Uncommon Deities

This is undoubtedly my favourite album of all time. It is a work of tremendous and rare beauty, and every time I listen to it I am stunned by just how complete and unique it is.

I listen to it only when I have the time to devote myself entirely to listening to it without distraction, as it just isn’t the kind of music that you can listen to in the background. At least that’s my opinion.

However, I’ve recently just sat down and read the poems that are an integral part of Uncommon Deities. On their own they are incredibly beautiful. As a part of the whole they’re even better. But even so, I really enjoyed reading them in isolation.

A signed copy of Steve Jansen’s ‘Slope’

I already have this album, I got it when it first came out, but when I heard that Steve Jansen was selling off the last remaining stock and signing them I thought I ought to buy it again. It’s always lovely to have a signed copy of things and this album especially so.

I hope he releases some more stuff from Bandcamp in the not too distant future.

Listening to the West Norwood Cassette Library

With a band name like that I could do nothing else but listen to them. I remember the days of using cassette libraries and borrowing tapes. All too often the tapes would be somewhat damaged and wobbly, but that was in many ways the nature of cassettes themselves.

Of course cassette libraries are all but gone now, but a band name like that makes me remember the old days, so, as I said before, I had to give them a listen, and guess what? Yep, I quite liked their stuff too!

Mick Karn’s Titles, on vinyl

Mick Karn, Titles
Mick Karn, Titles

I do think about Mick Karn’s music around this time of year. I think it’s good to remember him, and that’s one of the reasons I thought I’d buy his album Titles again, but this time on vinyl.

I do like vinyl. Originally I had Titles on cassette and not vinyl. Of course now I have it digitally, which seems like a bit of a shame.

You have to love something like Serendipity

I can’t think why I really like this, but I do. I think it’s a lovely thing, but I really don’t know why. It doesn’t fit my ideas of utility at all. If you’ve no idea about what I’m talking about, then you should know that Serendipity is an app built on Spotify’s API which shows where two people are playing the same song at the same time anywhere in the world. It is quite amazing to watch, but, as far as I can tell it has no real purpose. Not that it needs it though.

Attempting to listen to the Wire’s top 50 albums of 2015

I sort of do this every year, or at least try to anyway. It has become a little ritual with me. I leaf through the Wire’s top 50 to see how many (if any) of these albums I’ve heard and then try and find them all on Spotify so I can listen to them. Of course not all of them are ever on Spotify so it isn’t really a comprehensive system, but it does most of the job, and that’s ok.

This year is no different. I’ve actively listened to just a handful of these albums in the Wire’s top 50, and only own 1 of them I think. So I’ve added the lot, or at least the lot I can find, into a playlist and I’ll attempt to listen to the lot. Probably next year I’m thinking.

That’s the plan. That’s been the plan for a few years now, and it seems to work.

Doctor Who and The Drosten’s Curse … Some thoughts now I’ve finished it …

Doctor Who and the Drosten's Curse
Doctor Who and the Drosten’s Curse Audio Book

So I’ve finished listening to this audiobook. Strangely, just after I’d finished it I was in Edinburgh and at the book festival and found the hardback version of the title. I’m not sure I’d have bought that after listening to the book.

Anyway, I said I’d put down some thoughts on this book once I’d finished it. So here goes.

I did enjoy this audiobook, but it wasn’t the best Doctor Who story I’ve ever heard. It was funny, very much in the style of Douglas Adams, but almost a bit too much Douglas Adams for me. It was like it was written to emulate one of his stories but went too far. To begin with it was fine, actually quite fun and very amusing, and the style of the narrator complimented the writing completely. But it felt like the style and the wit of the book had overwhelmed the story itself. It wasn’t a bad story, not at all, but if I had been expecting a story like a Douglas Adams, I was going to be disappointed. In fact, I was disappointed.

The story itself wasn’t bad, it was ok, but it wasn’t a Douglas Adams story. I did enjoy it overall, and it had a good ending, I won’t spoil it for you though, in case you do listen to it or read it.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it though. If you’re interested in newly written Dr Who stories I’d recommend engines of war, that’s a great story. This one was ok, but I can’t imagine myself listening to it again, or buying the actual book.

So, try it if you like, but if you’re after something substantial then I think you’ll be disappointed. That’s my view anyway.

Enjoying Spotify’s new Discover Weekly playlist

It’s been a few weeks now since Spotify introduced their new ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist feature. I approached this with some skepticism. I didn’t like the idea of a playlist generated by some algorithm based on my listening habit. I assumed it would pick up all the wrong things and offer me some dreadful concoction of tracks that would be ultimately unlistenable.

However, I was for the most part wrong. It appears that Spotify have done a very good job of pulling this together and making it something that is in fact quite enjoyable to listen to, and that has, somewhat rapidly, become a looked forward to part of my week.

As a result of the discover weekly playlist I’ve already found a few artists who’s work I didn’t know and have looked into further. It’s been very good. I really hope it continues to provide interesting discovery and open up new musical possibilities.

I just hope that they don’t get rid of it like they did with Spotify apps.

How I listen, how I want to listen, how I should listen

Back in May I had a rare opportunity to spend some time just listening. Not doing anything else, just listening to an album. It was wonderful. It made me think a lot about how I listen to music on a regular basis, which in turn made me realise just how poor my listening experience is on a regular basis.

So I started thinking about how I listen now, how I want to listen and the gap between those two. It’s a big gap actually, sadly.

For the most part I listen to both music and to audiobooks on the go. Walking, on trains, tubes, buses etc. That makes up the vast majority of my listening experience. It isn’t a great experience at all. Mostly there’s lots of background noise, lots of distraction and it isn’t easy to concentrate particularly, but that’s the way it is. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people. What’s missing of course is that deep and focused listening experience. It requires time, it requires space and concentration. The time and space elements are things that I can’t find easily, not these days anyway.

So I need to find a way to bridge that gap, and to have the space to listen creatively. Not easy really. But it will be really worth it if I can. Having that experience, even every now and then is like a little oasis.

A day at WOMAD

Obligatory WOMAD flag picture
Obligatory WOMAD flag picture

I wasn’t able to spend the whole weekend at WOMAD this year, I was only able to go for the day this year. Which was ok. The weather was pretty awful on the Friday, so the Saturday was a good option in the end.

So as always here’s the obligatory photo of the flags. I think you have to take one as part of the terms and conditions of the ticket. I heard a few interesting things on Saturday. Possibly the most interesting was Hannah Peel, who I’ll be listening to some more of soon enough.

It was also good to see Hossam Ramsay doing a workshop at WOMAD this year. Quite a while ago I did a workshop where Hossam taught for a day, and that was excellent. I really enjoyed it.

Hossam Ramsay at WOMAD
Hossam Ramsay at WOMAD

So I’m glad I went. It was good to meet up with some old friends and see how the festival has come on in a year. I’ve been going for a long time now, not as long as some of my friends though, and it’s sort of become an annual tradition.

I like WOMAD, but this year it felt a little crowded. I’m not sure why. It was good to go for the day, this year that was enough for me.