Shutter, Splatter, Smut: The OST Fundraising Special!

Hello. As you will no-doubt be aware Resonance FM is currently holding an on-air auction to raise some desperately needed funds to stay afloat. Right up until midnight on Sunday 19th February, there’s a veritable cavalcade of unique and wondrous items, special live events, celebrity guests, spontaneous competitions and much more. And for my own part, I shall be presenting the OST show in Jonny Trunk’s absence this Saturday 18th February from 16.30 – 18.30 on 104.4FM in London and worldwide on the web via www.resonancefm.com. I’ll be joined in my endeavours by Zoe from the Lucky Cat Show that goes out an hour previously, and together we have plans to turn the afternoon into a three-solid-hour bid-fest!

...but for how much longer?!!

The auction is already taking place right NOW, with many splendid items up for grabs, but here’s a few we’ve organised specially for the OST show that I wanted to draw your attention to. Some of them are only being auctioned during the actual show itself, whereas others can be bid upon until right up to the following midnight. And the details of a couple of the items below haven’t been completely ironed out yet, so I’ll just keep updating when I have more to tell you. Let’s start with the BIG GUNS:

‘The Shuttered Room’ OST, an unreleased LP by the late, great Basil Kirchin, 1 of only 29 pressed with special hand-made artwork. No reissues, no additional pressings, 29 copies for the world. You will never see this record again after Saturday, unless you win it! Here’s Station Manager Chris Weaver modelling the last copy you will ever see, and laughing nervously lest it should fall…

-A ridiculously rare DJ Food Postcard Record, 1 of only 30 pressed. Two minutes of strangeness in postcard-sized record form, released to coincide with his recent exhibition at the Pure Evil Gallery in London. This is the last one, there are no more.

– An extremely sexy DJ Food-designed 12″ Serrato controller disk on unique splatter vinyl. Used for controlling that fancy Serrato DJ software that allows you to DJ in a vinyl stylee using a laptop, and saving you the hassle of hauling a tonne of precious plastic around on night buses, or accidentally stepping on your prized copy of ‘Warhead’ in the dark. Think I might pop in a bid for this one myself…

This is what splatter vinyl Serrato DJ Controller Records look like

-A 4xCD boxed set of commercially unavailable recordings by the great library music composer Roger Roger. Seriously, this is not available to the general public and is rare as hen’s teething gel. Bidding has started for this already, and no wonder, the music is truly subliminal. And there’s four CDs of it. Here’s Chris once again, taking time out from his tea-break to demonstrate:

(Biscuit not included)

‘Play OST For Me’, your chance to be a sort-of host-cum-guest on your very own, personalised episode of The OST Show, playing all your favourite soundtracks and affiliated recordings, while Jonny Trunk plays butler and panders to your every whim. Bonus points if you play ‘A Whole New World’ or the theme from The X-Files’, as somebody did once (on a different show, I hasten to add).

Cheekily smutty 30″ x 40″ movie quads (a slightly posher form of jumbo poster) promoting vintage fleapit classics ‘The Erotic Adventures of Zorro’ and ‘The Sex Adventures Of The Three Musketeers’ which it’s amusing punchline ‘Free for all and all for free!’  You really have to see these to believe them, which is a shame as Resonance seem to be having trouble uploading jpegs onto the spreadsheet. Anyway, take my word for it, they’re highly amusing.

Five pairs of tickets to see one of the films at the BFI‘s forthcoming season concentrating on the work of  Vincente Minnelli and three pairs to any of the upcoming Opera Encore screenings (which are during the day, please take note!). With thanks to our friends at the British Film Institute for this most generous offer!

-A VERY exciting CD containing an exclusive unreleased work by sound artisit John Wynne, a four-minute piece concerning the secret to great radio, in a limited edition of 1, courtesy of our friends at ‘In The Dark‘! This work will not be made available anywhere else! Plus they’ve even thrown in a year’s free entry to their regular ‘nights of stories told through sound, of communal, focussed and curated listening events’, which is worth at least £30 in itself! Wow! Manager of In The Dark, Mr. Connor Walsh, will drop by with the treasured CD on Saturday to give it a plug and a play (but only a little, it’s secrets are strictly for the ears of the winner!

A Sesame Street Oldskool Vol. 1 DVD Boxed set containing over seven hours of material, including the 1969 pilot episode, the opening episode of each of the first five seasons (check out the Orange Oscar!),the original ‘pitch’ film, songs such as ‘I Love Trash’ and ‘C is For Cookie’ and more bonus scenes than you can shake a stick at, including my all-time favourite – ‘The Great Cookie Thief’.

I’m going to have a lot of trouble giving this one away…

-A set of signed Kid Koala promotional postcards and sticker sheet, each one depicting an amusing koala-related image drawn by the kid himself, or a quirky peak into his jazz-playing-mosquito-loving world.

And lots, lots more…

Furthermore, as some of you might already be aware, due to my recent harping on about it, I’ve just released a limited edition cassette album ‘Notes On Cow Life’ in collaboration with Mr. Guy J Jackson. There are only 50 copies available, with 50% of the proceeds from each sale are going to the People Live Here organisation, and until next Monday I’m donating the other 50% to Resonance. So if you feel like purchasing a fine piece of limited edition sound art now is the time to do it!

BUT for one lucky bidder, there’s also the  chance to own a mysterious, forbidden 51st copy. The copy that shouldn’t have been, an abomination, a blot on the laws of physics. 51 should simply not go into 50, it cannot. Nevertheless it exists. And it’s up for auction too:

Or if you love your radio but aren’t that interested in shiny objects to accompany it, then perhaps a donation is more up your street? Every little helps and the station accepts Paypal, cheque or cash stuffed into envelopes and thrown over the gates. A spreadsheet of all the items up for grabs and the current highest bids can be found by visiting here.

If you love Resonance  104.4 FM and the broadcasts by OST, please do support us via a donation, pledge, bequest, gift or purchase from our shop. The alternative – for the station to take regular on-air advertising, thus bringing us a step closer to Heart FM territory – is too hideous to even think about contemplating. Tune in on Saturday at 15.30 (for one hour of Lucky Cat, then two of OST) with your chequebook, paypal account or cash-stuffed envelope close to hand and help us once again celebrate this unique and extraordinary station!

A Thrillingly Awkward Ego Trip

Yes, indeed, an ego trip, taking a moment out to bask in my new-found fame and glory. Because this week I have spread across the web like wild-fire, with no less than TWO websites running special Fog-related features! I think we can safely say my world-domination plans from here on in will run quite smoothly.

First off is Slow Thrills, the music blog of one Mr. Jonathan Greer, an affable chap whose writings and thoughts on music are very much in-demand these days on his own site as well as such journalistic beacons as The Huffington Post and The 405 to name but a couple. Jonathan is starting a new weekly programme of ‘Guest Mixes’ for the Slow Thrills site, and this week asked me to deliver the inaugural session. Naturally, I was only too happy to oblige, but he’s the writer, so I’ll let him do the explaining:

I asked him to do a mix as a bit of promotional activity for his new cassette release in collaboration with Guy J Jackson, “Notes on Cow Life”, as this is also the first release on his new label The Fog Signals. Well, he has done that, and so much more! The 35 minute mix includes a unique remix of some tracks from the album, as well as audio from the likes of the Focus Group, Imbogodom, Hills Have Riffs, Gum Takes Tooth, Roj, Gregory Whitehead, Ekoclef and Ken Nordine. Put some headphones on have a listen, I think it’s fantastic.

You hear that? ‘Fantastic’! Well, far be it from me to argue with someone Music Week recently branded a ‘taste-maker’! Here it is for your listening pleasure.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And of course don’t forget to pick up your limited edition cassette (or completely unlimited download) of ‘Notes On Cow Life’ from the label site here.

The second exciting occurrence took place on the Awkward Movements website, which is basically an umbrella organisation run by a shady clique of underground DJs operating around London and encompassing a record label, radio shows, guest mix podcasts and an informative music blog. And I was surprised and delighted to find a very detailed and extremely complimentary article about your humble scribe, whom they describe as ‘an incredibly creative and unique force around underground London music and arts scenes’, which could well be the nicest complement I’ve ever been paid! Certainly better than the standard ‘he’s the guy that does that thing…’

They mention ‘Notes On Cow Life’ too, as well as a couple of other things I’m currently working on. And as Awkward Movements mainstay Keith P and I share a love of all things Henson, there’s a link to the Sesame Street Special edition of the OST Show that I did a few years back:

Which brings me neatly to the next item on the agenda, namely that I shall be presenting another edition of that very show, OST,  in Jonny Trunk’s stead next Saturday 18th February at 16.30GMT on Resonance 104.4FM. Not only that, but I’ll also be assisting champion selector Lucky Cat Zoe with her own show, which goes out an hour before. For this reason, and because  next Saturday just happens to fall during Resonance FM’s crucial week of fund-rasing, we’ve decided to pool our efforts and bring you a three-hour radio extravaganza, as well auctioning off all manner of exceptionally desirable goodies in order to raise some much needed cash to keep this remarkable station on air. And we really do need you to dig deep, dear reader, the price tag to keep Resonance afloat is certainly no small potatoes.

More on this to follow imminently. Imminently, I tell you…

Notes On Cassette Life: Debut Guy J Jackson & Robin The Fog Album OUT NOW!!!

There are those who would howl with derision at the thought that in the teeth of a gigantic recession anybody would be hare-brained enough to set up a label specialising in releasing obscure sound art on out-moded formats. And believe me they do howl. In fact, even I was surprised at the amount of snarky comments generated by certain members of my showbiz circle upon announcement of the launch of my brand spanking new imprint, The Fog Signals. Still, I never was much good at doing the sensible thing, and so here it is, our inaugral release. Snark on this:

Yes, friends, it’s finally arrived – ‘Notes On Cow Life’ by Guy J. Jackson & Robin The Fog! Perhaps the most hotly-anticipated limited edition sound-art cassette of the year, it contains thirty fabulous minutes of noise, prose and profanity, courtesy of the bendy, subversive stories of Hollywood legend and former American Idol contestant Guy J. Jackson bolted onto the warping and wefting sound design jiggery-pokery of Robin The Fog. It contains 10 of Guy’s fruitiest stories and many a doabolical twist and turn along the way, as well as some of the meatier offerings from my big sound cupboard. And 50% of the profits are going to charity!
 

Released as a limited edition bright orange cassette, the colour of cheerful madness; ‘Notes On Cow Life’  is limited to a mere 50 hand-numbered copies, though if you particularly object to things that exist in a tangible state, it comes as a download too. And if you’re not quite sure where you stand between the poles of tangibility and convenience, you should know that all purchasers of the cassette get the downloads thrown in gratis. The download, being a intangible object, is not limited at all and will go on being a download long after all the cassettes have been bought up by screaming admirers. Although tape enthusiasts are rewarded for their lifestyle choice with an exclusive secret bonus track at the end of side B!

On the subject of charity, I can also confirm that for each cassette sold, we’ll give 50% of the proceeds to thoroughly worthy ‘People Live Here’ organisation, who are doing some amazing work bringing the plight of the residents of Port Harcourt, Nigeria to the eyes of the world. You can find out more about their attempts to creative a ‘human city’  and about how you can help by visiting them here.

But for now, sit back, fire up that vintage walkman someone gave you as a retro Christmas present, and enjoy half an hour of magic and intrigue, safe in the knowledge that in some small way, you helped make the world a slightly better place. As an added bonus, Guy even found time to make a video for one of the tracks:

Further releases on The Fog Signals to follow soon. With accompanying levels of snark, no doubt. Still, my back is broad…

That QVC hand-modeller I hired was worth every penny!

A Proper Psychedelic Sunburst: DJ Food On Panel Borders, 05/02/2012

Just in case you weren’t one of the millions tuning into Resonance 104.4FM  at 8pm, Sun 5th February to hear my exclusive interview with DJ Food on Panel Borders, the UK’s only radio programme devoted to comics and all things graphic art, here is the podcast for your streaming delight:

Henry Flint's bespoke cover for 'The Search Engine' album. Ace!

Or you could visit the podcast page on the Resonance FM website here.

Kev talks about his recent collaborations with 2000AD comic-artist Henry Flint, brand new album ‘The Search Engine’ and the exhibition of album artwork (plus some Flint originals and a few tricks of his own) currently occurring at the Pure Evil Gallery in London’s Shoreditch.

An example of Henry's striking original artwork with colouring by Kev.

We also discussed how his work as a graphic designer affects his musical output, so stand by for much talk of  ‘splatter vinyl’, flexidiscs and records pressed onto postcards. Seriously, postcard records! How amazing is that? Who else would’ve known they were making them once more?

This is actually what I find most interesting about Kev’s work, the way his musical and designing chops compliment one-another, but in a rather different way to his label-mate Kid Koala, who I interviewed for Panel Borders a few months back. While he does indeed fit the traditional image of the DJ as a ‘digger’, constantly on the hunt for the most obscure grooves and elusive musical nuggets in amongst all the cultural flotsam and jetsam; this principle could be said to guide his graphic work too, as he scours the internet and other shadowy channels looking for, in his own words, the ‘good shit’. In the modern idiom, this ‘good shit’ could could be a killer drum break, a stop-motion video loop, an obscure comic-book artist or just someone willing to produce limited edition splatter-vinyl DJ controller disks:

Truly a 21st century digger. And to prove it, here’s a picture of him in a space suit:

Not for nothing is his album called ‘The Search Engine’. Speaking of which, it’s out now. On the mighty Ninja Tune label. Make sure you grab yourself a limited edition copy of the ‘Comic’ edition with your complimentary flexdisc! Yep, it turns out they still make those too. Isn’t life grand?

PS For the uninitiated, this is what splatter vinyl looks like:

"The good shit".

Important Mechanics: Nights At The Market 28/01/2012

Check This Out Right Here:

Public Service Broadcasting is the brainchild of J. Willgoose, Esq., who combines a guitar, a banjo, a computer and a theremin with samples from old public information films to create new, exciting and decidedly eccentric music that informs, educates and entertains in equal measure. He is joined in his adventures by Mr. Wrigglesworth on drums and together they conjure a sepia-tinted, bow-tie-blazing assault on all of your senses (they smell nice too), which has earned them attention from BBC 6 Music and  a spate of gigs all over the place, including a recent live set at KOKO supporting Plaid and Hexstatic, during which this tasteful photo was captured:

After all this gigging, they’re pretty on-point as a band right now. So what better time to invite you to check them out than this coming Saturday at the latest of their self-curated  Nights At The Market  events?  The second in a continuing residency at Tooting Market in South London, the lineup includes the full PSB Stage Show, alt-pop from Professor Penguin and noisebeat pop from Bear Response Team. But that’s not all! I’m very pleased to inform you that Mr. Willigoose contacted me personally and asked if I would be willing to DJ at the event (on MSN Messenger, so it’s official). The decision to reply ‘Hell, yes, why didn’t you ask me sooner, smiley emoticon?!’ took all of three seconds.

So, a fine line-up and a classy venue. But, as often seems to happen, my name was added to the bill long after the poster was printed. And a quick glance at the Facebook event page informs me that my name only appears on the running order after the ‘Hot Tasty Food’. Fortunately I happen to be COMPLETELY BRILLIANT at Photoshop, so I have been swift to amend this issue, subtly hinting at the value of my presence on the night whilst remaining true to the exceedingly classy design:

This took ages.

All joking aside, I’m a big fan of Public Service Broadcasting. I’ve already pre-ordered their forthcoming single ‘ROYGBIV’ which is coming out VERY soon, and I highly recommend your doing the same, it’s the best thing I’ve heard for ages! To increase the awesomeness a little further, here’s the official video:

And here’s another recent effort,  this video to the track ‘Signal 30’ was shot and directed by Owain Rich and Peter Price. Appropriate surnames, as with their obscene levels of talent, Owain will indeed by Rich and hiring Peter indeed Pricey before we’re all very much older. Marvel at what they have wrought:

Hope to see you there, apparently I’m on CD decks, which is a bit of a change from my beloved vinyl, but it will at least give the old spine a night off. While planning my set I am reminded of an interview I once read an with Mr. C, the, er, ‘rapper’ from The Shamen; where he talked about going into club promotion as he ‘wanted to see people wearing cutting-edge clothing and celebrating life’. I wonder if he was thinking of bow-ties and corduroy? If so, he’s in for a treat! Provided he gets my invite…

Join them (and me, and some hot, tasty food) in Tooting for a celebration of life this Saturday!

Righting A Radiophonic Wrong

Question: How many drama students does it take to provide an insight into the life and work of the late electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram?

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Answer: None.

I have nothing  against drama students per se. It’s true that I was forced to live with a veritable gaggle of them during my college years and also true that amongst this gaggle not a single soul possessed an ‘off’ button; but apart from a permanent intolerance for Whitney Houston, I came through the experience more or less unscathed.

I also have nothing against London’s Science Musuem, which is an excellent institution, but having recently visitied their highly-anticipated ‘Oramics’ exhibition, I can’t help feeling they’ve fallen rather short of the mark. And drama students are at least partly to blame!

I’m not going to go into great detail about the career of the late Daphne Oram (1925-2003) here, I imagine if you’re reading this then you already have a fairly good idea of who she is, and there’s an excellent website and Wikipedia page that can both do a much better job. To the uninitiated she was, alongside Desmond Briscoe, the founder member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which she then left within the year to set up her own electronic music studio; and devoted the remainder of her life to pursuing new ways of making electronic music, leaving a trail of strange and wondrous soundworks in her wake. Perhaps her greatest triumph, other than setting the whole radiophonic ball rolling, was the construction in the 1960s of the Oramics Machine, which she used to experiment with various techniques of ‘drawing’ sounds, a process that still leaves even the most technically-savvy music nerd scratching their heads today.

In short a pioneer and something of a heroine. And its marvellous that the Science Museum are putting this machine of hers on display and devoting a bit of space to demonstrating Oram’s influence on the development of electronic music over the years. The stage should well set for a throughly entertaining and informative experience.

But, oh dear, what’s all this?

The museum’s curators, in their wisdom, appear to have decided that what is REALLY needed in an exhibition concerning said development of electronic music is in fact not music at all, but a handfull of videos largely consisting of a number of plummy youngsters engaged in a ‘site-specific dramatization’ loosely connected to the subject (though in another room on a different floor, which doesn’t strike me as very site-specific at all). There’s much histrionic shrieking and lots of ‘Am-Dram’ prancing, but it completely fails to answer questions or explain anything about the lady or her work. This is then followed by a series of completely spurious monologues apparently produced at workshops focusing on ‘sound, invention and oramics’, which in layman’s terms appears to be a polite way of saying sixth-form poetry, with very little invention and not a shred of Oramics in sight. Seriously, it’s teeth-grinding stuff:

(It’s possible she may have meant ‘Hades’ here, the pit of torment and suffering where the dead reside in Christian theology. Haden Engineering Services was subsumed by Balfour-Beatty several years ago, and I imagine their gates were part of the deal)

What do these things have in common with the work of Daphne Oram or the history of electronic music? Practically nothing, as far as I’m concerned. And yet, this is by far the noisiest part of the whole endeavour.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, the video programme also contains the odd brief extract of Daphne at work, a short documentary about the setting-up of the exhibition (with lots of serious nodding and emphatic hand-gesures), and a rather nice extract from the 1960’s documentary ‘The Same Trade As Mozart’; but why on earth does it have to be sandwiced in amongst all this silly tittle-tattle?  It’s impossible to work out how a bunch of youngsters shouting or a few disembodied voices speaking of their attempts to avoid ‘MENTALNESS’ relate in any way to Daphne Oram’s life of strange audio adventures beneath the respectable facade of a converted Oast House in Kent.  It’s also impossible to imagine this scenario occuring anywhere else. Would visitors to the Natural History Museum next door be satisfied if the  fossil collection was replaced by a bunch of people reciting poems about dinosaurs?

Finally….

We then come to the Oramics machine itself, still an impressive spectacle even now in it’s run-down state. You can’t blame the Science Museum for not restoring it to working condition, as they rightfully pointed out, this would involve the replacement of so many parts that all you would be left with would be a replica. But can we not at least hear some of the works she produced using the machine? Well, apart from the two-minute loop noodling quietly out of tiny speakers above your head (not working during my first visit and drowned out by the drama students during my second), the answer is a quiet, tinny negative. There is an Oramics ’emulator’ nearby with headphones, encouraging visitors to have a go, but what’s the point of attempting to create anything on such an unconventional instrument if  you can’t compare your own amateur efforts with those of the machine’s creator? Even Oram seems on occasion to have been confounded by her own invention, what hope do the rest of us have?

A little further down the exhibition sit several glass cases featuring various items of musical hardware including some of the earliest EMS synthesizers, antique Radiophonic tools including Delia Derbyshire’s famous green lampshade, a Roland TB303 (aka the acid machine) and a circuit-bent Speak And Spell game amongst others. All sat there in sad, lonely silence. Frankly, that’s just not good enough. Even if, like the Oramics machine, they’re no longer operational, how difficult would it have been to at least have some headphones playing us extracts of the machines in question, or a snippet of one of the recordings that made them famous?

Delia’s lampshade is a case in point. In case it zipped by a little too quickly in the above slide-show, here it is again:

This is apparently the exact lampshade that were used in one of her most astonishing compositions, and so for me and many others, something of a sacred relic. Not that you’d realise just by having it hang there in front of you. To clarify, here’s an extract from the Delia’s obituary, written by Brian Hodgson in 2001:

“Among her outstanding television work, one of her favourites was composed for a documentary for The World About Us on the Tuareg people of the Sahara desert. It still haunts me. She used her own voice for the sound of the hooves, cut up into an obbligato rhythm, and she added a thin, high electronic sound using virtually all the filters and oscillators in the workshop. “My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty green BBC lampshade,” she recalled. “It was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound to it. I hit the lampshade, recorded that, faded it up into the ringing part without the percussive start. “I analysed the sound into all of its partials and frequencies, and took the 12 strongest, and reconstructed the sound on the workshop’s famous 12 oscillators to give a whooshing sound. So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs.” 

Utterly beguiling. And made using a lampshade, a perfect demonstration not only of the foresight and imagination at work here, but also the make-do and mend apprach of Oram, Derbyshire and underfunded operations like The Radiophonic Workshop, as they twisted the strange and impossible out of the mundane everyday objects around them, simply because it was all they had. Wouldn’t that be an interesting angle to have focused on? Britian is, after all, a nation that loves to tinker in the garden shed.

In fact, while we’re rocking the Youtube, allow me to fill in a few of the Science Museum’s blanks. They showed you what an EMS synthesiser looks like. Here’s what it sounds like:

‘With a name like Wasp’, the placard underneath this synth reads, ‘what do you think it might sound like?’  They then leave you to imagine it for yourself, so here’s a helpful demonstration by a perky chap I found online:

And the acid bassline of the TB 303 here being used in 1987 to invent techno (to avoid confusion, it’s best just to listen to the full 11 minutes):

All circuit-bent Speak And Spells are different (and usually survive about five minutes before suffering a beautiful-sounding meltdown). Here’s just one example amongst many I found online:

And best of all, here’s a 2008 documentary on Daphne, originally broadcast on Radio 3, with not a single drama student or inept poetry-reading in sight. Dig in while it’s still here, I can’t imagine Radio 3 are aware of it:

 

There’s a couple of rather fine compilations of Daphne’s work that are also availble if you’d like to hear more. The 2007 compilation ‘Oramics’ on Paradignm Discs is probably the best, and is still reasonably easy to track down.

I’m no expert, but I think even with a few youtube videos and a chip on my shoulder, I’ve managed to explain more about the history of electronic music than the Science Museum managed with a whole balcony. This could have, and has been handled so much better. Back in April last year The Wire magazine with help from Resonance FM organised an evening at Cafe OTO in East London, where they devoted a whole night to simply playing and talking about Daphne’s work, with people queueing around the block to get in (and it’s a BIG block)! I swear I’m not trying to score points here, and it’s amazing to be able to see the Oramics machine in the flesh. But what on earth is the point of merely showing us what these things look like and neglecting to properly demonstrate how they SOUND?!

Come on, Science Museum! Sort it out!

Gentle reader, forgive me. But I really needed to get this off my chest.

Short Cuts (And Even Shorter Notice)

‘Short Cuts’ is a rather exciting new series starting today at 15.00 GMT on BBC Radio 4.

Presented by Nina Garthwaite, the founder of the radiophonic treasure-trove that is ‘In The Dark’ and produced by Eleanor McDowall for Falling Tree Productions,  Short Cuts is a selection of brief encounters, true stories and found sound, ‘a showcase of delightful and adventurous short documentaries’.

In the first edition  she delves into tales of misadventure – starting with ‘a chance encounter on a train where a couple’s absorption in the crossword disguises a possible hidden romance. [and] encompassing the writer Joe Dunthorne’s reminiscences of his misspent gap year selling door to door in Australia’.  ‘Misadventure’ could pretty much describe my entire career to date, which is just as well, as I’m very pleased to add that my own short work ‘A Corner Seat In a Smoker Facing The Engine’ (aka Traintracker) has been included in this first programme.

Here it is again, just in case you’re not one of the 65 people who, at the time of writing, have officially heard it:

If you haven’t heard it, hope that you enjoy it, it’s the first part of a larger project that I’m going to be working on in the coming year. Though I won’t be expecting this much exposure!

Speaking of which, I realise that posting all this a mere few hours before the programme goes to air is something of a publicity shot in the foot, but such is the wonder of technology that I’m sure the BBC will have worked out some sort of  ‘listen again’ feature should you require it. Plus there are three subsequent episodes exploring such knotty themes as ‘Divided We Stand’ (January 17th), ‘The Comfort of Strangers’ (24th) and ‘Lost For Words’ (31st). Given the reputation of both Falling Tree and In The Dark for high standards, I heartily recommend catching them all.

I also, and no-less heartily, recommend becoming a friend of ‘In The Dark’. It costs a mere £20 per annum and allows you access to lots of exclusive goodies; as well as the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from helping out a voluntary organisation that is genuinely putting nice things into the world.  Great job!

Post-Script:

Thanks very much to everybody who sent such nice feedback, especially Marcella, the ‘falling off her chair laughing’ lady and Mr. Ed Lehan who sent what must be the best text message I’ve ever received!

Young Pines (Or How To Discover The Actual Meaning of ‘NSFW’ The Hard Way)

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The Young Pines organisation has just finished curating an exhibition of words and images at the Liverpool School of Art and Design. The work was taken from their self-published book ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’, a collection of sexually explicit prose, poetry and illustration which uses mythology and fairy tales as a starting point. As part of the exhibition, visitors were invited to listen to audio versions of these stories and poems in a beautifully decorated ‘fantasy room’ lit by UV. And here’s one of them: ‘When Lucy Met Tumnus’ by writer, poet and storytelling genius Emma Hammond, with a sound design by Robin The Fog. But WAIT! Before you click on it I should point out that tt contains rather strong language and reasonably graphic sexual content. NOT suitable for the easily-offended, faint-hearted or readers of the Daily Mail! These people should probably click here instead, where they’ll find a nice comfortable link to a gentle, non-threatening repeat of ‘Bargain Hunt’.

Has that got rid of them? Splendid. Whack it on:

Emma says: “We chose this theme [for the event] as we were interested in subverting well known stories and themes. Some of the work is grotesque and uncomfortable yet in places it is quite beautiful.  We wanted to make the stories even more fantastical and in some ways absurd. We have had submissions from some of the most exciting young artists and writers from all over the country and the standard of contributions has far surpassed what we were hoping for.” 

You should almost certainly check out the Young Pines website and of course Emma’s own site . And there’s an interesting blog post about the project from her that you can read here. I note that the tags for this post are ‘bestiality’, ‘cocks’ and ‘prog-rock’, which means it should appeal to a worryingly-large number of my social circle.

Here’s hoping for more collaborations in the new year. Until then, Happy Christmas, everyone!

Monocle: A Very Kinky Sting And A Cosy Little Piece

A few weeks ago I was approached by Monocle Radio in my capacity as a ‘record obsessive’ and asked to file a report on recent news that, against all possible odds, sales of vinyl have actually increased in 2011. I was certainly happy to fufil this obligation, as the mini-resurgence is the one piece of good news I have been clinging to, limpet-like, for the past few months. Weddings of dearest friends? Pah. Recent additions to the family courtesy of beloved cousins? Meh. But tell me that a new record store has opened somewhere and you’ll find me down on my knees leading the Hallelujah Chorus. This is probably why I have yet to marry.

Kristina Records, Dalston. Thankfully some distance from a cashpoint.

Yes, for once my addiction is actually bringing some money in rather than the usual spending it in droves- that’s against all possible odds too. Where are you now, nay-sayers? Having said that, quite a lot of my fee went on obtaining records for purposes of research. I was also asked to work under the pseudonym ‘Robin Fog’ as apparently the producers didn’t think ‘the’ had enough zing to it. But let’s not split hairs. Here it is, ripped from Monocle Radio’s ROT, for your infotainment:

I must extend my heartfelt thanks to all the people who agreed to be interviewed for the piece including the good people of Kristina Records in Dalston, Raphael Mann of the excellent Frizz Records,  Mr. Shiver and Simon Kurrage of Size Doesn’t Matter; and most of all, the exceptionally affable Travis Elborough, who’s vinyl history ‘The Long-Player Goodbye’ is not only a fascinating read but saved me countless hours of fruitless Wikipedia scrummaging. As a bonus, I’ve included a rather jolly interview he did with The Quietus from a couple of years back.

PS As a further afterthought, and because I actually bought the LP from a record store only this week, I was going to include one of my favourite songs about the joys of record-collecting, ’43 Labels I Like’ by the mighty LA-rap duo People Under The Stairs. But unfortunately I was unable to find it anywhere online, so thought rather than just sling it up myself, I should just advise you to track down a copy of the album ‘Question In The Form Of An Answer’ for yourself. After all, the hunt for buried treasure is surely the most exciting part of digging…

Or you could go for the new LP ‘Highlighter’ released this year. They’re a fully independent group, which rather chimes in with today’s topic, as well as being refreshingly free of the usual bling-and-bitches rap tropes. You can save vinyl and the soul of hip-hop all in one day. Job well done!