one faint deluded smile

Monday, February 27, 2006

Stop Posing, Ugly Boy

stop it i said

I've always liked prog-rock but I do know that a lot of it is charmless and irksome at best and excruciating at it's worst. However, I still can't understand the critical blank spot it creates for most "rock" reviewers. I've recently spent hours reading Toby Creswell's dull and predictable "1001 Songs" (1001 blog entries by any other name but it's supposedly more auspicious because it's been published on paper - bugger off Toby) and he only mentions a couple of prog tracks and then with lots of derisory comments like "worst music imaginable" and so on. It's the punk rock year zero shit that I thought would have died out when post-punk came along months later in 1978. Nevermind.

Here's a few more bits of ultra-good-prog for you to chew on:

mp3: Illes - Nem Erdekel Amit Mondsz
mp3: Picchio Dal Pozzo - Merta

These are 2 outstanding tracks from Andy Votel's new compilation : Prog Is A Four Letter Word (elequently reviewed here by Dominique Leone).

The 1st is just a simple 70s pop song more than anything else but it has a great riff - almost as enticing as Os Mutantes' "A Minha Menina". I imagine I'm lucky I have no idea what he's singing about. The 2nd is a more atmospheric, spacey track, reminiscent of Gong's instrumental passages with some lovely synth playing. I'd never heard of these hard-to-find bands at all and I'll be carefull before I actually buy a full album by them but they're ear opening just the same. Votel's great little comp should be purchased by every home, including Creswell's.

mp3: Univers Zero - Chinavox

On a more avant avenue are Univers Zero who took up the stridency challenge in the 80s and still managed to give us some great things. As you can imagine by the pic at the top, they were a very serious bunch but don't let that put you off too much. Just keep it in the back of your mind at all times and fling it at them when they verge on the ridiculous. Which can be often. This is very digital sounding (ie not as good as the 70s) but it has oboe and guitar and so on to leaven the Ensoniq or whtever they used. The devil's marching band theme gets a bit annoying after a while too but, overall, I actually like this quite a bit.

Well, there ya go, not a partuicularly good post but the music's OK at least.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Ricochet Remake

eno glowering

I've always loved the frission that synthesisers bring to rock music. In the right hands they can give a graininess to a song that nothing else matches - the sound of electricity in the air.

These are some of the touchstones for me...

mp3: Roxy Music - Remake / Remodel

So there's that driving Thompson beat; the hard, angular Manzanera guitar against a whomping bassline; Ferry's typically over emotive vocals, McKay's 50's sax and, behind it all, seemingly oblivious, Brian Eno's VCS3 bubbling, burbling, squeeking and shifting. Until, ofcourse, the solo section where a he makes a few bars come alive with a sound that still amazes me. I bought a synthesiser just because this solo was so magical, so futuristic. Or so it seemed at the time. I spent weeks trying to get my little Roland SH-3A to replicate the tone but to no avail. It just wasn't capable of the harshness and raw electronic feel of Eno's little box. It wasn't until much later that I realized how much personality each kind of synth could have.

mp3: Pere Ubu - Nonalignment Pact

Starting your 1st album with a pulsing, grating, ring modulated tone is a marvellous statement of intent. They let their abrasive brand of rock music start up but this repetitive crying / screaming sound comes out high in the mix, eventually turning into huge burbling sounds and, in the little post-chorus / middle 8 it turns - bird's cheeping. Notwithstanding the power of this track, Alen Ravenstine's EML 101 Synth playing is just magnificent and, even more amazingly, it sounds like it's all done 'live', in one take.

mp3: Family - Broken Nose

When speaking of Family I always have to preface my comments with a warning about their unreconstructed attitude to women - at least in this track the attention of Chapman's lust fights back and whacks him one. The synth playing on their best albums - Fearless and Bandstand - is supplied by Poli Palmer and, amazingly, it's another VCS3! Instead of weird noises there's melody and a screaming lead solo style - duplicated, etc to make it sound even fuller. It actually has a sonic character more closely aligned to an Arp or Moog but that just goes to show how versatile these old beasts could be. Palmer was sacked by the band because he wanted to use it more on the road and the setup time would have stopped the performance intensity - luddites.

mp3: Ilhan Mimaroglu - Provocations

On the experimental classical side, synth modules of one kind or another were used all the time in the 50s and 60s. "The Wings of the Delerious Demon" was always a clear apex of this style for me even if other works by more noted composers have become somewhat famous. This track is really an electro-acoustic piece using wind instruments as the source and modulating these with a variety of filters, effects and mixing. It's rarely less than engrossing. I first heard this at Steve and maureen's place at North Wollongong, just across the road from the beach - the music and the place have been intertwined ever since.

mp3: Kraftwerk - Tanzmusik

I couldn't really leave out the prime movers of making synths acceptable to the public, now could I? This is from one of their least liked albums - Ralph and Florian - but I've never understood why. It's reasonably lo-fi compared to their later 70's stuff but that's part of the whole hand-made charm. This gorgeous track is simple, elegant and as Kosmische as it can get. I've no idea what kind of equiptment they played at this stage of their career.

mp3: Tangerine Dream - Ricochet Part One (edit)

Another band who made synths part of the standard musical landscape. It must be the beat, really. By this time TD were really using sequencers all the time, overlaying bass and other rhythm elements with drifting solos and washes of guitar and synth chords. This is live too - amazingly tight even with all those different parts to remember - maybe they had it all notated some how although the photos I've seen indicate 3 blokes with synths and nothing else. See Sound on Sound for all your TD gear p*rn info.