Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Cold Harvest

May 2, 2012

tropic of cancer permissions

I have to admit I’ve succumbed utterly to the allure of the latest wave of music so heavily inspired by the most formative genres of my youth in the early eighties. This is about Post Punk, Coldwave, Darkwave, Synthwave, Goth. Folks like Cold Cave, Von Haze, Chelsea Wolfe, Les Modules Etranges (and their various spinoffs) and a host of others I’m still uncovering.

That’s the most enjoyable part, really. Discovering the new and mysterious all over again. You can almost remember the feeling of bringing home that 12″ ep from the record store with it’s stark, minimalist black and white cover. Perfect design and lettering. Music and words that went well with your black leather jacket and sullen outlook.

The inspiration for this wave of newcomers comes from those very days and the enigmatically shrouded sounds and styles that defined it for so many of us with that sort of bent. Joy Division, first and foremost. Early Cure. Belgian Coldwave like Isolation Ward. Nagamatzu. Mass and other dawn of 4AD bands. Countless others.

Folks remember those days well. Take Tropic of Cancer, pictured above and sampled below, have done a fantastic job of harvesting those sounds and molding them into something just as darkly seductive as you remember. They even like to release their stuff on 12″ ep’s, a wondrously deliberate indicator that they appreciate the history. They understand their audience. They know what we love. They’ve had me hooked since The Dull Age.

As I say, I have succumbed. And though I know I can never really return to that time or totally recapture that feeling, I’m very willing to try and absorb what’s coming along now as much as I can. Delve into the underground and seek out the sounds and the art. The darker the better.

Someone hand me This Mortal Coil’s “Gathering Dust ep. I need to give it a spin.


A Strange Life Beckons Me

April 27, 2012

piano magic incurable

    The doctors shake their heads
    They chain around the bed
    They’re looking for a reason to why I’m still not dead
    The medicine’s not working
    I haven’t sleep for days
    The light is shone right through me
    The skeleton is weighed

    Incurable, I’m helpless – the mind and body weak
    I have so much to tell you but I can’t seem to speak
    Incurable, I’m lonely
    The city empties out
    I live inside the shadow – the shadow of a doubt

    The cannons fire across me
    I cannot make the trial
    The seasons crash around me
    The bones are in denial
    My temper is a tower
    The church will not provide
    You closed the drawer upon me
    I am unclassified

    Incurable, I’m helpless – the mind and body weak
    I have so much to tell you but I can’t seem to speak
    Incurable, I’m lonely
    The city empties out
    I live inside the shadow – the shadow of a doubt

    The romance of the season is wasted on the weak
    I stayed in bed through snowfall
    I tried to get some sleep
    Invisible and broken
    The spirit has moved out
    Words that were unspoken, I cannot live without
    A strange light beckons me this way
    A strange life beckons me this way

“Incurable” – Piano Magic – Lyrics by Glen Johnson

The e.p. version is the better of the two, I think.


April 7, 2012

bsp ep4

If there’s one thing I admire about British Sea Power beyond their actual music it’s just how bloody-mindedly active they remain. You’ve seen the astonishing number of B-Sides they produce with each album they record but it doesn’t end there. Always recording, always live shows and a very robust connection with their fans. Currently, while arranging and performing in the monthly Krankenhaus gigs (now up to 4), they are also releasing a series of six E.P.s featuring some really interesting work-in-progress demo music, each with 5 songs. For those of you keeping score that’s 30 new songs for listeners to absorb.

They’ve been nothing if not interesting so far, good and bad. As you’d expect from demo material, there’s a lot of experimenting going on and the gang seems pretty loose. A few of them are good already, like Machineries of Joy or Things Have a Way of Working Out. In some you can hear a powerful potential like K Hole. A number are fairly trippy and mellow. Mixed and fascinating bag, for sure.

As if that weren’t enough activity, they also recently completed a soundtrack for the film Out of the Present which they performed live at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider. Beautifully weird, yes, I know.

Anyway, here’s one who appreciates the hard work. Keep it coming, boys.

Go Drown Your Empty Selves

November 1, 2011

An assortment of my favorite British Sea Power stuff in a recent playlist. Obviously, the rock steady section in the first half and the chill/bliss out segment near the end.

    1. Who’s In Control
    2. Carrion
    3. Waving Flags
    4. It Ended On An Oily Stage
    5. Remember Me
    6. Lights Out For Darker Skies
    7. No Lucifer
    8. Mongk II
    9. Down On The Ground
    10. A Forest
    11. Georgie Ray
    12. Childhood Memories
    13. Blackout
    14. Open The Door
    15. Everybody Must Be Saved
    16. No Need To Cry
    17. I Am A Cider Drinker
    18. Tugboat
    19. Green Grass Of Tunnel
    20. The Great Skua
    21. The South Sound
    22. The Pelican
    23. Out Of My Mind On Dope & Speed
    24. Heavy Water

The best active band currently on earth period.

Heathen Darkness

September 11, 2011

A little something called, “and the world tonight is full of these things”.

Please listen. Everything in there from spoken word, tribal rhythms, post-sci-fi noise and vinyl hiss, which I do so adore.

Moebius & Hendrix

August 1, 2011

moebius and hendrix

    “I stand up next to a mountain

and chop it down with the edge of my hand.”

Two men that have been on my mind of late. Both giants in their chosen professions. Both seemingly gifted with an otherworldly imagination. The true abiltiy to look at the elements our reality in an entirely different way than anyone else and the singularly monstrous talent to be able to give others a window into the fantastic worlds that existed/exist only within their own supremely individualistic minds.

I had forgotten the real world connection between the two until browsing through and old Epic Comics book, The Art of Moebius, published in 1989. You remember Epic, right? Small offshoot of Marvel devoted to more “graphic novel” type stuff, as it was called at the time. One of Jim Shooter’s few rational acts as head beanbag at Marvel back in the day, edited by stalwarts Archie Goodwin and Al Milgrom, it was supposed to feature creator owned stuff but eventually blended in the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, rambling tangents aside, they put out a decent Moebius retrospective and I spotted this while leafing through it for the first time in 20 years. Jean Giraud’s cover for this French album is an astonishing display of his style and talent. And it’s a lure to wander the pathways of Hendrix’ music, as well, to become entranced by that wonderfully blood pumping rock sound, so fucking raw and strong, so seductively trippy. I would stand in awe of each man if I wasn’t sporting such an embarrassing envy-boner for Moebius’ art in this piece. I wish I could draw like this, I really do.

Click on the pic for a larger copy. See the ridiculous level of detail and interest in even the smallest corner of the drawing. The alienness of everything, the miniature containers of nebulous articles. A man in the grip of His Particular Substance. The drops of blood.

Giraud’s notes for the piece are slightly jarring, poignant.

“When I was asked to do the cover for this French Jimi Hendrix album, I felt good because it was a unique opportunity for me to openly express by[sic] feelings about Hendrix. For me, he was a genius, an incredibly free a deep musical genius. A source of inspiration. At the same time, the whole experience was sad, even dangerous in a way. I put a lot of feelings inside that drawing.

I felt that maybe Hendrix had killed himself in order to reach higher levels. I tried to show this by drawing things coming out of his head. And the drugs are symbolized by what he is shown eating – things that are alive, yet alien. I also showed the world around him, an insane and violent world. and Hendrix is doing his thing, alone and apart from that world. It is very sad.”

Therein lies the core of it.

Music Tweet Music

June 27, 2011

twitter music

I must admit I am still finding my way around Twitter. Figuring out what it’s purpose is, what really to use it for. It’s quite obvious that the vast majority of people using it are doing so as a means of self-promotion, large or small. Whether it’s your blog or your acting career or your reality t.v. show, you now have a way to make your audience feel intimately involved in your life and work, right up to the goddamned minute. And why not? It sure as hell seems to work in that respect.

But lets’ not kid ourselves that it’s some wonderous, wholesome social confluence happening. Tell it like it is. It’s the All About Me network for most folks. Which, like I say, is fine. You’ll find yours truly indulging in it now. Talking about myself is my second favorite hobby, don’t forget. So it works in that sense.

I have, however, figured out what it’s not for and that’s following bands that you love. Yes, I’m sure that a lot of music artists have had whopping great success promoting themselves via Twitter and good for them but I’m not talking about it in that sense. I’m talking about someone who just loves music, loves great songwriting, loves the ethereal and transcendental aspects, the emotion and the mystery of it. Let me repeat. The Mystery.

The Mystery is what Twitter removes from a band. When I’m listening to some shimmering new track from your latest dream pop offering, I don’t need to be thinking about what you had for breakfast or what movie you watched last night. When I want to be transported to another emotional plane of existence by your plaintive acoustic croonings, I don’t want to be reminded of how much you like the NBA. And I sure as hell don’t need to know how annoying you are when you’re drunk.

I want to be awed by your talent as a musician and a songwriter. When I find out, via Twitter, just how boring you are in real life and that you use words like “tweeps” and phrases like “hells yeah” it kinds of kills the mystique. So I’ve gone and unfollowed all of the musicians I like. I think it’s a necessary thing for me to be able to fully enjoy the music.

I think I’d like to go back to the old days. When a band was the murky cover image on a 12″ e.p. or the shiny black vinyl inside. When the mystery of who you are could only be found through your art, the way you presented yourself through lyrics and sound and the odd interesting band photo. There is a magic to not knowing. The imagination fills in the spaces around the music with nebulous ideas and emotions. Dark swirling shapes and half-memories.

I never wanted to know what a singer looked like, back then. I still often try to avoid finding out. I love not knowing what Chris Adams of Hood looks like. I love just using the image his voice creates for me. It’s even more important if it’s a female singer. The images I had in my head of Elizabeth Fraser, man. All crushed one misty May evening when I had front row seats at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. Good god, I appreciate how angelic a voice like that truly is but I’m not sure I can ever shake the image of the facial hair.

This might eventually apply to authors I like, as well. I won’t go into heavy details but you can probably infer from the above how I feel about those author photos that appear at the backs of books. Again, it’s the art I want to focus on, not the person doing it.

I’ll tell you what Twitter is good for, by the way. Science. Scientists love to tweet. And who better to give us excellent thoughts in 140 characters or less than the finest, most reason oriented minds on our planet? Whether it’s Prof. Brian Cox or the astronauts currently orbiting the Earth at 17,000 mph. SETI or JPL or ESA. Cassini or Voyager. It’s all there from official organizational sources right thru individual team members and scientists all over the world. Tons of quality information right up to the logical minute there for your twatty consumption.

So there. My two cents. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tweet about this post.

And remember to follow me @kensocrates


Space Is Gonna Do Me Good

May 3, 2011

frank black pixies

This man is a hero of mine.

What does that say about me? Well, I don’t count too many people in that category. I don’t like the term “idol” very much and the notion of any sort of worship whatsoever makes me cringe.

However, there are certain folks I just admire. I like what they do and, more so, I like the way they do it. Amongst that fairly short list of writers and artists of various sorts is a type of person with a rare glint in their eye. Something teetering right on the edge of a particular type of madness; particular meaning their very own brand. Impossible to ape, sometimes impossible to even understand. These are folks who not only don’t run with the herd, they can’t even see the dust from the herd on the hazy horizon. They walk alone on a distant world and we are mere observers of theirs with occasional interaction and appreciation of their arts.

Frank Black is one of those folks. So was Andy Kaufman. Hunter Thompson. Alan Moore. Michael Allen. Graham Chapman.

There are others I could name but they belong on a different list, I think. For whatever reason, they possess varying degrees of humanity and a vision more easily understood. Douglas Adams and Bill Hicks, both geniuses I adore, were trying to get us to see our own world more clearly rather than open a window into an entire other one. Same for many others, in a myriad of different ways, of course.

But it’s the crazy ones I love the most. Stark personalities so unlike anyone or anything you’ve experienced. Fiery beacons of intelligence and individuality who walk amongst us without a care as to what anyone might think of them.

Brackish boys.

The Dreaming Press

May 2, 2011

the wolfgang press

I had some amazingly vivid dreams last night. I don’t think that’s odd but what is odd is that I can remember some of them this morning. That doesn’t usually happen. It was a strange concoction, some of it quite emotional. There were alien invasions to be fought off. Claustraphobia on an overpacked bus. Dramatic reunions with loved ones thought lost. Dog heroics. Like Steven Spielberg and Edgar Wright got high together and plotted some Saturday afternoon serials.

One dream, however, stood out from the rest. It’s something that is a recurring theme for me in slumbertime theatre. When I find some long lost release from on of my favorite bands that I didn’t know existed, unearthing an entire album of rare, hiddens musical gems. This one was good.

I dig out my vinyl copy of The Wolfgang Press’ Standing Up Straight to give it a listen. I do actually own a large portion of 4AD’s entire mid eighties catalogue on vinyl. Vaughan Oliver and 23 Envelope’s design work on those covers, as well as the astonishing collection of music the label was producing at the time, made so much of it essential to own on that large format. Some of the artwork is so stunning and perfect I have it framed on my walls as decor. Anyway, in the dream, I put on side B of Standing and the low tones of “I Am The Crime” begin.

Only that’s not what I hear. It quickly transitions into some dramatic, ominous spoken word thing from Michael Allen, recorded live at some obscure darkened theatre. Intense, foreboding and emotional. Allen is angry and has something to say. I look at the album again and realize that this copy of the album I bought is actually a rare collection of songs from that era, like a limited release from 4AD at the time (1986 or so). I am overjoyed to discover this, fascinated. The side I’m listening to has spoken word performance art from Allen and the band, accompanying him with minimalist atmospherics. The other is demos and alternate mixes and a few outright unreleased recordings from the Standing Up Straight sessions. I’m blown away and fall into a delerium of mid eighties post-punk bliss.

I wish I could remember the song titles or the words of that first poem. They were really bizarre and seemingly profound. My memory is not that detailed. The feeling of it, however, is wonderful and it’s one I’ve experienced many, many times in dreams. Finding an undiscovered treasure from the 4AD catalogue in a used record store. Hearing over the speakers an entire album of Cocteau Twins songs unearthed from 1985 or something. I always wake up wanting it to be true so badly it hurts.

Time to break out some vinyl, I think.

Wilted Flowers

April 14, 2011

Rosebuds Loud Planes Fly Low

I discovered a new Rosebuds track last night via Kelly Crisp on Twitter, the first peek at their upcoming album Loud Planes Fly Low due to be released June 7th on Merge. I also discovered that she and Ivan Howard, her bandmate and chief songriter in the group, had gotten divorced. It was a strange feeling, the mix of anticipation when you can listen to new music from one of your absolute favorite bands and the uncomfortable feeling deep inside that something essential to what you loved about them has changed. Have a listen, if you are so inclined.

The Rosebuds – Second Bird of Paradise

I will admit to you that I had a lot of difficulty listening to the song. The Rosebuds’ music, to me, has always been the most romantic stuff amongst my entire collection. I absolutley adore their take on love songs and there was always something a bit intimate about their approach. See “Wildcat” or “Boxcar” or “Blue Bird”. I attributed this to their love, the strength of their relationship and I liked it. I figured, here I am getting older and here is the perfect mature band to “grow up” with. Married, happy and living a rich, rewarding, artistic lifestyle. I was as envious as I was enamoured with the brilliant songwriting.

Now the news that they have split. And that, by accounts, the new album will be a mellow and emotional chronicle of something coming to an end. Something I admired greatly. To say this inspires a bit of sadness in this particular music lover is a dramatic understatement.

Granted, it’s only the relationship that has ended and the band continues on. They will embark shortly on a North American tour together. There is no Boston date, unfortunately, and I wonder if that’s on purpose given the memories here, well chronicled in their earliest song as a couple “Back To Boston”. I don’t know, maybe they will eventually come to the Northeast after the southern dates. I will certainly go and see them. Not only is it always an amazing show but, for all I know, it might be the last time we see them togther.

Maybe it’s me. I have a difficult time with the notion of divorce. I can’t comprehend how two people can end such an intimate relationship and then still work together comfortably. Tour together, fer chrissakes. It boggles my mind, I must admit. Perhaps I need to be more open minded about it, however. Perhaps they can continue to produce wonderful music together as friends and bandmates and the broken relationship will not affect them. Or maybe it will transform them into something new and different and the music will reflect that.

I guess that’s what scares me. The Rosebuds I once knew and loved so much have changed forever. There will never be anything like Birds Make Good Neighbors, so heart rendingly romantic and gorgeous, again. No Night of the Furies, so darkly alluring and passionate. Whatever comes next will be different.

I will purchase listen to Loud Planes Fly Low when it comes out. With a different sort of anticipation than I did for Life Like, perhaps. Not that I don’t expect beauty and wonderful music, but that some of the joy involved might be missing. From me, that is. Not them, necessarily. I would never judge what goes on in someone else’s private life and I know, from my years of fan interaction, they are some of the more wonderful people making music on this planet. No, it’s my own feelings that might affect how I perceive the music this time.

I will attempt to listen to “Second Bird of Paradise” again today. Last night it was very difficult and my perceptions were darkly coloured.

In the end, I may just go back and put on “Let Us Go”, the first Rosebuds song I ever heard and my favorite to this day, and listen to it for the millionth time.

But even that may have changed in meaning, now.

A day later… I find myself adjusting to the news and coming to terms with it. The sheer unrelenting beauty of this song helps. The video, too. Love has many forms and shapes and is ever evolving. Maybe that’s what I need to understand. Maybe this will help me do so.


The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low from 521studies on Vimeo.