Tuesday, October 04, 2022

RIP Cass Davies

...  of Furious Pig, of course!

From the C81 cassette compilation - must have listened to this dozens of times in my life.

Not listened to their one actual release, this EP on Rough Trade, quite as often, I confess

Another version of "Bare Pork" that has the bit on them from the booklet the NME did as a spread inside the paper,  for you to pull-out and fold-up to go with the compilation (except that when folded up, it was just a little too thick to fit comfortably in the cassette shell) 

There's actually a live document, which  - unless I'm misunderstanding the label - looks like it came out on the Japanese postpunk label Vanity. 

Remembering Furious Pig during the writing of Rip It Up was one of the things that led me to the still ongoing and endless interest in Mouth Music and Extremism of the Human Voice. Viz, this post from 2003: 

"Talking of voices, how come there isn't a compilation or even a box-set (and maybe there is and I just don't know about it) of free vocal music, extremists of the human voice? Ideally vocal performances unaccompanied by music, or at least not mediated by technology and studio techniques (you could have a whole other compilation of that stuff: "Starsailor"). You could have one disc for the avant-classical lineage: the Dadaists and bruitism, Ligeti's choral stuff (as per 2001: A Space Odyssey), Cathy Berberian singing Berio, Stockhausen's Stimmung, Meredith Monk. Another disc for out-jazz: Patty Waters, there must be shitloads of other freeform vocalese types I don't know about. (Question: why does most free jazz leave me cold when it's instruments but is totally enthralling when it's the larynx?). A third disc for edge-of-rock: Diamanda Galas, Yoko Ono, live tapes of Buckley disastrously touring the Starsailor material, Furious Pig (this great Rough Trade vocals-only outfit, did one EP for the label, had a track on C81--sounded a bit like the Pop Group as barbershop quartet, grunts and howls and infra-human mewlings, they were inspired by pygmy music), Arto Lindsay's Christmas Rose Choir. And disc four would be like world music: Inuit plainsong (there was a disappointing CD of this stuff out on Sub Rosa I think it was a few years ago, but I remember an Eskimo field-recording LP a friend had in the early Eighties, amazing breath-pulse duets that sounded like DAF or something, then they'd burst out giggling after two minutes), Tuvan throat-singing, Pygmy monkey-chant.... This is all just scratching the surface I'm sure, suggestions welcome."

So who were Furious Pig, then? 

In the words of member Stephen Kent:

"Furious Pig was a group that emerged out of the High School experiences of a group of friends and relations in Totnes, a little town in South Devon, England. Influenced by listening to an eclectic mix of early Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, The Beatles, Ethiopian Polyphonic chants, The Doors, Stravinsky and Edgar Varese, among other things, we moved to London in 1979 a year after reaching the final of the National 'Melody Maker' Rock/Folk Contest - an event at which the judges included Bob Geldof, Justin Hayward [of the Moody Blues] and Ray Coleman [editor of Melody Maker]. Needless to say Furious Pig didn't win with their stirring renditions of 'I'm Going Round the Bend' and the jarring 'In Order of Height' but Bob Geldof said we'd 'Gotta Lotta Bottle'[Nerve] playing what we played. Squatting in houses around North London we developed a form of intense acapella vocal chanting, highly orchestrated with choreographed passages. It became a cult sensation on the London and N.European club scene. We toured on the bill with bands like This Heat, The Raincoats, Pere Ubu, The Slits, The Fall, The TV Personalities. We played on the streets, in clubs, pubs, schools. At the Comic Strip in Soho we were a regular music act - playing alongside all the comedians who became 'The Young Ones' and 'Absolutely Fabulous' on TV. We scored a live soundtrack to a William Burroughs book, 'The Wild Boys'. Our session on Radio 1 DJ John Peels show so divided the listenership between those who loved and those who loathed our music that it was repeated in record time. We'd spend 8 hours a day for months working on extending our vocal ranges, often in grotesque and hilarious ways - we had fun! Rough Trade Records got us into the studio and we recorded a vocal set including versions of 'I Don't Like Your Face', 'Jonny So Long' and the 'Kingmother'. I always regretted not recording 'Frozen Tarzan' with its alternating Shouting Through Cardboard Tubes and simply Shouting choreography and its Rolling On The Floor section. However, tapes do exist......

"Furious Pig came to an end when I left to become MD of Circus Oz in Australia. However all the other band members continued recording careers: Martin Kent aka Martin Pig with a series of singles on Rough Trade and Dominic Weeks and Cass Davies with two full length LP's on Recommended Records: Het - 'Lets Het' and another with French chanteuse Hermine."

This next chunk o' commentary seems to be from somewhere else (I've taken it from an older Hardly Baked blog entry) but who knows.... 

"This is an ensemble of male vocalists from England who created their own eccentric concept of experimental music using only voices, even though there was a fair amount of existing work in this vein, mostly in the academic world (e.g. Joan LaBarbara), but also stuff like Linda Sharrock and Jeanne Lee.  This has a grass roots punk/cabaret/comedy aspect and offers both fun and musical substance. They clearly worked out a lot of creative, rehearsed parts for these maniacal songs, so it's not just some guys acting goofy.... "I Don't Like Your Face" has a large section based on Balinese kecak, which is always a good thing!  There are connections between this project and other important early 80s creative music from England like Het and Hermine Demoriane. They played on bills with This Heat, etc.  It's a fabulous slice of underground music history.

""A friend said upon hearing them for the first time: '...it’s like The Manhattan Transfer went insane and recorded music in the plough of the sicker Fugs, dis-harmonizing cries and yelps in a studio with windows left open toward the farmyard.'"

Quoth Stephen, "Tapes do exist" - someone should release them!

As Kent mentioned, after Furious Pig, Cass Davies and Dominic Weeks formed Het and in 1984 released the album Let's Het, through Woof Records (formed by ex-Henry Cow man Tim Hodgkinson + his partner in The Work, Bill Gilonis)

Here's the whole album, it's rather good - slightly closer to "palatable"

Stephen Kent, meanwhile, would form Lights in a Fat City, which I actually reviewed live at the ICA, unaware of any connection to Furious Pig. 


April 8, 1989, Melody Maker

Seem to remember the album didn't quite capture the live experience. 

And then it seems - and it makes sense - that Lights in A Fat City found their way into that whole Club Dog zone 

The missing link between 23 Skidoo and Loop Guru.

Sunday, September 25, 2022


A couple of goodies here: a very old and very good mate with a new collection of his own writing, a more recent and very good mate with a collection he's conceived and corralled of other's writing. 


Matthew Ingram has a new book out soon that pulls together his recent spate of extended essays exploring the connections between music, spirituality, health and the counterculture, and adds some all-new long pieces on New Age and Prince, plus a profile of Roedelius. Keep your third eye trained on the Woebot blog for news of  The "S" Word's materialisation on this plane. 

Asif Siddiqi has written a bunch of tomes on the space race and matters cosmonautical, but out in just a few days is his first foray into music books: One-Track Mind: Capitalism, Technology, and the Art of the Pop Song. Edited by Asif and published by Routledge it's a collection of 16 essays corralled around a focus on a single song, track, piece, or unit of recorded sound. Artists include Le Grand Kallé and African Jazz, Moby Grape, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, X-Ray Spex, Prince, Neil Young, The Replacements, NWA, Salt-N-Pepa, Hanson, LCD Soundsystem and MIA; contributors include Oliver Wang, Esther Liberman Cuenca, Helen Reddington, Scott Poulson-Bryant, Gina Arnold, Amy Coddington, Susan Schmidt Horning, George Plasketes, Gabrielle Cornish and Asif himself. And I'm in there with a piece on Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". 

Release rationale: 

The song remains the most basic unit of modern pop music. Shaped into being by historical forces—cultural, aesthetic, and technical—the song provides both performer and audience with a world marked off by a short, discrete, and temporally demarcated experience....  Arranged chronologically in order of release of the tracks, and spanning nearly five decades, these essays zigzag across the cultural landscape to present one possible history of pop music. There are detours through psychedelic rock, Afro-pop, Latin pop, glam rock, heavy metal, punk, postpunk, adult contemporary rock, techno, hip-hop, and electro-pop here. More than just deep histories of individual songs, these essays all expand far beyond the track itself to offer exciting and often counterintuitive histories of transformative moments in popular culture. Collectively, they show the undiminished power of the individual pop song, both as distillations of important flashpoints and, in their afterlives, as ghostly echoes that persist undiminished but transform for succeeding generations.... 

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Man with the Child in his Eyes


One of the things I most enjoyed writing this year was an essay on Yoshitomo Nara and his work's relationship to music. It's for the Pace Gallery publication Piancoteca, which is out now

Release rationale: 

With extensive photography and special foldouts, this book recreates the experience of Yoshitomo Nara’s Pinacoteca 2021, a multi-room installation exhibited at Pace in London.

Set among Nara’s recent sculpture and paintings, his small house-like structure, reworked from an earlier project titled London Mayfair House, evokes curiosity and contemplation. The artist’s signature wide-eyed figures adorn Pinacoteca 2021 both inside and out, painted directly on the structure and on wood and canvas hung by Nara himself, as well as drawn on paper, used envelopes, and cardboard boxes.

An essay by music writer Simon Reynolds explores the relationship of music to Nara’s artistic production, and an essay by curator Stephanie Rosenthal discusses the role of built environments in the artist’s oeuvre. Also presented is an illustrated checklist of the artist’s rooms and house projects made between 2004 and 2021.