Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ye Olde BBC Horror


While music hasn't exactly been floating my boat lately I've been getting into some small screen classics. It all started a while back when Simon Reynolds alerted me to Robin Redbreast. Robin Redbreast is a BBC Play For Today from 1970. This 76 minute telly film has been loosely aligned to the faux genre Folk Horror in recent years.

Folk Horror seems to have been coined by serious film people a few years after the hauntologists had been excavating the same area. So cult pieces of the hauntological puzzle have been thrown into this so called sub-genre ie. The Wicker Man (1973), Witchfinder General (1968) and Blood On Satan's Claw (1971). Then there's the tv side of things including the many MR James adaptations, Nigel Kneale telly scripts and a handful of Plays For Today including A Photograph (1977), Penda's Fen (1974) and Red Shift (1978). The hauntology taste makers also love their public information films, weird children's telly, sci-fi, recent televisual drama and much much more though.

The following 3 short pieces of television are distinguished and totally unforgettable. These horror stories are all about sinister landscapes, unsettling pagan undercurrents, malevolent spirits and oppressive rural atmospheres.

Robin Redbreast (Play For Today, 1970)
Nuts In May and Abigail's Party are two BBC Plays For Today that have been long time favorites but I must admit I had not seen Robin Redbreast until recently. Hey there's only another 300 Plays for Today to catch up on (well whichever ones still exist). I couldn't believe how good this was for such an obscure film....I know the BFI released it on dvd 5 years ago but still.....

Norah a thirty something feminist city slicker heads to a remote cottage for a taste of bucolica after a relationship break up. Things are not what they initially seem though. Before long the idyllic country life starts starts to close in on Norah to a frighteningly claustrophobic degree. Her encounters with the local villagers become increasingly more creepy and detrimental to her well being. Robin Redbreast has been described as sitting somewhere between Rosemary's Baby and The Wicker Man thematically, who am I to disagree.


The Exorcism (Dead Of Night, 1972)
The Exorcism is a play written and directed by Don Taylor that was included as part of the Dead Of Night anthology on BBC2.

A middle class couple who have just moved to the country invite their friends to Xmas dinner at their newly renovated cottage. It starts to get seriously freaky when the electricity blacks out, the wine tastes like blood and darkness becomes absolute. This play is an odd mash up of horror and political diatribe. It's definitely a product of its time, the horror is great but the didactic socialist message is heavy handed and embarrassing.


Whistle And I'll Come To You (Omnibus, 1968)
This is probably the most famous piece of film based on a MR James story. It's a tale of a bizarre and solitary academic. This aging professor's eccentricities have made him an awkward man. Professor Parkin goes on a seaside a holiday in the off season, staying in an isolated hotel where there are very few other guests. On a walk Parkin finds himself in a graveyard where he discovers a ye olde whistle. Blowing the whistle sets off an uncanny chain of events that leave Parkin a terrified mess.

Michael Hordern's remarkable acting performance as Professor Parkin make this one of the most memorable pieces of telly I have ever seen.



*Coming up next: American tv movies from the 70s

Friday, 16 June 2017

Disengaged in 2017


Honestly I think Ghost Of Hope by The Residents and Texas Rock Bottom from Rangers are the only 2017 albums that I've listened to. I haven't listened to one new dance tune, rap ditty or top 40 pop song. LPs I would have normally checked out from the likes of Gas, Shinichi Atobe, Actress, Sun Araw, Mark McGuire, IX-Tab, Children Of Alice, Lo Five, Omar Souleyman, Future, Migos, Arca, William Basinski, Second Woman etc. remain unplayed and unheard. I never listen to the radio and I no longer have a cable music channel so I don't know any new artists or pop stars. I no longer buy or read magazines. I hardly read the interweb music suff either. I've stopped reading my Boomkat (an online music shop) e-mails, I used to really like whoever wrote their copy despite it being advertising. The Feelies, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Ride, Royal Trux and St. Etienne have all reformed and recorded new records in 2017 apparently. Why don't I want to listen to any of this stuff?

This time I can't blame it on the music because I haven't heard any of it. I can't make stupid blanket statements like '2017 sucks' or 'This is the worst year in music since....' I'm afraid this disinterest is probably all about me. Is it age, depression or ennui? I don't know. Is it that the last few years in music have been so disappointing that I've had enough and am not willing to put in the effort and time for such little reward. I haven't listened to much old music either though, just what I've previously mentioned on the blog. So perhaps its choice paralysis. Has my blog become redundant? It was primarily set up to discuss music. If I'm not listening to any music is there a point? Maybe I need to start reading music magazines again.....and er....listening to music again. Both of those things are hard if you don't want. Ok I think I've disappeared up my own arse quite enough.

Ekoplekz have just released their new album Bioprodukt which I've just bought. That's a start but am I going to get the forthcoming Focus Group, Belbury Circle or Young Thug albums? Who knows? I'd like to want to but I just can't necessarily trust that I'll give a damn when these recordings are released.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Lo-Fi with Pavement, Fly Ashtray & Thinking Fellers Union Local 282



I must admit I did listen to Slanted & Enchanted 100 million times back in the day. This tune still sounds pretty bloody good. As much as I now find Malkmus a tool, Perfume-V is undeniable. It's all about that great guitar sound innit?



The 'insect going through a vortex' guitar on this track is pretty cool too. These 2 tunes were the best and most outre on Slanted & Enchanted as I recall. There was also a bunch of stuff that was way too Mark E Smithy ie. Two States, Flame Thrower, Conduit For Sale etc. That's a bit of a shame because a lot of the guitar work was ace but it got let down by the vocal delivery. The thing is though, as the Mark E Smith-isms started to disappear so did the great guitar bits. They became lame immediately after this LP. Is this the exact point where underground/indie rock died? Or was it just Pavement who couldn't push forward (?).



It's funny how everyone knows who Pavement are but nobody's heard of Fly Ashtray. Fly Ashtray formed in NYC in 1983 but didn't release their first single until 1987. Clumps Takes A Ride is the 1991 follow up to their debut full length album, Nothing Left To Spill, which was a self-released tape from 1990. I don't think I ever saw a Fly Astray review outside of a fanzine. If you like your early Pavement check out Clumps Takes A Ride. The tracks on this tape (well I had a tape) were recored between 1988 and 1991 and issued by the Shimmy Disc label.



I guess a few more people would be aware of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Some of their LPs received good reviews including this gem that I still quite like. Lovelyville was another record from 1991 that got played a million times. It's a high water mark of early 90s underground noisy experimental art rock or whatever you wanna call it. I recall that their following 2 LPs were also good if not quite as mental as Lovelyville (haven't re-listened to those yet though). Unexpectedly Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 still have a mysterious charm. If the kids are checkin out Pavement and Royal Trux there is no reason they shouldn't be checking out these supremely elusive nutters.

I thought going back and listening to these 'lo-fi bands' was going to really tedious but I've really enjoyed listening to Fly Ashtray and TFUL282. I still dunno if I can bring myself to listen to Fantastic Palace or Trumans Water though. I fear that those records will not hold up like Clumps Takes A Ride and Lovelyville have.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Grunge



Simon posted this article from December 1992 about grunge V lo-fi. Check the comments for a discussion on all things 90s alternative rock, indie, grunge, lo-fi, major labels etc. It made me want to check out Paw to see if their tune Jesse was any good. Last night I thought it was a little grunge gem (if such a thing is possible). Being so serious/angsty/yelly about a dog made smile. Jesse is way better than I remember.



This is a band we both don't recall. I'd never heard Slightly Under in my life until last night. I think this tune was released before they signed to a major label. These dudes were ex-members of a group called Scream whose drummer was one Dave Grohl (according to wikipedia). This could have been a hit with its generic Helmet meets Alice In Chains vibe.



Jesus I hated Helmet back in the day, just didn't understand the attraction. They just weren't as good as the bands they were obviously enamoured with ie. Killing Joke, Big Black etc. Enjoyed hearing this tune last night though. Was I deliriously over-tired? Nostalgic? Maybe time has just whittled away the youthful prejudices?



Speaking of groups I used to hate.......


*Bands You Once Hated But Now Don't Mind is a topic I shall return to soon.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Rush



I finally got around to watching that Rush doco on Nettflix a couple of weeks back when I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep. Rock docs have become oh so boring and cliched over the last 10 years (How bad was The Gun Club one? and The Tribe Called Quest one and....). So I thought I would quickly fall asleep to the soothing sounds of Rush and a bunch of dull talking heads. Two hours later I was wide awake, compelled and quite moved.

2010's Beyond The Lighted Stage was put together by the Banger Films production co. from Canada. Don't let that put you off though. Director Sam Dunn doesn't go gonzo on this one. He takes a back seat letting the band do all the story telling. Banger do the web show Lock Horns which is a metal sub-genre debate show. There's like 50 hour long episodes on Youtube. Lock Horns has good episodes on Essential Black Metal Albums and Essential Doom Albums. Banger Films were also responsible for Metal: A Headbangers Journey, Global Metal and the 11 part tv series Metal Evolution. They've also produced docs on Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden but I'm yet to see those.

Anyway back to Rush. I was amazed at how many of their songs I was familiar with considering I've never been a Rush fan or even friends with a Rush fan. Hey I've known many a metal/prog head in my life but nobody with a passion for Rush. This documentary is a good little film with some surprisingly top tunes. I'm not gonna play the instant expert and tell you the story and what their best albums are, just go and watch Beyond The Lighted Stage. Suffice to say it's not the usual sex, drugs, Rock & Roll narrative. These guys were nerdy as fuck, enthrallingly idiosyncratic and accessible at the same time. Rush are/were not arseholes which has got be the rarest of qualities in Rock.



Limelight from whence the title of the film came.



I recently saw Tom Sawyer covered by a Rush cover band on a shite American sit-com which made me want to watch this doc.....here it is below.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Twin Peaks Returns


???

Well I've done it. That is endured the longest 4 hours of 2017 so far. Today was Twin Peaks day. I tried to act like I was more enthused than I was, suspecting that maybe I was over this teenage obsession. We specially signed up for the streaming service Stan so we could watch the show immediately. Bored, angry, tense, duped, old, sad and bemused are just some of the things I felt whilst watching the 2017 season of Twin Peaks. I would have been quite happy to discontinue watching the show after each of the first three episodes. However speechless Emma kept going so I sat and hoped that it would improve. It's worth remembering though that most of the second half of season two (aired 1990-91) was unwatchable and incredibly disappointing.

During tonight's first three episodes I just kept thinking 'Am I too old for this shit?' 'I'm just not the same person anymore.' 'Am I too depressed to enjoy this?' These thoughts were perplexing. Then I thought hang on this is Lynchian but it's not really Twin Peaks is it? It wasn't until the 4th and final episode, for this week, that it started to feel even remotely like the Twin Peaks of old. The thing is Twin Peaks of the early 90s was almost entirely set in Twin Peaks and its surrounds. Scenes not in the town were rare. In this new season however only about a quarter of the scenes so far have been set in Twin Peaks. Nobody has had pie yet. Dale Cooper has only had one sip of coffee and he spat that out. This is quite possibly a punkish statement of intent from Lynch ie. He's not gonna give us the nostalgia trip of a warm and fuzzy agent Cooper drinking endless cups of coffee while quipping enthusiastically about their merits.

The stories and soap opera/cop show vibes are barely there. Leaving us mainly with just the weird and horror portions of the show. If the ratio used to be 90% soap/whodunnit and 10% weird and scary, this time Lynch has flipped it so it's the other way around. I don't actually know what the fuck happened in episodes 1-3 tonight. It felt like I was drugged and can't remember what happened except for a few strange inexplicable dark segments. Who were all these new characters? How and why were we supposed to give a shit about them? A lot of the first three hours felt like a student film or 70s Dr Who on acid. Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire were invoked more than the original Twin Peaks itself. Cast members from these films turn up too, further entwining all things Lynchian into the tv show.

By the time we got to the fourth episode, it ever so slightly started to feel like Twin Peaks. I will watch the next episode unreluctantly but.....I want more Douglas Firs, damn fine coffee, absurd quantities of donuts, cherry pie, that original sepia tone, cheesiness, other pies and the town of Twin Peaks! (Oh dear, I am the sad nostalgist Lynch doesn't want to pander to). The funny thing is 26 years ago I probably would have wanted less goofy soap and more mental shit. The bizarre and scary scenes had more impact back in the day because they were used more sparingly though.

I did sit on the couch and watch four hours of the new season of Twin Peaks in a row. That means something, I guess...



*One game I played when I got bored was - Who has aged best? The winner being David Lynch (Gordon) himself closely followed by Madchen Amick (Shelly). The rest looked old, hey that's life.

**If only Mark Fisher were still alive today to give us his analysis.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Throbbing Gristle - Live At Oundle School


The only music aired at home in the last 2 months has been TG24(24 Hours) and TG+. That is like over 30 hours of live Throbbing Gristle. I can't put anything else on. That's ok though, because I've rarely wanted to listen to any music over the last 2 years. The above performance was released on VHS and audio cassette in 1980 but is also featured on the first cd of the box set TG+ from 2004. It's very hard to believe this concert took place in a boys boarding school in front of a bunch boys aged 8 to 18. The story goes that one of the students convinced a teacher to book the band because he said they were similar to John Cage. Now how many grains of salt? Great myth or true story? Who really cares?

To fully comprehend Throbbing Gristle you have to go past the handful of proper LPs and immerse yourself in their live recordings. So it's pretty handy that all their live performances from their original incarnation (1975-81) were all recorded and released.




Sunday, 14 May 2017

Spacer Woman - Charlie

SPACE DEBRIS GOES TO THE ITALIO DISCO



80s electro disco Italian stylee. Weird....how about that vocal science? Hypnogogic 20+ years early, hints of deep-tech...quite the curious artefact.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Blue Wing Console

SPACE DEBRIS GOES TO THE LIBRARY



Kinda somewhere between Goblin and Numan, I guess. Splendid synth tune played by The Blue Wing Console, a pseudonym for library music producer Simon Park. Motives is taken from the LP Sun High released on the Music De Wolfe label in 1976. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Where's My Towel/Industry Standard - Big Boys

UNDERRATED GEMS


I cannot believe this record's status isn't 'post-punk classic'. Minutemen, James Chance, Mission Of Burma and even Wipers get all the kudos for this kind of thing. Is it not the best American punky post-punk LP though? Big Boys were Texans who made ye olde angular punk that got pretty fuckin' fonkay at times. It was possibly a big influence on third albums by Meat Puppets and REM. This 1981 album didn't get a mention in Rip It Up & Start Again or its pdf appendix Discography Part Two: Post-punk Esoterica. Where's My Towel... is pretty hard to categorise which might be a reason it remains on the outside of subterranean rock historyAll Music Guide once again prove their irrelevance by giving it only three stars. Just because Where's My Towel... doesn't rate in the rock-crit consensus doesn't mean it's not magnificent though.

MCR, a Light In The Attic subsidiary, thankfully rescued this recording from languishing in obscurity in 2013. There was a comp, The Skinny Elvis on Touch & Go in the early 90s, which contained this LP in its entirety along with the Frat Cars EP and their side of Live At Raul's. The Skinny Elvis was endorsed by Rollins, Coley, Moore & Mackaye in its sleeve-notes (How 1993). However I don't need those dudes to tell me what a fabulous record this is. Maybe the cult of Big Boys is still building and one day they'll be more than just a footnote to Scratch Acid, Rapeman et al.