I found these three wonderful things recently…
Firstly this magical video of stairtrails, by Christoph Malin.
As I understand it all the original still shots are from cameras aboard the International Space station (ISS) which have then been “stacked” via a computer programme. The process of stacking is very similar to creating a timelapse image, however as each new image is added, the previous one is retained, hence the continuous trails, lines and general wonderousness that is revealed as the image builds up…
I’m no scientist, but aren’t they the Northern Lights/ Aurora Borealis at about 1 minute in, and isn’t that lighting at about 2.05? I like the heightened sense of movement that these images generate. The ISS is traveling at just short of 28,000km/h – orbiting the planet about 16 times a day, and the quality of these images is made even more impressive when you consider the very high ISO levels that the cameras have to achieve in order to take account of this phenomenal speed.
Also on the Vimeo site, I also came across this stunning video by Babak Tafreshi
We had the very good fortune to spend an evening in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile watching the stars at the Mamalluca Public Observatory a couple of years ago. The memory of seeing whole constellations of stars and neighbouring galaxies climb up into the night sky, as our planet moved through its bit of space, will stay with me for ever. A truly amazing experience that this video captures pretty much as I remember, although as always through the restricted medium of a monitor/ TV screen, the mind numbing sense of scale will always elude the casual watcher…
And finally the music on the Atacama Starry Nights film. A track called Arecibo by the Swedish producers Carbon Based Lifeforms. No idea how I’ve missed this wonderful, epic space noise, as it’s right up my strasse…. Huge washes of static and infinitely deep chords and pulses that gradually build and mutate into.. well nothing really, just more of the same. Which is seriously what I like…
Their most recent album Twenty Three can be linked below via Spotify, but for now sit back, turn off your phone, click away your email, put your headphones on and pilot your own psyche through the Cosmos for 10 minutes… Nice…
I think it must have been someone on the radio talking about swans or fugitives (or something, I’m not quite sure now), but whatever, there was the idea and hey presto there it was on Spotify…
Like most people who have any knowledge of Swans way, I guess it was their appearance on The Tube in the early 1980′s that spiked my interest in the band.
Not in any sense my usual fare, Swans way were a smartly dressed three piece comprising Robert Shaw on vocals and sax, Maggie Du Monde on drums and Rick P. Jones on double Bass. Together they created a rich, semi orchestral sound with a brass section and a strong sense of soul and rhythm. As I say not in nay sense my usual thing at all, but there was something about these songs and those vocals that lifted them above the everyday…
Beautifully crafted and evocative, this was one of those records I played so much at University, that I literally wore the grooves out, making my copy now almost unlistenable in parts. And how do I know that I listened to it so much? Because despite not having heard it for all these years, I still knew all the words, all the tunes, all the musical breaks and all the little flourishes. It’s been sitting there in my head all these years waiting to be rediscovered…
Their big tune was Soul Train, a lush and atmospheric track which you can watch below to get a feel for their sound (and if you click the picture above you can listen to the whole album via the wonder of Spotify)
No idea why they only made one album, when they were this good together (musical differences I suspect) although I do know that the drummer and bass player went on to (slightly) greater success with a band called Scarlet Fantastic.
Maybe in these days of reunion and reconciliation, the possibility of some future gigs might not be out of the question… Personally I can think of nothing better than singing along to When The Wild Calls or The Anchor somewhere appropriate like The Union Chapel in Islington…
Bjork’s new LP is out today.. it’s called Biophilia. I’ve been listening to it on Spotify this morning, and it’s pretty good actually. A bit odd in places maybe, but full of her idiosyncratic sounds and vocals. I would say it’s definitely a Marmite kind of thing: either love it or hate it but I suspect there’ll be few occupying the middle “I’m not sure/ it’s alright” ground…
The intriguing cover for Biophilia continues to chart Bjork’s journey through the fringes of style and/or sanity… big red afro wigs, metal clothes and spangly lights are all in evidence…
I’ve quickly grabbed all her studio album covers and arranged them in chronological order to better assess her ongoing journey towards…. something… enlightenment possibly? From the simple black and white portrait of 1993′s Debut, through an increasingly exaggerated array of stylings and images, until for 2007′s Volta, she appeared to be wearing a big multicoloured plastic chicken suit…
On a more serious note, this album is the one of the first to be made available as an interactive IPad App… Not sure exactly what that entails yet, but it looks like you’ll be able to interact with and explore some of the various themes and sounds of the project, through videos, specially designed sequences and games. I think there’s even an opportunity to remix and/or rework some of the tunes….
If only I had an IPad, I would definitely be interested in that…..
I’m a big Tom Waits fan, the man is obviously a bona fide genius.
You may argue (as my partner does) that his appeal is something akin to Marmite, in that it’s either outright love or overwhelming hate. The middle ground does not seem to exist for Mr. Waits’s extraordinary and unique sound. Perhaps not unsurprisingly though, I love Marmite, so I’m sticking with genius…
Anyway, on a recent flight, I put on his truly fantastic 1976 album Small Change (possibly my favourite of all his records) and so enjoyed hearing “Step Right Up” again, that I ended up repeating it 5 times.
It’s a surprisingly up-tempo song for Waits, with a walking bass riff and a meandering sax, filling in behind Waits’s street seller\hawker\ con man, who’s trying to rustle up interest in the stuff he’s got for sale. He may or may not be wearing a big old coat, a beaten up hat and be holding a cane, but he’s obviously a silver tongued charmer from the old school, covering almost every possible angle of every possible item, for every possible punter… Something indeed for everyone.
Not surprisingly, some loony on the web has written out every single one of Tom’s wonderful words, which I of course have then stolen (and corrected in a couple of places) and pasted in after the YouTube link….
So if you don’t know if you like Tom Waits or not, sit back, click the link and enjoy the gravelly voice and verbal dexterity of one of the greatest poets alive today.
I give you Mr Marmite himself, Tom Waits….
Step right up, step right up, step right up,
Everyone’s a winner, bargains galore
That’s right, you too can be the proud owner
of the quality that goes in before the name goes on
One-tenth of a dollar, one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales
How ’bout perfume? we got perfume, how ’bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady, something for the little lady,
Something for the little lady, hmm
Three for a dollar
We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today
Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colours, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you’re tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don’t settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it?
Volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate
Don’t be caught with your drawers down,
Don’t be caught with your drawers down
You can step right up, step right up
That’s right, it fellates, it chops, it dices, slices,
Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair, it gets rid of embarrassing age spots,
It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that’s been at large
under the chaise lounge for several weeks
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master,
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it’s only a dollar, step right up, it’s only a dollar, step right up
‘Cause it forges your signature
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product
For complete refund of price of purchase
Step right up
Please allow thirty days for delivery, don’t be fooled by cheap imitations
You can live in it, live in it, laugh in it, love in it
Swim in it, sleep in it,
Live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it
Removes embarrassing stains from Condo sheets, that’s right
And it entertains visiting relatives, it turns a sandwich into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life
Change into a nine year old Hindu boy, and get rid of your wife,
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator
See you later alligator
And it steals your car
It gets rid of your gambling debts, it quits smoking
It’s a friend, and it’s a companion,
And it’s the only product you will ever need
Follow these easy assembly instructions it never needs ironing
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff,
Gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job, it is a job
And it strips the phone company free take ten for five exchange,
And it gives you denture breath
And you know it’s a friend, and it’s a companion
And it gets rid of your traveller’s checks
It’s new, it’s improved, it’s old-fashioned
Well it takes care of business, never needs winding,
Never needs winding, never needs winding
Gets rid of blackheads, heartbreak and psoriasis,
Christ, you don’t know the meaning of heartbreak buddy,
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
‘Cause it’s effective, it’s defective, it creates household odours,
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection
It gives you an erection, it wins the election
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It’s a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot, prizes, prizes, prizes, all work guaranteed
How do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it
We need your business, we’re going out of business
We’ll give you the business
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale
Receive our free brochure, free brochure
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions, batteries not included
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available,
Step right up, step right up, step right up
You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away
Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up
C’mon step right up
(Get away from me kid, you bothering me…)
Step right up, step right up, step right up, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
Step right up, you can step right up, c’mon and step right up,
C’mon and step right up
His abrasive and mocking style in which he attacked amongst other things popular culture, authority, organised religion and politics, was delivered with a conviction and style that I think is sadly lacking in many of the current comedians of today, who seem to have found success telling tedious stories about growing up in their home town, the funny things their kids do and/or looneys on the bus.
Bill on the other hand was different. I have one set where he opens by thanking the audience for their kind welcome, and says that he hopes he can fill their empty lives with stuff they couldn’t possibly think of themselves, straight to the point, sarcastic and funny…
My take on Bill Hicks is that he not only wanted to entertain, but was also keen to get his audience to open their eyes and question the accepted truth of things: i.e. untaxed drugs are not always bad for you, the Government is not always right, and parents don’t always know what they’re talking about. His big thing was smoking, and how all the cool people in popular culture smoked. He was hardly ever seen on stage without a cigarette in hand, having a go at anyone who objected, the sad irony being of course that it was smoking related cancer that killed him (so he was not always right…)
I first came across his work on an album by Hull’s finest Fila Brazillia. Tucked away on the end of a track called 6ft Wasp on 1995′s excellent Maim that Tune, was a brilliant sketch about marketing, which thanks to YouTube you can watch below…. (or listen to it on the Spotify link above with Fila’s wonderful washes of sound as a backdrop)
The other thing that always strikes me whenever I listen to his stuff now is how relevant it all is. Considering he’s been gone for nearly twenty years, his rants about drugs, war and artistic credibility were amazingly prescient and still ring true to this day. Listen to any of the many YouTube clips in which Hicks talks about the 1990/91 Gulf War, and the echoes to the Iraq war and the current situations in Libya and North Africa are scary…