8 May 2016

First Listen: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead - Photo by Alex Lake

At 7pm today, after a week of teasing that saw band delete their social media presence and the release two singles in the shape of Burn The Witch and Daydreaming, Radiohead released their new album, A Moon Shaped Pool

The band's new album comes out five years after their previous effort, King of Limbs - an album of glitchy experimental electronica that divided the opinion of many fans. Aside from the wonderful Lotus Flower I found King of Limbs to be a real struggle to listen to. It never really got out of third gear and it was more of an abstract mood piece rather than an album that ebbs and flows and takes the listener with it. 

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped PoolRadiohead releasing their album on a Sunday, rather than the usual release day of a Friday, gives the release a sense of occasion (it's also a handy and cheap marketing gimmick). With message boards, blogs and social media full of chatter as fans listen to it for the first time, there is an old fashioned sense of it being communal listening experience; everyone getting the album and listening to it for the first time and sharing their thoughts with one another - even if it is a very 21st century communal listening experience as the only thing that connects us are our computers and devices. 

Nevertheless, I thought that I would join in the fun and attempt something that I have never done before. I will share my thoughts track-by-track as I listen to A Moon Shaped Pool for the first time. 

With the earphones on and A Moon Shaped Pool cued-up in iTunes, let's do it...

Burn The Witch
Early reports of A Moon Shaped Pool suggested that Radiohead would take an orchestral direction and Burn The Witch is evidence of that. Rapid fire strings drive Thom Yorke's anxiety ridden melody with lyrics that suggest outsiders are being hunted. Could be a reflection on the current refugee crisis in Europe.

The second track that was put out by the band ahead of the album's full release. This is one of those haunted piano ballads that the band does so well, think Pyramid Song or Video Tape. Yorke and sparse piano with the band framing the song and adding texture. Instruments are plucked, scraped, blip and bleep floating around Thom as he sings about the end of his marriage. Some strings come in towards the song's end. Heartbreaking stuff. The reversed voice effect at the end ends the song on an unsettling tone. 

Decks Dark
The first 'brand new' song on the album. There's more piano, some electronic percussion, the bass and 'real' drums enter after a couple of minutes. There's a choir of voices too along with some percussive guitar that slowly comes in from the dark as the song progresses. The songs takes a turn at the end, the guitars get a slight sense of urgency about them, start prodding and I think York starts to sing "You had enough of me". Could this be another song about the end of his marriage?

Desert Island Disk
Opening with bluesy acoustic guitar while something buzzes away in the background. Eventually the bass and drums kick in. The song sits on the bluesy groove the acoustic guitar laid out at the start and builds up before one by one the instruments back away and we are left with just Yorke, the acoustic guitar and that buzz again. It's short and sweet but a really lovely and intimate moment. 

Ful Stop
This is the otherside of Radiohead. Warbling bass, an overwhelming sense of dread and jittering electronics that twitch around your head like a mechanical fly. There is a drone that sounds like it's played by some orchestral instruments that have been treated by some studio trickery. They do that thing where the band kick in mid-way through to up the intensity and inject some energy. I thought that this was going to be like Idioteque, Radiohead in full-on experimental electronic mood, but it's more like something off In Rainbows, the band playing nervy propulsive art-rock.

Glass Eyes
Back to Yorke and that gentle piano playing. This time it's just him and the piano accompanied by a soaring string section. It's very short, but the strings make it sound dramatic and reminds me of Kate Bush a bit. 

As the song plays I start to recognise it. I've seen videos on YouTube of the band performing this on their previous tour. Driven by a catchy swaggering melody, first it's Yorke singing over a loop of his own vocals, but there's also a choir at a couple of points. This has a real groove to it, then band keep it simple, with the guitars going weird and a little bit prog and the end as they twist and turn replicating the confusion in the lyrics. Sounds like a classic Radiohead song to me. I immediately want to listen it it again.

The Numbers
The one thing that I am noticing is that there is a lot of piano on this record. The Numbers is driven by jazzy piano with strummed acoustic guitars, drums, and some rumbling bass playing. The orchestral influence on this record has also seeped in to the vocals. There's quite a few moments where either Yorke's vocals are layered to give a choir effect or the band use an actual choir. Here there is both. There's also more of those sweeping strings, here coming in as the songs works towards its climax. I wasn't immediately taken by this one if I'm honest. 

Present Tense
Twinkling picked guitars, a bit like in Weird Fishes, and more playing around with Yorke's vocals. This time there an ghostly, mechanized delay going on. It adds a woozy element. Then we have the real choir once again and the strings come in again for a short and breezy section. It'll be interesting to see how they tour this record. It feels like a band record but they've messed about with the songs in the studio, took them apart, and then built them back up with the orchestra and choir in mind. The songs appear simple at first but there's a lot of stuff going on in them. Lots of layers that will take multiple listens to discover. Will they take a string section out on the road with them?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
This is the twitchy electronica version of Radiohead. Yorke yelping over a looped piano and some low bass. The rest of the band eventually join him playing creepy loose-knit jazz, the drums really holding it all together. And then there's those strings again soaring above everything else. It feels like the strings have replaced the guitars on this record. Whereas in the past they may have written a guitar part, on A Moon Shaped Pool they've put together a whole orchestra instead. This song feels like a good idea that never really gets off the ground. I would have preferred it if they had gone deeper in to the choppy electronic rabbit hole on this one. I can imagine it's got scope to go off when played live though. 

True Love Waits
Wow. Wasn't expecting this one to be on the record. It felt that the live version that they put out was the definitive version. This is different though. The band have really taken it apart. Mournful piano has replaced the acoustic guitar. There's a second piano in the background playing a counter-melody. Then some distorted bass as piano notes twist and tinkle as if taking flight. This is now the definitive version of True Love Waits. 

That's that then. You can't keep expecting Radiohead to re-invent the wheel with each album. And they haven't done that here. My initial thoughts are that they've done away with most of the electronic stuff only, using it subtly here. The songs feel stark and contemplative, they are often Thom Yorke brooding over a simple piano refrain or acoustic guitar with the band framing him by adding texture and atmosphere. It's lush and mellow. The orchestral moments aren't over done, but slot in comfortably alongside the band's playing. A great record that will take some time to really get inside the songs. 

Thanks for reading. It's now time for me to go to sleep. 
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30 March 2016

Goodbye To The Music Exchange

Goodbye To The Music Exchange
Snapshot of the article I wrote for LeftLion on the closing of The Music Exchange
It was with a heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to the Nottingham record store The Music Exchange earlier this month

Opening in 2009 just as Selectadisc had closed its doors and coinciding with the recent resurgence in vinyl sales, the Music Exchange quickly became a hub for the Nottingham music community. Set up as a social enterprise by the charity Framework to raise additional money, not only was it a record store, it was also a place where adults could gain valuable work experience to enable them to gain employment. 

All the staff and volunteers at The Music Exchange did a wonderful job making truly great place to buy records. 

It was always a pleasure to be asked to help them out, whether that was DJing at various events, writing about the store in LeftLion, assisting with events, or helping to plug their various events and causes. 

They had a farewell party on the last day on the shop on Saturday 19 March at The Bodega featuring live performances from Deadbeat At Dawn, Rattle and Crosa Rosa. With an afterparty featuring lots of drunk dancing later on in the night at The Broadway. It was a bittersweet way to say goodbye to the shop. 

More on my thoughts about the closing of The Music Exchange can be found in this article that I wrote for the LeftLion website.

The Music Exchange on Facebook 
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28 February 2016

Be: One - The Soundtrack Written For Wolfgang Buttress' Beehive Installation

Be: One article for LeftLion magazine
Be: One article for LeftLion magazine
At the start of January I was lucky enough to interview the main creative minds behind Be: One, the soundtrack that was written specifically for Wolfgang Buttress' beehive installation that he designed for the UK Pavilion at last year's World Expo in Milan. 

The email came in at the last minute and following a couple of days of hasty organising,  the following weekend on a crisp and bright Sunday morning I found myself on the outskirts of Nottingham city centre getting ready to interview the artist Wolfgang Buttress, his daughter and vocalist Camille Buttress, and the musicians and Spiritualized members Tony Foster (aka Doggen) and Kev Bales. Wolfgang had known Tony and Kev for a few years as he used to have a studio close to where Tony's is. It is at Tony's studio where they have all agreed to speak to me. 

Speaking to all of them together was far-and-away one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had during my time writing for LeftLion. They couldn't have been any more welcoming and talkative. And it was really interesting being sat in a room with them hearing them discuss the creative process about how they created the soundtrack. I could have happily chatted to them for the rest of the day. It was really obvious that they were all pleased with how the soundtrack came out. 

Weirdly, after years of trying to interview Tony Foster / Doggen and never getting anywhere, I have now interviewed him twice in less than 12 months. It's funny how things somtimes work out.

As I was overseas with work a couple of days immediately after doing the interview, I found myself typing up my copy in various Starbucks around Seoul. It's not often that I can say this, but I am quite pleased with how the finished article came out. The article, as it appears in the above photograph, was published in LeftLion Magazine #75

The online version of my Be: One article can be read here

The collective premiered their soundtrack over two sold-out nights at Nottingham Arts Theatre on 18 and 19 February. I was fortunate enough to go the first night and you can read what I thought about it here

Wolfgang's hive installation has been shipped back to the UK from Italy and will be at Kew Gardens from June with the collective planning on performing their soundtrack live when it opens.

More about Be: One on Wolfgang Buttress' website 
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23 January 2016

I Was At David Bowie's Last Evert Concert

David Bowie Hurricane Festival
On Monday 11 January I was getting my stuff together ready to leave the house for work and listening to the Today Show on BBC Radio 4 as usual, when it was mentioned on the 7am news that they were getting early reports that David Bowie had died. 

I was devastated and it left me in a strange mood for the rest of the day. 

The outpouring of grief exemplified just how important he was too so many people and how far and deep his influence reached. He always seemed to be present, even when he actually wasn't like in his later days, because his work is woven deep in to the fabric of our culture - he has helped to shape and define so much of it. He is our Elvis, our Frank Sinatra, our John Lennon. 

Bowie was ground-zero for a lot of the music I got in to while growing up in the 90s. Bands like The Cure, REM, and Smashing Pumpkins all cited him as an influence. He even tipped his hat to two of those bands when he invited Robert Smith and Billy Corgan to join him at his 50th Birthday Concert in New York in 1997.

Although he had kept a low-profile during the last few years of his life, and there had been rumours of ill-health for a while ever since his heart attack in 2004, he had been going through a period of productivity and creativity that started with the surprise release of The Next Day in 2013. 

Bowie was always there. You never thought of him not being around, it didn't seem possible. The news of his cancer was a closely guarded secret, we didn't know he was seriously ill. Only days before he had released Blackstar on his 69th birthday and receiving some of the best reviews of his career. The news of his death came out of the blue and probably hit harder because of it, we didn't have time to prepare. 

I'm still gutted to think that Bowie is no longer around. Although he has left a legacy that will live on forever. His music will always be with us. On the day that Blackstar was released I posted on my Facebook that I was at his (to date) last ever concert. He made a couple of one-off appearances after that, but it was his final full David Bowie headline show. 

It was at the 2004 Hurricane Festival in Schee├čel, Germany. He was one of the headliners of the festival along with The Cure. I had gone there with my friends Ben and Marc. I had just finished university that summer and we were all skint students and made our way to the festival in the cheapest possible way - by coach from Nottingham. The journey took 24 hours and was awful, but the festival was good fun, sunny with lots of cheap beer and great music. 

Bowie headlined the second night of the festival. It was part if his A Reality Tour, his longest series of shows for a few years. I wish I could say that my memories of his set are crystal clear, but they're not, sullied by beer and time with it being 11 and a half years ago. I do recall that I missed the first few songs because I was watching Mogwai finish-up on the second stage, but got to Bowie to see the majority of his hit-packed, career-spanning set. I definitely remember China Girl with Earl Slick's gloriously over-the-top interpretation of that songs main riff, so I must have been there from at least that song onwards. 
As this Rolling Stone article states, and if you look back at the videos of his performance, dressed in a hoodie (although it should be noted that he was suited and booted earlier in the set), he doesn't look great, and his previous show had been cut short. But from what I recall he was very talkative in between the songs and gave his all when performing. You couldn't tell from being in the crowd that anything was wrong with him. It's strange to think that he was actually having a heart attack up on that stage, but he gave a fully committed performance until the very end. A true and dedicated performer.

It's weird and sad to think that it was the last time those magnificent songs would be sung by the great man responsible for writing them. I'm just honoured that I got to see him and I was there to witness it. 

RIP David Bowie.  

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9 January 2016

Up Close & Personal With Paul Gascoigne Left Me Feeling Bummed Out

Up Close and Personal with Paul Gascoigne

As the title says. 

Tonight I went to Up Close & Personal with Paul Gascoigne at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. 

The scheduled start of 19:30 was pushed back to 20:00 making for a few restless people queuing up to get in to the auditorium. Once everyone was finally able to seat it was obvious that the event hadn't sold very well with most of the stalls full, but the first tier noticeably sparse and the upper-tier not used at all. It must be said that I didn't actually see any adverts for tonight, I only found out about it as I was bought a ticket. 

The evening was split in to two halves. Like a throwback to a cabaret event, the opening act was a comedian who had apparently been on Britain's Got Talent. I won't write his name as he wasn't very good. In fact, it was some of the laziest comedy I have ever seen. It felt like being transported back to the 1970s. I thought so-called comedy like this had died out, but I'm sadly wrong. There were fat jokes, sexists jokes, an oddly insensitive moment (and let me reiterate, un-funny) considering the headline act, were he tried to shame an audience member who went to the toilet by saying they had been taking cocaine. And not forgetting the rather meta section that was essentially a comedian doing impressions of far better and much more successful comedians. It was really depressing to think that these kind of outdated 'jokes' are still considered funny by some people.

In the interval the audience had the opportunity to buy signed shirts and have a short meet-and-greet with Gazza for £250 or buy a signed print that looked like something you would find in a dusty corner of a discounted store for £150. It had the air of money grabbing vultures rinsing money out of honest football fans. I'm sure it's a great way of making some additional income, especially if the tickets aren't selling too well, but it didn't sit well with me and felt kid of cheap despite the prices being touted.
Paul Gascoigne was out in the second half for an hour of chat about his career that took the form of a on-stage interview. 

It generally stuck to his footballing career; from his time starting out with Newcastle, signing for Tottenham, playing for England at Italia '90 and Euro '96, through to his time in Scotland at Rangers. His stints at Lazio and Middlesborough were only briefly mentioned. Although there was time for his short-lived spell at Boston United,  but I think this was shoehorned in as it sets up a story about how in his drunken stupor he thought he was signing for a club in the USA. There's nothing about his time at Everton. 

It's obvious that his time pulling on the Three Lions and playing for England was a career highlight and meant the world to him. He doesn't have much time for the current crop of England players apart from Wayne Rooney. 

He didn't talk about anything that has happened to him since hanging up his boots. Perhaps to gloss over how much his career and personal life took such a nose-dive after drink and drugs took hold. This means we hear nothing about the 2010 Raoul Moat incident where her turned up at the stand-off scene with chicken and beers hoping to talk to the murderer who was on the run from the police - Which is weird because earlier in this run of shows he did speak about this. It obviously generated too many negative headlines in the tabloid press and had been pulled.

Looking at Paul Gascoigne's mannerisms on stage it is obvious that he is not a well man. Swarming with nervous tics, constantly twitching and shuffling in his seat, his speech slurred and muddled to the point where it could be hard working out what he was saying. Someone who at his footballing peak looked so free on the pitch now seems trapped within himself. 

On the surface his many anecdotes were funny and played up to the idea of him as a bit of a lad, a bit of a wild, but harmless character who liked having a laugh. But they pointed to someone who was clearly very selfish individual who didn't think about the consequences his outlandish actions might have on others. Sure, joyriding a tractor at your first training session at Spurs might have been a funny thing to do. But crashing it in to the training block isn't as it's going to cost someone time and money to repair the damage. Likewise, when he decided to take the brand new Middlesborough team bus for a short spin and ended up crashing it. These are the actions of an individual with flaws and issues that run deep, and it's surprising as well as sad that no one in football tried to help him before it was far too late. 

I grew up on football in the 90s. One of my earliest football memories is of Italia '90 and England reaching the semi-final. Gazza's crying Spitting Image puppet. Throughout the majority of that decade Paul Gascoigne was this talismanic and highly gifted England midfielder, the kind of footballer that only comes along once in a generation. I imagine that dealing with current day Paul Gascoigne and all of the demons and issues that brings with it has got to be a complex situation, so hats off to the people currently trying to help him out. I'm sure they have good intentions, but dragging him around half empty theatres and flogging overpriced tat to hard-working football fans probably isn't the way to do it. It left me feeling sad for that man on stage.
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21 December 2015

Paper Lace: The Musical Is A Rip-Roaring Success

Paper Lace The Musical
Paper Lace: The Musical?

Some nonsense that I wrote for possible inclusion in an article we ran in the December / January 2016 issue of LeftLion. It didn't get used.

The musical based on the hits of 1970s rockers Paper Lace has been a re-sounding success with a run of sold-out performances at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

Titled Billy Don’t Be A Hero after the band’s 1974 smash-hit and penned by Notts-scribe Billy Ivory (Made in Dagenham),  it sees the former Opportunity Knocks stars back catalogue re-worked in to a story about a young boy who attempts to ride every ride at the 1977 Goose Fair with a belly full of mushy peas and cocks on a stick.

This late-flush of success for the band is owed to recent Nottingham-breakthrough acts including Indiana, Sleaford Mods, and Jake Bugg all name-checking Paper Lace as massive inspirations and thanking the band in paving the way and laying the foundations for future generations of musicians to make it big outside of the city.

Jason Willamson from Sleaford Mods who teamed up with Paper Lace to write a brand new song for the musical titled #SillyBilly said, “Paper Lace are real icons in my eyes, up there with Badfinger and Mungo Jerry for me. The real deal.”

Philip Wright from the band, “I never really thought I would see the day when our music would come back like this. I had Cliff Richard on the blower asking if we could collaborate as he’s looking to kick-start his career. I had to let him down gently. You’ve got to be careful haven’t you? All those allegations. We don’t want to be tarred with the same brush. Not when it’s going so well for us again”.

While Jake Bugg says of the effect Paper Lace’s music had on his formative years,” I first heard We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands by accident. It was so irritating I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.”
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22 November 2015

Record Shopping in Osaka - Part 1

Tower Records in Osaka
Tower Records in Osaka
Osaka is a city that I have only visited once before back in March as part of a business trip. I flew in to Osaka for two days before getting the Shinkansen to Tokyo – I have written about this trip, including visiting the mega Tower Records in Namba, in a previous post. 

This time around, Osaka was the last leg of my journey following a visit to Tokyo (which you can read about here). My flight back to the UK (via a tedious stop-over in Dubai) wasn’t until late at night giving me a few hours to myself during the day. 

The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
I don’t really know Osaka as well as Tokyo and not wanting to be trekking all around the city, I decided to stick to an area close to my hotel. A quick search online told me that an area to west of the Dontobori shopping area and just south of Shinsaibashi Station called Nishishinsaibashi would be worth hitting up.  

The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
Nishishinsaibashi is a hipster enclave of small alleyways and streets littered with interesting looking independent shops and cafes, and populated by lots of trendy looking people. It was a bustling little area, and felt less manic than other areas of Osaka I’d been too. It reminded me a bit of the Northern Quarter in Manchester. The area sits like an island flanked by two highways, one of which separates Nishishinsaibashi from the tourist trap of the roofed Dontobori shopping area and is full of high end, eye-wateringly expensive shops. I had made a note of a small selection of records stores that I wanted to visit, but other than that I was more interested in having a stroll and taking in the sights. 

Newtone Records in Osaka
Newtone Records in Osaka
One of the first stores I wanted to try and find was Newtone Records. After walking around a few times around the block where Google Maps had taken I was sure it wasn’t there. Just as I was about to give up I spotted a sign outside the building. Not only was Newtone here, but the same building also house two other record stores – Afro Juice Records and Rootdown Records. I didn’t go in to these so I’m not sure what they’re like, but if you are reading this hopefully I have given you a good idea where they are so you don’t make multiple laps of the same block much to the amusement of suited salarymen like I did.

I did head up the stairs and pop in to Newtone Records for a little nosey around. It was a compact, yet well stocked and organised store. Their main focus seemed to be on a lot of house, dance, electronic stuff, with both new and used vinyl. There was a small section towards the front of the shop with a few rows of more rock and indie-orientated releases, but overall Newtone Records’ speciality was cutting-edge electronic and dance stuff. 

The building where Voxmusic is
The building where Voxmusic is
Voxmusic was another store in this area that I had read was worth visiting. Consulting my map I headed towards where it was and soon spotted the sign on the side of building. Entering the lift to go up to the 5th floor, as the doors began to close a man started to say something in Japanese to me, but before I knew it the lift had closed and deposited me at the top of the building. When I got there Voxmusic was nowhere to be seen. The only shop unit was closed and looked empty. When I got back to the bottom of the building the man was stood there waiting for me. Asking if I was looking for Voxmusic, he kindly told me that it had moved and pointed me in the direction of where it now is. How nice of him. It did make me wonder why they still kept the sign up outside the building though…

The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
It was starting to get late in the afternoon by this point, but I did find the building where Voxmusic now is, but didn’t have time to go in as I was on a mission to track down King Kong Music. But first a little detour to Flake Records as it was sort out on the way, but sort of on the way. 

Flake Records in Osaka
Flake Records in Osaka
Outside Flake Records
Outside Flake Records
Records display in Flake Records
Records display inside Flake Records
Situated on the very edge of this area across one of the busy roads is Flake Records. Another store that was hard to find and I was about to give up after numerous walks up and down the same road until I eventually spotted a on the street pointing me in the correct direction. I really liked Flake Records. A narrow shop with racks taking up the majority of floor space, tidy display shelves on the walls, and the counter running along most of the back wall. The shop mainly stocked new releases on both CD and vinyl with an emphasis on modern pop, hip hop and indie-rock - the kind of stuff Pitchfork reviews. If I lived in Osaka I could see myself shopping here for new releases. 

Ishizue Music Osaka
Ishizue Music Osaka
Around the corner from King Kong Music I passed Ishizue Music – another record store squeezed in to this relatively tiny area of Osaka. It’s remarkable how a city like Osaka can sustain numerous record stores, but it does mean that the options for music lovers feels endless. 
King King Music in Osaka
King King Music in Osaka
King Kong Music is easy to spot with its pink columns and bargain bins stacked on the streets outside. Going down the stairs you are met by a huge room that’s probably similar in size to Recofan in Shibuya. In fact, King Kong Records reminded me a lot of Recofan – wall-to-wall second hand vinyl piled from floor to ceiling, a real crate-diggers paradise. 

Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
There was all sorts here and all neatly organised in to sections and genres, from rock, pop, hip hop, through to jazz and classical. There was also an impressive CD section and loads of LazerDiscs including some expensive Beatles ones. They also had a decent sized section of old Japanese music. Result I thought, they’ve got to have the elusive Takeshi Terauchi Rashomon album here. Although they did have a few of his records, it wasn’t to be. I even asked the man behind the counter who confirmed my suspicions. Much like Recofan, not only was in rammed with a gargantuan amount of viny, everything seemed fairly priced to boot. If I’m ever in Osaka again and I’ve got a bit more time and money I’ll definitely be going back to King Kong Music

The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
Making my way back to my hotel, I accidentally found myself walking past Time Bomb Records. A store that I had seen mentioned on a couple of blogs, but didn’t really have any intention of going in. Curiosity took the better of me though and I thought I would go in for a quick nosey. It was a large open plan store divided by a partition going down the middle separating it in to two halves. The shop mainly stocked rock n’ roll, rockabilly and punk, while at the back I spotted a few racks of indie rock and krautrock; although it was definitely the former styles of music they obviously specialised in.

As I was leaving I saw a western looking man mysteriously being escorted out of a side door. Was he one of the elite record collectors that travel the world snapping up the rarest of the rare vinyl?

So no records for me this time in Osaka, but I did enjoy having a little wander around and discovering an area of the city that I hadn’t been to before. If you have stumbled across this post while searching about record stores in Osaka then at least I hope that it will act as a helpful little guide. 

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
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31 October 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 3

Record Shopping in Tokyo
Records bought on this trip by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Takeshi Terauchi
This month I was back in Japan on a business trip. I was fortunate enough again to visit both Tokyo and Osaka. As with previous work trips to Japan, I had a little bit of time between appointments to be able to visit a few record stores. 
My time in Tokyo was very limited this time meaning I didn't have the opportunity to hunt out any new stores out of the 400-plus record stores that are in Tokyo. I used my time to visit two that I have been too previously, one of which is probably one of the best records that I have ever been to. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I managed to pay a couple of visits to Recofan in Shibuya. The first my time was very limited so after taking the lift up to the 4th floor of the Shibuya Beam building I immediately shot to the left and made my way where I remembered the Takeshi Terauchi records are. The selection was a bit more diverse than previously and I picked up an interesting looking record of his I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. It had a greying image of a married couple and Terry sitting on the steps below them with his guitar. My initial thought was that it was the elusive Rashomon LP, especially as the colours of the cover are very similar. It turns out the record is from a year later, 1974 and feels very much like it is part of a similar period. It has some seriously heavy jams on it and when I get a minute I will probably write a few words about it.   

As I usual when I visit Tokyo I was staying in Shinjuku. I hadn’t really had much success previously of visiting the many record stores in this area. Either due to time constraints, or due to iffy directions and Google Maps not being 100% accurate with Japanese address conventions, I have instead spent a lot of time walking up and down alleyways craning my neck with my eyes fixed upwards trying to find stores that apparently should have been there but just weren't. I did previously pop in to the Shinjuku branch of Disc Union which was just as impressive and well-stocked as its Shibuya counterpart.

This time I had read (I frustratingly can’t find the link now) that there was a record store on a road I was familiar with as I had stayed on a couple of hotels on it previously. So I marked on my paper map where the store was supposed to be according to the blog and Google Maps and took a stroll out to it. I ended up walking from Shinjuku to Yoyogi Station and back again along the road keeping my eyes out, but I was unable to find it. Tokyo has buildings on top of buildings and it’s easy to miss places especially if they’re small units and not well sign-posted. If you happen to be reading this post and know the store that I am on about, do let me know where it is

Disc Union in Shibuya
Disc Union in Shibuya
The following day was a Saturday and I had a couple of hours in the morning to myself after catching up with a few emails and so took the JR to Shibuya. In Shibuya, both Disc Union and Recofan are a couple of minutes’ walk from each other - very handy when time is limited.

I made my way up the stairs in Disc Union to the floor that has the second-hand vinyl. As with all of the record stores that I have visited in Japan they use their space well. Shelves and bins are stacked high and all usable space is utilised. The amount of stock is always impressive if a little overwhelming at times, and the lack of floorspace can make navigating around the shop floors a little cumbersome at times, especially when they are busy, as was this case on this Saturday morning. 

Popol Vuh records in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Popol Vuh record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Disc Union had had a little shuffle around of their stock since my last visit, although as they label their sections in English as well as Japanese, it was soon easy enough to get my bearings. I didn’t really have anything in mind that I wanted to buy, I just went for a browse more than anything.

I know Japan is known as a collectors market, but the sheer wealth of stuff they had was ridiculous. Loads of ‘classic rock’ stuff including insane amounts of records by the like of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones. In fact, British rock from the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s, seems to be something a lot of the second hand record stores specialise in. As a Krautrock fan it was exciting to see first pressings of stuff by the likes of Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Amon Dull II, records that I had only ever seen listed on eBay or Discogs or in limited amounts in second-hand stores. 

If you are looking to pick up some Japanese artists on vinyl Disc Union probably isn’t the place. Or I should say, its selection is much smaller than in other record stores that I have visited. Although they did come good this time and they had all of the just issued Kyary Pamyu Pamyu albums on vinyl. Part of me wanted to pick them all up, but I went for Namba Collection in the end. They also had this interesting looking Moomins record that I now regret not picking up. 

Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
After Disc Union I headed up to road to Recofan. The store is more like a warehouse with endless aisles of records and CD’s. I even found their LaserDisc stash this time around. They were all listed at 100 Yen each and even though I don’t have anything to play them on I do kind of regret not picking some up at that price. You never know, I could have used the opportunity to start up a LaserDisc film club in Nottingham. 

LazerDiscs in Recofan
LazerDiscs in Recofan
The store is sort of split in to two sections: As you go in, on the left is the Japanese-related stock, Classical, and bargain bins; while the much larger right-hand side houses the new releases, CDs, and various genres such as hip-hop, 60s/70s/80s, pop. And there’s loads with much of it very reasonably priced, and from what I could tell and from previous experience, most is in pretty decent condition too. I spent a bit more time looking around this section on the right hand side than I have done on previous visits and if I was up for a good old crate dig I would have had a field day. As it was, time was limited (as was money and space in my suitcase) so I just had a little stroll among the aisles having a flick through the racks every now and again. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I did end up picking up a couple more Takeshi Terauchi records for my friend back home. I should also add that the store had a sale on and those bargain bins were busy with shoppers studiously going through every record in every bin. That’s dedication.

The staff have always appeared very friendly in Recofan (as well as all the other stores that I’ve visited in Japan I hasten to add) and even with my lack of Japanese and their lack of English I have been able to get by. At the till they always offer if you want to get the record out of the sleeve and take a look before handing over your money. They also always throw in those plastic record sleeve protectors too. I also spied a little section tucked away at the back where they had a couple of turntables set up with brushes attached to the arms instead of needles, and they were using these to clean the records. Impressive. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya

Although I was able to pick up a few records and hit up a couple of decent stores, I’m still a bit gutted that I didn’t have time to hunt down a couple of record stores in Tokyo that I haven’t had chance to visit yet. 

I went to Osaka after Tokyo on this trip to Japan. I have written a post about visiting a handful of record stores in Osaka here

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 1 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

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1 September 2015

The Quietus Review of Urth By Kagoule

Following on from my review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs, the kind people at The Quietus were nice enough to let me have another opportunity to write for them. Again, I got to review a debut album by one of my favourite bands to come out of Nottingham (or anywhere to be honest), Kagoule. Urth is out now via the legendary Earache Records and my review can be read at the following link: http://thequietus.com/articles/18670-kagoule-urth-review

I also got to sit down with Cai from the band and interview him for a double-page spread in LeftLion. The above image is a photo of the page as it looked in the August issue of the magazine. I think this was the third time that I have interviewed the band. The first was when they played a gig for LeftLion that I put on at Nottingham Contemporary for Record Store Day in 2012. Then later in the same year, I spoke to Cai and Lucy for the band's first feature in the magazine. The online version of my most recent Kagoule interview can be read here: http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/kagoule/id/7623

 Urth by Kagoule can be bought direct from the band's webstore

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