Bruce Gilbert – Monad (Touch single, 2011)

brucegilbert_monad

I was really looking forward to this release, I have to say. There is something about deeply experimental music being released on a 7” single that for some reason really appeals. I think it’s because the 7″ is so ordinarily suited to the ‘pop’ track that to hear anything other than pop music on a 7″ is quite exciting. Touch‘s Sevens series has included short releases by the likes of ex-Cabaret Voltaire sound recordist Chris Watson and Pan Sonic‘s sorely missed Mika Vainio. Bruce Gilbert‘s association with the label goes back many years, with albums like The Haring getting released on Touch (it was subsequently re-released by WMO). More recently the ex-Wire guitarist – as part of the group Souls On Board – took the B-side of a live split album with Savage Pencil, released on Touch sub-label Ash International. Monad is housed in a sleeve designed by Jon Wozencroft (as are most Touch releases) and lists out the instruments and tools Gilbert used boldly on the front (Korg Monotron Analogue Ribbon synth, Zoom RFX-200, Korg Kaos Pad 2, Apple GarageBand); there’s also a diagram by Gilbert himself on the back.

I looked up the definition of the word ‘monad’ and its meanings vary from being a small, single-celled organism, to – according to Leibniz’s metaphysics no less – an indestructible entity that is the ultimate fabric of the universe. This confusing word has little bearing on the two tracks included on the single, unless they refer to the songs as being solid and reasonably impenetrable soundscapes or their short duration (at 45rpm both are around two-and-a-half minutes long apiece).

‘Ingress’ is a dense drone whose layers are not immediately obvious unless you really concentrate; if you listen deeply you will pick out the various shifts in sound across the piece’s length, the changes in tone and the rich tug of the bass drone. The best way to describe ‘Ingress’ would be as an approximation of what loading tapes into a ZX Spectrum used to sound like, only this is more measured, more deliberate and more ostensibly ‘composed’ than that noise.

Over on the B-side, ‘Re-Exit’ is less constant, consisting of a throbbing, echoing bass loop offset by buzzing noises and a phasing, quiet drone out in the background. The bass loop provides a rhythm of sorts, but in essence its more of a thick pulse. It’s a style that Gilbert has deployed a number of times, both in his solo work and also with Graham Lewis as Dome. In it’s own, pretty sinister way, it’s beautiful.

First posted 2011; edited 2018.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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The Residents – I Am A Resident (Cherry Red album, 2018)

I am not the best writer for this piece.

I know, conservatively, less than half a percent of The Residents’ songs, own a diminutive fraction of their 60-odd album releases and would struggle to identify some of their purportedly best-loved songs in a line-up, much as I – or indeed anyone – would struggle to identify an umasked Resident member in a line-up. Accordingly, given that I Am A Resident is almost entirely constructed from songs from The Residents’ extensive back catalogue, I hereby submit, once again, that I am not the best writer for this piece.

I am also the best writer for this piece for precisely the same reason.

I Am A Resident is both by The Residents, and not by The Residents. Its songs are constructed from cover versions of Residents songs, performed by a bunch of underground artists whose names read like they belong on Nurse With Wound’s infamous list, signifying just how prevalent the still semi-mythical San Francisco unit are as influences on what we might define as musical outsiderism. The tracks were then dissected, rebuilt, layered, and augmented with new sounds by The Residents themselves, thus creating something new out of other people making new stuff out of old stuff that you might or might not know. A Residents ‘best of’, both by The Residents, and not by The Residents. New, old, and new-old.

Got it? Good.

If you’re remotely interested in art history, think of this as sitting somewhere on the Warhol-Rauschenberg axis – Warholian because it involves enlisting the support of other people to make the art for you in your name, Rauschenbergian because it’s a collage of repurposed material that Bob would’ve approved of.

Bookended by two faux radio idents presented by DJ Denver Dolittle that sound like they belong on Welcome To Night Vale, the five long tracks here don’t feel like anything other than complete pieces, even though they are stitched together with a turntablist’s frenetic, magpie-like zeal. It’s messy, for sure, but done in a way that implies lots of painstaking studio polish. Like The Residents’ own material, what you get here are lots of musical ideas reflecting back their own relatively borderless and unconstrained approach to sound – wonky, crunchy electronica colliding with scratchy rock colliding with freaky jazz colliding with vaudevillian humour colliding with over-amped rawk colliding with a quintessentially Bay Area take on musique concrète. I’ve now listened to it countless times, and the material is no less familiar ten plays in than the first time I played it, and lots of new details seem to emerge with each and every play.

A special edition two-CD version came with 24 tracks of what is presumably the source material for the collage pieces. At some point when I have more time I’ll listen to each of those tracks alongside the original versions to compare them, but in my head – at least – they’re a mixture of faithful renditions and highly original takes on what would, in other circumstances, be considered uncoverable songs – not because they’re sacred, per se, but because they’re not necessarily the easiest of songs to cover. There’s a reason why The Residents aren’t natural Karaoke artists, although, on the recorded evidence, lots of these guys would pitch up at that weird Karaoke bar night after night.

“In true Residents form, we don’t always follow the rules,” says Dolittle on the concluding radio segment, which is stating the obvious, of course. “Just as it’s always been – the eye is on you,” he concludes. The inference is thus: I am a Resident, she/he is a Resident, you are a Resident and, heck, we can all be Residents, if we so wish… or, in the case of this wonderfully odd LP, if your cover version happened to be among those picked for the source material for this album.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Electronic Sound Issue 45

The ‘bundle’ edition of Electronic Sound 45 has already sold out, which means that if you didn’t buy it already, you’ve missed out on the opportunity to hear the exclusive Vince Clarke remix of ‘Magic Fly’ by Space that formed the A-side of the accompanying 7″ single. And believe me, that’s a pity – it ranks among Mr Clarke’s finest remixes and you’ll now probably never get to hear it. The B-side was the wonderful and moving ‘Before’ by Vince’s VeryRecords signing Reed & Caroline, marking the duo’s first time on a vinyl record.

For this issue I interviewed Didier Marouani, the classically-schooled musician behind the mysterious space helmet-wearing Space, marking one of those privileged opportunities that this magazine often gives me to write a story that hasn’t really ever been told before. My mum was dead proud too, because she bought ‘Magic Fly’ when it first came out in 1977 (I was a mere year old), and I think she believes that this had a major influence on my later interest in electronic music – and she’s probably right.

Elsewhere, for this issue I wrote reviews of albums by Julia Kent & Jean DL, Ghostly signings Helios, the marvellous Dutch group Go March, and Welsh non-pop artists HMS Morris. I also got the chance to review two absolutely stonking records – a jazz opus by Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas, and O.Y. In Hi-Fi by Optiganally Yours, fast becoming the record I’ve played more than any this year. The record was constructed principally from the original master tapes of sounds that would be used in Mattel’s Optigan, meaning it was made with sounds from the Optigan but in a high resolution form that the Optigan itself could never deliver.

And linking that back around to the 7″ you sadly can’t listen to – Pea Hicks from Optiganally Yours is the custodian of the only equipment in existence to manufacture optical discs for the Vako Orchestron, the zany professional version of the Optigan which Reed Hays used on Reed & Caroline’s Hello Science, turning Caroline Schutz’s vocal into lo-fi textural loops.

The non-bundle version of issue 45 is available at www.electronicsound.co.uk

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Distant Sky (Live In Copenhagen) (Bad Seed EP, 2018)

It’s been a while since I wrote about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I think the last thing I put online was a not especially positive review of Push The Sky Away, and Skeleton Tree consequently just passed me by. I feel that I’ve rectified that with this review of the new Distant Sky (Live In Copenhagen) EP that was released last Friday.

You can read my review for the Clash website here.

I also reviewed the new Marianne Faithful album for the latest print issue of Clash, which features a wonderful new composition – ‘The Gypsy Fairie Queen’ – co-written with Cave; Marianne’s new LP was co-produced by Bad Seed stalwart Warren Ellis.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Rupert Lally – This Is An Adventure (album, 2018)

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Long-term readers of my blog will know I’ve often championed the work of Switzerland-based electronic musician Rupert Lally, who has a string of solo albums to his name, as well as a number of collaborations with Mute alumnus Espen J. Jörgensen.

I reviewed Lally’s superb new album This Is An Adventure for the Cold War Night Life website. My review can be found here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Cold War Night Life presents Non-Stop Electronic Cabaret (The Islington, London 29.09.2018)

If you’re remotely interested in electronic music you must have been asleep under a rock to have missed the Soft Cell activities that have been happening this year – a huge box set, a singles collection and a tour.

Ahead of Marc Almond and Dave Ball’s final London date, Simon Helm’s Cold War Night Life website have curated a very special event in Islington under the wonderful title Non-Stop Electronic Cabaret on September 29, 2018.

The event brings together all-too-easily overlooked Canadian synth duo Rational Youth (whose debut album begat Helm’s site its name), fellow Canadian moody electronic act Psyche and Sweden’s Page – to the best of my knowledge the only synth group to openly claim to be directly influenced by Daniel Miller’s cheeky short-lived fake group Silicon Teens.

Discerning electronic music fans can get tickets via Billetto.

Venue: The Islington, Tolpuddle Street, N1 (Angel Tube)
Date: Saturday, 29 September 2018
Times: doors at 7:00 pm, first band on stage at 7:30 pm, ends at 11:00 pm
Tickets: £15 plus agency fee through Billetto
Ages: 18+

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Reed & Caroline – Before (Aylesbury High School Chamber Choir performance, 27 June 2018)

The Aylesbury High School Chamber Choir performed ‘Before’ by Reed & Caroline at their Music, Muses and Movement concert on Wednesday 27 June. The performance was the culmination of almost three months of planning and rehearsal by the choir.

When working on the promotional support for Reed & Caroline’s second VeryRecords album Hello Science, Reed Hays, Caroline Schutz, Vince Clarke and I kept coming back to the notion that ‘Before’ sounded a lot like a hymn because of its philosophical and spiritual quality. Caroline in particular said that performing that piece reminded her of the Christian hymns she sang at school, despite growing up Jewish. That got us thinking about asking a choir to perform the song, so I asked the music teacher at the girls’ high school in Aylesbury as to whether they’d be willing to support the promotion of Hello Science with a performance of the song, and they graciously consented.

‘Before’ is already a beautiful, moving, poignant piece of music. In the hands of the Aylesbury High School Chamber Choir the song takes on an entirely new level of poignancy, something which has reduced more than one of us who worked on this record to tears.

You can watch this very special, unique performance of ‘Before’ at the VeryRecords YouTube channel here.

Reed, Caroline, Vince and I are all incredibly grateful to Ms Raven, the Aylesbury High School Chamber Choir and the school’s headteacher Mr Rosen for giving us the loan of the choir for this wonderful performance.

Credits:
Arranged and conducted by Olivia Raven
Filming by Mat Smith and Seren Smith
Video editing by Vince Clarke
Sound mixing by Reed Hays
Performed at the Aylesbury High School Music, Muses and Movement evening performance, 27 June 2018

Hello Science can be ordered from the VeryRecords website.

(c) 2018 VeryRecords