Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Reviewing and writing about Interbellum recently has got me back into listening to the radio again in the last few days. Just the odd half-hour here and there, but I'm really enjoying the, uh, non-specificity of it - of being spoon-fed other people's choices for once. 'Course it's best tackled at near-subliminal levels - allowing it to bleed gently like an aneurysm into yr cranium, preferably while doing something else.

I've got one of those Roberts retro-radios that my wife scored for me about ten birthdays back or so; it's analogue, so everything comes through a brittle smear of hiss, but it's great when played quietly...early in the morning while the kids are still sedated from breakfast or late evening is the best. I also favour my late mother's comfy-chair and an original 1891 compendium of The Strand magazine (Vol. 1 Jan - Jul) which is full of stories by Pushkin and articles on The Thames River Police and The Royal Animal Hospital. It's battered to fuck, but beautiful. I spotted it on a market-stall in Bridport for three quid and Chris snatched it from my sweaty mitts and gave it to me for a Christmas present a couple years ago. It's so informationally dense that it can only be read slowly, hence the fact that I'm still only on page 114. I'll post some pictures from it sometime. It smells wonderful and I love it to bits.

So, basically, I'm exploring my inner bourgeoisie at the moment, reading The Strand while listening to evensong and Brahms & Co. at breakfast. Well, I think it's Brahms - it could be anyone, really, and that's the point. I don't care; I'm a middle-class cunt now. It's like being at Public School, but in your own kitchen! I think I need a fez.

Occasionally, I'll turn the radio up to listen to 5 minutes of someone interviewing John Tavener or a particularly shrill 1800's operetta (then turn it back down quickly before the announcer ruins it by telling me it's by a composer that I really hate.)

I don't listen to a lot of Jazz any more - I went off it a few years back, after a hearing a particularly bad outbreak of noodling that nearly put me into therapy, plus I blame Cafe Nero for all the lame-o faux-latino sub-Sade shit that they play too loudly while you drink their overpriced bilge - but it's okay when I approach it in non-specific inaudibile radio mode, so maybe I'm slowly rehabilitating my jazz-cat self. Fusion and jazz-Rock I can handle - and Trad, dad! - but...hey! actually, thinking about it maybe I'm nearly cured again...maybe I'm okay; perhaps I don't need to eBay all those pesky old Blue Note vinyls after all!

Anyway, the point I was going to make was: how brilliant was that live David Torn set last night? Dave Torn's Presenz recorded at The Vortex earlier in the year..."ominous" and "eerie" aren't words you often use in conjunction w/ Jazzzz, but this was really great...sheets of glacial electronics hovering over pounding drums and oscillating saxwarble - for a couple minutes there was the palpable threat of something approaching... of something coming in from outside and invading the music, covering it with its shadow. The drums were heavy, but not brutally so, and the sax was frenetic enuff to interest me w/out resorting to full-on skronk. Since I was playing it at lo-vol I couldn't quite tell what was happening for a few moments - I love those moments...they're the most thrilling in music, the ones where you don't know quite what's happening - I couldn't figure out what that sound was, so I found myself crouching over the kitchen table and turning it up to a level where I could maybe figure out just what that fucking sound was and where it was coming from. (Bet you don't do that often with all those pecobytes of mp3s on yer unlistened-to hard-drive, do ya, gentle reader?) However, it never quite resolved itself (another plus-point in my book). Still, I found myself waiting - fervid with anticipation for someone to tell me what/who I'd just heard. And that's not happened to me in quite a while.

And you can stop laughing at the evensong crack too. Mute church music down to a level where the signal is barely audible and all those human voices seem to congeal and morph into something quite remarkable, almost post-human. I love Tallis. Got a great vinyl in a charity-shop in Crewekerne for a quid. Some of it is almost too beautiful to listen to.

I can only listen to Radio 3, though. There's a French station that I like sometimes when I can find it. They only ever seem to talk, tho - no music, except a pre-news jingle and a solitary middle-aged announcer who seems to go on and on and on forever, a bit like me - but I can only ever listen to that when it's tuned to the edge of incomprehensibility, fading itself in and out of focus on waves of languid static.


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