This blog was named partly after a 2012 album by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend) and, until last weekend, I had never had the chance to see this magnificent band live. Now that I have, I’m not too sure that listening to them on CD will ever be enough again (although it more than sates my appetite for the moment, as hauntingly beautiful as there music is). There can be no comparison for just how good they are live, how truly monumental. I’ve been lucky in the past few months to witness Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed live, amongst small local bands and friends bands (don’t ever forget to support your local bands and jam spaces!). I haven’t wrote much about music recently on this blog but, along with literature, photography and writing, it is one of the strongest bonds of my creative life. It is also a daily release from the grind of daily drudgery that is my current employment situation (something I am hoping to rectify shortly).
I also play the guitar and bass, albeit somewhat freely and only in semi-regular jams with friends where we all end up swapping instruments, but there is rarely a feeling like it when musicians lock together in a groove. It’s hard to define and it is even harder to describe for someone that has never played an instrument, or has never played one with other people. It isn’t like sex, where two bodies or more are locked in the carnal embrace, it is a feeling that is something different to that, knowing that you are locked in by the groove feels different – it feels exceptional. It is even better knowing that you are a part of a community (a silent shout out to The Joyful March!), part of a rehearsal rota where you are all friends and invited to each others gigs, or nights sat drinking watching each other play in your rehearsal room of choice. Even, like me, you play live exceptionally rarely (ok, almost never in the past few years) it is still a thrill to bang out some beats, some jams, and just to release. To know that you are not chained down to the desk, that you are not a machine, that your job isn’t your life, that there are more facets to your character that can be defined by your daily feedback. Anyhow, this is just a short note, a note I hope that makes you google the two artists above to discover their music and to entail your own meaning to theirs.
And you are turning to stone and I’m left all alone, I let out a soft moan.
Let this not be real and please just let it be a dream, I can hear myself scream.
This is not about me though, this is about everyone you ever loved and everyone who ever loved you. I still cannot take it in, my heart is broken in two at the loss of my wonderful friend. I’ve turned to old friends and to music to draw me closer to our shared memories of the years we knew each other. I wanted to share the fact that I’d discovered a musician who I never knew but you said I should. Now it’s the soundtrack to my grief, the one real release, where my eyes fill with tears and I’m stuck dumb once again; that I’ll never share a laugh over a drink again with your growing smile as my companion, that I’ll never get to the chance to watch your career blossom fully as it had already started to, that I’ll never get to hug you goodbye again.
I’m not convinced, but I hope it’s not the end. Memories are never goodbye.
I tried to capture this awesome band, The Sand People, with a cheap digital camera at a bar in San Francisco – a beautiful city I was fortunate enough to visit recently whilst on holiday. Trying, and failing I think, to capture it in a black and white Charles Peterson style, a style reminiscent of the punk rock/alternative/grunge era of the 80’s and early 90’s, predominately in the north western United States of America. It is period of music of which I am very fond of – probably no surprise to readers of this site!
The photographs definitely have the swirls of movement, indicating the music and the activity of producing music itself, but lack the clarity and the outline detail of the musicians themselves. Still, it is interesting to try different techniques, even if it is with a cheap digital camera as opposed to my slightly cheaper film camera!
If the photographs are reproduced, please credit the author of this blog as the photographer.
It’s something I cannot quite explain, but the warmth of photography film and cassette tape, of old analogue technology, still holds something for me that truly digital media or technology doesn’t.
Sleepmeld, a US based band on the Like Young Records independent music label in Albany, have recently released their self-titled debut album. The product of musicians Austin Reynolds and Bryan Ackers, the album is triumph of music, beauty and production. I don’t really want to describe the music here, as I’d rather that, if you reading this, you take a listen yourself and see what they are about. Kindly you can take a listen here for free on the Bandcamp website, but I also recommend supporting the artists and the record label if you. The lovely due behind Sleepmeld are even donating their proceeds of the sales to the Kentucky Science Center and the US National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Today I got their wonderful 5 song self-titled EP through the post. Released back in 2013, the EP covers some of their earlier music, which combines the influences of science, sleep, dreams and the MOTHER series. You can get a copy of the tape or download here. I’d also recommend supporting the wonderful label that these folks on – it is truly heatwarming and invigorating to know that independent labels still release music that is distinct from the mainstream and are willing to take a chance on musicians across the world who go beyond the mainstream. In short, it is a gift from the underground.
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It was late at night and I was driving home from work, driving smoothly over the flyover that was lit up like a tarmaced roller coaster in the dark. The road was clear and empty, the air was cold, and the stars shone brightly above. In short, it was beautiful. For the first time since I had started driving I understood what the freedom of the road meant. It was just me and the machine, cocooned in a nest of startling music. I was listening to Sonic Youth’s 1995 album Washing Machineand I had the last song on the album playing on the CD player, a 19 minute magnum opus titled The Diamond Sea. It was getting deeper and deeper into the trance like guitar work of Lee, Kim and Thurston, where I could hear the undercurrents of the bass notes, the swirling effects of the chorus shimmer, and the delay of the treble notes slowly build and build. The feedback mounted and at times almost over-powered the car itself. I was lost in a revere of beauty that these musicians has sucked me into.
Then suddenly, and without warning, those few lead guitar notes hit, penetrating the noise jam and instantly heralding a new direction in the song. It almost knocked me sideways in my seat. The guitar scratching started in earnest, and the incessant dissonant roar of the feedback curled in and over itself. It was beautiful. A wake up call.
Recently I’ve been re-reading chapters of Michael Azerrad‘s Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, a delightful and eye-opening book documenting and discussing the impact of the underground scene in America, which has lead me to re-discover some of my favourite bands and helped uncover new ones mentioned only briefly in passing in the body of the text itself (such as Glenn Branca). I also recently ordered a copy of Azerrad’s 1993 book ‘Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana‘, and I am currently holding a copy of Kim Gordon’s recently released autobiography, ‘Girl In A Band‘. Suffice to say I am looking forward to rediscovering both of those bands, their influences and their backgrounds. In short I am looking forward to learning something deeper about both the music and the musicians behind the music.
If you need me I’ll be found curled up on the bed listening to, and reading about, some of the most important bands to me.
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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Again this is another short entry, but nothing can be helped about this. I am currently lost in the fantastic wilderness that is Mikhail Bulgakov’s epic, ‘The Master and Margarita‘. I am currently half way through the book and wishing that I was only a quarter of the way through instead, although even then I suspect I would only hope I was 1/8 of the way through!
Aside from belated reading Bulgakov’s masterpiece, I found myself back in an old rehearsal room this weekend with a good friend. He took up the sticks and drummed and I took my beloved Jazmaster and amp and played. We touched upon old riffs, a part of a Hendrix song, some Jeff Buckley (albeit briefly) and ended trying to emulate the wall of noise that My Bloody Valentine do so well. I tried to emulate some of the circular guitar playing that Anna Calvi does so well (not circular picking as such), although I think I was only partly successful in this. It is an interesting technique though and one that makes the guitar sound more like a stringed instrument than it often does.
Heck, even though my friend couldn’t hear me above the beat of his bass drum and the roar of my Blackstar amp, I also attempted to sing along to my own guitar playing. Now, even though we have jammed innumerable times before, I am still a relatively shy person. So to sing was quite exhilarating, especially because it was just a daft made up song on the post. But it felt good, sounded alright, and it was quite ridiculous. A fine mixture of feelings!
I managed to get a photograph of the last time we went into the same rehearsal rooms, of my friend playing my old battered guitar across from a quite column of a Marshall stack.
The question is, of course, are you ready to sing and to be heard?
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