He’s released the soundtrack for the films, and it’s beautiful. My favourite piece is probably ‘The Model Engineer’, which sits very comfortably alongside my slate of music to work to (Clint Mansell scores, Dear Esther, Doctor Who clips and Tron: Legacy).
I drifted by way of Pitchfork for the first time in ages this morning – no idea why. An interstitial greeted me, pointing me by way of their ‘cover feature’ by a friend of mine, Laura Snapes, so I had a look.
The format was brilliant. A Sunday supplement length interview (that it seems they’ve run a few of to date) that bursts outside of the site’s standard format. It features a playlist and dozens of shots that change dynamically as you scroll through the piece, and it uses a few neat tricks to make the transition between each section a bit more compelling, a bit more webby.
Screengrabs are actually an awful way of showing off the experience, so I’d recommend having a poke around the interview yourself
I really liked it. It helped that it was a neat interview – nice work Laura – and that Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan is a compelling interviewee, but mostly I just really liked how much Pitchfork were willing to give up of themselves to give the interview room to breathe.
Of course, Pitchfork do editorial, so it’s not a massive stretch for them, but it’s unusual for a site to surrender themselves to content like this. I’d be stunned to hear of, say, CBR following suit, or even The Guardian. I’d be intrigued to know how it does for Pitchfork – traffic-wise – but it’s nice work regardless.
There is an instrument (a tool, something constructed to do a job rather than soothe the spirit) among Gavin Bryars‘ ensemble that rips at minds. I have no idea what it is; it could be a violin turned percussive, or sheet metal riddled with rust and violence. No idea. I know though that last night it made me cry.
The Sinking of the Titanic is a powerful piece of music that has spent the last 33 years evolving (or, I guess, the last hundred years evolving, or the last n years, where n is the time elapsed since first a person was lost at sea and other were left to wonder what it felt like), and it was performed at the Barbican last night.
There was a passage played where the looping hymn is disrupted by an unnatural creaking that is, at once, ice and metal rending and hearts breaking. And I have no idea what makes that sound. What makes that sound made me think of cold water and metal hulks groaning in the silence. It makes me think of the quiet and the thing that happens to ice cubes in glasses of fluid but magnified to a size larger than my head can handle. It is deep and sharp all at once, all pitches, cutting across every other musician, emphasising the hopelessness of the hymn that loops. And I have no idea what makes that noise. But it made me cry.
And it’s great, it really is. Exhaustive and surprising, it mapped my memories of reading the book perfectly; you’re stunned by the still-vital eruption of Gang of Four in Chapter 7, delighted by the New Pop ZTT finale, a little disappointed by how easily Joy Division blend in…
It exacerbated the problem I had with Reynolds’ book though. See, I was born after the era he documents, and the music I fell for ten years ago wears its debt to postpunk so openly that I don’t need convincing of the era’s importance. Which is really what the book is – a long argument that this was a Genuinely Important Period In Pop.
Of course it was. If it hadn’t been I wouldn’t have anything to listen to now.
And by making that argument so comprehensively Reynolds casts the net very wide in terms of musical touchpoints, which makes the whole thing a little too saggy for my tastes. I felt that in a stretch between Chapters 17 and 21 yesterday – “The Black Hit of Space” to “Perfect Way” – where parts of it all just blended until Siouxsie crackled to life on my headphones and all was right again.
But both playlist and book are wonderful pieces of work. I’d recommend giving both a try, even if you don’t have the time in your life to, as Phil suggests, enjoy them together.
One day, when I have an awful lot of time on my hands, I’ll make a playlist for Words And Music.
Unrelated image above taken at High Arctic last weekend, which is also brilliant
Client Room Radio was something that a group of us started doing in our old office room at Last.fm. I wrote about it once before, but basically it’s a Last.fm radio station built using the music libraries of anyone working in the room, a playlist based on multiple music tastes.
The office layout changed about a month ago now, and we’re no longer in a room together, so for the last few weeks I’ve booked a meeting room and invited the old group of us to colonise it. It’s not as successful at bringing a bunch of us together as the old set-up, but the few times we’ve done it it’s been lovely.
I’m on my own in the room today, and rather than play my library radio I’ve tuned to the radio station generated by our shared Last.fm account. Clientroom was the user we created to stream the stations from, and it’s amassed a diverse library that reflects the shared listening experience of those of us in that room (it also broadcasts what’s playing to Twitter).
It has a history of its own, a catalog of music it’s capable of playing to me, and according to the Last.fm tasteometer our musical similarity is SUPER. And it is an absolute bloody pleasure to listen to. There are fragments of music in here I would simply never have played, given a choice, tracks that I can pin to the likes of Andy or Phil, and new favourite bands I’ve found via Coffey.
But Client Room Radio is made up of people and algorithms, choices and chance. Listening is deeply satisfying because it feels like something we built together. It’s not ‘a 21st century mixtape’ or anything like that, but it is a snapshot of about a dozen people’s lives, timelapsed into something we can return to, forever fresh because it’s driven by data. It feels like something new.
Listen along, if you fancy it.
I’ve been thoroughly hooked by the WU LYF album Go Tell Fire On The Mountain. Exactly the right kind of alt. rock for a British Sea Power fan to listen to in the summer months; a bit shouty, a bit of the spirit of the caves, very earnest, very noisy.
I think what’s captured my imagination most though is the membership club they started, responsible for part-funding the recording of the new album. It gave buyers a twelve inch record, a bandana and poster/booklet, but what it gave the band was a platform for outreach almost impossible to beat. It kept them off of a label, and it turned their trendier-than-thou early-adopters into evangelists and conspirators. It gave their listeners an emotional investment in the final product.
And while I’m suspicious of the scale and noise of Kickstarter et al it feels like that kind of membership program is ripe for pilfering, for funding a comic project. To a certain extent it’s what I’ve been doing with Paper Science – week notes and all – but to point that at something a little more personal and self-contained might be interesting.
I am too young to have lost favourite venues, but another one bites the dust this week; The Luminaire up in Kilburn is currently enjoying Wake Week, a five-gig only re-opening to mourn the closing of its doors at New Year. These will be the final shows the venue hosts.
Last night I was at the sold-out Fence Records show, as much to go back into the venue as to see the Fence Collective’s great and good.
The Luminaire was cosy, a low ceilinged black box with fabulous acoustics which made the most of its awkward layout by emphasising audio quality. Every show I’ve seen there sounded fabulous. Stand-outs include Luke Haines, Kaki King, A Sunny Day In Glasgow and a fabulous Black Box Recorder show.
These gigs weren’t just great because of the musicians, but because the venue demanded a certain quality from them; if the walls are asking you to shut up and listen then the music you’re listening to had better be pretty damn good. It often was.
With The Luminaire goes Kilburn; I can’t think of a reason to revisit the area without that venue to take me there. It’s a strange sensation to have pockets of a city ‘switch off’ because of things like that.
I haven’t written about music on here in ages. And I’m not going to now. Not really.
I was listening to M83‘s fabulous Saturdays = Youth again the other day, and I got wrapped in staring at the cover art. It’s an album sleeve I absolutely adore, one of the few younger than twenty years old I’ve spent time actually thinking about.
The day I bought the CD, at Rough Trade East in Spring 2008, I remember unpicking the cellophane and getting lost in the sleeve. The whole thing seemed like some perfect snapshot of poseur youth, a mob of fictional characters captured for a second in a perfect setting.
The images spilled across M83′s single releases off of the record, matching up the motley crew with some of the characters that pepper the tracks; the graveyard girl, Kim & Jessie, the girl with the rocket, several ghosts and all the kids of the woods.
If, as an M83 fan, you were expecting the car-chase freneticism of Before The Dawn Heals Us then the cover torpedoes those expectations right away. It throws you into vogue, with a bunch of stories that share more in common with John Hughes and the idea of Kate Bush than the blasted cityscapes of 2004 single “America”.
Saturday’s = Youth is so wholly packaged along those themes that I find it hard to fault.
When I picked the album up it got me thinking instantly about The Polaroid Press and all I’d hoped to do with that project. For all of the retro-charm it had it never pulled together tightly enough for my liking.
Every time I return to The Polaroid Press – to try and collect it or to reignite it – I think instead about starting with a new vision of stories and the gangs that will populate them. I think about the unity that these sleeves have and the stories that spill out of these static images.
Saturdays = Youth is a mash-up of dusky romance, innocent sex and chaste seduction, a memory tape that reminds you about how young-adult TV shows used to talk around what goes on in the bedroom.
It’s totally nostalgic, and I’m sure Kieron hates it, but that’s because it’s not made for people like him. It’s made for people like me and Mark, people who don’t remember The Breakfast Club from first time around.
It’s made for people like the Videopia crew, or the London Fields Radio ringleaders, all of whom are seeped in ’80′s cultural nostalgia and don’t see anything retrogressive about it; people who are getting excited and making stuff as a matter of course.
And that’s something else these sleeves make me think about. I’ve always found nostalgia, even fake nostalgia, quite motivating.
If nostalgia is a yearning for places that may never have existed then those places have to have qualities that make them ‘better’. As a result there’s no harm in trying to let a little of that aspiration bleed into whatever you’re building for tomorrow. You just have to reign it in from time to time.
As promised, the latest volume of Mark Higgins’ Bitter Fingers podcast features Mark and I talking nonsense about our favourite songs of 2010.
Starting the year with a retrospective – feels about right.
Worth warning you – I’m a bit close to the mic. Sorry.