on life, music etc beyond mainstream

Author Archive:

2022 26 Mrz

The faded

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | 2 Comments


















2022 24 Mrz

Ghost dealership

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | 3 Comments





2020 8 Feb

Eine Frage des Plateaus

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | Comments off


Michael, deine Erwähnung der Budd Eno LP „The Plateaux of Mirror“ vor einiger Zeit ist ein interessanter Zufall. Nachdem ich sie 15 Jahre lang jede Woche gespielt hatte (keine Übertreibung) … hatte ich ein Plateau erreicht. Aber dann passierte etwas. Keine Ahnung, warum, aber es fing an, wieder neu zu werden. Es war, als ob jedes Mal, wenn ich es hörte, ein roher Bernstein poliert wurde und das Undurchsichtige einer reinen Durchsichtigkeit wich. Ich weiß nicht, welche Marke von Kaffee/Tee/Mineralwasser Brian und Harold damals getrunken haben. Aber was auch immer es war, es hat funktioniert.

The Westway. London Fields. Battersea Power Station seen from the train on the way to Kent. Shadwell seen thru the window of a DLR train, under an indifferent sky. McDonald’s on the King’s Road, early evening in November. Powis Square in January sunlight. 3am „night safari“ around King’s Cross in mid July 2012, the madness and the law all around, dubstep vibe of the Subway restaurant at that hour, coffee and silence, Eurostar all the way to Avignon in 3 hours from St Pancras. Jamaica Road, Bermondsey. Trafalgar Square falconers: pigeon dispersal zone – 4 bronze lions, Spanish schoolkids climbing them, lion indifference under an indifferent sky. The Shard when it was still under construction. The Gherkin when it was still under construction. Electronics shops on the Tottenham Court Road. Turkish food in Dalston. Turkish coffee in Shoreditch. Chance meeting: outside LN-CC. I laugh. Coffee at Nico’s on Westbourne Grove (is it still there?). Weird dilapidated mansions at Kensington Palace Gardens sometime last decade, before the real money moved in. Brick Lane, graffiti on doors on Fournier Street. Getting off a bus at the wrong stop in the Murder Mile, Hackney and not getting murdered: it’s calm, hipsters walking past with „2013 beards“ even though it’s 2014. The Ikea advertising on the plastic wallet they give you for your Oyster card. The M&S food outlet that used to be Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant.

Before [Pharmacy]:

After: [M&S Simply Food]

I think I bought a cake there. Reduced price.

Karl Marx’s ridiculously extravagant grave in Highgate Cemetery, someone had left an orange on it. William Friese-Greene’s grave at the same skeletonyard. Ghosts. Ghosts in the cafe in Brockwell Park. Spirits. Everywhere, every day.

London, England, not a city I know, much: but I like the fragments I’ve seen.

2020 15 Jan

Belated best of 2019

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | Comments off

Fellow Manafonistas, and regular readers of the site: apologies for my prolonged absence. I am still alive, still kicking. And I’ll aim to post some stories here more often in this new year of a new decade. Forwards, onwards, upwards, etc.

But for now, though, a quick look backwards to my best of 2019. There’s not an awful lot here as I suffer from temporal dyslexia so date stamps on recorded music are nonsensical to me. 1988 may as well be 1899. Know what I mean? Either way, here’s what I believe may be my records of what I think may have been 2019:


Upon Reflection – Wretch 32
EDM Vol. 2 – Jodey Kendrick
Igor – Tyler, the Creator
Sonne und Wasser – H. Takashi
Komachi – Meitei
Forgotten Hill – Chihei Hatakeyama
Dreams Never End – Spangle Call Lilli Line
i,i – Bon Iver
Intoxicate – George Pannell
Quantized Angel – Alberich
37 Minute Workout Vol. 2 – Russell Haswell
John Luther Adams‘ Canticles of the Sky + Three High Places – Oliver Coates


Do have a listen. These weren’t picked for any critical reasons, they were picked because they are fun to hear.

2019 26 Mrz

The Coventry Campbell

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | 2 Comments

Short albums interest me. Not least because if they take you on a journey, then by the end of that journey you’re aware of distance rather than time. You’ve gone from point A to point B, no matter what speed the motor was running. Short albums are also interesting because of an obvious an implication: that the artist’s only saying what needs said. Same with novels. „Heart of Darkness“ isn’t a thick wedge of pages, but despite its concision, it’s a deep, deep trip. Shortness can definitely sharpen the artistic effect. I’m not sure the same could be said of fine art. But hey, I guess it would be interesting to do survey of paintings that were, say, less than a foot tall and less than three-quarters of a foot wide.

Among my fave short albums are Billy Bragg’s „Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy“ which comes in at a heroic 15 minutes. And „The Coventry Campbell“ by Charcoal Owls, which is a great way to spend 27 minutes.

„The Coventry Campbell“ appeared a couple of years ago, but I only discovered it two weeks ago. I guess it didn’t arrive in blaze of publicity on release, hence why I missed it. But its quiet appearance kind of suits its themes and general mood.

Proceedings kick off with the superbly titled „Hospice Pics“, which appears to centre lyrically on an abundance of card games in a hospice. „Games of whist on tap“ and „pontoon on tap“. There’s a desolate, choked jollity to the piano on this, and an interesting and oblique digression from card games: one inmate, an „ex go-getter“ who hoards letters. The song doesn’t go into the content of the letters except to say that the inmate’s nephew „has got into fascism“.

Next up is a jaunty acoustic number, „Housebound & Proud“. This isn’t a cheery one, lyrically: „I’ll be heading to cemetery if I ever head to town…“ This is a bit poignant as an opening line. I think we’re talking agoraphobia.

This isn’t going to be a track by track review. „The Coventry Campbell“ is an album that demands to be listened to without me trying to guide your thoughts on it. However, I don’t think I can post this without pointing out some other highlights, so…

„Cov Campbell“ – track 3 on the LP refers presumably the establishment that the album is titled for in full. It sounds like a large-ish pub somewhere in the Home Counties. Somewehere just beyond the full thickness of the commuter belt. The song’s chorus (such as it is) consists of the vocalist going „I got barred from the Cov Campbell“. But it’s the way he does it. It’s hilarious. There’s no anger, just broken defiance. And you kind of get the feeling that it’s for the best. The Campbell doesn’t sound too great anyway: „the whole building stinks“, a place where „dry ice rises for the indie kids“.

„Open Wide“ – track 4. Genius. What you have is a slow, plaintive studio-recorded piano (think John Cage) with a vocal that’s been recorded in open space, with wind noises intruding on the mic, the faint rush of a motor vehicle passing every so often, and birdsong. The lyrics hint at some kind of final departure: „We’re sending you away, open wide, on a little holiday. Open wide, open wide. One day you’ll be up there with Branson’s balloons, one day be out of sight“. There is something comedic about „Branson’s balloons“ and it just makes the song all the more achingly melancholic.

A work of genius, and no mistake. If you like Sleaford Mods‘ descriptions of the UK then you may enjoy much of this LP. There’s even a reference to Maplins. Maplins was a discount electronic store. The chain went bust not long after this record was released. And who couldn’t love record with a line like „I observe the fridge filth while the radio complains“. Or „All those shit springs and rubbish summers“.


2018 7 Okt


| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | 5 Comments


„The Danish town planner Steen Eiler Rasmussen first popularized the idea of London as “a city of villages” in the 1930s, and the description long ago became a cliché.“ (Ian Jack, NY Review of Books, September 27 2018.)

Accretion, agglomeration. But at the quantum scale – time (possibly) goes both backwards and forwards. This is yesterday, and so is tomorrow. Psychogeography is alive, RIP psychogeography.

„And then, a bird of like rarest spun heaven-metal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my head.”

Two soundtracks I enjoy listening to frequently are White Bird In A Blizzard by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie, and Le Grand Bleu by Eric Serra. The deep enjoyment of these soundtracks means that approaching the films isn’t something I’m in any hurry to do, because I’d be too busy listening to the music to concentrate on the film, and in any case, the music has already conjured up a kind of amorphous non-narrative film of its own for each of these soundtracks.

White Bird In A Blizzard is an astounding listen, every single time I hear it. The record’s compositions vary between those written solely by either artist, with only a couple that were co-written by both. The opening track (by Guthrie) sets the scene. If music could sound cold and luminous to the point of being able to see and feel it, then this is an example. But (perhaps counter-intuitively) the effect is warm rather than cold, not unlike watching snow falling outside, through a window: the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Le Grand Bleu is a longer record, with more thematic variety. Sure, there’s all the watery bits with all the mystery and danger you’d expect, but there are also moments back on dry land – the contrast giving the impression that neither state is ideal, even if one is preferred. Serra’s compositions are brilliantly textured – maybe a bit 1980s sounding, but in a cool way. Two killer tracks here are Homo Delphinus and Much Better Down There, both of which hint at an emotional depth I can only hope the celluloid actually provides.

As for films I have actually seen, well 37°2 le matin by Gabriel Yared is about as good as it gets. Or Blade Runner by Vangelis. Then of course there’s film music for films that don’t even exist – such as Brian Eno’s „From the Same Hill“ and The Durutti Column’s „For A Western“. But that’s a whole ’nother blog.

2018 14 Sep

Scarlet Nights

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | 1 Comment

Two records that I never stop listening to, records that get played on a daily or weekly basis. This is stuff that never loses any of its fascination. David Sylvian’s Gone to Earth and Prefab Sprout’s Jordan: The Comeback. It would be fair to say that both of these works explore the theme of death. What is death, to the dead? Fuck knows. And I’ll be too dead to care when I myself am over the waterfall. It’s one of life’s imponderable questions.

Anyway, both records go into this broad theme in different ways. Gone to Earth brilliantly contrasts songs with instrumental compositions, moving from the groundedness of language into something beyond it, over into a world of mysteries and doubts unlimited by the need to check for fact or do reason. Jordan: The Comeback is all songs, no instrumentals, and it hints at a beyond, stopping at the shore and looking over. That’s how I read it, anyway. The writer Philip Pullman has this to say about stories:


As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don’t think it’s the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.

The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader’s mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I’m not going to explain.


And so here’s how I read Jordan: the Comeback. The word Jordan relates to Elvis (whose backing singers were of course The Jordanaires). It also relates to the River Jordan, a place of miracles. The song’s fictional, once-mighty singing star says (note: says, not sings) in the title track he is „biding his time“ waiting to make a comeback. He just needs the right song for this to happen. But you just know the character is on his deathbed, and that the comeback won’t be a Vegas thing but a trip past the pearly gates. The song closes with this:


End of the road I’m travellin‘
I will see Jordan beckonin‘
Jordan, sweet Jordan
Hand me any cup you find that’s lying spare
I’ve longtime been a-thirstin‘ for a share


At which point Jordan (the river) becomes the place where crippled horses heal, and where autumn is reversed, as well as Jordan (the character) being the one who can dispense some of the river’s miracleness. The second last track, Scarlet Nights, hints that, yes, it’s the end. But it’s also a beginning:


This is where your sleepless eyes will close
This is where the weary find repose
This is where a kind of bugle blows
This is where you’ll wake to find the River Jordan flows

Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt | Datenschutz