Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Retromania is being picked up for Russian translation by White Label Publishers.

Retromania is coming out in Korean, via the South Korean publisher Workroom.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"... trying to hear it with some other ears that may have existed in another time"

Mark Richardson on Ummagumma and Romantic Warrior and the possibility that long-form musical composition may have been popular at a time of cultural scarcity and the consumer equivalent of sensory-deprivation - when people needed to get lost in and through music in a way they don't now:

"I think that some attraction to longer, more drawn-out albums in the 1970s [like half-a-million selling Return to Forever LP] had to do with the technology available at the time. There was no cable TV, there were no VCRs, to see movies you were at the mercy of the theater owners. To have these kind of weird sci-fi-ish experiences, you might consider just playing a trippy album at home and using your imagination.....

"Imagine it: 1969, Chicago, you are in high school, and you’re faking being sick to listen to Ummagumma. There is nothing on TV because you only get three channels and TV isn’t very good. But this Pink Floyd album truly feels like a portal into another world."

"What exactly does it mean to plunder and pastiche a style you actually invented?"

So asks Momus, blogging again  now at Mrs Tsk*

He's talking about his decision to revisit a style he came up with right at the start of his musical career, influenced by Peel bands / dub / messthetics/ Eno:

"developed at the age of 17... a scratchy, organic one based on using the microphone of my cassette tape recorder as a new bridge for a guitar with radically loosened strings. I’d stuff tissue paper under the low strings to make a dry bass sound, and play the top strings in a style that sounded like an electric guitar above-bridge, or a kalimba... The recordings were bounced down on two-track tape machines borrowed from the language lab at my dad’s English school...

 "It’s easy enough to make recordings the same way now — I have the acoustic guitar and the tissue paper, anyway — but is my metabolism as quick and nervous as it was in 1977? Can I stick to the Dogme-like discipline of forbidding myself reverb, synths, electronic rhythm quantisation?"

And yeah, what does it mean to return to a stage of one's own music that was intended and felt at the time as authentic / uniquely original / sui generis?

Quite a few musicians do this, of course (Bowie, currently, to an extent; Talking Heads and Radiohead once they'd stretched experimentally as far as could go, "got it out of their system"....).  But there is inevitably an element of artifice that overlays such returns to one's "natural" style. Perhaps also it is related to a kind of artistic ecology, that there was more potential to be extracted from a stage or phase left behind too quickly.

I certainly wouldn't mind it if Green suddenly decided to make a whole album of this sort of thing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

more retro-retinal intensities

more video synth retro wizardry

and the best one, for some reason, stubbornly refusing to post itself here, accessible in the place

another one from Gary Hill, with a slightly annoying audio track

Thursday, March 14, 2013

and this one too

and this one as well

[via Toys and Techniques]

more video synth retro-retinal-torsions

The Future Is Obsolete, by Voyager, video by Projectorhead

(via Paul Hebron)

Reminds me a little of this band Black Moth Super Rainbow I really liked for a while in the lat 2000s (mostly their album Dandelion  Gum)

But also made me wonder if they were actually influenced by baggy -- specifically The Charlatans, "The Only One I Know"...

Also made me think about the baggy / psych -  big beat / freakbeat - connection

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

be reasonable, demand the inpossible

"Where Did the Future Go?" asks Rachel Armstrong, "guest informant" at Warren Ellis Dot Com

"Will jet pack boosters lead us towards fertile new pathways of imagining and exploring the world? .. Is our idea of ‘the future’ still relevant to the 21st century in terms of what we actually expect it to ‘deliver’? At LIFT13, I launched ‘The Age of the Inpossible,’ which is a different kind of future to that which we have become familiar with over the course of the 20th century. An inpossible idea, or event, is not goal based on a deterministic worldview but describes a creative process that explores unchartered territories. The point being that when we set a fixed goal in embarking on a journey of discovery, we end up chasing our preconceptions, rather than being open to new possibilities, which may result in radical ideation....

 "The ‘future’ we recognise today is a deterministic view of the future. It extrapolates from things we already know, to calculate an end point. In other words, it’s an extreme version of ‘now’ – not, something new. So, based on the existence of aeroplanes and cars, a deterministic view of the future proposes the advent of flying cars.

But, with computer power accelerating at the speed of Moore’s Law and cross-fertilization between new technologies, described as NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info, Cogno) convergence, emerging technologies may not be deducible by an understanding their different part. Indeed, such experimental juxtapositions and fusions are likely to produce technologies that are entirely new. For example, the convergence of nanotechnology, biology and information technology has produced strange projects such as cyberplasm, a semi-living robot."

Wonder what the musical equivalent to "cyberplasm"  would be, or could be? I guess the point is that it is inconceivable right now, because no linearity can project it existent trends...

Wish it would hurry up and manifest itself!

 Just the word 'cyberplasm' makes me think of the uber-mentasm snaking through this track...





Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mutant Sounds, RIP

The sharity scene really is fading out.  A few new blogs are popping up, but vastly outnumbered by the established ones abruptly quitting or getting ultra-sporadic.

Persecution and fear of punishment obviously the major force, but it does also seem like the Project as such (sharing esoterica, excavating the buried, rewriting history) is reaching exhaustion point. Sharity blogs that have been going for a long while and that were digging up compelling arcana. if they are still going now do tend to be offering pretty thin gruel. What's left to disinter, that really wouldn't be better off remaining submerged beneath a layer or three of topsoil? What shadows unlit by Official History's spotlight honestly deserve their moment of exposure?

I guess the  Nineties as it recedes into the past will start to get picked over, a younger generation emerging now that has no reason to know about the more obscure stuff from then - but of course if you actually lived through the decade in a fairly alert manner you'll know why things were obscure... my sense is that mediation by that point - including zines , but the Internet was yet to be any kind of force in music-- was so intensive, that nearly everything found the level it deserved to be at. Every half-way construable weirdness had its champions.

Stop Press: Mutant Sounds un-RIP.

"There's been such a passionate outpouring against our abandoning Mutant Sounds, so much encouragement from fans, artists and labels associated with the albums that we've shared to find some way to continue that it's driven us to devise a new way to keep Mutant alive.

While all former posts will remain as text archives only, Mutant Sounds will now carry on sharing rare, unreleased and long out of print music both new and old from many of your favorite artists here. It's just that this material will now be shared with the full authorization of each artist and, as a result, will be hosted on our personal Dropbox account.

Make sure to get the word out to your friends: Mutant has not died. It's just transformed and is now about to emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis"

I guess they must reckon there's still treasure out there to be dug...

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #42

“Again, while it is a great blessing that a man no longer has to be rich in order to enjoy the masterpieces of the past, for paperbacks, first-rate color reproductions, and stereo-phonograph records have made them available to all but the very poor, this ease of access, if misused — and we do misuse it — can become a curse. We are all of us tempted to read more books, look at more pictures, listen to more music than we can possibly absorb, and the result of such gluttony is not a cultured mind but a consuming one; what it reads, looks at, listens to is immediately forgotten, leaving no more traces behind than yesterday’s newspaper,” – W.H. Auden Secondary Worlds (1967)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

N. Rhodes, prophet? 

"....   the release on Monday of Nick Rhodes’s new experimental electronic album Bored with Prozac and the Internet? in a collaboration with former Duran Duran guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. Originally created in the mid-90s for the Broadway stage as the music to a “bizarre TV soap opera”, the tracks tell the tale of Cathy and Ray (named from the cathode ray tube) and their two children Sassy and Snoop, a fame-hungry family who give away their freedom to scientists in exchange for reality-show fame.

"Bored was culled from a collection of tunes recorded when the band were between day jobs. Using samples from such sources as The Outer Limits and the British TV show Planet Fashion, TV Mania’s pastiche of cool beats and melodic hooks proved surprisingly prescient.

"“It was innocently masquerading as an art-rock project, but there was a deep concept behind it all,” Cuccurullo says. “We were envisioning a world where a family would give up their day-to-day privacy and allow their existence to be televised to the masses, and this was two years before Truman showed and four years before Survivor. Now everyone is giving away their most intimate details online and on reality TV.”

“In 1996 the internet was still in its infancy,” Rhodes adds. “I was fascinated by communication and how things were becoming more instant and this was decades before all the sites we have now to communicate in different ways.”

"A few months after Rhodes and Cuccurullo finished recording Bored with Prozac, a series called Big Brother hit the airwaves. “We looked at each other in absolute disbelief,” Rhodes says. “It was an idea that was in the ether at the time. We decided to lock it in the bottom drawer whilst we changed the story.”"

(via Shapers of the Eighties)

Don't know about "the Future of Everything" (as  headline their posting of this double page spread from Rolling Stone, January 1977). But if an ad for Bowie's Low could somehow have been squeezed into the spread amid the Donna/Pistols, Moroder/McLaren juxtaposition, then right there you would have had the next 6 years of music - 1977 - 1982 -- pretty much mapped out. (Even more so if you could have also squeezed Chic in too.)

Well at least in the U.K. 1977-1981 -- not so much in the U.S.A.

Friday, March 8, 2013

relating to the post on Jean-Michael Jarre and retrofuturism

Sebastien Morlighem directs to me an interesting interview from last month at Quietus with OMD, on their new album English Electric and also its predecessor History of the Modern

Andy McCluskey:

"Paul and I sat down and said "OK, we don’t want to be a nostalgic heritage act. Nor, however, is it sufficient for us to just write a nice collection of songs in the style of OMD." ... "What do we do next? We know we can write songs...  That’s not only what we do. What does the future sound like? And can we dare to dream that we could possibly reflect a little of it again?" And that became our mantra: "What does the future sound like?" ...

".... We were consciously trying to ask questions about the world, ourselves, music, the future of music. One of the songs is called ‘The Future Will Be Silent’. We looked at how we had constructed some of our more unusual songs, and a lot of them were made from concrete music, found sounds, and we looked at what we had explored in the past and we were trying not to repeat ourselves, and, well, we’ve done trains; we’ve done machinery. And then I actually said to myself "I realise now that everything that we’ve sampled from the real world – trains, machines, computers, guns, typewriters – they were actually accidental". The audio that we had sampled was a waste product from the specific design function of whatever it was that we had recorded."

"I want a future so bright
It burns my eyes"

They had  retromodernist preoccupations before, right, OMD? Like Dazzle Ships, as analysed here by Owen Hatherley. And "Tesla Girls" too, a little bit, perhaps.  Veering near Thomas Dolby's Golden Age of Wireless and The Buggles's several songs about outmoded entertainment technologies or institutions ("Video Killed Radio Star", "Elstree"). But then where do all the tunes about Joan of Arc fit in? 

A fan's video for a Dazzle Ships track made of footage of modernist architects being visionary

Never that huge fan of OMD but I did love this, the B-side to debut "Electricity"

 And this one

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

further to the Omni era / retrofuturism post, Jean Michel-Jarre is interviewed at Resident Advisor and is asked why it is that so many electronic musicians are looking back, c.f. his own time when they were all looking forward:

"We are still at the beginning of the 21st century for lots of different reasons—I think we are slightly frightened about the future, so we are looking backwards. That is partly due to the fact that for a long time we were looking at the year 2000 as a kind of final frontier. The people from the '60s, '70s and '80s, in cinemas, in literature, in music, everywhere—they had a vision of the future, and they thought that after 2000 everything would change; you know, cars would fly and we'd all go to the moon for holidays! Then the year 2000 came and went, and nothing special happened, so in a sense we lost our vision of the future.

"Now I think we have to re-create a kind of dream for the future. In that sense, electronic music can help. But today that state of electronic music is a sign of the times: people are looking backward and having this vintage approach to day-to-day life. Having said that, I think technically, all digital instruments, such as the Animoog on iPad, are really bringing something new. For quite a long time, the quality of the digital era was not there, it was still quite harsh. There was this lo-fi world, not only for sound, but also for visuals. It's only been over the last three or four years that we've been re-entering the world of high definition sound, and that's going to change a lot in terms of the kind of music we produce in the coming years....

He also had this to say about digital facilitation and the DIYstopia:

"I think the next step is not going back, but to restore the idea of the fact that when you really want to play the piano, violin or guitar properly, it takes a certain amount of time. Technology made a lot of people think that you can make a decent track with instruments you learned the week before, which is obviously not true. For quite a while, then, you had lots of music that was not that bad, but not that great, and not personal or particularly unique. And for every gem, you had a thousand decent tracks that were nothing special."

Interviewed Jean-Michel Jarre on the phone several years ago for Observer Music Monthly. Tres gentil homme... here's the short Q/A:

 You studied with musique concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer in the Sixties - how did you make the progression from avant-garde classical abstraction to highly melodic and accessible music?

JMJ: I trained in classical music, true, but I was also in rock bands at the same time. Schaeffer is the godfather of electronic and sample-based music. From him I took the idea that the crucial thing is not notes or harmonies, but sounds.

One avant-garde gesture from later in your career was pressing a single copy of the album Music for Supermarkets and auctioning it, having destroyed the master tapes.

JMJ: That was a premonitory act! I was protesting at the silly industrialisation of music that was happening with CDs, this El Dorado product in the Eighties. But digitalisation has ultimately caused the death of the industry.

You are synonymous with the word 'big': big sales (72 million to date), big concerts. Even your Unesco ambassador job relates to one of mankind's biggest problems, the availability and purity of water.

JMJ: When I started doing the big outdoor productions, it was not because of grandiosity. I just felt that electronic music sounded better outdoors - it gave a different depth to the sound. The visual spectacle was to compensate for the fact that synthesisers aren't sexy; you can't play them with the physicality of rock music.

Talking of rock, how did you get to have an asteroid named after you?

JMJ: It comes from this department of NASA. There's me, Zappa, Lennon, and Hendrix, all with stones in space named after us!

What's the concept of the new album, Teo and Tea?

JMJ: It's to do with encounters between people. I am interested in the way we have this culture of total connection - mobile phones, and emails - yet people increasingly feel this loneliness.

That was a side-bar for a longer Observer piece on the analogue synth gods of the Seventies, directors' cut of which is here.

He is a bit like Omni magazine, J-M J,  in so far as I never really paid him much attention at the time -- it was background stuff, just futuristic-business-as-usual...  Probably older brothers of my friends were into him, like the friend's brother who was building his own computer, or was it a synth? No, I think it was a computer. That was a pretty committed thing to do in those days.  But yeah, J-MJ, a passion for, that seemed like it might have intersected with the Omni readership, or the New Scientist readership. Or people who read Dune, but not Ballard.  Obviously a lot of people just liked "Oxygene" etc because it was a pretty tune, or even because they were the type of people who'd been buying Mike Oldfield records or Sky records (band, not label), ie. instrumental rock is the future types.

Same applies to Tangerine Dream. Remember seeing their name on the hoarding of Oxford Apollo in 1981 or 82 - the twilight of their UK fame, most likely - I doubt if they'd have been able to fill a large venue like that as the Eighties continued.  It would never have occurred to me to go see them, even if I'd not been an impoverished student. And then later when getting seriously into Krautrock I checked out the early T. Dream naturally, but never the Phaedra onwards Virgin stuff.   Probably just like yer Emeralds and Oneohtrixes and the rest, I got interested in the full on electronic proto-trance T.Dream and all the other analogue space epic dudes in the mid-2000s in part because you could find T.Dream and K. Schulze vinyl going cheap, and Vangelis and Jarre vinyl going real cheap. 

Any excuse to post this again... 

 And this

Monday, March 4, 2013

via An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming, who has some loose thoughts on Suzanne Ciani and women in electronic music

(Finders Keepers have been reissuing her stuff  )
Since I wrote this, more and more have come through - Holly Herndon, of course, and  Motion Sickness of Time Travel and others that are slipping my mind

(People  seem to think I pull these  scene / genre / trend pieces out of thin air!)

And also keep stumbling across new ancestors, like Beatriz Ferreyra

Someone's done a whole book on female electronic composers, but it's in Italian...

A three hour (nearly) megamix of electronic women from 1938-1982 c/o the people at Phthalo Records (but no tracklist or IDs)

Back to that Ciani video - and talking  about yesterday's futurism today -- wow, Omni magazine! A little treasury of front covers here.   A near complete run of back issues here.  A tribute site here.

Mind you, I can't remember if I was ever a reader. I might have had one copy, or flicked through it in W.H. Smiths a bunch of times, or seen it at some friend's house...  Probably it was a little geeky for me, not being that technology minded. Even then I'd have found the covers kitschy, I should imagine.

I wonder how right they were in their predictions with this one (from 1984) :

Which reminds me, must scan the Sunday colour supplement article from circa 1977 I cut out and scrap booked (and which scrapbook I recently rediscovered) which has all these predictions about leisure and entertainment in the year 2000. Some of which have been out-stripped by developments - a rare case of the future that not only did arrive but was more impressive than anticipated.  The fun stuff, actually, has worked out fairly futuristic and sci-fi expectations fulfilled -- it's the large-scale, heroic things that stagnated or collided with the political-economic realities.
is this part of the H-ology spooky kids telly canon, and if not, why not?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Old Music Night and Day

In the book I discuss the "whole album" fad, as popularised by ATP and its Don't Look Back series, then copied by everybody under the sun. Wondering aloud who first invented this live entertainment format, I conclude that as far as anybody can tell, it was Cheap Trick, who promoted the late 90s reissues of their albums with a series of gigs in various US cities where they performed a reissued album all the way through in its original track sequence (in the case of Live At Budokan, with the singer exactly replicating the deliberately stilted stage banter addressed to the Japanese audience, which had become much-loved by Cheap Trick fans in the US).

However it's come to my notice that somebody else may have got there first -- the Man of the Moment himself, Mr David Bowie. 

For his 1978 tour, Bowie prepared a set full of all the "New Music Night and Day" that he'd  developed in Berlin, i.e. songs from  Low and 'Heroes' . But  according to the Golden Years fan site, he "made the whole show more palatable by including a major slice of the Ziggy Stardust album". (He didn't quite go as far as resurrect a character he'd killed off, though, because he doesn't appear to have to have dressed the part, just played the fan-favourite tunes).

So the tour ended up a mixture of New Music Night and Day and Old Music Night and Day.

In a 1980 NME interview with Bowie, journalist Angus MacKinnon expressed his fan's disappointment with this auto-archive-raiding move, admitting that he had reacted to it harshly at the time as a nostalgic pander to the star's fan base, a cop out vis-a-vis the Berlin-exile-era Enovations. "I did feel a vague sense of betrayal... I just felt you were very consciously trying to recover your old audience again - a move that seemed to cancel out the validity of the newer material....  a bit of a cheap trick."

Bowie replies:  "I think it was rather to do with two ideas that I felt strongly. One was that I actually wanted to play [the] 'Ziggy' album from top to bottom, from bottom to top, one to nine, because I suddenly found it again an enjoyable piece of music to listen to, having not done it for quite a few years on stage. So there was pure personal enjoyment value in there. On the other hand, I'm only too willing to admit to the number of people who come to see me to hear a lot of those old songs and without any hesitation I'm quite willing to play them. I will also play the things I'm doing currently. But I have absolutely no qualms about playing older things of mine that people like."

So that's the side of Bowie that's showbiz, a trouper, give the punters what they want, "bums on seats", etc, rather than the art-rock frontiersman and edge-chaser dragging his audience with him into the future. 

But  "Ziggy' from top to bottom, from bottom to top, one to nine" --if he literally did play Ziggy Stardust in sequence on that tour, he invented the Whole Album phenomenon -- almost two decades in advance of  Cheap Trick. ("A bit of a cheap trick" in a different sense to how Angus Mackinnon meant it).

more sharp thoughts from Aaron at Airport Through the Trees on retro, late capitalism, urban planning, etc