The cupboard of indie nonsense – slight return

The recent chance meeting with someone I haven’t seen in a year of donkeys has sent me scurrying back to the Cupboard of Indie Nonsense to seek out some historical artifacts.

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The time: Christmas 1993.  The place: Bristol, Thekla. The occasion: One of Sarah Records’ infamous Christmas parties.

Sarah records was known as the home of twee bands. The Field Mice, Heavenly, The Orchids, and a whole host of other jangly guitar bands playing nice songs for nice people. In the early ’90s they used to host legendary Christmas Parties.

In 1993, that Christmas Party was on the moored boat The Thekla, in Bristol. WAAAH! Magazine organised a coach trip from London, known to one and all as The Cutie Coach and all of us coach trippers were given a pack to keep us quiet on the journey (not that it worked but, hey ho, you can’t blame them for trying).

One of these packs still survives in The Cupboard

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complete with ‘interesting’ reading matter,

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sticky sweets and an unpopped party popper.

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Obviously the events of that night weren’t quite as cute as the coach trip name would suggest, and I have recalled that there were one or two ‘incidents’ :/ , but there was fun to be had and lots of bowl haircuts. Here are a few of the usual suspects.

Grub stop + stripey top

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Floppy hat + floppy fringe

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Anorak stripey top

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So indie. 1993 was a long time ago.

The land of fire and ice – The beginning. And the end.

Saturday was my last day and I was having a day in Reykjavik. I know that a lot of people touch down in Iceland wanting to head off to glaciers and lava fields, but limited time meant that I had to be selective and, in any case, I like cities so spending a little time in this one was just the ticket. After breakfasting on some yummy skyr (seriously, best yoghurt ever), I set off.

So I went to see where it all began. The earliest known dated structural remains found in Iceland. A fragment of low turf wall thought to be part of a land enclosure. This has been dated to 871+/-2*, so in terms of settlement, this is pretty late on in the game compared to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. At The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik, the said structure has been preserved in its original location (Aðalstræti). 

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There are also the remains of a 10th century long house discovered in the same location, and a museum space has been built around them.

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A recent find of an even bigger Viking longhouse has just been reported here.

There were several small display cases with some of the finds from this and other excavations in the Reykjavic area.

This wooden human figure is thought to be a child’s toy.

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There is also this beautiful 9th/10th century silver bracelet.

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And this fragment of wood, scratched with an undeciphered runic inscription.

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In addition to the archaeological remains and artifacts, the exhibition also contains one small room holding only six items; documents including The Settlement Sagas and the Book of Icelanders.

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The Settlement Sagas were written in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and look back to life in Iceland from the ninth century through to the period of Iceland’s Christianisation (in 1000 AD). They detail people and places, events and the emergence of a new law code.

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This is a small but perfectly formed exhibition that aims to tell one very important story, the story of the first Icelanders.

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Well worth a visit.

Wandering round Reykjavik, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you were being watched. Everwhere you go, towering over you is the spire of the central church, Hallgrímskirkja. This is the huge, unmissable church in the middle of town. It’s pretty striking in its architecture, referencing the hexagonal basalt columns that are found at various sites around the country (think Giant’s Causeway. They’re like that).

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In the courtyard in front of the church is this statue of Leif Eiricsson (c. 970 – c. 1020), explorer and possibly the discoverer of America when,  according to the Book of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland.

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This photo of the church (below) was actually taken at about 3.30am (on my way back from ATP) when the stone glowed salmon pink in the midnight sunlight.

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For 600isk (about £3), you can take the tiny lift (6 persons only) to the top of the spire for these amazing views across Reykjavik and the sea. Worth every penny.

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When I came back down to earth, I was treated to an impromptu concert, as  the church organist and a tenor (I think) were having a practice. The church sits at the top of a street full of pretty funky little shops so I stopped off to buy my Mum a souvenir. I wanted to get her some Icelandic wool, but she can’t wear wool, so…

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How twee!

Lastly, before setting off for ATP, I visited the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which was right opposite my guesthouse.

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I suppose that I was expecting a cultural exploration of the phallus in Icelandic culture. There was some of that but it was primarily bottled willies.

I actually found this a little gruesome, but also interesting. And especially interesting that someone was fascinated enough to go to the trouble of finding and preserving so many animal (and human) penises!

And so, off to ATP Iceland.

I was intending get to Ásbrú in time to see the Rhode Island 2-piece  Lightning Bolt. I’m really liking this band although, for me, I think that they are primarily a live band rather than to listen to at home.

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Their set (I have no idea what any of the songs are called) consists of choppy, challenging rhythms, a certain amount of bass-noodling, incomprehensible vocals, speed drumming and non-stop fidgeting from the drummer. This may not sound like a laugh a minute and, yes, this may only appeal to particular eardrums, but it seems to work for me and I find them enormously entertaining.

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At the end of their set, I was fortunate enough to meet up with fellow Soundheads, Simon and Ellen, and we chewed the fat until Loop came on (of course there was Loop. What do you think I’m even doing here. :D ). For all the goss on Loop, see this post here.

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After Loop we went off to the Andrews Theatre to have a look at Icelandic garage band Pink Street Boys. This is a fairly bonkers band, I can only describe it as ‘redneck garage fronted by Jack Black’.

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They also seemed to have a Bez. It wasn’t bad, and pretty good fun, but it’s not going to change my life. We only stayed for a few songs as Swans were due to start.

Swans are known for their volume and intensity. ‘Swans will always be harder than you’ goes the saying. Their songs are long and rhythmic, often with chanted vocals.

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I only saw a bit of the set as I was unexpectedly whisked away. That pretty well put the kibosh on my seeing any other bands, but that was ok, I’d already seen the most important band of the weekend :D (you know who you are :D ).

You might think that the number of bands I’ve mentioned looks a bit rubbish for a three-day festival and it’s true, I don’t really like spending interminable hours at these festivals so I don’t go too early. I’d rather see 4-5-6 decent, or at least interesting, bands than 30 bands, most of which I have no interest in.

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Sunday. Home Day 

The flight was fine. No volcanoes erupted.

Notwithstanding the complete absence of Romans, Iceland proved to be a very interesting country to visit, and I only saw a tiny fraction of it, so I’d hazard a guess that the rest contains many more natural wonders.

At home I crashed. Properly crashed. Spark out. The midnight sun plays merry havoc with your sleep.

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*The archaeologists have been able to date this so closely because of a layer of volcanic material from an eruption around 400km away.

The land of fire and ice – “The second son of Odin is Baldr, and […] light shines from him”*

“The second son of Odin is Baldr, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him”*

Well the light was certainly shining from him on Friday. A beautiful day for The Golden Circle, the must-do tourist tour of Iceland in a nutshell. Around 300km of Geysers, waterfalls, volcanic landscapes, tectonic plates, geothermal pools. Hits! Hits! Hits!

The trip was taken in a small mini-bus with about 15 like-minded and very amenable souls and our, frankly hilarious, driver/guide Hugi (he was once banged up in Reykjavik’s tiny prison for 12 days for producing hookey hooch. He was supposed to be inside for 2 months, but the warder decided that it was a bit silly and sent him home!).

Hugi’s temporary accommodation.

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Our first stop was at a viewpoint for Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. With a surface area of 84 km²  and a depth, at its greatest, of 114 m, it’s pretty impressive.

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Obviously we only got a view of it. Doing anything else could easily take up a whole day, and the rest, but it was nice to see it. All around the viewpoint there are these mini-cairns.

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This seems to have become a tourist craze. The more of them there are, the more that people want to build. I suspect that the council will begin carting them away at some point when it all gets too ridiculous.

We then drove on into the Þingvellir National Park, famous for being the place where the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is the most visible. You can see ridges of rock running up through the centre of the image above, evidence of where the plates are tearing gradually apart.

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We took a walk down the canyon between the plates. This is actually quite thrilling as, even though we can’t actually see this happening, these plates are moving inexorably apart, by about 2cm per year. Every now and then there’s a noticeable shift and the local authority has to close off the area until it’s safe again.

North American on the left, Eurasian on the right (this is the highly simplified version of plate tectonics).

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This is also the site of the world’s oldest extant Parliament, Alþingi, established in 930CE.

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As the gully meets Þingvallavatn, divers come here from all over the world to actually dive between the tectonic plates. I’m told that it’s very beautiful down there but very very cold.

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Horses! Driving around Iceland, you see these study looking beasts all over the place. They’re a particular Icelandic breed and very very healthy. There are strict laws about bringing horses from outside into the country because of the risk of infection with conditions/illnesses, such as horse flu, to which these horses have no resistance.

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They all have long indie-boy fringes or shaggy manes a la Whitesnake.

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We had brought the horses some titbits, bread and apples. Hugi said that the young ‘uns didn’t come to the fence as they were too shy, but this little guy came over with his mother for  look and a little piece of apple. Aww :D

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And so onward to the geothermal fields of Haukadalur. Danger!

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This is the home of the Geysir after which all geysers are named. Alas, that geyser no longer erupts due, I was informed, to stupid tourists throwing things into it and clogging it up, but just nearby there is another geyser called Strokkur which erupts about every 4-5 minutes.

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When it goes, it goes very suddenly, sometimes twice in quick succession, so you’re on tenterhooks all the time waiting for it to blow. Watching this thing go, and trying to get good photos of the waters jets becomes a little obsessive.

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In the end I had to drag myself away.

Across this whole area, the ground is practically boiling and there are several smaller geothermal pools and geysers nearby too.

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Onward, ever onward to the, frankly gorgeous, waterfall of Gullfoss. It’s magnificent and beautiful; terrifying in its power but hypnotic to watch.

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It’s actually a series of falls on the Hvítá river, with several steps down culminating in a drop into a 32m deep crevice.

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It’s possible to take the path right down to the edge of one of these drops where the water thundering by creates a spray which douses everyone.

Our second waterfall was the smaller Faxi (or Vatnsleysufoss) waterfall, on the Tungufljót river. It’s still a pretty good sized waterfall, but only a few metres high.

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I managed to get quite close to this one.

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This is a salmon river and by the side of the waterfall is a helping hand for salmon making their way upstream to spawn.

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It’s a fish ladder!

The last main stop on our tour was to take a relaxing dip in one of Iceland’s many geothermal pools. No, not the Blue Lagoon, but a less frequented, smaller and more natural pool near Flúðir called The Secret Lagoon.

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This is situated in an area where the geothermal activity is very close to the surface and it was originally opened as a bathing pool in the late 19th century. It had long ago fallen into disuse but it was reopened only about a year ago.

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It was just lovely. It’s not particularly developed, with just a hut with changing rooms and tiny cafe, and a deck to sit out on.

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The water is pretty warm with particularly hot areas and plenty of steam, so it feels like a sauna as well as a hot tub. It’s small and not at all crowded, so it feels very chilled out.

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You can have a swim or a paddle (it’s only about 3ft deep). We all just lolled around for a while, then I took a walk around the duckboards to see what I could see.

The actual pool is only a small part of the wider geothermally active area and there are hot spots and even mini-geysers around the pool.

So cool :D

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And so, warm and a little drowsy we made our way back towards Reykjavic, with just a couple of little stop-offs to have a look at a geothermal power plant and the famous moss that covers large areas of the lava beds.

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Due to the long day on the Golden Circle, I only arrived at Ásbrú in time to see about half of Mudhoney‘s set. I used to go and see Mudhoney many moons ago, but I haven’t seen them in years.

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As soon as I walked into the Atlantic Studios I remembered how much fun Mudhoney were. Going to a Mudhoney concert is a bit like seeing the Muppets live. In a good way.

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They were playing In And Out Of Grace, which is no bad thing.

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I just have to share this Mudhoney-at-ATP-related tweet with you

https://twitter.com/brianconey/status/617082905878208512

After Mudhoney, I had a little mooch about and got a cuppa and then I wanted to see Drive Like Jehu as a FB friend is pretty into them. Alas, I was just not feeling them. I mean, they seemed to be playing pretty well but I was just not into it. Looking at the guitarist had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of Bruce Springsteen. Now, I don’t actually hate Bruce Springsteen but, still, I found it very distracting. Anyway, I decided  to cut my losses and go off to the Andrews Theatre to see what I could see. That almost turned out to be nothing at all because place was completely packed. I was also pitch dark so I couldn’t even see if there were any seats vacant (it’s an all seated venue). Anyway, I stood by the back doors and saw a bit of Valgeir Sigurdsson with Liam Byrne. 

They presented an electronica-meets-cello soundscape which was pretty entrancing. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going, or if, indeed, it was going anywhere, but it provided an absorbing, and contrasting, interlude after Mudhoney/Drive Like Jehu and before my next stop and my last band of the night, Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

I stayed for about an hour and a half of their set (they were scheduled for two and a half hours) before catching the bus back to Reykjavic. Precious little sleep again, obviously. That midnight sun really messes you up!

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*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr

The land of fire and ice – By Thor’s Hammer!

As I said in my last post, there are no Romans in Iceland, so we’re not going to even bother our heads about Romans for the time being. We’re just going to bother our heads about Iceland :D

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Thursday, Thor’s Day, my flight was a bit delayed so I landed later than expected. I had a toss up whether to go to the first day of ATP Iceland (having missed the last bus there) or whether to head into Reykjavik and walk up to the harbour to see what I could see. Sorry Iggy Pop, Reykjavik wins.

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One of the first things I noticed about Reykjavic is how small it is. I mean, it’s a capital city but it feels more like a town. This is probably a slightly exaggerated feeling for me because I come from a really big city. Nevertheless, it certainly isn’t lacking in personality and its character is literally written all over the city.

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The graffiti and more formal street art is everywhere. Every hoarding is covered in this fantastic art, to such an extent that I wondered if there were formal or informal agreements between the developers/contractors and local artists.

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I have so many pictures of this that I may have to do a separate post on it.

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The main shopping street, Laugavegur, is pretty fun. I suspect that this has become more touristy over the past few years, as tourist numbers have shot up in Iceland. It kind of reminds me of an updated Carnaby Street, with its striped road, funky little shops and cafes, and the aforementioned street art everywhere. Obviously these are the 2010s not the 1960s or ’70s so it’s all much tidier and less makeshift, but still pretty fun.

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And so, up to the harbour. Around the harbour there is a jumble of warehouses, fishing and tour-boat offices, ships, cafes, and hotels. The views across the bay were really nice, even if it was a bit of a grey evening.

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This smokers’ bolt-hole outside one of the hotels would never be allowed int he UK. It’s just too poetic.

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I walked and walked. This is what I do. Some stretches around there look a bit bleak, like industrial estates but I’m sure that there is more bustle and life during the day. These photos might be a bit deceptive because it’s so light that it looks like the early afternoon, when they were actually taken between 10pm and midnight.

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So I walked and walked until I found myself at this unrealistic grassy knoll!

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It’s a piece of public art called Þúfa by Ólöf Nordal.You can walk up to the top via a slightly alarming path (health and safety be damned)

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and at the top is a little hut containing…

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dried fish :P

I daresay this makes sense to Icelanders.

When I was at the top, a couple arrived eating ice-creams. The man’s ice-cream was grey! Really grey. Like gunmetal grey. Grey ice-cream :/ The flavour was called Turkish Pepper, but  he let me have a little taste and it tasted of aniseed.

Walking back I also passed this magnificent motor.

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It looked so incongruous. Spotless perfection sat amongst warehouses in the dock. It must be owned by the Don of Reykjavik.

It was only then that I realized that it was nearly midnight. The lack of darkness, or even a really noticeable dusk is very disorientating. This had the effect of making sleep virtually impossible. I was cream-crackered by the end of the weekend!

Tomorrow is another day.

The land of fire and ice…and Loop

First off, there are no Romans in Iceland (there were a few random coin finds, but they don’t mean that any Romans were actually here so, in the absence of any real hard evidence, my statement stands). So what on earth am I doing here? From the title of this post, you’ll have guessed that this is Loop-related.

The ‘fire and ice’ bit is going to have to wait until I’ve had some sleep but first, Loop.

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ATP Iceland is a 3 day festival held at Ásbrú, a disused NATO air base near the airport near Keflavik (about 30-ish miles from Reykjavik). Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it?

The view from above.

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It was alright actually. All wind-swept concrete and stark angles. Quonset huts, and breeze-block and crinkly-tin buildings with different coloured roofs. Nothing soft. Nothing at all soft.

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Except the ubiquitous lupins, an invasive species that seems to be taking over every roadside verge in the country.

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To business.

I met up with a couple of cool Soundheads from the Edinburgh Chapter, Simon and Ellen, for the fun. Before Loop even came on stage, it was clear that this was going to be a typically hilarious Loop gig as the absolute miasma of dry ice kept setting off the fire alarm. Security seemed remarkably unfazed by this, with not even the slighted hint that an evacuation might be in order.

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In any case, the set was actually really great. I mean, it was basically the same set as they’ve been playing recently, but it was satisfyingly full of heaviosity and we were even treated to a little bit of shimmy-shimmy bum-wiggling. The sound in the Atlantic Studios, the main venue, was very good, very clean, meaning that we were treated to all the volume without muddiness or (unintended) distortion.

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Degi Hari

Stand-outs this time were Precession, this song just sounds fantastic live. I really prefer it live to the recorded version, as it has more of the oomph that I like. The drums are more pronounced, it’s heavier and the riffage is sharper and more urgent sounding. Nice one.

Arc Lite was top, with that driving impetus and ever-cool drum patterns. Burning World, which is, frankly, a lovely song, sounded lush and fluid, languid but not lazy. Mmmmm.

There was a bit of mithering from Robert. I’m not sure what the issue was but whatever it was, lots of magic gaffer tape was required. We were wondering if Robert was having trouble seeing his pedalboard, on account of the aforementioned dry ice.

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Right at the end, Robert had a little hissy, threw his guitar up in the air and stalked off stage. Some other people in the audience asked me about that afterwards. They’d really enjoyed the set but were concerned that there might be a serious problem. I told them not to worry :D. Robert was absolutely fine. He was outside having a chat and a gasper shortly afterwards.

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Discretion demands that I draw a veil over the rest of the evening (nothing naughty, just off-the-record), but I can say that I had a very nice chat with guitarist Dan and impressed upon him the absolute necessity of their rehearsing Radial in order to play it live as soon as possible. It seems that there are some autumn gigs in the offing, including in the US (you lucky Americans).

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And so, as the sun went down as far as it would go (this image was from about 1.30am) it was time to contemplate home, actual night-time darkness and water that doesn’t smell of sulphur. Iceland, it was fun. Thank you. And thanks to Hugo and Dan for the set list and pass.

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Hurry Up Array

So here we are again. Loop. It’s been a while, although not, obviously, the 23 years that it was was before. We’ve done the nostalgia thing but there’s no future in nostalgia. It’s time to blast into the future.

So here is the (foreseeable) future; three EPs, Arrays 1, 2 and 3.

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PART 1

Loop, Trades Club, Hebden Bridge

Due to my extreme excitement at the prospect of new Loop material, I’ve hopped on a train up to Yorkshire to see them live. Hebden Bridge to be precise. Tonight I was meeting my Tweep Sequin World (@ann_sequinworld), otherwise known as Ann, and her partner Andy. I’ve never been to Hebden Bridge before but I had no trouble finding the venue because I could hear Loop soundchecking all the way down the road :D .

The venue was quite nice, like a small working men’s club and we were treated to a cool oil-wheel lightshow. Just before Loop were due on stage, who should show up but fellow-Loop-fanatic Dave! He’d had a ‘moment’ earlier on in the day and, unable to bear the fact that he wouldn’t see Loop and I would, he’d driven up after work. Gave me a surprise, I can tell you!

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The gig was great. This, despite the fact that Robert’s amp had blown up during the soundcheck (this is not the first time that Loop has been tormented by an exploding amp). Dan’s guitar was good and loud, resulting in a bigger fuller sound, especially important when Robert goes into one of his wig-outs. This is good.

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The set list (as pinched by Dave). They also did Breathe Into Me at the end.

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Starting the set with The Nail Will Burn is pretty cool. That bassline, and then all the rest of the instruments come crashing in (especially live). Two songs from the new EP, Array 1; Aphelion and Precession, sounded fantastic. I especially like these live and really want to hear the other two tracks played live (although I’m not at all convinced that they’ll do Coma). Might be a bit tricky right away, as Robert can’t remember the words ;) The only duffer was (weirdly) Collision, which sounded like it was falling down stairs.

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The new EP was on sale at the merch stall, so all’s well with the world. This gig was great fun but a loooooong drive home (including a scary bit in the woods!).

PART 2

Loop, The Kazimier Club, Liverpool

I wasn’t going to do this because it involved more overnight travel. Urgh. But I couldn’t help myself. This has happened before and will, no doubt, happen again.

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When I (finally) arrived at the club in Liverpool, it looked a bit deserted :/

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TBH it didn’t look like there were many people there but you know the rules. As long as there are more people in the audience than on the stage, it flies. The venue was also very dark. The on-stage ‘lightshow’ seemed to consist of some nightlights and one spot. Honestly, this is what it looked like for most of the gig*

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Still, the gig was good. Not quite as good as the night before, but it was fun and Burning World sounded lovely and Breathe Into Me was better than the night before.

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The set list was the same as at Hebden Bridge so, again, we had two new songs. I like these more the more I hear them, especially live. This new material seems to work some particular themes. I’m particularly loving the drums. These are more prominent live than on the recording and, more generally, the live sound is a lot harder than on record, darker and more fierce, which works for me. Hopefully we’ll get the other two newies, ‘Coma’ (will they even do this one live?) and ‘Radial (a sure fire crowd-pleaser), soon. I really look forward to the day when the set list is built around new material, with a few old favourites thrown in, rather than predominantly old material (much as I love it).

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The journey home was interminable, as expected, but we did drive past Chester Roman amphitheatre, so at least that gave me a little frisson of excitement. Ho hum, it’s the weekend in any case, so I have time to sleep it off.

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PART 3

Loop, The Roundhouse, London

This gig was on as part of the 20 Years of Mogwai series. A real mixed bill with Mugstar (prog), Lightening Bolt (hilariously good), Tortoise (missed them because I was too busy chatting with my mate Jeremy) and GZA (hip hop coolster).

But this is a Loop post so, obviously, it’s all about the Loop.

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The set kicked in with The Nail Will Burn played as heavy as a hippo, sitting on an elephant, riding on the back of a blue whale. i.e., extremely heavy :D . See, THIS is why I like seeing them live. As cool as they are, you just don’t get this on the records.

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The audience was a bit thin at the very beginning, but I think that was because a lot of people skipped out after Lightening Bolt to get a drink and smoke a tab on the terrace. The terrace seemed to have a lot going on. Earlier on we’d seen a guy fall down the stairs, on a chair! Twice!! Not sure how that happened but it was his birthday, so perhaps that’s significant. Anyway, me and Jeremy heard the pre-Loop drone and scurried in, but perhaps other people didn’t realize that they were starting. It did fill up though and there was a satisfying amount of whooping going on.

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I’ve alluded to this twice already, but the new songs really are very cool. Precession, I think, has the more instantly distinctive riffery, but both of the new songs played live so far seem to fit seamlessly into a set still dominated by much older material. I guess this just highlights the timelessness of a lot of this material.

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I enjoyed this gig a lot, largely due to the aforementioned heaviness, but, and I’m certainly not the only one who said this, they absolutely smashed Arc Lite. Honestly, this may be one of the best times that I’ve heard it. Absolutely killed it. Collision managed to stay on its feet (been laying off the sauce) and provided a strong, and popular, closing for the set. Top notch.

Thanks to Dan and Wayne for the setlists on this mini-tour.

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Who keeps writing ‘Procession’? ;)

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*there are a couple of videos on YouTube that show this up even more hilariously.

Straight to Your Heart 

Vapour

Sweeties for Helen

My recent eye-kandy mosaic post has proved popular with the Good Lady Wife of one of my volunteering partners-in-crime. She really likes mosaics and getting to see images of some examples that she hasn’t (yet?) seen in person. So, with an eye to crowd-pleasing, here’s some more honey for your eyes all the way from the beautiful land of Tunisia.

El Djem is, rightly famous for it’s stonking great amphitheatre,

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but down the road, there’s also a museum. On the surface it looks like a small local museum.

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Enter the building though, and it quickly becomes apparent that you’re looking at a world-class collection of high quality, often complete Roman mosaics.

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These have all been found in El Djem, in the smart suburban villas that surrounded the urban centre of the Roman city of Thysdrus. In fact, the museum itself is surrounded by the remains of some of these villas.

So, to the mosaics. Here is a gorgeous and beautifully detailed mosaic of the Muses, with their attributes.

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And no respectable Roman household would be quite complete without a few deities.

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And many many fantastical and mythological scenes.

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Including the revels of everyone’s favourite god, Bacchus.

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This fragmentary scene is of the fun and games in the nearby amphitheatre.

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Although gladiatorial combat is the first thing that many people associate with Roman amphitheatres, an important element of the action, usually held in the morning, was the execution of prisoners. With the gladiators there was, and still is, a certain glamour in amongst all the gore, but with the executions there was no glamour at all, only horror, pain and degradation.

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On a less brutal note, I love this beautifully intricate mosaic carpet, with vines, animals, fruits and putti.

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Here are some of the details from among the vines. Elephant, goat, sexy lady, and the eternal struggle between angry fat baby and camel.

The non-representational mosaics are just as lovely.

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It’s no secret that North African mosaics set the bar pretty high, but I leave you with this famous stunner.

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This carpet shows the personification of several Roman provinces, including Africa.

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So, mosaic-fans, if you are looking for a pleasant holiday destination with sun, beaches, lovely welcoming people, good transport links and awesome Roman mosaics, you need look no further than Tunisia*.

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*This post is not sponsored by the Tunisian Tourist Board.