Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Are the rumours true? Are the Sex Pistols really playing at Live 8, the totally unnecessary sequel to Live Aid? If so, it's time to pack the suitcases and move to Mars.

There's a new magazine starting up Down Under very soon, tentatively titled Secret... or is that What We Do Is Secret? I'm pretty sure it's the former. I mean, pfft, Germs references in magazine or record-label titles, that is so 2001. The young gents behind this potentially commericially suicidal venture will be making it a free mag, printing up 5,000 copies for the debut then upping it to 10,000 thereafter, distributing it nationally, scouring their money from lots of ads and, in their own words, hoping to make an intelligent alternative to Vice magazine and the woeful excuses for journalism which litter the free weeklies nationwide (and don't get me started on them). Sounds like an honourable pursuit to me, so I've thrown in my two cents with a Gary Floyd interview rounded up by a Dicks/Big Boys piece (which will probably just plunder the half-dozen or more articles I've written on those bands in the last 10 years), and my pal Richard is diving into the deep end by conducting an interview with the Saints' Chris Bailey (which I was originally offered, though my fear of Bailey's legendary crankiness had me handballing it to Rich, who was only too happy to take it on). Secret needs you. If you wanna help, drop me a line at

Due to my work situation changing, I now have unlimited daily access to the discographies of such labels as Document, Yazoo, Shanachie, Folkways, Proper, Ocora, Hat Hut, Touch, Trikont and, yes, ECM. I'm going nuts. In between diving headfirst into doo-wop box sets (really... when it's good, it's good), Russian medieval chants, North African trance music, (almost) the entire recorded works of Augustus Pablo and every Kentucky fiddle music and Roscoe Holcomb CD I can lay my hands on, there's always a pleasant surprise thrown one's way. This has been mine the last week...

BARRE PHILLIPS - Mountainscapes CD (ECM, 1976)
Who'da thunk this'd blow my head off? ECM, let it be known, is actually a label I have tremendous respect for. However, out of its massive discography there is, if truth be told, very little I would rate as being "my bag", such items being that spectacular Circle 2-LP set from the '70s, some early Terje Rypdal, Krakatau (astonishing early-'90s guitar-led outfit helmed by Raoul Bjorkenheim, Norway's answer to Sonny Sharrock/Rudolph Grey), Art Ensemble, a few Evan Parker and Don Cherry CDs, the odd Arvo Part disc and a few other things I can't recall right now, but this gem has thrown me for a tailspin.
Barre Phillips is a veteran bass player in the European scene; he's done the stretch from fairly straight jazz to Brotzmann ensembles right through to a Keiji Haino duet CD released years back on PSF (or was it Incus?). Why did I put this on? Why not? It was sitting there, it's from '76 when ECM still had its hand dipped firmly in the avant-jazz scene, and my ears had a spare 45 minutes to kill. With a typical '70s cast including the likes of John Surman and John Abercrombie on sax and guitar, respectively, and a Mr. Dieter Fiechtner on synthesizer, there's nary a hint of pleasant Northern European chamber jazz in sight. Track one (all tracks - 8 of them - are simply numbers) blasts straight for the orbit, screeching horns, outer-space keyboards and Phillips scraping and scratching away on his bass strings. Throughout the next 7 numbers the music jumps in a dozen different directions, from abstract soundwaves to rollicking, skittering guitar skronk to almost Gong/Hawkwind/Krautrock-like cosmic-jazz, and every time I hear it - and I'm listening to it right now - it reminds me of those killers discs you accidentally stumble across every once in a while, albums which make you want to ring up a friend and tell about your discovery. Man, I though I was over that kinda shit years ago, but I found myself doing exactly that with Mountainscapes just this week.

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