An excellent night with good friends at the Barbican Centre, watching Gruff Rhys perform his latest album, Babelsberg, with the London Contemporary Orchestra. I’ve seen Gruff Rhys a few times with the Super Furry Animals and solo (the American Interior show at the Southbank being a highlight), and he always brings something new and special to the show. This time the orchestration really brought the new songs to life and shone extra light on his melodies; I hope I can catch him again soon and look forward to seeing whatever he does next.
I’m very pleased to have a photo in the November 2017 issue of Uncut magazine (available in all good newsagents now!). My picture of The Necks at Cafe OTO in Dalston, East London during their 3 night residency in August appears alongside a review by John Mulvey on page 92.
You can see a couple more photos from the concert here.
Demos and outtakes from Gillian Welch’s Revival album, 20 years after that album’s release. I was worried that this would feel a bit unnecessary, like an exercise in filling time between albums – particularly given the long gaps between Gillian Welch albums – but it’s great. It brought back the feeling of hearing Welch and Rawlings for the first time, the songs that didn’t make the album are great, but I kind of understand why they missed the cut.
There’s an interesting interview with Gillian Welch about it here.
Now can we have another new album, and all the old ones reissued on vinyl, please?
Snapped on my way home from the excellent Caught by the River Thames festival on Sunday. Highlights of the event:
- The London Sound Survey (and finally meeting the brains behind the project)
- Beer and paella in the sunshine, sitting in Fulham Palace’s walled garden
- Temples (yes retro, yes derivative, but also fun and they have tunes and the chops to make it work without being stodgy)
- Super Furry Animals: just brilliant, uplifting, moving, amusing, and perfect for the event.
I hope they do it again next year.
The day after Neil Young at the O2 started out damp and got wetter; by late morning we were actively putting off going over to Hackney for Field Day. Fortunately, friends who’d attended the first day sent warnings to wear walking boots… In the end, though the ground was heavy going in the busiest places, it wasn’t too bad. We didn’t get to do much lying around on the grass listening to music this year, though: standing pretty much all day.
A huge downpour arrived while were in a tent watching Blossoms (who could probably count themselves lucky to have a captive audience for a while), but otherwise somehow we stayed dry. Steve Mason was a bit disappointing, I thought, but maybe I wasn’t really in the right mood for that kind of swagger at that time of day – and maybe any act would have seemed underwhelming after Neil Young the previous evening; Ben Watt and band (inc. Bernard Butler) were really good, even if I’m not sure the songs would stand up to much listening in the long run; Moon Duo were great, and PJ Harvey delivered something very different and pretty special to close it out.
It’s a really good event – the food and drinks work – and I was struck by just how excellent the sound was, particularly for PJ Harvey (helped no doubt, but the absence of any breeze for most of the day).
To the O2 Arena down the road on Greenwich Peninsula on a warm and airless evening, for Neil Young and his new band. The Promise of the Real might have the most terrible of terrible band names, but they did a great job of interpreting the different styles of NY’s various bands and musical phases. A surprising tour through the back catalogue, with a very different set from the last time I saw him at this venue, including some Greatest Hits (Heart of Gold), mid-90’s songs that I’d forgotten about entirely (Western Hero), two off On The Beach – particularly good – plus If I Could Have Her Tonight which had apparently been played the previous night in Leeds for the first time since 1968. His singing was strong and his guitar playing and tone – particularly with his Gretsch – was ace and uplifting.
*obligatory Long May He Run conclusion*
Work, plus the all-pervading sense of existential despair engendered by politics in 2016. Or maybe I’m just coming down with a cold.
Some good things that came by via Twitter and MixCloud through the day:
Fantastic photos of London c.1970-71 by David Wisdom: “I was more entranced by the continued existence, both architectural and human, of a London that stretched back in time before The Beatles, before The Wars, back to the slophouses of Dickens, back to the slatterns and toffs of William Hogarth and back to the Romans.”
News of a new SoulJazz Records compilation: Venezuela 70. A nagging thought in my brain says I can’t just buy everything that comes out on SoulJazz, but there would be worse ways to build a record collection. Anyway, the teaser track sounds great:
Ghostpoet’s Soho Radio show threw up a few great tracks, in particular Herbie Hancock’s Wiggle Waggle, which I’d never heard before – an excellent bit of soul-funk apparently recorded for a kids’ tv show; also Rangda, whose album I’d made a mental note to buy when I heard the single on Soundcloud then immediately forgot about.
Photobook collection addition
Got home to find East End by John Claridge had arrived in the post, published by Spitalfields Life blog, which I’d quite forgotten ordering. It’s good: nicely produced with a lot of images in,and smartly edited. I’m not a huge fan of that blog’s prose style but its commitment to photography, never mind its overall scope of recording the history of Spitalfields – and in particular the history of ordinary people – in detail, is hugely impressively.
Awake at an ungodly hour – even before daughter – cursing our continued failure to sort out blackout lining for our bedroom curtains; exactly as per last summer and the summer before. A morning of pottering around the house, failing to make a cyanotype print (either it just doesn’t work indoors on a cloudy day or the paper’s gone off), listening to records (including multiple plays of a newly arrived Northern Soul 7″ of the sort that I really must not start collecting) and giving too much inconclusive thought as to why I just can’t bring myself to love The Band’s Music From Big Pink in the same way that I love, say, The Basement Tapes or The Band.
Then, as the clouds shifted and the temperature went up, off on my bike to a surprisingly quiet Charlton Lido for a slow-ish mile’s swim. Then round to the Old Cottage Cafe in Charlton Park and had a not-nutritionist-recommended coffee and cake to recover.
Spotted one of the bonkers ‘Legal Name Fraud’ posters off Charlton Rd – whoever is behind them must have a lot of cash, or the billboard advertising industry really is on its knees. Later an exciting trip out to buy a non-symbolic new broom (Dad tip: B&Q is alway quiet at 5.30 on a Saturday).
In between I’ve been listening to the New Daniel Romano album as prep for Monday night’s gig in Oxford. It surprises me that reviews of his recent work don’t all mention Lee Hazlewood straight up in the first paragraph, which is not to be critical: more artists in that kind-of-Americana world would benefit from looking at songwriting and production from a Hazlewood angle.
A reasonable way to start a Bank Holiday weekend, all in all.
Field recordings from New Orleans by The Audiofiles (about whom I know absolutely nothing; another ‘discovery’ via the MixCloud algorithm). Sometimes it’s good to listen to music with no idea as to who the musicians are and little chance of ever knowing anything about them.
This came on in the middle of a randomly-selected jazz ‘mixtape’ on Mixcloud I was listening to on headphones at work, and stopped me in my tracks. I know I’ve heard it before (not least because it’s been used on film and tv soundtracks many times – I also suspect I have a copy of Everybody Digs Bill Evans in MP3 format in a folder somewhere in the great mess of my electronic music collection), but yesterday for whatever reason it stopped time for a few minutes.
Interviewed (in typically painful style) by Jools Holland on Later… last week, Paul Simon talked about his father saying that musicians need to learn an awful lot even to become mediocre musicians. To somehow bridge the gap between my mediocre pub musicianship and the playing of a Bill Evans or similar is beyond my comprehension.