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Experimental Folk Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (Movie Soundtracks): The Beta Band – Dry The Rain

Day 10. I’m not really sure how I feel about the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s The High Fidelity. I remember enjoying it somewhat, but the smug, salesman-like smarminess of the scene in which Dry The Rain by The Beta Band plays really grates on me. I guess it does highlight how amazing the song is, even if it does so in such an aloof & arrogant way. What did you folks make of this scene?

Dry The Rain was the lead track on The Beta Band’s 1997 debut EP Champion Versions (& later The Three E.P.’s). This acid-soaked, Psyche Folk melancholia was a blast of invigoratingly fresh air when it first emerged. It was millions of miles away from the late Britpop which was just about hanging on to relevance in 1997.

Late afterthought: While adding The Beta Band to the ‘tags’ on this post I was surprised to see I haven’t written anything about them before. Expect this to be addressed soon.

The scene

This is the definition of my life
Lying in bed in the sunlight
Choking on the vitamin tablet
The doctor gave in the hope of saving me
In the hope of saving me

Walked in the corner of the room
A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom
I asked him time again
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain the rain
The rain the rain the rain now

Dusty brown boots in the corner
By the ironing board
Spray on dust is the greatest thing
Sure is the greatest thing
Since the last since the last

Walked in the corner of the room
A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom
I asked him time again
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain the rain
The rain the rain the rain now

I asked him time again
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
The rain the rain the rain now

If there’s something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it’ll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

If there’s something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it’ll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

I Need Love, yeah
I Need Love

If there’s something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it’ll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

If there’s something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it’ll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

I need love
I need love

Looking for some great music? Check the Song of the Day (Movie Soundtracks) Spotify playlist.

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Categories
Folk Pop Rock And Roll Uncategorized

Song of the Day (Movie Soundtracks): Bob Dylan – The Man In Me

Day 3. The Big Lebowski is a strong contender for my favourite film so it is a pleasure to choose a song from its soundtrack for todays Song of the Day. Bob Dylan’s The Man In Me soundtracks two separate scenes in the film, the introduction (see the first video below) & a further scene where The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is knocked out & has a hallucinatory dream (see the second video).

La la la la
La la la la
La la la la
La la la la

The man in me will do nearly any task
And as for compensation, there’s little he would ask
Take a woman like you
To get through to the man in me

Storm clouds are raging all around my door
I think to myself I might not take it any more
Take a woman like your kind
To find the man in me

But, oh, what a wonderful feeling
Just to know that you are near
Sets my a heart a-reeling
From my toes up to my ears

The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from bein’ seen
But that’s just because he doesn’t want turn into some machine
Took a woman like you
To get through to the man in me

La la la la
La la la la

Looking for some great music? Check the Song of the Day (Movie Soundtracks) Spotify Playlist.

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Categories
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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Categories
Experimental Folk Hip Hop Indie Rock Overlooked Classics

Overlooked Classics: Beck – Mellow Gold

I’ve just found out that today is Beck’s 50th birthday. Happy Birthday to one of the greatest & most innovative musical artists of the last 30 years. By way of celebrating the great mans birthday, we’ll take a look at his debut studio album, the incredible Mellow Gold.

Mellow Gold is a glorious, ugly mess of Lo-Fi country, Hip-Hop, psychedelia & surrealistic lyrics. This visionary mash up of sounds, samples, textures & its schizoid sound palate are held together by great songwriting. This is a Pop album that you can play to Lo-Fi fans, a Hip-Hop album you can play to Country fans, an avant-garde noise experiment you can play to Hip-Hop heads. It’s incredibly ambitious, & even though it may not quite hit what it’s aiming for, it’s still one of my favourite albums of all time. A Discogs article describes it, dismissively, as sounding “like Beavis and Butt-Head cacophonously flipping through channels”. The tone of the whole piece is quite dismissive actually, also describing it as “a charred coda to “Loser,” leaving the innards of that song on the operating table for all to see”. As if thats a bad thing. Some of us actually love the eccentric, junkyard aesthetic.

The whole concept of Mellow Gold is that it’s like a satanic K-Tel record that’s been found in a trash dumpster. A few people have molested it and slept with it and half-swallowed it before spitting it out. Someone played poker with it, someone tried to smoke it. Then the record was taken to Morocco and covered with hummus and tabouli.

Beck on Mellow Gold, Rolling Stone, 1994

Nowhere else could you hear a song like Beck’s MTV takeover mega hit, Loser, but on Mellow Gold. A YouTube commenter described it as like Kurt Cobain if he’d been on LSD instead of Heroin. It’s based around a sampled drum break, a looped sample of Beck playing slide guitar & a live sitar track (played by producer Karl Stephenson). Into this, at the time, previously unheard of sonic architecture Beck performed some nonsensical rapping & a chorus which, he later explained, was referring to how terrible he was at rapping. “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me”. Despite this being a throwaway line, it somehow evolved into a kind of ethos for the music of the ’90’s. The anthemic “battlecry” of what became known as Slacker culture (I guess).

Elsewhere we have songs like Pay No Mind (Snoozer), a tape-hiss filled Lo-Fi folk song with bizarre lyrics about “shopping malls coming out of the walls” & “a giant dildo crushing the sun.” All over a Hip-Hop inspired drumloop. Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997 is a morose sound collage, mixing spoken word sections with harmonic “ahh ahh” vocals. Steal My Body Home & Blackhole add a touch of psychedelic ’60’s atmosphere to the morose Folk formula, utilising sitars (sampled or otherwise) to great effect. The former feels like a tie-died throw gently laid over a slow drum machine pattern.

There’s plenty of Loser-esque Slacker Hip-Hop here to keep the casual listeners happy too. Soul Suckin’ Jerk & Beercan being the most obvious fit into this formula. Truck Driving Neighbors Downstairs (Yellow Street) sees darker, sinister overtones added to this formula. It’s opening sample a glorious call of “come on motherfucker, put your clothes on, c’mon.” Nitemare Hippy Girl is Syd Barrett-style Psyche Pop, but married to desolate, heartbroken melodies & mock horror movie lyrics. Mutherfucker is an incendiary blast of Grungey Noise Rock with pitch shifted vocals all over the register. It’s quite cathartic & a bit of a shame that Beck never really experimented with this style again (except, maybe, for the much less aggro Minus, on Odelay).

After the morbid opiated psychedelia of the aforementioned Blackhole, Beck dives head first into avant-garde noise territory with the short but oh-so-sweet Analogue Odyssey. A blast of delayed, decaying, pitch shifting synth noise. If you close your eyes, you can still see the image of Beck hunched over an analogue synth, generating terrifying walls of mangled noise, burned onto the back of your eyelids. After all my effort trying to describe Analogue Odyssey, the Beck fansite Whiskeyclone described it like this: “Whatever, it’s just some electronic whines and noises.”

Check out this hilariously clip of Beck being interviewed by Thurston Moore at around the time of Mellow Gold on MTV’s 120 minutes.

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Categories
Blues Folk Rock And Roll

‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ – Bob Dylan (With Just A hint Of Mayhem)

Hey check out my review of Bob Dylan’s new album, Rough And Rowdy Ways on With Just A Hint Of Mayhem.

“Today and tomorrow and yesterday, too The flowers are dying like all things do” Thus begins Bob Dylan’s 39th studio album. His first of new material …

‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ – Bob Dylan
Categories
Folk Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto

Day 4. The connection between The Lemonheads & Phoebe Bridgers is that they’ve both covered songs by Simon & Garfunkel. I told you the links could be as obvious or obscure as I feel like. The links can refer to either the song, the artist or both. Since yesterdays Lemonheads tune wasn’t their Simon & Garfunkel cover (Mrs. Robinson), I decided not to use Phoebe Bridgers’ Simon & Garfunkel cover (7 O’Clock News / Silent Night) either. I chose Kyoto because a) it’s a great tune & b) it’s a great video. As simple as that.

Kyoto is taken from Phoebe Bridgers’ excellent new album, Punisher, released last Friday. This is already a strong contender for my album of the year so expect a review of it in the next few days.

Day off in Kyoto
I got bored at the temple
Looked around at the 7-11
The band took the speed train
Went to the arcade
I wanted to go but I didn’t
You called me from a payphone
They still got pay phones
It cost a dollar a minute
To tell me you’re getting sober 
And you wrote me a letter
But I don’t have to read it
I’m gonna kill you
If you don’t beat me to it
Dreaming through Tokyo skies
I wanted to see the world
Then I flew over the ocean
And I changed my mind
Sunset’s been a freak show
On the weekend 
So I’ve been driving out to the suburbs
To park at the Goodwill 
And stare at the chem trails
With my little brother
He said you called on his birthday
You were off by like ten days
But you get a few points for trying
Remember getting the truck fixed 
When you let us drive it
Twenty-five felt like flying
I don’t forgive you
But please don’t hold me to it
Born under Scorpio skies
I wanted to see the world
Through your eyes until it happened
Then I changed my mind
Guess I lied
I’m a liar
Who lies
‘Cause I’m a liar

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

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Categories
Blues Folk Poetry Rock

Bob Dylan breaks record for oldest artist ot top UK album chart

It was reported by the BBC today that Bob Dylan has just broken the record for oldest artist to have a number one album of new, original material in the UK. This is great new for Dylan & his fans. It also comes hot on the heels of his first US Billboard chart number one, with the fantastic new single Murder Most Foul.

At 79 years old, Dylan has overtaken previous record holder, Paul Simon, who hit the top spot in 2006, at the age of 74, with Stranger To Stranger. Dame Vera Lynne holds the record for oldest artist to have a number one album with her 2009 greatest hit’s collection, We’ll Meet Again. She was 92. Maybe in 13 years time, Dylan can beat her too.

This is a significant achievement & I’m happy for DYlan. Check out this great animated lyric video for Dylan’s most recent single, False Prophet.

And while we’re on the topic of Bob Dylan, he’s just uploaded this video to his YouTube channel. An alternative take of If Not For You.

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Categories
Blues Folk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): Lead Belly – Midnight Special

Day 16. Blues influenced Folk singer Huddie William Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly, is one of the most important musicians in American Folk music. Perhaps best known in contemporary times for Nirvana’s cover of his Wheer Did You Sleep Last Night?, Lead Belly wrote or adapted a great deal of songs which have become Blues & Folk standards today. Midnight Special, Goodnight Irene, Pick A Bale Of Cotton & many more.

Well, you wake up in the mornin’, you hear the work bell ring
And they march you to the table, you see the same old thing
Ain’t no food upon the table, and no pork up in the pan
But you better not complain, boy, you get in trouble with the man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Yonder come miss Rosie, how in the world did you know?
By the way she wears her apron, and the clothes she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand
She come to see the governor, she want to free her man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

If you’re ever in Houston, well, you better do the right
You better not gamble, there, you better not fight, at all
Or the sheriff will grab ya and the boys will bring you down
The next thing you know, boy, oh, you’re prison bound

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) Spotify playlist?

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Categories
Folk Music

Clara Engel – Hatching Under The Stars

Clara Engel is independent Folk artist who has been recording & performing since the early ’00’s. A quick glance at their Bandcamp page will tell you that they are extremely prolific, with multiple releases most years.

Their latest release, Hatching Under The Stars is a minimal folk album built around live session recordings of voice, guitar & drums. From this minimal foundation, Engel has built up an atmospheric & dark collection of haunting, cinematic ballads.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

The instrumentation is extremely sparse & carves out cavernous spaces with room ambience & reverb. Guitar notes are left to hang in the abyss & the drums seem to reach us from deep underground. Accordions & celtic harps are woven through this spacious soundscape. Electric guitars are utilised as ambient noise generators, adding whale sounds & swelling dissonance to the compositions, creating uneasy atmospheres. Violins & cellos bring their own unique brand of tension & sadness.

Rhythmically, Hatching Under The Stars has a solemn, marching feel to it, lending a spiritual & essence which mirrors the stark & cover art, painted by Engel. The way they threads their vocal melodies through these rhythms almost lends the songs a sermonising, chant-like quality. Fittingly, Engel sometimes describes their music as “minimalist holy blues”, & you can certainly feel that in the spiritual atmospherics of the quieter, moments.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

Popmatters writer Justin Vellucci, in his review, compares the compositions on Hatching Under The Stars to Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire, a static shot, slow motion film of an unchanging view of the Empire State Building. The minor things which break the monotony, like a bird passing or a light turning on in an office window provide a sense of fleeting, ephemeral drama which Vellucci likens to Engel’s repetitive guitar figures & the emergence of minor variations within them after several minutes or of new instrumentation arising, unexpected from the deep atmospheres.

Engel’s breathy vocals seem to possess a sense of almost confessional intimacy. This propels the songs forward & takes your hand, gently leading you into the dark, folkloric worlds the soundscapes conjure. There is a sense of the music moving past you as you press on in a kind of journey through a near mythical landscape.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

There is a warmth to Engel’s music which is extremely comforting in these cold & fear filled days. There is always a desire to be led by someone else, for someone to make the difficult decisions for you, when you feel you have no control over your life, & I suspect record numbers of people are feeling like that at the moment. The sense of free fall is almost arrested by the stillness of the compositions & the sense of claustrophobic isolation is almost escaped through their spaciousness. To complete & even continue the sense of immersion which these soundscapes produce, the final sung line on the album is “the mystery will go on without me”. You feel that the universe it both becomes & inhabits, & through which you have been led by the hand, will continue to exist long after you’ve completed your journey.

Hatching Under The Stars is available now from Clara Engel’s Bandcamp.

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Categories
Folk Literature Music Poetry

“False Prophet” – Bob Dylan

My review of Bob Dylan’s new single, False Prophet.

With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Despite late-night speculation over on my Blog a couple of nights ago, Dylan today released a new single, not an album. He did, however, confirm via a Tweet that his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, will be released on 19th June.

“False Prophet” follows Dylan’s current trend for sparse, minimal arrangements but the sound palette is very different. Consisting of a snarling, overdriven guitar and more rock-style drumming, “False Prophet” has a sleazy, blues-rock vibe, calling to mind smoke-filled pool halls and bourbon on the rocks.

Lyrically, Dylan seems to be denying that he is the titular false prophet while framing himself as a kind of underdog hero. He declares himself “the enemy of treason” and boldly declares “you girls mean business and I do too”. He’s “first among equals/second to none/last of the best/you can bury the rest”. A sliver of the carefully choreographed arrogance of the early…

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