For the entirety of Saturday 21st March, 100% of revenue on Bandcamp will go directly to musicians – Bandcamp will waive it’s 10-15%. Given, here in the U.K. and across many western countries, we’re confined inside it’s the perfect time to fill the world with some tunes, take time to explore beloved or new artists, while simultaneously doing something to help a community hit very hard by the current events worldwide.

Across the music ecosystem, there have been major impacts from coronavirus. Touring cancelled, venues shuttered, recording plans on pause. Among my friends are sound engineers with no work for the foreseeable future; venue staff and managers who have seen their opportunities to earn a living shrink to zero for the time being; tour managers who rely on being on the road to make a dime and who are now stuck at home…And, of course, musicians who make the music and who have now lost the crucial component of their cash in pocket that hasn’t already been stomped by tech bros.

One of the best things about Bandcamp is that your money goes to the musicians you’re supporting. This is in stark contrast to Spotify where even if you spend 100% of your time and investment with a single artist, your money is added to the pool and divided according to the total share of streams for each artist – much of your money (minus the 30% that Spotify keeps) goes to people you’d never dream of listening to (at $0.006-$0.0084 per stream). The user-centric model of Bandcamp is another reason to support it and the attitude of Bandcamp, that they’re there to help musicians not just use them as product, is evident in their effort to move more money direct to musicians.

People I’ve been listening to a lot recently – not to say anyyyyyyone has to pay attention to my taste – include:

My Cat Is An Alien – perfect distressed ambience…

https://ellipticalnoise.bandcamp.com/

Ames Sanglantes and others at Hospital Productions:

https://hospitalproductions.bandcamp.com/

Myrkur’s new album of Scandinavian folk song:

https://myrkur.bandcamp.com/

And a lot of Weasel Walter’s wild activities:

https://weaselwalter.bandcamp.com/

Today might be worth spending a little of the money saved not going out on a Friday or Saturday night.

 

PS Just bought the new Phil Puleo release too:

https://philpuleo.bandcamp.com/

 

 

 

HOME

If one believes in a god, then that god provides rules and meaning for one’s actions – though, of course, even then no one else is required to accept your meaning. If one doesn’t place meaning in the hands of a supernatural being, then the meaning of life becomes whatever one chooses to devote one’s own time and energy to – it’s your choice and no one can tell you you’re wrong because it’s something inherently and specifically personal to you. I think there’s amazing freedom in that. By that same virtue, I love seeing people dedicate themselves to labours of love that aren’t underpinned by other motivations like career plans, financial rewards, a desire for influence – no one else may care, but you do, so you do it in spite of obstacles, dismissal, lack of interest, because it means something to you.

HOME

The Love Buzz 7″ site is a recent favourite on that score. Massimo Salerno and Mattia Cuda built on work by Joris Baas and Enrico Vincenzi, to create this rather nifty website where they identify and log the owners of the 1,000 hand-numbered copies, and the 200 unnumbered copies with a red marker dash where the number would be, of Nirvana’s first single. Original copies go for several thousand dollars and there’s a quite substantial quantities of fakes out there – a bit of a minefield. What the guys have done is provide a source indicating the features that identify an original, a listing so it’s clear which numbers already belong to a known owner, a map showing where in the world copies have wound up over the years, and a guide to the known test pressings too.

They’ve gone beyond that by adding the stories volunteered by individual owners explaining how they came across their copy, the pedigree of each one and so forth. It’s a rather fun read, for example the way a test pressing of Love Buzz wound up with an east coast distributor called Pier Platters, was purchased by a gentleman called Nihility X, then sold to Discourage Records. Or Chad Channing’s personal memory of snagging the third copy of the single, or the story of Nils Bernstein found under #6.

The photos too are interesting, there’s a certain fascination in the way these repeated shots of the ___ / 1000 box vary in terms of photo quality, position, condition…

The home page scrolls beautifully and intelligently through the core details of the release, the counter indicating that 355 of 1,000 copies have been identified so far – rather impressive for an object as small as a seven inch record and one released 32 years ago – links to the genuine copies currently on sale, and the mission statement to get rid of the bootleg copies…All leading to the submission form at the bottom where people can choose to remain anonymous but are invited to provide their story and/or to have their copy studied remotely to prove its genuine.

Parasite

We’re in the midst of what looks like being the longest ever drought between significant official releases of Nirvana material. The six year pause between From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah (October 1996) and the greatest hits record/unveil of ‘You Know You’re Right’ (October 2002) has now been superseded by the gap since September 2013’s In Utero anniversary or November 2015’s Montage Of Heck compilation of home demos by Kurt Cobain. The big difference is that the earlier pause was due to legal disputes but everyone was aware that, as documented on numerous bootlegs at the time, there was a lot of unreleased material to come – now we’re contemplating an empty well.

Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some fun this year! A real pleasure, for me, was receiving Marcus Gray’s art collection “Parasite: A Photographic Wake for Kurt Cobain.”

https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/9897611-parasite

It kicks the hell out of the embarrassing ‘coffee table book’ that the estate put out last year. Gray specializes in making visual suggestions, specific to Kurt Cobain’s life and work, that provoke thoughts that spill well beyond the edges of the photo frame – memories, additional facts, associated moments, spiraling out from the initial image. Substantial work has gone into sourcing era-specific objects (a Mrs. Butterworth’s jar, for example); or selecting non-obvious media (Cobain’s grandfather’s phone book entry, a back page newspaper advert for X-Ray glasses that ties to the 1990 In Bloom video); or combining items that resonate with meaning to those with fair background on Cobain’s story (a card from the Marco Polo Motel inside a Tom Moore cigar box). The initial selections are already impressive but what elevates them is the visible thought that has gone into how to move beyond blank documentation into artistic imagining. Images are treated, slurred, magnified, placed against a range of backdrops, every single work presented here has a specificity of both image and effort that makes them art. I particularly liked how subtle the work could be: the famous red-and-black striped jumper Cobain wore in 1993 is rendered in a way that looks like neon light and would be impossible to identify as a jumper if one’s own mind didn’t make the leap to that item of clothing, with the photo caption providing a useful pointer.

There was a bit of an outpouring of books collecting photographs of Nirvana and of Kurt Cobain a few years back, and they all had their virtues. It’s just really nice to see someone going way beyond that and taking Cobain – a quintessential outsider artist – as an artistic muse prompting hard work, significant skill and deep thoughtfulness. It’s not a huge volume but I’ve found myself returning repeatedly to the book because it’s not of an intimidating length or size, and because each image rewarded fair lengthy contemplation, I can spend 5-10 minutes thinking outside of the edges of the image at the events, times, places and actions that the photo points to.

Needed a break from work so headed down to The Exchange, a local venue, and took a chance on a band I’d never heard before…

…Lucky me! Turned out the band in question was Sumo Cyco – and they rocked.

Carrying a full hour-and-a-half plus on stage takes a lot more than good tunes – though Sumo Cyco have those in spades. I admire those – relatively rare – bands with the smarts to make a show flow, switch, change, stay persistently engaging and avoid repetition.

How to go about it? Well, impressively, it sure as heck doesn’t mean having an acoustic guitar-led break to kill the energy. First things first, it makes a world of difference to see a band who look like they’re having a whale of a time. I couldn’t take my eyes off Matt Trozzi – drums – who grinned from start to finish while drumming so hard it looked like he had extra limbs. Meanwhile, on bass, Oscar Anesetti bears an uncanny resemblance to a really young Kirk Hammett and merrily engaged with the audience, pulled faces and tearing it up from the start to finish. At the heart of the band, Skye ‘Sever’ Sweetnam and Matt ‘MD13’ Drake, laughed, joked, and led the party.

Enthusiasm can get anyone a certain distance, add a ton of talent and you’ll wind up miles in front. The band were so sharp. Drake, Anesetti and Trozzi never missed a beat at any point. At one point Drake played his guitar one-handed while sipping a beer he briefly used as a slide, at another he was riffing at one side of the stage then bounded over to sing lines into Sever’s mic. Sever meanwhile called the audience close together to allow her to crowd surf on her back while continuing to hit every note.

http://sumocyco.com/album3/

Thank god this is a band that didn’t just rely on eternal calls to ‘put your hands in the air’ or to clap along or cheer – there was some of that, it’s a gig so what the hey(!), but it always fitted and was used sparingly. Instead, every band member – bar Trozzi – took a shot performing from on top of the monitor at front centre or flying kicking off of it. Sever wound up in the crowd quite a few times whether encouraging a moshpit (and skillfully whipping out of the way¬† before it got too crazy), or getting the audience to form a circle around her as she sang; being carried through the crowd on Drake’s back; later persuading the entire room to crouch down, sing along and get ready to launch back up en masse. A total blast! The band knew how to use the stage, the crowd, their instruments, their good spirit…What a combination. The use of tapes to fill gaps between songs, keep momentum, deviate from the guitar-bass-drums-vocals approach, made for some good moments of fun too.

The set-list was kick ass, new songs for the upcoming third album were carefully laced into the set (and all sounded great); songs like ‘Love You Wrong’ or ‘Run With The Giants’ led to singalongs (I learnt quick); the vibe varied from pop rock, to punk, to heavy rock – I’d promised not to headbang because my neck and back are sore at the moment but how could I resist? A brief bass solo was a nice surprise, guitar solos glowed white hot, Sever’s voice carries a crowd at all times.

All in all, what a quality use of an unplanned evening! Sumo Cyco smashed it in Bristol.

 

https://castbox.fm/channel/NIRVANA-Podcast-id2115615?country=nl

Was intrigued to come across the Nirvana podcast on my Twitter feed yesterday – wanted to spread the word if anyone wants an in-depth and well put together telling of the Nirvana story.

https://castbox.fm/episode/Nirvana-Podcast-00-Teaser-id2115615-id163561079?country=nl

 

All credit and a heap of praise for the video above goes to Brett R, he invested $100 plus postage for what he – indeed many Nirvana fans, including myself – hoped would be a serious volume gathering together and curating the art works of Kurt Cobain. The card accompanying the collection states that the intention behind the book is to “celebrate his legacy” which seems strange given the book is the most gross and egregiously exploitative item of Cobain/Nirvana merchandise so far released.

Watching through the six minute clip it’s immediately obvious that the book is not in any way a serious study of Cobain’s art. There’s no attempt to contextualise the material in relation to Cobain’s life or experience, or to share any information about how/when/where any of it was created. There’s an occasion mention of materials and blandly literal ‘titles’ given to each piece. Oh, plus occasionally there’s a wildly unnecessary description, for example, “winged puppet with ghostly figure, small puppet, pixie, cat” – yes, we can see the picture too. It’s part of an apparently determined belief that anyone buying the book must be an idiot therefore they should be spoken to as such.

What the book is very clearly serious about is acting as overpriced sales collateral pitching a similarly overpriced Cobain t-shirt line. The book looks substantial on the outside but for every page of art, there’s a corresponding page showing the same image, just printed onto a t-shirt – a 50% reduction in content, purpose and interest. Better still, to keep the purposeless duplication as high as possible, if a t-shirt has been created in slightly different colouring then that version is printed too. I’m being unfair saying that this is purposeless, it has a purpose…If you’re trying to market t-shirts to the kinds of vapid fashion-victims who, in 1993, would have shelled out on Marc Jacob’s grunge collection for Perry Ellis because buying thrift store clothing was beneath them and they wouldn’t wear something that didn’t have a brag-worthy brand label.

The quantity of dead white space is extraordinary: every single image, regardless of whether it contains any intriguing detail, is blown up to fill a page. The 10-15 words needed to give the title/materials/description is printed in a corner of an otherwise blank page. Each t-shirt, duplicating the artwork seen on another page, takes up an entire page. Velum page inserts exist just to give random whimsical section titles. And because we haven’t had enough white space other pages are simply blank. In an art volume, one might give a sketch or painting room to breathe; space so the details stand out; a paper equivalent of a gallery wall so the image can be contemplated. Nothing here seems to warrant the space – it’s massive padding of a slender quantity of actual material.

Having billed the book as a volume of Cobain’s artwork, an entire section would fail any investigation under false trade description regulation. The book abandons visual art and simply reproduces random word scribbles and exercise book graffiti: ‘Sad And Ugly’ ‘Cold And Wet’ Bliss’ ‘Fun With Clay’ ‘Pen Cap Chew’. The absence of context to the words rob them of any meaning (i.e., the above seems to be one of Cobain’s various attempts to pick potential band names for what became Nirvana): there’s nothing visually intriguing or entertaining at all about them.

Leaving that section to one side, Brett notes significant issues with the other content selected. Various felt tip doodles were apparently drawn as part of psychological evaluation rather than as any attempt at art – clustered together across a two page spread they might have some interest but as standalone pieces they’re just tedious. The most elaborate and fully realised art pieces, meanwhile, have been seen before in other books (Come As You Are, Cobain Unseen, Journals, etc.) or in the Montage Of Heck film. That wouldn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t be reprinted but this particular volume doesn’t position them with other pieces that bring fresh enlightenment, or with information that would flesh out the ‘it is what it is’ air.

It has to be said, Cobain’s collection of mutilated dolls does form a curious segment. Doll faces are discoloured, figures are laid out like corpses, a skeleton has it’s face blanked, baby dolls are scored and marked. It’s irksome that it has to be in a section called ‘Kurt Makes Contact’: the titles regularly tip over from casual into the realm of infantilisation, the kind of cooing one might associate with a baby sensory class rather than with an attempt to position someone as an outsider folk artist.

Overall, this is truly a “wow” moment – I’m stunned it proved possible to put so little effort, homework, attentiveness or simple pride into the making of this book and to care so little who knows it that it’s obvious from start-to-finish. One doesn’t have to be a fanatical fan to take issue with a book that is as exploitative as this – and, of course, the only people even vaguely likely to pay $100 for such a book are going to be fans. No expense has been spared in terms of spitting in the faces of those fans – you’re paying for nice paper, stuff you’ve seen before, two-three copies of the same picture but one or two happen to be on a t-shirt.

There was a paranoid theory at the time of Montage Of Heck (which I personally enjoyed very deeply as film and as record release) that there was a concerted campaign, by people associated with the deceased rock star, to denigrate his work, destroy his reputation, undermine his posthumous status and trample respect for him into the dirt. I filed it away in the mental trash can alongside the (still) preposterous and incoherent murder rants. This book is the first time I’ve seen something come out with the Cobain or Nirvana name on it, that is so bad, that I seriously wondered if it was a prank by Frances Bean Cobain aimed at showing fans how stupid they are to give a hoot about Cobain/Nirvana so long after his death in 1994. I’m still undecided.

What I am decided on is that this book is irredeemably rubbish.

Been listening to this quite a bit recently: it’s Zoe Hansen’s latest Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) video. Essentially – layman’s ignorant version (i.e., mine) – the subtle sounds create physical sensation within the body, these gently relaxing vibes, tingling, more intense feelings in the brain and so forth.

Makes a difference in a day to just clear 30 minutes, bring the lights down low, settle back, let the sounds fill up the mind so I’m not thinking, my brain isn’t ticking over thoughts, it’s just following sound.

It does something similar, for me, to the peacefulness I found in listening to dark ambient – Sleep Research Facility and the like – music that just filled a room and pushed the world out the door for a time…