So here’s the Antiswarm’s take on 2016′s futuristic electronic and more psychedelic moments. When I look back, despite what’s hapened elseware, it’s been a great year musically so the tracks were easy to do (I had loads left over), the albums a little harder. Clear winners in both departments were Badbadnotgood who’s fourth effort is by far their best. In line with that, things have got significantly jazzier (see also the superb A Tribe Called Quest album) in my headphones this year which is also great. More traditionally for the Antiswarm there’s lots of spacey techno and modern psych in here as well. So have a listen, drift off and enjoy!
It’s hardly an original thought to note 2016 has been something of a dog of a year. Brexit, May, Farage, and now Trump. Where do these people come from? There’s always the music, though, and in 2016 that current has run as strong as ever under the bullshit of daily life. After my European ‘special’ here comes another melancholic post to reflect world events. I say ‘melancholic’, but the music of Americans Jeff Parker, Makaya McCraven, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, and even put upon old bluesman James Davis, seems full of joy. And here’s a fine video of America from another age, to accompany the track from Marisa Anderson’s new lp, Into the Light.
And here’s something perhaps a little more gloomy from Brooklyn resident Billy Gomberg.
There’s another track from Gomberg’s excellent lp, Slight at That Contact, featured in the show.
Still, it’s not all laughs and party tunes. Jason Molina’s cover version of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘I’ll Be Here in the Morning’ almost never fails to make my eyes water (there’s an unbelievable 37 copies of this ‘limited’ 7″ single for sale on Discogs – don’t buy it, stick it to the Record Store Day profiteers and just listen to it here); and F.J. McMahon’s 1969 track ‘The Spirit of the Golden Juice’ (culled from the fine Numero Uno compilation of lost recordings, Cosmic American Music) was recorded in the shadow of the Vietnam War. Ah well, thanks for listening and happy Christmas.
I’ve got no wish to add to the hundreds of thousands of words written about the EU referendum. We’ve heard more than enough about the self-serving politicians who got us into this mess. I just thought I’d let the music do the talking and produce an entirely European-based show for Little Englanders everywhere. Hopefully Brexit voters can listen to it on repeat while stuck in a six-hour traffic jam on the M20 outside Dover. For enlightened Seeks Music listeners the world over: please don’t think we’ve all got St George’s flags attached to the fishing rods of our garden gnomes. Fantastic record labels like Rune Grammofon, Clean Feed and Sonic Pieces (from Oslo, Lisbon and Berlin respectively) will forever be a feature of this show. I love egg and chips, the tea and the rain, a good curry, the seaside and fourth division football grounds as much as I love Tubby Hayes, the Tindersticks, Disco Inferno and Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou . . . I just hate small-mindedness and right-wing zealots. One Love, Third Light Home, east London.
There’s a paragraph early on in David Stubbs’ fine tome, Future Days, Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany, where he points out that Krautrock isn’t about strong vocal performances. Seventies German music was far more about ‘texture than text,’ he writes. ’The inadequacies of Ralph Hutter’s vocals are not an inadequacy of Kraftwerk, but one of the group’s key defining factors. Had Tangerine Dream featured a Jon Anderson-type vocalist, it would have undermined one of the strong implications of their early work — that the cosmos is awesome and that, for all the ego and subjectivity of humans, it is indifferent to us. It’s not all about us.’ He goes on to point out that Germany (and the world) had already had enough of one impassioned vocal performance, one set of ‘fanatical dreams and loathsome prejudices’ imposed upon everyone. In terms of music, it’s why I’ve always struggled with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson and the rest — it’s just too much, I can’t breathe in here. Far better, as Alice Coltrane once pointed out, to remember we’re all nothing but grains of sands on the infinite beach of the universe — give me the aerated motorik pulse of Neu!, the windmilling drums of Cul de Sac, the simple understated beauty of Joan Shelley and Josephine Foster any day. You can hear the rumbling enormity of the cosmos (as well as the horrors of the twentieth century) in the tape work of Else Marie Pade; and I’m sure even David Bowie, who seemed to age with great dignity, came round to such a humble point of view in the end. (All are featured in the programme.)
But enough of that heaviness. Here’s Vic Mars’ video for a track from his new lp, The Land and the Garden
I was also pleased to read in Future Days that Neu! were apparently good footballers. I saw an excellent Michael Rother gig (thanks, Kevin & Rudi), appropriately enough, in a kind of nightclub/gig venue underneath Stamford Bridge this month. Roman Abramovich’s millions have at least been put to some good use in installing an excellent soundsystem (in a club that feels like a smaller, spruced up version of Rock City in Nottingham). It felt like seeing Neu! live, and I imagine Rother was a skilful, diminutive but tough attacking midfielder, sort of Luka Modric and Alan Ball rolled into one. With the exceptions of New Order, Pat Nevin and John Peel, the intertwined history of football and music is not generally a happy one . . . but then there was Half Man, Half Biscuit, and, in recent times, Derek Hammond of Yeah Yeah No has produced a fine series of books detailing lost aspects of football culture . . . and now, in flagrant contradiction of the sentiment in the opening paragraph above, please indulge us in a second of internet self-promotion, and don’t delay in placing your orders with all good newsagents and booksellers (or here) for The Heyday of the Football Annual, myself and Doug Cheeseman’s humble offering in the overcrowded retro-football marketplace. Features folk troubadour, Bert Jansch fan and Birmingham City midfielder Trevor Hockey, Honor Blackman’s thoughts on life at Craven Cottage, Liverpool’s Billy Liddell playing electric guitar, Glasgow Rangers’ squad ‘swinging the Clyde blues’, and much more. (Original hardback, annual-size printing, disappearing fast.)
I thought I’d be too jaded, having read more than one history of independent music before now, but Richard King’s How Soon Is Nowis an entertaining read that rattles along well and is full of nice behind the scenes stories – be it Morrissey raising a placard during a version of ‘The Queen Is Dead’ bearing the request ‘Two Light Ales, Please’, or an account of Rob Gretton and Mike Pickering, pillars of Factory records, taking Quincy Jones out for lunch at Knutsford Services on the M6 (‘he loved it’). Hence this month’s show features a chunk of fine independent music (or ‘indie’) from back when the term meant something. Actually, after a decade of major labels appropriating all that had a spark and was good, small independent labels now feel as vital as they did between 1979 and 1986. I could have filled the show with tracks from the likes of Mississippi records, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Erased Tapes and Temporary Residence, and many more of the plentiful heirs to the greats like Rough Trade, Creation and 4AD. People tend to look at me slightly quizzically when I say I often follow labels rather than bands . . . (OK, as well as bands), but it’s a mystery to me why more people don’t just latch on the good taste of the custodians mentioned above . . .
Ah, well. Other sleevenotes: the record I forgot to namecheck is Sam Amidon’s ‘I Wish, I Wish’, from his very listenable, lovely, folky album (on Nonesuch) Bright Sunny South, which appears midway through; and apologies for any buzzing, background noise and general distortion. This whole show was put together in a
less-than-soundproofed loft on a sunny Sunday afternoon – the wind in the trees, and kids yelling in their back gardens, having a good time, I can cope with; several helicopters flying over, the endless drone of circular saws, hammering, and the muted thud of next door’s ‘landfill techo’, you can live without . . . It puts me in mind of the great Steven Jesse Bernstein’s ‘More Noise Please’