Sunday, February 10, 2008


"If you want a job done, ask a busy man to do it." - Skipper Webb (08/02/2008)

First up, I must thank The Cube and Qu Junktions crew - Chiz, Mark, Tom Bugs and a couple other people whose names I've, uh, forgot - for their kindness and hospitality. And the other folk on the bill, who were lovely, lovely people as well as amazing artists.

I spent the pre-show twilight smoking furiously, chatting to Rich aka Men Diamler, checking into B&Bs, eating fried rice, then accidentally joined Paul from the Wiltshire Posse on a crate-digging mission in which I failed to buy anything whatsoever, tho Paul filled a bag up w/ cheapo goodies incl. this gift of a 10" album, for wh/ I thank him:

Paul is a very, very wise man (both wise and knowledgable - he seems to know all the stuff that Woebot prob. isn't interested in lol) and I find him an extremely calming influence. He is also responsible for a wonderful piece of rustic avant.accordian improv. called "Paul's Accordian Voyage" and at some point a three-way accordian-based collab. is on the cards featuring Paul, Ice Bird Spiral and Kemper Norton:

Cath and Phil Tyler played a set of life-affirming "tunes, hymns and songs about dead people." Okay, so dead people seemed to be a recurring theme during their performance, but this was a curiously up-beat form of morbidity, a sort of uplifting Gospel-tinged Salvation Army cum travelling spiritualist take on Trad Folk. Songs about mortality and lost friends and the immortal spirit of mankind that you can sing while getting drunk after a hard day in the fields. Stirring stuff! Cath's a got a worn granite edge to her voice and her American burr adds another layer of resonance to their material...and there was this great bit where Phil's banjo went off into this trance-inducing hypnotic semi-raga thing for a couple minutes.

Interluude: [[Sue: "For the first 10 minutes of your (Ice Bird Spiral) set I thought it was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen or was just horrifying, like that film "Saw" or a horror film or something...then I realised it was just boys playing with their toys. You had your wires and your knobs and your little toys and you were just...playing. Am I right: is that all there is to it?"

Me: (deadpan) "Yeah."

Sue: "What, there's nothing else under it whatsoever - no meaning, no message...?"

Me: (trying not to laugh) "No."

Still, Sue's observations have real validity, I think; for all my bollock-talk of, er, 'exploring the post-physical phenomenology of personal myths' lol am I just avoiding 'real' emotions that 'real' men sing about in 'real' songs - is this just another symptom of rampant bloggocratic infantism lol - another desire to relive/recreate my childhood? Strangely, tho, I find making this music helps reconcile the past, present and future 'me's in some way, so therefore a good thing lol. The use of the children's story cut-up "Riding on his mother's back/he killed his mother" was a genuine/deliberate attempt to address or short-circuit this oedipidal nonsense, but then I would say that lol. I do totally agree with what Alexander Thomas was saying out in the beer garden about getting narked about people's use of the word 'experimental' - it's become meaningless when, as Alex says "every piece of music is an experiment in itself" and Timbaland produces chart-topping hits that would've bene considered avant 25 years ago. The 'Pop'/'Experimental' divide has collapsed to a degree or maybe I've just lived too long lol. Okay, so back to the main story...]]

And Pekko - what can you say about Pekko? The guy's a legend round our house. His music - both solo and with outfits like Kiila, Päivänsäde, etc - explores the overlap between medievalism, drone, lysergic folk and the Velvet Underground. Pekko plays a traditional Finnish instrument called a jouhikko wh/ is a three-stringed, violin-like thingy which he either saws at like John Cale or makes it sing delicately sour lullabyes as if he were serenading some 15th century lovely.

Make no mistake, Pekko is a master and tonight he was fucking spell-binding, blending his virtuoso playing with tales of Finnish Mythology incl. how to cast charms to stop wounds, wh/ included a trip back in time to the first ever wound in the world wh/ filled all the valleys with blood until the mountains themselves were submerged. Fabulous stuff...

I was listening to his excellent CD "Jos Ken Pahoin Uneksii" this morning while I was doing the ironing lol. And I totally recommend it (the CD, not the ironing. Maybe there's a charm against ironing that you cast back against the first act of ironing in the world ever, thus preventing all ironing that ever came after it. Hmmm.).

Men Diamler hails from Cheltenham and is a bit of a local hero who has the talent and charisma to become something more than just a South West cult figure. Armed only with his larynx, an accoustic gtr and a contact mic he rocked the bar at 7:30, scaring new arrivals and charming 3yr old girls. Later, he played a set on the main stage that involved inviting a whole bunch of the audience up to join him so he wouldn't feel lonely. The Cube is an intimate venue, but he succeeded in shrinking it down to the size of a living room by getting the audience to join him for a mass Shusssssssh-in and sing along with his hemi-tender songs of surreal, self-effacing morbidity (there's that word again - I'm lovin' it right now; really feeling that morbid buzz from a whole bunch of stuff - listening to too much Doom and Black Metal, I guess). Men/Rich's style thrives on a sort of push-me/pull-you bipolarity, see=iawing from what he calls his "soft songs" (wounded dreamlike laments) to bitterly angry, foot-stompingly grotesque/Euro-cabaret-esque assaults on Rationality that put me in mind of a West Country version of Petri Rainer. Spittle and vitriol fly as Rich throws himself around the stage, his eyes to bulging and veins swelling as the inner pressure builds, but then he reins himself in with a well-placed self-demolishing mock-ironic one-liner or just grins at the audience and sings about horses (a recurrant theme in his songs or so it seemed - wonder how they fit into his personal mythology?) and then everything's okay again.

The bloke's an amazing showman and a really, really nice geezer. I kept bumping into him all afternoon and evening. He's put on assorted shows in Cheltenham incl. Sunburned Hand of the Man; his passion for music is a joy to behold. If there were any justice he'd be on the telly...but, hey, his CDs are starting to sell like hot-cakes and he's building up a bit of a word-of-mouth following. If someone from the Guardian spots him in a year or two then anything could happen. And justifiably so.

Meanwhile: my thanks to Cloudboy, as ever, for all the hard work and energy he put into making this happen, before, during and after the show. You're a fucking dude, man.

And really great to catch up with my old friends Pop Parker and Skipper Webb, who went over to Zambia in december to photograph a bat migration. He's just put up some Bat Art photos on his site, along w/ some more conventional bat photography. The Skipper's next mission is to photograph the blonde hedgehogs of Alderney...there's a weird story about the origin of the, uh, blonde hedgehogs, so go check that last link.

Still, sometime around 3am found me shuffle-dancing to Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" so we decided to split, only to run into Men Diamler again up the kebab shop. Yep, a magical night.


...and, finally, Jouhikko-playin' Finnish Folk/Psych legend Pekko Kappi wearing an Ice Bird Spiral mask, while eating a banana. Possibly my most enduring image of a v. remarkable night:


Some edited-down clips of Cloudboy and myself at The Cube on friday doin' whatever it that we do:

Thanks, as ever, to Paul for shooting the footage.