from the book: Buñuel! La mirada del siglo

'You're going to love this', said LJ, sat in a chair in the St John's Wood Oxfam shop. So I went over, amazed that she'd found a great book. She's not the book finder general 'round here! That's my role, mainly because it's me that goes out looking. If she came with me every time I'd have far less books because she'd try and enforce common sense on me by saying 'Do you really need that?' And 'You've got enough Art books already!' Also 'You haven't read half the books you've got'. Which is true, and this one will not be read for sure since it's in Spanish. It's split into sections such as Art and films featuring skulls, religious iconography, nudes and eyes; key surrealist visual influences/elements of Buñuel's films. Good work LJ.

Bruno Nicolai - Tutti i colori del buio (Finders Keepers)

Bruno Nicolai fever breaking out in the bunker. Oh Bruno, how my heart soars at the sound of your film scores. Rome, Lake Como, spaghetti, Michelangelo...La Dolce Vita...Dolcelatte...Sophia Loren...of all the wonders your country has given the world your music is their equal! If you lived today I would catch a plane to your house and speak sonnets in praise of you from beneath your moonlight...honest...

You can see that he brings out the romantic in me. But hold on, aside from the trillion top class, string-soaked and heart string-tugging film themes he has written he also made amazing, dark experimental music. This he has in common with his fratello musical Mr Ennio Morricone. Some might say he is as Tony Bennett is to Sinatra in that respect.; prince and king. Except neither sing. And that would do him a disservice.

The track Medium alone proves how capable he was of concocting a nightmarish atmosphere, the kind, in fact, that puts most contemporary, clichéd efforts to shame. Then there's Insidia, which ramps up the psycho tension before breaking out into a cool Jazz-drum driven archetypal Giallo theme complete with Herrmannesque strings. Alessandro Alessandroni plays sitar, even solo on Evocazione, but imbues it with a kind of bluesy, funky feel when he gets into his own groove. Brilliant. Propiziazione is another high point, but there are no lows. It's pretty much a perfect fusion of rhythm and radical orchestration that gets horror music fans high on frantic piano and nerve-jangling violins.

For other sides of Nicolai, ie more Pop, Romantic and Funky, there's a great 72 track Nicolai comp here

Bass Clef - Raven Yr Own Worl (PAN)

Self-confessed 'dubstep exile' Ralph Cumbers plays his BugBrand Modular system, blowing sonic bubbles in your ear; a pure pleasure to behold. Less the phuture, more the past remixed. Whether the Raven of the title is intended as a pun on Ravin' or not, echoes (literally) of that era abound in happy chopped hand-clapping, even whistles. Current listeners are more likely to be dancing in their heads than in muddy fields but either through experience or historical digging the references will be familiar. Synth lines wiggle in and out of focus, bolstered by choice bass lines, all artfully done, if not quite turning Acid into Art. There's enough detail to reveal fresh components after several rewinds.

Writing, writing, writing...

writing wrongs
writing wrong is OK

I've written since I learned to write.

Unlike a lot of people I carried on beyond the point of just writing Xmas and Birthday cards, or the occasional letter of condolence or application forms. That was writing before the social net was thrown over everybody with a PC. Then people started writing again. And we could all see how well or badly people wrote.

Like a kid given a build-it-yourself space lab containing every actual component in miniature - wow! I've got to do this! The masses began writing, writing, writing. Comments - inane, absurd, aggressive, puerile, stupid Comments below articles and YouTube clips which, when you read, you wish home computers had never been invented.

Facebook writing - it's easier to just hit the Like button! So people do. But some try to write. Why not? Just because they can't doesn't mean they shouldn't. Democracy in action! The heartfelt comments regarding the loss of a pet, a friend's illness, the death of a celebrity - tragic. Moving in their innocence. No witticisms.

Meanwhile the male of the species sees this writing in public medium as a means to show of his prowess, his knowledge, his wit, his intellect - look how smart I am, world! It's what most men do instead of club each other to death. We have to prove our virility somehow.

Writing, writing...I wrote stories as a kid whilst my family watched TV. I wrote in my room when I finally got one - long letters typed on my first machine, impersonating Kerouac, badly. Remember writing letters? Perhaps you're old enough. I wrote letters to girlfriends in London and waited for returns to drop through the letterbox, seeing them on the carpet there - what joy? One used to send letters doused in perfume, sometime cuttings of her hair inside the folded paper. That now seems like an old age of romance compared to emails modern lovers might receive, or private messages on the network.

I wrote fanzines. I even wrote novels, if they can be called that in an unpublished state. Now they sit on paper packed into big brown envelopes stuffed into a cupboard. I will never read them again but can't part with testimonies to a time when I was so optimistic, hard-working and deluded, probably. I even took a writing course in the late-70s. How To Plot. And so on. It took me years to learn to lose the plot. Then I was free. Then I joyfully worked with text, calling myself a 'text worker' instead of a 'writer'. Moving other people's words around was much more fun than making up the same words in a different order to try and create a story.

A novel? How passé! I've always enjoyed other people's novels, though. Let them do the work - entertain me. Beckett, Burroughs, Greene, Chandler and so on. Now I can read without wishing I could write like that. Bliss.

Now I can write here on this blog. The common advice is to 'write what you know'. That's rubbish. Blogging is freedom. which may not always lead to anything of interest to anyone. But the writer will have hopefully enjoyed herself. Even if that post amounted to an outpouring of grief. Therapy. Writing can be that. It can be anything. Like Art. Except, by it's very nature, writing non-fiction, commonly, then, known as 'fact', is supposed to 'make sense'. Supposed to convey cohesive thoughts. Yes? No. Let writing be. Applaud nonsense. It means something to the writer, doesn't it?

There's too much common sense in the arts. You know it. Perfectly composed pictures of mundane subjects. Perfectly written and produced songs expressing nothing much in a totally unimaginative way. Yes, I applaud certain kinds of perfection. a Motown classic. Debussy. Whoever. But the quest for perfection and only achieving competence (the by-product of those who aspire but lack imagination or talent) is what deters so many would-be creators. Take a writing course? Go away. The goal of the pupils: create more mediocre novels to join millions sitting in WH Smiths. But at least they're published! Yes. The world is full of totally mediocre product. It sells. It's what the majority of the people want. Isn't it? The mediocre is magical to them. They wonder how novels get written - it's a magical process! No. It's not. It's laborious and methodical and reads like it was.

I have written enough now.

If you exist, rather than being just a figment of my imagination. Goodbye.

What's On Your Mind?

prawns (which he's cooking)

the £10 note thrown onto his desk in the office by a disgruntled Arsenal fan who'd bet on Chelsea FC not qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League

Bruno Nicolai, whose Marquis de Sade album he had just purchased, thinking 'What the hell, I'm ten  pounds richer than I was yesterday'...

Helm, who he was listening to as he wrote...'s not proper music, is it? what's music & what's noise? who's to say? 

how do you know someone's working class? their TV is bigger than their bookcase (a cruel joke he'd recited to a friend last week-end during a discussion about what he could not remember). he is working-class. & there were times in his past when he was almost ashamed to say so - then he told himself that if more working-class people came out of the closet there would be less shame in it because some of those who did so might own bookcases that were bigger than their TVs. so the nasty stereotype of proles being uncultured in the sense of not only watching & reading shit would be challenged. though, he thought, the day would never come when it would disappear...

what is Art? no! no that old question.
what is digital Art?

'Images For Digital Art' (Google)

here's something he made.... it Digital Art? is it Art at all?

he thought all this, then remembered the prawns & went to finish cooking them...

Memory Fails

he had 15 minutes to post something so he thought he'd improvise
on what?
where's the start?
there wasn't one so he started by stating a simple fact

then he paused

no, mustn't think

so he went on typing....
then stopped to look at the screen...

he'd just finished Georges Simenon's The Engagement, suspecting that he'd read it before whilst remaining unsure even as he reached upwards of forty pages
once finished he checked and found he had read it by looking on the blog - yes - he'd even written a little review - now he worried about his memory...really...was it that bad?
so many books over so many years...
books forgotten, unfinished, never started, read and forgotten...

passing a bookshop that day he noticed the window display of reprinted Maigret novels and the sign saying they were all to be reprinted - that's good - but he had only read one or two in the series, considering Simenon's other novels to be so much better, so much more worthy of republication and praise.

he walked on into the Oxfam shop, followed immediately by the ageing Irishman who always goes in asking for tapes. he marvelled at the patience of the assistant who kindly told him, as he probably does every day: 'Sorry, we haven't got anything for you' - where he would have screamed 'FUCK OFF! WE DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING TAPES FOR YOU! HOW MANY MORE TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO COME IN AND ASK THAT?' after the tenth time of asking. then he cursed himself for being impatient and failing to display tolerance towards the mentally impaired.
besides, wasn't he mentally impaired in some way?
forgetting he'd read a book?
not just any book, but one which he had enjoyed so much?
memory fades...failing to serve...

Electrode - Martial Solal Joue Michel Magne (Cacophonic)

Michel Magne scores, Jean-Claude Vannier debuts as arranger, and Martial Solal runs riot on piano - a winning combination. Magne's Musique Tachiste, the Cacophonic debut last year, was a gem, and this is just as good.

Solal may be the solo star but Vannier's strings share the spotlight as they carve angular, atonal, occasionally dissonant shapes between which he flexes his fingers. Sustained upper-register violins, exotic Eastern-flavoured accents mixed with new classical modernism colour the canvas on which Solal paints his abstract action. His career as film composer was kick-started by Godard with Breathless and like that film this album is a distinctive, kaleidoscopic affair of jump-cut scoring, or New Wave orchestration.

Organique epitomises much of what's on offer, fusing cinemascopic brass in a leftfield bluesy manner until midway when it leaps into action as a trio piece augmented by soaring, swooping strings. Similarly, Clair-Obscure starts in a stately neo-classical mode before evolving into Jazz in waltz time and finally the trio let rip. Far from being a simple structure though, this masterpiece weaves much else into the score, such as brilliant solo passage by Solal and ever-shifting orchestral moods.

Air Liquide is as close to tradition as this album gets, aping a familiar Jazz structure which allows Solal more room to play, but the score remains defiantly modernist. Solal's expertise in fluent post-Bop expression constantly sparks life into the otherwise studious, artful orchestration and as such, is a perfect foil to that.

Full respect to Finders Keepers for offering this to an audience that will hopefully be open-minded enough to appreciate it. It does mean a thing even if it ain't got that old-fashioned swing.

Charles Cohen - A Retrospective (Morphine Records)

Perhaps you don't have a record player. In which case, you will not have bought Morphine Records' three-LP Charles Cohen retrospective from last year. That's the only good reason I can think of for not owning them. You may be of the young generation for whom a turntable is not a natural purchase, but a quaint retro buying experience on which to play either expensive reissues or second-hand albums from a the vast dog-eared historical selection in your local vinyl emporium.

Being old, I have a turntable, of course, but more than that it is flanked by the first speakers I ever bought in 1976. Yes, the Wharfedales live on, monuments to my history of buying vinyl. Which is not to say that should I suddenly become rich I would not invest in speakers the size of tennis balls which do a better job. I'm assuming such things exist. Just the other week I stopped to stare in a hi-fi shop, somewhat surprised that they still exist. In fact, I could not recognise half the futuristic technology on display.

I spoke about one of those Charles Cohen releases here. I had intended to review them all, but time slipped by and I forgot, even though the music was not forgotten. Now that it's all presented on two CDs non-turntablists have no excuse, unless CD players have been made obsolete by MP3 files. That's possible. It's also quite possible that today's young generation have MP3 players wired into their brains from an early age and can hear music from computers the size of matchboxes just by looking at files and commanding their implants to 'Play' by either saying the word, or thinking it. I have a similar internal system, the memory jukebox. Unfortunately, I have trouble controlling it and frequently have to endure snippets of awful Pop songs from the 70s.

Charles Cohen is in full control of his Buchla Music Easel, a magical instrument which he mastered long ago, manipulating it to produce everything from joyful Pop to lengthier introspective pieces such as one of the bonus tracks here, Conundrums. The other, Slow Blue And Horizontal, is a seductive piece of tranquil exotica. Whatever mood he's in, or setting his sound is designed for, Cohen is rarely less than captivating.

Your Seven A Day Cultural Diet

The recent report suggesting that eating five fruit and veg a day may not be enough and seven would be better may well be true but is ridiculously optimistic. I hereby suggest a different kind of diet; one that will nourish your eyes and ears. You may also increase your fitness levels by dancing to Serge Gainsbourg, if you wish. Or, if you prefer, simply lounge on the sofa in a smoking jacket, smoking. 

The examples below are by no means the only ingredients for a healthy lifestyle. It may be supplemented by many other artists who will do you good. Most inhabitants of the planet may be poisoning themselves with cultural junk (no Lady Gaga on these premises, please, or outside, or anywhere I can see you), but you, at least, can set a good example. 

My diet provides a healthy balance of music, film, literature and art but be warned, too much Laurel & Hardy may result in your sides splitting. Whilst there is no such thing as too much Daphne Oram, I recommend a mixture of products by the following. You may even combine some by staring at a Hannah Hoch collage whilst listening to Bernard Parmegiani - it's highly recommended! 

Daphne Oram


Mr Parmegiani

His Holiness Jacques Demy


Stan & Ollie

Holy Moholy-Nagy


El Hombre Invisible

Georges Simenon

Feed your ears...with peas, chicken and salt peanuts...

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