Saturday, 1 March 2014

The sound of water

One Million Years Ago is possibly my favourite track on Broadcast & The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults etc. I write the odd post about lighthouses and this is the perfect soundtrack for a lighthouse, the rising and falling tone the beam and the tinkling noises are the bobbing tide. They even throw in some seagulls.

And this tune from that Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance album that I got so into a few months ago. It sounds to me, the chiming bit before the recorders start, somehow like water. Like a ripple expanding through water. As with many of the tracks on the Broadcast album I do wish this was a bit longer. I could listen to it for I don't know how long.

But now the actual sound of water (or one of them). Once upon a time, when I was at college, I woke up early one morning. None of my friends would be up for hours, it was a beautiful crisp December morning so I took myself out walking. I headed for a nearby lake and when I got there found it covered in about an inch of ice. After a minute or two of gazing at the loveliness of it all I thought "Right, I ought to try and smash some of this ice" and threw a handy rock high into a steep arc over the water. It didn't smash through but instead bounced off the surface and caused one of the weirdest noises I've ever heard. It went something like: Teckk!, with a slight jews harp sort of effect. Hmm, no, that description doesn't really do it justice. It's a reasonably sized body of water (this is quite a nice picture of it), imagine a sheet of ice that size reverberating....oh fuck it, look I've found this on youtube, it was just like this.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Remembrance of tracks past

Many things occurred in the time I spent away from the blog: we loved and lost a hamster, I bought a cuckoo clock, I saw Pete Molinari at that gig in St Pancras Old Church and plenty more besides. Just lots and lots of stuff, one item of which was that I discovered the second of the long lost tracks that I mentioned in the original lost long tracks post. I described it as a dub track that sounded, "quaintly science fiction spacey with a very tight whirring noise running through it". It was this. Having found it I feel strangely un-jubilant.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The amazing technicolour dream flag

As I've said before somewhere I hope that Scotland does vote for independence, because I think there's a reasonable chance that the Scots will create a fairer society that will lay bare the lie that there's no viable alternative to the policies pursued by the three main parties in the UK.

And now the prospect is made all the more enticing by the opportunity for a new flag. So far I'm massively into that one up there. The Union Jack is a pretty good flag design-wise but, you know, traditions are there to be smashed into tiny little pieces and reassembled in groovy new forms.

And while we're tinkering with the constitution of the country why don't we get rid of the monarchy? Then we'll have all the fun of picking a new national anthem. My vote is for All You Need Is Love.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Slight return

Where I live the post man turns up before I leave for work - we're quite lucky in that respect, other people speak wistfully of such a state of affairs, bracketing it with phenomena like snow on Christmas day, steam trains, coal fires etc. Anyway, today I was heading for my car when I saw the postie's little red van swing into our road, so I decided to hang about.

My willingness to be slightly less early for work was rewarded with an LP shaped parcel, "That psychedelic jazz comp from the German vendor I shouldn't wonder", I thought to myself as I snipped through the packaging in the kitchen. But no, even better, a couple of albums by Myron & E backed up by The Soul Investigators. I think I've mentioned the latter here and there in connection with Nicole Willis, and how highly I rate her first album.

Released on Timmion, it really is a very consistent label. Little Ann's Deep Shadows was one of my favourite albums last year (or maybe the year before - whatever, it's very good) and I've listened O.C. Tolbert's Grown Folks Thing to death over the last few months (but haven't felt the need to buy the album yet).

Something worth mentioning maybe: barcodes - the scourge of the deep-fried retrophile. I wouldn't say that the issue works me into a frenzy, but I'd perhaps go so far as to say they irk me. Anyway, these guys are so retro-sensitive that the barcodes are on stickers attached to the cellophane wrapping. Normally I peel that stuff off, but I'm keeping these little stickers on account of the fact that they're so snazzy.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Season of mists and mellow freakiness

I found my way to this after buying a Psychic Ills album (on the same label, also good in a sub-Spacemen 3 way and such good sleeve design). But Lower Mind is maybe my track of the year as far as this sort of thing goes. It reminds me of something, probably another track, possibly another life. I don't think I've ever loved such a murky album before. Slightly disappointed that Amen Dunes isn't the guy's real name and that he isn't the frightening Joey Ramone/Bette Davis lovechild on the cover there.

Amen Dunes Lower Mind

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Will we never be free

I read yesterday in the local paper that 200 things have been added to a list of protected things in the borough, buildings mainly I think but one caught my eye: an Edward VIII pillar box. One of perhaps only 130 survivors from 1936, the famous year of the three kings, the British Empire's lamer version of the Roman Empire's year of the four emperors in AD69. (Itself exceeded in AD193, the year of the five emperors. But by then multiple-monarch fatigue had set in.)

Anyway, the prospect saw me up and dressed before 9am on a Sunday morning and rocketing off on my bike (my pyjama clad wife forlorn, "But...what's for breakfast?"). My destination: the mysterious, relatively unexplored bit of Twickenham sandwiched between the railway lines and the A316 (near the Stoop stadium).

There's something very Victorian about pillar boxes, mainly I suppose because they emerged in that era and generally the design hasn't been changed and perhaps because even now they're Elizabeth II boxes, and she exists as a living link to the last vestiges of the Empire. I was going to throw in the fact that they're painted bright red, which is our imperial colour, only I read that originally they were painted green. And, according to the lovely British Postal Museum & Archive, "the colour green proved too unobtrusive and people were unable to find them".

Saturday, 28 September 2013

slo mo autumnal nostalgia trip catastrophe

A nice fuzzy, tripped out picture of Marianne Faithfull with Spacemen 3 pounding their way through Mary Anne on top.

I don't listen to their first album as much as I should. I don't know why not. I had a little Spacemen 3 session the other day actually. It all started with Playing With Fire, track one Honey will always send me to a very special place and time, but I'd completely forgotten about track two Come Down Softly To My Soul. It's such a simple, polished pop song, your mum would probably quite like it.

Sunday, 22 September 2013


I love the name Aurelian. Its popularity in France is one of those little things that make me think that, if I were ever to be banished from the UK, France is where I would choose to live. And did you know that the name of Orleans is derived from Aurelian's reconstruction of that city? I didn't until I read it in wikipedia.

Emperor from 270-275. Not much of a reign you might think, but by the standards of the third century that was pretty good going. Compared to the incredible detail we have of events in the late republic we don't know what the hell's going on for a lot of the time in the third century, it's even possible there were emperors we don't know about (if the case of Domitianus II is not unique).

Aurelian's time was taken up with incessant warfare - he reconquered the breakaway provinces of the Gallic empire and the Palmyran empire, earning him the legend: Restitutor Orbis. Restorer of the world. It's actually written Restitutor Bis on the coin, which could also be translated Restorer twice. Perhaps they intended the double meaning. The vendor I bought it from identified it as the coin type RIC 386 Antioch and that certainly matches the reverse design. The portrait there though seems more stylised than any of the other examples I've seen. More modern looking somehow. He looks cool anyway. (He looks a bit like Lee Mavers.)

Queuing for coffee the other day I whiled away the time studying a 50p piece. The reverse bore a decent enough design commemorating something or other. But the portrait, in contrast to Aurelian's troubled visage, was so incredibly bloody boring. As befits our monarch I suppose. Maybe it comes down to the fact that Aurelian wielded real power, dashing about hither and thither vanquishing barbarians. His cuirass - actual armour that almost certainly fended off blows from enemies' swords and arrows etc. I am of course down on autocracy and imperialism, but you've got to concede that Aurelian served the empire, I'm fairly sure he put in a lot more than he got out. Our own dear, drab queen's bland irrelevance on the other hand shines through in her portraits. Why oh why can't we be rid of them?

After his name and this portrait of him the third thing I like about Aurelian is the wall he built around Rome. When I went to Rome my mind was anyway in a state of continuous blown-ness, but the proximity of our hotel to a decent section of the wall made me very happy indeed. The impressiveness of the wall was added to a generation or so later by the emperor Maxentius, another of my favourite emperors.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Music by which to sign death warrants (regretfully)

There are a few versions of this about. I found one today actually, in a cache of consort music lps in my favourite vinyl hunting ground. A bit sad, clearly an enthusiast had popped his or her clogs.

Martin Peerson The Fall of the Leafe 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mr September

To cheer up those delicate souls who get all bummed out at the sight of the natural world decaying all around them, here's a photograph I took today in the car park at work.