Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gordon Bennett

May I draw your collective attention to the excellent blog maintained by Mr. William Bennett at Readers of a certain age and disposition may recall that William was the lynchpin of noiseniks Whitehouse from their inception to their recent demise.

Surprisingly, and despite the presence on his former group's albums of such charmingly-titled ditties as Ravensbruck, Lightning Struck My Dick and Rapeday, his blog doesn't dwell on his top 10 serial killers or necrophiliac fantasies. Instead, he'll wax lyrical on his old cat, his love of mango (not the Saturday Night Live character), airport security and his fondness for schmaltzy kids' movies. In other words, he's a fairly normal, eloquent and witty person with a pronounced libertarian streak. Which may come as a surprise to those who had Whitehouse tagged as fascist misanthropes.

He's now doing something called Afro Noise (Fela Kuti meets Squarepusher: check it here) as well as having an alter-ego, the Cornetto-scoffing DJ Bennetti, who regularly plays Italian disco in Edinburgh. He comes across as an extremely well-balanced and personable chap, something you wouldn't necessarily infer from Whitehouse's music. For any newbies to the finer points of the industrial noise scene, see below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Star's on 45 (and CD. And download.)

Sam Taylor-Wood and the Pet Shop Boys (neither of whom I get particularly excited about) are about to release a cover of The Passions' I'm In Love With A German Film Star. As I haven't managed to hear it yet, I'll reserve judgement, but the cover (right) doesn't fill me with hope. Far too literal. Then again, it's on Kompakt, so it might be OK.

Aaah, who am I kidding. It couldn't possibly be as good as the original, a sublime and hypnotic track that younger readers may recognise from the first episode of Ashes To Ashes. At the time of its release, the Polydor PR people said it was "a dream in sound and words", and for once, they nailed it absolutely. It's a pocket symphony with added Echoplex, and it really keys into that Fiction records/early Cure thing (though the group had split from Fiction after an initial liaison), while presaging the shoegazing/dreampop thing of 10 years later. I've linked to the original just below.

Download I'm In Love With A German Film Star (mp3) (deleted Aug 2009)

Buy the new version

Buy 30,000 Feet Over China

The Passions (nice site, BTW)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kilty pleasures

The Thistle LP

I had to give a short talk at the Scottish Learning Festival (an exhibition-cum-conference at the SECC) a couple of weeks ago: an occasional occupational hazard. It took place in a hotel suite. I was just closing the laptop and turning off the projector when the next speaker walked into the suite, ready to set up for his presentation. Instead of seeing a sallow man in a Next suit (as is usually the case at these events), I was confronted by a tanned figure wearing armour, a kilt and a helmet, carrying a broadsword. Which is something you don't see everyday.

Most people that I've mentioned this to have said "It wasn't Jesse Rae, was it?" And yes, it was. Who hell he? Well, apart from being famous for wearing his kilt and armour at all times, (has anyone ever seen him without it?) he had a number of near-hits in the pop charts in the mid-80s; the video for one in particular (Over The Sea) was played on The Tube a lot (and greatly admired at the time by Martin Scorsese, if I remember correctly).

Now, given Jesse's preferred garb, you'd be forgiven for assuming that his stock-in-trade was twee Scottish whimsy, Donald Where's Yer Troosers-type stuff. Incredibly, however, he's chosen to take his chances in the world of soul and funk. And not just a feeble British pastiche of the genre, either. On his CV, Jesse can list work alongside heavyweights like Roger Troutman of Zapp, Bernie Worrell (that's him in the video for Over The Sea) and Mike Hampton of Parliament/Funkadelic, Jocelyn Brown and Tackhead (see mp3 download below for a sample of JR with Keith LeBlanc, Skip McDonald and Doug Wimbish). Equally incredibly, he also wrote Inside Out for Odyssey, the royalties for which presumably kept the wolf from the door for a few years (though sadly, not enough to prevent the Royal Bank of Scotland from bankrupting him a few years ago. Check the name at the top of the letterhead. I bet Mr. Rae is laughing right now). On top of all this, he seems to be standing as an MSP in 2011, too.

So what was he doing giving a talk an education conference? Well, according to biographies he was an early adopter of ISDN technology, using it to record with musicians around the world from the comfort of his home in St. Boswell's. He's now extending this experience with Brick FM, an online radio station that is forging links with local schools and which similarly connect disparate communities around the world, the global and the local, just as his early videos did. The title of his talk, Be Yer Sel, reminds us that all his work, from the Brooklyn Bridge-to-The Borders video for Over The Sea to the present, is connected with identity, whether his own constructed identity, the fractured self-identity of today's learners, or the identities of other disparate communities around the world. Or something like that.

You can see Jesse's official, record company funded videos on YouTube*, but the best stuff is the privately shot, unofficial stuff on Jesse's own channel. Here you can see an ecological rap by David Bellamy, the late Roger Troutman performing on the back of a lorry in a field in Scotland, and a funk workout on a Scottish patio adorned with upturned children's toys and a disused barbecue. Enjoy, and salute the slightly unhinged, nationalist genius of Jesse Rae.

Download All Souls by Strange Parcels with Jesse Rae (mp3) (deleted Aug 2009)