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Friday, December 30, 2005

Reclaiming Eros by Andrew Keeling

Love Actually...

Probably best known to KC fans for his work on orchestrating Robert Fripp soundscapes and two CD Rom guides (LTIA and ITWOP), Andrew Keeling is an accomplished composer in his own right and something of a hidden treasure.

At a time when contemporary classical music seems either hell-bent on doing you good like a castor oil cure or soothing the soul to the point of being musical Mogadon, Keeling resolutely walks his own path independent from clique or trend.

His last album, Quickening The Dead (2000 Riverrun Records) showcased his talent for bringing together eclectic source material (Nick Drake, Jung, William Blake, Sylvia Plath) with sprightly, discursive chamber pieces.

What was interesting about Keeling’s work was the way he managed to combine a kind of experimental rigour with something more akin to old-school romantic traditions. With Keeling you get the best of both worlds; music that is conceptually sound but the antitheses of dry academia, music that is direct, full-blooded and passionate.

Keeling’s love affair with melody continues unabated on his new release, Reclaiming Eros. The radiant fanfare of the title track is infused with a dazzling light that continually plays over the myriad of surfaces touched upon by the Stor Quartet during this cornerstone piece. Like a heated debate between friends gathered around a table, the violin, viola, cello and piano constantly reference and reinterpret the other’s commentary.

Although the first ten minutes of the piece has many contrary arguments and motifs all moving at a galloping pace, Keeling brilliantly keeps track of it all presenting the varying tensions coherently and persuasively.

All dissenting voices evaporate during the languorous coda – arguably the most moving and emotional of moments on the album.

It gives way imperceptibly to Scarlet Letters, a piece for classical guitar played by Abigail James. Here is a monologue full of wit and wry invention; sweet and sour passages which build and cascade in dextrous complexity. Once again, Keeling never lets technique triumph over the melodic character of the music and like the preceding track powers down to a reflective finale that has one rapt to its the very last note.

So engrossing is Scarlet Letters’ musing the vocal piece which follows, Powered By Joy performed by the Gothic Voices ensemble, is akin to being doused in cold water such is the unexpected volume of its arrival . Such a shock to the system certainly refocuses attention but risks dispelling the atmosphere of intimate warmth which James had painstakingly established. The transition from the sublime Gefunden (performed by Yukimi Kambe Viol Consort),with its rich oozing melodies and luscious soft-focus textures to Suele, for mezzo-soprano Catherine King aside, avoids any shock tactics enabling the listener to more carefully assimilate the change of pace and direction.

Whatever the notions and theories which underpin the music on this release, the acid test of their value is their accessibility and capacity to excite, engage and touch the heart of the listener. With Reclaiming Eros Keeling does the job on all counts.

Available from Burning Shed Records

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Many Happy Returns

Today was my birthday and after opening cards and presents, Debbie and I cracked on with the task of preparing for a meal with friends and neighbours.

Rather than prepare a large meal, we decided to prepare nibbles and canap├ęs – all of which were duly consumed (along with industrial quantities of yuletide spirit) by our guests.

It was an enjoyable day and a lovely evening which stretched out into the wee small hours as the photographs below progressively indicate.


Julie with...her head in a book called Intensive Care, a romantic thriller in amongst the life support machines


Thomas, just in from Spain that very night, joins us for a drink

Dude looks on as Debbie tells it like it undoubtedly was, is or indeed, will be


Julie with...Jude who is dancing with our tea cosy on her head. It's not the photograph that's out of focus but the people in it.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

Waiting for the off...


Seasonal greetings from Alys...

Yogi and Amy...


Alys,Dude, Sam and Doris...



service with a smile...


a bunch of crackers...



9 of 13 ...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Original Syn 1965 - 2004 & Syndestructible byThe Syn





















The worst of times and the best of times
Original Syn 1965 - 2004 / Syndestructible
The Syn
Umbrello

Reunions can be tricky affairs. There’s the ease and familiarity of shared history to rekindle the old flames of youth. Yet if you’re not careful it can end up a bit like revisiting a long-forgotten crime scene to become a post-mortem that chills the passion of the past.

Operating at the very margins of psychedelic boom, The Syn were minor league players who went bust very quickly, now only remembered as a mere twig of the gnarled family tree of Yes, containing as they did original guitarist Pete Banks and grizzled lifer, Chris Squire.

Given the intervening thirty-odd years, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the acrimony which tainted the departure of Banks from Yes might have mellowed in the forgive-and-forget flush of The Syn’s reunion in 2004. Yet somewhere between a set of new studio tracks (sans Squire) presented on the archive-orientated Original Syn 1965 – 2004, they once again lost Pete Banks and gained Squire for 2005’s Syndestructible. On the evidence of their respective efforts one would have to conclude this parting of the ways was a good thing.

Back in the good old days, opening for Jimi Hendrix on his only night at the Marquee Club, they were watched not only by all four members of The Beatles but Clapton, Page, Pete Townshend and The Rolling Stones were also in attendance.

Although they may have entertained the rock royalty of the day, the material displayed on disc one of Original Syn 1965 – 2004 – singles, b-sides, rarities, demo tracks and rehearsal tapes – is interesting to a point but confirms their minnow status.

The second disc sees various elements of The Syn minus Squire, reunited to give a new track, Illusion (co-written by original vocalist, Steve Nardelli and Banks) a full-blown Prog-tastic assault with big synths, vacuous parts that rattle around in their hollowness of their ostentation, and an approach to soloing that is unfortunately as dated as mildew-covered trenchcoat left under a chair back at the Marquee.

A ponderous interpretation of Yes’ Time And A Word, bookends another new track calling for religious tolerance, A Tide In The Affairs Of Man. Though hardly out of keeping with the sentiments expressed by Yes in 1970 and heartfelt though they may be, the piece comes off sounding corny.

Less bloated and overblown is a satisfyingly crunchy reworking of Steve Nardelli’s teen-angst grumble, Grounded. Originally the b-side to the foppish Deram single, Created By Clive, it’s reincarnated in a competent burst of bullish dad-rock suggesting this to be their true metier.

Given all of the above, one might expect 2005’s Syndestrucible to be more of the same, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The distance between the two very different versions of the band couldn’t be more dramatic.
Squire and Nardelli, as the surviving Synners, redeem the current name by hiring young guns Gerard Johnson on keyboards, (who contributed bass guitar and vocals on the 2004 version of The Syn), Oasis sideman Paul Stacey on guitar with twin brother, Jeremy on drums who has graced the material of Sheryl Crow and the Finn Brothers. Between them, they’ve made a refreshingly melodic, surprisingly elegant slice of prog-tinged rock and pop.

The a cappella intro of Breaking Down Walls heralds the seven minute Some Time, Some Way – a solid mid-paced song redolent with chiming guitars, lustrous keyboards and bright crisp vocal harmonies beautifully woven together by Squire’s lyrical and inventive trademark bass guitar, prowling restlessly underneath it all.

Whilst the years have shaved the top range of Nardelli’s voice somewhat, his is a warm and winning presence throughout the album and well served on the shimmering Reach Outro and the amiable unfussy jog of the bluesy, Golden Age.

The opulent Cathedral of Love, replete with ‘tron sampled flutes and strings, is particularly effective. Here more than anywhere else on the album essence of Yes is carefully alluded to; Squire’s soaring backing vocals “Spring and summer love together”, swelling Hammond chords and the quicksilver guitar solo from Paul Stacey recreates The Yes Album’s power and focus. Indeed, the swirling glitter-ball of synths, sustained chords, repeating guitar lines that close Cathedral and segues into the triumphant pomp of City of Dreams, conjures Close To The Edge’s sizzling climax of processed sounds and tape effects.

In utilising such devices, Squire may be accused of moving too far away from the original spirit of The Syn but it’s been done with taste and restraint – two factors which seem largely absent from the 2004 outing which tries to make a big noise with little beyond a bit of flash to back it up.

Arguably the album could be regarded as a successor to Squire’s Fish Out Of Water although that would be to underplay the considerable and distinguished input of the Stacey twins and Johnson both in the writing, arrangement and delivery of sublime tracks such as the beatific closer, The Promise.

Syndestructible doesn’t break any new ground but it shouldn’t be underestimated or dismissed as either an old pals act or mutton dressed as lamb. The material is beautifully melodic, sharp with well-crafted arrangements, concise convincing performances and panoramic production values that give this album a surprising depth and quality.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Lesser Spotted Tercet

A huge package arrived for me; a box of the Northstars book from the publisher. At the moment it’s consigned to a remote corner of the room whilst Christmas preparations take precedence. I’ll get round to creating a Northstars blog or something similar in the New Year.

Joy unconfined! Ed Reardon’s Week has returned to Radio 4. This salty comedy about a hack writer living in the fringes of poverty is wonderful. I can’t think why I identify so much with this wonderful show. The link is only good for a week so make it snappy and hear the misanthropic literary shenanigans over at Chez Reardon.

I forgot to mention the other day I stumbled across a great site. As the title cunningly implies, Poetry Archive, is a repository of poetry but with readings available as online streaming by poets past and present. Obviously the site has fantastic potential and can only grow as more recordings are uploaded and made available.

You can browse by name and even by form; I had no idea what the hell a tercet was prior to logging in here. As it is I love the idea of being able to log in each day and hear a poem at random. Sometimes chance encounters with poetry are the best.

A little online fun with Karen Attenborough prior to her meeting tomorrow with a literary agent. Fingers and other body parts crossed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Taming The Beast

Christmas shopping is too big a beast to be tamed in one session. Consequently I’ve been popping into Newcastle every day this week to scope and nab items of interest.

I’ve found that as long as you get in and out before 11.00 a.m. then it’s not too bad. After this particular watershed all hell breaks lose and people choke around the shelves, stalls, stands and whatever surface may be rumoured to be yielding Xmas booty.

Tom and Joseph are easy to buy for. Tom wants money and Joseph wants an album by a beat combo called Eminem, who are I believe very popular with young people at the moment.

Debra’s gift requires a more intuitive approach; I don’t know what it is until I see it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wire Sings & Robert Rings

Gosh it’s freezing today in Whitley Bay. I only nipped out to the corner shop for a pint of milk but, as Old Syd Rumpo might have so eloquently put it, my grunnets were well and truly swaggled by the time I got back.

This may have been due to the fact that I spent a couple of minutes staring down the back lane look at the sea.

Great heaving swells rose and fell and looked as thought they might tip over the promenade. I took a couple of snaps but they didn’t really convey anything of the power out there or the extraordinary light.

Elsewhere in the day I continued listening to the two Soundscapes by Robert Fripp from Manchester and Cambridge from the December suite tour. Manchester is good but for me, Cambridge is the one where the music goes somewhere else altogether.

I had a crack at writing some show notes as they will soon be available for downloading on the dgmlive site but decided against it, opting to use Robert’s diary extract instead.

After prolonged exposure to soundscapes, I needed a different kind of vibe and put a new set of forthcoming reissues from Wire into the player. Pink Flag is just as terse as I remembered it to be; songs that don’t waste any time with ornamentation or in the delivery their message. In, out and off onto the next track.

Chairs Missing, their second album sounds much more substantial now than it did to me at the time, with lots going on in the sonics and general atmosphere. More exploration of these two and the third record, 154 in the next few days.

Somewhere in the middle of this Wire fest, Robert rang up to touch base. Topics covered included some of the writing on the site, various Crims past and future. Earlier in the day I'd sent him a note saying that I'd like to upload the LoG gig onto the website. “Switch on that little sucker - NOW!” said Robert.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Doing Time

It’s not quite midnight and there comes a knock at the door. Not the slightly embarrassed knocking of a teenager without a key, nor the belligerent thump of a teenager who couldn’t care less, but rather a loud, weighty slump of thudding with a bit of body behind it. The kind of unexpected knocking that splits the silence and makes you think “I’ll just ignore that.”

Debbie shouted through to ask me who was at the door. “No-one” I told her and then came another. “Is it Alys?” I’ve answered the door too many times to Alys to know that it wasn’t her.

So, with Debbie’s anxiety mounting, I descended the stairs and asked who was there.

A slurred voice replied with the name of a mutual friend. She was totally drunk. I opened the door a fraction to see her swaying, barely able to stand.

A long time ago we had all shared a house for a year and it turned out to be the year of living dangerously for us.

Living with a drunk is hard labour for all concerned. There’s the mood swings, the expressions of love and loathing in equal measure. Then there’s the tantrums and the terrors, broken crockery, near misses with gas taps left on or sofas and dropped cigarettes – an especially near fatal combination.

But despite the drama, mostly there’s the utter tedium, the dread familiarity as she traipses around the prison yard of her making, taking us all along for the company.

Though it sounds awful to say it, there’s nothing as boring as prolonged exposure to self-pity.

As she lurched forward to come into the house it was suddenly clear that I wasn’t about to open the door any wider. For a few seconds, emotions blurred across her face like a runaway train hurtling through an empty station; confusion, surprise, bemusement, anger and then action.

She stormed off in a “fuck you” rage, bellowing or crying or both. I shut the door. Although it had been a long time ago it had also been a long year of pain and grief. We’d done our time together and I didn’t want to do any more.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Keeping An Eye On Things

Early morning reds and blues...



This morning was spent up in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in their eye department. Debbie was there because she has a small cataract and borderline glaucoma. I was there to help Debbie afterwards because after having her eyes frozen and dyed and then poked and prodded she found it difficult to get back through town.


After her session with the consultant her pupils were so wide it looked like she’d ingested industrial quantities of drugs. We walked slowly back through the university and sat in the refectory pretending to be mature students.


Arrangements for Christmas were high on the list of topics. No matter how casual we are about the festive season (and we are) the momentum of the date inevitably sweeps one along. This year is special for Debra as all of her family will be camping out in every nook and cranny of the house. She estimates that it is 30 years since her sister and her had the day with their mother.

After a couple of hours, Debra’s vision was returning to something vaguely normal so she headed off to work and I pushed back home with some bits and pieces for the evening meal.

Waiting for me when I got in was an early mix of Islands as performed by Dave Stewart on grand piano and Jakko on the vox. A very moving performance from both of them.

Joan Didion is interviewed in today’s edition of The Guardian about her latest book which you can find reviewed here.

Also forgot to mentioned that I’ve been meta-tagged by Mark Farley at the Bookseller To The Stars blog. I’d not come across the expression before but in blogging circles it means you get nominated by someone to blog about a given subject and then you tag three other people. The subject is My Top Ten Reading Secrets!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Getting The Boot

Knackered. The day started early helping Tom brainstorm the conclusion for his Truman Show essay. He was actually up before me and sat at the PC when I went through to the yellow room. He’d been working on it all last night as well.

Mind you he’s not the only one working against a deadline on an essay; Alys was up all night finishing hers! I bumped into her as I was carrying the tea tray upstairs. She was bright as a button and on her way to college.

By 8.20 a.m. Tom had put the finishing touches to the piece and he too, skipped off to school.

Even Joe was getting into the swing of it, citing his unfinished geography homework as needing my attention as followed Tom out the door. Funny, normally he likes to keep that kind of thing quiet. I guess he must be feeling left out.

Last night Debbie and I had a lovely meal at Thomas and Leonie’s house. They only live three doors up so we didn’t have far to go. Halfway through the meal, I nipped back home to check on Tom’s progress (i.e. making sure he was on task) and by the time I came back I had missed Thomas and Leonie announce they were going to have another child!

Chatted with Jakko on the blower this morning. His session with the fabbo Phil Smee has now finished and the cover to the new Schizoid album is done. We got talking about Islands – the KC track. Dave Stewart (Hatfield & The North,etc) is laying down the piano for Jakko’s recording of the song. Dave hadn’t heard it before but reckoned he could see what it was that had held Jakko in its thrall all these years. Dave will be joined on the track at a later date by Mel Collins and Ian Wallace. Yee, and indeed, haaa!

Islands is one of my personal favourites KC songs; a time and a place thing in which the music and the lyrics seem to sit so well together. On the recent 21st Century Guide To King Crimson, as the title cunningly suggests, the instrumental edit of Islands dispensed with the words and rearranged the opening sections! Sacrilege says I.

Tonight I finished editing various bits and pieces for the dgmlive site including a brand new biog for The League of Gentlemen. As you will have noticed if you’ve been paying attention, the LoG have been occupying much of my listening following Alex Mundy’s heroic clean-up of this audience recording. Recorded at Exeter Bowl club at the Royal Hotel in Bournemouth on the 21st September 1980, the League were on blistering form that night.

The recovery of the original source tape (at a car boot sale no less) and its return to the archive is an interesting story of synchronicity and being in the right place at the right time.

My chum the Kenty Kimber was actually at the gig. Many years ago he came across a boot tape and couldn’t resist snaffling it. In May this year, I was visiting the K-man who is an avid vinyl collector and subsequently trawls around the charity shops and car boot sales in the Garden of England.

Kimbo had got talking to one of the chaps selling various bits and pieces and it emerged that he too used to be a bit of a KC fan and that he had a few old cassettes. Would Kimberini be interested? Is the Pope a Catholic? Hell yes he’d be interested.

Long story short, the guy turned up the next week with an unsorted box of cassettes, most of them unmarked or their labels long-faded. Selflessly, Kimberouac popped him a few notes and made off with the booty.

That week we sat and worked through them. Most were garbled and muffled beyond listening. Certainly nothing Crimson related to keep the spirits up. Then just as our ears had turned to putty, he found a tape marked ‘LoG 21 09 80’.

When he pressed play neither of us could believe how clear the recording was. There was a bit of distortion here and there but it was otherwise crystal clear compared to what had gone before it and to the LoG recording that Kimber had picked up all those years ago.

Hearing it prompted Kimber to recount his story of trying to meet the band after the gig.

“The band sans Fripp were mingling outside the club and I remember going up to Barry Andrews:

A young and careless Kimber: "Can I meet the band?"

An incredulous Andrews: "Are you with the NME?"

A young and careless Kimber: "Er no. I'm nobody."

Conversation ends.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dancing About Music

A bopping frenzy erupts in the Yellow Room as I find my not inconsiderable frame lurching and teetering about the place in what might be described by an untrained eye as a seizure but is in fact me dancing and generally cutting the rug to the League of Gentlemen. As the band continued to delve deep into the groove, sitting still in my seat became impossible and so it was up and at ‘em.

Dancing in public is something I rarely do in public – the only exceptions being Love Shack by The B-52’s and Let’s Dance by David Bowie which of course is a bugger whilst down at supermarket.

Like most large men of a certain age, in my mind’s eye when I hit the dance floor I am lithe and inventive. In reality I am a blundering galumph inadvertently hell-bent on the decimation of all those around. Dancing in the comfort and anonymity of the Yellow Room is something that happens more than I might think. And it’s a lot safer.

Other music this morning included a blast of No-Man (prompted by an email from Tim Bowness), and a new fabulously prog-some track by Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter.

Pat had sent it over whilst I was in London but I’ve not been able to give it a decent spin until now. There are some interesting themes in this music; muscular, pensive and very dynamic. The main melody (on keyboards?) is very dramatic - sounding more obviously Prog-ish than what was on TOTEM. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think they’re both definitely onto something with this stuff.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Waiting For The Words To Come

Joseph was off school today due to the tonsillitis. Debbie also didn’t make it into work as she's feeling queasy with a dicky tummy. She sleeps most of the day.

Unable to face the task of transcribing last week’s interviews I play chess with Joe and later when the guilt piles up, try and write show notes for the League of Gentlemen gig.

Sometimes the words come and sometimes they don’t. Push a little is fine but forcing it ultimately is a waste of time.

Later in the day, a ghost moon came calling. . .

pale consumptive, biding time
an impression of being alone
face pressed on a glassy sky

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Gee But It's Great To Be Back Home

The great thing about being away is coming back.

My mother joined us for our evening meal which I cooked; Garlic seared chicken breast in tarragon mushroom sauce, served on a bed of red pepper risotto.

Watched The Truman Show with Tom and Joe. Jim Carey isn’t really my cup of tea but this was required viewing as Tom has an English assignment on the movie to be writing up.

It was interesting hearing their views on Truman Burbank’s “idyllic” life – “free from worry but no free will, Dad” says Tom. “It’s a bit like when we go to the shops and the cameras watch us” observes a croaky-voiced Joseph referring to the CCTV cameras that look down on our shopping centres.

Friday, December 09, 2005

People And Places

On A Train Between London & Newcastle. . .

A very busy day today that started at some ungodly hour in the rain at Ealing Broadway station. From there I was heading down to Richmond to meet up with East of Eden guitarist Geoff Nicholson. Geoff recorded two albums with the original line-up (Mercator Projected and Snafu) before leaving to embark on a saner life as an illustrator.

Although it was all a long time ago Geoff filled me in on the road life of a band in the late 60s, the recording of those two albums and the development of what the Deram marketing bods called “Cosmoramic Rock.”

After Richmond it was back on the District Line and over to Turnham Green to meet up with Karen Attenborough. For any fan of the McDonald & Giles album the name of that station holds an irrational fascination.

I was thinking about the album when Karen swung by in her car to whisk me over to her house in Chiswick. Karen and I last met earlier this year when, with mutual friend Jakko, we brainstormed ideas of a book project that Karen is involved in.

She’s currently working on the pitch to a couple of potential agents and publishers. Karen tells a great story and we agree that for the book to work best it needs to have her voice as its principle ingredient.

After Chiswick it was off to the Old Brompton Road to have a cuppa and a chat with author Jonathan Coe. As the title of his best-selling novel, The Rotters’ Club, suggests, Jonathan has a soft spot for the Canterbury Sound. Sadly Jonathan was walking wounded when we met; he’d taken a tumble down some steps at Kings Cross and his back was in shock.

I immediately recognised that seized-up gait as he shuffled uneasily with the aid of a walking stick. Despite his considerable discomfort, we managed to talk about prog rock and the class war, definitions of good and bad prog and a mutual interest in pain relief.

A couple of hours after that it was back into the centre of London to meet up with Theo Travis. Regular readers of this diary will know I’m rather partial to Theo’s work – Heart of the Sun and Earth to Ether have both received heavy rotation in the Yellow Room this year.

My opening gambit with Theo was to ask why a nice respectable jazzer like Theo might be dabbling in prog? The insular tribal instincts and distrust of anyone who traverses boundaries is well known in music. We always like to pigeon-hole our artists. You’re either one thing or another. In music, as with other disciplines within the arts in the UK, to be a dilettante is a derogatory term; jack of all trades, master of none.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

After The Show

Chez Jakko

Jakko and I didn’t hang around for the after-show session at Shepherd’s Bush last night. Instead we drove off into the night heading for St. Albans and Phil Smee’s house.

It was after midnight by the time we arrived but Phil seemed just as perky and chirpy as when we last saw him on Tuesday afternoon. We were there to pick up the artwork for Jakko’s album. Phil had prepared a variety of album cover mock-ups using various typefaces and design elements to evoke different moods and tones and giving Jakko an impressive array to choose from.

The weather to St. Albans was appalling and even worse on the way back to West London. It was after 1.30 a.m. by the time I got my head down.

Despite a terrible memory for important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, I’m weirdly capable of remembering trivia such as on this day 33 years ago I saw King Crimson with Jamie Muir at Newcastle Odeon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree at Shepherds Bush Empire

Chez Kimber

I slept like a log last night although feeling a touch sniffly this morning.

A lovely view from my room this morning. . .

After a pleasant morning of catching up with each other it was time to shoot off to London. Originally I had been going to meet and interview Peter Jenner about his work with Roy Harper. Sadly, Peter had to cancel because of family matters.

The upside of this though was that I was able to stay a bit longer at Kimber’s and then fit in a meeting at Waterloo Station with John Peacock and his wife, Haruko.


Part of the DGM Live team, John is one of the guys who helps people problem-solve when downloading shows, etc. Although we’d exchanged emails and been part of various discussions with the wider team, this was the first time we’d met face to face. Whilst Haruko and I grabbed the seats, John grabbed the tea and coffee. H and I had first met in Seattle back in 1998 and it was good to catch up with her again.

Primarily John and I were meeting to discuss ideas and models for how a burn-on-demand service as an extra service for the DGM Live site might be administered and delivered. In another life, John has done this kind of thing before and obviously his experience came in handy on this topic. We’ve hatched a plan to come up with a couple of viable suggestions for the wider team and consultation with DGM Live customers in the not too distant future.

After that it was a meal in Notting Hill Gate with Kimber and then off to Shepherds Bush Empire to see Robert Fripp and Porcupine Tree.

As we picked up our tickets, our bags were searched and we were frisked. Of course the staff had a field day with my bag as it was stuffed to the gills with recording equipment and a camera. Once it was all checked in behind the counter, Kimber and I made our way upstairs.

Fripp came on and began his set with that tinkling bell sound that always puts me in mind of someone tapping a wineglass to attract attention before making an after-dinner speech. Slow and carefully constructed, sweeps of sound steadily laced one another.

From where I sat, the audience were listening attentively.There was an occasional voice raised but more often than not it was to place an order for someone off to the bar rather than career advice for the guitarist on stage.

The long sleek lines of the first piece gradually gave way to short bass end notes that provided a rhythm. Quieter that its predecessor, I could now hear the thrum of the crowd below but upstairs things remained remarkably engaged. Someone downstairs “shhhed” the crowd around them and surprisingly the chattering dropped away somewhat.

Fripp picked a solo that sounded similar in tone to the muted sound on Fripp & Eno’s The Equatorial Stars. Overall this one felt like it was searching for something but failed to find it until what I took to be the transition to the third ‘scape. A high note soared up into the rafters like a gleaming spotlight and things became more focussed.

Still glacial in its pace, this last piece was the one for me; glistening arpeggios were woven into the fabric of the sonorous tones; bass notes rumbled and growled deep below the theatre; notes moving in graceful pirouettes around each other until silence swept them away. It was both beautiful and unsettling all at the same time.

Fripp removed the guitar and to a generous amount of applause and cheering, shielded his eyes against the glare of the stage lights and acknowledged the crowds on the left, centre and right with a bow in each direction.

This was the first time I had seen soundscapes with the slide show. The pictures from RF’s laptop are too specific for my taste, and distracted my attention away from the music. My solution was to not look at them. Problem solved.

The woman to my left said to her partner that she would like to have some of this music to float away to. Although I knew what she meant and that it was intended to be a compliment, it seemed to me to be the opposite of ‘floating away’ music. This was music to draw you in, and for the most part that is exactly what it did. On balance I was amazed at how well Fripp was received by the crowd. Although myself and a few others could have taken a bit more, it was probably about right.

Porcupine Tree received an understandably rapturous reception from the crowd and stormed through a rousing set. Gavin Harrison on drums was the star of show for me. Constantly inventive and with a drop-dead killer sound, many of the songs were carried aloft on the shoulders of his work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Perfect Day

Chez Jakko. . .

08.20

We're off to St.Albans this morning. Jakko is working with Phil Smee finalising the artwork for the new 21st Century Schizoid Band album, Pictures of a City: Live in New York. He's also going to be looking over ideas for his own solo album, The Bruised Romantic Glee Club. I'm tagging along for the ride because I'm interviewing Phil about his work in general and his first-hand experience of living through the psychedlic / underground / progressive rock era.

And then...from the sublime to the ridiculous: the Kenty Kimber

Chez Kimber

21.40

A fabbo day with Phil Smee - not only a genuinely nice guy but someone who really remains an enthusaist about music. Not a trace of cynicism about him despite working in an industry which seems founded upon it. After that Jakko and I headed back toward London so I could catch a train out to Headcorn and meet up with the Kimberman and his lovely wife Maxine.

Waiting for the train out I talked to Tom and the gang back up in Whitley Bay where all is well.

Kimber met me off the train and whisked me over to his house to reunite me with a fabbo plate of food.

My idea of a perfect day.

Tomorrow - back to London, interviews and later in the evening, Robert Fripp and Porcupine Tree.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A League Of Their Own

Last night was spent doing final preparations for London this week and listening to Alex “Stormy” Mundy’s ongoing restoration of the League of Gentlemen.


I thought the original source tape of the audience recording was pretty good but after Alex has been busy with it, the whole thing sounds amazingly fresher, as though he’s scraped off a layer of accumulated grime and grit.

It’s an astonishingly tight band. I suppose I find these recording all the more powerful because I never saw them live. As I listen I can only imagine what it must have been like seeing this band up close.

The other part of the evening involved sitting in one of the many local restaurants that form the life and soul of the Whitley Road. The eatery of choice tonight was The Kismet. It seemed like a good idea to share a few hours alone given that we’re going to be apart for the week.

Final calls made and last minute emails now sent.

The Whitley Bay branch of The Yellow Room is closing down for the week. The London branch will be opening up tomorrow. If you’re at the Porcupine Tree gig on Wednesday, be sure to say hello!

Until then. . .

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Homage To Harry Zimm

Part of today has been spent helping Debbie with part of her course work. This involves her transcribing three – five minutes of dialogue from television noting dialogue, other verbal communication such as tone, non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language and their implied meanings.

In lieu of Debbie’s all-time favourite movie (Withnail and I) which was inexplicably missing from the shelves in the red room, she chose Get Shorty. The scene chosen is one that always makes us smile. Movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) is in hock to a couple of hoods. He asks Chili Palmer (John Travolta) to help him out of a tough spot. Of course Harry only ends up makes things worse. The moral of the story is when you’re in a hole stop digging.

The Harry Zimm’s of this world are legion. No matter how good the advice may be, no matter how much they express a need for that advice, they are incapable of paying heed to that advice.

INT. HARRY'S OFFICE -- SAME TIME

As Harry moves away from the window.

HARRY: Jesus . . .

Chili tosses the script on the desk, moves between a pair of fat red leather chairs.

CHILI: All right, Harry, make sure the limo guys sit here, not over on the sofa.

Harry is tugging the string to lower the blinds behind the desk.

CHILI: No leave 'em up, we want the light in their eyes. I'll be at the desk . . . but don't introduce me, let it go, just start talking. You're gonna be here, behind 'em when they sit down.

HARRY: They'll be looking at you. They don't know who you are.

CHILI: That's right, they're wondering, who's this guy? You don't tell 'em. Understand, Harry? Do not tell 'em who I am.

Harry glances off as we hear RONNIE SINGING down the hall.

RONNIE: (O.S.) In the year 2525 . . . if man is still alive . . .

HARRY: So what do I say to them?

CHILI: You don't say any more'n you have to. You say, 'Well, I'm glad you assholes stopped by, so I can set you straight.'

HARRY: You're kidding, right?

RONNIE: (O.S.) If woman can survive . . .

CHILI: You tell 'em the movie's been postponed. Say, till next year, if you want. But don't tell 'em why or what you're doing. Understand, Harry? You don't tell 'em anything about Mr. Lovejoy.

And the door opens. Chili sits behind the desk, watching the two of them come into the office. Ronnie singing . . .

RONNIE: They may find . . .

He looks about the office . . . at the old photographs . . .

RONNIE: Harry, what year is it, man? We enter a time warp? I feel like I'm back in Hollywood of yesteryear.

Harry waves them right into the two cracked red leather chairs facing the desk. Chili watches as Catlett comes first. Sitting down, he nods to Chili who ignores him.

HARRY: Have a seat . . . right over here . . .

Ronnie sits down in the chair and hooks one leg over the arm, swings it up and down, his motor running on some chemical. He too stares at Chili.

HARRY: This is my associate, Chili Palmer, who'll be working with me.

Harry already forgetting his instructions. Chili can't believe it. The limo guys nod to Chili and Chili nods back, trying to catch Harry's eye.

HARRY: I want to make sure there's no misunderstanding here. Despite rumors you might have heard, your investment in Freaks is as sound as the day you signed your participation agreement.

Ronnie has his face raised to the ceiling.

RONNIE: I can hear you, but where the fuck are you, man?

BO CATLETT: (looking at Chili) What I been wondering is where's he been.

RONNIE: Yeah, where've you been? We haven't heard from you lately.

Harry comes around to stand at one side of the desk, his back to the window . . .

HARRY: I've been off scouting locations. Interviewing actors in New York.

Chili's gaze moves from Ronnie the fool to Bo Catlett the dude, the man composed, elbows on the chair arms, his hands steepled in front of him.

HARRY: The main thing I want to tell you, the start date for Freaks is being pushed back a little, a few months.

Ronnie stops bouncing his leg.

RONNIE: A few months?

HARRY: Maybe longer. We need prep time.

RONNIE: Hey, Harry? Bullshit. We have an agreement with you, man.

HARRY: We're gonna make the picture. I've just got another project to do first, that's all. One I promised this guy years ago.

Chili shakes his head, he can't believe he's hearing this. Ronnie sits up straight.

RONNIE: I want to see your books, Harry. Show me where it is, a two with five zeroes after it in black and white, man. I want to see your books and your bank statements.

CHILI: Hey, Ronnie? Look at me.

Boom. Ronnie looks over. So does Bo Catlett for that matter.

CHILI: You have a piece of a movie, that's all. You don't have a piece of Harry. He told you we're doing another movie first. And that's the way it's gonna be.

RONNIE: Excuse me. But who the fuck are you?

CHILI: I'm the one telling you how it is. That's not too hard to figure out, is it?

Ronnie turns to Bo Catlett, the man not having moved or changed his expression the last few minutes.

RONNIE: Cat?

Bo Catlett takes his time, gives it some thought. He looks at Harry . . .

BO CATLETT: What's this movie you're doing first?

CHILI: Harry, let me answer that.

Catlett looks at Chili again.

CHILI: But first I want to know who I'm talking to. Am I talking to you, or am I talking to him?

BO CATLETT: (beat, smiles) You can talk to me.

CHILI: That's what I thought. So let me put it this way

Now it's between them. The guy studies Chili, thinks about whether or not to make a move, when Harry steps in, reaches over the desk and picks up a script . . .

HARRY: This is the project, Mr. Lovejoy. I'm not trying to pull anything on you guys. This is it, right here.

Chili looks at Harry, wonders if there's a way to shut him up without punching him in the mouth.

RONNIE: Mr. Loveboy? What is it, Harry, a porno flick?

He reaches for the script. Harry backs away, holds the script to his chest. Bo Catlett notices this.

HARRY: It's nothing. It's fluff. Nothing you'd be interested in.

Bo Catlett eyes him a beat, then pushes out of his chair . . .

BO CATLETT: Harry, you think we go to see your movies? I've seen better film on teeth. Makes no difference to me which one our money's in. So how 'bout you take our twenty points out of Freaks and put 'em in this other one, Mr. Loverboy.

HARRY: I can't do it.

BO CATLETT: You positive about that?

HARRY: It's a different kind of deal.

Bo Catlett nods, gets up.

BO CATLETT: Okay. Then be good enough to hand us our money back, or you think about us coming in on this new one.

RONNIE: By Friday, man, or you're fuckin' dead as disco.

Ronnie opens his coat so that Harry can see a gun tucked in his belt . . .

RONNIE: You hear me?

Bo Catlett gives Ronnie a look.

BO CATLETT: Take your time, Harry. (closes Ronnie's jacket) We're not animals. Are we, Ronnie?

Bo Catlett glances once more at Chili then follows Ronnie out the door. Harry stares at the door a moment, senses Chili staring at him . . .

HARRY: What?

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Briefing for a descent into hell. . .

Despite living a world in which we are daily exposed to the news and images of death, nothing it seems can prepare us for the up-close loss of a loved one.

Even where this occurs after a period of illness, where in theory affairs are put in order and appropriate provisions made, the consuming void of grief is enormous, devastating, and nearly always underestimated by those caught in its maw.

It is sometimes said that how we react in the face of real adversity is the key to knowing our true character. No matter how we present ourselves to the world in life, our bearing under the weight of such finality is who we really are.

The sudden death of Joan Didion’s husband, the writer and critic, John Gregory Dunne, in their New York home and the devastating impact of its aftermath is forensically documented in The Year Of Magical Thinking.

The facts are starkly presented without dramatic device or adornment. Married for nearly forty years and occasionally collaborating on screenplays, they lived and worked in the same apartment and had barely been separated for more than a few days in that time.

Their daughter Quintana, a grown woman in her thirties, had been admitted to hospital suffering from what appeared to be flu but accelerated into pneumonia, septic shock and coma.

After visiting Quintana in the intensive care suite of their local hospital, Didion describes the moment when the world she knew abruptly halted after Dunne suffered a massive heart attack and died.

“Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.”

From these opening words of her book, the first words she wrote some five months after his death, Didion recounts how she was hurled from the rational world of certainty into the chaotic anguish of loss, grief and mourning.

Her journalistic instincts to get on top of the facts to rationalise what happened quickly come unstuck. No amount of medical research about the heart condition that felled her husband or the chronology contained in the coroner’s report nor still yet, the weighty academic studies of loss and mourning and its psychological repercussions, gain her a toehold back to the “normal” world from which she had been irrevocably dislodged.

Assiduously combing through the facts, trying to control the information becomes an ever more desperate scramble; fingers clinging to the ledge of reason.

If knowledge is normally equated with power, in the face of death, its usefulness is overrated. No amount of understanding the cause and effect can change the outcome or lend “meaning” to her partner’s absence.

In trying to restart her life she attempts a conjuring trick, creating an illusion that her husband will be coming home. The trade-off for this precarious navigation between “moving on" and confabulating a twilight world in which she refuses to dispose of her husband’s shoes because he will need them when he comes back, is that she must avoid or block out the myriad reminders of what she’s lost.

Like a tightrope walker fearing to look anywhere but straight ahead, streets, restaurants, dates, books and people are rendered off limits lest she be sideswiped by what Didion calls the vortex. Happier times are now too painful to bear, once cherished memories now a desolate territory tainted by “what if?” and “if only…”

Naturally, the demand of caring for her gravely ill daughter occupies much of the narrative. Didion’s smouldering rage at being unable to do anything to help her husband adds to her determination to see her child pull through.

In doing so, she swims against the undertow of the medical profession’s detachment, feeling resentment at what she sees as a high-handed, closed ranks approach to decision making for her care. The passages where mother sits with her unconscious offspring tethered to her life support are charged and incredibly poignant. Any reader who has a child will appreciate the utter nightmare of this situation and hope it's somewhere we never have to be.

When she tells an unconscious Quintana “You’re safe. I’m here” Didion reluctantly recognises with a sense of rising panic and horror that such instinctual words of comfort and reassurance are emptied of their promise, rendered meaningless when up against the prospect of death. Nothing is guaranteed anymore.

The tremendous effort involved in writing such an account, with its raw, honest clarity is obvious. Her constant gnawing over facts and potential portents of what was about to happen to both her husband and daughter becomes obsessive bordering on the deranged.

Didion acknowledges her reluctance to finishing the account. Whilst writing it she is able to keep Dunne from being dead. Finishing the book begins the process of letting go, of moving on with her life but not his.

The unbelievably cruel postscript not mentioned in these pages was that although Quintana apparently recovered, she would later die following complications from acute pancreatitis.

Didion quotes poet Delmore Schwartz:

“Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.”

With a book so firmly rooted in reality, there can be no neat happy ending, no reconciling force that makes it all fall into place, no defining epiphany to bind together the unravelled threads of Didion’s family life. Instead, there is only the unforgiving forward motion of time and those it leaves behind.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Burning Questions!

The last few days in Whitley Bay have been cold, cold, cold. As someone who normally has excellent circulation, I rarely ever feel the cold despite my sedentary existence. Yet the fact remains I have had to put on the central heating to take the chill from me and the house. We’re all suffering a bit with colds and sniffly noses as well.

This may be due in part to the recent presence of Bill and Kath. Debbie’s father and his wife are both smokers and although they attempt to keep their smoke to one room in the house, my experience of trying to negotiate with the smoke itself is fairly futile. Smoke will go where it wants. And does. The result is everyone has sore eyes and drippy noses even a couple of days after they went back home.

“Why not tell them they can’t smoke or that they have to stand outside?” I hear you ask.

If my experience of trying to reason with smoke is a waste of time, the practice of asking a smoker to be considerate is double the waste of time.

That and the inevitable offence such a request nearly always causes means you have to be sure that you don’t want that person to ever visit your house again. This is not something Debbie is prepared to do – and I have to support her albeit with my dribbling nose and squinty eyes.

The news from Jakko regarding the solo album and his mixing of the forthcoming 21st Century Schizoid Band is encouraging. He’s recently done a photo shoot for the cover with Phil Smee. Phil is one of those ubiquitous names on CD credits. If you’ve bought a reissued CD package anytime in the last few years, there’s more than an even chance that Phil’s name will be there amongst the small print.

Robert phoned up this morning sounding full of the joys of spring to tell me first hand of extremely exciting developments concerning DGM Live. Although there are many changes to be made, which of course requires more work and effort, I think the team are pleased with how things have turned out.

Robert’s news, which is currently not for publication, means the gearing up we imagined might be some way off has suddenly loomed much larger and quicker than anticipated. Blimey! There was me thinking I’d just be tapping a few keys for a few minutes each day. Busy, busy, busy!

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