Jul 202014

Papageorge, Henderson, Teletype
Computer Chess evoked the time it was set in rather well, the black and white videography, the set dressing, the computers and the clothes all seemed to help set this film in a strange past, where our present was beginning. Unfortunately Computer Chess didn’t engender any real empathy towards its characters, didn’t have any real humour, and the plot existed purely for the sake of itself rather than for the satisfaction of the viewer.

Maybe my problem was that I was more interested in the tournament and the technology than the misfits involved. I think I wanted a real documentary made in the early 80s rather than a fiction set there.

Jul 192014

I haven’t seen this for ages, probably 30 years, or more. Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is a short musical film, with a slight, but charming, plot, some lovely north London photography (sadly a part of London I’m not too familiar with so didn’t get the “been there” buzz I got with, for instance, A Hard Day’s Night), and some sweetly drippy songs. I have this as the second film on a DVD of the also rather wonderful The London Nobody Knows.

It also has the rather awesome Raleigh RSW 16 – now I’m fairly certain I’d look a prize pillock riding one but I generally don’t worry too much about what I look like, and besides, in my head I would look brilliant. I’ve set up a saved search on eBay!
...Raleigh RSW 16

I also was pointed in the direction of a different… Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

Who are related to Paisley & Charlie… who can join the long list (over here) of lovely folk who have done lovely covers of the lovely White Horses

Jul 192014

Picture lifted from this blog where there are plenty more like it.

Despite the best efforts on my part, and a ten week online course, jazz is still not something I find myself returning to often. The albums that I do go back to tend to be piano led, and often piano trios (e.g. Sunday at The Village Vanguard by Bill Evans) or even solo (e.g. Alone on San Francisco by Thelonious Monk). It seems to be that while I’m learning that jazz is a wide and varied form, and that a frontline of horns are often the focus… that actually those horns might be getting in the way of my enjoyment somewhat.

I’m not sure how I happened upon The Esbjörn Svensson Trio’s (aka e.s.t.) work a few weeks back but have to admit that I’m rather taken with it. Given the timeless sound, and the space-race theme I was rather surprised to find this was an album from 1999 and not 1959, although occasionally it seemed a little wrong for then most notably on Dodge The Dodo. Is that cello, or the bass being bowed? And what the heck is making some of those noises? A live video on YouTube suggests it was the bass through some effects.

Often I’ll listen to a jazz album, express some sort of appreciation for it, and file it away for further consideration… but never actually get a desire to listen to it again. I’ve listened to From Gagarin’s Point of View half a dozen times in the last couple of weeks, I keep hearing more and enjoying it more because of that… and I haven’t even considered the rest of e.s.t.’s output.

Here’s a rather great live version of Dodge The Dodo with the trio augmented with Pat Metheny on guitar and about a huge string section.

Esbjörn Svensson was born a month before I was in April 1964, he died scuba-diving at the age of 44.

Jul 012014

@thevacantlots on stage at the social this evening @soniccathedral #thevacantlots #live
Last night I headed out to The Social in Little Portland Street for the album launch of the splendid new LP Departure by The Vacant Lots. I don’t get off my arse for too many folk who aren’t ex-members of Galaxie 500 these days but TVL are an exception.

Arrived in time to catch support act Tess Parks making an enjoyable noise of her reverb-y growling through the drench of her reverb-y guitar.
Tess Parks

The Vacant Lots are a two piece with an unashamed love of Suicide, they played a breathtaking set of numbers from the new LP and finished with a barnstorming 6AM. When the song finished the audience was silent for a few seconds… there was no instant roar of applause or cheers. We knew that had to be the end and some time was needed to appreciate what we had just experienced. Then the cheering started.
The Vacant Lots
The Vacant Lots

I think they’re back over later in the year. I’ll get off my arse then too.

Jun 292014

Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
I have the double LP of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life bought way back when, possibly not in 1976, but probably not too long afterwards. One of the records is broken, I have no idea why. I have a ‘Premium’ subscription to Spotify where I can listen to the album at my leisure. Yesterday while flicking around on my phone Google told me that I could buy the album (that I already have both physically and virtually) for just 99p. That’s less than a quid for an album, I couldn’t help myself, even if the album is not really all that great.

It has its moments, and is sometimes brilliant but, like so many double albums, suffers it from its length. And lets face it, no album with Isn’t She Lovely or Ebony Eyes on it is ever going to be considered a classic!

Wikipedia has just told me that my fave song on the album, Another Star, is being used by the BBC in their World Cup coverage. That must be because they couldn’t find any Brazilian music to use. I posted about why I’m not watching the World Cup in this previous post by Brazilian artist Nara Leão – I’ve also managed to post one other Brazilian artist in this series (and thought I also did this one but for some reason didn’t) – and I wasn’t even trying. I even managed to post a Barazilian artist on A Head Full of Wishes!

BBC Sport, you are just lazy.

Jun 262014

Billy Preston 1901720021
At lunchtime yesterday I listened to a BBC Radio documentary on Billy Preston, presented by Rick Wakeman, that made me realise that I never really went beyond the fifth Beatle thing (although it turns out I’d probably heard more of Billy with The Stones than The Beatles). It was an interesting and ultimately tragic story, and by the end I sort of wished I could listen to this music without knowing it.

I decided to pick an album that was after the Apple/Beatles connection and so 1973′s Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music seemed appropriate. It’s from 1973 and saw Billy playing the field… which by it’s very nature exposes Billy’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. An album designed to genre-hop the way this one does is inevitably a patchy affair. But has some gold, and some lovely synthy experimentation.

Can’t find any live footage from this album… so this’ll do

Jun 252014

pink floyd, more soundtrack,

At the age of 14, in 1979, music kicked in for me. In 1979 Pink Floyd released The Wall, I was not impressed. Some school mates were fans, but it left me cold. Years later I discovered I could appreciate Syd Barrett era Floyd, but decided that it was easy to draw the line under the band in 1968. Over the years I’ve rarely listened to post-Barrett Floyd (I don’t often listen to Pink Floyd at all to be honest). I find their “classics” Dark Side of The Moon, and Wish You Were Here, mostly tiresome.

I don’t really know More, it’s a film soundtrack (to a film I also don’t know by Barbet Schroeder… and research suggests I probably don’t need to), it was the first complete album without Syd, so may be close enough to that era to have something to interest me. On barbetschroeder.com it claims that “because [Pink Floyd's] label, EMI viewed the album as a special project, More allowed the band freer artistic rein” – maybe that is where the rot set in?

I actually liked this album more than I expected, maybe for the exact same reasons that I began to not like them later – cinematic, self-indulgent, experimental. It also suckered me in with bird song (which reminds me that it’s time to revisit my songs with SFX series)

Jun 232014

I don’t like Kubrick’s films. I was disappointed in The Shining (mostly because I had loved the book so much), am baffled by the Strangelove love and A Clockwork Orange is just hatefully unpleasant. For all those reasons I had decided that I wouldn’t like 2001 and managed to reach 50 without ever having seen it.

However I love film (and have a fondness for sci-fi), and it’s been preying on my mind lately that there is this supposed classic sci-fi film I haven’t seen, so when the BFI offered free tickets in a members event I felt obliged to go.

I genuinely tried to view the film with an open mind (and I was eased into the mood by the Jan Harlan being so funny and knowledgeable and charming in the Q&A beforehand)…

… but it’s painful, pretentious toss. There’s a technically brilliant middle section, with some nice model work – but even that’s bordering on the tedious. I am fond of a story that burns slowly, but this didn’t really burn. What little story there was was telegraphed early and delivered in such a way that it even made me tired of the model work (and I love models!). And then the last 20 minutes completely killed any love that the technical wonders had generated.

The music and sound were mostly brilliant.

I’d rather watch Gerry Anderson’s model work, Space: 1999 had all that with excitement and a story wrapped up in less than an hour.
Space:1999 Season Two