Week from Monday 2nd April 2007

I finished the latest updates to the BIKERWEB and, what is more, I even uploaded [most of] them from my own machine. THAT will save a fortune in train fares! However, my archaic stupor-net connection necessitates that I wait until the weekend before uploading some of the bigger pictures... No! Hold the press! This'll give me an opportunity to try out the FTP program I installed on my USB flash-stick (or 'SMALL MOBILE INTELLIGENT UNIT' as it deserves to be called) for just that very purpose - I can upload them from my printer chum's peecee instead! Hoorah!

Further experimentation showed that all my little 'mobile' programs DON'T work on the computers in the Libraries - the "People's Network" has been firewalled to protect it against the use of any unauthorised executables. Try to use any programme that is not installed on the computer itself and it is a case of "NOT A VALID WIN32 APPLICATION" in yo' face. That'll put the kibosh on any plan to hike across the country, uploading a 'blog from the PUBLIC LIBRARIES OF OLDE ALBION as I go! While I was tinkering about on the Library pooter, I took the opportunity to see what's new on the "DGM LIVE!" webbo and I availed myself of the latest "HOT TICKLE" free downloads: an interview from 1979; a couple of KING CRIMSON thrashes or five; a spiffing version of PROJEkCT TWO's "Live Groove" from deep in the heart of Vermont; an Estonian Soundscape and a rather delightful little improv duet featuring ROBERT HIMSELF and THEO TRAVIS (the woodwindsman out of that there GONG). I am not yet courageous [and/or dim] enough to use the PUBLIC computers to actually PAY for any downloads, although I do still crave the MP3s of last year's Frippscape at Salisbury Cathedral.

Incidentally, there is a COMPLETE Crimsogig available for FREE download from the good folks at DGM and it comes HIGHLY recommended, if you haven't got it already. This set (from the Greek Theatre at Berkeley in 1982) has already been released as a 'Club' CD. Apparently, that release was erroneously mastered from a slightly fast tape, so this 'fault' has now been rectified with the gig's availability as a package of EmPeeThreez... To be honest, though, UNLESS you (a) have perfect pitch, (b) are equipped with an oscilloscope or similar piece of laboratory-grade test equipment, or (c) are a member of King Crimson, you'd be hard-pushed to tell the difference!

The telly has been going 'alternative society' crazy this week, what with BBC4's archive footage of the Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove 'scene' (the bit with QUINTESSENCE was quite amusing) and a documentary on HAWKWIND (there might be a 'CRAZE' if I'm not careful!). But you know that the counterculture is REALLY a distant memory, when you spot former members of the early '80s neo-beatnik jazz-funk collective RIP RIG & PANIC (Neneh Cherry and Andrea Oliver of that ilk) presenting a Caribbean cookery programme... What next? Gareth Sager's Gardening Hour??!

I went over to Portsmouth, officially to visit the stationers' to buy a box of labels (I didn't - the stationers' had gone out of business!). Of course, I dragged myself screaming around the Meagrestores while I was in town and I bought MY FIRST CD OF THE YEAR(!) - "Real Time", the newly-released recording of  VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's 2005 reunion concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Not being ON THE BALL, UP TO SPEED and IN THE LOOP, I missed the chance to go to this once-in-a-lifetime occasion F'REAL - it sold out in a matter of hours, with most of the tickets being snapped up by [other] middle-aged blokes from as far away as Italy ("The Land Where Prog Still Lives") and Japan. And Belgium. And Guildford. But this crystalline-recorded double-disc set will more than make up for my previous disappointment!

Week from Monday 9th April 2007

"...VIDDA RANG DANG DANG! FOR A HOLIDAY!", as those evilly-moustachioed Dutch DJs once put it so succinctly... Yes, it's E-STIR BANG COLLAR DAY once again. The sun is singing, the birds are shining and it's time to fill in yer tax form! All the geese have flown and some ridiculously early swallows have turned up... Now I Dream In Haiku:

And so then I said,
"Make sure that it's a fright mask
And not a fruit mask..."

Following my first CD of the year (and probable "CD OF THE YEAR" if there still was such a thing), I felt the time was right to attend my first CAR BOOT of the year also (I really DO hibernate, y'know!)... There was quite a good turnout and I found very good boxes containing DESIRABLE SHINY THINGS - The (atmospheric but strangely-edited) MANU CHÃO live album; The first two IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY albums (as a twofer, sans-artwork, reissue promo edition); A quite-recent and decent DAVID BYRNE album; An ex-rental (thus packaging-free) deeveedee of the "SIR HENRY AT RAWLINSON'S END" movie - each item made furtherly desirable by virtue of being a mere QUID-A-POP.  

I haven't YET succumbed to the soothing sounds of HAWKWIND, after last week's documentary prompted me to suggest there might be a "CRAZE" just around the corner. I have, however, plucked a volume of MICHAEL MOORCOCK short stories from the library shelves. Despite frequent taunts of "WHY DO YOU READ THOSE MOORCOCK & BULL STORIES?", I digested shedloads of his stuff as a teenager, probably because of the Hawkwind connection... But it'll be interesting to see if it was really any good or not...

THAT MOORCOCK VERDICT IN FULL: I still REALLY liked his amusingly trippy "Dancers At The End Of Time" stories... The Jerry Cornelius stories I QUITE liked in an off-kilter conandoylerie sort of way... However, the 'DUNGEONS 'N' DRAGONS' nonsense of the Elric sagas - The Eternal Champion and his Enchanted Runesword and all that kind of squit, taken far too seriously by people who should know better - was a bit close to Tolkien for my jaded palate.

I'm currently reading the excellent "MOTHER LONDON", which indicates that young Michael has grown out of all that 'fantasy' stuff and is writing PROPER novels these days.

Thumbing through disks, selecting tracks to go in the "PROGGERY" folder of my ODD-POD, I've just came across one of the best versions of King Crimson's 1974 meisterwerk "STARLESS" I've yet heard, taken from a King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast of that year (Thanks, Merv!) ...I say 'ONE of the best' because, although it is a recording so clear that YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR THE VIOLIN FOR ONCE, I'd have to deduct a star or two due to the strange fizzy distortion which mars the climactic 'finale' section (possibly radio noise, possibly nth-generation digitisation, possibly a dysfunctional hi-hat mike). Never mind, as the announcer says at the end, it's "an incredible musical journey" all t' same... Meanwhile, back on the "Peoples Network", I visited "DGM LIVE!" where this week's 'Hot Tickle' downloads include:- three unheard dispatches from PROJEkcT ONE's 1997 run at the Jazz Café in Camden; a remixed "LADIES OF THE ROAD"; and a couple of luscious, Brian Wilson-esque songs from the pen of the 'THE VICAR', that mysterious diarist who claims NOT to be either Robert Fripp or David Singleton. One of the tunes features the inimitable guitar stylings of one "BOBBY WILLCOX", ho ho ho!

Week from Monday 16th April 2007

Hmm, now that I think about it, there was a gentleman called "THE VICAR" who played on the first few ANTHONY PHILLIPS solo albums. There was also someone called "Humbert Ruse", but that's probably another story...

Do other PEDESTRIANS enthusiastically collect "POSTMAN DROPPINGS", those red elastic bands that get discarded on every street corner and ensure a free and ready supply for one's home office or place of work? I expect so... 

This weekend I went to the CASH 'N' CARRY to buy the boxes of labels I failed to get a couple of weeks ago. There I also found, whilst delving, bran-tub-style, through a skip full of DVDs, the "COMPLETE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BALL" box set for under a tenner. Hours of fun to be had...

Suddenly taken by the creative muse, I found myself cutting up some more of Shelfy's recitationals (leftovers from the "Winged Eyeball" project) and layering them over some funky little 'fretless bass' and drum riffs I had lying around, to interesting, if not particularly thrilling, effect. I call the results "SCATORIGINE" (Parts 1 & 2). In hindsight, the drum parts are a TAD banal - I still don't feel THAT comfortable step-time programming drum parts in a MIDI editor, especially the kind of deviant, asymmetric patterns I tend to favour. I find it much more spontaneous doing them on a 'Tracker grid and then maybe constructing sample loops from the results. Mind you, I've been using a 'Tracker since the late 'eighties, so it's almost second nature, whereas doing them in MIDI will require more practise.

So there I am, wallowing in the ROBERT FRIPP Salisbury Cathedral performance of last summer (finally downloaded from the DGM concern - I don't know WHY I didn't think of this before!?! I can PAY for the MP3s using my own 'secure' computer and then use the faster PUBLIC computer for the downloading operation itself. DGM gives you seventy-two hours in which to do so. S'easy!)...

...when SHELFY suddenly turns up after months of non-appearance, claiming that he is BORED and asking whether I need to "go to see the ponies"? I don't NEED to go to the New Forest on business at the moment, but I DO welcome the opportunity to skive off work to enjoy the nice weather for a few hours. And See The Ponies. We visit Hale to check up on the progress of his ongoing Land Rover 'project' and it is requested that I record things for posterity using my trusty Nikon. He also 'test drives' a couple of OTHER Land Rovers of widely differing vintage. Of course, Shelfy (being Shelfy) gets a lot more satisfaction from driving the knackered old beast than he does the posh 'new' working vehicle.

He plays me a new tape by some young reprobates, wielding noisy guitars and trumpets, who call themselves BUNKY. They reminded ME of several 'Post-Punk'/'No Wave'-type combos of the late-'70s/early-'80s - the Akron band, JANE AIRE & THE BELVEDERES were one name that sprang to mind, but I'm probably wide of the mark there. I can't really describe their sound WITHOUT using the words 'eclectic' or 'quirky', so I won't. Stuart Maconie would probably love them.

Spooky, isn't it? Just when you're expecting some BIRTHDAY money to come in, something goes wrong with your hi-fi... Last night, while KING CRIMSON were in mid-ThraK, my Wharfdale CD/DVD player decided that it had had ENOUGH and started doing a little skippity dance of its own. "ZZZgggp VVVTTT wheerrzzp vviip zzzittt etc!" it went, like the German experimentalists OVAL jamming with turntablist CHRISTIAN MARCLAY over at OTOMO's house. In other words, bloody annoying. I mean, how can I relax and enjoy a nice piece of music knowing that, at ANY time, it will start to go "ZZZgggp VVVTTT wheerrzzp vviip zzzittt etc!"? Even the lens-cleaner disc went "ZZZgggp VVVTTT wheerrzzp vviip zzzittt etc!", instead of playing the silly little piece of Japanese electro-muzak it normally does as it goes about its business. So this morning, I've wired my Acoustic Solutions DVD player for sound. It doesn't exactly sound 'HI-FI' - in fact one of my favourite 'test discs', a ZAPPA DVD-Audio, sounded truly horrible! - but it'll DO as a temporary replacement for now. It looks like it's time to start scanning the hi-fi mags and Richer Sounds brochures again.

I spent a busy morning doing little rush jobs [to drum up some business] for the Emporium of Hair. Then I was treated to a haircut, giving some of  THEM something to do for the afternoon! The new[est] coiffeuse is definitely of the bubbly, chatty "Are You Going Anywhere Nice For Your Holidays?" school of hairdressing.

Week from Monday 23rd April 2007

Crikey! WHAT a kerfuffle! I went to Southampton to visit RICHER SOUNDS (who, it has to be said, are more concerned with 'pictures' than 'sounds' these days). As I mentioned before, it's time to test drive a new CD deck or two. I tried out one of the suspiciously cheap ones (which, even through topnotch kit, SOUNDED cheap), before PLUMPING for a hundred pound CAMBRIDGE AUDIO device. Despite the fact that CA have changed their logo in the last couple of years, it'll match the style of my amplifier a treat. But, more importantly, it doesn't sound too bad either. Pausing only to flash the Visa and collect my free lollipop, I bid farewell to The Chaps Of Richer and head for the train back home. Howeverrrrrr... When I got the box home, plugged it all in and lined up a selection of fave seedies to test it with, I found that there was, at best, a fifty-fifty gamble on whether it would read the disc or not. Disc 'A' played just fine. Discs 'B' thru to 'G' didn't. Then I did what ANYONE does AFTER something goes wrong - I read the manual. I noticed that the machine also plays MP3 discs. So I tried out an MP3 disc on it. It played. On second attempt, so did Discs 'C' and 'F'. But not Disc 'A', which played alright the first time. Then Disc 'C' doesn't work again. I concluded that the laser must be faulty, drank a cup of tea and then set off again to the railway station. "I bet you didn't expect to see me again so soon..." This time, I/we tried out the [replacement] machine's mechanisms IN the shop before re-boxing it up for the journey home. I got a free set of thirty-quid interconnects for my trouble, more than making up for the two lots of train fare. And I came THIS CLOSE to getting a free upgrade to the next model in the series, but there wasn't one in the shop that I could have. But I did get my water bottle refilled with refreshing iced water and another free lollipop. And, finally, a working compact disc player...

RICHARD BRANSON and the folks at Virgin Records must have figured that everyone has now bought catalogue number V2001 (MIKE OLDFIELD's original "Tubular Bells") so many times over, that they can now afford to give it away FREE with every copy of the Sunday Mail. It doesn't sound at all bad after thirty-five years, although the 'novelty' aspects (Uncle Viv's introductions and the silly 'Piltdown Man' bit) have worn a bit thin. I always preferred DAVID BEDFORD's orchestral version - but then I thought that "Hergest Ridge" was a better piece of music anyway! Still, it makes a pleasant change from the WATCH 'EM ONCE, THROW 'EM AWAY, 'action' 'thriller' DVDs that the papers have been giving away lately. "Tubular Bells" was one of four albums all released by Virgin in the same launch week. Being a musically-retentive anal trainspotter, I started wondering just WHAT the first four VIRGIN RECORDS actually were, so I started digging around in my 'reference library' to find out... They were:- Mike Oldfield / 'Tubular Bells' (V2001) - Gong / 'Flying Teapot' (V2002) - Steve York's Camelo Perdalis / 'Manor Live!' (V2003 - An all-star jam session type affair; this was naturally the hardest one to track down!) - Faust / 'Faust IV' (V2004)... 

...That was quite a week, eh kids? Then V2005 was Henry Cow's "Legend", V2006 was Link Wray's "Beans & Fatback", V2007 was Gong's "Angel's Egg", V2008 was "Hatfield & The North" by Hatfield & The North... oh stop me somebody!!

Imagine my surprise when I visited the DGMLive! webbo this morning, to find not one but FIVE free downloads of a HOT TICKLE nature:- a set of little acoustic miniatures from the current intake of CRAFTY GUITARISTS, recorded near Barcelona... hmm, anyone reading this diary lately will get the impression that I ONLY listen to KING CRIMSON-related music. They could be right... and here comes another one! The latest CRIMCLUB disc is a recording of the occasion when KING CRIMSON were scheduled to play in Alexandria, Virginia and ADRIAN BELEW called in sick. The remaining chaps decided that they would give the 'AUDIENTS' the choice between [a] a full $30 refund, or [b] a $15 refund and the chance to stay behind and witness PROJEkcT THREE thrak, groove and vector their way through some hastily-rearranged Crimtoons and a whole mess of IMPROV... it's real "Flying By The Seats Of Their Pants" stuff and quite splendid. Shame the disc (or is it the recording?) is a bit glitchy in places.

Week from Monday 30th April 2007

NO NO NO, it simply WON'T do... after a couple of attempts to bring home a decent CD player last weekend, I find that the chosen machine is STILL not a goer! It is completely incapable of playing a CD all the way through, without it skipping before it reaches the end. That's EVERY disc that I've tried, even the newest ones. It could be argued that the discs themselves are faulty. What, ALL of them? If an optical disk drive can't read past the occasional blemish or speck of dust, then surely it's not man enough for the job? Hi-Fi Schmi-Fi! My PC's disk drive will play almost* ANY disc you put in it, regardless of condition. My portable DiscPerson is a little more touchy, but has a 90% success rate. My DVD player will also play ANY disc, it just SOUNDS cakky! Am I being naïve to expect a £100 hi-fi component to be able to perform the same simple task? As someone who owns/buys a lot of second-hand discs (from 'booties, charity shops and the occasional record fair), I don't want to find that my entire CD collection has just become obsolete (AHB'SLIT!) 

[*apart from that strangely unplayable Zappa DVD-Audio. That's a whole OTHER story, probably involving lots of tedious mucking about with codecs 'n' that]

So another Saturday in Southampton - it's just occurred to me that there must have been a RECORD FAIR on at the Guildhall and I didn't even give it the time of day! I did, however, go to the "CHAIN WITH AN ONOMATOPOEIC NAME" for a couple of  items from the heady days when DINOSAURS ruled the Earth. 

Well, long story short, I GOT my money back from the Richer concern, minus the price of a set of fancy interconnects that will allow me to 'dock' my ODD-POD into the hi-fi system (or, indeed, to plug in ANY portable device furnished with a mini-jack socket). I picked up another couple of lollipops for my trouble, plus the promise of a 'good deal' next time I'm in the market for home entertainment paraphernalia!

I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC4 film about the very wunnerful ROBYN HITCHCOCK. But about halfway through, I was distracted by the realisation that, with his sweep of silver hair atop a slightly smirksome long face, his little rose-tinted spectacles and Aristide Bruant scarf  and his 'Interesting Facts' about traffic cones, THE MAN IS TRANSFORMING INTO PETER COOK BEFORE OUR VERY EYES!

A WHOLE MESS O' WEBBIN' to be done this week - Welcome to the wonderful world of car turntables!

Fat Pushchair Women,
Arses Rotund Like Wombles,
To Market They Go.

I will NEVER cease to be amazed by this so-called 'HI-FI' consumer electronics malarkey! On a whim, I borrowed my mum's INCREDIBLY CHEAP Alba-brand deeveedee player, just to hear what it sounds like through my system. AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT, to my ears, it sounded BETTER than the hundred pound CD jobby that I tried out last week!? It certainly sounded better than my Acoustic Solutions DVD player (of approximately the same knockdown price) and is, astonishingly, ALMOST on a par with my long lamented Phillips seedydisk machine when heard through the fancy new interconnects. It's a little bit choosy about seedies that I've burned myself, regrettably but understandably - but it played that bothersome Zappa DVD-A without any complaint at all! A straight swap was instantly agreed upon! And I now have an all-purpose CD player that I'm fairly happy with the sound of - A POX ON YOUR BRAND SNOBBERY, SAY I!