A brief thank-you


…to everyone who has bought the Escape Act ‘Cabin Fever’ download single.

As of this evening, today it is no.346 of the top downloads today on the Alternative chart on eMusic. It has actually been more downloaded than some releases by the White Stripes, the Strokes, Feeder and Bloc Party.

Does this change the world? Of course it doesn’t, but a sincere thank-you from 17 Seconds to those who’ve blogged about us or our bands, it does make a difference.

Bless you all.

Just in case you haven’t seen or heard their single from earlier this year; here it is:

Oh, and anyone whose bought our tracks who’d like to leave feedback on iTunes, eMusic, etc.. that would be lovely too!

17 Seconds Records update


Yup, more news from 17 Seconds Records.

First of all, today sees the release of the second single on the label from Escape Act, our sixth single in all. It’s called ‘Cabin Fever,’ it’s available from all good download services and it’s got this rather excellent video:

This is made up from footage of the band’s trips to Glasgow to record their debut album, Loosely Based On Fiction.

If you’re looking for more free music – try here for free samples from the Wildhouse, Chris Bradley and X-Lion Tamer.

There’s lots of live dates coming up over the next few months – including this coming week! Chris Bradley plays Edinburgh tonight and Glasgow on Thursday, while Aberfeldy’s Riley Briggs is doing a special solo spot on Saturday in Edinburgh – find out about it all here.

Our night in Glasgow at the 13th Note was fantastic and saw excellent performances from four of our acts -the Dirty cuts, Escape Act, X-Lion Tamer and Chris Bradley. There will be more of these…watch this space…

And, as a reminder, the Escape Act single is just £1.58 to download both tracks. Go without yr morning coffee and support a cottage industry, not the coffee industry, for just one day.

33 1/3 Part 21


David Bowie -‘Low’ (RCA, 1977)

I actually ended up picking up Low in Holland on the same family holiday in 1994 that I got Ocean Rain. Odd, I guess, as Holland isn’t particularly regarded as a great place for vinyl enhusiasts (though Germany I do recommend). But from that trip came the Bowie album above all that grabbed me.

My first memory of David Bowie isn’t this album. It’s that duet with Mick Jagger. But that aside, I became gradually more and more obsessed with Bowie throughout my teens. Sure he had a bad second half of the eighties -though I would recommend that ‘Absolute Beginners,’* ‘Loving the Alien’ and ‘Time Will crawl’ be given a second chance. Thing is, they pale into insignificance with this album.

Maybe my obssession with the city of Berlin stems from hearing this album. I’ve never been there – but there’s something about the whole aesthetic of such widely different films as Run Lola Run, Wings Of Desire, Goodbye Lenin!, The Edukators and of course, the Bowie-soundtracked Christiane F. Low is famously the first of the three Bowie albums that make up the Berlin trilogy -the others being Heroes and Lodger. It might be pointed out that these albums are not all recorded in Berlin (Low was mostly recorded in France and Lodger in Switzerland), but the work that took place at the famous Hansa studios ‘by the [Berlin] wall sealed the reputation.

Low is very definitely divided into two parts; the first side has songs, the second side pieces that owe much to the influence of collaborator Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. It’s bleak in tone throughout, but particularly the second side, which has singing but not vocals per se. The titles alone give clues to the bleak delights herein -‘Weeping Wall’ ‘Subterraneans’ ‘Always Crashing In the Same Car’ and ‘Breaking Glass.’

Whilst side two is what seals it for me, I wouldn’t like to be seen as downplaying side one. If side two owes much to Brian Eno, then in the process of effectively inventing ambient music, ensuring that rock bands wishing to be seen as artistses would be queueing up to work with him for decades to come (hello U2, James and Coldplay), then side one owes much to Kraftwerk. ‘Sound and Vision’ is as good a pop song as anything from Ziggy or Aladdin Sane.Though Kraftwerk hailed from Dusseldorf, their album Autobahn had proved a huge influence on Bowie, as he looked away from the America that has inspired Diamond Dogs and Young Americans into the European sounding Station to Station, released the previous year to Low. It’s a cliche, but if British acts want to make money they look to America; if they want to make art they look to Europe (again, compare U2’s Joshua Tree Americanisms with the very European and Hansa-recorded, Eno-produced Achtung Baby).

No, it’s not an easy listen, but it rewards repeated listens. It’s bleak and beautiful, the soundtrack to a thoughtful if hardgoing film that may not have been made yet (think Threads if it was set and made in Berlin, before and after a nuclear bomb being dropped).

David Bowie -‘Warszawa.’ mp3

David Bowie -‘Art Decade.’ mp3

Hear more from Low at Last FM

* the song, not the film

33 1/3 Part 20


Burial – ‘Untrue’ (Hyperdub, 2007)

I very rarely repeat postings here, but looking at the album review I wrote nearly two years ago for this album, I think this summed up that I need to say, pretty much:

“Where the hell did this come from? This follow-up to Burial’s self-titled debut from [2006} is one of the most astonishing things I have heard this year.

Given that Burial’s interview in the [December 2007] issue of The Wire is a rare interview and that he is not prepared to be photographed, I know precious little about the man himself (well, that he’s male). So this really is about taking some at face value without bringing baggage to it. Because while this might be labelled under Grime (and definitely not Grindie, the vocals are manipulated with here, and that’s one of the astoundingly amazing things about this trail-blazing album), Dubstep, 2-step, whatever…it’s the sound of the pieces and the whole itself that amaze you and leave you gasping in disbelief.

Few albums can make such sadness sound so invigorating and a million miles away from the ‘woe is me’ aesthetic that can start to grate. This record is the soundtrack of, rather than just to, the beautiful melancholia of the urban winter, and the dark streets. It reminds me of the pioneering artists of the Bristol sound that came to be known as ‘trip-hop,’ certainly not in terms of songs but the way that the sound and mood of that music grabbed you, as much as the lyrics or the melody.

This is not going to be a long review, because I’m in the dark trying to describe this here. Please listen to the tracks below, and then go and buy the album.

I’m still astounded, and I’m having to re-work my planned best of 2007 list.

***** ”

So yeah, Burial was unmasked…but that doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Listening to this album again today reminds me just how good this album is. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of music -and this truly is music that is Urban.

Sadness never sounded so real and so beautiful. If Tom Waits’ career were a painting, it would be Hopper’s Nighthawks At the Diner. If there is an artwork to reflect late night London, it is this.

Burial -‘Archangel.’ mp3

Presenting…The Factory Kids


The Factory Kids have grabbed me by the short and curlies (I need to do something about those sideburns of mine).

Based in Glasgow, Warwickshire lad Tim Chaplin and American lass Christina Marie (who came over to say hello at the 17 Seconds Records night in Glasgow last week) are plotting some weird kind of musical trajectory. Like Flaming Lips meets the Velvet Underground with Warp Records’ finest jamming with them, as if produced by Massive Attack. Something very weird and very special indeed…

Amongst their influences they cite late night phone calls, Iced Gems, Banana Bread beer, butter chicken, train rides, the streets of New York, London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Leamington, three-hour dinners at Pizza Hut… this is in addition to the likes of Primal Scream and Nico.

They have already released their debut, self-titled album through New Zealand’s Powertool Records and have just released a free download single entitled ‘Not Enough’/’Analogue Dream.’

Download it here

And from their debut album, this is ‘She Said’:

Check this out…and as always, let me know what you think…

Like this? Hoped you might…pop along and say hi to them at their myspace page

Gig review: Daniel Johnston


Daniel Johnston/Laura Marling/The Wave Pictures -The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh November 4, 2009

In many ways, Daniel Johnston might well be the living embodiment of what it means to be a cult figure. Lauded by the hip, and covered by many other artists, his reputation enhanced by time, he inspires devotion from many. I have been to many gigs at the Queen’s Hall since I moved to Edinburgh eight years ago, and the cult appreciation of him has swelled to the extent that the queue outside the Queen’s Hall was the biggest I have ever seen. His latest album Is And Always Was is a fine album, and if diehards moan that it’s not recorded on a $60 mono boombox, don’t let that detract from the enjoyment of it.

Opening the gig were the Wave Pictures. I’d not seen them before, and only heard a little of their work, but this three-piece band evoke early Hefner well (and indeed have backed former frontman Darren Hayman). Being third on the bill at a gig can be difficult as a support but they won the crowd over, no doubt by making it clear how pleased they were to be playing with Daniel Johnston later. ‘he’s absolutely on fire at the moment!’ they enthused, which pleased the excited crowd no end.

Laura Marling came on with just her acoustic guitar for her slot. Having seen many singer-songwriters do this as supports and struggled over noise, she proved that she can hold the audience in the palm of her hand. Though she didn’t appear with Johnston at the end, she won many people over, as much with her self-deprecating banter as her music. Despite the fact that she maintained – more than once – that she couldn’t make small-chat on stage, she does so, very well indeed.I have yet to hear debut album Alas I Cannot Swim, but I will add it to my ever-growing wish list.

When Daniel Johnston comes onstage, the air of excitement threatens to reach fever pitch from some members of the crowd. There’s a large number of teens and early twenties in the room, so many have clearly come to have their chance of witnessing him in the flesh. Whilst much has been made of Johnston’s health issues, he was indeed on fine form. He first accompanied himself with an electric ukelele. To those who are unfamiliar with his work, by his own admission he cannot sing particularly well, but there’s a real charm that is more than endearing, it is genuinely affecting.

Appearing first solo, then joined by a guitarist and then the Wave Pictures, he performed songs from his back catalogue that even if you didn’t know them (and there’s a thirty-strong album back catalogue) made you want to investigate further. I had never heard ‘Bloody Rainbow’ before, but I think I could love this as much as ‘Speeding Motorcycle’ or ‘The Beatles.’ Speaking of The Beatles, his love of them remains undiminished, and we get covers of both ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘Come Together,’ the latter with the Wave Pictures. With the former, it’s no longer the Beatles serenading Eleanor Bron, it’s Daniel Johnston serenading us, and it feels like a privilege.

Sure his work won’t win everyone over, and Is And Always Was is as likely as polished as he is likely to get. But it genuinely is the sincerity that’s likely to win people over. Sure Kurt cobain may have got more publicity for him by wearing that T-shirt, but on the evidence of this, Johnston’s doing just fine winning the people over himself.

33 1/3 Part 19


Missy Elliot -‘Miss E…So Addictive.’ (WEA,2001)

2001 was something of a watershed year for me, personally and musically. At the start of the year, I was doing teacher-training and trying to come to terms with the fact that nu-metal was there to stay; Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn. I was starting to despair of Stereophonics and Travis who seemed to be what ‘indie’ had come to pass for. And the less said about the relationship I was in the better. The fallout that I experienced in the middle of that year was pretty grim.

By the end of the year, I found myself living in Edinburgh, and starting to rebuild my life. And get into some great new music. One of the records I picked up just before I headed south for Christmas at my folks’ was this, the third album by Missy Elliott. I’d been learning about the fact that there was a world beyond indie -and it wasn’t just in the NME either, but over the radio.

Missy Elliott looked cool as. She could rap as well as any man – quite a lot better, she worked with Timbaland (a man who has probably shaped the sound of this decade more than any other producer, apart from The Neptunes), and she came up with the goods when it came to the music. The production is phenomenal; few records apart from Public Enemy have ever been produced this well. The beats on this album alone would make it a classic, but then there’s the songs that once bitten, you’re forever smitten. Hell, even the opening intro is worth it, and that’s something I’ve never been able to say about many Hip-Hop albums.

And of course, then there is the matter of ‘Get UR Freak On.’ This track remains one of the best, not just of that year, but of the decade. The way it incorporated an asian influence meant hosts of others in the Hip-Hop and pop worlds started picking up on Indian sounds (and if anyone mentions Kula Shaker I will shoot them). Let’s say that there’d have been No ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears without this track. The sonic additions bedazzle and amaze.

It was a watershed year…more up and downs than a bloody rollercoaster, but the music got me through. And this was one lady I was defniitely counting on staying around.

Missy Elliott -‘Get UR Freak On.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 18


Echo and the Bunnymen -‘Ocean Rain.’ (Korova, 1984)

For some of the records on here, I could have written pages and pages about how these albums make me feel.

This seems to be the exception…because the music seems to speak for itself. It’s goth, Jim, but not as you know it. Strings that could grace a classical recording, beautifully scored.

Weird, wonderful non-sensical lyrics…and yet evocative lyrics.

One of England’s greatest ever bands reaching their peak.

An album I picked up cheaply on vinyl on holiday in Holland in 1994…that became my second favourite album of the eighties after Disintegration…Ian McCulloch AKA Mac the Mouth giving in fully to the temptation to ape Scott Walker and doing it wonderfully..the line about ‘screaming from beneath the waves’ on the title track…the fact that all nine tracks are amazing…’The Killing Moon’…’Nocturnal me’…’Seven Seas’…that cover…the greatest title track ever…

Lay down thy raincoat and groove.

Echo and the Bunnymen -‘Ocean Rain.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 17


Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Psychocandy.’ (Blanco y Negro, 1985)

Once again, I cannot claim that this was an album that I was listening to when it came out. [Yes, I’m very impressed that your nine year old child regurgitates all the music you ask them to listen to instead of what their peers are. So sorry to hear that they’re not fitting in at school.] And in fact my route to this album was quite a long one, hearing several of their later albums before I got this album out of the library at school when I was eighteen.

Yes, amazingly, as well as trying to educate middle-class thugs about rugby and the like, my school got itself a library in which there was a CD library. You could only take out one CD at a time, but it had all the Smiths studio albums, the Cure, Lloyd Cole, Blur…and this was 1994 so it wasn’t bad, really. Every school should have one -as well as someone who makes sure that the kids can all have jotters (or exercise books as the sassenachs call ’em) before the staff get laptops.

Sorry…I was distracted there. Anyway…YES. Psychocandy. A slightly different beast on CD, being as it has ‘Some Candy Talking’ midway through. The song that was their breakthrough hit (apart from the fact Radio 1 banned it because it was ‘obviously’ about heroin). But an album that opens with the sublime ‘Just Like Honey’ a song bathed in honey, sweet, sweet feedback, as the twin gods of the Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd make love and produce something utterly sublime. Nearly twenty years later it made my heart soar as this played out over the closing moments of Lost In Translation.

Feedback is the name of the game here -and while by 1994 we had had grunge so knew music didn’t need to be clean-sounding – this was a revelation. And it still is, years later. I picked up a cassette copy a year or so after I left school and it was frequently in the walkman at uni, accompanying me up and down the hill in my battered biker jacket, mad hair and army boots, trying to resemble a cross between Ian McCulloch, Robert Smith and of course the Reid brothers (not very trendy in 1998, but at least I wasn’t listening to those infernal Ministry of Sound comps). It’s not just the singles, but the singalong choruses as they drift along in those feedback drenched waves of sound. It’s an album to lose yourself in and then find yourself in, alternately, or maybe even at the same time.

I never saw the Mary Chain live; they broke up at the tail end of the nineties, though they did reform for some dates in 2007. And while some will debate the merits of later albums -and they all have many, to these ears, the Mary Chain never topped this. But because I discovered it later, I guess I didn’t find myself disappointed by subsequent albums. It still makes this heart fly, and that ancient tape still lives in the car, while a second-hand vinyl copy lives on the shelf and a digital copy on the iPod. An albums for all seasons and all time.

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Never Understand.’ mp3

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘You Trip Me Up.’ mp3

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Just Like Honey.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 16


Kraftwerk – ‘The Man Machine’ (EMI, 1978)

In the grand scheme of things, this may not be the most important Kraftwerk record ever released; and both Autobahn and Trans Europe Express have much to recommend them. But it’s my favourite, and that’s why I’ve picked this album by my favourite german band ever, and one of the most influential acts EVER.

I first heard this album in about the second year of university, when I borrowed the tape off someone, which they never got back (Mark, you still owe me £35, but as my intro to Kraftwerk I guess we’re fair and square). The tape has died, after much play; replaced on CD which was then passed onto my brother when I found a vinyl copy. So on a personal level, it’s an album I feel essential to own and listen to regularly.

It works on so many different levels: yes, it’s groundbreaking music full stop, and it’s hard to imagine much of what would happen over the next thirty years without it. Not an electric guitar in sight (well, hearing). And for once, instead of Europeans plundering the music of African-Americans and then selling it back to White Americans, this was genuinely original music, and folks everywhere were sitting up and listening. It’s dated phenomenally well, even if you don’t have a snazzy remaster.

It’s also a fantastic album to listen to whilst travelling. I can definitely trace a growing interest in so-called Krautrock (am i the only person who finds that term slightly uncomfortable?) to hearing this album – Can, Faust, Neu! Harmonia etc.. My suggestions that we spent a holiday driving up and down German motorways listen to German bands have not been well received. Never mind…The influences on bands as diverse as Joy Division and Air can be found here, not to mention pretty much everything that’s come under the heading of dance and electronica – techno, electro, trance to say nothing of Hip-Hop …hell, Kraftwerk were ahead of punk and disco, no-wave: you name it.

Oh, and it’s a fantastic bloody pop album. ‘The Model’ is a great tune full stop, as covered with wildly different arrangements by Big Black (noise rock) and Canasta (twee pop).

Kraftwerk -‘Spacelab.’ mp3