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Recordings received whilst world-wandering - click opera
February 2010
 
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Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 01:58 pm
Recordings received whilst world-wandering

One of the great things about going out on tour is that wherever you go people thrust new music into your hands. Often it's their own, and sometimes it's unavailable in record stores. What's more, it's targeted towards your tastes much better than any software yet knows how to do, using an algorhythm we might call "mutual elective affinity" -- basically the idea that the music made by people who love what you do will be something you'll probably love too.



Today I'm reviewing the audio material I've been handed on this latest tour, plus stuff I found waiting in my mailbox when I got home. It's fascinating; just as Click Opera commenters tend to fall -- to simplify enormously -- into two broad categories (artistic hipsters and eccentric dandies, the progressive and the charmingly retro), so the music I tend to get given also divides quite neatly into formalist electronic experiment (often ambient) and music hall throwbacks (usually highly narrative) made by quirky oddballs too bright to be understood by the world. Which I suppose is apt, since my own work contains both those elements. I usually justify the "clash" in interviews by saying that it's precisely trad techniques like narrative, chord sequences and so on which can be used to "disorienteer" the audience somewhere formally interesting.



Let's start with the Black Light Orchestra. I became aware of a knot of Japanese girls at the first of my two Brussels concerts, and after the show met the centre of their attention: Yannick, the handsome drummer from Black Light Orchestra. It turned out the girls all came from pretty much the same district of Osaka as Hisae, and the band describes itself on its MySpace page as based in "Bruxelles / Osaka".

From the name, I expected them to be super-trendy electro-disco formalists of some kind, but the reference points that sprang to mind when I played material from their forthcoming album (and a DVD of their appearance on a Japanese TV show called Music Tide) were Brecht and Weill, Noel Coward, Frank Zappa, The Tiger Lilies and The Residents. This is a deranged, wide-ranging theatre music, with song titles like My Life is a Broken Bicycle, Midnight Milkman and A Happy Kangaroo Upon the Moon.

It's far too clever and disturbing and creative for pop or dance or fashion audiences (and in fact visually the group is currently a bit dowdy and over-inclined to gurn, though it obviously hasn't put the Japanese girls off), but I predict that Black Light Orchestra will have great success (on the scale of the Tiger Lilies, I mean) if they can find a literary property (something like "Under Milk Wood") and adapt it for the musical theatre. At the second Brussels concert I met the Black Light mainman, Mr Diagonal, self-described "last living survivor of the great Scottish-Jewish music hall tradition". He's clearly a genius.



Okay, let's switch traditions. Electro-formalism (quiet and noisy) here we come! After my New York show I met Nobuko Hori for the first time (she'd already been a Click Opera superstar). She was taller and more model-like than I'd expected. Before her friends whisked her away, I was handed a copy of her spanking new album, X to Your Milky Hair. How I love that title! Great sleeve too, by Nobuko herself (she's also a designer). Pity she's on Music Related, though, a label run by the most pointlessly pugnacious man since Alastair Campbell (Trevor -- the man in question -- has promised my friend Alin a bop on the nose the next time he sees him, which will be amusing, since Alin is a barrel-chested gigantor who eats mountains for breakfast).

The same tight-knit little group of New York Japanese friends (centred around Hikaru Furuhashi, who took the Monkey Town photo at the top of this entry) contains Sawako, a subtle ambient-electronic artist I know from my Tokyo days back in the early noughties. She's also released a new album, Madoromi (Anticipate 003), and it's quite interesting to compare and contrast the two records, hers and Nobuko's. They're both primarily electronic, they both contain some (but not much) singing, they both bubble away pleasantly in the background, adding a tint to the room (Sawako's tint is peaceful and wise, Nobuko's boisterous and bouncy). As a consumer, this is the kind of music I tend to buy and play over and over. Fujimoto's Mountain Record, for instance, was probably my most-played album of 2006. Madoromi is a slightly-less-ambient, slightly-less-fragmented version of the same thing: a scent that wafts through the room, borne on the drone of an electronic shruti box. Madoromi is destined to be played a lot in my house, but I suspect it won't leave many traces when the delightful scent wafts away. Nobuko's album is more spikey, and in parts reminds me of Hypo (why hasn't she collaborated with Antony yet?) in the aggression of her cut-copy-paste procedures. I think it's probably going to get played less than Sawako's album, but leave perhaps a more profound mark on what I actually do when I make music. At any rate, these are my two favourite albums of the moment.



One of the most exciting things for me, playing Brussels, was to see both Baudoux brothers standing out there in the audience. As Scratch Pet Land fans know, the brothers haven't been getting on too well since the electro-hippy bubble-drone unit split circa 2002 -- rumour was that they only spoke once a year or so at family reunions. It wasn't too disastrous for those of us who loved both Laurent and Nicolas, though: we got albums from their solo incarnations, DJ Elephant Power and Sun OK Papi KO, as well as Fan Club Orchestra productions. I titled a recent blog about them The energy of awkwardness, but on Tuesday night there was no personal awkwardness whatsoever: the two brothers seemed to be chatting away happily, and Laurent (who supported my show with a great set -- funky-clumsy, tactile, absurdist and very "black") even told me that Scratch Pet Land may be working together again soon.

As if to pave the way, Laurent gave me a wonderful artifact, a Scratch Pet Land CD-ROM called Qubo Gas, described as "a semi-randomized and interactive animation where users can interact on graphics and sounds". The multi-layered scribbly semi-transparent artwork is brilliant and the music seems to work the same way, taking the user from layer to layer of funky-crazy bubbly Scratch Pet riffage, as scribbles dance around on your screen. And hey, here it is online! Or do I mean here? Yes.



In London I went to an exhibition on Redchurch Street called Kill Matthew Barney. The title was painter Jock McFadyen's idea of a joke, or an attempt to bring the art world back to his kind of street-level (paintings of people carrying plastic carrier bags, coming home from the shops). Looking after the show was Glaswegian poet Gerry Mitchell, who I met at Tate Britain when I played there in January. Gerry gave me a copy of his new album The Ragged Garden (Fire CD105) and it's a mellow, surprisingly warming listen, like a swallow of good whisky. Over sentimental, lush, slightly plodding folk backing tracks by Little Sparta, Gerry mumbles his poetry (quite Joycean sometimes) in his warm Glaswegian twang, sounding a bit like an older, wiser, drunker version of Arab Strap. Nae bad at a'! He sounds more reconciled with life than he did on his last one.

I wasn't too taken with the Winsome Griffles album "Meet the Griffles". It's quite close to what Black Light Orchestra are doing (neo-cabaret), but with less genius, less quirk, and an American accent. So I'll pass directly to...



...HYPO 1995. Yes, Hypo sent me his (unreleased?) first album, and it's rather wonderful. Here be roughly-recorded indie guitars, girl singers, strategically-skewed riffs which always sound like they're just on the verge of turning into a Cure or New Order song. It's all rough-edged and deliberately clumsy, but somehow that "wrongness" gets centred, highlighted, and turned into brilliance. Definitely something I'm going to be playing a lot, and taking ideas from. Because I advance by appetite.

Oh, and Brian Szente's Brooklyn Werewolf Diaries -- what is that? I think it's this brilliant polymath reading his short stories. I'm going to put it on right now and find out.

82CommentReplyShare


imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 01:33 pm (UTC)

Trevor's bop promise came during scuffles on the last day of the Neomarxisme blog. If you can be bothered reading all through the thread you'll find the threat and its context. Since he and Alin live on different continents I think it's highly unlikely they'll ever meet.

The Jock McFadyen show was, well, Jock McFadyen! Slightly gritty, romantic, street-level, immune to trends, painterly. It's no really ma dram, ye ken, but it's a'right, man. I think in this case the slightly flashy show title was clever publicity but misleading. Jock isn't on a mission against mannerism, but if he is, I'm with the mannerists, I think.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)



If you haven't messed around with the Tate's implementation of the Qubo Gas thing, do so now, and mess around with the mouse a lot. It's fab Cute Formalism!


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maps_or_guitars
maps_or_guitars
maps_or_guitars
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 02:09 pm (UTC)

Hell, Momus, people will shove music into your hands if you stay right where you are. You can't really avoid it, can you?

For example,
here's mine. (The web-album is The James Rocket, I'm James, There's Rock in the Rocket, bla bla. It is what it is.)

Oh well. If you don't promote yourself, don't expect anyone else to do it for you...


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)

I haven't checked out your music yet, but if you want your album to appeal to Momus you must give it a nonsensical title like "Emperor Tomato Ketchup" or "A Happy Kangaroo Upon the Moon." The Beatles reference of "Meet the Griffles" is offensively Anglo.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC)
readership

Your readership is probably more diverse than you imagine. A couple of guys at the hedge fund I work for read your site.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)

and an American accent

:(


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maps_or_guitars
maps_or_guitars
maps_or_guitars
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)

Hmm. Good point. Not sure whether he's got beef with the WG's accent in particular, or American Accents in general.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)

These all sound very intriguing. I hope this music feeds your appetite as I'd love a new Momus record. Still enjoying the last one but hoping for something new and surprising in 2008. Is that out of the question? Blogging is great but I prefer it put to music....

Richard


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)

nick, have you heard the most recent Louis Philippe? what do you think of what has become of your fellow label mates (SFT, Auclair, Wright)?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 27th, 2007 05:40 am (UTC)

I like that really old, dignified couple in the Monkey Town picture ... I can just imagine them sitting through one of the XXX gay porno XXX montages they throw up on the screens once in a while between sets. I'm sure at this shift in generations it wouldn't be shocking, but the image itself is fun.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 27th, 2007 06:28 am (UTC)

you are stupid


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stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sat, Oct. 27th, 2007 08:16 am (UTC)

i haven't listened to any of this yet but some of those album covers are amazing. thanks for sharing these.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 27th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
loyalty to friends

if you admire sawako's and nobuko's work and as new friends, why would you throw in a witty low blow to the record guy. after research, it's apparent that he works closely with them on music projects and is their friend. we all know how much musicians slave away, so i'm sure he's invested great time and effort to music. i feel it's disrespectful and am sure the girls could feel uncomfortable now because of this. it's like breaking bushido code of loyalty or something. have you absorbed any real cultural values there, or are you just sponsored by lufthansa.

and since when do we judge character by blog posts or comments? who cares what someone says on the net. you guys may actually get along if you meet in person. you can't see the smirk on a person's face, you can't tell if they are just playing out of character. since you command an army of loyal fans and active think tanks, i had hoped more responsibility. leave rivalries to rappers.


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