Sunday, December 27, 2009

Plone - For Beginner Piano

Plone were part of the same midlands "Retro Futurist" enclave that spawned Broadcast, Fridge and Pram at the tail end of the Nineties. Although it's difficult to tell at this distance how much of a scene there actually was, or whether as frequently happens, a bunch of different groups with different approaches but a broadly similar sound came to prominence at the same time and were lumped together by the music press. It always amuses me to note how much the bands in question hate it whenever this happens.

Anyway, whatever the truth, Plone were a bunch of guys who had moved away from more traditional guitar based approaches to more keyboard and sampler based sounds. An interview with them is online here and predictably enough, based upon the intricate and refined music they made, reveals them to be inward looking geeks and gear-heads. That isn't intended to be a criticism.

It's probably fair to say that this is one of my favourite electronic albums ever. Taking it's cues from John Barry-esqe spy movie themes and the now commonplace influences of the radiophonic workshop and assorted library music weirdos, this is music with a vision that was truly ahead of its time while being totally inspired by the past. It was, if you will, retro futurist.

There's a classic early cyber-punk short story by William Gibson called "The Gernsback Continuum" which left a massive impression on me and with which I have always associted this album. If I can quote from Wikipedia in order to illustrate:
"The Gernsback Continuum" is a short story by William Gibson about a photographer who has been given the assignment of photographing old, futuristic architecture. This architecture, although largely forgotten at the time of the story, embodied for the generation that built it their concept of the future.

During his assignment to photograph 1930s era futuristic architecture, Parker begins to realize a "continuum," an alternate reality containing the possible future of the world represented by the architecture he is photographing – a future that could have been, but was not, thereby contrasting modernism to postmodern reality. Parker's glimpses of this fantastical utopian future, characterised by massive multi-lane highways, giant zeppelins and Aryan inhabitants become increasingly frequent and disturbing until, on the advice of a friend, he immerses himself deliberately in the grittiest 'realities' of our world (such as pornography and news stories about crime and war) that are at odds with the idealised world of Gernsback and others. Slowly the images fade to insubstantiality and the story ends with Parker able to ignore the sight of a nearly transparent flying wing. Parker realizes that he would rather live in world characterized by pornography, crime and random events than that of Gernsback continuum.
While always fully understanding the reasons for seeking out a grittier reality, the appeal of this album and that of related works such as the early releases of Broadcast has always transported me to this weird parallel reality where airships cross the blue sky and assignations with heavily accented, silver-suited brunettes with blood red lips take place under the Gothic towers of an Eastern European railway station. Basically, this intricate, beautiful music conjures places and times that are probably better than those we are experiencing now. From the Sparky's Magic Piano-isms of "Plock" to the wondorous closing salvo of "On My Bus", this is a an album I return to again and again and is a real Jewel in the crown of the Warp story.

Billy Bainbridge from Plone now works with Tim Felton of Broadcast as Seeland and have recently produced one of the albums of the year which I urge you to seek out if you haven't already. I cannot wait to see what comes next from them. Combined with the "Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age" which also appeared this year, this seam continues to be a rich one indeed.

Beautiful, spooky and a hugely innovative precursor to the whole Hauntological movement that is characterised by the Ghost Box label.

Don't miss.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Manic Street Preachers (Et Al) - Cooking, Cleaning And Flower Arranging

There are apparently no plans to release this record other than on this vinyl edition which is strictly limited to 300 copies.
"Cooking, Cleaning and Flower Arranging" collects 14 remixes specially commissioned for Manic Street Preachers highly acclaimed ninth album, 'Journal For Plague Lovers'.

When hand picking a list of remixers, the band asked that each producer did what they wanted with the album tracks. One remixer for each track on the record, covering styles as diverse a range of musical styles as they could hope to achieve. The resultant album acts as an inspired companion piece and a stand alone work in its own right.
This features the first Underworld remix in over a decade, and this track is indeed one of the standouts. Some other fantastic stuff here as well though. Look out for the Optimo, Saint Etienne and Fuck Buttons tracks. It will also be no surprise that the Weatherall track is amazing, as is the British Sea Power take on "Me and Stephen Hawking".

Peeled Apples - Andrew Weatherall
Me And Stephen Hawking - British Sea Power
Pretension/Repulsion - Four Tet

This Joke Sport Severed - Patrick Wolf
She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach - The Pariahs
Journal For Plague Lovers - Optimo (Espacio)

Jackie Collins Existential Question Time - Saint Etienne
Marlon J.D. - New Young Pony Club
Facing Page: Top Left - Adem
All Is Vanity - Errors

Virginia State Epileptic Colony - Fuck Buttons
Bag Lady - Jonathan Krisp
Doors Closing Slowly - The Horrors
William's Last Words - Underworld

A Castles In Space Exclusive.

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Paul White - The Strange Dreams Of Paul White

Artistically, Paul White has had a fantastic 2009. Following up this full length debut with an EP and another mini album, he has been prolific and consistently great.

This album appeared in June 2009 and has definitely turned into one of my albums of the year. Featuring a plethora of weird beats, snatches of dialogue and enough psychedelic sampling to make your head explode, this is so great because it manages to avoid all of the macho posturing and lazy braggadocio that make most of hip-hop just about unlistenable to me these days.
Paul White has risen to claim status as one of the UK's finest beat breakers and psyched instro-hip-hop producers. White's idiosyncratic and rarified touch has lent his productions an intriguing personality. His day job as a library producer for Channel 4 and the BBC goes some way to explain the assortment of wonderfully disjointed samples and radiophonic ephemera that form much of the base material for the album, with a carefree and light fingered attitude towards plucking his sonic touchstones from their sources. This dilated scope and the hazy dream-like qualities of the results have lead to apt comparisons with both the RZA and Boards Of Canada, with a rugged beat driven aesthetic offset by rich sound designs and a psychedelically tipsy agenda.
I was lucky enough to get one of the 500 copies which were released in a hand sewn, quilted sleeve. And if you like this, I suggest you seek out his other stuff because it's all fantastic.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lindstrøm - Exclusive Mix Promo: Little Drummer Boy

One of my albums of the year has been the amazing "Where You Go, I Go Too" from ultra prolific Norwegian prog/psyche/kraut/disco Meister, Lindstrøm.

I was hugely excited a few weeks ago when another Lindstrøm album appeared, which features the vocal "talents" of his collaborator, Christabelle. Unfortunately, despite trying very, very hard and giving it my full and undivided attention, not much of this one is really sticking with me. I think the final nail in the coffin was when I realised that all the vocals were improvised. Or to put it another way, all of the vocals were unrehearsed. It sounds like it's been assembled from lots of tiny bits and at the moment, is irritating the hell out of me.

Thank the winter snow gods then, that my copy came with a promo 42 minute version of "Little Drummer Boy". Yes. THAT "Little Drummer Boy". Anyway you slice it, this is AMAZING in it's scope, cheek, musical artistry and awesome sonic invention. This is a future classic and no mistake. Probably best described as a "builder", once again, Lindstrøm finds the delicious sweet spot between motorik krautrock and super cooled cosmic disco. This is the shit.

Merry Christmas, Lindstrøm. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You and Some Free Stuff You May Have Missed


What can I say? I am once again genuinely touched by the response I got from my Countdown posts. Dunno what to say really other than you people are the best and thank you all so much. Each and every one of those comments was like (and I'm quoting Julian Cope here) "an amphetamine pessary up the psychic jacksie". You are all healers. Literally.

Here's an email from the Clinic Sister at my hospital following my last visit regarding the results of my final blood test till June 2010, when I find out if the treatment has actually worked. They are limited by what they can discuss over email due to privacy policies, but this is the email in it's entirety. I might get this printed up on a T-Shirt.
Subject: results
Date: 21 December 2009 15:52:32 GMT

All okay.


Good times.

It seems a common thread for many of us was the total shitness of 2009. Witness the shitness. Goodbye, Baby. Now you have given us your freezing cold Winter Solstice, you can go, walk out the door, just turn around now, cos you're not welcome anymore.

However, one of my things of the year has definitely been Twitter. I never touched MySpace and am a reluctant participant in Facebook, but Twitter is a different beast altogether. I love the fun and immediacy of it all and can see this thing growing in all sorts of unexpected directions. Get on board now if you haven't done so far. You won't regret it. It may take a few weeks to understand what the hell is going on, but right now, this feels like something I want to be involved in. Use it wisely.

It seems to be the time of year where lots of cool people are giving away free stuff, most of which I have become aware through Twitter, and it seems like a good idea to round up some of the best stuff here in case you missed it.

You have to sign up for several of these, but I promise you it's worth it. In no particular order, I can recommend the following:

New Ghost Box downloads from creator of one of the years strangest but best electronic albums, Roj.

Six brilliant tracks from the awesome Seed Records, including two Antoni Maiovvi things. This is all excellent though.

Twelve track compilation from the legendary 4AD.

The Black Dog's Krautrock Mix.

There were also three brilliant and unreleased Pet Shop Boys remixes and a post about the way EMI handled the campaign for another one of the albums of the year ("Yes") here, but unfortunately, it seems to have been removed. Ask him nicely and he might hook you up. Or you could just ask me.

Peace and literally, love.

Your pal,

Nolan Micron.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nite Jewel - Want You Back EP

I'm so stoked to see this obscure little nugget has appeared in a few of the trendiest end-of-year "best of" lists. I've been enjoying this since the Summer, and have been extolling it's myriad virtues to anyone who would listen, without gaining much traction it has to be said. There's something indefinably sweet and lovely about this. It's ultra lo-fi and naive, but so effortlessly cool that it just oozes class and raw artistry.

I'm finding it hard to classify, but I suppose it mostly reminds of me of those early totally electronic Disco/Brit-funk records that appeared in the early 80's. But instead of being all about "getting with you, girl", this is uber cool and feminine. She might get with you, but you'll probably just end up talking, but falling helplessly in love with her anyway. This is music smeared through an afternoon haze of Bacardi Breezers and sunshine. Imagine if your school band were clever and switched-on instead of four spotty herberts trying to regurgitate AC:DC riffs at you.
Dividing her time between two of the hippest labels around, Ramona Gonzalez releases her music through both No Pain In Pop and, most famously, Italians Do It Better (as is the case here). 'Want You Back' follows in a similar spirit to her 'What Did He Say' debut single, combining lo-fi dancefloor haze, psychedelic 'verbed-to-the-hilt vocals and most disarmingly, a killer bassline. After a more abstracted, vocal mix comes 'All Out Of Order', whose foggy disco-scapes are at least the A-side's equal. The song arrives in both English and Spanish language versions, but both renderings become a glorious blur of vocoded dancefloor ambience.
I can also give a massive recommendation for the album, "Good Evening" which also appeared this year and is more of the same raw, dreamy, lo-fi genius. The two main tracks on here are something else though.

I'm planning on dropping this in the set at around 11:45 on New Years Eve. I'm risking bemusement and even perhaps, hostility, but I'm betting that a few revelers are gonna be asking me what this is.

This is a digital download as the 12' was a tenner and had one less track. That being the case, I'm only keeping this up for a few days.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Countdown Ends: Twenty Thousand Pounds Worth Of Drugs.

I’d better start all of this off with a disclaimer.

I have no idea if what follows is of interest to anyone who reads this blog. This is some personal stuff I'm writing about because it feels important to me. I don’t really know who is interested in my opinions or the details surrounding my circumstances, or if people just come here for the music.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve struggled in the past with judging the purpose and scope for Castles In Space. Is it solely about the music or does the writing make it a better blog?

From my perspective, Castles in Space is a more fulfilling experience when I get to sound off and people engage and discuss this stuff with me, otherwise, here I am just tossing off into the great cyber-yawn. I've had an ongoing dichotomy about whether to include personal stuff up on here or just keep it about the sounds. The fact is that the personal stuff occasionally bleeds into the blog whether I want it to or not, and it’s at those times that the writing feels more satisfying to me.

Anyway, this whole area of personal life intruding on the blog was brought into sharp relief earlier this year when I shut down Castles In Space without much explanation. I know this left some of you feeling frustrated and disappointed, but to your enormous credit the response from the vast majority of you was supportive and understanding and for that I am truly grateful. It meant a lot to me then and it still does now.

However, I think I wanted to explain what was going on around that time and to talk a little bit about my year. I think mainly for the reasons that I’m hoping that writing about this might help me put things into some perspective and also I think (at least hope) that a few of you might find this illuminating into the causes of my brief disappearance earlier in the year.

Everyone else go straight to the last paragraph of this piece. See you over at Spinster’s Rock.

Still with me? OK. Well, to place the story of my 2009 into context, you probably need a few pertinent background historical details. In 1982, aged 17, I was involved in a serious car accident. One weekday Autumn lunchtime, out of the blue, in the middle of a country lane, I very nearly lost my life. I needed a lot of extra blood while they put me back together and in 1982, blood in the UK was not screened for several viruses that are routinely tested for these days. Some of the blood I received during the blood transfusion was infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

Hep C is a chronic liver disease which is often very serious in some patients, but the effects and impact can vary massively from person to person. I was lucky enough to be virtually asymptomatic for years and tested positive for the virus completely unexpectedly while I was being routinely tested for something else. From then until now, I have been in regular contact with the hospital, probably the finest in the country in this field, who have monitored progress and impact of the disease over the years. In July 2008, following my fourth liver biopsy, the decision was taken that because the disease was starting to cause some damage to my liver which was showing up in the biopsied tissue, the time was right to undergo the only current treatment which is available for the virus. In my case, this meant a 48 week course of weekly, self administered Interferon injections and 1200mg of Ribavarin, daily. Over the course of 48 weeks, that's a lot of drugs.

In January this year, I commenced treatment.

In common with the different ways in which different people are affected by the virus, it's equally true that patients respond in different ways to the treatment. However, these are serious drugs. One doctor told me that taking this "combination therapy" was similar to the effects that would be felt from a long term, low level course of chemotherapy. That being the case, no one gets through this without feeling the impact of some fairly full-on side effects.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about how the drugs have affected me over the course of this year, but suffice to say, I have felt the full brunt of the typical effects that I was warned about, and it's been hard work. There is much information available on the internet for those who wish to seek out more, but I don't want to dwell on that here. For one thing, I still find it immensely depressing even thinking about what this year has been like. I'm steadfastly and resolutely looking forward.

Around June, almost six months into the treatment, I was feeling the full pressure of a severe dip in my health when I decided that I could literally no longer manage to keep the blog going. It was a bad time. I just couldn't keep the plates spinning any more and felt I had no options other than to reduce commitments and external pressures. In retrospect, I was probably right to do this, but I could have handled it a lot better. Sincere apologies for that, and warm thanks to those who have stuck with me.

Despite the dreadfulness of my 2009, I have learned a few interesting things about myself, and about illness itself, none of which are particularly pleasant, I'm afraid.

First, through all of this, I have managed to keep working, despite suffering from extreme exhaustion and feeling the full effects of a symptom known charmingly as "brain fog". Yes folks, I have had a taste of the future, a kind of Alzheimer's Lite, and I'm here to tell you that it isn't nice. I simply never knew that I cared so much about working, and wonder if this is solely to do with having kids, or to use the proper term, which I truly understand for the first time in my life, "dependents".

I'm not sure I would have dragged my miserable arse to the office and back every day if it were not for them. Is that love? Or duty? I need more time to understand what has been going on here, because I'm still not able to put this stuff into any sort of perspective. Give me a few months and a bit of emotional distance and I might be able to make more sense of it. Oh, and sorry employers. You will get better value from me next year, I promise.

I also learned, that despite the love and support of friends and family, essentially, you have to do illness entirely on your own. When the only answer to the question "How are you?" is "I'm fucking terrible, thanks", then it's really best not to answer. I have never, ever felt so alone. I think I learned that I hate to show vulnerability as well, so again, just best not to answer. Stoicism bacame my watchword as I internalised virtually everything. I don't want to burden you and you don't want to hear. So, no answer was forthcoming.

So, you just keep going. One foot in front of the other. Three more pills, finish the bottle. Next bottle. Three in the morning, three at night. Take with food. If it's Saturday, it must be injection number 2, 8, 23, 37, 41. Keep going. One month, three months, six months, ten months... Not long now.

The countdown. My entire year has been one long countdown. And I'm almost at the end. I take the last of my tablets this Saturday morning. And I cannot wait. I'm really, really bored with not feeling well. It's rubbish, honestly. I want to be able to have the energy to do stuff. Stuff with the kids. To write and play. To feel better. To simply not to have to take anymore drugs.

I also want to say, that I'm well aware that that there are those who are far worse off than I. Those who will never be able to stop taking their drugs. Those for whom there are no drugs. I think I've learned a little bit about that as well; mortality and the fragile nature of our existence. I have met some wonderful people through this blog, at least one of whom has been through great personal tragedy, and I think that he has done what I had to do - keep going. You just keep going, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Just keep going until it ends. Countdown the days. Until it stops.

Looking forward, some long time readers will know that I regularly used to get out to remote places and visit beloved neolithic/iron age/bronze age sites in the UK and France. I have been unable to do any of that this year and I am hungry to get back out there. My kids might tell you they've enjoyed the year off though.

I have also not touched a drop of alcohol since New Year's Day 2009. I'm not planning on going mad, but I'm really looking forward to having a glass (or two) of something delicious and intoxicating over the next few weeks.

To celebrate reaching the end of this longest of years, I've spent the last few weeks setting up a blog in Wordpress, which I have used to temporarily bring my first blog, Spinster's Rock back to life. To stretch the metaphor beyond the bounds of decency, yes, I have symbolically resurrected something. Back to life.

You can visit this site here for some quality post punk and other assorted selections from among my favorites. Some of you will have seen this stuff before, but there may be a few of you who will enjoy having a root around in here and may even find something rare and unexpected to enjoy. It should be noted that some of these files are slightly unpolished, as I was largely learning the way when some of this stuff was first posted, but for the large part I have left things intentionally unchanged for the purposes of getting more stuff on the site. Everything is still 320 and there is usually full artwork.

I've also been enjoying finding my way around Wordpress and might move everything over there permanently at some point in a few months when the brain fog has properly lifted and a few visits to the Marlborough Downs have blown away the cobwebs. I'm also planning on utilising some of that much missed booze to fire my writing glands. Let me know what you think. I'll continue to add some stuff to Spinster's Rock for a few weeks, but the current plan is that come 2010, all of the current posts over there will once again be removed. Meanwhile, I'll be posting a few selections over here from my chosen favourites of the year.

So the countdown is almost at an end. The clouds are lifting.

Thanks to everyone who has played along by trying to guess what the fuck I have been alluding to these last five weeks. I look forward to joining you all back in the real world, people.

Thanks for listening.

Your pal,

Nolan Micron.

Visit Spinster's Rock Here.

Almost There...

Bear with me just a little while longer.

Almost there...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Julian Cope - Repossessed

Long time visitors to Castles in Space and my previous blog, Spinster's Rock will know that I am a massive Cope head.

While going through some old photos earlier this week, I found a set of pictures I had taken at a Cope book signing/spoken word gig in support of the second volume of his autobiography, "Repossessed". I'm placing this around Winter 1999.

It was a fantastic occasion with Cope sporting his Odin makeup and espousing his Odinist/Shaman/Rock'n'Roller hypothesis (complicated, but basically, he's all three).

The space was small, being the basement of a Charing Cross Road bookstore in central London. There was a tiny crowd and so I was able to get within stalking distance of the great man. I also got him to sign a couple of copies of the book afterwards, natch. One of them to my daughter, who was a toddler at the time and will one day treasure this historic artifact. Probably.

Click the thumbnail below to see all the pictures.

Julian Cope - Repossessed

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Durutti Column - Valuable Passages

This is one of those beautiful boxed cassette releases that Factory Records produced in the 80's. "Valuable Passages" is a compilation of a few lesser known and rare Durutti tracks as well as some key album selections. Ripped from the original cassette, so you might be able to get these in higher fidelity these days, but as a package, this is just about unbeatable.

Sketch for Summer
Sketch for Winter
Lips That Would Kiss
For Belgian Friends
Piece of Out of Tune Grand Piano
Never Known
The Missing Boy
Spent Time
Without Mercy (Stanzas 4 to 7)
Without Mercy (Stanzas 10 to 12)
The Room
Blind Elevator Girl
L.F.O. M.O.D.

I never get tired of hearing this wonderful music.

Cassette rip at 320 Kbps.
Full artwork included. Because it's important.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lee "Scratch" Perry - Arkology

"It was only four tracks on the machine, but I was picking up twenty from the extra terrestrial squad." - Lee Perry.

Arkology is an anthology of Black Ark treasures collected and annotated by Perry experts Steve Barrow and David Katz, a magnificent four hour set of music that is an absolutely essential collection for any discerning dub adventurer.

Black Ark. For reggae and/or dub aficionados, those two words conjure up myths of magical sounds, supernatural forces, and a brilliantly mad producer at the center of it all. Black Ark was the name of famed Jamaican producer Lee Perry's studio, which he built in his backyard back in 1973. It was in this studio that Perry created his legend—a legend that puts his name second only to Bob Marley's in the pantheon of Jamaican music. Between the years 1973 and 1978, Perry collaborated with dozens of artists (including the Wailers, Augustus Pablo, The Congos, Junior Murvin, and even Paul McCartney), crafting some of the best music ever heard out of Jamaica. Island's 1997, 3-disk compilation, Arkology, highlights much of the music the Black Ark period, and it is, without question, the essential Lee Perry release.

Before the arrival of modern computers, effects processors, and digital mixing boards, Perry found a way to take the sounds rattling around in his mind and transform them into music. He showed that even the sparsest studio could be used to realize his most oddball musical visions. In this, Perry's work has influenced all studio and computer-based music, especially electronic music, which is centered on the notion that music is a process and sound itself a fluid entity, always changeable, always being reinvented. Arkology is a testament to Perry's legacy: each track is brilliantly chosen to highlight Perry's amazing creative and technical wizardry.

Lee Perry & The Upsetters - Dub Revolution (Part 1)
Max Romeo - One Step Forward
The Upsetters - One Step Dub
Devon Irons - Vampire
The Upsetters - Vampire Dub
The Heptones - Sufferer's Time
The Upsetters - Sufferer's Dub
Junior Dread - Sufferer's Heights
The Congos - Don't Blame On I
The Meditations - Much Smarter
The Upsetters - Much Smarter Dub
The Meditations - Life Is Not Easy
The Upsetters - Life Is Not Easy Dub
Junior Murvin - Tedious
Max Romeo - War In A Babylon
The Upsetters - Revelation Dub
The Heptones & Jah Lion - Mr. President
Max Romeo - Chase The Devil

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Lee Perry - Dreadlocks In Moonlight
Mikey Dread - Dread At The Mantrols
Errol Walker - In These Times
The Upsetters - In These Times Dub
Max Romeo & Jah Lion - Norman (Extended Domino Mix)
Junior Murvin - Police And Thieves
Glen Dacosta - Magic Touch
Jah Lion - Soldier & Police War
The Upsetters - Grumblin' Dub
Junior Murvin - Bad Weed
Errol Walker - John Public
Enos Barnes & Errol Walker - John Public Version
Junior Murvin & Dillinger - Roots Train
The Meditations - No Peace
The Upsetters - No Peace Dub
Raphael Green & Dr. Alimantado - Rasta Train
The Upsetters - Party Time (Part 2)

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Augustus Pablo meets The Upsetter - Vibrate On
The Upsetters - Vibrator
The Upsetters - Bird In Hand
The Congos - Congoman
The Upsetters & Full Experience - Dyon Anasawa
The Upsetters & Dillinger - Rastaman Shuffle
The Heptones & Lee Perry - Why Must I Version
The Heptones - Make Up Your Mind
Upsetter Revue Featuring Junior Murvin - Closer Together
Keith Rowe - Groovy Situation
The Upsetters - Groovy Dub
George Faith - To Be A Lover
Lee Perry - Soul Fire
Lee Perry - Curly Locks
The Congos - Feast Of The Passover
Lee Perry - Roast Fish And Cornbread
The Upsetters - Corn Fish Dub

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One Week Left...

Well, the five week countdown is approaching its conclusion. There is but one week to go. Everything is going to plan and whilst the swan is gliding effortlessly across the still water, its legs are paddling furiously underneath the surface. Things are happening and things are going to stop happening. I'm really excited. Sometimes life is unkind and one can do nothing but grit one's teeth and plough on. Often with varying degrees of success. There is one week to go.

German Synth Pastoralists

This collaboration between Brian Eno and German synth pastoralists Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius (aka Cluster) is another recent reissue of Eno's work from around this time (see also the previous post of the Eno/Harmonia album).

The recording of this album was referenced in the recent BBC Krautrock documentary and the record has justifiably attained a semi-legendary status during the intervening years. I can really hear the seperate personalities of both Cluster and Eno, so it makes for a massive interesting listen as the two schools both clash and intertwine with delicious results.

As Moebius stated in the documenatry, "Eno came to learn from us, we did not go to learn from him". Well, quite. And in turn, Eno would teach Bowie these same moves for his next (and best) two albums.


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Global Communication - 76:14 Expanded Remastered Edition

I've recently had this one back on heavy rotation following a Twitter exchange.

As one of the most significant ambient releases probably ever, 76:14 places itself alongside benchmark electronic releases from the likes of Brian Eno, the Orb, and any others you would care to mention.

Good ambient is a devilishly delicate balance between beautiful and boring, fascinating and frustrating, exciting and excruciating. 76:14 manages to deliver in spades. Breathtaking atmospheric wanderings which suggest the usual inner and outer space exploration, but enough texture and beatitude to keep things grounded and to prevent the listener from becoming lost in the void. Vocal samples from nine languages also remind us of the international and diplomatic intentions of this magnificent album.

I was initially disappointed by the singles and bonus tracks collected on the second disc of this remastered edition. And while it's true that they do suffer slightly in comparison to the uniform perfection of the first disc, there is some great stuff here too. Ignore the smooth funk abomination that is "The Groove", but pretty much everything else is cut from the same beautiful cloth as the original album.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Slint - Spiderland

It's been heavily electronic around here lately hasn't it.

To redress the balance back towards the guitars, have a go on this timeless, genre defining classic. I hadn't played this for a long time and was suddenly overcome by a huge desire to hear it again one day last week. Unfortunately, it's taken me this long to find it among my CDs, but there can be no doubt that it was worth the wait.

There's a Wikipedia page which has all the information you could possibly need about the background, context and influence of this album.
Spiderland has become a landmark indie rock album and is considered, along with Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock, to have been the primary catalyst of the post-rock and math rock genres. David Peschek said that the album is "the ur-text for what became known as post-rock, a fractured, almost geometric reimagining of rock music stripped of its dionysiac impulse." Rachel Devine of The List called Spiderland "arguably the most disproportionately influential [album] in music history".
This is sounding fantastic to me, although there is the argument that the bands they went on to influence were much better than Slint in the long run. I'm really digging this, though.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Morrissey On Desert Island Discs

Broadcast today, 11:15 on BBC Radio 4. Kirsty Young's castaway is Morrissey.
As the lead singer of The Smiths he captivated a generation of angst-ridden teenagers and, a quarter of a century later, he remains the outsider's outsider.

As a child, he was enthralled by the emotion and beauty in pop music. He discovered the joy of public performance when, as a six-year-old boy, he stood on a table and started singing. But from an early age he felt he had to avoid everything conventional life had to offer. 'I just didn't want the norm in any way, he says, 'and I didn't get it. And I'm very glad.'.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Defining Song Of The Decade?

There's a brilliant Dorian Lynskey piece on Guardian Online about Freelance Hellraiser's genre (and it seems, era) defining bootleg/mash up "A Stroke Of Genius"
In the autumn of 2001, a British producer called Roy Kerr, aka the Freelance Hellraiser, spliced together the music from the Strokes' Hard to Explain with the vocal from Christina Aguilera's Genie in a Bottle and named it A Stroke of Genius – even the title seemed magically serendipitous...

Fittingly, the record plays out like a seduction. In her original song, Aguilera is coquettish and controlled, keeping her sexuality on a tight leash until the right guy comes along, and the music reinforces her restraint by maintaining a slow simmer. "My body's saying let's go," she breathes. "But my heart is saying no." In Julian Casablancas's vocal on Hard to Explain there's another inner battle ("I say the right thing/ But act the wrong way") but, stripped of their singer's hesitancy, the band's itchy sexual energy becomes a "let's go" too strong to resist and Aguilera sounds like she's being swept towards a rendezvous that's both dangerous and delicious.

Go and read the whole piece. It's fantastic.

And listen to this truly awesome track while you do so.

Come, come, come on and let me out.

White Noise

In the hunt for out of print exotica, lost libriary music, and particularly, crazed soundscapes oozing from the radiophonic workshop that has taken place over the last decade, there has been a mighty amount of amazing music unearthed. This, however, might be one of the best, one of the most crazed, one of the most out-there gems that has been brought to light, heavily featuring as it does, the very, very, wonderful Delia Derbyshire.

In 1969 White Noise released the groundbreaking album An Electric Storm on Island Records. The album was created using a variety of tape manipulation techniques, and is notable for its early use of the first British synthesizer, the EMS Synthi VCS3. Amongst many oddities, the first track on the album Love Without Sound employed sped-up tape edits of Vorhaus playing the double bass to create violin and cello sounds.

"I use voices a lot too, but not as conventional vocals. I always use a lot of voices, and if somebody having an orgasm in the background is used as part of one of the waveforms, it makes the sound more interesting, without the listener actually knowing what they're hearing."

- Interview with David Vohaus

Although not initially commercially successful for Island, it has over the years proved to be a cult classic, going on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide, namechecked by such contemporary artists as The Orb and Julian Cope, influencing contemporary acts such as Broadcast, Add N to (X), and Secret Chiefs 3.

White Noise is at its core a psychedelic record, it's just psychedelic with a desire to create sounds that had never before been committed to vinyl. The Silver Apples are a good reference point, but what White Noise managed was even beyond their breaks-heavy innovations. Just check the opening track's vocoded vocals, epic soundscapes, clattering percussion and the kind of loungey bass that Stereolab and Broadcast would end up making their own. It's a struggle to believe that this was made in 1969 as you are launched through a collage of samples, noise, synthesis and tape effects. Every synthesizer part, every edit, every sound seems so perfectly placed and is the absolute showcase of Derbyshire's unique and virtuoso talents.

'White Noise' is innovative, genre-bending, utterly insane and with a twisted sense of humour that echoes down through the years.

320 Kbps.

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Two Weeks Left...

As some of you will know by now, there's a five week countdown happening here at Castles In Space. There are only another two weeks to go. I'm doing something at the moment and soon I'm going to stop doing it. It's a personal thing which feels important to me. I'll share it with you. I'm going to mark the occasion. Not long now. There are two weeks to go.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The History Of The Units

Emerging from San Francisco's new wave and performance art scene of the 1970s, The Units were a band that broke free from the conventions of the punk movement, embracing a daring, all-synthesizer approach that made them pioneers in the field. Some of this early material from the band would initially seem to be in contravention with the spirit of the punk movement - for example, the arresting 'Bird River' is ostensibly a million miles away from anything that might be called punk: in essence its bounding synth arpeggios have more in common with convoluted krautrock or prog than new wave, taking on a kind of homemade psychedelic feel that's highly inventive but entirely lacking in the primal thrills that defined punk rebellion.

But then what could be more in tune with the spirit of punk than flagrantly defying it? In 1978, eschewing guitars and the conventions of rock music altogether was probably about as close to the ideologies of the punk movement as you could get, and in the scrappiest most homemade sense, that's just what the band set about doing. The band's crowning achievement came a year later with 1979's comparatively polished 'High Pressure Days', which is by any standards a marvel, full of Talking Heads attitude, complex, jerky delivery and a proto-hip hop heaviness from the backbeat that just exudes originality and brilliance. If you only had to pick one Units track to add to the great new wave canon, then this would surely be it.

The synth-strangling 'Warm Moving Bodies' and 'Go' offer yet more comparatively straightened out sounds, but you'll still plenty of madness in the mix thanks to curious electronic sketches like 'East West 2', the like of which you'd never have heard The Human League going anywhere near. The Units represent an overlooked adjoining movement that bridged the DIY ethics of new wave with the electro-pop movement of the 1980s, and these early recordings represent a snapshot of that transition in all its shambolic, experimental glory.

320 Kbps

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arc Of Doves - Impressions

Another limited edition of just 300 hand numbered and assembled copies from Brock Van Wey's Quietus imprint.

In the same way that Brock Van Wey is BvDub, Tetsuya Nakamura is Arc of Doves.

This debut album is nothing short of exquisite with every piece here being finely crafted and absolutely full of warmth and emotion.

There's a range of influences from classical music, deep electronica, the occasional Berlin-esque texture and a nice sense of percussion. This album has a magical, ethereal feel to it that grows the longer you spend with it.

Another ambient future classic, then. Can Brock Van Wey do no wrong?

320 Kbps.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

We Took Our Name From the Neu Track...

I haven't had much time for a few days to post much, but to make up for that, here's something a bit special.
Formed at the end of 2004 by Tim Felton, who previously officiated as part of retro-futuristic sci-fi popsters extraordinaire Broadcast, and Billy Bainbridge, once a member of fondly remembered electronic entity Plone, two of Birmingham’s finest bands of recent years, Seeland released their first single on Stereolab’s Duophonic in mid 2005, followed by an EP a year later. Since, they have grown into a trio as bassist Neil McAuley joined the ranks, and have developed their sound to fit the realm of their first long player.

Fond of old style library music, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Joe Meek or early German Krautrockers à la Kraftwerk or Neu!, Seeland add some refined pop touches which find their roots in the early to mid eighties synth pop of the Human League or Depeche Mode to create a rather warm and inviting record with Tomorrow Today. Effortlessly assembling little pop gems, wrapping gentle catchy melodies around delicate electronic motifs, drenched in pre-Autobahn Kraftwerk, old Doctor Who sound effects and library music-style polish, the trio create a dreamy and vivid soundtrack, where tones contrast without clashing and forms are all rounded and smooth.

This new promo EP includes not only "Captured" a track taken from the highly recommended album, "Tomorrow Today" but also a trio of remixes of album track "Call The Incredible" from Ghost Box's Advisory Circle.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Richard X - Back To Mine

This wonderful personal selection from Richard X feels thematically linked to the Gatekeeper and Maiovvi stuff I've posted over the last few weeks.
A compilation, of sorts. The sound of too much white wine, Pro Tools and a record collection. You can get the CD and read the liner notes for soundbites on the merits of each track if you like. Its a very indulgent compilation (sorry DMC boys) but I've heard it in a central london pub one night, and i thought Legowelt certainly imporved the ambience. The tracks that we couldn't get were Le Parc by Tangerine Dream, What It Is by Busta (and Kelis) and the theme from the Equalizer by Stuart Copeland. You could burn these onto the end yourself for a limited edition rerelease if you want. Anyway if you haven't got it here's a personal tracklist overview: Dean from I Monster is one of the best Uk producers, Assault is a great film, Goldfrapp are also great even though Alison might have gone off the Black Melody empire, Jona Lewie is not just for Christmas, Kelis is my hero, Nivea shouldn't have been lost in the crowd, H17 will get another day in the sun or The Sun, Animotion are all good americans, SYD needs to get more things out, Legowelt doesnt need to get out more, Pete Shelley is beyond Sapien, Mum and Dad are the family RX never had, Denton and Cook should have done Byker Grove, Trans X are not guilty, Tiga is funny, The Silures are serious. As said, better get the compilation.

01. I Monster 'Who Is She?'
02. John Carpenter 'Assault On Precinct 13'
03. Goldfrapp 'Black Cherry'
04. Jona Lewie 'You'll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties'
05. Kelis 'Young Fresh 'n' New'
06. Nivea 'Run Away (I Wanna Be With You)'
07. Heaven 17 'Let Me Go'
08. Animotion 'Obsession'
09. S.Y.D. featuring Nancy Fortune 'Discomanic'
10. Legowelt vs. Orgue Electronique 'Haunted Arp'
11. Pete Shelley 'Homosapien (Dub)'
12. Mum & Dad 'Dawn Rider'
13. Denton And Cook 'Tomorrow's World: Theme from the BBC TV Series'
14. Trans X 'Living On Video'
15. FPU 'Ocean Drive (Tiga's White Linen Vox)'
16. The Silures '21 Ghosts'

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sight Below - Murmur EP

Over the past two years much of the ambient-electronics community has become attuned to the sonic subtleties of Rafael Anton Irisarri. Either in his 'The Sight Below' guise for Ghostly International, or using his birth name for the Miasmah label, Irisarri has conjured gorgeously blurry soundscapes that appeal to everyone from Thom Yorke to Biosphere, who provides a very rare remix of 'The Sunset Passage' on this limited 12".

A side tracks, "Murmur" and "Wishing Me Asleep", provide hissing, blissed-out ambience driven by pulsing 4/4s. Irisarri's looped, delayed and reverbed guitar treatments cause his tracks to swell and contract with a head-expanding effect, creating vastly ethereal atmospheres that are as natural as they are lush and electronic.

For the flipside, ambient hero Biosphere appears with a remix of 'The Sunset passage', creating a widescreen vista of extended guitar notes, ominous drones and a pulsing throb that works a deep, enthralling magic on your brain-sac.


A free EP, "No Place For Us", which is just as good as this 12", is available for high quality download from the Ghostly International website.

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Antoni Maiovvi - Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss

As promised in the recent Gatekeeper post, here's more of that classic dark Italio disco sound for you.
‘Shadow of the Blood Stained Kiss’ is the Antoni Maiovvi score to a nonexistent 1983 Italian Sci-fi giallo starring Barbara Cupisti and Ian McCulloch. In the distant future "Europa," the 2nd moon of Jupiter has been colonized by man. In the midst of this Utopian era a dangerous struggle for power between organised crime and the highest level of government is underway and when Juliet Hardy (Barbara Cupisti), a stunning discotheque singer, becomes witness to a murder the only person who believes her is tough-nosed cyber-journalist, Jason Scott (Ian McCulloch). Together, they unravel more than they bargained for as a sadistic killer runs loose brutally slaying anyone in connection to the crime. Who does this man in black work for and what is the connection between him and an ancient order that have been controlling the known universe since the dawn of time?
This is really, really authentic stuff and is a total must for all of us fans of Carpenter and Romero soundtracks and those deliciously Eighties fat analogue sounds. Although a strictly limited edition, this terrific album is still available here, so I'm only keeping this up for a few days. I also heartily recommend the first album which was limited to 100 copies, but is available for download here.

320 Kbps.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Four Weeks Left...

There's a five week countdown. Here we are at week four. I have no idea if this will be of interest to anyone else, but something which feels important to me will be happening. I'll tell you about it. It will be a bit of a celebration. A few things might get explained. Interested? There are four weeks to go.

Mood Altering Mushroom Music

Cardiff based Illustrator/DJ/Crate-digging-vinyl-hound Pete Fowler’s first volume of Monsterism Island was full of obscure exotica and lost first era psychedelic records, but this second volume comprises a top drawer selection of all-new spaced out bleepery from an impressive cast list.

Instrumentals drawing on lounge, exotica, folk and plenty of inspiration from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, involving well known names like Gruff Rhys, Luke Vibert and Jerry Dammers, plus members of Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve and Future Sounds of London. Not to mention a few tracks from Ghost Box. This expertly complied selection of nu-psychedelia doesn’t look back but takes dance culture as the lift off point to create a new strain of mood altering mushroom music.

Although I really could live without the "humourous" spoken word sections from the Wizzard.

1. Intro - Rum Cove
2. Magic Morning - Monsters At Work
3. Magma On My Mind - Marc Shearer
4. Designated Wizard Practice Area - Belbury Poly
5. Silver Snorse Hotel - Luke Vibert
6. Snyrds Rising
7. Nest We Forget - Jonny Trunk
8. Fisherman's Jam - Monsters At Work
9. Village Strollin' - Wolf People
10. Golden Blooms
11. 'Til We Merry Meet Again - Circulus
12. Mr. Sponge's Groovy Oscillations - Amorphous Androgynous
13. Wild Robots Power Up - Gruff Rhys
14. Welcome To The Night
15. Chocolate Skull - Squonjax
16. Empty Library - Jerry Dammers
17. To All The Wizards In Lockdown - Richard Norris
18. The Purple Woods
19. Seven Thousand Pound Bee - Cherrystones
20. Volcanic Drive - Hardfeelingsuk
21. Final Froog - Tremortex
22. Dreamer's Dream
23. Lair Of The Grolfax - The Advisory Circle
24. Wandering Black Holes - Richie Crago
25. Owl Ritual - Nancy And Paddy
26. Crystal Hermitage - Batfinks
27. Outro - The Call Of The Horn

320 Kbps.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Selected Radiophonic Works

Brilliant 3 hour BBC radio documentary about the Radiophonic Workshop presented by former Communard, Richard Coles.
Richard Coles tells the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop's extraordinary story.

In 1958 an extraordinary musical laboratory opened at the BBC. It was called the Radiophonic Workshop and provided music and sound for a wealth of BBC programmes, from The Goons to Dr Who.

With contributions from Coldcut, Dick Mills and Mark Ayres, Richard Coles explores the achievements of the unit and presents a carefully chosen selection of programmes showcasing the department's work:

The Dreams (05/01/1964)
The Goons (02/02/1959)
Inferno Revisited (17/04/1983)
Relativity (1974)
Electric Tunesmiths (30/12/1971)
Bath Time (1976).
This is a great overview of the work and history of the revered Radiophonic Workshop and really succeeds in placing the work they produced in context. Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in December 2008.


For those that missed them, I also recently Tweeted some rare Radiophonic Workshop tracks which I ripped from a 1974 BBC Soundtracks album. As far as I know, unavailable elsewhere.

Open Golf '73/Wimbledon '74 Theme.
Theme From "Take Another Look."
Theme From Moonbase 3.

Melanie C - Northern Star

I’m guessing that some of you might take some convincing about the joys of this one and that I might have a bit of a sales job to do. But the nights are drawing in, the children are asleep and I’m up for the challenge. Join me if you will...

So: Melanie Jayne Chisholm. Born January 1974. Nine years younger than me. Born in Whiston, Merseyside. One hundred and six miles away from where I was born. Sporty Spice. The one who could really sing. Spice Girls 1994 - 1998. Solo career 1998 – present. Spice Girls reunion tour in 2007. Became a Mum earlier this year. New album promised next year. Found an extended welcome in continental Europe after we did our usual “build ‘em up, knock ‘em down” routine in the UK.

Melanie Jayne Chisholm. Liverpool fan. Sporty spice. The one with the voice. The backflips, tracksuits and pony tails. The least attractive one. Lesbian rumours. Clinical depression. Eating disorders. The one who could really sing.

I’ve got nothing but happy memories of the initial Spice Girls period. It was a crazy time wasn’t it? I was utterly beguiled when I first saw 'em bouncing around in the "Wannabe" video. PROPER pop music. Full of vitality, youth, fun and sex. Hormones and laughter. I never bought any of their music, or saw them live, or even watched the film, even though Richard E. Grant was in it, but I was really, really glad that they were around. Good times. Happy days.

I look back to that period and it feels like the first half of the Nineties might have been my actual halcyon days. I sometimes think that the Noughties have all just been a horrible dream. And I want the world to wake up now. War. Terrorism. Another war. Security paranoia. Economical crisis. Hard times and stress. The rich getting richer. Jobs for the boys. Clinical depression. Evil people wielding great power. Abuse of power. Celebrity. Opium for the masses. Celebrity meltdown. Big Brother is watching you, watching us, watching you. Eating disorders. Build ‘em up, knock ‘em down. In your face. Up your skirt. Deeper. Further down. Darker. Fade to black.

Where can we turn? What can we do? Well, it’s the artists, isn’t it? We turn to art (or God, I suppose, but I can’t offer you anything in the way of hope or enlightenment in that direction. I'm firmly in the Dawkins camp). We look to our culture to provide enlightenment. To place things in context. We turn to our artists to express the pain. To articulate the feelings which we all feel. To make sense of the chaos in which we find ourselves. To find some common ground, some connection, some humanity in the tide of negativity. Some vulnerability among the arrogance. Some love among the indifference. Some understanding.

Melanie Jayne Chisholm. Born January 1974. Manufactured pop star. Celebrity. Clinical depression. She’s been there, done that. She’s been there, bought the T shirt. The T Shirt had her name on. It was her face on the soft drinks, on the washing powder, on the supermarket hoardings, on the products in our kitchen cupboards. It was her voice on the radio. She was the one who could really sing. Backflips, tracksuits, pony tails.

I have an argument which runs along the lines that ALL art is valid. Any attempt at expression, any attempt to document the human condition in any way, shape or form is of equal value. Criticism is nothing more than a filter. There is a beauty in any art. Everything has some value. A connection will be made somewhere, with someone, at some time now or in the future. It matters not if a single person finds it relevant and powerful, or it connects with the masses. Mainstream or cult success. Posthumous reappraisal. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is getting it down. Leaving a mark. Self expression is fulfillment. “Live your life without regret/Don’t be someone that they forget.”

“Northern Star” was Melanie Jayne Chisholm’s first solo album following the Spice Girls disintegration. It was 1999. The Spice Girls had ended as these things do. Cultural phenomenon. The world loved them. Cynical marketing. Milk the cash cow. Build ‘em up, knock ‘em down. The end. Solo career beckons. The dumper. Popular on the Continent. Big in Japan. Reunion. Disappointment.

“Northern Star” is one of the most affecting pop songs I have ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot of pop songs. It’s obviously autobiographical. And in context of her career, her life, it’s one of the finest songs ever written. This isn’t hyperbole, I’m totally serious. It’s all in there: the career, the rise, the fall, the pain, the doubt, leaving your mark, making human connections. It is pop music in excelsis. It is low culture attaining the status of high art. It is one of the purest things that has ever been made. It moves me a way that is difficult to articulate. It’s beautifully written, produced, arranged, recorded and sung. It’s damn near perfect. No wait, it IS perfect. How about that? It is an erudite expression of the power of human emotion. It is a statement about defiance in the face of adversity set to a towering musical accompaniment. It is, quite simply, everything I love about music.

In Private Lives, Noel Coward wrote, “[It is] Extraordinary how potent cheap music is”, and Heaven help me, this is potent stuff. I have never heard, nor do I ever want to hear, the whole of the “Northern Star” album. Down that road there can only be disappointment for me. Nothing else can be this good. This wonderful. This truly, truly great.

To conclude, I should probably list a few of the myriad things which make this song so celestial. A little guide for the unconvinced, perhaps? An I-Spy book for the reluctant? Well, apart from the lyric and the vocal performance, there’s the string arrangement. Romantic and powerful, like being ravished by a siren. There are the multi-tracked harmony vocals, so beautifully arranged. There is the final chorus section which kicks in after the instrumental middle section, so uplifting, it feels like a key change, but it isn't. There’s a little fizzing synth line which appears in the coda which goes up the scale and then back down again, which makes the hairs on my neck rise. There is perfection. There is beauty. There is Melanie Jayne Chisholm.

I love you for this song, Melanie Jayne Chisholm. Born in 1974. Nine years after me. 106 miles away from me. You have made my heart burst with joy and you have made me cry. Within the space of 4 minutes and eleven seconds, time and again and again and again, in public and in private. You have made your mark. You have gotten it down. You have made a connection.

320 Kbps.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roedelius - Works (1968 - 2005)

An epic compilation from the great Hans Joachim Roedelius, renowned pioneer of Krautrock and early electronica.

The motorised, ear-melting drone of Harmonia’s Monza opens this retrospective, complete with blueprints for Bowie’s Berlin years and circuit diagrams of whole subcurrents of 21st-century electronica and avant-rock. Cluster’s fizzy synthetic soundscapes follow, including a collaboration with Brian Eno.

Roedelius then immerses himself (and us) in a three-decade-long warm bath of ambient minimalism and sepulchral piano figures. Listening to "Works (1968-2005)" is like taking a degree course in groovy experimental electronic music. It contains so many important starting points for many sounds and genres, it's quite amazing that it all came from the brain of one musician.

Properly amazing.

320 Kbps.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Pulp - Countdown

A compilation of the first four pre-fame albums from Fire records - "It", "Freaks", "Separation" and "Masters of the Universe". This 2 CD set was released at the height of their fame, much to the anger and resentment of Jarvis. Fire records are, by all accounts, a bunch of unscrupulous bastards who didn't treat the band in a fair manner during the wilderness years, but who were more than happy to cash in when success came a-calling.

Highlight of the set is undoubtedly the eight minutes plus extended version of the title track which was released on a 12" single. Beyond that, there is much to enjoy, but the overall impression is that the band just weren't ready. It seems apparent that as soon as they got good, everybody noticed them.

My friend, Trina, who majorly dug the "Different Class" period Pulp was kind of horrified by this when I played it to her once. "They sound very different" she said. Still good though, Treen, Still good.

This is out of print now and is currently going for about a fiver on eBay.

320 Kbps.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Petter & Dairmount - Subakuatik Blues EP

I grabbed this earlier in the year, but it's now available at a bargain price over at Boomkat. That's a shame, as it indicates that this hasn't shifted the units too well, which is a surprise, cos this is sounding great to me.

The Underwater Dance mix is a great, bouncy, accessible house track. I had it on in the room today while I was playing with my kids and they said they liked it a lot. They may have just been humouring me though. Try it out on your children and report back.

Vinyl rip at 320 Kbps.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gatekeeper - Optimus Maximus

I'm super-stoked that there seems to be a slight resurgence of the bombastic fat analogue soundtrack type of stuff so brilliantly typified by the works of John Carpenter et al.
Inspired by the ghoulish soundtracks of Goblin and the synthetic drama of John Carpenter, Kompakt's new offshoot, Fright records, delivers a disco shocker from Gatekeeper. 'Optimus Maximus' comes on collectors edition granite vinyl and is limited to only 300 copies. These tracks brew a potent blend of darkside Italo with a demonic suspense made to fully grip the floor. While the arpeggiated basslines and drum machines are purely retro vintage, the dynamic synthlines and hi-end processing give this away as a modern production, but that's a large part of its spellbinding charm and should be considered a stone-cold essential for all darkside disco fiends.
This four tracker is consistently great, but my favourite two tracks are "Forgotten" and "Obsidian", both of which are to be found on the second side. This really is a massively clever repositioning of that clunky Carpenter-esque sound to something blisteringly NOW. Enjoy.

For those of you who want more of this stuff (and let's face it, who wouldn't), can I respectfully point you in the direction of a revitalised Illegal Smoking Robot (Welcome back, Tone. You still rule the school), where The Emperor Machine's very good "Space Beyond The Egg" has just been posted. Not exactly coming from the same place, but shall we say, going on the same journey.

Can I also hereby give you notice that another recent classic of the genre will be arriving here at Castles In Space very shortly.

Vinyl rip at 320 Kbps.

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Tim Hart & Maddy Prior - Summer Solstice

I've frequently skirted around the edges of folk music looking for "the good stuff", but have been bitten a few times buying into highly acclaimed music which ultimately left me totally cold. To complicate things further, there are deep issues of identity relating to this traditional music for me. I'm Scottish in lineage, but coming from parents who were both born and bred in the North of England (as was I), I feel slightly fraudulent enjoying Scottish and Irish folk music, which is unfortunate for me, as the Celtic stuff is generally much, much better than the swathes of hey-nonny-nonny English music which proliferates. How typically English that seems to me - unbearably parochial, but envious of the perceived shared history and instant comradeship so apparently prevalent in the communities to which I can never be a part of.

One of the routes into the truly good traditional English based folk music that I have managed to stumble upon, was the early music of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. These names may well be familiar to any Brit growing up in the seventies, due to the work of Steelye Span, who, almost unbelievably at this distance, regularly used to hit the upper echelons of the chart with their folk-rock singles back when I were a lad. "All Around My Hat" anyone?

I was also familiar with the stunning voice of Maddy Prior due to her appearances on several Mike Oldfield albums, who was a big favourite of mine before the punk wars hit and I had to pretend I didn't like fantastic albums such as "Hergest Ridge" and "Incantations" anymore, at least for a few years. Prior's vocal work on the latter album in particular is utterly great and hearing that album now, I am always transported back to my Mum and Dad's front room, where the stereo sat next to the Christmas tree. I used to sit in the dark with nothing but the fairy lights on and listen to the album that the NME had called "The most boring piece of music ever made" and while my horizons were quietly expanded (I don't think there were any other kids at Barrow Technical College For Boys asking the English master for a copy of Longfellow's "Hiawatha"), I learned that it was important to make your own mind up about some things, and that sometimes, people who should know better were plain wrong.

Anyway, obsessed as I am and always have been, I am always on the look out for new thrilz, wherever they may lay. Which brings us to this gem.


From 1970 to 1982, Hart and Prior were the backbone of Steeleye Span. In 1971, as well as recording two albums as part of Steeleye Span, they recorded Summer Solstice - a much more professional recording than their first two albums, including a string arrangement by Robert Kirby, better known for his work with Nick Drake. Almost every song that Hart sang was traditional. Steeleye Span's commercial success peaked in 1975. They toured in the United States and Australia and used electric instruments more frequently. However, further hits eluded them. They announced that their 1978 tour of the United Kingdom would be their farewell.
Those two early albums, "Folk Songs of Olde England" (Volumes One and Two), are pretty special, but this takes the prize for hitting the target exactly for fusing the right amounts of the traditional with some more contemporary touches.

The more broad minded among you should get a kick out of this great record (sounding good on a 1996 Mooncrest reissue) and the highlights are legion. Try the irresistible version of "The False Knight On The Road" or the wonderful, wonderful "Sorry The Day I was Married". And no sniggering at the back for "Fly Up My Cock", OK? They are singing about a bird, OK?

Or ARE they? I've seen a documentary about the period called "Carry On Don't Lose Your Head", and it transpires that those hey-nonny-nonny dudes were pretty bawdy.

320 Kbps.

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