Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Just getting back into Alton Ellis. Missed this album the first time round- favourite track so far.

EDIT: Worked out it's the basis of Tommy McCook's Mighty Alley- an old favourite. Found a vocal version of that too called 'Tom Drunk'. Waveform variations.
EDIT 2: They just keep racking up.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Still nothing in my life of note beyond Swamp Dogg's shining brilliance. Listen to the original (BeeGees) and then this to see the drastic contrast.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Kris Dollimore's Requiem To Two Johns

This is Kris Dollimore playing a song John Fahey wrote when Mississippi John Hurt died in 1966.

Immediately there's a sense of fearful automation to the piece that sounds like Death got bored of the scythe and now chases people with a combine harvester. Part of the dread in there is something I sense in lot of Fahey's music- a mixture of stuffy front porch, heatwaves on cracked clay and vultures wheeling, and it comes from that resonance that flows in and out of your focus sounding either indispensable or unbearable. Something feeling either extremely regular or very wrong in the body.

Following the initial sense of being hunted there is a cascade of notes in the next section that reminds me of a couple of things- one is the idea of the recapitulation of life at the moment of death*, the other is an intense expression of gratitude. Something around hunting or homage or the parallel between the two.

A chain of hunters from Hurt to Fahey to Dollimore, who plays it so fucking beautifully.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Great clip from a must-see film for anyone obsessed with breaks.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Chokin' Kind

Heard a few versions after realising this isn't the original, but definitely the funkiest.


Swamp Dogg's music continues to be one of my favourite musical discoveries in a long time. Can't stop listening to him.

Monday, 17 July 2017

'The Universe Hates You'

Note- steps to an ecology of mind (Gregory Bateson):
"The principle of pride-in-risk is ultimately almost suicidal.
It is all very well to test once whether the universe is on your side,
but to do so again and again, with increasing stringency of proof,
is to set out on a project which can only prove that the universe hates you."

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Galician Interlude

"A slip-road is a road which cars use to drive on and off a motorway."/
"It is a great temptation to want to make the spirit explicit."*/
Talking about absolutely nothing

Accidental selfie. Captures the overarching theme.

There are a couple of words that trigger a surge of dopamine in my head. One is 'Patrick', a hangover from my formative years as diligent accomplice and hagiographer to my closest brother in age, whose ability to roam the house each night stealing food to order was one of the several things about him that filled me with a reverence that lingers. I can remember the long minutes waiting in fevered hope for him to come back to our bedroom with the peanut butter jar and some spoons. He'd reappear, tiptoeing through the door gingerly, neck stretched and ears straining so as not to fuck up the last few steps. As soon as he closed the door the cautious look changed into his trademark beam of victory...admittedly it was the victory of the axis of liquid modernity and corn syrup over our metabolism and our parent's sanity, but that beaming smile was like the sun returning anew. He's still mythic and continues to pollute reality with sparks, much to the confusion of most friends we introduce him to.

The second word is 'slip-road'. Dear god. A slip-road is such a beautiful thing.
Accessible, usually on the edge of a town. The bandwidth of a motorway without threat of arrest, close enough to civilisation that there's always a plan B. Basically a legitimated spot in an edge environment. All roads lead to Rome, but often there are barriers, tolls, police or no place for cars to pull over. A good slip-road with space for cars to stop makes it feels like mercy is alive and well in the world, hiding in planning oversights and maintenance access.

I was recently in Galicia on a four-day trip. I'm not going to go blow-by-blow because I think my approach to chronicling these trips is changing a bit. I don't want to write a directory of kind or helpful humans, but have another go at seeing what happens to my brain at the roadside.

On Saturday in Ferrol, Galicia, I was looking for a place to get a lift out in the direction of A Coruña to see the famous 2000 year-old lighthouse I learnt about whilst researching Roman Hispania for my history classes this year. I stood by a zebra crossing for twenty minutes or so until a local man with a great bristly walrus moustache and blues brothers shades came over and told me that despite my waiting in the right place for the motorway, nobody was in that much of a rush and I'd be better to wait on the other side of the city center where the national road headed east before going south. 

"Thank you, sir."
Cue discovery of a slip-road (!) heading out to the FE-14 and my next interaction some time later, a dog-walking man with hair like white seaweed draped over a rock raising his finger to tell me how I'd be there all day. Poor guy was interrupted by a car pulling over beside us and he waved bye as I ran up to it.
Me: "Hola! Dónde vas?" (Hi, where are you going?)
Bald, round faced sea-eyed man with cold expression: "I'm going to Vladivostok."
Shit, I thought I'd found the motherlode there. Hard to turn down a lift that long. He seemed Russian, but Jesús turned out to be a retired Galician shipping captain on his way to A Coruña. A man who loved his 45 years at sea and missed it dearly in his retirement. 'I used to travel the world. Now I just travel from Ferrol to A Coruña and back.' A conversation held together by reflections on the radio station M80 and its pop songs. Jesús told me about an interest in travelling around Russia in the 80s using his four months on, two months off schedule. To do so he had joined the communist party in Galicia, got a letter of recommendation and managed to travel from Galicia to Madrid to Paris to Moscow by train, followed by 16 days on the train to Vladivostok. He spent a week there and came back. This story was interrupted by Sheryl Crow's 'All I wanna do is have some fun'. As soon as it came on he fell silent and turned the volume up as far as it would go. 

The trip didn't go as (un)planned in the sense that I'd meant to be there longer but hadn't packed properly for the occasion. The heatwave fell apart and the rain returned. I'd brought a guitar for the first time, but hadn't realised how damaged my boots were. I think when I stepped on a nail two years ago the change in my gait introduced sore spots. Having walked in comfortable boots for so many years, it's hard to see the point of giving myself blisters when it's something I'm lucky enough to be able to change.

From A Coruña I had a great lift with two Dutch surfers/vagabonds in a van who came back from a roundabout to pick me up because one of them had spent time hitching in the Andes where you can wait 5 hours for a single car to reject you. And where a single lift could often last a day. That night I ended up in the campsite on the beach where they'd heard the surf was good.
I realised that night that it was probably the last trip I'd have using that tent. I wasn't prepared for how sad that made me.
I don't tend to think of myself as someone who gets that attached to objects, but that thing has kept me out of heavy rain and snow for five years. There have been so many nights where you wander around alone at stupid o'clock trying to find a place to sleep, or you get that last extra lift and suddenly you're deeper in the countryside and can pitch it where you like. You fall asleep genuinely laughing because you're so happy to be safe and dry for the night. There was a week in 2013 when I was able to share that nightly relief with a man I was travelling with on foot, but apart from that I've been alone, and I associate that sense of utter joy with the green walls of my tent.
What killed it is three cumulative months over three years of being absolutely hammered by UV, dust and storms when working at a festival in Aragón. The mosquito net is torn in places, all zips are broken and the hole in the fly is starting to spread. 

I'll move on and keep on finding that sense of joy in shelter in and out of other tents, and I suppose it's really just the ratio around body temperature, dryness and lack of foreign organisms in your personal space that ticks the 'you are saved' box. The tent is the skin around that experience but you can find it in other places.

My beloved on Yakushima back in 2012.

I think the last thing I want to mention about the trip is the last day. I said the heat wave fell apart and things got very rainy. I had a brilliant morning travelling through the Cantabrian mountains high up in the passenger seat of José's coal truck pointing out birches and talking about vegans and people who look unrelated to their other family members. I love the north for the thick vegetation and biodiversity. If water be the food of plants, rain on. Completely worth it when you're prepared.

Galician woods as I last left them.

By the afternoon I was back down the mountains and onto the yellow table of Spain, where I waited here for three and a half hours. Not my own photo but it's exactly how it was:

Dead road at 3pm. I'd tried hitching further up the road where all possible routes converge but had no luck, so went to the garage to escape sunburn. I met the station attendant, Gabriel and we had a protracted conversation backed by three hours of glacial clouds and tilting shadows, and interspersed with him filling up petrol for the odd car that rolled up.
He told me about the feeling of racing his lithe leaf-green Kawasaki, and proudly talked about his four American Staffordshire terriers. They have their own swimming pool and he spends €280 a month on dog food. I wish I had a photo of his face when he spoke about them. Pure sunshine.
He kept asking if I was bored, and seemed puzzled that I wasn't disappointed when people passed on.

What I was thinking about and couldn't express to him in my bad Spanish is that one of the odder modes alive and well in my head is where one treats everything in one's current plot of physical reality as a personalised metaphor or poem. In an effort to glean value out of the terrifying raw drone of time, you basically act as if you are inside an idiosyncratic world that you've created. 

As if your own thoughts had origami-ed themselves into matter.
I'm not solipsistic enough to actually believe I live in such a world, but I find that to entertain that model once in a while gives me a great sense of peace and allows time to pass. It is because it imparts any situation with a sense of curation. Anything can be looked at and examined and analysed for symbolism and comparison. Oil is a theme that often comes up, ever present in the circulatory systems of both roads and the network of Chinese manufacturing that beats its plastic blood throughout the world. The latter network is something I call Pulmonary Sinensis and I got it from standing at garages looking at cars and trash.

In reference to the second sub-title of this post, I feel I'm close to tacking directly into the wind so I'm going to stop. All I wanted to do was add a little bit more to the chronicles of how waiting at the side of the road expresses itself in my organism. I remain an addict of and prisoner of the sensation, so this is just another leaf of the jail diary.

*Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Back from a hitch around Galicia- write-up to follow.
Meanwhile back on the Don Covay wagon. An embarassment of riches...

Monday, 5 June 2017

This one goes out to anyone holding a nuclear code:

Thursday, 2 March 2017

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

DH Lawrence

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Friday, 10 February 2017

Flowers By The Sea- William Carlos Williams

When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

The Groundhog- Richard Eberhart

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot  our naked frailty.

There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.

Inspecting close maggots' might
And seething cauldron of his being,   
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.

The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,                   
And through my frame a sunless trembling.

My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge         

Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.

And so I left; and I returned                     
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained

But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains                                                 
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.

Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot             
There was only a little hair left,

And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.

It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,

And thought of China and of Greece,         
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.
"For a Lamb" by Richard EberhartI saw on the slant hill a putrid lamb,Propped with daisies. The sleep looked deepThe face nudged in the green pillowBut the guts were out for crows to eat.
Where’s the lamb? whose tender plaintSaid all for the mute breezes.Say he’s in the wind somewhere,Say, there’s a lamb in the daisies.

Hurt Hawks


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

-Robinson Jeffers
The Beaks Of Eagles
An eagle's nest on the head of an old redwood on one of the
precipice-footed ridges
Above Ventana Creek, that jagged country which nothing but a
falling meteor will ever plow; no horseman
Will ever ride there, no hunter cross this ridge but the winged
ones, no one will steal the eggs from this fortress.
The she-eagle is old, her mate was shot long ago, she is now mated
with a son of hers.
When lightning blasted her nest she built it again on the same
tree, in the splinters of the thunderbolt.
The she-eagle is older than I; she was here when the fires of
eighty-five raged on these ridges,
She was lately fledged and dared not hunt ahead of them but ate
scorched meat. The world has changed in her time;
Humanity has multiplied, but not here; men's hopes and thoughts
and customs have changed, their powers are enlarged,
Their powers and their follies have become fantastic,
The unstable animal never has been changed so rapidly. The
motor and the plane and the great war have gone over him,
And Lenin has lived and Jehovah died: while the mother-eagle
Hunts her same hills, crying the same beautiful and lonely cry and
is never tired; dreams the same dreams,
And hears at night the rock-slides rattle and thunder in the throats
of these living mountains.
It is good for man
To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and
anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's way
Until all his capacities have been explored: and it is good for him
To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact
in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles.

-Robinson Jeffers