Monday, September 28, 2015

Cassette Store Day 2015

Cassette fans! Saturday 17th October is the third International Cassette Store Day, a celebration of tape culture. Are Keshco involved? Of course!

So, it's come round again, and this time more countries have tightened their azimuth and engaged their Dolby. We're on the official stock list for Germany, and again the UK, with nearly 100 copies of Bleak House's "Music From The Middle Room".

Confirmed stockists for this year:

Pebble Records, Eastbourne
Derelict Music, Hitchin
Crash Records, Leeds
Lion Coffee and Records, London
VOD Music, Mold
Reflex, Newcastle
The Inkwell, York

Insula Music, Copenhagen

Balades Sonores, Paris

Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus, Berlin
Kassettentag, ACUD, Berlin
Marleen Records, Fulda

Burger Records, Fullerton, CA

More info is available here:

Here's what you could buy for around £5:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Live and psychedelic in Todmorden 19th September

Kesh-chums! Would you like to see Keshco put on a psychedelic show, in a library? Well, for one night only, you can do just that:

As it says on the poster ably designed by Bob Art Models, we'll be playing as part of a mini-festival of psychedelia entitled Destroy All Rational Thought. The set should be rather lavish - we're aiming to put on a feast for the eyes, ears and mouth. The Keshco performance is on Saturday 19th September, with doors from 7pm, films (including a new 10 min band biography) from 7.30pm, and music starting at 8pm. We should be on stage for about 75 min.

Tickets are £4 in advance, or £5 on the door. You can buy tickets here:, or in person via:

Todmorden Library, Strand, Rochdale Road, Todmorden OL14 7LB
Telephone: 01706 815600 / Fax: 01706 819025 / Email:

Come along and see wonders like this:

Five lessons to learn from our gig successes

Yes, amazingly, there have been a few. Occasionally, just occasionally, we've felt the good vibes of the audience, the good vibrations from well-mixed speakers, and come off stage happy with our performance. With luck some of these thoughts will be useful for your own endeavours.

1. Relax, having practised beforehand

Most of our best gigs have been home concerts (Vombat Radio 2009, Beware! Vision 2013), where we've sat on the floor with our instruments and pedals around us. For me, there's a palpable relief in not standing in front of strangers, not being wedged into awkward shapes by silly stage set-ups, not racing through songs to meet timeslots. Home performances can be relaxed, but crucially everyone must have limbered up properly first (do those vocal warm-ups!), and especially, practised any difficult parts of the set. Having a run of gigs helps with this. Of course, a typical multi-band gig isn't as relaxed as a home performance, so think in advance about how to make your set-up easier and the conditions comfortable.

I also think there's a correlation in what food and drink you load your body with. Ideally I would avoid junk beforehand, and eat long enough in advance to get any gaseous emissions out of the way. It should be something that won't give an inopportune energy crash, so no chocolate, no sweets, no crisps, no coffee.

2. Tailor your performance (within the confines of what you've practised)

At a Bethnal Green Working Men's Club gig at an arts and crafts night in 2011, our best part of the set was when we stopped the complicated songs for a bit and just got into an extended instrumental groove. People's attention was on their artistic creation and having a chat with their friends, so we played up to that with soundtrack music.

3. Well-thought-out extras do enhance a gig (but maybe only with extra hands)

Of the artistic or comedy moments we've added to gigs, ones that have worked have included projections, e.g. Bleak House at Imperial College in 2004, when we brought our own screen and, crucially, projectionist. Because Bob would often be involved in costume/art moments, it would be vital that Luke fill in with something musically interesting, to keep the less tomfoolery-inclined audience members focused.

4. Practice getting the song across on different set-ups

Bob's drum kit has rarely been the same for any two gigs. Over the years he's learned to adapt to whatever combination is there. Likewise, several of my lyrics have been updated in order to improve a song or keep it relevant. The Climate Dance was written in 2001, then rewritten for 2011 and 2013.

5. Enjoy it yourself

If you're on stage and unhappy to be there, it shows. Whilst most small gigs are crappy, poorly-mixed, sullen-audience-made-up-of-other-bands environments, pick out the most responsive person in the audience, perform for them, and feed off any positive emotion you can grab. Forget the money hassles for the duration of the set. And always, aim to move on from those types of gigs as quickly as possible in order to put on your own show.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, et al

You are a human being. You listen to recorded music. As this is the modern age, you consume this music digitally, via the big paid content providers: Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, et al. But what of Keshco? I have news for you. As of summer 2015, you can now consume Keshco music digitally, via the big paid content providers:



Spotify: al.

Our Bandcamp is, as always, a better option:

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Five lessons to learn from our gig disasters

We're not always a very coherent band to see live. We love the concept of putting on a show, it's undeniable, but for one reason or another, the amount of gigs we've enjoyed over the years has been minuscule. Here are some lessons you can draw for your own audience-facing endeavours, which would have saved a lot of pain if we'd have learned in advance:

1. Always practice the set beforehand

This gets at the heart of the basic problem; which type of Keshco is going to turn up to any gig. We all have low boredom thresholds; we get fed up with playing the same songs repeatedly. However, the gigs were spread apart and often the decisions about what songs to include were made last-minute. Other bands do well by practising the same few songs over and over. Sure, they're probably sick of them, but they're slick. Our ramshackle approach won't go down well if an audience doesn't realise that our set is a mere 7 plucked out of a possible 300+ songs (plus any number of improvisatory approaches).

This doesn't mean improvisation is impossible, but if you're going to try something off-the-cuff, you should have an idea about how it will (and will not) take place, and be properly limbered up. Many of our songs are pretty complex in structure, and winging it won't work. As our practice time as a group was usually minimal, it was essential we got used to practising our parts solo. 

In 2008, we played an event for Resonance FM. We were shunted back to close the show. We had a synth-pop set planned, but the earlier acts were all relatively experimental fare, something we could easily have offered with a bit of forethought. With the sudden option of a longer set, I gambled that we could get away with resurrecting "Village Of Death", an eight-minute sci-fi epic Bob and I hadn't played for four years, Luke for six years. It was long, so l-o-n-g, and although I just about remembered the story, the chords were repetitive and how did the middle section go? A good alternative would have been a fresh freakout, of the type we often do during sessions at home.

2. Make sure you know how the instruments will sound together

In February 2008, we played a radio show on Resonance FM; our first radio slot (apart from student radio). We had lately been using partial backing tracks, to free us up for comedy/art moments; but arriving at the show we discovered we couldn't use the backing tracks, and ended up playing along to the auto-rhythm on one of our touring keyboards, a Yamaha VSS200. For whatever reason, they didn't have enough amps/monitors for a three-piece and couldn't get the keyboard volume high enough, and we weren't allowed to play quietly to fit with the keyboard; and so we couldn't hear the beat to keep in time. It shouldn't even need saying that you won't get a good radio performance if the band can't hear the rhythm. Of course, the audience at home are unlikely to imagine there's been a hiccup; they'll just think "jeez, this band don't know what they're doing".

3. Relaxation is not compatible with lugging equipment

I have a recurrent tremor that gets worse when stressed or tired. It's been there since childhood and will presumably get more bothersome over time. Carrying heavy weights tends to set it off. Gigs tend to set it off. Carrying heavy weights also causes inevitable stress. You won't be optimally relaxed if you carry your own equipment to gigs. For numerous reasons, we have usually carried our own equipment to gigs.

When we played a two-man gig at the London Triathlon for Scope in 2013, we carried an acoustic guitar, a Crate Taxi "travel" amp (10 kg), two Shure SM58 microphones, two metal mic stands, and a mini drum kit (snare, kick drum, pedals, hi-hat, numerous chimes). This was meant to be a scaled-down performance...

It is not ideal gig preparation for two or three chaps to carry instruments, drum bits, amplifiers, on public transport. It makes you grumpy, as well as tired, as well as inducing tremors. The flipside of the dilemma - if you don't have transportation of your own, should you make do with less, or just not play? Part of the fun of our music is the variation in sounds.

4. Make sure everyone in the band is happy

If you're unhappy to be on stage playing a particular song or style, it shows. Work through your differences beforehand.

This extends to the physical set-up as well. In 2013, we played a two-man gig at a cramped London pub. There were two microphone stands. One had a pivot, one was vertical. This meant the flexible one had to go for Bob while drumming, but he then decided not to sing. So, I was using the vertical one, unable to sit down and unable (due to the lack of organisation) to even find a suitable place to root both feet on the floor. Vertical mic stands are not conducive to being able to see what you're playing - I was having to lean forward to get close to the mic. It was obvious a bad show would follow. What we should have done is negotiated beforehand, and made do with one mic, and both sitting down.

Each of us has been on the receiving end. In 2011, at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, the soundcheck was pretty much perfect. We came back for the proper gig, and all the levels had been sabotaged, and Luke's guitar couldn't even be heard. What we should have done is stopped, done another soundcheck, and definitely waited for them to fix Luke's channel; instead we ploughed on.

Bob's often had it the hardest, as he attempted to cope with a succession of differently set-up house drum kits. Worse, he plays with his kit set up opposite to most drummers. It's often treated with irritation when the drummer wants to fiddle with the kit, let alone to reverse the whole thing. In one way or another, there's usually someone from the venue or a "promoter" getting stressed over time, and we're the type of act that gets leaned on to hurry up, as they feel safe we're not going to punch anyone on the nose.

It's at times like this you have to think of your friend in the audience, who may be filming the thing for you. In a way that's the most important person to play to, as more people will see your gig on YouTube than were in the audience. You must make sure you have a decent performance for the camera, which means keeping the band happy and taking the time to get the levels right.

5. Don't take bad gigs

A major portion of any band unhappiness (which is also friend unhappiness, therefore doubly upsetting) has come from the lead-up to, playing of, and fall-out from, bad gigs. Think carefully. Does your band really want to put on a night in an out-of-the-way rough council estate in Southwark? Will it really benefit you taking a coach north to play an unpaid gig alongside uncomprehending Leicester teenagers? If it's someone else's night, are their aims radically different to yours? It's true that without the bad gigs, our gig total would be less than half what it is. But wouldn't we have enjoyed a string of home concerts more!

And with that, I direct you to the essential follow-up, Five Lessons To Learn From Our Gig Successes. It'll be along, right about now. Any time now. Here it comes now. It's... actually, stay as you were for a bit.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Get Out And Vote: liner notes

"Get Out And Vote" front cover artwork (Bob Follen)
A recent Keshco release which may have passed you by is the election-themed "Get Out And Vote". This
six-track EP was released with satirical intent on the night before the UK General Election, and due to the FMA servers neither allowing it to be downloaded for the first week, nor displaying it on their list of recent uploads, and also I suspect the political theme and therefore people's parochial assumptions, it got very few plays. That's a shame, as it's no less deserving than the 110,000-time-downloaded "Accountants By Day" (still available here!).

So yes, the theme. In the UK we're still recovering from the poll-busting disappointment of May's General Election. "Get Out And Vote" commemorates this sad fart of a campaign with some brief dissections of the characters involved.

The opener, "Oh What A Ding-Dong", is hosted by a rambunctious ringmaster reeling off the candidates in a local by-election. This is bedded into a springy circus theme tune that Bob came up with a long while ago, to which I've added some layers with our favourite nostalgic synth, the Yamaha VSS-200.

What does the figure 1% make you think of? Perhaps the public sector pay constraints for the next four years. But generally it's shorthand for those who accumulate money and influence, when everyone else is short of both. Wherever there is unchecked power, there is corruption. "Stock Share Shuffle" is a skiffle-feel good-time tune about the crooks at the top, whether that's the local council or the IMF. They're not all at it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find the ethical ones. As well as my acoustic guitars, Luke adds bottle (literally - blowing across miniature bottles filled to different depths, carefully tuned at the kitchen sink) and Bob adds two mono drum kits, recorded at Goldwave's tiniest (and tinniest) of file rates: 11 kHz. Lo-fi heaven!

So, enough carping, you want policy, eh? Well here's one for you: "Lend For Free". An easy-to-understand policy, in easily-digestible micro-song form. Drop the debt. Eliminate compound interest. This brief tune has, as well as my vocals and guitars, Luke on slide Gretsch and keyboard swells, and Bob on progtastic but low-res 11 kHz drums.

One of the many embarrassing sights during the campaign is the battle bus, careering around the country to disgorge stuffy caffeinated ministers, aides and hopefuls, eager to press the sweaty flesh before squeezing back on for another motorway lunch. "Circus Wagons" recaps the opening theme with a series of campaign buzzwords. Luke's using a 'backwards' setting on his amp, I'm drumming on a biscuit tin, and trainee Keshcologist Alex Sample assists with the fluttery keyboard backing.

After the campaign comes the interminable twilit repetition of "The Count". Imagine yourself with a massive stack of voting forms. All you have to do is log them correctly. Again and again. For hours. Long hours. This instrumental, based around Luke's delay-soaked guitar, overlaid with yawning crunching synth burps and a heap of rapid-fire mini percussion (weighing scales, teacups), conjures up the filmy-eyed feeling at the end of election night.

So, the results are out, and who is the winner? Not most of us, that's for sure. Life goes on across the country, and for most of us that means getting by in cramped conditions. So here's a dance especially for those moments when it's all a little too cooped up. The Kitchen Shuffle started with a set of lyrics by poet and strident Socialist campaigner Drew Walton (go read his fervent blog here!), written in about 2002. After re-discovering them in an old folder, I've juggled them round a bit and added some extra lines. For the shuffle beat, the Yamaha and Amstrad options in the arsenal just wouldn't do, so I took advantage of the Casio MT-100. The electronics (from slider to speaker) sound like they're slowly perishing; I hope it keeps going a while yet. The sparse, echoey feel of this track recalls Gary Numan, or perhaps Soft Cell's 'Bedsitter'. Overlaid is some dense human beatboxing, and an extended instrumental section featuring Luke's brainwave of an entirely different melody which comes off his Yamaha PSS380.

Do you recognise Bob's front cover image? That's the old Labour icon Tony Benn, and you can select from a massive range of Bob's other portraits on his eBay page here.

So, a new Keshco release - six tracks released for election-time, but worth a listen any time. You can download the EP via Bandcamp:

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Unaccentuated: liner notes

"Unaccentuated" front cover (Gareth Monger/Andy Brain)
April 2015 sees the release of a 10-track Keshco EP, "Unaccentuated", courtesy of Chicago netlabel Pan y Rosas Discos. It's already had nice reviews at the Modern Folk Music Of America blog and Decoder Magazine. How did it come about? And what do we mean with the name?

Keshco these days is a remote recording project, something to be squeezed in between busy lives in different cities/countries. It's also a tad more streamlined stylistically. So, the title refers not only to the rushed and fragmentary recordings enforced by this geographic separation (and having things to do, almost as if we're proper adults now), but also to the absence of comedy moments and silly voices, one of our hallmarks that's been divisive since day one. Does humour belong in music? Well yes, undoubtedly, but on a collection like this, you can enjoy Kesh music unencumbered by lyrical concerns. Don't worry, everything has its day and we'll have some songs for you soon.

The cover art by noted dinosaur sketcher and grand old Keshcologist, Gareth Monger, plays on the title with a microscope's view of assorted protozoa - unaccentuated life forms.

Film-makers and remixers should enjoy these soundtrack-worthy selections, which are released under Creative Commons licensing for ease of use (with attribution) in your own projects.

As it turned out, Luke and Bob were unavailable for the hectic overdub process, and what was to be a brief EP expanded when Ines contributed three pieces recorded in her Buenos Aires apartment block, in which there is an empty residence containing only an upright piano, and a few photographs. To fill out the sound, Caroline stepped up with recorder and (broken) clarinet, and I've got back into beatboxing and scraping on the violin.

The EP begins with 'First Flush', an aching piano melody from Bob played in Sowerby Bridge. I've added a pair of synth lines played on the band's favourite school-age keyboard, the Yamaha VSS-200.

'To Reach The Outpost' is the kind of Andy synth tinkling that feels a natural extension from 1990s Kesh. In a parallel universe this could have been our main style of output.

'Blocked Signals' began with some washes of a brittle, dusty keyboard sample. This was augmented by Ines with guitar harmonics, which were further treated, and some guitar hum that rumbles up from the depths to overwhelm the fragile melody line.

"Unaccentuated" back cover (Gareth Monger/Andy Brain)
An instrument sample, once inside the VSS-200, was found to have a percussive blip, which became the foundation of 'Tiny Transmission', and to which my other layers are gamely trying to maintain a grip. Cold funk.

The mysterious piano makes its first appearance in the downbeat 'Unaccentuated Motive', occasionally backed with the sounds of Buenos Aires, and against Caroline's recorder and (broken) clarinet. In the far distance I scrape on violins. The reverb is a mixture of the big room sound and the favourite Buzz plugin, Sonic Verb.

'Wipe My Face Away' was nearly a song, so you can consider yourself blessed. It's an incidental Andy, apparently channelling Simon The Sorcerer.

Life on Earth. From out of the swamps, out of the trees. 'Borneo' began as a fine flute improvisation by Luke, with me playing pedals. Caroline was tasked with negotiating the rocky harmonic path alongside this, with recorder and (broken) clarinet, making up alternate fingerings to keep the thing in tune.

'Royal Flush' brings back that opening piano melody from Bob, in a longer meditation. The piano is surrounded by the woozy swirls of the take itself having been elongated via the paulstretch program, then re-compressed to the correct length. In the middle distance, I scrape on violins.

'Busted Flush' is the final bar of Bob's previous take, stretched out, wobbled and reverbed.

We end with an upbeat, open-hearted, open-minded, bombastic stomper - Ines' piano leads the way on 'Lunar Accent', a refreshing closer. I've added a pair of VSS-200 lines, wind chimes, percussion (pizza base, pound shop drum) and reasonably distant violins.

We're very happy if you enjoy the EP, which can also be downloaded via the Free Music Archive. Gobble to your heart's content. Hope to hear from you all soon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kesh music used as soundtracks

It's heartening to see several creative types have taken up our offer of free music, and utilised selections from our Filmmaker's Reference Kit Vol 1 in their projects. Some recent ones include:

A Portuguese audio interview from Carol Alfaro, on being a translator:

Lessons in fish cookery:

A digital animation about warriors done with GIMP:

Another wee digital animation, this one a cartoon done on a drawing tablet:

A brief film about smartphones and New Year resolutions:

A cookery show presented by My Little Pony:

Some kind of creepy monologue, using "Teastrain" in a creative manner:

Meanwhile, also recently and using Bleak House music, you can see a neat showreel:

Someone with the wrong outlook on Greece's financial situation:


Thursday, January 29, 2015

February news

Dear Keshcologist,

The darkest months are over, whew. Have a couple of tunes to celebrate...

Going Dutch (from the Filmmaker's Reference Kit Vol 1) is now available here in a shorter edit:

...and it's also freely usable in your creative projects. Why not take a camera into the clubs of Amsterdam and then soundtrack them with this?

A micro-song for your delectation:

Also downloadable from:
Short enough to use as a ringtone, say on your work phone.

The next Keshco release is due out in late March courtesy of Pan y Rosas Discos, a Chicago netlabel.

Before that, another home concert is planned for February 22nd, to be streamed live on the Beware! Vision uStream channel.

Beware! The Zine continues, with regular features including the ongoing adventures of bit demon Nase and telegraphic pal Abel; Johnny Cocktail's Private Investigatory Masterclass; and the Encyclopaedia of International Celebrity, already boasting highly accurate entries on The Smiths and Germaine Greer. You can signup by email to receive updates direct to your inbox.

Bob Art Models has a travelling library exhibition, which will be in the following locations:
23/1 - 7/2 Todmorden Library
14/2 - 28/2 Hebden Bridge Library
9/3 - 21/3 King Cross Library
28/3 - 11/4 Brighouse Library
20/4 - 5/5 Sowerby Bridge Library
11/5 - 1/6 Central Library Halifax
8/6 - 20/6 Elland Library

Support your local artists and support your local libraries! Who knows, maybe Bob Art Models will come to your town next...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1: Liner Notes

Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1 cover art
Cover artwork drawn by Ines Boente/coloured by Andy Brain
A new album of Keshco instrumentals has just been released, gratis, via the Free Music Archive and Bandcamp. Why on Earth is this?

When we embarked on the whole free music/creative commons enterprise, we were hoping that, in lieu of any financial earnings, we would instead get the warm glow of discovering that fellow creative types had used our tunes to soundtrack their films. This would potentially have the nice knock-on effect of seeing what are effectively promo videos for songs we are too busy to make videos for. This has been proved correct, and we've been delighted by the many and varied uses people have found for our music. However, most of our tracks feature singing in some form. We thought it would be a good idea to set out our stall a little clearer.

The selections on Filmmaker's Reference Kit Volume 1 are all instrumental; the human voice is banished in order that potential editors can avoid wading through song after song. This collection comprises different types of incidental music - themes, idents, backing tracks. Suggested genres are given in the track titles. The selections are offered under the "attribution" licence, so can be freely remixed and used so long as we're mentioned as the original artistes.

The tracks herein involve compositions from all four members of Keshco. Some of the backing tracks started life on our previous releases Now, Freaks At A Wake and The Blood, The Horror; but you won't have heard them in this form. At last, you can hear the full suspense-laden thwacks and tingles of Serpico Goes To Shanghai, the severely funky Going Dutch, and the starkly spooky Shadowplay, freshened with new layers and unburdened by vocals. Let your mind go where it wants to.

Notable tracks include the downbeat piano meditation London Hope, and the chaotic slide action of The Speed Demon Theme.

Remixing took place in Andy's living room, using favoured free tools Buzz and Goldwave, in spare moments between the day job and the evening job.

Do let us know if you use any bits in your productions - we'd love to see the results and share them with fellow Keshcologists. Also, what would you find useful in the forthcoming Volume 2?