Sunday, 23 November 2008

Fiction, My Empty Phantom, My Education

Austin, Texas has always been receptive to an alternative music scene and has played host in the past to pioneers of experimental rock, Go Roky, go! There currently appears to be a burgeoning wave of ambient post rockers willing to push the envelope of conjuring sound scapes.

Fiction originated, in 2005, as a collaboration between Jeremy Roye (vocals, laptop, effects) and Michael Zawodniak (keys, synths, bass, vocals) The following year, the duo later expanded the line up, with the addition of multi-instrumentalists Matt Latour (drums, flute, bass, vocals) and Henna Chou (cello, keys, bass, vocals) and starting playing live.

Their sound is experimental, with an evident influence of the Radiohead style of pushing the boundaries ethos, particularly in the vocal styles and wobbly head technique of the lead singer. Thrown into the plot are an assortment of strings, synthesizers, multi-part harmonies, electronic beats, live looping/sampling, and flute, all culminating in a satisfying musical page turner. The tempo of the melodies has a slightly twitchy, claustrophobic feel with repeated listens revealing extra layers of sounds, hidden under the nervy, chanty vocals.

The 'You Will Never' E.P was released back in late October 2008. A debut album provisionally titled, American Hologram, is pencilled in for release in early Spring 2009.

I have to give them an 8.23 out of ten! Usually I would shy away from clumsy 'marks out of' reviews but I will make an exception just this once, in order to shoe-in a superfluous librarian in-joke, indulge me please.

Your next chance to catch Fiction live is on the 13th December 2008 @ The Space Cave, 3109 Walnut St, Austin, Texas with D.J Mos Jeficit, Hello Lovers, Many Birthdays, and Little Stolen Moments in support.

They also play Lamberts on 24th January 2009 with My Empty Phantom and My Education, which sounds like a jolly good night out, if it wasn't a three thousand miles trek, I'd be tempted to pop down and catch this triple trippy toe tapping toasty of a show.

My Empty Phantom is basically a one man show from Jesse Beaman, who creates a very pleasing Eno-esque ambient soundscape, chilled but lively enough not be soporific. Have a break from the twenty four hour rush hour of twenty first century living and check out this live version of the hypnotic Field Of Flowers.

My Education have been creating epic sonic post-rock with a twist of Americana since 1999 and have four albums under their belt. It comes as no surprise that they've been involved with two original film soundtracks for Angels Egg and Sunrise, as their music has a definite cinematic quality about it. I can imagine one of their tracks, as the backdrop to a Wim Wenders movie or an indie flick, set in in a Texas trailer park.

The latest album 'Bad Vibrations' was released in June 2008 and this is the video of the title track, which is laconically lovely but a little bit eerie as well.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Strictly Oompah

There is a bit of a kafuffle at the moment out there the media land, as the staple of Saturday night-light entertainment television ‘The reality talent show’ is being hit by controversy. This is because the hordes of compliant armchair viewers, who are normally spoon-fed identikit ‘rising new talent’ performers, are rebelling against the perceived wisdom of the on screen experts.

Normally I don’t pay too much attention to these kind of shows, grudgingly accepting that they have their place in keeping the viewing masses docile, a pop culture popcorn, if you like. Recently, however, I have noticed a disturbing trend towards this pap crossing over into scheduling, where it has no business being.

The BBC have been chief perpetrators, in this dumbing down mission creep, particularly on the morning news, where I‘m subjected to the tedium of interviews of z-list personalities, who have been ejected on the previous evening’s episode of ‘Get Me Out Of The Strictly Celeb Factor House’ All the while, I’m looking on, slurping down my cornflakes in increasing incredulity, as important news stories of the day are cast aside, in favour of flagship presenters babbling away inanely, on a comfortable sofa, about pirouettes/cheesy ballads or eating raw Kangaroo bollocks. This isn’t what I fork out my license fee for, I increasingly find myself frothing away, in the voice of disgruntled Victor Meldrew type from Tunbridge Wells. Just give me some nourishing information you numb nuts, I feel obliged to mutter.

The usual rules of the Reality TV game are that the audience follow the advice of a panel of preening self-satisfied ‘names’ that make sure that the performing singer/dancer/monkey, who is most likely to make the aforementioned Svengalis, the most amount of money, ends up the winner. To compound this racket, the punters have to pay for the privilege of text voting for their favourite act, thus raking in a bit more dosh for the chancers, who in control of the television/production company, that are churning out this pap.

However, this time around, the masses aren’t playing ball, and are sabotaging the whole scam, by each week voting for the crappiest acts to stay in, purely for the enjoyment of buggering up the whole stale process. So, we are treated to the unedifying spectacle of the expert panel, getting more and more exasperated by the turn of events, pleading with the audience to vote out the weaker acts (i.e. low earning potential) and keep in their top tips (i.e. their potential cash cow)

This is the trouble with a voting democracy in action, you can fool the buggers most of the time, but occasionally they see a chink of light and realise they’re being manipulated and throw a spanner into the works. So ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fans, carry on voting for John ‘twinkle toes’ Sergeant, X factor followers, hang your heads in shame for not following through with the strength of your convictions, having voted out Daniel Evans, described as looking like "Ricky Gervais doing karaoke" by Louis Walsh.

The only sure way that these reality shows can retain their integrity is by tweaking the format, so that the subject matter is so awful, that there is no possible way that the Svengali vultures will sniff any potential money earning streams of revenue to feast on and will slither off to peck the eyes out of some other entertainment corpse. I propose that we introduce a ground breaking show ‘Strictly Oompah’ where rotund, sweaty, Germans parp their way to a lederhosen chaffing, sound honking, thigh slapping final! Surely there’s no money to be made out of this? Is there? Monkey Tennis anyone?

This is the track listing of ‘Strictly Oompah’ by Will Glahe and his Orchestra. Design aficionados: please note that the cover design retains Phase4Stereo’s trademark high standards of quality, even if the music within doesn’t.

1 Radetzky March 2 Cuckoo Waltz 3 The Fisherman From Bodensee 4 Wiener Praterleben 5 Hoch Und Deutchmaeister Marsch 6 Aud De Schab'sche Eisebahne 7 I Lost My Heart In Heidelberg 8 Wien Bleibt Wien 9 Die Dorfmusik 10 Schutzenliesel Polka 11 You Can't Be True Dear 12 The Faithful Hussar

If any of you out there, are deranged enough to actually want to download the mp3’s of this, it can done so here…

More Phase 4 Stereo Oompah delights can be found here..é

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Boxing Lesson

Here at Scratchy Towers, we thoroughly approve of those post rock pugilists from Austin, Texas The Boxing Lesson. We are delighted to go another round with them, by showing their latest video accompanying the track 'The Dark Side Of The Moog' taken off their 2008 album release Wild Streaks and Windy Days.

The video is directed by Eric Power of, who has produced an animation with a woodcut style that is vaguely reminiscent of The Beatles 'Yellow Submarine' animated film but realised in a sinister David Lynch style.

Nov 10 Spaceland ? Los Angeles,CA
Nov 11 Plush ? Tuscon,AZ w/Dead Confederate
Nov 13 Percolator ? El Paso,TX
Dec 12 Emo?s ? Austin,TX
Dec 13 The Mink ? Houston,TX

The homespun naive art of this video, also has echoes of some of the more bizarre five minute cartoons that the BBC used to show, in the hallowed 5.35p.m slotback, back in the Seventies, just before the evening news was broadcast. As well as scheduling much loved greats like The Clangers and Bagpuss, they would intersperse these, with creepy, surreal cartoons that must have given a generation of little ones, the heebie-jeebies.

Ludwig especially resonated with me, shown from 1977, it was a crystal egg that metamorphosed into a creature with mechanical devices, set to the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven. . Ludwig and his strange friends, like the dodgy man in the bushes, watching events through binoculars! were forever etched onto my fragile malleable young mind. The cartoon was created by Mirek and Peter Lang and was narrated by Jon Glover, with arrangements by Paul Reade of The Flumps.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Little Boots

In my humble opinion Little Boots stole the show on last weeks edition of 'Later with Jools Holland' first shown on BBC 07/11/08. Sure, Fleet Foxes were sublime and The Killers were on top of their game, but for pure quirky energy and out of the foil freshness, Blackpool's finest power pop pixie, Victoria Hesketh (Little Boots) shone out, amongst a very strong line up.

Now I realise that I'm a bit slow out of the blocks on picking up on this artist, as she is already getting lauded by those in the know in muzbizland, but better late than never eh! The mix of lo-fi piano pop mixed with electro grunge, is brought alive by her keen ear for a blistering pop hook in the melody and has there ever been a better use of a stylophone in music history? Joe Goddard from 'candonowrongatthemoment' electro nerd band Hot Chip spotted her potential and was moved to polish her demo, producing her debut single Stuck On Repeat. She previously served her apprenticeship with Leeds based Dead Disco, who released a self titled album back in 2007.

If your not convinced yet that Little Boots is the future of pop, let me tell you that she uses a Tenori, this is a hand-held screen that acts as an instrument, with the aid of a grid of LED switches, that can be activated to create an evolving sound scape. "It is intended as a toy, but we've pushed it to its limits" quotefromhere It looks like a space invaders console, crossed with the head from Marvin the Paranoid Android of 'Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' infamy; if that doesn't get yer feet a toe tappin, nothing will.

Little Boots - Stuck On Repeat (Live On Jools Holland)

Little Boots - Meddle (Live On Jools Holland)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Rusty Goffe

Rusty Goffe is one of the world’s leading vertically challenged entertainers. At four feet two inches, he's had a stellar career as an actor. Rusty's reached for the stars, with the aid of a footstool and has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the biz, appearing in some of the highest grossing films of all time.

Goffe’s break came in 1971 when he played the leading Oompa Loompa in the film version 'Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory' starring Gene Wilder. Read about his “Loompity me and loompity you”. experiences on this classic family movie here

Tim Burton’s recent remake starring Johnny Depp , sadly decided to cast Deep Roy as all of the Oompa Loompas using technological wizardry, leaving other actors of restricted height, out of a job.

Rusty's fledgling acting career really took off though when appeared, unaccredited, in the original 1977 Star Wars as a Jawa in the desert, a Gonk Droid and as Kabe in the Cantina scene, filling in for an actor who had collapsed with heat exhaustion.

He continued his association with George Lucas, appearing in the fantasy film Willow of which he said “Willow A Movie I try to forget. They used 470 little people from all over Europe. The majority was non-actors/actresses who along with their different languages had a lot of problems. They were quite badly treated on the set. I was one "little person" who was not in the group still with the Director. Quote "This one will have to be enlarged" Ha Ha… Ugh!”

His time on the Flash Gordon film seems to been a more enjoyable experience playing one of the guards in Ming’s Empire. He was in the American football scene, stamping on foot of player, and then sticking a sword up his rear!

Rusty has appeared in some of the Harry Potter movie franchise playing a Ministry of Magic Goblin in 'The Order of The Phoenix' and 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' as part of the Hogsmeade Choir. He has recently been filming for the latest episode 'The Half Blood Prince'

Curiously enough, his appearance in 1985 classic, Jurassic Porn, The Lust World – as an Extra is mysteriously absent from Rusty’s online C.V!

As if regular turns on the silver screen wasn’t enough, he has worked on some of television’s biggest shows like The Kenny Everett Show, The Goodies, The Two Ronnies and ahem Chucklevision as Peat the Leprechaun. He has been on one of my favourite comedy shows The League of Gentlemen playing the part of "Simba" in Papa Lazarou's Circus. However, probably the pinnacle of his career, has to be his time as Britain's Bounciest Weatherman on L!VE T.V.

Rusty plays forty two different musical instruments and he put this to good use on ‘For Your Entertainment'
where he played the organ, guitar, trumpet, post horn, timpani, gong, side drum, cymbals and tubular bells.

The blurb on the back of this record states that "At last, after many thousands of requests, comes an album featuring the many musical talents of Rusty Goffe" which is probably over egging the pudding a bit.

As you can see it was made in Rusty's younger days, at Anvil Film Studios, in Denham, England and released by Le-Marc Records. Drool in envy, as you observe that my copy is signed by the great man himself, though I suspect that every copy ever pressed was signed.

He sings three songs full of meaning: Walk Tall, Happiness, and his own composition Ten Feet Tall, which was featured on the Lord Snowden/Derek Hart television documentary "Born to be Small"

In the rousing finale, a medley, he name checks John Peel, which I like to think is a homage to the late great disc jockey and belts out Blaydon Races, which any self respecting Geordie will tell you is the national anthem for that part of the world. Somebody, speaking of Rusty Goffe, once declared: "Never before in the field of human entertainment has so much been given to so many by so little" It will nestle in my collection to be occasionally admired but never played again.

Rusty was later involved in a number one hit, playing an alien in the video of Geri Halliwell’s ‘Lift me up’ track.

Rusty will make an appearance at Movie Mania Weekend” 15th–16th NOVEMBER 2008 The National Space Centre, Leicester, U.K

He is due to appear in Snow White and The Dwarf! at The Brick Lane Music Hall, London. What happened to the other six dwarfs, is this credit crunch in action?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Air France

November: it's cold, dark, miserable, the economy imploding and it's raining down in biblical proportions.. time to jet off to sunnier climes, for a feel good three minute escape, courtesy of Gothenburg's chill out pilots Air France.

Surely it can't be an expertly cut montage of clips taken from David Hamilton's 1983 romantic film 'A Summer in St Tropez' set to the song 'Windmill Wedding' Yes it is and don't call me Shirley!

This was originally on their E.P 'No Way Down' which has just been re-released in an expanded form, including tracks from the 2006 'On Trade Winds' E.P The stand out song, spooky dreamlike 'Collapsing At Your Doorstep' with it's hypnotic loop"It's all like a dream, isn't it, no, better" will lift you off in business class, heading towards the Maldives, with it's lush tropical arrangement and sensual ambiance. File these guys next to The Avalanches, Air and Lemon Jelly and let them whisk you off into the clear blue sky.

Air France - Collapsing At Your Doorstep

David Hamilton is renowned taking controversial photos, favouring fragrant young ladies as the subject matter. This style of soft focus has become his calling card and periodically been de rigueur with fashion style magazines like Elle and Vogue throughout his career, influencing many other photographers with his grainy, blurry technique.

Watching the video below, reminded me of when I spotted the soundtrack to Hamilton's 1977 film Bilitis, with music composed by Francis Lai, resting in the vinyl bin at a local chazzer. From the saucy cover, featuring wistful maidens getting sapphic, I deduced this was a come on for what was obviously going to be very average ambient music. I left it, determined not to be a sucker for such an obvious merchandising ploy, yet a few weeks later, curiosity got the better of me and I shelled out the dosh in a moment of weakness, reasoning that it might actually be a lost classic soundtrack. However, on first listen, yup you've guessed it, very mediocre Vangelis lite music seeped out of my speakers, never to be played again: if only Air France had been around at the time to provide a proper soundtrack!

Air France- Windmill Wedding

Scratchy's Collecting Tips Number 05