Monday, November 28, 2022

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Tidings of Yule














They say Christmas starts earlier every year.  And it can certainly feel like that. But not all seasonal occurrences feel intrusively premature.  Viz, the welcome wintry release of a new Moon Wiring Club long-playing recording, bearing the mos t'peculiar title: Medieval Ice Cream


It's great! And it's unusual. Ian H dismantles much of his established sound here. Oh, it still wafts that characteristic clammy aroma, but some key structural fixtures have been absented; the way the music moves feels different. There's no "bouncing ball" basslines; the beat-modes fall into none of his existing templates.  It's sort of ambient, except not: the beats impose a little too much, while remaining too fitful and spasmodic to assemble anything resembling a groove. 

"The far more interesting music that dubstep could have been" - this feels like a line I've reeled out before, but it sort of applies again, here and there. Occasionally there's a corroded clankiness and intricately wound quality to the drum patterns that minds me slightly of Shackleton.  Related to that thought is another thought, or feeling: puzzlement that Moon Wiring Club is not as universally exalted as Burial. Perhaps it's because, mood-wise, the religiose is given a wide berth? Because eeriness is achieved without solemnity? Not that Burial would be improved by jokes exactly (and before this is construed as a jab, let me add that Antidawn is one of my favorites of an otherwise meagre year)

Here's the lead "single" from the album. And here's a MWC mix of related materials  And, in a mos t'peculiar promotional gambit, you can also read a poem penned for each of the six tracks. 


I asked Ian about his fancies and procedures this time round and he kindly divulged: 

"There’s definitely an aspiration to get somewhere I haven’t been before. 

"I’d say the tagline would be ~  ‘Musick that has been damaged by Time Travel, and has the consistency of Ice Cream’. 

"After the Ghost Party Delirium 2xCD (which was fairly straightforward in terms of grid structure) I knew I wanted to do something that was ‘un-quantizable’...  I’d had the title Medieval Ice Cream swirling around my head for a number of years, along with a gathering concept of what that would sound like. I think with early / medieval music, (which I listen to fairly often) it has an immediate set of signifiers and a framework in which you can begin to operate.  I wanted something that had that ‘ye owd’ vibe (and visual language) but with a complete (or as complete as I could muster) de-anchoring from the expected musical framework. 

"The main image I was inspired by, was of being deep within a vast medieval frosty winter forest (no leaves, icy mist, eerie pale blue light etc) and hearing the sound of a flute bouncing and echoing around the trees from an indeterminate distance. I naturally continued with this thought, and imagined that if you swapped out the flute with a variety of other instruments (such as a basic drum machine) / voices and then recorded them, you’d have a set of musical stems that, while belonging to the same track and featuring the same organic quality, would overlap and struggle to catch-up with themselves over their duration.

"If (wait for it) this music was all initially captured in a frozen state, then began to gradually thaw out, the sounds would also start to congeal together, much like melting ice cream. The specific ice cream I was thinking off was a Smarties M*Flurry - a tub of processed ice cream with  a load of Smarties frozen inside. As the tub is consumed, the food colouring on the smarties begins to run into the melting vanilla ice cream, until all you’re left with is a lurid slop of fluorescent additives. 

"The album is also inspired a bit by that feeling in a telly program, where someone has definitive proof of the supernatural or time travel, but when the evidence is presented to an incredulous present-day official, it begins to fade away, or what was a complex piece of machinery is now a peculiar sculpture made of twine and twigs." 

More about the album from the Gecophonic page: 

"MEDIEVAL ICE CREAM (GEpH016LP) is permanently on the cusp of being ambient / non-ambient. Beats wobble and shimmy like jelly. Tracks have been de-boned but the skeleton remains, staggering around in a hazy twilight of delighted eerie-delirium. Tunes skate along multiple frosty grooves within themselves to only occasionally converge. Shards of broken ice form melted rhythms while a Medieval Ice Cream van careers serenely down a distant misty ravine." 

You can purchase Medieval Ice Cream here . The album comes with a A4 Premium 225gsm Matte paper Art Print.



Thursday, November 24, 2022

RIP Wilko Johnson


The fingernails of Wilko ! 

Mine crack and tear when opening a suitcase in a hurry - how could he play like that? It's not just that he isn't using a plectrum - he's actually percussively cuffing the strings with the tops of his fingernails. Electric guitar strings are generally made of steel and nickel. 


I must have watched that Geordie Scene TV clip at least fifty times since first coming across it on YouTube. Just such a fantastic capsule of the '70s. Brilleaux absolutely cranked on sulphate - whereas with Wilko, I think it's natural energy. Love the girls, slightly bemused at the singer's fanatical intensity, still choogling gamely. 

Here's the whole program of Geordie Scene with Dr Feelgood

 




Another clip I've watched many times now since stumbling on it (it was not something that got any play at the time of release).



Wilko's one great moment with the Blockheads. Pubfunk with a taut-elastic sproing to the riffage. 

It probably seemed like a great re-energizing and career-reorienting idea having Wilko join after Chas Jankel left and after the "too disco-y" Do It Yourself. But brilliant player though he is, Wilko couldn't take up the songwriting slack left by Jankel.  Laughter is no laughing matter. Indeed it's ploppermost-of-the-plops in this tally of  Disappointing Albums in my life. 

But for a moment, with "I Wanna Be Straight", it looked so promising. 


Talking of capsules of Seventies-ness, let's have "She Does It Right" again...




A different iteration of more-or-less the same riff, and the Wilko-era Feelgoods's  other classic








Saturday, November 12, 2022

RIP Keith Levene





















My first guitar hero, at a time when the guitar hero wasn't really a thing.  Keith Levene made unbelievable sounds with his instrument. Took the guitar to new places. So much beauty.


When I interviewed him in 2002, Keith said he thought "No Birds Do Sing" was PiL's peak - his best playing - and he could be right (it's always been a favorite). But there are so many peaks. 



PiL counterfactual: if they'd done 9 other songs like this on the debut album, surely they'd have become instant stadium rock stars. There'd have been no need for U2!  I'm glad they didn't take that path, but it's an intriguing thought - the group that came to destroy rock, make it obsolete, start their career with one of the greatest rock anthems of all time.





Along with the guitar god stuff, Keith was also quite nifty with a Prophet 5 synth.




Talking about Keith and keyboards, how about this almost-solo beauty? He could have done a whole album of this kind of thing and I'd have been very happy.



As PiL's de facto music director, Keith also made some great things without either guitar or synth  (and with Wobble flown the coop too).



I don't think there's any guitar on this one either, so Keith's contribution is probably that beebling synth drone in the background and the EQ on the snares and hi-hats. 


Can't miss this -  "Death Disco" on Top of the Pops is one of a handful of turned-my-world-upside-down-inside-out moments of music on TV (others include "This Charming Man", "Party Fears 2", a T.Rex moment that shook me and that I've written about a couple of times now as a Primal Epiphany... and in a funny way the Rezillos on Top of the Pops singing a song about Top of the Pops) 



Another great PiL teevee moment 



Here's me on Metal Box and PiL as Rock Band. 

And here's my Wire interview with Keith Levene from 2002. 






"I respected my influences enough to never imitate them. That was always important to me. It still is" - Keith Levene