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.
Cor, it’s all go here. the last few weeks have been spent moving house and sorting out all the attendant woes that go with it. I’m almost done, the internet is working, the new sofa’s being delivered on Thursday and I have a lovely new base of operations in an old mill overlooking a canal, a wood, and nothing else. It’s beautiful by day, wonderfully dark and star-strewn by night and I have yet to find more than one shop. Very strange screechy noises outside when the sun goes down too.
It’s all a bit re-energising though and I’ve pretty much already written as many things in the last 10 days than I have in the previous 6 months (either here or elsewhere – see below the fold for details), and hope to keep up to speed certainly over the next four weeks when there’s a fair old pile of stuff going on. in the meantime, thanks for still reading and thanks also for the kind words posted around the web, it’s hugely appreciated.
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.
I could really just post the intro blurb from when I did this last year as it’s pretty much exactly the same thing…
Is anyone really that bothered about the Mercury Prize anymore? Named after oh hang on, this is the intro blurb from last year. Sorry. Nice to see the Jazzers getting back in again to this year’s list, but it’s still a bit same old same old in order to try to look a bit edgy. Then again, pickings are slim this year anyway so it was a tricky thing to pick stuff I’ve liked from what’s already been mentioned, suffice to say that I hope Anna Calvi wins it (whatever “it” is now), and congratulations to Damon/Royal Blood/East India Youth on being whoever the judges decide what mood they’re going to be in this year. It’s an increasing irrelevance now though, especially given that it’s been moved from a time specifically chosen in midsummer because nobody bought records then to a time when every publication will be publishing their Fourth Quarter results (formerly known as “our favourite records” before it became a 3-monthly thing).
But I started doing this back whenever I can’t be bothered to check, so here we go again. It’s not been a great year so far for British Music. Indeed, the most exciting thing about it so far is that after next month, it’s a distinct possibility that artists such as Teenage Fanclub, the Vaselines and the Bay City Rollers will have to be reclassified as World Music. I love you, Scotland. But I understand why you want to leave me. Still, I managed to cobble together a few records that I liked and would possibly qualify if any of them could have been bothered enough to pony up the initial 200 quid to enter this silly competition that only seems to be of interest to people biffing on about why someone wasn’t nominated.