calling the ‘Spill police

Hello, Spillers all. Hmmm… I received a $25 gift card from iTunes for my birthday. Now, I haven’t bought a thing from iTUnes since a certain McFlah said he’d never paid for an mp3. But this seems like an interesting opportunity, because there are things it’s hard to find elsewhere. So what should I get? I can tell you I’ve spent the day listening to spotify, and the force of Saneshane, Nilpferd, Ejay, Mnemonic and others is strong with me. I listened to a lot of Aesop Rock (can you recommend an album, SS?) Cannibal Ox, Eddie Harris (I love Listen Here, what album would you recommend, Nilpferd?) Colette Magny, DJ Mehdi (Can’t find a full album), Tabu ley Rochereau… And this last is where the real questions start, because I read a bit about Tabu Ley Rochereau (Can you recommend an album, ejay?) and then I started listening to Wendo Kolosoy (and I love it)… Can ejay, or goneforeign, or anybody else that knows these things tell me where to go next with all this? Ahem. I suppose I’m asking for some direction with the vast vast vast afropop universe.

But even if you have no interest in that–if you had a $25 iTunes gift card, what would you do with it? (It’s pretty large, you could probably use it as the base for a lego skyscraper.)

All That Jazz #3: Blues

Jazz and the blues. There’s little disagreement about their close relationship, their common origins and their frequent cross-overs. Considerably more controversial is the question of whether it’s true, as some argue, that if you can’t play the blues then you can’t play jazz, or that jazz without some element of the blues ceases to be jazz. That tends on the face of it to rule out the possibility of any genuine European or other non-American jazz, and often gets brought into the argument that white men can’t really play jazz – because of course white men can’t really play the blues.

One of the reasons this is so arguable is that there’s almost as much disagreement about the nature of ‘the blues’ as there is about the true essence of jazz, and hence considerable difficulty in deciding whether or not a particular track has blues in it or not. I Don’t Know What Kind of Blues I Got, as the Duke Ellington song put it. Is it the long-suffering, “I woke up this mornin’ and wished I was dead” misery lyrics? Is it the classic twelve-bar, I-IV-I-V-IV-I structure – and how far can you start substituting more complex chords into that structure, as Wayne Shorter does, before it ceases to be blues? Is it the regular use of the blues and pentatonic scales in improvisation, and how do you stop that becoming a cliche except by using some other scales and thus ceasing to be blues? Is it the blues scream and its instrumental equivalents, the microtones and dissonance – and at what point does that cease to be blues and start turning into nasty atonal free jazz?

All of these tracks, I think, show their links to the blues pretty clearly, whether in formal terms (Shorter’s classic Footprints or the near-pastiche of Miroslav Vitous and Jan Garbarek, both using variants of the standard chord structure) or in terms of their ‘feel’ (a track from Mingus’ Blues and Roots album, recorded specifically to show that he could do roots music as well as the more sophisticated and elaborate compositions he was best known for in 1959, and, sorry GF, Ornette Coleman, for me one of the bluesiest jazz musicians going). The real challenge would be to find a track that doesn’t have any blues influence at all and yet is still recognisably and unarguably jazz, but I’ll have to think about that one. Modern Jazz Quartet, maybe.

For all those of you who were hoping that I’d forgotten all about this; sorry, just been rather busy recently…

Pixies news and gratuitous cat shot!

Just read this and wowee, Doolittle! Exciting! And Mnemonic mentioned that I should post a pic or two of Dani, our insane, characterful rescue cat, so here she is, napping in the poppies.


MONDAY, June 29, 2009 — To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their 1989 album Doolittle, the Pixies – Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering – will embark on a very special tour this fall – the Doolittle Tour – which will kick off with two nights at the Olympia in Dublin, Ireland on October 1 and 2. Tickets for all dates (listed below) go on sale this Friday, July 3 at 9AM.

For the Doolittle Tour, the Pixies will perform all of the songs from Doolittle and its related B-sides. Pixies’ classics such as “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Hey,” and “Gouge Away” are all on Doolittle’s track listing.

“We wanted to do something special for Doolittle’s 20th anniversary,” said Black Francis, “and we thought his was a good opportunity to play all of the songs from that album, something we don’t normally do at a regular gig.”

With the first date still three months away, the band is brainstorming on Doolittle-related surprises that will also comprise the nights’ entertainment.

Dates for the Pixies’ Doolittle Tour, and appropriate links to purchase tickets are as follows:

1 Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
2 Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
4 SECC – Hall 4, Glasgow, Scotland
6 Brixton Academy, London, England
7 Brixton Academy, London, England
8 Brixton Academy, London, England
9 Brixton Academy, London, England
11 Jahrhunderhalle, Frankfurt, Germany
13 Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, Holland
14 Forest National, Brussels, Belgium
15 Zenith, Paris, France

And now a little something for the grandmas and grandpas in the crowd

Wolfgang’s Vault: A free treasure trove of live rock performances, the Vault acquired the Bill Graham Presents master recordings of live concerts from the Fillmore East and Winterland between 1965 and the late 1980s.
Added to that are recordings of the King Biscuit Flower Hour; the Record Plant and Dawson Sound catalogs; and modern sounds from Daytrotter and Noise Pop. Everything from the Allman Brothers to Zookeeper–all free.


I thought that this week, given the RR topic, we’d be inundated with pet pics, Shane had a go as did Carole and Shoey, but it never took off the way cats did, have we exhausted the subject? So to get my best mates their international internet 15 mins of fame here they are, Seamus, Jasmine, Marley, Biko, Chips and the brown cat.

Seamus is the world’s best dog, no argument, he’s a German Shepherd, about 12+ years old, we’ve had him since a pup, he’s amazingly intelligent and does everything except speak English. That nose is like radar, ditto those ears; I used to pull a weed and toss it out into the field, 40-50ft and he’d chase after it with his nose glued to the ground going round and round in ever decreasing circles until he found it, then he’d bring it back to me. All that based on the fact that I’d touched it for about a second! During all that recent Pink Floyd listening I didn’t pick up on the ‘Seamus’ cut on the Meddle album until it was mentioned at RR, my Seamus does a way better wolf howl than the PF dog, everytime an ambulance goes by it triggers him and Marley together.

Jasmine was the runt of the litter so we got her free, she’s his best friend and has an absolutely wonderful personality, she doesn’t just wag her tail ecstatically to greet you, she wags the entire read end. She goes insane. The frog was also her best fiend for a while, totally inseparable.

Marley you met about 10 months ago, now he’s working at becoming a handsome young man, we bought him so there would be a continuity when Seamus died, he’s not as smart but he’s going to be OK.

Biko; he adopted us in Long Beach in about 1988, he was an alley cat, thin as a rail and used to eating out of trashcans, when he found us he thought he’d died and gone to cat heaven; a warm bed and regular meals. We used to travel a lot in an RV, he came everywhere with us, he’d prowl backwards and forwards across the 6ft wide dashboard absolutely intrigued with that huge world out there. He died of old age some years ago but is very fondly remembered.

Chips, AKA Sascha depending on who’s talking to him thinks he’s a dog, he follows me everywhere, if I go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea he’ll follow me and sit at my feet ’til I’m done, then he’ll follow me back; he spends a lot of time sitting on my lap having his ears rubbed when I’m at the computer.

BrownCat is very afraid of something, probably from a prior lifetime, he sleeps upstairs all the time only showing his face at meal times, I’m trying to get him to let me get close to him, sometimes he lets me touch him.

OK, so there they are, I think if you click on ‘em they’ll get bigger, does anybody else have pets to share?

Count this as a bonus ps; I recently came across this pic in my photo file. I’ve long been an admirer of Morton Subotnik, one of the early electronic musicians, in the late 80′s I saw this picture of him in the LA Times, I couldn’t believe it, he looked exactly like me, so I had a friend take this pic of me in the same pose, I always wanted to send it to him but never did.

What is this "tape" of which you speak?

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don’t have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, “Walkmans eat tapes”. So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day 

Yes, the Beeb gave a 13yr old a gen1 walkman to have instead of his mp3 player for a week. You can read more here. Quite sweet, really. 

Anyone had any similar old tech/new tech experiences lately? 

Breathing Space, The Intake Club, Mansfield

Olivia Sparnenn at The Intake Club, Mansfield
Olivia Sparnenn

In CaroleBristol’s review of Mostly Autumn at Gloucester, she remarked that it would have been good for backing singer Olivia Sparnenn to have a bigger role.

In addition to being Mostly Autumn’s backing singer, Olivia also fronts Breathing Space, a band she put together with Mostly Autumn keyboard player Iain Jennings in 2005. What was originally a side project took on a life of it’s own when Iain left Mostly Autumn at the beginning of 2006, but they have continued recording and touring even after Iain rejoined his old band at the beginning of last year.

Over the past couple of years Olivia Sparnenn has got better and better as a vocalist and frontwoman. Indeed, she auditioned and made the shortlist for the gig with Finnish symphonic metallers Nightwish, and I still think she’s better than the singer who finally did get the job.

Many fans of the band were saddened at the unexpected departure of Breathing Space’s guitarist Mark Rowen at the beginning of the year due to good old ‘musical differences’ (I’ll say no more). His replacement was none other than Mostly Autumn’s second guitarist, Liam Davidson.

Liam Davidson at the Intake Club, Mansfield
Liam Davidson

Changing just one band member has transformed the band’s sound far more that I’d expected. Mark Rowen’s economical jazz-tinged playing was a major element of Breathing Space’s sound, and Liam has a very different style. With Mostly Autumn he’s always very much in the background, but I’ve always thought he’s a far better guitarist than many people realise. Given the chance in the spotlight shows just how good he can playing lead. He doesn’t try to copy Mark’s solos note-for-note, instead using the basic structure as a template for solos of his own.

The result is a far rawer and rockier band, which actually suits Olivia Sparnenn’s powerful vocal style very well. Many of the big soaring ballads and jazz-rock jams that epitomised the album “Coming Up for Air” have been retired from the set in favour of guitar-driven hard rock numbers, turning the overall energy level of the set up several notches. A surprise was the Mostly Autumn standard “Never the Rainbow”, which I’d not heard Breathing Space play live before.

The set included several new songs from the forthcoming album “Below the Radar”. The title track has been in the setlist for a while, but the standout of the new numbers has to be the encore, “Questioning Eyes”, a huge soaring and emotionally moving epic in the same league as Iain’s Mostly Autumn classics “The Gap Is Too Wide” or “Carpe Diem”.

It’s a pity a band this good isn’t better known; they deserve far better than playing to less than a hundred people in a small club in Mansfield.


I had a (n enforced!) afternoon off work today. Ah…I’ll do some tidying up, maybe read a little, then pop to the shops and get dinner ready for when Mrs Japanther comes back from work, I thought.

Halfway through the afternoon I thought, I know, I’ll just re-organise my entire record collection quickly, i’ve been meaning to do that for ages…..cue, two hours later with me splayed out on the floor with stacks of unsorted vinyl around me. It’s now more of a mess than when I started as I’ve just shoved it all back hastily in order to get dinner ready in time (still not done it yet!).

As we can’t ask these kind of things in the EOTWQ, I’ll ask here. How does it go in your place? Alphabetical? Genre? Chronological?Most played?Shove the embarrassing ones in the corner?

The Bunny Run

Inspired by this week’s theme, but otherwise entirely irrelevant, is the story of the Bunny Run. The drama group I was in in Milton Keynes was famous for its local documentaries, and we did one about life in Stony Stratford in the 1920s and 30s. This is what some Stony residents remembered:

“Sundays, we used to walk the High Street. Everybody did. It was the highlight of the week…

Up Stratford High Street, on Sunday nights, they used to call it “The Bunny Run”. You’d walk up and down, talk to girls, Sometimes, in the summer, you walked across the fields to Cosgrove…

They used to go and stand about in the shop doorways and they used to reckon that, if you walked up the “Bunny Run”, eventually you’d get a young man. This is going back about 1936 or ’37. It was like a promenade at the seaside. If you’d got a new coat or anything new, you had to appear…

I think there were some people in them days, met their partners on the “Bunny Run”…

Sergeant Rollings would come by. “Come along. Out of those doorways.”…

If any of the shopkeepers didn’t want it, they used to put a little gate across the front of the shop, so you didn’t go in the doorway. I remember Grafton Cycles put in a little gate, so no one could go in their doorway. Oh dear. When you think about it!…

The young fellows from Deanshanger, Stony Stratford and Wolverton would all walk the “Bunny Run” as we used to call it. We all used to walk and smile and nod and maybe have a word with someone and nothing ever went beyond that. I suppose, through talking to boys like that, you sort of got to know them. You might have a date with a boy and go out for a walk with him. That would be the start and then it led to courtship. Or you just had a date, where nothing came of it, and you sort of looked around somewhere else. That was a great pleasure; because that was one of the ways we really met boys unless we went to dances…”

Any courtship rituals in your neck of the woods?

The Bunny Run – the Living Archive Band

AOTW – 24 Years of Hunger

The last two weeks of AOTW have been spent discussing the pros and cons of two very well known albums (namely Pet Sounds – how prophetic was that? – and Dark Side of the Moon – Songs About Large Objects Orbiting The Earth next week?) so I thought it would be wise to choose an album that most of you probably won’t be familiar with.

Eg & Alice were perhaps an unlikely duo – Francis ‘Eg’ White was, along with his brother David, a founder member of Brother Beyond (you’ll be relieved to know that he left the band before the collective terrors of Stock, Aitken and Waterman descended upon them) and then teamed up with former BMX champion Alice Temple to record a truly remarkable album, called 24 Years of Hunger. It’s a major Toffee favourite, dating from 1991 but still sounding as fresh today as it did then.

The basic style and content won’t come as too much of a surprise to those of you who are familiar with the sort of music I like. If you only listen to one track, let it be Indian but of course, I encourage you to give it all a whirl. Let me know what you think.

In A Cold Way
Mystery Man
And I Have Seen Myself
So High, So Low
New Year’s Eve
Doesn’t Mean That Much To Me
I Wish

Let’s just hope the links work …

hi ho hi ho, it’s off to the mine we go

Data mining seems such a naughty thing, but most tech is neither good nor bad; its all in how it is used.

Take Marconius’ wonderful index of all things RR, which in a sense mines data from several sources into one great resource for us RR folk. That’s pretty much a mechanical labor of love; no one’s going to write a program to automate for such a small group.

But the folks at LyricMiner have apparently been thinking along the same lines as Marconius, and think they have a way to tap into the growing mixtape/playlist trend.

Their almost-out utility will be free at least at first, and runs on Mac, Linux or Windows. What it does is scan your music collection, checks it against 3 large on-line lyric databases, and creates a searchable keyword file. Because it is cataloguing only words, it is a realtively small text fie. It takes about an hour to catalogue 30,000 song files, and after that its miscroseconds. (There is a ‘watch folder’ option to automatically add new songs to the catalogue.

I’ll use this week’s RR topic to illustrate. Use ‘pets’ for instance, and it’ll give you a list of songs in your collecion that mention pets. It also uses a synonym and alternate spellings database to suggest other likely choices, PLUS – and I think this is sheer brilliance – it has some algorithm thingee which lets its servers monitor reputable sites dedicated to song meaning discussions, and from that adds other songs from your collection likely to be about the keyword.

And the list is ranked by likely matches. Eerie? Just a bit? But it’s pretty amazing. You can have a sneak preview here.

walkin’ the dinosaurs

“you think your pitbulls are hard.. meet fifi, fluffy, dinky, rara and REX.. my likkle babies”

exquisitely on topic to start with.. just not like me at all… but I did have to finish with ‘She Purred While I Grrrd’ whatever you think of the song and the fact that it doesn’t fit a pets theme.. what a title.
Had to miss out loads to keep it sensible..

Monkey riding

I’ve been thinking about the different ways in which we humans invite or coerce other species to share our lives. There’ve been a couple of songs about dancing bears on the Mothership, and this monkey I think probably didn’t choose to ride that bike – so they’re making money for their humans, but of course they may have other more petlike roles when they’re off duty. Then there are the trophy pets, like Paris Hilton’s handbag chihuahua; or those monkeys that people have instead of children – there was a documentary about some of them on the telly a couple of weeks ago. Here are some other ways:

Dogsong aka Sleep Dog Lullaby – the Be Good Tanyas
Black Cat – Maggie Holland
Bull Dog – the Shangri Las
The Falcon – Mimi and Richard Farina
Hellhounds – the Gourds
Cats Of Joy – Slosinger Redbury
Monkey Riding – the Cock and Bull Band

Steenbeck’s "cousin francais"

May I introduce you to Steenbeck’s French cousin. This is an Atlas. As you all know by now, a “Steenbeck” is not only our faithful, just-turned-40 (JUST) US of A correspondent or indeed a beautiful dog, but also a flatbed film editing machine. It serves to view your rushes and synch up the sound – or it did on the good old days when people still shot on film. Sniff. Anyway. I was at a “do” at our local TV station the other night and spotted this beauty in the corner. It is, in fact, the machine I edited my final year short film on as I came out to France with my rushes in my suitcase – got the job before I’d finished my studies y’see. And the director of the local TV station very kindly let me go down into the cellar every night after work and finish my film on this beauty. And now they have it exposed in the corner….
(Deep breath)
(Mental note to self: Must practice more on Final Cut…)


Pets On Parade

These are my Westies, Maisie and Daisy, when they were tiny puppies.

This was taken last Summer on holiday in Burgundy, Maisie is at the front. and the last picture is the pair of them tired out after a long day being cute and doggy.

They are getting on for three years old now. They are sisters and we got them as Christmas presents to ourselves in 2006. We love them to bits and are a pair of sad doting Mummies to them.

We had them vaccinated against rabies so we can take them on holidays with us, which is wonderful because I hate being away from them. They are well travelled doggies and we are taking them to the Loire Valley in September.

Hey Ms. SteenB.. all of us think you might be getting younger in the morning!

“I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled”

(I can’t quite link this properly at the moment.. but it explains why each track links to the next.. in a mammoth ‘Spill chain)
Captain Badass
Woke Up This Morning (Sopranos Mix)
Chasing the Dragon
Star Anis
Shining Star
Medly – Good Times/ Rappers Delight
Until The Lion Learns To Speak
Pass The Peas
Get The Funk Out
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
Gewn Ni Gorffen
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Daddy’s Speeding
I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire
Mix Up Matrimony
There Will Always Be
Another Man’s Rain
Rhythm Of The Rain
Jerry Weintraub
To Live Is To Fly
Hillbilly Willie’s Blues
In the sunshine
Call My Name Out
Man Gave Names To All The Animals
Baffling Smoke Signal
What A See (Tommy “Tikk Takk” Piper Mix)
Ciocarlia Si Suite
Unpronounceable Name

Dorothy At Forty
Over the Rainbow
The Pebble And The Man
Byrds Turn To Stone
The Littlest Birds
Oh No
I Don’t Know
Editions Of You
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
Bird Song
Light Flight
African Night Flight
Soul Flower (Remix)
Shine On You Crazy Diamond

How’s Spotify doing. First numbers released

Statements seen by the highly rated UK tech blog “The Register” indicate Spotify makes just 14p per user from its advertising-supported business.

The figures do confirm Spotify’s explosive growth – topping half a million registered users in the UK in May from a standing start in January.

But revenues at this stage are negligible. Advertising income was just over £82,000 last month, hence the 14p figure. The takeup of the tenner-a-month subscription program is small, and as a percentage of users, is falling.

Fewer than 17,000 UK users were signed up to Spotify Premium in May.

It’s early days for Spotify, and its potential is largely untapped. Spotify has yet to make its Premium service compelling; currently, it merely removes the already-unobtrusive advertisements. An offline version could be one way of luring subscribers – the mobile Spotify caches songs to be played offline, with iTunes-like easy synchronisation. An iPhone version is in the works, the company has confirmed.

Michael Jackson Dead?

Right now, as I type this, Michael Jackson is like that famous cat in that famous hypothetical experiment. 
This has lead me to think about the way recently, in the run-up to his London “come-back” gigs, that everyone seems to have forgotten the controversy that has dogged Jacko in the last decade. I’m not sure if giving children alcohol whilst they’re having a sleepover at your house is now acceptable? Or whether the large and frequent out-of-court settlements point to anything? Bu still, the way the radio is talking now, it seems like it doesn’t matter in the long-run. 
This leads to a question that has interested me for about the last 17 years: 
Should an artist’s art be judged by how they have acted in their personal life? 
Should Salvador Dali’s art be shunned because he tried to rape one of his models? 
Should Egon Scheile’s art be shunned because he had a penchant for underage girls? 
Should Gary Glitter’s art be shunned for similar reasons? 
Should Paul Gaugin’s art be shunned because he had a thing for exploiting underage natives from his trips abroad? 
Should Jackson Pollock’s art be shunned because he was an murdering alcoholic? 
Should Michael Jackson’s art be…..

RIP Swells

One of the only music journos of any note of the last 20 years has died. 
Steven Wells used to write for the NME, and was their most radical writer, even when surrounded by fawning sycophants, he stayed true to his anarchic ideals – and his articles WERE NEVER BORING. 
He also directed the Manics clip above, which is bloody ace. 
Swells wouldn’t like fawning sycophantic elegies, so I’m just gonna say, his stuff was around since i started reading the music press at 14, and I always thought it was (often wrong) but fucking awesome nonetheless. 
Swells struggled with Hodgekins Lymphoma, that eventually got the better of him. He wrote this amazing article about it a short while ago. 

A Message From The Beach

Following on from the mega-successful re-listening of “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys, the poet Stephen Kalinich wrote in to us, to explain how the Beach Boys’ song “Little Bird” came about: 

Thank you so much for including Little Bird.

I was sitting at his piano on Sunset 14400 Sunset Boulevard and I saw a bird on a tree branch and the lyric  came bursting out of me.I showed it to Dennis..we were inspired.  Around 3 AM he called me in 1968 and played me the song we had worked on that day and we both got chills.It was his first Beach Boy song and mine as well.It was a magical moment an it seems like only yesterday.It still gives me chills and I am still at it."  
Stephen also wrote many other Beach Boys songs, if you would like to find out more about what he's up to, visit his website by clicking here
The excellent record label Light In The Attic, home to one of my favourite ever bands The Black Angels, releases some of his stuff, a free mp3 can be heard below:

Be Still by Stephen John Kalinich