“All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey…”
Autumn is here and that means flapjack season is upon us. Always exciting. And so too the first flapjack based argument. Plain vs fruit. Nut vs not. Hell, while we’re at it, Maple Syrup vs Treacle. Carnage.
In the end, we agreed that the season should kick off with a basic, plain flapjack – Treacle, not Maple – only to find no oats. Good grief.
But it got me pondering. Sometimes, you can over-do the ingredients. Sometimes, simple is best. But sometimes, simple just hides a level of sophistication that the casual observer may well miss.
Take Taralli. These Southern Italian snacks are pretty much just wheat flour, olive oil, salt, and in the case of my favorites, fennel seeds. Some versions come with poppy seeds, pepper, chilli or just, well, nothing. They look a little like dried-up cat sick, except for some sweet versions; these look like dried-up cat sick glazed with sugar.
But they are exquisite. The crunch is superb; more Rich Tea than Digestive. Then the fennel adds a beautiful aniseedy aftertaste. Particularly fine with a glass of wine when you realise you haven’t got the key ingredient for flapjacks.
In Longfellow’s poem ‘The Goblet of Life’, fennel gets mentioned:
Above the lower plants it towers,
The Fennel with its yellow flowers;
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with the wondrous powers
Lost vision to restore
And maybe it’s the fennel in fourth Taralli, maybe it’s the second glass of wine (they’re quite big….) but my lost vision restored, I’m looking again at an album that I have enjoyed immensely over the last week or so, Sky Wires by Shovels Beat The Sun.
This is the third release for Bitrot, a Tehran based label, and I guess their first ‘proper’ album. Their first release is a collections of remixes, or Rekonstrukts, of Iranian artist Tegh’s Night Scenes, and jolly good it is too ( I particularly like Umchunga’s remix, sorry, Rekonstrukt.) The second is Kollektive 1 (what’s with the K’s?!) and is, as you have probably guessed, a huge collection of works in disparate styles from around the globe. Again, it’s a class release with some big names on it. Fittingly for this article, it’s the subtle, simple build of Umchunga (again!) that I’ve played the most.
But on to Sky Wires. This is the aural equivalent of top-quality Taralli. Deceptively simple sounding drones that reveal a depth and sophistication that belies initial cursory inspection. Four tracks totaling forty six minutes, each is given due space to evolve and flourish. An album to really listen to, to wallow in and to have soundtrack some serious zone out ‘me’ time.
Normally on Coffee & Flapjacks I give my personal response to an album as a whole and I don’t go into it, track by track. But with Sky Wires, I’d just like to make a couple of observations.
Firstly, it does sound like an album of two halves; it sounds to me like two sides of a vinyl, without the mucking about of turning the LP over. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work as a whole, it clearly does. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking…I’d like this on vinyl.
Secondly, ‘Everything is Not Alright’, (second track, side one!) has the biggest cahoonas I have heard in a long while. It’s a swaggering beast of a guitar fuelled drone. Play it loud on your headphones and you’ll agree. It kind of sounds like the cock-sure kid brother of Sunn O))), it’s that immense. Fabulous.
So, Sky Wires, an ace album and drone’s equivalent of Taralli. Except that you won’t be picking fennel seeds out of your teeth for half an hour after listening. That and it’s nothing like cat sick. And you can’t get it with a sugar glazing. Nor on vinyl.
Sky Wires was available as a limited 100 physical copies. I did order one but it hasn’t arrived yet – pictures look really good though. There may be a few left, God knows why, at the Bitrot bandcamp. Otherwise it’s digital download time from the same place….. get the two K albums too, while you’re at it.