Tom Ewing

8
Mar 18

I Used The NME

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sugarpuffins My NME was rubbish. I wasn’t there for the underground press invation, or for the Titanic sailing, or the Kinderbunker. I missed the post-structuralist years. I never read about Youth Suicide. I was even too late for C86. My NME was go-karting with the Senseless Things and Birdland covers.

Because I read every word of it, my NME was also fantastic. I read, and tried to understand, the Orbit column about dance music. I pushed my way through Jungle Brothers reviews and double-page Tone Loc interviews, and gradually pieced together the bones of an appreciation of hip-hop, at least on paper. I read interviews with old warhorses, never-weres, no-hopers. I turned lines from reviews over in my mind, trying to translate them into the investment – or not – of £5.49 at Our Price. I insisted on spending my holiday pocket money on a Stone Roses cassingle from the Arndale Centre in Manchester, because it was the Arndale Centre in Manchester. I taped and retaped Peel. I told myself I cared about go-karting.

1
Mar 18

2018 Music Diary Week 8: The Week Of The East

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fischerspooner sir

Day 52: FISCHERSPOONER – Sir: Compelling, in a glum sort of way – meandering, thoughtful synth-pop outlining the late-night territories where desire, and weariness, and resentment of desire, and resentment of weariness, all run together.

23
Feb 18

2018 Music Diary Week 7: The Week Of Unsettlement

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This is late, and brief, as I’ve been in France helping my parents as my Dad’s been ill.

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tal national

Day 43: TAL NATIONAL – Tantabara: Pell-mell afro/jazz/rock from Niger, teetering on the line between exciting and exhausting. Everything sounds on the verge of shaking itself to pieces like a speeding jalopy, but this is, of course, a bluff, and the band well know how far they can take things. Found via a Rolling Stone albums list.

15
Feb 18

2018 Music Diary Week 6: The Week Of Wakanda

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sekundenschlaf

Day 36: тпсб – Sekundenschlaf: Philip Sherburne’s Pitchfork review goes in deep on the enjoyably ridiculous backstory of this dude, how these are supposedly found tracks from the hard drive of a PC from the Chernobyl isolation zone or some such, but multiple listens revealed this as an album for which such frippery can easily be forgiven. Broody, bare-wired ambient rumbles and surly beats in the (superior) first half, crude but effective retro-rave in the second. Good stuff. Found via a ‘if X then Y’ Spotify link where X was (I think) fellow German techno revivalist Nadia Struiwigh.

11
Feb 18

DARIUS – “Colourblind”

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#932, 10th August 2002

9107BD35-B240-405A-9FD3-5D696EB34B86 Such was the grip of Pop Idol on the singles-buying imagination that two winners weren’t enough – bronze medalist Darius Danesh got a career too. But “Colourblind” is not just a participation medal. In Darius we see not one but two of the classic reality pop tropes make their appearance. First of all – in his note-strangling debut on the Popstars series, wrestling “Baby One More Time” to the ground like prehistoric man tackling an aurochs, there’s the Freak: the terrible performer armoured in their own self-confidence who we indulge because we want to see what on earth they’ll do next.

There’s little question that if the public had been given any say in things we’d have seen more from Darius in Popstars. But by the time they got a chance to vote for him and carry him to third place in Pop Idol, he’d reinvented himself to fit the second trope, the Artist: the figure who is Actually Talented but who must yet put themselves through the circus of a singing competition to gain recognition. “Colourblind”, fittingly, was a self-penned composition he’d been ‘working on’ before Pop Idol. (Actually this is entirely believable – its procession-of-colours lyric certainly feels like the kind of solid but banal structure a beginning songwriter might try.)

5
Feb 18

2018 Music Diary Week 5: The Week Of Lassitude

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john surman

Day 29: JOHN SURMAN – Invisible Threads: Pastoral, ruminative jazz from an English composer and saxophonist. Very much a set of mood pieces, it seems to me, whose folky calm is upended at one point by a much brisker cover version. Chosen because a write-up of his 1971 debut appealed to me, but it’s not on Spotify, and as a point of principle I try and check out new work by people I don’t know if it’s there. Glad I did. “The Admiral” is a good sample of its mellow pleasures.

4
Feb 18

Read Harder Challenge (3 of 24): DATURA

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Datura, or a Delusion We All SeeDatura, or a Delusion We All See by Leena Krohn

(Read as part of the Book Riot Readharder challenge 2018. Category: A single-sitting book.)

An anonymous woman in an anonymous (though clearly Nordic) city receives a flower for her birthday. She begins dosing herself with its seeds, to help her asthma. At the same time, she takes a job working for The New Anomalist, a magazine devoted to the uncanny and paranormal, whose publisher is always looking for a fresh (and profitable) angle. Datura is told as a series of vignettes – disordered notes, according to the narrator – of encounters with the uncanny. Some are under the aegis of the magazine – but others, increasingly, seem to be spontaneous, and the notes grow less and less reliable…

1
Feb 18

GARETH GATES – “Anyone Of Us (Stupid Mistake)”

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#931, 20th July 2002

gates anyoneIf you’re going to apologise for infidelity, “it could happen to anyone” is not the best starting point, but in its very callowness this is a much more suitable song for Gareth Gates than any of the other stuff he was handed. Gates’ selling point – the reason he’d almost won – was his teen idol innocence, a perception of naivety which gave the tabloids a stereotype-fuelled field day when he had a fling with Katie Price.

31
Jan 18

Read Harder Challenge (2 of 24): HORTUS VITAE

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Hortus Vitae: Essays On The Gardening Of LifeHortus Vitae: Essays On The Gardening Of Life by Vernon Lee

(Read as part of the 2018 Read Harder challenge. Category: A book of essays.)

Vernon Lee, pseudonym of Violet Paget, was an essayist, story writer, and aesthete active in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. She’s not quite forgotten now – there’s a Vernon Lee society with its own journal – but her essays come quite low down the list of things people remember about her. She’s better known for her supernatural fiction, her feminism and pacifism, and her theories of psychology and aesthetics – she was one of the first people in English to use the word “empathy”.

29
Jan 18

2018 Music Diary Week 4: The Week Of Peel

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first aid kit ruins

Day 24: FIRST AID KIT – Ruins: Slickly produced, occasionally countrified, notes on romantic disappointment by a pair of Swedish sisters who sing with a Nordics-meet-Nashville twang. There’s nothing off-putting or irritating about this record, and several tracks hide a melodic twist which rouses me into brief attention. But that’s about it.