It got to about 10.30 on Monday night. I was sliding into a sound slumber when my eyes fluttered open. I thought – ‘Oh! Didn’t do the blog.’

A brief pause. A mental shrug. My eyes closed and I drifted off.

Previously… I would probably have got back out of bed and scampered downstairs to get something typed and uploaded. That panic to get it done on the day. A couple of my favourite posts of the last month emerged like that, a bit last minute, born of a sense of duty, yet completed eventually out of enjoyment.

No such misgivings yesterday. There was a momentary sensation of a betrayal of process… but that was just as quickly acknowledged and left on its shelf. It’s the kind of thing that might have had the potential to become an enduring niggle. Something to fret and worry at, probably over a few days then of not doing it, not posting, getting behind, more and more fixated on it, allowing feelings of self-disappointment to inflate. Letting a splinter work its way in.

If there had been a hangover involved, there is no question it would have become the bedrock of a spree commencing round Thursday.

Reader, there was no hangover. Although there have been plenty of trigger situations, I’ve not responded to those in a trigger happy way. The drinking thing at the moment is a faint background hiss, under the regular sounds of day to day life, ongoing preoccupations, the crackle of being busy with other things. And an improving practice of letting the little knots of worry and over-thought play themselves out.

There is a suppression of feelings that happens with drink, for all its reputation as a truth drug.  Cleaner-brained, I feel more able to observe feelings moving through and on, rather than getting panicked by them, trying to sluice them away somehow and succeeding only in getting them stuck in place.

This is, like it has been when I’ve been in this situation before, both a hoped-for outcome and a welcome surprise. And my sleep is becoming substantially better too.

As BenSix at Back Towards the Locus observes:

Our earnestness and energy is not, in many cases, produced by events but applied to them when it befits our whims and prejudices

Back to school, busy planning, getting to know the classes, etc, I’m not making as much time to post here as I’d like. However, BTTL and the article by Norman Geras to which he linked prompted a surge of energy and earnestness. Couldn’t just ignore it, as I normally do. Wound me right up, did Norm.

At some point, I will revisit/republish here the things I wrote 10 years ago against the impending wars in Afghanistan, then Iraq… maybe I’ll revisit the notes made in the years since, detailing feelings of profound misery, about the intransigence of the UK/US governments, the constant feeling that any second now someone was going to blow some shit up somewhere, then a news story noting that they had. Feelings of desolation, anger, frustration, alienation, rage or guilt (as Peter Thomas once narrated). This fading notion that instead of a springboard to constant conflict, the horrible attacks on the US in September 2001 could have been an opportunity to do things differently, better. Wasted years.

Yet war apologists and writers like Geras maintain this air of personal affront, aggrieved common sensibilities, which sounds more and more peevish as years go by, as their arguments for conflict ring more and more hollow, as things can only get worser. With his little digest, Geras merely lists straw man after slouching straw man. Citing human rights in defence of what we did to Fallujah is at best tasteless. The curiously contorted idea that democracy is crucial yet starts and finishes at the ballot box – point 5… MASSIVE global demonstrations, and “they” didn’t listen. One would expect some sort of acknowledgement, at least, but against urgent representations, logic, compassion and fact our governments went to war anyway. “Why should they go out to fight? They leave that up to the poor,” as Black Sabbath observed.

I can’t believe an actual Professor actually considers the facile points or arguments addressed in his piece as worthy of mention. That it was published as an “11 for 9/11” kind of anniversary belch, a pop bullshit Greatest Moans, an excuse for tossing off some beermat opinions, just makes it worse, somehow. Geras using a solemn occasion as a crucible for more simplistic yet potent logomancy, the sort that has sustained just over a decade of war and global tension. It is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.

Gah. GAH!

So, the other week I put on a promoter hat and organised this gig:

The image on the poster is off one of the walls at Castle Howard, and I’m sorry to say I’m not sure of the artist (although it is possibly Antonio Pellegrini). For the actual gig, it was great to have my mate L’s band through playing, as well as an excellent other set from Etai Keshiki, with York duo …And the Hangnails offering a really great set of what turned out to be, indeed, heavy blunk (Can’t help myself dept: whimsical mashing of the words ‘blues’ and ‘punk’ which someone had used to describe them). We had a compère and everything.

Aside from the venue business, trite wordplay and some flyering, I took the opportunity to re-animate a zine I shelved a few years ago. The zine is called Conductive Jelly, which appeals to me more and more as a title the more and more I roll it around. Here is an extract from the first Conductive Jelly (2005), explaining the name:

This pamphlet gets its name from the intriguing list of instruments played throughout Matmos’ dizzying The Civil War collection. It’s used on the track “the struggle against unreality begins”. This is what Conductive Jelly #1 was inspired by:

“This song began when our friend Keenan Lawler sent us a recording he had made of himself playing a steel guitar in a sewer pipe underneath Louisville, Kentucky. We liked the idea of “sound in a tube” so we paired Keenan’s noises with the sound of blood in Martin’s carotid artery. To gather that sound we borrowed an ultrasonic doppler flow detector from the Exploratorium, rubbed conductive jelly on Martin’s neck and then angled the flow detector against his skin, picking up the blood flow as interference which sounded rather like a 70’s modular synth.”

[A link I included in CJ1 originally is now broken, but at time of typing you can read about Matmos here:

This delayed edition of Conductive Jelly had further blurb:

In 2005, Conductive Jelly #4 was supposed to be completed. Musical happenings in Leeds & otherwards, some commentary, some abstractions…

(Conductive Jelly was basically word scribbles inspired by groovy music from the globe and the then music scene blooming algally from LS12 (“Twice as cool as LS6!”). From sound and into text, attempting to bring forth little science fictions, quests for lost civilisations, allusions to the supernal oneness of the spacetime universe and the infernal twoness of quotidian existence here on earth in the early part of the 21st century…

…there was a manifesto plotted, maybe I should have scribbled it down too, but I think it was along the lines of the most music & art (as in ‘This is, like, THE MOST, dad, y’dig?’) being transient, anti careerist, spontaneous livin…

…driving it all was a fear that we might end up like Jonathan Pryce’s character Sam Lowry in Brazil, dreaming of escape to the forest even while being tortured slowly to death because the form was filled in properly…)

…time passes…

…moves to new cities, jobs, schools, came and went… music periodically wafts life into the smouldering embers of hope. Six years later to nearly the day, round the spiral, provoked by a gig in Leeds that put boot to bits, Conductive Jelly is reborn.

The purpose remains to explore strange new soundworlds, all that Star Trek spangled psychotic reactions fiery elephant dung thing, based, at this time, here in York.

I may engage in some future amalgamatification of all blogs, zines and written ventures into some uber-website/book crossover project, but I’m not in a great rush to that. Next week, I start teaching high school English, something I am approaching with approximately equal measures of keen enthusiasm, abject terror, web-based browse denial and an unprecedented – for me – flurry of writing activity.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from the gig. The low lighting and my HTC Hero didn’t get on brilliantly, but well enough to capture the noise & movement, as well as the Red Room/Black Lodge-esque stage of the Basement Bar at York’s City Screen.

Eagles-related discussion. "No, '...AND The Hangnails'."

Castrato Attack Group. Your argument is invalid.

Disorientate the photographer: Etai Keshiki, at the Fenton

Apologies to Etai Keshiki, for whom none of the photos on the night came out as more than a hardcore screamo blur, appropriate though that might be… the photo of EK here is from a gig at the Fenton, which was put on by Big Spaceship Presents. Big Spaceship is well worth a look, as they dig a gargantuan groove. With which I concur, like, the most.

It’s typically a good night hanging out with my great mate L. Wednesday’s mix of new music, new books and a trip to Azram’s Sheesh Mahal on Kirkstall Road LS4, for an extremely tasty dinner, was further evidence of this proposition.

It also, handily and because I was looking for it, allows me to continue the theme from The Mortal Bath’s closing piece of 2010 regarding writing output and minds trying to make sense of masses of data, with additional haunting motif supplied by a first glimpse of what looks an exciting new book, Sinister Resonances, from the consistently reliable David Toop.

L is into music. Lots of people are into music, in the way that lots of people like coffee, but lots of people only ever try the Grande Latte Semi-Wet. It even sounds like a foppish, irritating minor character in a novel about pre-revolutionary France. Anyway, L is familiar with the Grande Latte, and the continuous morphing of his heraldry in a bid to seek favour, but enjoys the company of those who choose not to vie at court for preferment.

To clamber down from this hill of coffee beans/dauphinoise analogy (and on into the fertile plane of a more general food analogy), I am describing someone who consumes music, in the economic sense and in the sense of it keeping him alive. Fuel packages arrive daily, from sound merchants such as Boomkat, Second Layer, Volcanic Tongue, Spin City, blogs like Olde English Spelling Bee, yea even digital hypermarts like Amazon, to name but a selection from the mall site map. They all bring… well, I can just about begin to describe, but I don’t want to just sit here listing links and have you riffing away when you just got here. It’s music you don’t tend to see in HMV (perhaps a lesson there, in that there are plenty of people still spending their money on music). The point for me is that it energises him, and I always come away from a meeting with my friend energised creatively. It always gets me a-wonderin’ about variety in the diet.

As well as intake, L makes and has made music for a number of years. We were in a couple of bands together – reader, hear our song! – and he has released lots and lots of recordings as part of an experimental group called Lanterns over the last five or six years. His latest incarnation, Castrato Attack Group, is ‘Dumber than a sack of hammers’. He was voicing a concern about his recent lack of output, which probably stems at least in part from the demands of his job as a full-time psychiatric nurse. He’s still a lot busier than I, who have not twanged a note in performance for some years now and am perpetually threatening to act on the feeling that it’d be ‘really great to be in a band again’.

I think the key is that he is always reading, finding, sampling, mixing flavours. It is enjoyable work to watch, as Jerome K Jerome nearly put it. I have only a fraction of the patience and attention span when it comes to rooting out sounds and looking for music in unlikely places (Spotify and digital watches both seem pretty neat ideas to me). This last point regarding music in strange spaces is something Toop, from my preliminary skim of Sinister Resonances, appears to expand on at much more impressive length. It’s as much the sounds of silence, what Debussy referred to in his celebrated quote, ‘Music is the space between the notes.’ I was listening to John Cage’s “4’33” during its charitable assault on the charts in 2010, and was, as intended, intrigued by the sounds occurring on the periphery as I listened. Music, and the act of seeking it out in its infinite forms, is a great way of entering one’s Calm zone. I am extremely glad to have a friend in someone who is such a quietly enthusiastic forager for noise.

As a word lover, I was also pleased to discover that there are now at least two senses in which people understand ‘to blog’ as a verb. Referring to the album ‘Bamboo for Two’ (see below), and further work, L said ‘You can just blog it.’ I had to take a minute to establish that he was saying ‘Look x up on a blog,’ whereas, I explained, I understood it in the form of ‘Writing about x on a blog’. His response was: “Well, you can always do both.” Thusly was the wusly.

The soundtrack:

Actress – Splaszh
James Ferraro – Night Dolls with Hairspray
Chrome – Half Machine Lip Moves
Monopoly Child Star Searchers – Bamboo for Two
Oneohtrix Point Never

…and those retail links:
Boomkat Manchester, UK
Second Layer London, UK
Volcanic Tongue Glasgow, UK
Spin City Sheffield, UK
Olde English Spelling Bee New York, USA
Amazon like, Amazon

This review is over two weeks late – I’m blaming ASH CRISIS ELECTION CHAOS distractions.

SO Tuesday 13 April 2010, to the Miller, SE1, for an evening of drone sounds, psych-rock and “atonal pointillism” with Faux Amis,  Alexander Turner, Moon unit and Chora!

Time was (a few years ago) that such a gig would have had me clutching for the pen to scribble down some fever’d cosmic visions, suggestive and suggested sci-fi snippets, some of which were subsequently published in a short-lived music zine Conductive Jelly what I wrote.  I may dig some of those out for your edification (threats!…) There were retrofuturist sparking transformers, drumkits imagined as CGI monsters, images of ruined machine-age civilisations overgrown with creepers, like Deep Thought in the Hitchhikers film.

A lot of it was meant (in my head, anyway) to be read aloud, not really as stories but word string theory excerpts, playing with the zounds as a sort of written accompaniment to the percussive/drone/abstract alinear anti-pop sort of things I was being introduced to by my pals. Luke, who played guitar in a band I was in, had started doing such sonic experimenting with Andreas (from Moon Unit). Indeed they still are doing it, Lanterns be their name, and they can be found on myspace. I did some “sleeve notes” for one of their early recordings, and very kind
of them to let me near their work it was too.

That, reader, was then. However, at the Miller, I sat watching and listening and they, the words, just weren’t there. In a little flash of insight I not only recalled the memorable phrase ‘dancing about architecture’ (and that’s a great site, by the way) but I jumped a step along and did not feel a second’s remorse for having to re-cap my pen and pocket my book and just sit there basking in the sound. Different things inspire me to write, and it clearly wasn’t meant to be the music on the night, then, but it was inspiring in a different kind of way, in that it was a pleasant realisation of having found oneself in a superb new chapter or even volume without noticing.

The writer Amiri Baraka came out with this great idea of an ‘expression-scriber’, which would allow every kick, elbow, scream grunt and itch to be recorded… It struck me, as it has many times before when at their gigs, that the ‘stick a contact mic on it’ ethos of artists like Chora, Lanterns et al comes very close to that kind of immersive total expression.

Thusly, enough of this wittery. Go to their websites and check them out, buy their CDs and records. Here are some photos from the gig (taken on my phone, I know the quality’s variable). If you really want some more words, you can click on the photos for additional commentary.

And a noiseriffic time was had by all!