20 November 2014

Aphex & Me & the Myth of the Home-made Synth Genius

...I didn't believe it when Aphex pretended to make all his synths himself and never use pre-set sounds (i'd heard those sounds before and so had most of you; just because other people hadn't didn't make it true). And I didn't love Aphex Twin any less because he was playing that maverick eccentric gambit - he came from the West Country, we all need to use that, even those of us who are pretending (to ourselves) not to (especially us). He is probably a bit eccentric but not as eccentric as all those true West Country loons who couldn't get near a record release, who couldn't even get into a home studio, who really do live with a kind of twisted genius that malforms them but will never result in a box-set on Warp or even an album on Twiggwytch. I'm a (relatively) stable, family-man Philosophy lecturer living in a vaguely middle-class area in a County town and my life is chaotic enough to get in the way of my genius... Lol

But it's a nice myth, a nice lie and there's always going to be enough people who want it to be true... some of them might take a train to the West Country sometimes, when it's hot.


It worked for Aphex but he was still, if not lying, then elaborating. I doubt he made an album out of lucid dreaming but perhaps (like many of us) he partly dreamed a tune or an idea that later he formed into something else. He has dreams, maybe some of them are lucid. Most of my IX Tab tracks come from me just mumbling to myself in half-dream light, on buses, walking in the rain. It's why I think of them as songs, though I know Nick Ekoplekz laughs at that. They could be dreams and maybe some of them are.

I remember an interview where Aphex pretended not to use samples in his music and I remember us discussing how cool that was, how off the wall, how maverick - actually, I don't; we didn't even think about it. Samples were cool (we were still getting over Throbbing Gristle or the JAMMs or MAARS), they gave us access to music-making which we couldn't possibly access otherwise... there was no chance of us having enough spare cash to buy even a broken synth or the bits to make a synth... samples were everything...

But, actually, this isn't about bashing Aphex Twin because I love his music and IX Tab definitely owes a lot to his myth-making.I'm using him to get your attention, as an Aphex blimp.

This is really about how many artists seem to be adding this kind of sentence to their profiles and album descriptors:

"...using a X some Y and a increasing array of 'antique' instruments and 'found sounds' and 'field recordings' and 'home-made' synths"

Where X = expensive modular kit

Where y = Other expensive kit

and 'antique' means 'expensive' and 'not used at all, except in photos'

and 'found sounds' means 'found on the internet'

and 'field recordings means 'found on the internet'

and 'home-made' syths means shop-bought and then joined together with leads.

And I know that Prog etc is deemed ok (it still isn't okay, even if it's on the Freak Zone) but Tangerine Dream, Cluster etc excepted... surely people remembered how fucking classist those synthfuckers became before the technology got cheap again? You don't want that to happen again?

I'm digressing. I'm particularly after the shoehorned thrift, the carefully modulated Kirsty Allsopp-saturated nature of 'home-made'.

Everyone's at it, even those people who you know are doing most of their 'composing' in a Mac or in a massive room full of expensive synths. They want a Radiophonic illusion. They want to pretend that they're cutting up bits of tape or having to strangle their instruments to make those noises. They want everything to seem like a dream of tangled wires. They are trying to avoid their genius having an Apple 'i' in front of it.


I know the feeling. IX Tab's music is made mostly in a Mac, with added bits of iPad and iPhone synthesiser and the additional theoretically-cheap-but-actually-pretty-expensive-when-you-think-about-it bits of stuff made mostly by Korg.

And it really is all you need. It's Lou's two chords. I'm thinking of pretending that isn't how I make my stuff. I'm thinking of pretending that there's at least a few Soviet-made hand-cranked synths in there...

Actually, even that is a lie. In fact, I'm thinking of going the other way; making tracks that only use presets. There's so many ways these things can be opened up.

Now, of course, some of this is undoubtedly the fault of Hacker Farm and Ekoplekz, who are closer than most to the archetype of the maverick, who do transcend expectations, who play with wires and wood... but even those guys feed the myth-monster and the Myth Monster itself is co-opting them, making their music about the method, making you hear things you're not really hearing. I love their music but I love it because it sounds great, I honestly don't care how it's made and never have. That seems circumstantial, even redundant (maybe not to them). They sound great, they have great musical ideas. They do stuff that sometimes goes wrong, often goes brilliantly right. I don't know how their stuff is made but I'd guess it's not quite the same as their visual representation which, of course, comes from them to begin with but is then ravaged and run by... Others.

I'm suspicious of the others.

The Myth is taking them on, gaining a head of steam(punk). It wants us all for its children. We are only a few tiny steps away from an odd becoming, where this kind of thing happens... It can't be long before we see Bono with a 'home-made' synth, the Edge playing a monotron and guitar pedals... Is that Taylor Swift playing a vintage Wasp? Taping down the keys like she's on Come Org? I think I just saw Mylene Klass on the Celebrity Bake Off wearing a I Dream Of Wires t-shirt...

You see, it doesn't even have to be a lie to become a lie.

"They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths"

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. I think I'm trying to fight my way out of a bag that I'm not even sure I'm in.








27 October 2014

IX Tab - Dance Dance Dance

IX Tab loves you all.

22 October 2014

Gately / Blixa


which reminds me a little of the section of this:



where everything turns into a Blixa voice and his hums and errs and become orchestral sweeps, slow pulses, traces of guitars, just traces...


(these shots of the sleevenotes from here)

and, of course, bees...

14 October 2014

Buckets of Stuff

Buckets of stuff, great stuff out there... and it just keeps coming. There's an ocean, a slew of new releases (mine is one, mine is one! IX Tab is coming, IX Tab is coming!) that keep things interesting and keep things frighteningly NOW... this is an exciting time folks; a time when everywhere you look (and plenty of places you probably don't) there's something going on, some product to latch onto... everyone's making stuff and it's all stupidly, annoyingly, fantastically essential...

I'm at a space now when I almost want to find something a little dull; something that fails to hold my interest but everything I settle to seems to spark a new vein. I'm like a Leibnizian sculptor, finding AHA! moments everywhere at the moment, finding Hercules inside the marble block, waiting to come out...

For instance, the latest Kemper Norton, Loor, is exactly where you'd want Kemper to go if you'd listened to his releases as they've developed over the years. I think I'm his first fan, heard (t)his stuff back when he was too shy to let it out, back when we all where, even Nick Ekoplekz*. Loor gives us a little insight into Kemper's acid past; just a little insight; he's hardly Astralasia or Shpongle but... there's a little of that creeping in, a kind of trace that now seems associated with Lee Gamble or V/VM or someone but is really just associated, in every sense of the word. He's fucking with folk still, of course and even if he's making slurtronic a thing; Fucked-folk is what I'm always going to call it because, if anything, the great thing about Kemper Norton is that he came late to folk (from afar, from Prog, from Prince, from Coil) and clearly doesn't know what he's supposed to be doing with it. Highest praise ever, in my book. Christ, as if we need more folk experts.

He's a revivalist, I suppose but he clearly has no clue what to revive and so meshes with the folk ingredients and sprays shit everywhere. This is, of course, Folk in it's purest sense because it is engaging with the tiny worlds of actual folk and it works so beautifully because it's utterly transparent that, well...


He's doing it wrong.

And how wonderful it is to be wrong; Loor is worth going back to and going with. It's a calling and a call-out. All Through The Night. If you need to spend your pennies then you will do much worse.

fizzle, crack...

And then there's Hacker Farm, who have a suddenly bewildering amount of stuff out... now these guys are mates too but the tape they released on Feral Debris is just perfect; distilling every performance I've seen them play into two sweeping sides of sometimes awkward, off, sometimes beautiful electronics... with spoken words and whooshes and bleeps that out-think and outrun all the tapes you bought in the 80s that wanted to be this one...

Silver Street is typical by not being:


They're doing it wrong too

Hacker Farm are the nonPop That Eats Itself; a conscious headshake at all that's good and proper and neat. I really love the line from Kek apropos the Crass In Africa Cd:

In 2012, the groups Hacker Farm and Libbe Matz Gang were offered the chance to score a new soundtrack for the 1922 film Haxan, which was to be screened at a small underground festival in London. The groups both declined the invitation, reasoning that rescoring Haxan was lame, boring and careerist – the sort of thing a black turtleneck sweater-wearing group would do.

Because, really, rescoring Haxan is perfectly, unambiguously a lame thing to do, unless you intend to rescore it and then invite your mates around to watch and then make them all take part in a cleansing / summoning ritual, which ends up in some fugged West Country lyncanthropic deluge of skin and hair and eyes and a whole new appreciation of how to destroy angels (yeah, in every sense, even the Reznor one).

So, yeah, I love these guys and the fact that they're doing every fucking thing wrong and the fact that one day there'll be lots of people pretending they were really into Hacker Farm back in the day (I'm getting my pretence in early - hate this shit but, man, it's cool!)

And, of course, back in the day isn't ever possible and they know it and this is really what Hacker Farm is all about... occasionally there's glimpses in their work: Faust, Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Factrix, Plastikman, whatever but there's never a hint that this is knowing and the music is very much theirs, before it is ours... a wonderful thing in this whorl of platitudes and harbouring and currying favour and wishing.

Hacker Farm keep giving. Suck it all in folks...

crackle crackle fizz


and there's more coming... great stuff exuding from Libertatia Overseas Trading (enjoying the dementoes of Degenerate Waves, for instance, which rolls and hums in all the right places and seems to find new organs to grind on every listen - it's also got my favourite sleeve art for a long time; silly, tragic and disturbing and immediately redolent of a very long presentation I was given about Health and Safety in Dry Cleaning... we didn't invest.


and kind of Hacker-related there's also a great album by Concrete/Field which intersects all kinds of interests and almost sounds like stuff you'll have and like but somehow does them better and deeper and with a real sense of being behind it; these waves won't just sweep right through you, they'll try and be you for a little while and then they'll try and show you something interesting and then they'll sweep you away again...

This is music, then, that sounds like places but places where humans have been, sound trails of where things have lived and played... not in a Stone Tape way, not remotely hauntological** but in a... oh for God's sake, it's not that dear; buy something for someone you love or, if you really can't afford it, write in and engage and some fucker will sort you out... this is a community and the product is the process is the product... these are real, beautiful things made by real and beautiful people and engagement of any sort is all they are asking...

Have to say, the way this is recorded is lovely too... really wish I could get IX Tab to sound so pristine. Nurse, I need more power...

And more and more and more. I've got stacks of stuff I haven't properly listened to yet so don't want to comment on but will comment on because it needs to be out and about and needs to be heard by everyone, perhaps, or else just kept, hooked, in these brilliant little circles of influence...








*who now releases like he's going to die soon (really hope that isn't true, Nick!) and just keeps making and making and playing and playing and getting better and better at most turns he takes and must be near to a bona fide superstar these days and I feel bad about not mentioning his records and performances more but there's just so much I've already written about him and I'm waiting to hate something he does so I can write something different... :) Okay, that's probably not going to happen... He's come a long way and yet a lot of his stuff is as raw and bloodied now as it was when it was just a little CDR sent to mates...

**and on that note there's a CD coming from Concretism, who works in a pretty strictly hauntological vein but does so in such a perfect way that his music feels completely right. I understand that most of the stuff I've been rambling implies I don't like right but I guess that isn't quite all the picture because I love the music that hauntology loves and Concretism gets it beautifully; adding a slight new to the very old and thus bringing the old back into focus... i.e. does what hauntology is expected to do in a way that most of this genre no longer does. It never feels like pastiche, always feels like it's meant and felt. Incorrigible, as Hume would say. More on this when a CD happens because I can't really be done with downloads only. Give me the thing, the product, the artefact, the artwork. I need to feel you.





22 September 2014

GFOTY


and the stuff keeps coming and this sort of reminds me of the funked karate music that Kek put out on his 19F3 label a while back (which I'm now going to go and listen to again because it might be nothing like that at all, just that same old Gaussian blur messing with my smudges) but I'm not even sure that there's anything here and that remains intriguing, if only for a while because an absence in the Sartrean sense seems to mean SOMETHING in moments where everything HAS TO HAVE SOMETHING, some, er, X-Factor...

Plus, there's an interesting article by Philip Sherburne at Pitchfork of all places

plus there's the GFOTY instagram ( just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? )



15 September 2014

Simon Reynolds on QT / Messing With Kitsch

completely agree…

I thought this when Jame Ferraro went too far… you could almost feel that he’d looked too long and hard at this stuff… the kitsch had won; was no longer ironicized… couldn’t be…

Here's that piece...

and I’ve tried with vapourwave, I really have because it seemed like a nowish genre and some excellent writers were wrangling with it and seeing it in a way that seemed interesting.. but then, before I was even properly looking, it very quickly it ate itself, as the poppies said it would...

vapourwave is the new punk etc

the fact that it's a Wave as well as a vapour is telling, of course.

Because messing with kitsch is like trying to be a revolutionary capitalist; flawed in its very conception and so tempting and apparently so easy to stand aloof and giggle as the waves crush over you; the sea smelling so good, so fresh, so Coke...

The funny thing is, I probably will keep trying with vapourwave for reasons that make me feel ill thinking about them. I'll keep at it and I won't get it until... well, I give it four or five years and I'll find an old hardrive full of vapourcrap that I've downloaded and no doubt then I'll flashbulb memory my self into it again and laugh at my childishness: a retro future retro future... same with Hauntology (Kek removes the a): the then sound of now which is bound for Rough Trade compilations, for features in Record Collector (those Ghost Box sleeves!), for Q Magazine astral travelling...

This is not to say... anything. We've been here long before:


and Can's ethnological forgery is now a new kind of ethnic forgery. Or, rather, the old kind, given a new set of tropes. No doubt j-pop(will eat itself) will be not looking at this stuff and just carrying on because here it is not old-school or new school but (more or less literally) school and already has its commentary as its product, with no distance and (perhaps) little irony or attempt at persuasion.

And on and on...

How to just make sound?

How to just make sound?

How to just make sound?




08 September 2014

Prayer To Ixtab (not IX Tab)


This has nothing to do with my IX Tab but I like it...

07 September 2014

John Balance - Wooden Wand

Just saw this posted up at the Coil Facebook page. Neatly combines two musical heroes...







03 September 2014

Loor



Well, this looks pretty fucking exciting doesn't it? Seriously, this has all the makings of being the best thing Kemper's ever done and he's already got a whole series of spectacular releases behind him. Like the slightly more acidic approach highlighted here, hope it's a sign of things to come...

Can't wait for this.



31 August 2014

ROC is here...





ROC is: Robert Oglivie Crombie; the Royal Observer Corps; the mythical Persian bird (the legend and the cracked eggs of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad); maybe a form of the mysterious Redeeming Our Communities (or a lost cousin); the literary initials of an old friend who dragged around donkeys and threw stones at himself.

All and more. No one seriously believes in accidents in this (acid) house.

It's available here

Here's the opener:


Lutine





Well, this says it better than I could and echoes many of my thoughts on this album so, in lieu of a simple ditto I'd add simply that these songs are delicate yet driven, heartfelt rather than hearty and, importantly in this instance, kept beautifully simple. Mostly, I'm a fan of excess; I like adding things, my favourite colour is rainbow-coloured (actually, I stole that line from my wife), my favourite sounds are the ones you didn't hear the first time you listened. But this album shows the beauty in minimalism, in the same way Ricardo Villalobos shows the beautiful minimalist heart of techno. It's minimal but it feels like it has to be. This isn't a wistful conceit, it's a complete package, exquisitely wrought.

Consider their version of Died Of Love, for instance. It keeps the same slow-hearted longing for death that I recognise from, say, the Kemper Norton version but manages to bathe it in an altogether different light. The same emotion, rendered from a different consciousness, like the song is acting as an aural Rorschach. I'd suggest the two (three) got together for a Sonny n Cher (of the suicide set? - no, that was Chris and Cosey) style rendition, each playing off the others (The Others), each trying to assert their spin, each digging another layer (or each peeling a skin). I dunno, it sounds cool in my head.

19 August 2014

Vessel - Red Sex



Sounds a bit Orbitally to me...

Found via Include Me Out



14 August 2014

Ian William Craig - A Turn of Breath LP Advertisement (Recital)


Found this via @AxisofElvis , who linked it to this review which also has a link to some more of this boundless, rolling beauty. This is what I mean by benevolent music. Think I might buy this because I'm in need of some benevolence right now... 



13 August 2014

Swans - To Be Kind (w/ Cap'n Dinosaur)


Things need placement, more than ever.

Bought To Be Kind in the ever-lovely Other Music (lovely because both times I've been there the guy behind the counter complemented my t-shirt - NWW a few years back, Spacemen 3 this time and, well, I'm a sucker for flattery). And I waited until I was in NYC because they were from NYC (even if they sound like they ought to be from Nebraska or Michigan - I can't place why) and I have a slight (actually, ever increasing) psycho-geographical fetish for buying records appropriate to cities.

In fact, more or less everything I buy now also has to come with some kind of emotional / geographical marker; the effort of buying, of acceding to the Market, requires an extra dimension; it's not enough to simply have, not now that having is just a matter of buying, not now the finding element is gone. A new kind of kick is required.

I also bought the sea-monkey mental Cap'n Dinosaur comic from a comic store there because I liked the idea of this Ameri-caner REALLY Mad Men book being bought in the States. I'm sure Kek would've sent me a copy if I'd asked but... really not the point. It says $3.99 on the cover, pay that.

Anyway, this isn't really going to be about To Be Kind although I'm listening to it all alone in the house really loud and I have to say it's a work of steel and genius; utterly serious and driven and willing itself onwards. It's their best album and I love lots of their albums. It works with a series of almost familiar motifs: there's long glimpses of the very blacklight of The Doors (I realise that this will put some people off but I don't expect them to care) and it kinda bleeds into a terribly compelling (w)hole, like an extended workout on the theme from the Pink Room scene in Fire Walk With Me.

But, if you need just one reason to buy this then buy it for the bit in Just A Little Boy (for Chester Burnett) where Gira (?) sort of softly screams I'm Not Human over and over again... heard loud, in an empty house, this will drain your cheeks and send you spinning. I haven't been this unnerved by a piece of music since I-


24 July 2014

Two Magicians - Derek and Hazel Sarjeant (Exmoor Song)

A magick sung from Somerset. Yeah, the Current 93 version, but this is the (water) Dog's. Without Tibet, the strangeness seems to seep through the walls of this place; the reflections in the mullioned glasses, the smell of pipe-smoke and smoked bracken. This is embedded folk weirdness that can't be replicated or transformed or accommodated. A little digging on the author from here:
William Sparks (1854-1916) was born and spent all his life in Minehead, at 1 Middle Street, Higher Town. His father John was a blacksmith and William followed in the trade, though he is also said to have rented properties to holiday makers. His song ' The Two Magicians' was the only item Cecil Sharp collected from him, but it was unique in Somerset and rare elsewhere. William became ill 1916 and died in Taunton Hospital.
We need our own Cecil Sharp, travelling the hills and glades of Soundcloud and Bandcamp and Rasperry Pi networked microwebs. Hang on a sec, I'll just get me boots...

23 July 2014

Dyon Anaswa

No reason needed except that celebration is needed here, more than ever. Holy holy holy.

The Upsetters - Dyon Anaswa







Donnie & Joe Emerson - Give Me A Chance

This ebbs & flows & finds an otherness in its very grooves so much so that I thought for ages that this was some kind of Can session outtake; the drums keep everything in a kind of perpetually slow check, as if the other instruments works slide off & start doing unspeakable things in dark corners... That said, this has the essential lightness of touch of Can (a much underrated quality in that band & one massively missed in bands who think they're imitative). This breezes by, flutters across sludge, feels not a million black stars away from the likes of Shuggie Otis circa Ah Uh Mi Hed...

09 July 2014

Judee Sill - The Donor


Because this rises like a hymn to something never there in a way that lots of things only think they do. I've never had any truck with 'authenticity' as a concept or theme or necessary virtue but this is what people mean, I suppose. This is a shattered artist, shattering. 

28 May 2014

25 May 2014

Sinnerman / AB/7A





You come back to this and you stay with it. Not simple, but propulsive. Everyone's heard the abbreviated, House-cat version (a house cat indeed) but not enough (i.e. not everyone) have heard it in its full glory. The message is the medium; these tinkling pianos and drums are just tinkling over 4 or 5 or 6 minutes; they need oscillation time, time to stop you breathing. Some tracks are bigger than others.

In truth, Sinnerman probably needs longer than this 10 min version but this is all we've got (that might not be true). The words need to be leeched out of the rhythms; extension is the primary quality (I think Locke said this first), the duration is its intensity.

25 years ago, a friend of mine, now sadly departed (not shuffled off, never that - roared out into that terrible room next door) made a long long long ('Europe Endless') version of Throbbing Gristle's AB/7A by cutting up and redubbing tape cassettes and it took him ages and we probably only listened to it all the way through once but if you can understand why it was necessary (I hope Chris Carter understands and finishes the job) then you can also understand that Sinnerman isn't the shortened version they use in films and adverts. That song is pretty, can sell scenes and things, can slip itself into the marketplace but isn't Sinnerman. Sinnerman is this.

Nina Simone - Sinnerman

18 May 2014

Current 93 in St John's Church





Well, Current 93 played up the road at Glastonbury and ever since I've been in a wormhole of Coptic optics, spinning back into Tamlins, Faerie Queens / Old Spencer lies, digging deeper into Gnostic philosophy (those guys are bobbing mental) & medieval psychoanalysis. I got seriously into this stuff years ago when I lived in Brighton and just dossed around second hand stores chatting to the owners and finding new places to search for alchymical routes. The gig brought it all back. It worked.

I go in and out of Current 93 obsessions; sometimes whole months go by and I'm just not in the mood for them but, as ever, you see a band live and even some of the minor tracks are bathed in new light. The new piano player is a revelation live and those guys from The Groundhogs rock worlds. Lovely to see David Tibet so in awe of his band, as well. He clearly loves them and they elevate him.

As ever, as Above.

Cilt



Been really loving this stuff: simple and gently intense, with unsettling 'Children Of The Stones' vocal murmurs that actually unsettle & turn into odd little earwurms when you're not looking. The sound of places that you can only see out of the corner of your eyes. Unheimlich and lovely, all at the same time.

17 May 2014

Tokyo Reverse

TOKYO REVERSE - EXTRACTS #01 from Simon Bouisson on Vimeo.



Such a simple idea, with the right place & pace & at the ideal time.
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