Thursday, 30 June 2016

Jonty Harrison - Voyages

Since the UK bought a one-way ticket on the trans-euro (political) express (but has yet to punch the ticket and actually make the journey) the country's in a state of psycho-political chaos and music hardly seems important - and yet - where else can we gain a sense of beauty/truth/escape/relief but in that which gives us pleasure? So the train as metaphor for escape from immediate reality is obvious, excuse me...

Pierre Schaeffer famously recorded a train for the first example of musique concrète (Cinq études de bruits) in 1948 and Jonty Harrison must surely have had that in mind when making his own extended version of that pioneering work. He does, however, travel much further along the track, sometimes to the point of simply allowing train horns to 'speak' for themselves, which on paper sounds dull but proves strangely captivating. A master of sound manipulation, he treats concrète recordings so as to blur the lines between what we think of as 'real' and 'created'. 

These are not just train recordings, but sounds captured from all over the place, one example that leaps from the speakers being part 11 of Going Places, made from 'Floating quays strain at their moorings near Sydney Opera House (Australia)'. Bagpipes, frogs, a street demonstration and other recorded events are woven into this magical journey. Espaces cachés is a separate 14min piece which fully explores the wonders of acousmatic sound composition. Escapism may not be freedom but in these times Jonty Harrison's captivating sound world does, at least, offer blessed relief. Info, samples and shop here.

Annette makes her attitude towards Jeremy Corbyn and the system utterly clear...

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Book: Unnatural: techno-theory for a contaminated culture

Charity shop find - edited by Matthew Fuller, this 1994 production absolutely belies it age, as you can see, but that's good and besides, doesn't everything? Mostly. Desktop production after Xerox zines saw the old feel lost but felt like a zingy new medium for cutting-edge cottage industrial types. Unnatural reminds me of how things looked for small press products, including zines, in the mid-90s. So now it appears dated, or evokes nostalgia, depending on your age. Cybernetic mutational anarcho-hybridisation was also very much a hot topic, what with this computer thing visible on the brave new horizon and it's threat of viral infection of the mind (phew, thankfully that didn't happen...did it?). Great work here from Graham Harwood and Mark Pawson along with others...

There's No Limit - Mark Pawson


Lies - Graham Harwood

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


With his permission, of course...

Collage by Simon Elmer

The Pyramid Stage, which is the setting for the highest unit-selling acts, is a raised platform some 40 metres square and maybe 10 metres from the ground. Below this stretches a sort of no-man’s land approximately 20 meters wide that ends with a high metal fence through which the foremost ranks of the audience peer. In front of this fence, and watching the crowd, is stationed a line of 30 or 40 uniformed security guards, who stand almost elbow to elbow. The crowd beyond, which numbers in the tens of thousands, goes back several hundred meters. Beyond the first 20 metres or so, however, the entertainers on stage are reduced to mere stick figures.

To compensate for this, large screens almost as big as the stage itself are positioned either side, where the acts are shown in close-up. Despite their physical presence at the festival, it is at this virtual image that nearly all the assembled viewers stare – not to see the performing act, which is mere background, but for the rare chance of finding themselves captured by the numerous cameras, and of seeing themselves, however briefly, projected on the same screen that they are staring at. To this objective, the audience dresses in bright and colourful outfits, the most photogenic girls perched on the shoulders of the most photogenic men, waving large flags that block out the view of anyone trapped behind them. Everything is geared towards catching the eye of the cameras and the millions watching, as the commentators assure us, ‘at home’. At these felicitous moments, which draw cheers more rapturous than any reserved for the nominal acts on stage, the cycle of reciprocal stares completes the logic of the spectacle.

The ground on which this vast crowd stands, which is known as the ‘Arena’, is the churned-up mud of a field on which cows graze for the remainder of the year. Because of this, members of the crowd must wear some form of rubber boots, which they bring with them, spending large amounts of money to buy the latest, most fashionable, most expensive brand. Like the watch of a rich undressed man lying on a beach, the rubber boot is the sign of class status in the society of Glastonbury Festival.

Between the raised stage and the metal fence is a flight of stairs, a ramp and more stairs, down and along which the brand-identity-member of each performing band may walk into the no-man’s area. Here, protected by additional security guards who stand behind the first rank and are retained for this purpose, the band’s brand-identity-member may receive what tokens of adoration his followers wish to offer him or her through the bars of the fence. This is known as ‘crowd interaction’, and has come to be an almost obligatory moment in the performing band’s set. Sometimes, if these offerings please him, the brand-identifier will bring them back onto the stage and display them to the crowd beyond, who view this intimate interaction with their idols through the images projected on the huge side screens.

Despite its high security setting, which re-enforces the existing physical, social and financial relation between the performance commodity and the paying customer, the Pyramid Stage is the site of enormous happiness, ecstatic outpourings and feelings of community, for which the attending congregation pay large, and sometimes enormous, sums of their own money, endure considerable deprivation and hardship, and even sleep in plastic tents, whatever the weather, in the designated encampments that surround the main compound. The entire camp, which last year held 200,000 people, covers 1000 acres of land, and for the 5 days of its annual existence is the 7th most populous city in the South of England.

Like the 2012 Olympic village, Glastonbury Festival is at the forefront of the transportation, accommodation and manipulation of the consuming masses that constitute the contemporary human conglomeration (the old distinctions between urban, suburban and rural no longer applying) to the demands of the spectacle through which they are brought within shopping distance of the commodity. Both are a sort of concentration camp of consumption (as opposed to those of production, which are largely outside the restrictive employment practices of Europe) overseen by multinational corporations. The fact these camps are willingly entered – even paid for by the consumers of their spectacle – makes them no less of a camp. And like all post-war experiments in social manipulation, control and indoctrination, the model for Glastonbury Festival is Auschwitz, which itself has been transformed into a tourist attraction equally willingly entered and paid for by the masses in search of authentic experience. The Arena is our gas chamber, the Pyramid Stage our crematoria, and Glastonbury, the perpetual festival of consumption, is the Nuremberg Rallies of our era.
On the outskirts and borders of the Glastonbury camp is a mass of secondary consumer outlets selling every kind of commodity-experience, from spiritual enlightenment to spiritual healing to spiritual communion (all, however, are purchased with material currency). In an imminent critique of the festival’s own mass commercialisation, these are advertised as the ‘real’ Glastonbury Festival. Like every outlet of mass consumption, Glastonbury has co-opted the economy of the market stall: it lends street credibility to jaded consumers in search of the authentic. But in the end they all go inside and line up at the tills. Even the Nuremberg Rallies had stalls selling dolls dressed in lederhosen and bands playing German folk songs. Nostalgia for the authenticity of a distant past is one of the selling points of the mass-manufactured commodity and the New World Order we have bought into. Glastonbury, which like Nuremberg is the site of a mystical (that is, lost) communal identity, complete with its own mythical site of pilgrimage in Glastonbury Tor, is perhaps the greatest conjurer of this illusion for the consumer-subjects of monopoly capitalism.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Droppin' Science (again) / The Devils (Ken Russell)

Volumes cover art

'steady on your left...get ready on your right'...

...who knew Danny Breaks' Droppin' Science had a Bandcamp page? Oh, you did, well, I wasn't wise to it until the other day by chance linkage. Time loses me - how old are these tracks? Don't I know some of them from 20 years ago? What vintage are they? Who cares? Isn't D&B still going, or, actually, in an updated form, perhaps? Ask Simon Reynolds 'cause I don't know much about the modern scene and can barely remember the old you can tell...

...I remember a friend also called Danny from a time when Jungle was just starting to happen but I was running a club called Giant Steps on Frith Street, Soho, playing Rare Groove, Hip-Hop, Jazz and stuff - he'd come in raving about Raving, off his head (he knew what he was doing, though, being a chemical biologist, or something) nattering away about raves he'd been to - me remaining unimpressed (too old(school) for that shit). Five years later I'd be in the basement of Blackmarket Records (also Soho) getting Nicky to play me tunes, which worked best midweek when it was quiet and I could be there because I was on the dole (but DJing, don't tell the tax man, or the SS, please). Otherwise it was a rammed Sat with folks vying for tunes, like bidders at an auction...

...back then I was buying Danny he crops up again and, yes, I'm enjoying them as much as I did then - I'll say they're giving me more pleasure than anything else at the moment, which makes me sound like some old Junglist in his fatigues 'n' slippers, I know...go to the album, anyway...and play it loud...

Bought the BFI's DVD of Ken Russell's The Devils the other day cheap charity shop fashion - I don't even like his films, generally, in fact, there's only one Russell I do like and that's George, not Kurt - but it was so cheap. What a film! Blown away we were, chins on the floor when they weren't moving up and down as we chomped cheesy balls (don't laugh, when you get to our age you'll take great pleasure in such things even if, like time, they disappear as soon as you bite on them). Derek Jarman's brilliant modernist sets enhance the deranged atmosphere (why does the 17th-century look like Bauhaus crossed with Gothic? You wonder), Peter Maxwell Davies' full-on dissonant score, Oliver Reed magnificent as Urbain Grandier, 17th-century torture, possessed nuns, mad doctors - it's got the lot. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Musical taste / Improv with David Toop &

Too cold for June, still, raise the sash window and treat the street to Joe Gibbs' Africa Dub anyway as if the day's a scorcher and as the music plays I wonder if the music suits our street - of course it doesn't - what would? Wonder how many people have their windows open playing dub to the world - in London? There's a chance - wonder about musical taste - the most common soundtrack you hear in the streets? Usually Rap. Wonder about taste and how everyone more or less sticks to what's popular including ;street' or 'urban' sounds - of course - that's how things are.... did I get from Gary Glitter to Joe Gibbs? Is that progress? Funnily, though, despite the four-decade gap between Then and Now in my personal chronology both were recorded around the same time. How do musical journeys evolve? Some people's don't; they love whatever when they're teenagers and spend the rest of their lives revisiting old glories, recapturing lost youth (attmepting to) or dipping their toes into the Modern? I dunno...

...other people's listening habits...we see them courtesy of the social network...fellow travellers in the strange digital road, shared by strangers called @friends... I'm improvising a homage to David Toop's latest book, Into The Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom, which I'm 25 pages into and admiring his efforts to get inside that most difficult notion; made up sounds, 'live', especially - and since he's done a lot of that he should be a good guide, whereas I've done none of it but came close playing records alongside Derek Bailey, who's music I can't listen to - sorry Derek - or, really, any of that thing called Improv yet, well, that other form of improvisation, Jazz, is another matter. Improv against the holds barred and no bars holding them in check - why not? I'm all for freedom, just don't force me to go to Cafe Oto to hear it - or perhaps you should - perhaps I will having read Toop's book - I'll listen afresh and appreciate it more....perhaps...

...a friend and I were at an Improv gig years ago - a bloke took his trombone apart and blew threw various pieces...we had to stifle our laughter as if in school, or church...

...well writing's a form of improvisation, isn't it? What else, unless transcribed from carefully considered notes - but the edit - ah - the edit is where it's polished for professional purposes and, no doubt, some blogs written by the more....cautious blogger...

...I rarely edit other than the enevitable spelling errors and grammar glitches (note glitch, not thought or whole sentence structure - hey, the spirit of Kerouac!) and it shows, yes, all right, it may do, but reading Toop's book reminded me, as he mentions, of the relationship between improvised sound and other art forms - the risk factor - dare you go out on a limb in paint, paper, word or sound? I do so sometimes because I've nothing to lose...'ve nothing to lose but the formulaic chains and standards imposed by others that bind...

(note: this was going to be much longer but the cuckoo and door chime on Joe Gibbs threw me off the track and I couldn't get back and there's football to watch) Bye for now.

New Music Mix: Watching Time In Night's Garden

Not done one for a while so I returned to the virtual decks (to think, I used to transport physical versions around town - oh that seems so long ago). Quick choices made for this, rather than the usual planned out mood and mixing (what? you didn't notice? you bastard!). So there's jazz rubbing up against electronic and other gems. Do enjoy...that's an order...

2.Paintbrushes by Dolly Dolly
3.fluxo by jorges antunes
4.smell down death by yannis kyriakides
5.V1 (Ossian remix)  by silver waves
6.texte 2 by andre boucourecliev
7.gozel guzler by lloyd miller
8.watching time in night's garden by sid redlin
9.magic words command by richard h kirk
10.In A Trap byAfrican Head Charge
11.untitled no.7 by new 7th music
12.marz society by griot galaxy
13.melted percussions by gultskra artikler food by ornette coleman

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Raime - Tooth / Satoshi Takeishi – Dew Drops

5055869515405 t9

The Ragga Twins swore reggae owed them money but do Slint feel the same about Raime? 

No matter...except I wonder if all the guitar 'licks' (how Rock of me!) on Tooth are sampled or played; I've not read the truth anywhere. Still, Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead have made a proper mood music album. That's one mood throughout, which is what most people do, I know. It's a good mood, not something to put you in a good mood, of course, but their trademark is to be sombre. Thinking about this guitar sound, someone must have played it. I'm being stupid. Or they're being cheeky. I don't know. I do know that the b-line belongs to Dead Heat. Repeat. Repetition is big for Raime. Repeat moods, repeat methodology, repeat riffs. Add things such as strings, clipped vocal yells and what sounds like a bird squawking. Attention to detail, that's the thing, details amid the repetition. Unless you find them, the whole thing starts to sound samey to the point where I can hardly differentiate between what's ended and what's begun. I am, it must be said, the only person in the world who does not shower praise upon Tooth, it seems. Not that I think it's bad and it is above mediocre, but...

Dew Drops cover art

Dew Drops by Satoshi Takeishi offers great detail too, this time in the playing. It's OK to be all modern in repeat mode-plus-bass but this is something else. It's old-fashioned musicianship! Professional musicianship which, as you know, can (frequently does) result in muso-induced boredom. It does for me anyway because the only examples of great playing I listen to are collectively known as Jazz, but not the kind made by sterile perfectionists. Satoshi Takeishi plays Jazz, but not here. Instead, he plays broken Autoharp with contact mic, Kanjira, Slit Drum, Shells and Bells, Waterphone but also Computer and iPad along with Handheld Cassette recorder/player, all of which are put to excellent use - the chimes, pitter-patter of percussion, subtle electronics all blended for a proper sound experience. With delicacy and strength, a perfect awareness of space, acoustics, the sonic reverberations of his kit and a true feeling of what constitutes dynamics, Takeishi's Dew Drops is a masterclass in electro-percussive elegance.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Giulio Aldinucci / Moon Ra - Mutus Liber

Mutus Liber cover art

They were playing Fela Kuti in the coffee shop this morning - that livened me up, as did the caffeine, of course, but both 'ups' were then altered by listening to Mutus Liber, which didn't bring me down, but rather channelled my mood in another direction which I'll call 'sideways' since I'm reducing mood direction to simplistic alternatives when, actually, we know moods can go off in all tangents and at different degrees.... the MP3 player has enhanced our listening - hasn't it? I've spoken of that before so I won't here - but Giulio Aldinucci's Vocal Prism sounded special today, shot straight into my brain, before the builders on the big site nearby starting making their contribution to the location's soundtrack and rendering appreciation of this music impossible - this music being artfully textured, ever-evolving, part classic space-age, part offworld drone and, I might add, not dissimilar in places to sounds made by some of the building site machinery...

...two sides here, each unique in character but unified in their careful appliance of science, from serenity to shrieking strings contrasted with bowed cello, wavering drones too, offset by bubbling mechanics - and ecstatic strings (Cloud After Cloud) ascending orchestral euphoria...lots to tune in to so have a listen...


Thursday, 9 June 2016


Felicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma team for new Shelter Press release, singlehandedly raise the collective GPA of the entire music industry

....bloody listening...argh...
I wish people would make/I mean I wish more people would make music for not listening to/I mean music that doesn't require listening ..... just hearing - right?
Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma refuse my demand. Too late now for them to hear it. I repeat. More background sound, please.
Need I tell you that Comme Un Seul Narcisse is to be listened to? You don't wanna know. You haven't got time. You have got time. Make time. Put on the headphones. Listen. Or don't. I hate being told what to do by anyone, don't you? 
Track 6: ME - hold on because I'm drifting away on a little blissful cloud of reverie...gentle...& I might say so beautiful in its simplicity........................Track 7: LA - a wake-up swoosh intro to cello & field recordings...
the rest? what, all of it? you don't know what you're listening to a lot of the time - now isn't that a great thing about sound? about musique concrete? about recording - atmospherics, clunks, rubbing, rustling and finally, the last statement...all that scratching is making me the death knell of a doomed Bronx DJ watching his speakers being stolen in the park....a sorry sight, for sure, & a suitably low down coda for a crucial listening experience..... 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Collage / Autechre - elseq 1-5

How To Conquer Fear, RTomens, 2016

more pictures over here


Autechre - elseq

Are Autechre necessary? I wonder...

In this age of countless small sonic statements streaming across all digital platforms Autechre come across as dinosaurs from the pre-digital era. Now their latest, elseq 1-5, takes the form of five the digital era equivalent of a Yes triple album? By being all modern and making it digital only (not their first) at least they avoid the old world spectacle of what would be a 5 (6? 7?, who's counted the minutes?) album vinyl box.

So it feels like a Big Statement, the kind a Big Band (no, not like Ellington) would have made once upon a time, before even Autechre were born (1891, or 1991) and their longevity (25 years!) itself seems to automatically add wrinkles to their sound, their very existence.

Whilst it costs next to nowt to put an album out these days, into the endless stream wherein your music will more likely drown rather than swim into the lives of many people, what that does it test the true creativity of the artists. After all, with no money to be made, why else are all these people doing it? I actually mean creative endurance which, we might assume, is the mark of a genuinely creative person as opposed to the creative whim of someone dabbling in music just because they can, having downloaded the software.

Whereas in the old days bands depended on the label to keep them alive and push the product before giving them the elbow once sales dropped below a sustainable level. It was a cruel world, right enough. Some say, even since Punk, it was a better way, a way of sorting the 'men from 'the boys', if you like, to which I say 'bollocks'. It was the only way except for total independence, i.e. setting up your own label to promote your music. Costs, costs, costs...the material world of card sleeves, vinyl, cassette, rehearsal rooms, recording's a wonder we had any music, never mind so much great music.

Is greatness redundant? I think it is, judging by most of what I hear. A subjective notion, of course. Music comes and goes so easily, weighs nothing and often costs nothing; it's as if it barely thoughts barely exist...I'm having to catch them as they spin out on the ether from this wrinkled hard drive in my head...

Autechre sustain the notion of Greatness, Great Bands (yes I know 'band' isn't appropriate) just like the old days. There are many Big Acts today, I know, but who except the numbskull gives them their time? They thrive on sheeplethink, naturally. Capitalism demands celebrity materialism. People willingly maintain it. Autechre's 'awkward' techno has attracted a big fan base, all boys, every one, poring over those cryptic titles, twisting Sean Booth and Rob Brown’s sonic Rubik's Cubes over and over like true obsessives...perhaps only Aphex Twin can rival them for techboy adulation.

Well is elseq 1-5 any good? Stupid question, which you'll have already answered if you're interested. It's Autechre and the Autechre machine rolls on, regardless of acclaim (which it always gets), hovering low, hoovering up every electronic variation over quarter of a century and recalibrating Techno, Hip-hop (beats), Glitch, Drum 'n' Bass, Drone whatever, literally remixing (remember post-Rock?) to make it all Autechre. It was sturdily built to start with, but at the same time, a shape shifting entity, fluid, enigmatic, rather than heavy, weighed down with specific genre definition.

The long tracks are too long, though, but that's the nature of heroic individualism, eh? No-one's going to edit for them and no-one's going to say "Twenty-seven minutes? Too much!" to their faces. As much as I like the idea of an electronic Punk revolution that will make Autechre look like Yes, one that breaks out of a ghetto and sparks a lot of activity, it's not happening. Autechre should be dinosaurs, but the plain fact is they're still making interesting music, the kind that stands out in shuffle mode...because it's Autechre and they remain unique.

(they also seems to be control freaks because no tracks are available on YouTube, one having been there and gone, presumably blocked by the 'authority', which is crap and smacks of corporate control)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Gultskra Artikler - Industria

Gultskra Artikler - Industria cover art

Good to see Alexey Devyanin on Opal Tapes - well, good to see and more to the point hear him anywhere, especially when he comes up with something of this quality. Industria positively leaps at you like a cunning, vicious beast hiding amid the ruins of the industrial music wasteland (it's not dead, it just smells funny?). Love the title, suggesting as it does classic library albums from the 70s, of which there are many on the theme of industrialisation although I'm thinking specifically of Joel Vandroogenbroeck's Industrial Retrospect...

...this is no cute retro-library homage, though; it starts right with Distortion and doesn't go wrong, anywhere, at any time - proper Techno, as people say...but usually in response to some 'legend'...from the Midlands...who's stuck in a 4/4 time loop forever&ever&ever&everzzzzzzzzzzzzz...(not naming names, of course)...

Melted Percussions...(lemme play it again)...the opening alone is spot on, Artikler not faffing around or overdoing things...weighted just right with an evil beat & those FXs!'re being smacked 'round the head by a pair of swinging metal balls (you know the feeling)...this is a really mean record but smart, so smart...not to the point of ever going off on that wobbly rail of fake avant-gardery but instead always carving out fresh rhythms...a savage mechanism deployed for maximum effect...I'll shut up - you listen...

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Don't Need It?: Punk 1976-78 at The British Library

I only went because a friend suggested it, honest. I have to say that in case you were one of the couple of people who read my rant about Punk nostalgia/celebration from earlier this year and think me a hypocritical bastard. Of course I could have taken a stand and said 'No' but hadn't seen him for a while and it's only down the road from our Camden palace, so... it's Free, small too, thankfully. After a few minutes I suggested to one of the party we do it Ramones style, i.e. fast, run around in two minutes, possibly shouting '"One-two-three-four!" at the start, but that would have been stupid. First room on the right loads of singles...

...good to see them all lined up like that, reminding me of how much of an art movement Punk was in the best sense, not 'art band' or 'art student/fans' but sleeve art, some crude, some polished, but most signalling a new aesthetic, away from just photos of bands or the psychedelic hippy shit of album covers...not one aesthetic, but many, from sharp 60s lines to pictorial and text collage....most still looking good today.

Then there were the fanzines, of course...

...I found LJ listening to Anarchy In The UK on some headphones and laughed, asking her: "You're not listening to that old folk's music, are you?" loud enough to make one fifty-something bloke turn and look. I wonder if I give away my age by the way I look, skin-wise...probably, so he got my joke, although it's possible he mistook me for a much younger idiot...because I'd filled my lines with foundation and had botox that morning (well, not proper botox, just skin pulled back behind my ears, held in place with safety pins, of course!).

Then there was the You're Gonna Wake Up shirt, made from a pillow case...more details about that here...

...probably my favourite item of clothing on display, this tie...done by McLaren...

...and this classic... weren't allowed to take photos so I'm proving how Punk I am by showing you these, which I took - yeah, fuck you establishment librarian bastards! ha-ha...

...well, it was a larf and worth a look if you're in town. Trouble is I felt old straight away, looking at a lot of singles I used to own. Not that I was Mr Punk in '76, or '78, for that matter. Just interested and I saw a lot of the bands at Friars, Aylesbury and elsewhere (someone even hired a mini-bus to go see 999 at Reading University, I think, but recall I was miserable for most of the time, thus proving was an outside-of-the-outsiders rebel I was, at least, that's what I like to tell myself). I did buy quite a few of the records and wore 'different' clothing, which meant anything but flares at the time. Anyway, as Wyndham Lewis would say 'BLESS Punk' all the same...

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Jameszoo - Fool

Jameszoo fools packshot web

Only a fool, or a genius, would dare mess with Jazz today. So you might think. Jazz has a history that does not forgive. The recordings amount to a dense mass of components linked by transitional phases in time, some of which, side-by-side, appear totally unrelated. Changes. Some would say, and probably did at the time, that Ornette Coleman had no right to play a little plastic horn, never mind unleash his 'Free' version of what was already, by the end of the 50s, a 'sacred' music.

What was once the defining soundtrack of the Modernist (20s) era sounds dated to those uninterested in context or, god forbid, that old thing called 'swing'. Each generation comes to Jazz with restraints in place, be they duffel-coated Brits of the 50s (Trad revivalists) or their sharper, older siblings, the Mods, with their taste for cooler sounds and better-dressed icons of Blue Note album covers. The button-down big beat of Blue Note stalwart Art Blakey and his various messengers have retained their appeal since 80s revivalists rediscovered them.

Some hip-hop sampled Jazz, most notably Gang Starr's Jazz Thing (1990) but many others adapted the warm funky tone of an acoustic b-line for their purposes. In the 90s, both Techno and Drum & Bass producers would mess with Jazz but the source material, the inspiration, was Fender Rhodes-style Fusion and Herbie Hancock's electric advances, which were easier to sample, or imitate with the right gear. It took little more than a shimmering keyboard sound plus, perhaps, syncopated hi-hat programming to give an impression of 'Jazziness' in the production. 

Since then samples may litter a million productions, skewed, screwed or plain slabs of the Jazz thing. Now, for the Brainfeeder label (founded by Flying Lotus, grand-nephew of Alice Coltrane, therefore part of the 'real' Jazz bloodline), comes Mitchel Van Dintheris's Fool.  It is, he states, 'both tradition and me fooling around', so he has his cake and eats it. How digestible this tomfoolery would be to the less flexible Jazz fan is another matter. For those of us who took part in reviving the post-war modernist Jazz tradition in the 80s whilst welcoming those energetic fools of the day, Rip Rig & Panic, it may be easier to enjoy Jameszoo's creations. 

My finger hovered over the 'delete' button when hearing the first track, Fluke. The challenge for all modern producers is to impress early on, in these times when we all demand to be captured quickly before consigning the music to that vacuum where barely-played files reside. Fluke is toytown tinkling, similar in mood to the kitsch 'funk' Mike Paradinas made in the mid-90s and hardly 'Jazzy' in any sense. Yet as his moniker suggests, Dintheris isn't about to stay put in one mode, thankfully. The second track, Lose, although similarly lightweight, suggests an unravelling of common sense adherence to melody or rhythm in favour of naive, tentative improvisation, a kind of openness that's welcome to these ears. Soup's initial noodling doesn't promise much until it's bolstered considerably by 'live' drumming and a concentrated burst of sax, neither of which develop into anything as old hat as substantial solos, of course, but they are enough to lend weight to the proceedings.

It's an album that gets deeper as it progresses, wisely, one might say, for fear of scaring away Jazz-lite listeners at the start. Bang in the middle, Wrong is one of the right moves, allowing guest players to do what they do best, namely play the Jazz hell out of their instruments (drum kit in this case). It's a tougher, more interesting direction, one that should have prevailed throughout, but then I'm ignoring the 'fool' part of all this and Dintheris's claim to have been 'coming to terms with myself' in the process. 

Finished albums as learning curves or self-realisation projects hardly bode well for the listener, yet Fool's appeal ultimately lies in that very idea; one of learning, of attempting something that's apparently beyond all but accomplished musicians. The best way to make that work is to get some on board, as he did, without letting them take over, therefore ruining the idea completely. In that respect, Dintheris is brave; firstly to release the results of his experiment and secondly to dare to rein in those with the chops to make it all sound like Proper Jazz.

Sun Ra once suggested musicians should 'do something right and make a mistake'. Bearing that in mind, Jameszoo 'mistake' in messing with Jazz yields more interesting results, in places, than albums by musos who fear making fools of themselves.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

ROB (U) RANG - Ofo

Music overload - I mean new music - some of which is old - thinking: 'What would happen if music was suddenly taken away? Perhaps I'd hear the world around me better, but...' & 'What if I went on 'music strike', like Stewart Homes' Art Strike? Would it do me any good? No. I'd think more...and ignorance is bliss..., ignorant of Rob(u)rang I gave Ofo a listen and ...what the hell is this?! Le lion et la gazelle, first track, the bass weight was striking, trouble is (well, only if you care about such details) there are two bass-playing guests, Quentin Hanon and Gil Mortio and I've no idea which is featured here but the playing is so good, so prominent in and crucial to the sound that it reminds me of Jah Wobble juice.The vocals also become an instrument, all shimmer in the echo and fading back and forth as to be mostly indistinguishable words although I can make out 'in another space, in another world' (I think); a conscious acknowledgement of Van Morrison's trance-like incantations of Astral Weeks? Maybe. Whatever, a strong start. 

Apparently he draws his inspiration from yorùbá spells (collected in Nigeria and Benin), yet Oògùn èrò is as far from 'native' as you could imagine, other than being some heavy psyche freek-out by urban bushmen, nicely countered by a drum machine rhythm. Dub is in here, there, everywhere an influence, along with everything else, it feels like, without being a mess, just a mess of ideas, lots rhythmic, reverberating throughout, hand clap, timbales, skins and mechanised clicks, alien language, flute, guitar, bass rumbles...the simple, phased organ on Les puisatiers...and the chanting...(other)World Music like this (is there anything actually like this?) really is trance-inducing. Whilst one part of your mind is hypnotised, the other is trying to digest what's going on, which is a futile endeavour; best let go and submit to the ritual. 

No tracks to stream unfortunately but you can sample it on the Sub Rosa site

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