Monday, 23 February 2009

jigs reels and airs

Hello Great Unpopular, its late but not never and I have brought the goods.

We're all comfortable ignoring people's niche activities as a point of etiquette, but today I'm asking you go out on a limb and listen to some stuff which is going to trigger all the worst immediate reactions yr brain can come up with.

OK so last night we got from the dyslexic bearded entrepreneur to his golden egg Tubular Bells. This is the paragon of very English recluse prog folk epics and its particular kind of Englishness is maybe more widespread than its low profile suggests (I mean those sales, jesus). Northumbrian Pipe music is a pretty niche tradition but intensely English, not consciously revived but still part of what goes on in certain parts of the actual north. It seems to share the same kind of slightly provincial dreamy mindset as Oldfield's more nonsense anthems, as well as lots of mandolins and a Warhammer and real-ale-friendly vibe (also see riverdance which expounded from this vibe w/some circus-ready 'celtic' shit which was absolutely poisonous). After rediscovering this album at Ro's house (oh yes you have this) I thought maybe Northumbrian pipes were going to be a big deal for me, some secret bounty, but exposure has dulled this feeling a lot. Other stuff I've heard has sounded rote, kind of kitsch and just isn't up to the challenge of making anyone give a shit. But coming back to this album I have to give it up because These Are The Jams. This is the greatest and least popular album I can think of and belongs here like nothing else.

As well as running over with tunes played by a 16 year old girl, it plays up a lot of more esoteric elements that the other stuff I've heard has flattened a little. This music is reminiscent of a really unusual range of stuff. There's a kind of Indian character to the solo pipe stuff on here, buoyed by those sweet reedy drones the melody is drawn out real slow and gradually beefed up. And then there are these breakdowns, god. The syncopation gets pretty hot and this is probably the first time I ever heard anyone do any sort of really nimble bang-on variation over a tight rhythm. With the guitar backing it gives it a kind of ragtime vibe at points and Blind Blake could totally get over some of these work outs.

Listening to track 6 and realising what pure prog it is made me laugh, some Oldfield-worthy stuff for sure, and a lot of this album would have appeal for fans of any kind of faintly folky prog or even Amon Duul II (maybe). The ideal listening situation is definitely ten years old on an impossibly long and dull car journey to the top of Scotland imagining yourself cartwheeling on fenceposts alongside the car, chopping down and swinging round trees, but you don't need the nostalgia, just the familiar ear that sort of exposure brings. So give it a try and see if you don't kind of start to feel some of these tunes after a couple of weeks. If you do you should definitely invest and subject kids to it on long car journeys. Don't feed the hater in you, bang on the citterns and BOUNCE.

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