Escape from New York

I first saw this movie when I was in my early teens. It made a very big impression on me, as did the soundtrack. Since then I’ve watched it a few times.

Recently I have found myself listening to the main theme track so I decided to buy a copy of the DVD. It is still good, at least it is in my opinion anyway. I remembered most of the movie, so nothing really came as a surprise. I actually think that the original movie is better than the remake in 1996, although I did enjoy that too, albeit to a lesser degree.

After watching the original I kept hearing the theme tune for days, so when it turned up on record store day I knew I had to get it.

It’s a lovely record and a great piece of music, from a great film.

The Wire at 40

I have been a subscriber of The Wire for quite some time. Sometimes with breaks, but on the whole a fairly loyal subscriber. I can say that I have enjoyed The Wire on the whole for some twenty years now. I can’t say that I have always understood or made sense of it, and often the music they rate highly does nothing for me. However, that is not the point of The Wire for me, not at all.

I find it at times incredible to see the enormous variety of music produced across the world and The Wire is my window onto that world. Sure, sometimes it is music that does nothing for me, but that doesn’t matter at all. The fact that it is made is what is important.

Every year I read their top albums of the year, and I’m always pleased if I’ve heard three of them. Most years it is less than three though. Even so, each year I do my best to listen to as many of the albums in their chart as possible. It’s always an interesting time.

The Langham Research Centre at Cafe Oto

I first saw the Langham Research Centre at the Barbican last month. I was really impressed by them. So when I got an email from Cafe Oto sent an email about them playing I decided I should go. Cafe Oto is a lovely place to see music, and I even played there once myself.

The LRC were great, as expected, and I also managed to have a quick chat with Robert Worby about sound and the words we use to describe sounds, or rather the fact that we have very few words that actually do describe sounds. It’s an interesting subject and one that needs some thought.

Next I think I need to probably buy some of the recordings. There is plenty on Bandcamp, which is where I will start. I am especially drawn to their piece ‘Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park’.

Fifteen years of Nouvelle Vague

When I first heard Nouvelle Vague I was really amazed. I remember it clearly. It was at WOMAD and they were playing ‘Blue Monday’. Of course it didn’t sound like ‘Blue Monday’. I knew all the words but I could not for the life of me think of what the song was.

Since them I’ve seen them a few times live and have always enjoyed their music, or rather the music they play. So I was looking forward to seeing them again, especially at Union Chapel, which is such an amazing venue.

But I’m sad to say I found them less than inspiring. Firstly there were only four of them and no bass player at all. Their selection of songs was poor. There were some good songs, and in fact they made a good start, but after that it was a little dull. I have no idea if anyone else there had similar thoughts, and there were a lot of people there.

I still like a lot of what they’ve done over the years, but for now, I doubt I’ll go to see them again.

Nonclassical: Listening to Place at the Barbican

I found out about this event from an email from ‘Cities and Memories’, and, as someone who is very interested in field recording I was keen to go along. Also as a Londoner I need little persuasion to head to the Barbican.

This was more than just a performance though. This was a whole day about field recording, comprising multiple performances and a panel discussion as well. There are a few details on Nonclassical’s site. Personally I was most interested in the panel discussion, which was interesting, but mostly because of the contributions of Robert Worby from the Langham Research Centre. He had some really useful insights into the practice of field recording. Food for thought.

The performance was a bit of a curate’s egg on the whole. Some very good pieces, some less successful in my opinion. I particularly liked the performance by Li Yilei which I thought integrated field recordings most successfully. Kate Carr’s work was also very good, but it felt like it lacked a direction, or at least it every time it felt like it was going somewhere interesting she changed direction. Just my opinion of course.

The Langham Research Centre was a high point for me and I’m looking forward to listening to more of their work in the coming days.

These kinds of events are few and far between, and for the most part I usually hear about them long after they’ve happened. So I was really glad to actually make it to this. I really enjoyed the whole day, and it was both interesting and inspiring.

Well done to Nonclassical and the Barbican for organising it.

Blancmange: Nil by Mouth IV and V

I have been listening to Blancmange since the 1980s. In recent years, I have found their (his) music much more introspective at times, and especially this series of instrumental albums ‘Nil By Mouth’. In this latest iteration, albums four and five arrive as a double album, and both live up to the previous quality.

I wrote about the first ‘Nil by Mouth’ back in 2015. I have bought all of them so far, and I expect to buy any that get released in the future.

When I was listening to these two (IV and V) I found, much like with the previous albums, this music seems to fit my mood very closely.

At some point, and possibly on a long journey somewhere, I might listen to all of them in one go.

The Wire top 50 albums of 2021

Every year I listen to all of the Wire magazine top fifty albums of the year from their rewind issue. Some years I might have heard of a few of them. Some years I might have even bought one or two of them. But on the whole it is rarely more than one or two.

Usually I find very little that I would want to follow up on, occasionally an artist will stand out for me and I’ll find something new to follow. But more than anything I am pleased to find so much music that, whilst I may not enjoy it, is being created by people who are pushing the boundaries of sound. I find that quite a comforting thought.

I have been a subscriber of the wire for a long time. Probably well over a decade, possibly longer. I like the fact that there is so much going on on the fringes of the world of music. Even if it is music that I don’t like. That is not the point. I just like that it exists, that there are people creating this stuff, having these ideas.

Anyway, if I do find anything that I think is worth noting, then I might just post about it. Who knows.

Barbican: Britain on the move

I went to this on Sunday as I was invited by a friend. I probably would have overlooked this event if it wasn’t for that. But it was good. Quite unique in fact.

I have always had a love of trains, or perhaps, to be more accurate, a love of being on long train journeys. So this appealed to me simply for that fact.

The films shown were of mixed quality. All of them showed different aspects of train travel in different parts of the UK. From busy cities, to the countryside and seaside. The one I liked the best was the first commuter inter city train. The film of that was very focused on the comfort and luxury of the journey. It was very business centric, but, as a piece of social history, very interesting. As was the music, which was live and performed by an ensemble of musicians from the guild hall. They had composed the score themselves, and whilst some of it was electronic and appealed to me a bit more, a lot of it was more generally contemporary.

Overall it was a very good experience. Well put together. Enjoyable. I would certainly go to something like that again.

Blancmange, Commercial Break

I am always up for a new Blancmange album, and I have waited a while for this one. It is an album made with Benge and yet it still has a Blancmange feel. According to the Blancmange site:

“Commercial Break reflects on how the current situation has impacted and re-shaped our perception and experience of everyday life, hinting at new possibilities ahead.

Random field recordings collected for the album triggered many of the songs. Arthur lists them as follows . . .”

Blancmange
  • Two electric saws
  • Waves breaking on beach
  • People talking/moving (indistinct words)
  • A dishwasher
  • Ambient mic recording to pick up background noise
  • Close mic recording to collect the body noise of guitar
  • Bird song (-2 octaves)
  • Metal gate closing and metal gate locking
  • Beach with people and waves breaking
  • Old water pump

I have only listened to this album a couple of times so far, but there are some really interesting sounds being used here. Not just in terms of the field recordings, which are good, but also the overall sound of each of the songs was really interesting and quite unique at times.

As I’ve been a fan of Blancmange for most of my life now there is always the sense that the next album will still be good and that I really should like it. However, for the most part I do. Some albums more than others of course. But this one feels like a progression. A step forward.

After hearing this I decided to go back to a few Blancmange albums of recent years including the instrumental albums ‘Nil by Mouth’. These are all good, solid works. Thoughtful and not always entirely easy to listen to, a quality I applaud.

Blancmange, albeit only half of the original eighties duo, have grown up gracefully. The music has matured from the interesting pop of the first few albums into something that still retains some of the uniqueness that made them popular (at least popular with me), whilst having a more philosophical leaning to it.

I look forward to more of this journey in the future.

PalmSounds would have been 15 today

It seems odd to me that my original blog would have turned 15 years old today. Odd and slightly sad that it is no longer an ongoing thing. Like all good things, it naturally came to an end. If that were not the case, it would have been a cause for celebration. But perhaps it still should be. There were a lot of high points from my long journey with PalmSounds. I made a lot of friends. I saw a lot of people get a huge amount of enjoyment and satisfaction from using mobile devices to make music, and I saw some truly amazing technology during those years.

To mark the occasion I thought I would remember some of those high points, and share a few of them with you. Like talking at Roli’s ‘modern music industry‘ event.

And meeting Roger Linn at another event at their offices. Which was an unexpected treat.

PalmSounds brought me to Heart n Soul too. Which was an amazing experience for me with many highlights. Again, I won’t list all of them, there are simply too many, but the events we did were truly incredible experiences.

And those were just some of the high points. There were so many more.