The Delaware Road at Kelvedon Hatch

IMG_4535It’s taken me an age to get round to posting this because – basically – school holidays. That preventer of progress, that eater of time, time you actually get to spend with your kids before they grow up and only want to be with their mates. The snatches of work, social media catch-up and the day to day running of a household don’t leave too long to write extended blogs about how one night was one of the most memorable of the year so far.

Back in the Autumn of 2015 Alan Gubby of the Buried Treasure label put on a night based around a narrative he’d written with David Yates (aka Dolly Dolly, seen with Alan below). It told the story of a woman and a man who work for The Corporation making electronic music and their journey through the middle of the 20th century in sound, sex psychedelics, occult and sound phenomena. The narrative held together a compilation called The Delaware Road, which just so happened to be the site of the original Radiophonic Workshop, and the groups and sounds on the album helped sonically place the story in time, starting with tape loops, jazz and spoken word, progressing to analogue synths and later, digital.

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I went to the event as a punter and it was fantastic, mostly for the herculean effort that everyone put into it and how Alan and Dolly’s narrative pulled it together to make sense with eight (I think) bands on the bill plus film interludes. So when an offer to play at a second version staged inside a Nuclear Bunker in the Essex countryside came up I didn’t have to think twice. The Kelvedon Hatch ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker descends four storeys underground with entry gained via a bungaow-like frontage nestled in a wood a 20 minute drive from Brentwood station. See photos here from a reccy I did a few months back to get an idea. With twelve acts on the bill spread over four floors this time the whole ante was upped considerably, not least by just getting to the venue in question.

Ticket holders who had bought early got to travel in a green double-decker bus from Brentwood, were given packs containing maps of the bunker, flyer and ‘Delatab’ radiation pills and arrived in style to be greeted by costumed players looking like Morris Dancers from the dark side in the shape of the Mummers & The Pappers. Soundtracking this were Glitch, Saunders & Hill who had set up outside on the entrance balcony and regaled them as they entered the long, concrete tunnel that led down into the bunker proper. From there it was up to the audience to explore the rooms and levels and find acts nestled in strange habitats for the duration of the night.

I kicked the night off in the top room, which I shared with Dolly and Ian Helliwell, Dolly at his table with anglepoise and notes and Ian later working his way through a table of self-made gadgets and boxes with names like ‘Hellitron Modulator’. Earlier we’d found a chrome mannequin in pieces whilst setting up projectors and lights and added her to the ensemble decorating the room. I’d brought oil wheels and video projectors plus mixer with effects and we were lucky enough to be by the cafe next door and have a room full of seats so people stayed with us.

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Having finished my first set I was free to explore and further down in the levels below there were more delights to encounter, Radionics in the sick bay, decked out in white labs coats – nice touch. Nearby were Jez and Polly aka the 12 Hour Foundation who also bought oil wheels and a full live kit to play their John Baker-inspired tunes. Hidden away in his own little office area was Simon James, playing a 3 hour improvised Buchla set to a small but rapt audience, politely seated in rows in front of him.

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Deeper down in the communications and map room were Loose Capacitor who I could get no decent photos of so you’ll have to do with the glowing, neon map. They had bought TV sets complete with old BBC idents and in the engine room Concretism played a fab set whilst films played over the industrial piping behind him. Nearby, Robin The Fog, representing Howlround, nestled in the broadcast studio complex, used some handy mannequins as tape loop holders. At the very bottom of the bunker, in some sort of generator or power room, were Teleplasmiste with their modular synths where we noticed a certain Steve Davis – ex snooker champion and current electronic DJ – enjoying the sounds. Davis, apparently local to Kelvedon Hatch, was present from beginning to end, keeping a low profile but checking out all the acts.

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Back upstairs, Dolly’s last performance was coming to the end and I took to the decks again to close the evening with a mixture of psychedelia, lounge and radiophonics, finishing the night with a track from Alan Gubby’s Revbjelde album. Punters were filing out be now to catch the first of two buses back to Brentwood station whilst we were in the bunker until midnight, packing up before heading to Theydon Bois to catch the central line back into London where I got in just before 3am, exhausted but happy to have been a part of it.

It was unique, it was an amazing venue and I doubt Alan and crew will be in a hurry to repeat the performance but there was plenty of filming going on during the night. The main niggle was that there was so much good music going on concurrently that no one could catch enough of it without missing some of the twelve other acts. If you want a rough idea of what you missed though you can check out the original Delaware Road compilation album containing at least half the assembled players on this date.

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And finally, for those who couldn’t make it but want a souvenir of the occasion – the Delaware Road Bunker Pack is now available, including the flyer, the map (designed by Nick Taylor and Luke Insect), badges, a pack of Delatab anti-radiation pills and the download of the full Delaware Road compilation. All for only £5 and limited to 45 sets  (only 7 left when I just checked)get one here.

Blade Runner 2049 poster by Signalstarr

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Love this prospective poster by Signalstarr for Blade Runner 2049, if only the actual posters could have this beautiful restraint although I doubt they will. Follow him on Instagram for generous helpings of ‘New Adventures in Retrofutures’
This weekend saw a new trailer for the film which is quite extensive and possibly contains a rapid-fire run through of quite a lot of the film so don’t watch if you want the element of surprise.

British Underground Press of the Sixties book and exhibition

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Forthcoming exhibition and book from Rocket 88 publishing with a lovely looking book of all the UK British underground press covers and associated memorabilia including (finally) some of the underground comics of the era associated with them (CoZmic Comics, Nasty Tales etc.). Pre-order the book now and find out more at britishundergroundpress.com

Franco Grignani at the Estorick Collection of Italian Art

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There’s not much to say about this post really, I’ve posted about Franco Grignani before, quite recently. The Italian designer has been featured in a couple of exhibitions in London this year, the second of which has just opened. Just look at these images and then go and see this wonderful artist’s work, it’s on display at the Estorick Collection of Italian Art on Canonbury Sq. in London. The simplicity and precision of execution is simply breathtaking.

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We Are Watching: Oz magazine at Chelsea Space

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Chelsea Space at the Chelsea College of Arts in Pimlico has recently opened an exhibition looking at Oz, it’s obscenity trials and the counterculture magazines of the 60s and 70s that sprang up around it. Featuring every issue of both the Australian and British runs, posters, letters, films and all manner of ephemera from the estates of Richard Neville, Martin Sharp, Felix Dennis and many private collections of those who worked on it, it’s a lovingly curated selection by Cherie Silver who was minding the exhibition when I went last week and was eager to answer questions.
If you’ve never seen issues before then here’s a chance, there are some that can be looked through and one wall lays out the Magic Theatre issue, comprised entirely of a stream of consciousness collage. It finishes on July 14th and is free, usually open between 10.30-11am.
* I rather like the graphic above, subverting George Orwell‘s 1984 maxim, unfortunately they could never have foreseen the Big Brother they’d be watching half a century later.

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25 years ago – UFOrb

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Twenty five years ago my friend David Vallade and I traveled to Brixton to see The Orb, being poor students we ended up buying last minute tickets from a tout outside. When it came to entering the venue David got in and I didn’t as my ticket wasn’t deemed valid. Gutted, I returned home and David was left to do the all-nighter on his own. Above is the flyer, found online earlier this year, a fly poster version of which I had on my wall for years with its early typography by The Designers Republic that was later changed for the album artwork.

Barbara Brown at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

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Just before I played my recent Selected Aphex Works AV set in Manchester recently I got the chance to nip out to the nearby Whitworth Gallery and see the Barbara Brown retrospective. She’s one of my favourite textile designers, embracing Op Art in her work for her 15 year run designing for Heals. The material was presented in huge rolls to stunning effect, it’s free entry and on until December, plus in the basement, there’s an equally beautiful Lucienne Day exhibition too (see other post).

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California – Designing Freedom exhibition at the Design Museum

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The California: Designing Freedom exhibition at the Design Museum is an odd collection of art, print, tech, media and curios that flimsily hangs on the premise that it all originates from the state of California. From the screen print innovations of Sister Corita Kent to the Family Dog psychedelic posters to David Carson‘s Ray Gun magazine design and the skate board craze, on to a recreation of the iconic Easy Rider chopper bike, real Hell’s Angel jackets and the Buckminster Fuller-inspired dome-building communities of the 70s. The links are tenuous or non-existent but all point to people following their own path, whether working alone or as part of a movement. The future looms large from the earliest Apple computers to videos gaming design and Google‘s place as a part of our everyday lives. A joy to behold are some of Syd Mead‘s original concept paintings for Blade Runner which were much smaller than I imagined but no less powerful. It’s on until October, well worth a look…

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Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology LP

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The new Jane Weaver album is absolutely blinding, debuting at no. 50 in the UK charts this week too, the highest selling record in independent shops around the UK last week. Available on limited vinyl, regular, CD and digital, it’s an instant contender for album of the year lists. Buy it here

The artwork by Andy Votel is beautiful too, full of detail and tiny design flourishes, the foil printing being beautiful to touch.

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David Klein, illustrator

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Whilst combing the web for something else entirely I stumbled across the work of the late David Klein. I’ve always been envious of artists who can seemingly use every colour in the palette and not make the result look like a dog’s dinner and there are some wonderful combinations here. His travel posters are lushous examples of a bygone era that occasionally resurfaces when illustrating period pieces like Mad Men. His psychedelic version of Alice In Wonderland is one of the best I’ve seen and there’s an oddity of what looks like six unused prelims for The Exorcist in there too. Visit his website to find out and see more…

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DJ Food & Pete Williams at Further, May 6th

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Pete Williams and I opened and closed our first Further at the Portico Gallery on Saturday. We’d spent the past six months or more preparing for this, creating over 350 hand painted slides, video loops, chaining projectors together to automate them remotely and working out the best way to transform the gallery into a canvas for our work. During my set I looked around and finally relaxed, feeling dwarfed by the encompassing visuals, most of which I’d been painting under a microscope only a few weeks earlier. This is just the beginning, we have plenty more to show and do…

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I’ve been posting photos of each of the acts every day here and we’ve set up a new Facebook page for the venture where you can get a peek at all the photos right now, please ‘like’ our page if you do that sort of thing whilst you’re there. Martin LeSanto-Smith took the photos and without him we wouldn’t have been able to physically set the thing up. John Price from the Portico Gallery let us make it happen and was supportive all the way – massive thanks to both of them and also for Hannah Saunders from Big Fish Little Fish who gave advice, loaned projectors, helped on the door and bar and was generally a hero on the night.

Ghost Box at Further, May 6th

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Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly) and Julian House (The Focus Group) from Ghost Box graced us with a 90 minute AV set for the first Further on May 6th. With Julian DJing off vinyl and CD and Jim playing with a small suitcase of tricks it was a rare treat to host them and project their visuals around the hall. Martin LeSanto-Smith took the photos. I’ll be posting photos of each of the acts each day here and we’ve set up a new Facebook page for the venture where you can get an early peek at the photos right now, please ‘like’ our page if you do that sort of thing whilst you’re there.

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Further at the Portico Gallery

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The reason it’s been a bit quiet on here recently is because of a little (big!) thing called Further that’s been occupying my time for the last few months. Myself and Pete Williams hatched this idea last summer, started talking about it seriously in the autumn and stockpiling equipment over the winter. A studio space was found early in January and we started planning an event that brings together lots of the things we love into one space. Music, visuals, records, food & drink, analogue techniques and leftfield artists. After a test run a couple of weeks ago, at the behest of Alex from The Orb, at the Royal Festival Hall we unveiled the first evening at the Portico Gallery in West Norwood on Saurday May 6th.

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Featuring guests Jim Jupp & Julian House from Ghost Box records playing an AV set and Howlround presenting the premiere of their live rescore to Steven McInerney‘s film ‘A Creak In Time’, we opened and closed the night with our own multi-projection slide / oil / video sets. Local café/deli Pintadera came over to provide delicious Italian food and Michael Johnson from the Book & Record Bar down the road set up a record stall selling records by the artists and music sympathetic to the event. The whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without the support of John Price at the Gallery who let us use the building as our own for the night and Martin LeSanto-Smith who helped set up on the day and managed to take amazing photos all night whilst simultaneously being on a date!

Further @ Portico 2web Nathan AdamsI’ll be posting photos of each of the acts each day here and we’ve set up a new Facebook page for the venture where you can get an early peek at the photos right now, please ‘like’ our page if you do that sort of thing whilst you’re there. There should be a video by the end of the week too but there’s a lot of footage to go through. To give you a taste, here are just a few of the photos harvested from social media, Tuesday I’ll post Ghost Box images, then Howlround, then us on Thursday with the video to follow by the end of the week.

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Photo credits: Top: Neil Mason (Electronic Sound), 2x panoramas: Nathan Adams, slide stills: Spectrascopic, Howlround silhouette: Zoe Plumb, video: Tony Coleman (London Electricity)