Creech Holler – The Shovel and the Gun

 

crehol   This was probably my favourite album of 2008. Probably. I don’t honestly have an exhaustive list of albums released in 2008, and I’m not sure I’ve got round to listening to all of them yet anyway.

This is lo-fi shit-kickin back porch electrified alt-country gospel blues at its rawest and finest. They do versions of standards like John the Revelator and The Cuckoo, but they also write some cracking tunes of their own too, such as Devil’s Eyes and The Color of Bone.

Because there doesn’t seem to be a page where you can listen to the whole album, I’m going to find you some YouTubes. Unlike the other day, I doubt I can find the whole album…

Raymond Lee:

Devil’s Eyes:

Jeff Zentner did an acoustic version of this on this album

John the Revelator:

Live version of The Cuckoo:

Live version of When the Temptor Calls:

 

I think you can listen to all the album at Last FM, but I think you may also need a spotify account which is a new restriction and yet another reason to pay it less attention, as I no have that account and nor am I likely to get one. Also, I’m on an enquiry desk again so I can’t actually test it.

Creech Holler don’t seem to have released anything further since this album, their preceding work With Signs Following, was very nearly as good. Jeff Zentner’s solo stuff is much more mellow, being predominantly acoustic.

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Anna von Hausswolff – The Miraculous

avhSo, at the beginning of the year I did a compilation post of my favourite stuff of the year preceding. The two final entries on it hadn’t been featured on Soundbergs, although Pridjevi subsequently got one, and now Anna von Hausswolff too… actually because these two albums have been the most heavily played of this year.

There’s a write-up about the album here which goes into some of the philosophy behind it, but doesn’t mention anything about a story running across the album, which I most certainly hear. Wonder whether that is me projecting? Serious resonance, anyway.

Musically, it’s heavy. Not in the Metal sense, though guitars get crunchy and beats get poundy in a couple of songs, Swans have been invoked when that happens. But its heavy because the organ sound is so intense, because Anna tells such a story that fits it perfectly, because of the images it conjures, because it actually has the ability to completely possess the soul when you give yourself up to this album. The word awesome is often used wrongly (i.e. people say ‘awesome’ when they mean ‘quite good,’ when the word is actually meant to refer to marvellous things that are also a little bit overwhelming, scary – its a biblical word, dammit!) but can and should be used right(eous)ly when describing The Miraculous. Not to mention the vocals, which aren’t afraid of pyrotechnics, but are always tasteful and appropriate.

You know how you wake up, and there’s a song in your head? Well, the other morning I somehow managed to wake up and have this entire album in my head. Impossible to describe something like that, although it’s also true that it is impossible to describe music anyway. The only description that matters is this: IFL this album.

 

Confessions of a stats nerd

Or: Why numbers will always be numbers.

Some or fewer of you may have looked over at my last.fm profile page if the mood has at all come upon you to look at what I have been listening to. If so, I have sad news that will only get sadder: most of what I listen to these days no longer gets caught by the intrusive eye of the scrobbler, and therefore doesn’t get ‘captured.’ The list then, is vastly unrepresentative and explains why I shall no longer link to it on my ‘about‘ page whenever I next get round to updating it.

But really, is this so great a loss?

Some while back, I was talking to my brother about the limitation of using ‘play count’ as a kind of measure of how much you like an artist. I used the following example: I could listen to a whole album by Nu Sensae in slightly more than half the time than I could listen to my favourite track by Terry Riley, giving Nu Sensae 14 plays whilst Terry Riley gets just the one. And yet, I personally get much more pleasure from that one play (although my brothers response was: ‘I’ve heard neither, but I can already tell that I would like Nu Sensae 14 times more than Terry Riley…’ – in honour of which I shall create a new tag of ‘music my brother wouldn’t like’ which shall be applied to anything with an average length of more than 3 minutes – so most of my posts, then). Not to disrespect Nu Sensae – when I’m in the mood, Sundowning is a cracking little album.

So quantity in this regard doesn’t measure quality. The amount of times I listen to something is not actually an indicator of how much pleasure I get from it. And it can absolutely never capture those ‘moments’ – such as like the first time I listened to Inutili, whose play count still hasn’t reached double figures and yet currently rank amongst my favourite new music. And there are occasions when you listen to something that really makes your day, yet that experience is never repeated and you stop listening to that thing. It doesn’t mean that one time wasn’t valid.

So lets have a look at my ‘top artists’ for what will probably be my last time.

alltime10

Really, for sheer amount of time I’ve spent listening to an artist since I joined in late 2010, Oneida should be top by a mile. Their average song length is quite long, though, especially the recent stuff. Big Blood, despite being relatively recent additions to the library, thoroughly deserve their place. This isn’t to disparage Thee Oh Sees – I get enormous pleasure listening to them. They are a truly wonderful band. But by my listening standards, they have short songs.

Another thing to point out is that there are many artists there that I don’t listen to so much these days – smaller catalogue, not so much recent activity, gone off them a bit, all or some of the preceding or something else entirely. Which leads to the hypothesis that the longer this thing continued, the more artists there would be in the upper echelons who are actually not getting listened to that much. Unless, of course, my favourite artists never change. With me, that is never going to happen.

Many years ago, when I entered the PC age, my first PC lasted quite some years before complete breakdown. During that time, the play count on Windows Media Player had racked up an impressive chart. Although this was only songs, if the top song was ‘Dubby Conqueror’ by Burning Babylon and it had been played 150-odd times (which it was at the time it broke), then it was a fair estimate that said song was amongst my favourite songs ever at the time. However, that isn’t a fair picture. I had the PC on all the time even when I wasn’t at home, and I left the music playing on shuffle. Most of my active listening was actually on shuffling, and only if I didn’t fancy something  would any choice on my part influence the play count.

In fact, it’s only really since 2010 that I’ve started being a more focussed album player rather than having music on shuffle, which is a very passive way of choosing entertainment, letting a computer do your thinking for you (sidebar: those of you who have ever succumbed to that disease, have you ever noticed how certain songs keep getting selected, even from a library of thousands?) So although I love that tune still, since the scrobbler, it hasn’t even been scrobbled ten times ( I can’t find it on the tracks chart, I went down to everything from 10 above, and my eyes went funny so I stopped).

To use an analogy, in cricket, a flat-track bully can get quite an impressive average over time if he always performs against minnows, but against the best teams you want your players who bring their best under pressure, who often don’t have averages as impressive – my thesis for this is because their guard is down against teams they expect to beat, or when their team mates have already walloped the bowlers around. So, when your mood calls for music to lift it, do you go to play counts and say ‘well, I’ve played this most, it’s therefore my favourite, therefore its guaranteed to work?’ If so, I’ve got a large organisation I’d like to offer you a job in.

We humans like charts, don’t we? I’ve been as guilty as anyone. I think that numbers are almost always useless without context, but we as a species seem to forget the whole context bit, and just focus on the numbers.

However, the recent reboot of Last FM has ‘coincided’* with the scrobbler on my net PC at home going cuckoo, and I frankly cannot be arsed to try and sort it out. I’ve much more important things to do, like being a dad, playing a guitar, reading books, doodling, tending the few home grown veg I can fit in my garden, or staring blankly into space.

It’s actually been a lot easier to give up the idea of seeing who I’ve played most often than I thought it would be. This probably tells you/me something about the nature of giving stuff up in general. It’s surprisingly easy to do when fighting it is more trouble than its worth, harder when its not.

So, when I play music at work, it may get scrobbled, it may not. And that doesn’t matter.

I may do a part two, and if so it will delve into the notion of converting the wonderment that is sound into numbers – i.e. my thoughts on digital music. However, that may only depress me, since realistically the vast majority of music I listen to will be digital.

*I don’t believe in coincidence. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.

Fela Kuti – Zombie

 

You know, I’d forgotten why I started this blog, which was actually to say nice stuff about fabulous music regardless of how long I’ve known about it. The pursuit of novelty is not one of the modern age’s better drugs.

So, Zombie, then. In truth I could post any Fela Kuti album, I just happen to be really digging on this one at the moment. Six tracks, all between 10 and 15 minutes long, with such a righteous groove. This is ‘Afrobeat’ at its best, funky and hypnotic. All players get to express themselves in the rhythm, the singers get to do the call and response thing which is a brilliant way of putting words to music. And the brass – the brass is brilliant.

Because I haven’t noticed an obvious way to embed the album, here’s some youtubes of some songs on it. First, the title track:

Mister Follow Follow:

Observation is No Crime:

My favourite on the album -Mistake:

Everything Scatter:

Monkey Banana:

Turns out I found the whole album on Youtube! If you’ve got an hour to spare, sit back and enjoy this fantastic music.

As I said earlier, any album by this man will bring you joy, should you happen to be a fan of long, funky, snaking grooves as I am.

Alameda 3 – Późne królestwo

al3Most artists I make public my liking for have a way with a groove. Probably a well-functioning groove is amongst the most reliable ways of catching my attention. And yet – with the greatest respect due to Kuba Ziolek – this album is not going to catch you via groove. The same is true for one of his other projects that I listed in some year end list or other a while back, Stara Rzeka. This is a journey, instead, but not one including picnics.

It took me a little while to work out why he’s used two different names, but I think I sort of get it now in a way I cannot possibly put into words. Coincidentally, the stylistic sweep of this music is such that I cannot possibly put it into words either. That’s a bit of a common theme for me.

So, it’s heavy in a skull crushing heavy rock, post-rock, death metal, spazz rock, jazzy, acoustic lament, fusion, ambient, at times melodic and wistful way – on Tzimtzum I think he tries to capture every single style he’s ever attempted when laden with a guitar, and it most certainly would not be out of place on Ipecac records.  At all times the music is overlaid by guitars so thoroughly drowned in reverb that it’s as if he’s replaced the Baltic Sea with reverb and recorded them there. But it is intense, and if you don’t want intense today, go and listen to this instead. However, if I’ve piqued your interest and you do want intense, well, Kuba’s your man, and not for the first time.

 

Thoughts while mowing the lawn

I’ve not discovered any moment shaking stuff for a while, but to be fair I’ve mostly been listening to 4 or 5 albums repeatedly. However, I had this thought whilst mowing the lawn earlier and felt the urge to share:

Music is the interface between living in the moment and eternity.

So the albums I’ve been utterly swimming in are Pridjevi’s debut (you should hear me trying to sing Pjesma o drveću to myself as I walk given that I don’t know any Croatian), Anna von Hausswolff’s The Miraculous, Our Solar System‘s In Time and MatchessSomnaphoria. I’ve also visited Zulus, Rise of the Echo Drone and Big Blood quite regularly. Also I’ve discovered Oneida’s Brah Tapes series, which is wonderful because Oneida. Yet another also: I’m playing Dreamtime and I love them.

However, today has been a good day to be in Leicester. The atmosphere is incredible.

And I’ve just had a most intense deja vu thing happen as I was editing the links.

Wyrd.