Categories
Indie Rock Synth Pop

Superlove – Jarvis Put The Record On

Maltese originating, Berlin based Synth-Indie band Superlove are about to release a beautiful limited edition single with boutique cassette label Safe Suburban Home.

The single, Jarvis Put The Record On is fuzzy, synthetic, energetic Pop. Masterfully programmed drum machine patterns (we know from the b-side that frontman Daniel Borg owns a 909, so it’s a safe assumption that he’s using it here) underpins beautifully textured synth bass parts & spectral, swirling pads. The song was built around parts which were written on a cheap Casio keyboard which sadly didn’t survive the session.

The song was inspired by a chance encounter with Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker & is inspired by the lack of new music from the esteemed Britpop singer. Jarvis Put The Record On was written “in the vague hope that one day he will hear it and crack out another album,” recalls Borg. Cocker has since released new music under his Jarv Is moniker. “Maybe we managed to convince him, who knows?” says Borgs bandmate, Alexandra Aquilina.

B-side Me & My 909 is a more subdued affair. Sombre guitar lines, a murky, synthy soundscape & beautifully simple drum machine pattern. In tribute to his 909, Borg says he wanted to build the song around “the most basic beat to enhance the beauty of this machine.” The downtempo rhythm, noisy soundscape & male/female vocal harmonies almost take it into Shoegaze territory.

Jarvis Put The Record On is available on limited Cassette through Safe Suburban Home on 7th August.The Cassette is available to pre-order here. The songs can be pre-saved to Spotify here.

Check out the excellent video for Jarvis Put The Record On.

Categories
Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): British Sea Power – Carrion

Day 31. From Grunge legends Alice In Chains singing about Them Bones, to British Sea Power singing about the Carrion which picks at them. A slightly macabre link in the chain today, but Carrion is a hell of a tune.

Elegiac, soaring Indie Rock with a distinct maritime undertone, both in the band name & the music. Carrion combines anthemic upbeat songwriting with the nostalgic melancholy of Britains declining relationship with the sea. Their debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power (on which Carrion appears), is titled to reflect this waning symbiosis.

Carry on inside of your heart
Under the brine you won’t notice the dark
Can stone and steel and horses heels ever explain the way you feel
From Scapa flow to Rotherhithe, I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide

Oh the heavy water how it enfolds
The salt the spray the gorgeous undertow
Always, always, always the sea
Brilliantine mortality

Irrigate your heart until you know your complete
And your draped in kelp, below by 8, 000 feet
My soul she cried I thought you’d died amid fumes of formaldehyde
You have been gone for so long I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide

Oh the heavy water how it enfolds
The salt the spray the gorgeous undertow
Always, always, always the sea
Brilliantine mortality

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Grunge Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Alice In Chains – Them Bones

Day 30. The link today is actually the recording studio. Yesterdays Pearl Jam tune & Them Bones by Alice In Chains were both recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle.

Them Bones is downtempo Grunge done to perfection. Atmospheric, Black Sabbath riffs, driving rhythms & fantastic vocal harmonies combine to create an oppressive & expressive atmosphere. For me personally, Them Bones takes me right back to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It’s inclusive on the rock stations fairly short playlist ensuring that I’ve probably heard it hundreds, if not thousands, of times in that particular setting.

I believe them bones are me 
Some say we’re born into the grave 
I feel so alone 
Gonna end up a big ole pile a them bones

Dust rise right on over my time 
Empty fossil of the new scene 
I feel so alone
Gonna wind up a big ole pile a them bones
Toll due bad dream come true 
I lie dead gone under red sky 
I feel so alone, 
Gonna end up a big ole pile a them

I feel so alone
Gonna end up a big ole pile a them
I feel so alone
Gonna end up a big ole pile a them bones

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Categories
Grunge Mental Health Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Pearl Jam – Jeremy

Day 29. From a song about an American teenager opening fire on her school to a song about another kind of American school shooting. Jeremy is about a 15 year old boy, Jeremy Delle, who committed suicide in front of his English class by self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Interestingly, the same set of circumstances seemed to contribute to Delle’s suicide as many more famous school shootings. Chiefly that Delle, like many school shooters, was mercilessly bullied by his classmates.

Pearl Jam wrote Jeremy in a bid to increase awareness of gun violence (specifically in schools), teen suicide & the dangers of unchecked bullying. As the description to the YouTube video states, “the themes of Jeremy highlighted by Pearl Jam in 1991, have sadly only become more relevant in the intervening 30 years as gun deaths continue to increase.”

At home drawing pictures
Of mountain tops
With him on top
Lemon yellow sun
Arms raised in a V

Dead lay in pools of maroon below
Daddy didn’t give attention
Oh, to the fact that mommy didn’t care
King Jeremy the wicked
Oh, ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy

Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed the lion
Gnashed his teeth and bit the recessed lady’s breast

How could I forget
And he hit me with a surprise left
My jaw left hurting

Dropped wide open
Just like the day
Oh like the day I heard
Daddy didn’t give affection

And the boy was something that mommy wouldn’t wear
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today

Try to forget this (try to forget this)
Try to erase this (try to erase this)
From the blackboard

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in
Spoke in
Jeremy spoke in
Spoke in
Jeremy spoke in class today

Uh uh uh uh (spoke in, spoke in, spoke in)
(Spoke in)
Uh uh uh uh (spoke in, spoke in, spoke in)
Whoa oh (spoke in)
(Spoke in, spoke in)
Whoa oh (spoke in)
Whoa oh (spoke in, spoke in, spoke in)
Ah ah ah yeah 
Ah ah ah ah (spoke in, spoke in, spoke in)
Yeah yeah ah ah ah (spoke in, spoke in, spoke in)
Ah ah ah ah ah

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Categories
Art Pop Pop Post Punk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays

Day 28. So another really obvious link today. In the movie of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the lead character, Pink, is played by Boomtown Rats lead singer Bob Geldof. If you watched the video in yesterdays Song of the Day blogpost, you saw him smashing up a hotel room & terrifying a groupie.

I Don’t Like Mondays is a piano-driven Pop song with an incredibly sinister meaning. It’s about Brenda Spencer, a 16 year old girl who shot & killed 2 people & wounded 9 at the Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, on January 29th 1979. When asked why she did it, she responded “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody’s gonna go to school today
She’s going to make them stay at home
And daddy doesn’t understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be sure

Oh, oh, oh tell me why
I don’t like MondaysTell me why
I don’t like MondaysTell me why
I don’t like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down

The Telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world
And mother feels so shocked
Father’s world is rocked
And their thoughts turn to their own little girl
Sweet sixteen ain’t that peachy keen
Now, it ain’t so neat to admit defeat
They can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need oh, woah 

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down
Down, down
Shoot it all down 

All the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while
And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die
And then the bullhorn crackles
And the captain tackles
With the problems and the how’s and why’s
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die, die

Oh, oh, oh and the silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody’s gonna go to school today
She’s going to make them stay at home
And daddy doesn’t understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be sure

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me whyI don’t like Mondays
Tell me whyI don’t like, I don’t like, I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like, I don’t like, (tell me why) I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
I want to shoot, the whole day down, uh, uh, uh

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Facebook Challenges Videogames

10 Days/10 Videogames Facebook Challenge

I might be only just getting around to writing it up now, but I completed the 10 days/10 videogames straight after the books challenge back in May. I’ve been meaning to get this post written since, but it’s taken a while to get around to for some reason. Anyway, here we are. I presented my games in chronological order of release cross referenced with when I played them. These are the most influential games in my life.

Day 1: Starwing/Starfox (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

Given my age, this is a fairly recent title to pick. Starwing (as it’s known in the UK) or Starfox (the rest of the world), was released in 1993 (the year I turned 11) & I remember we got a SNES that Christmas, Starwing was one of the games that we got with it. The others were Super Mario World (which I just replayed last week) & Super Mario Allstars. Previously I’d mainly played games on cassette (I had an Amstrad 6128 plus, which was kinda shit. My friends generally had ZX Spectrums) & maybe the odd NES game. The 3D graphics of Starwing absolutely blew me away as a child, but more importantly, it played like a dream. A linear 3rd person spaceship shooter with a story about anthropomorphised animals fighting against a supernaturally powerful evil emperor & a soundtrack that still holds up to this day. I still play it regularly on the Nintendo Switch’s virtual SNES.

Day 2: Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)

I bought Final Fantasy VII, with my own money, from a car boot sale. It became a pretty much permanent fixture in my life. I struggled through it the first time, not 100% getting the complex systems like I would later come to, but transfixed by the amazing story, the hand painted environments & the stirring, melancholy score. Later I would replay it again & again, even buying the official Brady Games Strategy Guide years after it had gone out of print, for far too much money. I just had a look now & found one going for $69.99 on Amazon. I remember the excitement that all of the various spinoffs generated too. The Crisis Core & Dirge Of Cerberus games, the Advent Children movie etc. I was initially excited about the remake, but the wait was so long that I lost enthusiasm for it & have yet to actually play it.

Day3: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)

Have you ever played so much Command & Conquer that you close your eyes & you can still see masses of Apocalypse Tanks & Kirov Airships slowly pouring across the screen on the backs of your eyelids? I have. In my mid twenties I played this game a hell of a lot. My friend & I loved the Arctic Circle map & would play it over & over again, trying to find new ways of winning the skirmish with maximum number of enemy factions. Towards the end of the games shelf life (killed for me when my last PC died, I’ve had Macs ever since), I remember every time I played it I used to just take over every enemy base, with engineers, until I controlled the entire map.

Day 4: The Elder ScrollsIII: Morrowind (PC)

Morrowind was my first proper open world, sandbox RPG & I absolutely loved it. Playing it for the first time felt like coming home. It was so engaging, like something that had been missing from my life up until that point. Admittedly, it hasn’t aged as well as it might. The combat is clunky, travelling is slow & keeping track of quests is notoriously difficult, but none of that mattered, really. The freedom you felt just walking around Vvardenfell, a unique & alien landscape completely different to any other fantasy world, was just amazing. You could just walk off in any direction & do what you felt like. & honourable mention for the soundtrack. Check out the main theme, it still gives me goosebumps today.

Day 5: TimeSplitters 2 (PlayStation)

I could have chosen either Timesplitters 2 or it’s sequel TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for this list, I spent vast amounts of enjoyable time with both. I decided, however, to choose the one with the best cover art & , in my opinion, that is TimeSplitters2. It’s a slick, smooth & sophisticated (for the time) First Person Shooter with a short but fun single player campaign, a plethora of other modes & levels to play (both single & multiplayer), shitloads of unlockable playable characters & an advanced, deep map maker for making your own maps (incl. logic programming to make your own story levels, challenges etc.). It was a veritable toybox of great content & is long overdue a remastered version for the current (or next) generation of consoles.

Day 6: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PlayStation)

I’ve just finished replaying this absolute behemoth of a game on the Xbox 360 rerelease. It has aged very well. The older graphics have taken on an almost cartoonish element over the years, which is humorous when you think how realistic we used to find it. San Andreas improved on its GTA 3D universe predecessors (Grand Theft Auto 3 & Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) in almost every way imaginable. Light, but welcome, RPG elements were added to make your character adapt & grow over time. Small changes like the ability to swim & dive (previously, entering the water would kill your character) helped to make the world seem so much more open & explorable. Speaking of the open & explorable world, San Andreas, distinct from previous games, was a whole fictional state in Rockstar games fictionalised America. Rather than being a single city, like III‘s Liberty City (based on New York) or Vice City (based on Miami), San Andreas featured three complete cities Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco) & Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas) as well as the stretches of countryside, desert, rivers, lakes, small towns, army bases & airstrips between them. It was huge. The story was absolutely top notch too, taking inspiration from a huge amount of popular culture & stocked to the gills with easter eggs & references to movies, TV, comics etc. The voice acting was also top notch & featured such high profile voice actors as Samuel L Jackson & James Woods. Still the top game in the Grand Theft Auto series, in my opinion.

Day 7: Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

I’ll probably get people in the comments (or friends privately) telling me that I should have chosen Fallout: New Vegas here. Whenever I post about how much I love Fallout 3, that always happened. It happened on the original Facebook post which this blogpost is based upon. I’m not sure why people feel the need to police peoples opinions of the Fallout series, but it is endemic. I love Fallout 3. Partly because it was the first Fallout game I played & partly because it is of extremely high quality. I really enjoyed catching up on the earlier games in the series (Fallout, Fallout 2 & Fallout Tactics) & the following games (the aforementioned New Vegas, Fallout 4 & even the critically maligned Fallout 76) but none of them have succeeded in recapturing that spark which made me fall in love with the series in the first place. Fallout 3 is set in the post-nuclear ruins of Washington DC & surrounding countryside (The Capital Wasteland) 200 years after The Great War, which almost wiped out all life on earth. It is a grey & lifeless place, at first glance, but the more you explore the more it opens up to you. Towns & villages have sprung up from the rubble, some of them in ingenious & interesting places. Arefu, for example, is built on a half destroyed highway overpass. An excellent Open World RPG in a unique setting, Fallout 3 remains essential gaming even today, 12 years after it was released. I may do proper blogpost about it in the future.

Day 8: Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)

Following in the Post-Apocalyptic, post-nuclear theme, Metro 2033 takes a look at the survivors of a nuclear war who took shelter in the Moscow Metro system. Decades later, the Metro dwellers have developed a self contained society – or group of societies – in the darkness. Living off cultivated fungus & the few livestock animals they managed to get underground (pigs & chickens mainly), the various factions (or nations) of the Metro system are locked in an endless struggle for supremacy & survival. The game follows a young man named Artyom, form Exhibition Station, on his journey to the heart of the metro to warn the rangers of Polis station of a new mutant threat which is encroaching onto the Metro from the edges. Metro 2033 is a fairly linear, story driven First Person Shooter. There are elements of customisation (especially weapons) & survival (requiring gas mask filters to survive on the surface) but the game’s immaculate story (based on the excellent novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky) & atmosphere are the reasons I love it so much. I play it over & over.

Day 9: Dark Souls (Xbox 360)

Dark Souls is a Japanese Action-RPG with a difference. It’s challenging combat, interconnected world & demanding puzzles are as rewarding as they are difficult. The storyline in the game is never explicitly told to you by characters or narration (with the exception of the introductory sequence, which lays out the games creation myth/lore), but is almost hidden in plain sight for the player to put together themselves. Snippets of storyline & lore can be found in item descriptions, names of places, occasional NPC dialogue & can be pieced together by inquisitive players, almost like an extra puzzle in the game. The lore & story of the series is very interesting & piecing it together is very satisfying & rewarding. Alternatively, maybe you’re not that interested & just want to play the game. The option is there for that too. If you’re struggling, or uninterested, with the story, there’s a whole community of online commentators who catalogue & explain the lore. A favourite is YouTube “historian” VaatiVidya.

Day 10: The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt (Xbox One)

The final game on this list, The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is probably the biggest, most open & most rewarding game I’ve ever played. An expansive Open World RPG following the adventurous of Witcher (a kind of mercenary monster hunter) Geralt of Rivia as he murders his way through monsters of Polish folklore, navigates political intrigue & battles the otherworldly forces of the titular Wild Hunt. As impressive, & vast, as it is, the open world of The Wild Hunt plays second fiddle to the sheer brilliance of the storytelling. There’s a fine balance struck between the dark & cold, & the warmth & light. Choices are as morally ambiguous as they’ve ever been. The Bloody Baron quest-line alone is enough to fill a lesser game. Heartbreaking & sad, touches of humour, & real humanity in a way you rarely see in video games. Possibly the most three-dimensional characters in video games history.

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Prog Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Pink Floyd – One Of My Turns

Day 27. From a song called Tourniquet yesterday to the only other song I could think of that used the word Tourniquet in it’s lyrics (I’m sure there’s more but my mind is blank).

Luckily, One Of My Turns from The Wall is a great tune. The slow burning synth drones of the opening are so lush & thick. They take me back to a certain time in my life when I first heard The Wall. The movie, I think. & the explosive drop before the loud section is a huge shock. I wish musicians (in the mainstream, at least) still played with dynamics like that. Great tune. & an intense section of the movie.

“Oh my God! What a fabulous room! Are all these your guitars?
“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to startle you!”
“This place is bigger than our apartment!”
“Let me know when you’re entering a room”
“Yes sir!”
“Um, Can I get a drink of water?”
“I was wondering about”
“You want some, huh?”
“Yes”
“Oh wow, look at this tub? Do you want to take bath?”
“I’ll have to find out from Mrs. Bancroft what time she wants to meet us, for her main…”
“What are watching?”
“If you’ll just let me know as soon as you can … Mrs Bancroft” “Mrs Bancroft…”
“Hello?”
“I don’t understand”
“Are you feeling okay?”

Day after day, love turns grey
Like the skin of a dying man.
And night after night, we pretend its all right
But I have grown older and
You have grown colder and
Nothing is very much fun any more.
And I can feel one of my turns coming on.
I feel cold as a razor blade,
Tight as a tourniquet,
Dry as a funeral drum.

Run to the bedroom,
In the suitcase on the left
You’ll find my favorite axe.
Don’t look so frightened
This is just a passing phase,
One of my bad days.
Would you like to watch T.V.?
Or get between the sheets?
Or contemplate the silent freeway?
Would you like something to eat?
Would you like to learn to fly?
Would’ya?
Would you like to see me try?

Would you like to call the cops?
Do you think it’s time I stopped?
Why are you running away?

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Categories
Electronic Music Experimental Indie Rock Overlooked Classics

Overlooked Classics: Ian Brown – Unfinished Monkey Business

Overlooked Classics: Ian Brown – Unfinished Monkey Business

Music journalists writing about Ian Brown’s solo debut in ’98 made a huge deal about two points. First, they waxed lyrical about the acrimonious bitterness between Brown & Stone Roses guitarist John Squire. Many of the snarkier, angrier lyrics were assumed to be about him. One of the track titles, Ice Cold Cube, was said to be a nickname Stone Roses drummer Reni had for Squire. Secondly, all of the reviews mentioned the Lo-Fi production of the album. Recorded & produced by Brown with just a handful of collaborators, Brown recorded the majority of it at home, playing most of the instruments himself, learning to play each instrument as & when he needed to for the production.

The Lo-Fi production is, in my opinion, one of the albums key strengths, after the excellent songwriting. Placing Unfinished Monkey Business in context, we see that, around the time it was released, unconventional & experimental music was taking British subculture by storm. Radio One’s Breezeblock, hosted by Mary Anne Hobbes was promoting & breaking everything from the sampled smorgasbord of breakbeats & funk of the Lo Fidelity Allstars, the proto-Post Rock of early Mogwai & the frazzled alt-country of artists like Scott 4. In a year in which The Beta Band could release a song like Inner Meet Me, Unfinished Monkey Business fit in just fine.

The broken drum machine sound collage of the opening track Under The Paving Stones: The Beach, with its distorted toy noise & allusions to the Situationist International slogans, it was a perfect fit in the contemporary morass of underground experimental music. Its segue into the sampled sitar & Sci-Fi shenanigans of lead single My Star is truly thrilling. Psychedelic soundscapes fused with solid, low frequency rhythm section which owes as much to Dub as it does to Indie. Can’t See Me is a leftover Stone Roses tune (they played it live in their later shows) in the same vein as the funk-enthused singles like Fools Gold or One Love. Stone Roses rhythmists Reni & Mani guest on this, lending the album feeling of continuity with his precious band. Ice Cold Cube is Psychedelic, Sergeant Peppers stomp with snarky lyrics taking aim at John Squire. Sunshine is a kind of Psychedelic folk strum along, likened in the ’98 NME review to ‘60’s hippy troubadour Donovan. Lions, employing the vocal talents of Denise Johnson (of Screamadelica fame), is rough & raw Synth Pop with distorted noise bursts & jagged edges which a “professional” producer would have probably smoothed out.

Corpses In Their Mouths is slow burning Psychedelic Pop with guitars that morph between rhythmic & ambient, rock steady Dub rhythms & atmospheric harmonica blasts. Its title is another reference to Situationists International sloganeering. What Happened To Ya Part 1 is upbeat Folk Pop while Part 2 is the kind of Funk-infused, Psyche guitar jam that John Squire should have been making. Nah Nah is fuzzy Folk with handclaps, melodic lead guitars & echoing handclaps. One of the most memorable choruses of the ‘90’s too. Not sure why it wasn’t released as a single. They’d still be playing it on daytime radio today. Deep Pile Dreams is the most blatant of the anti-Squire tunes here. Its caustic lyrics attacking his alleged drug issues (“I only ever wanted the one with the flag/all you ever wanted was a $60 bag”) over a downtempo, Lo-Fi drum machine & synth soundscape. The closing track, Unfinished Money Business, is the deepest into Dub territory that the album dares to go. Bold, heavy drum machine patterns, subterranean bass lines & echoey analogue synths create a moody & atmospheric sonic terrain.

I found that these videos of Top Of The Pops appearances were charming & help to place the Unfinished Monkey Business into temporal context, so give them a watch. I especially like the guy “playing” eggs in the My Star performance.

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Grunge Metal Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Marilyn Manson – Tourniquet

Day 26.I’m rolling with the production angle here. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor was also heavily involved with producing most early Marilyn Manson albums, up until Antichrist Superstar.

Tourniquet is a kind of Grunge/Goth combination, with Art Rock & Industrial colouring. Far from the pummelling Metal onslaught the hype & hysteria would have led you to believe. From the vantage point of 2020, it’s easy to forget how much reactionary christian & conservative groups were frightened by this. It’s absurd. Almost like they had nothing else to worry about.

I caught you watching me under the light
Can I be your line?
They say it’s easy to leave you behind
I don’t wanna try
Come and take that test
Hold courage to your chest
Don’t wanna wait for you
Don’t wanna have to lose
All that I compromised to feel another high
I’ve got to keep it down tonight
And oh, oh, oh
I was a king under your control
And oh, oh, oh
I wanna feel like you’ve let me go
So let me go
Don’t you remember how I used to like
Being on the line?
I dreamed you dreamed of me calling out my name
Is it worth the price?
Come and take that test
Hold courage to your chest
Don’t wanna wait for you
Don’t wanna have to lose
All that I compromised to feel another high
I’ve got to keep it down tonight
And oh, oh, oh
I was a king under your control
And oh, oh, oh
I wanna feel like you’ve let me go
So let me go
Yeah
Let me go
Just let me go
Let me go

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Electronic Music Experimental Folk Hauntology

Intermission – Ghost Box Recordings

Ghost Box is as much a parallel universe, or an alternative present, as it is a record label. It’s music, the achingly niche Hauntology, is a cross-dimensional transmission from a world where the postwar consensus of democratic socialism was never subjugated by the negating homogenisation effects of Neoliberalism. Instead, the warm, parental powers of a benevolent bureaucracy would have carried us forward into near-utopian levels of prosperity & comfort.

Hauntology, & Ghost Box particularly, is the sound of musicians & artists mourning the loss of that particular present. It’s a futuristic sound which hearkens backwards to the last time that futuristic sounds actually sounded ahead of us, chronologically. It is a sound which is equally steeped in warmth & stasis. A nostalgic cry for a better world in this age of stillness.

from O.E.D.

Intermission, the new compilation album consisting of new material from many of Ghost Box’s top tier artists – The Advisory Circle, Belbury Poly, Plone, Roj to name a few – comes during an intermission forced upon us by the global Pandemic, & as a result of it. It’s songs draw from both forthcoming Ghost Box releases & ones which were specially recorded/produced for this compilation.

The record starts with reverb soaked drums, a ’70’s style TV ident melody & the following reading by writer Justin Hopper over a shifting, warm soundscape:

What are the dimensions of a memory? What is its square footage? And where do its boundaries lie? We speak, sometimes, of gaps in our memories, as though our past exists only in what we can still see in our minds eye. But what if there are no gaps? What if they are, instead, memories themselves? Memories of a pause. Let’s experiment together. Let’s take a moment to forget all the actions and events of our lives, and gather up instead all of the gaps, string them together into one long memory of intermissions. And if we do, will it be silent? I don’t think so. I think it will sound of a hum. A hum that slowly builds until it begins to buzz, and eventually, quietly, to roar.

It’s both comforting & unsettling. The warmth of the soundscape is undercut with a sense of foreboding that it’s hard to place. It’s also pleasant to think of intermissions, pauses, as being important enough to form together into a buzz, a roar. It’s a welcome reminder that banal balance of pandemic lockdown is important. You might not be able to do what you want to do but you are still living your life, & time at rest in the age of Neoliberalism is a rarity we must treasure while we can.

Melancholic beauty abounds on Intermission. The Advisory Circle’s Airflow is downtempo analogue synth lines & Lo-Fi drum machine loops bubbling away deep beneath the comfort blanket of the nostalgic melodies.Woodbury Vale by The Hardy Tree is bucolic beauty & sugar sweet analogue synth tones. Beautify Junkyards (excellent name) is adventurous synth Folk, drenched in atmospheric reverb & whimsical, slow motion tropicalia percussion. Sharon Krauss’ Tell Me Why is gorgeous droning, folk, infused with recorder & melodic bell tones.

Justin Hopper delivers another spoken word on soundscape track in the middle of the album. An intermission in Intermission, I guess. A brief, relaxing walk through the Recreation Park. A macabre story of walking home from school after some momentous event involving an explosion.

The Animal Door by Roj (Stevens of Broadcast) is somewhere between a mangled tape experiment & warped ’60’s Psychedelia. Jangly guitars & winding organ melodies set against a backdrop of electronically manipulated drums, it’s as upbeat & relentlessly happy as it is druggy. ToiToiToi, with two songs, utilise simple, percussive melodies looping over library recording style found sound collages & Lo-Fi beats. It’s very lowkey & subtle.

Modern Reels, by Pye Corner Audio, is spectral, dubby, minimal techno while Photon Dust is the analogue sound palate of Hauntology applied to the downtempo heaviness of Hip Hop. If DJ Shadow had room full of analogue synths rather than a pile of Vinyl & an MPC. Plone’s Running And Jumping is manic depressive video game music which reminds me of the wonderful soundtrack to the fictional videogame Petscop.

The Focus Group, with Focustone 1 & Focustone 2 offers a couple of short but sweet electronic sketches. Belbury Poly’s They Left On A Morning Like This, the penultimate track, sees widescreen, cinematic synth strings juxtaposed against analogue arpeggios & lowkey drum machine patterns. The whole song is enveloped in a kind of slow, graceful melancholia which seems to encapsulate the tone of the whoel album.

The album ends on another Justin Hopper reading, this time with sounds from The Focus Group. Intermission Conclusion has more than a hint of The Twilight Zone about it.

Memory isn’t boundless, and it isn’t perfect. We all know that. But is it even on our side? Maybe it’s closest to right when we remember the unmemorious. The gaps, the ice glare, the sheet wind, the circuits and ash. Maybe the gaps are where memory comes into its own, when its partisans join us in the struggle, in those in-between hours. Maybe it’s at its most accurate when it joins us, here, in the intermission.

Intermission is out now on Ghost Box.

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