June 30, 2011

The Art of the Hurdy Gurdy: From the Middle Ages to Mozart

As title makes all too clear, a mix of early music and baroque pieces given a seeing to by droning hurdy gurdy with chamber orchestra and more. Delightful.

Oddi wrth y brawd
crank turned rosined wheel rubbing against strings

June 29, 2011

Discreet Music - Brian Eno [1975]

Placid intoxication. Instantly, eternally familiar. 

Liner Notes:

"Discreet Music" (30:35)  Recorded at Brian Eno's studio 9-5-75
Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachebel 
(i) "Fullness of Wind" (9:57) 
(ii) "French Catalogues" (5:18) 
(iii) "Brutal Ardour" (8:17) 
Performed by The Cockpit Ensemble, conducted by Gavin Bryars (who also helped arrange the pieces) 

Since I have always preferred making plans to executing them, I have gravitated towards situations and systems that, once set into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on my part.

That is to say, I tend towards the roles of the planner and programmer, and then become an audience to the results. Two ways of satisfying this interest are exemplified on this album. "Discreet Music" is a technological approach to the problem. If there is any score for the piece, it must be the operational diagram of the particular apparatus I used for its production. The key configuration here is the long delay echo system with which I have experimented since I became aware of the musical possibilities of tape recorders in 1964. Having set up this apparatus, my degree of participation in what it subsequently did was limited to (a) providing an input (in this case, two simple and mutually compatible melodic lines of different duration stored on a digital recall system) and (b) occasionally altering the timbre of the synthesizer's output by means of a graphic equalizer.

It is a point of discipline to accept this passive role, and for once, to ignore the tendency to play the artist by dabbling and interfering. In this case, I was aided by the idea that what I was making was simply a background for my friend Robert Fripp to play over in a series of concerts we had planned. This notion of its future utility, coupled with my own pleasure in "gradual processes" prevented me from attempting to create surprises and less than predictable changes in the piece. I was trying to make a piece that could be listened to and yet could be ignored... perhaps in the spirit of Satie who wanted to make music that could "mingle with the sound of the knives and forks at dinner."

In January this year I had an accident. I was not seriously hurt, but I was confined to bed in a stiff and static position. My friend Judy Nylon visited me and brought me a record of 18th century harp music. After she had gone, and with some considerable difficulty, I put on the record. Having laid down, I realized that the amplifier was set at an extremely low level, and that one channel of the stereo had failed completely. Since I hadn't the energy to get up and improve matters, the record played on almost inaudibly. This presented what was for me a new way of hearing music - as part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of the rain were parts of that ambience. It is for this reason that I suggest listening to the piece at comparatively low levels, even to the extent that it frequently falls below the threshold of audibility.

Another way of satisfying the interest in self-regulating and self-generating systems is exemplified in the 3 variations on the Pachebel Canon. These take their titles from the charmingly inaccurate translation of the French cover notes for the "Erato" recording of the piece made by the orchestra of Jean Francois Paillard. That particular recording inspired these pieces by its unashamedly romantic rendition of a very systematic Renaissance canon.

In this case the "system" is a group of performers with a set of instructions - and the "input" is the fragment of Pachebel. Each variation takes a small section of the score (two or four bars) as its starting point, and permutates the players' parts such that they overlay each other in ways not suggested by the original score. In "Fullness of Wind" each player's tempo is decreased, the rate of decrease governed by the pitch of his instrument (bass=slow). "French Catalogues" groups together sets of notes and melodies with time directions gathered from other parts of the score. In "Brutal Ardour" each player has a sequence of notes related to those of the other players, but the sequences are of different lengths so that the original relationships quickly break down.
London, September 1975


Oddi wrth y brawd

June 28, 2011

Riceboy Sleeps - Jonsi and Alex [2009]

Transcendent shifting waves,strings and treated piano. Submarine soundscapes. Giving the lie to ambient as boring, capturing interest and weaving introspective spells in welling majestic calm. Slow build crescendo. Godspeed You Black Emperor with all the lull and none of the squall. Fragile and built to last. Begone all evil. Begone.

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 27, 2011

S. F. Sorrow - The Pretty things [1968]

Cradle to grave saga draws curious line from Barrett Floyd, early solo Eno, and on to first flush Blur. A la mode arrangements notwithstanding - organ/mellotron; harpsichord; gliding bass; backwards tapes; sitar everywhichway - sounds fresh and vital. Wildly under appreciated.  

2003 digi-pak reissue: includes 4 bonus tracks.

Oddi wrth y brawd
pounds shillings pence

June 25, 2011

Mishima - Philip Glass [1985]

Check out illuminating, if scarily intense, 80s pundit's précis-ed and precise lowdown. Glass's score drives the art-action forward and interweaves dialectics: past-present, fact-fiction, art-real life, sword-pen. Best constructed and designed movie of the designer decade. Excerpts will be familiar from wide TV & advertising sampling. Experienced here like some enormous music. Sometimes stage blood is not enough. 

Oddi wrth y brawd
poetry written with a splash of blood

June 24, 2011

Island - Current 93 [1991]

From the sublime - Lament For Suzanne - to the hilarious:

OK boys and girls, let's go.
Don't give us no sass, we'll kick your ass,
'Cos we're the heralds of Crowleymass
 - Crowleymass Unveiled

Christopher Robin is saying his prayers
But nobody's up there, nobody cares.
 - The Fall of Christopher Robin


Oddi wrth y brawd
thelema boys

June 19, 2011

Storytelling - Belle and Sebastian [2002]

Disappointing movie (cheers Todd Solondz); tasty film score (thank ye B&S). Fraught process apparently with precious little of melodic treats herein ending up in movie. Shame. Pity too about scattered Pulp Fiction style zany dialogue interludes: wholly superfluous. Short, sweet and not to be screwed with.

Oddi wrth y brawd
big john shaft

June 18, 2011

Love Story 1966-1972 - Love

Choicest cuts from Love through False Start - including Forever Changes in entirety, naturally. Set sail.

Oddi wrth y brawd
your mind and we belong

June 17, 2011

Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat - Charanjit Singh [1982]

Not le festival du fromage suggested by "disco beat" come on. Instead, prescient and enormously satisfying feast of raga upp'ed Giorgio Moroder arpeggiated synth lines. 

Here's Geeta:

"Last week, some friends of mine in New York and London — friends with very good taste in electronic music — told me I absolutely had to listen to 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat, a new reissue on the Dutch label Bombay Connection. The word going around the Internet is that this album, full of 808-driven beats and TB-303 squelches, was recorded by a Sikh fellow by the name of Charanjit Singh in India in 1982 — predating the Chicago acid house revolution of the mid-1980s. To put the year 1982 in perspective, the Detroit techno godfathers Cybotron released “Alleys of Your Mind,” their first single, just one year before, in ’81. 1982 was also the year that MIDI, the “musical instrument digital interface,” was introduced — but it wouldn’t be until 1983 that the MIDI was actually being used; the first synths to utilize MIDI were the Prophet 600 and the Roland JX3P, both in ’83. Electronic music as we know it now had some way to go.

The album — stripped-down, instrumental electronic arrangements of traditional Indian ragas — is fantastic. ‘Disco beat’ is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the ragas here feel like they clock in at around 130 bpm. This is techno speed."

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 16, 2011

Up, Up And Away - The 5th Dimension [1967]

Aw, come on now. What's not to like? 5 Tracks written by incomparable Jimmy Webb in his pomp and purple prime. Gorgeous harmonies with ethereally full-bodied production. Top flight pop and flower power vibe. Catch a ride.

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 15, 2011

Mwng & Mwng Bach - Super Furry Animals [2000]

Smart, super melodic sunshine psych full of unexpected twists and turns. Plenty surprises under the surface. Top hole version of Datblygu's Y Teimlad.

Includes US released addendum: Mwng Bach. In line with title, three tracks check children characters Calimero, Mr Urdd and Sali Mali. Keyboard refrain in latter renders 80s kids TV a treat.

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 14, 2011

An Empty Bliss Beyond This World - The Caretaker [2011]

James Leyland Kirby strips away by gradations at phonographic fidelity, mirroring the peeling back of memories re-construing time-locked and haunting loops. Alzheimer's patients enduring memory attrition can still recall songs from their distant past. The prefrontal cortex is among the last brain regions to atrophy. 

Occasionally memory and melody are lucid: Moments of Sufficient Lucidity; Camaraderie at Arm's Length; Libet's Delay. Kirby's genius is to make tangible decay and elusive manifest: Bedded Deep in Long Term Memory; I Feel as if I might be Vanishing; The Sublime is Disappointingly Elusive -  and to make audible the ticking of history's metaphysical clock.

Sublime, timeless and beautiful. Like a life well lived.

Oddi wrth y brawd
tiny gradations of loss

June 12, 2011

Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters - Robert Calvert [1974]

Good Captain Bob waxes Ballardian lyrical about F104G ("G for Germany") Lockheed Starfighter. Fatally flawed design earning monikers Flying Coffin and Widowmaker. Calvert harbours borderline psycho-sexual passion for his metal minx: an uneasy sense that he does not so much want to fly a starfighter as crash it into the ground in a blaze of psychedelic glory (wearing tastefully applied mascara, possibly). Apart from able-bodied Hawkwind crew, an air armada of UK eccentrics are along for the ride: various Pink Fairies, Arthur Brown, Viv Stanshall, Eno. Viv does his Keith Moon/Monty Python turn on interlude skits that bear up remarkably well to repeated listens, though deployment of personal playlist editing will beckon for some. Eno adds Warm Jets vocal tweaking and crazed keyboard fiddlage. Oh, and Lemmy's on bass.

Nick Kent described single Ejection (best song ever written about bailing out of a fighter plane - fact) as having best riff since (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Not sure about that but it does give Silver Machine a run for its money.

Also check WB Calvert heavy Hawkwind post

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 11, 2011

...And Then We Saw Land - Tunng [2010]

Less founding member and chief song-writer Sam Genders; less weird. Not necessarily a bad thing. ...And Then We Saw Land renews Tunng's acquaintance with electronic experimentation wrapped ever so neatly within a warped take on pastoral folk. Goodbye willful eccentricity, hello quirky pop melody mainstream. Tasteful. Tasty. 

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 10, 2011

Work And Non Work - Broadcast [1997]

If, like y brawd, you feel the idea of Stereolab is always better than the execution, then prepare to have your world changed for the better. This early singles mini-LP compilation - intimations of more sophisticated retro-future stylings to come - is an absolute delight. Electro-filmic vignettes pushing all the right buttons. With the grandeur of masterpiece The Noise Made By People just around the corner, here are Broadcast stretching out well ahead of the hauntological curve, digging through yesteryear visions of future nostalgia and coming up top trumps.

Check earlier WB post Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age for best psych album 2009.

Also, proper job Karl Taul for amateur vid for the Book Lovers:

Trish Keenan RIP

Oddi wrth y brawd
l'amoureux des livres

June 09, 2011

mr huw i agor Gwyl y Dyn Gwyrdd - Vote mr huw

Vote for mr huw to open this year's Green Man festival

Pleidleisio drost mr huw i agor Gwyl y Dyn Gwyrdd

mr huw is without doubt within a hair's breadth of genius and must be heard.

More at 

June 08, 2011

La Planète Sauvage - Alain Goraguer [1973]

Erstwhile Gainsbourg sideman and arranger  - all Serge's work up until Gainsbourg Percussions -  stretches wings with chilled Vannier style rock meets orchestra syncopated jazzy funkathon. (Sampled to shreds by hip-hop brethren.)

French/Czech animated cult sci fi cult-classic directed by Rene Laloux. 

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 07, 2011

The Strange New World of Bernard Fevre - Black Devil Disco Club [2009]

Copping new mixes of material from Fevre's 1975 album of library music salvage The Strange World of Bernard Fevre. Attractively old-fangled in a future now stylee. Musty analog synth abounds. Tracks restored, replayed and reinvigorated. Students of Belbury Poly take note: master at work.

Oddi wrth y brawd
cosmic rays

June 06, 2011

Varieté - Marc Almond [2010]

Dave Simpson writes for The Guardian. He is entitled to his views:

"Looking back over a colourful life, [Marc] is in nostalgic mood, although, after 30 years, the twirls through sleaze and nightlife have become a shtick. The Trials of Eyeliner partly revisits territory he first explored in Soft Cell's Where the Heart Is, while Soho So Long bids farewell to a place he has clearly never left in spirit. The stripped-down vaudeville accompaniments don't help a feeling of furrows already ploughed. Nijinksy Heart is one of his better later tunes, but there's a troublingly maudlin undercurrent to all the confessionals and farewells. If – as he has suggested – Varieté is his swansong, it'll be a shame that he goes out with such a whimper."


For "shtick" read honesty; "furrows already ploughed" or valediction and the strongest songs he's written in many years - which side are you on?

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 05, 2011

Arabian Songs - Dalida [2009]

Dalida, pronounced D-I-V-A. Italian extraction, Egypt born, naturalised French. Powerful, colourful and tragic.

Departed on barbiturates in 1987. 

Oddi wrth y brawd

June 04, 2011

The Transformed Man - William Shatner [1968]

Captain's log:
"...the thrill I got from hearing this album all the way through was deeper and more satisfying than anything I had ever experienced…I walked out of the studio on air and soared through the rest of the day. I was really in orbit!" 

- liner notes, Shatner

Cack, but not as we know it.

Unexplored space, somewhere beyond shit, kitsch, pretension and brilliance. Concept: set Shakespearean dramatic monologues to music (nothing too overreaching - "once more into the breach", "to be or not.."  "but soft, what light...?"), add psych pop narrations twelve months too late to be of the moment (Mr. Tambourine Man, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), blend with epic doggerel by no-mark poet, and pair each set piece so as to "unfold multiple perspectives of the same subject, like the two sides of a coin, tension and resolution" [producer's note]. All James T. Kirk mannerisms are present and correct: stop-start, slow-fast diction ["tension and resolution" perhaps?]; intonation rising and volume building to crash at the end of each sentence with a porcine bellow; moments of lip-biting wonder where Jim is just...well, in awe.... 

Full warped speed opener  - William giving righteous welly as King Henry - proceedings peak early with highlight Mr. Tambourine Man. A quite good actually arrangement: bimbo chorus provide  "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" hook around which Jim exhorts all and sundry in the jingle jangle morning. Coup de grace is a finishing primal scream signifying "total psychopathic subservience". A tambourine is mistreated throughout. 

Plenty of belly laughs then and a sneaking suspicion that everyone in the studio was spliffed to eyeballs and pissing themselves, everyone that is, except Jim who is in sphincter-tightening earnest. At bottom fundamental naivety - our Jim's utter obliviousness to the turd steaming under his nose  - raises the album to semi greatness: transcending novelty and transforming poo into gold. 

Oddi wrth y brawd
go along with the charade

June 03, 2011

Polnareff's - Michel Polnareff [1971]

Undisputed pop psych masterpiece avec un whiff de roc progresive. Lushly textured, veering on the baroque, rescued by great hammy choruses a la Oasis '96. Garish excess all areas. Lovely job.

Michel Polnareff - Holidays by djoik

Oddi wrth y brawd
oh champs elysees

June 02, 2011

Lime - Mugstar [2010]

Admixing Hawkwind space chug and Bunnymen elan. Without the caterwauling or daft lyrics. Sound righteous enough for yous?


Oddi wrth y brawd