The Blackswords: Episode 5

The dice were not favouring Rajir. He looked at yet another fistful of ones, twos and threes, taunting him from the table, and threw a handful of coppers at them, standing.
‘I’ve had enough of this, you whoresons,’ he grumbled.
‘Your luck could change at any moment, sir,’ said Falcon, the new recruit, his black hair tumbling chaotically about his face. He was no more than a footman, a spear carrier as green as his own eyes, but he had stood out from the new crop of axe-fodder for his confidence, and his skill with a blade. He also had a way with dice, and was not at all intimidated by Rajir or any of the other officers.

Mere – Mere (dark-ambient improvisation)

Improvisation is a complex matter, and often a contentious one: some degree of musical freedom is usually identified with it, to the extent that freedom is sometimes regarded as its defining characteristic, its essence, or indeed as the thing itself. Thus some more partisan free improvisers would not really regard formulaic improvisation (improvisation within closely bounded harmonic and rhythmic parameters) as improvisation at all. I’ve never had much time for debates that centre on the definitions of musical styles or characteristics, but I guess that if you’ve staked your career and practice on a particular ideology of creative freedom the stakes might look higher than they do to me. Personally I think there are other parameters of improvisation…

Jumble Hole Clough – Three Bags Of Madder (ambient)

Relating music to place can be a tricky business: music, after all, is a non-denotational language, or if it denotes anything, it denotes itself. Of course there are specific associations related to recognisable phrases or sounds, and music often involves verbal elements which can point our aural responses in a desired direction, but the sounds themselves, for all the linguistically structured processes that shape them, impinge on our consciousness sensationally, not semantically. The strong association between certain words and particular musical articulations promotes a pathetic fallacy, to the effect that emotional ‘content’ can be read out of musemes in the way that paraphrasable significations can be read out of graphemes …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

The green, pastoral idyll of the English national myth, the archetype of England that is reputed to ramble gently through the rolling downs and valleys of a harmonious rustic hinterland, is bollocks. The countryside in which it is supposed to be found is not a place with which the majority of the English are very familiar, living as they do, in cities, and rarely leaving them. More fundamentally, it’s never really existed; country life was always a miserable existence for the sturdy yeomanry that made it what it was, and now the villages of the agrarian milieu are residential neighbourhoods that differ from those in towns only by being more widely separated.The metaphoric landscape of rural folklore always reflected the truth, in desolate …

Melanin 9 – Magna Carta (hip-hop)

It winds me up somewhat, on occasions like National Poetry Day, or in public discussions about poetry among the mandarins of the cultural elite, that the richest, most diverse and thriving field of poetic endeavour is more or less completely ignored. The academy thinks it owns the word ‘music’, and qualifiers such as ‘popular’ or ‘folk’ are required to distinguish other practices from the self-evidently definitive Western art tradition, sometimes grudgingly tagged as ‘art’ music, which is a breathtaking arrogance, not to mention an insult to every artist working in another genre; similarly with poetry. I’m the first to argue for the specificity of forms, and to defend songs against the attempted critical manglings of those writers who’d like to locate the …

Goya – Demo (stoner metal)

Drugs. Weed, hash, blow, smoke, tea, skunk, green, charas, gear, pollen, bud, sensemilla, kif, oil, dope, black, pot, marijuana, cannabis. I don’t wish to imply that Goya’s music is one-dimensional, but this is very clearly the central inspiration for their creative activities. So much so, that their Bandcamp page is simply addressed with the name ‘marijuana’; I imagine that there are a fair few musicians with similar enthusiasms spitting blood that Goya beat them to it. I wonder if there’s a band called Marijuana whose main inspiration is the last painter to be classed an Old Master? I must remember to form one, if my enthusiasm for making music gets rekindled at any point. Cannabis is a term we’ll return to; let’s turn now to another one. Demo.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you describe Tamara Parsons-Baker’s practice as a formula, it doesn’t inspire much excitement: simple, mainly diatonic guitar strums; emotive vocals; songs about unsuccessful love affairs; we have heard these elements before. However, the five songs on Lover proceed from a somewhat more warped perspective than this formula might suggest, lurking with mischief aforethought behind the placid surface of a nice friendly singer-songwriter. The opening songs on the EP require close attention to the lyrics to reveal their disturbing character, but when we get to ‘I Stuck It Out’ Parsons-Baker’s full weirdness emerges, in a frighteningly witchy evocation of a relationship haunted by madness and murder