Thursday, September 28, 2023
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Harvest Festival edition - Elizabeth Parker, The Stone Tape, Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan, Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology Vol. 2
Trunk Records recently put out a very nice compendium of short spooky works by long-term local resident Elizabeth Parker, who'll be familiar to many parishioners from her volunteer work for the Radiophonic Workshop. The vinyl long-player is called Future Perfect. And what an attractive cover!
This piece in particular struck me as Caretaker-adjacent in theme and vibe if not texture and method
Elizabeth Parker is a composer you may not have heard of until now. Well here she is, in all her musical glory, having worked for decades at the front line of British electronics, radiophonics, soundracks and more. This is an album full of musical ideas ahead of the curve, with contemporary technology that was to go on and very much shape the future of sound we know now. From classic tape loop techniques to modern sampling concepts you will find dark ambience, drones, beer adverts and drifts into space. This is the first ever Elizabeth Parker LP and represents (with 26 tracks) a very small retrospective of her extraordinarily prolific and commercial output. Not to be missed.
Ms. Parker back in the day being interviewed about soundtracking The Living Planet
An Electronic Sound interview with Parker, in which she talks about being "the last" Radiophonic composer and also her encounters with Delia Derbyshire.
A Sound on Sound interview about Parker's post-Workshop career
Underscores and FX that aren't on the Trunk comp
Something else BBC-vibed...
Release rationale via Bandcamp:
Christmas Day 2022 marked 50 years since the original broadcast of the ground-breaking BBC supernatural thriller, 'The Stone Tape', written by Nigel Kneale.
In early 2023 Hidden Britain commissioned a group of UK based musicians to produce a new piece of work inspired by this extraordinary 1972 TV film.
The result is a 16 track tape compilation which blends reimagined theme tunes and Radiophonic incidental motifs with dark ambience and hauntological synth explorations.
The artists involved in this release come from some of the finest electronic and experimental labels currently operating in the UK, such as Wayside & Woodland, Clay Pipe, Castles in Space & Spun Out Of Control.
Out in late October, in an edition of 50.
Limited edition C90 transparent cassette tape with foldout artwork inlay and exclusive sleeve notes by writer and comedian Stewart Lee. Also ships with an exclusive A3 Risograph print on 270gsm Colourset paper.
1. The British Stereo Collective - Written In Stone
2.The Hardy Tree - Chuffy
3.The Heartwood Institute - Taskerlands
4.The Night Monitor - It's In The Computer 02:57
5. Mike Dickinson - Brock's Prayer
6. SWLLWS - There Are Words
7. The Lost Past Society - We're Getting Data All The Time
8. Charles Vaughan - The Summoning
9. Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan - Comparing The Properties Of Stone, Brick And Concrete 03:52
10. Drew Mulholland - The Strange Beyond
11. E.L. Heath - Whiston
12. The Soulless Party - Vigilamus
13. The Metamorph - The Uncertainty Principle
14. The Toy Library - Lethbridge
15. Nicholas Bullen - When They Return
16. The Twelve Hour Foundation - Time's Patina
Now one doesn't want to be a wet blanket - but isn't this kind of thing a teensy bit on the late side?
Still, perhaps to expect hauntology to be timely, or to evolve, is to misunderstand the genre... ... it wouldn't shuffle off the scene punctually... it would malinger on, fixated on the same totems and talismans...
This appears to be Hidden Britain's first audio release - they are a company that sells "handmade signs and print from British Folk Horror and unsettling TV. Film and literature" [sic]. Again, can't help wondering, looking over their product range, how such a settled canon could still unsettle...
"Recently found during the closure of New Town House, Warrington, these tapes formed part of the advertising by the Development Corporation in the early 1970s. Showcasing a more pastoral, rural idyll than the architecture might imply, this represented an opportunity for people from smoke grimed cities to escape into a greener, healthier setting."
The new towns claimed the perfect suburban life in a green paradise with spacious parks and tree-lined boulevards. This chimed with post-hippy ideals of returning to nature and living The Good Life. The music filters through period inspirations such as Pentangle, Mike Oldfield and early Tangerine Dream."
There was also this from earlier in the summer
Artwork for the previous releases:
A last minute addition to the newsletter - the announcement of Vol. 2 of the Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology! It's out on October 6th.
Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology Vol. 2 – Raidió na hEorpa
This is the second volume of the Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology, which is a music compilation anthology attempting to preserve the fictional history of a small composer community based in rural Ireland existing from the late 60’s until the late 80’s. The project is written by the Irish composer and artist Neil Quigley.
This second volume in the series is released as a compact disc and an accompanying 50-page booklet contextualising the organisation and each of the selected tracks in probably too much detail. It is released on the record label Miúin.
Volume 2 of the anthology was influenced by a variety of Irish news stories and cultural ephemera, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, Garry Shandling, and post-war electronic music of the U.S., U.K and Europe.
No videos as yet for the new compilation but here's some reminders of Vol. 1
Saturday, September 16, 2023
Here's a cool side-project by two members of the hauntology-aligned Ghost Box groop Beautify Junkards - João Branco Kyron and Tony Watts aka Hidden Horse.
Here's what I said of the new album Incorporeal, which is out now in vinyl and digital editions on Holuzam:
“A startling step sideways from Beautify Junkyards’s sweetly spooky psychedelia, this parallel project brings the New Sonic Architecture of Eighties electronica into the 21st Century. Spacious and eerie, these glistening vistas bear comparison with Cabaret Voltaire, Chris & Cosey, and The Tear Garden, as well as moodscape artists like Burial and Actress. Unmissable.”
Jim Jupp also chips in:
"A journey through odd spaces and echoing caverns, powered along by angular rhythms and hypnotic sequencers. An electronic, motorik tapestry that feels both industrial and organic - like a dystopian Harmonia. Utterly beguiling!"
Here's a track from Hidden Horse's first album Opala
Sunday, September 10, 2023
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Kieran Press-Reynolds on how "the recent explosion of remixing — from sped-up edits and nu-SoundClown mashups to fanmade bootlegs — is rewiring the way we create and consume music in both thrilling and unnerving ways". At No Bells blogzine.
"It’s hard to deny the wild thrill of tempo-twisted remixes, and it’s cool to see them gain wider appreciation. The appeal of shifting the speed up is the way it gives a song a pleasurably tickly feeling, or injects the vocalist with a burst of frantic energy. Lowering it can give music a dirge-like melancholy and a cinematic main-character tint. Add reverb to the slowness and you have a perfect recipe for vaporous psychedelia. At best, these remixes are helping explode the genre conventions that prevail in radio-ready music. Popular indie country is being remade into gloriously deranged flutters of squeaks; Mainstream R&B and pop are combusting into inhuman blazes of twitchy yearning."
"There’s an empty, formulaic quality to some of these mashups, where they feel like bait engineered for viral traction. I can see a future where labels hire mashup makers to produce in-house SoundClowns... So many mashups are low-effort, and the heap of fast/slow remixes and other online styles... forms something like a giant musical landfill, the cultural equivalent of a black hole, into which we’re pouring all our attention and killed time."
Tuesday, August 01, 2023
Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Harvest Edition - Lo Five; eMMplekz; A Year in the Country; Belbury Poly
Spied in the window of Book Nook!
Cover Design by Rachel Laine
Also to be seen on the shelves of the Book Nook
Yes, a new tome from the prolific Stephen Prince - A Year in the Country: Lost Transmissions: Dystopic Visions, Alternate Realities, Paranormal Quests and Exploratory Electronica
It follows swiftly on the heels of last year's A Year in the Country: Cathode Ray and Celluloid Hinterlands: The Rural Dreamscapes, Reimagined Mythical Folklore and Shadowed Undergrowth of Film and Television - and the three A Year in the Country books that preceded that! With another two tomes not in the series, that makes seven in total.
I don't know how Stephen does it... I feel like a right slow-poke in comparison.
Talking about prolific fellows, Lo Five has a very nice new record, Persistence of Love, recently released on Castles in Space. Inhabiting that muzzy grayscale sound that is all his own. Makes you feel as if there's a film across your ears - like looking at a landscape with reduced visibility caused by light rain. Suits these unseasonably overcast and damp days here in England.
Here's Neil's release rationale:
"This collection of tracks came about during a period of transition for me, from changing the way I wanted to make music to a method that was more intuitive and free-flowing. I spent a lot of time experimenting with sequencing and different bits of hardware I'd acquired. I was also playing around with an old four track cassette recorder, which was loads of fun. I think the end result feels a little broader in sound and composition as all but one of these tracks were the result of recording a live jam down to a stereo mix. I recorded dozens of these until I'd found 'the one'.
"That way of capturing a performance really excites me, it's like a crystallised moment in time when the planets have aligned. When you're really absorbed into the flow of it and there's something extra guiding you.
"Thematically, it all reflects this ongoing interest I have in consciousnesses, spiritual enlightenment, truth realisation, whatever you want to call it. At the time I'd been reading a lot about advaita, which is Sanskrit for 'not two', or what western spiritual teachers call non-duality, where it's seen there is no separation between anything, no individual self, no subject and object, just this infinite eternal consciousness. I read a few of the classic teachings from gurus such as Ramaana Maharishi, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Nisargadatta Maharaj, which reflect modern accounts of contemporary teachers like Richard Rose, Jan, Frazier and Rupert Spira.
"There seems to be this slow reconciliation between ancient eastern spiritual teachings and western psychology and neuroscience. That really fascinates me and seems to filter through to whatever I'm working on."
Unexpected silo seepage from a retiree of this parish! A trio of remixes by Baron Mordant of eMMplekz fan favorite, "Gloomy Leper Techno" - also on Castles in Space
The collaborative eMMplekz project between Baron Mordant and Ekoplekz ran itself ragged from 2012-2016 and yielded some of their most satisfying work for the Mordant Music label - the Baron had finally found his voice in a skip behind Poundland and let his fetid alphabet loose across Ekoplekz’s mouldy electronic battlefield…lyrical Escher abstractions married to Cy Twombly soundscapes at a time when maybe only the Sleaford Mods were harrowing similar ground, albeit more commercially…the project bowed out on a low high with the ‘Rook to TN34’ album and the “Cheers mate, bye” lyric pinging off every surface…in 2022 with that still naggingly in mind the Baron set out on reframing ‘Gloomy Leper Techno’ in some different shades and the resulting ‘MMongrel versions’ were picked up by Castles in Space for this 12” vinyl
release…njoi/endure…IBM, Hastings 2023.
“Cheers mate, bye
I see rooftops in Staines, people as drains (cheers mate, bye)
The bee in the bonnet humming Ashcroft’s ’Sonnet’ (cheers mate, bye)
Rhyming’s like climbing, surmounting a fountain (cheers mate, bye)
Wanking the walk, tanking the talk (cheers mate, bye)
A dismal day in every way (cheers mate bye)
Bandcamp’s digital damp (cheers mate bye)
I want you to follow thru…why is it you let him in?
Cheers mate, bye.”
Finally, there's a new Belbury Poly album out on Ghost Box in a few days time - The Path.
It's unusual - a full-band sound, incorporating a spoken-word element. And the voice speaks in an American accent!
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Shawn Reynaldo is a music writer who's just published his debut book First Floor: Reflections on Electronic Dance Culture through Velocity Press, which has a growing catalogue of interesting tomes on dance music.
Recently Shawn and I had a really enjoyable, wide-ranging chat about club culture, nostalgia, futurity, music journalism, genre-naming, and more. For a day or two, the conversation is accessible to non-subscribers here.
I put it to Shawn that we are phonetic near-namesakes. Strangely, he said this had never occurred to him! Perhaps when I was starting my writing career, I should have put an 'o' on the end of my byline - it has a dashing, swashbuckling air.
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
... is the title of my long-awaited study of the life and work of Bruce Forsyth.
Only kidding - it's actually the title of an essay about the concept of the Generation. Which is something that's long been part of my parlance, as it is for so many professional and civilian pontificators about youth culture and popular music. But when I started to think about it, its solidity as a concept began to wobble. Quickly it came to seem as tenuous as it is evidently tenacious. So in this essay, with a little bit of help from Jim Morrison, I poke away at the notion of the Generation - along with related consensus artifacts of "calendrical mysticism" like the Decade, the Era, and the Zeitgeist - in an attempt to see if there's anything there or whether it's just "a bunch of bullshit".
The piece was written at the invitation of Vincent Normand as a contribution to the research project The Raving Age. Stories and Figures of Youth, under the auspices of ECAL, the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lots to check out here, including an essay about rave as the last European youth culture, another about world-building and the end of the world, and a meditation titled "Younger Than Yesterday" by Agnès Gayraud.
Monday, June 26, 2023
Sad to hear about the way-too-early departure of Teresa Taylor of the Butthole Surfers
Well remember her contribution to the sonic and visual impact of the Buttholes live, flailing flame-haired at her kit as half of the group's double-drummer attack. For a flashback taste, jump to about 2.58 into this, or 3.48
And of course her steals-the-show appearance in Slacker.
Met Teresa just the once, when doing an interview with the Buttholes in late '87 - an experience akin to being a supply teacher assigned a particularly unruly class and being completely unable to keep order. For nothing resembling an interview took place - it was more like I was a witness or eavesdropper on an hour of Butthole banter. But that makes them sound fearsome, when in fact they were absolutely amiable - and she was particularly sweet.
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
When Evan Haga, my editor at Tidal, asked if I wanted to write something on Britain's out-size contribution to rock, I said: "That's my special subject! Just about the only thing I feel patriotic about!". (Well, historically - I wouldn't say there's a lot in recent times that stirs vicarious pride).
Here's the resulting essay on the British Rock Achievement and what its causes have been. And here's a Tidal playlist I made - it just kept getting bigger and bigger (wotta lotta achievement to cram in there)
Questions for the massive:
What special factors and conditions did I miss here?
What, if anything, could currently sustain a musical Brit-jingoism?
What else is there to be patriotic about, as a Brit?
As I note in the piece, I don't follow sports, so saying football or cricket (or tennis - or did the French invent that?) will not count for me. We'll leave out the political: things like parliamentary democracy, the jury system, etc. Anyway, they are offset by imperialism etc. English Literature seems like it belongs to the entire world, somehow. So what does that leave?
I might try to make an exhaustive list at the place where I do that kind of thing.
But right now, off the top of my head, I can only think of British comedy (the subject of David Stubbs 's imminent book Different Times).
Then there's our slender contribution to global cuisine: Yorkshire Pudding, Marmite, Gentlemen's Relish, and the sausage roll (I assume that's a British invention). Toast, the greatest comestible ever invented, feels British but it seems unlikely we came up with that first or alone.
Oh and Radio Four - something I gave little thought to as a youth, and never listened to at all as an adult when I still lived in the country. But on my visits back to the U.K. over the years, especially staying with my mum (who has it on almost constantly - sometimes even has it on in the background while the TV is on), it has become something that amazes and comforts in equal measure.
Wednesday, June 07, 2023
This is my fave Groundhogs tune - when I first heard it, something about its wiry angularity reminded me of, well, Wire. Then years later I read somewhere that the Groundhogs was one of the only bands all the members of Wire liked.
Now this one is the Stone Classic - simply one of the greatest hard rock songs of the '70s. Fantastic production.
Tony McPhee #3 also did this potty solo album with berserk synth. Love the record cover.
Remissly missed recent RIPs:
Monday, May 22, 2023
In celebration of World Goth Day, here's my Los Angeles Times piece on Cruel World, the festival of Goth and mope-rock that takes place just up the road from us in Pasadena. It's also a mini-thinkpiece on the perennial allure of Goth as a subcultural option and style identity.
It's a sequel to last year's blog report on the debut Cruel World.
Last year, the main draw for me was first-time sightings of PiL and Devo, plus Morrissey (not seen since his solo debut in Wolverhampton in 1988). This time round offered the opportunity to see Siouxsie (but not the Banshees) for the first time; Iggy Pop for the first time since 1988; and Echo & the Bunnymen for the first time since 1984. It would also have been an opportunity to see Adam & the Ants for the first time since 1980 (the very eve of Antmania) except he pulled out at the last minute, to be replaced by the not very Gothic or mopey Squeeze. As for my first-time Human League live experience - another attraction - their excellence was truncated by an extreme weather event! Headliners Iggy and Siouxsie got rescheduled to the next day, which resulted in the oddness of my first-time and second-time live encounters with Gary Numan occurring on successive days (for unknown reasons he got to play a whole set again). Unfortunately he was shit both times.
With a lot of these acts, you can't help thinking morbidly that as well as the first time or first-time-since, it's most likely the last time - either they'll snuff it, or you will.
Offcuts and further thoughts:
The nostalgia pitch of Cruel World is a little odd, if you think about it – remember the good old days when you felt so bad? When you thought about suicide, wrote tortured poetry, dressed in black to externalize your despair, and imagined you'd never have a girlfriend or boyfriend? When bands like the Smiths, the Cure, and Joy Division were lifesavers? It’s a form of fidelity to the younger you, a refusal to grow out of it and leave it all behind. To stay connected with the purity of that period of doubt, dread and anguish.
One song Echo and the Bunnymen played was “Lips Like Sugar”, the nearest they ever came to a hit in America. It’s always struck me as a killer chorus looking for a verse and pre-chorus. Love and Rockets likewise felt like a great guitarist looking for a matching rhythm section and some decent tunes. Just like with last year’s Bauhaus show, Daniel Ash’s gnarly but intricately textured racket, as heard on tunes like “Mirror People”, was a highlight. But everything else in their package was a mid or low light.
Iggy's shirtless physique is fascinating in its combination of muscle and wrinkle. You can't tear your eyes off it, the way the flesh ripples, seems to simultaneously tauten and sag. The skin looks like a topographical map of the Rockies, the snake-like squiggle of distended veins on his chest resembling dried up gulches seen from far aloft. It makes him seem monumental: like he's been carved into rock’s equivalent of Rushmore – then broke loose to keep on marauding stages across the world.
Unlike Iggy, who understands the strengths of his own back catalogue, Siouxsie repeated the Numan Error. Instead of using her extended set time to disinter classics from A Kiss in the Dreamhouse or play the Goth National Anthem “Fireworks”, she played no less than four songs from the little-loved solo album Mantaray. There was a tune off the Batman Returns soundtrack and a pair of duds from 1986’s sparkless Tinderbox. One unusual choice that did entrance was “But Not Them” from her percussion-and-voice side project The Creatures.
that the video projections oscillated in quality and imagination in parallel
with the tunes – “Christine” came with a mesmerizing psychedelic kaleidoscope,
whereas Batman tune “Face To Face” clunkily deployed cat’s eyes.
Goths as victims of violence: this I remember only too vividly from attending a show by Killing Joke circa Fire Dances (supported by Play Dead). Inside the theatre, it was all menace and apocalypse. But outside the Queensway Hall, the fearsome-looking Goths dispersed peaceably, and it was a gang of ordinary lads, hooligans with no subcultural affiliation, who looked around for someone who looked punky but weak enough to attack - and saw me. I got chased all across Dunstable, bottles whizzing past my head at intervals. It was only through the intervention of a burly middle-aged bloke who sized up the situation instantly (no, I had not "bottled some cunt" as the instant false accusation rang out!) and held them off long enough for me to make a getaway, that saved me from receiving a good kicking. I sprinted back to the center and rejoined my younger brother, sheltering in the protection of a kindly black-clad crew. We waited for our mother to pick us up in the car.
On the perennial allure of the look - although closer to a Bunnyman in appearance in those days, I married into the tribe.
Friday, May 19, 2023
There's a really cool new Optimo collection out now: Cease & Resist – Sonic Subversion & Anarcho Punk In The UK 1979-86. Compiled by JD Twitch and Chris Low, it makes a strong case for anarcho as a musically interesting genre, at its best a separate flank of post-punk experimentalism, albeit tethered always to a didactic agit-prop agenda. Still, it shows that far from utterly imbalanced towards Content (as with so much straight-edge hardcore), the anarcho-punx did have some time for formal concerns - being in the UK, they were perhaps swayed by the postpunk idea in circulation that radical messages required equally radical delivery-systems (a.k.a. music).
Here's a Kill Your Pet Puppy piece on the compilation and on another Chris Low-curated project, Best B4 1984: Fanzine and Flyer Images from the Anarcho-Punk Underground. And here is also is a mix he did a while back of anarcho-punk.
My younger brothers were really into anarcho - they had the Crass records, later on they got stuff by Discharge.
Crass's "Bloody Revolutions" , the third track on Cease & Resist, got a hell of a lot of play in our household. Such that hearing it again for the first time in an eon, every vocal inflection, every lyric was instantly familiar - like seeing the face of an old friend. Regardless of whether you agree with the "all government's the same" argument (I don't), the searing conviction with which it's delivered by Steve Ignorant and Eve Libertine is thrilling.
But my absolute favorite on this comp is one I don't remember hearing at the time: Honey Bane's "Girl On the Run". Almost unfeasibly exciting.
The whole three tracker including "Porno Grows" and "Boring Conversations"
This Top of the Pops clip of her pop-move under Jimmy Pursey's tutelage could not be more New Wave, from the inorganic color palette to the lyric about "plastic vision" to the anti-TV politique.
The Honey Bane tune that I cherish most in the memory - and that entranced me as a 16-year old listening to Peel - is "Violence Grows" by Fatal Microbes.
Now musically I preferred postpunk to anarcho-punk by a long way, but for a while there I did have semi-serious truck with anarchism as a politics. But when I joined the anarchist group at university, it was quickly disillusioning. They were either ineffectual (quel surpise that anarchists would be disorganized eh?) and hippie-ish. Or in a few cases, macho types, up-for-a-ruck headcases into the idea of violent disorder for its own sake.
Nowadays I would say we need more order not less. There's people and forces that need curbing and being told to behave themselves. World government or the whole world goes kaput - it's that simple. Ministry for the Future with sweeping supranational powers, issuing diktats to save the biosphere.
As for the immediate American context, the choices are either a second Reconstruction (one that finishes the job this time) or Partition.