Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Takes, Dubs & Versions

Been listening to Scratch over the past few days and stumbled upon the numerous versions of the 'Underground' rhythm he worked on. Not being a complete dub obsessive (although I certainly like it, and a lot) this was something of a revelation, they're all fantastic!

Here's the original (apparently), 'Underground' from Super Ape, 1976, prime Black Ark production:

And a trio of independent dubs, here strung together, also from 1976. Clive Hylton is involved somewhere...

Also appeared in a weirder, scratchier version as 'From Dub Four', perhaps a 'Creation Dub 4'? on the recent Sound System Scratch collection from Pressure Sounds. Not on Youtube but this is, and is equally impressive:

The Return of Sound System Scratch is even better. The Wire tried to link these to hauntology, what with all the disembodied crackle and spectral space; initially straighforward productions spun off their axes, ending up decayed husks.

Studio One recordings do riddims to death, but given how good they are it's hardly surprising. Here's Delroy Wilson, Jennifer Lara, Bobby Crystal and George Nooks playing with Errol Dunkley's 'Movie Star' riddim:

On a similar note I've also been listening to the boxset of Miles Davis' Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. It was one of those trophies I thought I couldn't live without at the time, but must confess to having barely scratched the surface. 5 discs of takes and edits that made up the original album, it's intimdating. But, having given it some time of late, there's a real charm to this approach, revealing aspects of the sessions which were subsumed by the whole in the finished product. The guitars of John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharock are particularly interesting, each taking different approaches, Sharrock usually just adding the odd distorted smear here and there, shot through with Echoplex.

The seemingly bottomless reserve of tape offcuts and unreleased material here functions as a positive deconstruction of the final production process. The appearances of multiple takes of various tracks allows listeners to attempt to piece together the final takes, and even construct their own edits. The Silent Way box was more consistent and complete, but these fragments possess more interest, I'd even be curious to see it stripped down to soloists. Imagine what Sharrock's spurts would sound like surrounded by nothing but space...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Detroit Nu Wav

Bought some records recently including the weirdly hyped Detroit Nu Wav collection on Planet E.

Unlike the above promo none of the tracks mindlessly slather the word 'Detroit' over them in a shallow attempt to gain cred, but they're all employ Detroit tropes - searing neon synths, heavy percussion, bleak electro-inspired melodic patterns - in varying degrees. 'Another Place' by Reference is particularly impressive:

But they're all solid:

Earlier tracks by Monty Luke and Ezana Harris also pretty good:

Detroit techno hardly needs my support, from the opposite arse-end of the world no less. I'd say that I'm immune to the promotional angle, actually antagonistic to it, but I do so like the music, as this tracklist attests.

Also picked up the latest on Steffi's Dolly label by another Detroit youngster, Jared Wilson. Four tracks of vintage Chicago-esque acid, the following is my pick. Vocal is kinda silly, inane club-set antics targeted to goofed up dancers, but tweaked into gloom and menace and very catchy.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

On Sale

Sales are depressing things. All the enthusiasm and hyperbole of the "new" reduced to a desperate attempt to offload surplus units. Items that looked so fresh and irresistible mere months ago now wear the hangdog look of a dying man. Obsolete cultural detritus which failed to deliver on its promise, clogging up the warehouse, unwanted. Beware: most everything makes this transformation.

Utterly enchanting pop music from Austin TX's Sleep ∞ Over, readied with a remix from ethereal electronic auteur, Laurel Halo... Another impressive drop from Hippos in Tanks - Highly recommended!

*LP version limited to 500 copies for the world, pressed on high quality virgin vinyl at RTI with a free download coupon redeemable from the label*

**Lavish foil-embossed 5LP boxset limited to just 600 copies including individually numbered certificate of ownership.**

**3LP + 7" + DVD lavish boxset with individually-numbered certificate of ownership - limited to an edition of just 600 copies for the world**

Another precious document from the mighty Vinyl on Demand - don't miss it.

This is the gut stuff, make no misake, and thanks to this timely reissue, you don't have to sell your gran to get hold a copy.

Unless your gran's worth £2.95.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Maya Jane Coles & Good Generic Minimal Tech-House

Minimal Tech-House is a hard genre to get excited over but it's also one capable of giving me some of the biggest thrills... sparingly. That there's so much, oh so much, bilge to trawl through doesn't make the rewards any better, but the prospect of foraging for them too daunting to bother with. Anyone viewing charts from tipster DJs and listening to them will realise how predictible, perfunctory, samey and boring they mostly are. I DLed a couple of chart lists - Steve Bug and Loco Dice - recently to check out what the kids were digging and my how bored I was. I'm sure these pieces fit together adequately and get the drugged-up young feet shaking on the floors (they'd have done it for my younger feet), but how bland, blank and aesthetically neuter these sets must be.

I know little about Maya Jane Coles aside from that she's 23 and British with an RA podcast under her belt. With minimal tech-house it's a fine line between generic button pushing and outstanding but somehow she wrings noticeable quality from tired formula; nothing earth shaking but, like the ol' Raymond Chandler analogy, genre work done very well. There's a deep house girth to the rhythms and she's fond of nice rotund bleeps, as heard in Anja Schneider's 'Belize', which she crafts into bright groovy melodic shards. Read more from one of her current homes Mobilee here which put out her excellent Beat Faster 12", and they seem the right place for her sound. But she's done plenty and it's mostly very good:

... And Anja Schneider's influential 'Belize':

Fennesz: Seven Stars

Viennese guitar-electronics maestro Christian Fennesz has a new album titled Seven Stars; four-track 10" out now with full length CD in September. The title track features drums, first time to be included on a Fennesz release I believe?

His last album, 2008's Black Sea, was a high point in a career of them, but we all have our personal favourites. Here Fennesz allowed for more pieces featuring the guitar largely untreated, naked ringing tones against a backdrop of relative emptiness.

Grey Scale:

Glass Ceiling:

Elsewhere his trademark granular wash was present and as beautiful as ever:

"Seven Stars" is also a leading brand of Japanese cigarettes. I smoked "Mild Sevens" when I was there, both available for international purchase here.

"The Seven Stars" is also a pub in London. Located behind the Royal Courts in Holborn, It was one of a handful of local buildings to survive the Great Fire (1666) and in 2002 celebrated its 400th anniversary with a street party.
The proprietor is eccentric Australian ex-pat Roxy Beaujolais with a penchant for French cuisine, so the food is tops. My first visit I was befriended by the barman who gloated about England's Ashes victory over Australia. We stayed until closing whereupon the barman pulled the blinds and kicked off a "lock-in" - allowing us to drink past legal closing time.
The pub is famed for its cat which wears a choristers collar.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Cheap Vinyl

One of the perks of being a fan of classical music, aside from the implicit knowledge that you are smarter, more sophisticated than and superior to non-classical listeners, is that classical records are dirt cheap in most record stores. My boss is away - an extreme rarity - so I hopped on a tram to Fitzroy Hipsterville and visited some record shops. First up was Northside Records, known for their soul-jazz-funk-hip-hop, had some good stuff at acceptable prices, including Motor City Drum Ensemble's "Monorail" double 12" for $26, a bargain round these parts, and were I more flush I'd have picked it up.

...with John Roberts, usually boring but this is good:

But not as good as the Hundred20 old-skool tracks:

I also thought it would make me look cool next to the bundle of bottom shelf $2 clutter I actually bought:

Beethoven Piano Concerto #5, Wilhelm Kempf, old pressing

Berg, Schonberg, Webern - Those dudes don't know the gold they're sitting on - Second Viennese School for 2 bucks!!!

Debussy: Prelude etc. Nice Rousseau cover

Mussorgsky: Pictures, probably never listen to this, I think I find it annoying, but maybe the Ravel will get an airing.

Dexter in France. Could be in poor shape, their jazz collection was generally more highly regarded, and costlier.

It being 2011 and record stores a different beast these days, the owner shmoozed me, asked me my taste in electronic music (flustered, I said "house and ambient") and pulled out full-price recommendations to hopefully snag more of a sale. I'm probably being cynical though, if they've made it this far they're probably safe. His interest sagged when I asked whether he had any classical music, replying "down in the $2 bin". Bonanza!

Ten bucks lighter but five records heavier I strolled around the corner to the The Searchers book & record exchange. Less disregard shown for classical, stored above ground and in the same racks as rock, pop, hip-hop etc, but here they went as low as $1. I bought this:

Adams and Reich. Never really liked Adams but the Reich is good, and minimalism on vinyl always welcome, in some vain hope I'll someday mix with it

Debussy Images etc. Add more yellow to the sides of the casette image below for what the vinyl looks like.

Vivaldi chamber music. Hadn't really seen Hyperion LPs, they look identical to their CDs.

Beethoven by the Menuhins.

Mine is an EMI HMV LP with Arnodl Bocklin's "Ein Fruhlingstag" on the cover

Mozart Clarinet Concerto, from the recording below, but mine is a 10" without the horn work, on Decca, with a reproduction of an uncredited Dutch outdoor tavern scene on the cover. The previous owner was named "Bennett" and they bought it 17 April 1964, according to the sticker in the corner.

Felt ok with Steve Reich in the pile but purchasing anything valued at $1 is a degrading experience. The look I received from the clerk, not dislike but utter disinterest, was revealing: I'm too old to look young and cool listening to Vivaldi, especially in my work strides; now I resemble the 100% classical penny-pinching cranks I used to serve at Harold Moores.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer: Re:ECM

Review of the above is up at Cyclic here. Interesting release, and I feel I've just scratched the surface. The initial weariness over duration has been replaced by excitement at the sheer quantity of sound to explore. How rare does that happen!

Ricardo and Max are on a roll. They've also remixed Vladislav Delay's latest for Echochord, the originals are pretty good too, decent updates on the classic V Delay sound.

Moments of Re:ECM recall the submerged piano doodles of Loderbauer's NSI Plays Non Stanards. That is wonderful album. I don't mean for this to sound like the words of an ignoramus, but I once played it on Resonance FM alongside wax cylinder recordings from the 19th century and you could hardly hear the difference.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

$2,000 Leaking Oil Mix

Life sometimes goes from bad to worse. Penniless, sick, glum, all got a bit shitter when I noticed a bad smell from below the car. That and the big wet oil stain on the driveway sent me to my friendly neighbourhood mechanics. Their assessment: oil leaking into the engine, $2,000 and week without car. Fuck!!!

So Saturday night I tried to cheer myself up and play some records while the family slept, and it worked! Headphone monitored, all vinyl (as you'll hear), deep house. Features tracks from the new Styrax In Loving Memory 4:4 collection which arrived promptly from Delsin last week, a doozy.

Download: $2,000 Leaking Oil Mix
The Visitors: No Under On The Ground
Space Dimension Controller: Cosmo 30 Travel Duration
Theo Parrish: Dreamer's Blues
DJ Qu: Be Who You Wanna Be
Christopher Rau: Do Little
Julius Steinhoff: Zealand
Lawrence: Treacle Mine
STL: Laio
Roman Flugel: Brasil
Omar-S: Always There
Reggie Dokes: Black Thoughts
Aaron Carl: Crucified (XDB Edit)
Cassy: Yeyah
Lowtec: Stamping Ground

Thursday, 7 July 2011

'Live' vs. Alive

Learned that Seth Horvitz's Eight Studies for Player Piano was 'performed' at Mutek. interesting the idea of attending a concert without human performer. Basic Sounds attended and said this:
Seth Horvitz opened A/Visions 2 with his “Eight Studies for Automatic Piano.” Performed live without the presence of a human on stage, a single computer controlled piano played minimal repetitive rhythmic compositions. Visually you could see the keys going down on the piano, as if a ghost was playing. Projected behind the piano was a large linear line mimicking the keys, which helped the audience members have a better understanding of what was happening on stage.

'Helped the audience members have a better understanding of what was happening on stage' - in other words, plain old music is difficult to receive without assistance. Mediation is required.

Study No. 4 for Automatic Piano from Seth Horvitz on Vimeo.

Did Nancarrow have purely musical performances? None that I can find. Here's 'Study #21'

Instead we get reductions, realisations or transcriptions, as though the music can't be left to stand unplayed by human, that it only gains life / credibility once performed by living being. Here's the above '#21' arranged for trumpet, bassoon and guitar.

Even techno isn't allowed to take place without human agent - be it Ableton button pusher or DJ. I heard a rumour that Kraftwerk would play chess when performing live (nowadays, not with their old contraptions)

I attended a performance of Rytis Mazulis' player piano music at Huddersfield Festival in 2007 and they just played it through a stereo. Accompanying it however was a fluxus performance of somethign by fellow Lithuanian Georges Mancuinias which aside from their nationality had nothing to do with Mazulis' music.

Can't recall what the Maciunas piece was, but it wasn't this, which would have been much more approriate.

Performer-less performances of classical electronic music still takes place. Stockhausen's final published work Cosmic Pulses was staged at the Proms no less. The Melbourne Recital Centre has staged Xenakis works in their smaller room. I wonder whether they're performed in darkness or accompanied by some kind of pyrotechnics? Stockhausen was probably keen on the latter.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Recent Electronic Music

Villalobos and Loderbauer: Re:ECM
Saturday began with a visit from a distributor friend who brought round a copy of the new ECM album, and pretty good it is. Review forthcoming, but I reckon V and L have nailed what could have been an utter snorefest, and isn't, completely, or unintentionally. Villalobos has been increasingly headed in this chamber direction anyways, so its hardly the coup its been made out to be, and the music can certainly be said to retain the ECM aesthetic, while adding aspects of the duo's own thinking-tinkering techno. It's adequately varied while projecting a clear vision, but I'd perhaps have liked to see them stretch further afield for source material than their limited selection. It's also marginally more exciting than ECM at their most exciting, hardly the label's objective, but in terms of mood, ambiance, sophistication it's on the mark.

Two discs is a lot to digest, and perhaps not entirely necessary, but I'm sure they've hundreds of hours of decent music discarded too. Plenty to explore though, so value for money for those beyond the ECM devotees thinking of shelling out. Keep the dancing shoes in the cupboard, and get the beard manicure ready.

Surgeon: Breaking the Frame
I've never been a fan of Surgeon's output, too damn heavy and fast for my old bones, but the hyperbolic press fluff for this, his first LP since 2000's Body Request, had me curious. It's certainly a departure from straightforward techno, whilst clearly an extension of what Surgeon's been doing all along. What remains is that relentless forward drive, given greater urgency ironically in those tracks devoid of overt rhythm.

Its here that Breaking the Frame works best, Surgeon creating a kind of anti-ambient: beatless electronic textures which feverishly jerk, throb and scream rather than drift. There's no chance of passively listening or dancing to these, aside from performing a kind of punk-ish St Vitus dance, as one would during Surgeon's live sets when he plays Whitehouse records, I guess.

Basic Channel have always been an obvious reference, but tracks titled 'Radiance' and 'Presence' make it concrete. Both employ the kind ceaseless gaseous flow that whorled through the entire BC catalogue, without any of the space: here it's all densely packed, and firing with energy, the former crashing waves into a kind of 2-step lunge (above), the latter stretching Ikembe chatter over cicada whine, everything toppling and collapsing.

The intensity and techno basis reminds me of some of Porter Ricks' beatless tracks:

Anthony Rother: The Machine Room
Surprised this hasn't received more press. Rother's an electro purist, recording as a host of aliases including PSI Performer and Family Lounge, and responsible for the first bit of electro I ever bought (aside from my adolescent purchase of the Escape from New York soundtrack), 1999's Simulationszeitalter

Machine Room then is hardly a thematic departure, but musically it is, somewhat: Rother drilling down into the core of his machines and coming up with much amorphous vapor, confused arpeggios and lonesome, dusty pulses.

13 The Machine Room - Part XIII by Anthony Rother (Official)

Could this be an electro analogue to Stott's Pass Me By?, a vision of 'post-electro' stripped of its rhythmic base and highlighting the used, abused, and obsolete matter within?

Resolutely and impressively bleak sonically, the cliched subject matter remains, most unpleasantly presented in the pseudo conept-album / 'rock-opera' framework:
The music is based on a story of a factory worker who supervises and controls the machines in a huge steelworks.
His thoughts and dreams have been infiltrated … the machine is everywhere he goes.

No youtube links but certainly worth checking:

Anthony Rother – The Machine Room [PS08/120]

Falty DL: Make it Difficult
Know little about this dude and what he's about, but I like it. Kinda house, but bucking at its constraints, making for unusually snappy, sinuous-yet-dense, brittle music. This is probably about as current and cutting edge as house can get, sticking dubstep and Chicago on top of eachother, pressing the 'quantize' button, and letting the loose ends hang out.

Composer Pianists on Vinyl

As part of our vinyl-only-at-home policy we listened to a series of recordings of composer pianists playing their own works.

Poulenc Plays Poulenc and Satie
Poulenc has the right French cheeky irony to get the wit, and solemnity, from Satie, and his own tunes sound equally worthy alongside, and perhaps more cleverly thought through, in a traditional structural sense. That he goes beyond the requisite Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes also helps his cause. No youtube videos but here he is with Rampal playing his flute sonata.

Shostakovich plays Shostakovich
Great pieces these, recorded by some of the greats. Richter used to play some of them, and when asked by Shostakovich why he didn't play them all, responded 'I only play the good ones'. These and his concertos are available on CD, EMI I believe:

Always good to hear composers play their own works, but Tatiana nikolayeva plays them best. Worth picking up the complete set on Regis for ten quid, but here are the first ten to DL in FLAC:
Download Part 1
Download Part 2

Ravel plays Ravel
My aunt played me this when she gave me piano lessons and I fell in love with it; it's still among my favourite recordings, for all his technical faults. Recorded from player piano rolls or somesuch, so the sound is good and you get all the creaks and clunks of Ravel's hands and feet on instrument.

I don't have this on vinyl but my how great it is! Ives playing and singing his bonkers 'They are There', makes Tom Waits sound like a goodie-two-shoes choirboy:

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Here's what's been happening at Cyclic Defrost:
Ben Gwilliam/Jason Zeh – Brombron 16: Dots (Korm Plastics)
Nicely packaged single track of mysterious tape haze, silence and low-fi scraps; looks better than it sounds.

Seth Horvitz – Eight Studies for Automatic Piano (Line)
Refined experiments for player-piano by ex-microhouse producer, discussed here.

Alfredo Casella – Symphony No. 3 / Elegia Eroica (Naxos)
Blustery Italian orchestral music from between the wars.

Burkhard Friedrich – Citta Utopica (Ahornfelder)
Hour-long collage of subtly crazed electro-acoustics.

Alfred Schnittke – Complete Violin Sonatas (Naxos)
Bleak, muscular yet refined chamber music from Russian genius.

Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang – Aesetaurium LP (Ideologic Organ/editionsMego)
Mournful, droning black-chamber-folk for viola and voice, endorsed by Steven O'Malley.

Steve Reich – Three Movements/The Desert Music (Chandos)
Grand performances of grand Minimalism for orchestra

Alban Gerhardt and Cecile Licad – Casals Encores (Hyperion)
Flighty miniatures and Chopin arrangements for cello and piano.

Forthcoming: selection of twentieth century Danish composition on DaCapo; excellent static, samples and synthesis by Viennese artist Angelica Castello; Villalobos and Loderbauer's Re:ECM; Mazulis' Musica Falsa ...