Indie-Vision (Metal Billboard), curated by
Peterborough, June-September 2014. Inspired by the quote
from Anton Chekhov in 1888, that "the role of the artist is to ask
questions", the project
commissioned ten 48-sheet billboard posters to be sited across
Peterborough throughout September.
Each billboard incorporated a
question provided by a leading cultural commentator
Apple has released a tool to remove U2's new album from its customers' iTunes accounts six days after giving away the music for free.
Some users had complained about the fact that Songs of Innocence had automatically been downloaded to their devices without their permission.
It had not been immediately obvious to many of the account holders how to delete the tracks.
The US tech firm is now providing a one-click removal button.
"Some customers asked for the ability to delete 'Songs of Innocence' from their library, so we set up itunes.com/soi-remove to let them easily do so. Any customer that needs additional help should contact AppleCare."
A clue about the scruffy aesthetic of Sukierae arrives at the 2:27 mark of "World Away," one of 20 (!) songs on the first family-band album from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Until this point, the tune — a variation on the Bo Diddley beat strummed on acoustic guitar, with Tweedy's sleepy voice distantly implying a blues cadence — has been fairly straightforward.
A new chorus begins in orderly fashion, but before it gets very far, the vocals are eclipsed by unexpectedly menacing electric guitars. All snarls and daggers, these rise from background to foreground like a fast-growing audio fungus, threatening to obliterate everything else. The brief outbreak is followed by a fadeout, but it's not one of those mellow Laurel Canyon-at-dusk affairs; for a while, Tweedy's voice soldiers earnestly on amid the fitful anarchy of razor-wire guitar antics, vying for attention. As the music evaporates, there's the sense that the struggle is ongoing; that if we were magically able to fade things back up, we'd hear Tweedy's incantation "only a world away" further obscured by a spastic lo-fi freakout that hails from three noisy worlds over.
It's brief, this interlude, but revealing. It suggests that Tweedy and his drummer son Spencer, 18, embraced an improvisational, whatever-works ethos during the recording of the thoroughly surprising Sukierae. Jeff Tweedy is known to be somewhat fanatical about the structures, melodies, and other compositional elements of his songs; he's capable of proferring an exuberant and entirely credible update of girl-group pop and then, in the next song, lace up his boots and kick out a punishing update of '70s arena rock. Only it's better and smarter than it would be in virtually any other hands. Sukierae contains some wry and characteristically compact Tweedy gems. Overall, though, it achieves a rare balance between songwriterly preciousness and reckless, heat-of-the-moment lunges. The songs fall across a range of styles and moods; there are playful soft-shoe numbers in the style of "Mr. Bojangles," and tunes with tricky progressive-rock groove changes, and disarmingly tender moments, too. Many of them have episodes like the one in "World Away" where the universal order is abruptly jumbled. In these moments, when savvy listeners might expect a typical pop-song resolution, there's instead a leap into the unknown. Later, maybe, there's a return to order. And maybe not. The uncertainty acts as a lure, pulling you in to see what happens next.
Jeff Tweedy has described his writing process as a piecing together of fragments, a connecting of disassociated parts. Often, he and Spencer start with a slight riff, then go off exploring with little in the way of an organizing agenda. Sometimes, they hew close to the spirit of the initial idea; sometimes, they wind up in a different time zone. The thrilling "Diamond Light, Part 1" is an example of the latter: It opens with a pulse-pounding drum pattern, then switches to half-time for a shadowy vocal, then unfolds into spectacularly beautiful expanses of instrumental dissonance that show the influence of Wilco lead guitarist Nels Cline. It's not hyperbole to say that in moments like this, the Tweedy band takes more musical chances than any similar father-son or family band in rock history.
Inevitably, Wilco-like turns of phrase are scattered throughout these songs, their verses riddled with inscrutable codes and references. At the same time, Sukierae finds Jeff Tweedy communicating in more direct ways, his words perhaps reflecting what both he and Spencer have described as a low-key music-making process. Other events in the Tweedy household could easily have affected the tenor of the narratives: During the recording process, Sue (Jeff's wife, Spencer's mom) received a complex cancer diagnosis and began treatment. It's always dangerous to speculate about the relationship between real life and song lyrics, but many of these songs go right at big questions about mortality and devotion, honor and commitment, what it means to confront (or even momentarily fret about) the prospect of losing a loved one. Running through these songs are great and graceful affirmations of love, carnal and familial, and right alongside them is pronounced old-soul wistfulness and a healthy dose of doubt. At times, it seems as though Tweedy's at a loss, and can offer little more than his own confusion. Then, at other moments, he's eager to share what he's learned from recent introspection, and his clarity is striking. "It's not how they tell it, it's not how they say," he sings with earnest, breathy intimacy in "Slow Love." "Your heart's in your mind and your mind's in the way."
That's one of the things that's most striking about Sukierae: Its resonance comes from a pronounced ease of expression. There's not much contrivance, not much high-concept, just a dad and his son bashing out tunes. It's the rare chance to follow one of rock's thinkers as he goes off wandering without a map or a professional care about the results — crucially, without his mind getting in the way.
Guitarist, folklorist, and occultist, drone doom pioneer Dylan Carlson has spent the last 25 years propagating sublime minimalist drone rock with his band Earth. From the early days of epic distorted walls of sound, Carlson’s legacy more or less spawned a whole genre, his name connecting the dots between much of the modern stoner rock drone doom scene. Still eminently active, Earth’s second wave incorporates elements of American blues and country traditions within Carlson’s favoured epic format. Those old connections remain, the band’s releases abounding through Greg Anderson’s Southern Lord records, home of all things heavy.
A fascination with the cunning-folk traditions of the British Isles has provided inspiration for his latest solo project DRCarlsonAlbion. Modern interpretations of the UK traditional folk music are presented with a book describing Carlson’s exploratory visit to various fairy-faith sites in England, Scotland, and Wales. This eclectic podcast reflects this journey, and the breadth of musics that make up Carlson’s unique sound.
“The stuff I picked is what I’ve been listening to a lot lately. The last Earth record (Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: Parts I &II), and my solo projects have been heavily inspired by English folk music and English folklore. Under the DRCarlsonAlbion header, I sort of brought that all together.
I’ve always hated that idea of folklore as...well, it’s obviously preserving the past, but that idea that folk has to be kept like a museum piece, like it can’t grow. There’s that weird kind of collector, antiquarian mentality about it where it’s like you’re trying to preserve something.
The same thing happened with the blues, where the original bluesmen were recording, and were trying to have hits, but then white people got involved, and it was all about authenticity. They’d go out and grab some guy out in the woods, and say ‘This is the originator’, because he was sitting on his back porch playing a song. It would turn out that he would be playing songs that he heard playing off the radio. They’d wrongfully attribute it to him because he was the old guy out in the woods, as opposed to the guy who went to the city and tried to make money with it. It isn’t some static thing that doesn’t move or grow or expand.
The last project I did, the DR Carlson & the Hackney Lass was really an attempt to do some sort of modern folk. We took stuff from old folk and tried to update it to modern times. That’s generally what the playlist reflects to me: there’s some really old traditional stuff, like the Scottish stuff on there, and then some modern interpretations, but also some new electronic music. To me, folk music is popular music, and popular music is folk music; it’s not high culture, it’s all music created by people to be listened to.
The Scottish music I chose is interesting. There’s the ‘low’ Scottish music, which is the stuff people dance to, and then there was the high music, which were all funeral musics and songs, usually about some hero who had died. It’s a lot slower, and a lot more repetitive than the dance music or the party music. I found that very interesting for that reason. I’ve always wondered where that came from. For some reason I’ve always gravitated to slower, more repetitive music. That’swhy I’ve always loved the dub thing too. A lot of the times they’re using the same rhythm tracks over and over, but changing stuff on top of it.
For a long time I was sort of anti-technology curmudgeon, but recently I’ve decided that technology exists, it’s more about what’s done with it that determines the outcome. The technology itself is not necessarily bad or evil, it’s how it’s employed, so I’ve been becoming more conversant with digital technology and electronic recording. I mean, I miss analogue, I like analogue better. Sound is a smooth waveform. With digital, not matter how fine a sampling rate you get, you’re eventually missing spots. You’ve got a curve that’s the soundwave, and you’re sampling it here, here, here, but not matter how high the sample rate, and they always argue, ‘Oh well the human ear can’t tell the difference between...but whatever, I think the human ear can, and does.
There’s some older electronic music that I put on the mix. When it first came out I was interested in some of the jungle and the drum ‘n’ bass stuff. I would listen to that, but I’d never really integrated it into anything I did. When I did the Last Touch release for DR Carson Albion I did some remixes for digital download, where we put some electronic stuff on the tracks. Now I’m starting to think about doing a project maybe involving electronics, and also how to integrate it into what I’m already doing.
When I get into music, I try to wait, rather than rush into it. I’ve always felt like you can be influenced by music, but it doesn’t mean you need to sound like those influences. There are other ways that it influences you. I take on influences and then I try to let them integrate and affect what I do, rather than trying to replicate my influences. I think if you get really hyped on some kind of music, and then learn that kind of music, then want to just play that kind of music, you end up sounding like the genres that you’re into, whereas if you give it some time to absorb, and integrate it with your own playing, the influence will still come out, but it will come out more with your own angle, or vibe. Obviously I have been very influenced by American music, country music and blues and so on, but I don’t do country records, or blues records.”
Carlson approached his latest project, "Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders from the House of Albion" in a fascinating way, inviting fans to sponsor the project through Kickstarter. As well as an album of songs, it includes a filmed documentary of Carlson’s trip to the UK to visit sites of various megalithic and human/fairy encounters, an exploration of ritual and folkloric magical practices, elaborately packaged and designed by Small But Hard founder Simon Fowler in collaboration with specialist advice from Shepherd’s Bookbinders’ Matthew Phillips and Joe Dixon. The release will contain a book to accompany the music, with the aim of illustrating the lyrical content of the songs, as well as an historical essay about the subject and some more informational content about the trip itself.
“I’ve always been a big book person. That’s how it started. Being exposed to all the materials you can use to make really nice books, the kind that you don’t see any more. That was the genesis of that side of it, wanting to do a ‘proper’ old- style book as part of it. I think that’s the only way nowadays to really do this, because so many people download, so many people just do digital format that you have to make something special, you have to make something people are going to want to keep. That’s what’s become really tricky about doing music is making it...it’s not just about making good music now, you also have to be thinking about what object you can make that people are going to want and going to want to pay for rather than just rip it off.
The trip to do the environmental recording for the kickstarter project was in May of last year (2012). Most of the sites were in a book on sites of fairy encounters, except for the one in Scotland. That site was from the trial records. It was where this cunning woman, Bessie Dunlop, had met her familiar. In the tradition, a dead human is somehow translated into the fairy realm. When they meet another human, they then take them to meet the fairies. He [her familiar] was a Scotsman who had been killed at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547. She was accused of witchcraft and then later executed. I had read about her encounter in a book, and then read the trial records.
I’m going to take the environmental recordings and go through them and then use them as a background for the music, for the atmosphere they protract. The first solo thing I did was a cassette. I had done some recordings around Waterloo station, because Lambeth used to be, in the Tudor era, where all the wizards, and alchemists, and fortunetellers and so on lived. Waterloo station was the site of one of my own experiences, so I went and did some recording around that area. I isolated some kinda weird stuff on that recording and then used it with the music on the cassette.”
Carlson clearly approaches everything is with a similar intensity and rigour, combined with a clarity and patience in digestion. He lives and breathes this deep and dense presence, his whole being a mirror for the work he produces. Even talking to him, his tone is precise and slow, the conversation punctuated by long pauses and drawn-out laughter. We return to Earth.
“The last two albums was definitely more a band thing, because a lot of it was improvised in the studio; we worked them out playing them live and then in the studio we’d use that as a basis and then play and see what happened.
Right now Earth’s been stripped back. It’s just me and Adrienne. The new stuff I think is more...song oriented in a strange way. It’s a little more concise. The last album was sort of lay-back-and-let-it-flow-over-you sort of album, whereas the newer stuff is a little more dramatic, grabs your attention. It’s more of a hard rock record in a way.
This one has involved a lot more of me writing stuff beforehand. I’ve always written the same way I guess...I’ll find something while I’m practising, a pattern I like, and begin to work on it, add variations, and then repeat it, and sort of add variations. I’ve been writing a lot of stuff lately, and it’s been coming out quite rapidly, whereas usually stuff comes out a lot slower and I have time to think about it. I feel like I’ve always kind of written the same way, but it’s hard to say with this album, I guess because it’s so so new, I haven’t really had a chance to examine what is going on with it all yet.”
So the upcoming, long delayed fourth album by Black Cab should be dropping in November. It's been a wonderful journey listening to these songs evolve live over the last three years or so. Truly one of the best live bands I have ever seen. They are supporting Tangerine Dream here in Melbourne in November and will also be having their album launch at Howlers in Brunswick later that month too. Catch them. You won't regret it Here's the tracklist for 'Fourth':
1. Opening Ceremony
4. Performance Center Obertauern
5. Kornelia Ender
6. Go Slow
7. Problem Child
8. Combat Boots
9. Little Blue Ones
11. Sexy Polizei
12. State Plan 14.25
13. Closing ceremony
Finally here's an audience recording I did of their gig at the Winterbound Festival at the Tote back on July 20, 2014