Hello You. A rather delayed post due to a busy couple of weeks of intensive plate-spinning, so lots to cram in rather hurriedly. First off, very excited to announce Howlround’s contribution to ‘The Next Station’, a new collaborative venture between field recording projects Cities And Memory and The London Sound Survey on the first ever sound map of the London Underground. Compiled over the course of several months, it’s a combination of field recordings from stations all over the network mixed with interpretations by artists, musicians and producers, numbering almost 100 in total. Our track has even had a mention on prestigious railways blog Calling All Stations!
More information on the Howlround track here and you can enjoy the full delights of the playlist, with almost 100 other remixes and reinterpretations either on The Cities And Memories site here or the Cities And Memory Audioboom page. Even more impressively, they’ve turned the whole thing into an actual London Underground Sound Map, which is a wonderful way to waste a few hours with a very attractive interface. I was honestly hoping to be able to embed said attractive interface on these equally lovely pages, but sadly it would appear that WordPress is having none of it. Frankly, WordPress is already pushing it’s luck today by embedding the above player to the left of the page while everything else is centralised, which is surely the internet equivalent of eating a sandwich with the filling poking out the bottom and is setting off all my OCD impulses. If anyone has a suggestion as to how this unfortunate situation can be resolved, I will happily send you a cash-stuffed envelope. In the meantime, take a compensatory moment to reflect on the glory of the LSS logo, which is a masterstroke of pleasing design:
In other Howlround news, there are some very exciting live developments on the horzion. First off, we’re playing Happening2 at DIY Space For London on September 1st, alongside Michael Speers, DJ Velpar and much more. Very much looking forward to taking the machines to a venue I’ve heard so many good things about! Further details can be found here or by perusing the following poster:
Even more excitingly (without meaning any disrespect to the good folk of DIY Space), I’m thrilled to be able to announce that tickets are now on sale for ‘Aural Ectoplasm‘, a unique candle-lit Howlround performance taking place inside Brompton Cemetery’s historic chapel on October 9th as part of this year’s London Month Of The Dead festival.
Tickets are £12 and include a Hendricks Gin cocktail – and I can’t think of any better way to enjoy our haunted tape loops than from within candle-lit, dome-capped, gothic splendour viewed through a gentle alcoholic fug. It’s part of an extensive programme of talks, demonstrations and performances put together by festival hosts Antique Beat and A Curious Invitation, with 20% of all ticket sales being donated to the much-needed preservation of these historic ‘gardens of sleep’, so it’s an amazing setting and a worthy cause. Could THIS be our most exotic location yet?! Stay tuned for further details.
Thanks must also go to Sound Fjord and Full Of Noises for last week’s performance at V22 Summer Club, alongside Sybella Perry and Ingrid Plum. It was a particularly auspicious occasion as our performance marked the first appearance of fellow-splicer Chris Weaver since our turn at the Delaware Road launch party last November, was conducted in near total darkness, and earned us a rather nice review from ATTN:Magazine. Read it here.
In other news, after giving us all a taster of his wares while playing alongside Howlround at Cafe Oto back in June, Sub Rosa are finally releasing the fruits of Mr. Dan Wilson‘s Radionics project. Entitled An Album Of Musical Radionic Thought Frequencies, it’s available on CD with explanatory booklet as well as download. A fascinating subject with a bizarre history, you can read Dan’s introduction to Radionics here and the CD is available from all good record shops (and probably some bad ones too).
Lastly, please take a moment to watch this beautiful video for Kemper Norton‘s equally beautiful ‘The Town’, taken from new album Toll, out now on the mighty Front And Follow label. CD and download out now – very much looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this one!
Presenting for your approval the final set of recordings ever(?) made in BBC Television Centre’s East Tower, demolition of which is scheduled for this month and by the time you read these words may well have already started. This ‘Final Gathering’, produced as part of arts organisation White Noise‘s programme of artist residencies in the tower’s closing weeks, was produced by taking two recordings of groups of visitors arranged in the stairwell making various humming sounds and then playing several copies of these recordings together with subtle changes in pitch, attempting to create Ligeti-esque sound-clusters on a more modest scale – in fact the working title was £20.01: A Splice Odyssey. Hope you’ll approve. There’s a rather nice blog post on the White Noise website about this piece and it’s precursor ‘East Tower Dreaming’, which you can read here.
Furthermore, eagled-eared Howlround fans and/or lovers of Radio 4 might have also heard me talking about the project on flagship news programme The World Tonight last week, in which I attempt to give a brief introduction to the mysterious world of resonant frequencies. The report has subsequently been included on the Radio 4 website and promoted with the following tweet:
— BBC Radio 4 (@BBCRadio4) July 29, 2016
…Which, sure as night follows day, was accompanied by the usual amusing replies by random snipers, such as ‘Just presenters counting their money’ and ‘Saville walked these corridors’. Such concerned citizens might have their fears allayed by my informing them the project came in well under the aforementioned £20.01 budget and that I was never in any danger of being haunted by the ghost of disgraced former presenters, having never actually visited the tower in person – all the sounds were collected on my behalf by my butler and head gardener, while I stayed at home on the chase-lounge, being fed grapes while lighting expensive cigars with a collection of high-denomination bank-notes. There is, as I’ve had cause to mention before, a HUGE amount of money in experimental sound art…
Just kidding! Moving on, Resonance FM have also uploaded Howlround’s performance at their Live To Air gala evening to their Mixcloud page. Consisting of entirely new and currently unreleased material recorded especially for the event, it’s a little warts-and-all as live recordings tend to be, but worth a listen, though I’m still intending to do something more polished with the material at some future juncture.
Finally, do please join us at Full of Noises Archive Night 1 at V22 Summer Club Louise House, Forest Hill, London on Friday 12th August, where Howlround are performing alongside Helen Petts, Sybella Perry and Ingrid Plum, at an event put on by our old friends The Octopus Collective. Details can be found on the Full Of Noises website here. and tickets are available here.
Hello you. First off, a quick note from Howlround in video form, to announce that new material will be arriving soon. Created using a notebook and a photocopier during a brief period of thumb-twiddling inactivity over the weekend, it just happens to coincide nicely with my receiving the masters for my contribution to part 2 of Front And Follow’s series ‘The Blow’, a split cassette with Time Attendant due out this autumn, from which the video’s soundtrack is taken. And of course there’s the brand new audio-visual album/film arriving soon on Psyché Tropes in collaboration with genius film-maker Steve McInerney! Both sounding pretty great, though I say so myself and both pulling the Howlround project into interesting new orbits. Very much looking forward to sharing the results with you in the coming months.
Next up, Near Mint is back on the airwaves for a second visit to Ray’s Record Room, where genial proprietor Ray Carmen has prepared another selection of vintage home-made records for your enjoyment. Featuring the long-lost voices of 1940s and 50s Ohio lovingly restored and preserved, it’s another journey back to a forgotten age. These are editions of one, mostly made by members of the public as messages or keepsakes for loved ones, but on this week’s show we also get to hear some ‘radio spots’ recorded for use on local stations, including advertisements for long-forgotten brands of beer and ice cream – I’m such a sucker for these little domestic details. There’s even a contribution of my own, the only home-made recording I’ve ever found in my long history of collecting, a yellowish 7″ Recordiodisc, cut on what appears to be some sort of cardboard, dated 1949 and titled simply ‘Straightening Jack Out’. Clearly recorded while slightly intoxicated – a recurring theme of many of these discs – it’s wonderful to hear a strong Lancashire accent, beautifully incongruous amongst all the American voices and to imagine how she came to be there. Even more intriguingly, this disc might actually be the first documented example of the problems caused by our countries’ differing uses of the word ‘fanny’, so could in fact be capturing a key moment in Anglo-US relations. A little slice of slightly tipsy history…
Finally, thank you to everyone who came down to Vinyl Deptford last weekend to catch Howlround in action – especially multifaceted performer and Linear Obsessional label boss Richard Sanderson for the invitation, and a number of brave volunteers who had to stand very still for the duration of the performance holding the loops in place! I’d cut them just a little bit too long and the whole thing ended up being a bit of a massive tangle, though thankfully no lives were lost. You might even notice a couple of familiar faces amongst them – genius photographer Laura Yawira Scheffer and one Mr. Tony Alpe, owner of THE Torridon Gate, who came along with partner Kath and bravely threw his hat into the ring. The results were chaotic but fun – well, for me at least. And it being Vinyl Deptford, the night ended with my spending more money I didn’t have on yet more records I didn’t need. It was ever thus….
This week’s Near Mint show on Resonance FM is something very special indeed. We’re taking a trip to Ray’s Record Room in Akron, Ohio, where proprietor Ray Carmen has prepared a selection of vintage one-off records from the 1940s and 1950s for your delight. The first of a two-part special, these are direct-to-disc affairs either made at home (or in a couple of examples, possibly in a Voice-O-Graph booth) by the men, women and children of the Akron of yesteryear.
Either inherited from family members or found in thrift stores and junk shops around his home town, Ray has loving preserved and restored the audio secrets contained within these unique and precious discs to take the listener on a trip back to a lost world and a bygone era. There are drunken(?) carousers, the ghosts of Christmas past, a couple of love-letters that go slightly off-topic and an accappella tribute to unorthodox footwear by a small child known only as Claudia. It’s impossible to listen to these long-ago voices without wondering just what became of them all. Did Rose ever receive her visitor? Did Lennie and Laverne live happily ever after? How long did the fire engine Ray’s future father-in-law got for Christmas last before the wheels fell off? The chances of ever discovering the answers to any of those questions are practically nil (with the possible exception of that last one – I’ll ask Ray if he’ll check).
One person we are able to trace a little better is Dodie Stevens, whose 1959 hit ‘Pink Shoelaces’ was the subject of Claudia’s aforementioned accappella treatment. You can find the low-budget, cable-access footage of her performing this song many years later that Ray mentions here, though for my money this original video from 1959 featuring Dodie as a wide-eyed and tomboyish 13-year-old is infinitely more charming. I suppose it makes sense that such a breezy and innocent teenybopper classic is far more endearing when sung by an actual teenybopper. Anyway, part two arrives next week and if you can’t wait until then there’s plenty more lost voices and rare recordings on the Ray’s Record Room Soundcloud page. Well worth an hour or two of your time!
You might also remember the name Ray Carmen for his abandoned playground project and the collaborative track ‘OH’, produced with Howlround and featured on our last LP Tales From The Black Tangle. Hopefully they’ll be more collaborations to follow, schedule-permitting!
Speaking of Howlround, please do come and join us at Vinyl Deptford this Saturday, where I’ll be spooling up as part of the latest Linear Obsessional event, alongside Phil Maguire, Project Mycelium and the duo of Phil Durrant & Richard Sanderson. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Vinyl Deptford is a rather super little record shop / arts space / cafe and I’m really looking forward to catching up with some old friends, playing some new loops and rifling through the racks (time-permitting). The Facebook event page can be found here and it’s a suggested donation of £5 to get in. What better way to spend a Saturday night in South London? Apparently Linear Obsessional label boss Richard Sanderson is going to use the event to unveil a new album, so I’m willing to bet I’m going to leave the event slightly poorer than when I went in.
Finally, thanks to everyone who came down to Homemade Disco at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney this week, especially those of you who ended up getting roped into holding tape loops aloft when I wildly under-estimated their length and ended up having to cause some entanglements. A great venue and a splendid crowd, including my first ever baby (who seemed to quite enjoy it) and my regular unofficial biographer Zoe Plumb, who captured this rather super short video on Instagram. Zoe also makes music and sound pieces under the name Electric Elisabeth and that’s worth a listen as well. So many creative friends!
Thanks to everyone who came down to Resonance FM’s Gala performance from inside White City’s East Tower on Wednesday. Part of White Noise‘s programme of residencies inside the towerblock in the weeks leading up to its demolition next month, the evening featured the premier of a brand new Howlround work inspired by and recorded inside the building, using only sounds found amongst the abandoned office spaces. At some point I’m going to do something with all the material I’ve accumulated from recording the building. – it’s resulted in quite a handful of new tracks, but with the next two albums already in the pipeline, I’m not quite sure what to do with them yet! I’m hoping also for one last crack at one of the pieces which had reached an ‘interesting stage’ by the time of the performance but to my ears could benefit from further exploration. Hopefully the above extract will whet your appetites for the time being. For added intrigue, have a listen while admiring Nick Balloon’s beautiful photos of the tower interior’s abandoned office spaces.
Speaking of all things Resonance-related, this week’s Near Mint show is pretty darn fabulous though I say so myself, featuring as it does a trip round the Teutonic turntable and a generous portion of German library and soundtrack music originally purposed for soundtracking the sci-fi, sex and shopping adventures of our continental cousins of the 1960s and 70s. And yes, it it’s every bit as tantalising as that sounds!
Also in radio-land, the July edition of Mike Harding‘s ‘Longwave’ show on Los Angeles-based station Dublab is now available for a stream and a download. Recorded in a rather noisy pub in Crystal Palace on the night England endured the ultimate humiliation at the hands of Iceland, with Mike and Stephanie John. Stephanie talks about and played an extract from Steel Cymraeg, her recent quadraphonic sound installation at the Royal College of Art, which was comprised of field recordings of the Trostre steelworks, Llanelli; while I’ve contributed an extended Foggy Megamix of some of my all-time favourite records, old and new. From a chap called Jim Henson to A Guy Called Gerald, from an African Lullaby to a Landscape Sculpture with Foghorns, it’s all there. It also features tracks from new albums by JP Hartnett and Merz, both of which are thoroughly worthy of your attention! Stream or download here.
Meanwhile, big thanks to Alannah Chance, producer for Late Junction and 6Music among many other goodly works, for including a radio piece of mine in the latest instalment of Folded Wing’s ‘Listening Post’. ‘If you don’t have time to listen to any of the others, take 2 minutes to listen to this’, she says, which is jolly flattering given the calibre of the other work on display. Have a listen and a dig around her other selections here. Much obliged, Alannah. I owe you a cherryade.
— Alannah (@Miss_chance) July 8, 2016
Finally, don’t forget that Howlround are playing Homemade Disco evening at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on Tuesday, alongside the ‘soul/blues/grime and psych folk’ of Le Juki and the ‘generative systems and analogue synthesisers’ of David. It’s at 352A Mare St in Hackney and further details can be found here.
Well, that’s probably enough to be getting on with. Certainly an improvement on the original idea for this post, which was just going to be me screaming ‘BORIS JOHNSON!?!! YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT?!!’ It’s lucky that all this great music and radio continue to be made or else there surely would be a mad collective dash off Beachy Head. 2016 will now surely go down in history as the year that everything went officially batshit bananas…
Following last week’s uncharacteristically outraged and aggrieved state-of-the-post-Brexit-nation rant in which I assessed the moribund condition of British affairs through the medium of Keith Chegwin, a ‘gay bike’ and a minimoke; I am now attempting to get back on track, dust myself off and return to the ‘super-niche’ subject matter for which I’m renown, leaving politics firmly in the hands of the experts that everyone has apparently had enough of. You certainly don’t need me to tell you what a farce the whole thing has proved and after our ship was immediately abandoned by at least two of the main rats whose victory had caused it to sink in the first place, leaving the rest of us floating adrift in a gigantic mess with nobody in place to clear it up; there really is little one add that hasn’t been said already, far more articulately and eloquently, by Ewan McGregor.
One concession I will make to the current nation mood, however, is a special ‘Dreary Synth’ edition of Resonance FM’s Near Mint show, put together by Copenhagen-based artist and musician Jim Slade. As with so much synthesiser music, the more downbeat it gets, the better it sounds and this week’s show features some fantastically dour electronic pop from the deepest doldrums of the early 1980s. It is as, our guest puts it, a mix perfect for ‘rainy days and tumultuous political climates’, so if you can think of a more appropriate playlist for summer 2016 then let’s hear it. Jim can also be found curating a continuing programme of sound and music events at Copenhagen’s David Risley Gallery as well as working on his own compositions and site-specific performances. His saxophone work Teleborg is particularly special and I’m told there’s more to come…
Continuing with more positive news, I’m very excited indeed to be able to announce something I’ve been working on for the last few weeks, but have had to keep under my hat until now. Howlround, alongside Resonance FM, were chosen by arts organisation White Noise to contribute work to their latest project, a series of performances, installations and broadcasts taking place within the abandoned shell of the East Tower, an 11-story office block that is one of the last surviving buildings of the old BBC Television Centre complex. Formerly the headquarters of children’s programmes such as Blue Peter, it’s due to be demolished next month and White Noise were keen to organise a sort-of ‘last hurrah’ for the building before it’s replaced with yet more luxury flats.
Prior to demolition, we are commissioning three residencies to take over the upper floors. We’d love you to join us to artistically commemorate the tower’s fall. Potential use of the floors could include: a location for film-making projects, a temporary home for radio broadcasts, art installations, an event space for drama (audience up to 200 people).
For Howlround’s part of the project, I’m unveiling a series of brand new compositions created entirely by manipulating the naturally-occurring sounds of the building on my semi-refurbished quartet of reel-to-reel machines. This will take the form of a live performance from inside the topmost floors of the building itself as a part of Resonance FM’s gala Live To Air event, an evening of site-specific radio broadcasts with a live audience on Wednesday on July 13th. Tickets are free, but limited and going fast, though the entire event is being broadcast live on Resonance, so do tune in if you can’t make it. Further details include a full running order of programmes and performances can be found here.
Really looking forward to this one and of course it chimes in nicely with previous projects documenting the sounds of Bush House and New Broadcasting House from a few years back. At this stage even I don’t know quite what it’s all going to sound like, I’m still putting the finishing touches to the material and I’ve still got to head back into the building to record one final piece – some forty people serenading the stairwell. All I can tell you is that we shall be seeing the tower out in style. Hope you can join us!
The following week, in what is shaping up to be a busy month for my quartet of elderly machines, I shall also playing the next Homemade Disco evening at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney, alongside the ‘soul/blues/grime and psych folk’ of Le Juki and the ‘generative systems and analogue synthesisers’ of David. Been hearing great things about this event and if the whole thing is executed half as well as the above logo then a very fine time will be had by all. It’s at 352A Mare St in Hackney and further details can be found here.
And then as if that wasn’t enough, Howlround will also be playing the next Linear Obsessional event at Vinyl Deptford on July 23rd alongside Phil Maguire, Project Mycelium and the trio of Phil Durrant/Kev Hopper/Richard Sanderson. Vinyl Deptford can be found at 4 Tanners Hill, SE8 and further details can be found here. Hope to see you at one or more of these events, though can’t help thinking we’ll all be in need of semi-refurbishment after such a busy month!
Lastly, some very cheering news from the people behind Extraction Music, the fundraising all-dayer from a few weeks ago in Cardiff, raising money in aid of the continuing refugee crisis in Calais and elsewhere. So positive was the response from the event that chief protagonist Ian ‘Uh Oh’ Watson and his team have launched a brand new benefit compilation featuring many of the artists from the event, including an extract from Howlround’s closing performance – here listed as a ‘bonus track’ because I let the ball slip and forgot to sort out our contribution quickly enough, for which I must sheepishly apologise. Personal tardiness notwithstanding, it’s a throbbingly good listen that’s already received a nod of approval from the nice people at the ever-redoubtable Tiny Mix Tapes. And with such a great line-up and such a worthy and necessary cause, who could argue with them? Click on the link below to secure yourself a copy!
So, there we have it . Plenty of reasons to be cheerful that for once don’t involve sport, politics or another Royal Baby. I feel better already!
Admittedly an uncharacteristically provocative title for one of my blog posts, but frankly I’m mad as hell. I usually try and avoid politics on these pages and originally I had no intention of prattling on about the EU Referendum in any depth here. But it’s been such a terminally obscene farce with all sensible debate suspended in favour of scare-mongering and bigotry, compounded by the printing of massive, whopping lies on the side of campaign buses that are then retracted as soon as victory is declared, that it’s hard to feel anything for this country anymore other than an ever-deepening sense of shame. Particularly when you hear of the apparent nationwide surge in hate crime and intolerance that has followed in the wake of last week’s result. The idiots really are winning.
Not that you’ll be needing to hear any of this from me. An awful lot of heat has already been generated over the past few weeks and many very worthy commentators have been far more insightful and articulate in their coverage of the gigantic, irrecoverable mess that we’re now saddled with thanks to this glorified popularity contest between a bunch of greedy and contemptible right-wingers (not that the left have been much use either). But having been subjected, as we all have, to so much windy rhetoric over the past few weeks, particularly the frequent use of expressions such as ‘Make Britain Great Again’ and ‘I want my country back’, I couldn’t help but be strangely reminded of a curious incident I spotted on youtube a couple of years ago that I thought was worth sharing with you now. Hopefully it might even provide a modicum of cheer – it’s certainly far less depressing than dwelling on the actual facts.
So, allow me to present to you the real subject of today’s post, an amusingly kitsch cycling safety film from 1971 that national treasure The BFI posted on their youtube account – and some of the rather peculiar viewer comments that followed. Do yourself a favour and take a few minutes to watch it now, even if you’ve seen it already. If your week has been anything like mine, it might even briefly cheer you up:
Having watched the video, I must now rather regretfully draw your attention to the comments section and several messages left by other users that have come this way before you. Of course one of the golden fundamentals of life is to NEVER read youtube comments as they generally consist of a mixture of inexplicable spite, character assassination and barely-literate hate-poison. But the amount of regret, anger and nostalgic sorrow that appears to have been generated by one breezily kitsch film on bicycle safety is just too strange to ignore. Here’s a handful of my own favourites, all genuine:
Where to start? I’ve got to be honest, nothing burns my toast more than the kind of sad old bore who would use a light-hearted exercise in fluffy nostalgic whimsy as an opportunity to harp on how much better everything was when they were less sad, old and boring than they are now. Do you, dear reader, share these commentators’ memories of some glorious Brit-opia, where bantam-weight popstars willingly cancelled engagements in order to invigilate a safe-cycling competition between rival gangs of mop-topped urchins? That golden age of minor celebrities selflessly putting their careers on hold in order to commandeer minimokes driven by benignly smiling silent men in blouses, all the better to follow Keith Chegwin around suburbia armed with a clipboard, a walkie-talkie and a surprisingly effective pair of binoculars? Are you also wistful for that era where you could hang as many girly tassels on your ‘chopper’ as you liked and still refer to yourself as ‘Butch’? Do you pine for the days when there was a good old British Bobby directing traffic at every T-junction instead of all the drug dealers that are probably hanging out there right now – pedalling their wares to passing cars and funded by YOUR taxes, I shouldn’t wonder?! The pre-decimalisation days when money was impossibly confusing, but it didn’t matter because nobody actually had or needed any? The days when Cheggers was forever young and kept his clothes on? The days when you could leave all your doors and windows unlocked or perhaps even take them with you on a lovely holiday to Butlins, safe in the knowledge that the only crime that could possibly be committed in your absence was those naughty young scamps filling their jumpers with apples pilfered from the vicarage orchard? The halcyon days when cyling was a noble, gentlemanly pursuit, before ‘multiculturalism’ came along and completely ruined it for everyone? The sound of willow and cream, of leather on strawberries?
Of course you bloody well don’t! Nobody does! It’s all a load of old tripe! But in the last couple of years such phantom memories of an unnaturally green and pleasant imaginary Albion appear to have gained such traction that they’ve become a form of mass hysteria that seems to haunt the collective dreams of both these youtube critics and now many eminent figures of society at large. And even worse, it would appear that the invocation of these phantom memories can actually WIN you a referendum! Suddenly a great many people appear to be fully anticipating a ‘return’ to this rose-tinted, suet-pudding, croquet-and-spitfires version of a Britain that only ever really existed on tea-towels, novelty coasters and inside the twisted imagination of wealthy Etonians who try to convince you that we’re all in this together.
Now, I can’t deny that in the past I have been as guilty as anyone of daydreaming aloud about wanting to live inside a British Transport film – particularly that Michael Aspell one about the pretty girl balancing the spoon. But even while making such proclamations I was acutely aware that it was all nothing more than borrowed nostalgia from an age only ever found on newsreels and promotional films made by companies that ultimately had a product they wanted you to invest in. That pretty girl never really did exist. That spoon probably never existed either – or if it did it was some kind of super-advanced stunt-spoon borrowed from NASA. Michael Aspell of course did and does exist, but he is highly unlikely to be in any position to effect a rescue any time soon, despite the very pleasing mental image the thought of him doing so conjures up. And as for going back to any kind of golden age, given that our glorious ‘leaders’ appear to have no plans at all for this brave new world they’ve forced upon us, I’m willing to predict an imminent slide into a sort of neo-mediaeval era that will probably look ironically similar to that other great Keith Chegwin star-turn, the 1976 Children’s Film Foundation classic Robin Hood Junior. Never mind the youth of today, should these dark ages actually return, I guarantee you we’ll ALL be knifing each other!
I wish Peter Noone was here. He’d know what to do…
So now, in some small attempt to calm the madness and put all this borrowed nostalgia into the correct perspective, I’d like to belatedly share with you this report I produced for BBC World Service a few weeks ago on the subject of Ian Rawes and his remarkable London Sound Survey archive. Ian has featured on these pages before, of course, but the announcement of another of his ‘London’s Lost Sounds’ listening events, where the bygone sounds of London are served up for a modern audience was just too good an opportunity to miss reporting on. Originally due for transmission three weeks ago, but held back in the wake of Muhammad Ali’s death, sharing it with you here and now feels entirely appropriate.
I could listen to Ian talking about such things for hours and he’s the perfect tour guide, putting these precious recordings in context for his growing audiences, leading them into this long-forgotten world with just the right combination of awe, wonder and pragmatism – none of the sugar-coating or bluster of the louder, brasher voices we’ve been hearing so much of lately.
In a week when it’s beginning to look distinctly likely that we’re on the cusp of losing something a whole lot greater than lavender sellers and inept fortune-tellers, we must cherish these sounds more than ever – but we must also bear in mind that, enticing as they are, recordings such as ‘Hopping Holiday’ are often partial fabrications themselves, a scenario set up in the presence and for the benefit of a microphone. Does this make them any less special? Hardly. But it might just make us question the legitimacy of mourning for some golden age where young boys everywhere were at liberty to cycle down a beautifully clean, monocultural high street without being menaced by drug dealers, while the lead singer of a contemporary beat combo follows at a safe distance, nodding his approval from the safety of a toy car.
Those weren’t the days. These are the days – and we’re in severe danger of irretrievably screwing them up. Save us, Mr. Aspell!
Finally, a quick word about this week’s Near Mint, in which Hannah and I decided that the only way to cheer ourselves up post-result was to pop down to Rat Records in Camberwell for a browse through the racks, while our old chums Jonny Trunk and DJ Food spun library and soundtracks behind the counter. As luck would have it we bumped into a number of old friends and fellow vinyl nerds, including former guests Strictly Kev, Tom Central and Resonance’s Lucky Cat Zoe. It was decided the most sensible course of action would be to pack them all off down the pub for a spot of post-digging show-and-tell and this week’s show is the hastily-edited and slightly tipsy result…