Monday, September 23, 2013

do the locomotion

according to Toys and Techniques the mindblowing, partly electronic music in this short film is performed by Steeleye Span!

The film maker Geoffrey Jones talks about Locomotion (his "documentary about the Stockton & Darlington line, the world's first passenger railway") here, mentioning the music

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Often wondered why there aren't more alternative-history movies....

Here's one I always wanted to see - It Happened Here, from 1964.

Never even knew there was a movie of Fatherland, one of the more recent fictional stabs at that if-Hitler-had-won hardy perennial.



There was a late 70s TV series - An Englishman's Castle -  based on this scenario, but the idea was that things wouldn't actually be that different. So Germany presided over a sort of European Community, a united Europe. The UK was beset by terrorism, just like it was in the 1970s, but the terrorists were the remnants of the British Resistance and the general public is getting weary with them.

Always hated Big Audio Dynamite.

Or so I tell myself.

But then there's at least four songs I always turn up when they come on the car radio (which is frequently in the case of the first two, rarely and very rarely with the last couple).

Prefer B.A.D. II to B.A.D. mk 1, but the latter did have....

this was always embarrassing though

still as post-Clash discographies go it has the distinct edge over Strummer's

Friday, September 13, 2013

Het up

Another cool issue of Your Heart Out, with Kevin Pearce this time tracking the tangle of tangents  twirled around Hector Zazou and Noir et Blanc, his 1983 recording with Bikaye and CY1. The cats cradle includes Don Cherry, Lizzy Mercier Desclouz, Brion Gysin, Jacques Thollot, Zap Mama, The Honeymoon Killers, Cold Storage, ZNR, Aksak Maboule, Joseph Racaille, and more. Download the pdf here.

Most interesting revelation for me was discovering that two members of Furious Pig went on to do some wild 'n ' wacked-out stuff under the name Het, in tandem with Henry Cow's Tim Hodgkinson and Continental avant-warbler Catherine Jauniaux. File under late postpunk meets Rock In Opposition meets "extremists of the human voice".

Hear, here, the embedding-disabled "Throw Out That Rag"

What do you mean, you've not heard of Furious Pig? The single oddest inclusion on C81. One very strange EP on Rough Trade.

An account of Furious Pig from the band's Stephen Kent, who went on to do Lights In A Fat City, the didjeridu + percusssion ensemble, which I faintly recall reviewing live or the LP thereof.... but I could be wrong.

"Furious Pig was a group that emerged out of the High School experiences of a group of friends and relations in Totnes, a little town in South Devon, England. Influenced by listening to an eclectic mix of early Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, The Beatles, Ethiopian Polyphonic chants, The Doors, Stravinsky and Edgar Varese, among other things, we moved to London in 1979 a year after reaching the final of the National 'Melody Maker' Rock/Folk Contest - an event at which the judges included Bob Geldof, Justin Hayward [of the Moody Blues] and Ray Coleman [editor of Melody Maker]. Needless to say Furious Pig didn't win with their stirring renditions of 'I'm Going Round the Bend' and the jarring 'In Order of Height' but Bob Geldof said we'd 'Gotta Lotta Bottle'[Nerve] playing what we played. Squatting in houses around North London we developed a form of intense acapella vocal chanting, highly orchestrated with choreographed passages. It became a cult sensation on the London and N.European club scene. We toured on the bill with bands like This Heat, The Raincoats, Pere Ubu, The Slits, The Fall, The TV Personalities. We played on the streets, in clubs, pubs, schools. At the Comic Strip in Soho we were a regular music act - playing alongside all the comedians who became 'The Young Ones' and 'Absolutely Fabulous' on TV. We scored a live soundtrack to a William Burroughs book, 'The Wild Boys'. Our session on Radio 1 DJ John Peels show so divided the listenership between those who loved and those who loathed our music that it was repeated in record time. We'd spend 8 hours a day for months working on extending our vocal ranges, often in grotesque and hilarious ways - we had fun! Rough Trade Records got us into the studio and we recorded a vocal set including versions of 'I Don't Like Your Face', 'Jonny So Long' and the 'Kingmother'. I always regretted not recording 'Frozen Tarzan' with its alternating Shouting Through Cardboard Tubes and simply Shouting choreography and its Rolling On The Floor section. However, tapes do exist......
Furious Pig came to an end when I left to become MD of Circus Oz in Australia. However all the other band members continued recording careers: Martin Kent aka Martin Pig with a series of singles on Rough Trade and Dominic Weeks and Cass Davies with two full length LP's on Recommended Records: Het - 'Lets Het' and another with french chanteuse Hermine.

[Footnote] Years later I was amused to see Furious Pig's record cover judged to be one of the 5 WORST EVER on a popular TV talk show."

via here

In the May 23 1981 NME, Furious Pig shared a page with Pigbag, fairly aptly. They talked about being fans of Beefheart, Zappa, This Heat, Raincoats and pygmy music, taking special inspiration from the way the pygmies sing all night. Percussion consisted of found objects - blocks of wood, film cans, long cardboard tubes, rods of wood and metal. Stephen Kent enthused about "the voice" as "the ultimate instrument”. They started out as rock group but this restricted the bizaree, intense music they wanted to perform. They talked about preferring to record in rooms rather studios (so "Johnny's So Long" was  recorded in the loo at the studio. Title track of the EP "I Don't Like Your Face" is a sort-of-punk song “based on the sort of things kids say in the playground. Kids are really nasty… cruel.”

You can hear the EP at ubuweb 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

vocal scientist

Really enjoyed this Katie Gately piece, but parts of it (near the end, mostly) oddly reminded me of this tune from The Stranglers.  From 1979!

Similar vibes (with a bit of Dalek-iness thrown in) with the treated vocal on this other Gately piece.

So that made me wonder if 94 % of the weirdness that is do-able with the human voice (in terms of stretching, wobbling, folding, speeding-slowing, melting-and-extruding, flange-smearing etc) was achieved quite early using tape manipulation (both by the musique concrete dudes but also various pop producers). I daresay there are some uniquely idiomatic vocal-weirdness tricknologies that pertain to the digital era (some of the Auto-Tune FX, the foggy quasi-religious choral thing that Burial and others in his wake go in for). But most of the stuff done using the sampler keyboard could be done with analogue tape. And was done, in fact.  It was just much much harder and more time-consuming to do it, took a lot more work and deliberation and planning it out in advance. Once again, for the most part, digi-technology adds facility, and also density (of events per minute, layers of sound, swarming of voices). You can hear that escalation in Gately's work as you can in Parmegiani's 1990s-onwards work or in Oswald's Plexure and Grayfolded. 

Some more Gately vocal science:

"Propranolol" is part of this larger song-suite meisterwerk "Pop Pop"

Monday, September 9, 2013

 B.A. Robertson - smarmy comedian popster with a string of UK hits. Starting big ("Bang Bang" #2) and ("Knocked It Off", Top Ten), then dwindling fast ("Kool in the Kaftan", "To Be Or Not To Be"). Followed by career as talk show host / TV presenter, notable mostly for having enraged Annabel Lwin of Bow Wow Wow into a live-on-TV rant about the shitness of his "shit show" (see end of post).

Julie Burchill argued that B.A. found the gap in the market that opened when Ian Dury lost his knack for tickling the national funny-bone  and also lost his tunesmith-supreme partner Chas Jankel. A nice theory although "Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3" reached  Number 3 only the month before "Bang Bang" hit. But it's true that the Dury/Blockheads star was in the descendant, with Do It Yourself not selling well, and soon there would be didn't-quite-make-the-grade minor hit hit "I Wanna Be Straight" and Laughter, mirthless and altogether hitless.

"Bang Bang" certainly does seem to be an attempt to repeat (with just enough difference) the formula for "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick", Dury & the Blockheads monster hit of the preceding winter. Note the percussive echo of "stick" with "bang". Difference factor: instead of sex-as-timeless-universal force exalted by Dury, with "Bang" it's Romance ("when love has called/BANG BANG/the mighty fall"). And where "Rhythm Stick" roams  across Geography ("Eskimo/Arapaho/Move their body/To and fro" etc), the verses of "Bang Bang" traverse History (Marquis de Sade, Shakespeare, Samson and Delilah... and choicest verse: "Tony and Cleo struck out for the free-o/. down Egypt's way/But Caesar had squeezed her in Rome on his quilt for a day " etc).  It's a bit of name-droppy list song too, like "Reasons to Be Cheerful."

Clinching the Dury-manque surrogate role is the fact that B.A.'s delivery/ song persona - despite being a Scot man with a chunky brogue in conversation -- is Mockney wideboy.

"Cool For Cats" might also be the template here...  the sound of the single does come from a similar New Wave meets disco place.

The kind of "clever", catchy single that Radio One daytime deejays really really liked to get behind (see also Jona Lewie, Buggles, "One Night in Bangkok", et al) and yet was just New Wave enough for the earlier-in-the-night night time R1 deejays to play too.

Then B.A.R. did something I'm not sure had ever been done before -- follow his big hit with a song about having just had a bit hit ("Knocked It Off"), his feelings of taken aback triumph (like a fluke goal scored), success going to his head, but with faint but distinctly discernible undercurrent of worry about being a one-hit-wonder.  No  need to worry, the even-smarmier "Knocked"got to number 8.

Of these... the less said the better.

Oh dear

Double scotch...

Here's B.A. floundering with two of my favorite new pop stars