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The Listening List

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28/11/2016 – 29/11/2016

Portishead – Portishead
Stranger Things Soundtrack – Volume 1 – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Stranger Things Soundtrack – Volume 2 – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
The Cult – Electric
Senyawa – Brønshøj (Puncak)
Kraftwerk – Autobahn

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That Special Record – November

This will be a two part review, as I have received the ‘That Special Record’ LP for this month at work and can’t actually play it until I get home. So while I have 15 minutes of my lunch break left I will tell you that it is with some trepidation that I will be putting this on the turntable tonight. Why? well, let me explain. Once again I’d never heard of the Artist, which is not a bad thing, so I did a little search online and found some other tracks by them. The artist is ‘Senyawa’ and the album is called ‘Brønshøj (Puncak)’, which I didn’t find but the other tracks of theirs I listened too were really not to my liking at all.

To quote from Discogs: Pushing their powerful experiments further into uncharted waters Wukir Suryadi and Rully Shabara Herman has once again joined forces on a new Senyawa album. The combination of Rully’s extreme vocal techniques and the curious output from Wukir’s homemade string instrument, the bambu wukir, still sounds like nothing else on Spaceship Earth.

This is what I found online as a taster for what I was to listen to this evening:

Mostly nope nope nope. Not my thing at all. It’s all a bit emperors new clothes to me, some people say it’s amazing, pure art, magic, spiritual, exceptional and who am I to disagree? Except I do. It feels like a bit of performance art to me, which is interesting for a little while but once the performance is over there’s no desire to hear it again.

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The above was disappointing for a new LP.

So I will listen to the album tonight and, well, I may have a completely different opinion then. You’ll find out in the next paragraph.


Later the same day:

Godamnit Miguel at That Special Record, seriously, what the hell is this? I’ve clearly set the whole thing up above to lessen the blow when I hate the record you sent, except I don’t, you’re playing with my mind.

It’s not really like the video above at all, it’s much more produced, smoother around the edges and, I have to say it, the first track of Side 2, Brønshøj 4, is an absolute corker. The track list is pretty easy, it’s Brønshøj 1-3 on Side 1 and Brønshøj 4-5 on Side 2.

The bambu wukir is cello like at times and at others it’s percussive, and occasionally the dissonance is borderline nails down a blackboard, but not so often that it grates. There’s a nice ambience to the sound and to the music, drone like at times, occasional melodies, but most of all interesting, and surprisingly listenable.

I really don’t know what to say now, I wasn’t prepared for this. OK, so, it’s a nice artefact, a limited edition of 300 with a small print on the inside with some explanatory text and a photo, a screen print around the cover by Danish visual artist Kasper Lynge Jensen and, of course, the postcard from Miguel.

I was surprised, I always am, but having been prepared to hate this album, never more so than today.

Still slightly peeved about the cover damage though, which I blame on the materials used, it’s un-laminated cardboard, so it was almost bound to happen.

 

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How to knacker your vinyl

I don’t have a particularly good opinion of Crosley, they are very much what you pay for and, while it is good that there is a budget option available for people just getting into vinyl and on limited funds, it’s not good that the build quality is poor and they will probably damage your records.

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The image is pretty cool, that I would have to admit. That old fashioned briefcase that you open to reveal a turntable, yes, cool, but when you look closer it’s not what it at first appears to be. As What HiFi says, “It’s a lovely idea, but this flawed turntable should be kept away from your record collection” not least because the downward force of the needle on the record is 7g, where an average turntable is 2.5g, over time, this will ruin your records. I’ve also read that the arm is actually too short and sort of drags its way along as a result, causing further wear.

So why today to have a downer on Crosly? Well, I was in a shop and I saw a Crosley, I took a photo, here it is:

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I was quite irrationally annoyed by this piece of crap, mostly because it feels as though it will, in the long run, turn people away from vinyl as surely this will knacker their records.

Now I’m not judging anybody who has a Crosley, I know it is about the cheapest way to get a turntable and we can’t all afford £2000 of gear (I know I can’t), I’m just recommending upgrading as soon as you can, before you do irreparable damage to your vinyl.

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The Listening List

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Max Richter – Songs From Before
Future Sound Of London – Environments 6.5
Bjork – Bastards
Mike Oldfield – Platimnum
Vangelis – Spiral
Bob Marley – Exodus
Isaac Hayes – Joy
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul
Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle
Can – Tago Mago
Vangelis – Invisible Connections
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Vol. 1

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only
 Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 498524Q )
 'TRUCK TURNER', Isaac Hayes - 1974
 BLAXPLOITATION FILMS
 
BLAXPLOITATION
FILMS
'TRUCK
TURNER'
ISAAC
HAYES
1974
STILLS
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Isaac Hayes

My first introduction to Isaac Hayes was through the the ‘Theme From Shaft’, although at the time I didn’t really have any idea who it was, it was just one track on a ‘Blaxploitation’ compilation CD that I had in the car, but a great track. I had seen the film years before at some point so that would have been the very first time I heard it but I didn’t make any connection until I was at a record fair in Banbury and bought ‘Hot Buttered Souk’ on vinyl, then, later, at another fair I bought ‘Shaft’ Soundtrack, and more recently, a 1973 pressing of ‘Joy’. So I have 3 Isaac Hayes albums on vinyl. Let’s go in the order I bought them.

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Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Hot Buttered Soul re-shaped the idea of what could be done with an LP in a genre that, at that time, was dominated by the three minute single. Hayes was an in-house writer for the Stax record label and had previously recorded solo but this, his second album, proved revolutionary. It only has 4 tracks, the opener being a 12:03 version of the Bacharach and David track, ‘Walk On By’ , originally recorded in 1964 by Dionne Warwick on her album, Make Way for Dionne Warwick. I’m not sure it can rightly be called a cover version in the same way that the Sinatra version of ‘My Way’ isn’t generally referred to as one. It’s such a different arrangement from the original. although the lyrics remain unchanged. The first recording by Warwick is a great single treatment, but Hayes takes it to another place entirely. Here it is in all it’s glorious 12 minutes and 5 seconds:

It has such a groove, and that Hammond organ part is mesmerising.

Lord knows what the title of track 2 actually means, ‘Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic’ but the backing singers do a fine job of singing it and the groove rolls on. This is the only track actually written by Hayes.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Walk On By” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) 12:03
2. “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” (Isaac Hayes, Alvertis Isbell) 9:38
Side two
No. Title Length
3. “One Woman” (Charles Chalmers, Sandra Rhodes) 5:10
4. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (Jimmy Webb) 18:42

‘One Woman’ is probably more what one might have expected during this era but ‘By The Time I Get To Pheonix’ is not. Hayes has a chat to the listener for several minutes of the, nearly, 19 minutes before breaking into the melody of the original song, adding detail to the story of the song that was never there in the original.

Before the album was released, in 1969, Stax lost all their back catalogue to Atlantic, I believe it was due to a split of some kind, so Stax needed albums and needed them quick resulting in all their artists, including Hayes, who had gone back to writing after the relative failure of his initial album. He would only do so though if he had complete creative control, and he did.

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It’s rare for a film to be defined by it’s soundtrack, but I think ‘Shaft’ is one of those films. When I think of the film I think of Isaac Hayes and I think of the theme, it is the first and sharpest memory I have about the film. It is a track that seems to sound amazing regardless of how much time has passed since 1971, and we are at 46 years now, but the opening riffs seem both of the time and timeless.

Above are the opening credits to the film, so the music is in context. When Hayes vocal comes in the scene is pretty much set for the movie, he is the “black private dick, who’s a sex machine to all the chicks”, it’s all machismo and stereotypes, which is pretty much what blaxploitation films were, and Hayes sums the whole thing up in under 5 minutes.

The majority of the rest of the soundtrack is instrumental, which is understandable, this is not a vehicle for Hayes, it was written to accompany a movie and it was pretty much a perfect fit, it did, after all, win Hayes an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe.

Side one

  1. “Theme from Shaft” (Vocal Version) – 4:39
  2. “Bumpy’s Lament” – 1:51
  3. “Walk from Regio’s” – 2:24
  4. “Ellie’s Love Theme” – 3:18
  5. “Shaft’s Cab Ride” – 1:10

Side two

  1. “Cafe Regio’s” – 6:10
  2. “Early Sunday Morning” – 3:49
  3. “Be Yourself” – 4:30
  4. “A Friend’s Place” – 3:24

Side three

  1. “Soulsville” (Vocal Version) – 3:48
  2. “No Name Bar” – 6:11
  3. “Bumpy’s Blues” – 4:04
  4. “Shaft Strikes Again” – 3:04

Side four

  1. “Do Your Thing” (Vocal Version) – 19:30
  2. “The End Theme” – 1:56

joy

‘Joy’ is the album released after ‘Black Moses’, which is the next Hayes album I’ll be looking for, and possibly the last, maybe not though. Overall, ‘Joy’ does suffer from a lack of ideas, and parts of it I just don’t listen to, like the skit  in ‘I Love You that’s all’, but the opening track is the highlight of this album, with perhaps closer ‘I’m Gonna Make It’ being worth a listen, although it is probably a little on the long side and can drag.

No. Title Length
1. “Joy” 15:55
2. “I Love You That’s All” 6:13
3. “A Man Will Be a Man” 7:20
4. “The Feeling Keeps On Coming” 6:48
5. “I’m Gonna Make It (Without You)” 11:11

The album is perfectly listenable, I’m not completely dismissing everything other than the title track but it does feel a little like Hayes was on autopilot much of the time. Here is that title track:

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Reading Festival 1982

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You may recall a post a made about going to Reading Festival in 1983, I actually also went the year before, but only for the Friday, not the whole weekend.

I was 15 at the time and didn’t have a ticket, but a friend did, although he couldn’t go on the Friday so I took his ticket and the plan was that I would leave the site on Friday evening, remove the wristband and give it to him so that he could put it back on, which is exactly what happened. No drama really, not at that point anyway, the drama all happened earlier.

I was supposed to travel down with  a group of lads who were in a sort of secondary circle of friends, so not people I hung out with all the time but did now and again or one or the other of us would be in a group, not close but part of a wider group I suppose. I headed up to meet them early on Friday morning and they’s already left, which doesn’t surprise me at all, they were dicks. I caught the train from Didcot to Reading on my own, sitting opposite a long haired guy with a hard shell guitar case, I didn’t recognise him though so I mostly ignored him. I had long hair myself back then, which I was going to post a photo of, but after a decent search I can’t find any, I’ll ask around and see if I can come up with something.reading-82-8-16

Anyway, I arrived at Reading station alone and as I left the platform I was collared by the police.  They took me into a side room at one end of a long corridor that led out of the station and proceeded to strip search me. Pretty much everybody that was leaving the station could see me getting undressed as one wall of the room was essentially a wire fence. I told the police I was only 15 but they either didn’t believe me or didn’t give a crap, they found nothing of course and sent me on my way.

I made my way to the site and the first band of the day was ‘Against The Grain’, never heard of them then or since, but the bass player there in the picture below, he was the guy sat opposite me on the train.

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I was sat on the grass a little way back from the stage, there really weren’t many people there at this point and the band sounded decent. The drummer threw one of his sticks into the tiny crowd and one of us caught it, can’t remember who though. I bumped into the group who left without me almost as soon as I arrived, I could tell that they’d done it deliberately, it was pretty obvious, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day and just ignored it.

This is where things get a little hazy as I can’t remember the next three bands at all. The Angels, Stampede and Overkill, no idea whatsoever. I do remember Tank though as I had their album and, despite quite a number of people ridiculing me for it, even to this day (yes Dave, I’m looking at you). This is them back in 1982:

And this is them on stage at Reading in 82:

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The album was called ‘Filth Hounds Of Hades’, which is nice, and it looked exactly like this:

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I have a vague memory of ‘Praying Mantis’ and no memory of ‘Trust’ but I do remember ‘Randy California’, probably because I was wandering around the campsite and not really paying attention as I really didn’t like or know most of the bands on that Friday. The ones I really wanted to see were on Saturday and Sunday and I wasn’t going to get to see them. Here’s ‘Randy California’ recorded Live at Reading in 1982, somewhere, I’m in the crowd watching:

I’m also in the crowd watching ‘Budgie’ and listening to a pretty good quality recording of it right now, almost 35 years later. You can listen to if you like:

My Dad met me outside after the gig and drove me home, I didn’t want to leave, and if I was a bit selfish I didn’t have to, I could have stayed there, after all, I had the wristband, but I wasn’t. I did go to the whole thing the next year though of course.

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Moon – Clint Mansell

cs521457-01a-bigA little while ago I picked up the soundtrack to the film ‘Black Swan’ by Clint Mansell and recently I picked up another of his, from the movie ‘Moon’. I watched the film  a while back but had no idea that Mansell had done the music, so the plan now is to watch the film again and pay a little more attention to it in context.

If you haven’t seen the film then I highly recommend it as it has a lot going for it. Firstly, it’s a British Sci-fi film, which you don’t see many of, it’s considered to be scientifically possible rather than far fetched flying through space faster than light speed and shooting lasers at each other and suchlike. It’s also a good story and has a great performance from Sam Rockwell who goes through a bit of a personal crisis towards the end of his three year solitary shift mining Helium-3 on the far side of the moon.

This was a modestly budgeted film that grossed under $10 million worldwide, but that same year The Pink Panther 2 grossed over $75 Million, which actually proves nothing other than how much a film grosses is not a measure of it’s quality. The Pink Panther 2 was bloody abysmal.

Just in case you didn’t know, The script for Moon was written by Duncan Jones, who is the son of David Bowie. Here is a trailer for the film so that you can get an idea of what it is all about and there’s a bit of the music by Mansell in it as well:

The soundtrack is subtle, repetitively simple even, with piano appearing throughout and with a repeating theme, sometimes in glimpses and sometimes not but with each piece evoking what has past and what is to come. I like Mansell’s soundtrack work, well, the tow I’ve heard so far anyway. ‘Black Swan’ is a lot more intricate, which it would be, being based on ‘Swan Lake’, but there’s a lovely ambience around the Moon soundtrack and it is a good listen regardless of being a soundtrack.

Tracklist

1 Welcome To Lunar Industries 7:12
2 Two Weeks & Counting… 2:00
3 I’m Sam Bell 3:45
4 I’m Sam Bell, Too… 5:05
5 Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know) 4:53
6 Are You Receiving? 3:18
7 Can’t Get There From Here 3:17
8 “We’re Not Programs, Gerty, We’re People” 5:10
9 The Nursery 3:46
10 Sacrifice 3:03
11 We’re Going Home 3:42
12 Welcome To Lunar Industries (Three Year Stretch…) 10:04

Here is the entire soundtrack: