Copywrite – God Save The King (Proper English Version) (hip-hop)

Underground hip-hop takes distinct forms on either side of the Atlantic, to the extent that it’s arguable that ‘British underground hip-hop’ refers to a genre distinct from the American equivalent, rather than a geographically differentiated variety of the same thing. Arguable, but that doesn’t mean I think that’s necessarily the case… I do think that there are some important cultural differences (place and ethnicity both have very different functions in the construction of American and British identity), but I also think that the adherents of hip-hop’s undergrounds probably have more in common globally than they do with their local mainstreams. That being the case, transatlantic collaborations seem to be a little thin on the ground…

Church Of Riff 2 at Colchester Arts Centre (metal)

What a lineup. Any casual punter could readily be forgiven for being carried out in a box. Not that the sounds on offer were remotely toxic; on the contrary, they were entirely wholesome nut cutlets of crunchthudriffery, but seriously, heavy things can crush you, and things as heavy as this can crush you flat. Perhaps that’s why Colchester Arts Centre is ‘never knowingly understood’: stand under this sort of malarkey and you can wave goodbye to three-dimensionality.

The Blackswords: Episode 2

The Beroan family kept the matriarchal Roganid Custom in their domestic arrangements; Feldua sat on his wife’s right hand, and Ukhand faced him across the table, sitting, as the most honoured male guest, on her left. Shenailo directed the meal from the head of the table, beautiful, pale, and very young, her courage fragile as she feigned normality, and cast continual anxious glances at her husband. The fare was good, wrasse in a green sauce, roasted tomatoes, rice with pumpkin seeds and dried apricots; Dorna’s port remained open, the pretender having no ships. ‘With food like this on the table, we must assume the pretender intends to assault the walls,’ observed Ukhand. ‘He has no way to lay an effective siege.’

Grindlestone – Tone (ambient)

When music has no lyrical content, its titles become gnomic and mysterious, intentionally or otherwise. ‘Our Floor With All Its Beliefs’ could be taken in so many different ways, but to be honest I think it’s best not to take it at all. Unless there is a very clear relationship between the musical themes and title it’s safest to assume it’s some kind of private joke or reference, and concentrate on the sound instead: and surely the point of music which refuses, not only verbal language, but the established tropes of musical narrative, is to present itself to the auditory cortex abstractly, as sound, in just the same way that the stone reproduced as the cover of Tone presents itself to the visual cortex.

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Serious pop music: I love it. Of course most pop music has been made with a serious attention to getting the sound right, such as it is, but then there’s the stuff that applies the language and sensibility of pop to its chosen themes in a manner that looks way beyond the superficial concerns of the mainstream. Obviously the ‘popular music’ label has ended up including tons of stuff, such as extreme metal and progressive rock, that have pretty much nothing to do with pop, but while DIN Martin’s filigreed post-punk is hardly in the pop mainstream (and is certainly a lot more gloomy than anything that charts these days), but there’s still something distinctly pop about this.

Chris T-T, She Makes War, Paul Goodwin and Sophie Jamieson at The Portland Arms, Cambridge

I should come clean at the outset: I knew about this gig because She Makes War, of whose music I’ve been a fan for some time, put it on her website, and as it’s in my old stamping ground, it seemed an ideal opportunity to finally find out what she does live. It was only the day before the gig that I discovered Chris T-T was headlining, and I would guess that he’s just slightly too famous for me to have heard of him, with my warped and inverted approach to cultural discovery… I had no idea there was anyone else on the bill until I got there, but as it turned out, all four acts were well worth hearing.

Astralfish – Far Corners (space rock)

Labeling this record as ‘space rock’, as I have above, is a bit like an American telling you that they’re Italian, or Polish or Armenian. I don’t have to write anything after the title, and I’m never trying to ascribe any particular set of characteristics when I do so, but it serves as a useful guide to those among my readers that are utterly convinced they have no interest in anything that could be labelled ‘metal’ for example, or ‘hip-hop’. That is, it serves a mainly negative purpose, because if you are likely to enjoy it, a genre label tells you virtually nothing about a piece of music. Far Corners is a space rock record in the way a fifth-generation suburban American realtor from Hackensack, New Jersey might be Irish.

The Blackswords: Episode 1

Irtain could smell burning, and hear the rumble of a crowd at war. It wasn’t so much the clash of arms, although there was that as well, muted and intermittent, but the sound of many voices; he had survived enough battles to know the difference between the note of a market, or an angry mob, or an arena audience, and that of many soldiers, shouting and acknowledging orders, calling for supplies, asking for intelligence, bellowing in pain. It was not the voice of a victorious army, but of one recently defeated, in fear of more bad fortune.

Kylie Minoise – Die Yuppie Scum! Love Quest Ov Sick Shock Disco Destroyer! (noise)

Noise, and the way it is employed in music, invites a whole array of speculations on the coherence and incoherence of communicative acts, and of the relationship between the meaningful and the meaningless, the carrier signal and the message, the form and the content. The word ‘noise’ is frequently used to label irrelevance, the continual influx of sensory stimulation of no direct value to the receiver, or scientific data of no importance to the experimental result, for example. In music, it is impossible to make a clear distinction between the medium and the message, and we must assume that everything we hear in a recording or performance is an aspect of its meaning: what it sounds like is what it means.