My Release Radar this week included several interesting new pieces by not-so-new artists spanning a wide range of styles. I’m featuring them in another Spotify playlist this week.
But before we get to that, I must pay tribute to Peter Green, who’s death was announced yesterday. Rolling Stone placed the blues/rock guitarist born Peter Allen Greenbaum at number 58 on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. On the Crotchety roll of honour he comes in at number 2. Of all the guitarists broadly in the blues-based rock tradition only Jimi Hendrix had greater flair. And yet Peter Green’s unique originality plucked new ideas from well-worked archeological digs all over the fields of blues and rock. Only the man they called The Green God could have given us Albatross, Man of the World, Oh Well and The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).
Peter Green has passed on but his unparalleled music will gladden our hearts for many years to come.
Now, let’s look at the blips on that dark green radar screen.
In a Crotchety first we start with an instrumental taken from a computer game. Joe Acheson, the composer and producer behind Hidden Orchestra, was commissioned to write the background music for the puzzle adventure game, Creaks. The game includes monsters disguised as furniture; if you sit on the wrong chair you may die and have to start all over again. Each room has its own central motif and with each visit you hear randomly chosen variations on the theme. The combinations are endless; no matter how many times a player retraces their steps they never hear exactly the same tunes twice.
The composer has strung together sample passages through this musical adventure and released it as the Hidden Orchestra album, Creaks OST. As he puts it:
‘Creaks OST’ – a very long album which is a short version of the infinite, generative and randomised music in the beautiful hand-drawn Amanita Design game for which it was composed.
Armoured is a quiet piano piece that sounds as though it should have been called L’Amour or Lullaby. It makes a perfect interlude at track 9 on the album as your soul leaves your monster-ravaged flesh and is carried gently over to a fresh new body ready to begin the cycle again. It makes an excellent introduction to my playlist, too.
Rick Wakeman’s single, Ascraeus Mons, switches keyboards to give us an organ recital with choral and electric guitar accompaniments. It’s a cathedral-filling bank of sound that summons up the magnificence of the second highest peak on Mars. The volcano takes its name from Ascra, the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod. ‘Ascraeus’, here, means ‘rural’, but I’m not sure whether that applies to an arid, 15km high mountain on the apparently lifeless red planet.
When we come down from the dizzy heights of the Martian mountain we find Kate Rusby in a playful mood. Kate is known for her fairly traditional folk songs and her tissue paper voice. Occasionally she will stray into more popular regions and Shake It Off is, perhaps, her poppiest offering yet. It’s a bouncy, carefree song that you might find in the canon of a girl band or a K-pop star. This song is included mainly so that when it goes viral on Instagram, etc. I can say I spotted it first. Or am I on a fool’s errand, here?
For more substance and depth we now turn to Half Moon Run‘s latest single, Seasons of Change. This band makes consistently delightful indie/country rock songs and this track is no exception. The song starts in a reflective mood. “I’ve lost all I can lose in this town”, sighs the singer, “and the reason I first came here is the reason I can’t stick around”. He is not suffering that much, he just feels the itch to move on again.
Forever hungry and restless for the seasons of change.
Moving on takes us round a time loop to a recent version of a track from Soft Machine‘s Fourth album that often energised the needle of my Dansette record player in my student days way back in the early seventies. Kings and Queens is a relaxing dose of jazz that sits just a stone’s throw from Canterbury prog. The composition is timeless and this version, a live recording from early 2019, is a treat.
To finish the Radar Blips playlist we return to the orchestral beats of Joe Acheson’s Creaks OST album. Like Armoured, this has a very unhelpful title – it’s called Learn Step Turned. I don’t know if that makes any sense in the context of the game but, if you want to find out, you’ll probably have to make it all the way to the end of the adventure because it’s track 20 of 21. This piece bounds along sporting faintly Eastern bells and gongs over characteristic Acheson bass lines and keyboards, with ornamental percussion by Jamie Graham and Tim Lane. I guarantee it will send you away with a smile on your face.