Archive for December, 2014

“No Seattle”
Why wouldn’t this be on my favourites? I’ve never been involved with a musical release before and to be able to drop a small spotlight (let’s call it a pen torch shall we?) onto people I admire and who I think deserve it was very satisfying. As a listener I’m still returning to this release too, the sequencing hangs it together in a way I often find lacking from compilations, the songs relate, there’s a shared mood while sufficient diversity to prevent my spirit sagging across two crammed discs or slabs of vinyl. Running the gamut from chamber-pop to dirty punk reminders that the late Eighties were a washing machine spin loaded with imaginative guitar sounds – it’s amazing how much was going on right before guitars gave up centre stage to hip hop; the mirror cracked in too many directions perhaps? Certainly to find this kind of diversity in a relatively sparsely populated state is impressive – it shows how this compact area managed to give musicians the freedom to foul up in public, a chance to collaborate, find places to play, practice, get better, put things out in small editions, escape the scouring brutality of mass judgement/mass media/mass marketing…It was still possible to fly under the radar given barely only a smattering of what Seattle was about ever made it to the wider world at the behest of major label hook-ups and revisionist history. This feels more real to me, messier, dirtier, more beautiful, more full of life. Friendly.

Run the Jewels “Run the Jewels 2”
El-P is one of the finest producers hip hop has ever produced. Def Jux was, for a time (pretty well its first three years), untouchable with every release from Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, Mr Lif, the label head himself hitting some new peak of imagination and talent – then, OK, it went off the boil, became more sporadic in its genius. Fine, whatever, El-P’s own work remained exemplary in terms of wordplay, production, ability to range across emotions – I guess I could criticise that he has only one vocal tone but who cares, it’s a good voice and the words matched to it are spot on. Killer Mike I didn’t know much about until I started seeing his name associated with El-P and then heard they’d started this collaboration – low expectations, never that bothered by team-ups…Then I heard this. In a year where my hip hop desires grew no more interesting than checking mixtapes on DatPiff, this one album blew my head off. It helps that I think Zack De La Rocha is one of the finest MCs ever to grace a mic and is the only man worthy of picking up Chuck D’s voice of consciousness crown – it helps that he smashes his appearance here. Gangsta Boo meanwhile had stuck in my head all the way back to 1999 or so when she crashed a highlight on Outkast’s Stankonia album (an album definitely making the favourites list for that year) and here she does something remarkable – the first time in a decade and a half I’ve heard a sex rap that restores humour and makes it sound like someone having fun. The dexterity of topical jumps on this album, the quotable chorus lines, the production moves that don’t stagger too far from El-P’s stomping ground but show he’s always thinking of new ways to make it happen, the sense of two guys actually collaborating and reacting to one another rather than just dialling in eight bars or having some producer snatch something off a stored dat – Gods, it feels so good to see rappers truly working together rather than just appearing as product placement on one another’s work. Finest rap record of the year, a best of decade contender, El-P and Killer Mike showing age doesn’t impact hunger if you’ve got the guts to go for it.

Current 93 “I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell”
February, took girlfriend to Union Chapel to see Current 93. She survived the support acts, no problem at all…Then Current 93 commenced an awesome instrumental build, performers entering, adding themselves to the sound, onwards and upwards, on bounds David Tibet – barefoot, tweed suit, matching hat, striking resemblance to Jasper Carrott – he opens his mouth and sings…And girl turns to me with look of abject horror. She’d had no idea what she was in for. She fell asleep a bit later and the news that there’d be an encore set her scurrying to the bathroom – I found her thirty minutes later in the bar necking a bottle of wine. And I laughed myself silly I admit. It’s fair to say Current 93 are an acquired taste and I have most certainly acquired it. I enjoy artists who twist and turn across years, grow and change. Tibet’s lyrical skills are beyond that of near anyone, the writing skills that go into warping language and concept in the way he does – try to follow the plots and storylines that result in lines about “the ghost of Gary Glitter,” you could get lost for days in his words. I purchased a copy of his book of lyrics too incidentally which added immeasurably to my admiration of him as an artist. The music on this particular album feels a lot more like a fully engaged band rather than a musical muse or vibe being created by a consortium of friends (not a criticism at all, there’s always something going on with Current 93.) His willingness to cede the microphone to a guest, his vocals mirrored by a female voice, the addition of guitar work straight out of Seventies’ space rock, the piano led core to many of the pieces…There’s something akin to jazz at work here and it results in a looser and more conversational release, a different way of getting lost in sound.

Therapy? “Troublegum” (3xCD Reissue)
No debate, this has always been one of my favourite albums – there’s not a weak track on it, it hammers through the first three songs in easily chant-able, easily quotable line-after-line, then hits a fresh high with the relatively mellow Stop it You’re Killing Me then chart ‘hits’ Nowhere and Die Laughing. It says a lot about the band’s confidence that they could afford to stick their best shots at success in the run up to the album’s mid-point – it’s because they were oozing quality at this moment in time; like the Sex Pistols’ one album, inspiration is unstoppable. Pop tones deployed over punk guitars and metal heaviness, the sudden breaks to daylight relief from the sheer force of the songs – few remnants of alternative rock was this pristine, sharp and well-honed. Naturally I wondered whether it was worth buying the reissue just to hear a polished up 2014 take on an album I already own but that’s a further point in favour of this release, a full two discs of extras that, for once, serve to deepen awareness of how ‘on it’ this band were at that point in time. Ten remixes (or alternative mixes) of varying interest – but working with this kinda quality it’s hard to miss; thirteen non-album songs none of which move far from the album’s chosen template but that’s no shame if one wants high-adrenalin speed and thrash; four demo versions each of which has noteworthy tweaks compared to the final editions; six live tracks – it’s a generous blitz of worthy material, none of this tacked on live album, tacked on radio session approach. It’s an indication of how ‘giving’ this release is that four of the live/demo tracks are of non-album songs just to deepen awareness of those extras – nice touch. Hard to take issue when a near perfect album is backed up with thirty-four worthwhile cherry-picked bonus tracks and all for a very reasonable price. Therapy? Are still out there, rolling on, still fun, still listenable – this was a pleasure. And it includes Potato Junkie’s immortal chorus line “James Joyce is fucking my sister,” sheer poetry!

The Weeknd “Kissland”
I shouldn’t like this guy, the misogynistic side of hip hop is just so tedious, listening to powerless youngsters prattle on about their talent for sexual exploitation when every resulting song makes very clear they’re copping notes from online videos and are unlikely to have touched a real woman, let alone a conquest of quality and equality worth bragging about…But then the Weeknd makes the ludicrousness of it all so visible. It’s rare to find a lyricist who manages to write with such duplicity, his every triumph his matched by visible self-loathing, self-disgust, shame, embarrassment – he makes hip hop’s fixation on purchasing female flesh look as pathetic as it should. And in amidst it, such a sound! His keening voice matches these sombre tales perfectly, he finds lines that linger in the mind less because of the wording and more the way he expresses them. The production is what first lured me in, a taste for hauntology (think, The Caretaker, Ghost Box), for eerie synths and echoing voices, for deployment of dark spaces amid the music – it’s all here, in many ways there’s little marking these songs as pop music. There’s plenty of intelligence on display here, the way the opening track breaks two and a half minutes in to suddenly reveal that what, to many artists, would be an entire song, was merely an intro. Hymns apparently spoken to strippers and escorts blur into confessional statements about his own status as an artist, as a man in a certain milieu, his own inability to step away from it all despite his supposed power and wealth. It’s a beautifully revealing album, a twist on the tedious R Kelly level skill but no heart or soul approach. Heck, it raises the point that how can any man this dependent on women (buying them, speaking of them, boasting about prowess with them), so sensitive to them that he has to carry this much discomfort and need to take out anger on them, be anything other than an injured child with a mummy complex? Great to hear it played out artfully rather than through the usual grossness.

The Space Lady “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits”
Serendipity. Once a month, once every couple of months I stroll along with a clutch of CDs, DVDs, vinyl and hand them over at Record & Video Exchange at Notting Hill Gate – always for exchange, never cash. Sad as this may seem but on a day where I can’t get my spirit up, where a touch of blue is draped across my thoughts, I find standing in this store therapeutic, flipping through the cards listing what they’ve got in, calculating potential purchases against my pocket of R&VE vouchers, measuring the potential interest of a rare Earth live recording against that of a five track Skullflower EP and so forth. I made it there hungover once and ended up dehydrating in the store – I had to hand everything to the staff to look after and ramble down the street to get water before I could return and resume. Anyways, where was I? Oh yes…I’m in the store browsing, final purchase to be made, I find this bizarre black and white slipcase featuring a woman in a Viking helmet playing a keyboard on an unknown street – what the heck, worth a shot, cheap too. I’m going to her website today to purchase a copy direct (http://www.thespacelady.net/) to make sure the money goes direct to her. It’s a brisk release, two discs, 30-40 minutes on each, consisting of reinterpretations of well-known pop and rock songs mostly from the Sixties and Seventies – just her voice and a heavy synthesiser tone. Beautiful. She brings out the mystical vibe, the sorrow, the poignancy of songs like Major Tom or Ghost Riders in the Sky in ways I’d never recognised. Her voice is used effectively, matches the inventiveness of the playing, the shift from artificial vibes to classical performance back to revealing the electronic aspects of the instrument. Reading the inlay and hearing that these songs came about because working as a street musician is how this individual chose to live and feed herself and family adds a personal touch that I find appeals far more than supporting some perky millionaire with a machine feeding them material.

Mogwai “Rave Tapes”
Finally! Hey, nice to see you, pull up a chair – crack a beer, come on in, how’ve you been? It’s been a while! God it is nice to encounter a Mogwai album that doesn’t make me shrug and remember how awe-inspiring I found them when first faced with the brilliant string of Young Team, 4 Satin EP, Ten Rapid, EP+, Come on Die Young…Then again, they’ve never entirely gone away, there have always been inspirational moments – the My Father My King EP, the Government Commissions compilation, the Night Moves live CD/DVD, the Les Revenants soundtrack…It’s just, around that, there’s been so much lacking. Songs going nowhere, the stereotypical moves of post-rock (surge and relax, circle down the plug hole to conclusion), the major albums have seemed so polite, like counting off time for another Mogwai album rather than having much to really express. Rave Tapes isn’t a revolution – it doesn’t have to be, it just sounds simultaneously relaxed and rejuvenated, fresh horses, some grit back in the gears.

Mesektet “Towards a Bleak Sun”
Egyptian tomb imagery, similarly themed track titles, murmuring echoes and wordless incantations – yep, dark ambient is definitely in the house and the house has moved to the Nile. Having been down the Nile and having seen the sites (I recommend it if you’re going to do only one big trip in your life go see – I went soon after the revolution, this is a poor nation where the everyday people could use the cash in a way it’s hard to imagine when sat in London, you’re perfectly safe too – just go with a reputable tour group because you’ll benefit from the added local knowledge and guidance) I can say that such experience doesn’t add anymore to the album, Mesektet is simply a very controlled and well-executed set of drone pieces, perfect in and of themselves. Naturally if you want to muse on empty tombs and hot sand edging around temple ruins it doesn’t hurt. It’s a warm sound, fills a room, erases the random distracting noises of the everyday in favour of this blanket of fluctuating and developing tones – a comforting sound.

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) “Soused”
Tight records are the way to go – having a seventy minute CD doesn’t mean one should fill it whatever pressure there is now to cram on more tracks as if that means value. It doesn’t, an album should hit in that 40-50 minute range because that’s a length a human attention span can digest and a musician can make cohesive and coherent without becoming repetitious. It’s very rare something longer can sustain a peak – it seems as the CD format becomes less significant, as vinyl makes a slight return, the inclination in recent years has been to pull back toward vinyl-length releases that hit that sweet spot and don’t out stay their welcome. In rock’s outer realms, I’ve got less problem with stretching sound out to the nth degree – but here these guys keep it on a leash with the result that it whipped by and I had to rewind, repeat once – twice – three times at least…And stayed hooked. Sunn O))) are generous collaborators willing to merge into other’s conceptions – not something every musician can do. Here Scott Walker’s team rule the roost and that’s absolutely fine given the result is this oppressively smoky darkness. There’s not much light here but, when used, it’s shattering – ornate vocals and soaring anthemic guitars cut off too soon to head toward prog. The tracks stand more as accompaniments to Walker’s lyrics than instrumental pieces on their own, they feel like a backdrop to his musing which I admit I’ve still not really got my head around…But that’s OK, an interesting journey amid cracks of friction that kept me hooked.

Sam Kazakgascar “Greetings from Beautiful…”
A total pitch – go to latherrecords.com and risk a few dollars on this. I’d been in touch with the gentleman Jed Brewer and he’d sounded proud – then I heard it and had to drop everything and write back to tell him how right he was. Production handled by Tony Cale? Goddamn they kept that quiet… When musicians talk of giving something an ‘eastern’ feel it’s often some faux orientalism that never amounts to more than a single song diversion – this lot have immersed themselves in a particular style, without falling into any kind of cliché, taking the time and developing the skills needed to take sound on a journey. There’s a concept in here somewhere regarding Sam, the post-apocalypse Mad Max figure but with a lot more humour and smiles.

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http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/dec/04/courtney-love-kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck-documentary

Just a link from the Guardian regarding where editorial control is resting with the project – in the hands of the director with advice where required or solicited, which seems pretty darn reasonable all round doesn’t it? I’m good! I don’t mind who gets to give their thoughts so long as it’s clear and stated aboveboard which it has been.

My musings are elsewhere. There’s been a lot of focus on “rare music!” “Unseen footage!” “Art from the vaults!” “Unseen writings!” That’s led fans (and the media to be fair) into a bit of a frenzy of excitement over what may/may not exist and what may/may not be seen within the film. I admit i’m not sweating on that score. Why not?

Well, it’s a film. Sure, I don’t doubt there’ll be fleeting images and sounds that entice and intrigue – no doubt at all given how clearly statements in that regard have been made (while still keeping the big unveil of precisely what for another time.) A film, however, can only deliver so much. My expectation is scanning shots across a few canvas or installations in no intense detail, brief clips of old handheld footage from the pre-fame life then more professional stuff post-1991 but with nothing left to play longer than 15-20 seconds, music down low in the background behind commentary then flaring up momentarily over silent footage before disappearing again. That’s not a jaundiced view, I’m not being cynical, it’s the nature of the medium – imagine how tedious a cinematic experience it’d be if it stapled together a full five-ten minutes of Kurt tinkering away in his wardrobe with an acoustic, if it played the entire home movie of “Kurt attends a family barbecue” (sheesh, does anyone even watch their own family home movies in their entirety?), if it just let live footage run ad infinitum…I might watch it on YouTube or play that in the background but it wouldn’t form a crafted work that I’d wish to see in a cinema, or that would drag people back after a five minute home ad break.

A valid cinematic experience isn’t the same as an interactive archive or museum piece – I’m pretty sure I’m saying nothing controversial here. Brett Morgen has a quality record when it comes to creating film that has momentum and pace; again, those elements that stop an audience getting restless across a ninety minute/two hour documentary, mitigate against anything being left to run to conclusion so what the hardcore collectors are gaining here is glimpses, snatches, teasers to material residing in the ‘vault.’ Think more that brief glimpse at “Stinking of You” during the “Hit So Hard” documentary rather than the full songs performed on “Live! Tonight! Sold Out!” Different intentions, the latter was a live clip reel.

My focus, instead, is on the narrative – the ‘plot’ if you will – of the film that’ll arrive next year. This is where my curiosity lies given it’ll be the dominant foreground which the background sound (music), background visual (video/art/writing), excerpted statements (writing/lyrics) will serve and/or illustrate. This is where I’m wondering whether “Montage of Heck” might land a few surprises…

So, the declared format is (a) predominantly Cobain giving his own views and telling his own tale (b) a very limited number of crucial individuals such as Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic providing commentary or memory where needed. Fine and dandy! Cool! I’m wondering, of course, whether this is intended to be a celebration or an exploration and how revealing each individual or each surviving artifact might prove. For example, I’ve read quite a number of Cobain’s interviews – 250 to 300? More? And there’s only so much said because, understandably, no one says everything to a camera, to a tape machine, to a witness. The lost journal entries may fill in gaps but I’m not sure I expect Cobain to be wholly honest in any public source. That leads onto that celebration/exploration point. It doesn’t sound like it’ll be the hagiography that Tupac: Resurrection proved to be – I enjoyed that film but ye Gods, it really was an application for contemporary sainthood. It’s impossible to ask hard questions of a dead man and the surviving individuals whose cooperation was required were understandably unwilling to speak ill of the dead to camera. Given the necessity of getting and maintaining participation from people there’s a fair reason not to hammer anyone either – frankly it’s simply impolite too particular in something like a film about a cultural icon (which certainly does not carry the weight of the Watergate tapes or the Pentagon papers.)

Next, there’s my curiosity about whether the film will deviate from the well-established narrative that has been written and re-written since the authorised Nirvana bio in 1993 (Come as You Are by Michael Azerrad.) Essentially, the well-trodden path goes as follows; ‘tough childhood and legendary divorce, ambitious but still punk, surprise capitalist triumph met with discomfort, drug problems overrated and he wasn’t that bad, artistic resurgence and triumph, depression and shock ending for all concerned. The End.’ (Roll credits to maudlin piano-led rendition of a Cobain hit and some grainy footage or nature imagery fading into close-ups of the icon’s eyes.) If the film stays in that comfort zone then…Well…It’ll be nice to look at the short clips of art and video, to hear the short music clips and then to walk away having learnt nowt new of any consequence.

Brett Morgen, on the other hand, has promised a deeper glimpse at Cobain the ARTIST – if that’s been fully followed through on then that’d provide a potentially very enlightening and truly new approach. It would thread together Cobain’s childhood life in which he was surrounded by relatively musical and/or artistic relatives, where his father’s dismissal of those influences deemed ‘feminine’ (art, music, literature, contemplation) led him to take a side against his father’s definition of ‘masculine’ pursuits, would trawl for evidence of his teenager ambitions and desires in terms of pursuing the full spectrum of art (painting, collage, writing, video, drama, animation…Oh, and music too) then show how those elements blossomed in Cobain the young adult. This’d be a valuable shift away from the ‘soap opera’/biopic approach to an artist’s life story – a true focus on connecting up and tying their works into a lattice in which the mode of expression varied to fit the impulses or desires the individual was seeking to express. I’d be enthralled to see this less controversial, more unified, more complete vision of Cobain brough to the fore.

Even if that dramatic revision is not the approach, or forms only part of the approach, again I’ll come back to the point that there are numerous points of unclarified curiosity about the Cobain tale which would be intriguing to learn. Sad to say but I would be curious to learn precisely how many times (and for how long) Cobain was in rehab between 1992 and 1994 as it would either reinforce the extent to which he sought to fight his drug issues, or indicate that he didn’t feel much need to except when forced – each alternative would bring fresh clarity and a very different understanding of his last years. Similarly, disentangling his medical challenges would be welcomed given I think it’s fair to say even Charles Cross didn’t full explain them – Cobain’s narcolepsy was a cover story for when he kept nodding off in interviews, yes? No? He really did have curvature of the spine and it was/wasn’t treated or affecting him? The stomach issues weren’t actually resolved despite statements to the contrary (given he speaks of his burning nauseous stomach in the April ’94 note? I guess I sometimes want to ask “What Was Eating Kurt Cobain?” in that regard. The establishment of a clearer narrative of Cobain’s final year would also be beneficial; was there any truth to the divorce rumour? Did Krist or any other member of Nirvana believe they’d broken up in early March 1994 or was it really perceived as simply a pause in the band’s ongoing progress – what did they feel was going on? And did Cobain indicate at any point prior to departure for Europe that he didn’t want to go on tour or was it only as the tour progressed that fatigue (and drugs) and discomfort got the better of him? Understanding if the much vaunted ‘jam’ from November/December 1993 that was revisited during the Robert Lang sessions was actually a scrap of a song the band or Cobain had practiced any more fully would also be rather a welcome detail given it’d then become the second to last ‘new’ Nirvana song (Do Re Mi is not a Nirvana song just to clarify.)

Looking earlier in Cobain’s career it’d be quite the commentary to show precisely how poor he was in his late teens through early twenties – I’ve never found it much of a surprise that he should end up with dietary issues and so forth given a brief tour round the Pacific North West left me thinking “damn…This guy lived in shacks…” I met one guy who bumped into Cobain who was tossing an apple up and down in his hand. It turned out the apple was the only food he had been in possession of for about two-three days but he said he was “saving it until I’m really hungry.”

Anyways, there we go. That’s my primary speculation; (What’s the Story of) Morgen’s Glory? I’m intrigued to find out.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-unlikely-birth-of-no-seattle-forgotten-sounds-of-the-north-west-grunge-era-1986andndash97/Content?oid=21140720

A fun piece from Seattle’s The Stranger – I think I was in a funny mood that morning given some of the stuff I come out with. Essentially just me rambling about the Soul Jazz No Seattle release a bit more in a chirpy way.

Only issue I can raise is that, as far as I’m aware, Soul Jazz weren’t particularly ‘hooked’ by the Nirvana link – it wasn’t something I raised early in the process, they were more into the idea of uncovering the ‘underside’ of a scene. They’re more about scenes and sounds than personalities, soap opera and single super stars. That’s part of their appeal really.

Also a wicked interview with Daniel Riddle – quality fella, quality musician – talking about his various creative endeavours, definitely check him out!

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/12/03/a-brief-interview-with-daniel-riddle-of-hitting-birth-the-best-band-on-no-seattle-comp

There’s a kneejerk tendency among certain groups of Nirvana fans to cuss the name of Courtney Love. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that I don’t share that inclination. Why? Well, essentially, as someone wishing to hear more of the musical works of Kurt Cobain, as someone wishing to see more of his wider artistic efforts – Courtney Love is the keeper of the keys to the vault. I don’t feel she’s been any more or less a good custodian than Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Universal – nor do I feel in a position to criticise given I don’t possess, nor do I know anyone who possesses, experience of the intricate process of managing the legacy of an individual across decades.

The involvement of Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain in Brett Morgen’s film should be a source of encouragement for those hoping for the chance to hear more of Cobain’s work. The crucial point is to differentiate between NIRVANA’s work and COBAIN’s work. Nirvana was a group entity that interpreted and enacted Cobain’s creative will. The data on record regarding their studio sessions indicates there’s a bare handful of songs as yet unreleased, entirely other takes of songs we’ve already heard. From a very early stage in the posthumous process they were forced to dig into non-studio rehearsal tapes and boombox work without emerging with many true revelations; a jam here, an unreleased instrumental there, sketch songs lightly buttered over the top. Krist Novoselic’s past comment on the paucity of unheard Nirvana material seems accurate to me – the group released the vast majority of what it recorded. Nirvana were deeply economical when in studio; it was rare they even laid down b-side material at the same session as their album. In the early years it was simply because they couldn’t afford extensive recording sessions, the later years, meanwhile, were such a rush that there was barely time to record. While there’s undoubtedly still a pool of other mixes, other versions, slightly tweaked efforts of known songs sitting around somewhere – there’s been nothing since 2004 to dispel the notion that the cupboard is bare of any fresh You Know You’re Right moment.

The next potential source of truly unheard material would be to head toward Cobain’s juvenilia. Sure, the Fecal Matter tapes have now secured a legendary status, but then there’s still whatever earlier teenage sketches remain buried, plus anything laid down on tape prior to the commencement of the first recognisable iteration of Nirvana in late 1986. The turnover of Nirvana songs in these early years was remarkable – Cobain was prolific, the Easter 1986 recording of Fecal Matter carried over barely a song and a half to the earliest known efforts of ‘Nirvana’, then the January 1988 sessions gave way to an almost entirely different selection of songs by December 1988 when Bleach was recorded. That’s rapid work, a dozen songs at a time introduced and dispensed with. Depending on whether that apparent pace was in effect prior to Easter 1986, there’s potentially more to be seen there. Depending on how many ideas didn’t make it to Nirvana sessions maybe there’s more from 1987-1988 too. After that I doubt there’s much going sketched but unrecorded.

This is where the Courtney Love factor comes into play. While Nirvana, as a group, barely created any new music between 1992-1994, it’s unclear the extent to which Kurt Cobain did or did not continue to prepare private material. It’s also uncertain to what extent he recorded privately with Courtney. These are the primary sources from whence unfamiliar and unknown material could conceivably emerge. During the two-and-a-half years of Cobain’s fame he spent barely thirty days in the studio with Novoselic and Grohl including the abandoned April 1992 sessions, abandoned October sessions, one week playing at Pachyderm Studios for In Utero then one week mixing, only turning up for one day in January 1994…And between February 1992 and October 1993 he was barely ever on a stage…This guy was at home (or wherever he happened to be living at the time) and it’s the home recordings that could potentially indicate whether those years were ones in which he continued expressing musically, or whether he moved away from music toward video, art, family and unconsciousness. I don’t know the answer. But I do feel I expect more ‘new’ to come from Courtney than from something like the rumoured ‘Bathtub is Real’ tape recorded with Tobi Vail. While I’d be intrigued to hear what’s there I suspect no more than sketches of Nevermind-era songs.

Does that mean I’m forecasting some weighty quantity of well-drawn acoustic pieces? Some kinda Nick Drake style reassessment of Cobain’s abilities with an acoustic guitar? Nope. Let’s be fair, Cobain was disinterested in, and dismissive of, sophisticated instrumental technique – I expect the endearing and appealing sloppiness he often exhibited live (or on the existing home demos from 2004’s With the Lights Out) to be to the fore. Similarly, do I expect him to be blowing his vocal cords out when playing at home in a closet? Nope, the pieces seen so far are far more restrained – but, again, that isn’t a bad thing, just different. I’d suspect much of what exists will be unstructured, not really worked up given how much of Nirvana’s In Utero work in Rio and Pachyderm stemmed from thin ideas around which the band ad-libbed and jammed up some real quality. As stated earlier, Nirvana were economical in studio and I believe that’s reflective of Cobain’s general approach – don’t polish and re-polish a piece in private unless it’s intended to go somewhere. Given how short on songs the band were by the end of 1992/start of 1993 I’d be surprised if he had much in his back pocket that he wasn’t placing on the table for Nirvana’s full band consideration. That draws the eye to the post-In Utero era, again, it’ll be curious to hear what occurred in that final year…But there’s not much time for miracles with October-December plus February spent on tour. Let’s see shall we? Courtney has the keys…She was there.