Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why I Love Liverpool Part I

Wylie, the soi-disant poet-ruffian, is perhaps the most underrated songwriter of his generation. And I am sure that he likes it that way. Pete, please Come Back.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ghost Box

Whenever you believe yourself to be so jaded and cynical that nothing you hear will ever surprise you ever again, you can be sure that you will hear something that will cure you of world-weary, seen-it-heard-it-don't-even-bother-playing-it to me ennui. I found myself cured the other day when I stumbled upon the work of the The Focus Group, one of the artists on the Ghost Box label.

The founders of the label are Julian House, famous as a design artist having created sleeves for the likes of Broadcast, Primal Scream and Razorlight, and Jim Jupp, a man whose day job bears the rather intriguing title of 'architectural technician.' The Focus Group is the name of House's project whilst Jupp's work goes under the name of Belbury Poly. Both artists look for inspiration not in the traditional nooks and crannies of music's history, but rather in more prosaic corners of the past of organised sound. Library music, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, vintage soundtracks and school music rooms all act as points of reference for the two groups, who alongside like-minded sound preverters such as Eric Zann and The Advisory Circle, form Ghost Box's roster.

For anyone who grew up in 1970's Britain the music has a special resonance; it brings to mind the theme music for scientific programmes on the morning 'Schools and Colleges' slot, and similarly for those of 'Open University', the likes of which you used to have to sit through on Saturday mornings when you had got up too early for the cartoons for fear of missing the beginning of 'The Banana Splits' (Quantum Mechanics was always a favourite of mine).
Unsurprisingly, given House's and Jupp's backgrounds, Ghost Box the label has a strong visual element. CD sleeves and label artwork echo pedagogical text books and Penguin paperback front covers. Blending the romantic pastoralism that has Ultramine's 'Every Man and Woman is a Star' as a reference point, and a more modern evocation of a Britain in the 1970's that was fuelled by the optimism of New Towns, the widening of access to Higher Education, and a Reithian notion of public service, Ghost Box produces music that forces you to look back to places you had forgotten ever existed.

If you are interested there are far more incisive, intelligent and informative discussions of Ghost Box's output by the peerless Simon Reynolds and the inimitable K-punk. And if you want to hear it for yourself I suggest you start with this snippet of The Focus Group's wonderful Activity and Scales.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

La Vuelta

Greetings. It has been a while I admit but I am back following several months of inactivity. The place has had a minor facelift, not that I think anyone will notice, and it is not quite yet complete. Thanks to Slaminsky for the inspiration to get going again, and for the contining nods in this direction. By the way, if you are a bemused reader of the good lady then I think this will help to clear up any confusion.