Black Whales – Through The Prism, Gently

prismIt’s all a bit “fits & starts” here at the moment I’m afraid.  Blame work.  The upshot of all this is that instead of getting to spend time doing this, I’m currently waking up, going to work stupidly early, getting home stupidly late, soup and then bed.  For six days a week.  Ah well, it’s infinitely better than what I was facing this time last year.

On the plus side, the drive to and from work is incredible fun, as it currently involves driving alone down myriad twisting country lanes, unlit and occasionally foggy.  As well as these natural hazards, the journey is now about 40 minutes each way which means that I more often than not get a whole record in while avoiding stuffing my car into yet another hedge/tree/escaped cow.  This one’s been getting a lot of play time during the past couple of weeks and it’s an escape well-received.

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Alain Johannes – Fragments and Wholes, Vol.1

fawThere’s something rather pleasing about using numbers as something other than passing the time or showing how much there is of something.  Tomorrow’s 11/11 is a good example of this as it is with its symmetry and a date that avoids transatlantic confusion, but throw the year into the mix and add the all the digits from 11/11/2014 together and you end up with another eleven.  Which is nice.  So what better date to usher in the release of a new solo record from one of rock music’s busiest men Alain Johannes (he of Eleven, naturally)?

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The Night Terrors – Pavor Nocturnus

pavorHallowe’en is over for yet another year, all my sweets have been extorted by a succession of little demons and I’ve spent far too long assembling a new record player, the instructions to which are only slightly more complicated and abstract than those imprinted on the side of the two Voyager Spacecraft should they be discovered at any point in the universe’s vast future by a civilisation of audiophiles.  The spirit (ha!) of the day is duly extended here by a band whose central sound tends to evoke horrors of yore, bolstered here by the addition of what I read to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Grand Romantic Organ, a title that I must admit to previously believing to be held by Sir Les Patterson’s skin.

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Matthew Ryan – Boxers

MatthewRyan-BoxersUsually, and certainly of late, I find it a struggle to find that elusive interesting “in” to a record, that unique moment that allows me to begin a train of thought to wherever.  The most difficult thing for me with this particular one is that it was all to easy to do and I remain unsure about if I want to go down that track.  But here I am and there I go, and as nobody reads this anymore anyway I can relax a bit more and head off to wherever this is going to take me.  It’s that sort of an album, and a fitting end to this brief jaunt around Pennsylvania’s gritty musical output.

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Little Big League – Tropical Jinx

little-big-league-tropical-jinxOnto the second part of this visit to the State of Pennsylvania, which I now discover is more of a Commonwealth anyway.  No idea what that means, but there you go.  And after having my hearing and nerves shattered by 4 and 5am fire alarms here, I am in no state (or commonwealth?) to find out properly.  Little Big League are a band from Philadelphia, Tropical Jinx is their second album and their debut struck such a chord with me last year (it was a well-deserved favourite) that it feels like they’ve been around for a lot longer, something reinforced by the progression and feel of this new one.  October’s been a good month.

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Cayetana – Nervous Like Me

cayetanaShould all go to plan, this should be the first of three consecutive posts about new stuff from three different sets of artists from the same US state.  In the pantheon of “big areas where sounds come from” Pennsylvania’s not the first place that would spring to mind, fairly or otherwise, yet here I am with a trio of really good records each with something different to say.  And as tradition tends to dictate in these matters, it’s fairest that I pick the first one first: the first one to arrive here and the band’s first long-player.  Serendipity also dictates that the next one will be someone’s second record and the third is from someone a decent distance into an established career.  So that’s nice.

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Kemper Norton – Loor

loorSleep is something that I find to be rather hard to come by these days.  Whether it’s by default or by choice (the latter when, after working 12+ hours in a day, going straight to bed seems a bit unfair), it’s a luxury in short supply.  Part of the reason why I do this blog is to try to get all my thoughts in a straight line or order of size so that I can drift off in a manner of my choosing.  It doesn’t usually work.  So it’s nice to say that this record helps to soothe the mind in the strangest possible way so that rest comes quickly and dreams go a bit odd.

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Urge For Offal

ufoAt work, I am involved in the office Fantasy Football League.  I’m not doing very well if truth be told, but that isn’t the cause of my despair as far as this little competition is concerned.  My consternation lies firmly in the fact that I am incessantly finding my team name to an ever-expanding group of people who go “I don’t get it” whenever I extol the etymological origins of the mighty mid-table Half Man Half Busquets.  I’m generally happier when explaining who Busquets (Carles or Sergio, it matters not) is.  Half Man Half Biscuit shouldn’t really be hidden away just out of sight of the mainstream consciousness, although I suspect that this is where they like to hang out – their fans are loyal and well-rewarded, modern culture provides a well-ordered line of targets for lyrical disdain, and they remain at the forefront of a punk movement casting a disappointed spotlight on life’s many vagaries; mostly by virtue of the fact that nobody else has really bothered to join in.

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A Winged Victory For The Sullen – London Milton Court Concert Hall 19th October 2014

The last time I witnessed this collaboration of Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran play live, it was in Manchester’s Academy 3 – a wonderful gig venue, but wholly weird for the sort of music being performed.  So I guess it should feel somewhat more fitting for a performance such as theirs to take place in a more traditional classical concert space?  Well, yes.  And no, because their music sits happily between the two mediums so that where the former felt like a classical performance in a gig venue, this felt like a gig performed in a classical space.

This otherworldly ambience was helped along by making the atmosphere part of the performance thanks to a light dusting of smoke and a very creative use of lighting – indeed, lighting may well be the wrong word for it as most of the performance was partaken of in darkness, with two tiny fixed spotlights on the two composers and a variety of inventive methods of illuminating the central string quartet (including Stanley Kubrick on Viola, if we are to believe Mr Wiltzie, and I suspect that we shouldn’t) mostly from a position behind and underneath them, with banks of white lights twinkling away behind them, usually in underpowered hues of orange.

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A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos

AtomosPeace and quiet I something that I’ve been finding myself short of this week. 5am fire alarms, work stresses and two hours of localised attentions of the police, their dogs and their helicopter have all but banished any notion of calm from this particular parish. And that was just Wednesday.
In order to get myself back into the frame of mind required for this new gathering of music from A Winged Victory For The Sullen, I’ve had to wait until this beautiful October Saturday evening as the sun goes down behind the trees and there are no football results (usually adversely) affecting my Fantasy team to distract me. And so I have the perfect moment so sit here, take a deep breath and soak this all in.

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