Music de L’atomium, made for Expo ’58, also known as the Brussels World’s Fair. 7″ on President Records with Structures Sonores played by Y. Lasry, F. & B. Baschet, J.P. Cotte and J. Chouet – you can hear one side of this single on the Cacophonic compilation of Lasry / Baschet recordings, ‘Instruments Non-Electronique’
I found this Carl Oglesby album with a cover illustrated by Dave Sheridan, the comic artist who worked on titles like Dealer McDope, The Leather Nun and some of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Now sadly deceased, Dave’s work is always hyper detailed and tripped out, I featured another of his covers some years back, an Impulse Jazz compilation – I wonder if he ever did any more record sleeves?
I met Christian Ward last Friday when he signed copies of the new trade paperback of his and Matt Fraction‘s ‘ODY-C’, at Gosh! Comics, an epic psychedelic space take on The Odyssey with the roles reversed. If you like your female leads strong and ruthless, your Gods devious and wrathful and your art cosmic then this is the book for you, a gritty, multi-layered take on a classic with out of this world page layouts and colour.
(Photo © Gosh! Comics 2015)
He was kind enough to do me a quick Cyclops sketch and Gosh! are selling the lovely Spaceman print above for a very reasonable £20 which looks beautiful framed in my studio.
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
Along with the forthcoming Episode 7 trailers and Star Wars Secret Cinema, these Battlefront trailers really are making me fall in love with the Star Wars universe all over again after years of not caring after Lucas’ terrible second trilogy. All three recapture the thrill of the original films like nothing since the 80s.
The Gamma Proforma label is on fire this year with the Divine Styler album, a new T-shirt series featuring Augustine Kofie and Will Barras plus retrospective books of Will’s work as well as graphic design legend Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift. Not only that, their ‘Cosmic Flush’ series of 12″s and prints based on The Rammellzee‘s last work now reaches it’s third installment. Delta is on the art and Mike Ladd on the remix and I’m starting to suspect Rob Swain from Gamma is mining some telepathic mind link with me as all the releases so far push all the right buttons for me. Pre-order the third part, ‘Crayzay’, here.
If you’re lucky there may still be some copies of the first and second releases with prints by Futura and Ian Kuali’i with remixes by Divine Styler which will form part of the full box set to the ‘Cosmic Flush’ album release. Check out Will’s Rammellzee graphic for the second T-shirt in the X99 series below too, in fact check out the whole site as there are loads of free mp3s, plus a selection of books, magazines, prints and T-shirts, they even have Syd Mead designs!. Gamma’s shaping up to be the label to watch in 2015.
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 interesting, Blade Runner as you’ve kind of seen it before but not quite. I’m unsure where the Harrison Ford dialogue originates from (I don’t remember that much in the first cut) and if you’re not a fan of the narrated original then stop right here as it drives this cut and glues the shots together. But love it or hate it, it fleshes out the story that we all know in unexpected ways (Deckard‘s broken relationship for instance) but it gives away a little too much and Scott was ultimately right to drop it.
There’s certainly material in here that I’ve not seen before and I’ve seen and read a fair bit about the film, the soundtrack as well, there’s different material in here from that too. A scene with Gaff and Bryant that expands on the former’s role in the film is a revelation and, aside from the odd clumsy cut, it offers an new view on what the film could have been, and it’s full of clichés as a result. A couple of key scenes use dialogue to fill the gaps, the death of Zora and Tyrell are both dealt with in seconds and offer a powerful alternative to the graphic endings they come to in the film, showing via implication rather than as we know them.
The biggest omission is the whole end section with Batty before his big scene and the original ‘happy’ ending gets even more footage which changes the tone. Several lines later omitted possibly play on the ‘is Deckard a Replicant?’ mythos, Rachel proclaiming, “we were made for each other”, which to my mind is a genius line. All in all it’s a fascinating 45 minute look at what could have been and testament to the enduring power of the original that people keep on exploring its hidden depths.
The Magic Cube is a real oddity – a 9″ flexi disc that comes in a stickered envelope with a flat-packed cardboard cube that springs into shape once opened. Or that’s the idea, you have to attach a fiddly elastic band inside the cube for it to work and even then it’s slightly haphazard in shape, leaving you wondering, ‘why?’. It’s a clever bit of paper engineering but its only purpose seems to be to carry the track list for the disc it arrived with (it’s too small to fit the flexi inside).
Designed by Martin Oelenheinz and released in 1982 with a sticker stating ‘9 Psychedelic Greats plus Mind-Blowing Gimmick’ and a hand stamped number for the edition (mine is a bit worse for wear). There’s virtually no info about it on the web and the only label info is Eva-Tone. The music contained on the double-sided disc is full on fuzzed out 60s garage and psych rock as you can probably tell by the titles above. Most of the tracks are on YouTube and it’s all pretty great stuff. Anyone with any more info please post in the comments, I’d like to know where this was first available and who / why / what the thinking was behind it.
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.
If 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.
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.
Yes, 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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
This bit of Star Wars fan fiction is doing the rounds on the web right now and with good cause as it’s visualised and told (wordlessly I might add) beautifully. From a short scene in Return of the Jedi, Daniel Warren Johnson has created an 11 page comic expanding outwards to before and after the event, imagining what led to and ultimately resulted from it.
The scene is the one where as A-Wing pilot, realising he’s hit and little can save him, turns kamikaze and crashes headlong into Darth Vader‘s Super Star Destroyer Executor causing a chain reaction that causes it to crash into the Death Star surface. Warren Johnson says “For some reason, this A wing pilot MOVED me. Everything about this part of Return of the Jedi made me want to DRAW and CREATE. This is a fan fiction comic I made in April, just because I love this scene and I love comics.”
It’s superbly realised and heartbreaking despite the huge rebel victory that resulted as he’s added a human element to the mix. Also check out his sci-fi web comic, Space Mullet, while you’re there.
Another bit of Star Wars fan fiction dealing with alternate viewpoints of the saga’s characters is the Tie Fighter animated short I featured a while back. I just noticed that there’s also a poster and extensive background character notes for the seven minute plus Manga-style film by Paul Johnson what has the Empire as the heroes (they always did have the best designs).
There’s some ridiculously good fan art appearing for Mad Max Fury Road at the moment, now that people have seen the film and got a sense of how it plays out we’re seeing more than a collection of reworked promotion stills. Some are even creating alternate OST covers or DVD/Blu-ray sleeves. A lot of it is in the form of poster art but there’s also concept images and more cartoonish comic book stuff too. A lot of this was found on Deviant Art and I’ve tried to credit all the artists correctly.
(above: by zenithuk, below: sivadigitalart)