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Friday, February 27, 2009

Podcasts From The Yellow Room V

Recorded in the Yellow Room, Friday 27th February, 2009
Duration 1.05.

Music featured in this episode:

1. Shrinking Moon For You

Wooden Shjips

from Vol.1

Wooden Shjips online

Read my review here

2. Mister Boring

The Hellboys

from A Young Person's Guide To Hell

The Hellboys online

3. Black Crow

Jacob Heringman

from Black Crow

Jacob Heringman online

(Of course the real title of this album is Black Cow. Evidently I cannot tell the difference between a crow and a cow! This is despite the fact that I had the CD cover in front of me. Idiot!)

4. Dancing In The Factory

Jon Boden

from Songs From The Floodplain

Jon Boden online

Read my review here

5. The Fisherman's Daith

Matt Seattle

from Out of the Flames

Matt Seattle online

6. Only Rain


from Returning Jesus

No-Man online

Read my review here

7. A Taste of Sarsaprilla

from Under the Sun

Ian Carr and Nucleus online

Read my Ian Carr obituary

8. Aconite
Bryan Spring Trio

from The Spirit of Spring

Trio Records

Read my review here

9. Joker
Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter

from Dervish (not yet released)
DiN online

please note the picture here is not album artwork

10. Rocky Looks Like A Flower

from Muut: Live in Estonia

Tuner online

Read my review here

Thanks to:
Barry Stock
Trio Records
Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter
Tim Bowness
Jacob Heringman
Navigator Records

Jon Boden Songs From The Floodplain

Future Days...
Songs From The Floodplain
Jon Boden
Navigator Records

At first glance Jon Boden's second solo album sounds like another collection of well-crafted folk tunes. Closer inspection reveals it to be something altogether different. These are in fact hand-me-down songs from a time that has yet to happen.

Set in some post-apocalyptic Albion, these are tales about life in a post-industrial wasteland where the barbed-wire and the ivy intertwine; a place where hope hasn't entirely dwindled away, but it may be on its last legs.

Opening and closing with the sound of falling rain (perhaps the very Hard Rain that Dylan warned us about way back when), Boden maps out a desolate place where what's left of the population have fallen prey to chronic fear, huddling in small insular communities.

If the notion of a concept album somehow strikes you as indicative that he's given in to some prog-rock pomposity, stop worrying.

Given that the bulk of the traditional folk repertoire deals with great disasters and challenging events of times gone by, Boden's dipping into the song-book of the days of future passed produces some glorious tunes borne from grim adversity.

Throughout, his vocals reveal an unexpected tenderness and an almost poetic incisiveness that sometimes gets lost in the mix in his day job with folk ensemble, Bellowhead.

In the album's poignant centre-piece, Dancing In The Factory, he observes ''We cling to words like children and seek for hidden meaning/ Long after sense has ceased to be and reason is receding/ But words have torn this world apart and left us stooped and pleading/We shovel dust and hide our hope and wrap ourselves in dreaming''.

Accompanied by a lonely accordion, and emotion breaking his voice, when Boden sings on the chorus, ''And all that I can think about is wood smoke in the valley / kisses in the fall-out shelter, dancing in the factory/ That closed so long ago'', the sense of complete devastation is overwhelming.

A beautifully profound and dramatic record that has all the makings of a future classic.

This review originally appeared here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ian Carr

Ian Carr was someone I didn’t know and had never met. Yet when I stumbled across the news of his passing I felt that sudden crunch of shock and sadness that you feel when someone you actually know (as opposed to know of) has died.

The reason for such a sense of connection and corresponding loss is obvious. Ian Carr’s music had percolated its way into my life back in the early 1970s and had stayed there as a presence either in his role as composer, player, writer or broadcaster ever since.

His biography on Miles Davis was a sure-handed guide to a young kid like me who was wanting to get his head around the nebulous world which Davis had created across a stellar career.

The same was true of Music Outside, Carr's indispensable handbook charting the dizzying cross-pollination of the personnel that teemed across the British jazz scene of the 60s and 70s.

Carr’s reassuring authority came not from his academic prowess (as good as that was) but through the quality of his own playing.

Listening to his work in Nucleus, one is struck by how generous he was. His writing created platforms for others to shine and his own solos were usually dedicated to hitting the bullseye with as little fuss as possible.

Their debut album, Elastic Rock (1970), with its tight jazz-rock riffing remains a favourite, though the more ambiguous Belladona (1972), uses light and space to better effect, featuring outstanding performances from pianist Dave MacRae, Allan Holdsworth and from Carr himself.

Carr’s love affair with the groove and a more demonstrative brand of jazz-rock was central to Nucleus’ pungent and tangy manifesto of sonorous themes and rhythmic interplay. Though this might be applied to many of Carr’s albums, 1974‘s Under The Sun is amongst the best of its kind.

A great ambassador for jazz in all its forms, Carr’s mellifluous Geordie accent (rounded by his years away from the Toon) was always a welcome bonus when he appeared as a presenter on Radio 3’s Jazz File and fronting other documentaries.

Though he battled with depression and personal setbacks in his private life, in his music he was garrulous, freewheeling, thought-provoking, and always good company.

In more recent years he was honoured by the industry and the co-option of his early work with Don Rendell by Radio 1 DJ Giles Peterson as a source of “new” critical beats and grooves, showed the slow but inevitable influence of his work across different generations and genre.

The death of a musical hero and the effect that such news has upon you is always difficult to explain. However, there’s some comfort in knowing that although Ian Carr may have gone, the music he brought into the world stays with us, as vibrant, dynamic and colourful as it ever was.

Ian Carr
21 April 1933 - 25 February 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Street Life CLVII

The Confessions Of The Sputnik Kid VIII

Part 2
Upon Entering Arblus
In which Chime cannot recall how she came to be where she is...


'Late again?'
'No. please don't.'
'You've been warned, haven't you?'

That voice.

The echo of it makes her shudder.
Time ripples out from under her and she falls away.
Into nothing.

It had been dark and now it's dawn -
the morning sticky with ether
a smell of long corridors and rubber undersheets
faraway from here.


A bark like an old man's cough
as crows spatter against the cold blue sky,
swarming at some invisible command
hacking back to a full stop and black.

She thinks "Am I in Heaven?"

Unable to recall how she came to be here, she keeps quiet.
Seeing the soil traced in frost she shivers,
an unsteadying throw of excitement
as she realises she does not feel the cold.

Images by Martin Hoogeboom
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid I can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid II can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid III can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid IV can here seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid V can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid VI can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid VII can be seen here

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

X Marks The Spot

I went out for a short jaunt with Bernard. The idea had been to pop along to the Rendezvous Cafe but with the aid of high-powered binoculars I was able to discern the place was closed. Still, since we were out we figured we might take a walk anyway.

Under discussion: how the business of having to earn a living gets in the way of good ideas.
Although it was warm, the sea was heavy and bruising for a fight...

After chatting for a while at the Beachcomber Cafe we headed back home but not before Bernard noticed a great big X in the sky.

X marks the spot: here lies buried treasure...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Me And My Black Dog

Over the years I’ve had to live with occasional bouts of depression. Sometimes, as in 2004, it hit and hit hard. I found myself reduced to a lights-on-but-nobody-home cipher for a weeks at a time.

It’s always been there and is undeniably a part of my make-up. No matter how I would deny it, I always fell under of its remorseless creep.

Since recognising that this is partly who I am and that its appearance is simply a facet of a natural internal cycle, it no longer has the debilitating hold over me that it used to.

It’s been lurking just behind me now for a few days now but the world keeps turning and I’m staying productive and engaged.

Small victories perhaps but these days every one of them counts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Red Sky At Night

Another Saturday afternoon spent in the kitchen preparing some nibbles for friends. I always like preparing food - in this case baking some small cheese and onion bread buns, two loaves of ciabatta, and tending to a shoulder of pork which was slow cooked for several hours as recommended by Jamie Oliver.

Whereas during last week’s cooking extravaganza we rocked out to loudly played Frank Sinatra, this week it was the dulcet tones of Radio 4. Listening to the monumentally smug and politically lazy Francis Maud on Any Questions reminded me that for all my dislike of Gordon Brown and his lot, I still loathe the Tories even more.

Taking a break from the cooking and the politics of cooking the books, I caught up with some correspondence from Steve Wilson. I’m interviewing Steve about his work on the forthcoming King Crimson 5.1 remasters and so look forward to meeting up with him again.

Then it was time for sunset as seen from Tom’s bedroom window.

Then it was time for get the room ready for guests

Then it was time for the guests to arrive

Friday, February 20, 2009

Podcasts From The Yellow Room IV

Recorded in the Yellow Room, Friday 20th February, 2009
Duration 1hr.52
Music featured in this episode:

1. La Ballata De S'isosa 'E Nannorri

from 4th

reviewed here

MoonJune Records

2. Into The Blue

Drever, McCusker, Woomble

from Before The Ruin

Navigator Records

3. Caela & 10. Forget-Me-Not

Andrew Keeling

from Blue Dawn

Reviewed here

Burning Shed

4. Down By The Fall Line


from Song of the Pearl

Thrill Jockey

5. Lord Have Mercy

Howlin Rain

from Magnificent Fiend

Reviewed here

Birdman Records

6. Children of the Hollow Dawn

Ray Russell

from Secret Asylum

Reviewed here

Reel Recordings

7. Map Table


from Choral

Reviewed here

Thrill Jockey

8. Winter


from Bright Gold and Red

Reviewed here

Wild Chance Music

9. Magnificent Giant Battles

Isildurs Bane

from The Voyage - A Trip to Elsewhere

Isildurs Bane website

Thanks to Barry Stock

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Steven Wilson Insurgentes

A Drop of the Dark Stuff...
Steven Wilson

There was a time that when you started getting into a band all you had to do was buy the current album and then work your way through the back catalogue. Depending on the artist, this was usually only a couple of records at best. Anyone getting into the Steven Wilson via his first solo album will have their work out for them.

Just counting up his musical adventures via Porcupine Tree’s cinematic prog-tinged anthems or No-Man’s late night post-rock introspection are enough to make a pair of horny rabbits seem like models of celibacy.

And that’s before we start adding up the myriad side-projects bearing his name,influence and production skills. Given the extent of this musical hyperactivity one wonders how Wilson would found the time to record a solo album in the first place.

Sitting somewhere between the dramatic grandeur of Porcupine Tree and No-Man’s alone-in-a-crowd existentialism, Insurgentes, is a journey through extremes of emotions and experience.

Wilson’s sure-handed control the horizontal and the vertical propels us from diaphanous dream-states to being bull-dozed into intensely claustrophobic spaces sometimes, as in the case of Harmony Korine, during the course of one song.

Other moments of aural fireworks include a dazzling solo from guitarist Mike Outram (recently heard to similarly great effect on Theo Travis’ Double Talk), stirring orchestral arrangements with Canterbury Scene legend, Dave Stewart, and King Crimson's Tony Levin's sweet bass work.

Wilson’s favourite lyrical themes concerning individual dislocation and fragmented isolation are well to the fore and are frequently matched by his instrumental choices.

The terminal gravity of distorted guitars on Get All You Deserve compresses everything underneath to the point where Gavin Harrison’s titanic drumming is reduced to little more than persistent spikes of white noise.

Yet for all the bleakness running through much of the music, it surprisingly avoids being oppressive or maudlin. Wilson’s alchemical knack of transforming the dark stuff of life into something transcendent and hopeful is surely one of the key attractions for his ever-growing growing fan-base.

The moving appearance of Michiyo Yagi’s 17-string bass koto on the title track, whilst having a ritual solemnity about it, also becomes one of the records truly uplifting moments allowing just enough light to peep into Insugentes’ shuttered room.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Confessions Of The Sputnik Kid VII

Part I
Escape Velocity


I duck inside the wreckage of a house to catch my breath,
enjoying the sudden refuge and changing air.
Working at prizing off my shoes,
being careful I don’t unknot the laces.
Peeling off the sodden paper bags,
my toes slowly worm back to life, creak like rust, cracking free.


Pushing back into dank tomb-shoes, a crooked dancer
teetering on one leg, it’s only then I see I’m not alone.
a moment is filled by birdsong and the growling buzz of early morning traffic.
jolted, fallen backwards onto my behind, gasping as two dead eyes gaze back.

Images by Martin Hoogeboom
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid I can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid II can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid III can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid IV can here seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid V can be seen here
The Confessions of the Sputnik Kid VI can be seen here

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Only Connect

Another night of strange dreams (strong and highly symbolic) and a sense of anxiety upon waking up. I can't put my finger on why this might be so. However, I'm sure it will reveal itself in the fullness of time.

I took a walk out this morning to clear the cobwebs. A grey sky was clamped down on the morning like a lid. A calm morning, warm as well.

I felt better, despite the presence of the Royal Navy at the end of the street.

When I got back, my sister rang to see if I wanted to go for a walk before she went to work. So, I headed back out to meet her and walk towards Cullercoats. We walked and talked as we had done on Sunday morning. A good opportunity to chime in on each other's thoughts and worries and to provide some mutual reassurance.

Actually, we get that just by making contact - even if we only talked about the price of welks, the fact that we connect is what's important and what we draw strength from.

I hadn't been back at the desk too long when the phone went. It was Sue, Debra's friend from Australia. "I bet she's asleep, the lazy cow!" said Sue. She was right.

It was fun hearing the pair of them chatting (well hearing one side of the conversation but you know what I mean), and uppermost in Sue's mind was the desire to know what piece of music had caused such an outbreak of frugging in the Yellow Room yesterday:

She wasn't the only one who wanted to know given the couple of comments on the blog and some emails and one text. Well, I know this will be something of an anti-climax but it was Mocking Bird by Barclay James Harvest. I've not met Sue (and her husband, Richard) but the way Debra talks about them I have a sense we'd all get on if they made it over to Blighty or we got Down Under.

For reasons unknown to us, Ginger Bob leapt up for a fuss. This beast is normally rather diffident and taciturn unless you're in the vicinity of a can of cat food. Whatever was going through his feline brain to cause such a love-fest, Debra whisked the camera off the desk and snapped the tender moment for posterity.

Our house-guests departed around lunch-time and the boys have gone over to see their mother. So the house is quite and begins to settle back down into normality again.

Later in the day Tim Bowness rang. It's interesting how talking about music (never mind writing about it) is such a blunt instrument compared to the complex and nuanced ways in which music communicates ideas and emotions.


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