Sunday, 9 June 2013

It's a long voyage back

 
 
 

 

 
 
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As well as being the title of a really good post-apocalyptic 1983 novel by a certain George Cockcroft (aka Luke 'Dice Man' Rhinehart), 'Long Voyage Back' neatly summarises recent events in the continuing strangeness of my oddly symmetrical life. The most significant event to report, in a literal and unabashed manner, is that from the end of August I will be employed here rather than here (I also had an offer from this institution to consider, at one and the same time, but... not this time around I'm afraid). As natives of our fine city know to be true, staying in Glasgow has a lot going for it just now... including a new Pastels album, and even glorious sunshine of late. Gasp! Anyway, I'm not sure how I truly feel about being a 'Professor'. I mean, I'm just unbelievably grateful to have another (local) job to go to, let alone a promotion to boot. The status of 'Professor' has always appeared rather untoward and, well, a wee bit brash to me. I tend to think of Indiana Jones, or rather his eccentric Scottish father; you know, the bit in that film ('death by seagull'). Still, I've been in this game so long now perhaps it was about time to step up, collect the medal, and move on, especially as there was no choice... what with the redundancy clock ticking away in a hurried fashion (June 2015 was the end-date, not so far away when you sit down and think about it). Sigh. I do fear for my immediate colleagues who will stay on, as well as staff in other parts of the University that do not especially have a technologically-focused remit or interest. Anyway, a day-return train to Paisley got me thinking and remembering: aged 17 I ran away from the East coast to the West coast and studied at the 'Tech' for two years. It was, in many ways, the intellectual-making of me; the School of Communist Studies in the guise of Applied Social Sciences. And now I am returning, some twenty-five years later. Gulp. It's a lifetime, for sure, but as my brother recently reminded me there is a big part of us that will always be 17, not least when we hear new music that makes our fingertips dance and our frowns turn upside down. So this is the soundtrack of our new found success, a C86 tune that was recorded just yesterday but harks back to a time when a cassette-tape could change your cosmological everyday world. And yes, I must try and write here more often, I know this to be true.
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Just Handshakes - 'Cut and Run' (3.16)
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Friday, 29 March 2013

Does love sit cold until you put it somewhere?

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Fieldnotes #261
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In a time almost forgotten the rusty big wheel will spin onwards; rotating left then right until a faint buzzing 'click' hints at a new start, a new fashion for 'Diamond Jim' to wear like he means that kind of business - a way to unlearn centuries of pretended, dastardly, evolution I suppose. An ill-fitting bolt coils right, a sugar-spark lifts the groove and a melody is unleashed upon a knowing world full of Lévi-Strauss wonder. But how much time is time enough 'in the field?'. It is not so much the length of stay, one suspects, but more the memories that travel back with you in a beaten-up wooden box to a lonely due-South port. How best to convey and account for the rituals, habits and customs that become part of a wider identity that is first assumed and then ultimately taken-as-read? The senses are well-trained, hoping against hope, to absorb, consume, digest in a faded-blue notebook with the aid of a knife-sharpened HB pencil that tucks behind an ear that should know better: the sights, smells, tastes and a delicate velvet touch that can know few intimate boundaries. This calls for an emotive description that is much less Geertz and altogether more Douglas; the foods the odours, the language, the dirt... a required vividness combined with a sensuality and sense of place/belonging. Ethnography is indeed many things and 'easy' is not one of them; but privilege certainly is.
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Throwing Muses - 'Two Step' (4.35)
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Saturday, 2 February 2013

We're caught up in denying it all

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An adolescent gull calls out playfully and performs seemingly impossible moves even a limber gymnast would baulk at. A light breeze from the East forces you to flutter-shut your tired twilight eyes. Once awoken, in a glimmer, you can't help but notice the way they just slip into each other's curved bodies; she gazes up at him with pounding hearts in her eyes whilst he just stares out, arms entwined, appreciating the serene beauty all around. It just seems so natural, so easy, relaxed. Is it really just like this, how it is meant to be? Contentment and happiness abounds as winds pick up and the Captain calls from below for more çay. Thinking out across this stirred, sweet water, willing the sound of summer to approach in gradual yards and inches. They may be homeward bound by now, but a significant part of this happy couple is forever attached to the constant rippling and movement of this historic oceanic floor. It seems as if a whole shifting world beneath wishes for a future that may hold them good. If the outcome might be wished upon stars, and worked for in a hard-earned August sweat. It's the effort that may be their undoing, and the familiarity of self, other and I.
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The Mary Onettes - 'Evil Coast' (5.35)
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Band / Label / Images / The new album, 'Hit The Waves', is out on March 12th. :)
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Friday, 11 January 2013

I wanna know where you are

 
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Where next? It's a gradual approaching essence. Small steps of glamour. An idea of what might yet be. Apropos the virtues of leaving solitude and longing beside a lipsticked glass at the bar come closing time. Fateful strides around this town at 2am, in certain company, witnessing a falling chimney pot and sirens all guns blazing. Mirrored, battered souls reflect much more than just shadows of a former self. The promise of lurid dancing streetlights familiarise this unknown terrain, such new cultured surroundings. In truth, it's a stability and comfort not known for sometime. And this is a good thing, right? A jagged left turn here leads to a contented right turn over there (checking for a green man first). Yes, one geography bleeds into another around here although your maps and markings all indicate this could be the way forward. So please march on; do not be afraid to take his hand again.
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Wild Nothing - 'Golden Haze' (3.26)
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Pay a visit. Buy 'Nocturne' (2012). Touring England in March.
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Sunday, 6 January 2013

This voice is ours







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It did not have to be this way. This maddening, quickening sense of urgency; a golden-rushed incident detailed, laid out to rest, among the leaves. A flickering finger stubbed out in the jaded mildew of the year just past. A crashing cymbal cascades off a distanced, challenging cliff. It is out of the traps and away down the distressed tattie driel; there is no mistaking that sweet thud of hope being filled to the brim with wine and roses (for all). It explodes; a thick shard of glass skims past you, lightly grazing your left cheek. The blood trickles out weaving edgy patterns as it flows; and you - on his table - know what comes next. You care not, however, for this. is. the. jet. age; a time when it isn't so much what you know as what you don't know. Nil (by mouth) for the one who threatens to jump. It is everywhere and incessant: this useless information that calls us to judge or be judged. A mocking cruelty covers this land; believing makes it easy. Or easier, you reflect with a tap to the head. All we need is a moment to stop the clocks and look up, remembering who we are and what we could be to each other. What is it we do best? Can you even remember? Let's engage, smile and hold on, my sweetness. Above all else, and with the best will in the world, do remember that sometimes I don't like your tone, either.
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DIIV - '(Drunn) pt ii' (2.47)
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Visit / Twitter / Purchase
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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Just a slogan on a T-shirt

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There is something, well, persuasive and convincing about these sounds. No? Maus music. It isn't 'forgettable', for me. To be sure, in places, it has those 80s post-punky synth hooks and, in a strange way, they are making out with disco music in the hidden alcoves of the club, kinda thing. A bit hipstah, perhaps. But is that such a bad thing, by definition? There are faint memories of 'classic' Hall and Oates, for some reason. But, this all works, curiously. And that voice. It resonates and stretches down to the depths of a long-abandoned well that is as dry as the Sonoran desert in high summer. Lots of spaces, delays and echoes. It's an immediate anthem, a direct statement of intent, we can at least agree on that. I just love it. And, in addition to the sounds, he's a PhD student in political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It's a CV to die for, really. I am a fan.
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John Maus - 'Rights for Gays' (2.40)
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In search of Mausspace / Something awesome to watch ;)
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Thursday, 1 March 2012

On the challenges of (in)direct communication

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On days like these you tend to notice the awkward, vocalised, public sharing of intimate details. Witness: standing apart as their uneasy alliance purposefully marches in time to a beat unrecognised; clutched shopping bags in outstretched twenty-something limbs that keep their tentacled hostility at a bridged, safe, distance. This is Argyle Street at dinner time, yesterday, and although the physical space is paramount - 'The Silent Lanaguge' (1959) - the raised voices keep them locked together, but divided in domestic battles. Others passing by watch and listen for the hurt accusations to fly and the emotional retaliations to shoot back. It's another kind of Soap Opera. The children stare and are, no doubt, reminded of unhappy times past, in a different kind of life. Assorted scraps of information are thrown out like manipulative hand grenades; 'Aye, but you said you never spent that money...' and 'No, but, it wisnae like that, it was a certain thing, eh...'. You can imagine the crippled - 'Oh poor me!' scene. She was right, he was wrong. Unworthy crimes and situated errors of timely consideration; a lack of direct and easy-to-hear communication. There is an aggressiveness evident amongst the non-existent passivity. And then, another scene, on the train between High Street and Partick, a young indie-couple with similar issues, going out for the night by the looks of it. Young, in love and together, at least until the next episode of 'Hollyoaks' is shown; his concern with a distanced baby daughter (and ex-partner) and her concern for an active, coupled-up, social life. 'But I thought you were getting her that day, what about us...' and 'No, I didnae say that, it's a Wednesday and I cannae go out then as I need to do the Nursery run in the morning.' Forced connections, unhappy splits fill the air of this carriage that can't be escaped. The 'stuff', and times, of our cultured lives I guess. The former couple will, no doubt, be together until the end of time... whilst the latter couple, well, they will break up sometime next week, before the storyline gets the chance to fully unfold. But who can tell, really. It's a game for fools, indeed.
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"The very life..." - in other events, and in case you were wondering, my (new) job is safe for at least another three years, I can remain in Glasgow, within the technological bosom of my current employer. I'll be heading up the new Graduate School in the restructred Faculty, in an Associate Dean kind of way (again). I am both grateful and relieved, not to mention a tiny bit wary and scared. I can happily live without another job interview for a very long time though, I must say. Jim - you can have your purple tie back now - it did the job just fine. :) Ta.
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Eduardo Niebla and Antonio Forcione - 'Celebration' (6.19)
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Sublime guitars, passion of the soul. Not a word is spoken. Edward T. Hall would surely approve.
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Friday, 24 February 2012

Like a drunken kiss in the morning light

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Where were you? It is everything good and right and effortless; and yet this fleeting moment is derailed and distorted via cheap cellphone CCTV. Beauty ill-defined; a star of the age is uplifted and the essence of an embodied, shuttered, memory bruises a tired heart. Come closer, for he is destiny as imagined in some other world, far from this palatial bothy. A scolded sting to those crumbling services, positioned on the outer edges of such lucious, golden lips. The sketched, swollen eye nodding towards a distant lens reminds you he really 'means' it. It's time to go home, across the sky miles, to what you once knew as comfort and joy. He is just for you, tonight.
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Shearwater - 'I was a cloud' (Session Version) (4.18)
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Home / Record / Tour - Shearwater play Stereo, Glasgow, on Sunday April 1st. No joke. The new album, Animal Joy, is out now on Subpop. The photo of Jonathan was taken by myself at a show at Neumos in Seattle, December 12, 2008.
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Monday, 20 February 2012

I'm all set

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Gasp! So, the third record is finally in the making. Hurrah! And, if you are very quick, you might still be able to purchase a 'special solo performance' on Skype. ;) And, even more good news, this guy has a new record out at the end of May as well. Chris and Mark working together? OMFG. Yes please, Santa. Make it happen.
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Chris Garneau - 'No more pirates' (live) (3.13)
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Love Zombie Central. Yes, I was lucky enough to interview and photograph (!) Chris in May 2007. He played a show at this place, supporting label-friends Xiu Xiu. He was stunningly awesome, whether speaking or singing. Or, actually, just sitting still for a photograph... <3
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Saturday, 11 February 2012

The cunt sits at his desk and he's plotting away







 
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The Twilight Sad, @ The Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow, 09-02-12
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It's about loss and death, the hipstah boy with a sharp haircut and letterbox-framed glasses, ponders. It's about past mistakes and associated bitter regrets, the petite girl with a heavily inked back whispers to a friend. It's a homage to post-punk and the memory of Curtis, the group of lads at the bar bellow like horses on heat. It's a necesary step change and shift of gear, argue those in the know, who are close to the band. It's a little too cold, claustrophobic and one-dimensional... I think (and all the better for that, of course). But it is a fucking grower of an album, that's also quite certain. Debates rage. Differences are aired. The record, 'No One Can Ever Know' (Fatcat, 2012), is not long out and already loose words fly around that cul-de-sac called the internet like Aldi plastic bags in a West coast hurricane. As for the show; well, it's a nervous opening night of the tour and Glasgow calls out for their assumed local hero, James Graham. He commands the stage and a dazzling multi-coloured, strobe-heavy, lightshow does indeed create shadows of a certain Stretford local and the voice matches the carefully-placed picture frame, when the technical difficulties are resolved. As would be imagined and expected, the set is mainly populated by tracks from the new long-player but a good half dozen songs are taken from earlier releases; including rather different (keyboard-enhanced) versions of  'Cold Days in the Birdhouse' and 'At the Burnside', to these muddled ears at least. In that odd sense of misplaced symmetry, however, the set opens with the new album closer - 'Kill it in the Morning'. It's a pounding, relentless beginning and the set continues in this styled and somewhat repetitive manner. Indeed, the lack of variation in tempo, mood and positioning is sorely felt; a foray into the other strands of what this band can do (and, yes, does so well) was missed. For example, anyone who has heard their live, acoustic, interpretations of songs like 'Half a Person' or 'The Room' might appreciate these words. But, to be fair, this is perhaps missing the entire point of the show; it's thirteen songs delivered with minimum fuss and architect precision, all shaped and moulded by the keyboards and drums, as well as the finely-pronunciated vocals of Graham. To be sure, the guitars are not exactly redundant or vanquished in this live cowboy show at the Grand Ole Opry; more like set to the touchline to cool down and reappear later in the last quarter. The songs below were clear highlights, as I heard them, but a special mention must also be made for the classic 'I became a Prostitute'. If the band have a signature tune this must surely be it. Tonight they parade at the Queens Social Club, Sheffield; expect a storming of the barricades.
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The Twilight Sad - 'Alphabet' (6 Music Session Version) (4.17)
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Band / Tour / Label (with thanks to Matt Turner/Peenko)
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Set-list: Kill It In The Morning; Don't Move; That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy; Dead City; Reflection of the Television; Alphabet; I Became a Prostitute; Sick; Another Bed; Cold Days From the Birdhouse; Nil; And She Would Darken the Memory; At the Burnside.
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