'Everyone dances to his own personal boomboom'

Remembering Tod Dockstader


Once dead, an artist is quickly reborn, replayed, reactivated by fans. So it was when I heard that Tod Dockstader passed away yesterday (Feb 27th). Gone. First thought: 'He wasn't old, was he?' Dammit, I fell into the camera time trap. Most shots I've seen of him are old, from the 60s, when he was in his 30's. Looking like this...


...how we like to remember the dead in our ideal minds...happy, sprightly, alive...

Tod Dockstader was 82 when he died...suffering from Alzheimer's. In Justin Brierley's film, Unlocking Dockstader (below), we see him reacting to a piece of music, saying he wish he'd made it himself. Brierley informs him that he did. So his condition mirrors ours, which is to forget. Drowning in sounds, we can do nothing but forget what lies on our hard drives, or in the cloud. Yes, even before the file storm, those of us who collected vinyl could forget what we had but today the forgetting is deeper. We would flick through album covers packed into a limited space, whilst today's music library seems infinite.

Dockstader wasn't forgotten by 'the music world'; it never knew him. It knows Dylan, The Beatles, Miles Davis...and will never forget them...never let people forget them. It (critics, judges, music biz pros) was the regulator of taste, appointee of legends and curator of musical memory. It told people who was worthy of canonisation and remembrance. Yet even in his prime, Dockstader was left outside. Fêted by a few in the know, he was still refused entry by electronic music institutions...rejected by such luminaries as Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky, apparently, though it's hard to believe.



Those old photos of the pioneers in studios such as the Columbia-Princeton Center and Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music...nostalgia for time we did not know...the idealised image...the futuristic fantasy of far ahead sonic creations...most of which still diminish modern efforts by post-Techno artists who are inspired by them. The camera captures a moment that stretches to forever...fooling me into thinking, briefly, that Dockstader was too young to die. Cameras did not record his ageing process they way they do for music legends...because for most of the time he did not exist.

The Starkland label set about reviving his track record in the early 90s, releasing Apocalypse (1961), Luna Park (1961), Drone (1962), Water Music (1963), Quatermass (1964), Two Moons of Quatermass (1964) and Four Telemetry Tapes (1965). All classics. Well, I've never heard a poor recording by Dockstader. ReR Megacorp released two new recordings he made with David Myers, Pond (2004) and Bijou (2005). Both prove he was still very much alive and capable of making brilliant music. Mordant Music put out his library records, Electronic Volume 1 & 2, from '79 and '78, whilst Sub Rosa released the three-part Aerial (2003) sessions.

Whilst his final years seem tragic, painful, cruel...at least, thanks to the efforts of those record labels, we can remember what he could not...when we choose to do so...and that's exactly what I'm doing for most of the day.



Unlocking Dockstader (short) from Justin H Brierley on Vimeo.

Great site about him here.

Cybernetic Anthropomorphic Machines, Chelsea Harbour Horror & Michael Caine's Wormholes


Before Ripley proved she could operate this power loader in 2179 (aren't films great, the way they can show you the future?)...


...Ralph Mosher was operating a CAM (cybernetic anthropomorphic machine) in the mid-60s, having worked on variations for General Electric... 


...I don't know if the 'outer mechanical garment', or 'Powered Exoskeleton', as GE later called it, ever caught on in any sphere of work. All I see used in factories are these...


...which have perhaps proved more trustworthy in the long run...although not as sci-fi futuristically exciting as a exoskeleton, obviously. Perhaps a few CAMs were tried out in warehouses, only to find them being abused horrifically when pissed-off, underpaid workers went on unstoppable rampages, tearing limbs off managing directors before smashing the factory to pieces...maybe. You can't do that with a forklift...though you could run someone over, I suppose.

My experience with work-based machinery that you climb into is limited to operating an elevated work platform (or 'cherry-picker') for one day when I helped my brother-in-law clean windows at Chelsea Harbour. It was self-inflicted torture since I hate heights, by which I mean being higher than than when I wear shoes. I've got worse since I stopped wearing platforms in 197-. 

So I'm in this thing and having to elevate myself by pressing a button. That's how desperate for money I was. 'Can I sink any lower?' I wondered as I rose alongside one of the posh apartment blocks. I desperately wanted to sink lower, believe me, but the only way was up if I was to earn some cash. Worse was to come when I had to climb out of the basket and onto the balcony of an apartment. Somehow I managed. The view would have been magnificent, if you like that sort of thing. I was too busy trying to forget that I had to climb back in as I wiped those windows.

The actor Michael Caine lived at Chelsea Harbour, supposedly. Perhaps he still does. Returning to the sci-fi theme, I read a funny response from him when he was doing a press conference for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. When asked if he'd always been interested in wormholes he replied. "I'm a very good amateur gardener, and I see a lot of wormholes. That’s what I thought they meant."


50 Years Behind Art - The Big Painting Challenge




Brion Gysin said "Writing is fifty years behind painting", as quoted by William Burroughs referring to the cut-up technique. Now that the BBC's Big Painting Challenge has begun, it's obvious that in this world, painting is 50 years behind Art.

But if you paint, you're an Artist, right? Or should we differentiate and just call them 'painters'? But aren't painters Artists? Yes. I was going to say 'in the old world' but Artists still paint, I believe, despite everyone else making videos, installations, performance and whatever else Artists do instead of getting their paws mucky with paint.

In The Big Painting Challenge painters are told to paint things and each week the worst one gets kicked off. Everyone must be judged these days. On TV anyhow. It's a winning formula....cake-makers...businesspeople...sewers (that's people who sew, not the methods by which waste is disposed of, although judging those might be next, or rather, sewage maintenance workers...to see who does the best job...and the worst get kicked off and told they're "full of shit!" - ha-ha. Sorry.)

TBPC is like watching paint dry, which is what you're doing, literally. People like watching amateurs perform. They even like watching people watching TV as in Gogglebox (Brit series in which we watch various people reacting to TV programmes...no, I'm not making this up). I think the participants should be shown watching themselves on Gogglebox...then the following week be shown that footage ad infinitum...a TV eternal reflection concept. What do you think?

Meanwhile, painting. It's cosy Sunday night TV, just like the other Sunday perennial, Antiques Roadshow. "These artistic ideas are bloody antiquated!" a sniffy hipster shouts at the telly. Not me. That's not me doing that. OK, it is, as I forget that at 6 0'clock on a Sunday evening no-one wants their ideas of painting, never mind Art, challenged. Future episodes are unknown to me, apart from this week's portraiture theme, but I doubt they'll be asked to 'do an abstract' in the future. That would be too modern. In this world of Sunday painters, collage would come across as the shock of the new.

I'm not knocking the amateur painters, honest. It's the idea of the show that's annoying. The idea that Art on TV must be this old-fashioned. The Great Art Challenge would be far more interesting...and challenging, for the viewers, at least. Imagine the complaints regarding what's 'not Art!'. It would be like the old days when a pile of bricks made tabloid news. Assuming, that is, people can still be shocked and baffled by Art after the success of Damien's shark. I suspect there's only room for one novelty superstArtist per generation, though, which means any other Not Art-ist upstarts would still upset Mr & Mrs People.

I do find the show entertaining. I would have bet that the guy in the hat was on his way out but instead it was the ex-graphic designer (I think that's what he did). The poor bugger was almost as bad as me at painting. Well, not that bad. Representational painting, I mean, although in my defence, when I paint it does represent something, I'm just not always sure what, exactly. And besides, the drawing skills that lead to 'proper' painting are passé, aren't they? I'm guessing students today are free from those shackles. Which is not to say they will make anything more worthwhile than a badly rendered castle.

Seeing what this week's 'reject' could do, I wonder what the general entry standard was like. Now that I'd love to see, like the X Factor auditions, only would-be painters instead. How did judges know that the worst efforts were not actually knowing post-modern statements regarding the worthlessness of Old Art techniques in the modern world?

It's not about Art, but I sense I'll be trying to watch every episode of The Big Painting Challenge. It's a win-win situation for viewers. They can marvel at even the worst efforts if they can't paint themselves and if they're contemporary-minded, they can feel smugly superior because they know that representational painting is old hat.

Music Round-Up: Wieman plays Goem / NHK YX KOYXEN / John T. Gast



Wieman plays Goem -  Trenkel (Kvitnu)... intially unimpressed with Frans de Waard & Roel Meelkop's sound I played it again whilst making some art and heard it differently...the insistent bass throb infiltrated my head whilst my guard was down, penetrating my conscious listening mind as it did, I thought 'Hold on, that's good', whilst recognising that there were no deeply embedded complexities but instead the heartbeat sync before the brain-hammering of Track 2, moth flutter fuzz and waveform low-end wooziness later...





NHK YX KOYXEN feat XIX - Hallucinogenic Doom Steppy Verbs (Diagonal)... some of Koyxen's Dance Classics cuts for PAN have remained firm faves when I want a boost, a blast of fragged beats - this is just as good, a little way different, more...gnarled...and 845's epic Acid alpha beams hitting the spot...reworked Rave squelch gone over the edge on 953...808 hyperstate!




John T. Gast – Excerpts (Planet Mu)...this may be brilliant...or just very good...or plain good...it could be old-school hyno-ambient Caretaker-ish from a golden age no-one remembers...simple but then again straight plain good sounds but not in a simplistic clueless way...jackin' Congress helped me climb the stairs at Work this morning...not that anything here is invigorating...more ghost slug that leaves a slurred trail through your head...plus a modern kind of romance in Ceremony's strings-with-bass weight...and a whack from Claim Your Limbs... 


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Post-Sleep Utopia?


Almost fell asleep last night whilst watching Philip Kaufman's excellent remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. As you know, if you're familiar with the story, you must not fall asleep! That's when they get you. That's when the pods containing your exact replica send out tendrils which wrap themselves around you in order to complete the transformation. I don't quite get how it works, though. I mean, that's some plant...it can extract your DNA and quickly create a perfectly functioning replica in a few minutes? Minus all that emotional stuff we have to put up with. 

Perhaps that would be a good thing. We'd do no harm to each other because, presumably, greed, ego and psychotic power-hungry behaviour wouldn't exist either. No love or hate. Is that a fair exchange? Men are already accused of being 'cold' in many instances. How else can we explain the horrors they inflict on each other, as well as innocent women and children? What drives them to kill in the name of politics and religion?

These thoughts cross my mind (and yours too, I'm sure) as I watch the latest horrors reported on the news. Mass killings...beheadings...serial murders etc. Extremist religion as a new cause for some kids...join the ultimate gang, the one that makes the locals on your housing estate look as dangerous as The Famous Five. That's hardcore. Book a flight to an exotic land, join up, get given guns, training...it's the ultimate buzz! Plus, your social network updates are really interesting...'Learning to use a semi-automatic'...'Shot someone today'...'Spent most of the week learning how to destabilise Western democracy and create an air of paranoia amongst all infidels with a view to taking over the world'...that sort of thing. I mean, it's beats 'Having a coffee in our favourite place' or 'Knitting a new jumper!', doesn't it? Selfie, me with grenade-launcher...

Anyway, if the aliens can plant their pods all over the world it might bring peace to the planet. I'd probably prefer the music that would emerge too. I imagine it would mostly sound like the computer music experiments of the 60s. Or at least if aliens want to play, say, violins, they'll be knocking out some superb, minimalist serial music. They'd want to programme everything...glitchy, noisy, abstract sound...it would be better than neo-Folk 'emotional warbling you get on Later With Jools Holland

So perhaps next time I'll sleep easy, not worry about doing so...and wake up to complete contentment.


Baroom! Levon Vincent, BKCLX v The Revenant Sea


RT 2015

Music overload? I listen to more than is good for me, probably, because, you know how it is, the sound of the streets are all well and good, people even buy them as field recordings, but the sound of silence, except when I go to bed, cannot match music, unless I make the effort and sit, listening to what isn't music...like now...
the hum of the hard drive...
next door's dog yapping...
a van door slamming...
car passing...
seagulls...(in the city? It's true, we've a lot 'round here. They scavenge at the recycling centre half a mile away).

So anyway, I was never a great fan of House music, though a little of the 'deep' stuff would please occasionally. I'm still not one for the same 4/4 beat that goes on and on and on...but this, by Levon Vincent, is good....



And this by BKCLX v The Revenant Sea, which you won't listen to all the way through here, but trust me, it's a thoroughly sound fusion of spectral stereophonics and a thumping beat, which goes to show you can have the best of both worlds....plus a beautiful drift of classical piano...top marks...and it's free on Bandcamp...




Now, before cooking dinner, I'm going to enjoy the sound of things that aren't music...and no, I don't mean something by Stockhausen...bye-bye...and thanks for calling in...

The Big Painting Challenge: Teaching A Lion To Paint



The BBC's Big Painting Challenge starts on Sunday...expect amateurs trying to copy what they see, no abstraction...and a lion trying to paint. Can't wait...


From...



Vinyl, Track 1, Josef Anton Riedl Club Fantasy, Rauschenberg On Acid...Time/Life


What? He Did? When? Yesterday? He chopped up a photo of a record! What does it look like? I see...

Vinyl, Track 1

***

Listening to Lee Perry's Apeman Skank one minute, then Josef Anton Riedl's Komposition No.3 and thinking 'That's a fine combination, the kind I'd like to play at my fantasy music night populated by select punters who could only gain entry by answering three simple questions: What kind of pie did Mingus make a track about? Who directed The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg? And who wrote Endgame?' So I played great music to myself, that's nothing new. I've emptied dance floors...and filled them...such is the life of a DJ...



***

Meanwhile, in Nice last year, I dropped acid and stared at a Rauschenberg for three hours...here's what it looked like...



***

What am I doing? Do I know where I'm going? Who does? I continue regardless through life, this 'excursion on a wobbly rail', time snipping seconds from however much I have...

Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test it's a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain. - Frank Herbert



The Fine Art Of Jazz Album Sleeves


Jazz and fine Art were made for each other....probably...because...something about the art of Jazz, yes, you know, lends itself to visual representation...I mean...improvised splashes on canvas...abstraction in sound and paint...Matisse and all his Jazz...the hot Harlem hybrid buzz of a new century...Archibald Motley...cubism...Cubano Bop New York expressionist club nights...the sonic collage of musical quotes...not forgetting Art Tatum, Art Blakey and Art Farmer...ho-ho...so I've assembled a few examples of Art used on Jazz record sleeves...

Who else but Pollock was fit for being framed on the first big Free Jazz statement of the century?



Warhol kind of blue during his alien mad man ad man graphic phase...



Brubeck went to college....for hip thinkers partial to unsquare dancing in 7/4 time...keen to put Art on a few covers...just to reinforce the point...



As for original Art covers, the king, David Stone Martin...



Here the title says it all...California cool...although somewhat bedraggled looking as if knackered from hours spent walking around galleries...



Again...the modern Art of Jazz sophistication in the pose...and the chutzpah of placing yourself on a plinth!



Donald Byrd in Mondrian modernism long after Broadway boogie-woogie was over...



We know what you mean, Cannonball...you're hip...



Oh, what's going on here...well, there is a piece of modern art involved...and she's definitely thinking 'I need that new Miles Davis album and this job will pay for it and then some...'



One of my favourite examples...Alexander Calder mobilised to serve the cause of further reinforcing the idea that Jazz and Art are worthy brothers in arms...


And if you want to read the definitive guide to Jazz music...don't buy my book...but it's come down in price considerably since most idiotic/desperate sellers realised they'd never get more than a tenner for it...even though the contents are priceless...here...

Baron Mordant, Nick Edwards & Shackleton - Pioneers 04 (Cavendish Music)




Since the bloody doors got blown off the library music...um, library, helped by the BBC Radiophonic/Ghost Box axis/revival/renewal thing, avant garde-ian 'readers' have heard some treats - like Bruno Nicolai and Ennio Moriccone's Dimensioni Sonore series for RCA and works by Egisto Macchi. So many other oddities got dusted off and shared on the grabvine too.

Some of my favourite musical things are 'library' records, partly because the tracks are never too long, through necessity, this is utilitarian mood music made for usage therefore not prone to abusage (?!). No time wasted wandering towards the 20min mark with vague aspirations to be 'epic'. Unshackled from the pressures of recording a 'proper' album, maestros of mood make every second count.

So here, working for long time providers of library music, Cavendish, are modernists Baron Mordant, Nicholas Mayo Edwards (Ekoplekz) and Reiner Zufall (Shackleton). They do a good job too - Drone Master by Zufall, Zombie March by Baron Mordant and Cue Twelve by Edwards, for instance. By slipping Ecological and Biological into two titles, Zufall smartly nods towards a tradition in library records of albums based around both. On Cue Eleven, Edwards springs a perfect tribute to all things Radiophonic and all bleepy weirdness shelved under 'Science' in the collective library. I'll say no more because you can hear the whole thing on YouTube.


The Sergeant's Rules of Wisdom



   'Always ask any questions that are to be asked and never answer any. Turn everything you hear to your own advantage. Always carry a repair outfit. Take left turns as much as possible. Never apply your front brake first.'
   'These are interesting rules,' I said dryly.
   'If you follow them,' said the Sergeant, 'you will save your soul and you will never get a fall on a slippy road.'
The Third Policeman, Flann O'Brien
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