Archive for the ‘Esoteric’ Category

Ten Questions About Science

November 30, 2010

The Guardian has published this article today with ten questions science ‘must answer’.

Some of them are good, a lot of them are quite irritating. So to save science the trouble of answering them, I will.

DISCLAIMER: These answers are my opinion, and are therefore 100% correct.

Kathy Sykes: What is consciousness?

You know when you switch an old style TV off and the picture would dwindle to a little dot in the middle that eventually winked out? Consciousness is like that happening in reverse, only the human brain is the TV. Consciousness isn’t a thing, it’s an emergent property of a set of actions which are undertaken by part of our body, without our express consent.

This emergent property leads us to mistakenly conclude that there is an independent being called ‘me’. That error of perception is consciousness. Change the underlying process and you change the conscious ‘experience’. A meaningful understanding of what consciousness ‘is’ may not actually be possible.

Joan Bakewell: What happened before the big bang?

Ms Bakewell says “To simply declare – as some scientists do – there was no space or time before the big bang and that the question is therefore meaningless is hard to accept”. It’s the ‘simply declare’ bit that gets me. As if scientists are just invoking their own authority without evidence.

I’d suggest anyone interested in question this reads a book or two, the latest Stephen Hawking is very readable on this particular question – also try Marcus Chown. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the English language can be used to formulate a question, that question must be meaningful or valid. I expect most people would have less problem with ‘where was I before I was born?’, or ‘where did fish live before the sea formed?’.

Time, space and matter are the universe. If there was any time and space before the Big Bang then that would have been the universe, and we would still need an explanation. Things can’t pre-exist the conditions necessary for their existence.

This doesn’t explain how the universe was made, just why this is a non-question.

Mark Miodownik: Will science and engineering give us back our individuality?

If science and engineering have taken away your individuality then you need to try harder. Perhaps what science and engineering have done is reduce the opportunities to be ignorant, I guess it’s harder to be creative in a factual framework than one where you can just believe any old shit.

What’s so great about individuality anyway? We need to get away from this idea that every human being is so utterly unique and wonderful. We’re all basically quite similar. What science etc has done is make it easier to have a long, enjoyable life – the real challenge is how to widen that opportunity for people across the world, without utterly depleting our finite resources.

The way to strive for uniqueness (if you want to) is to buy less stuff, spend less time consuming media other people have created, and spend more time simply interacting with other people and creating media of your own.

Tracy Chevalier: How are we going to cope with the world’s burgeoning population?

We’re not. Either the population stops burgeoning or we cease to cope. There is not an infinite amount of stuff in the world, therefore there must come a point where the stuff:people ratio is unsustainable. Either we work out how to balance things and slow down or we reach a point where we have no choice but to have less because there’s not enough to go round. There will then inevitably be a massive war over what’s left and the overpopulation will be sorted out that way.

Marcus du Sautoy: Is there a pattern to the prime numbers?

Probably not. Maths is just something humans made up, after all. The fact it describes and predicts the behaviour of the universe more accurately than language doesn’t mean the universe has hidden exciting, magical clues in it for us.

Brian Cox: Can we make a scientific way of thinking all pervasive?

I hope so. But not so all-pervasive that we lose the spark of creativity that comes from our most deep-rooted inherent flaws.

John Sulston: How do we ensure humanity survives and flourishes?

See question re: population. I don’t think we can do both. If you want ‘flourish’ then we need to lose large chunks of the population and replace them with robots which undertake menial tasks. The remaining people can then make art, fuck, and eat pan fried seabass to their heart’s content. Or we can be less greedy, breed less and have a hope of remaining in existence.

Andrew Motion: Can someone explain adequately the meaning of infinite space?

Motion begins this question by saying “The idea of there being no end to space seems logically impossible”. Well boo hoo, thankfully the universe does not run on logic. Just because something doesn’t make sense to the human mind doesn’t mean it’s not reality. I don’t understand how bats navigate using sound – I doubt a bat would be too bothered by this.

Likewise the universe, having already given us the gift of (albeit illusory) consciousness, does not also owe it to us to be comprehensible. Infinite space means you can theoretically keep going in any direction forever, except you can’t because you’d die after a few hundred thousand miles. So I wouldn’t worry about it.

Lionel Shriver: Will I be able to record my brain like I can record a programme on television?

That book you wrote about a couple who fall in love and play tennis was incredibly fucking boring. Conversely ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ is one of the best things I’ve ever read. No you can’t record your brain like a TV show. Have you any idea how much hard disk space that would take? What programming language would the relevant software be written in?

To do this in the level of detail you describe would require an effectively 100% complete understanding of how the human brain works. Which I suspect is impossible, and if it isn’t then it would be absolutely terrifying because it would mean you could recreate anyone who ever lived just by scanning their brain and clone them in a software environment which would, to them, be indistinguishable from reality. Then you could do all sorts of horrible shit to them and it would be indistinguishable from doing it to the ‘real’ them. This is not something you want. Stop trying to come up with kooky philosophical conundrums and write another cool book about a psychotic murderer. Please. Thank you.

Piers Sellers: Can humanity get to the stars?

I don’t reckon the light speed barrier will ever be broken. Of course new science could be invented that changes that. But that assertion alone doesn’t mean that everything we currently know will be overwritten. I reckon light speed is one of those things we’ve just got to deal with.

You can use ‘science doesn’t know everything’ to argue for or against literally anything. Try it. Including every belief you currently hold. Sooner or later you’ve got to go ahead and form opinions based on what is currently known, and risk being proved wrong hundreds of years after you die. So no, I don’t think we will, especially if we go on depleting our resources at the rate we currently do.


Written in a day

June 18, 2010

Every PWL record since 2002, with the notable exception of ‘The Independent Scrutineer’, has included at least one song which was written and recorded from scratch in a single day – more often than not that’s also the version that gets released. Here, for no particular reason, is a list of those songs:


European Monsoon = Self Doubt Gun
Fight My Battles = Anger Management, Ten Cities, Knots (though not these exact versions), Track 13
Build Library Here (or else!) = Harp & Chainsaw
Restless Revolution Day By Day = Billie Holiday


A Neuron Poem Soon – Real Fun, Dots
Omega Point = Brighton Pier (not this exact version)
Perfection R.I.P. = Perfection or a Simple Life, eskomolto
My heartfelt duty = every song
Independent Scrutineer = none
Siop Enoc Hughes = A song for when yr just tired
Monkeys of the Shitty Island – Ten Cities is not a european tour
Jazzy Jungle Memorial Hall = Teach Yourself Patience
No More Roads = No More Films, Montreal 33
Enjoy Travelling = If you were a Kilroy Guest

Most PWL songs take months or more to write, and I don’t really sit down to play them until they’re finished in my head. At the moment I’m finishing off a couple of songs that I started writing in 2006.


April 16, 2010

Balls to the leader’s debates, Mrs Lu and I decided to give it a miss and go up Caerphilly mountain to have a look at what the sunset looked liked through the Icelandic volcanic ash…

It was nice to see a few other folks up there, reassuring that some people in the world still take the time to just go and look at the sunset. Especially in the midst of the electionoise.

Random Anecdote

April 9, 2010

When I played in Northampton in January of 2007 I was standing around after my set holding a cardboard box full of Independent Scrtuineer CD’s when a man came up to and asked what was in the box.
“It’s some CD’s” I replied
“Oh right, I thought it might be those things… you know. In toilets.”
“In toilets?”
“Yeah, little blue things.”
“Urinal cakes?”
“Yeah, those are the ones!”
“Why would I be holding a box of those?”
“I dunno. I thought maybe it was the latest craze.”

He didn’t buy one, but ever since I regularly enjoy speculating whether things may or may not be the latest craze.

*New Feature*
Have Your Say:
Have you ever been to Northampton? Did anything weird happen?

‘Music Pounds’?

September 17, 2009

Looking at this article today. Apparently Brixton has just introduced its own ‘Brixton Pound’ as a local currency – designed to keep money in the area. It’s not a new idea, it’s been done elsewhere, and it’s basically a kind of Scrip.

It got me thinking – could there be some form of non-localised ‘musicians currency’? Not directly linked to the pound – more like a sort of bartering system for music related favours. You lend me an amp, I give you one ‘music pound’. I do the sound at your gig, you give me ten ‘music pounds’. I need to record some drums but can’t afford the studio time so Oli Dreamtrak accepts 50 ‘music pounds’ which he can then pay to Laura Wolf to come and do backing vocals on the hot new Trademark tracks, which she then uses to get Ben from Hornby Pylons to fix her keyboard… etc

It could extend wider… You’re at a gig and the guitarist in the headline band isn’t keen to lend his amp – after all it’s his pride and joy. But you offer him a couple of ‘music pounds’ and suddenly he realises you’re a good soul who does his share of msuic related good deeds so he relents. You find yourself in a distant city with no sound guy to do the gig, the barman knows someone but will he want to make the trip for no money? Maybe he’ll do it for some ‘music pounds’ that he can use later.

Obviously it’d take a huge amount of goodwill to work more widely, and between groups of friends you might feel ‘what’s the point? I’m quite happy to mix the Silence at Sea recordings without getting ‘music pounds’. But it would build up a nice feeling of community – would give you something to talk about at gigs when chatting to your fellow performers:

“Give you a music pound to borrow your keyboard stand…”

“What’s a music pound?”

“Oh, you’ve not heard of them…”

It’d also be a mild rebuke to the sorts of tools who don’t like lending their precious gear. ”What? You want to use my drum kit!? Gadzooks, no! You might hit it with sticks or something!”

Whether they would take the form of printed currency or would be more like handwritten receipts that you tore up and re-wrote when passing on the pounds would be up for lively debate. (naturally as the founder of ‘music pounds’ my face should appear on the bills). I’m not saying the idea is fully developped but I could be on to something.

The name needs some work though…. ‘music pounds’ is clunky and a bit dull. How about… ‘notes’?

if FMBFM was a double vinyl record…

September 9, 2009

Then this would be the tracklisting:

Side One
Anger Management
The Gentlemen’s Game
Good Christian/Bad Christian
(You & Me and) Winston Churchill

Side Two
The Tree of Knowledge
2.0///The Bridge of Sighs
Stop Traveller! Stop and Read!
The Memorial Hall

Side Three
Simple Life/Repetition 4
Ten Cities is not a european tour
England Expects

Side Four
track 13
Pockets in Shrouds
Millionaires Need People Like You

Same songs, same order… but take it like that and I think it suddenly doesn’t seem as long.

I don’t want people thinking I’m really hung up about these ‘it’s a bit too long’ comments in all the reviews. This blog post took all of two minutes to write and wasn’t particularly pre-meditated. Just an idle, passing thought…

But I do think the ability to divide an album into four sides is one more small joy that’s been lost to the mp3 era.

Like PWL? Amazon recommends…

August 18, 2009

I just received one of those ‘We’ve noticed people who buy [X] also buy [Y]…’ e-mails from amazon. Except it was saying that people who bought ‘Fight My Battles For Me’ also bought ‘The Future Sound of Yesterday‘ by a band called Implosion Quintet.

How exciting. This presumably means people have bought my album from amazon, which is almost as exciting as it being in HMV [NB the cheapest place to buy it is still my website].

Looking at the website ‘Implosion Quintet’ seems in fact to be one bloke in his bedroom with the following things to say:

“[the band is] a crossover that blends tango, rock, proggy retro-electronics and jazz. Basically a composite of the various elements I really love. Everything is deliberately lo-fi and unpolished out of choice because realism and good old-fashioned grit are unquestionably the way forward.”


He doesn’t perform live because “while I could laptop it up and tweak out a roomful of boink that would be about as captivating as watching me complete a tax return.”

Ahem… never heard of a monome?

Anyway, I’ve yet to listen to him but here’s his myspace.

Hmm… lengthy plug for 100% unheard band. Is this how I should use my blog?

How to ‘Do a Jandek’?

May 23, 2009

On a recent wikipedia clicking spree I went from the page about Jim O’Rourke to the page about Jandek (via Will Oldham). Jandek is a name I’d heard from a rough trade compilation and just generally from being someone who reads about music endlessly but I’d never particularly bothered checking him out. The moment I started skimming the text I was intrigued.

The story (in summary because you can go read it yourself) is that Jandek is Houston, Tx based musician who has released over 50 albums through his own label since 1978. He has given only two interviews in that time in which he largely refused to discuss his music, and revealed no biographical information about himself – not even his name. He first performed live in 2004, without prior publicity, at a festival in Glasgow and has begun gig more regularly since. Always performing sets of 100% unreleased material backed by musicians who rehearse with him for the first time (sometimes having never heard of him before) on the afternoon of the show.

He promoted early releases by sending copies to college radio stations and taking out print adverts and – having apparently initially sold 2 copies of his first record – was encouraged to release a follow up a few years later after a tiny blossoming of interest from one journalist. He’s released at least one album a year ever since.



Now having never heard this fellow before I’m instantly besotted with this idea. I’ve ordered a couple of cds and downloaded some mp3s and the music, whilst intriguing and distinctive, has not instantly blown me away. It’s incredibly dissonant, almost to the point of ineptitude, folk blues. Barren sounding, late night spontaneity, out of tune – to me it screams ‘mental illness’. He’s never going to win ‘best vocal’ anytime soon. But go listen and read about him elsewhere, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about….

What really excites me is the way this music exists in an absolute vacuum. The artist behind it has built up a dedicated following without ever uttering a word of comment on his own work. Just gets on with it, puts the stuff out there and lets people make up their own stories. Was he a guy who died in vietnam whose family are releasing years of archived recordings? (clearly not as he now plays live, but this was the theory for a while). Is he a mental patient? Were all the albums recorded in one huge session and are now just being released as a catchup. Who are the other musicians who appear on some of the albums? Why does only one of the songs released in the past ten years have a drumkit on it?

It’s in sharp contrast with how things are now. Musicians are encouraged to blog and be blogged about, tweet themselves to death and be otherwise ubiquitous. I was trying to think whether it would even be possible to ‘do a Jandek’ in this day and age. How would you go about just humbly drawing attention to your self-released album and hope that word of mouth built up? We’re literally swamped with mountains of landfill indie bands and doubtless some amazing music is getting subsumed by the might of well funded marketing.

Lady GaGa - apparently

Will from Stairs to Korea commented to me this week that he’d ‘never been so conscious of being marketed something’ as with Lady GaGa. I can see what he means. She’s everywhere, people are being force fed this narrative about who she is and why she’s good. If she’s not careful there’ll be nothing left of her.

No one knows why Jandek’s so keen to keep his life a secret, it doesn’t matter. The secrecy has gone on so long that’s it’s quite obviously now part of what being a ‘Jandek fan’ is all about. But clearly he doesn’t ‘make music for himself’ otherwise he wouldn’t go to the trouble of ensuring his 50+ catalogue is constantly in print. Remember he has never released a thing on any other label.

So how could you do it? I’ve made a few myspace pages where I post music that isn’t PWL music and pretty much just leave them there to fester. I’ve never had any aspirations that any of the music on these pages would get ‘discovered’ and clearly without a concerted effort from me it isn’t going to be. So clearly just putting something online and hoping isn’t the same as having a stack of yr LPs in the store room of a college radio station where someone can physically find them and go ‘this looks interesting’.

The internet is supposedly this amazing medium for promoting music. And clearly as a distribution network it’s amazing. You can just record something and immediately give the whole world access to it for free – as I did in my last post. But the internet also swamps people with choice. When Jandek took out his humble print adverts back ’78 there were probably sufficiently few publications and fans around that one or two keen-eyed enthusiasts would take a punt to see what was what. The fact he was willing to press on releasing in the face of mostly indifference is to his credit. How could you do that now? I could post a brand new song to this blog every week and maybe some of you would link to it and share it and maybe not. But how would anyone know to bother with my music as opposed to all the other stuff out there?

The Internet, earlier today

The Internet, earlier today

Music promotion is seen as a necessary evil but it fundamentally changes the way music is produced. In the year prior to making a conscious decision to try and get my music heard more widely (something I consider began in 2005), I released three EPs and one album all containing brand new songs. This is the same amount I have released in the four years since then, and it’s not because I’ve slowed down writing. I find this utterly frustrating, and completely at odds with how I’d like to work. But it’s a concession I make because I want people to hear what I do.

There are lots of bands out there who got a name for being prolific and just releasing relentlessly – the Mountain Goats, the Fall, Will Oldham, etc – and pretty much bludgeoned the alternative music fanbase demographic into submission by sheer volume of material. I’m not even convinced an artist like that could get started today. Is there anyone out there being so prolific? Maybe there is and I don’t know them. People are lucky if they get to release one album every two or three years.

In their creative heyday the Beatles and David Bowie averaged two albums a year. I think the shift has been towards labels spending vast amounts on one album in an ‘all or nothing’ move and then the Lady GaGa success stories subsidise the less commercially successful ones. Except that because the labels view all releases as lottery tickets rather than investments the ones that ‘fail’ get dropped. They’re not using Lady GaGa to subsidise the new Captain Beefheart, they’re using Lady GaGa to subsidise all the failed Lady GaGas. Which is kind of fucked up.

I fear we’re heading for an industry which actively stifles new and creative music. There will be no new Jandeks because the industry has grown so big it’s swollen into every niche. A humble voice saying ‘here’s my stuff, hope you like it’ gets drowned out by the big marketing machine’s cash fuelled hum. They’ve even figured out how to fake a word of mouth buzz! Thereby negating any possibility of real word of mouth. You now have to go to supposedly independent music ‘gateways’, cap in hand, competing for the same limited space as those who have so much clout that they don’t need it. There are beacons of hope sure – like Bearded Magazine, who seem to understand everything I’m saying here and have made it central to their ethos – but they, in turn, are competing for attention against better funded magazines.

So is it hopeless? Can there be another Jandek? What do you think?
For those who care, here are some of the myspace pages I’ve made up over the years:
The Magic Cicadas
Pagan Wanderer Lu’s Junk Shop – where I post bits of instrumentals and stuff

Bless spammers…

April 6, 2009

“Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor”

I find this quite endearing.


March 30, 2009

Had a quick trip back to Aberystwyth at the weekend. Decided to track down the gravestone which gave this song its title. Here it is:


And here’s the view off the top of Constitution Hill.


I’d like my ashes scattering there when I die please.