Sunday, 28 December 2008

(I never liked) POST-PUNK

In Rip It Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds sets out in his fourth book to back up his claim that post-punk was the greatest era of rock music. Actually, he said it’s “a fabulous wealth of sounds and ideas that rivals the sixties as a golden age for music.” You can guess which era he really favors, but to avoid distracting controversy, he introduces the idea subtly, so that it might insidiously filter into popular opinion over time. How very post-punk of him. At a mammoth 556 pages, the book is daunting for those who think after punk “died,” music jumped straight to Culture Club and Oingo Boingo, or others who believe punk broke in 1992. It takes a real commitment to dig into, and will mainly reward the most devoted and obsessive of music geeks. The post-punk era simply does not have the dramatic, made-for-movies story arc that punk did. Which is precisely why the era is such a black hole in many peoples’ consciousness, and why it so badly needs to be told.

For most (DUMB) Americans, post-punk truly seemed to have a secret history. With virtually no radio airplay or mainstream media attention apart from Talking Heads and Devo, it was a hidden treasure trove to be discovered only by word of mouth, obscure fanzines, and eventually, college radio. I started gradually hearing about the bands just as post-punk was waning in 1984, in interviews with bands like The Minutemen and Big Black, who cited Public Image Ltd., Gang Of Four and Wire as influences. Before that, all I knew of punk beyond The Clash and Sex Pistols were hardcore punk bands like Agnostic Front and Exploited – who sounded like they were repeatedly hitting a stylistic brick wall. “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” said Johnny Rotten during the final Sex Pistols show in 1978. I did, because I’d been missing out. Some said punk died, others said it lives on in the millions of faceless bands as the new folk music, but few mentioned it spawned a music that was far more diverse, engaging, inspiring, ambitious and all-consuming. I became so obsessed with post-punk that I quickly dropped the new music format of my college radio show and focused on post-punk.

There’s no doubt that Reynold’s love of post-punk is subjective. He missed punk when it happened, but was there (albeit in an English suburb), 16 years old and overstimulated in every way when the epochal records of 1979 poured out. Everyone has romantic notions about the music of their teenage years. But Rip It Up and Start Again is more than nostalgia. It’s both a labor of love, and a massively valuable, dense history that’s never been told before. It’s fitting that the book begins with Johnny Rotten, who succinctly wrapped up the demise of punk in one sentence. Six months earlier on July 16, 1977, toward the end of the Sex Pistols’ peak, Rotten went public with his opinion on punk on “The Punk and His Music” on London’s Capital Radio.
He hates punk, and prefers Tim Buckley, former members of The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico), Can, Captain Beefheart, Dr. Alimintado and other dub reggae, and even tortured art rocker Peter Hammill from progressive rock band Van Der Graaf Generator. Rotten was famously noticed by McClaren for his altered “I hate” Pink Floyd t-shirt. But chances are he bought (or stole) the shirt as a fan. After the show, McLaren was furious, as Lydon had blown his cover as "Johnny Rotten," an ignorant thug/monster and revealed himself as a (gasp) a hipster-intellectual. "That was pathetic", Rotten recalled a year later, "[because] I couldn't be half as ignorant, moronic, violent, destructive ... as they wanted to promote me.” The completion of that persona destruction was his new band, Public Image Ltd.
After telling the PiL story, Rip It Up documents the complex post-punk topography by taking a roughly chronological approach and grouping bands either by region or style. “Outside of Everything” addresses the Buzzcocks, Magazine and Subway Sect, while the third chapter jumps to Cleveland with “Uncontrollable Urge: The Industrial Grotesquerie” with Pere Ubu and Devo. The following chapters cover New York’s no wave scene, Britain’s tribal rival with The Pop Group and The Slits, independent labels and the DIY movement, the militant Leeds scene with Gang of Four, The Mekons, Delta Five and Au Pairs, the art school-inspired Talking Heads and Wire, the particularly fascinating and revelatory ninth chapter on Sheffield’s Cabaret Voltaire and The Human League, and Manchester’s The Fall and Joy Division. Yet we’re only half done, with sixteen chapters left to cover industrial, 2-Tone, synthpop, Scotland, punk-funk, goth, new psychedelia and “The Blasting Concept: Progressive Punk from SST Records to Mission of Burma.”
The idea behind punk was supposed to be to do away with venerated music and blues-based clichés and start fresh. That became an obvious sham when most punk groups recycled the same old Chuck Berry riffs, as filtered through mod, glam and The Stooges. Post-punk was really what brought punk’s original aspirations to fruition. While many of the musicians were well versed in music history, from German “kosmische” space rock to the progressive rock of Soft Machine and King Crimson, most of the music was strikingly original. It made sense that this often involved veering into esoteric, difficult listening territory that precluded any chance of commercial success. But unlike The Sex Pistols, the vast majority of post-punkers were not chasing the carrot of rock stardom. One of the most striking revelations I got from Rip It Up is how completely, seriously immersed these musicians were in the culture. Fueled by a thirst for knowledge, youthful energy and sometimes amphetamines, post-punk was a way of life that involved not just rehearsals, gigs and records, but passing around the Situationist pamphlet “Leaving The Twentieth Century,” reading Phillip Dick and J.G. Ballard, intense all-night sessions spent debating film, theater and political theory (Godard and Brecht, and Gramsci), creating visual art, and participating in performance art. While some of these activities might spark some interest from the girl at the art school down the road, it’s hardly the road to fame and fortune. They were simply passionate.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Catch the SHOW!!

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, sometimes simply called Plastic Inevitable or EPI, was a series of multimedia events organized by Andy Warhol between 1966 and 1967, featuring musical performances by The Velvet Underground & Nico, screenings of Warhol's films, and dancing and performances by regulars of Warhol's Factory, especially Mary Woronov and Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable is also the title of a 18 minute film by Ronald Nameth with recordings from one week of performances of the shows which were filmed in Chicago, Illinois in 1966. In December 1966 Warhol included a one-off underground magazine called The Plastic Exploding Inevitable as part of the Aspen Magazine No. 3 package.

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable had its roots in an event staged on January 13, 1966 at a dinner for the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry. This event, called "Up-Tight", included performances by The Velvet Underground and Nico, along with Malanga and Edie Sedgwick as dancers. Inaugural shows were held at the Dom in New York City in April 1966, advertised in The Village Voice as follows: "The Silver Dream Factory Presents The Exploding Plastic Inevitable with Andy Warhol/The Velvet Underground/and Nico." Shows were also held in The Gymnasium in New York and in various cities throughout the United States.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

AMMON DUUL The most hated Krautrock band

Even before I knew anything at all about Krautrock, I knew to stay away from Amon Duul (as opposed to Amon Duul II). Friends of friends of friends who had heard that big bongo sound were quick to warn me to stay clear of this awful group. Today, I still hear this sentiment. Indeed the most common clever slam for Amon Duul is to refer to their third album Disaster as appropriately titled. So, as an unbiased observer, I had to conclude that Amon Duul in truth had nothing to offer, and out of that great body of music called Krautrock, Amon Duul had just been a big mistake.

Contemporary (industry controlled) music speaks to some elevated level of rationality while this music I speak of communicates somehow to our more primitive animal past.
Clearly, these tribal-like improvs/jams serve an entirely different function than the majority of music released today which I refer to simply as 'product'. Amon Duul was originally a commune of 10 to 12 musicians committed to creating political art. And perhaps this is why I hear the commonality between the meeting of artists locally and Amon Duul. Above all else stands a commitment to art, not profit or product. And so, it was probably because I had been to this art-gathering that I grasped how great Amon Duul was, but for whatever reason, I found them very exciting and experimental.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

SESSIONS: Cargo Recording Studios, Rochdale

I' ve always belived in the karmic way. After a good rant, there's always something good about something bad. The Cargo studios (House of De Ocampo) has good room acoustics and the overall sound for a four track recording is almost releaseable by EP standards. We were able to scrounge for available instruments and equipment and was able to fit everything in our hearse of a bat-mobile. Skipping lunch (sleep for me) and was there as early as 11pm only to be met by sleeping bandmates or even someone more interested in his CD collection or so. Well, I'm not the owner of the house. It's not my gasoline in the car. Anyway, I ranted like a cunt long enough (which is 20 minutes) and I'm moving on. Ah yes, the second session. Who would be in-charge? It's definitely not me. I'm retiring my engineering hat right here and giving it to the Martin Hannett wanna-bees. By all means, y'all. That was a 12 hour grind for me through nagging headache and sleeplessness. And believe me it was all worth it. Except for the delays and the stand-up comic sessions, the Manchester band trivia brought to you by crepuscle records. "Remember, if it's not crepuscle it's not even a record". Sarcasm aside, the groundwork is already there. We got a smoky window view of what the "band" sound really is. As they put it, it sounded like "A Certain Ratio". I take credit for that. It's the only thing that went good that night. And for the shit that went through that day it's an achievement of sorts. It's just breaking the surface. We ain't there yet perhaps we could never get there. The future looks so scary. We could end up as a cult band who almost made it but didn't and because we chose not to. Scary thought. I'm liking it already. I won't delete the previous blog. It would serve as a reminder to me. But fook, I like the cult status already.

A Life in Bands (continuation)

I don't fuckin' know how band politics work. I'm the new guy so I have to prove myself, right? Who else is in charge? That's what I'm askin' because after a botched recording session, right now I don't know where I fit. Do we really need a dictator in the band? Do we value respect? Or we just don't give a shit because we are rockstars. Are we getting swellheaded because we think we are a re-incarnation of those ye olde Mancunian bands. Right now, I just want to lay all the tracks on a fuckin tape and play music. I don't give a rats arse on how much useless Manchester trivia are there on my wee brain. I don't care what's playing on my MP3 player. I don't care now how much time searchin for a fuckin rare CD in a garage sale or how extensive my record collection are. Which is a few actually. Very few by rockstar standards. Right now, it's all about music. It's sounds a bit syrupy for a guy with battle scars from playing in different bands. But, I've been in the trenches for so long I don't know which is which. Which direction a band should take. I might been overreacting because respect is often earned and you don't need to say fuck you upfront to actually know it's been thrown at you. Just like fuckin' mustard gas, baby. Thank goodness for a massive headache that saved me from further embarrassment from a recording session where people wanted to be stand-up comedians and post-punk trivia wizards instead of shutting up for 6 minutes or so and just play the goddamn song. I shouldn't be blabbering like a cunt because it ain't my house we're using, not my food I'm serving, and last but not the least it's not my fuckin' money. Maybe we don't deserve to record because our minds are all fucked up. We are a good live band. Bloody, Finger Lickin' Fuckin' good. Probably too good for ourselves. Am I giving up? Fuck, can't wait for the whole new bloody session to start. Next time, without the bear necessities. No food, no aircondiltioning. The trenches. We've turned to fat ego-tistical rockstars. We need to get shittied-up. and yes, I'm not from fuckin' manchester.

I'm from fuckin' Salford. It makes a fuckin' difference.

RIP Martin Hannett, I wish I had a gun too...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Gang of Four

First official song played on bass. Damaged Goods. May 1988. All chords no scales. Was able to play the whole scale three years later but by then the song was overplayed in 105.9 the home of pathetic rock.

Random Noises (Shameless Promotion)

Have I given up on normal forms of music? Perhaps.
And watch your eardrums.....

Battle Royale takes place in an alternate time-line - the government of Japan is a police state, known as the Republic of Greater East Asia (大東亜共和国 Dai Tōa Kyōwakoku). Under the guise of a "study trip," a group of students from Shiroiwa Junior High School (城岩中学校 Shiroiwa Chūgakkō) in the fictional town of Shiroiwa (Kagawa Prefecture) are sleep-gassed on a bus. They awaken in the Okishima Island School on Okishima, an isolated, evacuated island south-west of Shodoshima, also in Kagawa Prefecture. They learn that they have been placed in an event called The Program, also known as Battle Royale. Officially a military research project, The Program is a means of terrorising the citizens, of causing such paranoia as to make organised insurgency impossible. According to the rules, every year since 1947, fifty third-year junior high school (fourteen to fifteen years old) classes are isolated, and the students required to fight to the death until one remains. Their movements are restricted by metal collars, later identified as Model Guadalcanal No. 22, around their necks which contain tracking and listening devices; if any student should attempt to escape The Program, or enter declared "danger zones", a bomb will be detonated in the collar, killing the wearer. If no student dies in any twenty-four-hour period, all collars will be detonated simultaneously.
After being briefed about The Program, the students are issued survival packs which include a map, compass, flash-light, food and water, and a random weapon or other item, which may be any thing from a gun to a paper fan. During the briefing,
two students anger the supervisor, Kinpatsu Sakamochi, who kills both. As the students are released onto the island, they each react differently to their predicament; delinquent Mitsuko Souma murders those who stand in her way using deceiving tactics, Hiroki Sugimura attempts to find his best friend and his secret love, and Shinji Mimura makes a failed attempt to escape the Program.
In the end, four students remain:
protagonist Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, Shogo Kawada - a survivor of a previous instance of the Program - and antagonist Kazuo Kiriyama. Following a car chase and shoot-out between Kazuo and the main characters, Noriko kills Kazuo by shooting him with a revolver. Shogo then takes his two partners to a hill. After telling Shuya and Noriko that he will kill them, Shogo shoots in the air twice, faking their deaths for the microphones planted on the collars. He then dismantles the collars. When Shogo is on the winner's ship, Shuya and Noriko board the ship. On the ship, Shogo kills Sakamochi and a soldier while Shuya kills the other soldiers on board. Shogo tells Shuya how to escape, succumbs to his wounds and dies. The two remaining students return to the main-land and find a clinic belonging to a friend of Shogo's father. From there, they make plans to escape to the U.S., facing an uncertain future as they run from the authorities.

Merzbow (メルツバウ, Merutsubau?) is a noise music project created in Tokyo, Japan in 1979 under the direction of musician Masami Akita (秋田 昌美, Akita Masami?). Since 1979, he has formed two record labels and has contributed releases to numerous independent record labels. As well as being a prolific artist, he has also written a number of books and has been the editor of several magazines in Japan. He has written about a variety of subjects, mostly about art, avant-garde music and post-modern culture. His more renowned works have been on the topics of BDSM and fetish culture. Other artforms Akita has been interested in include directing and Butoh dance.

The name "Merzbow" comes from German artist Kurt Schwitters' artwork, Merzbau. This was decided upon to reflect Akita's dada influence and junk-art aesthetic. In addition to this, Akita has cited a wide range of influences from various progressive rock artists such as Frank Zappa and King Crimson to Japanese bondage.

In 2000, Extreme Records released the 50 CD box set known as the Merzbox. From 2004 onwards, he has been a supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) which has influenced a number of animal-themed releases as well as Akita becoming vegan.[5] Akita's work has been the subject of several remix albums and at least one tribute album. Akita is a prolific musician and has produced over 200 releases since 1980.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Random Noises

Have I given up on normal forms of music? Perhaps.

And watch your eardrums.....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

And Justice For All.....

What's been described as "a trumpet player trapped in a two dimensional universe" is in fact the unique audio work of Justice Yeldham, a maverick musician with an unhealthy obsession with sheets of broken glass. By pressing his face and lips against the glass whist employing various vocal techniques ranging from throat singing to raspberries, he turns discarded household windows into crude musical instruments. Resulting in a wide variety of cacophonous noises that are strangely controlled and oddly musical.Justice Yeldham is the latest alter-ego of Australian sound performer Lucas Abela, whose past sonic experiments were conducted under monikers like A Kombi, Dj Smallcock & Peeled Hearts Paste. Initially classed as an experimental turntablist, although his early work rarely resembled anything in the field. Early feats, saw him stab vinyl with Kruger style stylus gloves, bound on electro acoustic trampolines, drag race the popemobile across Sydney Harbour Bridge, perform deaf defying duet duels with amplified samurai swords, hospitalised by high powered turntables constructed from sewing machine motors, record chance John Peel sessions with the Flaming Lips, & be Otomo Yoshihides' favourite entry into his Ground Zero remix competition; 'Consummation' even though instead of sampling the CD he destroyed it using amplified skewers!

Thanks for the autographed CD. You scared the bejeezus out of my co-workers.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Tea and Biscuits? Lemon or Milk on your tea?

The cookie has crumbled and the grains have been tumbled out of the aerosol of synth-tone poppery into a dark, dank well where turbulence and torment cling to the talents of Karl like poisonous fungi. Since seeing this singer (pronounced Bisk-wee) in Paris last year, he seems to have undergone an amputation with traumatic side-effects. Adroitly fingered at the time as a Serge Clerc character in 3-D, the accompanying stylised cocktail mannerisms have dried out and what remains is an emotional brainburn where Fairlights blink with a hangover instead of grinning like dumb robots. 'Death', 'Loneliness', 'No Friends', 'Requiem' - with song titles like these you get the idea of the horrorshow on offer, how many ways you can terminate or be terminated is equal to the pleasures of this record. Pleasures ? Hell, yes, but not of the ugly bedsit torment sort. Karl is pretty enough to have aimed for the wide-eyed-innocent end of the synth spectrum with its lure of big bucks. Instead, he's inhabiting the cutting space that both the Human League and Depeche Mode are trying to reach in vain at present. 'Regrets Eternels' is pimple synth-pop lanced until the pus runs. Vampire instrumentation sucks at the neck of linear tunes, foreign textures unfurl and infect the clean kid's ideas. Take a peek at the liner notes and everything makes sense. Aided in sections by Blaine L.Reininger and Honeymoon Killer Marc Hollander, the whole project is filtered through the hemlock hands of Gilles Martin of the great Tuxedomoon. 'Regrets Eternels' is the alternative madness in the method dance"

Apathy by Liechtenstein

If Stalking Skills reminded you of The Shop Assistants or The Fizzbombs then the new single Apathy by Liechtenstein is going to have you in further raptures! This time the band go back further and take their inspirations from girl and girl fronted bands from the post punk era.On both sides of this 7" I can hear the likes of Girls At Our Best, The Slits, The Mo-dettes and Dolly Mixture. Apathy is a slow song with some beautiful harmonies and vocals that by the songs end simply engrosses you.However it's on Security By Design that stands out here for me. It's simply sublime over it's two and a bit minutes with it's fusion of pop, reggae and a bit of Tijuana brass thanks to the Mexican sounding trumpet. A choice "cut" (The Slits pun is intended!) Listen to Apathy here.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

So you're a PUNK....

Ever had one of these?

So, You're a PUNK. Eat THIS POSER!!

An old fanzine that almost got me kicked out in high school..

Thursday, 2 October 2008

MANIFESTO (Cinema of Trangression)

We who have violated the laws, commands and duties of the avant-garde; i.e. to bore, tranquilize and obfuscate through a fluke process dictated by practical convenience stand guilty as charged. We openly renounce and reject the entrenched academic snobbery which erected a monument to laziness known as structuralism and proceeded to lock out those filmmakers who possessed the vision to see through this charade. We refuse to take their easy approach to cinematic creativity; an approach which ruined the underground of the sixties when the scourge of the film school took over. Legitimizing every mindless manifestation of sloppy movie making undertaken by a generation of misled film students, the dreary media arts centers and geriatic cinema critics have totally ignored the exhilarating accomplishments of those in our rank daring to rip out of the stifling straight jackets of film theory in a direct attack on every value system known to man. We propose that all film schools be blown up and all boring films never be made again. We propose that a sense of humour is an essential element discarded by the doddering academics and further, that any film which doesn't shock isn't worth looking at. All values must be challenged. Nothing is sacred. Everything must be questioned and reassessed in order to free our minds from the faith of tradition.Intellectual growth demands that risks be taken and changes occur in political, sexual and aesthetic alignments no matter who disapproves. We propose to go beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men. We pass beyond and go over boundaries of millimeters, screens and projectors to a state of expanded cinema. We violate the command and law that we bore audiences to death in rituals of circumlocution and propose to break all the taboos of our age by sinning as much as possible. There will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined. None shall emerge unscathed. Since there is no afterlife, the only hell is the hell of praying, obeying laws, and debasing yourself before authority figures, the only heaven is the heaven of sin, being rebellious, having fun, fucking, learning new things and breaking as many rules as you can. This act of courage is known as transgression. We propose transformation through transgression - to convert, transfigure and transmute into a higher plane of existence in order to approach freedom in a world full of unknowing slaves.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Johanna (Came and) Went

Tons of reasons that if somebody asks me "Have you listened to this band?" or Do you like "David "can't" Cook? Answer is surely NO. Maybe I'd be polite for a second and answer them "Not Exactly" or give them a wrong answer like. "Is he from Depeche Mode?"

Anyway, there's no room for pre-packaged or commecially released music in my sub-conscious. I just came and went. Here's what's playing in my cranium. I'm trying hard to get it. It's torture but worth it.

Johanna Went is a US-American performance artist who primarily works in the Los Angeles area.
She started her career in the late 1970s as musician in the punk scene. Music is still an important element of her shows. She has often worked with musician Mark Wheaton, whose fast, rhythmic music beats provide the background noise in several of her performances. Further predominant elements of Went's shows are the use of elaborate costumes, which Went herself creates from various found objects, and the use of artificial blood. The latter played an especially important role in her early work. Went's performances are not strictly text-based. She typically works based on a sketch that determines the rough sequence of actions, but leaves much room for improvisation. Went rarely uses language in her shows as means of communication. She rather sings, screams, whines and murmurs, thus rendering large parts of the spoken words incomprehensible.
In a typical show Went goes through several costume changes, dances, jumps around, sings, plays with often very big props that she frequently tears apart and tosses into the auditorium. Several of her shows culminate in the pouring of artificial blood over her own body, costumes and props. Went's performances thus could be said to foreground the aesthetic quality of fast, spontaneous bodily movement and the material quality of voice and words. The creation of a certain dynamic or energy on stage as well as a certain formalist concern with the quality of colors and material take priority over conveying any particular message.
Critics have frequently characterized Went's shows as "chaotic", "wild" or "shocking". Her work is often seen in context of other women artists of the 1980s whose performances are regarded as daring and transgressive, such as
Karen Finley, Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galas or Dancenoise.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

OH Heil!

Einstürzende Neubauten is an avant-garde music band, originally from West Berlin, formed in 1980. The band is often classified as industrial music. One of their 'trademarks' is the use of custom made instruments (usually, but not always, made out of scrap metal and building tools) and noises, in addition to standard musical instruments. Neubauten has always experimented with sounds, originally in noise music and recently in very diverse styles.
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Blixa Bargeld is probably the best-known member of the group.
The band name is usually translated into English as "Collapsing New Buildings". "Collapsing" here is a participial adjective, not the progressive participle of a transitive verb, i.e. the intended meaning is "buildings that are collapsing". Neubauten ("new buildings" in English) is a general term referring to buildings constructed in Germany after 1945. These are often regarded as cheaper, flimsier, and less aesthetically attractive than Altbauten, or pre-1945, especially pre-modernist buildings. Due to the extensive destruction throughout Germany during the Second World War, and the extensive rebuilding thereafter, Neubauten constitute a very familiar element of German cities.
On April 1, 1980, Einstürzende Neubauten made their first appearance in the Moon Club in Berlin. This first line-up featured Beate Bartel and Gudrun Gut, Blixa Bargeld, and N.U. Unruh, who later went on to record music under the name of Einstürzende Neubauten. The two female members, Bartel and Gut, left the band after a short period of performing and founded Mania D.. Alexander Hacke (alias Alexander von Borsig), a sound technician and multi-instrumentalist who was fifteen years old at that time, joined the band and became a long-time member.
Einstürzende Neubauten's logo (a symbol of human with a circle in the head) is an ancient Toltec cave drawing.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

C30, C60, C90 ...Gone? The Rise and Fall of the Compact Cassette

When the inexorable rise of the Compact Disk finally lifted the stylus on the vinyl records market toward the end of the 20th Century, record collectors let loose a collective howl of anguish.

The slow decline of the Compact Audio Cassette has evoked a more muted response, and yet we shouldn't forget the impact tapes have had on music culture.True, tapes never really supplanted vinyl in music lovers' affections.

The lush artwork that graced a 12" album cover was diminished when shrunk to cassette size, while a Hawkwind vinyl gatefold sleeve, say, made a better surface for rolling joints.

Cassettes never sounded as good as vinyl, occasional pop and crackle preferable to muffled high-end and tape hiss. You couldn't skip to a preferred song with the ease of picking up and dropping the needle. And cassettes were shockingly vulnerable, to heat, moisture and magnets, the spools of tape often chewed up in the gears of a malfunctioning cassette deck.

Tape's USP was that it was portable, and you could record on it, freeing car stereos from the tyranny of the radio DJ, and enabling consumers to duplicate their record collection--or, indeed, a friend's record collection, thus unwittingly initiating the death of the Record Industry.

Manufacturers cannily fetishised such acts of piracy, marketing a myriad variety of cassettes, in black, coloured or transparent plastic, daubed with logos and decals and bewildering-but-impressive techno mumbo-jumbo like ‘HIGH BIAS', ‘EPITAXIAL' and ‘ANTI-RESONANCE CONSTRUCTION'.

If you were serious about your taping, you always bought Chrome or Metal cassettes, never employed "High-Speed Dubbing," and never ever used C120s, which were prone to stretching.

Home Taping Was Killing Music, the Record Industry claimed, but the opposite was true. The increased portability of cassette recorders aided the efforts of the bootleggers who, in the 1970s, risked a roughing-up by Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant if caught taping the Zep. Many now, however, are grateful for the bootleggers' illicit activities, and the archives of demos and live performances they have furtively preserved.

Home Taping was, in fact, democratizing the Record Industry. Affordable 4-track cassette recorders turned every musician's bedroom into a studio, Lo-Fi pioneers Robert Pollard and Lou Barlow waxing rhapsodic over 4-track's warm, fuzzy sound. Tape-to-tape recorders served as pressing plants for a cottage industry of DIY cassette-only labels, selling via mail order or West London's Rough Trade shop. Subterranean genres like industrial, grindcore and lo-fi flourished in this hermetic, anarchic market, while DJ-produced mix-tapes have long been a staple of Hip Hop culture.

The home-made mix-tape was, however, the cassette's most endearing and enduring gift to Pop. The mix-tape turned us all into radio programmers, forcing our favourite songs upon our friends via painstakingly compiled and decorated cassettes that celebrated our uniquely wonderful taste in music, or expressed our feelings via the medium of other peoples' songs. CD-Rs sound "better," perhaps, but an actual mix-tape--where the compiler has had to sit and listen to every song as they taped it for you--offers a wholly more intimate experience than simply clicking and dragging some mp3s in iTunes.

The cassette tape finally ran afoul of the capstans and cogs of fate with the arrival of affordable CD Walkmans and domestic CD-R hardware, its USP not quite so Unique anymore. Some cassette-only labels survive, esoteric operations like Noise label American Tapes, whose releases come encased in squashed paint-cans and found-art sculptures.Mostly, though, tapes are relics of a past age adorning hip twentysomethings' apparel and accessories, fetishised with a mixture of irony and nostalgia, as Generation Xers eulogized the 8 Track Cartridge a decade before them. Consider it a most pop-cultural form of immortality.

Velvety Soft - John Cale - The Influences of

John Davies Cale (born March 9, 1942), better known as John Cale, is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer best known as a founding member of the rock & roll band The Velvet Underground.
Though most well-noted for his work in rock music, Cale has worked in a variety of styles and genres, including drone, noise and classical. Since departing from The Velvet Underground, he has released approximately 30 albums.
Of his solo work, Cale is perhaps best known for his album Paris 1919, plus his mid-1970s Island Records trilogy of albums: Fear, Slow Dazzle, and Helen of Troy.
Over the course of his career, John Cale has produced and/or collaborated with notable artists John Cage, Nico, Lou Reed, Nick Drake, Brian Eno, Kevin Ayers, Patti Smith, The Stooges, and Squeeze.

A Life in Bands Part 1

The 80's and "The Cure".

Picking members is a common practice in bands. Do you pick a member who has good set-skills? Would you go for "taste"? How about if they have their own equipment? Or just one of your friends who can't even play? Your guess is as good as mine. What? The last one? You're damn right! I've been in bands all my life and this is the usual rule of thumb. My first oficial band was in college it was 1989. My high school band didn't even take off but we did plan it but we ain't got our own equipment. Are two keyboards considered a band? In the 80's it was. I was never a fan of "new wave" when it hit the country. It was all a fad. Undercut hair, ambell jeans, Tretorn tennis shoes etc. etc. But at that time I was already listening to European rock and pop. (Communards, Arcadia, Frankie Goes to Hollywood). "RELAX" was a huge hit overseas but nobody listened to it in here. Good for me. Thompson Twins too. (No thanks to Adam Sandler for reviving their song). Howard Jones was my favorite piano player and even Joe Jackson. Everything changed when I got my first guitar and played my first song. Officially, "Boys Don't Cry" by The Cure is the first song I played but since it's with my on and off band I couldn't claim it. "I Melt With You by Modern English" was the next. There was dissension in the band since there was an unofficial band leader since we can only play what he can play. The song lineup got crappier and crappier. Well, I hated "The Dawn" at that time and all the "new wave" local bands. I tried to veer them to play "Gang of Four" and "The Clash" tunes for a one time only gig but was rejected by the "best friend of the band leader". "FUCK YOU, JOEL!!" FUCK YOU TOO, JAIME!! (Finally! That made me feel better!). Well they finally kicked me out. Good riddance. They play cover too much and they want to play in a bar (at that time, think bon jovi, scorpions ummmm deep purple songs.) To erase this from my memory I try to dig deeper to the 80's. The 80's were a blur. All i can remember was there aint no cable yet and my musical taste are dictated by a newly created MTV (Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby etc.) And "Thriller" was every where. The most hated song in the planet. Live Aid, Wembley was shown on TV. Good things did outweigh the bad in the 80's. Pros: Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Bronski Beat, Talking Heads, siouxie and the Banshees etc etc.. Cons: Bagets....fuck, never mind.

The Death Metal Years...and a bit of the 90's

The opening riff of "Master or Puppets" still rings an my ears. So soes the yowl of "Tom Araya" in "Angel of Death". It doesn't help that I got good at playing bass that I jammed those tunes with the "B-Balic Collective". Throw in Pantera's "Walk" and Helmet for good measure and we a have an intense "Metal" line-up. Well, metal really does include the lifestyle. It doesn't make sense that you dress in adidas kicks and clean trousers and play "Am I Evil". And the music dos work when you're loaded with "86 proof" fuel. And thnks to a motorcycle crash, I got uglier (as if I'm not already!)and that increased my metal cred. Ah, yes the metal years. It was like spontaneous combustion but as the fire got wayward it ran out of fuel. The "90's" are starting and most kids are starting a band and like most magazines say (no internet yet, kids) Nirvana killed Heavy Metal. You don't to learn scales or the blues to be a guitarist. Kurt Cobain even made to the list of guitarist in Rolling Stone Magazine. Ahead of Stevie Ray, Luke, Malmsteen, Gilbert or even Thayil. And this is where fashion over music started to creep in. ( I never wore a Dr. Marten boot). But I must admit I wore combat boots. (I'm a big "Clash" fan). So the band revolution wore on....and where was I? Well, the metal band crashed and burned. The guitar player went to play where he will get paid, (Japan!). And I'm stuck with players who just brag but got no balls to play. Do you eventually back down from the demands of the majority and play what they like? For a while, yes. But after a while fuck, no! The answer is create your own genre if rock, pop, or even metal disowns you. This is where my musical palates got even stranger, deeper or even weirder.....No not the Eraserheads, Jesus! Well, the respect for them would grow soon.....not! My mind was not here when the band thing in the 90's broke through. I didn't own an E-heads tape, or any thing local because they're all corny. And they rip off English bands' melody. And good lord, they only found out about it recently.

To be Concluded...

Surreal Sounds Pt 2 (The Death of Radio and MTV)

AKSAK MABOUL Onze danses pour combattre la migraine(1977)

In the spring of 1977, two young Belgian musicians who call themselves Aksak Maboul (aka Marc Hollander & Vincent Kenis) set out to record an album, Onze danses pour combattre la migraine, in which they playfully fused and deconstructed all kinds of genres to create their own musical world. Three years later, Hollander founded the Crammed label. Many ingredients came in and out of the Aksak blender : fake jazz, electronics, imaginary African & Balkan music, minimalism... there were even pre-techno aspects such in as Saure Gurke and its characteristic keyboard stab pattern which will mysteriously find its way into many classic Detroit techno tracks some ten years later. Onze Danses became a cult album, and seems retrospectively to have mapped out the way for the various directions which have been explored during the next two decades.

Surreal Sounds

Delirious yet sophisticated, lush yet furious, sarcastic yet sentimental, FLAT EARTH SOCIETY are one of the most exciting big bands around.
FLAT EARTH SOCIETY is the brainchild of mercurial Belgian composer & clarinet player
Peter Vermeersch, and consists of about 14 top-class turbulent and skilled musicians.
What is this insane music ? Rock, classical avant-garde, cha-cha-cha, punk jazz or cartoon soundtracks ? Or a bit of all of these ? Let's hand it over to the media:
"A band capable of everything from beautiful chamber jazz miniatures to slinky crime-theme jazz noir to driving rock rhythms. The songs are all very approachable, but there's plenty of punch in the playing and soloing and great detailed arrangements." (
"An unruly confluence of Carl Stalling's "Merrie Melodies", Henry Mancini's cosmopolitan swank, and Sun Ra's cosmic slop-- all performed with the whiplash attention span of John Zorn's Naked City. (They) draw as much inspiration from such 20th century composers as Stravinsky or Bartok (not to mention art-rockers like Zappa or Beefheart) as they do from the blues or other more traditional American sources. You'll be enthralled by (their) seemingly bottomless creativity." (Pitchforkmedia)
"Far removed from the historicized big-band sounds one mostly hears these days in the United States… fresh, inventive and witty." (The New York Times)
Are we starting to get the picture ?…
* Peter Vermeersch has composed music for numerous pieces by major choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Wim Vandekeybus. He's written for opera, theatre, ballet, was a founding member of bands such as Maximalist! and X-Legged Sally, wrote pieces for the Arditti Quartet, Quadro Quartet, the Smith Quartet and Ensemble Musique Nouvelle, played with Union, Fred Frith, Jazzwork from Berlin, The Simpletones, produced recordings by dEUS and Guy Chadwick.
◊ The band currently includes
Tuxedomoon trumpet player Luc van Lieshout, ex-Think Of One member Bart Maris (three other Think Of One members used to be part of FES), keyboardist Peter Vandenberghe, bassist Kristof Roseeuw, trombone players Marc Meeuwissen and Stefaan Blancke, Berlinde Deman on tuba, Teun Verbruggen on drums, Tom Wouters, Michel Mast, Bruno Vansina & Benjamin Boutreur on woodwinds, occasional singer/guitarist Roland Vancampenhout, and film actor/accordion player/vocalist Wim Willaert, who starred in the multi-awarded French feature film "Quand la mer monte/When The Tide Comes In".

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Sesame Street: NOT The Same Street

Sesame Street: NOT the same street

Sunny days! The earliest episodes of “Sesame Street” are available on digital video! Prepare for the exquisite pleasure-pain of top-shelf nostalgia! Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. “What did they do to us?” asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.
Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then — as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 — a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything.
Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen — cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time.
The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original “Sesame Street” might hurt your feelings.

Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “
The chronically mood-disordered Oscar the Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable — hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” Snuffleupagus is visible only to Big Bird; since 1985, all the characters can see him, as Big Bird’s old protestations that he was not hallucinating came to seem a little creepy, not to mention somewhat strained. As for Cookie Monster, he can be seen in the old-school episodes in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-eyed cookievore with a signature gobble (“om nom nom nom”). Originally designed by Jim Henson for use in commercials for General Foods International and Frito-Lay, Cookie Monster was never a righteous figure. His controversial conversion to a more diverse diet wouldn’t come until 2005, and in the early seasons he comes across a Child’s First Addict.
The biggest surprise of the early episodes is the rural — agrarian, even — sequences. Episode 1 spends a stoned time warp in the company of backlighted cows, while they mill around and chew cud. This pastoral scene rolls to an industrial voiceover explaining dairy farms, and the sleepy chords of Joe Raposo’s aimless masterpiece, “Hey Cow, I See You Now.” Chewing the grass so green/Making the milk/Waiting for milking time/Waiting for giving time/Mmmmm.
Oh, what’s that? Right, the trance of early “Sesame Street” and its country-time sequences. In spite of the show’s devotion to its “target child,” the “4-year-old inner-city black youngster” (as The New York Times explained in 1979), the first episodes join kids cavorting in amber waves of grain — black children, mostly, who must be pressed into service as the face of America’s farms uniquely on “Sesame Street.”
In East Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1978, 95 percent of households with kids ages 2 to 5 watched “Sesame Street.” The figure was even higher in Washington. Nationwide, though, the number wasn’t much lower, and was largely determined by the whims of the PBS affiliates: 80 percent in houses with young children. The so-called inner city became anywhere that “Sesame Street” played, because the Children’s Television Workshop declared the inner city not a grim sociological reality but a full-color fantasy — an eccentric scene, framed by a box and far removed from real farmland and city streets alike.
The concept of the “inner city” — or “slums,” as The Times bluntly put it in its first review of
“Sesame Street” — was therefore transformed into a kind of Xanadu on the show: a bright, no-clouds, clear-air place where people bopped around with monsters and didn’t worry too much about money, cleanliness or projecting false cheer. The Upper West Side, hardly a burned-out ghetto, was said to be the model.
People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs.
Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading. Don’t tell the kids.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


"A British film about the life and death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, starring a first-time actor, has earned a rapturous reception in Cannes."

The BBC is indeed one of the most credible source of information in the free world. (for now) It seems the movie itself is a triumph of sorts since the band kept its anonimity for so long that it's fitting that they finally get the recognition they are getting. And the penny drops. Getting the recognition from the MTV is not the recognition the band truly deserves. I guess the band should just take the money and run since money has a big mouth these days. Well, gone are the days of Van Gogh where artist go on with their works uncompromised. The bloke never heard the word "royalties". The cover of an MTV band (name witheld, because I f*ckin' hate the band) of a song they first played in Granada didn't help (I find bands doing covers an abomination). Perhaps covering a song live is forgivable but relaeasing it, well that's another story. Giving stupid fans amunition for saying the remake is much better than the original is outright blasphemy. Well, thank God for Factory records for keeping the masters. Or else Ian would hang himself again for hearing what MTV had done to his music. Oh, the movie was good.

Prime Directive

The new Star Trek will be out soon. I have reservations on it because in our minds William Shatner is Captain James T. Kirk and no actor comes close. They can try.