Adventures in Sound and Spaces: personal ramblings on Alternative Underground Culture / Politics / Freedoms / Gender / Experimentation / Gurdjieff / Fourth Way / Situationism / Sneering at Music Production
Just for tonight (while you put on your best outifts) it's free / name your price: 3 of our newest efforts in noise / beat / bass / swirly guitars. All proceeds go towards my drinks bill and Lee's hopeless addiction to cream cakes:
Season's great things to you and yours. Especially those of you that are working over this magic weekend. Some of us know you are out there, making a difference and we put you in our thoughts. Laughing bealing.
Here's to slipping between the meaningless rituals and Cargo Cult places. Freedom regardless of circumstance.
This is my tiny ChristMoose tree (I will be planting him somewhere after New Error's Eve):
For grimy trip-hop with the lights off, shoegaze gone wrong, a brand new video from us for I'm Thinking About It:
For movement, Underworld seem to know where they are going:
For vibe, Leftfield + Toni Haliday (Curve)
For Thought-Food, an interview with John and Keith Pil, when they were still full of ideas and ideals:
For stillness: snow-drift smothered voices for the Chrimbo vibe. Don't play it too loud or your speakers will ill:
I've never been very good at saying anything positive. I don't know. Thanks for sticking with us.
Why not treat yourself, and us: seeing as it's Christmoose, we're offering a top-quality download of Fades - a compilation of 13 lucky tracks - for only £5: http://themekanoset.bandcamp.com/album/fades
Meanwhile, the website is now back up and running. We'll be polishing it up over the next few weeks so be sure to check in for some new images, texts and hidden treasures: http://www.mekanoset.net/
Cheers, ahoy and shut up! to everyone who joined us in Brighton on Saturday. It was a blast. We only planned to DJ, but ended up dusting off our guitars and beats and even tried out a couple of new tunes for the first time in a while.
And look at Lee in his fitting tribute to those of you that were at Carter USM instead:
This Wednesday (8pm in Britain) the appropriately named DJ Candy will be playing an exclusive extra-bitter-sweet mix of our song Eat The Sweets on her excellent Crossover show: http://www.koolrockradio.com/krrshows.html
Also - we've just said yes to playing an infamous Matinée Soirée at The Albert in Brighton on Saturday 19th November. We love doing these things. Join us for a liquid lunch beside real coal fires. We'll do a live set plus we'll spin some choice eclectic sounds (Two Tone, TV Theme Tunes, Post Punk, Punk and Electrickery). Then drinks and banter: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=265892466789550
So I've been more antisocial than ever recently. Working hard on the book, and some new mixes, setting up a new computer [all our old Macs aren't capable of handling recent songs without slowing to a crawl, crawling into a corner and setting fire to themselves). Possibly the most painful experience I've endured since a trip to the dentist in January when I was convinced my wisdom teeth were trying to crawl up into my head to get to my brain.
The Mekano Movie is becoming a thing beauty.
Hopefully back in London for a few days next week, and maybe even a trip to Brighton. It's certainly been a while.
I've put up a demo of a new song we've been working on. I wanted to do something with a blatant swirly 12 string part. Cocteau Twins. Cure. Banshees. Obviously it got away from me, and then went down the familiar Mekano Set road... Give it a blast: Tide House (Demo)
This is about where I've been and what I've been doing there. Also, this is a way of reminding myself that I haven't exactly been lazy lately: a list of the things I've been up to since leaving Brighton:
Glass Keys EP (February 2011) We had such a positive reaction to the first ep (Maastricht Circle) I got all excited and finished off another batch of tunes: http://themekanoset.bandcamp.com/album/glass-keys (I'm sticking to bandcamp and youtube links because Spotify, iTunes, amazon etc. are annoyingly slow to update).
Even Stevens is one of my favourite songs. Me and Lee always get a thrill out of doing it live. It's a challenge for me cause it's got fiddly bits, and actual lyrics. It's a challenge for Lee because he has to stand there and strangle the same two strings for 4 minutes. So we offered up a free download of how we do it live: http://themekanoset.bandcamp.com/album/glass-keys
Little Specks of Blood Lust Blood are a band we love. They're from Brighton, but they are really nice people. They're kindred spirits in that they don't make things easy for themselves (why dress up in shite outfits and mime to a CD when you can invent frightening methods of doing it live, and smolder, whilst making it all look like you don't give a fuck). We jumped at the chance to do a remix of Come Closer: http://soundcloud.com/mekanoset/come-closer-by-little-specks-of-blood-the-mekano-set-mix
I've gone with bandcamp and youtube links because they are live. We still have material available in the form of CD's and via Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, eMusic etc. but the delay between mastering and availability is a pain!
I do recommend Grooveshark though. There's an interesting mix of our stuff on there. It's basically like Spotify, but without the annoying ads. And you don't have to download anything, it all runs in your browser: http://listen.grooveshark.com/artist/name/1899837
I know I've left a few things out, but I think this is more than enough yes?
All our bandcamp songs are £1 each. You can get them cheaper elsewhere (and you know we always give mp3's away if you follow our facebook groupings) but we always encourage listening to high quality files because the devil and the joys are in the details.
I'm going to talk about the gig but first, there's a few things going on:
You can now get hold of a 3-track ep by me and Ade B (Stray Dog City) called Ziff. It's more stripped back and groovy than Mekano stuff, with plenty of room for Ade's sub-bass-heavy bass; so it's a lot denser sounding as a consequence.
You can also hear some curiously obscure songs and remixes by The Mekano Set on Grooveshark too. One of my favourite tunes, The Hand by me and Beth Blindness is up and it's a much better mix than the official release (Dead Famous Records put it out on a compilation CD a couple of years ago): http://grooveshark.com/s/The+Hand+widescreen+Mix+/3MkRfK?src=5
What their criteria is for finding these gems is beyond me. They won't let me upload any tunes which is a bit annoying, but I can approve things that other people upload (hint hint).
So we played Cowley Club along with Blindness and Lazer Horse and a cracking night it was too. Top! A large quantity of Gin was consumed. Each act brought with them a different distinctive smell apparently. Blindness got everyone grooving and it was great to hang out with Nigel and Lisa. Also a pleasure to see Kev, and Ridder, and Mark and Tom from Pope Joan made an appearance even though they had a gig elsewhere on the same day. Ace.
In other news, BeatnikSoup are currently restoring and digitizing the obscure Zoviet era Monochrome film footage of our exploits with CrackerDog Productions in Eastbourne last year. So we are well on our way to seeing the completion of The Mekano Set DVD. It's going to be... well, let's say it's going to be much more cinematic than the plain old compilation of videos it could have been. Definitely worth the wait.
We're very over-excited and full of pop and crisps today. The new EP has just gone live and is now available at iTunes Store: Glass Keys - The Mekano Set
We've added an additional free download to the bandcamp version: the incredibly mangled remix of Throwing Shapes by Medium Death Kick (the current project of our fiend Andy Gibson from the wonderfully seedy Engine Room Club days ): http://themekanoset.bandcamp.com/album/glass-keys
We'll post links to Spotify etc. as and when they go live. WoooO!!!!!
Also, this time next week we'll be getting ourselves ready for a Saturday night at Cowley Club in Brighton where we'll be playing alongside the brilliant industrial-strength electro-rawk of Blindness and the acoustic-grunge-anthems of the mighty Lazer Horse. https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211278272222023
"This cider tastes funny." "That's not cider, it's bleach."
"The Mekano Set... pall-bearers to the the aftershocks of neo-electro-goth industrial-pop. I'm all up for more darkness this year, especially when it comes dressed as beguilingly as these tracks." Meatbreak's review of the ep: http://nfrblog.blogspot.com/
We think it's fair to say that our web presence is something of an adventure in itself. At almost every site you'll find a different treasure.
A page from The Single
We're steadily working our way through a batch of new mixes. You can find an increasing collection of material exclusively via our bandcamp store: http://themekanoset.bandcamp.com/
And seeing as we're being charitable, how about you meet us half way and check out the equally amusing Elite Panther Dash - the Official Imercian Running Team for the 2012 Olympics - and all their good charity work.
Dan and Lee, doing it for the kids. Fuck you Bono.
Next up, we've set up a play-list where you can listen to 3 tracks from our forthcoming EP, Glass Keys:
It's not even in concert pitch. Same bass and guitar as I use to this day. Natural reverb, acoustic drum kit. Probably recorded at my parent's house under the influence of Lucozade Solstice, very early in the morning while no one was in. No EQ, no compression. I remember people hearing the proper version of this and being disappointed!
Hey, have you done something different with your hair? We're playing an afternoon session at The Albert this Saturday - 12th February. It looks like this will be our last gig for a while. The perfect crime?
You want something on your feet. You'll catch your death. Bye Bye Brighton will be another sweet Matineé Mashup. These things have been so much fun we couldn't refuse. You get the playing live bit out of the way nice and early, then it be party time! So it'll be a groovy opportunity to say our goodbyes. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=192784037415381
We'll be selling and giving away what we have left of an assortment of ep's, posters and books, and there might even be a pre-release version of the DVD in amongst the goodies.
So, due to circumstances beyond my control it looks like I'm leaving Brighton in a couple of weeks. The owner of the building we've recorded, rehearsed and kipped in for the last 2 / 3 years is selling the place. I'm gutted, and not looking forward to the prospect of shifting the shocking amount of gear we've accumulated over the last couple of years. But I think it will do me good to take a break from life down south for a bit.
My plan is to spend March re-reading Julian Cope biographies, drinking Guinness and Vimto and seeing what happens next. No pressure.
I tell you, seriously, we've done some really ace gigs over the last few months, and the latest batch of songs are the best we've done to date, but as we get better at doing what we do, I feel less and less pressure to prove anything.
So, if you're thirsty, have a look at our last.fm page for some fresh mixes.
The plan was to follow up the filthy angst-riddled industrial-strenght fuzz fest of Maastricht Circle EP with a more down-tempo, loved up affair. Sort of Barry White on Ketamine. Even though we think K is for vacuous middle class de-voids, and Barry White is for sexual predators with moustaches and slip-on shoes. Stick around, it gets funnier.
But sticking to a plan is a rarity amongst all but the most human. And there's been such a really great response to the demos of songs we were working on in December (more angst-riddled filth). That gave us the impetus to get them finished rather than spend weeks performing exploratory surgery on the frequencies of each drum in turn.
The fact that people actually paid for downloads (rather than waiting for some clammy Czechoslovakian charmer with a moustache and slip-on shoes to host short-wave radio quality text files of them on a Celeron PC tower wired up to a car battery in the back of a van).
So while you're waiting for the Vass Man to siphon off enough diesel from a nearby Renault to fire up his Server, there are now 3 new songs up on bandcamp.
This is a real point though. Mainstream bands have the luxury of corporate funding. They also have to deal with the leveling effect of file-sharing. File-sharing is nothing new. Genuinely independant acts and labels haven't been effected in the same way.
The problem is that the industry has always been behind the times in terms of what is actually going on in the world, particularly in youth culture and the innovations of adults who haven't given up to money-greed.
Before mp3's and file sharing, people had access to blank CD's. Before that, it was cassettes. Hell, people were copying vinyl back in the day.
I've always compared music to food. It doesn't grow on trees.
Of course, food actually does grow on trees. Amazing isn't it? But 99% of the time somebody owns the tree. Some people even earn a living by tending to the trees, nurturing and supporting them. Gathering what are known as 'crop'. Crazy yeah?!
When I was a kid, I started to get interested in the idea of making music. I wasn't interested in being in a band. The people in bands (almost exclusively male, overly macho in one way or another, not quite middle class but with a bit more money than the rest of us) made no sense to me. They weren't artists. It wasn't creative it was just about posturing, copying, getting attention. I wasn't interested in getting attention but I seriously felt the need to make.
I was only vaguely aware of the way that a certain song could put you in a very specific mood.
We're holding on to the final mixes of the more brighter, less spite-fuelled songs like Hahaharem and Simm for the moment. Not to say that this current batch is entirely about treading water via people's faces:
In one song, there's even a guitar part that actually bares more than a passing resemblance to the sound of a real-life electric guitar. Lead-guitar even. It's our Massive Attack meets Iron Maiden song. And no, I'm not being at all ironic when I say that.
The truth is, all along what I've been trying to do is combine the 'Tripple Lead Attack' blues-metal of late 80's 'Maiden, with the melody-free, 3 am valium groove of recent Massive Attack albums.
We previously posted demos of these songs on soundcloud (Glass Keys, Throwing Shapes and I Hate Your Band / SlowTime). If they do alright on bandcamp we'll see about getting them on Spotify etc. If not, we'll deny everything and claim that we spent the whole time secretly finishing off the less nasty songs.
Looking at video footage this weekend. Wanted to go see Blindness playing in Brixton but I'd been up til dawn the previous night working on a new idea (since I was reminded it's been a long time since we did any slow beats, or any fast beats for that matter). So time to play with some different tempos don't you know. Also my hair looks stupid.
This post is dedicated to Milan Vasilev. My Czech fiend who passed away in December. One of the few genuine people I've met since living down here. I won't fowgedaboudit, Milo
The inevitable end of year roundup, complete with the inevitable random images!
So, we survived. It's been a tough year, but we are well aware that 2010 was the most productive time we've ever had. We've never gigged so consistently (we managed to do at least one event every month - no mean feat for an unconventional band with no manager, no publicist, no booking agent, no street team...).
"My whole life flashed before my eyes. I realized that I'd spent way too much time dying my hair red, with a slice of cold pizza in one hand and a San Miguel in the other. I thought it would be all about kick drums and girls with Louise Brooks haircuts."
It also feels like we've made real progress in terms of production and arrangement and being more able to create the sounds we want to hear (a band doesn't have to worry about the details usually, but our thing is so much about the sound it would not be fun or helpful to involve a real producer). The EP was ready just in time for the end of the year.
We've increasingly operated smoothly without the aid of guest musicians. So it seemed natural to keep the EP in-house. There are a couple of unreleased tracks with Sahara vocals that we're all really pleased with, but we're hanging on to them for the time being.
Somebody emailed me last week to say they'd bought a version of a Reel to Real CD in a shop that had about 9 tracks on it (the 'missing first album' by me and Beth - check with us before you purchase anything like that as some are only demo versions and not as good as later mixes - at least to our ears).
"Black Swan = Fight Club without the laughs."
Certain people assumed that we would continue to work with guest vocalists for the majority of songs. Sahara travels a lot and isn't available for as many sessions as we'd like. There was pressure to find "another fit female singer" that I found really pretty offensive. And nobody involved backed me up on that.
"Sometimes it feels like there's been a return to the 'Carry On' / saucy postcard sexism mentality to Britain - minus the gags. And without Kenneth Williams. Or Charles Hawtrey."
Anyway, we did a couple of gigs. Just me and Lee and a smoke machine. It was make or break time as far as I was concerned.
So we took our time to get into the groove. And people that have seen us in all our guises got to hear what we are really capable of. It's true that I've been hiding for a long time. I guess people didn't expect that I could, or would even want to, hold down a bassline, or sing, rather than bellow and noodle away in the background.
So while we're always open to collaborations, there's no intention to get a full-time vocalist in. It was always my intention to not replace Beth with another female vocalist.
Sahara was a friend who offered real moral support when I didn't want to carry on, and didn't know where to go. She contributed so much to the last album, but she is fundamentally a bass player not a vocalist, and neither of us was happy with the pressure she was placed under to become a front-person.
We're not a rock band. This is about sound, not theatrics (not that we have a problem with the visual / antics / theatrics of bands - we just don't have the time and energy to embellish on that level).
As Abstinence & Sensibility, working with Jo has given me the chance to explore live-looping and improvizing again. It also gave me the confidence to stop hiding behind guest singers all the time and deploy the secret weapon (tiny guy, big voice).
It was a real thrill to play with some really great bands too.
Anarchistwood transcend the conventions of punk rock, bypass the macho bullshit closeted attitude and turn it into a celebration.
Blindness have taken the grit and grind of NIN and given it more energy and urgency than the Les Paul wielding jocks ever did. Deb Smith's pared-down guitar chops and a spitefully lo-fi drum machine provide the perfect foil for Beth to stomp around in.
Little Specks of Blood have taken the rotting guts of electronic music and welded it to metal guitars, quirky loopage and wiley feline energy, making it seem both complex and effortless at the same time.
In 2011 we'll be working on some more unusual projects: physical copies of Maastricht Circle EP will come in a book.
We'll also be seeing how much footage we can cram onto a single DVD. The book Letters From Imercia will hopefully see the light of day.
And I suppose you've got to have at least one list haven't you?
5 songs on Repeat this year:
1. Pap Smear - Crystal Castles (still a sucker for a female vocal) 2. Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem (from 2007 but the vibe still works) 3. Wearing My Rolex - Wiley (from a couple of years ago but we dig the self-depreciating humour and well, the kick drum...) 4. Benga / Katy B: Man on a Mission / Katy B on a Mission (not new, and pretty lite, but it reminded me how much Dubstep was free from conventional 60's song structure. Inevitably people are going to start welding songs onto it's shifting grooves: but the 'song' still doesn't have to fit the convention) 5. Hideaway - Playgroup (an old down-tempo groove I heard Gilles Peterson play when I was a kid. Taken me all year to find it).
So, if you weren't around over the holiday, the new EP became available just before Christmoose and is available in high quality formats via Bandcamp, cheap and cheerful mp3's via Emusic and iTunes. The tracks are also available on Spotify.