Friday, January 31, 2020

Muffin and the Marthas

At Musical Urbanism, Leonard Navarez is going through the Martha & the Muffins singles discography methodically.  "... The eighteen 7″ singles that Martha and the Muffins released between 1979 and 1986 comprise an intriguing body of work that has never been given its proper due", he argues.  Certainly I've never got properly to grips with it, or indeed the albums, and this gives me an impetus to do so.

Of course, like many Brits of a certain vintage, I have fond memories of  "Echo Beach" - the M&M's sole UK Top 10 hit (it also went Top 3 elsewhere in the Anglophonic Commonwealth - Australia, New Zealand, their native Canada).

Oddly, one of the group's two Marthas - they should have really called themselves Muffin and the Marthas - joined The Associates for a while.  I say "oddly" - well, it felt surprising at the time. I'm not sure why, though, since M&M were clearly artpop (Martha Ladly, the briefly Associate-d one, is now a professor of design).

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Friday, January 24, 2020

Bad Music Era (second-wave avant-funk)

Actually Cabaret Voltaire kept on making good records all through this period (84-85-86 = BME prime-zone) - I particularly liked The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord and interviewed them in '86, when they seemed a little lost (as did another Sheffield group, Heaven 17, also interviewed around that time)

Flipside has a nice hypnotic electro-refrain in the "Sensoria" mode

Another from Microphonies

But Cabs are first-wave industrial-funksters who just kept on keepin' on - pioneers turned settlers.

What about the real second-wavers?

Also from Sheffield, there was Hula

Also from Sheffield, there was Chakk

Also from Sheffield, there was The Box (an offshoot of Clock DVA)

Not from Sheffield, there was Portion Control...

Also not from Sheffield, there was A Primary Industry (some of whom would become Ultramarine). Sweatbox, the label they were on (RIP Rob Deacon), was a hotbed for 2nd-wave A-funk)

23 Skidoo, 400 Blows,  and Shriekback were kind of on the cusp between first-wave and second-wave (first wave I would say was Cabs, A Certain Ratio, Clock DVA)

Shriekback in their abstruse first phase, before the EST-shaped upfulness of Jam Science.

But going back to the Sheffielders

Chakk was my first cover story for Melody Maker

By that point they'd signed to MCA for a supposedly massive amount

Certainly it was substantial enough to set up the Fon studio (whence would come the early Northern house tune "House Arrest" by Krush, a huge chart hit  (you can find copies on discogs going for 13 pence!) and through which some notable bleep tunes would later be sluiced. Mark Brydon of Chakk would go on to be the music-man in Moloko, while Krush's Mark Gamble would be half of Rhythmatic, major bleepologists on the Network label.

I remember going up to Sheffield in mid-86 for my very first visit to the fair city. Kipping on the sofa in the flat of Amrik Rai, Chakk's motormouth manager (and former NME journo). Cheapskate didn't spring for a hotel!

(While I was there I also interviewed Treebound Story, another of Amrik's bands - a pleasant janglepop group loosely aligned with C86 but more instrumentally able - an outfit notable mainly for featuring the precociously proficient guitar stylings of Richard Hawley.)

Amrik was pals with, or perhaps management-ly involved with, Cabaret Voltaire - and I recall we also went around Richard H. Kirk's gaff. I remember being surprised they smoked pot - somehow it didn't seem like something Cab Voltaire would be into, a bit hippy-ish  (how naive I was in those days).

Talking of being green...  A little later there was a trip down to WOMAD to see Chakk play live, in a e mini-bus paid for by MCA.  (There was a label executive on board renowned as one of the last of a dying breed who bought coke on expenses).

Chakk were good but like all second-wave avant-funksters suffered from that sound having become formularized -  terra cognita rather than a startling surge into the unknown.

A year before, I'd in fact written a critique in Monitor of this very development: avant-funk as codified genre. From "Radical Dance Fictions", the relevant portion:

".... A genre developed based on a profound perversion of funk’s sexual tension into a different sort of het-up charge, one of unease and dread. The disco backbeat became the given, the “natural” springboard for these experimentalists with their collages of industrial decay and social fragmentation. One reason was the neutrality of disco--it wasn’t loaded with associations that rock was, it was outside pop history, so it could be used as an element in futurist music. The idea was simple--marry technology and savagery, control and madness, the cerebral and “feel”. Music embodying both the system of industrial society and the breaking free (into violence, debauchery, excess) of instincts suppressed by the system. The musicians’ ambivalent feelings towards Control and Collapse (attracted to both) is bound up with the old egghead problem/project--how to think yourself past thought, or as Talking Heads’ put it--“help us lose our minds”, “stop making sense”. Jam Science, the Shriekback LP title, is the most succinct and distressingly pat expression of the goal... 

Chakk and Hula are two current outfits who reveal both the extent and the limits of what can be achieved within this genre. The obvious musical strands--found voices; distorted, FX-ridden vocals; trails of discordant sax; somber swathes of synth; filched ethnic noises; basslines and drum patterns that bear a formal resemblance to funk but are fatally drained of sex and soul--are strung around the familiar concepts and content: cut-up theory; the ambivalent obsession with religious/jingoist fanaticism, atrocity, psychosis (via J.G. Ballard); totalitarianism (via William Burroughs’ Control). Even the titles instill a sense of deja vu--“Delirium”, “Cut the Dust”, “Tear up”, “Out of the Flesh”, “Pleasure Hates Language”. Hula’s Murmur and Chakk’s recent Peel session contain music that can emote and excite, but both groups make worthy additions to a pre-existing field, rather than enlargements or developments to it..."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Et Cetera Et Cetera

RIP Wolfgang Dauner

(via Dave Segal)

not to be confused with


Sunday, January 12, 2020

percussion and effects

another recent release from Intervallo

release rationale:

As often happens in the case of library music albums, even in Leonardo Marletta's one and only record in his career, the titles serve above all as sound indications, as if they were listening guides. In Percussioni ed effetti (Percussion and Effects) we find a vast array of atmospheres, well explained and illustrated by titles such as Violenza (Violence), Guerriglia (Guerrilla Warfare), Allucinazioni (Hallucinations), Compulsioni (Compulsions), Battimenti (Beats), Sospensioni (Suspensions) or Apocalisse (Apocalypse). All these nouns perfectly fit the mood of the record, which is entirely built on a painstaking work of acoustic and electronic percussions, deep reverbs, drums, cymbals, and hints of piano and organ scattered here and there. Contrary to what one might think, the final result is anything but scant or primitive and shows a spasmodic rhythmic and instrumental research, similar to those we can find in some avant-garde jazz works. As Valerio Mattioli remarks in his book Superonda, quoting Marletta's Percussioni ed effetti, "the moment when library music becomes more interesting is when it abandons any descriptive intent and decides to talk about nothing but itself: a sort of metamusic or 'music in music', an imaginary soundtrack for nothing."


released December 2, 2019

check out the label's fab back catalogue - which includes one of my favorite reissues of the 2010s, this one - 
release rationale:
Ichthyology [ich·thy·ol·o·gy] noun The branch of zoology that studies fishes: their physiology, history, economic importance, etc.
First reissue of Ittiologia, the second of Intervallo's seven reissues of the amazing nature-themed series of library LPs released in the first half of the '70s by Cardium, Chic, Nereide, Musical, Rhombus, Spring, and Weekend labels. These are seven albums that have never been reissued until now -- real collectors' items that have acquired a minor cult status in the decades since they first appeared. Ittiologia, released in 1973 on Cardium, features music by composers Alessandro Alessandroni, Amedeo Tommasi (both under his given name and his Atmo alias), and Franco Tamponi, and is a rare and delicate experiment in the art of balancing experimental music and classic Italian library music of the '70s. The underwater and liquid atmosphere of each track was conceived to bring to call to mind "romantic algae," "threats on the sea bottom," "deep water," and "abyssal mountains" (to paraphrase translations of some of the track titles on this small masterpiece -- "Alghe Romantiche," "Minaccia sul Fondo," "Acque Profonde," and "Fascia Abissale"). Some compositions appear in two alternate versions (with small variations, different orchestrations, and additions), showing that the three musicians were always looking for new ways to express themselves; each track was a work in progress, part of never-ending research. With its perfect equilibrium between experimental and classical atmospheres,Ittilogia is a complex portrait of a fragile and always changing ecosystem.
one of the dudes on which also made this

Friday, January 10, 2020

Hey, Luciani

Vcr 014 distribution

(via Bruce Levenstein)

boomkat blurb:

‘Elettroencefalogramma’ scans the full breadth of solo experimental composition by Antonino Riccardo Luciani, revealing a strong, prescient, frankly shocking line in mind-bending, fathoms-deep work with tape and early, pre-synth devices. Awarded unprecedented access to the polymath composer’s archive of inter-disciplinary work, Andy Votel follows his pressing of Maria Teresa Luciani’s ‘Sounds of The City’ with this first compilation survey of her sibling’s vast catalogue. The set falls deep within the label’s remit of reissued and previously unreleased work by overlooked and undocumented pioneers of 20th century sound, revealing a distinctive mix of material that nods to contemporary, tape music, neo-classical, jazz, electro-acoustic and counterpoint composition.
Drawn from original tapes recorded during the 1970s, ‘Elettroencefalogramma’ spans the heyday of Luciani’s work, before synth music was popularised. In this sense it’s worth noting Luciani’s links with Teresa Rampazzi and the pioneering electroacoustic group NPS - and namely Serenella “Serena” Marega - with whom he shares a strong affiliation toward embracing the possibilities of new music at the dawn of an unprecedented sonic epoch. There’s a sense of being in transition between worlds and eras in the opening blend of melancholy strings and bubbling electronic rhythm ‘Battery Farm’, and likewise the cranky mixture of bestial growls and dissonance in ‘The Zoo’, while the rattly rhythm of ‘Offices’ uncannily recalls Trunk’s recent issue of ‘Mechanical Keyboard Sounds’ from the modern day. But Luciani excels at quieter, introspective styles, as with the flute-led vision of ‘Desol 2’, and most remarkably in the stygian, primitive drum machine pulse and clammy string drones of ‘Forest of Chimneys’, which is surely crying out for imagery of Satanic mills, while the rupturing tape of ‘Bombardment’ sets him firmly in a lane of advanced Italian noise that connects him to Gruppo’s Roland Kayn and Maurizio Bianchi. 
Needless to say all of the material compiled here is taken from records that are incredibly rare and which were never intended for commercial release. It serves as a multifarious toolkit portfolio of Luciani’s most introspective, intimate, individualistic and uninhibited studio experiments - compiled and assembled in collaboration with the artist himself, whose vast and incredible oeuvre will hopefully now be made available to a new generation of listeners.

A.R. having a little moment, with this other reissue coming out last month:

release rationale:

The great fame of Antonino Riccardo Luciani, a musician and composer from Palermo, is due above all to his work for television and to one in particular, namely the music for the Almanacco del giorno dopo (Almanac of the Coming Day), a famous program that has been broadcast on the first channel of RAI - Italian Television for over twenty years. Chanson Balladée, this is the title, is for many people an indelible memory of a television now disappeared and radically changed, for which Luciani has often composed wonderful themes and soundtracks of great value as Tecnica di un colpo di stato (Technique of a coup d'état). Agonia della civiltà (Agony of Civilization), on the other hand, is part of his more experimental and abstract works, such as Inchiesta sul mondo (Inquiry Into the World) or Desol, and reveals the less accommodating side of the Sicilian composer, at work with tense atmospheres, hammering percussions, Musique concrète, magnificent orchestrations and bitter reflections on society. Originally released in 1972, the album is paradoxically more relevant in these complicated times. Titles such as Esodo di popolazioni (Exodus of Populations), Catastrofe sociale (Social Disaster), Disfacimento ecologico (Ecological Decay), Metropoli in agonia (Metropolis in Agony) o Dramma dell’evoluzione (Drama of Evolution) foretold our future almost fifty years in advance, accompanied by timeless music.

some other library bits and bobs by A.R. and aliases

love this cover

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Rock Critics

French quirkazoids, one of whom - Luc Marianni - had been a journalist and would go on to make some excellent solo records of electronic quirkery through the Eighties

Image result for luc marianni interview

Monday, January 6, 2020

you know the score

release rationale:

"In 1975 hobbyist magazine Practical Electronics published a feature on Symbiosis, an electronic music composition by Malcolm Pointon, designed for realisation by readers via a graphic score.


The piece was developed to augment the Minisonic synthesizer construction project, and stimulate builders and enthusiasts to explore their synths and use them for creative music-making.

During research for the book Tape Leaders, and the Malcolm Pointon anthology Electromuse, Ian Helliwell discovered two versions of Symbiosis recorded in the 1970s, and decided to tackle the piece with his own self-built equipment. This was the catalyst for inviting a number of fellow electronic music-makers to also follow the instructions and create new recordings, resulting in Project Symbiosis. Alongside Malcolm Pointon’s original, nine other versions interpreting the graphic score make up the compilation."

News of Public Information emerging from hibernation to issue an album of interpretations of Pointon's graphic score involving bods like Graham Massey .... alerted me to the fact that I seemed to have missed the whole album of Malcolm's work that Public Information put out in 2016 ....

(or did I in fact post about this at the time?... the fog of recent-past amnesia strikes again! .... at any rate, well worth your and my attention, a second time or for the first time)

release rationale

"..the Symbiosis piece by Malcolm Pointon was very interesting and is the kind of use synthesizers should be put to. Synthesizers should explore new sounds rather than imitate conventional ones..." Practical Electronics Magazine c.1975

Malcolm Pointon was born in 1940, Stoke on Trent. He spent his life and career in tape, synthesizer and keys; academia, sound, music and machine. Here, for the first time, Public Information and Ian Helliwell present the rarely heard works of Malcolm Pointon. With permission given by Malcolm’s widow Barbara, Helliwell has compiled an LP of material taken from master tapes of home-recorded, never released electronic material.

Following a period at the BBC, Malcolm joined Homerton College, Cambridge, in 1969 and it was here where he would discover his electronic-muse. Inspired by Stockhausen and the surge of avant-garde tape music, Malcolm began to build compositions at home using a 4-waveband radio and multi-speed tape recorder. His first piece using these techniques is the skittering “Radiophonie” which opens this LP.

After mastering tape-music, Malcolm began reading, and eventually contributing to, Practical Electronics magazine (edited by our own F.C. Judd no-less). He and engineer cohort Doug Shaw entered an “electronic music construction challenge” in 1973 – and so a battery powered, stylus activated self-build synthesizer was presented to the dedicated circuit heads of Practical Electronics. The Minisonic was born.

Many of the pieces on here were produced using the Minisonic, including the staggeringly heavy centerpiece of this album “Symbiosis” - replete with Malcolm’s own introduction. Elsewhere, Pointon takes us down pummeling arpeggiated rhythms (“Sonata Elletronica), mind-melting-inside-beehive tape pieces (“Poreira”, “Boogie”), freaked-out concrète trips (“Trojan Woman” “Then Wakes the Ice”) and shimmering noise works like the beautiful, “Study 2”.

Malcolm Pointon would be cruelly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 51. He became unable to operate his studio and so his rare gift to electronic music was gone, until now. Public Information and curator Ian Helliwell are incredibly proud to share Malcolm’s music with you. We will be sending all profits of this release to the Alzheimer’s Society, helping to support people with dementia and their carers on their long journey, right here and now.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Electronic Dance Music

more avant-garde music made for ballet!

compiled by Cacophonic / Finders Keepers / Andy Votel and released back in 2014

I'm always surprised that people don't send this kind of thing to me, or at least tip me off - given that i'd be fairly certain to review it somewhere, or at least give it a plugg on the blogg -


1 –Henk Badings Arioso
Choreography – Jan Zielstra
from "Cain & Abel" choreographed 1956

2 –Lasry-Baschet* Ballet Jeux D'ombres
Choreography – Jean Guelis
from "Jeux D'Ombres" choreographed 1959

3 –Alwin Nikolais Glymistry
Choreography – Alwin Nikolais
from "Prism" choreographed 1956

4 –Remi Gassmann Scherzo
Choreography – Georges Balanchine*
from "Electronics" choreographed 1961

5 –Pierre Henry Tam Tam
Choreography – Maurice Béjart
from "Orphée" choreographed 1958 / 1962

6 –Karl-Birger Blomdahl The Yurg / The Mimarobe
Choreography – Birgit Åkesson
excerpts from "Aniara" choreographed 1959

7 –Henk Badings Ragtime
Choreography – Yvonne Georgi
from "Evolutions" choreographed 1961

8 –Jean-Claude Vannier L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches Sur La Plage
Choreography – René Goliard
from "La Lucarne Magique" choreographed 1971

9 –Henk Badings Konflikt
Choreography – Jan Zielstra
from "Cain & Abel" choreographed 1956

10 –Lasry-Baschet* Ballet Du Soho 5:57
from "Ballet Du Soho" unknown choreographer 1959

11 –Igor Wakhevitch* Danse Sacrale
Choreography – Norbert Schmucki
from "Logos" choreographed 1970

12 –Alwin Nikolais Aeolus
Choreography – Alwin Nikolais
from "The Steve Allen Show" choreographed 1959

13 –Jean-Claude Vannier Le Ballet Des Accoucheuses 2:00
from "Le Ballet Des Accoucheuses", unknown choreographer

14 –Pierre Henry Transfiguration
Choreography – Maurice Béjart
from "Orphée" choreographed 1958/1962

There's loads more examples of the avant-garde dance / avant-garde music crossover

e.g. this dude

Commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet Company. Premiered at the San Francisco Opera House April 1967. Performed on national tour and at the Palace of Fine Arts 1972 and by the San Francisco Dance Spectrum at Grace Cathedral 1971 - 1972.

review by me here (of the reissue, not the original performance, when i was 3 and three quarters)

Bruce Levenstein chips in with a suggestion: 

You used to be able to hear a bit of "The Reprieve" here -  where I borrowed this chunk of text below - but alas no more: 

In an interview [Mitchell, C.J. 'Warmth a characteristic of Ann Southam's electronic music,' MSc , 269, Jan-Feb 1973]  Southam spoke of her interest in collaborating with choreographers to create modern dance works rather than ballet, in which visual patterns often replace audible ones. In modern dance the music and dancers work independently and in conjunction, creating tensions that are doubly suggestive and effective. She has also explored composing to existing choreography and this has allowed her the opportunity to deal with what she refers to as "chance relationships".

An example of Southam electronic music used for modern dance is The Reprieve (1976), which was choreographed by Patricia Beatty for Toronto Dance Theatre.

Ann Southam was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1937 but has lived most of her life in Toronto. After completing musical studies at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Ann began a teaching and composing career which has included a long and productive association with modern dance. As well as creating music for some of Canada's major modern dance companies and choreographers including The Toronto Dance Theatre, Danny Grossman, Dancemakers, Patricia Beatty, Christopher House and Rachel Browne, she has been an instructor in electronic music at the Royal Conservatory of Music and has participated in many "composer-in-the-classroom" programs.

While much of her work has been electroacoustic music on tape, she has become increasingly interested in music for acoustic instruments. She has composed concert music for a variety of acoustic instruments and ensembles, working with such artists and ensembles as Eve Egoyan, Beverley Johnston and Arraymusic. Southam is a member of the Canadian Music Centre, the Canadian League of Composers and a founding member of the Association of Canadian Women Composers.

Then there is this favorite of mine by Daria Semegen and Bulent Arel (not collaborating but sharing an album)

Semegen's Arc: Music for Dancers, for electronics (1977)

The piece consists of five parts whose themes, tempos, and "orchestrations" are arranged in the shape of an arc (A B C B A). Each section is itself divided into a smaller arc (a b a). After a brief introduction of phrases in groups of three beats each, the first part begins with two motivic elements arranged in a simple question-answer idea: lower range sounds on the beat, and contrasting high echoed flourishes in alternation. Section B introduces both a new tempo and "orchestration" or sound texture, as well as a new motive featuring a tremolo effect on harsh sounds alternated in various patterns from one channel to the other. A six note ostinato appears toward the middle of this section and is gradually integrated into a polyphonic pasage. Section C's theme resembles an orchestral "tutti" and is followed by a variation of the tremolo idea and echo figurations heard previously. Although the music is essentially tonal and establishes various temporary tonal centers throughout, microtones and the characteristically rich textures of electronic sound sources provide dissonant impressions counterbalancing the tonal aspects. The work was composed using a Buchla series 200 synthesizer and classic studio techniques. The music tape was synchronized at Bell Telephone Labs with the program of the Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre's portable computer-controlled lighting system by Mimi Ganard and James Seawright in preparation for Arc's first presentation in May of 1977. --Daria Semegen

Friday, January 3, 2020

Nude Berk

a reminder also of a largely ignored but significant archival release from last year - well, significant for Creelheaded types at any rate: Trunk's reissue of  electronic music for ballet by radical dance choreographer Ernest Berk

You can hear each side of the album here and here

Release rationale:

"There are very few Ernest Berk recordings. As a pioneering ballet dancer, instructor and electronic music artist he was surprisingly prolific. He made music for all sorts of uses  he even made library music and of course this very album of his music for two of his ballets. Towards the end of his life Ernest Berk gifted his entire collection of works, tapes, documents and all to the Historical Archive Of The City Of Cologne. Tragically, in 2009, a large part of the archive collapsed (due to the construction of an underground railway) destroying 90% of the everything. Berk's tapes have tragically never been recovered. They are assumed lost forever. So these two recording issued privately circa 1970 remain precious to say the least. There were no masters, this new pressing was simply transferred from the original copy held by his family. We have done our best to restore the sound. I have also reproduced the original notes, and from what I can gather this album may well have been pressed and given away as promotion for the Dance Theatre Commune. The original album came with a small piece of paper with a geometrical squiggle stuck on the front. We have constructed something a little more complex to give a hint of Berk's life and important work. 

Sleevenotes for the original press: 
Ernest Berk was born in Cologne, Germany and came to England just before the war. He started a dance company in London and wanted a sound especially suited to his experimental dance style. This he found in electronic music. Berk feels that electronic music is able to express the feelings of contemporary society in a more potent and communicative way than conventional forms of music. This is not to say he disregards traditional forms of music, rather, he blends the best elements of both, creating a new and exciting sound. Over the years he has gained an international reputation as a composer of electronic music. His works have been heard in Berlin, Cologne, Florence, Edinburgh, United States, to name a few. He has scored a number of films, plays and ballets. Ernest and his wife, Ailsa, opened a new studio at 52 Dorset St, W1, in April, 1970 where they give tuition in modern dance, electronic music and percussion. They also teach at the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama and at ILEA Institute (Stanhope). The studio is headquarters of the Dance Theatre Commune which the Berks created in order to combine their work in dance and music with those already working in similar spheres."