Monthly Archives: September 2001

After all these years, it’s interesting that wearing a Smiths T-shirt can still have a powerful effect. I was just in a clothing store in midtown NYC, and someone started yelling ‘excuse me, excuse me, I like your T-shirt, they’re one of my favorite bands!’. I was actually in the middle of being served across the store, so I was only able to say ‘thanks’ before blushing, walking into someone, and finally heading back to the cashier. I didn’t mean to be rude. Still, I’m sure she gave me the benefit of the doubt and assumed I was just a stereotypical shy, retiring Smiths fan. In fact, I only have a couple of Smiths shirts in my wardrobe these days, and I don’t really think about it much when I throw them on. It’s kind of nice when people acknowledge them though…

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I had the most incredibly lazy weekend ever, and it was pretty nice. My new plan is to not wear clothes or leave the house where possible. I spent most of my time making ‘Edmundo 2001′, the latest installment in the series of compilations I do for my friend Edmund each year for his birthday. I started doing these in, I think, 1989 or 1990, but only started keeping copies for myself a few years ago. I started out using cassettes with homemade collage inlays, then moved to inlays laid out on the computer. In 1999, I changed medium to Minidisc, and finally last year got a CD burner and was able to make a pretty nice professional-looking package. This year for the first time ever, I’ve written annotations for each track (like the ones on musical taste, and made a little booklet. It’s a great way to procrastinate and stop me doing anything really creative… Anyway, I’ll post the cover art and track listing at some point.

Oh, and on the topic of musical taste, on Friday I bought the domain name, after it became available again. Was it worth it? I’m not sure, but hey, it’s only $15, and I think it’s quite a catchy name.

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I don’t mean to be morbid, but if anyone owns John Rydgren’s ‘Silhouette Segments’, listen to the track ‘the disadvantages of life’. It sounds very odd, listening to it now after the events of 11th September. Eerie talk of ‘things going up in smoke’… If you’re not familiar with this incredible release, check it out here (just over half way down the page there is cover art, a review and sound samples)

The DJ session was fun. I would rather have been doing it under different circumstances—everyone was rather subdued, and was obviously discussing current events—but still, I’m glad to have done it.

Here is a partial account of my set (from memory). It essentially started out very quiet and late 60s cinematic easy listening-centric, and then veered into Brazilian pop and Latin Jazz:

Piero Umiliani – la foresta incantata

Francis Lai – footprints on the moon

City of Westminster String Band – a picture of you

Charles Fox – a moment to share

Julie London – Like to get to know you

The 18th Century Corporation – walk on by

First Natural Hair Band – ripped apart by metal explosions

Walter Wanderley – Kee ka roo

Marcos Valle – Garra

Al Caiola – For a few dollars more

Augusto Alguero – Stay with me forever (bossa instr)

Bossa Rio – Saiupa

John Schroeder – Paramibo

Oscar Peterson – Sunny

Willie Bobo – Spanish Grease

Nico Gomez – Baila Chiquiban

Johnny Zamot – Boogaloo baby

Cal Tjader – Cuchy frito man

Xavier Cugat – Watermelon man

Nico Gomez – Rio

Hildegard Knef – Ferienzeit

Cal Tjader – solar heat

I didn’t get to play several things I meant to – e.g. Margo Guryan, Jorge Ben, The city of westminster string band version of ‘oh you pretty things’, Ronnie Aldrich’s ‘Do it again’, Scott Walker’s version of ‘Stormy’. I guess for some of these things there was just no time in the progression, and for others, they seemed a little too goofy to play that night somehow.

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In Hi-fi

Ok, I think I will get back to posting more regularly now. It has been interesting to observe the different reactions to last Tuesday’s events amongst my friends. Most people here in NYC have been as shaky, paranoid and generally distressed as I have, but people in Europe not surprisingly have a different outlook. My brother, who works in the financial district of London, was extremely shaken up at the time, but has now booked a trip to come and see me in a couple of weeks, as he had previously planned. Others have scoffed over people predicting the end of the world. Just because this atrocity was able to happen, some people are saying that *anything* can happen, and that’s ridiculous, they tell me. Well, maybe that’s true, but for me in NYC, it felt like armageddon, and is only just starting to feel better.

Anyway, on a happier note, my guest DJ spot has been rescheduled for tomorrow night, Thursday 20th September. It’s at Bar d’O, which is on the corner of Bedford and Downing Streets in Manhattan’s west village.

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Hmm, well, the ‘crappy couple of days’ I was blithely talking about on Monday may be over, but this is something else altogether. I feel entirely useless. Friends of mine are emailing me and phoning, but I can’t tell them anything that will help any of us to comprehend what has happened. I knew the WTC pretty well – I used to live just over in NJ, and so since it was just a 10 minute ride away, I would regularly go to DJ Mondo Lucien’s Wednesday night easy listening party at the 107th floor bar. I must have been there 10 or 20 times. Also, being a foreigner here, I spend a healthy chunk of time showing tourist relatives and friends around. I first went up to the observation deck myself in 1996 as a tourist; more recently I was there just 6 weeks ago with Esther’s father. Come to think of it, on Sunday we nearly went down there to buy clothes at Century 21 (right across the street), but I was in too bad a mood, so we stayed in the village.

One of the strangest things, on reflection, is how entirely impossible it was for me to get my head around what was happening. As the second tower fell, I didn’t think about all the thousands of people who were dying at that moment – I just thought of the crumbling buildings.

I’m really not going to say much more, as others are doing so much more interestingly and meaningfully than I will be able to – see World New York, which Matt at Scrubbles featured in his weblog.

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Five records in the mail today! This is what makes me feel good, after a kinda crappy couple of days. I am also making my triumphant return to the world of DJing later this week – I’m this month’s guest DJ at In Hi-Fi on Thursday. I also bought the new Bjork and Stereolab records last week and quite enjoyed them – more detailed reviews to come soon.

City of Westminster String Band: 'Knock Three Times and More' (LP; Pye; 1971)
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I had never heard of this record before I found it; can't wait to hear it.

Update: well, I've heard it now, and it really isn't as good as the other two COWSB records I have. Other than a highly unusual and very groovy easy listening version of 'Oh you pretty things' by David Bowie, this doesn't have much for me. Strange, when John Schroeder makes a good track, it's usually very, very good. But a lot of the time, his taste in material seems to differ too much from mine....

Frances Faye: 'You Gotta Go! Go! Go!' (LP; Stateside/EMI; 1964)
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Wow, this looks to have been a real bargain. Recorded with Shorty Rogers, and featuring some rocking sounding tracks (e.g. 'comin' home baby', 'hard days night'.

John Schroeder: 'Latin Vibrations' (LP; Polydor; 1971)
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Housed in a beautiful cover, and with at least one outstanding track, Paramaribo, I had extremely high hopes for this LP. I hated it the first time I heard it, but listening now it doesn't seem so bad. The first side consists of some reasonably schlocky early 70s easy listening music. The arrangements are quite good, but some of the choices of material don't really do it for me. And believe me, I'm not all that fussy! I've got no problem with hearing Percy Faith doing 'Feelings' or Ronnie Aldrich doing 'Make it with you', but John Schroeder doing 'If you could read my mind' somehow doesn't quite do it for me. One of the most inventive arrangements is saved for 'With a little help from my friends', which is a shame for me, since I'm really not fond of that song.

The second side is better than the first. It begins with a tasty version of 'Manha de Carnaval,' featuring some shimmering strings. This is followed up with an interesting and slightly beaty version of 'Moanin'. Next comes the superbly bouncy 'Paramaribo', with its catchy and jazzy piano riff, tasty brass and nice vibes. This is by an enormous distance the best track on the album. 'Sweet Unity', a Johnny Pearson original, is a nice quiet one with Latin percussion and some nice shimmery sounds. The album concludes with 'It don't come easy,' which is quite a nice upbeat easy number. The prominence of flutes in the arrangement isn't really to my taste, but it has a nice groove to it.

At the end of the day, I have to say that the arrangements don't really hold my attention quite as well as those by, for example, Percy Faith on his contemporary Angel of the morning and Black magic woman albums, so this album remains a bit of a disappointment. Great cover though!

Shirley Scott: 'Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes' (LP; Atlantic; 1969)
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I’m back after the long weekend. It occurred to me last night that for once, there are quite a few new-out albums which I’m interested in buying – e.g. Stereolab, Spiritualized, Bjork, Mercury Rev… I’ve actually managed to be playing much more music than I’ve bought recently, which I’m pleased about. Still, I did stop into my favorite used store today and pick up some interesting things.

Compilation: 'Spectrum' (CD; Plastic; 1961-1968)
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Compilation - Blowfly: 'The Weird World of Blowfly' (CD; Weird World; 1969)
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I am a childish person. This entertains me.

John Cale: 'Vintage Violence' (CD; Sony; 1970)
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This sounds excellent on first listen - very pleasant and accessible pop with some steel guitar and strings. 'Gideon's Bible' reminds me of Belle & Sebastian, while 'Big White Cloud' is a nice bluesey anthem with strings and piano. 'Ghost Story' is excellent as well, with a spooky organ intro which reminds me of Tindersticks

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