Monday, 28 October 2013


Let's not start pretending now he was a particularly likeable person. Many who worked with him found him unbearable. But he changed the face of music to a remarkable degree, not just a member of the massively influential Velvet Underground but probably the most influential figure in the band. He managed to take influences, both musical and literary, that were then well outside the sphere of popular music and run with them. And the results were never affected or self-consciously artsy but powerful and gutsy. (His maxim was “one chord is fine, two chords is pushing it, three chords and you're playing jazz.”)

He made music truly rooted in the place that spawned it, downtown New York. (Brooklyn-born, Reed was the native New Yorker of popular song.) It kicked off the Seventies years early, when most were barely able to keep up with what was happening in the Sixties. And, though in their brief and tempestuous history the Velvets only made four albums, they were so wildly different from each other that subsequent bands have made whole careers out of copying just one of them. I love the Beatles and (in their heyday) the Stones, but most of the music I listen to now has more of a Velvets influence than both of those put together.

His subsequent solo career was admittedly uneven. Perhaps due to his drink and drug habits, though I also suspect he was enough of an egoist to imagine whatever he did must be great. But the highlights among them... well, not much is higher. Consider - 'Berlin', 'Metal Machine Music', 'Street Hassle' and 'New York.' (Curiously, spaced out fairly evenly rather than coming in a block.)

There's no point pretending I can throw up something quickly that could do all of this justice, because I can't. Should I ever get the time to pursue my inclination to write something about my all top 50 albums, it will almost certainly include a Velvets and one of his solo albums.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Barbican, London, Fri 4th Oct
(Part of the Transcender festival of “ecstatic, devotional and psychedelic music from across the globe”)

”In C might not have been the first minimalist composition, nor the most minimal, but it was certainly the most influential”
- From the programme

Needless to say I wasn't there for the premiere of 'In C'; 1964 being before even I was born. But that may work for the best, for it long ago passed into legend. It's like those stories about the Sex Pistols playing the Lesser Free Trade Hall, and though few went all who did went on to form a band. Only with 'In C' they all formed the band there and then. With Steve Reich, Jon Gibson, Pauline Oliveros, and Morton Subotnick joining composer Terry Riley on stage, the audience was probably small only because there was no-one left to be in it.

With an intentionally unprescriptive score, it's indeterminate in length (with performances ranging from minutes to hours), in instrumentation (which is left entirely up to the ensemble) but also in form. Musical pieces, just like plays, get reworked over time. There's no real way they can't. But it often happens incrementally and unplanned, like the weather working on a statue and slowly changing its appearance. Whereas Riley wrote this piece precisely to morph, in opposition to the notion there must be one definitive version as intended by the composer.

The enabling principle is very simple, the score consisting of a single page of musical notation plus a fewcomments. The musicians are provided with a series of musical phrases, which each player passes through in the given order - but lingering on each as long as he or she chooses.

Why, you may ask? Well, what's the most important thing a musician can do? It's listening, of course. Playing comes second, for playing means nothing outside the context of listening. Of course the easiest, the most accordant, the best-fitting thing a musician could do would be to march in step with everybody else. Played like that, the piece would become like the applause after one of Stalin's speeches to the party faithful, where no-one wanted to be seen to stop first. No player would want to be first or last to jump between the sections.

Except of course that's not the way it works at all. The score is inherently an invite not to keep to the letter of the score, to bend it's rules, to do your own thing. Just listen to the other players as you do it.

Riley said himself in his comments “it is very important that performers listen very carefully to one another and this means occasionally to drop out and listen” in order to create “interaction of the players in polyrhythmic combinations that spontaneously arise between patterns. Some quite fantastic shapes will arise and disintegrate as the group moves through the piece when it is properly played.”

The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. The score becomes like a stem cell, able to lend itself to highly different versions. Yet with the heartbeat pulse at the centre of the piece, the single note C played repeatedly, it feels like the stem cell not just of Minimalism but of music in general. You hear just about everything else, somewhere in its shifting textures. For example the way the horns recall the rhapsodies of Gershwin.

People can comment they find it hard to listen to. But, in my finest Yoda voice, that's more to do with unlearning old ways of listening you never even knew you had. There's no background reading to do, no highfalutin' musical or mathematical theory to be picked up, just that simple score. It's not something cerebral, it's something sonorous and warm – like the feel of hot sun upon your face.

More than early Reich or Glass, you can hear its tonal shifts and surges and imagine its all building into something. But it's not going anywhere. Listening to it is like watching windblown sand, which sometimes will build up into ridges. And you can admire them while they're there, just don't expect them to stay.

But the problem with the above is that it doesn't really get carried away enough. For the first time I saw this piece performed, it seemed not just musically but even politically liberating. People don't have to get with the programme, they're given space to do their own thing - but within loose structures which allow them to play in accordance. Should we ever get out of this shitty situation we're in, wage labour and rental agreements and all the rest, maybe this could be our international anthem. What could work better? The theme tune to a free world, sounding different each and every time it's played.

Close on the original's fiftieth anniversary, this fresh performance was based around the giftedly bonkers notion to play the piece twice, two different ensembles sounding so different from one another as to prove its infinite flexibility. (Neither, incidentally, featuring the man himself. I've just stuck that photo of him up top because it looks cool.)

The first version, masterminded by Matthew Herbert, mixed more standard instrumentation (provided by Stargaze) with electronics and sampling (courtesy of Herbert and buddies). Though undreamt of when the piece was composed, when tape loops were still the freshest show in town, sampling fits it like it was intended to all along. If the piece is otherwise a game of Ludo with the competitiveness thrown out, players progressing at different paces along one path, sampling makes it into Snakes and Ladders – forever throwing things back to where they've been, adding to the polyrhythmic combinations.

Stage lights were dimmed, while Joshua White's psychedelic light show stole the eye. (The genuine article from back-in-the-day California, having previously been shone on Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.) This proved to be perfect staging, for there is something more to Riley which leans more to psychedelia than other minimalists. (Fun fact, the Who's Baba O'Riley' is part-named after him.) But it was also practical, by the simple expedient of making it almost impossible to check out which player was doing what, it threw you into responding to the piece as an ensemble work.

The recent South Bank retrospective on early minimalism lacked the all-important ritual element, and felt more of a recital. But here I had little notion of whether the piece had gone on for minutes or months, surely the best sign of all that it was working. It truly lived up to the name of the festival – it was transcending.

And then... again! This time with more adventurous instrumentation as German electronica artist Pantha Du Prince teamed up with percussion ensemble the Bell Laboratory. (Chiefly employing marimbas, steel drums and hand bells.)

The procession-like opening, with players arriving in matching aprons dinging intonatory handbells, boded well. But unfortunately the tragic flaw transpired early – the whole thing was to be set not to Riley's intended steady pulse but Du Prince's crunching electronic beats. I'd guess they were introduced as an audience-friendly measure, the equivalent of stabilisers on a bike. But their mechanistic marching dampened the free flow and harmonic interplay between the players. The piece worked better if you could block them from your attention, like a clamouring audience member. Helpfully, there were points where they were less dominant and you could hear what might have been.

Ironically the encore (nothing, insofar as I could tell, to do with 'In C') worked much better. The electronics were this time far more integrated with players, which led to a mesmerising finale. Though the piece bravely didn't build to a roaring crescendo but fell away, ending as it had begin. We left the venue with the pure, clear pealing of bells in our ears.

The Barbican seem somewhat strict on YouTube uploads, so instead (and as I've previously linked to the original) let's duplicate their experiment with several versions of the classic...

Hans Belmair's version takes it to the flutes...

...the Salt Lake Ensemble do it with laptops (probably my personal favourite)...

and finally, a version by Acid Mothers Temple...

Now, to prove we don't just throw this show together...

Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, Brighton, Sun 6th Oct

Only five months after the resplendent Uneven Eleven gig and a single week after Mainliner, and we already have the return of Kawabata Makoto, hardest working man not in showbiz. This time at the helm of his psychedelic mothership - Acid Mothers Temple.

Shortly before they took to the stage, a friend (Geoff of the ever-useful alternative gig guide Brighton Eyeball) commented he'd been forced to miss Mainliner, but would rather have had things the other way round. At the time, I nodded. Mainliner were something new to seek out, at least for our Brighton ears. While by this point Acid Mothers Temple are like old friends. Welcome back to be sure, but something already familiar. (In fact here's an account of one of their earlier visits.)

Luckily, with the crazy swirling lightshow, nobody could see the egg on my face.

Of their various manifestations, usually based in space rock to some degree, this was probably the most space rocky. Like some super-concentrate, like the dark matter of space rock. With their signature track 'Pink Lady Lemonade' they started out with the already-known version, then bent it from all shape. Tracks tended to start with sonic whispers, building into sturdy yet shifting metronomic riffs, complete with intonatory space-chant vocals and freewheeling theramin.

Not that I am one who would make idle or spurious comparisons between those of Japanese origin, but it reminded me much of old favourite Damo Suzuki. (Even if there's not the same degree of improvisation.) It's that feeling of folded time. This is clearly the music of now, with electric and amplified instruments. Yet at the same time it feels like the music of the stone age, its roots in the times where shamans chanted vibrations in caves while all assembled banged rocks. It's trance, not as a style to explore but as a tool for altered states of consciousness.

Some of the frenzied string-pummelling wig-outs perhaps went on a touch too long for me, and kept things shackled to the earth instead of heading into outer space. But what's the true measure of a good gig? Of course, its how many times it drives you to fear for your sanity. And I found myself afeared at multiple points, which must surely count as good value for money. One of my favourite live bands, in what may even have been my best sighting of them yet.

Nothing from the Brighton gig seems to have been YouTubed, so instead this is from neighbouring Taiwan... (Note there's also a second part.)

Will this spate of great gigs ever abate? I fear I am coming to sound like some muso equivalent of a luvvie, splattering the superlatives until praise hits hyper-inflation and we get the ensuing inevitable crash followed by austerity measures. But that night even the warm-up act should get their share of accolades.

The function of a support band is of course to be different from yet complementary to the main act. Which Eat Lights Become Lights succeeded at ably. (Even if I bumblingly missed the first half of their set.) They were really summed up by their respective light shows - Acid Mothers Temple the classic psychedelic swirl of colours, theirs clean black-and-white op art. The deranged shamans versus the mad scientists. They were highly Neu! influenced (thoughtheir Wikipedia page cites Kraftwerk) without ever falling into tribute act territory. Pulsing beats propelled by two drummers, rinky-dink synths, like being bathed in pure white light.

Now this time there is footage from the gig. Go figure. But first, go check 'em out...

Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, Brighton, Sat 12th Oct

Kudos to the chaps from the Physics House Band to book a venue for Saturday night, put on a whole night of music then charge us punters bugger all. (Parties which, judging by the poster, they've now laid on three times.) Even if it did screw with the accustomed bedtimes of us old 'uns, and most bands on the bill were of passing interest only. But as the clock grew closer to the witching hour, and even beyond (I didn't even know it did that), things just got better.

Local Krautrockers AK/DK came up with a much more accomplished set then the last time I saw them, when they'd been supporting Damo Suzuki. (Their playing with Damo should probably be seen as a kettle of quite different fish.) Though, as ever, improvised throughout, this time they seemed much more in the driving seat - effortlessly in control.

It was a set which caused me to ruminate on the distinction between smart and quite smart people. Quite smart people are constantly pointing out where they stand on the smartometer, doing things to impress in case it ups their score. Which all ends up like Captain Beefheart's dictum, “somebody's had too much to think.” Whereas smart people are very happy not just to go stupid, but go native while they're there. And you need to be smart/stupid to play Krautrock, to keep up the same metronomic riff for ten minutes at a time just because you know it to be right. Happily for us, AK/DK are smart people.

While Krautrock itself remains an under-rated scene to this day, for a long while Neu! seemed one of it's most under-rated outfits. Yet, in terms of influence on contemporary bands, it now seems their stock is riding at an all-time high. While this is certainly something to welcome, it doesn't seem entirely clear why it should be. As mentioned last time I saw AK/DK, they are most likely looking backwards at Krautrock through the filter of dance music. And Neu!s propulsiveness lends itself to repetitive-beat-making very well indeed. But dance music itself is now some decades old, so there must be something else...

Not from the night, but from the Green Door Store earlier in the year. Still pretty smokin', I think you'll agree...

The night's hosts, the Physics House Band topped things off. It's a strange coincidence seeing them so soon after Mainliner, for the two are almost opposite poles. Both are rooted in the sound of '69, but Mainliner in the year that ended the Sixties and the Physics boys in the one that started the Seventies. Instead of psychedelia mixed with heavy riffing there's a heady stew of jazz, funk, rock and prog. I thought up the description 'quantum funk' for them then immediately felt pleased with myself, but it turns out there's already another band called that.

...which means, of course, I should now be taking Mainliner's side. But contradiction is the spice of life, and while I may have preferred the Japanese noise-nauts I found myself taking to this set as well. Smart people, sometimes they're allowed to be smart too. Just don't go making a habit of it.

Admittedly, I couldn't get into the whole of it. It sometimes felt like travelling up hill and down dale, only sometimes getting lost in the noodly thickets of the valleys. But they'd always bust out eventually, and when they reached them the views from those hilltops were exhilarating. I particularly enjoyed the guest trumpet sections, which felt like the beating heart of the music, with the other players arranged around them taking the part of the brains.

Also not from the right night but the Green Door Store, a saxophone where for us the trumpet stood. But damn fine coffee, for all of that...

Actually, you can never have too much of a good thing, so let's catch a longer clip. From last year, in that hotbed of crazy psychedelic action Lewes...

Sunday, 20 October 2013



Lately, it seems like everybody has been saying how the new box-set-ready, extended-storyline TV shows resemble novels. Those of us who have already been through this, when comics went graphic-novelable are likely to be a little more skeptical. In a way, the problem didn't come before, in the old days of perpetual deferment when you knew Doctor Doom would never defeat the Fantastic Four but neither would he ever repent or go away. Yes, plotlines did often resemble zombies – lurching endlessly forwards. But you just expected things to be like that and then they were. In a way, the problem lies all in the supposed fix. Things can now fall into a kind of uncanny valley, where the transition from serial to novel is not fully made and shows make promises they prove perpetually unable to cash.
As the record shows, I was very much a fan of the first season of 'The Walking Dead'. Now it's completed it's third (at least on terrestrial TV in the UK, you may well be ahead), it may be a good time to take it as a test case. Is it using it's extra elbow room to extend and develop? Or is it just lurching forwards from one season to the next? (Did you see what I did there? I used a zombie metaphor for... oh, okay.)
The previous two seasons had effectively set Dale up as the moral compass of the group, the one who'd argue survival was not worth any price. Killing him off just as they are thrown out of the relative safety of the farm, then having Rick announce they're no longer a democracy, this suggests a group adrift even as they find a new holdout in the prison. (True, Dale's role is effectively taken over by Hershel. But it still has much of the intended effect.)
In a world no longer dominated by humans, how much humanity have they actually held on to? The show's innovation on zombie lore, that you will always come back as a 'walker' no matter how you die, underlines this. They just seem our future, no matter how long we manage to defer it. One apparently incidental scene is key – they drive past a backpacker who screams to them for help, yet they silently decline to pick him up.
Now zombies – they don't really do much, do they? Characterisation does not attach itself naturally to them. A good zombie story knows to use them not as antagonists but as plot enablers, like storms, stampedes or the onset of war. What's more zombies, can coexist. Obliviously rather than out of neighbourliness, but coexist nonetheless. So in every chapter of Romero's classic 'Dead' trilogy, the conflicts and tensions are all between rival groups of humans.
And, despite all the differences to Romero, so it is here. (The season tagline was “fear the dead, fight the living.”) And for the primary antagonism a clever switch is pulled. Rick's team, dysfunctionally grappling with group decision-making, are the ones who lock themselves into some prison cells. While the apparently normal, open streets of Woodbury turn out to be ruled by the ruthless gloved fist of the Governor. (Attaching 'bury' to the town's name is presumably some subliminal hint.) He states that people are attached to it because it reminds them of what was, leaving implicit that the similarity is only skin-deep.

It works something like the Pegasus storyline in the second season of 'Battlestar Galactica'. Despite the dire circumstances, there's no real conflict over territory or resources; formally, the two groups could easily coexist. The battle is more ideological, over retaining some fidelity to the old human world, versus embracing the brutality of the new one. One must submit to the other.
Except of course there's a twist. Hitler once said the best result for the Nazis would not be their defeating their enemies, but their enemies becoming like them in order to fight them. The Governor would doubtless concur, and Rick's group always seem on the point of slipping into this. As their new moral compass, Hershell has to put in the overtime.
More, the conflict becomes so entrenched that everyone in the vicinity cannot help but be drawn into the orbit of one camp or the other. And perhaps the majority of screen time is devoted to this playing out, the central conflict reproducing between or even within individuals. Brother gets pitted against brother, in both a literal and a metaphorical sense. But let's look how it affects the two biggest loners of the show, newcomer Michonne and returning character Merle. (Notably both are represented by blades, Michonne's sword and Merle's strap-on knife replacing his severed hand.)

A survivalist to the bone, Michonne distrusts Woodbury even before she has any real reason to. While, the very inverse of Dale, Merle decides that survival lies in a willingness to undertake any task - no matter how distasteful. He'll swap between camps just as the wind blows. Accused by Michonne that his obeying-orders excuse is “like the Gestapo”, he readily agrees. Inevitably, the finale is based around the conflict between them. And just like the camps – there's a switch. It's the loner Michonne who finds a home, while it's port-in-any-storm Merle who returns to Woodbury to do what damage he can.
Its surprising that Michonne doesn't feel like a forced piece in this character-based show. Unlike everybody else, she looks like she could have come from one of Romero's films; she's very much the successor to Ben in 'Night' and Peter in 'Dawn'. All three are based on cultural associations of black people with greater strength and self-reliance. (Notably the other significant black character, T-Dog, is done away with before Michonne first associates with the group.) But with her samurai sword and imposing hoodie she also appears very much an icon or avatar, like a cross between Alice in 'Resident Evil' and the Bride in 'Kill Bill.' (Her first appearance, at the tail-end of the previous season, is a classic WTF moment.)
It works because the show responds to this disjunction by exploiting it. She's presented in a similar way to Elektra from the original Daredevil comics, revealing occasional glimmers of the person under the stark facade. (Though even as the season closes, we've still only had hints as to her personal history.) This essentially allows us to have it both ways. We exult in her badass cool, her strong-and-silent presence, her dexterity with a blade, but then applaud as she learns how to play alongside the other kids.

The above is quite a partial account, skipping over plotlines and bypassing many characters. But perhaps that's inevitable, given the ground to cover. The season lays themes and develops characters slowly and patiently over the episodes. The more time you invest in it, the more you are paid back. It even manages to combine this with an apparent arbitrariness, with the shock of the unexpected always around the corner. (One established but minor character starts to be built up, whereupon he's killed off literally mid-sentence.)
And yet it seems to fail the final hurdle. One positive feature of the earlier Shane plotline was that it built up week by week and was then brought to a conclusion. Yet by failing to give us the final confrontation with the Governor the show lapses back into that zombie state of perpetual deferment. The Governor is not an rogue's gallery figure who can be brought back at regular intervals. Deprived of this season's themes, no longer in charge of Woodbury, he's just going to become a bad guy with an eye patch. To reduce him to some sort of Hooded Claw to Michonnes' Penelope Pitstop, perpetually reappearing to tie her to some railway line or other, that would take nothing forward but only detract from what has gone before.
It doesn't even make any internal sense. It might well be in character for him to slaughter his own troops once they'd questioned his sacrosanct orders. But with no reason to suppose any witnesses survived he'd surely ride back to Woodbury, blame the whole thing on Rick's group and start plotting their downfall all over again. Woodbury, even after his daughter's death, has seemed his world until that point.
Finally, whatever possessed them to take one of the best shows currently on TV and bump it down the schedules to Channel 5*? A channel whose very name looks like a typo. A channel I'd never previously watched, which I'm not sure I even knew existed. And one I'm now likely to forget about again unless 'The Walking Dead' comes back to it.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


Let's look at Ralph Miliband's now-infamous diary entry in slightly fuller detail
than when the Daily Mail splashed it for their hatchet piece. Writing shortly after arriving in Britain, as a young refugee from fascism, he wrote:

“The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world ... When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent in general and for the French in particular. They didn't like the French before the defeat... Since the defeat, they have the greatest contempt for the French Army ... England first. This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation."
Perhaps I am the only person alive who is able to spot the word 'almost' in a sentence. Perhaps I could sign up for one of those super teams, using that as my specialist power. “We need to know whether the word 'almost' is written here. Hey Almost Boy, step up!”
Many have mused on the irony of Miliband volunteering... I say again, volunteering to fight at Normandy while the Mail published the headline 'Hurrah For the Blackshirts'. (After their printing of contact addresses for interested parties to enlist with the British Union of Fascists, and competitions for the reader who could come up with the best reason for joining, even the Spectator commented “The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made.”)

But try actually reading that piece. In some absurd self-parody their chief concern about fascism isn't the violence, isn't the authoritarianism. It's that fascism is European. “Because Fascism comes from Italy, short-sighted people in this country think they show sturdy national spirit by deriding it.”
Which makes Almost Boy wonder if the young Miliband didn't almost have a point.
But really, it's all a distraction isn't it? Who cares whether Miliband “hated Britain”? They'd probably say I “hated Britain” too and, given the skewed way they tend to define it, I probably do.
I'm more concerned that they say he's a Stalinist.
Notably in his claims today Mail editor Paul Dacre has hedged this bet, calling him “a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s”.
Which means he must know more about Miliband than his own biographer, Michael Newman, who described the man as “politically homeless in post-war Britain. He regarded himself as a Marxist, but was increasingly critical of the Soviet Union and Communist Party allegiance to it.”
But then again perhaps this sympathetic biography of Miliband isn't to be trusted. Perhaps it's yet another case of these sinister Lefties covering up for one another. So it's a good job, isn't it, that we have the Mail to counterbalance things. Such as this diary quote they pulled up to set the record straight. The one they got from Newman's book.

But let's say, just for the sake of argument, Dacre isn't lying. It's a tough call, I know, but let's see if we can manage it. Even if what he says is true – so what? Even an ignoramus such as himself must be aware the Soviet Union did not fully lose it's credibility among the European left until 1956. (When Soviet tanks rolled in to Hungary to bloodily crush a worker's uprising, rather giving the game away.) After Kronstadt, after Stalin's purges and show trials, this may seem to us to have happened late. But hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20.
More to the point, Miliband's first book was published in 1961. I am going to argue that 1961 came after the mid-50s. I am going to argue that Miliband could have believed in the tooth fairy in the early 50s and it would not have made a scrap of difference to his writing career.
And Ralph Miliband the writer, the Ralph Miliband most of us mean when we say “Ralph Miliband”, was saying things such as:
“The invasion of Czechoslovakia show very well that this oppressive and authoritarian Russian socialism has nothing in common with the socialism that we demand, and we must state this very loudly, even at the risk of seeming to be anti-soviet and to echo bourgeois propaganda...”
(An interesting contrast to the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia, after which Mail owner Viscount Rothermere wrote to Hitler to congratulate him. Oh wait, you were ahead of me there, weren't you?)
But of course the crux of their argument is that Ed knew Ralph as a father. So perhaps sinister Stalinist Ralph was influencing his son at an undue age, whispering comments about Five Year Plans instead of lullabies as the lad lay in his cot. Except Ed was not born until December 1969. Another date commonly thought to have come after the early 50s.
Paul Dacre is normally wrong about everything he says. But this time, he has outdone himself. This time, even if he is right, he is still wrong.
Dacre's game is of course to counterpose “Russian totalitarianism” with “the market economy”, turning up the heat until there's no other show in town. That's how he came to be chief of the newspaper that hated thinking. Despite the fact that guys like Ralph Miliband spent their lives considering that other choice, what it might look like and how we could get there.
Four years ago it was revealed the global economy was essentially running on thin air and the banking system almost collapsed overnight. Even with the massive cuts to people's living standards that ensued, that we are all now supposed to obligingly suffer, there is not a single lesson to be learnt from that. We should rebuild the “market economy” exactly as it was at the point just before it broke.
But back in 1917 the Russian revolution ended in...yes... totalitarianism. First they installed a command economy. (With, inevitably enough, themselves in command.) They didn't even stick to that very well themselves. But that is the single point in world history that we must keep coming back to. Everything we need to know about everything is here. Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.
There could however be an upside to this sorry story. If as a result of it a few more people were to pick up one of Ralph's books, they might find that what he advocated bears no relation to Ed's sorry business-as-usual policies and is actually something quite sensible. They might find that other show in town.
Post-script: Are you hated by the Daily Mail? Try this simple test.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Green Door Store, Brighton, Sat 28th Sept,

Just one day after the Guardian published a feature on 'The New Generation of Psychedelic Adventurers', suggesting not so much a revival as psychedelia becoming a touchstone for contemporary music which aims at a systematic derangement of the senses - and who should stroll into a local venue?

Exhibit A (aka Mainliner) are but one of the many side-projects of Acid Mothers Temple, featuring (in this incarnation) guitarist Kawabata Makoto, drummer Shimura Koji from the mothership, augmented by Bo Ningen bassist Kawabe Taigen. Their name, deriving from taking drugs in an undiluted form, couldn't be more appropriate. For the trio are channelling quite a specific moment in music history – 1969. After psychedelia had hit on heavy riffs, but before it got corralled into hard rock.

Typically, tracks start off with a squall of noise before plunging into a pummelling riff, often accompanied by space-chant scat vocals. Just when your eyes become spirals and your brain gets convinced it's all been going on forever so will presumably carry on in the same vein, it abruptly turns a corner into something else.

They can wring a surprising variety of sound from this formula. It's heavy... it's quite possibly heavier than heavy, but without ever sounding fixed or confining. It's deranged as a vision-addled shaman chewing dodgy roots face-down in a ditch, it's as disciplined as a marching army. It's music to, in Jim Morrison's immortal phrase, break on through to the other side. Possibly through the use of explosives.

My only complaint would be the occasional but persistent outbreaks of guitar heroics. Okay, this has all been put together by a guitarist and such stuff was an occupational hazard in the heyday of this music. But we're not after a note-for-note re-enactment, and we should be over all that all now. We want the psychedelia that passed safely through the filter of punk.

Though a short set, it seemed less a gig than a happening – and I can't think of finer praise than that, really. It really is hard to recount without lapsing into the vernacular of the era, and calling it “spacey,” “far out” or something similar. But then maybe, like that era, you simply had to be there.

Will a YouTube clip serve as a replacement? Probably not, but here's one anyway. From Birmingham, slightly earlier in the tour...

From an earlier incarnation of the band. But worth linking to anyway. You'll see why...