30 September 2014

#SRCZ Album Flashback #29: Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

In the vast history of Jazz, it’s many and various styles, threads and innovators there is one name that comes up often when the latter is mentioned. As an innovator, Miles Davis certainly knew how to move a scene forward with sheer brute minimalism.

That and a lot of talent!  Whatever one thought of the man himself it’s hard to deny that as force for change in the occasionally stuffy world of Jazz, Davis did much to shape the genre into what it is now. There are, of course, many different sub genres of Jazz that have ensued in the decades since it rose to prominence, but in constantly changing his directions Miles Davis, for the most part, kept his output fresh and often enigmatic as a result.

There are many, many albums worth of material from Davis out there, from original concept albums, off cut collections and more than the odd compilation disc, but of all the periods of his releases it’s his late sixties to mid seventies releases that bring you back again and again. From the awesome artwork that decorates them almost arrogantly to the music that fills them, they are a true source of inspiration to any person of a creative nature.

Bitches Brew, released in 1970 sets up the cycle of constant evolution that would run until 1974 when Davis retired from public view until a return in 1980. The album is still an invigorating and wonder filled listen decades later. Retaining its atmospheric, dark charm and mystery even now it’s rightly celebrated as classic of the Jazz genre, and indeed of the whole music world. But that’s all good and well, the question remains though as to whether it’s still relevant to modern listeners?

As someone who owns at least three copies of the album on the original vinyl pressing, the answer for this writer is firmly positive. Starting with the still stunning album artwork from the late Mati Klarwein, depicting two worlds in darkness and light in an image that still demands the question of what it all means even now, it’s a perfect first impression. Once you see that image, you don’t forget it. It’s a definite reason for loving the art of the record cover!

The music on the album, featuring at least twelve players at any one moment it seems, is also a reason for loving it. There’s drama, mystique and pathos on offer in the musical directions here and it makes for much re-listening value. There is rarely a moment when the music lets up the frenetic tone it sets. Spanish Key sees some hard core trumpet action from Davis himself, traditionally saying much with his short bursts of energy. But the rest of the band is on form as well, in one of the tightest of all the formations of Davis’ band.

Much has been written about the individual moments that define Bitches Brew over the years that don’t need to gone into in too much detail here but it remains to say that there are many more albums from Davis that explore the fusion Jazz themes touched upon here that are even more of a treat than this one. Bitches Brew got the attention, deservedly so in many ways, but make sure to check out its thematic follow up Live – Evil as well.

From its innovative production techniques courtesy of Teo Macero, to the attention to detail in visuals and music Bitches Brew is a record you should listen to even if only once!

(C. Agent) 

29 September 2014

TV Catch Up // Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 6 - "The Caretaker"

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Ellis George, Edward Harrison, Jimmy Vee, Chris Addison

Written by: Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat

Directed by: Paul Murphy

The Story: The Doctor goes...ahem...undercover at Coal Hill school in order to stop an Earth-threatening menace, the Skovox Blitzer, and he’s about to come face-to-face with Clara’s new boyfriend.

So we’re getting to the halfway point of Peter Capaldi’s first series playing Doctor Who already. Can you believe it? So far we’ve seen the Doctor and Clara zip around through time and space - their new relationship emerging rather engagingly - while Clara builds another new relationship; this time with fellow teacher, and former soldier, Danny Pink.

The Caretaker starts off showing Clara’s double life in all its exhausting madness. Trying to explain a tropical tan and chucking seaweed from her dress at the start of dates with Danny, living a lie is clearly taking its toll on the poor girl. Which makes the Doctor’s rejection of her so that he can go “deep cover” in order to save the world more than a little perplexing for Clara.

Turns out, “deep cover” is not as deep as the Doctor imagines as he turns up at Clara’s workplace as the new caretaker, John Smith, where he immediately tells everyone he’s known as the Doctor. Deep, deep cover indeed.

The script by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat successfully manages to have the Doctor, Clara and Danny Pink pleasingly dash around in pursuit of the Blitzer, while also giving enough breathing space to cover the very tricky subject of Clara’s two very different relationships with the two most important men in her life.

The Caretaker continues the theme we’ve seen running through this series of exciting stories with dark undercurrents. It also gives us great direction (here by Paul Murphy), with a considered pace and interesting angles, and some brilliantly funny dialogue. In a series that’s already been very, very interesting The Caretaker is possibly the most interesting yet.

While the Doctor appears to cack-handedly soften his approach to Clara, his obvious disdain for Danny Pink is almost difficult to watch. Although this series has made reference to the Doctor’s dislike of soldiers, we almost wonder if this is the same man who held Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in such high regard.

The monster-of the-week, the Blitzer, might make a fan-pleasing diecast toy at some point, but it seems little more than a MacGuffin here to bring our three main protagonists together. In two standout scenes we see the Danny Pink discover some of the truth about Clara and her time-travelling companion, and his concerns about what it means for his new girlfriend. We’re also hit with the news that Clara loves Danny. Although she says it matter-of-factly, you feel that it hits the Doctor really hard.

Samuel Anderson finally has a story to get stuck into as he does so with great aplomb as he calls the Doctor out for what he is - a man who makes people want to push themselves to please him. The scene where he salutes the Doctor in the TARDIS is almost agonising to watch and you really feel for Clara torn between her two lives with these two men. But Danny is more than up to the challenge of dealing with the Doctor and the other alien menace at the school as he very quickly becomes embroiled in the fight to save the Earth.

Danny is also sharp enough to see the danger that Clara faces and the lies she’s been telling, “You say you’ve seen wonders, but you kept them secret from me.” It’ll be interesting to see how this three-fold relationship plays out.

Far less good in the lying department is the Doctor as his “deep cover” role becomes a total sham in the face of problem pupil Courtney Woods (a brilliantly precocious turn by Ellis George) to whom he reveals everything without raising a single eyebrow. Courtney’s “Yeah, so what?” attitude must appeal to this new, spiky Doctor and he whips her off in the TARDIS to see off the Blitzer, even if the trip does make her throw up. Let’s hope it’s not her last trip, as she plays so well the kind of unimpressed eye-rolling that only a teenage girl can manage.

The episode ends with another visit to Missy’s Promised Land/afterlife/nethersphere, where a recently deceased copper comes face-to-face with new boy, Seb (Capaldi’s fellow The Thick Of It alumni Chris Addison). What this place really is and why people end up there is as much of a mystery as the mad-eyed Missy and the new and creepily welcoming Seb.

We may still be waiting for an outstanding Capaldi episode, but The Caretaker is, like much of what’s preceded it; very well written with a dark underbelly and highly entertaining. Which is a pretty decent place for a halfway point.

Did you know? #1: Jimmy Vee, who plays the Skovox Blitzer, has also played some other memorable characters in Doctor Who, including the Moxx of Balhoon in The End of the World, the Space Pig in Aliens of London/Word War III, and the brilliant Bannakaffalatta in the 2007 Christmas Special, Voyage of the Damned.

Did you know? #2: The Doctor has used the John Smith alias many times before, including twice while working in schools. Once in School Reunion and again in the brilliant two-parter Human Nature/The Family of Blood.

The “It is I,  LeClerc!” Award for Most Brilliant Disguise: The Doctor in a caretaker’s overall, “So you recognised me then?”

The “Stop Before I Get A Big Head” Award for Best Compliment: “You look lovely today. Have you had a wash?”

Sign of the Week: Go away humans

The “Proof that the Doctor doesn’t like Danny” dialogue best bits:
“The world is full of PE teachers”

Danny has the Doctor sussed: “He’s your dad. Your space dad.”

The Doctor Who approach to dealing with teenage girls: “Haven’t you got shoplifting to go to?”

Fan-pleasing bits: Two River Song references, Clara can open the TARDIS door with a click of her fingers.

(Reviewed by Andrea McGuire)

Catch Up with Doctor Who Series 8 on #SRCZ!

Previously - 'Time Heist' 

Why We Love… “Later…With Jools Holland”

Although it’s often berated by, on the surface, grumpy music fans; Later… With Jools Holland is very much a show that is to be treasured. Without it, there would be very little in the way of current time music coverage on television and, despite some jumping on its oft-habit of booking the more popular end of the indie market you just know there would be an outcry if it were threatened with cancellation.

It’s true, that in keeping to its ethos of something for everybody there is the inevitable chance that the odd hit and miss episode will surface but music being music, it’s not going to be a feeling that every viewer will share. The truth is that, for this writer at least, it’s the one show that is religiously watched whatever the occasion. Indeed, since the addition of the Live edition of Tuesday evenings, conveniently tucked in before the evils of the world are reviewed on Newsnight, it’s added an extra treat in the traditionally quiet earlier part of the week.

But what is it that makes watching the show so essential despite the knowledge you may not come out with a firm favourite or new favourite artist? It could merely be the fact that each week is different, and it’s difficult to find a more varied line up of artists on regular programming. Each artist is treated almost equally, the viewer given the choice of who to get behind or avoid with all the intensity they desire.

Perhaps the reason there is the odd grumble in the stratosphere of music fans and musicians alike is merely because the artists are rarely of the kind you see in the local pub or club. It’s something that can’t be denied and in truth, it’s perhaps better that it isn’t the case. Later, despite its easy flow and cheerful musical banter, is a touch point for status. An appearance on the show is an indicator of a job well done. There are many other steps along the way, including both local and national radio, music blogs, print publications and a lot more besides and, truth be told, it’s a positive to get a mention or play on any one of those mediums.

An appearance on Later… therefore definitely is a cherry on the cake of musical success. That’s what makes it worth watching. Over the years (including many from way before #SRCZ was even a digital glint on a server’s memory bank) we’ve found out about many artists we would never have found were it not for the show. The value of the show is therefore in the discoveries that can be made rather than in moaning about ‘commercial’ music being on the airwaves. In these days of austerity it’s a wonderful thing that music, often considered to be disposable, is taking centre stage for 90 minutes. How many less people would be exposed to music on mainstream British television if not for Later? Arguably, not that many!

Indeed, with so many more ways to enjoy music now in existence since the show began way back in 1992 it’s remarkable that the show has remained virtually the same in format. Age can take its toll, studio’s can be redesigned and even moved but the indefinable magic of seeing live music on television doesn’t fade. Having watched Later… since the turn of the millennium, I can certainly say that it has lost none of the enjoyment it held when I was discovering music fifteen years ago.

Now to sort out those other “music” channels…

(S. Gahan) 

28 September 2014

Preview // Candela: A Dark & Foreboding Night of Mystery & Music at Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool.

Here at #SRCZ we like these three things very much: Candara font, lamps and underground places. It follows then that at least two of these should figure in Candela, billed as a ‘dark and foreboding night of mystery and music’ due to take place October 18th at the very fantastic heritage site in Liverpool, Williamson Tunnels.

Rebel Soul and Lamp Scientists have teamed up to create 'Candela'; a night of "mystery and music" at the heritage site; Williamson Tunnels on October 18th. The event takes place to launch 'Elements and Natural Phenomena' the latest ep by Science of the Lamps, the limited run CD and digital release will contain new material from the band including; Scary Smile, Superhero Me and Flames & Firefighters.

Support comes from an exclusive performance by 'A Fistful of Spooks', containing members of world renowned act; The Spooky Men's Chorale.

When The Spooky Men’s Chorale retreated to Australia after their sell-out 2013 UK Tour, a few stalwarts remained. Like a tide-mark in an enamel bath, this collection of UK Spooks are still around, keeping the flame of Spookiness alive in Britain.

"I'm a huge vocal harmony geek, and a massive fan of the incredibly funny and talented Spooky Men's Chorale, so having the chance to welcome a 'Fistful' of them to our EP launch is a great honour." Kaya, Science of the Lamps

Support on the night also comes from; The Good Host with visuals and sounds from X-Ray Katt (The Mixnots) and The Walrus Said... as well as being hosted by comedy theatre company Be Your Own Banana

Both Rebel Soul and Lamp Scientists (a collaboration between the band Science of the Lamps and Dj X-Ray Katt) have a reputation for taking gigs to the next level of audience experience, both of them are involved in Threshold Festival of Music & Arts, The Voodoo Ball and A Culture Less Ordinary, the organisers always aim to take a concept and run it right through every aspect of their events. 

"Candela was born out of discussions of science and lamps, the dawn of electricity in a very dark time in the world. The event is inspired by maverick scientists, dark tales of grave robbing doctors and the mysterious world of Nikola Tesla. The Tunnels provide us with the perfect setting for this" - Rory Taylor, Rebel Soul

Advance tickets are available at £6 from Eventbrite and include a free glass of bubbly on arrival to the Tunnels from 8pm. Limited on the door tickets will cost £8 (£6 concessions)

New Music // Jupiter Lion – Lost Cannibal

Take a listen to this 12 minute preview of Jupiter Lion’s upcoming album in the form of Lost Cannibal.

Taking a distinct kraut rock tone to the music, the 12 minutes pass by effortlessly in a flurry of organic beats and disconnected voices that make for a brilliantly unnerving listen on occasion.

The trio from the Mediterranean coast will release the album Brighter in early October. 

Music Video // Roughneck Riot – Parasites

As #SRCZ has previously discovered, Folk-Punk is a thing. And whilst the combination of two diametrically opposed but thematically rebellious genres can go awry on many occasions, Roughneck Riot have it right with their new song Parasites. Check it out below:

The video for Parasites sees the Warrington band the focus for a powerful performance, intercut with footage shot on abandoned sites and what might possibly be an archive clip of a certain British Prime Minister slipped in to make a point. We’ll let you make the listener make the connects but in the meantime take a listen before the band drops their new album Out of Anger via Manchester former Punk zine turned label TNS Records in early October.

23 September 2014

New Music // Whyte Horses – The Snowfalls

Released via CRC Recordings on October 2oth is The Snowfalls, part of a new 7” release from  Mancunian band Whyte Horses. The beautiful jangle pop mixed with dream pop aesthetic is in evidence not only on the song itself but in its accompanying video clip.

Composed of clips from pilot episode of little known Czech children’s show The Process, it’s a video that says much in its vagueness. Make sure to check out the release in October!

22 September 2014

Music Video // Marc Ford – Dream #26

Marc Ford has released a rather nice video for song Dream #26, extracted from his latest album Holy Ghost. With a dream like pace, just gentle enough to lull the listener into a nice sense of peace without losing their attention, the song is a perfect song for the seasonal change as we ease into Autumn and those brown leaves start to crunch beneath the feet.

The video, directed by Skip Konte, shows Ford doing what he does best. That is, guitar in hand and mic at the ready to deliver another gentle but thought provoking song.