31 December 2016

Only Time

There are lots of things that you can't change right now. The things you can, you are changing for the better. Hopefully your constant effort and perseverance will yield results. But unfortunately, only time will tell...

Happy New Year!

22 December 2016


Following on from last post... I am trying to draw a sleeping luck dragon for a birthday card, and it's... um...

Remind me to never undertake anything similar ever again.

19 December 2016

Klaus Doldinger - Das Boot theme

... Turns out Klaus Doldinger did other cool stuff before The Neverending Story soundtrack, and I've only just got round to listening to it! The beginning of the main theme isn't the most exciting thing, but it progressively gets better and better...

18 December 2016

Subjective ramblings -- Minimalism, The Durutti Column and infinity.

   "It is this continuous and entire presentness, amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of  itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness: as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it."

--- Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, 1966.

Fried's Art and Objecthood was the first attempt at theorising Minimalist (or literalist) art, drawing on work by Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, and others. He closes this complex and at first seemingly esoteric essay with an account of Tony Smith's night drive through the then-unfinished New Jersey turnpike. Smith drove past mounds of industrial materials and urban debris, and what struck him was the infinity, the 'endlessness' of what he saw, which seemed to him precisely at odds with the finite nature of the pre-Minimalist art world in which he operated. Institutional art seemed restrictive in comparison to the wealth and inexhaustibility of everyday experience.

It's not always that art theory and artists' statements hit home for me. But Fried's essay certainly did, though it took time to figure out why.

There's a point in my mind where lots of seemingly diverse things converge on a single, visceral plane of experience: Minimalist sculpture, night drives, Israel, The Durutti Column, limbo, and infinity. Since the visceral and the intellectual are practically binaries opposite to each other, it is difficult to rationally explain this point of convergence.

For a start, why Israel?

 Having spent six years of my childhood in Israel, in Rehovot, I have strange, unorganised memories of the place: palm trees; scorching heat; flying cockroaches; the annual Kapparot festival, when a huge crowd of people gathered just outside our apartment block and slaughtered roosters for sacrifice in broad daylight (and that wasn't the worst of it).

But some of my better memories were related to a profound and unexplainable sense of timelessness. Israel in the '90s seemed to be in limbo, somewhere between tradition and modernization. There was an interactive science park at the Weizmann institute, and nearby were strange, towering sculptures, framed by exotic plants and trees, There's something about those sculptures that embedded itself very firmly in me, something which I only latently realised was the 'presence' of sculpture that Fried describes. It seems that it is when sculpture is abstract that it becomes dominantly present and uncanny: familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

The Middle East had its particular and jarring aesthetic, but also its particular sound.  I didn't hear that sound until much later, when I first listened to The Durutti Column. Vini Reilly is someone who -- to go back to the epigraph -- has me forever convinced of his art, convinced of its depth and fullness. It is the 'presentness', and endlessness of his work that feeds my conviction. He writes in a way that people have described as 'timeless,' and timelessness implies that it is somehow exterior to time, but perhaps it's better to think of his work as something which occupies many moments of time simultaneously; it seems to look both forward and backward.

And it is also everywhere (and nowhere) at once. Vini's music is so infused with seemingly diverse musical traditions -- Latin-American,  African, maybe even Middle-Eastern ones. At the same time it is impossible to place it geographically, precisely because it is not embedded in any one framework.

But without being singular, The Durutti Column is nevertheless associated with Israel for me. Palm trees hidden behind a melancholy haze, road trips to the sea, massive sculptures acting as shields of the glaring sun, the quality of being constantly plunged into and then immediately pulled away from happiness.

The other day, on a night drive through the city, I put on the recording of The Missing Boy performed at Domo Arigato. It is a fantastical, surreal, inexhaustible, infinite performance -  and it is none of those things, because words are, as always, insufficient.

During the drive I found myself in the midst of a thick blanket of fog, which seemed to descend out of nowhere, thicker than I had ever seen it. The experience was like riding on the rings of Saturn; occasionally another vehicle would appear - a fragmented meteorite exuding light - and then fall away again. During this experience of limbo, a lot of the vague associations  described above suddenly converged, like cosmic bodies colliding into orbit around a planet.

What seems to happen in The Missing Boy is the coming-alive or coming-into-being of a multitude of temporal and geographical moments, which all converge into one colossal and overwhelming memory. This memory is relived, repeated like a musical phrase, and eventually gains new significance through development. At 3:55 the memory takes off into an entirely new direction, then  momentarily returns, then veers off course again in a head-spinning and reeling vertigo of nostalgia and melancholy, a search for something or someone which cannot be assuaged. And finally --  the return home to the inescapable, original form of the memory, bringing everything full circle.

Life is at every turn full of 'the missing boy.' The missing boy is a feeling, as well as a person;he is future and past; memory and place; 'the dream is better, and the end is always the same...'

8 December 2016

Youth Lagoon, you are sorely missed.

... A mind-blowing sound if ever there was one. Just when you think the sound palette has exhausted itself, he adds something else to the mix. I  don't usually ''do'' noise, but this noise is absolutely sublime. I miss YL terribly, and I'm still kicking myself for passing up on an opportunity to see him live before the project ended.

28 November 2016

Look Mum No Computer

Look Mum No Computer is an analog electronics project with a strong DIY ethos and a very particular aesthetic, one that seems almost anachronistic (as almost everything I like usually is). It reminds me somewhat of the 1987 film ASSA, in which the lead character Bananan also has a penchant for electronics and found objects, with which he clutters up his room. The metallic helmet also finds its counterpart at the very beginning of this film.

LMNC has 'kind of an exhibition' coming up on 10th December -- a showcase of DIY 'synthesizers, synth bikes and circuit bent video equipment.' @ St John on Bethnal Green in London. Event page here.

28 September 2016

Emerald Web

Just when I think I've listened to everything that is 'so me', I find something else that fits the bill: this time it is the music of 70s/80s analog electronic/ folk duo Emerald Web.

From the first notes of that crackly arpeggio, I just knew I was going to love it. Intrigued to hear more!

23 September 2016

The ''heart-wall'' and alternative medicine

The other day I had a peak at a book that my Mum's friend got for her; it's called The Emotion Code. I can't really tell yet if it truly provides what it aspires to  - a ''future medicine''- but as I was reading I found one concept to be really accurate and credible.

Nelson writes about the existence of a 'heart-wall', (in detail here) which the body builds after trauma in order to prevent the heart from further emotional injury. This 'wall' can sometimes come up very unexpectedly and can 'block us from fully opening our hearts to others.'

I know, I know: most people would dismiss this, and other forms of alternative medicine, as 'pseudo - profound bullshit'  (I was extremely surprised at the narrow-mindedness of that Independent article by the way). but Bradley Nelson really seemed to hit the nail on the head with that observation. Who can really say they've never experienced a sudden numbness, defiance, even carelessness after trauma resulting from the heart-wall?

Anyway, my criteria for good art now is that it has to pull down the heart wall. Not just tug at the heartstrings holding it up but pull the whole damn thing down till you feel utterly defenceless, vulnerable, but alive.

 A Tarkovsky film, Astrid Lindgren's short stories, a Bach prelude.. they all do the trick. 

12 June 2016


Picking up an RM1X in Cash Converters for £140 was admittedly a bit of a gamble, and of course half the pads (including the play button) aren't working, but it's still amazing what this thing can do.
A YouTube search of 'RM1X' yields nothing but endless techno and house remixes which completely lack development and seem entirely to ignore all the onboard programming possibilities, as well as all the effects units. There's an uncharted territory with this sequencer that somehow no one seems to have thought of accessing yet, the territory of simple melody-driven pop songs.

Anyway,  for an advocate of underrated things and an opponent of excessive spending on music gear, the RM1X is ideal. I just wish I can get those pads and buttons fixed quickly.

All this also got me thinking about equipment videos - why are they often so remarkably unappealing? Why aren't there more like this one with Adrian Utley? That Minibrute sounds completely out of this world.

5 June 2016

When Will You Come Home

'Making noises like a dog,/
making noises you can't hear'
....has got to be one of the saddest lyrics ever.

Also, this song should end at 2:15 - it'd be better that way.

4 March 2016


... Nope, that's not supposed to be 'MARK', and that letter is definitely the right way round. Маяк means lighthouse in Russian. "Маяк" was (they are no longer active) a Ukrainian band from Kharkov.


16 February 2016

(Im)practical tips and (un)sound advice

We're over half way through February! This means it's time for the Mid-Month Motivational Message:
You're an amazing person. You do amazing things. And if you don't, then you will do amazing things in the future. Just keep at it.

Now, if the following picture applies to you, please read on...

So you really want to make some cool sounds but for one reason or another you don't know where to begin. You have a really bad digital keyboard that you got at a carboot sale (or maybe your grandma, thinking you'd be in raptures over it, gave you it for Christmas).

Now you happen to have an alright DAW (that means anything that isn't Audacity). And in that DAW you notice an intriguing little option:

If you enable this option, you can hear yourself while recording. So far, not so good. What difference does it make if you hear your trashy keyboard going through your DAW or not?

Well, your DAW happens to have another inconspicuous button mysteriously lit up with the green light of success:

 Clicking on it, you find filters, a dozen choruses, several reverbs, and a range of delays. Add as few or as many as you like to the 'FX chain'. Make sure 'Monitor Input' is on. And this is when you will bless the fateful carboot sale (or your grandma) a million times, because the keyboard will sound nothing like its trashy pre-FX self.

The basic equation is
trashy keyboard + FX + monitor input = sounds unheard by human ears

All of the above might be complete codswallop. But you're not doing it wrong if no one knows what you're doing.