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Let me get back

Christmas is my excuse for December’s paucity of posts. I’m sticking to it.

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The buildings tumbled in on themselves

A brief post, as I’m neck-deep in deadline at present. Today’s post is what I’m currently listening to – Godspeed You Black Emperor’s F#A#∞ album. And, as happens whenever I listen after not hearing it for a long while, I’m amazed anew at how good it is. (more…)

There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet

No matter where you live.

Today I’ve been listening to a fair bit of the Mountain Goats. Namely, The Sunset Tree, which is perhaps the most overtly autobiographical thing Goat chief John Darnielle has done. I guess you could argue that his life has provided grist for the lyrical mill all along – they are a deeply personal band (even when it’s just John) but The Sunset Tree was forthright in the handling of its author’s time as an abused kid. It’s also a more fulsome recording, benefiting from the expansions extra instrumentations introduce to a body of work more usually recorded on a boombox.

The first video in this post is what I’d pick as my go-to song on the album, though there’s really an embarrassment of lyrical riches on the bloody thing. Recently featured in an episode of The Walking Dead, the song ‘Up The Wolves’ is deeply sad and ebullient at the same time. It’s pugnacious sadness, and it gets me every time.  (more…)

A brief shakuhachi break

I recently went to a shakuhachi ‘blow’ – a group playing event. I’d not played my shakuhachi – and trust me, I’m not very good – for almost a year, and so it was a little intimidating, especially as the only other attendees were accomplished players, including the first non-Japanese grandmaster, Riley Lee. We weren’t playing this piece, but playing with others reminded me how good it feels to share a musical experience with people, even if you’re not on the same level.

This video features the legendary Katsuya Yokayama playing ‘Tsuru no Sugomori’ or ‘Nesting of Cranes’, a sort of sound-portrait. Another performance of this piece (played by Goro Yamaguchi) was included on the golden disc that went into the universe on the Voyager probe. (You can hear that version here, should you wish to.)

I include this video today because it’s been a day of stress, and though I find it difficult (sometimes) to maintain focus through a shakuhachi piece, I really like this one. It’s a pretty popular piece, or at least there’s a lot of different takes on it.

The different versions show how much scope there is for interpretation, and give me the hope that someday I’d be able to play a version, however flawed, of it. Or, let’s face it, of any honkyoku.

A Gaslight Radio afternoon

It’s been a busy afternoon with on-again-off-again rain. There’s a feeling of nothingness around, so it’s perfect weather to be listening to Gaslight Radio and wishing they were still touring and releasing stuff.

I’m not certain what they’re up to – I assume not much as their Facebook page hasn’t updated since 2008 – but I deeply hope that this is just a period of hibernation as they were one of the bands of the 1990s for me, up there with the magisterial Crow and The Paradise Motel for me in terms of heart-on-sleeve, depressed Arts-grad music.

This is one of the only songs of theirs I could find on YouTube. It’s from one of the two early EPs of theirs I absolutely flogged to death. So pull on a beanie and listen to the sound of endless days.

Service resumes with CONAN

I’ve been off blogging for a couple of reasons – birthday, weight loss, weird viral headaches – but am getting back into the writing in general now, so hopefully a little more will happen around here soon. Until then, enjoy this album which has – quite rightly – ripped nuts off 2014 already.

With Swans’ new release around the corner I assume it’s gonna be a good year.