Saturday, 19 December 2009

Technical Ecstasy? Fuck Off

What is fucking wrong with so many of my fellow guitarists? I've been playing for 25 years, and one thing has consistently puzzled me, namely the obsession so many guitar players have with technique, the desperate need to become a virtuoso without having a fucking clue what to do with all that knowledge and ability, or having any idea how to do something new with their instrument. What is the fucking point of mastering all the traditional techniques of your instrument, absorbing an enormous shitload of music theory when all you then do is exactly what everyone else has been doing for the previous fuck knows how many years, just faster?

It was Steve Lacy, that late genius of the soprano saxophone who said "the instrument, that's the matter - the stuff - your subject", yet for so many guitarists that's just not true, to them technique is all, they have seemingly no interest in how their instrument actually works, why it sounds the way it does. It's a shallow kind of virtuosity underpinned by a linear, horizontal way of thinking and it leads to flat two-dimensional music that goes from A to B in a manner which anyone with ears and a half-working brain will be able to predict pretty damn accurately.

The electric guitar especially is an astonishingly malleable instrument, both sonically and physically, and microscopically sensitive to nuance, yet most guitarists are content to draw from an extremely limited palette of sound, and the toss-merchants are the worst offenders. They compress and/or eq the living shit out of their guitars for an illusory clarity, seemingly believing that removing the frequencies which give a guitar a large amount of it's tonal personality (the midrange) and removing the volume differences from individually played notes will let everyone who listens focus on their 'art'*. The way they set their instruments up aims to do the same thing, the thin strings sound like they look - tinny and harmonically lacking, the stupidly low action** that precludes any serious dynamic range in yr picking - if you play with any balls the strings whack and buzz against the fretboard and sound like shit, these approaches just lead to a polite uniformity of sound devoid of feeling, power or subtlety, robbing the music of any personality or emotional resonance it may have once possessed. A string of notes devoid of variation in dynamic or timbre, of the player's touch, is just that, a string of notes executed by a technician for the edification of a similarly limited audience. You don't judge a writer by how fast they can fucking type without making a mistake do you?

It dismays me that so many guitarists really do think and play like this. If you really want to know what technical virtuosity is actually for, then I suggest you listen to John Coltrane, or Eric Dolphy, or Cecil Taylor. Musicians whose knowledge of the technical and theoretical aspects of music far outstrip any classical musician, living or dead, yet are/were capable of subsuming that knowledge into a greater whole, one which encompasses the physical and acoustic properties of their respective instruments, a drive to push forward what the music they play can encompass, sonically, emotionally and yes, theoretically and structurally, a burning need to discover what music can be and become, not to settle for what's gone before and refine it like a formal mathematical proof.

Music, at it's most basic is sound in a perceptual frame, and the electric guitar is frankly only rivalled by modular analogue or ludicrously complicated digital synthesizers in the spectrum of possibilities it offers. Listen to Albert Ayler, a man who managed to coax a new register from the tenor saxophone just by the way he blew, by altering the contact of a piece of plastic reed with his mouth and breath as he played, and these fuckers can't even manage to sound different from each other with their mounds of technology. There are of course exceptions, Robert Fripp (a virtuoso if ever there was one) and Fred Frith have probably managed to extend the vocabulary of the guitar in a rock context to greater extent than anyone else who springs to mind, yet never does their technicality intrude on the actual music. Sonically, musicians as disparate as Helios Creed, Kevin Shields, Jim Plotkin, Oren Ambarchi, Keith Rowe, Neil Young and Matt Bower (to name but a very few) have taken the guitar into places few others previously suspected the existence of, and none of them would claim (or want) to be thought of as technical wizards, simply because the need to create, to push, to discover far outweighs any concerns of technique. For a real fucking musician, technique is nothing but a means to help bring about not even an end, but a moment.

For a lot of guitarists though, it's everything, and I think it explains the serious lack of good guitarists in the (especially free) jazz world. Think about it for a moment. Go right back to bebop. How many guitarists can you think of in jazz who pushed the music the way that sax, or trumpet, or piano, or double bass players, or drummers did? Not fucking many. Even at the height of free jazz, in the 60s, when musicians were breaking apart the front line/rhythm section divide, it's still easier to list the violinists*** than the guitarists.

Frankly, there's only three that matter from that time, Sonny Sharrock, Keith Rowe and Derek Bailey, all of whom understand/stood the guitar as resonating pieces of wood and metal, as physical object, and as a sound generator as much as a machine to play notes on, and all of whom tore up the rule book as to what guitarists could and couldn't do, Bailey to the extent of renouncing jazz practice as such and forging a new path based on pure, non-idiomatic improvisation§, Sharrock being the only guitarist at the time who thought more like a horn player, and crucially played bottleneck like a motherfucker, something still rare as hen's teeth in jazz circles, lending his playing a vocal quality that no one has come close to (and very fucking few jazz guitarists even dip their toes into the murky waters of slide guitar) not to mention an attitude to echo that had more in common with Syd Barrett than any jazz musican. And Keith Rowe, the man who completely deconstructed the guitar and it's role in the music, creating a whole new way of approaching the instrument single handedly, through his utter disregard for what the instrument was supposed to be for.

And fuck they Listen/ed hard when they play, which is the most important fucking thing you can do, even if (and especially when) y're right up front, but most guitarists seemingly can't (or just won't, I'm not sure which is worse) do this seemingly simple thing, to listen, to allow yrself to just be in the music and play what the moment, the music demands of you. Sun Ra didn't bang on about discipline for nothing you know. When you just play, the technique you use should be the last thing on (or in) yr mind, it's there to serve the music, the sound, the moment, the feeling.

When Coltrane blew fuck knows how many hundreds of notes a minute, does it sound like wank? No, because the sound itself, and the process of the creation of that sound was rooted in a deep knowledge of the sonic possibilities, and limitations, of his instrument, a total awareness of the musicians he was playing with, how his sound, not just the notes he was playing, related to what each and every musician there was playing, and where they were at together and individually. It was part of a whole, the solo an intrinsic part of the ensemble, indivisible, one.

Now I know we can't all be John Coltrane, and I sure as shit ain't, but fuck, isn't that level of playing something to aim for? Better striving for that than Mick Barr.

Technique is totally fucking meaningless when it exists in a void. The lack of knowledge, or even interest in the physical and acoustic properties of your instrument is, as far as I'm concerned, the worst kind of musical ignorance. It shows a fundamental lack of respect for your tools, and for your art, and for the idea that there must be more to be discovered in this infinitely variable abstract world we call music. You might as well just have a wank in the mirror.

*It's 2 o'clock in the morning, the guitarist has attempted to record a solo many, many times: "But dude, I NEED all the notes to be exactly the same volume"
"Well why don't you fucking play it that way then?"
(Long pause, sheepishly looks at floor) "I can't"
"That's why I suggested you play something that you're actually fucking capable of playing an hour and a half ago"

or, "But dude, I NEED all the notes to be exactly the same volume"
"So you can hear how I played every fuckin' note"
"But that's not what you'll hear if I squash it, you'll hear the note, but not the how"

You have no idea how many times I've had similar exchanges. And it was always a guitarist, every single fucking time...

**height of strings above the fretboard for the uninitiated.

***The violin has never really been that popular an instrument in jazz, despite great players such as Stuff Smith, Stephan Grappelli and Billy Bang.

§Which, I suspect much to his disgust, solidified in the heads of many musicians into a style of it's own with philosophical problems on a par with Gödel's incompleteness theorem and it's implications.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

20 Records That Fiddle With Your Cochlea

Pelt - Max Meadows (VHF)
Ramleh - Valediction (Second Layer)
Ramleh - Hole In The Heart (Dirter)
Nackt Insecten - Stairway To Levitation (Sick Head)
Eleh - Retreat & Return (Important)
Ninni Morgia Control Unit - s/t (Ultramarine)
Neokarma Jooklo Experience - Peaceful Messages (Qbico)
Neokarma Jooklo Trio - Memories From The Age Of The Dragon (Qbico)
Jooklo Golden Age & Peaking Lights - s/t (Holidays)
Alice Coltrane - Huntington Ashram Monastery (Impulse!)
John Coltrane - Expression (Impulse!)
Kiruna - Tarasarus (Plastic Strip)
Herbie Hancock - Crossings (Warners)
Matmos - Supreme Balloon (Matador)
Shackleton - Three EPs (Perlon)
Loosers - Logic On It's Head (Not Not Fun)
Steve Reid - Odyssey Of The Oblong Square (Mustevic Sound)
Astral Social Club/Alog - Split (Fat Cat)
Ashtray Navigations - Sgt. Pepper's Four-Twenty Hex Aurora Toilet (Memoirs Of An Aesthete)
Ashtray Navigations - Six Imaginary Scenes From The Life Of Mohammed Al-Aqil (Nashazphone)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Bad Mood Rising

I am constantly amazed at the astonishing lack of imagination displayed by musicians, particularly those of a so-called avant-garde or underground stripe. I'm listening to the latest White Rainbow lp at the moment, and although it's a perfectly pleasant listening experience, it also sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in the last 30-odd years, and I sure as shit don't mean it sounds timeless. It just sounds like Fripp & Eno circa Evening Star with a drum machine and a hippy warbling over the top. It adds nothing to the canon of psychedelia/minimalism/drone/whatever that we haven't heard a thousand times before, it's just playing lego with the building blocks of other people's music and that bugs me to fuck. (I'm not singling out White Rainbow for a slagging here, it's just what was on and made me think of this).

Even just restricting yrself to the notes of the western scale and the range of human hearing gives you a combination of (132!-1)* note combinations for any single music event within a piece, without even taking into consideration variations in timbre/harmonic spectra, intonation, slurs, bends, and all the microtones between the notes of the (out of tune**) western scale. So given that the number of note combinations possible is in excess of the number of atoms in the entire fucking universe, and you never hear writers complain that there's only 26 letters in the roman alphabet***, could someone please explain to me why the majority of musicians are seemingly incapable of making a fucking sound that someone else hasn't made before.

*(132!)-1=[(132 x 131 x 130 x 129... x 3 x 2 x 1)-1] is a fucking enormous number. 10!=10 x 9...x 2 x 1=3628800, 20!=2432902008176640000 (or thereabouts). You get the idea. Anyone who says 'there's only 12 notes' is a lazy cunt.

**don't fucking get me started on the western (equal-tempered) scale, even the so-called perfect fifth is slightly flat. I'm next in line to give Pythagoras a slap after Tony Conrad.

***especially taking into consideration that the 26 letters cannot just be put together in arbitrary combinations and convey meaning, unlike musical notes.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Global Migration Of Flying Shoes... not a headline from The Onion, but one from Pravda Online, the site set up by former journalists of Russia's favourite party organ a few years after Boris Yeltsin shut the paper down. I highly recommend it, both as an insight into a very different culture and worldview, and for the complete insanity of some of the articles. Sample headlines from today's front page include:

Kosovo Needs To Put Up A Statue Of Bill Clinton Hugging Madeline Albright (lead story)
Russia's Criminal King Receives Pompous Funeral
Italian Millionaire Moves To Godforsaken Village To Marry Russian Woman
Bringing Fish-Tailed Women Home Strictly Forbidden On Pain Of Death

Monday, 28 September 2009

It's That Cephalopodic Time Again

This one's dedicated to the memory of the great Rashied Ali (July 1st 1935 - Aug 12th 2009) so expect some serious fireworks.

This month's jazz molluscs:

Illi Adato - Electronics/Percussion
Shura Greenburg - Double Bass
Andrew John - Electric Bass
Lee Knight - Guitar
David O'Connor - Baritone Sax
Cigar Tamlin - Drums/Trumpet
Colin Webster - Alto/Tenor Sax
Gareth Wilkins - Arp/Moog/Rhodes

more details here

Thursday, 24 September 2009

20 Pieces Of Beautiful Mung

Tempera - Tempera (L'Animaux Tryst)
Noveller - Red Rainbows (Not Fun)
Eleh - Homage To The Sine Wave (Taiga)
Julius Hemphill - 'Coon Bid'ness (Freedom)
Verto - Krig/Vobulis (Pôle)
Deceh - Deceh (Important)
Flipper - Generic & Gone Fishin' (Subterranean)
Wet Hair - Glass Fountain (Not Not Fun)
Yob - The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
The Deep Blue - Sun Worshiper* (The Church Within)
Pôle - Inside The Dream (Pôle)
Nackt Insecten - Futuristic Egyptian Space Temple (Blackest Rainbow)
Stellar Om Source - Rise In Planes (Black Dirt)
Elephant9 - Dodovoodoo (Rune Grammafon)
Flower Corsano Duo - The Four Aims (VHF)
Loosers - Natives Are Restless (Qbico)
Neokarma Jooklo Trio - Time's Vibes (Conspiracy)
Sun Araw - Heavy Deeds (Not Not Fun)
Bear Bones Lay Low - Djid Hums (Gypsy Sphynx)
Human Arts Enemble - Junk Trap (Black Saint)

*Yes, I know the spelling is wrong, bear in mind that the previous album was called Antartic Abyss. Make of that what you will...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Apparently, God Is Good. Shame About The Fucking Music Though

Anyone who knows me knows I fucking love everything Om had done up to and including Pilgrimage. I wasn't particularly impressed with the Gebel Barkal 7"*, but I thought ok, new drummer (Emil Amos) , needs a little time to settle in, he's a bit stiff but he's got some serious shoes to fill and coming from a band (Grails) whose music is far denser in both arrangement and instrumentation than Om's stripped to the bone minimalist doom probably isn't used to his playing being so exposed, and is possibly over-compensating for this by playing too damn much**. I also thought (hoped, prayed), that the clicky 90s drum sound was just down to the circumstances of the recording. Essentially, I'd heard a dodgy track by one of my favourite bands and was trying to convince myself that this was a temporary aberration, a brief lapse caused by a major upheaval in personnel.

It wasn't. At least not if the new Om album is anything to go by. It sucks balls. Badly. Almost everything that made Om beautiful seems absent. It's half-arsed, badly mixed and stinks of patchouli. Whereas the Om of old could weave magic from just a bass, a drumkit and the most ridiculous lyrics in rock history delivered in a monotone chant, creating an nonsensical occult otherworld of devotional doom, the new Om pile on the extra instruments like a hippy hot for enlightenment, trying out every guru in town in search of The Way. There's a fucking unspeakably shit flute solo at one point that sounds like it was played by the worst kind of classically trained twat trying to be "spiritual" (seriously, it's fucking horrible), and it's prissy funklessness sums up one of this album's three main faults; (what feels like) a lack of confidence in their material, buried under a mound of sitars and tambouras, bongos and tablas, guitar and piano in an attempt to cover up the fact that there are no new ideas on this record whatsoever.

Seriously, whereas Al's chant used to be unbroken throughout the verse, sounding like the meter of the words had been arrived at through a combination of the length of a breath and the rhythm the words rode on, now it's just sung like any other song, and the basslines that the songs would be carried by are buried in the mix, probably to disguise the fact that most of them are not just reminiscent of, but plainly identical to, the basslines on Conference Of The Birds*** with one note raised a semitone here or there. I've got nothing against repeating yrself, or reprising or quoting an earlier tune, but only if the new version adds something, lifts it into something higher or recontextualises it into something utterly new, all of which this record utterly fails to do. Al's weird quavering baritone is mixed far too high, draws too much attention to itself, sits on top of the mix instead of inhabiting it as an instrument, and he's just not got the voice for that sort of presentation. The vocals were always as much texture as anything else on the previous LPs, but here they're in sharp focus and it just don't work. Al Cisneros (somewhat disingenuously in my opinion) has always been at pains to point out the essential meaningless of his lyrics previous to this point, his ransacking of the world's sacred texts for words and quotes meant to evoke, not to preach, meant to evoke a flight from this plane to another, hence the huge number of allegories and metaphors for death, flight and rebirth that litter his lyrics, and when they were on equal footing with the music, it worked, conveyed a sense of the transcendent, the immaterial, a glimpse of the other, but upfront and leading the way they have the opposite effect. They become the focal point, no longer part of the holistic weave of the music, and it relegates everything else to background or ornamentation.

Coming back to the added instruments, what bothers me is so many of them sound like afterthoughts, the piano and guitar especially. The guitar playing is appalling. Stilted, souless, pointless. Amazingly, the piano is worse. It sounds like they were in the studio and someone noticed one of the rooms had a piano in it and said "oooh, let's put that on it" just because they could - I was a studio engineer for years, and this would happen all the time with instruments in the studio, but pianos, especially grands, seem to have a weird effect on some musicians, they had to have the big piano on the record even if they could barely play the fucking thing - it sounds like an afterthought, it's clunky and ham-fisted, ruins any atmosphere that was there before it's entrance (same with the guitar) and the way it's mixed completely fails to integrate the piano into the soundscape. Which brings me to the second huge problem wth this record: The mix.

It sounds like it was mixed by an idiot with no ears. And recorded by one, which is odd, because it was recorded by Steve Albini, who also did Pilgrimage, which sounded like the walls of Jericho falling in very slow motion, whereas this sounds like a revolting cross between Pink Floyd and Current 93. The drum sound, and this is one area I normally expect Albini to shine****, is just horrible, a halfway house between Scott Burns' patented clicky early Death Metal sound and Phil Collins' gated 80s horror. Now knowing Albini, he's probably just recorded the drum sound the way Emil wanted it recorded, but it's lifeless, cold and undynamic, and at points, sounds suspiciously like it's been brickwalled, a practice that's way too prevalent these days, possibly because these days there's less and less of us who actually understand the art of recording shit properly. As I've previously noted, the bass is often much lower in the mix than before, and for a band that (ignoring overdubs) is at it's heart a bass and drums duo that smacks of a lack of confidence, and it also robs the bass of it's overarching harmonic contribution to the sound which has previously been utterly essential, god fucking damn it, if someone is playing a beautiful old Rickenbacker bass, I want to hear that it's a Rick, that gorgeous combination of thrum and clank that only a horseshoe pickup equipped instrument can put out. But it just ain't there, the bass sound is anonymous and ignorable and that's a fucking sin. All the overdubs just sort of sit there, floating on the top like scum on a stagnant lake, starving the music of oxygen. It all just sounds so careless, like a couple of hopeless stoners***** sharing a pair of headphones mixed the fucker at home in about the time it takes to listen to after a couple of massive chillums.

The worst thing though? The really big problem? You've got the wrong fucking drummer Al. I've seen people describing Emil Amos as more jazzy, more complex than Chris Hakius. Please. The Hakius is (yes, we've been here before, many times) the jazziest drummer in Doom. Too many people confuse technicality with 'jazziness' (stupid fucking word). The beauty of the old Om was their ability to play the same thing in so many different ways without ever losing that rolling, loping groove that held it all down, and the sound of a beautifully resonant down tuned kit interacting with the bass, but with Emil's higher pitched kit, that sonic interaction is lost. Sure they play pretty well together, but it doesn't lock in, doesn't sound like one four armed beast. Listen to some early 70s electric Jazz; Old Om is like Michael Henderson and Al Foster in Miles' '75 group, new Om is more Rick Laird and Billy Cobham in Mahavishnu Orchestra - more complex, but sound and fury signifying nothing as opposed to an organic evolving rhymthic octopus. When others describe Emil's drumming as jazzier that just suggests to me that whoever wrote that doesn't know fucking shit about jazz. Most of his fills sound like slowed down thrash fills, all parade ground flams and paradiddles, and he just can't fucking lock into Al's groove. And for me that's the absolute crux of the problem, this Om has no flow, it's stiff, boring and desperate to overcompensate for those shortcomings.

And don't even get me started on the hippy christian clapping circle bit. David Tibet meets Iron John. No one needs that in their lives.

Rant ends.

*Sneaked out on the Sub Pop Singles Club because it sounds like a shoddy demo. Don't even get me started on the b-side 'Version'. Dub does not mean adding a crap melodica solo and rubbish echo, I know they're American, but please...

**Common drummer ailment, symptoms normally allevaited by beer, weed or being shouted at.

***Amazingly, this album isn't as bad as Live Conference - The new Om playing the old Om's finest moment and fucking it up royally. Don't go there.

****Albini can be a little lacksidasical with guitars and other stuff occasionally, but normally the drums sound a). like a drum kit - which is fairly unusual in itself, go and listen to someone playing a drum kit, then listen to almost any record from the last 30 years, there's not much resemblence - and b). wonderful; resonant, woody and clear. Go and have a listen to Rid Of Me by PJ Harvey for a record where the drums and vocals sound like heaven and the bass and guitars just.. lack something.

*****I may be a complete fucking pothead, but I never, ever mix battered. It's not worth it, you just have to mix again the day after when y're vaguely sober.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Coming Soon...

Lots of burbling, ranting foolishness including a couple of regular series of articles. I need to make myself write more than I have lately, and also just fucking post it as soon as I've written it, like I used to, instead of worrying about everything (then again, life's been a bit of a fucker lately to say the least) because there's an awful lot of shit I feel like yelling my head off about, 'cos I'm an angry fucker at the moment, and I might as well use the surplus bile in a constructive manner, i.e; writing an endless parade of riffs that make you want to bite yr own ears off and gleefully jumping up and down on the sacred cows of the avant-garde (see below), as opposed to whingeing about being single again and letting shit fester like I used too. So, like I say, constructive bile. Obviously the usual idiocy culled from the ether will, with a good deal more regularity than recently, still be posted here for yr edification and illumination. I'm not going to turn Dr Serious on you, my dear readers.

Anyways, the new regular articles are going to come under the following broad headings:

1. "The Most Over-rated Musicians On The Planet". Pretty self explanatory really. I get really fucking riled by the fawning attitude displayed by certain quarters of the music press* towards certain musicians and (god I hate this term) scenes. Keiji Haino's first up, expect the article in a few days. I need to buy more red wine.

2. "Journeys Through The Psychedelic Hinterlands". The first one of these is on the old blog here, but I never got round to finishing the next three parts I started, which I feel bad about, because there is so much fucking amazing music from the psychedelic side of things that only about three people have ever heard and it's just wrong. I've never understood people who jealously guard their little musical fetishes as just for the initiated, if it's good I want others to know the wonderment too, share the fucking love people, if you don't y're a weird little freak and I'm not sure I want to know you.

3. or possibly 2b. "La Galaxie Sensuelle". In most people's heads, the phrase "Frenchman with a synthesizer" tends to conjure up revolting visions of Jean Michelle Jarre. I understand this. As a child I remember being subjected to Oxygene Part 197 on the car radio***, particularly on long drives to Cornwall. Along with ELP's Fanfare For The Common Man, Oxygene provokes an atavistic loathing in me because of their ubiquity in the mid-70s. But I digress. For me, the phrase "Frenchman with a synthesizer" conjures up vistas of cosmic fucking awesomeness even the Germans never approached.

Go and listen to a Heldon album. Good ain't it? That's just the start. Neu!, Cluster, Popol Vuh, Can etc are bands that get mentioned in record reviews in the fucking tabloids these days, but what about Lard Free, Spacecraft, Pôle or Archaia? Or the astonishing Vertø, who may just be my favourite band ever after Chrome. Not mention the glory of Catherine Ribeiro's early stuff, the 2-Bis album sounds more like Pelt than anything else, except it's 40 fucking years old. Then of course there's Magma and Zeuhl, and that's a whole other fucking bag of awesome, but much more widely known than the wubbing womming insanity of the synth and guitar contingent. "La Galaxie Sensuelle" will be my attempt to rectify the balance a little.

Anyways, more soon. Oh, go here and enjoy the bass thunder! Then have a wash. You'll probably want one.

*This started as a footnote but, possibly because of the extreme goodness of the Barbaresco I'm currently drinking has become a rant. Bear with me, I like a tangent;

The Wire, supposed beacon of truth and beauty and artistic purity in a world gone tits-up, is particularly bad in this respect, often ignoring (for years on end in extreme cases) what's going on right under their noses in favour of musicians who talk a good game, or are perceived as somehow "exotic" in manner which frankly smacks of colonial-era orientalism, or use the "trangressive" template to excuse some deeply fucking unpleasant undercurrents/ideologies/whatever in their work.

There's a peculiarly unquestioning attitude often displayed towards the artists who fall under the latter two categories especially, an unwillingness to pull people up, which seems to either come across as 'they don't know what they're saying really, they are foreign after all' patronising crap that I'd expect from the late 1800's - the idea of the "noble savage", the displays of "primitive" music, society and culture at the Paris Expo that so enthralled Debussy at al - when applied to the first category, and an absolutely unforgivable unwillingness to call artists of the second category out on their views or material when it's presented under the banner of questioning taboo, or "pushing the boundaries" (ugh). Witness the relatively recent embrace of the music of Whitehouse or Ramleh, against the many appearances in the magazine over the last couple of decades of Non. Groups who, to the casual observer, may seem to share some common ground in aesthetic and imagistic terms, but as people** couldn't be further apart. William Bennett (Whitehouse) and Gary Mundy (Ramleh) are intelligent, articulate musicians, liberal realists who understand the value of disturbing imagery as a means to make the audience think, to feel, to question, to engage with themselves, and the world around them, as it really is and they really are. Boyd Rice (Non) on the other hand, is a self-confessed fascist, an oedipal misogynist whose neo-social darwinian aesthetic comes across loud and clear in his music as a sonic attempt to subdue, to subjugate, to establish (his idea of) order through volume and density. Yet who's had the most column inches in The Wire over the years? Just an example. But one that truly grates.

**And in my opinion, artists. More soon on this and why most "Noise" is shit.

***This was mid-70s England. The most popular colours were grey, brown and beige. And orange for the hopelessly overoptimistic. Companies had electricity for 3 days a week. Only really rich bastards had a cassette player (or 8-track!) in their car. And, dear American readers, British radio is not as eclectic, shall we say, as US radio.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Air Around An Object Controls It's Shape, Benny...

...but smoothing the cheek of reality has it's dangers.

If you dream in the curiously muted colours of 70s comics, gaze stupefied with wonder at the background stupidity of the universe which remains constant in whichever direction one looks, if you envy the dusty interior of hens and goats, or are just plain stripy, then Jack Marsden, The Caterer, may well have the interior monologue that you wish echoed round the empty cathedrals of yr brain.

Lipstick For Dogs

Monday, 29 June 2009

20 Records That Are Probably Making The Neighbours Rue The Day The Sun Came Out And Everyone Opened Their Windows Again*

Ashtray Navigations - Johnny Fuckoff Minotaur (Memoirs Of An Aesthete)
Zaimph - Death Blooming Pleasure (No Fun)
Richard Youngs - Like A Neuron (Dekorder)
Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's)
Sun Araw - Heavy Deeds (Not Not Fun)
Ramleh - Switch Hitter (Broken Flag/Black Rose)
The Deep Blue - Sun Worshiper (The Church Within)
Fireball - Blessed Be (High Roller Society)
Voltigeurs - Voltigeurs (Turgid Animal)
Neokarma Jooklo Trio - Time's Vibes (Conspiracy)
Astral Social Club - #13/#18/#19 (Astral Social Club)**
Golden Jooklo Age - Ritual (8mm)
Flower Corsano Duo - The Four Aims (VHF)
Tropa Macaca - Fiteiras Suadas (Qbico)
Noveller - Paint On The Shadows (No Fun)
Ax - Nova Feedback (Freek)
Rhodri Davies & Ingar Zach - Ieirll (Qbico)
Yob - The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
Nackt Insecten - Corridor Voyager (Memoirs Of An Aesthete)
Pombagira - Black Axis Abraxas (Withered Hand)

*They do listen to some right shit though, so I don't feel particularly guilty.

**I know that's 3 albums. I don't care. They all sound like excerpts from the longest and best piece of music ever, a dip into a different plane where everything sounds like gargling diamonds and the sky smells of green and purple...

Monday, 8 June 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen, It's Got Eight Limbs & A Distributed Brain, It Shouldn't Be Able To Survive Out Of The Water, And Yet It Thrives!

Tell yr friends. Come witness the return of the mighty

Oh yes, Octopus finally returns to the lovely (if somewhat echoey) Cafe Oto, with a rather fucking fine line-up consisting of:

Craig Tamlin - Drums/Percussion
Shura Greenberg - Double Bass
Andrew John - Electric Bass
Shabaka Huthchings - Bass Clarinet/Tenor Saxophone
Oren Marshall - Tuba
Illi Adato - Percussion
Gareth Wilkins - Arp/Moog/Rhodes
Lee Knight - Guitar

So why not come along, enjoy some excellent organic locally brewed ales or the marvellous Normandy ciders and immerse yrself in the world of the Octopoda.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Phillip Best Of The Legal World?

The alarmingly faced individual pictured above is Prof. Christopher M. Fairman of the Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University, and, for a lawyer, he's an interesting chap, having published such notable articles/papers as "No McJustice for Fat Kids", "Heightened Pleading" (which is a power electronics title seeking sonic realisation if ever I heard one), and, most fantastically of all, "Fuck", which, in the words of the abstract;

is as simple and provocative as its title suggests: it explores the legal implications of the word fuck. The intersection of the word fuck and the law is examined in four major areas: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. To fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power are tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo. Fuck is a taboo word. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. This process of silence then enables small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence.

And which can be downloaded here if it sounds like yr sort of thing...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Wunderful Meat

I'll be posting an enormous rant about lazy fucking musicians in the guise of a review of the latest (and absolutely shit-yr-pelvis-out fantastic) Nackt Insecten LP, Quantum Odyssey*, in the next couple of days. I would have finished it tonight, but I'm too stoned and too full of vodka to rant in the precise manner the subject requires, so instead I thought I'd tell you my method for cooking the perfect steak. It reads like it's far more of an arse-around than it actually is, so try it out, you won't regret it, and you'll never cook steak another way again.

In addition to the meat, which should preferably be at room temperature, you will need:

One frying pan
One large pot
One ziploc bag (or any plastic bag you can tie a waterproof knot in, is big enough to fit the steak in, and no longer contains cocaine) per steak

Season the meat with whatever floats yr boat, put the steaks into the bags, chuck in a bit more seasoning, squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal it.

Fill the pan with hot water and (this is the Heston Blumenthal method) using yr thermometer and yr masterful control of the gas hob, or (stoner's method) put the pan in the oven and set the thermostat, heat the water to 55C/130F (if you like it rare-medium rare, if you like it another way check this handy table for the requisite temperature).

Chuck the bags in the water. Leave for half an hour**. Have a nice glass of wine and possibly another. Or maybe a joint. Or both. You've got 28 minutes or so to kill.

When time's up, heat up yr pan, chuck in whatever fat or oil you prefer (and whiskey, if y're so inclined and have a fire extinguisher handy), take the steaks out, throw 'em in the pan and fry the bastards 'til they look like a steak should on the outside.

Let them rest for five minutes or so, then consume with extreme delight.

This method works with lamb and veal as well, which I intend to try out as soon as possible.

*It's on Blackest Rainbow, and it's stupidly limited and probably sold out, but I urge you to track this down if you have any room in yr soul for deeply psychedelic mung.

**Or a bit longer if it's a particularly thick lump of flesh.

***I wouldn't try it with pork though, unless you fancy sharing yr digestive tract with a segmented friend.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

South London Psychedelic Slugfest

Extended hour plus sets from both bands.
Ramleh 10" EP for full price ticketholders.
Morgen Und Nite cdr for all comers. for the £10 tickets for the £7 - no 10" tickets.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Synthesis, 17th Century Style

"Wee have also Sound-houses, wher we practise and demonstrate all Sounds, and the Generation. Wee have harmonies which you have not, of Quarter-Sounds, and lesser Slides of Sounds. Diverse Instruments of Musick likewise to you unknowne, some sweeter than any you have; Together with Bells and Rings that are dainty and sweet. Wee represent Small Sounds as well as Great and Deepe; Likewise Great Sounds, Extenuate and Sharpe; Wee make diverse Tremblings and Warblings of Sounds, which in their Originalle are Entire. Wee represent and imitate all Articulate Sounds and Letters, and the Voices and Notes of Beasts and Birds. Wee have certain Helps, which sett to the Eare doe further the Hearing greatly. Wee have also diverse Strange and Artificiall Echos's, Reflecting the Voice many times, and as it were Tossing it: And some that give back the Voice lowder than it come, some Shriller, some Deeper; Yea some rendering the Voice, Differing in the letters or Articulate Sound, from that they receyve, Wee have also means to convey Sounds in Trunks and Pipes, in strange Lines, and Distances."

Roger Bacon, The New Atlantis, 1624
This was also pinned on the wall in the old BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Which explains a lot.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Twenty Records To Do The Bolg To

Emergency - Homage To Peace (America)
Astral Social Club - Octuplex (VHF)
United Supreme Council - OASTEM! Vibe Orchestra (Eclipse)
Anthony Joseph & The Spasm Band (Heavenly Sweetness)
Frank Lowe - The Flam (Black Saint)
Gato Barbieri - Vol.1: In Latin America (Impulse!)
Skullflower - Circulus Vitiosus Deus (Turgid Animal)
Marc Houle - Bay Of Figs (m_nus)
Kleistwahr - The Return (Noiseville)
The Chris McGregor Group - Very Urgent (Fledg'ling)
La Otracina - Blood Moon Rising (Holy Mountain)
Our Love Will Destroy The World - Stillborn Plague Angels (Dekorder)
Vibracathedral Orchestra - The Momentary Aviary (Manhand)
X-102 - Rediscovers The Rings Of Saturn (Tresor)
Absu - Absu (Candlelight)
Growing - All The Way (The Social Registry)
Sun Araw/Predator Vision - Split (Not Not Fun)
John Surman - How Many Clouds Can You See? (Deram)
B.F. Trike - B.F. Trike (Rockadelic)
Mike Cooper - Tu Fuego (Qbico)

New Bolg!

Yes, bolg. It sounds better than blog, which is the noise you make if you hack up an entire hardboiled egg. More soon, I've only just started drinking...