Week from Monday 5th February 2007

...which was terrific fun, apart from when I dropped a chunky Philips' screwdriver on my naked foot. I then went for a hobble 'round Homebase (not a phrase you hear ME say very often!), to get some plaster 'n' paint for NEXT week's tasks.

I realise that it's early days yet, but it has occurred to me that the "PICK O' THE YEAR" page of this yerr webbo might well become OBSOLETE (pronounced "AHB'SLIT") this year. It's possible that a whole year could pass in which I fail to purchase ANY new or re-issued seedydisks AT ALL, so there'll be nothing to list! I have resolved to FORBID myself from buying seedies until I have completed the task of organizing the EXISTING collection into neatly arranged binders. 

However, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a'gley, dum de dum de Dougan, the noo..." or something.

Meanwhile, I have to decide which TAPES I can't live without, which ones to turn [parts of] into MP3s and which ones to throw away entirely. Inevitably, this selection process relies on PASSING CRAZES and the fickle nature thereof. I will almost certainly throw something away and regret it later. This is where being a 'trainspotter' pays off, because I have a catalogue database to help keep track of movements.

I visited Fareham Library, now that it's re-opened (as a proper functioning Library too, and not some glorified Drop-In Centre!), to get 'something for the weekend'. I'm now enjoying the extraordinary WILL SELF newie(?) "The Book Of Dave". 'Grumpy Old' Mr Self is possibly a literary genius or a drug-crazed lunatic, I can't decide which. He certainly has a unique imagination. I also rented a seedydisk (ha!) by the groovy Brazilian pop sensations NAÇÃO ZUMBI, but I'm not yet sure if I like them or not.

MY FAVOURITE BAND this week is ZGA (pronounced 'zga!!' and not 'Z.G.A.'), whose "Strange and Beautiful Noise" performed on home-made instruments, many of which are the kind they HIT very loudly, makes them sound like a Latvian version of FAUST. With a trombone. Which, of course, is NO BAD THING.

Week from Monday 12th February 2007

SHELFY received an e-mail from someone purporting to be a Business Studies student at Brighton University ("Pah! It was all Polytechnics 'round yer in moi day..."), needing information for 'her' dissertation on 'THE INDEPENDENT MUSIC BUSINESS' (an contradiction in terms, if ever there was one). But it turned out to be an elaborate BINKYPRANK. Shelfy says he was suspicious of it being a hoax because "...students, even if they are at Brighton Uni', don't write letters in the style of a pet monkey". The name 'SUKI FUKIYAMA' was a dead giveaway, as far as I was concerned.

My Favourite Band THIS week is SUPERSILENT, the [usually four-piece] Norwegian collective of  TOTAL-IMPROV ANTI-JAZZERS, whose name lulls you into a sense of false security - they can make a right old racket when they want to! But I found that the best MUSIC FOR FILLING UP HOLES IN WALLS TO is "Houses Of The Holy" by LED ZEPPELIN.

Wahey! that was not a deliberate pun, I've only just noticed it myself!

This week, I have also been enjoying the delightful films of ERIC ROHMER, thanks to some free DeeVeeDees being given away in "The Independent", and one of those strangely-reassuring blockbuster disaster movies in the shape of "THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW".

DREAM DIARY: I discovered a 'secret' shop deep in the back-streets of Paris, with a shelf labelled "WEIRD MUSIC". This contained, amongst other things, MAGMA albums that came complete with limited edition ACTION FIGURES of all the members of the band - Collect Them All!

Week from Monday 19th February 2007

I spent several hours doing a bit more FILLING & RUBBING DOWN OF WALLS this weekend. This morning, my back's killing me! Next week, undercoating (the walls, not my back)...

TRIVIA: I'm always hearing unusual things to amuse me as I go about my daily tasks. Did you know there's a growers' association known as THE WATERCRESS ALLIANCE? Do they have a paramilitary wing called THE POPULAR WATERCRESS FRONT? Did you know that the officer in charge of the Metropolitan Police's gun-control policy is COMMANDER CRESSIDA DICK? Is she any relation to Derek William? File her next to the Elmore Leonard character delightfully named NEWTON HOON (I've considered using that as a nom-de-loon, now that I can no longer be Sky Larkin. Or maybe I'll stick with TODD DINLOW)...

The first glossy 'holiday brochures' arrived from the WOMAD concern. Well, it doesn't look like we'll be going to their posh new Festival site at Charlton Park THIS year... £120 per weekend ticket PLUS a £20 charge for live-in vehicles PLUS a booking fee of £6.50? You're 'aving a larf, aintcha? And no day tickets either? (Quote: "Day Tickets will not be available this year. This is in order to preserve the atmosphere of the event and to improve security and access to the site." Unquote... Elitist b**t**ds!) What they DO encourage, however, are the kind of clientele who can pre-book a place in a specially laid-on campsite, drive up to find their tent already built and FURNISHED for them by CampAway Ltd and will have paid extra for someone to clear up after them, like some pseudo-New-Age Travelodge... Elitist money-grabbing b**t**ds!! Of course, the new site is conveniently situated off the M4, still easily reached from London, so that the Metro-centric World Music Media Mafia can have their annual free beano out of town, patronise a few foreigners and be smug together... Elitist money-grabbing exploitative b**t**ds!!! How long before WOMAD also require passport photos and online registration (and, before very long, biometric data) before they'll sell you a ticket, going the way of all-things GLASTONBURY? Elitist money-grabbing exploitative fascist b**t**ds!!!

On Tuesday, I go to THE EMPORIUM OF HAIR for the first haircut I've had since before the onset of Winter, when it became necessary for me to wear THE LUDICROUS BLUE TOQUE to cover my FUNNY EARS. So, as you can imagine, they should have plenty to work with!

My "TURNING OLD TAPES INTO MP3s" project, funnily enough, now finds me revisiting WOMAD 2000. This was only the second year that Radio 3 became seriously involved in the proceedings and before the BBC TV crews barged their way in (Only the National Geographic Channel had shown any interest thus far), so there were still only VERY selective highlights to be gleaned from the wireless. It's nice to relive some of these moments anyway. I even found myself warming to SUZANNE VEGA's set which, as I recall, I slept through in 'real life'! (Not actually true. See below...Ed)

WOMAD Flashback - FRIDAY 21st JULY 2000

Greetings from the RealWorld! Once again, the summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the sleet... Except at WOMAD where the weather is aaalweeahs HAAAHT! This time, due to overwhelming apathy from all other (dis)interested parties, I made the trip on my own for the first time in a decade... their loss, I guess! Radio 3 are/were broadcasting live/recorded highlights so, on Friday morning at 10, I handcuffed a parent to the tape deck for the weekend, packed my rucksack with vital supplies of insect repellent and yomped off to Fareham station for the South West Trains "experience". By the time we got to Basingstoke, we were half a dozen strong... The yomp from Reading station to Rivermead (hitherto not referred to as "The Venue") takes (me) about fifteen of your Earth minutes and I then proceeded to encamp, having exchanged my ticket for one of those snazzy wristbands which we all have to wear for the duration. I then queued for water (vital replenishing fluids to be stored and carried in a 'fifties pewter camping flask) and went walkabout around this global village of ours. A light lunch was taken of "mixed vegetable balti" - top scran!

First musical delights of the day were to be found on the Rough Guides Dome stage (where I bought a couple of copies of Songlines mag on a twofer deal, both with cover mounted CDcomps). HOURIYAT AL KASBAH are a troupe of wild women from Marrakech who worked themselves (and others) into a trance-like state with their vigorous dervish routines and complex polyphony (As they were early on the bill, they inevitably got filmed by the Beeb for that evening's South Today report).

I caught a fleeting glimpse of THE CHILDREN OF THE DESERT from Rajasthan, who were also building up to a frenzy on the open air stage... Children? some of them must have been at least seventy! Crazy percussion interplay supported some wild flights of fancy on various fluty/reedy instruments - real trance music!

Is this a joke? CHAVAN were a genuine mariachi band of the kind you might see in duff westerns or some seedy "theme" restaurant, but their renditions of "Latin Favourites" saw this post-modern crowd lapping it up like so much chilli flavour dipping sauce (This is a curious kind of mass hysteria often found at World Music events - really cornball music of the "so bad it's good" kind seems to have that effect).

I don't know what to make of TELEK from Papua New Guinea... I'll give them another go tomorrow... I'm off for a cup of tea.

23 SKIDOO are back and as "eclectic" as ever! Nowadays, theirs is a strange fusion of Can, Pigbag, hiphop, more Can, Grateful Dead-cum-early-Santana-style noodling and even more Can. This sounds crap on paper, but believe me it works (better live than on record).

SAVINA YANNATOU... Ah! That voice! Carry me back to old Salonica! A sublime Greek (and all points Mediterranean) fusion of sounds, a percussionist with a genuine "self-conscious beard" and a nifty freeform segment that sounded not unlike Sainkho Namtchuylak with the Pop Mechaniks... bliss!

The less said about Australia's hellish JIMMY LITTLE, the better! Christ on a wombat, it's Jim Reeves... run away!!

The name of London-based MOMO stands for "Music Of Moroccan Origin"... so why does this number sound like "Jingo Lo Ba"? Another nice cup of tea from the Nice Cups Of Tea stall, while taking in "a bit of culture", courtesy of a contemporary Indian dance company. At this point I bought that Tuvan throat-singing compilation CD I'd been looking for (mainly for the two tracks by Yat Kha... Music from Neptune! and the eleven-plus minutes of Zappa faves Huun Huur Tu performing with the Bulgarian Voices - Otherness!).

ALBERT NYATHI & IMBONGI are a group from troubled Zimbabwe, fronted by a pretty powerful vocalist/poet... the message is in the words, the music covers all yer fave southern African styles (Mbaqanga, jit, Township-jive) in easy to swallow doses... featured a terrific bass player, exponent of that melodic/swooping fretless style we love so much from the Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens hits.

I'd been looking forward to seeing U-CEF & THE HALAL JOINT... his "Halalium" CD of Moroccan-meets-drum'n'bass fusion is a big current fave... but in the event, the experience of hearing the material "live" added nothing to the experience of listening to the CD... shame! The "Mr Shouty" rapper definitely added nothing of note to the proceedings... except a big irritation factor... rap CAN be an artform if done well - but if you've got nothing interesting to say, then SHUT UP! 

Likewise, STATE OF BENGAL: OK, but really nothing to write home about... even "Indo-Dance fusion" has developed its own vocabulary of cliché... (I call it the Afro Celt Sound System Syndrome - studio-created, mainly sequenced dance/DJ mixes don't make for a particularly scintillating live experience, even if you have "real" musicians along for the ride - why not stay in and listen to the CD?).

LAMA GYURME & JEAN-PHILIPPE RYKIEL lulled us with some evening meditation - Buddhist chants over those peculiarly European electro-orchestral keyboards conjured up a "(E)VANGELIS(M) Goes To The Himalayas" aura... pleasant but undemanding, which I suppose is the point...

MACEO PARKER and his "new" band hit the main stage and proceed to Make It Funky... A genuine old-style soul revue, slick Apollo-esque entertainment which lost my attention as soon as the fat lady sings (I've never been keen on that gospel-derived "Soul Diva" style of female vocals)...

So... I went to the Village stage to end the night with the KHAC CHI ENSEMBLE (well two of them) from Vietnam via British Columbia. What had promised to be a fairly academic/folklore sort of event turned out to be riotous musical comedy, as we witnessed two people play the same flute simultaneously, a solo on a multiple car-horn/flute hybrid instrument which requires vigorous chin and elbow co-ordination and some of the strangest homebuilt instruments ever seen outside of a Harry Partch event. So that was Friday... and so to Lilo...  

SATURDAY 22nd JULY 2000

Laid in till about nine, when nature's call forced me to sidle over to the nearest hedge. I walked into town to visit the cashpoint for my daily allowance, taking a splendid but expensive breakfast of a toasted Spanish omelette sandwich and a carton of "fresh" orange juice... and some shopping for CDs at Reading's excellent branches of HMV and Virgin Megastores. I managed to find the CD of the first Shakti album (to complete my collection of Shakti albums on CD), and Ben Watson's entertaining little "Listener's Guide to the Music of Frank Zappa" tome. It is a scorcher of a day, weatherwise, so it is prudent to just veg out in the sun and let the early part of the day's entertainment just wash over one, while paying no particular attention to same. So I find myself lying in the sun, reading Mr Watson's Zappa missive and listening to Georgian drinking songs from MTIEBI... I like to think Frank would have approved of the combination... especially with the occasional xenochronous layering of techno basslines that drifted in from an adjacent food outlet.

The splendid RIZWAN-MUAZZAM QAWWALI GROUP provide further background listening, (this time blended with some Shirley Bassey tunes, courtesy of The Wine Bar), as did BARBARA LUNA from Argentina, pleasant but undemanding Latin fare for a hot summer's afternoon.

TELEK's curious brand of pidgin ditties were as corny as fuck, but infuriatingly catchy... other antipodean singer-songwriters showed themselves to be influences (step forward, Mr Neil Finn!).

Remaining down under, long time festival faves MARA! brought us further dispatches from the Balkan quarter of Wagga Wagga - rousing stuff and deservedly acclaimed.

St Petersburg academics, the TEREM QUARTET brought us tunes-you-can-whistle (which an adjacent gentleman did, throughout).

I then caught some of the slack-key stylings of BOB BROZMAN and Okinawa's TAKASHI HIRAYASU (very reminiscent of Ry Cooder's pan-Pacific fusions), before settling down at the Village for JUSTIN ADAMS & THE WAYWARD SHEIKHS. It's just jamming really, innit... nothing wrong with that, of course... JJ Cale meets Ali Farka Toure at a blues club...

EAT STATIC: two gentlemen playing gramophone records with what appears to be a giant mushroom-shaped brain glowing in the middle of the stage to give you something to look at (see comments re: U-Cef, State of Bengal). Their scheduled collaboration with the Indian dance company may or may not have happened, but I had to be elsewhere to see the fabulous PAPA WEMBA & MOLOKAI performing for the cameras of National Geographic's esteemed cable channel. Ah! The majesty and splendour of it all, highlight of the weekend (so far).

Disappointment of the weekend (so far): YOUSSOU N'DOUR... now don't get me wrong, I would defend to the death his right to sing in English if that's what he wants to do, but for this audient, the results are embarrassing, broken-English Europap of the first order. I think he actually wants to BE Peter Gabriel, these days... I'm afraid I yearn for the glory days of Super Etoile; his current band and repertoire are rather feeble... shame!

So I decide to end the evening with some Mongolians instead, EGSCHIGLEN... a wise decision, as this was top entertainment of the first order; plenty of demonstrations of that unique central Asian tradition of overtone singing, old favourite "The Song Of The Altai Mountains" performed as if by a string quartet (well, a quartet of those strange horse-shaped fiddles anyway) and some beautiful contemporary instrumental pieces that sounded like the Guo Brothers and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra all rolled into one... A very nice send-off to bed...

SUNDAY 23rd JULY 2000

Walked into town to visit the cashpoint again (the one in the garage, across the road, charges you a quid for the privilege) and some vittles for the remainder of the festival (genuine cornershop bombay mix, a litre of orange juice). Bought the (seldom) obligatory festival t-shirt and settled down to watch the Tokyo dub crew DRY & HEAVY perform... strange - close your eyes and you'd think you were hearing Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang, for example - they were THAT good at it! But lo! The stage is covered with little yellow tykes playing their hearts out! Lasta chant down Babyron! (I did hear at least one mention of "Poricemen"!)

It is Sunday... Oh Lord! Please don't let me have to listen to any ROLF HARRIS! I thought I'd venture forth to see if all the programme hype about SPACCANAPOLI was justified... I was not disappointed! In fact I want to buy the CD, but like most of the popular acts this weekend, the record stall is sold out of product within minutes of the end of their turn. Very Italian: sensuous song and dance, stonking offbeat rhythms and lashings of left wing politics - love it!

SPACCANAPOLI: an unbiased punter's overview... Now I'm a cynical old geezer, ploughing my own furrow, not easily persuaded by any form of advertising hype or so-called "marketing strategies". I like to (believe that I can) discover things for myself. I regard my annual trip to WOMAD as an opportunity to have my ears opened to new musical experiences - Listen without prejudice, indeed!

So when I see a band from Italy called Spaccanapoli are considered by those good people at Real World/WOMAD to be worthy of no less than three A5 pages in their festival programme, to say nothing of a half-page ad for their new CD appearing in many of our "specialist" publications - Well, I take it all with a large dose of saline compound, until I have witnessed the phenomenon for myself.

I regret that I missed the band's first appearance at Rivermead (on the Saturday evening, in the Siam Tent), as I was elsewhere at the time (this is beginning to read like a note to teacher!), experiencing the unchallengingly familiar sounds of Justin Adams & The Wayward Sheikhs.

So a Sunday afternoon session at the Village Stage beckoned (the Village happens to be my favourite Rivermead "venue", by the way) and, to say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement of... well... volcanic proportions!

From my (disad)vantage point, somewhere off to 'stage right', tucked behind the PA stack, I was immediately struck by the sheer awesome power of their rhythms... the way the drummer effortlessly drove along those tricky tarantella off-beats, it became obvious from the opening bars, that this was to be no mere 'folk' music, as I had been expecting. Having won me over with their rhythmic prowess (did I say I was NOT easily persuaded?), I became aware of the wonderful things being done by the electric violin player immediately in my line of vision... It's "folk rock", Giaccomo, but not as we know it! And it's not only what we think of as "Italian" - Naples is, after all, a seaport and the whole history of the Mediterranean region seemed to be encapsulated in those skipping (rather than "jigging") melodies. As the set progressed, I began to notice the sheer theatricality of the front line performers; the grand profundity of the "large gentleman" singer, the open-throated purity of the "attractive lady" singer's vocals and the snaked-hipped sensuousness of the dancing. Putting aside considerations of "political correctness", it is true to say there was an audible moan amongst the male half of the audience, when that beautiful lady in red started to twirl her castagnettes!

All in all, their hour-long set seemed to whiz by in no time and they left us baying for more! Time, then, to rush over to the Real World Records outlet to snap up a copy of their CD, a souvenir of an afternoon enjoyably spent... or so thought I, along with everyone else who had been there in the Village audience! The unpredictable nature of "supply and demand" dictates that, if an artiste goes down well with a festival crowd, every available copy of their current "product" will be pounced upon, within minutes of their leaving the stage... such was the case with Spaccanapoli at WOMAD 2000! I would have to wait until I got home and a trip to the nearest Megastore could be scheduled.

I licked my lips in anticipation, as I read the souvenir programme on the homeward train on Monday morning... I learnt of Spaccanapoli's political views, of their origins in a factory workers' theatre group and I was reminded of the "Rock In Opposition" movement of left-wing "prog rock" groups (Bimbling lefty progboffins? ... Ed) that existed during this same period of the 1970s. Now I definitely wanted to hear more!
A week later... A copy of the "Lost Souls" CD has now found its rightful place on my player, following a short ferry trip to Portsmouth's branch of HMV... and it was well worth the trip! The second that Marcello's powerful, unaccompanied tenor voice (now I can put names to the faces!) announces the start of "Pummarola Black", I knew that this would be something special. That powerful rhythm kicks in, just as it had caught my attention at WOMAD, Monica's beautiful voice interacts with what sounds like a North African shawm type instrument (but is almost certainly called something else in Naples!) and we're off on what proves to be a very pleasant ride indeed!

The second track "O'Mare" features the brassy march tune that had made an appearance (in sampled form) as the walk-off music at the end of their set at WOMAD. The gorgeous "Vesuvio" makes two appearances on the CD, first as an upbeat tarantella, huge percussion interplay behind sparse vocals and woodwinds, then as an ambient, moody prelude to the CD's highpoint "Piazza Dante".

"A Ferriera" features lush, synthesised strings and piano supporting the marvellous electric violin playing of Antonio Fraioli (definitely the Man of the Match for me!). The title track, "Aneme Perze" starts and finishes with a real Neapolitan street party atmosphere, building up to a frenzy of drums and wind instruments.
"That" infectious off-beat rhythm makes an appearance on "O'Munachino" (It's a fast-ish 8:8 rhythm with a downbeat on, or just behind, the 2... I think!) It sure is a toe-tapper, but I can't imagine how you dance to it!
The delights of this album (can we still call them albums?) just keep on coming and yes! There are moments when I am reminded of progressive and/or folk-rock (Jethro Tull? Fairports? Gentle Giant? PFM?) in some of the arrangements... but to this particular 'Boring Old Fart', that is in no way meant as any sort of criticism! It is such moments, along with the wonderfully detailed and thoughtful production (so Capri isn't all Gracie Fields then!), that may have struck a chord with me and will probably make this an album to treasure for years to come, rather than just a passing craze!

Congratulations to all at Real World/WOMAD for including this gem of a CD in an already-bulging-with-goodies catalogue... and for making this jaded old punter aware of the joy that is Spaccanapoli... Sometimes you CAN believe the marketing blurb...

I took lunch of something called a Jack - a tortilla/pitta bread thingy, stuffed with all kinds of spicy veggie matter - they'd run out of the prawn variety. The GANGBE BRASS BAND (No, not the Goombay Dance Band!) from Benin, were strange... like hearing the Black Dyke Mills Band do Mbalax! Big horn arrangements with busy talking-drum rhythms flying about over the top of it all... at times it was a mess but sometimes it gelled.

I wanted to hear some more of MARA! so I did, this time in the preferred Village tent. Terrific!

Back to the campsite, where I listened to FARAFINA from afar, while I applied Germolene (or, if you're a spellchecker, "Gremlin") to various insect bites...

This promises to be interesting... arriving at the Village stage (again), I see that a late addition to the bill has been slotted in, a singer from Uzbekhistan called SEVARA NAZARKHAN. During the soundcheck, we discover a pickup band of U-Cef plus the percussionist and bass player from Justin Adams' band learning the songs... a very spontaneous set; again, just a few old musos having a jam really... the "band" lays down a repetitive groove for the singer to soar over.

I'd been looking forward to this - LENINE from Recife in Brazil, plays that quirky but cooking pop/Tropicalia, beloved of so many David Byrne/Luaka Bop compilations. If you like Tom Zé or Carlinhos Brown, then you'd love this! He played some very peculiarly shaped guitars, too.

I found TANANAS to be interesting but not too involving... It's afro-jazz, Jimbo, but not as we know it... Sort of an south african Oregon with occasional ventures into Power Tools territory... I would probably love this if I heard it on the radio, but right here right now...?

I didn't expect to like PATO BANTON & THE REGGAE REVOLUTION - after all, he's played with UB40, for gawd's sake! - but this turned out to be a big reggae showcase set with the kind of band you'd thought was extinct in the early '80s (apart from in Japan, obvously)... top entertainment. I thought he dwealt on the Bob Marley tribute a little too much though. A classic reggae revue in a dancehall stylee - this audient went away satisfied.

I listened to SUZANNE VEGA from afar as I couldn't get near the Siam tent for the crowd - and I just missed another opportunity to hear Brozman & Takashi's repeat show... Still there's always the recorded highlights on the radio when I get home... Final night under canvas (well nylon anyway) before the morning's encounter with South West trains...

Week from Monday 26th February 2007

DECORATING NEWS: The bit of painting I did at the weekend turned out to be tougher than I thought it would be. I was using an damp-proofing paint which I had bought from HomeBase a couple of weeks ago. But it's more like the 'anti-fowling' paint one would use on a boat, than the kind of undercoat that will flow nicely onto bare plaster. It did not go on smoothly. And it ruined brushes. And it was very runny. And smelly. And I was covered in it. In the end, I decided to just 'seal' the edges of the wall and I will do the rest with 'proper' undercoat when I feel inclined, another time. The weather's getting nicer now. I want to go OUT!

WEBMASTER NEWS: Having first bribed him with cassettes of Nigerian and Latvian psychedelic music, Shelfy and I went down to "SEE THE PONIES" (including a delightful little white portative one, as it happens. Oh, and a donkey). We paid a visit to both of my motorcycle-vending webclients lurking deep within the Forest. CLIENT 'A', who we shall name Jenny, has taken to this web-upkeep malarkey like a duck to water, but she needed help attaching a spreadsheet-type parts list to the site. Between us, I think we've found a solution that she will be able to 'maintain' herself. On the other hand, CLIENT 'B', or Clint for short, finds ANYTHING to do with computers COMPLETELY incomprehensible, despite being able to take a Suzuki apart and put it back together, in the time it takes you or I to change a light bulb (There's probably a joke there somewhere). A personal demonstration and detailed written instructions had been given, but his website still looks like [a slightly burglarised version of how] it did when I last left it, back in November. He just can't get the web pages to behave how he expects them to.

Mind you, having that bloody awful AOL browser IN YER FACE all the time doesn't help. That would drive me barmy; me with my austere, highly-personalised Windoze environment, free from any overbearing clutter, no memory-hogging XP graphics or indeed desktop icons, looking like some strange hybrid of NT and ye olde AppleMac System 7.5. I poo-poo M****soft's drive to push everyone into using (or is it renting?) their newer, glossier operating systems (thus making greater demands on the hardware) on the pretence that it is somehow 'safer'. It might well be, but only compared to OTHER equally-targettable M****soft products. I applaud Apple's current MITCHELL & WEBB-fronted advertising campaign drawing attention to the pros and cons of the rival operating systems. If I could afford a NEW computer, it would be a Mac, no question.

But I digress.

So in the case of Client 'B', I will have to take matters in hand and organise things on his behalf. I ended up taking home copies of [what I thought were] all of his "My Pictures" folders, so that I can reassemble the website, almost from scratch. But there were still one or two pictures missing, so he's probably got another folder full of pictures hidden away on his hard-drive that I missed...

I just bumped into THE HUMAN NAIL in town, who was completely at a loss as to why, when he sent out an e-mail telling all and sundry about his new website arrangements, I personally received a total of TWENTY TWO COPIES of same! He says he's been trying out a new 'beta' version of M****soft's Hot Mail facility. That would explain it then. He wanted to pick my brains about the Czech agit-pop combo THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE. He also asked me about TINARIWEN who, with their new album just out, are suddenly all over the mainstream media. To hear the hip young things go on about 'em, you'd think they were some hot NEW indy-rock sensation, having been compared to everyone from Sonic Youth to The Doors (Whaaat???). Just goes to show that, unless CLOTH-EARED CRITICS receive a free copy of an artist's CD in their postbag, they don't bother to go out and discover music for themselves and have no point of reference beyond their own narrow furrow (whoops, that's probably a non-sequitur or mixed metaphor or summat). I've heard some bits of the new album and it doesn't even sound as raw and fresh as their previous "Amassakoul" album (which, in turn, wasn't nearly as good as the "Radio Tisdas Sessions" disc of five or six years ago). The new stuff sounds far too overproduced and glossy for my tastes. But, hey! what do I know?! I don't even get a chance to go to WOMAD anymore!

By some kind of SPOOKY coincidence, the first WOMAD tape I happened to pick up upon returning to the office, contained highlights from Tinariwen's UK debut, late on a Friday evening, on the little Village Stage, at Rivermead in 2001! Folks, I was there!