Monday, 8 December 2014

Shindig! No.44

Every issue of Shindig! Magazine is an education, and this one is no exception. Alongside a wealth of informative stuff, you can find my 'Vinyl Art' column which this issue concerns Heavy Water, Kurmaraja The Cosmic Turtle and a Carmelite nun. I also get to review Cream, Dave Davies, and others. Lucky me. And lucky you!

Monday, 1 December 2014

MediaMagazine/BFI Sci-Fi Special

I was very pleased to be able to contribute to the MediaMagazine/BFI special again this year. Tying in with the BFI's science fiction season, it's a great read and takes in a few subjects close to my heart, including a look at sci-fi film poster art and an appreciation of Tarkovsky's Solaris.

For my own part, I'm rattling on about Alex North's rejected score for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Great fun. Get it here - for free!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Shindig! 43

Another great issue of Shindig! magazine hits your newsagents this week. You'll find me on the review pages as ever, and in the Vinyl Art column playing with my volvelle. There's also a great fun Q&A with Jonny Trunk. Snap it up!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Dorothy Moskowitz in Shindig! 42

To coincide with Esoteric's new reissue of The United States of America's classic 1968 psychedelic electronic rock album, Shindig! magazine wanted a feature on the band—and I didn't hesitate to elbow my way in there.

I tracked down Dorothy Moskowitz and found her in fine form; smart, witty, and tanticular (yes I had to look that one up) as she patiently and happily indulged my lengthy and obtuse questions. It was a real pleasure to talk to her.

You can read her reminiscences of her time with the amazing USA in the 'LA Special' issue of Shindig! No.42, which is out today and contains a wealth of other great stuff to boot.

Monday, 1 September 2014

¡Mezcla Irregular Tres!

Oh look it's autumn already. I shortchanged you a bit last time so here's a whole hour of the music which kept my boat afloat all summer long.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Shindig! 41

Out now is Shindig! issue 41, in which I take a close look at a woman's bottom for my Vinyl Art column. Reviews include a new reissue from the sublime United States of America and a super (and silly) sampler from Trunk Records. Smashing.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Shindig! 39

Out today is Shindig! issue 39, featuring all the usual brilliant stuff you should be used to by now. This month I'm talking to the thinking man's crate-diggers and psychedelic motorik groove merchants The Soundcarriers about their hook-up with Ghost Box Records, reviewing a handful of LPs including a great collection of steamingly funky Bollywood Disco and a classic reissue of spacey electronica from Ruth White, and finally waxing lyrical about the cover art of 1969's glorious folk-psych album Sound of Sunforest. If there's a better publication on the high street I'll eat my floppy felt hat.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Shindig! 38

Shindig! Magazine has gone from 6 to 8 numbers per year, and issue 38, out this week, is a feast for those of a psychedelic inclination. I've got a whole bunch of reviews in there, including The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Dory Langdon, Angels Die Hard, and Teeth of The Sea, as well as a 'Vinyl Art' column on Vanilla Fudge.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Man And A Mixing Desk

Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City finally made it to the top of my viewing pile this week. I always like to see men waxing romantic about music and geeky things like mixing desks (one of my favourite bits of TV ever is Sir Terence Conran crying about Concorde being decommissioned), and Sound City has that in spades.

The first hour is a comprehensive history of the studio and all the classic work that was done there, but it's shot through with curiously muddled invective against modern recording technology and practice. Is it specifically Pro Tools Grohl and co. hate? Because you can make instant edits on screen and don't need an experienced engineer to scrub a 2" tape back and forth? (The film eats that cake too by focusing on how "Slow Tools" used to take an hour to render an edit in 1991). Because it tempts you into not committing to any ideas or performances and saving it all for the mix? (I agree with that one). Or is it the solo way of working that it engenders? (Wasn't the first Foo Fighters album an almost entirely one-man operation? That didn't turn out too bad.)

What totally wrongfooted me was the reveal half-way through the film that Grohl had bought the studio and saved it from closure the one moveable thing of serious monetary value from the studio and taken it away. The people who worked there, the family feel, the kind, visionary management, all are praised throughout the movie, but ultimately it feels like the film is telling us that those aren't the most important things after all. After the beloved Neve 8028 is moved out we never revisit the old studio, we never even discover it's ultimate fate. The film is essentially a love story between a man and a mixing desk and nothing is going to get in its way.

Several times Grohl and others point out how working with restricted technology, older tape machines and so forth, gave their work an immediacy, a focus. But they're missing the most obvious restrictions that enable creativity to flourish; time and money. In moving that desk into his own place, Grohl essentially has all the free studio time he wants. And most of the music in the second half of the film proves that that's not always a good thing. None of the tracks are awful by any means, just... unmemorable. I couldn't hum one of the tunes now 48 hours after watching the film, except perhaps Lee Ving's Your Wife is Calling, the tightest, least improvised number. As the joyous footage of boys (and Stevie Nicks) with toys shows, all the noodling around is great fun, but that feeling doesn't always translate into great records. Even McCartney's number is forgettable—I love the man, and his commitment to musical experimentation, but he's a bit embarrassing here. Sorry Macca.

All in all a miss I think. And it's a shame because Grohl is obviously a great guy and passionate about what he does. But the film seems more interested in nuts and bolts than rock and roll, and that's an impression which does its creator a disservice.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Music Teacher

A belated happy Yule to one and all. In your January 2014 issue of Music Teacher magazine you'll find my contribution to the new 'Fresh Thinking' feature; an interview with Dr Jeremy Arden about the Schillinger System of Composition, a pleasingly esoteric subject that I've nevertheless long since wanted to write something about.

And to study, but that's for another day.