Tuesday 29 December 2009

Salve Valeque: In Memoriam 2009

A belated hail to The Belbury Parish Magazine, the instructive new blog from Jim Jupp at Ghost Box, which has been in print since November, and a premature farewell to 2009, along with that traditional form of punishment meted out to old and departing years: the list. The Vicar of Belbury very kindly asked me to compile my Cultural Top Ten of 2009 sometime before Christmas, and I was most happy to oblige. You can find my contribution, along with truly marvellous lists from Woebot and Jonny Trunk, by clicking here. There are also equally great Top Tens to be had from Ian Hodgson and Jon Brooks by clicking here; and things of commemorative beauty on offer from Julian House and Mark Pilkington here.

So there you have it: loved, listed and now limping into human memory: 2009 – may we never see the like again. See you all in 2010.

The above image: ‘Janus: Potato Shaped Moon of Saturn’, courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day, first posted on November the seventh, two thousand and uh...six. A very happy New Year to everyone.

Monday 28 December 2009

Biting Tongues Live Gallery # 5

The above images come courtesy of the charming Peter Staessens. Taken during the recent Biting Tongues performance as part of Factory Night at Plan K in Brussels.

Biting Tongues Live Gallery # 4

The above are portrait studies from Agent Nick King’s stash of photos, which can be located at his Facebook account. Taken during the recent Biting Tongues performance as part of Factory Night at Plan K in Brussels.

Biting Tongues Live Gallery # 3

The above are landscape studies from Nick King’s stash of photos, which can be located at his Facebook account. Taken during the recent Biting Tongues performance as part of Factory Night at Plan K in Brussels.

Biting Tongues Live Gallery # 2

The above were received from David Clarkson of Triclops. Taken during the recent Biting Tongues performance as part of Factory Night at Plan K in Brussels.

Biting Tongues Live Gallery # 1

The above showed up on the Biting Tongues MySpace page, courtesy of Nat M. The curious will also find a link has been posted to a slideshow of images by Fabienne Cresens. Taken during the recent Biting Tongues performance as part of Factory Night at Plan K in Brussels.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Biting Tongues: Live Footage from Plan K

It looks as though there were a lot of cameras at Plan K’s recent Factory Night. As a consequence, I am still in the process of sorting through all the onstage pictures of Biting Tongues that have been sent to me over the past week – sincere thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to pass them on. A gallery of selected performance stills will be posted on this blog before the New Year.

In the meantime, the above clip of Biting Tongues performing ‘Aair Care’ has recently turned up on YouTube: for more details on the evening, you can read an All Gigs review here or an enthusiastic firsthand account on the Don’t Get Out Much! blog here. From all the reports and comments coming in, it was evidently a night to remember.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Renée Glynne Is Ready for Her Close Up

Over the holiday period Resonance FM will be broadcasting the two-part interview I recorded last month with Renée Glynne for the station’s regular film slot, Imreadyformycloseup.

This fascinating conversation is scheduled to go out in two parts at 4:00 pm (UK time) on December 28th and 29th. This will be followed by a double helping on December 30th at 10:00pm when both parts will be broadcast together. Offering a perfect respite from the more cloying joys of the Xmas holidays, Renée’s stories will take you back to a time when giants walked the soundstages, and when even the least of them was still bigger than the creatures we’ve grown accustomed to today.

Pictured above: poster art for Fire Maidens from Outer Space – so I exaggerated about the giants a little. Enjoy.

Monday 21 December 2009

Mutually Assured Destruction for Christmas

Back in the dark days of the Cold War they really knew how to keep children entertained – or scared stupid as we tend to describe the condition today. Forget about Transformers and toxic hamsters, what every boy and girl needs in order to understand their place in the world is a field guide to ICBMs, ground-to-air delivery systems and anti-personnel rockets. Huge thanks are due to the publishers of the Hippo Guide to Missiles and Rockets, and to Gair Dunlop at the University of Dundee for posting this festive treat in its entirety on Flickr. Peace on Earth is overrated at the best of times – so lock and load. And remember: if it’s not scaring you, then it’s probably not doing that much for your enemy either.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Late Mentions And Top-Ten Listings For 2009

OK - before the planet recycles itself in the coming decade, I’d like to record with appreciation a couple of recent online mentions that have been brought to my attention. The first is from the fabulous Warren Ellis – always a useful man to have around in times of imminent disaster – who included an entry for The Transactional Dharma of Roj in his ‘Music I Liked in 2009’ roundup, giving a special mention of the CD booklet:

‘You really need the CD of this,’ he writes, ‘not least because of the gorgeous booklet written by Ken Hollings and designed by Julian House. This is a Ghost Box record, and as such has its roots in the cosmic hauntological weird. DHARMA, however, is a lot more about rhythm than most Ghost Box records. And it’s frequently absolutely gorgeous. It’s still coming out of that box of strangeness, don’t get me wrong. But it’s less concerned with building a sonic friction and weirding you out than it is with conjuring an interplanetary drum seance. And an interplanetary drum seance should first be beautiful.’

And just in from WFMU, America’s favourite early warning system, comes a shout out for Welcome to Mars in their top ten of 2009 lists. Straight in at number 10, in a competitive field of twenty, comes this superfine recommendation from The Inflatable Squirrel Carcass:

‘10. Welcome To Mars - Ken Hollings and Welcome To Mars soundtrack CD - Simon James (Strange Attractor Press) - Welcome To Mars started out as a radio show on Resonance-FM. Now it's a book. Both take a look at America, science and all the wackiness that was going on from 1947-1959. So you get UFOs, LSD, CIA, atomic weapons, suburbia, psychology, post-war science fiction films, cults, the cold war, the space race, Disney and more in a nicely woven essay, each year receiving a chapter. Plus for a limited time the book came with the soundtrack to the radio show which is filled with nice BBC-like, science fiction ambience.’

One real pleasure for any writer is to receive the occasional message back from their works after they’ve gone out into the world, and to hear good things about it makes that pleasure an absolute delight. My thanks and best wishes to readers and bloggers everywhere this Xmas. See you all in the New Year I hope.

Pictured above: original poster art for Toho’s Monster Zero, AKA Invasion of the Astro Monsters, a favourite movie of mine each and every year, courtesy of Fred’s Kaiju Eiga page on Flickr.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Krautrock Kristmas Broadcast Details

Over the holiday period Resonance FM will be broadcasting the Krautrock Kristmas Special I recorded late last month with David Stubbs, Mark Pilkington, David Knight and Frances Morgan. Also taking part was Nikos Kotsopoulos, editor of Black Dog Publishing’s recent volume Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and Its Legacy, which features my essay ‘Background Radiation: The West German Republic Tunes Into Cosmos’, as well as the kind of erudite contributions the reading public have come to expect from messrs Stubbs and Pilkington.

The Special’s format is as predicted: the final cut of the show will be go out first in two separate one-hour shows, on December 23 and December 24 at 8.30 pm on both occasions, and then one more time in a special two-hour extended version on Boxing Day, December 26, once again at 8.30 pm. Things can change, however, so it might also be a good idea to check either this blog or the Resonance schedules a little nearer the time. You never know.

Either way, expect an expansive wide-ranging mix of analysis, reflection and recollection, plus a selection of krautrock klassiks by the likes of Faust, NEU!, Kraftwerk, Harmonia and Cluster. From the West German Local Galaxy to the Outer Reaches of the Kosmos, keep it Krautrock this Kristmas.

Pictured above: the Flame Nebula, with thanks to io9 - for more amazing images, visit their site using this link.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Media Playground Appearance

I’m scheduled to make an appearance at Resonance FM’s ‘Media Playground’ event at The Foundry this coming Saturday, taking part in a live panel discussion for broadcast at some later date. Admission is free so I hope to see some of you there. Relevant portions of the Resonance FM release follows:

Resonance104.4fm presents an afternoon and evening of media frolics at The Foundry, 86 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3JL on Saturday 19th December 2009, 2pm till 5.30pm. Admission Free.

Commissioned by Broadcast Media Sculptures, Media Playground present movies, discussion and radiophonic sound-art in the distinctive surroundings of London's Foundry bar. Media commentators, activists and critics join film-makers and radio-artists for a day of informal innovation and broadcast experimentation of the kind one would expect from what the Radio Academy has called a unique station in a saturated and largely homogenous radio market…a station that simply couldn’t be found anywhere else and that strongly identifies with and super-serves London’s creative and artistic community.

At 2pm: discussion for broadcast: Pathological Over-Sharing
Featuring Becky Hogge (New Statesman, Open Knowledge Foundation), Ken Hollings (
Destroy All Monsters, Welcome To Mars ), Mark Rock (Audioboo, Best Before Media) and Paul May(Mobile Commerce, The Whale in the Room).

As social networks proliferate, newspapers retreat and self-exposure goes global, a panel of culturally savvy thinkers gather to address such questions as, Is the internet a tool for democratic change or economic repression? What is the individual's impact on media? And what is the impact of the media on social space?

I am of course fully aware of the absurdity involved in posting this information on my blog but am doing it anyway. So if you have a Facebook account, you can get more information here. For details on how to get there, click here. Help keep irony alive in 2010. Thank You.

Monday 14 December 2009

Biting Tongues at Plan-K: A Site Report

Steel pillars and concrete floor – industrial acoustics and echoing monitors – bodies packed into the front of the stage – beer, sweat, noise and gantry lighting – just like the old days. My thanks to everyone involved in A Factory Night at Plan-K in Brussels for such a great event. Pictured above: the Tongues onstage, courtesy of Kitty Keen – roving shutterbug for The Daily Planet.

Thursday 10 December 2009

‘Utter Trash’: The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson Denounced by Fan

The official launch last week of The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson was made a happier and brighter affair by news that a reader’s review of it had just been posted on the book’s Amazon UK webpage. Composed by a creature of indeterminate age and gender, but with a greater command of written English than its idol ever achieved during his lifetime, it condemned the book as ‘utter trash’, tagging it as ‘lies’, ‘rubbish’ and ‘character assassination’ before damning it with only one star. Needless to say, the author’s opinions were based solely on reading the free extract taken from anthology editor Mark Fisher’s introduction. I'm sure he feels suitably ashamed of himself.

That in itself would have remained unworthy of comment until the same review also turned up on the book’s Amazon US webpage, at which point it is interesting to notice the contrasting responses it provoked on either side of the Atlantic. What was gratefully received as a dire warning to MJ fans in the United States has proved to be the making of the book in the UK, gaining it a couple of five-star reviews plus some comments in its support. ‘After reading your review,’ ran one, ‘I'm definitely going to buy this book. Thanks!’ And I, as a contributor to the book, thank you too.

I draw no conclusions from this comparison – I merely make observations. I should probably add, however, that I have never seen a more sordid cabal of intellectual muckrakers and cultural pornographers as that assembled by Zer0 Books to celebrate the launch of The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson. I felt so sullied and compromised in their presence that I have been sobbing in the shower ever since – hence the lateness of this post. My apologies – but I’m sure you all understand how that can feel.

Friday 4 December 2009

Biting Tongues Play A Factory Night At Plan-K

Biting Tongues are part of the bill for a special event at Plan-K in Brussels on December 12 next week. A Factory Night (and then again) - and it looks like being a long one too - features performances by A Certain Ratio and Section 25, screenings, an exhibition and DJ sets that go until 6.00am, effectively making it a small-scale festival dedicated to the memory of Factory Records and its many connections and influences. The members of Biting Tongues are looking forward to renewing some old acquaintances, least of all with each other, and encountering a few ghosts from the past. If nothing else, the event will allow everyone to contemplate the strange relationship between the early MCR industrial music scene and a city that is home to the Atomium, Tintin and David’s Death of Marat. Expect a full report in due course – or come and join the show, if you can’t wait that long - in which case you may need to know the following:

Presale: 25€ (+ costs) (afterparty included)
Night and Day
Caroline Brussels
France: FNAC
Other countries:
France Billet
At the door: 30€ (afterparty included)
Afterparty only: 10€ (after 0:00)

Time Schedule

18:00 doors
Muffin (dj set)
19:00 The Names (with strings)
X-Pulsiv (dj set)
19:50 The Wake
Muffin (dj set)
20:50 Biting Tongues
Gore (dj set)
21:30 Screening:
Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain
(Kevin Cummins & Graham Massey)
21:50 Section 25
Gore (dj set)
23:10 A Certain Ratio
0:10 Graham Massey (dj set)
1:00 Re:Order
Tom Moderne (dj set)
Muffin (dj set)
Gore (dj set)
X-Pulsiv (dj set)
6:00 curfew

Plan K / La Raffinerie
Rue de Manchester 21 - 1080 Brussels
Link: www.charleroi-danses.be

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Midnight Cowboy Screentalk at Barbican Centre

On Thursday December 10 at 8.30 I am taking part in a special Barbican Film event. As part of Jay Clifton’s Stranger in Town series, I shall be talking with music writer Eddi Fiegel about the classic sixties movie Midnight Cowboy and what it tells us about American film culture at the end of this most turbulent of decades. The following is taken from the Barbican press release:

Cult film screening and pre-film discussion: MIDNIGHT COWBOY (d. John Schlesinger, 1969) plus pre-film discussion with KEN HOLLINGS (writer and broadcaster) and EDDI FIEGEL. Event devised and curated by JAY CLIFTON for Barbican Film. THURSDAY 10 DECEMBER AT 8.30PM, BARBICAN CENTRE.

From the starting point of film composer John Barry’s score for the film, biographer Eddi Fiegel (John Barry - A Sixties Theme, Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of Mama Cass) will discuss the film ‘Midnight Cowboy’ with Cold War pop culture historian Ken Hollings (Welcome to Mars), in relation to the changing face of America at the tail end of the Sixties.

Followed by a screening of the Oscar-winning film, directed by John Schlesinger and featuring career-best performances from Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. Book signings by Ken and Eddi at 8pm in the foyer, plus socialising. Screentalk at 8.30pm and film starts at 9pm.Tickets and more information available here or by phone from the Barbican Box Office on 020 7638 8891.

Hey, we’re talking here!