Monday, December 2, 2013


Cathy Lane, "Nesting Stones"

musique concrete from the mother's point of view:

Anybody who has ever had an intense relationship with another person will know that for every positive emotion experienced there is a corresponding negative feeling. Nesting Stones is based on my feelings about my relationship with my baby daughter. 

In this composition I am using and developing anecdotal structures and gestural metaphors harnessing the sense of spatial positioning and movement and the tension between the recognisable and stated and the barely recognisable and unrecognisable to explore and express the contradictions and dualities of that relationship.

The sound material for the piece is all drawn from recordings of myself and my daughter.
Nesting Stones was written in 1996. In 1998 featured on Unknown Public Issue 8: Sensuality Essence And Nonsense

More Cathy Lane music

more on Professor of Sound Arts Cathy Lane at CRiSAP (Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice at University of the Arts, London)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

horses horses horses

Never noticed before, the spoken bit is by Jenny Agutter.

Almost certainly because of this film.

Quite possibly because of  a certain scene.

"Horse" was a word that Paddy Mac was partial to. See also "Horse Chimes" on Protest Songs.

Been on a bit of a Prefab Sprout jag this week. Steve McQueen is the immaculate execution, as we all know. Swoon has some good bits, albeit "underproduced" as they say. From Langley is nearly all cloying cack.   

Surprise for me was relistening to Jordan: The Comeback for the first time in a long time - a record I'd always gauged as the proverbial "return to form" Masterpiece (reunion with T. Dolby, producer of McQueen, songwriting reaches a mature peak of melodic and lyrical magisterialitude). And which I wrote up as such at the time. But hearing now, ooh but there's rather a lot of sickly sonic confections and edging-into-insufferable lyrical conceits.  The "Ice Queen" suite sounded least marred by the passage.  That and the opening sally of "Atlantis" and "Wild Horses" (a #1 Billboard R&B Chart hit, in a different universe, a la H. League's "Human" in this the universe in which we dwell).

Can't remember if I ever heard Protest Songs. Must have done, at least once. Made no impression, clearly. I have most of the later records, in one form or other, but never got round to them. A bad fan, I am.  But in that respect closer to a regular punter probably - faced with the choice of a first-time Andromeda Heights or the 112th listen to Steve McQueen, I'll go with the latter.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

retroformalist compositions

Latest in Benge's Forms series of explorations of the aesthetic capacities of a specific "outmoded"  electronic sound-generation machine:

"This time the whole record was made on the Ensoniq EPS. Its a digital workstation made in 1987. This particular synth was GIVEN to me by a Foxxy fan and friend called Steve Lamb - THANKS STEVE!!!! I love this synth - actually when I first started out making music properly in my bedroom my first sampler was an Ensoniq Mirage, and the samples and sounds on this album are all based on the legendary Mirage sound library. The EPS goes a bit beyond the Mirage in terms of layering and creating complex sounds. Its a really fun synth to play on! Once I got in the mood for 80s home-recording I decided to buy an old computer off eBay and make a video for the release - so I present my Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ rubbish video, which I programmed in BASIC "

Also most enjoyable was his earlier Forms essay with the Buchla 100

And the video

Benge's blog It's Full of Stars is a bonanza of synth porn

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sorrel versus Doris

another lady with synths

via Its Full of Stars (itself via Toys and Techniques several years ago)

"This documentary traces the development and premiere performance of an avant-garde symphonic work by Southern composer Sorrel Doris Hays. Commissioned by the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, Hays' piece is based on the sounds and rhythms of Southern speech and musical traditions. It is a journey into childhood memories via the melodies and rhythms of Southern dialect. Stoney combines analysis of her work with interviews in which Hays discusses her struggle with racism and paternalism of Southern culture."

apparently shortly after the doc was made she changed her name from Doris to Sorrel

not the only electronic lady called Doris, of course

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Derek Jarman short from the mid-Seventies

seem to remember seeing a whole bunch of these shorts in Oxford, probably at the Museum of Modern Art

the one that lodged in my memory took place in a squat

is this it? surely it is....

yet my memory of it is different, somehow more golden... like the film was made of gilt that was flaking off

i don't think it had the music overlaid on it when me and P. Oldfield saw it - the music (very good, by Simon Fisher Turner)  is interfering with my memory correlation efforts

this is it, i think

and in fact it must have had the music on it, because there's his name in the credits at the end  -- just "Simon Turner"

never thought I'd see this again

hooray for YouTube

and hooray for Toys and Techniques  who this is also via

Bruce Lacey stuff, via Toys and Techniques

Friday, August 16, 2013

turning Jam-anese

 "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors is by any measure a minor tune of its era. A huge hit  in the UK (Number 3 in 1980) ... something of a radio perennial in the States, on a certain kind of oldies station anyway...  partly from being a minor Billboard hit at the time (number 36) but also its popularity on MTV as a video several years after it came and went (just like the band's career) in the UK.

I liked it at the time, same as I liked things by the Rezillos or Blondie or The Cars or Martha & the Muffins ... even the odd thing by the Boomtown Rats... but I'd never have thought of buying it. 

Hearing "Japanese" it on the radio the other day I was struck by how fresh it sounded, still... and thought about how it was part of this giant wave of freshness at that time - i.e. the New Wave  .... the sense of an all-change that swept over the radio and the charts, that made the Old Wave sound old, and also worried some Old Wavers enough to try to young up their sound a bit

guitar-bass-drums - the standard rock line-up - but "Turning Japanese" doesn't sound like the Sixties or the pre-punk Seventies

the bass is prominent, loping... the guitar, not quite "angular" or "jagged" but definitely not based in blues-derived hard rock, a world away from contemporaries like AC/DC, who were aggressive and thrilling and stripped-down and irreverent and even had punkoid lyrics ("Problem Child", "TNT") but were very much an extension of the Old Wave....  That was how you differentiated New Wave (a break) from Heavy Metal  / Hard Rock (a continuation), i.e. the disappearance of raunch from the music,  the replacement of  "feel' and "swing" with a jumpy exuberance and choppiness.

At the time Vapors were regarded as imitators of The Jam, another group who eliminated
feel/swing/groove from their music (only to attempt disastrously to reinject it at a later stage - "Precious", ugh!)

And they shared the same producer - the disconcertingly named  Vic Coppersmith-Heaven

It's audible on much of New Clear Days the debut Vapors album but I don't hear Jam-iness at all on "Turning Japanese".... if anything I hear maybe just a tiny trace of "Hong Kong Garden" (another Polydor act)

But then The Jam sound itself -- at its prime, i.e. after the shaky start but before they got into direct pomo-referentiality and recycling with "Start"/"Town Called Malice"/"Absolute Beginners" -- is itself  a break from Sixties/pre-punk Seventies

the ideology and the look is mod, but the run of  great tunes from "Down in the Tube Stations At Midnight" via "Eton Rifles" and "Pretty Green" to "Funeral Pyre" -- rarely sound Sixties-evoking or even Sixties-invoking

What, in the actual 1960s, sounded anything like "Going Underground"?

What an odd tune it is, in its arrangement and production! Jerky, fussy (yet pared down), agitated, an epic flail

I don't know if I even like it...  at the time I never bought it (the only Jam record I actually bought was "Down in the Tube Station". I found, and find still, something resolutely non-magnetic about Weller as a character, on recordings and in real life).  I don't know what "Going Underground" is "about", never did ...  But I recognise its originality, its invention, its force on the radio.

Okay, The Who is in there, somewhere.... but the Who were explosive, the Jam implosive

Rock music (is it even really rock music? it's certainly got no 'n' roll to it... it's more like jacked-up-on-neurosis guitar-pop) at its most uptight, repressed.  Its most English, in fact.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

  more spooky kids telly i never saw at the time...

blurbs for Sky

  "Sky is a mystically-oriented children's science fantasy television serial made for ITV by HTV and broadcast in seven parts from April 7 to May 14, 1975.  The story of a mysterious youth and his attempts to rejoin his own time and dimension, and the three teenagers who discover him and set out to help.

 "A mysterious alien boy with strange solid blue eyes, the eponymous Sky (Marc Harrison), finds himself on Earth. He uses his psychic powers for achieve his goal of ensuring a way back home. Sky finds the very world soul of Earth in the form of nature, only to reject him the way an immune system might an infection. In his quest to return home, he joins his destiny with that of three human children. The serial was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, also known for their scripts for Doctor Who and a fantasy television series for children, Into the Labyrinth."

Into The Labyrinth? Another one I missed.

There's this novel I read as a child, I recall neither the title nor the author, but it involved children who discover a whole underworld of tunnels and passageways beneath the fields near their home, inhabited by, I dunno, elf-people or malign beings of some sort or other. They have to thwart them or go to war with them in some way.  That's as much as I can remember. Think it was a pretty well-known, 'for older kids' type book at the time. Any idea? 

More Sky...



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I really should hand over my Hauntologist Credentials forthwith... for the shameful truth is that I have never seen The Stone Tape, or The Owl Service

Nor did I watch Sapphire and Steel (just reminded of this series by reading an advance of Mark Fisher's excellent collection Ghosts of My Life , forthcoming on Zero Books)

(And why, oh why, has nobody reissued the incidental music and "special sound" FX and underscores from Sapphire and Steel?)

Stone Tape and Owl Service can probably be explained by the fact that we didn't have a TV set for a good chunk of my early childhood (something like age 2 to 8). Not sure why (money? different parental priorities later reneged upon?), but that probably was the making of me in terms of getting the bug for reading and being a precocious reader (Lord of the Rings aged 7 etc).

As for Sapphire and Steel - not sure why I missed the earlier ones, but this can partly be explained by me being a student in the early Eighties. First and second years, the only one TV in proximity was in the student common room, which I would brave only for Top of the Pops. In the third year I was in student digs and didn't own a set. So I would watch the box only in the holidays, when I was back home, and not much then either. Missed many iconic TV series of the first half of the Eighties, e.g. Boys from the Blackstuff)

I do obviously remember vividly (see previous posts) both Children of the Stones and The Changes (although the latter doesn't seem quite so central in the hauntological canon of spooky telly as Stone Tape, Owl Service, Children of Stones, Sapphire)

I do also remember this series, which never gets mentioned as part of the canon, but certainly represents a ghost of my own life....

Sunday, August 11, 2013

why has the music for this not been reissued?

Jonny Trunk, get on the case!*

some nutter's put the entire Children of the Stones series on YouTube in one big bloc of vintage telly!

story of the CotS music via A Sound Awareness blog:

"The music was composed by Sidney Sager who used a combination of a cappella vocalizations of a single, repeated Icelandic word ("Hadave") to create a terrifying and dissonant score. The vocals were provided by the Ambrosian Singers who during their long career have provided choral work for both Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota. The series was filmed at Avebury, Wiltshire during Summer 1976, with interior scenes filmed at HTV's Bristol studio. "

* Trunk have been quietly releasing all kinds of mad stuff in in the last year or two - lots of musique concrete avant-electronic stuff -- Lasry Bachet, Structures Sonores ; 1st Panoramaof Musique Concrete LP; Tom Dissevelt, GRM's Musique experimentale II --  but also albums by Terry Thomas and Bernard Cribbins and Charlie Drake and Hayley Mills. Look out also for the forthcoming Classroom Projects, a collection of 'incredible music made by children in schools'

Children of the Stones in bite size portions...

Monday, August 5, 2013

turn to watch the strange The-The Changes

They showed this to children! Children that had just come home from school! Sitting on the carpet with their McVities and Jaffa Cakes and Penguins and their mugs of milk and cups of tea!

BBC advised it was "for older children" - but how do you prevent the little 'uns from watching? I was eleven when I saw it, my brothers were nine and six... 

youtube blurb: "The Changes, broadcast every Monday from 6th January to 10th March 1975, was one of the BBC's first post-apocalyptic TV programmes (barring Peter Watkins' The War Game (see below)). The children's TV series depicted the breakdown of society after people are compelled to reject and destroy technology of all kinds including the simplest machinery. This violent reaction and people's subsequent desertion of the country is triggered by a sound seemingly emitted by electricity pylons. schoolgirl Nicky Gore (played by Victoria Williams) is caught amidst the chaos and gets separated from her parents who are heading to France in the hope of finding safety. The series follows Nicky's journey to be reunited with her parents and seek an answer to the cause of The Changes. The series was an adaptation of The Devil's Children - the first of three novels in The Changes trilogy by author Peter Dickinson which also included Heartsease and The Weathermonger. Filming took place over the summer of 1973 and was shot in the West Country, namely Bristol, the Forest of Dean and Sharpness. Although playing a schoolgirl in her early teens, Victoria Williams celebrated her eighteenth birthday during filming."

Telly scholars discuss The Changes

 Robin Carmody on The Changes



and the final episode in bits


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Finally saw Daisies, whose soundtrack is admired by some in the H-ological milieu.

Tried to work out if the heroine duo are "manic pixie dream girls", but  concluded they're not because of their total lack of interest in their male suitors, whose attentions they spurn and whose desires they frustrate. Unlike with the MPDG they do not figure in the narrative as a fantasy figure / solution-salvation dreamed of, or dreamed up, by a geeky male; they're forces unto themselves....  if anything closer to a certain current in riot grrrl, the "regressive" brat / pottymouth....  cutesy but wanton. Kept thinking of the video for Sonic Youth ("Bull in the Heather"?) that starred Kathleen Hanna prancing around charismatically.

They're also not manic pixie dream girls because of their appetite -- they are constantly shoving food in their gobs, there's a voracious orality that's not the least bit ethereal. The gorgeous gorging reaches a climax with the banquet ravaging / food fight scene, which actually contributed to the movie being banned by the Czech authorities on the grounds of being wasteful of food!

When the girls break into the dining room and discover the feast laid out (presumably for Communist Party dignitaries), I suddenly remembered that the last art-movie I'd borrowed from South Pasadena's most excellent trendy-DVD store Videotheque was La Grand Bouffe, which I'd seen as a student (at Oxford's most excellent Penultimate Picture Palace,, a cineaste education on the cheap for generations of students) and which I had always wanted to re-see.

What a gendered contrast there is between the Bahktin-ian banquet of Daisies and the middle-aged men gourmets / gourmands who decide to kill themselves over the course of a long weekend through over-eating!  Talk about imprisoned by "sad passions"!