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November 20, 2020

Henry Bruce-Jones Zoë Mc Pherson & Alessandra Leone drift through dreamspace in ‘Grounding in outer space’

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Tom Pinnock Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump 20th Anniversary Collection

Jason Lytle has always been drawn to the wilderness, but civilisation seems to have a way of drawing him back again. After years in his hometown of Modesto, California, in 2006 he headed to Montana for the best part of a decade, before relocating to Portland, then Modesto again and now Los Angeles.

When Uncut speaks to the songwriter, he’s out in the wilds again, having left the smoke and traffic of Southern California for a camping trip in Idaho. “I’m in the mountains,” he says, “and I’m about to drive further into the mountains today.”

It’s this see-sawing impulse that’s driven the best of Grandaddy’s work, both in sound and in subject matter. In their finest songs, there’s a squabble between man and machine; the purity of the mountains and canyons is contrasted with the sterile disappointment of our urban sprawl, as pianos and guitars mix with synths. If any single Grandaddy record sums all that up it’s The Sophtware Slump, their second record and still their most complete.

If this is where everything came together, it’s fitting that the album’s receiving the vinyl boxset treatment – four LPs, comprising the original record, two discs of rarities and B-sides, and a new recording of the whole album on piano.

The original Slump remains a stunning piece of work, from the stately, warped piano ballads to the fuzzy garage rockers daubed with quivering synth arpeggios. Like many a classic album, it’s all about the feeling, in this case a melancholic and euphoric mood sustained throughout, from the nine-minute chamber-prog opener, “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot”, in which protagonist 2000 Man returns to an Earth that only wants to crush his spirit, to the dystopian closers “Miner At The Dial-A-View” and “So You’ll Aim Towards The Sky”, with a different character uncertainly returning home after years on another planet.

Most of the rarities appeared on 2011’s deluxe CD reissue, but many feature on vinyl here for the first time. The real new draw is 1999’s “Signal To Snow Ratio” EP, which pointed the way to The Sophtware Slump from the grimier, awkward Under The Western Freeway. “Jeddy 3’s Poem” introduces the titular alcoholic robot, and even ends with a snatch of the melody from …Slump’s “Jed The Humanoid”, while “MGM Grand” exorcises the last of their weirder, slacker earlier work; most importantly, the wistful “Protected From The Rain” marks one of the first times Lytle steps back from sabotaging the beauty of his songs with ironic noise or lo-fi quirks, laying the groundwork for “He’s Simple…” or “Underneath The Weeping Willow”.

While the other B-sides and demos can be patchier, they’re still worth having, especially the woozy downer “Wonder Why In LA”, the unhinged math-garage of “N Blender”, and “XD-Data-II”, which is like Side Two of On The Beach drowning in synth malfunctions.

Perhaps the box’s most enticing element is …Slump… on a wooden piano, Lytle’s 2020 re-recording. In many ways it’s a minor revelation: this is no singer-songwriter alone at the keyboard; rather a complete reimagining of the album that reveals new depths. Around the piano, Lytle weaves synths, backing vocals, all manner of effects; he even replicates the snippet of “AM 180” from the original “He’s Simple…”, and uses the same dodgy delay unit for the echoed “dream” on “Miner At The Dial-A-View”. That song’s new incarnation, stripped back and weightless, tops the full-band original, while “E Knievel Interlude (The Perils Of Keeping It Real)” evolves from a gawky detour into a classy Chopin-esque miniature.

The simplicity of the newly streamlined “Jed The Humanoid” enhances its plaintive power – could anyone but Lytle make a song about the booze-assisted suicide of a neglected robot so deeply affecting? Elsewhere, “The Crystal Lake”, “Chartsengrafs” and “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)” each reveal new caverns of heartbreak that are only partially explored on the originals. Only Lytle’s deconstructed take on “Hewlett’s Daughter” fails to fully take off.

Though the homemade, sepia textures of The Sophtware Slump have always been crucial to its appeal, this piano version shows that Lytle’s underlying songwriting can more than stand up in a different setting. It might not improve on the original, but it does, by virtue of what it unlocks in these songs, actually improve the original as a listening experience. On release, The Sophtware Slump seemed like a future classic; in 2020, with some of the world’s cities shut down or ablaze, our wildernesses increasingly damaged and the technological Pandora’s box yawning wide, it sounds perfect.

The post Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump 20th Anniversary Collection appeared first on UNCUT.

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Meg Woof presents Adventures In Sound And Music

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Radio stations I have spun in

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Johnny Sharp Cabaret Voltaire – Shadow Of Fear

It may have taken 20 years, but observant fans of Cabaret Voltaire might not have been entirely surprised to see Richard H Kirk bringing the name out of cold storage in 2014. As far back as 2005 he admitted he was considering reactivating CV but “planning to get some young people involved”. But judging by some dismayed reactions online, few realised this would mean rehabilitating the band as a one-man operation, without long-time creative partner Stephen Mallinder, and that Kirk would take an uncompromising “year zero” approach on re-emerging.

Given that, on the face of it, CV were coming back in the traditional manner – live shows first, worry about a new record later – we might have expected CV to at least throw a backward-looking bone to fans of a quarter-century’s worth of Cabs studio output, rather than performing sets of entirely unfamiliar music at the new shows. But as Richard H Kirk tells Uncut, he regards not giving people what they expect as part of Cabaret Voltaire’s mission statement.

Many a musician talks a good game about being above the “nostalgia circuit”, but few actually walk the walk so uncompromisingly. As it turns out, though, the string of live shows Kirk has played over the past six years has helped him shape a long-awaited studio album that is more user-friendly than we might otherwise have expected.

He admits that playing live is “always a good research thing… because when some of these tracks drop, people go mental”. That might explain why large parts of Shadow Of Fear throb with a clubby urgency and immediacy that was less evident in the last new Cabs material from the early ’90s – the chilled, sparse technoscapes of early ’90s triptych Plasticity (1992), International Language (1993) and 1994’s The Conversation – or in the austere electronica of Kirk’s last solo set, 2016’s Dasein.

“Papa Nine Zero Delta Zero” quickly hits its stride with an infectiously impish synth pulse, underpinning breathy female vocal samples, cuckooing motifs, fizzing cymbals, distorted imam cries and melodramatic chimes of sonic portent. The 11-minute “Universal Energy” sees the energetic peak of the album, driven by a pounding electro beat as a spitting hi-hat and speeding, saucer-eyed timpani rattle frantically in accompaniment. Meanwhile, fractured vocal samples offset a female voice repeating the title like a sacred mantra with a brooding basso profondo muttering darkly beneath it.

The sense of something wicked this way coming is a recurring one, with many of the lower-end synth textures throughout Shadow Of Fear creating noirish, almost horror soundtrack-style atmospheres. “Night Of The Jackal” resembles the soundtrack to a film of that name that is yet to be made, opening up with a chattering clamour of ghostly voices as industrial chimes and tinny automated beats gather to resemble an early drum machine experiment in a haunted warehouse in 1982.

Opening track “Be Free” is punctuated by warped movie dialogue samples warning “this city is falling apart” and asking “where is your place in this world?”, establishing one eye firmly on contemporary anxieties. “The Power (Of Their Knowledge)” then also features a Big Brother-ish figure offering booming pronouncements in the background, returning to the theme of individualism under threat and the ever-present danger of fascism that can be traced throughout CV’s past work.

Shadow Of Fear isn’t a uniformly dark affair, though. We end on something of a high note as “What’s Goin’ On” nods at the feeling of a troubled planet that Marvin Gaye more explicitly articulated, while channelling some of the more hopeful and uplifting soul sounds that era gave us. A plaintive-sounding voice repeatedly makes the titular enquiry over the swampy twang of a guitar loop before exultant horns echo over a fuzzy bed of wah-wah funk, all of which sound like they’ve been sampled from a 1970 Curtis Mayfield album and then mangled in the customary Cabs fashion. Not so, Kirk explains, sparing many a rare groove anorak the task of working out where he’s culled those snippets from: “There are no samples on that track. It’s utilising quite an old rhythm generator and the rest was played with my own two hands.”

It’s the sound of an act that seems rejuvenated, maybe because of, rather than despite, Kirk’s years (as he puts it, “I’m 64 and I don’t give a fuck”), even if the chance to try to test future material (Kirk says more is imminent) at live shows doesn’t look like a viable option for the time being. The abiding atmosphere may be rather uneasy to suit the world it was created in, but Shadow Of Fear is a brash and confident rebirth.

The post Cabaret Voltaire – Shadow Of Fear appeared first on UNCUT.

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Pitchfork Afrobeats’ Global Takeover

A conversation about the captivating sounds, burgeoning industry, and increasingly global influence of West African pop music, on our podcast The Pitchfork Review.

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Mick Rock at Home Ep. 38 – David Bowie “Bevery Hills Hotel” (1972) premiers at 1pm EST today!…

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Beethoven Unleashed: Freedom and Joy

Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, joins Donald Mcleod to discuss Beethoven’s symphonies

They have been described as “the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man”, “an expression of monumental intellect and innermost feeling”, and “music [which] sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain.” There is no question that Beethoven’s nine symphonies changed music forever. The colossal legacy of these works has hovered over generations of composers since, leading Johannes Brahms to exclaim “You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!”

Over this week of programmes, Donald Macleod is joined by the conductor John Eliot Gardiner, founder of the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, to delve into the world of these nine sublime works.

Composer of the Week is returning to the story of Beethoven’s life and music throughout 2020. Part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Unleashed season marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Music Featured:

Symphony No 1 in C major, Op 21 ( I. Adagio Molto – Allegro Con Brio)
Symphony No 1 in C major, Op 21 (III. Menuet segue IV. Finale)
Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36 (I. Adagio Molto – Allegro Con Brio)
Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36 (II. Larghetto segue III. Scherzo)
Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, Op 55 “Eroica” (I. Allegro con brio)
The Creatures of Prometheus, Op 43 (Finale (excerpt))
Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, Op 55 “Eroica” (IV. Finale)
Symphony No 4 in B-flat major, Op 60 (I. Adagio – Allegro Vivace)
Symphony No 4 in B-flat major, Op 60 (II. Adagio)
Cherubini: Hymne au Panthéon ‘Grand Chœur à la gloire des martyrs de la liberté et de ses défenseurs’ (excerpt)
Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67 (I. Allegro con brio)
Rouget de Lisle: Hymne dithyrambique sur la conjuration de Robespierre et la révolution du 9 thermidor, Paris, 1794 (excerpt)
Symphony No 5 in C minor Op 67 (III. Scherzo segue IV. Finale)
Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 68 “Pastoral” (movements III-V)
Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 (I. Poco sostenuto – Vivace)
Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92 (II. Allegretto)
12 Irish Songs, WoO 154 (No.8. Save Me From the Grave and Wise (excerpt))
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93 (II. Allegretto scherzando)
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93 (IV. Allegro vivace)
Missa Solemnis in D major, Op 123 – Credo (from Et Incarnatus Est to end)
Symphony No 9 in D minor, Op 125 (I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso)
Symphony No 9 in D minor, Op 125 (IV. Finale)

Presented by Donald Mcleod
Produced by Sam Phillips

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Beethoven Unleashed: Freedom and Joy https://ift.tt/3lTDVlu

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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Sam Richards Jarvis Cocker: “There’s not a lockdown on the human imagination”

From domestic discos to a new brand of tea, Jarvis Cocker has tackled the past 12 months in typically unpredictable fashion. In the latest issue of Uncut – in UK shops now or available to buy online by clicking hereStephen Troussé hears about cave gigs, staying optimistic and how he made a lockdown anthem by accident. Here’s an extract from that typically entertaining encounter…

It feels like a strange question to ask after the year we’ve all had, but how has 2020 been for you, Jarvis?
It’s been a very creative year for me, but I do feel kind of loath to be saying that. Because I know that a lot of people died this year and a lot of people had a really grim time. The timing has been strange. The record came out and then I spent the lockdown out in the countryside near Sheffield. I was lucky. It wasn’t like I was stuck inside looking at four walls. Pretty much as soon as we entered lockdown it was the build-up for the record coming out, so I was talking about the record on Zoom calls at least twice a day for about three months. Then it was really strange once the record was released. Suddenly, I wasn’t talking about it any more! It started to feel like a myth or something that was a concept rather than real…

With “House Music All Night Long” you inadvertently became the Poet Laureate of Lockdown…
I thought about lockdown quite a bit… What I came up with is, ‘There’s not a lockdown on the human imagination.’ I suppose if you’re a creative person you’re used to sitting somewhere and projecting yourself beyond your surroundings. That’s really the beauty of music, you know? That’s why we fall in love with music at an early age. Something comes in through your ears and takes you off somewhere. Talking to friends, I think a lot of people rediscovered music during the lockdown. A few people said it reminded them of being a teenager, when they’d be so into music because it was their own thing apart from their parents. It gave them a portal into some world that they wanted to live in. You know, that feeling of being stuck in your bedroom and coming up with a manifesto or a plan of how you’re going to live the rest of your life. So I think that aspect of it was good – a rediscovery of the central nature of music. Because for a while now, it has been going the other way. Music is about streaming and being background in just about any retail experience. Without you really knowing it, you start to take it for granted or think of it more as wallpaper, rather than something that will take you into a new, more exciting reality.

Can you tell us about some of your own intense musical experiences this year?
I’ve had a few! I was doing these domestic discos on Instagram and playing records became important to me. I’d gee’d myself up for going on tour in May after working on the record for so long. We’d evolved it through live performance, so it seemed especially cruel not to be able to play it live, after it had been born in that way. I’ve always used music as something that helps you to escape inhibitions – being quite a shy, reserved kid going on stage and being pretty nervous at first, then discovering that you can dance and move on stage. That’s my release a lot of the time. In the lockdown, I got that feeling that that’s what I needed and what a lot of people needed. We were stuck in our homes getting all this grim information and everybody was feeling anxious. Listening to music together and dancing became a really good way of forgetting that.

Watching you dance in your living room with your partner was a strangely sweet and surreal lockdown moment…
Me and Kim really fell out during that time because I had to set the gear up myself and it’s a long time since I’ve done that. It kept breaking down but sometimes the microphone would still be working, and we would be having these arguments on air and she was really embarrassed about that. So it was a bit like couples therapy as well as a disco. She didn’t talk to me for quite a long time after one particular show. We got through it though.

The post Jarvis Cocker: “There’s not a lockdown on the human imagination” appeared first on UNCUT.

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