I consider it my patriotic duty to pay witness to the greatest Australian band (in the field of improv) whenever I can.
After more than five years of fandom, I should get frequent Necking points, or maybe even a sunhat. It was a piece of luck that I heard about the gig — there is a small centre devoted to improv music here in Dublin — which in itself is heartening. The tickets were just raffle stubs. I tried to get some colleagues excited and inarested to no avail. But the music, the music. I was kinda keen at one point to catch the opinion of the Germans sitting behind us (Das is Motorik, ja?), but I stopped caring. What’s the point when you’re listening to the sound of creation? The performance contour hasn’t changed much (still in the mode of the last studio and live albums); the improv is startlingly unique every time though actually quite consistent in range: Lloyd’s looping 4/4 riffs, Abraham’s asynchronous drones bordering on mental despair at the top of your head, and the superlative percussion work of Tony Buck — probably the greatest percussionist in his field. You tend to forget there’s more to rhythm and percussion than just hitting things. Tony scrapes, scratches, taps, tickles and trawls an astounding variety of sounds from a limited kit. First cymbals, then a ratchet ‘round the snare rim, a hand (or suspended, or China) cymbal running over the floor tom to make a crusty old machinic sound, a brush of tindersticks tightly packed, now agitating a bunch of brass bells with his foot as though crockery’s being stacked somewhere in the distance — all the while pacing and slowly evolving the pattern and the syncopated growth. The total percussionist as artist, he is. It’s amazing to see a band who not only have immense respect for each other’s musical space and interplay, but who take an almost infinite care with the texture of improvisation. I sat three metres away from Buck in humble thrall. If only writing could be like this, I asked a mind thrown back on itself and which answered It is, it already is when you consider the creation of it. It’s in the care and attention to detail, the controlled permutation, the seemingly organic growth. That tension of control and freedom chaos, the seeming freedom which obscures a complex ability. The joy of ordered play in seeming-chaos — so refreshing compared to the at-times wilful chaos of Dublin. And that charmingly off-guard surprise and casual bewilderment as they walk offstage to the cheering and totally tuned audience. Jubilance at shared creation. Chuffed smiles.
The Necks live at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Dublin, 25.11.04
I believe that Bitches Brew is one of the most mysterious albums in jazz, period.
Alinear, spliced, swampy grooves played in modes or keys somewhere between uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Long sketches that completely collapse notions of verse-solo/chorus in the standard jazz sense. The insinuation of virtuosity but not the harmonic foundation to ground it. Multiple musicians weaving around each other in austere groove and rhythm. Echoes and congas, electric and acoustic instruments (one of my fave combinations), planned and unplanned spontaneity. Obscurity, occlusion and occasionally sharp clarities of melody. Loose cohesion. No major hooks or choruses, but searching stabs of notes (played for echo-decay) cutting through the noodling undergrowth and treacherous quicksands. Continue reading “Miles Davis – Bitches Brew”
A monster of a cigar, like a grandiose and overweight statesman… so much smoke you have to sit down and shudder your jowls.
Truly, an obscene amount of tobacco. I’ve never smoked a Cuban this big before; it’s like smoking a cannon. But what an experience. Easier on the draw and subtly stronger than Romeo y Julietas, it actually changes, in terms of smoking experience, in the course of the full 50 minutes it takes to consume. On the third puff especially, about a third of the way in, there’s like a forest fire of action at the tip. The operative word, though, is powerfully smooth. In a very big way. Maybe not so strong on nicotine highs (unlike the headache-inducing hit of Flagship rollies), but a complete tobacco experience nonetheless, almost exhausting; I feel I’ve reduced my life expectancy by several weeks. Word up to Olav Huslid for bringing me this behemoth smoke, and word to the finer things and qualities in life, especially the ones that demand time.
OK the title leaves a lot to be desired, but students of the novel will reap diligent reward from this final work of intrigue and narrative power.
In my Balzacian quest to acquire as many works of Balzac as geographically possible, I picked up the noble-titled L’Envers de l’histoire Contemporaine of which a new translation was reviewed on Powell’s a while back under the slightly askew translation as The Wrong Side of Paris; which is nonetheless miles ahead of my bargain-base Signet translation as The Seamy Side of History, complete with seedy cover — a busty woman swigging from a bottle while a ruffian feels up her exposed leg — which, for a novel about Christian charity seems just a little distracting and or beside the point. Or a juiced-up transliteration of what was a bad mistranslation in the first place. Continue reading “Balzac – The Seamy Side of History”
What’s in a name? What’s in the smokey still out in the back yard? Well, about four fine Irish whiskeys, subtle and lighter than your Scots variety which bludgeon you with malt. Ever run through a field of barley with your mouth open? Jump over to Eire and taste the alternative. Come in from the cold and rally your toasts with our smooth and well-aged guide to Bushmills Irish Whiskey.
Good afternoon, good evening and good morning readers, and welcome to this small submission, this humble offering to the Slow Review. After much humming and hooing I’ve decided to turn my pen to the glorious world of whiskey and one of my favourite distilleries: Bushmills. I’ll admit, I’m watching Eurosport at the same time as writing this and can’t help being distracted by the sight of two rather shapely young lady tennis players. So, if the flow of this story seems somewhat disjointed then you can put it down to hormones and a span of attention that has been worn down, over the years, with the help of large doses of Bushmills. Continue reading “Bushmills Whiskey(s)”