Tuesday

murder, she framed

I've got an idea for a show that seems so obvious to me, I can't believe it's not been touted or mooted. but after looking a few times, I can't find anything about it, so if this is old hat, sorry, and tell me where to stick it, and I'll try to learn to be better at searching the internet for things.

It's basically that title there.

We all know and love Murder, She Wrote. The story of an author of detective fiction who goes from town to town, solving mysteries, is so perfect for TV. Its episodic content. Its variety of scenic backdrops and characters. Its smart lead. Its improbable string of coincidences, where every time this author is in town, a murder happens...

This is the jump off point for my idea: what if actually, it's only plausible because it is no coincidence - every time the author rocks up somewhere, she researches the local townsfolk, then bumps someone off that she knows she can successfully frame someone else for? Just to see if it's a crime she can fit into her book.

This now fits with the law of statistics. We know from the start who the murder is - our protagonist, now an anti-hero. Every week, she must kill someone and successfully frame a member of the local community for the killing. Every week, different officers of the law are tricked by her into believing an entirely plausible story about who killed the victim - remember, she has absolutely no motivation to do this, so she's quite safely off the list of suspects. And every week, police fall for it, having had no contact with previous officers who might be able to piece a few anomalies together.

But every week we're captivated - how will she get away with it this time? how close will the call be? What will be the one piece of evidence that she just managed to plant at the last minute to get her target on the hook?

I think this has legs, especially in this time of anti-heroes.  Can someone pay me money for this please?

Also, on a different but related note, I'd like to see Mother: the series, because that film was both excellent and franchisable. Every week, mother's half-wit son accidentally kills someone. Every week, she must investigate who did it, only to find out that it was him, and then finally pin the blame on someone else. HBO, are you listening?

Oor Stevo

"If a record takes longer than a week to make, somebody's fucking up." Steve Albini.

Discuss.

Albini is a hero of all of ours. The records he produces are usually the highlight of the band's back catalogue, except he won't take credit as a producer. But I think he's way off the mark with this quote, a post-script on the letter he wrote to Nirvana pitching his take on their third album, and not just because I'm friends with Andrew Gardiner.

I just think its an ultra-limited way of conceiving of when the 'making of' a record starts and stops. We're not all The Magic Band; we don't all spend 6 months rehearsing in an empty house and then cut the record in four hours.

Thing is, I can say that, because I've been that soldier. When I was in Bruised Pilgrim, we did spend 6 months rehearsing and then record the album in a weekend; and it's an album I'm massively proud of.

The story doesn't stop there, because the album took about a year and a half to be mixed (including time before Andrew got around to it).  I don't think this bucks Albini's point, in fact it adds urgency to it. The reason it took so long to be mixed is because of fuck -ups in the recording process, largely poor equipment; the snare and the poppy bass guitar being the worst culprits, but there was a huge amount of automation that had to be very carefully engineered by Andrew in his mixing suite. Those corrections took a lot of time and could have been avoided by getting it right at source. The album could have been done in its entirety, in a week.

But what about the song writing? the rehearsal time itself? Does that not count? In terms of the albums I've made, most are home recorded, and once you include the years of material that went into that record, 'a week' is a ludicrously narrow view of what the production process is. If Albini is talking about punk bands, that cut their teeth live, and capturing their raw performance, then you have to include all the gigs they've played in order to get to that point. It's still not a week.

Making music is not necessarily about live performance any more. there s no hard and definite line between song-writing, production, and post-production. It can all feedback into everything else. Maybe making an album on my own is still within Albini's conception of 'something going wrong', and maybe I'm reading too much into the words he wrote 20 years ago, and maybe he's even changed his mind in that time. But the quote is too seductive, too ballsy a mission statement not to pick an argument with.

Sunday

Bright Phoebus reviewed

So On A Friday, Dan and I went for his birthday to see the Waterson-Carthy clan and guests play a gig of the 'great lost album' Bright Phoebus, at the Barbican.

The Barbican is, of the last year, now my most-frequented music venue. In the last year, I've seen Sparks, John Zorn, and now this gig in their main hall. I saw Eliza Carthy over summer, and she'd played a couple of Watersons' songs; and then, reading the gigs in advance, seeing that her and Jarvis Cocker would be sharing a stage was something i put in my diary about 6 months in advance.



So we went, and I thought, seeing a hall very nearly full, that this could all have been a Victoria Coren-esque hype trick; like when she announced the funeral of a fictional man, just to see what freeloaders would turn up, the story of the 'folk Sgt. Peppers' album that only ever had 1000 copies printed could just be a ruse to see who's going to turn up and pretend they know the words to sing along to. And, yes, there was a new book that Marry Waterson had compiled of her mum Lal's drawings, poems, writings, and a new cd of unused demos by the Mike and Lal Waterson, so there was a plug in it all somewhere. The night showcased all the songs from the Bright Phoebus LP (credited merely as 'songs by Mike and Lal Waterson'), plus a few songs that had only ever been demoed.

But onstage, we had almost the entirety of the remaining Waterson-Carthy lot: Lal's children Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight, Mike and Lal's sister Norma, Mike's Wife Ann and (their daughter?) Ella, Norma's husband Martin and their daughter Eliza. and through the evening, the emotional performances from Martin and Norma who had played on the original recording, it just became blindingly obvious that this wasn't just a public celebration, but a private one too. Given that Martin and Norma got together through the recording of the album, the night had an extra resonance. By the end, I felt like we'd been allowed to see this family celebrating the life and talents of their deceased, and that if they hadn't done it on stage in front of hundreds, they'd have been doing it at home anyway. That made it a real night to cherish.

Not knowing the songs made the rollercoaster of styles even more surprising, although it turned out I knew two of them: 'fine horseman' as a cover by Anne Briggs (I never realised it was a cover) and 'magical man' from my mum's 'New Electric Muse' compilation. The band (a four-piece backing band behind the changing front-people taking centre stage) played these pop songs, ballads, and dour psychedelic folk; and as the jaunty pop songs did that folky thing of throwing in and dropping beats wherever they liked, I realised, yes, this is beatley. This is what Beatle-ness is; the audacity to write intelligent pop songs and intersperse them with genuinely moving art songs. I'd never realised that before. I've been thinking about it recently, because I tried to make a Gorky's compilation, and couldn't. I couldn't fit them onto one disc, partly because of the variety of kinds of music they played. So then I realised, I'd have to make three separate mixtapes: Go Pop! with Gorky's, Chill Out with Gorky's, and Freak Out with Gorky's. Then it could work. Now I see that it comes from (at least) the Beatles, who were progressive enough to include pop music in their repertoire.



With the guest artists, highlights for me were John Smith singing a song (I can't remember the title) which was delicate and gorgeous and dynamic as anything, followed up by Jarvis singing 'The Scarecrow' which was the most mind blowing thing I've heard since... last time I was at the Barbican, for Zorn's 60th birthday gig. That performance was mentally scarring. The words were so descriptive and suggestive, the performance so in tune with them and emphasising of them, the music such a mix of happy, sad, and wistful, and the moment so unique and fleeting, that as Dan remarked, it was worth the price of admission alone.

So it was a great night. The music left me puzzled sometimes, wondering if it were that great or if it was just familiar memories that made it appear so; sometimes, the familial nature of the whole thing was the point; other times, there was no doubt that this was incredible song writing.

Saturday

what we have in common

So The Long-Suffering and I bought a house together, and have a child and a foetus. but having been sorting through our now-joint CD collection, I can tell you exactly what we have in common:

Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
Garbage: Self-titled debut
Radiohead: OK Computer
REM: Up
REM: Monster (an album I've never actually listened to but inherited from my brother and know all the songs off from culture).

So there you have it. the 5 most ubiquitous indie albums of the 90s.

Thursday

Recent Mixtapes

Well it's July and I haven't blogged about the end-of-year mixtapes from 2012. Argh.

But something seems to have happened to my mixtapes this year. I haven't relished and revelled in them like I used to; maybe because I've used up many of the tracks and themes that were 'immortal' and i'm just not discovering as much music as I used to; but this year my mixtapes have been slightly more direct than previously.

The making of KBFT by Dj Gallowslutt on Mixcloud


First, I did a compilation of different mixes of Klein Bottle Fish Tank. Only 17 minuets long, this charts the evolution of the track from fruity loops sketch through to the To The Boats..! cover of it, and into Unimbued's ambient soundblip of it.

The Page You Made: Originals by Dj Gallowslutt on Mixcloud


Then I felt the need to compile all the original versions of tracks I remixed for 'The Page You Made'. It has always frustrated me that most people wouldn't investigate remixes of tracks they had never heard; I mean, frustrating in general, and also the feeling that people might skip over TPYM because they wouldn't 'get' the remixes. So I wanted to rememedy that, but also show my work by making those originals more accessible. So another rather academic collection.

The Complete Valerie by Dj Gallowslutt on Mixcloud


Then I did this mix, which isn't a mix, it's just what I believe it the entirety of the Valerie back catalogue.
Valerie where a massively important band for me. I found them supporting Sleater-Kinney in Manchester, and they changed my idea of what you need to be in a band. It's hard to put into words, but everyone I brought to their shows was touched by their backhand genius. I just felt this needed to be online and accessible, not hidden away on random 7"s and 10"s. Their output, like their musical ability, was so limited, yet they were their doing it, an open invitation to get up and rock, as the results were so stunning.

Mental Judo: an MJ Hibbett & The Validators collection by Dj Gallowslutt on Mixcloud


Lastly, I curated this MJ Hibbett and the Validators retrospective. This one takes a bit more explanation.

Back in 2005 or so, Hibbett started a newsletter. I found hibbett on rathergood.com, when they put up an animation of "Hey Hey 16k". It was good, I checked out his website, and was so impressed by his songwriting that I picked up 'This is not a Library'; the song that really got me to splash out was 'Holdalls'. Ever since then, I have picked up as much Hibbett/Validatorage as I can get (although a few solo albums have slipped me by) because the songs are simply such a constant source of uplifting amusement. Its feel-good, like the film 'Together' is feel-good: wholesome, and wise, goodness. goodness that comes from knowing that the badness is behind you. Pain necessary to know has been known and dealt with, so now: Tell me something that you *do* like.

It's shocking the songs that didn't make it onto this collection, and I can't claim it's a best of, rather it's a collection of good songs by this one particular band. There's plenty more on their albums.

Having a Think About Count Arthur Strong

So the first series of CAS has been and gone and I'm left with some impressions.

Firsrtly, the thing that I'm reminded most of, is the technique of taking an established character and developing it for telly, and that's Nathan Barley. Because that achieved it in the same way, by adding a new main character who explores 'the world' of the person you're making the tv show of, who in both cases, takes the title of the show. and in both cases I felt that their role was a little over-blown.

But what Glinner has done, in turning a very successful radio show into telly, has been really slick. When I think of the CAS radio programmes, I remember them being piss-funny, but verging on the uncomfortable. The humor was slightly too close too a sort-of Mr Magoo, in that I wasn't sure how much of the humour was at the expense of CAS, who at times had clearly lost his marbles. The TV production has wiped that away with a really beautiful layer of pathos that has only added to the humour. Well, it's added to the humour that's there, but sometimes the episodes have felt a bit 'joke light', compared to my memories of the radio series.

For a first series, that's a bit strange. The great sitcoms have always veered just off tragedy; only fools and horses, at its best, was only so funny because the situation was so desperate. But I feel there's a lot of work and world building to be done before you can start dealing out the sort of pathos that CAS gave us in the first 6 episodes. Not that it didn't work, but it just made me feel 'well, this is a bit soon', like someone opening up about their ex on your second date.

So yeah, it was good. Well done Linehan.

But then, the laughs dried up half way through the IT crowd finale and I don't know why you just didn't make it funny instead of reference, and self-reference, heavy. It wasn't the kind of major-league sitcom that needed the sort of resolution you gave it. All we wanted was one more good episode, to go out on.

Upon Watching The Hobbit

So, I feel like watching the Hobbit, and this makes me feel quite strange.

Because, I'm very aware that Guillermo del Toro was supposed to be directing the film of the hobbit. GDT is a good director, who's famous for making films that blur terrestrial and fantastic horror, and for films that paint outcast monsters as heroes. He's great at talking about how the scary monsters are the ones under your bed, he has a teriffic imagination, and talked passionately about dragons and his designs. He'd have been great for the hobbit, the childlike hero being thrown into a world of light and shadow.

But instead, he walked away from it to persue his own projects; tried to make Mountains of Madness, which got pulled; and made Pacific Rim instead.

I loved watching Pacific Rim, and would happily watch it again, but even as a GDT fan, I think it could have been so much better. It was exciting and thrilling, but it wasn't a masterpiece. And as I prepare myself to watch Hobbit, I have the feeling: I don't want to spend three hours watching the first third of The Hobbit. I want GDT's hobbit, with it's deep understanding and humanisation of monsters.

Pacific rim felt like top gun, or Thomas the tank engine, when adding some layers of deeper characterisation, dialogue, and even more ensemble, would have been lovely. GDT billed the film as an ensemble piece, and his drive - the fact that we have to work together to survive - comes across very nicely in a show-don't-tell kind of way; that family and ethnic bonds are less important than humanity coming together above those. But most of the ensemble characters are killed off after only  a few  sentences, and end up feeling like set dressing.



What it reminded me most of - and could have done with being even closer to - was the pat mills/dave gibbons  2000ad story, The Terra Meks, in the Ro-Busters series; a giant port guard robot must protect his town from rampaging demolition robots, who are trying to redevelop it out of existence. The final page, of the battered and torn robot (called Charlie), standing up and walking out of the sea, because he can hear all the humans singing 'you'll never walk alone' makes me well up even now.

So back to The Hobbit, part of my issue seems to be how painfully, indulgently slow it is. I mean, then dialogue, not just the pace (I've now watched half an hour of it). When I think of the hobbit, I think of the start, which must be 'in a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit' and nothing else. That line should not come after we see old Bilbo reflecting and talking to frodo and a story about the dragon, which manages to cut between three time zones in its opening framing story; it must start the film. The other thing I think of is the BBC radio production, which does the whole book in about 4 hours. And that is pacey, snappy, with dialogue that relishes in the humour and snap of excitement.

BBC: "I'm looking for someone to share in adventure" said quickly, makes it quite funny how over the top that statement is, especially to a cosy hobbit.
Jackson:"I'm... Looking... For someone.... To.... Share.... In an... ADVENTURE." Well no wonder the film is 9 hours long.

I keep coming back to it. I keep looking at it sitting on my net flicks account, '25 minutes watched'. I keep thinking, this is a children's book. A short novel filled with adventure, excitement, and  ultimately, the notion that despite the subtitle, you can never go home again, because the round trip has changed you. Peter Jackson's first third is three hours long, and a PG.

I respect PJ. I think that it would probably work better, if you're telling the story of the transition between the hobbit and the lord of the rings, to integrate that story into the hobbit. But even then, 9 hours is more than. I have time for, and I'm a massive Tolkien nerd. A film of the hobbit should be like the first star wars film. Maybe a little longer than the average film, but an epic adventure that has a happy ending then and there. But then, this is the man who remade king Kong, which didn't need remaking, instead of Q: the winged serpent, which did. GDT's the hobbit is the film I want to watch. Anything else is a disappointment.

I'm sure, one day, I'll have a free weekend, and I'll watch the whole trilogy through, and I'll be able to pass comment on it. But I hope've explained why I'm not clamouring to do that right now.

Saturday

The martian question

http://thefreelancepolice.com/?p=74

So, every time I find out more about this project of my brother's, i get more and more amazed.

He first mentioned the idea to me, i don't know when exactly, but a few years ago we were talking about ideas we had and I'm sure it was one of those. Just to find out he's instantiating an idea is marvellous.

But then I read deeper, and I realise how impressed I am with him, layer upon layer. He stood up in public - a real achievement for dan - and pitched his idea to an organisation. That's amazing enough. They then  said 'yes, we want to see that made, here's some money to hire professionals to do that'.

The quality of these professionals is outstanding. As an avid consumer of Speculative Fiction, with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (three flavours of made-up crap, from the point of view of real scientists [citation needed]), Dan is working on a hard-as-possible-sci-fi game/story. He's got the ear of Colin Pillinger, no less, as scientific advisor. In my demographic, Pillinger is a hero, an open-university lecturer who launched an interplanetary probe seemingly from his back garden. It's great that he's involved. The rest of the team, while not people I've heard of, I've come across their work without even trying.

It does leave me wondering, where will the story go, if they're making it ultra realistic; because the real Mars is not, currently, a very interesting place. But that only makes me more excited about what they're going to do, and what they're going to draw out of it.

I just want to say, well done Bruv, I'm really happy for you and excited about what you're going to do.xx

Wednesday

Broken

sorry to have a boring tech post, but it seems that google are determined to make my life harder to use than it was before with 'upgrades'. they've replaced their rss reader with 'currents', a pretty aggregator that doesn't really aggregate feeds but keeps them entirely separate, which is completely pointless as in that case, i might as well just read the original webpage or whatever that it is a feed _of_.

then they upgrade google music by removing the 'shuffle all' button from everything except all songs. I used to be able to click on Folk, then 'shuffle all', which is exactly how i like to listen to my music genres. now, this simple action is made harder, i suppose i could build a playlist of all my folk and then shuffle that, but why make it harder?

then they upgrade google talk into google hangouts, and remove any indication of who is currently online. as a talk client, this is now useless.

I'm sorry if idon't understand how hangouts are meant to work. i just don't get it at all. i just want to leisurely type messages to my friends who happen to be online, and maybe once in a while make a video call. please let me do that.

I'm not saying 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', because that is utterly conservative and not how nature works. i'm saying, sure, make an improvement, but save a damn copy first in case you ruin it for everyone. why not just let me choose?

Tuesday

The Bishop Fuckers: a review

I've decided I'm giving my self 10 minutes to do blog posts, so that I can keep stringing together thoughts longer than two sentences long.

For a start, I've been meaning to review The Bishop Fuckers ep from 2002.

The Bishop Fuckers are ancient history now, but very important in my rock family tree, as our band the Toys of the Fishermen supported them twice and collaborated on a memorable jam of 'grilly's christmas song'; and various combinations of the former members have provided a musical life-line over the years ever since. So finally, after eleven years, I was able to get hold of their 6-track mini-album.

I've seen most of these songs performed tens of times, and thought I remembered them quite well. So after ten years of adoring the thought of them, what stands up? what's now just studenty crap?

The songs fall into two camps - anti-authoritian Prog rock songs (which are The Crucifiction and DICCU) and student-life reports (Don't Text Him, About Last Night, and Aidan). The first thing that strikes is the musicianship is fantastic, just as I remember. Listening to 'The Crucifiction', I'm swaddled in layers of intricate piano and lead guitar. But the student-union politics and the pretentious prog style grow a little wearysome. DICCU preaches again, this time against preachy religious people (and by extension, authoritainism).

The Studenty songs are less interesting. About Last Night is musically a fairly simple rock track, with strong vocal performance. Don't Text him is a funk rock workout, with lyrics about a friend's relationship; it sounds irrelevant and gossipy now, but at least it's writing about what you know. Aiden, a hit at the time, now feels like a fairly limp wedding band run through a popular eighties ballad.

There are some songs I'm surprised by the lack of inclusion: Bar Full of Cunts and the Dale-penned Song for the Baffing were particular favourites of mine.

Surprisingly, the stand out track for me, listening to it now, is the harrowing song Ambition is Futile, which strikes a chord with me that it didn't ten years ago. It doesn't fit into either of the two categories above, and maybe that's why it's not as dated. It has an existentialist anger that still catches me, that I think a lot of indie would love to own, but combined with a cool jazz-rock insistence, it just cuts you through, like a smiths with the romantic poetry replaced by someone explaining, statistically, why you should be depressed.

Right, I'm over time and the record has finished. I'm stopping.

They say you should never go back, but I'm glad to have this memento of that time. It doesn't change my memories.

Sunday

You don't understand the Internet, you idiot

Seriously. Just buy 'dieselking.com', and have it redirect to whatever one website you have your content on. There is no way on earth, you self-important wankers, I am going to check anyone of those urls, let alone all three.

Or, even, get dieselking.com, and put an actual website on it. You know, with a bit of self-respect.

And hey, If dieselking.com is not available, maybe that's a good sign that you should have a different band name. You idiot.

Wednesday

Physical music really is deader than dead

yeah i know i said i was on a hiatus. i guess what i mean is, don't expect me to be updating this anytime soon. but here's an update anyway.

i found myself in the westfield centre in stratford, which is a large modern shopping centre. it's about a year old, so it's a pretty good way of seeing how someone would build a shopping centre right about now.

i had some food shopping to do, and a grandma to pick up, but i felt i had enough time to maybe go and impulse purchase on a cd, which i haven't done for a super-long time. I really feel like i need to be challenged by some music. it's an odd feeling, that i've settled a bit into too much of a rut.

incidentally, two of my most recent purchases are both a) too heavy for me, which i didn't think possible, and b) french. wierd correlation. when i say too heavy, i love both of them, but one (whourkr) is heavy at the expense of song. it's like i can't hear the music, and i didn't realise that was important. the other, deathspell omega, i can listen to, but it's really disturbingly heavy at a very fundamental level. it fits the 'intellectual black metal' tag very well.

so i had a look at the map, and under 'music and books' there was two shops: foyles (that's the books then) and hmv. HMV! they're not even successful enough to be considered mainstream as any more, and therefore are now indie! right?

so i popped into foyles, which sold books (no cds, unlike the really massive soho one), and then tramped to hmv, the only music shop listed in the whole shopping centre. and it was not a big hmv. and only one quarter of it - literally just a corner - was cds. i mean about 6 racks. it wasn't big enough to have a metal, or a jazz, section. what metal there was - whitesnake, blacksabbath, slipknot, avenged sevenfold et al - was lumped in with rock and pop.

i'm not complaining about hmv being rubbish, which we've all known about for ages -
there was this one time i was in the big one in manchester looking for the new quickspace single after eharing them on peel. a shop bod gave me their entire band history and told me it would be out in two weeks. wonder what he's doing now
- but the fact that there is just virtually no music for sale, anywhere in the whole place. like it's just not something people do anymore.

it's not for lack of music; the centre was flooded with music, achieved by having hundreds of speakers lining the ceilings. it felt completely ubiquitous, and utterly fluid, because as you moved around there was no change in the level of sound. it felt like a soundtrack, the opposite of diegetic. but it wasn't there to be bought, or owned. or recognised or valued.

i also had a dream over the holidays, that i was doing a big shop (which i can do now when i have the car). and this old woman was pushing in front of me. and i thought, hey, why on earth should i have dreams about people pushing in front of me? get out of my dream. so i made the old woman vanish and tried to replace her with something more interesting, but then i thought, hang on, if this is my dream, why the hell am i dreaming of doing a food shop anyway? and then that was too much and i woke up.

Thursday

I'm gonna go ahead and call this a hiatus

This holiday, I've not read a single page of a book. I've managed about 2 hours of remixing and not written any music. I've not managed to gather any thoughts long enough to blog.

So I thought I might as well call this a blog hiatus for a bit, until things at home and work settle enough for me to have thoughts again. Meanwhile you can ask to follow my twitter account at https://twitter.com/grilly, because I can't think anything that can't be written down in anything more complicated than that.

Saturday

Britain

I saw Britain in a kebab shop tonight. I'm writing because I was too shy to photograph it.
A youngish Mediterranean m man was cleaning some sort of deep fast fryer. It had a clamp down lid which was currently open, while he scrubbed at the insides with what looked like a big bog brush. Stained onto the underside of the flipped-up lid was brown grease. But the grease wasn't a consistent pattern, because there were gaps from where a basket has blocked out the splash back of the hot fat. And for some reason, the basis formed a perfect double-cross; like someone had gone and scratched the union jack onto the burnt-on fat off the fryer in Broadway market kebab shop.

What a great photo it would have made. I'd have won some award for sure.

Friday

Petty hates

You know what I hate? Stations named after streets, and vice versa.

Take 'st James st station'. Aside from featuring the abbreviation 'st' three times for different words, it's a station named after the street named after st James. Here's an idea - just call it 'st James station'. Everyone will still know where it is.

Likewise, I've just been past a bus stop called 'higham station avenue'. I'm not suggesting this stop is renamed 'higham station' when it might not actually be that close to it. Better, we rename the avenue 'higham avenue' and then the busstop can be 'higham avenue' as well, because bus stops are often enough to be named after the actual roads.

I hope this makes you think a bit - I mean, why not Tottenham court station instead of Tottenham court road station?

The only thing I can think of to contradict this is Liverpool street, which would before confusingly called 'Liverpool', but that should be called after bishopsgate ot 'spital fields, or bedlam, anyway.

So yeah. Reclaim the street and station names!