Wednesday 27 February 2019

Stay Frosty

Ahead of the publication of my new time-travel novella Permafrost later in March, have put up an excerpt from the story. Head on over to to take a look, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Mark Hollis

Few bands meant more to me in the Eighties than Talk Talk, so I was very saddened to learn of the death of Mark Hollis, who was both the singer and the main creative force behind the group.

I took a interest in them around the time of their second album, but it was the third - 1986's The Colour of Spring - which really convinced me that there was something interesting and innovative going on:

I bought this album - the cover art is by James Marsh, who also did a slew of JG Ballard editions around the same time - within a day or two of its release in March, taped it, and then took the cassette back with me to university. I played little else that term, and the music was a perfect accompaniment to the gradual shift of seasons from winter into spring. Nobody else was making music that sounded anything like Talk Talk at the time. After the clever, driving synth-pop of their first two records, this album was a swerve into analog minimalism, weirdly forward-looking at the same time that it harked back to the musical textures of the sixties and seventies, evoking Traffic, Procul Harum and so on with Mellotrons and organs in sharp counterpoint to the typical sequenced excess of mid-eighties chart material. A great deal of music recorded at this time hasn't worn well, due to heavv-handed production and an over-use of drum machines, keyboards and assorted in-vogue effects, but Talk Talk's records still sound timeless. I bought The Colour of Spring against the advice of music reviewers, incidentally, who gave the album rather lukewarm notices. They couldn't have been more wrong.

I saw Talk Talk in concert in Newcastle town hall that same year, and I followed them through the rest of their career - into the increasing starkness of their subsequent two albums, and the almost unbearable melancholy of Mark Hollis's one solo record. And that was it. Talk Talk ceased to exist; Mark Hollis stopped making music almost completely, preferring the sanity of a family life over the serial indignities of the music business. I'd read the occasional interview or article over the ensuing years, and had come to the conclusion that it was very unlikely we'd ever see any more recordings from Hollis, under any banner. Six albums worth - plus a few extras - hardly amounts to an afternoon's listening. It would be churlish to complain, though, given the quality of the music, the care with which it was created, and the quietly influential reach it's had in the ensuing decades. We could have done a lot worse.

Oh, and I liked Talk Talk so much that one of their songs provided the last line of a novel.

Monday 4 February 2019

I have never met Napoleon

I've mentioned my enthusiasm for the music of Steely Dan before but lately I've been getting into their music even more deeply by trying to learn, in a very basic way, some of the guitar parts. While trawling the internet looking for clips and cover versions of Pretzel Logic (from the 1974 album of the same name) I came across this rather fantastic interpretation, which I thought I'd share:

W.G. "Snuffy" Walden, incidentally, is the gentleman who did the West Wing theme tune, among many others. Hope the Dan fans among you enjoy this interlude.


Saturday 2 February 2019

Halcyon days

Kingfisher, Cynon Valley, South Wales, February 2019.