Raise A Glass to Cult With No Name

Above As Below

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If, like me, you are a John Foxx fan, you’ve probably heard of Cult With No Name, maybe streamed a few tracks intent on becoming more familiar with this guy Erik Stein, the model on London Overgrown and the front man in the band whose latest work, the Blue Velvet Revisited soundtrack, also includes new material by our own Dennis Leigh.

But that is never enough for me, and I always regard these compilations as portals to other world’s where there is vast array of wonderful and engaging music waiting to be discovered.
The door marked Cult With No Name (in traditional hand-printed typographics) is especially curious…

On 2012’s Above As Below, their fifth album, a range of guest musicians each add an extra dimension and extend the range of CWNN from seductive post-punk poets to new sophisicats of an intelligent, elegant synth-pop that just somehow isn’t quite like anyone else.

From the graceful stylish opener One Kiss, Then Home, the album sweeps discerning and refined through its first movement, a suite of elegant, electronic ballads the highlight of which is the sublime chanson of Maitre D-Day. Jon Boux’s fragile piano is exquisite.

The six-piece sequences ends with the mournful coda of Everyone’s The Butt Of The Joke before the first interval, Losing my Elan, which features a spoken-word recital by the late Bruce Geduldig (of Tuxedomoon) that Laurie Anderson would be pleased with. Having passed away since I first heard this album, Gelduldig’s haunting presence adds a sombre poignancy to this idiosyncratic composition.

Today’s The Day (They Knew Would Come) is a another step in a different direction, quirky, danceable electronica that reminds me of Neil Arthur’s work with Blancmange.

After the tender harmony of Numbers and beautiful melancholy of the instrumental title track, the album’s closing sequence begins with What’s Certain, a technicolor trip-hop number that blends Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys with Erik Stein’s smart, playful lyrics and eloquent diction.
His vocal (a little reminiscent of Lou Reed I think) characterises the band’s unique persona, and is nowhere better exemplified lyrically than on the clever word-play of Idi’s Admin and musically on the seductive intimacy of the last track, the intriguingly-titled Secondary Sexual Characteristics

While the songs have their own quirky humour and individual charm, one element that stands out in particular is the way that Above As Below works as whole piece. The tracks are cleverly sequenced and flow from light to dark, from sobriety to indulgence, showcasing the band’s expanding range. Intriguing, and very satisfying.

Hence the artwork and packaging, which works in much the same way.
Barnbrook is brilliant at this. He just ‘gets’ it.

The tactile qualities of the inner sleeve (of folded draughting film represented as a sheet of typographer’s Letraset) reflect the tone and texture of the music; and on the back of the uncoated cardboard outer case is a unique mix of letterpress typefaces (a characteristic of the designer’s more recent work) which perfectly echoes the extent and individuality of the tracks and the beguiling craftsmanship of the Cult With No Name.

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Bassett Wood Greenway

A circular walk along one of Southampton’s many ‘hidden’ streams

BASSETT GREENWAY MAP

Daisy Dip
The walk starts at (1), which is on-street parking in Bluebell Road on the Flowers estate, best accessed via Tulip Rd at St Albans Church on Burgess Road. There is a roundabout-type junction at the top of Lobelia Road as it descends into the Daisy Dip where street parking is also available.
There are several points of entry to the ‘Daisy Dip’ recreation ground from here, all of which are surfaced paths leading past a well-equppied and fenced play area for young children.
Follow the path to the play area, and the cross up the slope ahead across an area of open grassland. You will see Bassett Wood directly ahead, along the front of which is a footpath and cycleway that runs downhill from left to right. Halfway along is a large signpost marking the start of the Bassett Wood Greenway (2). Take the steep path here down to your right. This was once surfaced, but is now mostly gravel, broken tarmac and soil.

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Bassett Wood Greenway
Keep to the left (south) of the stream when you get to the bottom of the slope. There are numerous options here and the return route comes back on the other side. The path is broad and easy to see, and for a short distance it follows the stream that runs behind garden fences. There are several good points of access to the water, which is clean and shallow for a good paddle in wellies.

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For the next 500m or so, this path meanders along beside the stream, through woodland with rhodendendron, all beeches and mixed vegetation. There are snowdrops, daffodils and wild garlic. At some points, the path cross the stream, and most of the way the waterway will now be on your left. It remains mostly very shallow throughout, and you can see where various generations of children have built dams and played games.
The opposite bank is quite steep and mostly inaccessible, but there are two or three really good points to cross over and run down again, either jumping the water at the end or crossing via makeshift bridges and ropeswings.
Be aware that at some points the path divides to go round different trees etc, and in places it can be a little steep and VERY muddy in wet weather. Look out along the way from Treecreepers, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatches and Jays. You may even here woodpeckers drumming in the spring.

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Photo3002Redwood Road
After 500m or so, the stream becomes less evident as it passes through an indistinct area of marshland and squidge, where invasive plants like Skunk Cabbage (lysichiton americanus) proliferate in summer and the banks on both sides get steeper. You can see houses above you away to the left as the path emerges onto a marked cycleway that traverses the valley. The woodland continues on the other side of this cycleway, but it is inaccessible and not recommended as there are no paths and no way through.
Instead, turn right onto the cycleway for a short distance and you will see several large Redwood trees adorned with a wide variety of bird feeders (3).
These attract lots of tits and finches, and thrushes especially in the colder winter months as well as more familiar garden birds all year round.
Before the exit onto Redwood Rod, you will see a wide pathway going up hill to the left, passed a garage and a couple of sheds. Proceed up here and you will emerge at a manicured laurel hedge on the pavement in Bassett Wood Road. Slightly to your left you will see a Public Footpath sign indicating a short cul-de-sac opposite that you should cross over and walk into.
It gets interesting here (4) because the road both looks and feels private as the tarmac road gives way to a wide gravel driveway. There are private houses on both sides and straight ahead, but look out for a gate in the hedge and proceed through here, in the same direction as the road behind you. The grass beneath your feet for the next 50m is well kept and does rather feel like someone’s lawn, but you are at liberty to walk through the iron gates at the end (it opens on the left side) and emerge – carefully- onto the pavement in Bassett Green Road.

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The house you have just passed is North Lodge, a former gatehouse and from this side, the gates look imposing. Like me, you will have driven past them many times and not realised there was a public thoroughfare, but closer inspection does reveal an overgrown and decaying Public Footpath sign pointing back where you have just been…

The Other Bit of wood
Now the fun part… On the opposite side of Bassett Green Road (which is the busy A27) is a large but untidy laurel hedge marking the boundary of a mixed rhododendron, beech and pine copse that lies beyond and shields the house of Bassett from the motorway. It appears inaccessible, but that inspired me to look closer. A driveway on the left is private, but the gardens are clearly fenced from the woodland. Directly opposite the North Lodge gate is a hole in the hedge (5)

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Crossing the road is perilous and needs to be carefully undertaken, and there is no path on the other side, which is very important when emerging the other way. Proceed with haste and caution and it is possible to go directly into the woodland for a good climb on the fallen trees or a game of hide-and-seek in the variosu dens and bushes

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There are no paths in this area and it is not easy to wander around, but that makes it more fun… be careful though as the M27 motorway lies beyond the perimeter fence. It is not possible (at least I couldn’t see a route) through and out to the right, further down Bassett Green Road, so the best option seems to be back out through the hole in the hedge, proceeding with extreme caution back to the North Lodge gates.

Walk from here for 200m or so to the first junction on the right, and turn into Bassett Green Drive which is a very steep road with some impressive properties on either side. Descend the hill to the T-junction at the bottom and turn left along Bassett Green Close.
Most of the houses along here are single storey and you can see the wood you previously walked in at the bottom of the gardens, but be aware there is no access anywhere along this road so you need to keep to the pavement. At different times of the year, various houses have goods for sale – either plants, apples or vegetables. I forget the number, but one property on the left (6) has a sign outside indicating that they sell local honey…

Bassett Green Village
It seems quite a long road, but at the end, turns sharply left uphill for a short distance back on to Bassett Green Road, keeping right. It is only a few meters from here (past the bus stop) into the original Bassett Village on the right hand side, formerly a tiny hamlet at the south end of the Stoneham estate. Walk in here and follow the row of thatched cottages down the slope to your right, signposted The Orchard. The road becomes a footpath very quickly as it descends past the village green, and just past the last house you will see a Public Footpath sign on the left indicating the way ahead between two long garden fences (7). Take this footpath steeply down the hill and it leads to a private road which you need to cross. Directly opposite is a path back to the original stream, on the opposite bank to the point at which you first entered the woodland

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I hope you enjoy this walk.

Great for children and dogs – allow 1.5 – 2 hours

 

Moments of Pleasure

Cloudbusting – Live at The Tivoli, Wimborne. March 5th 2016

Wow (1979 – 4th single)
Moving (1978 – album track from The Kick Inside)
Army Dreamers (1980 – 7th single)
Breathing (1980 – 5th single. The one about nuclear war)
Don’t Give Up (1986 – 19th single. Duet with Peter Gabriel)
The Man With The Child In His Eyes (1978 – 2nd single)
Babooshka (1980 – 6th single. “One more hit before we take you back to 1985…”)
THE HOUNDS OF LOVE album:
Running Up That Hill (1985 – 15th single)
Hounds Of Love (1986 – 17th single)
The Big Sky (1986 – 18th single)
Mother Stands For Comfort
Cloudbusting
(1986 – 16th single)

INTERVAL

THE NINTH WAVE (song suite – Side 2 of Hounds Of Love album):
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog
Aerial (A Sea of Honey)  (2005 – title track of eighth studio album)
Sat In Your Lap (1981 – 9th single. “One of Kate’s craziest songs”)
James & The Cold Gun (1978 – album track from the Kick Inside)
ENCORE:
This Woman’s Work (1989 – 22nd single)
Wuthering Heights (1978 – 1st single)

One  of the most anticipated gigs I have ever been to. Not only because it was to be my first experience of a tribute band (which I confess I was rather apprehensive about), but also because it would be my first experience of any Kate Bush material performed live. I have yet to forgive my parents properly for refusing permission to let their 15 year old son travel to London to see her perform in 1979, and I was unable to afford tickets to see the run of stage shows in 2014. I cling to the hope there is Never Forever…
So in that respect, I suppose Cloudbusting (the longest running and most applauded tribute act) initially seemed like ‘the next best thing’ and I was eagerly awaiting the show at Wimborne’s historic Tivoli Theatre. It turned out that ‘the next best thing’ was entirely disrespectful and the gig was so much more than that…

From the opening bars of Wow, it’s immediately apparent that Mandy Watson has got it. Vocally perfect, and pretty much faultless throughout she captures the essence of Kate precisely. Her range is good, and she makes the songs her own so its far more than a convincing impression. On some of the more theatrical songs, Sat In Your Lap or The Big Sky for example, she is a little more restrained than Kate and lacks the manic, screaming element that would be exhausting on stage as part of a set that requires as much delicate subtlety as it does demonic wailing. And that is a crucial point to bear in mind while watching Cloudbusting. Most of these songs were never performed live even by Kate Bush, and were not written with stage performance in mind or even recorded with a whole band in the studio at the time. Kate crafted her songs, patiently, restlessly, recording instruments and vocals over and over again using effects, re-takes (even with different musicians) and many hours of mixing sessions to achieve her unique sound.

Which makes Cloudbusting’s interpretation and performance even more convincing. The band are a five piece, and perform without a string section. This brings songs like the Jig Of Life under the spotlight in particular, and the cello-driven rhythm of Under Ice – both of which are among the evening’s highlights, all crafted skillfully by Michael Mayell on his bank of Hammond keyboards and Mac effects. A KB fan for life, like myself, Michael arranges all the material and has clearly wasted most of his life well getting a Deeper Understanding from studying minutely inside the songs. His piano on Man With The Child In His Eyes and This Woman’s Work is a delight.

So I was convinced and entertained by Cloudbusting, but not solely in their faithful reproduction of familiar material. Their bravery and confidence impressed me too, and the setlist was a revelation. I sat down expecting the set to be a ‘greatest hits’ evening, and for the first half hour that’s what we got as one hit followed another up to Dave Roberts wonderful fretless bass work and the iconic sound effects on Babooshka, including his more than credible impression of Peter Gabriel for Don’t Give Up. Then they took us back to 1985, introducing the Hounds Of Love album with a short film that reproduced my experience of the release. Three years had passed since The Dreaming, an insane album of some complicated and frankly bizarre songs that still challenge thirty years later (I know consider it a work of far-sighted genius) and like every 21 year-old male of my generation I was eagerly waiting to see what KB would come up with next.
But even after Running Up that Hill, Hounds Of Love and The Big Sky I was not expecting a performance of the full album tonight.

So when the second part of the show opened with And Dream Of Sheep, I gripped my seat. They were going for it, and for twenty minutes I was mesmerised as the Ninth Wave complete with films and sound effects washed over the (rather polite and reserved crowd) in its lush and extravagant entirety. With no filmed performances of the originals to draw on, Mandy’s performance on stage is her own. She doesn’t really seem to be trying to BE Kate Bush, but rather she embraces the spirit of KB and interprets movements and stagecraft in her own way. It really works. The stand-out of the whole evening slipped by almost unrecognised at the time, as Watching You Without Me came and went but left an indellible mark on this listener. Very clever, ‘haunting’ the musicians, whispering and touching them. I’m not here. You can’t see me…

It wasn’t all perfect, but that wasn’t what I wanted. Aerial seemed the evening’s out of place number, something of a filler. It seemed oddly incongruous with the chronology too,  but effectively bridged the space after The Morning Fog before the tempo raised up for a rock-out to the end with Sat In Your Lap (Mayell’s favourite) and an extending showdown of James & The Cold Gun complete with guitar solo from the Tour Of Live EP version recorded live at Hammersmith.

I have always like This Woman’s Work, and so another hair-tingling Moment Of Pleasure followed as Michael and Mandy returned for an encore, joined on stage by the rest of the band for the inevitable and much-applauded sing-a-long-a-Wuthering Heights to close the evening.

The result is that I’d go again. I like Cloudbusting in their own right. They bring Kate Bush studio albums to life in a way that no-one else will, making them convincing and accessible to loyal fans like me whose expectations are high and critical ears are keen.

What is more, they have set me off listening to the original albums again, which can’t be a bad thing.

And d’you know what K…?
I love you better now

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And below are some of the wonderful comments following the band’s sharing of this review on Facebook:

Melanie Goddard Brilliant review of what was a fabulous evening. This was my first experience of a tribute band too and my first live band since I was lucky enough to see Kate Sept 2014 so I too was full of trepidation. It was a stunning evening and I can’t wait for a chance to see the band again x

Robert Smith After attending the Railway gig earlier this year, we’re really looking forward to the Manchester Academy gig in April, plus all other venues in the north west.

Lucie Tomlinson I hope you all one day realise how good you are! Totally deserved review – cannot wait to see you again – keep up this amazing work Xxx

Trevor Willis Well done cloudbusting brilliant review an rightly so 😀 cannot wait to see an hear u again on the 25th

Louise Phillips Fantastic praise and well deserved – congratulations Cloudbusting! X

Fitzy Fitzy Looking forward to Cloudbusting coming back to Putney in the big city on the 25th.

Jane Everett Me too! smile emoticon

John O’Neill A deservedly brilliant review. Can’t wait to see you again later this month in Braintree! 😀 x
Trevor Martin Well deserved credit xx

Dave Wilkinson A great piece. Can’t wait to see them again.

Alan Burgess I think they review speaks for a lot of us out there. I

Catherine Mc Fantastic review! So happy for you guys, you are soooo good xx

Vron Ongley And what a creative mind Kate has, wow, amazing!!

Susan Norris This really was a great night. Looking forward to the next one!

Tim Fletcher Dam by all accounts an amazing gig. Will check them out next time. If anyone is local then check out

Sally Dolly Gue Great review! See you again in Southampton

Terri Cristofoli Brilliant review. Long may it continue. smile emoticon x

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