There are no winners in this story
Two new tracks up on Bandcamp, vinyl imminent.
In early twentieth first century Britain, the Knights of the Round Table are alive and well. Kind of. They exist as ‘devices’, a thought pattern similar to a Jungian archetype, semi autonomous memes that get into people’s heads and lead them to take on the characteristics of that device. So when our lead character, Jory Taylor, bears the device of Sir Gawain, it means he becomes more like Gawain (eg an unfortunate penchant for decapitation), but also that his life also becomes more like Gawain’s narrative in the original myth. Great if you’re a dashing good guy, but not so good if you find yourself bearing the device of Mordred or Morgan le Fay. Taylor, like the other Knights, works for the Circle, a secretive government organisation modelled after the Round Table, MI6 with broadswords if you will.
The Circle is very much on the side of the State and government authority, but of course the Round Table is not the only myth sewn into British culture, and during the course of his work Jory encounters another, equally strong, manifestation of our national id. I’m not going to tell you who it is, because the revelation was » Continue Reading.
Year: 2016 Director: Denis Villeneuve
Oh fuck me. Yes, I am still on a giddy post-cinema high, but this might just be the best science fiction movie I’ve ever seen.
It’s a first contact story, sparked off when twelve mysterious craft appear in locations all over the world. The US military enlist a linguistic expert, Dr Louise Banks (played by an excellent Amy Adams), to travel to the landing site in Montana and aid efforts to communicate with the aliens in order to discover the purpose behind their arrival, while in the background the global reaction threatens to slide into conflict. To say much more would be getting into spoiler territory – trust me, there is one word I am dying to type here to give some idea of what the film is about, but I’m scared lest it give too much away.
As someone who has consumed a great deal of science fiction, written and cinematic, there’s a feeling you get when you’re reading a great SF novel and you suddenly click with the concepts and ideas. It’s like someone has pried open the top of your head and filled it with light, changing the way you’re » Continue Reading.
Okay, a bit of hyperbole there. But only a bit. The Afghan Whigs’ “Black Love” is reissued in November. It is an absolutely titanic album, one that gets under the skin of how men think, full of guilt, remorse, vengeance, bravado, and self-loathing. The opening lines of the record are a promise that sets the scene:
Tonight, tonight I say goodbye To everyone that loves me Stick it to my enemies tonight Then I disappear
From there, we’re off into an hour of noir infused drama, seedy, sleazy, cathartic and ultimately redemptive and uplifting. Rock fuses with classic R&B, furious guitars melding with electric piano and swelling organs, while the lyrics allow Greg Dulli’s louche alpha male posturing its fullest expression. His anguished soul roar narrates these crime narratives, revenge fantasies, love songs twisted back on themselves. It’s like a Scorsese movie or a hip hop record. These are bad people doing bad things and you probably shouldn’t like them. But damn, they’re cool.
I can’t express how much I love this record. So gripping and immersive, put it on your headphones as you walk down the street and you’re the ten foot tall star of your » Continue Reading.
Spun off from an exchange between @locust and @kaisfatdad in the Scandinavian thread, here’s one for Japanese psych. I’ll go first. Ghost were a long running (thirty years plus) band led by Masaki Batoh. The legend is that they lived communally in abandoned temples and disused subway stations, which would be very cool if true. The only album I have of theirs is 1999’s Snuffbox Immanence, which is at the pastoral / folky end of psychedelia, although there are some electric guitar heroics. Plenty of acoustic guitar, harps, and traditional sounding Japanese melodies. It’s very mellow, and even has a Rolling Stones cover.
What does it sound like?:
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. I just wanted to type that again.
It’s time to develop a theory of nominative determinism as applied to band names. How could a band whose name appears to have been generated from cutups of Cathedral or Electric Wizard lyric sheets play anything other than crushingly heavy sludgy doom? Could a C86 band ever have carried this name? Could an act trading as MWWB pass muster as a twee folk act? Could The Shop Assistants have played grindcore? NWA been the new Mantovani?
This is the Welsh metallers’ second album in twelfth months, and the genre signifiers are all present and correct. There’s plenty of churning funereal doom, allied to crushingly dense monolithic riffs that sound like normal heavy metal wrapped in lead, condensed to the size of a pinhead, and dropped through the mantle of the planet.
That’s not all MWWB bring to the party though. A few tracks are adorned with stark cello, just in case you didn’t think it was scary enough already. Unusually for the genre, there’s no cookie monster vocals. Instead we have an ethereal female voice riding above the fuzz. Multitracked and reverbed, » Continue Reading.
You may have come across the report of the winding up of Crowland’s Silver Jubilee committee before. This is a reading of it. It has made me weep with laughter for the last half hour. Please read and listen.
Platform:Playstation Age Rating:16+ Year of Release:2016 Review:
This is the fourth and final game in the Uncharted series, a set of adventure and exploration games that are Sony’s answer to Tomb Raider, all climbing, puzzles and ancient temples. The previous three were PS3 exclusive titles, but they have been recently remastered for PS4 and released as an omnibus collection. You should probably tackle them before playing this instalment. You’ll have a better feel for the story, and they’re great games anyway, especially the second.
The earlier games established Nathan Drake as a matinee adventure hero in the Indiana Jones mould, and introduced his supporting cast. There’s Victor “Sully” Sullivan, his genial cigar chomping, wisecracking mentor, and Elena Fisher, a reporter who becomes his love interest over the three games. As 4 opens, Drake has given up his life of adventure to settle down with Elena. He’s put risk behind him for a life of happy safety. He knows it’s the right thing to do, but there’s definitely still a part of him that regrets it. And then his long lost, presumed dead, brother Sam shows up, with a tale of pirate treasure and an urgent need to find it to » Continue Reading.
This news story has been on the BBC website for four days, and yet it is down to me to be the first to share it.
What does it sound like?:
Is it really eleven years since the last De La Soul LP? Yes, and it’s not that far off thirty since Three Feet High And Rising. Yikes. You may have read about how that classic and their other records are trapped in digital limbo. This time round, De La have dodged that bullet by creating their own sample library, recording more than 200 hours of jams played by their touring band, and using them to build this record. This gives rise to a tremendous variety of sounds, from the goofy lo-fi surf guitar of ‘CBGBs’ to the wistful daydream of ‘Memory of (US)’, all French horns and strings, to the smooth funk of the Snoop-cameoing ‘Pain’. No song sounds like the one before it, but no matter what the mood or the instrumentation, there is always a solid groove going on. It’s low key, laid back, summery, positive stuff (and refreshingly low on the N & B words @Sewer-Robot mentioned in his great review of Anderson .Paak). As well as the expected spots from R&B / hip hop luminaries like Usher and Jill Scott, we have the proverbial galaxy » Continue Reading.
I was just hipped to this by the Bigmouth website. I’ll let them describe it (full article here)
The way that Radiooooo works is so simple as to be almost comical. Through a web interface based on a world map – hand-drawn for a bit of human charm – you select a country, a decade and any of three simple parameters: SLOW, FAST or WEIRD. Radiooooo then serves up exquisitely rare and fascinating musical selections chosen not by an impersonal algorithm, but uploaded by hundreds of real music enthusiasts and crate-diggers around the world. There’s no pause button, no fast forward and no downloading, just a perfect evocation of (say) Weird Italy in the 1960s. It’s free, it’s completely addictive and it’s very French.
It’s fun, obviously in its infancy (slow, fast and weird from Iceland in the 1990s was all Björk just now), but quite diverting, and an easy place to lose some hours.
What does it sound like?:
Horseback is a project of ambient and folk musician Jenks Miller. At various times, it has veered between drone, metal and Americana. This time round he’s gone for a kind of burnt out psychedelic trip hop, full of spectral keyboards, guitars that sound sampled from a lost spaghetti western, echoing rhythm loops and ghostly music-box tinkles. The Bandcamp page describes it as “the distorted swagger of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse sits at a table next to the haunted dronescapes of Sunn O)))”. On the face of it, that’s a ridiculous assertion, but after a listen you kind of see where they’re coming from, and I’d even throw in the slow motion post punk of the xx as well. It is somehow huge and intimate at the same time, a trick Miller pulls off by marrying the space and echo of heavily reverbed guitars to the hushed quiet room ambience of the aforementioned xx and the mannered vocal delivery of Coil circa Musick To Play In The Dark. Underneath all that synths drone, hum and throb, while loose krautrock rhythms keep the music progressing.
It’s uneasily beautiful, weirdly entrancing and lest that makes it all » Continue Reading.
I know you’re dead and all, but you are probably my favourite guitarist. You would only have been 74 today as well. What a waste.
Here it is, number 68 on the Quietus’ Best Albums Of The Year So Far list! It’s Finland’s very own Oranssi Pazuza, with their fourth album, Värähtelijä!
A lot of the reviews of this record mention black metal at some point, which alongside all those umlauts and the silly band name (“Orange Demon”) might well be enough to put off cautious listeners. Relax, I am here to reassure you all. There is nary a blastbeat to be heard, and not much wild tremolo. Granted, the vocals are a bit growly, but compared to the ferociously dense attack of a Mayhem or a Darkthrone this is a record full of space and room to breathe. Nothing to frighten the horses, in other words, and it’s certainly not as aggressive or alienating as (minority) AW favourites Deafheaven.
That said, it is definitely metal, but it’s metal with a psychedelic space rock, even krautrock bent. Basslines wobble all over the place, synths sound alternately like an outtake from 2001 or Deep Purple, while guitars chime, roar or just sparkle in the void. Oranssi Pazazu just seem to be chucking whatever they feel like into the mix but it works and hangs together, » Continue Reading.
A House released the wonderful Endless Art in 1991. Imagine Simon Cowell’s had a funny turn and decided to release an updated version as the X Factor single for Xmas 2016. What are the lyrics?
What does it sound like?:
(After my Studio review, here’s another look back at an unsung favourite of mine on its tenth anniversary. )
I found this album on a listening post in HMV Shibuya, suckered in by the sleeve sticker describing it as “a 37 minute epic in six parts”. Let’s be honest, it had me at that, and it didn’t need to be anything like the kind of emotional and musical heavyweight it is. I knew nothing about Early Day Miners at the time, but this was their fifth record – the internet variously labels them ‘post-rock’, ‘slowcore’ and other microgenres, just so you know where we’re coming from here.
The record starts with the cover, a nocturnal seascape illuminated by a sickly yellow light. It’s beautiful and slightly uneasy, setting the tone for what’s to come. “Land Of Pale Saints” opens, a pounding ten minute instrumental. There are layers and layers of guitars building on each other, muscular shoegaze augmented by rising and falling keyboard washes. About five minutes in the guitars drop out, and the drums take centre stage, as they will again and again throughout the record. Purposeful and ominous, they lend a » Continue Reading.
We have no idea what breed our (rescue) dog is. Always figured she was the product of generations of inbreeding on the streets of Romania (sorry, you can’t escape Eastern European immigration even on a thread about dogs), and were never that bothered about it. Over the weekend my brother pointed me to a BBC report about the legacy of Chernobyl (we have a right old laugh together, we do). The dog that’s in this clip from about 52 seconds in is the absolute spit of our bad tempered, funny looking, much loved pooch. Would anyone like to hazard a guess to her lineage? Even if you don’t, you’ll still have seen an elderly peasant woman playing an accordion while a dog howls along, so KFD at least will be happy.
(well, fifty three years and a day unless you want to get jiggy with timezones)
…that Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. On the off chance that she is an Afterword lurker, we salute you, Comrade Tereshkova!
What does it sound like?:
I realised earlier tonight that West Coast by Studio is ten years old this year. There won’t be any deluxe remasters or box sets. It’s an album that never troubled the charts or the arbiters of cool. I can’t even remember how I came across it, but I’ve been grateful I did for almost all of that decade.
There’s no origin story, no great rock n roll myth, to Studio. They were just two guys from Sweden who thought it’d be a good idea to make an album that sounded like Can, Neu, Happy Mondays and The Cure dancing together in the rays of the rising sun somewhere in the Balearics. Somehow they pulled it off and gave us this gem, effortlessly pretty disco, krautrock, dub, and indie pop replayed through a sun kissed filter without falling into generic Cafe Del Mar blandness. Perhaps that makes it sound like Record Collection Rock, a faithful ticking off of the approved influences, but to think that would be to miss just how invitingly lush and lazy, blissful and beautiful, this music is. These are long hypnotic tracks that somehow stay the same while shifting and » Continue Reading.
When news broke that Joe Hill’s new book was about a disease-inspired end of the world, it was hard not to think of his dad’s epic The Stand. I dismissed that as a hopelessly lazy comparison, at least to begin with (more on this later). The Fireman is a very different book in scale and mood. Civilisation may be collapsing across the world, populations are falling prey to Dragonscale – a spore that infects its victims, paints beautiful patterns on their skin, and then causes them to combust – but this book focuses entirely on New England, and the story of school nurse Harper Grayson, pregnant and infected. It’s one small story in a global catastrophe, which keeps the stakes low but very personal. Harper’s unhinged husband (wrongly) blames her for infecting him and is bent on carrying out a suicide pact he thinks they’d agreed on. She is determined to live and bear her child, and so escapes, whereupon she falls in with a small community of infected people who may have found a way to live with Dragonscale. One of these people is the titular Fireman, a mysterious fellow with an English accent and a dirty » Continue Reading.
Came across this short video earlier. It’s very much just an introduction (it’s only twelve minutes long), and it’s a shame there’s no room for a genius like Nas, but it’s an interesting look at the lyrical skills involved in rap.
…and I think I’ve found the bellend of the week already.
A private school head teacher has urged pupils not to read Game of Thrones books, claiming they can damage their “sensitive subconscious brains”.
Graeme Whiting also said fantasy titles – such as Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter – “encourage difficult behaviour in children”.
He told parents to steer clear of the “mystical and frightening texts” and they should instead read classics such as those by Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare.
Writing on his blog, Mr Whiting – head of the independent Acorn School in Nailsworth, Gloucester – said fantasy books can be bought without a “special licence”, despite damaging the “sensitive subconscious brains of young children”.
A new Christopher Brookmyre is always cause for celebration round these parts, doubly so when it’s a Jack Parlabane novel. Black Widow is a fast and gripping read, cleverly put together with a cast of characters that are interesting and / or likeable. The slapstick grand guignol humour of Brookymre’s earlier funnier stuff now seems to be permanently MIA, but this is still quietly witty, and unafraid to offer a mordant chuckle at some very bleak events.
Diana Jager is a surgeon with a controversial past who finds herself the chief suspect in the disappearance of her husband. Journalist Parlabane is at the lowest of ebbs, newly divorced with a career in the toilet. He is engaged by the husband’s sister to find out exactly what happened, and as is his wont, starts tugging on all manner of loose threads until the sweater is completely ruined.
Diana is a hunter twice over, in name at least. She’s cool, calm, ruthless when she needs to be and not afraid to break rules if she benefits. But is she a murderer? You will probably change your mind half a dozen times as you progress through this very well constructed » Continue Reading.