Friday, 17 November 2017

Ghédalia Tazartès - Tazartès' Transports (1980)

Second album from Parisian outsider legend Ghédalia Tazartès, whose beautifully strange music I was first introduced to via - you guessed it - the Nurse With Wound list.  Recorded in 1977, and first released in 1980 on clear vinyl with no track titles, Tazartès' Transports on CD is split into 15 tracks with... no track titles.  So, one to just dive headfirst into for sure.
That LP cover isn't the only thing that brings Faust to mind for me - listening to these tracks, with each sudden jump-cut going off at a totally new tangent, is quite a Faust Tapes-esque experience.  The opening moments of the album throw up a couple more German reference points - a pretty Roedelius-like piano incongruously paired with a harsh, Tietchens-ish rhythm - before Tazartès speed-shifted voice replaces the piano, and we're plunged into his wonderfully weird sound world.  Chiming cathedral bells, electronic squiggles, more loops of different voices, a mournful wind instrument emerging from the embers of a noise onslaught - that's just track two.

Listing the many delights of the remaining 13 tracks would be a pointless exercise - just listen, enjoy and discover the many looped elements, found sounds and little snatches of actual music, and on repeat listens, hear something different every time - that's the enduring magic of Tazartès' music for me.  His singing is a constant joy in whatever form it takes - plaintive wailing, throaty droning, or rasping Dada-esque nonsense in one of his comic personae.  Don't miss the spoken word closing track, intoned in English - "All animals have a personality, a personality, a personality... I'm a dancer,  I'm a dancer, moving on a stage, moving on a stage...".  A memorably bizarre ending to a magnificent, absolutely essential record.
alternate CD cover
mega / zippy

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Azimuth with Ralph Towner - Départ (1980)

Autumnal ECM loveliness of the highest order.  Of course, that description could apply to about half of the label's catalogue, especially from its mid 70s to early 80s golden era.  This album though, recorded in the last month of the 70s, even has a track named Autumn, complete with suitably evocative lyrics from Norma Winstone.

Winstone, along with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, had by this point recorded two wonderfully airy, hypnotic albums as Azimuth, taking as much inspiration from Reichian minimalism as from the British jazz scene of their backgrounds.  For this third outing, ECM 's Manfred Eicher suggested adding a guest guitarist, and all three requested Ralph Towner, who they'd met the previous year.

Towner's chiming 12-string is therefore the first accompaniment to be introduced to album opener The Longest Day, over the top of Taylor's circular piano figures, before Winstone and Wheeler begin to take flight.  He switches to classical guitar for the aforementioned Autumn, and for the first two parts of the Touching Points suite.  This mid-album four-parter is particularly interesting as there's increasingly less typically Azimuth drift and more choppy free improv (especially in the third section), plus a chance to hear Taylor on Terry Riley-esque organ on the fourth section.  He sticks to organ for the gorgeous title track's intro, returning to piano for Winstone's brief haiku-like lyric, before everyone soars into the stratosphere again.

mega / zippy

see also: 
Sounds & Shadows (Towner)
Somewhere Called Home (Winstone with Taylor)
Double, Double You (Wheeler)

Monday, 13 November 2017

Martin Davorin Jagodic - Tempo Furioso (Tolles Wetter) (1975)

Sole album release by Martin Davorin Jagodic (b. 1935, Zagreb), who settled in France in the 1960s.  Having apparently worked at GRM, been involved in installations and performance pieces and composed numerous Cage-esque graphic scores, it's a shame there isn't more recorded evidence of Jagodic's work.  What is available here, though, is 42 minutes of top-notch sound manipulation that more than justified Jagodic's place on the Nurse With Wound list (see last Monday's post).

Starting from a stew of queasy, gently pulsing electronics, it soon becomes clear that the 'Tempo Furioso' title doesn't have anything to do with the pace of the work, and may have just been applied for ironic/comic value.  Adding to the mix are various voice snippets and loops, naturalistic sounds of lapping waves and birds (Jagodic must've been out taping in the 'great weather' of the album's subtitle), and samples of classical and rock music.  An early highlight of the second track is a lengthy sample from a period-drama radio play, surrounded by more agitated electronics, before things settle down again.  A highly recommended sound experience from start to finish.

mega / zippy

Friday, 10 November 2017

Laura Nyro and Labelle - Gonna Take A Miracle (1971)

Absolutely love, love, love this little gem.  For her fifth album, Laura Nyro took a break from songwriting to put together a heartfelt tribute to the music she grew up listening to in The Bronx in the 50s and 60s.  With new friend Patti Labelle and her group singing backup, and Gamble & Huff producing at Sigma Sound, the result was a perfect mix of classic girl-group and soul material with a now-legendary Philly sheen.

A huge part of this album's charm for me is its spare instrumentation and production, and just how alive and joyful each track sounds.  According to legend, everything was recorded first-take in a single day, after almost all the studio time had been frittered away just goofing around and enjoying the songs that everyone knew so well.  This freshness makes the uptempo selections absolutely burn through their grooves (Jimmy Mack, Nowhere To Run, the medley of Monkey Time and Dancing In The Street) and the ballads shine in their ethereal, stark beauty (Desiree, and my personal album highlight The Wind).  And if anyone's recorded a more perfect version of Spanish Harlem that just drips with languid, urban midsummer eroticism, I've yet to hear it.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Tomasz Stańko/Freelectronic - Freelectronic In Montreux (1987)

Stańko's mid-80s fusion ensemble in action at the 1987 Montreux Jazz Festival.  Possibly not the full performance, unless they did only appear for 35 minutes, but enough to get a flavour of their nicely odd trumpet-bass-synth-synth sound.  Yep, there's no drummer here, with the rhythmic drive being provided by Witold Szcurek's bass slapping and Tadeus Sudnik's arsenal of tweaked synths and 'self-made electronics'.

I'll readily admit that my initial listen to this recording just elicited a response of 'arrrgh 80s cheese', and I even referred to it in a previous Stańko writeup as 'hilarious', but scratch below the surface sound (the twanging bass, and a very much of-its-time DX7) and repeated listens throw up the little idiosyncrasies that keep me coming back to Freelectronic In Montreux.
Alternate cover
Most of this is down to Sudnik, whose little whooshes and burbles take the group's sound into a weirder dimension than upbeat opener Lady Go would otherwise suggest.  The atmospherics of Asmodeus and Too Pee are more interesting still, suggesting a definite Vangelis presence in Sudnik's record collection.  Stańko himself is on fine firey form on the uptempo numbers (and on the loose soundscape of Too Pee), and coolly melancholic elsewhere, looking forwards to his mature ECM years.  The MC at the end appears to say "rebel of Polish jazz - Tomasz Stańko", and on this evidence he very much still merited that crown in the 80s.
Another alt cover - had they employed the guy who drew for Ozric Tentacles or something??

mega / zippy

Monday, 6 November 2017

Trevor Wishart - Journey Into Space (1973)

Described as an "audio movie" on the original self-released vinyl labels, Journey Into Space was the first release by English electroacoustic composer Trevor Wishart (b. 1946, Leeds).  The charming DIY-ness of the double-LP's back cover is reproduced in this CD reissue, with sleevenotes very much of their time (see below), and advice that copies of the album could be obtained directly from the composer at his York University department for £3, plus 40p P&P - not exactly a bargain! - but fair play to Wishart, he'd completely self-financed the album.

One of those copies (or a subsequent release) may well have found its way into the hands of a trio of teenage sound-hounds in London, as Wishart features on the original Nurse With Wound list.  The massive amount of tape manipulation involved in Journey Into Space is a clear precursor to NWW, but in the early 70s Wishart appears to have been much more interested in making the mundane and everyday gradually warp into a fantastic dreamscape, as opposed to Stapleton's full-on surrealism.
"Journey-into-Space is the allegorical journey of a man towards self-realisation.  It begins in a strange landscape of Birth from which emerges the cry of a baby.  The man, as if waking from a dream, sets off in his car with the sounds of a space-rocket launch on his car radio.  The two journeys coalesce in his mind as he continues through many strange musical landscapes, eventually arriving at a doorway. 
On passing through the entrance-hall he emerges once more into the birth landscape, but now the music develops in an entirely new direction as the threads of the dream are drawn together."                                (from original LP liner notes)
The LP release just had four untitled sides, but this has been tidied up for CD to make Birth Dream the 13-minute introductory piece.  Comparisons to Throbbing Gristle's Medicine are perhaps inevitable, but Wishart's evocation of birth is far less, well, medical.  The main meat of the work follows - The Journey on CD runs for an uninterrupted 47 minutes, as the character's journey progresses as above from the mundane to the magical.  The 'music' as such was derived from blown bottles, children's toys and many other found objects, as well as the occasional brass honk and lots of evocative vocal sounds.  Lastly, the 18 minute Arrival does indeed draw the dream together in style, pulling together the various sound sources into a mindbending finale with an abrupt ending.  In short, fellow NWW fans will love this one - but it's also well worth anyone's time for the ingenuity in sound manipulation that Wishart was conjuring up in his University of York Electronic Music Studio.

mega / zippy

Friday, 3 November 2017

Steve Hackett - Defector (1980)

Having previously posted my favourite and close-second favourite of his albums, let's round up with my third Hackett-of-choice.  The very loosely Cold War-themed (it only really works for the first two tracks, although some fan reviews try to stretch the concept to the full album) Defector received a mixed critical reception, but IMO is still essential Hackett.

For starters, two of his most unmissable instrumental mini-epics are here: the lovely swirling jazziness of Jacuzzi, and the suitably stark and windswept atmospherics of album opener The Steppes.  Aside from the bonkers robot-rampage of Slogans, the remaining instrumental material is of a mellower, soft-focus nature, making Defector stand out in Hackett's Charisma era as the late-night atmospheric one.

This extends to the vocal tracks too, which more than once recall the guitarist's final Genesis era.  Leaving and The Toast respectively invoke Wind & Wuthering and Trick Of The Tail; the latter song could almost be a mini-Entangled, with the wooziness of anaesthesia being replaced by a more everyday, self-imbibed wooziness.  Comparisons are also often noted to Camel of a similar vintage, who I haven't really listened to enough to comment.  Don't miss the cute little closing gag of Hackett using an Optigan keyboard and period-piece vocal to evoke 1940s novelty jazz - I really don't get all the hate that Sentimental Institution receives from some fans, it always makes me crack a grin.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Hugues Dufourt - Erewhon (1999 recording, Les Percussions De Strasbourg)

Staying with Les Percussions De Strasbourg for today, and with Hugues Dufourt; here's Erewhon - Dufourt's percussion epic written between 1972-76, its title taken from Samuel Butler's novel of the same name.  Originally in five parts, one section was taken out to become a piece in its own right - Sombre journée, which we heard on Monday's LPDS post.

The hour-plus Erewhon allows Dufourt's evocative writing for percussion to stretch out and show its full dramatic range - right from the thunderous eight-minute introductory section that focuses on skin percussion.  This is followed by the longest section at 27 minutes, described by Dufourt as "an essay in fantastic stereo dynamics", which leaves much more room for the percussion, metallic this time, to resonate in space.  Erewhon III is more atmospheric still, and definitely my personal highlight of the work; Dufourt called it "an imaginary landscape in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, the far-off resurgence of a residual echo".  Lastly, Erewhon IV draws together the full ensemble for a stunning finale.

Given its structure, Erewhon as whole brought to mind for me a version of Steve Reich's Drumming where all the strict rhythmic drive was removed, and the focus was instead on the dynamic and atmospheric qualities of the different percussion types.  Dufourt's Erewhon is certainly an astounding work, full of variety, and rewards repeat listens.

mega / zippy
 
see also: Dufuort's Saturne, for orchestra & electronics

Monday, 30 October 2017

Les Percussions De Strasbourg (2CD compi 1993, rec. 1967-71 + 1992)

Founded in 1962 as the first ensemble dedicated to contemporary percussion music, Les Percussions De Strasbourg's modern-day lineup is still going strong.  This 2-CD set was released to mark the ensemble's 30th anniversary, with the first disc being freshly recorded and the second featuring recordings by the original lineup from 1967, 1970 and 1971.  The common thread between almost the works on these discs is that LPDS regularly sought commissions for new material from contemporary composers, and these are just a small sample of the unique results of material written specifically with the ensemble in mind.
Disc 1, recorded in December 1992 by the lineup pictured above, starts with Hiérophonie V by Yoshihisa Taïra, a Japanese composer who settled in France.  Punctuated with martial shouts from the performers, it's a striking and powerful piece interspersed with some quiet passages.  Next up is a half-hour suite, Le Livre des Claviers, by Philippe Manoury, with mostly mellower tones from the vibes and marimbas.  François-Bernard Mâche's Khnoum is fairly interesting, but the disc ends on a high note with Sombre journée by a composer posted here not long ago, Hugues Dufourt.  The introductory rolls gather steam into a piece of great momentum, before an eerie atmospheric end.
Disc 2, as noted above, collects vintage recordings, and starts with the oldest piece, which actually predates the formation of LPDS by some three decades, but which was startling in its day and still sounded fresh - Edgard Varese's legendary Ionisation.  Hailed by Frank Zappa as the spark that inspired him to pursue a career in music, this siren-pierced cityscape owed as much to the noisemaking Futurists as it did to its structural inspiration of molecular ionization.

LPDS included Ionisation on their 1970 album 'Americana', one of several they recorded for the Prospective 21e Siècle series released by the Philips label, with their striking reflective covers created on engraved aluminium foil.  The remainder of the CD here gives us two of these albums in full, the first of which paired Maurice Ohana's Quatre études chorégraphiques with Miloslav Kabeláč's 8 Inventions.  Both suites are highly listenable and almost deceptively straightforward - just as well, as you need to brace yourself for what's to come next.  Yep, it's SGTG favourite Iannis Xenakis. 

Xenakis' 1969 work Persephassa, like Persepolis, was written for the Iranian Shiraz Arts Festival, and was performed there by LPDS in scorching desert heat.  As with many Xenakis works where the performers were scattered throughout the audience, you can only get a tiny approximation of Persephassa's spatial majesty on a stereo recording, but the insane intensity of the work is still enough to require a bit of a lie down afterwards to recover.  Unmissable stuff to cap off a great and wide-ranging compilation.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy

See also: Pléiades/Psappha by Xenakis (not performed by LPDS) 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert (1975)

How can I possibly resist a request to post one of my absolute favourite albums of all time?  It's difficult to think what I can even write about Köln, but here goes.  Let's just keep it simple, rather than a 'saved my life more than once' emotional gush.  29 year old pianist arrives at the Cologne Opera House tired and sore, only to find that the house staff have wheeled out a crappy old rehearsal piano by mistake.  Has to be just about coaxed into even playing by 17 year old concert promoter.  Goes on stage at 11:30pm (following the evening opera) and makes the most of the piano that he can; captures lightning in a bottle for an hour.

The irony continues to this day that two lengthy improvisations (the encore [Part IIc] was a Jarrett composition, Memories Of Tomorrow) that were born out of making the best of the circumstances above have become so indelibly etched, note-for-note, in the minds of millions of listeners, me included.  That could largely be said of any recorded improvisation, but the 'millions of listeners' bit is down to Köln's enduring magic.

From the smallest germ of an introduction (the melody played by the opera house bell to summon the audience for a performance, hence their just-audible recognition at the beginning), Jarrett goes on to create 25 minutes of sheer melancholy transcendence, ending in a triumphant, life-affirming finale.  Suitably energised, he starts the next half hour on a rollicking bluesy note, before settling for largely calmer waters for the rest of the second improvisation, then, as mentioned, delving into his written repertoire for the crystalline gorgeousness of the finale.  Jarrett might have started out this concert being not entirely pleased that the tape was running, but the world should be grateful that it was.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Popol Vuh - Coeur De Verre ("Singet, Denn Der Gesang Vertreibt Die Wölfe") (1977)

Or indeed, 'Herz aus Glas', or any of the other permutations of the title over the years...  The original name for this 1977 album, which translates as 'Sing, for the song drives out the wolves', was put aside when Werner Herzog once again tapped Florian Fricke for some new Vuh music for his latest beautifully bizarre movie, and it was decided to market the album as a soundtrack.

As my memories of the Heart Of Glass film are a bit hazy (and to be honest, still would be if I'd just finished watching it five minutes ago - it's a bit hard-going even by Herzog's standards), let's just focus on the music.  As the follow-up to Letzte Tage - Letzte Nächte, Popol Vuh were still in rock mode, with Daniel Fichelscher's guitars up front and centre.  And top, bottom, sides and background too.  This album has often begged the question - is Florian Fricke even on it?  He's credited with piano as usual, but is so far back in the mix as to be virtually inaudible.

If Coeur/Herz/Wölfe is very much the Fichelscher show then, that's no bad thing, as he's on fine form, letting his chiming layers of guitar and ringing lead lines create another minor masterpiece in the Popol Vuh canon over the drums and percussion (also played by Fichelshcer).  Al Gromer Khan drops by on sitar for Das Lied von den hohen Bergen to round out the album's majestic first half on a nice mellow note, before things get even more amped up.  Hüter der Schwelle and Der Ruf in particular are the rockiest this band ever got, but the closing Gemeinschaft with its guest flute part points towards their progressively mellower future.

mega / zippy

Monday, 23 October 2017

Țăranu / Bentoiu / Nicolescu - Romanian Contemporary Music (1991 compi)


Last week's foray into the Romanian avant-garde seemed to go down well, so here's another from the same series of UK-produced CDs that gave wider exposure to some essential Electrecord (and Melodiya) recordings.  No Daniel Kientzy this time I'm afraid, but definitely more of the same gloriously weird, hallucinogenic-sounding writing for orchestra.

Three symphonies make up this collection, averaging about 20 minutes each.  Cornel Țăranu's enjoyably strange 'Aulodica' is up first, and shares with the Niculescu work from last week an electric guitar part, albeit briefly.  Pascal Bentoiu's 5th Symphony follows, and is the most mellow, lush and romantic of the three until some swelling organ chords knock it up a few notches in its last few minutes.  Lastly, Stefan Niculescu is represented by his 'Opus Dacicum'.  There's some choppy staccato writing reminiscent of early Xenakis, and a great droning middle section in the very low registers with the ominous melody line being taken by a bass clarinet or possibly saxophone.

mega / zippy

Friday, 20 October 2017

Meredith Monk - Turtle Dreams (1983)

Meredith Monk's second release for ECM again selected pieces from theatrical and film works to produce a great album experience.  The sonic palate is more varied than on Dolmen Music, so even though this album is ten minutes shorter than its predecessor, you actually get a broader snapshot of Monk's sound-world of the period.

The first half of Turtle Dreams is taken up by its title track.  In its original conception, the four performers shown on the album cover above provided the focal points of sound and movement, while the backdrop was intermittently superimposed with images of a turtle crawling across cityscape footage.  A made-for-video reduction has survived, and remains one of the most wonderfully weird YouTube experiences I've ever had.  Musically, Glass/Reich-esque organs provide a sedate backing to Monk's voice, just on the edge of comprehensibility, before the rest of voices join in and the singing switches to the much more primal vocalese that Monk excelled at.

The four pieces on the album's second half are ran together in a varied and fascinating patchwork.  View 1 is first and longest, and starts with rippling piano arpeggios before settling down.  This isn't just a straightforward voice-and-piano ballad like on the first side of Dolmen Music though - the voice parts are more treated, mostly with echo, and little bits overdubbed.  Sped-up overdubs of the opening piano riff are also dropped in at times, along with a low growl of didgeridoo in the background.  After a loud synth fanfare closes this amazing piece, we're next offered two minutes of mechanical, industrial sound in Engine Steps, then Ester's Song, a minute of keyboard and voice.  The closing track on the album, View 2, was also taken from the original Turtle Dreams production, and winds this album up in style as Monk's amazing voice coos and soars over a flutey synth backing.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Régis Renouard Larivière - Futaie / Tchernoziom (2000 compi of works from '96 and '98)

Nice little EP by electroacoustic composer Régis Renouard Larivière (b. 1959, Paris), which appears to be the only release under his name.  One track, Futaie, won an Ars Electronica prize for computer music in 1996, and the other, Tchernoziom, takes one aspect of Futaie and plays around with it, totaling 32 minutes of sound manipulation that are well worth getting immersed in.

The short liner note is a bit on the academic side in a pretentious kind of way - or perhaps its just come out like that in the English translation - but the opening sentence about Futaie is nicely evocative, saying that it "unfolds like a long, slow sentence of which only the punctuation remains".  This describes pretty well the spare, stop-start sound of the first few minutes, which are based around chunky percussion and wind instrument sounds.  These slowly reverberate around in space as the track starts to mutate over its 14 minutes.

Tchernoziom, apparently named after the fertile black soil of the Ukraine, is even more interesting.  It's more rhythmical, in the computer pulses that run through it, and creates a sustained, eerie atmosphere.  If it weren't for the occasional presence of (albeit still heavily treated) acoustic instruments, presumably the source material taken from Futaie, I might think I was listening to latter-day Autechre or something.  A really striking and engrossing alien soundworld that makes me wish there were more releases available by Larivière.

mega / zippy

Monday, 16 October 2017

Daniel Kientzy / various orchestras - The Romanian Saxophone (1990 compi, rec '84/'86)

French avant-garde saxophone player Daniel Kientzy has been featured on these pages once before - and here's another phenomenal disc highlighting his close ties to some of Romania's most out-there composers of the 20th century.

Ștefan Niculescu, who was featured last on the Kluj disc, comes first this time, with his enjoyably mind-bending Cantos symphony, which also has variants for clarinet and orchestra, and for oboe, horn and clarinets.  Naturally, this is the sax one, giving Kientzy plenty of room to drone and skronk over the hallucinatory backdrop.  In the opening moments, which brought Vangelis to mind, I genuinely wondered if there were synthesisers involved, but nope, it's all orchestral.  A highly memorable and wonderfully weird trip through Byzantine-inspired melodies and musical forms.

We've also heard from Myriam Marbe before on SGTG, and her half-hour Concerto For Daniel Kientzy And Saxophones here is a good counterpoint to the brilliantly oddball works on that collection.  Kientzy starts solo, giving a great display of the range of his genius, before the ominous, fractured orchestral writing starts to fill out.  Plenty of long sax drones here too, intended to imitate bagpipes at one point and featuring Kientzy on two saxes simultaneously (eat your heart out, Beefheart/VDGG!).
 
The disc is rounded off by Anatol Vieru's Narration II, another nicely bonkers piece of orchestral surrealism that subjects "Frère Jacques", of all things, to a series of chromatic mutations.  Meanwhile, what sounds like a sozzled surf guitarist starts to stagger through the orchestra.  The remainder of the work is nicely trippy and off-beam - Vieru sounds like he's mildly spiked the whole ensemble.  Unique stuff, even in 20th century classical music, and really enjoyable.

mega / zippy

Friday, 13 October 2017

League Unlimited Orchestra - Love And Dancing (1982)

I've had a genuine affection for The Human League most of my life, from taping their singles off the radio as soon as I was old enough to operate a tape recorder, to discovering the much darker wonders of their first album in my teens.  Later on, Reproduction lost my interest a bit on discovering that Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle et al were what I was really looking for in that direction, but getting into Dare as a complete album made me realise what a true classic it was from start to finish.

Love And Dancing, though, is in a different league altogether (pun very much intended) and has become my absolute favourite thing associated with the band.  Taking on a different guise - one whose name was apparently in homage to Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra - Oakey and crew pulled together nearly-instrumental versions of seven Dare tracks and one B-side into two continuously mixed sides that made their electronic pop genius shine all the brighter, burnished by Martin Rushent's immaculate mixing & production.

The result on the perfect first side sounded like Kraftwerk circa Man Machine taking time out of a UK tour to stumble into a Northern Soul club and feeding the sheer euphoria into three new songs.  The Human League had of course been influenced by Kraftwerk from day one, but this is almost like a full-on homage (is that a cheeky little Europe Endless tribute at the start of Love Action?).  I've almost no words to describe the 7-minute version of Don't You Want Me - just sheer perfection in every second, turning a nowadays over-exposed pop evergreen into peerlesss dancefloor magnificence.

On Love And Dancing's second half, the darker tones of Dare mostly hold sway - the tracks that were most obviously a progression from their first two albums.  The JFK-assassination inspired Seconds and The Things That Dreams Are Made Of sound particularly ominous here, although the latter does drop in some of Oakey's most humourous lyrics ("Norman Wisdom, Norman Wisdom" dub-style almost makes me crack a smile).  Following up Seconds with the bright, chirpy melody of Open Your Heart was yet another stroke of genius.  I haven't used the 'favourite albums of all time' tag for a while now, but Love And Dancing sure as hell deserves it.

mega / zippy

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Missing Post

If you've been following the events of this blog over the last day or so, you'll be aware that I deleted a whole post in a bit of a late-night panic when some Mega takedown notices hit my inbox.  After trying to work the [artist redacted] Zippy links back into the NWW post, not only did they all get zapped by Zippy but the NWW link went down too.

This is all getting slightly worrying, so I've decided to delete all references to [artist redacted] from the NWW post.  Unfortunately (and perhaps I'm just being overly paranoid) I've also deleted a really nice comment from that post, as it mentioned [artist redacted] by name.  Apologies for that, futurepyramid - I really appreciated your comment.

Oh well... to cheer myself up, I've worked up a post of one of my favourite 80s electronic records for Friday.  Won't be using Mega for the foreseeable future - apologies to anyone who preferred downloading from the Mega links.  If the Zippy link gets zapped from Friday's post, I don't really know where to go from there - maybe just take a break for a bit.

Thanks again for all your downloads, comments & follows - makes it all worthwhile.

AB

Nurse With Wound - Merzbild Schwet (1980)


Back into NWW formative history today, to June 1980.  With the friendships of the inaugural trio of Steven Stapleton, John Fothergill and Heman Pathak starting to drift apart, Merzbild Schwet was the first occasion on which Stapleton went into the studio alone.  With a growing confidence in finding his way around a mixing desk, and a singular vision that would establish NWW as Staplteton's project (plus whoever else he wanted to work with), Merzbild Schwet is really the start of the Nurse With Wound story proper (even if Stapleton prefers to start it with Homotopy To Marie, as the first one he was fully satisfied with).

Released later that year, Merzbild Schwet offered two 24-minute tracks, their titles (Futurismo and Dadaˣ) reflecting Stapleton's artistic interests, and one of his most wonderfully macabre album covers.  My CD, from a reissue box set, has this as the back cover - apparently a printer error.  The track titles seem to switch order between various editions too, confusing many a listener - to this day there's stuff on rateyourmusic.com about liking 'the post-apocalyptic story on Futurismo' - nope, that's Dadaˣ, but easy mistake to make... you start to wonder if Mr S did these sorts of things deliberately...

Futurismo, then, is the one that starts with the inspired gag of recording a record scratch into the piece, making buyers of the original vinyl think they had a defective copy - until it speeds up and becomes obvious it's part of the track.  The background for most of Futurismo is a mangled tape of a jazz band slowed down and slurred into a sort of tipsy queasiness, whilst various sounds gradually pile on.  Electronic noises, spoken voices, unraveling sticky tape, a smear of organ that eventually becomes quite pleasant when it radiates a full major chord... etc etc.  The last four minutes change tack entirely to choppy piano and humming static.

All great stuff, but Dadaˣ is arguably NWW's first dark drifting masterwork.  Eerie echoes of backwards percussion and assorted honks and creaks provide the backdrop for the main spoken monologue, performed by Eve Libertine of Crass.  This short, surreal piece about non-communication gets further reduced into fragments in between another voice speaking in French, stabs of piano, more skronking and howling, and periods of ominous silence before Libertine's full monologue repeats near the end.  A kind of ghostly accordion shanty finishes off a track of absolutely essential dark-room weirdness to be creeped out by.

megazippy

Monday, 9 October 2017

Morton Feldman - Durations I-V / Coptic Light (1992/4 recordings, rel. '97)

More Morton, for those who enjoyed Rothko Chapel the other week.  This collection pairs Ensemble Avantgarde's 1994 rendition of Feldman's 1960/1 chamber suite Durations I-V with one of his most striking late works for orchestra, Coptic Light (1986), performed here by the German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin.  It was actually the latter that I originally got this CD for, after listening to a different version online and being captivated by the mysterious, flowing sounds of this 24-minute piece of music that sounded like it was emanating from the depths of an ocean, with distant glimmers of light piercing the murky depths.  Feldman's inspiration for Coptic Light was actually the pattern of an ancient carpet, but its subaquatic qualities often get mentioned.

The Durations suite was completely new to me, and took a while to get in to, but I love it now.  The performers (on various combinations of piano, harp, violin, cello, horn, tuba, vibraphone, celesta and flute) follow a score with no duration indications on the notes, leaving this up to the performers and always resulting in a unique performance.  Durations sounds to me like music from another world with an alien conception of time - much like that other late Feldman work that I love, for piano and string quartet (link below) - and perhaps a heavier gravitational pull, especially on the four sections of Durations III, which do have overall tempo indications, mostly 'slow' and 'very slow'.  Take time out of time to enjoy this album - it's a perfect wind-down.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Rothko Chapel | Piano & String Quartet

Friday, 6 October 2017

Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music (1981)

Been enjoying this album a lot on these past few autumnal weekends - gorgeous, unique music, much of it just piano and (one hell of a!) voice, and just enough magnificent weirdness, from a singular musician and composer.  Meredith Monk (b. 1942 in NYC) stands alongside Yoko Ono for me as one of the most fearless and boundary-pushing explorers of the potential of the human voice in music, and Monk's singular craft as a composer and performer continues to this day.

Dolmen Music marked the beginning of her ongoing relationship with ECM, and presented five examples of her work from the 70s.  After the beautiful opener Gotham Lullaby, which was composed for a 1975 theatre piece by frequent early collaborator Ping Chong, the next three pieces were taken from Monk's 'solo opera' Education Of The Girlchild (1972-3).  Performed as the stages of a woman's life in reverse, the selections here are by turns joyously euphoric (Travelling), comical (The Tale) and melancholic (Biography).

The second half of the album is taken up by its title track, a six-section choral suite from 1979.  After a ghostly cello introduction, Monk's lone voice is soon joined by the male voices, giving the impression of a sombre ritual from some long-lost culture.  The full vocal ensemble broadens this out, its full flight interspersed with smaller pairings and solos, and the return of the cello.  Eventually that instrument gets a dramatic, rattling solo, before the voices gradually gather again for the stunning finale.  A brilliant work of breathtaking dynamics, topping off an essential album.  More Meredith Monk to come in due course.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tod Dockstader - Quatermass / Water Music (1992 compi of works from 1963-64)

Great introduction to Minnesota-born Tod Dockstader (1932-2015), who called his early electronic music 'organised sound' in homage to Edgard Varèse and his inspirational Poème Électronique.  No synthesisers here (or available!) in Dockstader's early-mid 1960s works - everything the erstwhile sound engineer put on to hours and hours of tape to distill down to his finished pieces came from sine wave generators, plus mutated recordings of gongs, children's toys, radio static, running water, air escaping from balloons, and so on.

Shunned by the avant-garde establishment of the day, Dockstader was completely self-taught, and recognised that at its most basic, all music, whatever the source, was just tension and release - and these works certainly have that in spades.  The 18-minute Water Music (1963) is up first on this compilation, with Dockstader using water ('in a metal garbage can', according to the wonderfully detailed liner notes) to create music that he felt reflected the various qualities of water.  It's a great work, and highly listenable, but by the following year his craft had taken a noticeable leap in complexity (helped in part by now using three-track recording and more sophisticated mixing) to produce the epic 46-minute Quatermass suite.

Quatermass, its name chosen just because Dockstader thought it suitably evocative (he hadn't seen the famously creepy British TV serials/movies from the 50s) is simply a masterpiece of early electronics.  Dockstader had intended Quatermass from its inception to be a complete contrast to Water Music, that it would be 'a very dense, massive, even threatening, work of high levels and high energy'.  This certainly comes through in the work's semi-classical five movements, with recurring themes and primitive sine-wave rhythms leading the way through the many electronic sounds, creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere throughout.  The disc is rounded out by two out-takes from the Quatermass sessions (which precede the main work in the tracklist).  Don't miss this one - simply stunning, pioneering and accessible tape 'n' scissors mastercrafting.
Original LP cover for 'Quatermass', 1966
mega / zippy

Monday, 2 October 2017

Hirsche Nichts Aufs Sofa - Melchior (Aufmarsch Der Schlampen) (1986)

Zipping backwards again to the 80s Nurse With Wound universe, with an album that Steven Stapleton participated in, helped to produce, and released on United Dairies.  Having discovered kindred spirits in the moose-banning-from-sofas German surrealists who were releasing dada-esque, next-generation-Faust sounding cassettes and recording records in sewers, Stapleton invited the duo of Christoph Heeman and Achim Flaam and their entourage over to London to record an album for his label.

With a subtitle that now feels oddly prescient of 2010s sexual politics - but who knows what it meant to HNAS in 1986, if anything - Melchior was the result.  The first side of the album featured four tracks that mostly ran into each other, so can effectively be taken as one suite (albeit one of mind-boggling variety) much the same way as the 22-minute piece that filled side two.  The English translations of the track titles, respectively Roast me on an open fire, In summer there's no food, Without hesitation the goose won the cigarette, Cattle without socks and Heavyweight in evening dress, give an indication of the HNAS bizarre humour, and their music.

Starting with a jerky, echoey campfire singalong (Brate Mich auf offenem Feuer), a stomping, single-chord rock groove with a nice little keyboard figure is up next (Im Sommer gibt's nix zu Essen), and irresistible chaos ensues.  Whenever something resembling an actual song gets going, HNAS can be relied on to pull it apart at the first opportunity, descending into jokey hollerings of the track title, tape-manipulated electronic smears and out-of-focus clanks, rattles and piano plinking.  Even a drum-machine track complete with 'handclap' function gets chucked in, before being derailed with more gleeful taunting, brass-instrument samples and synth buzzes.

The aforementioned side-long Tonnenschwer im Abendkleid saves the best for last, IMO.  A queasy, echoing loop (perhaps a bell or suchlike) establishes itself, filled out by foggy smears of brass a la Cosey Fanni Tutti circa 1980.  Eventually this is blown away by a chaotic, very NWW-like middle section, until the entry of the distorted bass note and drums that take us towards the end.  A phenomenal epic track to cap off a fascinating, memorable record.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Im Schatten Der Möhre

Friday, 29 September 2017

Nurse With Wound - The Surveillance Lounge (2009)

Jumping forward 28 years from last week's chaotic snapshot of young NWW at its most unfocused, we arrive at the laser-precision night terror that is The Surveillance Lounge.  Almost a distillation of all of Stapleton's greatest devices of creeping unease - disembodied voices, sinister drones, crackly record surface noise and other sounds best left unidentified - everything that made the likes of Homotopy To Marie, Colder Still from Thunder Perfect Mind and Salt Marie Celeste so memorable are deftly woven into what can only be described as quintessential Nurse With Wound.

This hour-plus modern masterpiece was divided into four tracks of roughly equal length, but sustains the same sepia-tinged house of horrors atmosphere throughout, so may as well be regarded as one long work in four movements.  It's not all formless, fearful drone though, with diversions aplenty: the fast section of The Golden Age Of Telekenesis, with its deranged horse-racing commentator (or bingo caller?) and immediate aftermath is a memorable highlight that reassures the listener that this isn't an album devoid of Stapleton's playful, absurdist sense of humour.

Other noisy onslaughts arrive at various odd moments, making The Surveillance Lounge recommendable as a headphones-in-dark-room experience only if you're game for the occasional jump-scare.  A gentle easy-listening sample offers only brief respite most times it appears, before the album blindfolds you and spins you around once more.  Don't miss the ultimate in dramatic sonic extremes which has been saved for last - Yon Assassin Is My Equal truly is a NWW classic.  The aforementioned lounge-music sample is developed a little more around the halfway mark to give a little oasis of calm after noisy chaos, before more creepy voices and ambient whirring takes us to the end.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG:
Insect & Individual Silenced (1981)
Homotopy To Marie (1982)
Sylvie & Babs (1985)
Spiral Insana (1986)
Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)
Salt Marie Celeste (2003)
Spitch'cock One (2004)

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Metropole Orkest - Beneath The Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited (BBC Proms 2017)

This tribute concert to the legendary composer-bassist-pianist took place on 24th August as part of the Proms, and as I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the broadcast of it, here it is.  The Dutch Metropole Orkest were conducted by Jules Buckley, with great soloists (L-R at front of picture above are Leo Pellegrino, Bart van Lier and Christian Scott) making a more-than-decent fist of 15 Mingus classics in just under two hours.  Boogie Stop Shuffle, IX Love, Gunslinging Bird, Fables Of Faubus, Moanin' to name just a few all sparkle with the invention, wit and irresistible swing that they require, and that's even before mentioning the four vocal pieces.
 
27 year old Kandace Springs was IMO the star of the show - she released her own debut album last year, which I'm now keen to check out.  Her renditions here of Weird Nightmare, Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love and a pair of songs from Joni Mitchell's Mingus collaboration,The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines and God Must Be A Boogie Man are all superb.  The audience were even asked to join in on the chorus of the latter - slightly corny, but it works in the overall celebratory atmosphere.  On that note, apologies for having to fade out the applause and between-song banter all the time - slightly over-enthusiastic radio announcer (see P.S. note below) - but hey, the great music here is what matters.  And as the inevitable and Albert Hall-roof-raising finale suggests, you'd Better Git It In Your Soul.

mega / zippy pt.1, zippy pt.2

P.S. I've decided to also offer a download of the complete, unedited broadcast, if anyone would prefer that - one mp3 file, 340MB, 2hrs 28mins, available here.

Previously posted at SGTG: Oh Yeah

Monday, 25 September 2017

Kim Kashkashian, Sarah Rothenberg, Houston Chamber Choir - Rothko Chapel (2015)

This album came up in the comments a short while back, so as promised, here it is.  Asked to curate a programme of music for a 40th anniversary concert at Rothko Chapel in 2011, Sarah Rothenberg, pianist and leader of the Da Camera organisation for chamber music in Houston, TX, chose to frame Morton Feldman's unique Rothko-inspired work with pieces by John Cage and Erik Satie.

The connection, Rothenberg explains in her lengthy liner note to this collection of 2012-13 recordings of the pieces in the programme, was that the three composers 'form a triumvirate of original creators who were each closely tied to the visual art of their time'.  And besides that, on this ECM New Series CD the programme just sounds great as a flowing, 70-minute immersion in some unique, inspired music.
Feldman's Rothko Chapel, written in tribute to the painter's great work just after his death, is the obvious opener to this collection.  Its sombre, eerie choral drift, piano backdrop and viola lead remain the perfect musical expression of Rothko's diffuse hints of colour on black backgrounds that graced the inner walls of the Houston chapel.

The remainder of the programme alternates between Rothenberg on solo piano playing inspired choices from Satie's Gnossiennes and Ogives, and the Houston Chamber Choir performing works by John Cage.  I hadn't heard any choral work by Cage prior to this disc, and the pieces here, Four², ear for EAR and Five, sit really well with the main Feldman work.  The programme closes with one of Cage's finest piano pieces, In A Landscape.

mega / zippy

Friday, 22 September 2017

Phil Keaggy - The Master & The Musician (1978)

Thought this might make a good follow-up to the Hackett post - I've been listening to it a lot recently as a companion-piece to both Voyage Of The Acolyte and Please Don't Touch.  Phil Keaggy was (and I gather still is) a Christian-Contemporary singer-songwriter, but took a break from that after his first couple of albums to make this all-instrumental masterpiece that fully showcased his writing and playing skills.

From a couple of videos I've watched (unrelated to this album), Keaggy didn't frequently get nicknamed 'the greatest nine-fingered guitarist in the world' and suchlike for nothing, and although The Master & The Musician only hits cooking temperature at a few well-chosen moments (mostly toward the end of the two long suites, Reflections and Medley), the subtlety of a lot of these tracks makes the material shine all the brighter.  The album opens with a synth sequence overlaid with a nifty E-bow display (Keaggy was an early adopter of the device) before settling into an acoustic pattern that gets gradually overlaid with chiming electric lines.  Following that, the mellow jazz-fusion of Agora (The Marketplace), along with Follow Me Up later on, offers the most upbeat material and memorable, masterful-but-unpretentious lead lines.

For the most part though, it was the acoustic tracks on this album that brought Hackett to mind for me, especially in the choice of flute and other wind instruments to accompany the guitar.  The Castle's Call, Wedding In The Country Manor and Deep Calls Unto Deep all offer memorable melodies and gorgeous technique throughout, and could've sat proudly on a Steve Hackett album (or indeed, an album by that other ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips - whose back catalogue I've yet to take a proper stab at) of the era.  And although there's no lyrics on Master & Musician, that doesn't mean no vocals - Keaggy and his wife Bernadette can both be heard on the cute little beatboxing experiment Mouthpiece, and harmonising sweetly and wordlessly on the penultimate medley.  All in all, an absolute gem of an album for anyone wanting to hear an underrated (in the secular music world, at least) guitarist/composer at his most inspired.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Steve Hackett - Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975)

Three years prior to Please Don't Touch, Steve Hackett was making the most of the downtime whilst Genesis were between vocalists by recording and releasing this, his debut solo album. A masterpiece of composition and playing technique, Voyage Of The Acolyte is sophisticated, punchy progressive rock of the highest calibre, and couldn't have been a better calling card to kick off a solo career that continues to this day.

Straight out of the gate, Ace Of Wands cracks into a offbeat groove and manages to pack about 15 minutes of ideas into five, ably assisted by Phil Collins' jazz fusion influence.  With Collins on drums and Mike Rutherford on bass throughout, Voyage is often thought of as a lost Genesis album - more of that to come in the album's second half, but first Hackett shows off his acoustic skills on Hands Of The Priestess and The Hermit, with the former establishing the long-term pairing with his brother John's gorgeous flautistry.  Halfway through, though, Steve drops in the King Crimson-like crunch of A Tower Struck Down, filling it out with an ominous synth sequence, odd little tape cuts of studio noise and even what sounds like a sample of a Nuremberg rally, before a bomb blast leads into a quiet outro and the remainder of Priestess.

The final two major tracks on the album are the ones that really lay claim to Voyage Of The Acolyte being the greatest album Genesis never made.  Star Of Sirius even has a Phil Collins lead vocal, making it effectively a Banks-less trailer for Trick Of The Tail.  The very best gets saved for last though, in the 12 minutes of Shadow Of The Hierophant, co-credited to Rutherford and apparently rehearsed circa Foxtrot.  A grand mellotron and guitar swell gives way to an acoustic section and Sally Oldfield's vocal.  Eventually, a hammering/tapping solo from Hackett leads into another short instrumental, before fading away to a glockenspiel theme, which will gradually fade back into one of the most stunning finales I've ever heard on a record like this.  Simply, truly magnificent progressive music in the truest sense, with not a note wasted - don't miss this album if it's new to you, prog really doesn't get much better than this.

mega / zippy

Monday, 18 September 2017

Nurse With Wound - Insect & Individual Silenced (1981)

Been listening to a ton of Nurse With Wound this past week or two, and there hasn't been any posted here for ages, so here goes - with the one that Steven Stapleton famously hated so much that he burned the master tapes.  Finally relenting in 2007 on hearing a near-flawless vinyl rip, Stapleton decided that the album, although still a failure by his standards, wasn't half as bad as he remembered, and allowed the vinyl rip (by Kevin Spencer of Robot Records) to become this official reissue.

Listening to it now, especially in context with the three earliest NWW albums that preceded it, and Homotopy To Marie that came after, I certainly don't see a dip in quality with Insect - if anything, it's just a blip on the trajectory by which Stapleton's surrealist editing & mixing craft had been steadily increasing from album to album, which would lead to Homotopy being the first full-on masterpiece that he remains justifiably proud of.  The much freer, anarchic sound of Insect lies in the recording circumstances, as recalled in Stapleton's detailed reminisce in the CD sleevenotes - reproduced here, about halfway down the page, headed "1980: A Year Of Change".  TL;DR: Stapleton, and mates Trevor Reidy and Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell go into a studio for two days to "see what would happen".  Record ensues; Stapleton mortified - until latter-day reappraisal.  So let's listen...

Kicking off with a roar of reverberating feedback, which will reappear sporadically throughout the track's 27 minutes, Alvin's Funeral (The Milk Was Delivered In Black Bottles) is heady, classic early NWW.  Plenty of noise and tape mutilation, voices in different languages, and other barely identifiable clankings and howlings.  Anyone familiar with Part 2 of Bradford Red Light District, Stapleton and William Bennett's experiment in cranking up every reverb setting in the studio to 11, will recognise the source that those roars of feedback have been 'borrowed' from...

The second track, Absent Old Queen Underfoot, was the first to be recorded when the three participants rocked up in the studio to let loose on a reduced drumkit (Reidy), bass amp and jack plugs (Thirlwell) and a crappy guitar (Stapleton).  The result sounds almost like industrial jazz of the most wonderfully inept variety - something to tap your foot to in a jazz club, if you happened to be Jack Nance in Eraserhead.  Lastly, there's the shorter, slightly more recognisably Nurselike Mutilés du Guerre, with more tape-bent squeaking, screaming and the looped voice of Brigitte Fontaine, and the most magnificently surreal ending possible, an arrangement of Ode To Joy for voice and... banjo.  Essential weirdness that deserves full recognition in Stapleton's long, surreal career.
CD reissue cover, 2007
mega / zippy

Friday, 15 September 2017

Hugues Dufourt - Saturne / Surgir (1993 compi, rec. '80 and '85)

As the Cassini spacecraft makes its final descent into Saturn's atmosphere, what better music to celebrate its voyage with?  Well, maybe Holst's Saturn, a classic seven minutes of grand old melancholy in its own right; but I'm going to go for 43 minutes of epic, electronically-inflected orchestral atmospherics courtesy of Dufourt (b. 1943 in Lyon).

One of the co-founders (who included Murail and Grisey) of the French-spectralism-focused Ensemble l’Itinéraire, Dufourt wrote Saturne for them in 1978-9.  It was also the time of the launch of his own Instrumental Research and Sound Synthesis Group (CRISS), which gives a clue to the content of this masterpiece.  Eerie orchestral swells and bell-like percussion are swathed in gaseous synthesiser swishes from the beginning, evoking the descent through Saturn's outer atmosphere to the unknown world below.  The percussion gets periodically more thunderous, there's judicious use of a staccato electric guitar, and the developing synth tones blend in perfectly with the rising and falling orchestral swells.  This sustained atmosphere is wonderfully evocative on headphones in a dark room - highly recommended.

Saturne is supported on this CD by Surgir (1985), a half-hour orchestral work in a similar vein, but without the synthesisers and guitar.  It's worth a listen, but it's the main work that I keep going back to with all its great swirling electronics.
Original LP cover for Saturne, 1980
 mega / zippy

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Egborto Gismonti & Academia De Danças - Sanfona (1981)

Fancy a concept album about a travelogue through the festivals and folk dances of Brazil?   How about two, one with a full band, and one completely solo, both exquisitely performed and achingly melodic in their bittersweet evocations of life and celebration?  Stop right here then - Sanfona, named for a Brazilian relative of the accordion and also intended to metaphorically symbolise the sheer breadth of Brazilian popular culture down the ages, sits high up in Egberto Gismonti's back catalogue as a stunning example of a master craftsman at the peak of his evocative powers.

The first disc of Sanfona, featuring Gismonti supported by a three-piece version of his Academia De Danças band, takes us through the birth and refinement of the samba, forró and seresta musical and rhythmic forms, whilst giving the musicians plenty of space to stretch out and make Gismonti's wonderful compositions sparkle with life.

The second disc is Gismonti entirely alone and recorded live, inevitably spotlighting his stunning guitar technique, especially on the 16-minute De Repente.  After this comes Vale de Eco, an atmospheric performance on Indian organ, before the last of the album's original four sides turns inward for some truly gorgeous music.  12 de Fevereiro was written to commemorate the birth of Gismonti's first daughter, and Carta de Amor a few weeks later - both feature achingly beautiful, keening vocals and close the album on a perfectly intimate high note.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Circense

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tristan Murail - Gondwana, Désintégrations, Time and Again (1989 compi, rec. '80/'86'/87)

Tristan Murail (b. 1947 in Le Havre) occupies the same upper echelons of French spectralism as Gérard Grisey, meaning that these three works from the 80s are all built on the microscopic properties of sound, subsequently blown back up into unexpected shapes to create otherwordly, spectacular pieces of music.

In the purely orchestral Gondwana (1980), the gradual drift of the ancient supercontinent is represented by small textural elements of the music being reconfigured and arranged into new, more striking layers.  If this wasn't spectacular enough, the other two works were even more fascinating for me.  Time And Again (1986) adds a Yamaha DX7 synth to the orchestra, and again the musical textures and themes are transformed and mutated all over the place.

Désingtégrations (1982-3) is the definite highlight of this disc IMO, with a smaller ensemble playing against tapes generated by computer at IRCAM.  Original tones and timbres from the instruments were fed into the computer and analysed to the smallest detail, with the resultant tapes meshing eerily with the ensemble and painting the tone colours with a wonderfully weird, alien luminosity.  I'm reminded occasionally of Vangelis circa Invisible Connections.  Download this one to enjoy the two orchestral works of course, but Désingtégrations is utterly unmissable.


mega / zippy

Friday, 8 September 2017

Rune Lindblad - Objekt 2: Electronic & Concrete Music 1962-1988 (1998 compi)

As promised, more Rune Lindblad - covering a wider timespan this time, making for an even more varied and interesting collection.  We pick up just after the Death Of The Moon compilation left off, with Objekt 2 (the title track) offering some lo-fi string-sawing from 1962, then there's only one further piece from that decade, the choppy, echoing voice experiments of Plasibenpius (1968-9).

Four pieces from the 70s follow, where Lindblad appears to have taken a darker, more unsettling turn.  The burbling and whirring electronics of Hälften Av Någonting are periodically interrupted by a disturbing tape recording - possibly from a horror film, but who knows?  As the Swedish title seems to suggest, it's like we're only getting 'half of something'.  Frage, from 1972, and Maskinlandskap, 1975, both suggest early Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle - the latter title in English is, appropriately, Machine Landscape; and Tora (1972-3), given Wednesday's sad news, is now sounding rather poignant to my ears - it could've jumped in straight from the recording sessions for Can's Aumgn.

We then jump forward a decade for the last three tracks, where Lindblad seems to have got more into synths.  The tech might be more modern, but the recording is still slightly on the lo-fi side, making Innan Konsert, the longest piece here at 12 mins, sound like a bedroom synth aritiste of the very highest calibre, taking their Berlin-school influences somewhere unique.  Lagun I Uppror (lagoon in revolt) (1987) is as supremely bizarre as its title.  A sequencer pulse takes on some wild percussion rhythms and synth squeals in ever-escalating combat, before finally calling a truce to the unhinged frenzy right at the end.  Lastly, Dimstrak (1987-88) is perhaps the oddest piece of all - it's practically a sweet little new-agey folk song featuring flute-like synth accompanied by acoustic guitar.  The guitar plays the final melody just after the three-minute mark, wrapping up this fascinating collection in possibly the most weird and wonderful way possible.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Can - Soundtracks (1970)

R.I.P. Holger Czukay, 24 March 1938 - Sept 2017

Danke schoen, Holger, for all your great music; for a full life packed with phenomenal, metronomic bass playing, pioneering short wave radio and tape work, great production, inspired collaborations, and so much more.  Sorry that I spent the second half of the 90s thinking your surname was pronounced Kazooki - I'd just never heard anyone say it, and had much less access to information back then.  Speaking of which, I still remember the first ever webpage I searched for when my high school got its first internet-ready PC: nice to see it's still available 20 years later.

Folks, it's time to celebrate the music of yet another true pioneer who has sadly left us.  For starters, may I recommend turning up Mother Sky as loud as possible.  If you don't have access to it, grab it right here.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Canaxis and Monster Movie

Monday, 4 September 2017

Asmus Tietchens - Biotop (1981)

By request, here's Asmus Tietchens' first album for Sky records - a perfectly timed request, as I'd been pondering the recent lack of classic German electronica on this blog and trying to figure out what would be a good one to go for.  Between '81 and '83, Tietchens would make a quartet of albums to represent what he called his 'Zeitzeichen' (time-signal) phase, of "rhythmic-harmonic set pieces and gaudy records sleeves".  Previously posted at SGTG are the third one, In Die Nacht, and the fourth, Litia, so that just leaves Spät-Europa to post someday.  

Gaahh, bloody Spät-Europa... it was the first of all of the four that I bought, but every time I try to give its gleefully obnoxious 20 tracks an airing it still just ends up annoying the crap out of me.  Which probably means I do actually like it, in much the way that Tietchens may have intended.  But anyway, for now, here's the somewhat more accessible 16 tracks of Biotop.  Tietchens certainly gave his Zeitzeichen project a memorable curtain-raiser with In Die Zukunft, sounding like the theme to a suitably futuristic sci-fi movie, especially in its wonderful, propulsive second half.  

From there in, the electro-weirdness just gets dialed up to the max, sounding like a hyper-caffeinated version of Cluster's largely energy-deficient release from the same year.  The garish album cover couldn't be more perfect for the music it contains, and fluent German speakers (i.e. not me) will probably get the most out of what seems to be an overriding concept of mocking contemporary consumer society, in the punning track titles and the satirical vocals on Moderne Arroganz, the lyrics of which are apparently a list of different types of insurance. 

Biotop does eventually wind down to offer a bit of respite in the gorgeous, melodic penultimate track Träumchen Am Fenster, before ending on the beatless title track.  Biotop, the track, points both backwards to Tietchens' first (pre-Sky) LP Nachtstucke and forwards to the more avant-garde stuff to come.  As he says (in German) in the final moments, which formed a lock-groove on the original LP, "Let's see how things go".

mega / zippy