An absolute gem of an album recently surfaced on Trunk Records – ‘Galactic Nightmare’, a kind of low budget War of the Worlds first released on cassette in 1986 and now transferred to a double vinyl album with gatefold sleeve, printed inners and extra art. There’s a nice story behind it on the Trunk website and I love that GN logo above – so 80s. Only 500 copies on double vinyl, sold out on the label website but they have digital if that’ll do you. A real special one-off as only Trunk can do, look out for it, here’s a short preview…
A brand new album of material by John Baker from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is getting a release on Buried Treasure next month. You may remember me featuring their Rare Psych, Moog & Brass comp over a year ago that I’m still playing tracks out from.
From the press release: “Whilst producing ‘The John Baker Tapes’ albums for Trunk Records, Alan Gubby – Buried Treasure’s label manager – unearthed several reels of music & sound effects from the 1960’s BBC TV series ‘Vendetta’ – an organised crime / mafia thriller starring Italian actor Stelio Candelli (Barbarella, Django, Planet Of The Vampires). John produced a tense, rhythmic & unhinged James Bond style score for the 1st series in 1966 featuring live drums, radiophonic bass lines, taped atmospherics & screaming jazz improvisations.
Available for the 1st time ever, The Vendetta Tapes displays Baker’s legendary skills in combining tape manipulation with live instrumentation. The music is thrilling, sleazy, deranged & very hip. Highlights from the score are presented on this compilation alongside other previously unreleased tracks plus a couple of classics from the hard to find Trunk compilations – all digitally remastered by Mark Ayres from the radiophonic archives.”
Released on LP, CD on the 14th August 2015 via Modulor Distribution (Paris) but you can buy the digital right now from the BT bandcamp page. Unfortunately all CD & vinyl copies have already been swallowed up by the stores such as Rough Trade or Norman Records so hit the links to pre-order.
Just saw Love & Mercy – utterly fantastic in so many ways. The casting was superb, the music (both real and recreated) was spot on, the attention to detail between the time periods right on the money. It moved me to tears several times and their portrayal of the injustice Brian Wilson suffered without resorting to sensationalism was admirable. A big hand should also go to Atticus Ross for his amazing sound collages that use snippets of Beach Boys songs and studio outtakes to form mood montages throughout the film, let’s hope they get an official release at some point.
Paul Dano as a young Brian – superb, Paul Giamatti‘s Dr Landy was terrific and Jake Abel WAS Mike Love. John Cusack as the older Wilson wasn’t facially convincing but he got the mannerisms down although that half of the film was more about Landy’s battle with Melinda Ledbetter anyway. As a hardcore Beach Boys fan who’s read the books (official or otherwise) and waded through the bootleg sessions, it got the tone pitch perfect.
Here’s a late 80s oddity that I was turned onto recently by Steve Cook – he of Secret Oranges fame. A 1988 Acid House 12″ made by the late, great Brett Ewins among others that comes with an 8pg B&W ‘lyric sheet’ featuring the art of Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, Jamie Hewlett, Shaky Kane, Philip Bond, Jamie Hewlett and more.
The tracks themselves are primitive attempts to make Acid House (without the aid of the all-important Roland 303 by the sound of it) but have a period charm to them. Brett intones creepily over the top of the A side sounding like a riled up Timothy Leary on speed. The B side houses two instrumental cuts with ‘The Church of Acid’ coming on like Bam Bam with a sledgehammer and there IS a snatch of 303 but it sounds sampled and slightly out of time.
‘Dr. Microdot’ is a shorter version of same with the addition of an unidentified voice asking you to relax (we’ve all been there) and both tracks suffer from a lack of a decent arrangement, stumbling along with samples and effects being randomly thrown in and out of the mix. I’m being unkind but it’s fair to say they haven’t aged well although the fact that they were made in the middle of the second summer of love gives them a certain kudos. I’m wondering if the Ken Thomas credited with producing this fascinating artifact is the same one who has worked with everyone from Queen to the Cocteau‘s?
The artwork is the gold here and the free comic is basically of lot of the early gang of artists responsible for Deadline taking a page each and letting rip with whatever they feel is appropriate. Brendan, Philip and Shaky come up with some crackers but I’m not sure where Jamie’s contribution is exactly unless he collaborated with someone and isn’t credited. Ron Merlin, an early Deadline character, makes an appearance but it’s not clear if he is supposed to be the voice on the A side. There’s very little about it on the web but I love these musical comic crossovers (the Madness off-shoot ‘Mutants of Mega City One’ is another) even if the sounds often play second fiddle to the artwork.
OK, so – Gamma Proforma – UK label dealing in music, art, books and apparel (T-shirts to you and me). I’ve mentioned them before, most notably with the recent Divine Styler album that blew my socks off in January but also with the ReWire kickstarter of last year and the Futurism 2.0 exhibition they put on a couple of years back. Their ‘roster’ – if you can call it that as they seem to deal in a project by project way – is full of name familiar to this blog both new and old: She One, Augustine Kofie, Divine Styler, Futura 2000, Will Barras, Remi/Rough, Delta, Rammellzee, Syd Mead and Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift among many more. If that isn’t enough to get your interest then you may as well stop reading now. I just want to highlight some of the currents releases coming out of this great label who seem to have tapped into my mind at times and assembled items that tick multiple boxes to an extent where it’s just getting silly now.
Their current big project is a multi-part release of The Rammellzee‘s final album, ‘Cosmic Flush’, incomplete at the time of his death but now finished by producer Jonah Mociun whom he worked on it with. Each track is being released on a single 12″ backed with a remix + instrumentals with a different artist chosen to provide the cover which is also included as a signed print.
Above and below are the first two singles, ‘Brainstorm’ and ‘How’s My Girlfriends’ with art by Futura 2000 and Ramm acolyte Ian Kuali’i and remixes by Divine Styler and Mr Len (ex-Co. Flow). The third 12″ – released next month – will be ‘Crazay’ with art by Delta and Mike Ladd on remix duties. Each 12″ is a pressing of 500 with half of these adding the print, these versions aren’t cheap and the Futura one is already sold out but the quality is top notch. Eventually all the releases will form the album proper although I’m not sure whether that will be collected into a box of some sort or issued on CD.
As you can see, there’s a heavy emphasis on the more leftfield, abstract side of graffiti on these releases and that’s carried over into the books and T-shirts too. The She One book with 7″ picure disc below is a heavy slab of goodness chock full of James Choules’ flaming brushstroke camouflage styles from close ups to sketch book scraps and a beautiful collection presented without all the usual clichés of the genre.
Similarly Phil Ashcroft‘s angular spikes take on a more ‘futuristic’ tone in his book of dystopian visions and sci-fi seems the be at the heart of what Gamma produce with Syd Mead T-shirts being an early release. There’s also a shirt series underway too with Kofie supplying the first example on a white shirt below and Will Barras depicting a menacing Rammellzee in his signature style for the second.
All the pieces mentioned here are immaculately laid out and design forms the subject of another forthcoming book – a retrospective of Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift‘s career titled ‘Full Circle’, due in the autumn but you can pre-order it now. I daren’t even mention the Will Barras book arriving shortly, the prints, magazines, original art or the digital freebies available if you peruse the Gamma site at length…
PS: in a weird act of synchronicity the Has It Leaked site just put up a look at the label too with quotes from me included – read it here and find out even more…
Just uploaded to the Pillage Roadshow YouTube account – the film of DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist‘s recent ‘Renegades of Rhythm’ tour where they played Afrika Bamabaataa’s records and formed a history of Hip Hop from some of the vinyl it was created from. Not sure if this will ever get a legit release due to all the licensing that would be needed to make it legal so this may be the only way to see it if you weren’t there. It was definitely gig of the year so far when I saw it in January. Thanks to Suki Majhail-McLean for the heads up.
See more on their Instagram account.
A new The The record is always cause for celebration and the first on vinyl for over 15 years (not counting reissues) is an even bigger one. That this beauty appears on Death Waltz in a leather effect gatefold sleeve with 12×12″ booklet, obi strip, lobby card, coloured and etched vinyl is more than anyone could have hoped for. The icing on the cake for me here is that I introduced Matt Johnson to Spencer from Death Waltz, suggesting that he would be the best man to put his music on vinyl and release it to the world. He’s more than outdone himself and the soundtrack is a perfect fit for DW’s style and ethos. You can order it now from Mondo and listen below.
How good is this? Cover version from Moscow band Grant Minasyan – nice one guys
After the news that the NME was going to be free as of September yesterday I dug out these old covers from over 30 years ago. I never read it until the late 80s and 90s but have since gone back and waded through years of issues for various research purposes and the breath of subjects covered, the writing, the photography and even the design sometimes, was taken for granted on a weekly basis. Barney Bubbles designed the logo seen on these covers too. Check the Sly & Robbie feature below for the skewed design and the Frank Sinatra wraparound cover which seems apt after the news.
Along with the Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror (four weekly music mags!) it was the only one to survive, having weathered the storm since 1952. This latest move – this ‘last throw of the dice’ as someone called it – seems to indicate that we’re another step down the road, another nail in the coffin, where the worth of others’ creativity is reduced to practically zero. Rockin’ in the Free World.
Music Journalist Simon Reynolds – author of Rip it Up & Start Again, Retromania, Energy Flash and more – has put some articles up that he wrote about the Ambient scene in the UK for Melody Maker in 1993 on his blog. The reason I’m including them here is because this was the first proper interview I ever did for a music publication and I love Reynolds’ writing in general (despite his need to define and compartmentalise micro scenes before they’ve fully evolved all the time). An interesting look back but I think he was shoe-horning what we were doing into his collection of interviewees and possibly using us as a link the other bands to the Ambient/Chill Out scene at the time.
Made me laugh – not sure why Operation Twilight is mentioned though as this never came out on that label.
An Old School special this time round with vintage cuttings from early 80s copies of the weekly UK music paper, Sounds. Traditionally a Rock and Heavy Metal-biased magazine, they still found time to cover some of the bigger stars from the emerging New York scene. They went all out in 1984 with an Electro Funk special issue (above).
Below is an early Bambaataa chart – check #10. An early UK rap gig at the Comedy Store is reviewed and Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Bam, the Sugarhill Gang and more are interviewed.
I like looking back on images and articles like this from a time when I was too young to know that this was even happening, you see a less revisionist history as the movement and artists are in the midst or even before their peak years. Details that have been lost in time are revealed and a few oddities pop up that make you re-evaluate accepted norms. Click on each image for the full size.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
The 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
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!
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!)
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.
‘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”
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.
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.