Monday, 3 October 2016

Michael Rother @ Sensoria

It's weird how things play out for legends. On the one hand you have Kraftwerk - now down to one original member - selling out an £80-per-ticket tour of the UK, whilst on the other you have the likes of Michael Rother playing to 300 people at Sheffield University Students Union.

As one half of NEU!, One third of Harmonia and the whole of Michael Rother, the measure of his influence on music over the last 40 years is seismic, thanks to THAT motorik sound. Remember, this is the guitarist that Bowie wanted to play on the"Heroes" album. Just think about that - Robert Fripp, who turned the title track into sonic gold, was second choice. How things could've been...
This man arguably has a bigger presence and influence on my record collection than any other artist. Probably on much of your record collection too. It was also, thanks to NEU!'s association with and brief membership in the band, how Kraftwerk learnt that a steady beat was the way forward.
Anyway, the gig! Sensational! 90 minutes of head nodding as Rother and his band surged through his finest moments from throughout his career, still sounding like the music was recorded today. Still sounding very NEU!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Six By Seven By Six By Seven

 This year's Record Store Day exclusive album from Six By Seven.

Six tracks of Krautrock-friendly noise: pummeling rhythms, crushing guitars and low slung grooves.

Fear of Music

Reman in Light might be the album that gets all the plaudits, but this narrowly shades it for me as their finest 40 minutes.

Fear of Music is arguably the last album by Taking Heads the band and the one that perfectly balances their increasingly experimental side with the raw feel of a live band. What followed was four musicians heading to the studio, augmented by session musicians.

Released in 1979
Produced by Brian Eno and Talking Heads

Blue Dot 2016. Telescopes, Frenchmen and Charlotte Church

"Things Can Only Get Better". That was the first song I saw being played at this festival. By Charlotte Church. In front of Professor Brian Cox. It was the finale to an excellent edition of The Infinite Monkey Cage, performed live from the Lovell Stage.

Friday was sparse day events wise - next up for me was Public Service Broadcasting, putting in a reliably solid and entertaining festival set, including a dancing Uri Gagarin.

Headlining were Underworld - a band that I'd loved and then forgot about - performing a crowd pleasing set of massive tunes, the highlight of which was the back to back performance of Rez and Cowgirl.

The Lovell Telescope spent the weekend being lit by Brian Eno's, there in the background for all to see, but it also demanded a walk up close to view it in it's full glory.

Saturday was briefly interrupted by a journey back to Manchester to watch the matinee perfomance of my daughter in Hairspray and then quickly back in time for a talk (there were lots of talks, many of which proved more popular than a lot of the music, with standing room only) with Jim Spencer and Dave Tolan regarding the making of their track "Hello Moon, Can You Hear Me?" with Professor Tim O'Brian - a track constructed from sounds from space (example of a sample: the Proton Whistler, which is the sound of radio signals produced by plasma waves that travel along the Earth's magnetic field). The mention of the track being available as a 7" picture disc prompted a quick exit at the end to buy my copy.

Back to the music...

Moon Duo with some fantastic drone rock followed by a wonderful set by Air, starting off chilled out and finishing with a heavy dose of analogue synths.

And then Saturday night's finale. I've always liked Jean Michel Jarre, without paying too much attention to a lot of his music, but he has a reputation for putting on a show, so I thought it would be a good to catch him and...WOW, did he perform?! (A: yes he did) A beefed up set of tunes, relying heavily on his most recent albums, with the odd classic (Equinox, Oxygene) thrown in, it was the type of set that Daft Punk would have been proud to have put on. Sensory overload with the music, the pulsating bass and the visuals, he even found time to play the guitar on one track and, not to disappoint, a track played on his laser harp.

The most excellent Gwenno, kindly giving an English explanation of her Welsh language songs - Little did I know that one of them is actually sung in Cornish and that, to survive the inevitable uprising of sentinent machines, our best option is to learn a suitably obscure language that the machines will not understand, such as Welsh (or Cornish).

A bit of time relaxing to Be One and the gentle sound of bees buzzing in the key of C and then, from just outside the tent, I could catch British Sea Power amidst a sea of people and a fair amount of foliage onstage. Oh, and a bear in the crowd too.

Sheffiled "post-rockers" 65daysofstatic put in a beatifully energetic set before two magnificent performances on the Orbit stage. First of all, Steve Mason, looking like a man ready to take on the world, reminding us - the people - that we are the ones with all the power and inspiring us to take back control of our world from the likes or Rupert Murdock via a set of life affirming songs.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Mercury Rev, who I'd never caught live before. Jonathan Donohue floated onstage like a man possessed, arms gracefully flapping like a swan and clearly lost in his own world, conducting and casting spells on his band mates for every note and beat that they were to play. Here was someone who was living and breathing the mind blowing set of psychedelic songs as if his life depended on it. The most remarkable moment of the weekend came with the opening chords of Goddess on a Hiway - as the chorus kicked in, he was clearly overawed at the sight and sound of the whole audience, on the verge of tears, singing it word for word back at him. Throwing themselves into a thundering version of Opus 40 and then The Dark Is Rising was the only way to go after this, leaving the crowd speechless at what they had just witnessed.

Clearly, the only thing to do after this was go and watch DJ Thundermuscle, AKA Steve Davis roll out a set of west coast psych rock, techno and Ozric Tentacles.

More photos here

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Hello (Not Quite) Everything by Squarepusher

Inspired by the Shobaleader One gig last Friday, I've been listening to all of this over the last week. That's a LOT of beats, even if there are some gaps in my collection.

Some of this I've not listened to for a long long time, but it's refreshing how well the majority of it still holds up.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Music for the Sea...

Sunday morning and I'm relaxing to the new Eno album.

Even though there's vocals - Peter Serafinowicz and a cover of the Velvet's I'm Set Free - this is  some of his most beautiful ambient work to date.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

This Will Destroy You: Sound Control, Manchester. 30 April 2016

Fantastic gig tonight at Sound Control, as This Will Destroy You - under some stark white lighting, reminiscent of Ultravox's 1984 Set Movements tour - the band give an 80 minutes masterclass of atmospheric  shoegazing doom metal post rock to a Manchester crowd. Slowly.

Oh, and there was that awkward moment when someone shouted out for a track they'd already played. I guess that's one of the drawbacks of instrumentals.

Check out the slow headbanging...

Saturday, 2 April 2016

More understated packaging from Explosions In The Sky

So, here's how things were left five years ago, with the album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care being released as two different coloured discs, housed in a sleeve that opens out and folds up to make a house in a forest. There were three different coloured vinyl editions, with the house interior matching the colour of one disc from the respective edition. I have the green/brown version.

Now they're back with a new album, The Wilderness, which, although not matching the ambition of their previous artwork, is still pretty impressive. A sort of double fold-over sleeve, containing a poster and double vinyl (in two colours with side D being etched), all housed in a 12" card slip case. All done for no reason other than (a) it looks pretty impressive and (b) because they can.

The music? A more refined, plush update on previous efforts.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Bowie 8/1/47 - 10/1/16 RIP

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

Friday, 8 January 2016

Bowie's Blackstar Birthday

Black on black. The first Bowie album not to feature him on the front cover and, to my knowledge, the first of his to feature a parental advisory sticker. I like the idea of an album that will appeal predominantly to adults containing a parental advisory sticker. 

The vinyl edition is housed in a stunning sleeve and 12" booklet that the photos don't do justice to.

Oh, and the music is pretty incredible too. Dark and spellbinding, unlike anything he's ever done before and yet uniquely Bowie.