Charmed, by Σtella

This came out a couple of years ago and it seems to be seeping into the playlists of places I frequent. It’s got a great vibe: atmospheric and haunting, yet sexy and dance-able.

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Psycho: Marion & Sam, by The Lord


So, yeah, typing in that title felt a little awkward, so let me unpack this. The artist in question (The Lord) is Greg Anderson, who’s better known for his monstrous doom metal outfit sunn O))). This is a solo project that takes inspiration from the works of film composer Bernard Herrmann. You might not be familiar with sunn 0))), but you’ve probably heard Herrmann’s scores for Taxi Driver, North by Northwest and Citizen Kane. Thus the title of the album “Worship,” as Anderson takes inspiration from Herrmann’s work. The piece I’ve shared is from a theme taken from the soundtrack to Psycho.

Not for all ears, yes, but I love the intensity of it!

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Blue by Sweeping Promises

Just happened upon this band, and pretty much everything they’re doing (and have done) is damn good.

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Separated at Birth: A Devil in the Woods, by The Gun Club; Lucifer Over Lancashire, by The Fall

I’d like to think these two songs came into being independently. And technically I can tell you that they did. A Devil in the Woods (The Gun Club) in the US, and Lucifer Over Lancashire (The Fall) in the UK, the latter circa 1986(?),  the former in 1982. The thing is, they sound tremendously similar, and I can’t help think whether Mark E. Smith et co might have found inspiration in The Gun Club track. But wouldn’t it be incredible if they were hashed out in isolation from one another? There’s really no downside to this discussion because for music fans they’re both post-punk crackers.

Enjoy!

(note: I typically prefer sharing Bandcamp links as it’s more generous to its artists, but these two tracks are not available there.)

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Conduit by Jon McKiel

I had the occasion to see Jon McKiel earlier this summer at The Baby G. He’s a solid songwriter and musician. This album in particular is a little more muscular whereas the follow-up (his latest) is a little more tuneful. Currently touring the U.K., which is great to see.

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Barley, by Water From Your Eyes

This is a wonderful track from a band I overheard while doing some revising at Voodoo Child, a café near work. I love these moments of serendipity, where I hear something that simply sounds “new” yet checks certain boxes (motorik, electronic, Stereolab-ish).

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Greetings from somewhere cloudy

Hi all — I’m slowly getting back into the swing of providing regular updates here, but I should be honest with you that I’ve been battling exhaustion and burnout over the past couple of months. It’s not pretty: in-between forgetting a lot of things, tackling overdue quotidian tasks comes with frustration and resentment. My energy and focus have been more or less on my day job, with good reason. I was also somewhat ironically prolific over the Xmas break, having done a complete read-through of Book Three for revision notes, as well as putting together a very personal essay which ties the story together of my murdered uncle’s stolen guitar.

So yes, “productive”, but I’m paying for it currently, along with the dividends of the not-so-good things from 2022 (ie my mother was hospitalized for several months).

I’m going to leave you with a wonderful song from Jenny Hval that I have been trying not to mainline every moment I can, owing to the fact that the piece has a strong emotional impact on me. Perhaps it’s the reflective and speculative nature of the (gorgeous) lyrics. In any case, I hope to see you soon.

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May Update

Hi all,

I’ve needed time away from here, for a variety of work-related and personal reasons. I’m going to be back with a vengeance as I start ramping up promotion of Radioland, but until then, please enjoy the following…

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Doing Research

A while back, I read a lovely piece about David Sylvian, vocalist with 80s new wave band Japan and an accomplished solo artist, and was struck by an observation he made, reflecting upon hearing a track by ambient artist Christian Fennesz:

‘What I liked about his work is that there’s a melodicism to it. It wasn’t all sample manipulation. lt really had a heart to it somewhere. I was talking to Ryuichi [Sakamoto] about two years ago and he said, “Do you still listen to music?” I said, “Well, I still tend to buy a lot of music and I listen to a fair amount of it. But I’m not touched by it. I’m not moved by it.” He said, “Yeah, that’s right. It’s just a process of education. It’s a means of finding out what is now possible with this or that technology. You’re no longer listening to music. You’re doing research.” And what I liked about Christian’s work is that there it all was: modern technology, but in the service of the heart. I always come back to the heart.

There are two things that stood out to me in this passage. The first was Sylvian speaking about how his relationship with music had changed. So, first, I suppose it needs to be contextualized that when someone is working in a creative field they should (unsurprisingly) not only be affected by but also actively familiarizing themselves with other artist’s works. The problem is that, after a number of years/decades, it can feel as if everything has been done. Note Ryuichi Sakamoto‘s question; it’s not Have you heard anything good lately. His question is distressing: Do you still listen to music? It raises the spectre of a rupture between an artist and their craft. Sylvian’s answer and Sakamoto’s response, while relieving also point to a sense of being lost. “Yeah,” says Sakamoto, referring to his listening habits, “that’s right. It’s just a process of education. It’s a means of finding out what is now possible with this or that technology. You’re no longer listening to music. You’re doing research.” In other words, the naive curiosity which can be so important for any artist has become dormant. Yes, you are still listening to music, but it’s become reference material; a question of keeping up; who’s doing what with which device.

I have not become anesthetized to music, and the reason for this is most likely because I am not a professional in that industry, and I’m thankful for this. I do relate to this situation with respect to TV and film however. Having gone to school and eked out a career in televised programming followed by long-form motion pictures, it became second nature to watch (and deconstruct) a wide variety of works. And having worked in the sausage factory for 20 years I must admit to feeling a resonant frequency with regards to moving pictures at least, reading Sylvian’s conversation with Sakamoto. Yes, I’m still watching shows and movies, but am I affected by them or am I simply filling in time with reference material? Let’s just say that I am not easily affected these days.

Which brings me to the second thing about this passage: deliverance. In coming across the track from Christian Fennesz, Sylvian seems to rediscover something. Cliché though it may sound, there is the sense of having faith restored. And who could not be struck by something that, while technically accomplished, is “in the service of the heart”? In other words, there is honesty in this work, and depth. Something that is ultimately restorative and worthy of kick-starting another artist’s relationship with their work once more.

I share this because it’s good to share stories of inspiration, and good to admit that sometimes inspiration can be hard to find.

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