Lives and dramas of a long-distance milkman

January 8, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Blogging on the fly, Life

Lunchtime stroll in Kensington Garden, the pond is frozen..


A small sign of life
December 31, 2008, 3:17 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: ,


This blog has been dead for some time, despite my intentions to keep it alive to talk about some of the music I receive, regardless of whether or not it will get featured on the site.

This post is in no way a promise that
I will do write here more often, but, since I’ve had an iPhone, it has made keeping up with emails a bit easier. I downloaded the WordPress app some time ago, but it is pretty useless for themilkfactory in it’s current incarnation, since it seems impossible to get pending or draft posts from other contributors, and that it doesn’t even seem to handle local drafts well, making them impossible to retrieve.

For THIS blog though, it may be good enough, so this is me trying it out to assess whether I may be able to post quick notes. More to come? Only the future will tell.

Until then, have a wonderful New Year.

Catherine Ringer chante Les Rita Mitsouko
April 16, 2008, 12:13 am
Filed under: Life | Tags: , ,

Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin, aka Les Rita Mitsouko

‘Même si tout s’éffondrait, je serais près de toi’ (even if everything was falling apart, I would be by your side). The words are taken from a song by French band Les Rita Mitsouko. Quite an appropriate caption to a wonderful evening.

The last time I updated this blog was to tell of the untimely death of Fred Chichin, guitarist, one half of aforementioned Rita Mitsouko, the other half being his life companion, the flamboyant singer Catherine Ringer. The pair released an album, Variéty, their seventh, last year, and toured quite extensively as Fred was progressively falling victim to a rapidly developing cancer. They came to London in November. I was unaware of Fred’s poor health, and although I was very tempted to go and see them, I eventually didn’t.

Earlier this year, Catherine gathered the band that her and Fred had put together and got back on the road, stopping, for one night, at London’s flamboyant and rococo Koko in Camden. This time, I was determined to, and glad I am I did too.

Catherine walked on stage with her band, announcing in broken English that the night would be quite emotional, with Fred not being by her side anymore, adding how much he loved London. She then kicked off with L’Ami Ennemi, from Variéty. I must say that, if Les Rita Mitsouko have been present in my life ever since their first hit single, Marcia Baila (apparently, I was reading recently, the most played song on French radio ever) was, well, all over every single radio stations all the way back in the mid eighties, I until recently only owned their second album, The No Comprendo, released in 1986. This means that, although I know quite a lot of the band’s songs for hearing them on the radio or on TV, there were plenty I didn’t know tonight. This didn’t however prevent me from enjoying the show, especially since Catherine was giving all she had, looking like a cross between a rock chick and Edith Piaf, dressed in a sober little black number.

Four songs in, and the opening bars of C’est Comme Ça, from The No Comprendo, sent Koko into a trance. The temperature never really came back down much after that, and when she kicked off Les Histoires D’A, much later, it was pure madness. Soon enough, it was the end, but Koko was not going to let Catherine go and erupted in a typically French chorus of ‘une autre, une autre’ (another song, another song). Catherine returned to give a full encore a la Française. Not the standard ‘two songs if you’re lucky’ that most British artists dish out at the end of a gig, but four songs, including a cover of the Velvet Underground and another of Mink DeVille (she had also done a Bowie track earlier), finishing with an incendiary version of Andy, an odd to Andy Capp, which had once again the whole of Koko on its feet, clapping, singing and dancing. She then introduced the band and left as ‘une autre, une autre’ resounded once again throughout the venue. Catherine and the band returned for a second encore during which they graced us with a magnificent version of Marcia Baila, with Ringer on the guitar, the very song that propelled Les Rita Mitsouko from unkown artists to superstars.

Fred might not be around anymore, but he was looking down tonight, his presence felt through each song. And the French community in London was definitely by Catherine’s side. Même si…

FRED CHICHIN (1954-2007)
December 2, 2007, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Life

Fred Chichin
I received an email a few days ago announcing the death of Fred Chichin, one half of Les Rita Mitsouko, a French band who he formed with his partner Catherine Ringer in 1979. Les Rita Mitsouko released their first self-titled album in 1984. The band shot to fame in France the following year with the single Marcia Baila, which was taken from the album. I remember taping the song on my radio back then and playing it over and over, and I still love it now.

Marcia Baila (1985)

Their second album, The No Comprendo (1986), remains their best record to date. Produced by long time Bowie producer Tony Visconti, it featured a string of singles that really established the band in France. Songs such as Andy (a song based on the cartoon character Andy Capp), Les Histoires D’A, C’est Comme Ça and Nuit D’ivresse, which featured on the soundtrack of the film of the same title, showed a few different sides of the band, from the electro funk of Andy to the driving rock of C’est Comme Ça. This is the only album of theirs I ever bought (apart from Bestov, their…er.. best of, a couple of years ago), but I’ve always had a soft spot for their quirky and non-conformist approach.. Around the time of The No Comprendo, they refused to play on any TV show where they couldn’t play live, a stance that not many few bands were ready to take then.

Andy (1986)

C’est Comme Ça (1986)

In 1988, Catherine and Fred released Marc & Robert, their third album, which featured the great single Le Petit Train and a brilliant duet with Sparks, Singing In The Shower Tonight. Re, released in 1990, saw the band embrace the dance scene by asking a few high profile dance producers (Mark Moore, Fat Freddy, William Orbit) to remix a handful of their tracks. Since, they have continued to deliver records on a regular basis; Système D (1993), Cool Frénésie (2000), La Femme Trombone (2002), with an acoustic live album published in 1996 and a second live album this time with l’Ochestre Lamoureux, a classical formation in 2004.

Singing In The Shower Tonight, with Sparks (1988)

Their seventh- and last – studio album, Variety, was released earlier this year and was hailed as their best since The No Comprendo by the French press. The album was released in two versions: one in French, with three songs in English, and one totally in English, which some interest over here. The band were in the middle of a tour that had them play the Scala in London in October, which I was very tempted to go to but didn’t.

Fred passed away on Wednesday 28 November after a two month battle with cancer.

Simple mathematics.
October 5, 2007, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Blog

The more I find new blogs, the less I find time read them. Simple mathematics.

I recently came across a nice little web toy called Netvibes, which allows me, amongst other things, to collect the blogs I read more or less regularly in rather appealing fashion, and under a variety of user defined tabs. Until now, I used Bloglines, but never liked the interface much, so Netvibes has proved a much more friendly and usable tool. It also allows me to collect bookmarks, notes, Facebook, Twitter,, my Google calendar, 4 search engines at once, my bookmarks and, surely, many more goodies should I ever wish to waste any more time flicking through the hundreds of modules available. It certainly makes for a rather pretty, if a tad content-heavy, home page. And of course, it has the advantage of being accessible anywhere in the world.

My Netvibes homepage

In recent days, I have stumbled upon a few new blogs to which I have hastily subscribed. The exquisite Stephen Fry for instance has just started one. Being an absolute fan of his (I regard him as one of the greatest living Brits, with Sir David Attenborough), adding his blog to my already long list of subscriptions was utterly necessary. Of course.

I have also discovered Armistead Maupin’s web ramblings. Thanks to a very prominently displayed Michael Tolliver Lives (his most recent book) in Waterstone’s in Redhill, I have finally got on a mission to read the whole Tales Of The City series. I have recently put the last in the series to bed, which left me feeling a bit empty. After six books, I had grown to look forward to my commute to and from work with excitement, and to my daily encounters with Mary-Ann Singleton, Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, Mrs Madrigal, DeDe Halcyon, Brian Hawkins and the rest of this enchanting cast. I am currently reading Michael Tolliver Lives, which is not the next book in the series as such (Maupin is said to be writing it as we speak), but it features many of the characters from the series, including of course Michael Tolliver and the delightful Mrs Madrigal. This current book is actually the first novel I ever bought in its hardback version. But, I digress.

Finding Maupin’s blog (which, thankfully seem to be updated only sporadically), and aiming to keep up with it, is at least, a good intention.

There’s also Me And My Big Mouth from Scott Pack, a man described as ‘the most powerful man in the books trade’ by the Guardian. Although most of the posts are focused on books or on the book industry, which I know very little about, it is still an interesting read. I originally came across it thanks to Kathryn over a year ago, and have been following it every since. The very post you are reading was actually triggered by one of his, where he introduced a new blog by author Marie Phillips. I must confess that I had never heard of her before, but somehow, her web prose, rounded up under the “Woman Who Talked Too Much” banner (there is a warning in there somewehre) sounded interesting. Scott said:

“Marie Phillips has started a new blog. May I point you in its direction?

The Woman Who Talked Too Much (which Ethan and Martha will vouch for as an uncannily appropriate title) will contain her musings on television, music, movies, books and stuff. She has already posted on Saturday night’s Strictly Come Dancing, her reaction to which my family witnessed in the flesh and we can confirm that she really is rather excited about it.”

So, as a good web 2.0 user, I followed the link and started reading a post called ‘Ronnie Hazlehurst RIP, and other thoughts on theme tunes’ which tickled me enough to subscribed to the RRS feed.

The problem is that, apart from Woody’s blog, which I read religiously, I am failing miserably to even try to keep up with pretty much any blog I subscribe to, whether it is that of my heroes (Robin Guthrie, Greg Davis), that of friends or that of general interest. I can subscribe to RSS feeds at the click of an icon on my browser, but the more I come across interesting blogs, the more I click, and the less I actually read. I seem like on a mission to harvest as many as I can.

Of course, some of the feeds I have subscribed to are purely informative (BBC news, the Guardian online, Reuters, Google News, a handful of record labels who are thoughtful enough to provide an RSS feed and interesting enough to warrant me subscribing, and a few other random sites), so these only usually get a quick look in, with only the occasional post granted a bit more of my time. As for the rest, I think I am resolving myself to carry on missing things like before the days of RSS, only now, I am actually aware of what I am missing!

The return of the prodigal…
September 3, 2007, 12:00 pm
Filed under: themilkfactory

The most observing amongst you may have noticed that this particular corner of the blogosphere has been rather quiet in recent weeks. This is due to said corner returning to its original purpose, that is talk about music that I have received recently and not yet reviewed, or that I may not review at all but still like, and life in general really. But ‘why?’ I hear you scream! Well, the answer is rather simple really: themilkfactory is back! Yep!

After over a year in the doldrums, the site came back to life a couple of weeks ago. The format is different (no monthly updates anymore), but the purpose is the same: reviewing good music and interviewing interesting artists. So head off to the new site for loads of new reviews by myself of course, but also by Max Schaefer and David Abravanel for now, and hopefully from more contributors soon.

The address of the site hasn’t changed:

There is also a RSS feed available for those who use a reader:

Check it out!

ASCOLTARE: B.E.A.M. (Tripel Records)
July 31, 2007, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Album review

Tripel Records 2007
08 Tracks. 50mins49secs

Ascoltare | Ascoltare B.E.A.M. | Tripel Records

From complex glitched up electronica with occasional orchestral tendencies to digital hip-hop and sample-heavy collages, Cambridge-based Dave Henson continues to evolve on the fringe of the electronic scene, applying his own unpredictable vision at will. This is an ethic that is also applied to Tripel Records, the imprint he co-founded with fellow Cambridge residents and musicians Andrew Coleman, better known as Animals On Wheels, and UM’s Peter Gregory.

For his latest project, Henson ditches the rich soundscapes of Visceral Vendor and the sample-heavy textures of Fatty Parts For A Good Match and Mutiny In Stereo for minimal techno formations in the tradition of Basic Channel or Sähkö. B.E.A.M. is split over two contrasting formats, five tracks collated on heavy vinyl and four additional pieces made available for free as digital downloads on a purpose-built Myspace page, establishing an interesting parallel between the retro futuristic appeal of UFO and exopolitics, which inform the project, and the past/future context of the formats. B.E.A.M. is darker than its clean-cut beats and grooves suggest. Behind sparse rhythmic screens hide dense, meticulously layered soundscapes of found sounds, statics and noises occasionally which coagulate into brittle melodies and repetitive motifs, adding to the impression of gravity that slowly builds over the course of the project.

Right from the opening bars of Exo On Ferrick, which proudly asserts ‘Let’s jack, that’s it, move those hips’ over dubby loops and distant clicks, Henson sets the tone. As he progressively adds substance to the beat and fills up the rest of the sonic space with reverbs, the piece gains density and abrasive vigour. The epic Semjase In Excelsis, which follows, is a much more complex and progressive affair. Developed over ten minutes, it rises somewhere between noise and music concrete to gather pace as the beat settles and additional loops are added. Although Henson relies on a considerable amount of disparate elements here, he introduces them one at a time, carefully avoiding overlaps to maintain the austere feel of the piece.

Passed the thick clicks and dub formations of Asket’s Ship, B.E.A.M. veers closer to the minimal techno it draws from, especially on Flatwoods and Sky Fishing, the two closing pieces of the LP, and on Deft Disk, the first of the thee MP3s. Here, Henson relies more strictly on radical 4/4 beats and rarefied musical forms, but the last two MP3 tracks reference more sophisticated atmospherics, returning to bleaker, more threatening, soundscapes.

With his latest incarnation, Ascoltare’s Dave Henson combines the ethic of minimal techno with his own aesthetic to create a very convincing collection of sharp electronic music. Although more preoccupied with the dance floor than on previous work, his mastery at assembling pertinent soundscapes and placing them in context confirms him as one of the most interesting and overlooked talents of the UK electronic scene.