2009 Year End List: Alasdair Maclean, The Clientele
1. Liam Hayes and Plush live at the Kings Head, London, 16th October This was my musical experience of the year, no contest. Liam Hayes’ has a gift for writing these slowly unravelling, restlessly beautiful songs, and as great as they sound in the studio with a full horn section, drums etc. this performance in a tiny pub, with just a Wurlitzer and a Fender Rhodes was even better. Certain friends of mine would say he has a unique sense of harmonic progression, all I could think of was that I’ve never heard such gorgeous chords, I wanted to stop him and write them down. But the audience – many of whom were moved to tears - would have murdered me.
2. Ubuweb OK, this has been going since 1996, but I only discovered it this year, so it counts for me. It’s a free resource for avant-garde sound and video. It pretty much only features stuff that’s hard to get hold of commercially, so anyone wanting to stick it to the man in the shape
of multimedia conglomerates like Actuel Records or Cold Blue Music Recordings will be disappointed. But I found, among many, many incredible things, the uncharacteristic and haunting ‘Litany For The Whale’ by John Cage, ‘Body Meta’ by Ornette Coleman from 1975, where we find him playing free funk(!) and a scratchy but totally captivating 9 minute version of Erik Satie’s ‘Vexations’.
3. Destroyer – Bay of Pigs 12”
I always go on about Destroyer, but they keep getting better with every release. And the music is just as extraordinary as the words;
the sounds on this record are incredible.
4. Louis Philippe and Testbild!
This hasn’t been released yet, but he’s recording it in the same studio that Lupe and I are making our Amor de Dias record in, and as a work-in-progress it sounds fantastic. They’ve found a way to record a string quartet using fancy mic placements which make it sound like a Nelson Riddle string section.
4. Billy Mahonie live at the Lexington, London, 8th October
Howard from Billy Mahonie used to drum for the Clientele around the time of ‘Suburban Light’. His first love, though, was always Billy Mahonie, who split up in the early 2000s. John Peel loved them and the NME used to hype them but they never really achieved the success they deserved. They reunited for a one-off show this year, and once again I just watched in awe at the unbelievable, eerie telepathy between the musicians; I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. At times they were so in sync it was almost comical. Despite the fact they have no singer, they have to be the best live band I’ve ever seen; there’s an exquisite pace and economy to their stuff, I think they’re now being re-appraised as one of the best bands of their era, so good luck to them, better late than never.