watson, marsh and may...

..were in a studio today, recording some improvised music. nice studio, nice microphones, nice outboard, nice and extremely competent engineer. and tea, sandwiches and spicy cashew nuts. living the dream.

and lots and lots of sunshine. i was extremely tired and slightly hungover - not my most professional behaviour perhaps, but it did mean i was in a slighty spacey frame of mind which in turn meant i wasn't at all nervous. we spent time listening to things as we went along so we had some idea of how good it was, whether we were covering all the areas we usually did, and to take a break (always important). anyway it didn't take long before we had enough decent stuff to stop playing and let jon the engineer run off some mixes. it's a nice, warm, live sound.
this trio does have something a bit different going on from most free improv; i suppose it's closer to free jazz actually, though sometimes it gets all micro-abstract, there's a lot of pulse and melody, though often stretched and perverted somewhat. ahem. it was a good day, and i'm pretty sure we've got some really nice stuff down on disc. hurrah!

red shift

Red shift by astrogarage this is more like it; the usual amorphous nonsense. this was made very quickly using just a korg prophecy - no outboard or processing other than a bit of compression.

british gas

British gas by astrogarage
a possibly ill-advised attempt at what might be called 'dance music', constructed recently in a few hours using the wonders of garage band and two ancient synths (a novation basstation and a korg prophecy. plus a bit of radio static and a brief vocal loop lifted off a north london pirate station. keeping it real, eh, what?

sonnamble in the mix (and expanded)

conor's just alerted me to a rather nice mix on fluid radio from M Ostermeier, featuring a track from the sonnamble album. we also featured on ed pinsent's sound projector show a week or two back on resonance fm - listen here. and a track or two will be played on late junction on april 29th.

so rather than sitting on our arses and basking in all this er, media attention, sonnamble are hitting some next level shit, as i believe the young people say. we've doubled in size with the addition of sonic warriors chris jones (guitar) and andy willis (percussion), meaning i can concentrate on double bass.

two sessions so far have been pretty sweet. chris's guitar seems to be a great fit with conor's patches. andy's stripped down the kit to snare and cymbal and the two of us generate sparse, slow grooves under chris and conor's shifting clouds of chords, drones and glitches. learning what not to play, as ever, is the key and the most difficult thing to do. it's good to be playing with andy and chris again. currently it's kind of sounding a bit like the necks meets ashra meets fennesz, but others may beg to differ. we'll have some stuff to listen to up on the interweb soon.

laurie anderson - delusion

i saw this show the other night. it was funny, beautiful, often sad. sometimes a bit annoying. i'm still thinking about it.

nick drake

just watched the nick drake tribute gig on bbc four (available to watch on the iplayer till sunday 25th). i always approach such things with extreme caution and (to me anyway) drake is one of those people whose songs resist interpretation by anyone else. this was a mixed bag. the musical arrangements were mostly tasteful and at times pretty inventive. when the latter came together with a decent vocal performance the results were pretty good. lisa hannigan went all pj harvey on black eyed dog and probably topped the lot. green gartside (who's basically drake on helium) and harper simon (to my surprise) came close. the rest ranged from ho-hum to, i'm not sure...misguided would be the kindest way of putting it. this also goes for robyn hitchcock's matching polka dot stratocaster and shirt. drake's songs fall apart under the weight of vocal overemoting; anything that sounds remotely american is going to finish them off for a start. but - and this is a big but...there was a lot of danny thompson, which is always a good thing.

le manche

matt has often pointed out to me that being born and raised in dover makes me practically french. i'm not sure about this, but i do like a lot of french music. despite the fact that air and justice have done a lot to restore french cred and that gainsbourg and brel will always be hipster faves, there is a perception that not much has ever came out of the place, which is a little unfair. and the same goes for belgium, while we're at it.

what follows is some of my french faves, or at least ones i could think of and that were on youtube. pourquoi? parce-que.

znr were the duo of hector zazou and joseph racaille. they liked satie, especially the silly bits. they liked short songs. they liked the clarinet, they did two albums, of which my favourite is traire de mecanique populaire, from 1978. the four tracks from it below don't quite sum up their range, but they are quite swoonsome and somehow very french, even though there's not much accordion around. i got into them because they were championed by chris cutler's wonderful recommended records, and i think i was initially kind of baffled by them. joseph racaille's solo stuff is good too. he's ended up as one of france's foremost exponents of the ukelele, but we won't hold that against him.

francoise hardy
i was rather taken aback when i realised just how much ms hardy i'd been listening to, according to last fm. i really like her 70s stuff when she began to take a bit more control over what material she sang and started writing her own. and she's still at it too, with a new album just out. and that stuff's good as well. strangely i hate hearing her sing in english for some reason, but i'd argue that french is one of the best sounding languages to sing in (along with portugese). whatever. you may find this to be unashamedly saccharine and dripping with eurovision stylee MOR awfulness, but i don't. so there.

here's a band who gave birth to their own sub-genre (zeuhl), wrote songs in a fictional alien language (take that, sigur ros) and sounded like a mix of james brown, carl orff, john coltrane and god knows what. christian vander, their leader, is about as french as sun ra was american, if you get my drift. snooker legend steve davis's favourite band, as everyone knows but somehow can't quite believe. even thought they want to. and this rocks.

pierre bensusan
he's very good.