Tag Archives: London

Poem: Hue and Cry

Dusted flats will be auctioned

off in years when green leaves

are news, not loss.

Ken opulence will bloom

to cheers with skedaddled

brown faces still

fearing the view.

Bridges drawn and tightened

belts, a monophony

of penury-denying

fools. Colour schemes

are always brokered:

oligarchian white

over Trinidadian hue.

News: The definition of ‘home’ divides Londoners as two permanent bench residents watch world go by

Home is where the heart is… home is where the hatred is. There are two patently conflicting statements concerning humanity’s need for a spot of their own. The definition of what constitutes a place of our own varies from nation to nation, tribe to tribe, and indeed is complicated by what people will tolerate and/or will pro-actively desire.

Our modern age comprises many views on the standard of living. Those still able to gallivant at least part of our globe in search of sun and fun and mini-golf, unworried by climate dilemmas, have no compunction about regularly uprooting themselves for a short break there and there. Perhaps in retirement and relative wealth, they have earned such delights – or at least the self-proclaimed right to extol them.

Then there are the ’39’ or 100, the so-far nameless group of migrants within a much larger group of people who leave their country of origin; those with a home destroyed or sullied or bereft of the opportunities others would see as commonplace and ordinary: jobs, opportunities for advancement, a living wage, a clean environment; those for whom ‘home’ is a fluid concept not tied to location but rather to survival and improvement. Some are lucky enough to find these staples of life; many others do not.

The contrast between these two groups – and with a mass of people who are neither unfortunate nor especially gifted with avenues to success – continues to bewitch, to befuddle and to sadden those who strive for equality and parity.

Home therefore – in 2019 – means wherever we lay ourselves for however long we must given there may be much uncertainty, private woe and public problems behind our decision.

Today’s article on the BBC concerning a mother and son who have lived together on a park bench in London for several years produced the above thoughts and more: to pry into their lives – even with positive intentions – seems intrusive when their local community (and council) are helping in spades.

It produces a sense that their admittedly ‘different’ choice of base is one which others cannot accept on various grounds (aesthetic, practical, cultural?) forcing them to either view it as an actual mystery or puzzle to be solved or as an on-going situation for a concerned yet misguided and temporal Neighbourhood Watch of sorts. Privacy is a human right oft forgotten.

‘Home’ in this case is something else – and maybe a saying or song has yet do it justice today.

Vinyl Junkie: ‘Assimilation’ by Cool Breeze

Released in 1995 when the ‘jazz not jazz’ ethos allowed labels such as Dorado, Mo’ Wax and Kevin Beadle‘s Clean Up records to unite music makers of simpatico scenes – and in doing so showcasing how London would later give rise to the ‘broken beat’ movement – ‘Assimilation’ was more deceptive, much deeper in its construction and objectives than might have been originally thought. As much Bronx as Bristol with an emphasis on guitars and soul together with echo chambers and programmed beats.

For six days-a-week, seven days too long, at my record shop workplace in Notting Hill, this debut album by Charlie Lexton played on a tin-pot hi-fi at work. With often darkly-defined skies outside and many unpredictable customers inside, be they a well-known Antipodean ex-smackhead or a wild man regularly relieving himself in a corner of the shop’s basement, this LP soothed and excited me in equal measure.

 

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Nicely pressed on two twelves, its sleeve-notes detail a list of ‘assimilated’ influences which encompass muppets Bert and Ernie and a pipe-toting Mexican Zapatista leader. In total, they represent a map of sorts to the actual sounds on this long-player: a knitted sprawl containing a spool of this and a clip of that with a pattern of its own making.

Pre-internet, ‘Assimilation’ was an aural signpost to the still-tantalising MTA-riding, shrink-wrapped and block-blaring New York hip hop, whose recorded achievements seemed Olympian and mythical in allure. But this is a (then) modern English album, borne out of an introspective time, sharing some of its composite parts shared with others. A CB on a common wavelength in other words.

A twinning of aching melancholia and musicality here – similar to that of Original Rockers and the early, rootsy Massive Attack – ensured enough warmth and heart to qualify this as quasi-soul and not simply a weak variation on digi dub or, much worse, trip hop. The album’s moody and mystical minor keys could have graced a release on drum and bass labels Creative Source or Good Looking whilst a sweet and straight cover of ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ nods to another Vietnam-themed Nineties release, The Aloof‘s ‘Never Get Out of the Boat’ in its fluid and lush sonics (Lexton’s re-work steers the song into the waters of The Clash‘s later dubbier releases and, in doing so, inadvertently celebrates the intrinsic oddness of the ‘Sandinista’ album track, showing how far the punk group travelled, musically); lastly, deftly twisted ribbons of drums on occasional display echo the intricate nimbleness of two other studio boffins Plug aka Luke Vibert and Squarepusher, who were also making waves at this mid-Nineties mark.

 

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Whilst those two gentlemen speeding into a future of their own making, intent on following Aphex Twin‘s lead in making machinery serve its master, Lexton seemed more Reds Leb and Stripe, content to poke around and find his thing in the sounds and influences of his predecessors. The result is a multi-textured and lovingly layered sound which can appear as if an experiment in testing what someone with a heartfelt understanding of black sounds could achieve. By that reckoning, it deserves to be placed next to the recorded work of David Toop and not ‘Duck Rock’ by Malcolm McLaren.

Perhaps the album closest in kindred spirit is ‘My Life In the Bush of Ghosts’ but there’s a more judicious, paring selection of ingredients; more of a focus on grooving rather than the sometimes edgy, overloaded confrontation within David Byrne and Brian Eno‘s 1981 album (though ‘Regiment’ could appear on either album).

Given the recent tweets by @JohnCleese, and the UK’s continuing debates over national identity and immigration, an easily assimilated fusion was and still is an important strength of this album. Along with DJ Shadow, DJ Premier and all other sampling dons, Lexton had a dense blueprint of what worldly music could sound like when unfiltered by a radio or TV broadcast from elsewhere on the planet but instead direct from a globally united studio, blues party or metropolitan street.

https://www.discogs.com/Cool-Breeze-Assimilation/master/143231

 

Music: Musing on Diana Ross, vinyl finds and fan clubs

Being a stupid addicted brain-damaged dedicated vinyl record hunter of many years, I’ve often found unexpected items inside records which I’ve bought. Off the top of my head:

A paper wrap of powder. Money. A concert ticket stub for James Brown (at Hammersmith Odeon?). A poem from the giver to the recipient. Autographs. Press clippings. 

This was in my copy of The Wiz, the under-rated soundtrack to the film starting Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell (whose name has been on my mind recently due to an untimely death)… and Diana Ross

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 I’ve long had an un-decided relationship with Ms. Ross. The ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ columns are both heavily weighted (must update piece with said table) but I’ve no issue with her, musically.

Girl group glory, disco queen, Marvin duetter. Yep, yep and yep.

This is a cute find, I think. It’s a visual reminder of record company-endorsed fan clubs who fed record buyers with trivial news, press and daft photos. It’s also a sign of the times that this compliments slip was issued after Motown upped sticks and left Detroit for the West Coast and MoWest in a break from the past (and it’s also from the days when London’s phones were all 01 but that’s neither here nor there).

It’s never happened yet, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to ring an obviously defunct fan club – official or otherwise – in the hope that somehow an aged disciple of [insert name here] was still manning the phones and posting out home-printed, lovingly-written newsletters. After much throat-clearing and splutter on both our parts, perhaps there might be an exchange of affection for [insert name here] on both our parts. Heck, we could even end up re-jolting the club back to life.

Ahem. 

Music is many things. Our childhood, our dreams and us, amongst many other things. Yes, with the mention of MJ above and also thinking of Ross‘ troublesome relationship with her former Supremes colleagues, those wide-eyed thoughts frequently vanish in later life when reality is confronted, but through items like this and other worthless/ invaluable ephemera, an interested party can gain a brief but warm remembrance of the days when Motown ruled the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and the world seemed in theory to be a little closer together on the dance floor.