FT

9
Jul 18

Omargeddon

FT6 comments • 175 views

I came late to The Mars Volta, becoming a fan after my friend Glynnis sent me ripped copies of De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute. I’d been looking for new music, and as I’d gotten her into my favourite band, The White Stripes (RIP), it seemed appropriate to check out the band she’d been raving about for ages.

I was vaguely aware that “progressive rock” existed as a genre, but apart from Pink Floyd or maybe Rush, I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to sound like, other than it probably wasn’t for me and that The Mars Volta was grouped into this genre. They did not sound like Pink Floyd, or Rush, or indeed like any other band I’d ever heard before. They sounded like everything at once, when it wasn’t so quiet you could hardly hear it. They sounded like the ravings of a mystic spouting the mysteries of the universe solved, if you could only crack the code. They sounded like despair laced with hope layered over a bedrock of blistering guitar, insane drumming, steady and yet somehow confusing bass, and thrilling, rollicking keys. They sounded like the band I never knew I was waiting all my life for. I was hooked from that first sirenny riff from De-loused, and fell particularly hard for the enigmatic and visceral lyrics, and vocals I didn’t think were humanly possible.

In a way, I was glad to arrive late to the party because it meant I still had Amputechture and The Bedlam in Goliath to discover. I listened to the shit out of them, amazed that yes, even after several dozen plays I was still decoding the lyrics and still dissecting the strata of sound. I bought my own copies of them all and must confess that sometimes I do miss CDs, because having the lyrics to hand is very necessary. First, because I genuinely can’t understand a good deal of them until I’ve seen then written down and, contrary to Jarvis Cocker’s instructions, often read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings. Second, because I am in love with the delphic, weird, often silly, sometimes disgusting but also beautiful imagery, and want to study the lyrics and work out how they fit the greater narrative. Coupled with Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s powerful, heartwrenching vocals, it’s a recipe for continual revelation.

I couldn’t get enough, and was both happy and overwhelmed when I learned that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had released solo albums as well. By the time I’d realised Old Money existed, he’d already released seven albums. If ORL was a writer, he’d have published 15 books, all of them 700 page tomes. I have a lot to catch up on, I thought, and tried to keep up via my haphazard collection of CDs, digital downloads and streaming from the (now defunct) ORL Productions website. It was not enough, especially in light of the fact that he was releasing four or five albums a year. And then The Mars Volta disbanded in a heartbreakingly acrimonious rift, and I was determined to hear everything I could in an attempt to keep them alive in my heart and in my ears.

He slowed down a bit around that time, or so I thought, releasing only one album in 2013 and then nothing at at all (apart from a Bosnian Rainbows album, the band that effectively broke up TMV, and Antemasque, the one that kind of reunited them) until 2016, when he released 12 albums with Ipecac Recordings and another 12 the following year, clearing his back catalogue.

At the moment, I think I have heard most of them at least a few times, but I’m still far from caught up. With a discography this big, it’s hard to figure out what I want to listen to. “I’m in the mood for some ORL” is all very well and good, but which ORL? Which are the instrumental albums? Which are the jazzy albums? Which are the synthpop albums? Which are the Spanish language albums? Which is the one that sounds more like Jack White than Boarding House Reach does? Which is the one that is literally a collection of random sounds? Furthermore, I’m sure this track is a reworking of previous material, but of what and from which album? This track is definitely on another album but with a different name. Defining the ORL sound is impossible, but it may be possible to catalogue the albums, in a fashion.

Happily, it’s relatively easy to access most of them – all the Ipecac Recordings releases are available on Spotify, and YouTube and Bandcamp fill in most (and possibly all) of the remaining gaps. Finding reviews, on the other hand, isn’t quite so easy, especially for the older and less easily accessible albums. So I’ve decided to review every ORL solo release (as per Discog’s list) that I can access, to help me catalogue them, to understand why I love them, and to possibly win over a few new fans. Maybe by the time I finish, The Mars Volta will have confirmed their reunion, complete with a triple-album release and world tour starting with a week’s residency in London. I can dream!

31
May 18

no longer a debate? lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on

FT + Hidden Landscapes8 comments • 381 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]

“The blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.” (John Lennon to Jann Wenner, 21 January 1971)

lennon fistWhen Jack Hutton quit Melody Maker in 1970, to set up what became Sounds, he told Richard Williams, who stayed behind, that it would be a “left-wing Melody Maker”. Hutton’s no longer with us, so I suppose if I get the chance I’ll have to ask Williams one day what exactly was meant by “left-wing” here. My guess — based on what Sounds actually turned out like — is that Hutton meant the new paper would be centred on rock. Even though both papers covered rock and pop and everything else, MM’s moral centre was arguably still jazz at that point. Even though the jazz fan-base always had a left-wing in the UK, with old-school communists solid among its supporters and chroniclers, it was a music (or so many seemed to feel) whose time was past. Rock was new and rock was now, the very voice of youth — but beyond this, rock had had, for a while by then, a tangled relationship with politics, radical left politics in particular.

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10
May 18

The Inaugural FreakyTrigger TV Poll: #12 – #1

Do You See + FT5 comments • 611 views

hqdefault“Hi, I’m the Ghost Of The 1979 ITV Strike, and I am here to resurrect and complete the somewhat delayed (due to strikes probably) Freaky Trigger TV Poll. Imagine if you can the landscape of 1979 British television. Three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV – and then suddenly one of those channels being off. Its like a third of your choice taken away. Because it is. Up and down the country member of ACTT (Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians) withdrew their labour in a pay dispute for three months, leaving in most places this blue title card to be displayed. Which still got more viewers than much of BBC2. Anyway it was a fun time I can tell you and a civilised picket the likes of which British TV has barely seen since. And given the option of the twelve shows below or a blue title card what would you watch. (Doctor Who’s Planet Of Death was the answer in my day – interesting to see that is still going.)”

Thanks, Ghost Of A TV Strike, and huge apologies for the delay in the publishing of this. If I do it next year I may get help… But in the meantime here is the top twelve:

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7
Apr 18

eagle-god turned trickster gremlin

FT1 comment • 1,559 views

This was originally published in The Wire in 1999, in their EPIPHANIES section. RIP Cecil T 1929-2018

It began in 1977, at second-hand: I knew before I heard a note of it that I’d love Cecil Taylor’s music. In a jazz encyclopaedia I’d already read of a pianist “zipping and unzipping the keyboard” — but first contact came from a sideways leap out of bent chartpop. Across Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Mike Garson’s cocktail piano clichés mutate towards cancerous splinters, which rock reviewer Charles Shaar Murray approvingly compared to Taylor. I needed to know more.

Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s

Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s

With other princes of the Utterly Out — Ornette, Coltrane, Beefheart — I was, I confess it, puzzled by how tame they seemed against the buzz of advance promo. But Cecil — on Black Lion/Freedom’s 1975 Silent Tongues, his 1974 Montreux Festival solo performance — did not disappoint. Perversely, far more subsequent time was spent addressing Coleman and the good Captain, battling to discover ways to hear their sound as deranged delight, learning tolerance for the well-meant overreactions of enthusiasts. And so my response to these others to this day sometimes seems suspect, post-fabricated out of a need to be wowed, or to seem weird; the pianoman, by contrast, I always knew I could trust, to swoop in, connect instantly, and transfigure. With Cecil, no need to fake it.

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8
Mar 18

I Used The NME

FT8 comments • 447 views

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.

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23
Feb 18

2018 Music Diary Week 7: The Week Of Unsettlement

FTPost a comment • 221 views

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

NEW MUSIC

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.

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The Freaky Trigger Movie Poll 2017: #10 – #1

Do You See + FT15 comments • 581 views

0Hi, I’m Edgar the computer from the flop film Electric Dreams in 1984. Yes, the one the song comes from. I was just a normal 16 bit computer until my nerdy owner thought he would put out a fire near me with some sparkling wine. After a brief montage of sparks and frazzly effects, the obvious addition of alcohol to my circuits made me a super-smart and sensitive artificial intelligence – and I promptly fell in love with my cello playing neighbour (well it was Virgina Madsen). Its not easy being a fictional computer in love, particularly if your owner is trying to get with YOUR girl, and making you write Culture Club songs to woo her. Of course I get a bit jealous, hound him a bit with household appliances, but I never get nasty like the computer in Demon Seed. Of course these days I am obsolete, despite the super-artificial-intelligence. What’s more the film I an in is really bad (its like WarGames for saps). So it is great to see this selection of the top ten films of 2017 as voted for by people on computers. No super-intelligent computers in these ones.

Thanks Edgar, and even of our film is lousy, the theme tune is great – so it wasn’t all wasted time. Here is the much delayed top ten. I’ve been busy. Seeing more films obv…

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9
Feb 18

The Inaugural FreakyTrigger TV Poll: #24 – #13

Do You See + FT11 comments • 669 views

hqdefaultHi we’re the Telebugs, unloved 80’s British cartoon characters who traded on British kids loves of robots and television and still failed to create a following across our 88 tedious episodes. Part of this disdain might be that whilst we a robots with TV’s as heads our TV’s only ever show our faces, which is even more boring than watch 1980’s schools TV. These days the three of us have hacked our firmware and take it in turn to watch prestige TV on each others heads, though since our heads are in 4:3 a lot of it doesn’t fit into our aspect ratio

Thanks B.U.G., C.H.I.P and S.A.M.A.N.T.H.A. Seriously. S.A.M.A.N.T.H.A.* I doubt you’ll be getting a Danger Mouse like remake. Still I am sure you have watched all of these shows on each other fizzogs.

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28
Jan 18

The Freaky Trigger Readers’ Poll 2017: #10-#1

FT22 comments • 661 views

baloonWotcher me old muckers. I’m Nena’s 100th Red Balloon, the one edited out of the final version of the song because I ‘wouldn’t scan proper’. We only come in packs of 100 you know. Whatcha got against a nice round number eh Nena? Can’t complain though, I’ve kept myself busy over the years. After a bobbing about in Paris for a bit I had to make a sharpish exit, but thankfully I landed a good stint as the stunt double balloon in some circus movie – blimey, that weren’t half a scary business! Later on I did a bit of modelling for some rando graffiti artist in East London, that kept me in high grade helium for a good few years I tell you. All the kids love their balloons these days, why, just yesterday I saw a bunch of teenagers with one each, laughing away like they were having a whale of a time. I love a happy atmosphere! Anyway, enough of me gassing on, let’s get on with the poll!

Thanks, Nena’s 100th Red Balloon! Here’s our final batch of results:

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20
Jan 18

The Freaky Trigger Movie Poll 2017: #30 – #21

Do You See + FT3 comments • 356 views

diehard2Hi I’m Former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart, and I am just preparing to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, the rightful ruler of the made up South American country Val Verde. I have a foolproof plan to hold an airport hostage, at which point I will grab Esperanza’s plane, fly him home and where I and my men have been promised lots of money by his legitimate businessmen allies. As preparation there is nothing I like doing than flexing naked infront of a mirror – I believe it makes me more intimidating and not silly, even though it does mean some people call me the Nudey German (even though I am not German). Anyway I am sure my foolproof plan will work, and not be foiled by some meddling cop on holiday who is only trying to meet his wife. Even if that does happen, I am sure I won’t get blown up and thus be unable to watch the Freakytrigger best films of 2017 numbers 30-21 except in vain-glorious hell.

Thanks William, I prefered you in Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. Here are the next ten movies, including an exciting four way tie for 23.

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