We Can Work From Home: TRACKS FOR THE WORK FROM HOME GENERATION

 © Jon Hopkins

By Oliver Hockings

Whether you’re crunching numbers from a cluttered office in a crowded apartment outside London, or burning the midnight oil from a dingy student bedroom, self-motivation has never been more taxing for the stay-at-home generation. If you’ve found yourself struggling to maintain focus or needing a kick into productive action, this list may have what you’ve been seeking. I’ve compiled tracks ranging from contemporary classical, through ambient, to the left-field corners of electronic music that have helped me through this difficult period when a black coffee and an impending deadline just isn’t cutting it! 

1. ‘Scene Suspended’ – Jon Hopkins

I first came across Jon Hopkins’ work on realising his role in coproducing much of Coldplay’s early albums (give ‘Light Through the Veins’ a spin if you need convincing!) and his close ties with Brian Eno. A personal favourite artist of mine from my years of discovering new music, Hopkins has, in my view, an unrivalled ability to blend truly beautiful classical melodies with hard-hitting and transcendental techno. His new ‘Polarity’ tour of opera houses across Europe, is a masterful demonstration of this ability to weave the seemingly paradoxical genres together and was the last gig I managed to catch before the pandemic called time on live music. ‘Scene Suspended’ is one of Hopkins more recent productions, firmly on the classical end of the spectrum and a perfect soundtrack when clarity of mind and focus is what you’re after. 

For fans of: Brian Eno, Biosphere

2. ‘Everything You Do Is A Balloon’ – Boards of Canada

You could do far worse than sticking any Boards of Canada album on shuffle if you’re in need of a late night grind at the desktop. I’ve opted however for one of the brother’s earliest tracks, from their 1996 EP ‘Hi Scores’ that I feel captures both a love of the vintage analogue synthesizer sound and catchy trip-hop beats. The EP as a whole perfectly represents the stripped back, lo-fi sound the duo have crafted over the years and is the perfect soundtrack for those more reflective moments of concentration.

For fans of: Autechre, The Future Sound of London

3. ‘Recovery’ – Rival Consoles

Leicester-born producer Ryan Lee West (Rival Consoles) has been a staple on the London-based Erased Tapes record label with a repertoire ranging from complex IDM and glitch, to harder club-orientated tracks. I first heard ‘Recovery’ played in a Boiler Room set from Italian electronic duo Mind Against back in 2015 when the track first released and I’ve not tired of it since. Expect an emotional backdrop of eerie synths accompanied by an erratic yet melancholy lead and a powerful yet subtle drum arrangement. This track is brain food at its finest!

For fans of: Kiasmos, Max Cooper 

4. ‘Styge’ (Ochre Remix) – Ed Chamberlain

The track that immediately springs to mind under the ‘braindance’ genre (if that’s not too pretentious a category), ‘Styge’ is an electro-infused composition that really encapsulates intelligent dance music. Dug up from the depths of the underground and given a delicate remix from Ochre, this 2008 version features the same warping ambience and complex drum patterns of the original, but the melody is complemented by a harp rhythm which gives the track a tranquil and relaxing tone overall. A fitting demonstration of how electronic music can be shaped for different environments and a must-have on your focus playlist.

For fans of: Four Tet, Skee Mask 

5. ‘Negative Returns’ (Four Tet Remix) – Krust 

Upping the tempo somewhat, Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) recent take on Kirk George Thompson’s ‘Negative Returns’ is exactly what you’d expect from the former artist. This remix is completely new territory for Hebden who has produced extensively but never released a remix in the 170+bpm range. Unsurprisingly however, for those familiar with Four Tet’s discography, the track is rearranged and mastered beautifully. It strips back the aggression and ‘noise’ of the original and leaves a delicate and floating liquid d’n’b track which hits those frequencies that really allow you to tune into what you’re doing. Expect emotional and ethereal synths paired with the sample selections we know and love, as well as something a little bit new when it comes to the drums. 

For fans of: Floating Points, Calibre

6. ‘Lone Swordsman’ – Daniel Avery

A favourite selection on Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC Radio 6 morning slot, ‘Lone Swordsman’ is a track from Daniel Avery’s ‘Dusting for Smoke’ EP released on Phantasy records last year. Avery’s track has a simple and contemplative feel befitting of its purpose as a homage to the late Andrew Weatherall, a true musical pioneer in acid house, rock and beyond. The lead melody is dainty and catchy and the accompaniment from the synth chords and drums is understated and yet exactly what this track demands. A real winner from an artist who continues to impress.

For fans of: Avalon Emerson, Leon Vynehall

7. ‘Love’ – Ben Lukas Boysen

Renown for crafting mesmerising soundscapes that owe much to an early mastering of sampling techniques, Boysen has made his name in sound design working alongside major clients in the advertising, film and gaming industry. This track from his 2020 release ‘Mirage’, available from Erased Tapes records, is a showcase of an exciting genre of avant-garde, experimental electronic music that draws on classical influences. It features a slow and emotional build-up of arpeggiated synths set to the backdrop of a string section reminiscent of a Nils Frahm production. Definitely one of the more dramatic tracks to feature on this list but one that captures an intricate genre that’s worth considering if you’ve always thought classical meant little more than Beethoven’s sixth symphony!

For fans of: Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, Plaid

8. ‘Fundamental Values’ – Nils Frahm

To wrap up this list we come to an artist who’s love of the black and white keys and modern twist on classical music has earned him global critical acclaim. While working with a true arsenal of equipment and scaling up to full blown orchestras in his live performances, Frahm’s compositions centre on a real appreciation and command of the piano. ‘Fundamental Values’ takes the listener on a mesmerising 14 minute journey. It begins with spritely, delayed synth patterns and slightly eerie chords before the piano comes in. The track is a testimony to Frahm’s ability to marry electronic minimalism and looping techniques with a dynamic and free flowing grand piano lead. The track slowly gathers momentum and drama as Frahm introduces and manipulates backing vocals before it enters its final phase in the last four minutes with high feedback on the synths and rapid percussive elements. A true masterclass in the ‘not quite classical’ bracket! 

For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Hans Zimmer

While these tracks may not be a definitive, catch-all solution to getting stuff done, hopefully they serve as a starting point for those unfamiliar with an interesting and burgeoning genre exploring the intersection between electronic music and new classical. Whether they end up being used as a backing playlist to work or study to, or simply tracks to look out the window and ponder the meaning of life at 2am is entirely up to you! 

bigfatbig Single Review: A masterclass in powerful indie songwriting, “Don’t Wanna Be Sad” is a bright, punchy exploration on glum existence

© bigfatbig, 2021

By Varun Govil

North-eastern rising indie-heads bigfatbig know how to make a charismatic, endearing track and never has it been more evident than on their latest single. While, truth be told, it has been a while since my jaded pretentious ears have taken to a youthful indie track, it was hard not to be swayed by the charm at display here. On Don’t Wanna Be Sad, the one word three-piece seem to have found all the ingredients necessary to cook up the summer sing-along anthem that even I can relate to: a heavy helping of fat instrumentals, a generous dash of self-assured vocals, and just the right amount of lyrics that hit close to home.

Undeniably, a large part of what makes the tune so iconic has to be the vulnerability at play. From the lyricism and songwriting to the band’s notable performances, you really get the sense that every moment on the track is written and performed to stay true to the band’s experiences. With the tune starting off with a snippet of what seems like a DIY demo, the band show they aren’t afraid to show their true selves, both at their most and least polished. Even once bursting in with the fully fledged track, they manage to retain that sense of confidence in their weaker moments as the lyrics relate the feelings of crushing depression. Forgoing the soft folk-laden voices one might expect for such subject matter, though, bigfatbig instead take the route of massive pop-punk vocals that makes sure every moment feels heavy with purpose. Think Hayley Williams covering a Beach Bunny track and you’ll have bigfatbig.

As the track recounts the struggles of maintaining relationships, the feeling of atrophy when regularly putting off self-care, and the inability to process thoughts when struck with depression, it would make sense that you would leave it feeling cathartic at best, downtrodden at worst . Life, though, is many things and sensible it is not. What Don’t Wanna Be Sad really leaves you feeling is energised, and comforted that you aren’t alone in living with those moments of depression. The warmth and density of the guitars, drums, and background vocals all add up too making it hard to feel anything but upbeat. It’s a strange but effective juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics and one that I wouldn’t trade away for anything. It also helps that there’s the occasional synth solo, and who doesn’t love a bit of synth.

If it isn’t clear by now I want you to listen to this track and I’m not sure how else to convince you because I feel like I’ve taken a lot of words to say what really only needed two sentences in the first place: bigfatbig rip and you should go check em out. Get that punchy catharsis and don’t look back!  

bigfatbig’s music is available to stream everywhere you would expect. You can follow the band on Instagram here. The fourth single from bigfatbig, Don’t Wanna Be Sad, was released today, Thursday 25th March. Listen here.

Enopolis – The Initial Conversation

© Eno, The Green Standard

The year is 2028… Wait, actually; what led to this year, many dozens of months prior, was a period of societal turbulence, related to the policies of those formerly in power. Having taken what was once known as the ‘United Kingdom’ off-piste; their ineptitude in administration, gluttonous mismanagement of the economy and persistent attempts at fostering division gradually turned an apathetic populace against them. Authority withering into disrepair, the ‘Ancien Régime’ stood little chance against the seething mob. Clamouring for new leadership, free from the decadence and limitations of the past, one man heeded the call of the masses. 

Straight away, he got to work, and before long rectified the mischief. The formality of title occurs not with he, whom goes only by the given name and only… the name given. A return to the year of relevance; Vincent is a fellow who, as of late, has been in a coma. Awoken, the society once familiar has long since departed. Numbed with aesthesia and greeted by alienation; he has little grasp on where the tide has swept… with value and purpose each an axis disparate. A figure stands at his side… a doctor, an erstwhile friend, the unassuming harbinger…? Blurred perception receding, an ID tag sighting and a room adorned with ornamental oddities: it looks as though ‘Bill’ is about to say something…

Bill: Ahoy there!  

Vincent: (No response)

Bill: You look well; I suppose you want an explanation?

Vincent: (Looks around cautiously) I don’t even… What…!? The decorum…? That light shining through…? An aged strobe-light…? or just another delusion? (In reference to a colour-shifting light source coming through the window, adjacent to his bed)

Bill: Oh, that’s just another one of those society-scaled generative art installations…

Vincent: Gener…

Bill: I’ll explain, you recall what Brian did for that hospital in Brighton, earlier in the century? Well, now the idyllic luminosity stretches beyond the 4 capacity room, and into the urban cityscape, far grander in scope. Its presence; placating and ever-changing, is here to reassure us Enonians we aren’t blunted ants tarred in the hierarchical pick & mix of before, but relevant entities within a dynamic ecosystem, free from the axe-job of Social Darwinism…!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is educating-brian.png

Vincent: Brian?

Bill: Oh…? (Slight look of pity) Haven’t you a clue? E…N…O? You know from Roxy Music.

Vincent: (Squints eyes) I recall his production work on that Coldplay album…

Bill: (Nods head) Well, he’s moved onto bigger things, leadership namely.

Vincent: Political?

Bill: You bet, a benevolent dictator of sorts… bit of an oxymoron I know, but in this case he’s the Crisp McCoy! 

Vincent: You’re taking the piss aren’t you?

Bill: Not at all, not at all… You remember all that austerity bollocks; the unemployment, the rising cost of living, the proliferation of poverty, rampant corruption, reactionary-on-deck no.1, reactionary-on-deck no.2…? Well, to simplify things… that all got cast into a giant sinkhole, courtesy of our untitled-in-chief… (Proceeds to smile) 

Vincent: (Gasping for air) Ho… how!?

Bill: (laughs) This sachet of wonder! (Proceeds to drop a pack of cards on the bedside table… they read ‘Oblique Strategies’)

Vincent: (Slumps into his bed) Oh boy…

(A mechanical clock, peculiar in design yet musical in chime… chimes, causing momentary silence)

Bill: (While offering a cup of tea, mug tastefully… bespoke) But the inception Vincent, but the inception…

Vincent: (Collects his thoughts, after observing the clock) What about education? I suppose we’re gonna be whizzing around on egg chairs equipped with florescent wheels, while the professor does some eyeliner?

Bill: (Smirks) Good question my friend, allow me to explain; Brian’s experiences at Winchester College of Art in the late 1960’s had a lasting impact on his worldview. Ironing out a new curriculum from the ground-up with his old tutor, Tom Philips, they have completely broken off from the inadequacies of the past… you know that OFSTED-led tripe? Well, SCENIUS now… SCENIUS tomorrow… and while we’re still on the subject (Bangs fist on the bedside table), SCENIUS for long duration!!! (Regains composure, and continues) They also borrowed from the Finnish system: children are now encouraged to be themselves and focus on what actually interests them. No longer are they cajoled into the generational sausage-maker of that ‘honest vocation’ crap, which seemed only effective at producing unwitting salarymen out of what were once… fledgling minds. (Clenches fist in the air) So far it’s been a gigantic success; I can show you some statistics if you’d li…

Vincent: (Interrupting) Another topic please!

Bill: Sure thing (unclenches fist)… Going back to your eyeliner remark, you recall the discourse about transgender people and the issues they faced from certain elements against their integration into the general fold?

Vincent: (Attentive) Go on…

Bill: Well, owing to Brian’s gender-bending antics in the 70’s, it indirectly afforded him a few qualifications in understanding the plight of the LGBTQ community… plus, his experiences as an ageing man with a lack of hair has…

Vincent: …created a mutual understanding between both gammon and… gammon-not?

Bill: Couldn’t have put it better myself Vince!        

Vincent: (Whispers to himself) He really is the Third Uncle…

Bill: (Inquisitive) What’s that?

Vincent: (Slightly perturbed) Nothing, do continue…

Bill: Hmmm… (Scratches chin) Where next might we traverse…?

(15 seconds elapse)

Vincent: (Breaks the impasse) What of foreign policy? Has the international climate changed that much?

Bill: (Nods with satisfaction) Aha! Brian’s stance against human rights abuses, notably with regard to the Israeli Occupied Territories, has prompted him to break off and embargo all who violate the rights of their own citizens. Other countries followed suit and within months the Likud’s grip on power collapsed.

Vincent: So?

Bill: Odd coincidences aside… an appropriate settlement is now being negotiated, after nearly 80 years, peace is at hand! 

Vincent: Whoa… (Hint of suspicion) As great as this all seems… there has to be a cost to all this…? (Thinking cap attached) Surely anyone with that kind of authority would succumb to… what was the word… ah, megalomania…? As certain “case studies” have indicated?

Bill: (Passively acknowledges) Ah the Cult of Personality thing…? Well to be honest, the only aspects I can think of are… the construction projects he favours, as you have already seen, (whispers) slightly… Yet, the employment opportunities generated from this construction boom and the benefits subsequent… have played a big part in the economy’s defibrillation! In turn, the supply & demand situation buoyed, stabilising the prices of commercial goods and public necessities… which, unbeknownst to you, plagued the preceding ‘system’… To take an objective viewpoint (doesn’t take an objective viewpoint), even if society continues to be moulded in Brian’s image, who cares? Taste will always triumph over practicality! (Looks up at the ceiling momentarily)

Vincent: (Visibly perplexed) …Over practicality? I don’t recall any proponents of that idea? Maybe IT IS time I see those statistics…? 

Bill: (Looks back at his friend) Yeah… gains and losses or something (waves left hand dismissively)… Anyway, to wrap up this subject, don’t expect to see any gaudy statues or 50ft by 70ft posters portraying Brian as yet another striped-sash strongman, for he is not… Although, I hope you don’t mind hearing more of his ever-expanding discography? Take for instance my earlier train journey; they played the entirety of No Pussyfooting through the speakers, surround sound…!

Vincent: (He flinches… followed by faux-enthusiasm) Oh goody, should I expect to hear ‘After The Heat’ while I’m out shopping for garden ornaments? Or maybe his co-credits on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, as I skip about on a narrow-boat I’ve just stolen!?

Bill: (Appears unsure) That’s entirely possible, although predictability has never been a word I would dare associate with a man… such as Brian…

Vincent: (Ponders what next to discuss) Slogan…eering… That Scenius thing you were oddly raving about earlier, that’s taken central fiddle?

Bill: Just a bit… Communities are once again being subsidised… and the aspirants of that god awful Neoliberalism ‘experiment’ are being rightly penalised for their former exploitation. Remember Richard Branson? Well, the bearded prick’s assets have been expropriated; take Necker Island for instance, its only purpose now is to house in-transit refugees fleeing from what was once the United States. Even Brian’s old chum, Bono, whom thought he could get off easy owing to their past working relationship, has been made to pay his fair share in tax… for wise-man Brian makes no distinction, friend or stranger. 

Vincent: America’s no more?

Bill: Balkanised, some parts are better off than others…

Vincent: Huh, well… (Sense of satisfaction) Sayonara, Uncle Sam! (Laughs)

Bill: Seems there wasn’t a particular care for that… Laissez-faire! (Joins in on the laughter)

(Laughter ceases after 30 seconds)

Vincent: So… would it be correct to assume Branson and Bono are toiling in a cobalt mine somewhere…? Perhaps shackled together by-foot, as they pickaxe the earth to help fuel the Eno-Bahn or whatever next is on the construction roster?

Bill: Not quite, reprisals and score-settling of that nature would conflict with the tenants and teachings of Brian…

Vincent: (Tilts head) And what might that be? Thou shan’t slapeth thy head? 

(The clock chimes yet again, its Geneva wheels gyrating as ever)

Bill: (Turns to look out of the window) Musings like altruism and egalitarianism were just the ‘speak of the turtleneck folk’ some decades prior, but now, via the Big Here Initiative, they are inveterate to our society, by order of the Eno! (Looks around nervously, before resuming his previous position)

© Eno, obvs

Vincent: (Detached) Swell… I presume Stoicism has been deemed obsolete, owing to the damaging effects it can have on one’s mental health?

Bill: (Turns away from the window, visibly humoured) Been consulting EBSCO while on the drip, eh Vince?  

Vincent: (Inverted smile) But a measured hypothesis, Bill…

Bill: (Visibly impressed) You know, scholarly types are in much demand nowadays… getting your foot in the cupboard would be an easy triumph, I’m sure…        

Vincent: That’s a new one (Snorts)… Actually, what about law and order? How could that old hippie understand such a concept? 

Bill: Well, rather than brutalising his subjects with batons and tear gas, Brian has made rehabilitation and fairness the norm. His vocal criticism of the former United States’ prison system, ya know; lobbyists bending legislation, inmates as penal labour and… the general shoddiness of the whole thing have compelled him away from coat-tailing the stars-and-stripes, as was the norm prior…

Vincent: (Briefly does jazz hands) Most riveting… err, how’s the field of invention looking… any quantum leaps there, during my comatose absence? Permanent hair restoration…? Speech recognition software for pigeons?

Bill: Ah, the technological angle… Well, Eno’s… (Pauses, then clears throat) Forgive me, Brian’s retrospection on the Manhattan Project, you know, what birthed nuclear weapons… Was summed up by him as brilliant in what could be achieved by humanity’s collective efforts, albeit for entirely the wrong reason! Being the egghead he is, Brian has put the entire scientific potential of our nation to work, away from the capital-drainage of that research & development shit, which he always much despised. Investments are now being directed towards things relevant to progress… cures for diseases still ravishing the modern world for instance. How do you think you recovered?    

Vincent: Huh? (Walks over to the mirror and examines where his wounds once were… not a trace)

Bill: (Winks with a thumbs up) 

Vincent: (Pleasantly surprised) I’d buy that for a Brian…

Bill: (Agreeable) You certainly would… (Briefly glances at the clock) Right then, you’ve probably heard enough talk of our bald-headed saviour, go and get yourself ready and we’ll hop on the ENO // RAIL… it makes those old bullet trains look like foil-wrapped rolling pins!

Vincent: (Unsurprised) Nice… how did our Brian manage that?

Bill: (Playfully points at his friend) I believe… (pointing ceases) it had something to do with… an oversized living room, a few soldering irons… and quite possibly a set or ten of those Hornby Railway carriages, not to scale of course (half smiles).

(Abrupt freeze-frame on the Clock)

© Eno and the gang…

If You Want A Boxer: Music Videos, Boxing Rings, And Me

©  Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal

By Nathan Bailey

When was the last time you watched a music video? And I don’t mean rolling your eyes across a few shots on your way down to the murky depths of an instagram doom-scroll or willfully ignoring those background spotify vignettes,  I mean properly sitting down and watching one, on your telly and everything. Before expensively produced and choreographed music videos were the domain of internet breaking american megastars alone, every great song needed a great video to go with it. Recently, I was having a drunken reminisce with a friend about the lost days of that golden era. Those sunday afternoons round your mate’s who had sky telly, flicking through the likes of MTV, VH1, and if mother had been particularly pernicious about you not doing your homework that week, a bit of Kerrang and Scuzz. During this nostalgia trip, we came to a startling conclusion. “Hang on a minute”, my friend exclaimed. “Isn’t it weird how like, basically all music videos had boxing in them?”. I searched my feelings and I knew this to be true. We were onto something. I rushed over towards my laptop, eager to connect these dots and reveal a grave secret to the world. This must’ve been what it felt like when they cracked the enigma codes during the war. 

Unfortunately, after an extensive fifteen minutes of research we found that actually quite a lot of old music videos had very little to do with boxing, some not at all. This may be from a position of hindsight, but it appears that the music video directors of ten or fifteen years ago were attempting complex satires of western culture’s infatuation with the oversexualisation of young women. Whatever great artistic visions led to the sweeping use of under-dressed female extras in earlier eras, the answers have unfortunately been lost to the annals of history. One thing we did find out for definite, one thing they can never take away from us. That thing is that some music videos definitely are about boxing. Quite a fair few indeed. What are they like you ask? Have no fear. In the words of our late Field Commander Cohen, let me step into the ring for you, as we go on a voyage through some of the most about boxingest videos of all time.

Dappy – No Regrets

This video captures so perfectly the over produced, over Americanized, totally catered to being on MTV aesthetics that I pictured in my head when looking back at the boxing music video canon. The actual plot per se seems to have very little to do with Dappy, looking more like a narrative straight out of grand theft auto – cue angry young men, lowriders, and LA skylines. One boy chooses not the path of street violence, but instead the path of reasonably socially acceptable pay-per-view violence. In this he becomes a man. That man then boxes his way out of the doldrums and presumably into a cultural and socio economic elite that us mere mortals can only dream of. This is a boy-done-good. A hero’s tale. A new bildungsroman for whatever generation we were in 2011. This is the American Dream. Come to think of it, this has everything to do with Dappy. Clearly, this film is an autobiographical metaphor for a young british rapper trying to conquer the big one and forge a lucrative stateside solo career post N-Dubz. As no one has seen or heard from Dappy in years, I can only assume he was successful, and this very minute is on the top of some Californian highrise, gun-fingers proudly aloft.

In terms of lyrical content, the boxing connection is vague, and other than Dappy “painting a picture of a fighter” and having “the heart of a winner”, any ringside colloquialism is pretty much non-existent. Not too get sidetracked but he does also claim, and I quote – “I am Kurt Cobain”, so double points for that. Also name-dropped by Dappy are Chris Brown, Michael Caine, Frank Gallagher off of Shameless, Marty Mcfly, and Richard Branson. Which is weirdly like that dream you once had isn’t it? Don’t say you can’t remember it. I think we shall leave this one with the words of youtube commenter Victoria Carolyne – ‘Respect to Dappy for using his talent to make this masterpiece’. Victoria, I agree.

LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

Dappy is not the first rapper to seek some equivalence with the world of prize fighting. Particularly in american hip-hop, the relationship to boxing is a long and fruitful one. So where to start? In a moment of doubt we have turned and not for the first time, to LL Cool J. three simple reasons. firstly, It’s a fairly old tune. Secondly,  It. bangs. And lastly, there’s rather a lot of boxing credence here. The machismo coloured, adversarial nature of even the first line ( Cool J daring you not to ‘call it a comeback’) befits the ring setting. We remain in the ring with Cool for the whole thing, taking a poetic pummeling as he spills synonyms and sibilance over the mat like bits of blood and bottom lip. Thankfully, after nearly five minutes someone throws in the towel for you. You would think so too, in this time LL does inform you he’s gonna knock you out a cool (HA!) 32 times. 

However this isn’t just one man boasting about his prowess for violence. Obviously Cool J’s thirst for blood speaks for itself. Don’t know if you remember but this is the fella that in Deep Blue Sea (1999) kills a genetically engineered super-shark. with just a crucifix. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the relationship between boxing and hip hop is persistent. Possibly no figure exemplifies this better than the man Cool just so happens to namedrop here himself – a certain Muhammad Ali. The influence that makes him such a resonant figure in this neck of the woods is not just his status as an inspirational civil rights leader and icon for black America. This is the man they called the Louisville Lip after all, a wit, a wordsmith, and a self declared poet in his. Practically inventing the art of trash talk, Ali often outthought and outfought his opponents in a war of words before a bell had rung. Another great example of Ali’s shadow ranging across the music world is on The Fugees track Rumble In The Jungle, also featuring A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. It is well worth a listen (and it’s boxing heavy video is naturally, well worth a watch).

In some ways the boxing/hip-hop relationship came full circle in the early noughties, with well known boomer rapper Eminem’s feature film 8 Mile. the plot was a standard of the sports film genre, but with… battle-rappers?! From the films soundtrack we got the chart topping single Lose Yourself, a song that has blared over a thousand fight night walkouts, and (pub quiz time) won a chuffing oscar. 

Tears For Fears – Woman in Chains

Not a great deal of boxing action in this one to be honest but it is the most eighties song ever. No really, Phil Collins is on the drums. Phil Monkey Choccy Advert Collins. It has to be on here. The video lives up to the song, in being very VERY eighties. The Black and white montage of this archetypal prom king and queen couple drifts seamlessly into the wine bar bass lines, until they become one. Initially, the moody shots of this relationship looks to be a beautiful and  subtle message on the fetishization and commodification of the aesthetics of both male and female bodies in different forms. Our queen is a stripper, our king, an athlete. However the relationship takes a darker turn. There is more than a tinge of domestic violence to the scenes, and a heavy dose of some fairly toxic masculinity – boxer pushes girlfriend, cries, runs off and twats a fence. The couple’s reconciliation at the end of the video troubles the viewer, leaving us in morally a more grey place than the song itself, which was hailed as a feminist anthem in it’s day. Again, I’m taking that as a conscious artistic decision on the part of the director. Perhaps this was not the intention but I would still want to give the makers of this video the benefit of the doubt , as if there is a worse medium for social commentary than an eighties power ballad, then it could only be the music video for an eighties power ballad. 

Lastly, if you’re thinking this is too loose of a connection to be considered amongst the pantheon of great boxing music videos, then look at our male lead having his Of Mice and Men moment with the pigeon in the final scenes and tell me you don’t immediately think of those strange pictures of Iron Mike Tyson admiring his pet doves.

Maroon 5  – One More Night

No, not just because he’s got a bit of a punchable look about him. This video has more of a narrative structure than the older videos. Although a lot of it is Adam ‘Maroon 1’ Levine stalking around in a white vest looking like the worst casting choice imaginable for a Raging Bull reboot. Maybe I’m thinking too much into this but the cinematography gives a half nod to the Scorsese classic. we couldn’t get quite all the way to the golden age of Hollywood style mythical black and white of the film, but we do get a kind of sad, cigarette packet photo grey. We must give this video credit, it’s very much about boxing. He trains, he runs, he holds a small child. After all that he not only fights but bloody wins a boxing match. I think also his girlfriend leaves him for some reason. Poor adam.

On second thoughts, not poor Adam. He was an arse to Keria Knightley in Begin Again. How could you be in a film with James Corden and still come out as the biggest wazzock. Plus the actual song sounds like that copyright free music that people use for youtube tutorials on how to change bike tyres. I’m glad your boxing wife left you.

Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal

I believe it was Albert Camus who once said that a true masterpiece does not reveal everything. Let’s start by looking at what this masterpiece does reveal to us. That’s right, a big, grey, bouncy, boxing ring. I know it may look like perhaps the bass player has a penchant for world wrestling entertainment, but that is a boxing ring and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. Other than that this video leaves us only questions. What’s with the japanese kids? How did they do that lean? I get the body popping kid with a mask on is an MJ nose job reference but bloody hell! Watching in 2021 it’s a bit nostradamus isn’t it? And just what on this good earth is going on with the singer’s hair? If you want answers to any of these questions then you have come to the wrong place. All I can tell you is that it’s got a boxing ring in it, and this makes it the best boxing music video of all time. This is the crest of the great wave. Nothing can beat this. Every single one of you will get to the bit where the tune stops and he vaults onto that car thinking the exact same thing –  they don’t make ‘em like this anymore do they. Another big question, why don’t they make them like this anymore? And those big questions my friends, aren’t they what Nu-Metal was all about? This one at least, we know the answer to (that answer is yes).

40 Years In the Bush of Ghosts

© Classic Album Sundays

By Josh Loynes

Early sampling, World Music, an unread novel from 50’s Nigeria and an angry letter from the Islamic Council of Great Britain. Climb into your DeLorean/police-box/whatever your preferred method of time travel may be and take yourself back exactly 4 decades, to February 1981 and the long-awaited release of what would prove to be a divisive, somewhat controversial and strangely prophetic album- My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (listen below).

Around the turn of the decade, as the collected humans on Planet Earth kicked everything up a notch and threw themselves wholeheartedly into the madcap riot that was the 1980’s, a young Mr David Byrne was already well on his way to being crowned the King of Arty New Wave. His band, Chattering Craniums, had seen critical success with their last two albums (More Songs About Buildings and Food and Fear of Music) at the tail end of the 70’s, and to top it all off he’d met an old, kind-hearted Englishman who was far too polite for anyone to point out he was losing his hair. Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno had worked as a producer on both of the aforementioned Babbling Bonces records and during the brief lull between these and the recording of what would become Discoursing Domes’ magnum opus Remain in Light, both he and and the young Mr Byrne found they had some time on their hands. Suggestions of a lengthy game of eye-spy or charades were quickly dismissed and, after a particularly competitive game of scrabble broke out in a fierce scrap over the spelling of the word ‘quixotic’, the dynamic duo decided to hunker down and make something Avant-Guard, exciting and, crucially, quite pretentious. And so, with typical middle class art school zeal, they set about making their masterpiece.

Or that’s how the story supposedly goes. The deeper origins of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts aren’t as clear cut as some would rather make out, with the project originally having started with some collaboration between Byrne, Eno and ‘Fourth World’ cosmonaut Jon Hassell. According to Hassell, who is largely believed to have never told a lie in his entire life, the young Mr Byrne had been ever so keen to help out with “anything that was needed” while recording Hassell and Eno’s catchily titled ambient triumph, Fourth world, Vol. 1: Possible Musics. Unfortunately by that point all the jobs had been given out and everyone already had a brew, so the young Mr Byrne’s melodic magic never graced the studio’s walls. Maybe that’s what Bush of Ghosts really is, a young King David’s revenge? Or perhaps I’ve been watching too much Adam Curtis and began seeing plots and conspiracies everywhere. Either way, Hassell’s continued collaboration with Eno-man and his trusty sidekick Byrne-boy ended with him quitting the project almost immediately as the dangerouslybored (as previously mentioned) duo set off and began twatting about with radios.

In all honesty it can’t really be said for sure how much of the project is the work of Jon Hassell, with him having contributed “sketches” to it and later claimed the album “came out of me”, while also bowing out of the project so early, as it began to move in directions that just he wasn’t there for. His name was removed from any credits, but the influence of Fourth World’s ‘Fourth world’ mix of tribal world music and heavy ambient textures can’t be denied when listening to Bush of Ghosts, as brilliant as all of Byrne and Eno’s nonsense is. There’s also a fair claim to be made that Fourth World’s music captures the spirit of the 1958 Nigerian novel, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, far more accurately than Byrne and Eno’s effort, with a now old Mr Byrne admitting in the 2006 reissue’s liner notes that neither of them had read the book, and the title just “seemed to encapsulate what the record was about”.

But I digress.

What the unfathomably bored Professor Eno and Head Prefect Byrne did produce was a bizarre, manic and technologically revolutionary mix of funk, world music, droning synths, and spliced and repurposed samples of everything from Algerian chants to political speeches to exorcisms. In the words of “Dr Eno, I presume?”, Bush of Ghosts is his “African psychedelic vision”, something which sounded a bit colonial even to audiences back in ’81.

The first track developed for the project appears second on the album, Mea Culpa. By all accounts this began as an example from Eno as to the kind of thing he was wanting to do with tape loops and samples- using them as the main focus and essentially lead vocals of the tracks while building a driving mix of sounds both defiantly electronic and primally organic beneath. This is what was achieved on the finished song at least. The John Carpenter-esque two chord synth melody drones oppressive in the background, a heavy cloud hanging above frenetic and layered polyrhythmic tribal drumming. The raw and natural feeling to the percussion casts a stark juxtaposition to the synthetic world around it, as dominating the track and taking the lead is a collaged recording stolen off the airwaves by notorious radio pirates, Captain Brian “long-hair” Eno and his loyal first mate David “seasick” Byrne. The bounty in question was a back and forth between a calm politician and a very cross indeed constituent, speaking on a New York radio call-in show sometime in July 1979. The recording is chopped, broken up and distorted beyond comprehension, leaving it as just about recognisable speech sounds dancing to a melody of alternating fury and measured reassurance. What immediately springs to mind for me with this track is the very similar broken speech sounds found on Boards of Canada’s fantastic Telephastic Workshop, from their 1999 album Music Has the Right to Children. More on this later though.

Indeed the story behind a lot of the samples on the album is really one of the most interesting parts of its existence, sometimes even more so than the very nerdy and ridiculously convoluted, pre-digital faffing that went on to make the field recordings actually work as songs. Track 3, Regiment, is notable not only for its absolutely fierce and confident bassline, as played by Michael “Busta Cherry” Jones, but also for the eerily beautiful and ancient sounding singing of Dounia Yunis. The sample originated from a recording session in the office of Iraqi ‘oud legend’ (the string instruments that look a bit like a medieval lute), Mounir Bashir, done in 1972 with the purpose of selecting a local singer for a Traditional Folk Festival. The recording was then found in 1976 and added to a compilation album entitled Music in the World of Islam 1: The Human Voice, and once again uncovered in 1980 by Indiana Eno and his plucky damsel in distress, Marion Byrne. In just 8 years Yunis’ voice had travelled halfway around the world and ended up appearing alongside not only Jones’ sublime bass playing but also terminal weirdo Robert Fripp and the magic of his ‘Frippertronics’, which create all sorts of frippertronic sounds as he plays a frippertronic solo that’s really rather far out. Also noteworthy is the fact that by this point no one had any idea who the woman singing was, and Dounia Yunis heard neither the original recording of her voice, nor David Byrne and his cool stepdad’s 1980 science fair project, until very recently. It goes without saying she saw not a penny for anything; never accept being paid in exposure kids.

© Project Revolver

The crowing jewel of the wide range of samples used on Bush of Ghosts however is the one that also got Misters Byrne and Eno in a spot of hot water- track 6, Qu’ran, also taken from Music in the World of Islam 1. The sample of a recital from the titular book is layered over a heavy, slow, uneasy and almost dub feeling beat, one that today would instantly be thought of as an ingenious hip hop (or trip hop) track. The melody is beautiful and thickly narcotic and appearing as the first track of the second side proudly signals the album’s descent into more pensive and somewhat darker sounds. However this hypnotising taste of the enchantingly exotic (because that’s what world music sort of is really) only appeared on the first pressing of the album, and not long after release had vanished from the tracklist completely. This was as the Islamic Council of Great Britain, who are fairly well known to be massive Roxy Music fans, sent a strongly worded letter explaining why they thought the song was blasphemy, and like teenagers caught with half a joint, Bry and Dave chucked it fast.

Replacing Qu’ran on subsequent versions of the album was the polar opposite, Very, Very Hungry. And this manic collision of rhythmic synths, sounds and beats leads me neatly back to what I was saying earlier when I mentioned Boards of Canada. So much of this album, with its tumbling, hypnotising, layered rhythms complimented by bizarre and obscure samples wouldn’t raise a single eyebrow if found nestled in the early mixes of Aphex Twin, Autechre, or any electronic group from around the early 90’s. When viewed chronologically it seems very easy to draw a straight line of influence from Bush of Ghosts to all number of things, and herein lies the difficulty of assessing the real lasting impact of it. Because while basically everything that self-described ‘fucking geniuses’ Eno and Byrne created was wonderfully ahead of its time, a lot of it had also already been done. Sampling as a way of not just embellishing but creating songs was already being explored, as was the combining of the ultra-modern synth technology with the ancient notion of a powerful beat. When looked at from this point of view, it seems more accurate to describe Bush of Ghosts as ‘prophetic’ rather than ‘influential’, a remarkably accurate exercise in fortune telling on behalf of the pair. Despite this it has also been listed as a key album of inspiration for the famous Victorian ghost Kate bush, the one who played keyboards in Pink Floyd, and Hank Shocklee’s utterly brilliant production for groups like Public Enemy, so maybe I’m being too hard on it.

©  My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Peter Saville

A fun extra note about Bush of Ghosts is that the original album art was even designed by Factory’s own Peter Saville, by cutting up little paper people and pasting them onto a tv screen displaying a healthy case of video feedback. And with that brilliant little bit of lo-fi design, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was finished. Almost.

Despite being recorded in 1980, due to the paperwork involved with all the samples used it wouldn’t be until February 1981 that Bush of Ghosts would finally see the light of day. After all, all this using other songs business still seemed most irregular. This left the nation’s favourite double act with a lot of 1980 still to kill, and they’d learned to stay away from board games. Though there was some initial concern from cool uncle Eno that maybe he was spending a bit too much time with his weedy nephew, and that maybe David should make some more friends, he did return to produce on Tattling Têtes’ next album, Remain in Light. With tape loops, sci-fi sounds and more tribal rhythms than Piccadilly Gardens on a sunny day, Remain in Light as much carries on from Bush of Ghosts as it does The Head’s previous album Fear of Music. Like the proverbial Shakespearean ghost at the feast, Jon Hassell even showed up in the studio during the Remain in Light sessions, however after some panic it was quickly established that he wasn’t a spirit warning of their demise and was actually there to lay down a sick chorus of horns and a tasty solo to match on the track Houses in Motion. Great stuff Jon!

Critics were mixed when Bush of Ghosts was finally released, with most of them impressed by what they saw, but not particularly certain what they were looking at. Some gave praise to the level of technological skill involved and the intelligent use of rhythms and field recordings, while others such as Robert “Unimpressed” Christgau were, well, unimpressed. Overall though with records such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts I always find that it is best enjoyed without searching for deeper meaning. Let it exist as a snapshot in time, when so much which is standard and accepted now was so cutting edge and exciting, a wonderful freeze frame of the joy of trying something new without much of a message or a purpose. Drawing once again from the 2006 reissue’s liner notes, Byrne says “it is assumed that I write lyrics (and the accompanying music) for songs because I have something I need to “express”… I find that more often, on the contrary, it is the music and the lyric that triggers the emotion within me rather than the other way around.”.

Bush of Ghosts exists for the fun of its own existence, and while the early idea that award-winning fantasy novelists Byrne and Eno create a series of recordings based on an imaginary lost culture and release them anonymously was quickly dismissed, the album that did result, with its at once ahead of it’s time and proudly ancient marriage of sounds and an entire mini mythology about the fact of it’s existent, absolutely makes it a timeless project from the pair of them.

An Introduction To Brian Eno: Six Tracks To Get You Started

By Josh Phillips

Brian Eno – 10 of the best | Brian Eno | The Guardian
© Photograph: Brian Cooke/Redferns. Eno, 1972.

Brian Eno is perhaps a name you have heard before. He seems to hang above the edifice of  popular culture; his ideas commonplace today even amongst the changing tides of once-again-in vogue elite cultural tastemakers of the 70s. Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy, Eno.  

The question (who is Brian Eno, anyway?) is best understood through the lens of Eno as a solo  artist. He is, of course, many other things. Producer, visual artist, theoretician, songwriter, song singer, synthesist and sometime-provocateur are but a few of the many guises of Mr. Eno (add to this list the following: mammal, uncle, wine-lover and masturbator, per Eno’s own book A Year With Swollen Appendices). To label the work put out under the name Brian Eno (or simply ENO) as that of a ‘solo artist’ is perhaps misleading, as Eno himself is rarely the sole artist or performer featured  on the records bearing his name alone.  

Instead, the role of ‘Eno the solo artist’ is most clearly understood when analysing his role as a collaborator – mixing the many technical disciplines of his host of collaborators as a kind of master  alchemist in the recording studio, wielding many foreign elements as tools to forge crossover points between the experimental theorist John Cage and the blues rocker Bo Diddley, or the art rock  sensibilities of The Velvet Underground and the cacophonous jazz fusion of Miles Davis. 

The man himself posits the theory of collective ingenuity (or “scenius”) as the driving force behind many of the most crucial works in art history. Looking at the solo career of “the quietest revolutionary in rock”, it is hard to disagree with the idea, as Eno redefined the roles of musician  and producer. He embraced experimentation and spontaneity, while injecting a distinctively flamboyant  avant-garde approach to the cliché and overtly-macho world of 1970’s popular music. Here are 6  tracks to introduce a new listener to the works of glam-rocker/ambient-extraordinaire Brian Eno.  

(Please note: this list features works put out under Eno’s own name in which he is the sole or main artist. Please stand by for a similar piece introducing listeners to his gargantuan back catalog of  collaborative work as a producer and guest performer for the likes of Talking Heads, David Bowie,  Nico, Roxy Music, John Cale, David Byrne and Cluster, to name but a tiny selection). 

Track 1: Burning Airlines Give You So Much More from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974) 

© Peter Schmidt, 1974.

The opening track to Eno’s second full-length solo LP, Burning Airlines Give You So Much More acts as a manifesto for the album and for this period as a whole for Eno. The scratchy guitar lead  (most likely played by non-musician Eno himself on his Teisco Starway guitar) that waltzes through each refrain is distinctly wonky and chromatic even within the canon of an artist that doesn’t seem  to care too much about traditional harmonic cohesion.  

With lyrics hinting at espionage and long journeys to the far-east, the theme of this song seems to  be more notional and off-the-cuff than allegorical or narrative; but each line does seem to evoke a deeper, more hidden meaning upon closer inspection. “Maybe she will do a bit of spying, with  micro cameras hidden her hair” could be an improvised passage referring to generic Cold War  clandestinity, but it could refer to something more personal. The digging for meaning is optional of course, as this art rock opener is fulfilling enough as an artistic statement without the interference  of personal bias on the part of the over-curious listener. 

Track 2: The Big Ship from Another Green World (1975) 

© After Raphael by Tom Phillips, 1975.

The Big Ship is, in many ways, the fusion of Eno’s two somewhat opposing internal voices in the  mid-70’s. The figure of Eno as a rockstar in the burgeoning art-rock movement has been made  famous by his public persona as the spiritual totem of Roxy Music and synthesist of possible alien origin, but his tendency to craft oblique and evocative instrumental music was well-hidden until his  break with Roxy Music in the early 1970’s.  

This track combines these two personas seamlessly, as Eno uses drum machines, distorted  guitars and synthesizers to craft a slowly-building instrumental that grabs hold of the listener and  doesn’t let go. Seriously, this is one of his absolute best works. 

Track 3: 2/2 from Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) 

© Brian Eno, 1978.

Amongst the contributions made by Eno to the greater sphere of popular culture as a whole, none  are more widely recognised and quantifiable than his coining of the term “Ambient” and his  subsequent championing of this emergent sonic philosophy. It is said that ambient music is “as  ignorable as it is interesting” by design, and no album better demonstrates this concept that the  aptly named Ambient 1: Music For Airports, which was originally composed to fill the wide-open  neutral spaces within Cologne Bonn airport. 

2/2 is one of four tracks on the album, and each of the four could have been selected here. 2/2 has  always seemed as though it were the most nostalgic of the four pieces on the LP, however, as the  looped, wordless vocals and thinly-spread piano clusters of the other pieces can hint at a cold lack  of attachment at times. The ARP 2600 synthesiser on 2/2 is warmer, more expansive and more  easily evokes feelings of homeliness by comparison. 

Track 4: Golden Hours from Another Green World (1975) 

© Neal Preston/CORBIS, 1974.

Another selection from Another Green World that draws from a similar sound-world to the rest of  the album with sparse percussion, organ stabs and distant group backing vocals. This song,  however, differs from many others from this period as it showcases Eno’s ability to pen exquisite  lyrics that would be the envy of pop songwriters and folk singers alike. “I can’t see the lines I used  to think I could read between” is as good a metaphor for the loss of one’s youth and changing  perspective as has ever been penned by McCartney, Mitchell or Young. 

The instrumentation here is similar to many other tracks on the album, with this track almost  exclusively being performed by Eno himself, save for two noteworthy contributions by guitarist  Robert Fripp (who performs a staccato, jig-like guitar solo) and Velvet Underground alumni John  Cale on Viola. 

Track 5: Discreet Music from Discreet Music (1975)  

© John Bonis, 1975.

While it may be true that the term “ambient” only gained entry into the popular lexicon following the  release of Eno’s 1978 album containing the word, the truth is that the theory was in development  for some time preceding that. 1975’s Discreet Music (released on Eno’s own label Obscure  Records) is a cornerstone of the emerging genre, and the liner notes of the record elucidate the  way in which the record combines the tranquil and atmospheric feeling of Eno’s art music with the  chance operations and sonic exploration of American avant-garde composers John Cage, Steve  Reich and Terry Riley. The back cover of the LP gives a physical blueprint of the signal chain  through which the piece was recorded, with a diagram displaying the complex studio arrangement  required to give the ever-evolving generative tones heard on the record. 

The length of the piece is also of note. The theoretically-endless, evolving piece has a duration of  over 30 minutes, roughly one whole side of a vinyl record. With this, the piece distinguishes itself  from the popular music of the time and stands alongside longer-form classical works. The length, limited by the physical restrictions of music consumption at the time it was recorded, asks the  listener “did you know I could make this go on forever? if only I were allowed share this with you forever.”.

Track 6: Taking Tiger Mountain from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974) 

© Brian Cooke, 1972.

The finale of the album that bears the same name, this track is another Eno-ic exploration into the  world that exists between the song form of popular music and the instrumental world of the  classical avant-garde. Layers of guitar and piano subtly grow under synthesised white noise,  imitating the howling alpine wind on a snowy mountainside. 

Eno again summons lyrics heavy with symbolism and meaning; “we climbed and we climbed,  forging lines through the snow”. One does feel as if a the summit is being reached, as the waves of  motion slowly build underneath the chanted chorus and until we can all “take tiger mountain”. This one is a personal favourite, and an often-overlooked essential Eno cut.

SINGLE REVIEW: BOSHE AND SAM SHAW’S CORONA COLLABORATION

© Ella Heaton, Sam Shaw.

By Josh Loynes

When daily life is reduced to an anxious, out of control nightmare sometimes, the perfect countermeasure and comfort is a bittersweet yet beautiful dream. Here to provide that, slipping straight out of a synthesised cloud, this collab single from Boshe (Ella Heaton) and Sam Shaw plunges deep into washed out dream pop sounds and drags us back into a smooth, enveloping pool of hazy noise.

Maybe it’s the synths harking back to a time when we were younger and it was cool to love Tame Impala and Sterling Dual (not that I don’t secretly indulge in both to this day), or it’s entirely unrelated and just happened to coincide with me fully grasping the impact of recent events, but I couldn’t help feeling profoundly nostalgic listening to this song. It left me reflecting and reminiscing on “what was” where throughout my life, the last year included, I’ve largely been accepting of the present.

Probably contributing to this sudden onset of ennui are Heaton’s reverb-drenched lyrics that throb with an aching melancholy, crying for a love lost that never even was. Buried deep in the mix, they often merely suggest their presence, and leave you searching and longing for more, existing as an alluring concept much like their subject matter.

Driving the song and tethering it back down to reality throughout its runtime is the firm and steady march of an unyielding but soft drum machine, with its only company at the forefront of the track being the light, skittering bursts of keys bouncing gleefully from note to note.

Propping all this up, relentless waves of shimmering synths make up the body of the track, creating a ghostly and translucent feel to the meat on the bones, a tonne of feathers too soft to feel solid but with more than enough weight to crush you. Credit has to be given to Shaw for the production throughout; the enrapturing dance of vocals and melody rising, falling and shifting together is really the heart and soul of of the track and what solidifies the song as a bittersweet ode to modern love. It was a pleasure to listen to, and I can’t encourage you to listen to it enough.

ROLL UP, ROLL UP! ROBINSON’S RECORDS IS OFFICIALLY OPEN!

By Neve Robinson, (duh)…

Esteemed readers, friends, beautiful brothers and sisters. Maybe even mortal enemies. The time is upon us. Robinson’s Records is here, and she’s bold, brash, and filled with just the right amount of trash. I’m Neve. Robinson, if I haven’t rammed that down your throats enough by now. And though this may seem a merely a project of pure narcissism (name-wise, anyway), it’s a project I wanted to create with the intention of offering a platform to young contributors across Manchester. Music journalism is an incredibly difficult business to break into. It’s a business, more than anything. A lot of it is quite formal, with strict structural conditions and deadlines. For me, this goes against the very nature of creativity. I don’t think creative expression should be limited in any way, particularly when it comes to writing about creative expression! Nobody’s opinion is wrong here, there’s no guidelines, there’s no pressure. It’s just a place where lovely people can write about the lovely records that they love, and the more personal the better. Maybe even in doing so, we can help out and highlight upcoming artists to give them some positive exposure in this cutthroat industry. At the end of the day, the people reading music zines and blogs, the people supporting artists in any way they can, the people putting the needles down on their records – they’re all normal, everyday people (to quote Sly and the Family Stone). I want to strip away the clinical side of loving records. No pretentious, cold, unfeeling stuff. Loving music is about what it makes you feel, and I want to know exactly how you feel about things. Just pure, unadulterated adoration of tunes. Striking up conversations about albums and artists. Introducing folks to new bangers (who doesn’t love that feeling?!) In short, I want us to do things differently here.

Ever since I was small, all I’ve really cared about is music. Any music. All music. From being 5 with my mum blasting Hunky Dory in the car, to being a dedicated emo at 13, to my Smiths superfan phase at 16 (that is definitely still ongoing, sorry.) Punk, Northern Soul, disco, new wave. I’d hungrily devour record after record. Thanks to a very lucky musical upbringing – shoutout to Sheila and Rob for their impeccable tastes I’ve inherited! – with each passing year I was finding more and more about music. And I just loved the journey, every step of the way. The sensation of stumbling across a new (to me) band and wanting to share their stardust with others, but being met with less-than-enthused responses…well, it just spurred me on to befriend communities online and in Manchester with similar tastes. I started submitting pieces over the years to a variety of amazing music zines and blogs, be it interviews or reviews, and something just clicked in me. This. To talk for hours with incredible people who share my love for all things sonic, to learn from people with extensive back catalogues of musical knowledge. Even flicking through somebody else’s treasured collection. It just felt right. If I hadn’t been given these amazing opportunities to waffle about the things I’m passionate about, I wouldn’t be here today. This is the point of this blog. I want it to be open to anyone and everyone. I want it to be whatever people want it to be.

We’re going to be doing reviews, interviews, articles, think-pieces, discussions on soundtracks. We’re going to be writing about the music we love here. No holds barred. I’ve met some of the greatest people in my life through just chatting about music. And I’d love to meet more through it. So if there’s something you’ve always fancied scribbling about, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email – don’t doubt yourself. We’d love to read anything you’ve got up your sleeve.

Before signing off so that you can have a little nosey through this blog, I want to take a moment as well to just thank everybody who has made this possible. It’s been a rough year so far and we’re only in January; to have the support of so many in getting this up and running has meant more than you can know. To my family, you’re mint, thanks for fueling my passion. To my housemates, who love and look after me better than I look after myself, thankyou. To all the contributors – Tilly for her groovy graphics, Josh for all his hard work interviewing, Josh P and Mads for their wonderful articles – as well as a huge thanks to all the amazing artists that have let us review their works (Blanketman, Ella Boshe/Sam Shaw, YNES and Rory Wynne to name but a few upcoming…) And finally to anyone who’s liked, shared, followed or even just asked me about this project. It means the world and more. Sending love and light. I really hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy putting it all together and collating some seriously great work.

Keep your eyes peeled for some fabulous stuff in the coming weeks. And remember our one and only cardinal rule, folks – no Wings slander tolerated here. After all, according to Alan Partridge, they’re the band the Beatles could have been.

Neve x

© Matilda Wigley