'Everyone dances to his own personal boomboom'

Lucrecia Dalt - Ou (Care Of Editions)

Film soundtracks have inspired much modern composition, whether it be the eternal electronic blueprint of Forbidden Planet or obscure 70s European horror. Lucrecia Dalt works differently, inspired not so much by the music of film but the mysterious ways in which all cinematic sound and vision can suggest other music and spark a creative direction. So to Ou, not typical widescreen music but imbued, instead, with the most subtle nuances in composition. I've played the album several times and constantly found something new. This is a pleasant relief from most music which, as you're well aware, can be 'known' within a minute or two.

Scenes within scenes unfold, each section within the main title having its own...the apparently open nature of OVER UNITY (Meontic Voice / Taquión), tethered in stages to subtle rhythms, one of which sounds like a needle trapped in a groove, another, soft, insistent bass gently driving loopy FX which give way to another rhythm and so on, so the music captures the attentive listener. IOT (Roto / Quebrado / Suelto) moves through a light mid-tempo mood into mysterious murmurings, twisting and turning, evolving as it goes, with presumably Dalt's wordless treated voice providing patterns of sound.

This understated but beguiling album is not one that will leap out of your speakers but does ensnare you all the same, luring you into a dialogue with its many dimensions in the same way, perhaps, Dalt engaged with cinema for her influence.

Release date: December 8. Care Of Editions

Vispo: There Is No Real / Mail Art

Six of my vispo pieces have recently been posted at MinXus-LynXus, a great mail art site. They're not adverse to work being emailed to them either, hence my inclusion. The one below is from a triptych called There Is No Real, the others on the site are from a larger project called What Does It Actually Mean? They've made the effort to actually discuss my work, which in this age of just-post-images is a minor miracle. A highly recommended site to bookmark.

Collage: The Biggest TV News / Mince Pies From A Stranger

R. Tomens 2015


In other news this week...

I was given two mince pies
by a guy delivering them in
a van, the rear door of which
was open, as I told him when
we stopped at the traffic lights and, 
having assured me the door was OK, 
he offered me mince pies, holding up
 the cardboard box, saying what sounded like
because I couldn't understand him 
he picked one out with a grin, which prompted me to reach through the window
and take it before he offered another, saying "Very good me-e-e-npi-i-i!" so I
took that one too, placing it delicately alongside the first, in my pannier, by which
time the lights had long since turned green but we didn't care, being too busy 
exchanging favours, grinning at each other as I noted his beard and complexion, 
wondering if he was a Muslim, perhaps on a goodwill mission and, 
in this instance, it certainly worked 
because they were the best 
mince pies I've ever eaten.

All That Jazz...Charlie Parker Art / Miles Davis Number 1 / Kurws - All that is solid melts into air

Long Playing, R. Tomens, 2014
...that's a piece I made by 'treating' a Bop 10-inch found on a market, there's another here if you want a look...

...Miles Davis reaches Number One - yes, in a poll from listeners of BBC Radio and Jazz FM (the latter having stopped being a proper Jazz station since, um, Day One, I think) - so a respected bunch of voters, eh? Maybe. Where was I when the BBC were asking? Anyway, His dominance got me thinking 'Why?', which lead me to muse that it wasn't his electro-psychedelic-free-funk that won him so much love, more likely Kind Of Blue, which everyone loves, yes, everyone, which is good but...

...I wish his electronic era would get the respect it deserves as an ear-shattering, mind-blowing, peerless example of live-evil-magical-music extrordinaire - yes! It is. You know it, but do they? Sorry, promise not to go on about my favourite passage of music by anyone. There's Bitches Brew, of course, but the 'live' material before and after up to '75 is something that I keep returning to and, vainly, trying to 'understand', as if within lies the Meaning of Life, the universe and everything...

...I think he got where he did in the poll through Kind Of Blue, the Cool, Bop and to some extent, his modal E.S.P band. But that's just me, musing on the motives of voters. Which is stupid. Louis Armstrong at 2 (pop-pickers) is no surprise, other than the fact that he's not Number One. Ellington is rightly up there. Coltrane above Charlie Parker? Ella above Charlie Parker? That's the Jazz FM vote right there, ditto Billie Holiday's ranking. The inclusion of two great vocalists reflects a mass fan base for The Song, rather than, say, the compositional/playing craft of Charlie Mingus or the pioneering individual genius of Ornette Coleman. Here's the Ten anyway...

Miles Davis
Louis Armstrong
Duke Ellington
John Coltrane
Ella Fitzgerald
Charlie Parker
Billie Holiday
Thelonious Monk
Bill Evans
Oscar Peterson

...are they burying Jazz? Stop! It's not dead, it just smells funny (Frank Zappa). It's the cover to All that is solid melts into air by Kurws - who? Yes, quite, they were unknown to me until a couple of hours ago when I was sent the album, which came out to deafening silence, probably, but that's the world's loss because it's a cracking record, a cracked record, even; a blast of Punk Jazz, Jazz-Not-Jazz, or whatever The Lounge Lizards got called. They're debut from from '81 seems like a spark for Kurws, that and James Chance...the spirit of all that No Wave NY Jazz blasts out of this, with Oskar Carls' tenor and Hubert Kostkiewicz' guitar leading the line - charge! Bury the mouldy old figs! This is fun, frisky, spiky, spunky, mad and inventive. I particularly like the conversation between sax and synth on There was no wheel in the Inca empire. Colossus with feet of clay is choice too with it's free-range piano.


"Cut-up as a drug that leads to a different relationship with language, just as a hallucinogen leads to an altered relation with the so-called reality. The result is a fundamental shift of meaning. 'Shift linguals' was the motto in a continuous process with an open end …" J.P.

Please fasten your seatbelts. Writer and spiritual brother to William Burroughs, Jürgen Ploog also happened to be a pilot for Lufthansa for 33 years. That fact alone makes him fascinating to me. I'd never heard of him until this album arrived but sadly, looking for his written work, there seems to be little in English.

Like Burroughs' tape work in the 60s, Ploog's plundering of worldwide noise offers a fascinating aural collage of radio and TV (?) voices, street noise etc. It's all selected and edited here by Robert Schalinski. Unless you speak German, much may not be understood, but that doesn't detract from this enjoyable disruption of the senses - bursts of radio music, chants, a discussion about Jimmy Giuffre (that, I did pick up), noise interference, Trad Jazz - turn the dial - flight details end Side One.

Side Two starts with noise, a siren's extended wail, American voices, English voices, Japanese (?), flight safety instructions (should cabin pressure drop), a whole world of sound. Ploog's pilot time adds a particular 'meaning' to all this sound-hopping, of course - as he flies, we fly with him, via jet engines and scissors. It's almost Schaeffer-like at times when unidentifiable sounds form part of the tapestry - musik beton! Buddhist rituals are given more time than anything else, not to the detriment of the two pieces, but as a calm passage of relief amid all the disruption, along with the sound of the sea lapping the shore and more chanting, a joyous "who-o-o-h!" ends the journey. We land on silence.

What was that all about? Whilst Burroughs saw great potential for social disruption by playing recordings he'd made at various events, putting the sonic hex on 'enemies', perhaps; destroying the narrative of everyday life, Ploog's recordings offer a more benign pleasure. Field recordings are interesting up to a point, but I find the construction, the collaging of these snippets far more interesting. Burroughs asked 'who decides what tapes play back in present time?'. You can, thanks to Jürgen Ploog and Robert Schalinski's splice of life.

More info and product here

Harlan Ellison Illustrated book/ Jim Steranko in 3-D!

Found this today for £3 - not bad, even though half the pages are falling out - but more importantly the 3D glasses were inside - whoopee! I don't do 3D cinema...in fact, I'd go so far as to say I detest cinematic trickery that lures numbskulls who always fall for The Latest Effect because they're the types who always have to have the 'updated' version of technology and gain great satisfaction from cinema which is void of old-fashioned values like brilliant dialogue, acting, direction, artistry, characterisation and all that in favour of surroundsound 4D smellovision shit on screens the size of a wall, a very large wall - huh! Where was I - yes, Jim Steranko's illustrations for The Illustrated Harlan Ellison...this book...look, the glasses... 

...now some slightly blurred photos...

...but I feel bad that you too cannot share the wonder of seeing them through 3D glasses so...

...how was that? What do you mean, "Rubbish"?

Volcano The Bear - Commencing (Miasmah)

Where to start? How about here, at the beginning. Volcano The Bear might be 45 years old...they're actually 20 years old, but I thought they might be 45 years old when I first heard them, which consisted of a quick YouTube visit once I knew Miasmah had put together a compilation. It didn't make sense, Miasmah releasing stuff that old. The music didn't make much sense either. I wasn't impressed. I was dumbfounded and, actually, disinterested. Then I got sent this compilation...

...I've been playing it ever since, not because there are 64 tracks, but because suddenly, as the old penny dropped, I realised Volcano The Bear were brilliant...and they were only 20 years old...

...intrigue..we all feel it when discovering a new band...are Volcano The Bear really a band? Do they exist, or are they a dream concoction the way dreams often are...of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Faust, AMM and Tribal Music from...Leicester...

...electric folkways...eclectic folkways...from Secret Museum Of Improvisation...? art Bears...the polar opposite of Rock'n'Roll Bears...genre-free range Bears...

"Crikey Biscuits!"
"Horse! Horse!"
...what are they going on about?

...Art Rock? No...NO! Not that...

...anti-music...PRO-Music...unprofessional music...music as it should be, perhaps, wants to be, was meant to be...a folk music...so who's crazy? The Volcano Bears? Or all the conformists? Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain, so someone said...TVB are the joy, the sunshine...and their spirit makes most of what the world accepts in the name of music sound like a torrent of pain...

...Strausshand's dark riff dirge, Botticello's beautiful simplicity, Fat Monarch's 'motorik' (M1) lost highway drive, Hot Rat Piano's unprepared piano dark echo chamber music, Cond's saxophone (nod to post-Mod Jazz Freefall), Strange Dreams Of Invisible Girls' alien interference invasion of fifty-foot B-movie (invisible) monsters, Tremendo's rip, rig and panic percussion/melody juxtaposition...

...all over the place, the spaces Volcano The Bear inhabit, armed with all manner of instruments, traditional, tape and electronic...an assault on the sensible, the conservative, the bland, regimented, genre-bound restrictions...the art ensemble of Leicester...ancient to the future...

The Wire

Vispo: Multiplicity Of Human Contacts

Full picture here

Colin Potter - Rank Sonata (Hallow Ground)

I'm not keen on long tracks, unless they're by Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band...or Miles Davis' electric outfits...or Pierre Henry...or Stockhausen...or Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza...or...OK, so I am keen if they're good, but they're rarely good, these days; like most ambient stuff, the sonic equivalent of someone waffling on in the pub for ages and saying nothing...quietly...

So here's Colin Potter, starting Rank Sonata with A Wider Pale Of Shale, which is 19mins 40secs long...oh no! Oh yes. And I like it....I like it despite the regular beat. Regular beats driving long tracks usually annoy the hell out of me, signalling, as they frequently do, that some Techno bod's got a big idea, one far above his station, so he's called it Quantum Theory Of Nothingness, added strings and, er, that's it. Colin Potter's better than that. He's got ideas, probably loads since knocking around on the independent electronic music scene since the early 80s...working with Nurse With Wound, Organum and Current 93 along with others. It's not that A Wider Pale Of Shale pushes boundaries or consists of complex ever-changing components...it simply works...and elements do evolve and change, but not dramatically...motorik? - whatever, it moves, takes you along with it until it swoops onto another plain about halfway through, which is beatless but hardly calming, getting more distressed until the beat comes back...

...track 3 is Knit Where? Geddit? He's not joking, though...fabulous atmosphere to this...the hiss and crackle, a stuck needle, perhaps...the distant, foreboding synth, but more interestingly, what whips and rattles across the forefront...finally, Beyond The Pail, doing what Kraftwerk's Metal on Metal did for Trans-Europe Express, sort of, but instead of stripped Klang funk, intensifying, making it heavier. Without trying to sound 'modern' and having been around so long, it's a miracle that Potter avoided offering something stale. Rank Sonata certainly is not that.

Hallow Ground

You can have a listen and buy it here

Publishing The Unpublishable: The Fifth Assembling (ed Richard Kostelanetz, Henry Korn, Mike Metz)

' "If you don't turn on to something," one contributor noted, "all you have to do is turn the page." Such blatant chaos marked Assembling as a counter-book or anti-book (though not a "non-book") which nonetheless gains its cohering definition (which is approximately repeatable) from its unprecedented diversity. In my admittedly biased opinion, more than half of the material has been uncommonly interesting, while a few contributions are awesomely extraordinary. It is more important to judge that very few pieces, if any, would have otherwise gotten beyond private musing into public print.' - Richard Kostelanetz

The Assembling project ran from 1970 to 1983 (13 issues)...an open invite for anyone to send 1,000 copies of their art, poetry, prose to the editors, who would then assemble and publish. I find it hard to believe that every contributor sent 1,000 copies but if not it would mean that some versions were unique and possibly varied in page count. One contributor who did make each copy of the book unique was writer Richard Meltzer, sending 'a thousand pages of all different shit'. In the one I bought recently, his contribution is a page torn from a glossy comic. On the subject of unique versions, mine also has a page onto which card and paper are glued (loosely). See the photo at the bottom, the only one that isn't mine but was taken by the dealer I bought it from.

Ed Ruscha's pages were also unique, each one hand-stained, a sample of which was on view at the recent De La Warr Pavilion show, Towards an alternative history of graphic design: Schmuck, POP, bRIAN, Assembling, which I featured here. But let's not be too impressed with big-hitters like Ruscha, the point being that the 'unknown' are what made this magazine (which doesn't stop me being chuffed at having an issue containing a page sent by Meltzer, a writer I greatly admire).

Today we consider small press publications to be part of the cultural scenery, but as the editors of Assembling clearly state, the scene in America at the time was hardly overflowing with outlets for this kind of thing. Yes, there's been an underground small press scene since the birth of zines, but most relied upon known fellow writers and artists. Assembling's idea of an open call, a free-for-all (except the copying cost) blows apart both notions of cutting-edge cliques and their inevitable editorial control. Consequently, the content varies greatly, one of the joys being not only the diversity of the creations, but also the paper they were copied onto. Sadly, most issues are expensive, but having this one in my hands it feels like every penny spent was worthwhile. I took these snaps because it can't be bent open for the scanner. You can read more about the project here.

BABs - The Vulture Watches (Loop Records)

Improv! That's short for 'improvement', which this is - compared to what? - most modern music I come across, flitting through first tracks (as you do) on albums to which my attention is drawn by people, you know, those people I don't actually know but exist in my life online - them...

Drinking in Droplets, Blooming with Bats? That's a fine title right there. It happens to be on The Vulture Watches, this album by Olie Brice (double bass), James Allsopp (bass clarinet) and Alex Bonney (electronics)....

...a bass being thwacked...clarinet quivering...dare I say 'hovering'? Just like a vulture? Perhaps not. More titles: Ant, Termite, Scorpion (The Vulture Watches)...Coyote, Moon Thief...Bleached Bone, Shimmering Haze...Mezozoic Yawn...Mojave Drag...you get the theme, the idea...and isn't it great that a trio have created a 'concept album' that works? Not that it would without the titles because nobody's singing about coyotes, bleached bones or vultures watching...I don't know if anyone ever has...but I can't help picturing scenes from Westerns in which a character crawls through the desert, lips cracked, skin parched from the relentless sun...or the classic signifier that someone's dead out there (cut to vultures circling)...

...I suspect Ennio Morricone would love this. If I had his email address I'd send it to him. It has the spirit, the attitude, the edginess of his best Horror scores...without resorting to horror clichés..the vultures (clarinet) is ever-present...the portentous mood, especially on Mezozoic Yawn, is magnificent...

...balance, BABs strike it perfectly...each member's contribution finely woven as one...the electronics a subtle texture...the bass, when needed, as strong as Mingus in a bad mood...exemplary...

Released around Novemebr 21 and available at a very reasonable price from here 

Lovely Homes Haunted By Bittersweet Memories (version)

Robin Tomens 2015

It's A Cool World

Korea's cool. You didn't know? It must be, I saw a book in the Oxfam shop this morning called The Birth of Korean Cool. I suspect that the author's notion of 'cool' and mine differ, slightly. Well, anything can be 'cool' these days, can't it? Even in the office...
"I'll email her right away."

In years to come, not so many years at that, people in old folks' homes will be saying things like...
"Playing bingo this afternoon?"
Except, one assumes, that bingo won't be what's on offer for that generation. Which generation? Let's say the baby boomers, those born just after the Second World War. Oh, they'll remember bingo's popularity well, but those I know from that generation wouldn't be seen half-dead playing it in a few years time. Not even the women. I say that not because I'm sexist but because I only remember women playing bingo in the village hall when I was a kid. Perhaps I was the only boy there, with my mum. It was a night out! The alternative was staying in and watching The High Chaparral with my dad, which I didn't mind doing because I had a crush on Linda Cristal (pronounced "Cree-stal", Wikipedia informs me, thus evoking images of Mexicans in spaghetti Westerns saying " 'Ey, Gringo (pronounced "Gree-ngo").

My dad, along with every other man watching, probably had a crush on her too. Also, he didn't put up with Top Of The Pops all those years out of generosity towards his children. The producers weren't stupid. They knew that in Pan's People they had dancers that would entrap men from the pre-teen Pop years as well as the kids.

My dad wasn't into music. Any music. I don't think my love of music bothered him much until Punk which, as you know, had to be played loud. It demanded volume in direct relation to the shouty vocals. Then I got told to turn it down. Music to him was like a Caretaker track, some faraway memory of dancehall days. I'd moved out by the time I started listening to Albert Ayler otherwise the sound of his ghostly sax might have tipped my poor dad over the edge of anger into a form of insanity. Ayler probably does that to people now who are much younger than he was at the time.

'Cool' wasn't a word my post-Hippy generation used, as far as I recall. Being working class we had a different culture. None of us considered each other 'cool'. Other teens were either into the same types of clothes and music or nowhere, nobodies; worse still, Greasers. When did the rebirth of 'cool' happen? Did it creep in around the time, say, when clubbing was deemed 'cool' by everyone under 25? The time of superclub domination and the rise of Glastonbury to its current status as Place To Go for absolutely anyone, regardless of their musical taste or general cultural interest? I don't know. 

So the word became meaningless through over-usage, a mere substitute for 'good'. In that sense it's similar to most cult-tural currency of old. Punk is a nostalgic gesture and 'hipster' is whatever hipster is today (I think beards are involved). It's a Cool World and Koreans are playing their part, so it would seem. Why not? Since the word is virtually meaningless, anyone can claim it as their own.

Guy Reibel - Douze Inventions en Six Modes de Jeu (Karl Records)

(Guy) Reibal without a cause? Oh puns, I've got 'em! But this music is serious! It's no laughing matter. It's intellectual. Is it? That's the problem. Rather, a problem with this kind of music. Like Jazz, it's reckoned by some fools that it's a bit...well...'clever'...'too clever for it's own good!'...all that improvisational shenanigans...the stuff without singing...the stuff that isn't Dixie...and you sure as hell can't whistle it...huh...

...I know, I know...this is just a load of noise...12 pieces of noise, to be exact. It's not even the kind of noise you slams your head against a wall and pummels it to dust, enabling you to instantly dismiss it as 'a bloody racket!' You know the kind of thing...white boys love it, lionise it along with the 'free'-est Jazz ever made because they love a racket...because it's their Heavy Metal, I mean, their head-bangin'-scare-the-neighbours sort of noise....macho noise, which proves they can handle what wimps cannot...yes, that...

...Guy Reibel's recordings here, the dates for which I do not have because the label has yet to reply to my email requesting them and they'd better hurry because I'm already halfway, possibly, through this review, although it may stretch further than I currently anticipate...especially if I go on like this...

...Douze Inventions en Six Modes de Jeu is not about creating a wall of electronic sound, more a web...yes, intricate, but very strong, you know? Voile déchirure, for instance, barely exists other than as discreetly disturbing (is that a contradiction in terms?) high-pitched warbles...and yet...by 'disturbing' I mean the nature of this alien sound...purely electronic...'interference' with the notion of what sound should sound like in the form of recording. Is Reibal having a larf?  But he studied composition in Paris with Olivier Messiaen! Was he not paying attention in class? A Reibal with a cause...he worked at the legendary GRM studio but 'conflicts with other members' caused him to leave...why, I wonder? What did they row about? Surely he wasn't too avant-garde for GRM? Whatever, his electronic music seems to have got lost along the many side roads of recording history but Karl records have put that right...

...and they've yet to supply me with recording dates...do they not check their emails regularly? I could say more than I intend to in the hope that the info will arrive within the next ten minutes...such as how he 'often combined amplitude envelopes of acoustic sounds and noises (especially of polysteron) with synthetic electronic sounds', in quotation marks because those aren't my words...I don't know what a 'combined amplitude' is and I doubt that you do, unless you're the person that wrote that, in which case, I hope you don't mind me using your words...

...it may help to understand the technicalities, but I'd rather imagine Reibel as an alien in human form, sent here to transmit coded messages via electronic sound...and if I work out what they mean, I'll tell you...

...Minéral - Animal is fantastic...a juxtaposition of squeaks and squeals with low, deviant bass sounds...whereas Fluide consists mainly of the voice rendered quite terrifying, layered heavy moaning, breath amplified, distorted to such an extent that it would not sound out of place on a Horror film soundtrack..in fact, that's where it belongs, not here, putting the frighteners into me even as I write...

...OK, I'll guess that these pieces were made in the 60s. They were digitised by Reibel and Reinhold Friedl at the GRM studios in December 2014, that much I do know...along with the fact that whilst not a grand as the piece posted below, they are equally fascinating...

(release date unknown but probably in a couple of weeks)

(post edit: I guessed wrong, they were made in 1979)



Orwell and The Proles

'From the proletarians nothing is to be feared. Left to themselves, they will continue from generation to generation and from century to century, working, breeding and dying, not only without any impulse to rebel, but without the power of grasping that the world could be other than it is.'

Re-reading Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four three decades after the first time, tragically, some of it resonates even today. Anyway, I was inspired to create something...

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