Week from Monday 4th July 2011

"Sunday, Sunday... Thrilling to the not-yet-out-on-CD "YEGGLES" album, via the streaming magic of MySpace; reading a potted biography of DAVID LYNCH; doing my weekly virus and spybot checking; a quick bath, before vegging out in front of the TOUR DE FRANCE!.."

Yes, YES... This week - crikey! - I am eagerly awaiting the CD release of a new YES album! "FLY FROM HERE" is their first studio album for ten years and marks a reunion with the "YEGGLES" duo of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn. Usually on such occasions, I would be taking excitedly wild guesses at what it will sound like and whether I will like it or not. But, music technology (and the music 'business') being what it is today, I have ALREADY heard the album several times in its entirety, thanks to the fact that the whole caboodle is available for streaming via my[_____]...

(my[_____]... my[_____] - hmm... I wonder how much longer I'll be able to use THAT particular typographical frivolity?)

The 'need' to hold in ones hand a real 'shiny shiny precious precious' COMPACT DISC (or maybe you prefer vinyl?) is now considered merely the totemic indulgence of an OULD FELLAH. The fact that there is a world of sonic difference between what oozes out of a pair of computer speakers or headphones, and what an actual disc player hooked up to nice pair of Wharfdales can summon forth, no longer seems to matter a jot to the iGeneration!

I am delighted to say that "FLY FROM HERE" is wonderful; At long last, they have produced a cohesive 'long-playing record' representative of an actual band, after years of all those twee Andersong fillers, West Coast music factory concoctions, orchestral diversions, nostalgic [self-]tribute-band shows and live albums full of interminable solo spots. I was recently listening to a b***leg of a 1980 "Drama Tour" concert. Professor Horn introduced "We Can Fly From Here", announcing "This was the first song we wrote together... we hope to put it on our next album...". And here it is, thirty-one years later, in expanded form!

...and I prefer BENOIT DAVID's voice over Anderson's any day!

Ey oop! It's TOUR DE FRANCE time again! Now, let's be realistic, I don't think that the big ol' bike ride actually "MATTERS" in the overall scheme of things. No more than does any OTHER kind of sport. But it is the sole sporting spectacle of the year that I actually find myself CARING about. It's certainly the ONLY one for which I would even give the time of day, so I generally find myself knocking off early to watch the daily broadcasts. Yes, I still find the commentators' mannerisms extremely irritating, but I can always hit the mute button and watch the lovely scenery while listening to something else entirely! As well as marvelling at the weird pixellation effects that result when High Definition cameras get momentarily disconnected from their satellite feeds!

DREAM DIARY... I decided to swap my extensive caché of BLONDIE badges for a collection of dog food adverts and related memorabilia.

Week from Monday 11th July 2011

I know I should be adding the finishing sprinkle of fairy dust to the tracks I've already done (we already have an album's worth)... but on Sunday afternoon, I was suddenly visited by The Muse and recorded some more NEW stuff for the CC:PP project. CC had recited a short story called "STRAIGHT, NO CHASER" - very Chandleresque film noir. Naturally, it needed a sleazy piano jingling away in the background. But I also knew I HAD to incorporate the THELONIOUS MONK tune of the same name. I found the sheet music online, but I relied on quite a lot of MIDI-assisted cheating to be able to 'play' it. Luckily, if you record your 'performance' as MIDI data, you can thrash about ROUGHLY in time and in tune, then go back and correct everything afterwards (where you are dealing with a string of alphanumerical values that you can edit). I also used a lot of my 'scotch tape and razor blade' WAV-editing techniques to splice several different piano pieces together into one seven-minute 'virtual improvisation'.

The world is gloating as the loathsome MURDOCH FAMILY are getting their comeuppance at long last. As their electronic nose-poking into the affairs of politicians, celebrities, Royalty, families of kidnap victims and 9/11 survivors becomes public, that horrid Sunday sleaze-sheet, the News Of The World, has been shut down by DasNewsKorps head office. But they are conceding to do this ONLY to protect Rupert's bottom line, which is clearly more important than any moral or ethical considerations. Why? Because, while all this has been going on, he has been trying to acquire the bits of BSkyB that he doesn't own already and he wants to distance himself from the scandal. Having sworn blind that the phone-hacking carried out by the News Of The World was an isolated incident, rather than the standard operating procedure that we all guessed it to be, it is now emerging that several other News International rags have been up to EXACTLY the same tricks. As spacechum SEB says, "A man with  the moral compass of Adolf Eichmann..."

On Thursday, I'm off for some long-overdue TONSORIAL ATTENTION at the EMPORIUM O'HAIR. It is a hot and sticky day, so sitting in a reasonably cool hairdressers' salon being occasionally squirted with water is a pretty nice way to spend it. My head now once again resembles that of a blond and spiky German backpacker (or an antiquated Bart Simpson).

This morning, I'm posting one or two little [blink and you'll miss 'em] updates to Uncle Willy's webbo, while I groove to three new tunes added by ZEPHYR HAPPENSTANCE. If the epic "Einfach So" and "The Shape Is Bleeding" are anything to go by, I'd say the lad has been listening to TORTOISE or even JAGA JAZZIST. It's terrific stuff.

Week from Monday 18th July 2011

So we'd had a few days of HOT & CLAMMY, with promise of more to come over the weekend. I charged up some batteries for my camera and downloaded a running order, looking forward to a Saturday afternoon in the park with our Indian sub-continental brethren at the SOUTHAMPTON MELA. But come Saturday morning, I peeped through the blinds, only to see WIND & RAIN of the first magnitude. Not very promising at all. So, after considerable deliberation, I ended up doing the 'job' that I HAD planned for Sunday instead, which was to finish the CC:PP album, with its attendant sleevenotes and ARTYfacts, and upload it all to Bandcamp... Now THAT seems to have jump-started the flatlined Bandcamp site into some sort of life! There's been five - no! wait! SIX! - downloads of the album already, and people have been investigating some of the other tracks as a result. It's probably just a flash in the pan, but it is something.

The BBC PROMS are upon us again which, along with the crappy weather and the TOUR DE FRANCE, is a surefire sign that SUMMER is finally here. The first concert kicked off with a specially-commissioned choral fanfare by JUDITH WEIR, and ended with JANACEK's sprawling "Glagolitic Mess", sorry "Mass". I'm looking forward (mainly out of curiosity) to hearing a rare performance of  HAVERGAL BRIAN's famed Guinness Book of Records entry, his "Gothic" Symphony, a piece so enormous it makes Mahler's "Symphony Of A Thousand" look like a chamber work.

QUANDARY TUESDAY... Do I watch the live broadcast of the PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE GRILLINGS and save the first Alpine stage of the TOUR DE FRANCE until later? Or vice versa?

The downside of all this going on AT THE SAME TIME, is that I don't have much time for "SERIOUS READING" at the moment. The last piece of fiction I read was one of CHARLAINE HARRIS' "True Blood" novels - and that was weekends ago now! I have a couple of things [literally] 'stockpiled' on the shelf, but I'm currently limited to occasional five-minute flurries with the DAVID LYNCH biography; Otherwise, it's periodicals all the way (in particular an "Uncut" magazine special on PINK FLOYD, which I shall eventually read cover-to-cover).

Week from Monday 25th July 2011

On Friday, we had a massive power surge which took out the junction box and threatened to set fire to the hall cupboard. So the electricity was cut off and I was WITHOUT for twenty-four hours. How refreshing! 

On Saturday, I took that opportunity to go on a choo-choo ride to SUNNY SALISBURY, where I wandered aimlessly for a couple of hours, as y'do. 

I watched THE most amazing busker - a wizened gentleman picking lightning-fast popular classics on a banjo! Beethoven's Ninth never sounded better (and less pompous). The city is, of course, full of Eurotourists, so he was drawing a Covent Garden-sized audience.

The TOUR DE FRANCE is all over for another year. After a gripping but inconclusive couple of days in the Alps, a fairly predictable time trial and the mere formality that is the Champs Elysees green jersey showdown, once again it's "POOR OLD ANDY SCHLECK - ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID..."

Nothing seems to have happened on my[_____] since I was away(!). There are a few 'heartfelt' 'tributes' to one dishevelled wastrel of a chanteuse who, throughout her brief career, had shown little, if any, self-respect. Let's not kid ourselves then, she has SURPRISED ABSOLUTELY NOBODY by 'suddenly' checking into the exclusive TWENTY-SEVEN CLUB...

It's been a quiet week, in 'REAL' life as well as 'VIRTUAL'. I'm mainly waiting for other people to do their thing, so that I can do mine. Perhaps the muggy weather's making everyone lethargic. I managed to catch up with the backlog of "LE SHOW" podcasts and run a few errands. With plenty of opportunity for charity shop browsing along the way!

At the PROMS this year, they are presenting all three of BELA BARTOK's Piano Concertos, albeit with three different combinations of orchestra, soloist and conductor. So far, in the opening ten days or so, we've had the 3rd and the1st, with the 2nd to come in the middle of August. I can't describe just how THRILLING I find this music to be!

I haven't yet listened to the "World Music" Prom, featuring NITIN SAWHNEY's soundtrack to the "Human Planet" series, plus various throat-singers, yoiking Greenlanders and Papuan shark-callers. I think it will all make much more sense when I can WATCH it on BBC Four. Radio 3's 'world music' coverage customarily features far too much TALKING ABOUT MUSIC and not enough LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF, which is why their WOMAD broadcasts are no longer a highlight of my listening year. Last week's Indian Classical Prom could best be described as WORTHY rather than actually listenable. It featured this year's participants in the "WORLD ROUTES ACADEMY" so, of course, schoolma'am Lucy Duran was there to talk down to the audience as usual. Don't get me wrong, I love GOOD Indian classical music, but this was very dull radio indeed. Held up as an example of the Karnatic tradition, this concert lacked any cohesive flow or any of the FIRE that one gets from a good raga performance. There was far too much mood-spoiling waffle between the music.

DREAM DIARY... A canal journey from Watford to London and beyond... Crewed by myself, Shelfy, an art school lecturer (who had "booked the tickets") and his wife and kids... Our vessel, a plastic 'tugboat', a bit like a three-metre long miniature car ferry... Just as well it was plastic, as we occasionally had to pick it up and carry it overland. At one point, we had to take it through a railway ticket turnstile (on the "Brighton Line"?) and then push it along a busy ring road and up a hill (very Fitzcarraldo!) to the next stretch of canal, which featured an unnecessarily elaborate system of locks. I remember making a comment about "Dreeing My Weir...". I woke up, just as we arrived on the Thames. We were looking for the next canal "just under Charing Cross Bridge"...