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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Last week I alerted you to the re-mastered and re-issued My Bloody Valentine LPs, as well as a compilation of their EPs and some rare and unreleased tracks. I though this might be a good opportunity to listen to the entire recorded output of my favourite band and come up with some suggestions of tracks to listen to in order to get a flavour of the band and their progression from a post-punk, gothy band from Dublin to one of the most influential bands of the early nineties.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/4/45/MyBloodyValentineThisIsYourBloodyValentine.jpg/220px-MyBloodyValentineThisIsYourBloodyValentine.jpgI started with This Is Your Bloody Valentine, their debut mini LP from 1985. I wasn’t aware of the band at the time, partly because they were a quite obscure Irish band who were only well-known in Berlin and Dublin, but mostly because I was only 10 years old. It’s a patchy affair; guitarist Kevin Shields and drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig form the core of the band, with original vocalist Dave Conway and his girlfriend Tina playing keyboards, no Bilinda or Debbie, and none of the squall of noise that would later come to define the band. Tiger in my Tank is quite fun though!

Tiger in My Tank

My Bloody Valentine - Sunny Sundae SmileThe band moved back to the UK, parted company with Tina, recruited Deb Googe on bass, and released three singles – Geek, The New Record By My Bloody Valentine and Sunny Sundae Smile. This section of the listening was a bit painful as the goth influence gradually disappears to be replaced by a rather jangly indie sound. What is interesting is the gradual appearance of the scratchy wall-of-noise guitar sound which would come to dominate the band’s sound. I think it’s most pronounced on We’re So Beautiful from The New Record By My Bloody Valentine. Oh, and I do have a soft spot for the jangly banality of Sunny Sundae Smile which I bought on 7″ from a friend’s older brother when I first got into the band in 1990.

We’re So Beautiful

Sunny Sundae Smile

Dave Conway left the band shortly after Sunny Sundae Smile and Kevin took over on lead vocals, also recruiting Bilinda Butcher as a second guitarist and vocalist. The next couple of releases, Strawberry Wine and the mini LP Ecstasy, were later compiled as the Ecstasy & Wine LP and show a marked shift away from the fuzzy, bubblegum pop sound, towards a more detached, Byrds-meet-Jesus-&-Mary-Chain sound. Kevin and Bilinda’s vocals are much lower in the mix than Dave Conway’s had been and there is definite experimental edge to the sound. My favourite track from this period is Clair, which sounds like it’s drowning in feedback but which is actually backed by a looped recording of a screaming Beatles audience.

Clair

With the lineup settled the band were signed to Creation records and produced their first genuinely exciting EP, finally causing the music press to sit up and listen. The EP – You Made Me Realise – is consistently exciting, with Colm’s drumming showing the aggression and power that would define the band live and Kevin’s experimentation with the guitar sound moving to a new level. The striking title track contains the 40 second section of white noise that would later be stretched to anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes when the band played live, becoming infamously known as the ‘holocaust’. The second track on the EP – Slow – is credited with being the first track to show the distinctive us of the tremolo to distort and glide the sound. They followed up this astonishing EP with the equally brilliant Feed Me With Your Kiss, the title track which is a splendid chunk of indie rock with the vocals low down in the mix, and remains one of the heaviest and also most accessible things the band ever did.

You Made Me Realise

Slow

Hot on the heels of these EPs came 1988’s Isn’t Anything LP and any vestiges of the jangly past were blown away. Mixing dream-like, shimmering soundscapes like No More Sorry with the noise assault of (When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream and the detuned, see-sawing of Soft as Snow, the first side of the LP is fascinating, but it’s the second side of the LP that had the most impact and which provided the template for the shoegazing scene that was to follow. Opening with Feed Me With Your Kiss and Suesfine, it takes a breather with Several Girls Galore and You Never Should before the drum assault of Nothing Much to Lose and then ends with the slow shuffle of I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It). Simply wonderful.

Feed Me With Your Kiss

Nothing Much To Lose

The first 5000 copies of Isn’t Anything came with a free 7″ containing two instrumental tracks, imaginatively called Instrumental #1 and Instrumental #2. #1 is a fairly standard slab of noisy, wall-of-sound stuff, but #2 uses a sampled beat from a Public Enemy record and adds swooping, distorted guitar sounds to great effect. This example of the influence of dance music, which was seeping into the music scene at the time, is really interesting and paved the way for my favorite My Bloody Valentine record.

The Glider EP was the first record of My Bloody Valentine’s that I bought when it came out (in Our Price in St Albans) and is still the one that excites me the most. Soon, with its sampled drums, indecipherable vocals and swooning, droning guitars is still my favourite track of all time, but the rest of the EP is excellent as well, with the repetitive swooping drone of Glider and the otherworldly sounds of Don’t Ask Why and Off Your Face rounding it out nicely. I got a bit obsessed with the EP, listening to it endlessly while reading Chaos by James Gleick. Soon was remixed by Andy Weatherall, but the remix didn’t really do anything interesting and remains a curio at best.

Instrumental #2

Soon

Finally, the run of astonishing EPs came to a close with the Tremolo EP. The lead track – To Here Knows When – is perhaps the ultimate distillation of what Kevin Shields was trying to achieve, with the guitars so distorted and drenched in feedback that they sound like they have melted all over the indistinct vocals and the low-key, rattling rhythms. The rest of the EP is very variable, with one excellent track in the shape of Honey Power and two weaker ones in Swallow and Moon Song.

To Here Knows When

And so to Loveless. Widely regarded as the band’s best LP, and surrounded by a fascinating web of myths, stories and tales of excess, delays, illness, obsession and financial chaos. I won’t go into it all here but there are detailed discussions about its protracted and difficult birth on Wikipedia and in Loveless by Mike McGonigal. During the recording Colm was suffering from a debilitating illness and most of the drums on the LP are programmed. Kevin pretty much made the record in its entirety, playing all the guitar and bass parts and working the keyboards and samplers. Bilinda contributes vocals and Colm produced the 1 minute long ambient Touched track as well as drums for the LP’s opening track, recorded after he had recovered. Deb Googe is pretty much absent from the LP. For me, this sums up the problems with Loveless – the detuned, sweeping guitars, fey, indistinct vocals and sampled feedback are all present and correct but it feels like something is missing – specifically Deb and Colm who were part of what made the band so powerful live.

It is a great LP though, eclipsing anything produced by any of the other bands around at the time who had borrowed their sound from Isn’t Anything. Highlights include the opening track Only Shallow, as well as the towering Come In Alone and the fuzzy, soporific Sometimes (used to magical effect in Lost in Translation which Kevin helped to soundtrack). The two tracks taken from the preceding EPs – Soon and To Here Knows When – are also excellent. However, the LP is patchy; the sampled feedback becomes a bit sickly and there is a lack of power to some of the tracks.

Come In Alone

Sometimes

The EPs 88-91 CD which came out in 2012 contains a few rare and unreleased tracks. Of these, only the full 10 minute edit of Glider and a track called Angel, which sounds like it’s from around the same time as the Glider EP, are really all that interesting. The two missing tracks, both covers (of We Have All The Time In The World and Wire’s Map Ref 41ºN 93ºW) aren’t really worth tracking down unless you’re a completist!

So there you have it, I did it so you didn’t have to! If you like any of the music on here, please track it down and buy it. The re-issues are worth a go if you don’t already have the albums or EPs already, but you might struggle to get hold of the older stuff. You can usually get it, but it’ll be second hand and expensive. There was an unofficial compilation called Things Left Behind which collected the early singles, and there’s Ecstasy and Wine to take you up to the beginning of the re-issues. Happy hunting.

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So, you know already how my favourite band of all time are My Bloody Valentine, right? And it goes without saying you were aware that they haven’t released anything new (two weak cover versions for compilations aside) since Loveless in 1991? Of course you were.

Well they still haven’t released anything new, but what they have done is re-master Isn’t Anything (their 1988 masterpiece) along with the critically lauded and much imitated Loveless and re-released them on CD. They have also re-mastered and compiled their astonishing series of 4 EPs which were released around these LPs and stuck some rare and unreleased tracks on the end for good measure!

In honour of this I have conducted and MBVathon over the last week or so, which I will write a much longer post about some time next week.

For now I’ll just alert you to the re-issues if you weren’t aware of them. They are certainly worth getting if you don’t already have the originals. The re-mastering is very subtle, and almost impossible to detect on iPod headphones, so don’t bust a gut if you already own the CDs (I have Isn’t Anything on vinyl and that still sounds nicest; I wish I could afford a copy of Loveless on vinyl! *sighs*

The EP collection is well worth getting though, compiling You Made Me Realise, Feed Me With Your Kiss, Glider and Tremolo with a few (actually quite good) rarities and unreleased items. Of these Instrumental #2, the full 10 minute edit of Glider and How Do You Do It stand out for me, but more of these in the longer post.

I did a new drum and bass mix a couple of weeks ago. It’s mostly stuff I’ve bought this year plus a couple of older tracks which I’ve been feeling. It’s called the Service Station Sausage because it’s hard at each end and kind of gristly in the middle.

Download it here

The tracklist is as follows:


  1. June Miller – Walls of Jericho (Critical Modulations)
  2. Phace – Stresstest (Neosignal)
  3. Phace – Cold Champagne (Neosignal)
  4. Break – Framework (Symmetry)
  5. June Miller – Snapcase (Critical Modulations)
  6. Sabre, Stray & Halogenix – St Clair (Critical Recordings)
  7. Data – Fidelity (Blackout Music)
  8. Fracture & FD – Galvanise (Subtitles)
  9. Data – Phalanx (Blackout Music)
  10. Alix Perez & Rockwell – Ballbag (Neosignal)
  11. Data – Fragment (Blackout Music)
  12. D-Bridge – Cornered (Metalheadz)
  13. Fracture & FD – No Rest (Subtitles)
  14. Sato – Clap Ya Hands (Symmetry)
  15. Rockwell – Tripwire (Shogun Audio)
  16. Break – The Drone (Symmetry)
  17. John B – Up All Night (Metalheadz)

So, in the last 7 days I have watched the following films – Haywire, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, (Marvel) Avengers (Assemble), Iron Man and The Raid.

Haywire was pretty good, with Gina Carano providing a solid physical core to the movie while a selection of decent thesps (Michael Fassbender, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton and Antonio Banderas) did the acting bit. The reason for the stellar cast in what is essentially an action b-movie? Steven Soderbergh. His close, hand-held direction gave the film real crunch and it was stripped down, effective and quite a lot of fun.

I am re-watching the Millenium films in their full length, 2-part, Swedish TV versions on Bluray. The third part – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – is the least cinematic, mostly taking place as it does in hospital and then in court. The televisual nature of the original version actually works much better than the edited down cinema release and the story is given time to breathe without feeling rushed. Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth Salander is still the one to beat.

Having heard so much about The Avengers (Marvel Avengers Assemble is a rubbish title), and being a Joss Whedon fan already, I experienced a mix of excitement and apprehension as the film started. We’d decided to see it in the Directors Lounge at the Showcase De Lux, to minimise the chance of the film being ruined by the popcorn-munching masses. I’m pleased to say the film delivered on every level, even the ‘robots-hitting-each-other’ action was tempered by repeatedly bringing the focus back to individual characters and their story arcs. The potential problem of handling all those characters fairly was handled very well (presumably thanks to Whedon’s experience with the multiple characters and action in Firefly and Serenity) and the writing, pacing and editing were all spot on. Brilliant.

Having seen the Avengers I thought I’d revisit Iron Man to see if it’s as much fun as I remember. It is.

Finally, I was possibly even more excited about The Raid than I was about The Avengers. An Indonesian action and martial arts flick made by a Welshman, set in a tower block and influenced by classic action cinema from the 80s and 90s? Yes please. It was fantastic, generating genuine reactions from the cinema audience ranging from oofs and ouches to nervous laughter and the collective release of breath held during the incredible fight scenes. The fights are filmed with a more static camera than in many recent action films (there is some shaky-cam as well, but it’s used to give a sense of disorgansation and panic) which means you can largely see what’s going on, and wow, is there stuff going on! The plot was very simple so the subtitles weren’t an issue at all (there isn’t too much dialogue) and it had many of the hallmarks of Asian action cinema, albeit with Gareth Evan’s more western touch to the direction. My only issue was that the hype surrounding the film might lead you to expect a continuous 90 minute fight scene, when in fact there are plenty of moments to regroup and get your breath back, before another hyper-kinetic punch up (elbow up? knee up?). That doesn’t mean the film slows down, they just ratchet up the tension instead! Highly recommended.

I have discovered that I enjoy writing about stuff, particularly music, and I would like to continue to do so without annoying my friends on Facebook. To that end I have set up this blog for my aimless ramblings about music (live and recorded) as well as films, food and occasionally politics, dog training, angry rants and just about anything else. I will be launching a proper blog about dog training from the end of June.

I also occasionally record a podcast (The Loftcast) and will publish links when I do so, and I do DJ mixes from time to time and will post some of those as well. Please comment on stuff, I love a good discussion and I need to be told when I am waffling too much. Please post links to related items your blog if you have one (I will remove anything inapproriate though) and I will find time to take a look.

Follow me on Twitter @l0fth0use too…

Enjoy!

P.S. I have posted my collected bloggery and music nonsense so far, from the 30 days of music (inspired by my friend Simon’s excellent blog at http://smithsocksimon.net/) to some random postings on shoegaze music and electronica)

Over the past 20 years, while many artists were abandoning rock roots and embracing dance (and drug) culture, the Prodigy have always ploughed their own furrow. Originally part of the early 90s rave scene (their debut – the What Evil Lurks EP, released in 1991 – was a mish mash of influences from early techno and hardcore) they quickly rose to prominence among the many faceless rave acts because of their frenetic live P.A.s.

Liam Howlett is the musical brains behind the outfit and makes all the music. The original line-up included two dancers – Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornill – and an MC called Maxim Reality. The strong characters in the group, plus the catchy, hook-laden tunes, meant that they very quickly hit the charts with their follow up single Charly. With it’s goverment information film sample and ravey sound, it’s often dismissed as cartoon music and blamed for the death of rave culture, but it’s actually much better (and much harder and darker) than you probably remember.

A good debut LP (Experience) and a brilliant follow-up (Music for the Jilted Generation) saw Liam move from the helium vocals and amphetamine beats to a more mature, techno and rock-tinged sound. The use of rock and punk sounds in particular is interesting at a time when much of the rest of electronic music was becoming more and more synthesised and, well, electronic.

The punk aesthetic was even more in evidence when Keith was promoted to vocal duties for Firestarter and the live experience hit the festivals, with a live show whose anarchic energy most rock bands of the time could barely muster (yes, Oasis and the Verve, I’m looking at you) and the Fat of the Land LP, with its dark feel and censor-baiting opener Smack My Bitch Up, cemented their place at the top of the electronic music pile.

There followed a period of flux, with Leeroy Thornhill leaving the group and a variety of side-projects coming and going. A very disappointing LP called Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned came and went, followed by a partial return to form with the Invaders Must Die LP in 2010.

The live show has never wavered though, smashing festivals and raves across the world and proving that live electronica doesn’t have to be all about the light show. Janine and I saw them in 2010 at Bestival on the Isle of Wight and they were brilliant. They ended with a barn-storming, sing-a-long version of Out of Space, so here is the original version (with brilliant 90’s rave video), which will be 20 years old in November.

Boing!

The Prodigy – Out Of Space

In my last post I mentioned live shows and no discussion of live electronic music would be complete without a mention of Orbital. Anyone who experienced the Hartnoll brothers live, particularly at a festival, and even more particularly at Glastonbury, will tell you it is an experience not to be forgotten.

Their recorded output is hit and miss, and even their epic, untitled second LP, sometimes known as the Brown Album, is patchy in places and hasn’t dated all that well.

However, if you are in a field in Somerset, in the middle of the night, watching their trademark torch-glasses bobbing up and down in the distance while the lasers and light pulse all around them, having been treated to a mash-up of Livin’ on a Prayer and Heaven is a Place on Earth over banging techno drums, and with fireworks being let off from behind the stage as the opening notes of Chime float out of the enormous speaker stacks, any thought of patchiness is blasted clean away. It really was quite something.

The closest anyone has yet come to capturing their live sound in a recording is a recording of the tracks Chime and Impact (The Earth Is Burning), made at the V96 festival. The tracks are included on part 3 of the Satan Live CD single and, on the CD, run together as a 20 minute long chunk of banging, euphoric, intense, beautiful electronic gorgeousness.

I couldn’t find a YouTube video of both tracks together so here they are separately. Do yourself a favour though, track down the CD single and buy yourself a copy. You won’t be sorry.

Orbital – Chime (Live at the V96 Festival, Chelmsford)

Orbital – Impact (live at V96 festival, Chelmsford)