(Alice, in particular, continues to haunt me after a good six months of listening; and I wish I’d been cool enough to pick up on Bitte Orca last year when it came out…)

Seven Great New Releases of 2010:

 

Unofficially, I think this really was my favourite record of the year. Brim full of breathless insecurity and glistening guitar work from the tongue and fingers of Avi Zahner-Isenberg, it’s a particularly intense record. You get the feeling that he’s no respecter of personal space. Was fortunate enough to see his fantastic set at Green Man in the summer.

Highpoint:

The Truth Sets In

Favourite lyric:

“What’s another time to say, Witches speak in my head all day, Witchcraft seems to unload and say, You don’t love me anymore”

Highly polished psychedelia that reminded me a lot of the Nazz when I first heard it (and still does). It’s full of great fuzzy guitar riffs that work every time and will be one of those records people will always have trouble placing in time.

Highpoint:

Solitude is Bliss

Favourite Lyric:

“There’s a party going on in my head and no one is invited, You will never come close to how I feel”

Simple and gorgeous bitter-sweet folk songs that stay long in the mind after they’ve passed. Not withstanding a lack-lustre performance at Green Man, I’d love to see the album performed in the intimate surroundings it deserves.

Highlight:

Letters

Favourite lyric:

“She lead me down the garden path and bled me dry. She did her make up in the reflection of my glassy, glazed eyes. She buried me in the churchyard where she wed me long ago. My father saw red and said ‘you couldn’t even pronounce the poor boy’s name!’”

Possessed of one of today’s most recognisable voices, Kurt Wagner really knows how to sigh and pause as he uses it. Combining with Cortney Tidwell, he has produced a great country record for today (and yesterday, I guess), which again people will have trouble placing in a few years time. You gotta love a bit of C&W when it’s as good as this…

Highlight:

Incredibly Lonely

Favourite lyric:

“I’m blue as a bluebird with no song to sing, I’m like a little bitty tear lost in the falling rain.”

There’s little-bitty-teardrop-gloominess, then there’s the nameless, formless sense of unremitting gloom that James Blake somehow builds into his …er… songs (trying not to use the word “soundscapes”, here). If Avi Buffalo is all pushy, face in yours intensity, James Blake gives you so much space that you wonder if he’s wandered off at one point. Incredibly, moody, gothic pieces that make you stop what you’re doing…

Highpoint

Klavierwerke

Favourite lyric:

No lyrics, just muffled voices offstage, and an incredibly atmospheric 25-second period of silence punctuated by the occasional stifled groan. Talk about spooky…

A terrifically, atmospheric record that would be a great soundtrack for a Heart of Darkness- type story, with the viewer witnessing Kurtz’ last moments, disturbed and uncomprehending. Lots of effects draped exotically over deceptively simple surf-guitar or organ hooks. Another very creepy record.

Highlight:

Miarches

Favourite lyric:

“The horror! The horror!” (not really…)

Only recently realised this record is actually from this eyar. Completely unaware of Field Music’s output until they rolled up at the Guildhall this summer and martin gave me all their records as homework. As such I didn’t appreciate that Field Music (Measure) was the newest release. It’s a funky, awkward and dazzling record that showcases further the prodigious talents of the Brewis brothers. Surely these men are deserving of some sort of grant?

Highpoint:

Clear Water

Favourite lyric:

“Feeling the weight on us, I’d like to help you but I don’t know where to push, So much fight and no remission”

(Actually, it’s been a really good year for releases and I could easily have expanded the list to ten or fifteen, but rules is rules… Other terrific new releases that I loved for parts of the year included records by Dreamend, Mount Kimbie, the Cloud Nothings, Grass Widow, the Radar Brothers, Julian Lynch and Women. Close, but no tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco…)

Seven Great Live Sets of 2010

So, here begins my end of year review thingy, and I thought I’d kick off with live music.

The highlight of the year was once again (a rather soggy) Green Man and I could easily have picked a whole line-up of GM sets. Apart from that, however, I didn’t get along to see as much music as I’d have liked (nor as much as last year). But nonetheless there were some really special live performances from 2010:

(Some of the vids are mine, some are the closest I could get…)


  • Avi Buffalo, Green Man

Trooping onstage looking like three bewildered teens, Avi Buffalo swooped and dived through most of their wonderful , shimmering record with a confidence and accomplishment that you wondered if they were going to have at the beginning. Giving the impression of genuinely enjoying their set as they played, they made faces at each other between songs and generally looked like they couldn’t believe their luck. I think we all felt the same.

  • Beirut, The Winter Gardens, Eastbourne

Saw them on the main stage in the rain at Green Man as well, but I always felt they would be better under a roof, where everything could all get a bit emotional. The Winter Gardens is a lovely old fashioned venue that I hope to get along to another time, and which really added to a brassy, sweaty evening. Took The Boy along with me as part of his A level celebrations and I like to think he was well rewarded for his travails.

  • LCD Soundsystem, The Academy, Bristol

Talking of sweaty, Bristol Academy in the summer, wedged in towards the front of a jostling, jarring mass at an LCD Soundsystem gig is a pretty fine place to be. Hadn’t been a massive fan until that evening, but really enjoyed an evening of Byrne-inspired jiggy-ness and spent the rest of the summer catching up on the records. Get innocuous!

  • Lee Perry, Colston Hall, Bristol

Bizarrely, the day before LCD Soundsystem, I’d been to see The Upsetter himself around the corner at Colston Hall. A real surfeit. Unable to persuade anyone else to join me, I was also unable to pass up an opportunity to see the great man himself. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but Perry didn’t disappoint and well into his seventies showed himself to be just as wonky and funky as you’d hope he would be.

  • Field Music, Guildhall, Gloucester

Also saw, Sunderland’s finest at Green Man, where they played a fine set, but I have to say their quieter, more intimate gig at the dear old Guildhall was even better and all the more satisfying for being one of barely fifty Gloucester folk who turned out. Self-effacing, charming and dizzyingly talented, Field Music may well be “The Best Band in Britain” (© M Cole).

  • Gotan Project, Colston Hall, Bristol

Another gig at Colston hall, and this time with my good lady, we enjoyed a lengthy, intoxicating dose of dubby, Latin trip hop, the memory of which will see us nicely into our dotage. Augmented by an imaginative projector show behind them, and a bone-shivering top class sound system, Gotan Project went through most of their new record and touched a lot of their older stuff too. One of only a few gigs I went to where I managed to get a really decent recording, which we are still playing in the car. Rich stuff.

  • John Grant, Green Man

As I said I could have picked a good few sets from Green Man, but John Grant’s particularly impressed me, because I hadn’t really got on with his very-highly regarded (nay, lauded) record. His stage presence and personality won me over pretty quickly, and it stuck out as one of the sets of the weekend. Still not a huge fan of the record, but the man himself was pretty striking.

Honourable Mention:

Not a set as such, but another highlight of Green Man was the first public appearance from Andy Kershaw since his time inside. Looking very nervous, and (he said later) unsure whether anyone would turn up to hear him, Kershaw, once settled, was quickly recognisable as the energetic, plain-speaking enthusiast of a few years ago. Full of stories and working on his book, his appearance was both funny and genuinely moving.

You are tiny and your lips are like little pieces of bacon

Green Man 2010 – Avi Buffalo

The Avi Buffalo set was another cracker, only this time in the drier surrounds of the Far Out tent.

As with John Grant, there was a real buzz about the prospect of this set, with the excellent 2010 album bringing in many punters. I can’t believe anyone was disappointed, because it was a great little set. Avi himself is a pretty unprepossessing, slight figure who plays and sings his complex, touching tunes with confidence and very little effort. He was very good indeed.

I was particularly taken by the way he would pull a funny face at his bass player after each song as if it say “They like us! Who’d’ve thought it?” I even warmed to his reedy singing style, and he went down a proverbial storm.

Recorded the whole set, and shot another video too…

Summer Cum

Coaxed

Where’s Your Dirty Mind

Five Little Sluts / Truth Sets In

Can’t I know?

What’s In It For?

Remember Last Time