Something for the Summer: Baby Queens

Baby Queens at Dinefwr Literature Festival, 21/6/14

Baby Queens at Dinefwr Literature Festival, 21/6/14

As I’ve mentioned before, my mission at every festival I attend is to get hooked on a new act. This year, rather than Glastonbury or somewhere else with hundreds of different stages and performers, I was at the Dinefwr Literature Festival near Llandeilo in West Wales, mainly because Trwbador were playing. An interesting new experience – great set from them, fascinating guided tour of the remains of Dinefwr Castle, got heckled by the comedian Bridget Christie (I’ve never actually been to a stand-up performance before, but I do have a vague idea it’s supposed to be the other way round…) and heard the amazing Viv Albertine in conversation (but missed getting my copy of her book signed as I had to head off to Trwbador – dammit, Dinefwr, if you have only three stages why can’t you synchronise the timings properly to allow people to move between them..?).

However, the emphasis on the literary side of things did mean that the musical pickings were a little thinner: four blokes with copious beards who had clearly decided that the future of music was a fusion of Coldplay and Fleet Foxes (they may of course be right), some badly distorted noise with unintelligible vocals (needed more dynamic contrast, and I needed a beer – a shout out to Jacobi Brewery’s Red Squirrel) and… Cardiff’s Baby Queens. Perfect summer music: vocal harmonies that remind me a bit of En Vogue, plus some effective rapping; catchy songs with a chilled soul/RnB groove, with a hint of dub in the live performance (but they really need to get a proper bass player – the sound needs a bit more bottom end to be perfect). Four songs released so far (links to two of the catchiest ones below the fold), and an album planned for 2015. The one thing I find disturbing is that Gary Lineker is a fan, through a family connection, but please don’t hold that against them… Continue reading

Distance = Speed x Time

I think I may have done my last stint as Temporary RR Guru: the article that’s just gone up on the Mothership bears a certain resemblance to what I wrote, but they’ve changed various things for no obvious reason, not improving the sense and certainly not the style, they’ve taken out the best joke, and they’ve rendered the first paragraph more or less unintelligible. Obviously no attempt was made to check with me about any of this, and that means that the work I put in feels like a complete waste, to be left feeling this pissed off. Anyway, for what it’s worth and in case anyone’s interested, the original article is below the line… Continue reading

We Know What You Were Listening To Last Year


20140111/JnNSA-GCHQ/564q/20:00:01 Commencing operation.

20140111/JnNSA-GCHQ/564q/20:00:03 Monitoring identified channels, incoming and outgoing traffic, full decryption protocols. Key algorithms established to search for: Spill, RR, Awards, identified individuals.

20140111/JnNSA-GCHQ/564q/20:00:12 Surveillance feeds recorded according to agreed protocols with full deniability. Confirmed.

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Something Strange Is Coming…

That’s right: the Annual Spill Awards will be taking place from some time around 8 pm GMT on Saturday 11th January. In these depressing, belt-tightening times I can’t promise quite as much glitz and glitter as in previous years, but at least – many of you will be delighted to hear – it won’t be on Twitter. Much. Hope to see you there. The lady on the weird percussion instrument, incidentally, is Mrs Abahachi’s Hackbrett teacher in Munich…

Spill Awards 2013: Vote Vote Vote!!!

The nominations have been collected, scrutinised, tabulated, analysed and stared at with a blank expression for half an hour; my, aren’t we an eclectic, not to say completely random, group of people? Considering that we all read the same paper and visit the same music blog, there’s an astonishing lack of unanimity on more or less every topic under the sun except for the ghastliness of the current UK government – and even there we can’t agree on which individuals deserve the greatest degree of loathing. Over fifty different albums were suggested for Record of the Year, and the five shortlisted are the only ones that received support from more than one person.

So, time for the voting. We’re keeping things simple: one vote in each category. even if you haven’t heard any of the records or seen any of the films, feel free to vote according to any other criteria you like, as it’s only a bit of fun and the more the merrier. Polls will remain open until the end of the month, and the award ceremony will take place some time in early January once I get my act together – in response to overwhelming public opposition to the idea, not on Twitter…

Hail and Farewell

Don’t have time for more than a minimalist post at the moment, but wanted to mark the occasion…

HAIL to Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on his 80th birthday; doyen of the East German free jazz scene, not least because of his role in the wonderful and subversive quartets Synopsis and Zentralquartett. He was looking very frail when I saw them in the summer, but reports of a recent celebration of Frei Jazz Ost suggest that he’s still going strong.

FAREWELL to the amazing Stan Tracey, one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians of the 60s and 70s. Obituary here.

The Spill Awards 2013: Nominations Open!

Popular demand (well, two people and no arguments to the contrary) I shall once again be organising the Spill Awards, in which we get to demonstrate the range and eclectic nature of our taste even more than usual, and then end up giving awards to the same predicatble middle-of-the-road acts as everyone else because they’re the only ones that more than three of us can agree on… Because I’m horrendously busy at the moment, the awards themselves are likely to be in early January, but we need to open the nomination process so that the voting process can start in mid-December; don’t worry, it’ll all make some sort of sense in due course.

Please send an email to abahachi(a), listing your nominations for Album of the Year, Film of the Year, TV Programme or Series of the Year, Hero of the Year, Villain of the Year and Event of the Year. You can make as many suggestions as you want at this stage, as it increases the chances of putting together a shortlist with at least some level of support; you’re also welcome to write comments on any of your nominations, as I can then merrily plagiarise these at a later date. Please DON’T put nominations down in the comments, as that spoils the fun. If you could do this by Friday 13th December, I can sort out the voting process that weekend.

I have been wondering how to organise this year’s ceremony: another live blog would be a possibility, but in the interests of always moving forward and trying something new, are enough of us on Twitter that we could do the whole thing over there? We can discuss this in the comments.

Radio Abahachi: Solid Gold Classics II

Draper's UlyssesIt’s been ages since I’ve done any sort of podcast – I’ve just been way too busy at work – and for various strategic reasons this one has to be another of the cross-overs between Abahachi and my work identity. Still, better than nothing, I hope, and some of the music is fabulous…

Morrissey and I

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately, either here or on the Mothership; work is rather insane at the moment – I really do feel that I’m hanging on by my fingernails – and it’s not likely to get any better for at least a couple of months. I hope to find a bit of time this weekend to work on a podcast that I’ve been meaning to do for months, and I will do my level best to get my act together for the Spill Awards, unless anyone else wants to take over, but that may be more or less it. However, I did want to share this with you, or those of you who are or were massive Smiths fans. I never was, for various reasons that I won’t go into ‘cos they’ll just annoy those of you who are/were, but reading a post like this I can start to see the point…

What I Did On My Holidays Part III

pritzker pavilion, chicago

Well, the ‘Spill appears to hate me at the moment, as it refuses to let me post any comments (unless it’s just protecting me from the consequences of getting pointlessly worked up about stuff that doesn’t actually matter – you all know the genius of xkcd, right?) – so let’s see if it will allow me to create a post. This is just a brief report from my latest set of travels, which this week have brought me to Chicago; I’ve had to spend a lot of my time in conference sessions, but my dedication to academic debate has been sorely tested by the fact that this weekend is the Chicago Jazz Festival – completely free, decent beer from Goose Island, all in the lovely setting of Millennium Park. Two big tents, and the amazing Gehry building that is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, seen above, for the main acts. This evening I caught a fabulous set from the Robert Glasper Experiment, whose records I must seek out asap: avant-garde jazz meets electronica and hip-hop with added vocoder, and a hilarious cover of Get Lucky – cheered along by a capacity crowd of ten thousand or more. No, I must have been imagining that; everyone knows that jazz was ruined and lost all hope of popularity when it started getting all avant-garde…

What I did on my holidays, sorry, overseas placement (Part II)

As soon as I knew I would be spending a month in Berlin, I was scouring the webpages of various favourite German musicians to see if by any chance they would be playing somewhere within easy reach during this time. Top of the list was the Zentralquartett, the top group from the old DDR who play versions of traditional German Volkslieder like a New Orleans marching band filtered through free jazz. I was in luck; not only were they playing, they were doing just one gig, in a town just outside Berlin called Koepenick, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first time they played together, complete with satirical spoken-word interludes from various humorous writers. The fact that Mrs Abahachi was due to be visiting that same weekend, and hates free jazz almost as much as GoneForeign does, could not be allowed to stand in my way… Continue reading

Trwbador at Glastonbury

Trwbador @ Glastonbury

On one side of the camera – the opposite side to the one that takes pictures – is one of the more unlikely couples to visit Glastonbury this year; Abahachi broke out the old ‘CCCP’ t-shirt and spent lots of time in the Green Futures area, interspersed with surprising quantities of dub, while Mrs Abahachi oscillated between the Healing Field and the Indian street food stands. On the other side, playing on the BBC Introducing Stage, were your favourite Welsh avant-pop folktronica duo Trwbador, with a surprisingly muscular set. WOOOO!!!!!!!! Okay, I’ll be quiet now…

Scottish Mini Social?

I’m going to be in Edinburgh at the beginning of June – unfortunately only during the week rather than at the weekend – and was wondering whether anyone was likely to be free for a quick drink on the evening of Tuesday 4th or Wednesday 5th June (nothing too heavy, as I’ll have to be serious and academic the next day). Obviously the main reason for asking is that I have hitherto failed to find any decent beer there, and hence was hoping that some local knowledge might help…

Underground Jazz

bunker ulmenwallPart of the idea of spending a couple of months in Germany this year – besides improving my German, and doing some work, obviously – was the hope of being able to catch some of my favourite German artists who haven’t shown any signs as yet of making it over to the UK, and generally soaking up a bit of the music scene. Delighted to find that my beloved Zentralquartett are celebrating their 40th anniversary when I’m in Berlin in July with a cabaret extravaganza – radical poetry as well as anarchistic free jazz – and I grabbed a couple of tickets the moment this month’s pay went into my account. Last night, however, it was the turn of the Julia Huelsmann Quartet, a new partnership of the brilliant piano trio (there’s at least one person on this blog who shares my opinion on that, I know) with the British ex-pat trumpeter Tom Arthurs, playing in Bunker Ulmenwall in Bielefeld. I’m not sure I know of a finer jazz club, and certainly not one with this sort of history… Continue reading

Trwbador: ‘Trwbador’

My favourite description of Trwbador’s music is still the one offered by Radio Wales’ Adam Walton about their first EP: “There’s a wide-eared wonder and playfulness to their sound as if they were deserted at birth and raised by the instruments in the school music cupboard.”  Their early songs were gorgeous but fragile, a delicate balance of Owain’s guitar and Angharad’s voice with subtle beats underneath, feeling like they needed cosseting from the big bad world – rather like new-born giraffes, matchstick legs sticking  out at unusual angles. As their career progressed, the word ‘quirky’ was definitely called for: the mixture of Welsh and English, the juxtaposition of lovely pop/folk melodies and throwaway electronic experiments, the occasional lapses into giggly silliness (Google It) and unusual cover versions, generally featuring glockenspiel (Army Dreamers and Only Trust Your Heart), plus a guest spot on Cornershop’s 2012 Christmas single, Every Year So Different.

Now at last their debut album is here, and they’re all grown up…

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The Universe Has It In For Me…

As mentioned previously, I’m having to spend this month with my head down over the computer, meeting contractual obligations (20,000 words and counting…). This means that I have to ration not only my internet time, but also my music-listening time – generally I find listening to music helps me compose, but only certain sorts, and only if it’s already very familiar. New music is out.

So it’s absolutely bloody typical that this month seems to be bringing one album after another that I’d really like to explore. I got the new Tomasz Stanko for a birthday present yesterday, and haven’t yet managed to hear it all the way through (it’s a double album, which doesn’t help); one and a half listens of Wayne Shorter on Spotify, one listen of Mogwai, partial listen of David Bowie, and now I find that Brandt, Brauer & Frick, the German classical-meets-techno meisters, have released a new record as well, with more vocals than usual. It’s not fair…


At the risk of confirming the views of certain people that we’re a really weird, co-dependent cult, I just wanted to apologise for my recent near-absence from posting and commenting, both here and over on the Mothership. I have not done those things that I ought to have done, and there is no health in me… I miss you all, and I really feel I’m missing out on new music and intelligent conversation, but I have this wretched book to finish, and another 50,000 or so words to churn out before the end of the month, and so I really can’t afford either the time or the mental energy. Will be back, I hope, early in April, not least to write a proper review of the new Trwbador album, but for the moment here’s their forthcoming single…

Nordic Noir? Try German Gris…

ritzelOkay, you asked for it – or at least AIP did: a random literary post. I’m horribly busy at the moment, trying to finish writing a book by the end of March, which explains why I haven’t been around much and won’t have time to post much until that’s out of the way – but today has been reasonably productive (not with the book, but I’ve drafted part of a German job application, and worked through a load of other stuff), and so I can afford half an hour to respond to his plea for more randomness. I very much enjoyed the discussion of his post on fantasy literature, and so thought I’d take a cue from the references there to hard-boiled crime fiction and the like…

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Spill Awards 2012

You are cordially invited to join us for this year’s Spill Awards this evening at 8 pm GMT at the secret RR Conspiracy Base on the Moon. Yknow, where we hatch all the sinister plans to determine who gets picked for the Playlist for our own sinister ends. The Bavarian Illuminati got nuthin’ on us…


And the winners are… Continue reading

2012: Revivals, Rediscoveries, Remnants…

Counting down the hours until this evening’s Spill Awards ceremony, to be beamed in from a top-secret location (still making final arrangements with NASA, Deutsche Bahn and First Capital Connect to get all the special guests there more or less on time), I haven’t forgotten that I promised to give everyone the chance to mention stuff you’ve discovered or rediscovered in 2012 that was released some time earlier. For me, it was Blanck Mass; never heard of them before the Olympics, and to be honest at the time their song didn’t particularly stand out compared with all the other music at the opening ceremony, but a few days later I came across a reference to the sheer weirdness of giving such a prominent role to a side project of a group called, of all things, Fuck Buttons (nope, hadn’t heard of them neither), and just had to give it a listen. Magnificent stuff, and for a change I’m only a couple of years late in picking up on it…

So, what about you?

Sadly Missed 2012











One of the ‘Spill traditions is of course to note the passing of great musicians, and others, in the last twelve months – normally, with the effect of shocking us all at (a) how many, and (b) what amazing, people have died. It does feel as if 2012 has been a particularly active year for the grim reaper; I’ve gone with just two who meant a lot to me, and I’m sure there are loads I’ve forgotten. Which of this year’s sadly missed touched your life the most?

The Spill Awards 2012, Round 2: Vote! Vote! Vote!

Many thanks to everyone who sent in nominations for this year’s Spill Awards: you’ll be delighted to hear that we remain as bizarrely eclectic and disparate as ever – over 100 different albums nominated for Album of the Year, for example, so that the shortlist consists, as has become traditional, of all the records that two people (and very occasionally three!) mentioned – and with the usual minimal overlap with end-of-year lists in the mainstream music press. We now come to the next stage, the voting. Full instructions below – but first, an announcement about the award ceremony.

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Once More With Feeling…

Why haven't I been nominated for a Spill Award this year?

Why haven’t I been nominated for a Spill Award this year?

Brilliant to see so many new people on the Spill, especially on Ali’s hilarious EOTWQ post. Just wanted to make a final plea for nominations for the Annual Spill Awards, which close on Saturday. Full details about the process can be found here; in brief, email abahachi(at) with your nominations (as many as you like, within reason) for best album, film, tv show, anything else that occurs to you. I’ll put these together and see if there are any overlaps at all, and that will then form the shortlist that everyone can vote on. Basically, the more people who nominate stuff, the easier it will be to put together a decent shortlist. Please do join in!