24 October 2017

Lives of Angels - Elevator to Eden

Like most things I've posted here in the last 6 months or so, this is an album that seems to have enormous potential which is never completely unlocked. Still -- it's a fun slice of post-punk with some weird and wonderful sounds.
I like the last track 'Meltdown' particularly...

20 August 2017

Future World Music -- Aqua Vitae

Reminds me of Vangelis. And of my ice skating days.
Gosh, imagine ice skating to this and actually nailing it; landing a quadruple jump or something. Getting top marks at the Olympics or something. Flying... 

Update: The more I listen to this, the less OK I am.

15 August 2017

Giselle - Moss

On my desperate search for multitracks to practise with, I found this link-- a remix of a project with 54 tracks (trust me, it's a BEAST). It's called Moss, by an artist called Giselle.

...And I loved it. Admittedly, I did think (as I usually do in cases like this) -- 'OH MY GOD WHERE IS THIS GOING OH MY GOD IT'S AMAZING WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN' and then it didn't quite live up to my expectations (as usual) but there's still something frisson-inducing there. And it made me feel small. Always a good sign.

That picture is from the Soviet film adaptation of the Little Mermaid. The vocal on this reminded me of it....

7 July 2017

Blue bird (1976)

Blue bird from 1976 taught me that 'the blue bird was at home' (a variation on 'the grass is always greener on the other side', I guess). Having acted with that lesson in mind only a week ago, I rewatched bits of this film today and overall found it to be no different than when I was little --still magical, well-shot, sort of eerie in places.. But one thing I really didn't think twice about before and which is really bothering me now is the racial stereotyping -- Cecily Tyson cast in the role of a double-dealing black cat, the familiar of the queen of darkness. It's times like these I wonder if almost everything I watched as a kid was problematic in some way. But a part of time really wants to say it's still OK and that I can still enjoy all the wonderful costumes in this. I mean, come on, just look at this scene:

5 July 2017

Roy Orbison

This reminds me of Surrender by Suicide, and I don't particularly know why -- I think it might be the repetition at the beginning of the chorus in both songs that does it. Either way, it made me think that it'd be pretty amazing if there was some kind of synthy cover of this song. I'm sad to say it, but I often dream of synthy covers of songs. Maybe because in all these older acoustic records the sound design and arrangement is really limited and with most electronic music it's much fuller.

I also object somewhat to Roy Orbison's singing in this. A few times he skips into apathetic territory (IMO), sounding almost like he's singing along to himself while out picking berries in a forest or something. Doesn't particularly sound like he is heartbroken. But I know a lot of people won't agree with me on that...

28 June 2017

Decisions and Harry Smith

I made some massive decisions today.

But I am going to forget that and watch a lovely animation by Harry Smith (that I discovered via the Edge of Frame Alice Cohen interview -- evidently I am on a roll).

26 June 2017

Alice Cohen

I just discovered the work of musician and artist Alice Cohen (through Edge of Frame, which is a great source for finding interesting video-related stuff)
Her video work incorporates collage, which as I understand was the first medium she worked in. If you can call collage a 'medium.'

"white woman" music video for broken deer from alice cohen on Vimeo.

This music video  she did for another artist reminds me of an animation called "Transformation" that I grew up with (I wrote about it here) and maybe that's why I like it. It gives me that feeling that collage really is inexhaustible. Collage is always interesting not just to look at but also to think about in theoretical terms; since it is often created through intersections of different materials, different contexts and different cultural references, it is interesting to read the collaged whole through the contradictions that exist within it. If you take just one section of a collage and ask the question 'where has this piece been taken from?' and then keep doing that for other sections, and then think about the answers in relation to each other, you can come out with a really curious result. And of course in moving image all of that is complicated still further by the narrative/ sequential element involved in the presentation of the collages.

... And then there's Alice's music. Pink Keys is a wonderful album - the soundtrack to an adventurous and sun-soaked summer road trip. The first track reminds me somewhat of The Wake, probably because of the vocals. It sounds like Carolyn Allen sang on Pale Spectre and this track in the same day, it's that same register of singing about doom and gloom through a paradoxical veneer of optimism and playfulness.

22 June 2017

Two things

1) Oskar Fischinger Google doodle

At times like these, I almost forget how bad Google is as a corporation, because the Oskar Fischinger Doodle is sort of great. It actually reminds me very much of the days when I used to use MIDI and input every note by hand onto MIDI 'sheetmusic' because I didn't have a keyboard (never again, both to the method and to VST instruments).

Anyway...it's a bit of fun!

2) Com Truise's new album (Iteration)...

... blew my mind! I literally just found it via a friend today. I feel like it's one of those things I wouldn't appreciate as much if I hadn't been through sound design hell and sound design purgatory myself, but hey, maybe my horizons are broadening?

I do kind of wonder if I'll stop liking this within a week (seems to happen to a lot of stuff that I can appreciate without connecting all that much on an emotional level). I guess the important thing is I like it now?...

Update: only just noticed now how colour coordinated the doodle and the Iteration album visuals are... weird coincidence. And I like how the visuals are also coordinated with what's going on sound-wise (seems inspired by Oskar Fischinger in that respect too).

(Gosh, I use so many brackets in posts. I think if I was a punctuation mark I would be a bracket).

16 June 2017


I am not on a Rybnikov/Soviet sci-fi spree (against all the evidence that suggests otherwise)

There's this one lyric which is really haunting, when the theremin comes in:
'Night is troubling us with almost magical dreams'. 
It's so contradictory but there's something so accurate in it...

14 June 2017

Per Aspera Ad Astra (1981)

One day I might find it in my heart to write a bit more about this film, but not quite yet...

31 May 2017

The Space Lady in another (Christian) life -- Sister Irene O'Connor

Sister Irene O'Connor belongs retrospectively to that very niche genre of  'Catholic psychedelic synth folk.' She reminds me so much of The Space Lady, and I think they'd make a great duet.

25 May 2017

Unusual voices 3: Cindy Lee

Ok, I'm cheating  slightly with this one because with Cindy Lee it's not necessarily about an unusual voice so much as unusual vocals/effects.

Cindy Lee is one of the best lo-fi projects that I know of. It was started fairly recently by the former guitarist of the band Women, Patrick Flegel. I think it's him singing on the records, but I'm not entirely sure... Either way, the voice is sort of jarring at times and on some songs heavily distorted (on What I Need for example). It sounds sort of like someone has hidden in the attic for a century to avoid human contact and has forgotten how to speak/sing.
 Act of Tenderness as an album has not had the recognition it deserves, in my opinion. It sets its own standards and is truly like nothing I've ever heard before. And it's sad (well obviously, why would I love it so much if it wasn't?)

Anyway... I want to hear more from Cindy Lee.

21 May 2017

The Lake

Sometimes, a song can sit in the deepest recesses of your mind for years, before surfacing  at exactly the right moment to hit you with its full force.
That's what happened to me with The Lake.
A lot of the best things are subconscious, spontaneous, unintended; such was mine and my sister's trip to The Lake. Because we didn't even know that we were going to The Lake, (we were headed elsewhere) and indeed we could easily have driven past it in blissful ignorance if my sister hadn't spotted something between the trees and if I hadn't pulled over.
The Lake was only 40 minutes away from where I live, and I'd never heard of it or seen it in all the years I've lived here. It's tucked away from the main road behind dense woodland, and around it is a stone quarry. The lake is probably manmade. But that's beside the point. Everything is beside the point; everything is extremely mundane and mortal beside The Lake.
Mortality: such was the theme of that very strange day. Before we left on our trip, my sister saw that a neighbour of ours was moving out, and that he'd put out a load of stuff in his front yard, including a human-sized skeleton. 
She wanted to check that our neighbour was definitely getting rid of all that stuff in his yard, because she really wanted the skeleton (two cupboards were labelled 'TO GO' but everything else was unmarked.) So we knocked on his door to check, and it transpired that he wasn't getting rid of any of those things at all and that he'd just laid them all out there for the time being.

'But you can keep Bone Jovi,' he added hastily, pointing at the skeleton.
So we took Bone Jovi home.

Bone Jovi didn't last very long in our superstitious household, and returned very quickly to our neighbour -- that same day. Which was just as well, because he probably didn't want to give it away and just ceded to us out of that awful plight which is British politeness.

And so, with these thoughts of life-sized skeletons, we drove past The Lake, which we didn't know was The Lake because it was hidden by forest, as I mentioned above. My sister pointed out what she thought was a ravine full of chalk, and we parked up nearby to have a look.

It was one of those views which does not reveal itself immediately, one which is almost purposefully hidden away and must be approached slowly, with the sense that a mystery is about to unravel.

The moment when I saw The Lake was like that moment in films where a character receives some unexpected news from another character and the latter keeps on talking but his/her speech is edited out and music starts up instead -- a 'steely melody.'

I didn't immediately make the connection with Antony and the Johnsons' Lake. It was a slow association that gradually grew in my mind and which was fully formed by the time we got home. And as these two experiences gradually became aligned, both were illuminated with a new and unutterable meaning.

A few days later, I still could not fathom why, in the night,

'My infant spirit would awake
To the terror of the lone lake'

...The infant spirit being not necessarily ignorance or lack of knowledge, but just a blinding, sickening vulnerability to the things out there -- to time, to spirits, to the world.

'Yet that terror was not fright
But a tremulous delight
And a feeling undefined
Springing from a darkened mind
Death was in that poisoned wave
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his dark imagining
Whose wildering thought could even make
An Eden of that dim lake'


16 May 2017

Duets (and heteronormativity?)

Ok, it's time to admit I've always had a soft spot for duets and duos. Weirdly, they've always been male-female duets -- and whether I like it or not, that might well be a result of the pervasiveness of heteronormativity. But of course that's not really a reason to discount good music. So ... here are three duets that I like/used to like:

1) Clemence and Jean Baptiste -- Concerto pour deux voix

This one I used to be crazy about. I used to listen on repeat. Looking back, I find it quite cheesy, particularly the way the directing/editing of the video makes Clemence and Jean-Baptiste into a couple when they are both really young and the whole thing is really unnecessary. Why not just focus on the music and not make it part of some kind of forced heteronormative model? It's unfortunate that that's what the video puts forward to me now, after all these years. But I can hardly ignore it.

Nonetheless, without the video it's almost the same for me as it was before. Because in a vocalise for two voices, through the absence of words, something really vital emerges.

2) ASSA - Idu na ty

One of my favourite movies, ASSA, has a deliberately awkward and very memorable duo scene. It was this scene that got me into synths; I looked up the Yamaha RX5 and then ended up on a Vintage Synth Explorer spree that changed my life. In fact, ASSA changed almost every aspect of my life, and still continues to do so four years after I first saw it. (tomorrow it's four years since I saw it -- THAT is how important it is to me. I have an ASSA anniversary.)

3) Liz & Laszlo, Rien à Paris

This is the latest duo I've come across, and it's probably my favorite, because both Liz and Laszlo/ Xavier's voices are just crazy good. (Xavier's main project is Automelodi, which I posted about here. I still can't believe it took me that long to find his music!)

It also works really well as a soundtrack to this (a short film by Claude Lelouch in which he attached a camera and drove through Paris in the early hours):

13 May 2017

Тальник @Powerhouse 18.10.14

There's still a special something about Curd Lake/Talnik that I just can't get over. This song (@8:25 something) is called 'Colour of Hope.'

One thing that S does that I used to dislike is the way he  sometimes stops a song midway and goes back, apparently preventing it from developing naturally. But the conceptual comment behind doing that eventually dawned on me -- aren't things always cut abruptly short just when they start to get good?

Of course, we don't usually like the conceptual in music (I certainly don't always) but it just works so well when the music is actually heartfelt rather than just 'coolly conceptual.'

An earlier EP by Curd Lake was made up of complete songs, but one track was essentially just a recording with S making an existentialist comment along the lines of  'your life is no more precious than the life of this fly. You've made up the idea that it is. You've completely made it up.'

There's something really intense about that, and it got me thinking hard about how spoken word can be incorporated into an album. In fact I'm surprised that no one has done it properly, in a non-cheesy way. It also got me thinking about how the album format, that of a live concert, and the whole structure of the music industry, are almost entirely arbitrary and open to rethinking (for those who have the time and energy for it).

...Food for thought...

3 May 2017

The saddest chord progression from the otherworld

A recent article I came across takes apart 'the saddest chord progression in the world.'

This is the kind of stuff I used to pounce on, because I've always been pretty sad and I like to know what the limits of musical sadness are. But chose étrange: these limits always seem to me to be, well, limited.  As though even in music there is some kind of ceiling effect on the permissible emotional spectrum that no one even seems to perceive. Which means that I am never satisfied with what other people classify under that rather abstract word, 'sadness.'

All I can say is, if that's really the saddest chord progression in the world, then I would like to hear the saddest chord progression from the otherworld, please.

29 April 2017

Unusual voices 2: Esma Redžepova

Esma Redžepova's voice has made many incisions in people's hearts, including mine. Yet it has also healed; I can think of few things more cathartic than this song, despite not understanding any of the lyrics.

It makes me think of  the theorist Cathy Caruth's article on 'the wound and the voice', which is sort of too long and convoluted to summarise here, but her description of the way in which the voice seems to erupt from traumatic wounds seems particularly relevant here.  I've thought over the years that maybe my perception on instrumental and particularly vocal performance is quite sadistic -- I really think that performance should be suffered, not really enjoyed. Redžepova doesn't sound like she loves the sound of her own voice. Whereas the prerequisite for a 'great singer', particularly in the popular Western tradition, is often that they must sound as though they love the sound of their own voice. 

Personally I much prefer Redžepova and her cutting, pain-ridden delivery.

22 April 2017

When the mesmerising intro turns into something all too normal...

The intro to this song seems to lead into some kind of unknown world and then it just becomes... well.. I'll leave you to judge.

Anyway -- this intro reminds me a bit of Cascading Slopes ,in the best way possible.

21 April 2017

Unusual voices 1: Karen Dalton

In order to expand my horizons as far as singing and voices are concerned, I'm starting a feature called Unusual Voices. And the first choice is Karen Dalton, a Cherokee blues/folk singer with a completely one-of-a-kind voice which, according to one listener, 'sounds like a trumpet.'

It made me want to sound like a trumpet too, or at least to make my voice not sound like a voice...

9 April 2017

'The planet is ill'

One of my friends said that to me the other day, and I agree. Although I think it's not so much that the planet is ill but that some people are sick in the head.

It is all the more important, during these times, to feel some kind of healing influence which can pacify the world's treachery for a while. So I'm going to turn to Blood Orange, and particularly to Augustine... No really -- is it possible to listen to the chorus, or the bridge, and not to feel like the world might not be doomed after all? These are Dev Hynes' melodies and harmonies at their most heavenly.

Also  -- the way the video begins with a different song altogether, which is much more mellow and much less heart-rending, and then it's almost as if someone's like 'Scratch that, I'm going to dive into the very depths of melancholy.' And then it goes on and dives...

11 March 2017

Higher Than the Rainbow, 1986

The film that made me want to be a boy soprano, be good at high jump, and travel to wonderful places...

4 March 2017

Schlieren Optics

Well this sure looks interesting...

'the visualisation of the flow of fluids of varying density...'

2 March 2017

Blinded by sight

The BFI did a Jordan Belson retrospective this Tuesday, screening around a dozen of his films after a brief talk by Center for Visual Music curator and director Cindy Keefer, who explained some details of the time-consuming and expensive process that is still ongoing in the restoration of Belson's work.

Having watched fewer films than the average person during my life, I find myself very easily overwhelmed in the cinema. Almost anything can send me over the edge -- I hesitate to watch anything with even an age-rating of 15. But what shocked me with regard to Jordan Belson's films was of course not violent or explicit content, but rather the sheer vividness of the whole experience. The worlds he creates are liminal to the extreme; they seem to be forever shifting between spaces, between boundaries of colour, form, light.. These worlds are  at times three-dimensional, but these three dimensions are such that one can never quite understand one's location within them. They're almost like that vertiginous and uncanny world of illness; space shifts incessantly and colour seems almost invasive.

What shocked me above all, though, was the sensation that what I saw had a layer behind it, and another layer behind that -- an endless sequence of layers which are all visible through each other. This happens in Allures, Music of the Spheres and Samadhi, a film which is inspired by the concept of Buddhist meditation

That, and the sensation that scale in Belson's films frequently moves from the macrocosmic to the microscopic; in Allures,  a majestic and ostensibly extra-terrestrial object morphs into the figure of an atom, as Belson pushes forcefully at the limits of what the human eye can see -- nothing is too vast, or too minute, for representation. 

Outer space and the atom have already been seen by human eyes, and indeed Belson's work cannot and should not be limited to its link with 'the world out there' : rather its originality and singularity lie in his unprecedented visualisation of internal and psychological worlds teeming with lucid abstractions that surprise, shock, and revitalise. His films may be creations as powerful as the microscope and the telescope; they blind with newly-discovered sight.

23 February 2017

Ian Curtis' French counterpart?

I wouldn't say they're doubles, but there's definitely a resemblance there.

Ian Curtis


  François Leterrier in A Man Escaped (1956)

15 February 2017

Georges Méliès

As Antoine de Saint Exupéry notes with wry humour in The Little Prince, 'grown-ups like numbers.' He is right of course, but sometimes numbers  really are awe-inspiring.

Georges Méliès made OVER 500 films during his lifetime, of which, sadly, only around 200 are extant. He himself destroyed a large body of his own work, and other films were either lost to the ravages of time or destroyed during the First World War.

Méliès' life was at every turn full of setbacks, of which the most major was his contract with Pathé films, which ended up destroying his production career. The contract stipulated that Pathé would have the right to edit and distribute Méliès' films. He was forced to break the contract in 1913, and was by then extremely indebted to the company -- so much so that he had no solution but to stop making films. He became a sweet and toy salesman and made just enough to sustain himself -- the enormous amount of critical acclaim that he had gained over years of hard work in the industry failed to translate into material aid.

Méliès revolutionised filmmaking and special effects -- in The One-Man Band (L'Homme Orchestre), he  created dozens of multiples of himself playing different instruments; in Bluebeard (Barbe Bleue), the keys from Bluebeard's rooms danced demonically; in Le Papillon Fantastique, a woman appears out of nowhere and is entrapped in a moving spider's web.

His films incorporate effects in a way which never looks dated,and one of the most bizarre aspects of his work is that it always seems to sit between genres and media. He brought his interest in magic tricks and theatre into his films and as a consequence it is difficult to say if we are watching a theatrical version of cinema or a kind of filmic theatre.

At the same time, some of  Méliès' films have almost scientific concerns -- A Trip to the Moon and The Astronomer's Dream extend the theatrical beyond time and space and are at the same time fraught with the anxiety that human capacity for innovation may be annihilated in the search of arrogant self-affirmation -- do we want other scientific, imaginary, or spiritual worlds because we can impose ourselves on them, or do we want them to appreciate their truth and beauty? 

Ultimately,  Méliès worlds burst through historical and geographical boundaries with uncanny life, striking us anew over a century after their production. And their capacity to transcend such boundaries is likely to extend for  centuries to come.

12 February 2017

Go pianissimo into that good night

There's something about slightly out-of-pitch lo-fi pianos that will pull my heartstrings probably till the day I die (and maybe after that, who knows?)

Probably because it reminds me of that poor on-its-deathbed piano at my school which, in its defence, really knew how to give a lot when it was loved and treated with respect.

I was hardly expecting to find a song like this one in Noah Lennox's repertoire, having only been familiar with his  electronic sample-based Person Pitch work up till now (which also took hold of me and never let go) and I've been unaware of his acoustic past. But it's all perfect.

And there's not much left to say about Broadcast, except that retrospectively 'I Found the End' just accrued more and more tragic meaning...

25 January 2017

Suicide -- Surrender

My sister told me that I would love this song, and that this sounds almost like something I'd make. One can dream...

...And incidentally, why is all music that much more beautiful,and sad, (which in my view often amounts to the same thing) when you start producing it yourself?

16 January 2017

Hope There's Someone -- Antony and the Johnsons

On my 7am near-dead-from-fatigue train journey to London today, I unexpectedly found this on my phone. "Oh, how did that get there," I thought, "I've never heard it before. Let's give it a whirl..."

Simple, oh so simple, and at the same time cataclysmic, frisson-inducing, and just plain beautiful...

"Oh I'm scared of the middle place between light and nowhere
I don't want to be the one left in there, left in there"

13 January 2017

Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse: DO

Once upon a time, Sol LeWitt wrote a letter to Eva Hesse when she was going through a rough patch with her work. He probably didn't know how many people would later find his words of advice reassuring -- people in all kinds of situations, with all kinds of struggles, with all sorts of responsibilities, real and imagined. And really... is it that hard to just DO?


Dear Eva,

It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just



I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work — the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell — you are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work — so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be. But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working — then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to



From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability; the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing — clean — clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder… real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful — real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you — draw & paint your fear & anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to
It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible — and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work — not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones & I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can — shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything.