Charitable

Sorry mate, didn’t see you down there – yeah I’ve got a quid, of course I do care.

But I can’t stop now, I’m in a rush you see, got places to go and people to see.

Next time though, I’ll sort you it out, I promise, I swear.

You’re always around, since the shelter closed down, and the soup kitchen stopped.

Just when was that, can’t have been long, a few weeks if that?

Oh it must feel longer, with the state that you’re in.

Never thought of it before, I can’t imagine.

But there’s stuff you can do, there’s support all the time.

I’m certain about it, I read it online.

Shifting Skyline

Goodbye old friend, they’re tearing you down

Town won’t be the same when you’re not around.

Bulldozers and diggers, take you away

Slowly stealing you, day after day.

 

Sure you looked rough, over the years

But times can be tough, no need for tears.

Concrete and brick reduced to just rubble

Because the council said you were trouble.

 

As long as I can remember, you were always there

Your rugged body piercing the air.

A brutalist beauty that many despised

But I always saw a masterpiece disguised.

 

Streets are now changing and nothing will last

It’s a shame to lose a part of our past.

And whatever comes, after your fall

I’m sure won’t match your stature at all.

Down At The Protest

Is it a medical condition

To want to lead the nation,

To dictate your plans for the entire population?

 

Wouldn’t it seem strange

To take charge of this boat

If you didn’t have the power of the popular vote?

 

Not that I picked you

I wanted the other guy.

Millions chose you but no one knows why.

 

But things have now changed

And so we discuss your decorum

From the eyes of the popular forum.

 

That’s why I’m here

Ready with impatient feet,

With an army of believers marching down the street.

 

So let it be heard

That we think you’re absurd,

And we won’t be deterred.

 

With voices rising from the centre of town

To an online movement that’s picking up ground

All with the intention of bringing you down.

Tenement

I did not wander lonely as a cloud

As I have no space to call my own.

And there was no sunshine when she’s gone

Because I never had the right to light.

 

I am not “rocking vintage styles”

I’m just struggling to make ends meet.

I didn’t realise I was in fashion

Because I’ve got knackered shoes on my feet.

 

So we’re told to work more and spend less

By people who work less and spend more.

Who make the rules for us to follow

But only enforce them on the poor.

 

Now when did it become so popular

To be run down, put down and put upon?

Despite what they say, I’m not in my element

Here, in my forgotten tenement.

An Overlooked View

The early morning fog still hangs in the air on a cold day in March as he starts the car engine and pulls away from the sleepy suburb. It’s still too soon in the day for the nearby families to start their weekend routines; too soon for lawn mowers to splutter to life or for fathers to being their weekly ritual of washing the car. The occasional fellow driver passes by as he makes his way through the winding country roads, all hedge rows and blind bends. The other drivers’ fog lights loom into existence out of the gray mist before flitting past and then back into the murky nothingness.

When he’s on his own out here, working his way down a route that few others bother to take, he sometimes feels like he’s the only person around for miles. The soft, muted greens and browns of the rolling countryside are all that he can see, despite knowing that large swathes of the surrounding area are all brick and concrete, toil and labour. But for now, out here alone, he’s in the wilderness, where he wants to be.

The minutes start to stretch out towards an hour, and as they do the sun slowly begins to pull itself up into the sky. The fog lazily shimmers and lifts, fading away. The road leads him to a quiet, empty car park on a woodland reserve that he’s known for years. He takes a pair of old, weathered walking boots from the back seat – where they’ve always lived – and changes into them. Soon enough he’s ready to start his journey, a few miles up and round to a small summit that rarely holds an appeal to others. The route is straight forward enough, and it isn’t the highest, the hardest, or the longest; just another peak in a land of many. But for today – for him – it will do.

Strong steady footsteps take him on his way around ferns and oak, dead leaves and mud. There’s still a certain give underneath his boots from where the cool morning damp has softened the ground with it’s moisture. It slows him down a little but not in a bad way, as if the land is trying to make things easier, more forgiving, for him. Even so, the journey doesn’t take long. Eventually the shafts of golden sunlight darting through the trees get stronger and larger as he nears the peak, acting like beacons for him to follow.

He passes a gently flowing waterfall to his right, its soft, ululating sound a perfect accompaniment to it’s cascading motion. By now the sun’s light has bathed the water in a nourishing glow and the scene makes him pause to take it in. There’s no one else around and for this brief, fleeting moment he gets to enjoy something all to himself. Further ahead, the top of the waterfall and his trail beckon to him.

A final scramble up rocky shards and outcroppings takes him towards the peak. Pulling himself up with hands and feet, he starts to feel the distant, dull ache of fatigue calling to him, but chooses to ignore it. Not far now, he thinks as the treeline gradually gives way and recedes to the clear blue sky beyond. As he makes the last steps over the last ridge everything else falls away to reveal the vast landscape before him. Washes of verdant green from distant trees, deep tan and brown from the dirt paths snaking their way along the fields; sharp slate gray cliffs and rocks cutting through the soft contours of the gently dipping hills around them. All of this he takes in at once, almost overwhelming him despite it’s familiarity. Standing still at last he realises how alive everything is – from the delicate sway of the grass beneath his feet to the chirping calls of a chaffinch above his head. In his effort to reach the summit he had almost forgotten to notice everything else around him.

The sun continues its silent arc across the sky, summoning other people the higher it climbs. Gradually, tiny boxes of metal glint in the distance, winding their way down small stretches of tarmac towards him. The last few curls of clouds roll away, shying away from their arrival. He reaches for his phone, to document this moment forever in a photograph; something permanent that can’t be forgotten. But then, he pauses, puts the phone away. There might be better trails to walk, better cliffs to climb, better views to see, but this trail, this cliff, this view right now is his alone. He knows as well that there will be better photos taken on better cameras from this very spot; but they’re not here right now. Perhaps it’s best that way.

Whatever Happened To Chill Out Music?

There was a point when the more mellow side of dance music was bigger, more popular – somehow, louder – than what was going on on the dance floor. B sides and remixes would inevitable be slower, more spaced out affairs than the lead track, and the likes of Groove Armada and Bonobo were getting as much attention from marketing companies and advertising agencies as DJS and clubbers. But now, chillout and it’s many variations (ambient, Balearic, trip hop and downtempo to name a few) are all but consigned to the bargain bins and niche websites, firmly relegated to the margins. How did such a ubiquitous scene fall so far, so fast?

It’s the mid nineties and dance music has firmly made it’s mark in the UK’s culture. Pop music has started taking on elements of breakbeats and cut up vocals into it’s own productions, fashion has appropriated the colourful, laid back look of club goers and the national film industry has started taking notice, with electronic soundtracks proving to be a big hit. Everyone’s becoming familiar with the post pub, late night session and the post club come down. And to soundtrack that last part were of course records like the Orb’s UFOrb, Global Communications’ 76:14 and most appropriately of all, the KLF’s Chill Out. Now, everyone had access to just the right music to gently ease them back into normal everyday life. Often long, instrumental pieces with a certain psychedelic edge to them, they struck a sublime mix of being easy listening while not being too easy listening, too bland. And this is where things start to change.

One of the underlying things linking these albums, and the majority of those other records out at the time, was that they consisted of tracks and not songs. Verses and choruses were not a part of dance music’s DNA, so why should these be any different? The tracks were made for people who would know this, who appreciated it, so that’s what they got. But it was only a matter of time before someone came along and realised how easily this kind of music would appeal to anyone. All it needed was the right spin.

Flash forward ten years later and things have changed dramatically – not just for chillout but for the whole scene. The obligatory chillout room in each club has now gone, replaced by “Room Two”, essentially another main room where venues could sell more drinks as opposed to letting revellers have a brief rest and chat before diving back into the action. Outside of the club and singles, 12”s and EPs no longer feel the need to have a slowed down, more melodic version on the flip side. In their place, of course, is the infamous chillout compilation. What had initially been a very successful, and cool, calling card for the likes of Mixmaster Morris – a chance to turn people on to some fantastic but obscure cuts – was now flooding the market with generic, faceless mixes of anything remotely linked to the quieter end of the dance music spectrum. Lazy slowed down hip hop beat? No drums at all? Keyboards over guitars? Any of that would get you on the next yearly installment of Now That’s What I Call Ibiza Sunset Chillout. No wonder the Orb pushed into more experimental techno territories, or that the KLF went completely into performance art mode.

Soundtracking high profile adverts as much as the Sunday recovering session, great tracks were getting played on every TV, in every shop and at every dinner party around. And now they were songs, not tracks! Suddenly, it seemed as if the chillout movement had made it’s move into the mainstream, and in a big way. This meant that middle aged housewives were more likely to be picking up the latest Basement Jaxx album than a main room DJ was. And to compete with all of this competition, all of those mix CDs and compilations were sticking to the biggest, safest choices in their tracklistings. No longer content with just catering for a relatively niche market, major labels had smoothed out any of those psychedelic rough edges to reach as many people- as many customers -as possible. Which was the start of the end of chillout’s reign.

As chillout moved out of the main room and into the living room, other genres quickly moved in to take it’s place. Techno, breakbeat and electro soon dominated clubs, and promoters realised that another room of high energy, uptempo music would put more money behind the bar than one full of bean bags and idly chatting folk. Which brings us to where we are now in the warehouses, raves and clubs of today. But as for the home? Well, it never really went away did it – chillout has been too successful, too well known to be just left behind. And that’s where it would perhaps be better off now, really. Ready for when we get back in the morning, or for putting something likable on when we’re taking it easy with others. The likes of Burial, the XX and the “night bus” movement, along with the Balearic website Test Pressing and DJ Chris Coco, still offer a modern, remixed version on offer if you’ve just had too much that Kinobe tune off the beer advert.

So thanks for the great nights out chillout, they were great. You might have grown up and stopped doing the big nights, but you’re always welcome back to ours.