Joff’s playlist 13th Dec 2009

Well, it’s been a while since my last playlist, so I thought it was time to round up the CD’s in my current listening pile. I must confess, I’ve been having a total break from guitar centric music. In fact, I’ve been taking a break from Rock music full stop. Progressive or otherwise.

This playlist is mostly about 20th century classical music. Whilst I’ve been enjoying Holst and Elgar, I think the real highlight has been finding Dutilleux, a little known french composer of real integrity and style. I started off by listening to the Belcea Quartets’ performances, which led to hunting down the orchestral work and boy is it good! Dutilleux’s writing is a wonderful blend of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky but managing always to maintain an individual voice. Some of the vocal work in particular is excellent! Pieces sung with no vibrato at all, sounding very modern and haunting. I have some more CD’s on order so I’ll be posting up some pointers as I go.


Belcea Quartet

Bartok string quartets





Frank Zappa: Halloween

Zappa Halloween

A few years back, it was possible via the website to send an email to the Vaultmeister Joe Travers asking about upcoming releases. One such email sent by me enquired about the possibility of L. Shankar being featured on any future albums. A reply came back informing me that my world would be “rocked” very shortly. Well…almost. For those in the know of course, Zappa and Halloween at the New York Palladium became a legendary pairing like Floyd in Pompeii, or Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard. It was his place, and for a few nights every year leading up to Halloween night, Frank and his”rocking teenage combo” (which at this time featured Vinnie Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars, Peter Wolf, Ed Mann, Denny Walley and bonus Bass guitar guest Patrick O’Hearn) put on shows of epic proportions. None more so than Halloween 1978: 6 shows in total culminating in a truly momentous 4 hour extravaganza on the 31st, with the aforementioned L (Larry as Frank called him) Shankar, fresh out of Shakti, on hand to provide what can only be described as a dueling partner for Frank throughout the show. These solo battles took place in Pound For a Brown, Little House I Used to Live In, Watermelon in Eater Hay, Packard Goose and Black Napkins and were one of the reasons that the concert nearly hit the 4 hour mark, the other being the sheer variety of material being played from throughout Frank’s career. As he says at the start of this DVD-A: “we’re going to play a very long show, I hope you people arn’t in a hurry to get home…”. He then lets us know that after playing the normal part of the show we’ll be treated to a “whole collection of stuff that we don’t normally do”.

So far so good, and with this being DVD-A the possibilities for cramming an ungodly amount of prime Zappa into one disc seemed exciting. Things start of well with the opening guitar solo Ancient Armaments wonderful setting up the hysteria of the event. But, tragically what follows becomes merely a Zappa greatest hits show. The “whole collection of stuff” that they don’t normally do gets moved to one side to make way for Yellow Snow, Stinkfoot and…wait for it….Dinah-Moe Humm!! To be fair, this album’s version of Easy Meat kicks supreme arse with a great guitar solo, some hilarious seal noises from Vinnie and a lovely swagger throughout. There’s also some hot guitar in Stinkfoot and a nice moment of crowd interaction as Frank spots someone that he recognises from the Garrick theatre days, which makes up for this song seeing it’s 5th official release at this stage. But by the time that the Dinah-Brillo-Muffin Man encore kicks in, you can’t help but feel that a great opportunity to present one of Frank’s greatest concerts has slipped away.

That is until the final track quietly starts up: a softly rendered version of Black Napkins that slowly disintegrates into discordantly scattered guitar phrases over Vinnie’s typically splintered drumming, before the most miraculous transformation occurs. Out of nowhere Zappa starts poking away at the melody to the Deathless Horsie and the band, rather than simply dropping straight into the correct chord sequence, instead modulate and pull around the harmony benind the guitar before finally easing into the tonic key as the groove gets re-established. At which point, out pops Shankar for a some more of what had been taking place all night at the Palladium but sadly not on this album. Shankar ghosts Zappa’s solo beautifully, before a cue form the boss sends everyone back to Black Napkins to finish things off.

It must be something to do with the ZFT’s deal with DTS that warranted such a “hits” intensive release, and the Napkins/Horsie combo clearly comes across as the bait to get the hardcore fans on board. And of course, don’t forget the fact that it was a 5:1 release which was quite ahead of the game for 2003. And Vinnie’s drums do sound edible!! But you can’t help hoping that more is to come from these particular shows…

Matt’s Playlist November 6th 2009

The BBC 4 Krautrock documentary caused me to dig out some of my faves that I hadn’t listened to for donkey’s years, which then sent me in the direction of Eno before embarking on a Camel fest via Aphex Twin and more!

1. Harmonia and Eno – Tracks and Traces (1976)


2. Neu – Neu’75 (1975!)

3. Klaus Schulze – Timewind (1975)


4. Amon Düül II – Wolf City (1972)


5. Popol Vuh – In den Garten Pharaos (1971)


6. Brian Eno – Before and After Science (1977)


7. Fripp and Eno – Evening Star (1975)

fripp and eno

8. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works I and II


9. Camel – Mirage (1974)

camel mirage

10. Camel – Breathless (1978 – so what if it’s a disco prog album…I like it!)

camel breathless

11. Terje Rypdal – Waves (1978)

terje rypdal

12. Mastodon – Crack the Skye (2009)


13. Gowen/Miller/Sinclair/Tomkins – Before a Word is Said (1982)

Alan Gowen


The Prog/Punk Divide

A regular discussion point for us when beavering away in the studio is often that ludicrous notion that all music prior to the punk explosion in 1976/77 was crap, and in particular Prog. Amazingly, the “thank God for Punk” branch of journalism is still with us, but not in this podcast here:

Listen from around the 26min mark for a passionate dispelling of the fallacy that everything started with Punk.

Joff’s playlist 24th October 2009

A healthy dose of Jazz this week. I think that there might be an ECM thing building here! Could turn into a slight listening obsession but we’ll see. Also been listening to some very small releases in the form of Bernard Wagner’s The Fourth Night which is available from Burning Shed and Nigel Price’s Fools Gold available from Fret Records, which is a very small Gypsy Jazz label that will take some proper digging for if you want to find it.

1. John SurmanFree And Equal (2003)

free and equal

2. Mark FeldmanWhat Exit (2006)

what exit

3. Hatfield And The NorthHatfield And The North (1973)

hatfield and the north

4. Gill EvansOut Of The Cool (1961)

out of the cool

5. Bernard WagnerThe Fourth Night (2005)

the fourth night

6. Porcupine TreeIn Absentia (2005)

in absentia

7. Nigel PriceFools Gold(2005)

8. Todd RundgrenA Wizzard A True Star (1973)

a wizard a true star

Frank Zappa: FZ:OZ

Zappa FZ:OZ 

The late 90’s was a strange time for Zappa fans. The Zappa Family Trust in partnership with Rykodisc had unveiled the rather wonderful “Lost Episodes” and “Lather“, but by the time that “Have I Offended Someone” and “Mystery Disc” came out they seemed to be accompanied by the highly ambient sound of the bottom of a barrel being vigorously scrapped. What about the mythical Vault we had heard so much about? A subterranean lair 73 miles deep filled with 2,396 unreleased Zappa albums…or at the very least a few cool live shows? Time passed…something Zappa fans would soon get used to in regards to new releases. But then! Suddenly! An animated Kangaroo appeared on signalling the arrival of the first, official Vault release: FZ:OZ – Live In Australia. After getting over the initial disappointment that this was not from the 1973 world tour with the Ponty/Duke era band, fans could start getting excited about what was contained on these two discs. Firstly, the extremely rare line up of Napoleon Murphy Brock, Roy Estrada, Terry Bozzio and the “blink and you’ll miss him” super rare appearance of Andre Lewis on Keyboards, who has a very distinct playing style, particularly when he takes his many synth solos throughout the show. Then there was the prospect of a full, complete concert. Not even the Helsinki Concert had been a single unedited performance, so this was a first. And also, a great set list. Certainly, short on the instrumentally challenging side of things, but interesting nonetheless with both Freak Out and We’re Only in it for the Money medleys, prototype versions of soon-to-be-classic Zappa songs, and lots and lots of great guitar solos. In fact, disc 1 feels a little like a Blues version of Shut up and Play Your Guitar at times.

But it’s on disc 2 that, for me the fun really starts. There’s the just about recognizable early draft of Let’s Move to Cleveland, here going by the title of Canard Toujours, a 100% unreleased “new” song in the form of Kaiser Rolls – not a Zappa classic, but still well worth hearing – and the aforementioned Money medley, featuring my favourite moment on the whole album: the blistering re-working of Lonely Little Girl that contains the coolest guitar solo since…well, Advance Romance back on disc 1.

Chunga’s Revenge (amazingly receiving its first official live release here) and Zoot Allures finish the main part of the set with nearly 30 mins of solos and, later on in Frank’s case, some extremely introverted guitar improvisation that makes you forget the fact that there were several thousand, possibly inebriated, Australians waiting for Dinah-Moe-Humm. In fact, it’s worth remembering what a challenge a Zappa show must have been for the “average” audience, with a good 50% of this material being unreleased at the time of the recording. Even on CD, and listening in the comfort of your own home, the full concert experience is quite exhausting – name any other artist in history who played, completely uninterrupted for over 2 hours?? – so much so that the encores are a bit of a let down and probably will be listened to considerably less that the bulk of the main concert.

As an opening shot from the ZFT this was a great start with lots to keep rediscovering upon each listen. But the next few years would prove to be an extremely bumpy ride….

to be continued…

Porcupine Tree – Bristol Colston Hall 10/10/09

Firstly, the negatives: Colston Hall is a great venue, but the standard issue of three urinals per gents toilet is simply shite planning! Especially for a Prog gig with the male to female ratio the way it is, queues were somewhat huge making many a desperate patron suddenly develop mysterious injuries that momentarily allowed them access to the “disabled” toilet, only to be miraculously “cured” upon leaving a few moments later!! Also, what the fuck is up with people needing to head out for beer so many times during a gig?? Especially for a seated performance, this becomes a serious distraction.

Anyway, the gig! Porcupine Tree are the best live band in the UK today. There, i’ve said it! Possibly the best band in the world, considering the uniqueness of what they do. For those who have been living in a cave for the last few months, this tour features the band playing there 55min epic song-cycle “the Incident” for the first half of the show – and it was incredible. From the moment that Wilson and the band walked out and hit those deafening opening chords to the final acoustic arpeggios of “I Drive the Hearse”, the Bristol audience were treated to a masterful display of songwriting, musicianship, texture and dynamics. In a nice touch, Steven used the brief gap between “the Blind House” and “Great Expectations” to speak to the audience to say how great it was that every time they play Bristol they get promoted to a bigger venue.

And it’s true. My first Porcupine Tree gig was in 1997 in a tiny club with about 30 people in the audience that nearly ended in a mini riot when Wilson started having a go at the lamentable venue management (there wasn’t enough power to run all of the band’s equipment and no promotion had been done). Later gigs at Shepherds Bush and the Astoria showed how the band had managed to punch through all the odds to be a cult band with a respectable following. But i’m sure every long time fan has seen the difference in all aspects of the band’s promotional activities recently. It certainly felt different arriving at Colston Hall, with a wonderfully diverse collection of fans of all ages, proving that Porcupine Tree may not be “cool”, but as Frank Zappa said, “who give s a fuck anyway!”.

Highlights of the first set included the monumental guitar solo in “Time Flies” and the mesmerising animation that formed the backdrop for “Octane Twisted” – a deeply disturbing yet beautiful sequence that sees some bizarre robot type creatures causing a train crash…I think. All of the projections were great in fact – and there were even some dead babies thrown in for good measure to keep the Bass Communion fans happy! The sound was spot on, allowing even the most subtle of keyboard effects from Richard Barbieri to be heard clearly. Top marks to for the lights – simple yet effective use of colour without too many vari-lites going berserk, although those white lights on either side of the stage did burn permanent shapes on to my retina, but not to worry.

Set Two was mainly for oldies, that’s if you count everything from “In Absentia” onwards as being old of course. A decisive moment happened two songs in when Wilson asked the audience to stand up. It has to be said, the energy in the room increased enormously paving the way for a jaw dropping rendition of the middle part from “Anesthetize” – for me the absoulute highlight of the gig. That was, at least, until “Strip the Soul”. So, so, so very fine indeed, plus a nice segue into “.3”, also from “In Absentia”. Wilson had some issues with his in-ear monitor leading to some amusingly home-erotic comments from the crowd as his guitar tech fitted him with a new device – which can’t have worked too well as the audience’s over enthusiastic clapping nearly caused a train wreck during “Lazurus”!

Encores were the now obligatory “Sound of Musak” and “Trains”, and they were just the right thing too, after an intense show. All in all, it was a fantastic performance all round. Special mention should be given to John Wesley who’s role on 2nd guitar and vocals seems to keep getting better. Gavin Harrison played to his usual standard, whilst i’m fairly sure at one point Colin Edwin on bass managed to find the resonant frequency of Bristol itself such was the vibration that shook through the room!

You’re left wondering, with music as relatively demanding as this, can Porcupine Tree better this next time around. Although I seem to recall thinking the same many times before….


The Incident, Start of Something Beautiful, Buying New Soul, Anesthetize part 2, Remember Me Lover, Strip the Soul/.3, Lazurus, Way Out of Here, the Sound of Musak, Trains

Joff’s playlist 10th October 2009

It’s been a bit of a classical fest of late! I’ve been working my way through the brilliant 22cd box set Works Of Igor Stravinsky, disk 11 Miniature Masterpieces is becoming a particular favorite. The Schoenberg chamber symphonies are also brilliant and well worth checking out.

1. Frank ZappaLive In New York (1978)

zappa in new york

2. Igor StravinskyWorks Of Igor Stravinsky (2007)

works of igor stravinsky

3. Enrico RavaThe Pilgrim And The Stars (1975)

the pilgrim and the stars

4. Pat MethenyNew Choutauqua (1979)

new choutauqua

5. John SurmanFree And Equal (2003)

free and equal

6. Arnold SchoenbergChamber Symphonies (2002)

chamber symphonies

7. Arvo PartA Portrait (2005)

arvo a portrait

Matt’s Playlist October 2nd 2009

1. Porcupine TreeThe Incident (2009)

porcupine tree

2. Captain Beefheart Lick My Decals Off Baby (1970)


3. Joni Mitchell Miles of Aisles (1974)


4. Aphex Twin Analord 1 and 2 (2005)

Aphex Twin

5. Keith Jarrett – Hymns/Spheres (1976)


6. Frank Zappa – Sleep Dirt (original vinyl mix! 1979)


8. Frank Zappa Hot Rats (original vinyl mix! 1969)


9. Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti (origi…you get the idea. 1979)


10. Edgar Froese – Epsilon in Malaysian Pale (1975)

edgar froese

Stomach Ulcer Music Part 1

A semi-regular look into the world of “difficult” music…

Pat Metheny Zero Tolerance For Silence

Pat Metheny


Pat Metheny is reknowned for two main attributes: firstly his hair. A modern miracle of evolution that seems to be sticking two fingers up at the ageing process, whilst simultaneously defying gravity. Secondly, an equally stubborn attitude towards what constitutes “music”. Metheny is unique amongst jazz musicians in that he seems to have set himself two extremes from which to navigate around his own particular musical universe: firstly, it could be argued that Metheny is, for better or worse, the father of so called smooth jazz, even though the Pat Metheny Group’s inventive compositions bare little relation to the tepid dribblings of the likes of Kenny G. Secondly though, is an approach to music that is best descibed by the title of this blog: stomach ulcer music! Atonal, vicious, uncompromising and nasty. All of these words describe Zero Tolerance For Silence, an album of guitar improvisations that from the first note is literally shocking in its visceral impact. The clanging, raw sound of the guitars on the opening 20 min piece makes the guitar playing on the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks sound like Yngwie Malmsteen by comparison. It’s one of the few albums that physical made me jump when the first chord crashed out of the speakers, but as with other noise based music such as some of the overloaded sounds on the second Continuum album, there is method to the madness and forms and shapes do start to emerge, only cast in an extremely primitive and primordial form of expression. The real joy of this album though is the fact that Metheny’s previous record to this, the sugary and filmic Secret Story, is so diametrically opposed in almost every conceivable way that surely there must have been some unsuspecting Metheny fans who picked the album up and settled down by the fire with a nice bottle of red wine only to have their relaxing evening of “smooth jazz” shat upon from a great height!

Significantly perhaps, Zero Tolerance For Silence is currently one of the only Metheny albums that remains out of print, although there is talk of a reissue. Either way, it’s well worth the pain.



Welcome to the Troopers For Sound blog, a place for our general thoughts on music and its related industries. Here you will find our monthly playlists and information on records which are expanding our musical minds. Essays on musicians and composers such as Frank Zappa and musings on what we have come to call Stomach Ulcer Music!

Please feel free to offer up your opinions or suggestions they are always welcome.

Enjoy reading.