I’ll never forget hearing this track on a tape at school aged 13 or 14. Nick Canning played it to me, swearing blind that his uncle made it and that it was called ‘Flight Through Metamorphic Rocks’. I loved it and only later found out who really made it and the actual title (the track before is called ‘Cloudburst Flight’).
Funnily enough, the tape started the track at about the same place, the first half of the song is pretty average but then it breaks down and comes back with this pre-techno monster, not bad for 1979.
Of course, come the early 90’s and the resurgence of ambient music I was hoovering up LPs like the classic ‘Phaedra’, ‘Zeit’ and ‘Stratosfear’, even ‘Electronic Meditation’ but I lost track around the mid 80’s soundtrack period. And then there was this album where the truth was revealed… RIP Edgar
A decade ago this week (I think it was a Monday or Tuesday) I debuted the expanded ‘Words & Music’version of ‘Raiding The 20th Century’, this time lengthened to an hour and featuring specially recorded voice overs from Paul Morley. It was an attempt to chronicle a fragmented history of sampling from the advent of music concrete through to tape cut ups, sampling and finally the Bastard Pop/Mash Up phenomenon at the turn of the century.
Paul’s inclusion was through his book, ‘Words & Music’ that I’d read shortly after completing the first 40 minute version of ‘Raiding…’ the year before. The two mirrored each other so closely in places that the opportunity to revisit and revise was too good to pass up. Also the fact that I’d cribbed the title from a piece of text Paul had written nearly 20 years before didn’t go unnoticed, sometimes there are too many coincidences to ignore.
Since then it’s had a cease and desist take down notice from EMI and an attempt made at a video version but still, through the miracle of the internet, it endures. Here’s a collage that I started back at the beginning of 2006 and finally finished this morning, based on the Sgt. Pepperscover, of Paul and I alongside Alvin Lucier and Kylie, surrounded by some of the cast of thousands that make up the recording.
You can still listen to the mix here via UbuWeb but it’s out there in all sorts of corners of the internet.
The first track from Matt Johnson‘s soundtrack to his brother Gerard’s film ‘Hyena’ has been previewed over on the Quietus. The score is out in March on CD in hardback book packaging via Matt’s Cineola label and vinyl via Death Waltz.
Finally here’s the 2nd part of the interview I took part in alongside Ian Peel, Philip Marshall and Steve Bunyan with Paul Sinclair of Super Deluxe Edition talking about the making of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’box set last year.
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 Bubblemix series.
Pre-order the double CD here, release date is March 16th.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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:
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.
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!
This isn’t a ‘best of 2014′ list – just the things that I liked more than most, they’re not definitive or in an order other than the one I thought of them in.
• New Music: The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia LP (Ghost Box) Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun LP (Chimera) Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe LP (Bird) Heliocentrics & Melvin Van Peebles – The Last Transmission LP (Now Again) Jeremy Schmidt / Sinoia Caves – Beyond The Black Rainbow LP (Death Waltz) Jokers of the Scene – End Scene LP (Throne of Canada) Nico Motte – Rheologia EP (Antinote) An-I – Kino-i 12” (Cititrax) The Advisory Circle – From Out Here LP (Ghost Box) Temples – Sun Structures / Sun Restructured LP (Heavenly) Andy Votel / Doug Shipton – Polivox Orthodox mixtape (Finders Keepers) Daniel Haaksman – Duck Rock – A Sonic Essay (mixtape) tUnE-yArDs – Water Fountain 7″ (4AD) Pye Corner Audio – The Black Mist EP (Front &Follow) Mac McRaw feat. Audessey & Oxygen – B-Boy Bionics / Dust 12″ (Cold Rock Stuff) Ukkonen – Change Time EP (Uncharted Audio) Syd Arthur vs The Amorphous Androgynous LP (Monstrous Bubble Records)
• Reissues: John Carpenter / Alan Howarth – Halloween III (updated version) LP (Death Waltz) Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Inside the Pleasuredome box set (ZTT/USM) (biased obviously) The The – Soul Mining box set (Sony) Z – Visions of Dune LP (Infiné)
• Sleeves / Packaging: Astralasia – Wind On Water LP (Fruits De Mer) Jack White – Lazaretto LP (Third Man)
(Not so much for the cover but for the whole package and vinyl cutting extravaganza) Joe Mansfield – Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession (Gingko Press) Andrew Lilies – The Equestrian Vortex 10″ (Death Waltz) Temples – Sun Restructured LP (Lenticular sleeve) (Heavenly)
Various – Wild Style Breakbeats (7″s + book) (Kay-Dee) Sage Francis, B. Dolan, Buddy Peace – Epic Beard Men 7″ (Blunt Force Trauma) Rave Wars 3 – The Return of the Old School (7″ + Star Wars figure) (Balkan Vinyl) Clone – Son of Octabred (Finders Keepers) Sculpture – Plastic Infinite The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia LP (Ghost Box)
• Books / Comics: Prophet – Simon Roy & Brandon Graham / various artists (Image) B.P.R.D. – Various (Dark Horse) Punks – The Comic – Joshua Hale Fialkov & Kody Chamberlain (Image) God Hates Astronauts – Ryan Browne (Image) Black Science – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, Dean White (Image) Hip Hop Family Tree 1&2 – Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics) Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III (Vertigo) Discovering Scarfolk – Richard Littler (Ebury Press) Dust & Grooves – Eilon Paz (self-published) The Art of Smallfilms – Oliver Postgate, Peter Firmin, Jonny Trunk (Four Corners Books) Urban Archaeology- 21 Years of Mo Wax – James Lavelle (Rizzoli International) 2000 TC – John Higgs (self-published) 2000ad / Judge Dredd The Megazine – Various (Rebellion) Moosekid Comics – Various (self-published) For Whom The Cowbell Tolls – Dan LeRoy (6623) (biased again)
• Films: (I didn’t watch too much this year sadly) Blade Runner(finally saw it at the cinema) Guardians of the Galaxy Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary with Jodorowsky Q&A The Cobbler & The Thief with Richard Williams Q&A Future Shock: The Story of 2000ADdocumentary with Pat Mills, Kev O’Neill & crew Q&A The Lego Movie Ghost Box Night at the ICA Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys Jet Propelled Cinema – How Psychedelia Infected Hollywood Sci-Fi at the BFI
Touring the 3-Way Mix with Cheeba & Moneyshot Cosmic Trigger – The Play
Meeting Brian Eno Kid Koala‘s ‘Nufonia Must Fall’ show at the Roundhouse
Interviewing Matt Johnson at Rough Trade East Future Shock gig at the Watershed, Bristol with Cheeba & Tom Lumen
Designing for Frankie Goes To Hollywood / ZTT Space In This Place gig at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London Welcome To The Pleasuredomeplayback at Sarm West Studios Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican with the family
Visiting underground caves in Switzerland
4 deck AV show at Madrid Espacio with DK
One of my sons getting a drawing printed in the Phoenix comic Ryoji Ikeda‘s ‘Spectra’ installation in the Queen Victoria Park Adam Ant playing Dirk Wears White Sox at the Hammersmith Odeon
Crazy DJ weekend in Eketerinberg and Samara in Russia Mike McMahon finally finishing my Dredd commission after 2 years.
• Heros: Ben Coghill (agent) DJs Cheeba & Moneyshot Philip Marshall (designer), Ian Peel (writer) & Steve Bunyan (USM organiser) Eilon Paz (photographer) Carlos Ezquerra (artist) Rob Williams (writer) Jamie Smart (childen’s comic creator)
• RIP: Rik Mayall HR Giger Robin Williams Tony Benn Idris Muhammad Bob Hoskins Hope & Greenwood (East Dulwich branch of the sweet shop)
• Looking forward to: Renegades of Rhythm tour (DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist) Mad Max : Fury Road 21st Century Tank Girl book The Writing On The Wall – Roger Perry book John Carpenter – Lost Themes LP Create A Mess Trevor Jackson – FormatLP The The – Hyena soundtrack Black Channels Prophet: Earth War Avengers: Age of Ultron Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Distilled from over 100 tracks made over the last 14 years, Trevor Jackson has teamed up with The Vinyl Factory to release a version of his next album as 12 different formats.
A version including 12″, 10” and 7” vinyl, CD, Mini CD, Cassette, USB, VHS, Mini Disc, DAT, 8-track and Reel-to-Reel will be available in February with standard vinyl and digital editions to follow. No idea on price yet but more info is here.
The latest album from Jon Brooks under his The Advisory Circle guise is his best yet. I feel confident in saying this, not only because it’s already received universal praise from others but because there’s something in ‘From Out Here’ that goes further than before. There’s a deeper sense of menace than previous, lighter, works, as well as that ‘remembered nostalgia’ feeling that you really have heard some of these songs before. As with Boards of Canada‘s best, relying more on the familiarity of sound textures than samples, Brooks transports us back to an unspecific time somewhere between the mid 60’s and the late 70’s.
Take a track like ‘Escape Lane’for example; the opening motif recalling classic Carpenter / Howarth before the main chiming keyboard riff instantly evokes a forgotten library cue from a BBC schools play or educational programme. The kind of track that would be labelled “light, breezy, synthetic, optimistic… ‘ on the back of any library LP description. So far, so good, this is then followed by a much subtler, darker piece that recalls some of David Sylvian‘s soundscapes before swinging back into another light synth line, this time accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano. Then things get weird as we eavesdrop of a recording of someone sending a message back to a loved one, repeatedly referred to in a slightly stilted way as, “…darling”. It’s here that the phrase ‘from out here’ is uttered and presumably what inspired the album title. Further spoken word pieces appear; a disembodied voice intoning ‘pushing, pushing, pushing and purring’ and ‘2, 5, 9′ in a mix of Twin Peaks meets number station menace.
There are shades of old world nostalgia similar to Kraftwerk‘s ‘Radio Activity’ on tracks like ‘Experiment!’ with synthesized machines blowing steam and pumping pistons in the background. It continues on side 2 as Brooks conjurers themes from the kind of TV programmes that would start just as it was time for bed, the opening strains of which would be all you’d hear as you were ushered out of the living room and up the stairs, wondering what they could contain that wasn’t fit for children’s eyes. It’s also a distinctly British sound and approach, from the sonic tones to the accents of the spoken passages and nowhere near as dark as Jeremy Schmidt‘s similarly-themed ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow’ which piled on the horror.
Julian House‘s artwork has now moved to a point where he has defined a good portion of the visual stimulus associated with the Hauntological genre and his cover doesn’t shy away from including as many as possible. On receiving the LP my wife remarked, “oh is there a record of that book?” (referring to ‘Discovering Scarfolk’ by Richard Littler), so strong are the associated connections now. And make no mistake, that’s no bad thing, this is a perfect example of Hauntology right down to the sci-fi concept of patient experimentation and computer-generated society. All this is helped by track titles like ‘Discipline Before Data’, ‘Jessica Finds The Beach’ and references to ‘Triadex’(a Triadex Muse was an old 70’s sequencer-based synthesizer) set in the old Monotype ‘Computer’ font.
It’s hard to pick a favourite track as they all work to form a larger picture, a complete work that’s all any composer could wish for in an age where albums are cherry-picked into a distilled form of ‘highlights’. Brooks has been on a roll this year with the highly personal ’52’album on Clay Pipe Music, mastering work, mixes and a collaboration with Sean O’Hagan on theOther Voicesseries for Ghost Box. ‘From Out Here’ is my favourite though as it embodies everything I love about the label and it’ll be interesting to see where he takes things next. You can buy it direct from the label here and, although vinyl is my preferred format for all GB releases, the CD and DL have 3 extra tracks so I might have to get a second copy.
I did an interview with french magazine, Tsugi, about my favourite cover versions of Kraftwerk songs for their Nov/Dec special on the group. It’s out now, all the text is in French though (“Un top 10 des reprises de Kraftwerk”) but I will post up the English version at some point next year. By the looks of things they have some very good archive photos too.
By day Dan Lish works as a concept artist for the video games industry but in his spare time he creates images of Hip Hop’s pioneers in a trippy style that brings to mind Moebius at his best. Check out just a few here and head over to Dan’s site to find out more about theEgo Strip project and maybe buy some prints.
I’m not so up on Andy Partridges‘ solo work (I mainly know him from his XTC days) but this album swam into my field of vision the other day after a search for the book of collected Richard M. Powers‘ artwork. Apparently Partridge was fascinated by Powers’ book covers as a kid and later made a whole album of ambient / electro-acoustic sound pieces to soundtrack the fantastic worlds he saw on his library loans. The 500 copy CD is long sold out but you can still buy the 12 tracks as downloads from his Ape House imprint. Think Raymond Scott, Louis & Bebe Barron or Tod Dockstader and you’re in the right area.
Christ this is good! If you love real Hip Hop then this is as real as it gets. Cold Rock Stuff with Audessey and Oxygen from Soundsci, mixes by Daily Diggers and The Process, sleeve by Mr Krum. Get it here.
Thought I’d mentioned this before but I don’t think I have. Jane Weaver‘s latest album,‘The Silver Globe’ is still on my turntable after a month of first receiving it. A rarity in this day and age, I would recommend this album to almost anyone as it’s all killer and no filler, each track merging into the next to form a complete work. Definitely going to be on the ‘best of 2014′ list in a month’s time. Buy it direct from Finders Keepers here.
Out today on vinyl, FLAC and MP3 – the AA remix Syd Arthur into 7 psychedelic sine waves.
“Following their remix/production work with Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, DJ Food, Pop Levi and their award winning compilation series “A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind”, The Amorphous Androgynous now turn their attention to Canterbury psych-rock quartet Syd Arthur, who were recently named Breakthrough Artist of 2014 in the Prog Awards.
Choosing five tracks from Syd Arthur’s back catalogue to re-work, The Amorphous Androgynous have fed these tracks through the AA sonic blender, turning up the saturation of the psychedelic dimensions within the Syd Arthur universe.”
Also up for pre-order on FSOLDigital are vinyl LP versions of ‘Environments 2 & 4′. Highly recommended for those of you who love the Lifeforms era of the band’s output.
The crowdfunded play ‘Cosmic Trigger’ opens in Liverpool and London this weekend and next week, based on Robert Anton Wilson‘s follow up to the Illuminatus trilogy but also taking in his life story. It’s being staged by Daisy Eris Campbell, the daughter of Ken Campbell who staged a version of Illuminatus in Liverpool back in 1976 that was pivotal for many people involved.
Being that I already mentioned Liverpool and the Illuminati then it follows that The KLF can’t be too far behind and Bill Drummond built the scenery for the original play. Jimmy Cauty is also somehow involved in the new version. There are a little too many intersecting factors in all of this so here’s some further reading if you’re interested:
Greg Wilson - The Gateway Drug – extensive, make some tea and settle in for the long haul
John Higgs‘ – Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned A Million Pounds – absolutely fascinating book chronicling the KLF‘s history from before and after they formed/disbanded, taking in the Illuminati, Dr Who, the number 23, JFK, Alistair Crowley, the banking crisis and much more. Buy it, even if you’ve no interest in the KLF, they’re just the springboard for a romp through the latter half of the 20th Century.
A unique opportunity to buy items from the Mo Wax Urban Archaeology exhibition opens next week at the Saatchi Gallery.
Following on from the brief exhibition at the Southbank (featured here)‘Build & Destroy’ is an exhibition of rare art works, proofs and merchandise from the Mo Wax archive. It will also feature new works and limited editions by various artists like Swifty, (who has been posting things on his Instagram recently)Futura and 3D who have worked with Mo Wax over the past 21 years. Build & Destroy also coincides with the major survey exhibition Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery.
All of the works are available to buy and the exhibition is a rare opportunity for people to obtain original works and limited editions produced throughout the history of the label to date alongside newly commissioned pieces. More details here