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.



The Mekano Set