Week from Monday 7th March 2016

And now the tedious bit... counting and collating and stickering and envelope-stuffing and posting, alive alive oh!

I put PROGZILLA RADIO on while I was working. It seemed to make the day go swimmingly. It's always nice when they throw the odd CLASSIC track into the playlist, but now I've heard enough to realise that I don't actually like very much of the current music that CALLS ITSELF "prog". There is nothing whatsoever about it that is 'PROGRESSIVE'. It restricts itself to a predefined, audience-pleasing musical vocabulary (i.e. cliché), as much as does any other genre. All modern "prog" is VERY derivative of what went before, and much of it is fairly boring as a result. Some of it is laughably SPINAL TAP-like. I'm inclined to agree with STEVEN WILSON, who pointed out that a lot of the current exponents of "prog" (specifically the sub-genre "prog-metal") sound pretty much interchangeable. Or, as ROBERT JOHN GODFREY (out of The Enid) puts it, in the latest "PROG" magazine:-
"Now prog is just bog. Most of it is now meaningless, shallow nonsense. It is either a poor parody of things gone past, or is a cynical attempt to try and feed the prog community with the sort of stuff they are used to. Now we have nothing challenging, no new ideas and nothing behind it..."
I think it would be safe to say that my own default musical 'COMFORT ZONE' is somewhere down at the 'JAZZIER' end of the spectrum. FLASH-FOR-THE-SAKE-OF-BEING-FLASH virtuosic playing and 'clever' arrangements, while IMPRESSIVE on face value, just aren't enough to actually MOVE me. I require a goodly dose of IMPROVISATION to get the hairs on the back of MY neck a-tingling. There needs to be a sense of ADVENTURE involved. That's probably one reason why I constantly find that '70s King Crimson pushes all the right buttons for me, but '80s King Crimson doesn't so much. And why the Mahavishnu Orchestra were 'better' at shredding than Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. And why I will usually find an extended set by the Grateful Dead (always on the verge of falling apart) more stimulating than any number of tight, slick, highly-rehearsed rock performances (Sorry, musos!)
PP • braces himself as he expects to lose followers amongst the 'prog' community...
DR • No. I agree with you. Old prog seems often to have been created by mistake. Current prog seems often to be created on purpose...
PP • ...which brings us back to the differences between 'progressive' and 'Prog'. They are not the same thing.
PP • 'progressive' suggests an experimental, expansive approach to creativity, but 'Prog' (capital P) is a marketing category.
WB • I rather liked Robert John Godfrey's rant and for the most part agreed with everything he said.
PP • Thing is, if I want to listen to (eg) Yes, then I'll put on some Yes. I don't listen to someone who "sounds a bit like Yes".
WB • I agree. It's just nice to hear a contrary opinion on a genre that is generally quite snobby.
Another "CONVENIENT OUTLET FOR THE KEEN (BUT FAR FROM SERIOUS) AMATEUR MUSICIAN" is falling into the hands of Big Bizniz. SOUNDCLOUD is suggesting that it will become a 'subscription-only' service within a matter of months. Soundcloud's current owners, like those of all the other music-oriented 'social' sites along the way, have seen that the big bucks come when they pander to those who want to 'monetize' their music. What attracted me to Soundcloud, when they originally started, was its very European agenda. It set itself apart from Silicon Valley expectations and it was full of sound artists, field recording archivists and electronic experimentalists. But I suppose that can never last once it got noticed. When a corporation 'acquires an asset' like Soundcloud, for whatever reason, they see it as an opportunity to "RELAUNCH", thus changing it into something else entirely. What inevitably happens is the site will then become the domain of those who desperately want to be "stars", and the place will be awash with wannabee singer-songwriters and/or R&B divas and rappers. In other words, THE MAINSTREAM. I've seen this happen to a certain other creative-driven "PLACE FOR FRIENDS" that has been co-opted by THE INDUSTRY. No longer a place for oddballs like me, who stubbornly do it for free. I suppose I'd better start moving my crap over to YouTube then. I'll get me coat...

Sir George Martin gone... Nana Vasconcelos gone...

NANA VASCONCELOS was a musician who had a unique, immediately identifiable sound. It didn't matter who he collaborated with (Joe Zawinul, Don Cherry, Andy Sheppard, Shankar, Pat Metheny, etc etc etc, the list is incredible), you could spot him on a recording a mile off! There's probably not THAT many percussionists of whom you could say that...

Needless to say, everyone is banging away on the wireless about "THE FIFTH BEATLE"... I don't think the mopheads would even have been THAT good if it weren't for SIR GEORGE MARTIN. But of Martin's many contributions to The Music, the ones that I will always treasure are those amazing PETER SELLERS comedic soundscapes, the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's cinematic "Apocalypse" album and his fabulous "THEME ONE", so memorably covered by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. Or if you're in a mellow AOR sort of a mood, let's not forget he also produced all those hits by AMERICA.

Well, it's been nice twittering away this morning (at extraordinary length, I might add!), but I really must go AFK and get some proper work done... and a decent WALK wouldn't go amiss either! Only now the 'pooter wants to run its tedious monthly WINDOZE UPDATES routine, so I have to monitor it to make sure it doesn't sneak any of that persistent "GWX" nonsense through the back door... The best approach to WINDOZE ruddy UPDATES is to manually choose the ones you NEED, and then go for YER WALKIES while they download. If you stare at the screen while it's going on, it's like watching paint dry!

Now where's that copy of SOFT MACHINE's "FOURTH"? I need my fix of good old-fashioned JAZZNOISE!

There was the inevitable BACKLASH in the 'pages' of "PROG" magazine, following MR GODFREY's previous comments. In a statement commenting on the comments to his comment, Sayeth The Man:-
"Am I the only one fed-up with a diet of comfort food made up of carefully crafted pastiche?"
Clearly, you are. Touchy lot, them 'prog' fans. God forbid anyone should point out the shortcomings inherent in their chosen genre, the main one being that it doesn't actually PROGress anymore. But having said that, although I enjoyed their early work, I wouldn't exactly cite THE ENID as an example of all that is groundbreakingly adventurous in modern music either.
DC • Prog can't (and doesn't) exist in a bubble. Something the more conservative prog fans still fail to appreciate.
PP • Can something be 'conservative' AND 'progressive'? My head just exploded!
DC • Ha, you'd be amazed. Or, more likely, you wouldn't :-P.
Meanwhile, on the DGMLive gussetbook, "fans" have expressed their opinions on the fact that BILL RIEFLIN will not be able to make the forthcoming KING CRIMSON tour, so the band has recruited JEREMY STACEY to deputise. Some of them questioned whether Bill or Jeremy "belong" in King Crimson at all. Messrs Fripp and Singleton have called their comments "stupid, uninformed and dopey". Once again the role of the online forum is called into question, and it has been suggested that the Guestbook has had its day and should go the way of Elephant Talk. (Thinks: Given that postings have be 'approved' before they appear on the page anyway, what were the 'disapproved' ones like?) If there is one thing guaranteed to spoil a King Crimson party, it is the behaviour of ROCK FANS, with their indignant air of entitlement. Sidney-wittily-twitted, "New rule: No band can have a new member unless elected and approved by a clear majority of fans on music forums..."

There's a RECORD FAIR in Brighton this weekend, but I don't think I can manage it this time around. Not only are funds currently a little tight, the 'adventure' would involve THE TERRORS OF WEEKEND PUBLIC TRANSPORT! That means yomping to the railway station at an ungodly hour on Sunday morning (because the venue is only open from 8.30am to early afternoon)... Settling in for the longish, slowish haul to Brighton Central, only to find that there's also a 'replacement bus service' somewhere along the way. IT BEING SUNDAY AND ALL. You set off at about six-thirty and you're lucky if you can get there before midday! I prefer my trips to Brighton to be a little more LAISSEZ-ALLER, lazy alley...

Week from Monday 14th March 2016

Saturday morning, I wake up to find that the Grim Reaper has now ticked KEITH EMERSON off the list... suddenly, the works of Emerson Lake & Palmer are on everybody's playlist. But not mine. When I hear that yet another musical 'hero' has died, I find that I CAN'T listen to their music for ages afterwards. It usually takes me a while. (In the case of FRANK ZAPPA, it actually took several YEARS before I was able to sit through a whole album of his again.)

EXPERIMENTING WITH VIDEO... the kind that doesn't really DO anything, much like the music it is meant to accompany. I figured that, if I am going to make YouTube my musical 'BASE OF OPERATIONS' now, I really ought to give folks something to LOOK at, if they are to stick around to LISTEN. I shall leave the comedic multi-layered video extravaganzas to the ODD-POP concern ('cos I can't do that sort of thing anyway) and persist with my own signature brand of MINIMAL VIDEO ART, those sort of 'paintings that move' that I've done previously. As with the music, I am interested in exploring the PROCESS, seeing what I can generate with the tools I have. The best I can hope for, video-wise, is a cheap camera phone and an ancient version of SERIF MOVIEPLUS.

I just updated my 'JUKEBOX' PLAYLIST on this here webbydiarythingy, but... the COFFEECUP site is having one of its "WEBSITE UNDER MAINTENANCE" off-days, so it must remain a mystery for the time being! This afternoon, I've been celebrating the fact that THE SUN IS FINALLY OUT with a goodly dose of caribbean-ness, courtesy of some BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (it being the birthday also of one RYLAND PETER COODER). This was followed by a (newly-acquired from charity outlet) PHILIP GLASS soundtrack, which I found provided such an appropriate 'ambience' for the late afternoon, that I put the CD player on 'auto repeat' and let it get on with it.

Ah! we're back.

M!¢r0$ØfT keep finding new and insidious ways of FORCING their "free" "gift" of a Windows 10 "upgrade" on everyone who has a peecee running an older M!¢r0$ØfT operating system. Even if a user has previously opted out and said "Thanks, but no thanks, I'm quite happy where I am." But the M!¢r0$ØfT policy is that THEY own the operating system, not YOU, so they are quite within their power to change anything on YOUR computer without asking. They want EVERYONE to be happyhappyjoyjoy on their silver-liney Cloud, running the same standard software. Only it seems that giving people the CHOICE of an upgrade didn't work quickly enough in their favour, so now they're trying to sneak "GWX" onto folks' computers through the back door.

I've so far managed to stay ahead of it (touch wood... or maybe, touch silicon!) by monitoring every single Windoze Update manually; regularly checking for hidden download folders; running Josh Mayfield's excellent "ULTIMATE OUTSIDER" program GWX CONTROL PANEL; using Windows Firewall against itself to keep out M!¢r0$ØfT's 'helpful' TELEMETRY (They can seeeeee youuuuu!!!). In a nutshell, I now spend as much time guarding against M!¢r0$ØfT's own proprietary brand of 'spyware' as I do against other maliciousnesses!

I do have a lot of time on my hands, don't I?

But I can see how people could easily get caught out if they are either not comfortable with pee-cee dee-eye-why or simply don't have the time. Normal People will 'trust' M!¢r0$ØfT enough to let them run everything automatically. That, I'm afraid, is NOT a good way of doing things in this day and age! "SOLO BASS STEVE" was shocked to find his laptop resetting itself and going into its upgrade installation routine, while he was in front of a roomful of students giving a Powerpoint presentation!

I've somehow gone several days without listening to ANY music you might file under "ROCK". I've strayed from the righteous path of progitude (if you don't count The Pink Floyd doing 'country' on the "ZABRISKIE POINT" soundtrack). But hey! When the sun comes out, so does the "WORLD MUSIC" box! If I'm going to listen to pop music, then let it be rhythmically exotic, played on funny foreign instruments and in a language that I don't understand! This morning, though, I decided to plunge back into the deep end of the rockpool, with PETER HAMMILL's seminal "FOOLS MATE" album. I guess you'd call that "rock"...?

I hit my favourite local OXFAM SHOP during this morning's WALKIES... came away with a two-on-one seedy of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST's first two albums (They REALLY wanted to be the Beatles in the early days, didn't they?) and a live CURVED AIR album, which I found to be mostly unlistenable on account of Ms Kristina rather laying it on too thick with the screechy 'soul' vocals. Someone else can have that one! I also spotted the "Tonto Rides Again" anthology by TONTO'S EXPANDING HEAD BAND, but they were asking FAR too high a price. Their two albums are considered pioneering works in the history of electronic music, but I don't think I ever found them so interesting that I would pay £15 for a secondhand CD!

I put the question to my immediate twitterverse, 'Am I the only one who can't listen to the song "Experience" by GENTLE GIANT without hearing it as "Underground, overground, wombling freeeeeee..."?'. Check out the riff that the bass introduces at about two-and-a-half minutes in. No? Nobody? Just me then!

Week from Monday 21st March 2016

Go away! The new KING CRIMSON album has arrived!

Actually, at this point in the afternoon, I haven't yet listened to it. Far too sunny out for that! On returning from my WALKIES, I sat down and read the copious sleeve-notes... but LISTENING requires more of a SENSE OF OCCASION. I don't want it to be just "OFFICE AMBIENCE", mere background listening while I busy myself with other tasks. It deserves my respect and undivided attention, at least for the first time I play it... After dark, in an unlit room (thus free from visual distractions) and on headphones (thus free from audible ones).

I turned my attention instead to SOFT MACHINE's "SEVEN", a topic of conversation on the twitscape this morning. I wouldn't agree with those who expressed the opinion that it is their best record (I'm still more of a "FOURTH" man myself). I'd say this was something of a transitional period in SoftHistory, when Karl Jenkins' compositions were beginning to assert themselves in the setlists, the music required fewer horns and more synthesizers, and the band was heading in the direction of a new record label and the recruitment of a guitarist. Mind you, as I'm seeing the current band live this Thursday, the Softies and their Legacy haven't been VERY far from the jukebox lately! I didn't need TOO much of an excuse to put it on... It does make for very nice listening this fine afternoon.

If anyone tweets "JE SUIS BELGIQUE" this morning, I will barf in tricolour...
For the full immersive experience, I strapped on the AKGs and turned out the lights. IT IS VERY SPECIAL INDEED. It is an album that really requires listening to intently and without distraction.
Naturally, I found myself comparing the performance with how I remember the Brighton gig.
NEGATIVE POINTS FIRST:- I thought the songs that got the loudest cheers on the night ("Epitaph" and "The Court of the Crimson King") actually turned out to be the weakest musical performances on disc (Just crowd-pleasers? Maybe. If you were to beat a confession out me, my own view is that the 21st Century Schizoid Band was much better suited at tackling the 'orchestral' ItCotCK repertoire)
The Toronto version of "Sailor's Tale" isn't QUITE as jawdroppingly awesome as I witnessed in the flesh. Close, but... perhaps there is something about that number that CAN'T be captured on record?
On the other hand, "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part I" and "Easy Money" are everything 'MY OWN EYES AND EARS' took away from the live experience - and much much more!
Surprisingly (well, to me anyway), the Belew-period 'math-rock' instrumentals - "VROOOM", "Level Five", especially "The ConstruKCtion of Light" - come off rather well here. The pieces are MUCH more interesting on close hearing. Obviously, many of these songs' finer intricacies were lost to me though the acoustics of the concert hall.
"Red" wasn't played in Brighton, but the performance in Toronto shows that this number has come along in leaps and bounds since they rolled it out at the Albany Egg in 2014 (Yes, I've heard the b***legs!). I always thought this song sounded over-busy (and, frankly, a bit of a mess) when played by an expanded line-up - this was also my opinion when The Crimson ProjeKCt did it - but The Seven Headed Beast is starting to stamp its own identity on the piece and make it come to life in new and exciting ways...
(more comments to come when I've LIVED WITH the album for a few days!)
On the umpteenth listen through of disc two, it occurred to me that it must be nigh on impossible to sing the line "THE PURPLE PIPER PLAYS HIS TUNE..." in a live situation, without POPPING THE MIC (What we veterans of the studio used to call the "Cardboard-Box-O-Phone Effect"). You can clearly hear JAKKO doing exactly that on the Toronto recording of "The Court...". Well, it so happens that Mr JAKSZYK is currently listening through the 'tapes', picking out material for the comprehensive LIVE ALBUM due in September, and he confirmed that this happens quite a lot! One 'P' is enough, but five of them in quick succession? Siiiiiiin-fiiieeeeeeeeld! Peter's "purple piper plays", a potent pack of problem plosives...

So off up that Southampton to see SOFT MACHINE (with or without their LEGACY)... This is essentially the band that has called itself SOFT MACHINE LEGACY for the last few years, but it is now fifty years since THE SOFT MACHINE came into existence, so I guess they decided to use the original name to mark the occasion.

Not that this band bears ANY resemblance to the original, of course. But wasn't that always the Soft Machine 'thing', an ever shifting personnel and no two albums by the same line-up? For this tour, drummer JOHN MARSHALL has a sick note for a bad back, so that means yet another change. NIC FRANCE is deputising, being a longtime associate of the other members of the band in various other projects.

The material they play pretty much draws on the same repertoire they've been playing as THE LEGACY for the last few seasons... 'THE NEW': self-penned numbers from the Legacy albums, plus 'THE OLD': choice selections from the 'classic' Softies (pieces by Ratledge, Hopper, Jenkins et al). On this occasion, they played songs from "THIRD", "FOURTH", "SIX", "BUNDLES", "SOFTS" and the Legacy albums "STEAM" and "BURDEN OF PROOF". But these are just the 'heads', the jumping-off points. It is in the nature of this music that it will NEVER EVER sound exactly the same way twice. And that's how I like it!

No disrespect meant to the superb guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE, who pretty much holds the whole thing together in many ways, but the shining star of the show is, for me, THEO TRAVIS. I'd seen and heard him in other contexts before, but only as a sideman or in a collaborative situation. Free to fly, he is truly astonishing.

The rhythm section (NIC FRANCE on drums and ROY BABBINGTON on basso profundo) are at their best when they are laying down those swinging vintage MACHINEgrooves, while the soloists find deviant ways to bend the tunes into new and interesting shapes. Soft Machine may have come a LONG LONG way from the days of Wyatt, Allen and Ayers, but there are still times when the music they produce could be called 'psychedelic'. Tonight's version of "Facelift" for example, ended up in some extraordinary spaces, almost threatening at one point to turn into something like "Interstellar Overdrive"! Theo's tune "Voyage Around Seven" (?I think?) is at times 'spacerock' by any other name (Ah! all those years spent in GONG!). There were some magick moments when Etheridge turned the effects pedals up to eleven, abandoned all ties to conventional western notation and really went off into some unexplored region of space...

Oh! but I'm gushing now, aren't I?! Anyway, until somebody corrects me on this (maybe one of those folks who were busily typing into their iPhones during the gig), I THINK this was the setlist. I probably misheard some titles along the way and I might be a little out on the running order, but here goes:-

The Talking Heads, Southampton, 24/03/16

The Steamer
Hazard Profile I
Chloe and the Pirates
Voyage Beyond Seven
Song of Aeolus
Grape Hound

Burden of Proof
Last Day
Kings and Queens
   The Relegation of Pluto
   -> drum solo -> drum/gtr duo -> bass solo
   -> Pump Room


There wasn't much to choose from in the way of "MERCH", but as a souvenir I treated myself to the most recent Legacy album "BURDEN OF PROOF", as well as an anthology of Theo Travis' solo work called "ALL I KNOW". Both are most delightful... also I should mention the excellent venue 'The Talking Heads', which has recently moved from its (slightly inconvenient) old location somewhere out the back of St Denys, to a hostelry nearer to the centre of town. For those of us who rely on public transport, this is a most welcome move, as it's now only a ten-minute walk from the central railway station.

E-STIR BANG COLLAR DAZE - 'tis traditional that the English weather reacts accordingly, so we wait with bated breath to find out if they are going to name this inclemancy 'drizzly gust Darren' or whatever... Ordinarily, I would be keen to take in a CAR BOOT SALE over the weekend. But I don't imagine that, in this weather, too many people will want to stand around in the middle of a school field displaying their nicknacks. Nor do I fancy the idea of using the holiday-hobbled transport system to travel further afield... This morning, I've found myself a "PROJECT" to do, compiling some old MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA videos onto a DVD for convenient personal use.

CLOCKY-FORWARDY-THING - Wouldn't it be simpler to leave the TIME where it is and go back in SPACE?

Week from Monday 28th March 2016

HOLLER DAEMON DAY... It's still blowing up a good'n outside. I'm WATCHING THE DETECTIVES and catching up with some PODCASTS. Bad weather makes you lazy, I find. (On Tuesday morning, I got up to do the WALKIES as per normal. Just a brisk walk around the block, but it's pretty tough going. I'm WALKING AGAINST THE WIND, performing a fairly convincing Marcel Marceau tribute act.)

Putting the clocks for'ard, combined with the long weekend, has completely thrown my timekeeping out of whack! "I keep thinking it's still Tuesday" and that sort of thing... and before you know it, the week is nearly over again!

I spent a long morning at the EMPORIUM O'HAIR having the old barnet teased. I also figured out why some 'mobile' people had been having problems accessing part of their website. It's because of something simple I missed when I created the 'narrow screens' version of the site. Easily fixed, now I've diagnosed the error. I'm now teaching myself about that new-fangled "RESPONSIVE" HTML, so it will no longer be necessary to have two versions of each page. Luckily, I found some Open Source page templates that I could pull apart. There's no chance I'd EVER come up with stuff like this on my own. Whoever originated such intricately woven CSS is the MOST-HIGH LORD OF ALL CODERS. Bow bow, doff doff...