George Clinton announces farewell UK tour

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P-Funk mastermind George Clinton initially announced his retirement from touring almost two years ago, but it seems he wasn’t quite ready to leave the stage.

Now he’s added a short run of UK dates to his extended victory lap. Billed as a “farewell UK tour”, the six shows will find Clinton backed by the current line-up of Parliament Funkadelic. Dates below:

Fri 29 May – Bristol – O2 Academy
Sat 30 May – Funk & Soul Weekender – Margate
Mon 1 Jun – London – O2 Forum
Wed 3 Jun – Glasgow – O2 Academy
Thu 4 Jun – Nottingham – Rock City
Fri 5 Jun – Manchester – Albert Hall

Tickets go on sale on Friday (February 28) from here.

Unheard 1974 Bowie live shows released for Record Store Day

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I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour ’74) is a new double album of previously unheard David Bowie live recordings from late 1974, due for released on Record Store Day (April 18).

Taken from recently discovered sources in The David Bowie Archive, I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour ’74) was recorded mostly during Bowie’s performance at the Michigan Palace, Detroit on October 20, 1974, with the encores taken from the Municipal Auditorium, Nashville on November 30, 1974.

The Soul Tour was a radical mid-tour departure from Bowie’s 1974 Diamond Dogs theatrical extravaganza. During a three week break in late 1974, the Diamond Dogs tour’s elaborate stage set was drastically stripped back, and the tour’s set list overhauled to include as-yet-unreleased tracks from the Young Americans sessions at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia. The Soul Tour also featured a revamped band, augmented to include musicians and vocalists from those sessions, and rechristened The Mike Garson Band.

The artwork for both the 2xLP and 2xCD releases is based on the original design for the programmes available at venues for dates on The Soul Tour. The Soul Tour only visited 17 cities in the East and South of US and this is the first time that any audio from this incarnation of the tour has ever been officially released.

Record Store Day will also see the released of ChangesNowBowie, a 9-track session recorded for radio and broadcast by the BBC on Bowie’s 50th birthday on 8th January, 1997. This mostly acoustic session was recorded and mixed at Looking Glass Studios in New York in November 1996.

Paul Weller unveils new album, On Sunset

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Paul Weller has announced that his new album will be called On Sunset. It’s due for release via Polydor on June 12.

Talking to Uncut in December, Weller described the album as “pretty soulful with some cosmic edges… very up and joyful. It’s a positive, summery-sounding record.”

“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he added. “The first track is called ‘Mirrorball’ – we started that last year some time. It was originally going to be a bonus track or something, then we finished it and it was about seven minutes long with all these different changes. That really got us going.”

In addition to his sold-out May dates, Weller will play another 19 shows around the UK and Ireland in the autumn, dates below. Tickets will go on general sale on Friday (February 28) at 10am. You can gain access to a pre-sale by pre-ordering On Sunset here.

Oct-29 PLYMOUTH PAVILION
Oct-30 SOUTHAMPTON GUILDHALL
Oct-31 BRIGHTON CENTRE
Nov-02 HULL BONUS ARENA
Nov-03 YORK BARBICAN
Nov-05 LEICESTER DE MONTFORT HALL
Nov-06 LEICESTER DE MONTFORT HALL
Nov-07 BLACKBURN KING GEORGE’S HALL
Nov-09 CARLISLE SANDS CENTRE
Nov-10 MANCHESTER APOLLO
Nov-12 DUNDEE CAIRD HALL
Nov-13 NEWCASTLE CITY HALL
Nov-14 NEWCASTLE CITY HALL
Nov-16 EDINBURGH USHER HALL
Nov-17 BRADFORD ST GEORGE’S HALL
Nov-19 LONDON BRIXTON ACADEMY
Nov-20 O2 KENTISH TOWN FORUM

Tickets will go on general sale at 10.00am on Friday 28th

Neil Young plots “Crazy Horse Barn Tour”

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Just last week, Neil Young responded to a fan question on Neil Young Archives about his 2020 touring plans by writing: “Don’t expect anything… I am not focused on playing. I am taking care of my music.”

Now he has teased the possibility of a Crazy Horse North American tour in “a couple of months” – but only in “old arenas”.

As Young explains on NYA Times Contrarian: “Many of the old places we used to play are gone, replaced by new coliseums we have to book a year in advance and we don’t want to go anyway. That’s not the way we like to play. It sounds way too much like a real job if you have to book it and wait a year, so we have decided to play the old arenas.

“We wanted to play in a couple of months because we feel like it,” he continued. “To us it’s not a regular job. We don’t like the new rules.”

No dates have been announced as yet, but on that score, Young says: “News coming pretty soon.”

Cream – Goodbye Tour: Live 1968

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In many ways, it was unlikely that Cream would last as long as they did. By the time they split in November 1968, the group had been going for just over two years and recorded four albums. Before then Eric Clapton had cycled rapidly through the Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers, racking up a few months in each as well spending time in shorter one-off projects like The Immediate All-Stars and The Powerhouse, while Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were famed for their incendiary relationship in the Graham Bond Organisation.

In that context, Cream were stayers. When they inevitably decided to split, their autumn US shows were renamed the Goodbye Tour and the band signed off with two sets at the Royal Albert Hall. Four entire shows – Oakland, LA, San Diego and London – from this arrivederci have now been collected on Goodbye Tour – Live 1968, including the band’s last show at the Royal Albert Hall, where an unemotional departure is concluded by compere John Peel’s matter-of-fact last words: “That really has to be it.”

The Royal Albert Hall show was previously available on VHS and DVD – this is the first time it’s appeared on CD. Sadly the sound hasn’t improved a great deal in this transfer. It’s the muddiest of the four, at times sounding like it was recorded in the bottom of an empty swimming pool. Fortunately, the other three shows sound pretty good, with San Diego probably the pick of the lot. Of the 36 tracks, 19 are previously unreleased. Three tracks from LA – “I’m So Glad”, “Politician” and “Sitting On Top Of The World” – appeared on Cream’s studio-live hybrid swansong Goodbye, while three from Oakland – “Deserted Cities Of The Heart”, “White Room” and “Politician” – were on 1972’s Live Cream Volume II. LA’s staggering 17-minute finale of “Spoonful” features on the soundtrack album Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars.

“Spoonful” features in every show, invariably in extended, improvised versions, almost unrecognisable from the haunting take recorded for Fresh Cream, let alone Willie Dixon’s original. “I’m So Glad” also gets strung out into double-digit minutes, while “Toad” features an arduous Ginger Baker drum solo – although on the opening night of the tour in Oakland this workout took place during “Passing The Time”. These lengthy improvisations and the band’s sheer muscle are what made them such a formidable live proposition. If there are occasions when the rugged soloing gets a little bogged down in detail, there are many others where the trio achieve moments of adrenalising magic, like five minutes into San Diego’s version of “Spoonful” when Baker suddenly hastens the beat and coaxes Bruce and Clapton into ever wilder, faster and exceptionally groovy patterns of playing.

Cream aren’t the most graceful of bands but they go about their business with a serious, murderous deliberation. It’s impossible to avoid comparisons with the era’s other great psychedelic three-piece, the Experience, who approached things with a tad more elegance and humour, and in Hendrix featured a more accomplished, emotive vocalist. But the sheer systematic fury cooked up by Cream on something like the Albert Hall’s “I’m So Glad” is beautiful to behold, with Clapton firing off incessant volleys to accompany the pulsating rhythm. You can hear hard rock emerging by the bar on the thundering, sinister run through “Sunshine Of Your Love” in San Diego; Led Zeppelin would pick up this mantle and run with it. Hendrix would admire the versatility of “Sunshine…” and cover it throughout his career, slyly acknowledging in the process that the song was written by Jack Bruce after attending an Experience concert in 1967.

The boxset certainly shows how some songs were performed differently during the tour, most notably “Crossroads”. In Oakland it’s played as a slow, churning, moody blues. Two weeks later in LA and San Diego it’s mutated into something more frantic and far sharper, played so fast it’s like a Yardbirds raver. In San Diego it’s paired with a terrific nine-minute ramble through “Traintime”, with Bruce delivering a brilliant display on the harmonica, coaxing a fantastic range of rhythms and sounds from the instrument while Baker’s drumbeat jogs along in support. Given the pair’s mutual antagonism, it’s a moment of joyful synchronicity and shows why they kept working together despite everything.

The San Diego show is beautifully paced, making it the standout gig here. Perhaps that’s because it comes almost exactly midway through the US tour, which started on October 4 in Oakland and ended on November 4 in Providence, Rhode Island – the Royal Albert Hall show came another three weeks later. The San Diego concert, however, took place on October 20, the day after the LA concert at the Forum. It starts with a belligerent, hypnotic “White Room” followed by the cynical “Politician”, two songs written by the Jack Bruce/Pete Brown combination for that year’s Wheels Of Fire album. “I’m So Glad” goes all the way back to Fresh Cream, but whereas that LP cover of the Skip James song is fast, tidy blues-pop with a showy middle section, the live version is relentless, Clapton building up punishing layers of distorted notes supplemented by Hendrix-style flicks while Baker powers it along. It’s not quite as woolly but every bit the equal of the nine-minute version from LA.

The slow, sloping country blues “Sitting On Top Of The World” is beautifully played, steady but prowling for the most part but then suddenly exploding into some frantic soloing from Clapton, and with a vocal in San Diego that’s markedly better than the one from LA released on Goodbye. San Diego’s “Sitting…” leads into a slamming and short “Sunshine…” but ends with the twin excess of “Toad” and “Spoonful”. After Clapton’s “I’m So Glad” and Bruce’s “Traintime”, “Toad” is Ginger’s chance to get some attention, and while the drum solos can be heavy-going in their early sections, the climaxes are always wildly enjoyable, leaving you wondering whether Baker was born with an extra arm. Admiration is topped up by a sense of anticipation as you wait to see how the other two members of the band will combine to bring the song in for landing; “Spoonful”, meanwhile, lets the band spin things out for as long as required at the end of the show.

The exception is the Royal Albert Hall, where the band are less given to improvisation, possibly because they were less familiar with the British audience than they were their American fanbase. Instead they closed their career with “Steppin’ Out”, a song that Clapton recorded both with the Powerhouse and Bluesbreakers as well as at the BBC with Cream. It’s an instrumental, which allows the trio to just get down to the business of playing – and that’s all Cream really wanted to do.

The applause as they leave the stage cuts through the sonic murk, but as a final show it’s strangely muted. For Cream, this tour might have been their farewell but for the most part it was also business as usual, and there are few concessions to nostalgia or sentiment. The one exception comes at the start of the LA show, where Buddy Miles is wheeled on stage to introduce the band – aka “three really out-of-sight groovy cats”. He continues, “What can you say, it’s happened and we can’t do anything about it, but just remember they’ll still be there, and they’ll always be there.” And then without further ado, Cream get back to work with methodical intent.

Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

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Born and raised in Catford, south-east London, 28-year-old drummer Moses Boyd has become an omnipresent figure on the capital’s incredibly fertile jazz scene. In the last couple of years he’s released albums with tenor saxophonist Binker Golding as the fierce sax-and-drums duo Binker & Moses; he’s played on every album by the singer Zara McFarlane (and produced her last LP, Arise); he performed on the Mercury-nominated Your Queen Is A Reptile by Shabaka Hutchings’s punky marching band Sons Of Kemet; he was a featured drummer and co-producer on the debut album by tuba player Theon Cross; and you’ll frequently see him playing live with breakout stars such as the tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia.

He’s also moved far outside the jazz ghetto: touring with R&B star Sampha and American cellist and singer Kelsey Lu, accompanying Brazilian soul-jazz star Ed Motta, working with film composer Max De Wardner, and playing showcases with rapper Little Simz and soul singer Terri Walker.

Boyd emerged from the world of hard bop — he studied under the celebrated dance band drummer Bobby Worth and developed his jazz chops while playing with Gary Crosby’s seedbed of jazz talent, Tomorrow’s Warriors. But you’ll rarely hear him revisiting any of those rhythms now. Boyd’s father (from Dominica) and his mother (from Jamaica) introduced him to a variety of Caribbean rhythms; he attended workshops run by the north London pianist Leon Michener, who introduced him to the music of Fela Kuti, and he’s also immersed himself in South African music over the course of several visits.

Throughout Dark Matter you’ll hardly hear any “swing”, the defining rhythm of most American jazz. You’ll not even hear any funk or bossa nova — the rhythms that have provided the basis for so much “fusion” over the past half century. Instead, Boyd’s jazz chops are subsumed into a peculiar pulse that you simply don’t hear in any other parts of the world — one that draws from Nigerian Afrobeat and Ghanaian high-life but which also forges a meaningful dialogue with grime music, in the same way that previous generations of jazz musicians did with jungle and hip-hop.

The opening “Stranger Than Fiction” starts with some spacey ambient synth voicings before going into a heavy grime instrumental, played acoustically, with Theon Cross approximating grime’s squelchy, electronic sub-bass on a tuba, while tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia and trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi play haunted obbligatos. On “B.T.B” and “Y.O.Y.O” we shift into hypnotic Afrobeat, with Polish-born guitarist Artie Zaitz given room to freak out inventively over Nathaniel Cross’s tight horn arrangements.

Boyd also has the ability to get the best out of his guests. He has often worked with the pianist Joe Armon-Jones, whose recordings as a bandleader often stray into rather bland smooth jazz territory. But, on “2 Far Gone”, Boyd manages to extract from him a florid, staggeringly inventive, oriental-tinged solo, pitched somewhere between Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” and an Alice Coltrane freakout, over a twitchy grime beat and a pitch-shifted vocal sample. Obongjayar, a Nigerian-born poet-cum-rapper who you might have heard contributing to Richard Russell’s Everything Is Recorded project, has never sounded better than on “Dancing In The Dark”, a dense, moody drum stomp that interlocks with his gruff sermonising. And Poppy Ajundha, a south London soul singer, floats over the squelchy broken beats of “Shades Of You”.

Look through Boyd’s discography and you’ll see that he has recorded several EPs of electronic music — and collaborated with the likes of Floating Points and Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet – and there are several tracks here that see him exploring minimal, broken-beat music. “Only You” is a ferocious piece of industrial electronica that sees Boyd jamming over ominous electronic drones and a slowed-down vocal samples. “Nommos Descent” is a soulful breakbeat track, with South African singer Nonku Phiri and saxophonist Nubya Garcia battling over jittery 2-step rhythm and a throbbing synth.

Best of all might be the final track, “What Now?”, which sounds like a dubby, 21st-century revisitation of the space-age ambient jazz of In A Silent Way, with Ogunjobi playing the role of Miles Davis, guitarist Artie Zaitz serving as a postmodern John McLaughlin, and with Michael Underwood providing a suitably astral flute solo. This is not pastiche or revival — this is jazz created in a distinctly London accent; the sounds you hear in cars and minicabs, the fractured beats you hear pouring out of teenagers’ phones — refracted through the prism of jazz.

Robert Plant: “There was no infrastructure in Zeppelin!”

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The new issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to order online by clicking here – features an exclusive interview with Robert Plant about his intrepid post-Zeppelin travels, from the Retford Porterhouse to the Malian desert.

As a new boxset entitled Digging Deep assembles key songs from his first eight solo albums, Plant looks back on many marvellous sonic adventures while a string of collaborators, including Phil Collins and Justin Adams, share insights into his working practices.

On paper, Robert Plant’s solo career began on December 4, 1980 – the date Led Zeppelin publicly disbanded. The truth is a little more complicated than that. As befitting a band of such magnitude, Zeppelin exerted a gravitational pull from which it was difficult to escape. The loss of John Bonham on September 25 that year had an incalculable impact. “Bonzo and I had been together since we were 16,” notes Plant. “It was always pretty combative, which was great fun. In the Band Of Joy he’d set up right at the front of the stage so he could get another job, ’cos people could see him. I was standing next to him going, ‘Fuck off out the way, will you? I’m at the front.’”

While Zeppelin had been musically and financially speaking the heaviest group of the 1970s, a solo career was a matter of gradual progress, not overnight miracles.“I’d been hanging around with a lot of people where I live,” Plant explains today. “People had been making records, but I hadn’t imagined myself taking on anything where it’s just got my name on it. I’d been in this magnificent fortress – Fortress Zeppelin! – so there was no real melding with anybody apart from a few frivolous things around my home area with people like Andy Sylvester and Robbie Blunt.”

This was the Honeydrippers, who toured local pubs and small clubs during early 1981 playing R&B covers. To some, the Honeydrippers were an intriguing puzzle. Had Plant given up the jet-set glamour of Zeppelin for this? The original Honeydrippers were over by the summer – but a precedent had been set for the kind of mercurial moves Plant continues to make throughout his career. Strategically, too, the Honeydrippers allowed Plant time away from prying eyes to rally himself and to consider his next steps.

I ask Plant whether he could move much faster as a solo artist, away from the scale of Zep’s infrastructure… “There was no infrastructure in Zeppelin!” He laughs. “Don’t for a minute think it was like a Fleetwood Mac tour. These were days when people didn’t even have a guidebook. With Zep, Bonzo and I, we knocked six bells out of each other, but the next day we got up and played to our strengths,” he continues. “It was not a delicate excuse me. But when you start working fresh with people, you have to be quite tentative about things.”

For Plant, then, his first steps towards a fully fledged solo career were cautious and exploratory. He set up a makeshift four-track studio in a barn at Jennings Farm – his home near Kidderminster – before sessions moved to a more formal setting: Rockfield studios in Monmouthshire. Gradually, a full band was assembled. Paul Martinez joined on bass and – how else to follow the mighty chops of John Bonham? – the services of two drummers were required. Cozy Powell first and then Phil Collins.

“I was living just outside Guildford and I got this phone call from Robert,” remembers Collins. “I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know him at all. He said would I like to play on his album. So more dumbfoundedness. He sent me a cassette of his new material with Jason Bonham on drums. I went to Rockfield and straight away we hit it off. We worked through the tracks in about a week. We became quite close – Robbie Blunt, Paul Martinez, Jez Woodroffe, me and Robert. It was nice to be part of a group that talked and drank like a group.”

For Plant, the release of Pictures At Eleven, in June 1982, was the beginning of a new perspective on life. There was a new band, new songs and even a new look. By the time the cover photo for Pictures At Eleven was shot, Plant had had his hair cut. Such symbolic gestures aside, Plant confirms his view that Pictures At Eleven was a noble attempt “to break the mould of expectation of me being part of some huge juggernaut”.

You can read much more from Robert Plant in the new issue of Uncut, out now.

Watch a video for Teddy Thompson’s new single, “Heartbreaker Please”

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Teddy Thompson’s new album Heartbreaker Please will be released by Thirty Tigers on May 8.

Watch a video for the title track below:

Thompson says that the song – and the album as a whole – were inspired by a recent breakup. “I tend to write sad songs, slow songs – it’s what comes naturally,” he says, “so it’s a natural fit with the subject matter, but here, even where the subject matter was kind of sad, I’d set it against a soul beat, give it sort of an uplifting feel.”

Teddy Thompson will tour the UK and Ireland in May, supporting John Grant. Peruse the dates below:

Mon 4th CARDIFF, New Theatre
Weds 6th BEXHILL, De La Warr Pavillion
Thurs 7th LONDON, Alexandra Palace Theatre
Fri 8th GREAT YARMOUTH, Hippodrome Circus
Sun 10th COVENTRY, Warwick Arts Centre
Wed 13th GATESHEAD, Sage Gateshead
Thurs 14th EDINBURGH, Festival Theatre
Sat 16th BATH, The Forum
Sun 17th MANCHESTER, RNCM Theatre
Tues 19th DUBLIN, The National Concert Hall

Mark Lanegan announces new album, Straight Songs Of Sorrow

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Mark Lanegan has announced that his new album, Straight Songs Of Sorrow – a swift follow-up to last year’s Somebody’s Knocking – will be released by Heavenly on May 8.

The album features guest appearances from Greg Dulli, Warren Ellis, John Paul Jones and Ed Harcourt. Listen to lead track “Skeleton Key” below:

Straight Songs Of Sorrow was inspired by Lanegan’s unsparing new memoir Sing Backwards And Weep, to be published by White Rabbit on April 30.

“Writing the book, I didn’t get catharsis,” says Lanegan. “All I got was a Pandora’s box full of pain and misery. I went way in, and remembered shit I’d put away 20 years ago. But I started writing these songs the minute I was done, and I realised there was a depth of emotion because they were all linked to memories from this book. It was a relief to suddenly go back to music. Then I realised that was the gift of the book: these songs. I’m really proud of this record.”

As well as the musicians mentioned above, Straight Songs Of Sorrow also features Portishead’s Adrian Utley, Simon Bonney of Crime & The City Solution and Mark’s wife Shelley Brien, who co-writes two songs as well as duetting on the ballad “This Game Of Love”. “Let’s put it this way,” says Lanegan. “Every girlfriend I’ve ever had, for any amount of time, left me. All the good ones left me! Until my current wife. It was great to sing that with Shelley, it really shows she’s a great singer. And it has a depth of emotion that I’m not used to. This is a more honest record than I’ve probably ever made.”

Pre-order Straight Songs Of Sorrow here, and check out Mark Lanegan’s UK tourdates below:

Tuesday 12th May – Brighton – Concorde 2
Wednesday 13th May – Cardiff – Tramshed
Thursday 14th May – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
Friday 15th May – Glasgow – Garage
Sunday 17th May – Liverpool – Invisible Wind Factory
Monday 18th May – Norwich – Waterfront
Tuesday 19th May – Oxford – O2 Academy

The Damned announce UK tour for May

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Fresh from the success of their Night Of A Thousand Vampires event last Halloween, The Damned have announced a short UK headline tour, dates below:

May 17: Stylus, Leeds
May 18: Friars, Aylesbury
May 20: The Garage, Glasgow
May 21: The Leadmill, Sheffield

Tickets go on sale this Friday (February 21) at 10am from here.

The Damned will also play Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, Whitby on April 25 and Bearded Theory Festival, Derbyshire on May 22.

A press release suggests the band are yet to confirm a new drummer following the departure of Pinch last year. Discussing the vacant position with Uncut recently, singer Dave Vanian said: “We may not even have a permanent drummer. It’s more likely we get a young drummer in to be honest, I’d like to have someone that’s young and full of enthusiasm rather than some old, jaded guy.”

Vanian effectively ruled out a return for founding Damned drummer Rat Scabies, saying: “Captain and Rat have got differences. I’ve tried to reconcile them but it’s a powder keg, those two in a room together. It’s ridiculous but there you go.”

Watch Eric Clapton and Roger Waters play Cream songs

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Last night (February 17), Eric Clapton presented a tribute concert to Ginger Baker at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.

He was joined by guests including Roger Waters, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones, Nile Rodgers, Steve Winwood and Ginger’s son Kofi Baker to play a set consisting largely of Cream and Blind Faith songs.

Watch footage of “Sunshine Of Your Love” (with Roger Waters), “White Room” (with Roger Waters, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones) and “Had To Cry Today” (with Steve Winwood and Nile Rodgers) before checking out the full set list below:

01. Sunshine of Your Love – with Roger Waters
02. Strange Brew – with Roger Waters
03. White Room – with Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones and Roger Waters
04. I Feel Free – with Nile Rodgers and Willie Weeks / Paul Carrack (vocal)
05. Tales Of Brave Ulysses – with Nile Rodgers and Willie Weeks
06. Sweet Wine – with Will Johns / Paul Carrack (vocal)
07. Blue Condition
08. Badge – with Ronnie Wood and Henry Spinetti
09. Pressed Rat – with Kofi Baker
10. Had To Cry Today – with Steve Winwood, Kofi Baker and Nile Rodgers
11. Presence Of The Lord – with Steve Winwood, Kofi Baker and Nile Rodgers
12. Well Alright – with Steve Winwood, Kofi Baker and Nile Rodgers
13. Can’t Find My Way Home – with Steve Winwood, Kofi Baker and Nile Rodgers
14. Do What You Like / Toad – with Steve Winwood, Kofi Baker and Nile Rodgers
15. Crossroads (encore) – All

The Who to play Teenage Cancer Trust show

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The Who have announced that they’re joining the lineup for this year’s Teenage Cancer Trust shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall, 20 years after they headlined the first ever concert series for the charity, of which Roger Daltrey is a patron.

They’ll play the famous London venue on March 28, with a full orchestra. Tickets go on sale on Friday (February 21) at 9.30am from here. You can also pick up tickets for other previously announced shows in the series, including performances by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, Groove Armada and Nile Rodgers & Chic.

Uncut’s Deluxe Ultimate Music Guide to The Who is on sale now, more details here.

Andrew Weatherall has died, aged 56

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DJ, producer, musician, writer and tireless musical champion Andrew Weatherall has died, aged 56.

The sad news reached Uncut via the following statement from his management team: “We are deeply sorry to announce that Andrew Weatherall, the noted DJ and musician passed away in the early hours of this morning, Monday 17th February 2020, at Whipps Cross Hospital, London. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. He was being treated in hospital but unfortunately the blood clot reached his heart. His death was swift and peaceful.

“His family and friends are profoundly saddened by his death and are taking time to gather their thoughts. Further announcements regarding funeral arrangements will be made in due course.”

Weatherall became a key player in London’s late–’80s acid house scene, having written about the emerging movement in the influential Boy’s Own fanzine. His eclectic DJ sets led to Primal Scream employing him to remix their song “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”. The result – renamed “Loaded” – became a huge crossover hit, leading to Weatherall helming Primal Scream’s era-defining Screamadelica album.

Weatherall also co-founded the Boy’s Own label, before leaving to concentrate on his own music in Sabres Of Paradise, who later morphed into Two Lone Swordsmen. More recently he released music under his own name, and with The Asphodells, on his own Rotter’s Golf Club imprint.

As well his famous association with Primal Scream, Weatherall produced records for Happy Mondays, One Dove, Beth Orton and Fuck Buttons, and he memorably remixed the likes of Saint Etienne, My Bloody Valentine and New Order.

“Absolutely distraught to hear this terrible news,” wrote Irvine Welsh on Twitter. “Andrew was a longtime friend, collaborator and one of most talented persons I’ve known. Also one of the nicest. Genius is an overworked term but I’m struggling to think of anything else that defines him.”

“Hard to put into words the influence and impact Andrew Weatherall has had on UK culture,” said Gilles Peterson. “So sad to hear of his passing.”

“His influence on music was incredible and he never stopped pushing forward when it’d have been easier to rest on his laurels,” wrote Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. “Most importantly though, he was a great person. Rest in peace.”

An Audience With Andrew Weatherall

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By way of tribute to Andrew Weatherall, whose death was confirmed earlier today, I thought I’d post my interview with him for our Audience With… feature, from Uncut’s Take 247. It’s a predictably whimsical, meandering trip through Andrew’s mind.

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Andrew Weatherall is describing the view from his front window. “I live in the grounds of what was once a Victorian workhouse, then a psychiatric institution. I have a wonderful view of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. At 54 years old, it’s lovely to have this constant reminder of one’s own mortality – and a view, too!”

A conversation with Weatherall is typically circuitous, full of esoteric information. A question about his early musical inclinations – “1950s rock’n’roll, punk and disco” – morphs into a lengthy anecdote involving Malcolm McLaren, Jerry Lee Lewis and Survivor single “Eye Of The Tiger”. Weatherall’s own career has followed a similarly meandering route, from his early days as a pioneering acid house DJ through to his fabled remixes for Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and many more, to his own recordings under a variety of guides including Sabres Of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen. His latest LP, Qualia, released under his own name, is titled after one of his current interests. “It’s a term for the psychology of subjective experience,” he explains. And with that, he’s off on another one of his marvelous digressions, this one involving the the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall and the colour red.

Do you have an insight into the enduring appeal of dance music?
Christine Clarke, Notts
It’s the enduring appeal of transcendent experience, which has been with us for 200,000 years. A room, coloured lights, smoke and music? Over to you, Roman Catholics. There are ancient Greek rituals involving herbal drugs to achieve transcendence. People were having transcendent experiences in 1940s dancehalls, dancing to a big band; now we do it with drum machines and electronic technology – it’s the same concept. Humanity hasn’t changed for 100,000 years, but our technology has.

What did you hear in Primal Scream’s “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” that everyone else missed at the time?
Sean Young, Glasgow
I just love a good ballad. There are certain chord progressions I respond to. The first time I played “Loaded” was at a Scream gig at Subterania. The audience was half the Scream’s indie audience and the other half was the burgeoning acid house crowd. I played it and everyone started doing those “Sympathy For The Devil” style “Whoo whoo” chants. Andrew Innes told me later that all the staunch indie kids were disgusted, while the acid house kids thought it was a proto-anthem. It still happens to this day. I remixed Noel Gallagher a couple of years ago. I don’t follow chat rooms, but a friend told me that people on a Gallagher site were saying, “What’s this disco shit?” Then all the people in the techno chat rooms were saying, “What’s he remixing that wanker for?” I’ve been carrying on a tradition of divisiveness for 25 years!

You’ve always had a keen eye for clothes – how would you describe your current look?
Marc Ripley, London
At the moment it’s a bit Jack London, The People Of The Abyss. I’ve just come to shore and traded in my posh clothes for something a bit more workwear. The beard’s coming back, I’m growing my hair. I’ve become a bit obsessed with the late-’50s Hells Angels look, when it was still rock’n’roll. Irving Penn did some great silver gelatin pictures of Angels. My dad was obsessed with clothes, and I’ve always been obsessed with style, not fashion. If you can find a photo of me wearing a Boxfresh Anthrax T-shirt tucked into 
my jeans with a bandana on from 1985, that’s a fucking shocker.

What’s your view on the current trend for re-recording dance music classics with a classical orchestra?
Phil Mason, Kent
I have a problem with it, ’cos the suggestion is that having an orchestra do it somehow makes it a more serious work. It doesn’t need to be validated – its cultural impact is enough. A friend of mine got quite angry about it recently, and I said, “Don’t get upset! It’s James Last for the 21st century.” But I had mixed emotions because someone did an orchestral version of “Smokebelch”. I was a bit conflicted because my ego was slightly stroked, but my artistic sensibilities were rankled. But there are worst evils in the world than light entertainment to be worried about.

Do the drugs work?
Iain McRae, Perth
I used to be quite an enthusiastic lysergic adventurer. Around late ’87, ’88, a load of us set off in a traveller’s bus for Silbury Hill. We took acid and sat on top of the hill. I don’t know how, but I ended up wearing a monk’s robe and I had a shepherd’s crook. Every time I raised the crook in triumphant psychedelic wonderment, thunder or lightning would occur. There was a storm going on somewhere. So there I am, on a 2,000-year-old ceremonial mound, connecting with people who’d done that very thing 2,000 years ago on mushrooms or some potion. So when I came down – literally and metaphorically – I couldn’t think of anything more psychedelic. It opened a gateway and if I carried on, the next stop would probably be a secure institution. I never had a bad trip, but I’d have the mother of bad trips if I ever took LSD again. I’ve been known to smoke heroic amounts of pot, though.

I want to know the story behind One Dove. What happened? Why was there no follow-up?
Sam Jones, London
Put them in the file marked, ‘They should have been massive!’ It was a combination of procrastination and bad management. The first time I met Dorothy Allison, I was playing in Rimini. The doors of this club opened directly onto the beach. About 8am, the owner said, “Come on, we’re taking the boat out.” There were about 20 people, including Dot, who introduced herself to me, then sang to me while we cruised the ocean. I’d consumed quite a lot of Ecstasy, so I was having a lovely time! When we got back to shore, it was 11am and the beach was full of Italian families. I had long hair, I was covered in tattoos and I’d been at it for 24 hours, and as I came out of the water, people were literally pulling their children out of the way!

What was your worst day job?
Margaret Ford, Manchester
I worked for as a van boy for a laundry in Windsor. We collected dirty linen from all the swanky London hotels. You’d pick stuff up and shake out the maggots and the human excreta. I also worked at Windsor Safari Park, cutting grass. We were on this bank with scythes one day. I took a swipe, bent down and felt something go over my head. I looked up and the guy on the bank looked like he’d seen a ghost. He just pointed. Behind me, there was a post with his scythe still quivering in the wood. It couldn’t have been more comedy if it had gone “Boi-oi-oi-oing!” So, yeah, I’ve had near-death experiences and maggots.

What was it like being a vocalist in a post-punk band?
Martyn Cavanagh, Copenhagen=
Someone recently posted a picture on Facebook of me from that time, the early ’80s. I had a bleached Hitler Youth hairdo, a Bundeswehr vest and big shorts – a look very much favoured by Theatre Of Hate. Our claim to fame was supporting The Dancing Did at Windsor Arts Centre. We were the Berkshire regional semi-finalists in the A Certain Ratio- impersonating competition of 1980, ’81. I was in the sixth form doing art, so I had the Kafka thrust into my greatcoat pocket and all that.

What’s the best piece of advice Bobby Gillespie ever gave you?
Terry Lloyd, Hove
I hate it to be drug-related, but it’s also a wider metaphor for life. We were out and someone brought out the coke. He said, “You know what the best thing is about cocaine? The walk to the toilet.” That extends to everything. The expectation and the journey are nine times out of 10 more exciting than the experience itself. To have that whispered in your ear in a heavy Glaswegian accent while you’re on your way to the toilet to do a line of coke was quite a thing.

Why don’t you have a Facebook page?
Mark Bailey, via email
I’m not anti-technology, but I’m not in thrall to it. We live in a world where every minute is documented, so there’s not so much room to mythologise anything. When I was growing up, I loved Martin Hannett and Adrian Sherwood, they were mythical creatures, and I didn’t even know what they looked like. But now when you investigate a band, you can see a picture of what the fucking drummer had for lunch.

Which of your early gigs back in the ’80s is most memorable?
Nick Warren
The first gig I can remember was 1984, ’85, at a place called Queens that later became an acid house club. They knew I had a big record collection and they booked me to play. I thought I’d make my mark. I put the smoke machine on full-knacker and played the theme song to 633 Squadron as my opening track. People were running around the dancefloor with their arms outstretched, doing airplane impressions. The smoke parted and I saw the manager coming towards me. He just said, “Fuck off.” Then he chucked me off the decks.

What was the first record that switched you onto music?
Paul Dyett, Crystal Palace
Terry Jacks, “Seasons In The Sun”. I was only about 10. Little did I know it was a cover of a Jacques Brel death song called “Le Moribund”! It sounded so otherworldly; reverb always sounds ghostly. It was that and the soundtrack to That’ll Be The Day. For me, growing up, music was an escape. I had a very nice upbringing, but it was dull – so music was my way out. I thought, ‘Why limit your escape route?’ if I were in Stalag Luft, I’d have had about five tunnels on the go. Sometimes I envy purists, to have that singular vision where they’re only into Northern Soul or indie. But then, history has shown us that blind faith has never been very good for the human race.

There’s a great sample on your remix of St Etienne’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”: “The DJ eases a spliff from his lyrical lips and smilingly orders ’Cease!’” Where is that from?
Siobhan Yates, Cardiff
It’s a Jamaican poet called Jean Binta Breeze. As samples go, it’s a beauty! The reason why some of those early remixes still work is what Orson Welles called “the confidence of ignorance”. They’re not over-thought. The more technical and musical knowledge I’ve had, the more I’ve had to rein it in to maintain that naivety. That’s why people like them. They’re not arch. They’ve stood the test of time.

Uncut – April 2020

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Robert Plant, Karen Dalton, Elton John, Stephen Malkmus, Maria McKee, Shabaka Hutchings and Iggy & Bowie – plus our CD of the month’s best music – all feature in the new Uncut, dated April 2020 and available to buy in UK shops from February 20.

ROBERT PLANT: Rock’s most redoubtable traveller looks back on many of his marvellous sonic adventurers, while a string of collaborators share insights into his working practices. “I come and go in the game I play,” Plant says. “I have the audacious expectation to be invisible most of the time. But, really, I just like to sing…”

OUR CD! DIG IN: 15 tracks of the month’s best music, including Baxter Dury, Cornershop, Real Estate, John Moreland, Swamp Dogg, Nadia Reid, Tamikrest, Juniore and more.

UK readers! This issue of Uncut is available to buy by clicking here.

Overseas readers! This issue of Uncut is available to buy by clicking here.

Plus! Inside the issue, you’ll find:

ELTON JOHN: For almost 50 years, percussionist Ray Cooper has been an eyewitness to some of Elton John’s greatest feats. Here he recalls his adventures with the singer and songwriter, from playing in Soviet Moscow to writing a legendary album at sea…

KAREN DALTON: In our Archive Album Of The Month, we delve into an expansive new boxset and hear from Joe Loop, the man who recorded much of her live documents: “Karen, like all of us, had good times and bad times”

STEPHEN MALKMUS: Uncut heads to Portland, where Malkmus gives us a guided tour of his basement headquarters. To be discussed are Pavement’s live reunion, his dearly departed friend David Berman and a splendid new folky album, Traditional Techniques

SHABAKA HUTCHINGS: The cosmic torchbearer of the London jazz scene, lynchpin of Sons Of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming and Shabaka And The Ancestors, invites Uncut round to talk “ecstatic improv”, radical reinvention and esoteric philosophies

IGGY POP & DAVID BOWIE: As a new boxset chronicles Pop’s incredible late-‘70s work, Tony Visconti, Carlos Alomar and other eyewitness tell us about guerrilla haircuts, haunted bedrooms and the creative bleed between Pop and David Bowie. “They had one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever seen,” recalls Visconti

BRITTANY HOWARD: From Led Zeppelin to Roberta Flack, the former Alabama Shake reveals her musical epiphanies

MARIA McKEE: Album by album, from Lone Justice to her solo work

PALE SAINTS: The making of “Sight Of You”

In our expansive reviews section, we take a look at new records from Arbouretum, Nadia Reid, Swamp Dogg, Cornershop, Circles Around The Sun, US Girls, Real Estate and more, and archival releases from the Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Charlie Parker, The Distractions, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters, Johnny Marr, Happy Mondays, Peter Green and others. We catch The Jesus & Mary Chain, Fatoumata Diawara, John Cale, Peter Perrett and Black Country, New Road live, and also review films including Dark Waters, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire and True History Of The Kelly Gang, and books on Anita Pallenberg and Ornette Coleman.

In our front section, meanwhile, we remember Andy Gill, introduce Juniore, check in with Cluster and Harmonia legend Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and meet Das Koolies, the new project from four-fifths of Super Furry Animals.

International readers can pick up a copy at the following stores:

The Netherlands: Bruna and AKO (Schiphol)

Sweden: Pressbyrån

NorwayNarvesen

U.S.A. (out in February): Barnes & Noble

Canada (out March): Indigo

Australia (out March): Independent newsagents

And also online at:

Denmark: IPresso Shop

Germany: Blad Portal

 

Introducing the new Uncut: Robert Plant, Malkmus, Iggy, Elton and more

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Thanks, first of all, for the overwhelmingly positive response to Sounds Of The New West Volume 5 last month. We’re all acutely aware of the series’ legacy – how critical it has been, over the years, in helping develop a key part of Uncut’s aesthetic – and this latest instalment seems to have struck a significant chord. I promise we won’t leave it another four years until we compile Volume 6.

As for this issue, if there’s a loose theme between all the features, I guess it’s that they all capture artists during transitional states. For our cover star Robert Plant, it’s about the complex, digressive path he’s taken in the 40 years since Led Zeppelin finished. “I’m not asking anybody to get into the groove of what I do,” he tells us in a new, exclusive interview. “I just do it. I’m never gonna be everybody’s favourite. I don’t do it in the way that everybody would probably like it.”

For Iggy Pop, it’s the period where he belatedly begins his solo career in earnest – holed up in France and Berlin with his friend and co-conspirator David Bowie, where the two men made some of the greatest music of their careers. Tony Visconti, a man with a valid inside take on all this, talks at one point about the 1977 Quartet – explicitly acknowledging the creative connectivity between The Idiot, Lust For Life, Low and “Heroes”.

Then there is Shabaka Hutchings, whose career seems to be one endless transitional state – from his early days in the progressive East London jazz scene to Sons Of Kemet, Comet Is Coming and now the latest album from Shabaka And The Ancestors. Meanwhile, Stephen Malkmus’ current creative surge has taken him off in a weird new tangent – acoustic folk, but with a very Malkmus’ spin. And then there is Elton John, witnessed during his remarkable run of ‘70s albums, writing classic songs in 15 minutes, masterminding complete albums on an ocean liner, making a rare and radical appearance in Russia.

In our Reviews pages, you’ll find us rounding up the best new music from Arborteum (recommended: the 11-minute jam, “Let It All In”), Nadia Reid, Soccer Mommy, Swamp Dogg, Cornershop, Circles Around The Sun and Real Estate as well as the best Archive releases from Karen Dalton, the Allmans, Charlie Parker and more.

There are also new interviews with Greg Dulli, Maria McKee, Brittany Howard, Roedelius and Pale Saints. We bid farewell to Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill, celebrate The Band and usher in Juniore’s “joyful apocalypse”.

Plenty for everyone, then. Let us know your thoughts once you’ve had a look at the issue: letters@uncut.co.uk.

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on their new album: “It’s weirder… it feels exciting”

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In our recent 2020 album preview, Fran Keaney, singer and acoustic guitarist in Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, told us all about their new record. Naturally it had to be edited down for publication, but here’s the full transcript of our conversation – expect Patient Strudels, “gnarly” sounds and jamming…

______________________________

UNCUT: How’s it been going in the studio?
FRAN KEANEY: It’s a big day today, the second to last day in the studio, so we’re approaching endgame. We’ve got the chart up of what we’ve got to do. It’s been good – I suppose it’s always the case, no matter how much time you’ve got it’s always a mad rush to the finish. We’ve had just over two weeks, almost three weeks, which is a fair amount of time. We thought we’d have enough time to be comfortable, but you never are, you always use the time that you’ve got… or waste the time you’ve got.

What stage are you at with the recordings?
We’ve got a big day tomorrow – we’ve got all the vocals done, we’re just doing some guitar overdubs and then various percussion, handclaps and things. It’s really exciting, it’s going to be nice to step back from it and hear it – you’ve been imagining the songs for so long, you get your iPhone versions of it, but you’re constantly striving or straining to hear what it will be like, so I can’t wait to actually meet our children.

Where have you been recording?
Head Gap in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, not far from Northcote, Brunswick, Coburg… It’s a lovely studio. There’s a kitchen here that we’ve been using – mainly the coffee machine – and we brought a table tennis table in here as well in the spare room. It’s been a good distraction. We’ve all got our own table tennis pseudonyms – I’m The Patient Strudel, because I’m about as exciting a table tennis player as a strudel, but quite effective.

Who’s on the leaderboard?
The Strudel’s actually stepped up recently. The Prince Of Peace or Peter Pan, they’re not getting a look in.

How many songs have you recorded?
We’ve done 11 songs, they’re all feeling really good. It’s really exciting. It’s funny, all day you sit in the studio, these songs are all you talk about and think about, and then you get in the car to drive home and the first thing you do is you plug your phone in and you listen to the bounces to see how it’s sounding, even though that’s all you’ve been listening to all day! You’re constantly striving to get some objective fresh ear on what you’re doing, to step outside yourself, and it does help when you’re listening on a car stereo, somehow it’s different. When you have it rushing through the funnel of the car stereo you hear it a bit more objectively. It’s really exciting, the whole thing. We’ve been working on it for a while, so it’s been a long time coming. We’re all so excited to have it in our hands, to have it done.

You were in the studio earlier in 2019, weren’t you…
We did a session earlier this year, yeah, at Head Gap with Burke Reid as well. Burke Reid is producing the album, he did Courtney Barnett’s albums and Julia Jacklin’s Crushing. He did a few Drones records, he’s done a bunch of stuff. We did one song earlier this year, ‘Big Fence’, which we played on our last tour. With that it’ll be 12, so it’ll just depend on whether that one fits in with its other brothers and sisters – I have a feeling it will, but it remains to be seen how they’ll all hang together. I feel like the new songs are slightly weirder, slightly more fun. Fun and weird.

You said a while back that you were going a bit ‘outback disco’…
[laughs] “Not Tonight” is one of those ones – I suppose the whole album is a bit more gnarly, country twang, a bit more disco… which on paper sounds horrible, but it feels exciting. I feel like one of the songs, “Cars In Space”, has got this disco Motown feel, which feels natural. A lot of the songs on this album we’ve been just trying to find grooves and jams that we’re excited about, and then we’ve been chasing the song down after that. In the past songs have been, to varying degrees, the rudiments of the song are there, and then we flesh it out and make it feel our own and then maybe find a chorus or a verse or whatever. But with this one we went thinking let’s just throw some half-ideas in and see where they go. So we’ve been conscious to not rally have anything written at all before we go in, and then tear it apart. That’s been a longer process because we’ve taken [each idea] down these rabbit warrens and across valleys and highways and McDonald’s drive-thrus or whatever… through all the backroads. And some of them have made it and some of them have ended up just leaving. But it’s been a really good way to get our heart in each of the jams, in each of the songs. “Cars In Space” has this disco feel which Joe Russo and Marcel Tussie always lock into really well, and Joe’s got this nice ethereal disco guitar. It’s probably better to just hear it… but it’s a bit weirder and overall probably a bit more fun. I’d say it’s harder to say who’s song is whose – but at the end of the day we write the lyrics that we sing, so you can always tell one singer from the other perhaps. We haven’t fundamentally changed it – we all write our own lyrics still, so that’s gonna feel the same, but overall it’s more collaborative, there’s a bit more of a blurring of the lines than there might have been before.

So you’re letting Marcel show off his chops a bit more this time?
He’s been free to roam, which has been good. Actually he’s free to get his leg fixed! He did his leg in before we went on tour in May, we did Australia and then the US and Europe, then we came home and started in earnest working on the album. Now we’ve been recording it – now he’s got his operation tomorrow. He’s been nursing those delicate knee for the last few months and now he’s able to have his leg fixed and recover for the next month or two before we start shows again.

With the debut album being received so well, have you felt any pressure making this one?
Not really, I think the only pressure we have is our own pressure. We just wanna make something better than we’ve made before. I think at the back of our minds we think if we’re happy with it… there’s not really any point thinking about how other people might respond to it – if you’re happy with it and you’ve invested your heart in it, then that’s the only thing really that matters, that’s the only thing you can control. So I don’t think external pressure is something we think about, we’re too busy thinking about our own stuff, pouring our heart into it and making it feel good. I don’t know how you would use pressure, if you thought about other people too much you’d probably end up going crazy and making something pretty bad. It’s better to focus on what you can control and what you enjoy, what feels good. That’s all you can really do. You don’t wanna write the same thing that you’ve done last time, but I don’t think we’ve done that – I also don’t think it’s a completely new band. It’s a nice, fun, slightly weirder, batch of songs. I think overall it’s a bit more positive, hopeful, there was still a fair bit of doom and gloom in the last one, but this one’s a bit more fantastical and weird. But we still haven’t really met our children yet, I don’t really know what they look like, so I can’t really be objective about it at the moment.

 

Frazey Ford – U Kin B The Sun

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Ford jokingly described her new album to Uncut last month as “pagan disco”. There’s more to it than that, of course, but one can see what she means – the folk-country stylings of some of her past work are banished in favour of soulful, shuffling piano-driven grooves. The opening “Azad” – about her unusual childhood on a Canadian commune – sounds more like Brittany Howard than her old band The Be Good Tanyas, while the vibe throughout evokes a rootsy session in Muscle Shoals, spectacularly so on the smouldering title track. Call it an expansion rather than a reinvention – but it’s a dramatic and rather dazzling one.

FRAZEY FORD: “The album was born out of these jam sessions with my rhythm section. So there’s this kind of raw, stripped-back, acoustic-funk vibe. Very groovy and using totally different song structures than I’ve ever done before. And I co-wrote with the guys in the band. I invited my bass player and drummer to just throw me whatever ideas they had. It took me a while to figure out how to approach writing that way, and the guys had never done that with me before, so it was a new experience for all of us – a whole different exploration.

“I’m playing a lot more piano too, so it’s also less folk, for sure. The bass is very forward, the drums are very forward and there’s a lot more guitar. There’s just a new kind of directness, more in-your-face. It’s less soft and even lyrically it’s different. It’s hard to explain, but it’s more fierce. We recorded at Afterlife Studios in Vancouver with John Raham and kept it pretty simple. A good friend of mine, the super-talented Phil Cook, came in and did a whole bunch of beautiful stuff on it too. One track I’m loving right now is ‘Purple’. It’s a dark song, but it’s very groovy. I think it’s about childhood trauma. We’ve been jokingly describing the sound as ‘pagan disco’. One of my favourites is ‘Motherfucker’.”

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

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The importance of making transient moments count was already a recurring theme in Tame Impala’s music before Kevin Parker experienced a rather dramatic reminder two years ago. At the beginning of a week-long recording session in a rented apartment in Malibu in November 2018, he was forced to flee as wildfires swept through the area, leaving him just enough time to grab a laptop full of mixes and his beloved Hofner bass and leave before tens of thousands of dollars of equipment went up in smoke.

Parker has taken pains not to compare his relatively modest brush with disaster with the far graver examples of loss and devastation experienced by so many others due to the fires in California, or back home in Australia; but the incident nevertheless puts the combination of mutability and urgency in his work into sharper relief.

Woozily gorgeous, often enthralling and sometimes surprising, The Slow Rush, then, marks a further creative departure even if it contains the most fundamental components of the sound Parker began developing as a lonely teenager in the garage of his family home in Perth 13 years ago; the multi-tracked vocals full of yearning, the wistful melodies precariously positioned on top of layers upon effects-slathered layers of sounds and instruments, and the grooves that feel both casual and muscular. They’re all present on Tame Impala’s first album in the almost five years since Currents transformed Parker’s one-man studio project and its burlier live incarnation into the kind of Spotify-dominating, arena-filling crossover phenomenon that rock music is supposedly too decrepit to produce any more.

Yet so much else about Tame Impala remains in a seemingly permanent state of flux, reflecting a theme that’s recurred in his lyrics time and again. “Everything is changing, and there’s nothing I can do,” Parker crooned in his best Lennon falsetto on “Apocalypse Dreams” from 2012’s Lonerism, the album that first signalled how Parker was willing to venture beyond the playbook of 21st-century psych pastiche he’d borrowed from Dungen and other early inspirations.

By the time of “Yes, I’m Changing” on 2015’s Currents, his tone was less anxious. “Yes, I’m changing, yes, I’m gone/Yes, I’m older, yes, I’m moving on,” he sang, before layers of crystalline synths culminated in Tame Impala’s most beatific passage of music to date. The rest of Currents saw him easing up and moving on in many other ways, too: though he didn’t entirely abandon the Beatlesque songcraft and Hendrixian flamboyance that made Lonerism and 2010’s Innerspeaker so remarkable, his new music brandished a textural and rhythmic sensibility more akin to contemporary R&B and hip-hop, such that it wasn’t so surprising for his spacier, funkier sounds to find favour with Rihanna and Kanye West.

The first of three singles to arrive in the year leading up to the release of The Slow Rush, “Patience” was another chance for Parker to caution himself and others against expecting anything other than yet more flux. “I’m just growin’ up in stages, living life in phases,” he sang gently, evincing a whole-hearted acceptance of the matter. “Another season changes/And still my ways are aimless, I know.”

Parker’s being unduly hard on himself in that last line, which is perfectly in keeping with his perfectionist reputation. There’s no disputing his doggedness upon hearing an album whose formidable degree of detail and texture could only be the product of innumerable days and nights of toil and tinkering. And while it can sound like he did spend the last four years alone in a dimly lit room full of effects pedals and pot smoke, Parker did make time for other activities, like showing off Tame Impala’s array of lasers and confetti cannons during 2018’s many tour dates, and getting married last February.

But for all his labours, Tame Impala very much remains a work in progress, and therefore a reflection of a creator with a keen appreciation for the sort of uncertainty that many other artists just can’t tolerate. The Slow Rush is also an oddly amorphous record, as if it too were not quite finished with its own process of evolution. That’s not to its detriment, however, partially because Tame Impala’s fundamental haziness has long been one of the most compelling things about the band. Like Kevin Shields, Parker loves little more in this world than a reverse reverb effect, but he’s similarly always been very exacting about his brand of blurriness.

What’s more, the slippery nature of the best songs on The Slow Rush and their many changes in direction mean Parker’s able to simultaneously confirm and confound the diverse array of expectations that have developed since Currents. Though the bright melodies and high polish of “Patience” and “Breathe Deeper” mean they could be heard as commercial-minded continuations of his collaborations with Mark Ronson, their forms are also too elastic for them to function as straightforward pop songs. While the more beat-forward likes of “Tomorrow’s Dust”, “Lost In Yesterday” and unabashedly Daft Punk-y “Is It True” point to Parker’s growing affinity for dance music and forays into the genre in his collaborations with Avalanches, Zhu and Theophilus London, they’re also too steeped in dreamy languor and minor-key melancholy to conquer the clubs.

Likewise, the soft-rock/prog-pop grandeur of “Borderline” and “On Track” may evoke 10cc, Wings and Supertramp at their most sumptuous, but this too is something of a red herring – there are still enough messier moments scattered throughout the album to partially appease listeners who keep hoping Parker’s continuing partnership with Pond will prompt a return to Tame Impala’s first psych principles.

The Slow Rush, it seems, has a little something for everyone in Tame Impala’s increasingly varied constituency. It’s also at its most compelling when several of those somethings are happening at once. One case in point is “Posthumous Forgiveness”, which has no little poignancy due to the complex welter of emotions Parker expresses for his late father (“you could store an ocean in the holes/In any of the explanations you gave”) but feels curiously drab until it’s overwhelmed mid-song by the blurting and blaring of Parker’s barrage of synths. There’s a similarly clamorous development complicating the pristine Supertramp-y pop of “It Might Be Time”, one of many songs here that reminds listeners “nothing lasts forever” in case they thought they had a shot at staying young forever. Another highpoint here, the burbling “Breathe Deeper” is propelled by Frankie Knuckles-style piano figures, stuffed with swirling synths and topped with Parker’s most exuberant vocal performance – “if you need someone to tell you’re special, I can, believe me” is the kind of sweet nothing you’d hope to hear from a newlywed. It builds into a rapturous piece of shoegaze-funk as heady as the Andrew Weatherall mix of My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon”.

By contrast, the songs that don’t boast those sudden swerves or vertigo-inducing rises – such as “Instant Delivery”, a three-minute recap of Currents highlights, or “Glimmer”, a fleeting exercise in Laurent Garnier-style house – can feel more like Parker on cruise control as he waits for the next bolt of inspiration. Other songs struggle to fully emerge from The Slow Rush’s constant whorls of activity, a persistent though usually forgivable issue with Tame Impala’s maximalist approach. As ardently as Parker may believe in the fact of flux, he also understands that when it comes to Tame Impala, more is nearly always more. And in spite of the additional pressures fostered by the success of Currents, he has risen to the occasion with an album full of the necessary girth and scope, which doesn’t succumb to the forces of inertia. Instead, Parker remains eager to take songs in directions that clearly leave him as surprised as anyone else.

Hear the ‘Live Eno Mix’ of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”

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David Bowie’s serial EP Is It Any Wonder? completes today with the release of a rare 1995 Brian Eno remix of “The Man Who Sold The World”.

The track was originally issued as a double A-side green vinyl 7” single and CD single in various territories with the Outside version of “Strangers When We Meet.” The Live Eno Mix is based on the fairly radical trip-hop reworking performed on the Outside World Tour. Brian Eno reshaped, overdubbed and mixed this live recording of the song at Westside Studios in London on October 30, 1995. Listen below:

A physical version of Is It Any Wonder? will be released exclusively via DavidBowie.com on March 20. The tracklisting will be slightly different to the digital version, with “The Man Who Sold The World (ChangesNowBowie Version)” replaced by “Fun (Clownboy Mix), which previously only appeared on a BowieNet subscriber exclusive CD-ROM in 1998.