Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So it's come to this - I only have the time to blog when I'm off work... But here I am, enjoying a week off with Barry Norman's pickled onions in my hand. Not a euphemism. He lays them himself, you know - puts on a film, settles down in his nest, and fires them out. Buk-gawk! The worse the film, the spicier the picklin'. What's Barry Norman got to do with pickled onions, you ask? I don't know either, but there he is on the label, holding a clapperboard in case you'd forgotten who he is. I think he must have been watching the Police Academy films when he dropped this batch, they're kind of... musky.

So, about three months ago I promised some comment on a couple of albums I was listening to. Here, therefore, is a bumper post about music.

I've gone back lately to listen to Cantus Buranus, Corvus Corax's rock version of the "Carmina Burana" (and to finally watch the accompanying DVD, which turns out to be fifteen minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and then the album again on audio - mildly disappointing, but at least it didn't add anything to the cost of the CD). There's one song that ends with a loudly chanted "Ocius!", but owing to the strange German pronunciation of the Latin it sounds like they're singing "Oopsie-doos!" Perhaps there's something wrong with my ears. (Apart from the ear infection, that is.) Having noticed this, I now keep imagining these burly German goths and their massed choir earnestly chanting that old schoolboy favourite, "Charlibus sittibus on the deskinorum / Deskibus collapsibus, Charlie on the floorum."

Although, in a post-Youtube world where people can freely share whatever pranks and mishaps can be caught on a camcorder and the Internet has effectively become everybody's personal You've Been Framed, perhaps that second line should be updated to "Deskibus collapsibus, post it on the forum"?

Just wanted to share that.

Mikelangelo and Undine Francesca, The Floating Islands.
Readers with long memories or the ability to scroll down may recall that we bought this item from the talented hands of the artistes themselves at the Edinburgh Fringe. It's a combined media thing - a philosophical children's book illustrated by Undine's father and written by Undine, and inside the back cover there's a CD of music that she and Mikelangelo created to accompany the text. It's very soothing stuff, ideal for quiet evenings. You can hear multi-instrumentalist Mikelangelo indulging his playful tendencies but holding back his cabaret persona lest he scare the book's intended audience. Even so there's quite an exotic undercurrent to some of the pieces. The book's pretty good fun too.
The Floating Islands can be bought from the Word Sound And Picture Company.

Blue Lily Commission, Eastern Evening.
Not actually available as a CD, but as a download, so this went straight onto the MP3 player. Some may know that BLC is one of the many projects of me ol' mucka Steve Palmer, a man of many talents.
Steve is a member of Mooch, an ambient/electronic group whose work I quite like, but around the time I first met him he was experimenting with mixing electronic music and the sounds of his enormous collection of African and Asian instruments as a side project, and this soon became Blue Lily Commission. He played some of this music at the Exeter SF Society's 2001 convention, and it struck a chord (so to speak) with me. The first album was pretty ambient, but over time BLC's sound has become more complex and pushed the Eastern instruments more to the forefront. It's a direction I like, and the third album, Seshen and the White Jasmine Commission, ranks high among my favourites.
The new album has some of the electronic sound of the first album, but more of the dynamism of the third. The opening track, "The Spear", is full drum'n'bass, surprisingly close to jungle - certainly the fastest and loudest thing I've yet heard from Steve. There are a couple of familiar Seshen moments reworked in other tracks, most obviously "Symbolic". The overall sound is kind of... enclosed. Something about Seshen made it sound like wide open spaces; something about Eastern Evening makes it sound much smaller. More intimate, perhaps. Possibly that's the idea of the title - music around an evening campfire, or crowded into a tent. It's grown on me already since first hearing, and I imagine it'll be on the MP3 player for a while yet.
Eastern Evening can be bought from Pond Life Studios.

Paul Hartnoll, The Ideal Condition.
Or, "What half of Orbital did next", which is at any rate the basis on which I bought it.
I was expecting an album that would sound half like Orbital and half like something else, and this it is, but I don't think the hybrid's any better for it. There are five instrumental pieces here and four songs, and it probably shouldn't be any surprise that I favour the more Orbital-sounding tracks. The problem with the other tracks is that they just sound so cheesy, particularly the songs.
Consider "Please", with vocals from Robert Smith, previously the singer in The Cure. Having him sing the words "I was feeling baaad" in that depressed croaky voice he does just reduces the man to a caricature of himself. The song didn't really gel for me after that. Or consider "Simple Sounds", an odd composition with the recorder that sounds like a disco inside a cuckoo clock, or "The Unsteady Waltz", which would probably suit a Merchant Ivory film quite well but sounds a bit out of place on a modern electronic album.
The only piece that really grabs me is the opener, "Haven't We Met Before?", which promises a juicy collaboration of choir, light orchestra and techno that the rest of the album doesn't deliver on. That it's only four short minutes long wouldn't matter so much if there were more like it. Were it but for this and a couple of other tracks, I'd be thoroughly regretting this purchase.
The Ideal Condition can be bought in solid, physical shops on the high street.

And so back to the TV, to watch The Mighty Boosh on endless loop.

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