I hope you don't mind me writing, but I thought I'd drop you a line or two, seeing as your people send charming postcards keeping me updated on what you're up to. Sorry if this is a little public (though probably only a little bit public - remember the Secret Public, a cool Buzzcocks punk-age thing?).
I had intended starting facetiously by sending you a mock invoice, charging you for all the records I've squandered money on as a result of your enthusing. yet I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, if it wasn't for you, I may never have heard 'I Must Be Mad' by The Craig. Yes, from the early days of you raving about Tim Buckley, Love, Scott Walker to your Smash Hits heyday going on about Pere Ubu (can you see Oasis doing anything like that?) to your '60s garage/punk obsession through to all the Krautrock madness you have introduced me to more recently, it's been your infectious enthusiasm for music that's endeared you to me.
I have to confess I can't remember the last time I loved one of your records, but your books are brilliant, particularly the Krautrocksampler. Maybe more than any other pop book since 'The Boy Looked At Johnny' it's captured the spirit of pop and adventure and mystery. I believe very strongly that pop literature should be compact and direct. Certainly your few paragraphs on Cluster and Neu! are more likely to make me rush out and buy their music than some very pompous, all encompassing, sociological tract on why some Germans felt the urge to make mad music in the '70s.
Krautrocksampler really works because it's so positive and enthusiastic, and your timing was immaculate. We needed new directions to explore, and we needed a few pointers to help us on our way. Of course, it's inevitable that the resurgence of interest in Krautrock will create new clichés, but it's still given late '90s pop a new dimension.
As I implied, I have been dabbling in krautrock substances, taking tips from your text, and I have to say that you were pretty much spot on. I love Can's 'Ege Bamyasi' and the way on 'Delay' they evoke Martin Bramah and the Happy Mondays. I love what I've heard of Neu and Cluster, and Tangerine Dream's 'Journey Through A Burning Brain' really is amazing. I know I've only scratched the surface, but there's so much more around to catch up on.
Do you still listen to all of this music, Julian? Why not? I still listen to the mad stuff that was around when I was in my teens, especially the Pop Group, The Fall, Young Marble Giants, Pere Ubu, Fire Engines, Slits. Maybe one day I'll write a book on that time of adventure.
I know it's been said several times before, but having Krautrock available to explore is so welcome with the stranglehold of classic pop/rock squeezing the life out of much of today's music. I'm not a great fan, but I love the way Stereolab enthuse about all the odd strands of music, from your Krautrock to free jazz to Japanese noiseniks to French pop, giving us all new options, the way you always did.
So what about now? Did you spend last summer tracing the tributaries of La Funk Mob and the Wu Tang Clan? I know that you've got your family and your great causes, but that shouldn't preclude you from still sniffing out the latest action. How about the new groups accused of keeping the Krautrock faith, like Tortoise and Ui? No doubt, like me, you'd wonder what they've got in common with the Krautklassiks. More importantly Julian, these two groups perhaps take an idea or two from Neu or Can, but they take an idea from so many sources, which is the fun of it.
It's funny, but fun is not the fundamental thing associated with someone like Ui, but fun's what I had when I went to see Ui.
I am always on the look out for events a little out of the ordinary. It's what I thrive on. I've been to enough of the other to last me a lifetime. So, seeing that Ui were to be playing a free show in the Neals Yard Rough Trade basement, I decided on going. I am a great fan of this tradition, started by Jasmine Minks back in the day, and this is the way I found the Sea & Cake, but that's a different story.
So, a Saturday in the throes of Euro '96 euphoria, and I was looking for Ui to give as great a performance as England against Holland. Could Ui deliver? Their soulmates Tortoise having conclusively proved that live they could stretch things, but wit Ui being a rhythm trio it could be harder to be physical and wildly experimental.
I digress, so after looking at the blank sleeves of all the Ed Rush 12"s I can find, the rest of the Ui crew amble in and swiftly set up. How's it go? Total respect to the Ui for turning up and plugging in with a minimum of fuss. No soundcheck, no prolonged tuning. Hey ho, let's go. Imagine three science graduates from 1973 rather into the free end of jazz, and you have Ui's deliberate un-r'n'r dance stance. Aesthetically challenged, perhaps, but then as their slowstep drum'n'bass speaks volumes, there's no problem. One set of drums and two basses, and that's about as stripped down as it gets. I'm sure Delta 5 used to have two basses to obtain that punk/disco groove, and as Tim Gane has said, Ui are disco slowed right down. I suppose logistics dictated that there was no room for experiments, se we got the beats, rhythm and melodic shading. Sure, for those without imagination, Ui lack dynamics, but I felt every beat and note and it was as funky as fuck. It is all very well for people to just compartmentalise Tortoise and Ui, but they fit so well into the '90s frame of things. So Ui's take on drum'n'bass is closely allied to Squarepusher's bass excursions and Photek's 'Hidden Camera', and to DJ Shadow's rambles and Rza's collages. What I like about Ui is that there's a lot of talk and a lot of thought, and maybe the whole thing will become wilder and then something other. I'd recommend and defend the somewhat easy listening 'Sidelong' LP, but I hope they and other US acts will explore more.
Still, Ui were great and even finished in time to allow me to rush off to Charing Cross station in time to get my train home to catch the England v Spain tie which finished in style with Stuart Pearce vindicating the family's honour. Did you see the look on his face as he struck the ball, well Ui wore the same look as they coaxed their bass guitars onto further things.
So you see Julian, there was a song from our days which went "sorry for laughing, but there's too much happening", and I wouldn't want to miss out. I would love to see you down with us, lapping up the new French wave of beats and electronica or the dubcentric dabblings from the US. My real dream from the punk explosion was of a generation of intrepid explorers, moving ever onwards, never giving up and getting left behind. Don't tell me dreams ever end, Julian. Mine won't, believe me.