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T. Rex – Ride A White Swan

I picked up a very cheap copy of this 1972 T. Rex compilation because, when I saw it, I realised I don’t have any. It’s not rare or particularly special as a compilation, but boy did I r-973276-1247597422-jpegenjoy listening to it. The average re-sale price of this LP is £2, but that doesn’t mean the songs aren’t great. I used to have a greatest hits cassette back in the early 80’s and it seemed to always be in the tape player so it was played a lot. I seem to recall decorating a bedroom and the cassette was on repeat for about three days, Just T. Rex and nothing else.

I remember Bolan well, I was 10 years old when he died, but he had a TV show that I watched sometimes and, though it seems unlikely, I am convinced that I heard ‘Ride A White Swan’ on the radio when it was first released, which would have been 1970 when I was 3 1/2 years old, it’s possible, but maybe my memory has done some re-writing of history there.

A1 Ride A White Swan
A2 Debora
A3 Child Star
A4 Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)
A5 Consuala
A6 Strange Orchestras
B1 One Inch Rock
B2 Salamanda Palaganda
B3 Lofty Skies
B4 Stacey Grove
B5 King Of The Rumbling Spires
B6 Elemental Child

 

Sing along:

Ride it on out like a bird in the sky ways
Ride it on out like you were a bird
Fly it all out like an eagle in a sunbeam
Ride it on out like you were a bird

Wear a tall hat like a druid in the old days
Wear a tall hat and a tattooed gown
Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltane
Wear your hair long, babe, you can’t go wrong

Catch a bright star and place it on your fore-head
Say a few spells and baby there you go
Take a black cat
Sit it on your shoulder
And in the morning you’ll know all you know

Da-da-di-di-da
Da-da-di-di-da

I’m probably going to have to get a couple of other albums now because I want 20th Century Boy, Jeepster, Metal Guru, Telegram Sam an so on, he had a long string of hits and even though he had tapered off creatively towards the end, he was definitely on the way back and it’s a real shame that we never saw what he was going to do next.

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Matmos – Ultimate Care II

There are two things that made me buy this record, the first were the words ‘ Limited Edition’ and ‘Coloured Vinyl’, the second was that I’d heard quite a few Matmos tracks in the past that I liked, maybe that’s three things, anyway, it’s quite clear that I am easily seduced by the first two and this was no exception. It wasn’t until after I’d left the record store that I released what the picture on the record sleeve was, I had thought it was a sort of abstract mushroom:

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Even though it’s quite clear that it is a washing machine with chunks taken out of it. I just can’t have been paying attention. The album, ‘Ultimate Care II’ is named after that very washing machine and is made up entirely of samples of the sounds the washing machine makes.

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This is a problem. I bloody hate the sounds a washing machine makes, well, mine at least, when it starts its spin cycle it is so loud that it drowns out all other noise and it’s damn annoying. So I really didn’t have high hopes for this album when I realised exactly what it was I’d bought.

I’ve given the album about three full listens through and there is no doubt that it is technically adept, well constructed and is, despite it being a washing machine, highly musical but as one might expect, it has a lot of percussive elements.

The liner notes on the inner sleeve explain exactly what it is you are listening to:

WARNING
All sounds on this recording were originally
generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II
washing machine in the basement of our
home in Baltimore.
These sounds were then manipulated with
samplers, software and outboard processing
gear.
No synthesizers or drum machines were used.

It is 9 tracks, or excerpts as they are listed, although I believe the CD version is one long track designed to echo the washing machine cycle. The vinyl has a ‘Wash’ side and a ‘Rinse’ side. Have a listen to a track below to judge for yourself.

There are knobs being turned, lids being slammed shut, water gurgling, all manner of bangs and electronically beepy sounds that must have been treated, and it does alternate between highly listenable and not.

As an artifact it is something that I rather like owning and I can appreciate the skill it must have taken to create these tracks from a single sound source, but I can’t see myself playing it too often. I’ve said that about other albums before of course and ended up liking them a lot more that I thought I would, so who knows, maybe it’s a grower.

 

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That Special Record – September

Another month goes by and another surprise arrives in the post. This month the album I received from ‘That Special Record‘ was ‘Verdaillon’ by ‘Saåad’. Why not press play below now before you read any further so you can hear exactly what I’m talking about.

 

Listening? Good, then I’ll begin.

This current incarnation of Saåad consists of Romain Barbot and Gregory Buffier, who were once part of the Toulousian post-hardcore scene and have produced about a dozen albums so far. I did not know any of this before the album arrived this morning, frankly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as post-hardcore scene anywhere, which is one of the great pleasures of allowing somebody else to choose an album for you. As I am quite a few months in now I feel that I can trust Miguel at ‘That Special Record‘ not to send me anything bad as there isn’t a single release I’ve received that I haven’t liked, to varying degrees admittedly, but I’ve never not played an album multiple times and enjoyed the listen.

I find the back story of this album really rather interesting, and I’ll quote it from the official release: ‘ Upon invitation of the local Les Orgues festival, giving them access to the Puget organ located in the Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade, they composed an original creation that In Paradisum is proud to publish under the form of the album Verdaillon.’
My only frame of reference  for the music is the above paragraph and the sleeve of the album:
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The front cover (above) depicts building works on a Monastery in Boulogne taken in 1954 by Henri Barbot and the back cover (below) depicts the 1926 collapse of a steeple on Eglise Notre Dame de la Dalbade taken on April 11th 1926.

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As a result, through my own imagination or by design, I am transported to catacombs, to a room in the back of a church where there is water being scooped from a font, to the end of a service where a full house lays their bibles down on the pews in unison. Workmen repair something broken in an out of the way apse, monks, hoods up with faces hidden in shadow chant as an old but magnificent church organ sustains long chord changes. And then there is the ambience. It sounds almost ridiculous to me as I write it but much of this music is constructed around a church organ, an instrument I never thought would dominate any album I would ever own, but the sound of it, in it’s original setting with giant reverberations make it a powerful, dark, brooding thing at times, but at others it invokes all those memories of church services attended as a boy where everything was so very serious, and mysterious, to the child dressed up in his Sunday best and not knowing what was going on, only that it must be very important. At other times the organ is uplifting, spiritual even, bringing light to the dull lives of the listening congregation.

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Puget pipe organ in the Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade

If you did press play a few hundred words back then hopefully you will, by now, hear exactly what I’m getting at. This is music that would sit comfortably as the score to a Gothic film thanks to it’s mood but although categorised as Dark Ambient, Drone and others, it doesn’t seem typical of those genres to me. It has a fullness about it, textures, layers and, with the field recordings, seems to be set very much in a place, in a way of life, that is fading still.
It isn’t for everybody but, to my surprise perhaps, it is for me. It’s been on repeat all day and each cycle presents something new for me to savour.I am not religious, and this is not religious music, but it is both spiritual and secular, simultaneously of yesteryear and of tomorrow.
Tracks:
1. Egregore – 2:26
2. Marsyas (Ad Lib) – 1:32
3. The Harvest – 7:07
4. Incarnat I (Subèrn) – 3:31
5. Opaque Mirror – 5:24
6. Incarnat II (1888) – 2:05
7. Eternal Grow – 6:01
8. Incarnat III (The Invisible Steeple) – 4:46
9 .Vorde – 7:50
Credits:music by Romain Barbot & Grégory Buffier .
Romain Barbot : grand orgue, aulos, vocals, grand orgue samples, field recordings.
Grégory Buffler : grand orgue, aulos, guitar, acoustic laptop, field recordings.
additional aulos on The Harvest by Patrick Faubert.
Grand orgue recorded by Patrick Faubert on 18th & 19th June, 2014 (Toulouse, France), additional recordings by Romain Barbot & Grégory Buffier (2014-2015).
mixed by Aurélien Prévost at BillyPan studio (2015)
mastered by James Plotkin (2016)

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Bjork – Royal Albert Hall 21/09/2016

The Royal Albert Hall is a a bit of a bugger to get to on a Wednesday evening so when Dave agreed not only to go with me but also to drive that was a real bonus. The day before I had a blowout on the way home from work so I had to get some new tyres on Wednesday, then drive down to Didcot to meet up with Dave and on to London and a side street with free parking, near to a tube station that was only three stops from South Kensington, the nearest station to the Albert Hall.

It’s been quite some time since Dave had been on the tube and it’s fair to say he was quite shocked that it was just under £10 a return ticket for only three stops,to be honest, I was a little surprised myself , I had thought £5 or so, but £10?, a taxi would have been cheaper.

Here’s Dave as we arrived and had a look around:

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It’s an impressive structure that’s for sure, although we still got a little lost on the walk from the tube, mostly my fault as I completely lost my ability to understand what google maps was telling me.

In an effort to stop the secondary selling of tickets it was necessary to have the tickets, cover note with name and address and a photo ID to get in, which was fine for us at door 8 and we got in almost immediately, but there were some pretty long queues at the other doors. We were about an hour early so we made our way to the Old Speckled Hen bar where I rather enjoyed a Gin before taking our seats.

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We were seated in the circle, which was not good for me as I’m really not very fond of heights and it was a long way down with a barrier that was only at about the level of my knees. I rather nervously shuffled to my seat and sat in what was a very small space for a big man, or a medium man even.

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Dave is not worried by heights, which may be why he is wearing that semi-evil smile but this:

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scared the crap out of me and I began to wish I’d managed to buy tickets at ground level, however, I was where I was so there was no point moaning about it, but I did, a bit anyway. It had looked as though the concert was going to start with only a half full Albert Hall but at 7:30 it very quickly filled up and by 7:45 it was full.

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The Aurora Orchestra walked out and took their seats, followed by Conductor then after a brief pause Bjork appeared stage right and we were underway. I can truthfully say that I was a little choked up as the first track, ‘Stonemilker’ began and Bjork sang the first lines. I have been trying, one way or another, to see her perform live for years and this , finally, was it.

The first half of the performance was a rather hard listen as it was tracks from Vulnicura, which is a rather a difficult mind set to find oneself in being as it is about the breakup of a relationship and the effects it has on a family unit. I have previously mentioned in an earlier post that I was finding the whole Vulnicurna album to be very difficult to get into but, as a result of seeing it performed right there in front of me, I found a way in and have a much deeper appreciation of the songs and am beginning to love it.

The acoustics int the Albert Hall are really astounding. At one point Bjork was singing acapella and stamped her foot on the stage, which I could hear clearly even though I was quite some distance away. Everything was beautifully clear, not a hint of distortion and it was a pleasure on the ears. As I discussed with Dave, the approach to this concert had to be a little different as there was no percussion, no variation I suppose as we had strings and Bjork’s voice, so we approached it as though it were a concert of classical music, which one day may well be the case, but it helped us to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate what was unfolding in front of us. Without the accompanying electronics, with no beat, Bjork seemed even more exposed, vulnerable even as she documented her break up from film director Matthew Barney.

The arrangement of ‘Black Lake’ was quite unnerving in a way, the strings would hold a long note, slowly dying away to the point that the song may have ended, until Bjork again sang, and then the note would be held again, to drift away, at one point eliciting rousing applause as many thought the song finished, before Bjork would again begin to sing.

It was, in a way, an opera, one full of tragedy. As she sang the word that were hauntingly sad, as from ‘Family’:

Is there a place
Where I can pay respects
For the death of my family

Followed by:

How will I sing us
Out of this sorrow
Build a safe bridge
For the child out of this danger

After about 50 minutes there was an intermission which gave people a chance to nip to the loo, or the bar, but I sat where I was, chatting to Dave, I really didn’t want to stand up and see that drop again. All the opening songs were from Vulnicurna I think, which means the first half was probably as follows:

Stonemilker
Lionsong
History of Touches
Black Lake
Family
Notget

The second half kicked off and was somewhat more upbeat although we did still have just strings and voice, but what a voice, and what an orchestra, everything was beautifully executed.  The version of Jóga was indeed beautiful, more delicate with only strings, but retaining it’s essence, even though, just for one song, some percussion or electronics to add light and shade would have been welcome, in the end it didn’t matter, Bjork was majestic, floating about the stage in a dress that reacted to UV light and lit her up like a jellyfish drifting on the tides.

The second half tracks and encore were:

Aurora
I’ve Seen It All
Jóga
Pagan Poetry
Quicksand
Mouth Mantra

Encore:
The Anchor Song
Pluto

As you can see from the numbers below, Vulnicura was the main event, which is understandable as it has been the focus of the last three official releases, the studio album, with strings and Live:

Vulnicura  – 8
Homogenic  – 2
Vespertine  – 2
Debut  – 1
Selmasongs  – 1

When Björk left the stage after a wonderful version of Pluto, the  crowd, who had previously seemed to be under a spell, broke free and there was stamping of the floor and taking up of  the song’s “ooh-oooh-ooh-ooh” chant. The house lights came up but it continued, until, alone, Bjork returned to the stage to thank London, “my second musical home”.

Here are some professional photographs taken on the evening and borrowed from the Bjork website:

 

And here are various bits of video that have turned up since Wednesday last week, of varying length and quality but it gives a flavor of the event:

An the crowd went wild!:

In summation, it wasn’t quite what I expected but it was brilliant all the same and I would have gone to the Hammersmith Apollo a few days later if I could have afforded tickets, but next time around I will be going again for a full band experience, because like any great performer, she left me wanting more.

 

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Angelo Badalamenti – Soundtrack from Twin Peaks

Did you love Twin Peaks? I did, it was so odd and somehow compelling, with the show creatingtp1 a feeling that everybody there had something to hide, whether it related to the death of Laura Palmer or not. The strange, slightly uncomfortable viewing was enhanced greatly by the music of Angelo Badalamenti, who seemed to have created a perfect musical accompaniment.

I pre-ordered a re-issue, re-master of the soundtrack a while ago and it arrived last week, it’s a lovely thing. It has a die cut outer sleeve and an inner gatefold housing a coloured vinyl, what colour? Damn fine coffee coloured apparently. tp2

I went to the location where the series was filmed in Washington state back in 1999 (With friends Dirk and Allison pointing things out) and it was quite weird to be there. What you see on the TV screen is, of course, not what is there in reality, however, seeing the actual place made the whole show seem somehow more real and, in many ways, rather more frightening as the protection of the TV screen was removed. I watched it again after visiting and, even though I knew what happened, it still put me rather on edge a lot of the time.

Who could forget this:

Genius! Also crazy, but genius all the same.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack all week and I do now plan to watch the entire series again, for a third time, because, well, why not?

You can, should you wish, remind yourself of just how good this soundtrack is by playing the video below.

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To Rococo Rot – Instrument

Several years ago I bought a double CD of Electronic music, I can’t remember what it was called, it’s in a drawer somewhere at home, but it was a sort of origins compilation and on it was a track named ‘Cars’ by To Rococo Rot that I really liked, but I never explored any further. When I saw their last album (2014) in the record store for £8.00 it seemed to me that I had little choice but to buy it, so I did and I don’t regret it at all. Although I’ve only listened to the vinyl copy once, I have been listening to the album via Apple Music, probably 7 or 8 times by now. Carrying my turntable, amp and speakers around was difficult enough, then I had to find somewhere to plug it in, so my phone has to suffice when I’m out and about. 

I’ve no idea why it was so cheap but, while it is quite different to ‘Cars’, which was around in 1999, it’s still very much the sort of thing that I like.

WIKI: To Rococo Rot is a Berlin-based trio who combine electronic and acoustic elements to create instrumental post-rock and electronic music. The group is composed of bass guitarist Stefan Schneider (ex-member of Düsseldorf-based group, Kreidler) and brothers Robert (guitar, electronics) and Ronald Lippok (drums, effects). Ronald Lippok has also gained praise for his work in Tarwater. The band’s name is a palindrome, as it can be spelled the same both forwards and backwards.

The group’s first album, To Rococo Rot, was released in 1996 in the form of an untitled picture disc. It was subsequently reissued on CD by Kitty Yo. The more widely distributed Veiculo, released by the UK independent label City Slang, appeared the following year. In 1997, the group recorded an to-rococo-rot-many-descriptions-instrumentalbum’s worth of material with the producer David Moufang. Following a move to Mute Records, the band released The Amateur View in 1999 and Music Is a Hungry Ghost in 2001, followed by the critically acclaimed Hotel Morgen in 2004. Speculation was released in March 2010, and their latest full-length album, Instrument, was released in July 2014.

I’d had ‘Cars’ on a few playlists so had heard it often but it’s been quite a while and ‘Instrument’has a much more polished feel about it, but is still quite experimental, at times seemingly created by randomly generating notes, although I am making this comparison based on one song vs an entire album.

It does have a feel of what Kosmische Musik (Krautrock) might have developed into, or perhaps just elements of that music and that is a positive as I’m rather fond of Kosmische Musik. It reminds me a little of ‘Fujiya & Miyagi’ at times, but a little more downtempo, less in your face. There are certainly passages where I can hear strong links to Can, which is also no bad thing. I will probably have to do a little more back catalogue investigating as I liked this album a lot.