Friday, July 29, 2005

So glad about Glade

=======now czukay has added to this too========

I used to work on an assembly line in Aldershot packing those Glade air refreshers – while that proves seven of my prole credentials it is a completely unconnected introduction to Leo’s review of the recent Glade festival:

Festivals are becoming a commercial rash on the verdant jacksy of the UK. Many of them are cack and simple opportunities for the minority who organise and perform to make quick and substantial money out of the captive majority who are attracted by a vaguely subversive reputation.

Such cynical pissings wafted through my mind-urinal when an associate alerted me to the Glade Festival. It was marvellous to have these whining prejudices dispelled by the quality of the event from the moment the routemaster bus (craftily displaying a Muswell Hill destination) arrived at the rural Berkshire location.

Now, I’ll state here that I helped set the tent up content in my view of psy-trance as the acceptable – but still not very good – face of trance. This genre is the driving force behind Glade. On zipping up the tent and proceeding toward the thumping beats, it was already abundantly clear that this dismissive attitude toward psy-trance would simply not do. The main arena for such epic doodlings was not in a large tent but, in the best traveller traditions, out in the elements and most were already ‘at it’ by 10.30 on the Friday. This venue was to become a Makkah-like focal point on the beatific crescendo (for me, perhaps only, but it didn’t seem so) of Sunday afternoon.

Moving back from the elegiac rostrum, the other tents provided some pleasingly varied tunesmiths, with Sasha’s epic/utilitarian approach going down well on Friday and Cassetteboy providing a satirical point to proceedings with his crudely hilarious cut-up technique (Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter), no doubt inspired by William Burroughs, although there were no dead roads to understanding their act. His ctrl x and ctrl v is available to buy , or email for a rip. Unfortunately, this reporter was collapsed in the tent trying to communicate in Japanese without speaking when the often heralded Aphex Twin played. The Mount Fuji of the mind had been reached. (Historical footnote - this was the last weekend in the UK of the period of sanity in which the sale of those fabulous mushrooms was legal.)

Other honourable mentions: The Bug's blistering set to a packed and jumping Little Big Tent. Dub Side of the Moon, creaming the dairyless cakes of good proportion of the Sunday afternoon crowd, with their dub versions of Stink Floyd tracks from that ‘classic’ album - refreshing, revising and renewing the cerebral 70s group’s turgidity has never been so pleasurable to witness, listen, dance and fall over to. As the pharmacological clock ticked away the last precious minutes of the music, Richie Hawtin's exquisitely minimal slow-building tech-throb ultimately lost out to the immediately-gratifying idiot charms of the Breaksday tent (where the closing track was a surprise outing of RATM's exultant 'fuck you, I won't do what you tell me' song, which never sounded better!). Thankfully, there was another hour to be had of immersion outdoor psy-trance, in a haze of dust, sunlight and extremely bright colours everywhere!

Organisationally wonderful (there was sometimes even bog roll in the portaloos), aesthetically striking, with fleets of huge Tibetan-style flags, the most striking thing of all was the disarmingly friendly vibe. Compare this to the barely concealed tension and drunken aggro of your average corporate club or posey bar, and ask whether you can really be bothered with them any more. See you there next year.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

N8 dogg no more

It’s time for Amanda and I to move on from Hornsey/Alexandra Park/Crouch End/lower Muswell/what do you call it?, to pastures new in southeast London. My sole northside sojourn has been the longest of any of my London tenures by nearly three years, and I’m using our departure from the flat to reflect on the area’s soni-cultural contributions.

It’s limited. Though Dave and Ray of The Kinks came from up the road in N10, Muswell Hill is associated in my mind with artists like Vivian Stanshall who went there to stew/die. The broadway’s Green Man pub has recently gone gastro – what this does to its late-night “pint and a fight” basement I’m not sure. Down the hill on the W7 and into Crouch End and things aren’t much better – a few “late” (12am) venues and standard pubs offering nothing beyond chilled beats and disco house. Hornsey College of Art put on some decent punk and rock shows but has long since been subsumed by Middlesex Univ – the building has now been sold by the TUC for a school. The rather beautiful Hornsey Town Hall, modelled in part on one in Hilversum, had acts like the Kinks but is now being left to stew and needs civic help to survive. These days Crouch End is where members of no-mark blands such as Travis(ty) and Feeder reside, and the stench of 30-something baggy-jeaned multi-culti comfort hums from many of the leafier streets. The Judge Won’t Budge Jules was from Crouch until he upped sticks to Highgate on dj cash.

Upsides: the King’s Head is quite good for comedy; “dance bar” Bar Rocca on Tottenham Lane is on the r&b/hip-hop/bashment map of bling; Andy Kershaw runs the unpretentious Banner’s restaurant; and quite a few actors live here. Indeed, Simon Pegg’s liking for the area led to much of Shaun of the Dead being shot around Weston Park (like a lot of other TV programmes). We got involved once too, persuading local world venue Viva Viva to put our NYC friend Rachel Loshak on. My mate George also said he heard goths singing madrigals from one of the disused railway paths the other day.

There have recently been sightings of Pegg with Foldclay singer Christ Martin in Hornsey high street bars, which will delight the yuppies in the “New River Village” development down the road, but none of the Hornsey originals trying to resist the street’s gentrification. Up and coming UK nu-hopper Sway D’Safo is from the area, but no pirates resonate from here to showcase his work.

Of course Alexandra Palace has long since imported large-scale acts to the area. From the 60s happenings (the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream), to the Roses’ 89 performance and Pixies shows, the place has hosted some memorable events (I caught second-album Inspirals. Bah!). Faithless and Razorlight have played here too. The last decent sonics I heard coming out of the huge halls were songs commemorating the Kurdish new year.

Ultimately this area, at the bottom of a range of hills and almost into the Middlesex suburbs, is a place of cultural retreat. People can buy records from the second-hand stores or equipment from Audio Gold , but seminal gigs or events are unlikely. A diverse area it may be, but no ethnic community dominates enough to leave their cultural imprint here. A good place to live and eat only. Right now, after our decluttering there is currently a lot of vinyl and cds in the charity shops if anyone’s passing through.
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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Wools of sound

Bikini Atoll and House of Love, the Astoria, 5 July

Bikini Atoll would dearly love to be American, lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Gideon often affecting a New York twang between song or in the lyrics. Their sound is the post-Velvets noise-rock so beloved of many a disaffected man in a black shirt. They usually have two guitars or one with a wall of keyboards/effects generators on the go. It’s a done sound certainly, but the Atoll, two albums in on UK indie Bella Union – the last produced by Albini, do manage to inject some urgency, studiously avoiding either the British solipsism in this strand. It’s this thrust that keeps it interesting, otherwise the sound would dissolve into a very familiar sonic stew.

House of Love did a set that went from mild favourites through newies and lastly the classics. The post-Levitation Terry Bickers seemed lean and hungry, while Guy Chadwick looked like he has been working in a Soho post-production unit or the lower rungs of a record company.

A fringed boy angles his head up and down while others soak up the riffs. Seeing this and hearing all those chiming guitars threw me back, conjuring up the 1988-91 indie world, which never existed as it was imagined even then. You realise that this sound/these tales of unrequited love/the overall package, almost had to be marketed as an “indie” marginalised thing back then – if it was the 60s, then it would have been relevant, but not in 1988… we demanded more (was this ever considered to be ambitious?). If they’d come out post-Oasis, they would have been big.

As the place filled out for The Dears, the girls were much more attractive than that bygone/imagined indie world, but the boys if anything were much uglier, much more uniform due to the sportswear and ale guts. Despite the crystalline beauty of the songs on record, what was also apparent from HoL live is how basic the delivery was – Christine’s riff a two-note piece of luck. Two merely competent guitarists clang out the riffs, not too noisy not too clean, the method a precursor to later no-marks like The Catherine Wheel, even the indie dancers of the Charlatans and later chancers such as Cast. They didn’t play Shine On.
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