Trevor Jackson ‘F O R M A T’ launch

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Thursday night saw the launch of Trevor Jackson‘s first release in 14 years, ‘F O R M A T’, hosted at the Vinyl Factory space under Brewer St. car park on the heart of Soho. The release consists of 12 tracks and is initially being made available on 12 different kinds of media with 1 track per format.

These range from 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD and mini CD, DAT, VHS, Cassette, USB card, Minidisc, 8-track cartridge and 1/4″ tape reel. The numbers of the edition drop as the format gets more obscure so while the 12″ is pressed up at 500 copies the 1/4″ reel is in an edition of only 10 available with the complete box set of all 12 formats. Prices start at £10 and slowly creep up as the numbers get more limited until you get to the full box set at an eye-watering £850. There is also a poster of all 12 formats available in an edition of 100 with each piece signed and numbered. See, hear and buy the full line up at www.formatvf.com

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At the opening last Thursday guests were directed into the car park and downstairs to a space with a free bar at one end and a table selling the various formats that make up the album at the other. A second dark, enclosed space housed a wall of 12 huge screens opposite corresponding plinths with two sets of headphones. Each format and track was represented by a different film of it being played on the corresponding equipment, not a one shot YouTube-style video but varying close ups of the act of loading the format as well as associated graphics such as time displays, VU meters, rotating spools and platters etc.


What’s different about how this album came to be is that Trevor had over 100 tracks that he’d worked on over the past 14 years but only finished last year. This isn’t an album in the conventional sense, none of the tracks were intended to work together, they’ve been cherry-picked from the archive and exist in isolation from each other at the exhibition, preview-able via the headphones. Likewise (at the moment) each track exists in isolation if you buy it physically. Even the spaced letters of the ‘F O R M A T’ title suggest a disengagement from each other or maybe that’s just the graphic designer in me reading more into it. There was no playback of the full record and it will be interesting to see how the tracks hang together when the collection is released in two months time.


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About the music, as it’s not been mentioned as much as the packaging and concept yet: everything I heard was instrumental, electronic, stark, minimal and very brittle sounding. Knowing Trevor’s methods and tastes I’d guess that a lot of this has been made using original kit rather than samples and his ‘Metal Dance’ compilations point the way to the sonic palette he’s using. Baring in mind I’ve only heard approximately two thirds of the record (it was a very busy night with only two heaphone sets per track) my description above may be a little skewed.
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The 7″ track, ‘They Came From NY’ for instance, features an unidentified voice intoning a few lines and the ending disintegrates into random background sounds that slowly coalesce into a mutant jazz ensemble before being abruptly cut off. ‘In Your Hands’ - the VHS format that also includes the video – was my favourite from what I heard, an edit of a 7 minute plus ambient piece with a film of a dancing form that had been forced through some sort of video distortion technique.

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My friend Frode Heieren pointed out that if you added up the 11 separate formats they would cost over £300 and yes, the pricing is crazy if you look at it like that. It aligns the work with the art and fashion worlds rather than the music industry, way out of proportion to the majority of similar objects sold elsewhere. The way each piece is sold is in the same manner as the art world too, these won’t be available in shops, only at the show and online, and each piece comes with a signed, numbered card that states which number you have and there’s the difference.

You’re buying part of an edition and the art world dictates that the lower the edition the higher the price. If you want to get into that side of things then you’ll spend the money – personally I bought a 7″ and cassette as well as a poster, certainly the most I’ve ever spent on either of those formats new. You’re getting 1 track per format and I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that that’s a good deal but you’re buying an artifact here on a format of your choice and it’s more about your preferred media than the track it contains.
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If you don’t want to get into that then the whole album will be released in 2 months on vinyl, CD and download. Realistically very few people are going to be able to play a DAT, tape reel or 8 track cartridge so the editions are low and the prices high. That’s going to frustrate the completists but it’s also a very clever way to stop the album leaking in full as it’s unlikely that anyone is going to buy the box set and stick it online.

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The full box set is inordinately expensive though, I thought it would be £2-300 tops and that’s the only bit where the pricing seemed out of whack to me. It puts it into the realms of the 1% and that’s something I’m personally not a fan of. But then again I have no idea how much it all cost to make, source and produce and the Vinyl Factory have never been known to be cheap which is why they’re one of the best at what they do. Trevor has said that there is no way he’s making a penny from it unless the box sets sell as sourcing things like 1/4″ reels and 8-Track cartridges aren’t exactly cheap or easy. Anyone who has experience of pressing records will also know that the lower the pressing, the higher the cost per item. From my own experience, I made 30 playable postcard records for the launch of the ‘Search Engine’ album exhibition in 2012 and, even selling them at £8 each, I only just broke even. But let’s not get into the crass subject of money and costings…

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Most of all, the whole concept and execution is excellent and has had me thinking about music packaging from a different perspective in the same way that a good exhibition or film leaves you questioning things. I found the most successful presentation of the set was actually a framed version hanging on the wall, displaying each format rather than hiding them away in a box. I’d wager that those who bought items on the night probably acquired them more as artifacts of the show and, after a cursory listen, are more likely to display them than play them, certainly with the limited numbered formats. This has been happening for a while now if you speak to record shop owners who quiz their customers on their buying habits with many physical releases.

It will be interesting to see how much makes its way to the secondary market and how they appreciate in value over time, something I don’t think we can discount in this age of investment buying and flipping. A quick web search shows nothing on eBay or Discogs which is refreshing but will these prices seem like chicken feed in years to come? I know that Trevor’s intention couldn’t have been further from any thoughts of long term fiscal appreciation and would have been focused on the concept and presentation and ‘F O R M A T’ is a love letter to the physical in a time when more and more people are interested in owning a tangible manifestation of what they’re paying for again. In terms of innovative ways to present an album Trevor has broken new ground here and, despite the elitist pricing, I think that makes it a success.

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More Rammellzee…

Ramm1&2 colourThe Rammellzee love-in continues… finished colour versions of the Ramm(s) by Dan Lish (love that he flipped the 2nd one) and an old video popped up the other day of a performance by Rammellzee and Toxic C1 at the Rhythm Lounge in 1983. Toxic is cutting up Billy Squire‘s ‘Big Beat’ while Ramm raps but Jean Michell Basquiat also provides graphic overlays and doesn’t actually appear, the video isn’t all that but it’s all about the recording.

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Early Mo Wax designs by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift

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I love some of these designs from the first 20 or so releases from Mo Wax by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift. I’ve purposely excluded the more well known releases like RPM, DJ Shadow, Attica Blues and La Funk Mob that came to characterize the label later and focused on the less well remembered artists. The first 3 releases had stickers like obi-strips on white sleeves and later they were printed on the covers.

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The Rammellzee returns

There’s been something in the air recently concerning (The) Rammellzee, firstly there was the old interview that surfaced, pressed up for last year’s Mo Wax exhibition. Then Rammellzeeappeared on Twitter last month, despite passing away in 2010… most strange. I got word that this was something to do with Gamma Proforma and a forthcoming project was hinted at. Then this morning Dan Lish posted his take on early Wildstyle-era Ramm as part of his Egostrips series…

D_Lish-Rammellzee…pretty great huh? and this is only the black & white version.

Then the bombshell: Gamma announces a new release entitled ‘Brainstorm’ from an unreleased album, ‘Cosmic Flush’, Rammellzee’s magnum opus, recorded before his death. This will be the first part of a set and this edition will consist of vinyl (with a remix by Divine Styler) and a print by Ian Kuali’i, released March 30th. Preorder HERE

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Definitely something in the air.

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Other Voices 3&4 pre-order from Ghost Box

GBX713and14Steve Moore and two of Friendly Fires join the fray for not one but two volumes of Ghost Box‘s Other Voices series. Jon Brooks once again proves that he never sleeps by teaming up with the two Eds from FF to make the dreamy pop of The Pattern Forms. Check out the trailer video for the B side of Other Voices 03, ‘The Sacrifice’, made by Ed MacFarlane and pre-order HERE

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Mixmaster Morris @ Telepathic Fish 2, May 2nd 1993

Mixmaster Morris – Ambient Tea Party Vol. 3 mix – Brixton 02.05.1993 from Fiasko One on Vimeo.

Here’s a bit of musical history I just found online, Mixmaster Morris DJing at the second Telepathic Fish party that I hosted with David Vallade, Mario Aguera and Chantal Passamonte aka Mira Calix back in 1993. This is volume 3 and I should have the other 2 volumes somewhere in the archive, one with Aphex Twin playing I think as well as my own efforts. Check the cassette inlay for some ‘of its time’ design by my own hand.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, Telepathic Fish was the name my then housemates and I gave to a series of Ambient parties that we staged in London in the early to mid 90’s. They started on a Sunday afternoon and went through to the early hours and the emphasis was on chilling out rather than dancing (although that did happen too sometimes). At some point I’m going to compile the whole Telepathic Fish experience into a series of blog posts or a small book as it was quite a formative time for me as well as the rest of the crew. For more mixes from Morris, who was a guiding light for me back then, you can now check out his brand new website here.

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Blackhill Transmitter 3 EP

“Rain struck the tower but we persisted – the broadcast was scheduled, it had to go ahead, suddenly we were plunged into darkness – silence – nothing – then the noises started – slowly building – the transmission had begun ……..”

Blackhill Transmitter 3 is a four track digital EP and a Future Sound of London side project. You could roughly place this in the hauntological category being that the Black Hill transmitting station in Scotland became the final transmitter to switch off analogue television in 2011. There’s a bit more to it than that though, dark and heavily textured, the four tracks flow into each other, working as one 15 minute piece. It’s available from FSOLDigital.com and if you like it there are two previous volumes here and here.

 

RIP Edgar Froese

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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

Raiding the 20th Century (Words & Music Expansion) is 10

DJFood_Raiding20thcover_B&WSepA 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. Peppers cover, 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 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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