RIP Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine autographI was very saddened to hear of Ken Nordine‘s passing today at the the age of nearly 100, my consolations go out to his family. I was first introduced to his amazing voice via a Rhino Records CD compilation of the best of his Word Jazz albums that Mixmaster Morris played me back in 1993 and I instantly became a fan. Finding his records and any info on him in the pre-internet / pre-eBay days was difficult but the excellent ‘Incredibly Strange Music vol. II‘ book held a fascinating interview with him about his career so far. Upon first traveling to the US in the mid 90s, his records were top of my wants list and I managed to find copies of most of his catalogue before hoovering up more in the early 00’s via eBay.

PC and I were privileged to record a version of his piece, ‘The Ageing Young Rebel’, with him back in 2000 for our album, ‘Kaleidoscope’ and it remains one of my favourite collaborations from that time. Over 20 years ago I interviewed him for Solid Steel at Coldcut‘s Ahead Of Our Time studios near London Bridge whilst he was in London playing the voice of God in a Laurie Anderson play – he was cast perfectly. During the interview he was funny, playful, humble and extremely on the ball, at one point striking up a dialogue with the squeaky chair he was sitting on. RIP Ken – you were unique, so glad we met. Listen to our interview below

Delaware Road line up roll call

Delware Rd final poster Delaware final backThe line up for this summer’s Delaware Road event at a secret army base in Wiltshire is finally confirmed and Buried Treasure – the label run by Alan Gubby who set up the gig – is dripping out performer names and info over the next few weeks. I’ll add them as they appear – Collect the set! This will not be like any other festival you attend this year. A new dedicated website explains all and there is a bus service you can book to get you to the venue.
Tickets are available here

DR Concretism50892393_2543135199049647_2741597149681680384_n
DR DJ FoodDR Kemper Norton
DR - Alison CottonDR Sarah AnglissDR - Penny RimbaudDE - ArcDE-EmblaDE - Brazen HeadDE-Lia Mice54437099_2207548382830333_2058601069335805952_nDR -Radionics Radio55943874_2219601834958321_7136139079141294080_nDR-CuckooDR-SoundhogDR - Farmer GlitchDR -Simon jamesDR - Ass MindsDR - Ekoplekz

Detuned – DE:10.01 released today

DE01 front

Out today: #1 of 10 projected releases I’ve designed the artwork for the De:tuned label as they celebrate their first 10 years. One release a month, multiple combinations of great artists coming up across nine 12″s whose covers fit together to form a larger image, with a tenth remix 12″ to finish things off.

DE10 01B

Listen:

Pre-orders available now:
Phonica: bit.ly/2BypxZV  •  Bleep: bit.ly/2HUwLOw  •  Japhy: bit.ly/2Gejlv8  •  Red Eye: bit.ly/2F8v4ut  •  Norman: bit.ly/2HffoaD  •  Deejay: bit.ly/2Vu5NQk  •  Decks: bit.ly/2BvWTso  •  Rush Hour: bit.ly/2H9ev3B  •  Triple Vision: bit.ly/2zsIpJt  •  Juno: bit.ly/2Fa03q3

DE10 01A DE01 back

Kraftwerk – Klassics, Kovers & Kurios premiere this Saturday

One of the reasons it’s been so quiet on here this year is because I’ve had my head in the video editing suite for this Saturday’s premiere of my new AV show; Kraftwerk: Klassics, Kovers & Kurios. I’ll be taking this up to Manchester for its initial outing, at The Deaf Institute, who have previously hosted my other AV sets (why should London have all the good stuff first?). Tickets are available here

The show (at the moment) is very dance-orientated with the obvious techno, electro styles accompanied by hip hop, samba, breaks, mash ups and maybe a bit of juke if I can make it fit. Above is a tiny excerpt from one track where I got a bit carried away. The show takes the band’s various eras, looks and line ups and combines them into a 60 track, 90 min+ collage of Teutonic Techno, European Electro & Kraut Crunk together with the visual history of the group. I’ve really dug around for old archive for this one, which is hard on the older material as there is so little and in bad quality but I’ve been collecting this stuff since the early ’00s so have a fair bit. Below are some screen grabs of an Italian performance of Pocket Calculator where the cameraman really wanted to know what they were playing.

PocketCalcInstruments

Bluedot festival

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Very happy to announce that I’ll be playing my Boards of Canada-centric Audio Visual show, ‘O Is For Orange’ at the Bluedot festival this year, on Sunday 21st of July. Tickets go on sale this Thursday, just hope I’m not on at the same time as Kraftwerk! See these links for more details
Website – https://www.discoverthebluedot.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bluedotfestival
Twitter – @bluedotfestival
Instagram – @bluedotfestival
Hashtag – #discoverthebluedot

RIP Ron Smith

SCOOK_Prog111
Ron Smith – one of the original golden era 2000AD greats has passed away. I never quite appreciated how deft his line work was until later but he had a hand in many classic Judge Dredd stories based around crime in Mega City One (Otto Sump, Chopper, Fatties, etc.) as well as plenty of the Judge Child saga and The Angel Gang.

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Gaijin Blues EP on Shapes of Rhythm

Gaigin Blues 12
The latest release from Shapes of Rhythm (Tom Centrals label) is from a new duo from Wroclaw, Poland, Gaijin Blues. The band certainly know how to throw everything at the record and there’s a big Japanese influence running through their music – channeled via Poland – never sitting still long enough for you to pin them down.
The EP is out Feb 1st but is up for pre-order now

In another premiere for the label, they’ve got an extremely limited run of screen prints of the cover illustration up for grabs too by my sometime screen-printing cohort, Hannah Brown, aka Kvist. You can order one here
GB print GB print 2GB print no

The Simonsound – Musicity

Musicity cassetteI was asked in the last post if The Simonsound were still going? Well, now that you mention it, Simon James has just released a cassette of recordings he made in China last year via Nick Luscombe’s label. ‘Musicity 003 – Shenzhen / Shanghai’ appeared just before Xmas so was easy to get lost in the rush before the end of year, it’s a progression from previous works, consisting of field recordings and Buchla treatments of strange and private areas of the cities that the public might not hear. As of writing there are less than 20 cassettes left but the digital release includes multiple bonus tracks that take the playing time to over 2.5 hours.

Posted in Music. | 1 Comment | Tags: , ,

New Pye Corner Audio on Ghost Box

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Annnnnd we’re barely into the new year and there’s a Ghost Box record in the inbox, new Pye Corner Audio, sounding excellent to these ears on the second listen today. I found his first for the label a game of two halves, wasn’t keen on side A but side B did it for me. His second, ‘Stasis’, was much better and ‘Hollow Earth’ is sounding very good too. Supposedly a companion to ‘Stasis’, it mines the same dark channels but with an increasing nod to 80s synth soundtracks and 90’s era techno like The Black Dog (‘Bytes’ era) and B12. Beautiful artwork as always from Julian House, can’t wait to see one of these in the flesh! Out on LP / CD / DL Feb 15th, pre-orders up now.
Two extra tracks on the CD plus a bundle deal with ‘Stasis’ elsewhere in the shop.  Listen here

Hollow Earth 02

Revamped Openmindesign site

With the new year comes the inevitable spring clean and I’ve taken the opportunity to revamp my Openmind design portfolio site. The content is by no means definitive, I’ve taken my favourite designs from the last 25 years and presented just those parts that I feel stand the test of time or represent where my current design tastes lie. Sometimes this might be a label, promo object or back cover but, rather than cram every single thing into a gallery (including some things I dislike) I’ve paired it down to personal favourites.

Many thanks to my Further partner-in-crime, Pete Williams, as one of his many talents is that he’s a super-efficient web designer who can quickly turn wishes into reality with no fuss whilst suggesting all sorts of web-specific things you’d either never thought of or didn’t know exist.

Contact him here if you’d like the benefit of his experience or take a look at his park-studio web portfolio.

Have a look around the new site and contact me if you like what you see and want something similar for your projects…

Openmindesign website

2018 – a vintage year for new music

It’s the end of the year and reading down the list of sounds that have moved me most in 2018 I’m struck by how much new music there is after years of digging a lot of reissues over current styles. This may well be because the well is finally running dry on a lot of the stuff I’m interested in but more likely that the old adage of great music being made in times of great strife is coming home to roost again. There is no order to the lists below, no No.1 or ‘best’ of anything although they are mostly chronological as I write stuff down as I hear or see it.

Special mentions though for the Castles In Space label that continues to go from strength to strength, the Confidence Man album which got a lot of play despite me missing them live twice. Trevor Jackson‘s beautiful design for his ‘System’ CD and cassette, so good I bought it three times, The Advisory Circle‘s ‘Ways Of Seeing’ LP and the Tomorrow Syndicate‘s excellent ‘Future Tense’ album, complete with Nick Taylor artwork.

Supporting both The The (on several UK dates) and the Art Of Noise was the stuff of teenage dreams and the former’s biography by Neil Fraser is a fascinating read. The Karminsky Experience Inc.’s ‘See Inside’ VR single was a genuinely eye-opening experience and having them and Markey Funk down at Further was a treat. Walking into the House of Illustration‘s John Vernon Lord exhibition to be unexpectedly confronted with the original drawing of his 1966 masterpiece, ‘Beneath The Tree’, was the art high of the year and the People’s Vote march in October restored my faith in humanity for an afternoon. Electronic Sound magazine continues to excel and their first LP release, Jack Dangers‘ remix of Terry Riley‘s ‘In C’, was another disc that saw a lot of play this year.

On Dec 23rd I played a lot of my favourite releases of 2018 on WNBC‘s Out Of The Wood show which you can hear below, complete with mic. fluffs and wrong track listings.

As we go into 2019 I’m dreading the first three months, leading up to the Br*x*t deadline, hoping against hope for a last minute chance to reconsider but bracing for a fallout post 29/03/19 that could see chaos come to the UK. I hope that I’m writing a more positive missive this time next year, if not then at least the music will only get better and better…

Music 2Music / chat:
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside 7″ (Patterns of Behaviour)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup LP (Flightless)
Beautify Junkyards – The Invisible Worlds of LP (Ghost Box)
Basil Kirchin – I Start Counting LP (Trunk)
Bigmouth podcast (Audioboom)
The Turbans – Baba Ganooz 7″ (Mona Tone/Delights)
Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade LP (Duophonic)
The Advisory Circle – Ways Of Seeing LP (Ghost Box)
Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel (single) (Wondaland)
Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People LP (Heavenly)
Concretism – For Concrete & Country LP (Castles In Space)
Trevor Jackson – System CD (Pre_)
Tomorrow Syndicate – Future Tense LP (Polytechnic Youth)
Chaka Khan – Like Sugar (single) (Dairy)
Jonny Trunk – OST show (Resonance FM)
Regal Worm – Pig Views / Use And Ornament (Uranium Club)
Meat Beat Manifesto vs Terry Riley – In C (Electronic Sound)
Patrick R. Park – Library Sounds LP (Castles In Space)
David Shire – The Conversation LP (Trunk)
Amgala Temple – Invisible Airships LP (Pekula)
Adam Buxton podcast
Type 303 – The New Ravelution EP (Insult To Injury)
Luke Vibert – 165 303 – from the Gradients vol.2 LP (Astrophonica)
Luke Vibert presents Garave vol.1 LP (Hypercolour)
Kosmischer Laufer – Vol.4 LP (UCR)

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Packaging / design:
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside VR glasses (Patterns of Behaviour)
Chop – CDL 10″ (Drumetrics)
Concretism – For Concrete & Country LP (2nd edition) (Castles In Space)
Trevor Jackson – System 1st & 2nd edition CD + Cassette (Pre_)
Sculpture – Nearest Neighbour Cassette & comic (Tapebox)
Tomorrow Syndicate – Future Tense Regular + Ltd Ed. LP (Polytechnic Youth)
Spider Jazz – splatter vinyl edition LP (Trunk)
Spun Out Of Control vinyl + cassettes
Aver – River of Ice Cream 7″ promo flexi disc
Listening Centre 5″ lathe cut picture disc (Polytechnic Youth)

Packaging design

Books/Comics:
VS – Ivan Brandon / Eric Ribic (Image)
A Year In The Country ‘Wandering Through Spectral Fields’ – Stephen Prince
The Adventures of Jodelle – Guy Peellhaert (Fantagraphics)
Batman – White Knight  – Sean Murphy (DC)
Orla Kiely – A Life In Pattern (Octopus Books)
Electronic Sound magazine
Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music – David Hollander (Anthology Editions)
House Industries – The Process Is The Inspiration (Watson-Guptill Publications)
Sculpture – Nearest Neighbour comic (Tapebox)
Proxima Centuri – Farel Dalrymple (Image)
Doomsday Clock – Geoff Johns / Gary Frank (DC)
Saga – Brian K. Vaughn / Fiona Staples (Image)
Long Shadows, High Hopes – Neil Fraser (Omnibus Press)
Judge Dredd – The Small House (Rob Williams & Henry Flint) (2000AD/Rebellion)
Lawless  – Dan Abnett / Phil Winslade (Judge Dredd Megazine/Rebellion)
Pete Fowler – Decades of Lead (Unbound)
Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell (Profile books)

Books + comics

Film/TV:
Inside No.9 series 4 + Halloween special
The Inertia Variations documentary
Flowers series 2
Avengers: Infinity War
Yellow Submarine 50th anniversary remaster
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside VR + packaging
Bobby Gillespie on Newsnight
The Clock – Christian Marclay, Tate Modern
Bros: After The Screaming Stops (BBC)

Film3

Events / Gigs:
Art of Noise, British Library
‘O Is For Orange’ premiere Archspace, London
The The, Albert Hall, The Troxy, London, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
The Crystal Palace Festival afterparty @ The Paxton Pub, Gypsy Hill, London – one of those gigs where every track flows and lands just right.
The Indie Label Market, Spitalfields, London
The People’s Vote march in October
Jane Weaver at EArtH, London
The Soundcarriers, Gloria and Strange Majick @ The Victoria, London
Dirty Fan Male at the Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club, London

Gigs

Exhibitions:
Sister Corita Kent – Ditchling Art & Craft Museum
Orla Kiely – Fashion & Textile Museum, London
Aphex Twin posters – Elephant & Castle underground, London
The Shape of Light, Tate Modern, London
May The Toys Be With You – New Walk Museum, Leicester
John Vernon Lord – The House of Illustration, London
Peanuts – Somerset House, London
Daniel Mullen – Lisa Norris Gallery, London

Exhibitions 2018

“Another year over and what have I done?”
Designed Peshay‘s ‘Reflections’ LP for the De:Tuned label
Created a 3 minute spoken word collage for Penguin/Random House‘s Voices event at the London Palladium on World Book Day
Supported the Art Of Noise at The British Library
DJed multiple times at Secret Cinema presents Blade Runner
Opened for The The at several of their UK gigs including the Royal Albert Hall, Brixton Academy, Glasgow Barrowlands and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Further at the Portico Gallery with Pete Williams, Markey Funk and the Karminsky Experience Inc.
Designed a nine disc set for De:tuned‘s forthcoming 10th anniversary releases
Mixes for Solid Steel, 45 Live, Brokers, Rat Records, Out Of The Wood, Diggers Dozen and radio show appearances for Resonance and Soho Radio
Overhauled my Openmindesign.uk website

DJ Food gigs

RIP: France Gall, Ken Dodd, Stephen Hawking, Matt Dike, Lovebug Starski, Jabo Starks, Tom Wolfe, Aretha Franklin, Orla Kiely shops, Carlos Ezquerra, Paul Allen, Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, HMV, June Whitfield.

Looking forward to: The Delaware Road 2019, Keith Haring retrospective at Tate Liverpool, the Wobbly Sounds book, Further at the Ace Hotel, Sister Corita Kent at the House of Illustration, De:tuned‘s monthly 10th anniversary 12″s, Avengers: Endgame

Happy New Year!

10 Years of De:tuned label releases

De.Tuned 10 all covers 1 1200x1200I’m very pleased to have been asked to design the De:tuned label’s 10th anniversary releases, nine 12″s released monthly throughout 2019, which they have just announced. The above image is a representation of elements of the nine sleeves which, when put together, form a larger image. I’ll be posting them here as they’re released along with pre-order links, the line ups are a who’s who of electronica from the past 25 years, some of which are revealed below.

De:tuned celebrates their 10th anniversary with a 10 part EP series released across 2019. The first part is planned for February and the project will continue each month throughout 2019. The artwork of the first 9 releases of the series forms a 3 x 3 poster display.

PRE-ORDER l Phonica: https://bit.ly/2QNtuVi

De:tuned have called on designer Kevin Foakes (Openmind, DJ Food, Ninja Tune) to create all graphic work.

‘DE:10.01’ kicks off with a special treat from the golden 90s era: on offer a welcome combination of previously unreleased DAT material by Kirk Degiorgio and affectionate As One remix treatments of both original Sensurreal and Jedi Knights (Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton) work, pure bliss.
PRE-ORDER l https://bit.ly/2BypxZV

The second EP of the series dives deep down into the ambient techno world. The A side makes you drift away on a rare Sun Electric get together, followed by a beautiful Higher Intelligence Agency piece. DeepChord’s dubbed lushness completes this highly intense journey.
PRE-ORDER l https://bit.ly/2LtqIOZ

John Beltran, Mark Archer, Future Beat Alliance and max 404 line up on the third 10 years anniversary 12″ for De:tuned. Both John and Mark deliver a timeless, Detroit indebted techno vibe, resulting in 2 dancefloor-friendly tracks. FBA and max 404 activated their DAT recorder and struck gold with previously unheard crisp yet sensitive cuts.”
PRE-ORDER l https://bit.ly/2ByYTQA

The Delaware Road 2019

Delaware Rd 2019Tickets are already on sale and the line up is being drip feed out over the Xmas period for The Delaware Road‘s third incarnation next August at a secret military base somewhere in Salisbury. This promises to be the biggest and most ambitious version yet, and those who were present at the first two will know that there is nothing quite like them. I’m very pleased to be asked to play for a second time and so far the whole line up is looking like a who’s who of the leftfield electronica/radiophonic/hauntology scene. Put August 17th in the diary and get in on the early bird tickets before they’re gone.

“A unique festival of music, theatre, film, sound & light inside a secret military base near Stonehenge.
Featuring an incredible line up of artists, DJs, video producers, sound designers, record labels, speakers, writers, illustrators & agitators. Gathered inside the austere military complex of New Zealand Farm near West Lavington, artists will perform work inspired by landscape, myth, broadcast propaganda & the transformative nature of sound. 
Performances start at 5pm Saturday evening & end at 3am Sunday morning. Licensed bar, food & merch stalls.
Overnight camping & parking. This event contains adult themes & strobing effects. Under 18s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.”

The line up so far:

THE SEANCE / FRONT & FOLLOW / KEMPER NORTON / THE SLOWEST LIFT / EMBLA QUICKBEAM / ARC SOUNDTRACKS / DJ FOOD \ SARAH ANGLISS / CLAY PIPE MUSIC / SIMON JAMES / REVBJELDE / CASTLES IN SPACE / THE TWELVE HOUR FOUNDATION  / CONCRETISM  / POLYPORES  / PSYCHE TROPES / SCULPTURE / HOWLROUND / MERKABA MACABRE / A’BEAR / DOUG SHIPTON / NICK TAYLOR / ALISON COTTON / IAN HELLIWELL / RADIONICS RADIO

Tickets : https://fixr.co/event/839412645
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30 years of Solid Steel

Solid Steel 30Solid SteelColdcut’s weekly 2 hour mix show – is 30 years old – wow, now I feel old too. To celebrate they’ve commissioned a clutch of special mixes which will air throughout the first week of December. Juan Atkins (the show’s first guest back in ’88), The Bug, Bernd Friedman, Gerd Janson, HAAi and Mark Pritchard have all recorded mixes as well as Coldcut, DK (with an epic 4 hr effort) and myself.

What do you do when you’re faced with a blank canvas to commemorate a 30 year anniversary? I’ve been with the show for 25 of those years and so much music has flowed through it in that time it’s impossible to crystalize that into one set. Instead I thought I’d attempt something I’d not done before and put together a collection of classic minimalist songs by the masters – Kraftwerk, Eno, Reich, Riley, Can etc. – and weave other elements in and out of the mix. In some respects I succeeded but I started out with seven hours of music! A lot had to go as flow and tuning just didn’t work and I also didn’t want too much 4/4 kick drum to pin things down, rather just the throb of forward motion.

Mixing this stuff takes time and patience, the tracks are long, you can lose your place in the rhythm very easily and most of them are played live so not locked into any steady metronome or midi clock. Getting the mix tight was a constant headache. I’ve used some tracks more like samples to add textures to others rather than to have their own spotlight and the intention was to always have at least two things creating a third, which is the basis of all the best mixes.

When compiling sets for the Solid Steel mix CD series, then Ninja A&R for the series, Dean Smith, used to talk about ‘moments’. Each mix should have at least two or three points that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or blend the sound to such a point that you got a rush. It’s not enough to just blend two ends of a track together, we’re sculpting here, making connections that wouldn’t normally sit together and, in the best instances, mean that you can never hear one of those tracks on it’s own again without hearing the other playing in your head. There are subtleties at play in recorded mixes that can never be experienced in clubs as the volume and crowd noise often pushes out the details.

Two thirds the way through the set I also did something I’ve never done before too – inserted another guest mix. Chatting to Brian Dougans from Future Sound Of London, he’d confessed to being a Solid Steel fan, regularly taping shows throughout the 90s and being inspired by the weekly mixdowns. When I told him it was the 30th anniversary he offered an exclusive mix of new Humanoid tracks, an alias he’s just reactivated as it’s three decades since he first had a hit under the moniker with ‘Stakker Humanoid’. It seems fitting to have a contribution from an artist whose career started at the same time as the show, FSOL’s own radio shows in the 90s similarly inspired me and this is a nod to their idea of inserting guest mixes into their early Kiss FM shows. The six acid tracks are a stark contrast to my own selection but rather than surround them with similar material I’ve let them occupy their own space within the set, you might have to adjust your mood though. A massive thanks to Brian for this mix and all the music he and Gaz have bought us over the years.

After 25 years as part of the Solid Steel team and after hundreds of hours of mixes, it’s great to still be inspired to push myself and be among such esteemed company as the show morphs once again into a new era. Solid Steel moves to a new format next year, already with some killer guests lined up, and there are around 8 years worth of mixes in the archive online along with an extensive database of dates and guests from the past 30 years.

DJ Food Solid Steel 30th mix featuring Humanoid

Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms (Kapp Records)
Brian Eno & David Byrne – The Carrier (Virgin)
Pink Floyd – On The Run (Harvest)
Kraftwerk – Autobahn (Vertigo)
Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois – Ascent (An Ending) (Virgin)
The Beach Boys – Our Prayer (Brother/Reprise)
Vapour Space – Gravitational Arch of 10 (Internal)
David Bowie – Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix) (Columbia)
Herbie Hancock – Rain Dance (Columbia)
Can – Messer, Scissors, Fork & Light (Spoon )
Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (Virgin)
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Tardis Cymbals (Duophonic HF Discs)
Pat Metheny – Electric Counterpoint fast (Nonesuch)
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians (ECM)
10cc – Wet Rubber Soup (Polydor)
Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (Virgin)
David Sylvian – Answered Prayers (Virgin)
Manuel Gottsching – E2:E4 (MG-Art)
The KLF – Deep Shit (The Cult of Mu 7″ mix) (CDR)
Jon Brooks – A Mechanical Eye (Ghost Box)

Humanoid In Session 2-4th Nov 2018 – guest mix
– 1 Acid Ho
– 2 Spore
– 3 Point Cloud
– 4 Co-Pilot
– 5 Koma Flow (808 State)
– 6 Far-Point
– Recorded live at 9L West, Engineered by Yage for EbV. Fsoldigital Recordings.

Terry Riley vs Meat Beat Manifesto – In C (Version 4.2) (Electronic Sound)
Boards of Canada – Telepath (Warp)
Psychic Warriors of Gaia – Obsidian (Organically Decomposed) (KK Records)
This Mortal Coil – Waves Become Wings (4AD)
Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (Virgin)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – A New Day (RVNG INTL)
Vapour Space – Gravitational Arch of 10 (Internal)
Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms (Kapp Records)

10 films in 10 days that affected you in your youth

I was nominated to do the ’10 films in 10 days’ thing on Instagram – here they are, in no particular order but with a bit of context. For my ‘youth’ I’ve confined these selections to the period between 1970 and 1990.

1.SW
It can’t really be overstated how much Star Wars had an effect on my generation, it was suddenly there and nothing was the same again after. Who couldn’t be affected by that opening scene at the age of seven? Not much more to say here that hasn’t already been said.

2.Stylewarsmayorkoch
Style Wars is THE bonafide hip hop documentary from the 80s, with special attention being paid to the graffiti scene. Where there were other docs that came later and the Hollywood-isation of the movement via films like Wild Style, Beat Street and Breakdance, you knew that this was the real deal and it made heroes of writers like Seen, Skeme, Dondi and Kaze 2 whilst Cap was the bad guy. Info was scarce back in the day and to have a film version of the classic Subway Art book was like discovering gold.

3. BR
Another blindingly obvious one although I didn’t get it as a 13 year old watching a crappy VHS copy for the first time in the early 80s. It was slow, Harrison Ford was our premiere action hero and this was mostly talk in the shadows. I read the book, that didn’t help much either but the Syd Mead Spinner design and that killer dialogue…
It crept into popular culture, kept alive by video that fed the cult of Blade Runner, sampled by everyone from Sigue Sigue Sputnik to PWEI. The Director’s Cut in 1991 gave me a chance to reappraise it at a more appropriate age and that’s when I realised its brilliance. The frustration of the non-Vangelis version of the soundtrack endured for years and prompted seeking out bootlegs and fan made downloads once the web arrived. Without the original ‘happy’ ending the film is perfection in every way. I only got to see it on the big screen a few years ago when they released the Final Cut theatrically but played at the Secret Cinema version earlier this year and saw it several more times into the bargain.

4. Brazil
Terry Gilliam‘s masterpiece, Brazil, has so many memorable moments, performances, lines and threads that it was and still is like nothing else. I first saw it in the late 80s after it was broadcast on TV and got my dad to tape it for me as I was going out. Later I asked how it was, ‘it was a load of old rubbish about a bloke who got arrested just because someone got his name wrong’, was the reply. Of course that’s how it starts and the nightmares of bureaucracy escalates from there, reminds me of a similar situation we’re in at the moment. I loved it and it’s probably one of my top three favourite films of all time. Gilliam’s struggles and eventual vindication on the release of the film also add to the legend – watch ‘The Battle For Brazil documentary if you can for the full story.

5.Head-12
Head is one of those films that could only have been made at a certain time, within a small window when Hollywood was rushing to capitalise on the acid generation, everyone was doing too many drugs and the stars – The Monkees – wanted to kick at their established image. This is their ‘Smile’ / ‘Sgt. Pepper’ / ‘His Satanic Majesties Request’, including all sorts of cameos along the way, and it’s both baffling and brilliant. I’m sure it made perfect sense to them at the time but in the hard light of day when you’re stone cold sober you can see why people didn’t get it. They went  too far and the whole thing crashed and burned when fans and critics couldn’t understand what the hell was going on and just wanted pop tunes. Again, taped off late night TV some when in the 80s, it inspired me to do a re-score  live on three turntables in the early 00s.

8.Public voice

I’ve written about this before and caught it one night on – I think – Channel 4, in one of those slots five or ten minutes before the hour when they would run animation shorts to fill up the schedule. I had no idea what it was and stood transfixed as it slowly unfolded. All I caught was that the title had the word ‘public’ in it and it took years to find once the internet arrived. Eventually I found out that it was titled ‘Den Offentlige Rost’ (The Public Voice) by Dutch film maker Lejf Marcussen. Watch it here (oh for a decent resolution) and marvel that this was done in 1988, pre-computers.

6.clockwork_orange
A Clockwork Orange was one of those video nasty holy grails in the 80s, up there with The Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Zombie Flesh Eaters. I can’t remember when I finally managed to see it via a terrible quality VHS but it didn’t disappoint, although I was probably watching it for all the wrong reasons. Long before that the design and iconography of it fascinated me from the Droog costumes to the Allen Jones-esque ‘furniture’ in the Korova Milk Bar, the Makkink brothers’ paintings and sculptures and Philip Castle’s iconic poster. Years later, when the film finally got a theatrical re-release, I went to see it ‘properly’ and it’s still shocking in places. It blows my mind when I see it for sale in Sainsburys for under a tenner as it was so notorious back in the day.

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Flash! AAAAAAAAHH! My dad took me to see this as he loved Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon in his youth and saw the opportunity of a bit of father/son bonding. He hated it in comparison but I loved it, so colourful and kitsch compared to the weathered realness of Star Wars. Queen‘s soundtrack was the first album I ever bought (on cassette no less) and I read the paperback novel and collected the free cards in packs of Weetabix at the time. I drew scenes and logos from it in sketch pads and wanted a Flash T shirt like Freddie Mercury’s so badly. Alas it didn’t have the kind of merchandise roll out that Star Wars did (not in the UK anyway) and my appetite for it went unsated. Years later in college I remember watching it with the sound turned off and a mixtape for the soundtrack in a friend’s room on some kind of comedown. It all seems to segue perfectly with the tape until someone put Mike Oldfield‘s ‘Hergest Ridge’ on and the magic was shattered. Over the years it’s become a cult classic, largely for its naffness and Brian Blessed‘s over the top performance but the soundtrack still rocks and it was pleasing to see comparisons being made between the costume design of this and the recent Thor: Ragnarok film.


“Well, she won’t BE getting back will she, Den?” The jewel in the crown of the Comic Strip films, Bad News Tour (and its follow up, More Bad News) was a perfectly paced look at a disillusioned band struggling to make it with not a second wasted. I probably know every line along with all the Young Ones and Blackadder‘s of the day. Not being that well versed in classic rock in my teens it took me a while to cotton on to the huge steals they’d taken from bands like The Who and I prefer this British take on the rockumentary over Spinal Tap any day. The actual records they released are also worth seeking out as they expand on the series and bear repeated listens which is rare for comedy albums.

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A double whammy for Terry Gilliam in this list, the predecessor to Brazil, Time Bandits, really is a wonderful film for both children and adults. I would have been eleven when it was released and, having kids of my own now, I see the years between ten and teendom are difficult ones in terms of finding film and literature that seems appropriate. To me, Time Bandits occupies this position perfectly; intelligent, funny, scary, weird, sad and heart-warming, Gilliam’s tales of good versus evil through rampaging through different periods of history have a bit of everything with enough going on to stop the attention wavering. He even manages to put his spin on the ‘it was all a dream – or was it?’ ending without it seeming corny.

Honourable omissions: Aliens, Predator, Akira, Airplane, Hellraiser, Robocop, Stakker: Eurotechno, Spinal Tap, Mad Max 2, Repo Man, Weird Science, Max Headroom (the original TV film) and I Drew Roger Rabbit, a documentary about animator Richard Williams that showed clips from the uncompleted The Thief & The Cobbler.

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X-Ray Audio pop up at Soho Radio

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I recently took part in a radio show hosted by Stephen Coates (aka The Real Tuesday Weld) and his co-conspirator in X-Ray Audio Project, Paul Heartfield for Soho Radio. The pair are doing a takeover for two weeks with a series of themed radio shows and a small exhibition in the front of the station. (photos by Hannah Brown)

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The show I took part in was about flexi discs and we were joined by Barry Cain, the original publisher of anarchic early 80s Flexipop magazine. Other episodes on X-Ray discs, self-made records, bootlegs and a live performance & x-ray cut are also archived on the soho radio site.


I mention the Flexibition during the program so here’s a handy link to all the entries if you’re wondering what it is and want to have a look & listen.

RIP Stan Lee

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Even though I’ve read comics since childhood and continue to consume a healthy amount each month I’ve never been a big reader of Marvel. But it’s impossible to escape the characters from the Marvel Universe as their reach, even in my childhood, snaked from comics out into TV, T-shirts, posters and any piece of memorabilia that could hold an image. Back before comic shops were even a thing the spinner racks in the local newsagent would be overflowing with random issues, frustratingly irregular, making it impossible to read a full run unless you put the work in and were extremely lucky. You knew the characters though, Spiderman and The Hulk had live action TV shows, Fantastic Four was an animated cartoon series (with incredible music, as sampled by MF Doom), Silver Surfer and Thor would appear on T-shirts, pencil cases, rubbers…

Back when Marvel UK published Star Wars Weekly they would fill out each issue with reprints from the lesser known canon of the Marvel Universe to bolster the page count each week. Hence I read Deathlock, The Micronauts (from a toy line I used to play with), Star Lord, ROM- Spacenight, Warlock and more without knowing their place in the scheme of things. But I had little interest in the ‘fights in tights’ kind of superhero stories, instead preferring the pages of British publications like 2000AD, Eagle, Warrior, Scream et al – comics where you could actually get hold of each subsequent issue without a gap in the story line.

So these lesser-known characters were really the Marvel of my youth but where the company came into their own for me was later, at the cinema. Until the first Iron Man, X-Men and Spiderman films only DC‘s Batman had had even a passable effort made at a superhero/comic book movie (OK, maybe the first Superman film too but that belongs to a bygone era). Finally here was the comic transposed to film done properly, with all the fan service embedded, and with a long-reaching plan that intended to do the ultimate crossover event in film, just like the comics. And they did it! 10 years of planning, building characters for new audiences, sometimes faithful to the comics, sometimes not, but what they achieved with Avengers: Infinity War this year was something I don’t think has ever been done in cinematic history. And we know that this is just phase 1, the celluloid universe they’ve created is even mightier than the paper one and it originated with one man – Stan Lee.

Now, I know it’s not as simple as that, not least with the Jack Kirby family struggles to get his contributions recognised, and there seem to be problems with Lee taking a lot of credit for work he maybe oversaw rather than created. But – as in many of these instances – I believe it’s usually the sum of the people involved rather than any one individual that makes these legendary creations happen and it’s indisputable that Stan was at the helm when a lot of what we now know as the Marvel Universe was created. He cleverly assured his place in the scheme of things by putting himself front and centre in many of the comics’ back pages (and sometimes even the covers) and this continued in the films. My kids have never read a Marvel comic but they know the characters from the films and they certainly know who Stan Lee is too from his sometimes blink-and-you’ll-miss-t cameos in each Marvel movie. After years of them being scorned, Marvel have made comic creations acceptable in Hollywood and bought a whole new generation into comic shops as a result.

He leaves behind a huge legacy, a whole universe of characters, many of who ascended into pop culture before the films and many more who no doubt will in due time. RIP Stan ‘The Man’ Lee.

(Image by Butcher Billy)

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