January… 2013 was ushered in with the utmost civility and Lisa and her friends and family in Karlsham, Sweden. A first for several years, for me, and although briefly slightly strange to be waking up refreshed on the first day of the year and not still drinking wine in a Harold in Leeds, a damn good way to start (the year). In Sweden I started reading Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado and found it difficult to put down. I immediately I.D’d (to some extent): “I used to believe authenticity could be achieved solely by describing, in our own words, one’s own fragment of experience. This was of course predicated on the complete intellectual and aesthetic independence of the “I.” One eventually realizes such intellectual isolationism promotes style, ego, awards. But not change. You see, I toiled, but saw so little improving around me…“
I was determined to read as much as possible this year, having spent much of the previous devoted to the MA. I finally got round to reading Grace Maxwell’s inspirational and honest-heart-string-tuggin’ restoration of Edywn Collins (but for some reason I still can’t get into Orange Juice) and also started on RAW’s Cosmic Trigger series. Uncle Bob never fails to turn all my assumptions upside down, often those that he has been responsible for forming in the first place. He is v.fond of quoting Count Korzybski, “there are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking…” Too right?
January was soundtracked mainly be releases that had slipped past me at the end of last year, those being Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold, Goat’s World Music and Cate Le Bon’s Cyrk II. If I were doing one of those “Best of 2013” accounts rather than this ramble-piece, these 3 records would have been in the top 5, that often did I return to them. Yo La Tengo’s Fade was good but as has been the case with their last few records, I loved one or two songs but found the album as a whole didn’t really grab me.
Early in the month we had a great weekend in Bristol playing a show for Big Pink Cake with T.O.Y.S and I also joined Lisa Bouvier’s Disposables on guitar. Whilst there, we were spoilt rotten by Mel & Brian and also recorded a T.O.Y.S Dandelion Radio session for Rocker.
February… was undoubtedly the most important month of the year as my niece Ava May Miller was born. Everyone says this but Simon & Emily are the best parents ever and Ava is the cutest baby ever: it is difficult to describe the joy I felt holding her in my arms for the first time. She is such a heart-breaker already.
After John Perry’s recommendation I spent most of February listening to John Fahey and on Lisa’s recommendation listening to Jenny Wilson. Uncle Bob enticed me back to Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies being largely unintelligable to me but what I could glean stuck with me: “Mind is a disease of semen. All that a man is or may be is hidden therein. Bodily functions are parts of the machine; silent, unless in dis-ease. But mind, never at ease, creaketh “I”. This I persisteth not, posteth not through generations, changeth momently, finally is dead. Therefore is man only himself when lost to himself in The Charioting.” I also continued to immerse myself in RAW’s Cosmic Trigger series and tried to balance the Crowley with the equally tongue-placed-firmly-in-cheeck Zen Without Zen Masters. The new Beach Fossils album was pretty good but when Dave & I saw them live we were disappointed. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding’s Gammy Leg (EP version, not album version) was strictly on repeat (and what foreshadowing).
March… was the big launch of The Wednesday Club’s 6th LP Passing Strange. We had recorded enough songs for 2 albums, but this time, rather than release them simultaneously, we put together what we considered the strongest set of songs. This paid off as the reception was beyond our expectations and we also (thanks to the support of our friends and fans and families) raised a substantial amount of money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
I read the final installment of RAW’s Cosmic Trigger series (I cannot recommend Robert Anton Wilson enough to all and everyone) and to ensure I kept a balance with all that “hippie-new-age-shit” (tut, tut) I read The Master & Margarita & absolutely loved it: “After suffering over these two Berliozes, Ivan crossed it all out and decided to begin right off with something very strong, in order to attract the reader’s attention at once, so he wrote that a cat had got on a tram-car, and then went back to the episode with the severed head…” Reading John C. Lilly’s Center of the Cyclone convinced me for a while that the answer to all life’s problems lay (huh) in a Flotation Tank (although I am still yet to get in one… oh, and also, Altered States was terrible). I also finished the excellent Believe In People, an anthology of Karel Čapek’s essays and letters. March was good for music, I really enjoyed Devendra Banhart’s Mala which lead me to a favourable reassessment of his back catalogue, Youth Lagoon’s Wonderous Bughouse was fantastic and would eventually soundtrack many a morning commute for me. Clinic’s Free Reign II seemed unnecessary but then turned out to be essential (later in the year, Clinic were amazing live at the Barbican), the Waxahatchee record was pretty good and I started to get into Sun Ra for the first time. However, although coming to it late the record on repeat was Cold Puma’s gets-better-with-every-listen Persistent Malaise.
In April… we went to Madrid and had a fuckin’ awesome time. We are forever indebted to Jorge for his unparallelled hospitality. It was the first time I had been to Spain, let alone Madrid, and it was a beautiful and vibrant city made even better by being there with my best friends. Both T.O.Y.S and The Medusa Snare were invited to play the gig (along with local band Zipper) and we all 8 of us stayed in a lovely apartment right in the city centre. I can’t wait to go again.
When we got back from Madrid I had a wisdom tooth removed, Lisa & I found our future home and in Leeds we played our first Wednesday Club live show in 5 years at The Packhorse, (one of our) spiritual home(s). In what little time was left of this month I read Huxley’s Brave New World, Calvino’s Why Read The Classics?, RAW’s Quantum Psychology and David Ely’s Seconds (after Ian Schultz had used footage from the movie adaptation for the T.O.Y.S video for Hollywood). It was also another great month for music, the new records from Low, The Besnard Lakes and Steve Mason were on heavy rotation and I also got into Fela Kuti for the first time and finally got round to giving R.Stevie Moore some much deserved attention.
May… was mainly moving house. Lisa & I had fotunately been spared too much of an ordeal, house-hunting. Queenstown Heights was only the second place we saw but it was exactly what we had imagined our first place together would be. Anyone that even vaugely knows us knows that our relationship has had its fair share of ups and downs. But we have proved the doubters (ourselves) wrong and made a house (a flat) a home. The locale is dominated by the magnificently imposing Battersea Power Station, just at the end of the road. It is a pretty inspirational view every day and reminds us that we live in one of the most historically rich and culturally diverse cities in the world. Maybe not as pretty as Madrid. Or warm. But, hey.
The other big event this month was the Oddbox Weekender, and a chance for The Wednesday Club to finally repay their debt to Trev for having faith in us way back in 2009 by releasing Katapult. Better late than never, right!? And, Oh! what an unbridled joy it was to play those songs in a great venue, for our favourite promoter/label honcho to a receptive audience in our capital city. It seemed to go down pretty well and I think it was the best WC performance by far, and so much fun. I also got to play twice again, with T.O.Y.S performing later on that same evening.
The majority of May’s reading was a further attempt to get at Aleister Crowley with Israel Regardie’s The Eye In The Triangle and for less taxing but more enjoyable reading, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Voltaire’s Candide, from which: “…Is there anything more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden which one can always throw down? To detest existence and yet to cling to one’s existence? In brief, to caress the serpent which devours us, till he has eaten our very heart?…” I was also having a bit of a Primal Scream revival after finding More Light surprisingly good, enjoying the Baths record (good old Anticon), wondering where Peter Ivers had been all my life (well, apart from hiding behind The Lady In The Radiator) but the record that I initially dismissed after first listen but then grew on me more and more and is now one of my favourites of the year was Small Black’s Limits of Desire.
June… was spent largely arranging Queenstown Heights into some semblance of domestication (making sure things were put where I wanted them, as is one of my more annoying traits). Lisa played a gig with A Little Orchestra at Union Chapel which was anazing. Amyas & I saw Besnard Lakes which was another gig highlight of the year. I continued in my pursuit of mystical enlightenment with P.D.Ouspensky’s Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution (building up to what will hopefully be the ability to understand Gurdjieff in the new year and pick up where I left off in Leeds with Alfred Orage’s personal FX). I also thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Bukowski with Portions From A Wine Stained Notebook and the criminally and mind-bogglingly neglected B.S.Johnson’s Omnibus of Albert Angelo, Trawl and House Mother Normal. All soundtracked by a lot of Chet Baker (especially Sings), Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong as well as the new Daft Punk album (although I was not raving as much as some), the excellent Jagwar Ma’s Howlin, a not unhealthy amount of the 13th Floor Elevators (which would continue for the rest of the year) and more or less on repeat, Eleanor Friedberger’s Personal Record.
So summer bore on and in July… we finally decided to release the Satan & Megastar album on Cath ‘n’ Dad Records. We had been sitting on it for a while and holding out for a physical release but the reality of us affording to do that ourselves diminished with the criminal deposit for the new flat and, well, you can only sit on a record for so long. So we put it out there, to somewhat muted fanfare. But at least it was out and we are both mega fuckin’ proud of this record, it being somewhat responsible for us forcing ourselves to spend time together when broken up (both times) and, well, its all there in the album, right.
It was also a sad time in camp Medusa Snare as Lisa quit the band due to the time constraints and bright(er) lights of The Proctors and The Flatmates, and so it was that Ryan, Amyas & I played a rather shambolic and hastily assembled set as a power trio at an unexpectedly glitzy event at a mansion in the country-side for the 21st Birthday of someone we had never met. I am still not quite sure how we ended up there but despite not being our most coherent performance we had a great time and there was copious amounts of free boozes. Lisa & I were sad to miss this year’s Indietracks but we did have a rather splendid time in Sweden at Lisa’s brother’s wedding and also out on a boat in the sea an’ all that summer stuff. After enjoying David Eagleman’s Sum: Tales from the Afterlives, I was for the next few weeks completely immersed in Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and the follow up, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. I am still not sure if I am capable of fully articulating the impact that these books, along with more RAW, the Crowley, Hesse and the Tao Te Ching have had on me this year, nor is it really within the scope of this Year in Review, despite it’s rambling narrative and the fact that if anyone has read this far they are likely not to be too bothered by further diversions or just sigh and go back to Facebook… & c. “science and art are just two different complementary ways of looking at the same thing. In the largest sense it is really unnecessary to create a meeting of the arts and sciences because in actual practice, at the most immediate level they have never really been separated. They have always been different aspects of the same human purpose…” Just to complete the derogatory picture compiling itself in the mind, this was mostly soundtracked by Sun Ra but also by John Grant’s excellent Pale Green Ghosts and Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle’s Perils from the Sea.
August… was a relatively quiet month spent mainly reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden on Amyas’s right-on-recommendation…. and also the Tao Te Ching which at an indefinable, dizzying, head-spinningly moment pulled everything (and nothing) together. I also went to lots of Flatmates shows in August and I am not sure I have ever seen an audience grinning as much before. Lisa totally owned it, too. When not at Flatmates shows I was mostly listening to Mark Kozelek’s other superb album this year, with Desertshore and also the new albums by Surf City, Hospital Ships and Julia Holter.
In September… Breaking Bad finally came to an end. Yeah, like many others I was hooked and I wasn’t disappointed with the ending, yeah, it was ridiculous and OTT but it was fuckin’ TV if you want something more realistic then watch one o’ those reality TV shows or just turn the fuckin’ TV off and like, interface with your fellow man. Go outside. Or at the very least get off message boards and social media arguing with each other about it. And so but as well as this we played our first T.O.Y.S gig in Nottingham at the Indie Pop all dayer and I enjoyed reading my first Ballard, Atrocity Exhibition was an eye-opener and so was Hesse’s Glass Bead Game which I accidently left on the tube one morning and had to buy again. I also read Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time Slip, Julian Barnes’ Metroland and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men whilst listening to the first of Montreal album in a while that I could actually listen to all the way through but still only doing so a couple of times before being a bit bored and being equally if not more so disappointed with the new Sebadoh album and on top of that being slightly underwhelmed due to my ridiculously high hopes and therefore relatively dancing ’round the living room to Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady. So in actual fact I had the hipster’s-wet-dream Fat White Family album on repeat but punctuated regularly by Jeffrey Lewis’ return-to-form (it had been a while since I had listened to anything he had done so that may be unnecessary and/or inaccurate) WWPRD?
October… saw the release of the 2nd Wednesday Club album of the year, Dry Humps comprised predomonantly the songs that didn’t quite make the Passing Strange cut and augmented by a few extra recordings to constitute a full album. Not quite met with the same enthusiasm as PS, we were nonetheless proud to continue our prodigious output as well as to have played live again this year.
This month, Birgitte & I attended an evening dedicated to Robert Anton Wilson and there was a real buzz and energy to a room full of RAW fans. I had only ever met one before (not including those I indoctrinated myself) and needless to say it was a hilarious, entertaining and provocative evening (someone set fire to a £20 note much to the bemusement of the majority and filmed by an (alarming to me) number of people on their phones). Sadly, I continued to be let down this month by albums I had been looking forward to very much, namely those by Elf Power and Mazzy Star. However, new music (thankfully) continued to impress with Courtney Barnett’s Double EP yielding my song of the year in Avant Gardener and also the new Cass McCoombs album was pretty good. This month’s reading included some more Ballard with Crash (I appreciated this but wasn’t sure the idea justified a whole novel), Kerouac’s Big Sur on Dave’s right-on-recommendation (inspirational), RAW(ever present)’s Illuminati Papers: “if the world seems to be getting bigger and funnier all the time, your intelligence is steadily increasing, If the world seems to be getting smaller and nastier all the time, your stupidity is steadily increasing…” I enjoyed my first Raymond Chandler after borrowing The Big Sleep from a work colleague and against all odds could not put down Neil Gaiman’s American Gods after Lisa’s bugging me to read it finally paid off.
And so then it was November… and my debilitatingly gammy leg(s) which I haven’t mentioned yet start to clear up and the skinny jeans are (temporarily) permenantly banished to the back of the wardrobe but it is okay because being able to walk is more important for things like getting to work, out of bed, to the stage & c. I made a website for Lisa as she was ‘rebranding’ and then I thought I should have one too, a website, not a brand, and so spent a lot of time that should probably have been spent elsewhere making one, a website. Oh, and yes, having completed the Wednesday Club and T.O.Y.S output for the year I started recording a new solo album of songs that I had left over that maybe would have been Medusa Snare songs but the Medusa Snare being in the midst of a slight identity crisis I decided to just record them and release them as an Adam John Miller album. That will be out early 2014. Talking of The Medusa Snare, though, friends of ours Jack & Krysten earlier in the year shot a professional video for us (of us playing at a ‘staged’ house party in Amyas & Louise’s (old) flat) with a crew and everything, for the song Kubanskaya that I have had knockin’ about for a good while now and so the last thing we did before Lisa left the band was record a version of this, for the video, and that will be out in 2014 as well even though Lisa will no longer be in the band and instead Dave from T.O.Y.S will be and we may well sound like a totally new band. And talking of T.O.Y.S we had a very enjoyable day playing in Brighton for the first time and get all the necessities ready for our third EP which was confirmed will be released by Oddbox Records in January 2014.
I read Jake Arnott’s brilliant The House of Rumour (right up and practically built upon my street), RAW’s encyclopedia of conspiracy theories (amazingly titled) Everything Is Under Control, R.Buckminster Fuller’s Grunch of Giants and then took a deep breath and sheepishly took down David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest from the shelf all whilst absorbing the (about time) Beta Band Box Set, Cate Le Bon’s unexpected but continues-to-amaze Mug Museum, M.I.A.’s Matangi, William Onyeabor (who came out of nowhere), Wooden Shjips’ Back To Land and Lorde’s Pure Heroine. As a first day of Advent treat, Lisa & I recorded a live cover of the oft-covered classic Can’t Help Falling In Love.
And so December… rolled ’round and the year came to an end and the big news this month was the return of The Manhattan Love Suicides. Did anyone see that coming? Hopefully not as if you did then we weren’t very good at keeping it a secret. (Never Stop) Hating You is the first taste of the as yet untitled but already written and recorded album that myself, Darren, Caroline and Rachel have made over 2 weekends towards the end of this year. A lot of bands are reforming at the moment and opinions seem divided. Personally I don’t think it matters one bit if bands split up, reform, play under different names or whatever. I think if a band reforms, IMHO they should justify it by making new music, but at the end of the day if your treasured little music making troupe reform and you don’t like it then don’t fucking pay any attention to it. The music world is full to the brim of financially motivated fickle narcissists just as there are a lot of people that just want to make records they are proud of and hope some people will also like… sometimes egos and immaturity get in the way but then people grow up and remember how great a time they had making music together before all the shit and then decide they want to make more music together. It is up to you if you want to listen to it or not. You can read the MLS track as one stance on bands reforming, or you can read it as a tale of a disintegrating relationship, or you can just dance to it.
And as of writing I am nearly three quarters of the way through Infinite Jest and it is one hell of a book. I will be very sad and quite empty when it is over, but I won’t miss carrying the bastard around. I have also been reading Terrance McKenna’s Food of The Gods from which: “…The impact of hallucinogens in the diet has been more than psychological; hallucinogenic plants may have been the catalysts for everything about us that distinguishes us from other higher primates, for all the mental functions that we associate with humanness. Our society more than others will find this theory difficult to accept, because we have made pharmacologically obtained ecstasy a taboo. Like sexuality, altered states of consciousness are taboo because they are consciously or unconsciously sensed to be entwined with the mysteries of our origin-with where we came from and how we got to be the way we are. Such experiences dissolve boundaries and threaten the order of the reigning patriarchy and the domination of society by the unreflecting expression of ego…” and relieved that Jenny Wilson’s Demand The Impossible has not disappointed and that the Shearwater covers album is also an unexpected treat (St. Vincent, Clinic, Xiu Xiu etc). If you got this far through this ramble then well done. Seriously, well done, and good luck in 2014. AJM x