Friday, August 30, 2013

Loving ... "Sol" by Oathless and Good Weather for an Airstrike

Collaborations are a double-edged sword ... sometimes they are brilliant - a real synergistic meeting of minds ... and other times they can be dull - one more thing built by a committee.

I am glad to say "Sol" ... the recent collaboration between Tom Honey aka Good Weather For An Airstrike & Simon Housley aka Oathless falls most definitely in the former camp.

"Sol" is tremendous ... the meeting of two really good musicians to craft something rather extraordinary. An EP that isn't GWFAA or Oathless ... but something else ... something more.

I am a fan of their solo work. Honey’s ambient / post-rock soundscapes are simply divine ... and Housley's cinematic expression really works for me too. I am also a fan of Damn Robot - Honey’s collaboration with his brother Rob Honey aka Inachus ... where Honey proves he has the chops to work with others.

What is brought to the table as "Sol" is not easily identifiable as either Honey or Housley's work ... it is something new ... it is the expression of their working together ... their synergy ... and I, for one, really like that about the release.

There are ambient soundscapes underpinning utterly delightful female vocals ... slightly disconcerting vocal samples over an acoustic guitar ... glitches and pops (that could be processes rain) over malevolent synths and sparse piano ... pulsing rhythms ... engaging melodies ... this EP is a delight.

The highlight of the EP, for me, is the opening track - "Omertà" - which features the sweet vocals of UK/Canadian singer Jamie Brett. It's more dreamy than anything else ... with sparse percussion, strange radio samples and the most delightful melody carried on the piano complementing & enhancing her vocal delivery.

But then the soulful percussion & haunting vocals of "Through the Iris" is up there challenging me for stand-out. It is so wonderfully hypnotic and dreamy. It is adorable and should be on ’Ghostly’ if I am honest rather than Honey’s Hawk Moon Records.

I’ll admit that their voyage into the dreampop realm caught me off-guard when I started listening to the EP but now it sounds so right. I guess it was my expectations that needed to change ... and when they did I saw the real breadth of Honey & Housley’s vision ... a vision I want more of.

I thoroughly enjoyed this EP ... so much so I bought the physical CDr. Musicians like Honey & Housley need all the support they can get.

Britain has got talent ... and it is NOT a dog.

Well done chaps.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Loving ... "Lantern EP" by Stylusboy

For all the progressive music that I consume on a daily basis, I still come back to acoustic-guitar led singer/songwriter style folky music. The music brings me back to reality & gives me the words I need when I am in need of words.

Folk like Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash are obvious starting points ... but there are others that I turn to: Brooke Fraser, Iron & Wine, or even the awesome Simon & Garfunkel ... lately, though, I've turned to Stylusboy as well.

Now I've spoken about Stylusboy before & I happily call out I am a fan of their sound ... I say ’their’ because Stylusboy is not just Steve Jones’ baby anymore ... Rachel Grisedale, with her sumptuous vocal harmonies, is an integral part of the band.

Now Grisedale’s vocals really do make the band ... but she has to have something or someone to harmonise with and Jones’ voice is the perfect counterpoint. There is humanity in his voice that I just adore. They work well together ... complementing each other nicely.

In addition, Jones’ guitar work is wonderful. It is vibrant and enticing ... it fits so well with the rest of the band: Tim Bowes on Drums … John Parker on Double bass … and Polly Paulusma on Guitars, keys, mandolin and glockenspiel. Theirs is a joyful noise that draws you in before you are captured by the vocals. All in ... Stylusboy makes music that I really appreciate.

"The Lantern EP" is Stylusboy's latest release. It features two studio tracks & two live tracks.

The first of the live tracks - "Latern" - is a joyous affair ... an upbeat guitar, piano & mandolin-lead celebration of life with a really infectious sing-a-long chorus and a fab backbeat.

"... the light is burning for you!"

There is so much hope contained within this song ... it's hard not to be moved by it.

The next track - "love’s tale" - is wonderfully atmospheric ... a delightful track filled with guitar, piano, glockenspiel and some seriously beguiling harmonies.

"This is the start of something beautiful ... of something new."

Wow ... those lyrical rapscallions had me at "it's time ..."

"Love's tale" is an utterly beautiful track that is worth the price of the EP. If I ever renew my vows to Olly, I'm playing this song afterwards!

The third track - "Open" - was recorded at ’Hot Numbers’ and demonstrates, quite effectively, how good Stylusboy are as a band. An upbeat guitar and vocals number that really places emphasis on their musicality.

The fourth track - "Jigsaw" - was also recorded at ’Hot Numbers’. It has a delightful sway about it ... a sense of movement and presence that I find comforting. This is complemented by the heartfelt vocals to make something beautiful indeed.

The whole EP is a delight from start to finish. I would heartily recommend this release ... especially if you are like me and are looking for something different from what you normally listen to ... that is unless acoustic-guitar led singer/songwriter style folky music is your norm ... and let's face it Stylusboy make a compelling argument for it.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Four days in Leeds

Last week I was sent to Leeds with my work. All the folk I needed to see are based in the same office & it made sense to pop down to them rather than try to get them up to Glasgow or try to hold blocks of 2hr+ conversations on the phone.

I stayed in the Jury's Inn which was delightfully situated in Brewery Wharf (see above). The view from the hotel was a delight & the area had a pleasant ’eatery’ vibe about it. I would take Olwyn there ... and plan to. It's that nice. Not boutique-nice but still very nice indeed.

Prior to going ... I put an appeal out on Twitter for places to go for coffee, food & drink, and music.

First on my list was Laynes ... a fab wee independent coffee shop near the station. They served Square Mile’s ’red brick’ seasonal espresso blend that I simply adored. It's a very tasty blend of 3 beans and was delicious hot and cold.

Next on the list was Jumbo Records ... an institution in Leeds with ’leftfield’ and ’electronica’ sections that I had trouble leaving. I picked up Low’s latest album there.

200813_ Ebi Gyoza

200813_ Wagamama Ramen

After visiting Jumbo then heading back to Jury’s to get changed ... Scott, my colleague and companion for a couple of days, and I headed out for food. With Scott being a vegetarian and me having a thing for noodles, we headed to Wagamama. Yes, there were probably more indie places to visit but we were hungry & nothing beats ramen. The food & the service was so good there that we went back on the Wednesday night ... and I returned on my own on the Thursday too.

From Wagamama, we headed to Friends of Ham ... a small indie pub & charcuterie that had some amazing craft beers on tap. Their selection of ginger beer was less amazing but I was able to have one while Scott tried something from the States (I think). It was a delightful venue ... small & intimate ... the kind of place I'd take Olly.

The following day - Wednesday - we headed to Crash Records for a browse. Crash is another fab indie recordstore ... possibly less diverse in selection than Jumbo but still offering up some goodies. I picked up Brad's latest album in there on sale ... which was both a surprise & a pleasure.

After getting changed at Jury's ... we headed back into town and went to The Reliance. A pub / restaurant that sold some interesting craft / micro beer on tap. They did ’shabby chic’ very well. I found The Reliance a warm, welcoming place with a real buzz ... and would have stayed longer if it wasn't for the fact their menu wasn't as appealing as Wagamama's.

210813_ Gyoza

210813_ Prawn Firecracker

Wednesday's dinner, above ... and Thursday's dinner, below ...

220813_ Summer Rolls

220813_ Prawn Tom Sum

On Thursday, after another evening meal in Wagamama ... I met up with Ed Rotheram and grabbed a couple of ginger beers in an interesting place - 1871 - a place that wasn't on my list. It had a fab interior with a number of vintage film posters on display along with old toys and the like. I was shocked to find out this pub was part of the Marriott Hotel in Leeds. It wasn't branded as such & I did feel a bit cheated somehow ... albeit their ginger beer was nice enough & the conversation with Ed was inspiring.

I loved Leeds and hope to go back ... its a fab city with lots available to do. I will be back.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Zero History + Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore ... 2 books for my recent trip to Leeds

One of the benefits of long train journeys is the opportunity to read ... and while I was away in Leeds and then latterly in Slaithwaite (more on both later) I got the chance to finish William Gibson's fantastic story "Zero History" ...
Hubertus Bigend, the Machiavellian head of global ad-agency Blue Ant, wants ex-musician Hollis Henry to uncover the maker of a secret, obscurely fashionable denim called 'The Gabriel Hounds'. Hollis knows nothing about fashion - which, curiously, is why Bigend hired her. Soon, though, it's clear that Bigend's interest in underground labels might have sinister applications. Powerful parties, who'll do anything to get into this territory, are showing their hand. And Hollis, as Bigend's representative, is about to find herself in the crossfire.
It is such a compelling read that this is the second time I've read it ... and I got more out of it this time round.

What I love most about Gibson's work ... especially his 'Blue Ant Trilogy' ... is his attention to detail. I find his descriptive prose an utter joy to consume and can really visualise where he takes the story.

I would highly recommend this series ... start at "Pattern Recognition".

From there I moved to this modern-day fable ... "Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan. I've only just started it but it already has me intrigued. I particularly love stories written in the first-person ... I think it has something to do with my love of Lovecraft ... and this story has a really modern, upbeat, hip feel about it ...
Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore...
I'm only a few pages in but it has me hooked. It is going for less than the price of a coffee on the Kindle store at the moment ... so dive in and join me.


Loving ... the webcomic

I found this site >> << fascinating when my friend, Jonathan, linked to it this morning on Facebook.

The site is entitled 'a curiously Christian webcomic' and it does a remarkable job of challenging the norms in church and really having a go at pricking the pomposity of some folks who call themselves Christians.

It does the XDCD thing of having an additional comment that shows in the hover-over text ... a comment that really adds to the piece ... like the one above called "the Anxiety Circle".

Well worth a bookmark if the Christian faith is your thing.


I forgot my phone - a video by charstarleneTV

I saw this a few days back ... or should I say I saw a link for this video a few days back but didn't follow it because I was busy *being* with my friends. I guess that's super-ironic considering I was on my phone but didn't want to be on too long.

Anyway ... I finally got to watch the video last night and it has challenged me ... in a good way.

Watch it and take a moment to think about it ... especially if you are watching it on your phone in company.


Friday, August 23, 2013

My latest post is up on Big Bible ...

I’m of the opinion that if you go looking for the worst in something, somewhere or even, dare-I-say, in someone … you’ll find it. Its remarkably easy to find something to complain about and … with social media … its remarkably easy to make your complaint known. It is, however, very difficult to distance yourself for these comments once they are out … its like a fart in a car … once its out, there is no way of taking it back. Trust me on that one … there is no way you can turn back the clock after you let one slip out.
My latest post is up on Big Bible ... and yes, I did say 'fart in a car'.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The History of Typography ... a video by Ben Barrett-Forrest

The History of Typography - Animated Short from Ben Barrett-Forrest on Vimeo.

Just watched this video after finding it whilst catching up on The Fox Is Black (I am so behind) and totally loved it ... it is so well done and utterly fascinating. Ben Barrett-Forrest has created something beautiful here that deserves your attention.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Seven Questions with ... Kai Ginkel aka Phirnis

There is so much good music out there that I find myself continually playing catch up ... one album in particular that I need to listen to is "Feeding Lions [FW108]" by Phirnis on the Fwonk netlabel. I do intend on rectifying this ... especially after I read through Phirnis' response to my wee blog interview. He sounds like my kind of chap.


1) Who are you and what do you do?
Kai Ginkel from Darmstadt, Germany; recording under the Phirnis moniker, producing what was recently tagged as “enigmatic and evolving washes of sound”.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
The actual music for “Feeding Lions” was already finished by spring, so I’ve been taking a break throughout the summer months, quietly contemplating on where to go next after this one.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Only one? In that case I’ll have to mention Brian Wilson.

- Name place that has inspired you.
Right now I happen to spend most of my time in Vienna, so you may expect the music to become a lot more pompous on future releases.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Exercise; it clears the mind.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
I like to create a sense of unease and I don’t even mean that in a mischievous way.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
Brevity would certainly qualify as a value I’m interested in. I like to keep it short. To me, there’s something very elegant about being able to get straight to the point and then just stop.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
A big one and I enjoy that. I’m starting to do more and more collaborative work and I’d love to find the time to co-produce other people’s music as well.

7) What is next for what you do?
At the moment I’m not sure if I’m going to make another album soon. I’m excited about the way “Feeding Lions” turned out, much better in fact than I had any right to expect and following that I am now looking for a fresh approach.


Thanks Kai!

"Feeding Lions [FW108]" by Phirnis is available over on the Fwonk netlabel ... have a wee listen below:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photos from the Salvation Army's East and West Scotland Summer School's 2013 Final Festival

Its been nearly a week since the Final Festival of the Salvation Army's East and West Scotland Summer School ... and I wanted to share some of my fave photos from the 222 that I posted last weekend.

It was a great show and I had a pretty good spot that meant I didn't need to walk about ... the lighting was fab too which meant I didn't need to faff about with my big flash.

Anyway ... here are a few of my faves:

Final Fest _ 026

Final Fest _ 080

Final Fest _ 109

Final Fest _ 133

Final Fest _ 152

Final Fest _ 154

Final Fest _ 166

Final Fest _ 217

The rest of the set can be viewed >> here <<


Loving ... "Undefined Shapes" by Earlyguard (@earlyguard)

Longform ambient drones are one of my life’s simple pleasures. The music of folks like Earlyguard, Scott Lawlor, and of course Cousin Silas are constants to me. I know I can count on their drones when I am in need of some mental escapism.

I recently received a preview copy of Earlyguard’s most recent release - "Undefined Shapes" - and was blown away by its grace and beauty. It is a vibrant and engaging piece ... a piece with real depth and substance ... a piece that gently sucks the listener into an alternate universe ... a vast open expanse of light and of opportunity.

Simply put ... this isn't music to be heard so much as it is music to be felt ... to be experienced. And I love it.

I particularly love the moments of melody near the beginning and the use of a sequencer in the later half of the track ... both elements working with the overall drone and the various other sounds employed to create a truly immersive audio experience.

But then it is Earlyguard and he is highly accomplished in this area ... the area of longform  drone-based ambient soundscapes. I wouldn't say this is a return to form but more a natural progression ... he is getting better in his pursuit of excellence & it shows on "Undefined Shapes".

I really love this piece and am grateful to Earlyguard for sharing it with me.

It is currently for sale over on iTunes ... with the intention to bring it to Bandcamp in a few weeks time.  If his music is ’your thing’ then please do what you can to support independent music.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Seven Questions with ... Marcus from North End

Yesterday, I posted some thoughts I had on "Cognoscere" by North End ... it was an EP I really enjoyed listening to. There is something wonderfully vibrant and alive about it.

Anyway ... as I do ... I asked the band to complete my wee blog interview ... and I'm delighted to say that Marcus, the bassplayer, responded.

This is what he had to say:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Marcus and I play bass in the band North End (  We're an instrumental rock group out of West Chester, PA that formed in the summer of 2008.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
We just finished up our newest album, "Cognoscere" and will be releasing it today, August 13th.  So far we have gotten a great response releasing the first single, "Gabardine" so we're really excited to get it out there.  It definitely has 5 of the best tracks we have ever written.

3) Who inspires you?
At the moment i've been listening to a lot of indie rock groups out of Ireland.  My favorite right now is the band "Enemies".  Their latest album "Embark, Embrace" is incredible from start to finish and extremely creative.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
We all work full times jobs so playing music is a great release from the typical weekday grind.  We have also been playing 5 years as a band so we've finally discovered our sound and connected to a lot of great people/artists out there.  Things continue to get better the more we play.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
We don't really write songs with values in mind, we create moods and atmospheres for listeners.  Our songs always go to different places so the feeling is entirely up to the listener.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
Without community we wouldn't have a fan base so they play a huge role in what we do.  They buy our records, support our music and come to our shows so we do everything for them.  They make everything possible.

7) What is next for what you do?
We'll be playing a lot of shows to support "Cognoscere" and then we'll continue to write new material.


"Cognoscere" by North End is out today over on Bandcamp ... I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Loving ... "Cognoscere" by North End

I love instrumental rock music and thoroughly enjoy bands who express themselves in a vibrant, varied, and progressive manner ... bands that keep their tracks lean and fluid ... employing the post-rock emphasis on dynamics and the ebb & flow of contrast ... along with a math rock obsession with timing ... bands that keep their sound moving with stops & starts.

North End are one such band. Their recent 20 minute EP "Cognoscere" is a prime example of varied & vibrant instrumental rock music that really moves ... and has, in turn, moved me. A fast-paced thrill-ride of an EP ... "Cognoscere" holds a math-rock aesthetic close to the heart. The tracks presented on this EP have rather incredible time signatures ... it's as if Animal himself is drumming for the band ... and while this drumming could be tighter, there is a frenetic, almost chaotic, element to the percussion that I really enjoyed. I probably shouldn't have ... it is messier than it needs to be ... but I really love it for that.

The tracks also display a post-rock leaning ... with an ebb & flow apparent as the melodies move and evolve from soft to hard, quiet to loud, slow to fast ... and vice versa. I do like my dynamics ... it shows the musicians have chops ... and it is definitely apparent on "Cognoscere". It adds to the varied nature of the instrumental music presented ... keeping the listener on their toes & keeping everything interesting. This isn't necessarily for everyone ... but "Cognoscere" rewards those who take the plunge.

Yes, there are moments that will frustrate - its not the kind of instrumental album that works well in the background ... I guess North End do not wish to be ignored ... and who can blame them? Nor is it the tightest sounding album I've heard but that is, in many ways, down to personal taste ... one person's "tight" is another person’s "bland". I don't like bland ... and North End are definitely not bland.

These minor points aside ... I really enjoyed "Cognoscere". It has an ’aliveness’ that is captivating ... a real & tangible feeling of vitality that I found an utter delight.

I hear great potential in "Cognoscere" and wish North End every success ... especially on the road. I think their frenetic, energetic sound will really work in a live setting.



"Cognoscere" by North End is released tomorrow on Bandcamp ...

Friday, August 09, 2013

Photos from the Salvation Army's East and West Scotland Summer School's 2013 Midweek Festival

On Wednesday evening ... I had the pleasure and privilege of taking some photos at the Salvation Army's East and West Scotland Summer School's 2013 Midweek Festival.

It is a stressful shoot, if I am honest ... the chapel where it is held gets dark quickly and both my cameras only go to 1600ISO. I also discovered the spare batteries I had taken weren't up to powering my flash ... which was disappointing.

All in, however ... it was a great night. Each group did really, really well. I was biased towards the choral groups as both Miriam and Dayna were in the Girls Voices ... as well as Dayna being in the 'A' Chorus ... but the Brass Bands sounded excellent and the other non-musical items were also of a very good standard.

Anyway ... I've shared my photos with the attendees yesterday and received just short of 7,000 hits on Flickr ... I thought I'd share some of my faves on here.

The full set is available >> here << ... enjoy.


Mid Week _ 015

Mid Week _ 033

Mid Week _ 043

Mid Week _ 066

Mid Week _ 079

Mid Week _ 081

Mid Week _ 084

Mid Week _ 093

Mid Week _ 106

Mid Week _ 107

Mid Week _ 109

Thursday, August 08, 2013

End Marmite Neglect

I thought this advert was brilliant when I followed the link from the BBC's website. I can't think why some people would find it offensive ... I mean, I don't think it mocks the work of the Animal Charities that it lampoons. I think its more of a mickey-take of the Animal Rescue Reality TV shows.


Friday, August 02, 2013

August 2013's wallpaper

August 2013's Calendar :: 1280x800

I do love a vanishing point ... and really liked this one at the Green Bridge in Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton. It was taken with my iPhone5 whilst out for a 5 mile walk with my family.

Enjoy. Usual flavours are below.


iPhone with Calendar + iPhone without Calendar

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Loving ... Philip Wilkerson’s latest album ... “Sojourner”

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is it in the ear of the listener ... we attribute significance to a piece of art based on the reaction we feel ... it moves us in a way that forms how we see or hear the piece ... it is what we do ... it is what I do.

With this in mind, I come to Philip Wilkerson’s latest album ... “Sojourner”. My initial reaction to this release was more spiritual than emotional, mental or physical. This album moves me in a deeply personal and spiritual way ... it resonates with me ... connects with me in a manner that few albums do.

Whether that is Wilkerson’s intention with this album is unknown but I found it deeply moving and remarkably contemplative. I've spoken before about how music ... especially ambient music ... can create space to think and provide respite from the busyness of daily life. This is so true with “Sojourner”. The 6 tracks provide their solace over 72 minutes ... they give me space ... they gently drown out all that is around me and leave me to myself. I love this.

We all need time out. We are cyclical beings who move between periods of activity and periods of rest ... periods of up and periods of down. “Sojourner” fits nicely into the downtime of rest ... not that I'd encourage people to plug in and then fall asleep ... albeit that is a probable outcome of this piece. More this album fits nicely in those moments where we need to close down, switch off and recharge.

Some folks advocate the taking of a sabbath ... a time to recharge and rest from work ... to do the opposite of what you do in your day-to-day working life. I get this and try to take time out in my week to spend with my family and to rest ... and I now have a soundtrack to aid me in this pursuit.

The tracks on “Sojourner” are of Wilkerson’s exacting level of quality ... they are elegant pieces, filled with a graciousness that I find truly engaging. They are unhurried expressions of a better life ... expressions that surround you with their warmth ... expressions of comfort and of peace.

Yes ... there is a sense of yearning that is evident ... and the journey the ’sojourner’ is on isn’t always clear cut, as articulated in the final track - the 22 minute opus “the Awaiting Presence” ... but, as it is with all meaningful journeys, it is not the destination that matters so much as it is the journey ... and this is a beautiful journey.

One I am glad to have taken.

One I will, without doubt, take again.

If ambient music is your thing then I heartily recommend this release. It is a work of beauty ... one that, I hope, resonates with you deep inside.


What I listened to in July, 2013

As before, this excludes the music listened to on CD either at home or in the car.



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