Week from Monday 5th July 2010

Weeeeeell, that WAS a bit of a week that was! But I think I've caught up. Still plenty to keep me busy over the next few days (including the non-fun task of trying to get everything to hold together as a PowerPoint presentation)... but this weekend I would rather like to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, thank you very much!

To convey one's mood
In seventeen syllables
Is very diffic

     "Haiku No.1" by John Cooper-Clarke

I went for a nice walk down to Titchfield Haven (or the Meon Delta as we call it) for a wee bit of twitching. I stopped off at a CAR-BOOT SALE for a browse along the way, where I stocked up on incense sticks.

Then it's onto the serious business of REMIXOLOGY. The contest has but two rules - (1) You can't do anything nasty to the vocal tracks, and (2) the whole thing has to be three minutes or under! THREE MINUTES? That doesn't allow me to be as 'EXPANSIVE' as I would normally like. Three minutes allows you to come up with one good idea, in, out and finish. No gradual build-ups, no 'elegiac' passages, no 12-inch extended rave versions... Someone like FAITHLESS or ORBITAL would just be starting to warm up after three minutes! For me it's an whole new discipline. But I'm still unable to gauge what is and isn't considered "COMMERCIAL". I've done some interesting "jazz", using one of the original sax parts, a 'trombone' part (made by transposing and 'muting' another sax so that it sounds like one) and a fairly 'free' drum track - but unless you are SUN RA, you ain't gonna put THAT out as a single, no sirree Bob! I did another one with a 110bpm drumbox part and a bass guitar loop, which fit over the original vocal tracks rather well, in a NO MAN-cum-BLUE NILE sort of fashion. But then I probably spoiled it all by including some spooky - and, therefore, decidedly NON-commercial - electronic wailing noises (constructed by warping some of the guitar stems). We Shall See.

DREAM DIARY... Last night I saw Gentle Giant play in a pub in Gosport.

Shelfy, with a little help from his friends, has launched the "BLUE WAILS ON BLIT STREET" micepace at long last. 

This week, I am hoping - nay! expecting - to GET PAID for my efforts of the last month or so. With some of the pressure off for a while, I decided to go for one of my POINTLESS TRAIN JOURNEY DAZE OUT. I went to Reading via Basingstoke. BECAUSE IT'S THERE. On the upward leg of the trip, my Odd-Pod chose to play me a couple of tracks by ELP, followed by some EMERGENCY LIBRARIAN (you see what it did there?).

So Rory, next time I hear your "Black Hole Transmission", the image it will conjure forth will be a V-E-R-Y  S-L-O-W tracking shot past the semi-desolate goods sidings of old Eastleigh... 

I knew Reading to be a GOOD SHOPPING town, recalling the days when I would wander it on a Saturday morning when visiting for the WOMAD Festival. But that was a few years ago now. Would it still be the same? There don't appear to be as many charity shops as I remember (Even a sinkhole like Havant has more going for it in this department). The once excellent main branch of HMV has gone the way of all branches of HMV (less choice of MUSIC, more space devoted to games and movies). Although it's still better than most (I found "801 LIVE" on a CD - I've never even SEEN that before!). The choice of food vendors catering for Reading's 'global village' is, if anything, even more cosmopolitan than before. One can always lunch on the more exotic varieties of snack food.

The second-hand music shop in the arcade is still there (Hooray!), although nowadays he probably makes more income from the record fairs and online auctions, like anyone else in the 'independent' sector. I found some desirable items in his "3-FOR-A-TENNER" box (ROBERT WYATT's "Cuckooland", DANIEL LANOIS' "Belladonna" and THE BLUE NILE's "Peace At Last"). It amuses me that I've never paid more than a fiver for a Blue Nile album. They are bargain bin perennials. Although, in my opinion, they've never bettered their gloomy "Hats" album, I will continue to keep one eye on the cardboard boxes and beer crates for something else to add to my collection!

This from the 'METRO' freeby 07/07/10: "SEA BLUES: Antidepressants in human sewage which flows into coastal waters could potentially devastate sea life. In tests, shrimps that were exposed to the drug FLUOXETINE were five times more likely to swim toward light instead of away from it - making them more likely to be eaten by fish or birds. This could have 'devastating effects as crustaceans are vital to the food chain', said Dr Alex Ford from the University of Portsmouth."

On the journey back, it started to rain and the Odd-Pod opted to play me some FAUST. The buzzards and kites were out in force. Another drifty, drony piece of music popped up to coincide with the Eastleigh stock yards. I think my Odd-Pod is telling me to make a film...

Week from Monday 12th July 2010

Okay, sorry, so I missed a week... Saturday last, I awoke to an explosion of vomiting and squitting. My first guess was food poisoning, but no one else appeared to have been struck down in a similar fashion, so it's probably some kind of stomach 'flu. Long story short, I lost my appetite somewhat after that (well duh!)... and this, in turn, has left me in a somewhat depleted and feverish state. Can't drink tea (and me an Englishman!). Can't drink fruit juice (so the bod shall complain of a lack of vitamins). I slept most of the week away. A big setback on the road to neurohealth... This wasn't what I had in mind when I promised myself a few days off.

"One 'flu over,
 The cuckoo nests."

FEVERISH DREAM DIARY... Earworms ahoy! (mainly "Lullaby For Hamza" by ROBERT WYATT)... Unfathomable algebraic formulae... Joe Jackson's shoes... Bits of "Star Trek" dialogue... Oversized fishing hats in a shop in Sandown... Big Pink China Pig & The Buffoon Spider... A green-lit robot singing "On solid ground I watch you dance/On solid ground I wet your pants..."... Doing the 'Round The Island Walk', completely naked but for a blue hat, asking everyone if they'd heard the new Gil Scott-Heron album (I haven't even listened to it myself yet!)

The TOUR DE FRANCE is well under way and the BBC PROMS are just kicking off. So the SUMMER is definitely here then! Not that you'd know it, if you peep through the blinds at the wet'n'windy that is pummelling on the panes. This WAS supposed to have been the weekend when I went OOP DZAT LOONDIN to see Tom Zé. But it was not to be. 

But Southampton's Asian arts community is having its "Mela" shindig in the park, so THAT would seem like a convenient [and cheap] alternative. The weather has "turned out nice again", so I set off and make a day of it... a bit of charity-shopping before finding myself a nice spot next to the main stage for a few hours...

There were a couple of dance acts from different ends of the cultural spectrum (well, perhaps not THAT different!)... The comperes ZEETA & ZULFKAR do their best to keep the crowd fired up with some sing-a-longs between the sets throughout the day... Southampton's HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOWBIZ, percussion whizz SANDEEP RAVAL hit the stage for the first of several appearances this afternoon. His own indo-jazz-fusion band included a sax ace, a terrific young drummer and a six-string bass virtuoso, who between them tackled all the mad time signatures he could throw at them. I think there was also a keyboard player, but he must have been hiding behind the curtain. Some pretty hot and tight jazz-fusion (If there was such a thing as Trilok Gurtu's Earthworks. then they might sound something like this!)... Guyanese flautist KEITH WAITHE (who may be remembered from Nitin Sawhney's original band) now leads his own ensemble BEYOND HORIZON. And who's that on tabla [and sundry other percussives in a stand-up 'drum kit' arrangement] but Sandeep again! There were also further percussionists (of a more Afro-Latin-Carribean persuasion), one of whom is also featured on kora, a sitar player, maybe a bass guitarist lurking at the back somewhere, a rather redundant pianist who appeared to be making it up as he went along, and POOJA ANGRA singing and playing the harmonium. The music they played sounded far less 'structured' than we'd heard from Sandeep's band; As far as these ears could tell, this was pretty much a world music 'jam session'. Pretty good stuff though... Some Indian 'classical' music now, from sarod master RAJEEB CHAKRABORTY and  - yes! you guessed it - SANDEEP RAVAL, now playing his tabla in the more conventional position whilst sitting on the floor. Considering these two had only JUST met each other for the first time, they produced fireworks a-plenty during their far-too-brief performance (I've said this before, but I don't think that a festival performance can EVER bring out the best in 'classical' performers - it's just not the right atmosphere to listen or be listened to.)... I'd seen various groups of MUSICIANS OF RAJASTHAN before, so I sort of knew what to expect, but the ensemble calling themselves (or, more likely, who have been thus called by the promoter) DESERT ROMANCE were really terrific. Again, the programme at an outdoor event doesn't do them any favours, but they really COMMUNICATED, even to those of us NOT well-versed in the many languages of the subcontinent. The costumes were colourful, the dancing was spectacular and the music (vocal chorus, a couple of sarangi-type upright fiddles, various percussion) was, of course, wonderful. A little Punjabi lady explained to me that the 'castanets', as played by the "MC" of the band, are made from stones that have been polished flat by the desert sands... The highlight of the day for me (well, this IS who I mainly came to see!) were WOMAD stalwarts, RIZWAN-MUAZZAM QAWWALI, led, as well we know, by the nephews of the late lamented Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Now here's a bunch who've never failed to produce the goodies in even the most inappropriate setting, or at ANY time of day! What pros! They sat on a stage squinting into a setting sun, collectively improvising on some recognisable old favourites, reaching higher and higher levels of 'devotional' ecstasy until, in the end, we audience wouldn't let them go! Sensational as always... The smell of all the delicious food hereabouts is making me hungry. However, I am deterred from TUCKING IN by the forbidding size of the queues... so I leave the evening's BHANGRA PARTY and set off home...

FIRST NIGHT OF THE PROMS... I don't know why I subject my ears to this every year. I should KNOW by now that, if there is a piece by my beloved MAHLER on the bill, it will be murdered in a half-assed performance by some BBC scratchband or other. But still I tune in. The first night's performance of Gustav's Eighth, the so-called "SYMPHONY OF A THOUSAND" was unlistenable. I could stand no more than about ten minutes of it. The opening organ chord sounded promising enough, but then the "Veni Creator Spiritus" section, which is supposed to sound 'stately', was played at far too fast a tempo. After that it just got worse. The balance between the solo voices was completely wrong, the balance between the chorus and the orchestra was completely wrong. It was just a muddy, barely recognisable mess. Instead of a rich polyphony of vocal lines, we just got the equivalent of several people on a stage shouting over each other. After a while, I turned it off and listened to the Simon Rattle recording, to remind myself what the TUNES should sound like and to reassure myself that it wasn't 'JUST ME' (as in the phrase "Is it JUST ME or is this crap?").

DREAM DIARY... In the college photographic darkroom, plus a mystery about some missing pens...

This week I was experimenting with some new "generative" MIDI music software. It's a lot like Sseyo's KOAN PRO app of yore, which is no longer made and is impossible to find anywhere [legally]. It was a 14-day limited trial version of this prog which provided a lot of the textures and ambient backdrops on "WINGED EYEBALL". At the time, I tried to accumulate as much material as possible before "THE SHILLING RAN OUT". Hence we had more music than we needed for the 'album'. BRIAN ENO has, of course, made entire albums with it (but NOT, presumably, using the limited trial version!). After a few hours tinkering around, last night I came up with a couple of useful ideas. The more rhythmic of the pieces has now been used as a background for another of Shelfy's "BLIT STREET" recitations. The other one sounds like a gloomy piece of orchestral Stockhausen (or maybe Stocky Hausen?). I don't think that one would be suitable for talking over.

Week from Monday 26th July 2010

Back on track this week...! 

LE TOUR est fini, the last sprint has been sprunt. And, as we know, the end of the race always coincides with the WOMAD FESTIVAL. The fact that RealWorld were still sending out "Have you bought YOUR ticket yet?"-type emails the week before showtime, suggests that ticket sales have taken a bit of a nose-dive this year. Back in the day, most of the weekend tickets had generally been sold by the beginning of May. When they were affordable.

As I've pointed out many times in these pages, the Festival as conveyed by RADIO 3's broadcasts used to be a completely different Festival to that experienced by the average punter. I have no reason to doubt that that is STILL the case, since they moved it all to a lavishly landscape-gardened floodbasin somewhere in Wiltshire. Given that it is no longer possible for me to attend the Festival for real, I don't pay as much attention to the BBC coverage as I once did. With Andy Kershaw fallen from grace and Charlie Gillett no longer with us, the "tone" of presentation comes across even more SMUG and PATRONISING than ever. But I did dip a toe in now and again and I dare say I'll visit the iPlayer at some point this week, if I can skip straight to the music.

In total, I've now sent Shelfy four pieces to accompany his beatnik ramblings (or, more accurately, three-and-two-half pieces - I split one of the parts into two, because it was a bit too big - it's still the same piece of music). I've also ended up with a rather nice 'jazz' 'piano' 'trio' piece which will go on the PedPed site. It's a refreshing way of working for me, although it's one which might offend "real" musicians. I'm basically FAKING IT! Ha! I've been doing that for years! 

"The STUDIO is MY instrument..." bla bla bla etc etc etc...

I've suggested to Shelfy that he gets his own BANDCAMP site, then he can put up the parts of his open-ended concept as he goes along (and NOT be limited to ten tracks!). But if he's going to use Bandcamp, he will need the WAV files to ensure best possible quality. MicePace-quality MP3s just won't cut it. And while we're on the subject of  Bandcamp...

THE OFFICE AMBIENCE is currently being provided by CENTROZOON's "The Cult Of: Bibbiboo" album, freshly downloaded from the aforementioned online facility at a bargain price of Zero Euros. And a rather wonderful, inspiring thing it is too.