Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Collaborative Soundworks by Les Horribles Travailleurs / MƩCHΔNICΔL ΔPƩ

Texture, abstraction, atmosphere...mood music for the apocalypse in your head. Who is not enduring small (or large) psychotic trauma on a daily basis? It's the modern world...in which other modern people go about their business, answering 'it' with just a 'sigh'. 


Pay what you want but somehow you will pay it all, (play it all) back...

Friday, 8 December 2017

Collage / King Tubby / Underground Resistance / Self-Portrait

All The Marks Of Identity Are Swept Away, RTomens, 2017

Wonder why...I'm not myself of late...

Self-Portrait, RTomens 2017


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Art: Monk's Mood - Tribute To Thelonious Monk

RTomens, 2017
 Three art works from a series I made in honour of Thelonious Monk. The music is taken from his tune, Monk's Mood.

RTomens, 2017

RTomens, 2017

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Insane In The Membrane (Again) With Cypress Hill

So another CD chariddy shop bargain, Cypress Hill's Black Sunday for a quid - whoo-eee! I had this on vinyl too when it came out - then - what happened? 

Remember when hip-hop was big? Remember when Public Enemy were fresh after the old first wave - like dangerous music, like grabbing the torch from The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron bad - eh? Yes. Then, well, not quite then, but a few years after the second wave, maybe even the third, hip-hop got out of control worldwide MASSIVE - didn't it? Like many a street sound before it soon every square on the block was into this thing whilst debates about how good it was for the black community and folks at large, what with all that swearing, cop-killing, female-disrespecting, money-idolising, gang-glorifying lyrical splurge - all of which only endeared it to youth and gangsters, naturally. The bigger hip-hop got, the smaller my interest. What this says about me may be that I'm a snob who reacts against popularity, or simply prefers movements when they're fresh? What? Which?

Here's an album that went Triple platinum in the U.S - fuck! I knew Cypress Hill were popular but...only just saw that stat on Wikipedia. I remember loving Black Sunday when it came out, like millions of others - it had the juice - got the juices flowing - but that was then - how would it sound 24 years later? How about BRILLIANT! tHAT'LL DO. sHOCK. tHERE WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING ABOUT b-rEAL'S VOCALS THAT WERE DIFFERENT AND STILL SOUND THAT WAY, AS IF HE'S PERMANENTLY, YES, INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE AND HAMMERING AT YOUR WINDOW TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. Whoops, caps lock - which rhymes with 'Glock, funnily enough. 

In retrospect it's easy to hear how Cypress Hill got so big and so rich. The samples are choice, the mixing is absolutely perfect with the breaks in your face and somehow this album insists that you succumb, not through lyrical force so much as vocal/rhythmic dynamism. It's not original (when did that ever get you rich?). If anything, it's stereotypical of hip-hip subject matter (violence, drugs, bragging) - yet - yet - after the first four tracks you're slaughtered! Putty in their hands. Well, I was, again.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Courtney Pine Revived & Bowie Talkin' All That Jazz

Courtney Pine's debut album for a quid? Couldn't resist. Of course I owned the vinyl when it came out, which was 1986...and Courtney was our Coltrane - he was! We could only watch in awe as our man, a young black man, in a suit, delivered his version of what was then contemporary Jazz..in London Town! He was slimmer then - we all were. He was also the only one to make the cover of the NME. Well how has it aged? Fine, to my surprise. As We Would Say sounds particularity good. OK, in the writing stakes he was no Wayne Shorter or Coltrane, but after 31 years and in the context of all that went before Journey To The Urge Within holds its own with no small help from the likes of Julian Joseph on piano, Gary Crosby's bass and Mark Mondesir's drumming. 


So today I came across an interview Pine conducted with David Bowie in 2005, asking him about the influence of Jazz in his life. Turns out our David had some impressive names to drop. I'd never heard Bowie talking about Jazz before but I've often wondered if he got the 'Wham bam thank you mam' line in Suffragette City from the Charles Mingus track. It's more likely he nicked it from the Small Faces tune of that name, of course. 

To continue the Mingus connection, when asked for the one Jazz tune that really moves him, Bowie goes for Hog Callin' Blues from the album that Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am was also on, Oh Yeah. A man of taste! This also happens to be one of LJ's favourite tunes. Just listen to Roland Kirk tearing the roof off the studio...


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Sun Ra & His Arkestra - Sun Ra Exotica / Art Print

Pure (sun sound) pleasure from Modern Harmonic and how clever of them to collate Sun Ra's 'exotica'. For those not familiar with Sun Ra any sampling of tracks from here will be a surprise if they had him down as too 'crazy'. They may even wonder what all the fuss is about but to miss Ra in these moods is to ignore their worldly 'ancient' and thoroughly justified inclusion in the Arkestral sound collage. Essential.

Accelerated Destruction, RTomens, 2017

This along with other art prints is available now in my shop

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

80s Underground Cassette Culture Volume 1 / Various Artists - Under The Concrete / The Field / My Art Prints

How much more 70s/80s cassette culture can we take? - loads! it seems. And why not? There's much pleasure to be had from the beneath-the-underdog bedroom synthesists; the chancers, non-game- changers, radical visionary lunatics and nerds with attitude.

'Nuclear fuel breeds nuclear war/The politics of power/ Rotten to the core' - it's Missing Persons and Rotten To The Core, one of the treats on this superb collection, which illustrates many angles taken by the Lost of Tape Land. PCR's Myths of Seduction and Betrayal (Extract) is another gem. Human Flesh, Urbain Autopsy are names that tell of the Cronenbergian body mutation fixation of the times, when perhaps the recently-evolved opportunity to integrate mind and machine bred obsession with cybernetic mutation. Who knows. 

Cassette-sharing sites are popular now but for obvious technical reasons the sound quality is usually poor so this is a welcome chance to hear hi-resolution lo-fi emissions from the vast cavern of underground cassette culture.

Beneath the concrete field, the beach? Perhaps not. Here, at least, is a contemporary collection worthy of your attention. Material by Mark of Concrete/Field, remixed by various folk, most of whom have remodelled original sounds in a very interesting way. Descent's Freebase has great depth, a build-up of tension pressure that's all the better for never actually being released. AMANTRA's Scorched Earth Policy wouldn't sound out of place on the Underground Cassette comp - I mean that as a compliment. Kek-W got A Fax from Philip Glass (great title), well, I suppose a few people did in the 80s - anyway, as always, KW's work is spot-on/interesting, as is Libbe Matz Gang's Tratamento de Enxaquecas, like death metal machine music! Very good comp.

Windows To The Soul

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Monika Werkstatt at Cafe Oto

Oh, yes, it's Ladies' Night
And the feeling's right
Oh, yes, it's Ladies' Night
Oh, what a night (oh, what a night)...

...Monika Werkstatt at Cafe Oto - yes, what a night! You don't need me to tell that electronic music is a male-dominated world (which part isn't? bingo?), just like Rock, but unlike that traditionally macho realm of phallic axe-wielding at first glance there should be no reason for electronic music being a (mostly) men-only domain, until you start thinking about stereotypical male gadget obsession and the historical culturally-enforced tradition of DIY (inc tinkering with electronics).

Issues surrounding all that (not bingo or DIY) were discussed in the Q&A. An interesting point was raised about how women are expected to be 'brilliant' whereas it's OK for men to be 'all right'. The conclusion was that women should be allowed to be 'all right' too. The issue of expectations aside, pure percentage stats dictate that there's a lot more average male performers in electronic music simply because they dominate.

Politics aside, if it's possible to lay them aside and see the performers as just that (perhaps there's an irony there in rightfully demanding equality, ie not just being viewed as 'female artists', whilst presenting an all-female collective - tricky) with nothing to prove Monika Werkstatt proved it. It was an evening of seductive, passionate, humorous, powerful music, each of the four players performing two songs before a collective session finale. All four were present on stage throughout and it was entertaining just watching their individual reactions to what the performer was doing.

Before the collective, support came from London's La Leif, who brought beats and bass fit to shake Cafe Oto's foundations with a very tough set.

The first of MW to perform was Sonae, whose subtle, richly-textured ambient sounds set a good tone...

Then Barbara Morgenstern ('Queen Of Harmonies') delivered two superb songs, the power of which was amplified times 10 in a 'live' context...

Watch out, it's Pilocka Krach, surely the prankster in the pack, giving us all a good slap with her stomping Electro-Power-Pop! Do you like the beat? Yes, I did!

Finally in solo form, 'the boss', Gudrun Gut, organiser of the whole collective and legendary figure on the scene for years.

The quartet session was as intriguing as you'd expect from four diverse artists with their very own styles, working together intuitively, in the spirit of improvisation, just don't call it 'Improv', Gudrun's ambiguous about that scene and I don't blame her. As she said, it's something you can hate yet be drawn to at the same time. There's nothing to hate about Monika Werkstatt. Do check the collective album. It's an essential release from this year. As an encore, the joint was jumping to Who's Afraid Of Justin Bieber? Here's a brief video I took...

Oh what a night!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Colin Webster vs Tape Loops / John Sladek

Improvising to tape loops may sound implausible, or rather, contrary to the spirit of Improv, but who cares about that, eh? Not you. So here's saxophonist Colin Webster doing just that and the combination of his chops and repetitive sounds works very well. You can almost hear Webster thinking 'What shall I do with this?' in the unaccompanied sections, which adds to the intrigue. Being capable of creating many varied sounds from his horn, Webster has no trouble finding the 'right' tone for each loop (well, perhaps he did, but the released versions all succeed).

On impulse I called in Daunt Books today to see what sci-fi they had. I asked the girl if they had a section for it, she said they didn't because they 'specialised in travel'. "What about space travel?" I asked..."I know," she replied, almost smiling...

Bought this John Sladek collection the other day, having decided to read more science-fiction. The genre has promised more than it's delivered as far as my needs in recent years are concerned. Those needs have changed since I started reading sci-fi a long time ago, of course. 

After the early-teen experience of space adventures I progressed to the biggies such as Asimov and co.. It wasn't until the late-70s and discovering William Burroughs that my view of the genre changed completely; in short, he ruined it regarding everyone else, except JG Ballard, who I still rate highly and read regularly. That's no coincidence considering Ballard's opinion of Burroughs despite their very different writing styles.

Burroughs even gets a mention on page 79 of this Sladek collection from a stoned character trying to get to Morocco. Published in '68, the first novel, The Reproductive System, reflects the era in a good way rather than a 'dated' fashion, covering paranoia, anti-authoritarian, secret agent, science-gone-mad cynicism in the spirit of adventure that reminds me of both Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius and Wilson and Shea's Illuminatus! Trilogy. So far so good and since I will finish it that's a recommendation from someone who's a serial non-finisher (life's too short, isn't it?)


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Space Age print / Flying Saucers Are Hostile / Starship Troopers / Shit & Shine - That's Enough / Felix Kubin - Takt der Arbeit

RTomens, 2017

More of my art here

1967 1st edition

You've been warned - 'YOU DARE NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO IGNORE IT!' (from the back cover).

Flying saucers are hostile, so too are the alien bugs in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers - "The only good Bug is a dead Bug!". It's 20 years old and re-watching it I confess to enjoying it even more than the first time. That's a 'confession' because revelling in a film filled with square-jawed, squeaky clean heroes out for military death or glory to bombastic soundtrack sounds like hell as a film, but that's the point. ST is pumped up and primed as a trashy action film whilst constantly undermining everything it superficially celebrates. It's very sheen is as sickening as the site of a bug ripping a soldier limb-from-limb. It's gung ho writ large but gets booby trapped at every turn. Verhoeven knew what he was doing but did it so well that few could see the subversive irony through all the flying limbs and phoney machismo. 

In a way Shit & Shine like to play with machismo (note the cover) - perhaps they really are macho men. But there's an 'ironic' edge to most everything they do and their latest, That's Enough, is no exception - 'Do you know the way to the garden party?' - the EPs filled with samples, a long one opening the opening title track, which you've probably heard by now. The Worst continues playing with the sample idea -  the judges on American Idol? Subversion, like ST, is embedded in the per-usual nasty grooves - that must be Simon Cowell sampled - we might think that's enough of that talent contest shit but it just seems to keep rolling and so too, thankfully, do Shit & Shine. 

Do they still make musical geniuses? What do you reckon? Whoever 'they' are - parents of musically gifted kids who rise above being mere talented? What? Anyway, Felix Kubin: as Mark E Smith said 'Check the guy's track record' - it's impressive, to say the least. Here he is with Takt der Arbeit, four soundtracks to educational and industrial 16mm films about work. Is this a return to the fascist/imperial/dictatorship reflected in Starship Troopers? Is that what Work is? 

Track one has a militaristic slant (those drums) echoing the regimentation of both machine and human operators but here Kubin brilliantly orchestrates the components into something that sounds part friendly info film soundtrack, part chaotic depiction of factory-frazzled minds. Geburt eines Schiffes has the mood of Soviet-era proletariat-powered propaganda so strong you can see the workers marching towards you over the horizon, shirt-sleeves rolled over bulging biceps. Hold on, I got carried away with that idea. The actual mood is one of a huge industrial-age factory gradually coming to life with the roar, clank and hiss of machines complete with triumphant music heralding the brave new era of man-made mechanical wonders - or hell, since the overriding atmosphere is actually one of foreboding and tragedy. Martial Arts continues the work-til-you're-musclebound theme but Kubin continually breaks things down (a musical spanner in the works). The group Kubin works with add essential components to the EP; the human element in what could have been just another 'industrial record' in other, less creative hands. Release date was supposedly Nov 17th but as I write it's not yet out so keep an eye on Editions Mego. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

M.E.S.H. - Hesaitix

M.E.S.H. must be an acronym for something but I haven't bothered finding out what - Making Electronic Shit Happen? - that's probably it. James Whipple does make shit happen - good shit - detailed, interesting electronic shit like Hesaitix. Listening to Mimic just now I kept thinking someone was outside my window, rustling about and banging something so I got up to look and heard that sound again, from the speaker. Whipple's a spook in the speakers, spiriting sounds like...like you can't say what, except for the tolling of bells on Blured Cicada I...and now he's playing ping pong with Robert Henke (you know that sound?), who must be a spiritual brother of sorts, a forebearer, you might say. The difference being the beat, absence of the regular Tech motor Henke uses; instead, more irregular, as on 2 Loop Trip. But whatever messing around there is, he keeps a feeling of movement...the percussion on Search. Reveal is one outstanding aspect of a proper shapeshifting intergalactic gro-o-o-o-ver - yes it is! Whipple maps the space-sound continuum brilliantly, singing the body and brain electric. Damned good.

Friday, 10 November 2017

A Fistful Of Dollars

Bought a Clint Eastwood Spag Western box set a few weeks ago but only started watching it recently, beginning, (chrono)logically, with A Fistful Of Dollars. I thought they were due reappraisal, having not watched one all the way through for many years. 

One of several things that struck me was the sound, which I only learnt the other day was dubbed on afterwards, thus explaining why every 'clip-clip' of the horses' hooves, jangle of bits and clomp of boots on boards seemed heightened, to the fore. Then the laughter; throughout bad guys spend a lot of time laughing. At times, it's as if some are high on something. The framing of some shots, of course, Leone's recognised for that now, so I wondered why this film, apparently, got such a luke-warm reception from critics. Couldn't they see the artistry involved? Perhaps they were blinded by the amount of gun smoke. If not exactly hailed as a bone fide 'classic' today, this and the subsequent ones are at least rightly hailed as unique.

One other thing that struck me was the similarity between the scene where The Man With No Name is getting his (swollen) eye in again, the shot of his gun hand as he practices to the sound of a militaristic drum beat by Morricone instantly brought to mind Travis Bickle firing to a similar beat by Bernard Herrmann. I may have imagined it, but as you know that military-style drum runs through the Taxi Driver theme.

One astonishing scene is the massacre of the Baxter clan. Leone doesn't depict this in a normal fashion, but hammers home the brutality with almost as many shots of the slayers as bullets they fire. It plays out relentlessly. 

By coincidence it's Ennio Morricone's birthday today. The score for A Fistful Of Dollars is great, of course, although as regular readers will know when it comes to playing Morricone scores I favour his Giallo work. Watching the film reminded me of reggae artists' obsession with Spaghetti Westerns, often resulting in hilarious Jamaican/Mexican dialogue. So by way of honouring Morricone, I'm opting for one of those instead of anything by 'Il Maestro'. Featuring adapted dialogue from the film, the now famous coffin joke... 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

I Monster (feat Dolly Dolly) - A Dollop Of HP

Post-Halloween horror treat for you from I Monster: H.P.Lovecreaft read by Dolly Dolly (David Yates) - what's not to like? The musical accompaniment features students at Leeds Beckett University and is pitched just right, avoiding hauntology cliches, opting instead for a blend of dark electronics and even motorik rhythm. Yates' delivery is, as you'd expect, absolutely perfect. Time to throw another log on the fire, light a candle or two and watch the shadows flicker as your skin crawls. Superb. Available as cassette or download here.

Black Mountain Transmitter - Oscillator Ritual

Long books, long films, long tracks...I told him, they're good for nothing, usually...so here's James Robert Moore as Black Mountain Transmitter testing my patience - bah! If ever there was a sonic equivalent of a black hole/space vortex/tornado, this is it - you start (by listening, quite innocently) and before 15mins have passed you're sucked into the oscillating wave transmission's force field, from which there is no escape. This man is merciless, save only for the relatively quite (brief) passages when, having lost all track of time, you might think it's over, but no, it's sonic tendrils wrap around your skull and proceed to penetrate it all over again! Magnificent. The tapes have sold out all ready but you can buy the download here

Monday, 30 October 2017

Roland Kayn - A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound (a kind of review)

'I see it as a bridge between man and machine' - Roland Kayn

Many wouldn't consider Roland Kayn's A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound to be 'music'. Fittingly, with that in mind, this may not be a 'review'.
But you can call Kayn's sound music.
And I can call this a review. It is, after all, quite likely to be the closest thing to a review of ALEMWS I will write. 

You may have read other 'reviews', or more likely, observations based on previous Kayn releases with added history, quotes and generalisations about this box set. In other instances, where the journalist was sent a promo file, they have reviewed it before fully digesting what amounts to about 14 hours of music. I don't need to tell you that it's impossible to fully digest that much sound so quickly. That said, they may be more capable than me. I'm still listening to Pierre Henry's Utopia and hearing new things. To hear is of no merit, a duck also hears, as Stravinsky said. To listen, that is the thing; the difficult thing with so many distractions (the siren song of the internet!).

Kayn talks of a bridge between man and machine and I must tell you that whilst listening to Track 1, Czerial, for the fifth or sixth time one morning last week (not having read the above quote), it really felt as if the earbuds had become receivers, as opposed to transmitters, like stethoscopes against my head, allowing me to hear the workings of...what? My Mind, or brain? What mechanism made those sounds? Was I going mad?

There's undoubtedly an impression of machines 'breathing' in Czerial. Kayn, as you've no doubt read, is barely in control of what they do; he seems to set them in motion, equipped with the electronic (?) DNA he has fed them. Yet his methods are still a mystery for the most part. He talked in general terms of 'self-governing processes in the studio', likening it to throwing stones into water at different intervals and seeing ' very complex intersections'. 

As befits the man of mystery who didn't get the wider recognition he deserved when he lived, there's no info-packed booklet accompanying this box set. Somehow it seems right. The music may speak for itself and you the listener may hear in it what you wish to hear, or think you hear. ALEMWS is, after all, music to unleash the imagination of both listener and, one might fancifully say, the machines, for at times it really does sound as if they too are learning whilst they 'listen' to themselves. It's as if the 'aliens' meet and try to communicate whilst we humans, burdened with musical baggage as we are, try to unlearn everything we think we know about sound.

I talk as if the journey, for me, is complete, but must remind you of what I said earlier. The fact is that I have ventured only as far as Disc 4, which despite only being a quarter of the material, already feels like the 'outer limits'. One can't help but make sci-fi comparisons, from the title alone (oh the irony of the word 'little'!). The milky way cannot help but appear massive from where we stand, unaided by radio telescopic technology, as naked humans using our naked eyes we gaze up, incapable of grasping it all. As you'll have gathered, I am currently no closer to grasping the enormity of this little sonic galaxy either. 

Whilst much electronic music aspires to conjuring up sci-fi scenarios, I've yet to hear any that portray the 'alien' machine as convincingly as A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound. Not that I imagine that was Kayn's intention. Or was it? Did he have life 'out there' in mind when setting the process in motion? There are no 'greys', no biomorphic beings...but machines, as we might call them...technology, cybernetic, bio-technological 'lifeforms'. So it seems as I listen. 

At the 36min 33secs mark on Czerial there's a 'Terminator' moment, but unlike Goldie's classic, this really is music for 'metal heads', of metal heads, one might say. One might lazily bring in the term 'ambient' to describe the atmosphere, the rhythm/beatless (of course) drift, yet to do so would be wrong. If I may make a comparison relating to other 'space' records, namely Brian Eno's awe-struck, blissed-out wonderment of Apollo, this is the opposite in atmosphere and effect. At times, I was reminded more of the tension created by Ridley Scott in Alien ("Here, kitty, kitty") than any visual/sonic representation of beauty Out There. 

As I suggested earlier, to these ears, A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound is as much the sound of inner space as outer, despite my love of sci-fi and subsequent fictitious/visual comparisons. Like the sound of technology set in motion, it's hard to control impressions left by this music. Unlike the linear narratives and neat endings of most science-fiction, Kayn's 'story' feels endless, not simply due to its length, but the very nature of what unfolds. Although it's an expensive product, I promise that should you also decide to invest in this galaxy of sound, you too will be 'travelling' for a very long time.

Roland Kayn official website here

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