ستة ستة سبعة | instrumentals | out now | vi . vi . vii

in further continued celebration of my, now critically acclaimed and indeed award-winning,  ‘six six seven‘ release, might i be so bold as to present the complete, unabridged instrumentals for the entire release, available for a reasonable sum from my own bandcamp page, containing my own production efforts alongside the enigmatic j.mason of iron filings and sellotape, and featuring the trumpet of s.huber and clarinet of m.born.
how i am consistently overwhelmed and jubilant at the reception this release has received thusfar, and how it gives me great pleasure to be able to extend the experience yet further by offering these instrumental versions, also now complete with six new texts in an accompanying digital booklet. do be sure to think about fixing yourself a copy, should you so desire. you contribution to my cause would be so very gratefully received.
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ستة ستة سبعة | instrumentals | coming soon | vi . vi . vii

so, in continued celebration of my ‘six six seven’ release, might i gladly announce that i shall be making the complete ‘instrumentals’ collection available for digital download from my bandcamp site on monday 24th february.
containing the full instrumentals for all six songs, as well as a twenty-page digital booklet featuring six new field reports based on the original compositions, not to mention a few other treats; please do be sure to think about fixing yourself a download when the release date arrives.
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break through in grey room – commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the birth of william s. burroughs

so, here we find ourselves, february 5th 2014; one-hundred years to the day since the birth of one william s. burroughs, often cited as being one of the most important cultural figures of our modern, meaningless age. for my own part, he is a literary figure of such overwhelming magnitude that i find it hard to describe the world without feeling his influence. i am moved to word some lines in marking this momentous occasion and would let myself reflect a little while on his profound importance, his methods and his immense legacy of influence that permeates western culture to levels which the unadept would be entirely unaware.
while i have a very good memory for dates within my own lifetime, i allow myself to maintain a broad, general view of the overall passing of time, and was therefore not anticipating this anniversary in any particular fashion. i am always celebrating the work of burroughs, and have been doing so for more than twenty years and so, this marking of one-hundred years only serves me as a continual daily reminder of his effect on my view of the world, and indeed on my own writing itself. but how it does give pause to an ideal opportunity to be able to express a few of the facts in the case on my take of this all-powerful writer and perhaps offer some closer insight into my own relationship with his work.
still, in not anticipating this anniversary, i come to this page completely unprepared, having not already outlined some masterful concept for a critical essay, but surely i would much rather prefer to write off-the-cuff, based only on the thoughts that have come to me as i have made my way through this day so far; images drifting in, moments of keen importance in my exploration of his work, moments where i have clearly understood a way of thinking, of presenting facts, information, of viewing the world. there is nothing more real than allowing the words to fall as they will, completely free of the need to impose a structure that only restrains, rather than contains the whole.
william s. burroughs revolutionised writing for me by revealing that there need to absolutely no rules whatsoever; there is no one way to describe anything, there is no one way of going about putting words onto a page. all rules should be observed, naturally, but they are simply rules, not law, not the natural law. language comes in myriad forms, each one able to describe itself and the world around it; each one able to twist and contort itself to fit any meaning, to fit any way of conveying the sense of being in a certain space/time and exactly what it is like. there can be no certain approach to one’s own path through language, each individual extracts their own truth, their own way to describe their beliefs and feelings and any given moment in space/time.
in strict literary terms, burroughs excited me, as he revealed to me that the ‘novel’ as it stands does not need to be the beginning, middle and end of the written word. the standard novel, like the standard hollywood movie is pure escapism in the form of storytelling. it is a neatly-packaged bundle with a beginning, a middle and an end, spanning a short amount of real-time and offering a nice tidy-bow to top off the happy ending, or perhaps sombre, or even ambiguous ending, to leave us closing the book or exiting the movie theatre with whatever desired emotion was on offer in that particular outing,. this is naturally a very skilled art, to tell a story, to load it with philosophical meaning, or a candy-lining and to entertain the reader/viewer in calming distraction from their real life.
which is exactly the point. the standard novel is not real life. it does not follow the patterns of real life, it is a filtered-down version of a linear version of events that is neatly laid-out to offer enough answers and questions in an allotted amount of time to sustain interest. but, for all the craft involved, this is far too neat a package to be working with, this is far too restricting in its overall layout and structure. so rarely in a novel, in a movie, do the characters talk about anything that has ‘no relevance’ to the development of the story, never will you hear tell of a character that at one point doesn’t appear and introduce themselves. never are you offered the strange tangents that real life reveals minute by minute during the actual waking day in this modern, meaningless world.
this is what burroughs could offer, could begin to shed light on, especially in beginning his oft-mentioned cut-up experiments with brion gysin. this ability to cut in and out of the narrative with other narratives, other thoughts, other suggestions, all intertwining within themselves, cutting in and out of themselves as do the thoughts in our own minds, the language streams in our own minds as we going about the linear task of progressing through the space/time of any individual day. burroughs was cutting all the thought lines together and putting them directly onto the page, he was generating real thought and therefore a real narrative, without stooping to try to impose any narrative, into shaping anything into a neat little bundle. he was letting go, and thereby seizing the ultimate control on his writing, by letting it slip through his fingers, by not grasping the grains of sand.
the much more interesting version of any standard novel or motion picture would of course be the reactionary glimpse within the mind of any given reader/viewer. the best-seller/blockbuster begins. we are looking out across the shimmering skyline of a fashionable city and a popular song is playing over the credits; immediately the viewer is taken back to a moment in their childhood by the momentary glimpse of a certain style of truck seen from a distance crossing an intersection; they are with their father for a moment on a june afternoon, the pop songs suddenly takes them to a party they attended the winter before, a name in the credits reminds them of a friend they went to school with and hadn’t seen in years. these streams of flitting connexions would be infinitely more fascinating than the book/film about to unfold.
still, all of this is well and good, but without the power to be able to adequately control the words in this fashion, to be able to present interesting enough materials to be able to sustain such an ongoing experiment is where burroughs’ experiments turn to a consistent and unrivalled display of genius, as seen nowhere else in the western english-language literary world since his appearance on the scene. burroughs consistently and all-encompassingly dazzles and staggers with his unbridled imagination, his ability to conjour the most fantastic, absurd, beautiful, foul, mesmerising, satirical, darkly-comedic view on such a wealth of topics that one can simple do little more than be entirely overwhelmed by his incredibly masterful approach to writing.
it is this masterful approach which allows him to affect so many with his words. for all that is written of him, for all the lurid press and talk of the terribly graphic and unsavoury imagery and language in his works, it is very likely only burroughs that can create a context and work with this material in a way which transcends all the criticism directed towards this lurid side of his prose, and demonstrates how he is able to hold a mirror up to the modern world and let it wallow in the grotesque filth of its own doing, whilst still being able to generate a wry smile and a gentle nod of understanding in the midst of staggering tales of high adventure and myriad hallucinatory moments in lands both imagined and as real as our perception of them.
for my own part, i am an absolutely devoted follower of the works of william s. burroughs, and can only begin to recommend that you start some small investigations of your own, should you have yet sampled the delights of his strange vision of the world. when time permits, i am of a mind to perhaps write some further reports on the facts in the case, perhaps highlight some of my own personal favourites from his overwhelming canon. til then, let us all stop for a moment a allow ourselves to feel the gentle breeze of the interzone drifting in, relax at our desks, perhaps take a little tea and then let the words start to come, as they may…
break through in grey room
william s. burroughs – 5th february 1914 – 2nd august 1997
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field reports from the old world – under a wintry full moon

having taken our fill of afternoon sustenance, myself along with the entire at bona fide, benelux and odeur de violettes team reconvened at the pohoda music club to load out into the two cars that would take us on the drive south to české budějovice. the dusk was descending and the temperature dropping fast, not to mention a few spots of cold rain starting to fall. still, the gang attended to the task in record time and we soon had our two vehicles filled to capacity before we spread our number evenly between them and took to the highway heading south out of the city.
for my own part i was still so weary-headed from the lack of sleep the night before, and the sounds of the honeycombs only served to lull me into a light sleep as the night fell and the highway wound its way down towards the old city. i awoke from my half-slumber as we entered the české budějovice city-limits, the soothing sounds of jesu now emitting from the car stereo. the night was bitterly cool as we parked our vehicle and stepped out onto the wintry streets outside the location, the full moon hanging bright above kredance and fast-moving clouds trailing quickly across its surface.
we made our way inside and were soon greeted by the very cool tomas, our bar-man, promoter, organiser and host for the evening; and what a true gentlemen in every sense indeed. a firm handshake soon turned its attention to a freshly brewed cup of earl sitting on the bar for me as i took in the delights of the super-chilled location that is kredance. how it was a pleasure to relax for a short while as the other members of the gang dealt with their equipment, even allowing myself the chance to utilise the wifi to finalise some more of my travel plans, as well as to send word back to the leipzig safehouse that all is well.
once we had all taken our fill of a particularly satisfying pasta dish, the stage was soon being set up, soundchecks happening and the guests starting to arrive, and what a pleasure to it was to see some familiar faces as well as getting to meet some new folks; this being my first time in the city. how much jovial conversation was had as we all slowly warmed up into the evening; a splendid constellation of people taking refuge from the cold of the wintry night together in close communion, all in the name of taking in some rather special live musical performances, of sharing the experience.
benelux took to the stage once again without delay, and how the acoustics of the location seemed to favour them a little more this night; how yet more staggering waves of their performance cut through the monolithic sound that they were able to extract from their speaker-stacks, and how a second chance to audition their live set only served to reveal yet more details and facets of worthy note. and how it was very much the same story with at bona fide, both bands taking full advantage of the sound situation and getting to unveil the full might of their shoegaze splendor on the wholly-receptive audience.
still, soon it was my turn to take to the stage and how i deliberately set about crafted a less frenetic and more considered performance than the night before. in plzeň, in the chaos of the pohoda, i had the chance to deliver a faster-paced, shorter, more tightly-woven set, whereas in the kredance i took my time to draw out more atmospheric spoken-word moments between the chaos and clatter of my main compositions. there seemed to be a calming still in the air, one that gave me the chance to perform at my own pace, and one that resulted in what ended up being a very-well-received and very satisfying performance indeed.
naturally, with the performances safely-handled, it was time to spend the rest of the night propping up the bar, which we did to long and good effect. i made my way through two or three more earls whilst embroiled in conversations with a splendid gentleman by the name of petr, who would later reveal himself as my co-host for the evening, and how he being a rather-well-traveled scholar led to long talks on various cities around the world and our own personal takes therein. zuzka and the others were also very much on hand to lend their worthy remarks to our discourse, and how the whole evening wound down most enjoyably as the location slowly emptied, til we were the last ones left, tomas holding the keys.
zuzka and the rest of the remaining gang were still keen to head on to another place, but i was very much ready to turn in for the night, and so how tomas kindly escorted me back to his place, where he soon turned in for the night, and where i set about brewing one more cup of tea and handling some small admin chores in the wonderfully warm and cosy environment of his apartment. and how it was very much a delight to find myself accompanied by his beautiful cat, who goes by the name of cuketa-courgette, and was sure to keep a curious and inquisitive eye upon me as i slowly managed to find my way back into the dreaming once more; a head full of new and wonderful experiences.
i must have been so deeply embroiled in the dreaming, and still so weary from the previous night that i managed to find myself sleeping til almost midday, and had to arise with a start to be sure about being ready to take the necessary train from the hlavní nádraží, my schedule taking me on to kutná hora via kolín and a tight one. luckily there was enough time to briefly cross paths and offer thanks to both petr and tomas again before i made my hazy way back down onto the streets of české budějovice, the first time in the daylight, and paced earnestly in the direction of the hlavní nádraží with plenty of time to board the kolín service and begin my next leg of the adventure.
how it was such a memorable time indeed and a wonderful first visit to this new location on my czech map, and how i would very much like to take the chance to offer such thanks to everyone involved and everyone who made it down, new friends and old. extra-special thanks of course going to tomas for helping organise such a splendid night, for petr for making it all the more pleasant, the mighty kredance for hosting such a nice evening, to the benelux and at bona fide families for yet another night of wonderful music, to the mighty george-jirka for the crystal clear sound, and all those who offered me such kind words, praise and the feeling of being so very welcome. here’s to next time indeed.
next field report : amidst the woodland hillside still
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field reports from the old world – returning to the ancient heart of bohemia

how unusually mild winter weather it was for my latest excursion back to the wonders of the czech republic. i arose in the very early morning and made my way via straßenbahn from connewitz to the hauptbahnhof here in leipzig under gloomy grey skies threatening a few drops of rain, but the ground remained unfrozen, and the winter wind only blowing cool. i followed the trainlines a short ways northwest til the skyline of dresden loomed on the horizon, the schloss, the frauenkirche; all bathed in the muted winter half-light. til, finally the trainlines bore us in a southerly direction and into the heart of bohemia, it’s majestic captial; the city of praha.
it was early afternoon when i stepped wearily out onto the platform and made my way down to the main concourse of praha hlavní nádraží; its sights now becoming wonderfully familiar to me. i set about fixing myself some czech koruna, a fresh bottle of water and my ticket to plzeň, before stepping outside to take in the mild wintry city air from one of the benches sitting on the small strip of parkland bordering washingtonova. how weary i felt from the long journey out of sachsen, but how glad i was to find myself once again in this beautifully romantic land, filled with such treasures and wonders; always just waiting to be uncovered.

i boarded the plzeň service in the late afternoon and watched the bohemian landscapes stretch out before me as i headed west along the line, even catching glimpses of two sets of deer couples frolicking in the fallow fields together, until the sun quickly began to set and dusk began to bathe the landscapes in a swift and steadily descending darkness. but how perfectly warm and cosy the carriage was and how friendly my fellow compartment passengers were. we followed the line all the way to plzeň and disembarked at the beautifully-crafted hlavní nádraží, its architecture hinting at the marvels of this ancient city; only serving to remind me how glad i was to return.
the mighty jan sinko from the místní borci crew was poised to collect me from the station and how it was only a short walk to the location, a walk which took us passed the now demolished old theatre, an empty lot waiting to be turned into luxury apartments or a shopping mall most-likely; a tragic blow to the city center. still, how we pressed onwards and arrived at the very cool pohoda music club, slung low deep within the basements of a bigger complex of perhaps three or four bars and clubs. but, embedded deep within the confines of this safehouse the rest of the world seemed like a million miles away.

the earl grey was soon brewing, stage preparations being made, two dogs were running wildly throughout the bar and all was very much in order. after some short while things were made even more comfortable with the arrival of the wonderful at bona fide family, their benelux counterparts at the later-to-be-staggering odeur de violettes. with the whole gang assembled and the guests arriving in droves it was clearly almost time for the evenings entertainment to begin; once a little backstage sustenance had been devoured, naturally.
benelux took to the stage first and quickly revealed a well-crafted line of what could possibly be described as ‘surf-gaze’; a fine blend of elements that had me think of east bay rays‘ guitar lines for early dead kennedys, of velvet underground inspired noise-action, all being held together by a warm field of indie and shoegaze vibes which all melded to create a splendid whole. i had previously been told of their work, but how it was certainly a delight to hear it for the first time being issued at a megalithic volume within the confines of this small underground cavern.

to the best of my understanding odeur de violettes is one girl, that goes by the name of laví, who performs a very stunning line in super-heartfelt acoustic singer-songwriter material, and is very much in control of what she is doing. her first order of business was to refuse playing on the main stage through the sound system and rather performing acoustic in the relative quite of the fussball antechamber. at first just a few of us huddled together to hear her curious magic, but by the end of the set almost the whole club was squeezed into this tight room and marveling at her stunning pieces. truly magical indeed, and well worth investigating.
before too long, at bona fide were ready to take to the stage, and how it was an event i had been anticipating for some long while. zuzka, their bass-player, was my first connexion in ostrava on my first tour to the czech republic and how i have come to be very good friends with the ostrava family, but had long had to wait til there was a chance to get to see them perform their own fantastic music, and how it truly was a delight indeed. just massive, massive waves of full-noise-field-shoegaze; truly epic in every possible way, and managing to drown us in velvet’s noise work-outs as well us bathe us in shimmering dream-pop waves en route; thoroughly excellent work indeed. still, how even-luckier i was to be able to join them onstage for one song before beginning my own performance; magical times indeed.

how i must also take a moment to say how much of a pleasure it was to perform, to audition some of the songs from my new album for the first time, and to have such a warm audience listening keen in attendance. still, with the live music concluded it was time to start the serious process of drinking long into the early hours. luckily, for my part, the earl grey kept flowing and how i was treated to a host of wonderful conversations, not least of all with the enchanting miss katie elznicova; the singer, guitarist and songwriter behind the very amazing manon meurt, an upcoming plzeň dream-pop / shoegaze band who have already had the pleasure of supporting my bloody valentine for their recent praha show. our introduction came by way of the very wonderful miss vendula skalková and how the rest of the evening was spent discussing music, the arts, life and all therein; a thoroughly fascinating conversation within the chaos of the ever-maddening bar.
still, how ‘the end‘ came very literally in the form of the doors being played on the sound system. we all ferried our was out into the very early morning hours, yet how the city still seemed to be a blur of activity; late night bars with folk still spilling in and out of them, the buses and trams clattering and droning along the main-streets. slowly our number began to splinter as we began to bid each other farewell for the evening, some with plans for sleeping, some with plans for more drinking. for my own part i wandered to the quiet of our sleeping location with zuzka, to join the others that had retired previously and to get some precious sleep before the excitement of the new day dawned.

i awoke around midday, wrapped in my sleeping bag, on the floor of a kitchen in a second or third floor apartment. most of the gang were nowhere to be seen, but zuzka and a couple of other late-risers were still on the scene, and how, after a quick tea, we gathered ourselves up to head out into the afternoon, to re-commune with the others and find ourselves a little something to eat. the day was relatively mild still as we walked down towards the old square, connected with half of the rest of our team at the foot of the towering katedrála sv. bartoloměje before walking on to a nice cosy pub to meet the rest of our number and take some much needed lunch, and start to think about making our way by car to the next location.
how it had been a really wonderful, crazy, chaotic night indeed, and how i must take a moment to send so much thanks to everyone involved and everyone who made it down. so much love to the mighty jan, petr and the místní borci crew for arranging such a magical event, the whole pohoda crew for making us feel so welcome in their magical venue; standa, ráďa, and all those names i didn’t get to learn, vojta for handling the sound so well, the awesome benelux, odeur de violettes and at bona fide for the wonderful music, matěj hošek for his awesome photography, and extra-special thanks to vendula and katie for the wonderful conversations. sending all the love, and here’s to next time indeed.
next field report : under a wintry full moon
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accolades 2013

slowly, as we step into this new series of twelve moons, i feel that my first order of business ought well be taking a moment to celebrate and cherish the appearance of my still recently released ‘six six seven‘ album on a goodly number of ‘end of year’ lists. how it means so very much to me to even be able to share my music at all, but for it to receive such wonderful and considered praise is a real honour.
so, here is a list of the accolades that were
bestowed as 2013 drew to a close:
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best albums of 2013 – brzowski
best releases of 2013 – bill van cutten
top ten overall hip hop albums of 2013 – indie rock mag
i would very much like to take a moment to thank all those responsible for my appearance on these lists, and would very much like to extend that thanks to everyone who has supported this release, simply by helping spread the word, offering praise and encouragement or to have secured themselves a copy, whether it be a simple download or a copy of the hand-crafted tape itself. i am so very grateful for your support, enthusiasm and continued encouragement.
so, here’s to the days, weeks and months to come;
and how much is on the horizon…
wishing you all a very happy new year,
and sending all the love
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most honourable mentions – 2013

so, might i let my final entry in this years musical reflections be dedicated to some most honourable mentions; the releases that i was forced to agonisingly remove from my final short-list of exceptional works that saw the light of day across the last twelve months.

in some cases i found the releases to be slightly flawed, or perhaps a little too patchy, when forced to be over-critical, but for the most part it was simply a case of forcing myself to strip back the final list to the absolute bare essentials. either way, the selection reads thusly.

ancient mith – and the dead shall lie there

 

always a pleasure to get to audition a new long-player from the perennially captivating ancient mith. how he is more than capable of  delivering a full albums’ worth of texts without once losing sight of the cohesive whole or growing tedious… and here’s to the next eu-tour!

david lynch – the big dream

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anything new from david lynch will always be a notable moment, since my teenage fascination with his creative world, and how intruiged i am to see him release a new album so soon since the previous outing. more confounding, infuriating, mesmerising, captivating material to be sure.

soso – not for nothing

how i have long been partial to the works of the mighty soso, and how this latest outing is immediately captivating and remains so for its short duration. i am always struck by the sheer craft that he employs with each of his releases, giving them always the necessary gravitas to enthrall.

nosunnofood – nosunnofood

edison has been one of my ‘all-time-favourite’ producers for a long time now and how any outing from his musical realm is surely guaranteed to captivate, enthrall, entertain, sooth and stimulate. a perfect excursion back into his sonic landscapes between official solo releases.

james p honey – dIv_ØØNYgHN

the young captain honey murdering his way through half-an-hour of barbed materials. for my money always more visceral and captivating when stripped-down, these songs are further proof of his magnificent artistic path over the last few years.

earl sweatshirt – doris

probably the most ‘hyped’ release on this small list and how it was a curiously-intriguing item indeed. there can be no denying his incredibly powerful voice, nor his excellent flow, and how the lyrics and, for the most part beats, were able to generate a consistent journey though his world.

prodigy & alchemist – albert einstein

 

an unexpected treat to be sure. i cannot begin to explain how much i listened to the early mobb deep records as a teenager, nor how bemused i was by their plunging descent into utter dross. so, what a delight to hear prodigy offering bar after bar of gold, over a full-albums’ worth of solid beats.

action bronson & harry fraud – saab stories

scarcely able to bring myself to allow this release art onto this blog, but i cannot deny how many times i listened to ‘alligator’ and ‘seven series triplets’ this year; only two out of the six songs on offer, but just so compelling as to carry the weight of the release onto this list.

tesk – nerves

an absolutely stunning debut release from the masterful tesk. how it probably would have been in the short-list had it not arrived so late in the year, only giving me the chance to begin to be blown away by all that lays within. a full tape of shimmering magical hues. utter bliss.

home – word

 

how little could be more welcome that a further release from the always-masterful home. how this new set of ten songs carried me forward through this year on buoyant wings, always offering a keen and clear eye on the reasons why we are indeed moving forward. truly wonderful.

so, there we have it, my humble take on the musical facts in the case of 2013. i sincerely hope that you found a few enjoyable moments within, have managed to discover some new treats for your own archives, or simply enjoyed the shared understanding of mutual tastes, and how i sincerely hope that we are all still here this time next year to celebrate once again.
in final parting, i would also like to reference a number of artists that didn’t make it onto any of these lists, simply by way of my having not had the chance to audition their works over the last twelve months. i am keenly looking forward to hearing the latest releases from the following:

jesu, boards of canada, carcass, odd nosdam, the haxan cloak, arcade fire, low, billy woods & blockhead, cathedral, burial, bill callahan, dakota, tim hecker and many more …the tale is ongoing indeed…
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top ten releases of 2013

as promised, i have managed to allow myself enough time to rifle through this last years’ archives in an attempt to isolate what i consider to be the best musical releases of the last twelve months. in truth, it proved to be quite a difficult task and so, following this list shall be another containing ‘most honourable mentions’, just to satisfy my completist tendencies.
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still, after much agonising, i have managed to pare the list down to ten releases, spanning a wealth of styles and genres, from big-names to underground-heroes, from whistfully soothing to outrageously heavy; a splendid bunch indeed. so, might i request that you take a moment to put your feet up and have yourself a little perusal of the treats i have collected herein.
swordplay & pierre the motionless – tap water
despite some outrageously stiff competition, i would argue that this was my ‘most anticipated’ release of 2013, and would also probably have secured itself the top-spot, should i have buckled and reduced myself to listing them in my own order of greatness. not surprisingly ‘tap water’ has been featured on a lot of end-of-year lists and has received a good deal of press throughout the year and for good reason. for my own part, i was equally blown away by both swordplay and pierre the motionless from the first time i heard their sounds, and knew that this album would be something very, very special indeed. still, how they managed to outdo all of my expectations, bringing to the table a collection of impeccably crafted songs that come together to form a cohesive album in the most truest sense. in a modern age of rushed-releases, low quality albums and cobbled-together mixtapes, this release really highlights what can be accomplished artistically when truest craftsmen allow themselves the time to get it right. five stars, five mics, five cups of black tea. utterly essential.
koko blue – crosses and planks
the debut album from koko blue took me completely unexpectedly and had me absolutely fall in love with it almost directly. i had luckily managed to stumble upon news of the release and secured myself one of the most generous ‘free downloads’, found myself listening to it religiously and then was even more delighted to discover a limited edition cd version being released soonafter, which i naturally had to scoop up directly. the release coincided with the warmest weeks of the summer in the old world and how it soon became my soundtrack for days of riding to the lake by bicycle, gazing out over the shimmering waters, or relaxing in the soothing warmth of the evening, gentle breezes blowing through the window. thirteen songs so perfectly realised and not short of a few killer ‘singles’ too; the whole release a beautifully cohesive whole, wonderfully soothing, yet filled with a very real gravitas by way of the seemingly effortlessly penned texts relating tales of truly heartfelt moments. an utterly magical spell-binding album that i shall be sure to keep near me at all times as the years continue to race by. investigate immediately.
opium lord – the calendrical cycle – prologue : the healer
the horror. the outrage. i somehow very gladly managed to stumble upon the sounds of opium lord around the time of the promotional release of this two-track monster whilst in the ruhrgebiet working with dyxz on the beginnings of the dyxz.born.rndr extension of the throne burner project. somehow lurking on some dark metal blog these two songs absolutely exploded in my headphones and had me immediately pestering dyxz to audition them over the speakers. i can still vividly recall the looks on our faces as we were visibly shaken by the near-impossible magnificence of these utterly ruthless compositions. i have been a keen follower of the heaviest of sounds for more than twenty-years now, but the devastation of ‘heroin swirls’ and ‘street labs’ really did instill in me the kind of excitement i felt when first hearing ‘seasons in the abyss’ echo from within my sisters bedroom as a very young man. still, how a lovely sense of nostalgic pride washed over me to discover that they are a young set of gentlemen hailing from birmingham, uk; the birthplace of all that is metal; a fitting fact indeed. i hear tell that the debut album shall soon be upon us and how i’m honestly not sure that i have anticipated a metal release quite so heavily. if you like your death / doom / sludge / grind, then you need this. you really need this.
laska – laska
how very warming a feeling to be able to include a decorative stamp release on this list indeed, and what a majestic one too. i had been privy to the goings-on at the newly-formed laska camp and was keen to learn that their debut release was nearing completion and simply had to find myself asking very nicely if we could release it in conjunction with the stamp, and how graciously they did agree. three songs that hint at such vast worlds beyond, all shimmering with such a warm beauty; the perfect melodic work of rhys and amy, their magical twin-voices working in perfect unison and the whole being so effortless shaped together by the unbeatable treatments of the mighty beatoven. how the whole release gives me such a strong sense of some kind of identity that could be prescribed to modern electronic music hailing from the united kingdom, but which resonates with a tone of borderless understanding. of course, the always-staggering lyrics of rhys never fail to add the needed gravitas to such a release, and how their accents sure are pretty, but it is the way that the trio operate together, each displaying their greatest strengths that secures this outing a place in this list. wonderfully soothing, perfectly brooding, effortlessly hypnotic; magical indeed.
ghostface killah – twelve reasons to die
this year of our lord 2013 did indeed mark the twentieth anniversary release of the ’36 chambers’ and thusly marked my twentieth anniversary of being an undying fan of the ghostface killah, and what better way to be able to cherish this fact than revel in what quickly became one of my absolute favourite solo releases from the god himself. whilst the rest of the clan steadily let themselves descend into painful mediocrity i have always found myself to be very keen to hear what is to emerge next from ghostface and how ‘twelve reasons to die’ was a real treat indeed. forgiving the slightly hackneyed plot of this ‘concept album’, which is not so overbearing to detract from the whole, the release flows with such energy and gusto that one simply cannot help but be swept up in this new set of street tales which he unfolds. a great part of the credit must of course be given to one adrian younge for serving up some utterly staggering production that has the album hang together as the perfect foundation for ghostface to do his thing, made even more powerful by what appear to be genuinely enthused guest-spots from other members of the clan. still further, there is a wonderfully experimental nature to the release with some passages sounding truly bizarre; another welcome addition to the overall work. not world-changing, by wonderfully entertaining, and easily securing itself a place on this list.
run the jewels – run the jewels
i did find myself just a little late to the run the jewels party, but clearly needed to make my way there in my own time. as much as a few songs from the last el-p album really blew me away, i wasn’t feeling the whole release quite enough to get so very excited, and how i regrettably slept on killer mike’s ‘r.a.p music’, a fact which i have very gladly managed to remedy, which finally lead me full-circle onto this stunning release. now that the curious-surprise of el-p and killer mike joining forces is quite some ways behind us, all that is left is to marvel at how magical a combination they are together indeed. i am, of course, one of many graduates from the school of ‘funcrusher plus’ and have been a keen el-p listener since my late-teens and am always ready to hear his latest musical developments, and how this release is yet another fascinating excursion further into his steadily-evolving sound; always captivating and setting a masterful stage for raps that need to be very high quality to maintain the balance. gladly both gentlemen really do offer us some wonderfully captivating wordplay that does indeed keep the attention-level high at all times. this is the kind of quality that we should be able to expect from such hard-working artists and how reassuring and enjoyable that they should indeed deliver on such a scale.
the knife – shaking the habitual
a new album from the knife is always going to be a big deal, and how they are always guaranteed to confound, to mesmerise and to push boundaries as far as their immense reputation will allow. from the arc of their releases thusfar it would have been fair to predict that this latest album would be the ‘darkest’ and ‘weirdest’ yet and, to that end they certainly don’t dissapoint, but could any of us have been prepared for just quite how dark and weird it really is? one could even perhaps be forgiven for thinking that they really are just messing with us, given the utterly appalling album artwork, the audacious running-time and the bizarre juxtaposition of sounds, melodies and texts that make up this powerful collection. but, once allowing oneself to slowly soak up this immense body of work, the initial doubt, confusion and turmoil gives way to something incredible powerful, emotive and beautiful; masterstrokes indeed. i would be very willing to admit that this is quite easily the ‘most-challenging’ release on this list and really does demand a lot from the listener, but how wonderfully paradoxical that the most cerebral, most dense, most demanding release on this list is the only one that might find itself filed in the ‘dance’ section. joy.
my bloody valentine – mbv
any new release from my bloody valentine would surely guarantee its place on absolutely all end-of-year lists, even if it was only for the sake of hip-journalists trying desperately to cover their backs, but how they did indeed manage to unveil a ‘new’ collection of songs which does only serve to cement their reputation at the undisputed and much-imitated masters of shoegaze. the fact that the lions share of the material was written and perhaps even recorded but a few years after ‘bloody kisses’ can only be seen as a strong feature of this release. how the sound of their much-hallowed second album was so distinctive that the only way to perhaps satisfy listeners with a sequel would be to return directly to that source and continue to mine the depths therein, and how this release does exactly that; and somewhat effortlessly, it seems. mbv gets it exactly right, it is the perfect continuation of what we have all loved about the band for so long now, and only branches out a little into newer territory, enough to feel there has been a little development upon the path, but not too much to allow us to sense that they have wandered off in some direction influenced by the myriad on imitators that have taken their place in the intervening years. like stepping into the past, but through a new lens, somehow seeing everything splendid and anew.
dale cooper & the dictaphones – quatorze pièces de menace
another keenly anticipated release for this year, and one that did not disappoint. having been tuned onto the sounds of dale cooper & the dictaphones many years ago by the mighty fbcfabric, i have always been quick to reach for their music on frequent occasion and was thus over-the-moon to hear of fresh material on the horizon in the form of this new, sprawling release. once again we return to that effortlessly uneasy nocturnal world in which they invoke, and once again they slowly managed to expand the reach of their musical-magics by way of steadily drawing in more and more styles and feelings whilst still maintaining their own signature variant of the dark-jazz sound, as perfected by the masterful angelo badalamenti those long years ago now. still, here as with all their releases, it is the crisp and calculating electronic edge that pushes the whole in its own identifiable direction, and with such an ambitious running-time there is opportunity aplenty for them to explore their ever-altering whole to oftentimes mesmerising effect. how i sincerely hope that they may indeed be able to extend their listenership wider-still with this highly-polished release, that many more folk will be able to discover the delights of this powerful group of musicians.
walter gross – rotorcraft
utter, unspeakable devastation, always. walter gross is a name synonymous with monolithic noise terror, and rightly-so. anyone even vaguely interested in the possibities of sonic devastation within a beat context really ought accept that he has, by now, become a true master of the art indeed. how fortunate i found myself to be back in the spring to be able to play a show alongside the man himself at the legendary djazz in duisburg, north-west germany, and was treated to an utterly-relentless assault of a live performance which included cuts from this mighty release, and did indeed gratefully receive a copy of the release itself as a kind gift, for which i shall be eternally-grateful. ‘rotorcraft’ is an absolute bloody-mess of a release, spewing its gnarled and twisted guts all over the soundstage in horrific display after horrific display or sprawling noise-terror and frightening audio-threats, as if some kind of surreal nightmare with an all-too-real blackened core ready to burrow its way out into the waking day with each new distorted vocal-tone. this is scarcely music, more like some biologic-weaponry developed with the intent of purging sanity from fragile minds. one for anyone brave, or adept enough to travel to the darkest of regions.
so, there we have it. another wonderfully-mixed bag indeed; a little something for everyone perhaps. still, might i heartily recommend you investigate anything that tickles your fancy, as i will wholeheartedly stand by my opinion that each of the above releases is of the absolute highest quality indeed and without a doubt worth a good deal of your listening time.
again, thank you muchly for your time and attention, and how i do trust you might be finding yourself inspired to do a little investigation or re-celebrating from your own archives of the last year, and do expect a final list of ‘honourable mentions’ to follow; celebrating just a few more releases that i had to force myself to strip away from this short-list selection.
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top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2013

so, as another year draws to a close, one finds oneself reflecting on this most-recent set of twelve moons now passed and all they have come to embody. as time permits, i am trying to allow myself the necessary moments to look back upon all that has transpired and to word a few of my own facts in the case, much for my own interest as well as your own reading pleasure.

how so much has transpired indeed, and how there is much to reflect on, to be sure. so, might i boldly begin with the jovial task of finding myself in a position to discover and indeed reveal my own top-ten ‘most-listened-to artists’ of 2013. calculated using the magic of my last.fm account, whilst factoring in my vinyl listening habits into the equation, the list reads thusly.

no. 10 : songs: ohia

a perennial top-ten artist for the last ten consecutive years; a fact that needs little explanation to the adept among us. but this year the entry swathed in impossible sadness. i can scarcely relate my own personal desperation at the knowledge of the passing of jason molina this year. if there was ever any one artist who so deftly captured the tortured pain of depression and the majestic beauty of efforts to fight its cruel embrace for my own personal voyage, then it would be he. listening to songs: ohia is, for me, a willingness to accept the unbearable weight of sadness, but to display a willingness to fight; to try to press on, ‘step by step through the black’, but how the understanding that he lost his own battle this year is a weight so hard to bare. may he finally be at peace, and may his songs stay with us until we reach our own inevitable end.
no. 09 : glenn miller

another perennial favourite, since my early childhood, when i first had the chance to audition my fathers’ vinyl edition of the jimmy stewart movie soundtrack of the glenn miller story. on to when my father and i would frequent the fairfield halls in croydon to take in the touring big bands still operating to this day. it is hard for me to step back and really assess the music of this, the most-celebrated of the big bands, for it is so intrinsically linked with my early childhood memories, my teenage years and onwards. often emerging from unlikely sources to always remind me of its power, ‘made cool’ again by david lynch with his movies and twin peaks successes, embelished with the nostalgic weight and significance of the war-time period, not least with the death in action of its leader. songs from an earlier time and place, made more innocent with the downward spiral we have witnessed since.
no. 08 : yo la tengo

another truly-perennial entry. yo la tengo is the band that i often cite as being my ‘favourite of all time’, a statement i can only logically prescribe to for the simple fact that their repertoire contains songs for almost every musical mood i can find myself in. from the most beautiful soothing ethereal pieces through to dark and a heavy dirges, by way of jazzy escapades, folksy moments of intimacy, waves of fuzzy shoegaze, country leanings and moments of sheer whimsy. i had the privilege of being introduced to their work by the near-legendary fbcfabric as our friendship was first beginning to blossom and how we have celebrated their work together ever since. still, for my own part, yo la tengo music is spring-time music, and how the binge beginning sometime when the light starts creeping into the month of march is always sure to secure a top-spot in my listening list for any given year.

no. 07 : helen forrest

surely a new entry into my ‘most-listened’ list, although it was early last year when i first began to procure myself rare 78 recordings from this most enchanting vocalist. her repertoire was vast indeed and how there are so many standards so effortlessly presented by her in collaboration with all of the big names of the swing-era, but for my own part, how the lions share of my listening has been taken up with just one recording; her rendition of ‘moon ray’ with artie shaw & his orchestra. i can scarcely imagine that there is anyone in the western lands who is unfamiliar with this piece, perhaps vitally or perhaps in a whistful dream of a childhood memory, but how i can only wholeheartedly recommend repeating listenings with a view to exploring more of her recorded catalogue; there are so many beautiful moments of time captured with early recording techniques for our own ongoing pleasure.
no. 06 : koko blue

the only entirely new entry on the list for 2013 and indeed the only music to actually have been released these past twelve moons. i had the distinct pleasure of getting to meet the enchanting miss koko bonapart in guelph, ontario whilst being on the ‘our accents sure are pretty’ tour back in the spring of 2009 and was quickly prompted of her songwriting prowess, but how it took my patient waiting until she unveiled the ‘crosses and planks’ album this year, and how it still managed to exceed all expectations. to say that i fell deeply in love with all of the songs contained therein would be the only way to do justice to my feelings for these wonderfully crafted pieces. the beautifully clear and simplistic production, the perfectly soothing melodies and then this impossibly rich and mesmerising voice. how my long summer months were spent bathed in the radiance of these hypnotically soothing sounds, and given such deeper resonance with the weight of the finely-crafted words therein.
no. 05 : philip glass

philip glass seems like a name i have been familiar with my whole life, but i imagine the first chance i had to sit and listen to his music was at age sixteen, when a copy of his ‘low symphony’ fell into my hands, or perhaps dare i mention when i watched ‘candyman’ for the first time. the scenes are a little blurred now, but they were enough for me to show great enthusiasm when fbcfabric mentioned his name for the first time and kindly shared with me a few more of his masterful works. still, as much as i am always ready to audition any number of his works it is still always his work on ‘the hours’ soundtrack that ensures his continued presence in my ‘most-listened’ list. it really is one of those rare recordings that i can listen to on repeat all day and all night. his immediately indentifiable style presented in such a warm and powerful fashion, cascading pianos and strings forever altering and changing their collective shape, a constant undulating set of waves to lull and stir in equal measure. hypnotic, mesmerising, soothing and rousing; absolute perfection indeed.
no. 04 : ornette coleman

most-likely a new-entry for this years’ list, but an artist that has been on my periphery vision for many long years now. how i must have first been drawn to his exceptional talent as a boy of fourteen or fifteen watching david cronenbergs film adaptation of william s burroughs’ ‘naked lunch’ and being immediately struck by the wildly-disorientating tones and patterns. of course i understood that it was ‘jazz’ at the time, perhaps even ‘free-jazz’, but it seemed like such a revelation to me; a revelation that has wonderfully haunted me since. still, my path back to his work has been slower than i would have imagined until it finally began to blossom these few years past til it finally reached full-bloom as the spring became the summer this year now passed. but what can be written about such a legendary figure? should you be adept then you will understand immediately, but should the moment still not be upon you, then do allow yourself the chance to let the music start to soak in; there is impossible magical waiting in the strange half-light.

no 03 : the andrews sisters

of all the great vocal-jazz groups of the swing-era, the andrews sisters must surely be the most well-reknowned, and with good reason indeed. three sisters; laverne, patty and maxine, operating alongside the glenn miller orchestra and a wealth of other big-band greats, performed unrivaled concerts and recorded an absolute wealth of vintage recordings during their fantastically successful career, and how we are to this day so lucky to be able to still cherish these magical slices of history and time for our own listening pleasure and musical journeys. there can be no denying that their music is from a different time, a different world indeed, but one that still resonates so strongly into this modern, meaningless world, and one that offers such timeless themes wrapped within a wonderfully sweet and charming whole. for my own listening pleasures, the ‘chesterfield broadcasts’ with the glenn miller orchestra are the truest delight to be found within their catalogue and the lions’ share of listenings that have them featured so highly in this list.

no. 02 : the boswell sisters

surely the only vocal-jazz group worthy of ranking a place above the andrews sisters can only be reserved for the true originals; new orleans’ very own boswell sisters. beginning their highly-celebrated recorded careers at tender ages in the early 1930’s after already successful performance careers from the very youngest of ages in their native city, the three sisters essentially invented what could be done with their art and at the same time re-wrote every rule for their own creative ends. they were the only vocal-group who were allowed to manipulate the standards in their own desired style and how the results are bewitching to say the least. should you simply be a music scholar wishing to study melodic technique, phrasing, timing and the like, or should you simply wish to be swept up in the magic of their catalogue, one cannot fail to marvel at their impeccable resume. yet still, the fact that absolute legends such as ella fitzgerald spoke of their massive influence can only reveal the facts in the case of their status to be irrefutable.

no. 01 : howard shore & ornette coleman

this combination of artists can only mean one thing; the soundtrack to david cronenberg’s 1991 film adaptation of ‘naked lunch’ by the omnipotent william s burroughs. i can confess, after repeated viewings over many years, to being rather partial to the movie, although certain elements, most-notably the last ten minutes, always disappoints me bitterly; but the soundtrack is something completely different again. from my first listenings via the film itself from that young age and across the subsequent years, to finally being able to procure a copy of the soundtrack itself, i have been utterly mesmerised by the sounds therein. this fascinatingly harmonious union of two absolute masters of their craft, coming together to create something that really does raise their own individual arts to even greater height is a magical event that could indeed only have come about due to the needs of this film adaptation by one great of yet another. still, harmonious unison could surely be much better predicted in this meeting of musical minds than the failed experiment that is cronenberg sourcing burroughs untouchable masterpieces. let us put the film aside, press play on the disc and enter our own personal interzone for a brief tenure of emotive exploration.

so, there we have it. a nicely curious collection of artists, and how i can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend you taking some time to explore any and all on this list for your own personal experience, or perhaps i might simply have been able to nudge you into revisiting some of these treasures from your own archives. how there can be little greater pleasure to be had within the musical arts than to spend some time auditioning some of the very best quality music at ones disposal indeed… and here’s to the constant state of ongoing exploration into further depths of artistry and creative odyssey.
might i briefly take a moment to thank you for your interest, and how i shall boldly also hint that i am currently compiling a list of my ‘top releases of 2013’ for your amusement and delectation too. how there has been a wealth of staggering new music this year, and how i very much intend to take a moment to celebrate some of this young material that has emerge since last we cast our thoughts back across the long moons. so, please do stay tuned, and here’s to the ongoing, to the onwards and upwards. sending all the love.
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helicopter gunships over gut city

albeit somewhat more-belatedly than planned, we can at last unveil the marvelous video of my a cappella performance of ‘helicopter gunships‘, created in conjunction with the very awesome adrian woodhouse for the knertz icings blog some moons ago when the winter still had a strong grip over the new years slow building.

 

i had been very much aware of the very cool icings blog since its inception and was over the moon when adrian invited me to get involved too, and since i was not so pressed for time as other ‘on tour’ contributors, being a darmstadt resident, i was keen that adrian and i take a decent amount of time to come up with something extra-special.

 

still, we are possibly two of the busiest individuals in gut city, so it was pretty tough to get our schedules to co-incide, in fact i think it took four or five moons even, but at last we managed to gather together in the basement of the decorative stamp compound to put together this rather sinister treat, something amusingly dark in comparison to that which adrian might normally be known for.

 

so, please do have repeated viewings, please do check out the icings blogmake friends with adrian on facebook, check out some more of his work, as well as that of the knertz collective more generally, and do anticipate some more iron filings and sellotape related news shortly.

 

take care
jamesreindeer