Thursday, 29 January 2009

Another Day, Another Eulogy ...

I've just found out that one of my favourite English blues/folk musicians, John Martyn has died today, after a long battle with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Throughout his career, John Martyn blurred the lines between blues, folk, and dub, experimenting with taking the traditional folk sound and adding elecronic effects in the 70's. he mixed with some of the most influential musicians of the era, including Jimi Hendrix, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, David Gilmour and Eric Clapton.

He hit the big-time with his 1973 album, 'Solid Air', written in response to the death of his friend, Nick Drake. He followed this up with a number of live album, before the breakup of his marriage inspired John to write 'Grace and Danger'. The material was so close to the bone that Island Records initially refused to release it. John described himself as 'going off a cliff' after it's release, and started on a downward spiral of drugs and drink.

I first heard John Martyn's work on a compilation, where he covered Portishead's 'Glory Box' so well that I thought it was the original. Soon afterwards I picked up on of the Cafe del Mar compilations that had Talvin Singh's remix of 'Sunshine's Better', which is equally fantastic. His 'Solid Air' album was such a favourite of mine and my wifes that we played 'May You Never' during the signing of the register at our wedding.

John Martyn / May You Never

John Martyn / Glory Box

John Martyn / Sunshine's Better (Talvin Singh Remix)

I'm sad he's gone. RIP John Martyn

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Rest In Peace, Charles Cooper

Heartbreaking news, but a lovely tribute from ElevenThirtyEight.

"Well today my musical soul received the truly devastating news that Charles Cooper one half of the excellent production team Telefon Tel Aviv died.

At the time of writing this, the rumour mill is starting to hint at Charles taking his own life, but along with this, the electronic music community on the web on many many forums is expressing a deep sadness and shock at this loss.

Whatever the circumstances that lie at the cause of his death, what I will remember him for is that Charles and his musical partner Joshua Eustis have made some of the most beautiful and technically outstanding recordings I have heard this decade. You may not have heard of their music but once you take a listen you will hear their influence resonating through many a top producers output over recent years.

Please go buy the new album, turn your lights off turn, the sound up and peek into the wonderful sonic world of Charles Cooper and Joshua Eustis.

Bless yer soul Charles."

Playing the 'anonymous' game?

Following up a recent recommendation, I picked up a 'Walking Backwards' by the slightly mysterious Clutchy Hopkins a couple of weeks ago. If you're a fan of old school, soul based instrumental hip-hop a la MF DOOM then this is definitely worth a look.

If you believe the blurb on his website, Clutchy is the son of a Motown engineer, who went to Japan to be Zen Monk, before going to India to study Yoga. As if this wasn't enough he moved to Nigeria to learn the drums, before being persuaded into becoming a gun runner during their civil war, then went back to the States to release his music, which he's being doing under different identities since the 70's before retiring to live in an underground cave in the desert. The album was bought as a set of reels found at a yard sale in 1992.

Obviously, this information could only be revealed by his friend, a Mohave Indian Shaman, making the entire far-fetched tale even more unlikely.

The Internet rumour mill has been working itself into overdrive in an attempt to work out who he really is, with suggestions as to his real identity running from Cut Chemist, via the Beastie Boys, to Money Mark.

All I know is that the album is brilliant, full of dry snare cracks, organic woodwind and shimmering organ lines, perfect for late night listening.

Clutchy Hopkins / Percy's on the One

Clutchy Hopkins on Myspace

I'd bag a copy now before it turns out to be DJ Shadow in disguise, and copies start turning up on eBay for £200 a time ...

Friday, 23 January 2009

It's not all about beats

If you are like me, then you occasionally get obsessed with a song.

I've been playing Playing Dead for three months and I still can't get enough. There's something magical about it - the percussion is deep, the strings are mournful, the words are hard to work out but ultimately optimistic, he's got a bit of Bill Callahan about him and she sounds like she's fifty years too late. It'd be easy to lump this in with Bon Iver and the rest of them, but there's something extra special about it.

Who knows who Breathe Owl Breathe are, but they look great and I hope they come over here soon.

Breathe Owl Breathe - Playing Dead

Buy Breathe Owl Breathe at eMusic

"I got you, didn't I." Yep, you did.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Happy Birthday Ray!

Thanks to eleventhirtyeight for this twisted birthday tribute to Ray Dolby who was born three calendar days ago, in 1933.

"Ray Dolby not dobly. Ray invented the Dolby noise reduction system and also co-invented video recording on tapes. It says this of the Dolby system on Rays wikipedia entry.

'Dolby noise reduction works by increasing the volume of high-frequency sounds during recording and correspondingly reducing them during playback. This reduction in high-frequency volume reduces the audible level of tape hiss.'

This is probably true but to me Dolby was the switch on my dad's old cassette deck. If turned to the on position it took away hiss, simulated high frequency hearing range deafness and added a smattering of 'this sounds a little bit shitter than it did without it' to anything played on it. Thanks Ray.

Ray also co-invented video tape recording and in doing so probably hoped to and actually did co-invent the home porn film collection. Ray is also said to be worth $2.9 billion. He married a lady who has now the misfortune to be called Dagmar Dolby. He also has two children, B Dolby and C Dolby. Ray was inducted into the consumer electronics hall of fame in 2004. What an event that must have other inductee that night was Woo Paik. There's no wiki on Woo Paik. I'd hazard a small wager that Woo was a stooge hired that night by Ray to dissuade anyone from thinking Dagmar Dolby had the funniest name at the buffet.

Ray and Dagmar have contributed 16 million dollars to a stem cell research centre in San Francisco. Happy Birthday Ray. "

Cheers Stu.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ode to Joy?

As today sees the world wave goodbye to what has to be the least popular commander-in-chief in living memory, I thought I'd put up a track that has been written to welcome his replacement.

Barack Obama seems to have had the support from a lot of artists since the early days of his run for the Presidency of the USA, with musicians of all colours, creeds and musical styles all doing their bit to support the 'Great White Hope' of the more liberal side of the American public.

This track is from a recently discovered artist for me, as much as I love Hip-Hop, I tend to steer clear of a lot of the American pseudo-gangster style, but Brother Ali's album, The Undisputed Truth, has some stand out tracks on it. In the course of finding out more about his work, I came across this:

Brother Ali - Mr. President (You're The Man)

Brother Ali on Myspace

I might well play this tonight on my show from 10-12 GMT, in honour of the first Black President of the USA - hope you listen in. If you do, get involved on the Purple Radio Forum

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Blue Monday

Apparently tomorrow is Blue Monday, according to the BBC (have a search on Google for "blue monday" and "19th January 2009"). I like the idea of it being reclaimed by the International Optimists Society though.

Expect a version of New Order's Blue Monday on tomorrow night's Rob on the Radio, but in the meantime, here's a link to a gabba flavoured version, which was part of the 1995 release remixes.

New Order - Blue Monday (Plutone Remix).

New Order at Amazon

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Isn't this brilliant?

A couple of months back, I was raving on the Purple Radio forum about the time that the Pet Shop Boys took over Radio 1, replacing Simon Bates for a week. And instead of Our Tune, they invited DJs to come and do a 20 minute mix. This was when house music was just crossing into the real mainstream. When there was no such thing as the superstar DJ. A time when big records caused real excitement. Because there was no internet. If you didn’t have the white label or a tape that you’d bought from Camden Market or Affleck’s or recorded from Stu Allen or Kiss (when it was a pirate.) then you couldn't hear the tune. Until the next time it was played in a club.

On the Friday, they got Sasha in. I was working in a summer job at Baxter, Woodhouse & Taylor in Poynton. Proper factory. Rows of people making expensive, almost papier mache elements for aeroplane air-conditioning units. Unskilled, and boring as fuck. We used so much glue that ‘Health & Safety’ recommended that you drink a pint of full-fat milk to line your stomach before the day started. We always had Radio 1 on. Predictably, the old guard were up in arms this week. “PET Shop Boys? You do know why they are called the PET SHOP Boys, don’t you?”.

We taped it, of course. We played it to death. It soundtracked driving to work, to clubs, and camping in lay-bys in Edale.

I lost all my tapes.

And then, this week, this bloke got in touch. He’d been trawling the internet for a tracklisting. And found my post. And then got in touch with a copy.

Get on the download. Because when Sasha does that clever business with two copies of K-Klass, it might just give you a feeling you’ve not had for a bit.

Sasha Radio 1 Mix, 16th August 1991

1. Horse - Careful (original) 2. The Meaning feat DJ Mellow - Showing You The Feeling 3. Urban Soul - Alright 4. Angels & Images - Heaven on earth (inst piano) 5. Dupree - Brass Disk (Accapella) 6. Congress - 40 Miles better groove 7. Raze - Bass Power (Accapella) 8. Leftfield - Not Forgotten 9. Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Accapella) 10. Moby - Go 11. K Klass - Rhythm Is a Mystery (2 copies)

Might as well start with a contentious one.

We meant it when we said we support new music. The last thing we want to do is upset anyone - especially new artists struggling to make a crust.

So, Brian, if you are reading and want us to take it down then give us a call.

Until then, have a bit of this. More genius from the Belgian plane-spotters. You've got to have a fair amount of self-belief to take on a song like this but they've nailed it. I played this when I was standing in for Blackie on Friday night - a great excuse for me to do something aimed at the feet instead of a hungover head. This started that couple of hours perfectly.

Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

Aeroplane - Only God

Aeroplane's MySpace