one faint deluded smile

Monday, May 30, 2005

Space Out Rhythm

armpit hair?

Late one Friday night, Annette and I were driving home from a splendid evening of eating and drinking and laughing with friends. I turned on the radio (we forgot to bring along some cds) and sat listening in slowly bewildered silence as this ridiculous, monotonous, electronic beat bore down on our good mood for 15 minutes and buried it under a pile of stinking mediocrity.

As you can see, minimal techno is pretty much the nadir of music as far as I'm concerned. However...

mp3: Michaela Melian - Panorama
(warning - it's almost 11Mb and so that's 4 dloads / day at the most before the isp limit is reached)

Michaela really is part of that scene but maybe not part of the stultifyingly dull variety.

I'm fairly certain that the middle section of Panorama would still have elicited a similar response in me had I heard it that lovely, ruined night. But when I listened to it for the 3rd time today it seemed just... completely hypnotic. Maybe it's the buzzy drone that insinuates itself throughout (as you may know, I do love a drone). Maybe it's the crispness of the hi-hat against the bass and sampled loops half way through. Maybe it's that slightly off-key guitar chord. Maybe it's because the beat seems tangential to the whole point of the track.

In any case, it's just one great moment in a pretty terrific album - "Baden Baden". And it ends with a pleasantly weird version of Roxy Music's "Song For Europe" - so that's a first as well.

And, in case you're wondering, the only other option on local radio at the time was mainstream country and western.

Friday, May 20, 2005

What Makes It Go?

Oh, nurse!

"They're the mssing link between The B-52s and Stereolab!"! I blurted after my very 1st listen to Komeda's 2nd album. I haven't had another insightfull or constructive thought about them since. (And, let's face it, even that one isn't particularly startling.) The only other thing that comes to mind every time I hear their toe tapping sophistication is that I like them quite an awful lot.

Although I can never quite work out why.

mp3: It's Alright, Baby

Their pop is a mix of cool, euro vocals, sympathetic bleeps and bloops from analogue synths, occassional brash guitar strumming all entwined by a tight backbeat and some warm chord progressions.

mp3: Binario

I don't know what it is about northern Europe in this initial decade of the 21st century (saying that still reminds me of "Duck Dodgers"). But there's a huge amount of good music being made there now. All those weirdo electronic, psychedelic and glacial sounds + the continuing pop contingent. But not much from Komeda any more, unfortunately!

mp3: Stjarna

Their official website no longer exists, their last, and possibly best album - Kokomemedada - wasn't distributed outside Europe and their only fan website indicates they've gone into individual theatre projects (fer chrisakes, that's the very last option, isn't it?). At least you can still see their fabulous animated video for B.L.O.S.S.O.M. but you'll need quicktime (it's well worth the long wait too.)

And their darker side (itimating their demise?) is just lovely:

mp3: Dead

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Members of Can in bad cover shocka

mp3: Can - Connection

As you can see above, Can's "Unlimited Edition" contains one of the worst cover images that has ever been created. Irmin Schmidt looks positively 'awesome' in that red leather overcoat but the rest of them aren't that far behind. It looks like they need a good sleep and just goes to show what happens when your singer leaves the band. (hey, this is turning out like Go Fug Yourself). But, really, I think it's the cloned infinite Can in front of (what I suppose is) some German museum wall that really makes it so painfully bad.

Graphic design was always pretty terrific on their covers (the simplicity of "Ege Bamyasi" still makes me tingle). So this just epitomises the fairly shoddy nature of the release itself. And, for those who don't know, much of this double LP was originally released as a single LP "Limited Edition" whose cover was equally as awfull - something to do with a mouse and some metal cage stuff... sorry, the memory's getting dim. Still and all, I'm going to purchase the remastered version when it finally hits the shops in June.

But "Connection" was one of the great tracks (along with "Doko E", "Blue Bag" and "The Empress and the Ukraine King") . It comes as a shot to the heart after 18 minutes of noodling that should have been left on the Babaluma cutting room floor. Yes, it's just plain old motorik heaven, with a chuga-chuga rhythm, a little dash of heavy rock, some dark Can ambience and Malcolm Mooney at his best. I've no idea why this one was left off any earlier release and left off the "Limited" version as well.

mp3: Modern Lovers - She Cracked

I doubt whether Jonathon Richman could have heard Connection at the time he wrote "She Cracked". In any case, he was probably still too focused on the VU sound and identity to worry about some avant Germans from a few years before. But there's no doubt it has lots of the same qualities. Well, at least, it starts the same way. One of his best songs from a wonderfull and influential album.

mp3: Voigt/465 - Connection

And just to make sure you understand how hard it is to play stuff that seems so gorgeously simple: here's my old band from 1978, channeling Can and the legacy of The Modern Lovers (via punk) with a little sprinkle of the Canterbury sound thrown in for good measure. It almost comes off... almost. And the pogoing crowd loved it... and you've got to keep the customer's satisfied, haven't you. The last time we ever played this song.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Some Things That Simon Didn't Mention

The Work, London, 1980

Even with a book as wide ranging as "Rip It Up and Start Again" there's always going to be some little known artist or other that he either missed or chose to ignore.

And I've got a couple right here, right now:

First off is the band that Tim Hodgkinson formed after Henry Cow ceased to exist:

Mp3: The Work - Fingers and Toes

This one shows pretty much the whole style of the band - a brittle, jagged guitar, off-kilter drums and heavy, compressed bass, topped off by Hodgkinson's strangled cat vocals and fuzzed organ chords. All with a bit of This Heat proggishness thrown on top. Weirdly, I always assumed it was Gilonis who sung, probably because Tim H. never raised his head above the keyboards in Henry Cow. It's a voice that, frankly, only his mother could love but it can fit in nicely sometimes. This recording is available on the "Woof 7 inches" CD which compiles all of the singles and EPs released by this tiny label in the early 80s. Get it at ReR or Ad Hoc Records.

Next is from another ex-Cow, saxophonist Geoff Leigh:

Mp3: Kontakt Microfoon Orkest - Do The Residue

Leigh was in a few bands from 78 onwards including Black Sheep, Red Balune and this short lived trio. Most of his stuff from this time has a sort of street cabaret feel with a mildly amusing tone, costumes aplenty, humorous japes and an obvious willingness to please that can be a bit irksome at times. But this one's easy enough to like with it's loping bass line and nursery rhyme sax. The pictures in the "…Things From The Past" CD which compiles all of his "MMCD" releases also confirms that he obviously left Henry Cow because their fairly humourless agendas were probably not where his heart lay. Likewise get this from ReR or Ad Hoc Records.

BTW, Chris Cutler's site has lots of stuff on these people.

And for no other reason than we've just because we've been "doing' some weird dance or other:

Mp3: The Table - Do The Standing Still

Very, very new wave with herky-jerky rhythms and propulsive guitar and with a big middle section where the pogo-ing would stop as they took it right down and then start all over again in a frenzy when the power chords crashed, increasing to mammoth proportions (no doubt). We used to love this 7" in our Darlinghurst and Surry Hills share house parties. There's a small page on them here. This track is available on the "1-2-3-4 Punk and New Wave" box set - no idea if it's still available.