1 - 1 - 2023
OK, here goes, a concerted effort to run a reasonably uptodate homepage once again. I used to quite enjoy writing these brief postings the first time round. However, my provider's irritating decision to change the software and the resulting complications led to a severe loss of motivation. Let's see how far my burst of energy will last this time...although I must admit I'm not as familiar with the new software as I should be, so please forgive the odd glitch.
To start with, here's the list of my top 10 albums of 2022.
1) The Young Gods, «In C»
2) Pumajaw, “Scapa Foolscape”
3) Telefis, «a hAon»
4) Anna Aaron, “Gummy”
5) Wet Leg, "Wet Leg"
6) Wilco, “Cruel Country”
7) Dream Syndicate, “Ultraviolet Battle Hymns…”
8) Gwenno, “Tresor”
9) Sarathy Korwar, “Kalak”
10) The Soundcarriers, “Wilds”
1 5 - 2 - 2023
Back from a couple of weeks in Zurich. Highlights: Violinist Tobias Preisig's album launch at Moods. "Closer" (Quiet Love Records) is part two of a trilogy of solo albums, a melodic joy, much closer in spirit to ambient or Neue Musik than the jazz Tobias used to play in a previous life. I particularly enjoyed the pieces where he was joined on stage by Alessandro Giannelli on drums and "label boss" James Varghese on Jah Wobbly bass. The picture isn't very good, I admit. At least it proves I was there. Another fun gig were the joyously revived Austrian ska/postpunk/NDW combo Intimspray at El Lokal.
I also saw two truly astonishing art exhibitions. The first, in the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Zürich, showed some extraordinary sculptures and "collages" by the Belgian artist, Berlinde De Bruyckere. Here's the gallery's introduction: "Layering religious iconography and ancient mythology with narratives of transience, carnality and sensuality, Berlinde De Bruyckere surpasses religious connotations and transfers them to the realm of the universal and profane." Mixing materials like wax, felt, animal skins, bronze and lead, her work is utterly original, a real discovery for me.
Next door in the same building, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst is showing some works from their collection, including an immersive installation consisting of a circus caravan with a large selection of videos to view in a suitably colourful environment. Whilst I really enjoyed this, and other works, on the ground floor, I was truly bowled over by Ragnar Kjartansson's video installatioan that filled the whole of the vast second floor. Consisting of nine large video panels, each showing one musician doing his/her thing (except one, where a number of people are hanging out on a terrace, singing), performing a mantra-like song that flows back and forth in waves of intensity, for something like 45 minutes. Lucky to have arrived pretty much at the beginning of the "film", and to find myself alone in the room, I was totally captivated, not to mention moved.
27 - 2 - 2023
Another great gig , another reason to post a crap photo: Luke Haines & Peter Buck, plus Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon and Luke Fowler @ the wonderful Lafayette. And another, Kelsey Michael with her trio Lethowsow, in a truly magic place, the Sands Film Studios at 82 Saint Marychurch St, in Bermondsey. Kelsey used to sing with the "experimental pop octet" Minnow as well as The The and Sean O'Hagan's High Llamas. Accompanied by some finely judged visual atmospherics, she was previewing songs reflecting her environment in Cornwall from a new album, promised by Dimple Discos for the autumn. Sands Film Studios, meanwhile, was started as an archive for historical print material to be used for films like Christine Edzard's astonishing Dickens-film , "Little Dorrit". Today, the rambling ancient warehouse is a maze of shelves packed with fascinating period prints (brochures, photos, posters, etc.) and also features a proper Victorian mini-theatre complete with balconies, and a smaller room for talks and the likes. Regularly used for film work, Sands Film Studios and its café are open to the public, and free. One of the great gems of unknown London.
20 - 4 - 2023
Apalace-of-Ceausescu-sized blocks of flats come with an elegance that is sorely missing in the UK's social housing developments. Plus, of course, there's a lot of art, the Guggenheim for starters. Still not sure about Miro, but the large Kokoschka exhibition was excellent. Elsewhere, there is the Museum of Fine Arts which has a stupendous series of Twomblys. Also enjoyed the Maritime Museum and the truly surreal Easter Museum - one brotherhood's collection of Easter procession presentations. Not forgetting Shelter (no homepage, unfortunately), a gloriously dark bar with an excellent collection of blues, garagey and rockabilly records for the DJ to pick from - and joyfully ramshackle jam session early on Wednesday evenings.
The best thing about Bilbao: there's plenty to keep you busy and interested - but not so much to make you feel guilty for sitting outside a bar, drinking wine and watching the world go by. long weekend in Bilbao. What a great city! Chock-a-block packed with architectural gems. No building looks the same as the next, and even the Ceausescu-esque blocks of flats are impressive in a brutalist-elegant sort of way.
A photo opportunity in Clapham I could not resist.
In other news since the last time, I interviewed - via Zoom, alas - Ingrid Lukas about her rather wonderful new album, "Elumeloodia" (Ronin Rhythm Records). For once, the Zoom was due to deadline reasons. Face-2-face interviews, one of my favourite tasks in pre- Covid days, seem to have pretty much disappeared from my diary. This is partly due to print media and radio discovering that doing interviews in-house via Zoom is much cheaper than paying a freelancer like me - and also less time-consuming: most of my interviews last between 30 and 60 minutes. For their money they get the complete recording, plus a verbatim transcript. Finding the passages they like, and editing them, takes a lot more time than zooming someone and asking the five questions they want to have answered for whatever point they have planned to make in their program.
Coronation Day was spent most enjoyably at the Royal Legion Club in East Barnet. This, because my old Prince of Wales pal Roy Orbison was playing in my relative vicinity, for once, with his splendid Roy Orbison Project. To end the night they played the national anthem to a thoroughly up-standing crowd. I thought they were taking the piss. No - it was in their contract to do so...
In a pleasing contrast te above event, we also had another edition of Audrey Riley's Chaos? season Upstairs @ North London Tavern, Kilburn High Road. Audrey is a cello player who pops up countless recordings from the Smiths to NIN and Cathal Coughlan. She is also a member of Icebreaker and Gavin Bryars' Band. Once a month , she gathers a bunch of musician friends together to sample the unpredictable joys of experimental music. This time round, we had Boring Phil channelling Ivor Cutler and - on theremin - Dorit Chrysler, plus Audre o thy herself, performing a compositional improvisation of a South American composer whose name, alas, I didn't write down. This consisted of the instruction to glue together several pages of sheet music of the player's choice, rip the pages apart and play what was left. Audrey played the piece Gavin Bryars had com5 - 10 - 2023poed for her - it wa5 - 10 - 2023s weirdly compelling.
5 - 10 - 2023
I know, I know...it's been months, yet again. Still, hanging in there. Needless to say, I've taken a few photos since the last time.
First off, here's Yuri. A rescue cat found on the side of the North Circular road. He has a Russian chip and is still rather wary of his new surroundings. God knows what his story is. He arrived a few weeks ago after Pingu had died suddenly of old age.
And next to Yuri is The Little Man, enjoying himself on the edge of a swimming pool in Elounda, Crete, watching the moon rise.
I really enjoyed Crete, not least the couple of days in Heraklion. Not just ancient pots and kettles but also tremendous street art. Also wandered into an exhibition billed as "municipal art" which turned out to be a selection of contemporary art presented by the local municipality. Style and quality was varied and variable. Some great stuff, though, including this painting by one Giorgos Rorris (right).
And I even managed to find a record shop which sold only Greek stuff and no one spoke English . I was very pleased indeed to discover in a distant and clearly unloved corner a couple of CDs by a singer with the unlikely name Marisa Koch - a kind of Greek Maddy Prior/Steeleye Span. I bought one of her records many years ago on my first trip to Athens with school pal Bernie.
Other events: the yearly London project with the Fachklasse Grafik from Lucerne (picture: the unperturbably calm organiser of the expedition, Markus Wicki). Then, the filming of Tamara and Aaron Barschak's lovingly conceived London translation of "Rashomon", called "Trashomon", where I was playing a slightly pedantic Swiss tai-chi fan. Plus, there were the cupcakes at the Stones' launch of their new album at the Hackney Empire. Mick, Keith und Ronnie in great form - but, Christ, what a prat Jimmy Fallon is!
The highligt of the fading summer was, without the shadow of a doubt, this year's edition of Sprachsalz, the book festival in Hall near Innsbruck. This year, I had the massive pleasure of presenting three appearances by Yello, one, a conversation with Boris Blank and Dieter Meier together, and one each with Boris and Dieter alone. Photos by Denis Morgenthaler