17 December 2013

holiday reading

You'd think it was winter, aside from the sun shining and blue sky outside. Where's my f'ing snow, eh?!?!

anyway, stocked up the tablet with books for the *snowed in xmas*. in retrospect, I may need to find a few more lighter page turners as this collection doesn't look too cheery:

  • No Regrets: writings on Scott Walker [but at least it gives me yet another reason to play more of his genius]
  • John Dies in the End
  • The Golem [yeah the central/eastern european classic, felt I should read it at some point...]
  • Danubia [the lighter read, really enjoyed Simon's other book, Germania]
  • Creation: the origin of Life/The future of life [oohhh Science!]
I think i've still got a couple of unread Robert Rankin's lying around which will rock the lighter read stuff.
The downside to those heavy books is that them, and booze, mix poorly. Xmas and booze mix well, and there-in lies a problem...


8 December 2013

SMWS tasting 3.212

Yeah, bit of a while between drinks - there's some recipes coming, and possibly some quick reviews of recent holidays. maybe. well probably for the recipes.

But upon my return from holiday the lovely chaps at SMWS had sent me a sample to review - based on a taste survey I'd done with them.
People send me free single malts? yep, I can get used to that.

Anyone else is more than welcome to send booze for review, I can even organise a tasting panel (or cabal, as we prefer) ...

SMWS 3.212 'Anti-aphrodisiac' 19yo 55.7%

Nose: pine, phenol, salt, coastal flavour, prickly, old wet socks
Palate: warm manuka honey, aniseed, full mouthfeel, complex, tingly tongue
Finish: med-long

I'd happily give it a 8/10, and happily buy a bottle (which I note, I still can...hmmm)

addition of water gave:
Nose: flatter, pine, bourbon, old wet socks
Palate: smooth flavour, lighter, salty
Finish:  med-short
6/10 Avoid water.

It's good at cask, but avoid water, it doesn't like it. Very quaffable with water, but not interesting.

Love, B

14 October 2013

Whisky Cabal Meeting 11 : Two soldiers down

The Cabal met last Tuesday, as we'd realised a number of new arrivals to our respective cabinet families had yet to be sampled. One Doctor down, but channeling the Dunkirk spirit, we battled on.
the photo, pre-attack, captures a rarity in the UK, sunshine coming through windows. Treasure this photo.

Tullibardine Port Finish 46% 
(Link to LFW Tullibardine, but no Port Finish)
Nose: port, rubber, raisins
Palate: port soaked raisins
Finish: medium length

A nice intro dram, not too complex, but very quaffable / easy drinking. We gave it a 6.5-7.5/10 and would be keen to have more of it. Huzzah !

Berry Bros & Rudd Braes of Glenlivet 46%
N: lavender sweets, bourbon, parma violets, green apple, general fruitiness
P:  fruit salad, violets, pineapple, oaky, hint of smoke
F:  short and light, stewed apples
Split the panel this one: 6/10 (A); 7/10 (R); 8/10 (B)

Braes of Glenlivet, or as it's known now, Braeval, distills booze to be put into blends, so a single cask bottling is rare. Which is why I bought it. See, on the edge.

Glengoyne Teapot Dram I
N: chocolate, raspberry, sherry, old leather in a car, golden syrup
P: sherry, chocolate, xmas cake, raisins, treacle
F: long, warming

First tasted by the Cabal in 7 - read the exciting review!
The Teapot Dram, it's kinda a marketing thing, but really when it's this good...from the Glengoyne website:
For almost 150 years, workers at Glengoyne were allowed three large drams while on duty throughout the day. It was the Brewers’ job to select a different cask each week from which to draw the drams. The workers would gather in the staff canteen at 9.00am, midday and 3.00pm to receive their share.   The agreed measure was for it to be “no less than the quantity indicated by the placement of three fingers upon the tumbler” which was usually calibrated by the man with the chubbiest digits. Served at full cask strength, some of the younger workers found it a bit of a struggle to finish. So instead of disposing with the leftovers, the drams were secreted in a copper teapot. The more seasoned imbibers would enjoy a little extra throughout the day – well, it beats a proper tea break. 
we revisited Teapot I as a prelude to Teapot II. Because, when it comes down to it, we're about scientific reviews. We work so you don't have to.

This time around we liked it - possibly even more than the first.
B+R 10/10; A 9.5/10

Glengoyne Teapot Dram II
N: sherry, dark chocolate, molasses/golden syrup, old leather in car.

Oh bollocks to that, it's exactly the freeking same as Teapot I. This is an excellent thing (as my Teapot I died in the tasting).
Like sherry monsters? just buy it.
Possibly apocryphal stories have it that T I was made from 4 casks, and T II from 6. Either way, they've nailed the flavour.

SMWS 'Full, complex and reassuring' 64.43 55.5% 23yo refill hogshead ex-bourbon
N: pineapple, tropical fruit, wood polish, bourbon
P: prickly, spiky
F: short-medium

Addition of water smoothed the profile down a bit, and introduced a more of a honeyed flavour.
7-7.5 /10

Glenglassuagh - Evolution 57.2%
N: bourbon, rubber, vanilla (hint), fresh ozone
P: sweet, bourbon, rubber, citrus
F: medium

Addition of water led me to suggest 'wet sheep' on the nose and palate. The others wanted it noted that I suggested that, not them.

This was one we'd tried at the Whisky Show a couple of years ago and liked (although it's fair to say notes were getting a bit vague by that point). So a tip of the hat to Rich for grabbing a bottle.

This was the second soldier left behind.

Longmorn Chivas Brothers 14yo 59.6% d1997; b2011
N: bourbon, apples, pears
P: pears, really good, tasty, prickly warm
F: medium (and more pears!)

Chivas appear to be releasing a number of interesting single cask bottlings from their prodigious supplies. These are coming in 500ml bottles, which keeps the price down (slightly).

SMWS G10.5 'A schweppervescence moment' 61% 21yo refill hogshead, ex-bourbon
N: pinenuts, lemonade, iodine, 'wet nuts'  [no, i don't know either, let's just leave it...]
P: effervescent, fizzy sherbet dibdabs
F: fizzy, effervescent, sweet, very long finish

It's a grain whisky, and we're not convinced that it wasted like a whisky at all. But having said that, we liked it.
And in a rare moment, SMWS appear to have a description that *actually fits* what's in the bottle !
A 7.5/10; B 8/10; R 7/10

Slainte, B

8 October 2013

Cycling and badgers

I like cycling. Mainly the speed aspect. This makes life interesting on a number of our roads which are of crap quality, particularly to the side where I bike - potholes galore. Brilliant, especially at the speeds I've managed to hit (73.5km/h is the top, so far...).

But since my phone has GPS it seemed silly to not use it and see how long it takes to bike to/from work.

There's a longer route into work which has a few hills (actual, real hills) which makes the ride more interesting, and sweaty.

The distance is pretty much the same either way, although the hills are different which made me think going in was always going to be quicker than coming home.

Morning : heading into work
Apparently: 133m gain; grade -14% to 11%

Date                    Time(min)     Ave Speed (km/h)    Max Speed
22 March 2012    42.09            15.74                        49.92
23 April 2013      38.19            17.28                        56.42
3 May 2013         34.53            18.96                        63.78
12 June 2013       35.25            18.62                        63.11
23 Aug 2013       31.48            20.66                        55.6
26 Sept 2013       28.36            21.97                        53

So that's all heading in the right direction, although I find it interesting that the max speed recently is down, but the average speed and time taken are better. But this year I've cut 10mins off on my new bike, and 14mins from last year on the old bike.

Evening : heading home
Apparently: 171m gain -15% to 21%

 Date                    Time(min)     Ave Speed (km/h)    Max Speed
21 March 2012    37.17            17.93                      
23 April 2013      31.42            20.80                      
20 May 2013       36.49        
11 June 2013       33.19            20.30                        59.42
09 July 2013        32.01            20.62
23 Aug 2013       31.42            20.80                      
20 Sept 2013       29.40            22.14                      

Sadly, I can't do any more morning rides as it's too dark to go hurtling down hills. This was brought home to me the other day as I flew past a dead badger.

4 October 2013

For avoiding the Daily Fail

TBH, I'm more likely to click on a link for Nigerian princes than to the DF, but for those of you less in control of your fingers there are plugins which redirect those links to other pages (http://www.teaandkittens.co.uk/ mainly).

But the point of this blog is to draw your attention to a comment posted on the Firefox plugin site.
So huzzah and stuff to DeadCars for an inspired review :) Personally my love for the comment reached bursting point around the 'Maybe Princess Diana was a bit overrated?'.
I used to be a massive racist and so naturally turned to the Daily Mail and Daily Express websites for my regular dose of ignorance and thinly veiled race-hate. But this plugin has really turned my life around. I've started having thoughts like "Maybe it's not all the fault of the European Court of Human Rights?","Perhaps there are some substances that neither cause nor prevent cancer?", and "Maybe Princess Diana was a bit overrated?" Thanks to Kitten Block, my fear of imaginary crime has rapidly dissipated and so I last week I left the house for the first time in 18 years. I've also stopped endlessly checking the price of my property on rightmove and started, y'know, being nice to people instead. Thanks Kitten Block, I'm not a unthinking dufus anymore. First class.

3 October 2013

Cooking with Bruce : Spicy vegetarian soup

So it's getting chillier (well it is here anyway), and I like spicy food. So in a nod to cultural norms that say autumn/winter is soup time, here's a spicy soup.

Spice Mix
Vege oil
onion chopped
3cm chopped ginger
3-4 cloves garlic
cinnamon (stick?)
2T toasted cumin seeds (I threw them in with the onion)
2 chillis - roughly chopped

Other Stuff
mushrooms - as many as possible
4-5 smallish spuds chopped
2x 390gm tomato tins
500ml vege stock

Cook the onion over gentle heat until soft. Throw all in blender, and process until smooth (may need a bit of water or oil).

Place into pan and cook until dry, add mushrooms/spuds/tomato and mix until boiling, add stock and simmer for 30-45 mins.

I added a bunch of other things (coriander leaves, asafoetida, tumeric etc), but hey, that's just me...


23 September 2013

Metal - cheesy metal brilliance

It's fair to say I have a soft spot for folk metal. It's cheesy. And great.
Alestorm have made a few appearances on this page, but there's an Alestorm offshoot - Gloryhammer.
here's the single:

and now a hero who ride a mammoth.

and to end, some more Gloryhammer:

Ahhh bliss.

Cooking with Bruce : Chocolate and Cherry torte

Welcome, again, to the occasional cooking with Bruce series. This time, overloading on chocolate and cherries.
I'd been ordered to make a chocolate cake, however telling me what I'm going to do and me doing it ... herding cats ... etc etc. Which is how I ended up with a chocolate torte, reasoning a) I wanted one b) it had chocolate and c) it's cherry season and I like them.
Not sure where I found this recipe, there's bits I've adapted...

Probably don't need to say it, but:
* chocolate : high quality and 75-80% cocoa
* cherry jam : again the better you can afford, the better the taste - cheaper ones don't have as much fruit and generally more sugar which can lead to bitterness when it's heated

Heat oven to 180C

100g unsalted butter
300g flour
pinch of salt
1t bp
100g sugar
2 eggs

Butter and line a tin with baking paper - I think mine's about 20cm, and that got pretty high and took awhile to cook, so 24cm maybe better.
Place all (except eggs) into blender, pulse to breadcrumbs, add egg and pulse until it comes together. Press pastry over the base and up the sides of the tin. Refrigerate.

150g caster sugar
4 eggs
3T flour
500ml full cream milk
1t vanilla extract
200g 82% dark chocolate [minimum 70%] broken up roughly
200g fresh cherries, and stoned (man)
2-3T good quality cherry jam

  1. Whisk sugar and eggs together until thick, stir in flour. 
  2. Bring milk to boil, then pour into the eggs mixture while whisking
  3. Add vanilla, and place over low heat
  4. Add chocolate+jam and stir until mixture thickens and coats the spoon
  5. Pour mixture into the tart, sprinkle cherries over the top
Cook for at least 45 mins (my 20cm tin = 70mins), allow to cool before removing and chopping up.

Even I will admit this doesn't need any cream. I know. I'm as shocked as you.
Tomorrow, you may get some indian food as I quite liked the ones I made last night...

Smoochies on your cherry [torte], me

30 August 2013

More Wagner

So my first ring cycle, how'd that cherry popping go? 

This was a semi-staged performance, which as far as I can see, is one of two settings for performing opera. Staged is where there's scenery and stuff. Semi-staged covers everything else. I'm sure someone will try and argue there's a not-staged, but it's impossible for opera singers to just stand there and not emote/move at some point, at which point I'd argue it become semi-staged. This one went a little further with some acting, and singers wandering around and on/off the stage.

I loved it. And it had some very good reviews: Das Rheingold; Die Walkure; Siegfried;  Gotterdammerung
The reviews (times, torygraph, etc) were all exhibiting much the same love fest for the cycle. 

Das Rheingold is the shortest of the four, a mere two and half hours, and in order to maintain the descent into general nastiness, there were no breaks. I thought this seemed reasonable, but I did overhear some complaints from the more elderly prommers around me. Thoroughly enjoyed it, I did feel that Wotan was a bit light in places, and Loge, although good, seemed to be playing more for laughs than I'd prefer. But those are minor quibbles. The orchestra under Barenboim was on superb form, and the singing was (overall) excellent. I felt it rocked along nicely, and actually set the scene for next three very well. I've seen a couple of performances where DR was played as a light weight appertif to the others. That's wrong, it sets out the major themes including how/why Wotan is a prick. The giants were great, and along with Alberich, quite dominating (as they should be).

Die Walkure, the one everyone knows one bit of, was the following night. OMG Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde. I felt this was stronger in the singing, in particular Bryn Terfel added far more authority and depth to Wotan. But Nina Stemme, Brunnhilde is a demanding part, and she nailed it. Mesmerising. The ride of the valkyries was good, but I may, just may, have preferred Opera North's version I saw a couple of years ago. I think that was due to the Leeds opera house being smaller, so the power and sheer fuck off-ness of the valkyries was amplified and became almost claustrophic, which seems right. 
Still, brilliant performance. 

Couple of days break, then back for Siegfried. Fatigue? pah. It's by this point that the storyline has become more convoluted than a Deep Purple family tree. Wotan is, in some way, related to over two thirds of the cast (either directly fathering, or grandfathering them), it may be higher, I'm usually confused by this point. In a typical dramatic offering, the main dude (Wotan) turns up in disguise, which doesn't help things. It's long. But it didn't feel like it, in fact Act 2 and 3 rocked along. The main focus is Brunnhilde, and her ability (stamina!) makes or breaks Siegfried. Nina Stemme was perfect. Power, grace, subtle, nailed everything, clear, emotional. It was stunning. She did show up Siegfried a bit. But his performance was excellent at pulling the audience with him, engaging actor that chap. 

Minor sideshow with Tristan and Isolde to break up the Ring cycle.

And then culmination, Gotterdammerung. Which is just the best name (means twilight of the gods) for an opera. Another 6 hour, two interval festival of Wagner. And still the orchestra didn't put a foot (?finger?) wrong. Storyline: quick summary by the Norns, which seems fair enough after roughly 15 hours of opera. Yet another stunning performance by Nina Stemme. And I enjoyed this Siegfried (Andreas Schnager). It's emotionally draining this opera, the first time I've seen it, and things don't go too well for the gods - as you'd guess from the title.  The rest of the audience seemed very appreciative with a very very long sustained applause for the entire ring cycle.

Truely worth every penny, and probably then some. Such engaging performances, absolutely perfection from Barenboim and the orchestra. Thanks BBC Proms. I'd looked at other cycles for the centenary year, but on hearing the rumours of a Proms cycle, held off for that. Glad I did. 

i would also like to say, you don't need to visit a sauna when you've been at the Royal Albert. Some air con wouldn't go amiss...


26 July 2013

The ring, Wagner, and me.

I've harboured the desire to experience the full Ring cycle at least once. And with this being the 200th anniversary of his birth, this did seem to be the year. But why Wagner?

I grew up in a musical family, there was always something either on the stereo/radio or being played on various instruments. But not opera. There was a plethora of musicals and light/comic opera. To this day I can't stand Gilbert and Sullivan, I've come around to admitting that Sullivan was a very good composer, but his work with Gilbert does not make me feel good. I get the same response that hard-core born again god botherers get with Slayer, homicidal. I blame the name, nothing good can come from a name like Gilbert.
Musicals in general have the same effect on me. There are a few I like/love, but they weren't the ones I grew up with, namely: Rocky Horror; Chess; and err I thought there were a couple more. Oh yeah I can, at a pinch, tolerate Jesus Christ Superstar. And obviously the entire ouevre of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. That's all good. Today's trivia fact: Murray Head (one night in Bangkok / Chess) is the brother of Anthony Head (Buffy and many other excellent things)

So not a lot of opera, and thinking about it, I don't think there was any in the LP collection which I worked my way through as a nipper.  Mmm vinyl. There might have been some Puccini and Verdi in my grandparents collection, but I generally ended up playing Andy Stewart's stuff (stop cringing Neil).

Thinking about it, aside from limited exposure on the radio (my parents didn't listen to ClassicFM very often, more usually National Radio which would occasionally play opera), what opened me to Opera (capitalisation intentional) was TVNZs Sunday afternoon/evening Opera. In retrospect it seems somewhat incongruous for a sports mad country, with 2 (maybe 3?) TV stations, to devote Sunday viewing time to Opera. Anyway, I clearly remember being utterly entranced by Die Fledermaus (The Bat) by Strauss. I have no idea who was singing, but I loved it. Drama, music, brilliant singing, staging, conflict (well ok, not much in this one), humour - so pretty much everything you want from entertainment. And for an entry point to Opera, very approachable.

I also remember Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) by Mozart, which again is a nice gentle introduction. And with the hook-ins to the Smurfs, I had something to get into it from. Looking at that list of Smurf classical music, I'm beginning to wonder how much influence that TV series had.

But the one that utterly wrapped itself around my little head, was Die Fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman), by - wait for it - Wagner. I also remember being told I had to go to bed, so it must have been an evening show and therefore missing half of it. Why no, of course I don't harbour grudges. However the passion, excitement, storyline, musicianship, conflict sunk into my impressionable head.
And this, I believe, is where my addiction began.

Over the years I've explored more opera. Not in the same way as I've gone through other genre's, probably as it's best experienced live and you need to have 2-3 hours (unless it's Wagner...) to set aside. I used to suffer from a lack of people to go with, and was a little intimidated by popping along to the opera - although not, oddly to symphonic performances - but got over that and have no issues going on my own. I reached a point many years ago when I realised my musical tastes, best described as diverse (and more accurately as slutty), meant finding companions would often be difficult.
I like Puccini, Verdi, Mozart etc and musically I often listen to excerpts from their operas, but Wagner. Oh Wagner. There's something there that makes you sit back and get involved in the music, you can't just switch it off. The music and drama sucks you in.
Yes, Wagner was a bastard and his social legacy hasn't been the best. But then a lot of great artists weren't the nicest of people. And look at Cliff Richard, he seems a thoroughly nice chap and his music is crap.
Far better writers than I have explored this, and I would recommend Stephen Fry's documentary 'Wagner and Me'.

And so to the BBC Proms Ring Cycle. I'd looked at other options, but in terms of cost/availability and convenience, the Proms won out. And when the singers were announced, it seemed like I'd made the right call. Sitting online waiting for queue to reduce from 2700 so I could buy tickets was slightly nerve-wracking, but ended up only taking 2.5 hours (so half an opera).

I'll continue this with some reviews of the actual shows ...


12 July 2013

Dealing with cold callers

Phone rings.
I answer.

Other: is there?
Me: who?
O: My name is Jack, from and I'm calling about some missold PPI  In very broad Indian accent
Me: I don't think your name is Jack. Are you lying to me? Is it really Jack?
O: err.

10 July 2013

Whisky Cabal Meeting 10 : in which we fall in a bog, big time

We'd all acquired a number of new drams, and so a tasting was called. The line up looked, and indeed was, intimidating. But all cabal members showed up for work, albeit feeling a little quieter than normal.
Unnecessary comments querying my handwriting were made. Of course I can read it.
Evidence for our group learning new tricks, we clarified scoring before we started - half marks are OK, nothing less.

As always, thanks to Loch Fyne Whiskies for keeping us inebriated. A little disappointed in their speed this time, 2h15min from ordering to shipping. Bloody appalling.

Look ma, visual aids.

Cardhu 18yo 40% LFW
Nose: sherry, raisins, caramel, xmas cake
Palate: sherry, dry, high cocoa chocolate
Finish: med-short
We've added this to our pub whisky list, which at some point we will curate. That's a guide for brands to look for in pubs.
Generally we thought this was ok, nothing special, and probably not deserving of its price point (£64). The bottle came in for criticism, with the members of the cabal who didn't own it, casting aspersions on its sexual orientation. A very happy bottle.

Teaninich 10yo 43% Flora and Fauna LFW
N: oak, cut grass
P: tangy, citrus, pepper
F: medium length, peppery
It's very smooth for a 10yo, quite light.

SMWS 1.165 10yo 58.4% (Glenfarclas) ex-bourbon "Coquettish, intriguing, seductive"
N: cut grass, marshmallows, vanilla, PVA glue
P: fresh, sugary, vanilla, sherbert
F: med-long
8/10  addition of water smoothes it but 7.5/10

We believe this dram was named after our Cabal. All the classic bourbon flavours present and correct, very nice, and ticks many of the 'farclas flavours too. Win.

Glendronach Batch 2 Cask Strength 55.2% LFW
N: sultanas, raisins, molasses, caramel, toffee, vanilla,
P: sherry, heavy chocolate, orange chocolate, rum'n'raisin icecream
F: short-med
Addition of water emphasised chocolate and honey flavours.
We like this. We liked Batch 1 too. I think it's becoming obvious our love for sherry monsters maybe coming through. Oh well, it's a curse we'll have to live with.

Glenburgie 14yo 60.5%
No link as it was a gift, but it was from LFW so I'm sure you can find it...
N: caramel, sugar, pears, strudel, apples, candyfloss
P: sweet, lemonade, sherbert, honey fruit
F: medium
8/10 (avoid water)
Described by the cabal as 'nice whisky' which, for this group, is quite a compliment. We've had some Glenburgie from SMWS before and it was rated 5-7/10 and failed with water (3-4).
So win from Suz and Neil.

Bruichladdich 46% 11/09/01 9yo
N: burnt rubber, leather, whisky (yeah, it appears things were getting to us)
P: honey, pepper, dry, salt, peaty
F: short
Not a win for the Cabal, described as a prick teaser (or hot nun) promised much on the nose, then promptly went soft on delivery.

Bruichladdich 15/06/08 12yo (bourbon)
N: toffee, musty, oil, lime/citrus
P: warm, yummy, sweet, banana, vanilla, hazelnut, puddings, fudge
F: med
"You want the experienced woman."
The older cousin to the 01 [Alec, did I get the right date?] and it's much better. Very very quaffable which worried the cabal, although we felt better when we realised it's only 46%. phew

Talisker - Port Ruighe 45.8% LFW
N: salt, port, cinnamon, warm
P: spicy, warm, salty, sweet, honey roasted cashews, chilli, flat
F: short
6.5-7/10 [or 5/10 from Garry]
I'm beginning to suspect that I may like Talisker more than I've given them credit for. But it's generally older ones. This ain't bad tho'.

Ardbeg Ardbog Festival bottling. 52.1%
N: fuuuuccckkkk, aniseed, rubber, burnt to fuck, peat, salt, what the fuck is that, oh jesus, oily.
P: sherry, smokey, warm, honey, fuck !
F: long
9.5 (Alec)/10 10/10 (me, Rich)  11/10 (Garry)
It's far to say this was a hit. in a fairly big way. Ardbeg have been hit and miss for me, I loved the Almost There, Still Young was very nice, and it all went to hell with the 10yo. But this. It's fair to say the excitment on the nose was delivered.

Glendronach Batch 1 cask strength
N: rough, poor
P: rough, sherry
F: long
Didn't cope very well after the Ardbeg. We had previously loved this whisky here, giving it 9/10.

And so we ended. Us taking the hits, so you don't have to.
But if you can beg/steal/borrow a taste of the Ardbog, do so.

Love, B

20 June 2013

Impromptu Whisky Tasting (Cabal free)

I remembered I had a few tasters and a few new whiskies lying around, so since it's that kinda of evening...tasting!There's also a cabal meeting next week so expect a larger writeup of stuff then.

Inverarity 14yo 40%
N: v sweet, parma violets, caramel, leather, strong,
P: very sweet, citrus tang, dry sherry feel, not hugely complex, possibly too much sherry as it hasn't allowed much else to develop
F: med-long, dry,

This is the house blend for LFW. It's very drinkable, and would be an excellent intro whisky, or a useful dram to have lying around the house. I'm not convinced the balance is quite right, my mouth seems full of cotton wool after drinking it - possibly too dry?
Any way, it's worth trying and if you need a reserve malt for under £40, it gets my vote.

Clynelish Signatory 58.3%
N: earth, musty, honey, fresh opened pea pod, sweet tobacco, citrus
P: warm, honey, chilli?, oil, hint of salt, pepper, chewy, tobacco, caramel fudge
F: med-long, spicy tobacco

You all know my love for Brora, so Clynelish has often been a disappointment. This isn't. Signatory have a reputation for delivering damn fine drams, and this is great. I maybe a little harsh with the 8, it could be higher.  It's a weirdly chewy dram, and doesn't feel like cask strength (oh dear), the tobacco hints keep growing with sips and on the finish.
Yup, I like this.

Glenburgie 14yo 60.5% 
No link for this one as it was a gift, it's from LFW if you do want it.
N: earthy, sweet, honey (clover?), lemonade, fresh cut lawns, oak sap?, marshmallows, icing sugar
P: fizzy homemade lemonade, caramel, sweet, delicate, floral, parma violets?
F: short-med, but tingly afterwards - nice
Google informs me Glenburgie is near Moray with most of their production heading to blends. I do have to link to the distillery homepage as it's brilliantly bad, 1995 calling...
The whisky is light, delicate and yet interesting. It's very very smooth - smoother than a 14yo at 60.5% deserves to be. Rather too quaffable. Actually its bloody nice and warm and drinkable at cask.

Add water
N: all of the above, but the spritzic lemonade becomes more promient
P: levels it all out, bringing out the sweetness and very very smooth honey flavours (and yes, it seems clover-ish),
F: med-long? more tingly and hint of pepper

I don't think the rating changes And the flavour smoothes out, it's good with and without water. Huzzah - and thanks :D


Movie Day 1 : Maniac Cop

Nominally live blogging today. First up is Maniac Cop.
Bruce Campbell, Richard Roundtree and a high body count. Cop is killing people, he's called the Maniac Cop by the press. No one believes there's a rogue cop, the public kills cops, New York has gone feral (can anyone tell?).
Cop is arrested (Brucie baby), what a jaw, what a goddamn jaw.There's quality time in dive bars, loner cops, piss weak looking beer. And most importantly, cheesy 80 electronic drums. Brilliant.
"Fuckin' A I'm a cop, whadya fuck are you?","Fuck you".

They've found him! they've shot him, he's not dying!!! OMFG. And she's got crimped hair, 80s FTW.
Things have slowed as they try to work out how the rogue cop is getting info, but now it's picking up, there's a slow car chase. Although there's been no death for a good 10 minutes, which is a downer.

"do you always take a leak with a gun in your hand? that's a good way to blow ya balls off"
there has been an extended sequence about finding out the supposed dead cop is not actually dead (imdb informs me that the coroner was the directors real-life doctor), and convincing other cops that this is the truth. Dramatic times in New York. Thankfully the body count is going up again, Bruce (and his jaw) are still suspects, but crimped hair blonde is on the case.

Is it possible for a US cop to start a car without wheel spinning? That maybe a rhetorical question. Blonde has shotgun, there's a denouement a'comin'. And a sequel.

Well I enjoyed that, cheesy, rubbish, and thoroughly watchable. Huzzah !!

15 June 2013


Just because.

9 June 2013

Cooking with Bruce : Chicken and mango curry

This should work with anything, fish, tofu, whatever.

Spice Paste

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2½ tbsp sambal oelek
3 medium-heat red chillies
30g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2-3 lemongrass stalks, either whole (sliced) or paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
12 small shallots
10 garlic cloves

Combine all in a blender, drizzle in oil to make it a paste.

Score some chicken breasts, then put half of the paste on them and leave to infuse for a couple of hours, turning occaisonally.

Fry chicken at very hot temp to sear on each side (2-3 mins)

Add remaining paste, cook for 10 mins (ish) until it turns a deep brown/red colour. Add in some veges (carrots, beans, capsicums), mango and 150ml coconut milk, cook for 5 mins, chop up the chicken and add that. Cook for 5 mins.

Flick some lime juice through it, and serve on rice.

Gigs wot I has seen: Enid, Phoenix Foundation, Mark Knopfler, Handsome Family and Iron & Wine

May had set itself up as a big gig month, well big in terms of numbers of gigs.
First up were the Enid, a band who have gone from strength to strength over the last few years. It's the second or third time I've seen them in the last couple of years, and whats become clear is that their vocalist (Joe Payne) has taken over effectively conducting the band which has made them much tighter. He's also a brilliant vocalist, with an excellent range and very smooth transition into his falsetto.
Excellent gig. and I their most recent album, Invicta, is a superb combination of symphonic with hints of rock. Buy it from the band.

Next up was a brace of Phoenix Foundation gigs. We trundled up to Liverpool, discovered good coffee and great beer around Parr Street. The venue, Kazimier, is small, quirky, and throughly recommended. James was support, or rather Lawrence Arabia, who was on fine form - crowd seemed to enjoy him, except the rather pissed Liverpudlians.  I can thoroughly recommend his new album, The Sparrow, it's quirky, interesting, and sweet. BBC review here. So to the Phoenix lads, my major issue with their recent gigs has been their professionalism - an ironic thing to complain about - but I do love the early gigs where the excitement was added to with (a) are they all playing the same thing and (b) will they all finish at the same time?
The Liverpool gig was similar to this, although not by the boys' choice - a bunch of rather inebriated chaps were wanting specific songs, and ruining their setlist, but adding to the cool vibe. Enjoyed it.
Pottered along to the Glam show at the Tate Liverpool the next day, it seemed to lack focus and context, but enjoyable.
The PB London gig was in a larger venue, no Lawrence (sadly), but by god did they go off. Strong kiwi contingent, but seemed a large number of locals - huzzah.

Next up, Knopfler in Cardiff. I've raved about his new album, Privateering, and I like Cardiff. Good pubs, inclduing The Goat Major, who do a very good line in pies (hear that Mr Thompson?). And the Cardiff Art Gallery, really is superb.
So the gig, I've seen Knopfler a few times now, first time with Dire Straits, and the others as a solo act. This was a seated stadium gig (Arena Motorspot in the Cardiff central area), and sadly it showed. The band, who were brilliant, weren't really given their lead and so seemed to lack passion - except for a couple of pieces where they could do what they wanted. Some of it was sublime, and the new album sounded good and bluesy brilliant, but over all I felt it was a bit flat. Enjoyable, but not memorable. Not enough to make me buy a copy of the concert at £25.

Back to Lboro, and across to Leicester for The Handsome Family. Again, a bit of a favourite live. And this time they had a real drummer, rather than the *dodgy* drum machine they've had previously. This made a difference, stopping Brett playing with the machine was a good move. The banter is still brilliant, and the songs are dark, twisted, funny and great. Really enjoyed the gig, and it looks like I might pick up the new album shortly...dammit.

And down to London for Iron and Wine. Pottered along to the Bowie exhibition at the V&A, which was crowded, and enjoyable, but to be honest I'm still not taken with Bowie as a musician, but came away with appreciation of his contribution as an artist (does that make sense?). But probably worth getting the V&A membership for, particularly as I pottered along to the treasures of the Russian and English courts exhibition, which I enjoyed far more than the Bowie (to be honest).
So iron and wine, hmmm, grumble, he had a big band with him almost trying to swing the songs - and having seen him before, I don't think it worked. I thought the intimacy of the songs was lost. The newer stuff worked better, but songs such as Jezebel, was a nightmare for me.
On the strength of this concert, I didn't buy the album. I will spin it on Spotify, but I'm not rushing. Felt a bit grumpy after this gig for the lack of vibe I'd had from the albums, and the gig I'd been to.

17 May 2013

Internet browsers and recruitment

I hate browsers, or more specifically browser specific applications. Two examples have pissed me off today.
firstly, a recruitment/request page wasn't allowing logons in safari, so I tried chrome. Same problem. Emailed the contact, to their credit had a very quick response, which said we've reset your password and you'll need to use IE.
Well fuck that for a joke. So I replied back saying thanks for the response, but I won't be recommending your company in our review.
Just after that I was on our recruitment page, also running a buttfuck useless java based system, which has decided to not let me on. *win* no really, I don't have to shortlist a bollocks load of potential minions by Monday. You just carry on with your abortion based system.
And an update: apparently my account had been marked as inactive, however changing it back to active has made no difference. WTF. Arse scratching monkeys could do a better job.

21 April 2013

Cooking with Bruce: Carrot Cake

This is my carrot cake recipe, which is an amalgamation of 3-4 other recipes I've used over the years. It's bloody good.

Carrot Cake - Bruce's Recipe

Cake ingredients
175g soft brown sugar
175ml vegetable oil / sunflower oil
3 eggs lightly beaten
3 medium carrots grated
100gm raisins
grated zest of one orange
175g self-raising flour (gluten free is fine)
1t bicarb of soda
1t vanilla extract
1t ground cinnamon (ideally freshly ground)
1/2t nutmeg (ideally freshly ground)
100gm chopped roasted walnuts

Icing ingredients
75gm butter
150gm cream cheese
350gm (roughly) icing sugar
1/2t vanilla extract
1-2t orange juice (and any zest lying around)
more walnuts to sprinkle

1. Preheat oven to 180C, oil/grease cake tin
2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs, carrots, raisins orange rind
3. Mix in flour, bicarb of soda, spices. Mixture will be runny, stir in walnuts.
4. Pour mixture into cake tin, bake for 45-60 mins until it springs back. Cool slightly, then turn out.

Mix all (except walnuts), and when cake is cool, spread over cake then sprinkle walnuts over the top.

2 April 2013

Whisky Cabal 9: where no bottle is killed

The gap between this, and the previous cabal meeting ( July 2012), conclusively proves we are incapable of organising a piss up anywhere. Sure, we'd made some beerfests and the whisky show, but cabal meetings? pah. useless. oh hang on, we had an unofficial one before xmas.
Due to the (un)seasonal snow, we were one drinker short, thankfully the remaining three were prepared to take some for the team. Go us.

As usual links for purchase go to our favourite lads at Loch Fyne Whisky. We've got to the point where we run bets on how quickly they'll get our order in the post, 6 hours has been the worst, and generally its 1-2 hours. These people understand our need for booze.

You'll notice our usual range for gradings. This is related to one of our number who complains about standardisation, and is at heart, a contrary bugger. Impressively, it's not me.

Harris 12yo Cask 4519 183/260 : Blair Athol : 58.6%

Nose: PVA glue, bourbon, ester-y
Palate: fighting yet smooth, sweet, citrus, fizzy, 80s sweet, oak
Finish: warm, honey, smoke
7-8 /10
Addition of water made it less fighty, but didn't really change the flavour of rating. An interesting dram, quite drinkable, but possibly bottled a little young?

Blair Athol is the mainstay of Bell's, but don't let that put you off.

G & M Mortlach 15yo 43%

Nose: meat (?), sulphur, egg, wet heather
Palate: warm, sherry, light, lemon, lilac sweets
Finish: short
6.5 - 7 /10
We like Mortlach, and the 15yo is a great easy drinking dram. Not very sherried (for a Mortlach), but it's a great introduction to good whisky.

G & M Mortlach 21yo 43%

Nose: sherry, spicy, honey, leather, salt
Palate: chocolate, honey, cinnamon, fruit, cakes
Finish: warm, lingering

8.5-9 /10
Ahhh yes, that's more like it. I repeat this story too often, but the first real whisky i bought was the 21yo Mortlach. I was at the whisky shop in Heathrow and the final call for our flight, Frances was dragging me out, and I was about to buy the 15yo as I'd just tried that, and the guy said for an extra fiver, get the 21yo. He was right. Very very right.
I do like my Mortlach. The two SMWS bottles in my cupboard support that thesis.

Glendronach Cask Strength 54.8%

Nose: sweet sherry, condensed milk, caramel, leather in a sports car (sorry, that was mine), butterscotch, xmas, ginger, lemons
Palate: sultanas, coriander and tandoori, aniseed
Finish: medium-long, very tasty, long warm, apples/sultanas
Yes, all three of us agreed.
This is a bloody stunning dram. Go forth young 'uns and buy, a bargain at just under £50.

Longrow - Rundlets and Kilderkins 51.7% 11yo

Nose: salty, bacon, smoke, reminded me of the 16yo Lagavulin
Palate: honey, salt, warm, peaty
Finish: long, salt, long standing tingle
8.5 - 9.25 /10

Don't ask about the .25, just don't.
This is year 2 of the R & K range, last year was the Springbank (also favourably reviewed here). The advantage of the smaller casks is that the whisky matures quicker as more liquid is exposed to the oak, and so picks up flavour quicker. Very very nice whisky, island-like without being overpowering.

Arran 53.9% Cask 1968 21 / 263
dist: 11/12/96  bot: 1/10/12

Nose: sweet tea, sherry, dessert wine, nutmeg, spices
Palate: aniseed sherry, wow
Finish: very very long, warm, happiness

The Arran distillery has become a bit of a favourite, there was a concern they were bottling a little young - but they are definitely hitting the sweet spot now. This was an utter corker. And yes, all three of us agreed. Twice in one evening.

Cask Strength and Carry On: Benriach 22 / 296 16yo 55.2%
Dist: 1996 bot: July 2012
Nose: sherry, salt, xmas cake, lemon/lime,
Palate: chilli, aniseed
Finish: long, spicy, fiery

7-7.5 /10
This from great lads at the Cask Strength blog who are aiming to work their way through the alphabet (C, for Cutty Sark, has just been released).
We liked this, but it suffered a bit following two blinders, it seemed a little vigorous to me - maybe it needed a few more years in the cask? Wouldn't turn down more of it tho'...

Talisker Storm 45.8%

Nose: salt, bacon, smoke
Palate: sweet, prawn cocktail, raspberry
Finish: short, peppery
6,7,8 /10
This divided our group, we'd all been looking forward to trying it. Especially me, after my recent conversion to Talisker at the Whisky Show (admittedly their 25 and 30yo expressions).
I gave it the 6, as I found it one-dimensional. It's good for what it is, but it lacked anything after the initial flavour hit.
I'll still try more Talisker, as those old ones were winners.

Port Charlotte PC10 59.8% 

Nose: phenol, salt, smoke (but only a little)
Palate: sweet, Fuck, huge, salt, honey, tangy, citrus, pepper
Finish: long, salt, pepper

9.5 - 10 /10
Yeah, they've done it again. It's a stunner. Absolute belter. We kept this as the last whisky as we knew it would cut through anything else we'd had. And it did. Bloody hell it's good. And scary. No links as it had pretty much sold out before release (make me an offer if you really want a bottle...)


1 April 2013

Cooking with Bruce: salmon with honey lime chilli glaze & white bean salsa

Righto, this isn't one of mine. This comes from the lovely kiddiwinks at Cuisine, and it's damn good.

Barbecued side of salmon with honey lime chilli glaze & white bean salsa

We had it the other night, and it's full of tangy mexican goodness, chilli, lime, salsa, hell I felt like diving over fences or setting up a cartel.
One probable reason why it's so good, is that it's Al Brown's. Go Al. 


31 March 2013

Like Jesus

in the spirit of the suffering of jesus at easter, our household has embraced the season. rather than risk tetanus, we've got for a more modern approach. food poisoning. brilliant. 

my immune system took the pragmatic approach and collapsed early, so i'm now fine. S's took on the bacteria, fought a valiant rear-guard action, and has now succumbed.
this has, needless to say, cut severely into chocolate, beer, wine, whisky, and hot x-bun consumption. 

coming soon: another cabal review.


16 March 2013

Wind farms, activists and illness

In so many ways, win.
The greatest cause of wind farm related illness (stress, sleeplessness etc etc), is apparently activists playing on peoples fears - not the windfarms themselves.

Brilliant. Read summary here.


24 February 2013

Cooking with Bruce: Red kidney bean daal

I found this one in an Aussie vege food magazine, but I've edited things a bit. Mainly as I see no reason at all to buy raw lentils and kidney beans, and cook the bastards for days on end to make them (slightly) softer. So buy them precooked. It just makes sense.

One thing that kinda pisses me off about being [mostly] vegetarian is the expectation that you love lentils. In general, I hate lentils. They're boring, generally poorly cooked, and have only been interesting here (note the Rush t-shirt!):

Red Kidney bean daal
packet/tin red kidney beans 250-300gm (ish)
packet/tin lentils 250-300gm (ish)
1T chilli flakes
1T coriander powder
thumb size grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 stick of cinnamon
10 cloves
1t cardamon
250gm [ish] of chopped tomato
50-60gm unsalted butter
75ml cream

Drain and rinse beans, add chilli, coriander, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and tomato and slow cook over a low heat for an hour (I guess...). If it gets dry, add water. stir occasionally. Add cream and butter and cook for 10-15mins stirring occasionally, remove the cinnamon stick. Serve over rice, naan, or other stuff.

btw: for the girls-blouses out there, I'd suggest pulling the chilli down (this probably applies to most of England too, given what I've had described as 'hot', pah!).

Love, B

Cooking with Bruce: Cupcakes

I know, it's all a bit trendy. Sorry.
I was wandering into town yesterday and came up with, hey I've got spare pomegranate seeds (as you do) and some limes. Those would work well together.

As usual, these measurements are guesses..but you can use gluten free flour and they taste good.

60gm unsalted butter
2/3c caster sugar
egg (beaten)
2/3c flour  [gluten free, eg rice, is fine]
1t bicarb of soda
75ml (ish) sour cream
pomegranate seeds
zest of lime

Cream B + S; add egg and smack it around until fluffy, add everything else. Put into either paper cases or greased muffin tin, cook for 20 mins at 180C.


19 February 2013

Mea Maxima Culpa - the movie, and a rant

I’ve spent a portion of my Saturday watching a documentary on catholic priest child abuse. There's a dearth of good docos in Loughborough, the local cineplex catering for the masses, so rather than wait for curzon on demand, I wandered along to Mea Maxima Culpa.

A harrowing exploration of the systematic abuse of deaf children at a Catholic school for the deaf in Milwaukee, specifically by Fr. Murphy.
It was a legal challenge relating to this abuse by Fr. Murphy that led to the uncovering of the Irish child abuse scandals, and realization that the church had known of them for a long period of time. Interestingly a line in the movie suggested the church has documents of abuse stretching back to the 4th century. Their response to allegations appeared rooted in an older age, hide, deny, attack, and never admit. Although the church refused to offer their viewpoint to the documentary, it is unlikely to directly contradict evidence from a former (bishop??) who  at least was concerned by the impact on the victims - something rare by the evidence presented. Sadly he was undone in the eyes of the church by his admission of homosexuality, even though his was a relationship with an adult with no suggestion of impropriety.

No-one in the holy see came out of this looking good, and if even half of what was alleged to be known is true, then Pope JP and Bene appear highly complicit in the coverup.

Here's the trailer:

But it got me thinking. I'm not saying atheism is the correct choice for everyone, but one thing it does do is encourage criticism, whereas organised religion places certain individuals in positions of absolute power. And that seems wrong to me. No one is infallible, failure is the one constant in humans. But a continued mantra of priests are better than lay members offered an opportunity to abuse on a grand scale.
There was some effort at redemption by the group, but I was struck at how it appeared a self help/anonymous group. An argument was advanced that the litigants (remember this was America) were trying to reclaim the church for the people, an interesting humanist perspective.
Complicating matters is the legal position of Vatican city and its position as a state -an invention by Mussolini for support of his fascist party. Fascinating stuff.

So what should they do? Well transparency would be nice, but is unlikely to happen. A truth and reconciliation commission?? Could be a start. Indict pope bene - couldn't hurt. It would be nice to wake people up to the realization that papal infallibility is as real as political integrity.

One glaring point not explored was the stupidity of not enforcing the separation of church and state. I don't want to go all socialist on you, but separating the two helps critical thought. Which is why I am completely against faith based schools and academies. How can you teach critical thought if you are having to teach it with the understanding that Jesus was conceived by a virgin birth, or that Mohammed was the last prophet of god. Ridiculous.
It’s very hard to teach evolution if your default answer is ‘god did it’. For one thing, it prevents a full understanding of the complex issues of DNA change and subsequent inheritance.

I’m not against Michael Gove’s restructuring of the education system here, some of the monkeys I’ve had to deal with certainly argue that it needs it (no more so than in NZ tho’). But allowing academy’s to be faith based schools seems will produce a herd of non-critical, blind, and indoctrinated faith fodder. How, and I ask this in all seriousness, can a faith school of actively teach an intelligent and rational critique of another denomination - given they’re historically so loving and caring.

Aside from my rant, the movie was excellent. Go see it.


9 February 2013

6 nation week 2

Pah. Stupid pointless exercise picking anything.

Wales look crap, and they've lost their captain for this week. Ireland looked better than expected with B O'D, and England looked quite good. And that really hurts saying.

So this week, pointless as it may be.

Scotland v Italy : Should be close this one. I'd like to back Scotland, but given Italy's effort last week? A draw would be good, but in a fit of stupidity, Scotland by 5.

Wales v France : France should have this. But again, could be very very close. France by 3.

England v Ireland : England by 12. I don't think Ireland can deliver again.

2 February 2013

6 nations and Art Gallery surprises!

News articles 

Art Gallery is unwitting host to treasure hunt I love this. I suspect it's all a hoax, but cool way to get people to a gallery - especially as the gallery has no idea...

6 nations preview

And so the roller coaster of northern hemisphere rugby rolls around, the 6 nations kicks off today. The English are, as usual, crowing about how good they'll be this season, based on their win over the all blacks. All of the other losses last year appear to have faded into obscurity, the win over the world champions is all that counts.
Wales are looking like they'll have to draft in shane howarth's legendary grandmother, probably at prop.
Scotland will once again be strong contenders to win the championship…oh who am i kidding, but at least their new coach appears to have a sense of humour.
Italy will pick up a win somewhere, and generally challenge more than expected.
Ireland, if they continue how they played at the world cup, and last 6 nations, are bereft of ideas and could, given their injuries, come near the end.
France is also rebuilding, a polite way of saying they're as disorganised and confusing as ever.

So my picks? 1) France / Scotland (evidence I'm on drugs) 2) England 3) Wales 4) Scotland 5) Italy 6) Ireland.

Todays games:
Wales v Ireland Quite an interesting game, Wales are stripped of players and seem to be suffering a crisis in their rugby support structure. Ireland are boring. Wales by 6.

England v Scotland Damn I'd like the Scots to shove one up the English. Realistically I'm not hopeful. England by 12.  [drug prediction: Scotland by 3]

Italy v France Italy will be leading halftime, France by 15 at full-time.

25 January 2013

Albums of 2012 - the TopFlight List

Yes, having promised this list some time ago, I decided to leave you all in a state of panting excitement.

Rather than actually list them in any order, there's the best, and the rest of the top10.

Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape. You like post-rock? and don't have CBP The Crafty Ape? Shame. Shame on you. It's superb, doesn't feel like a 2CD set which is always a good sign (hell, listening to Transatlantic, which aren't [technically] 2CD albums, feels like a triple...). It's grungy, dark, tuneful, and addictive.

Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 (I'm linking to Burning Shed rather than j-tull). Really, I thought this would be rubbish, there's so many examples of bands coming back to their masterpiece and failing (Queensryche, Meatloaf, etc) that expectations were low. But this was great, nice tribute themes to TaaB1, while exploring what could have happened in the intervening years.

John K Samson - Provincial. The first solo album from the lead singer of the Weakerthans was a lovely piece, more delicate and personal than the Weakerthans material. And very addictive. The same quirky, engaging lyrics, but a more personal delivery.

Scott Walker - Bish Bosch. Not the most prolific of musicians since his avante garde switch (road to damascus moment?), this is the third album in what are, at least thematically, a trilogy of experimental, challenging, and always interesting albums. It's confusing, intense, dark, twisted, at times funny, and quite overwhelming. And exactly what I wanted from SW.

Mark Knopfler - Privateering. He's been solo for a number of years now, with consistently good - and sometimes great - albums. But this one, a double, is coming close to his best. MK is playing more blues, and the synergy between his voice (always sounding prematurely aged during the Dire Straits days), the lyrics, and the music is sublime. I'm really looking forward to the gig in May.

Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made. It was actually quite a close run thing if this made the top10. To some extent the flow of the album is poor, and that's the result of the opening epic Gaza - clocking in at 17mins, which may be the best piece of music Marillion have recorded. The rest of the album is very good (standouts including Power and Sounds That Can't Be Made), but it's a game of two halves. The more I've spun it, the more I thought it should be in the top10.

Swans - The Seer. Described variously as post-punk or post-rock, I 'found' the Swans this year. Another double album. Another dark, impenetrable, twisted, disturbing listen (is that three this year?), it's either utterly brilliant or completely pointless. The more I spin it, the more I'm leaning to brilliant. It's certainly challenging.

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion. Well it wouldn't be a yearly best of without some Steve Wilson input...this one is his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. Both Opeth and Wilson have been getting more and more experimental (infact the Opeth gig this year was, effectively, jazz metal funk), this album has it's roots in 70s dark rock, ambient? I dunno. I like it.

Gazpacho/The Enid - March of Ghosts/Invictus. Yes I'm cheating and having two. But you can see a bit of a link between the two. Invictus was a surprise, it's the Enid, but far more orchestral than the recent albums. Essentially it's a classical album, by that weird prog-classical-rock band. Gazpacho can, as usual, do no wrong. March of Ghosts is moving, dreamy, dark, absorbing, and draining.

And the best?
Paul Buchanan - Mid Air. Most bands get more complex over the years, Paul Buchanan (the Blue Nile) has got simpler. There is nothing here. Fragments of music coalesce into songs, drifting in and out - and yet perfectly formed. It's a short album (36mins), made up of 14 tracks. And it leaves you floating, happy, and yet slightly melancholic. Meh, I dunno how he does it. But it is perfection.