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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Rebel Wheel We Are In The Time Of Evil Clocks


The Rebel Wheel We Are In The Time Of Evil Clocks
10T Records

Bookended by dissonant electronica, the second album from this Canadian quartet contains a refreshing collision between jazz-rock aesthetics, and gothic, doom-laden overtures thrust onto brain-mangling time signatures.

The multi-sectioned compositions by guitarist and keyboard player, David Campbell, move quickly between haunting pastorals and oppressive squalls brimming with cavernous bass-end crunches. There are times, such as on the seven-part, 27-minute long saga, The Discovery Of Witchcraft, when the band conjures the kind of malevolent energies which Van der Graaf Generator reliably invoke.

Whilst the fantasy-orientated lyrics based on the work of the Booker Prize shortlisted author, Robertson Davies, may be a touch too Grand Guignol for some people’s tastes, Campbell’s instrumental writing is blessed with power and subtlety in equal measure.

The expansive use of inventive keyboard textures, some exquisitely economic lead guitar breaks (especially on the Canterburyesque Invitation To The Dance) and Angie MacIvor’s often show-stealing sax work ensures there’s no shortage of detail to explore and admire.

This broad church approach makes it hard to pigeon-hole or easily assimilate The Rebel Wheel. However they remind us that progressive music is at its best when it’s at its most challenging.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Going For Goblin

Lots of things are in the air at the moment. Having nipped out to the shops yesterday, I returned to find a message on the answerphone from a TV production company asking if I'd like to take part in a documentary. Then another phone call from a publisher regarding a proposed book project which I'm currently involved in.

Later on, very positive conversations took place with the principals on both topics and it would seem that things are moving forward very nicely.

All of which is good news because a letter from HMRC today informed me that I owed them some more money and wiped the self-satisfied smile on my smug mug.

An hour later, following a conversation with an operative that frankly left me none the wiser, I was nevertheless a few hundred quid worse off.

A lot of today was prepping for tomorrow's telephone interview with John Renbourn. Listening to his lovely new album, Palermo Snow and the all-time classic Sir John A Lot - a gorgeous album from start to finish.

Then it was time to go to The Sage in Gateshead. I'm reviewing Italian prog band, Goblin - best known for providing the soundtrack to movies by horror flick auteur, Dario Argento. Goblin are in the UK to play just two concerts.

The Tyne Bridge viewed from the Sage...



Inside the Sage...



Then I was met by the concert promoter and whisked behind stage to talk to the band who were in post-sound check mode...

l-r Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Maurizio Guarini


After the interview I went back onto the concourse to sit and transcribe the interview. Whilst doing that I got chatting with a young fan of the band. His name was Amicus - changed by deed poll in honour of the film production company of the same name. It was great hearing his excitement at seeing his heroes play a concert...

I was then joined by another fan of Goblin and the Argento movies, Eric O and his mate...

Lord Muck of Tabertree...

The gig in Hall Two was packed to the gills and I'm pleased to report the sound was fantastic. I've been to too many gigs where the poor sound has marred the experience recently. This was not one of them. Goblin were on top form though I'm bound to conclude that the music was MUCH better than the films being projected behind them as they played.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Returning Debra

Debra has been away for a couple of days to catch up with Neil and Halina in Birmingham and her sister and the new arrival to the extended family, Leo, down in Wellingborough. Today she returned which necessitated a visit to the coldest railway concourse known to humanity aka Central Station...



Debra arrived exactly on time...



Before heading to a restaurant in order to do some mighty catching up on all the news, we take a brief detour to the Lit & Phil where I have a little business to attend to...
and Debra catches up on her many messages...

It's always good to go away but it's always good to come home - especially when it's the love of your life that's returning!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Past Is A Different Floppy

Today was bleak...

and cold...

but that didn't deter Tim and Sid in search of a lunch time snack...

After a drive-about in search of a pie we stopped at Roy's Bakery in Tynemouth where there was a deserted shop and eight counter staff (yes eight!). Yet we still had to wait for almost five minutes as one of the eight served the queue (one woman in front of us) and her seven colleagues looked the other way.

At least the view was better than the service...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...


This disc contains some music I made on Tim's Ensoniq keyboard many moons ago...

At the time we couldn't believe how compact the future could be. Music on a floppy disc! Fancy! Whatever will they think of next. Little did we know!

Meanwhile, Tim sits with his fabbo-sounding Martin guitar in a totally natural and completely un-posed manner...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oak Ash Thorn Various Artists


Oak Ash Thorn


Various Artists
Folk Police Recordings

Folk music has always traded upon ancient myths and the rueful observance of everyday life in roughly equal measure. Often, as much as things change everything also remains pretty much the same. It’s no surprise therefore how well old and new sit so well next to each other in the work of Peter Bellamy.

Memorably described by Rob Young in Electric Eden as looking like “a chorister-turned-dandy miscegenation of Warhol and The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones”, Bellamy recorded with initially as a member of The Young Tradition and as a solo artist, before his death from an overdose of drink and prescription drugs in 1991.

Oddly enough, given the resurgence of interest in all things folk, two of Bellamy’s most celebrated albums, settings of Rudyard Kipling’s poems for children on Oak, Ash and Thorn (1970) and Merlin’s Isle of Gramayre (1972), remain unavailable on CD.

The world mapped out in Oak Ash Thorn is often a strange, ominous terrain populated by loss, blight and cursed luck. The songs become talisman-like chants designed to confront the quickening misery and in some way ward it off. These cautionary tales are akin to a map marking out a path through the moral and social quagmires that beset lives in such benighted times. This homage to Bellamy contains startling performances that mix those ancient and modern worlds to remarkable effect.

That temporal fusion is quite literally achieved by Jon Boden on Frankie’s Trade, where it initially emerges from a retro wax cylinder recording. Harp Song of the Dane Women, declaimed and droned by Sedayne and Rapunzel, though sonically pristine, is just as unsettling in all its eerie “otherness”.

Other highlights include Tim Eriksens rendition of Poor Honest Men, erupting into a noisefest of fuzzed-out mangled feedback, whilst sitting easily next to the sweet twinkling celestes and reversed-tape ephemera of The Heavens Above Us as reimagined by Emily Portman and Finn McNicholas. Trembling Bells cross Fotheringay with Espers on Sir Richard’s Song whilst The Unthanks, Cath and Phil Tyler, The Owl Service and other notables makes this an entirely cohesive and compelling compilation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pay Attention Now

Long-term readers of this blog will recognise this photograph as belonging to the coldest train station known to humanity...

Today Debra left for a couple of days in order to catch up with friends N&H in Birmingham and family in Wellingborough...

There was some good company in WH Smiths...

Having kissed Debra goodbye I headed out through the Portico to the car park...

Lesley and I braved the weather and headed north(ish) to Alnwick. Our destination was Barter Books...
and this...
Over a pot of tea and some lovely comfort food Lesley and I reflected on how fragile and partial something like family history can be. First-hand knowledge of schisms and splits quickly fades as people pass on. The cause celebre in some of our history is now an object of speculation and bafflement.

Several times over the course of a few hours we said "I wish I could ask my mother". When we're young we hear the stories several times, but either through a combination of memory loss or a simple lack of attention at the time, we quickly lose the subtleties and the sub-text.


Some memories however are incised deep in the psyche and lose none their power or emotional potency...
I was recounting a time when my father sent me to fetch my mother (who was at work in the local corner shop) so he could beat her. I could still see the colour drain from my mother's face as I told her "Dad's not well" - which was the agreed code she had instructed me to say in the event of a domestic crisis. As I told Lesley this I couldn't help but burst into tears. I was only six or seven when this happened but it was still vivid, still raw.

Perhaps these things are best forgotten but such memories, as difficult and as unpalatable as they are, form the truth of who we are and how things in the family were shaped.

On the drive home we ponder on the fact that after we are gone, first-hand access to all of that world goes with us. Would there be a point when any of our children would want to know of the trials and triumphs of our family history?

If I could change one thing it would be that when I was younger, listening to my Gran Rountree, is that I made notes! If I have one bit of advice to my children it is this: pay attention now. It's all over and done so quickly. By the time you come to sit down and wonder what the answer is to some a specific family question, the answers may well be lost and gone.

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