Teece’s Bit… Archetypes Of The Easy Unconscious

It’s been a while since we last heard anything from my fellow book and record aficionado Teece so I though I’d put that right this week and hand over the reigns once more. Take it away old chap…

Teece's Bit Header Feb 2016

Ever heard a tune for the first time and had an uncanny feeling you’ve heard it before? It somehow strikes a chord deep in your musical memory banks? There are a number of easy listening tunes which have this effect upon hearing. I call them Archetypes of the Easy Unconscious. These are the tunes our ancestors must have been humming to themselves as they crouched behind a rock, spear in hand, waiting for that woolly mammoth to amble by, and wishing they were back at the cave with their womenfolk. Subconscious tuneage from the stone-age dream-time.

Tunes like Perfidia, Caravan, Delicado, Patricia, Dansero, Guaglione and A Man And A Woman. These tunes crop up again and again on easy listening LPs. Deconstructed, re-imagined, re-interpreted, but always providing that tingle of strange familiarity deep in our musical soul. Blueprints to our collective musical psyche.

To accompany these musings here are some covers from my LP collection, featuring … a man and a woman!

After Dinner Music by Victor Young And His Swinging Strings
This version was released on Decca Records, no year is listed

After Dinner Music by Victor Young

Contrasts by David Carroll And His Orchestra
This version was released on Mercury Records, no year is listed

Contrasts by David Carroll

Ciao by Al Ciaola And His Orchestra
This version was released in 1963 on United Artists Records

Caio by Al Caiola

Family Favourites by Harry Breuer And His Quintet
This version was released on Audio Fidelity Records, no year is listed

Family Favourites by Harry Breuer

Around The World by Various Artists – Moods Orchestral Series
This version was released in 1967 on Philips Records

Around The World by Moods Orchestral

That’s not music! (Part Two) : Electroacoustic/Musique Concrète

Last week I wrote about the beauty and power of several noise LPs (here) and described myself as being somewhat of an aficionado of extreme and fringe musics. I do tend to gravitate to the outer edges of all music which acts like a centrifuge pushing me further into the more experimental zones of sound. This next post concerns itself with an area which is admittedly rather more obscure and is therefore much further outside most people’s sphere of experience.

The LPs I have selected below all fall into a category ultimately informed by stretching the boundaries of modern classical composition with early tape experiments, electroacoustics, primitive computers and various musique concrète techniques.

Denis Smalley – The Pulses Of Time
1981 – University Of East Anglia Recordings

The Pulses Of Time

Tracks from this album were recorded as far back as 1974 and so the electronic treatments are fairly primitive when compared to modern techniques which gives the whole LP a fairly unique sound. Smalley also utilised early tape recording systems to enable him to better manipulate sounds and construct various loops which would be used to unearthly effect. The final track ‘Chanson De Geste (For Amplified Voices And Instruments) features whispers and vocal intonations set against sparse percussive and instrumental interjections. The whole effect of this track in particular is incredibly eerie.

Iannis Xenakis – GRM Works 1957-1962
2013 compilation – Recollection GRM

GRM Works 1957-1962

Iannis Xenakis was a Romanian composer who worked primarily within the sphere of electroacoustic and musique concrète disciplines. He was also an advocate of the newly available computers pioneering their use in composition from as early as 1961. This rare compilation perfectly sums up various aspects of Xenakis’ early work from the sparse, electronically tinged opening three tracks before closing with a twenty two minute musique concrète piece which features a blurred cacophony of tolling bells and voices. A true and unsung pioneer of the art, now sadly no longer with us.

László Dubrovay – “A²”/Oscillations Nos. 1-3
1979 – Hungatron

_A²__Oscillations Nos. 1-3

This is Hungarian composer László Dubrovay’s debut LP which makes heavy use of the EMS synthesiser to modify the sound of his small supporting ensemble and also produce a sonic range of its own. This is by no means a noisy LP, just incredibly otherworldly sounding. For example, the piano used on ‘Oscillations No.3 is mainly rendered as a series of discordant, rippling tones whilst ‘Oscillations No.1 is an exercise in sustained high frequency drones. A great example of the early use of emerging synthesiser technology.

Jean Claude Eloy – Shànti
1979 – Erato

Shànti

Four long sides of experimentation from French composer Eloy and I have to say that after thirty five years these tracks still manage to sound like incredible flights into the future. Eloy begins each piece by using barely audible drones which then gradually build into nebulous, pulsating oscillations with various musique concrète interludes. Face Two (none of the tracks are named individually) ends with a magnificently caustic drone after its relatively benign beginning whilst Face Four uses layers of field recordings and atonal frequencies to jar the listener out of their initial reverie. Personally I can’t help but visualise drifting in deep space being bombarded with endless streams of interplanetary radio waves when immersed in this fine record, it’s so timeless and could have easily been recorded at any point in the last forty or so years.

Ákos Rózmann – 12 Stationer VI
2012 – Ideologic Organ

12 Stationer VI

I read an article about this album just prior to its release and my interest was immediately piqued for a number of reasons. Mainly, It was being issued via the Editions Mego sub label Idelogic Organ which is run by Sun O))) leader Stephen O’Malley – extreme doom metal and experimental classical composition don’t usually make the most obvious bedfellows! However, when the LP arrived a short time later I was not disappointed in the slightest. Hungarian-Swedish Rózmann (who sadly died in 2005) delivers four lengthy pieces on this double album, each track over twenty minutes in length. There’s so much sonic detail to take in here that it does require a little time and patience before an overall sense of connection begins to coalesce. It is for the large part a very otherworldly and tranquil listen until the final track Dörr Med Tårar arrives and deconstructs all the traditional instruments and voices into a cacophony of processed sound. This truly is nothing short of a stunning album but, like all of the selections featured here I can’t recommended adding it to the playlist for your next dinner party.

That’s not music! (Part One) : Noise Not Music

Last year I published an article about music which could loosely be described to the uninitiated ear as mere noise (here). Being an aficionado of extreme and fringe musics, I have decided to broach the topic again and choose a further selection of my favourite LPs which best demonstrate the power, beauty and ultimate listenability of this much misunderstood sub-genre.

Aaron Dilloway – Modern Jester
2012 – Hanson Records

Modern Jester

Dilloway was once a member of arch noise terrorists Wolf Eyes (more later) but began rather prolifically releasing his own material in 1999. This represents my absolute favourite Dilloway LP so far as during the course of its colossal eighty five minute running time, all bases are covered – pure ear troubling noise, found sounds, tape experiments, caustic drones, disjointed loops and quieter, unsettling moments. As a statement of intent it manages to say absolutely everything about the album’s purpose which most of today’s releases – whatever their genre – are incapable of doing so. A powerful listening experience.

Hair Police – Mercurial Rights
2013 – Type

Mercurial Rites

This formidable trio share members with several other denizens of the US noise scene and on this their latest album present a dense stew of feedback, caustic electronics and intermittently screamed vocals. There are quieter sections too which only serve to jar the listener when a full scale assault commences. The band, like many others on the noise circuit are prolific self-releasers of albums, EPs and cassettes and as a consequence can be relatively easy to pick up. Uneasy and unsettling in equal measure.

Mnemonists – Horde
1981 – Dys

Mnemonists

The seminal US free improv/experimental collective recorded this fantastically noisy album back in 1981 which I purchased not long after release from my local independently run record shop. I had no idea what to expect apart from a few cryptic reviews I’d read and so I was completely taken aback when I played it for the first time. It was clearly music with discernible instruments – drums, guitars, horns etc – but everything seemed to be constructed around a completely alien time signature. Periods of relative calm appeared in the melee only to be obliterated by jagged eruptions of frenetic noise. I’ve played this record countless times since its purchase thirty three years ago and still occasionally dig it out for an airing even now. It truly does sound as fresh as that first spin back in ’81. Gloriously blurred and confusing sounds.

Evan Parker – The Topography Of The Lungs
1970 – Incus Records

The Topography of the Lungs

The penultimate LP I’ve chosen for part one of this article is by British free improv saxophonist Evan Parker. I know what you might be thinking, this is a jazz record and will probably be full of aimless noodling and interminable solos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Parker’s secret weapon on this LP is guitarist Derek Bailey who approaches his instrument like a man who has never seen a guitar before and has a total of twelve fingers. The two main players feed off each other magnificently, bristling like fireworks before bringing the sound down to a hushed whisper then building into a maelstrom of atonal noise. Drummer Han Bennink also deserves a mention for disregarding all notions of traditional rhythm completely and adding to the sense of extreme disorientation throughout the session. Not merely a jazz record then, this is simply a bona fide noise LP of the highest order.

Wolf Eyes – Human Animal
2006 – Sub Pop

Human Animal

Wolf Eyes are the modern kings of noise in my humble opinion. Prolific to the point of insanity, listings website Discogs catalogues a total of 261 releases since 1998 – that’s the equivalent of issuing around 16 LPs every year but this doesn’t take into account numerous split releases and various collaborations with other bands. I chose this album for inclusion because it’s recorded beautifully, a quality which brings the best out in a noise LP. There’s no let up in the tightly wound array of scorched and blasted sounds here from the metallic clanging of the initial intro to the all out nihilistic assault of last track ’Noise Not Music’, surely the band’s credo. Noise is hard to get right if you want achieve a high replay value but this album has that value in spades. Ferociously uncompromising but strangely hypnotic fare from masters of the genre.

Music To Fall Asleep To

I suffer terribly with extremely uneven sleep patterns. My nights are sometimes days and vice versa, I try to grab a nap whenever I can to keep my batteries topped up but I do like a little music playing to help me along. This can be a frustrating exercise though, pick the wrong album and I’ll be up in five minutes to change it for something else. The volume has to be just right too – loud enough to hear but quiet enough so as not to disturb the desired slumber. I do however have a good selection of LPs that fit these criteria quite well and so I thought I’d share a few of them with all you insomniacs out there. Are you a fellow sufferer with a sonic trick up your sleeve? Please let me know in the comments;

Stars Of The Lid – The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid
2001 – Kranky

The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid

The heavyweight champions of somnambulistic drone, Stars Of The Lid have ploughed an increasingly drowsy furrow since their first release back in 1995. This LP was something of a pinnacle in their development, an expansion of their oeuvre into a hefty two hour suite of interconnected, languid drones. This is music that sounds more like dust motes caught in the still, bright sunlight of an early summer’s morning or an inexorably advancing, tenebrous mist. I have listened to this album literally hundreds of times since its purchase and never cease to be moved by its glacial splendour whether slowly falling asleep or simply unwinding after the rigours of the day. Quite simply put, the aural equivalent of Valium but infinitely more enjoyable.

Motion Sickness Of Time Travel – Self Titled
2012 – Spectrum Spools

Motion Sickness Of Time Travel

I’ve been a huge fan of Rachel Evans’ work since discovering an early Motion Sickness LP some years ago and have amassed a large collection of her work. She is extremely prolific releasing many albums each year but her quality control never seems to dip. I’ve chosen this album as it works out at a single track per side, four slabs of oozing, soporific beauty. Across ninety minutes of playing time, Evans utilises synths, guitars and her own fragile voice which is usually doubled-tracked and bathed in a glowing reverb. There’s definitely something of the Berlin School about parts of the LP but these four long, spaced out tracks are clearly her own creations. An album to bathe and wallow in as you soak up the sounds like a myriad of tiny fizzing soap bubbles. This could be prescribed by your doctor as an alternative to a sleeping tablet.

Klimek – Dedications
2007 – Anticipate Recordings

Klimek

Sebastian Meissner crafts a beautifully meditative LP using heavily processed sounds sourced from electric and acoustic guitars before applying all manner of laptop trickery. Sometimes the guitars are replaced by pianos in soft focus, frayed and blurred at the edges. Sparse drones appear and disappear, crackles, buzzes and the humming of electricity are all present but never overpowering. I’ve listened to this album many times in a number of different states and it never ceases to have a calming effect on me. It’s no coincidence that Meissner’s previous LP was titled Music To Fall Asleep. A wonderful record to drift away to.

Jürgen Müller – Science Of The Sea
2011 – Digitalis Recordings

Jurgen Muller

This album was initially released by Digitalis under the guise of an archival private press LP made by a German oceanic scientist in the late 1970s. The faintly new agey synth arpeggios drifting across faintly pulsing rhythms were supposed to reflect Müller’s love of the sea as he recorded his music on a houseboat in the town of Heikendorf. This back story has now been revealed to be nothing but a hoax, but the music still remains incredibly evocative of a certain period in time. There’s a faint, coastal whiff of Ghost Box/Open University about these tracks that ebb and flow through modulated synth washes, waves lapping, fish shoaling. It’s a beautifully made record which keeps its watery mood throughout and I for one don’t care when it was recorded or who by. It’s a gorgeous piece of dropping off kit that I rarely reach the end of before I’m asleep which is absolutely no slur on this fine record.

Belong – Colorloss Record
2008 – St. Ives

Belong

Ok, so I’m tossing in a cheeky EP after the above three albums but only because listening to the four cover versions of 60s tracks contained within its grooves is akin to being rolled up in a thick duvet and placed near a window where a band are playing in the distance behind a blanket of fog after the drummer has gone home. This whole release is wrapped up in so much soundproofing that only the bearest minimum of sound leaks out. Forget lyrics or chord changes, this is a twenty minute blur of gorgeousness that I tend put on repeat for at least an hour. Nothing about this LP says anger or aggression despite the fact that it’s essentially a heavily guitar-driven record. It simply strokes your fringe away from your eyes, kisses your forehead and says “night night”.

Sleep well fellow insomniacs, sleep well…

Teece’s Bit… Covered From All Angles!

I dropped in to visit my fellow reader and listener Teece a few weeks ago. As usual, he had a surprise in store for me – a collection of LPs each with a garish, lurid or just plain bizarre sleeve. My head reeled as we sipped our tea and nibbled on some tasty biscuits, would this latest stash of vinyl goodies finally take my readers over the edge or would they pounce on this offering with the same fervour I have come to expect from them after posting that series of ‘What The?’ covers. It’s time to draw in close now my friends, fire up the gramophone and let Teece’s very latest bit take you on a voyage through the stranger zones of his record racks;

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My record collection has survived the cd revolution, the mp3 revolution, several house moves, an equal number of “it’s me or your records” ultimatums, and some heavy pruning in times of need. One bonus of the big 12″ format is of course the cover art. Here are a few of the more ‘inspired’ covers from my collection along with my interpretation of the stories behind them. See what you think – you may well come up with different ideas, which is all part of the fun.

Johnny Guitar Watson – A Real Mother
DJM/Vogue Records, 1977

As you can see, this cover shot gives us a literal interpretation of the album title, A Real Mother, featuring as it does Johnny’s real mother, Wilma (Wilma Guitar Watson?)! Wilma is taking Johnny for a walk in the park in his pimped-up perambulator. It reminds me of the resolutely DIY go-karts our dads used to make us as kids. Over on the back cover Wilma is nowhere to be seen. She’s probably had to go home to get the tea on. But look, she’s left Johnny in the care of three experienced baby-sitters, who look more than capable of taking care of all little Johnny’s needs…

Johnny Guitar Watson - Front

Johnny Guitar Watson - Back

Chet Baker & Art Pepper – Playboys
Vogue Records, 1959

OK, so this is one of those ‘fresh-faced, semi-naked girl holding sinister glove puppets’ type album covers. Quite how this relates to the cool jazz sounds of Chet and Art, I’m not sure. Looks more like a still from a lost David Lynch film to me.

Playboys LP Sleeve

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass – What Now My Love
A&M Records, 1966

What Now My Love indeed, as here we see Herb Alpert frozen on the cusp of what could well be a life-changing decision. His lady friend, clearly in a state of arousal, is whispering suggestions in his ear (probably reminding him of that jigsaw puzzle they still need to finish) and wants Herb to stay home and spend time with her. However, Herb has his trusty trumpet in hand and, look, there in the background are his boys from the Brass posse, itching to cause some Tijuana mayhem. Mates or girlfriend? It’s an age-old dilemma. So then… what now Herb?

What Now My Love

Killer Dillers Volume 4 – Various
Rumble Records, 1993

So, you’ve put together an album of red-hot rock ‘n’ roll obscurities and now you just need some appropriate cover art to compliment those wild primal sounds. What do you go for? A leather–clad rocker wielding a flick-knife? A dangerous blonde in pencil skirt and high-heels, smoking a cigarette under a street-lamp? No, don’t be daft! What you go for, obviously, is a cross-eyed vampire poodle in leopard-skin accessories! Add some garish colours and amateurish fonts and there you have it – a truly awful album cover.

Killer Dillers

Playing Records – February 2015

The first month or so of any given year is always slow when it comes to new releases and so I’ve mainly been spending my time becoming familiar with some of last years gems as well as reacquainting myself with the odd golden oldie. It’s a varied batch as usual so let’s dive straight in and find out what’s been spinning this month at unsubscriber towers…

Omnichrom by NeoTantrik
2014 – Pre-Cert Home Entertainment

Omnichrom - NeoTantrik

I suppose you could call NeoTantrik a supergroup of sorts counting as they do such luminaries as Finders Keepers head honcho Andy Votel, Sean Canty from Demdike Stare and synth supremo Suzanne Ciani amongst their ranks. Not that this effort is an overlong, overblown affair stuffed with aimless noodling as other such outfits seem to produce. Instead what we get is a shimmering haze of drifting drones and sun-bleached ambient interludes. The flute and synth waft of Sun Environment on the A side is utterly beautiful in a dreamlike, lost in a desert kind of way – so good in fact that I pinched the original sampled version for inclusion in my Rural Weird mix which is still available for download here. The title track on Side B is awash with cymbals and hand percussion before the final track pitches eerie electronics and free-form drums against babbling voices and tape manipulations. There are three planned instalments in this series beginning with the Blue Amiga LP which sneaked out a few months ago before being snapped up by the heads. I’m loving this one and most definitely can’t wait to hear more.

Lucien Goethals by Lucien Goethals
2014 – Cacophonic

Lucien Goethals - Lucien Goethals

Belgian composer Lucien Goethals sees a timely release of this compendium of works after time spent working at the Flemish division of the Belgian Broadcasting & Television System then later later as a key producer in the division known as IPEM (Institute for Psycho-acoustics and Electronic Music). These three rare pieces showcase compositions scored for combined orthodox instruments with magnétaphone – a kind of reel to reel tape recorder. The longest piece, Difonium uses saxophone to great effect against sparse electronic splutters. On the flip, Cellotape is a cosmically inclined minimal free jazz workout whilst the final track is purely synthetic, an analogue bubblebath. It’s great that important experimental records like this are still being released by a few tiny, brave labels. Long may they continue to do so!

Reek of Putrefaction by Carcass
1988 – Earache

Reek of Putrefaction - Carcass

Back in 1988, the late John Peel played three tracks by a band called Extreme Noise Terror and I was hooked immediately but it wasn’t until I picked up this LP that the grindcore micro-genre finally coalesced into something that ENT always promised to be. From the stomach churning mortuary photo collage on the cover to the track titles – vomited anal tract anyone? – this is still an exhilarating listen even today. It has all the ingredients we know and love from our favourite grindcore bands; Tracks played at ludicrous speed, a drummer hammering out blast beats and barely intelligible guttural vocals. The tracks come at a fast pace too, each one lasting an average of around a minute and a half so no time to catch your breath until the whole album spins to a halt. It’s amazing just how life-affirming something so entrenched in death, decay and gore can be. Nothing left to do now but bang your fucking head and breathe in the putrefying reek until you have to wretch. Yeah!

Sovrapposizione Di Immagini by Daniela Casa
2014 – Finders Keepers Records

Sovrapposizione Di Immagini - Daniela Casa

A pioneering work of experimental themes, wigged out jams and spacey interludes by Italian synth goddess Daniela Casa. This collection is culled from various library music labels by Finders Keepers Records and is being made commercially available for the first time since it was recorded in the early 1970s. One of the things that astonishes so much is the breadth of stylistic cues touching every base from incidental film music through skewed takes on jazz and pop to scuzzy rock workouts. Another amazing fact is that Casa recorded all of these tracks in her home studio and even constructed some of the equipment she needed to produce them. It’s about time some credit was given to this tremendously creative and fiercely independent woman, kudos to Finders Keepers for being on the ball here.

From Out Here by The Advisory Circle
2014 – Ghost Box

From Out Here - The Advisory Circle

Ghost Box stalwart Jon Brooks returns with his third LP of retro-futuristic peans to technology, industry and that certain childhood nostalgia we all feel from time to time. The album was described by the label as “a Wyndham-esque science fiction story, where bucolic English scenery is being manipulated and maybe even artificially generated by bizarre multi-dimensional computer technology”. Intriguing stuff, but it all fits together beautifully. I can well imagine these songs being manufactured in a 1970s laboratory rather than been merely written at a keyboard. Once again I hear traces of ‘Music For Schools’ and ‘Open University’ weaving their way indelibly though proceedings like DNA but this LP is far more than the sum of it’s parts. There’s a warm glow shining deep in these valves which somehow manages to imbue the whole album with a more human feeling than on previous outings despite it’s prevalent electronic construction. Jon Brooks and Ghost Box don’t seem to be capable of putting a foot wrong, another essential release in an already impeccable back catalogue.

Album Of The Month – February

The Summoner by Kreng
2015 – Miasmah Recordings

The Summoner - Kreng

It’s been three years since Pepijn Caudron released the mighty and infernal Works for Abattoir Fermé box set which has enjoyed constant airplay here at unsubscriber towers. This then is a much anticipated release and holy shit is it worth the wait. The first track alone is enough to give you nightmares playing on an almost silent drone for some minutes before erupting into a cacophony of strings. Caudron has changed his approach to composition on The Summoner by ditching all sampled material and utilising a dozen string players instead. The effects are truly devastating. Second track Anger is brooding and tumutulous in equal parts, strings slashing through the blackness until pent up fury boils over and obliterates everything. The album is based around 5 stages of mourning, and was prompted by the death of several close friends. This fact alone imbues proceedings with a hushed gravity and caustic bleakness which the music mirrors perfectly. But it’s on The Summoner that this sonic shift away from the past is most apparent. Caudron weaves his black strings around doom metal band Amenra whose blunt riffs, organ and funereal drums sound perfectly at home in the swirling miasma. Final track Acceptance is a chink of light through the preceding gloom, strings hover low in the mix as a piano plays a simple, plaintive phrase. It’s probably the most beautiful thing that Kreng have ever recorded and manages to bring a lump to my throat every time it plays. Power doesn’t always have to be dark. This is nothing short of a stunning release and one which I’m sure I’ll be playing for many months to come and beyond. If you’ve never heard of Kreng, this is a perfect way in to their haunted, charnel house existence. If you are familiar on the other hand, stand by for the sweeping changes to their sound and prepare to be blown completely away. MASSIVE recommendation for this one.

Teece’s Bit: Takin’ The Easy Road

Time once more to hand over the reigns to my fellow book and music lover Teece for a wander through the dusty catacombs of his mind. This article finds our redoubtable hero waxing lyrical over a clutch of easy listening LPs beamed in from an altogether more exotic location than Rotherham;

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Funny how the passage of time changes one’s perceptions. To this earnest young rock fan ‘easy-listening’ music seemed like the enemy. Bland background muzak with no redeeming features, right? I smugly dismissed the older generation’s middle of the road tastes as I listened to the interminable drum solo on side 3 of some heavy rock live double album. Fast forward a fair few years and the sides have been flipped completely. The creatively unfettered and joyously bonkers music of people like Esquivel, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman now seems infinitely more inventive and original than the vacuous histrionics of corporate rock music.

Anyway, here’s a selection of album covers from my collection, with their promise of exotic locations, exotic liaisons and a modern stereophonic listening experience.

Byrd In Hawaii by Jerry Byrd
London Records, 1973

Byrd in Hawaii

The Magic Music Of Faraway Places by Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra
Polydor Records, 1964

The Magic Music of Faraway Places

Maria Elena by The 50 Guitars Of Tommy Garrett
Liberty Records, 1963

50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett

Tropicana by Hugo Blanco
Polydor Records, 1964

Tropicana

The Music Of Lecuona by Stanley Black And His Orchestra
Decca, 1959

The Music of Lecuona