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Electronic Sound – April 2018

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E LE CTRO N I C SO U N D
DAS MAGAZIN FÜR ELEKTRONISCHE MUSIK
ISSUE 40
£5.99
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C E L E B R AT I N G
KRAFTWERK’S
MASTERPIECE
CHRIS CARTER | GOGO PENGUIN | CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER | SNAPPED ANKLES | PAUL HARDCASTLE
FULL OF ENERGY
2
HELLO
W E L COME T O
E L EC T RONIC SOUND 4 0
© Electronic Sound 2018. No part of this magazine may
be used or reproduced in any way without the prior
written consent of the publisher. We may occasionally
use material we believe has been placed in the public
domain. Sometimes it is not possible to identify and
contact the copyright holder. If you claim ownership of
something published by us, we will be happy to make the
correct acknowledgement. All information is believed to
be correct at the time of publication and we cannot accept
responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies there may be in
that information.
hen Kraftwerk launched ‘The Man-Machine’ album 40
years ago in May 1978, they made several very important
statements at the same time, while actually saying very
little. 'The Man-Machine' is about technology, and how humans
and technology co-exist. Ralf and co were technology
enthusiasts, perhaps even evangelists. They were modern men,
born in the middle of the century which started when the streets
of London were still ankle-deep in horse dung, and ended with
most Londoners only ever seeing a horse on the internet.
Kraftwerk’s commitment to technology was, literally, hard-wired
into their sound. They made their music with machines, they
taught them to sing, and they talked about them in terms of an
equal partnership. Part of this was Ralf’s instinct for giving good
copy to journalists, who were equally befuddled and impressed
by his brand of abstract interview technique. Being so wholly
removed from the contemporary sweep of pop culture came
easily to him, because he had very little to do with any of it. With
the exception of Wolfgang Flür, who was a bona fide rock ‘n’ roller
before he joined up, Kraftwerk came from an intellectual art
background. This was a scene where contemplating the very
meaning of making music itself was de rigeur. Their familiarity
with the work and philosophy of Stockhausen intersected with
the Düsseldorf art school milieu of Joseph Beuys, and at the
same time the machinery of music-making enabled the
technological leap that allowed them to create a new sound.
Kraftwerk was founded at the point mid-century avant-garde
thinking met the synthesiser. And in 1978, the synthesiser had
become an affordable tool for musicians energised by punk and
new wave. ‘The Man-Machine’ sounded the starting pistol for
electronic music revolution in pop, a manifesto launched by
repeating the words “man” and “machine” through a vocoder
over and over. And that, dear friends, is why the album is this
month’s cover feature. We’ll let you discover the rest of what’s
inside on our pages this month for yourself, but we would point
you towards the interview with Chris Carter who, it seems odd to
confirm, is a contemporary of the Düsseldorf quartet, inasmuch
as he was making ground-breaking electronic music in the early
1970s which had a far-reaching effect and, at 65, he’s just
released one of the best albums of 2018. You watch, wit will be in
the end of year lists (except the ones put together by people with
tin ears).
W W W.EL EC T RONICSOUND.CO.UK
FACEBOOK .COM / EL EC T RONICM AGA ZINE
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Electronically yours,
Push & Mark
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WITH THANKS TO
EMMA GARWOOD
CONTRIBUTORS
IAN R ABRAHAM, PIERS ALLARDYCE,
STEVE APPLETON, JAMES BALL, JOEL BENJAMIN,
LOTTIE BRAZIER, BETHAN COLE, STEPHEN DALTON,
GEORGE FAIRBAIRN, IESTYN GEORGE, CARL GRIFFIN,
VELIMIR ILIC, JO KENDALL, SOPHIE LITTLE,
BEN MURPHY, KRIS NEEDS, ROBIN RIMBAUD,
FAT ROLAND, MAT SMITH, JOOLS STONE,
DAVID STUBBS, NEIL THOMSON, SPENSER TOMSON,
ED WALKER, BEN WILLMOTT
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W
3
SCRUB TRANSMISSIONS
Pollard Street East, Manchester
18 February - 5 March 2018
“A region sometimes satanic, sometimes
magic” and “a forlorn outskirt; a seance
territory” is perhaps not the most
immediate descriptors that come to
mind when referring to a scrap of waste
ground in Manchester’s Miles Platting,
but it’s how Warp’s LoneLady (aka
multi-instrumentalist and producer Julie
Campbell) views this area of the inner
city. It’s where the most recent instance
of her ‘Scrub Transmissions’ installation
project has taken place.
Each of her various transmissions
has seen her cement an MP3 player into
the fabric of a structure, allowing you to
plug in your own set of headphones and
listen to “the voices of the landscape,
before they are scrubbed out”.
This iteration of ‘Scrub Transmissions’
saw the inclusion of two MP3 players
placed in a patch of wasteland where
they were playing her previously
unreleased track ‘Little Fugue’.
“I kept coming here because I had no
where else to go,” explains Campbell.
“Through a clump of unassuming inner
city factory districts I walked, to
burn out anxiety patterns and seek
consolation, forming my own occult of
east Manchester totems and territories,
their ley lines extending to Audenshaw
and Ashton, sites of childhood and birth.”
Upon discovering the MP3 player, the
listener would be greeted with a spoken
meditation by Campbell, before hearing
‘Little Fugue’ in its entirety.
Sadly, with the installation
continuously looping until its batteries
finally conked out, the transmission
died on 5 March. But even now as
an “obsolete relic entombed within a
building” it takes on a new meaning as a
piece of this raggedy landscape.
“It’s still a curious pilgrimage to see
a dead transmitter,” reflects Campbell,
describing the MP3 player embedded
in the breezeblock as “a sentinel on the
shore of the wasteland”.
“‘Scrub’ now moves on,” she muses,
“leaving behind its breezeblock host to
fold into the entropy of the landscape it
was mourning and celebrating.”
4
THE OPENING SHOT
5
3Welcome
4
The Opening Shot
THE FRONT
8
11
15
19
21
22
24
26
28
30
32
Reader Offer
Esther Joy
House Of Blondes
Jan Borré
Lesser Pieces
Time Machine
Jack Dangers
Charlotte Hatherley
Fat Roland
Paul Hardcastle
Synthesiser Dave
FEATURES
36Kraftwerk
50
Cavern Of Anti-Matter
56
Ava Noto
58
Snapped Ankles
62
Black Moth Super Rainbow
64
Chris Carter
70
Gogo Penguin
THE BACK
76
Creep Show
78Laurence Pike, The Evil Usses,
Daniel Avery, Broads
79Wye Oak, Retep Folo, Tim Koch,
Isvisible Isinvisible
80Sunset Graves, Communion, Steven Julien,
OGRE And Dallas Campbell,
81Arms And Sleepers, Moon Gangs,
Confidence Man, The Blow
82Jenny Wilson, Die Wilde Jagd, Mark Peters
83µ-Ziq, Mike Paradinas
84
Disco Inferno, N-A-G
85Inwards, The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland,
Interferencias Vol 1
86
Henry Green, Polypores, Matt Karmil
87Makeness, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness,
Drinks, Robert Görl, Soft As Snow, Stars Of The Lid
88Midas Fall, Dungen & Woods, BC35, Ryan Vail
89Erland Cooper, Flowers From The Ashes,
Kasbo, Nonpareils
90Echo Collective, Christina Vantzou,
The Longcut, Saåad
91
Rival Consoles, Heresy
92
Mouse On Mars
93Chrome Sparks, C Diab, Lea Bertucci, Perel
94Hollywood Burns, Goldmund, Efdemin,
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
95
Holger Czukay, A Certain Ratio
96
Needs Must
98Stockists
CONTENTS
SNAPPED ANKL ES | PAGE 5 8
7
READER OFFER
EXCLUSIVE READER-ONLY LIMITED EDITIONS
THIS MONTH: ‘MAN & MACHINE’ 13-TR ACK CD COMPIL ATION
INSPIRED BY K R A F T W ERK’S ‘ THE MAN-MACHINE’
HOW DO I GET THE ELECTRONIC SOUND READER OFFER?
THREE EASY WAYS…
• Buy the latest issue directly from electronicsound.co.uk as a mag and CD
bundle, so that’s the magazine and reader offer CD, for just £10.99
• Our new Bundle Subscription is now available, get the magazine and the reader
offer every month, see electronicsound.co.uk/bundle for more details
• V isit electronicsound.co.uk/manmachine and snap up the CD on its own for
£6.99. Hurry though, stocks are very limited
8
READER OFFER
THIS MONTH’S OFFER IS A CD THAT FEATURES A
BAKER’S DOZEN OF ELECTRONIC RUMINATIONS ON
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND MACHINE.
WITH TRACKS SPANNING 1978 TO 2018, JOIN US IN
CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF ‘THE MAN-MACHINE’…
1. DEVO ‘MECHANICAL MAN’
Devo’s lo-fi basement recording of ‘Mechanical Man’ first appeared
on a seven-inch bootleg that popped up in 1978 around the same time
as their debut album. There’s no doubting its sinister overtones, as
the mechanical man in question shifts his position from the servile
“Me want what you want” to the far more worrying “Me want what
you got”. It sounds like a purposely devolved reading of the obscure
1966 novelty single ‘Mechanical Man’ by Bent Bolt And The Nuts. This
is not a fun robot.
2. DIE ALTEN MASCHINEN (WITH GERALD V CASALE
OF DEVO) ‘TO BE OR NOT’
Originally released in a limited pressing of 500 12-inch vinyl in 2008,
Die Alten Maschinen’s one-off collaboration with Devo’s Gerald V
Casale was released in the Czech Republic and is pretty hard to get
hold of. This orphan robot has a “servo motor soul” and “love was just
a fantasy” for him. Is he a man or a machine?
3. MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO ‘I AM ELECTRO (VERSION LIVE)’
Jack Dangers’ fierce electro workout is a eulogy to Elektro, the robot
presented at the 1939 New York World Fair. ‘I Am Electro’ itself was
originally released on Trent Reznor’s Nothing label in 1997, but was
essentially a new version of ‘Original Control (Version 2)’ from the
1992 Mute album ‘Satyricon’. This recording is only available on this
compilation, recorded in a live session in 2016.
4. JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON ‘SHE ROBOT’
‘She Robot’ is taken from the 2003 album ‘Crash And Burn’, an
excellent collection of brutalist minimal electronics which they
supported by touring with The Human League. ‘She Robot’ seems like
a machine to reckon with, the lyrics outlining her intimidating feature
set in a series of minimal couplets: “Conflict matrix / Instant recharge/
Event transfer / Realtime replay”. Sounds terrifying.
5. CHRIS CARTER ‘THE MAN-MACHINE’
Chris Carter’s cover version of the Kraftwerk classic slows the
skipping fleet-of-foot singing synths of the original to a psychedelic
funereal march, suggesting the relentlessness of the rise of the
robots is going to be a far less welcoming and fun event than
Kraftwerk’s 40-year-old soundtrack suggested. This is a slurring
hallucinatory vision of technology meeting human flesh.
6. IN AETERNAM VALE ‘MACHINE À LAVER’
In Aeternam Vale, aka Laurent Prot, released a series of highly sought
after and almost impossible to find cassette-only releases throughout
the 80s and 90s, which were discovered by Minimal Wave’s Veronica
Vasicka. ‘Machine À Laver’ is a hypnotic hymn to that ubiquitous
piece of household machinery, the washing machine, originally
released on a limited edition blue vinyl Minimal Wave 12-inch in 2013.
7. TRANSCENDENTAL LOVE MACHINE ‘DUB MACHINE’ (MUTALIS MUTANDIS MIX)
Transcendental Love Machine’s tenure as London’s prime machine/
human interface enthusiasts stretched over several albums and a
clutch of singles in the first half of the 1990s. This was the sound of
London’s electronic underground, ecstatic and grubby, when skint
musicians could still afford to rent a place south of the river within
staggering distance of London Bridge and its under-the-arches scene
of sweaty after-hours clubs.
8. CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER ‘BLOOD-DRUMS MACHINE’
Tim Gane’s post-Stereolab band, with longtime drummer Joe
Dilworth, and Holger Zapf, is a love letter to the German electronic
music of the 1970s. ‘Blood Drums’ was their first album, reissued
last year as a triple vinyl (and on CD). Their new album, their third,
‘Hormone Lemonade’, is no less impressive, a fabulous re-rendering of
krautrock which Stereolab fans will love.
9. METAMATICS ‘DOPE FOR THE ROBOT’
Sparse electro funk from Lee Norris, aka Metamatics, with a mix
of squelchy P-Funk lead lines and sophisticated beats and a sleek
understated nighttime groove. The apparent simplicity of Metamatics
music makes it easy to access, but deeper listening rewards the
listener with ever shifting textures.
10. HOUNDS OF HULME ‘RISE OF THE DEAD ROBOTS’
From our very own Fat Roland comes the techno stylings of bedroom
Manchester in the shape of this minimal machine music. Imagine
dead robots rising! The horror! Shades of The Higher Intelligence
Agency’s ‘Ketamine Entity’ and Plastikman’s machine tuneage inform
this soundtrack to robot fear.
11. OMNIVORE ‘ROBOVORE’
With its Art Of Noise Fairlight orchestra hits, frantic scratching,
Kraftwerk ‘Numbers’-esque high frequency electronic hi-hats,
‘Robovore’ is monster of an electronic styles, merging the best of the
80s – including the Casio VL-Tone beat that underpinned the Trio hit
‘Da Da Da’ – with the 90s sensibility of their day.
12. HYPERBUBBLE ‘BIONIC GIRL’
Due to a robot error, the track on the CD is mis-titled as ‘Cyborg
Suitcase’, but is actually ‘Bionic Girl’. Texas duo Hyperbubble have
been flying the flag for day-glo underground electronic pop for 15
years now, and their endlessly upbeat and optimistic girl/boy synth
duo sound has seen them collaborate with Manda Rin of Scots indie
darlings Bis, score two underground sci-fi films (‘Dee Dee Rocks The
Gallery’ and ‘Attack Of The Titans’). Their 2017 album ‘Western Ware’
is, wait for it, electronic country and western, and is quite brilliant.
‘Bionic Girl’ contributes much good vibes to the optimistic climax of
‘Man & Machine’
13. RODNEY CROMWELL ‘BABY ROBOT’
How cute would a baby robot be? This cute! Rodney Cromwell’s
bight eyed lo-fi electronica soundtracks the sense of hope that and
happiness that comes with new life. Even if that life is not carbonbased and, with the onset of robot puberty, may well develop laser
weapons with which to eliminate human life.
9
WATCH
RAMA LAMA
DING DONG
DESIGN LEGEND
DOCUMENTARY
The Oral-B
toothbrush is about
as ubiquitous as
industrial design
gets, and the man
responsible for it
is Dieter Rams, a
legend among
designers who has
created thousands of
products for German
company Braun.
Along the way he
came up with the 10
principles of good
design. A new film,
‘Rams’, about the
great man is coming
soon, directed by
Guy Hustwit with
music by Brian Eno,
in which the man
who launched a
thousand household
objects rues his
contribution to
over-consumption.
“There are too many
products in this
world,” he says.
Now he tells us.
hustwit.com
10
THE FRONT
INT RODUCING…
ESTHER JOY
LONDON-BASED SCI-FI TALE SPINNER
WHO SHE?
Esther Joy is an emerging producer who has been
sharpening her chops touring with Charli XCX’s
band, though her own approach doesn’t share much
DNA Cambridge’s finest. You see, Esther Joy is an
altogether more underground proposition.
WHY ESTHER JOY?
Her one-woman-band sees Esther deliver an
aggressive electronic groove made up of a sound
set that borrows from dubstep, all hoover bass and
screaming distorted top lines, whipped up into a
curiously pop friendly whole. And then there’s sci-fi…
TELL US MORE…
Musicians coming up with extra-terrestrial storylines
to frame their work isn’t new, Bowie did it more than
once, and Numan’s ‘Savage’ album is based on his own
unpublished novel, but Esther Joy’s approach releases
the stories along with the songs. ‘Day 1 (Silipur Leaves
Home)’, the first “single” (it has a YouTube video)
from her new release ‘The Acid Caves Vol 1’ is a ‘The
Man Who Fell To Earth’ scenario, except our heroine,
a non-human “lifeblood” is leaving her planet in
search of The Chaos – human emotional, spiritual and
supernatural energy the universe needs to survive.
Trouble is that The Chaos is fading, thanks to mankind’s
enthusiastic uptake of social media and virtual
interaction at the expense of real life. How to bridge
the gap for Silipur? Read on and listen…
MARK ROLAND
‘The Acid Caves Vol. 1’ is out on 27 April. For more,
visit soundcloud.com/estherjoylane
11
PLAY
LISTEN
WAVE HELLO
SAVE OUR SOUNDS
MOTION CONTROLLED MAGICAL MIDI RING
NO.18 HUGH DAVIES
Genki Instruments’ Wave is a wearable MIDI controller that allows
you to control sound, shape effects and send commands with just the
swish of your hand. Pairing to devices with Bluetooth, Wave works out
of the box with an abundance of music software and apps, but can also
be connected to modular set ups, opening up new ways to play those
synths of yours. Parameters are controlled by a wave, while samples are
triggered with a tap and buttons on the device play, stop or record. ETA
is the end of the year, with price tag of $200. indiegogo.com
The British Library’s Save Our Sounds project aims to save
the UK’s recorded sounds from extinction. The project
often receives donations of important collections, such
that of pioneering experimental composer Hugh Davies,
as Curator Of Popular Music Andy Linehan explains…
WANT
BASS! HOW PILLOW CAN YOU GO?
IS IT A CUSHION? IS IT A SPEAKER? WAIT FOR IT…
We were equal parts excited and intrigued when this landed in the
Electronic Sound office. A smart cushion may sound like a ridiculous
concept, but Flexound’s HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion will
immediately sell you on the idea. The Bluetooth-enabled speaker not
only boasts amazing sound quality, but is also a tactile experience. Using
Flexound Xperience technology, HUMU has a vibrating soundboard that
generates stereo audio and resonates in time with whatever you’re
listening to. Honestly, it really heightens the listening experience. It works
with all Bluetooth compatible devices (TVs, games consoles, phones),
has an eight-hour battery life and charges via Micro USB. humu.fi
At the time of his death in 2005, Hugh Davies was one
of the leading British exponents of electronic and
experimental music. His initial interest was piqued when
he was a pupil at Westminster School and heard the
compositions of Daphne Oram. He subsequently studied
music at Worcester College, Oxford, during which time
he made his first recordings at Oram’s studio.
Davies was also an enthusiastic researcher and his
discography of the development of electronic music was
published in Recorded Sound, the journal of the British
Institute of Recorded Sound (the precursor of the British
Library Sound Archive) while he was still a student.
A further unfulfilled written project led him to get in touch
with Karlheinz Stockhausen and, at the age of 21 he
moved to Germany to work as Stockhausen’s assistant.
Two years working with Stockhausen inspired
Davies, and on his return to the UK he experimented with
building his own equipment and instruments, famously
using a combination of household objects and contact
microphones to invent what he called the Shozyg.
In 1967, Davies was asked to establish an electronic
music studio at Goldsmith’s College, London, which
enabled him to further develop his work, during which
time he became a major figure on the avant-garde and
electronic scene as a member of Music Improvisation
Company and Gentle Fire. Davies continued composing
and performing, developing sound installations and
sound sculptures while also holding instrument-building
workshops for children and remained an influential and
pioneering figure until his death.
Davies’ manuscripts and papers were donated to
the British Library following his death, aged 61, and a
selection of his recordings are available on the British
Library Sounds website. The remainder of his archive is
currently being digitised as part of the British Library’s
Save Our Sounds project.
For more, visit bl.uk/save-our-sounds
12
READ
WANT
FUTURE DAZED
IT’S AN OPEN AND SHOOT CASE
CAN’S WILD TALE TOLD IN ONE MIGHTY BOOK
HANDS UP WHO WANTS A RETRO GAMING PHONE CASE?
It says here that Rob Young’s ‘All Gates Open: The Story
Of Can’ is “the definitive story of the most influential
and revered avant-garde band of the late 20th century”.
And who are we to argue. It is indeed one almighty
tome, clocking in at some 570-odd pages and split into
two halves. The first half is Young’s full biog drawing on
interviews with all the founding members of Cologne’s
finest and their many friends and associates. It paints a
vivid picture of the fun and games over four decades.
The second part is ‘Can Kiosk’, assembled by the band’s
guiding spirit, Irmin Schmidt, as a “collage”. It’s a mishmash of diary entries, interviews, Q&As and reflections
and is as dip-in-and-outable as Young’s biog is readable.
Quite the package then. faber.co.uk
Not satisfied with the multitude of apps and games available on your
iPhone? Looking for something with a bit more of that retro feel? Have
we got the thing for you! The Wanle Gamers Console is a case for your
iPhone that just happens to be a fully functioning games console. Styled
like Nintendo’s iconic Game Boy, it comes installed with games like
‘Tetris’, ‘Formula One Racing’ and ‘Tank’ and is compatible with any
iPhone from the 6 upwards. Just shove it on and away you go. At $79.95
you’ll need to be quick as they’re proving rather popular. wanlecases.com
PLAY
SHEET MUSIC
IS IT A PIANO? IS IT A NOTEBOOK? YEAH, WE KNOW…
READ
GONE FISHING
PSYCHE-INSPIRED LABEL MARKS FIRST DECADE
Covering psychedelia, prog rock, acid-folk, spacerock
and kosmische sounds, it’ll come as no surprise to have
seen their name on our review pages. What’s especially
pleasing about the 10th anniversary of Keith Jones and
Andy Bracken’s vinyl-only imprint is they’re celebrating
with a book called ‘The Incomplete Angler – Ten Years Of
Fruits De Mer’.
Penned by prolific music journalist Dave Thompson, it
features delightfully obscure interviews and provides a
fascinating official history of a cottage industry label that
has been proud to give a home to the likes of The Bevis
Frond, Peel favourites The Chemistry Set and the prog
techno of Astralasia. If you’ve ever fancied running label,
it acts as a cracking handbook too. fruitsdemerrecords.com
14
British company Novalia have been producing playable surfaces for a
while now, exploring the meeting point of digital and physical media.
Their hook-up with Pizza Hut, for example, resulted in pizza boxes that
doubled as DJ decks. Using conductive inks and circuits to create
interactive touch points which connect to iPhone apps via Bluetooth,
they can turn any surface into a playable interface. Their latest is the
lovely looking Piano Book, a notepad with a gold printed keyboard
which you can play like a piano via the app (or use it as MIDI controller
for any music app). It’s designed so you can sketch or jot notes with the
keyboard at your fingertips too. playablebook.com
THE FRONT
WATCH
VIDEO SYNTHESIS KILLED THE RADIO STAR
AUDIO-VISUAL ARTIST RECREATES EMS SPECTRON
From our friends at the Buried Treasure label comes this mind boggling
DVD. The work of Australian academic and audio-visual artist Jeffrey
Siedler, ‘Logic Formations’ recreates the some of the visual capabilities
of the almost mythical EMS Spectron Video Synthesiser, which was
created by electronics wonderkid Richard Monkhouse in 1974. Used
by the likes of Tangerine Dream and the BBC, the Spectron is beyond
rare these days so with detailed sleevenotes from Monkhouse himself
as well as a booklet called ‘Experimenting With Video Synthesis’, not
to mention the mesmerising disc featuring Siedler’s audio-visual
compositions, this is one irresistible package. buriedtreasure.bandcamp.com
INT RODUCING…
HOUSE OF BLONDES
TEMPORAL NYC SYNTHY TRICKERY
WHO THEY
The New York-based House Of Blondes comprises of
one Blonde (first name John) and Chris Pace. They are
a constant presence in the city’s music scene, and
have been working together since 2007. ‘Time Trip’ is
their third studio album, and the first released on the
Alrealon Musique label.
WHY HOUSE OF BLONDES?
PLAY
DANCE, MOOGIE WONDERLAND
MINIMOOG APP FOR A FIVER? DON’T MIND IF WE DO
In a move that you can’t help thinking might be aimed at Behringer and
their recent £300 “Model D” Minimoog clone, Moog have just released
the Minimoog Model D app. It’s a £4.99 app, and is based on the original
analogue circuit designs and, as you might expect, includes some fancy
new features, like four-note polyphony, 160 presets, an arpeggiator
mode and several effects which have been designed to look like their
MoogerFooger range of pedals. Check out the promo video for its
amusing Kraftwerk/Devo/Michael Jackson/NIN pastiches designed to
remind us quite why the Minimoog is so beloved. moogmusic.com
This album has been in the making since 2015, which
isn’t surprising really given the level of musical
attention paid to the project, with a raft of samples
and synthesisers (analogue and digital) sitting snugly
alongside bass guitars and drums. While House
Of Blondes released their first album in 2012, John
Blonde has previously released material in 2007 under
the name of… House Of Blondes. Call it v1.0 if you will.
TELL US MORE
Apparently the album was partly inspired by a part of
Daniel Boorstin’s ‘The Discovers’, which explores how
humans came to understand time, which makes sense
when you consider the range of time-related track
titles. It becomes particularly clear that they also have
a taste for the theatrical. Take ‘Why It Happened In
The West’, which layers a long, soaring synthline over
a subdued drum rhythm which pulses like a heartbeat.
Likewise, the beat behind ‘Modern Clock’ ticks away
in the midst of lush pads and pulsating keys. ‘Time Trip’
almost functions more as a score rather than an album.
It’s the type of music you put on to transform your drab
commute into a gripping scene from ‘Blade Runner’.
JAMES BALL
‘Time Trip’ is released by Alrealon Musique
on 20 April
15
WANT
SHOCK OF THE NURA
RISE OF THE SMART
HEADPHONES
Nura headphones are
causing quite the stir
at the moment. The
ear cups are made
from a special silicon
which adapts to your
head shape over time
and they incorporate
in-ear buds, which
hermetically seal you
in a whole new listening
environment. Once
they’re on you hook
up to the app on your
phone, via Bluetooth,
which then plays
series of Radiophonic
Workshop-esque tones
into your cochlea,
analyses the echo
frequencies and
creates a listening
profile just for you. It’s
kind of like experiencing
personalised mastering,
with a slider to adjust
how much the music
pumps, from “normal”
to “front row”. With the
in-ear buds, the Nura
listening experience
isn’t going to be for
everyone, but if you do
get on with them, Nura
takes personal listening
to a whole new level.
uk.nuraphone.com
16
THE FRONT
WATCH
WANT
I AM DAMO SUZUKI
SPRITE HERE, SPRITE NOW
DOCUMENTARY CELEBRATES CAN VOCALIST
IS THAT A GAMES CONSOLE IN YOUR POCKET…
Since his departure from Can back in 1973, after
contributing his inimitable vocals to some of their finest
albums, including the peerless ‘Tago Mago’, Suzuki lived
quietly in Germany for a decade before going back on the
road, touring ceaselessly playing fearless improvised
music with pick-up bands (he calls them sound carriers)
all over the world. Now approaching 70, ‘Energy’,
directed by Michelle Heighway, is a work-in-progress
documentary charting his journey since a cancer
diagnosis in 2014. The film is crowdfunding on Indiegogo
from 1 May. Damo has several shows coming up in the UK,
be sure to catch one if you can. energythefilm.co.uk
Very portable gaming this; a Game Boy-like device that literally fits
in the palm of your hand. The Pocket Sprite touts itself as the world’s
smallest portable gaming device, and at its keyring enabled stature,
we’re inclined to agree. Tiny but fully functional, with all the modern
commodities like an OLED screen and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the Pocket
Sprite is also completely open source. So as well as playing Game
Boy and Game Gear ROMs, you can code and share your own games
for the world to play. It’s due for release in May with a price tag of $55.
pocketsprite.com
17
WANT
GREEN GLOW OF HOME
“ENTRY LEVEL” DECK
The American audio company
McIntosh have been making
high-end gear for the home
listening experience since 1949.
Until now, their turntable range
has been limited to just the
two models, the MT-5 (clocks
in at around £9,000), and the
MT10 (£13,000). The new MT2
Precision is the new baby of the
range, a belt-driven entry to the
world of McIntosh which, they
say, is ready to use out of the box.
No need for endless intimidating
tracking adjustments to
make. The platter is made of
polyoxymethylene and being
able to pronounce that is worth
a chunk of asking price. It glows
green and is, to our eyes, rather
more attractive than its more
expensive siblings. Yours for
under £5,000. mcintoshlabs.com
18
THE FRONT
INT RODUCING…
JAN BORRÉ
SYNTH AND STRING FILM COMPOSITIONS
WHO HE?
Belgian electronic musician Jan Borré joins the
ever-growing legion of synthesists and film score
composers on the continually impressive Londonbased Spun Out Of Control label. Borré deploys a
mixture of layered synthesisers and string and cello
motifs to conjure up haunting, sinister atmospheres.
WHY JAN BORRÉ?
His soundtrack to British/Belgian horror film ‘Where
The Skin Lies’ (which received its premiere at Horror
Channel’s FrightFest last year) mixes deep and
dark synthlines (the groaning ‘Edwards Dies’ and
sinister thrumming of ‘Landline’) with ominous string
segments (‘You Figured This Out’ builds like any of
John Carpenter’s best). Not quite a complete retro
throwback, but Borré is confident enough in his
diverse range of cues to allow them to make ‘Where
The Skin Lies’ identifiably his own. You can nab it
physically on two tasty coloured cassettes, with “ink
tattoo blue” or “scalpel silver” available.
TELL US MORE…
“The film story demanded a dark and brooding musical
score enhancing the atmosphere of infectious light‐
heartedness yet growing distrust,” explains Borré
“I crafted the first versions of the themes based on
this scenario, trying to capture the changing moods.
Arranging them later I opted for a combination of
strings, percussion and synthesisers, interwoven with
a gloomy cello solo.” Seems like this combination has
worked wonders, and with him being in good company
at Spun Out Of Control, we’re excited to hear what
further compositions Jan Borré has in that electronicstring imbued melting pot.
FINLAY MILLIGAN
‘Where The Skin Lies’ it out now on Spun
Out Of Control
19
WANT
HOME ON THE RANGE
FAKE FILM DIGI CAMERA
Yashica is a venerable Japanese
camera brand which now, thanks
to new owners, rides again.
The Yashica Y35 camera is an
extraordinary, possibly bonkers,
new system called digiFilm. It’s
a digital camera, with classic
styling of a 1960s rangefinder
camera, but you need to load a
pretend “film” roll. You open the
back, pop it in, wind it on, and
shoot. There’s no review screen
and no delete button. Want a
different look? You have to load
a different “film”. The idea is
that it gives the photographer
the sensation of shooting film,
without the restrictions of the
retro format. It’s like something
out of a sci-fi film, a fantasy
product designed to satisfy an
atavistic urge, except it’s real.
yashica.com
20
THE FRONT
WANT
JUST HANGING AROUND
LEVITATING WATER? NO PROBLEM
A desk accessory like no other, LeviZen is a “liquid levitator”. Yes, they
exist apparently. Made from walnut wood and “precision machined
aluminium”, it uses “silent acoustic levitation” (the high frequency
sound waves emitted are not audible to human lugholes) to suspend
liquid in the air, making it a rather interesting art piece and topic of
conversation. And it does look rather lovely, with its design giving it a
sci-fi retro-futuristic feel. LeviZen can also light up the droplets as float,
making them glow and act like a light source themselves. One will set
you back $399, and they’ll be levitating around your house come July
2018. kickstarter.com
INT RODUCING…
LESSER PIECES
SOUL-FILLED STATESIDE DIGITAL SYNTHPOP
WHO THEY?
Los Angeles-based duo of New York-born Egyptian
singer-songwriter Diane Badi’é, and Irish synth wizard
Mike Slott. Their musical union was borne out of
collaborative writing sessions in Brooklyn a couple of
years back. Since relocating to LA , they’ve developed
a soulful, cosmopolitan brand of head-turning
synthpop.
WHY LESSER PIECES?
PLAY
MMMBOP
STACKABLE WACKABLE MUSICAL BUILDING BLOCKS
From the mind of Scottish musician and engineer Michael Tougher
comes Soundbops, a panel with removable blocks or “bops” that
represent a musical note. The bops can be placed in different orders or
can be stacked on top of each other to create chords. It’s designed to let
children explore their musical side, but don’t let them spoil the fun, right?
“It allows children to explore and experiment with music fundamentals,”
explains Tougher, “and makes music easier and more fun.” It can
connect via Bluetooth to an iPad, works with apps like GarageBand,
while Soundbops’ own app is due out next year. You can start stacking
those notes come December 2018. Bring it on. kickstarter.com
Listen to their last two singles, ‘Texas’ and ‘Never
Think Of You’, and you’ll hear sophisticated, crystalsharp 21st century tuneage. There’s nothing retro
or nostalgic about their multi-faceted sound, which
carries dreampop’s fragility along with grandiose
sci-fi soundscapes, augmented beautifully by Badi’é’s
celestially deluxe-yet-vulnerable vocals. Think a more
soul-inclined Chromatics meets Beach House with a bit
of London Grammar and you’re somewhere close.
TELL US MORE…
There’s a poppy accessibility about their clever,
subtle mix of influences, as well as a rare, rooted
humanity, that hasn’t gone unnoticed by one or two big
guns. Their first track as Lesser Pieces, ‘Nightingale’
caught the ear of award-winning Adele, FKA Twigs,
Futureheads and Rapture (among others) producer
Paul Epworth, who in turn introduced them to Tanlines’
Patrick Ford, who’s worked on their most recent output.
They do “euphoric” pretty well too by the way. Last
year’s single ‘You and I (No Emergency)’ is a blast of
driving hands-in-the-air piano keys and energetic, blind
optimism. So a lot of promise then? Well yes – they’ve
recorded a handful of further tracks recently ready for
an album release later this year.
CARL GRIFFIN
‘Never Think Of You’ is out now on OCSNL
21
22
TIME MACHINE
TIME MAC HINE
WHEN SPILLERS OPENED THEIR DOORS IN CARDIFF IN 1894, WHO
KNEW THAT TODAY THEY’D BE THE WORLD’S OLDEST RECORD
SHOP. TO MARK RECORD STORE DAY ON 21 APRIL, WE SALUTE THE
RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF THE HUMBLE RECORD EMPORIUM…
words:
GARTH CARTWRIGHT
Spillers, a small record emporium based in a quiet Cardiff arcade, is a
site of great historic prestige: it’s recognised by ‘The Guinness Book
Of Records’ for continually selling recorded music since 1894, which
makes it, offically, the World’s Oldest Record Shop. Which, all things
considered, is one hell of an achievement. These days the shop is run
by the personable Ashli Todd. It’s fair to say he has vinyl in her soul
as she literally grew up here; her father ran he place from the early
1970s into the 21st Century. Ashli’s Spillers has a focus on all kinds of
rock music – from underground indie bands to Iron Maiden – and lots
of contemporary folk, with a strong emphasis on Welsh artists.
Running Spillers is, says Todd, both a pleasure and a struggle:
when the supermarkets announced they were about to start stocking
vinyl it hurt. Spillers relies on customers who value vinyl and Todd
is only too aware how the hypermarts can sell LPs as a loss leader.
Concerns noted, Ashli is smart and feisty and, with the shop having
survived the collapse of the coal industry and the docks, two World
Wars, depressions, recessions, Thatcher and the onset of the digital
era, I’m sure her shop will outwit Tesco and the likes too.
Only a decade ago I wouldn’t have made such an optimistic
pronouncement what with the great British record shop in what
seemed like terminal decline. The end of the public’s love affair with
CDs and the onset of downloading saw the big chains crash – Andy’s,
Tower, Our Price, Virgin, Music Zone, while industry leader HMV
closed dozens of outlets – as well as many independent shops, such
venerable traders as Selectadisc, Beanos, Dub Vendor and Mole Jazz,
putting up shutters for the final time.
Personally, as an obsessive record collector, I found the whole
situation depressing. It felt like the end of an era and that record
shops would vanish in a manner akin to video stores. While many
of us have fond memories of Tower, Virgin, Andy’s and other record
chains, surely no one mourns Blockbuster? What’s more, the best
independents are the stuff of legend – Phil Lynott wrote ‘The Rocker’
to celebrate Rock On, a Ladbroke Grove record stall.
It was this sense of loss that pushed me to write ‘Going For A
Song: A Chronicle Of The UK Record Shop’. The initial idea was to
document the record shops that played the biggest part in shaping the
UK’s musical culture. But the more I dug, the more I discovered and,
eventually, I found myself writing a secret history, one that begins
with the advent of wax cylinder recordings in the 1890s and goes
on to cover everything from the rise of HMV (founded at 363 Oxford
Street in 1921 – Sir Edward Elgar lead his orchestra in a performance
at the grand opening), the maverick jazz-folk-blues shops that helped
shape so many notable UK musicians of the 1950s and 60s (think Chris
Barber, Van Morrison, Tubby Hayes, Brian Jones, John Mayall), the
mod and ska shops which soundtracked a revolution in Jamaican
and African American music, the huge role Liverpool’s NEMS played
in ensuring The Beatles got a record deal, the pysch shops that
entranced Stanley Kubrick so much he would film a scene from
‘A Clockwork Orange’ in one, the rapid rise of Richard Branson’s
Virgin chain, how the likes of Rock On, Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet,
Small Wonder and Good Vibrations all became important catalysts
for punk rock, the increasing role record shops played in immigrant
communities while the heavy dub and electronic dance music outlets
represented music fans with a taste for intense sonic attack.
Inevitably, I document the crash of a decade or so ago that spelt
the end of one record shop era… and, it turns out, the beginning of
another. Today across the UK new shops are opening.
Oddly, no one had ever old the UK record shop story before.
Perhaps it was because the wise heads realised the huge amount
of research involved would take eons and necessitate over 100
interviews. Me, being a fool, failed to consider what would be
necessary. It’s been an exhausting task and one that, at the start,
felt like I was writing an obituary. Thankfully, it’s turned into a
story that will continue – the youths who once disdained CDs and
preferred to download illegally have matured into music lovers who
value vinyl.
Admittedly, we will never see a magnificent palace of sound like
Tower Records’ Piccadilly Circus headquarters (then the largest
record shop in Europe) and you are unlikely to find those crazed
dance music shops so affectionately lampooned in ‘Human Traffic’
that once appeared to operate from attics and basements in every
urban shopping area.
But the new shops that have appeared on our musical landscape
are run by music lovers who have not only passion, but imagination.
To survive as a record shop in 2018 you need to be pushing forward:
Drift Record Shop in Totnes, Devon, hosts a music festival and
publishes an engaging music magazine that reaches far beyond its
south west location. The Book & Record Bar in West Norwood has
its own internet radio station and puts on many fabulous events. Pie
And Vinyl in Portsmouth has enjoyed such great success for its pies
that they now get invited to cater at concerts and festivals. Lorenzo’s
Record Shack in Peckham is run by an Italian who sources superb
music, he also runs the Gilles Peterson-endorsed Fly By Night record
label so ensuring he has all kinds of esoteric releases.
These and other great emporiums ensure the record shop as
community hub continues. It’s down to us now to support them.
Garth Cartwright is the author of ‘Going For A Song: A Chronicle
Of The UK Record Shop’, which is out now, published by Flood
Gallery Press
23
THE SCHOOL OF
E LEC TRONIC MUSIC
JOIN OUR RESIDENT ARCHIVIST AS WE FIND HIM
REMINISCING ABOUT THE TIME HE JOINED TERRY RILEY
IN A PERFORMANCE OF ‘IN C’…
words:
JACK DANGERS
I was thinking the other day about the time I went to see Terry Riley
perform ‘In C’ here in San Francisco. It was probably about 15 years
ago now, and the audience brought their own instruments and played
along. I took my bass clarinet and a modified Speak & Spell machine.
The guy sitting next to me had a flute. It lasted about an hour and
eventually petered out, with various people in the audience trying
to get the last note in. The orchestra played the final note in the end.
Riley’s from the Bay Area, of course, and it was all very San Francisco.
It was really good fun. It reminded me of a record I have which is also
about listener participation; ’Synergetic Sonorities’. It was released
in 1969 on the Marathon label. Marathon was a Canadian private
press label, you could send them tapes and artwork and they would
press up 500 copies or whatever you wanted. I have a few records on
that label, including ‘Electronic Essays’ which has Pauline Oliveros on
it, but this one is the rarest. There are two artists on the album, one
side each. One composer is George Cacioppo, and his piece is called
‘Holy Ghost Vacuum, Or America Faints’, which is pretty interesting.
But the one I really like is ‘Cascando’ by Udo Kasemets.
Musically, ‘Cascando’ is really hardcore, minimal repetitive
music. The only piece I’ve heard that’s similar is La Monte Young’s
‘Drift Study’, but that doesn’t really describe how this sounds. It’s
subtitled “stereosonic listener participation music”. He also called
it “phonographic stereosonophony”. The piece was composed
specifically for playing on a record player, and the instructions that
come with the LP say that you can either listen to it as a “straight
listening piece”, or you can use it together with text of the radio
play ‘Cascando’ by Samuel Beckett, which was written in French
and broadcast in 1961 with the subtitle ‘Invention radiophonique
pour musique et voix’. The original score was by a composer called
Marcel Malhovici and various composers have played around with it
since, including Philip Glass and David J of Bauhaus. You can find the
first British broadcast on YouTube, it’s pretty weird. It’s all about the
interplay of language and music.
The idea with the Kasemets version is that you use a sort of score
that’s printed on the back of the record. You play the record and keep
the volume off during the opening monologue, and when the script
says “MUSIC”, you turn up the volume. There are other instructions
for when music and words are supposed to happen at the same
time. You can also listen to it as a “listener-controlled performance”
without the text. You need to be able to control the volume of each
channel independently for this version, and there’s another weird
24
score, a series of “time charts” which tells you how many minutes
or seconds each channel is turned up for, and you can mix up the
time charts. It’s an interesting idea, but I’ve never actually done it.
The cover art is a graphic score of the piece, and it claims that the
recording was made entirely with straight and modified sounds of
the human heart.
Kasemets was born in 1919 in Estonia, and emigrated to Toronto,
Canada in 1951, just after attending the famous Darmstadt summer
school, which was a hotbed for avant-garde music. John Cage and
Stockhausen famously presented their ideas to other composers
there, and you can really see the influence of Cage on ‘Cascando’,
with the elements of chance, and these predetermined systems
creating the listener experience that changes every time. Once he
was settled in Canada, Kasemets taught at a couple of music schools
and became the music critic at the Toronto Daily Star for a while.
He organised festivals and concerts of new music in Canada, and
formed the Toronto Synergetic Theatre in the 1960s, “a creativeperforming group of musicians, technologists and mixed media
artists”, which sounds pretty exciting. From the early 1970s until 1987
when he retired, he was a professor at Department of Experimental
Art at the Ontario College of Art. He died in 2014, aged 94.
THE SCHOOL OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC
DE TAIL FROM ‘CASCANDO’
25
26
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
UNDE R T HE INFLUE N C E
FORMER ASH AND BATS FOR LASHES GUITARIST TURNED
SYNTH EVANGELIST, CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY SHARES A
FEW OF HER FORMATIVE INFLUENCES
interview :
NEIL MASON
GROWING UP IN LONDON
“I was a posh girl from Chiswick and, when I was 15, I answered an
ad in the back of the NME for a guitarist and met Ellyot Dragon, an
Israeli hardcore lesbian riot girl feminist. She blew my mind. I went to
her house in Plaistow, which she shared with all these women, and I
auditioned in her bedroom. She was quite a lot older than me, in fact
the whole band was. They were probably in their late-20s. I think I
played Jimi Hendrix or something and that was the beginning of two
or three years of playing with Nightnurse.
“Growing up in London, it’s just all there on a plate for you. All
those venues, all those rehearsal spaces - you’re in the heart of
everything. We’d rehearse at this studio in Angel, which was a major
late night party place, probably the most drugs I ever did was there
at that time and it’s where I met Tim Wheeler from Ash, which was
another life changing meeting.”
MY DAD’S SCI-FI BOOKS
“So my dad is a huge influence on me. He’s Australian, lives in Sydney
and he’s a film critic and screen writer. He was an enormous Philip K
Dick fan and had every single book and they were very well organised
on shelves. I remember looking through his books when I was a kid
because the covers were so psychedelic and surrealist. They really
burned into my mind as much as the weirdness of the writing. When
he moved back to Sydney, I inherited his book collection.”
YOGA
“When I was 25, I started to get rock and roll injuries from carrying
guitars from the age of 15. Years of doing that has really fucked
my shoulders up so I started doing yoga as a physical thing to help
me. Last year I did a yoga teacher training course so I’m a qualified
teacher. Yoga has been the one constant in my life. Wherever I
am, in every single country I’ve traveled to I’ve done yoga every
day. Not only has it completely helped me physically, but it’s really
helped me through some quite tumultuous times. Not to sound like a
massive hippy, or Sting, but it’s completely changed my life. It used
to be a bottle of vodka before and after a gig, now it’s mindfulness,
meditation and breathing exercises. It’s what happens with age.”
BATS FOR LASHES
Meeting Natasha Khan was a big moment for me, it would change the
course of the last 10 years. I’d become a tour and session musician
and took a big break from writing, just playing with other people and
when I came back to my own work that’s when I thought, ‘OK, well I’m
just going to write in a completely different way and I’m going to use
electronics’, all of which was Natasha’s influence. Just seeing how
she mixes electronics with live instruments is wonderful. She does it
in a really interesting way.
TRAVELLING THE WORLD
Touring has been such a huge part of my life. From the age of 18, I’ve
always been away. It’s been wonderful because I’ve made friends
in different parts of the world, but the flipside is I’ve always craved
stability. I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend actually and there
are fundamental things missing in my knowledge of how to live with
someone… it’s quite embarrassing not knowing how ovens work.
NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES, PART ONE
I was a huge XTC fan and my label put me in touch with Andy
Partridge after my first solo record. He called me up and said, ‘Come
to Swindon and let’s write some songs’. It was very surreal. In my
mind he was this post-punk dude he was so normal, just this guy in
his quiet suburban surroundings. He was so lovely, and we did get
some songs out of it.
“Afterwards we didn’t speak for a while and then he emailed me
saying, ‘I’m very disappointed Charlotte, I can’t believe you would
have said this’ and there was a link to an XTC forum. I clicked on it
and someone had written something like, ‘XTC are so boring and
Andy’s really lost it blah blah blah’ and they’d used my name and he
thought it was me! I replied to him saying, ‘Oh my God Andy, I would
never ever say anything like that, I love you’ and he never replied.
NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES, PART TWO
“I met David Bowie who truly is my hero and it was really quite
strange. Ash were on Moby’s Area2 tour, two weeks around America
in 2002 with Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, David Bowie and Moby.
It was quite a strange bill. I found being backstage with Bowie sat in
the corner having a dinner or wandering around smoking cigarettes
and joking with his band incredibly stressful. Tim [Wheeler] was just
like, ‘You should just go up and say hi, he’s really nice’ and I was like
‘I just can’t fucking do it’.
“I made friends with Sterling Campbell, his drummer, and he was
lovely. He knew I was a superfan and I’d told him ‘Always Crashing
In The Same Car’ is one of my favourite songs and he said, ‘Oh, we’ve
rehearsed it, but we haven’t played it’. And then on the last gig he
came up to me in the afternoon and said ‘Make sure you stay until the
very end tonight’ and then walked off. So I stayed until the end and
Bowie says, ‘We’re going to play a song that we’ve rehearsed, but we
haven’t played live and this song is for… this song’s for… “ and he
looks over at Sterling and then sort of shrugs his shoulders and goes,
‘Oh, let’s just play it’. I was so crushed.”
Charlotte Hatherley plays Space Rocks, in association with the
European Space Agency, at Indigo at The O2, London, on 22 April.
Her new album, ‘True Love’, is out in June
27
BANGING ON
SAY THERE WAS SOMEONE, AND HE (OR SHE) WAS SENDING
US WEIRD RAMBLING EMAILS AND DESPITE ASKING,
HE (OR SHE) WOULDN’T STOP. WE SHOULD CALL THE POLICE,
RIGHT? ANYWAY, HERE’S WHATSHISFACE
words:
FAT ROLAND
JOEL BENJAMIN
illustration:
When you jab a synthesiser, a sound plops out. This process seems
complex to stupid people like you, but it’s quite simple to expert music
experts like me. Here’s what happens when you jab a synthesiser.
Your finger pokes a key, which tickles the internal tubes. The tubes
make a surprised noise, and this falls out of the speaker in the shape
of an envelope. To normal people who own suburban water features
and Renault Clios and bowl-haired children, “envelope” is the name of
the junk mail that’s rammed through their letterbox on a daily basis.
To expert music experts like me, “envelope” describes how
dynamic a musical note is. For example, some notes are not dynamic.
They plonk miserably, like a piano at a dentist. Other notes are
very dynamic indeed, like an orchestra being chased by a sexy axe
murderer. These differing “envelopes” can be measured with four
parameters: attack, decay, sustain and release.
The “attack” is the beginning of the note. Imagine climbing into
bed after a long day serving beef flaps at Gregg’s. You pull your Harry
Styles duvet tight and nuzzle your teddy bear Susan, her plastic eyes
long since stolen by spiders. As you drift into sleep, I pounce from
a wardrobe and bite your face off. “Why me?!” you try to scream,
but you can’t because I’ve literally eaten your face. This is called an
“attack” and it is what happens at the start of a note.
“Decay” is the second bit of the note. It’s the brief aftershock;
the echo following a quake; the face of a kitten after you show it
a photograph of Ann Widdecombe. To normal people who own
suburban children features and bowl-haired Clios, “decay” is
what happens to pensions after investing in too much organic kale.
Personally, I’ve replaced my hopes and dreams with bitcoins because
I am, like, the new Elon Musk or something.
28
The next two parts of a note are called “sustain” and “release”.
Vegan-faced rainforest musician Sting is great at sustaining notes.
He can sustain a note for days while grasping a chastity belt with
his hairy palms. Meanwhile, the one-man YMCA tribute act George
Michael was amazing at releasing, especially over hastily scrawled
phone numbers on the walls of public toilets. This section of “jokes”
is sponsored by the 1990s. Thanks, 1990s.
Synthesisers have other buttons that make notes do stuff and
that. There is “resonance” which will summon the spirit of a trendy
radio station. There is “cut off which describes the type of demin
shorts I sport when slapping down a sick bassline. And there is
“bossa nova” which... actually, I don’t know what that does. No
one knows what the bossa nova button does. DO NOT PRESS THE
BOSSA NOVA BUTTON.
We’ve all learnt something this month because I am an expert
music expert. Much of this applies to physical synthesisers, the
type that you can carry under your arm or let clog with dust in your
ironing board cupboard. There are also “soft synths” which are
made of digital where you email your notes to AltaVista for approval.
This is something modern kids are into. They make notes on fidget
spinners while skateboarding over Tamagotchis. Stupid kids. If it’s
not actual fingers poking keys that make envelopes fall out of tubes,
I’m not interested.
BANGING ON
29
30
LANDMARKS
LANDMARKS
A VIETNAM DOCUMENTARY, REVOLUTIONARY SAMPLING
KIT AND A YOUNG MUSICIAN WHO NEEDED TO KICKSTART
A NEW CAREER. IN 1985, PAUL HARDCASTLE SHOOK UP
ELECTRONIC POP WITH ‘19’
interview :
JO KENDALL
“In the early 80s I’d been working as a hi-fi salesman in Sloane Square
and I was doing OK, but it wasn’t giving me enough time to do music.
I could play guitar a little, but I was very into synths and good at
percussion. I’d been to see [Radio London broadcaster and journalist]
Charlie Gillett and he’d said, ‘I’ve never seen anyone in the music
business as determined as you. I’m sure you’ll make it.’ I gave up the
job and joined a band, Direct Drive, as keyboardist. It was a bit of a
risk as I’d just got a mortgage so it had to work.
“The band put some 12-inches out that got club plays, then the
singer and myself left to form First Light and we had a couple of minor
pop hits on Polygram. Before long, we were going our separate ways.
“The first solo track I recorded was called ‘Rain Forest’, done as
music to accompany a hip hop video. I’d been listening to what was
going on in New York and I fused a ‘Planet Rock’/Soulsonic Forcetype thing with a really jazzy melody and it just sort of exploded. It
was Number One on the Cash Box chart, relieving Madonna’s ‘Like A
Virgin’ of its place. It then went into the soul chart and Billboard Top
100. I had my first hit.
“That’s how I met Simon Fuller. He was a publisher at the time and
had signed Madonna. Then this little British guy goes and knocks his
artist off the top spot! He got in contact with me and asked if I had
anything else. He was doing A&R at Chrysalis, so he invited me to
come in.
“I did have something: ‘19’. I’d been looking through the newspaper
and I saw that this programme called ‘Vietnam Requiem’, the story
of young kids in Vietnam, was on TV. I wasn’t gonna watch it straight
off so I taped it. When I did watch it, I thought, ‘I could make a record
out of something like this.’ I bounced all the stuff from the video
onto a quarter-inch tape and started using some of the audio on the
master track. I’d just got a new sampler, the Emulator II. It had two
seconds of sampling time. I just about fitted in ‘In Vietnam he was
19’. I played that, cut up the ‘19’, then hit the keyboard a few times for
‘N-n-n-n-n-nineteen’ and thought ‘Shit! There’s something here!’ To
get the orchestra stab I had to sample that into a delay and press the
button whenever I needed it. My first synth had been a Korg 700S, so
experimenting with that had made me more innovative, I was primed
to making electronic music by trial and error.
“I took the first demo version of ‘19’ into a meeting in this massive
boardroom in Chrysalis HQ and it went down like a lead balloon.
Everyone just looked round and went, ‘What the hell is this guy on
about, people’s heads being blown off and n-n-n-n-n-n-nineteen?’
But the promotions guy, Ken Grunbaum, said to me, ‘I think it’s one
of the most exciting records I’ve ever heard,’ and Simon Fuller said,
‘Sod this lot, why don’t I just leave the company and become your
manager?’ I was 25 and so green, I didn’t know what a manager would
do. I’d been pretty self-sufficient. Just before ‘Rain Forest’ I’d done
a cover of D-Train’s ‘You’re The One For Me’ and sold that out of the
back of my Cortina as well as distributing it myself to shops around
the UK. I’d even got it to 41 in the national chart.
“I said to Simon, ‘What would you do?’ and he said, ‘I’d just
take all the crap for ya.’ After meeting people at the label I thought
there could be a lot of that. Afterwards Chrysalis still wanted to be
involved because of ‘Rain Forest’ but weren’t so convinced about
‘19’. Someone told us that in two months’ time it would be the 10th
anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. It got us thinking that
something could happen, and then the label machine switched on.
“On the release date I appeared on ‘News At 10’ talking about the
record with Alastair Stewart. ‘19’ went to Number 4 then stayed at
Number One for five weeks. After the first week Duran Duran were at
Number Two with ‘The Living Daylights’. They were the biggest band
in the world at the time and they had the Bond film behind them. Ken
said, ‘I think we’re gonna get knocked off next week’. But I had an
idea. I went back to the mix and changed the story a bit, called it the
‘Destruction Mix’. People liked that version better and they went and
bought that. The Durannies were still on our tail, so on the third week
I thought I’ll do ‘The Final Story’. Bam! Kept ’em off for five weeks.
The only reason we got knocked off Number One was because of The
Crowd’s song for the Bradford City stadium fire disaster. I was more
than happy to relinquish my place for that.
“‘19’ opened a lot of doors for me, and Simon named his
management company after it. I had kids writing to me about it and I
was part of one school’s curriculum, they were studying the lyrics of
the song. I also had so many letters from Vietnam vets, maybe 2,000.
They’d say, ‘Thank you for highlighting our plight’. The post turning up
at Chrysalis at one point was sacks of letters just for me.
“Three weeks after release in America it outsold every other artist
and the only reason it didn’t get to number one is because their charts
are made up of record sales and airplay. Some stations thought it was
having a dig at America so wouldn’t play it. Years later some of those
stations apologised and started playing it.
“Three years ago, on the 30th anniversary of ‘19’ we released a
version called ‘The PTSD Mix’. We had Afghanistan and the Falklands
in mind and gave the money to people with post-traumatic stress
disorder. For me, ‘19’ ended there years ago with that, helping people.”
Paul Hardcastle presents a weekly show on Mondays at 10pm at
time1075.net, for more info visit paulhardcastle.com
31
SYNTHESISER DAVE’S
WORKSHOP
RESIDENT FIXER OF UNDER THE WEATHER ELECTRONICS
IN FOR REPAIR: ENSONIQ ESQ-1
NOT ALL 80S SYNTHS ARE STONE-COLD CLASSICS,
BUT EVEN IF THEY’RE AN ACQUIRED TASTE, ODDS
ARE THEY’RE STILL GOING TO NEED A LITTLE TLC
The ESQ-1 first saw the light of day in 1985 and, I must admit,
it is one of those synths I just don’t get. From my point of view,
they’re badly designed, extremely buggy, and the sound is as
warm and inviting as an ice bucket in a snowdrift.
Despite the fact it had analogue filters and VCAs based on
the CEM chips, the actual sounds were produced from single
cycle digital waveforms. They also tend to suffer from digital
amnesia, especially with the earlier operating systems, and
the only way to cure it is to open them up, unsolder one end of
a capacitor, and short it against the end of a diode connected
to the memory chip (if you short it to the wrong end then your
synth is probably dead). Still, some people really like them, and
if you find one they tend to be very cheap.
They came in two entirely different versions. The original
metal-cased model weighs a ton and, presumably in response
to global concerns in the early 80s, would probably withstand
a direct nuclear strike. The later models have a flimsy plastic
case and shouldn’t be left outside in a stiff breeze.
They’re entirely different inside too and there are very few
compatible parts between the versions. During the two years it
was in production it went through a huge number of OS versions
(seven, I think!) each of which had their own peculiar bugs, and
involved buying and installing a new pair of EPROM chips.
This one is a very early metal-cased version and needs
several things doing – the power transformer has been replaced
and has problems, the back-up battery is flat, the buttons need
replacing and there are some OS chips that will upgrade it from
version 2.0 to 3.5, which is the final version. But a word of caution
before we start – these machines depend a lot on early LSI
chips which are very fragile and prone to damage from even the
smallest amounts of static due to a lack of input protection. If you
intend to work on one, all that stuff about earthing yourself and
special soldering irons is all true in this case. Even just touching
a random circuit board track could destroy your synth.
The transformers in the original ESQ-1s weren’t quite up
to the job and tended to burn out as they used a LOT of power.
The replacement that has been installed here does the job, but
it’s much larger than the original and has no magnetic shielding.
All transformers produce a magnetic pulse, and the top of
this one is so close to the steel lid that it causes the whole
thing to vibrate disconcertingly at 50hz. This doesn’t actually
32
affect the sound in any way, but it feels horrible. Luckily, most
of the magnetic field only appears at the top and bottom of
the transformer, so if you take it out and rotate it through 90
degrees it more or less vanishes. Some thin foam stuck to the
inside of the lid damps down the last bit.
The type of buttons used are almost impossible to find,
they’re expensive and often second-hand. They can be
dismantled and cleaned though. Unfortunately, a couple of
these are beyond hope, so a bit of circuit board redesign is
needed to make more standard buttons fit. The back-up battery
is much larger and more powerful than the standard CR2032
that you would expect, and it needs to be. Probably the best
that’s easily available is the Duracell DL123AB, but whatever
you use, don’t try to solder it in place. Get a suitable battery
holder. If you intend to move the synth around a lot and are
worried about it getting knocked out of place, use a hot-melt
glue gun to tack it into place.
The 3.5 OS chips are Ensoniq originals and were found on
a six-year-old eBay listing for £8.99, listed as “one remaining”
out of 12 originally for sale in 2012. There are quite a few cloned
versions available at around £30-£40, all claiming to access
“hidden waveforms”, but these tend not to work on the earlier
metal synths, so only buy them if you have a plastic-cased
version. The hidden waveforms aren’t particularly useful, being
mainly bits of multi-samples that were never used.
This machine has been upgraded in the past, in fact it came
with chipsets for v1.1 and v1.7, as well as the currently installed
2.0. This means it has already had sockets installed for the chips,
which makes it a much easier job. Some came with sockets as
standard and some didn’t, it’s all a bit hit and miss. Make sure
you get the right chip in the right socket (Oshi and Oslo) and get
them the right way round, otherwise it’s bye bye synth.
Final job is to assume that, having changed the battery and
the OS, it will have amnesia, so you need to unsolder the lefthand side of C1 and short it against the right hand side of the
diode CR1, unless it’s a plastic case version, in which case it’s
capacitor C18 and diode CR3.
And there you go. Have fun.
For more Synthesiser Dave, visit facebook.com/
synthesiserdave
SYNTHESISER DAVE
GENUINE ENSONIQ OS CHIPS
THE CURSE OF THE GIANT TRANSFORMER
THESE ARE NOT THE OS CHIPS, YOU’LL FIND THEM UNDER
THE KEYBOARD, THESE ARE THE WAVEFORMS
33
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36
TH
E
M
AN
AT -M
A
40 C
H
IN
E
KRFTWERK
IT SEEMS HARDLY POSSIBLE THAT A
RECORD SO MODERN, THAT STILL
SOUNDS LIKE MUSIC FROM THE FUTURE,
CAN BE 40 YEARS OLD. BUT IN MAY
1978 KRAFTWERK UNVEILED ‘THE MANMACHINE’, THEIR SEVENTH ALBUM, TO
THE WORLD. IF THERE WAS A POINT
AT WHICH ELECTRONIC MUSIC WENT
OVERGROUND, ‘THE MAN-MACHINE’ WAS
IT. KRAFTWERK CREATED THE LOOK AND
THE SOUND THAT WOULD PROPEL THEM
THROUGH NEXT FOUR DECADES AND
FIX THEM IN THE POPULAR IMAGINATION.
OVER THE NEXT 14 PAGES, WE TAKE
TIME TO APPRECIATE THIS LANDMARK
ALBUM FOR ITS PRESCIENCE, ITS ART,
AND THE MYSTERIOUS PROCESS BEHIND
ITS CREATION. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ‘THE
MAN-MACHINE’! ALLES GUTE ZUM
GEBURTSTAG, ‘DIE MENSCH-MASCHINE’!
words:
MARK ROLAND
37
T HE M A N-M ACHINE
IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY, THAT KRAFTWERK
TAUGHT THE SYNTHS TO PLAY…
And here they were in the sparkly new post-punk world of 1978
with yet another album draped in meaningful imagery, but this time
it was all about how robots were going to take over the world, with
the band photographed on the cover dressed in uniforms, striking
distinctly regimented poses, designed with a colour palette of red,
black and white. All of which, when you think about it, is a bit like
Hitler, but in the future. With robots.
To be fair, the British music press did calculate that Kraftwerk
weren’t being entirely serious, and on whole didn’t take them
particularly seriously. The band’s central joke, if you could call
it a joke, appeared to be something along the lines of “You think
Kraftwerk is cold, emotionless and robotic, well, here you are then…
we are the robots!”.
raftwerk’s look for ‘The Man-Machine’, which continues to
define them to this day in pop culture, took its inspiration
from David Bowie’s 1976 tour, according to Wolfgang Flür.
“I can remember David’s concert blew our minds,” says
Flür. “Bowie had distanced himself from his colourful outfits and
chameleon image from the past and went on stage in a black suit and
white shirt. The lighting was in different white tones; cold neon white,
powerful and dazzling halogen-white, smooth bulb-white. Different
nuances were used for each song. The whole event appeared to me
to be more like a serious classical concert than a pop concert. It
made a big impression on me. I can remember it led to our own style
with black trousers and red shirts, black ties which were equipped
later with a row of red blinking LED lamps, lit up by batteries each of
us had in our trouser pocket.”
The Kraftwerk-are-actually-robots schtick was nailed down once
and for all at the Paris press launch for the album. The showroom
dummies 2.0 iteration of the band’s robots sported the band members’
faces at a cost of 4,000 DM per mannequin (around £2,000 in 1978,
£10,000 today). It was an expensive gimmick, but it paid off. The idea
that the robots could stand in for photo shoots alone was probably
worth the expense for Ralf and Florian, neither of whom were
particularly at ease in front of the camera.
The dummies had been made in Munich, with Ralf and Florian
commissioning a distinguished mannequin company called Obermaier
to build them. Towards the end of 1977, Kraftwerk took the train to
Munich, where the company photographed each member and then
modelled their faces from plasticine to create the moulds for the
heads which were then cast in plastic.
K
he Paris launch of Kraftwerk’s career-defining album ‘The
Man-Machine’ in April 1978 was the result of months of
meticulous conceptualising, composing, recording and
planning. The launch event itself ended with the group’s dummies
positioned in compromising positions by music journalists maddened
by free vodka, electronic music played at punishing volume while
bathed in red light (“By the time we leave,” wrote Andy Gill in the
NME at the time, “the dummy Ralf's flies are undone, and the dummy
Florian's strides are round his ankles”). Kraftwerk themselves stood
around drinking champagne for an hour before slipping away to enjoy
a meal at the nearby La Coupole brasserie, and the album went on to
earn them a gold disc and is now rightly considered one of the most
important records of all time.
When it was released, ‘The Man-Machine’ was taken as a concept
album of sorts. In some quarters it was considered further evidence
of the sinister machinations of the German will to power. After all,
here was an almost impenetrably strange German band who had
three concept albums under their belts already. There was one about
the joys of driving on the Autobahn which, according to many British
critics at the time weened on Commando comics, was probably about
authoritarianism and Hitler. The next was about radioactivity, which
was also probably about authoritarianism and Hitler; and then there
was one about Europe and trains, which was less obviously about
authoritarianism and Hitler, but was probably about those things
anyway. I mean, just look at them on the cover of that album.
T
38
KRAFTWERK
39
40
KRAFTWERK
ound-wise, ‘The Man-Machine’ was crystal clear,
Kraftwerk’s most sonically pure outing to date. The album
itself was the third to be recorded at the Kling Klang studio
at Mintropstrasse 16, Düsseldorf, where the sequencers would be
set and run for hours at a time. Florian was more concerned with
texture and sound design, with Ralf and Karl Bartos making the
melodies, Bartos earning a co-writing credit on every track, as he did
on every subsequent Kraftwerk album until his departure in 1990.
Maxime Schmitt, the band’s label manager in France at the
time, gave Pascal Bussy a glimpse of the process for his book ‘Man,
Machine And Music’: “Often they would all sit behind the console,
letting the machines run by themselves for one or two hours… from
time to time Florian would stand up and got to another machine and
launch another sequence. It was almost closer to a traditional jam
session than studio work. The following day they would listen back
to the tape.”
By February 1978, ‘The Man-Machine’ was ready for mixing,
and the decision was made to finish it off at Studio Rudas, a larger
recording studio nearby. The mix was helmed by studio owner
Joschko Rudas and Leanard Jackson (aka Leanard “Colonel Disco”
Jackson), who had worked with Motown legend Norman Whitfield on
big-selling disco records by Rose Royce (including the multi-platinum
selling ‘Car Wash’ soundtrack album), the black psychedelic soul
outfit Undisputed Truth and the explosive synth heavy funk album
‘Nytro’ by Nytro.
Kraftwerk flew Leanard in from Los Angeles to help sharpen the
album’s danceability. Arriving straight from LA’s balmy blue-skied
climate to Düsseldorf’s freezing February (it was a particularly
cold winter) must have been a shock for him, as was the discovery
that Kraftwerk were four middle class white guys. Because of the
emphasis on dance rhythms in the tracks he’d been sent, he had
assumed black musicians had been responsible.
S
Recorded and mixed, and with the El Lissitzky-inspired artwork
prepared, the album was ready for the pressing plants and in April
an event was organised to launch the album to the music press.
One spring evening, at Le Ciel De Paris, a fancy nightclub on the
56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower (it’s still in business today,
though much remodelled, if you fancy a visit), journalists and other
interested parties were treated to vodka and caviar, and the album
was played at high volume (enough for NME’s Andy Gill to complain
it was too loud), the entire place bathed in red by the many lights
strategically placed around the room, which Gill felt created an
“alienating, oppressive environment”.
On a wall, the film ‘Metropolis’ was projected, intercut with the
promo film for ‘The Robots’, in which Kraftwerk and their plastic
doppelgängers merged into one. It offered some tantalising glimpses
inside Kling Klang; the four of them standing over a mixing console
and adjusting sliders (robotically, natch), and Wolfgang and Florian
lurking over their two-inch 24-track tape machine, switching it on and
off (like robots would). There was a similar event held in New York.
‘Die Mensch-Maschine’ was released on red vinyl in Germany,
and in English as ’The Man-Machine’ on black vinyl elsewhere.
There was no tour to promote the album, with Kraftwerk opting to
stay at home in their Kling Klang bunker for the next three years
cooking up their next electronic statement which would see the light
of day in 1981.
Perhaps because of the lack of a tour, the album failed to chart
in the UK until 1982, when it went into the Top 10 off the back of the
hit single, ‘The Model’. “The Man Machine stands as one of the
pinnacles of 70s rock music,” concluded Gill when he reviewed the
album at the end of April. “And one which I doubt Kraftwerk will ever
surpass.”
‘The Man-Machine’ was released worldwide on 19 May 1978
41
T HE
M A NMACHINE
AT 4 0
HOW DOES ‘THE MAN-MACHINE’,
KRAFTWERK’S VISION OF THE
FUTURE, HOLD UP AFTER FOUR
DECADES? WE COMPARE AND
CONTRAST THE VISION OF 1978
WITH THE REALITY OF 2018
42
‘ T HE R OBO T S ’
19 7 8
2 0 18
Robots in 1978 were, as they are now, all
the rage. R2-D2 and C-3PO, the Laurel and
Hardy double act of the ‘Star Wars’ film a
year earlier, were the most famous robots
on the planet. But Kraftwerk had nailed
the first problem that might face robots
wanting to roam around doing as they please:
battery life. The first line of the first song
on Kraftwerk’s robot record addresses the
issue (‘We’re charging now our battery’). By
the end of the song, the robot is telling us that
he and his metal pals “…are programmed
just to do/anything you want us to”.
And in 1978, in the real world, that was
exactly what was happening, thanks to
the invention of the PUMA (Programmable
Universal Machine for Assembly) robotic
arm. It was introduced by Unimation, the
world’s first robotics company. They’d
developed the first robotic arm back in
1961, and it was used by General Motors on
assembly lines, but the 1978 PUMA was a
great leap forward. It had been developed
by Victor Scheinman who had his own
robotics company until Unimation bought
it. Thanks to the PUMA, as the 1980s got
under way, robots became ubiquitous in car
factories, automated assembly lines made
unimaginable efficiencies possible, and put
thousands out of work. But they didn’t look
like proper robots, did they?
As we look around our Facebook feeds
in 2018, evidence of the rise of the robots
comes thick and fast in videos going viral
from robotics labs all over the world. You’ve
seen the one with the four-legged robot
opening to door to let itself out, right?
Combined with artificial intelligence, and
the ability to run through the woods (you’ve
seen that one, too, right? And the one with
the robot jumping and doing mid-air flips).
Boston Dynamics, a company which started
as spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology have been making a big noise
with their videos of robot stress tests (it’s
their SpotMini bot that can open doors), and
they’re certainly delivering on their company
mission statement, “Changing your idea of
what robots can do…”.
Elsewhere, at the 2018 Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas, several
new domestic robots were unveiled. The
Aeolus Robot can hoover and mop floors, and
recognise 1,000 household items and pick
them up and put them away with its agile
arm. Ubtech Robotics’ Walker robot can
stroll around your property like a security
guard. It can also play music, dance and do
all kind of tasks via voice commands, like
emailing and video conferencing. Honda,
whose ASIMO robot first hit the headlines in
2000, has a new 3E range of robots (the three
Es are Empower, Experience and Empathy)
including the A18 which shows empathy
with a variety of facial expressions. And
inevitably, the Californian RealDoll company
is developing sex robots. They’re close
enough to developing a commercial model for
there to be a bona fide Campaign Against Sex
Robots (campaignagainstsexrobots.org).
KRAFTWERK
‘ SPA C E L A B ’
19 7 8
2 0 18
Kraftwerk generally avoided the star-gazing
of their kosmische counterparts over in
Berlin, but it did creep into proceedings
once or twice in the 1970s (they were
pretty interested in comets in 1974), and
here we have their celebration of Spacelab.
Wait, what’s that? Spacelab? There was
no Spacelab! There was a Skylab, the
American space station which orbited the
Earth between 1973 and 1979. But now you
mention it, Ralf, Spacelab would have been
a better name for the science lab in space,
or, as NASA preferred to call it, their Orbital
Workshop.
The final trio of astronauts to crew
Skylab, from November 1973 to February
1974 sound like the crew of John Carpenter’s
dark space comedy ‘Dark Star’. Two of them
were badly space sick, but decided to keep
it a secret from Mission Control, without
realising that Mission Control could (and did)
download and listen to recordings of all their
conversations. The crew later decided that
being asked to work 16 hours a day without
a day off was a bit much, and went on strike.
They turned off the communication channels
and kicked back for a day. In December, they
photographed Comet Kohoutek, the same
one that inspired Ralf and Florian to pen a
couple of versions of ’Kometenmelodie’ and
‘Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie’.
In 1978, as Kraftwerk carefully enunciated
‘Spacelab’ into a vocoder down below in
Düsseldorf, NASA noticed that the by-now
empty Skylab’s orbit was “decaying”, or
in plain English, it was about to plunge to
Earth. In July 1979 it re-entered the Earth’s
atmosphere and broke into pieces which
landed in both the Indian Ocean and western
Australia. Today, chunks of Skylab can be
seen in low-rent museums in the Australian
outback.
After Skylab, the Russians launched MIR,
then there was the International Space
Station, which pretends to be Father
Christmas’ sleigh once a year. In 2011, China
put Tiangong-1 into space and by the time
you read this, it should have re-entered the
Earth’s atmosphere and broken up, according
to the report the Chinese gave to United
Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
Tiangong-2 launched in 2016.
But the space headlines in 2018 belong
to Elon Musk, the man with the comedy
billionaire comic strip character name,
whose fantastic wealth is funding his
SpaceX company and their long-term
ambition to colonise Mars. Falcon Heavy
was launched in February, with a Tesla car
on board, and a dummy called Starman
(after the Bowie song) in a spacesuit driving
it, while ‘Space Oddity’ played on the car
stereo. Reality has outstripped both fiction
and Kraftwerk’s observation of the race for
space in this peculiar 21st century we find
ourselves in.
43
‘ ME T R OP OL IS ’
44
19 7 8
2 0 18
It’s not specified whether the Kraftwerk lyric
(if you call repeating the word ‘Metropolis’
six times a lyric) is about the 1927 Fritz Lang
film which tackled the de-humanising impact
of industrialisation on the human soul, or
whether it’s a wider attempt to evoke the
idea of a city.
Received wisdom is that it’s inspired by
the film, which is rather cemented by the
fact the film played on a loop during press
launch of the album in Paris in April 1978. The
driving nature of the song and its unresolved
melodic tension certainly seems to suggest
the edgy and energetic throb of a large city.
It works either way; the film was about a
future dystopian city, powered by a “Heart
Machine”, giant clocks beating out time,
and the same ideas could be applied to any
modern metropolis, Lang’s prescient vision
holds to this day.
Fritz Lang’s film was set in 2026,
unimaginably far into the future for him (100
years), and nearly 50 years for Kraftwerk.
The film went on to have its own decidedly
messy life-cycle. On release, ‘Metropolis’
received mixed reviews, bombed at the box
office and was cut from nearly three hours
long to a more manageable 80 minutes, which
rendered it incomprehensible. The missing
scenes were thought to be lost forever, but
in 2010 a full-length version was released,
put together from a print discovered in an
archive in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and
another found in New Zealand.
‘Metropolis’ has been re-scored multiple
times. In 1975, the BBC screened the film
as part of their Tuesday Cinema season
and commissioned an electronic score
from William Fitzwater and Hugh Davies, a
student of Stockhausen in the 1960s, for the
occasion. Giorgio Moroder famously scored
a “colourised” version in 1984 with some
clunkingly awful 1980s big hair pop with help
from Freddie Mercury, Jon Anderson and
Bonnie Tyler. Techno legend Jeff Mills scored
it in 2000 and just last year, Factory Floor live
scored the film. The six minutes Kraftwerk
dedicated to it may well remain the best
attempt to give the film a new sound.
KRAFTWERK
‘ T HE MODE L’
19 7 8
‘The Model’ would have an impact on
Kraftwerk themselves which they couldn’t
have predicted at the time. As a lyric, it’s
the first time the band acknowledged human
desire, it represents their first foray in to the
messy territory of boy/girl relationships.
At the time of ‘The Man-Machine’ album,
‘The Model’ (or rather the German version,
‘Das Model’) was released in Germany as a
single, and didn’t even dent the UK charts.
But when it was chucked on the B-side
of ‘Computer Love’ in the UK in 1981, there
followed a classic “DJs prefer the B-side”
scenario. In response to the unexpected
airplay, EMI rush-released ‘The Model’ as
a single in its own right. Ralf and Florian’s
displeasure at this turn of events may have
been tempered somewhat when the record
gave Kraftwerk their one and only UK
Number One hit.
‘The Model’ can be read as a uniquely
Kraftwerkian buttoned-up electronic
version of The Beatles ‘I Saw Her Standing
There’. Lennon and McCartney sang about
seeing a girl across a dancefloor and the
sweaty, ecstatic coming together of boy and
girl. Kraftwerk’s encounter is much more
adult, sophisticated and unfulfilled. Man
sees model and wants to take her home.
But judging from the song’s final line, “Now
she’s a big success/I want to meet her
again”, our narrator’s relationship with the
model was fleeting, she’s unreachable, she’s
available only for the camera’s gaze (and
for the money). It’s a cynical, decadent and
detached world being described here. Where
John and Paul’s environment for ‘I Saw Her
Standing There’ is the Liverpool dance hall
of the early 1960s, Ralf and Florian’s ‘The
Model’ exists in the 1970s frozen glare of the
catwalk flash bulb pop.
Did this breakthrough lead to the strange
dislocated scenes of sexuality and mundane
relationship hassles we witness on ‘Electric
Café’, one of sex objects and telephone calls?
‘The Model’ aside, it seemed that Kraftwerk’s
humanity was better received when it was
cloaked in the obfuscation of theory and art,
rather than confessional or observational of
human weaknesses.
2 0 18
It may well be that the unexpected success
of the ‘The Model’ led to Kraftwerk’s most
surprising album, ‘Electric Café’. We don’t
know, of course, and it seems unlikely
that either Ralf or Florian are ever going
to discuss the creative process they went
through together to create their back
catalogue, but it doesn’t seem entirely
preposterous to suppose that these
intelligent and analytical artists would ask
themselves why ‘The Model’ was such a
huge hit, and their other singles weren’t.
And it wouldn’t have needed an engineering
genius to work out that it might have
something to do with singing about sexual
desire. In 2018, in the post-Weinstein era,
the male gaze is under scrutiny like never
before, and perhaps ‘The Model’ is a more
problematic lyric these days, especially
as there does exist a live recording that
purports to be the band soundchecking this
song, with the lyric changed from “Now
she’s a big success/I’d like to meet her again”
to “I want to fuck her again”.
45
‘ NEON L IGH T S ’
46
19 7 8
2 0 18
Kraftwerk’s beautiful electronic poem to the
city at night is, for many, their high-water
mark. The group had been in love with neon
at least as far back as 1973, when Ralf and
Florian had their names modelled in neon
tubes and boxed in perspex.
Neon light itself was first demonstrated
by the French inventor Georges Claude in
Paris in 1910. There’s some disagreement
among historians as to the first commercial
use of neon lights, but within a few years,
there were 160 neon signs lighting up Paris
at night. There was a neon Cinzano logo on
either the Champs Elysées or Boulevard
Haussmann (depending on which account
you read), and many Parisian emporia like
the elegant and luxurious hairdressers
Palace-Coiffeur and fashion and beauty
salon Madame Caravaglios on Rue de la Paix
were glowing glamorously with neon. The
Pierre Lafitte publishing house chose neon to
advertise its magazine titles on its Avenue de
l’Opéra building.
Kraftwerk’s vision for ‘Neon Lights’ was
chic and retro, existing in a dreamworld of a
stylish Parisian era between art nouveau
and art deco. When ‘Neon Lights’ was
released as a 12-inch single in the UK, it was
pressed on luminous vinyl which, like the
neon-lit it fantasy it let you drift into, glowed
in the dark. Perfect.
Some 100 years after it started to dominate
the cityscapes of Europe and the USA, and
40 years after Kraftwerk immortalised the
romance of neon lights in song, the elderly
technology is still going strong. Like the
synthesisers in Kraftwerk though, digital is
taking over. In 2014, a digital billboard eight
stories high and as long as a football field
was installed in New York’s Time Square on
the Marriott Marquis hotel at 1535 Broadway.
The rate for advertising on this massive
marvel of telly tech? A mere $2.5 million for
four weeks. The first advertiser was Google.
In November 2017, it was outdone by the
arrival of the highest resolution screen seen
on Times Square, the 8k beast was 91 feet
high and 186 feet wide, that’s over 17,000
square feet, and wrapped around a corner
plot at 20 Times Square, fronting a 39-story
tower home to the Marriott Edition hotel.
Impressive, but does it have the romance of
the neon lights?
KRAFTWERK
‘ T HE M A N - M A C HINE ’
19 7 8
2 0 18
According to Kraftwerk , the Man-Machine
is a “super human being”. If we’re talking
upgraded humans in 1978, we’re talking the
TV show ’The Six Million Dollar Man’, which
was based on Martin Caidin’s 1972 novel
‘Cyborg’. After a cataclysmic accident during
a test flight, astronaut/pilot Steve Austin
is rebuilt in a lab to be better than a mere
human. A bionic eye, arm and legs meant he
could run like the clappers and see like an
eagle. The show was cancelled in 1978 after
a four-year run.
The idea of a Man-Machine in 1978 was
an abiding trope in fiction, but they weren’t
real. Cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) had
first been mooted in 1960 by scientists
Nathan S Cline and Manfred Kline in relation
to developing a kind of human able to live and
work in space and on other planets. By 1988,
Hollywood had given us ‘The Terminator’
(Arnold Schwarzenegger played a T-800, the
liquid metal dude in ‘Terminator 2: Judgement
Day’ was a T-1000) and the Detroit copbot
‘RoboCop’, but they still weren’t a reality.
I for one welcome our new cyborg
overlords… In the 1990s, British scientist
and university professor Kevin Warwick
started experimenting with implants and
could switch lights on and off by entering
and leaving a room. In 2002, he had a more
complex array of electrodes called BrainGate
inserted into his left arm (the surgery took
two hours) and was able to control a remote
robotic arm with his own movements over
the internet.
Other bionic enhancements that are
on the verge of becoming widely used are
replacement artificial kidneys, hearts, eyes,
knees, elbows, pancreas, feet, cochlea
implants, exoskeletons and even the
hippocampus part of the brain, which is
often damaged by stroke and Alzheimer’s
and affects short-term memory. According
to future-gazer Professor Yuval Noah Harari,
a combination of artificial intelligence, gene
therapy and automation is going give rise to
a new kind of human, he calls them
homo deus (god man), and predicts that
homo sapiens (that’s us) may become an
endangered species.
And if that seems too fanciful, consider
Nissan’s recently announced brain-to-car
interface. The car is a hybrid driverless/
let-the-human-think-they’re-driving piece
of tech. Using brain scanning sensors, the
software (which appears to run on an iPad)
can predict steering decisions that are
about to be made by a driver. There’s a 300
millisecond window in which the software
can help the steering process. “You feel
like you are in control, driving perfectly on a
winding road,” says Nissan Executive Vice
President Daniele Schillaci. It’s all aimed
at a more enjoyable “autonomous driving
experience”. Nissan are preparing a vehicle
that is ready for brain connectivity.
Humans who can afford it, all this seems
to be telling us, will interface with computer
algorithms and become better at everything.
Once they become enhanced humans, the
rest of us will be swinging on tyres hanging
off ropes in glass enclosures and bidding for
elderly analogue synthesisers on eBay.
47
W HO WA S
E L L IS SI T Z K Y ?
EAGLE-EYED KRAFTWERK FANS SCOURING
ALBUM SLEEVES IN THE 1970S WOULD’VE
COME ACROSS A FEW CLUES TO HELP
THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF THESE MYSTERIOUS
GERMANS. ‘THE MAN-MACHINE’ FEATURED
THE FOLLOWING CREDIT: ‘ARTWORK (INSPIRED
BY EL LISSITZKY) – KARL KLEFISCH’
‘GLOBE T ROT TER
(IN TIME)’, 19 2 3
he artist Karl Klefisch stills lives in
Düsseldorf, with his wife Sybille, in
the Vennhausen district, not
particularly remembered for his work for
Kraftwerk (he later designed the cover of
‘Computer World’). Also based in Düsseldorf
in 1978 was the law firm that took care of El
Lissitzky’s estate, hence the sleeve’s
litigation-avoiding confession about where
the inspiration for the artwork came from.
T
48
El Lissitzsky was born in 1890 in Pochinok
near Smolensk in what was then the Russian
Empire. Anti-semitic rules of admission at the
art school in St Petersburg meant he wasn’t
offered a place there, despite passing the
entry exam, so in 1909 he left for Germany
and enrolled at a college in Darmstadt. When
the First World War broke out, he returned
to Russia and his first published work was
for children’s books in Yiddish in 1917. After
the Russian Revolution, El Lissitzky started
teaching at the newly-formed People’s Art
School and producing propaganda posters
before getting involved with and helping to
define the Suprematism art movement, which
rejected figurative painting and landscapes
in favour of sharp lines and geometry with
limited colour palettes.
KRAFTWERK
This radical Russian avant-garde art
movement thrived in the turmoil immediately
after the Russia Revolution, its clarity and
austerity reflecting the huge changes
in Russian society. But in the 1930s,
Suprematism fell victim of Stalin’s diktat that
the only acceptable form of post-revolution
art was socialist realism, which was all
noble emancipated peasants and victorious
soldiers. Socialist realism had strict rules;
it had to be proletarian, typical of everyday
life, realistic (certainly not abstract) and it
should support the aims of the Communist
Party. There was no room for ambiguity or
interpretation in Stalin’s Russia.
‘“GIVE US
MORE
TANKS!”’,
19 41
In 1921, Lissitzky became Russia’s cultural
ambassador to Germany, which coincided
with his break with the Suprematists and his
alignment with Constructivism. He wanted
to create a visual language to communicate
ideas to a peasant population which was
largely illiterate.
El Lissitzky eventually focused his
creative attention of mounting impressive
exhibitions and trade shows on behalf of the
Soviet regime. He died in 1941 in Moscow of
the tuberculosis he had contracted in 1923,
by which time he had embraced socialist
realism. One of his last pieces of work was a
wartime propaganda poster called “Give Us
More Tanks!”.
His art has remained a staple influence for
generations of graphic designers ever since,
especially those who wanted to create album
covers that conjured up ideas of technology
and modernity. One hundred years on, and
his work still looks cutting edge.
PAGE FROM ‘ABOU T
T WO SQUA RES: A
SUPREM ATIS T TAL E OF
T WO SQUA RES IN SIX
CONS T RUC TIONS’, 19 2 2
49
R AV E S F ROM
T HE C AV E
WITH THEIR THIRD ALBUM ‘HORMONE LEMONADE’,
CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER SET A NEW BENCHMARK FOR
INSPIRED MODULAR PULSATIONS. “I’M NOWHERE NEAR
MASTERING ANYTHING TO DO WITH MUSIC,” SHRUGS
THEIR LEADER, TIM GANE. WE BEG TO DIFFER…
words:
IESTYN GEORGE
JOE DILWORTH
pictures:
im Gane is a different kind of normal. He’s been
making music for over 30 years and loathes the
idea of being known as an artist. Over an
hour-long conversation, he comes across as forthright,
open, thoughtful and light-hearted. He talks about
comparisons with the Cockney Rejects. He explains why
he chooses to work with people who have little regard for
his music. And this being Electronic Sound, he mentions
the time he saw Kraftwerk at a disco in Cologne. Or
maybe it was Düsseldorf.
Either way, he makes more sense than many
musicians who have to endure being interviewed for
the purpose of promoting their new album. It’s called
‘Hormone Lemonade’, by the way. It’s the third Cavern
Of Anti-Matter album, out now on the Duophonic label.
And it’s ace.
But first, the heavily abridged version of Tim Gane’s
life story. He grew up in Manor Park in the London
borough of Newham. Steve Marriott of The Small Faces
was born there. ‘Itchycoo Park’ is not the only song
named after a local landmark. Cavern Of Anti-Matter was
the name of a sweet shop in Manor Park from Gane’s
childhood. When he wasn’t blowing his pocket money on
penny chews, he was steeling his resolve to “do music”.
“It wasn’t a choice” he says, “It was an absolute
situation. I’ve lived a great deal of my life with blinkers
on, sort of avoiding things that would get in the way of me
doing the things I wanted to do. Part of that is about the
situation I found myself in growing up as a teenager.
I knew I didn’t want to live a suburban life.”
T
50
CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER
Those blinkers have served Gane well. First there
was the gently furious McCarthy, formed by a group of
friends at Barking Abbey Comprehensive School in the
mid 80s. They became indie darlings when the phrase
was used without an accompanying sardonic sneer.
Then came two decades of wondrous melodies with
Stereolab. In the beginning, it seemed as if Gane was
at the heart of this community of warm souls including
former partner Lætitia Sadier and regular collaborator
Sean O’Hagan. They hung out on the fringes of Brixton
and Camberwell, in South London, doing their own
thing, living life at their own pace.
Gane will happily recall all-nighters at The Scala
and gigs at The Ambulance Station on the Old Kent
Road. Then there were times when everything seemed
to be focused around the small north London venues of
Camden and Chalk Farm.
“It’s not nostalgic, this was our normality,” he says.
“It felt like there was progressive edge to London. People
striving to make more of life, whether it was in art or
music, or anything that involved some kind of creativity.
And that’s how Berlin felt when we moved there.”
Gane first visited Berlin in the 80s, a time of squats,
DIY bars and a wild disorder that put London in the shade.
In 2004 he moved there with the idea of trying it out for a
couple of years.
“I can pretty much do music anywhere,” he says, “but
I don’t like the countryside that much. Everything here
is a little bit wider, a little bit taller and a little less tense.
People still seem to have enough time to just hang around,
taking their time.”
So do you consider yourself to be a Berliner now?
“I’m not a Berliner, no. I’ve never been a local. No, no,
no. I’ve never been like that. I’ve positively avoided that
all my life.”
Why?
“I dunno,” he shrugs. “It’s back to that reason why I
got into music, to escape that suburban death. I get very
nervous. My senses start tingling when I feel I’m getting
trapped. It’s not about freedom or anything like that, I just
need to avoid having that interconnectivity all the time,
having everything being the same all the time.
“I tend to be a bit reclusive. I’m not a reclusive person
at all really, it’s just that I tend to put it on a little bit just
to keep that distance between myself and other things
going on. I don’t get involved in the kind of social rhythm
that makes you a real Berliner or a real south Londoner.
I always want to keep a tiny bit detached from everything
going on around me. I don’t like the idea of having
something that makes me grounded, a place that might
be part of my identity. It makes me really nervous just
thinking about it.”
51
oving to Berlin has caused Gane to be aware of a
change in perspective when he goes back to
London. He feels the “big town hustle” more
intensely than he used to. Some might say that in the time
he’s been away London has become a city to survive for
more people, rather than a place to progress.
“It takes me a day or two to speak normally again,”
he says. “I’m so used to not being totally understood
in Berlin, I feel the same in London. Even though we’re
talking the same language, I don’t feel like I’m understood.
I’ll end up speaking no languages. I don’t really know
German and at the same time I seem to be losing my
English. I might end up with no language at all!”
He makes it sound like the idea doesn’t bother him one
bit. Sitting on a Berlin bus, he enjoys the fact that he can’t
understand what the people around him are talking about.
He can tune in and tune out. That’s why, he explains, he’s
never engaged with social media.
“I don’t want anything I can never turn off,” he says.
And if that wasn’t enough of a life lesson, while the
rest of us fill the hours with stuff, romanticising about
the past and trying to design a perfect future, Gane is
deliberately, wilfully, determinedly living in the present.
It’s fair to say that he is obsessed with THE NOW.
“I never like to think too far in the future and I never
want to think about the past,” he admits. “The past is
quite depressing. I don’t hate it, nothing bad happened,
it’s just that I find the idea of being nostalgic, that
thinking things might have been better back then, it’s
pretty depressing.”
A couple of things seem to govern Gane’s approach –
the unpredictable and the unintended. Like that time he
was cycling to his studio space in Berlin wondering why
someone had chalked “Hormone Lemonade” on the floor.
“It’s just the usual gobbledygook,” he says. “If I’d
spent weeks going through a thesaurus searching for
some interesting juxtaposition of two words, I wouldn’t
have come up with anything better. The unexpected
event is always more powerful than that thing you
dedicated yourself really seriously towards achieving.”
M
52
CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER
And that, in a nutshell, is how Gane created the new
album. It all started with the band’s synth whizz Holger
Zapf and the unpredictable joy of his homemade drum
machines. Gane kept the tape running as they fiddled and
faffed for a few hours. Then he spent a couple of weeks
editing the material down, moving things around into
some kind of structure. Gane would try and get a groove
going by playing around with some sequencers, maybe a
goofy guitar riff. Then, with barely anything to work with,
Joe Dilworth, who Gane has worked with since the early
Stereolab days, came in to record the drums.
“Gradually things would progress from there,” adds
Gane. “I’d add bits of colour, try to get more variations
going on, strange chords, something more exotic to break
the machine-like spell of a track. A great thing happened
when I asked Holger whether the oscillators could do
chords. He said, ‘Yeah, we can try, but I don’t know
what’ll happen’.”
The portentious drone bursts that set off the opening
track ‘Malfunction’ are the result. Zapf’s ability to
present Gane with opportunities to explore is probably
why the album works so well.
“I’m nowhere near mastering anything to do with
music,” admits Gane. “I’ve never been anything more
than an average garage-punk guitar player and the rest is
just plonking on things. It’s always kept me in the position
of being a beginner, which is what I want. It took me
years to realise that.
“What I am good at is responding to something I might
have set in motion, deciding what’s interesting and
what’s not. It’s recognising when something is open to
possibilities, when you can see a glimpse of something.
It’s always hot. It’s always done in the moment. If you
know what you’re doing, it must get quite boring…”
To some people, ‘Hormone Lemonade’ will come
across as a seriously complex piece of analogue
electronica. A series of retro-futuristic grooves,
pulsating with meaning. Hopefully some might also think
of it in less sombre terms – a smart collection of songs
made for those alien discos of the imagination. It’s a
living, breathing piece of fizzing fun. Yes, FUN.
53
“It almost sounds wrong to say that,” admits Gane.
“But, yeah, it was fun. We do things on quite a lighthearted level. OK, so we’re not exactly larking about like
The Goodies or whatever, but there’s no deep thought
going on.
“I like a certain immediacy, you know. I like a melodic
sensibility, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it in a
normal, ordinary way. The tones and drones have this
harmonic quality to them that sounds interesting. The
thing is, people can make Cavern Of Anti-Matter or
Stereolab before that sound like heavy weather. It’s
completely the opposite of that. Everything is ‘Let’s do
this, let’s try that. Let’s just mess about a bit and see
what happens’.”
Tim doesn’t need much persuasion that it’s time for a
re-evaluation of the stereotypical narrative that portrays
people involved in making analogue electronic music
with brow-furrowing seriousness.
“Because you’re putting yourself up to represent the
music so much is assumed,” he says. “It’s very rare
that you meet someone who is as serious as their public
persona. I don’t know the Kraftwerk guys very well, but I
did see them dancing in a disco in Cologne one time. No,
hang on, it was in Düsseldorf.
“Maybe it’s something to do with the type of sounds
and the equipment people use that suggests they’re some
kind of experts, whereas a band like Cockney Rejects are
just a bunch of people having a go. It could be that the
Cockney Rejects went to music school.”
Two other things mark Tim Gane out as notably
different in his attitude and approach. The first is the way
he works with Jeff Fisher, sound engineer on the Cavern
Of Anti-Matter material.
“He’s quite antagonistic,” says Gane, “He’d be the
first to admit he’s not really a fan of the music. I like that.
Sometimes I’ll give him specific instructions not to mess
about too much with something and he’ll mess about with
it on purpose. It might not work and then other times I’ll
say, ‘Yes, OK, you were right, let’s do it’. He’s not scared
of telling me if he thinks something’s a load of crap. It’s a
good thing to have someone to go against.”
54
CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER
The other thing is the way he talks about the “running
issue” that some people have with Cavern Of Anti-Matter,
just as some had with Stereolab.
“I find it very difficult to think that one record is the
same as the one before,” he points out. “Perhaps I’m too
far inside the music to see it, but that’s something people
have said for 20 years or more. For some people it must
be true, but I can’t do anything about that because I don’t
know why they feel that way. It doesn’t bother me, really,
I’m OK with it. I don’t own the way that people interpret
my music. As soon as it’s released it’s no longer ours.”
Gane deals with difficulties like they’re meant to be
there. There’s no hint of anything other than sincerity in
his words. Some artists would be defensive, unwilling to
discuss these kind of things.
Gane’s not normal at all. It seems like he’s spent his
entire life in the avoidance of normality, to the extent
that the word no longer means anything to him.
We finish off our conversation with talk of British
dates in late spring/early summer and a characteristically
wry conclusion…
“The whole thing is like that bit in ‘Star Trek’ at the end
of an episode when they go heading off to a new planet
with the idea that nobody knows what’s going to happen
next time. I love the feeling of unknown possibilities and
that’s how I feel about music. You’re flying somewhere
but you don’t really know where you’re going, or what’s
going to happen. Now and again you find something great
comes about from a mistake, or something emerges that
you didn’t know you were looking for – a lucky break or a
happy accident.
And if that isn’t a noble ambition, what is?
‘Hormone Lemonade’ is out now on Duophonic
55
A LVA NO T O
YOU MAY KNOW CARSTEN NICOLAI, AKA
ALVA NOTO, FROM HIS PIONEERING WORK
AS CO-FOUNDER OF GLITCH TECHNO LABEL
RASTER-NOTON, OR MAYBE FROM HIS
COLLABORATIONS WITH RYUICHI SAKAMOTO.
OR THERE’S HIS WORK WITH MICHAEL NYMAN
AND A TALKING BUDGIE…
words:
FAT ROLAND
arsten Nicolai has an instinct for building things.
At school in East Germany, surrounded by gothic
grandeur, he fell in love with building design – little
knowing he would later construct some of the most
cutting-edge music of recent times.
If you saw Leonardo DiCaprio get battered by a bear in
‘The Revenant’, you know Carsten’s music. If you’ve seen
eye-popping installations in the Guggenheim or Tate Modern,
perhaps you’ve heard Carsten’s music. If you once attended
an opera about a talking budgerigar called Sparkie, you most
definitely have experienced Carsten’s music.
“Ah! Michael Nyman and the budgie bird!” recalls Carsten.
“That project was really funny, and if you know Michael
Nyman, he's got this very British humour. We never did finish
that album…”
More of which shortly. We start this story with Carsten
the architect. Blueprints, pencil sketches, pages full of
scribbled cubes. He’d been teaching people to tend gardens
and, after dropping out of GDR military service, he studied
architecture and landscape design. But his career in making
buildings took a surprising detour when, one day, he had an
artistic crisis.
“I was bored!” he says. “My architectural drawings were
too static. I felt depressed, so I started experimenting with
sound and oscillators.”
By the turn of the millennium, Carsten was running the
ice-cool Chemnitz-based minimal label Raster-Noton which
pionnered glitch techno, a form of electronic music that lives
between the cracks. The imprint also lay the foundation for
Carsten’s own compositions under the name Alva Noto. On
his debut ‘Prototypes’ in 2000, he pushed the minimalism
to the absolute floor: rhythmic hums, looping static, an
uncompromising musical vision entirely informed by his
architectural roots.
“I have many invisible blueprints in front of me,” he says.
“You might see a house that isn’t finished yet, no doors or
windows, like a skeleton. They might add the fancy stone
cladding later, but the most beautiful part of the building is
that simple structure. That’s how I think of my music.”
C
56
ALVA NOTO
His discography is less minimal, with collaborators
including Ryoji Ikeda, Olaf Bender and, in full poetic voice,
Iggy Pop reading Walt Whitman. But it’s his work with
legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto that really
grabs the attention. Their first joint venture, ‘Vrioon’ in
2002, was declared album of the year by The Wire magazine
in 2004, but the apparent simplicity of Alva Noto prodding
Ryuichi’s piano with pinpoint electronics was hard to
come by.
“There were only two or three piano notes I wanted to
keep from our early sessions. Ryuichi is a very open-minded
and curious person. He said maybe we should simplify
things – he does the piano and I do the sounds. Limitation
can create a little universe of options, so we kept to that
style for the next four albums.”
Their latest long-player ‘Glass’ is the ultimate designer’s
dream. They took architect Philip Johnson’s Connecticut
home Glass House, which is, er, a house made of glass, and
made its transparent walls sing with a gong mallet.
“The view was fantastic,” remembers Carsten, “but I
wouldn't want to live there.”
Another career marker was their phenomenal
soundtrack for ‘The Revenant’. The movie saw Leonardo
DiCaprio playing frontiersman Hugh Glass as he tried to
survive wild 1800s America. Ryuichi was recovering from
throat cancer and so partnered up with Carsten to work on
the soundtrack. However, the partnership broke Academy
rules and they were controversially denied an Oscar
nomination. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu called the
decision “scandalous”. But Carsten was just helping out a
friend.
“Ryuichi was really struggling,” he says, “it's not easy
after a long break. I’d been doing a series called ‘Xerrox’
in which I would take a melody and degrade it with a
copying process. By chance, a file I had on a field recorder
was destroyed, but in a beautiful way. When I was invited
to work on ‘The Revenant’, these degraded recordings
fitted well – you can hear them in the movie.”
Amid all this music as Alva Noto, Carsten was using his
real name to assemble an enviable career as an installation
artist. His repertoire is staggering. A tennis ball gun
triggering tunes from suspended shields; an illuminated
punch-card playing notes as far as the eye can see; a Hong
Kong building a third of a mile high pulsing light across the
city (there’s the architecture again). He often generates
visuals automatically from audio sources, like Windows
Media Player, but in a billion dimensions.
“Making visuals is a serious amount of work, so maybe
this is because I'm lazy, but I made a lot of graphic
analysers. It’s really important that the visuals feel
connected to the music.”
Carsten, it seems, has an instinct for building things.
His career is a multi-cladded complex of endless creative
corridors. His latest solo Alva Noto album takes yet another
new turn. ‘UNIEQAV’ is a determined digital assault
inspired by Tokyo club culture. Yet there is an unfinished
room in the house of Nicolai: something that could be
argued as his only career failure to date. That blasted
budgerigar.
In the mid-20th century, Sparkie the budgie had
appeared on television advertising bird seed in a Geordie
accent. This was way before John Lewis’s insufferable
seasonal schmaltz. Sparkie Williams – for that was his full
name – was quite a star in those pre-Beatles days, and
could recite eight nursery rhymes in his Brown Ale twang.
The poor bird has long since been stuffed and stuck on
display in Newcastle’s Hancock Museum, but in 2009 he
was jetted to Berlin for a performance of ‘Sparkie: Cage
And Beyond’, an opera written by Carsten and multiplatinum musicologist Michael Nyman. They even used
audio from the original advert.
Carsten seems delighted that I’ve mentioned Sparkie’s
opera, but it was a project that never truly got off the
ground.
“That's one of the few things I regret not finishing,”
he says, “We wanted to do an album and a book. People
always ask me about it but it’s just sitting in an archive.
Maybe one day we’ll put out all the budgie bird material.”
‘UNIEQAV’ is out now on NOTON
57
S T ICKS A ND
S T ONE S
THEY DRESS AS TREES AND PLAY WOODEN LOG SYNTHS,
AND YET LONDON’S SUBVERSIVE SNAPPED ANKLES ARE
LIVING PROOF THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER JUDGE A BOOK
BY ITS COVER…
words:
BEN MURPHY
e’ve done forests,” says Paddy Austin, guitarist and vocalist
with London three-piece Snapped Ankles. “Epping Forest at
night in a dogging car park. We did a hairdressers, and a
skate bowl…”
He’s talking about the unconventional settings where this
extraordinary electronic post-punk group play.
“We like to avoid normal gig venues,” adds keyboardist Mike
Chestnutt. “If we do play them, we like to play off the stage or in a
procession coming through the audience, or with more live drummers,
trying to make it interesting for the gig goer and for us as well.”
These weird live shows are just one way in which this trio are
refreshingly different. Dressed in forest monster outfits somewhere
between ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and some 1970s folk horror curio, and
joined by Giorgio Zampirolo on drums, they look like they’re going to
perform some ancient pagan rite on stage, while they bash away at
homemade ‘log synths’: primitive DIY electric instruments secured to
chunks of wood.
Their music is unorthodox too, soldering together bits and pieces
of jagged guitar, spiky synth, analogue arpeggios, heavy drums
and dreamy krautrock atmospheres. More than just the product of
excellent record collections, the Snapped Ankles sound is a highly
individual meld. It’s heard best on last year’s debut album for The
Leaf Label, ‘Come Play The Trees’, where ‘Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta
Berlin’ (which featured on our new artists Reader Offer CD from Issue
37), is a sinuous neon snake of synth, propulsive Neu! rhythms and
Paddy’s evocative voice. ‘Tuesday Makes Me Cry’ is an intense burst
of cymbals, beats and sulphuric electronics, but ‘Outro’ shows their
mellow side; an emotive drift into instrumental ambient territory.
“W
amed after a bone-crunching scene from the Stephen King
film adaptation, ‘Misery’, much of what motivates Snapped
Ankles seems to be a desire to disrupt notions of what you’re
supposed to do as a musician. Accordingly, their new release,
‘Violations’, a Record Store Day special, is an EP of four altered cover
versions, which take the original songs and subvert them in some way.
Their choice of bands and tracks says a lot about them too, with tunes
by iconoclasts Can, techno producer Joey Beltram, punk progenitors
The Fugs and obscure 1980s new wave outfit Comateens, all up for
the Snapped Ankles treatment.
N
58
“They’re all punk in their own way and also outsiders,” says Mike.
Can’s mythic ‘Bel Air’ has its near 20-minute run-time shorn to a
slightly more pop-friendly six minutes, and its decidedly psychedelic
vibe is intensified with a more astringent quality. The most striking
thing about it though is the new lyrics, which Paddy wrote in
response to the song, but also to a more contemporary issue that
seemed to fit the subject matter.
“There’s no point in doing a carbon copy,” says Mike. “You want
to make it completely different to make it interesting, which is what
Paddy decided to do by changing the lyrics of the song.”
“It comes from loving the originals so much and then looking at
what the original intention of the song was,” adds Paddy. “So I was
having real trouble with ‘Bel Air’, because it’s an epic track, and we
went, ‘We can turn it into a pop song’. But that’s a pretty rude thing
to do to an epic track. Then at the same time we were recording,
they had the big forest fires [in the well-heeled LA suburb of Bel Air].
And I thought, ‘Do you sing like Damo Suzuki, or do you do what Mark
E Smith did and talk about being in Can?’ Do you make it a homage?
Well Bel Air had just burnt down and from what I could make out
of Damo’s lyrics, it’s about people in dressing gowns. On the news
literally that day, as the houses were burning, they were all in their
dressing gowns trying to get their expensive paintings out of their
houses. So I said, ‘That’s what it’s going to be about then!’”
Similarly, the lyrics of The Fugs’ ‘CIA Man’, in Snapped Ankles’
Fall-styled, metallic-tasting ‘NSA Man Violation’, addresses modern
concerns about the mass surveillance revealed by former CIA
employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Its new words offer
an amusing and novel take, especially relevant after the recent
revelations of Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting and political
targeting: “Who follows you through every app / Collecting your
photos and crap? / NSA Man.”
With these radical reinterpretations, the band pass comment
on how the meaning and cultural significance of music changes
over time, and how we can view things differently with the benefit
of hindsight. This idea is especially well-realised on their delirious
cover of Joey Beltram’s classic techno tune, ‘Energy Flash’, a hugely
influential dance track that helped lay the foundations for the UK
rave scene, and was memorable for its kinetic motion as much as its
creepy intonations of “Ecstasy, ecstasy”.
SNAPPED ANKLES
PHOTO: K ASIA WOZNIA K
59
60
SNAPPED ANKLES
On the Snapped Ankles version of ‘Dancing In A State Of
Possession’, they recreate the beats and bleeps of the original with
their array of live kit, the drums especially hard-hitting, while Paddy
talks of sensory deprivation and over-stimulation, and the effect
of lights and loud music on the listener, exploring the meaning of
ecstasy and how it’s become tied with the drug of the same name.
“I felt it could do with an update,” says Paddy. “I’d been reading
about states of possession, about how trance is one state of
possession, and ecstasy is a different state. One piece I read looked
at the difference between the two, the history of those two words
and where they come from. Ecstasy has the religious background,
and trance comes from a different religious background. Both are
these areas where the word is coded in modern times with the drug.”
Strangely, the song took on a new dimension when the band
performed it live recently. Paddy says he felt like an evangelist talking
to his flock, echoing the original religious idea of ecstasy.
“I did feel a bit like a preacher once it got going,” he says. “I didn’t
quite realise how the words sit over it. Although we go to clubs and
dance to techno, to have a group of people in a room playing it by
hand, talking about the actual situation… I walked out in the middle
of the crowd, almost laying my hands on the audience, as much as
I was allowed. It was quite fun.”
hether it’s replaying techno by hand or carving synths out of
trees, Snapped Ankles are also poking fun at the
“retromania” for vintage electronic sounds, where analogue
keyboards and sequencers are idealised.
“People put a synthesiser in an old bit of wood, but then they polish
it up, and make it look smart like it’s a musical instrument,” says
Paddy. “I suppose because now we’ve gone past the stage where
synthesisers were super futuristic, in the last 20 years there’s a fetish
for them, like, ‘How much dust have you got in yours?’, and ‘I need
wooden sides on mine’. It was a big deal before when guitar bands
had a synthesiser, but now it doesn’t matter; everything is a bit this,
a bit that. So it’s really just a tool.”
Though there are conceptual and experimental aspects to
Snapped Ankles’ music, at their roots, there’s also a deliberate
pop sensibility with hooks galore pervading their songs, whether in
the infectious punk funk of their cover of Comateens’ ‘Ghosts’ or in
the earworm melody of the LCD Soundsystem-esque ‘The Invisible
Real That Hurts’.
“Hopefully there are hooky pop moments in all our songs that I
guess translate to a broader appeal,” says Paddy. “The working title
of our ‘Come Play The Trees’ album was ‘20 Attempts At A Christmas
Number One’, so maybe that gives you a bit of our outlook.”
The next step for Snapped Ankles will be to further develop their
left-field live shows, along with new material.
“We want to challenge the traditional performance constraints and
the spaces that live bands inhabit,” concludes Paddy.
They’re branching out and predicting growth in 2018. Turn over a
new leaf, and join them.
W
erformance has shaped this three-piece’s sound and
attitude. Whether it’s playing bursts of cosmic rock at
London’s self-explanatory Krautrock Karaoke night,
attaching estate agent signs to their synths and pretending to auction
off warehouse spaces at their Topophobia events, or setting new
wave films to live percussion at their Drum Cinema gigs, interaction
‘Come Play The Trees’ is out now on The Leaf Label, the ‘Violations’
with an audience fuels their creativity.
EP is released on 21 April
“We come from a warehouse performance art background, where
you prepare a space like a theatre,” says Paddy. “We tie performance
and music together, and those things might then come out on record.
A lot of the gigs we do are on big stages where there’s a safety fence
in front of you, so it’s trying to find ways to challenge that rather than
accept that’s the box you’ve got in terms of performance.”
Their live playing is also a reaction to the pristine, sterile nature of
electronic music made on a computer. By mixing homemade synths
with organic instruments, they occupy an intriguing space where
humans and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined.
“Rather than disappearing into MIDI Ableton electronica, we’re
trying to knit aspects of dance music ourselves using primitive
instruments. We wanted our live show that echoed that, with an old
dirty piece of wood and a mono synth.”
Snapped Ankles’ log synths take this whole idea further,
symbolising a future that, rather than being pristine and shimmering,
is a messy merging of organic matter and machine — and one where
the distant past is always lurking in the background.
“I play an SH-09, a nice Roland machine that provides most of the
sounds going through various effects,” says Mike. “Then, the log
synths are very basic synthesisers attached to logs creating random,
unpitchable, unpredictable sounds. It’s almost the worst instrument
we could think to make out of a bit of wood, and the simplest. We
build up the rhythms, sometimes with loop pedals, and create a
sound from that. It’s so basic and limited, but sounds quite good, and
we also get the sound of the wood because it’s velocity-sensitive.
Visually it looks nice as well.”
“It’s our nod to the way of the world,” adds Paddy. “Our view of the
future isn’t the shiny spaceship of glowing lights and colourful MPC
[sampler] buttons. “For us it’s in the melding of nature with man. If
Kraftwerk dressed up as robots, we’re saying actually, we’ve only
just discovered that trees talk to each other through sugars in their
roots. They make a sound as well — it’s all music.”
P
61
BL ACK
MO T H SUPE R
R A INBO W
STEPPING FROM BEHIND THE MASK,
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW FRONTMAN
THOMAS FEC EXPLAINS HOW EXORCISING
DEMONS WITH A NEW RECORD HAS FOUND
HIM OPENING UP TO THE WORLD…
words:
62
FINLAY MILLIGAN
’ve always loved masks. I just love the idea of hiding
behind a face.”
A computer screen is the face that Thomas Fec, aka Tobacco
and frontman/songwriter of psychedelic synthpoppers Black Moth
Super Rainbow, has chosen to adorn when he chats to Electronic
Sound. Rarely one to show his own visage, Fec and his bandmates
have gone to great lengths to hide their true identity, to the point
of even being interviewed behind a toilet door. Seriously, it’s on
YouTube; an exchange from a few years ago where Fec remains
concealed by a toilet stall. It’s as good an example as any and gives
you a peak into the surreal world of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
“The face is what you go to first and it’s what everyone identifies
everything by,” Fec says. “If you look at most of the Black Moth
records, they all feature a big old face.”
The faces that adorn their sleeves have a distinctive cut-up
aesthetic, a warped collage that seems to fit face-in-mask with their
hypnagogic synth swirls and processed vocals. The front of the
upcoming album, ‘Panic Blooms’, the sixth BMSR long-player and
first since 2012’s, ‘Cobra Juicy’, features a huge sinister grin and
glaring eyes, half-hidden behind a pair of wide, dark sunglasses.
Another face; another mask.
But it’s with ‘Panic Blooms’ that the mask has started to slip.
In sharp contrast to their back catalogue, the new record is a raw,
visceral outing. With song titles like ‘Permanent Hole’ and ‘Bad
Fuckin Times’, it’s full of downbeat melodies and abstract synth
textures that ooze around the trademark vocoded lyrics. So why,
now, have BMSR decided to let us all see what lies beyond their
weird, unnerving veil?
“I
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW
artists – they get to be artists. And being an artist, to me, should be
“I didn’t have any choice,” Fec explains. “It was either get that
everything. But it only takes up a small percentage of all the bullshit
shit out or don’t make anything at all. And I guess that’s kind of what
I have to do.”
slowed me down for so long too. I haven’t thought through the right
Yet even with all the “bullshit”, Fec admits that managing Rad
way of talking about it. But, I mean, I guess it’s kind of a depression
Cult has given him a new appreciation for the minutiae that goes into
record, so the way the album moves is like the bloom of panic. It
getting a record out into the world.
comes from over-thinking and feeling really bad.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time shitting on labels,” he says, “but once you
He says that the gap between ‘Panic Blooms’ and preceding
realise that everyone who puts in time on something costs money,
album ‘Cobra Juicy’ couldn’t be larger, both literally and figuratively,
then you start to see why you don’t, at the end of the day, see as much
describing them as “like yin and yang”.
“‘Cobra Juicy’ came from the rubble of this project that I had gotten money as you think you should. It’s making sense to me now. We end
hired to work on,” he explains. “That album was upbeat, almost sassy. up making 100 per cent at the end of the day, which is really nice.”
Will we have to wait six years again for a new Black Moth Super
This is anything but sassy. It’s a bummer album.”
Rainbow album? Fec hopes not.
Fec says that while the new tracks don’t necessarily have a
“I hope that I can stay excited about this project, because it seems
specific, individual meaning behind them, songs like ‘Bad Fuckin
like every time I do a record, I kind of lose interest for a while,” he
Times’ are representative of how he felt when he was working on
says. “And I think it would be nice to stick with something, not go
the record.
away for another six years. That would be nice.”
“That’s just recognising that you’re at the bottom. It doesn’t refer
So there’s every chance that ‘Panic Blooms’ could be the last
to any specific instance or anything. It’s just about a feeling that you
BMSR record?
get when you’re in a certain place. And that song in particular, that’s
“Man, every record has been the last Black Moth album! I’m pretty
like, you can’t get any lower. If I could only turn on one song from the
album, it would be ‘Backwash’. I think it was the last song that I wrote, sure you could dig up an interview with me for every single record
where I say it’s the last one. This’ll be the first interview where I
and it felt like it was the acceptance of everything and letting go of
recognise that I say that every time and that it’s probably not true.”
whatever that demon is that’s fucking with you.”
In truth, Fec admits that he doesn’t really know why he loses
And does Fec feel the demon has been released with this record?
interest in BMSR, but hopes that the post-‘Panic Blooms’ Fec, who
“I do, and that’s some corny shit,” he says. “It’s an end to a shitty
has exorcised his demons publicly and feels better for it, will stay
chapter and it feels great to listen to. It’s weird; it doesn’t bring back
excited with the future of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
bad memories and I actually really feel good listening to it.”
“Maybe it’s all part of that, ‘not always being able to see what’s in
Fec also heads up the band’s own label, Rad Cult, which he says
front of you’ thing,” he sighs. “But maybe, in recognising that, I’ll be
has been a learning curve in itself.
better at it this time.”
“It’s very hard. Like, infinitely hard,” he laments. “It’s not really my
choice to be self-releasing on our own label. I fucking hate doing all
‘Panic Blooms’ is released by Rad Cult on 4 May
that work. That’s the only thing really that makes me jealous of other
63
CHE MIC A L
RE AC T ION
IT’S BEEN ALMOST 20 YEARS SINCE
WE’VE HAD THE PLEASURE OF A
LESSER-SPOTTED CHRIS CARTER
SOLO ALBUM. BREWED UP AND SHOT
THROUGH WITH THE INFLUENCE OF
HIS LATE, GREAT TG PAL, SLEAZY,
‘CHEMISTRY LESSONS VOLUME ONE’, IS
SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL INDEED…
words and pictures:
64
MARK ROLAND
CHRIS CARTER
65
hris Carter is a linchpin of British electronica. As a founding member of
Throbbing Gristle, perhaps Britain’s most alarming electronic music art
project, along with his other “wreckers of civilisation” (they really should
slap a trademark on that phrase), Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter
Christopherson, he helped create a world of sound that would abide long after the
shock wore off. For someone who played such a central role birthing the UK
electronic music scene, he’s a modest and unassuming chap. He’s at his happiest
discussing oscillators and circuit boards, as if his prodigious talent for creating
affecting electronic music is a by-product of his soldering skills.
“When people travel,” he says, “they might take a book to read. I take manuals to
read. I love a good manual.”
C
e’re talking to Chris because his new solo album, ‘Chris Carter’s Chemistry
Lessons Volume One’, or ‘CCCL’ for the sake of brevity, is a marvel. His first
long-player in almost 20 years, its 25 short pieces (the longest is almost five
minutes; most are around two or three minutes long) each deliver a spine-tingling
blend of melody and electronic texture.
Before we talk at the University of Surrey’s impressive music department, where
he is taking part in a Moog Labs event, he is chatting happily to modular synth
designers and fellow practitioners about product development and circuit board
acquisitions. It’s clear this is his happy place. “I like talking shop,” he later confirms
with a smile. And with Carter, this is literally shop talk; his modular collaborations,
the TG One with Tiptop Audio and The Gristleizer from Future Sound Systems, are
doing well in the mad modular marketplace.
The technical has always been at the root of Carter’s work, pre-dating his role in
Throbbing Gristle. Before TG, when he began helping to terrify the nation with their
mix of punishing electronics, noise, shocking imagery and confrontation tactics,
Carter worked in TV as a sound engineer (he actually held his day job for some time
into TG’s notoriety). He was also creating light shows for music festivals and touring
his own multimedia installations, floating around the same post-hippy, pre-punk
underground counter-culture circuit where Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti and
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson were to be found, outraging public decency with their
COUM Transmissions work.
When the four joined forces and formed TG, he became the band’s technical
powerhouse, a back-room figure who left the headline-grabbing work to his more
outgoing bandmates, while he fuelled the TG industrial complex with electronic
energy. Throbbing Gristle traded in the extreme, but it seems to me that Chris isn’t
an extreme person.
“No, I’m not,” he agrees, mildly.
But there he was, in the middle of what was a pretty forbidding scene, its gaze
firmly fixed on the darker side of humanity, with its references to serial killers, a
studio called the Death Factory and the like, not to mention its occupation of –
perhaps even the very defining of – the intersection of kink, direct-action politics
and sex art, and attracting some pretty out-there characters as a result.
“Yeah, it did attract people,” nods Carter, “but because I kept myself busy doing
all the nuts and bolts of Throbbing Gristle, I didn’t focus on it as maybe I should have
at the time.”
His world, he confesses with disarming candour, was filled with his feelings for
Cosey (“I was madly in love with her”) and the technical side of TG.
“It’s only looking back now and having read Cosey’s book that I think how mad and
ridiculous some of it was, and how extreme some of it was. But when you’re in the
middle of it, it’s like the eye of the storm being the calmest place. It often was for me.
There were all sorts of things that Gen or Sleazy were doing that didn’t really click
until much later.”
W
66
CHRIS CARTER
hrobbing Gristle invented the idea of industrial music, but the tag wasn’t
about a sound, it was a lifestyle. The term had been in the TG/COUM lexicon
for some time, but as they were preparing to unleash Throbbing Gristle on
the world, with the music, the logo and the manifesto all worked out, they lacked a
pithy mission statement that would bring it all together. It was cat-burning American
artist Monte Cazazza (he once immolated a dead cat and forced his captive audience
to witness it… at gunpoint) who gave Genesis the phrase, “industrial music for
industrial people”, and for Carter this was about industriousness, organising your
own labour for your own projects. It was the DIY ethic that is more regularly credited
to punk, despite the fact that the Pistols, The Clash and The Damned all signed to
major labels as soon as was humanly possible.
“It was a concept and a way of life,” he says. “It was the whole cottage industry,
DIY thing. It was really important for us.”
And the DIY approach remains central to Carter’s proposition, although as
it happens, ’CCCL’ is coming out on Mute Records. Mute are seen as the British
institution that has done so much to keep interesting electronic music available
and in the public eye, through its reissues of the Industrial Records catalogue and
support of some key marginal artists. He points out the contradiction before I do,
with a wry chuckle, but much of Chris & Cosey’s output and re-releases have been
put out on their own label, in their own time, in their own way.
‘CCCL’ shares the abstract, experimental nature of his previous work, but there’s
a new focus, and an emotional heft that goes straight to the heart.
Part of that emotional tug comes from the melodies that haunt the album,
delivered by peculiar hypnotising voices. They lend proceedings a supernatural aura.
‘CCCL’ plays with Britain’s Radiophonic past, with humorous interludes like ‘Nineteen
7’, but it’s this spine-tingling haunted spirit that makes it stand out. And in a way, it is
haunted, possessed by the spirit of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Carter’s former
Throbbing Gristle bandmate who passed away suddenly in 2010.
“I was working with Sleazy on this idea of using the voices,” says Carter. “He did
this project called The Threshold HouseBoys Choir where they were going to use
software as a vocalist. I wasn’t involved, but I’d been working with him, giving him
ideas. When that project fell apart for whatever reason, we started working on ideas
that we could use when we did X-TG [the post-reformed Throbbing Gristle, which
existed briefly between Genesis P-Orridge leaving the band in October 2009 and
Christopherson’s death in November 2010]. We started out working on those vocals
as an experiment.”
T
67
he album, then, is the end product of a long and sometimes painful process,
which began with the experiments with Sleazy and solo jams recorded as a
release valve for Carter; work that would occupy him without any of the
deadline pressure that was on him during the Throbbing Gristle/X-TG era. He
continued to craft the release as Carter Tutti got going again, and it was completed
while Cosey was writing her extraordinary memoir, ‘Art Sex Music’.
“It was nice to do something else,” he says. “I was just dabbling; I had a little
Zoom recorder plugged into the gear so I could hit record, and I kept recording while
I was dabbling, and it slowly came together. I’d done quite a lot of tracks, and then
Sleazy died.”
He stops and shakes his head.
“It hit me so badly, all of a sudden,” he says, quietly. “It hit all of us. And I just
stopped. It took me a year to get back into it because every time I went to listen to it,
it reminded me of him.”
Chunks of inspiration, however, came from a hard drive that belonged to Sleazy,
which Carter was sent following his friend’s death.
“I went through the music on this hard drive and there was a folder filled with all
kinds of different things,” says Carter. “There were these folk songs on there. Some
of them a very old, medieval, and that’s where I got some of the melodies from.”
Which explains why ‘CCCL’ sometimes comes across like a soundtrack to Russell
Hoban’s 1980 novel, ‘Riddley Walker’, a dazzling and often gruelling depiction of
England 2,000 years after a nuclear war, bombed into a sparsely populated dark age,
its cowering tribes of remaining humans locked into a fearful belief based on scraps
of ‘The Bible’, word-of-mouth history and foundation myths about their ancestors.
The folky post-technology quality of ‘CCCL’ and its synthesised medieval darkness
is summoned up by the electronic voices which articulate its oscillators into
extended vowels and plosives, to mesmerising effect. It’s unearthly and uncanny.
It first comes to the fore in the ethereal ‘Tangerines’ and swirls across the gorgeous
‘Cernubicua’ and ‘Pillars Of Wah’. It’s the question on everyone’s lips at the Moog
Labs event: “How did you make those sounds?!”
“When we started experimenting with them for X-TG,” explains Carter, “Sleazy
had bought a Kyma Pacarana, a really expensive, deep hardware synth, but it wasn’t
really going the way I wanted, although the technique was sound. Then we bought
an Eventide H-8000 [another incredibly high-end piece of kit] and we were going to
marry the two together. I also had a Roland V-Synth that does weird vocal things…
I could probably tell you how I did each one if I could go back to the multi-track.”
The post-digital-age process of trawling through the hard drive of deceased loved
ones is a special kind of sad, and it could be said that it is imprinted into the music on
‘CCCL’; perhaps the spirit of Sleazy energises it.
“The experiments we’d been doing together were on that hard drive, and I was
compiling quite a lot of stuff with no real idea of what I was going to do with it.
It was odd…”
There are some gigs in the pipeline, though he’s been turning offers down in an
attempt to fashion a strategy for the release cycle of the album, alongside the Mute
re-issues of the remaining Throbbing Gristle back catalogue, plus the album’s title
drops a heavy hint that we might expect another volume at some point in the future.
Carter affirms that ‘Volume 2’ is in the blocks.
“It will be quite different from ‘Volume 1’,” he says. “I have quite a lot of tracks
done already; I’m still working on different things, so anything could happen. I love
weird sounds. I like mixing them with straight sounds, and I like it when people don’t
know what that sound is. I have different hats for different projects. I can’t say I
have a methodology, because all the projects I work on vary so much, and they
all overlap.”
Is there a methodology that informs the output?
“I use chance,” he says. “The bulk of the album is chance. I am musically dyslexic.
I have to have notes written on a keyboard because when I look at the keyboard I
don’t often see the gaps, you know – the black notes. Sometimes it just looks like
they’re all the same, just the same space.”
Or ‘The Space Between’, perhaps…
T
‘Chris Carter’s ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ is out now on Mute
68
CHRIS CARTER
69
UNE L EC T RONIC
SOUND
WITH JUST THREE INSTRUMENTS BETWEEN
THEM, HOW IS THAT MANCHESTER’S GOGO
PENGUIN SOUND SO FAMILIAR? WE LIFT THE
LID ON THEIR JAZZ-LIKE EXTERIOR AND FIND
OUT HOW THEY DO LIVE ELECTRONICA…
WITH NO ELECTRONICS
words:
70
MAT SMITH
GOGO PENGUIN
think it’s because we’re stupid and we like to make things
really difficult for ourselves,” laughs Chris Illingworth from
GoGo Penguin. They’re the Manchester trio that Illingworth
makes up with drummer Rob Turner and bassist Nick Blacka, who
look, feel and occasionally sound like a jazz group, but aren’t. He is
referring to the band’s insistence on only ever making music
acoustically, a technique they have used unswervingly across their
four hypnotic albums, from 2012’s,‘Fanfares’ to their recent beguiling
‘A Humdrum Star’.
To be expressly clear, that means no synths, no post-production
interventions, no optimisation – nothing but piano, double bass
and drums. Yet the members of GoGo Penguin think of themselves
as electronic musicians first and foremost because of how they
compose their music, using synths and software at the composition
stage, but then removing them in a manner reminiscent of Robert
Rauschenberg’s ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’.
The result is music that is electronically conceived, just not
electronically realised; jazz but not quite jazz. This is the weird,
oxymoronic story of a group that could very well forever alter your
notion of what makes electronic music electronic.
“I
rom the off, GoGo Penguin wanted to be different, even
if outwardly, they look a lot like any other jazz trio. Chris
Illingworth recoils a little at the association with
that tradition.
“We started out with piano, bass and drums because those were
the instruments that we played, not because we set about to make
jazz,” he insists.
Nevertheless, GoGo Penguin came up through the Manchester
jazz scene. Illingworth had been studying piano at music college
in Manchester, venturing from classical austerity to performing
in various groups, which is how he, Blacka and Turner initially
connected. He just wanted to play in a band, with like-minded
musicians, and the style of music wasn’t that important to him.
So keen were the nascent trio to distance themselves from
any genre-derived trappings that they came up with a nonsensical
moniker instead of, say, the Rob Turner Trio. GoGo Penguin immediately sounds more like a tech start-up or a Dadaist proclamation than
a group.
“We wanted to say to people that we’re not a jazz band – we’re
just another band with a silly name,” he asserts. “We came up with
something at short notice before we had to go and do a gig. It just
seemed to fit.”
In spite of a reticence about being seen as part of the scene they
emerged from, there’s a definite leaning to a fluid, free sound on their
debut album, ‘Fanfares’. By 2014’s, ‘V2.0’ and 2016’s, ‘Man Made
Object’, the electronic influence is much more identifiable. Lines
are more focussed, rhythms more complex and the drum patterns
more adventurous; Illingworth’s piano veers from rave-y urgency to
hauntingly simple Aphex melodies, and the trio handles abrupt halts,
pivots and restarts that sound a lot like Oval’s skipping CDs.
With some irony, ‘Man Made Object’ was GoGo Penguin’s first
album for Blue Note, a label that is synonymous with jazz, issuing
landmark albums by Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and
countless others.
“It’s pretty weird,” Illingworth concedes. “Three white guys from
the north of England signed to Blue Note. The guys at the label saw us
play a gig in Germany and they were really into it. Within a week there
was an offer on the table.”
Which perhaps isn’t so strange.
“The core thing about jazz is freedom,” Illingworth impresses.
“Unfortunately, there’s these traditions, these kind of unspoken
agreements about what you can and can’t do. There’s even a jazz
F
piano textbook that tells you how to play jazz piano exactly like
everybody else’s jazz piano. But the core of jazz is just pushing
boundaries and trying to do different things, trying to make music that
you want to make with a lot of freedom. That’s what Blue Note want.
They’re very aware of that as part of their legacy, and that’s what they
saw in what we were doing.”
et’s turn away from the debate over whether GoGo Penguin
are jazz or not and instead ponder the divisive question of
how a group that only ever performs acoustically can
consider themselves electronic.
“We use a lot of electronics when we’re drawing the original
sketches of ideas,” Illingworth explains. “We’ll write stuff using
Logic or Reason or Ableton, but then we make those
pieces acoustically.”
Simple, right? That is until you hear a track like ‘Garden Dog
Barbecue’ from ‘V2.0’. Here the trio approximate Orbital circa ‘Kein
Trink Wasser’, yet abruptly turn on their heels and hammer out highly
intricate back-and-forth switches that leave you feeling like some
sort of electronic processing must have been involved. It’s the only
logical way to explain the alien, robotic, inhuman dimension
on that track.
“I’ve been playing the piano since I was eight years old, and
sometimes it’s difficult not to just play on autopilot and do the
same thing every single time,” he says. “The reason I started using
electronics to compose was to just get into a different mindset. So I’ll
write something with no thought as to whether it’s possible, and then
we’ll try and work out a way of playing it. We’re not worrying about
whether it’s physically playable at that point.”
Illingworth dates his love of electronic music to first hearing the
likes of Underworld when he was 11 years old. He would come to see
a similarity to what became GoGo Penguin in the way tracks from
‘Second Toughest In The Infants’ emerged out of rough sketches and
demos, not just sequenced pre-programmed ideas.
“I’ve always loved playing with synths,” he continues. “I’ll start
messing about with a patch, and I’ll think about how I could alter the
attack and decay. But it’ll just come to a point where I’ll try to use the
techniques I learned in classical music to create that same idea with
the piano.”
He goes on to explain that the meticulous way that Turner
prepares his drum kit allows him to craft something close to detuned
kick drums, 808 patterns, claps and other hallmarks of the electronic
rhythm play-book.
“As soon as you do that once, it’s addictive,” Illingworth muses.
“There are moments where we know we could use a synth, or
electronic effects, or we could create it all through a studio, but
that’s the challenge. We want to see how far we can get, even if it is
hard work.”
L
ho are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of
a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some
forgotten corner of a universe, in which there are far more
galaxies than people.”
Those were the words of scientist Carl Sagan, from his 1980 TV
series, ‘Cosmos’. ‘A Humdrum Star’, GoGo Penguin’s new album and
title was inspired by Sagan’s rumination on humanity’s tiny place in
the universe, a thought that renders all of our individual achievements
virtually pointless in the context of the vastness of space.
Another reference point was Sagan’s 1990 request that the
Voyager probe turn back and take one last photo of Earth as it left the
Solar System forever. In that photo, known as ‘Pale Blue Dot’, Earth is
but a speck viewed from a vantage point of some six billion kilometres
into deep space. It is a concept that is both wonderful and harrowing.
“W
71
72
GOGO PENGUIN
“It’s something we’ve all been fascinated by,” Illingworth reflects.
“We realised that ‘Pale Blue Dot’ was an exact picture of who we are
at this moment as a band. All the experimenting and touring has led
to this point and this moment, and then that’s going to be gone. We’ve
gone through this big build-up to this album, then we made it, then
it was done, and then it just becomes this little icon you can see on
iTunes. It doesn’t make it any less important, or any less special – it’s
just a way of looking at it from a different perspective.”
This powerful idea certainly gives ‘A Humdrum Star’ a more muted
air, and one that is slightly less glitchy. Still, true to the challenge
these three players have continually set themselves, it carries an
electronic quality that leaves you convinced that a measure of studio
trickery must be at work. As tempting and efficient as it might be,
GoGo Penguin have once again left the synths in the writing room.
The only bit of additional kit here is a small pedal that produces
sustained notes and textures from the piano and bass, but Illingworth
is at pains to stress that this isn’t cheating.
“It’s still just an acoustic instrument feeding into that,” he argues.
“It basically records a split-second of whatever sound you’ve captured
and maintains that. It’s like using a sustain pedal at a piano, but you’re
just stopping the sound from decaying, which is the natural thing that
it wants to do.”
The pedal receives liberal use on the new album, particularly on
Blacka’s bass sections on ‘Bardo’. With its serene ambient opening
section, ‘Bardo’ represents one of the album’s many highlights,
but it also deploys a much more traditional effect and one that
cements GoGo Penguin’s ambition to deliver electronic sounds
unelectronically.
“The chords and melody that you can hear at the beginning, that’s
just from muting the strings. It’s a really simple effect. We found this
stuff that’s like Velcro, which you put on the strings. It just creates
a really good, almost rubber bass synth sound – but it’s still totally
acoustic.”
Having mastered an approach that simultaneously messes
around with your impression of electronic composition and whatever
preconceptions you might hold about jazz, it’s easy to see how GoGo
Penguin could continue to challenge themselves without feeling
especially limited.
“One of the things we’re trying to play around with at the moment
is incorporating more prepared piano,” Illingworth suggests, citing
the influence of John Cage and his landmark piano manipulations.
“You can get some amazing sounds, but the problem is how long it
takes to set it up. I used to do some prepared things when I was
studying classical piano, and I’d take maybe half an hour to set up
the piano, so it’s not practical if we’re using it in a gig where you’d
need to take all the nuts and bolts out of the piano in between tunes.”
I argue that it would surely be impossible to build and rebuild
a prepared instrument on a whim, and that the effect could easily
be written electronically, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that
Illingworth loves to hear.
“Once you say it’s not going to happen we’ve got to find a way to do
it,” he says, finding yet another rule book to rip up. “We’ve just got to.”
‘A Humdrum Star’ is out now on Blue Note
73
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SPOOKS
76
THE BACK
CREEP SHOW
Mr Dynamite
Bella Union
Singers eh? There seems to be something of a lack of vocalists who
can grab your attention these days. Where are the likes of those
who use the voice as an instrument, to add a texture, a rhythm,
people like Liz Fraser, acts like Kraftwerk, Underworld, Cabaret
Voltaire… appreciate it’s a high bar, but it’s not unusual to put
something on in the ES office that sounds great until some so-so
singer strikes up, and off it comes.
So this meeting of minds between Wrangler and John Grant,
with two very distinctive vocalists, the idea made us a bit twitchy,
excited, but twitchy, if we’re honest.
So what does John Grant bring to already considerable party
provided by Stephen Mallinder, formerly of aforementioned
Cabaret Voltaire, Phil Winter of Tunng and Ben “Benge” Edwards
(who we’ll get to in a minute). Well, cut John Grant in half and it
does it not say “synthy goodness” rather than “torchsong
troubadour” right through his middle. It does. Listen to the title
track from 2013’s ‘Pale Green Ghosts’, or the belting ‘Sensitive
New Age Guy’ or maybe try 2015’s ‘Grey Tickles…’ and luxuriate in
the squelch-fest of ‘Snug Slacks’ or the zips and zaps and zups of
‘You & Him’. He’s our kind of people is John Grant.
Credentials confirmed then, the seeds for Creep Show (the name
came to Benge in a dream we’re told) were sown when Grant
joined Wrangler to celebrate Rough Trade’s 40th anniversary at
London’s Barbican in October 2016. Not ones to muck around, they
wrote a whole new set of material for the occasion, like you do. “If
you work with someone, test yourself, see what’s buried under the
soil,” explains Mal.
By last April, what was buried under the soil had evolved, and
with Grant hooking up again with Wrangler at the North Atlantic
Flux mini-festival he was curating for Hull’s City of Culture, ‘Mr
Dynamite’ really began to take shape. Recorded at Benge’s
Cornwall studio, which is fast becoming the go-to place for anyone
remotely interesting in making a good record, thanks not only to
the wall-to-wall vintage synth collection, but to Benge himself, a
man so unassuming we’d wager he’d barely be recognised if he
pushed your buttons. Which we suspect is just the way he likes it.
And yet he is at the very heart of this, as he is at the heart of
making way too much good music for one man alone. It’s greedy is
what it is. Last year, his mitts were all over at least three of our Top
20 albums of the year (answers on a postcard).
Even by Benge’s increasingly high standards, ‘Mr Dynamite’
feels like a high-water mark. A record where everything is just
right, the combination of these four sparking off each other is way
more than the sum of its parts.
“Mr Dynamite is real,” explains Mallinder. “It’s disturbing, he
blows shit up.” And the whole shebang very much feels like that.
Here is record that has a musical force all of its own. You’d think
there’d be a dividing line between the two vocalists. Sure, when
Grant is crooning (see the sleek ‘Modern Parenting’, the night
stalking ‘Endangered Species’, both with soul-fuelled backing vocals,
or on the epic closer ‘Safe And Sound’) there is no doubt it’s him, but
the rest of the time? The voices are often distorted, manipulated
(beyond buggery on occasion), phased and flanged and time-shifted
half to death. Once upon a time you’d be pretty safe to assume it was
Mal on the mic. Not here.
We especially love the dark side all this vocal buggery aboutery
lends ‘Mr Dynamite’. The after-dark electro of ‘Lime Ricky’ is a joy,
but it’s ‘K Mart Johnny’ that really stops us in our tracks. It throbs
away, distant voices drifting in an out, until it gives way to a
time-stretched narrative about a plastic dinosaur, three feet tall,
red with yellow plastic spots, told by Grant. It’s quite an unsettling
childhood tale that reveals itself further with each listen.
The final two tracks, are epic. ‘Fall’, a twinkly, measured
Kraftwerk-y nod clocking in at over seven minutes, is sublime, while
the aforementioned singalong ‘Safe And Sound’, at a little shy of
nine minutes is a proper lesson in how you finish up an album. Nine
tracks, all killers, built for two sides of vinyl. If this isn’t riding high,
very high, on our album of the year list come Xmas we’ll have had
one heck of year.
Singers eh?.
NEIL MASON
77
L AURENCE PIKE
LAURENCE PIKE
THE EVIL USSES
DANIEL AVERY
BROADS
‘Distant Early Warning’ is six
tracks of Laurence Pike’s jazzy
percussion, combined with
a more synthetic series of
textures, and the result is a really
interesting confluence of styles.
Australian Pike has worked with
numerous artists (including his
band PVT and Triosk), but solo
here, his free drumming nudges
up against electronic glitches
and analogue tones to great
effect. ‘Cyber Bully’ sounds like
Deckard from ‘Blade Runner’
using his computer to zoom in on
‘Earth’ by Alice Coltrane and Joe
Henderson. ST
Every track on ‘Muck’ is
contained in its own world, most
likely also inhabited by The
Cardiacs and The Fall during
the Brix years. By the time you
get a sense of where things are
headed, The Evil Usses arrive at
an entirely different destination,
taking you through wailing
saxophones, melting synth
textures, explosive post-rock
drum fills and eventual aural
respite in pleasing closer ‘The
Music Of Sleep’. ‘Muck’ is equal
parts disconcerting and playful;
a soundtrack to wandering off
and getting lost to during a hazy
night out. LB
‘Sensation’, the fifth track on
Song For Alpha, perfectly
captures what Daniel Avery does
best: creating music that sounds
tactile. The Bournemouth-born
producer and DJ expands on
his stellar sonic palette with
ambient turns. These moments
evoke the pensive electronic
music championed by Aphex
et al, case in point being the
beautifully subdued ‘Embers’.
His more club-minded offerings
remain personal favourites,
however – ‘Diminuendo’ hums
menacingly like a caseful of
cicadas. JB
Under Norfolk’s big skies,
electronic duo Broads have
made their own intersection
of drone synth, weird folk and
shoegaze (the brief My Bloody
Valentine wobble of ‘MixedAbility Sequencing’ gives
that away), which makes for
a pleasing bundle of sonic
duvet. The single, ‘Climbs’, with
the vocals of Milly Hurst from
“genre fluid” chamber folk outfit
Wooden Arms, stands out in
a collection of less obviously
tooled-for-radio electronic
drones and atmospheres, which
are often delightful and apt to
explode into epic guitar riffola
(‘The Lecht’). MR
Distant Early Warning
The Leaf Label
78
Muck
Stolen Body
Song For Alpha
Phantasy Sound
Field Theory
Humm
THE BACK
W YE OA K
WYE OAK
The Louder I Call, The Faster
It Runs
Merge
The widescreen sound of Jenn
Wasner and Andy Stack, the
North Carolina/Texas duo Wye
Oak, depends on fussy shuffle
drumming, perilously rapid synth
patterns in lockstep with the
drum/hi-hat, over which floats
some earnest indie folk, shot
through with startling shards
of processed guitar and belching
electronics. At its best on
the math-rock of ‘Symmetry’
and ‘Over And Over’, the balance
between that and the folksy
Laurel Canyon update with
uppity contemporary production
isn’t easy going. MR
RETEP FOLO
TIM KOCH
ISVISIBLE ISINVISIBLE
One half of Sweden’s The Owl
Report, underground artist Peter
Olof Fransson, aka Retep Folo,
conjures quite the one-off here.
Using esoteric gear, including
vintage Farfisa organ keys, a
1966 East German Klira bass and
a rare Elgam Carousel analogue
rhythm box, he summons a warm,
retro-futurist innocence that
looks to the stars with wide eyes.
‘Galactic Swim’ nods to Ghost
Box-y half-dreamt otherworlds,
and metaphorical 1970s Czech
cartoon scores are evoked on
the hypnotic ‘Galactic Dream’.
Enchanting. CG
The MiniDisc revival starts
here [Hurrah! Ed], with Tim
Koch of Adelaide, Australia,
releasing his sixth solo album
of intricate electronics on
the loved/loathed 90s format.
Although if you’re feeling retro
you can also download it. The
17-track selection sparkles with
optimism and liveliness, but
it’s often played off against the
forces of distortion and relative
sonic chaos. So, the flanged
wonkiness of opener ‘Bloom’
soon develops into a glistening
Orb-like headnodder, and heavier
moments like ‘Hinterlude’ and
‘Fopera’ reference the Rephlex
school of playful brutalism. BW
Says here that ‘Isvisible
Isinvisible’ is “electronic music
ripped from memories of growing
up in the Dark Peaks”. If that’s
not enough to tantalise you then
I’m sorry, we can’t help you.
Another fab release from the
ever-brilliant Burning Witches,
this self-titled album runs across
11 tracks of gritty, processed
synth groans. Songs like ‘The
Rec Sacrifice’ pulse with grizzly
electronic snarl while ‘Flight Of
The Raven’ has a more melodic,
but no less eerie whine. This
really is terrific stuff. FM
Galactic Sounds
Clay Pipe Music
Spinifex
Central Processing Unit
Isvisible Isinvisible
Burning Witches
79
COMMUNION
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Communion
Burning Witches
A collection of 10 atmospheric
tracks from the likes of Deadly
Avenger, worriedaboutsatan,
Graham Reznick and, as is often
the case with his label, it’s the
names you don’t recognise
that serve up the biggest kicks.
Here’s it’s a toss up between
Cory Kilduff’s gloriously
low-key thrummer ‘LV426’ or
Ian Alex Mac’s 80s baiting
stomper, ‘Winona ‘88’. A belting
collection of soundtracky fun
from the ever-excellent Burning
Witches. Limited to 500 copies
on purple and black vinyl for
Record Store Day, so you’d
better hurry! NM
80
STEVEN JULIEN
Bloodline
Apron
Julien follows his acclaimed
2016 debut ‘Fallen’ with a
mini-album dedicated to his
family. Like any gathering of
relatives, it starts off lairy then
winds its neck in. And what a
mucky bunch. The first half’s
acid electro is gutter-dirty,
all ricocheting 808 claps and
rasping hi-hats. Lovely. Even as
we reach the blissful Balearics
of ‘Queen Of Ungilsan’, you’ll
want to scrub behind its ears.
This musical family hasn’t
hoovered for weeks and I like
it a lot. FR
OGRE AND DALLAS
CAMPBELL
All Hallows
Spun Out Of Control
SUNSET GRAVES
The Inevitable End
Spun Out Of Control
Recorded in what Sunset Graves
(UK composer Andy Fosberry)
Originally a limited cassettedescribes as the “nothing
only release (as seems to be the
matters anyway” year of 2017,
accepted medium for the faux
‘The Inevitable End’ comes off
soundtrack scene), this hour
the back of a break-up where
of slow-build electronic mood
music (mood = disquiet gradually he was “shaping the next phase
of my life”. There’s a glorious
morphing into terror) is now
getting a re-release. It’s a cross- dark energy running through
the record, which evoks the
Atlantic collaboration, with
likes of Blanck Mass. Take the
OGRE (aka Robin Ogden) based
antithetically titled ‘Solace’ for
in Exeter and Dallas Cambell in
instance, where electronic
America, and has the distinction
textures that gurgle and rumble
of having a short story attached
to its warm, deep John Carpenter around processed rhythms.
There’s an ominous beauty to
arpeggiating bass synths. ‘All
proceedings and it’s well worth
Hallows’ is expertly executed
your time. FM
with real reverence for its
source material. MR
THE BACK
A RMS AND SL EEPERS
MOON GANGS
CONFIDENCE M AN
THE BLOW
ARMS AND SLEEPERS
MOON GANGS
If you like your tunes baggy
and your beats shuffling, this, a
seventh LP from midwest US duo
Mirza Ramic and Max Lewis will
be just the ticket. Morphing over
the years from howling post-rock
guitars to warm trip hop, Arms
And Sleepers make no secret
of their love of Melbourne’s
The Avalanches, which is in full
effect on tracks like ‘A Little
Larger The The Entire Universe’
and ‘Down’. The locked-down
groove of ‘I’m Not Sour, You’re A
Bitch’ or the twinkling ‘It Was Us’
only adds to late night wares on
show here. NM
Expansive and impressionistic
synth-dominated instrumental
workouts are the order of the
day on this, the debut album by
Moon Gangs, the solo project
of Beak> guitarist/synthesist
William Young. As well as
kosmiche pioneers Tangerine
Dream and Popol Vuh, he points
to the influence of 80s movie
soundtracks like ‘The Terminator’
and ‘Videodrome’. Definitely
apparent on tense, throbbing
offering ‘The Terminal’ and the
simple but effective spookiness
of ‘Sea Circles’. Film not
included, but plenty to fuel your
imagination here. BW
Find The Right Place
Pelagic
Earth Loop
Village Green
CONFIDENCE MAN
Confident Music For
Confident People
Heavenly
Landing in our lap from Brisbane,
Queensland, Janet Planet,
Sugar Bones, and the shadowy
Reggie Goodchild and Clarence
McGuffie caught our ear last
year with the irrestistable pots
and pans pop of ‘Bubblegum’, a
song so fizzy Elon Musk could
launch rockets with it. Their
people ably describe them as
a portable party. They’re not
wrong, they make Deee-lite look
like Leonard Cohen. The album
is stupidly infectious, packed
as it is with funksome grooves,
infectious, singalong choruses
and proper cheeky pup lyrics.
Much fun. NM
THE BLOW
Brand New Abyss
Phantom Limb
Hailing from the East Coast
of America, The Blow are
duo Melissa Dyne and
Khaela Maricich and ‘Brand
New Abyss’ is the inaugural
original release of their newly
formed WOMANPRODUCER
collective. Theirs is a unique
and original sound, with raw
digitalia and confessional lyrics,
sometimes combining to make
confrontational listening, like
the hipster-baiting ‘Get Up’ or
their cover of ‘The Greatest
Love Of All’. Others tracks (‘So
There’, ‘Think About Me’) crave
a touching sweetness from the
instinctive simplicity. BW
81
JENNY W IL SON
JENNY WILSON
DIE WILDE JAGD
MARK PETERS
As with The Soft Moon’s recent album
‘Criminal’, there’s no reason why personal
trauma and the resultant musical catharsis
can’t make for essential listening. And of
course, with Harvey Weinstein et al, never
has there been a better time for artists to
confront men with their shameful crimes.
Wilson’s previous album ‘Demand The
Impossible!’ was met with high praise, but
that was five years ago. The reason for her
lack of output since has everything to do
with the sexual assault she suffered at the
hands of an everyday monster hiding behind,
as ‘Disrespect Is Universal’ puts it, “combat
green and converse”.
Unflinching, uncompromising but
consistently accessible throughout, the best
tracks here are framed by a Prophet-6 synth,
which on tracks like ‘Rapin*’ brilliantly adds
adrenalinised tension (think John Carpenter
but real horror). Wilson’s crystalline voice
has a straightforwardness that makes her
eminently listenable, and which also renders
the subject matter of ‘Exorcism’ doubly
affecting. CG
It’s long got to the point where you know
anything released on Bureau B is going to,
at the very least, blow your mind in the spirit
of the finest krautrock. This follow-up to
2015’s self-titled debut sees Düsseldorf ‘s
Simon Lee Philipp still working with synth
geek-producer Ralf Beck, to forge another
highly-personal statement. For starters, it
pitches 15 languorous but relentless minutes
of ‘Flederboy’ circuit-humping a mutant
bassline from Pink Floyd’s ‘Let There Be
More Light’.
Stage suitably set, there’s three vocal
outings, some with New Order guitar
phantoms, and four more instrumentals laced
with animal acid fantasies, bat boys, vivid
arcane tableaux and flaming forest skies.
Amid the glowering panoramas of ancient
sounds and electronic jiggery-pokery, it’s
all tuned to building the relevant mood.
Most impressively, he’s not afraid to let a
living pulse run uninterrupted while the
spirits close in and do their worst.
Auspicious all the way. KN
As Engineers co-founder and two-time Ulrich
Schnauss collaborator, Mark Peters is no
stranger to working as part of a team. For
‘Innerland’ though, he’s going it alone for the
first time. The album originally came out last
December on cassette only, strictly limited
to 125 copies. Now however, it’s getting the
complete works – a CD and vinyl release,
along with an expanded tracklisting.
Reconnecting with his youth and
rediscovering a sense of place was the
inpsiration for the record after Peters
returned to live in north west England two
years ago. Each track on ‘Innerland’ is named
after a landmark in and around Wigan and
Formby and the psychogeographical theme
runs through the record, evoking nostalgic
memories for Peters as well as reflected in
the Ordnance Survey-style sleeve. There’s
a mystical vein at work too – dreamlike guitar
twangs reverb through ‘Gabriel’s Ladder’,
a sweeping drone echoes in ‘Mann Island’.
It’s a beautifully personal album, and one
that will resonate with many. Going solo
appears effortless for Mr Peters. FM
Exorcism
Gold Medal
82
Uhrwald Orange
Bureau B
Innerland
Sonic Cathedral
THE BACK
μ-ZIQ
Challenge Me Foolish
Planet Mu
BRIEF
ENCOUN
TERS
LOST GEMS FROM MR PARADINAS’ LATE-90s PURPLE
PERIOD RESURFACE AND THERE’S AN ALBUM-FULL
PLANET MU LABEL MAESTRO MIKE PARADINAS FIELDS
PROBING QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS LONG-LOST μ -ZIQ CUTS
The new long-player from Planet Mu boss and electronic
sorcerer Mike Paradinas, aka μ-Ziq, is composed of
unreleased material made between 1998 and 1999
which has been gathering digital dust on a hard drive
somewhere ever since. Offcuts to some, but a source of
joy for us, as μ-Ziq is among the most original electronic
producers the UK has produced.
Like fellow unconventional thinkers Aphex Twin,
Squarepusher and Luke Vibert, μ-Ziq was lumped in
with a new form of electronic music when he first
emerged in the early 90s. Hard to categorise, μ-Ziq
drew from a variety of not-always-compatible styles
for inspiration, from jungle and hardcore to ambient, TV
soundtracks to 1960s electronic experiments. The terms
applied to describe his sound, such as IDM (intelligent
dance music) and drill ’n’ bass, failed to adequately
capture what he was making: in fact, simply arresting,
original electronic music.
‘Challenge Me Foolish’ is similarly broad in its
reference points. ‘Bassbins’ is an instant standout,
pairing splintered jungle breaks and menacing sub bass
with strange, gauzy synth melodies of the type that
Boards Of Canada made their own.
‘Lexicon’ pursues a similar weird twist on drum
’n’ bass, with sinuous electronics and chords you’d
not normally find in the genre, yet adds the vocals
of Japanese singer Kazumi, who appears throughout
‘Challenge Me Foolish’. She adds warmth to the record,
especially on the title track where her soulful intonations
merge with pensive electronics and breezy flute-like
tones. ‘Sad Inlay’ has the squiggly keys you might
associate with some forgotten kids TV show of the early
1980s, but the overall effect is bittersweet; Kazumi’s
vocals here, which again coast over some hyperspeed
breakbeats, are reminiscent of Massive Attack
collaborator Nicolette.
‘Peek Freans’ (which continues Paradinas’ obsession
with out-dated foodstuffs, like his older track ‘Iced
Jems’), possibly goes too far with its overly jolly
melodies; but it’s tempered by the beauty of ‘Perhaps’,
like a 1960s French film soundtrack recovered from a
sunken vessel.
Why ‘Challenge Me Foolish’ sat dormant so long is a
mystery, as it’s a wonderful record to rank with some of
Paradinas’ best.
Hello Mike, hope you’re well…
I’m actually not very well. I’ve had severe tonsilitis. I’m on antibiotics
and recovering now, but thanks for your concern.
So, a lost album from 1998-99. Guess if you knew where you lost it, it
wouldn’t have been lost right?
How else do you present an album of material that wasn’t released?
Almost lost, archive?
Are you one of those people who loses a lot of things? Car keys, wallet…
Actually no, I am very fastidious in where I keep things, and I rarely
lose my phone and never my keys. Also who has a wallet in 2018?
So ‘Challenge Me Foolish’ is out-takes from ‘Royal Astronomy’ sessions?
That’s correct. While I was going through the DATs for the Mike &
Rich reissue in 2016 I found all these tracks and decided to burn
them to a CD for the car. I sort of refined my favourites down into this
album, which I’m really happy with.
‘Royal Astronomy’ was a real genre-defining moment… which genre is
open to debate. Your thoughts?
Well, it got some good reviews at the time, but was rather rejected by
the cognoscenti as being too poppy and badly produced. But people
do keep telling me they loved it. It stands up well today I think.
How was listening back to all this when you re-discovered it?
Nostalgic and surprising. Some tracks I remembered easily, but
several I had no memory of.
How on earth did tracks like ‘Inclement’ and ‘Peek Freans’ and the
glorious string-soaked ‘Robin Hood Gate’ not make the cut first time?
I think because of the wealth of material. I may not even have sent
them to Dave Boyd, Hut recording’s A&R, at the time. I didn’t really
stop to think about it to be honest. It’s always “on to the next thing”.
Working on your own is interesting. Who did you turn to second opinions?
Dave Boyd was a great font of advice. Also friends gave their
opinions.
Ever got it wrong? Ever had a track you thought was a killer only to find
others though it was a bit iffy?
All the time actually, especially with releases on Planet Mu. It’s
usually the reverse though, a track that the artist thinks is throwaway,
but everyone else really loves! But yeah, there’s the track ‘Wannabe’
on ‘Lunatic Harness’, which I love but many think is filler.
Is ‘Challenge Me Foolish’ better than ‘Royal Astronomy’?
It’s not for me to say, but I’ll hazard a “yes”, I mean this is a
promotional interview right? Er…
Your people describe the music you were producing around the turn of
the century as “baroque, melodic and whimsical”. Whimsical?
I’m full of whimsy. Gentle humour, although not essential to music,
doesn’t necessarily devalue it, and can be quite beneficial in certain
circumstances. I don’t mean ‘The Laughing Gnome’.
Jean-Jacques Perrey’s name pops to mind. Is his spirit alive in your work?
I reckon his rhythms were definitely an inspiration to my ‘Urmur Bile’
EP, and that whimsical sense of melody he had.
BEN MURPHY
83
BURIED
TREASURE
N-A-G
Untitled Vinyl Remix
De Nova Da Capo UNEARTHING ELECTRONIC GOLD
DISCO INFERNO
Technicolor
Rough Trade
It’s 1996, Britpop is all-seeing and Rough Trade couldn’t give a hoot.
They’ve just released ‘Technicolor’ the third and final offering from
Redbridge’s Disco Inferno in a career that spanned a mere six years.
On the face of it, they were a traditional guitar band, shrinking from a
teenage four-piece to a trio of singer/guitarist Ian Crause, bassist Paul
Willmott and drummer Rob Whatley when keyboard player Daniel Gish
quit before they’d released a note to join Bark Psychosis, based up the
road in Snaresbrook.
Fuelled by a love of My Bloody Valentine and The Young Gods, early
doors Disco Inferno made a bloody racket. That idea of sound for sound’s
sake really caught Crause’s imagination and, in October 1992, their
‘Summer’s Last Sound’ EP on hard-up east London label Cheree saw
something of a change in direction with one essential purchase.
“I had some money in a savings account from my bar mitzah,” Crause
told Jeanette Leech for her excellent ‘Fearless: The Making Of PostRock’ book. “I had to fight my parents for about six months to let me use
part of it to get the sampler I wanted.”
Battle won, he spent a whopping £2,500 on an Akai S-950. Just as
sample-heavy licks and MIDI tricks blew the doors off the Disco Inferno
sound their label went bust and, lucky for us, Rough Trade snaffled them.
A string of increasingly ambitious EPs followed and while it seems to be
accepted that the peak of their powers is their second album, 1994’s ‘D I
Go Pop’, for my hard-earned, it’s this, their final offering, that tops the lot.
It’s sort of pop songs, but they full of EVERYTHING. The melodies
are there, but they fight with walls of sound and waves of samples.
‘Technicolor’ is full of “Oh hello” moments. ‘Sleight Of Hand’ sums things
up nicely. Sure, it’s a pretty straight song to begin with, much of their
output is, and then it’s bludgeoned into something else entirely. The killer
though is ‘It’s A Kid’s World’. I still recall being stopped in my tracks,
hearing it for the first time on Peel.
The sample is so obvious it seems daft they even bothered when a
few months earlier it was starring in ‘Trainspotting’. That drum beat,
even slowed down and wonked up, is unmistakable. ‘Lust For Life’. The
melodies are from two kids’ TV themes, which need more eagle ears
– ‘Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds’ and ‘Willo The Wisp’, both
of a certain vintage. Best not get me started on the significance of 1981.
The whole thing is deliciously unhinged, all pumping keys and heavily
choruses guitars, it’s almost Afrobeat, ‘Graceland’ anyone? Nah, that’s
too mad. Isn’t it? The whole thing is glorious.
By the end, Disco Inferno took whatever you thought you knew about
pop, turned it inside out, held it upside down and shook it until the loose
change fell out. This month sees One Little Indian (their label in the US)
reissue this mighty record on vinyl for the first time since its original
outing. Treat yourself to a lost classic from these true trailblazers.
NEIL MASON
84
ELIJAH’S MANTLE MAN MARK ST JOHN ELLIS
RETURNS TO HIS POST-PUNK BEGINNINGS
Mark St John Ellis, aka N-A-G, is an unconventional
fellow. Which is why ‘Untitled Vinyl Remix’ is a CD. A CD
of material reworked from two previous CDs. So no vinyl
anywhere in the story, then. It’s also why the six tracks
here are all titled ‘Untitled’. And why the last track is
actually two tracks, the second not titled ‘Untitled’. More
of which shortly. Confused? Excellent. If you know your neo-classical, especially where it
edges into darkwave, you’ll know Mark St John Ellis. He’s
headed up the De Nova Da Capo label since 1990, initially
establishing it as a vehicle for his Elijah’s Mantle project –
nine albums to date – but later also releasing records
by the likes of Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance and
soundtrack composer Rhett Brewer. But back before
any of this, Ellis was the chief architect of Masque, a cult
London outfit who combined weighty industrial music
with incredibly visceral live performances. Most Masque
gigs ended with Ellis shedding blood. We’re not talking
metaphorically here. We’re talking your actual running
red stuff. N-A-G is Ellis giving his old analogue synths an
outing and his post-punk roots a thoroughly 21st century
shakedown. ‘Untitled Vinyl Remix’ is the third and final
part of N-A-G’s ‘… the dirt once found in the grooves…’
project and features bursts of spiky guitar and loops
of feedback alongside the muscular electronic pulses and
clattering percussion. Imagine if Meat Beat Manifesto
had formed in 1982 and signed to 4AD. There are glitches
and scratches galore, as well as a tinkling music box
and a noisy clock. There are tons of intriguing vocal
samples too, including snippets of French avant-garde
dramatist Antonin Artaud, a major influence on Ellis
throughout his career. The sixth track is split in two by a minute of silence,
the second half a wholly unexpected and viciously
twisted drum ‘n’ bass version of Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag
Nag Nag’. Like much of what is here, it’s beefy and
groovy and a little unsettling, not least because the lyrics
are crystal clear. Mono heads this way please. So how good is ‘Untitled Vinyl Remix’? Very. It really is
a treat. Hunt it down. Get it before it gets you. PUSH THE BACK
IN WARDS
INWARDS
Diesel
Small Pond
The debut album from Kristian Shelley, aka
Inwards, is the product of two seemingly
incompatible notions. On the one hand,
it’s the result of this modular synth boffin
retreating to a log cabin by a nature reserve
in the English countryside to write his tunes;
on the other, it’s derived from watching his
train driver dad working in his garage fixing
automotive parts.
So Shelley’s electronic music draws
from the patterns of nature, but is in sway to
mechanical rhythms too. This is wonderfully
evoked on the emotive and wayward ‘Elastic
Dream’, where the beats chatter away in the
backdrop, but the weird circuit-bent synths
sway like something from Autechre’s classic
‘Incunabula’. ‘Now + Then’ has nostalgic
bell melodies, but the rhythms sound like
someone clanking their way around a
workshop with a spanner as a drumstick.
It is slightly in thrall to its 1990s ambient
reference points, but, for our money, it’s a
sublime listen. BM
THE NATIONAL JAZZ TRIO OF
SCOTLAND
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Standards Vol IV
Karaoke Kalk
Interferencias Vol 1 – Spanish Synth Wave
1980-1989
Munster
What a delight this is. Belying it’s slightly
clever pose (this Bill Wells collective is
not a trio and they don’t play much jazz),
it charms your baffies off right from the
first, harp-complemented bars of opener
‘Quick To Judge (Don’t Be So)’, sung by the
extraordinarily gifted Kate Sudgen.
She enunciates like some boreal
Astrud Gilberto on the fragile, beautifully
sculpted ‘Move’, perhaps restrained by the
long northern winter in her vivid portrait
of depression, which is granted clever
counterpoint by subtly-employed bossa nova
guitar and clave rhythms.
Serial collaborator Wells (Aidan Moffat,
The Pastels, Yo La Tengo, Isobel Campbell)
seems to have really found the right place for
his experimental explorations with this outfit.
And for his penchant for dry irony, whereby
‘Tinnitus Lullaby’ tells of “a never ending
ringing… to save your soul from sleep” over
the melancholy tinkles of a music box-like
synth. File under “one-offs”. CG
This is the electronic sound of Spanish
youths who had grown up under grim old
Franco’s military dictatorship (and then a
failed military coup in 1981), many of whom
had to ditch their creative ambitions when
they were called up for their stint of military
service. This makes for a worthy addition to
the synth archivist’s collection, alongside the
French comp of post-punk and cold wave late
70s/early 80s ’Des Jenues Gens Modernes’,
or any of Minimal Wave’s unerringly fine
selections of European DIY synthpop.
It’s not all great, but there are enough
gems, such as Septimo Sello’s ‘Burdel’,
the frantic Waq track ’S.I.’, the military
minimalism of ‘Benelux’ by Líneas Aéreas,
‘Radio’ by Vocoder, the strident ‘Varsovia
en Llamas’ by Aviator Dro, El Humano
Mecano’s mechanical ‘Sucursal’ and Diseño
Corbusier’s fine freakout ‘Golpe de Amistad’.
It gets weirder as it progresses, oh, and don’t
be put off by cheesey opener ‘Respuesta
Alternativa’ by Todotodo. MR
85
HENRY GREEN
HENRY GREEN
Shift
Akira
POLYPORES
The Impossibility
Polytechnic Youth
Sometimes crises can produce unexpected
If you’ve checked out the fabulous A Year
results. In the case of Bristolian Henry Green, In The Country compilations we’ve been
his crunch point was one of direction; the
recommending for the last year or more,
result is what turned out to be tremendously
you’ll be aware of regular contributor
understated gem of a debut album.
Polypores, aka Preston key prodder, knob
Recorded in the twin hipster locales of
twiddler and effects enthusiast Stephen
Brizzle and Berlin, ‘Shift’ has a lightness of
James Buckley. Buckley makes what he
touch that nevertheless leaves a firm and
calls “haunted space music” and I can’t
lasting imprint on you. This is music full of
think of a better way of putting it.
introspection and indecision, retaining a
The “haunted” bit is as important as the
constant sense of forward motion even if
“space” bit, because ‘The Impossibility’ is an
the pace is often imperceptible.
evocative trip into the past as well as
From the echoing footsteps and
the future. An unimaginably ancient past
shimmering, muted textures of the heartfelt
too. So while ‘Divine Astronaut’ and ‘The
vignette ‘We’ to the fragile Balearic euphoria Great Acceleration’ soar straight and smooth,
of the housey ‘Another Light’, Green is shown ever onwards and upwards, shooting way
to be a masterful emotional manipulator.
beyond the heavens, ‘Algae Blooms’ and
By the time the achingly beautiful closing
‘Teeming’ are dark and slithery and positively
track ‘Something’ floats into view, Green
primeval. Ditto the dramatic ‘Elohim’, my
has moved us from chilly ambience to a
favourite track here, which’ll make you think
languid sensitivity reminiscent of José
you’ve got a gigantic bluebottle stuck in your
González; all genteel Latin guitar flourishes
inner ear.
and muffled shoegazery innocence. MS
‘The Impossibility’ is an impressive record.
Its appeal may prove to be both timeless
and endless. I’ll let you know when I stop
listening it. P
86
MATT KARMIL
Will
Smalltown Supersound
Born near Stonehenge in Hampshire, but
now settled in Cologne after spending his
20s travelling the globe to DJ, collect records
and produce, Matt Karmil delivers his fourth
album, eight tracks that are seamlessly
segued into one continuous piece of music.
The influence of the more experimental edge
of modern-era German electronic music is
apparent throughout.
Kompakt founder Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS
project is namechecked as an influence, but
tracks like ‘Sloshy’ and ‘Morals’ also bear
clear parallels with the work of Moritz von
Oswold, whose Basic Channel releases were
low on components but big on atmosphere
and a scratchy, fizzing radioactivity. Mainly
operating in the grey area between ambient,
techno and minimalism, tracks like ‘Nand’,
‘Gory Hole’ and epic closing tune ‘Maffé’ are
rich in texture, synthetic and organic alike
and while ‘Can’t Find It (The House Sound)’ is
the most conventional offering, its shuffling
beats and sonar bleeps still delight. BW
THE BACK
BANTU CONTINUA UHURU
CONSCIOUSNESS
Emakhosini
Buda Musique
DRINKS
Hippo Lite
Drag City
ROBERT GÖRL
The Paris Tapes
Grönland
Cate Le Bon and regular co-conspirator Tim
Presley recorded this album in a hot month in
Oddly recalling US trumpeter Eddie Gale’s
an old mill in rural France with no internet. It
classic ‘Ghetto Music’ album released on
sounds like flakes from the crumbling plaster
Blue Note 50 years ago, BCUC carry on
of their down-at-heel Airbnb chateau have
the South African mission of mesmerising
floated from the walls and bonded with the
afro-psych trance workouts, reaching for
liberation while expressing political agitation. ferrous oxide on the tape (yes, it also sounds
like it was recorded to tape), such is the
Recorded with producer Antoine Rajon
evocation of time and place.
at Back To Mono studio in Lyon last summer,
Interludes like ‘When I Was Young’ and
the seven-piece’s emotional rollercoasters
‘In The Night Kitchen’ are all tape flutter and
are steered by Ephraim Skhumbuzo
room/rural idyll ambience Recalling some of
Mahlangu’s throbbing bass and dynamic
Can’s weirder communal meanderings, you
multi-percussion grooves over which the
can sense the musty mattresses stacked up
vocalists call, respond, and soar. Sounding
old as time, but accentuated by modern sonic for soundproofing in the summer heat. The
perky ’Real Outside’ sounds likes the pair
manipulation and Jamaican toasting, they
have pressed the cutlery from their kitchen
create a new strain of conscious dub laced
table into percussion service, and ‘Corner
with political uproar.
Shops’ and ‘Ducks’ are like an early Fall
The ultimate conclusion is that pain and
line up scoring a 1972 children’s animation
oppression, turning anger into euphoric
from Czechoslovakia. ‘You Could Be Better’
energy, is timeless. After ‘Moya’ runs over 19
closes proceedings with climactic hypnotic
delirious minutes and ‘Insimbi’ for 16, closing
minimalist repetition. Fantastic. MR
with an Afro-raga take on old spiritual
‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’ is the
final masterstroke in this brutally-compelling
statement for modern times. KN
Rediscovered in a suitcase, Robert Görl’s
‘The Paris Tapes’, were never intended for
release. Recorded during a period of extreme
personal upheaval following his tenure in
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and
a moderately successful solo pop career,
these 10 tracks were all recorded using an
Ensoniq ESQ-1 synth while Görl was avoiding
conscription in his native Germany during
the second half of the 80s. The result is an
album where the backstory is arguably more
interesting than the music itself.
The use of one solitary keyboard gives
these untitled instrumental sketches an
inevitable sameness, while the patina
of murky non-production creates a hazy
nostalgia, with wonky vignettes such as
‘Part 8’ sounding like the half-remembered
music to the computer game ‘Lemmings’.
‘Part 4’ is a delicate synth waltz aligned
to a mitteleuropäischen classical tradition
while ‘Part 5’ feels like a DAF outtake, only
without Conny Plank’s grubby production
and Gabi Delgado-Lopez’s urgent
protestations. MS
SOFT AS SNOW
STARS OF THE LID
MAKENESS
Berlin’s Soft As Snow (Norwegian-born duo
Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen)
do things very much on their own terms.
Although pioneering influences – Fever Ray,
Cabaret Voltaire, Detroit techno, everything
on Minimal Wave, among others – are very
much in evidence, the edgy, future-facing
sounds on their inaugural album feel anything
but derivative. Going old school with
analogue equipment and samplers (rather
than laptops), and with Starheim’s enigmatic,
unearthly voice upfront, ‘Deep Wave’ is a riot
of unshackled free expression.
Big on ideas and rich with detail, it
crackles with electrifying energy, from the
hurtling synths and full-on sensory assault
of ‘Tropical Speed’, urging you to turn it up
and feel the noise, to the muscular, Knifelike convulsions and pulsating bass of ‘Pink
Rushes’ that properly leave you reeling. Raw,
exhilarating, playful and startlingly original,
it’s a hugely powerful record that is so much
more than the sum of its parts. VI
Along with artists such as Biosphere and
Labradford, Stars Of The Lid injected a kind
of muscular vitality into ambient electronica.
Their sound shimmers metallic, with a
colossal tension strung out in long-form like
the birth of a star. Where their peers often
struggle to transcend the monotony that
these types of synthesised texture can allow,
SOTL squeeze their drones for every moment
of drama and soaring resonance.
Originally released in 1996, this is the
second album by duo Brian McBride and
Adam Wiltzie, and it’s far more focused
than their debut ‘Music For Nitrous Oxide’.
Perhaps Austin isn’t the first place you’d
pick as the home of such dreamy kosmische,
but it actually makes sense. Like all Texans,
SOTL do it bigger and better; these five
tracks range from four to almost 20 minutes,
culminating with the devastating crescendo
of drone that is ‘Be Little With Me’. ST
Deep Wave
Houndstooth
Gravitational Pull Vs The Desire For An
Aquatic Life
Kranky
Loud Patterns
Secretly Canadian
Hailing from the Isle Of Harris isn’t something
we find ourselves saying that often, or in fact,
at all. Makeness’ Kyle Molleson spent his
early years in Harris, before being schooled
in England, studying in Leeds and eventually
feeling the tug of the bright lights a couple
of years ago where Makeness began to take
shape. The one constant has been his studio
in a converted 200-year-old barn back in
the Outer Hebrides. Summer after summer
he’d return to lay down tracks with various
bandmates in tow and now, flying solo, he’s
really reaping rewards with his Makeness
debut, ‘Loud Patterns’, one perfectly titled
album if ever there was. There’s a real
maturity at work here, Brainfeeder has been
a big influence and you can hear it seeping
in on the sweet vocals and off-kilter jazzy
keys of ‘Who Am I To Follow Love’, while
elsewhere, Kyle points towards Detroit
with the crisp, bright rhythms and rolling
basslines of ‘Gold Star’. A record that
won’t be pinned down style-wise then, but
nevertheless there’s a real consistency in
its quality. NM
87
MIDAS FAL L
MIDAS FALL
DUNGEN & WOODS
VARIOUS ARTISTS
This scottish duo of Elizabeth
Heaton and Rowan Burn weave
a captivating path in this, their
fourth full-length. ‘Evaporate’
combines elements of post-rock
and electronica, along with
Heaton’s haunting vocals, to
create an album that drips with
gothic ambience. It can get a
little bit quaint at times, but
that’s almost immediately offset
by the menacing soundscapes
conjured throughout the record.
The title track alone delights
with cinematic atmosphere and
melancholic vocal fragility. FM
Tour pals and masters of their
respective oeuvres (Stockholm’s
Dungen have purveyed synthheavy psych-prog since 2001,
and Brooklyn’s Woods releases
some of the best pastoral indiefolk around), this collaboration
came about after residency at
Texas’ Marfa Myths festival.
None of its seven tracks dilly,
with highlights ‘Turn Around’
and the lysergic, flute-led ‘Marfa
Sunset’ getting right to the trippy
point, impressively melding their
irresistible sun-rich sounds
together in proper one-off style.
It’s unusual to find this much
BC Studios, in Gowanus,
emotional fragility and bleak
Brooklyn, was founded by Martin soul in a modern electronicallyBisi 35 years ago and became the produced vocal album. Derry’s
home for many genre-defining
Ryan Vail however imbues
records including Eno’s ‘On Land’, his follow-up to 2016’s debut
Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’ and
‘For Every Silence’ with rare,
most of Swans’ output. For this
intricately-wrought intimacy
timely tribute, Bisi captured 13
and modern European classical
improvisations recorded with
flavours enhancing moods over
members of Pussy Galore, Cop
its subtle beats. Tracks such as
Shoot Cop and countless other
‘Shadows’ and ‘Moonlight’ are
BC regulars. ‘SYNESTHESIA!’
built for solitary headphones
is a cataclysmic, ear-ruining
rapture and, heard in one sitting,
highlight, while ‘Nowhere Near
the album becomes a remarkably
The Rainbow’ mixes wayward
emotional journey. A brave new
synths with some pretty lowtalent to watch. KN
slung no wave shapes. MS
Evaporate
Monotreme
Myths 003
Mexican Summer
CG
88
BC35: The 35 Year Anniversary
Of BC Studios
Bronson
RYAN VAIL
Distorted Shadows
Quiet Arch
THE BACK
ERL AND COOPER
ERLAND COOPER
Solan Goose
Phases
From The Magnetic North’s
talented multi-instrumentalist,
here’s an elegiac neo-classical
piece themed around the birdlife
of his native Orkney. Composed
in therapeutic response to
the anxiety caused by big city
life, this is quite the immersive
meditation. Each track is named
after specific species in old
Orcadian; so the ‘Solan Goose’ is
the sea-fishing gannet, and the
enchanting ‘Cattie-face’ builds
around an archive-recorded
Islander recalling how the shorteared owls referenced were
once tamed. CG
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Flowers From The Ashes:
Contemporary Italian
Electronic Music
Stroboscopic Artefacts
‘Flowers From The Ashes’
provides a fascinating snapshot
of the electronic Italian diaspora
in 2018. As suggested by the
title, all 10 tracks have a certain
nostalgic quality to them,
whether expressed through
Neel’s dreamy ‘4G’, or Ninos
Du Brasil’s brash ‘Noite Atrás’.
Others manage to marry these
two approaches, namely Lory D
and his magnificent ‘PRV-HH3-X’,
which starts off strong and never
loses momentum, propelled by
deft acidic flecks and stretchy
synths. JB
KASBO
NONPAREILS
Moody “cry-dance” DJ Kasbo
aims for the heart strings with
these crystalline club cuts. The
ubiquitous helium vocals should
evoke EDM heaven, but perhaps
also conjure the spectres of
Diplo and Bieber. Still, there’s a
masterful melancholy beneath
the Instagram sheen, turning
trip hop into a breezy groove on
‘Bleed It Out’ with Zara Larsson
collaborator Nea, and on ‘Snow
In Gothenburg’ invoking the
plaintive sounds of Danish
rockers Mew. Unmoved? Yes.
But quite charmed. FR
Having left Liars in 2017,
‘Scented Pictures’ is Aaron
Hemphill’s first solo studio album,
and here we find him operating
under the influence of special
effects innovator Georges
Méliès. Like Big Star’s ‘Third’,
Hemphill’s songs are accessible
but unhinged, and even his
most simple pop melodies have
a haunting quality. Echoes of
his old outfit can be found in
the drowsy vocals and rhythm
section, but the album
is strongest from ‘Press Play’,
a glimmering early Gary Numanlike tune, onwards. LB
Places We Don’t Know
Counter
Scented Pictures
Mute
89
ECHO COL L EC TIVE
ECHO COLLECTIVE
CHRISTINA VANTZOU
THE LONGCUT
SAÅAD
Echo Collective is a Brusselsbased neo-classical ensemble
who have collaborated with
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Erasure and
Maps. Their take on Radiohead’s
2001 ‘Amnesiac’ album identifies
a previously-buried stentorian
noir-ness in tracks like ‘Pyramid
Song’ and ‘Morning Bell’, which
is a joy to discover. Both faithful
to the originals and refreshingly
new, Echo Collective’s ‘Plays
Amnesiac’ isolates the fine
melodic quotient in these pieces
now that they are free of the
modish glitches, Autotuned
vocals and cluttered of-its-time
over-experimentalism. MS
Vantzou’s ‘No. 4’ is the sort of
ambient album that escapes
into the space around you and
infuses it with an atmosphere
of ominous stillness. Like
pianist and composer Harold
Budd – whose work draws easy
comparison here – Vantzou
never allows her arrangements
to become overbearing or busy,
dropping in notes with precision.
This is most affecting on
‘Doorway’, and like its track name
suggests, it sounds as if there’s
something sinister hidden behind
its fog of bass and reverb. LB
Manchester trio The Longcut
seem to be striving for some
out-of-body catharsis on their
fourth LP since their 2006 debut
‘A Call And Response’. And it
all starts with the title track’s
sonic skyscraper stretching
beyond the usual indie-style
emotional yearning. Constructed
from months of laborious
deconstruction and re-recording,
tracks like ‘Punches’ (inspired
by a Raymond Scott motif) and
scurrying jangle of ‘Deathmask’
plant The Longcut in their city’s
grand musical tradition with a
savage modern riot of their own.
Saåad is the French duo of
Romain Barbot and Grégory
Buffier, and this is their third
release on the Anglo-French
Hands In The Dark label. Despite
maintaining a generally low
profile, ‘Présence Absente’ is
their latest in a considerable
back catalogue and perhaps their
strongest to date – tracks such
as ‘Offline Migrations’ or ‘Temps
Étranger’ being fine examples
of their field recording drone.
Elsewhere ‘Libations’ creeps
from in between the doomy
chime of a bell, before organ
and voice combine to provide a
certain ecclesiastical tone. ST
Echo Collective Plays Amnesiac
7K!
90
No. 4
Kranky
Arrows
Deltasonic
KN
Présence Absente
Hands In The Dark
THE BACK
LABEL PROFILE
THE INDIE IMPRINTS CATCHING OUR EARS
RIVAL
CONSOLES
Persona
Erased Tapes
WITH HIS THIRD LONG-PLAYER, SOUTH EAST
LONDON PRODUCER GETS ALL NEXT LEVEL
Dutch techno musician and producer Legowelt once
said that “a synthesiser is like a translator for unknown
emotions”, and ‘Persona’, Ryan Lee West’s latest album
as Rival Consoles, fearlessly taps into that theme,
digitally exploring human identity. Inspired by Ingmar
Bergman’s iconic 1966 psychological thriller of the same
name, in which two people eventually lose control of
who they are, it’s familiar territory for London-based
West, who has become something of a specialist at
creating “humanised” electronic soundscapes.
He just seems to get better and more expressive
with each new record, and there’s a definite sense of
next-level progression here. More sonically diverse and
adventurous than his last outing, 2016’s ‘Night Melody’,
‘Persona’ feels like a liberation of sorts – there’s a
marked shift in dynamic range and craft from, say, the
acid squelch and breakcore of early records ‘IO’ and
‘Kid Velo’, great as they are.
And much like Bergman’s powerful film, the album
is stunningly vivid and alluringly strange in places, a
beautifully-spun maelstrom of all-pervading textures,
resonant beats and analogue synth motifs that pull you
in like a magnetic force. Imagine snatches of Autechre,
Jon Hopkins and μ-Ziq layered and spliced with
enhanced technicolour and expansive arrangements,
and you’re getting halfway close.
Gloriously restless and unsettling, the music ebbs
and flows like a ferocious tide, playing with motifs
of light and dark, soft and loud. From the plangent,
coruscating synths of ‘Memory Arc’ to the exhilarating,
adrenaline-fuelled surge of ‘Phantom Grip’ and beyond,
there’s no let-up. And West is a master at creating
tension, as on the breathless ‘Hidden’, which builds and
builds from swirling electronic flourishes and clattering
riffs into a hedonistic, clubby banger. Even the album’s
gentler moments, such as the twinkling ‘Be Kind’ or the
serene ambience of ’Fragment’, possess a controlled
intensity, allowing space for reflection, emotional or
otherwise.
Man and machines in perfect harmony, ‘Persona’ is
breathtakingly good, so intensely compelling and richly
rewarding that it demands your full attention. Just shut
the curtains, turn off the lights and plug in. Arguably
Rival Consoles’ magnum opus, this is one of the albums
of the year, no question.
VELIMIR ILIC
LABEL: Heresy
LOCATION: Dublin
EST: 2012
POTTED HISTORY: “I’m an opera, theatre and video director and
producer with an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School,”
explains Heresy label boss Eric Fraad in one of the best opening gambits
we’ve heard in a while. “My wife, Caitríona O’Leary, is a traditional Irish
singer and we founded an Irish-based ensemble called eX in order to
create fully-staged musical spectacles. As we were working with some
of the leading singers and instrumentalists and guest directors in their
genres, we decided to lengthen our production schedules to include
recording. We recorded seven albums before we launched the label in
March 2012.”
MISSION STATEMENT: “I’m known as a provocateur in theatrical
circles; creating controversial interpretations of classical opera, drama
and mash-ups of music, dance and literature is my signature,” continues
Eric. “I’m basically a storyteller and my natural inclination is to create
works that are non-linear, thought-provoking and surprising. When I
founded the label, I decided to adopt a similar unorthodox ethos, hence
the name Heresy. The idea was that each album would tell a story in a
unique manner. What we hoped to manifest was a subversive art music
label with a theatrical flair.”
KEY ARTISTS & RELEASES: You won’t be remotely surprised to
hear that the label is wildly eclectic. Renowned for their work in the
traditional, folk and classical world (in particular ‘The Wexford Carols’,
a Number One album drawn from melodies that had, for the most part,
been lost since the 18th century), of real interest here are their recent
forays into electronic music. Working with a raft of contemporary Irish
composers, including the likes of Daniel Figgis and Cathal Coughlan, their
compilations ‘On The Nature Of Electricity & Acoustics’ and the recently
released ‘A Map Of The Kingdom Of Ireland’, are highly recommended.
Label mainstay Roger Doyle is an interesting chap too. The sleeve of his
electronic opera ‘Heresy’ alone is a marvel, while his 2015 album ‘Time
Machine’, based on answerphone messages he kept from family and
friends in the late 1980s, is hauntingly beautiful.
FUTURE PLANS: “We have plans for both large expensive projects
and small intimate ones,” concludes Eric. “I’m in conversation with
a couple of artists including an electronic music composer in Germany
that I believe will result in some very interesting new releases for
Heresy. As for the dream – there never was one. I was working with
many leading artists in a few genres and it seemed a natural choice
to found a label and record the music that we were performing.”
For more, visit heresyrecords.com
91
FIRST AND LAST AND ALWAYS
MOUSE
ON MARS
Dimensional People
Thrill Jockey
A FIRST LONG-PLAYING OUTING IN SIX YEARS
FOR THE CLASSY DÜSSELDORF/KÖLN DUO
JAN ST WERNER AND ANDI TOMA AKA MOUSE ON MARS
PICK THE FIRST AND LAST RECORDS THEY BOUGHT AND
THE ONE THEY TURN TO IN AN EMERGENCY *
FIRST
LAST
ALWAYS
HOLGER HILLER
Oben Im Eck
Mute, 1986
Hiller had been the frontman of German new wave
avant-garde group Palais Schaumburg and his solo
work surpassed the radical pop approach of his
band. ‘Oben Im Eck’ was a strange Dada-esque
sample collage Stravinsky, Negativland, Japanese
kodo drums, door slamming, electronic buzz, he
perfectly cut and edited everything using an E-MU
sampler. Of course, we were using an E-MU when
we started producing our own music.
TSEGE MARIAM GEBRU
Spielt Eigene Komposition
Mississippi/Change, 2012
Tsege Mariam Gebru is an Ethopian nun performing
her own piano compositions. We like piano music by
people like Poulenc, Debussy, Gurdjieff and Mompou
and often use one in our recordings. Gebru’s pieces
are calm and soothing, but also twisted, melancholic
and idiosyncratic. Gebru is not really considered
a classical music composer, but her work totally
stands the comparison though.
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Musique Concrète 1959 N° 1
BAM, 1959
Our favorite track from this famous seven-inch EP
is Ferrari’s ‘Étude Aux Accidents’. Ferrari produced
numerous classic recordings that still sound
completely modern. His harsh cut-up work is hinting
towards breakbeats and time-stretching, which at
that time, was unheard of. We performed a canon of
electronic music masterpieces at Cologne’s WDR
radio venue in 2014 s well as our own composition
‘De Umbris Idearum’ with Ensemble Musikfabrik. For
Ferrari’s piece we just played this record. It sounded
great through the big PA system.
* WORDS BY JAN. MOM PICKED RECORDS THEY BOTH AGREED ON, OR BOUGHT AT A SIMILAR TIME
92
A short drive from Mystic River, Massachusetts,
a visiting MIT lecturer jams a warehouse with
microphones. A crowd gathers to admire the tangle of
networked drums and wires across the floor, including
a great shimmering gong. They’ve spent their day at
the Dissolve Music conference enjoying talks called
“Multiperspectivity in Sound”, and now, as the evening
draws in, it’s time for an extraordinary album launch.
The lecturer rigging the room is Jan St Werner from
Mouse On Mars: he’s about to perform ‘Dimensional
People’, the Düsseldorf band’s first album for six years.
It’s a formal start for such a freeform album.
Anyone who remembers the honking brass of
1999’s ‘Yippie’ knows MOM have long-embraced live
instruments, but this album is the one that feels most
immediate. We begin being bowled over by a sonic
samba reminiscent of the more jittery elements of
Shangaan electro or Chigaco footwork: the phrase “more
cowbell” has never been less appropriate. The frenetic
dance melts into a hazy lament from a hacked-up Bon
Iver’s Justin Vernon. The heavily-edited vocals continue
with Beirut’s Zach Condon, while on ‘Foul Mouth’, US
performance artist Amanda Blank cuts through with
some glorious swearing.
Although MOM use the same musical key throughout
and, remarkably, a rigid 145 beats per minute, the
first five tracks form a movement that pinballs from
panic to peacefulness. In true Mars style, they take us
somewhere else for the second movement: ‘Parliament
Of Aliens’ poops the party with jagged violins and
stringed-out electronics smothered in moody glitches,
before the unruffled reggae of ‘Résumé’ toasts the better
world ahead of us.
The album’s tempo template, and the band’s pinpointprecise spatial mixing method (“surround-sound” to
normal people), means this genre-jumping restlessness
has a framework which stops it from falling apart. Indeed
the sheer mob of vocalists (among them Spank Rock,
Swamp Dogg, Lisa Hannigan, a couple of blokes from
The National) are kept in check, nestling neatly into the
intention of each track.
This feels like Mouse On Mars’ most considered work
yet: 24 years since ‘Vulvaland’, somewhere near a New
England river, they’ve blown the roof off the warehouse.
FAT ROLAND
THE BACK
CHROME SPA RKS
CHROME SPARKS
C DIAB
LEA BERTUCCI
PEREL
A self-confessed production
obsessive, Brooklyn-based
Jeremy Malvin wastes no time
getting his groove on here.
Fusing intricate sound design
and resplendent synthy textures,
the knob-twiddling skills of the
Chrome Sparks man shine bright
on this highly polished debut
LP. Guest singer Angelica Bess
adds a fetching future soul-ish
feel, but the best is saved for
last – the soaring, electro-stomp
of ‘Attack Sustain Release’ and
euphoric closer ‘To Eternity’,
which sounds like a lost Air
classic. VI
‘No Perfect Wave’, the 2016
album by Vancouver’s C Diab,
played with tension, pause and
angst, a dynamic that the more
gentle melancholy drones on
his new ‘Exit Rumination’ lack
somewhat. The moods conjured
here by the bowed guitarist/
trumper player are dark and
existential, like on ‘Postdrome’,
where a particularly mean drone
is created through a ritualistic,
growling cello. The layered
trumpet melodies of ‘Rise And
Shine’ take you to a desolate
place – it’s his most moving use
of the instrument yet. LB
If, according to her press
release, the work of Lea Bertucci
“describes relationships between
acoustic phenomena and
biological resonance”, then these
four tracks are the equivalent
of an irregular heartbeat. They
stop and start and flutter, as if
reacting to unseen sensual cues.
They are minimal, but not in a
clockwork, sterile sense. Instead,
‘Accumulations’ and ‘Sustain And
Dissolve’ swell and retreat like
pulse and lung in strange unison.
A real reat for those who are fans
of Budd and Eno. ST
Annegret Fiedler (or Perel) is
from Saxony, resides in Berlin,
and is unusually brave in
revealing her early influences.
Eurythmics were brilliant, but 2
Unlimited? On her debut album,
she proves that there are no
limits (sorry) to her ambition,
blending the best of German
electronic music history
(Cluster, DAF) with modern
techno influences. ‘Projeckt
3’ is a spiralling synth odyssey,
and ‘Die Dimension’ is utopian,
arpeggio-basslined synthpop
sung in her native tongue. Truly
excellent. BM
Chrome Sparks
Counter
Exit Rumination
Injazero
Metal Aether
NNA Tapes
Hermetica
DFA
93
HOL LY WOOD BURNS
HOLLYWOOD BURNS
Invaders
Blood Music
One of the most exciting records
to come out of 2018 so far, the
debut LP from Hollywood Burns
(French composer Emeric
Levardon) sets the sounds of
50s radio dramas with scifi-tinged 80s electronics and
modern synthwave. From the
cinematic ‘War Of The Worlds’esque ‘Opening Titles’, the
alien warbles inflecting the
orchestral pounding of ‘Scherzo
No 5 In Death Minor’ to riproaring standout track ‘Came
To Annihilate’ – ‘Invaders’ is an
amazing debut from an artist
with a very bright future. FM
94
GOLDMUND
Occasus
Western Vinyl
Pennsylvania’s Keith Kenniff
deploys a minimal palette of
piano, synth and reverb on
this collection of 15 delicate,
ephemeral pieces. With a
title referring to the rising and
setting of the sun, ‘Occasus’
sits somewhere between quiet
awe and harrowing finality. The
subtle ‘Bounded’, with its cycles
of wavering, tentative synth
echoes and filigree piano note
clusters, carries an ominous
impermanence as it collapses
into the urgent radio wave
emissions of a doomed star. MS
EFDEMIN
Naïf
Curle
Amid the glut of podcasts
pumped out through Soundcloud,
the mix CD appears to be a
musical dodo of sorts. However,
German label owner and
producer Efdemin bucks the
trend with ‘Naïf’. This brilliantly
ambitious mix comprised entirely
of exclusive tracks recorded by
the artist and his peers, which
range from UK techno don Steve
Bicknell’s driving ‘Running Man’
to Perlon-mainstay Margaret
Dygas’ haunting ‘Fony’. For those
interested, the tracks will be
released on seven separate vinyl
EPs throughout 2018. Lovely
stuff. JB
UNKNOWN MORTAL
ORCHESTRA
Sex & Food
Jagjaguwar
Food. Sex. Knobs of butter. Meat
and two veg. Hur hur. Sorry, I’m
getting side-tracked. Let’s get
to the point: Ruban Nielson
launched fourth album ‘Sex &
Food’ with the gasoline-fuelled
Bolan scuzz of ‘American
Guilt’, but that’s no clue to the
eclecticism here. Sausages. Hur!
They seem distracted, spinning
from proto-Prince to, at its
most lackadaisical, some kind
of Sunday afternoon Doobie
Brothers. Toad in the hole! Arf!
If only he’d learned to focus.
Melons. FR
THE BACK
A CERTAIN
RATIO
acr:mcr / I’d Like To
See You Again/ Good
Together / Up In
Downsville
Mute
HOLGER CZUKAY
Cinema
Grönland
DELUXE SOLO RETROSPECTIVE IN HONOUR OF
CAN MAN AND SAMPLE PIONEER SUPREME
If there’s one thing that could be said about Holger
Czukay, the singular compositional magician who sadly
died last year, is that he never once compromised. An
instinctive experimentalist, he probably never made a
bean. His inclination to the new even became too much
for his Can bandmates, booting him out in 1977 after
failing to note the prescience of his decision to replace
his bass for a “Sound Table”, which facilitated the
addition of radio broadcasts and even live phone calls
to performances.
The avant-garde was in Czukay’s blood (he studied
under Stockhausen after all) and in many respects was
its German epitome. Check the two tracks included
here from 1969’s ‘Canaxis 5’ for early proof. Recorded in
Stockhausen’s studio using recycled tape, the album’s
trailblazing approach put sampling at its centre, melding
distorted church choirs with traditional Vietnamese
voices recorded from short wave radio broadcasts
making ‘Boat Woman Song’ an hypnotic, mildly
unsettling future-incantation. It’s an exemplary entrée
into the solo and collaborative work Czukay produced
away from Can, who he of course co-founded. This year
would’ve been the 50th anniversary of their inception
by the way and also Czukay’s 80th birthday, hence the
timing of this exceptionally packaged five-disc set.
Covering a 50-year recording period across 34
tracks (include the fine work he did with the likes of
Stockhausen, Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, Eno and
Conny Plank) it’s a retrospective named after the Inner
Space studio, the former cinema in Weilerswist, just
outside Cologne, that served at his home and work
space from the early 1970s. But it’s surely also named
in part-homage to his 1979 long-player and solo
apogee, ‘Movies’, four tracks of which comprise an
entire disc here.
‘Cool In The Pool’ (disco-pop exploratory, slinky and
bit daft) reminds us of Czukay’s sense of fun. ‘Persian
Love’ though, is extraordinary. With a beautifully light,
spiritual touch, it splices poppy Afrobeat elements with
subtle snippets of traditional Farsi songs sung on Radio
Tehran, to surely form the inspirational template for Eno
& Byrne’s ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’. Ahead of the
curve then? Too right. Listen in wonder.
MANCHESTER’S RENEGADE TRAILBLAZERS
SERVE UP BUMPER ROUND OF REISSUES
The second wave of Mute reissues from the catalogue
of the highly influential, but criminally underrated
ACR covers the decade in the band’s history between
1982-1992, a period that saw them leave original home
Factory for major A&M and finally heralded as the lost
forefathers of Madchester.
Appropriately, the earliest of the four LPs, 1982’s ‘I’d
Like To See You Again’ starts with the sound of a bass
guitar being slapped into an infectious jazz-funk rhythm,
and Donald Johnson’s distinctive sound remains very
much at the centre of what they’re doing here. Although
classified alongside the likes of Throbbing Gristle and
Caberet Voltaire at the time, they remain very live and
non-electronic sounding across these eight tracks.
‘Hot Knights’, for instance, bears a closer relation to
the rude and raw funk of Parliament-Funkadelic than
experimental synth work, and even when vocoders are
used on the title track, it’s over the top of what sounds
like a northern brass band tussling with a New York
disco outfit.
Fast forward to 1989’s ‘Good Together’ album and
the band are sounding smoother and more polished,
pre-preened in readiness for Top 40 action and boosted
by Denise Johnson’s powerful backing vocals. Tracks
like ‘The Big E’ are pointing the right way, towards
the indie/dance crossover, but ultimately the overall
impression is of an A&R man smothering the creativity in
bland, stadium-sized production, sanding off most of the
interesting imperfections in the process. The best is the
snazzy cocktail funk of ‘Backs To The Wall’, but it’s still a
bit too sanitised.
The following year’s ‘acr:mcr’ has them sounding like
a completely different band, this time using Italian house
and 808 State’s house and techno as a template for
their grooves, with individual, natural efforts like ‘Spirit
Dance’ and ‘Funky Heaven’ the result. ‘Up In Downsville’,
however, sees probably the best soundclash of classic
ACR and house culture, its wonderous opener ‘Manik’
sounding like Can in meltdown and even the more
pop moments like ‘Wonder Y’ subtly laced with acid
influences. It’s quite a journey, really, and one that
properly underlines their huge and ongoing influence on
modern music. A cracking reissue – or four.
BEN WILLMOTT
CARL GRIFFIN
REVIEWS BY
JAMES BALL,
LOT TIE BRA ZIER
CARL GRIFFIN,
VELIMIR ILIC
NEIL MASON,
FINL AY MILLIGAN,
BEN MURPHY,
KRIS NEEDS,
PUSH,
FAT ROL AND,
MARK ROL AND,
MAT SMITH,
SPENSER TOMSON,
BEN WILLMOT T
95
NEEDS MUST
CHOCKS AWAY AS OUR ESTEEMED
COLUMNIST HEADS OFF INTO THE WILD
BLUE YONDER IN SEARCH OF MUSICAL
YARNS TO SPIN
words:
KRIS NEEDS
AT FIRST I PAID LITTLE ATTENTION TO THE PLEASANT
GUY I OFTEN RAN INTO WHO LIVED UPSTAIRS
For a few months in 1986, the first address I could call my own in New
York City was 437 East 12th Street; near Tompkins Square Park and
often known as the Poets Building. Richard Hell lived over the landing
and veteran Beat poet Allen Ginsberg a floor below, often a benign
presence at his doorway, ready with a pearl of wisdom.
Being located near Alphabet City’s heroin supermarkets, there
was usually a lot of after-dark traffic on that wide old stairway. At
first I paid little attention to the pleasant guy I often ran into who
lived upstairs. To be honest, I was more concerned with the Puerto
Rican junkie who lived next door to him and was bent on burgling my
bedroom from the fire escape. Compared to the scary human debris
littering the building, this man with neat hair and patterned jumpers
cut a calm, always smiling presence.
Only the following year, by which time I had moved further west
up 12th Street, did I realise the nice man on the stairs was Arthur
Russell, the enigmatic genius behind Dinosaur L’s seminal ‘Go
Bang!’ and molten disco marvel ‘2424 Music’ LP, a man recognised
posthumously as someone who really did manage to transcend all
musical categories, whether mutant disco, acid-folk or audacious
composition to make music in his own likeness; invariably panoramic,
intimate, spiritual and luminous.
In 1986 he had just released epoch-making voice-cello
masterpiece ‘World Of Echo’ and was upstairs building his home
studio after being diagnosed with the AIDS that would claim him 26
years ago this month. Of course, Arthur is now held as one of the
major creative instigators of New York’s underground scene. For his
full story see Tim Lawrence’s definitive biography, ‘Hold On To Your
Dreams’,
THE NEW EP WILL GIVE CURIOUS NEWCOMERS A
GLIMPSE INTO ARTHUR RUSSELL’S STILL UNIQUE WORLD
In 2010, I undertook a project that involved talking to musicians and
friends who had shared Russell’s pinballing orbit and witnessed
Arthur’s Landing, the outfit launched in 1998 featuring a cast of
musicians who’d worked with Russell, invoking his ethereal pop
and disco magic at the ICA, led by singer-guitarist Steven Hall and
serenely cool master-percussionist Mustafa Ahmed.
This month sees a new work of special beauty in his honour by his
old friends Hall and Ahmed, who return as Arthur’s Landing on their
‘Spring Collection’ EP. Released on Hall’s Buddhist Army imprint, the
new EP will enrapture old fans and give curious newcomers a glimpse
into Arthur Russell’s still unique world. Its five songs start with a
spectral romp through ‘Love Dancing’ and an instrumental take on
‘Your Motion Says’.
Both are taken from their last recording session with original band
member Elodie Lauten (who Arthur first met in 1975 at Ginsberg’s
apartment) before she passed away in 2014 and produced by Arthur’s
beloved original producer Bob Blank.
Originally credited to Loose Joints and retitled ‘Is It All Over
My Face’, the hyper-sleazy ‘Love Dancing’ basically invented New
York’s mutant disco sound in 1980 as one of its furthest out, most
unsettlingly-surreal hedonist statements after being remixed by
96
NEEDS MUST
Even when playing blues on piano, accompanied by a basic
Arkestra, Ra still managed to conjure unknown worlds and distant
planets through his supernatural sense of dislocated space. And
that’s the format on the latest addition to his bulging discography,
‘Of Abstract Dreams’. Released through a coalition between the
esteemed Strut and Art Yard labels, it showcases a sole-surviving
tape from the many recordings made by Ra and the Arkestra at the
University of Pennsylvania studio of radio station WXPN some time in
the mid-1970s.
Ra and faithful stalwarts, including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore,
Danny Ray Thompson, James Jacson and percussionists perform this
wonderfully informal session, which includes the breezy ‘Island In
The Sun’ (from ‘The Invisible Shield’), ferocious alien foraging of ‘New
Dawn’, bonkers ‘Unmask The Batman’ (featuring Jacson’s screaming
Jay Hawkins-style vocals) and ‘I’ll Wait For You’ building itself around
the popular chant; Gilmore leading on tenor with coruscating bite.
IT’S ALMOST 50 YEARS SINCE THE UK FIRST HEARD CAN
Larry Levan. It reappears here as a funky ghost, bassline intact but
everything mellow, slinky and haunting; like disco’s spirits reuniting
on a heavenly dancefloor. After Elodie introduces ‘Your Motion Says’
on Blank’s Steinway grand piano, the new version is again restrained,
respectful but shimmering with the ethereal magic Russell conjured.
The remaining three tracks, recorded at New York’s Russell Street
Studios by Carlos Hernandez and Alex Lipsen, see Hall and Ahmed
joined by Steven’s twin sister Andrea Derrickson, who supplies cool
vocals, guitarist Walter Vernon Baker and original Scissor Sisters
drummer Paddy Boom; gliding into dubbed-out disco on ‘List Of
Boys’, the Twin Mix of ‘Your Motion Says’ (Mustafa letting rip on
bongos) and gorgeous, slow-burning take on ‘Love Comes Back’ (first
recorded by Arthur in 1990 when he knew his days were numbered).
Blessed with spine-chilling vocals from Vancouver’s Adam Wazonek
(aka Soliterre), it shows how Arthur may have responded to the yacht
rock genre, by turning it into another facet of his quest to inject music
with vulnerability and emotions.
This whole marvellous set could be illustrated by some words
Steven Hall once said to me. “Arthur and I used to talk about the
idea of Buddhist Pop; writing pop songs that contained Buddhist
teachings, but without saying anything about Buddhism. All the
references to light, sunlight, water, clouds and furry animals come
from that.” Or the words Mustafa chose to describe his old friend;
driven yet humble.
Rob Young and Irmin Schmidt’s long-awaited definitive Can biography
‘All Gates Open’ just turned up as the last word and consummate
document of another uniquely magic band. It’s almost 50 years since
the UK first heard Can; when Peel played ‘Mary Mary’ from ‘Monster
Movie’ on his Sunday afternoon show. It seems somewhat incredible
that it’s taken so long for this story to be told from the inside, but
everything’s here and much, much more… oh, apart from the two
astonishing Can gigs I witnessed in 1973 and 1974 at Friars Aylesbury,
their favourite English gig. I touched on that 1973 show in Issue 35,
the whole tale will have to wait for another time though as I’m still
trying to process the shock of where the band took their music on
both those occasions.
SUN RA IS WELL-KNOWN AS BEING AMONG THE CITY’S
PRIME ELECTRONIC PIONEERS
Sun Ra is another old New York hero, the subject of many downtown
sorties to find street sellers offering original albums for a dollar
apiece. Just down on Third Street near Avenue B, the Arkestra
played their residency at Slug’s Saloon in the 1960s and the Sun
Palace HQ was also nearby. Of course, Sun Ra is well-known as being
among the city’s prime electronic pioneers, using the Moog early in
the late 60s and electronic keyboards much earlier than that.
97
STOCKISTS
WANT TO STOCK ELECTRONIC SOUND?
EMAIL US FOR DETAILS
SHOP@ELECTRONICSOUND.CO.UK
98
La Biblioteka
70 Pinstone Street
Sheffield S1 2HP
Book And Record Bar
20 Norwood High Street
London SE27 9NR
Dig Vinyl
80 Bold Street
Liverpool L1 4HR
labiblioteka.co
@thebookandrecordbar
digliverpool.co.uk
Here Gallery
108 B Stokes Croft
Bristol BS1 3RU
Jumbo Records
1–3 Merrion Centre
Leeds LS2 8NG
Mag Culture
270 St John Street
London EC1V 4PE
Magalleria
22A Broad Street
Bath BA1 5LN
Raves From The Grave
20 Cheap Street
Frome BA11 1BN
heregallery.co.uk
jumborecords.co.uk
magculture.com
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ravesfromthegrave.com
Rough Trade east
Old Truman Brewery
London E1 6QL
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130 Talbot Road
London W11 1JA
Rough Trade NOTTS
5 Broad Street
Nottingham NG1 3AJ
Rough Trade NYC
64 North 9th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11249
Resident
28 Kensington Gardens
Brighton BN1 4AL
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resident-music.com
RPM Records
Carrera 14 #83-04
Bogotá, DC - Colombia
Rubadub Music & Tech
35 Howard St
Glasgow G1 4BA
Soundclash
28 St Benedicts St
Norwich NR2 4AQ
Tubeway Records
Unit K12 Pride Hill Centre
Shrewsbury SY1 1BY
Underground Solu’shn
9 Cockburn Street
Edinburgh EH1 1BP
rpmrecords.co
rubadub.co.uk
VOD Music
28 New Street
Mold, Flintshire CH7 1NZ
Vinylwerk
Ackerstr. 61, 40233
Düsseldorf, Germany
vodmusic.co.uk
facebook.com/vinylwerk
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