2000ad Free Comic Book Day cover

2000ad free 2015Pretty great line up for this year’s free comic, it’s been years since Kevin O’Neill graced the pages of the Prog (not getting my hopes up, it could be a reprint). The great Henry Flint on the art again, that’s the third year running, not sure Dredd should be firing inside the shop like that? Speaking of which – Henry returns to Dredd later this year with a follow up to the excellent Titan story that was running this time last year.

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More of Dan Lish’s ‘Egostrip’ images

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Can’t get enough of Dan Lish‘s ‘Egostrip’ illustrations at the moment, he’s illustrating some of his musical heroes – mainly from the world of Hip Hop – for a future book. In a mix of Moebius and Jeff Soto they inhabit a psychedelic otherworld straight out of a mushroom trip. He’s only gone and done Kraftwerk as well…

Below: Questlove, Q-Bert, Madlib, James Brown, Edan.

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The Wizards of Oz compilation this March from AA

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Gaz Cobain and Brian Dougans have been spoiling us recently, what with FSOL‘s ‘Enviroment Five’ LP, older volumes appearing on vinyl, a book of artworks, mixes and their rework of Syd Arthur under the Amorphous Androgynous alias. Now they don that hat again and travel down under to crate dig a mix of Australian psyche for the next installment of their Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble mix series.
Pre-order the double CD here, release date is March 16th.

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Flexibition #2: Space Sounds

*Flexibition_header4This beautiful 10″ flexi came in its own cover inside a minimal op-art box alongside a revolving ‘star wheel’ and build-it-yourself ‘space scope’ with slides. The set was published by National Geographic as the Our Universe Space Kit in 1980 and the ‘Space Sounds’ disc is a gold mine of spoken word samples and sounds exploring all sorts of cosmic phenomena.
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The graphics are gorgeous and you can still pick these sets up on abebooks or eBay now and again, there’s also a companion hardback book that goes with it but won’t fit in the box (lid pictured at the bottom).
David M. Seager is credited with design and I think LaBoca hipped me to this a few years back, thanks to Jason Wehmhoener for pointing me in the direction of the audio online.
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Divine Styler ‘Def Mask’ album

will-barras-divine-stylerThis one passed me by before the year ended as it got lost in the Xmas rush but I’m glad I remembered it as it’s a corker. Divine Styler makes records at about the the same pace as me, ie: not very often but this was well worth the wait. A dystopian sci-fi collage of film samples and electronic beats with his signature rhyme style unchanged from years past. This is Hip Hop that doesn’t look back to the golden age or ape the past even though it takes past practices. It’s a forward looking one that manages to sound contemporary without kow-towing to current sonic trends or fashions like EDM or its ilk. Sure it has touches of bass-wobble and the double-time snap of a drum and bass rhythm but that’s as far as it goes. For all the current media darlings of Rap’s bragging and boasting, even if they have a great voice and flow, few can touch Divine Styler’s pin prick sharp delivery or authoritative swagger.

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Couple this with art by Will Barras who envisages scenes from Styler’s future world in a limited edition book available with a special version of the vinyl on the Gamma Proforma label and you have a pretty unique vision for a Hip Hop album in 2015. If you don’t know Gamma Proforma then they’re the place where street art and electronic music meet, a boundary-pushing collective who have championed some of my favourite artists over the years. They stock music, books, prints, original art and T-shirts as well as hosting exhibitions and creating last years ReWire exhibition, book and compilation via Kickstarter.

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Anyway, back to Divine Styler’s album: more Blade Runner than Run the Jewels (in fact it starts with what sounds like a decaying sound effect from the film) it’s a refreshing counter balance to dull murder raps and the seemingly endless macho bullshit paraded on 95% of current Hip Hop. Buy it here direct from the label on LP, CD, DL and a special edition LP with signed 42 page book and print.

Freehand Food compatibility issues

Recipe_LP_layout_screengrabI’ve been wrestling with old laptops and copies of Freehand all day to try and open the original artwork for the ‘A Recipe For Disaster’ album. I managed to extract the original files from the first ever disc I burned back in 1997 which houses the first work I did for Ninja Tune on it. To think that the first designs were made in 1994 but I didn’t think to archive them until 1997 says a lot about how small the file sizes were back then. The first LP I ever designed for Ninja was 9 Lazy 9‘s ‘Electric Lazyland’ and it all fitted on a 1.4MB floppy disc!

So, ‘Recipe…’ came out in the Autumn of 1995 and I was using Aldus Freehand 3.1 to lay out my designs and deal with type. At the time there were four main programs: the ubiquitous Photoshop, the fiddly Quark Express (good for laying out books and magazines), Illustrator and Freehand. The last two weren’t that dissimilar and were both good at drawing in vectors but you could do decent layouts with them as long as you didn’t want to use reams of text across multiple pages. For some reason I learned Freehand at college instead of Illustrator so that’s what I stuck to, along with Photoshop to manipulate the images, and most Ninja sleeves were done using this in the 90’s and 00’s.

FH9_10Along the way Freehand got bought by Macromedia and made some big jumps between versions which rewrote a lot of the internals apparently whilst still being backwards compatible with older versions. As with any applications, they’re at the mercy of the Operating Systems they’re made to run on and, through the years, Freehand had to make some big changes. It was finally bought by Adobe and then unceremoniously dumped with everything after Mavericks refusing to run the app. But even before this, getting older versions to open on newer Macs was a task and the files I recovered from 1995 just came up with ‘unsupported format’ messages when I tried to open them in Freehand 10, Illustrator and more.

Even on an old laptop running the OS 9 ‘Classic’ environment I had no joy until I remembered that Freehand 5.5 was a big upgrade and should be able to read the older FH3 files. But I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, not on archive discs or the web, the oldest version I had was Freehand 7. As a last resort I booted that up on the old laptop (all 24 MBs of app) and lo and behold, it worked! Here’s the lesson; don’t throw away those old applications that aren’t compatible with current operating systems, you never know when you might need them. What you see at the top is the low res preview of the DJ Food LP cover as it appeared this afternoon. I know it looks crappy but that’s all I need to work with and I’d rather have that than have to remake the whole thing from scratch.

Top 10 DJ Food Kraftwerk covers from Tsugi magazine

Back at the end of 2014 the French magazine Tsugi devoted an issue entirely to Kraftwerk. They gave me a 4 page feature where I was asked to choose my top 10 Kraftwerk cover versions and I promised to post an English language version of the text here in the new year. Seeing as the magazine should have been and gone from the shelves by now, here it is.
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The questions from Tsugi magazine:

When and how did you discover Kraftwerk ?

When I was 11 in early 1982 ‘The Model’ became a no.1 hit in the UK and I was suddenly aware of this ‘new’ electronic group from Germany in the charts alongside The Human League, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan. As a result EMI reissued most of their back catalogue and I bought Man Machine, Computer World and Trans Europe Express on cassette which I loved.

What do you like in Kraftwerk ?
The melodies first and foremost but also the electronic drums and percussion, I just find the songs very pure, simple and timeless. Plus they were singing about the future, robots, spaceships, computers etc. and that appealed to me rather than love songs at that age even though they wrote those too.

Do you have a special story related to yourself and Kraftwerk ?
I actually first heard them when I was about 5 years old on a tape my dad had recorded from the radio although I didn’t realise it was them until much later. The song was ‘Autobahn’ and I always remember liking it when it came on the tape but was a bit scared of the breakdown part with the motorway sounds as it reminded me of the Cybermen in Dr Who. When I bought the reissues of their albums later on I realised that I already knew ‘Autobahn’ although it was a very edited radio version, not the long LP one.

Why are you so passionate about Krafwerk’s covers ?
Being a fan of the band was difficult because they didn’t release anything new for so long so I began to seek out cover versions as a way to fill the gap they had left. It happens with many artists who don’t release new music regularly these days – Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are just two examples. Fans show their love of an artist by covering their songs.

Do you think that sometimes covers are better than originals ones ?
Occasionally they can be, when someone takes the song into a new style or territory and these are the ones I primarily look for. I don’t see much point in recreating a techno version of a Kraftwerk song although people have done it very well. For me the most interesting ones are those that transpose the songs into a new style but still retain the essence or ones that take the song to an extreme that becomes comedic.

How many covers have you ?
Of Kraftwerk, probably about 300 but there are many more out there, for every cover I hear and like I probably hear another two techno / electro / house versions that I discard because they are just poor copies of the originals.
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What are your 10 favorites cover records and for each, could you explain me why?

Gaudi & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi (KKK vol.7)
An Indian version of ‘The Model’ but only just, I’m not sure how I found this, possibly on a now discontinued blog of cover versions of various artists. I think the blogger listed 70 different versions of The Model alone.

Makoto Inoue – Europe Endless/Neon Lights (KKK vol. 1 & 3)
Beautiful Gamelan versions of these rarely covered songs, this cover really takes it to another genre entirely, transposing the melodies to sound like an ancient tribe is playing the songs. Nothing electronic about it at all, in fact a lot of my favourite covers are ones that take Kraftwerk’s songs into other genres of sound altogether.

Das Erste Wiener Gemueseorchester (First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra) – Radio Activity (KKK vol.2)
The whole thing is played on vegetables, I’m not kidding and it’s as mad as it sounds but you can heard the song in amongst all the weird sounds. One of the weirdest Kraftwerk covers I’ve ever heard.

Miladojka Youneed – Pocket Calculator (live) (KKK vol.2)
A rawkus almost country version with saxophone and harmony singing. you can almost see the stetsons on their heads. This sounds as if the group has learnt the song from reading the notes and lyrics in a book but never heard the original but they sound like they’re having such a great time playing it.

Satoru Wono feat. Meiwa Denki – Dentaku (KKK vol.2)
A Japanese version with very busy percussion and woodwind instruments, very odd but works perfectly. The vocals still sound robotic but there are spoken in Japanese making this even more alien, the playing is very mechanical and precise despite the organic sounds of the instruments.

Alenia – Home Computer (KKK vol.4)
Quite a straight electronic version but I brings something to the original I can’t put my finger on, maybe this is one of those covers that makes the song perfect for today’s clubs, it’s a bit heavier than the original but still quirky.

6Blocc – Digits (KKK vol.5)
A very detailed dubstep version that updates ‘Numbers’ for the dance floor, it cleverly re-edits the drums and bassline into a half time skank and just about keeps everything from falling down.

Case Managers – Autobahn (KKK vol.5)
Absolutely bonkers Australian version, sounds like it was recorded live at the BBQ after many beers had been consumed, very funny. The singers (all male) seem to get drunker and drunker as the song progresses, the absolute opposite of what Kraftwerk are on record.

Menschmaschine – Spacelab (KKK vol.8) Beautiful jazz version, just stunning, the whole build up of the intro had me from the first listen and I’d say this is probably one of my favourite Kraftwerk covers ever. In fact I recommend the whole Menschmaschine album of jazz cover versions of Kraftwerk’s music

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Das Modell (KKK vol.8)
‘The Model’ is the most covered song in the band’s catalogue but this one is by a female choir from Belgium. Again another example of a version where there are no electronics and the song is easily carried by the melody and lyrics across to another genre.

You can find all my Kraftwerk Kover Kollection mixes so far here:

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Flexibition #1: Discovery Workshop

*Flexibition_header4‘Sound Sheet’, ‘Phono sheet’, ‘Sound Page’, ‘Flexi Disc’ or just plain ‘Flexi’ – this floppy, cheap, disposable, low quality format has been around since the early 60’s when it was introduced by the daddy of flexi disc production, Eva-tone Soundsheets in the US. Used as an easy way to include recordings in books and magazines because of their thin, flexible nature they became very popular with educational publications like National Geographic and Reader’s Digest as well as a means to cheaply distribute music in music magazines like Rolling Stone, NME, Kerrrang! and even a dedicated monthly called Flexipop in the early 80’s.

I’ve been collecting flexi discs or all types for years and thought it was time to put some of the weird and wonderful online for all to see. I’ll be posting new entries from my collection every Thursday all through 2015, sometimes with audio or buying links if they’re online and there will be guest posts from other collectors too. The Flexibition will run for 2015 and I’ll have Rock, Pop, Spoken Word, Cut Ups, Porn, Comedy, Educational, Adverts, Technical and more featured.

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We start with an educational entry but I don’t remember where I got this, possibly somewhere in North America in the last 5 years though. Made by Eva-Tone for The United States Learning Corporation I’m presuming it was part of a magazine or book at some point. I took the name of the disc for a track on my album ‘The Search Engine’ and even included it on a clear flexi disc inside the limited comic book version (which will feature in a later post). As far as I’ve aware there’s no recording of it online.

The narrator starts out describing the planets before we blast off in a rocket to the moon, take a look back at Earth from the moon’s surface and survey the sun (never look directly at it). On side 2 we look at Mars (it’s very red), Venus (very bright), Jupiter (the red spot gives off strange radio signals) and Saturn (it could hold about 700 Earths). Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are given short shrift before we fly deeper into the galaxy and get into space gas. It’s very basic stuff as you’d expect from the image of the child with telescope on the disc but charming and includes suitably space-like orchestral accompaniment and the odd modular synth sound.

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Simon Stalenhag paintings

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Absolutely love these images by Simon Stalenhag – his use of light and everyday rural locations with futuristic contraptions and machines remind me of a simpler, less hi-tech Syd Mead. His vision of the future is one that I think could be a reality within the next 50 years (maybe minus the dinosaurs that occasionally pop up in some of the paintings). His site has lots more plus close up details and you can now buy a book of them too if you follow the easy to read pdf to navigate the online shop.
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Posted in Art, Robots. | 1 Comment |

Vangelis ‘The Tegos Tapes’ Edits

finished_done2_1096px This was one of the most mind-blowing musical discoveries I had in 2014. I only heard about this recently from Guy Veale and Ben Soundhog (thanks!) although it apparently came to light 2 years ago. 12 hours of unheard Vangelis music soundtracking films of various surgical operation films with explanatory dialogue from top neurosurgeon Dr Sergios Tegos. Originally available in 1998 as an expensive set of three 4 hour video tapes plus large book in a case and only available to practicing surgeons via Dr. Tegos. Vangelis was friends with the surgeon and had recorded music specifically for these tapes from special requests, as the subject matter could be ‘monotonous’.

Here’s a great story about the Vangelis collector who found them after years of looking and here’s Dr Tegos‘ web page with the whole set of films (cut down to 9+ hours now). Click the DVD images for films – Warning! graphic keyhole surgery! Even buy a set if you’re a practicing surgeon and want to go all the way.

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If you’re not that flush and don’t have your certificate of neurosurgery yet, a very kind Soundcloud user named Nev Dorrington has edited most of the tapes down to just the music and put them on his page. I can recommend Edits 3, 4, 6, 13, 14, 17, 23, 16 and 33 if you fancy ambiance in the style of Vangelis’ Blade Runner score.
Happy New Year! :)