acb: (suitcase)
Once again, I find myself in Aberystwyth, a former Victorian resort town turned university town on the Welsh Riviera. This time, I'm here for iOSDevUK, an iOS development conference, which is being held at the university, located up a steep hill from the town centre. I arrived last night, and have had today mostly to myself; though the first sessions are starting in half an hour. I spent most of today wandering around the town with my camera.

Part of my visit has turned into an exercise for how much Welsh one can pick up by osmosis just by looking at bilingual signage; so far, I have inferred a few things, i.e., that “canolfan” means “centre”, “y” seems to be the definite article, and “-ydd” seems to work as a plural suffix; also, the Welsh word for “market“ (“markets” can be rendered as “marchnadoedd”) looks suspiciously Scandinavian (compare to the Swedish “marknad”). Were there a Welsh course on Duolingo, this would be the point where I'd start doing it, at least for the duration of my visit.
acb: (Default)
I'm typing this in a café named Roasters in Luleå, in the north of Sweden. The coffee's good (even if they don't seem to be familiar with the flat white), though the music, not so much. They seem to have a number of songs on shuffle, one of which is one of those saccharine torch-song duets they used to have in the soundtracks of big-budget Disney animations; you know the ones: piano chords, syrupy string orchestra, melismatic vocals with the requisite loop-the-loops to tick the “soulful” box, and the obligatory truck driver's gear change before the final choruses get belted out. It bespeaks a sort of romance preserved in formaldehyde, like a consumer-capitalist Lenin's Tomb of tacky sentiment plumped up with high-fructose corn syrup. But enough about the awful music.

Read more... )

Tonight I see Loney Dear. I'm looking forward to it.
acb: (suitcase)
And so, this journal (by now not so much august as septembral, if not late-autumnal) sputters, ever so briefly, back to life. Once again, it has to do with my being on the road.

Read more... )
acb: (suitcase)
I'm writing this in Reykjavík; today is our last full day in Iceland; we're flying back to London tomorrow.

We set off from Höfn on Tuesday morning, driving westward along the ring road; it was a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at Jökulsárlón (finding that the lagoon water was no longer frozen in sheets of ice, and the icebergs were actually floating freely), stopped in Vík for lunch and a short stroll, and then picked up a pair of hitchhikers (a Polish guy and Lithuanian girl who were working at a hotel some way up the road, and had taken that day off; the girl was somewhat reserved, but the guy talked a bit about the music scenes in Iceland and Poland; he plays trumpet and is from Kraków). We dropped them off at their hotel (or rather the staff accommodation, which is built from shipping containers; that seems to be a thing in Iceland), and continued on to Hveragerði. There we checked into our B&B, went for dinner to a local pizza restaurant (which was quite decent), and then went for a dip in the B&B's heated (outdoor) pool.

The following day, we went for a walk around Hveragerði (failing to find the famous banana greenhouses, though finding a pool with some heated outdoor areas), before setting off for Reykjavík. It had started snowing by then, though the lady who ran the guesthouse informed us that the ring road to Reykjavík is swept very thoroughly, as it's used by commuters and commercial traffic. When we got on the road, however, we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm; for a while, we could barely see the road ahead of us. We moved slowly in a column of other vehicles. Conditions improved considerably when we left the hills and entered a valley.

We checked into our hotel in Reykjavík (this time, staying in Kex, a former biscuit factory seemingly redecorated by Wes Anderson's set designers, and probably my favourite place to stay in a city of excellent accommodation options), returned the car to the car hire place, and then went to Bíó Paradís, a local arthouse cinema which also hosts a board game night on Wednesdays. We ended up playing a card game titled Kittens In A Blender with an American guy who turned out to be one of the MailPile developers.

Yesterday, we mostly walked around Reykjavík, did a spot of shopping (I bought more CDs at 12 Tónar and Smekkleysa) and wrote some postcards.

(Btw, more photos from the trip have appeared on my Flickr page; at time of writing, it's up to the (first, longest) visit to Jökulsárlón.)
acb: (icelandic post-rock)
I'm writing this in a room at the Hali Country Hotel, a hotel on a farm in the southeast of Iceland, just off the ring road that circles the country. Maeve and I stayed here for two days, and are about to check out and drive eastward to Höfn. (I highly recommend the Hali hotel, by the way; our stay here was great, as was the food in the restaurant.)

On Wednesday we rented a car (a Hyundai i30, which is not a four-wheel drive) and drove out of Reykjavík, setting off initially along the Golden Circle route, stopping by at Þingvellir (the site of the ancient Viking chieftains' parliament), Geysir (the original geyser, which periodically hurls water into the air) and Gullfoss (a large double waterfall). At Gullfoss, there were strong winds, and the path to the rock above the waterfall was (quite sensibly) closed off, so we just saw it from one spot.

Unfortunately, at around Geysir, my DSLR camera's trigger button had stopped working, meaning that I don't have any DSLR photos of Gullfoss. It mysteriously started working again by the following day, though, and is still working. At time of writing, I have filled most of the 8Gb memory card I bought for this trip.

After Gullfoss, we drove in the darkness through the small town of Selfoss, finding our way to a small B&B a short way out of town named Julia's Guesthouse, run by a pleasant German-Swiss couple who also keep three friendly cats, two budgies and a flock of chickens. (We chose it from online listings; it was the mention of the cats which swung it.) We drove up to the guesthouse (at the end of a country road) finding it empty, but as we were leaving, we met Mike (the German half of the couple), who was driving back; he recommended a restaurant in Selfoss to have dinner at, and said that he'd prepare a room for us. We had dinner (the lobster pizza was nice, more for the lobster than the pizza base, which wasn't quite up to the best of Italian standards) and then made our way back, where we were shown our room. We spent some time in the living room talking with Mike and Julia before retiring. The following day, we had breakfast there, consisting of freshly baked bread rolls and eggs from Julia's chickens, before setting out.

We first went back to Selfoss, to look at the Bobby Fischer Center, a museum to the late chessmaster who spent his last years in Iceland. (It consisted of a few rooms above a shop, with some photos, cartoons and news clippings, a replica of the table used in the Fischer-Spassky match in Reykjavík, and some tables where local kids play chess on weekends; the story there leaps abruptly from the 1972 chess match to Fischer being granted asylum in Iceland after some unspecified problems with the US and Japanese governments, not going into details.) Then we headed eastward, seeing the waterfalls near Seljalandsfoss (including one one can walk behind), and later hiking to Seljavallalaug, a geothermal swimming pool in a mountain valley, before arriving in the evening in the southern town of Vík. We checked into our hotel (the Hotel Lundi), had dinner and retired to our room, only to emerge later with our cameras and tripods; the northern lights had come out, and there were sheets of green light in the night sky. They lasted for maybe half an hour, but we got some photos.

The following day, we walked around Vík a bit, hiking down to the black beach (with its volcanic sand), drove down to another waterfall named Skógafoss and then hiked towards a lighthouse on a cliff, before making our way to our accommodation, which turned out to be one of a set of repurposed shipping containers. The morning revealed that the containers had a spectacular view.

That was Saturday morning; after a trip down to the nearby beach (on the other side of a mountain from the one at Vík, and across water from the lighthouse), we set off eastwards, for a longish drive along the ring road. Houses, farms and guesthouses became less frequent, and grassy fields gave way to lava plains, as we made our way past the large glaciers along the south of Iceland. By the late afternoon, we made it to our destination for the day, Jökulsárlón, a lagoon filled with glaciers.

As it's November, the lagoon was frozen over, with chunks of ice floating over sheets of ice; a faint creaking could be heard, and occasionally a snap as cracks formed and sheets of ice around the edges broke off. We spent an hour or two walking around there, as the light changed, from the late afternoon light, to a pink glow, then to full-on sunset and dusk. My photos will show up on Flickr shortly.

From there, we drove a short distance (about 15 minutes) eastward, before arriving at the Hali Country Hotel, where we had a room booked. We checked in, getting the key to our room for the next two nights, unpacking and making our way to the restaurant, where we had a delicious dinner of lamb soup followed by arctic char.

The following day, we drove to Skaftafell, where we had booked a glacier walk, only to be informed by the guide that walks had been cancelled due to strong winds. We went on a hike through the national park, up to within sight of a black waterfall named Svartífoss. At that point, we were standing on a mountain, with the path towards the waterfall leading over a narrow peak next to a precipice; there was ice on the ground and strong gusts of wind blowing. Not fancying the (somewhat heightened) possibility of falling to our deaths in the event of an inopportune gust of wind, we turned back and went back to the car.

The drive back was a bit more of an adventure; by the time we got back in our car, the weather had deteriorated somewhat. On the way there, we had driven over snowy roads for a section, but by now, the right side of the road was covered with ice and snow, to the point where cars heading eastwards stuck to the left (i.e., wrong) side, moving into the correct lane only when needed. Adding to this, we were running low on petrol. We found an unmanned, automated petrol station, but using it was an adventure as well, as the ground was icy, and gale-force winds and rain were lashing the ground. I managed to fuel up the car, and Maeve managed to manoeuvre the car over the ice back onto the relatively navigable main road, and we made it back to our hotel room. Later we found out that our weather adventure was due to a major storm hitting Iceland, closing roads further east and diverting flights from Keflavík airport.

Between the time I started writing this and now, we checked out of Hali and drove further east, and are now in the eastern Icelandic town of Höfn (pronounced “hup” by the locals). On the way, the weather was more pleasant (at least in the east of Iceland). Along the way, we stopped to take photos of an abandoned farm building, and later made our way to a set of geothermally heated outdoor hot tubs (which were pleasant, though would have been more pleasant were it not for the strong, cold winds one had to contend with between them and the changing rooms). We're staying in Höfn for one night, before setting off back the other way.
acb: (icelandic post-rock)
I'm once again in Reykjavík, for the second time this year. There currently are strong winds howling outside. Maeve is here with me; it's her first visit to Iceland.

Last night, I saw Kraftwerk at the Harpa concert hall. On the way in, we were handed a pair of 3D glasses each; these were not the red/blue ones, but some other type (possibly polarising filters?). Our seats were in the third row, when we sat down, the curtain (on which a Kraftwerk logo was projected) looked far too close. Soon, though, a vocoded/synthesised voice announced “Damen und Herren, Ladies and Gentlemen...”, and the curtain fell slowly to the ground revealing the four members (Ralf and the three “new” guys, who've only been in the band for some 20 years) in position at their consoles, with video projections behind them; we had a great view. They played most of their big hits, the entirety of Die Mensch-Maschine, almost all of Computer World, a somewhat shorter version of Autobahn, and various tracks off Radioactivity, Trans-Europa Express, Tour de France and Expo 2000. The 3D visuals worked really well; in The Robots the rendered Kraftwerk robots' hands reached out from the screen (the effect only slightly compromised by the Kraftwerk members standing in front of the screen, ostensibly behind the projections); in It's More Fun To Compute, areas of colour in planes projecting from the screen, 3D musical notes flying into the audience, and more.
acb: (buttons)
I saw Loney Dear play at Majornas Missionskyrka, a small (Swedish state Lutheran?) church in the Gothenburg neighbourhood of Majornas. It was great; well worth flying to Sweden for.

The gig started early; doors opened at around 7, and people filed in and took their seats on the pews. It was sold out, so the church was full; I managed to get a seat somewhere around the fifth row, which meant not quite enough of an angle to get any good photographs, though given Loney Dear's dislike of stage lighting, that point was somewhat moot anyway. At about twenty past, the musicians filed in; shortly afterward, a woman went on and made an announcement (in Swedish), and the music started; Emil (the frontman of Loney Dear) playing 12-string guitar through a battery of loop pedals and singing, with the orchestra accompanying him. The accompaniments started subtly, but became more complex and intricate, adding a cinematic swirl to the intimate psychodrama of Emil's songs; they worked really effectively.

The musicians played for about an hour, before taking a bow and walking off stage, to which the audience responded with the tightest, most synchronised pre-encore clapping I had ever heard at a gig; I wonder if it's a Swedish thing (perhaps the pervasive music education programmes they have here stamp out sloppy timekeeping?), a large number of musicians in the audience or both. Anyway, the musicians returned and played two more songs.
acb: (it's fun to compute (2))
I'm in Madrid for the SpainJS JavaScript conference. (As my recent paid work has involved JavaScript, I figured it'd be worth going to.) I flew in on Wednesday.

The conference )

I also ended up giving a lightning talk about my recent experiments in using JavaScript to write user interfaces for Max for Live (slides are here). It was only a five-minute talk, so I had to speed through it, but it seems to have been reasonably well received, and led to some discussion at the conference drinks.

Other than that, Madrid has been good; it's in the high 30s here, which is quite a change from it being 10º in Reykjavík a week ago.
acb: (wayne kerr)
On day two of Primavera:

  • Getting into the venue was a lot quicker; I suspect the bulk of the ticket exchange queues yesterday were people with festival passes.

  • The first band I saw was Ghostdigital. They're from Iceland and consist of a guy ranting/monologuing about existential crises/struggles with inner demons over wonky electro beats and choppy guitars provided by the other two guys (who look a bit younger and were both wearing sunglasses). The frontman reminded me a bit of Flacco from D✭A☭A✝S Kapital, not so much because of his appearance but because of his monologues and their delivery.

  • After a bit of that, I adjourned to the next stage to catch a bit of Kurt Vile; it was pure Americana for indiekids; a bit of Springsteen/Mellencamp-style rock, and a cigarettes-and-whiskey alt.country drawl. (Btw, is alt.country still A Thing, btw? Because if it did, it has outlived USENET, from which it got the orthography of its name, being A Thing by about a decade and a half.)

  • After that, I serendipitously chances across a Spanish indiepop band named Wild Balbina, who were playing in one of the smaller branded spaces next to the main thoroughfares. They were fronted by a female bass player in a polkadot dress, played a sort of jangly/skronky indiepop and reminded me a bit of Bidston Moss (I'm showing my age here...) or a skronkier Seapony. I ended up picking up their 7"; unsurprisingly, they're on Spanish indiepop label Elefant.

  • I didn't see Daniel Johnston, who was playing in the Auditori Rockdelux next to the venues proper, because separate tickets were required and the queue was literally a kilometre or so long, and because I'm seeing him at the Barbican soon.

  • Next, I chanced across a brilliant Portuguese band named PAUS; they had two drummers, driving guitars/bass and synths, and an amazing sense of energy, a bit like Battles crossed with Mogwai at their most intense, and then turned up to 11. I ended up getting their CD.

  • After that, I had something to eat and then waited for half an hour near the stage for the Jesus and Mary Chain. They were great; at first, they played mostly songs from their latter albums (I'm guessing; I didn't recognise any but Sidewalking), but then they played a few from Darklands and Psychocandy; when they did Just Like Honey, Bilinda Butcher came out to do guest vocals.


I went home after that, on account of having an earlyish flight the following day. I wouldn't mind having seen Glass Candy (whom I saw at ATP a few years ago) and Swans, though probably wouldn't have bothered with Blur.
acb: (indie rock)
Yesterday was the first day of Primavera. I saw:


  • The last 30 seconds or so of Wild Nothing; I arrived at the venue a good 15 minutes before they were due to start, but hadn't factored in the ticket exchange queue. They were OK from what I could tell.

  • about half of Savages set. They were doing the post-Joy Division dark-cathartic-post-punk thing, only with more danceable grooves. Is it time for another Goth micro-revival in the hipster hotspots yet?

  • About half of the Tame Impala set, from some distance from the stage. Not to worry; the visuals on the big screens were pretty trippy. I imagine they'd have been even better to see whilst on psychedelic drugs, or at least not surrounded by the ever-present hipster social chatter.

  • Do Make Say Think, from right near the stage. They were pretty good, being part of the post-rock generation of a decade or so ago, alongside GY!BE, Explosions In The Sky and such.

  • A bit of the Dinosaur Jr. set; I wasn't really into them the first time around (my dislike of grunge and its aesthetic of shittiness sort of left large areas of 90s alternative underexplored for a while; I never got into Pavement either). I recognised one song they did (it seems to have been a GenX slacker anthem of sorts), and then they went into their cover of The Cure's Just Like Heaven. They must have made a lot of early-middle-aged people wistfully happy.

  • Part of The Postal Service, who were better than I expected. Their material works better with live drums, guitars and such added; one song (This Place Is A Prison) sounded like, if you only added 2-3 minutes to the end, it'd be a Cure song; another one (a new one perhaps, seemingly about tagging things on social media) sounded a bit like New Order minus Hooky (or perhaps The Other Two plus Barney). They, of course, did all the crowd-pleasing romantic-comedy-for-robots songs they're loved for. Is the female vocalist in the duet Zooey Deschanel, by the way?

  • Computer Magic; a female singer playing keyboards (or one keyboard; the other one, the big synth with lots of knobs, seemed to be controlled by the MacBook, though she tweaked the knobs from time to time), along with a drummer. They were fairly decent, though not life-changing; I seem to recall their material having more rough edges a few years ago, but here it was polished electropop.

  • A few songs by Dead Skeletons. A new Icelandic band, sort of like a gothier Singapore Sling.


And also a bit of Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear, Fucked Up, Four Tet (who sounded more housy and less noodly than I remember) and Simian Mobile Disco. I left before Fuck Buttons and Animal Collective, though.
acb: (buttons)
Tonight, I went to the Veronica Falls gig at the Islington Assembly Hall. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that the first band on were “Debsey and Rachel”.
p1300379
It did turn out to be Debsey and Rachel from Dolly Mixture, much to my pleasant surprise. They only did about five songs, playing guitar and singing, taking turns on verses and doing harmonies in the choruses. I imagine they would have been an influence on The Softies (though Debsey seems to have had leanings towards a mid-1960s style).

(Debsey's more recent (i.e., 1990s) band, Birdie, are playing late in May; I won't be able to go, though I hope that they will play again.)

The other support band were Comet Gain; I'm not the biggest fan of them, but they played a few good songs (they opened with their answer to Orange Juice's You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, which one hears in DJ sets a fair bit). (I imagine those brought up on 1980s Scottish indie might get more out of them.)

Veronica Falls were great. They played a full set, and then did a 3-song encore. Right now, they'd be one of my five or so favourite London bands to see; they play a sort of angular indiepop, with influences in the Brooklyn C86 revival (think Vivian Girls/Crystal Stilts), surf rock and post-punk. They have two albums, and played songs from both; the new material sounds a bit sharper and tighter.

p1300395

Get Zucked

Apr. 17th, 2013 01:28 pm
acb: (wayne kerr)
It looks like Facebook ads are about to get much more obnoxious. We're talking huge, bandwidth-sucking full-motion video ads along the side of your page.

If this happens, I'll probably start posting more here and less there. I don't like having animated M&Ms characters jiggling and attention-seeking on the side of the browser window like CPU-cycle-sucking charity muggers every time I wish to communicate with friends. That's of course assuming that there still are people here, or that other people might be willing to move to this slightly archaic though considerably less spammy platform. Hey, you can call it getting in early on the '00s revival.


Poll #13257 Is there life on Dreamwidth?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 0

Anybody out there?

Yes
0 (0.0%)

acb: (buttons)
This weekend, I went to the London edition of the Chickfactor 20th anniversary gigs. The zine was founded in 1992, and consequently they've been organising commemorative gigs throughout this year. I had already attended (two nights of) the Brooklyn ones in April, largely because it was quite possibly my only chance to ever see The Softies play live (and it was worth it and then some, but that's another post). Anyway, Chickfactor had for a long time had a connection to London; it was founded by American indiepop kids, a subculture with an inherent Anglophilic streak (often coloured by a stylised, mildly anachronistic swinging-60s aesthetic; witness the summer dresses and severe Mary Quant bobs favoured by girls in the scene). One of the founders, Pam Berry (also of Black Tambourine) married an Englishman and ended up in London, while the other, Gail O'Hara, spent some time living in London in the early 2000s, and had a weekend festival, Mon Gala Papillons, at Bush Hall in 2004 (one of whose nights I ended up attending). So a London festival was only a matter of time.

I didn't go to the film screening (of Take Three Girls, the documentary about post-punk girl band Dolly Mixture, which I had seen before) on Friday, largely because I had already bought a ticket to the Rodriguez gig at the Roundhouse (which was great, incidentally). I went to the Saturday evening gig (back at Bush Hall, around the corner from where I used to live, but inconveniently far from everywhere else), and to the Sunday afternoon/evening gig, which was held at that haunt of London indiekids of a certain age, the Lexington.

Saturday's gig started off with Amor de Días, Lupe from Pipas' new project with her partner, Alasdair from The Clientele. It was as one might imagine; more languid and dreamy than the indiepop of Pipas, and redolent of the psychedelic folk of the Sixeventies in its languor. They were followed by the Would-Be-Goods, a band started by the teenaged Jessica Griffin in 1987, launched with a mildly saucy song about modelling for photographs, which they followed with some highly literate pop songs. The Would-Be-Goods have kept to the jangly indiepop formula for the most part, though have matured somewhat in their themes; whilst some songs are set in the language of youthful friendships and crushes that is the idiom of indiepop (Temporary Best Friend, for example), others anticipate old age and its miseries (Too Old, for example, a song which sits next to Platinum by their fellow él Records alumnus Momus in the canon of starkly, heartrendingly beautiful meditations on the passing of time and all of its crimes). Shortly after the Would-Be-Goods' set finished, the room started to pack out in anticipation of The Aislers Set. They did not disappoint; they tore the roof off the place, much as they had done in Brooklyn. The evening was rounded off with The Pastels, who played a mostly mellow set.

Sunday started with The Starfolk, a husband and wife duo from the US, who played a guitar-driven pop. They were followed by Harvey Williams and Josh Gennet (who had been in a band named Holiday in the US), who played a selection of songs (mostly Harvey's, with some of Josh's and some covers of female singer-songwriters; their version of Broadcast's “Colour Me In” was lovely). Harvey hadn't been busy at work on new material, though had one recent song (“Quiet Domesticity”, a paean to staying at home) and had updated The Girl From The East Tower with a verse about the aforementioned girl losing her job (which turned out to have been at the BBC, where Harvey also works) due to not willing to relocate to Salford. The Real Tuesday Weld played a set a bit later, and had morphed into a more swing style in the years between their initial dealings with Chickfactor and now. They were followed by Pipas; it was great to see them, and hear them play their new song, though their set was somewhat more shambolic than the one in Brooklyn. The night was rounded off with The Tender Trap, Amelia Fletcher's band, who rocked harder than I expected; stand-up drums, skronky guitars and female vocal harmonies, backing vocals themed with the old youthful themes of boyfriends and girlfriends and such; Amelia seems to do such pop better than the more grown-up themes and mellow sounds of her previous Tender Trap albums.

One thing that was inescapable at the Chickfactor gig was a sense of the passage of time. It was the 20th anniversary of a zine from the golden age of zines (after desktop publishing made them cheap and quick, but before the internet made them redundant as a means of communication) and arguably of a certain type of indiepop, and many of those who were involved back in the day are approaching or well into middle age, often with children. (The drink coasters printed for the US dates read “doing it in spite of the kids”.) It was interesting to see how the indie kids of yesteryear squared their love of and identification with an intrinsically youthful genre with their age and adult roles in life. Harvey Williams wrote a song, with the dry wit familiar to those who remember Another Sunny Day and his solo album on Shinkansen, about the mild joys of not going out (a contrarian stance which parallels the anti-machismo of his youthful work, along with that of his peers). Jessica Griffin, who (whilst presumably still in her 30s) wrote a sad song about the ravages of aging, commented that she doesn't expect to be still doing this sort of thing in ten years' time, while Amelia Fletcher has taken the opposite route, embracing the formalism of indiepop as ballads of youth in the vinyl record age (her band's previous album was titled Dansette Dansette, after a 1960s-vintage record player), said that she can see herself singing songs about boyfriends and girlfriends when she's 80.

Anyway, photos are being posted to the usual place. I managed to get some video with my iPhone, which is currently in the slow process of being uploaded to YouTube. (At time of writing, the first day's up.)

Lyrics quiz

Nov. 8th, 2012 09:40 am
acb: (jukebox)
It has been a while since I posted one of these.

Below are 10 lyrics from songs. For each one, if you know the artist and song title, post them in your comment.
The quiz )
Once again, comments are screened; if you know the answers, post a comment and I'll update the post with the correct guesses. If you don't have a Dreamwidth/LiveJournal account, log in with another OpenID or identify yourself in the anonymous post.
acb: (heavy product)
Hi; you've reached acb's Dreamwidth journal.

Most posts here are friends-only. If you know me, let me know and I'll add you to the access list.
acb: (jukebox)

Last night, I made a return to putting gigs on. So far, a once-off, though there may well be more gigs in the future.

I put on a gig by Laura Macfarlane (of Ninetynine), as well as Hong Kong In The 60s and Hissing At Swans, at the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell. It went splendidly, despite getting off to an inauspicious start.

We had a sound engineer, a woman named Cynthia, whose presence had been organised by the venue. Whilst setting up, she noticed that the cables were dusty, and having heard that the pub had had asbestos taken out of a wall elsewhere in the building, refused to go on just in case the dust was asbestos. (Which was unlikely, as that had been elsewhere in the building, and furthermore had been completed by professionals.) So we found ourselves without a sound engineer. Luckily, the venue owner was able to get the guy who fitted the sound system to come down and set things up, after which Laura (who has done sound engineering in studios) and Tim from HK60s took turns at the mixing deck.

The bands all played excellently. Hissing At Swans had ukuleles, a drum and video projections, as well as a few new songs, and were lots of fun. Hong Kong In The 60s played what may have been their best set so far (the rendition of the intricate instrumental Garma off their free Places EP was breathtaking). And Laura was brilliant; playing a borrowed guitar, glockenspiel and Casio keyboard, she put on an amazing show, playing songs from throughout Ninetynine's career, from Super 8 and Wöekenender to the new album over beats from her iPhone. Seeing her play The Process was one of the highlights of the year for me; it instantly took me back to the Punters' Club in 2002.

Between sets, I DJed, spinning a choice of tunes falling in the spaces between indiepop, exotica, understated electropop and similar. In the middle of the set, the girl who works behind the bar asked me what my night was called; she said that she liked the sort of "twee electronica" (her words, though I'm not disputing them) I was playing. Which led me to start thinking that perhaps I should make a regular night of this.

my DJ set )
acb: (Default)
Poll #1187 the events
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 0


How did he do it?

View Answers

E-ink-coated balls
0 (0.0%)

Thermally sensitive balls, printed with an infrared laser
0 (0.0%)

Split screen; faded to still frame while an accomplice set up the balls
0 (0.0%)

numbers edited on with CGI in post-production
0 (0.0%)

other
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If "other", please elaborate

acb: (the field mice)
I'm back in London now, having returned this morning from Indie Tracks.

Sunday's weather was, alas, nowhere near as nice as Saturday's. starting ominously grey and proceeding to rain. I slept in a bit, and then went to the site, catching the start of The School's set, but then bailing to see The Marshmallow Kisses. The School are, of course, the doo-wop-influenced pop group from Cardiff, and their new material sounds good (if you don't mind that sort of thing, of course). The Marshmallow Kisses are a Chinese/Japanese duo who do bossa-nova-tinged pop songs; they had Tim from Hong Kong In The 60s playing guitar, Brad from One Happy Island playing trumpet, and someone else on violin, and were quite nice in an understated way. After that, whilst having lunch with Tim, MeiYau and Chris (of HK60s), we heard 1960s folkie Nick Garrie making his return on the outdoor stage; he sounded a bit like Nick Drake.

I then saw US indiepop combo The Smittens play in the train shed, and then Hong Kong In The 60s play a nicely understated set in the church. After that, I saw a set from a solo electropop artist from New Zealand, who goes by the name of Disasteradio, who was quite animated and surprisingly entertaining for a guy with a table of synths. Apparently he's one of the Camp A Low Hum people. I also saw a bit of European electropop duo Stereo Total playing outdoors; by then, it had started raining, and people were standing around in their raincoats under umbrellas. The festival was closed by Art Brut playing in the train shed (which I missed, though I heard enough from outside, in the stationary buffet car that served as a bar outside), followed by Teenage Fanclub on the outdoor stage, and then two discos until midnight. I ended up catching the train after the last one to Butterley station (after it did a test run), and then sharing a taxi to Ripley with three girls who were going to Mansfield.

There was also a mix CD swap box; one put one's CD in a box, took a ticket, and then claimed another one later. I made a mix CD and put it in the box, and ended up fishing out a rather promising-looking one (it includes All-Girl Summer Fun Band, Mirah, and AIH's Scissors, Paper, Rock).

Some statistics: I bought two 8Gb memory cards before Indie Tracks, one for my camera and one for my audio recorder. The former, I managed to fill up almost completely (mostly by using the video-taking mode of my camera); the latter I recorded a good 4 hours or so of audio on; mostly recordings of sets, though I managed to also get some of the amazing vintage lounge/bossa grooves the Elefant Records guy queued up to play between sets, in the hope that I might get them identified at some point. (It is rather convenient that my audio recorder fits neatly in a top jacket pocket with only the microphones protruding; it's half of a quite serviceable gargoyle rig.) I also used about 200Mb of the 1Gb of credit I bought with the 3G wireless card I picked up in preparation. I imagine the rest will go pretty quickly when I'm on the continent next month.

Anyway, this was the best Indie Tracks so far. Assuming that I'm still in the UK or Europe in a year's time, I'll be sure to be at the next one.

Btw, photos are here.
acb: (Default)
Yesterday, Colin Clary of The Smittens ran a songwriting workshop. I arrived a bit late, due largely to the train schedule along the line not quite syncing up with the event schedule, but it was good. He took ideas and suggestions from the crowd and started writing various songs with them, playing them on guitar, with people contributing lyric ideas, melodies and such. One thing I took away from it is that one needs to just sit down and do it, otherwise one will be stuck on all the songs one didn't write.

Bands/music I saw include:

  • Little My. A bunch of kids from Cardiff in animal ears playing chaotic indiepop. I saw part of their set, though left to go to see Sucrette.

  • Sucrette. A Japanese band, consisting of three girls (on keyboards, vocals and drums) and a guy (on guitar and laptop). They sound like classic Japanese pop; no other country would combine 1990s Eurodance drum patterns/synth arpeggios with jangly guitars in quite the same way.

  • Fitness Forever. An Italian lounge-pop band who sound somewhere between 1960s film scores and cruise-ship disco from the 1970s, and pull it off with panache. The guitarist (the chap in the captain's hat with the sunglasses and the cigar) is the unchallenged winner of the title of Most Stupendously Bad-Ass Motherfucker at the festival.

  • I caught part of Camera Obscura, on the outdoor stage as the sun was setting. They played well.

  • I saw Emmy The Great playing in the train shed. Though I was mostly towards the back or sides of the audience, not seeing much of the band, and the acoustics there aren't great. Anyway, Emmy and her band seem to be following a cue from a lot of other folkies, such as Jeffrey Lewis (and, indeed, Dylan) and rocking out more.

  • La Casa Azul, or a Spanish guy in a white jumpsuit who alternated between playing piano ballads and singing/playing guitar in front of a video screen projecting videos of computer-generated musicians playing backing parts or videos based on 8-bit video games. He was entertaining, even though I can't understand a word of Spanish.



The festival seems to be bigger than last year, with more tents, food and merch. The organic nachos from the Undergrowth Cafe (with bean salsa and olives) were excellent; there was also a curry place and the old burger shack from last year. And in the evening, someone set up a pork roast near the entrance to the train shed, and we were met with the gruesome spectacle of the charred, tortured body of a whole pig on a spit, its eyeless, notched face bearing witness to great agonies. The whole thing made me think more of mediaeval woodcuts of the suffering of martyred saints than of an apetising meal. As the night wore on, they cut strips off this porcine Saint Sebastian and sold them to people, until all that was left was the ghastly head. I can see why people become vegetarian now.
acb: (melbourne tram)
I saw what will almost certainly be my last ever Lucksmiths gig last night.* And my second-last-ever one the night before.

They played at the Luminaire on Tuesday night, and the Scala last night. The audience was a mixture of expatriate Australians (not the bogans you find here who consider JJJ to be "alternative", the good ones) and the usual indiepop kids from London and all over England. They played a lot of their songs, and I was chuffed to hear my favourite one, Transpontine, on Tuesday.

I took my cameras, of course, and also took an audio recorder I recently bought. The nice thing about it is that it fits into a top jacket pocket with only the twin microphones unobstrusively protruding, and can get quite passable recordings. Anyway, here's a video from the Luminaire gig, with audio from the audio recorder.

There was an afterparty at the Lexington (a bar/pub/venue where a lot of the twee pop kids and Upset The Rhythm lo-fi noise hipsters hang out these days); I went there, and stayed until 3am, getting home as it was getting light.

Anyway, it was great to see them again, and a bit sad that a Melbourne institution is coming to an end; it's like the Punters' Club all over again.

* Well, not counting the possibility of my finding myself unexpectedly in Australia in the next few months, or indeed the possibility of them reforming in 20 years' time and playing a tour for former Fitzroy/Carlton coolsies, now working as executives in publishing firms and managers at arts institutions.

September 2015

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