22 January 2006

Acid Tablets Revisited (Again)

As a result of the previous Acid Tablets post, where I argued that PTV, Richard Norris and Dave Ball invented a version of Acid House which unfortunately got attenuated and dismissed and replaced, Richard Norris got in touch and I asked him a few questions about the Jack The Tab sessions:

It was a strange session indeed. We hadn't heard of acid house, we'd just heard the name, but it was full of possibility. Both Mr Orridge and myself were coming at an idea of psychedelic dance music from different directions, and the new recording equipment - Akai S900 sampler, Atari running an early version of Cubase - seemed to be timed perfectly to get our ideas out. What we were doing - splicing current beats from other sessions, bits of psychedelia, spoken word and movie fragments - wasn't exactly new. PTV and TG had worked in that way for some time, and we were aware of Cage, Burroughs, Eno etc.

Jack The Tab is full of wrong turns and slipped identities... there's really no pattern to the splatter; every track sounds like its identity is being formed in situ, as if the information being passed through the machines is itself starting to find its feet and is working out how, sometime in the future, it'll be centre stage...

As I said, we hadn't heard of any acid house - 3 house tracks had made the UK top 20 at the end of 87, beginning of 88 (Love Can't Turn Around, Jack Your Body, Jack The Groove), but I didn't hear a proper acid house tune (Adonis, No Way Back) until after we'd recorded the album late in 1987.

This is exactly what made Jack The Tab so great. There's just a ghost of knowledge present throughout the tracks and you have to listen carefully to hear any influences - certainly there's more of the psychedelic Bam Caruso underground here than there is anything resembling Jack Your Body which is a direction that got somehow derailed when the tribes resolutely failed to gather... if the psych-underground could've got it together with the dance machines we really might have had something; instead people abandoned 'rock' entirely, assuming it dead or absent, and the old punks stayed in their rooms, twiddling knobs and trying to work out Cubase.

MAARS, with it's conflation of dream-pop and DJ - another configuration abandoned at the source.

The key element to the working process was speed. Wehad two rooms, with a core of Gen, myself, Dave Ball,various PTV and Bam Caruso people working at the same time, sourcing clips, running through ideas, addingparts. No track took longer than an hour, most vinylstuff was spun in live, some material went on straight from Walkman (including varispeed). Most of the live stuff (60s influenced keyoboards, guitars, vocals) were done in one take. This gave the record a veryloose feel but I think is responsible for its particular energy.

Speed is of the essence in this album; you can feel the hunger, the need to get it out quick...

A little later techology designed to speed things up would make the music faster and the production of it slow down considerably; the mixmasters would start to develop OCD, tiny parameters would blink and send them crazy with tweaking. Obsession was all. The world started to venerate the most autistic of producers, adding a feast of Protestant Work Ethic to the art of the mix. Tracks done in an hour? Try just the organ tweaks and damping taking twice that long.

Soon, hi-hat EQing will start to creep into conversations and by then the music will already have started to limp away... this is Punk as 5000 piece jigsaw and it's a huge miscarriage of understanding of what Acid House should have been.

That said...

We were very lucky to have a first rate, up and comingengineer called Richard Evans working on it. His enthusiasm and speed really added to the project. Idon't think I've ever seen anyone get ideas down so quickly - for a long time afterwards I thought that all sessions should run like this, making it particularly difficult for many an engineer/programmer!

Most sessions should. Where's the band?

We didn't really know about acid house, as it was yet to be invented - we just wanted to make a mad psychedelic dance record. I'm glad we hadn't heard any, as that would have limited our horizons and probably made us make a more dance orientated record, with less twists and turns. I still don't know how influential the record was, I certainly make no claim for it.

Richard Norris is a modest guy; you can hear this record over most of electronica in the next 20 or so years though many still haven't come to terms with what it might mean to have a true psychedelic dance music, a music that confounds expectations, a music that refuses to stay still and is sometimes irritatingly obtuse. My friends didn't like it, thought it was a lost opportunity, wanted more Timothy Leary and squiggles, wanted to be able to dance (they failed to make a dance record unless they danced like the fungus-eaters of Crewkerne Straits)

The band names were random - its me and Genesis onmost tracks, with the same core bunch of people on most of it. They were just names suggested by the music or the voices in the music. Or some other ideas we'd been delving into; can't quite pinpoint it. There's certainly some ritual stuff in there. The sound of Genesis and Paula making love is all over one track.

That Paula again, that panting lady (why no noise from you Gen?)...

21 January 2006

15 January 2006

5 Imaginary Girls

Wafer Thin Mints

This is just getting ridiculous, pop will not stop eating itself, even if it already feels a little bloated. In March, Girls Aloud are to release a covers album of 'classic' 'alternative' 'rock' (their fingers must be aching with all the H(e)arty 'Ironic' Finger-Bobbing, or rather, I suspect their managers fingers...)

The tracklist alone suggests the demographic for this release isn't their usual (though maybe it tells us something about we already knew) but weirdly it really takes very little imagination at all to 'hear' the Girls singing along and even to start recreating the arrangements, BPMs etc

Some weird choices and a lot of 80s Goth but...


1. She's Lost Control (Joy Division)
2. Charlotte Sometimes (The Cure)
3. White Mice (Mo-Dettes)
4. Home (The God Machine)
5. Freak Scene (Dinosaur Jr)
6. Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)
7. Lucretia My Reflection (Sisters of Mercy)
8. Search and Destroy (Iggy Pop and the Stooges)
9. Legs (PJ Harvey)
10. Peek A Boo (Siousxie and the Banshees)
11. You Made Me Realise (My Bloody Valentine)
12. Out of The Blue(Into the Fire) (The The)

Wonder what made them think of The God Machine?

To get you in the mood:

Joy Division - She's Lost Control

Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She's lost control.
And she's clinging to the nearest passer by,
She's lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I've lost control again,
And a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I've lost control again.

12 January 2006


This is West Country music from nowhere near the West Country.

Avarus - Arus

Under Blue Skies: "Completely And Utterly"

This will probably mean very little to almost everyone but I'm still glad someone's finally put a Chesterfields compilation together: anyone out there want to join me in listening to this in a tent with a coupla cans of Autumn Gold cider, a barrel full of alicebanded indie-chicks and a nice stripey sweater?

11 January 2006

My Musical Education: A Book of Idiot Dreams

The West Country is musically dead and needs to be. Very few bands come this far down and no one expects them to. Music remains as exotic a function here now as it was then and I can't help but think this is a good thing. I don't want music to get too close; it can't be good for you.

It's taken a year and a half but I'm finally beginning to understand why this blog has it's name: the underkill of sound here in the sticks is what An Idiot's Guide To Dreams is all about.

The Psychogeographers ( I imagine a coherent UNIT, with a Lethbridge-Stewart at the helm, wearing safari jackets with specially designed logos, appliqued by their Mums and Wives) have swarmed into the cities and pulled them apart; digging out Lost Rivers of London, tracing imagined substance abuse routes and compulsions, dragging up history from mis-spellings and bad cartography... but they've mostly ignored the Country, letting it slip somewhere behind suburbia (the term sprawl says it all...) in the scheme of things.

No one's interested, maybe because no one's here.

Country life in general is given TV Sunday prime-time as a non-mysterious current, a Last of the Summer Wine, a Heartbeat... but that is all it's worth; an balm for the town dwellers, a dream of an escape to a softer, calmer, pastoral, feudal life where everyone knows their place...

As a teenager living in a reclaimed village on the outer edges of a 100% employment West Country town you don't have urban decay, you don't have a multi-cultural stew to chew on, you don't have the red shift in sound of police sirens, you don't have the ebb and flow of life at all as it's commonly described i.e. city life, bustle, hustle, frantic murmurings, dead folk in canals....

Even Suburbia seems impossibly exotic.

So, for me (and I suspect fellow village Idiots; we'll see) Music was never an escape from drudgery, it wasn't one of those dreams.

It was very important that the music was about nothing. It was a functionless tool, something to be manipulated and transformed into whatever shape was needed. We became rabidly eclectic in our tastes not because we wanted to buck the trends but because we weren't really aware there were any trends. The trends seemed very far away, so far that they were necessarily unnoticed.

We didn't want to feel inferior to our city dwelling cousins but we had no theory to work on. No context at all. So all that was left was to cleanse, fold and manipulate.

For this reason, I doubt very much if I'm atypical in this area of the country for failing spectacularly to have a scene. No music was mine which meant all music was mine. The nearest I guess anyone ever got was to the vaguely Ozric tentacles of the early Rave scene, even if this was always more about half nakedness in Woods and digeridoos and Traveller Buses and Crusty children and mushroom soup and fire than the M25 dangling and E deaths of Acid House history...

For most of my friends, Phorward era Shamen were the defining band of Acid House (they'll lie about collections of white labels now but still...). I can remember that even the idea of Chicago House sent chills through me. There was no way I could ever understand such smoothness. Still can't.

I've previously alluded to a lack of a defining musical moment via Steve Ovett and The Mekons and the only other even vaguely Damascan moment came with my final embrace of hippie crap through Kevin Ayers so that leaves me with....

Well, it leaves me with why I'm still hopelessly unfocused in my musical tastes. I feel embarassed by my lack of grasping hold of something, feel ashamed somehow that I still haven't really settled into a groove I can call my own.

(okay, there's Coil but I'm ignoring them for once)

So, partly inspired by the likes of this and that I've started to come to terms with my own musical education...

In Somerset, we listened to music which, shorn of context, was always used to soundtrack experience, rarely as an end in itself. We were trainspotters of sound, itching not to own but to hear and so C90s were passed around to invade each others space and as aide memoires to startling other discoveries...

I heard someone say once: 'I'm mostly into obscure 60s soundtracks...' and it made no sense at all to me. All music is an obscure soundtrack...

Clubs were hardly a lifestyle, the few gigs a social necessity rather than an exploration. Most of the time I listened to music it was outside, in buckshot fields, around fires, at the dead of night. It was on knackered portable tape players (we could never call them ghetto blasters, not even ironically) - the very idea of Bose or Bang and Olufsen still leaves me utterly deflated - "why would I want more fidelity; I like it like this..."

The music soundtracked fire jumping and hanging around Victorian follies and curious horses looking towards the tannery and local kids entering late-night cow punching competitions and the shards of left over Donkeys after the Derby. It documented the feeling you get when you're hopelessly disorientated in the middle of a large corn field, full of homebrew and fly agaric after having spun around a hundred times and you have to follow the sound of whatever's playing in the next field, just to have a hope of getting home that night...

Weirdly, I can remember what was playing that night... for some reason someone was playing that Rick Wakeman Knights of the Round Table album at a distortion level which made it sound like an ambient Merzbow... it became a beacon and I still can't bring myself to hate it anything like I should.

We did out fair share of driving but it was always dead slow - the cars we had at our disposal worked best at very slow speeds, often they would only travel backwards and we'd have to negotiate miles of country roads with only reverse gear - and it was always to somewhere. Driving for driving's sake just didn't seem to exist in this time and cars were looked on as a necessarily evil, a weak attempt to defeat hypothermia on frosty nights.

Music was listened to because without it the silence of the country was terrifying. I can remember someone switching off the stereo in the middle of a three mile hike across the fields around East Coker via the sunken drainage ditches and the sudden rush of 3 AM animal sounds freaking everyone out...

We searched out weirder and weirder sounds because they fit our environment, even if they weren't meant to. Cabaret Voltaire's first few albums say more to me about hanging around overgrown and abandoned Naval bases than they evoke the clang of steel mills. Psychic TV seemed much more about soundtracking the dead of night in the Larkhill woods than they did about sad-skin Temple activities in east London. Even things like S-Express or Altern8 remind me more of stinging nettles and smoken bracken than anything remotely urban.

And anyway, through those stereos and in that wind and with those echoes in those caves at that time in the morning everything sounded weird. Unaccompanied Bach cello concertos sounded like Pauline Oliveros nightmares, Cure b-sides drifted up like Osman Spare warblings... we digested every kind of music because every kind of person was there - our group was far too small to be of likemind - and because everything was digested, by the elements.... you try and work out the rhythmical structures and Amen-breaking of a junglist track while trying not to roll down an ancient hillfort.

Everything was assimilated and everything sounded a little like the wind.

I can remember the first time I heard Big Black I was two or three other at daybreak watching badgers when someone flicked an on button and The Power of Independent Trucking blasted out, sending them and us into sqealing rabid flusters... it's still comical music, even now.

On the other hand, the first time I heard Whitehouse was 'Right to Kill' heard from an Evil Dead hut in the middle of the woods - and it still sends shivers down my spine, no matter how much I look at the Whitehouse boys and see that they're playing it for laughs.

Mel and Kim's 'Respectable' still sounds impossibly cinematic because it documented a mini clubman being pulled from a drainage ditch after a party.

Back then, there seemed no music that evoked the countryside; nothing that deliberately played with Nature - Nature played with it, used it for it's own ends but I guess it's no real surprise that now, as a parent, when my forays into the woods in the middle of the night are reduced to the odd sojourn to freak out the kids that I find myself attracted to the likes of The Jewelled Antler Collective and the Finnish Free Folk scene... musical memes that seem to embrace the ungovernable force better than most.

Back then, everything sounded like Kemialliset Ystavat.

08 January 2006

Charles Burns: Black Hole

Can't normally be arsed with straight reviews but I've just finished the collected Black Hole by Charles Burns. The gist: a sexually transmitted teen-plague with symptoms causing physical mutations (cue whipcrack sex-tails, extra mouths, vaguely vaginal slits appearing on girls backs...few stones unturned...) sweeps through a mid-1970s Seattle. The kids get together, pull each other apart, hang around campfires, take shed loads of drugs and eventually start freaking out and killing one another. It's full of teenage fucks (the act and the participators) and drawn in a cold, hard, though oddly slimy (the way people think snakes feel) manner which seems to suit Winter rather than Summer and reminds us of why Kurt Cobain removed his face with a shotgun.

Reviewers tend to take the view that the Teen-Plague/STD serves as a metonym for AIDS and it kind of works in that way (though the moral message is a little ambiguous - is he liking all this teen action or hating it?) but I think it's more likely that it serves as a metonym for facially reconstructive puberty - the way that teen faces can get grotesquely pulled out of whack for a few years, resulting in odd distortions of form (and often a mangled content as well if they're going through the mumbles)...

...ears that never quite match up with the eyes, noses that appear to be hanging around waiting for the rest of the face to catch up, hair that starts developing it's own sense of inarticulated rage...

Charles Burns characters are blandly beautiful (apart from Dave, who looks like an inbred product of a Stillwater and Kings of Leon gangbang) and you can see the temptation he has to defile them in some way, as if he understands that, though these kids are supposedly over most of the physical distortions of puberty, the mental ones are still slapping them full in the face: hence the crystal-clarity of the more psychedelic moments, all of which seem to indicate that most of the kids are on some level embracing the plague as a signifier of sexdom and individuality (cf Nic Cage's snakeskin jacket in Wild at Heart) and as a way of cleaving yourself free of this world and peeling back the skin of another...

This is a beautiful book and, while it's hardly as epic as it thinks it is, it is certainly worthy of your contemplation...

06 January 2006

New TG Album - Crispy!

I know I've been imagining things a lot recently but there really does seem to be a new studio album by Throbbing Gristle due out March 20th...

Yeah, you shouldn't go back - blah - yeah they should've let it lie - yeah, I didn't like 20 Jazz Funk Greats or Journey Through A Body much either (apart from the Martin Denny bits) etc etc but... there's a new studio album out by Throbbing Gristle!, aren't you even a little bit excited?

Be prepared for all the old nasties to re-emerge re: analogue vs digital.

Be prepared for more disappointment (Coum guaranteed it, didn't they?) - sorry about the Gyre spoof Ian!

To celebrate the impending release, here's a more or less completely unrelated couple of track by TG contemporaries and members of the Joy Division mutual admirers society, Crispy Ambulance:

Crispy Ambulance - Bardo Plane

Crispy Ambulance - The Presence

Did you know that West Country cowbell ringer Tim Goldsworthy (didn't he have a sexy sister? Kek would know...) and his pal, muffletopped and fluff-chinned, James Murphy from The DFA named their label after a Crispy Ambulance song? Why would you?

Another revival in the offing...

Oh, and if you go here you can find an odd little take on TG's Hot on The Heels of Love by someone called Laurie Laptop...

04 January 2006


"Talk about Femaaaaaales...! We keep hearin' stories about this and that/But don' they understand that they all are wack/Femaaaaaales..."

Yay! It's The Cookie Crew...

Includes enough James Brown samples to light up Bristol for a week...incl. the one that sounds like "Kek!"...

Rhythm King; 1987, I think...produced by The Beatmasters (of "Rok Da House!" infamy). From me own collection. Just for you, Nick.

Wee Papa Girl Rappers

Sandra and Timmie Lawrence, people are going to start rememberin'. You can feel it in the air, in Sovereign Blah, in the soft West Country Burr of Nick's GutterFM...

(incidentally, I've noticed the 'er' is becoming increasingly an 'a' in e-mails etc - a vowel change which seems to indicate a perspective change: consider this the first shot in a campaign to keep Nick 'Gutter')...

They will be re-released, re-evaluated and re-remixed in the coming year and everyone will suddenly realise that The big Grime-Through isn't going to happen in 2006 because it's already happened only everyone forgot and started re-inventing the wheel.

It's easy to forget, so much was happening. It's like the JG Ballard story "The Secret History of World War 3".

Wee Rule was released at the peak of the acid flash at a time when lyrics themselves were dissembling and making way for the onslaught of sound to come. Urban British Culture was emerging with a voice that was not a voice at all; just a series of slurred robo-sounds and electronic squiggles, formed from inarticulacy, the demise of the 3 Rs and the relative expenditure of good quality condenser mics. Electronics were pushing their spiny entrails like a Japanese Anime Demon (a Demon called Roland) through the heart of music, making the synth rush prime rather than a spacey / arty afterthought to rock...

In amongst all this, the Wee Papa girls were exhuming Brit Culture, maybe half a decade too early:

"I saw you sleeping on a station on a dredgy wood bench

I saw you turned away
started swearing in French

'Fou le Camp' you started saying
but you just didn't know
That I passed exams in French about one year ago".

Aspiration. Humiliation. A non-sectarian Rail Service. Later, Roots Manuva would be venerated because he said "chips".

Ahead of all this, the Wee Papas also headed up the trend for remixing (the likes of Kevin Saunderson showing their wares on Heat It Up) and thus opened the floodgates for the ambient apathy of remix culture: artists could sit and twiddle while their babies were re-shaped and re-formed and re-released...

Go to Connexion: the selector to download Wee Rule and get ready to pretend you always loved it: it's in trees, it's coming...

03 January 2006

The Duck With Two Backs

Fantastic new Joanna Newsom e.p - available soon on Fonal. It's a collaboration with one of my favourite artists of the last coupla years Kemialliset Ystavat

Joanna Newsom - The Duck With Two Backs

I'm sure regular readers (?! and diminishing by the ten...) can imagine the thin shards of music it's constructed from: it sort of knots together like a Blair Witch totem; from a sly, generationally absent, bit of folklore (actually stealing on the Japanese legend of the Kappa in the most part) to a twinkling drone (though drone isn't the word to describe this - it's not in the least heavy) piece which ends up sounding not unlike carousel music played on twigs, rubber bands and the kind of ten foot one-string guitars that Einsturzende Neubuaten used to make.

The lyrics are based around the sound of a man and his horse being dragged to their death in a deep pool "only nine arms wide, with blessings at the side" and at one point about halfway through Joanna is replaced by a choir of Finnish school kids, gleefully singing the refrain "My cuffs are see-through now, my shirt is like a mirror" (sounds better in Finnish).

In many ways it's a distillation (with horses and river sprites) of Nick Cave's novel And The Ass Saw The Angel, which I re-read last year (good; like Dylan Thomas on moonshine and sugar-cane) and thus the kind of song I always expected Nick would get round to doing but never did because he fell in love or something.

This is bound to be in my top seven records of 2006 and will almost certainly be in the top three. One thing is certain: the sound of sticks in wet towels is the new clonk and for that all you crunkers out there should be eternally grateful. Notebooks out, plagiarists!

More Relatives...

This is a retarded country version of a motivational track that appeared like a munkin wraith on Festival Radio back when I lived in Brighton and before I realised that sleep was the enemy (and thus worried obsessively about staying up til the early hours listening to stuff like this). It came sandwiched between Nurse With Wound and David Tudor if I remember rightly, though there's no reason to think this.

Porter Wagoner - What Would You Do (If Jesus Came To Your House)?

found via On The Flipside

Otherwise, lots of juicy Psych and Can rarities can be found here or you could go here to marvel at all those lovely banned record sleeves or else just go to the always brilliant here and download all of these - listen to them all in one go and feel your head expanding and contracting like the Scanners have zeroed you then go out and shoot someone in the name of Jesus* or something.

I especially love Victor Lundberg's - Open Letter To My Teenage Son....

*An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming does not hold itself responsible for shooting anyone in the name of Jesus or any other Messiah / TV Celebrity. An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming is well-known for it's irony and this is an example of it.**

**Just to be clear, the example of irony was regarding the original bit about shooting in the name of Jesus not the later qualifying addition***

*** Just to be really clear, shooting anyone is bad m'kay?****

****Except of course in self-defence and if there is no other option, for example I would feel bad if you failed to protect the lives of your friends/families just because of the previous admonishment about shooting people being inherently bad

The New Year Is Already Crap.

02 January 2006

The Line of Wounds

2006 is gonna be all about digging.

Recently uncovered (where and when remain suitably mysterious - I think the guy who wrote the press release was having a hard time finding a decent rhyme for 'sofa') and due to be released in 2006 on Evil Eye(I'm hoping for blue vinyl but it'll be one of those nasty 3" Cds, I expect):

The Shi Hea Sec Tryps - The Line of Wounds

2 tracks, both just under 7 minutes long. I'm not sure about the significance of 6'33 but if there are any numerologists out there....

"Track From Under The Floor" sounds like a man falling down stairs with several SH101s elephant-taped to his arms - it's a little like an aural version of that scene in Koyaanisqatsi where a bit of a satellite or something is falling to the ground...

But it's "The Line of Wounds" that's of most interest here. We all know the beginning from appearances of Elephant Table compilations: just fairly straightforward re-tread of the original samples, though this time the Russian guys have odd English translations whispered over (under?) their accounts to unnerving effect - "Second wound is located at the edge of reason, or just beyond the eye..."

The music though is very different... replacing the old synths loops and tape noise is a sorta, well, garage band structure, not entirely dissimilar to The Strokes or something and it takes a while before you realise that it's not guitars, bass, drums and vocals you're hearing but bonesaws, defibrillators, Dieffenbach operating knives, tracheal busts, arterial fizz, cervical brushes, brain clip forceps and traction tongs...

The effect is not unlike being kicked unconscious by Miffy (imagine the left ankle as a pivot around which the body spins like a home-made sprinkler).
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