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 Maintaining our personal distinction(s) through consuming products (hedonism, to give it an emphatic distinction) has superseded support for political and social affiliations – mass movements that tend to alter society.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: