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Archive for July, 2005

The Guardian, live music, and Clear Channel

Posted: July 30th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell

Yesterday The Guardian contained an article by Alexis Petridis about how 2005 is a new golden age of live music in the UK:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,1537784,00.html

Interesting sentiment (from someone who has no idea about what is actually going on in terms of music being performed at venues of a capacity of less than 200 people?), and it’s nice to hear from Feargal Sharkey and whatnot, but something of a concern in the last paragraph courtesy of Steve Lamacq:

“Live music is going through the kind of renaissance that football went through when clubs realised that their grounds were unsafe or rubbish or not good enough and piled some money in. Then it becomes popular and the big companies come in. We’ve already had [multinational media corporation] Clear Channel arrive. I’m not saying for a moment that Clear Channel are Roman Abramovich, but . . .” He pauses. “Do you see where I’m going with this? The thing is that they’ll make big gigs really good. But instead of getting the best players, they’ll get the biggest names in rock and I think that some people further down the chain will go out of business. There will be exclusivity clauses saying if you don’t play this venue, you can’t play this other venue we also own. Where can it possibly end? Can it just get bigger and bigger? My advice to people is to make the most of it now. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Or you could try and do something about it Steve. Make no mistake, having fucked over a huge amount of people in the USA, CC are now turning their attention to Europe and I’m really upset about it.

Look here for more information:

http://archive.salon.com/ent/clear_channel/ – a good introduction to the monopolising and bullying policies of CC.

http://www.clearchannelsucks.net/ – a central resource on information on CC

http://www.hailtocc.org/u2-2005/u2.en.html– part of a manifesto revealing quite how detrimental to grass-roots, DIY and independent live music promoters and venues CC has been in Belgium, and how they rope in the biggest rock stars to help them do so.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Clear Channel Worldwide – some more information on CC’s ties to the Bush administration and pro-Gulf War rallies (no, I’m not kidding).

http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/2005/05/radio_free_clea.html – an incredible article about how Clear Channel set up its own pirate radio station specifically to mock its other stations and generate publicity – check the comments.

Clear Channel may be able to pull its various strings together to bring big rock stars to big venues around the world, but their corporate muscle also prevents anyone who isn’t part of the elite (i.e. anyone who doesn’t submit to their demands) access to information, venues, markets and whatnot. Because they can infiltrate so many aspects of the music market, they can demand that booking agents and promoters have to work exclusively with CC-owned venues at CC rates, with CC-approved bands, in CC-approved towns, working exclusively with CC-owned media (radio/newspapers/magazines). Do you know CC also demands that in their venues all bands that perform have to surrender a hefty percentage of any merchandising revenue (not a new shady practice, but one taken to heady new levels, considering they’ve got fuck all to do with it)? You should definitely read about their tactics about dominating and homogenising the American radio market, and their links to highly conservative Republican groups (not to mention their playlist policies after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001). What’s freedom of speech again? Oh, and Clear Channel owns literally every venue in Boston, meaning that any band not wishing to toe their line can’t even play that city in America. Nice.

You may not realise it, but CC are already making headway into the UK. They already own Mean Fiddler and the Reading & Leeds Festivals, and have a 39% stake in Glastonbury. But here’s the most surreal – and worrying – thing: CC is now trying to infiltrate the UK music industry by pretending to be “indie”. You may have noticed a couple of independent gig promoters have suddenly managed to start booking up some bigger names to do some unique or intriguing gigs of late, quite out of the blue. I certainly know that they’ve approached a couple of independent promoters that you have probably been to gigs by (and maybe attended a festival by the sea organised by), offering to throw them money and access to the CC universe if they covertly surrender their freedom and independence in some unholy alliance. Thankfully, the people you’re probably thinking fo right now todl them where to stick their dollars. In additon to this, I’ve recently heard about booking agents having a nightmare trying to sort out tours for bands if they are associated with CC, having to work within strict ‘pre-approved’ boundaries of clientele when it comes to bands, venues and promoters.

I had been informed that indie ‘zine Drowned In Sound‘s own label, Drowned in Sound Recordings had been funded by CC, but DiS have come back to us to assure everyone that this is most definitely not the case. Phew! However, apparently CC did indeed “invite” DiS the magazine to have it’s own tent at the highly prestigious (CC owned) Wireless Festival earlier this year, apparently only to get some kind of ‘credible’ badge on their ‘indie’ stage. Their abuse of this ended up being pretty galling. This from DiS editor Colin Roberts:

“Yes, we ran a stage in conjunction with the CC-run Wireless Festival and were well-and-truly fucked over. We had very little say in the artists that played, but did manage to use the corporate might of one of the world’s largest media companies to draw a few more people to our web-site – essentially using the rich to bring something to the ‘underground’.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this.

Getting back to the main point, though it is heartening to hear that not everyone is willing to sell out their ideals about independent music, it is still obvious that a scary amount of people are willing to jump into bed with Clear Channel as they disingenuously try to seep their way into the UK’s live music venues and promotions through ploughing new money into the ‘market’ for live music. Unlike Mr Lamacq, I don’t have mixed feelings about this situation: I think it’s fucking awful, and I encourage you to do something about it. It’s quite simple. Read some articles at the above links, get yourself informed, and – if you can – avoid Clear Channel-associated products, gigs, venues and labels at all costs. It’s currently not too hard as their grip is fairly marginal, but only proactive action is going make them reconsider their policies. Fuck these bullyboys, their exploitative machinations and their heavy-handed dealings – support musicians, promoters and labels not willing to jump into bed with these soulless bastards for the sake of a quick buck. It seems like a pretty simple and obvious thing for me to say, but it’s always worth doing it just in case someone at the back wasn’t listening. Just do what you can. If you have any interest in music made and performed independently of the mainstream industry (and by reading this I would assume that you do), you can help.

“Support DIY” – I should have this on a placard that I have to drag myself around with, like a monkey on my back.

If anyone wants to update me or set me straight or anything, or even debate any points, please feel free to comment or email me at dstockwell(at)diskant(dot)net. I’m trying to spread awareness here. Please do speak up if you’ve anything to say and let’s get some dialogue going about this situation.

In other news, never heard of fearmongering? Now you have: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18911

What a load of bullshit.

/soapbox

LARGE MOUND – Go Forth And Amplify (Scientific Laboratories)

Posted: July 28th, 2005, by Fraser Campbell

Imagine you’re hungry, starving even. Then someone comes along and serves you up a delicious stew containing every flavour you’ve ever enjoyed.

It might just be that I’m peckish just now but that seems to me as good a way as any of summing up this terrific record.

The analogy, crap as it is, does genuinely stretch to explain the massive range of influences and styles Large Mound use on this album without ever sounding like they are reaching or forcing anything.

With hints of everything from Gorkys to Iron Maiden, the astonishing achievement here is that they never truly sound like anything other than Large Mound. In drawing their influences without any apparent preference or particular prejudice, they seem to have created not only a distinctive sound for themselves but a natural sounding blend of stylistic surprises, providing a genuine tonic for even jaded old souls like my own.

Lyrical content focuses on hatred of menial jobs (“I Have To Work” and “Wad Of Cash”), semi-ironic references to “rocking” and acerbic true life accounts (“I’m Being Sued By The Fire Brigade”) while the production remit seems simple, featuring mixed down vocals, a towering wall of guitars and a selection of rasping riffs At The Drive In and RATM would have been justly proud of.

Large Mound

THIS IS AMAZING

Posted: July 28th, 2005, by Chris Summerlin


Pancake Mountain!

http://www.pancakemountain.com/clip16.html

CAYTO – Stupendium! EP (Rictus Record)

Posted: July 25th, 2005, by Tom Leins

On the basis of this new EP (recorded with Aerogramme/Arab Strap/Franz comrade Geoff Allan), Glasgow’s Cayto truly are a band of two halves. The title track is queasy prog-fuelled indie-pop that offers a very brief nod in Muse’s direction; and ‘Lost Property’ treads a similar, if more schizoid/menacing path. Interesting, if a tad bizarre, but not really my cup of tea. Their tender flipside, on the other hand, is far more palatable to my slightly-morose tastes! ‘The Thread of Forever’ is a beautifully-gloomy slo-burner that wouldn’t sound out of place on Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’. Closing track ‘The Splitting Up Song’ is nearly as good – a sombre piano ballad with touches of Hope of the States in its soggy grandeur. Cracking stuff. For the uninitiated/downright curious amongst you, the EP is available through the band’s own Rictus Records from September 5th. Where they go next is anyone’s guess.

www.cayto.com

NO HOPE ASTRONAUT – Demo

Posted: July 25th, 2005, by Tom Leins

No Hope Astronaut are new kids on the alt.rock block – “four lost souls” from Kingston-Upon-Thames who create music for “the disconnected, the isolated and the disaffected”. They’ve been lumbered with the slightly confused/confusing sobriquet ‘the pioneers of alternacore’, and this dubious tag highlights their conflicting influences. Caught between a(n edgy, indie-)rock and a (twitchy alt.metal) hard place, No Hope Astronaut may well prove to be ‘too metal’ for the indie kids and ‘too indie’ for the metalheads. Only time will tell. Anyway – a good solid demo with some nice touches of early KoRn and Deftones in the dynamics; but let’s hope they’ve got a few more bruising tricks up their sleeves to set them apart from the rest of the Kerrang-fodder.

www.nohopeastronaut.com

Palimpsest Festival

Posted: July 22nd, 2005, by Ollie

For quite possibly the first time in living memory, something TRULY FUCKING EXCITING is happening in my town….

Harvest Time presents…

PALIMPSEST FESTIVAL

An all day event of new music and outside folk sounds.

Saturday 13th August, 2PM-11PM
All Saints Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge

Featuring performances from:

Alasdair Roberts [Drag City]
Josephine Foster [Locust]
Mi and L’au [Young God]
Kiila [Fonal]
Lionshare [Harvest Time]
Um [Strange Lights]
Dan Merrill [Mutebox]
Fuzzy Lights

And DJs American Booze, Sami (Kiila) & Bad Timing
along with video projections and record stall

Tickets: £8.50 adv / £10.00 on the door

Advanced tickets from Harvest Time Records (all major cards accepted)

More information at the Palimpsest site

Joeyfat

Posted: July 18th, 2005, by Simon Minter

I’ve been listening to Joeyfat’s album The house of the fat a lot lately. It really is very good indeed. Go and buy a copy.

That is all

WOULD-BE-GOODS – The Morning After (Fortuna Pop!)

Posted: July 14th, 2005, by Simon Minter

A short (12 songs in under half an hour), sweet CD album, with clear, intelligent, well-spoken lyrics pushed to the fore, backed with richly melodic, simplistic guitar and some perky drumming. At times it verges on the jangly indie-pop side of pop music, with hints of Heavenly – perhaps due to the presence of Peter Momtchiloff on guitar. This pushes all of the right indie-pop buttons: lyrics with an introspective touch, touches of Nico’s vocal style, musical reminders of Francoise Hardy, even a song sung in French. Whilst it’s perfectly pleasant listening, it leaves me wanting slightly more bite, something to drag it out of the background. But I’m not suggesting that they jam in some power chords.

Fortuna Pop!
Would-Be-Goods

THE CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENT – The Melancholy Death of The Chemistry Experiment (Fortuna Pop!)

Posted: July 12th, 2005, by Simon Minter

This initially comes across as a mellow, gentle album; ever-so-slightly jazz-infused pop tunes played with finesse and that sense of playful style which comes across in bands like The Auteurs, Arco and Pulp. Indeed, the vocals are ‘very Pulp’ – dry, deep tones delivered knowingly with a cheeky edge. But then! It picks up, augmenting the simplicity of the melodies with subtle electronics and drumbeats, even horns, until all of a sudden songs build up into multilayered Flaming Lips-style swathes of depth and drama. At these points I understand that The Chemistry Experiment have big ideas and vision. I can hear David Axelrod, Scott Walker, sixties crooners… and I like it!

Fortuna Pop!
The Chemistry Experiment

JACEN SOLO – Virgo (Ai Records)

Posted: July 11th, 2005, by Alasdair R

Fusing sparse house and techno beats with subtle electro noise-mongering, Jacen Solo has created an album of character that is both engaging and surprising. With subtle shifts in scale and resonance this is an emotive and limitless space-age soundscape that envelopes the listener. Repeated listens have eroded my initial opinion of it being a click and whir away from pretentious knob twiddling twoddle and revealed the pleasure to be found in its dark and measured ambient techno. Virgo showcases faultless production and a masterful handling of pace and drama which can make absorbing, if not easy, listening.

Ai Records