Archive for May 2019

Songs from the Vault

I thought I’d better do another SFTV before time runs away with itself. Like the last edition, there are no intentional themes though some may emerge. We’ll see.

First up is Flim by Aphex Twin. I first heard this on the Come to Daddy EP (1997) and was reminded of the track very recently as The Bad Plus played it as their encore at a gig in East London. TBP do a great version themselves, and you can find it on their 2003 album These Are the Vistas, which is one of their finest. Back to the original. When thinking about it, it’s a bit of a strange beast. It sounds like it could have been the theme tune to a BBC science show back in the ’70s. There’s a catchy hook, some incredible drum programming, which at times combines drum and bass with jazz inflections, and a wonderful breakdown before the tune re-emerges at the half-way mark with a sonorous violin-like refrain. It’s a classic.

I’m writing this blog as I find the tunes and I’m not sure how to follow up on that. Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors from Radiohead’s 2001 album seems a pretty cool place to continue. It’s arguably their most inaccessible tune and it’s one of those love it or hate it ones. I love it. It sounds like a whorling vortex from a nightmare. So not one for the first wedding dance! Apparently it was created by looping various tracks from the OK Computer sessions to create, a ‘ghostly’ loop. The video below is good but the album version’s better.

Time for a massive about-face. When I grew up ABBA were massive and I remember well the albums in my parents’ record collection, including the likes of Arrival and Super Trouper. While Winner Takes it All is my favourite, Our Last Summer (1980) has to be up there. While it could do without the guitar solo, and some of the lyrics are a bit suspect (‘And your name is Harry’), the chorus is a pleasure and gets better and better as the tune goes on, especially as the vocals stretch out in the outro.

Handsome Boy Modelling School was a hip-hop duo which brought together the talents of Dan the Automator and Prince Paul. Their 1999 album includes The Truth, featuring J-Live, and Roisin Murphy from Moloko. It’s a a laid back affair, oozing sophistication. It would be unfair not to reference Galt MacDermot, whose Coffee Cold is sampled to great effect. Make sure you check that out too.

I should include more jazz in these blogs, so last but not least is Remember (composed by Irving Berlin) by American tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley off of his 1960 classic album Soul Station. As soon as the track starts you know that something special is happening and that the stars are aligned. Mobley is backed by jazz giants Art Blakey (drums), Wynton Kelly (piano) and Paul Chambers (bass) and this class shines through from beginning to end.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of SFTV. And let me know what you think of the tunes!

Book review – The Brooklyn Follies

The Brooklyn Follies (2006) is the first Paul Auster book that I’ve completed. This isn’t to say that my house is littered with half-read Auster books. The only other Auster book I’ve opened is The New York Trilogy, which, by all accounts, appears to be a little impenetrable. I thought therefore that I’d give him another go.

The Brooklyn Follies finds us in the company of the curmudgeonly Nathan Glass, a retiree and divorcee looking to eke out his remaining years in Brooklyn, where his family once resided. Glass bumps into his nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore – quite the departure from the Tom Wood Glass knew of old; a go-getting intellectual with a bright future ahead of him. The two pick up where they left off and Glass is introduced to Wood’s boss, Harry Brightman, an ex-fraudster with designs on one last throw of the dice. Almost by accident, Glass’s world is transformed as he makes new friends and meets estranged family members. Glass has also decided on a project; The Book of Human Folly, a collection of all the inane and embarrassing things that Glass has been party to.

It’s clear from the off that The Brooklyn Follies is quite a different book than The New York Trilogy. Where the NYT felt impenetrable and austere (no pun intended!), the Brooklyn Follies was warm and inviting (I breezed through the 300+ pages in a handful of days). Auster has a reputation for being a fine novelist and, as expected, the book was well written, with Auster creating a community of characters that you easily warm to and care about. The novel also feels believable, despite the fact that Glass is surrounded by a multiplicity of events, some of which are far from every day occurrences.

My only issue is with Glass himself. He arrived in Brooklyn ‘looking for a quiet place to die’ and not ‘giving a flying fuck about projects’. This is a far cry from the Glass that emerges. Albeit a welcome transformation, it’s a change that’s rather rapid in its emergence. Still, it’s a minor thing that doesn’t detract from the novel, which is full of characters that I’d happily spend more time with. Highly recommended.