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".