Category Archive : Popular

Mike Oldfield – Incantations

WHAT’S THE STORY?: Hands up who remembers the Exorcist?

Good work, John. Five team points.

Now who remembers the theme tune?

Goddamn incredible wasn’t it?

Mike Oldfield. Tubular Bells. Cracking theme track.

HISTORY LESSON OVER. EVERONE GETS A FIRST. NOW GO HOME WE’RE MOVING ON TO THE PRESENT.

Incantations is OldField’s latest (re)release (argh, the past catches up with us) and this happens to be the Deluxe edition. Fancy!

SOUNDS LIKE: This isn’t quite so obstinately pioneering as the original Tubular Bells – there’s an almost narrative structure to the tracks for a start, making it a sort of ‘ambient opera’ – but it still retains that experimental nature of his earlier works, though with a dropping of his distinctive guitar arrangements for a grander orchestral sound. There’s certainly nothing conventional or at least fashionable in what’s being reached for here, but it’s grasped with thorough and convincing skill.

Let’s take a close-up of an individual track to see what makes it stand out so well:

Incantations Part One.

Heavy use of pan, synth, string… it’s hard not to use hackneyed phrases like ‘sense of wonderment’ without sounding like a complete and utter tosser, but that’s really what gets evoked here. High reaching, emotionally uplifting, it’s the audio equivalent of a kid and their dog setting out one fine summers day on an epic journey of discovery. Leaves dappled by summer sun, a sense of unease about how far you’ve come and how much further there is to go… All that nostalgic halcyon bullshit. Except instead of getting tetanus on some abandoned wasteground, you’ll probably meet an elf who’ll teach you how to whisper to spiders. Anyway, you definitely won’t get chased off by a crazy homeless guy spitting obscenities and while waving a broken bottle of New Castle Brown… Anyway, six minutes in we switch to a shrill, marching song and nerds of a certain age won’t be able to see anything but pennants flapping as the dusk sets over Junon harbour. Then we get some female quire chanting in an impenetrable language; so that’s the ring of dancing spirits at the warrior king’s funeral checked off the list. This all sounds a bit over-blown and whimsical, but it’s created through a bare minimum of musical instruments, built up through layers of repetition, but without itself sounding repetitive. So there’s a lot of technical ability to admire even if your imagination brims with all the warmth and vitality of soggy, day-old Ginsters pastie.

The standout component though, which breaks the instrumental pace wonderfully is the use of Henry Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha at key points throughout the album. An extract of which you get below:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

(Hope you enjoyed that flashback to your GCSES)

Performed in a beautiful, diving and dipping witch-like chant, it’s a masterpiece in evoking the mystical/folklore tone of the piece. Love.

The album isn’t complexly flawless – the first 30 seconds of Guilty haven’t aged terribly well, though this is more of a bonus track. And The B-side selection is considerable weaker – they wouldn’t be B-sides otherwise – and essentially serve as cut-shots of the superior A-sides. Pretty nitpicky to hit from these angles though.

Despite its age, this is a cracking rerelease and certainly worth picking up if you’re a fan of concept albums, Lord of the Rings, or modern opera (more synth, less large singing lady). An organic, fable-like, seventy minute ride into one man’s personal fantasy kingdom. It’s pretty much a Ghibli soundtrack waiting to happen. If he and Miyazaki ever did a team up… World ending.…

Quiet Rebellion – Still Talking Scribble

WHAT’S THE STORY?: Shaun T. Hunter turned his back on a potentially lucrative deal back in the 1990s and forged his own path. A few albums later we have’ Quiet Rebellion’ and what becomes immediately clear is that this artist is seriously into his music. There are wonderful musical arrangements on the album and it should be pointed out that Shaun is also credited with having played every instrument on it. That in itself is an amazing achievement and gives you an insight into the man’s talent. The problem here is that the offering doesn’t experiment enough and doesn’t diversify enough. It stays within its own safety zone leaving us with an album full of songs that all sound very similar.
The album gets off to a cracking start with ‘Soon’ a slice of heightened musical contentment, before Shaun digs deeper imprinting his lyrical message on the next track and the title name of the album, ‘Still Talking Scribble’. The ambitious ‘Solo’ delivers a touching acapella and ‘A Little Help From You Goes a Long Way’ is a stand out track that begins beautifully with a simmering guitar riff which continues throughout the track. There is definitely an abundance of touching melodies at play here and to summarise, this album is a relaxed and enjoyable enough journey.…

How To Get Your First Gig

The gig. It’s the holy grail of musicianship. It’s the reason why you spend hours practising and writing songs. It’s your chance to show your family, friends and fans exactly what you’ve been doing in the basement for the past two months with your three best buddies. So how do you get your first live show?

First, make sure that you’re ready to play a gig. Aim to have a 30-minute set. Your performance – whether you’re an acoustic solo artist or a six-piece rock band – needs to be tight as well. How will you speak to your audience and what will you do onstage when guitars need tuning, strings break or sticks fly into the audience?

There are two main ways to get a gig:
1. Approach a venue
2. Ask a band if you can support them

If you approach a venue, make sure it’s suitable. A bar or music club is perfect. A pub with a back room can also work. If you’re just starting out, don’t waste time trying to contact big venues. They often have promoters to arrange their gigs.

Find an email address for the bar manager (check out the venue’s website) and say that you’re looking to play a gig. Don’t expect to get paid. It’s only when bands pull a decent crowd that venues pay them. Some music venues operate a ‘Pay To Play’ policy where you have to sell a number of tickets to friends and fans in advance. This is OK if you’ve got lots of people that want to come to your gig, but it can be stressful in the lead up to the gig if you can’t sell the tickets and lose the money. For example, the venue wants you to sell 50 tickets at £5 each. You have to give the venue £250 upfront, and then take the money back as you sell the tickets. If you only sell twenty tickets, then you’ve only made back £100, and therefore lost £150. Always check before you agree to play a gig.
If you know a good local band, then ask them if you can support them. Often, they communicate with the venue and you just turn up and play. You will also get to play in front of their fans as well as your own.

However you get your gig, make sure you promote it. Use Facebook, MySpace etc. Make flyers and posters and distribute them in appropriate places.

Finally, make sure you play well! The venue will want you back and you’ll pick up some fans!

How To Get Your First Gig
Key tips:
1. Don’t expect to get paid unless you bring a LOT of people.
2. Include lots of information and links to your songs online when emailing venues or bands.
3. Always be polite and friendly to venues, bands and promoters. You never know their connections.
4. Email first. Follow up with a phone call a week or so later if you haven’t heard anything.

Help! My album got a bad review

After spending months writing and recording your record, creating artwork and getting CDs pressed, you send your prized album to music journalists and editors, ready for fans to devour. You can’t help but imagine the promising quotes of greatness and guarantees of future accolades, destined to head up your latest press release. You pick up KerPlunk! magazine, full of excited anticipation: “Naff vocals, poor song writing, and the lyrical eloquence of a chav brawl.”

Your heart sinks a little, and then the anger kicks in. Who is this music journalist anyway? What do they know about your genre-defying blend of hip hop and Baroquian fugue? But before you buy every issue in your local shop and write a strongly worded letter to the editor, bear the following in mind…

1. If it’s a big, well-known publication, then the journalist must know at least a little of what they’re talking about…
2. And if it’s a tiny, unimportant publication, who’s gonna be reading it anyway?
3. A bad review is more memorable than an average review. Some readers will actively seek out the stuff that gets bad press. You’ll at least get some decent hits on YouTube and MySpace.
4. And a bad review is better than no review at all.
5. Sending a ranting email/letter to the editor or journalist will only result in you losing all credibility. Especially if they publish your tirade.
6. If you’ve sent out a CD for review, then expect a review. If you want 100% guaranteed praise, send it to your mum’s house.
7. Maybe your album really is terrible?

So, what can you do about it? No one likes their work being criticised, but if you thrust yourself into the ears of others, opinions will come flying back. Take note of their comments; can you improve?

Make sure you approach journalists and editors with the correct information in the preferred formats. Realise that there are some people out there who don’t like The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson or Guns ‘n Roses – yet still these artists are massively popular. You’ll never win everyone’s vote. But then you only need a majority.…