Usually, 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.
Onto 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.
Should 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.
Sleep 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.
At 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.
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.
Peace 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.
When I first heard that this record was on the way, anticipation levels were instantly high. Not only is John Brooks’ previous work under his own name, Shapwick, a firm, emotional favourite of mine anyway, but the title – and sentiment behind – this new collection from the Advisory Circle’s driving force carries extra resonance with me. I’ve moved very recently (indeed, the arrival of this marks the day when I finally have the internet piped both in and out of the new 6dft Towers) so reminiscing about houses and the lives spent in them is quite high on the agenda at the moment. And if that wasn’t enough, 52 was the number of the house where I lived for a long time, so this pleasant coincidence adds another level of shine to an already well-looked forward to release, providing much food for thought and reflection before a sound has even emerged.
Much as I used to enjoy videogames back in the day, I’ve not paid much attention in recent years save for the occasional go on Ooki Bloks on the lav whenever the occasion calls for it. I guess it’s because much of today’s malarkey consists of technicality and repetition over imagination thanks to fewer constraints and bigger budgets which is all well and good but doesn’t half suck all the fun out of playing. So when something like Hohokum comes along, it re-piques my interest in the whole thing again: colourful, imaginative, joyful and – the reason why I’m going on about it here – with a soundtrack to match.
Working in conjunction with Ghostly Recordings, Hohokum’s creators have both created and curated a collection of tunes both previous and exclusive from the label’s eclectic roster to come up with almost two hours of uplifting, inventive and playful tracks that match the colourful and curious visuals plus the explorative gameplay of their host creation.
Things have been very slow around here of late, partly due to issues over the past few months and more recently (and happily) a relocation of 6dft Towers to a more peaceful set of surroundings. except for the ducks. So I guess it’s rather apt for the selection of this record to celebrate my reconnection to the internet as migration is a fitting subject to recommence operations here, and as I now live in an apartment and have yet to meet my neighbours, it’s probably just as well that I start off my new life here with a gentle instrumental introduction to gauge how far I can push the volume levels before I move on to pre-glam Celtic Frost, as well as something varied and challenging to get my writing teeth back in and working again. It’s also something that has been accompanying my early morning drives to work through winding country roads (something that is far too much fun to behold) so it’s nice to be able to – hopefully – put all these feelings into words just as Desertshore has managed to set them all to music.