New Streets song!

Poet Laureate* Mike Skinner is set to release his fourth album Everything Is Borrowed on September 15.

Yesterday, via the NME website, he announced that the final track ‘The Escapist’ had been released as a free download, and there is also a video to go with it, which features his ‘epic walk to France.’ Apparently he did do the walk, hope it was less humid than the weather currently besieging me in 17Seconds Towers.

There are some people who are rude about Skinner, dubbing him a ‘mockney’, but that’s their opinion. As far as I am concerned, he’s infintely preferable to any wannabe gangsta (and I’ve encountered them in parts of Scotland you might not expect) and a brilliant lyricist and tunesmith. Bring on the fourth album and silence the losers once and for all.

The Streets – The Escapist.’ mp3

* OK, so he isn’t technically poet laureate, but he’d be better than the one that we had some time ago, who treated his wife like dirt, frankly.

Album Review: John Baker

John Baker – The John Baker Tapes Volume 1 BBC Radiophonics Rare and Unreleased recordings 1963-1974 (Trunk Records)

John Baker – The John Baker Tapes Volume 2 Soundtracks, Library, Home Recordings and Electro Ads 1954-1985 (Trunk Records)

How far do we need to consider the context of something that we are reviewing? It might seem ridiculous, whether on a humble blog such as this or in a broadsheet newspaper to give background information, but it can shed some light into how the music came into being. True, many reviews may get sidetracked around certain details -the unusual release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, the tragic deaths of Marley, Curtis, Lennon, Joplin et al.. but what about soundtracks? Soundtracks are created with a different purpose in mind. Can they make any sense outside of their subject? Especially when it is not the painfully cheesy ‘love theme’ to Hollywood’s latest block buster, but pieces of incidental music?

There are, of course, notable exceptions. Rob Dougan’s ‘Clubbed To Death’ may be forever associated with The Matrix, but it’s strong enough in it’s own right to be considered on its’ own terms. Similarly, Walter Carlos (later Wendy) provided a number of astounding interpretations of Beethoven’s music for A Clockwork Orange which mesmerised those of us unable to see the film, legally at any rate, after Kubrick withdrew it.

John Baker was part of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop between 1963 and 1974. He is seen as being part of the trinity of BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the other members being David Cain and Delia Derbyshire. Having more of a classically trained background than many of his contemporaries, the music that he produced for the Beeb often reflects elements of baroque and his beloved Jazz. In a sympathetic and thoughful review of these two compilations in the latest issue of The Wire (issue #294), David Stubbs points out that ‘the fact that he was unable to come out as gay probably helped drive him towards the alcoholism which helped end his career prematurely in 1974.’ Reading the sleevenotes provided by his brother Richard Anthony Baker, you have a sense of the same frustration of a lack of recognition and not fully recognised promise, despite a lot of hard work that brings echoes of both Alan Turing and Joe Meek.

The 49 pieces of the first CD range from little ‘idents’ sometimes a matter of seconds long, to far longer soundtrack pieces. ‘Building the Bomb’ evokes the underlying horror of the nuclear age, that it was possible we could all be blown to pieces at any moment. The music was produced for use, though not necessarily mass consumption on its’ own, and many of the pieces contained across the two discs are commercially available for the first time here. Yet despite the weirdness that they might have, played track by track, you find yourself wondering both at the inventiveness and the listenability of it all. Some of the music was produced by blowing across a shampoo bottle, and then sped up, or slowed down whilst other effects were added. This preceeded synthesizers by many years and the work taken to produce what some would no doubt dismiss as ‘jingles’ would have been painstaking to produce.

Volume 2 shows another side beyond the Radiophonic workshops. Amongst the highlights here are ‘Electro-Twist MQ Lp1/1′ (slip it inbetween some dubstep-style recordings just to see how far ahead of his time Baker really was), and a Beatles Medley entitled ‘I `Wanna Hold Your Hand medley’ which is far from being a Stars on 45 hideousness but instead takes the music of Lennon-McCartney and makes it reminsicent of Debussy or Chopin. In many ways it is an easier listen that the first volume, but just as much of a mixture of the wide variety of work, be it for private consumption or (soundtracking) very public consumption.

The influence on the music world of the last forty years should not be underestimated either. You can bet that parts of these compilations will be sampled and turn up dance hits, but it’s also worth considering just how mcuh spilled onto the work of The Beatles (particularly once they became a studio-only act from 1966 onwards), Brian Eno-era Roxy Music and the Aphex Twin, amongst many others.

The most famous work produced by the Radiophonic workshop was the original theme to Dr. Who. That was not Baker but Delia Derbyshire, and may be considered one of the most well-known pieces of musique concrete. But Baker’s contributions should not be forgotten or underestimated. While listening to all eighty-eight tracks in one sitting may be hard work (it did get the review written though!) there is a lot of fantastic work here. Whether you take this as a compilation of aural historical documents or music in its’ own right, this is worth investigating. One of the most interesting and fascinating compilations released this year.

****1/2 (both)

Volume One was released on Trunk Records on July 28. Volume Two will be released by Trunk Records on August 25.

From Volume One: Hear John Baker explain how he makes the sounds on this first mp3:

John Baker – ‘Woman’s Hour (reading your letters).’ mp3

John Baker – ‘Building The Bomb.’ mp3

John Baker – ‘Dial M For Murder.’ mp3

From Volume Two:

John Baker -’Electro-Twist MQ LP1/1.’ mp3

John Baker -’I Wanna Hold Your Hand Medley.’ mp3

http://www.thewire.co.uk/articles/150/”>An article on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop published in The Wire in 1992. It doesn’t mention Baker, then still alive, but it does shed a lot of light on the importance of the workshop, particularly when the BBC’s music department was not remotely interested.

See here for a full tracklisting of the 88 tracks over the two CDs and even more interestingly, the article written by John Baker’s brother, Richard Anthony Baker. This is reprinted in the booklet that comes with Volume 1. It also includes a photostat of the obituary that appeared in The Times in 1997.

Great scottish bands #1: Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes

A legendary scottish band kick off this new series on 17 Seconds.

Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes were a legendary scottish band, that also had links with The Fizzbombs, Rote Kapelle, Meat Whiplash and the Shop Assistants. (Michael Kerr of Meat Whiplash who was the guitarist at one point, would leave to join the Darling Buds on tour in 1989). The original lineup was:

Andrew Tully (guitars/vocals), Angus McPake (bass), Fran Schoppler (vocals), Margarita Vasquez-Ponte (drums), Kevin McMahon (guitars), and Stuart Clarke (guitars). Their first single was ‘Splashing Along’ produced by Douglas Hart, then bassist in the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes – ‘Splashing Along.’ mp3

The band recorded a handful of singles, released a compilation of them entitled A Cabinet Of Curiosities. In 1990 they caused controversy with their single Grand Hotel, which referenced the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984 where the Conservative Party Conference was held that year. Andrew Tully described this as ‘a ‘fuck Thatcher and fuck the IRA for not killing her when they had the chance’ song.’ That year they released the album Nixon, a mini-set entitled Hold Me Now and then split.

Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes -’Grand Hotel.’ mp3

The video for Grand Hotel:

Subsequently, Andrew Tully runs Avalanche records, a fantastic shop in Edinburgh. He’s still there, and DJs around town. [He recently told me a highly amusing anecdote involving a legendary Radio 1 DJ much written about on these pages and We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It] which I won’t repeat here for fear of being sued. According to him, Margarita is now an artist living in Spain. She also drummed for the reformed Shop Assistants on the ‘Here It Comes’ and ‘Big ‘E’ Power’ singles in 1990 -that’s the subject of another post on this blog.

Jesse garon and the Desperadoes on tweenet

A post on the band at the Merry Muses Of Caledonia blog

Fran Schoppler’s mySpace

Avalanche’s mySpace is here. Due to the fact that you cannot buy Jesse garon and the Desperadoes back catalogue in many places, here is a really great place to start.

The return of the Blow Monkeys

Yup folks, Dr. Robert, one of the thorns in Margaret Thatcher’s side that wasn’t in her cabinet returns!
The Blow Monkeys will release The Bullet Train as a first single from their brand new studio album Devil’s Tavern, their first LP in 18 years on August 18th.

With hits such as ‘Digging Your Scene,’ one of the first songs about A.I.D.S., It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, and the many anti-Thatcher songs, particularly ‘Choice?,’ it’s a welcome return.

According to the press release, ‘Devil’s Tavern was funded by fans through the official website and was recorded in the Andalusian port town of Motril, southern Spain [Dr. Robert now lives in Spain].. The band did the majority of the production themselves, yet also enlisted the help of one time Blow Monkey associates Marius de Vries (Bjork, Rufus Wainwright) and Adam Moseley (Beck, Dust Bro’s) for additional mixing and production duties.’

Their very nice PR lady, Rosie, is currently trying to arrange for me to interview Dr. Robert, so keep those digits crossed for me, and their manager has graciously given permission for me to post this preview of their new single.

The Blow Monkeys -’The Bullet Train (edit).’ mp3

And just because…

And let’s face it, any band who put out an album called She Was Only A Grocer’s Daughter in an election year deserve a cheer (if you don’t know what this refers to, google Thatcher the Milk Snatcher).

You will also find more mp3s at the official websites.

The Blow Monkey’s website

Dr Robert’s official website

Hmm, maybe I might do an anti-Thatcher post…
Blow Monkeys on Wikipedia

Album Review: Unknown Component

Unknown Component -’In Direct Communication.’ (Self released)

Unknown Component is Keith Flynn, who hails from Iowa City, Iowa. He has released several albums over the last few years, which can now be bought through iTunes. This has been sitting on my list of to do reviews for a long time, so first of all, apologies Keith.

Like many of the better albums you hear, this is one that grows slowly on you. I get sent a lot of singer-songwriters, and the key to reviwing them is to try and find out what makes them stand out from their contemporaries. The instrumentation is what grabbed me first, it’s subtle – but the songs slowly start to worm their way into your consciousness. Each time I’ve played this album over the last few weeks, I’ve heard something new, and enjoyed it more than the previous time.

Highlights for me include ‘Into the Sun’ and ‘Between Guilt and Relief.’ There’s some great playing here, some rather wonderful songs and probably some more for me to hear the next time I play it. I’m not going to compare it to anything else out there, I’m just going to let it stand on it’s own terms. Just as an indication, I started off thinking that I would give it three stars, then three and a half…as it’s soundtracked the afternoon for several plays, it gets…

****

In Direct Communication will be released on September 16.

Unknown Component -’Into the Sun.’ mp3

Unknown Component -’Between Guilt And Relief.’ mp3

Unknown Component website/mySpace

Presenting…Deadfisch

Who are Deadfisch? Well, it seems it depends who you ask…

Their website says:

The Professor and the Reverend met for the very first time one nuclear day in the resurrection bar of ‘Le Lion Blanc’ next to the toxic canal; the sky was magenta and the air full of hyperglymatrons.

The Professor was doodling on his organic megametapad and working out how to save the planet (for maximum personal profit) when the door swung open and the Reverend entered the silence-filled room.

Bored with the hermetic vacuum that enveloped the bar, the Professor turned to the wall and began idly hitting extremely wrong (but somehow right) notes on a forgotten piano in the corner of the forgotten room.

“Play me a blues in B flat” said the Reverend with his back to the room.

“I’ll play as flat as you like” said the Professor “but the only colour I know is orange”.

The reverend picked up his banjo and played.

Uh-huh.

Meanwhile, the official PR release says…

Deadfisch is a music/art project fronted by Andy B.

It’s a first taste of a forthcoming contemporary anti-war concept album ‘Collateral Damage’ which encompasses an eclectic range of styles from club to rock to opera and follows the story of one young soldier. The album is due out in November to coincide with the US presidential elections, along with the follow up single ‘Collateral Damage (Big God)’.

‘God Bless America’ features ‘Wild Willy Barrett’ (formerly of Otway and Barrett with John Otway) on banjo and fiddle, the Sheffield socialist choir on bvs and Andy’s Deadfisch partner-in-crime Neil C (formerly of Marillion) on keys. Meanwhile guests on the album include world-famous opera singer Ursula Ferri.

Andy B was formerly an Art Director at Saatchi’s and has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. Fans of his music include Billy Bragg, who played a Deadfisch-designed guitar on the Southbank last year.

To coincide with the single release, a Deadfisch-designed surfboard will be auctioned for the charity ‘Military families against war’ in conjunction with a new company set up by Eden project sustainability director Chris Hines to produce the most environmentally sound surfboards in the world.

So there you have it. Andy B has graciously allowed 17 Seconds to put up this mp3. Download it, see what you think, and if you like it, obviously go and support them. And if you live in America, please use your vote wisely. Actually, wherever you live, use your vote.

Deadfisch -’God Bless America (sample).’ mp3

Deadfisch -’Hey Mr. President (sample).’ mp3

And this is from YouTube:

The single should be out today on Random Ambient Jazz Recordings, cat no. random001.

Deadfisch’s offical website/Deadfisch’s Myspace

Album Review: HK119

HK 119 -’Fast, Cheap and Out Of Control.’ (One Little Indian)

I arrived back at 17 Seconds Towers yesterday evening to find a package awaiting for me from One Little Indian (always a good sign). The CD inside, Fast, Cheap and Out Of Control contained a cigarette, (Marlboro I think, I quit smoking over six years ago, so it ended up in the bin, unlit obviously). But that was cast aside when I read the press release and then listened to the CD.

This is HK 119′s second album, the follow up to to 2006′s self-titled debut. It’s the solo project of one Heidi Kilpelainen, who hails from Finland and is a graduate of St Marton;s College in London. This astounding album suggests, as if we needed it pointing out, reminds us that in the year of MGMT and Santogold, electro-influence is where music is at, as the post-punk revival starts to slip away, though the gold of that era won’t be flung away. It’s POP, as it ought to be, clever, sophisticated, knowing and intelligent, arch, ironic, and artistic. Hell, even the first track to do the rounds from Mogwai’s latest album has a hint of this sound about it. It’s as European as can be, anyone who doesn’t get irony won’t understand it, and oh boy, is the joke on them. Fast, Cheap and Out Of Control? Don’t you believe it…

If HK 119 sounds like a product code, that’s because it is. Inspired by Lucas (think C3P0 or R2D2 – are we due a new RJD2 album?!), the album focuses upon themes like Space Travel, Mind Control and the irritation that is celebrity. Over the second track ‘Celeb,’ over a european jazz sound she sings ‘I took heroin, I took mescaline…I had deep desire to destroy myself from within…’ You could brainstorm for hours who she is talking about and have a list as long as your arm.

There’s a lot of diverse sound on here, as well as the aforementioned jazz on ‘Celeb’ there’s cool electronica and pop. Some of this will slay dancefloors over the next year, but other tracks will be snapped up for TV, Chill-out compilation and adverts before anyone can say ‘post-modern.’ The Guardian has already described her as a futuristic hybrid of Grace Jones and Debbie Harry, to which I would also add Nina Hagen and Nico.

There’s sixteen tracks here, over fifty minutes, and seemingly no filler. First single ‘C’est La Vie’ makes the Ting Tings sound like a bunch of kids playing by comparison (oh, hang on…) and album opener ‘Mind’ should be over the blogosphere before you can say Arcade Fire.

Another major shake-up to my best of 2008 list. Expect to see this feature highly elsewhere.

****1/2

HK 119′s MySpace. Go along, make friends, and tell her Ed sent ya…

HK 119 -’Mind.’ mp3



Online Videos by Veoh.com

Still the greatest video ever

The other day, the NME were doing a vote on the greatest videos of all time. I was extremely disappointed that they hadn’t even nominated Cloudbusting by Kate Bush, which I consider to be a way better video than ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or even Hurt by Johnny Cash, or is that just heresy in this day and age?

BTW, am I now the only person out there who still likes the Stay by Shakespear’s Sister video?

Presenting…The Pristines

The Pristines hail from Coventry, England. How come I haven’t heard of Jon E. King and his band of merry men and women before? I don’t know, but even having a MySpace account is no guarantee of getting the word out there.

Which is a shame, because Jon E and friends deserve to be heard. Their sound is reminiscent of both a)classic indie, and I don’t mean the tired old cliches of recycled Oasis/Beatles etc etc.. riffs but rather Indie when it meant pioneering stuff like The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine etc.. and also b) electronica type indie like Momus and Ladytron. Hell, if you still have your House Of Love vinyl I think you’ll like this band and wonder why you haven’t heard them before. Series Two Records in the US have just released their latest album States Of Mine. See what you make of these three tracks:

The Pristines -’All Washed Out.’ mp3

The Pristines -’Who To Trust.’ mp3

The Pristines -’Letting The Expectation Go.’ mp3

These two tracks, as downloaded from their MySpace, are from earlier recordings:

The Pristines -’Sea Horse.’ mp3

The Pristines -’Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?’ mp3

If you like what you hear, go to the MySpace to make friends and hear another excellent track ‘Suitable Lies’ and find out how to get their albums.

Finally, please do leave feedback, if you download these tracks, even if you’ve never left feedback before. I really do want to know what you think.