15
Dec 18

Omargeddon #5: Cryptomnesia

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This is the cover art for the album Cryptomnesia by the artist El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Rodriguez Lopez Productions, or the graphic artist(s). (for the picture description as per fair use terms).Most Omar Rodriguez-Lopez albums are released under his name, but there a few variations: El Trío de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quartet, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet, and when touring, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, (though Woman Gives Birth to Tomato! was also released under this name). And then there’s El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the least literal and most tongue-in-cheek of them all.

Omar’s “new group” consisted of himself, Juan Alderete, Zach Hill, Jonathan Hischke, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. He may just as well have called it “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Mars Volta!” and in many ways, it’s the Volta album everyone was expecting but didn’t get with “acoustic pop album” Octahedron, released the same year. Cedric admitted it himself, noting “if anyone’s bummed that Octahedron is too simple or too pop, they can buy [this] album and it’ll take them right back to that [heavier] kind of sound. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever worked on. It’s pretty much a Mars Volta record, just without Thomas [Pridgen], Ikey [Owens], and Marcel [Rodriguez-Lopez].”

When I listen to Cryptomnesia, which is fairly often, I feel like I’m snuggled in a beloved, decade-old Fair Isle knit jumper covered with intricate, brightly coloured patterns. Unfortunately, it’s also very itchy in places, to the point where I have to rip it off and stash it away for a while. And then I remember how pretty and warm it is, so I eventually come back to it.

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7
Dec 18

when the gang chooses you: or how the
puffin club turned me into a punk rocker

Hidden Landscapes3 comments • 119 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

This is a lightly edited extract from a piece I wrote for Frank Kogan’s fanzine WHY MUSIC SUCKS (#11, pub.June 1997). The topic was “My First Record”; some of the tone is me not quite sure at that time who I am as a writer any more, especially in this context. All the square-bracket interpolations and footnoted annotations are new.

[…] The first LP I bought was almost certainly Slapp Happy’s Slapp Happy [in 1976]. It was on bargain offer in a local shop, and I remember the grins on the faces of the shop girls when I took it off their hands. But it was very nearly – which would have been hilarious – Metal Machine Music, which was in the same bargain bin. For some reason I decided against MMM. I think that I decided it was too popular: or – since this makes no sense – that someone I knew would have bought it, so I didn’t need to.

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2
Dec 18

The Freaky Trigger Readers’ Poll 2018

FT2 comments • 150 views

Greetings, I am the renowned, cross-eyed clairvoyant, Mystic Meg. I’m here, to predict, in a deliberately awkward intonation, that the numbers 3826546, and i, and the colour “bergerac”, will be impoooortant. People who stock up on olives, and loo paper, and prosecco, will be lucky in the post-Brexit bartering economyyyyyy. If you doubt, the accuracy, of my prognosis, then you can take it up with the Broadcasting Standards Authorityyyyyy.

Thanks Mystic Meg. The Freaky Trigger 2018 poll is now open!

Rules are copied and pasted from last year:

– Choose up to 20 of your favourite tracks of 2018. I am extremely unlikely to check release dates, but if one of your choices appeared in last year’s poll, I’ll get in touch and ask you to choose another track.
– If you don’t have 20 tracks then 10 or 3 or even 1 is fine.
– If you like, put them in order (#1 will get more points than #20), otherwise I’ll assign them a random order.
– Email them to poptimistspoll2010@gmail.com by 23.59pm GMT on 31st December.
– If you are reading this, you are eligible to vote!

Bonus orgafun: tell us one (1) album you enjoyed in 2018. These won’t be ranked, I’ll just post the list of everyone’s choices at the end.

That’s your lot! Feel free to plug your own picks in the comments.

4
Nov 18

Omargeddon #4: Weekly Mansions

FT1 comment • 83 views


I’ve been stuck in a funk of late. Sadly, not a George Clinton-flavoured funk, but a stank, stuck funk of my own making. My compulsive need to trace the original sources for all the revised riffs, beats, and samples that crop up in later Omar Rodriguez-Lopez projects has proved a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be fairly difficult. And yet, I deluded myself into thinking it would all fall into place. It is, but at a frustratingly glacial pace, and I’m growing resigned to the fact that my attempt to construct an orderly timeline is a fool’s errand.

This is the album that made me want to track this path in the first place. Released in late 2016 on the Ipecac Recordings label as part of Omar’s 24-album back catalog catch-up, Weekly Mansions feels both soothingly familiar and brand-new. Many of the albums in this series can (sort of) be easily identified as a complete album remixed and reimagined; this feels like a bridge linking the more guitar-driven and distortion-fuzzed earlier releases via a silky thread of instrumental segues and sound manipulation. If this were an aural equivalent to a magic eye poster, I’d gaze into it crosseyed, hoping for an optical illusion of The Mars Volta to appear.

Dubbed “an eclectic exploration of neo-electro-dance”, it’s a totally guitar-free collaboration between Omar and his brother Marcel (aka Eureka The Butcher), which positively heaves with bleepy joy. I would fervently press it into the hands of all my friends, were a physical edition available. Such is my deep and abiding love for it that I rate it as highly as I do Old Money, and I do not say that lightly.

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26
Oct 18

the other kind of industrial

Hidden LandscapesPost a comment • 501 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Like many teenagers in the UK 40+ years ago, my non-school culture was basically two things: the music weeklies and strikes. One time my late colleague Steven Wells was reviewing a biography of Richard Branson for NME (Mick Brown’s I assume, published in 1988). “The 70s were a bad time for strikes,” said the book. No! wrote Swellsy, angrily and hilariously, the 70s were a BRILLIANT time for strikes. Management wrong, workers right, the side without resources flexing its collective muscle, the three-day week, no electricity for days on end, no one clears away the rubbish or even the dead… sorry, but for any distrustful, easily distracted young person this was all just great, as well as perfectly and morally correct.

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19
Sep 18

“ITES, REEL”

FT + Hidden LandscapesPost a comment • 287 views

Being a melancholy appreciation on his passing of this nation’s pioneering reggae writer: the great PENNY REEL

“Sing great song, down inna Babylon, show them your culture, down inna Babylon”
— ‘M.P.L.A.’, Tapper Zukie

It was October 1978, and the NME interview-feature was titled ‘The Keith Hudson Affair: A Dread Tale’. It was written by Penny Reel, it was about this same singer-producer, Keith Hudson — who had of course worked with Ken Boothe, John Holt, Delroy Wilson and King Tubby’s toaster-DJ U-Roy, as well as Big Youth — and it launched into itself as follows:

“ONE NIGHT I AM standing outside the Jamaican pattie shop in Portobello Road partaking of the same when a car pulls up on the street and from it emerge certain characters from Kilburn by the name of Militant Barrington, Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey, which is by no means an unusual combination to see, as these are very intimate idren and frequently keep each other’s company, except that now there is a fourth person with them in the rear approach, one known as King Saul.

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6
Sep 18

BLAZIN’ SQUAD – “Crossroads”

Popular30 comments • 2,265 views

#934, 31st August 2002

If Blazin’ Squad had never existed, would it have been necessary to invent them? You suspect record labels would have given it a so-solid try: a hydra-headed rapping crew, but full of youthful good looks and free of nasty predelictions? Too good to resist, at least in this weird, early-00s phase where it’s equally clear that the public want to buy rap records (maybe even British ones!) and the labels don’t have much idea what will or won’t cross over.

In fact, before I did my research, I assumed Blazin’ Squad were ‘manufactured’. Now I’d prefer to call it ‘sculpted’ – from the marble of an eager bunch of North London schoolfriends somebody carved this hit cover. Why “Crossroads”, though? A proven earworm; a familiar chorus and a structure with plenty of space for voices to gather and mingle.

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30
Aug 18

how not to write about jazz, probably

FT + Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 482 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

A week or three back, my old ilxor pal Kerr put up a list of jazz genres on FB and asked his followers who could define them. And bcz we’re dicks, we gave him a dusty answer (mine, in full, was “I can!”). We played mean games; we suggested he google. And so he did — fair play — and of course the joke was on us, bcz the results (wikipedia!) were terrible, full of error and sententious assumption. Some true claims — especially in the endless lists — mixed in with much confused nonsense and (wikipedia!) inapposite citation.

My dusty answer wasn’t just about being a dick: Kerr’s question had landed right on top of something that’s bothered me for decades. Which is why people often write so badly about jazz — including people who know a lot about it (a lot more than me anyway). They can get the facts right — the chords, the analysis — but then miss the point. They write well about the players’ lives and character, and about the feel. But when they write about what the musicians actually think they’re doing, and think about what they’re doing, it all goes cock-eyed and dull — as if being fully conversant with musical technique and terminology acts as some kind of huge mental block.

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26
Aug 18

Omargeddon #3: Octopus Kool Aid

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It would be inaccurate to say Octopus Kool Aid passed me by, but by the time I learned of its existence, I was too depressed about The Mars Volta’s breakup and too ready to blame this album for causing it. It’s only been recently that I’ve taken the time to appreciate its impact on Omar’s music.

Octopus Kool Aid features lyrics and vocals by Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes, and working with her on this album reawakened Omar’s appreciation for true collaboration. Somewhere along the line, they formed Bosnian Rainbows. Omar decided to put The Mars Volta on hiatus to focus on recording and touring with his shiny new side project. This royally cheesed off Cedric Bixler-Zavala; the two of them snipped bitchily at one another via social media, which was both unfortunate and deeply awkward. TMV’s hiatus became an official break-up in early 2013, and there didn’t appear to be any going back. Cedric’s subtweet “What am I suppose [sic] to do be some progressive house wife that’s cool with watching their partner go fuck other bands? We owe it 2 fans to tour” makes me cringe-laugh, but it’s clear that he felt betrayed personally and on behalf of Volta fans.

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19
Aug 18

Incoming Content!

FTPost a comment • 84 views

Hello everyone!

This is just to say that the Pop World Cup and Popular will be back in September*. Thanks for waiting and huge apologies for disappearing – family health and work issues have taken their toll (again).

*very possibly before! But I’m not going to promise anything earlier.