Novel: László Krasznahorkai - Satantango

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Should I recommend a book when I'm only 80 pages into it? After all, novels can take a dive, can't they? In my hands, a book has often started well but taken a turn for the worse, reminding me of Philip Larkin's classic put-down that most are a beginning, a muddle and an end. More correctly, they're unable to hold my interest, perhaps due less to a drop-off in quality but instead my absolute refusal to persist with anything that's mediocre.

Well, here's Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, which I've begun because I started watching Béla Tarr's film adaptation before remembering it was also a book and deciding to read that first. The fact that Tarr's film is seven hours long and the prospect was too daunting had nothing to do with it, I swear.

Krasznahorkai's novel has no paragraphs but fortunately I'd been in training for that by reading Samuel Beckett's Molloy a few days earlier, along with his play, Endgame. Two characters, Irimias and Petrina, appear in Chapter II of Satantango and after a while I began to think of Beckett although if pushed to say why, exactly, I could not say. Later, I read excerpt from reviews on the inside cover, seeing that one compared it to Waiting For Godot. This made me feel rather pleased with myself. I had spotted that without being prompted! But it wasn't Godot I had in mind, never having read or seen it; more a Beckett atmosphere or mood, an air of absurdity, a hellish existence and as the pair take to the road, an end-of-the-world environment.

In Endgame there is either the sea outside the room, or nothing, depending on how you interpret the text. 'No more nature in the vicinity', as Clov puts it. In Satantango, 'No stars, no moon...gloomy patches of woodland as far as the eye can see, mud covering everything...things that should move stand as if petrified'. As brilliantly as Beckett suggests nothingness, Krasznahorkai portrays nature as a deadening thing, or a suicidal force that has exhausted itself in an effort to wipe humans from the face of the earth - nature's endgame and the decay of people in this foreboding environment.

It's been a while since I was struck by a writer's style, their literary style, that is, as opposed to sartorial one. Like most of us they dress ordinarily, with the exception of Tom Wolfe, who is quite the dandy but also possesses a definite literary style too. That's a rare combination. I recall reading Kerouac and being struck by his style, naturally. Also Raymond Chandler. So here is Krasznahorkai with extremely long sentences, the reading of which is akin to entering a labyrinth or riding a roller-coaster, therefore presenting a challenge since we are used to common grammatical structures so I have tried reading them quickly and found that it worked for many, or reading slower than normal but less out of choice and more to ensure that I could grasp what was being described and even then needing two or three runs because I confess to being neither the brightest spark on the block nor the greatest at concentrating, especially if I'm overly-tired in bed at night, where I tend to read novels rather than non-fiction simply out of a habit which formed many years ago, way before the internet was making constant demands of me along with the art I make these days, perhaps because I followed my mother's example although did not go so far as to start reading the complete works of Catherine Cookson, who's sartorial style I know nothing about, nor do I have much interest in, but I have seen footage of Krasznahorkai reading and he seems to dress very ordinarily too but should he dress according to the style and content of Satantango I picture him either in tattered rags or a Dadaist costume because the book's world is wretched and absurd yet, like Beckett's, darkly comic in places and combining those elements with Krasznahorkai's descriptive powers and vision I cannot help but recommend it.


Along with Column One's Boiling Pool this is shaping up to be one of my favourite albums of the year. The brevity of the tracks on each may tell you something about my decreasing attention span, or that I consider less to be more in 2016 as we all rush headlong, lemming-like, towards the edge of the data cliff and over into the eternal Beyond of absolute info-induced insanity/nothingness, whereby our saturated brains will act as no more than receivers whilst our senses and rational capabilities, becoming obsolete, render us zombie-like...'s already happened? Oh god...

REINHOLD FRIEDL and RASHAD BECKER take on John Cage's 'songs' which, yes, you guessed it, are not songs in the traditional sense, but exercises in sounds made by the voice and here treated electronically by Becker, who also adds other sound effects. 'Simply perform as you had decided to, before you knew what would happen' suggested Cage, in a typically cryptic fashion, thus allowing interpreters freedom, although their are 'instructions' such as this one for no.61...


...whilst it would be difficult to produce the sound of a wren's wings opening (of course, that's the joke), Friedl and Becker do include the birdsong, naturally. 'It's one of many treats here', I was going to say, but to highlight anything, to separate one song from another seems as absurd as the whole exercise will to those bound by preconceptions of what 'music' must be; in other words, people who refuse to acknowledge the brilliant, prankster, conceptual mind of Cage. 

Reading Cage's instructions adds to the listening experience and you can do that here and here. Some scores are akin to works of art in themselves and like the sounds link back to the earliest Dada experiments in typography and vocalising. On no.82 we hear someone, Friedl presumably, swallowing liquid. I do hope it was from a 'Paris cafe cognac glass' for absolute authenticity according to Cage's instructions.

Art / Quimper's Domino LP / Tod Dockstader

With Murder In Mind(3), RTomens, 2016
See the full series here


Quimper's a new name to me. He followed me on Twitter. So it works (assuming attention-grabbing was the aim). Domino is a comp of material from 2012 to 2016 and displays an aptitude for various styles all created with a good deal of taste and skill, from light songs such as Soft Bodies to more ominous horror tales like Daddy Fell Into The Pond and Banshee. There are post (?) Ice Wave (ha-ha) songs and the string-driven, stomping Teeth. It's New Wave Industrial Fusion Detroitous, scuzzy, bright, clean, simple, complex and worth replaying to appreciate the breadth. I admire anyone attempting diversity whilst retaining an identity and doing it so well.


Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy CD

Good news! Starkland are releasing previously unheard material by Tod Dockstader, selected from over 4,200 sound files left behind by Dockstader, who died in 2015. Read more about it here

Orchestral Manipulation & Editions Mego bargains

It's fitting that The New Music Vol.5 - Canada, should feature Andre Prevost's Fantasmes, which was first performed on November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It was subsequently dedicated to JFK., 'victim of the world which I have described here in my music'. You may have noticed that America is about to elect a new president and one of the two candidates is a maniacal businessman favoured by large swathes of the country, apparently; enough to cause concern, at least. Of Fantasmes, Prevost wrote: 'Hallucinations, anguish, the world overthrown, an unending tension, in short, the fantastic despair of a nightmare - ' Although he had an individual's nightmare in mind he may as well have been describing the post-election scenario should Trump win. 

I found this album today in the charity shop for £1.99, although not even that price would have tempted me if I hadn't read Pierre Mercure's description of his piece, Lignes Et Points, as transferring 'electronic music techniques: reverberation, playing the tape backwards, filtering of harmonic structures...slowing down and speeding up the tape' to the symphony orchestra. Sold! As you know, the reverse process, or rather, combination, of tape and orchestra was gathering momentum as a force in new music around this time (mid-60s). Electroacoustic and tape music would continue to be a force thereafter. I find the idea of reversing the process intriguing, not having heard it being attempted before. It does work very well, particularly when the brass ebbs and flows as if, yes, playing 'backwards'. Tragically, Mercure was killed in a car crash in 1965, aged just 39. Lignes Et Points was his last composition. It's not available on YouTube, but researching him further, I found this purely electronic piece...

Talking of purely electronic, I bagged these too in another charity shop today. What did I say about people with Good Taste never giving it away? Someone who liked the Editions Mego label obviously did. I say 'liked', perhaps they still do but have opted to de-clutter and be content with MP3s. I know the feeling, but his charitable act was my gain, especially since they were only £1 for singles and £2 for double CDs - yes! I had heard Fenn O'Berg's Magic & Return before but accidentally deleted it and didn't bother getting it again. Not because it wasn't good, it's very good, but because it got forgotten about. The CD revival continues apace and with vinyl at silly prices it makes sense...

Shifting Vinyl: Luciano Berio, Donald Erb & A Jump-Up Classic...and moths.

I eject a woodlouse from The Cave just as it's making it's way across the tiled floor of the hallway into this room. We had an 'infestation' of sorts, if that's possible. Whatever, they have been appearing throughout the year in various rooms. I'm not concerned and rather like them in their prehistoric fashion, although I don't fancy one crawling over me whilst in bed.

Moths are another matter. We've been plagued by them too. For what feels like years we've been pulling items of clothing from the wardrobe only to discover they've been chomped on by the little bastards. I'm afraid I've encouraged them, as we discovered the other day when I found an old pair of trousers at the back of the wardrobe. There were more holes than fabric - oops. LJ was not best pleased. Well I didn't know they were there!

Moths don't attack records, thankfully, otherwise I have a few that would be in pieces. Surprisingly, nothing flew from the record tower as I began shifting the vinyl in preparation for paintwork. Yes, I do play vinyl, but not so often as to know the collection well. Besides, it's not much of a collection nowadays. Bringing them back into the room today the album pictured above caught my eye so I gave the Luciano Berio side a spin. Visage really struck me as an incredible piece whilst Cathy Berberian's voice bounced around the room accompanied/altered by Berio's electronic treatment...

...reminiscent, I thought, of Dada verse, or Edda Dell'Orso's work with Ennio Morricone, although she was a lot more 'musical'. Well, any excuse...

There's nothing like having to move all your records to prompt rediscoveries so I've spent most of the morning playing vinyl, ranging from Bartok to Donald Erb...

...which really is a superb fusion of the electro and acoustic, one of the best, in fact (since all my opinions are facts - ha-ha)...

Several times I considered getting rid of half the books/CD/vinyl/DVDs as I looked at them all piled up. Like that they seemed to be no more than clutter, stuff, inanimate objects, which they are until brought to life by the stylus/eyes/player. Removed from their normal orderly position it's as if they were robbed of any power they may have. "Not much here really," I thought. "Considering I've been buying for four-and-a-half this it? Is this what I have to show for all those years of dedication to culture upon which I place so much importance?" Looked at it that way, I consider myself quite ruthless in what I keep. It's makes me feel less like a hoarder.

So, to liven myself up as my energy/enthusiasm waned I grabbed this from the small Drum & Bass selection....

...that did the trick - a jump up classic and a tune that lives on as one of my all-time favourites to play to a dance floor back when it was released. You can tell why...that 'hip-hop' opening break before the big, wobbly b-line - it was always a winner. As a physical/aural reminder of those nights, I could never sell that one. TTFN

Felix Kubin und das Mineralorchester - II: Music for Film and Theatre

Ah yes, very good this; as eclectic as you might expect from Felix Kubin. How come music for theatre/dance/film is frequently more interesting than that made for straight albums? Rhetorical question. Sound design for action elsewhere should tie down composers, yet liberates them. Think of Morricone's greatest work for 70s horror films. Think of other stuff, if you like. A visual scene dictates to the eye yet liberates the ear. I reckon.

Kubin covers all territories, from creaking orchestral tension on Wojna through Menuett I's jaunty harpsichord with drum machine to the breakbeat/down of Hexen and many stylistic points between. A real treat, the opening of which is akin to opening a box and a clown pops out on a spring...except clowns are evil nowadays, aren't they? And the box isn't a box, but more like a 19th century automaton, slightly disturbing and endlessly entertaining.

No Way Out: Coldsore / Libbe Matz Gang / Totstellen

.....of people not inter-networking - 
so this is brought to my attention: POLLUTANT by COLDSORE...........
Have we? It's possible.
How much great music is there to be discovered?
Stupid question.
On my death bed, I'll wonder what I missed.
No I won't. I'll be thinking of other things.
So here's this noise. From Finland. It doesn't matter where it's from. From The Zone? It's no picnic, roadside or otherwise. It's post-future, neo-sci-fi, after industrial or right now in the ruins/ construction site of something........Russian voices...English voices...your brain's bombed by radiation.........a sound generator turns the world negative.......blackest black/grey tones...gun shots in the echo chamber? It's opposed to total noise assault, an attack of sustained tones and hole electronics..........charred electroacoustics.......

.....from the same label (Totes Format): LIBBE MATZ GANG / COLDSORE split tape.....under the chemical cosh................alchemical......? .........orchestral dark matter's just not music, it's another long will it take to convince the resistance that there's something else? a lo-o-o-o-oo-o-o-o-ng time - fornever - this tape will not self-destruct in 5 is self-destructing as you listen.......and taking you with it.........

...theme recurring: 'information overload....all the electronics around you poisoning the airwaves!'......
back in time, almost 17 years to the 1999.......physical copies unavailable, instead, the booklet images in digital form.........but still........with ragged cut-up text/collage accompaniment this work makes total sense.....road drills counteracted by gentle piano played as civilisation goes down.......metal machine music par excellence from TOTSTELLEN.........about whom I know nothing but have heard a lot of in the last few days and it's all worthy of your attention....

(I pull out the earplugs - drilling still next door - ongoing for months gentrification of an already gentrified home - wankers - what can you say? what can you do? I would like to wait until the work is finished, then drill a hole in the wall and play this music through it to them, loudly, all day and night)

Far From The Edge: Drum 'n' Bass LPs Revisited

I passed on Hootie and The Blowfish (I must be mad!) but having found Supersilent 6 for 69p went back through the three racks of CDs in Help The Aged thinking I may strike a rich vein as donated by someone with taste. No luck. As it happens, no-one with Good Taste dumps the resulting books, CDs and films in a charity shop - very rarely anyway. Good Taste, as you know, isn't a 'matter of taste', it's a proven fact, the rules of which run along the lines of 'I have great taste and know what's brilliant and what's shit and anyone who disagrees with what I chose is wrong' - that's about it. For a larf, I also bought Alex Reece' So Far and Roni Size' New Forms, wondering what big breakthrough (sort of) D&B albums would sound like 20 years later - well, at 69p, not much to lose.

Neither Reece nor Size are new to me; I remember them first time 'round. I had New Forms but can't recall owning So Far. Listening now, perhaps I only had it for a few weeks before selling the thing, despite it being 'a masterpiece of spectacular alchemy' - The Guardian (so it says on the sticker) - er - well, we all got carried away about tunes at times but...I wonder if the journo who wrote that still feels the same? Any of us fools who write about music can allow the excitement felt upon first hearing something to tip us over into enthusiasm which, after a few months, never mind two decades, proves unfounded, or at least exaggerated.

You can't deny Pulp Friction, no matter how hard you might want to, but the rest of the album suffers from an awful polishing of the edges that made D&B great to my ears. OK, Bukem's sound was very smooth too and I don't play that stuff anymore either. So Far features a lot of female vocalising, which may explain why some mainstream journos took it imitated 'soul'? They couldn't handle the hard stuff, the dynamic, experimental, raw sound, perhaps. Besides, most makers of classic 12s didn't get to the album stage and that's exactly what saved them, in hindsight. Making an album back then was still a feat lumbered with old Rock baggage of requiring sustainable 'quality' over the length of an album in order to gain credibility with mainstream hacks.  

The other standout track on So Far is Acid Lab, which has some bite, along with a good semi-jump-up b-line, but I'm snoozing through most of it and the local charity shop bag awaits...

Come on Roni, I know you can do better. It's a year later (1987), on Talkin' Loud and another Big Tune in the form of Brown Paper Bag, the impact of which I remember well, being behind the decks at the time and also on the 'floor when others played it - boom! - that acoustic b-line. Lots of rap/poetry here, but if the lyrics aren't exactly profound or clever, at least they provide more gravitas than just a woman crooning simplistic nonsense. There's usually some oomph in the rhythm too, although it's all very 'clean', with one eye on what 'quality' means in terms of an album. 'Live' drums and acoustic bass, along with good production, spark life into most tracks but to be honest the jury's out on New Forms. The alternate 'funk' pace of Watching Windows catches my ear, though. At least Size had the nerve to break the mould occasionally.

Having listened to these albums they mostly make me yearn to hear more renegade snares and off-kilter breaks from those who never made long-players. Perhaps what I really mean is that by going for 'serious LP' status and considering the time period, D&B was losing it's soul. That's the dirty street variety as opposed to the vocal kind. Not that Size went penthouse sell-out, I know. The mid-90s alternative to striving for lush achievement was Tech Step, D&B's last hurrah and a nasty, hard nail in the coffin it proved to be, thankfully. It was as if the sound had returned to it's Dark Rave roots, wherein it could only disappear, dragged into the vortex of its own making.

Fanfare For The Warriors & A Flat Croissant

What better way to start the day than with the Art Ensemble Of Chicago's Fanfare For The Warriors? Sad to say, though, the day started very badly...a crisis, no less. Walking back from the shop I suddenly thought of the croissant in the bag and how...yes...oh my had been flattened by a bottle of white vinegar and a litre of had been so puffed up and tasty-looking when purchased and that, surely, is part of their appeal...biting into all that oven-baked, light, fluffy crispness. Bollocks. It's nothing to get down about, I told myself...consider yourself lucky because in Aleppo they'd love flattened croissant to be a major concern....

So I'm chewing croissant washed down with a strong coffee whilst half-listening to the Art Ensemble's Tnoona (track 6) - living the dream! A dream, of sorts. Yes, well, some folk are cruising the coast of Southern France on their boats and others are in training for a top Italian football team...they're young, handsome (Italian footballers are the most handsome...I often tell LJ how much I fancy one when watching international football) rich and fit - what more could I want from life?!

Shut up fool and be content with who and what you are.

I am, really, which is some kind of miracle.

I replay Tnoona a couple of times and marvel, not least at the opening strum of bass string, tinkle of piano keys (right hand, whilst the left creates a  deep ambient mood) and someone blows through a mouthpiece, the breath akin to stalker horror score effects...quite brilliant. I'm reminded to listen more often, not only to the Art Ensemble but other CDs and albums. You know how it is, you forget how amazing an album is because it sits in the collection, neglected, for months, perhaps years. You forget so much. Perhaps that's the way it should be...only room for so much in this noodle.

I remembered the Art Ensemble this morning since I'm going to see what remains of them at Cafe Oto in Feb next year. Yes, I made up my mind and was foolish to have doubts. Fanfare For The Warriors may be one of my favourite AEOC so sums up what they're about, containg as it does joyous jumps across so many genres, from rock 'n' roll to swing, ambient atmospherics, jaunty song, poetry and of course free-range blowing.

'We dearly give this music
to the brothers
all over the planet
who have fought
for the freedom
of our people
who have given their lives
that Black men women and children
may grow into a world
free for All of us.'
(from the sleeve notes)

That was 1973. Was it too optimistic? Perhaps, but surely optimism in needed to overcome every obstacle in 'the struggle'. The opposite is too tempting...the descent into despair, the violent, thug life response to ongoing prejudice and economic deprivation. Easy for me, a white English man with a job, to say. Yet despair becomes a viable option for most of us if we look at society, never mind the worldwide horrors. If we look at what we think is wrong with society, that is...and there's plenty that's wrong in London, let alone the country. Don't worry, I won't list everything.

Thank Charlie Parker for Great Black Music. I mean, not literally, although he was responsible for so much that came after him. I mean, instead of 'god', of course. Thank CP for the AEOC (they would acknowledge the debt, I'm sure). It's their music, right now, which enriches this experience called 'living'. In a less significant way, so did that croissant, which still tasted good, so ears and stomach satisfied, I bid you farewell. TTFN

Design For Dreaming Zine/ Communication Breakdown

In Housmans this morning, dropping off some copies of the book, so as usual I rummaged through the zines downstairs, hoping to find a new issue of Clod Magazine but no luck. I don't know how often they appear, probably only yearly. And I haven't spoken about it here yet but will at some stage because it really is the funniest thing on the shelves.

Anyway, I bought three copies of Design For Dreaming, a centre-stapled A5 b&w whom? That's the question. I've searched today but not been able to find one mention of it on the internet. Perhaps that shouldn't surprise me, the small-run nature of zines meaning thousands go unnoticed. The only contact is a domain address which just presents an email address. Who are these people, or who is this person? 

I admire deliberate anonymity in a way, but ultimately prefer communication lines to be created. That must be because I remember the old world when addresses in zines were always included because you wanted to be contacted. That way small networks were established. Today small networks are established online where we optimistically reach out but truth be told seldom get the reaction we desire. By which I don't mean praise for the brilliant/art or writing, necessarily, just a reaction, feedback.

The internet's like a vast hysterical crowd in which you try keeping one person still long enough to have a meaningful interaction. But they're constantly distracted. This hyper activity in the form of surfing is hard to combat. It doesn't stop for you. Experts suggest shouting louder, for longer and more often, but that simply isn't either possible or desirable for many creators. Where would you find the time to create anything? 

My Facebook tab is open and dormant. Not '1' notification. This is nothing new. To get something out you have to put something in. Right? Anyone who mentions it has a love/hate relationship with Facebook. More often than not, just hate. I can see why. You have a number of 'friends', most of whom, it turns out, don't post a damned thing you're interested in. So you' Unfollow' and keep doing so until the number of people with whom you really have something in common is roughly the same as you knew before the Network. Or is it just me?

Sadly, you may never meet most of those good Friends because they live far away or in another country. The same was true pre-PC, of course. The difference was that letters really meant a lot when you got them and required the same effort for you to write in return. I doubt many people today even email each other. Communication has been reduced to the most minimal forms possible, perhaps even just an emoticon, never mind a 140 character tweet. 

I can only speak from my perspective. I could extol the virtues of mass communication on an epic scale across all platforms but that's not my experience. Right now it strikes me that communication on the Network is so fragile and frankly, weak, because we 'know' people without knowing them at all. This impersonal mechanism requires little and gives it in return. Why would we invest more than a minute in someone we don't really know? Letters, however, had to be worth sending. You were handwriting (or, if technically inclined, typing,) which by it's very nature is more personal and in many cases encouraged people to reveal personal details. The upshot being you felt you got to know the person better.

Well, that was the old world. Design For Dreaming is the old world in the sense of it being stapled paper. Yes, you understand the appeal of paper zines, I know. The contents are totally 'modern', though; you might even say 'post-modern'. Utilising much-loved Situationist-style détournement, cut'n'paste graphics and scanned pages relating to philosophy, design and the politics of everyday life, it crams a lot into the slender page count. But it only costs a pound. I would love to have linked to a page where you could buy it but as I said at the start there's just an email address. I'll contact them but won't publish it as a potential spam magnet. If they respond with further outlets I'll let you know. 

Ghosts Of My Life: Art Ensemble Of Chicago

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Someone shared this announcement on FB today...

1st, 2nd, 3rd February 2017
On-sale now for Cafe Oto members
On-sale next Wednesday (12th Oct) publicly

Roscoe Mitchell / flute, alto and soprano saxes
Hugh Ragin / trumpet, flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet
Junius Paul / double bass
Don Moye / drums

Good news? I think so, but half the band are missing, or two thirds, or is it three quarters? I was never any good at maths but three original members aren't there because two are dead and one's become a Buddhist monk. Are they still the Art Ensemble, then? Of course. I think The Stylistics still play supper clubs and there's only the younger brother of one in the 'band' - something like that. Soul groups do that a lot. The Fatback band played London recently but who's left I have no idea and besides it's not 1975 so I didn't bother going.

Unlike Funk bands the AEOC weren't (cynical past tense) bound by an era despite rising in the late-60s to play free range 'Jazz' (more about that word later) fade a little by the mid-70s before returning with a boom to record for ECM in the 80s and play London, where I saw them a few times. Besides, they were always 'ancient to the future', or their 'black music' was, as they stated. Not as futuristic as Sun Ra, perhaps, but there in spirit.

Now Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors are communing with the spirit in the sky whilst Joseph Jarman does so on earth, from a mountain top, probably, being very Zen, a Buddhist priest, actually. Can the 'new' AEOC be any good? Well, yes, compared to most, I imagine; just not the AEOC I knew. Could anyone replace Jack Bruce in Cream? I don't know why that idea springs to mind...thinking essential components of a unit...unit structures, or the molecules that make up the biological speciality of a species (I never was any good at biology). Monk was Thelonious Monk and whoever played with him had to become Monk-like. Ornette Coleman had a musical system, or philosophy, which all players had to adapt to. The Art Ensemble may have had a loose collective 'philosophy' but the point is they played together as a specially integrated unit from being together so long and developing that ESP-like symbiotic relationship.

I don't know if Rock bands ever reach the same level. I cited Cream, who seemed to get close. Didn't Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker have a private joke about wanting to emulate great Jazz bands therefore appointing Clapton as Ornette Coleman (behind his back)? Or did I dream that? Did I dream seeing Lester Bowie hang a big bass drum around his neck on stage to play 'major'? Is my past all one long dream?

Rock bands have natural leaders in their singers but some tried to stretch the boundaries with long solos, like Led Zeppelin and, I think, Grateful Dead, although I've only ever heard about ten minutes of GD. Blame the drugs (theirs, not mine). Long guitar solos never did much for me once I'd stopped listening to Adult Rock (around the same time Punk happened, coincidentally). So, as an early teenager I loved Adult Rock, then as a late-teen fell for Teen Rock or, you might say rather cynically, adolescent noise, ignoring any adult intellectual themes espoused by certain Punks such as political anarchy, Situationism and whatever Wire were going on about. In my 40s I first heard Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds For figure it all out.

Early in the clip below Lester Bowie makes the point that Jazz used to also be a 'dirty word' ( a euphemism for sex) and is hence tainted from birth, as he sees it. He's not the first player to try and distance himself from the label. Miles Davis did it, Mingus too. Rather than embrace the term and promote it's endless potential, for some it was a noose around their necks, a genre trap they struggled to avoid. Don Cherry said 'that's canning it if you put a label on it like jazz'. Hampton Hawes said 'I think the word jazz was more or less made up by white businesspeople'. Richard Davis said 'as long as it's swinging and feels good it's jazz!'

It's clear why the AEOC offered 'Great Black Music' as an alternative, but they only dabbled in other genres, such as Reggae, Funk and Rock; mostly remaining true to their roots in the 60s free range Chicago scene. The amazing thing about that is what they made of it, their own special brew, rather than appearing fossilised. Watching them 'live' never felt like a nostalgic trip or, considering my age at the time, a look at the past. I sensed the history but it felt alive and very much in the present. I suppose great improvisation is one long 'solo' in time, unlike Rock or Soul bands who can't help but play the past in the form of songs that made their name long ago.

So today I learnt that the Art Ensemble are still here now. I'm sure the new members are brilliant players. I may even go and see them. But just as I can't recapture my relative youthful self who saw the original line-up, they can't be the band they once were and therefore be as great. I can only imagine the experience being tinged with a little sadness, haunted by the man in the white coat.

Art Book: Too Much To Bear

OK, folks, the UK orders can now be shipped after a delay in the delivery service from Sweden. All orders from Timglaset Editions. Worldwide shipping too, of course. 

Vinyl, Webern & Cecil Taylor

Putting a record on...once an ancient pastime but one that's no longer the sole preserve of us older generations thanks to the vinyl revival. I hear people also buy records and never play them, preferring the MP3, which seems perverse but does demonstrate the allure of the old format and I'm not knocking anyone who does it. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I've bought albums before and only played them once or twice but listened to the file many times. We're all aware of the advantages; the ease of skipping tracks and...that's just about the only one I can think of, unless the speakers hooked up to your computer are better than those with the hi-fi.

One advantage with vinyl is that it creates sound away from this screen. The issue most of us have is screen addiction, to the point where all life emanates from them, large or small. So the simple feat of creating another source of entertainment, from another place, feels like a significant change, a break from total slavery to the machine. The sound is also better, a fact that has little to do with vinyl's superiority over digital but simply the weight delivered by my trusty old Wharfedale speakers, which do just as good a job if I'm playing CDs.

I've never been keenly attuned to sound quality variations, unlike those who wage war over the issue whilst no-one appears victorious. As a sound technician once said, vinyl won't sound 'better' if your equipment is not up to scratch. Scratches of another kind are also part of vinyl's appeal to some. I understand the nostalgia of well-worn vinyl, having spent a few years listening to reggae singles played in The Elephant's Head, Camden, their grooves seemed to carry in them the very essence of time, history and for some of us, memory. 

Dirt on one side of the Webern box pictured above stopped the needle in its tracks twice. This was remedied by finding the grime and holding my fingernail over it as the record spun. I now have very old dirt under my nail and should really give it a scrub, but since I'm already infected with a virus, it hardly seems worth worrying about.

The dirt, grime, dust, smears, fingerprints, creases and tears of the old music carriers are also pleasing to me. I can't help but ponder the history of the Webern box, where it's been since many homes? Perhaps only one. Did the owner die, or simply change over to CDs? How did it end up in the Kentish Town charity shop? Webern's history regarding the Hitler regime is not a noble one. As cited in Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise, when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark he declared:  'Each day becomes more exciting. I see such a good future.'  Well, it is anyone's right to refuse the music of the politically suspect, but I choose not to do so.

On the subject of sound in various forms Cecil Taylor, in the 1965 Downbeat interview used as sleeve notes for this album, suggested that the way 'high fidelity is used falsifies by compensating for the weaker musicians'. He said this whilst discussing pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro whose playing, he believed, was enhanced, or 'falsified', by recording techniques. Ouch. So accusations that weak artists are compensated for by studio engineering are nothing new. The difference being that Taylor was taking a swipe at extremely accomplished musicians rather than the industry-built boy bands or naturally incompetent singers of today.

If not exactly generous in spirit, Taylor's music just keeps on giving and Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come remains one of my favourite albums, not least because it is an album, double vinyl from 1976. It's very material existence means something though what, exactly, I'm not sure. But every time I pull it from the shelf I feel the kind of satisfaction merely clicking a mouse cannot compete with. It's as if the actual cardboard and vinyl render it...sacred? As an artifact? It's not rare or expensive to buy. No, the otherness of vinyl in the age when I play far more files than records perfectly mirrors the otherness of the music...this rampant, spider-scuttling-over-the-keys, squiggly, contorted Bop in free form...a Jazz branch cut loose to fall where it will and grow into something else, in this case, Cecil Taylor music, a one man genre.    

Here is one of the record centres. That tear could represent the great rip in Jazz around if the obliterated print is history although, conversely, the readable part may be history, the definite, clearly definable, whilst the white space is freedom...the imaginary, imaginable universe of sound opened up by the likes of Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor in their own ways.

Anton Webern was, as you probably know, a disciple of Schoenberg, therefore a revolutionary composer in his time. In his and Taylor's recordings we hear new possibilities for music, from the studied, intellectual 'freedom' of early-20th century atonality to the open-ended joy of piano keys as a canvas for countless points of colour/sound.  

A Year In The Country - The Quietened Bunker / Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani - Sunergy

The Quietened Bunker cover art

.........all is relatively quiet around The Bunker, as I used to call our flat in honour of William Burroughs' New York place which, I believe, was also called that - but we now call our home 'The Cave', due to the damp on the walls and seemingly permanent chill about the place...perhaps it's haunted? I mention the street silence not only as a link to this album's title but to mark my relief from the noise of ongoing gentrification in our street, a cacophony of drills, hammers and stone-cutting saws, normally. Thank you, property developers...............

A more welcome noise has been this release from the dependable A Year In The Country label. Another comp to follow on from Fractures and just as good, possibly better, although my personal opinion means nothing......................................other than to say it is, of course, everything since music writing can hardly be 'objective', can it? .........................I hope my writings may persuade you to investigate the albums I cover........................................................the thought give me a good deal of satisfaction.................
.............Grey Frequency's Drakelow Tunnels is a stand out piece of work regarding atmospherics and Unknown Heretic's Crush Depth in contrast renders the air heavy with mechanoid industrialism...........the inclusion of Time Attendant once again is a reason to be cheerful as he displays an ability to organise sound above and beyond what most others a capable of doing. The track title, Crafty Mechanics, is a fitting description of the comp as a whole.

FRKWYS Vol. 13: Sunergy cover art

..................more joyful noise, this time from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani on Sunergy, which was sent to me today, thankfully, because I'd never heard of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith but research shows she's been busy over time without notifying me of her activities - shame on the woman..................the Buchla-powered energy emanating from this is really should be harnessed to light up the world..........can you imagine Buchla farms dotted around the planet? trouble is, you'd need someone as good as Ciani and Smith to power them.........................OK, a stupid idea..........................A New Day dawns, somewhat subdued, like the deep red sun behind lines of grey cloud, perhaps, but when it breaks're lifted into an ecstatic land of shimmering leaves, dancing flowers, dazzling green hills, roaring waves, a breathtaking breeze and time-lapse clouds racing overhead - yes! you are. it's feel good music. without being too fluffy. Here's the other track......TTFN

James O’Callaghan - Espaces tautologiques

Espaces tautologiques

You don't need a degree in audio science to appreciate the works presented here by empreintes DIGITALes and I doubt that it would help - just a set of ears (open ones) - now saying that, I remind myself of when I'd say a similar thing about Jazz in the 90s whilst trying to convince those who's taste was pretty indie that ornette Coleman was worth a listen - well, that battle's been won (he says, sarcastically), so how about this electroacoustic thing?

There comes a time to hang up your dancing shoes (what do you mean you never had a pair?) and stick with home listening, which for most will mean either listening to what they danced to before they got fat/tired/old or Country & Western, or Classical or, god forbid, Ambient and so on. I still love a good beat but also music like this by James O'Callaghan - if it can be called 'music' - it is, after all, in defiance of recognised characteristics which constitute that thing. It is sound, yes. Sounds...but what those sounds are remains a mystery and it is this unknowable element that makes it all so intriguing.

We might sense objects being moved, the sound manipulated...a stretching, not only of sound waves, but time, somehow, even the tautening of a rope to breaking point on Empties-Impetus, then the release and the rolling groan of an electroacoustic ship, perhaps. You see, this is not easy to describe. I'm a fool for attempting to do so...but there are detonations, a bowed instrument, scraping strings, the patter of objects and tension akin to Bernard Herrmann's psycho-tic orchestration.

Espaces tautologiques can be bought at electrocd 

And now I find this 'live' performance and see how some of these sounds are being made...a chair is being 'played'...a balloon popped on the strings of a piano...this really is a magnificent performance...

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