Week from Monday 5th November 2007

I've been enjoying rather a lot of the GRATEFUL DEAD lately... Now that AUDIO STREAMING is once again a possibility, I've been systematically working my way through the "Taper's Section" (or is it "TAPIR'S Section"?) live archive pages of Dead-dot-Net. I've also found a new Brazilian radio station to listen to (thus replacing the one I USED to listen to, which now playlists only mainstream, international, MOR dross, rather than the feast of local talent it once featured)... This week's "STORMY'S MONDAY DOWNLOAD" features our Robert reading some THOMAS HARDY poetry, for Mark Radcliffe's Radio One programme, in 1996 (complete with amusing pottymouthed yokel introductions, very reminiscent of Shelfy's foul "Growing A Trunk" monologues).

Let me introduce you to my new friends ROTTING MOLDY FLESH, American gentlemen who make spooky, ambient music not dissimilar to early-seventies biggies of the genre, such as Faust, the fab Tangs or Klaus Schultze (though they probably would cringe at such comparisons). They perform live soundtracks to silent horror movies such as "Nosferatu" (So did Faust!). The name might be daft and the gothic imagery is a tad tiresome, but they do make a splendid noise. I personally prefer their 'other' band names, BEDTIME FOR ROBOTS and (especially) CORDUROY POO-POO, though they too don't exactly seem appropriate for the dark music they make.

...in fact it's been a pretty good week for band names. Let's also hear it for SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM, folks!

I got so sick of staring at HTML code that I thought I'd give Serif's web creation programme a go:- a more GRAPHIC approach to designing a website! After all, how many people using the highly-acclaimed, bells 'n' whistles Dreamweaver ever REALLY delve into the HTML, once the programme has generated it all for you? Come on, be honest! Having downloaded WebPlus version 8 last night, I spent this morning at the printers doing a hard-copy of the manual and, as an exercise, I'm doing the STEEL BAND PROJECT all over again using the new tool. At the moment, I'm not that keen on Serif's "DTP" approach to creating text 'frames' (a confusing term to be using in Webboworld, in my estimation), but I'm getting there. I can see that I will still have to use one of my HTML editors to do some tweaking afterwards, but the results look promising.

Week from Monday 12th November 2007

"That letter selfpenned to one's other, that neverperfect everplanned?
This nonday diary, this allnights newseryreel..."

I am now very close to finishing "FINNEGANS WAKE" from cover to cover for the first time. That is to say, I should finish reading it by Xmas! It has taken six months, during which time I COULD have read a dozen Terry Pratchetts or the complete works of PG Wodehouse but, like climbing Tor Johnson or swimming with poodles, it's one of those things you HAVE to do before you die.

I've just got an e-mail from SNILTWEASEL (DIRECTOR), another of those things that happens every few years. I've insisted that he joins MySpace so that we can actually DO something NOW, instead of him just yearning for what COULD have been twenty-odd years ago! If he doesn't appear interested, then I've suggested to Shelfy that we do an UNOFFICIAL SNILTWEASEL (DIRECTOR) TRIBUTE PAGE instead.

Shelfy says he's bored with HIS MySpace (he hasn't logged onto it for over a month - other 'friends' have started to notice). 'Well', says I, 'If you're bored with it all, then change it! That's why it's called MYspace, you can customise it to suit YOU!'. 'Oh', he says, 'I didn't know you could change it...'

I've noticed that sometimes, when you open the YouTube link on the STEEL BAND PROJECT website, you get someone else's videos instead... I don't THINK that can be MY fault, can it? And have you noticed, now MySpace have 'updated' the music player, that downloading tracks (where allowed) has become a bit of a hit 'n' miss affair? There appear to be two or three different flavours of download now, some favour one's browser's standard settings, others try to open another window which doesn't always work.

There is a particularly annoying commercial running on telly at the moment in which a bloke in a gorilla suit pretends to play "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. I have absolutely NO idea what this has to do with Cadbury's chocolate. It'll probably win an award.

I've just ordered my Xmas present to myself:- this year's FRANK ZAPPA album, which is a double-seedy of the Grand Wazoo 'big band'. Hooo Yus!! With the almighty dollar being what it is, even allowing for postage, it's now cheaper to buy directly from Barfko-Swill rather than wait for G&S Music to stock it in this country (no offence to G&S, who remain the ONLY Zappapurveyors on this side of the pond worth their salt). Of course, all this renewed interest in ALL THINGS ZAPPOID has prompted a fresh CRAZE! Why, I've even got a new kick-ass FZ themed wallpaper on this here peecee.

Week from Monday 19th November 2007

Sniltweasel (Director) asked for my advice about which KING CRIMSON to buy. Whhhhooooooh boy!??! Where to start?!!? He apparently only has the three studio albums by the 'eighties' KCrim, which don't exactly prepare you for the whole ThRaKking experience that is to come! This is what I told him:  

I would recommend live recordings over studio albums of ANY period of Crim. This is especially true of the eighties Crim you mention. Try "Absent Lovers" (DGM9804) their last ever show from Montreal in 1984... "VROOOM VROOOM" (DGM0105) is a good representation of the nineties 'Double Trio' lineup. Highly recommended... Any of the ProjeKCts are worth hearing, some recordings are absolutely breathtaking. Mostly improvised, this is where you see the repertoire for the next phase of Crimson taking shape. I personally have a soft spot for the four nights of ProjeKCt One (Fripp/Bruford/Gunn/Levin) at the Jazz Café in London - individual nights' complete sets available as downloads, or highlights available in the ProjeKCts boxed set (DGM9913) or "The Jazz Café Suite" (DGM CLUB22, only available from online shop)... "Heavy ConstruKction" (DGM0013) contains lots of top stuff from the 2000 tour (including a whole disc compiled from the improv sections of the shows, and their superb version of "Heroes" which was the encore most nights)... The 2-DVD "Eyes Wide Open" (Sanctuary SVE3056) contains a beautifully video'd show from the Japanese leg of the "Power To Believe" tour 2003 (The last tour as King Crimson for the time being). It also contains the whole of the 2000 gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire (I was there) and lots of improvs from the European leg of 2000. You probably won't want to WATCH this disk so often as it is very much "Bootleg TV" (just hand held cameras operated by crew members). I did myself a CD-R copy of the audio only, pretty soon after buying it. Sound quality on both discs is superb of course... The words 'can' and 'worms' spring to mind... Enjoy!!

Shelfy was wondering whether DGM are paying me for writing such 'press releases'... By way of a stop-press to that, we now know that the new KING CRIMSON will make its live debut in August 2008, with a line-up of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison - yes, another two-drums line-up! ...During his time in the States being 'Crafty', Robert has been handed presents to bring back home for the RABBIT, who is becoming even more famous than his 'daddy' ...this week's STORMY'S MONDAY DOWNLOAD features a couple of ditties from the rehearsals for "Exposure", including an all-too-brief segment with Robert Fripp, Phil Collins and John Wetton (probably) in near-RED power trio mode.

Another opportunity to catch up with a great lost/missed concert from the BBC archives this week (and something comparatively recent for me!)... 6Music's "Live At Midnight" is doing Vectis eclectics THE BEES tonight/this morning.

Hooray! The cheque for the first leg of the "STEEL BAND PROJECT" has arrived.

Hooray Hoorah! There is now space for SIX tunes on the MySpace player (I've just re-added "SATIE DRIFT", as that went down well before).

Further to Shelfy's aforementioned "boredom" with HIS MySpace... Disaster! I'd planned to help him re-brand the page, with new VALUCREST-themed graphics, as well as one of those dinky little Flash MP3 players, which would have contained the "Tales From The Winged Eyeball" tracks, leaving the main player free for him to DO HIS OWN THING, as you young'ns probably don't say. The first problem I encountered however was that, even though his ISP has given him 55 MB of webspace on which to store his stuff, none of the standard FTP solutions that I tried would actually connect to it. Then I discovered that he'd lost his MySpace password and invalidated the e-mail account that would have allowed me to retrieve it. So now RABBIT SHOW REJECT will simply gather dust, along with the STEAK WRIST site[s] he'd created previously, and he'll have to start from scratch all over again. If any of his 700-plus 'friends' STILL want to be friends after all this, they'll have to re-apply elsewhere! I've posted a bulletin on his behalf, so at least 'our mutual friends' will be aware of the the situation.

Week from Monday 26th November 2007

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: 'ERIC CLAPTON' is an anagram of 'NARCOLEPTIC'... When I sprained my ankle returning home after VECTIS-YOMPING, back in the summer, I should, of course, have rested it for a couple of weeks. But I didn't, needless to say, I carried on walking... and now, with the coming of colder weather, I'm starting to pay for it. It's A-TWITCHIN' AN' A-THROBBIN' something rotten, usually when I take the weight off it and STOP walking.

Shelfy lent me a deeveedee of THE LENINGRAD COWBOYS, live in Helsinki with the full Red Army choir and balalaika orchestra in tow. It's quite a spectacle, but I can't help feeling that I'm missing out on the joke somewhere along the line[?].

I feel honoured to have had my French grammar corrected by a member of UNIVERS ZERO!

A couple of new tracks have been added to the RENALDO & THE LOAF REMIX page, including another version of "Absence", the same song that I chose to reconstruct! This latest version appears to be in the style of THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS or some such:- highly processed vocals, lots of harsh drumbox and distorted sounds which may or may not be guitars... A few months away and MY version is actually starting to sound pretty good. It's epic, atmospheric and stands out from the crowd quite nicely. I often get fed up with hearing such projects immediately after they are finished, but I usually find, if one listens to them with FRESH EARS a month or two later, they're not as tedious as you think they are! I've never really learned to be objective about these things and, as I think I said before, I never really got the hang of making music to please OTHER people.

On Thursday I journey to Basingstoke for An Evening Of Balkan Exotica with TARAF DE HAIDOUKS... Ordinarily, when I travel to a gig, I try to "MAKE A DAY OF IT". But I know from experience that Basingstoke is not somewhere where you can fill a whole day! A couple of hours should do it! There's a 'not bad' HMV here, as well as a 'Meagre-Store Formally Known As Virgin', so that keeps me amused for a bit. I bought SUFJAN STEVENS' "Greetings From Michigan", having enjoyed what I heard of it on last Sunday's "Freak Zone", as well as STEVE HACKETT's "Cured", because it was quite cheap. I dined on sandwiches from the serve-yourself Tesco and took coffee at the Anvil foyer bar... Some notes:-

First the support act... THE FORTY THIEVES ORKESTRA (I think that's how they spelled it) are the kind of contrivance that gives so-called 'World Music' a bad name (ref: those bloody awful "Electric Gypsyland" cocktail-bar fashion-item compilations). The REAL musicians involved (oud, percussion, clarinet and fiddle) are extremely virtuosic and a joy to hear. Especially the clarinet player. Unfortunately, they share a stage with some behatted clod (whose 'idea' this probably is) who pretends to look busy, while bobbing up and down behind a Powerbook, regurgitating inane pre-constructed beats: "LIVE" laptoppage, aka "HERE'S ONE I MADE EARLIER"... The cloth-eared media laps it up, using phrases like "taking roots music forward into the 21st Century" to describe this sort of fraudulent behaviour. I barely stayed awake. There was polite applause...
TARAF DE HAIDOUKS however, are THE REAL DEAL. This is music that sounds hundreds of years old. The combined age of the band members is probably hundreds of years as well... Music with heart and soul - living tradition not just lifestyle accessory... An ever-shifting line-up, several groups in one; full-on express train momentum from the full orchestra, 'classical' chamber groups, down to smaller combinations accompanying the various singers... [The following reference won't mean a thing to anyone but my immediate circle of friends] They performed the fastest version of the tune we know simply as "THE THEME FROM 'CRANJE THE SEA'" that it is humanly possible to play! It seemed to be twice as fast as any recorded version I'd heard thus far. The 're-gypsification' of works by Bartok, Khachaturian and other twentieth-century artboffins sounds ghastly on paper, but was an absolute joy and fitted into the set perfectly. The younger fiddle player (son of one of the older fiddle players?) was especially dazzling during this part of the concert.

Yes, I bought the 'souvenir' DVD... as well as an item from the clearout box (SUSSAN DEYHIM & BILL LASWELL). I had also intended to buy a ticket for January's "I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE" show at this very venue. It wasn't too much of a surprise to find that tickets had already sold out, within hours of going on sale. The train home was the stopping one (plenty of time to drift away with the Sufjan Stevens CD). Arriving home, I posted a message on the Taraf's MySpace page (and e-mailed that circle of friends I mentioned!)