A Dubdog year in music. No favourites, no hierarchy, but a list of albums that have been bought, downloaded or given and have been returned to for more than one listen. Listed in reverse order from December to January.
Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
Rocketnumbernine – Two Ways EP
Lynched – Cold Old Fire
Julia Kent – Asperities
Kode9 – Nothing
The Thing – Shake
British Sea Power – Sea Of Brass
Alternative TV – Viva La Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Complete Deptford Fun City Recordings 1977–1980
Roots Manuva – Bleeds
Mogwai – Central Belters
Niney The Observer – Sledge Hammer Dub In The Streets Of Jamaica
Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In The Orbit Of Ra
Various – The Wire Tapper 39
Girl Band – The Early Years EP / Holding Hands With Jamie
John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
Sons of Kemet – Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do
Various – Trevor Jackson’s Science Fiction Dancehall Classics
Arcade Fire – Reflektor (deluxe extra tracks)
Run The Jewels – Meow The Jewels
John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
King Midas Sound / Fennesz – Edition 1
Low – Ones And Sixes
Jah Wobble – Redux: Anthology 1979–2015
The Bug – Zim Zim Zim
AFX – Orphaned Deejay Seek 2006–2008
FKA Twigs – M3LL155X EP
Various – King Jammy’s: Roots, Reality And Sleng Teng
Various – Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955–83
The Mothmen – Pay Attention!
Singers & Players – War Of Words
Beak> – Split EP
Storm Bugs – HKY502
Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
Chemical Brothers – Born In The Echoes
Various – Studio One Rude Boys
FKA Twigs – LP1
Dr Feelgood – All Through The City
Public Enemy – Man Plans God Laughs
The Nightingales – Mind Over Matter
Githead – Waiting For A Sign
Alternative TV – Opposing Forces
African Head Charge – My Life In A Hole In The Ground
Mark Stewart & The Maffia – Learning To Cope With Cowardice (Director’s Cut)
Alborosie vs King Jammy – Dub Of Thrones
Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
Killing Joke – For Beginners
The Refused – Freedom
The Fall – Sub-lingual Tablet
Killing Joke – What’s This For…!
Linval Thompson – Strong Like Sampson
Burning Spear – Social Living/Living Dub
FFS – FFS
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
The Pre New – The Male Eunuch
Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys
The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ
Wire – Wire
Various – Sherwood At The Controls Volume 1 1979–1984
Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
The Unthanks – Mount The Air
The Special AKA – In The Studio (Remastered)
Polar Bear – Same As You
The Specials – Specials (Remastered) , More Specials (Remastered)
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
The Skull Defekts – Dances In The Dreams Of The Known Unknown
Steven Ball – Collected Local Songs
Bad Breeding – Burn This Flag
Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar
The Screaming Blue Messiahs – Good And Gone
The Grubby Mitts – What The World Needs Now Is
Various – The Wire Tapper 38
Andy Moor & Yannis Kyriakides – A Life Is A Billion Heartbeats
Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley
The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie + Versions Galore EP
Sherwood & Pinch – Late Night Endless
Various – Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee’s Early Reggae Productions 1968–72
Vic Godard & Subway Sect – 1979 Now!
Various – Studio One Classics
New Order – Substance 1987
Ragga Twins – On A Ragga Trip
King Champion Sounds – Songs For The Golden Hour
Aphex Twin – Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP
Björk – Vulnicura
The Decemberists – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Belle & Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
Fire! Orchestra – Enter
Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
And the odd trip to see a band at a venue or festival. In alphabetical order.
Belle & Sebastian
The Pop Group
…and a friend’s heavy metal covers band whose name escapes me, (sorry Scott)
Since I last posted here about my Masters I have been fine tuning where I’m going with my work. Creating the above Venn diagram for a peer critique this week helped—the first Venn diagram I have ever produced! The problem I’ve had until now was making sense of what appeared to be very diverse aspects in my work and research. This diagram bought it all together visually and helped me explain where I was going to my peers. They got it, and gave me some very good feedback on the trial writing I have done to date.
Today I’ve been developing my written responses to photographs I’ve taken. In order to distance myself from what I had tried before, I used a series of images I shot earlier in the day while walking my dog in a local park. This writing was an exercise in honing the tone of voice I use, and testing the familiarity in my written language. I’m a long way from posting any of my writing for this project here, and I will only give a sneak peak when I do, wanting to save the major content for future printed publications that I produce. However, I now feel I’m starting to get a cohesive balance between descriptive elements, personal reflections, critical analysis and my use of humour.
As it will be some time before I have anything concrete to report here, such as publication details and images of designed work, I thought I’d share some of the photography from today’s session. Please bear in mind I am not presenting this as being in any sense ‘accomplished’ photography; these are purely shots I use to respond to in my writing and text & image will be seen side by side in any final outcomes.
The written context surrounding these images include: familiar scenery; walking to work; exercising the dog; sense of neighbourhood; Ipswich; civic pride; protest; and cat jokes.
I am embarking on a new venture as of this week; that of starting a Masters. As a result it is unlikely that I will have the time to blog here as much as I have in the past. Dubdog blog is not closing, merely shifting emphasis and directing its attention elsewhere for the time being.
I anticipate I will still add to this blog over the next 2 years that I’m doing the MA course part time, but what with my day job and other commitments, I will have to prioritise rigorously and blogging here will be a much lower priority.
I am hugely looking forward to doing my MA. It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but have had to put it on the back burner over the last 5 years due to work commitments. The irony is that as an academic I am expected to be conducting scholarly activity and researching but the lecturing and administration side of being an academic is the thing that has held me back from doing this in anything but a piecemeal fashion. In the last five years I’ve maintained a regular (ish) activity here; peer-reviewed and written reviews for books for art and design publishers; attended conferences; contributed to other blogs, including that of Eye magazine; and I’ve been actively researching historic typographic and print related publications. I’ve even managed to create the odd piece of graphic design, self-published a book and followed my growing passion for photography with a number of personal projects. However, none of this has had a continued focus or the structure that is needed to truly give any of it real academic merit. The framework of an MA will give me that structure and allow that focus.
Do keep checking back from time to time, there will be the odd new post every once in a while. Thanks for reading thus far.
Eardrum Buzz is an irregular feature looking at key pieces of music that have altered my perception of exactly what music can be. See Eardrum Buzz (intro) for further context. All comments are highly subjective.
Title: Venus In Furs
Author: Velvet Underground
UK Release Year: 1967
Hearing Venus In Furs was a major musical milestone for me and I constantly wish I could hear it for the first time again for the revelation it caused.
Aged 15 I had at some point taped Lou Reed’s Transformer after borrowing it from my local library. Just seriously getting into Punk at the time, on hearing other’s say that Reed was its godfather, I couldn’t quite make the link with the glam I heard on his second solo LP, (excellent as I thought it was). And older friend with a wider musical knowledge than I had Diana Clapton’s Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground 1982 biography which I loved flicking through whenever I visited. It was this book that introduced me to the Velvets, or at least to their myth, prior to hearing their actual music.
On the back of this, one week I used some of my wages from a Saturday shelf-stacking job and took a punt on buying a 6 track import Velvet Underground sampler. The gatefold sleeve contained a stapled in booklet in either Spanish or Italian, with lots of photos of the band—despite not being able to read it, the photos alone made me think it was worth the £3.99 I paid. Although I wasn’t aware of the Velvet’s discography, I later found out the album collated together 6 tracks from Velvet Underground’s first three LPs. I can’t remember exactly what tracks, but can recall both Sister Ray from their second album and Pale Blue Eyes from their third were on it.
All I can now remember of putting the album on for the first time was the incredible effect hearing Venus In Furs had on me. I had not heard a single thing like it before in my 15 short years and it put my head in a spin. Those viola stabs and background drone, the laconic out-of-kilter drums, the chiming guitar and those ever so strange lyrics that were drawled poetically from Reed’s lips. And dropped into the middle of all of this, that uplifting chorus that all too soon, and seamlessly, reverts back to the repetitive atonal noise of the verse. This changed everything for me. I was unsure whether I liked it or not but felt compelled to listen to it again, and again, and again. As it became more familiar to my ears I became more intrigued with it, and more intoxicated by it.
I am incredibly grateful to this song for opening up my ears to vast new musical possibilities. Literal lyrics and actual tunes suddenly didn’t seem as important as they had moments before. And I now realise as I look back that without this song there is so much that I now appreciate and enjoy that I would never have given a chance, dismissing it simply as tuneless and unmusical prior to this experience. But Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs didn’t just widen my musical perspective, it also opened my mind to looking at many things from a non-mainstream stance—art, politics, philosophy, you name it. In challenging my perspective on music, Venus In Furs made me question my views on many other things; views that were formed purely on a narrow experience. Ultimately it taught me the value of exploring different possibilities beyond the limitations of what was popular, what other’s deemed ‘acceptable’, and what mainstream society presented as culture.
Eardrum Buzz is an irregular Dubdog feature looking at key pieces of music that have altered my perception of exactly what music can be. See Eardrum Buzz (intro) for further context. All comments are highly subjective.
Title: African Dub, Chapter 3
Author: Joe Gibbs and The Professionals
Label: Lightning Records
UK Release Year: 1978
“What the fuck is this?” is not the exact phrase that would have been going through my 10 year old brain. The ‘fuck’ has been added by my 47 year-old self to emphasise the strength of reaction I had to hearing African Dub, Chapter 3 for the first time.
Opening with a heavy accented Jamaican voice declaring at volume, “They wan eya killa killa killa killa killa”. This echoes off into the sound of a deep bomb blast, immediately before impulsive snare rim-shots set the rhythm to follow; some opening to an album! Then a snare roll cuts through the heavy atmosphere, cavernous and tinny—how can something sound so thin and so loud?—before the powerful hook of THAT bassline underpins everything. All this within 15 seconds and we are truly on the way—the album has started.
Until this stage, my musical appreciation had been, in order: The Wombles, Sweet and The Beatles. Not exactly the musical diet that would have prepared me for such a heavy dub record, (not that I knew what ‘dub’ meant aged 10). “What the fuck is this?” indeed.
What followed is now so well known to me, but to my young ears this was difficult to comprehend as music. Questions abounded: Firstly, why were there virtually no human voices except for the odd call of ‘killa’ or ‘murder’ or ‘I wanna dub you’? Where was the verse/chorus set-up I’d become familiar with? Secondly, why the repetition? Apart from the odd fill-in, once a track had truly started, it was essentially the same thing repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, (as I heard it back then). Thirdly, why did some instruments keep cutting in and out, as if lost, only to reappear some 20 seconds later? And lastly, what were all those sounds that echoed in and out all about? The doorbell; the science fiction type noises I’d heard on Blake’s 7; the snapshots of a horn section, gone in an instant; and the odd vocal addition.
All these questions confused and excited my young mind. But what drove through all of this strangeness was the high fast rhythms cut by the drums, and the low, low, low bass hooks.
The accompanying sleeve intrigued also—if the music was revolutionary and somewhat threatening to my ears, the sleeve created a heavy visual accompaniment. Those dark brooding guys on the front joined as one staring directly at me, the unfamiliar architecture in the background line illustration, the red, gold and green jagged shards blasting from the sky. And the title! Who was the band? Where they called African Dub, or Chapter Three? And what did All-mighty mean?, a phrase I’d only previously heard at dreaded Sunday school, (no pun intended).
The context to this musical mayhem I was experiencing: A family gathering—maybe Christmas, maybe Easter—packed into my Grandmother and Uncle’s council house in Carshalton, Surrey; the front room barely big enough for the congregated mass there-in.
This album, more than any other, has had a massive impact on me. Not just on my musical tastes, but also on my inquisitiveness for discovering new sounds. I wasn’t sure I liked African Dub Chapter 3 when I first heard it. I certainly didn’t understand it. But it did intrigue me.
In terms of bands/music I’ve liked over the years since first hearing this record that I can draw a clear linage to, then my immediate patronage of Two-Tone as ‘my music’ when it hit the charts a year later is an obvious association. The b-side of the 10” Black Market Clash, with the dub versions of Armagideon Time and Bankrobber, was at one stage pretty much glued to my turntable for weeks on end a few years later. It wouldn’t be until my late teens and early twenties thought that I’d discover the delights of other dub producers such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Niney The Observer, and obviously King Tubby. Later, World Domination Enterprises, Meat Beat Manifesto, Mark Stewart and The Maffia, Tackhead, The Bug, and Kode9 and the SpaceApe, amongst many others, would be opened to my ears because I could trace aspects back to this album.
I will leave the final words of this post to Woebot, writing for The Wire magazine’s The Inner Sleeve feature, (August 2010, issue 318, p79): “The music is analogous to the artwork: visionary, bold, visceral, but also conjured from the barest essentials. This record as [a] physical entity has always functioned as a desire-creating machine. In his epic reggae study, Bass Culture, Lloyd Bradley told how the demand for it was so strong that the first UK copies were stolen overnight from a London shop before they even hit the racks. The disc’s power [is] undiminished with the passing years”.
This blog, Dubdog, carries the strap-line: On art, design and music—mostly.
However, on closer examination a reader may come to the conclusion that in truth it is actually ‘mostly’ about design in one form or another. The music bit generally gets sidelined to lists of what I’ve been listening to at the end of any particular year. But recent thoughts have led me to consider adding a semi-regular feature that will address this.
Let me explain… I’ve been thinking a lot about music recently, partly prompted by corridor conversations with work colleagues and discovering a joint love of a particular band; but also through meeting new people and finding they have cross-over tastes to mine, but who then reel off a huge amount of band names or artists I’ve never come across. This has led me to ponder on how I have arrived at my subjective musical ‘tastes’.
I’ve never been a fan of pigeonholing. As a teenager, like many others, I had a perceived need to belong to something and thus create an identity for myself, usually based on a particular youth culture that followed the fashions of a particular musical ‘tribe’. As I matured I rejected this need to identify myself by the music I listened to, just as most people do when they distance themselves from their teenage years. But even when I was pigeonholing myself to the outside world through dress codes, I felt at odds with assigning myself to just one particular style or genre of music. When I was wearing bondage trousers and spiking my hair I was listening to far more than just The Clash.
As I think back on my life’s musical journey, one important thing it has taught me is to be open-minded to new experiences. As an addition to this I learned not to define something as being ‘music’ or not, especially as I learnt about, for example, Industrial Music, experimental sound artists, and more recently, Free Jazz. As a result, the term ‘music’ suddenly seems as arcane as the concept of dressing in the same style as the people in the bands you like. As I have heard new sounds, whether that be through chance happenings or someone directing me towards a particular artist, I can pinpoint key moments in my life when I’ve heard something for the first time and it has fundamentally altered my mind about music. I’m not talking about just hearing a new band, I’m talking about moments that have made me question my preconceived opinions and have taken me on an exciting journey of discovery. To use the term ‘paradigm shift’ is not too strong a term to use here in relation to what I’m trying to express.
Obviously context is everything. There are certain pieces of music that I’ve heard that if I’d come to them earlier in life I might not have been able to accept them—not having had preceding musical experiences I might need to get to that point of acceptance. A good example of this is the first time I heard Venus In Furs by The Velvet Underground. To my 15 year-old ears this blew my mind and I couldn’t stop playing the track on rotation for several days as I soaked up this incredible sound; a sound that I can’t recall having heard previously. Had I first heard this at age 10, my personal experience would likely be quite different. Equally, the situation I heard something in for the first time may also have bought a lot to the experience that outside of that situation it may not have had the same effect. Others who may already be familiar with a specific work which I signify as a paradigm shift in my conscious understanding of music may not consider that it the best example of that specific musical approach. This doesn’t matter as this is personal to my experience, and besides, if they are right, I will generally work that out for myself anyway as I explore further. And while I may come to the realisation that what I’ve heard is at the tame/lame end of its particular spectrum, the fact that it opened my world still holds a significance for me, and therefore I would still hold it in high regard, (albeit with accepted caveats).
As these considerations on music that I have been ruminating on recently have continued, I’ve started listing all the key works that have prompted a real paradigm shift in my musical appreciation. Over the coming months I will revisit some of these pieces and subsequently write about them here. Some will be very well known and discussed at length in other forums, but some will have slipped off the musical map and no end of searching online will uncover them being given any serious attention, (I can’t wait to write the post on Flux of Pink Indians’ The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, for example). They will all, obviously, be personal to me and my experiences. But equally, some readers may discover new music they haven’t previously experienced or re-evaluate something they had previously discarded. As an exercise I hope to find this personally enriching, but more than that, as I consider music in more depth and the phenomenon of the effect it can have on an individual, I hope to learn a little more about what music is, and the power it can wield over and above subjective appreciation.
As a sneak peak, first up will be a key album that has shaped much of my musical appreciation from a young age and that has aligned my tastes for many years to come, right up to the present day in fact. That album is Joe Gibbs and The Professionals—African Dub All Mighty: Chapter 3. Search it out on YouTube and give it a listen, I’ll be writing about it here soon. Until then, I’m now off to trawl the BBC Glastonbury website, while the festival goes on many miles away from my home town, in order to search out some new acts I’ve never heard of before. Who knows, I may be writing about them here in a few months time.
This series is titled Eardrum Buzz after the track of the same name by Wire.
When Occupy Design UK put out a call last week for Crisis Graphics in protest against climate change I immediately knew what I was going to submit—a reworked version of my 2002 piece Pear Shaped.
Originally created for a People Tree design competition, for which it won an award, I was never really happy with the typography. Occupy Design’s call gave me the opportunity to rework it, channelling a typographic treatment I liked in a piece of work by Ivan Chermayeff that I first saw at his Cut and Paste retrospective last year, (see Holiday exhibitioning pt 1). I’m not usually one for returning to my past creations but Pear Shaped suited the cause and recycling an old idea seemed appropriate. It is, however, an inditement of the lack of progress on climate change that an image created 13 years ago is still relevant today.
Occupy Design UK’s aim is to create an ‘Agit-Prop Army’ of images for the Time to Act on Climate Change protest in London on 7 March 2015. Time to Act’s intention is to put pressure on political parties to consider the environment in the run-up to the general election in the UK in May, with a further aim to build towards the COP21 UN Climate Summit being held in Paris in December.
As 2015 approaches and I look back over the past year I can honestly say that one of my proudest achievements of 2014 was being awarded Shittest Tutor Of The Year by graduating UCS Graphic Design and Illustration students, (albeit via Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail project book ).
Happy New Year to all Dubdog readers. Here’s to 2015.