Thursday, 31 December 2009

Scratchy Buckles - Birthday

Happy Birthday to us here at Scratchy Towers! Yes somehow we've managed to keep going for two whole years and as we stumble past that all important date (stumble being the operative word recently) I thought it would be nice to mark this inauspicious occasion with a bit of a classic tune with a tenuous song name link.. Birthday by The Sugarcubes, I remember seeing them play at Reading Festival and they were brilliantly captivating, beguiling, confusing and irritating all at the same time, but never boring, the mark of a truly original band.

This is a good opportunity inform Scratchy followers of our plans here.. as you might have noticed 2009 wasn't a particularly productive year in terms of postings for a variety of reasons which I won't bore you with. I was just as frustrated about these issues but the operation is going to go up a gear in the new year and the backlog of half written posts will be addressed. I have a long list of exciting new acts to be championed, as well as getting back to the core idea of focusing on talking about some of the more left field finds from the wonderful world of vinyl.

If that wasn't enough to be getting on with, Scratchy Buckles will shortly be joined by a brother blogsite with the emphasis on movies. Rest assured though, that this won't be about knocking out dry thousand word articles on Hollywood blockbusters or pontificating on dreary arthouse brainbusters. The content will be strictly lowbrow, with a cast iron guarantee on entertainment delivered with the same lightness of touch and scant regard for the rules of punctuation that you've come to expect. So when the launch is ready, you will be the first to know, but in the meantime Happy New Year and raise a glass to another vintage year of musical meanderings in 2010.

The Sugarcubes - Birthday (Also known under the title 'Ammæli') Released way back in October 1987. Directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson and The Sugarcubes.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Kiddieland Chorus - Songs For Children

There's mumblings in the media about the some sections of youth of today rejecting the cruddy sound of CD's and even worse noise of an mp3 and instead taking up the more decadent aural delights of vinyl records. Some of it is hipster bandwagoning, I'm sure, but it warms the cockles of my heart to know that the next generation of music lovers are ready to take on the mantle of being vinyl bores.

However this revolution isn't happening quick enough for my liking. For unless there's a tipping point of teenagers demanding to be able to buy the sounds of their latest favourite, fly by night indie band, pressed in that glorious black plastic, the likelihood of top quality record shops reappearing on the high street is going to remain a wistful pipe dream.

I yearn for the return of those dusty shabby overpriced music stores haphazardly stacked full of platters in no discernible order, run by insolent staff barely able to suppress their contempt for the customers. It's part of my cultural heritage visiting such establishments. The well worn ritual of tramping along to some inauspicious part of town, foregoing the convenience and comfort of being able to sit in front of my computer and ordering the latest 'must have' tracks in a jiffy for my music fix. This is an essential part of my cultural fibre and I demand to have the right to cross the threshold of a premise, as described above, to have my hard earned wonga relieved of me by some callow oik, who has correctly surmised that here comes another £50 man, recommend me the usual Snow Patrol and Fleetwood Mac remastered albums from the Dad rock section, before sending me merrily on my way clutching the bounty in a crisp plastic bag which will break five minutes down the road.

The only thing that's going to properly redress the balance and return music commerce to it's former glory, is to speed up the process of enlightenment for our poor misguided weens in a mass program of indoctrination, starting from the moment they can recognise sounds and visualise circles. I'm proposing blanket exposure to top quality nursery rhymes delivered via the magic of a child proof record player, preferably one that looks like a suitcase, a concession to quell any quibbles of lack of portability, i - phones eat your heat out, take a look at this little beauty shown here! the evidence is irrefutable.. the kid is captivated by the wonder of watching that single spin round and round, delivering three minutes of musical fun and it's so easy to flip that golden number over with none of the hassle of having to choose between the thousands of tunes stored in the library of a conventional mp3 player. The kids will thank us for it when they grow up and remember: children are our future!

The Kiddieland Chorus
directed by actor Lee Gotch
A High Fidelity Programme of Nursery Rhymes: Activity Songs: Counting and Alphabet: Sleep Songs. Recorded at Capital Tower, Hollywood on the Pye Golden Guinea label.

Side One

Old King Cole
Mary Had Little Lamb
Peas Pudding Hot
Simple Simon
Sing A Song Of Sixpence
To Market, To Market
Ding Dong Bell
Little Jack Horner
Three Blind Mice
A Frog He Would A Wooing Go
Hickory Dickory Dock
Hey Diddle Diddle

Side Two

Old MacDonald Had A Farm
London Bridge
Mulberry Bush
Alphabet Song
Calendar Song
Ten Little Indians
Rock A Bye Baby
Sweet And Low

A couple of alternative covers are shown as well, including one featuring a rather dull woodland scene, via Jacob Whittaker (please contact me if you want this removed) apparently there's also a version featuring the legendary British actress Wendy Craig around but no images found so far.

Lee Gotch was behind The Ivy Barflies record which was full of drinking songs sung presumably aimed at college going party guys. Was this really a suitable role model to be involved in an album aimed at our impressionable youth!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Antlers - Live Review

Acts: Official Secrets Act,
The Antlers and Graffiti 6
Location: Southampton U.K
Venue: Lennons
Date: 28/11/09

We were determined to catch a much anticipated performance by the Brooklyn based band The Antlers, whose Hospice album has been a slow burning success story of 2009 via the patronage of Pitchfork and it's ilk. It was self-released back in March 2009 and went on general release via French Kiss Records in August 2009. This short visit to the U.K has now catapulted the band's presence into the national arena with the national journos from The Times and The Guardian clambering on board to give it the horn.

Those journos have covered the London and Brighton legs of the tour, but it's up to the intrepid team here at Scratchy Buckles (myself and Platterhorn) to battle through the lashing rain in order to cover what must be the least prepossessing stop off on their jaunt around Europe. Yes, we're talking about being second on the bill in sodden Southampton's favourite student cheap 'n' cheerful nightclub Lennons; thankfully nothings changed in the years since I was last here frugging to the sounds of Britpop back in the 199o's (stop me now! before I turn into a voxpop for one of those cheapo 'I remember the Nineties' type of late night T.V fillers) and it promises to be a good honest intimate gig at this venue which is putting on some interesting gigs of late.

First up though, with their chance to make a mark on the wall of sound, was Graffiti 6 who put in a credible performance for the early birds. They're buoyed up with the gift of delivering a catchy tune in that genre that's tricky to master, i.e the soul/rock/pop crossover. Their breezy number Stare Into The Sun was used as part of a promo for a television ad promotion for The Sun newspaper back in Summer 2009. This must have been a useful boost to their fledgling career and it came as a surprise to us, when they mentioned at the end of delivering a polished and engaging set, that this was their first live gig.. The first of many successful performances I'm sure! and a band to keep an eye on.. a tip though, if I were you guys, I'd leave Liverpool off the tour list for the time being..

Graffiti 6 - Stare Into The Sun

The Antlers are a young trio from Brooklyn New York, who spent 2007/8 putting together a concept album of epic and haunting music. Lead singer Peter Silberman delivers aching soft vocals, interwoven with emotionally wrought crescendos, that turns the emotional screws to devastating effect. Michael Lerner’s sparse drumming plays off Darby Cicci’s downbeat keyboards to produce a taut post rock sound straddling between fragility and intense sonic outbursts. Their debut album ‘Hospice’ is a concept album about a carer looking after a girl who is terminally ill with cancer. What could have ended up a maudlin self indulgent mess is actually brooding and beautiful triumph, which is destined to be on many of the pundits 'Best of 2009' album lists.

It's clear from the opening chords that the band are going to pretty much play the songs through in the order of the album and so unfortunately the spine tingling opener the epic Kettering gets lost in the general hullabaloo of the crowd settling down. These guys obviously get swept into the intensity of delivering the songs with all their heart and soul and this means that the stage craft of commanding of the audience is slightly overlooked and so it takes a few numbers for them to capture the undivided attention the the crowd. This may be down to their inexperience or having to play to punters who haven't necessarily come to check out this band but slowly and surely the waverers are won over, as each song ramps up intensity of the atmosphere in the room. The more accessible uptempo numbers of Sylvia, Bear and Two in particular resonate with the crowd and as The Antlers' set draws to a close, it's clear that we've witnessed a very special show by a mesmerising and very talented band who are destined to make a considerable impact with their majestic music.

The Antlers - Kettering - taken from the debut Hospice on FrenchKiss Records Get it here

The video is unofficial and created by a fan using various photographs Original photographers listed here but has been compiled with such T.L.C that for me it's the definitive version and as good as anything the record company could put together.

Monday, 2 November 2009

M1 Motorway Celebration

All over the news today, nestling between the usual reports of misery and despair, is the 'light' item about the landmark that is it's the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the U.K's first motorway, imaginatively called the M1 read more here and here on the BBC.

The majority of driving residents of England have, at some time or other, experienced the dubious pleasures of travelling up or down this iconic motorway. For many commuters, it's part of their daily grind, driving some way along the 193 miles from Brent Cross in north-west London to Garforth near Leeds. Back in 1959, the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples officially opened the original section, that paved (tarmac) the way for a brave new era of British motoring. To commemorate this milestone, the Roads Minister Chris Mole, is unveiling a plaque (nope, I've never heard of him either and surely he should be the Minister for Gardens instead).

Even though the original stretch of road was only 72 miles long, it was decided that drivers might need to stop for a rest, powder their nose and grab a bite to eat, thus the first service station was born. 'Watford Gap' (originally called the Blue Boar) opened in on the 2nd November 1959 and the rest is history so they say... of course most of us Brits are very familiar with this Great British Institution that is a Motorway Service Station but here's a here's a peek at what all the glories Watford Gap hold for the benefit of our international readers.

Of course the great misunderstanding about this service station is it's location, being situation no where near Watford (a fair to middling town close to London) but actually fifty miles or so miles up the country in the county of Northamptonshire. This place has actually come to symbolise the dividing line between North and South England and now some amateur actors have come up with their own affectionate tribute to this 'legend in it's own lunchtime' Watford Gap: The Musical

I have been pondering what to offer up as a Scratchy tribute to this anniversary and though it's hard to top St Etienne's 'Like A Motorway' for a pure pop pleasure, I feel the ultimate musical tribute to this tired travellers comfort stop has already been written back in 1977 and nothing will top it for capturing the pertinent atmosphere of the place and as a celebration of all things motorway like. Roy Harper's 'Watford Gap' taken from his 1977 album Bullinamingvase buy it here has the horse power to be the ultimate motorway anthem with just the right ingredients in the lyric department.

Just about a mile from where the motorways all merge
You can view the national edifice, a monumental splurge
It's the lonesome traveler's rotgut or bacterias' revenge
The great plastic spectacular descendant of Stonehenge
And the people come to worship on their death-defying wheels
Fancy-dressed as shovels for their death-defying meals

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

At one a.m. on Sunday you can hear the boys declare
That the other team were fairies and the ref was Fred Astaire
It's Chopper Ronnie's fan club on their weekly pilgrimage
To stick the hero's boot in all the way from Stamford Bridge
And without a solid concrete-burger no night is complete
Plastic cups of used bathwater wash away defeat

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

The traffic jam is rattling like a five-mile cornered snake
With fuming pieces falling off and steaming in its wake
The city's like a goolie in a groupie's stagnant womb
Spaghetti Junction's target in the vinegar strokes of doom
The countryside is ravaged like a syphilitic whore
Yodeling up the canyon is the dirty old Blue Boar

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

Unsurprisingly the Service Station owners weren't too chuffed about this depiction of their pride and joy and Harper was forced to drop it from future U.K copies of the album, allegedly a member of the EMI board was also a member of the Watford Gap's Company board of directors. It reappeared on a later CD reissue and remained on the U.S LP.

Unfortunately, there isn't a decent video version of this classic but Watford Gap was the flip side of the song "One of Those Days in England", which featured backing vocals by Paul and Linda McCartney, this became became a Top 40 hit.

Roy Harper - One of Those Days in England - Live on Old Grey Whistle Test

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tvärvägen - Pingvinvärmen

Tvärvägen is the brainchild of Henrik Ohberg, he is a one man band, making charming eclectic indie folk pop. He's also a part of Swedish indie folk band Ironville, so if he gets too lonesome, whilst inventing tunes in his cabin, he can hang out with those guys. I originally blogged a piece on his work here back in 2008, where I described his music as "a sound akin to 'An Old Curiosity Shop' being run by Noggin the Nog in a fading seaside town"

He has produced another lovely illustrated animated video for the song Pingvinvärmen and according to the blurb It's about a girl in a spacesuit, something that looks a little like a polar bear and some rolling creatures and a few birds. The title of the song translates into something along the lines of "The warmth of penguins" and I suggest you warm the cockles of your heart by checking this out.

Tvärvägen - Pingvinvärmen - The song is taken from the debut 2008 album 'Sånger från Tvärvägen' released on the Knoppar record label buy it here

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Baskery - Live In Texas

This is a montage of Baskery, performing a two hour set at the 'Luckenbach Festival' in Texas, U.S.A (more info here.. Those three Swedish sisters look like they rocked the locals with their high tempo punky take on American country and roots music. What a cracking venue for a chilled out gig, taking in the vibes in the sun with a cool beer in your hand, all set against the backdrop of what looks like the local store from 'The Little House On The Prairie' It looks like a good time was had by all...

Many thanks to Matt Bynum for alerting me to his handiwork, it makes a pleasant change to see a nifty bit of film footage of a band, that's smoothly shot, high res and jolly smartly edited, rather than the usual shaky grainy mobile murky view of the backs of people's heads, which is unfortunately the norm on YouTube these days.

Baskery - Selected highlights - live at Luckenbach Texas on September 5 2009.

Directed by Matt Bynum, check out his camerawork at mattbynumfilms

Gig List

Baskery are coming the end of a long year of international touring, so American and U.K fans, you have missed your chance to catch them this time round, but the hoedown continues to roll out in Denmark!
Oct 14 2009 Heming, Denmark Fermaten
Oct 15 2009 Kolding, Denmark Godset
Oct 16 2009 Esbjerg, Denmark Tobakken
Oct 17 2009 Grenaa, Denmark Pavillionen
Oct 18 2009 Odense, Denmark Dexter

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Slow Club and First Aid Kit Live Review

Acts: Slow Club, First Aid Kit, Wise Children, Jojo and Patch
Location: Southampton, U.K
Venue: The Joiners
Date: 16/09/09

Jojo and Patch, it's a name that evokes an image of a perplexing children's animation from Eastern Europe featuring a malevolent clown and his organ grinding monkey chum! (this sort of thing was a regular feature on the schedules of The B.B.C back in the Seventies and was responsible for warping the fragile young minds of many susceptible children of my generation) Jojo or Patch, for I never worked out which one was he, opened up the evening's entertainment with a gentle set of songs. He has a pleasing understated singing voice that recalls a Damien Rice or Bill Callahan from Smog.

It restored my faith in listening to sensitive singer songwriter types, after witnessing a horrific open mic night earlier in the year, when I was on holiday earlier in the summer. A procession of gauche young men attempted to sing along in a Jack Johnson crossed with Kurt Cobain style to their bedsit penned ditties to the groaning drinkers/audience. I swear, at one point, one aspiring James Blunt slunk off stage with tears in his eyes, mumbling apologies for being so bad, having cleared the pub of punters during his brief stint.

No such problems for our man though, who kept the sprinkling of punters onboard with a stirring strum through a handful of his compositions plus a cover version (Tom McCrae?) Patch or Jojo joined his compadre onstage for the final part of their set, it helped by having an extra guitarist to fill out the sound and hinted at the potential that could really bear fruit as they develop. All in all, it was good mojo for Jojo and worth keeping an eye (patch) on.

Jojo and Patch - Don't Hang Your Head - Live at The Joiners 16/09/09

Next up were local indie folksters Wise Children, so far, they have a solitary eponymous self released four song E.P to their name, but they have recently signed up to Oxford based indie label Vacuous Pop.

They have recently evolved from being a moniker for singer/songwriter Robin Warren-Adamson's project, into a full blown band. The blurb quotes influences such as Nick Drake, Frightened Rabbit, Efterklang, Sigur Ros and Bon Iver, which tick all the right boxes to my mind.

A nice little interview of the band can be read here! and according to the BBC website featured here, they wanted to capture an earthy sound, so recorded one of the songs from the E.P in a Southampton cinema... well, I listened hard for the familiar background noises emanating from our local multiplex of constant effing and jeffing, mobile ring tones going off and occasional fights breaking out in the aisles, but all I could hear was beautifully crafted sweet songs, with just a hint of menace creeping out in the underbelly of the lyrics! The signature track for Wise Children is the heart melting 'I Found Her In The Bath' yes you guessed it, recorded in a bath!

The guys looked nervous as kittens as they coughed up some fur balls of folk that have a lovely indie texture. The photogenic foursome combine to produce electro acoustic guitar heavy harmonic folk rock and have within their ranks, a front man with enough charisma about him, to give the guys something very promising to build upon. It transpired that this was their first gig in their current line up, which explained, the slightly awkward pauses for tuning etc. Give 'em six months to iron out the rough edges and Wise Children could be a very promising proposition.

The venue filled out and expectations grew considerably with the arrival of First Aid Kit fresh from a End of the Road festival performance and a precursor to a short tour of the U.K with Fanfarlo. Regular Scratchy readers will be aware of our appreciation in previous postings of the musical talents of these two Swedish sisters, Klara and Johanna Soderberg and so there was much anticipation to hear the duo in action. I think that this was the first exposure to First Aid Kit for the majority of the audience, but I got the distinct impression that most of them perked up very quickly and were well on the way to being converted by the final song.

As far as I remember, the set list included (In The Morning) My Daddio?, Our Own Pretty Ways, Your Not Coming Home Tonight, Jagadamba You Might, Tangerine, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, The Universal Soldier and finishing with I'm In Love With The King (Disclaimer I must remember to make a more accurate record of these things at the time and not a week later so accuracy cannot be guaranteed)

The extended touring schedule has really paid dividends as the girls put in a polished performance exuding confidence in their material and their ability to deliver it with panache. Sometimes, one has to remind yourself that these siblings are still in the early stages of their career as their voices combine so effectively and they will in time, mature in their singing and songwriting skills. It's exciting to think that hopefully there's so much more to come, a musical Médecins Sans Frontières for your ears!

First Aid Kit - Hard Believer - produced by Varelsen
out on the 05/10/09 along with the new song 'Waltz for Richard' on Wichita Recordings

You know, when it comes to "getting it" with certain bands you sometimes just have to go out and see a them do their thang in the right setting, then it all clicks into place. Slow Club are one of these bands, with a reputation has been steadily growing and have been bubbling up to the boil on the blogosphere cooker for awhile now, yet investigations in the Scratchy kitchen have been rather tardy up to now, so this was a great opportunity to see what the fuss was about.

Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor are a compelling indie double act, they go together like strawberries and cream or Morecambe and Wise. The in-between song banter might be reminiscent of Jack and Vera Duckworth raiding the cocktail cabinet and getting sloshed on "a long slow comfortable folk up against the wall" at times, but make no mistake, this duo are serious about making punchy frantic organic indie pop songs and when Rebecca is beating the hell out of her drums, as Charles is thrashing out those guitar riffs, the image of a folk tinged White Stripes is absorbing and exhilarating to witness.

Some good snaps of the the main band's performance on the evening can be seen here...
Slow Club photos Fortunately, Platterhorn and I just about avoided being caught on film, with all the 'lowering the cool count' consequences that this would have entailed!

Slow Club - Trophy Room - video directed by Peter Ohs
Track taken from the 2009 debut album 'Yeah So' out on Moshi Moshi Records. buy it here

Slow Club On Tour

25/09/09 - Tunbridge, GB (Wells Forum)
26/09/09 - Glasgow, GB (The Classic Grand)
27/09/09 - Aberdeen, GB (Tunnels)
29/09/09 - Leeds, GB (Brudenell)
30/09/09 - York, GB (City Screen)
01/10/09 - Derby, GB (Rockhouse)
02/10/09 - Wolverton, GB (Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms)
03/10/09 - Reading, GB (South Street)
06/10/09 - Manchester, GB (Moholive)
07/10/09 - Wrexham, GB (Central Station)
08/10/09 - Kingston, GB (McLusky's)
09/10/09 - Crewe, GB (The Box)
10/10/09 - Bath, GB (Moles)

A useful review of the evening's events can be found here

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Matt Bauer - As She Came Out Of The Water

Purveyor of spine tingling Americana music, Matt Bauer is dusting down his banjo, packing the throat lozenges and heading out on an extensive tour of the U.S.A and France (No mention of the U.K at the moment but if we ask nicely, perhaps he'll stop by)

I first wrote about the brooding banjo maestro here back in August 2008 and again during my 12 Grooves of Christmas awarding him a prodigious "Scratchy Seal of Approval" for 2008.

If you were blown away by Bon Iver's 2007 album For Emma, Forever Ago and let's face it, most of the music blogging behemoth were drooling over this last year, including myself, you'll be just as impressed by Matt's earthy approach to creating atmospheric haunting folk tunes. I always like the way he manages to respectfully nod towards his American musical roots in his songwriting, without being overly reverential, thus ensuring his music has a timeless quality to it. For a big grizzly bear of a man, he produces an intimate singing style, a ghostly whisper yet his singing demands attention and the substance of the stories quickly draw in the listener.

This was the lead track Don't Let Me Out from the album the 2008 album The Island Moved in the Storm.. buy it here

A new video has just been posted up for one of the tracks from the above album released via La Société Expéditionnaire, it's a thing of subtle beauty.

Matt Bauer - As She Came Out of the Water (Matt shot the footage) edited by Jenny Lee and features Miss Melaena Cadiz.

Upcoming Tour
09/15/09 - Montreal, Quebec - La Sala Rossa
09/16/09 - Portland, ME - Space
09/17/09 - Boston, MA - Brattle Theater
09/18/09 - New York, NY - (le) Poisson Rouge
09/19/09 - Philadelphia, PA - The M Room
09/20/09 - Charlottesville, VA - The Southern
09/21/09 - Carrboro, NC - The Arts Center
09/22/09 - Charlotte, NC - Double Door Inn
09/24/09 - Decatur, GA - Eddie's Attic
09/25/09 - Birmingham, AL - Bottletree
09/26/09 - New Orleans, LA - The Parish
09/27/09 - Houston, TX - McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
09/28/09 - Austin, TX - Stubb's
09/30/09 - Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
10/06/09 - San Francisco, CA - Ghost Mansion
10/07/09 - Davis, CA - TBA
10/08/09 - Sacramento, CA - Luigi's Fun Garden
10/09/09 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
10/10/09 - Denver, CO - Walnut Room
10/11/09 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
10/12/09 - Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater
10/13/09 - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon
10/14/09 - Chicago, IL - Shuba’s
10/15/09 - Bloomington, IN - Russian Recording
10/16/09 - Lexington, KY - The Dame
10/17/09 - Nelsonville, OH - Stuart’s Opera House

10/27/09 - LaBouche d'Air - Nantes, France
10/28/09 - La Lunes Des Pirates - Amiens, France
10/29/09 - TBA - Lille, France
10/30/09 - Collegiale -Vitry-le Fracois, France
10/31/09 - Le Cafe De La Danse - Paris, France

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hear This! 'Hanging out with Itchy and Scratchy'

People often ask me, what's it like hanging out at Scratchy Towers? usually followed by comments such as "I bet it's just one long session of wine, wimmin' and song" "it must be one long groovy party, what with all those legendary vinyl platters being given a spin" and "Do you live your life like a superstar D.J?"

Well my inquisitive vinyl loving chums, I usually like to keep a low profile to keep out of the tabloids, but I can exclusively reveal that life at Scratchy Towers is all of the above and so much more. Here is a rare photo of myself and Mr Knackers in deep discussion, at the H.Q command centre. We've taken a short break from the non stop hedonism, in order to sort the wheat from the chaff, deciding which platters really matter and should be given a spin at the next non stop banging V.I.P rave.

O.K, it's actually a rather lovely oddity of a record, featuring a conversation between the late Bob Auger, a highly respected sound engineer and Bob Hardcastle, a leading music producer (any further information on Mr Hardcastle would be appreciated)

Bob Auger worked on "a number of high-profile public occasions both in the pop and classical fields. These included as varied events as the 1969 Isle of Wight Pop Festival, the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, Frank Sinatra's charity concert at the Festival Hall and Karlheinz Stockhausen's concert in the same hall in the mid-1970s" He also turned his talents to some of the most famous pop songs to come out of Pye Records in the Sixties such as The Kinks "You Really Got Me" "Sunny Afternoon"The Animals "House of the Rising Sun" and The Spencer Davis Group "Keep on Running"

Hear This!
1981 Discourses Limited DCL 1224

Side One
Reinhold Gliere Symphony No.3 in B minor
John Stanley Six Organ Concertos Op 10 No 5 in A major
Ludwig Van Beethoven The Piano Concerto No 4 in G major
Carl Maria Von Weber Concertino in E flat Op 26
Franz Schubert Piano Quintet in A Major
Scott Joplin Extract from Sunflower Slow Drag

Side 2
Antonio Vivaldi The Four Seasons Concerto No 3 (Autumn)
Joseph Haydn Symphony No 104
Enrique Granados Marche Militaire
Claude Debussy Images
Edvard Grieg Olav Trygvason

In between each extract our two Bobs discuss such important matters as recording locations, The best of mono, channel tests and microphone placement, balance,multi-microphone techniques and multi-track recording, tape editing, dolby and non-dolby comparison and digital recording and the future.

As it says on the cover "Your unique invitation to join a well-known engineer and a producer talking about good recorded sound, from the early days of mono to superb digital recordings of the 1980's" Thanks for the invite gents, it was a pleasure.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Hot 8 Brass Band

Founded by Bennie Pete (tuba player) Jerome "Bay Bay" Jones (trombone) and Harry “Swamp Thang” Cook (bass drum) in 1995 from two earlier bands, The Looney Tunes Brass Band and The High Steppers Brass Band, their music is described by Bennie Pete “Hot 8 music is feel good music…music with a message. It’s life music.”

Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans, Louisiana, United States and they cut their musical mustard in traditional second line parades in the streets of their home town. The line up usually will have eight or nine players, bringing the passion and noise via trombones, saxophones, trumpets, snare and bass drums, all held together by the earth rumbling tuba baselines of band leader Bennie Pete. Their music was used in features by CNN, Nightline and The New York Times in media coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and was used in Spike Lee’s documentary of this disaster “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” (highly recommended viewing b.t.w)

They are currently signed to the U.K's Tru Thoughts label, having previously been signed to Louisiana Red Hot label, which was wiped out by the hurricane. Interest in the band grew over in the U.K in 2007 onwards with features on the BBC's The Culture Show , a session recorded for Gilles Peterson’s show on BBC Radio 1 and a couple of tracks with recorded with Basement Jaxx; their music has also featured on a Volkswagen advert. On a personal note, whenever this track comes round on my mp3 player, it's never skipped and quite often the repeat button is pressed, "feel good music" for sure!

Hot 8 Brass Band - Sexual Healing cover of the Marvin Gaye classic - Live in Paris 2008 buy it here

Monday, 24 August 2009

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

My field reporter at the annual Womad Music Festival held in Reading U.K was asked who made the biggest impression on the crowd, she reckoned that the stand out performance of the day was from these guys - Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, from the south side of Chicago. Judging by the youtube footage, I have to concur, that this is top drawer stuff full of dazzling tight grooves, that make me want to simultaneously chillax to the bone, yet fug like an eight legged groove machine.

This song was originally released as a single in 2007 and features on their self-titled May 2009 album, out via Honest Jon's. This is Damon Albarn's independent record label (parent distribution company Parlophone) Buy the vinyl here or buy the mp3s here.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
- War

Thursday, 6 August 2009

First Aid Kit - Summer Sessions Covers

The immensely talented Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, who go under the moniker of First Aid Kit, are doing a series of cover versions this summer and have been inviting suggestions, via their website for appropriate songs to tackle. The teenage popstrels enchanted us last year with a delightful cover of Fleet Foxes Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and they have a mini album out on Rabid Records called 'Drunken Trees' So far, they have covered Walk The Line by Johnny Cash and Buffy Sainte Marie's Universal Soldier, if you have any inspired suggestion for their next effort, contact them via their website as shown below.

First Aid Kit are going to be on tour in the U.K with another Scratchy favourite Fanfarlo in September and October, in what should turn out to be one of the gigs of the year, so get those tickets A.S.A.P

I am a simple man so I sing a simple song
never been so much in love
and never hurt so bad at the same time.
I am a simple man
and I play a simple tune
I wish that I could see you once again
across the room like the first time.
I just want to hold you
I don't want to hold you down
I hear what you're saying
and you're spinning my head around
and I can't make it alone.
The ending of the tale
is the singing of the song
make me proud to be your man
only you can make me strong
like the last time.
I just want to hold you
I don't want to hold you down
I hear what you're saying
and you're spinning my head around
and I can't make it alone.

First Aid Kit - Simple Man - The original version was written and performed by Graham Nash from his 1971 solo album 'Songs For Beginners' which was released as the B side of the single 'Chicago' The song featured Rita Coolidge on backing vocals and apparently was penned on the afternoon of the Nash's break up with his then girlfriend Joni Mitchell.

16/08/09 Leicester England Summer Sundae
28/08/09 Hamburg Germany Kampnagel Sommer Stage
29/08/09 Marburg Germany
30/08/09 Wiesbaden Germany Folklore im Garten Festival
12/09/09 End Of The Road Festival Dorset England
28/09/09 Manchester Deaf Institute England w/Fanfarlo
29/09/09 York England Fibbers w/ Fanfarlo
30/09/09 Glasgow Scotland ABC2 w/ Fanfarlo
02/10/09 Middlesbrough England Westgarth w/ Fanfarlo.
03/10/09 Nottingham England Bodega w/ Fanfarlo
05/10/09 Oxford England Jechico Tavern w/ Fanfarlo
06/10/09 London England Bush Hall
07/10/09 Brighton England Hanbury Ballroom
08/10/09 Cardiff Wales CLWB IFOR Bach
09/10/09 Leeds England Brudenell Social Club

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

John Ryan animator and creator of children's favourite cartoon pirate Captain Pugwash, died one week ago today. Here at Scratchy Towers, we wanted to pay our respects to a man, who brought enormous pleasure to many generations of children during their tea time television viewing treat.

I certainly remember when I was a little '45' looking forward to switching on to see the exploits of Captain Horatio Pugwash, Master Mates, Cut Throat Jake and the rest of the rather inept crew of the Black Pig ship. The character of Pugwash first appeared in the very first edition of The Eagle comic in 1950 but then made the leap to the B.B.C as a series of five minute cartoons, first broadcast in 1957. Ryan had devised a very simple but effective way of animating the character, using cardboard cutouts and he went on to make 56 episodes up to 1966. The series was resurrected in 1974/5 for another thirty episodes, this time in glorious colour, numerous books were written along the way as well as other merchandising spin offs.

So with a tip of the pirate hat and time to raise a glass of rum, we salute you John Ryan from this 'lolloping landlubber!' rest in peace.

Readers of The Eagle comic may remember one of his other creations 'Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent' and Lettice Leefe, 'the Greenest Girl in School' who appeared in Eagle’s companion comic, Girl.

John Ryan's other notable cartoon creations were Sir Prancalot and Mary, Mungo and Midge which was aimed at a younger audience and was broadcast on the B.B.C back in 1969. It was narrated by the BBC newsreader Richard Baker and ran for just a single series of thirteen episodes. Grasping for a vinyl link to Ryan's output, has reminded me of this record which was released via B.B.C records in 1977, which has so far eluded me on my vinyl hunting, but nevertheless should make an appearance on this site because it looks like a little treasure.

The three main characters of the series were the little girl Mary, her dog Mungo and a mouse Midge, who lived with Mary's parents on the top floor of a tower block. This was a radical setting for this type of show and captures the brief period of optimism high rise living experiment in the post war years. However, one or two of the negative aspects of this social model of housing were inadvertently hinted at with Mary being too small to press the button in the lift to get back up to the eighth floor. A little ingenuity followed with Mungo getting on Mary's shoulders and Midge scurrying to the top of the pile in order to press the button.

Mary, Mungo and Midge - Opening and Closing Credits - 1969

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Esben And The Witch "A Scratchy Spotlight"

I hopped onto this brooding broomstick via The Stool Pigeon music paper, when they favourably featured Esben and the Witch on the 'demos and myspace' review page in the Summer 2009 edition. Taking the name from a macabre Danish fairy tale (Is there any other type!) read about the fairy tale, this trio, based in Brighton U.K, claim to be influenced by glaciers, caverns and waning moons. For the benefit of those of you, who prefer more conventional comparisons, I'd pitch them in a coven attended by The Cure, Radiohead, The Cranes, Portishead and This Mortal Coil.

It's 'Gothic' in the traditional sense of the mood being melodramatic, conjuring up a sound of an evening of hedonism with Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, as opposed to being in a mood because one's too hot because yer wearing all black in the height of summer and the mascara is beginning to run type of goth.

This nightmare electro-post-rock is the product of Rachael Davies (vocals, percussion) , Daniel Copeman (electronics, guitars) and Thomas Fisher (guitars, keyboards) The musical brew is concocted with the ingredients of an organ, drum machines, some glockenspiel action and a groove box connected to a kaosillator!? as well as some scratchy guitars, which always goes down well here. A real plus point is Rachael's strong pure voice that's got enough oomph to carry the tunes and maintain the listener's interest.

'About This Peninsula' is shimmery and spectral and the tense 'Marching Song' hovers with a nervous spiky energy that beguiles. 'Eumenides' is a taught tune with ghostly siren like whispers, this one recalled for me, that fine recent episode of Dr Who called "Blink" You know the one with the moving statues which had us all hiding behind the sofa. The pick of the pack for me is 'Corridors' which has a menacing rattlesnake hissing sound, it makes your skin crawl but in a good way, then it slowly builds up into a dramatic climax. They're currently unsigned with a solitary E.P '33' under their cloak. You can download it here generously made available by the band for gratis.

Esben And The Witch have bagged themselves a slot at end of the road festival in September, where they should put in a spellbinding show (shucks! I almost made it through the review, without a reference to the blindingly obviously pun, oh well) Will they be accompanied on the stage by their resident owl? just like Birdpen have their bird mascot on stage, is this a new feathered based genre? perhaps I can lump'em together in a NME 'making up a hot new scene' stylee... how about "hardclaw", "fieldgaze" anyone? "chirp rock" "drum and cheap"...... hmm, I'll get me cloak!

Blips On The Blog Radar

Esben And the Witch - Confide In Me - Cover of the Kylie Minogue classic recorded live at The Freebutt, Brighton, 28/01/09

Upcoming Gigs
25 Jul 2009 Brighton The Freebutt
06 Aug 2009 London Hoxton Square Bar & Grill
22 Aug 2009London Notting Hill Arts Club
11 Sep 2009 Dorset End Of The Road Festival
01 Oct 2009 Sheffield The Harley

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World on Time

'Get Me To The World On Time' I wonder if Neil Armstrong was thinking this and humming that tune as he took those first momentous steps on the moon forty years ago. This one is dedicated to all you conspiracy theorists out there who think the moon landing was a big hoax perpetrated by the American government.

The Electric Prunes, one of the classic psychedelic garage bands of Sixties era, opened their second album Underground, released in September 1967, with a song called 'The Great Banana Hoax' O.K the link is a bit tenuous as the song is about a hoax doing the rounds back in 67 about getting high on banana skins, so here's the third single of their debut album 'Get Me To The World On Time' which snuck into the U.S charts at 27 back in 1966 and just skirted the U.K top forty reaching 42.

This video clip from 'The Cyd Charisse Show' features a bizarre introduction from a couple of marionettes from the 'The Syd and Marty Krofft Puppets' and Cyd Charisse (famous dancer, actress and wife of actor/singer Tony Martin) Take note BBC, come the next round of wage negotiations with your star "talent" I suggest you show Ross and co this clip, just to remind them that they're easily replaced by six inches of wood on strings! c'mon, I'm thinking of the licence fee paying public here, it's my public duty...

The Electric Prunes are still gigging and were due to be playing with Sky Saxon on their forthcoming tour. Sadly Sky passed away last month and so there will be a memorial concert honouring Sky Sunlight Saxon of The Seeds 'Sky Saxon L.A Memorial' on 24th July at The Echoplex in Los Angeles, CA (more information can be found on the official site below)

The Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World On Time - taken from their eponymous debut album released in 1967. First shown on The Cyd Charisse Show 05/01/67

First Men On The Moon - 40th Anniversary (repost from 31/05/08)

Last week, those clever bods down at N.A.S.A managed to land a space probe on the surface of planet Mars. In celebration of this exciting and rather tricky feat, I have dug out some souvenir singles. The 'First Men On The Moon' was released by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, which is the National Air and Space Museum. It's a tenth anniversary edition of the Apollo missions specifically the 1969 'Apollo 11' journey. It features the voices of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins bouncing about on the Moon or recorded in a top secret warehouse in the Ohio Desert next to 'Area 51' if you happen to believe the conspiracy theories. This particular seven inch cost someone $2 and makes a fine memento of their museum trip. Wouldn't it be nice if other such similar institutions pressed up slabs of vinyl to be sold in their respective shops instead of the usual cuddly toys and novelty diary sets of tat that currently clutter up these cash cow outlets. I would be much more eager to hand over my hard earned dosh for a lovingly crafted record commemorating the seventy millionth anniversary of the passing of the dinosaurs commissioned exclusively by the National History Museum for instance.

The second record has the the theme music from the masterful movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' from Stanley Kubrick of the book by Arthur C. Clarke R.I.P. As all you classical buffs out there will know it's an excerpt from 'The Blue Danube' by Johann Strauss II and 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' by Richard Strauss. I bring to your attention the cover artwork which looks remarkably similar to the Phoenix Lander and considering the picture was drawn half a century ago, based on guesswork, I think it's a very accurate impression.

To see if N.A.S.A have found any little green man lurking under the rocks and dust...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

We Have Love - "A Scratchy Spotlight"

Digging through dusty old records, sorting the wheat from the chaff, is a breeze compared to attempting to do the online equivalent. To say that trawling through the never ending virtual crate of online music, clamouring for attention in the brave new world of myspace accounts, is an overwhelming task is something of an understatement.

Yet here, at 'Scratchy Towers' we have grasped the internettle and are delighted to bring to your notice, some of the the daisys that stood out in the field of weeds.

First up is a band who have covertly crept into my consciousness, We Have Love are a lo-fi electro outfit, with tendencies to stray into dance beats. A debutante from the finishing school of icy cool pop.

This trio are from Stockholm in Sweden and Bethany May is on lead vocals, Per commands the software and Anna also contributes vocals. Out of the collection of tunes up on their myspace site, there are a clutch of songs that show great promise. Currently, these are still in a sketchy demo format, but with a bit of spit and shine, could polish up into magnificent jewels.

is the type of pristine cool yet perky pop, that those masters of the genre St Etienne, penned throughout their career and would sit very comfortably in their back catalogue.

Eponymous track 'We Have Love' is a taut minimal track stripped down to just the essentials. Imagine something along the lines of Laurie Anderson covering Talking Heads 'Psycho Killer' fronted by a voice reminiscent of the legendary glamour of actress Louise Brooks.

'Fay Wray' has been given the benefit of a remix treatment from Sven Fröberg and Fredrik Persson, of Greek Theatre and is perhaps the strongest song of the pack. It's a delicate slice of psych pop with an intoxicating piano hook, which whirls with a wistfulness of a silent movie star, contemplating the the onset of the talkies: "I am big, it's the music that got small"

Blog blips on the radar... who describe them as

"A fantastic mixture between shoegaze and electropop, between soundwall and fluffy beats, between shyness and self-confidence, between decadence and glamour"

We Have Love - Dancing - a teaser video featuring Shunda K from Yo Majesty guesting on vocals and giving We Have Love a hip hop flavour. buy it here


Sunday, 28 June 2009


If you like your post-pop rock to be angsty, folksy, dramatic and lovely all at the same time, then ioktember, have recorded some songs in the basement of an old mental institution, that should get your hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.

I was ear wigging a conversation, during my weekly supermarket shop at the weekend, between a security guard and the till assistant. They began discussing and analysing their attempt to chat up two Swedish ladies, who had chanced upon the checkout of these budding romeos, which became the highlight of their day. The gist of the conversation was based on how the guys' charm and smarm could have been more finely honed, as their tactics evidently bombed. The opening gambit of asking the girls "where are they from?" quickly followed by a "Where's Sweden?" then culminating with the killer lines "Isn't that the country full of trees? no wait! are we confusing it with the the land of lakes?" the outcome of this charm offensive was a miserable strike out and the guys were left ruing their opportunity and lack of geography knowledge, as they contemplated the rest of day processing the meagre food rations of hordes of poor, disposed, music blog writers and middle class credit crunch refugees. I yearned to interject, that Sweden actually should be currently be known as 'the land the great bands' and here's another one..

Hailing from Stockholm, ioktember, risen from the remnants of a previous incarnation known as Infinite Regress and have leanings towards the big commercial sound of say Snow Patrol with the finely crafted songwriting of The Blue Nile and finely wrought offerings of This Mortal Coil.

The band list My Bloody Valentine, Godspeed you! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, Joy Division, Wu Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Chris Isaak, Einsturzende Neubauten and The Pixies, so as influences go, you can see an interesting mix going on there.

The collective names of ioktember are Emil Henricson,Johan Augustsson, Daniel Andersson, Hanna Eklöf, Hannes Holmqvist and Max Håkan Holm. They describe themselves as "People gathered behind the old dumpster, randomly at first, to play the organ and have themselves an occasional sing-song" Actually, judging by the songs on their site, they're creating something very mournful but marvellous.

There are just the four tracks up on this website: Shine, Be There, For The Last Day Of Spring and My Love Something, of which the latter is the stand out tune for me, making good use of the boy/girl duet vocals singing an emotionally wrought tune, with a with a lilting horn arrangement.

The only significant blips on the blogging radar so far come from and

Friday, 26 June 2009

Sky Saxon - The Seeds - A Tribute

Sky Saxon, chief sower of the fantastic Sixties garage punk rockers, The Seeds, died yesterday. This is a modest tip of the hat and shake of the pudding bowl mane of hair to one of the leading lights of the psychedelic garage rock scene, that emerged in the mid to late Sixties in the U.S.A and briefly burned very brightly. A genre of music later masterfully chronicled by the Pebbles and Nuggets compilation series of records.

The raw energy of the songs, combined with primitive beats, oodles of guitar fuzz and howling vocals make The Seeds still sound incredibly fresh today, even forty years after these tunes were recorded.. Sky made music that put a smile on your face, a spring in your step and that's what this music loving malarky is all about really...

If the first track below 'Can't Seem to Make You Mine' seems familiar, it's because it was recently used in the Lynx body spray advert in Spring 2009. Hopefully his very considerable contribution to music won't be overlooked, amidst the passing of another, slightly more famous pop star on the same day. So long and thanks for the music! R.I.P Sky Saxon.

The Seeds - Can't Seem To Make You Mine - From their debut album The Seeds 1966.
As performed on 'American Bandstand'

The Seeds - Mr Farmer - Taken from their second album 'A Web Of Sound' released in October 1966

The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard - Taken From their debut self titled album, released in 1966. (official site)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Birdpen - Live Review

Act: Birdpen, The Bays, LCD Soundsystem (DJ Set)
Location: Southampton, U.K
Venue: Orange Rooms
Date: 11/06/09

The beautiful and bewildered came together for a highly anticipated evening of throbbing rock and rave.

I was looking forward to catching the opening act, Birdpen, as they had impressed me earlier in the year, after seeing a performance of theirs, thus warranted further investigation. Going under the nom de plumage of Dave Pen, Mike Bird and James Livingston Seagull, this trio create a deep dark dank storm of edgy layered riffs that build up a menacing head of steam. The looping rhythms make it clear that this ain't no 'Tweety Pie' chirping away in a guided cage, but more of a merciless vulture circling ominously in the unforgiving desert, eyeing up your sun blistered face.

The guys peck a stage presence, that is reminiscent of their moniker, heads relentlessly agitate up and down, as the riffs slowly build up to an incessant threatening pace, forcing you into submission with those beautiful but brooding songs. There are aspects of Birdpen's song writing, that flutter towards a more mainstream indie pop sound but I sense they most enjoy investigating sonic experimentation and perhaps their birdpenremixes site points the way to the this group's next stage of development. This is a sinister Slowdive sloshing around with Spaceman 3 sensibility, pluming marvelous!

A self released debut album 'On/Off/Safety/Danger' was released back in October 2008. The second single from this collection, titled Off, is due for an August 2009 release, go and get it from i-tunes buy it here, the early bird catches the worm as they say!

One downside at live events I've recently picked up on, is the insistence of certain sections of the audience to gabber on to their mates, even though the act has begun playing, show some respect! it ain't no hotel lounge bar and show some etiquette, no one wants to hear you babble. we paid our hard hard earned dosh to listen to the band, so shut it or move to the bar; moving on from the mini-rant onto the main live act of the evening.

The Bays are Andy Gangadeen (drums), Jamie Odell (keyboards), Simon Richmond (samples, keyboards) and Chris Taylor (bass) The project was meant as a one-off performance in London back in 1999, but they have been gigging intermittently since, gaining a reputation as an improvisational, instrumental dance band, who together deliver a mish mash of menacing electronic dub throb. Apparently part of their manifesto is that they refuse to sign to a record label, release records, sell merchandise or even rehearse.

Each gig is a unique event with a combustible mixture of techno, house, drum'n'bass and special effects thrown into the counter cauldron. The interaction between the quartet was intriguing as they adjusted their music according to the feedback vibe of the crowd and how the mood takes 'em. Each band member trotted off on their own exploratory path yet the performance hung together, an archipelago of four volcanic islands seemingly independent but inextricably linked underneath the surface, pummelling yet pleasing the crowd with a diverse set of pulsating beats.

LCD Soundsystem: I'm not going to comment on the relative quality of this D.J Set as it is a subject I know little about (it's never stopped you writing before, I hear you cry) suffice to say that, as we left the scene early due to it being a school night, the floor was crammed with a packed hot and sweaty crowd bouncing away and getting "jiggy" as the modern verbal vernacular goes, so they tell me!

- Breaking Precedent - Official Video, directed by Simon Gesrel