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Obscure Alternatives – Nils Frahm

I don’t think it will come as a great surprise to find that many readers may not be too familiar with the work of the German musician, Nils Frahm. I wasn’t until an old friend recently posted that, after much deliberation, the Berlin based composer’s latest release, Spaces, had finally been chosen as his record of the year for 2013.

This was enough to spark my interest. My research found eleven live tracks distilled from a total of thirty five recorded over a two year period. Further work uncovered the stunning track, Says. I initially watched the video because it was ‘official’ which is always good news if you’re not familiar with an artist’s work. It avoids the usual homemade films of sunsets mixed with beach scenes and countryside that cross fade to strange wild animals and portraits of old people in black and white.

The video that does accompany the track is astonishing. Like the music, it is a live improvisation with ink on glass and video feedback and is completely mesmerizing. Enjoy in a darkened room with headphones and listen for the odd sound from the audience – perfect ambience.

If you’re wondering what’s happened to the ‘Halls’ then don’t worry, they’ve not disappeared to digital oblivion – they’re simply having an early spring break prior to the next stage of renovation.


The Hawthorn Halls (the days edition)

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As metaphorical toes curl over the edge of winter’s precipice and the solstice gets its coat, I’m wondering again where the days have gone, how another year has simply dissolved to memory.

A few weeks ago the poet, John Siddique tweeted that Charles Bukowski’s 1969 book, the days run away like wild horses over the hills, was a hash tag favourite book. He’s right and the title is probably one of the best titles for a poetry collection, ever.

The twitter feed reminded me of the early nineties. U2’s album, Zooropa introduced me to Bukowski. The title of the book signals the end of the track, Dirty Day as the band chorus above the Eno and Lanois darkly intimidating Berlin inspired production. It sounded wonderful but at the same time unsettling. It was the boy chasing the setting sun, discovering only more land beyond the horizon instead of the sea. It was the setting sun, something lost.

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In the pre- internet age of twenty years ago, searching out Bukowski’s book wasn’t as straight forward as it might have been, particularly as I had just returned from the big city. Back home in the village of Marsden, locals were still trying gauge how they should react to the local lad, Simon Armitage, who had just had a couple of poetry books published.  If writing poetry was strange then buying poetry books outside of an A-level course was utter madness. Sadly, bookshops seemed to go along with this train of thought making the browsing and buying experience almost impossible.

Then I blinked and found myself hidden amongst forty years or more having a twitter conversation with a poet. Someone had let the horses out. John explained that he was on a mission to strip down his writing even further and Bukowski was acting as mentor (albeit from afar). This should be something to look forward to and if the days run as fast as they have done, the book will be with us in no time at all.

This edition’s play list is to celebrate my successful grasp of two tickets to see Pearl Jam next year at the fantastic Leeds Arena. The band have been hovering around the Halls for twenty years or more but this will be the first time I’ve had a chance to see them live so I’m going to indulge. I’m holding on to this horse with both hands.