Swore I used this before. Maybe not. A bittersweet twist of the knife in every spin. Enjoy Record Store Day.
This was another fantastic year for great sounds. Sad to have lost Pauline Oliveros, though glad I got to see her perform in September one more time. There were so many discoveries I may have to end up just linking to great stuff.
Without a doubt one of the best things to come out this year was this Cherry Red collection Sharon Signs to Cherry Red. What an amazing cornucopia of sounds! The sheer wealth of material suggests there is so much more to dig out from this time when we just keep hearing the same old hits. Mind you, I was astonished to hear my punk rock gal in the senior seminar was unaware of the Slits and the Raincoats (:-O) but I know how she’s feels being smacked in the face with amazing sounds. Sure there’s some folks you know here — like The Mo-Dettes, Mari Wilson and Strawberry Switchblade and folks that went on to bigger fame under other names — but there will be plenty to delight and probably surprise you. Seriously, Caitlin O’Riordan’s band before the Pogues?! This set is in the car and has been spinning a lot.
On a Fall-related note, there was the Blaney release Urban Nature, which got the most press for having the ever irascible Mark E. Smith collaborating on vocals for a few tracks. Between managing the band and running the Salford Music Festival, you might wonder how he found time to record but the disc has a great variety of sounds that will delight folks beyond the city itself, drawing in besides Jenny Shuttleworth and Jim Watts, as well as Blaney’s daughter Bianca. That family & friends ambience lends a real sense of place — relaxed enough to experiment, but not slipshod in anyway. Tight: check it out.
The head of the incomparable Linear Obsessional Recordings, Richard Sanderson, has come out with a recording of his own that to my mind embodies the kind of thing that would delight Oliveros. A Thousand Concreted Pearls offers up the kind of meditative experimentation that really rewards attentive listening. If you think ‘accordion’ and immediately blanch, this is the album to change your mind forever as to what the instrument can accomplish. Endlessly fascinating and engaging.
I had heard of Tutti Frutti for years but figured it was lost to the VHS oblivion, but I happened upon a DVD set in an Oxfam shop that was in pristine condition — down to including John Byrne‘s postcards for the characters. Byrne — playwright, artist, father of Tilda Swinton’s twins — brings a freshness to the well-worn idea, a band on the road by giving it a few twists. Robbie Coltrane plays the original lead singer of a band with some 60s fame and his brother who takes over the role after his death. Emma Thompson plays the love interest with a credible Scottish accent. Richard Wilson plays the dodgy manager (a hoot of course).
It starts out going for the wacky humour but after a while the story gets rather dark between the sadness of the clubs they play on their ‘Jubilee Tour’, vicious and violent exes and the squeamishly awful attempts by their ‘sexy’ guitarist Vincent Diver (Maurice Roëves) to hang on to his youth. There’s an absurdist sensibility that never gets lost though between Coltrane’s running commentary on the increasing disasters (the recording session is hilariously painful) and the final concert triumph that flames out spectacularly.
And Thompson looks unbelievably fabulous as a Teddy Boy.
See the roundup of overlooked A/V over at Todd’s, who will be stunned I actually did one of these.
One for the music fans amongst you: you may know Hand’s work from the Cass Neary stories (if you don’t know them yet, waste no time diving into Generation Loss and then jump into Available Dark and Hard Light). While Cass brings a punk sensibility to the rebel photographer’s life, this novella explores the harder edge of alternative folk music in the sixties. Wylding Hall is of course the place where the mystery happens and the narrative unfolds like one of those Behind the Music docos.
After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake?
Like all of Hand’s books, it cracks right along with indelible images, told through the different voices of the band members and the others who become entwined in the tale. The mystery of what has really happened to Julian deepens as the ‘eye witnesses’ of course don’t agree — and don’t see the same things. There’s a familiarity with the music world that will satisfy fans (showing Hand’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field with such touchstones as Brian Jones’ The Pipes of Pan in Joujouka), a touch of the supernatural (or is there?) and a lot of emotions boiling under the surface of a tight-knit group, as you would expect. All of which makes for great fun.
On folk songs: ‘It’s a kind of time machine, really, the way you can trace a song from whoever’s singing it now back through the years—Dylan or Johnny Cash, Joanna Newsom or Vashti Bunyan—on through all those nameless folk who kept it alive a thousand years ago’
‘He reminded me of Syd Barrett. Oh god, I thought, another fucking acid casualty.’
“Burna thyn haer yn flamme Tiss wrennas fedyr and thyn hatte blod.”
‘As soon as he opened his mouth and began to sing, the room fell quiet. Not just quiet: dead silent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Like a freeze-frame in a movie. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Nobody breathed. I know I didn’t, not for half a minute. It sounded as though he were whispering the song into your ear.’
‘Truth is, often Lesley got the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Didn’t get enough credit for the songs she wrote or the arrangements she came up with, didn’t get credit for how much of our live performances she carried.’
To celebrate getting tickets for the autumn tour, here’s a guaranteed feel-good tune for your day. Hey, it’s not all noir!
[Photo credit – Akira Shibata]
Terrific song and a great title: hmmm, might make a good idea for a story too. Check out the full catalogue from a fine indie tunesmith and her band.