I met Neil Thornton back in a hedonistic daze of London parties such as Kinky Disco, Sign Of The Times, and Sabresonic. However we have only fairly recently reconnected, via Neil’s work at The Dartmouth Arms and with The Disappearing Dining Club. It wasn’t until I saw a photo he sent through, to accompany an interview, that I realized, “Shit! Neil, it`s you!” I`ve never been too good with names, but I remember faces.* Neil subsequently offered me a monthly slot on his weekly Culture Trip radio show – a slot that I share with my Tokyo-based tomodachi, Max Essa and Ken Hidaka. Broadcast on Clerkenwell`s Music Box, between 10AM (GMT) and noon, on a Thursday, Neil seems have been at pains to reach out and connect with Japan. Other regular guests include Hamon Radio, Motoya Hori, Kengo Ootaka, Norio Sato, and the spot has also featured a super live set by Satoshi & Makoto. The musical remit is “anything goes”, but the selections are always pretty chilled. These mixes married to moving images, montages of photographs – provided by Neil, Felix Friedmann, and the guests – edited beautifully by David Minns. Neil has also been known to host the odd hoedown, assisted by veteran DJ / designer, Russell Penn.
It`s me again this week, so I thought I`d take a “minute” to talk you through my choices…some of the sounds of my summer…
I went back home at the end of July. Home seems to have become such a complicated concept. Is it in Japan with my wife and kids, is it with my Mum, or my Dad, my sister, or back where I grew up? Anyhow, I spent some time in London, and down on the south coast, catching up solely with family, since this was the first visit since Covid hit, but in the middle flying to Malaga to DJ at the Lizard`s wedding. Outside of that 3-day celebration, the only other friend that I managed to squeeze in was Alex Knight from FatCat.
It`s kind of funny how things turn out, because the truth is that only know Alex because he used to sell me records – but Alex was there when I came out of hospital, Alex was there when my first son was born. I was there, writing poems and trying to pass them off as music reviews (or was it the other way round?) when the label opened offices on Old Street. I was there when they moved to Brighton. When I came to write this I realized that, in the 16 years since I moved away, Alex is actually one of only a handful of people, non-family members, that I’ve met every time I`ve made it to the UK.
This time the conversation ranged from radio to modern psychotherapy methods, while raising more than a glass to Andrew Weatherall. The evening ended with Alex taking me through the label`s frankly amazing release schedule. This done with his singular level of unbridled enthusiasm – playing you stuff, looking at you, eyes wide, saying “Fuck me. Listen to that! Wow!” I caught a cab to my Mum’s cradling armfuls of vinyl. These two terrific tracks I though fit the Culture Trip bill.
Roedelius – Lustwandel – Sky Records / Bureau B
Stars Of The Lid – A Meaningful Moment Through A Meaningless Process – Kranky
I briefly mentioned Mr. Weatherall above, and his legacy, of course, continues to be a huge influence. My mate, Martin Brannigan, over at The Flightpath Estate, is one of the folks who does so much to diligently document and catalogue the Guv`nor`s life’s work, preventing it from passing memory’s mists. Recently Martin`s been posting a series of Andrew`s mixes, from around 2010. I, naturally, always train-spot the track-lists, making notes of everything interesting, ticking off the odd thing that I might have already got. The, then, brand new bits are a total mystery to me – I think I was bang into, and hoarding afro-disco reissues, on labels like Analog Africa and Frank Gossner`s Voodoo Funk – but some of the proper old stuff I do have. Pieces like Roedelius` Lustwandel – a piano-led counterpart to the kosmische pioneer`s essential Jardin Au Fou (the Bureau B sleeve says that they were recorded at the same time) – and Stars Of The Lid’s Stars Of The Lid And Their Refinement Of The Decline – the Austin, Texas-based duo’s final recording together before moving onto other successful projects, such as A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
The Roedelius was the product of another musical obsession, that of Harmonia, Cluster, and Neu!. I think the misery / melancholy romantic (take your pick) in me was simply drawn to Stars Of The Lid’s “far out” song titles. Andrew played Even (Out)+, but the tune I’ve chosen is A Meaningful Moment Through A Meaningless Process.
Kate Bush – Among Angels – Fish People
In the pile of books that I read while on planes, and waiting in airports – and PCR testing queues – was Jude Rogers` The Sound Of Being Human.
The book is brilliant, and the chapter on Michael Stipe / R.E.M. in my opinion is a landmark piece of not just music, but universal, writing. The last three pages of Jude`s essay on Martha Reeves` Heatwave are also a pinnacle of prose that I can only dream of aspiring to. B.Mike has previously – rightly – raved about Kate Bush`s album, 50 Words For Snow, in particular the title track, but Jude instead writes about Kate’s Among Angels, as she balances her memories of losing a parent, and becoming one.
Harold Budd – Juno – Obscure / Superior Viaduct
Harold Budd – The Kiss – All Saints
While flying I also plugged into music, and actually wrote a few reviews, one of which was for the Christina Vantzou`s amazing collaboration with Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett. A deep-listening mediation on Indian classical music, which surely owes something to Harold Budd`s Eno-produced Pavilion Of Dreams – coincidently recently reissued by Superior Viaduct. This was the first of Budd`s recordings that was widely available. HIs soundtrack to Derek Cianfrance`s I Know This Much Is True was sadly his last. There are some lovely sleeve notes that accompany the latter, where Derek explains that Harold`s music became his muse both while writing and filming the series (they played tracks, such as The Kiss, on set), and how, upon hearing this, Harold was moved to compose a completely new score.
Nick Cave – Such Things Should Never Happen – Cave Things
A copy of Nick Cave`s 10” short spoken word sortie with Warren Ellis, Seven Psalms, arrived in Japan while I was still in transit. I`m big fan of Cave, and had recently invested in the box-set of b-sides and rarities, primarily for another spoken word piece, Steve McQueen. This small release, which I think was originally only available from Cave`s online shop, is beautiful. While his recent spiritual / ambient direction seems to have thrown a lot of his hardcore devotees, I think that it feels like a natural progression from the fire and brimstone preaching and Deep South lore that a lot of his early work drew on. An enlightenment that follows a speaking, screaming, in tongues. A reach for rapture, now that all his sins, and sorrows, are confessed and washed away. This is my favourite. I think it`s the most moving, and also it doesn’t directly mention “God”. A monotheistic man, I’m afraid, I am not.
These are lifts from two albums that I’ve spun pretty much constantly since returning to the Japanese mountains. Cal gave Jasmine Myra`s gorgeous Horizons a glowing review, and, to my ears, Words Left Unspoken is a “crossover” classic. Appealing to spiritual jazz-ers and sunset-soundtrackers alike. Troels Hammer`s take on modern classical invokes the movie music of Wim Mertens and Gabriel Yared – stuff that was much-loved by Jose Padilla, and a big part of the “ambience” at San Antonio`s Cafe del Mar.
Pye Corner Audio – De-Hibernate – Sonic Cathedral
Something else that I played a lot upon my return – initially sort of by accident – was Pye Corner Audio`s Let’s Emerge! When I flew from the UK, the country’s airports were in chaos, so when I landed in Tokyo I wasn’t totally surprised to learn that my luggage was still at Heathrow. To be honest, I wasn’t bothered until I remembered that I`d packed my laptop in one of the suitcases.
Again I wasn’t really worried about having limited access to files that I was working on, or the internet, if it was only going to be for a little while, but one knock on effect was that I couldn’t burn any CDs. Located in the middle of nowhere, the amount of driving that I do, to and from schools, to and from anywhere, is usually crazy – at one point it was 5, 6 hours a day Monday to Friday, down to a holiday-like 3 at weekends. All this racing around is fueled by a constant stream of new music (thank you everyone that sends stuff!). The only thing that I`d burnt before my trip, though, was – yep – Let’s Emerge! It was all I had in the car. I was kind of a captive audience.
This turned out to be a blessing, because otherwise I might have only listened to the album once in its entirety – to write a review, and cherry-pick tracks – instead of living with it on loop. The whole thing flows like one long suite of psychedelic shimmer. A spinning, sometimes throbbing, cosmic carousel. A shoegaze symphony, a sonic incandescence, of drones and aching arcs, Smokebelch-like synths and distorted Tranquility Base transmissions – plus plenty of booming bottom-end. This Slowdive-esque reverie ably assisted, super authentically, in places by Ride guitarist, Andy Bell. The GLOK geezer throwing up walls of warped feedback, amidst the glacial gated glides. Summoning a huge, hefty harmonic hum, like the buzz of a bionic honey bee. The adventure all culminating in Warmth Of The Sun – a cracking kosmische epic. A vocoder-ed voodoo wig-out, with added 303 / guitar duel action, that`s become one of my top tunes of the year so far. So I was driving around, almost on autopilot, down backroads, through short-cuts, dodging speed-traps, wondering if I could fit any of this into a “Cafe del Mar” styled set. The answer, of course, was “Yes!”, pretty much the lot.
*Thank you Evan Dando.