Category: Music

Ecological ethicsEcologyHistoryMusicPhilosophy

Podcast 9. Jordan Reyne – From the edge of the Tasman Sea to the plains of Poland

JR - WaterfallWelcome to podcast 9. This interview is with the New Zealand artist, writer, and musician Jordan Reyne who from 1997 to 2017 has produced a prolific body of musical  work with numerous solo releases and others in collaborations with other artists.

Her work is a unique blend of guitar, vocals, electronica, and percussion with textured and harmonised parts set against sparse or dense backdrops and propelled with mysterious and beautiful loops which invoke both the 21st century and the ancient past. It is innately powerful music with, among other thematics, an engaging metaphysical critique of human experience i.e. the impact of anthropocentrism and the alienation and ecological degradation induced by our ever degrading socio-economic system.

Our conversation covers – her early life, her experiences growing up within the wild landscapes of the distant and isolated West Coast of New Zealand, the influence of her music teachers, her journey as an artist through her education and eventual translocation to Europe, the themes of her work and geo-political and socio-ecological realities, to her recent move in walking away from music for the time being into a new creative venture in script writing for the gaming industry.

http://www.jordanreyne.com                               https://jordanreyne.bandcamp.com

JR - Bermuda (ii)

Music

Tiny Ruins – The Harley, Sheffield 17.5.16

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Tiny Ruins – The Harley, Sheffield 17.5.16. L = Hollie Fullbrook, R = Hamish Kilgour. Picture by M.C.

by Michael Canning

Tiny Ruins played in Sheffield yesterday as part of their current European tour and they were a joy to behold with such an implicit sense of space and lightness of touch. It was a wondrous concert to have witnessed. Tiny Ruins just have the knack of creating work with fundamentally clear and resonant tonal colour. The first time I heard ‘Wandering Aengus’ from the ‘Hurtling Through’ EP it brought about a powerful surge of emotion that hit me in my throat and jaw. It was instantaneous and a potent reminder to what a powerful medium music can be. The German music theorist Hamel once wrote that tonal colour is achieved through a relative proportion of ‘upper sounds’ of a harmonic series which corresponds with corresponding parts of the body and our inner aspect.

Fullbrook utilised various tunings on her guitars and played them immaculately, her arpeggios literally glistening. Her beguiling and beautiful voice weaved effortlessly around the chord changes and the intrinsic space that an acoustic guitar provides. When Hamish Kilgour  took the stage for the second part of the set to play the songs from the Hurtling EP he played very minimally and softly on a drum kit, mostly leading on the kick drum. It was a very different form of playing to when I first saw him play with Bailter Space in 1988 yet just as graceful and filled with warmth.

The whole show seemed to pass by very quickly. Tiny Ruins had woven transcending musical spells. The last song was ‘Reasonable Man’, a request from an audience member. Fullbrook unplugged her guitar, moved away from the microphone, asked the audience to come closer, and played the piece acoustically. Her voice and guitar carried across in the space perfectly. She finished and left the stage to loud applause. It was an unexpected ending to an entrancing show of gentle and innately complete music.

http://www.tinyruins.com

HistoryMusic

Podcast 4. David Wolfenden. From the Pistols to beyond the Iron Curtain (part 2)

by Michael Canning

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Red Lorry Yellow Lorry at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 29.8.15. Wolfie on the left, Chris Reed in the centre and Ding on the right. (Pic. MC)

Episode 4 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is part 2 of an interview conducted with the Leeds based musician David Wolfenden aka ‘Wolfie’. Our conversation in this episode covers writing in the Lorries, the difference between playing in England and elsewhere, getting to New Zealand with the Mission, bumping into Alan Vega at the Danceteria in NYC 1985, Yugoslavia pre the collapse of the Iron Curtain, life in the cold war, the English press, favourite Lorries tune, the reality of life and artistic themes, psych-rock delights, the craft of the song and the economics of the playing within Tamla Motown.

 

HistoryMusic

Podcast 3. David Wolfenden – From the Pistols to beyond the Iron Curtain (part 1)

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Wolfie performing with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 29.8.15 (Pic: MC)

by Michael Canning

Episode 3 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is part 1 of an interview conducted with the Leeds based musician David Wolfenden aka ‘Wolfie’. Wolfie began playing publically in 1978 with the Expelaires, then joined Red Lorry Yellow Lorry in 1983, and later played guitar for the Mission. Our conversation covers his background and first encounters with music, seeing the Sex Pistols at Leeds Polytechnic in late 1976 on the Anarchy tour, the Leeds music scene of the late 70’s, the path of the Expelaires, music as a language, top 5 artists, the MC5, and joining Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Part 2 of this interview is in episode 4.

 

HistoryMusic

The Stone Gibbet – Halifax, Joy Division & the Good Mood Club

by Michael Canning

Halifax_view_from_Beacon_Hill, Mr Barndoor

Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. Photograph: Mr Barndoor (used under a Creative Commons Licence)

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

In October 2013 I watched a fascinating documentary made in 2007 about the West Yorkshire town of Halifax. It was entitled ‘The Town From Hell: Halifax in the 16th and 17th Centuries’. For those of you who haven’t heard about this place – Halifax is a small town of about 80,000 people, about 13 miles west of Leeds, and is the main centre of the metropolitan borough of Calderdale, through which the upper part of the River Calder flows. It was for centuries known as a centre of wool processing and eventually became a Protestant and Puritan stronghold. The name is very old and the first written mention of the town notes it as ‘Halyfax’ in the late 11th Century.

The town sits on the edge of the Pennine ranges, which are a very old rock formation dating back to the Carboniferous period of 310 million years ago. I’ve only been there about 5 or 6 times in the last 20 years but I always felt Halifax had a bit of a curious vibe and atmosphere to it that is difficult to describe. Its a small isolated place surrounded by huge hills and steep slopes and has a slightly insular feel to it, similar to Greymouth in New Zealand. It still has many charming Victorian buildings, and older periods, but has something else to it. I distinctly remember walking down the road in 2010 after visiting a friend there and getting a feeling of a deja vu, in that it felt and looked like Sheffield did in 1993. Halifax felt like a place where things possibly move more slowly, and that is not in itself a bad thing.

To be fair the whole area of Calderdale is fascinating because of its dramatic landscape, which features a mixture of high windswept moors, ancient barns and walls, valleys, streams, rivers, steep crags and cliffs, and hidden slivers of ancient oak and beech forest. Halifax is the biggest urban area in Calderdale and has as neighbours the small magic places of Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall, which both have much folklore associated with them, and the rough justice meted out to criminals pre 19th Century.

However Halifax had a reputation way outside of Yorkshire in centuries past as being a law unto itself, which probably stemmed from its general inaccessibility and seclusion in the Pennines. Before rail and proper roads were built by the 1870’s the only way into the town was by the ancient walkways used by travellers, and merchants and their packhorses. Because of the rocky and high slopes these would often become washed out after downpours and require considerable work to make them passable again with a bunch of set stones.

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A replica of the gibbet in Halifax at its original site (2008). Picture: Paul Glazzard, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12556074

In the 17th Century Halifax was still governed by what was called the ‘Gibbet Law’. A law which meted out very harsh punishments. It meant that if you stole anything up to the value of 13d (pence) and were found guilty you would be taken on market day to the gibbet and beheaded on it! A prayer by John Taylor (1580–1654) wrote the Beggar’s Litany, in which its text included “From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, ‘tis thus, From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.”

The gibbet was nowhere as styley and clinical looking as the French guillotine from 1789 – it was a wooden frame with this huge wooden block above the gibbet blade, which was essentially a heavy iron axe. Its usage eventually stopped but there were apparently a few campaigners who wanted to bring it back into use at the end of the 18th Century!

Halifax is not generally known for its musical history aside from Astronomer William Herschel (who discovered Uranus) being a church organist there in the 18th Century, and Tom Bailey, the singer with the Thompson Twins. However there is a tenacious little nightclub called Clarences in the town centre, which sometime circa 1972/73 changed its name to the Roxy briefly. Upon this rebranding they invited none other than Roxy Music to come up from London and play, which they did.

In 1978 the same venue was known as the ‘Good Mood’. Sometime in May or June of that year a young up and coming band called Joy Division drove the 21 miles east from Manchester over the Pennines to play a show at the Good Mood. Joy Division drummer Steve Morris recalled the following: “there were probably around twenty or so in the ‘audience’, I think they were a bit hostile at first but came round in the end. They would pop in for a bit then go out again; one minute there’d be five or six then they’d nip off and another bunch would come and have a look.”

On June 22nd 1979 the band played the same venue again. There have been conflicting reports on this concert over the years with Joy Division bassist Peter Hook recalling in 2007 that they played to one person that night. Every band’s horror. However Steven Morris and a punter who was there that night dispute this with their 2014 accounts of the gig apparently being better attended than the first, albeit only attended by men! For the full story see this excellent article at http://www.joydiv.org/yorkshire.htm

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Joy Division playing in London a few months after the 1979 Halifax show. (Photographer unknown)

It is a curious if somewhat tenuous piece of irony with Joy Division playing their doomy atmospheric music at a club called the Good Mood so close to the very site where the town’s gruesome history of capital punishment actually happened.

Music

The Shocking Pinks – Maguires Pizza Bar, Liverpool 10.10.15

by Michael Canning

This is a previously unpublished review of the Shocking Pinks playing in Liverpool in October 2015. This show was part of a world tour for the band which took in shows across Europe, the USA, and China. 

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The Shocking Pinks, Maguires 10.10.15 (Picture – M.C.)

On Saturday the 10th of October I made the 60 mile journey to Liverpool to see the Shocking Pinks. Its a big deal for me seeing a kiwi band these days in the north of England, and going to Liverpool is a bit of a treat as well – its a fascinating place, an ancient port city, eternal party city, with hills running down to the famous Liver building and the Albert docks. I also have a family connection to the city so its always good being there.

The venue was located in a funky part of central Liverpool, which despite nearly 20 years of regeneration thankfully still has some rough edges left to it. It consisted of just a small door and glass front with a small performance space painted black out the back, but what a great idea: pizza, beer and music, what else might one wish for on a Saturday night?

Two acts played first, there was no stage just a small PA at the back end of the room. The first was a singer songwriter who had a line on George Formby jokes, a bunch of resonant chords and a nice rhythmic action on dampening his strings that punctuated his tunes. I liked it, an affecting and engaging kind of urban folk music. The second, another solo act, this time a garrulous dude with a laptop and a looping device. He gave a short set of short concise synth pop-like tunes that kind of resembled some of the approach of the late Michael J. Hex, the less grim Suicide songs, and a less Teutonic Kraftwerk. The audience danced and it set the scene nicely.

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L – Nick Harte, R – Cory Champion. Maguires 10.10.15 (Picture – M.C.)

The Shocking Pinks set up, drums, sampler, bass and guitar and vocals. And then, with no introduction whatsoever, began their set with a simple funk-like bass groove which grew, twisted and mutated over the next 40 minutes into a fantastic set of tunes. At the start, slightly disconcertingly, the bassist Ash Smith, kept his back to the audience as if they were in a private jam session, but then began moving around and swaying quite unself-consciously with the music – utterly aligned with the force and power of it. This occurrence provided the theme for their set and in the next song he left his bass on stage and proceeded to dance off and out into the audience. I hadn’t seen anything like this in years. It was intoxicating.

Some songs like ‘Nostalgia’ were a beautiful mixture of sparse and heavy, with the aforementioned beginning on a simple tom pulse and delayed guitar and then turning into an absolute monster of sound, whilst others unveiled themselves as thumping pulsating psychedelic dance tunes. The audience of perhaps maybe 40-45 people in this small room just went nuts. The energy in the room was incredible. The drums throughout were an utter delight with the kick drum and periodic samples threatening to flick your ears off at points.

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Ash Smith, Maguires 10.10.15 (Picture – M.C.)

On the most obvious level the Shocking Pinks set reminded me of things like Pylon, 1980 PiL, or Gang of Four, and maybe ‘Glider’ era My Bloody Valentine but the thing which really came to me like a real jolt was the absolute parallel in spirit and energy they had at this show with the excellent and much underrated Auckland band Figure 60 who I saw maybe twice in the mid 90’s, once with Superette at the Globe on Wakefield Street.

The Pinks featured Cory Champion on drums, who is undoubtedly one of the best drummers I’ve seen play in many years, and at the end he was punctuating cleverly syncopated drum bursts into a Stooge-ish ‘LA Blues’ type ending with guitarist/vocalist Nick Harte making unearthly noises in the feedback from his guitar and Ash Smith thrusting his bass guitar to the ceiling of the room with electronic growling noises, and the audience howling at the gods with the beautiful din of it all. Blissful and 21st Century bacchanalian. I went home a slightly deafened but happy man.

 

Music

Jimi Hendrix at the Flamingo, London 1967

by Michael Canning

In 2014 I was given a recording of one of the earliest Jimi Hendrix Experience concerts in existence. It was recorded on the 4th of February 1967 at the Flamingo Club on Wardour St in Soho in West London. I’d known about this archive recording for a decade but this was the first time it came my way so I was pretty excited to listen to it, having a long-time interest in the sonic soaring and the syncopated grooves of the Hendrix Experience.

Jimi Hendrix 1967

Jimi Hendrix circa late 1966/early 67 (Photographer unknown)

The quality is as rough as anything and sounds like it came from a mixing desk feed into a small recorder from a primitive PA system in the Club. The vocals are almost nonexistent with Mitch Mitchell’s snare and Hendrix’s guitar dominating the mix. However, with the specifics of the recording aside what an absolute piece of magical history to hear, but holy hell it must have been LOUD that night, the tape can barely contain the signal!

The loudness of course was part of the act and enabled Hendrix to pull out his feedback and sculptural tricks, which alongside others of the time like Blue Cheer revolutionized how rock music would be done and presented. Frank Zappa, who witnessed Hendrix early on at an Experience concert in New York said that Hendrix played so loud it made him feel sick.

The setlist of the Flamingo Club show only features two of Hendrix’s tunes, ‘Can you see me’ and ‘Stone Free’. The rest of the set consisting of three covers he was to make even more famous, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, and ‘Wild Thing’, with blues standards ‘Killing Floor’, ‘Catfish Blues’, and a curious proto heavy metal version cover of ‘Mercy Mercy’. Hendrix introducing the latter somewhat sarcastically and/or stoned, “a little tune, a very straight, ha ha, top 40 rock and roll record, ‘Have Mercy’, have mercy on me, baby.” The ‘baby’ drawled with particular emphasis on the b’s.

It is a well known fact to how Hendrix was pushed and pulled in certain directions by his management during his brief career, and it seems highly likely that the inclusion of this popular tune at the time by the Dominoes would have been encouraged. An audio recording of an interview from the same year reveals Hendrix’s barely covered seething frustration and disdain at his management’s wishes for him to be an ‘Elvis Presley’. Hendrix was not a fan of some of the contemporary music of the time and is on record castigating on what he thought to be the ‘plastic sounds’ of Motown.

To what it must have been like in that small club in London that night 49 years ago though – this ragged recording certainly gives some clues. With what can be heard in the lo-fi murk the audience were going wild. They were seeing a new form of music being made in front of them, one that was perilous, heady, and a super-somatic experience with the band’s amps cranked to the maximum and Mitch Mitchell’s kick and snare drums thundering out. It had everything to do with the industrial scientific developments of the last war, and the social aftershock of the latter, that was still settling, not to mention another industrial slaughter going on in a place called Viet Nam.

The old order of the contemporary music world in London had effectively been kicked over during the first few performances by Hendrix in late ’66 and early ’67, and the pop cognoscenti of the time knew it. Little wonder that Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck formed a temporary support club, shaking their heads collectively, and wondering where they would fit into this new milieu with the Jimi Hendrix Experience having landed in London.

This essay may be copied for non-commercial use with permission from the author, please contact the editor. Similarly for commercial use please contact the editor.