Sweet Dreams

I mean… it’s not as if he is actually cuddled and surrounded by the music, nor radiating colours that blend into one another as the tempo or key changes, but he may as well be.  He’s sat at the back, alone only because everyone else nearly has finished work for the day.  He cracks on with the work though, piles through his expected target and carries on, pushing for the end that never comes.  Contact is maintained though, he enjoys the friendship of the people here but, at times like this, when there is no-one to talk to nearby, he’ll happily listen to the music and become truly embroiled in it, within it, all around it.  In fact he breathes the music in, fuses it to his very soul.  It clads the scaffolding of his skeletal system like a second layer of muscle, such is the reaction to what he hears.

The pace of his body, its autonomic functions and active movements become, in turn, a reflection of the beat that propels what he is listening to.  That, as a consequence, becomes the beat of his being at that point in time.  It changes only at the whim of the DJ, the flick of a switch, from hardcore to punk to hardcore punk to electric to magic and back again.  The finger taps on the keyboard, the clenching of the muscles continue, and even the closing of his eyelids are all timed with the beat that the heart follows.

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The Partisan

That old troubadour is back, with Leonard Cohen releasing his latest album, Popular Problems, this week.  I haven’t gotten my copy of the CD yet but I am looking forward to listening to Cohen’s album in full, knowing that I, as a listener, am in the safe hands of a man who has remained at his artistic peak for many decades now.  The songs I have heard so far have only intensified this feeling.  His voice is certainly deeper, whispering as Cohen has aged, but he is still intensely recognizable in both delivery and tone.  His voice has always been a distinctive feature as he is not your typical singer, with his rich lyrics delivered via a sometimes monotone voice.  This, however, does not detract from his music and actually highlights the inherent poetry of his lyrics.  Female backing singers have also become more of a permanent feature, sometimes helping to echo his own lines or provide the chorus, but always enriching his songs.

As a poet, novelist and song writer Cohen has remained fairly prolific in his musical and literary output, only coming to a slowdown in his 70’s.  On learning that the vast majority of the money had he saved had been swindled, he once again took himself on the road to earn some money.  We, as the audience, must be thankful for humanity’s greed, as Cohen has since toured fairly extensively and has released two new albums (Popular Problems being the second after 2012’s Old Ideas).  It seems as if he has been re-invigorated and is flourishing once again, no doubt surprising his older fans with new ones who are only just discovering his extensive discography.

As I’ve mentioned on this site before The Partisan has to be one of my favourite songs that is covered by Leonard Cohen , exemplifying as it does the close bond of the partisan and the people who help hide them, of the intense love, hope and brutality of a country at war:

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning,
I’m the only one this evening,
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows.

Jazzmaster Study

Owing partially to my love of bands such as Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana (along a whole host of others including The Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney etc.) I recently got my hands on a new electric guitar, the wonderful Fender Jazzmaster Modern Player.  It is a cheaper model than an American Jazzmaster (by half!) but a step up from the cheaper Squire models that Fender also produce.  I love the beefy yet brittle sounds that the humbucker pickups produce and I adore the offset body, something that is slightly different from the normal Stratocaster or Les Paul guitar bodies.  It fits comfortably against my own body and it isn’t a guitar that is afraid of a good thrashing during the throes of emotive playing.

The Jazzmaster guitar is, of course, now a marker for slightly alternative rock bands after it failed to be marketed to jazz musicians in the late 50’s, but this is a versatile guitar and I’m having a lot of fun trying different tones and techniques.  It also looks particularly beautiful so I’ve been having fun trying to photograph this legend of a guitar.  The following photographs are shot on a 1963 Pentax S1a camera with black and white film.

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The hardware. Photograph by the author.

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Headstock. Photograph by author.

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High notes. Photograph by author.

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Jamie. Photograph by author.

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Jamie II. Photograph by author.

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The physicality of music. Photograph by author.

If the photographs are used elsewhere please credit as appropriate and state the author of this site as the photographer.

Dinosaur Jr Jamming

Dinosaur Jr are one of my favourite bands of all time (along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Knife and a handful of others), and I’ve recently been enjoying watching this 30 minute live set recorded for 96bFM at Roundhead Studios in 2013.

Dinosaur Jr, for me, offer an intoxicating mix of low-fi rock that mixes extended guitar solos sesisons with sweet melodic acoustic music.  They are also fairly prolific at producing albums, with the singer-guitarist J Mascis also releasing a number of solo albums and bassist Lou Barlow also producing music with the band Sebadoh (who I’ve wrote about previously).  The latest album, 2012’s I Bet On Sky, is a particularly strong album that helps to showcase the variety of sounds that Dinosaur Jr inhabit.  Although this is just a brief stub about the band, I highly recommend reading Michael Azerrad’s 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 which places Dinosaur Jr within the context from which they started playing.  It is a fantastic book profiling a number of important bands including Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, The Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth and Husker Du among others. 

In a quick side note Dinosaur Jr have also influenced my guitar choice as I’ve recently got my hands on a mid level Fender Jazzmaster guitar.  I cannot wait to properly jam with it!