Longplayer


I only just discovered this – there was a launch for a iOS app to go with it last night – Longplayer is a one thousand year long musical composition. It began playing at midnight on the 31st of December 1999, and will continue to play without repetition until the last moment of 2999, at which point it will complete its cycle and begin again. Conceived and composed by Jem Finer, it was originally produced as an Artangel commission, and is now in the care of the Longplayer Trust.”

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2econd Class Citizen ‘Hall of Mirrors’ album

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Out today is ‘Hall of Mirrors’, the third album by 2econd Class Citizen aka Aaron Thomason, another beautiful collection of haunted beats, raps and atmospheres that I’ve been lucky enough to hear develop over the last few years. You can hear echoes of parts of ‘Magpie Music’ – the track we collaborated on – in some of the tracks and if you enjoyed his two previous albums you won’t be disappointed as he’s crafted another winner and advanced his sound another notch.

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The album (very limited vinyl, CD & download) is out on The Content Label from California since Aaron’s previous label, Equinox, closed its doors two years ago. You can order all formats here in various bundles as well as a T-shirt and I nearly forgot, there’s a remix from The Herbaliser that closes the album too. I helped with the typography on the front cover and the excellent front cover was created by French surreal-collagist Albane Simon. Here’s a 15 minute taster for the album mixed by Aaron and he also has all sorts of free downloads, re-edits and videos over on his revamped website here.

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Nicolas Godin ‘Orca’ video

This is pretty interesting, both visually and musically, ‘Orca’ – the first track from Nicolas Godin‘s debut album ‘Contrepoint’, due for release later this year on Because Music. You may recognise Nicolas as being one half of Air and although I’m never going to like that bitcrushed guitar sound there’s a lot going on here that makes me want to hear more.
Download the single here : http://po.st/OrcaSingle

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Balkan Recordings’ ‘Mountain Electrics’ charity comp for Nepal

Balkan Recordings have put together a compilation of tracks from Balkan artists & friends, to raise money & awareness for Nepal called ‘Mountain Electrics. It features tracks from: RAIM, Cardopusher, Perseus Traxx, Symmetry, Posthuman, Hrdvsion, Mark Archer, Myth!, White Lodge, Luke Vibert, Room 13, Mark Broom, Shinra, Shadow Dancer, B12, Echaskech, Nightwave, The Village Orchestra, Paul Mac, Chevron, and Warlock who have contributed their tracks for free.

Balkan_Vinyl_BV18MountainElectrics600The digital compilation is priced at pay-what-you-choose via their Bandcamp page (all money received via bandcamp will be donated via Just Giving, claiming UK Gift Aid) – you can download and pay, or donate directly at justgiving.com/mountainelectrics.  They have chosen CANEPAL as their charity as they have been working in Nepal for years previously to the earthquakes and have staff on the ground & long-standing local knowledge and ties. Their operations & staff costs are funded by other means, meaning 100% of donations go to their work in Nepal. For more information check their site here: http://www.canepal.org.uk

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The Jon Brooks avalanche continues

JB Walberswick
Not content with issuing his ‘MuSIC FOR THOMAS CARNACKI’ album from his own Café Kaput label on vinyl earlier this year, Jon Brooks albums are cascading out of the woodwork this year. His latest, ‘Walberswick’, on Canada’s More Than Human Records is sold out on vinyl and two more reissues are about to hit the shops. His ’52’ album for Clay Pipe Music gets an ‘evening edition’ repress at the end of June with a new version of the sleeve picturing the house during the twilight hour, a clever way of presenting a second run. Pre-order here – be quick!

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The last album from his Ghost Box discography to get the vinyl treatment also arrived last week with 2008’s ‘Other Channels’ under his The Advisory Circle alias, Brooks at possibly his most ‘hauntological’, it’s a favourite. Another of the GB back catalogue getting a vinyl outing for the first time is ‘The Seance At Hobs Lane’ by Mount Vernon Arts Lab, their sole release so far on the label and itself a reissue from 2001. Order them both here (free download only with GB shop orders too!)

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Annabel (lee) ‘By the sea… and other solitary places’

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This is pretty special, passed me by when it was released in April as a co-production between If Music and Ninja Tune. Annabel (lee) qualifies for a raft of clichés to be employed – haunting, fragile, beautiful, widescreen, string-laden – it sounds like a lot of things but still manages to sound unique. I’m not sure if the orchestration is sampled or has been played and put through processing to sound like it but there’s a vintage quality to it, not dissimilar to The Caretaker’s crackly 78’s drenched in reverb, although way cleaner.

Think of Nina Simone‘s darker moments with Lou Rhodes‘ folkier ones but backed by an orchestra ripped from a 60s Bernard Herrmann score. I know nothing about her or the record’s origin but her voice is exquisite and I love it. I’ll never make a decent music reviewer, have a listen and make your own mind up. The sleeve is beautiful as well, some sort of distortion process added to old black and white photographs that perfectly match the audio they cover. No credit for the artist or photographer at all unfortunately but with my Ninja contacts I can reveal it was done by my old mate Doug Bowden aka Pandayohurt. Listen and buy it here.
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Nostalgia #3 : Trip Hop

‘Trip Hop’ – Oh how I groaned when I first heard the phrase, coined by journalist Andy Pemberton in an article for Mixmag in 1994. So obvious, cheesy and naff, yet subsequently so full of promise…

‘Trip Hop’ (general definition) – How I lament what the name came to represent: downtempo, ‘blunted’ beat workouts with no direction, the same clichéd phrases copped from golden era Hip Hop tracks repeated throughout ad infinitum. The relentless thud of the snare on the 2 and 4 of the bar, a ‘jazzy’ horn sample looped endlessly, and I’m well aware that a high proportion of 90’s Food and Ninja output can fall into this category too.“Cos nobody luuuuuuvs me”. It’s true.

‘Trip Hop’ (my definition) – Essentially psychedelic beat collages, usually instrumental, embracing samples, analogue electronics and dub FX. Largely dispensing with the ego of the vocalist in favour of spoken word, incorporating found sounds, fuzz and the most banging drums ever recorded. Questing, otherworldly and intent of taking the listener (user?) on a trip of the most lysergic kind, ‘B-Boys on Acid’ as Justin Warfield sang on the lead single from his lost classic ‘My Field Trip To Planet 9′. An amazing mess of styles, soundscapes and head trips fall into this category when I think of artists who – for me at least – occasionally qualify to be found under this description: *

The Orb circa ‘Ultraworld’ / Major Force West / The Art of Noise / Pre-‘Psyence Fiction’ UNKLE / Skylab / Tackhead / Wagon Christ / Brendan Lynch’s remixes / The Headphonauts / DJ Shadow / Req One / Depth Charge / Bill Laswell’s late 90’s Axiom period / The Underdog / Skull / The Wordsound label / DJ Spooky / Prefuse 73 / Meat Beat Manifesto / elements of FSOL /The Amorphous Androgynous / Eno & Byrne’s ‘My Life In The Bush of Ghosts’ (a Trip Hop blueprint if ever there was one) / Richard H. Kirk / Sixtoo / Boards of Canada / David Holmes/The Free Association / Andy Votel / Koushik / (Mr) Chop / The Heliocentrics / Gaslamp Killer / Giallos Flame / The Simonsound / Mordy Laye & The Group Modular…

and Hip Hop that manages to turn on and tune in:
Rammellzee & K-Rob’s ‘Beat Bop’ / The Beastie Boys (the original B-Boys on Acid) / Jungle Brothers circa ‘Crazy Wisdom Masters’ / Justin Warfield / Invisible Skratch Piklz / Divine Styler’s ‘Spiral Walls…’ LP / New Kingdom / MC 900 Ft Jesus / Prince Paul’s ‘Psychoanalysis’ LP / Edan / Quasimoto / 2econd Class Citizen / Subtle / Busdriver / Antipop Consortium / Ras G…  the list is endless

* by no means definitive and plenty of the above names fall into several other categories as well.

This train of thought started back in late 2009 when I emailed fellow like-mind MarkE of ireallylovemusic about Skylab’s unfairly ignored second album – ‘Skylab #2 1999′. He’d burned me a CDR of his rare promo CD, which is noticeably different to the released version, and we got into a lengthy discussion on the merits, and public misconceptions, of ‘Trip Hop’ by our definitions.
By coincidence, both Skylab‘s albums are being reissued by Tummy Touch this month and Matt Ducasse from the group echoed our sentiments in the press release. “One of the problems was that we were lumped in with trip hop when [our music’s] much more expansive than that. I see it as outside of genre entirely. It has much more in common with collage music like things by Tod Dockstader, or soundtracks, the entire creative process was unique and inimitable”

Skylab promo shot 1994

With the group originally consisting of Matt, Howie B and Toshi & Kudo from Major Force West, Skylab’s debut album, ‘#1′ was released in 1994, in the midst of Trip Hop’s heyday with Mo Wax basking in its glow and Ninja waiting in the wings for their moment to shine. Howie and Major Force already had associations with Mo Wax so fitting them into the same bracket was a no-brainer but being signed to Sven Vath‘s Eye Q label set them apart.

By the time of the second album, five years later, Howie had moved on, producing U2 of all people and carving out his own solo career. Matt, Toshi & Kudo came up with a patchwork of sounds and styles which had also moved on sonically from #1 but didn’t have quite the cohesiveness of the debut. In between LPs were numerous non-album singles, remixes and Major Force’s work with Howie‘s Pussyfoot label and James Lavelle‘s UNKLE project (pre DJ Shadow) plus their solo album for Mo Wax (another lost classic). Sadly ‘#2 (1999 – Large as Life and Twice as Natural)’ arrived just as the Eye Q label folded so never got the push of its predecessor, despite encouraging reviews. Make your own mind up with these two lost classics now available again.

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Skylab were always hard to pin down style-wise, the main constant being the sonic fingerprints of the Major Force West production duo who doused tracks in Roland Space Echo, live drums and Hawaiian guitar licks. The label ‘Trip Hop’ was actually perfect for them but, unfortunately, a lot of the music around under that banner at the time didn’t reflect the description as perfectly as the band in my opinion. Labels are tedious but ultimately necessary in this over-saturated, media-heavy world but, as Coldcut‘s Jon More always says, “I don’t mind being labelled as long as you let me have as many labels as I want”.
It’s a given that most artists – once labelled as making a certain kind of art – will be unhappy about it, especially when someone outside of their creative circle has come up with the name and neatly attached it to them. ‘Jazz’ musicians famously hated the word, the terms ‘Intelligent Drum n Bass’ and IDM were seen as a joke. I remember Simon Reynolds naming Hauntology and feeling deflated that suddenly there were parameters on this sound that had up until then remained loose and unrestricted by definition.

Interviewers often ask me to define the kind of music I make and ‘Magpie Music’ probably describes it best – the name of a track I collaborated on with 2econd Class Citizen back in 2011. Snatches of sound stolen to form a nest of samples, woven together in a recycled sonic collage. Taking the best parts from here, there and everywhere has been my modus operandi for as long as I can remember, an aesthetic learnt from Afrika Bambaataa‘s DJ sets and Double Dee & Steinski‘s ‘Lessons‘ megamixes. This is the bedrock of Hip Hop’s golden era, from a time when the sample replaced the drum machine or the house band replaying the sample in the first place. By extension it also formed the foundations of Trip Hop.

The thing is, I like Trip Hop, but the Hallucinogenic-Sci-Fi-Kosmische-Illecktrik-Beat-soundtrack kind rather than what it became that made it so reviled by the end of the 90’s. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make a form of psychedelic space music infused with the sampling techniques of Hip Hop. I’ve never been interested in using MCs but I’ll gladly use poets, singers or spoken word samples to voice any message I want to convey. I use the term ‘psychedelic’ in its broadest sense too: the expansion of Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band and Miles in his electric phase or the polyrhythmic grooves of Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Psychic Warriors Ov Gaia’s tribal trance-outs or Krautrock’s motorik explorations rather than just the sixties rock movement of the same name, a lot of which doesn’t quite measure up to the term once the needle hits the groove.

The tag ‘Trip Hop’ held so much promise but along the way the drugs got switched, weed replaced LSD and the destination of the trip changed course. Rather than enhancing the senses and tempo it dulled and slowed them. You could argue that it’s been back with us for years now, clothed in a new skin as the various strands of the LA Low End Theory Beat scene meet the wonky Madlib / Dilla / Fly Lo crowd. Given that this is one of the last scenes to grow naturally, over a number of years and locations, and not fall prey to the press’ ‘define-name-move on’ approach, it’s largely managed to escape a neat definition and no one wanted to attach the poisoned ‘Trip Hop” label to it. The writer, Laurent Fintoni, has been researching a book on the history that led up to this movement for years now which should see publication next year.

Nestled in the lexicon of lingo that came with the first packet of Ninja Skinz back in 1996, Mr Sho’nuff added this entry: ‘Triphoptimism – Used to be a bad word, feeling of euphoria experienced by those in the Here and Now; state of mind obtained by ninjas able to see beyond categorisation”. I’d like the name to fulfill it’s initial promise and transcend the hackneyed old description and baggage it comes with. Plenty of artists today are making exactly this sort of music, luckily unfettered by the need to label it or fit into a scene, let’s hope it stays that way before the definition police round them up into a neat category again.

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Memory Man ‘Broadcast One’ album

MemManBroadOneLPIf you like your Hip Hop with more ideas and samples per minute than a hyperactive genius – buy this. If you like albums like ‘Paul’s Boutique’ or ‘3 Feet High & Rising’ that are built on an audio collage to rival a patchwork quilt – buy this. If you like Edan, Kool Keith, Busdriver, Mr Lif and MCs of their ilk (they all feature)buy this. If you want a chunk of fresh Hip Hop that will fry your brain as good as any LSD trip – buy this.

I don’t know anything about Memory Man but this record is dope.
If you want a vinyl version then… buy this.

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Who is / was Jan W. Gruber?

Jon Brooks hipped me to Jan W. Gruber, reportedly a Dutch electronic artist operating in the 60s and 70s according to the few scraps of info on the web. Jim Jupp posted about Jan on the Belbury Parish blog back in 2012 with no other info, there are three tracks on YouTube, retrofitted with period footage, and a Soundcloud page exists with 14 tracks dating back a few years. The rest of the info on the web seems to consist of people asking who Gruber is and debating whether it’s all a put on by a modern artist mimicking old styles.

I had to question the authenticity behind the pieces myself as they sound too polished and advanced for their time plus Basta have done several extensive Dutch Electronic masters compilations over the years and Gruber has never been mentioned. I’d peg the style as up there with Raymond Scott, The Radiophonic Workshop or Tom Dissevelt / Kid Baltan, or equally at home in the Ghost Box camp but Brooks maintains it isn’t him at least. Old or new, it doesn’t matter, the music stands up and speaks for itself and I’d buy this if it was available in a minute.

 

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The further adventures of Dan Lish’s Egostrip

DLish_JazzyJYes, it’s that time again, more from Mr Prolific, Dan Lish, in his on-going quest to document the musical heroes and influences that orbit the Hip Hop world for his Egostrip project. (Above) Jazzy Jay, (below) AhmadJamal, Ultramagnetic MCs, Beastie Boys (colour and inks), Robert Glasper’s Dillalude, Gang Starr and a 4Hero / Reinforced label piece for a compilation. As ever, he has prints for sale here or you can see more from the project plus a whole lot more on his website.

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Jaga Jazzist ‘Starfire’ / ‘Oban’

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This is the stunning new album from Jaga Jazzist, not only contender for cover design of 2015 by a very long margin but also heading for top 10 album of the year status too. It’s taken a while for me to fully appreciate Jaga but with each album they’ve crept further into my orbit so that now each release has to be checked out. ‘Starfire’, after only a few listens, I can quite confidently say, is my favourite so far and it sees a slightly more electronic mission statement than before whilst still retaining the uber-tight Zappa-like syncopation of previous work.

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The design on the sleeve is magnificent here as well and really compliments the futuristic feel of the music perfectly. Browsing the new releases in Fopp the other day I was struck by how little of the current crop of album designs stood out, possessed any kind of classic iconography or would make me want to look at them twice. So much of the ‘style’ of the last few years of the kind of music that racks up kudos from the critics seems to be about minimal, safe, almost nonchalant anti-design, designers afraid to go all out and make a statement or content to reference past styles.
The Jaga sleeve, besides being striking yet minimal, has a clever trick up its sleeve – or should that be on it?. It comes in a screen printed transparent outer cover of evenly spaced vertical lines that animate keys graphics underneath on both front and back as you slowly pull the inner cover out. This effect is being billed as ‘anamorphic’ in the press releases but that’s more about stretching an image, this process is closer to the ‘moire effect’ that tricks the eye into believing that objects are moving as the black and white lines move past each other, much like a TV screen flicker.

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Aside from the outer cover gimmick, the typography on it is stunning, look at those titles above, that must be a custom made face that works with just the right dose of sci-fi and heavy metal styling to make it unique. The labels and second inner sleeve work beautifully to counterpoint the blackness of the outer as well, as does the companion single, ‘Oban’.

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Coming from the Bridget Riley school of Op-Art the single’s sleeve is right in your face, begging you to pick it up. I take my hat off to Martin Kvamme who is credited with the design just for the elegant graphic solution to the 33 rpm speed text on the label, so few designers would bother devising something different these days.
Both releases are out now on Ninja Tune – go and grab them, music that needs to be held as much as heard.

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Secret Cinema presents Star Wars

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I was honoured to play at both the Secret Cantina on Friday and the main site of the Secret Cinema presentation of The Empire Strikes Back yesterday. It opens this week on June 4th, a month after the launch at the Alexandra Palace and the Cantina Bar satellite venue at the weekends. At £75 a head it’s expensive but, having experienced what they’ve done, I can tell you it’s worth every penny and even the hardcore would be hard-pressed to nit-pick. You will never experience The Empire Strikes Back at a cinema like this, ever.
If you’re dithering over getting a ticket then don’t delay as the weekends are nearly all sold out going up to September when it ends its run. And if you’re going and not making an effort with your costume then you’re going to feel pretty under dressed on the day. I’d love to show you some photos of what’s in store but that would spoil it and if you’re going this summer I might just see you there…

Coldcut ‘Journeys By DJ’ 20 Years on by Joe Clay on the Quietus

quietus_coldcut-70minutescropJoe Clay interviewed Coldcut, PC and myself back in January for a 20th anniversary piece about the making of ‘Seventy Minutes of Madness’, Coldcut‘s contribution to the Journeys By DJ series back in 1995. It seems crazy that this was two decades ago now but time flies when you’re having fun. It’s a pretty extensive delve into the circumstances and techniques involved in the creation of what they’re calling ‘the greatest DJ mix album of all time’ *blushes*.
This piece also reveals why Coldcut never made a follow up but highlights the logical successor to the mix and kicks off a series on the Quietus where writers pick their favourite mixes. Incidentally the photo above was taken in Japan around 1996/7, back stage with DJ Takemura before a gig. If you’ve never heard the mix before or fancy a refresher after reading then someone called GarethisOnit has put it up on Soundcloud as part of a Classic Mix CD Series he’s creating.

 

More ‘Art Pop’ and the record store in the basement

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I made time to actually visit the Keith Haynes ‘Art Pop’ show at Gallery Different in London last week after posting photos friends had taken on the opening night. I really wanted to see the cut up Bowie and Beatles sleeves and I wasn’t disappointed, they are beautifully executed and what becomes apparent when you view them up close is that Keith has selected covers with differing print qualities so as to make the contrast between the same sections more apparent. The same covers printed 20 years apart can be quite noticeable, especially in this digital age where the original films or photos might have been lost and an inferior scan used in their place. This is especially noticeable on the ‘Hunky Dory’ image below, try and check them out before the show ends on May 30th and there’s another surprise in the basement of the gallery that I knew nothing about.

Roger Miles has installed his version of a 70’s record shop underneath the gallery entitled, ‘Resonate – Generate’, complete with vinyl, 8-Track machines, vintage posters and more. Having just read Roger Perry’s ‘The Writing On The Wall’ it was a timely coincidence that evoked memories of the same era. His jogroglog blog is full of fascinating artifacts and information on his various art projects (one was in a local dump where he could use anything that was bought in – including a speed boat on a trailer!). Anything one best viewed in the flesh.

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United States of Audio ‘A History of the KLF’

USA23.2webOn the 23rd anniversary of The KLF retiring from the music industry, deleting all their back catalogue (and later vowing 23 years of silence), comes this new mix from United States of Audio. He’s assembled a chronological trip through the band’s history from underground bedroom samplers to Stadium House pop overlords.

As ever with USofA’s mixes it’s perfectly threaded together with interview snippets that tell the tale (listen out for how they build ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ sample by sample at one point). If you don’t know their story then jump in and if you do then all hail the Mu Mu, The Timelords and the Kings of Low Frequency and wonder where that 23 years went.KLF_exit NMEad

Moomins RSD 7″ from Finders Keepers

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The Moomin 7″ from Finders Keepers was certainly one of the most popular releases of RSD 2015 in the UK and it’s an item of beauty, both musically and sleeve-wise. The cover is made of felt, hand-stitched and colour printed, I’ve never seen anything like it (there are also two different cover images to collect). The music is pure analogue electronics, being the UK-specific soundtrack by Graeme Miller and Steve Shill.

Happily for those that didn’t score a copy on RSD and now that the fuss has died down, Finders Keepers are allowed to sell it on their site. So don’t feed the flippers on eBay, pay the label direct. Whilst you’re there you could do worse than also pick up Bruce Ditmas‘Yellow Dust’ album – I did, he plays a Moog Drum and it’s mental in the best possible way.

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