12/15/2014

PAREIDOLIA

There's a quiet dignity to constantly shooting yourself in the foot, over and over again. I realize our constant inability to stick to just one kind of song or one style of music (someone else's) doesn't do us any favours, but look: it's so much more fun this way. And I can totally pull of a walking stick.

We are putting the final coat of paint on a new set of songs. It's more eclectic than the last set - more contributions from the gang on this one. Stories, soundscapes, diry grooves and swirl. I'm really chuffed with this batch and really looking forward to doing them live. Gonna be a serious challenge... There are currently 4 teaser tracks:


9/19/2014

Kate Bush - With Spoilers - live in London Tuesday 16th September 2014

Kate Bush performing live in London 2014

A real artist is something more. They take building blocks, simple materials, they tug at our heart strings, they wake us up, they reduce is to tears. A real artist is an alchemist, transforming base materials into something precious, something nourishing. Kate Bush is a magician. A musickian.

The night starts out as a conventional gig, then right in the middle of a song, the entire thing comes to a halt. The impact is doubled by the fact it doesn't end on a beat, or the end of a chorus, it just stops mid-sentence. Then we get something else. Something unique.

The show explores a visually rich theme that still manages to remain suitably amorphous. The use of excellent lighting, good old fashioned smoke and mirrors, pristine video projections, movement, stage and sound design - it's all only reminiscent of Pink Floyd because they're one of the rare few who embrace a kind of technical intertextuality / epic theatricalities / visual SFX in an attempt to mess with your head as much as embellish their own concerts. There is a playful humour present too. But there is none of the vacuous pomp or hollow gestures of stadium rock here. This is more like a modern day Music Hall show.

Think of the way the teenage John Lydon in the early Sex Pistols gigs seemed to have an unlikely air of Norman Wisdom about him, a Dickensian urchinery, like a kind of other-worldly Music Hall entertainer. Like Lydon, Kate Bush appears to exist in-between mediums.

It's refreshing to see someone mix elements of live music, performance art, theatre, video art, lighting and contemporary stage design and make it really work. And it doesn't come across as pretentious. This is clearly who she is, what she needs to do to realize her idea of a live concert.

This is something very different to Gaga's bombastic sensationalism for its own sake, or The Knife's other-dimensiony Drug-Fi live adventures.

I never realized how much her songs owe to a certain kind of dystopian pre-punk rock: the spacious power chords, the drones, the emphasis on rhythm (think Hawkwind or Floyd at their most epic / doom-laden). But she transcends it, makes it her own. It's not about clever chord changes or tricky time signatures. These songs are mood pieces, and they tug at the heart strings and the hips as much as the head.

The only time it tips into West End Musical territory - sadly - is when Bertie's nasal 'let's do the show right here!' vocal stylings take the spotlight. But given that he is partly responsible for Kate Bush's return to live gigs, it's almost forgiveable.

Kate Bush ship-wrecked but still singing.


The band is epic - bringing out the grooves at the heart of these songs. There are no solos, no histrionics, no blues licks. It's all tight chops, bass you can feel, shimmering percussion and pounding beats. Arrangements are honourable to the originals, but there's a freshness to the sound. Nothing feels dated. This is not Prog. Everything is in service to the atmosphere of the song.

There's never a dull moment, but you're never overloaded. There is always some space, on stage and in the arrangements. There are moments where the vocal harmonies threaten discordance, but are ultimately resolved. This reminds us that Kate Bush is no hippie, no New Ager. It's not all sweetness and light. She's not afraid of tension and darkness.

Embracing some innovative in-your-face stage design, there are some stunning moments where the show delves into a dimension somewhere between an amusement park, confrontational performance art and dystopian cinema.

There is a fine balance here between bold tech and minimalist, gentle theatricalities. Highlights include Kate's backing vocalists (wow but that name does them a serious disservice) roaming the stage in matching life jackets emitting red beacon lights in the gloom. Lush video projections, lazer-light and vast swathes of billowing cloth conjure up some lush virtual oceans.

A brilliant custom-built bellowing sound system / smoke machine / lighting rig steals the limelight to stalk the audience in search of our ship-wrecked protagonist.

And then of course there's our fearless band leader, Kate Bush - who appears entirely at home on stage. Humble, but clearly in her element. Her voice is flawless and it's clear that she's totally in control of it.

The entire experience is ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Does it come down to the fact that the music is the result of someone who clearly makes art for the pleasure of making art? Rather than the usual quest for attention, fame, wealth. She is a rare creature in that respect: a performer guided by something more than just ego.





7/21/2014

Where Have You Been? The Cinema of Sound




Milk looking concerned
You want to hear it without reverb?!


I always feel like I'm being lazy, but whenever I write one of these I realize we are at least getting a few things done... I've been told I'm too impatient and should slow down but hell, why stop now?


leather coat and microphone



We've got two new goody bags and some news about future projects:

A brand new set of 9 songs - released July 2014: I Made You a Map - (the title track, released as a single via Pretty In Noise earlier this year - has been given a little update).

This one was good therapy. It's dark, with a hint of self-deprecating nostalgia. The spitefulness has been cleansed, and now we're back to business. Exotic electronics, tiny spirals of noise leading the way through the noise and swirl. The beats are still big but they hopefully massage your parts rather than sound like they are trying to split them into pieces: 
The Black Aspirin E.P. is now available via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and others, thanks to Stray Recordings:

Another audiophonic journey... The Meks deliver us a new slab of post-punk-tinged-super-stylish-electronic-alt-rock, simply because... it's in their DNA.

From biting commentary to ocean-size dronefests, this release hails further broadening of the Meks sound - the massive beats, swirling noise guitars and beautiful production are there, as ever, but the lyrical content and atmosphere that some of these songs convey is heavier, and all the better for it. You are unwittingly being fed information whilst your body is busy involuntarily moving.

It seems effortless, the way the work is conveyed, but we all know it takes a lot of hard work, and the magic is in making all that work come across so naturally. Consistent, consistent, consistent.








Earlier this year I was asked to do come up with a guest post for The Devil Has The Best Tuna about my 'top picks' for 2014. Have a read if you're in need of some new noises - I know I am: http://besttuna.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/Tipsfor2014_11.html


Hop flask and cymbal
Prepared Hip-Flask


In other news, I've been putting the finishing touches to an E.P. by a new band: The Public Apophenia Council. I'm contributing some vocals and reverby baritone guitar. The PAC material has a more organic feel to it, featuring acoustic drums, percussion, melodica, fretless bass, harmonica and accordion. But with me doing production duties it's still going to have plenty of bass end, grit and reverb. 
There's an odd almost Morricone moment or two, and some spoken word tracks with some rough and ready grooves. So it's definitely something different to The Meks, but I think you'll be able to tell I'm in there routing around in the workings. Sample track: http://pareidolia.viinyl.com/

Arthur and some sort of analog synth?


I've also been working on some arrangements for a Liverpool based female singer with a really great soulful rock voice. It's been ages since I've worked with a great rock voice. The best rock voices are really soul voices. Machismo takes all the joy out of guitar music. Soul voices have ache, the great romantic, sexual ache. All the joy and sorrow.

I've been going for an electronic / Post-Punk vibe, with a couple of tracks featuring an entire brass section lending things a kind of SpyPunk / Magazine / John Barry kind of vibe. In my head at least.

A song is potential. It's a shame when musicians only view a song as an opportunity for cash or attention. The potential of sound is infinite. The potential to move air, limbs, hearts and minds.





Music moves us, takes us to places, triggers movements, emotions, memory.

You hear a good vocal performance sitting in the middle of a Painting By Numbers arrangement or production job: nailed to a genre. Guitars all sweaty, legs akimbo, trying too hard to sound like it's being played by an American, maudlin piano all frills no soul, a general fear of minor chords or a beat that isn't some kind of funkless stomp. Scrubbing all the dirt out of the mix. EQing all the life out of it.

I've been pushing myself to broaden my horizons, try things I would normally avoid (live drums for starters).


Ade MUTATE and me have also been working on a new Stray Dog City E.P. (Automatic Writing) with three or four juicy slabs of noise, bass and beats to sink your teeth into coming soon.

There may be a London gig coming up soon, but no solid plans for live things at the moment.



Hope you get yourselves a productive week!

Milk
x

4/28/2014

Apophenia

So I haven't typed much lately. Been immersed in the process of putting together some new noises, and moving (yes, again).




I've been holding back on the next Mekano Set release, want to let it stew a while. I've always rushed out stuff in the past, without allowing songs to mature as they tend to once we've gigged them a few times. The latest batch of songs are more electronic - less guitar riffy - but also more gritty / grimy / swirly. And the guitars are there - more swirl and skattered / shattered noise. Yummy.



Saying that, we've accidentally knocked something up this week that is a full-on guitars / melody thing, complete with vaguely melodic vocals and near discernible lyrics





Pareidolia is a new song I recorded with Arthur Hasburg and Sam Bertram - the former rhythm section of Liverpool pop band The Jackobins. We have two exotically grooving songs and two spoken word / soundscapes mixed and ready for a debut E.P. http://pareidolia.viinyl.com/


Our rehearsal space in need of a tidy-up

It's been a challenge to work with a different sonic pallet, and the songs are generally a little bit more melodic than my usual stuff. We're aiming for an organic groove. As well as making use of my baritone guitar textures and location recordings, we've been using melodica and harmonica, various bit of percussion, stories, fretless bass and acoustic drums. And we plan to make use of accordion and trumpet!



Live @ Liverpool Lomax for Hope Fest 2014


Spoilt Child is a spoken word piece from the as-yet untitled E.P. : http://spoiltchild.viinyl.com/



I've been thinking about the state of the music / movie industries recently. If movie torrents die out, DVD / Blu Ray will face a further die back. The industry needs to fund a solid, worthy physical format. It can do that. It can invest millions in research and tests without fear. Those people just need to get over their own destructive greed.

A book lasts lifetimes. A DVD / CD barely survives a decade. 

Let's not forget that the people who run the corporations behind all of the serious labels don't even need to make a profit anymore. Their industry is dying because of their greed - not ours. Recent statistics have shown that people who file share are MORE likely to purchase music and films than people who DON'T file share.

It's not enough to offer better quality formats. People still love mp3, VHS and cassettes and they're not the best quality. Blu Ray has not replaced DVD - and it won't. It's too little too late - and it's packaged in such a lazy way (almost identical to DVDs). Blu Ray albums won't be enough either.

Vinyl survives because the physical form has weight and quality. CD did not because the form was weak + over-priced.

People want to purchase, we like shiny things. It's such a shame to see real record stores across the globe closing their doors for good.

Still, people are always coming up with new, quality, innovative physical formats. But the industry is increasingly artless and blinkered to the path of Most Cash Profit. The fat cats need to step up and consider the craft and the art otherwise just step aside, go back to marketing toothpaste, cigarettes and trainers.


Hafler Trio CD packaging

Soi Song hexagonal CD


The Mekano Set