Pierre Boulez Conducts Schoenberg / Broken Record Art / Tod Dockstader: From the Archives

I don't think Arnold Schoenberg would have approved of the democratic voice the internet has given us commoners. 'Everyone is supposed to have their say,' he wrote in 1928. 'For the new bliss consists of the right to speak: free speech! Oh God!' Sounding more than a little fascistic, eh? But ironically I know what he means, especially if I allow my eyes to drift down to the Comments on any given YouTube clip. I'm sure you do too. It would be ironic for me to criticise this age of The People's Voice, being a blogger. Schoenberg was probably less enamoured with The People speaking because they would have more than likely not done so favourably if commenting on his music.

So here's a recent buy, Pierre Boulez Conducts Schoenberg, Eloy, Pousseur. Schoenberg's Transfigured Night was written in 1899, on the cusp of two centuries which would see him transform Classical music in the new one, or at least, create new possibilities. For as far as I can tell, with my limited knowledge, like so many pioneers in music he may have opened a door but few walked through in quite the same manner as him. Transfigured Night has one foot in the Romantic past and another, to these ears, is dipping a toe in the more challenging waters of the future. In adhering to the structure and story of Richard Dehmel's poem, Schoenberg had the opportunity to create unsettling sequences in keeping with the tale of a woman who committed an 'effrontery' when becoming pregnant by a stranger. Unlike her child, however, what Schoenberg would give birth to in the 20th century was not always warmly welcomed. In response to criticism, he mocked 'communally oriented artists' who 'addressed their idiocies only to each other.


Here's something I made late last year. It's not entirely successful, perhaps because I didn't finish it to my own satisfaction...


Emerging late last year, although I've only just got a copy otherwise it would have been in my Best Of list, Tod Dockstader: From the Archives on Starkland. What a phenomenal release, 15 tracks chosen from 50 which, in turn, came from thousands of files discovered on Dockstader’s computer after his death in 2015. My only regret is that more could not be heard; perhaps they will be in the future. That said, I believe in protecting the legacy of the deceased. At least Dockstader is in good hands, rather than the grubby ones belonging to profiteers who plunder the sonic coffins of Famous Dead Pop Stars.  

There's no chance of Tod becoming famous unless the listeners' world is turned upside down, thus placing quality electronic music on top (of the Pops). In this age of 'popular' politics which seemingly turns 'reason' and 'logic' upside down, music such as this becomes even more precious. Well, I don't know about you, but 
such sounds have always been private ammunition against Common Culture. Do I sound snobbish? A little like Schoenberg, perhaps! No matter, now I bask in these archival sounds, especially tracks such as Chinese Morf (2007) which, despite it's relative (to many electroacoustic pieces) brevity, encapsulates the spirit of acousmatic adventures in sound quite brilliantly.

Whilst it's possible to date (roughly) this music (yes it sounds 'modern') it stems from the tradition of 'unknown' sound sources. Is that a typewriter key striking on Todt 1? What is being 'played', or recorded, hardly matters. There is a temptation to hear these tracks, in hindsight, as largely melancholic mood pieces, yet there's also a magisterial power brooding amongst the more ambient moods. On Todt 1, Dockstader employs some mighty low end 'oomph' intermittently. Mystery Creak (a joke referring to Pierre Henry's famous creaking door?) is pure sonic delight, the 'creak' barely registering amid flurries of head-spinning sound. The whole 'creak/creek' sequence is magnificent. Big Jig (2005) closes the collection in storming fashion, Dockstader layering mechanoid metal-on-metal as well as any of the young Heavy Techno breed, succeeding in restraint rather than overload. Essential. 

Bartok Concerto / Post-Truthisms / Career (1959)

Recent vinyl find, in excellent nick and what a cover. Love the way the strict geometry of the cityscape lines dissolve into what looks like an abstract representation of an ocean with huge wave but is actually pure design effect to contrast with the rigid skyscraper forms. No artist credited. Aside from that, I like the fact that it's from Bartok's homeland, Hungary...


Post-truth everything, even the weather - forecasts of snow and subsequent freezing temperatures across London proved unfounded, thankfully, because it would have made my cycle ride to work tricky yet I couldn't help feeling betrayed by an overly-cautious BBC because what they said would happen didn't, just like they said the temperatures would plummet during the day on Wednesday so I warned LJ to wrap up - that didn't happen. I'm doubting the validity of all predictions. Post-Brexit 'disaster', didn't happen (although there's plenty of time for a slow-burn descent into economic sludge). Trump as president couldn't happen, it will. World War 3 won't happen either when he's in power, mainly because it's in the interest of Republicans to maintain their cosy lifestyles by not encouraging a large-scale war that escalates and goes nuclear. 

The new series of Question Time on the BBC has started. I became addicted to it late last year; fascinated by endless variations on the theme of evasion/defence/attack demonstrated by politicians. The sense you get is that the only honest people on the panel are the unaffiliated, politically. These are Political times. We can't escape it. So we read the 'papers, watch TV and then say 'Oh it's all bollocks'. That, in a nutshell, is why Trump won. No matter how much dis/information we read we're none the wiser and those who've already aligned themselves to a party won't change their minds. The rest of us just watch, zombie-eyed at the spectacle of 'democracy' knowing that our opinions can't be represented because they don't coalesce into convenient Left, Right or Centre thinking.  


Film recommendation: Career, 1959. Smart script, classy acting, even from Dean Martin, who plays the fine line between scoundrel and victim perfectly. Good cinematography and Shirley MacLaine looks fantastic. If you want a story about the conflict between trying to realise a dream and the price paid for being persistent this is a great one. 

X(mas) Factor Irony Alert!

So I'm visiting my sister at Xmas and one of her daughter's girls asks me if I know what 'Dabbing' is but of course I don't so she proceeds to show me. Right. I like to keep in touch with what's happening, of course. Then she asks me if I've heard of Honey G, to which I reply in the negative, only to realise, when she shows me on her tablet, that despite trying to avoid being contaminated by the Popular Culture virus I did know who she meant.

This girl is around 15 years-old. I feel bad not knowing her age...the kids used to crawl across the carpet towards me and I'd wonder what their names were, now they walk up to me and quiz my knowledge of popular culture. I (foolishly) set about trying to prise from her the appeal of Honey G, being genuinely curious. She smiled a lot and made the sort of noises mid-teens do, I think, which is both form of mockery and incredulity. Add to that the lack of an extensive vocabulary plus an (unconscious) rejection of old-fashioned attempts to explain as befits a post-modern teenager and you get noises.

I don't know what I would have said had an adult asked me why I like Led Zeppelin at that age...probably just shrugged and grunted, so I can't say I was any smarter than her at that age. I asked her why she was so interested in a talentless performer but she made more noises, smiling. She smiled so much I knew the joke was on me. I didn't get it. No, I didn't.

On the train home I thought about my musical taste in my early-teens, which was for Glam in all forms (yes, Bowie and all the crap), along with Trojan reggae, Motown and the newly-released Album That Would Blow My Tiny Mind, Ziggy Stardust. I made comparisons, thinking 'Oh, I'm just middle-aged and liked rubbishy Pop when I was young too'. But as I did more finkin', dear reader, it dawned on me that even a single by Mud amounted to more than Honey G (god, I even hate typing the bloody name).

You see, however trite 70s Pop was, it had absolutely no irony attached, not in our minds anyway. It was...dare I say, a pure kind of Pop. There was skill involved, even if only in the session musicians employed to play what the fake bands mimed. Skilled production too by the likes Of Mickie Most and that Rak label sound. And Slade were our Oasis, but better.

Meanwhile, today, being totally crap, as in an awful parody of Rap, makes a celebrity who gets a singles record deal. But beyond recording, as we know, it's being a celeb that seems important. This is the age of being a Celeb who need do nothing but be, be outrageous, posh, porny, rich, tarty or whatever. Perhaps comparing 'her' to bands of the early-70s was wrong. But there is a kind of music involved.

In the end all I could do was smile back at the Honey G fan. I gave as good as I got. If words aren't necessary (or even possible) to explain this phenomenon, I'd better shut up and get back to being an 'old' man seeking sanctuary in the likes of Miles Davis. TTFN.

Funniest Magazine On The Planet: Clod

You need a sense of humour living in Luton as the Clod creators do (he says, only having been there once, at night, in 1976, with no memory of why). Yet it's the very ordinariness of the town that gives birth to Clod humour which, in turn, mirrors everything about England that is anti-urban elitist and hip-sterish, therefore making it a quintessential Real English phenomenon. The perfect post-Brexit read! I say that cautiously, should you misinterpret what I mean. Clod staff happen to be pretty hip, music-wise, half being Jazz fans, hence jokes such as the Lester Young one below. Their sussed attitude towards Everytown (that ordinary high street of the mind that torments and intrigues us all, even Cool Capitalistas like myself - ha-ha) and Everyday life makes Clod so good.   

Clod should be available at your doctor's surgery, on prescription, to cure depression, but for now you can get it here. Their main website is here.

Also available, the Clod eReader...here's my copy. I now truly feel part of modern life...

Philippe Lamy & MonoLogue - Blu Deux

This being a quiet time for new releases here's one from late last year, Blu Deux by Philippe Lamy & MonoLogue. Exquisite textures and tones from these two, the way rhythms bursts through the split seams of Tout est blu is fantastic, like a discarded layer which persists in making its presence felt, intermittently, without being allowed to take hold and reduce the piece to yet another generic techno thing. Most of these pieces suggest fragmentary forces fused, not colliding, to shift the plates of sound; skilfully manipulated, the rumbles, blips and drones feed off of and into each other. Fine work.

Vispo, Being Clever & A Horror Music Mix

Knowing Too Much, RTomens, 2016

Merry New....whatever...eaten all the mince pies yet? I've got four left, all mine because LJ doesn't eat them. Consumed enough? Still enjoying those socks you were bought? That's an old 'joke', but perhaps people do still get socks for Xmas. And a cheap box set of smelly stuff for the girls, of course. Right, that's sexual stereotyping out the way. 

Here's me trying to look clever outside a cafe....in Crouch End...where a lot of clever people live...so I always feel like an imposter who expects to get found out any minute and kicked out (or rather, gently encouraged to leave) by the middle-classes. With that in mind, I laid these things out on the table in order to deceive them all....

Image may contain: coffee cup

Horror mixes...remember them? As I was saying to James Robert Moore this afternoon, they got done to death and I was one of the people doing it three or four years ago. I suppose people still make them. People are always still making things...like drum 'n' bass tunes...and hand-woven baskets. Here's one of mine, anyway...

Album: EUH! 1

Late entry for Best of 2016? Too late - who cares...Wayne Rex (drums, pipes ) and Kek-w (electronics, stuff) probably don't because they work in the spirit of disregard for lists, popularity and anything others might crave - they just make music for themselves and the lucky few who can get hold of it.

EUH! 1 is 'free' drumming and electronics, for which there are precedents, but don't expect me to recall them right now because I'm knackered after a hectic social week-end which entailed not just one but two late nights, in a row! Therefore, strangely, this combination of percussion and electronics somehow mirrors the state of my brain, ie skittering all over the shop yet not in an unpleasurable fashion. The art of the improvisers is a fine one, brilliantly displayed by this duo, who stitch all manner of sounds together in the spirit of joyful exploration. I particularly like the clockwork percussion of Alopecia, but to pick a highlight is impossible. There are so many, totally integrated. If you're quick you might get a copy from here.

2016 Music of the Year

In no particular order (cap letters signify no more than copied and pasted & couldn't be bothered to alter)...

Maja Osojnik - Let Them Grow
Autechre - elseq 1-5
Column One - Boiling Pool
INTERSYSTEMs - Intersystems
Demdike Stare - Wonderland
Merzfunder - various artists
Unruly Milk - Spilaggges
James O’Callaghan - Espaces tautologiques
23 minutes - 23 tracks - 23 artists
Rook Vallade - Vestiges
Jonty Harrison - Voyages
The Pop Group - The Boys Whose Head Exploded
A Year In The Country - The Quietened Village​
eMMplekz - Rook to TN34
Gelbart- Preemptive musical offerings to satisfy our future masters
Yves De Mey - Drawn with Shadow Pens

George Lewis & Splitter Orchester - Creative Construction Set™

Occasionally an album comes along, the depths of which I can tell from the first few minutes will probably take me a lifetime to fathom -  Creative Construction Set is such an album...such an album...

Where to begin? How about the fact that I've spent the last couple of hours painting...not the walls, but the paper designed for painting images onto, any images, abstract, representational, figurative...you know, art things. Which tells you nothing about this album...although it does, in a way, because it tells you that by mentioning my act of painting I don't know how to begin to describe Creative Construction Set...so how about a comparison between sound and images? Maybe. This is abstract art of the highest degree. Perhaps I even paint in a similar fashion to the way the Orchester and George Lewis make music...improvisational...no fixed idea of what will emerge but...an approach in mind, in place, the bare bones or foundation of what will take shape...

George Lewis has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, in case you were wondering. Now you know. Knowing nothing of the artists is no bad thing...no preconceptions. That knowledge didn't prepare me for this album. Not much can...

Amid the multi-instrumental fragmentary (pointillist?) sonic marks Lewis' trombone will intermittently rise up, leviathan-like...to ride, or cut through, a sea of bowed, plucked, snatched, blown, tapped instruments...sometimes a clatter in unison, brief punctuation...breaks in which the brass throws a mournful blanket over/under everything...the crackle of static, a stylus stuck...fluttering breath through a trumpet? scraping toward climactic crescendos then nanosecond silence, tape delay, loop, computer clicks, bubbles, squeaks, little wooshes, piano chords, miniscule melodic runs, brushes on drums...

If the underlying tone is somewhat mournful, the tapestry of sounds constantly crackle with life, sometimes joining to form dense matter during what feels like free falling through time and space, each star emitting points of light to form a cosmic display which, as I suggested at the start, cannot be comprehended in a single trip. A stunning album. 

Various Artists - MERZfunder & Antoine Chessex / Apartment House / Jérôme Noetinger

A 114 track compilation? Don't be ridiculous - or in this case - do, because it's for a good cause, the upkeep of Kurt Schwitters' Merzbarn, no less, but there'd be little point gathering so many tracks if most of them weren't good and you might be surprised to learn (as I was to hear) that on the whole this is a high quality selection, ranging across the spectrum from beats to sort-of 'rock', plunderphonics, glitchiness, grunge glitch, ambienthop, hauntography, scratchbreak (all right, that's enough). M.NOMIZED's  Henpapi Collage jumped out as I made part two of the trip because some Trad Jazz is embedded in the beginning before things go, well, everywhere. idle potentiate's sic map phase drops a great squelchy bass amid the Echo Step excellence and Security's Intestinal (Shiver Mix) evokes the old school electro-Punkindustrial days of the late-70s. Got to be the Compilation Of The Year. 

Image result for Langdale Merzbarn


Top drawer collaboration between Swiss composer Antoine Chessex, French electronic artist Jérôme Noetinger and the UK ensemble Apartment House recorded at Cafe Oto in 2014 and worth every penny if you feel like treating yourself (go on, for Xmas, although it won't be the family choice on the morning of the 25th, unless your family are very avant-garde in their taste and reject Phil Spector or whoever in favour of this). But, christ, it's a magnificent melange of classical-electronic-noise, both pieces being written for the ensemble but totally transformed, enlarged, deepened by Noetinger's engagement with the material. With great variation in the sections, it never lapses into cliche or aimless meandering but rather shifts seamlessly in degrees of tension and weight. First class. Sample and buy from Bocian Records.

Iancu Dumitrescu & Ana-Maria Avram at Cafe Oto

Iancu Dumitrescu is talking to me, but thankfully not about phenomenology (which he's studied) because it would kill the conversation right there. No, we're having a chat in Cafe Oto just like a couple of mates, over a beer, because I found out he's that kind of fellow; amiable, friendly and unpretentious.  

"Life is long, art is short," he said, confounding me for a few seconds because I thought he was starting to get deep. Turns out he was subverting an old saying but I'd never heard the original. Then he chuckled. It wasn't the first joke we would share. "Excuse me," he said. "But French is my first language, not English", which confused me even more because he's Romanian. His main language, however, must be music, although it's not one many would understand. 

The compositions of Dumitrescu and his wife, Ana-Maria Avram, may confound those unaccustomed to what is known as 'spectral music' but I doubt it would leave them unresponsive. The theoretical side apart, when the Hyperion Ensemble act according to the composers' dramatic gestures you must listen, either straining to catch the minute detail of breaths through brass and fingers scuttling lightly across strings, or the wall-demolishing eruption of everyone going full throttle.

He didn't mind that I was a relative newcomer to his music. Why would he? Still, I felt ashamed at confessing as much, but relieved when he expressed delight at hearing from a recent convert. He was genuinely pleased. Perhaps, despite having composed and performed for decades, it still surprises him that he should be so welcomed. He has, after all, come in from the 'cold' of a communist regime which has surely left its mark, to the warmth of loving arms (albeit those of a minority) around the world. I bought the book of their scores...

...he gladly signed my copy...

...it's available now from ReR Megacorp.

You may be wondering what the performances were like but there's little point me describing anything because many are available on YouTube; suffice to say both Iancu and Ana-Maria are compelling performers in their own right as they conjure sounds from the ensemble with dramatic gestures, expressions and wiggling fingers. They seem to communicate in codes only known to the orchestra but the breadth of sounds they create and their impact in the room can be understood and appreciated by anyone fortunate enough to be there.


African Head Charge - Return of the Crocodile

Onulp133 ahc crocodile 480

On-U Sound in the area...as they used to say - yes, a mighty fine collection of cranky instrumentals on Return Of The Crocodile; almost as wigged-out as The Upsetter himself but somehow distinctly wired for (and by) UK ears, meaning Black Arkestral attitude viewed through post-Punk goggles, if you like - all aboard starship Africa! As if motorik rhythms got sidetracked and saddled with percussion and horns, African Head Charge's trips are compelling, mesmeric excursions filled with horn chants, sax solos and effects placed perfectly in the mix by Adrian Sherwood. At times, as on Low Protein Snack, the brass is reminiscent of legendary genre mutants Rip Rig & Panic, with that off-kilter Jazz atmosphere wailing throughout. Great alternate version of the classic Off The Beaten Track too, named here as Further Off The Track, which sums up where African Head Charge went on these sessions. Get it here.

These classical punks: Vienna 1908-1914

Good find in the charity shop today, Vienna 1908-1914 for £1.99. I should know the art used on the cover because I recognise it but can't name it...what the hell it makes a fine sleeve. As you know, record labels were fond of using modern art for their 'modernist' classical releases. It remains a mystery, though, as to why they're relatively scarce in charity shops compared to the big guns like Beethoven, Bach etc. perhaps it's simply a matter of less people buying them in the first place resulting in less in circulation today. The music's fantastic, of course. Comparing the two, Dorati does a much better job of creating the drama of the Schoenberg pieces than Simon Rattle. I only know because I just compared them. Speaking of their music, Schoenberg extolled the virtues of 'extreme expressiveness' and 'extraordinary brevity' - amen to that. In such brevity (as opposed to lengthy, Romantic grandeur) this music still packs a punch akin to that landed by The Ramones in a time of long-winded Prog Rock awfulness.

Hal Raglan / Gloria Gloucestershire - Split Cassette

Hal Raglan (aka Black Mountain Transmitter's J R Moore) and Gloria Gloucestershire (Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz)(christ, enough pseudonyms already)(me, Robin Tomens aka That Fool Who Insists On Blogging Even Though It's So Last Decade)...where was I? This is as good as you'd expect if you know anything of either man's work and probably even better, what with 'Gloria' stretching her canvas (stop giggling at the back) to over 18mins in length (hold on, a 'canvas' can't be 18mins long, what am I talking about? Never mix metaphors) - anyway, stretching out like Bootsy's rubber band, minus the funk, but no less wonderful, a long space-age voyage in perfect Martian pop mode. Raglan, on the other hand, is a damned sight darker, like Gloria's evil alter-ego (thus they make a perfect pair) but thankfully rather than test the limits of noise distortion for nearly 20mins he morphs things halfway through and melts your mi-i-i-i-nd. Quite brilliant but having sold out as a limited cassette you can only hear it on Bandcamp now. 

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