Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Train station spotter – East London line relaunches

So they finally reopened it yesterday, with Boris and the usual misplaced multiculti larks. That gave me something to get up for on my day off. It’s now serving New † and New † Gate from Dalston Junction, with extension to ‘my’ stations Brockley and Honor Oak and onwards to Crystal Palace next month. But my focus would be on the new stations on the north side, which co-incidentally was their focus as there has been virtually no work on the southside stations, with most of the infrastructure work concentrating on track and the Canal Junction complex north of New Cross.

Was this the first one out of the sidings to pick up travellers? It proudly says so.

‘Vice to Dalston Junction’ – yeah that’s the stories I heard too.

But then I get there: Dalston, East London. This is the place. How come everyone is so cool? I’m on Dalston Lane just up from the old Labrynth which my rave nostalgia tick obliges me to mention. The station facades would carry on in this vein, clean lines of orange on metal cladding and a bit underwhelming, in contrast to the large-scale subterranean protusions of the Jubilee Line stations.


Haggerston. Most people in London have never heard of this area. I’d always associated it with the big Turkish mosque off Kingsland Road, and wasn’t it where Sid Vicious and mum spent much of their smacktime? The station is next to the pleasant Stonebridge Gardens.

Inside was a revival of the civic mosaic walling you’d see in underpasses or on the way to sports centres, and a space mural with a nice sense of perspective. And the view looks south to the city.



Down to Hoxton station, although with the station off Cremer Street on the east side of Kingsland Road near the Geffyre is that technically Hoxton? This was the quietest of the stations by far. The lads at Cremer Business Centre were happy to let me snap the graffiti murals, including this one of the lass leaving her astro-man and some others inside the complex.


This is looking up Shoreditch High Street as it comes into the stop of the same name.

Awareness of this area’s profile means this station has had the most money thrown at it. Like Hoxton and Haggerston it reuses old overhead train lines (beats filling it with grass and calling it a park) and although the immediate area is cosmetically clad in modern concrete with indented lines it looks like the only thing it shares with the old Bishopsgate Goods Yard station is its elevation, making discarded sections look like genuine ruins. How it joins up with the old east London Line to go onto Whitechapel is not clear at the moment (I never used the old Shoreditch station).



Whitechapel was the busiest station, as it connects just as it used to with the district and metropolitan lines. But I ended my snapping here as the mission was to get the new stations.

No doubt it will be a quiet start for the new ELL in terms of users of the service - most other travellers today were spotters with cameras like myself and a few curious tourists pleased to be riding clean trains – so expect a few white elephant stories in London media. But I don’t doubt this scheme will pay off as people make use of the easier connections between southeast and east London:
Care to comment?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where the wise people go

The venue under the arches had been getting more packed each week, but they still kept on coming in bigger numbers. Once so empty and dingy that it could only be used on period film sets, the place had quietly been regenerating itself. Now it was heaving and everybody wanted a piece of the new thing. Tourists and locals, posh and poor, mingled happily, even the early adopters of the scene seemed happy to share the knowledge. That’s what I liked about the place, people talking loudly about what they’d had and what it did to them in a co-operative spirit of open source information (as long as their go-to man had plentiful stock). They did this mainly because they were all walking round in a liberated and beatific haze having been able to feed their head. Sure, the prices seemed high at times for the goods, but the variety of stuff on offer just boggled the mind. I overheard a trio of excited girls talking about how ‘that’s how they do it in Marrakech’ and ‘that’s where you go to get the real stuff’, so I knew what we were getting here was not the authentic vibe but close enough to it to mean something. Tens of thousands of people at each session, their senses gladly violated, couldn’t be wrong.

Before I was forced to stop to a walking pace and actually check the place out due to the crowds I never knew people could stake so much happiness on eating. But Borough Market, and the foodie tribe who come to perform their indulgent rituals here, corrected that misapprehension and affirmed that this was one of the best experiences a modern consumer could get.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gang Starr's Guru R.I.P

The first news came on Thursday night but Tom and I, both fans, were out in inebriated twatmode so ignored the elliptic text-as-lyric - 'lemonade is a popular drink and it stil is' - but gamely filled in the rest of the couplet with 'I've got more props and stunts than bruce willis'. When I found out properly about Guru's death from myeloma cancer it was a chastening moment, and as a fan if not fanatic of the group's work over several albums (I even bought, and enjoyed at the time of admittedly fairly preference for flakey funk, Jazzmatazz) I want to at least record my thoughts here, unlike with McClaren's passing which was comprehensively missed. But then Gang Starr's work means more to me than that of the artful ex-Pistols manager and in the BBC doc it was acknowledged that the music in some ways was the least of the things you take from the Pistols. Guru and Premo combined the former's stentorian delivery with fresh beats and great use of jazz samples to produce several stone cold classics over three or four decent albums. They deserve their place in the rap pantheon, so linked is the video for every G Starr song and below are a couple of personal faves.

Who`s Gonna Take The Weight? No mistake, wild pitch scratching was the new J.A.Z.Z thing, with 'Consciousness' too. From Step Into the Arena.

That lyric was off Dwyck, and that is still one of my favourite moments in hip-hop, as strong as any from the 'golden era'. Nice and Smooth on the guest mic, clean but forceful Premo production powered by low-end bass.

And the keys-laden', melancholic Mass Appeal, like Dwyck on Hard to Earn.
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'Vastly overrated'


The NME informs of exclusive unseen pictures of Bongo and the Hedge's band U2 from days. Here, this serves as no more than a cue to dig out comments from Nick Kent, former rock narcissist in the age of dinosaur journalism, in the context of an Independent article on the Glastonbury line-up (and the promotion of his book, i guess):
'U2 were crap when they began and are still vastly overrated and are one of the reasons why rock music is in such a pitiful state. When groups such as Muse and U2 are the most popular bands in the world, that is really shocking to me'.
Philandrew Kershaw likened them to a 'big bag of wind' too. After their historic Glstnbry performances, expect a collab between Snoop and U2 in the usual laughable spirit of corporate diversity.
Care to comment?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earl Brutus back for more in new form

You may have read that Earl Brutus will have reformed and are headlining a stage at Glastonbury. Great news of course, but not entirely accurate as my friend George Phillips, drummer in their final incarnation and at their last-ever chaos at Hammersmith WMC, explains: 'We are called THE PRE NEW. We've been billed at Glastonbury as Earl Brutus which is a mistake although we will be doing several Brutus and World of Twist tunes along with some new stuff.'

The line-up is Jamie Fry, Gordon King, Shinya Hayashida (all from Earl Brutus/World of Twist) Laurence Bray and George, who drummed with the Bunnymen/Electrafixion on a US tour with Bowie, recorded with the Reids' sister band Sister Vanilla and Tompaulin and was last seen in bands such as The November Five, The Rules and Flick Everett.

George, who was as delirious (like Nick would have been) as I was devastated over this, added that the Pre New will do warm-up gigs at The Dublin Castle in May and the 1234 Shoreditch festival on 24 July, with Scotland's Wicker Man Festival as a possible.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Mix plug


My bout of extreme indulgence, and a three-week break from posts, is over with the completion, brass section please, of the latest mix. Copies are being burnt, the artwork (in-Design with a bit of P-Shop help from Tom) printed and the product posted out to mates. Partner and children perhaps breathe a sigh of relief as I return to something like participation in family life.

From the outset the aim was to get as many tunes on as possible – I wanted 40, ie – one every couple of minutes, but found it impossible to apply that to every tune so had to settle at 31. As late discoveries demanded inclusion (Actress, Addison Groove, Evelyn Evelyn) there was the usual brutal finale where established favourites and erstwhile dead certs failed to fit a coherent pattern and ended casualties of the 80-minute limit. Technically I finally eschewed any ‘real’ mixing via the mixer at all – feeding .wav versions of all the digital files into the archaic Sound Studio with Midi recordings of the vinyl, and blending thereafter. Although the purist me in says this is a continuous sound mix and should be one file, I took on previous groans that this format was not so-user friendly for those who like to flick-through and broke it up into four sections, usually with ambient or piano tunes.

It has its dance moments at the start but then varies in tone, mood and intention. The usual generic inconsistency (hauntologic in Moon Wiring Club straight into hypnagogic in Neon Indian) meets oscillation between old and the new (LFO and even FSOL get in there, although the latter’s offering, discovered in a Pinnacle clear-out box on a promo for their Archives stuff which I’m not sure was ever released, is dare I say proto-dubstep). But conflicting sounds were placed together for a reason. Doing a mix like this is a pleasure because it leads me to old vinyl and CDs as well as the Most Played from the last several months’ additions to the iTunes library. It’s a snapshot of that process rather than any specific type of mix. Among the favourites are Ata Ebtekar’s dark homily Saint Homayon, Evelyn’s fairground-freak pastiche Campaign of Shock and Awe, Gum Takes Tooth’s nihilist rock-out Tannkjott, and the finale from Souvenir (from Tommy Touch’s 2002) Touch Tones 7-inch series.

I may eventually do a one-track version and upload to Soundcloud or post a Ram but you want the object in your hands. Email me with address if you want to feel and smell the polypropylene sleeve and glossy paper. But in the spirit of sonic curation here's four recent interesting mixes.
Blissblog’s Wyrd Bliss Mix:
Transpontine’s South East of the Thames Border Infection Mix:
Toys and Techniques’ Trade Test Colour Films Mix
A Guy Called Gerald Fact mix:
Care to comment?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Music coverage a bigger problem than mere lack of criticism

We recognise the lack of quality music criticism since the traditional press decided Everything is Great and the online community largely failed to take up a more objective role (this was never a mission statement of the blogs, but one would have expected more from the likes of Pitchfork, Fact, Quietus and so on, and not just cheap shots at the easy targets too). This has not developed solely because we have all become always tuned-in desperate hipsters, it reflects the much bigger issues of the decommoditisation and mass availability of music. If everything is free or at least cheap to buy and easy to get hold of, it looks like we have to suffer the correlative impact of a non-critical commentariat. Like, if no-one's making money out of this, let's at least give them a fair crack of the whip at getting their music heard and liked (and most online mags have direct links to where you can buy the stuff they review, further streamlining the process for the consumer).

There are great critics around online of course, but where once a writer could encapsulate his or her worldview from a deft feature on a band in the inkies, now our best talent is not content merely to restrict their aegis to music and therefore explicitly covers other fields as a priority. That's a good development for culture as a whole, but unfortunately it leaves the likes of Morley with too much lingering influence in music.

But the issue is not just about the need for more impartial reviewing - it concerns the quality of writing itself. We're often guilty in relying on the cliche or easy associative term as a lack of imagination to describe this immaterial object takes hold. Expect to see any number of these terms used in any bogstandard 'review' these days. Playing bingo, as another non-critical portal that came up with it suggests, is optional.
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