Monday, August 24, 2015

Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, et al

You are a human being. You listen to recorded music. As this is the modern age, you consume this music digitally, via the big paid content providers: Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, et al. But what of Keshco? I have news for you. As of summer 2015, you can now consume Keshco music digitally, via the big paid content providers:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=sr_nr_seeall_2?rh=k%3Akeshco%2Ci%3Adigital-music&keywords=keshco&ie=UTF8&qid=1440413681

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/keshco/id312496623

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/7d0wPHbHFUXnwnP3BQVqaV?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

...et al.

Our Bandcamp is, as always, a better option: https://keshco.bandcamp.com/

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Five lessons to learn from our gig disasters

We're not an ideal band to see live. For one reason or another, the amount of gigs we've enjoyed over the years has been minuscule. Here are some lessons you can draw for your own audience-facing endeavours, which would have saved a lot of pain if we'd have learned in advance:

1. Always practice the set beforehand

This gets at the heart of the basic problem; which type of Keshco is going to turn up to any gig. We all have low boredom thresholds; we get fed up with playing the same songs repeatedly. However, the gigs were spread apart and often the decisions about what songs to include were made last-minute. Other bands do well by practising the same few songs over and over. Sure, they're probably sick of them, but they're slick. Our ramshackle approach won't go down well if an audience doesn't realise that our set is a mere 7 plucked out of a possible 300+ songs (plus any number of improvisatory approaches).

This doesn't mean improvisation is impossible, but if you're going to try something off-the-cuff, you should have an idea about how it will (and will not) take place, and be properly limbered up. Many of our songs are pretty complex in structure, and winging it won't work. As our practice time as a group was usually minimal, it was essential we got used to practising our parts solo. 

In 2008, we played an event for Resonance FM. We were shunted back to close the show. We had a synth-pop set planned, but the earlier acts were all relatively experimental fare, something we could easily have offered with a bit of forethought. With the sudden option of a longer set, I gambled that we could get away with resurrecting "Village Of Death", an eight-minute sci-fi epic Bob and I hadn't played for four years, Luke for six years. It was long, so l-o-n-g, and although I just about remembered the story, the chords were repetitive and how did the middle section go? A good alternative would have been a fresh freakout, of the type we often do during sessions at home.

2. Make sure you know how the instruments will sound together

In February 2008, we played a radio show on Resonance FM; our first radio slot (apart from student radio). We had lately been using partial backing tracks, to free us up for comedy/art moments; but arriving at the show we discovered we couldn't use the backing tracks, and ended up playing along to the auto-rhythm on one of our touring keyboards, a Yamaha VSS200. For whatever reason, they didn't have enough amps/monitors for a three-piece and couldn't get the keyboard volume high enough, and we weren't allowed to play quietly to fit with the keyboard; and so we couldn't hear the beat to keep in time. It shouldn't even need saying that you won't get a good radio performance if the band can't hear the rhythm. Of course, the audience at home are unlikely to imagine there's been a hiccup; they'll just think "jeez, this band don't know what they're doing".

3. Relaxation is not compatible with lugging equipment

I have a recurrent tremor that gets worse when stressed or tired. It's been there since childhood and will presumably get more bothersome over time. Carrying heavy weights tends to set it off. Gigs tend to set it off. Carrying heavy weights also causes inevitable stress. You won't be optimally relaxed if you carry your own equipment to gigs. For numerous reasons, we have usually carried our own equipment to gigs.

When we played a two-man gig at the London Triathlon for Scope in 2013, we carried an acoustic guitar, a Crate Taxi "travel" amp (10 kg), two Shure SM58 microphones, two metal mic stands, and a mini drum kit (snare, kick drum, pedals, hi-hat, numerous chimes). This was meant to be a scaled-down performance...

It is not ideal gig preparation for two or three chaps to carry instruments, drum bits, amplifiers, on public transport. It makes you grumpy, as well as tired, as well as inducing tremors. The flipside of the dilemma - if you don't have transportation of your own, should you make do with less, or just not play? Part of the fun of our music is the variation in sounds.

4. Make sure everyone in the band is happy

If you're unhappy to be on stage playing a particular song or style, it shows. Work through your differences beforehand.

This extends to the physical set-up as well. In 2013, we played a two-man gig at a cramped London pub. There were two microphone stands. One had a pivot, one was vertical. This meant the flexible one had to go for Bob while drumming, but he then decided not to sing. So, I was using the vertical one, unable to sit down and unable (due to the lack of organisation) to even find a suitable place to root both feet on the floor. Vertical mic stands are not conducive to being able to see what you're playing - I was having to lean forward to get close to the mic. It was obvious a bad show would follow. What we should have done is negotiated beforehand, and made do with one mic, and both sitting down.

Each of us has been on the receiving end. In 2011, at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, the soundcheck was pretty much perfect. We came back for the proper gig, and all the levels had been sabotaged, and Luke's guitar couldn't even be heard. What we should have done is stopped, done another soundcheck, and definitely waited for them to fix Luke's channel; instead we ploughed on.

Bob's often had it the hardest, as he attempted to cope with a succession of differently set-up house drum kits. Worse, he plays with his kit set up opposite to most drummers. It's often treated with irritation when the drummer wants to fiddle with the kit, let alone to reverse the whole thing. In one way or another, there's usually someone from the venue or a "promoter" getting stressed over time, and we're the type of act that gets leaned on to hurry up, as they feel safe we're not going to punch anyone on the nose.

It's at times like this you have to think of your friend in the audience, who may be filming the thing for you. In a way that's the most important person to play to, as more people will see your gig on YouTube than were in the audience. You must make sure you have a decent performance for the camera, which means keeping the band happy and taking the time to get the levels right.

5. Don't take bad gigs

A major portion of any band unhappiness (which is also friend unhappiness, therefore doubly upsetting) has come from the lead-up to, playing of, and fall-out from, bad gigs. Think carefully. Does your band really want to put on a night in an out-of-the-way rough council estate in Southwark? Will it really benefit you taking a coach north to play an unpaid gig alongside uncomprehending Leicester teenagers? If it's someone else's night, are their aims radically different to yours? It's true that without the bad gigs, our gig total would be less than half what it is. But wouldn't we have enjoyed a string of home concerts more!

And with that, I direct you to the essential follow-up, Five Lessons To Learn From Our Gig Successes. It'll be along, right about now. Any time now. Here it comes now. It's... actually, stay as you were for a bit.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Get Out And Vote: liner notes

"Get Out And Vote" front cover artwork (Bob Follen)
A recent Keshco release which may have passed you by is the election-themed "Get Out And Vote". This
six-track EP was released with satirical intent on the night before the UK General Election, and due to the FMA servers neither allowing it to be downloaded for the first week, nor displaying it on their list of recent uploads, and also I suspect the political theme and therefore people's parochial assumptions, it got very few plays. That's a shame, as it's no less deserving than the 110,000-time-downloaded "Accountants By Day" (still available here!).

So yes, the theme. In the UK we're still recovering from the poll-busting disappointment of May's General Election. "Get Out And Vote" commemorates this sad fart of a campaign with some brief dissections of the characters involved.

The opener, "Oh What A Ding-Dong", is hosted by a rambunctious ringmaster reeling off the candidates in a local by-election. This is bedded into a springy circus theme tune that Bob came up with a long while ago, to which I've added some layers with our favourite nostalgic synth, the Yamaha VSS-200.

What does the figure 1% make you think of? Perhaps the public sector pay constraints for the next four years. But generally it's shorthand for those who accumulate money and influence, when everyone else is short of both. Wherever there is unchecked power, there is corruption. "Stock Share Shuffle" is a skiffle-feel good-time tune about the crooks at the top, whether that's the local council or the IMF. They're not all at it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find the ethical ones. As well as my acoustic guitars, Luke adds bottle (literally - blowing across miniature bottles filled to different depths, carefully tuned at the kitchen sink) and Bob adds two mono drum kits, recorded at Goldwave's tiniest (and tinniest) of file rates: 11 kHz. Lo-fi heaven!

So, enough carping, you want policy, eh? Well here's one for you: "Lend For Free". An easy-to-understand policy, in easily-digestible micro-song form. Drop the debt. Eliminate compound interest. This brief tune has, as well as my vocals and guitars, Luke on slide Gretsch and keyboard swells, and Bob on progtastic but low-res 11 kHz drums.

One of the many embarrassing sights during the campaign is the battle bus, careering around the country to disgorge stuffy caffeinated ministers, aides and hopefuls, eager to press the sweaty flesh before squeezing back on for another motorway lunch. "Circus Wagons" recaps the opening theme with a series of campaign buzzwords. Luke's using a 'backwards' setting on his amp, I'm drumming on a biscuit tin, and trainee Keshcologist Alex Sample assists with the fluttery keyboard backing.

After the campaign comes the interminable twilit repetition of "The Count". Imagine yourself with a massive stack of voting forms. All you have to do is log them correctly. Again and again. For hours. Long hours. This instrumental, based around Luke's delay-soaked guitar, overlaid with yawning crunching synth burps and a heap of rapid-fire mini percussion (weighing scales, teacups), conjures up the filmy-eyed feeling at the end of election night.

So, the results are out, and who is the winner? Not most of us, that's for sure. Life goes on across the country, and for most of us that means getting by in cramped conditions. So here's a dance especially for those moments when it's all a little too cooped up. The Kitchen Shuffle started with a set of lyrics by poet and strident Socialist campaigner Drew Walton (go read his fervent blog here!), written in about 2002. After re-discovering them in an old folder, I've juggled them round a bit and added some extra lines. For the shuffle beat, the Yamaha and Amstrad options in the arsenal just wouldn't do, so I took advantage of the Casio MT-100. The electronics (from slider to speaker) sound like they're slowly perishing; I hope it keeps going a while yet. The sparse, echoey feel of this track recalls Gary Numan, or perhaps Soft Cell's 'Bedsitter'. Overlaid is some dense human beatboxing, and an extended instrumental section featuring Luke's brainwave of an entirely different melody which comes off his Yamaha PSS380.

Do you recognise Bob's front cover image? That's the old Labour icon Tony Benn, and you can select from a massive range of Bob's other portraits on his eBay page here.

So, a new Keshco release - six tracks released for election-time, but worth a listen any time. You can download the EP via Bandcamp: https://keshco.bandcamp.com/album/get-out-and-vote

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Unaccentuated: liner notes

"Unaccentuated" front cover (Gareth Monger/Andy Brain)
April 2015 sees the release of a 10-track Keshco EP, "Unaccentuated", courtesy of Chicago netlabel Pan y Rosas Discos. It's already had nice reviews at the Modern Folk Music Of America blog and Decoder Magazine. How did it come about? And what do we mean with the name?

Keshco these days is a remote recording project, something to be squeezed in between busy lives in different cities/countries. It's also a tad more streamlined stylistically. So, the title refers not only to the rushed and fragmentary recordings enforced by this geographic separation (and having things to do, almost as if we're proper adults now), but also to the absence of comedy moments and silly voices, one of our hallmarks that's been divisive since day one. Does humour belong in music? Well yes, undoubtedly, but on a collection like this, you can enjoy Kesh music unencumbered by lyrical concerns. Don't worry, everything has its day and we'll have some songs for you soon.

The cover art by noted dinosaur sketcher and grand old Keshcologist, Gareth Monger, plays on the title with a microscope's view of assorted protozoa - unaccentuated life forms.

Film-makers and remixers should enjoy these soundtrack-worthy selections, which are released under Creative Commons licensing for ease of use (with attribution) in your own projects.

As it turned out, Luke and Bob were unavailable for the hectic overdub process, and what was to be a brief EP expanded when Ines contributed three pieces recorded in her Buenos Aires apartment block, in which there is an empty residence containing only an upright piano, and a few photographs. To fill out the sound, Caroline stepped up with recorder and (broken) clarinet, and I've got back into beatboxing and scraping on the violin.

The EP begins with 'First Flush', an aching piano melody from Bob played in Sowerby Bridge. I've added a pair of synth lines played on the band's favourite school-age keyboard, the Yamaha VSS-200.

'To Reach The Outpost' is the kind of Andy synth tinkling that feels a natural extension from 1990s Kesh. In a parallel universe this could have been our main style of output.

'Blocked Signals' began with some washes of a brittle, dusty keyboard sample. This was augmented by Ines with guitar harmonics, which were further treated, and some guitar hum that rumbles up from the depths to overwhelm the fragile melody line.

"Unaccentuated" back cover (Gareth Monger/Andy Brain)
An instrument sample, once inside the VSS-200, was found to have a percussive blip, which became the foundation of 'Tiny Transmission', and to which my other layers are gamely trying to maintain a grip. Cold funk.

The mysterious piano makes its first appearance in the downbeat 'Unaccentuated Motive', occasionally backed with the sounds of Buenos Aires, and against Caroline's recorder and (broken) clarinet. In the far distance I scrape on violins. The reverb is a mixture of the big room sound and the favourite Buzz plugin, Sonic Verb.

'Wipe My Face Away' was nearly a song, so you can consider yourself blessed. It's an incidental Andy, apparently channelling Simon The Sorcerer.

Life on Earth. From out of the swamps, out of the trees. 'Borneo' began as a fine flute improvisation by Luke, with me playing pedals. Caroline was tasked with negotiating the rocky harmonic path alongside this, with recorder and (broken) clarinet, making up alternate fingerings to keep the thing in tune.

'Royal Flush' brings back that opening piano melody from Bob, in a longer meditation. The piano is surrounded by the woozy swirls of the take itself having been elongated via the paulstretch program, then re-compressed to the correct length. In the middle distance, I scrape on violins.

'Busted Flush' is the final bar of Bob's previous take, stretched out, wobbled and reverbed.

We end with an upbeat, open-hearted, open-minded, bombastic stomper - Ines' piano leads the way on 'Lunar Accent', a refreshing closer. I've added a pair of VSS-200 lines, wind chimes, percussion (pizza base, pound shop drum) and reasonably distant violins.

We're very happy if you enjoy the EP, which can also be downloaded via the Free Music Archive. Gobble to your heart's content. Hope to hear from you all soon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kesh music used as soundtracks

It's heartening to see several creative types have taken up our offer of free music, and utilised selections from our Filmmaker's Reference Kit Vol 1 in their projects. Some recent ones include:

A Portuguese audio interview from Carol Alfaro, on being a translator:
http://artedatraducao.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/papo-de-tradutor-com-erika-lessa.html

Lessons in fish cookery:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XueL20hGvmE

A digital animation about warriors done with GIMP:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAdFDGCDZq8

Another wee digital animation, this one a cartoon done on a drawing tablet:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=huOL5RI0EdY

A brief film about smartphones and New Year resolutions:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oGkTV3916U

A cookery show presented by My Little Pony:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMLZlxOmxOg

Some kind of creepy monologue, using "Teastrain" in a creative manner:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie8G--7-7ks

Meanwhile, also recently and using Bleak House music, you can see a neat showreel:
https://vimeo.com/117866281

Someone with the wrong outlook on Greece's financial situation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHm-YLE9I9I

Obrigado!
Andy

Thursday, January 29, 2015

February news

Dear Keshcologist,

The darkest months are over, whew. Have a couple of tunes to celebrate...

Going Dutch (from the Filmmaker's Reference Kit Vol 1) is now available here in a shorter edit:


That's https://soundcloud.com/keshco/going-dutch-perverted-groove-7-inch-edit
...and it's also freely usable in your creative projects. Why not take a camera into the clubs of Amsterdam and then soundtrack them with this?

A micro-song for your delectation:



Also downloadable from:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Keshco/microSong_Challenge_Entries/Son_Of_A_Systems_Engineer
Short enough to use as a ringtone, say on your work phone.

The next Keshco release is due out in late March courtesy of Pan y Rosas Discos, a Chicago netlabel.

Before that, another home concert is planned for February 22nd, to be streamed live on the Beware! Vision uStream channel.

Beware! The Zine continues, with regular features including the ongoing adventures of bit demon Nase and telegraphic pal Abel; Johnny Cocktail's Private Investigatory Masterclass; and the Encyclopaedia of International Celebrity, already boasting highly accurate entries on The Smiths and Germaine Greer. You can signup by email to receive updates direct to your inbox.

Bob Art Models has a travelling library exhibition, which will be in the following locations:
23/1 - 7/2 Todmorden Library
14/2 - 28/2 Hebden Bridge Library
9/3 - 21/3 King Cross Library
28/3 - 11/4 Brighouse Library
20/4 - 5/5 Sowerby Bridge Library
11/5 - 1/6 Central Library Halifax
8/6 - 20/6 Elland Library

Support your local artists and support your local libraries! Who knows, maybe Bob Art Models will come to your town next...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1: Liner Notes

Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1 cover art
Cover artwork drawn by Ines Boente/coloured by Andy Brain
A new album of Keshco instrumentals has just been released, gratis, via the Free Music Archive and Bandcamp. Why on Earth is this?

When we embarked on the whole free music/creative commons enterprise, we were hoping that, in lieu of any financial earnings, we would instead get the warm glow of discovering that fellow creative types had used our tunes to soundtrack their films. This would potentially have the nice knock-on effect of seeing what are effectively promo videos for songs we are too busy to make videos for. This has been proved correct, and we've been delighted by the many and varied uses people have found for our music. However, most of our tracks feature singing in some form. We thought it would be a good idea to set out our stall a little clearer.

The selections on Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1 are all instrumental; the human voice is banished in order that potential editors can avoid wading through song after song. This collection comprises different types of incidental music - themes, idents, backing tracks. Suggested genres are given in the track titles. The selections are offered under the "attribution" licence, so can be freely remixed and used so long as we're mentioned as the original artistes.

The tracks herein involve compositions from all four members of Keshco. Some of the backing tracks started life on our previous releases Now, Freaks At A Wake and The Blood, The Horror; but you won't have heard them in this form. At last, you can hear the full suspense-laden thwacks and tingles of Serpico Goes To Shanghai, the severely funky Going Dutch, and the starkly spooky Shadowplay, freshened with new layers and unburdened by vocals. Let your mind go where it wants to.

Notable tracks include the downbeat piano meditation London Hope, and the chaotic slide action of The Speed Demon Theme.

Remixing took place in Andy's living room, using favoured free tools Buzz and Goldwave, in spare moments between the day job and the evening job.

Do let us know if you use any bits in your productions - we'd love to see the results and share them with fellow Keshcologists. Also, what would you find useful in the forthcoming Volume 2?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

News update

Volume 1 of the Filmmaker's Reference Kit is now due out on 1 January 2015. Volume 2 is mooted for March 2015. Both will be available through the Free Music Archive.

The Kesh zine Beware! is up and running again, this time as a zine-blog or web-comic. Daily posts with characters old and new, continuing the well-meaning left-leaning tradition, are viewable here and we'd appreciate your presence and comments. Or you can join us on the Beware! Facecrap page here.

Bob Art Models continues at rapid pace with his attempts to draw every celebrity in human history - you can purchase greetings cards and the like from eBay here. For those in northern England, keep updated on his market shows via the Twitter feed.

Grand old Keshcologist Gaffa Mondo has a palaeo-art blog - Pteroformer - of interest to any dino-fans out there or just the mildly curious - it's well-written. You can get T-shirts of his designs, too.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The economics of releasing music as a physical product in 2014

In preparation for recent releases, I did some extended research into different forms of physical production. This may sound dumb to today's kids, but we grew up in another time, before digital distribution became the norm. What we wanted was to see our name on a compact disc, on an audio cassette, on the centre of a piece of vinyl. We wanted to have a collection of our own stuff, and maybe even to be able to go into a shop and see that stuff there, alongside the stuff that artistes we like have put out. However, we don't want masses of unsold copies gathering dust bunnies. We're not rich, and there's too much wasted excess product in the world, and particularly too much wasted excess product in our flats. It would be nice to have a reasonably small amount of units that could actually be sold this century to like-minded folks.

So, what is it like getting music manufactured in 2014? And why can't you buy our home-made catalogue in high street stores? Let's go through the various options, and I'll explain what I found:

CDs

Since 2000, our music has been available on CD-Rs, which are home-made. If you take your home-recorded CD-R into an indie store (let's say, ooh, Rough Trade), they will probably say "we don't take CD-Rs" - irrespective of the quality or that you've personally verified each copy. So be aware of that. If you want to get over that hurdle, you have to get your CDs pressed up by someone else. The big surprise for me was the massive disparity in cost. There are two similar-sounding processes offered by CD copying businesses, and one is no good for your purpose. CD duplication is essentially what you'd do with a CD burner, but on a larger scale, and while it's cheap, to e.g. Rough Trade, it's indistinguishable from a home CD-R. So you don't need CD duplication if you want to get into shops. In order to get them pressed up like the professionals, you need your CDs not duplicated, but replicated. This involves the making of a scary-sounding glass master, and is generally only available in high runs of over 300 or so. It also costs a lot. I've done some homework for you, searching for "cd replication uk prices" on Google. The cost of replicating 500 CDs is, at time of asking (December 2014), for disc only:

Prices quoted are for cheapest option shown on website, and are inclusive of VAT - you may just find something cheaper
Replication Centre - £270 
Max Duplication - £270
Mobineko - £282
Demomaster - £300
Testa Rossa - £312
Cyclone Music - £324
Key Production - £348
Pure Music - £480

Is it possible to get a professionally replicated, economical short run of CDs - a Keshco size run? It seems not. However, in researching this, I found one place, Mobineko, which offers glass-mastered short runs starting at 100 units for £198 - yes, considerably cheaper.

But in CD manufacture, really there are no half measures. And in our case, it's all about half measures - Accountants By Day may have over 100,000 free downloads, but audiences are quite passive and only a handful will actually part with any money for music in these times, or even tell you the bits they enjoyed or what they'd like to hear more of. Blank empty space, until you actually corner people and coax opinions from them. For "Now That's What I Call Keshco", 160 minutes of highly creative and carefully recorded re-imaginings requiring our lengthy writing, practising, recording, mixing and mastering time, our pre-orders were a mighty two (that's two), and as it was a two-disc release, that would have entailed doubling the costs above. Also, your typical squeezed indie shop can be picky even with professionally-pressed content, as they only have so much floor space. So, the likelihood with getting 500 CDs replicated is that 480-odd will remain unsold, turning your house into a warehouse, unless you have hard-headed business contacts or want to spend your entire time playing the industry game (in which case, this whole article is a bit irrelevant to you).

Mini CDs (3-inch)

Don't. People don't understand the format, many players won't accept them, and the one mean review we received suggested that perhaps we'd bought these awful-sized discs because they're cheaper. They're more expensive! Result: we have a lot of mini CDs sitting around.

Cassettes

Who buys a cassette in 2014? Strangely, despite having been left for dead many years back by the mainstream industry, tape sales are (albeit slightly) on the rise once more, as increasing amounts of creative types are reminded of how useful and economical they are. There is a horrendous Hoxton hipster crowd, for sure, but also collectors who fetishise the medium of their youth, just as others do with vinyl. There are a quiet few who never gave up cassettes (very Keshco, that); and those who just want some pleasantly-designed physical memento of their favourite artistes. Anyway, having assumed for years that CDs were the only game in town, we've recently broadened our focus. The tape is back.

It was a nice surprise to find that cassette duplication is considerably cheaper than vinyl, and as there is no need for glass masters, shorter runs are possible. For our Cassette Store Day releases, we used Tapeline (http://tapeline.info), who offered a very reasonable and personable service. 100 copies of our Bleak House "Music From The Middle Room" and 25 copies of "Freaks At A Wake", plus the cases and shipping, for £169.74. We sorted the artwork ourselves and it doesn't let the side down.

Your dilemma, though, is where to sell the cassettes. Most record stores won't take the things, or if they do, there will be extremely limited shelf space. With Cassette Store Day, we paid to be on the official stock list, which led to orders from shops who surely wouldn't have noticed us otherwise.

Vinyl

So, what about the old favourite? The never-bettered black seven-inch frisbee? The curious desire to have one's noises on vinyl goes back more than a century towards the beginnings of the recording industry. Again, sales are on the rise after a nadir in the early 2000s, but the flavour-of-the-month vinyl stock in somewhere like Fopp/HMV is way more expensive than most of the equivalent CDs, as if the industry is trying to claw back the costs of its loss-leading discounted CDs by fleecing vinyl collectors. For the independent band, your vinyl release (as opposed to your CD release) is more likely to be a desirable product, even amongst those who don't own a record player. Manufacture is fairly expensive, as you might expect. Here I've searched, non-comprehensively, for "vinyl pressing uk prices".

Again, prices quoted are the cheapest that were clearly available on the relevant website, and inclusive of VAT

100 7" singles (white label)
Unit 8 Recording Studios - £360
JTS Studios - £384
Mobineko - £420

300 7" singles (white label)
Unit 8 Recording Studios - £480 
Mobineko - £486
JTS Studios - £517.20
Cyclone Music - £546
Key Production - £564

With vinyl, almost all music shops will take them, there's more shelf space than for tapes, but of course an unsold box is very heavy.

One more thought. Supply and demand is an important factor. There's a lot of music. The marketplace is saturated. Then again, there's a lot of picky people saying "oh there's no good new music any more". If people can at least get to hear your music in the first place, and they love it, there's a chance they'll be coming to you asking how they can buy it (as I've done with bands I like). We make ourselves very contactable. It's a lot easier choosing the physical format of your release if you can stoke up some demand first.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Johnny Cocktail: The Novella - extract

An awfully long time ago, I started writing bits for a Johnny Cocktail novella, to be an expanded version of his struggle against the phoney bearded guru Angale R Bruin. As this is unlikely to get further - it's currently 18th on the Kesh project list, which is at least Top 20 status but seriously it'll never be high enough - I thought you might appreciate a little extract. Feel free to say hello.

CHAPTER ONE

Balls in the air. Juggle juggle juggle.
     These people, these places, these projects. Each has its own mass, its own weighting. Subtle variance of spin and velocity.
     Arcing back over each other, in and out of turn.
     The light and the air and the grease and the gumption.
     One thing you could say about being a lifestyle guru/private investigator – it's a test of your co-ordination.

August had already intervened with flash floods that dismantled a long-term house makeover. Bloody Boscastle. One ball down. Another had gained mass with reports of animal skeletons turning up in the Highlands.
     It was with research in mind that Johnny visited his local corner shop to buy his Sport, Mail, Independent, Murder Casebook and Crochet partwork.
     It was animal butchery he was pondering as he sauntered around Lidl grabbing all the bargains, virtually on autopilot.
     It was corruption in sport that tested him during his tour of Victoria Park, zig-zagging around virtually on autopilot.
     It was malfunctioning software that bored him to sleep.


August 20th. Two things of note happened to Johnny that dark, muggy day. Firstly, he chanced upon a wrongly-placed book in the Humour Dept. Secondly, an unexpected visitor rang his doorbell.
     The misplaced volume was Secrets of Core Pulse Tone Love, by Bruin.
     The unexpected visitor was a man in a karate suit.
     Gaunt, sweating disgustingly, glasses slipping down his bony nose, he propped himself up against the alcove as Johnny cautiously pulled the door back.
     A painful intake of breath. Two words: “Help me.”
     Johnny's features softened into a fatherly smile.
     Five words: “Help me kick his arse.”
     An eyebrow duly raised.

The volume had regained Johnny's glance as, having skimmed around the section, he found himself trying to make out what the hell that title meant. Picking it off the shelf, he scanned the blurb and was none the wiser. It was clearly a double-espresso read, if not triple. The pages thick with gobbledygook. Back on the shelf it went.

The man gulped back his second hi-ball of water while Johnny took notes.
     When the words came they were thick and fast and garbled. There were slogans and retreats and deadlines and mocking laughter. And for Johnny, there was a lightbulb switching on in his head as he connected the man now dampening his cheapest armchair with something that had happened back in May.
     It had been a light, tantalising early Summer day and JC was in SoHo amassing material for a show about alternative lifestyles. The kind of thing they lap up on Blighty. He was filming a bunch of Koreans wrapped in dayglo bulbous cartoon costumes, when his attention snapped onto a hubbub nearby in Leicester Square. A group of men in light karate outfits performed stunts and poses for an appreciative female audience. One chap was handing out broken bits of slate together with calling cards. Intrigued, Johnny took one and frowned at its message:
     “You seek the truth through all these things. You call 0898 800 1800. Zen Zen UK UK”.
     He found a payphone and dialled the number, ignoring the stale urine stench.
     “Hello? I was wondering if Zen was around … I've got lots of questions about the meaning of life and I've heard that Zen has all the answers … Hello? I want to talk to Zen!”
     That day Johnny had been forced to give up, the card left to languish in a jacket pocket stuffed with sandwich receipts and ladies' scrawled addresses. He had never found out who this Zen was, or why he wrote his own name twice.
     Now he understood.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Five Doctor Who stories that have inspired us

It's fair to say Doctor Who is the Keshcologist's time-travel anthology show of choice. Yes, yes, we remember Crime Traveller (which, I'm guessing, came about once the Beeb realised the 1996 TV pilot with Paul McGann wasn't being taken forward); we long for a DVD release of Ken Campbell as Erasmus Microman (which, I'm guessing, came about after he nearly got chosen as the Seventh Doctor, and decided to do his own take on it anyway for ITV); we have undimmed fondness for The Magician's House (which was based on a series of children's books but, I'm guessing, was taken forward by the promise of Ian Richardson being uncannily Doctor-ish on a Sunday teatime). But it's the longevity and endless elasticity of Who that weaved itself into the mindcloth of our woolly little heads. Here are a few stories you may wish to check up on, for context.

The Mind Robber (1969)
The Doctor's time-machine, the TARDIS makes a sudden emergency detour and gets sucked into an alternative universe, the Land of Fiction. The hastily cobbled-together first episode takes place in a white void, and ends with a spooky and iconic shot of the Police Box exploding, and (the very saucy) Wendy Padbury clinging onto the central console as it spins off into darkness. The costumes and props were mainly made up of whatever was available from other shows, and daft plot points included Patrick Troughton having to put Frazer Hines's face back together - he does so wrongly, and a different actor plays Jamie for the next episode!
Further listening: I Almost Died

The Daemons (1971)
Swishy style icon Jon Pertwee arrives in a stuffy English village where the vicar, a Reverend Magister, is revealed to be his arch-nemesis the Master, attempting to summon up evil hairy god Azal from the dawn of time. Maypoles, morris men, sacrifices, "chap with wings - five rounds rapid", it's ludicrous and archetypal and a rollicking good yarn in the Hammer vein.
Further listening: Village of Death

Enlightenment (1983)
Sailing ships in space, can you imagine? A race around the solar system, the crews plucked out of Earth history to traverse the solar winds and compete for the ultimate prize - enlightenment. Delightful whimsical concept well executed with neat model shots of the racing vessels. Plus - it's deliciously camp; I direct you to Turlough's troubles in the lower decks, and the fearsome space pirate played by... Nurse Gladys Emanuelle?!
Further listening: Enlightenment

Vengeance On Varos (1985)
The clown-coated Doctor arrives in a seedy world of trial by television, live executions, gunrunners, drugs... oh and there are evil interplanetary commodity traders who are talking molluscs. It pushes the concept of how dark you can make kids' entertainment, and lo and behold a couple of weeks later Michael Grade announced the show was being put on hiatus.
Further listening: Weapons Expo

The Happiness Patrol (1988)
An anti-Thatcher fable with forced jollity the way of life - the TARDIS gets painted pink so as not to depress the people - but don't worry, the trickster-like Doctor will defy the system. (Script editor Andrew Cartmel's job interview: "What would you most like to achieve during your time on Doctor Who?" "I'd like to overthrow the government.") Features a hilarious executioner who looked like Bertie Bassett, and who killed people by drowning them in hot sweets. This is one a lot of people our age seem to remember.
Further listening: Climate Dance

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Copyright extension

When I worked at a medical school a few years back, I occasionally attended business meetings where a pair of accountants, who had usually flown straight in from Hong Kong, would intone humourlessly about Libor rates and the yoyo-ing performance of speculative investments, without any serious questioning from the medical school representatives as to their rationale or any ethical concerns, before jetting straight out again. They had no interest in medical research, in what the money was going to be spent on, in the implications of a sudden loss, or in using that money for the greater good. They'd flown in business class, and would be flying straight back to continue their monitoring of vast sums of money. It was all about the money, almost as an abstract. Amoral. We could as easily have been Lockheed Martin or the Newmont Mining Corporation, except that we'd have been able to offer them posher nibbles and bigger bonuses.

From them to us, reluctantly
The muted release in recent years of voluminous amounts of unreleased studio material by aged moneyspinners like Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Beach Boys is to satisfy the terms of the EU's copyright extension on sound recordings, from 50 years to 70 years, specifically the proviso that in order to get this extended period, a recording simply has to be released in any form. A single copy release at £1000 available for one minute by a single vendor in Hong Kong would satisfy the rules. The people who negotiated this copyright extension, the people who put out these comprehensive releases in cynically obscure form just to stop them falling into the public domain and prevent people everywhere enjoying and learning from them, the people who run these companies and are responsible for their policies, are of a type with the humourless accountants above. They have no interest in the creative side of music making, the counterproductive implications of this kind of behaviour. They're certainly interested in money (and they retain the posh nibbles and big bonuses), but allied to that is a mean-spirited, rather obsessive-compulsive determination to lock down any last asset that could possibly be exploited, even if they have no idea what to do with it. The diametric opposite of the Creative Commons and Free Music Archive movement. I am reminded of fossil fuel executives, ceaselessly pushing their outdated products through a seeming obsessive-compulsive determination to extract every last bit of energy from the ground and burn it, even to the point where more energy is expended extracting the stuff in the first place; and even when they must know they will have to change to renewable energy in the long-term.

Amusingly, despite this seeming desire to get the copyright stamp onto every last asset, in the case of the Beatles plenty of known recordings were left off of the mopping-up collection. As such, a glut of their recordings from 1963 are now public domain, and you could legitimately sell these tomorrow as your own release. Fab Beatles blog WogBlog lists some of the recordings which the Beatles' compilers left off the 1963 collection, and which are now public domain.

We release most of our music for free, for the fun of getting positive feedback and finding out the daft uses to which it's been put. Shares and comments are our currency. They give us the energy to continue. You like to share and comment, surely.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Political slot: Air quality

When I was growing up in the flatness of 1980s East Anglia, on foggy walks to hated school my dad would tell me of the air conditions he put up with living in London in the 1950s. Thick yellowy fog dense enough to reduce visibility to about arm's-length. In the Great Smog of 1952, 62 years ago today, at least 4,000 Londoners died. But those were the bad old days, pre-central heating, when most people had coal smoke pumping out of their chimneys, and those days were ended by the Clean Air acts - at least we thought so. Air pollution to my 1980s self meant industrial accidents, grim editions of First Tuesday featuring asbestos timebombs and iron lungs; something you could easily fathom. We were clean, we had a gas fire and nice warm radiators. Through the 1990s, the move to unleaded petrol and widespread adoption of catalytic converters gave the surface impression that we had improved things further; though near busy roads on still days there remained that persistent slight burning sensation in the eyes and the back of the throat.

The problem is, even though we can't see the pollution (well, not like the residents of Beijing can anyway), the air we breathe particularly in cities is nowhere near as clean as it should be - in busier London streets the pollution average is over twice the World Health Organisation's legal limits. Current estimates for yearly deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution are around 7,500 in London and 55,000 across the UK (with ozone possibly responsible for at least 5,000 further deaths per year). Yes, that's 7,500 deaths a year, or roughly 20 people a day in London whose deaths are down to air pollution. Bad old days? Did they ever stop, or did we just find a way of hiding the problem?

Pressure group Clean Air in London should be applauded for its tireless work dragging these facts into the public arena. It's only in recent months that newspapers have picked up on what is a major public health scandal of our time. It seems worse because it sounds a relatively easy thing to improve on - hang on, surely you've had clear figures for a while now, and you know it'll be a vote-winner to improve the air quality. So a fleet of new buses, hybrid technology, great, but what - they run on diesel? Isn't that responsible for far higher nitrogen dioxide and particle exhaust emissions than petrol? Who signed off on that?

You can monitor current street-by-street readings for air pollution, here: http://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/Default.aspx

Monday, December 08, 2014

Now, still, a free download

Our 30-track tribute to the original Now That's What I Call Music compilation, rewritten/recorded in 2013, is now available for free - it was already available free, but now perhaps easier to find? - at archive.org:

https://archive.org/details/nowthatswhaticallkeshco

Do grab it - there are many original moments within, the styles are all different, we've found ways to make them our own, and really it's shocking that (say) Freaks at a Wake has had over 10,000 downloads while this has been heard by a few dozen.

And now a haiku:

Mouse click on a link
Music burst across the globe
Sleeping eye and mind

Here's a haiku triptych, about Ali Dia:

Blyth Spartans reserves
A manager's telephone
Southampton first team 
Your moment has come
Chase the ball and chase the game
Your moment has gone 
Empty hotel room
Coach on the motorway north
University

Friday, December 05, 2014

Strategies for success

[Irony alert] Over the many decades of Keshco, Bleak House, Guivarsh, Stinky and the Peepholes, and sundry other side-projects, it's fair to say we've been enormously successful at bringing freshness, excitement and strangeness to the firmament of rock, and building a tightly-knit audience comprised of kindred spirits. It's a massive responsibility knowing that people hang on our every utterance. In the spirit of fraternity, it's only well and good we share some of our strategies that made Deforestation of Dak a top-10 album in Vanuatu, and Got Lot Of Stuff the title music for Dutch cuisine series "Bossche Bol".

STRATEGY No. 13: Snarled-up tape can be a beautiful thing.
STRATEGY No. 12: Make your own luck and then sit hard on it.
STRATEGY No. 11: Diversions are essential palliatives.
STRATEGY No. 10: Let all your hairs hang loose.
STRATEGY No. 9: By all means rhyme, but not all the time.
STRATEGY No. 8: Never repeat yourself even if nobody heard it the first time.
STRATEGY No. 7: There are some other nice musicians out there, but only the ones who aren't trying to make it.
STRATEGY No. 6: Never hustle.
STRATEGY No. 5: The most tuneful bits should come at the end of songs, after the interlopers have turned off.
STRATEGY No. 4: 4/4 is over-rated.
STRATEGY No. 3: Christopher Chope is the enemy.
STRATEGY No. 2: If Rough Trade are involved, it's not alternative.
STRATEGY No. 1: Do things back-to-front.

So, we'd like to throw it open to you. What are your strategies for success? What methods have you used to drive women wild, make money fast, wrest control of the zeitgeist, catch the red dot? Let's get some comments going!

PS: Anxiously awaiting your response. (That's our top post to date.)

PPS: You can get nice Bossche bollen from Albert Heijn. Best served cold with slagroom.

PPPS: TTIP. Just say no. Learn about the self-organised European citizens' initiative against TTIP and CETA here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Beware! Vision Update

If you've not yet caught the 23rd November home concert, you can watch it here (the incredibly catchy ident runs until 5:20):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LbDHK2HZLA



You're allowed to share it with friends too, you know. Comments are also permitted!

It went OK for a comeback run-through, and we were happy that the live Skype link-up worked at all, especially seeing as integration with Skype isn't allowed on uStream's free account, necessitating the multi-laptop workaround. When improvising with long latency and so-so sound quality, some types of expression are limited, so you have to find avenues of creativity within a tight boundary. More programmes to follow in mid-December, and your requests are again sought. Remember, watching on a mobile device there are no adverts. Thanks for watching, and do get in touch with any comments on our TV endeavours. If you sign up with uStream they can notify you of any future broadcasts - I believe this is done without excess unwanted mailings.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Political slot

Some thoughts. Many in politics and the media would seek to highlight our differences and capitalise on some of our lowest instincts, in order to deflect attention from inequity caused by those at the top. "Look at those people, they get a couple of pounds more in benefits than you get in your minimum wage job! It's so unfair!" The demand is to strip people, who are also down the bottom end, of their benefits, instead of forcing the bosses to pay a higher wage. If it's not people on benefits causing ire, it's fellow workers. "Look at those immigrants, coming over here, sweeping our streets, making our sandwiches...". If people in the UK don't want to do jobs like sandwich-making for pittance pay, and people from Hungary are happy to do those jobs because the pay is relatively good for them, perhaps the government should step in and cajole business owners into making working conditions better so that they can attract local workers? Ah, but they don't want to do that, because of the free market orthodoxy. Well if British firms like Greencore can't provide living wage jobs making sandwiches, come up with some other areas where decent jobs can be created. Like the medical profession. "I can't see my GP because of all these foreigners". Not quite - you can't see your GP because infrastructure in your area is lacking, and/or doctors don't want to practice in your area. Can you force people to train as doctors, and then to use that training in your local area? I didn't want to be on the medical front line, these are hard jobs requiring a good analytical brain and faith in one's decision-making abilities. Of course there aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough of most good things. "I can't get a council house because of all these foreigners". No - there are more single-person households nowadays, more luxury flats aimed at the wealthy (while these companies have no incentive to create affordable housing, because of the free market orthodoxy), and less council house stock across the country because the Tories encouraged people to buy their council houses, and many councils don't want to look after their remaining stock. Pointless to blame the people trying to get a house. Blame the people who ensured there wouldn't be enough houses left to go around.

It seems so obvious that the sensible answer to most people's concerns is to devolve more decisions to the local level, acting on concerns of infrastructure, overcrowding, encouraging the building of enough GP surgeries, hospitals, schools, council houses, fire stations, all the things we consider necessary for a well-functioning society. Not focusing on pulling up the drawbridge. Ensuring that locally there are enough nurses, enough consultants, enough teachers, enough police, enough social workers. Encouraging interest in medicine, advocacy, ethical jobs from a young age; making it attractive to join these professions.

You want more UK-based jobs to replace all the factory ones that have been outsourced? Stop importing energy. Put more money into British renewable energy, kick-start the economy and ensure energy security at the same time. Our governments seem determined to erode energy security, and to make anything that's nationalised pay over the odds.

A Labour politician on Channel 4 News recently tried to justify the Labour-encouraged glut of PFI contracts that led to hospitals and schools being saddled with far higher long-term bills than if they'd just paid for the work upfront themselves. (The private partners walk away with all of the profits and none of the risk.) His comeback? "Well, you ask those patients who've been treated in PFI hospitals whether they're happy those hospitals exist". And nothing more. For crying out loud - if not for PFI, many more hospitals would exist, would be in good shape, well-equipped without crippling debts, and the only losers would have been the private companies.

Most people who claim to be for a free market don't actually believe in it. What they want is a rigged market, ensuring public loses out to private, the risks are cushioned by those at the bottom, and the profits stay at the top. This is profoundly unfair. I don't believe in the free market either; but I'd love to see a fair market.

Friday, November 21, 2014

It was twenty years ago today

Wednesday 21st November 1994 saw the birth of Keshco, in a grubby music room in a windy East Anglian town. Here's Robert:

"Never afraid to try things out. Never a dull moment involving tiny synths, lettuce sandwiches, radio sessions, busking by the Thames, sweetcorn, jamming fast on behalf of Scope at the Virgin London Triathlon 2013, exceedingly daft costumes, bad venues, bad head colds, far too much glitter, 2 near death experiences, and a very short tour by Megabus! "Was it all worth?" Bloody hell.. "Yes, It was a worthwhile experience!" Like the FB page today! We've most definitely paid our taxes!"
It's fair to say at the time it started, we had no idea we'd still be cavorting about under the same name in 2014, partially because if we had we'd have chosen something a little less obtuse and easily mistyped. (Bargain Bag was, I think, an alternative.) Also at that time, we had no idea about the vending machine repair, the life skills coaching, the tractor parts, the Irish connection, or even the fitness gear. It certainly is a very open-ended name. But it looks nice when drawn, so that helps; also when hollered with the emphasis on "Cohhhhh".

Official Bob Art Models logo for the 20th anniversary

A very happy anniversary to Keshcologists one and all. Firecracker gumdrops all round. Come and join us via your screen of choice, on our Ustream channel this Sunday night, from 9pm UK-time: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/beware-vision

Meanwhile, our next project is Volume 1 of our instrumental Film-maker's Reference Kit, providing time-starved and cash-poor editors the world over with fresh beats, tunes, idents, and backing pads; and also soundtracks to your own personal movies. Filthy. It's midway through trimming now, so expect that out in good time for Christmas.

Other things you can buy for Christmas: autobiographies by Stephen Fry (which Amazon reviews have dissuaded me from hunting down just yet), John Cleese (which Amazon reviews have cooled me from immediately pursuing), Paul Merton (which in the US is called "The Long And Short Of It" - "Only When I Laugh" doesn't resonate there?); diaries by Michael Palin (I'm looking for a replacement travel bag in the Palin style, ideally one that won't chafe my tender neck, though that might as much be a fault of over-packing my current threadbare Kickers bag, as bad design); musings by Dave Gorman (feeding OCD for over a decade); the first series of Bridget Christie Minds The Gap (just say no to patriarchal snacks).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Live from London, to your screen of choice

Concert-watchers may be interested to hear that the next Keshco performance is on Sunday 23rd November, from 9pm UK-time, to be streamed via our Ustream channel:
www.ustream.tv/channel/beware-vision

I have noticed a quirk of Ustream, in that laptop/desktop viewers will have their streams periodically interrupted by annoying adverts. However, if you tune in using your mobile, you can watch ad-free. The same is true if you use the app on your Smart TV, e.g. one of the Panasonic Viera range.

If you have any requests for favourite tunes, let us know in the comments.

Meanwhile, deserving of further mention is this clip on Vimeo of the HK protests, backed by "Like Home":



Umbrella HK @Causeway Bay 1.Oct.2014 from Laurence Tong on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bob Art Models in Todmorden

Come and see one of Keshco's left-handers exhibiting his artwork in Yorkshire:

John Cooper Clarke and Tommy Cooper.


Bob Art Models
October 13th - November 9th 2014
Admission: Free
Kava Kafe, 53 Halifax Rd, Todmorden, OL14 5BB

http://kavakafe.co.uk

Mick Fleetwood.
Many of Bob's images are portraits of comedic, musical and cultural icons such as Kenneth Williams, Mick Fleetwood, Tony Benn and Mary Berry (follow the Amazon links to learn about them, and potentially we could earn pennies! Who needs to sell music?).

Meanwhile, here's a haiku:

Cold digital pain
Antisocial media
Zip across the brain

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cassettes on Bandcamp

Our two CSD releases are now available for you to buy, via our Bandcamp page:

https://keshco.bandcamp.com/album/music-from-the-middle-room

https://keshco.bandcamp.com/album/freaks-at-a-wake

And... here's a haiku:

Playback is engaged
Out flood waves of mind comfort
Sonic spine capsule


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Silly Spooling

So, did you get to a music store on Saturday, and perhaps spot one or other of our releases for Cassette Store Day? I imagine that's the last year we'll be able to be involved - total orders from the US list were a mighty one, the UK/EU list faring better with four open-minded stores taking our tapes. Looking at the list of releases, you can see why - several biggish-name labels and bands had got on the bandwagon this time and naturally most of the promo had gone to them. If Rough Trade and Domino are involved, it's no longer alternative. Amusingly, our local record shop flat refused to stock our music ("we've already bought our stock for CSD" - yes but we're walking-distance and offering it sale or return for flip's sake) - and what were they selling instead? Several NME-approved releases much pricier than our own. If the NME are involved, it's no longer alternative.

Some of us never stopped using cassettes, so please don't count us amongst hipsters. It's hard enough to get anybody to purchase any physical product these days, especially if you avoid traditional label/management/promotion structures and strictures; and it is cheaper to produce a run of cassettes than a run of CDs. (Don't even mention vinyl - massively overpriced.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cassette Store Day

These two are on sale from this Saturday, 27th September, as part of the second international Cassette Store Day:

Keshcology releases for Cassette Store Day 2014

These releases (on the Keshcology label) are available from several retail outlets including Pebble Records (Eastbourne, England), The Inkwell (York, England), VOD Music (Mold, Wales), Insula Music (Copenhagen, Denmark), Burger Records (Fullerton, US). Why not ask Rough Trade if they're getting any independent music in?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The dream shall never die


Well that was frustrating news to wake up to. So close. All over Scotland, more than 4 out of 10 wanted independence - if this was a jury, it'd necessitate a re-trial.

Despite the high (for apathetic UK anyway) voting turnout of 84%, I suspect that, as with so many campaigns, too many yes supporters couldn't be bothered enough to vote, leading to the eventual 55%/45% split. Voter registration was 97%, so that's 13% who didn't get it together to have their say. Much better than the baffling failure of the AV referendum, but remember - Tories will always turn out to vote, so you can't leave anything to chance.

Still, it was a pretty close result and by no means could Westminster be satisfied with the margin. The no vote was generally in spite of Westminster, more a vote of fear of the unknown. You note how this morning Cameron slipped into his speech "settled for a generation, perhaps for a lifetime" - really? Really? Presuming there's another vote in another 15-odd years time, the younger yes will surely outstrip the older no.

A good summing-up of the new challenge was made by Phillip Blond from ResPublica (some kind of think-tank). The two options on offer - an increase in Scottish devolution and the ruddy West Lothian question - are contradictory impulses - MPs are kept in line by party whips, so banning the Scots ones from English issues and vice versa merely serves to tighten the grip of Westminster. Better just to devolve everywhere, and energise the whole nation - the Cornish, the Welsh, the North-East, Manchester, Liverpool, the Midlands et al; even the sodden Fens; and in the process the West Lothian nonsense will dissolve because we'll all take more responsibility at a local level.

On the night, it was fun to see McGlashan again, caricature though he is. Catch up with his previous adventures in the cackle-tastic and surprisingly sprightly Absolutely Everything DVD box set (via Amazon UK or Amazon US).


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tape update

With Cassette Store Day coming up on September 27th in several countries around the world, I'm amused to tell you that we've already taken more orders for our two cassette releases than we have for the Now CD project, presumably because the tapes were professionally duplicated and our releases are included on the official cassette store stock list. If you want a copy of "Freaks At A Wake", in particular, you'd best be quick. "Music From The Middle Room" is a larger run, so you can be quick for a longer period. After the day, any unsold stock will go up on our Bandcamp site.

Happily, I've printed the sleeves/labels myself too and they don't let the side down.

A haiku:

Incremental shift
Ruins half a page by stealth
Sodding tape labels

The Avery template for cassette labels (7655) does not work properly on Word 2010 (there is an irremovable blank area at the top of the first row), so I had to make my own.

Another:

Magnetic music
Signals spun and strung twixt spools
Polarised domains

Yes, tapes are nice, but not a kigo in sight. And have a haiku couplet:

I like haiku, more than it likes me. It's a fine length for ADD.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Five bands who have influenced us

The question of influences is particularly thorny in this band, particularly for those listeners who (believe they) like their bands to stick to the same style. We tend to confuse the majority. If Depeche Mode are on our list, then you can be sure the DM fan will hear a folk song and switch off. If Billy Bragg is on our list, then by God the first song had better be a solo electric guitar and bald lyrics about the miners, or they'll switch off. If the Bonzos are on our list, the Doo-Dah fan will find two songs in a row that aren't humorous, and then switch off. Et cetera. It's like the ZX Spectrum tunnel-visioners who follow our Twitter feed when we mention the computer, only to run away as soon as we mention anything not computer-related. I like to think of this process as sifting through the general mass of people to find only the really free and open ones (and congratulations on your excessively eclectic taste if you do consider yourself a fan of ours), but how can you tell when people are so quiet? And which influences really are the most important?

Over the years, our conception of who we want to sound like, and who we actually sound like, has mutated constantly. I'm going to list five of the bands who I think make good lines of fit across the scatterplot of Kesh.

The Cure
Here's a band who started off down a particular lo-fi path and, as their tastes and ability broadened, so the music went through a series of Wild Mood Swings, not only the happysad that encompasses the rushing highs and crushing lows, but a teetering between sunny anthropomorphic fantasy and harsh hooded-wept reality, and a gamut of instrumental styles, about the only unifying features being heavy use of chorus/delay pedals, and Robert Smith's vocals, which themselves skitter between anguished howls and playful hoop-las. They were a big influence on our live goth-pop sound circa 2000. It seems since around that time they've reined in and settled into a downbeat rockier mode. I get a little sad at the contempt Robert Smith seems to have for some of his own pop tunes, as if he feels he has to write stupid in order to get a chart hit - whilst many bands know that feeling, it doesn't make the songs pointless - you have to just try and get better at making what you want to play and say become irresistible to the masses. Of course if someone sings an upbeat song with contempt, what are the audience supposed to feel? We've felt this on stage when performing certain songs that have lost their lustre for us - better to sing a sad song with relish than an obligatory happy number.

Sparks
Super chamber-pop duo Russell Mael (the one with the mass of curly hair) and Ron Mael (the one with the moustache) have spent 40 years searing through styles (glam, disco, indie dance) and often left their fans trailing behind, a major upswing in their fortunes coinciding with 2002's Li'l Beethoven, which instead of beats features masses of vocals keeping up the rhythm. Their live setup with its sampled beats and comedy moments was inspiring to us when looking for ways of performing 2-man gigs around 2004/5. Their waspish wit and effervescent melodies are always something to aspire towards.

Stereo Total
The live inspiration around that time also came from Stereo Total (e.g. the Musique Automatique album), although whilst Sparks are precise, Stereo Total value the happy accidents of scuffed chords, malfunctioning electronics and strained vocal leaps. The duo of Francoise Cactus and Brezel Goring play high-tempo garage-electro-rockabilly-chanson-punk with playful lyrics in several languages, which lead to their own happy lyrical accidents. Watching the obvious fun they were having reminded us that music made fast can have a great compulsive energy.

Os Mutantes
This choice perhaps says more about where we are headed; but the free and easy collaged sounds of Os Mutantes (the Brazilian Beatles?) have excited and subliminally influenced us for many years, their homemade guitar pedals distinctly pushing us towards the circuit-bent route, and I note how they keep their scathing satires uptempo and fun, with those fresh bossa nova chords and infectious melodies. Make 'em dance, make 'em think, make 'em resist. I can only imagine how much better it might sound if I understood Portuguese rather than relying on translations.

Duran Duran
Seriously, work with me on this. Four or five immensely fashionable young men with a line in innovative electronics, sci-fi dystopian lyrics, great rhythms... catalogue model good looks, champagne lifestyle... vocals that crack during important gigs... a couple of people leave and we get our own Nile Rodgers super-counter-melodist to compensate... a name taken from Barbarella (now you're just making it up. Ed). Oh have it your own way.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Symbols of identity

Along the information superhighway we trundle. Today I have some favicons for you. Favicons are the little icons you see at the top of your web program, in the tab next to the title. Here's our new www.keshco.co.uk favicon:


On the old version of the Kesh site, it was this:


Which do you prefer? Is it wrong to focus on the trolley symbol; will it further confuse music seekers?

With luck you can see the one at the top of this blog, which makes our purpose a bit clearer:


Would you like to design us an alternative one for Sunday best? (We'll pay in muesli.) Or, would you like us to design one for you? Yes, your site can have one too, perhaps created at www.favicon.cc.

The new Bleak House site - www.bleakhouse.eu - has a favicon, too:


What are your favourite favicons? To me they bring back the fun of the Shoot-Em-Up Construction Kit (where the resulting game was pretty fixed and samey, but the great excitement came in the sprite design), or before that the Character Generator program on Horizons, the ZX Spectrum introductory cassette. Small is beautiful, working within restriction to create an impression of something with the minimum of signifiers.

Talking of small, beautiful things creating an impression of something, let's take a radical left turn, with a guest poet. Old Keshcologist Andrew Walton from Clydebank has two neat collections of poetry: Little Red Poetry and, most recently, Little Green Poetry. He recorded an episode of Poetry Hallway for our uStream channel in Autumn 2013. Here is one of his current political verses, which I like a lot.

Little Scotland

The Celtic knot, a twin S.
Adorned Ravenscraig’s gate.
Long empty, the husk. Silent, brooding,
Still casts a shadow.

Where there was industry,
Let us bring job seekers’ allowance.
Where there was militancy,
Let us bring sad resignation.

Steel-town of rusted girders,
Work transplanted wholesale.
Puerile promise of prosperity,
Evaporated,

Like the last dregs
In a once-proud steel can,
Our other national drink
Now lies crumpled

Beside  a torn up
Slip. A frustrated bet
On a winded nag which failed to
Deliver. A ballot

Thrown on the ground
To the skirl of pipes.
A cross beside “YES”,
A faded pencil saltire.

A broken outpost, aside from the battle
Where Sheridan tours,
Denounces the rule of capital
In stentorian tones.

Words echo around halls from
Alloa to Inverness.
They cannot carry
To far-off Northamptonshire.


Notes: Tens of thousands of workers from Scotland came to Corby, Northamptonshire in the 1930s and 1960s, on the promise of jobs in the steel industry. Thatcher destroyed much of the manufacturing industry in Britain, and British Steel was privatised – the jobs have long-gone. The town recently had a mock-referendum on Scottish Independence during the town’s Highland Gathering. Unlike the Yes campaign in Scotland, which is gathering momentum, the town voted No. Might this reflect a general mood of bitterness, anger and resignation to fate?