Lost in the unreality of Hippieland, California...
'His mournful brown eyes shifted in embarrassment.
"Sounds like a sociology lecture, doesn't it?" he said. "But it's basic to the thing. The point is, the hippies are no less corruptible than any other bunch of people, regardless of their basic philosophy, which in the beginning was certainly more good than bad." '
This being the Silly Season I thought I'd offer you a chiptune rendition of 'So What' from the one Jazz album that regularly gets listed amongst 'All-Time Classics' along with 'Pet Sounds' and, you know, other Rock/Pop Masterpieces. I used to think that was a disgraceful sign of ignorance on behalf of critics back when I was a Jazz messenger who believed there should be at least 48 other Jazz albums in an All-Time Top 50. But I'm over that phase now, and don't care if they omit 'The Shape Of Jazz To Come' or 'Time Out', for instance. Despite the small nagging voice which says 'This is blasphemy' I do like this version. The whole album, with various contributors, works well, if only at bringing a smile to my face. It came out a couple of years ago, and the producer got into a lot of trouble over the cover art, which you can read about here. The story makes me think he's Kind Of Nuts, or just Kind Of Unlucky, but I thank him for adding a silly and in some ways sublime element to my holiday.
The last leg of the journey. I hope you've enjoyed it, and possibly made new discoveries along the way. If you think I've missed any vintage IM classics feel free to suggest them by Commenting.
16. Zero Time - Tonto's Expanding Head Band (1971)
The sound of The Original New Timbral Orchestra is impossible to resist. Cecil and Margouleff's first album is a classic and would be perfect if not for 'Riversong'. But for that they must be forgiven. As I'm sure you know, they also worked with Stevie Wonder on a few albums, including 'Innervisions', which is one of the Greatest Albums Ever Made and always will be.
17. Cosmographie - Bruno Menny (1972)
A special upload just for you. You see how much I care? You need this album if you have any interest in electro-acoustic-tape composition of the cosmo-sound kind. Of course, he could have called it anything, but the music does undoubtedly create an atmosphere akin to being adrift in space whilst all manner of objects float by, such as abandoned capsules, grandfather clocks, dead robots and tourists from Planet 3.
18. Outer Space - Vaclav Nelhybel (1974)
Nothing here lasts longer than 1.35. It doesn't need to. Evoking the golden age of the Radiophonic Workshop, with simple arrangements for synth and piano, Nelhybel perfectly captures impressions of 'Space Meteors', 'Star Clusters' and 'The Pulses Of The Universe' in a style that's naive, almost child-like, and all the better for it.
19. Cosmos 2043 - Bernard Fevre (1977)
This has a light feel which frequently veers towards Pop but Fevre keeps on the right side of the line and, crucially for the period, avoids going Disco as many others did. It took me a while to warm to this but since I have it creates the ideal mood for when I'm entertaining in my rocket-fuelled space-age bachelor pad.
20. Biomechanoid - Joel Vandroogenbroeck (1980)
Ending with the big bang that is 'Biomechanoid' this, despite the date, is absolutely spot-on IM. Other-worldly sounds, perfectly-pitched ambience, piano, menace, imagination and 'Interstellar Insects', of course. And is 'Biomechanoid' not a great title? Somehow a 'Plastic Gnome' got involved, but hey, it's Joel's album and if he wants a plastic gnome in amongst the 'Dark Plasma' and 'Asteroids' he can have it.
Do androids have nightmares about electric sheep? Having fallen asleep in the corner of a trashy club on a distant planet whilst the DJ plays mutant Disco with worn-out needles over a fucked-up sound system this is what they’d hear. It’s that good. Nate Young and Dave Shettler (s)mash up the dance floor good and proper on this brilliant album (untitled, by the way). With Moroderesque rhythms, motorik madness and muffled bass, this last dance at the dystopian disco is a devilish delight.
Another Album of the Year: Memowrekz by Ekoplekz. I couldn’t see 2011 out and not mention this masterpiece of raw rhythm and noise by the hardest working man in show business....heh-heh. Prolific, and producer of pure quality, Nick Edwards is rightfully got the recognition he deserves this year.
When I tell you that last Sunday I found myself taking part in a classical music quiz with other dinner guests you’ll think me a right posh git, but regular readers will know I’m actually as common as muck.
Anyway, a guy had compiled snippets from classical pieces and we had to name the composer or symphony. I got one right, amazingly, after geographical prompting from the quizmaster – Sibelius? – yes! I felt as chuffed as when I get a question right on University Challenge, which is rare, and if I do it usually relates to music. It goes something like this: the brains are played a Miles Davis tune, and after much deliberating one of them tentatively suggests ‘Louis Armstrong’ – ha!
It’s a given that the brains will know classical music, and they usually do, but on other genres they’re pathetic, unless Radiohead are involved. Oh, and The Smiths, because the swotty buggers never left their bedrooms during the 80s, certainly not to go clubbing, and so they foolishly support the idea of hanging the DJ, any DJ. All that’s probably changed now that they have Grime nights at Uni.
Now, I know you’ve all been gagging to hear what my Album of the Year is because my opinion matters so much. Well, it’s Music For Thomas Carnacki by Jon Brooks, an outstanding musical interpretation of the 'The Gateway Of The Monster' by William Hope Hodgson which features Carnacki, ‘the famous investigator of ‘real’ ghost stories’. An exceptional album, yet it didn't make The Wire’s Top 50 ‘Releases of the Year’. What? I'm hitting town with a spray can to write ‘Justice For Jon Brooks!’ on every wall.
Number One in The Wire chart is the James Ferraro album which, as Tony Herrington explains on their blog, was only voted for by seven out of sixty electors. He also explains the process of democracy at work. If I ran that mag and Ferraro’s album came out on top I’d rig it to show otherwise. I mean, people take this kind of thing seriously, and it looks as if The Wire itself has voted the album as The Best. Christ, have you heard it? Tony jokes that we might ‘think it’s the worst record Dave Grusin never made’, which sums up my opinion.
My Archive Releases of the Year are ‘Miles Davis - Live In Europe 1967 – The Bootleg Series Vol 1’, and ‘The Oram Tapes Vol 1’.
In the spirit of Xmas by way of regifting, which in this case is not the same as passing on a dud, I’m offering you one of the best online ‘gifts’ I’ve received this year. It’s THE COMPLETE ELECTRONIC MUSIC OF IANNIS XENAKIS and you can get it here. A mother (down)lode, for sure, but totally worth it, even if it causes your computer to groan under the weight, as mine did.
I hit a rich vein of vinyl in a charity shop yesterday and this is one of the albums, a totally lush design package featuring a booklet, which these images come from. The lyrics are by Dotty Wayne, music by Ray Rasch, and Nelson Riddle arranged what is a concept album on which Nat talks and sings us through the whole merry-go-round of love. 'There are hundreds of thousands of girls in the world' sings the male chorus, 'At the picnic, in the phone booth, at the racetrack!' - oh yeah! Girls, in the late-50s, you can't beat 'em. Girls in the 60s too, of course, except hippies. Girls now are rubbish.
Feeling quite useless today. Such days are always annoying because, unlike people of old who always needed to be doing something essential (hunting, cooking, farming etc), I have enough leisure time in which to do something. I tried watching more of 'Inception', but got bored. I listened to music. And I adopted the domestic version of the thousand yard stare. Well, it wouldn't be the military one, would it?
In keeping with a days of uselessness, I present the Honeywell Model 316 Kitchen Computer, complete with 4K of memory and a built-in chopping board. It stored recipes, and cost $10,600. Number of orders taken by Neiman-Marcus: zero.
Stuck for ideas? How about a two-foot knight's armor beautifully hand-crafted in Spain? More space race culture from an era when all things could be made intergalactic and 'groovy'. I've handed the magazine to LJ in the hope of getting an Omega GT. Fingers crossed.
John Cage with courgettes. It's no great claim to fame, perhaps, but in the absence of a masterpiece in Art or Literature, it will have to suffice.
That post still attracts visitors who Google 'courgette', much to my amusement. Imagine their disappointment in finding an avant garde composer instead of either recipes involving courgettes, or more information about what is probably the best-known member of the species Cucurbita pepo (although the pumpkin is a strong challenger to that title). It is also called a zucchini, from the Italian, zucchina.
'Courgette' is a French word, and Bernard Parmegiani was born in Paris, but his name is strikingly similar to the Italian for parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano. I know nothing about Permegiani's parentage, or his personal life, but I can tell you that he joined the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in 1959, and worked for French television in a studio, along with Xenakis.
I can also tell you that there's a 12-CD box set called 'L'Oeuvre Musicale', which includes his major works from 1964 to 2007. Regardless of it's current value, you should buy it if you have any interest in musique concrete and electro-acoustic composition. It would be the soundest musical investment you will ever make, providing as it does a lifetime's-worth of deep listening, the brilliance of which can only be truly appreciated in time, a considerable length of time. That is if, like me, you are constantly distracted by an endless supply of other music. I'm still discovering new elements to this great man's work.
So there we have it; parmesan and Parmegiani. I do apologies for the lack of content regarding parmesan, but if you came looking for that, hard cheese.
In ‘Fear Of Music’ David Stubbs takes 137 pages to tell us ‘Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen’. I can do it in 6 words: ‘One involves music, the other painting’. That’s that sorted out.
Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get William Burroughs: one involves painting, the other words. Words in themselves should not be hard to ‘get’ but with Bill, as Art Blakey said when someone accused Wayne Shorter of sounding ‘like scrambled eggs’, it’s the way he scrambles them.
Painting vs music, painting vs literature. A painting will win every time if the colours are pleasing, especially if there aren’t too many colours involved. It’s easy on the eye.
Crucially, and I don’t know if Stubbs mentions this because I haven’t read the book yet, a painting can be looked at it 10 seconds. Stockhausen’s music takes a little longer, although that may be the average time it takes people to decide it’s rubbish.
Stubbs suggests that there must be ‘a genuine desire on the part of a great many of them (Tate Modern punters) to come and see some avant garde visual art’, ‘to give up their precious afternoons’. Call me a cynic, but I think he’s wrong there. For starters, Tate Modern is on the tourist itinerary, up there with The London Eye, Tower Of London and Amy’s wine house (which is just ‘round the corner from me and I see tourists having themselves photographed outside her gate every day. Funny how she never popped ‘round for tea...I guess she didn’t know I was so close).
Secondly, I don’t buy the idea that the masses have grown to love avant garde art, but that the big names have been implanted into the mass consciousness via posters and postcards. This has been going on for decades. Today’s cultural iconographic images and slogans take hold as fads promoted by producers who know how to market their product. Besides that, if Kate Moss was photographed wearing a Stockhausen t-shirt you just know that it would also be worn by fashionistas across the world within a month.
Tate Modern has done a great PR job on the back of Pop Britannica and all that. It satisfies a need to believe that London is still Swinging. It’s still officially ‘cool’. And it’s so easy to walk around until you’re knackered, at which time you can go get some food and drink. Some of the works may theoretically demand as much effort as ‘Mikrophonie’, but unlike the music they’re easily passed over with a glance.
Avant garde music simply cannot be packaged in the same way as art, although, thinking about it, wouldn’t sound cards be a great idea? They could sell them in galleries and bookshops. A postcard, with a Rothko on the front, which you can hold to your ear and listen to ‘Telemusik’.
What I’d really like to see is a sound gallery dedicated to Stockhausen, Schaeffer, Sun Ra, Varese etc. A sexy pavilion, all modern and Cool, with great food. Oh, and in each room dedicated to an artist, along with their music, all the original albums on the walls, manuscripts, photos etc. Yes.
Perhaps London isn’t quite as hip as that, and neither are the masses who flock to see Rothko.
We enter the realms of library music, with the far more cerebral and 'serious' Mr Subotnick also in the mix, although as regular readers will know, I take library music as seriously as anything else when it's as good as 'Futurissimo'. I uploaded 'Space Talk' and 'Interpianeti' specially for this series. That's how much I love you. I'm sure the feeling's mutual.
11. Lunar Probe - Various (1967)
There are two versions of this knocking about; a ten-inch and the one I have, which contains 26 tracks. I found it in digital 'space', which seems appropriate. The ten-inch is harder to find than intelligent life Out There. 'Old Timey Spaceship Race' is 42secs of madness, whilst longer tracks such as Francois Bayle's 'Andromede' and Nino Nardini's 'Le Danse le Cosmetes' are just fantastic. The latter sounding like a primitive transmission from a distant galaxy, as much of it does, being simple but incredibly atmospheric sketches in acoustic and electric sound.
12. Silver Apples Of The Moon - Morton Subotnick (1967)
I feel I no need to say anything about this. So I won't.
13. Musique Pour Le Futur - Nino Nardini (1970)
An amazing album in every way, delivering on all fronts from brain-raking synth drama to easier celestial charms which hark back to the 50s. And the underwater birth of Drexciya in the form of 'Decouverte Lunaire', I like to think. You probably won't.
14. Astrofisica - Various Artists (?)
First-rate Italian library excursion into the outer reaches of the audio cosmos.
15. Futurissimo - Egisto Macchi (1971)
A work of genius in IM. Electro-orchestral brilliance.