Ferris Bueller & the Cabaret Voltaire cameo

  
‘Cameo’ is probably an exaggeration, but a poster for Cabaret Voltaire‘s Micro-Phonies can be seen just behind Ferris Bueller’s bedroom door, alongside posters for Simple Minds, Blancmange and Killing Joke. Ferris might belt out ‘Twist And Shout’ from the back of a float in the film, but it looks as if he’d prefer to be singing ‘Sensoria’.

I referenced this in my review of the last Cabs compilation for Electronic Sound but never got around to putting the visual evidence up here. A couple of trips to Chicago in the last few weeks led me to want to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for about the hundredth time.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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2014: End of Year Wrap-up

First Aid Kit 'Stay Gold' album artwork

2014 was a year where I probably wrote more than any other year, but hardly any of it was for the Documentary Evidence site that began my journey into music writing over a decade ago. The year saw me start what turned out to be a slow and not exactly fun process of moving content from my original site to a new WordPress home, a process which will have to accelerate soon given that all of my archive writing for DocEv is now offline.

Most of my writing this year was for Clash, where I continue to contribute three of four short album reviews each month. This year I made a conscious effort to diversify who I write for, and lucked out when Electronic Sound gave me a last-minute opportunity to cover Jonteknik‘s debut Apt album for the innovative iPad magazine (I know Jon hates end of year round-ups, but Jon, I owe you a beer for that album and the door it opened for me with Electronic Sound – thanks.)

Since then I’ve delivered a number of pieces for the magazine, culminating in a major feature on Simian Mobile Disco in the summer. It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be working for Electronic Sound. The magazine’s team includes two people who undoubtedly shaped my interest in music writing back when I read Muzik as a teenager, back when I had no aspirations toward writing at all. Through their guidance I’ve become a better writer. I’ve also learned the value of full stops again.

I also started going to concerts and writing live reviews again this year. I reviewed Laibach, Nik Kershaw and Erasure for This is Not Retro (all with typically brilliant photos by Andy Sturmey), as well as a clutch of gigs at my closest music venue, The Stables, for a local Milton Keynes site (TotalMK) – Dylan Howe (my first jazz piece), Tom Baxter and Martha Wainwright.

2014 saw me write the least I ever have in the last five years about Mute releases. I covered the latest Cabaret Voltaire compilation, Erasure’s The Violet Flame and the Plastikman live album for Electronic Sound, Liars‘ Mess for Feeder and a couple of albums for my own Documentary Evidence site, but on the whole I’ve largely ignored Mute releases this year. Partly this is because I’ve been busy with other music writing, and partly it’s because I have struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of albums that the label have issued this year.

Critics are afforded the opportunity at the year end to come up with their favourite album of the year and so I feel justified in doing the same. Head and shoulders above everything else, for this writer it was Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. As is so often the case with the albums that capture your imagination the most, this was an album that I was hardly interested in when I read the press release.

I came back from a three and a half week vacation in New York and Florida in May and immediately found myself being asked to review a clutch of new albums by bands I’d mostly never really heard of before with hardly any time between them being commissioned and the print deadline. One of those records was Stay Gold. First Aid Kit are two sisters from Sweden and the press release seemed to lump them in with a folk scene that I am not always comfortable with, so I wasn’t exactly excited about covering this one.

Sitting on the train on a sunny, May morning, still feeling jet lagged and wondering why I ever signed up to write the reviews when I was so jaded and missing America, I decided to start with the First Aid Kit album and within seconds – the slide guitar sweep that quickly ushers in the opening track, ‘My Silver Lining’ – I was hooked and alert. Something about the music just talked to me in a way that lots of music never has before and I still can’t put my finger on precisely why; it’s possibly the combination of youthful innocence mixed with a sort of mature worldliness with which First Aid Kit approach their songs that got me, possibly the close harmonies of the two sisters, possibly the stirring quality of the title track ‘Stay Gold’ – I still don’t know, really.

What I do know is that a pair of lines on ‘Master Pretender’ – ‘Oh the streets of New York City / Look so pretty from way up here‘ – seemed to capture everything that I missed about New York and tapped into the way I was feeling as I closed the door on an incredible family holiday and went back into an uncertain work life.

Toward the end of the year I found myself listening to a lot more female singers – Martha Wainwright, Addie Brownlee and a singer called Natalie Prass, who I was introduced to by the same PR chap that sent me First Aid Kit (thanks Nathan), and whose debut album is really, really impressive; the sort of sound that might see this young singer scale the same heights as one Amy Winehouse did, all soulful sensuality of a style that has – criminally – more or less fallen out of favour. Check out ‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ below.

Oh, and in the last few days I’ve been playing a Canadian band called Viet Cong whose self-titled debut (out January) made me get all nostalgic for classic Interpol again, even if their debut knocks spots off my beloved New York band’s 2014 El Pintor effort.

Wishing all the readers of this blog a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Favourite sounds: First Aid Kit Stay Gold, Conor Oberst Upside-down Mountain, Ryan Adams Ryan Adams, Fats Waller, jazz, ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ by Gershwin, soundtracks to Woody Allen films, The Residents ‘Santa Dog’, Ghostly International, Front and Follow, my eldest daughter playing Latin guitar, my youngest daughter whistling or practicing her keyboard

Least favourite sounds: the announcer on X Factor, ‘What Does The Fox Say?’, arguments and shouting, alarm clocks

Record shops visited: Resident (Brighton), Rough Trade (New York)

Hope & Harrow – Sufferhead (Workhouse Digital single, 2013)

IMG_0013-1.JPG

workhouse digital | dl | 23/10/2013

After almost twenty-eight years, Pete Hope and Dave Harrow have decided the time is right for a follow up to their 1985 EP, also titled Sufferhead.

Vocalist Pete Hope is a stalwart of the Sheffield post-punk scene, which meant that some sort of collaboration with someone from Cabaret Voltaire was always a possibility – in Hope’s case it was working with Richard H. Kirk on the album Hoodoo Talk. Hope has also worked with Jono Podmore (Kumo, Metamono, Cyclopean) and in The Box with members of Clock DVA. As for Harrow, he has occupied a shadowy presence in the world of electronic music, working with Psychic TV, Adrian Sherwood’s venerable On-U institution (overseeing mixes for Depeche Mode, Mark Stewart and others), Anne Clark, Andy Weatherall and working as Technova and other aliases.

Some things are worth waiting for, as proven by this five-track EP. Sufferhead is an understated, assured release wherein electronics flutter and stalk with repetitious dark menace and vocals growl with thinly-concealed threat, anger and cynicism. Standout track ‘Revolution Train’ (see the clip below) is like an amalgam of everything Nitzer Ebb were trying to do around the time of Belief, only with more depth and attention to detail, while ‘Tongue Tied’ takes a crisp, jittery IDM pulse and adds in suggestive low-pitched spoken vocals that probably aren’t about getting your words muddled up. At opposite ends of the spectrum, ‘Sparticus’ might sound aggressive and disappointed by turns but it conceals a hidden sincerity, while the electronic dub of ‘Turn Up The Fuzz’ comes with a punkish social awareness suggesting that things are just as rubbish today as they were in the mid-Eighties.

Labelling this a comeback would be an insult; against a backdrop of electronic music regaining visibility with critically-acclaimed albums from bands and artists that have been treading the boards since the early Eighties, Sufferhead is a lot like a grenade being tossed casually into the fray, its impact proving categorically that much more interesting music is made just below the surface.

Sufferhead can be bought from Juno, Amazon or iTunes.

Thanks to Jono.

dl:
1. Perfect Rain
2. Tongue Tied
3. Revolution Train
4. Sparticus
5. Turn Up The Fuzz

First published 2013; edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Link

An advert for the Isokon buildings, Hampstead, London

This short 2011 BBC post on the future of British social housing includes a soundtracked by ‘The Set Up by Cabaret Voltaire, as well as extracts from pieces by Vaughan Williams, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varese and The Jam.

Click here to view the slideshow – requires Flash

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Various Artists – The Tyranny Of The Beat (The Grey Area Of Mute album, 1991)

Various Artists 'The Tyranny Of The Beat - Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area' CD artwork

the grey area of mute | cd agrey1 | 1991

The Tyranny Of The Beat – Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area was a 1991 compilation issued by Mute to showcase releases from its Grey Area sub-label. The Grey Area specialised in reissuing the back catalogues of Cabaret Voltaire (their Rough Trade releases), Can, Throbbing Gristle (plus various Industrial Records acolytes), Graeme Revell‘s SPK and many others. The label also became home to early albums by artists that had been signed to Mute, such as Nick Cave‘s pre-Birthday Party band The Boys Next Door, D.A.F., Wire and Einstürzende Neubauten.

The reissue programme conducted by Mute through The Grey Area inevitably produced a varied counterpoint to the releases issued through the main Mute imprint, through Paul Smith‘s hugely diverse Blast First (which itself, at times, also reissued plenty of older material) and NovaMute. Alongside The Fine Line, specialising predominantly in soundtracks for TV, film and theatre, The Grey Area represented a hugely interesting opportunity to hear some out-of-print releases on CD for the first time.

There days, at least nominally, The Grey Area no longer exists. Can reissues have never officially carried the logo, and whilst Mute remains the custodian of the seminal Cologne unit’s back catalogue, it is done in partnership with Can’s own Spoon imprint; Cabaret Voltaire’s latest reissue programme through Mute is done through the main label and consequently all releases now carry stumm catalogue codes, and Throbbing Gristle effectively bought back their work to reopen the doors of Industrial Records. The opportunity to reinvigorate The Grey Area upon securing the opportunity to reissue the Swans back catalogue in 2014, alongside the Cabs programme, feels like something of a missed opportunity.

The Tyranny Of The Beat then serves as a useful overview of what The Grey Area were up to at this point in the early Nineties. A small four-page flyer inside the sleeve highlighted just how comprehensive the reissue programme undertaken by Mute was through the sub-label – after all, they were effectively re-releasing whole or sizeable elements of back catalogues, not sporadic releases. The flyer also included some items that were planned for releases but which have never materialised – chief among these was the Robert Rental / The Normal live album recorded at West Runton, which Rough Trade had released in 1980 as a one-sided LP.

The sleeve also features liner notes from Biba Kopf, famed NME journalist and currently (under his real name Chris Bohn) the editor of The Wire. Kopf also wrote the copy for the Documentary Evidence brochure which inspired this site.

The breadth of music included in sampler form on The Tyranny Of The Beat is impressive, taking in the grubby pulse of TG’s live track ‘See You Are’, their Industrial signees Monte Cazazza with the truly horrible ‘Candyman’, a bit of early electro from the Cabs, the detached punk of Swell Maps‘ brilliant ‘Midget Submarines’, the similarly aquatic ‘Our Swimmer’ by Wire (still one of their best Seventies pieces), a truly ethereal piece by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert / Graham Lewis as Dome with A.C. Marias and the still-devastating Rowland S. Howard-penned ‘Shivers’ by The Boys Next Door. Can’s ‘Oh Yeah’ – one of Daniel Miller‘s personal favourite tracks – provides a rhythmic counterweight to the urgent mechanical production-line beats of Neubauten’s ‘Tanz Debil’ and Die Krupps‘s ‘Wahre Arbeit, Whare Lohn’. Dark relief comes in the form of SPK’s ‘In Flagrante Delicto’, a track which suggests Graeme Revell was always destined to compose the scores for spooky, suspense-filled films like The Craft.

Like a lot of sampler albums, The Tyranny Of The Beat can sound a little uneven, and whilst a lot of these bands were part of common scenes – industrial, punk, the terribly-named Krautrock – it would have been a pretty weird festival if this was the line-up.

Kopf’s liner notes deserve a mention, if only for the way that he positions the concept of a grey area as a place that people run to for escape or as a means of consciously assaulting musical norms, a place that both acted as a reaction against the regimentation of beats and simultaneously gave birth to the repetitive rhythms of techno. ‘In The Grey Area you get the sense of limits being pushed up against and breached,’ he says, and even now, listening to Genesis P. Orridge deliver a maniacal vocal over corruscating waves of sinister noise from a distance of thirty-five years, or Monte Cazazza’s detached multi-channel reportage of a serial killer’s victims and the nauseatingly vivid listing of the savagery he put those victims through, you can see exactly where Kopf was coming from.

Track listing:

cd:
1. SPK ‘In Flagrante Delicto’
2. Throbbing Gristle ‘See You Are (Live, The Factory July 1979)’
3. Cabaret Voltaire ‘Automotivation’
4. Chris Carter ‘Solidit (Edit)’
5. Die Krupps ‘Wahre Arbeit, Wahre Lohn’
6. D.A.F. ‘Co Co Pina’
7. Einstürzende Neubauten ‘Tanz Debil’
8. NON ‘Cruenta Voluptas’
9. Can ‘Oh Yeah’
10. Wire ‘Our Swimmer (Live, Notre Dame Hall July 1979)’
11. Swell Maps ‘Midget Submarines’
12. The Boys Next Door ‘Shivers’
13. Dome ‘Cruel When Complete’
14. Monte Cazazza ‘Candyman’
15. The Hafler Trio ‘A Thirsty Fish / The Dirty Fire’

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Electronic Sound: Issue 7 Reviews – Cabaret Voltaire, Plastikman, Fatal Casualties, Spacebuoy

Cabaret Voltaire '#7885' CD artwork Plastikman 'EX' CD artwork

Four of my reviews appeared in issue 7 of the digital magazine Electronic Sound, available for iPad or as a PDF file.

First up is the new Cabaret Voltaire album #7885 – Electropunk To Technopop (1978 – 1985) (Mute), the first Cabs compilation to bring together both their Rough Trade and Some Bizarre / Virgin periods. The album comes complete with revealing technical liner notes from Richard H. Kirk and longstanding fan and Mute MD Daniel Miller.

Richie Hawtin releases a new Plastikman album this month. EX (Mute) was recorded live at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York at the personal request of Dior head designer Raf Simons for the museum’s annual fundraiser in late 2013, and saw Hawtin offer an entirely new suite of Plastikman tracks. Fans of dark acid ambience recorded in highbrow surroundings need look no further.

Fatal Casualties 'Psalm' LP artwork Spacebuoy 'Intoxicated' CD artwork

Issue 7 of Electronic Sound also includes my reviews of two non-Mute bands whose work I’ve featured on Documentary Evidence over the past couple of years. Swedish darkcore electronic duo Fatal Casualties have released their debut album Psalm on the consistently interesting Seja imprint. A dark, cloying album filled with intricate Depeche Mode-isms and Downward Spiral-era vibe of Nine Inch Nails, Psalm is far from an easy listen but fully realises the aesthetic that the duo of Stefan Ljungdahl and Ivan Hirvonen have painstakingly developed on their previous two singles for Seja.

Also delivering their much-anticipated debut, electronic duo Spacebuoy (Howard Moth and Jez Allan-Smith) release Intoxicated this month. Erasure fans will recall that Spacebuoy were the support act for the veteran synthpop duo’s warm-up for the Total Pop forest tour, and since 2013’s Breathe EP the pair have been hard at work crafting the tracks for their first album. Intoxicated straddles both classic electronic pop and harder trance and techno-inflected styles, making for an interesting and varied debut release.

The iPad edition of Electronic Sound can be purchased through iTunes. The PDF edition will be available through the Electronic Sound website soon.

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Electronic Sound

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay (Les Films Du Garage film, 2014)

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay logo

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay is a film by Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins which will be released in late 2014.

The film charts the history and development of industrial music through the political, economic and urban upheaval experienced in late Seventies Europe and America through a series of interviews with the key individuals and groups that were at the forefront of this musical genre.

The film features interviews with many names familiar to Mute Records fans – Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis Breyer P. Orridge from Throbbing Gristle, Boyd Rice, Graeme Revell, Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire and other luminaries such as Test Dept, Hula and Z’Ev. The film promises to be one of the first, and certainly most comprehensive, surveys of a scene whose echoes can still be felt in the worlds of Factory Floor and noise protagonists like Cold Cave.

A trailer for Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay can be viewed below. A Documentary Evidence interview with Ravalec and Collins, as well as a review of the film, will follow later in 2014.

For more information, a list of interviewees and a selection of industrial mixtapes (including one by electronic music stalwart and Simon Fisher Turner / Githead collaborator Robin ‘Scanner’ Rimbaud) head to industrialsoundtrack.com

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence