Notes from the Fireside – Summer Puddings – August 2013

This is angry and aggressive, but if I lived in Belgium I’d probably produce music like this just to convince the rest of Europe that we’re not all bureaucrats.

This is angry and aggressive, but if I lived in Belgium I’d probably produce music like this just to convince the rest of Europe that we’re not all bureaucrats.

The cave is empty. The last bottle, a Ruy de Lopez 1947, has been imbibed. It had been reserved for my daunting Aunt Enid, but I feared sobriety more than her savage tongue. Also, as she never leaves home unless swathed in the pelts of the endangered, my summer months are generally free of embittered female relations.

There is little point in being a solitary misanthrope and self-loathing is a pursuit for those with no one to blame. If our cellar cannot be replenished them the club may close as it no longer has anything to recommend it to a man defined by his bibulousness.

On hearing this news I considered selling the objets d’art that make life in this odious mausoleum bearable, but the silver and other valuables that could be secreted in a portmanteau diminished with the membership. I would have sold our magnificent paintings if Roderick hadn’t already replaced them with gaudy reproductions.

Blake’s ‘The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun’ is now a tennis woman with an itchy bum. A naked, muscular young man examining a baby now hangs where once Lorenzetti’s ‘Madonna with Child’ enlightened us.

Nietzche claimed that art could “turn these nauseous thoughts… into notions with which one can live”. That may well be, I just wish he hadn’t declared God dead, because I urgently require the services of someone who can turn water into wine.

Xenia Rubinos – Magic Trix (Jaba Jaba Music)

A passionate affair with a hot-blooded, sultry seductress in an exotic cantina, Magic Trix is unpredictable, very enjoyable and will make you forget your exhaustion and beg for more.

Primal vocalisations, intriguing tempo variations and melodic screeching are effortlessly combined to produce a joyous celebration. Acoustically inventive, highly creative and challenging, this is a diverse work with far too many influences to catalogue, but there is something for everyone. This is the antithesis to the ubiquitous, pre-packaged dross that constantly assails. The exuberant singer, Xenia Rubinos, has an exceptional voice: at times coquettish and seductive, at others jarring and argumentative, but always funky. Some of the songs are so infectious that they should have compulsory health warning.

Buy this. Your life will be richer and your ears, soul and hips will thank you.

Georgia’s Horse – Weather Codes (Fire Records)

Eerie, minimalist, sparse, lo-fi post-country with an articulate, understated authentic sound. Each element is strong but Teresa Maldonado stands out. A marvellously mesmerising, strangely melodic, lugubrious drawl that is brooding, plaintive and pained: a desolate angel rather than a grievous one.

Wonderfully atmospheric Weather Codes is claustrophobic. Sluggish like a bayou and reminiscent of Louisiana swamps rather than prairies: a place of degenerate rituals rather than wild horses. It’s the morning after Patrick Swayze’s wake in a decaying waterside shack where the constant buzz of insects drives you insane but you still can’t leave. Melancholy without being depressing.

The Growlers – Hung at Heart (Fatcat Records)

The fairground soundtrack to an unproduced David Lynch film set in a freak show Hung at Heart defies definition despite reminding one of so much. The singer’s unique droning vocals, a mix between a drunken Jim Morrison and Buddy Holly after a bar fight, providing coherence.

It would be unfair to claim this breaks new territory, it too derivative for that, too traditional, but it feels fresh. Heavy manipulation and exquisite picking with occasional sweeping guitars: understated swing with an edge. More roll than rock. The Growlers state they ‘just want to live in between’ and I think that sums them up too: in between and better for it.

Prurient – Through the Window (Blackest Ever Black)

I don’t like being told what to do. One exception is sleeve notes, which I obey to the letter. (The artist has hopefully spent aeons producing the album so they must be aware of the best way to enjoy it.) I listened to More Specials with an adjusted stereo balance control and only played Mind Bomb ‘VERY LOUD, VERY LATE, VERY ALONE… and with the lights turned very low’.

Through the Window’s edicts are more difficult to execute. ‘Listen at night in the hills watching headlights approach’. I could find some hills and night falls regularly, but as a freelance writer I didn’t have the time to wait for some headlights to approach. (Well I did but I chose not too.)

In the end I informed some chums that their pet goldfish would die unless they met me at the top of Scafell Pike and listened to Through the Window as I watched their head-torches angrily progressing up the hill*. (I was aware that Mr Fernow probably meant car headlights but I profess green sensibilities and that would have been environmentally damaging. We don’t own the earth we just look after it for our children.)

Intriguingly it was worth the effort and added considerably to my enjoyment. This is an aggressive and atmospheric albumette. A menacing, attenuated, electronic affair that keeps building towards an inevitable crescendo that never comes like accelerating into a void.

Unfortunately the ominous tunes had me continually looking around nervously which distracted me from the approaching lights but I did my best.


Raketkanon – RKTKN #1 (Zealrecords)

Since my seventh divorce, my mother dying and my children being requisitioned by child services I resolved never to be shrieked at again. So normally I avoid fare like this, turning it off before the first guttural cry has faded. This time – following many barracking calls and threatening communiqués from the editor, not to mention withheld payments – I have relented and listened to RKTKN #1 in its entirety and was pleasantly surprised.

This is an intense, chaotic experience, comprising screaming, tremolo picking and blast beat drums, but is subtler than it appears. There are certainly some minimalist, industrial and post-rock influences discernable and interesting vignettes between tracks. Brief interludes that provide an aural sanatorium where listeners can recover between onslaughts. Discordant and challenging but not without merit.

The words are completely unintelligible. Raketkanon allege this is to keep them purposely vague, so why write them, especially as the compositions are far better without them?

This is angry and aggressive, but if I lived in Belgium I’d probably produce music like this just to convince the rest of Europe that we’re not all bureaucrats.

The Postal Service – Give Up (Sub Pop)

Given the highly violent and unstable nature of the average US postman I was expecting a selection of rousing battle hymns rather than these insipid electronic doodles with semi-spoken lyrics that lack both insight and emotion.

The cover is overly elaborate with a hint of desperation. Look at me! Look at me! Designed, no doubt, to distract you from the content. The production costs must be enormous and it may be the label’s Fac 73. Thankfully, no matter what strange accounting system they use, it shouldn’t end up losing money like Blue Monday as it won’t be successful.

That this went platinum proves categorically that millions of people can be wrong. (Then again look at U2 and Michael Jackson.) There are so many excellent unsigned bands out there you have to wonder why Sub Pop re-released this sub-par offering.

Re-releases are only for fanatics or desperate labels, only worth buying for the extras. Personally, I took the band’s advice and gave up long before disc two. If you don’t I fear you may be picking up a selection of high-powered assault weapons and heading to the nearest mall.

*Once more may I express my immensely gratitude to Apple for inventing the iPod as it would have been extremely time consuming lugging a generator, fuel, record player and speakers up England’s highest peak, and probably not worth it for 31 minutes and 4 seconds of fun.

Stephen Watt intends to listen to Prurient again and is looking for some people to approach him at night wearing headlights. He’d ask his friends but they are refusing to return his calls.