Week from Monday 4th May 2015

MAY DAY... m'aidez... made, eh? 'Tis yet another Bang Collar Daemon Day, so it's off to the CAR BOOT SALE I do go! (I tried to explain the concept of the CAR BOOT SALE to my wee American friend. Even the name doesn't translate very well - the best I could come up with is "AUTOMOBILE TRUNK VENDING") Not a bad spread this morning, lots to LOOK at... but the only thing I bought in the end was an (earlier) album by OPETH. I will almost certainly hate it... but it has two things in its favour:- (1) It only cost me 50p, and (2) It has STEVEN WILSON's name on it. Scandinavian heavy metal it might be, but at least I can be fairly certain that it is IMMACULATELY RECORDED Scandinavian heavy metal! [Just for the record:- I don't dislike it! I'm very impressed at the astonishing level of musicianship involved... but I have to say that the daft "Death Metal"-stylised vocals prevent me from taking it too seriously...]

In between a couple of jobs for UNCLE WILLY, I've been putting together the artwork for 'THE DIFFICULT FOURTH CC:PP ALBUM'. With all the lyrics and a couple of splashes of ART, the 'Build It Yourself' booklet now runs to twenty pages! I'm still waiting for CC to type up a couple of the pieces, so there's some "LOREM IPSUM" placeholders in there, but it's all starting to take shape... This morning, now that the whole sorry mess is over, I feel that I can now pay closer attention to the GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS, via the BBC TV News behind my right shoulder... Meanwhile (on the Twittersphere via Time Magazine via several other social networks):- Some wag has pointed out that the Beeb's completed ELECTION MAP jigsaw, with its spiky yellow head and blue body, looks just like Maggie Simpson!

Week from Monday 11th May 2015

A while back, our Shelfy put forward the 'idea' of making a short film for which I was to provide the music... Naturally, in my usual bull-at-gate-stylee enthusiasm, I immediate started writing some music for such a project. But as we know, once an idea has passed through his brain, he gets bored with it, and no such film was ever made (You'd think I would have learned from previous experience by now!). This weekend, I watched a fabulous documentary about BRIAN ENO. Now THERE'S a fellow who has bright ideas and then sees them through! This spurred me on to some creativity of my own... so I dug out all the soundtrack fragments that I already had and set about sculpting them into a FINISHED piece. The resulting ten-minute tone poem has been given the title "NISEMONO", which is Japanese for 'fake' or 'forgery'. This is to reflect the fact that much of it sounds like fake Oriental music. There's definitely a story running through it, but I don't know what it is yet. Maybe "ANOTHER LEGEND OF TOKAI HAIKU" or summat...? I'm putting it out there on SOUNDCLOUD and elsewhere, in the hope that someone in Movieland might be inspired to do something with it...

DREAM DIARY... I'm building a drum kit from various items fished out of Fareham Creek...

It's a sobering thought that the R Stones (pronounced 'Arse Tones') recorded "SATISFACTION" an entire HALF-A-CENTURY ago this week. Of course, it had to exist so that THE RESIDENTS and DEVO could record MUCH MUCH better versions of it many years later...

After my success at getting that old FLAT-BED SCANNER working again through the magic of LINUX, this week I'm having a go at getting my USB TURNTABLE to communicate with my laptop. Which I did. Hoorah! But it also raises the question - WHY do so many of these external peripheral doobries NOT work with what is, in effect, a brand new Windoze set-up? On the one hand, it's a nice, simple, neatly constructed, very quiet and otherwise powerful little integrated motherboard. On the other, it's rather TOO simple and you can't connect anything to it. In particular, the built-in soundcard is determined to offer only one-way traffic (in short, it won't record anything!). I admit that I bought the new peecee in an emergency and in a hurry. Had I had more time to think about it, I might haven't chosen more wisely. SAY LAVVY... Thank Torvald then, for my having a laptop that WILL (with a little exploration and persuasion) do many of the things that the desktop WON'T do.

DREAM DIARY... Staying in a big (Vicarage-like) house... wandering the corridors, looking for bathrooms that might have any traces of hair product left in the cabinets... Got into a discussion with a leather-jacketed fellow (who was the boyfriend of the sister of a friend of a friend) about a new Bill Bruford 'career retrospective' box-set that he'd just bought. I find that I have a detailed knowledge and total recall for old drum solos... (Hmmm, a lot of 'drums' dreams this week...)

Week from Monday 18th May 2015

I'm making a start on phase two of what Shelfy has tagged the "GOD ON A BIKE" project - gubnint regulations on rich folks' tax allowances and charitable contributions have changed yet again, so all the sponsor forms have to do likewise. It's another world, ain't it? Meanwhile, I've been watching (but mainly just listening to) Armando Iannucci's sweary political satire "IN THE LOOP", as well as this week's "LE SHOW".

This year's EUROVISION SONG CONTEST is upon us... but once again, I can't possibly see myself sitting through the whole sorry mess IN REAL TIME. No, I prefer to 'tape' the broadcasts and then, at a more convenient time, "SPEED-READ" past all the broken-english identiballads, in search of the CHOICE NUGGETS that I just KNOW will be in there somewhere. A lot of TRUE fans will have watched all the previews, discussed them on Twitbook and will have made up their minds about their own favourites, MONTHS in advance... but I remain blissfully oblivious to all that sort of nonsense. I don't even know who or what is representing the UK this year (I feel sure that I won't like it!). I prefer to keep it all a surprise until the night(s) and only then, once I've heard something that amuses me, will I look it up on That YouTube They Have Now.

But I've got a GRYPHON concert to attend today, so there won't be time for that sort of frivolity JUST yet (We have another of those 'Bang Collar Daemon Daze' coming up, so I'll probably save the whole shebang for then).
AN EVENING WITH THE ECLECTIC PROG-FOLK MEDIEVALISTS GRYPHON at Southampton's top nightery, The Talking Heads, Wednesday 20th May 2015... What an odd venue; it's a sort of barn-sized hall through the back of a pub. It would be hard to describe its size without comparison with other venues you might not have been to, like the old Marquee Club in Wardour Street... So over the years I've seen this band in folk clubs, proper concert halls, stadia, cathedrals and now a pub!
THE OPENING NUMBER is that old old opening number called "OPENING NUMBER", the medley of dance tunes put together by Dortmund's very own Tylman Susato in the fifteen-hundreds... "THE ASTROLOGER" is up next with both David Oberlé and Brian Gulland in fine folky voice... The bookend medley; the first album's "KEMP'S JIG" and "ESTAMPIE" have now been concatenated into one... a spookily lovely expanded version of "THE UNQUIET GRAVE"... then Mr Taylor's solo showpiece "CROSSING THE STILES"... a fantastic "JUNIPER SUITE", now made possible by the expanded line-up... the first 'half' finishes with "DUBBEL DUTCH", a cracker!
Interval nattering with other seasoned veterans - I reckon everyone in this room is some kind of musician, all of them 'talking shop'...
SECOND 'HALF'... several epic longer numbers, including the main feature, "MIDNIGHT MUSHRUMPS"... That fine Gryphon rarity ("a track that should have been on the fourth album..."), "ASHES"... then a lovely surprise for those of us who long to hear "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" in its entirety... well, not quite, but they did play "LAMENT" all the way through, followed by the "RED QUEEN MEDLEY" as showcased at the 2009 reunion... The set concludes with a "new song" (if you can call a medley of 16th century dances by various European court composers "new"). It currently has the working title of "EU DANCES"...
They don't bother to leave the stage before the encore, because there's nowhere to go, so they go straight into the completely bonkers "LA CAMBRIOLEUR EST DANS LE MOUCHOIR"... this segues into what can best be described as A SORT OF 'HOT CLUB' JAZZ MEDLEY with fiddle and clarinet to the fore and a spectacular bit of one-note trombone playing by Mr Gulland. Much fun can be had counting the number of different instruments that Richard Harvey and Graham Preskett play in the course of one 'song' (I was sat just in front of their side of the stage, so I could see all the frantic swapping going on)...
A fine evening's entertainment, although maybe it lacked the sense of occasion that the 'one-off' reunion had. Despite the odd technical hitch involving broken bassoon reeds, or the bass guitar maybe not QUITE matching the intonation of the harmonium at times, they have never SOUNDED better (PA systems was crap in them days, guv!)
Phew! After that, I'd normally treat myself to a LIE-IN, but this morning I've got an appointment at THE EMPORIUM OF HAIR for some TLC of the tonsorial kind. I've been AFK since yesterday teatime, but I'm fielding some e-correspondence via MY LITTLE ANDROID. Why do some folks take so long to respond to things you sent them over a week ago? And what county IS ruddy Bournemouth in anyway?

Sunday afternoon's cinematic treat is "APOCALYPSE NOW". And what a cinematic treat! They wouldn't make a movie like that now. In those days, filmmakers like Coppola did it FOR REAL, they didn't cheat using CGI and 'fixing it in post'... Meanwhile, I'm currently having a bit of a craze for THE FLYING JEFFS (that's the Jefferson Starship and/or Airplane to you!)...

Week from Monday 25th May 2015

Okay, let's do this! It's Spring Bank Holiday Monday and I've sort of committed myself to a day of EUROVISION! I've avoided all coverage throughout last week and I have over seven-and-a-half hours of unviewed, unheard broadcasts saved on the digibox... the object of the exercise is to reduce that length of time considerably and get through it as quickly as possible (Then it'll be all over for another year and I can go back to listening to Jefferson Airplane! Do you get the impression that my heart's not really in it?)
SEMI FINAL #1 (Last Tuesday)
MOLDOVA - "I Want Your Love"... groan, that's not a good start. Tuneless and ghastly, all 90s drum programming and cakky dancing, dressed as American cops...(failed to qualify)
ARMENIA - English has never been so broken... One of those interminable boy/girl band ballads in which every member of the group gets to sing one line each (and there's a lot of them!). Featuring a large tree.
BELGIUM - Impenetrable accents (Didn't he just sing something about "skinny wombles..."?) "We're gonna rap-bap-bap rap-bap-bap tonight..." I understood that bit.
NETHERLANDS - "Whay ay ay ay" indeed? nasal and screechy and annoying! (failed to qualify)
FINLAND - Trust the Finns to think outside the box. A punk-metal band with learning difficulties. It sounds like "Bad News" really... (failed to qualify)
GREECE - Directionless ballad, distinguished only by the fact that one line sounds like "Come back and spank me..."
ESTONIA - Someone's been watching "Nashville". At least they made an effort with the lyrics. Reminds me of Chris Isaak until the female joins in...
FYR MACEDONIA - Is it just me, or are the attempts at 'English' even more dense this year? Earnest boy-band crap. (failed to qualify)
SERBIA - It's not over till the fat lady sings. Oh, please let it be over! "I'm different and that's okay..." she warbles. But not 'different' enough...
HUNGARY - Another earnest anti-war ballad, but I'm still waiting for something to happen. Ah look, there's another tree...
BELARUS - Same piano intro, same George Michael clone, same ol' same ol'... (failed to qualify)
RUSSIA - Big Power Ballad... "a million voices... we all believe in the dream..." Didn't the likes of Pat Benatar do all this kind of thing in the eighties? Nice frocks though...
DENMARK - Yikes! This one sounds exactly like the ruddy Proclaimers! (failed to qualify)
ALBANIA - I liked the "Ay ay ay ay eh!" bits, but apart from that, it's a snoozefest.
ROMANIA - They sing in their own language, which is a bonus. But the song is an earnestly sub-Gabrielesque charity number about the kiddies being our future bla bla bla
GEORGIA - Last year's Georgian entry was my favourite. It failed to qualify. This year, they rolled out some goth chick to shriek one of the two songs in this year's contest called "Warrior". It sounded horrible but looked nice and they did qualify.
I managed to speed through the first two-hour semi-final show before breakfast! Things are going great. I haven't heard anything I actually like yet though, let alone made any attempt to second-guess a winner. Onwards and upwards (or maybe spiral even further downwards):-
SEMI FINAL #2 (Last Thursday)
LITHUANIA - Catchy as hell, but ultimately dreadful. It'll probably win (Hang on? Is that a banjo I can hear?)
IRELAND Very Irish, but it's no "My Lovely Horse". The voice is so contrivedly 'modern' that it's even more impenetrable than the eastern European efforts. There's another sodding tree on the stage. (failed to qualify)
SAN MARINO - The music is good (nice string arrangements) but the song is drivel, yet more of that "let's all light candles and join hands..." nonsense (failed to qualify)
MONTENEGRO - I actually found myself listening to this one all the way through, which is a good sign. A few 'world music' touches and it's all in the native lingo, so it was quite listenable.
MALTA - The other of this year's songs called "Warrior". It's also shrill and clad all in black. (failed to qualify)
NORWAY - This sounds like everything ever recorded since about 1990. Not for me then.
PORTUGAL - This year's more obvious Loreena tribute act. It's in Portuguese. I like the sampled guitar stabs, but I didn't like the rather hackneyed key modulation.
CZECH REPUBLIC - Piano intro, check... George Michael, check... Tattooed Czech chick, check... Earnest chorus of hope, yada yada, check... (failed to qualify)
ISRAEL - I'm too old for this shit. The best thing about it is the boots.
LATVIA - Another frock that looks like a blancmange, another song that sounds like "Euphoria". It's rather good actually (but then so was "Euphoria"). My favourite to win (which it won't).
AZERBAIJAN - Only the visuals distinguish this from the crowd. Otherwise dull.
ICELAND - It did nothing for me, but it ticked all the standard Eurovision boxes, which made it all the more surprising that it... (failed to qualify)
SWEDEN - "We are the heroes of our time..." No, you're not. Next.
SWITZERLAND - Ah! I was wondering where all the fake drummers had got to this year. Otherwise, it sounds a little like something by Heart. (failed to qualify)
CYPRUS - A nice acoustic guitar accompaniment, but the song definitely sounds like something else that I can't put my finger on (You know that acoustic ballad by Extreme? That one! Crossed with "Summer The First Time" by Bobby Goldsboro)
SLOVENIA - She's wearing a nice big fat pair of studio Sennheisers on stage, but why exactly? A nice touch with the theatricals is that the fake musicians are playing imaginary 'air' instruments. Instrumentally, there's a lot going on in this song, which is good.
POLAND - Sadly not a sequel to last year's memorable Polish entry. Yet another piano-driven identiballad in a big frock. And a wheelchair.
For musicality and (comparative) originality, I singled out the MONTENEGRO, LATVIA, SLOVENIA and PORTUGAL entries. But what do I know? The lovely Portuguese lady with her smoking Loreena-goth image and the rather obvious key change didn't even pull any votes. And what I thought were Euroformula hits (dreadful, yet definitively so) from IRELAND and ICELAND didn't qualify either. I really shouldn't try to second guess this stuff. I now know what to skip over in the finals and I can just concentrate on the comedy voting. The following countries qualify automatically because they're paying for the whole mess (That's right, AUSTRALIA is now in Europe. Do you have a problem with that?):-
THE FINALS (Saturday night)
FRANCE - A stubbornly French torch ballad much like every other stubbornly French torch ballad. The fake drummers make an appearance towards the end.
UNITED KINGDOM - This is the sixtieth year of Eurovision... so, to show that we were in it from the beginning, we field an act that looks like Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson. Unfortunately the song sounds more like an outtake from an old album by Sailor.
AUSTRALIA - The song sounds like something Terence Trent D'Arby might have done in the eighties. There's some nice Earth Wind & Fire brass stabs. But the show-offy voice insists on itself a bit too much and gets on yer nerves after a while.
AUSTRIA - With their long hair and fake posturing, they look and sound like a pub-rock band who might have signed to Rocket Records in about 1974. During the middle-eight, the piano catches fire for no apparent reason.
GERMANY - Not a bad song, with some nice instrumental touches. But like so many others, the vocals are a nasal, melismatic nightmare.
SPAIN - It's in Spanish, but it's standard and very familiar power-ballad fodder. Unsurprisingly, the word 'corazón' turns up a lot during the course of its three minutes. She somehow manages to change frocks in the middle of the song.
ITALY - A big operatic power-ballad, a sort of Three Tenors with added boy-band appeal. The tune is infuriatingly similar to certain other power-ballads I wouldn't care to mention.
There's a lot of big ballads this year. All very similar. Having heard everything at least once now, I still like the MONTENEGRO entry the best - Very Balkan! But it can't possibly win. The LATVIA song is probably the strongest musically, if you're looking for a bonafide POP HIT. But which song is a Eurovision winner? That's NOT the same question as "Which is the best song in the contest?" by any stretch of the imagination! Before the funny voting starts, I would single out either SWEDEN or LITHUANIA. I don't actually like them, but I THINK they have that certain Eurovision thing going for them. But that doesn't take into consideration the all-new Australian Factor in the voting... and the 'political' nature of the voting in the rest of Europe. Neighbour votes for neighbour, politic allies scratch each other's backs. The UK can't possibly win, even if, by some miracle, they put forward the best song (which it most definitely isn't). Because nobody in Yurp likes us. The fun begins...

As usual, while everyone is voting, we pass the time with an interval MUSICAL SPECTACULAR. It had more artistic merit than the rest of the actual competition combined. A big pan-global percussion ensemble, combined with a 'big-band' brass section made up of members of the Vienna Phil, the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, with some Mahler-esque alpine interludes thrown in, along with the kitchen sink. Superb stuff! The recording on the videobox runs to well over three and a half hours, but it still missed the end of the show 'cos the broadcast overran into the news slot... so now I've gone to the iPLAYER to catch up with the end of the voting. I singled out SWEDEN as a possible winner and I could be right for once. I've already forgotten what it sounds like, but it's the Marti Pellow look-alike doing something called "Heroes", remarkable only for the clever animated presentation. The song itself is drivel. The home country got 'nul points', as did Germany. The UK scraped a couple of points (from Ireland and Malta) to keep us off the bottom. My favourites from MONTENEGRO and LATVIA (surprisingly) achieved a reasonable position in the top half of the board. Lots of people voted for ITALY's operatic tenors and RUSSIA's entry, which definitely could have been written by Diane Warren sometime around 1985. But there was really nothing in the contest this year that I'd ever need to hear again. Phew... thank gawd THAT'S over... now what ELSE is happening in the world...?

Back on the 'GOD ON A BIKE' project... this morning, I'm doing my SUMS, calculating print quantities and figuring out who gets what. Listening to - yes! you guessed it! - the shabby folk-rock stylings of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (and affiliated artistes) as well as catching up with my usual radio podcasts.

It dawned on me that, what with one thing or another, I haven't left the house since last Thursday. Oh my... Well, there's a lull in the schedule now, so... WALKIES! ...if only into the town centre and back (doing the rounds of the charity shops along the way).

FRIDAY... The sky is as black as a witch's whatchamacallit and twice as lively... Down to Gozzy to deliver the 'GOD ON A BIKE' stuff to the production department. I can now forget about it all for a few days, before I have to set up my COLLATION STATION again. During a brief period of "REAL WORK PROCRASTINATION", I paid a visit to the fine establishment of Our Old Space and had a play with the CSS/CUSTOMIZE PROFILE gubbins... I revisited one or two old schemes that I had knocking around and tried out some new ideas as well. It's the HTMLer's equivalent of doodling on the back of an envelope. It's either that or lose endless games of backgammon to my cheating laptop. But then the phone rang... At the moment, I've left myself in a state of profile nakedness - quite refreshing after all these years! The occasionally-ongoing research will probably continue over on my 'test page' for a while, until I come up with something I can happily live with...

I'm watching a superb documentary about BLUE NOTE RECORDS that was on BBC4 last night - swoooon! - followed by a classic DAVE BRUBECK concert from the "JAZZ 625" archives, freshly restored and upsampled (after all, tellies now have a few more scan lines than the mere six hundred and twenty five that gave the show its title!) and rightfully in glorious black and white (it's so much more 'jazz', somehow). When I was a wee lad, it was TV programmes such as this that opened my eyes and ears to a whole world of music, making me realise just how feeble most contemporary pop was (and is) in comparison...