Week from Monday 7th September 2009

Sunday brings us Portsmouth's annual MULTICULTURAL FESTIVAL at Southsea Castle, always a good excuse for a walk in the park. The Castle Field becomes a GLOBAL VILLAGE (or at least a scale model of Albert Road), with local JERRIDIES plying their trade, exotic food at exorbitant prices, crafty nicknacks, face painting, yogic and tai-chi display teams and, of course, the dreaded ADVANCED NON-RHYTHMIC DRUMMING CIRCLE... oh, and the occasional bit of fun-type music. 

Really though, one spends a LOT of time listening to SOUND-CHECKS at this thing. The bands seem to have all the time in the world for CHU-NING and going 'test one two', but are only given about twenty minutes to actually PLAY something!

Who will ever forget that cassette of 'ILOKANO SONGS' we once found at a carboot sale, that turned out to be country and western songs sung in Filipino with a cheesy home-organ accompaniment? Well, meet the SOUTHCOAST BAND, who play pop songs sung in Filipino with a cheesy, Beatlesque, 'sixties guitar band accompaniment. After years of being everyone else's colony, the Philippines favour THIS as their national style! The world's least exotic world music! ['The Rough Guide To World Music' had this to say about Filipino music:- "Of all the southeast Asian countries, the Philippines have the least developed indigenous popular music... the overwhelming popular taste is for western models..."] Good fun in small doses though, speaking as someone who enjoys the kitschier aspects of other far-eastern musics.

So when did TAI-CHI become a spectator sport then? Fine - if that's your own personal way of getting geared-up for the day, meditationally speaking, then go to it, whatever yangs your ying, baby. But who needs an audience? I kept expect them to start leaving red, white and blue vapour trails.

Then there was a local troupe of teenage DHOL DRUMMERS, possibly called Southside. But they seemed to spend an ridiculous amount of time testing their apparatus, and clattering away as a chaotic swarm of individuals, before they finally PLAYED TOGETHER. When they did, of course, they made a wonderful noise (as anyone who has witnessed one of Johnny Kalsi's training camps at a WOMAD fest will tell you).

Throughout many years of festivalling, EVERY reggae band I've EVER seen has turned up late. FACT. Sometimes just some of them arrive. The reggae band XOTHERMIX (a confusing name: it was ages before I twigged that it is pronounced 'ex-oh-thermics', rather than 'ex-other-mix', or even 'zothah-mix') were billed as a 'pulsating' six-piece. I could count only three instrumentalists on the stage (bass, drums, keyboards). They formed a punchy rhythm section, true enough, but rather lacked any melodic interest because of their dwindled numbers. They were fronted by a chap called KING DAVID. He had all the moves and vocal chops that one expects of a reggae frontman, an encyclopaedic knowledge of every "lover's rock" hit EVER and plenty of  that "...an' if Mistah Sugar Minott was hyah, im would praabably say..." line of patter. Good fun, all things considered.

A lone gentleman from the subcontinent crooned a selection of Bollywood hits, accompanied by a backing tape. I felt embarrassed on his behalf - there didn't appear to be ANYBODY listening. A multiracial combo called TZEE & AFRICAN ROOTS BAND (or so it says here) played some nice enough, semi-acoustic Swahili guitar pop, but again, all that soundchecking in public rather dampened any impact they might have had. A sound system called 21st CENTURY DUB CLASH had a corner of the field to themselves, but it was the wrong time of day for a disco. Meanwhile, there was a troupe of girlies who have taken Irish 'Riverdancing' to a whole new voyeuristic level, by wearing slinky leatherette outfits and big hair extensions and gyrating to something that may or may not have been an Afro-Celt Sound System mix. 

If any band playing the 'son' and 'rumba' music of Cuba refer to themselves as a 'SALSA' band, then they are DEFINITELY NOT the real deal. Sorry. CACHÉ were good at what they do, with a barrage of red-hot percussion, authentic-sounding 'grandad' vocals and a punchy brass section. But I've seen Tito Puente. I've seen Los Van Van. They were definitely NOT Los Van Van. 

Later, the day promised a 'National Costume Parade' and a local 'indie' (as opposed to Hindi?) band called Reactor One, before finally winding down at six-thirty with the Congolese stylings of KASAI MASAI. But the smell of all this forbiddingly expensive exotic food has made my stomach growl, so I'm off home for tea!

Midweek, and I'm taking the opportunity to catch up on one or two items on the BBC PROMS over the last week or so. I've particularly enjoyed GEORGE CRUMB's slightly oriental-sounding "Vox Balaenae", in which the composer evokes WHALE SONG by having his musicians play cheap wooden flutes, scrape on strings and generally muck about inside [prepared] pianos. Uncannily close to home! [Only two or three people on the entire planet will understand what I am talking about, when I say that] I kept expecting someone to call out "CUE WHEAT NOISES! MAKE NOISES LIKE WHEAT!" at some point. There was even a bit where the piano seemed to go "Duh Dunt! Duh Dunt! Duh Dunt! Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun..." like the music from "JAWS"!

Week from Monday 14th September 2009

On Saturday, an enormous package arrived at my door - it appears that the BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE has rewarded me with for my CROSSWORDing prowess (and thus my questionable flair for solving cryptic clues in order to reveal the names of concert violinists) by sending me a BUMPER PRIZE copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Music! Never again will I have any trouble knowing my Addinsell from my Addison, my Zacconi from my Zachow.

Last week, while digging through a box in one of our many charity shops, I found a nice little paperback "Best Of" EDGAR ALLAN POE collection. Which was nice. But before I tackle that, I've been reading another of ROBERT RANKIN's daft fantasy novels, borrowed from the library. No one would ever claim that he is the greatest WRITER on the planet (in fact, the number of people who write comic prose that can also be judged as GOOD LITERATURE can be counted on the... well, there's PG Wodehouse anyway...). But he's as prolific as Pratchett, spins a good yarn, talks a good toot and has an amusing, Milligan-esque turn of phrase. A good larf, then.

I've been going through the tape archives for a few choice nuggets to fill up all ten slots on the TEASET BODY REVIEW player, a task long overdue, seeing as we've had the extra space for several months now [I don't want this to be ANOTHER in the long line of MicePace pages that have got bored with, locked out of, or left abandoned - NO NAMES, NO MANDRILL, you know who you are!] The 1980s certainly were a prolific period for out-and-out FREEFORM WEIRDINOISE, but I think I've chosen a good cross section of... um, 'tunes' that will either (a) delight, (b) baffle or (c) drive up the wall, our potential audience... a "potential audience" which I've been expanding, using fiendish Rabbithole-recommended systematic mathematical processes...

At the beginning of the year, the future of "THE SOUTH BANK SHOW" seemed to be in question (Actually, it still is!), as the ITV budget was slashed and, with it, their commitment to 'QUALITY' programming. The implied argument seemed to be that, as long as the ITV audience get their preferred diet of "Coronation Street", "Emmerdale" and "The X Factor" (which, in turn, bring in the advertising bucks), then WHO CARES? Well, I'm pleased to report that the SBS has lived to fight another day (for one more series anyway), with the support of the OPEN UNIVERSITY and something calling itself ITV STUDIOS. The first show of the new season was a TONY PALMER film about the troubled, but largely horrid, WAGNER FAMILY. (Kudos to all concerned for not dumbing down to my level and coining the phrase "OPERA SOAP"!). Meanwhile, I've been reading Patrick Humphries' excellent biography of TOM WAITS...

The NOSTALGIA CRAZE continues, as I revisit recordings of the KNEBWORTHs of yore...
Like Woodstock for those that went before, my memories of the occasion[s] are tinted through filters of magenta. We always get caught up in the 'EVENT'. How soon we forget the agonising fatigue of sitting in one spot for twelve hours... or the fact that much of the day was spent staring at the distant stage through holes in a plastic sheet. The weather was, for the most part, that of a typical English summer! But what really matters is WHAT WAS THE MUSIC LIKE? I've found recordings of three of the shows so far.
   GENESIS had toured that very same set for several months, before they arrived in Stevenage in June of 1978 - so you'd expect THEM to sound like they've had a rehearsal or two! (Ah, but we only remember the light show!) The BBC radio recording I had of this show omitted a couple of numbers, so I slotted in the missing pieces from an American show of similar vintage.
   TODD RUNDGREN's UTOPIA played a blinder the following year (as the Gold Lamé document of the gig bears witness); a few tuning problems here and there (plus barbed comments aimed at the NME journalist who covered the previous week's set), but pretty damn tight all the same. A number of unreleased songs were showcased that would eventually end up on the "Adventures In Utopia" album. 
   LED ZEPPELIN's 'legendary' 1979 appearance was not quite the triumph the selections on their DVD would have us believe. I had a FALSE MEMORY of them being pretty 'tight and scrummy' on the day, a 'prog'-oriented set with the keyboards well to the fore (which is what the as-yet-unreleased "In Through The Out Door" sounded like)... a tad self-indulgent in places, BUT HEY! THAT'S THE ZEP FOR YOU! In fact, it was, for the most part, A BIT OF A SHAMBLES. Jimmy was all over the place, and Jonesy's new Yamaha polyphonic monster sounded well wide of the mark at times (I don't think he had the benefit of a working monitor). Listening to the set thirty years later, it's what fans would call an "HONEST PERFORMANCE". Phew! Rock 'n' Roll! Yeah! Wooo! Mind you, I've heard FAR worse - but if you are a guitarist who worries about such considerations as people playing the 'right' notes, then avoid. The awesome "TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT" still trundles along like a ruddy great Beyer-Garrett locomotive going to a disco... but I still think they went a bit overboard with the flanger on "KASHMIR"!
PS... It appears that those of us who attended the second NIGHT OF THE ZEP at Knebworth possibly drew the short straw!?! I've now heard a recording of the FIRST night (the previous week) and it was a zillion times better! In fact, it is fantastic. Or put it another way, the FIRST show is what I THOUGHT the SECOND show sounded like at the time! How could seven days make such a difference? I'm probably right in thinking that the 'tight and scrummy' tracks on the DVD come from the first show and NOT the second?

Week from Monday 21st September 2009

...so "ROBBO'S PIPES" (or at least the "Unthinkable Behaviour" version that is posted on the TEASET BODY REVIEW page) is a hit all over again! This is the track that has caught the attention of the vast majority of our 'NEW' friends (that is to say, the 'OLD' friends of Rabbit Show Reject and the Pedantic Pedestrian who have been systematically informed of the very existence of Teaset Body Review). None other than JUDY DYBLE sent us a nice message, singling out that particular ditty - THE Judy Dyble, the First Lady of English Folk Rock, likes "Robbo's Pipes"! Think of it! 

"Very good of its kind...", "Never heard anything like it on MySpace...", "Kindred spirits we...", "Genius as always, my friends..." and "Cool madness..." were other opinions expressed. "WHALE VOICE CHOIR" has also prompted chortles of amazement across the globe. Not bad for a bunch of stuff that was MADE UP on the spot (or, in this case, made up WITH Spot!). And to think that if I hadn't heard GEORGE CRUMB's "Vox Balaenae" at the Proms, I probably would have forgotten all about it! 

I have now completed the process of "FRIENDBLASTING" on behalf of Teaset Body Review. Now all of Rabbit Show Reject's and all of Pedantic Pedestrian's friends have been invited to become friends of TBR as well. That certainly does make for a more healthy looking total. Perhaps I should now do the same for "The Future Of Rock & Roll?"? Several thousand thanks go out to MR RABBIT HOLE SAM for enlightening me and educating me about this procedure.

The OFFICE AMBIENCE this week (well, apart from the first LED ZEPPELIN set, which is never THAT far from the disk player!) is another of THEO TRAVIS' and ROBERT FRIPP's churchscapes, freshly downloaded from the DGM concern. This one comes from Bishops Cleeve (just above Cheltenham on the map, in case you were wondering). It will share a disc with the previous gig (Concert? Performance? I never know what to call these churchy events!) recorded in Broad Chalke. Experience tells me that this is excellent stuff for listening to while walking to the tops of hills [see the "Morning Stroll" article over on the LiveJournal]. The blue-tits outside of my window seem to like it as well.

My LITERARY DISCOVERY of the week is "I Do Not Come To You By Chance" by the Nigerian author ADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI... Delightful storytelling which I have no hesitation in recommending to "our little reading circle" (What a refreshing change it is for ME to be doing the recommending for once!).

Week from Monday 28th September 2009

I bet Pink Floyd don't give personal service like this - One of our MicePace chums pointed out there are a number of pops 'n' clicks 'n' crackles on the track "SALISBURY II" on my player and asking whether I 'intend to post a version without [them]?'. 

Now "Salisbury", AKA "A Soggy Day In Salisbury" or even "Soggy Salisbury Sojourn", was recorded in anticipation of the "Winged Eyeball" project, when we used such archaic things as TAPE RECORDERS and CABLES! So unfortunately, the glitches and noises were inherent in the original recording.

But YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND, OH LOYAL LISTENER! 

Now we have the technology to go back and clean it up using the new-fangled DIGITALIAN APPARATUS (Mind you, there ARE limits, as my attempts to clean up some REALLY rancid old b***legs have recently proved - more anon). Long story short, now there is a glistening new version of the track nestling on the MySpace dansette for all the world to hear. 

While searching the archives for THE DEFINITIVE SALISBURY, I also came across another old favourite ("MY AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY NIGHTMARE", in which Aldeburgh "Crab-Boat Boy" Rathbone goes 'Postal' over another one of our free-form jams). It deserves a place on the TEASET BODY REVIEW page... where, incidentally, I recently confounded one of our Deutsche friends with the phrase "Load Of Old Squit". 

Meanwhile, I've also brought RABID SOW REJECT aka Art Dozer (The Home Of "TALES FROM THE WINGED EYEBALL") 'up to speed' with a little FRIENDBLASTING. We are now becoming a right pair of cults. Shelfy is revamping his RABBIT SHOW REJECT page (not to be confused with... etc etc) with an ongoing BUILDING SITE theme.

...And then I thought I'd have a crack at remixing MARKUS REUTER & IAN BODDY's tune "Dervish". Why not, everyone else is!? As is my wont, I didn't listen to the original track before I started my mashing-up, so I've no idea if my remix is "any good" or not...

So, yes... as part of my NOSTALGIA FIX[ATION], I spent much of the weekend (in between bouts of MicePace EMPIRE BUILDING) trying to clean up some old NAUGHTY RECORDINGS - but when the original tapes are SO distorted and/or deteriorated, to the point where the audio content is almost pink noise, there is no redeeming them. It's impossible to isolate any frequency or clean up any detail if it's not there in the first place (at least with the equipment I have at MY disposal). So I gave up. They that shall be nameless shall remain unlistenable.