Week from Monday 1st May 2017

I dutifully pre-ordered, from the Burning Shed concern, my copy of the new KING CRIMSON "Heroes" single, due sometime in June... While there, I thought I'd also treat myself to the 'definitive' edition of my favourite YES album "RELAYER". Having been SO impressed by what Mr Wilson had done with the "TOPOGRAPHIC" beast, I am now quite eager to hear what his previous Yes spiffifications sound like!

My own YESproject was a bit of a failure. 'Remixing' the QPR disc(s) proved fairly unsatisfying in the end. I ended up with a couple of discs that, while not as disjointedly unlistenable as the originals in terms of soundtrack, still sound like really bad bootlegs, with wildly variable quality. The picture quality, which wasn't THAT great in the first place, also suffered as a result of some necessary re-encoding. Also, I failed to get a working DVD that would play comfortably on my domestic player. But the whole, time-consuming, computer-straining process did prove to be an EDUCATION, so I suppose it had a positive purpose. I learned a few things along the way about disc authoring and I can now navigate my way through an XML document like a good'n, even if I couldn't (or needn't) write one from scratch!

"ESCAPISM THROUGH MUSIC"... Lawdy lawdy! we need some of THAT this week, when 'THE PEOPLE' (You know them? The ones who have spoken?) are once again demonstrating that they are content to roll over and be screwed roughly by the richest percentile. Under those circumstances, my own spectral response of wishing people would go away and leave me alone because they're stupid, is actually a very RATIONAL one!

Earlier, I found a CD of TÒRU TAKEMITSU's piano works in a charity shop for just under a pound... and by the end of the day I'd learnt a completely new kind of music, thanks to a mention in the sleevenotes about his adoption of OLIVIER MESSIAEN's 'OCTATONIC MODE'. A few notes were scribbled, the piano was freely noodled upon (recording everything as MIDI data, natch!) and a couple of hours later I had a very meditative new piece, which I titled "PARAMETERS" (for no reason other than that was the first word I saw when I opened a nearby magazine). Just delicate piano and strings... Understandably, it does have a bit of a Messiaen/Takemitsu vibe about it, without sounding exactly like either. It sure aint rock'n'roll though, or indeed jazz... Professor Fasttrouser would be proud.

Week from Monday 8th May 2017

Not sure what happened there... put it down to OLD PERSON BEHAVIOUR! On Sunday morning, I went to the CAR BOOT SALE first thing (nothing doing!), then I sat down to watch the previous night's episode of "NCIS". That was the last thing I remember. The remainder of the day was lost to snooze. I woke up just in time to catch the result of the day's GIRO D'ITALIA stage!

For probably the first time in my life, I've actually EARNED SOME MONEY from my musical 'career'! But I won't start saving for the luxury yacht JUST yet. My Bandcamp 'royalties' from the "NET PROPHET" album total a little over THREE DOLLARS since the middle of April... Does anyone have any ideas how to get people to LISTEN to your Bandcamp if you don't ALREADY have a cult following?

"ESCAPISM THROUGH MUSIC #2: RADIO HAS ALL THE BEST PICTURES"... On Monday night, the Third Programme broadcastified a concert that took place at the Barbican over the weekend, called "EDGARD VARÈSE: TOTAL IMMERSION". It was the most compelling couple of hours I've spent in front of a radio speaker in quite a while! (Yay! the French!)

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST... I know! I know! I say this annually! Why do I subject myself to this... this... THING, when the actual MUSICAL rewards are getting fewer and fewer every year? What compels me to devote time and diaryspace to this silly spectacle? I really can't put my finger on it. Obstinacy? I certainly don't think it is about 'music' anymore - 'entertainment' of some other indefinable kind, maybe, but certainly not 'music'! Really, I SHOULDN'T be inclined to watch this crap, no more than I would subject myself to similar Saturday night "Strictly Got Talent Factor" sheeplefodder, yet here we are again! This year's camp-a-thon is being held in Kiev (or is it Kyiv?), capital of Ukraine. Consequently, Russia has opted out of the contest. It is no longer part of Europe, but Australia is. That's the wacky world of Eurovision geopolitics for you...
NOTES FROM BETWEEN THE MUTE BUTTONS #1... Tuesday night... First Semi-Final... First we are subjected to a performance by last year's winner, the thinly disguised anti-Russian anthem "1944" by Jamala, then of course there is an interval number that is an exercise in homogenised dance-awfulness that I've forgotten about five minutes later.
SWEDEN gets us underway with an atrocity called "I Can't Go On". Neither can I. "Freakin" painful.
GEORGIA Horrid over-dramatic warble that sounds a lot like a latterday Bond theme. Failed to qualify.
AUSTRALIA Young chap with ludicrous facial topiary shrieks drivel at us concerning the fact that "it don't come eez eye".
ALBANIA Only four songs in and already two of them sounded exactly the same to me. Yet another screechy over-dramatic power ballad. Failed to qualify.
BELGIUM This one took vocal performance to the other extreme. A non-melody that seemed to stay on one chord for the whole song, coupled with a plastic drumbox straight from 1992.
MONTENEGRO Memorable ONLY for the camp performance involving the twirling of hair extensions. It's utter codswallop set to a tired techno-by-numbers arrangement. Failed to qualify.
FINLAND I rather LIKED this one, always a bad omen for the contestants! It is quite distinctive, a slightly torchy ballad about blackbirds with some really tasteful Clannad-esque keyboard arrangements. Failed to qualify.
AZERBAIJAN This is the best of the bunch so far, because it's quirky and ventures outside the box in a 'Clearly Someone Has Watched A Kate Bush Show' kind of a way. Original staging, good music, but is it Eurovision?
PORTUGAL Rather an eccentric performance, but it's basically a Fado (in Portuguese too!), so I don't see this having much of a broad appeal.
GREECE Surprisingly, the only "Euphoria" clone of the year (so far). Good stage show, but the song is in 'English' at its most broken.
POLAND Non-Polish-sounding bellowy monstrosity that manages to rhyme 'desire', 'fire', 'higher' and 'wire' in every chorus.
MOLDOVA Rather mad act called, rather madly, Sunstroke Project. This is infuriatingly catchy in a 'Spanish holidays hit from the eighties' way. There are some nice instrumental touches to redeem it.
ICELAND The land that brought you all that atmospheric Nordic Goth stuff over the years has instead decided to go for a shrieking, over-tattooed blond ice queen who delivers some bog-standard rappy techno bollocks. Failed to qualify.
CZECH REPUBLIC A rather bored looking woman warbles incoherently over a piano track that originated on a 1972 Elton John album. Failed to qualify.
CYPRUS Particularly painful lyrical effort, even by Euro standards. God, why can't these people sing in their own language instead of spouting twaddle in mine? Interesting use of samples on the backing track, but I strongly suspect it's an idea pinched from a contemporary hit with which I wouldn't be familiar.
ARMENIA Blimey! This one actually sounds... Armenian! True, it's still in fragmented English, but there are some delightful 'local' touches to the melody and instrumentation. I quite like it (a relative term, I realise!)
SLOVENIA A bloke that looks like Joey out of "Friends" in a shiny suit... the song is so inconsequential and nondescript, I swear I watched this very same performance earlier. Failed to qualify.
LATVIA Well, I see a drummer, a guitarist and a bass player on stage, pretending to play behind the nonsense-warbling Goth-Lite-Chick, but I don't hear them AT ALL on the soundtrack, which is pure Casio from start to finish. Failed to qualify.
INTERVAL SHOW TO ALLOW FOR TELE-VOTING Last year's winner Jamala is wheeled out again to perform her strange, shamanic new single (in the local lingo). Kate Bush has a lot to answer for this year...
So the first eighteen has been whittled down to ten. The stand-out SONG was the one from AZERBAIJAN, "Skeletons" by Dihaj. I'd like to believe that it might do well in the final, but what do I know? Another personal favourite is the entry from ARMENIA, "Fly With Me" by Artsvik (You can see how my musical mind works, can't you?) But Eurofans don't generally vote for 'oriental' sounding stuff. Who remembers the fabulous Turkish entry which garnered 'nul points' back in the eighties? Or Georgia's ethno-prog epic from a couple of years back, which didn't even qualify past the semi? I remember them VERY well, actually... but no one else does! I've become very good at spotting songs that are TOO GOOD for Eurovision!

My reward for sitting through all this idiocy is to stay up and watch a BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST concert on Vintage TV! Actually, it's "John Lees' Barclay James Harvest" now, which suggests to me that either (a) he's the only surviving member, or (b) there are other versions of BJH out there, also playing the same songs, with an equal claim on the name [ref: the Fleetwood Macs, the Wishbone Ashes, the Yesses]. Long term fans must forgive me for not knowing about any of the back story, I haven't followed their career with any interest since about 1975! This was another set recorded for the "Electric Dreams" series at Butlins in Bognor Regis. It was okay, in a purely nostalgic way. I saw BJH on a couple of occasions 'back in the day' and they were never the most dynamic performers anyway, so this was the same but older! I have always maintained that nobody really NEEDS any Barclay James Harvest recording except the black-covered live album of 1974, which encapsulated definitive performances of all of their most powerful repertoire on one double album (or single CD). I'll stick with that...
NOTES FROM BETWEEN THE MUTE BUTTONS #2... Thursday night... Second Semi-Final... Sigh! here we go again... The introductory number was a medley of Eurovision 'hits' played in a Ukrainian style (I only recognised one tune, "Euphoria"). That meant accordions and wooden flutes and balalaikas(?) and such, a traditional choir and lots of red-booted dancers. The full 'trad' package and musically most refreshing, considering what is to come!
SERBIA It's all become rather predictable at this stage, the usual over-egged vocal pudding going nowhere in particular. Failed to qualify.
AUSTRIA Musical throwback that could well have been a b-side that Michael Jackson tossed off in 1991. Throwback AND throwaway.
FYR MACEDONIA Contrivedly contemporary fakery, right down to the highly processed vocals. It's Kylie-lite, basically. Failed to qualify.
MALTA Piano intro, check... Brassy female vocals, check... Lyrical twaddle, check and check again. It sounds like something that Jennifer Rush might have turned down. Failed to qualify.
ROMANIA Yodelling AND rap, a lethal combination! In fact, for me, it's an unlistenable one! Stop it now!
NETHERLANDS Ah yes! they do like their 'country' styles in Holland, don't they? This has a well constructed three-part harmony (a bit like the Dixie Chicks) but it's not a particularly good song.
HUNGARY This one sounded very promising - some very 'Balkan' instrumental touches and it's sung in Magyar for once. But then they spoil it with an ill-advised rap in the middle (also in Magyar!). I quite liked it up till then...
DENMARK Instantly forgettable mid-paced pop-cliché, with yet another big, show-offy vocal performance that gets on yer nerves by chorus two.
IRELAND It's no "My Lovely Horse", that's for sure! The ONLY thing worth mentioning about this tedious non-event of a 'song' is that there is a big red and white striped balloon on the stage. Failed to qualify.
SAN MARINO Performed by a Geri Halliwell lookalike and a retired footballer-cum-model, it's one of those painful "Let's try to outsing each other!" duets. It's the spirit of the night, apparently. Failed to qualify.
CROATIA Novelty number! Sure to get everyone's attention! Mad vocal performance that alternates between operatic baritone and pop crooning, all coming out of the same Demis Roussos-sized body. Judging by recent Euro-successes involving bearded ladies, FREAK SHOW performances usually do well these days.
NORWAY It's sort of Daft Punk meets Ed Sheeran. Yes, it was as horrid as THAT sounds!
SWITZERLAND Ah! here comes another "Son Of Euphoria". It's not a bad example of its sort. Failed to qualify.
BELARUS Sung in the local lingo, which is a positive move. But it's a rather old-fashioned sounding oompah thing with a "Ya Ya Ya Hey!" chorus. Yoiked on a fake hovercraft, for some reason.
BULGARIA Justin Beiber. That is all.
LITHUANIA This actually sounds like two tunes at the same time. A screechy female diva is freeforming one thing, over a completely different 'rock' song. Failed to qualify.
ESTONIA Another convoluted mid-paced sing-off duet. I think it's in 'English', but I can't be certain. Failed to qualify.
ISRAEL Standard "X-Factor" teenage heartthrob clone, fake-emoting over an old Faithless backing track.
INTERVAL SHOW: Far too many people are on the stage, jazzdancing to cut-up samples of Bulgarian choir records. The least said about the interval's "comedy" features the better...
There was nothing memorable about the content in the second semi-final. The following morning, I am still earworming Barclay James Harvest, so that's a sure sign that nothing has stuck! I predict that, Eurovision being what it is, CROATIA's schizophrenic freakshow act might do well, but it was still horrible for all that! Of course, I still haven't heard the auto-qualifiers representing those who are paying for all this shenannigans (UK, FRANCE, GERMANY, ITALY, SPAIN and the UKRAINE itself), at least not in full. Those can wait until I watch the final (with one finger poised on the fast-forward button) on Sunday morning... I still like AZERBAIJAN's song best. Pure class!

We are now seven days into the GIRO D'ITALIA... I've been following it all week via social media and highlights clips, on account of the live stuff only being broadcast on one of those channels you have to pay extra for. Then, almost by accident, I stumbled over the fact that there IS a Freeview channel carrying the daily highlights after all! It's on every night at ten o'clock on QUEST TV, a station I've never previously given the time of day, as its usual fare is old episodes of "Wheeler Dealers" and fishing shows. So I'm a little bit late to the party but... NICE TO KNOW, even if it means I now have to do the whole "Not Spending Too Much Time On Twitter For Fear Of Catching Any Spoilers" thing.

The TREK-SEGAFREDO boys are performing well, with BAUKE MOLLEMA up there in the top ten. The MAGLIA ROSA, the general classification jersey in the Giro, seems even less representative of who's doing the ACTUAL racing than does the MAILLOT JAUNE in Le Tour... so more importantly to me, JASPER STUYVENS is now a strong contender in the POINTS competition, the prettily named MAGLIA CYCLAMINO.
NOTES FROM BETWEEN THE FAST-FORWARD BUTTONS... Meanwhile back in Kyiv, these are the songs that I hadn't heard yet...
ITALY Highly acclaimed by those in the know, apparently... but it sounds to me a bit of a throwback to the 'Congratu-Boom-Bang-A-Box' euro-singalongs of old.
SPAIN The endlessly repeated title ("Do It For Your Lover") is pretty much the sum content of its lyric. On and on it goes, performed by lovable surfdudes in an infuriatingly jaunty tropical style... aaarrrgghh!
UNITED KINGDOM Given everything that's happened in the last twelvemonth, surely nobody in Europe is EVER going to vote for us anyway, even if this really was the best song in the world. It isn't. It's rubbish.
GERMANY Upbeat and chirpy and Pink-like and rather out of tune.
UKRAINE Kudos to the home team for some out-of-the-box thinking! It's a big 'rock' number with attitude. We haven't had so many of those this year. It's probably highly derivative of something else that 'the kids' are listening to these days, but be thankful it's not YET ANOTHER sodding melismatic popdiva!
FRANCE The title alone ("Requiem") suggests that we're in for another 'anthem', but it's somewhat underwhelming a performance. Mostly in French, of course, but with a token chorus in 'English'.
Endless recapping and an interval show featuring some local talent. It's techno with cymbaloms and panpipes. They were seemingly beamed in from the 'eighties, imagewise at least. They look like Landscape fronted by a female Gary Numan. Then there's a horrible child star... and further recapping.
I simply don't have the inclination or the stamina to sit through nearly four hours of real-time broadcasting. Life's too short! So thank goodness for DVR technology! On Sunday morning, I am able to whizz through the 'musical' portion of the evening (Twenty-six 'songs' eh? Nah!) at my own accelerated pace, and get to THE VOTING, which still, it has to be said, is the most entertaining part. I have to constantly refer back to my own notes here, because already I can't remember what the songs actually sound like or what it is they're voting for!

For some inexplicable reason (transcending the eurotradition of yore), the "bookies' favourite" is the quiet 'Tom Jobim meets fado-lite' performance from PORTUGAL. The JURY VOTE seem to reflect this too. I thought it had very little going for it - by which I mean, it's perfectly nice and exactly what you'd expect MUSICA POPULARE PORTUGESA to sound like, BUT IS IT EUROVISION? Perhaps 'quiet' will be the new 'screechy', from now on? I'd hope so, but what do I know? Overall second in the jury vote is the Justin Bieber clone from Bulgaria, followed by Sweden's 'freaking' boy-band number "I Can't Go On" (an anthem for the times!?!). So I think they're simply voting in a 'youngest teenage boy' category and not for the music at all.

OUT COME THE FREAKS? Under this newfangled scoring system, the POPULAR VOTE could theoretically overturn all that the 'experts' decide. Well, no, it doesn't, not this year. MOLDOVA's painfully chirpy summer holiday ditty made a last minute run, but PORTUGAL's unassuming bit of saudade DID win it in the end. "Let's bring music back!" says he. Agreed. At least it's something refreshingly different to the usual eurofare. My own enduring favourite, by Dihaj from AZERBAIJAN, came somewhere in the middle of the scoreboard, as did the UNITED KINGDOM. I'm a skeleton.

Week from Monday 15th May 2017

"I find if you approach anything with the premise that most of it is going to be shit, then any diamonds will shine out that much brighter..." Now then, I was talking about Eurovision when I came up with that pithy aphorism, but maybe, in this day and age, it applies to life in general... In the wake of the Portuguese eurovictory, I naturally found myself listening to some (real) FADO over the weekend and m'chum MISTER QUARTET pointed me in the direction of a folk ensemble called MADREDEUS. I checked out a few of their things on 'That YouTube They Have Now' and I can confirm that, as a lover of most things LUSOPHONE, they do indeed sound right up my street. It comes as little surprise, given his acquisitional habits and the all-emcompassing remit of his 'ECLECTIC' radio show, that Mr CBQ is FAR more of a TRAINSPOTTER than me when it comes to Eurovision. He has developed a points system, comparing his own allocated scores with those of the juries... Hmmm! he even appears to care more about the 'MUSIC' than I EVER could! All of the Eurovision tracks that I've stashed away in a sub-folder of my 'WORLDPOD' over the last twenty-odd years still don't add up to a whole CD's worth!

My own approach to 'acquiring' popular music has always been this. On hearing something new, I always ask "Do I ever NEED to hear this again?". Nine times out of ten, if I'm honest with myself, the answer will be "nope!" or at best "meh..." This is true of nearly all POP or ROCK, including yer so-called 'PROG'. Once bitten, twice shy... I've got more cautious over the years and I no longer maintain a habit of blindly buying a new album unheard, merely because I liked something an artist did previously. (Incidentally, this 'rule' doesn't seem to apply to JAZZ in quite the same way, I think I have a more open set of ears where that's concerned.)

Week from Monday 22nd May 2017

Another week, another new WEB BROWSER to try out... this particular one is called EPIC PRIVACY BROWSER and, to all intents and purposes, it's a version of CHROMIUM, only one that DOESN'T tell all its googlechums everything about you. Nor does it insist on remembering your history, or require you to manually clean up your tracks as you go. It also appears MUCH faster than the FOXclones that I have been using, has AD-BLOCKING, a VPN/PROXY thingy and YOUTUBE DOWNLOADING built in, and it doesn't keep badgering you to buy a paid-for version. SO FAR, SO GOOD, all of the advantages of CHROME, with none of the annoyances...

Well, almost... I never like the way that FONTS are rendered in these WEBKIT browsers, so I'm hoping I can tweak the appearance settings to something more easy on the eye. It appears that Epic automatically blocks video and GIF content on Twitter, and I haven't found a setting that I can switch on/off to fix that little inconvenience. I would also like to know if I can use my beloved STYLISH within this browser. It might be possible to trick it into running the Chrome version, but that doesn't look very hopeful, as Epic blocks ALL plug-ins and extensions by default. Epic's own ADD-ONS STORE is rather lacking at the moment and doesn't offer an alternative.

It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. You can opt for TOTAL privacy and security OR have the convenience of your favourite features. It looks quite promising (much better than CHROME itself!), but we'll see how it develops. In some ways, it's a little TOO simplified for me. I'll keep it handy as an add-on for testing WEBKIT pages within this here HTML Editor, but I don't see myself making it my default for general use JUST yet. As a longtime 'FOX man, it still feels a bit 'foreign' to me. Meanwhile, I'll stick with CYBERFOX, my favourite MOZ fork, which is much slower to open than a Chromium (albeit still faster than the 'real' FIREFOX!)... but at least it does everything I want it to, in what APPEARS to be a relatively 'SAFE' fashion!

#ViewFromTheWalkies I swear I just saw cycling champion NAIRO QUINTANA working as a painter and decorator 'round the side of Asda...

I stayed up to watch another of those "ELECTRIC DREAMS" concerts on VINTAGE TV, recorded last December(?) at Butlins in Bognor Regis. This one was by THE STRAWBS, and rather splendid it was too! Okay, so DAVE COUSINS' unlovely voice is still best described as 'AN ACQUIRED TASTE', but they played a whole bunch of stuff from the mellotrontastic "HERO & HEROINE", which was their best album by far AS ENNY FULE KNO!

The subject of TORTOISE came up on the twits, and I found myself listening to a couple of seedysworth, before digging around on that YouTube to see what else is out there... I thus stumbled over a session recorded for KCRW Santa Monica when they were deputising as TOM ZÉ's backing band... no date attached to it, but it is most likely to have been in 2001, around the time I saw this interesting combination at the Barbican. This has led to this morning's "OFFICE AMBIENCE" being of a TROPICALIA flavour, most fitting, considering how hot and muggy it still is.

Week from Monday 29th May 2017

A very exciting GIRO D'ITALIA has ended. Now THAT's how I like my cycling - with some ACTUAL RACING going on! The final day was an individual TIME TRIAL, so the race was undecided right up to the finish. TOM DUMOULIN grabbed the Maglia Rosa back, by mere seconds over the likes of NAIRO QUINTANO and VINCENZO NIBALI. The TREK-SEGAFREDO chaps did quite nicely in the end, with BAUKE MOLLEMA managing seventh place in the GC and JASPER STUYVENS coming second in the points competition. Next up, I suppose, the CriTéRiuM du DAuphiNé...

To avoid bike-related 'SPOILERS', I stayed away from the SOSHUL MEEJER all day on Sunday. Once I'd caught up with the week's TV 'stories', I spent the afternoon listening to some VERY abstruse avant-garde music (recorded off the radio) and reading some P.G.WODEHOUSE, a cognitively dissonant combination that somehow just 'WORKS' as a way to avoid twittering for a day.

In the last few days, we've said farewell to ROGER MOORE, JOHN NOAKES and GREGG ALLMAN...

Having finished the day's 'business' nice and early, I decided that a BIG WALKIES would be a fruitful way to spend the rest of it, enjoying the nice weather while it lasts. I hopped on a train to BOTLEY, with the intention of following the footpath back, as I had done once some years ago. But things are not as they were. First of all, the path I followed came to an abrupt dead end, with a barb-wire bestrewn gate across it, declaring that this was now private land. Can they do that? So I had to double back and rejoin the road, which for the most part has no pavement. Then, once I'd found my way to WHITELEY (via CURDRIDGE and BURRIDGE and some other exotic far-flung places), I twice circumnavigated a whole new housing estate - NAY! TOWN! - that I swear wasn't there before. I thought I'd better have a look around the rather boring selection of shops while I was there, and stocked up on refreshments at the inevitable POUNDLAND. I slogged on as far as SWANWICK railway station, before deciding that I'd do most of the rest of the journey home (another four or five miles?) on public transport. So I did get a nice glimpse of some SWEEPING VISTAS along the way, but I also encountered rather too many ugly trading estates, office parks and oncoming traffic.