The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Blogs

From 2007 to 2010 CLUAS hosted blogs written by 8 of its writers. Over 900 blog entries were published in that time, all of which you can browse here. Here are links to the 8 individual blogs:

25

The BBC is currently running a Save Our Sounds series, which collects sounds from around the world that have died out or will die out. There's two great collections I've been listening to, and often go back to: Soundscape China, and

Released in 2007 on Kwan Yin records, a Beijing-based label that leans heavily to electronic product, Soundscape China is hard to find - Jeanneau is frustrated by the efforts of local distributors and sells most of his fantastic, rewardingly eccentric recordings abroad.

 

I've not seen Sounds of Beijing on sale in Beijing - apart from some obviously freebie copies being flogged by the knowledgeable secondhand CD sellers who hang around the Dashanzi/798 art zone on weekends. A man who's put out albums crafted from his recordings of animal and human life around the world - he's also done the oil rigs of Azerbaijan - Cusack keeps a day job at the Communications College tied to the University of the Arts in London but has juggled roles in various avant garde musical outfits.   

 


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24

This is the MySpace page of Ambulance Ltd.

This the trailer for The Ben Player Project.

 


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Posted in: Blogs, Sound Waves
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24

Thanks to everyone who e-mailed, commented, texted, Facebooked, Twittered and physically cornered us after our recent article on record stores in Paris. We’ve got plenty of tips on music shops in the capital and en province: our plan is to visit them and report back here with our findings. Keep sending them in. First up, then, are a pair of neighbouring Paris stores suggested by FL reader Lorcan; all hail Lorcan.

The two shops are in the 11th arrondissement near Bastille, a part of town your correspondent hadn’t previously checked out in great detail. Mostly, the streets closer to the Bastille are home to kebab takeaways and alcopop bars, and we didn’t leave Dublin just to hang out in Temple-Bar-sur-Seine. But a block away on Passage Thiéré there’s a cool little venue called La Mécanique Ondulatoire (we saw Wavves there recently), so it’s no surprise that there are good music shops nearby too.

Around the corner from the Mécanique Ondulatoire is rue Keller, a wonderful street full of charming cafés and idiosyncratic specialist stores. (We’re especially thinking of the shop that sells tap-dancing shoes and associated paraphernalia. Who’d have thought the Paris hard-shoe scene was so active?) It’s also the street that clothes the rockers, metallers, ravers, skaters and Goths of Paris: whatever your taste in music you’re sure to find your gang colours in one of the boutiques here. It was our first time on this street and from this day forth we’ll be there regularly.

On rue Keller you have a record store called Born Bad which deals mainly in punk, garage, rockabilly, surf and other alternative retro. The guy behind the counter had black slicked-back hair and a well-groomed moustache like some young stud in an ‘80s New York fashion magazine: this wasn’t our usual indie-kid record shop where your correspondent is confident of out-suave-ing the hired help.

The store’s bigger sections include ‘Punk Oi ‘77-’84’ and ‘Surf ‘60s Compilations’, genres that don’t correspond to anything in our record collection. Of the more prominent album sleeves on display, among the kitsch and DIY cover art, we only recognised Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Histoire De Melody Nelson’ - best French album ever, as we've said before. Still, we got great pleasure and no little education from flicking through the garish and bizarre record sleeves, some of which you can see on the Born Bad website along with vintage clothes and badges they stock.

The other of the two record stores was similarly strange to us. Bimbo Tower is tucked away on nearby Passage Saint Antoine, with a discretion that befits its alternative and often countercultural stock. The shop mostly sells electronic, avant-garde and experimental music for punters who probably find Warp Records just a bit too mainstream. They also have a Japanese pop section, perhaps because many of its punters are also manga fans. (The Bimbo Tower website has a section devoted to Japanese pop culture.) Like in Born Bad, almost everything on the Bimbo Tower racks was unfamiliar to us – except, surreally, the face of goofy old Jonathan Richman gurning on the cover of his recent Spanish-language album. He seemed as out of place as us.

As well as CDs whose artists we didn’t recognize, Bimbo Tower also sells that classic and almost-extinct weapon of subversion: home-made cassettes, mostly looking like they contain Teutonic metal. And they also stock books on punk and revolutionary movements and political theory; we had a flashback to the flat of a rather intense girl from our college days. Like when we were in Born Bad earlier (and that girl’s room earlier again) we felt overwhelmed and a bit out of our depth.

And this is exactly why we love Born Bad and Bimbo Tower. Pop and rock records should be new and strange and challenging and flashy and slightly intimidating – and if pop and rock record stores are like this too, so much the better. (Of course, perhaps such shops are banal to you, and your correspondent has lived a particularly sheltered and innocent live until now.) We didn’t find anything to buy there today, but we’re bloody well going to check out Punk Oi ’77-’84 and Surf ‘60s Compilations and Teutonic Metal On Home-Made Cassette and then go back there with these seeds of knowledge.

That said, we’re still not brave enough to go into the tap-dancing shop.


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23

Key Notes found it very difficult to resist the temptation to call this feature: How To Be A Happy Camper.  However, the tips included here are not just for those planning to camp, but for everyone making their way to Punchestown for Oxegen 2009 (July 9 - 12).

1. Don't Forget Your Ticket
It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world but Key Notes has seen many people arrive at a gig/festival without their ticket over the years.  This blog lives just a couple of miles from Punchestown, but imagine you travelled all the way from Cork or Belfast with all your gear but without your ticket.  Wouldn't be a very nice feeling now would it? Before you leave your house, double and triple check your ticket.

2. Remember You're in Ireland
It might be July, but all weather conditions, from heat wave to monsoon, are possible, and can be experienced over the course of a single day.  With this in mind, bring everything from sun cream to wellies.  Should you forget your wellies, this years Oxegen will have a Schuh Welly Exchange where you hand over your muddy, impractical shoes in exchange for a brand new pair of wellies and all of the discarded shoes are collected by the European Recycling Company before getting shipped to the Third World where they are cleaned up and sold on, stimulating the local economy.

3. Keeping Clean is Easy
Now, this is a direct message to you, the GAA jersey wearing, Tayto eating bloke who stays in  the same clothes all weekend.  You might be proud of your county, that's fair enough, but if you insist on not changing and not showering (despite brand new showers being provided this year) then baby wipes, alcohol rubbing gels and deodorants are a very easy and cheap way to stay clean.  Who, knows, if you stay clean you might just get to benefit from the next tip.

4. Stay Safe!
Lets face it, festivals are peculiar places and the heady mix of alcohol, high spirits and music can result in all sorts of strange couplings.  Should you be lucky enough to, eh, get lucky, then really, use a condom.  This blog is sure that none of you want to wake up in a couple of months with an unexplained itch or, indeed, having to ask if 'festival goer' is allowed in the Father's Occupation section on the birth cert.  Festivals are also very big places and losing your friends is easy so make sure you arrange a meeting point should this happen and/or ensure that your phone is fully charged.  A torch is also a good idea as you'll often be making your way back to your tent while it is dark.

5. Have Fun!
Life is pretty mundane most of the time and festivals offer you an opportunity to really let your hair down.  Oxegen, as Europe's favourite festival as voted for by festival goers, is no different.  Aside from the music there are silent discos, funfairs and, for the first time this year, a paintball alley.  They say that, in order to be considered a good driver, your behaviour should not affect the behaviour of other road users.  The same is true for festivals.  Don't act like an arsehole and it's likely that you'll get through the weekend without anyone thinking of you as such.

There are still a limited number of tickets available for Oxegen 2009 from here.  You can also get further festival tips on Oxegen.ie.


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22

I’ve just come back from a look at That Night We Play Music, a play in the unlikely surrounds of the People’s Liberation Army Theatre in north Beijing. I went to see Xie Tianxiao and his mate Wan Xiaoli, the main draws in the play which was presented by the pair’s Beijing-based music label Thirteenth Month. Impressario  Lu Zhongqiang, who runs Thirteenth Month, introduced the drama as a parody of lip-synching singers and "arrogant big-shots" i.e. Hong Kong bubble gum pop stars and their managers, who command all the best slots on Chinese TV and advertising rotas. The main star was undoubtedly Xie, who in various past lives has tried to emulate (successfully) Jimmi Hendrix and Thom Yorke in both material and appearance. His pals and peers Zhang Chu, and Qiu Ye, founder of rock band Zi Yue, also made cameos in the play, which was worth going to see for Xie’s playing and to two-finger the Mandopop establishment which rule China’s music scene. But this was no masterpiece of stage crafting. I’ll wait for Xie’s next album/gig.

See Xie's best Hendrix impersonation, and artwork for the last album he recorded with his band, Cold Blooded Animal:


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21

Last Friday night your correspondent was at Les Nuits Zebrées, an invitation-only concert at La Bellevilloise hosted (and broadcast live) by hip Paris station Radio Nova.

Our interest was in Tony Allen, not just because of his connection to the legendary Fela Kuti but because his was the only name on the line-up that we recognized. Still, we were assured that the other acts would be just as good, so along we went in curiosity.

And the intrigue was heightened when we saw that Allen wasn’t even top of the bill, but would be on and off by 10:15 that night. Who were these people unknown to us, Oxmo Puccino and Java, headlining and filling this concert while relegating an international cult hero to a supporting role? We’ll come to them later.

First, Tony Allen, his shiny shellsuit and his 8-piece band. No sooner had he settled into his seat than he uttered the dreaded words: “Tonight we’ll be playing only new songs, no older stuff…” New songs meant safe-hands Afrobeat with support-group lyrics about celebrating everyday and living life to the max.

The group’s guitarist kept to fairly basic chicken-scratching all night, which probably accounted for his slightly demented expression: one could see that here was a man who would sooner have been celebrating savage riffs and sexy licks. Still, like reggae, Afrobeat is hard to get wrong – so long as the band is tight and the words not too distractingly naff, it’ll always get you moving.

We caught the last few numbers of Oxmo Puccino: he’s a Mali-born rapper, real name Abdoulaye Diarra. Unlike his more muscular French counterparts and their concrete-block beats, he raps along to melodic music and supple rhythms. It was impressive and likeable stuff. Oxmo Puccino will be at the Solidays festival here in Paris next weekend – as will your correspondent, and we’ll make sure to catch him again.

But what about this Java, then? Digging desperately for scraps of pre-gig info, we were told that their brand of rap + rock + trad French had filled the 1,200-punter Elysée Montmartre the previous week, so they were clearly big in France. This was news to us. All this time the room had filled to bursting. The excitement was palpable and the heat was intense: condensed sweat dripped from the low ceiling. Then on stroll Java, four thirtysomething Parisians dressed by the houses of punk and ska.

You can see how Java (left) have generated such a large live following. Their hip-hop beats get people jumping and the stiff, strident rapping of R.Wan whips them into a frenzy. Where punk bands have a guitar, Java have a very French-sounding musette accordion – this gives them an air of home-grown authenticity but also a slightly conservative familiarity which calls like a siren to the mainstream Gallic punter. Musically, there isn’t anything radically new here – modern chanson française already prizes monotone/spoken lyrics, retro instruments and the rhythms of rap and electronica.

That said, Java are hugely enjoyable live. They have in abundance what most hip-hop or French acts sorely lack – a sense of humour. They sum up their philosophy: “Java, c’est du rock n’roll… sex, accordeon et alcool” (sex, accordion and alcohol). A new song calling for ecumenical unity was potentially pompous, but its wit was underlined by R.Wan dressed as the Pope. 

And on ‘J’Me Marre’ he touches on that most painful of French sporting heartaches: Seville ’82. (Believe us: regardless of 1998, French people have still not gotten over Schumacher and that penalty shoot-out.)

Most boho French acts (and Java are certainly bourgeois bohemians, or at least heavily dependent on that demographic) make a big deal of singing right-on lyrics with crowdpleasing digs at Sarko and ‘the fascists’. Java are more subtle and less superficial than that: R.Wan prods the ruling conservative mentality by succinctly observing how Paris is petrifying into an open-air museum (‘Paris Musée’) and how today’s working classes could soon change their sympathies from the Communist Party to the right-wing Front National (‘Mona’).

We’ve been listening to Java’s new album, ‘Maudits Français’ – the title is a play on “cursed French” and “badly-said French”. Quite simply, the live energy isn’t there – the beats are lower in the mix, so the swirling retro accordion dominates and gives a rather quaint feeling to the whole thing.

Still and all, Java are worth listening to if at least to find out what’s popular in France today - check out some of their tunes on Java's MySpace page. Here they are live with their manifesto, ‘Sex, Accordeon Et Alcool’:



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21

Put French musicians around a dinner table or bar counter these times and the conversation will probably turn – in jest or in earnest – to le loi Hadopi, Hadopi’s Law. This is neither a French cop show, obscure rule of physics nor droll observation about how your tartine always falls to the carpet butter side down.

Hadopi is not a person but the acronym of the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet, a proposed state body to regulate the traffic of copyrighted material on the Internet.  And le loi Hadopi is a government-sponsored bill that seeks to create the Hadopi and punish the act of downloading or sharing copyrighted files illegally, i.e. without paying. Under a three-strikes system, an offender would receive two warnings before finally having their internet access cut off.

The bill has had a troubled life. Introduced by Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right government, it was first supported and then opposed by the deeply-divided opposition Socialist Party. But it soon became clear that France’s left-leaning mainstream music artists actually favoured the bill, although with some discomfort at being seen to support something sponsored by Sarko. Realising that they had seriously misjudged their own constituency, some Socialist deputies abstained an Assembly vote in April where the bill was defeated, and then from the May vote in which a re-jigged bill was passed. It was then sent to France’s Constitutional Council to check that it was legally sound.

But on 10 June the Council sensationally rejected the bill as unconstitutional. Giving a non-judicial body such as a state agency the power to cut off a person’s internet and personal communications access, the council decided, would breach two principles: presumption of innocence and liberty of expression.  Now the bill will be redrafted and returned to a parliamentary vote.

With impeccable timing, then, an association called Libre Accès held its annual Fête des Arts Libres (Free Arts Festival) in the town hall of the 2nd arrondissement of Paris last Saturday night. The day and night’s programme included discussion of the loi Hadopi and performances by acts who have chosen to make their work freely available on the Internet. Your correspondent was there to see a Paris band called Lonah, whose entire back catalogue of two albums and one E.P. is yours to download for free from their website. We recommend you check them out. (Obviously, if a band makes their music available for free then nobody’s going to have their internet snipped.)

What’s better than one good band? Two good bands! Also on the line-up were Franco-Venezuelan foursome Guarapita, whose sound is that of Latino revolutionaries gone ska. The crowd liked them a lot - even more when they started serving vodka and orange out of a plastic bucket. Free music and free booze: life is good.

Regardless of how the mainstream artistic world feels, the trend for celebrating ‘free’ music is spreading. The Fête de la Culture Etudiante (Student Culture festival) will take place on 27 June at the Bellevilloise in Paris. There’s no entry charge, and the festival’s slogan is ‘Libres comme les arts’: free as the arts. (Though we must admit we'd be willing to pay to hear a band from Angers called Misty Socks play their fine new single 'Not A Wanker', pronounced "wonker" à la française. We've made up none of that.)

Meanwhile, le loi Hadopi lies waiting to re-appear in some new form, as intriguing a drama as any U.S. series you could download without paying. Perhaps it’s closer to a French cop show after all.
 

Here's the atmospheric electro-rock of Lonah's 'Les Effacés':


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19

I spent an evening in Tom Lee’s music shop in Hong Kong lately. Easy to find – the punk kids loitering outside - and a joy to peruse, the shop is half a century selling musical instruments, sheet music and classes in the depths of Kowloon, Hong Kong’s densely populated entertainment district. Wedged in among the dim sum restaurants, Tom Lee’s Cameron St store in Tsim Sha Tsui opened in 1953. The store and another  are today the company’s show rooms among the firm’s 20 outlets across Hong Kong. Interestingly they’ve also gone global, building out from a showroom in Vancouver to 9 stores accross Canada. There's also a Tom Lee's in Macau. It’ll be very interesting to see if they open up in mainland China: the many, mostly tiny, music shops in Gulou district down in Beijing’s historic quarter would all fit into Tom’s Lee’s two-storey premises.  

 

John Lee, CEO of Tom Lee's music (thanks to HK Chamber of Commerce for pic)

I've written before here about China being the world's number one maker of entry-level instruments - and, increasingly, professional level gear too. Tom Lee's takes advantage of its China links in shipping cheap, quality gear into North America. Aside from the bilingual (English and Cantonese) signage and heritage - lots of collector-only guitar framed and mounted on the wall – Tom Lee’s has what most mainland stores lack: a vast product range, and knowledge of the product. That’s not to say that the stores in Gulou aren’t friendly and learning fast: they are. But how enjoyable to wander around Tom Lee’s for a few hours.

 


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17

Anatomy of the CLUAS writers poll (part 2)As promised last week in the first part of the anatomy of our poll to find the top Irish albums released in the last 10 years, you'll find below the albums that were voted for but did not make the top 50. In total there are 86 albums that were voted for but that did not make the final published list of ranked albums. Of these, 5 were voted for by 2 writers, the rest secured a solitary vote.

A quick glance and you can see some acts who were 'penalised' for their productivity in the last decade as their votes, being spread over multiple albums, diluted their rankings and so reduced their prospects of making the final top 50 (e.g. Ann Scott, Redneck Manifesto, Future Kings of Spain, Nina Hynes and Pony Club).

[Aside: I didn't have the time to do a forensic eligibilty check on the albums below so you may come across entries that were not full length albums, or were released before 1999, or are by acts that are not Irish...]

Albums outside the top 50 that secured 2 votes:

  • Bell X1 - Flock
  • Crayonsmith - White Wonder
  • The Dudley Corporation - In Love With The Dudley Corporation
  • Hybrasil - The Monkey Pole
  • Super Extra Bonus Party - Super Extra Bonus Party

Albums outside the top 50 that secured 1 vote:


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17

Cork Indie Music ScenePerplexingly, CLUAS continues to be Ireland's number one website for jazz music (well, at least in the eyes of Google, Yahoo and Bing). Not happy with just addressing the needs of jazz aficionados, CLUAS has strived to earn it metal stripes and we are now the number 1 website for Irish heavy metal music (according to Google and Bing where CLUAS holds both the 1st & 2nd slots on searches for 'Irish heavy metal music', while chez Yahoo we currently hold the 3rd and 9th spots for the same search).

Now we are on our way to becoming the top website for the Cork Music scene. This, er, radical development is thanks to a new page I published on the site last week without any fanfare. The page brings together links to all articles from the first 10 years of CLUAS that relate to Cork bands in addition to reviews of gigs that took place in Cork. I simply stuck a link to this new page from the main CLUAS page and then around the website I found a few instances of the word 'Cork' and I simply changed them into a link that points to the new Cork specific page. I then sat back and let the search engines do the rest...

A week has passed and already the results are impressive for the major search engines, just see the table below:

Search phrase Our ranking on Google Our ranking on Yahoo
cork indie scene 1 2
cork indie bands 1 7
cork indie music 1 not in top 10
cork music scene 4 2

 

[I also checked our ranking on Microsoft's excellent new search engine Bing but it is not - at the time of writing - throwing up CLUAS as a result for any of the above searches. I expect that to change in the next week or two].

To be honest I was not surprised at this quick result. For years I have been honing CLUAS so that it is optimised for search engines and, indeed, a very significant proportion of our traffic comes from search engines. In time I expect this new page to attract a healthy and steady number of new people to the site who are interested in Cork music, and if even a fraction of them become repeat visitors, and maybe even join the CLUAS writing team, it will have been worth the effort.


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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.