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Author Archives: Samuel McKerrell

This is it!

I’m a little bit drunk, which, to be honest, I hope I would be after having undergone an entire month of being dry. It was a pleasant period of time, one where even the vaguest remnant of alcohol was banished from my very being. However, here I am, about to splurge uninhibited; the shackles have been cast and I have an overwhelming feeling to wax lyrical about the greatness of the following music which has recently come to my attention.

 

I’ve already shared this EP release numerous times on the book of face, but I must preach about its greatness once more. In particular, the track Equations For A Falling Body by Monobody. I can’t get this bloody track out of my head. It literally starts as if you’re falling down the stairs; not at the stage of even thinking about beginning to topple over whilst stood at the apex, no no no, but head over heels, bowled over but yet to hit the first step. Whilst your body is crumpling at the impact of your frightful staircase episode, take a moment to listen to the interplay of the instruments: the guitar’s cascading nature, the piano’s stabs, the phenomenal drumming. Everything about the first thirty seconds of this song makes me want to hyperventilate.

 

1.34, what’s the piano doing? Wait, it’s stopped (1.42); tell a lie, we carry on. A change of direction at 1.58, the bass drum accentuating the forceful rhythmic beat. Oh Christ, what’s going on from 2.43? Computer game antics at 2.52 to 2.54. It rises, and rises, and rises, and rises further. The drums roll, the delayed guitar kicks in; I begin to have tears in my eyes at 3.41, at which point ‘buh buh, buh buh, buh buh’ signifies the perfect crescendo (the guitar lovingly maintaining the same note whilst the piano/bass have other ideas). And…….BOOM! You’ve reached a perfect circle, the intro replays to close on a flourish. And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I love music so. Its construction can take you places that no other form of art really dares to. A controversial statement perhaps, but I’m a mere mortal so give me a break.

Well, I’ve exhausted myself on the above. Let’s carry on with the rest of the grand music to reach my lugs.

Bueno by Morphine. If there’s one out of many, many a reason to start watching The Sopranos, this could be a clincher (if you forget the supreme acting and masterful storytelling). But in all seriousness, this is a dirty track that deserves your attention, driven by the inescapable fact that a sliding blues riff coupled with an abrasive sax and low end crooning digs its claws deep into your consciousness. Who needs guitar anyway?

Moving swiftly on, we have the dreamy tones of Lonnie Liston Smith. I think I heard this in the delicious Piebury Corner.  It was a most welcome accompaniment to my jerk chicken and porter pie.

And finally, where would life be without some Bach? To close, the ever lovely, ever elegant counterpoint of Concerto For Two Violins in D Minor: Vivace.

I’m going to be hungover this morning……………enjoy!

Floats my boat

January is over, long live February. These are the tunes that have been penetrating my ears over the past month:

andrewhill

Last Friday, Laura and I had the privilege of watching Empirical, joined by Jason Rebello and Jean Toussaint, play their interpretation the music of a ‘mad genius’ I’d never come across before, a certain Andrew Hill. Plenty more albums to purchase therefore! This lovely little number, Black Fire, is the from the 1964 album of the same name. This gig was part of a set of shows that Empirical will be curating at Kings Place, check it out.

Moving swiftly on, we have classical composer supreme Joseph Haydn. Annoyingly, I have only just given his Symphony No. 101, otherwise known as The Clock, the time of day it deserves, and boy what a piece of music it is. The last section of the movement, Finale: Vivace, is compellingly elegant; a calming but bustling adrenaline floods my system whenever I hear it.

I know absolutely nothing about Pete Josef, but he popped up on the speakers at a Sunday lunch I recently went to. It stuck with me, especially from 1.09 onward.

 

In my humble opinion, Takuya Kuroda’s latest album Zigzagger is very much hit and miss, but R.S.B.D is undeniably groovy. Listen to 0.43 to 1.03 to see what I mean.

And finally, I’ve always been incredibly fond of The Coral, who hasn’t really? A recent trip down memory lane has had me listening through their back catalogue again; what a body of music they have created. Careless Hands, a gem of tune, is from second album Magic and Medicine.

Enjoy!

You hit it, I’ll stand by and admire.

Drumming. Is there anything more impressive than seeing someone play a ridiculous drum beat that leaves you gaping moronically and seething with jealousy? Guitar solos are obviously wondrous and arguably more expressive, but they are ten a penny. When a drum solo provoking absolute incredulity is witnessed (granted it is performed in small doses with instrumental breaks), a crowd reaction is usually much more exuberant. People will lose their shit at the sight of it; a person of supreme rhythmic abilities is usually a showstopper. I vividly remember, from the days in my teenage band, Beaver, how the Guernsey youth (and elders) would all marvel at our prodigal drummer, Spud, beautifully flailing his limbs as he soloed during a cover of Wipeout.

billy-cobhamSo, to the purpose of this blog:  I have the utmost admiration for drummers, keeping a group of musicians together with impeccable timing and inventive rhythms. Putting the party piece solos to one side, it is the seemingly endless variation of beats, the tonal quality captured on record or live, the ability to completely turn a chord sequence or melody on its head, the movement it provokes from your body. I put down my adulation down to two factors:

  1. I don’t have a natural affinity with numbers. Mathematics causes me stress; my brain fizzles out with a defeated whimper when presented with a numerical calculation of any sort. Transposed into musical abilities, it means that rhythmic dictation has always been a complete pain in the arse for me. It quite literally does not compute. And yes, I’m aware that it is essentially just counting, but I’d be grateful if you could stifle your sniggers more quietly please.
  2. I’ve tried playing drums and it’s bloody difficult. How often in your life do you perform a daily task which potentially requires the use of both arms and legs, moving at different times and speeds? Why is the control of one’s limbs so tough?

With all of this in mind, I will now highlight a few songs where the drums sing to me for different reasons.

If you aren’t already acquainted with the genuinely insane abilities of our man in the picture above, Mr. Billy Cobham, then now is the time to break that duck (lord knows how you’ve been all trying). Ever since I was a young’un, I have never truly gotten my head around the intro to the great Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Vital Transformation; it’s where my terrible counting skills fully come to light. Anyhow, The Inner Mounting Flame is a masterclass in drumming; an astonishing tour de force of musical reverie.

A band I religiously listened to in my university days, RX Bandits boast a top notch drummer. And with Tainted Wheat, found on their album …And The Battle Begun, we find a man at the top of his game. Swerving between high energy technicality (the entire intro essentially, with particular attention to the bass drum work between 0.12-0.15), a juicy hip hop-esque beat (0.23 onward) and rolling snippets (1.05-1.06 of the chorus), the recording of his kit on this album is, for want of a better word, fat. The cheesiness of the American vocals may be grating at times, but look past it if necessary for the excellent thumping.

First and foremost, Dave Grohl is a drummer. And with his contribution to Queens Of The Stone Age’s deservedly vaunted album Songs For The Deaf, he gave, in my humble opinion, one of the finest drumming performances ever for a studio recording. I’m getting excited just writing this! This album sounds MASSIVE, largely in part to how extraordinarily well the drums have been captured. And when you’ve found the secret formula to bringing down monumental structures with your recording techniques, you should probably bring in a drummer with awesome talent to bash the absolute crap out of the kit. I don’t need too tell you how great this album is, nor is it a surprise as to which track Monsieur Grohl shines like a blinding ball of fire, but if you’ve been living in a windowless room with no contact with the outside world for the past twenty years, then absorb the beauty of this spectacle immediately. Duh duh de duh duh duh at 3.45; at 5.31, you may orgasm.

Don’t forget the excellent live version from the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, which my friend Jack unfathomably slept through while laying on the grass.

For some reason, this beat always sticks in my mind. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

I devoted an entire post to this Chicago group way back when, but it would be criminal for me not to mention Maps & Atlases when it comes to drummers. Just listen to 1.24-1.51 of Ted Zancha and hopefully you’ll see why I couldn’t leave this out.

To sign off, I’m going to super controversially leave you with music that most of the general population would abhor, but what do they know? Dan Foord, drummer of SikTH, does not operate on the same plateau as most mere mortals. His limbs know no bounds, his mind unlimited in what beats he can conjure, his double bass drum skills particularly phenomenal. For those that cannot stand to sit through this normally, I ask that you simply hone in on the astounding drumming.

Firstly, 2.51 until 3.30 of the Let The Transmitting Begin version of Hold My Finger.  The slowing of the snare and kick drum, followed by a subtle cymbal hit at 3.05-3.08; the return to a driving beat at 3.12; the lightning quick double bass blast at 3.16-17; the spine tingling roll of the kit between 3.20 and 3.22. It instills a sense of joy in me which I can’t fully define.

Secondly, Scent of The Obscene. Check the intro (up until 1.19) and then the glorious ending (3.57 onward). For a slower pacing, the middle section (1.51 to 3.25) demonstrates the breadth of talent on show here. Pretty sweet production too I might add.

Enjoy!

As a bonus passing note: A band frequently cited throughout my previous blogs, Battles have amongst their ranks a drummer who is almost certainly a human metronome. John Stanier’s playing is completely on point and devilishly accomplished, therefore I would always heartily suggest wrapping one’s ears around first album Mirrored for drumming bliss and the punchiest of bass drums. To my untrained ears, the beats seem so perfectly knitted to the other instruments that they could be programmed in for complete matching. Watching this man perform on a stage is one of life’s small pleasures.

 

 

 

 

Writer’s block

So, a new year has begun. The droopy and rather sad looking tree has been triumphantly thrown out, the decorations torn down with relish and the familiar routine of one’s dreary life is now back in full swing. Joy to the world.

smashguitar

For those of you lucky enough to have never met me, I play guitar. I’ve always loved it and it brings me joy. However, the beginning of 2017 seems to have brought a problem of mine to a head: I’ve lost a fair amount of interest in playing the stupid guitar, an exceedingly frustrating and mildly terrifying feeling. Previous excitement has been replaced with indifference, the urge to craft a new song booted out by a lackadaisical attitude stifling creativity. As I reflect on it, writer’s block and feeling bereft of inspiration may be a key contributor to my troubles. What can one do? It’s been far too many months now of regrettably picking up a guitar.

My solution, one which I will relentlessly use until the good times return, is a combination of bulking up my music collection and thoroughly scouring it for hidden gems, in the hope it stirs my brain and thus translates to my fingers. Without further ado, this is what has been piquing my interest…..

I need to send The Math-Rock News a Christmas card this year, for they have delivered to me Sauna, an Argentinian group that I have instantly fallen for. Let’s be clear, I would not consider this to be a math-rock band; it is pleasantly written, smile inducing and very accessible nu-jazz, incorporating world music and Latin leanings with the twists and turns of what has become known as ‘math-rock’. Corazón de Manzana, the opening track of their debut self titled album, is on constant repeat in our household. From the opening tinkling of the ivories, gradually gaining pace with support from the bass until the drums roll in, the loveliness is all encompassing. Though not the first time to be used during the song, the guitar playing in unison at 1.14 is a deft touch and accentuates the passage wonderfully. The nod to the world of math would be the 7/8 outro from 2.24. And perhaps best of all, it rounds off at a very short 2.54 minutes, therefore leaving no excuse to give it a whirl in its entirety. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m in love.

The folk musings of Dory Previn, complete with strings, swaying melody and brilliant lyrics (hand crocheted!) on The Lady With The Braid, is something I’m very glad I stumbled upon in the depths of music passed on by friends. A story to be listened to, preferably while sinking into your favourite chair.

From soothing to crushing in one fail swoop, we have Burnt By The Sun. Deep down in everyone’s soul lies an innate appreciation for metalcore, you just know it’s true. Any other type of singing just wouldn’t fit with such abrasive music; it therefore works very well for what it is trying to achieve. Even if you look past the vocals, Soundtrack To The Worst Movie Ever has what all heavy instrumentation needs: riffs x 100 and impeccable, high energy drumming. Straight from the off, we’re chugging along (and not in the crappy gallop of Iron Maiden I hasten to add), moving to an almighty breakdown at 0.51 with accompanying harmonics. From 1.10, it becomes really juicy, with the fleeting glimpse of 1.19 to 1.24 being the ultimate riff for an all out living room circle pit. 2.09 is the icing on the cake, a menacing and stalking section which brings the exhilarating experience to a close.

To close, we have Strobes. Essentially a super group of polymath heads, it’s confusingly charming. The product of Three Trapped Tigers, Troyka and Squarepusher’s band, catch them live at The Old Blue Last in February to work out how on earth they create such an off-kilter sound of funky guitars, frenetic keyboards and limb defying drumming on stage.

After this, I hope to gain some enjoyment from my wooden stringed thing……….enjoy!

Where has it been???!!!?!?!?!

In almost the same amount of time it has taken me to write a new blog post, Metallica have blessed us with their latest, alcohol withdrawal shakes and biker boots at the ready, album.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when I was a greasy lank haired fifteen year old (a continuing theme from my last post), all I listened to was Metallica. I ceremoniously scooped the crap out of my amp and struggled in vein to emulate the effeminate guitar wizard Kirk Hammett. I almost, almost (I can’t place enough emphasis on almost) bought a Kirk Hammett signature guitar; thank heavens I didn’t. For the few readers that aren’t acquainted with the intricacies of the guitar anatomy, Mr Hammett’s signature git fiddle is designed for one thing and one thing only: filthy, skin shaving heaviness. It looks menacing. It doesn’t provoke thoughtful or critical analysis. It just exists to destroy your ear drums, most probably when unplugged too. As I slowly came to appreciate the beauties of jazz, folk and early pop, trying to play such genres with a skull and cross bones emblazoned black behemoth would have been nigh on impossible. Plus it would have sounded like UTTER SHIT.

kirk-hammett

 

I have digressed somewhat. Out of respect for Hetfield & co. (bar Death Magnetic and 74% of St. Anger), I have listened to some of……ahem…….Hardwired to Self Destruct. To be fair, from what I’ve heard, they have returned to their Kill ‘Em All roots, albeit with an overly impressive slick production and more wrinkly skin. Kirk Hammett still belts out a nice bluesy Phrygian lick, so all can’t be wrong with the world.

Anyhow, what I really wanted to write about was all the great music I’ve had the pleasure of picking up recently! It was all a cunningly disguised plan to lure in die hard Metallica fans and treat them to the wonders of the musical world! What an evil schemer I am.

Let’s start with the all too infrequent tune producer Solange Knowles. Her new album, A Seat At The Table, is really quite something, a far cry from the modern Motown infused Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. What a set of pipes! A clear Dirty Projectors influence rings through, but this track is incredibly beat driven in its own right, with trickles of piano accentuating the bass heavy moments perfectly.

Next up is young American guitar virtuoso Julian Lage, who I will have the joy of witnessing this Thursday as part of the EFG Jazz Festival. His latest album, Arclight, is quite possibly my favourite release of the year and his first with an electric guitar. Without wanting to sound like a pretentious know it all idiot, this guy has tone oozing out of his fingers. His note selection is beautiful. The pace and execution of his playing wraps itself around the song structure, rather than sound like gratuitous wanking or someone who is trying too hard to impress. It’s tuneful, restrained, and comforting.The case to modify your Telecaster has never been so strong, especially when you take in the passage from 1.28 to 2.00.

Now, we have the glory days of psychedelic tinged grunge encapsulated in The Wytches. Upon a first time visit to Resident Records, I heard this blaring out over the speakers; my interest was instantly pricked. Their second album is worth your time, believe me. They could be the bastard brother of Nine Black Alps.

And finally, old Charles Mingus never ceases to amaze me. How had I not heard this album? And this tune?! Well, I’ve heard it now, so I can bask in its glory forever. I doff my hat to you sir. It’s a catchy little number, yes!

And with that, I’ll retire into the night and wish my friend Jack the happiest of thirtieth birthdays.

Enjoy!

Need music to do the washing up to?

During the teenage years of most boys, there is a glorious period where you discover that cutting greasy long hair is more trouble than it’s worth, dressing smartly is for idiots and heavy music is the absolute dog’s bollocks. If you happened to pick up an instrument during that period, playing with feeling and subtlety is a non-entity; you want to play it as fast and as loudly as you can, forgoing accuracy for liquid shred. Much to your parents’ consternation, that probably involves playing Slayer’s War Ensemble in your paper thin walled room for five hours straight, channeling the machine picking spirit of Jeff Hanneman through your wasp in a bottle combo of Encore and Kustom.

For heavy music, while obviously divisive (what a terrible racket), is the guttural primal roar of highly energized sound. For me, there is nothing more which invokes the emotion of ‘AAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH BANG MY HEAD RUN AROUND ARRRGGGHHH WHERE HAS THE CONTROL OF MY FUCKING LEGS GONE WINDMILLS’. That, or simply the slow lurch of your body up and down. The love comes from the screaming and sometimes incomprehensible vocals; high pitched yelping; abrasively distorted guitars with the mids sucked out; the frighteningly fast octopus limbs of drummers; the vastly reduced role of the bassist, who has to make up for their diminished nature by yelling obscenities into a microphone while contorting their body constantly, reminding everyone they still exist on the stage.

young-metal-head

I love this stuff, and if you are undecided or so far oblivious, let’s have a stab at providing you with some metallic brilliance.

Let’s begin with a little US band called Look What I Did. These guys are sick – not in the bodacious spring break variety, more in the head generally. But dear me did they make some music that buzzes around you like an overactive teenager. Their lyrics can be quite tongue in cheek, or challenging depending on your viewpoint (‘I’m a domestic abuse machine baby’), but for what they lack in lyrical finesse they more than make up in fantastically inventive music.

I’m Majoring in Psychology, taken from their second album Atlas Drugged, is pure madness – double bass blasts at 0.42, THAT RIFF at 0.51. Get on it. Loudly.

Another wee band of Yankees, Into The Moat are more of your stereotypical sludge fest. Singing that would rip the vocal cords out of any normal citizen, with heaviness that knows no bounds. This will severely test you (I mean, it’s called Dead Before I Stray), but it’s utterly worth it. There’s even a bit of jazz in there at 0.55 and 1.21.

Back in the heady days of the early noughties, when one could flick between MTV2, Kerrang and Scuzz for hours at a time consuming music videos of varying quality, my teenage self scornfully cast Slipknot aside as the scourge of the music industry: fully grown reprobates playing terrible nu-metal in stupid jump suits.

But then they released Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses and all was forgiven. They are, in actual fact, supremely talented scary bastards. With this, I came to reassess their back catalogue and found greatness in their noise. One track that will always rev me up like a horny pitbull is Three Nil. There’s only so much brutal meatiness one band can serve up…..Joey Jordison’s incredible drumming for the intro and lovely count in from Corey Taylor, the break your neck riff at 0.37, the half time second verse from 1.46, the bloody drum outro from 4.32! The cheeky tinkle of the cymbal at 4.42! What are you doing to me?!

In my much mulled over but fairly consistent top five music things, The Beatles sit neatly at the top. Slotting in below them is SikTh, with their two albums worth of mind blowing genius. I cannot really express how much of an impact this music had on my young impressionable ears. At first, I was dumbfounded and a little scared, as I could not make head nor tail of it. I listened to it again, still no sense could be made. What the hell are they are squawking about? Do they know what a chorus sounds like, or how long a typical bar is? After maybe my tenth straight listen, the tiny jigsaw pieces of my shattered brain were jammed together and thus, my adulation of SikTh began.

I’ve always had a particular soft spot for If You Weren’t So Perfect, given the blaring intro, verses of guitar harmonics over Dan Foord’s bonkers drumming and a perfectly jarring chorus, consisting of inventive dual vocals and switching rhythm, merging into ascending slides and clever bass drum work from 1.13.

Now, I could have ended on a classic Pantera song. Or maybe some Binge and Purge era Metallica. Oh how sorely tempting it is. But right now, though likely to change come tomorrow morning, my choice of song to unashamedly bulldoze you into the next hemisphere is this: Forest by System Of A Down. PLAY.IT.LOUD.

Enjoy!

 

Hot damn

Occasionally, when I sit down and write this blog, I will feverishly type away about the music by attaching it to a relevant side story or angle with the faintest whiff of creativity. Alas, or perhaps luckily if you’re a half empty kind of person, this is not one of those times.  On this occasion, it is simply to alert the good folk who stumble upon my deliberations that there are a couple of VERY DECENT compilations out there that I’ve recently purchased. Perhaps you should think about doing the same.

bayfunk

These gems are respectively known as Bay Area Funk II and Street Sounds From The Bay Area: Music City Funk & Soul Grooves 1971-75. The key word here, is ‘ bay’.

In the red corner, representing Bay Area Funk II, we have Devil’s On The Run by Uptights Band. I mean, what more do you want? How can anyone with a curious mind and sane persona not get on with this punchy number? Intro? Bam! It’s right there before you’ve even had time to adjust. The dual guitar playing is something else, trading off sweetly picked lines with quick sliding chords to land on a chorus of fitting wah. Strangely, both guitars sit in the left channel, but it bloody works so who cares?

Tag teaming in, Stop Look Listen! by Primevil sits back in its groove while delivering raw vocals.

In the blue corner, we have Street Sounds From The Bay Area: Music City Funk & Soul Grooves 1971-75. Throwing a heavy right hook to the face, we have Stop Telling Me by The Two Things In One. Does the hyperlinked article even refer to the right band? That doesn’t matter. What does matter is the vocal melody over that uplifting chord progression, coupled with the breaks at 0.42 and 1.02.

Well, that should give you enough food for thought, if not your feet, for the time being.

Enjoy!