Joe Knight of Rangers says:
Chic became one of the most popular funk groups of the late '70s thanks to their disco hits and the impeccable production by Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards. I find that a lot of funk and R&B from the late '70s has a unique sound caught somewhere in between the ultra-dry, dead room sound (think Aja by Steely Dan) and what would became the '80's synthetic sound of gated drums, digital delay and the highly coveted (or loathed) solid state logic console (think Avalon by Roxy Music). C'est Chic  by Chic sounds incredible. It has the warmth and lushness of classic '70s records with the liveliness of early '80s records. It's not too warm or cold, too dry or wet.
"At last I am free," which clocks in at over 7 minutes, oozes out of the speakers at a snail's pace, too slow and strange to dance to. The first thing that caught my ear with this song was the snare drum, which is pretty much the best sounding snare I have heard in any song. It sounds big and dubby and full of reverb yet small and warm at the same time. Perfect. Bernard's flare for the dramatic gets us going with one of his singular mini-solos, which he later re-visits. Nile glides into one of the signature chord progressions that would end up being a huge influence on the Postcard [Records], Scottish Pop sound as well as Manchester's Johnny Marr and countless others. The vocals are not the focal point of the song but simply another color in the mix. Even the repeated chorus, "At least I am free,/ I can hardly see in front of me," doesn't make a whole lot of sense in context of a love (or failed love) song. It's a strange thing to say, but somehow it works, and it's as if the singers are experiencing sensory overload from the music (or are peaking on acid). The verses are the obvious weak spot but luckily don't last that long before crescendoing to the outro. The clever arrangement and the thick, ambiguously ominous atmosphere keep me from dismissing "At last I am free" as cheesy jacuzzi funk. To me it sounds like a sultry dub ballad on quaaludes.
The Glass Haus mix does not want your undivided attention.
I've spent more time than I probably should have in thought or debate about various types of music. One area of fascination is the music we choose to play when we intend to focus on something else-- sex, reading, having a conversation.
Glass Haus is best experienced while performing tasks that require only a fraction of your attention. Nothing important.
What we hear while trying to concentrate can be distracting and impair our ability to memorize and recall information.
Nick Perham, PhD, and researchers at the Wales Institute in Cardiff signed up 25 people aged 18-30 to examine their ability to recall information while listening to various sounds.
They were asked to recall a list of eight consonants in a specific order in a test known as Serial Recall, and tested under several different conditions: in a quiet environment, while music was playing that they liked, and while music was playing that they disliked. They were also tested while a voice repeated the number three or spoke single-digit numbers randomly.
The study participants performed best while in a quiet environment or while listening to a voice repeating the number three over and over-- what the researchers called a steady-state environment.
"The poorer performance of the music and changing-state sounds are due to the acoustical variation within those environments," Perham comments. "This impairs the ability to recall the order of items, via rehearsal, within the presented list."
Perham concludes that to reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in a specific order, people "should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task."
"Listening to music you prefer prior to, rather than at the same time as task performance, does increase performance."
01 Arvo Pärt: "Tabula Rasa: II. Silentium"
02 Charlemagne Palestine: "Tritone octave 1, Pt. I"
03 Edgard Varèse: "Poème Électronique
04 Luigi Nono: "Como Una Ola de Fuerza y Luz: Beginning"
05 Karlheinz Stockhausen: "Studie 1"
06 Herman Heiss: "Elektronische Komposition 1"
07 Raymond Scott: "Cindy Electronium"
08 Rob Ellis: "Slightly Exotic Little Fake Alarm Clock Piece"
09 The Knife: "Colouring Of Pigeons"
Octavius' Laws is available now from Mannequin
Amitai Heller and Loric Sih of Water Borders say:
Back in early 2010, the nascent dawn of Water Borders, our friend Mara suggested we check out a dude named JAWS with whom we were occupying a parallel musical universe. We didn't give it much thought until a few months later when we got an opportunity to see him play live. Shirtless and sweaty, with blood capsules dripping down his square chin, JAWS operates a motherboard of analog synths, drum machines, effects pedals, smoke machine, and lights while maintaining a T.A.Z.-like stage presence. He hits drums pads with a massive Bowie knife and swings his white-hot lights around haphazardly, always seeming like he's going to pulverize himself and the audience. The show ended in haste when he accidentally machete'd his mic chord. Seeing JAWS is like watching a VHS bootleg on YouTube that attacks you or like living out the m4m fantasy of a D.A.F. album cover.
The track we included here, "Joined," is a fractured machine with a delayed D&B bassline squawk for a heart. Over the clanking chatter he chants, "Join me in the stream"-- or maybe it's "Join the industry." Either is appropriate as he now resides in Los Angeles. Also, here's a short clip of one of his shows at the now sadly defunct Eagle Tavern in San Francisco.
Tres Warren of Psychic Ills says:
When you're talking about experimental film, the first people that come to your mind probably don't have anything to do with The Muppets, right? In that case, check out Jim Henson goofin' off on "The Tonight Show." Pretty far out for TV-- especially with the Raymond Scott music. There's a better version of just the piece on Youtube, but at Psychic Ills headquarters, we like the Johnny Carson context.
Ian Hicks from Soft Metals says:
When I first started getting into collecting synths and drum machines and learning how to use gear a good friend and past collaborator of mine, Beau Wanzer, recommended that I exlore the music of John Bender. I hunted down some MP3s of the impossibly rare, I Don't Remember Now/I Don't Want To Talk About It record, and I could easily see why he'd recommended it; the music was cold, detached, and experimental in technique, but also had a certain introspective and personal quality. It was almost as though the songs were written for his ears only and you were getting a candid view into the way the man thought about the world and interacted with his machines. Unfortunately, John Bender seems to have no desire what-so-ever to re-release his records, but I was finally able to find a bootleg vinyl version of this amazing album this week at our favorite record store in Portland, Clinton Street Records & Stereo, and am reminded of how much the sound of it inspires me to really push my ideas to their limits and keep experimenting musically.
Lindsay Powell from Ga'an says:
We couldn't help but pick one of our favorite from the Zeuhl realm! "Vilna" is the second track on Weidorje's 1978 self-titled release, a band featuring Bernard Paganotti (an Aquarius, and the bassist on Magma's Üdu Wüdü).
One of our interests as musicans is the place where the spirit meets the mind-- the physicalization of the soul, and the means by which we get there. To me, "Vilna" realizes this place in the most eloquent way. The spiritual and supernatural presence of Magma is still there, but the clinical reality of Paganotti's rehearsed and mathematical attention to detail stands at the forefront. We are presented with Steve Reich-ian polyrhythms played on beautifully-toned Rhodes pianos, tight-knit compositional complexities. Yet despite the technical outfit of Weidorje, this is still perhaps one of the most accessible songs in the entire Zeuhl catalogue. In the Magma track "Hhai" we experience an intentional spirituality, a progressive incantation of epic proportions. In "Vilna," however, we experience the spirit in our own right. We are given an extremely coherent piece of music (mathematical: the mind), and through our own way of listening, we find the visceral swell within our own interpretation of the movement (the voice: the spirit). We haven't been able to get this track off our minds since first listen, and it's an honor and a privilege to share it with those who haven't heard it.
Julia Holter says:
Six years ago, Pandit Pashupati Nath Mishra instilled in me some crazy will to become a singer of songs. He was my guruji on a brief intensive study in Benares, India. I listened to his voice every day for four weeks; very little was said, but very much was sung. Whether or not I "understood" what I was hearing during this time, something fundamentally changed in my musical world. I knew no Hindi, and he knew only a bit of English, yet I left Benares louder than I had ever been. What magic had Pashupati carried out on me, that I suddenly too became a performer? Can we speculate by focused listening to his voice? A CD-R of his brilliant, light-classical recordings quietly handed to me toward the end of my study lost its case somewhere in my travels. Back in Los Angeles, years later, I still listen in awe, with limited information about the pieces.
Here is the first track on the album-- the longest and most haunting, in valambit (very slow) deepchandi taal. Pashupati’s voice flows non-stop for eighteen minutes, like a river over rocks. He travels to a new place at every moment, arriving every time with the confidence of natural speech. He must be singing from a very long text? Or not. Over and over, Pashupati repeats almost exactly the same phrase, with some variation, though to the ear it is a different piece of information every time. Like melismas set to the Kyrie, the song expands a small fragment of text into sound so long and profound that the meaning could be either deeply rooted in place, or almost completely obscured.
A fellow student in India at the time, tabla player/percussionist Dan Piccolo, tells me that this piece is a thumri, a romantic/devotional song. I have come across a well-known text by the medieval poet Lalan that fits the typical thumri theme of separation and seems to be the text sung here. It might be tough for someone who doesn’t speak the language to say so, but I see this situation as one in which the meaning becomes more deeply rooted with every long reiteration of the short text. The text translates, roughly, as follows: “Enough! Now stop playing on your flute, dark lover. This braja girl's heart is aflutter, I ask you, please stop playing.” Here, flute-playing Krishna’s threatening magnetic pull compels the "braja girl" Radha to propose a distance. Pashupati’s melody continuously outlines a major seventh chord. The maddened Radha is the unwieldy major seventh (ni, or Western "ti")-- so far from her magnet fundamental (sa, or Western "do") on one side, yet so dangerously close to it on the other side. If that sounds like a contrived interpretation, add to it that subtleties of the near/far paradox can be found when he throws in an occasional, gorgeous, flattened ni, or ga (Western "mi"). These most dissonant moments Pashupati uses sparingly, to full-effect, and they are dizzying and gorgeous.
Pashupati was all song. While watching a video of a performance of his, I reflect how, when he sings, his body language is explanatory, almost as if he were talking. Interesting to consider the unlikelihood of a young Californian ever fully "understanding" what is communicated in music made in such a different world, even if one has studied it for years. But beyond the sheer beauty of his work, what I do take away most of all from Pashupati’s song is the absolute necessity of the voice.
I discovered this A.T.R.O.X. track buried deep in one of the later volumes of the essential Tribute to Flexipop bootleg series. Clearly kosmiche-inspired, the track stood out from the usual, arpeggiated, minimal cold wave weirdness endemic to these compilations. Not simply a bit of nostalgia, but more like a reworking of the sounds of early Kraftwerk and Cluster using newer, 1980s synth technologies. Try it on repeat.
Look out for Falls Of Time, a 2xCD reissue of this Italian group's complete output on Spittle Records in June
Spectre Folk's Pete Nolan says:
So I'm gonna shoot for a couple of moods here. I had a pretty aggro day yesterday and a fairly mellow day today, so I didn't want to pigeonhole my post into one camp or the other. Here are a couple of "obscure things that I'm feeling right now":
The magnetic fuzz wah snuff film that is "Street Crime" by the Index is what I'm feeling right now (yesterday). A high school band from Grosse Pointe, MI, circa 1966. John Ford manages to infuse his guitar playing with all the violence and malevolence of Lou Reed on "Sister Ray" or Link Wray on "Switchblade," all the while wearing black motorcycle gloves. The home-fi recording is nuts, too. Listen to how blown-out the drums are at the beginning?! These guys were making up their own rules for what shit should sound like, and their first record sounds like it was recorded in a cave or something. Most retarded version of "8 Miles High" ever. And "Shock Wave"? I'd rather listen to that than Hendrix anyday. I just stumbled onto this jam though and I'm digging the immediacy of the fuzz and drum tones. The cover shot they chose for the YouTube is creepy too. Maybe it's the dreaded onset of another New York summer, or just a crowded, uptight vibe, but I'm in the mood for some violent guitar playing-- the kind you never hear anymore. It was a toss up between this and "Frustration" by The Mystic Tide (one of those holy grail records I've killed countless hours trolling for in Long Island thrift shops). I had to stick with my Michigan roots on this one though. I don't think this song ever even came out on either of the 2 O.G. LPs that they pressed 100 of, so it qualifies as obscure. And yeah, with today's headlines being "Drunk Tour Bus Driver Runs Down Tourist in Times Square," and "Woman Throws Sulferic Acid on Brooklyn Man for Unknown Reasons," I'm definitely feeling "Street Crime" right now.
Ok. Mood 2 (today) is this track from Jem Targal called "Call Your Name." Something about this guy's vibe kind of reminds me of The Godz. Maybe it's the whole, extremely-stoned-loner-trying-to-make-really-catchy-pop-songs thing. The way the tape starts with the ONE (of 2,3,4) being all low demon wind-up vox makes this sound like you're tuning in to some collective unconscious radio station: "I'm not sleeping... to have bad dreams." This dude is so far out he thinks he's gotta smooth talk the foxy chick coming at him in his dream. Damn, that drum machine sounds so good... I could listen to it all night. I love how the song doesn't wanna end; he just keeps kind of jamming out on all the instruments, one at a time, because the groove feels so good. What a fucking weird dude.
Holy crap... I just found out here that like The Index, Jem is also from Michigan. I must be feeling homesick or something. I'd only ever heard this guy before on Tony Coulter's radio show a few years back. I guess he was the principle songwriter behind The Third Power's Believe, which is one of the best hard rock albums of the psychedelic era. I have a feeling I know what tomorrow's mood will be...
Lee Noble says:
Frank Baugh has been working on his Sparkling Wide Pressure project since '07. I picked up his The No Self Journey tape a little while after it came out on Peasant Magik in '08. I had put the tape on a few times before, but I was doing something else as it was playing in the background, and "What Is Gone" came on. I had one of those strange, déjà vu-- "wait, what am I listening to?"-- moments. The little piece of tape running through my speakers stopped me in my tracks. I was living in Burbank at the time, and our house was always terribly hot. Sweating yet frozen listening to the track, probably for the third or fourth time, but only really hearing it for the first time. Frank says he was examining a very specific "sense of loss that was both melancholic and liberating" with this song. It has one of those melodies that you remember later out of nowhere.
Meanwhile, video artist Geoffrey Sexton was using "What Is Gone" for a collaborative sound picture with Frank, called "The Circuit". The video really captures the essence of the song, filtering nostalgic imagery of a horse race through a digital lens, and then, using flickering black and white 16mm footage, and finally reverting back into that nostalgia. The song and video collectively seems totally out of time.
Download more Sparkling Wide Pressure from his Bandcamp
Matt Horseshit of Psychedelic Horseshit says:
I would normally consider it sacrilegious to cover Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks.” It's just that close to me; I consider the original to be a mystical document not to be messed with. So when I first heard this cover by Jim Shepard emanating out of a boombox perched atop a British girl's head outside an Omar Souleyman show a little over a year ago, I literally did a double-take. One of my favorite songs, in a version I've never heard before? "Is this a demo or something?" I asked the cute, drugged-out, pink-haired boombox head. "No, I think it’s a cover... Some American guy... I forget his name. Jim something, maybe? I have the tracklist back in my room".
Needless to say, I was entranced, and gladly followed her to the place where she was staying, sensing I was gonna get more outta this than the identity of the singer. I was right, but more than that, a bit of magic and synchronicity had apparently descended upon that night, ‘cause when I woke in the morning and finally checked out the tracklist, I found that the singer singing this supposedly untouchable song was none other than Jim Shepard (V-3, Vertical Slit). Not only was this weird because he was based outta Columbus, OH (my hometown and current place of residence) for most of his musical career, but also because, here I was, halfway around the globe, hearing this amazing cover that was recorded in a coffee shop just up the road from where I live. Weird how stuff like that happens when you're in strange lands. Anyways, we both agreed that it was too perfect a coincidence for me not to take this tape with me back to its home, so I did.
I subsequently lost said tape, but I never forgot about the powerful cover I heard on that magic night. Listening back now, I feel closer to it than ever.
The truly amazing thing about this is that Jim's take, recorded live at the Milo Arts Coffee House sometime in the early ‘90s, matches and maybe even bests the fire and deep emotional intensity of the original. Which says a whole lot. It’s practically seething with that "shocked-by-the-heaviness-of-life," wide-eyed-yet-weary-faced, trance-like venom that was corked into the original so long ago. And Jim really takes flight here, using the song as a springboard for his own venture into the slip-stream, tearing a page from his soul, ad-libbing lyrics and actually being born again in the process. Backed only by his own acoustic and an incredible lead performance by a certain Nudge Squidfish, this 7.5 minute take benefits from its bare-bones backing because it brings out the rawness of the content. "If I was born again,/ I wouldn't know anybody in this room./ I'd be 18 in the year 2000" he sings, soaring at full-sail atop the clouds, wandering for some kinda redemption. By the end, I feel like he's got it. It’s the kinda stuff dreams are made of for me, but you should really judge for yourself.
Lastly, the opening 30 seconds of this are priceless, as you can hear Jim introducing the song and then quietly asking Nudge if he knows the changes. "I hope we don't blow it.”
Special thanks to Charles Cicirella for preserving and providing this amazing document.
When I heard I was doing a guest-post, I didn't even think for a second about who I would write about. I could elaborate endlessly on the merits of this musician (spiritually, musically etc.) but I think it will suffice to say that I've rarely (if ever) met a person who is so magnetic and alive, and to whom my love of/ and ability to make music is so largely indebted.
I see Arthur Russell performing in a fedora with a bunch of snapping detectives all dancing at the same time and Panda Bear is doing some shit on a sampler. But it's like, not comedic at all. It's like, some hyper-emotional feel-good supergroup moving into the future by looking back. This doesn't really do justice to this song, but I'm not a great writer or anything. <3 <3 <3
Dylan Ettinger says:
Don't let the French band name and Spanish lyrics confuse you; this band is German to the core. Founded by Beate Bartel (Einstürzende Neubauten, Mania D) and Chrislo Haas (D.A.F., Crime and the City Solution) in 1981, Liaisons Dangereuses were part of the Neue Deutsche Welle scene. The song "Los Niños del Parque" was the closest they ever got to a hit single. They combined the percussive, sequenced synthesizers and harsh, dry drum machines to create a potent form of industrial-minded dance music. There are equal traces of Giorgio Moroder and Throbbing Gristle to be heard in this track.
I can't remember the first time I heard this track, but its driving beat and great sequencer programming quickly bored into my subconscious. I've always been drawn to dance music on the darker end of the spectrum, and this song is without question one of my favorites. The affected shrieks from Bartel pop in and out of the track in a ghostly, startling manner, while the disturbed disco-beat pulses on without pause. Krishna Goineau's bizarre ramblings in Spanish about kids hanging out in parks and smoking cigarettes top things off to make this a cold wave classic.
90s. I remember being so fucking envious of that one guy who was wearing actual Adidas kicks when the rest of us had to make due with our Adibasses and NEKIs.
But there still was a place where we all could be one with this hyper-mode of tomorrow. A plane of existence where it did not matter who you were, what you wore, or what brand of car your father was driving. That wooden, creaking, murky floor in the middle of the classroom was open to everyone-- no child left behind. As we twisted and turned our bodies, we became one with the reddish-green disco-verse around us. Fiendish as we were, hungry for every little wave of sound floating through the air, competing for the attention of it and everyone else around us, we must have looked crazy.
Maybe we were. Insane little kids looking as stoned as hell and back, contorting our minds and bodies as we tried-- tried hard-- to eat it all up. Because, you see, this wasn't some kiddy music anymore, some dull tune they played on the radio before bedtime; this was the real thing. Copious amounts of beats per minute coursing through our veins, setting our bodies and minds on fire. And that VHS tape someone had got from someone else, who in turn had stolen it from some crazy guy in the Ural backwoods, created a sublime visu-aural experience.
As we stood there, resting our weary bodies against yet another constructional carcass that was Soviet-time architecture, we knew we had made it somewhere. But none of us had any clue where.
Text by Risto Happy
Erika M Anderson says:
Not long ago, at the depths of my misery, I was thinking of applying to art school. Before even downloading an application, I realized that I actually knew next to nothing about the history of art-- sound art, in particular. I clicked onto Ubu Web in the hope of remedying this. There were lots of names there, so I downloaded at random while gravitating to the familiar. Got some New Humans, an interview with Meredith Monk, and Chris Burden's 1979 radio show, where he just repeatedly asks for money. The tracks that stuck out most were by a woman I had never heard of before, named Kristin Oppenheim. Gorgeous, hypnotically simple tunes comprised of vocals with a single, hard-panned delay.
Now, panning and delay are used all the time, but the utterly minimalist composition allows you to really feel the effect. To contemplate it. The fact that it's a human voice, instead of some synthetic instrument, really draws you in. Apparently, she often uses her sound pieces as part of installations that include moving lights, mazes, and photographs. I would love to be able to experience one of her shows. You can read a bit about her work online, but nothing about her personal life. The only thing I could find for sure was that she was born in 1959 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sail On, Sailor.