Summer Short Listen Now
Recent listening August 2006

Where do the summers go? I’ve no sooner settled into some kind of laid back routine before it’s time to go back to work and I start thinking about all the things I haven’t done – writing for Tangents being one of them.

Recent listening has been fraught with difficulty: the lounge is being decorated so half the time the stereo is under dustsheets, the CDs are still in boxes from the move at Easter, and  last week the Rotel amp kicked its clogs off and I had to buy a substitute. So most of my listening has been to recently downloaded live music on a boombox in the study. Which is, incidentally, under the roof and has been a warm mid-80s temperature-wise for most of the summer.

But meanwhile some things have drifted my way which deserve your attention, including a whole bunch of Captain Beefheart reissues from Virgin. It’s de rigeur to knock the Captain’s late work and point listeners to the past glories of Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off Baby, not to mention the early freakouts of Safe as Milk, and it has to be said that the overproduced schlock of Bluejeans & Moonbeams and Unconditionally Guaranteed are best avoided. They are Beefheart at his worst. Whether you blame him or the record company is neither here nor there, the magic has gone.

But the trio of Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow are superb. In fact the last of these is one of my favourite Beeheart releases ever. Deranged electric blues, weird rock, chewed-gravel vocals and electric mayhem  this is what we want! The reissue even includes the instrumental that was only on the b-side 12-inch. Hurrah! Shiny Beast and Doc are almost as good. Play them loud and listen to that wordplay, that music that threatens to fall apart at any moment, but walks the tightrope right to the very end. Sheer genius!

Live in London – Drury Lane 1974 has finally made it to an official release, too. One of the most widely circulated bootlegs of the Captain it’s a great rough-edged stomp through some favourites and otherwise, with ‘Abba Zabba’ being a standout track. Thank goodness the Captain’s legacy is being nurtured now he’s an artist recluse in the desert…

Pinski Zoo walk a dangerous line between free jazz and jazz funk. On previous records they’ve had some glorious wigout splutters, but they’ve also been utterly ignorable as the beat goes on      and on     and on. On After Image they’ve finally made the record they’ve always threatened and meant to [although their first ever release Introduce Me to the Doctor is a neglected classic]. A double live, with two bass players it presents a musical cats cradle, with instruments weaving in and out, over and along the relentless and catchy rhythms. There are moments of dense quiet, big noise, ensemble crescendo and busy musical argument. Congratulations to Slam for capturing the beast.

The Sound are also captured live on the Dutch Radio Recordings series, five live CDs released by renascent. Simply but intriguingly packaged with a replica poster, flyer or ticket inside, the CDs cover the period 1981-1985, with a concert each year. The no-nonsense presentation suits the straightforward rock on show here. Whilst there is energy and anger, along with some superb keyboard and guitar work, the music adds nothing to the studio legacy. One for fans only.

More interesting is Safehouse 1, the first release by Safehouse, an experimental music collective based in Poole, who have selected the best of their improvisations over the last few years and formed their own record label Safe. With nine members you’d expect a bit of a racket, but the ensemble are notable for their restraint and commitment to texture and melody – this is no bunch of plinky plonk racketeers, this is assured, intriguing new improvised music.

Bruce Cockburn’s Life Short Call Now is one of his best releases for a while, which finds him in a fairly mellow musical mood. For once there are none of the rather tiresome spoken rants over slightly-ethnic instrumentals (although there is one appalling track with a over-reaching falsetto…), this is more of a return to the observations and love songs of classic era Humans and Inner City Front, although there’s little of the toughness of those albums to be found. This is mature, accomplished music, which if a little staid and over-accomplished, still makes for great listening.

And finally a new band to me, and probably you: Mutemath. If you imagine Appliance [remember them?] crossed with early Police, you might come up with this band. Their debut CD, currently available only from their website, is all angular guitars, keyboards and samples with the occasional languid backbeat creeping in. The thirteen tracks here include some short snazzy instrumentals as well as longer songs, which all intrigue and are highly enjoyable. I’ve even forgiven them for using a keyboard guitar, which features on their t-shirt. I predict big things for this American band, so listen to them soon.

© Rupert Loydell 2006