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Graham Duff: ‘Ideal’ creator’s epic best albums of 2013 megapost
12.30.2013
12:41 pm

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Music
Pop Culture

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Graham Duff
Best of 2013


“Ooh, innit he scrummy?” Photo by Lisa McGrillis.
 
He’s back! Once again, we’re thrilled to present a year-end music round-up from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three (before some idiot cancelled it). He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a “Death Eater,” he has recently worked on the BBC sitcom Hebburn with comedian Jason Cook and is working on an Ideal feature film. In 1992, Graham Duff’s one-man stage show “Burroughs,” based on the life of William S. Burroughs won him a Brighton Festival award.
 

35. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

 
It feels as if Cave and violinist Warren Ellis’ recent soundtrack work may well have influenced the creation of the latest Bad Seeds album. This is an atmospheric, slow paced and reflective set - a world away from the metallic Stooges-like strut of Cave’s Grinderman side project. With many of the songs here built up from Ellis’ loops, the album has an organic sensibility and The Bad Seeds seem less shackled than ever by conventional structure. There is a looser feel to many of the tracks, yet with no loss of focus. On “Jubilee Street” and “We No Who U R” Cave’s pensive observations are set to the most retrained and graceful backing, while the closing title song may be one of Cave’s most beautiful compositions yet.
 

34. This Quiet Army – Hex Mountains

 
Under the guise of This Quiet Army, Montreal’s Eric Quach has released a number of albums of slow moving monolithic guitar music, welding the glacial riffage of Earth to John Bonham style drumming and droning lead lines, which vibrate like overhead cables in the fog of distortion. Although still possessed of a powerful and occasionally, oppressive atmosphere, Hex Mountains also has far more ambient moments than on previous releases. On “Wraithslayers,” the guitar is so heavily processed it sounds like a broken synth, creating thick, granular pools of noise. “Digital Witchcraft” could be a close relative of Robert Hampson’s Main, as Quach creates another unsettling soundscape in which only fragments of guitar remain.
 

33. Dirty Beaches – Drifters/Love Is the Devil

 
The prolific Taiwanese born, Canadian bred lo-fi auteur Alex Zhang Hungtai has seriously upped his game by producing this grand double header. Drifters is the more song-based album. Meanwhile, Love Is The Devil is a largely instrumental set, consisting of pieces with an often romantic or melancholic streak. Hungtai has always admitted that Suicide are one of his prime influences and there are a number of songs here - “Night Walk,” “Au Revoir Mon Visage” and “I Dream In Neon” for example - which could be straight off the first two Suicide albums. The titles alone would make them shoe-ins. Yet Love Is the Devil proves how much more there is to the Dirty Beaches project, sounding not unlike a third generation recording of the soundtrack to a long lost Wong Kar Wai movie.
 

32. Forest Swords – Engravings

 
Forest Swords debut Dagger Paths (2010) presented an open ended take on dub and bleached out trip hop. And the belated follow up album Engravings continues to widen the Forest Swords palette. Lone sword Matthew Barnes also works as a graphic designer and it’s easy to see in his music a visual artist’s sense of placement and detail. There’s far more guitar on this album, and the skeletal lead lines are given plenty of space to shine in Barnes’ echo chambers. Highlights include the Morricone- esque “The Plumes” and “Onward” which mixes a rich tribal drum pattern with what appear to be heavily distorted orchestral samples. Meanwhile, “Gathering” sounds as if Cyclobe are mixing it up with PMT era Tricky. Yes, that good. It’s entirely fitting that Barnes’ exploratory work into the continuing possibilities of dub have since been acknowledged by a remix of the title track by one of the genres’ true originators Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself.
 

31. Bruce Gilbert & Baw – Diluvial

 
Bruce Gilbert has been releasing albums of solo electronica since the mid-80’s. On career high points such as The Shivering Man (1987) or Odier (2004) he’s delivered work which can be both intense and emotive. On Diluvial, he collaborates with Naomi Siderfin and David Crawforth aka BAW to create an album themed around the effect of rising sea levels. Blending field recordings of the Suffolk coast with subtle synthetic pulses and granular tones, this is a rich and sensitive collection of abstract pieces. The album’s disposition alternates between wonderment and disquiet and, on the uneasy glide of “The Void” or the moody subaquatic throb of “Beasts of the Earth,” Gilbert and BAW have the alchemist’s touch, transforming limited sonic information into gold.
 

30. Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

 
If you’re tired of electronica that engages only with feelings of dread and unease, then Eat Lights Become Lights 3rd album could be the antidote you’ve been searching for. The mood here is frequently one of bright optimism. Indeed, the title track displays an almost giddy sense of Klaus Dinger-like forward propulsion and “Chiba Prefecture” blends bright guitar noise with a confident electro-motorik flicker. But there are other flavors here too. “Rowley Overlook Way” has a slow and gentle crepuscular glow, whereas the constantly building “Habitat ‘67,” deploys circling cello runs to surprisingly moving effect. This isn’t the soundtrack to some utopian future, rather the sound of the joyous journey toward it.
 

29. Teho Teardo – Music for Wilder Mann

 
2013 saw the addition of two new albums to the already sizeable catalogue of Italy’s ever-industrious sound designer, musician and film soundtrack composer. Still Smiling was a collection of disquieting multi-lingual songs recorded with Blixa Bargeld. However, Teardo’s finest release of the year, is Music For Wilder Mann. A sequence of beautifully crafted instrumentals, the album foregrounds Teardo’s trademark lush yet restrained cello and violin arrangements. “Ultra You” and “Wilder Mann” meld tender cello lines with layers of sonic dissonance, whilst “The Rapture Institute” recalls the exquisite string and sequencer interplay of his soundtrack to “L’amico di Famiglia.” Teardo has a gift for creating deceptively simple musical spaces, which, upon closer inspection, bristle with melodic ideas and sonic detail.
 

28. Crayola Lectern – The Fall and Rise of?

 
Multi-instrumentalist Chris Anderson has been a significant member of both underrated art-glam stompers La Momo and the majestically intense Celebricide. However, under his Crayola Lecturn guise, Anderson crafts music of a quite different hue. There are echoes of Ruth is Stranger Than Richard era Robert Wyatt or perhaps Kevin Ayres circa The Confessions of Dr. Dream in this set of strange, uplifting songs and wistful instrumentals. Whilst Anderson’s gentle, distinctive vocals and beautifully considered piano playing are very much at the core of the sound, Alistair Strachan’s expressive cornet and trumpet work also add an emotional punch. The strongest pieces here, such as “Slow Down” and “Old Magick” showcase Anderson’s gift for aching melodies and poignant yet slanted sentiments.
 

27. Unicazurn – Dark Earth Distillery

 
Combining the considerable talents of Stephen Thrower (Coil, Cyclobe) on keyboards and reeds and David Knight, (Shock Headed Peters, Arkkon) on guitar and synths, Unicazurn are practitioners of a deep, brooding kosmiche. Comprising two lengthy soundscapes, Dark Earth Distillery was culled from live appearances in England, Poland and Germany, which have been substantially transmuted in the studio. “Hard Dawn of the Atomic Ghost” opens like the soundtrack to a heat haze on an alien world, before entering a submerged zone where dark sheets of sound are pierced by lonely clarinet calls. Companion piece “The Infernal Kernel” sounds as if 1972 vintage Roxy Music decided to let Brian Eno’s intros become a whole side of an album.
 

26. My Bloody Valentine – Mbv

 
22 years after producing their game changing second album Loveless, My Bloody Valentine finally deliver album number three. The sound-world MBV minted around the time of that last set – fluid drum patterns, honeyed vocals and shimmering waves of processed guitar and sampler abuse - always existed to one side of fashion. So it should come as no surprise that several tracks on mbv - especially “Who Sees You” and “If I Am” - sound as if they could have been recorded weeks after Loveless rather than decades. But there are also points when MBV are definitely pushing into fresh territory. ‘New You’ has a sprightly pop bounce, making it the album’s most accessible entry point, whereas the ultra-minimal “Is This And Yes” takes a simple, bright ascending organ pattern and adorns it with Bilinda Butcher’s gentle layered vocals and little else.
 

25. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

 
There are trace elements of several great maverick guitar bands here – Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation, Sleater-Kinney at their most surf infused and the vertiginous energy of Huggy Bear. But this young Cardiff 5-piece have a distinctly British take on the US alt.- guitar rock tradition. They play with sweet harmony as much as angular dissonance and Alanna McArdle’s vocals have an impressive range. Of the eleven tracks here, only three pass the three-minute mark. Joanna Gruesome are a band who know how to make their point and leave. Ignore the glib, jokey name - this is a vivid and vital debut that engages the heart and the mind.
 
See more after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff’s Top 25 Albums of 2012
12.20.2012
07:19 am

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Music

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Graham Duff


Graham Duff by Xavier Itter

We’re thrilled to present this ‘year end’ guest post from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three. He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films as a “Death Eater,” he recently co-wrote the BBC sitcom Hebburn with comedian Jason Cook. In 1992, Duff’s one-man stage show “Burroughs,” based on the life of William S. Burroughs won him a Brighton Festival award.
 

1. X-TG: ‘Desertshore’/’The Final Report’


 
When industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle reformed in 2004, it was never going to be just a case of regurgitating their back catalogue. Their ‘comeback’ albums Part Two: The Endless Not and the largely instrumental Third Mind Movements proved that TG were still ahead of the pack.  But perhaps one of their most intriguing and unprecedented ideas was to rework Nico’s highly regarded 1970 album Desertshore in their own image.

However, in October 2010, bassist, violinist and vocalist Genesis P. Orridge quit the group at the start of series of European dates, leaving Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti – now operating as a reinvigorated trio under the name X-TG – to complete both the tour and the Desertshore project. Then, only a month later, Christopherson suddenly passed away. Tutti and Carter elected to continue with the album, incorporating both Sleazy’s initial recordings and an impressive array of guest vocalists.

Antony Hegerty, Marc Almond, Blixa Bargeld, visionary film director Gasper Noé and porn star turned actress and singer Sasha Grey all lend their vocal talents to this stunning collection. Hegerty’s unique voice is supremely suited to X-TG’s grand and spectral reimagining of “Janitor of Lunacy,” Marc Almond delivers a perfectly judged performance of “The Falconer,” one of Nico’s most beautiful songs. But it is Tutti herself, whose vocals - neutral yet achingly human - best capture Nico’s spirit. If her performance on “All That Is My Own,” with its opening squalls of guitar noise and pulsating electronic rhythm, is restrained and plaintive, then her interpretation of “My Only Child” is frankly heartbreaking.

With its stately packaging, sleeve notes and funereal aesthetic, this is clearly a commemoration of Christopherson’s life and work, as much as it’s a celebration of Nico’s legacy. Meanwhile, on The Final Report, what should have been a new beginning turns into a full stop. This is the music Christopherson was working on with Tutti and Carter after P.Orridge had fled. Highlights include the insistent brutalist throb of “In Accord” and the brief but detailed “Um Dum Dom” which pitches a heavily treated Christopherson spoken vocal into a chiming tick tock rhythm.

Either one of these releases could easily lay claim to being album of the year. But as a double album they are frankly unbeatable. No one could have predicted the story of one of modern music’s most innovative and influential groups would end like this. But then of course very little about TG was ever predictable.
 

2. PORCELAIN RAFT: ‘Strange Weekend’


 
Italian born, London based Mauro Remiddi delivers a flawless album of dreamy hauntological bedroom pop. Porcelain Raft’s debut is alive with subtle but insistent earworms. Remiddi’s vocals frequently sound genderless and on the fuzzy glide of “Unless You Speak From your Heart” or the gentle buzzing synth bubblebath of “Drifting In And Out,” Porcelain Raft come across like a more bleary and ragged Saint Etienne. There are some beautiful and subtle arrangements and the mood is often blissful. But there are moments of woozy self doubt and unease, which prevent this from descending into being just another postcoital soundtrack. In fact, there’s a real artfulness in the way Remiddi mixes gorgeous lulling melodies, with minute glitches and submerged dissonance.
 

3. JESCA HOOP: ‘The House That Jack Built’


 
Whilst recent releases have seen Hoop focussing on a more stripped back acoustic feel, The House That Jack Built sees an artist embracing the sonic possibilities of the studio. And it’s probably her most satisfying album thus far. Her ability to craft singular and unpredictable melodies remains undiminished and her world view is still pleasingly off kilter, yet the mood is often effortlessly uplifting. Neither overly polished nor overtly lo-fi, the album boasts some intricately structured arrangements which still retain some rough edges. Lyrically Hoop has always been keen to mix self examination with a wider range of topics than most, and the self-explanatory “Ode To Banksy” aside, these songs see her at her most enigmatic.
 

4. CARTER TUTTI VOID: ‘Transverse’


 
As if completing and delivering the X-TG double header wasn’t enough, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti also released this understated masterpiece earlier in the year. A collaboration with kindred spirit Nik Colk Void - guitarist and vocalist with the exceptionally fine post-industrial outfit Factory Floor – this set was recorded at the London’s Roundhouse for the 2011 Mute Records festival. Carter’s unmistakable churning rhythms provide the pulsing bedrock for Tutti and Void to explore the textural and percussive possibilities of their electric guitars. A largely instrumental excursion, this is a deeply entrancing album which not only easily sits amongst Carter Tutti’s strongest work, but also harks back to the majesty of Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle.
 

5. JAH WOBBLE & JULIE CAMPBELL: ‘Psychic Life’


 
Bass man Wobble is a genuine maverick spirit. Sadly, much of his output over the last decade has tended towards a thoughtfully produced but strangely anonymous world music lite. Even the much longed for reunion with early Clash guitarist and former PIL sidekick Keith Levene only produced a patchy and frequently uninspired album and EP. It would seem that Wobble was saving up his best tunes and ideas for this far superior collaboration. Manchester’s Julie Campbell (aka Lone Lady) also seems to have been inspired by the project, as all her vocal lines here show a strength and grace which is sometimes lacking in her solo work. Levene makes a couple of guest appearances, most noticeably on “Phantasms Rise…” With its perfect balance of groove and dissonance, it’s a song which could have sat very easily on PIL’s Metal Box. But this is an album of light and shade and there’s even a hint of Supernature era Goldfrapp about the disco throb and sensual moan of album stand-out “Feel.”
 

6. MIRRORING: ‘Foreign Body’


 
This quiet, foggy, unassuming debut from a duo comprising Liz Harris of Grouper and Jesy Forentino of Tiny Vipers is way more than the sum of its parts. An expansive album (6 songs in 40 minutes), Foreign Body occasionally brings to mind Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s early minimalist experiments on No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. Whilst its shimmering elegaic vocal lines suggest a female fronted Sigor Ros. This is definitely an album of one mood, and, with its gentle, contemplative drones, delicate ethereal guitar washes and half buried melodies this feels like modern devotional music. “Silent From Above” is as close as Mirroring get to a conventional song structure, but even here, a simple vocal and folk guitar figure is eventually submerged in spectral echoes and blissed out atmospherics.  The perfect early morning record.
 

7. LAUREL HALO: ‘Quarantine’


 
One of the exciting things about Brooklyn based Laurel Halo is the way her music engages with the emotional, the physical and the intellectual aspects of sound. Previous releases under her King Felix alias have buried her vocals in the depths of the mix, but here they burst into the foreground. And it was clearly the right move. Her vocal lines are anything but route one and several melodies have a nicely warped feel. The range of structural approaches is deeply impressive too.  “Carcass” has a minimal euro-techno pulse, where “Years” would not sound out of place on the Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach. Halo also understands the power of brevity. Where many electronic artists like to stretch out, she keeps things lean and concise. The music frequently floats free into beatless space where synths create great melodic clouds of sound, but it’s her dextrously programmed rhythmic flourishes which underpin the album.
 

8. SCOTT WALKER: ‘BISH BOSCH’


 
Dissonant, histrionic, morbid and claustrophobic are all words you will hear applied to this collection. Admittedly, these are all apposite descriptions of the most difficult album on this list, however, it’s also one of the year’s most rewarding listens. Scott’s increasingly oblique but vivid lyrics would appear to focus on geopolitical struggles and abuse of human rights. Meanwhile, his dynamic and genuinely experimental musical compositions are, at times, truly frightening. The most easily digested track is “Epizootics!” which manages to blend beat poetics, a lopsided percussive shuffle and loud, near celebratory horn fanfares. This is undeniably a very dark album, but there’s also humour and wit here. Witness lines such as “Nothing clears a room like removing a brain” or “I’d like to forget you just the way you are.” Scott’s journey from 60’s hit parade heart throb to modern day avant garde soundsmith is a fascinating tale which has been told many times. But the story shouldn’t overshadow the man’s actual artistic achievements.  After all, how many artists could be said to be producing music which genuinely sounds completely unlike anything else?
 
Read the rest of the list after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Inn’t he scrummy?’: ‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff guest DJs on WFMU
10.05.2011
04:32 pm

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Music

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WFMU
Ideal
Graham Duff


 
Ideal creator Graham Duff DJ’ing on WFMU:

I’ve put together an exclusive hour long music mix for New Jersey’s WFMU radio station, for the show ‘Do or DIY’ hosted by People Like Us. It’s available on line from 8pm to 9pm tonight, then it will be archived. The mix encompasses off kilter electronica, opiated indie and blissful horror film scores, including pieces by The Anti Group, Ennio Morricone, Wire and Bachelorette.

Playlists and archives for Graham Duff on DO or DIY here.

Below, Graham Duff as “Brian,” tripping, in Ideal:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Idiot BBC controller cancels Graham Duff’s ‘Ideal’
08.02.2011
01:48 pm

Topics:
Art
Television

Tags:
Ideal
Graham Duff
Johnny Vegas


 
This is annoying: The BBC have decided to cancel one of its very best comedy series, Graham Duff’s brilliant Ideal starring the great Johnny Vegas as Mancunian pot dealer “Moz.” I’m a huge, huge fan of Vegas and Ideal, it’s one of the most-sharply written and acted comedies of the past decade. It’s got everything: Dope. Sex. Severed limbs… It’s also a rock snob’s delight with a terrifically curated soundtrack. Duff has actually used Throbbing Gristle’s music in the show and has even name-checked Carter-Tutti (aka Chris & Cosey) in a dog whistle meant for only a certain percentage of the viewing audience (I love stuff like that).

Here’s what I wrote about Ideal when I was guest-blogging at Boing Boing a few years ago:

One of my favorite British TV comedy series — and I’ll be blogging about several during my tenure here at Boing Boing — is a show about a Mancunian pot dealer called Ideal (geddit?). It’s consistently well-written, extremely well-acted and provides comic genius Johnny Vegas with a role worthy of his almost Shakespearean-level verbal talents.

Vegas, the funniest fat man since John Candy, is “Moz” a small-time weed merchant who may or may not be agoraphobic. But Ideal, which has so far aired for four seasons on BBC3 and is scheduled for a fifth beginning in early 2009, isn’t a comedy about drugs per se, it’s more about the dramatic device of Moz’s bohemian line of work bringing whimsical (and psychotic) characters in and out of his flat all day long. “Ideal” is truly one of the best things on television anywhere in the world right now and thanks to the wonders of technology, should you decide it’s something you would want to watch, there is surely a way for you to see it, too. Just get your hands on it, trust me, you’ll love it!

I have seen every episode and own the DVDs. My lovely wife Tara, who also has great taste in TV, forwarded this most depwessing and distwessing news from Graham Duff’s Facebook page. I’ve counted her saying “It really sucks that they cancelled Ideal!” about eight times in the past hour:

As some of you may have heard, the BBC have decided against commissioning an 8th series of Ideal. The reason given was that the new channel controller wanted to make a clean sweep.

It is a source of both pride and frustration that, at the point of cancellation, Ideal was attracting its biggest ever audiences, its highest profile guest stars and its best ever reviews. And the show is now being screened in more countries than ever before - from America to Finland and beyond.

I just want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has appeared in the show and worked behind the scenes over the last 7 years and 53 episodes. And a very special thanks to everyone who has supported the show and spread the word. We really wouldn’t have got this far without you.

It’s been a truly wonderful journey and to work with such a genuinely amazing team has been both an honour and a solid hoot.

Best wishes
Graham xxx

Not only is this sad, it’s stupid! What TV channel controller worth their salary makes the decision to yank a show that’s been on for seven years and has a growing international audience??? (Not a declining audience, an audience that is getting bigger worldwide every year—what gives?). How do you justify wanting a “clean sweep” over creating profits from a proven hit in a corporate environment, anyways?

WHO IS THIS PERSON WHO CANCELLED IDEAL?

And why do they still have a job?

Someone needs to organize a protest! Maybe mail this moron rolling papers care of the Beeb?

This sucks! It’s a travesty, I tell you! Let Graham Duff know how much you love Ideal at his Facebook page.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment