Last summer, when Dan came down from Reading for the weekend, the two of us set about doing some video work, as we often do when he visits. However, that day it was wet outside and we were short on inspiration, so we sat around for a bit trying to come up with a project.
Eventually, we came up with the following film. The title is taken from a (very good) Pamela Hansford Johnson novel, but the rest is really just a result of a bit of brainstorming and improvising. We needed to shoot the whole thing indoors, with only the two of us as actors, and we didn’t want to get caught up in dialogue as neither of us can act. Also, we didn’t want to spend ages doing lighting and sound and stuff like that, so the whole thing is pretty much shot run and gun, with just a little bit of extra lighting to help us in the hallway shots. Consequently the whole thing looks very scruffy, with plenty of bumps and whirrs caught on the camera’s in-built microphones, and a few nasty variations in light – but given that it took us about 2 hours to film, and then about the same time again for me to edit it together (this week, after the files had sat on my hard drive for six months) I think it looks pretty good.
I’m very interested in the idea of exploring what goes wrong after one person does something foolish; I’ve another idea for a film which I want to make this spring which concentrates on something similar. It’s easy, after all, to act without thinking.
Well, this is it. My last song of 2011 is as simple as can be. I recorded it on the 30th December, curled up in bed at about eleven o’clock, playing my ukulele and recording it with my iPad and cheapo headphone-mic. Somehow it seemed better to finish the year with something simple and clean, rather than complex. So that’s it. I’m done. 52 songs, over 52 weeks. And none of it would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my friends. So that’s nice. Here it is.
Oh look, here’s Sam on lead vocals, with Dan and AS on back up. Sort of.
I put together this music slowly, over the course of the year, looking for an opportunity (or the courage) to do a rap over it, and eventually chickened out. But over the course of the year I’ve swapped lots of voice messages with Sam, who’s over in Paris, so I thought I’d put some of those rambling messages to use.
Most of our musings and conversations over the year have related to various projects we’re undertaking, and our shared need to focus on things. So there’s our chorus.
One of those life-changing videos. I actually was pretty proud of my garlic peeling technique, thinking I’d pretty much got it down to the minimum amount of time. I’m a thorough but efficient garlic peeler.
This is just fantastic – a two-and-half-year-old male chimpanzee at Thailand’s Samut Prakarn crocodile farm and zoo, 25 miles south east of Bangkok, has been trained to feed tiger cubs out of a bottle.
The chimp, named Dodo, has been feeding the cubs, aged between three weeks to five months, every day for more than a year.
I like his little denim shorts, although someone should point out that the current look is to have the pockets poking out beneath the hemline, not a nappy poking out of the back. That aside, he’s bang on trend.
Posted 28 Jun 2011 — by Jonathan Category Photos, Video
This timelapse was done on my phone, so quality is not amazing – but it’s still quite nice I think. Brighton darkening out of my back window. There goes Brighton. I can sit and look out of my window for ages, provided I have a beer. It’s sort of more interesting in the flesh. But imagine you’re me for a moment.
Part of the reason I finally got round to posting, yesterday, a link to my video of Holy Ghost from the Great Escape last month, was that the gig itself was a bit of inspiration for me in my song-writing project, or at least, a prompt for me to write a specific song – this one. It’s not a masterpiece lyrically, I’m afraid, but I took a lot of care with the composition and although it’s pretty simple – just a rolling, shifting groove – it has lots of tiny pieces, which I enjoyed sequencing together. There’s something of Holy Ghost in here, I think, and obviously Gorillaz, but there’s still some continuity with what else I’ve been doing through the year; not least the fact of the instrumentation – I hope it’s charming, not irritating, that I resort to using my acoustic guitar to play a funk riff, something few others in the history of pop have been stupid enough to do.
This is the 23rd in a sequence of 52 songs I’m writing this year. To see the other songs, click here.
Posted 12 Jun 2011 — by Jonathan Category Music, Video
Hot new musical trends so fast fade, so fast feel nostalgic. Me and most of my friends spent much of the middle part of the 2000s listening to the rash of bands that blossomed around LCD Soundsystem; The Rapture, Radio 4, !!!, The Juan McLean. This was artful, muscular, American music which had echoes of the forceful angularity of post-punk and hardcore, but which drew most of it’s energy from club music – funk, disco, electro and house.
It was brilliant; and it soon felt passé.
Holy Ghost are signed to LCD Soundsystem’s label, DFA, and ludicrously, their sound – which draws heavily from 1980′s italo-house – somehow feels more nostalgic for 2005 than 1985. No criticism implied though. Having heard their name vaguely, but not knowing what to expect, I caught them at The Great Escape last month and they were absolutely terrific – all the more so because events conspired thoroughly against them. Big technical problems at the start left them facing an unusually hostile audience, and the frustration on their part was only too apparent. At first I misread their body language as anger at the audience’s impatience, but once they got started it quickly became apparent how keen they were to play a good show, and what looked like anger was mortification at the thought it wasn’t going to happen. They came to party, not to fight. And once things got going, their set was awash with relief; consequently sweat-drenched and delirious – one of the best live shows I’ve seen in ages.
Considering the incredible volume of the PA that night, it’s kind of incredible that I ended up with any audio at all, given that I thoughtlessly lobbed my sound recorder up on top of the speaker stacks, but despite the throbbing bass, this came out kind of well.
The Holy Ghost website is here. Their LP is bloody great.
Making a video a week is significantly less arduous than writing and recording a song a week, but it still takes time. For that reason I try to maintain a library of video clips I can use, but occasionally that footage runs out and it means I have to create something from scratch. This weekend I was lucky enought to have some help from Dan, who helped me pull together the idea of an imitation steady cam vid, where I lodged a tripod against my stomach and marched along the beach, singing my song loudly and attracting attention from tutting strangers. So this week’s song – which is about monsters – comes with a rather cool video.
Video, lyrics and chords below. For reference, this is the 21st song I’ve written this year. Click here to see all the other weekly songs.
F – C – Eb – Gm
He had lightbulb eyes
lighting up and popping out on stalks.
He had those clip on ties.
Dragon jaws, dragon jaws.
Check those filmy eyes.
Cotton wings, polystyrene.
Comic books don’t lie.
When will I see you again?
’til then I’ll keep my enemies close.
When will I see you again?
’til then I’ll keep the monsters near.
I must have heard something.
Creaking shelves or railway sidings.
He had a knot-hole eye,
walking free, but sleeping blind.
The coughing/coffin passed you by.
Young and sly, handsome while
you reached for the light.
Cours Julien is a wonderful artisan quarter in the 6th arrondissement of Marseilles; a bustling square full of cafes, bars and boutiques backed by a series of graffiti-covered streets which boast a treasure trove of bric-a-brac shops, record stores, and a sequence of restaurants specializing in just about cuisine you could name. I’ve tons of photos to share, but in the meantime this video speaks volumes for the spirit of the place. Set up in the middle of the square, on Saturday afternoon, amidst dozens of happy hipsters, trendy dads and insouciant teens, was a guy with portable piano. At one point, two kids stepped up and shyly took a microphone each – and summoned up the following collaboration.
I went for a lovely meal with a bunch of friends on Friday night – we went to The Gallery in Hove; which is a colourful and friendly sort of place, which is my way of saying they cheerfully tolerated the amount of noise we made over the course of the evening. Here we are at the end of the night, trying to work out how to divide the bill.
I’d lost track a bit of Mike Skinner over the course of his last couple of LPs – but this is really brilliant. This song brings together a bunch of things I’m really interested in at the moment – video, music, social media, blogging.
What’s happening is that Mike – who’s been inactive on Twitter for a year, until recently – seems to have had a bit of a creative second wind, and he’s incorporating his online, social media interactions directly into his music – particularly twitter conversations. A bunch of his new tunes, which he’s posting regularly on his blog, are direct interactions with his fans and followers – songs inspired by, and in some cases co-created by, twitter. As usual, of course, Skinner’s lyrics are always worth listening to – here he’s kind of fascinating rapping about cinema:
“Films from the trailers these days look waste
like a gun in the hand of a desperate character.
Fun in the land of disparate savages
like all your natural movements however habitual
become separate acts of action;
teary sarges and burned-up seers”.
In other ways, though, this new one is like nothing I’ve heard before – not that it’s amazingly groundbreaking musically, but what’s interesting is that the nature of online media is changing the way Skinner thinks about content. Rather than being complete, thematically consistent chunks, his songs are becoming multi-threaded, conversational, collaborative. He’s opening up the songwriting process so that it’s a dialogue, informed by and responsive to, multiple actors. Here he addresses three questions, on the fly, thoughtfully, and in a really charming way (side note – when did he get so handsome?). I’m really glad someone is doing this – this is the kind of innovation music needs. The video is great, too – particularly the bit where his mate shoulder-barges him.
Apologies to Sam and Dan, who have already heard all this in a flurry of excited emails this afternoon.
This is a quick, belated heads-up on behalf of a very impressive artist I saw last month – Leif Vollebekk is a singer and songwriter I’d not heard of before I saw him supporting Caitlin Rose at the Latest Music Bar in September, but he played a quite delightful set of tuneful, contemplative folk songs, all of which tempered an irrepressible instinct for melody with some ragged, unconventional playing. He was good enough to persuade me to buy his LP afterwards – but a listen to it is enough to persuade me that he’s already improved lots since he recorded it. Catch him live, if you can. Here’s a recording of his ‘Quebec’ which I made that night.
Sorry it’s a bit dark.
You can find out more about Leif at his myspace, here.
This is amazing; this guy has accumulated lots of audio recordings of his niece as she’s been growing up, and has condensed 13 years worth of samples of her speaking into two minutes; it’s really quite incredible. No video, just audio.
Posted 22 Feb 2010 — by Jonathan Category Music, Video
For my money, Sunderland’s amazing Field Music remain the best band in Britain at the moment. I can’t think of a better LP released in the 2000s than their ‘Tones of Town’ (closest competitors; PJ Harvey’s ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’, Gorillaz’ ‘Demon Days’) and their new record, ‘Measure’, is terrific too. The other day I wrote a preview for a local show over at the Bored of Brighton blog, where I described them thus:
Their sound is intensely musical; gorgeous North Eastern harmonies, abrupt tempo-changes and unusual time signatures, with orchestration which varies from lush and pastoral to aggressive and loose.
Not at all surprisingly, their set – they played an instore at Brighton’s Resident Records – was every bit as brilliant as I thought it would be. I didn’t exactly have the best position in the world, for the shop was crowded, but the following video does I hope do justice to their wonderful sound, if not their stage presence.
Here’s the entire set in mp3 form. Hope no-one minds me posting these.
Field Music live at Resident Records, Brighton Friday 19th February, 2010 (right click and ‘save target as’ to download)
Well, I’d like to say that the relentless kicking which The Persuasionists has attracted from the media over recent weeks wasn’t deserved, but sadly I think it probably was. Nevertheless, I still love Adam Buxton unreservedly. Here he is reading through the reviews.
Loping carefully down snow-covered pavements; watching My Sad Captains play a set of melodic, fine tuned indie rock; playing with my friend Claire’s cat; watching the trains negotiate through the bad weather; Curly Hair live at the Freebutt, everything perfumed with Xmas; constructing stop animations from the window at work; watching adults and children throw snowballs; gasping at the lovely, sonorous sound of Foxes! live; admiring cat-leaps on Boxing Day; talking shit at parties; lunch with my friends; housebound in Brighton; surrounded by my favourite people; watching the new year land.
Had a totally brilliant Xmas in Brighton so far; it’s been great. Some random highlights:
- Managing to actually cook my contribution to the Christmas lunch well; somewhat of a surprise. Almost messed up the chicken by accidentally putting it at too high a heat, which meant it was browning with alarming speed after just twenty five minutes. Some frenzied adjustments ensured it was a success. Yay! - Watching Lyndsey getting really angry as it became apparent that she wasn’t going to win the first party game of Christmas. She settled down once it became apparent that I’d come last. - A glorious wine and spirits contribution from Sam and Laura, which ensured that the food was never for a moment unaccompanied by fortifying alcohol. - Singing and dancing in the small hours; sorry, Brighton, if we made an unforgivable amount of noise. - Just being able to spend the day with my lovely friends is a real treat. Had a brill time.
Our soundtrack for the day was a Xmas CD courtesy of local label One Inch Badge – fittingly, then, the video below, which shows us tucking into Christmas lunch, comes courtesy of one of its contributors; ‘Christmas Song’ by The Hornblower Brothers.
Posted 08 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan Category Music, Video
Some early footage of Blur has turned up out of nowhere – brilliant. Unfortunately the embedding is turned off for this video, but it’s essential viewing anyway, so you’ll just have to follow the link below. Not quite sure where it came from all of a sudden – perhaps it was uncovered during the research for the new Blur documentary – but it’s amazing – this is Seymour (the band that would become Blur) playing ‘Superman’ in Harlow, Essex in December 1989. Twenty years ago. God.
Wish the first Blur album had sounded all fuzzy and frenetic like this – we’d have realised how wonderful they were that bit earlier…
Posted 06 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan Category Music, Video
This afternoon myself and Dan went and had a burger and a beer at Brighton’s lovely The Eagle. While we were eating, I set up my camera to do a time-lapse recording; which is presented here accompanied by some pleasing beeps and squiggles courtesy of Andrew – the track is his ‘Succour & Liquor’, credited to Bedsit Bomber.
"Me, I want to bloody kick this moronic bloody world in the bloody teeth over and over till it bloody understands that not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right."
David Mitchell, Black Swan Green