Wednesday 16 December 2009

Matt's Musical Corner Part 2: Jaga Jazzist - Toccata

Mention the word 'jazz' and you will make most people flinch. Mention the words 'experimental jazz' and you are likely to be placed in the stocks and publicly reviled. Before you begin to take aim with rotten fruit and vegetables let me explain why I believe experimental jazz to be life-affirming. This music carves its way into one's soul and sits there in stately majesty. The subtle crescendos lead you unwittingly into the very heart of these enormous soundscapes.

A friend of mine once claimed that every artist signed to the Ninja Tune Label was a triumph. Although I wouldn't personally make such lofty assertions, the statement is certainly true of Jaga Jazzist. Like their label-mates, The Cinematic Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist manage to weave patchworks of 'nu-jazz' bliss.

You don't have to wear Harris Tweed and teach Classics to appreciate this music. You don't even have to admit to your friends and family that you harbour a latent passion for such high-brow nonsense. Just click on the link below and let Jaga Jazzist consume you. It has given me a migraine to locate this link; select the second edit from the top.

Monday 14 December 2009

Have Our Musicians Become Common Hussies?

It seems to me that band disloyalty has become gratuitously ubiquitous. Frankly, the levels of tolerated infidelity within most modern marriages are insignificant in comparison to the unclean urges which are dividing our musical community. No one so much as bats an eyelid when a vocalist and guitarist from rival groups suddenly commit the dirty deed together.

For those of you who fear that I may be on the cusp of an evangelical tirade, I am referring to that emerging habit which has infected many of our musicians: the side-project. Granted, side-projects have been an exciting idiosyncrasy of the music scene for decades but now they threaten to become so prevalent that the notion of a traditional band structure seems almost defunct.

Last month witnessed releases from two notable supergroups: ‘Monsters of Folk’ and ‘Them Crooked Vultures’. There is no denying that both of these albums are finely tuned gems but my question is this: Does the quality of the music justify placing a band on indefinite hiatus? Am I alone in impatiently lusting after some new material from 'Queens of the Stone Age' and 'My Morning Jacket'?

There is one man who, more than any other, shoulders responsibility for the fickle-minded attitude of today's rock aristocracy. Jack White has collaborated with more artists than Tiger Wood's has had mistresses. It is extraordinary how one gentlemen has managed to infiltrate our musical landscape with such authority. At a time when Meg White can finally attempt to fathom the complexities of percussion, Jack has been mercilessly upstaging her on the skins of his latest side-project, The Dead Weather.

Perhaps I should relent. Perhaps Jack White has discovered a happy equilibrium where musical differences may not necessarily preclude a band's downfall. In any case, we must concede that side-projects are no longer the novel exception, they are the rule. I, for one, am not yet convinced that this a healthy development.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Jabberwocky Pops: Chapter 1

Lindstrom & Christabelle - Baby Can't Stop
- Lindstrom is perhaps the king of the lengthy, ambient techno track. But this sounds like a retro tribute to Michael Jackson. Believe me, once you start shaking to this, you won't stop till you get enough!

Darwin Deez - Constellations
- Anyone feeling blue in the coming winter months should download this nugget of happiness immediately. Darwin Deez fuses a Julian Casablancas-esque delivery with some truly euphoric dance moves.

Wolf Gang - The King And All Of His Men
- Marina And The Diamonds' label-mate proves his salt on his latest single. Even if the song title seems to rip-off a Wild Beasts track with nearly the same name, there is no denying that Max McElligott has refined his song-writing craft.

Everything Everything - My Keys, Your Boyfriend
- I can only describe this single as Foals deciding to form a Barbershop Quartet. Interested? You should be!

Graham Coxon - Brave The Storm
- Britpop's favourite guitarist eschews his usual distorted riffing for some of the most beautiful figer-picking I have heard since Nick Drake decided he was depressed

Monday 30 November 2009


It is nearly the end of another Decade. I am not suggesting that there is anything innately special in this. Defining a period of ten years as an entity in itself is utterly meaningless and historically worthless. Decades are nothing more than man-made conveniences. None of us really expect to feel any differently when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve. What we can expect from the lead up to January however, is a frenzy of what can loosely be described, 'listomania'. By this, I mean the tendency of music journalists to celebrate the conclusion of an era by compiling endless hierarchical lists.

Never before have I witnessed such mutinous discontent among the readerships of every music publication attempting a retrospective of the last decade. Such vitriol is usually reserved for the likes of James Blunt and Preston. I would gently like to ask these irate readers to make themselves a cup of nettle tea before mopping their brow with a cool flannel. I doubt that even the most bigoted writer would pretend that these lists have much validity. In essence, they are an inadequate means of assessing an album's importance, much like a decade is an inadequate device for analysing history.

The truth is that, despite collective cries of mock indignation, everybody secretly loves lists. They provide the ideal discussion point. For music fans, it is the closest we will get to experiencing that sense of machismo camaraderie which is ordinarily for self-righteous football hooligans alone. So, when you are next complaining about who has made the top ten, please be aware of how much you are enjoying the debate that has ensued.

I have selected some of the best lists for your perusal. Now go forth and proselytise! Observer Music Monthly:

Sunday 29 November 2009

Matt's Musical Corner Part 1: The Fall - Dr Buck's Letter

Be honest, who, apart from the most aloof muso, has actually listened to a complete record by The Fall? Allow me to be the first to make a confession; I haven’t and I do not think I am alone. Yes, I own a number of their albums and, yes, I have been guilty of citing Mark E. Smith as an inspiration. Yet all this is mere show and hyperbole. The albums have long been gathering dust and I regret to say that I find Mr Smith rather objectionable. The trouble is, by my estimation, the Fall have made close to 758 records. Any hopeful fan will find themselves lost in this catacomb of catalogue material that is bound leave the most robust enthusiast disorientated and bewildered. In order to make sense of the madness it is necessary to identify a keystone which can explain why The Fall’s converts include musical patriarchs, John Peel and Tony Wilson. Before you purchase their Best-of compilation – 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – I recommend wrapping your ears around the aural delights of Dr.Buck’s Letter. As far as ‘the anoraks’ are concerned, it might not be classic Fall, but, for us newbies, it’s the perfect introduction into the sardonic and surreal dystopia of this legendary band.
Click Here:

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Schools For The Unnaturally Gifted

Before anyone gets overly excited, I am not referring to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the contrary, I am highlighting the regularity with which certain ‘muggle’ educational facilities seem to churn-out musical starlets.

I have trawled through the dusty alumni records of my old school and I have failed to locate one contemporary musician of note. This galls me. It is almost as if, because my dear parents sent me to an institution famed for producing clergyman and accountants, I was destined to fall on the creative scrapheap. For someone who spent many of his early adolescent years caressing Jim Morrison posters, this seems like a gross miscarriage of godly justice. Had I attended a so-called ‘rock school’ I might now be playing synthesisers one-handed whilst Agyness Deyn look-alikes hung flirtatiously from my free arm; doubtful admittedly, but still possible.

Let us begin by examining Elliott School in South London, which counts the XX among its most recent progeny. Usually, playground pastimes include exchanging soggy Marlboros or sniffing glue. However, for the pupils of Elliott School, break-time activities are of an altogether more refined nature. My wild imagination tempts me to picture the arrival of new teachers at Elliot School. Although perhaps initially puzzled to find Four Tet and Burial positioning microphones to record hopscotch contestants, they would soon be actively facilitating their protégés pursuit of the percussive ideal. Meanwhile, assembled before the Headmaster’s desk one might encounter, not uncontrite truants and bullies, but the future members of Hot Chip and the Maccabees facing suspension for guerrilla gigging. How can one school serve as the breeding ground for such an array of precocious, pimply talent? There must be something funny flowing through the communal water fountains at Elliott School.

Interestingly, such high concentrations of budding talent are not unheard of; Kings College School in Wimbledon spawned electro-kid triplets, Patrick Wolf, Tom Vek and Jeremy Walmsley. It might surprise many to learn that Phoenix and Daft Punk were school-yard chums. Ultimately, schools exist which promote an environment that is conducive to musical creativity. Forget the Brit School. Take my advice and enroll your unborn children into one of the 'real' rock academies.

Monday 23 November 2009

Welcome To The Looking Glass

Let's face it, this blog is arguably the biggest vanity-project since Keanu Reeves decided to turn his questionable acting talents to the bass guitar as part of the now mercifully defunct Dogstar.

I propose to establish a blog which is principally about modern music. It is no secret that I relish any opportunity to hungrily chew off the ears of wary bystanders who latterly wished that they had never tentatively inquired what was currently on my ipod. In truth, I pity the unwitting mugs who whisper the words 'Radiohead', 'C86', or 'Hacienda' within a 200 metre radius of my being, automatically triggering a frequency in my brain which leads me towards them like a dribbling zombie. Thus, I have finally contrived to contain my musical diatribes within a virtual forum that I have been wanky enough to entitle 'The Looking Glass'.

Not since since an ex-girlfriend who, upon noticing I had taken the trouble to festoon my lapel with a carnation, despaired that I had never brought her flowers, have I been guilty of such self-indulgence. In any case, the Internet is littered with the pointless thoughts of pseudo-wits and I understand entirely if, like my long-suffering friends, you wisely choose to ignore my ramblings. If you do not, I cordially invite you to share in some musical curiosities as we travel through The Looking Glass!