Mixcloud Select 25: Openmind – Strictly session 09/12/94

25 Tape

This is the other side of the tape from week 15 (which was the week after this) and comprises a mix I did of 45 minutes which is all I have of this show. There may have been more but the cassette ran out. This is still billed as Openmind but Matt Black refers to me as ‘Strictly Kev on the mix’ at one point so this is somewhere midway to coming to the Solid Steel / Ninja fold and becoming a part of DJ Food.
Trip hop and electro is in full flow on this one with the first release on Clear – The Jedi Knights’ ‘May The Funk Be With You’, Afrika Bambaataa and an early Andrea Parker / David Morley production for the Apollo label under the name Two Sandwiches Short of a Lunchbox.

Jon More‘s (then) secret weapon – Forrest J. Ackerman’s ‘Music For Robots’ is deployed for spoken word effect (just wait until we got to Japan in a few years time…) and coincidentally (or maybe on purpose) the Yoshinori Sunahara track that opens the set is titled ‘Music For Robot For Music’.

After that the Art of Noise gets molested by Rick Rubin’s uber slow, ultra heavy ‘Dust Cloud’ from the Tommy Boy ‘Masters of the Beat’ compilation, it doesn’t always work but you can hear what I was trying to do. An early David Holmes mix for Justin Warfield and the Future Sound of London in their Far Out Son of Lung guise both dip their toes in psyched out trip hop with long, tripped out distorted beats and FX, this was the stuff I really loved (and still do) – weird, heavy, psychedelic beats and samples.

I think most people are hip to Justin’s LP debut LP by now, ‘My Field Trip To Planet 9’ – a trip hop classic before the term was even coined, if you’ve not heard it then check it out. The only other things like it at the time coming from the US were bits of Beastie Boys’ circa Check Your Head, some Divine Styler and maybe a bit of the DJ Muggs stable. UK remixes by Holmes, Ashley Beedle and The Dust Brothers (UK version, pre-name change). In a weird twist of fate Justin would soon feature on Bomb The Bass‘Bug Powder Dust’ single which would also sample DJ Food’s ‘Dark Lady’. Sadly he largely left hip hop for more rock-based bands for about 20 years after this although he made another rap album 20 years later and made this astute observation: “The only caveat being I didn’t know what to talk about, and since hip-hop is at it’s best a vehicle for an artist with something he or she has to say, a point of view given voice over beats, and that if you had nothing to say, well…then better to not say anything at all. (A point lost on some modern rappers, and more importantly, the ever-growing audience that gobbles it up).

Track list:

Coldcut – Solid Steel intro jingle
Yoshinori Sunahara – M.F.R.F.M. (Armed)
Boymerang – The Don
Forrest J. Ackerman – Music For Robots
Art of Noise – Moments In Love
Rick Rubin – Dust Cloud
The Jedi Knights – May The Funk Be With You
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – Looking For The Perfect Beat (Bonus Beats)
DJ Food – A Little Samba
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – Looking For The Perfect Beat (instrumental)
Two Sandwiches Short of a Lunchbox – Too Good To Be Strange
Justin Warfield – Live From The Opium Den (David Holmes Dub)
Future Sound of London – Far Out Son of Lung & The Ramblings of a Madman
Bandulu – Run Run

Sun Moth Art

SunMoth 1

My good friend and sometime collaborator, Aaron Thomason aka 2econd Class Citizen, aka Rodin and now aka Sun Moth, sent me this today. He’s also a painter in the little spare time he has between all the other things he gets up to. He’s been doing these ‘pours’ for a while now alongside his abstract landscapes and has a batch up for sale, this one is about 7″s square and very affordable. Go and check him out on Facebook or Instagram or Etsy – he’ll be launching some new music soon too

SunMoth 2 SunMoth 3 SunMoth 4

Mixcloud Select – Strictly’s Jazz Beatnik Hipster session Pt.3 25/10/1998

24 Homespun box

As we conclude our field trip with Mr Geets Romo and the hopelessly out of his depth square narrator, played by Del Close and John Brent on their ‘How To Speak Hip‘ album we continue down the electronic jazz path of the late 90s. The Death track came on a silver 12” with no labels but a skull sticker listing the components used to make it and I regularly used it as a rhythmic bridge between styles when DJing. Looking it up now I see that it was the only release under this name by Thomas P. Heckman who started making all manner of electronic records in the 90s including starting the Trope label which this is on. It’s great having the internet and Discogs now to look this stuff up, back in the 90s, although we had email and a vague version of the web, it was hard to find out about some of the more obscure releases that turned up in record shops unless they came with a press release or were featured in a magazine.

The Tortoise remix here is by Bundy K. Brown who I was keeping close tabs on after we’d met in Chicago on our first tour of the US and pledged to work together. I love his remixes, there’s something about the way he puts things together with both a musician and engineer’s mind that brings out unique results. I love the way he draws things out here, the groove and mood gently unfolding with minute changes. Also, this one is LONG, so much so that I play the whole of the next record over it and barely get time to mix another track in before that’s ended.

24 Homespun DAT

Those records being Jamie Hodge’s Born Under a Rhyming Planet alias and Kingsuk Biswas Bedouin Ascent with their takes on electronic, abstract jazz. Both were prolific in the mid 90s and then went quiet as the 00’s appear, neither having released any music for over a decade now. Kingsuk especially I thought could have been as big as Aphex or label mate Luke Vibert, his complex angular rhythms were like no one else’s. Following this we have a track from the rare MASK 400 12” from Gescom’s Skam label, which sees Grace Jones’ ‘Private Life’ remixed by Post which may have been an alias for Mike Williamson. We get another (very out of tune, mix wise) track from Papa Blue’s ‘En Velo’ 12” (remember, cheap over on Discogs) and ‘Proxima Session’ was from a 12” entitled Jazz Roux by Uriel who followed a similar pattern to others here by being super active in the mid to late 90s and then disappearing.

24 Jazz Beat PRS

Track List:
Del Close & John Brent – Field trip no.3
Death – Electronic Realisations 2
Tortoise – Find The One (Wait , Abstraction No.3)
Born Under A Rhyming Planet – Spasm Band
Bedouin Ascent – Internal Bleeding
Grace Jones – Private Life (Post remix)
Papa Blue – Luna en la Pampa
Uriel – Proxima Session

Rian Hughes’ XX book featured in Electronic Sound

ES XX spread

Very pleased to see Rian Hughes’ new book ‘XX – A Novel, Graphic’ featured so prominently in the new issue of Electronic Sound magazine with a double page of layouts.If you want an idea of what the book’s about then Sci-Fi Now has a very good review.

ES XX Right

The Celestial Mechanic album that I created with Saron Hughes and Robin the Fog soundtrack’s the novel and also gets a mention – you can hear that here https://celestialmechanic.bandcamp.com

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Cape Town Electronic Music Festival comp: Friends & Frequencies

Friends and Frequencies front
The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival
2020 is online only this year and, after a live stream last week they announced this Friends and Frequencies compilation. It’s a great selection of the many artists and friends who have played for them over the last nine years of running the festival. I’m very pleased to be kicking off the 137 track comp with the final song from 2012″s ‘The Search Engine’ album, the compiler’s felt that the spoken word on the track said what they wanted to say perfectly.
The compilation is designed to raise funds for all the artists involved as well as the industry supply chain so if you are in a position to pay more than the asking price please feel free to do so. Available here

F&F 1 F&F 2 F&F 3

Mixcloud Select 23: Strictly’s Jazz Beatnik Hipster session Pt.2

22 DATAnother chapter from Del Close and John Brent‘s ‘How To Speak Hip’ undercover field trip opens and closes  this week’s mix and leads into the extraordinary ‘Traveller’ by Talvin Singh, the strings on this are so gorgeous, I really thought this would be the one to put him up there in the spotlight, win him awards and such, and it did of a sort but he deserves way more recognition. You can hear jazz creeping in here and it was starting to become fashionable again, after hip hop producers had moved from funk, soul and rock to jazz in the early 90s. Techno producers like Kirk DeGiorgio had started espousing its delights and people were rediscovering electric Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock albums. A good example is the Papa Blue track – a solo 12” on the Finnish Sahko offshoot PUU label – home of Jimi Tenor before he signed to Warp. Apparently it was an alias of Jaakko Salovaara who records under the name JS16 and this was his only release under this name. Find a copy, there are 20 for sale very cheap on Discogs, it’s a lost classic of hazy, trippy jazz comedowns.
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From one-off obscurity to the first Cinematic Orchestra single debuting here, who could have guessed how far they’d come over the next 20 years? Massive Attack get dubbed up by Alpha, DJs Shadow and Krush dual in fine style and a certain LA rapper who would later move into my building in London shows up – what was her name again? Ultramarine close the mix and don’t release another album for another 15 years.
* The Muppets + Coolio at start note refers to a recording at the start of the DAT of Coolio trying to teach The Muppets to rap taped from the TV in Canada in the late 90s on tour. It also features a section from KISS meets the Phantom of the Park film, a terrible cash-in film that plays out like a Scooby Doo cartoon featuring the masked rockers whose careers were on a high at the time.

Part 3 follows next week…

Track list:
Del Close & John Brent – Field Trip no.2
Talvin Singh – Traveller
Papa Blue – Matusalem
The Cinematic Orchestra – Continuum
Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps (Alpha mix)
DJ Krush/DJ Shadow – Duality
T-Love – What’s My Name?
Ultramarine – K/V

Dan Lish EgoStrip book Kickstarter finally here

EgoStrip cover
Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of Dan Lish‘s work, having featured him several times over the years. Ever since he started posting his work on the web people have been saying, ‘do a book, when are you doing a book?’. Last week he finally launched his EgoStrip book Kickstarter after years of drawing some of the greatest portraits of hip hop, funk and jazz musicians out there. Looking forward to this immensely and, at the time of writing he was less than £6k off his target with 25 days to go. Take a look here

EgoStrip bookEgoStrip spreadDanLish_Kraftwerk

DanLish_JazzyJ DanLish_Rammellzee DanLish_QBert

Mixcloud Select – Strictly’s Jazz Beatnik Hipster session Pt.1

22 Box

‘Come with us now…’ Having finally secured a copy of Del Close and John Brent‘s ‘How To Speak Hip’ LP after coveting it from the pages of the Incredibly Strange Music books I was keen to put its extensive spoken word passages to good use. Thus the Jazz Beatnik Hipster sessions were born, three half hour mixes that all aired on Solid Steel on 25/10/1998 (the 18th date on the inlay was when they were recorded). Using dialogue from the album to punctuate the sets and give them some continuity, I mined the album for nuggets before plundering it even further for ‘The Riff’ on Kaleidoscope. I always recall the end of the 90s as an odd time for music, after a decade of incredible dance music that seemed to mutate and spew forth a new genre each year, things seemed to be slowing down a bit. People started looking back for new things and the easy listening/moog scene was a notable example, the soundtrack reissue/bootleg market seemed to be booming and compilations of library music started cropping up for the first time.

Big Beat had taken over in the clubs and, after the initial excitement of The Dust/Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim‘s early singles, become seemingly wedded to lad culture and followed a formula that saw it get old pretty fast. Ninja and Mo Wax were now firmly established and no longer the hot new thing, both had broadened their palette with two of their more ambient/electronic signings featured here in Andrea Parker and The Irresistible Force whose ‘The Lie-In King’ is a bit of a lost classic. Another is an early Fink offering here, the same but very different sounding Fink who is now a world famous acoustic singer songwriter, but who started out on Ninja sub-label, Ntone. I remember touring with him in the late 90’s and he once casually mentioned that he wanted to win a Mercury Prize one day, we all looked at him as if he was mad but he’s not far off these days having worked with John Legend and Amy Winehouse over the years.

NT were a Scottish group who promised much with their first two singles but seemed to falter somewhere along the line and although an album exists as a CD promo I don’t think it came out properly, not sure what happened there. Independant hip hop labels like Rawkus and Fondle ‘Em where putting out the most interesting rap at this point in the US with Company Flow and MF Doom making their debuts. The Arsonists made some great 12″ singles too with this low slung track in 3/4 time. A Get Carter theme ensues for the end of the mix with UNKLE‘s sample sound-a-like and a track from Roy Budd‘s soundtrack followed by Stereolab‘s cover version of the main theme. The ‘Lab were in their golden period at this point, one of the coolest groups in the business, hopped up on Krautrock references, hook ups with Tortoise in the US and having people like Autechre, Luke Vibert and UNKLE remix them.

Part 2 follows next week…

Track list:
Del Close & John Brent – Field Trip no.1
Andrea Parker – After Dark
The Irresistible Force – The Lie-in King
Fink – The Fink vs DJ Ali-Cat
NT – Distances Dub
The Arsonists – Geembo’s Theme
UNKLE – Rabbit in Your Headlights (instr)
Roy Budd – Getting Nowhere in a Hurry
Stereolab – Get Carter

Bandcamp recommends Sept 2020

PD splatter
Proto Droids – Cybernetic World – New Correlations project – ‘LP exploring the unsettling themes of 1970s Sci-Fi via the dance floor driven sounds of mid 1980s synth stompers. Packed with throbbing bass lines, irresistible beats & slick synths of vintage Billboard chart bangers’ according to Bob Fischer – released via Spun Out of Control. There are two colourways with this pressing – robot sweat (leaking oil) and Short Circuit splatter and just look at them!
PD 2 col

Motorway cover 6
Funki Porcini – Motorway  Super brand new (literally finished this week) 4-track driving rhythms and ambience EP

Benge 13 Systems
Benge – 13 Systems – Thirteen different modular synths, one per track – worth it for track 12 alone. Huge back catalogue if you want more, his 20 Systems album is a classic.

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Celestial Mechanic – Citizen Void – My own modest effort, alongside Saron Hughes and interjections from Howlround, the soundtrack to Rian Hughes‘ new book, ‘XX – A Novel, Graphic‘ – only 2 weeks old.
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Also from the house of Food – my digital label, Infinite Illectrik, a place for my customised turntable experiments with locked grooves including a 25 minute remix of Four Tet.

Clipping Visions
Clipping – Visions of Bodies Being Burned (PRE-ORDER) A second album! due October, still no idea when the live album will be more generally available though.

DDD 12
DNGDNGDNG – Continentes Perdidos – New 4-track EP from the ever reliable On The Corner records. The sounds of as yet undiscovered futuristic tribes captured on record.

FLC LP

Field Lines Cartographer – The Spectral Isle – from the preview tracks, the first is a gorgeous ambience, somewhere at the intersection between Eno and Boards of Canada and the second is altogether darker, kind of Silent Servant without the beats. Artwork by Nick Taylor, I’d buy that just for the cover alone, on the always reliable Castles In Space label. UPDATE: This album is seriously good, one for the best of 2020 lists

KL vol2Kosmischer Laufer – Volume Two – Long-awaited REPRESS of possibly the best of the bunch so far.

RL Foclcore Impressionista

Folclore Impressionista – New Sensation: Music For Television – Brand new release from Russian Library of electronic 80’s-inspired library music

AC-007 AC-008
Two new Acid Cuts releases – 8″ clear lathe cuts of pure contemporary acid from Type 303 and Cleon

Trunk header
Also, did you know Trunk records was on Bandcamp? The whole catalogue isn’t up there but there are all sorts of little bits and pieces not available on vinyl.

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The Life of Barney Bubbles podcast

IMG_6460 I’ve highlighted The Bureau of Lost Culture podcasts before and in the latest instalment Stephen Coates interviews writer and biographer Paul Gorman about the life of designer Barney Bubbles. Paul wrote the definitive (and only) book about Barney’s work, Reasons To Be Cheerful and recounts his fascinating but ultimately tragic story.

Paul has also recently set up a Barney Bubbles Estate Instagram account where he’s posting examples and rarities from his collection. Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you may well be familiar with his work.
There have recently been a slew of great interviews from The Bureau, focussing on Hawkwind, the history of Goth, Biba, groupies, The UFO club and more. The easiest way to listen to them is via their Soundcloud page

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Ambient mix for the Soundwave podcast

Soundwave 22
Joseph Aleo runs a music podcast called Soundwave and recently asked me to contribute a mix – I turned in an hour’s worth of new ambient music that’s been floating my boat recently including an exclusive track from the forthcoming New Obsolescents LP I made with Howlround. The mix also includes Robert Fripp, Jon Brooks, Steve Hauschildt, Celestial Mechanic, Clocolan, Deepchord, LF58, Squarepusher and BUNKR.
Listen here Soundwave : 22

A tribute to Russell Mears aka Rusty Spray

Wandham Stringers

This weekend an old friend passed away, someone who inspired me a great deal artistically back in the day. Please indulge me whilst I go back on a trip to the mid 80s and reminisce over writing in aerosol paint in the small town of Reigate in Surrey where I grew up.
Russell Mears was the first person I know of who did a piece of graffiti in Reigate. A Beat Street-inspired piece complete with train, ‘Zulu’ and Smurf character appeared one day in ’84 / ’85 on the abandoned Wandam Stringer building near the station. It was signed ‘Rusty Spray’ and it set a lot of tongues wagging and wheels in motion.

Wadham close

Soon after, a second piece was added in the same style, this time with head-spinning breakdancer, boom box, tombstones and the word, ‘Fresh’. It now spread across the whole wall and the words ‘Rusty again!’ taunted us that he’d struck twice. I had only just got into graffiti and not painted my first piece or even seen a copy of Subway Art yet (the equivalent of the Bible for UK writers at the time). I, probably like Rusty, was getting my graffiti inspiration from films like Beat Street and record covers like The Rock Steady Crew’s Uprock or Malcom McLaren‘s Duck Rock. Soon after, more pieces appeared around town bearing his name, ‘NTF’ (Night Time Flyers I think) and ‘Rebel’, both with variations on the same character cribbed from Subway Art. He got caught for the latter but I can’t remember what punishment was dealt out.

NTF + CopRebel + Cop

It being such a small community, word got around and we soon ran into each other. He was a few years older and possibly in art college at this time, whilst my crew and I were still in school. Even though he was older he never seemed to look down on us and was always humble about his work which was astonishing to see in his piece book. By this time he was light years ahead of us in terms of style and technique – plus he’d seen the Chrome Angelz (see ‘Chrome’ piece copy here that he gave to me) and his style had made a quantum leap forward. I think we all had to raise our game once we’d seen Russell’s work (how I’d LOVE to see his 80s piece book again).

Chrome

Rusty Spray tags
ExE + Duck SantaEXE

Two memories spring from these photos: we (the crew I was part of – TWB) had arranged to battle Russ and his crew – Executive Artists which included Chris Burrell and possibly others I can’t remember. We decided to get the jump on them and spend all Saturday night in the spot the battle was supposed to take place in, the disused swimming baths in Reigate. We’d paint a burner across the whole end of the baths – a bite of Kaze II’s digital style with two characters, (see below) – and when they walked in on Sunday morning we’d be there already – ‘tadaaaah!’.
Downside, the wall we painted on was a knobbly blue colour, the paint dripped, it was dark and cold as hell and we were shitting ourselves half the time at any noise we heard. As it turned out, Russ and crew turned up, went into a side room, found a nice white wall, did a quick ‘Rus’ piece and handed us our arses.

DigitalDig 3Rus 2Rus

After this we were cool with him and became friends, we met other local like-minded artists and DJs like Peter Myers (seen below here on the ground with fellow EA member Chris Burrell – Russ is on the right), Tim ‘DJ Stubble’ and Jim Davis.

ChysaChysa + crew

Chysa big

Russ, Chris and Richard Lomath had painted a whole room in the Reigate Parish First School caretaker’s cottage (Chris’ dad was the caretaker at the school), almost choking themselves on the fumes. It was something we could only hope our parents would one day let us do (mine never did but we painted friend’s bedrooms over the years). This no doubt helped hone their skills with a spray can, note the difference in the style of lettering from ‘RPR’ (Rebel Pro Rockers) to the ‘Chris’ piece from the others, a big stylistic jump.

BreakinMad Cop Cobalt 60 RPR Hulk NTFChrisAndy Capp

Super Chip in progress

A year or so later, we got commissioned to paint the shutters of the local chip shop on the estate that crew member Ricky Groombridge lived on. We decided to get Russ in to help us out as (I think) we weren’t confident on our lettering skills to do a good job. He graciously agreed and designed the Super Chip piece and we painted it on a Sunday with what seemed like half the estate watching and the police turning up and one point.

Super Chip 1Super Chip 2Super Chip 3Super Chip 4Super Chip 5

It was a thrill to paint with him – the Super Chip piece seen in progress here sees Russ in the pink, Ricky in green, David Jarvis in pale yellow and me with graffiti jacket over Nike windcheater. Russell was a master at lettering, colours, outlines, having a couple of years on us young pups and he made us all look better. We’d never seen anything like this style before, readable but with huge areas to put colour and effects in.

Chique Rusty

I remember going to his house one time and he let me use his airbrush – something no one else I knew had – to colour backgrounds on a piece I was working on in a new book. His parents had let him spray a whole wall of his bedroom (the ‘Chique / Rusty Spray’ piece above) which was mighty impressive. We last spoke a couple of years ago when he sent me a shot of one of my tags, still visible over 30 years later in Reigate.

Dvice tag

I dug into the deepest recesses of the archive to find these images because Russ’s art affected and inspired so many of us when images and info were scant. He led the way in showing us that you could take this foreign, urban artform and try your hand at it. Great times and memories, never forgotten. Rest In Peace Russell aka Rusty Spray.

Mixcloud Select 20 – Strictly’s Dark Star set Pt.2 – The Bomb 14/09/97

20 DAT box
More space age shenanigans with part 2 of the Dark Star set with an odd mix of (then) current electronica and old moog-y bits plus a trio of Stereolab side-project cuts from the Turn On album sitting somewhere in the middle. This was the period where the band were really getting interesting, leaving their indie guitar roots behind and embracing krautrock and electronica more and I was hoovering up everything they touched. They appear again in a remix capacity on the Microstoria track and early Air crops up (the French version). Another track from George Harrison’s Electronic Sound LP appears and there’s a huge chunk of the bomb scene from Dark Star to finish.

Part 2 – The Bomb
Turn On – Ru Tenone
The Electronic Concept Orchestra – Rock Me
Mr Mahoney – Harmonica Storm
Microstoria – Microlab: Endless Summer (Stereolab remix)
Air – Le Soleil est Pres de Moi
Lalo Schifrin – Commando Opus
Turn On – Delimiting
Turn On – Glangerous
Autechre – Krib
George Harrison – Under The Mersey Wall
excerpt from Dark star – Bomb Speech
Dick Hyman – Moon Gas

BT Sport Champions League zoetrope commission


I was commissioned by BT Sport to make a zoetrope for use in a video for the Champions League football final on August 23rd. The video is for a new song from Doves‘ forthcoming album and the zoetrope would be intercut with footage of them performing in front of an old carousel with footage from clips on the discs zooming into full frame. I worked closely with Creative Lead Andrew Maddox to pull together clips and make sure the discs best represented what they needed (I know absolutely nothing about football!).


During the August heatwave weekend I literally sweated over a hot computer and emerged Monday morning with not one but four zoetropes from the footage they’d given me. These were then refined over the next two days and then printed 12″ size before being stuck down to vinyl discs and filmed on a turntable with digital versions animated in After Effects. Sadly they didn’t make the final cut in the end. Gutting, but here they are for you anyway.

I think I’m cursed with zoetropes this year. Despite being asked to do more than ever, the lot I did back in January for an unnamed artist went unused after he wouldn’t pay me. A second (very exciting) one should be happening but stalled when lockdown hit, a third design for Pendulum was passed over as they decided to go with their original design and now this. Two that I did for the group Peninsula‘s album got stalled by the Covid shutdown but are now happening thankfully.


BT Sport did a great job on the final video though

Here are the discs before they spin and animate

BT Zoetrope 4 for print BT Zoetrope 2 for print BT Zoetrope 3 for print BT Zoetrope 1 for print

 

Strictly’s Dark Star set Pt.1 – 14/09/1997

20 DAT tapeThis is part 1 of two mixes, The Sphere and The Bomb – both share excerpts of spoken word from Dark Star and John Williams’ ‘The Conversation’ from Close Encounters of the Third Kind joins them. The original name on the box was ‘Strictly’s Dark Star sci-fi sex-up‘ – not sure what that was about. The Bomb follows next week…

I think my obsession with 70s sci-fi started around this time, we’d caned the Dark Star original soundtrack on the Blech cassette mix for Warp and there was so much mileage still left in it. Jack Dangers had, of course, got there first and peppered parts of it throughout the excellent Meat Beat Manifesto album, Satyricon as well as sampling a small flute and and strings loop from somewhere on the track ‘Placebo’.20 DAT box

This is where I first heard the riff from Dudley Moore’s ‘The Millionaire’ from the soundtrack to the film, Bedazzled. Ollie Teeba was a huge fan and identified it from the short skit and then the hunt was on for a decent copy of the LP, rare by any standard in the 90s. I eventually found one a year later in the Cinema branch of the Music & Video Exchange in Notting Hill and paid a lot of money for it (some of it was in vouchers actually). Anyway, it was one of the few records I’ve shelled out big money for but I then sampled it on ‘Nocturne’ on the Kaleidoscope album and it’s proved quite popular over the years.

There’s some distortion on this recording, mainly on the Si Begg and 2 Player tracks which were overloaded on the recording. I’ve tried to smooth this over as best I can with the tools now available, this would have been one of the first shows I recorded at home with a portable DAT player. Before this we would record at KISSFM or at Ahead of our Time studios in Clink Street, the home of Ninja Tune up until 2000.

It looks like I used the end of the tape to record a soundcheck of myself, Kid Koala and Ollie Teeba jamming on 4 decks in Vancouver on tour which was later used in part on my remix of Coldcut‘s ‘More Beats & Pieces’. 1997 was super busy with recording and touring and I was asked by Jon & Matt to remix the track just before I went off on tour. Knowing I’d be sharing stages with other great scratch DJs I bought along copies of the DJ record of parts that had been made to give to remixers and we recorded various soundchecks and also did a session at Kid Koala’s flat at the end of the tour as well.

Track list:
Neil Norman – Dark Star
Kirsty Hawkshaw – Sci-Clone (Raw Dog mix)
Spiritualized – C Phase
George Harrison – No Time Or Space
Si Begg – Sing Circle System
Turn On – Electrocation of Fire Ants
excerpt from Dark Star – Listening Pleasure
Meat Beat Manifesto – Placebo
Beck – Strange Invitation
2 Player & DJ Vadim – White Painted Roads
John Williams – The Conversation (from Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

Celestial Mechanic – Citizen Void album

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Released today is a new album of music I’ve been working on over the past few months – ‘Citizen Void’ by Celestial Mechanic. The music is a companion to the debut novel by designer, illustrator and typographer, Rian Hughes, ‘XX – A Novel, Graphic’. The book is released in hardback in the UK today (later this year in the US) by Picador and, as you can see from these photos, it’s a huge, beautifully-designed monster at nearly 1,000 pages.

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This is no ordinary novel, as with everything Rian does, the devil is in the detail and the book is a beautifully designed object in itself, both inside and out. This is also not a graphic novel or a straight prose sci-fi tale as you can see from some of the spreads below. Synopsis from the Picador press release:

‘At Jodrell Bank a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin has been detected. Artificial Intelligence expert Jack Fenwick thinks he can decode it. But when he and his associates at Hoxton tech startup Intelligencia find a way to step into the alien realm the signal encodes, they discover that it’s already occupied – by ghostly entities that may come from our own past.

Have these ‘DMEn’ (Digital Memetic Entities) been created by persons unknown for just such an eventuality? Are they our first line of defence in a coming war, not for territory, but for our minds?

XX presents a compelling vision of humanity’s unique place in the universe, and of what might happen in the wake of the biggest scientific discovery in human history.

As compelling as it is visually striking, Rian Hughes’ first novel incorporates NASA transcripts, newspaper and magazine articles, fictitious Wikipedia pages, undeciphered alphabets, and ‘Ascension’, a forgotten novelette by 1960s counterculture guru Herschel Teague that mysteriously foreshadows events.

Wrapping stories within stories, Rian Hughes’ XX unleashes the full narrative potential of graphic design. Drawing on Dada, punk and the modernist movements of the twentieth century, it ask us who we think we are – and where we may be headed next.’

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Even if you’re unfamiliar with Rian and his work, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen it at some point over the last 35 years. He wears many hats, from writing and illustrating comics for 2000AD, Escape, and the much-heralded return of Dan Dare for the short-lived Revolver in the early 90s to designing logos for virtually any character and publisher who’s anyone in the comics world. His branding for the Forbidden Planet franchise is still in place over two decades later, he’s authored books about 20th century advertising, the sci-fi artist Chris Foss and published collections of his comic work and burlesque life drawings. He’s also an accomplished typographer having designed hundreds since the 90s, first with the FontFont house and now for his Device Fonts imprint.

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Above are just some of the covers of the book within the book, Herschel Teague‘s ‘Ascension’, which features a certain Celestial Mechanic as its central character.

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So why have I written an album of music to go with a sci-fi novel?

Part of the book features a cover design and review of an album by a fictitious group, Celestial Mechanic, for their album ‘Citizen Void’, created by taking an alien signal from space and working it into musical forms.

Rian commissioned me, along with his sister, classically-trained pianist Saron Hughes, to make this album and it may well be the first album written after the review.

The basis for much of the material was Saron’s solo piano experiments which I then took and reworked, masses of NASA recordings from space, some of which went through generative sound apps that spat them out in a myriad of ways. Tape experiments left over from the forthcoming album by The New Obsolescents that I made with Howlround were also pillaged as were pages from Rian’s book which I fed into an image to sound app to generate original samples. The family connections are strong on this project with Saron’s husband, Pete Harris featuring on guitar on one track and her and Rian’s late father, Alan Hughes reading his poem, The Silent Voice’ throughout. One of my sons even provides treated guitar effects on one track.

As anyone who knows me will appreciate, this is a bit of a dream project – music, sci-fi, design, typography, comics – multiple boxes ticked. Working with Rian and collaborating with Saron has been extremely rewarding and we’ve all learnt lots from the experience so far. It’s also nice to sit back and let someone else handle all the design side for a change and not have to do a thing, knowing that the person in charge is more than capable, with years more experience and their own unique vision.

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You can hear it by using the QR code in the book or above (the card above is from a promo copy of the book) or this link to take you to the Bandcamp page. It was always the intention to have two ‘sides’ to the album with the 20 minute epic, ‘The Signal’ taking up the second half, as per the review in the book. The first side is intended to be listened to merged together and this will be included as a bonus download when you purchase the album from Bandcamp.

There isn’t a physical version at the moment, there may never be, the nature of the way the album came to exist in the book and the zeros and ones of the cover design dictated that it should be digital in form. So the book is the nearest thing you’ll get if you want to buy a copy to put on the shelf and it’s an amazing novel, there’s nothing else like it out there that I know of.

No, there won’t be a vinyl or CD version at the moment, maybe if a label expresses an interest but Bandcamp is the only way to get it right now.

No you don’t get the album for free if you buy the book, likewise the book if you buy the album. They are separate entities but are linked and part of the same release.

Rian will be doing an online Q&A with Grant Morrison via the Forbidden Planet site today, Admission to this event comes FREE with every copy of XX (signed hardcover), which also comes with an exclusive signed art card PLUS an exclusive enamel pin for the first 100 customers – order your copy here. A code to access the talk will be mailed on Wednesday 19th August to all Forbidden Planet customers who have purchased a signed copy of XX.

Look for reviews and interviews appearing all over the place too. There are things still in the pipeline for the US release later this year and talk of an audio book, so who knows what will appear between now and then.

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Mixcloud Select – US Vinyl Excavations Pt. 3 Strictly’s Dial-A-Dirty-Joke

A Pause in the Disaster LP
Track notes:
Continuing the selection of music I found in the US in 2000, no new music here. You can hear a snatch of something we later used in the intro for the first Solid Steel Now, Listen mix in 2001, the little string motif that starts Rod McKuen’s ‘The Mud Kids’. I adore this song, the whole nostalgia-fest feel of it, I added in Marshall McLuhan commenting on Batman in the mid section as it just worked so well, also the long sustained note of the last horn over the Charlie Byrd song, there’s so much detail in some of these mixes that I’d forgotten.

The Dial-a-Dirty-Joke sketches that give the mix its name is a recurring riff from the album ‘A Pause In The Disaster – The Satire of the Conception Corporation’, something I bought on tour with Dynamic Syncopation and that sketch turned into a running joke throughout the tour. Whenever there was a pause in the conversation one of us would start up, “A chicken, is standing on a corner…”. The vamp of The Cannonball Adderly Quintet’s ‘Book-Ends’ is one of my favourites from his catalogue and it was written by David Axelrod who produced a number of his albums in the 70s. Not sure if needed my added echoes though!

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The ‘Kevin is rocking’ it’ message over the Buddy Rich & Alla Rakha track is from Seven of Chocolate Industries who was after my track for the comp of graffiti-inspired songs. The female messages are from T-Love, the LA rapper who I went on to design the album cover for after she moved to the UK for a bit at the end of the 90s. She lived downstairs from me for a couple of years in an old converted mental asylum in Camberwell where my half of Kaleidoscope was recorded and mixed and the ‘project’ she was enthusing about was that album, newly released.

Track list:
intro – Plan 9 from outer space
Rod McKuen – The Mud Kids
Charlie Byrd – I Don’t Have To Take It
Roland Shaw & Orchestra – Diamonds Are Forever (reprise)
Cannonball Adderly Quintet – Book-Ends
Quincy Jones – Threadbare
Yussef Lateef – Technological Homosapien
Beaver & Krause – Walkin’
Buddy Rich & Alla Rakha – Rangeela
Quincy Jones -Threadbare
The Beatles – What’s The New Mary Jane
outro – plan 9 from outer space