The Best Gig I Have Been To Yet – Sunn O))) @ The Stylus, Leeds

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For sixteen years, Sunn O))) have been challenging the way we think about music. In that relatively brief time, core members Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have forged connections between the worlds of Metal, Drone, Contemporary Composition, Jazz and Minimalism with startling results while remaining true to the eternal principles of volume, density and weight.

Sunn O))) are renowned for their no compromising live sets. I did not know if this was limited to their hometown of Seattle, Washington or if they pulled out all of the stops for all of their tours. So when I heard they were playing just down the road in Leeds I bought a brace of tickets and set off with Kathryn.

We descended the stairs to The Stylus and it became apparent that the band were pulling no punches. Despite getting there an hour before Sunn O))) were to step on stage we were met by a wall of dry ice as soon as we entered the main room. This artificial smoke was to be continuously pumped out throughout the live performance to the point that by the end of the gig we could hardly see the bar to our right, of which we were stood ten foot away from – let alone the group on stage. There was a thick fug – but we could make out most of their gear..

Smoke: The Beginning – Taken with an iPhone SE

So, Atilla took the stage at around 2030 and started muttering incantations. The mans voice was amazing. The room was shaking (physically and atmospherically) to just the gruff growl of a satanic blessing – at least that is what I thought he was doing. It was a bit hard to make out with the smoke machines. Kathryn thought he was speaking in Elvish.

Then the Guitars started. And my what drone. To call it a musical feat would be belittling music and in turn be belittling the spectacle that we witnessed at the Stylus. To be so tight as a group as to know when exactly to play your note is something else – but it was more so with Sunn O))) as there was no beat or drummer yet could do just that. But there were smoke machines. From what we could make out through the fog, the members of the group were all clad in robes.

Smoke Pt. II – Taken with an iPhone SE

Was what we went to see? Music? Noise? Ah, an old debate. I’m comfortable saying it was music even though they played drawn out notes for forty seconds – it was tight and it was organised sound therefore I would describe it as music. The was the whole minimal/maximal thing going on and they pulled it off really well

But the volume! Hands down the loudest gig I have ever been to. The hair on my shorted legs was flapping about as the notes blurred and pulses into an overwhelming climax that saw Atilla have a outfit change so he re-appeared on the stage, dressed as what can only be described as Disco Sauron – with lasers shooting out of his mittens.

Smoke: The Finalé – Taken with an iPhone SE

It was hard to make out the member’s of the group on stage – Atilla was lit up with a spot-light and had his own smoke machine bubbling away at his feet. Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson were only seen right at the end when the curtain call came. There was no encore – the Satanic Mass had ended and were released to go about our business. I think I saw Atilla waving a blade around in the fog – so, this could have been an actual ritual. If you know a bit more about the group than me then feel free to fill in the comments section and correct me.

It was easily the best gig I have been to – Kathryn echoed that sentiment too. It was completely overpowering. It was non-compromising. It was inspirational. Tomorrow, I will picking out my SUNN amp and dusting off my guitar – sod the poncy Jazz Guitar, Drone is what I want to do now.

Letter #13

 

I have the good fortune to be a member of Amnesty and Liberty. They are both Human Right’s Groups who campaign for mankind’s betterment – I figure all I have to do is click a few buttons to express my point of view – how different that could be if I was just born in another country.

So, when Amnesty UK emailed me asking for support I jumped at the opportunity – I have emailed another letter to Andrew Jones – Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough.

I admit that most of the following is copied and posted from Amnesty’s web site – but the more people who hear about it the better. Strength in numbers … right? To petition your own MP to attend the debate please click here.

Arrested at the airport

Nazanin had been visiting family in Iran with her daughter Gabriella, and was about to board a flight back to London from a Tehran airport when she was arrested by officials believed to belong to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Her toddler daughter was handed to her grandparents who had accompanied them to the airport, while Nazanin was taken away.

A family torn apart

Following arrest, Nazanin was subjected to 45 days in solitary confinement. Her family had no idea where she was, and it wasn’t until a month later that she was allowed to see them; or to be granted access to a lawyer. Any contact with her family in Iran and the UK is now limited and controlled.

Gabriella, now three, has had no choice but to remain in Iran with her grandparents. She gets to see her mum just twice a week and only gets to speak to her dad, Richard Ratcliffe by Skype. Richard has campaigned tirelessly for his wife’s freedom from their home in the UK.

Nazanin’s ‘crime’

Nazanin was arrested on vague charges, held in solitary confinement for months, and – following an unfair trial – was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘membership of an illegal group’.

The charge was in connection to her work at the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), a charity organisation promoting socio-economic progress, independent journalism and the rule of law, and her past work at BBC’s Media Action.

We therefore consider Nazanin a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association: she must be immediately and unconditionally released. 

Health concerns

Prison is taking its toll on Nazanin. She suffers from severe arm, neck and back pain and needs urgent specialised medical care in hospital. In recent months, she has had very limited movement in her arms. The specialist who requested her hospitalisation warned that there is a risk that her right arm and hand will be permanently damaged if she doesn’t get the medical care she needs.

Kamal Foroughi

Nazanin is in no way the only dual national in prison in Iran. Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old British-Iranian man, is also imprisoned in Iran serving a seven-year prison sentence in Evin prison, Tehran, for alleged espionage, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 by men in plain clothes who did not show an arrest warrant or explain the reasons for his arrest.  He was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial.

Like Nazanin, Kamal is separated from his family – he hasn’t seen his daughter, son or two granddaughters for six years. He has not had any outside visitor for over 2,000 days and he’s not allowed to write or receive letters.  

Also, like Nazanin, he has not been provided with much needed specialist medical care. Despite needing an operation to remove cataracts in both eyes and screening for prostate cancer, Kamal has repeatedly been denied leave on medical grounds. Read more about Kamal’s case on the next tab.

UK’s role

Although Prime Minister, Theresa May and other Ministers have raised concerns about Nazanin and Kamal with the Iranian government, and have called for Kamal to be released on humanitarian and medical grounds, it is deeply concerning that they have yet to call for Nazanin’s release.
It is time for the UK government to up the pressure and publicly call for both Nazanin and Kamal to be released from prison and brought back home to the UK.

Kamal Foroughi & Grand-daughter

Kamal Foroughi should be free

According to Iranian law Kamal has been eligible for release since January 2014 as he has served a third of his sentence. His lawyer has made more than 50 applications for his release on this basis but there has never been a formal response. In addition, he has been barred from legal advice and contact with his family at various points throughout his six-year incarceration. He was denied access to a lawyer from the day of his arrest until the day before his trial. Now, in prison, he has only very limited access to a lawyer. He has not been allowed British consular assistance either.

Kamal has not seen his daughter, son and two granddaughters for six years (they all live in/near London) and was not allowed to call them for the first three years of his detention.

He has not had any outside visitor for over 2,000 days.

He is permitted regular phone calls but must only speak in Persian, which family members in the UK do not speak well, making it difficult for them to communicate with him.

It is time for Kamal to come home.


Dear Andrew Jones MP,

As you may be aware, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, 18 July at 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm in the House of Commons on British prisoners in Iran. This is a real opportunity to show the government how much support there is in Parliament for the release of two British-Iranian dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. I know you will have a busy Parliamentary schedule, but I am writing to ask you if you could please attend the debate and join the call and ask the UK government to press for their release.

Background:

Nazanin was arrested in April 2016, when she was attempting to board a flight home to the UK after visiting her parents in Iran with her then 1-year-old daughter Gabriella. She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence after she was convicted of “membership of an illegal group” in connection with her work at the charity, Thomas Reuters Foundation, and her past work at BBC Media Action. Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and association through her professional work and must be immediately and unconditionally released.

Kamal is a 77-year-old British-Iranian man serving a seven-year prison sentence in Iran, for alleged ‘espionage’, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 and was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial. Under Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic penal code, which allows for the conditional release of prisoners after serving one third of their sentence, Kamal is eligible for release and has been since January 2014. The Iranian authorities must apply this provision without discrimination.

Thank you for your support.

Andrew Backhouse


In the interests of democracy I will publish Andrew Jones’ reply in the comments section of this post.

Kathryn Had A Vinyl Birthday!

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So then, the love of my life, Kathryn Backhouse had a birthday today – she has given permission for me to print her age on this blog. She is no longer twenty one years old but has reached the fine age of thirty three –  we call this a “vinyl birthday” in our house (33 // 45 // 78). She has grown in beauty and grace everyday since I met her drunkenly in a nightclub when she was 21.

The road of matrimony has not been smooth due to me and my health but Kathryn has always been there to level out my Yin with her Yang. She is the best thing to ever happen to me.

So, what happened on her birthday? I admit I missed out on the first part (the AM of the day) due to a late night at CREAO Studio with Stewart and Allan recording the Sound of Wonder Show.

However, as soon as I woke I was dispensing gifts.

For Kathryn’s birthday I bought her a print by locally acclaimed artist Robby Burns and some vinyl – well, it is a vinyl birthday (33rpm) so I bought her the vinyl she would like. I got her two records by Blood Youth – a local group who Kathryn has been following for a year or so. I admit we are yet to stick it on, but it bodes well and their sticker is on our fridge now.

Here are an image Kathryn took with her phone of one of her gifts –

 

 

I went for a power snooze around two and woke up at five – this was quite disconcerting as I thought I had broken the bad cycle of day time sleeping. Still – it rejuvenated me for the on-coming evening. We had a table booked at the local Cau Restaurant and the meal there was fantastic!

I am always worried that this will turn in to a “what I had for tea” blog – but seriously, I cannot praise the food and the friendly staff at Cau higher – they really looked after us and the food was tip top. Whilst at Cau, we experimented – we figured we had never taken a selfie in our eleven year’s worth of relationship. So, I plucked up the courage and asked Kathryn if I could take a selfie – and what a selfie:

We hot footed it down to Major Tom’s Social Club to see about getting a few beers down us. Simon G. was there and he was a the life and soul of the get together – me, Kathryn and Simon chewed the fat and had a great time. The highlight of my beer tasting was buying a can of Verdant’s “Chasing Kevin” – a delicious Cornish Pale Ale brewed using five Malts.

I gave the barkeeps’, Sam & Joe, a taste and went home carrying a cactus with a sense that all is well with the world. Yes, there were drunken farmers arguing with Take-Away shops. But, there was also us, a couple walking home, who were so desperately in love that the roots of the initial blossom of their relationship have intertwined so much that me and Kathryn are inseparable for a lifetime and beyond.

I love you Kathryn. Happy Birthday. x

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I Played Remedy

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Bit of a busy weekend that needs recapping – I will try my utmost to be forthright and not deviate from this promise. It was a vintage weekend – plenty of sleep and maximum fun; a good time was had by all. I partied, people partied and people had fun – there was beer, there was cake and there was good music.

Thursday night saw me radically shift my blogging behaviour. All of the images on this blog are now hosted on my Dropbox account – why is this? Well, the load speeds for Dropbox will be universal around the world. My server is based in Nottingham. This means that when someone logs on to my site from a location distant to Nottingham then it would take quite a while for the image to float through the æther and appear on their screen. The idea behind having all the images stored on Dropbox is the quicker load time will boost my search rankings for this blog – a quicker loading site means higher in the search rankings. So, mammoth blog maintenance has been achieved and I am happy with it.

Another thing I have done is shift the Blog from www.ijopona.org to this domain – I did not really see the point in having a personal, more private, blog as I had publicly “outed” myself as this internet menace who likes to talk about all and sundry to all and sundry – chatterbox really. So, Ijo Pona has died a death.

Friday night saw me ready to go RETRO Bar to play some music. I waited there for an hour until I received a very apologetic text from the Bar Manager saying he had taken ill. Poor lad’d had to be referred to A&E and subsequently been told to take it easy for the remainder of the day – It was a bit of an upset to hear that my friend was not feeling too well after the death of Juna the barkeep. I am a bit worried for him as his blood pressure is down.

So, Friday saw me in Major Tom’s having crashed a date that my good friend Daren was having – him and his lady friend are possibly the funnest, funniest couple I know – more power to them; I believe I told them I think they are ace, but may have hammered home my point a bit too tearfully – cue embarrassing silence.

Saturday was full steam ahead – I woke up in a panic at 8am only to go back to bed until 12pm – rave rest was needed because the destination that night was Remedy at Beaver Works, Leeds. I was taking part in the All Day Party hosted with FIRE before the main rave kicked off. My set went down well – I have rerecorded the set so people can listen to it. Here is is …

There were quite a few familiar faces there – It was great to see Sam & Jason and just chill out for a bit. Allan really enjoyed himself and I found him lying on his back, looking at the evening sky, giggling to himself around 2am – we all decided it was time to get a taxi home – so, booked, talked and travelled we arrived home in H’gate shattered.

Sunday has been a day where I have not got out of my pyjamas – it has been great. I have been gradually drifting to and from bed for a snooze and then waking up for the duration of the day. I managed to record the above mix as a way of try to emulate what I had done the day before. I also recorded my radios how, The Parish News – which can be found on the portfolio section of this site – Forty Fifth Edition of The Parish News. It is a belter.

I start with a homage to Pierre Henry who recently passed away in the week – I admire the man’s music and what he stood for – he was not afraid to try something new and this is how I intend to live my life (except drugs … winners don’t do drugs). He left a fantastic body of work that will be treasured by those that own some of it – and if you do not have any Pierre Henry then I recommend “1st Panorama de Musique Concrete (Remastered)” which is going for 50p on Trunk Record’s shop this week.

In Praise Of Black & White Photography

 

We talk a lot about slowing down our approach to taking pictures but maybe we should also slow down when we take them. So often, people take image on their phones. Shooting 20 or 30 images without much thought in a burst of a few seconds.

It would be nice perhaps to look at one image, to really look at it, to understand it and the photographer behind it. If each picture we take does not have significance why take the image?

We live in a world saturated with imagery and we have become fluent in it’s language, but is it a rather limited language? Is the speed at which we use it, disallowing the depth and complexity it is capable of?

That is why I shoot more in Black and White. Monochrome imagery has a depth of meaning. From a personal point of view there is something almost something disposable about colour photographs (maybe I am doing it wrong).

However, I find that it is easier to convey the emotions of an image if it is shot in Black and white. It adds nobility to the image. It adds pathos.

Chop / Change / Change / Chop

 

Exciting times here – as readers of my online presence may be aware, I had a personal Blog at www.ijopona.org. I have since closed that down and moved all of the posts over to here, www.andybackhouse.blog

The reason behind having an anonymous personal blog was due to reasons beyond my control – however, I am Andrew Backhouse and this is my Blog.

There has been a gradual “Outing” of my self – but, I am Andy Backhouse & I write about a heap of nonsense.

The old blog on this another site, my Arty Blog, has been amalgamated into the monster that is the old Ijo Pona Blog but eventually left out.

There are vestiges of Ijo Pona on this Blog – I will not attempt to correct or change the text.

So then, other than that, I have not been up to much – Kathryn is out at a Rock night supporting Doctors Without Borders and I had a nasty dream involving Carol Vorderman. Apart from that, all is Groovy.

CREAO Studio Shoot

 

Creao Studio Shoot :: I am mates with Allan. Allan owns a recording studio called CREAO Studio. Me, Allan and Scooby meet up there every Thursday (there abouts) to record Scoob’s radio show, The Sound Of Wonder.

The Sound Of Wonder is a weekly radio show that plays some pretty out-there music and it is a right laugh to do. We meet up in 10 Devonshire Place around seven thirty in the evening, have a few pints and then go and do the show.

Well, what type of music gets played on The Sound Of Wonder? The music that gets played on The Sound of Wonder can only be called eclectic: there is Vietnamese Folk Songs and Bollywood Horror Film Soundtracks to DnB and trad jazz. All sorts.

Of course the real highlight is hanging out with Allan, Stewart and Daren when they are there.

The Wednesday before this week’s Thursday’s session, I received a new lens in the post. A 16mm Wide Angle Lens for my SONY A6000. I took some good BnW images. Here is the slideshow

BBC Shouty