Wednesday, 23 August 2017
As well as the slightly Orbital-by-numbers new track Copenhagen (which has grown on me over the last week) Orbital have celebrated their return by reworking an older track, Kinetic (a track they've reworked before admittedly). This 2017 version has some pretty spine tingling moments and is sure to work well with the crowd at the Apollo in December, a night when babysitters will be a premium in the Manchester area. Name your price teenagers.
Tuesday, 22 August 2017
There are records that come along and surprise you sometimes, songs that show a change of direction, new influences, time spent with other musicians a willingness to experiment with new ideas and new sounds. And then there are the new 12" single from Paul Weller.
There are three new songs, all out now digitally with a 12" to follow in September, all titled Mother Ethiopia, recorded with soul band The Stone Foundation. This one is part 3, subtitled No Tribe No Colour and done with London based Ethiopian three-piece Krar Collective, with the vocals sung in Amharic by singer Genet Assefa. This is super loose and super funky Afrobeat and it's likely to cause a certain amount of shuffling of feet and shaking of arses. The more conservative elements of Weller's audience may be slightly perplexed by this and rush off home to put on Going Underground again- but make no mistake, this is really, really good.
Monday, 21 August 2017
A New Order postscript- I meant to post this during last week's extravaganza and forgot so it's here as an extra. When Run 2 was released a buffed up version of Run (from Technique) was put out as a single in August 1989. The b-side was this, MTO (Made To Order apparently). The 12" was limited to 20, 000 copies ('19, 000 in the Greater Manchester area and 1000 for everyone else' was someone's comment at the time but I don't know if there is any truth in this). Peter Saville designed a very fetching sleeve inspired by washing powder packaging.
The band's engineer throughout much of the 80s was Michael Johnson and according to Hooky he put together this track/medley from bits lying around in the studio, largely constructed around Bernard's 'you've got love technique' vocal from Fine Time but also parts of what sounds like Vanishing Point's drum track. MTO was then remixed by Mike 'Hitman' Wilson. The 7" version is the best- a kick drum, some acid squiggles, a rubbery synth bassline and that vocal line. The longer Minus Mix uses some different vocal parts but loses the nice acidic squiggles for some more clattering drums. Neither is going to be on your Best Of playlist or cd but for some reason I'm quite fond of MTO.
MTO (Minus Mix)
Sunday, 20 August 2017
This came my way the other day, a massive, ominous, thundering piece of heavy duty ambient dub from 1992, Thrash and Greg Hunter reworking Killing Joke's Requiem. The single (12" and cd) came with some Spiral Tribe remixes of Killing Joke's Change, which are very much in the 1992 repetitive beats techno vein (and nothing wrong with that you may very well say). But this is the keeper- Requiem (A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea Dub). The bassline alone is worth the entrance fee.
I always feel like I should know Killing Joke better than I do. I should find the time to do something about that.
Saturday, 19 August 2017
Tonight we are going to my niece's 18th birthday party. She is a very artistic and creative person and has given her party a retro space/sci fi theme, with fancy dress. So tonight Matthew, I am going to be ...Yuri Gagarin.
Gagarin (Richard Norris Vostok Remix)
After all that New Order (and I could go on I'm sure) it's time for a change of pace and style. Andrew Weatherall has uploaded another edition of his R.G.C. Archive Hour and it's another dub special. Opening with Sly and Robbie with Bunny Lee and running through to The Disciples via Mad Professor, Joe Gibbs and the wonderfully named song Drugs Is A Ting by Bush Chemist.
A Dub Tribulation – Sly & Robbie Vs. Bunny Lee
African Child (Dubz) - Sly & Robbie Vs. Bunny Lee
C.T.U.F.B – Sound Iration
Drugs Is A Ting – Bush Chemist
Rockfort Rock (Version) – Teamworks
Willow Tree (Dub) – Linval Thompson and the Revolutionaries
Whenever You Need Me (Dub) – Cornell Campbell
Dub Service – Mad Professor
Kunte Kinte The African Warrior – Mad Professor
Ghetto Pace - Mad Professor
Walls Of Jericho - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals
Revenge - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals
World Of Dub – The Revolutionaries
Natural Dub – Lidj Incorporated
The Message – The Disciples
Friday, 18 August 2017
Technique is my favourite New Order album. Released in January 1989 I was 18 years old and I bought it the day it came out and then played it endlessly. I had a poster of the beautiful Peter Saville cover, fly-poster size, abut 6' by 5', on my wall for ages. Technique is the sound of summer, nine songs infused with the spirit of sunshine, warm seas, blue skies and summer holidays but shot through with a sense of sadness and loss.
The single that preceded it was Fine Time and it opens Technique. New Order had gone to record the album in Ibiza, at Hooky's insistence, and spent three months there ('an expensive way to have a holiday' Tony Wilson). The story has it that they recorded a few drum tracks and a guitar solo and that most of the work recording it was done at Real World in Bath. This was down to two things- firstly, the studio was shit. Secondly the group and entourage were easily distracted by what Ibiza had to offer. So while the album wasn't really recorded in Ibiza ('about 20% done there' according to Barney) it is inspired by the adventures the group had in Ibiza's nightclubs, on Ibiza's drugs, with Ibiza's people (and the Happy Mondays who turned up to join in the fun). Fine Time is a full on electronic dance record, inspired by a tune Barney heard in Amnesia but couldn't remember the day after. A throbbing sequenced bassline, bleeps and staccato stabs, and that 'sexy', slowed down vocal. This Top Of The Pops performance is legendary, as Barney introduced the viewers to the Bez dance. Playing live too.
Fine Time came out on 7", 12" and a remix 12" with this version by Steve 'Silk' Hurley complete with sheep noises and the full Barry White vocal 'You got style, you got class, but most of all... you got love technique'.
Fine Time (Steve 'Silk' Hurley Remix)
Fine Time is a blast, a proper dance record. The rest of the album is eight slices of perfect Mancunian dance pop, effortlessly combining acoustic guitars, real drums, drum machines, some of Hooky's most melodic bass runs, gorgeous synth lines, frazzled guitar solos and Barney's best vocals. Lyrically the songs were all Bernard's work and most seem to reflect on love and life gone wrong and the lessons learned. To pick four examples from four different songs relatively randomly...
'My life ain't no holiday
I've been to the point of no return'
'It takes years to find the nerve
To be apart from what you've done
To find the truth inside yourself
And not depend on anyone'
'I spent a lifetime working on you
And you won't even talk to me'
'I'm not some kind of foolish lover
I couldn't take this from no other
You're not being cool with me
Cause I always know that you'll come back to me'
Run (which was also a single, released in a slightly remixed form by Scott Litt as Run 2) is allegedly about Factory and Tony Wilson and the Hacienda's financial problems. John Denver sued the band because of similarities between Run and his Leaving On A Jet Plane. I struggle to hear the similarities but I wasn't the judge and Denver was awarded a writing credit for the song.
I can't choose between any of the songs on Technique- some are more guitar based, some more singalong, some more dancey, some all out pop, but all hit that sweet spot musically, vocally, lyrically and spiritually. Recently Vanishing Point and Mr Disco have been the ones really doing it for me. Mr Disco has a stuttering keyboard part and then guitar/bass backing. The drum machine sends this squarely to the open air dancefloors of Ibiza's clubs. Bernard sings of 'the holiday we spent together, lives with me now and forever' and the gorgeous hook 'I can't find my piece of mind, because I think about you all of the time'. After the chorus there are crashing synth stabs and instrumental breaks, a synth clarinet maybe, and then verse and chorus again. The dropout at 2.39 with synth bass and drum machine is heart-stopping. Then there are more wonderful synths before the chorus comes back a minute later and a whispered bit leading towards the pile up at the end and the sound of hitting all the keys on the synth at once. One of their very best.
As a bonus, here's the sublime Vanishing Point played live on Channel 4's Big World Cafe
and Round And Round from the same show...
So there you have it, a magnificent album containing none of the songs they're best known for, a number one hit on the UK album charts, a record that is getting on for thirty years old and, I'm afraid, the last time they were truly great. After this they splintered into the various side projects, came back together for the World In Motion single, splintered again, re-united to make an album in a doomed attempt to save Factory from bankrupcy and then split again and then there's all of that leading up to the very bitter position they're in today. I've read all three of Hooky's books and very entertaining they are too. I've read Bernard's book. I've read other books about Factory and New Order. I've read countless articles about them and interviews with them. And what have I learned? That they made some my favourite records and that in the end, despite the fact that the story of New Order, the mythology, is hugely important, what really matters is the tunes.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
Day 4 of New Order week and I've got two live performances for you and some discussion of related recorded work. First up is this, sometimes described as one of the two Holy Grails of NO live bootlegs (the other is the debut performance at The Beach Club in Shudehill, Manchester, 1980).
On June 30th 1983 New Order played a gig at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. It was a blisteringly hot day, temperatures in the club reaching the high 90s. New order were famously hit and miss during this period, partly due to their own approach to playing and partly due to having equipment that was totally unsuited to live performance, sequencers and synths and drum machines. In Chicago the crowd were already a bit irate and not just due to the heat. The support act had finished over two hours before New Order took the stage. The gear makes it through the first four songs and then during Truth the sequencer starts to misbehave. The y make it through Leave Me Alone with no problems but the long gap between the end of that song and the start of Your Silent Face is punctuated by bleeps and bursts from the sequencer and audience members and bass players complaining about the heat. From here on in it's a kind of NO unplugged gig. The tape of this gig recently found its way into the hands of blogger and New order enthusiast The Power Of Independent Trucking and he has presented it for our enjoyment here with a FLAC download. These are his words about the rest of the gig...
Eventually, “Your Silent Face” starts. It devolves into a unique and fascinating exposition on what a sequencer-using band does when the sequencers are failing mid song - Steve Morris jumps behind the drum kit far earlier than usual, and essentially drives the song to its skittering end as the sequencers never recover. I think this take is spectacular and I think you’ll agree.
Barney then makes reference on stage to equipment and power problems, mentions the band’s just going to jam, and Steve then pounds out the drum riff for “Denial”. Instead of jamming, the band then finishes the set with four straight sequencer-free tracks, ending on the majestic “In A Lonely Place” well into the wee hours of the morning.
There is no jamming, no acoustic “Blue Monday” despite the venue owner’s misremembered statements made over the years since. It’s possible of course at some point these did exist and were edited out from this tape upstream, but I doubt it and all other recollections of this gig fail to mention any acoustic “Blue Monday” performances.
While listening to this on Youtube the other night a link in the sidebar caught my eye which was this one, a gig from 1986 at the Spectrum Arena in Birchwood, Warrington. The venue no longer exists but there is a large Ikea near where it was. There's progress for you. This is a soundboard recording opening with stand alone single State Of The Nation and then taking in songs from the previous six years.
State of the Nation
As It Is When It Was
Your Silent Face
Age of Consent
Sunrise (cut short)
Sunrise is cut short due to the tape running out and according to some of those that were there the group did return for an encore, long after the lights had gone up and half the audience had left, running through Love Will Tear Us Apart but this hasn't been recorded. This is a good quality recording and the band sound on fire, a slightly misfiring Confusion aside.
The Warrington gig was a few months before the release of Brotherhood. Brotherhood is a funny record. I listened to it the other day. It doesn't have the great leap forward of Power, Corruption And Lies nor the newly found confidence of Lowlife and lacks the skyscraping quality of Technique's songs. It's a bunch of songs plus Bizarre Love Triangle. It's is divided into side 1 (rockier songs) and side 2 (dancier songs) and side 2 is the clear winner. Bizarre Love Triangle is arguably their greatest song and the three that follow are all top notch (All Day Long, Angel Dust, Every Second Counts). Side 1 is five songs that are all good album tracks but together they seem to lose something. Maybe it is the division into two separate sides that doesn't work and sequenced differently they'd stand out more. The five are Paradise, Weirdo, As It Is When It Was, Broken Promise and Way Of Life. Broken Promise is reminiscent of early NO, powerful, stacked full of guitars and churning lyrics. As It Is When It Was is a hidden beauty, starting slow and sparse but gaining in pace and urgency, the Love Will Tear Us Apart bass riff reappearing, a song that would make a top ten of New Order non-single songs. As would Way Of Life which burns and fizzes with some great guitar-bass interaction, Hooky reversing the Age Of Consent bassline. Paradise and Weirdo are decent songs but definitely album tracks- Paradise a bit lightweight and an odd opener to these ears. Weirdo is stronger, pumping bass and drums but a bit tinny maybe. If you go to Youtube you'll find people saying that these two are their favourite NO songs. I wouldn't go that far but I've been re-listening to side 1 this week and found a lot in these songs to enjoy. Maybe it's just that I don't listen to them that often and the novelty gives them freshness. It's hard to get away from the feeling though that overall as an album, in some ways, it hasn't got the same magic that Power, Corruption And Lies, Lowlife or Technique have.
Barney blames the overdubbing, too much of it, too many instruments layered on top of each other. Brotherhood was surrounded by some of New Order's best singles too- True Faith and Touched By The Hand Of God both came out within the following year and Shellshock and State Of The Nation preceded it (Ok, maybe neither of the 1986 pair is quite as good as the 1987 pair). It just goes to show that, despite all the tensions within the group (and according to both Hook and Sumner there were many by this point), they were still capable of making truly great songs but their insistence on dividing songs into singles and albums (which I applaud on the whole) meant that the album got shortchanged a bit. Stephen Morris has said that dividing Brotherhood into rock and dance sides didn't quite work and I think I'd agree. On the other hand Hooky likes the five rockier songs together, showing, as he sees it, 'what the band was all about'. So it goes.