Folk Farming in Cardiff

To Cardiff last weekend for a DJ gig at the wonderfully-named GWDIHW (pronounced goodyhoo) which got fairly rowdy in the best possible way. We then had a good look around the city centre the next day, finding some great old Victorian arcades with lots of independent shops, plenty of vintage clothes and records.

One place I’d been particularly looking out for is Folk Farm, run by Chris and Judi Brick.  I first met Chris at their store SMYLONYON in New York in the mid 90s. Like Folk Farm, this place was piled to the rafters with second-hand clothes, although back then their speciality was leisure-wear from the 50s/60s/70s – mountains of turquoise slacks and loud shirts.  It’s almost a universal law that trousers from that era have at least a 36″ inch waist and 28″ leg – completely unsuitable for the modern lanky gentleman.  But still great for a rummage (the store, not the trousers).

The new shop is equally stuffed with fascinating things, but has a more rustic feel with old clogs and fire buckets jostling for position with dolls in fishing nets, old tin baths, farm equipment and an enormous amount of vinyl (as far as I could tell mostly rare American folk music). Good to meet Judi too and hear about her musical exploits as Linda Lamb. It was a real shame Chris wasn’t around that day.

Have a look at Amy Davies’ excellent photoset from the recent Cardiff Arcades Project here.

Chris Brick has also had an interesting musical career.  Back in the 90s he was producing (with Alex Gloor of In Flagranti) and selling compilation cassettes, “Uneasy Listening” by Smylonylon or Tinynyny.  I still have a few of these – amazing mixes of lounge, easy, moog and library music and exotica – but was delighted to find that someone has been posting them on a blog – that someone being the Dalston Shopper (“Once a week high quality digital recordings of cassette tapes purchased at the Dalston Oxfam Shop in East London.”) – and you can check at least one of these tapes here.

cover of smylonylon tape 1

Also well worth a look is the Brick Channel on Youtube – featuring lots of very interesting short films and whacked-out edits of 60s public information films put together by son Sam Brick, often using Chris’ Family of God tunes as the soundtrack.  Here’s their version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:

from their eponymous album released in 1996.

Finally – here’s a new mix for the merry merry month of May, reflecting my current love of old school hip hop, the Stones Throw label and twisted beats.  Hope you enjoy.



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Brass frolics and gnarly knobs

In London at the weekend for a rival wedding and a highlight of the day was parading from Sutton House to Chat’s Palace in Hackney, led by the Hackney Colliery Band – an eight-piece drum n brass outfit with a real ear for rousing tunes with bubbling bottom end, funky sousaphone and rampant snare.

Here’s them covering Toto’s Africa: don’t worry, it’s way more palatable than the original.

I was later delighted when they launched into one of my favourite brass tracks, “Brooklyn” by Youngblood Brass Band who can be seen here doing it at the Big Chill (R.I.P.) in 2005:

On the subject of funky sousaphone, or Sousaphunk as I like to call it, here’s the Diesler/BiggaBush remix of that track from the last Lightning Head album.  I have a whole album’s worth of remixes from that period that for one reason or another never saw the light of day, so watch this space for more links and release info.

Other stuff that’s been floating my boat this week has been the amazing Madlib/MF Doom collab on Stones Throw from 2004, “Madvillainy”, and wouldn’t you know it, here’s the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble playing one of my top tunes from the album, called Rainbows:

Here’s Madvillain’s version:

Love that Sun Ra sample.

Going further into Stones Throw territory today I stumbled across an interesting sound from artist Dam Funk, with a track called Mirrors:

WORK that keytar, Damien…

Finally for some reason Hudson Mohawke came into my consciousness over the weekend, someone I originally heard on the excellent first Beat Dimensions comp.  Here’s a typically crazy track, sort of Todd Rundgren on helium with gas mark 10 beats and full-on DX7s:

Hope you enjoy.


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To Marwencol

Just a quick one to bring people’s attention to an amazing film about Mark Hogancamp – who some 5 years ago was savagely beaten up by five guys who took a dislike to him in a bar. Beaten so badly his face had to be reconstructed, he was in a coma for nine days, and once he physically begun to recover had to re-learn how to walk, read, write, eat – not to mention that he had entirely lost his memory of his life before the attack. As part of the process of recovery he started to construct and take photos of a world of his own, populated by dolls and models in a town called Marwencol. This not only assisted his hand-to-eye co-ordination, it also got his imagination working again, as he constructed a storyline for his doll alter-ego in which he finds love and – via a babelicious bunch of armed-to-the-teeth Barbies – takes a rather Tarantino-esque revenge on his attackers, represented in Marwencol as a group of SS officers.

This is the trailer for a feature-length documentary made by Jeff Malmberg called Marwencol, broadcast in the UK on More 4 as “Village of the Dolls”
I urge you to watch the whole film, it’s spellbinding.

Here’s an early plug for an upcoming gig in Cardiff – just love the poster.


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Circling over the library…

…still on the Library Music theme I wanted to post this track from a KPM album, “Flamboyant Themes Vol 3” – which I was sent on vinyl in the early 1980s whilst working at the Triangle Arts Centre in Birmingham, England.  The LP also contains the classic “Gala Performance”, better known as the theme for “This Is Your Life”.  It’s amazing to think that a piece which was written as a piece of library music then became synonymous with the programme for about 30 years.

This one, “Little Boy Blue” by Syd Dale is one of my faves, full of blasting horns, cool double bass breakdowns and lush alto flute runs.

KPM generic album cover

Also on a library tip, I found a great track by the Library Vultures, appropriately called “Library Vultures Theme” on Turbotrax that fuses some of the urgency and propulsive nature of the best library music with hard hitting beats.  More please.

This big band/library sound was to have quite an influence over a band I formed in the mid-80s, BIG MOMENTS, with PK CHOWN (now of the Blue Planet Sound).  Styling ourselves “the Late 80s Big Band” we were clearly a Thatcher-era austerity big band as we only ever reached about 11 members, with four brass, piano, double-bass, drums, percussion and PK and myself taking lead vocal duties.  Here’s our one and only promo, shot on Super-8 at Birmingham’s Faces Night Club:

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The Music Library and other reading

This is my first post on WordPress, so hello to both my readers!  I was previously posting on blogspot so if you’re interested you can catch up on my sporadic bits there, here (here, there, everywhere).

Here’s my latest mix on Mixcloud featuring Luke Vibert, J Dilla, Ebo Taylor, Okayplayer’s Bollywood/hip hop mashup, a reggae cover of the Dr. Who theme, and more.

Thanks to my old mucker DJ Dick for the heads up on Radio 4’s recent programme on Library music, which reminded me a) to check out what presenter Jonny Trunk is up to with his fascinating website and label, Trunk Records, b) what a lovely book and CD he put together with help from Jerry Dammers, the Music Library

– always a source of inspiration, especially the artwork.

Oh, and c) – what a genius was Basil Kirchin, composer of albums such as Abstractions of the Industrial North

Basil Kirchin album cover

from which this is a nice track…..

and Primitive London

Basil Kirchin soundtrack album cover

also out on DVD which I’m looking forward to seeing, described as a 1965 Mondo film, complete with teddy boys, strippers, chicken processors and deviants of many types.

Apparently Kirchin, originally a jazz drummer, was way ahead of the curve having spent five months at a temple in India during the early 60s before moving to Sydney. Tragically all the master tapes of his band were lost when his belongings fell into the sea whilst being unloaded at the docks.

Nevertheless he produced some incredible library and soundtrack music which had an obvious influence on bands such as Stereolab and Broadcast (whose singer Trish Keenan sadly died earlier this year.  The last mixtape she made for a close friend is well worth checking out) I can even hear an influence on Soft Machine in some of his stuff.

One last plug for a book I’m reading at the moment

ostensibly a story of how an appreciation all modern music can be bookended by Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” and Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room (no me neither) it is in fact a masterful piece of rock journalism, a history of how and why Paul Morley became the greatest rock writer in the world (his words – but he’s probably right) but much more importantly it lists virtually all of the important musical, technological, cultural events of the modern age.  All in his own very readable style.

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