Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out On Island

A.I.T.A. is on a brief hiatus... Back next week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A.I.T.A. Hall Of Fame: Spacemen 3

For all the fucked-up children
of the world we give you Spacemen 3

Formed in 1982 in the town of Rugby by Pete Kember (Sonic Boom) and Jason Pierce, Spacemen 3 were to become one of the most important bands of the '80s, with their offshoots destined to spread out and become equally as vital in the '90s.

Their debut album Sound Of Confusion, released in 1986, was a blistering affair — establishing their love of the two-chord song and also expressing their admiration for the likes of MC5, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Stooges. Sound Of Confusion was seven tracks of overdriven assault, with a strange bleakness and despair creeping through the hypnotic sprawl. R Hunter Gibson would later say: "It boosts the value of unlit rooms, unpaid debts and unfeigned terror and it would rather tackle the gradients than settle for level best."

The Perfect Prescription followed a year later and with it Spacemen 3 edged away from the full-on feel of their debut. "Walking With Jesus," "Feels So Good," "Things'll Never Be The Same" et al managed to retain the power of their earlier writings, but they also had a soft-focus dreamlike nature about them, drawing the listener far closer into their world and reminding us of how horrific that world could be, never more so than on "Call The Doctor.

By now, the drug usage of Spacemen 3 was seemingly as important as the music. The press was full of tales and exploits, every interview with them was littered with references and the pressures were beginning to tell on the band. The drummer quit and the bass player was kicked out, to be replaced by Willie Carruthers. They headed to Cornwall to record the next record with no drummer, sub-standard equipment and a lot of tension. The resultant album Playing With Fire, however, was an irrefutable classic.

"An extraordinary record... an artifact pulsating with a knowledge of its own graceful strengths" was how Chris Roberts described it, while Michael Bonner chose to wax, "It was a morphine dream, an altered state, using delicate, elliptical sonic textures to a point of near abstraction. The songs dripped with soft-focus, honeyed melodies; you could glide through the cotton-wool guitar chimes or surrender to the gentle euphoria of the two-note organ riffs..." All told, an amazing album by a band so close to self-destruction.

The band toured Europe for a major part of 1989, taking their trademark "Anti-Show" to new levels, but a proposed U.S. tour in the fall never came to be, cancelled as it was on the back of previous drug busts. Those shows were the last Spacemen 3 would ever play, as by now the tension between Sonic and Jason were so great that couldn't even communicate with each other. Interviews with the press had to be conducted separately and perhaps most tellingly of all, their swan-song album Recurring was divided rigidly into two — Sonic's songs on one side, Jason's on the other. Released in 1990, Recurring was a remarkable album in own right. Sonic's songs seemed to embrace the emerging dance culture, using his unique drones and drawls to invoke the same sense of euphoria of the wider scene, while Jason focussed on cultivating the "neo-gospel trance-rock" which was so prominent on Playing With Fire, and which would figure so heavily in his post-Spacemen 3 band, Spritualized.

It was a sad end for "one of the most mind-altering, music expanding British bands of the last 20 years," but the legacy they leave behind is so fine, that we simply have to be grateful that they ever graced us with their presence at all." [author and source of article is unknown]

Download: "Rollercoaster" (rehearsal, 1986)
Download: "Take Me To The Other Side" (live, 1987)
Download: "Big City" (demo, 1990)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable, and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

All That Jazz

Herman Leonard
Rest In Peace

"Quincy Jones once said, 'I used to tell cats that Herman Leonard did with his camera what we did with our instruments. Looking back across his career, I’m even more certain of the comparison: Herman’s camera tells the truth, and makes it swing. Musicians loved to see him around. No surprise; he made us look good.'

With their rich blacks, whites and silvers, the sense of images both fleeting and permanent, Herman Leonard’s photographs look beautiful and astonishing, the way the music was then, and still is; they look, as the great critic Whitney Balliett famously said of jazz itself, 'Like the sound of surprise.' Leonard caught the musicians in performance, but also at ease, or at home, or backstage, as if a friend had dropped by: Louis Armstrong with a sandwich and a bottle of champagne, or Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn sharing a cigarette by the piano. Herman’s images seem imbued with the friendship and collaboration that is the essence of jazz.

The special quality of the photographs is in the iconic beauty of the pictures, the way Leonard made up the language of jazz photography, the fact that when people think jazz, as often as not, they see his pictures. There’s something else, something indefinable that is revealed in the photographs: Herman really knew his subjects; they were his friends, they gave him access. The photographs — Billie Holiday just released from jail, Frank Sinatra, melancholy in a recording session — show an intimacy and trust and a kind of love for the man on the other side of the camera who always told the truth.

Herman was in love with his subjects and the musicians knew it. They felt it. They let him in not just because he took wonderful pictures and evolved as a master printmaker, a genius at exquisite detail, of light and shade, but because you couldn’t make these pictures unless you were Herman. They are, in that sense, an act of being Herman Leonard.

Herman Leonard’s photographs have given generations of jazz lovers a way in, as if we’d been there in New York at the Roost or Birdland or later in Paris or San Francisco. I look at them, and I can feel Herman there, the Herman who tells a great joke, and is also deeply humane, a great artist, a profoundly good man. A mensch.

And now Herman is gone. When I got the news that he had died, I looked at his photographs on my wall and I recalled what Tony Bennett said when he heard Frank Sinatra was no longer with us: 'I don’t have to believe that.'" -Reggie Nadelson [taken from Herman Leonard's official website]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"When the highest and strongest drives, breaking passionately out, carry the individual far above and beyond the average and lowlands of the herd conscience, the self-confidence of the community goes to pieces, its faith in itself, its spine as it were, is broken: consequently it is precisely these drives that are most branded and calumniated. Lofty spiritual independence, the will to stand alone, great intelligence even, are felt to be dangerous; everything that raises the individual above the herd and makes his neighbour quail is henceforth called evil."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pick Your King

Photography by Lee Greenfeld © 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. "

Thursday, August 5, 2010

But, What Happened To The Chickens?

"Walking down the southern end of Mott Street — a stretch lined with cheap-toy traps and Chinese restaurants of varying quality — is a fairly unremarkable experience until the sidewalk is suddenly packed with grungy and very loud teenagers and young adults loitering in front of a prominent  'No Loitering' sign." ... Story continues here: A Place Where Ms. Pac-Man Still Has A Home (NY Times)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"...Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible are like, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you're miserable, because that's very lucky, to be miserable."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Driving Fast Down A One-Way Street

"Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink. 'Ladies and Gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!' But none of the people down there care."

Download: Come Together (live at RCMH)