photos by Laurent Orseau
Moog has launched a new docu-series that focusses on the pioneers of electronic music.
The first in the series, called GIANTS, explores Herb Deutsch, an electronic composer who co-invented the Moog modular synth system.
The first video, which you can watch below, looks at the earliest days of the Moog factory and the musical legacy of the synths that Deutsch helped to invent.
Moog said of the episode: “We are thrilled to release the first instalment of GIANTS, focusing on the legendary Herb Deutsch, in honour of his 90th birthday today!”
It continues: “The composer, music educator, and friend and collaborator of Bob Moog journeys back in time to talk about some of music history’s most prolific moments and expand on ‘the perfect definition’ of what music is and can be: sound organised in time.”
Speaking about the series as a whole, Moog added: “This new documentary series, filmed and produced by Moog employee-owners, is about honouring and preserving the legacy of these artists and sharing their untold stories with the world.”
photo by Laurent Orseau
Een van onze favoriete solodebuten van vorig jaar? Ongetwijfeld 'Enthusiasm' van Lennert Jacobs. Met percussie, keys, beats en synths zweeft de muzikant van The Germans en MDC III tussen Eno en Lynch, tussen klassiek en experiment, tussen gedurfd en organisch.
Beeld u in dat u erbij was toen Bowie met Eno de studio inkroop in Berlijn, en Lynch en The Residents ook langskwamen. Zo klinkt ‘Enthusiasm’ van L. Jacobs ongeveer, en daar werden wij enorm enthousiast van. Maar vooral heeft Jacobs zijn eigen sonische lens en dat levert een zeer spontane plaat op die ondanks het experimentele gehalte lekker in het gehoor ligt. En dat meer dan een halfuur lang. Onze favorieten? Ongetwijfeld "The Mission", "Don't Be Funny" en "Hellbender II".
Als we in zijn gezellige woonkamer een rondleiding krijgen in zijn uitgebreide platenkast, verbaast ons die veelzijdige sound niet. Van jazz tot de betere soundtracks, van Neil Young tot Talking Heads, en de betere Belgische, Aziatische, Afrikaanse en Zuid-Amerikaans klanken: Jacobs heeft het allemaal staan. “Op reis worden toch wel wat platen gekocht”, zegt hij terwijl we een Japans theetje drinken. Het interview bij Jacobs’ thuis vindt begin november plaats, later zal Oorworm met de vriendelijke muzikant nog een wandeling maken in de Plantentuin. De periode daartussen was wat je voor Jacobs onzeker kan noemen: hij moest in quarantaine vanwege een risicocontact waardoor hij zijn langverwachte releaseshow in De Koer gecanceld zag worden. Maar momenteel niet meer getreurd: met MDC III heeft hij intussen een nieuwe plaat opgenomen en met The Germans werden intussen in de Ardennen de eerste demo’s voor een nieuw album ingeblikt.
We openen ons gesprek met zijn bijzonder gesmaakte optreden in het voorprogramma van Nordmann in Cactus Club. Er hing een Lynchiaans sfeertje en van begin tot einde hadden ze het publiek mee, werpen we op. “Er was veel spelplezier", bevestigt Jacobs ons vermoeden. "We hadden ook het gevoel dat het publiek gefocust was en dat is nodig voor de muziek, dat het publiek zin heeft om te luisteren. Je moet zelf
in de sfeer zitten die wij opbouwen."
It is a beautiful early spring afternoon, full of those surprises of sunshine that make hope seem more like reality when I talk to Laurie Anderson, but she is in the thick of a blizzard. She is at home in Manhattan, immediately liking the idea of our different situations. “I have a great perch right over the Hudson River. It’s a very strange blizzard, they’re calling it a ‘bomb cyclone’, they’ve even weaponised the weather.” She says this with a wry laugh. She is also worried about her dog, Little Will, who has been off his food. “He’s a border terrier,” she says. “It’s like living with a cop. When someone comes in, he’s, ‘who are you? What do you want?’”
Such is Anderson’s warmth, I don’t for a moment feel that taking her time, in the thick of an explosive blizzard, coupled with pet worries, is any imposition. As our talk ranges from the early days of digital through party planning for Philip Glass to the idea of beauty in everything, the overriding sense she brings is of delight in exploring ideas, and an abiding interest in interconnectedness. Hers is a warmth without sentimentality – a surprisingly rare combination: “We got him [Little Will] right after we lost a dog. What am I saying? You don’t lose a dog. Our dog died”; or, on her mother, “I didn’t like her very much, actually, but I did really admire her.”
ARTHUR JAFA RELAYS A HAUNTING INTERPRETATION of the griot as someone who cannibalizes the flesh of those whose stories he tells, as a matter of pragmatism, in order to keep those stories alive for the telling in himself. At the end of his life, the griot’s unsolicited efforts at preservation of both self and other are met with the same gesture: he is denied a traditional burial. His carrion is left out in the open air to be consumed by maggots, completing a loop or energy cycle in nature, which can be ruthlessly just and deliberate in its delivery of karmic retribution. James Dewitt Yancey, a hip-hop producer born in Detroit in 1974, and known by his stage name J Dilla, saved his last beat to his MPC—a recording device that allowed him to chop songs into fragments and compose new ones, with new rhythms—the night before taking his last breath in 2006. His final beat sampled the title track from Funkadelic’s 1972 album America Eats Its Young. Dilla had just celebrated his thirty-second birthday. This detail is one of the many poignantly arrayed facts of Dilla’s terrestrial journey that we’re given in Dan Charnas’s Dilla Time, a meticulously researched book that details “the life and afterlife” of the producer, and aims to demonstrate how he shifted the collective time signature by honoring his own inimitable rhythmic sensibility. What we learn tangentially is that the griot story was inflicted on James Yancey. As he ravenously consumed sounds from records—turning those samples into original compositions using soulless machines that he inflected with feeling, asserting “I want people to feel what I feel”—he was consumed too: he was sampled, mimicked, worshipped for his skill, but ultimately left on the radio and records and beat tapes to decompose or be eaten by the maggots who help America eat its young griot heroes.
The brushwork in Thomas Cole’s deeply ominous 1833 painting The Titan’s Goblet was laid down with such delicacy the canvas remains visible beneath the oils, striated bands glimmering through the gothic fog like leylines under a muddy pasture. But if Cole proceeded meticulously, the impact of the piece was nonetheless unfettered and unmooring. As per its title, the painting depicts a vast goblet dominating a landscape of feral verdancy. Within the vessel is a world in miniature: a lake, across which ships navigate, a Greek temple and Italian palace glittering amidst the moss-lined rim.
Cole, an Englishman who move to the Hudson Valley in New York State aged twenty-two, never explained what The Titan’s Goblet portended. Today, 174 years on from his death, the symbolism of the goblet and its tiny kingdom is lost to the ages.
And yet his art continues to weave a spell. It has seeped into the consciousness of Warsaw-based composer Piotr Kurek during the plotting of his new album, World Speaks. While making the record, described as “a collection of seven vivid paintings”, Kurek had several of Cole’s pieces as laptop screen-savers. Some of that lush weirdness has, he has theorised in interviews, intruded, drip by uncanny drip, into the project, as refracted through titles such as ‘A Source of All Scenery’.
Utilising vocal samples, reed instruments, and organ drones, the LP blends expansiveness and mystery. ‘Chordists’, the first track, is a haunting swell of babbling voices piled high atop each other. A hubbub with no straightforward meaning, its sheer relentlessness has the quality of a nightmare from which you don’t want to wake. Right out of the gate, World Speaks has arrived at an in-between place where beauty and dread intertwine. And where, from the din, emerges a sound simultaneously vulnerable and distressing.
Steve Gunn has always had one foot in indie rock and the other in an expansive improvisational scene. His songwriter albums alternate with freewheeling jams, most notably in his Gunn-Truscinski Duo, but are not confined to that. He’s playing a New York City residency at Union Pool right now with Bill Nace, among others. While Gunn is not as actively derisive of his songster side as, say, Ryley Walker, he’s clearly got other stuff on his mind. So when Gunn decided to revisit Other You, it made sense that he brought in some guests from the far side of the commercial/experimental spectrum to reimagine his songs. Nakama presents five tracks from that last album, reshaped by artists that Gunn admires. The process loosens the songs up considerably.
To start, he calls in Mdou Moctar’s backing band (the American bassist Mikey Coltun and the other guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane) for “Protection.” The song already had a bit of blues-y swagger to it, with sharper-edged guitar rhythms also heard on the ultra-smooth Other You, but here the heat has an otherworldly desert sheen. Its caravan-traveling rhythm sways from side to side, digging in to to the upbeats in a way that is both kinetic and also hypnotically still. There’s some crowd noise in the background, the knot of people that regularly forms when Mdou and his compatriots plug in from Agadez, and a few mournful afro-blues licks arcing off the vamp. But mostly it’s a cut that reminds you how much African guitar music Gunn has absorbed (listen to “Tommy’s Congo” from Way Out Weather for proof), and how well it fits with what he does.
Gunn also brings in Circuit Des Yeux’s Haley Fohr to reconfigure “Ever Feel That Way,” and she sets the song’s drifting melancholy amid pensive minor-key piano chords. She strips back the ambient whoosh that surrounds the original, slows down the pace and presents the song in startling, unadorned clarity. Her version removes some of the sticky, over-prettiness that I found so distracting in Other You. The melody is better, purer and more focused without the frills. There is also an electronic remake of “Reflection” from David Moore’s ambient ensemble Bing and Ruth, which traps Gunn’s fragile vocals in a shivering palace of synthetic tones. It’s enjoyable in its way, but the two sensibilities never quite meld together.
The best part comes when Gunn joins forces with Joshua Abrams’ Natural Information Society in remakes of “Good Wind” and “On the Way.” The former is a matter of subtle differences: the gentle pitch and roll under Gunn’s voice, the intermittent liquid runs of bass between widely spaced phrases. Abrams and his crew open up the jazz-leaning, reiterative possibilities under Gunn’s song, but they don’t change it fundamentally. “On the Way” is even stronger, a glowing drone and a pattern of hand drums enveloping the melody. It makes the music seem more spiritual, more resonant, more deep and full of mysteries. It was striking enough that I had to go back to Other You to hear again an album that had left me cold. This new version of “On the Way” didn’t change that chill, but it gave me an idea of how strong the songs might have sounded in another setting.
Listening Across Disciplines II (LxDII) is a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It systematically investigates the potential of listening as a legitimate and reliable methodology for research across the arts and humanities, science, social science and technology.
The project positions listening as an emerging investigative approach that is able to: access new information relevant to the pressing problems of social exclusion, dementia, lung health, auscultation (medical listening), and speech recognition; and deliver new insights to curation, music, art, urban planning, and civil engineering, where sound can reveal hidden potentialities and contribute to our understanding of culture and how we live together.
Through partnerships and embedded co-working staged over five carefully organized phases, the research will observe, document, and analyse listening. The research is located in two main areas through the development of listening protocols and vocabularies. Public events and experimental workshops are consistently employed throughout the research as a way of co-constructing, testing, and sharing cross-disciplinary knowledge.
Listening across Disciplines invites you to listen to the sound above and send us your description, definition, or audition of that sound.
Your responses will help us understand how listening translates into words and what communal crossovers and shared understandings may or may not exist.
Head to the sound of the month reveal through which we will publicise some of your listening descriptions.
The annual Deliaphonic festival, celebrating the life and legacy of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire, will return next month for its fourth edition.
Normally taking place in May to mark Derbyshire's day of birth, the four-day event has this year been brought forward to March to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8. Events will take place in what was the late Derbyshire's hometown of Coventry, this year's City of Culture, at Coventry Cathedral and The Tin Music and Arts.
On the opening day of Deliaphonic, there will be a screening of 2020 documentary Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & Legendary Tapes, featuring a Q&A with the director Caroline Catz and Cosey Fanni Tutti, who created the soundtrack to the film. Cosey will also be performing live on the second evening, with support from Natalie Sharp, AKA Lone Taxidermist, Death In Vegas' Richard Fearless, Ghostbox Records' Julian House, who will play a DJ set.
Other festivities during the four-day event will see Warp Records artist LoneLady perform live, with support from Richard Norris, and a separate Supersonic Kids Gig, featuring music and sound-based workshops designed for children and a Sonic Playground featuring various stimulating sculptures.
Deliaphonic will take place from March 3 to 6, 2022. Find more information here.
In 1970, Viv Albertine knew she wanted to be in a band, but had never seen a woman play electric guitar. Seven years later, she was the guitarist in the hugely influential all-female punk band, the Slits. This is the story of how, through sheer will, talent and fearlessness, she forced herself on to a male-dominated music scene and became part of a movement that changed music.
Everything is here, unvarnished and unwashed: art school, squatting, hanging out in Sex with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, spending a day chained to Sid Vicious, on tour with The Clash, and being part of a brilliant, pioneering group of women making musical history.
The result is a raw, thrilling story of life on the frontiers, and a candid account of what happened post-punk, taking in a career in film, IVF, illness, divorce - and making music again, twenty-five years later.
This is a truly remarkable memoir, told in Viv's frank, irreverent and distinctive voice. Utterly shocking, very funny, and ruthlessly honest, it is the story of a life lived unscripted, told from the heart.
Bassist Tyler Mitchell first beamed up with alto sax legend Marshall Allen as fellow members of the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1985. After contributing to the Ra albums Hours After and Reflections in Blue, Mitchell stepped away from the Afrofuturist ensemble to pursue other opportunities, including a stint with drummer Art Taylor’s Wailers. Decades of travels later, Mitchell returned to America and rejoined the Arkestra, now led by the astonishing 97-year-old Allen as bandleader and Saturnian successor.
Dancing Shadows finds them sidestepping into a new sextet configuration featuring tenor player Chris Hemmingway (a recent Arkestra inductee) and Allen’s protege Nicoletta Manzini on second alto sax. The album becomes a mellow cruise through the spaceways as this group reinterprets a selection of early material from the Arkestra catalogue, alongside Thelonious Monk’s “Skippy”, and a handful of original compositions. “Marshall The Deputy”, named for Ra’s nickname for Allen, is a standout with the clattering breaks of drummer Wayne Smith and percussionist Elson Nascimento colliding with the 97-year-old’s squiggly squeals. Allen drifts even further on “Spaced Out” and the classic Sun Ra tune “Angels and Demons,” making his signature electronic wind instrument the EVI sound like the voyage will never end. | j locke