Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Love Letter to Coilhouse

So I’m quite fond of the blog, but I’m deeply in love with the Coilhouse magazine. It’s such a gorgeous, gorgeous thing, full of fascinating people and ideas and incredible imagery. The latest issue (already sold out) is all occult and haunted, with sigils and ghosts and hidden messages on every page. My favourite part is the Grant Morrison interview where he talks about magic, and talking to these scorpion gods who wanted him to become an assassin, to destroy people’s auras. The Famille Zaraguin, who he then wrote into The Invisibles.

Anyway, the point is that reading about all these people making incredible, unexpected things is really inspiring, which leads us on to…

…the lyrics for Swings, which are about that same thing, and were inspired by Coilhouse. These vocals are only a placeholder for now – there’s a second verse still to come, and I’ll do the whole thing again with my good mic rather than the SM58.

Then. A Flicker.

Building up to the release of the EP, we got together twice this week. First to update Swings, then RGB, which you can hear below in the nifty soundcloud widget.

For dinner we made a couple of pizzas.

A pizza patata, based on my recollection of a pizza I’ve had in a great Edinburgh restaurant, and a plain old margherita. The pizza patata is thinly sliced potatoes, mozzarella and rosemary on a pizza base, and we didn’t get it quite right. I think the base should have been thinner and crisper, it was a bit too doughy as it was.

The EP could maybe do with a little explanation – we’re going to release it on my record label, which I’m in the process of starting up. The first release will be an album of my own solo stuff as Giant Bears (beginning of Feb, hopefully), followed by this EP in March.

When my Mum told a friend of hers I was starting a business (albeit a tiny one that’s unlikely to ever turn a profit), the first question was; “What’s his USP?” (not unique selling point, USP -gag-). The label doesn’t have a USP, but it does have a reason to exist. When we think of music, we tend to think of it as this enclosed thing – it’s a sequence of notes, a particular collection of sounds, and that’s all it is. But there’s more going on than simply vibrations in the air.

What we see, touch and smell while we’re listening, all change how we hear those vibrations. Similarly, what we’ve read about that song and artist, the discussions we’ve had about them, change our perception. While you can technically argue* that there is an objective thing that is music, out in the world, that doesn’t change and is forever fixed, we do not perceive that thing as the fixed artifact it supposedly is.

The label is based on the idea that it is the perception of music which is the most important thing, and that therefore the surrounding material/discourse/etc. is every bit as important as the sound itself. So there will never be releases that consist solely of a collection of sound files uploaded to iTunes or wherever. A release will always be a mass of stuff surrounding the sound at its heart. Whether that’s an mp3 tangled within a mess of html and images, or a CDR bound up in a book of rough-textured paper, or even a game (and increasingly I’m thinking that games are the most interesting medium to work with – they can encompass so much).

This of course leads onto Marshall McLuhan’s theories of media. An mp3 is a fundamentally different medium to a CD. And how we perceive the music is different as a result (even ignoring mp3’s technical deficiencies – a lossless file format is every bit as different). The aim of the label is to release music that is aimed at a particular medium, in the same way as a painter would make a conscious decision to work with oil over watercolours. There will never be releases of the same music on different media, as (contrary to received wisdom) the media are not interchangeable.

That’s kind of a 1st draft of the label’s manifesto. There’s plenty of holes and contentious points, but I think it explains why the label exists (or is going to exist in a (gulp) week or so). And manifestos are meant to be contentious…

* – Or not, but for the purpose of the argument…

And also…

Forgot to mention, I want Florence to make music that sounds like this reads (see also the sad, bizarre follow-up).

Last post on Florence and the Machine, I promise.

Still Cold…

(apparently Britain was as cold as the Antarctic this week!)

Image from here.

We got together this week, but only to eat and watch The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. We made Lentil Stew (we really need to make some dishes that photograph better):

So I was following up my end of the year interest in Florence & the Machine, and I think visually her videos do get a bit more interesting after Dog Days:

I worry about her though. I think she’s possibly got the potential to do something really interesting, but I can’t shake the feeling that she’s doing exactly what you’d expect her to do. Her lyrics seem to exemplify the stereotype of women as purely emotional creatures, beholden to their feelings. And though she gets compared to Kate Bush a lot, it’s not a favourable comparison. With Kate Bush, right from the start you know that this is someone who’s interested in and engaged with the world, who has interests and obsessions. From Wuthering Heights, to Cloudbusting (all about Wilhelm Reich), to her interest in interpretive dance (and so on…), her songs lead places outside of themselves. Florence’s songs seem to be entirely inward looking – you don’t get any sense of her being a person in the world, just as an uncontrollable flux of emotion.

It feels to me that, where once an artist like this would have been expected to engage with the world in some way, now all we have is people stuck on the surface and going no further. This music is just music, nothing more. But the thing is, the best music, the music that sticks in your chest, that marks you and changes you, is never just music – it goes places, and drags you with it, it references ideas and creates new possibilities. It shifts the world ever so slightly on its axis.

None of this would matter, only her songs have caught hold of me in recent weeks and it bothers me, for the above reasons. Also, big disclaimer, I’m basing this on what I’ve heard of her on YouTube – it’s entirely possible there are far interesting more songs on her album.

Finally, I finished Tile Massacre SHMUP, you can get it here. OSX and Linux versions still to come, I’m afraid.

so… cold…

So as we all once again attempt the delicate balancing act of not freezing to death whilst also trying to avoid a repeat of the enormous gas bill we built up last year (or maybe that’s just me?), here’s some stuff I made. Hopefully it’ll warm you more than it did me. I’d hug you too if I could, if only because the heat from your body might thaw my icicle bones…

The Ice Maiden
Because Craig was talking about sculpture before I headed home for Christmas, and then my brother asked me if I was going to build a snowman. That’s all it took…

Tile Massacre SHMUP
So the assemblee competition is currently taking place over at TIGSource, and I’m taking part. For the first part I made a bunch of sound effects, and for the second part I’m making this shoot em up thing where you first have to create the level you’re going to play through. You can follow my progress here. Here’s hoping I actually get it finished before the deadline…

Cold Edit
A seasonal edit of a track we did (before we started the blog?) which I called Music Box and Craig probably called something else. The ending’s maybe a bit familiar.

Finally, I apologise for the blog’s missing background. It’s hosted on my own site (if anyone knows a better solution I’m all ears), which just got knocked down from too much traffic (I’ll have to wait to see the logs before I can work out why). It’ll be back up come the new year.

Craig’s Albums of 2009

No great explanation and in no particular order, all well reviewed elsewhere:

  • Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross
  • The Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
  • Annie – Don’t Stop
  • Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
  • Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Its Blitz

Actually very difficult to choose this year, some tough choices in my wee head.
Two honorable mentions:

  • The Wildhearts – Chutzpah! – such remarkable consistency, such a remarkable band
  • MSP – Journal for Plague Lovers – I was bizarrely excited about this and it didn’t disappoint. Not as staggering as THB, but pretty great nonetheless.

This Year’s Obsessions; Niall

We’re both going to do a post about our favourite music this year. Here’s mine:

This year my tastes seem to have been slightly more indie and mainstream than they have been for a while. I’m not entirely sure why, but it might be (partly) down to me not reading The Wire so much (I still think it’s the best music mag out there, but the writing hasn’t really grabbed me for a while, not the way it used to). I did like Loops, though it could have done with a few more interesting writers – I found some of the essays (bloody Nick Cave gets everywhere…) a bit tedious.

Fever Ray: Fever Ray

Easily the album that really grabbed me by the throat this year. I’d largely missed The Knife (barring this stunning video), but the above video completely knocked me for six. The lighting, the colours, the suburban shaman girl… It’s the album in miniature, the way it takes this everyday setting and turns it into something other, something far stranger and more unexpected and unpredictable. It’s music that makes the ordinary strange, with lyrics about dishwasher tablets and foresters in high heels. And like the best music (/art), the more you listen to (/obsess about) it, the more it shapes your perception of the world, the more it shows the everyday banality of life in this culture to be nothing more than an illusion.

The world is far stranger than it appears.

Gang Gang Dance: Saint Dymphna
Technically this was released in 2008, but I’m rarely up to date with my listening habits and only got it this year. Anyway, I’m deeply in love with this album and its giddy, ecstatic joy. That bit towards the end of First Communion where it just opens up and races to the finish was the biggest rush of the year for me.

Ideally this is the kind of band I’d like us to be – excited, ecstatic and omnivorous in terms of sound and genre. Sadly I think we tend to be too heavy handed and wed to our guitars though. The only song that comes close to the ideal is Sunshine Starlight (still needs a better name), which is fairly atypical compared to our other stuff.

Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career
This is as indie as I get before I have to throw up. There’s all sorts of things wrong with this album – the fact it could have been recorded 50 years ago and it would have fit in perfectly, the way it’s drenched in so much reverb it sounds like it’s covered in honey and syrup and treacle all at the same time, the utter lack of ambition… But French Navy is a stunning, jaw-dropping pop song, which pretty much makes up for it. I’m not exactly happy about it (really this is not the kind of music I should be listening to in 2009) but I have had this album on a lot this year, so I couldn’t ignore it here.

Los Campesinos!: We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
This is Kieron Gillen’s fault (serves me right for going to youtube to see what he was talking about). See my Camera Obscura comments. While indie though, Los Campesinos! definitely have some ambition and manage to create some interesting sounds despite themselves. And there’s a fantastic bitterness strung through their songs – it’s great to hear a band like this who recognise this world is a pretty horrible place to live. Bizarrely inconsistent lyrics (quality-wise) – “I’ve got a fist on fire”, really? and:

“I taught myself the only way to vaguely get along in love is to
like the other slightly less than you get in return.
I keep feeling like I’m being undercut.

…in the same song. Anyway, I think it’s their odd combination of bitterness and optimistic(?) music that got me. This is another one that’s had a lot of plays despite myself.

Subtle: For Hero: For Fool
Way behind the times with this one. Forget Camera Obscura, this (this and Gang Gang Dance) is what music should sound like in 2009 (I’m aware of how depressing it is that neither album was released this year). Doseone is really the only lyricist worth listening to these days. Here’s his take on reality shows:

“winner of the only and annual “serious serious gut’s competition”…
(Sponsored in part by the pain reliever people and heads of music television)

Yes, you and ten other tough guys
slit smiles across your then perfectly sturdy stomachs
and spread your large intestines boldly out across a coated white poker table….
the starter pistol barked and each contestant commenced to carefully comb
their own eager entrails from behind a one-way wall of mirrored eyewear
everyone a hopeful breathing heavy
sifting through their mortal coil with their finger tips,
for the most intimidating lengths
of well sculpted and primetime stomach links.

Every so often… in the name of health
an executioner capped usher struts about the gut covered table
misting everyone’s exposed and heaving organs
with a modified and fancy water pistol.

As always this years celebrity judges are only
of the most incredible persuasion
charles bronsons angry and gay only daughter,
icecube back from when he was hard
and a framed 8×10 of joe namath’s kneecaps.

And because you won
they stitched up your open abdomen first.

gave you a nice rambo knife,
some choice cigarettes
and cut you loose in the ozarks.

The question being not if, but when
you will kill for your next meal…”

…and the music somehow keeps up with that, a swirling flux of sound that darts off in odd directions and never repeats except in the most unexpected fashion. Also it has the line “desperate times call for step-by-step schematics of the human dive”, which to me suggests an entire world. I’m pretty sure I’m going to steal it at some point in the future.