Tag Archives: music

The Sound of Saturday

It’s been a long time since I’ve been home on a Saturday morning… had that opportunity to shuffle sleepily around the house, let the light seep through the windows and allow the contents of my skull to unwind… contemplate the potential of morning. And the music. Saturday morning has a soundtrack and this is mine…

I hope you have yours.

 

joe_henry03

Scar – Joe Henry

Joe Henry, sounds like he comes from another time. His songs, have the voice of a weary traveller, telling their story in sepia tones, across an old wood bar.

 

 

The Triffids

Wide Open Road – The Triffids

Without a doubt one of the greatest Australian songs ever written. And after travelling to WA recently, this song has an even greater pull. Fremantle Press have just released Beatiful Waste, the poems of David McComb.  A must read!

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Consumed by Twilight

As the twilight hours engulf another perfect Winter’s day here’s a couple of gems to fuel you for the next few hours and transport you into whatever Saturday night may hold for you…

 

Twilight SingersCandy Cane Crawl

Quite simply, Greg Dulli embodies Rock’n’Roll… my mind lights up every time I hear this song. Perfect for sipping on a few whiskeys, or whatever else may take your fancy.

 

The Twilight SadAnd She Would Darken The Memory

Elegant, aching rock from one of Glasgow’s finest. Swirling guitars, tumultuous rhythms and James Graham’s raggedly sentimental lyrics… now where’s that second drink?

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Chains of Flashing Images – an interview with Max Ryan (part 1)

Max Ryan is a poet whose ‘words sift deep into life, and are full of power and insight.’ (Judith Beveridge) Max is also renowed for his work with musician Cleis Pearce, their CD ‘White Cow’, winning several music industry awards. This Lost Shark caught up with Max recently to discuss the good things in life… poetry & music. Here is part #1 of the interview: 

Max Ryan

The importance of landscape and place is something that is evident in your work. In your first collection, Rainswayed Night, you conjure feverish images of India (The Dancer, Burning Ghat, Varanasi); the sensuality of the ocean (all night the sea) and the rain that seeps into so many of these poems. You currently split your time between the ocean and the desert. How do each of these vastly different landscapes impact on your writing?

 

Firstly the Indian poems: well, anyone who’s ventured to the sub-continent will testify that India confounds any ideas of order and predictability so maybe my India poems are an attempt at some sort of disentropy. Interestingly, ‘The Dancer’ came from something I saw on a very early trip to India: a man dancing on the ghats (steps) at Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi, in an almost drunken, totally self-absorbed way; his eyes were bloodshot and his mouth smeared with betel juice and he looked like he’d been up all night. I wasn’t even aware of what the actual situation was but the overall effect was an energetic jolt to my being, very strong, and I knew it would turn to a poem one day. Of course there are other benign, deeply peaceful poems about India in Rainswayed (‘A White Cow’, ‘Shepherd’s Hut, Triund’ for example).

A friend, the poet Judy Johnson, pointed out to me the strong presence in the original manuscript of water generally and it was she who suggested I call the book Rainswayed Night. The water element certainly runs through the poems but not in any defined way. In ‘The Hexham Flood’, water, in terms of the river and the dampness or pneumonia that settles on the child’s chest, is a highly malevolent, totemic force that acts as a nemesis in the child’s imagination. In the actual Rainswayed Night sequence, ‘the rain’s soft sheath’ is a source of elemental comfort and solace amidst the horror of the car accident and nightmare of the hospital. In ‘Evening Storm’, the tropical storm and rhythm of the sea-tide flows into the commingling of the two lovers. The rain in ‘rainy day paper boy’ erases all sense of time and space and merges into the boy’s early morning dream. ‘all night the sea’, which is a series of tanka, is probably the closest poem I’ve written so far in describing the place where I lay my head at night. The sound of the sea is the trigger here, a constant presence at my beach house. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) in another poem to describe just what that sound is. So the sea features in many of my poems even the new ones; sometimes, I feel, overly so. Which is where the desert comes in I guess. Yes, it is very different out there (the centre, the country around Alice Springs) and I’ve come to love the vastness and wildness of the place. Very different, dry and hard, endless, a roaring silence; it’s quite confronting in a way, humbling too somehow. So far though, beside some haiku, I’ve written very little about it (‘A White Cow’ was totally about a sort of epiphany in the desert albeit the Rajasthan one). Last time I was in Alice I was sitting in a car in the car park outside Woolies while my friend was picking up a few groceries and there was something on the radio about some sort of scientific probe on Mars, checking for water, signs of life etc. Meanwhile a group of old Aborigine women, dressed in the most colourful array of raggedy clothes, were taking in the winter sun and then an old uncle wheeled up in a chair wanting a cigarette…I was just struck by the contrast between the radio show and the scene outside, there’s probably a poem there…

But the words for the poems may not come in a direct and immediate way; the India poems, for example, were formed after a very long gestation. As it is for most poets, I suspect, the actual poem can come from many sources. Ultimately, I think, poetry is about words and some weird alchemy of sound as much as any specific experience.

 

You mention that ‘all night the sea’ is a series of tanka. You also write in the shorter, haiku form. What initially attracted you to these disciplined forms of writing?

 

Hard to say but right from when I was in my late teens, I’ve been reading books on Zen and writers like Alan Watts who had a deep understanding of the old Chinese poets and the Japanese art of haiku. There’s a favourite ku of mine by Ryokan, I’ve seen various translations, but this is it essentially:

the thief left it behind:
the moon
at the window

The first time I read this, I was blown away and I still marvel at how much Ryokan manages to say here: the overall picture is of a burglary but right at the centre is the moon, inviolate and beyond any human conniving. There’s a marvellous sense of freedom in this haiku: ‘the window’ (I’ve seen it described as ‘the open window’) turned into a portal to the unlimited and there’s an implied sympathy for the thief who misses out on the most precious thing there. So yes, I’m very drawn to the essential nature of haiku and the sense of the poet’s disappearing into the poem. I still feel very much a novice though. My friend, the poet John Bird, and I have sat together out the back of a country pub we go to near here and written haiku about the things around us…while I’m still struggling to describe a crow perched on the rickety paling fence, John will have a half dozen fully formed haiku, it just seems to come naturally.

Tanka are different again; the five lines allow for a more expansive description and generally more subjective and personal voice. (It’s a great vehicle for the theme of lost love or recalling times past). I write quite a few tanka and submit fairly regularly to Eucalypt, the Australian tanka journal edited by Bev George. I’m also part of the Cloud Catchers, a local ginko group. We get together every season (the Oz ones) and have a haiku walk, usually about three quarters of an hour before we regroup and share our haiku.

I’d say the influence of these forms definitely affects my writing in free verse.  In an important way, the hard clear image, unlike polemic or high blown linguistics, doesn’t lie. I’ve made it almost some kind of credo to avoid the use of abstractions and airy figures of speech. Probably I’ve been too dogmatic about this but overall there’s something undeniable about a good image. Bob Dylan’s method of ‘chains of flashing images’ is a compelling one.

 

‘Chains of flashing images’ was a phrase coined by Allen Ginsberg to describe Dylan’s writing style. Throughout the last five decades, Dylan has been a touchstone for many poets and I know he is someone that has influenced your life and work. What is it about Dylan’s work that continues to mesmerise? 

 

Well I’ve written one poem, outlaws, largely influenced by Dylan’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It’s his least verbal album but I’ve tried to capture the atmosphere of that work, the overall sense of inevitable tragedy in the outlaw story echoes the fate of the lovers. Even the music becomes part of that:

harmonica swirls as we sink to the floor, wound
in guitars’ quicksilver chords. maracas
swish to the silk of your dress
as i follow you up the stairs.

Saw Dylan the first time he came here in 1966… Rushcutters Bay Stadium in Sydney, still a functioning boxing ring (fortunately we didn’t have to put up with the revolving stage they’d used for the Beatles less than two years before: you’d get one song full-frontal then they’d crank the stage another 30 degrees round til three songs later it all came your way again), the audience for Bob wasn’t so big. I’ve never really forgotten it: Dylan and what was (minus the drummer) The Band; snarling, surreal, wildly eclectic grooves, lots of it from Blonde On Blonde which I don’t think had even come out yet. I’d never heard anything like it… I’d never seen human beings that looked like that! Cuban heels and strange Confederate style suits from some Civil War of their own…Dylan with his floaty, Little Richard bouffant, pale and on fire. Just made me aware of the power of words and music as incantation…something prophetic and uncanny the way he brought it all together. From there I discovered Rimbaud, Verlaine…the declamatory quality of Walt Whitman and the lyricism of Tennyson you could hear it all in Dylan.

I’ve never had any problem with seeing singer-songwriters as bards in their own right. When I went to study English literature at Newcastle Uni I felt lucky to find a department where the Romantics were given great respect with the implied acknowlegement of the importance of the lyrical in poetry. One of our lecturers was the late Norm Talbot who was described by Gwen Harwood as Australia’s greatest living poet. He wrote an article in poetry australia called ‘The Stranger Songs’ (I dug it up) where he declared that something was indeed happening Mr Jones:

The lyrics of many pop songs…are considerably better, more craftsmanslike and more interesting than the work of the Established, the Serious, the Bright Young, and the Promising poets. This is uncommon.

I remember Norm asserting at some discussion of popular song that the Tambourine Man was none other than the Muse. Not to say Norm was some Dylan sychophant or anything (he was probably more interested in Keats and Blake and Emily Dickinson) but he could hear the poetry when it was there. All sounds a bit post-modern now but it was inspiring at the time to see the important place of song in poetry, like putting the lyre back into lyrical.

But yes, Dylan’s been a big influence, even as a medium to the work of other poets. I’m also a huge admirer of Ray Davies (the Kinks), love his vision of the lives of ordinary people:

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander
I stay at home at night

Going back to Dylan, I’m inspired by the narrative leaps of some of his songs such as Tangled Up In Blue and Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. Poetry and song are a brilliant medium for telling a story, shifting through time and space in a way that nothing else can and Dylan’s a master of this. Also Dylan’s way (mentioned in Chronicles) of leaning into the song on the odd beats is something I’m probably unconsciously influenced by in my work with such musicians as Cleis Pearce. Without the formal structure and rhythmic cycles of a conventional song, you’re thrown into a highly spontaneous interplay of the voice and the musical surge. I feel blessed to be able to collaborate with such a deeply intuitive, sensitive player as Cleis.

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Who Listens To The Radio? part 2

Here are three more albums that have got these ears excited in 2008.

Forget the radio!

No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head (Songs To Run To): Bremen Town Musician

Bremen Town Musician are a three-piece experimental folk-blues freak-out. No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head (Songs To Run To) is the second album and charts new sonic territory for the band. This album smoulders, opening with the instrumental tracks Song to Run to and Governor Wren. The introduction of vocals on Steady lifts the intensity again and segues perfectly into Sailor Song; Marissa Allen’s voice bristling above the swirl of violin, drums, guitar/bass. Each song takes on its own character – the ethereal Love; the abrasive Disco Frogs and Shooting Stars Under Midnight; the delicate You Don’t Have To. No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head is one of those rare albums that demands high rotation. Every listen takes you somewhere new, uncharted… so throw away the map; this is an album of discovery.

 

 Tell Tale Signs (The Bootleg Series vol. 8): Bob Dylan

Well, here is a man who needs no introduction and with 40+ albums already available why buy another bootleg? Well first up, there is never a definitive version of any song for Dylan. Each recording is a time capsule; the song as it was at that moment. Tell Tale Signs captures 27 songs from the period 1989 – 2005, including 5 live tracks, 6 alternate versions, 3 songs previously only available on Soundtracks, demos and other unreleased gems. Red River Shore is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful songs Dylan has ever penned. Possessed by the love that damned him, Dylan spins an old school narrative with his trademark mix of religion and existentialism. Another stand out is the song Mississippi. Three versions are included and it is here that Dylan’s ability as a singer is showcased. By exploring tone and phrasing Dylan uncovers new possibilities for this song with each take.Version #1 a soft-spoken lament, Version #2 dog-tired and raspy and Version #3 a powerful last stand. Tell Tale Signs is not a fan only affair. This is Dylan capturing moments of truth.

 
This Culture Of Background Noise: Because of Ghosts

This is the second long player from innovative Melbourne 3-piece. Recorded at the legendary Hotel2Tango, This Culture Of Background Noise, is anything but (background noise, that is). Each track (all instrumental) is a soaring mix of inticiate guitar, drums and live sampling. Each creates an atmosphere, somewhat akin to that electric feeling that prickles the skin just before a summer storm cracks open. The drums gather and build the momentum, the guitars stir and tremble. Importantly, this album has space for the mind to create its own narrative. The sound never too busy, never too dark, never too moody. Just the right amount of melancholy and raw noir introspection to hold you entranced.

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Who’s listens to the radio?

2008 has been a strange old year for music. As radio gets more commercial and the new indie set a little too cool, I have found myself turning my back on alot of the new music scene. I have however, managed to discover some real sonic gems… so here they are (in no particular order) a few of the albums that have captured this lost shark and deserve more attention.

13 Blues for Thirteen Moons – Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band

This is an absolute trip from the Montreal ensemble. 13 Blues starts with twelve short drones, each lasting for around 10 seconds before blasting into the first full length song, the intense and mammoth 1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound. From this point in the band holds you in their swirling power as they blast throgh 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons, Black waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues and BlindBlindBlind. Find yourself a dark space and allow your head to unravel…

Here’s a sample: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=sttO1yabmlc

 

When Good Times Go Good – The Fauves

Little has been said about this band since the early to mid nineties, although they have been releasing a steady stream of albums many which have gone completely unnoticed by the general populace. I certainly hope that is not the case for this album. This is vintage Fauves. Phil ‘The Doctor’ Leonard’s pop melodies work perfectly beside the more angular rock of Andrew Cox. Fight Me I’m 40 should be slaying them on the summer radio circuit. It is a call to arms for all those who revelled in the heady days of the late 80’s/early 90’s indie rock explosion – “When I was your age I had a record deal/ send me a text let me know how you feel.’ The other highlights include opening track Underwhelming, Love Radar and Sunday Drive.

 

proVISIONS – Giant Sand

Hailing from Tucson, Arizona, Howe Gelb is the main man behind Giant Sand. proVISIONS is Giant Sand’s first album in four years. It is filled with desert grooves, dustbowl ballads and some wild jazz mood swings. Gelb is a traveler; equal parts Kerouac and Cash. His music has a restless vigour that keeps you guessing and after more than 30 albums, that’s no mean feat. Spiral is spare and evocative – ‘Don’t wanna live forever / but another generation would be nice.’ The cover of PJ Harvey’s Desperate Kingdom of Love, achingly good and there are some incredible collaborations here: the rollicking country of Stranded Pearl with Isobelle Carmody and the late night blues of Without a Word with Neko Case. An album that whispers in your ear and pulls you closer with each listen.

Check this out: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=JCoJLZ87W7A&feature=related

 

Painkiller – Steve Kilbey

Kilbey is one of those people who truly deserve the term artist bestowed upon him. Best known as lead singer and bass player of Australian legends The Church, Kilbey is also respected as a painter, poet, producer and musical collaborator. Painkiller is Kilbey’s ninth solo album outside The Church and other projects and it is an album in the truest sense. This is not made for the iPod shuffle generation. While there are tracks that in another world would be hit singles – Wolf and Outbound – Painkiller is an album that benefits from being played in full. Remember how we all used to rush home and put our latest purchase on, put our feet up and really listen? Remember? This is an album brimming with psych-folk rhythms, ambient blips, driving bass lines and poetic imagery. Take your Painkiller and let the dizzy chaos carry you away.

A little taste for you: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=fhv58p-GSyE

 

Hour to Hour – The Stress of Leisure

Brisbane boy, Ian Powne inhabits the world of The Stress of Leisure. Hour to Hour is the second album and it is bursting at the seams with pop-goodness. Powne, like all great songwriters has that ability to write with an autobiographical eye, while allowing the ‘I’ in the lyric to be universal. These songs shimmer and kick and Powne isn’t afraid to ask the big questions – ‘Do you like your job/ all the hours you put into it?’ – The Weight Of The World. There is an intensity that sits beneath the surface of Hour to Hour, both lyrically and sonically, that drives this album along. The iconic backyard romance of Christine Macpherson burns with longing and missed opportunity; Blues For Britney deconstructs the idea of indulgence and obsession and Man Doll casts a critical eye over love in the 21st century. This might sound a little heavy for most pop records, but that is the beauty of this record. The pop licks and unassuming delivery keep you coming back and each time, the smile is a little wider.

Sample here: www.myspace.com/thestressofleisure 

So… what have you been listening to?

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