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Archive for October, 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

Kingblind Downloads (Halloween Edition)

Excellent Streaming Halloween Radio Station
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More Halloween tunes
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David Skal talks about the Origins and Myths of Halloween. [MP3 file] The author of Death Makes A Holiday was interviewed in 2004 for the radio program Talking History. The Skal interview runs from 4:47 to 18:20 of the program.
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Elvis Remains Top-Earning Dead Celeb (HALLOWEEN EDITION NEWS)

Elvis is still the king when it comes to earning royalties, according to Forbes magazine, but Shakespeare could have given him a run for the money. Forbes’ annual list of Ten-Top Earning Dead Celebrities showed Elvis Presley was top earner for the fifth straight year, generating $45 million for his estate. “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz held his customary spot at No. 2, with $35 million. Presley died in 1977 and his music is still going strong, but he has a long way to go to outlast Shakespeare, still on theater marquees nearly 400 years after his death. The magazine calculated what the Bard’s heirs might collect each year if he were still under copyright and estimated it at $15 million with over 5,000 performances of his plays and hundreds of thousands of books sold in the last year. That would put him behind fellow Englishman and former Beatle John Lennon (No. 3 at $22 million) and artist Andy Warhol (No. 4, $16 million) and ahead of dead heavyweights such as Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. This year’s list also showed the big impact of Hollywood, as Johnny Cash and Ray Charles broke into the top rankings as the release or planned release of film biographies boosted their royalty statements.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kingblind Downloads

Iggy Pop – Heroin Hates You
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AC/DC: A truckload of records..
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Mogwai Finish Album, Beaten by Police in Nazi Death March, Tour for Charity

In a brief statement issued by singer Stuart Braithwaite, Mogwai have finished their latest album, the follow up to their last proper LP Happy Songs for Happy People and 2005’s live BBC recording, Government Commissions. The album is, as of yet, untitled. However, for the sake of bulky paragraphs and excessive comma use, I have supplied the following three tentative appellations: 1. Brainwaves: Fact or Fiction? 2. Gimme Core, and 3. Fuck, I’m Thirsty! Where’s My Nalgene Bottle? While no further information was released regarding the upcoming release, Braithwaite did take the opportunity to discuss recent goings on in the US.

“I see that there has been a riot in Ohio,” Braithwaite stated. “After the black population of Toledo took exception to a ‘police supervised’ Neo-Nazi march. I’m actually watching American news and they are talking about the rights of the Nazi’s to march and blaming “gangs” for the violence!” We also blame fags for AIDS dude. Blaming gangs for violence shouldn’t really be that high on the, “Did I just hear an American say that?” list.

Braithwaite went on, “Last week a black man was punched repeatedly in the head by the New Orleans Police officers, an act that was caught on camera and shown internationally. People wonder why the world is incredulous at America’s righteous crusades in Iraq and beyond. You couldn’t make it up.”

Mogwai has two shows scheduled for November in support of One in Four, a mental health awareness charity.

11.28.05 – Edinburgh, SCO – Cabaret Voltaire
11.29.05 – Glasgow, SCO – The Arches

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kingblind Downloads

Download remixes of Deerhoof’s “Rrrrrrright” and add one yourself.
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Download Son Volt’s October 21st Washington show, courtesy of NPR.
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Daniel Johnston:: Fish
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Mick Harvey – One Man’s Treasure (Album Review)

A country as big as Australia certainly ought to have a country music tradition, but would you know what it sounds like? Mick Harvey – composer, producer, talented instrumentalist and solid rock of the band he co-founded, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds & The Birthday Party – isn’t going to make it famous overnight, but One Man’s Treasure does give us an intriguing taste of what he calls “urban Australian alternative country music”.

Urban country? Oh well, let’s not quibble over an oxymoron. What matters is the music, and Harvey’s treatment of some classic songs – and some of his own – is really rather good.

That should come as no surprise, of course. Harvey hasn’t spent nearly 30 years in the business without adding an lot of varied experience to his native talent, and there are many who suspect that Nick Cave would never have acquired his current cult status without Harvey holding it all together.

What does come as a welcome surprise is just how good a voice he has; somewhere between tenor and baritone, with an attractive growl at the lower end. It’s highly effective in the slower, tender tracks such as the dreamy Louise and Come Into My Sleep (Nick Cave). In the melancholy First St. Blues (Lee Hazlewood) he would even give Richard Hawley a run for his money.

So what does Australian urban country sound like? Well in Harvey’s production it’s relaxed, gentle strings overlaying equally gentle guitar, some sensitive percussion. Some of the tracks lean more towards the American version – especially Man Without A Home, with its reference to Jolene and soulful premonitions of disaster – and some lean towards folk (We Will surrender), but these songs offer far more variety than classic country and it’s more a spirit than a genre.

Demon Alcohol, one of the stand-out tracks, has more than a whiff of Bad Seeds about it, the discordant slashes of jangling guitar reminiscent of Red Right Hand and Let Love In; Planetarium is a wistful and beautiful song, developing into a frenzied guitar solo.

The River (Tim Buckley) is an ominous minor-key song in which Harvey’s voice and simple guitar accompaniment are perfectly attuned; Bethelridge has an extraordinary sustained, eerie backing that talks of vast empty spaces and seems to nod in the direction of native Australian soundscapes. The album closes with the exquisite Will You Surrender, Harvey’s voice taking on some of the softness of Ralph McTell, infinitely caressing.

After two albums of Serge Gainsbourg covers and collaborations with Anita Lane and others, it’s good to see Mick Harvey taking centre stage himself. This is an album of varied pleasures: it doesn’t grab you by the scruff of the neck but it pulls insistently at your arm until you have to take notice. (Helen Wright)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kingblind Downloads

Cinematic Orchestra – Motion
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Small Faces – The Darlings Of Wapping Wharf Lauderette
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Animal Collective – Winters Love
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The Fiery Furnaces:: Rehearsing My Choir (Album Review)

The Fiery Furnaces are one of the more demanding bands we’ve got. Blueberry Boat is my favorite Fieries album, yet one that I can only summon the energy to listen on rare occasions, and some listeners never make it past the second key change in the opening song, “Quay Cur.” This is not music you play in the background when you’re doing something else, or heaven forbid at a party; it’s music that demands an interested and tolerant audience. It’s not so much a tolerance for abrasive sounds they ask of their listeners (though that’s certainly there at times), but more a tolerance for a playful approach that can be either cloying or charming depending on your mood or tolerance for such things. The beauty of BB is that patience on the listener’s part usually results in rewards: themes are revealed, melodies are revisited in odd spots and odd ways, music that starts as odd becomes wonderfully expressive – in short: things start to add up.

The unfortunate and simple truth of Rehearsing My Choir is that it just doesn’t add up this time. The album certainly demands the same attention and patience as their previous behemoth, but this time out there is no payoff. Roping their grandmother, Olga Sarantos, in to tell her life story adds a personal history tinge to Eleanor’s travelogues, and while the story and Eleanor’s involvement in it are interesting at first, it wears thin and displays nowhere near the charm of a song like “Chief Inspector Blancheflower.” The problem this time out isn’t a lack of interesting material, it’s that these aren’t lyrics, these aren’t songs, these are for the most part spoken word stories backed by some of the most horrific and baroque music ever recorded. It’s broken musical theater.

Songs like “Guns Under the Counter” and “A Candymaker’s Knife” rely almost completely on grandma’s spoken word, drunken muppet vocal delivery and Matthew’s attempts to soundtrack them. Grandma’s delivery is jarring at best and gut-wrenching at other times. Matthew’s music redefines ADD in a bad way, but worse, despite constant instrument changes and key changes, it’s mostly boring and almost always annoying. His pitiful attempts at adding musical theatricality to these spoken stories makes them sound like carnival sideshows rather than adding anything to them. I’m probably not being fair to Eleanor and grandma here, the music distracts and detracts from any possible impact the stories could ever hope to have.

The most glaring example is “Seven Silver Curses.” While some erstwhile Fieries fans have told me this is the one true masterpiece on the album, it’s epic in running time only. The song is 9:20 of a story I don’t care to decipher even on my twentieth listen and is backed, or rear-ended, by some of the most grossly repetitive and annoying guitar parts and keyboard lines I have ever heard. At one point Eleanor and grandma start yelling out “3:11! 3:12! 3:13!” Great. Thanks for that. It does end with a nice keyboard solo, which has to be a thank you for making it that far; unfortunately, it’s an empty gesture as the record still has almost twenty minutes to go before it sputters to a close.

The title track is ludicrously awful. It features nauseating keyboard effects, a choir singing out of tune and grandma admitting “that doesn’t sound good!” No it doesn’t, grandma.

As granny says: “though let’s be fair.” The album opens with two of its strongest songs. They don’t seem that way at first, but believe me, by the time you hit the five-minute mark of “Seven Silver Curses” you’ll be wistfully remembering the little piano ditty that opens “The Garfield El” and the groovy dance beat of “The Wayfaring Granddaughter.” “The Garfield El” serves as a good opening of the album, indeed it foreshadows some of the agony to come as grandma chirps, “Faster hammers! Faster hammers!” But it’s mainly pleasant and one of the few times Matthew’s cloying instrumentals are oddly palatable.

“The Wayfaring Granddaughter” strikes me as the one place where the album actually works. Eleanor and the grandma trading lyrics makes sense. There’s a beat. There’s a melody. (Believe these things are rare enough on the album that they’re worth pointing out and celebrating here.) Most importantly, the song is not only about the relationship between granddaughter and grandma, as most of the album is, but makes that relationship seem tender and poignant. Grandma is reminiscing about Eleanor’s transformation from a child to a young woman who dyed her hair and dated two Kevins. (Or as grandma says: “You mean two JERKS!” ) It’s the only time on the album their relationship seems to have as much depth, and it’s the only time when the music augments the story in any way shape or form.

“Slavin’ Away” is another nice song with a guitar riff and key progression that would actually seem at home on Blueberry Boat. And what does it have in common with “The Wayfaring Granddaughter”? Eleanor takes the lead on vocals and muppet-grandma takes a breather. This isn’t so much a knock on grandma, okay, yes it is, but also a tremendous compliment to Eleanor. For my money, she’s one of the more interesting vocalists going, taking notes from Mark E. Smith on speak-singing over gloomy dirges, minus the slurred speach. (Except Matthew’s dirges here sound more like retarded b-sides to the Who’s Tommy than anything the Fall ever recorded.) Her ability to carry a melody through some of her brother’s mucky arrangements on this record is nothing short of breathtaking and one of the only reasons I can think of to revisit parts of the album.

Theoretically, I can still admire the experimental edge that courses through the Fiery Furnace’s music. Theoretically, I like dissonance in my music. I can acknowledge that Blueberry Boat was a Herculean feat that excuses an experimental follow-up album, even if that follow-up falls flat on its face. But in reality, I don’t think I will ever listen to this album all the way through ever again.

As some sort of cruel joke, my mp3 program accidentally started playing the wonderful tumbling keyboard riff of Gallowsbird Bark’s “The South is Only a Home” at the end of one of my tortured listens to Rehearsing My Choir. It was a jarring shift. Oh how far you’ve gone in two short years, Fieries. Come back. (Sean Ford)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Kingblind Downloads

Django Reinhardt – Douce Ambiance
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Pink Floyd:: BBC Archives
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Happy Birthday Boss:: Live Springsteen
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Yeah Yeah Yeah’s mixing new album

New York rock trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs are hoping to have their second Interscope album mixed and mastered by next month, according to a post from frontwoman Karen O on the fan site Yeah Yeah Yeahs Bang. “There is no record title yet and we’ve been busy getting our new Web site and merch store up,” she wrote of the set, which is being mixed in London by Alan Moulder and group member Nick Zinner and is expected to be released in the spring. “Everything should start coming to place and revealing itself in the fall and winter months of this year.” The vocalist added that “songs to be included on the new album include ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Honey Bear.’ All the rest are new tracks. Some older tracks such as ‘Down Boy,’ [may be] used in a special EP but only MAYBE.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Kingblind Downloads

V/A:: John Peel:: A Tribute
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Various Artists – Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004-2005
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Various Artists – A Tribute To REM
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Animal Collective:: Feels (Album Review)

Although I didn’t love the Animal Collective the first time that I heard them, they were one of those groups that burrowed their way into my very consciousness with their sort of primal, almost tribal folk musings. It didn’t matter that their vocals were nonsensical and/or indecipherable, or that they would occasionally lapse into extended trips that are probably meant to be enjoyed (more) with mind-altering substances, they seemed to capture many of those intangibles that make me love music outright. As time has progressed, the group has seemingly gotten better with each release, and their Sung Tongs release was my favorite album of last year.

Needless to say, I was ready to approach Feels with a bit of trepidation, as I do with any release by a group that follows something that I consider downright essential. In my many years of listening to music, I’ve been let down far too many times after expecting follow-up releases to always best their great predecessor. Whereas Sung Tongs was mainly the work of two musicians, Feels finds Animal Collective joined by more of their regular members and the resulting sound is more expansive as well.

In fact, Feels is easily the most melodic and dense work from the group yet. If their previous album was the result of the group taking acoustic instrumentation to odd realms, then this newest effort finds them doing that and then some, bring in electric guitars, a great use of piano, more effects, and of course a whole slew of vocal melodies. One could argue that it’s the most melodic work from the group yet, and it gets going from the start with “Did You See The Words.” Starting quietly, the track layers some tinkling piano melodies and strummy reverbed guitar chords before the vocals burst forth and a rhythm sets the track in motion. As the track progresses, it continues to build steam, with percussion getting louder, vocal melodies and harmonies getting more complex, and full-on washes of sound layering on top of one another. “Grass” follows, and it’s even more triumphant as shimmering electronics blend with pounding drums and shimmery guitars while the vocals start out almost Beach Boys style before rupturing into yelling, explosive sections that turn the track into a cathartic freakout that you can’t help but want to scream along with.

From there, the group takes things down a notch with the spacey “Flesh Canoe” before launching into “The Purple Bottle,” which is easily a contender for my favorite song of the entire year. Bursting out of the gate with raucous drums, hilarious sing-along vocals (that seem to perfectly capture the giddy and weird beginnings of a relationship) and hazy guitar jangling, the track morphs several times during its almost seven minute running length and never seems to run out of ideas or get saggy in the slightest bit. By the time the group reaches the closing section (which blends dense washes of gorgeous melodies with sharp punctuated bursts) and finally winds down, you feel like skipping straight back to the beginning to hear it all over again. From there out, the album drifts off into more heady material that isn’t always quite as invigorating, but at the very least it’s still more melodic and textural than past work the group has done.

“Banshee Beat” (which is perhaps a bit of misnomer given the musical content of the track) floats along on beautiful layers of guitar, processed sound and some subtle drumming and vocals, and while it never gets much louder than a slightly-quickened heartbeat, it works like a charm. At almost eight minutes, “Daffy Duck” is the only track on the disc that really lacks any sort of tension or wonderment (it has nice moments, but nothing that hasn’t been achieved in greater effect on other tracks). The release closes with the wondrous “Turn Into Something” and the rollicking piece alternately strums and soars, layering dense washes of sounds and even more playful vocal melodies. So, despite one slightly soft spot, Feels is yet another album on which the Animal Collective changes their sound even further and succeeds on just about every attempt. A glorious, noisy, melodic, celebratory release from the ever-inventive group.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The First Music Video Filmed Entirely Using Cellphones

The new video from the Seattle power-pop band The Presidents of the United States of America was shot entirely using an array of Sony Ericsson cellphones. The song is a Weezer-ish tune called “Some Postman,” and the video was directed by the Australian filmmaker Grant Marshall. CLICK HERE TO VIEW Requires Quicktime

MORE INFO ON THE VIDEO:
Australian production company, Film Headquarters has made an innovative music video for the Presidents of the United States of America, for their Australian single “Some Postman”. This is the first music video in the world to be shot using mobile phones.

“Some Postman” is currently on Australia’s Channel V (as “Clip of the Week” last week), ABC, Rage, Video Hits, VH1 and national and regional radio networks as the band prepare to launch their album “Love Everybody” in Australia in October, backed up by an Australian tour.

The music video was filmed in Seattle in just one day using a plethora of Sony Ericsson mobile video phones. The content was then blue–toothed to a Mac and composed like a jigsaw puzzle to form the basis of the edit.

The director of the video, Grant Marshall from Film Headquarters, said he was very excited when Presidents of the USA agreed to this idea. He came up with the idea after the company’s creative team lamented how budgets for Australian music videos were far lower than those for international clips. Producer Nick Wolff said “We joked that budgets were getting so small that the next thing we’d be doing is shooting on a mobile phone.”

Which is exactly what they did.

“We came up with this idea 18 months ago but couldn’t find a band that would embrace the risk and vision. PUSA loved the concept and were brave enough to undertake the risk. This was a fantastic experience for all of us. The band was fabulous,” he added.

“The result is great and the look reminiscent of the movies available on Quicktime in the 90s. The funniest part of the shoot was to see a mobile phone sitting on a tripod-it’s quite a sight. With mobile phone camera resolutions doubling every few years, people will probably look back and say this idea was ‘so 2005’,” said Mr Marshall.

During the production of the music video, over 12 angles were pieced together to make up one composition or shot. The footage recorded by the phones was 1/3000 the quality of standard broadcast. The majority of the footage was shot with the band performing at half time as the phones could not handle the quick movements and as a result, could be blocky and compressed. The format used by the phone camera is 3gp.

Friday, October 21, 2005

White Stripes:: LIVE 6/24/05

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Silver Jews:: Tanglewood Numbers (Album Review)

This last summer I finally managed to devote the necessary time to trying to understand, or at least appreciate, Bob Dylan. I tried to avoid the big names (Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Nashville Skyline) and instead spent weeks listening to New Morning, Desire, and Slow Train Coming. I read Chronicles, Vol. 1 and tried to understand where he was coming from as I listened to The Freewheeling Bob Dylan and John Wesley Harding. What struck me most is how, over the course of 14 years (1962-1976), Dylan managed to not only create a good half-dozen of the best album ever recorded, but also totally reinvent folk music.

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone put forth the theory that Connor Oberst is the heir-apparent to Dylan’s poet-singer throne. It’s a ridiculous supposition. First, because there’s no need for such an heir; Dylan’s albums hold up just fine, thank you. Second, Oberst is a whiny little punk from Omaha without a quarter the creative drive or genius of Dylan. Third, we already have Dave Berman.

I’m not arguing that Berman’s music is really all that related to that of Dylan (even if they are both poets), or even that the two musicians exist in similar musical realms, but rather that at some basic level of songwriting and personal expression, they’re operating on a similar plane. Berman, along with Stephen Malkmus and a few others, help pioneer the ’90s concept of “indie rock,” but did it as an extension of country music rather than the punk that many of his peers were using. Dylan saved rock by mining folk music while starving his way through New York City in the early ‘60s. He emerged from the decade not entirely unscathed and then went on to make Desire and Blood on the Tracks, two of my favorites, with an entirely different take on music and songwriting. And now it seems that Berman has conquered at least some of his demons (and addictions) and hits 2005 wth one of his strongest and most focused albums to date, Tanglewood Numbers.

The history of the Silver Jews makes this a hard statement to justify. Over the course of their four previous albums (and The Arizona Record) Berman and his ever-shifting cast of backing musicians have made the Silver Jews the best indie rock band that no one ever paid enough attention to. Malkmus’s involvement in the band was always something of a mixed blessing, bringing both his nearly unparalleled guitar chops but also critical attention which was too quick to deal with the band as little more than a Pavement side-project. Both the beautifully lo-fi Starlite Walker and the indie classic American Water live up to anything Malkmus’s other band ever managed, and even the two lesser known albums have a magic of their own (misstep though The Natural Bridge may have been).

All the albums have their own personality, ranging from the gleeful guitar twiddling of American Water to the quiet acoustic approach for Bright Flight. Still, coming charging out of the gates with “Punks in the Beerlight,” Tanglewood Numbers is something of a surprise. None of the previous Silver Jews outings really prepare you for the raw energy and hunger of the track. Will Oldham rides a gloomy rhythm guitar under Malkmus’s searing lead, letting Berman, who sounds a good 10 years older than he did on Bright Flight, let loose with the remorseful “if we had known what it takes to get here / would we have chosen to?” It’s a far more bombastic song than we’ve come to expect from the Silver Jews, but then again this is a far more aggressive (and talented) group than have performed on any of the previous records. Most importantly, Berman’s trademark sloppy romanticism is still at the core, just now concerned with tales of “burnouts in love” and unironic declarations that he “always loved you to the max.” It’s a love song for someone who doesn’t particularly want to be in love, but who’s willing to run with it.

The group really never lets up from there—the band is always attacking and playing for keeps. There are plenty of great Berman songs that feel like they could have been so much better if only he had been playing with a really determined band (“The Frontier Index,” “Ballad of a Reverend War Character,” or even “Pretty Eyes”), and now that he’s got it he’s sure as hell gonna use it. The involvement of Cassie Marrett, Berman’s wife, is sure to draw criticism from some quarters, but she’s not only more than qualified as a singer, but it’s also silly to carp on it as she plays such an integral role in both Berman’s life and songwriting.

If anything, Marrett lends a degree of sweetness to songs that would otherwise come off as more than a bit juvenile (“How Can I Love You (if You Won’t Lie Down)”). Of course the Silver Jews never had that uncaring veneer of cool that Malkmus fostered, lending Berman’s country-tinged romantic songwriting an emotional depth that Pavement never really achieved, even with the silly songs. Tracks like the beautiful alt-country “Animal Shapes,” the clever “I’m Getting Back into Getting Back into You,” and the blazingly hard closer “There is a Place” see Berman at his songwriting peak, honing the fine line between wit and emotional honesty. On that last song, he reflects on the years leading up to Tanglewood Numbers with the perfectly simple, “there is a place past the blues / I never want to see again.” Tanglewood Numbers is the first time we’ve ever really heard him growl his lines so authoritatively, but here he nails it.

On “I’m Getting Back,” he sounds resigned to his fate when he sings “I’ve been working at the airport bar / it’s like Christmas in a submarine”, while on the sad-sack “K-Hole” he expresses his loss in the form of “I’d rather live in a trashcan / than see you happy with another man / closed sign swinging in the window of the liquor store.” His political bent on the record is hard to avoid either, letting loose on “Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed” with the vicious and absurd couplet: “how does an animal sleep once the sun has set / bandits in the capital limiting civilian unrest.”

Counting Berman out is a bad idea. He’s clearly not quitting anytime soon, and indeed these days he seems more ambitious than ever. At a time when the sort of lo-fi, ‘90s slacker indie rock that he played such a pivotal role in building is now a few years past death rattle, it seems only appropriate that he should come back now with something new. He has moved on, playing by his own rules, with an immensely talented group of musicians, and the results are just as good as anything he’s previously managed. (Peter Hepburn)