Monday, 23 April 2007

Your Eyes Are the Sun

Electronica is a very vague term- some would say it's fairly self-explanatory, others wave their genre cleaver and yell things like "NO NO THAT'S IDM." OR "THAT'S JUST A POP SONG WITH SOME BLEEPS IN IT." I'm not really a fan of genres, historical context aside, and even that can be wildly open to debate. The media (including that saviour/villain of modern music, the internet) is extremely prone to slapping stupid titles on things and manufacturing scenes that don't actually exist. So I prefer to use very loose terms to describe different families of modern mainstream(ish) music- pop, rock (a ludicrously large category), soul, funk, metal, hip-hop (essentially the innovation of rapping and sampling, borne out of funk and soul) and finally electronica.

It's easy to forget how quickly computers have infiltrated music, both in the way we listen to it and the process of making it in the first place. Electronica is a category dedicated to music in which computers have been integral to its creation. Distinct from the turntable and other manual editing techniques, using a computer to deconstruct blocks of music and then reassemble them into something new is a mindboggling task, as anyone who has fannied about with Audacity can testify.

Some people have already got the hang of these new techniques and my current favourite is a guy called James Vella, known hereafter as A Lily. There's only one album around at the moment, mostly because this is really a side-project. He pays the rent- well, it probably helps a little next to some kind of day job or dreaded shift pattern, perhaps too ambitious in this post-rocknroll world (yes, the ROKNROLLDRUGSNPARTIESNGROUPIESWOOOOO reverie is just that these days. Whether it was ever anything apart from a brief glimpse at paradise for a small cluster back then is worth discussing elsewhere.) to say bills are paid by recording and touring- playing guitar in Yndi Halda.*

There are two interesting things about this album, titled Wake: Sleep. The first is the mixture of organic instrumentation like guitars, pianos and homemade percussion with the usual bleeps, swoops and gurgles that distinguish electronica from more traditional genres. The second is the concept behind it. As you'll see in the interview (linked at the bottom), he wrote the music entirely for his girlfriend. Every note, rhythm and squelch was lovingly crafted for her enjoyment. It's not explicit (no dirty samples, you sick perverts) when you hear it, as although a few pieces employ his hushed vocals, there is no stomach-turning narrative of how much they weally wuv eech ovah.

If you're looking for pop hits with obnoxious noises blasted in at inappropriate moments, you'll be disappointed, though I'd question whether you'll find much of interest in this blog in the first place. It works best as a complete piece of music- even the extremely testing 30+ minute final track, The Shipwreck. I've included two tracks from the nine that Wake: Sleep offers in order to give you an idea of what to expect. As Simon sagely noted in the previous post, it's absolutely vital that people understand how music is funded- writing, recording and especially touring require time off work and a spider's web of payment. The proverbial fly is you, the listener/audience member. Everything worthwhile in music begins when somebody gets enthusiatic about a song, band or gig.

Sadly, as I'm increasingly finding while trying to delve further into less obvious music, it's very difficult to get hold of this album in Britain. In fact, Amazon (never mind the High Street) don't stock it- not even in the Marketplace! Finally, the third track is a cheeky treat discovered in a secluded corner of Myspace.




A Lily- I Am To You [Track 1 of Wake: Sleep]

A Lily- Aeriels Quiet And Death-Defying [Track 5 of Wake: Sleep]

A Lily- A Song For Ron Mental And Sidney Bishop [unreleased]


A Lily Myspace

More obscure A Lily stuff, definitely worth hearing!

A Lily on Last.FM

A Lily interview, on the site of his US distributor

Wake:Sleep from Dotshop, the best value for UK folk (in Swedish Kroner, currency fans)


* It's my party and I'll write ridiculously convoluted multi-claused sentences if I want to do so.


Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Eastern European Dance Parties

In advance, please forgive me for a rather contemplative and reflective entry... I won’t do it again…

I felt that at some point the name of the blog should be explained to those not in the know; it’s the title of a 65daysofstatic song. Radio Protector was an obvious choice when I named the blog - it references the role I see blogging playing in the media, blogs protect our right to listen to music to see if we like it before we buy it.

(65daysofstatic, pretending to be homeless at the multiplex)

Just the same as a track on the radio is to encourage you to buy an album, this blog (and indeed most music blogs) is there to hopefully make you go out and buy an album. A single. An EP. A vinyl. Maybe take in a live show sometime. I feel the need to stress that this isn’t free music - this is taster music.

Starting this blog we signed up to Google Analytics so we could track interest in the blog. We don’t actually know who any of you kind readers are, but we know which cities and countries you live in. Hello to, among many…

  • Los Angeles
  • Manila
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Amsterdam
  • Washington
  • Vilanova De Segria
  • Loads of Finnish places. Oddly

There’s too many to list over the past few weeks, but I’m glad you’ve all stopped by and taken a look. We’re Scottish, if you’re from far away leave a comment, it interests me!

A lot of stuff that we can track interests me. Most importantly, we know what tracks you download from us and how often. In short we know what you enjoy, or at least we’re getting there.

But with regards to the name, Radio Protector it is then. My reflection period is over.

Now the music…

65daysofstatic are a glitch-rock / math-rock / post-rock (delete as you deem appropriate) four piece from England. Their blend of instruments and samples is sometimes beautiful, sometimes powerful, and often just damn loud. In a good way.

Honestly, I must have seen this band a few times live by now, and every time I’ve left thinking “christ, that was loud”. That said, it’s in 65dos’ more tender moments that their true talent shines through - the pianos / keyboards, building like Newborn by Muse for want of a better comparison, make for glorious listening when they allow themselves room to experiment.

The best example of this is the song Radio Protector, the epic closer to 65daysofstatic’s second record One Time For All Time. Enjoy!

65daysofstatic - Radio Protector

(65daysofstatic - The Destruction Of Small Ideas)

The third 65daysofstatic album - The Destruction Of Small Ideas - is released at the end of this month, and while I wouldn’t like to spoil the surprises it has in store, I’ve seen fit to link up a couple of rare live in session tracks from it which the band laid down recently when they played the famous SXSW festival in Texas.

Links for both tracks are included below…

65daysofstatic - The Distant And Mechanised Glow Of Eastern European Dance Parties (Live at SXSW)

65daysofstatic - When We Were Younger and Better (Live @ SXSW)

The Distant And Mechanised Glow Of Eastern European Dance Parties - surely that’s a contender for best track name this year so far? Only post-rock gives you such classic titles, y’know.

You can find out more about 65daysofstatic on their official website, or buy their new album, by clicking the following links:

65daysofstatic On

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Unexpected Cover Versions Of Our Time - Episode 2

I see your Michael Jackson and raise you a Jennifer Paige.

You know who Jennifer Paige is? Here she is, on a swing-

[Jennifer Paige- about to crush some stupid-haired guy]

EVERYONE knows this song, but you might not have it to hand- I didn't until a friend chanced upon it while scouring the net for cheesy pop classics- so here it is for everyone's enjoyment.

Jennifer Paige- Crush

This time it's The Dismemberment Plan dishing it up. Yeah, they were the band I covered in my FIRST EVER RP post-

[The Dismemberment Plan- about to be crushed]

The D-Plan substitute their polyrhythmic anthemic approach for something more sedate. MUCH more sedate. The previously chirpy tempo is racked over three hundred and seventy-four seconds, mostly just Travis Morrison's vocal accompanied by a bone-dry electric guitar.

I've noticed a lot of covers- let's leave aside the desperate eye-gouging-inducing pub-rock strumathons- either rock up a quiet song or hush down a loud song.

I'm trying to pick covers that do much more than that, where the performer(s) digest(s) the original song and spits it back up rearranged and with something new and different and most of all EXCITING.

It's the creepy as hell synth noises that make this track for me.

Dismemberment Plan- Crush


Official D-Plan site
Previous D-Plan blog (+ tunes) on RP
Official Jennifer Paige site

Unexpected Cover Versions Of Our Time - Episode 1

Welcome to the first in yet another series of infrequently updated themed blog posts. This time, as the title states, the onus is on Unexpected Cover Versions Of Our Time.

In short this is a topic which allows me to cut loose from all the credible music and painstaking research that goes into my normal blog posts (slight exaggeration, but bear with me), and have some fun instead.

Everybody loves cover versions. It’s a scientific fact. So, in honour of this, I present to you the first unexpected cover version for your aural delight…

(Chris Cornell, looking pretty damn cool)

Chris Cornell covering Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, live and acoustic. Unplugged I believe is the popular word for this phenomenon. I heard this for the first time on Tuesday night on Radio 1’s Black Hole, where they basically play any old shite and pass it off as “random” or “experimental”. For once however, they got it spot on. Cornell (ex-Soundgarden and Audioslave rock god of dubious merit) brings his surprisingly strong vocals to MJ’s classic disco filler Billie Jean. And it works. Honestly.

I’m not even going to attempt to review the song. Just listen to it with no expectations and an open mind. Personally it’s one of my favourite cover versions ever, but I’ll leave it with you to form your own opinions.

Chris Cornell - Billie Jean

Of course, I couldn’t upload that without uploading the original. Is Michael Jackson still cool? Perhaps not. Is his music still cool? You bet it is. Billie Jean is responsible for some of the worst dancing of our generation - an identical scene of foolish drunken men failing miserably to recreate the moves played out in nightclubs and indie haunts around the world. A modern day Shakespearian tragedy if you will. Only MJ himself truly had the moves to do this song justice.

(Michael Jackson, back in the day)

As before, I’m not going to delve deep into the subject matter, i'm just going to post the track. I suspect you have this one already (you really should have, especially if you’ve ever thrown a house party), but just on the off chance that you don’t, here it is anyway…

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

You can find out more about either artist by clicking the following links:

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

So what the fuck, are you going to do kid?

Passion in music is a curious thing. Some would argue all music contains a passion of sort. To commit yourself to tape requires a series of events you’ve initialised and that you’ve put time into to get to that point and to create music people genuinely care about requires a powerful emotion; passion by definition. Others would argue thinking certain songs have passion and others don’t is purely subjective, if it stirs emotion through lyrics or music then you’ll immediately consider it passionate. How very contrived.

Lets blow that paragraph apart and I’ll run you through my personal Passionate Top 5.

5. A Day In Black & White – There Are Objects & Objects (Download)
This song is taken from the Washington DC band’s EP, ‘My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys’, one of the finest discs you’ll ever buy. The incendiary opening lulls and you’re left building up to a release of tension, before you know it you’re standing with your hand in the air, pounding with the beat, screaming “AND WE, CAN NOT, CAN NOT, CANNOT BE SAVED”. It breaks away and you have a massive smile on your face. If you’re having a shitty day, this is your tune.
Taken from the EP ‘My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys’

4. Shellac – Prayer To God (Download)
Wow, you have to feel sorry for Steve Albini here. The hatred that shines through here almost makes you feel ill. By the time the song finishes you feel like you’ve been cheated on. You’ve left the house to kill ‘him’. Keys? Check. Black bag? Check. Meat cleaver? Check. Prayer To God? Check.
Ooops, you’ve done it again.
Taken from the album ‘1000 Hurts’

3. Arab Strap – Piglet (Download)
Perhaps not so much passion as unbearable sadness an honest brutality. It’s worth looking up the lyrics to this one, it’ll leave you cold and alone, the darkness draws you into the abyss. If you’re a total freak it’ll probably ruin your life, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Good luck! See you next week!
Taken from the album ‘Philophobia’

2. Why? – Rubber Traits (Download)
This one bleeds out of the speakers! Yoni Wolf spits it at you, it’s a creed for the disillusioned and the people who long for a better day tomorrow. You’ll feel it, this is passion from within one’s self and somehow turning it into a indie hip-pop classic. It almost leaves you feeling optimistic, at least if you don’t tune into the lyrics. Dance, dance!
Taken from the album ‘Elephant Eyelash

1. Modern Life Is War – The Outsiders (Download)
If ever a band were going to kickstart a young person’s life into gear and make them start something then it’s these souls. Motivation shines through, you feel angry? Perhaps a bit lost? Looking at leaflets for Church groups? Fuck it. Stick on ‘Witness’ and release it all into the atmosphere, feel a part of something. Claw at the message and start a band, start loving music and loving life, just do something. Just do it so you can feel like this band, this song. Who wouldn’t want that. Sing along.. this.. this folks, this is fucking passion in music. Right here.

So try and listen to the voice urging you on...
This is it kid...
This is your last chance...
And this is the only way to glory...
And this is our last dance.

Taken from the album ‘Witness’

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Johnny Marr - The Smiths / Modest Mouse

(Johnny Marr, circa 2007)

Firstly, I’m not ashamed to admit I love The Smiths. I love Johnny Marr. (I even love Morrissey, but that’s a separate issue for a different blog on a future date). So it was with interest that I charted the reawakening of Johnny Marr’s career, and it was with due surprise that I read the following in an interview with Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock:

"He made a cautious commitment to write and record with us, and then the tighter we got, he was like, ‘okay, let's tour too.' Then he was pretty much a member of the band - not pretty much. He's a full blown member of the band. It's really fuckin' nice."

Nice? It is indeed. Marr wasn’t the only new string to the collective Modest Mouse bow as they wrote and recorded their fifth studio album - James Mercer (indie wet dream frontman of The Shins, and reason number 36 why Garden State is such a good movie) adds backing vocals, and previously departed drummer Jeremiah Green returns on the sticks.

(Modest Mouse promo shot, 2006 line up)

Such change could be considered a shock, following the success of Modest Mouse’s last album - Good News For People Who Love Bad News - which had an American Modern Rock #1 with their first cut off it, ‘Float On’ - a summery breeze of a tune, included for your listening pleasure below…

Modest Mouse - Float On (Good News For People Who Love Bad News, 2004)

However, change was deemed appropriate, and the fifth Modest Mouse album - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank - is a 14 track, 62 minute long, recorded testament to the tweaks in lineup. Everything just sounds fuller. Bigger. Better. Bang! It hits you. Hook! It snares you. Track after track after track.

This isn’t a review, this is an appraisal. A damn positive one at that.

(Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, 2007)

The best track to demonstrate the blend of a fuller Modest Mouse sound, Brock’s glorious fluctuating vocals, and the battle of his guitar and Marr’s, is the lead single from the album - 'Dashboard'. If you don’t love it by the breakdown at 2:15, then you’ll be hooked thereafter. If you’re not hooked by the guitar at 2:44, then you’re a fool. And you’re reading the wrong blog. Actually, you’re inhabiting the wrong planet. Download via the following link… just a couple of clicks away is a song which is sure to feature in many “Best Of 2007” lists - certainly mine, hopefully yours…

Modest Mouse - Dashboard (We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, 2007)

Before I digress too much, this blog is about Johnny Marr, not just Modest Mouse (although I cant stress enough just how good their new album is, and that’s coming from somebody who wasn’t a massive fan in the past). Johnny Marr was, as you no doubt already know, one of the two true genii behind The Smiths. Together with a certain Steven Patrick Morrissey he created some of the 1980’s greatest and most enduring songs, and in the album The Queen Is Dead, he helped to create arguably the decades best mainstream album. As the 80’s progressed the relationship between Morrissey and Marr became strained, and eventually broke down, leading to the demise of The Smiths. Slander followed. Court cases followed. Huge fame for Morrissey as a solo artist followed (although most fans insist that Morrissey without Marr was never the same again). The theories for the true reason that The Smiths split persist to this day - did Morrissey have an unreciprocated love for Marr? Was Morrissey jealous of the praise afforded to Marr, when he wasn’t the frontman of the band?

(Morrissey on the left, Marr on the right, circa 1985)

Regardless, Morrissey carried on to achieve huge levels of success - still selling out arenas worldwide to this day and releasing decent albums which, while not original or groundbreaking, sate his fanbase and provided the odd killer radio track every now and then (see: ‘The First Of The Gang To Die’ and ‘You Have Killed Me’).

Johnny Marr however only achieved mixed success post-Smiths. Albums with The The, Electronic, and his own band, Johnny Marr And The Healers, never even came close to his achievements with The Smiths. Joining Modest Mouse to many seemed a strange move, but the fruits of their collective labour speak for themselves. The paring of Brock and Marr could, perhaps, in time be afforded the same praise as Morrissey and Marr before then. The signs are promising.

By way of tribute to Marr’s work in the 1980’s I’ve linked below three quintessential Smiths tracks below. Two cuts from The Queen Is Dead, and one from compilation album Louder Than Bombs.

(Louder Than Bombs, 1987, and The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

Essential listening for any self respecting music fan.

The Smiths - Panic (Louder Than Bombs, 1987)

The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

The Smiths - Vicar In A Tutu (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

You can check out more of the mentioned artists, or buy some of their works, via the following links:

Modest Mouse

The Smiths

Johnny Marr

‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’ on Amazon

‘Good News For People Who Love Bad News’ on Amazon

‘Louder Than Bombs’ on Amazon

‘The Queen Is Dead’ on Amazon

Enjoy! x

Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Blue Nile.

"Do I love you?"

"YES, I LOVE YOU!" the crowd roar back as one from the seats of the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, on the 26th day of November in 2006. This moment remains forever fresh in my memory as Paul Buchanan performs 'Tinseltown In The Rain' on this world-famous stage. It's a Blue Nile concert in all but name, complications arising from a member who does not want to tour.

They don't tour very often, nor do they pump out albums on a frequent basis. There are merely four released so far in the twenty-SEVEN years since they began making music. This is no ordinary band though. The Blue Nile are very special, the kind of band that forge new sounds and ideas for generations to come. It is pop music, but with endless layers. Not a single note or beat is wasted, efficient yet incredibly moving.

Back in my seat, it is apparent that Paul Buchanan was born to sing in this concert hall. The sound coming out of his mouth diverts in two directions; out of the large PA speakers either side of the stage to sweep across the auditorium, and scaling up the roof of the hall- itself built specifically to magnify natural sound from the stage- to drench the patrons sitting in the upper and grand circles in a warm sonic mist.

I have in my possession a mere thirty-three songs from their studio albums (no official live releases have been forthcoming, nor sadly a full audio document of that night) yet trying to choose a selection of songs was horrendous. After all, I can only use so many words to convince you of their worth and impact on Scottish music until I implore you to just listen.

Craig B of Aereogramme (my favourite band that are still active, no question) has mentioned them as an influence and if you search, you can find screeds of effusive journalistic praise. You can read further into their history, though the members themselves will provide scant information for the trendy photoshoots, fact-sheets and various paraphernalia afforded to bands far less magical.

Yet nothing can really prepare you for what you are about to hear, so just listen and enjoy. If you have a spare fiver- or equivalent currency of your choice- invest in Hats (discussed further below). You won't regret it. You MUST see Paul Buchanan/The Blue Nile tour if they are near you. Alas, their most recent US tourdates were suddenly pulled, leaving fans bemused but not shocked considering their previous regard for essentials of the 'business'.

They just want to make beautiful music, and in an age where image is everything and the depth of a personality can be scoured open with a mascara brush, I salute them with a tear in my eye. Just like I did when they left the stage of the Usher Hall that fateful night.


The MP3s:

Paul Buchanan- Tinseltown In The Rain (live)

Paul Buchanan- A Walk Across The Rooftops (live)

The Blue Nile- Stay Close

The Blue Nile- Happiness

Two songs from their debut- A Walk Across The Rooftops- performed live in Coventry (or Warwick, I can't recall?). One each from their third and fourth albums- Peace At Last and High respectively. I've swapped the third and fourth album choices because I can. But nothing from their second album?!

I'll leave you to discover the magic of Hats for yourself for two reasons-
1) I'm not in that haunted mood that lets repeated plays of it envelope me like a shroud. This is music that asks a lot of questions amongst its blissful resolutions, and it can leave me utterly drained.
2) It's probably in my top five albums ever, as a suite of songs it's basically perfect.

And now I shall leave the others to post.

Slackers. ;)

From here:
The Blue Nile on Wikipedia
The Blue Nile on Youtube
The Blue Nile on Facebook

Quick UK link to Hats (it's £5 in a few notable chain stores, email me to ask)