Monday, April 28, 2008

Beard radio's panoply of esoteric and archaic delights 24.4.08

This week's Beard radio is one of our least rock orientated shows ever. Chinese opera, Buddhist Monks, Turkish surf-rock, Belgian chansons, fiery free improv blurts, kora laments, haunted electronics, Radiophonic mindfuckery, early jump blues, Easter Island singing groups, Sacred Harp singers...

Brigitte Fontaine & Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Comme A La Radio (Comme A La Radio, 1971)
Jacques Brel - Chanson Des Vieux Amants (J'Arrive)
Slim Lamain Orchestra - Memphis Step Up (Victrola Favorites)
Getachew Mekuria - one of his tunes from the Ethiopiques series
Black Future - Eu Sou O Rio (Nao Wave: Brazilian Post-Punk)
Benga & Coki - Night (Diary Of An Afro Warrior, 2008)
Deerhunter - Lake Somerset (Cryptograms, 2007)
Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano - The Great Pine Tar Scandal (Beloved Music, 2006)
Alabama Sacred Harp Singers - Present Joys (Goodbye Babylon)
Lorke Lorke - Silvetler (Hava Narghile: Turkish Psychedelic Rock)
Easter Islands Men's Group - Hotu Matua (Secret Museum Of Mankind V)
Toumani Diabate - Ali Farka Toure (Mande Variations, 2008)
Mordant Music - Plant Room (Dead Air)
Delia Derbyshire - Pot Au Feu (Music From The Radiophonic Workshop)
Guangzhou Cantonese Opera Troupe - The Crow Flies Back to the Forest (Victrola Favorites)
Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Reese Pt 1 (Reese & The Smooth Ones, 1971)
Blind Boy Fuller - Step It Up (Victrola Favorites)
Yukie Kubo - Shin Shin Tankoubushi (Victrola Favorites)
Pere Ubu - Humor Me (The Modern Dance)
Chinese Buddhist Monks - Chanting The 10 Vows (Victrola Favorites)
Crevecouer - La Pievre ( )
John Jacob Niles - The Cherry Tree
Quack Quack - The Great Catsby (7" on Run of The Mill, 2006)
Loren Mazzacane Connors - The Death Of Shelly (Airs)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Club Swallows & Amazons

Come to this! I'm DJing!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beard radio 21.4.08

We're back! A solo show, but one of my better ones, ie not too many ums and ers, and only a little bit of technical incompetence! So, what have we got for you this week? Deeply weird dubbed out psychedelic country doom from Porter Wagoner, who I had down as a mainstream 60s Nashville kinda guy. The incredible analogue synth pop of Bruce Haack. Some glorious reggae, highlife and Nigerian disco-funk. And as it's Triptych this weekend, we're playing some choice cuts from Wu Tang, Magik Markers, Sebadoh, Michael Hurley and James Blackshaw. Our customary really long track is an extract from Avro Part's masterpiece of Holy Minimalism, Tabula Rasa. Written for strings and prepared piano, it's deeply beautiful, resonant stuff. We always like to bring you unsigned and underground Scottish acts, and this week it's Edinburgh hyper spazz-pop trio Super Adventure Club - imagine Malkmus jamming with Zappa and Bis and you're halfway there. To set you up for the mighty Black Static Transmission, the show ends with the intense drone track from Kevin Drumm's incredible Sheer Hellish Miasma, a strong candidate for best psychedelic free noise album ever!

Bruce Haack - Electric To Me Turn (Electric Lucifer, 1970)*
Wu Tang Clan - Unpredictable (8 Diagrams, 2007)
Magik Markers - Taste (Boss, 2007)
Sebadoh - The Freed Pig (III, 1991)
Sepultura - Refuse Resist (Chaos AD, 1993)
John Coltrane - Naima (Giant Steps, 1960)
Tony Allen & His Afro Messengers - No Discrimination (Afro Disco Beat)
Quack Quack - Bravo 150 (
A Certain Ratio - Do The Du (Early)
Michigan & Smiley - Nice Up The Dance (The Studio One Story)
Jack Rose - St Louis Blues (S/T, 2008)
Avro Part - 1. Frates (Tabula Rasa, 1977)
Silver Jews - What Is Not But Could Be If (Lookout mountain...2008)
Porter Wagoner - The Rubber Room (The Rubber Room, 1968)
DJ Scotch Egg - Scotch Chicken (KFC Core, 2005)
Super Adventure Club - Built In Redundancy (
Collins Oke Elaicho & His Odologie Nobles Dance Band - Simini Yaya (Nigeria Special)
Gang Gang Dance - Nicoman (Rawwar EP, 2007)
Michael Hurley - Werewolf (Armchair Boogie, 1971)
James Blackshaw - Running To The Ghost (The Cloud Of Unknowing, 2007)
The Poets - That's The Way It's Got To Be (Nuggets II)
No Age - Teen Creeps (Nouns, 2008)
Kevin Drumm - Inferno (Sheer Hellish Miasma, 2002)

* just noticed that the stream cuts this off, so tune into the previous show, Night Time Tales and skip forward to the last few minutes to have your mind blown by Bruce Haack.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More nonsense wot I wrote

Sadly there's no Beard radio this week, due to technical problems at Subcity. We'll be back next week though, bringing the motherfucking ruckus. With magnitude.

Anyway, here are a couple of things I wrote recently for Scottish indie webzine Is This Music? The Bert Jansch one strives for purple prose a bit too much and ends up a pale shade of blue, but them's the breaks. The Fanfare Ciocarlia is ludicrous. I quite like it.

Fanfare Ciocarlia

Celtic Connections @ Glasgow Old Fruitmarket (January 18th '08)

Fanfare Ciocarlia are totally metal. Certainly the most metal band at Celtic Connections. Now, it might seem odd to describe a Romanian gypsy brass band as metal, but bear with me here. Lightning speed tempos, colossal low-end riffs, wailing virtuosic solos and the odd Steppenwolf cover? ‘nuff said.

Granted, it’s a bit of stretch, but my point is that a group like Ciocarlia shatter any preconceptions about worthy “world” music with one gulping rasp of their euphoniums. They fuckin’ rock dude, and what’s more, they’re insanely funky, the rowdiest party band around. But as their name suggests – it means skylark – they’re capable of moments of grace and lyricism too.

You may have heard them in Borat, giddily honking their way through ‘Born To Be Wild’. Or you may have heard them on Hawk & A Hacksaw’s ‘The Way The Wind Blows’ bringing colour and fire to Jeremy Barnes’ compositions. Either way, their mightiness is self-evident.

They take to the stage in waves. First come the tuba and euphonium players, lining up against the back of the stage to lay down some quaking basslines. Then come the trumpets and percussionists, before the band leaders, sax/clarinet whiz Oprică Ivancea and trumpet heroes Rădulescu Lazăr and Costică “Cimai” Trifan arrive to decorate the band’s infectious grooves with dizzying leads.

What follows is nigh on two hours of glorious Balkan dance tunes, where Romanian tradition gets down with Macedonian, Albanian and Serbian styles, before hot-stepping across the Mediterranean to shake down with Turkish and Arabic sounds. Ciocarlia owe a great deal formally to the great jazz bands of Ellington and Basie, so it’s apt that they give Sir Duke’s Caravan a Romany makeover.

The encore sees Ciocarlia step off the stage and into the crowd, weaving their way into the centre of the auditorium to play unamplified. Of course, they still blast the roof off. It’s a masterful way to end the show, band members shaking hands and selling CDs as they work the crowd. Lightning Bolt eat your heart out.
//Stewart Smith

Bert Jansch / Espers / Eliza Carthy
Celtic Connections @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (Wed January 23rd)

The daughter of Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy is folk aristocracy, but she’s never been one to preserve the tradition in aspic. Her latest material, showcased tonight, sees her fuse English folk with trad jazz, suggesting some imaginary jam session between Cleo Laine and Fairport Convention. Toss in a little Cajun zydeco and the odd reggae rhythm and you’ve got a pretty heady concoction. These global-roots fusions can sometimes be a bit bland, the ingredients losing some of their flavour in the cooking, but a crack band, led by the outstanding Phil Alexander (of Salsa Celtica and Moishe’s Bagel fame) on piano and accordion, and Carthy’s fiery fiddle playing and gorgeously salty Yorkshire voice, give the music real character.

Playing a one off show ahead of Meg Baird’s short solo tour (which didn’t include Glasgow – boo!), Philadelphia’s Espers have left their cello and organ at home, resulting in a relatively stripped down performance. As a result, they don’t quite recreate the heady opium scented textures of their records, but Baird’s airy vocals drift gorgeously over the group’s intricate guitar picking and shuffling drums. Sound problems bedevil the start of their set – biscuit tin drums and a barely audible bass do not make for psychedelic bliss – but it comes together for fine renditions of ‘Moon Occults The Sun’ and ‘Mansfield & Cyclops’. With no organ to keep him occupied, Greg Weeks assumes the role of prog guitar shaman, coaxing wisps of black smoke feedback and purple clouds of fuzz-wah from his amp. All of which makes their choice of covers – Blue Oyster Cult and Durutti Column - less surprising than they might first seem. Sure, they recall Pentangle’s jazz-tinged psych-folk, but Espers have a dark, ominous quality that hints towards an acquaintance with doom, drone and Japanese psychedelia, as well as folk’s dank, shadowy corners.

Having appeared on Jansch’s latest album, Black Swan, Espers might have been expected to join the old master on stage tonight. Alas, it was not to be. Not that I’m complaining; Jansch is an absorbing solo performer. Never the most commanding of vocalists, he sounds as crumpled as a discarded paper bag at first, while the sound crew struggle to capture his acoustic guitar clearly. But all this passes soon enough. He eases us in with the beatnik blues of the classic Strolling Down The Highway, a sweet shrug before the more characteristically intense material that makes up the bulk of the set. To sporadic cheers, Jansch doffs his cap to Anne Briggs, the great English folk singer who taught him Black Water Side. His voice may be a little too gruff to do the melody – one of the most starkly beautiful in the tradition – justice, but the brilliance lies in his inspired guitar arrangement, his modal chording connecting British folk to the Middle East and the blues. Never as flashy as his mentor Davey Graham, or his old Pentangle sparring partner John Renbourn, Jansch chooses to serve the songs with inventive chordings and complex right hand orchestrations, rarely breaking into a solo. His voice comes into its own on originals like Poison, his weathered baritone taking on a compellingly sour edge. Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run The Game is suitably bleak in his hands, and he makes a fair stab at the Appalachian ballad Katie Cruel, while never reaching the devastating depths of Karen Dalton’s incredible reading. With new material like Black Swan standing proudly beside his classics, Jansch sounds as relevant as ever. Long may he run.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

James Blackshaw & Remember Remember in The List

A couple of articles I wrote for the current issue of The List. Click on the hyperlinks above each article to read them on The List's website, or better still, pop down to your local newsagents and buy a copy. There's a nice interview with the RZA in there after all. You'll be able to read full interviews with both James Blackshaw and RememberRemember in the forthcoming issue 7 of Beard. In the meantime, go catch these fine gents at the Triptych festival, or, to paraphrase Metallica, wherever they may roam.

James Blackshaw

In only five years, James Blackshaw has earned a reputation as Britain’s most brilliant young composer-guitarist, wowing the avant-garde and folk underground with his acoustic 12-string reveries.

Like contemporary US pickers Jack Rose and Glenn Jones, the 26-year-old Londoner draws inspiration from the American Primitive school of guitar instrumentalists – John Fahey, Sandy Bull, and, in particular, 12-string guru Robbie Basho – but his vision isn’t limited to an exploration of folk, blues and raga forms. In fact, his compositions have more in common with the minimalism of Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine, Southeast Asian folk, and Renaissance courtly music.

It’s as a composer that Blackshaw principally sees himself, although the 12-string guitar, with its resonant, bell-like sound, is instrumental in realising his ideas. The results are quite remarkable: long, mesmeric pieces driven by cascading arcs of finger-picked notes, rich in overtones, drones and graceful melodies. Although Blackshaw is reluctant to describe his music as psychedelic, his ability to put the listener in a trance-like state, then transport them somewhere else with a subtle harmonic shift or fleet-fingered flourish, can be transcendent, spiritual even.

The Cloud of Unknowing, named after a 14th century mystical Christian text, was one of the great albums of 2007, and previews suggest its follow up, Litany of Echoes, due in June, will be equally special. There’s also a collaboration with Dutch lute maestro Jozef Van Wissem to look forward to.

An extraordinary talent, James Blackshaw will hypnotise, dazzle and move you. In one word: unmissable.

James Blackshaw plays Bongo Club, Edinburgh Sat 26 Apr; The Ivy, Glasgow, Sun 27 Apr.


The Royal We and Sexy Kids bassist, Multiplies synth wiz, Mogwai auxiliary, Flying Matchstick Men axe-smith, Graeme Ronald’s musical CV is impressive to say the least. But it’s as RememberRemember that Ronald has come into his own, spinning guitar loops and found sounds into densely beautiful compositions that suggest a post-rock Steve Reich.

‘I bought a looping pedal and it was a godsend to me,’ says Ronald of his favourite musical tool. ‘Whenever I have a melody in my head I just stick it right down with my guitar and instantly start imagining what other melodies and textures could complement it.’

RememberRemember currently performs as a three piece, with violinist Joan and saxophonist James. ‘I wanted to incorporate tones that just can’t be created with a guitar or a synth,’ Ronald explains.

The album he’s currently recording for Mogwai’s Rock Action label takes this idea further, with Chinese harp and mobile phone keypads added to the mix.

Ronald’s home-made props are always a highlight of gigs, so can audiences expect anything special for Triptych?

‘James has come up with an amazing idea for our show which I guess is the trick. It’s probably too large to fit up a sleeve though.’

RememberRemember play Tramway, Glasgow, Sat 26 Apr; Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sun 27 Apr.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Magik Markers interview

Comic by Ben Haggar, Beard #4

An expert in what The Wire, god bless ‘em, term “non-interventionist guitar techniques”, Magik Markers’ Elisa adopts the persona of a weary cave-woman unfamiliar with the concept of musical instruments as the audience whoops and the feedback blares. Noise-rock and no wave might have made us familiar with the concept of great bands who can’t play their instruments, but the Markers are kicking it one stage further by being a great band who WON’T play their instruments. “It’s not a guitar – it’s an alien engine I pulled out of the ground – when I hit it it makes noise – it makes good noise.” Lyrics, as is usually best, are shrieked pop culture references and swear words. Magik Markers are fucking inspirational – they may be the emperor’s new clothes, but this emperor rules with fists of iron.
Ben Haggar, ATP review, Beard #4 2005

'Taste' from Boss (Ecstatic Peace, 2007)

Magik Markers’ latest yowl, Boss, sees the duo of Elisa Ambrogio and Peter Nolan blossom as a more structured noise-rock band, albeit one whose songs retain the unpredictability and danger of their wild, improvised live shows and earlier sides. In anticipation of their UK dates, including two shows as part of Scotland’s Triptych festival, I posed some questions to drummer/noise maker Peter Nolan via email.

Beard: Tell me about how Magik Markers started.

Peter Nolan: Started in the most killer basement ever in Hartford, CT. Elisa's dad used to be the king of the block back in the sixties. His basement lair was adorned with insane blacklight paintings and a wall of collage art from the first blooms of the rock and roll era. We dusted off the scene down there and began hosting sick shows with bands like Tart, Double Leopards, and the Bunny Brains.

B: Your live shows are renowned for their intensity. Are you trying to break down the barrier between band and audience?

PN: We're just trying to be right there as it happens.

B: What shows over the years do you consider highlights?

PN: We played a show one time in the worst blizzard of the year back in ‘95 at Tonic in NYC. I was hallucinating that I was an Octopus and that my arms could reach to the back of the room. Elisa flipped everyone's chairs over.

One time we played at an ancient opera house in Castille, Spain at 4am total creep style. That was the show that made us Kentucky Colonels.

B: Your albums have gradually moved towards being structured and more melodic, culminating in Boss. What inspired you to move in this direction?

PN: Our minds, our hearts, and our spirits.

B: Did the songs on Boss develop from improvisation or were they written before being presented to the group?

PN: Both.

B: How different was recording Boss to previous albums?

PN: We were in a studio for many many hours... so it was way different. We got a chance to make it sound exactly like we wanted it too, and it came about gradually and flowered beautifully just like Baudelaire would want it too.

B: Has working with Lee Ranaldo as producer affected your working methods?

PN: It was like partying on the Millenium Falcon.

B: Axis Mundi and Taste seem to explore different aspects of sexuality and desire. Would you consider these feminist songs?

PN: Elisa wrote them so I'll let her talk about her icky lyrics. I'm pretty sure they're super feminist as well as communist and Un-American. Someone should lock her up.

B: A number of songs relate to the corporeal – 'Last Of The Lemach Line', with its striking image of 'the secular Pentecost' suggests a celebration of the body, which contrasts with the horror of 'Body Rot'…

PN: Oh ... I know the answer to this one... damn.. I forgot

B: Is there any significance in the title? What is the Lemach Line?

PN: I know this one too... I think it has to do with Elisa having a parasite.

B: That song seems quite apocalyptic. How important are Christian and Occult ideas to your songwriting?

PN: Yeah, I think Elisa's a devil worshipper too... someone should lock her up.

B: The album references Pat Garrett and Updike's “Rabbit” Anstrong – do American archetypes interest you?

PN: Just cowboys and rabbits.

B: You've recruited a new member for live shows. Do you plan to recreate Boss live and is there still space for improvisation?

PN: We did but after she found out what big losers we are she decided to go to jewellery school. We made her put all her parts on tape and we'll play along with them. We might bring a 'Julie' doll so it looks like there are 3 people onstage.

B: Any further Spectre Flux/Folk (Peter’s solo project) releases planned?

PN: Just did the Blackest Medicine lp on Woodsist, as well as Black Bones cdr on Arbitrary Signs. New record in the works...!!!

B: What's next for Magik Markers? There was talk of a DVD a while back?

PN: I don't think the DVD will ever happen. We're working out the material for a new record... some of it you'll hear on this tour!


Magik Markers, Human Bell, Kitchen Cynics
FRI 25.4.08, 7.30pm
The Tunnels, Aberdeen

Mogwai, Clinic, Dirty Projectors, Malcolm Middleton, Errors, Frightened Rabbit, Magik Markers, Correcto, RememberRemember
SAT 26.4.08, 3pm
Tramway, Glasgow

Monday, April 07, 2008

Beard Radio & The Kosmiche Kid 7.4.08

Raymond Scott

No Age

On tonight's show I was joined by Beard magazine and Texas' (the place, not the rubbish band) own Leah Jaques. And Neil and their little boy Lucas also made a brief, and very sweet, appearance. Lucas is the Kosmiche Kid! He was dancing away to Neu and La Dusseldorf, which we played in tribute to the late, great Klaus Dinger. We also brought you new stuff from No Age, Silver Jews and Times New Viking. Throw in some vintage electronics from Raymond Scott and Toshi Ichiyanagi, Kiwi pop from the Flying Nun stable, Sufi devotional music, funky Nigerian stuff and you have one of our best shows so far.

Neu - Hero (Neu 75, 1975)
La Dusseldorf - La Dusseldorf (La Dusseldorf 1978)
No Age - Eraser (Nouns, 2008)
Tall Dwarfs - The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1981)
Raymond Scott - The Wild Piece (Manhattan Research Project,
Brian Eno - St Elmo's Fire (Another Green World, 1975)
Raymond Scott - Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals (Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, )
Caetano Veloso - Lost In Paradise (S/T, 1969)
Aretha Franklin - Eleanor Rigby (This Girl's In Love With You, 1969)
J Dilla - Workinonit (Donuts, 2006)
Jean-Jacques Perrey - E.V.A. (Moog Indigo, 1970)
Silver Jews - Suffering Jukebox (Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, 2008)
Lefty Frizzell - Look What Thoughts Will Do (If You've Got The Money, 1950)
Toshi Ichiyanagi - Music For Living Space (Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol 5 Music For Tinguley, 1969)
Times New Viking - My Head (Rip It Off, 2008)
The Monks - Higgle-Dy-Piggle-Dy (Black Monk Time, 1966)
The Chills - Pink Frost (1984)
Big Bill Broonzy - St Louis Blues (Absolutely The Best, 1951)
Art Tatum - Tiger Rag (The Piano Starts Here, 1933)
Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros - Akayan Akessa (Sound of Funky Lagos)
Syl Johnson - Is It Because I'm Black (1969)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Rahway Wasdi Jhok Faridan Di (Rough Guide to Sufi Music)
Miles Davis & Gil Evans - Prayer (Porgy & Bess, 1959)
Godflesh - Christbait Rising (Streetcleaner, 1989)