Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Doris Hays/John Matthews

Twinkly electronic miniatures from John Baker and possibly another radiophonic accomplice working undercover. "John Matthews" is clearly Baker, but I'm not sure about "Doris Hays." I want to believe that this is Delia Derbyshire, but the pieces don't really add up. Perhaps Doris Hays is another Baker pseudonym. Anyways, this is MQ/LP 38 from 1971. Four of these twenty songs have been re-released on The John Baker Tapes, but the rest have been lying quietly here waiting for you to find them. Tracks 1-10 and 17-20 are credited to Hays (I really like "Somersault Beat").

Monday, March 29, 2010

Karpo Godina

A real treat in the current issue of The Believer -- a bonus DVD compiling 6 previously unreleased short films by the Yugoslavian director/cinematographer Karpo Godina. I just stumbled upon this the other day. It seems to be an offshoot of a 2007 retrospective at BAM in New York. I don't know much about the man, but according to Jurij Meden's write-up he was a key figure in Yugoslavia's so-called "Black Wave" of the late 60s and early 70s, working as a director of photography for figures like Želimir Žilnik ("Early Works," etc.) and Milos Forman. The films themselves are absolute facemelters in the vein of Pierre Clémenti, especially "The Gratinated Brains of Pupilija Ferkeverk" (1970), a paean to LSD in which a mostly nude hippie theater/poetry troupe larks around near the sea. "Gratinated Brains" also gives extensive play to graphic design elements encoding cryptic messages about drugs, politics, consumer culture, and so on.

Two other personal faves from the DVD are "Litany of Happy People" (1971) and "About the Art of Love or a Film with 14441 Frames" (1972), one being a kind of stylized ethnographic experiment about the people of northern Serbia (with subtitles that read like zen koans), the other being a tripped out anti-military missive made with funding by...the Yugoslavian army!? These two films both feature some early Can-style Yugoslavian droney psych music (when asked at the BAM screening what band performed the music, Godina said he couldn't really remember). All highly recommended. You can watch "Gratinated Brains" in its entirety here, and read more here and here. Another thing: the issue also includes an article on BBC house writer Nigel Kneale of "Quatermass" and "The Stone Tape" fame. Not bad for $10.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Trade Test Colour Films/Oulipo mix

With hundreds of channels of nonsense on TV nowadays, it is hard to imagine a time when there simply wasn't enough TV programming to fill the airwaves over the course of the day. In the 1960s, the repertoire of most TV stations was far too thin to span the gap between breakfast and dinner. As a stopgap measure, some networks like the BBC turned to pre-made "trade test colour" films, which were sponsored by huge corporations like Philips and BP and looped ad nauseum through the daylight hours. They were primarily for use by those in the "trade" — i.e., electronics dealers wanting to demo color TVs in shop windows. But through sheer repetition, along with snappy titles like "Prospects for Plastics" and "L for Logic," they also seem to have entered the popular imagination in a nearly subliminal way.

They tended to be chamber-of-commerce friendly travelogues through the industries or natural spoils of a given area — the post office in England, the railroads in Canada, light technology, national parks, the mechanics of food safety, etc. Because of their canned, pre-packaged nature, the trade test films strike me as a kind of tele-visual equivalent of library music. And this is not only because their soundtracks were often extremely weird and interesting. They also have a fleeting, disposable feel that gives them a certain archeological interest, and that lends itself to the database-gathering mentality that a lot of record collectors have. The grainy, pigmenty 16mm stock is also pure confection to my eyes, especially in the landscape films. The colors are so saturated and beautiful (check out the green grass in "Atlantic Parks" below). Really arresting fonts and title sequences too. You can get a glimpse of the striking visuals of other trade test films here.

Below are some clips of my favorite trade test colour transmissions, followed by a mix that is built largely around the incidental music found within them (along with some other stuff.) The first clip is about the Philips-sponsored Evoluon museum in the Netherlands. Strange electronic plinky plonky soundtrack by Jaap Hofland. "Light," the second clip, gets more and more J.G. Ballard as it moves from natural to artificial light. Haunting music in that one by Hans Kox. "Multiplicity" might be my personal favorite. "Canada...the land! A land of promise!"

And here is the mix, which along with the trade test stuff includes Peter Schulthorpe's Sven Libaek-esque score to the early Helen Mirren film Age of Consent.

Die Gänseprinzessin und ihr Pferd Falada - Zdenek John
A Wish - Desmond Briscoe and Vera Gray
The Captive River - Sam Sklair
Multiplicity - Larry Crosley
Fire - Johnny Dankworth
Evoluon - Jaap Hofland
Crown of Glass - Misha Donat
Underwater Menace - Tristram Cary
The Rebel - Basil Kirchin
Haru - Jun Fukamachi/Bando Tamasaburo V
Light - Hans Kox
Age of Consent theme - Peter Sculthorpe
Mensch - Karl-Ernst Sasse
Ma Bu - Kim Choo Ja
Getting Closer
Imaginons - Jean Schwarz
Big Ram - Sam Sklair
Melodic Percussion - Vera Gray
Age of Consent (Cora) - Peter Sculthorpe
The Bio Song

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cipher in the Snow

1973 LDS educational film about a boy who dies because nobody loves him. A real crowd pleaser at my elementary school. I remember wanting to be Cliff Evans (so stylish! such a capacity for sadness!), which probably wasn't the message the Mormons intended. I can still hear the film leader counting down -- three, two, one...BEEP! (There's a clip from the soundtrack in one of the mixes below.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I finally got around to listening to the recent Trunk Records release of Edward Williams's Life On Earth score. I like it very much, and it got me thinking about all the other great nature themed library records out there. As a rule, library records with the word "nature" in their titles tend to have a softer, dreamier sound than their harder-edged, usually electronic "science" cousins. UK labels have a good line in the former. Here's one of my favorites from Basil Kirchin and Jack Nathan. I think people tend to associate Kirchin with a certain hi-concept vision of the field recording, on records like Quantum or the Worlds Within Worlds LPs. I personally find those records unlistenable. But this 1979 Bruton LP is a very different beast. Imagine the classic off-kilter modal Kirchin sound except with ethnic percussion and the occasional synthesizer. There's a very stripped down canned quality to the music, which I kind of like. It's as if a khaki-clad Kirchin himself were in the field with the giraffes and zebras, and only had room in the jeep for some electronic drum pads and a synthesizer. And, er, a huge double bass. The sketch of the lion on the sleeve... too good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

King Monkey

Multi-culti music and movement for your inner child. Clear away the coffee table and dance with the monkeys!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ken Russell

I've been watching some early Ken Russell films for television, courtesy of this box set. Before Women In Love and all that Russell did a series of BBC specials about the lives of famous artists. So far I've seen the ones on Isadora Duncan and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Really pretty -- straight out of a period-style fashion shoot. Oliver Reed, playing Rossetti, sports a fine looking beard and gets up to his usual over-acting, which I love. The actress playing Duncan (second photo from top) is the mom from Harold & Maude! Very Trish Keenan in the tunic. The crazy-eyed, curly-haired beauty is model Gala Mitchell, mesmerizing if slightly creepy as Jane Morris (i.e., Mrs. William Morris). It seems like they should all start a prog folk band together. As a DVD extra there's also a nice documentary called "Russell at Work," where we see the man himself at home playing records and wearing a cool anorak and watch cap directing outdoor scenes.

Guitar & Percussion

I love this record. I love how scratchy it is. I love the little picture of the drums and guitar. I love that the guitarist and percussionist are both named "Siegfried." I even love that only one side of it is good so that I don't have to bother with the other. These are simple, almost childlike German medieval folk songs from the 1500s. Very beautiful and soothing stuff. In a weird way, listening to this puts me in the same mood that listening to Elizabeth Cotten does. Not that there's anything Teutonic about Elizabeth Cotten. It's just that there is a spare, elemental quality to the music that, combined with all the surface noise from the vinyl, gives it a very satisfying rustic earthiness. One of the song titles, for instance, translates as "poultry noises." And the percussion is also really cool -- lots of mallet instruments and castanets and tambourines. There are no breaks on this record.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Steven Caney

This is already all over the blogosphere but I couldn't resist. Via the fantastic stopping off place.

Music's a wood you walk through

I lay back on the armless sofa. I've never listened to music lying down. Listening's reading if you close your eyes. Music's a wood you walk through. — David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

Spirit of the Beehive - Luis de Pablo
Bartleby - Roger Webb
Cipher in the Snow - Stephen R.E. Aubrey
Singing - Jean Wahlstrom
Spirit of the Beehive - Luis de Pablo
New Sky 1 - Itsutsu Akai No Fusen
ШКАТУЛКА С СЕКРЕТОМ - Vladimir Martynov
The Love Life of the Octopus - Pierre Henry
Toyshop Drama 2 - Beda Folten
Yego Zvali Robert - Andrei Petrov
Lalka - Wojciech Jerzy Has
Kiigelaul - Veljo Tormis
Wednesday Play
Ghost Story - Ron Geesin
Sogno Apollineo - Kimball, Marega et al.
Bartleby - Roger Webb
Go Go Second-Time Virgin - Koji Wakamatsu
At the Earth's Core - Mike Vickers


Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Delian Mode

New short film on Delia Derbyshire by Montreal-based filmmaker Kara Blake. Looks great! Seems like it's been making the rounds on the festival circuit, even in Montreal right under my nose. Apparently Sonic Boom makes a cameo.

The Delian Mode - trailer from Philtre Films on Vimeo.

Gender-bending Japanese mystery album

One of the incredibly useful and practical things I learned in college was that, in Japanese Kabuki drama, men's and women's roles alike are played by male actors. Those impersonating women are called onnagata, and after rigorous training and shaving are apparently considered more beautiful and delicate and alluring than actual women. Well, they might be right about that if this album is anything to go by. Bando Tamasaburo V has been Japan's foremost Kabuki cross-dresser since at least the mid-70s, when this cash-in album appeared. Here he is, wearing a cool sweater and fiddling around with a heavy-handed symbol. In the album his dulcet tones are swirled up into a gently disorienting pastoral head trip orchestrated by Jun Fukamachi. It's really quite magical. Bando talks rather than sings his way through a number of reflections on life, loneliness, cross dressing, bicycles, and the seasons. Or at least this is what I like to imagine. "Spring" (haru) is really the only word I can make out from the lyrics and jacket sleeve. There is a beautiful melancholy moodiness to the proceedings that seems to betray a mid-winter longing for better weather. I could be projecting though.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bernadette Devlin

For the cranky letters, I opened a special file, and one, which went straight into it, read thus: "Dear Madam, You are so beautifully evil that myself and my fellow witches in the South Down coven have decided to make you one of us." On such-and-such a night, they would invoke the Prince of Evil and, with the guts of a toad and the legs of a cock and so forth, would initiate me into the whole business. If I ever was to deviate from the path of evil, the consequences would be disastrous. — The Price of My Soul

Make It New John

This looks intriguing. I had no idea DeLoreans were built in Northern Ireland. Duncan Campbell's stuff is cool, especially Bernadette (2008).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Music of Today/Music of Tomorrow

The sounds of a bustling robot metropolis. The title of this IM release speaks directly to my interests in 1970s electronic music. What I like about this record is that it deals with the future in terms of the minutiae of "binary digits" and "encoded instructions." The tomorrow being imagined here is one where humdrum things like civic infrastructure and the sanitation committee are still important, even though the technology has all changed. Eddie Warner takes care of the "today" side with a fairly unmemorable plugged-in pop funk. Side 2 gets more interesting with Nino Nardini channeling early-70s anxieties about technocracy and mechanization. Pure bloop bleep studio fuckery, in the vein of Musique pour le futur. I just realized that in the folder I included a soundclip that I used to sell the album on Ebay. Uh, maybe this will come in handy for somebody else someday?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Here's another of the Humenry records I mentioned earlier. A bunch of synth and tabla-wielding Frenchmen free associating about what "India" sounds like. It's probably no more authentic than Peter Sellers's India, but that's part of why I like it. Sort of memsahib electro jams with what sounds like Fontaine & Areski's rhythm section. When I saw Broadcast on their recent tour, they ended their set with a kind of raga-fied dulcimer number that would fit right into this record.

Toothache of a Clown

Watch Toothache of a Clown in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
From AVgeeks: "In an attempt to lessen children's fears of the dentist, the filmmakers decided to use a much scarier person - a clown. This film teaches us good dental hygiene and has a dream sequence that approximates what it is like to be under nitrous oxide."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mind on the Run

A founding text. Hypnotic drums, lurching bass patterns, guitars that ring like bells. Such a cool, cool album.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beveridge Report

Dear Summer Sister (1972)
Stories in Movement 3 - Pantalone's Pantomime
Tomorrow's Achievements - Harry Forbes
Sonnet 20 - Ian McKellan/Fleshtones
Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971) - Orville Stoeber
MJB Coffee - Herb Pilhofer
Sur le marché Goa - Jean Humenry
Toothache of a Clown
Krakonoš a sklínkař Matěj - Luboš Fišer
The Bed - James Broughton/Warner Jepson
The Artist and the Computer - Lillian Schwartz
All Day - York Pop Music Project
Rubber Balls - Kerry Beaumont
Something Magical Happens... - Vera Gray
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors - Miroslav Skorik
Geography Today - ITV for Schools and Colleges
Carousel - Haruomi Hosono
Cities Are Really People - Herb Pilhofer
Panna Ki Tammana - Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar
Come Back Lucy - Ken Jones
The University of the Air (1978)
Piazza del Popolo - Claudio Baglioni/Bridget Riley

or download