Thursday, April 30, 2009

Internet Ham - The Origin Of Swine Flu

'Spill Pets 2 : Mewsli

This is Mewsli, a rescue cat who turns two tomorrow. We've had him since he was a kitten (his mum was abandoned when she had him and his siblings). 

Mewsli's all time top ten favourite things:

1. Killing things
2. Sitting on the exact section of the Guardian Weekend that you're just about to read
3. Cuddles (he gets upset if he doesn't know where we are)
4. Killing more things (mice, crows, guinea pigs, whatever comes his way)
5. Rolling around and having his tummy tickled
6. Eating what he kills (beaks and all, but he'll always leave the tail of a mouse)
7. Knocking stuff over when you're trying to sleep
8. His various blankets (he'll cling on for dear life should you try and shift them at all)
9. Drinking your tumbler of water, or hunting food off your plate when you're trying to eat. 
10. Purring. It's like an aeroplane taking off, he's so loud. 

Drusilla the cat

A rescue cat...her owners emigrated to Spain and abandoned her in the street. Excellent mouser and bites people I don't like.

Playing For Change

You gotta see this video! Recorded by street musicians around the world (give it a minute in to build, then it starts to really click in). Playing For Change explained. (Love their intentional pun)

2 x 2 = Infinity

Holy f!ck - one of my favourite ever songs has been improved by one of my favourite ever bands - just wait til it kicks in at the 3 minute mark. Bloody hell, it's amazing! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

French Hip Hop Part 1

So here it is, a post about french hip hop. I don't know why I took on the challenge, because it's not a subject I know that much about. Still, I thought I could put together a mixture of important tracks, as well as some favourites of mine. So, this is not a definitive account of French hip-hop until the mid-90s (Part II will come later), but I hope some of you will find something you like.

We start with the Suprême NTM (later just NTM, which stands for Nique Ta Mere, a grafitti tag they used to paint), and IAM. The former is from Paris, and the latter from Marseilles. These two were quite Public Enemy-like in my opinion, with energetic beats and lyrics reporting on what went on in the more disaffected areas of France's cities, as well as bringing to the listener's attention a bit of history, notably Ancient Egyptian civilisation and the writings of Cheikh Anta Diop in the case of IAM.



Can you get over that moustache though?

Then we have the darling of French rap, MC Solaar, whose jazzy beats and unprovocative lyrics reconciled those put off by NTM's angry lyrics. Solaar put himself in the tradition of the A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, but also French singer-songwriters such as Georges Brassens and Leo Ferré.

His crew, whose name I forgot, included Les Sages Poetes de La Rue, Democrates D and La Funk Mob (who later became house outfit Cassius), went on to be quite successful within French Hip-Hop, recording with American rappers, the ultimate cachet then.

Sages Poetes de la Rue

Then you have Ministere A.M.E.R., France's N.W.A, the most controversial group, their favourite target being the police (a very sensitive body in France), with sometimes sexist or  violent lyrics, reflecting some of the harsher realities of the French suburbs

I'll finish with this, a party record which I think is the first of its kind, at least it was the most successful. It reminisces about the popular funk scene in Marseilles, with pinpoint observations on the era. Then Parisians observed: "Look what those funny southerners are up to" and somoebody else than MC Solaar blew up.

You'll have noticed I made parallels with US hip hop acts, that's not to belittle my compatriots, but in the beginning, they were all mostly influenced by what was going on across the Atlantic, Later, the imitation peaked to the point of innutrition, and then French Hip Hop found its voice. More on that later, hopefully.
I realised the post is already too long, so here's a Spotify playlist.

All That Jazz II: Rhythm

As the great man once said, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. But what is swing? How do you tell if it's got it or not? Well, if you have to ask... If non-jazzers think of jazz rhythm, I suspect they focus on two things, exemplified by the Sonny Rollins track last time: it's played mostly on the cymbals, with the bass and snare drums used for irregular emphasis, and it involves those irregular quavers (DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da etc.). Like more or less any statement about jazz, there's some truth in that, up to a point, but only up to a point; lots of jazz records from the 1930s to the 1960s (and later ones imitating that style) feature that sort of rhythm, but plenty of others don't. Sometimes the rhythm is syncopated, sometimes it isn't; sometimes it's played on the cymbals, sometimes it's played on the bass and piano while the percussion gets to do its own thing (see nilpferd's brilliant analysis of Tony Williams' playing on Miles Smiles), sometimes it's played on broomsticks or rocks or the floor (the great Han Bennink). Sometimes it swings obviously, sometimes it doesn't obviously swing in a traditional sense.

I think Ellington is right that rhythm lies at the heart of jazz; the great stylistic changes, from ragtime and New Orleans jazz to swing, to bebop, to hard bop and post-bop, to the New Thing, to jazz rock and fusion, were all marked by new styles and conceptions of rhythm. But 'swing', I think, isn't a particular sort of rhythm so much as the right sort of rhythm, the rhythm that feels right for a particular context. Jazz is marked not by a special style but by a concern with time and timing, an interest in exploring how far things can be stretched and manipulated before they fall apart altogether. That may be a matter of a soloist interacting with the rhythm section and playing around with the beat and the chord sequence, or of the rhythm section taking centre stage rather than just providing the backing.

Duke Ellington's Orchestra explores how many different rhythmic patterns, played by different instrument sections, can be fitted into a single song without losing the underlying swing. Sarah Vaughan exemplifies the fact, known by a lot of the greatest jazz soloists, that having a great sense of rhythm frequently means not keeping to the basic beat but working around it (contrast a couple of the soloists on this track; for me, Herbie Mann's flute solo exemplifies a failure to swing). The Tomasz Stanko track, with Tony Oxley on percussion, switches the function of keeping the beat to the bass, and thinks about abandoning clear divisions between bars altogether. The Esbjorn Svensson Trio experiment with non-swinging rock rhythms; Matthew Shipp explores (with a real drummer) the influence of contemporary electronic beats.

Finally, a track that is probably too familiar to many of us, too much part of the wallpaper, too laden with images and associations - but just listen to that drummer. Dave Brubeck sticks to the same piano riff all the way through, Paul Desmond plays short phrases as a means of sticking closely to the song's structure in the face of an unfamiliar five beats to the bar, but Joe Morello merrily shifts the accent around and plays with its possibilities. The only drum solo I actually love, and it also worked brilliantly in Pleasantville...

Attack cat

There's actually probably not a softer, more nesh cat for miles around, but I thought, well at least if his fellow cats can read Deutsch then they might get a bit worried and give him some respect...have to see. Is he an aristocat? He "nangs" like a Siamese and has a tail like one too...


I might be in the wrong shop altogether but I'll take my chances, here goes.

What Aba came up with last week re. jazz and reaching new audiences had been on my mind also for quite some time, I'd had the same thoughts but as I said in the comments, I would approach it quite differently.
I find it very difficult to express my thoughts on this topic, there's a conflict between the idea that jazz is grounded in free expression and improvisation and has evolved through artists going in new directions and in some cases the directions they go in. The former I can accept and you'll find examples of it in my playlist but jazz reached a point in the 60's-70's where a small group of musicians took it in a direction that I and many others couldn't accept, that was about when we started hearing discussions about "what defines jazz?", somewhat similar to what we were hearing here last week, "what is pop?" A lot of people, myself included, chose to ignore jazz if that was what it had become, I found solace with 60's pop and reggae and didn't participate in the then current jazz to any degree, all of my jazz record buying involved music of prior era's.
The idea of 'Free Jazz' doesn't bother me, I choose not to listen to it but I do resent it's adherents aquisition of the concept of 'jazz'; jazz is a black music based in the blues that for decades has expressed the turmoil and suppression in that community, I can't accept any group that thinks that they can apply the name of jazz to the cacophonous sounds that they're creating. Jazz is a beautiful and exciting music, it's performed by artists who are usually supreme on their instruments, it's intended to be enjoyed both physically, intellectually and emotionally, 'free jazz' fulfills none of those, it's the sound of a sick society in conflict with itself. If those are the sounds that they choose to make, let them find another name for it, their sad efforts have nothing in common with jazz.

Obviously we're dealing with a subjective topic, everyone has a different tastes and different values but there's something that's been obvious to me since before I joined this group; from what little discussion there is on this topic it seems as though there's a feeling amongst some, but not all re. jazz; it's that it's something that evolved in the mid '60's as a result of a small group of musicians, the names I hear most often are Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans and Ornette. It's such a limited perspective, there's so much more.
I would like to present a variety of jazz musicians that date back to the beginnings of jazz, musicians that laid the groundwork for these and all contemporary artists.
I don't know if the name Ralph J. Gleason rings any bells, he was the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and a very popular music critic, I found a quote in his liner notes on the Ray Charles album that seems relevant;
"Jazz's new listeners, no matter at what point they entered the jazz world, have an overriding tendency to be swept up in the continuum of jazz recordings. They seldom stop and go back to something ten years old. He wrote that in 1970, I think it's still appropriate today except I would expand the ten years.

OK, with that out of the way let's play some records. Here's a baker's dozen, what I've selected all fall under the classification of "These are a Few of My Favorite Things", they're all vinyl transfers selected at random. I didn't go out of my way to restrict the choices to pre 60's music, it just happened that way, I could have as easily created a post 60's list. The only parameter that I set was that I'd approximately match Aba's list in terms of time, approx 50 mins. I started at the beginning of my records and went through saying 'Oh, must include that...and this', and suddenly I found I'd exceeded 50 mins. Start over or edit? I edited and accepted that I must leave out dozens, hundreds of choices! The perceptive amongst you might notice that I didn't get beyond the 'H's' but I scrambled them for playback and couldn't resist including a 'V'.

1. Ray Charles - Outskirts of Town. 1961. Ray as a jazz musician, The trumpet intro is by Clark Terry with another later by Phillip Guilbeau, Ray at the keyboard and a great orchestral arrangement by Quincy Jones.
2. Duke Ellington - Take the 'A' Train. This is a 1951 version from the Ellington Uptown album, three for the price of one: a great Ellington piano solo, a post bebop vocal by Betty Roché and a great tenor solo by Paul Gonsalves, check all the changes here, not to mention the great backing from the band.
3. Ry Cooder as a jazz musicologist - The Dream. He produced an album that investigated the roots of jazz, this cut is listed as 'a piece of whorehouse music'. It's approx 1900, before jazz even existed and it's typical of what might have been played in New Orleans brothels at that period reflecting Spanish, African and Carribbean influences. From Ry's album 'Jazz'.
4. Stan Kenton Orch. Intermission Riff. This piece is from about 1947, Kenton had a popular all white band, June Christie was his singer, he loved brass, usually he had 5 trumpets and 5 trombones, three of each was typical. Vido Musso takes the tenor solo. He was based at the Avalon Ballroom in Southern Cal.
5. Sarah Vaughn. Cherokee. Wonderful alto solo by Cannonball Adderley, it's from the 'In the land of Hi-Fi' album, remember Hi-Fi? I forgot to mention, don't adjust your sets, many of these cuts are in 'mono', produced long before stereo existed.
6. Charlie Parker. Parker's Mood. This is the original Savoy 1947 version, it includes a false start, Bird begins his second chorus after the John Lewis piano break and he hits a bad note so he deliberately hits another and then whistles a stop, they resume with a perfect take that's became one of the great Bird solos.
I included the false start just to show how it was done before Pro-Tools.
7. Coleman Hawkins. Body and Soul. From 1939, considered by many to be the greatest tenor solo ever. 'Bean' [Coleman] brushes it off as 'just a routine piece that he made up on the spot.'
8. Duke Ellington. Creole Love Call, 1927. Possibly one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
What intrigues me is the fact that jazz was less than a decade old and here was Duke doing things like this, triple clarinet leads with the original 'scat' vocal, or at least a very creative use of a voice in jazz; it's Adelaid Hall and Bubber Miley does the trumpet solo.
9. Duke Ellington. Black & Tan Fantasie, 1927. Couldn't decide which one to use, couldn't delete either so I include them both. Another great piece by Duke with another trumpet solo by Bubber. Just consider that only a few years earlier jazz was basically confined to N.O. and was a genre that consisted of 5-6 musicians playing totally in unison! And there were no means of communication, no media, no phones etc, apart from very early primitive records there was no way of knowing what others were doing, and yet....
10. Louis Armstrong. West End Blues. 1928. Often quoted as Louis's greatest ever solo, it's from his Hot 7. Also his first scat vocal, similar thing to what Duke was doing a couple of thousand miles away, another example of the enormous changes to the music in a very few years.
11. Ben Webster & Coleman Hawkins. Shine on Harvest Moon. 1957. Considered to be the two godfathers of the tenor, Hawkins was the originator and the teacher, he was playing in Europe before I was born. Ben has the nicest tone in jazz. Listen carefully and you'll hear two tenors each with distinctive tones and styles duetting.
12. Johnny Hodges. Warm Valley, 1940 with the Ellington orch. The greatest alto player ever, he joined Duke in the late 20's and was with him for about 40 years, Duke wrote many pieces just for him, as he did for all the soloists in the band. No one has a tone like Hodges and he does 'impossible' things on his horn, like glissandi on an instrument with push buttons!
13. Count Basie Orch. with vocalist Jimmy Rushing. 1938.
Sent for you yesterday.
A classic swinging Basie big band blues. Basie on piano with Herschel Evans doing the tenor solo, Sweets Edison on trumpet and JR on the vocal, the all time classic Basie era.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

30 Minutes Over Tokyo - Box Of Delights

Taking advantage of the current strong yen, I finally got the majority of the rest of my treasured record collection (well, the vinyl part anyway) shipped over last week.

The records had lain dormant in my brother's bedroom for the last 7 years, untouched, un-played but by no means unloved. To commemorate my tearful re-union with said pieces of wax, I was going to do a normal 'Spill post. But as I became lost in the reminisces (I know, I know it's only 7 years!), I thought it would be fun to expand it into a full podcast and share a few memories.

All tracks were purchased (but not necessarily released) between 1998 and 2002, when I was living a stone's throw away from the beautiful piece of architecture you can see at the top of this post.

As usual, comments and criticisms are all welcome.

30MOT - Box Of Delights Part A
30MOT - Box Of Delights Part B

N.B. I've put it on Boxstr and in Dropbox, and i've also put the individual tracks into Dropbox too. This does spoil the surprise a bit, but whenever I listen to other people's podcasts there are always a few tracks that i'd like to have for myself, so I thought i'd drop 'em in for whoever wants them.

Album of The (mid) Week

Monday, April 27, 2009

Go Gary! (And Take That too)

Gary Go – the stage name of 24-year-old American musician Gary Baker – will support Take That this July at Wembley Stadium equipped with only one instrument - his iPhone.

Go plans to entertain using only iPhone-based instrument applications.

Gary's website has a contest to win tickets. Just thought I'd share.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A certain magnetic quality

"Princes (LIVE)" - Gang Gang Dance: for some reason I've been coming back to this video every few weeks since it surfaced last autumn. It has a certain magnetic and intriguing quality, which I think is a sign of healthy experimentation. So now, at last, I'm checking out their album St Dymphna, on Spotify. Back a few months ago, my first port of call would have been Amazon to see if I could get the record cheap, but now it's Spotify. Seems things are changing. Has Spotify affected you yet? For example, Bat For Lashes new record is going down a storm with both me and The Filter, but knowing it's on Spotify has kinda stopped my rush to get to the record store. I'm starting to worry, and wonder if Spotify is a force for good, or evil....

"Time Flies, Time Crawls, Like An Insect, Up & Down The Walls"

Budbugs & Ballyhoo
June Bug
Eardrum Buzz
Flies (The Plague Of Flies)
Can of Worms
Do You Like Worms?
Bugs & Flowers
Butterfly's Wing
Black & Blue
Song From Under The Floorboards

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's got a funky beat, and I can BUG OUT to it

Mean & Evil
Army Ants
Bro Weevil & The Swallow
Funky Worm
Summer Flies
Addis Black Widow
Emerald Butterfly
Kiss of a Black Widow
Fatal Sting

John Lee Hooker - Queen Bee
JL Hooker - Bumble Bee Blues
John Lee Hooker - Bumble Bee Bumble Bee
RL Burnside - SHT Bug

...Long legged beasties by FP

I actually was't planning on doing one this week but your posts threw up some excellent songs so I decided to sit down and take the time before tearing off into town. And I really do need some insect related advice this week (Toffee look away now). I'm going down to Cannes for the Festival (and lots of hard work too) and have, in the past, had a wee bit of trouble with.... how shall I say this... night visits by unwanted guests? Frogprince tells me that it is no way a reflection on the quality of a hotel but in the South of France it is not at all uncommon to see cockroaches in your room. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh! Us Northern Europeans naturally freak out at this so what I am after is a non-chemical, non poisonous way of repelling them. I just want to keep any potential visitors at bay, basically. What do cockroaches dislike? Any plants? Substances commonly found in a kitchen? I'd be gratful for any words of wisdom from the collective wealth of knowledge that is the 'Spill. I've never forgotten the invaluable help that Nilpferd gave me with architectural translation (and I'd been trying to crack that one for months...) so go ahead.

And let me know if you're enjoying the Chunes!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jonathan Richman - The Insect Years

OK, so I'm as predictable as Bank Holiday rain, but when you've got three songs by one artist which are so on-topic, it would be like missing an open goal NOT to post them.

So with very little preamble (by my standards anyway) may I present to you, three tracks with an insect-related theme performed for your pleasure by the one-and-only, Jonathan Richman. All three are particularly suitable for the little ones in your lives ...

Creepy creepy, crawly crawly

Ants On The Melon - the Gourds
Blue Tail Fly - Rick Danko
Boll Weevil Holler - Shirley Collins and Davey Graham
Cousin Caterpillar - the Incredible String Band
Crawl Back (Under My Stone) - Richard Thompson


Moustique by Zao [Spotify link;] is not only great, it's also a scathing diatribe against mosquitoes.
"Mosquito, you're a bastard, you're a racist, you sting the African, you tickle the European, you sting the king, you're an anarchist, you sting the president, you're a putschist [is putsch a word in English? It means coup d'Etat], you're a murderer, they used insecticide but you're invincible"
(Unfortunately my file is iTunes protected, so can't share it with you)

Honey Bee, sampled brilliantly by Wu-Tang Clan (as always) WU-Tang killer bees, on the swarm!
Kill That Roach, which can only be about a cockroach, certainly not about a dying joint, no, no, no.
Lady Bug. An unprecedented insight into the minds and lives of insects, in the funkiest way imaginable. Bassline: check, disco piano: check. strings: check, ladybugs(birds) whispering sweet nothings to each other in the Bug Club, check!
Mosca Na Sopa. Raul Seixas is the fly in your soup, he'll ruin your dinner, and try to speak truth to power at the same time.
Ay Mariposa Oh Butterfly you are free and beautiful kind of thing, which is a nice change from songs about birds.
Sweet Butterfly

Album Of The Week(end)

Why Doesn't Blimpy Want To Watch A Gangster/Opera Movie (That's Also French & Made In The 80's)?

Oh Crikey - It's Blimpcast Number 5! RE-UP!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Sweet aged waiting for this week's RR

What do you listen to Thursdays Fridays while STILL waiting for the new topic?

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be ...

This post is inspired by so many things that I'm not sure where to start. I have to confess that it's at least partly about work avoidance - I've been off work all week (no particular reason) and I promised the younger MissToffee that I'd put down laminate flooring in her bedroom sometime this week. Well. it's Thursday, I'm out all day tomorrow and it ain't done yet ...

The immediate spur that made me want to share something with y'all was the following incident. I just opened a new packet of (warning: product placement) Kellog's Cornflakes (do I live for pleasure alone, I hear you ask) and I suddenly got that feeling of excitement that I used to get when there was the prospect of finding a small plastic figurine of some sort, buried deep within the packet. I experienced a warm glow that lasted for several seconds and then remembered that I'm a 48 year old man. But for a moment I was seven again.

And that reminded me of the line in Summertime about nostalgia:

Sittin' with your friends cause y'all reminisce
About the days growin' up and the first person you kissed
And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia

And that reminded me that Summertime would have been a good shout for this week's theme, if only for the "first person you kissed" line.

And with the weather we've been having in this part of the world this week, you can almost believe that summertime is here.

And do we really need an excuse to listen to Will Smith's finest hour?

Of course, it's always summertime on the 'Spill ...

Question: what sparks up your nostalgia?

Alternative question: what's your most treasured free gift?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two For Steenbeck

As mentioned in a prior comment - here we go Steen, these are for you..

(Video 1 also fits in with Soupus' post, I still know all the words to it, as I just proved to Mrs McF with some really bad rapping...)

Dig This

I have a new musical crush. (Although it's not new at all, it's at least a decade old, and it's hip hop, so some might say it's not musical.) It's the Digable Planets. Are you all laughing? They've been around forever--where have I been? I got one album today and liked it so much I got another. Is it a coincidence that in these two tracks they sample Tighten Up and an Eddie Harris track? It's all part of the 'Spill ebb and flow.

Found in the Video Store - Big Night (1996)

McFlah's, make notes.

This is the movie you should rent, purloine or otherwise procure by any means necessary. This movie fits your 'what should we rent?' parameters to a shiny little tee. Stanley Tucci's brilliant 'Big Night'. Definitely, one of sourpus's all time favorite flicks.

Spillers, also lend an ear.

If you have never heard the soundtrack album for this film - get it. Simple as.

There. I've stuck my neck out.

Musical Youth

You know that bit of text that someone (I'm assuming in the McFlah camp) puts at the top of the comment box? The one that usually says 'Spill it baby, Spill it' or somesuch? Well, that bit of text currently keeps triggering the very most powerful of formative memories for me:

'In West Philadelphia born and raised
On a playground was where I spent most of my days'

It reminds me, every time, of the one inalienable fact that I hold to be true of ALL English males of my generation - we know, each and every one of us, the full words, without hesitation, to two musical pieces:

1. The theme tune to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (played in its much less known full version here)
2. John Barnes' rap from 'World in Motion'.

I was bewteen 10 and 12 at the time both of these tunes became popular and I reckon that this is the time at which certain - often bizarre - lasting musical memories can most powerfully be created. I can also, if pressed, remember almost every word to 'Ice Ice Baby', but we'll leave that alone for now.

So I ask you, what sticks in your head from years gone by that you just can't (indeed won't) ever shift? Inexplicable, random, emotional or just plain odd, how does your brain work?

Altogether now, 'You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time...'

he will he will rock you

err, dunno how to make that a link like you whiz kids.

Anyway, some guy recorded Bohemian Rhapsody using only old PC bits. An HP ScanJet 3C fills in for Queen's Freddie Mercury on lead vocals, while a Texas Instrument TI-99/4a takes Brian May's job as lead guitar. Accompanying organ and piano is an Atari 800XL, and an 8-inch floppy disk replaces Jon Deacon on bass. Roger Taylor's percussion is meanwhile faithfully recreated by a 3.5-inch hard drive.

Like this

via Kanye's blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Radio Blah Blah

Have you ever bought an album purely off the strength of one single which you heard on the radio, took it home, listened only to that one track (maybe give or take a short blast of one or two of the others, just to check them out) and never taken the blessed thing down from the rack again?

This was one of mine, I remember: Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms by China Crisis and the song, Christian.

What's yours?

All That Jazz Part I: Variety

Last week I made a vague offer to take on the 'Album of the Week' slot at some point, with an album that might persuade some of the sceptics about the sheer wonderfulness of jazz. I've since been desperately trying to think of what album could possibly support such a reckless promise. After all, there are so many different reasons for disliking jazz, and so many different tastes in music displayed on this blog - how can one album address them all? I really ought to have kept my mouth shut.

And then, on Saturday night, somewhere in the middle of the third bottle of home-made cider, it came to me. Where to find great tunes for ToffeeBoy and Frog Princess, and wacky experimental stuff for Japanther and Shoey, and some heavy guitars for DarceysDad, and folky stuff for treefrogdemon and DebbyM? Not on any one jazz album - but in the whole history of jazz, certainly. And by the end of the fourth bottle, the idea of a series of posts on different aspects of jazz was more or less sketched out, and not even the risk of being compared with nilpferd's brilliant essays on Miles Davis records could deter me.

This isn't claiming to be a history of jazz, or a complete account of the genre. It's more like ToffeeBoy's pop music series, except that rather than focusing on different artists I'm going to be talking about themes or motifs, which will, I hope, add up to an impression - very much a personal impression - of what jazz is about. And if I spread the net wide enough, there will surely be something for more or less everyone in here somewhere...

That's the theme for this first selection: variety. All five of these tracks would normally be labelled jazz - even if some jazz fans might wish to deny that title to at least one of them. The issue of definition, of what is and isn't jazz (or is and isn't 'proper' jazz), of what limits can and should be set on what musicians do in the name of this music, has been argued over furiously for at least the last seventy-five years, if not longer. Almost any statement that one might make about jazz (even, perhaps, "jazz is a genre of music") could be disputed on the basis of a track produced by a jazz musician.

One response to this is to insist that, nevertheless, my definition of jazz is the true one, and everything that doesn't fit is therefore not proper jazz. Another is to develop looser and more flexible definitions; for example - as I'll be talking about in later posts - noting the importance of rhythm for jazz, rather than specifying a particular sort of rhythm. Another is to argue that the whole point of jazz is to question restrictions and to push beyond boundaries, so as soon as you try to 'define' jazz there will be a jazz musician wanting to probe that definition, question its limitations and turn it upside down...

Duke Ellington once remarked that he didn't know "how such great extremes as now exist can be contained under the one heading." These tracks are intended to illustrate that point (though I'm prepared for the possibility that, to a non-jazz fan, they may all sound rather similar): classic small groups to big bands and orchestras; traditional instruments to electronics and sound manipulation; almost free improvisation on classic tunes to carefully orchestrated compositions. The one thing all these tunes have in common, I think, besides the absence of vocals, is fun; a sense of the possibilities of music and sound, and of the joy of creation.

Sonny Rollins, Moritat (1956) - aka Mack the Knife
Colin Towns' Mask Orchestra, Dreaming Man in Blue Suede Shoes (1999) - Towns' main living is as composer of TV theme tunes and the like, but he's invested a lot of the profits in running his own big band and jazz orchestra to play his music
Emily Remler, Daahoud (1988) - cover of a classic Clifford Brown song
Food, Freebonky (2001) - British saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Hendriksen, in experimental mood
Guy Barker, Sounds in Black and White (2002) - inspired by 1940s film music, with each instrument playing a different character. The sections are: Opening Titles; The Guy (described, when I heard this live, as a Cary Grant type); The Girl (Ava Gardner); The Bad Guy; The Chase, The Romance and The End.

???????s of the Week

1. What author have you read most (which means not necessarily your favorite or the one you want people to think is your favorite)?

2. If you could pick a new first name for yourself, what would it be?

3. Since food is a recurring theme (I put on 10 pounds last week with all the snacking), what do you love that you thought you would hate?

4. Who is the first person you saw in real life after meeting online? (Feel free to elaborate or not depending on whether your partner is reading)

5. What is your favorite cause/appeal?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lost In The Video Store

Dear 'Spillers,
Faced with the 65,000 titles available on - we're struggling to find anything good to put on our rental list.
We would like a film that isn't too harsh or serious or gory or nasty in any way. 
We don't want anything too cheesy, hollywood or slushy.
No car chases, suitcases of money or guns. 
No Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise or Tom Selleck. 
No singing, sci-fi or gangsters.
Many thanks,
Mr & Mrs McFlah.

('Spill points on offer for the name of the film in the still above, and points for recommendations that go on our Lovefilm rental list.)

Album Of The Week: Enon - High Society

Well, Shane seemed to give me the green light, so I went ahead and nominated myself for AOTW...

Formed out of the ashes (literally - the singer died in a car crash) of cult US indie heroes Brainiac, Enon have been a staple on the Japanther stereo for several years now

Whilst hardly being 100% unique, Enon can be filed alongside Deerhoof and Blonde Redhead (in fact, singer Toko Yasuda used to be in Blonde Redhead) in your off-kilter-American-indie-band-with-Japanese-American-female-singer section. But for me, Enon have got the edge when it comes to memorable pop tunes and songwriting sensibility.

Released in 2002 on Touch 'N' Go Records "High Society" was their third album, but first with Toko on the mic. (and then not all the time) and for me, still their best. I love the unashamed poppiness, all round indie-ness and the boy-girl vocals give it that extra zip that makes them something of an American Delgados.

I managed to see them live in Shinjuku a few years ago and they had a real chemistry and understated star quality about them that made them instantly engaging and likeable.

Here's the obligatory (but rather sparse) Wiki:

and of course the MySpace:

Generic indie or pop genius? You decide.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Counting The Cost


OK, I'll admit up front that my own contribution on the day was pathetic: one purchase, three quid (although it was a Double Disc re-issue of REM's Green and Monster, so the VFM factor was high.)

But I did try to do my bit earlier in the week.

So here's to Radar Records of Huddersfield, for providing me with 12 albums, including two double CDs and a triple, for the princely sum of eighteen quid.

So ... Where did you go?

What did you spend? [Vulgar, DsD, vulgar! - Ed.]

What was your 'best' purchase? (Define that as you want.)


Saturday, April 18, 2009

I just chucked some songs on here for you...

don't listen too closely, I didn't really scan the words.. the cover.. oh I was doing something else so just knocked this one up.. do you like it?
see you around then.............

1 Ooberman (summer holiday early 80's come on Eileen #1 every sunday while we listened to the radio and compared bumps)
2 Her Space Holiday (in hospital not long after already reminiscing about lost innocence - good film references)
3 Stars (get drunk, end up in bed, accidentally fall in love.. it's the English way - that often goes wrong!)
4 Camera Obscura (why's she punching me? oh she's got the hots!)
5 Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (she gets a boyfriend - you can't compare ballgowns, happens all the time doesn't it lads)
6 Art Brut (for Japanther - let's all sing Ms Kanes name on buses)
7 Black Box Recorder (Football, then Music, then Girls go and ruin your easy life - Jarvis re-mix I think - lost the info)

First Day of the Holidays
Two Tin Cans And A Lenght of String
The First Five Times
Knee Deep At The NPL
I Love Creedence
Emily Kane
First Love

U.R.A.Q.T.E 2
1 Viva Voce (you can say so much with a mixtape without stumbling over your words)
2 Brakes (then you find that tape in a junk shop after all the effort you went to)
3 Ballboy (...picked over by parasites)
4 Jens Lekman (but you still have the A and B sides of the Vinyl)
5 Jens Lekman (and finally you meet the one in the middle of 3 Million people.. have babies.. eat pancakes.. dream of building eco houses together and try to stop wars)

Mixtape = Love
No Return
Songs for Kylie
At The Dept. Of Forgotten Songs
I Saw Her In The Anti War Demonstration

On the first day, God played a flat

On the blog today, ashenfacedsupremo noted of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks that In vinyl times the first side was entitled In The Beginning and the second side Afterwards and there is a feeling of a journey through life and even of death and re-birth.

Because this week's Album of the Week was a story and needed to be listened to in order, it had to have a Please Play in Order label.

Life in the digital age, I guess. Question is, does song order matter on an album anymore (indeed, did it ever honestly in most cases)? Do any of us play album tracks in order, or do we just listen to whatever order our media player chooses?

First Love

Norma's First Cut

A few from Steenbeck:
Sunshine by Lupe Fiasco

Friday, April 17, 2009

The favourite beach

Just killing time and wanted to give visual evidence of why this is my favourite beach


I was absolutely thrilled to read in the actual Guardian when I got home today that Marilyn Monroe by the Ian Campbell Folk Group was indeed in the 'Actors' A-list. On the offchance that you haven't heard this song, I'm giving it a post to itself - I'll do a First Love one later.

I used to frequent the folk club that was held every week at the Green Man in Potters Bar. It's the custom in folk clubs that 'floor singers', ie members of the audience who get up and do a song in the interval, get in for free, so I used to sing to them every week. The club's resident band (who were all men) decided that they needed a female singer and they asked me to be it! Unfortunately when I asked my mother she said no, because I was doing my O levels at the time.

But if I HAD joined the band I'd have sung this song often, because I learned it from them and they probably sang it every other week.

Marilyn Monroe

Who stole my words?

Hey 'Spillers, remember the post from earlier in the week, where I gushed about how excited I was about the new Silversun Pickups LP?

The post where I put up an mp3 to try and convince you that Silversun Pickups were bloody ace?

The post where I linked to their website, with the phrase "support the band by clicking here" ?

The post that was basically free and supportive publicity for a not-very-well known band that'll be read by about 10,000 readers, on an ad-free blog? 

Remember that post? 

It's gone.

Deleted by Google, due to infringing the copyright of others on a page hosted by them. Try and find it, it doesn't exist anymore, it's wiped out. 

Now what bothers me about this, isn't being pulled up for posting copyrighted material, but the way it has been handled. 
There is a disclaimer on the sidebar, that says "we don't own the music posted on this site, if you want anything removed, just ask"

Ask, and I will remove mp3s...not a problem. 

Just don't delete my writing, my words, my intellectual property - that belongs to me and now it doesn't exist anymore. 

Teenage Kicks

Teenage Kicks
Last Night I Dreamt
So Alive
Godards Girlfriend
Girl Is On My Mind
I Love You Like A Madman
Pin Up
Your Love
You Get Me
A Bang On The Ear

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Wings? Only the band the Beatles could have been..."

As an ex-pat Brit I try to do my bit to fly the flag for British culture. The bits that are worth flying the flag for, that is. While totally espousing and assimilating French and German culture too. Phew! And one thing I feel is worth defending is British TV comedy. There really is some classic, timeless stuff out there just waiting to be enjoyed. My current cruisade involves initiating my fellow Europeans into the joys of Alan Partridge. And I have to say they "get" him. Totally. One aquaintance quoted gleefully at me the other day from the scene where Alan is wearing unspeakable blue boxer shorts and his nether regions keep peeking out, much to the horror of Lynn, his assistant. Apparently he says to her "It's all right now Lynn, you can look - the boys are back in the barracks....." You need to have an excellent level of English to understand the gags, but for those who do, it's definately humour that crosses borders. I've just bought the entire boxed set and am loving seeing the stuff I never saw and reminding myself of the scenes I know. The favourite clip has to be the moment where he's in his caravan playing air bass to Gary Numan's "Music for chameleons". Never fails to raise a smile.

The link to music and indeed to Toffee's valiant defence of Coldplay is my current new obsession. Bear with me here because we get things a little later then you do. But I've discovered Elbow (they are on the brink, the cusp, nay the verge of becoming really big in France as opposed to Japan). If deezer plays the game, their album The seldom seen kid can be listened to here.

You'll hate me for saying this but.. (Alan Partridge Voice) "Elbow? They're only the band that Coldplay could have been...."

And the question: Favourite British comedy series - and why?

If those old black and white movies were true

I was going to post this before Actors came up.. thinking the subject of film, stars and celebrity had been exhausted....
I love the way song writers use the imagery from film to paint a picture in your minds eye of exactly what they are getting at.. and expecting you to understand the workings of film making at the same time...

It's not at all cut well and was going to have me talking about some of the songs too, but I can't work out the technology properly at the moment. There's about 33 different tracks all together and I'm guessing none of them got in any of the RR subjects.

But as Actors will be finished at midnight here is the rough cut.. I have many more subjects that I can do in the future!

Scene one..take one
Bill Bixby (interlude)
Scene one...take two


As I'm stuck at home with msdebbyjr and a ton of paper tissues, waiting for my lost voice to return (sorry, tin, I'm going all medical on you again), I thought I'd grab the chance to actually participate on this blog and post this week's instalment of five non-musical questions for you all.

1) Details of the first car you ever owned, please - colour, pet name, number of scratches on the driver's door...

2) Apologies to anyone forced to suffer an adolescence without a dress code imposed by their local education authority: what colour was your school uniform and do you EVER wear it now? (the colour, not the uniform - that's probably wishful thinking for most of us these days)

3) What would be your absolute culinary luxury? (see above for msdebbyjr's ketchup delight)

4) Your favourite beach, wherever in the world and for whatever reason (doesn't have to have anything to do with a holiday)

5) Do you prefer your socks plain or with a pattern?

It's not easy to think of questions that have nothing to do with music!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Need something to cure yourself of sourpus' earworm? Try this...

Honestly I don't mean to poke fun at Christian rock. It's the production design, It's the rug, it's the pink lighting, it's the fancy dance moves...

Coldplay (as I hear them)

By way of some kind of respectful but apposite response to Toffeeboy's blog below, I just have to post this song, which illustrates pretty perfectly my biggest (although not my only) obstacle to enjoying Coldplay.

Basically, I cant hear enough difference between this and that.

N.B. Severe ear worm warning - please be cautious when listening to this song.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Album of the Week: Aidan Moffat - I Can Hear Your Heart

We've got something a wee bit different for you this week. Garry Mulholland of The Observer described it thusly Sunday 20 January 2008:
I Can Hear Your Heart is a musical novel by former Arab Strap singer/lyricist Aidan Moffat about the adventures, regrets, and dark comedy of being a pissed, chaotic and promiscuous man in your mid-twenties.
There's no verse-chorus. No hooks. Virtually no beats. And most of it is spoken ... and no, not rapped ... in a hypnotic Falkirk sigh.
Now if those sounds more artsy than music, just give it a listen. I'm not much for poetry and performance art and all that, but this is a terrific record that really draws you in. And its fun.

Please play the tracks in order!!!!!!!

Obviously from the description above you kinda have to hear the whole thing; short stories aren't greatest hits from a novel. This one track will give you a good idea if you will like the whole bit or not though.
(It was one of Blimpey's early podcasts that started me down this road btw; I'd missed it first time around but mnemonic put all the RR podcasts she could find in dropbox and I listened to them .... er, and some promises were made by some people to record again soon and not been kept. Harumph)

The Twelve Tasks Of ToffeeBoy #3 – Coldplay

I knew I’d regret this. You see, when Hercules (or Heracles or whatever he wants to call himself) set about his (relatively straightforward, it has to be said) tasks, he didn’t have a full time to job to hold down at the same time. Or if he did, his boss (Zeus?) probably allowed him some sort of compassionate leave of absence. I have to admit that my memory of the story is a bit hazy here but I’m sure Abahachi will confirm that I’m on the right lines.

Anyway, my point is that I’m struggling to find the time to do this and I’m getting a bit behind – we’re already well into April and I’m only just posting the Third Task now. Of course I’ll keep going – I don’t want to disappoint my public – but please bear with me.

For those of you who haven’t been concentrating (and, shame on you), the idea of this supposedly-monthly feature is that I am attempting, by drawing your attention to a variety of musical artistes who fit the general description of Pop Music, to convince you (if you need convincing) that Pop Music can be great; it can be inspirational; it can be moving; it can change things and that the term should never be used disparagingly. There was much debate after the First Task about what exactly we understood by the term Pop Music which I attempted to summarise in the introductory text to the Second Task. I promised that in the Third Task I would look at some of the questions that had arisen so far but then, in response to a comment about Pop v. Popular, I was forced to jump the gun and turn the discussion to the following question:

Does pop music have to be popular? My initial answer to this was a big, fat, resounding ‘yes’ but I think I’ve changed my mind. The term ‘Pop Music’ is of course derived from ‘popular music’ but it gradually dawned on me (OK, ToffeeGirl pointed it out to me) that popular here doesn’t mean ‘lots of people like it’ but rather that it’s music that’s liked by ‘the people’ as opposed to ‘classical music’, which isn’t!

So, I really don’t think that popularity enters into the equation: it can be Pop Music even if I’m the only person on earth who knows, or indeed, likes it. Agreed?

Well? What do you think?

You’ll remember that the First Task featured Microdisney: I went right to the cool end of the pop spectrum with that particular choice but was then perhaps guilty of playing it safe with the Second Task and my selection of Everything But The Girl. I don’t think that the same accusation could be directed at me with this month’s (actually, last month’s) choice of Coldplay.

I’ve been an active member of the RR/Spill community for well over a year now and I’ve got an unbelievable amount of pleasure from listening to the diverse music recommended by the diverse bunch of regular posters both here and in the Other Place. Thanks to you lot I’ve discovered a new favourite band (The Decemberists): saneshane and frogprincess (to name but two) have regularly presented tasty new treats for me to check out (Over The Rhine and Midlake to name but two) and there’s frequently an unlooked-for gem waiting to get to know me each week. In fact, if anything, I find myself struggling to stay afloat in a sea of new music. I can’t say I’ve been won over by everything: I haven’t heard too much hip-hop/rap that’s convinced me I’m missing something, despite the concerted efforts of steenbeck and ejaydee (to name but two); I’ve heard some great jazz recommended by Abahachi and nilpferd (to name but two) but much of it has left me cold and as for DsD’s Drive By Truckers – well, let’s just say I’m not hitching a lift!

I realise that I’m getting dangerously close to the mortal sin of undonding here but I wanted to go down this path because I want to highlight an anomaly in our way of thinking and our collective behaviours. We wouldn’t all be here if it wasn’t for our love of music – and the beauty of the ‘Spill is the way that this love transcends our individual tastes so we can talk about the music that we love without fear of being attacked for doing so. The moral is, if you like it, say so, if you don’t, shut up. And as a rule, this works very well.

So why is it that this band are seen as fair game? Why do people hate Coldplay and, more importantly, why do they feel that it’s OK to hate them? And why do they inspire such open hostility in the first place? I seriously want to know. Surely there are more deserving targets than Chris Martin and Coldplay? Wouldn't we prefer people to be listening to Coldplay (or Keane, Aqualung, The Kooks etc.) than, to pick an example at random, sugar-coated Europop?

For the record, I wouldn’t describe myself as a big Coldplay fan. I really liked the first album (Parachutes) and I bought the second (A Rush Of Blood To The Head) as soon as it was released. After that, I went a little cold on them (I didn’t buy the third album (X&Y)) but my interest in their music has been rekindled recently with the release of Viva La Vida which I would rate as one of the best pop songs of the last few years.

So, here we have a small selection of Coldplay songs – I’m sure you know them all anyway so try to listen to them, if you listen to them at all, with an open mind. Try to hear them for the first time and detach yourself from any preconceptions you might have. Listen to the music, listen to the lyrics and if you still feel you hate them, please tell me why! If your first reaction on seeing this post was "Get this filth off my 'Spill", please let me know why you feel the way you do - I can take it!

Oh, and if you buy one Coldplay album, buy Parachutes.Links
Official site
Official myspace site