Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Close To The Noise Floor

MFH / Pump's second life continues with a track on Close To The Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984 out on Cherry Red this month. We are in exalted company: early Human League, Heaven 17, OMD, Throbbing Gristle, Blancmange, John Foxx... and a whole slew of lesser-knowns and bedroom bands. 
Our track is 'Mistral' from the MFH Ground Zero cassette album - an airy but edgy instrumental recorded in a bungalow in Cornwall in '81. It's a 4CD set complete with comprehensive notes and an essay by Dave Henderson. A fine piece of cultural documentation which unearths the key role of early analogue synthesizers in post-punk experimentalism. There are omissions: most importantly The Normal's 'Warm Leatherette' and no Cabaret Voltaire for example. But it's the additions that are intriguing. And the reviews have so far been excellent.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince RIP

Blimey. And now, Prince. Almost as shocking as Bowie. What's going on!? 
As with Bowie, I didn't really keep up with his output of the past 20-25 years. For me his career is defined by the eighties: the early Dirty Mind and 1999 albums, 84's massively successful Purple Rain (at one point the album, single and film were all no.1) and later brilliant stuff like 'Kiss' and 'Sign o' the Times'. 
I watched Purple Rain for the first time this evening. Weird film. Despite being the main character, his presence is equivocal, uncertain, even ghostlike throughout. 
But he had it all: could play any instrument, brilliant in the studio, flamboyant, controversial, enigmatic, a true dandy, fantastic live, but above all a great songwriter - both for himself and other artists. I doubt if we shall see the likes of him again.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Swimming with Dolphins

This morning, A&N - and Max - swam with a couple of dolphins, as you do. Amazing to watch: pulled along by dorsal fins and pushed by snout on balls of feet. The latter saw the girls rise from the water, arms outstretched like Kate Winslet at Titanic's bow. Parents watched from a distance - too far to get any decent photos. You could buy some afterwards, but at a rip-off £10 each we decided it was a day to remember the experience rather than chronicle it in pictorial detail. Nonetheless, here's a pic of the marine mammals in jumping mode. A&N are far right.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms

Been reading an interesting book about the Zoroastrians of Iran, Samaritans of Israel, Copts of Egypt, Yazidis of Iraq, Kalsha of the Hindu Kush and other forgotten religions, hanging on by a thread in the Middle East. It's by Gerard Russell, a former British and UN diplomat (fluent in Arabic and Farsi), now advising on human rights policy at Harvard, but is as much a travelogue than an academic tome. 
It's easy to forget that there are religions other than Islam (or Judaism or Christianity) in the region but for how much longer?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not as young as I used to be

Unlike these fit young children, yours truly ran into the sea and promptly tore a calf muscle jumping over the breakers… It's official, I'm getting old. Consigned to reading in the hammock. 
But I suppose there are worse convalescences.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Coba

This morning we drove a few miles to the Mayan ruins of Coba. It's not as famous as Chichen Itza, which is much further inland (and which we visited this time last year), but actually it's better. Less crowds, lots of shady forest and cycle track between the various buildings. Its heyday was from around 100 to 1000AD, thereafter overtaken by Chichen Itza and abandoned when the Spanish arrived. Indeed it was quite a late rediscovery and only opened up to tourists in the 1980s. Fascinating place.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Some Like It Hot

This morning Wolfgang showed me round his workplace in Encinitas. He's a designer at Electra Bikes in the small, attractive town of Encinitas about 25 miles up the coast from San Diego. Nice, laid-back, sun-sea-and-surf atmosphere. And cool, creative office. We then headed down the freeway, listening to obscure French 70s electronica and Charanjit Singh's 1982 Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (house music before house had been so called), to Coronado, a long thin island which lies in front of San Diego.
My favourite Marilyn Monroe film is Some Like It Hot (1959) which although set in a swanky beach hotel in 'Miami' was actually filmed at the Hotel del Coronado. Fabulous place, built in the late 1880s, all crisp white wood, rotundas, terracotta roofing and original elevators. It still has an interwar feel (the film was set in the prohibition era). It also has one of the best final lines of any movie. See here