Essential Listening: Sounds of my unsummery summer

Roughly three weeks ago I was sitting in the garden listening to a Russell Brand podcast. His guest was documentary maker Adam Curtis. They were discussing Curtis’ most recent effort, HyperNormalisation. One of its central points – the rise of consumer capitalism has enhanced individualism. The result of this? Maintaining our personal distinction(s) through consuming products (hedonism, to give it an emphatic distinction) has superseded support for political and social affiliations – mass movements that tend to alter society. It’s an oxymoronic situation of sorts, a weird contradiction borne of shitty intellectual dishonesty – progressives say they want things to change, but, according to Curtis, many are wholly unprepared to risk the current (and relative) prosperity, a prosperity which has afforded them more opportunities to be themselves.

I forgot to add that it while I was listening to this podcast it was eighty degrees and sunny, in fact it remained so for three straight days, staggeringly. A few other thoughts occurred sequentially ‘I could get used to this’ and ‘is global warming bad?’. Followed by ‘should I be melting my brain thinking about this sort of stuff whilst trying to relax? And ‘why am I listening to this instead of summery music?

When you think about it, the idea that we should only listen to Christmas music at Christmas, Red House Painters during autumn or summery music during summer, is a bit odd. I’ve come to accept the opposite is true, tracks or genres of music whose sound is synonymous with a specific time of year are at their most evocative when yearning for the season’s return. So why am I not listening to wall to wall summery music during a summer filled with cool, blustery, grey and drizzling weather? Well, I live in Scotland. So yearning for summery weather is a futile endeavour, akin to Waiting for Godot. It’s better to get on with living, and part of that, for me, has been listening to the following:

Homeshake – NTS Radio

So, we have a cosseted musician broadcasting from his bedroom (at least that’s the fable) who uses a voice modifier to conduct a conversation between two halves of his schizoid loner persona. This method sits surprisingly well among 90’s rnb, soul, j-pop, slow jams and twee ballads that you could envisage him listening to in the womb of a boudoir where no pleasure can be guilty. One criticism – each episode is only an hour long, and that isn’t long enough.

Alice Coltrane – World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

Simple jokes are usually the best – what’s the difference between chopping up an onion and a banjo? Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo. See? How about the joke decrying the cynically populist hijacking of Hare Krisna’s spiritualism (as well as Maharishism and Transcendental Meditation) during the late 60’s and early 70’s:

Hare, Hare, Hare. Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.

Hare, Bollocks, Hare. Krishna, Bollocks, Krishna.

Hare, Hare, Hare.

Bollocks, Bollocks, Bollocks.

So it gave me cause for pause when I heard that a reissue of private Hare Krishna influenced devotional music recorded by Alice Coltrane in the 80’s & 90’s had been released. But then I listened to it. What a gem.

Another point – this album made me realise that I hadn’t heard Alice Coltrane sing before. Thankfully the singing sits seamlessly alongside this latter work, which shares many compositional similarities with “Universal Consciousness”. ‘Om Rama’ and ‘Rama Guru’ are the highlights, and there’s an almost total reimagining of Journey In Satchidananda using an austere church organ.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

It’s been proliferated with heavy sampling down the years, so it’s never truly gone away. What I had forgotten – the middle section flirts with being a proper rock album. You feel like a boss walking down the street listening to this, music to put you in a good mood.

Human Traffic & the soundtrack

This was released eighteen years ago. It’s terrifying. That’s half my lifetime ago, which is even more so. Still, as a document of the time it holds up very well. 1999, everyone was having it. Danny Dyer talking about destroying Peter Andre’s jap’s eye, Shaun Parkes at home DJing and thinking he’s great at it (even more relevant now than it was then), John Simm working a dead end job and metaphorically and visually taking it up the shitter, living for the weekend with your mates, and where for many of us clubbing, and club culture, will be as good as it ever gets. Culturally it’s still all relevant in 2017.

Acid Memories – NTS Radio

The sound of dulcet folk-psychedelia is equated to the Summer of Love and Woodstock, and why not? The visual tropes – fields of flowers, LSD, camper vans, nudity and warm soothing guitars just seem to fit together. This show has stuff from the genre you’ll know, and plenty you won’t. You’ll also learn that they even produced top psych tunes in Yugoslavia, man.

Bruce Kaplan – Slider: Ambient Excursions For Pedal Steel Guitar

If anything could form the soundtrack to Blood Meridian by Cormack McCarthy, it’s this, with its soothingly threatening melancholy that evokes the enticing vastness of a bucolic expanse, and monasticism of Mother Nature’s vengeful conceit. Being pedantic, they didn’t have electricity when Blood Meridian was set, but pedantry is pretty fucking boring. Something need not be factual for it to be reminiscent of something, someone or a time and place. Chill Out by the KLF is the perfect example that a conceptual sound can have far more resonance on a subject than authenticity. Right now the sensations this album coaxes of dry desert heat, gentle breezes and warm clear nights is everything that a temperate Scottish wilderness and our current weather isn’t; boggy, damp, cold, sodden, and, on that point, keeping it topical:

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Song Of The Day – I Don’t Have To Cry by Maryn E. Coote & Uku Kuut

From the reissue ‘Maskeraad’ (2017)

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Song Of The Day – Ouch Monkeys by The Teardrop Explodes

From the EP ‘You Disappear From View’ (1983)

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You stupid bastards

The only thing sillier than predicting the future is the future itself.

Now maybe that’s been said before, in fact it probably has, though perhaps slightly differently. I’ve probably read it and it’s been lodged in the ever shrinking subconscious part of my mind. Either way it seems apt now.

I don’t worry about my own future, as I’m in my mid-thirties now, so I’m well past it. But I do for young people, particularly those who aren’t eligible to vote. They deserve better.

This occurred to me after seeing the results of the election come in on Friday morning. I kept thinking of the location where I cast my vote on Thursday morning – St. Ninians primary school in Knightswood. As with any primary school that’s temporarily converted into a polling station, aside from the kids and the teachers, everything was left in situ, including pictures on the wall of the kids. They looked happy in those pictures. Now, I’ve always had a mild aversion to children, in the sense that I find them annoyingly smug in their infantile liberation, but I do acknowledge that they’re not malicious cunts like the adults who consistently betray them and did so on Thursday.

So what’s the difference? Well, kids are yet to be worn down by self-consciousness and made cynical by the difficulties and disappointments of adult life. They don’t think about death and taxes, or worry about the future. They have their whole lives ahead of them. Clearly this last point doesn’t occur to Tory voters in Scotland, or, even more egregiously, it does and they believe, in the ultimate of delusions, that we’ve never had it so good, and that we (and this includes future generations) will continue to. Just, well, because.

Seeing the Tories pick up twelve seats in Scotland was sickening. The raison d’être of Tory voting demographics; elderly voters, who have lived their lives, selfishly voting for themselves or to resist the imposition of change, the dogma of the “No Surrender” crowd with their red hand of Ulster tattoos and hard-line Unionists who are obsessed with stopping independence at all costs, are understood. It’s the spite and selfishness of the non-Tories tactically voting Tory just to prevent a second independence referendum that I can’t handle. You stupid fucking bastards. In fact, when considering the importance of posterity, it beggars belief that they’ve ignored the contemporary and historical realities of Tory rule in favour of a misguided attempt to resolve their grievance with an ongoing constitutional issue.

And you know what, if they’re gonna have this level of contempt for young who can’t vote to protect themselves, they deserve to cop some, and they will, from Brexit. But they also deserve some right now – even if it’s just from me on a blog nobody reads, so here it is – everyone who voted for Tories is complete and utter scum. They’ve sold the kids out, and I hope they all get cancer of the ringpiece. I know that isn’t a pleasant or constructive musing, but neither is a Tory government.

Also not constructive, but funny nonetheless, was an extreme measure offered up on Twitter – to carpet bomb all areas of the UK that aren’t towns and cities and euthanise anyone over seventy. I know country folk who are the complete antithesis of the usual stereotypes, and there are older voters who don’t vote Tory, but, let’s be honest here, in both cases they’re the minority – mostly, I suspect, because folk working in Fishing or Agriculture always get taken for granted.

You’ve gotta love to loathe Ruth Davidson, she’s a pound-shop Donald Trump and an arch arsewipe opportunist who, like a proper aspirational faux neo-liberal, nauseatingly places her image, career and own financial gain ahead of political principle or her self-respect. The gall of her claiming that Indyref2 is now dead after the Tories won twelve seats in Scotland out of fifty-nine was quite something. Despite all the attempts to project and foist our own narratives on what the outcome means (who knows?), let’s not forget why this election actually occurred in the first place – a combination of Tory hubris that a larger majority was in the bag regardless of what campaign they ran, that Thatcher’s children would reject Corbynism, and that the increased majority would reinforce their mandate for a hard, veins filled with custard and lard, Brexit. This election wasn’t a vote on whether Independence should or shouldn’t happen, or whether it will remain on the agenda. The SNP continue to receive that mandate on a local and national level. Anyway, with the Tories no longer having a majority, Ruth can now look forward to the delights of being associated with the DUP. Not that she’s averse to working with creationist, xenophobic, sectarian, homophobic, evangelical pro-life nutters to feather her own nest.

Speaking of the DUP – a nutter fringe that make UKIP seem as benign as the fucking Teletubbies (though in the DUP production of Teletubbies, Laa-Laa would be made to keep the baby because the Earth is only four thousand years old). Anyway, this lot are now poised to prop up the Tories in government. What does this mean for Northern Ireland post Brexit? The DUP advocate a hard border, which would jeopardise the Peace Process. The DUP helping the Tories to govern contravenes the essence of the Good Friday agreement, where the Unionist or Nationalist parties should receive no form of favouritism from Westminster, but the Tories are going to have to make concessions for the help. It seems nothing is more important to Theresa May than preserving her own position. She is utterly shameless.

As for the state of Scottish independence there was a lot of hand-wringing by Yes folk on Twitter as the results were coming in. A significant drop in support for independence and that a change of leadership was now needed were the most common musings. So it was surprising that a BBC journalist had the most salient take of all:

We know there are more people out there who vote for independence but not the SNP, than vice-versa. The SNP lost just two percent of their vote on a lower turnout. They won the majority of seats. But hey, what do I know? Perception is everything. They lost twenty-one seats, so now Independence is far less likely, or a referendum won’t occur until [insert date plucked out of your arse here – preferably after you’ve euthanised your ringpiece cancer with Vindaloo]. What did I say earlier about predicting the future? Who would’ve predicted any of this five years ago?

What happens next? Well, there’s still Brexit to come, or will it come at all? Will there be another independence referendum? Will there be another election? Nobody knows, certainly not me. But at least the kids are alright, until they become like us.

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Song Of The Day – Amma by Trans-4m

From the album ‘Sublunar Oracles’ (1992)

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