music


Friday last was pure week-before-end-of-half-term misery. Skool sags beneath an accumulation of assessment marking feeding into immediate report writing, and it’s all compounded by interminable lessons with grumpy kids not listening to shattered staff. And – AND!! – it’s scorchio out, so literally no one cares.

Added in to that febrile melange, Friday also brought the realisation that a trio of e-cigarette vendors stand within 100m of each other on Knareborough High Street.

Across the road.

With empty shops sat between! The heat, the insanity, the Vapours… It all looked set to see an end to the equilibrium of sobriety that had ruled for so long.

Well, maybe in old money. Waking up Saturday morning the wallowing was truncated directly, blues batted hence in a blur of house sprucing, which made everyone feel better. I also made a loaf, which has become a pleasant habit of a weekend morning.

Here’s a little recipe tribute to Warren Ellis.

Bread

  • 500g flour (one of these ones, usually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Yeast tends to be either 1 tsp quick yeast in with the flour, or 1tbsp of the reactivated sort you need to mix with warm water first. Given that I’ve been doing this with partially closed eyes around 5am the last few weeks, it’s been the considerably less fiddly quick yeast.

Everything dry gets mixed with a spoon, then I tip in the water and mix that, then add the oil, at which point it miraculously switches from “craggy” and dry to something more moist and resembling dough.

10 minutes kneading. Don’t stint. It will give in at some point to become smooth, elastic and pliable. Make a ball shape.

Leave it covered in a bowl somewhere warm for 40 minutes. The books all say “until doubled in size”, but it must be a factor of my eyes being only partially open that it never looks that different.

Read stories and give bananas to youngest, who’s got up demanding bananas and stories.

“Knock it back.” Give the now risen dough a thwack to remove air. Sometimes I like to grunt “Yer name’s not down, yer not coming in,” at the point of impact. That’s not actually true, but I might start. Re-knead, make a loaf shape and leave it to rise for about 80 minutes.

Play 4000 games of Top Trumps with eldest who’s also now up.

Our electric oven goes on at 180°, and the loaf cooks for about 45-50 mins, depending on how long the oven was on prior to opening.

Slice, slap on approx. 3cm layers of Isigny Sainte-Mère butter (the ponce factor here is low, in fact: it’s in Sainsbury’s and the same price as Lurpak) and gronff with coffee.

That was fun, anyway.

What else? Oh yes, the Ukrainian dolphins. (Hums Sylvanian Families jingle, substituting words in head) Pop “Ukraine dolphins” in your search engine.

The Guardian offered a moderated tone to their report, with a nod to the idea that there is “a lot of disinformation floating around” (one of the more understated aquatic puns related to this news item). However, many outlets went long on “diabolical Russkies” even when filtering out the more outlandish claims of cetacean patriotism.

Meanwhile, my five-year old was engrossed in our reading of this tale, where ninja-skilled princesses work to find buried treasure and save a wounded dolphin from ill-treatment by a greedy prince.

No prizes for guessing which was the more realistic story.

From “The Filth”, by Morrison/Weston/Erskine, 2002

This morning we went for a bit of sunshine and tat browsing at Pannal at boot. Got a nice tape-and-cd player for a fiver – spent the afternoon doing reports while listening to a T. Rex best of and 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

See if you can follow the riffs and work out which song prompted the title for this week’s Bath chunterings.

Other than that, it remains only to trail a forthcoming album Visions of Africa, which contains a selection of the hundreds of Toto covers proliferating…

… I seek to cure what’s deep inside.

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Skating around my enduring affection for verfremdungseffekt, I bumped into the marvellous vigintennial, or vicennial, meaning 20th anniversary.

As if that weren’t enough! Okay, delving into Stuff-Having-A-Vigintennial, I was delighted, but delighted, to see it has been 20 years since Quasi released the album Featuring “Birds”.

Quasi is a two piece, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss. They used to be married, but, yeah, things happen… anyway, fortunately, they remained a musical item.

Featuring “Birds”, the duo’s third album, is a collection of lively yet lugubrious songs for roxichord and drums, with mordant, witty, often bleakly cynical lyrics. Thematically, they grapple with politics and relationships in particular.

Music lovers may recognise both names from other outfits – Weiss with Sleater-Kinney, for example. Quasi also toured with Elliott Smith, as support and backing band, which I was lucky enough to see in action. My then partner and friendship group found a rich seam of gigs In Them Days. We’re all largely scattered about the planet now, and breakups are never easy, but let the annals record those were also often the best of times.

Perhaps one of my favourite ever gigs was when we got to see Quasi do their own headlining set in September 1999 at the 13th Note Club in Glasgow… and here, he shuffled excitedly among his effects, is the set list:

…on lovely pink paper, you may just about discern.

The embedded tune is “It’s Hard To Turn Me On”, which came as an encore that night. There was Coomes, semi-seriously claiming to the rapt crowd to be running out of songs to play, when a slightly slurry Scottish voice suggested “Walt Disney!” He had to run it by them a couple of times, as I recall. “Walt Disney disnae make me happy!”. Quasi duly obliged.

Featuring “Birds”. Please seek it out and wish it a happy vigintenary year.

A propos of it being a somewhat Blue Monday (back to work and miserable weather setting back in), here is a trio of New Order songs that all start with T.

Touched by the Hand of God. Highly diggable 80s rock video parody, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Temptation. Features vinyl shoplifting and indie disco moves.

And, of course, True Faith. First saw this on a cinema screen, as a pre-feature for (I think, based on 1987 as year of release) Good Morning Vietnam, though it might just as well have been Moonstruck, The Living Daylights or Spaceballs, all of which also came out that year. No Withnail and I, no. I was only 12. I recall not really getting it at the time, but later it made all the sense.

Terrific teen soundtracking there, then.

This edition of The Mortal Bath is brought to you by Martin’s of Bond Street, whose sale must end this Saturday.

I only started following podcasts a couple of years ago. “only”, indeed – by which mean I am a relative neophyte, not pretending to any deep expertise, also wishing to signal a kind of regret at having missed the original boat, and also as well in addition implying a somewhat evangelical zeal for the form.

So, yes, podcasts! While I remember the advent of podcasts as a medium – sort of a radio show? downloadable formats? opportunities to explore different areas of special interest? audio zine kind of notion? – the apparent fiddliness associated with getting hold of them put me off. I’d been an enthusiastic downloader of mp3s and albums using the Pitchfork/Audiogalaxy axis, then moving to Soulseek when Audiogalaxy fell. This techie context is intended to illustrate that podcasts should have been a natural progression, but me and they just didn’t happen for some reason.

It’s probably an Apple thing. Never been a devotee or even a user of Apple, so the Pod aspect absolutely passed me by. I think that I then had a period of missed-the-boat-ism, wherein I just couldn’t be bothered.

Some time passed.

The writer Warren Ellis does a well-worth-your-bother newsletter, called Orbital Operations. He has a lot of great ideas, and links to stuff, and also exercises himself over matters such as incorrect omelette technique. He’s also an podcast advocate, and from time to time provides a list of his current listens.

Thusly… At a point when my model of (Android) phone had advanced enough to allow the ease of access thing, one weekend, I thought I’d give them a go.

The Android app I use for organising and downloading them is Pocket Casts.

It’s nice and straightforward, allows a range of play list options, customisability… Although, I tend to just pile everything in one of two playlists: Digest (mostly talking) and Music (er, music), pretty much.

Mainly I listen to them in the car going to & from work, which takes 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. I tend to get through a 1 hour podcast over a day or so. There are a few podcasts that I’ve enjoyed initially then fallen out with, or not warmed to initially but come to enjoy, and some that I touch base with from time to time but infrequently because they require a bit more than commute attention. There’s the time element, and a phone in the cup holder next to the gearbox is not really optimal sound quality.

I had a spell of listening to music mix podcasts while running, another great time to zone into something, but I stopped wearing earphones (noise distraction), then running (ouchy knees), so it’s pretty much the gearbox radio show all the way now. Ooh, now there’s a nice title.

There’re all sorts of little things about podcasts that I love, including the show sponsor adverts, but that’s quite enough from me. What am I listening to?

According to the app there are 36 podcasts I follow… but the 10 I tend not to miss are listed below, alphabetically, ish. All the links are generated through the Pocket Cast app, but you should be able to find them on Your Provider of Choice.

99% Invisible

One of the first things I downloaded was a 99PI episode called Reefer Madness, about refrigerated shipping containers. Hooked! Facts, unusual stories, and witty style.

A Duck In A Tree

One hour of genre-refusing music, sound and background noise.

Against Everyone With Conner Habib

Occult, politics and sex positive left-leaning countercultural ideas discussion prog. Conner likes swearing, and makes gay poem ogre pvt, which is apparently such a naughty word that my auto correct just dropped its monocle. 😀

The Allusionist

Helen Zaltzman lowers a net into the pool of language to identify that thing floating in the deep end.

Babbage

The Economist does a weekly show about science & technology…

Beyond Yacht Rock

This makes me laugh a lot. Music top tens countdowns, adventures in arbitrary genres (e.g. Dance Boss, songs that command you to boogie). Also has a huge amount of swearing. Their deconstruction of the show sponsor section is actually one of my favourite bits.

Deep House Amsterdam

Excellent for your workout/running mixes, or just blasting some tunes, this delivers mostly 120bpm+ dance tracks, lots of premières, as well as longer DJ sets from a wide range of producers. Boom-tiss, boom-tiss, boom-tiss brrackatacka…

Song Exploder

Another show from Radiotopia, the stable bringing you The Allusionist and 99% Invisible, this one explores the stories behind the recording of songs, from a diverse selection of artists. MGMT explaining the interpolation of Dancing Queen by Abba into Time To Pretend nearly made me crash my car, such, such was my joy.

Twenty Thousand Hertz

Another sound exploration concept, this goes into areas like sound design for cars (getting the exact right level of solidity in a closing door, for example), skeuomorphic effects on phones (e.g. the camera shutter noise), drum machines…

WTF with Marc Maron

Talk/interview show with some really ace guests, from Kim Deal, Ezra Furman and They Might Be Giants to Willem Dafoe, Sharon Stone and Neil Patrick Harris.

…there we have it. If you have any podcasts you think might be of interest, do please say hello and share in the comments!

And before I go, I’ve just got time to mention the Martin’s of Bond Street sale, which ends this Saturday.

Given the ongoing cloud cover in northern Britain, today I was reliant on the handy Phases of the Moon app to let me know there was a new moon this morning. How apposite, I thought, we’re up to N, start of the week… thematic coherence in light of some of the recent posts…

… it was going to be some thing about symbolic resonance, all that. Then I remembered it sounds better in French.

La, la lune est libre, je crois…

(Stereolab – Lo Boob Oscillator)

Just wanted to share some favoured disks being placed far away from any charity bags/car boot piles…

Not sure precisely when I started digging jazz. It slips in and out of favour in some ways, but there’s something kind of compelling about good strains.

I keep meaning to do a podcast about it, because it’d sound more interesting than it reads… but it’s all on vinyl, so it’d maybe be a bit of a fiddle… We’ll see! Here are five sides that were front of mind when I decided to make this the thing, anyway.

Fletcher Henderson & the Connie’s Inn Orchestra. Recorded 1926 & 1931. Deeply groovy.

Django & Stephane mainly, from 1938 and 1946. Love’s Melody in particular is required listening.

Be bop genius Fats Navarro recorded most of the tracks in 1946/1947. He died in 1950… aged 27.

Two giants of the piano with totally different styles somehow totally complement each other on this session from late in both their careers (1974).

One of the forgotten pioneers of the form, Bennie Moten deserves to be remembered if only for his titles. “Elephant’s Wobble”, “18th Street Strut”, “Sister Honky Tonk”, and “Goofy Dust”. Also totally rocking.

Nice.

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