• Ari Up

    Out 23 2010, 11h10

    Couldn't let this week go by without noting the sad passing of Arianna Forster (Ari Up, frontwoman of The Slits). The band were amongst the first to fuse punk rock with black music, especially reggae. Ari brought charisma and energy to their stage act.

    There's a good tribute on The Guardian newspaper site:

    And here's Ari & Co performing "Typical girls" in a London park:

    Rest in peace.
  • "Blue Star" - Martino Vergnaghi

    Jan 16 2010, 15h55

    This debut recording from Martino Vergnaghi blends traditional, even classical, elements with ambient electronica. Yet the blend is definitely his own. I ordered my copy through CD Baby and it arrived in good time and well packaged. Possibly too well-packaged - violence was considered in an effort to get at the contents!

    The album opens quietly, yet confidently with If only I could reach .... Layers build up slowly and it soon sounds like he's got a whole orchestra in there. You need to remind yourself this is just one guy with a synthesizer. Lullaby makes for a logical progression, a melodic, mid-tempo piece. It put me in mind of Alan Stivell's later, self-composed work. Then comes Miserere one of my joint favourites. It starts appropriately with a church organ sound and proceeds to play around with words from a Latin service. It bounces along nicely.

    Track 4 Paradise lost continues the meditative vibe. The music has a full sound and the lyrics are spiritual, but don't push any particular creed. A pleasant, rippling sound announces the start of White man dancing. The synth sounds mostly like a synth here, and there's the odd flute and chiming sound for variety. I guess this is a tone poem, though not one I've deciphered very well. Vergnaghi slows the pace down for To find my way, which tells of struggle in difficult times, but is ultimately positive - an approach we need in these times.

    A soldier in the snow is another tone poem. It starts with tension, like film music when something is about to happen. A military rhythm builds up as the soldier comes into view and then the chiming snow flakes fall. Very effective. Foggy Lombardia is another strong track, my joint favourite with Miserere. I have trouble picturing Lombardy as foggy though - to my northern mind, it must be hot - but that's a minor detail! A swirling synth and a strong beat help me picture a foggy scene of my own. The title track is very hummable, with words that tell of faith and doubt.

    The collection ends with Solitude a slow quiet piece, with complexities that only reveal themselves slowly. It sounds final, somehow, telling us that our musical journey has come to an end.

    All in all Martino Vergnaghi knows his way round the studio and his instrument. Well worth a listen. I look forward to the next set. His LastFM page is here:
  • Dan Arborise

    Nov 24 2009, 19h10

    Talking of acoustic indie artists, I was recommended to listen to Dan Arborise a while back. He's very like John Martyn in that he gets noises out of the acoustic guitar that I'm sure were never put in there. I'm sure there's a synthesizer and studio trickery involved, but that's fine by me. They're there to be used. His lyrics have been compared to Nick Drake. I'm not familiar with Drake so I couldn't say.

    Anyway, it's a very nice sound he's got, mellow and floaty. Unfortunately, there's not much of it on Last as yet, so once again, I'd suggest a trip to MySpace. Dan's page is here:

    There's currently seven tracks on the player there. If you listen to nothing else I recommend "Under Your Spell".
  • Dom Coyote & Other Stories (2)

    Nov 22 2009, 14h56

    An update on the last post:

    Found a video of Dom Coyote performing Sepia Memories at the Half Moon music pub in Putney, a venue I remember well from my time in London. The piece has a nice echo-ey feel and builds slowly. It calls for a wide range of vocal work from DC, too.
  • Dom Coyote & Other Stories

    Nov 19 2009, 13h58

    There's some interesting things happening in acoustic music all of a sudden and an act that's caught my eye is Dom Coyote & Other Stories. I heard of them through my son who worked with them recently. We're both converts.

    DC&OS play what I can only describe as acoustic indie-folk-rap. It sounds like it shouldn't work, yet it does. They integrate the different elements to produce a distinctive and attractive sound of their own. Their ain't much of their work available through LastFM yet, but check out the artists page if you think this might be your thing, or try MySpace:
  • Reggie : my best list yet?

    Jul 9 2009, 18h27

    I find Reggae music irresistible for some reason. Maybe it's the lolloping bass lines, the vocal harmonies or perhaps Reggae is just my natural rhythm? I've not really kept up with the scene, since the mid-80s, but there was so much good stuff recorded before that this might just be my best playlist yet. Test plays are certainly very encouraging! Ska features quite heavily as do commercially successful acts like Bob Marley and Eddie Grant. I dip a toe into roots reggae, too.
  • One misty, moisty morning : it's playlist madness!

    Jun 13 2009, 16h43

    And another list - this is getting habit forming! This one is in complete contrast to Electric Blue, it's traditional folk and folk-rock stuff from around the British Isles. Like a lot of people, I like atmospheric "Celtick" stuff, but let's not forget traditional English music, too - especially as a lot uses the same tunes. This list takes a broad definition of the traditional, including folk and country-inspired acts like The Proclaimers, Runrig and Clannad. There's a good showing too from Steeleye Span and Richard & Linda Thompson. Some acts have only recently been introduced to me by, like Capercaillie, or John Martyn who I came across on Yahoo Launchcast.
  • Electric Blue : an artrock playlist

    Jun 13 2009, 16h35

    A third playlist rolls off the production line. This was is dedicated to artrock acts like Bowie and Roxy Music and is expanding into ambient music where it sounds compatible with the list.

  • "Iced Green Tea": my modern jazz playlist

    Jun 9 2009, 15h58

    Iced Green Tea. Cool, refreshing, complex, subtle and only a little bit posey - but in a good way :-). The image sums up my second playlist of some of the big names in cool jazz and jazz fusion. Cool jazz is a laid-back, spare sort of style that appeared in the mid-50s as a reaction to the hyperactive bebop-style that had gone before. Soloing is more restrained, more matched to the tune.

    Jazz Fusion followed. Jazz musicians came to recognise that rock and r&b music wasn't going to go away and that there were things they could learn from it. So they began fusing rock and funk tricks with jazz ideas.

    Names on the list include the great Miles Davis who spent a lifetime innovating new types of jazz. A great way to grow old - keeping creative! Also his one time sidekicks Stan Getz and Wayne Shorter through to the present day with Courtney Pine adopting ideas from hiphop and cop show theme tunes - yet still clearly jazz.

    I got the jazz bug few years back, thanks to a lot of the people on this list. I like this kind of stuff because you still get a beat, but there's something more complex going on to.
  • "Northern Echoes": my Early 80s Post-Punk playlist

    Jun 8 2009, 19h48

    My first playlist is now up and consists of the kind of people I was listening to in my early twenties, some were more pop and others more alternative but, all were'heavily influenced by the energy of the punk scene and trying to move on from there musically and lyrically.

    There was a huge range of experiments going on and I consider myself lucky to have been young at such an interesting time for rock music. The list reflects my preference for the melodic, the well-produced and a decent lyric.

    I've restricted my list to artists from my home area, the North of England, and to Central Scotland. Featured acts include Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order/Joy Division, The Teardrop Explodes, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, Simple Minds and the Human League.

    Many of these acts managed to chart and retain critically credibility. This was one of the hallmarks of the era: the fringe went mainstream; the charts were invaded by intelligent pop.