Wednesday, January 24, 2007

RIP Alice Coltrane

I only found out about her death minutes ago. So here a slightly belated message of eternal respect. She has filled many of my hours with absolute wonder. May her journey among the stars be a peaceful one.

Rising Sons 6

Kiyoshi Mizutani - Scenery of the Border, Environment and Folklore of the Tanzana Mountains [2005, and/OAR]
In the early eighties Mizutani was a member of Merzbow, but as you will hear on this collection, he has since grown far away from that group's (now of course the solo project of Masami Akita) hellish noise roller-coasters.

This is a double cd with field recordings collected from Mizutani's travels throughout the Tanzana mountain region on the island Honshu. Everything here is quiet, calm and meditation. As on a lot of environmental recordings it is the water and bird sounds that catch your hear immediately. That does not mean that we are talking hazy new age shit here. Rather repeated listenings raise all kinds of questions about sound, its attributes and functions.

On Scenery of the Border the sounds and, foremost, the silences between them make you realize that literally every sound source can become music. Of course you will be privy to this fact when you often open your ears to noise, industrial and musique concrète, all styles of music that, in a time of increased use of micro-tonality, are using silence as a constitutive part of the music.

What environmental sounds also have in common with noise and improvisation is that they are not composed as such. The chance of re-hearing these sounds is slight unto non-existent. The question can then be asked whether it is useful at all (let us for the sake of argument take for granted that listening to sound or music is useful) to listen to such a record more than once. Derek Bailey once said that recordings of improvisations (in a sense 'found sound' of its own) should be listened to once and then thrown away.

There is of course always an ironic element in musique concrète. Mostly it is constituted of sounds that are so common to us that we do no longer hear them, let alone listen to them. In a sense then environmental sounds give post-industrial man, estranged from nature as he is, the chance to experience nature in his living room.

What is more peculiar about this double set is the fact that, apart from the far-away song of a few devoted priests and a minute fragment of a village celebration, most of the time any trace of humanity is missing from these sound environments. It is as if mankind has been quietly and rapidly lifted from the face of the earth, leaving only the earth itself, the animals, the plants, the rivers and waterfalls to quietly murmur their ever continuing song, a song that was there long before the first human appeared on the planet.

You realize too that the objects and buildings that man has left behind (his factories and power plants and tunnels) will stop being of any use whatsoever shortly after mankind's disappearance. It also points out how little the actual percentage of human noise on this planet still is. We may be (to paraphrase Agent Smith) be breeding like a virus, but in the end the greater part of the earth's surface, uninviting as it is, is still completely unpopulated by human beings and, thus, unblemished by sound emanating from humans.

All these considerations - which I will concede are all truisms - bring to mind Keiji Haino's dictum that every artist should understand that in the beginning was not (as vulgarized through the Bible, in turn taking its cue from Greek - and thus western - philosophy) the word. Neither was it rhythm. Not at all: in the beginning was vibration. Pure sound was there a whole long time before anyone (or anything for that matter) ever uttered a single word. And it will be there long after the last word has died out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sounds fresh though

Aaron Dilloway: Rotting Nepal [Blossoming Noise, 2006]
I listen to a lot of noise records and most of the time they are just a kind of perverted ambient backdrop when I am writing or reading. To be quite honest: most noise records are there to listen to only once, a bit like a good improvisation record. But this one caught and held my attention for the whole experience. Should come as no big surprise, of course, knowing this comes from an ex-Wolf Eyes member, but this is again one hell of a creepy record. Creepy in that it opens up new dimensions of unsuspected evil. It is not evil in your face, but evil between the creases and the folds, evil in the walls, emanating from the waterworks, evil in your radio receiver, evil as in kitchen motors malfunctioning for no apparent reason, evil as in noise that eats up other sounds, turning what once was beauty into a white noise nightmare of pure bits and bytes. It is as if the radiowaves are not only populated by Conet Project sounds, but are one of the channels of choice for the Evil One himself.

Mommy, What is an Illiterate?

I am, as you may know from reading this load of egocentric musings, a booky kind of person. Not only because I - duh! - love to read, but also because I am thoroughly convinced that reading an interesting and, more particularly, a difficult text can truly expand your mind (in that it keeps your brain physically sane in the long run), broaden your always too narrow view on this world and, lastly, because, you actually might learn something. Rather self-evident, you say. You really think so, hey? Think again!

Last year I decided to get myself a certificate so that I will be able in the near future to work in the municipal library, so that at least I can be in the vicinity of books all day.

So now I am following lessons with some 25 people who aim for the same certificate. And if I would state that at least half of them have not read a book in years, some even never, then I am probably underestimating the facts. There is even a girl (the kind of girl who never will grow up to be a woman, that kind of girl) following the course who already works in a small municipal library. She, quite bluntly, admitted to me once that she never reads any book whatsoever.

If you subtract from who remains the people who consider reading being equal to chew pseudo-books by Nicci French, Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, then I guess you will end up with a core of some 6-7 people who actually read books. Whether they are reading any good books? Please, let us skip that question, in order not to loose complete faith in the brain-functions of humanity.

Second example. The last few weeks I have been working in a bookshop somewhere in a suburb of Antwerp. My colleagues there were two 24-year old girls. One of them reads books ('real' books actually - can you imagine? - although never in any other language but Dutch), the other one probably only knows books as being different from non-books, cookbooks being the only kind of book she can do something with.

Now I am asking you, why the fuck do you work in a bookshop if you never ever have read any literary work in your life?!? How can you seriously consider yourself a bookseller who needs to advise people on which book they shoud read, when you (incredibly dirty words censured)?!?

And then those awful clichés people always come up with when you tackle them about the fact that almost no-one at all takes the time anymore to read an interesting book. "It is better that people read stupid books, rather than not reading any books at all." What kind of reversal of values does such a cliché imply? I mean, that is a bit like saying "watching porn is better than not having any sex at all" (which, in turn, reminds of another sorry cliché - mostly stated by the prostitutes and pimps themselves - that states that "prostitution saves a lot of marriages"; yeah right! they actually mean that it saves the face of some marriages). Another one: "Reading solely the Coran (or the Bible for that matter) is better than not reading at all".

Me myself have, by reading alone, mastered the English and French languages and acquired at least a passive knowledge of German. [It is, dear readers, an illusion that you could ever learn a language by following lessons in your average secondary school, the level being much too low to acquire any fluency whatsoever.]

What I am trying to say here - because in my anger I too frequently digress, must work on that - is that people consider reading too much as an onus, while it is in fact one of the cornerstones of education as such.

And to prove that I am not complaining about nothing, this week came the rather horrible news that 800.000 of the 5.5 million people living in Flanders, have trouble with reading and writing an even simple text. That is, as you can deduct (do not laugh, dear reader, the news also stated that most of the people belonging to those 800.000 cannot make a simple mathematical calculation like an addition or subtraction), one out of six people.

My question then: how can you any longer state that you are one of the most developed regions in the world when confronted with these kind of numbers? We are doomed, dear readers, we are doomed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Crying Racist

Leo is drunk. Leo is waiting for the bus. Leo has offered a cigarette to a Polish co-buswaiter. But the guy only spoke Polish. So he comes over to talk with me. Leo has been a commando. Years ago. Went to Africa. You would not believe the things he saw there. And now here in Belgium - wait a minute: in Flanders, of course, it is not much better. Of course, he is no racist.... but the immigrants are flooding the country. Pretty sure that in a few years he is going to be the only Flemish person left. He complained about that to his son. His son did not like his complaining. Said he was a racist and shut him out of the house. Now Leo is threatening the world. And his son, of course. So he starts to cry, because he nearly flipped and tried to kill his son. He did not, of course. But he might have. Because Leo, he knows himself. If he flips, then.... Leo offers a cigarette. Leo is drunk. Leo is waiting for the bus.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rising Sons 5

Various Artists - Tokyo Flashback [PSF, 1991]
Power trio's demolition style, way out there psychedelics, endlessly rockin' riffs and a general feeling of do-what-the-fuck-we-want. For those who like raw, naked, basic and primevil guitar riffs this cd is a hot recommendation. Even when recorded and reduced on cd you can not listen to this whirlwind of a record and not still hear the incredible volumes on which these songs were performed or recorded. This is rock and roll that takes no prisoners at all. Either you go along for the crazy ride, or you jump ship as soon as possible. Better tell your mama you gonna stay up late tonight.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rising Sons 4

Keijo Haino & Tetsuya Yoshida - New Rap [Tzadik, 2005]
You wanna talk deconstruction? Have these two take it away in your living room. Comparable with the Abe-Masayuki duo when it comes to sheer ugly noise, but Haino's at times extremely unnerving vocal exorcisms add another level. You could call it improv rock, I guess. You can discern pieces of - again - Bitches Brew, Can (Haino's bluesy mumble is very near in tone to Suzuki's), some Derek Bailey, some Borbetomagus but, as is custom with Haino, also heavy and raw and naked blues. Demons are not exercised, they are swallowed whole and afterwards violently spit out. Though there are quiter passages, when a more meditative mood is set, they are only there as a resting point for the following scorched earth attack on the remaining mental and musical barriers. Powerful shit!

Rising Sons 3

Ghost - In Stormy Nights [Drag City, 2007]
I like ambitious artists. And are Ghost ambitious. Never since the seventies has a group sounded more symphonic, more bombastic, more authentically psychedelic like this cra-a-a-a-zy sextet on their latest album. So, they are Japanese. But nothing can prepare you for this po-faced search for authentic psychfolk. Their sincerity would make even the worst perpetrators of the excesses of progressive jazzkrautrock nod their heads in dismay for this kind of audacity.

You know what time it is when the second song goes on for 28 minutes and unleashes an exquisite orgy of ritualistic improvisation and then injects it with fat chunks of broody jazz that would not have been out of place on Bitches Brew or Herbie Hancock's Trust or Sextant.

And then the most impressive part still has to come. On the three following pieces they storm the gates of heaven with an array of forgotten psych instruments and sound like a reincarnation of Cro-magnon (whose 'Caledonia' they cover here), Amon Düül II, The Incredible String Band, Comus and Jethro Tull combined. Ian Anderson, eat your heart out! No, eat your aqualungs out too!

Ghost are both out of place and out of time and still succeed in delivering what is now already one of the records of 2007. A forcefully uttered HURRAH! is the least you can come up with after this. Awesome just ain't the word I was looking for, but it will do nicely for now.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rising Sons 2

Masayuki Takayanagi & Kaoru Abe - Mass Projection [DIW, 1970]
If there ever was one record that drew me over the difficult edge that is Japanese free music, then it is this one. I first experienced this duo-onslaught on a sunday morning, barely awake when I dove into it, never wanting to go to sleep again when the experience was over. 1970 this was! I can still hardly believe that. Kaoru Abe was, apart from a legendary consumer of booze and pills, a notoriously difficult and egocentric character. One of those boys who knows he is a genius and lets everyone around him feel that he, and only he, is the man from which the essence emanates. He was also one of the greatest fire music players that ever walked the face of this earth. John Coltrane would probably have had an heart-attack if he would have listened to this musical tabula rasa.

One day, as he frequently did, Abe was practicing his sax delivery next to the river in Tokyo, just to test if he could over-blow the wind and other city and river noises. A skipper that passed on a boat called the police because he was thoroughly convinced that someone was being murdered on the riverbank. Milford Graves, the American free jazz drummer, invited to play with Abe's jazz group over in Japan, refused to play with him any longer after a few nights, because during concerts Abe always came and stood before his drum kit and taunted him with his noisy sax, finding that Graves thought too much of himself.

Masayuki Takayanagi, iconoclastic free guitar player and way too long around to be intimidated by this cheeky youngster, took on the challenge and they produced this duo set. I do not know if you can seriously mention the word jazz when speaking about this record. This is pure musical freedom, but I would be inclined to understand the jazz lovers who would not want to call this jazz.

Takayanagi tortures his guitar into an orgy of feedback like even Wolf Eyes would find difficult to match today and Abe, well I guess, that is Abe for you, pushes his sax to limits that were never even attempted later on. Only for the headstrong but also one of the most incredible musical adventures ever recorded on tape. They are the true brainwashers. Borbetomagus probably played this record until it no longer had any grooves, before they took their own act to the stage.

Masayuki Takayanagi - Action Direct [Kojima, 1985]
Abe died in 1979 of a ruptured stomach but Takayanagi continued to break boundaries until his death in 1991, although at times he also returned to his jazz roots with more conventional recordings (e.g. Lonely Woman, from 1982). I do not know whether he was privy to the fact that around the same time as this record was released, there was a terrorist group in France with the same name, though knowing his penchant for burning bridges and deliberately provoking the mainstream jazz world, I would be inclined to think he did. Anyway, this live recording was another one of his acts of pure sonic terrorism.

Improvised on table-top guitar this has seemingly more in common with the darkest horrors of Throbbing Gristle than it has any longer something to do with jazz at all. Consisting of three long pieces and employing, next to guitar, tapes and various electronics, it is at times a particularly creepy record. Death bells come resounding through the industrial debris and once you can hear a short voice sample that sounds a lot like one Adolf H., though it could
as easily be another authority figure of similar unpleasant beliefs. And exactly how he does it, I do not know, but there are moments on this record that he manages to make his guitar sound like a percussion instrument.

Again no easy listening at all, but who needs easy listening anyway?

[Note: If you want to find out more about Japanese free music and its socio-cultural context, try to get hold of The Wire issue 261, in which you can find an article by Alan Cummings ('Once upon a Time in Shinjuku') that was an immense inspiration for me to begin this series. Where would we be without The Wire?]

Rising Sons 1

Keiji Haino: Black Blues (Violent Version) [Les Disques du Soleil et de l'Acier, 2004]
No better way to kick off my Japanese Music Series than with the endlessly fascinating Keiji Haino and his 1001 faces of freedom. As I have mentioned Haino has since the beginning of the seventies released more than 150 records under a wealth of names and with numerous groups and collaborators, Japanese or not. You will read much about him on these pages in the future, because he his a truly towering figure in Japanese music with an immense scope, ranging from tornado-force metal powertrio's (Fushitsusha) through solo hurdy-gurdy recordings to frail and poetic solo voice releases. And this bare essentials solo record (also when it comes to the titles of the songs, titles that, in Haino's case, can take the form of whole incantations, conjuring up a whole universe of meaning) is a good point of entry into his discography in that it is a reasonably accessible record. Which means: If you do not think this is accessible, then you might as well forget about the whole of Keiji Haino.

If you want to imagine how John Lee Hooker would have sounded if he would have been a Rising Son, then it is more than probable that you will find out by listening to this truly gut-wrencing record. Not gut-wrenching because Haino makes a whole lot of noise with his guitar. Because the blues riffs on Black Blues (Violent Version) are pretty standard, though pretty raw even for blues riffs. It is foremost Haino's voice that either will make you feel the pain the blues is supposed to transport in the middle of your heart, or will make you decide to never ever listen to his singing again. A man and a guitar, in the end that is all that a good song requires. In this sense Black Blues (Violent Version) is an easy test to find out whether or not you will appreciate what Haino is about. Because through his particular style of singing (and I can assure you that even when he covers a song with an English text, you will never ever recognize it as such, it always remains an eastern transposition, sound rather than song) Haino proves that the voice is just one instrument among many others, having no superior position just because it is a human trait.

Here already you can mark one of the most important differences between the eastern view on the cosmos and ours. In the east every element is just one small piece in the total spectrum of nature, whereas we in the west always have a tendency to impose the human view as the superior one. Be that as it may, music always has got to come straight from the soul and if that is what the blues, as the basis of all western rock music, is supposed to be, than we must conclude that no way it was ever going to let itself be limited in time and place to the mere delta's of Northern America. The blues is universal and if one man is here to tell you just that, it is Keiji Haino. Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose 'See That My Grave is Kept Clean' closes off this record, would have been honoured to play with Keiji Haino. I am pretty sure of that. An incredibly impressive record this is. Feel the pain!

Keiji Haino - Yaranai Ga Dekinai Ni Natte Yuku [PSF, 2006]
I do not even make a yearly count anymore as to how much records Haino manages to record and release in just twelve months time. But as can you see this one is pretty recent. His fan site translates the title of this 68-minute lament as 'Not Doing Becomes Unable to Do', whereas Haino himself translates as 'Won't Becomes Can't', which is of course almost exactly the same, but it sounds better. It is just like Black Blues no more than Haino with his voice and his guitar. But compared to the heart-piercing growl and banshee-screech of the former here his vocals are much more plaintive, though he actually intones a song structure from time to time, while his guitar soli range from heavy metal freak-outs to a nocturnal wail of free riffing.

Here you can discern another important aspect of Japanese music, namely silence. Where silence in Western music (let us make abstraction of John Cage for a moment, whose 4'33" was in fact a radical conceptual move à la Duchamp that was hardly followed up by other artists; but then everyone knows that Cage was immensely influenced by eastern thought and spirituality) is no more than, well, silence, in Japan it is an integral part of music, frequently not even separable from it. Towards the end of this set rhythm becomes more prominent, in that you can actually recognize some structures instead of the loosely built up tension that dominates the greater part of the first 40 minutes. It is only in the last ten minutes or so that Won't Becomes Can't starts climaxing towards some kind of catharsis. And then just before the end it all dwindles back to a mere lull, leaving the audience behind alone with its pain and confused emotions. But do not interpret this like an ending, a cleansing or even a resolution.

Often with Haino there is no real resolution. You can compare that principle a little bit with Derrida's famed dictum: "Il n'y a pas de hors-texte." Indeed, with Haino it seems more often than not that there is no real beginning and ending to his music (which entails that there is no real centre either). But this is not really a problem, because you just take another of his 150 records and the fascination continues where it let off, even when the styles of the two records are, at first, to your western ears, completely different. To paraphrase Derrida (again): "Il n'y a pas de différence" to Haino. It is all one big universe of sounds, where the destructuring and restructuring continually gives rise (and fall) to new ideas, feelings and a damp bundle of emotions.

As you may know I am not to big a fan of French philosophy, although for years I almost exclusively read French books. But for an understanding of Japanese music it can be often important to have some kind of knowledge of French culture. Céline, Antonin Artaud, Dérrida, Baudelaire, Mirbeau, Lautréamont, the Surrealists, Pataphysics, and many other French poets, writers, playwrights and thinkers have had an immense influence on Japanese thought about art. Because, again more often than not, music equals art in Japan, where musicians often feel the need to combine more than one medium to express their emotions, stories and theories. In Japan it is not at all curious to be at the same time a laptop musician, a video artist, a dancer and a cello player. But what is true for all Japanese that will grace the pages of Fire in the Mind in the future is that they often have adopted the more radical elements of all those styles, views and currents in art, thought and spirituality. To take just one tiny example, that I am, for the sake of brevity, putting very simple: in Japan, as you may have noticed if you have been a regular cinema buff in the last 20 years or so, concepts like cruelty, humiliation and sexual abuse can all have their inner beauty, whereas for us such things are often taboo and absolutely reviled even. It is absolutely essential to grow out of a western state of mind if you ever want to begin to understand what Japanese society, art and thus music is all about.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Back 2 Business (2)

Seemed like a lifetime (I exaggerate deliberately, because, keeping my ravenous musical tastes in mind, it always seems like ages) since I had bought some vinyl, so I decided to make a stop by my favourite record shop and see what 2007 brings.

[your favourite record shop, dear reader, is a place, where they know your first name, where you can smoke a cigarette during the selection process, a place where they advise you, because they know your taste, not a place where they are by any means trying to sell you a record they bought too many copies of, and a place where you can exchange experiences about your latest nights out, in this case a shop where I have been buying house and techno for about 20 years now, because I bought my first record there when I was 12]

The records that I bought were actually not the most important thing that came out of it - of course you can expect a post about those soon. Rather I met a guy who has been organising some party nights in the province for a while now and he knowing some people that I know, we found out that we did not only share the same taste in techno and other music (i.e. the ever solid basis of Chicago Jack and Detroit techno, and of course classic 50ies and 60ies jazz), but, also that we had been going out for years in the same spots without ever meeting, and, this had to be the first time ever in a record shop that I met someone like that, that we shared the same taste in film and a lot of other things (damn', the guy even had a novel with him!). The kind of guy that maybe you do not necessarily always agree with, but someone who at the very least can act as a kind of sounding board for your own musical interests.

To cut a long story short he resparked my - true it never really went away, but it had slighly waned over the last year - interest in the noble art of dj'ing and asked me accordingly for a demo cd-r. So it could be that maybe after all I might be playing some sets in a few months, and this time maybe even by playing the kind of techno that I like.

Back 2 Business

After the inanities of the two previous posts (although, as always, they contain a lot of truth too; which part is truth, which is fiction you decide. As The Spaceape already stated: "the truth lies somewhere between a lie and a fiction"), I decided to reinject some sérieux into my mental household.

With that in mind I went out and bought my first ever German book. Over the last few years I think I have succeeded in mastering the English and French languages up to a point that I can express myself, in writing as in speaking, quite fluently in both. And I have always promised myself that it would not stop there. Before I leave this vale of tears I will at least be able to express myself fluently in Spanish and German. And if there is still some time left after that, as I am pretty sure there will be, I would like to acquire at least some notions of Portugese, Italian , Russian and Japanese too. Chinese will be for the next life, because it is well known that you will never truly master Chinese unless you start when you are very young. But hey, maybe if I limit myself to pidgin Chinese I might actually arrive there too.

German comes first, because last week I grabbed, rather incidentally, a Dutch translation of Elfriede Jelinek's 'Lust' and even through the bias of the translation I was totally astonished by the language that she employed. It was a kind of writing I had not read before. Very poetic, but also cool, very hard and laconic at the same time. Fascinating stuff, as is her always a little dark and perverted subject matter too. She asks questions about authority and those are incredibly important questions to ask. As Zizek frequently states, but Orwell already knew: authority and the control of sexuality are narrowly intertwined.

And then I thought: "Why not read it in German? You might learn something." And thus German entered the book case. It is only a start of course, but I cannot wait until the day that I will be able to read Kafka in German, as I hope one day to read Tolstoi in Russian. One can only understand the soul of a people if one understands its language, not?

And oh yeah... (part 2)

Since we were talking about (here it is again! breath even deeper!) post-modern-gender-studies-kinda-girls, it would seem that I have been memed by Stevie. Hurrah! Or should that be Haro?
[I leave the further investigation of this pretty esoteric interlinguistic joke to the interested reader, who must, I will admit, be versed quite steeply in the language of Molière. Anyways, if you still feel inclined to find out about my, depending on your personal taste, nerdy or outerworldly brilliant sense of humour, here is the link.]

This means (1) that I have to check out the blogs I have linked to in the sidebar more often (2) that I have to find out what memed actually means.

These days undertaking that kind of endeavour (Actually, did you know that Endeavour is Inspector Morse's first name? No? Now you do. Do you not cream yourself out of pure gladness for knowing that? No thanks, dear reader. I aim to please. Especially by directing your undivided attention unto such interesting facts) is actually very simple.

It also means (3) that from now on I can for once and ever consider myself "the coolest Antwerpenaar" [Hurrah! Or should that be Haro? But I digress] on this planet, a description I can imagine quite a few people would disagree with. Quite a few people are wrong of course. They do not know their shit from their faeces. But thanks anyway, Stevie.

An 'Antwerpenaar', dear readers, is, by the way, an inhabitant of the wonderful city of Antwerp, the foremost racist city in Europe. [albeit in close rivalry with other wonderful cities like Orange, where they actually have, apart from a wonderful theatre out of Roman times that still stands, a racist mayor. If you do not believe that they have a racist mayor in Orange, then go here and, by following the link la municipalité, stare into the degenerated faces of the town council] So foremost racist that when there is an election over here, that is, once every six years, broadcasting companies and newspapers from all over the world send in their serfs to come and watch if this time around the Ringleader of The Tormentors of All People of Good Taste, one Filip Dewinter (being a man of good taste I will obviously not link to this mental dwarf), will become mayor this time around.

That fact aside, dear readers, Antwerp is indeed a pretty wonderful city, were it only because I live there. And, rather of course, because the even more wonderful, intensely interesting, so ever present that you would think he has at least 7 clones of himself walking around and, thus, not to forget the least of his qualities, outright brilliant Tom Barman (so brilliant that you can actually see Belgium from out of space, or was that because we leave the lights on at night on our freeways? I keep forgetting) lives there as well. But, once again, I digress. Could that be because I have been memed? I wonder. Help me out, dear reader.

Because being memed is no slight responsability, it would seem. It would also mean that I have to (1) share with you no less than 5(!) things that you do not know about me and then (2) go and harrass 5 of my co-bloggers so that they can do the same with 5 other blogospherians (Mommy! I have again discovered a new word! "Blogospherian": "(virtual) inhabitant of the blogosphere". Brittannica, mail me, call me, offer me a job in the neologist department!). Luckily for you, dear readers, an up to no good at all bandit has robbed me of my daily pills and I might, in the poor mental state that I am currently residing in, just be inclined do exactly that.

Luckily for me, on the other hand, the last remnants of mental sanity, that I stubbornly refuse to part from - in contrast to the majority of the people of this sad, sad planet, I may as well add - forbid me to do just that. Have you also noticed, dear reader, to digress even further, that me is actually a half of meme? But I digress again. It is becoming, in the short span of this post, a habit.

Why, you ask? Speak to us, coolest Antwerpenaar on this planet! Do not rob us of the endlessly interesting answer to this question! Because, being the coolest Antwerpenaar on the planet, I must remain a mystery to you, dear reader. Is it not already bad enough that I am showing my outerworldly nerdiness by posting at least one message in a virtual bottle a day about such things as my opinions on music, literature, politics, religion or, even worse, post-modernism, thereby betraying the fact that I am a man. Because no women or girl in her right mind would post at least once a day about such boring topics. That is, unless that women/girl is in fact a post-modernist. No thanks, Julia Kristeva, for pointing the world into your interesting direction. You deserve it! As long as I do not have to read you, that is. (Once again, dear reader, not reading Julia Kristeva requires some knowledge of the French language. I will, however, for those who are not versed in the language of Sarko et Ségo, give away that naughty girl Julia is punning good old Chateaubriand on this page. Although it remains to be seen whether femininity and christanity can be geniuses at the same time. Have you ever wondered about that, Julia?)

Have you noticed that I keep on digressing, dear reader? In fact, I am beginning to think that the whole of this post is one big digression. And all this to tell good old, sweet Stevie that I have become too old a tosser to seriously consider sharing with this world 5 things they do not know about me. Let us keep it that way. You happy, dear reader, me even more happy.

By the way, the reader who, after this and the previous post has not found out at least five things about me that he did not know, might as well be blind, stupid, or, even more probable, both.

And oh yeah....


Just had to get that off my chest. I apologize to the optically challenged for the huge lettering. Of course you must imagine my hysterically enthoused shouting with it. Some of my friends can imagine that, I suppose. Sorry for that, guys! Because being an old-fashioned kind of gentlemanly guy I would never shout hysterically enthoused when there are any girls, let alone women, around. I've learned as much in 32 years on this planet. Is that sexist, I wonder? Could be construed as such, I suppose. That is, if you are some kind of (take a deep mental breath! here it comes!) post-modern-gender-studies-kinda-girl. With post-modern gender studies I do not actually mean that there exists something like a post-modern gender. Or is there in fact something like that? And how would that look like from a distance? And from nearby? But I digress.

I duly apologise for the digression and the possible insult to all you (take that deep mental breath again!) post-modern-gender-studies-kinda-girls. OK? Friends? Not OK? Not friends? OK then. (Yeah, laugh all you want, but, as Horselover Fat would say: mental illness is not funny. And Horselover Fat is always right. Ask David Tibet, he will agree. And David Tibet is always right. How can someone who is described as an "apocalyptic folk musician" not always be right, I am asking you?)

No, seriously, I am just having a few laughs there. I have to remind myself sometimes that this is a serious blog about serious business, namely music. So, let's start again.

Up till now I have only downloaded the first two months worth of tracks this guy has come up with in 2006 and apart from a sore download finger (Mommy! I have discovered a new word! The download finger: "finger with which one clicks the mouse to download a succession of files", which is actually synonymous with the so-called "index finger", now that I come to think of it) I have been very pleased with the wealth of ideas. Thank you, mister Caretaker. You have chosen your name very well.

And then I have not even had the time to listen to Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia, which, by the way, must be the greatest title since 'A Shaving of the Horn that Speared You'. That's enough byways for one post. And enough madness for one year, by the way. (Sor-ry!)

Isolationism [Virgin 1994]

In the end you always return to old love. I had an epiphany of sorts today when I refound this in my cd-collection. It is truly remarkable how many artist that I have come to appreciate and love over the last few years are on this double cd. Take a look at those credentials!

There is of course Aphex Twin (with 'Aphex Airlines', probably the most radically insane track he ever produced); Kevin Martin (now The Bug, back then Ice and Techno Animal); Jim O'Rourke (later of Gastr Del Sol and Sonic Youth, now one of the producers of Joanna Newsom's Ys); AMM (at the time with Keith Rowe, John Tilbury and Eddie Prevost); Keiji Haino (here in his Nijiumu-guise); Mick Harris (Scorn, Lull); KK Null; Matthew Bower (back then as Total, now Skullflower and Hototogisu); Thomas Köner; Justin Broadrick (here as Final, now frontman of Jesu); Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 (here as E.A.R. aka Experimental Audio Research, but Kevin Martin, Kevin 'MBV' Shields, Eddie Prevost and Andy Mellwig of Porter Ricks were members of E.A.R. too at one time or other); John Coxon of Spiritualized and Spring Heel Jack (here as Disco Inferno) and Raoul Björkenheim (who used to be in Phantom City, a group Bill Laswell, John Zorn, Lol Coxhill, Paul Schütze and Toshinori Kondo were all members of for some period of time). "Isolationism", quoi?

And then Seefeel, Labradford, David Toop & Max Eastley, Paul Schütze and my ever beloved :zoviet*france: are on there too.

Is this a dream line-up or what? The guy who did the A&M for this compilation deserves no less than a statue (it is Kevin Martin himself, by the way, but Alan Cummings and John Everall of The Wire had some input too, if I interpret correctly). And Tony Cousins, who in his lifetime has worked the sound of records as diverse as Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche and Robbie Williams' 'Groovebox' and laboured for labels like Real World and 4AD did the mastering.

I took a little peak on discogs and noticed that this compilation switches hands for at least thirty euro's. No wonder.

A little applause also to good ol' Theo for relating the apocalyptic atmosphere of Isolationism to the paranoia of dubstep. Clever guy he always will be.

Rising Sons

Why I have been moving away from electronic dance music in general, you will be able to read in - hopefully - the near future in an essay on the state of techno in 2007 that I am currently working on. But it is an outright fact that since more than a year now I am much more interested in all music that contains at least a certain portion of noise and a free element. From the doom of Sunn 0))) and the early industrial works of Kluster, through the unholy noisefests of Wolf Eyes and Hair Police, via the free jazz of Takayanagi, Abe or Borbetomagus onto the dreadful noisehell of Hijokaidan and Naked City, I have become seriously addicted to free music in general.

And then you can do no wrong whatsoever by going delving into Japanse music. There is enough to last a lifetime and that alone makes it interesting. If you were interested in the 150+ releases of the absolutely brilliant Keiji Haino alone, then you would be busy day and night for at least two years or so.

The list of interesting names is nearly endless: Acid Mothers Temple, Masayuki Takayanagi, Aube, Sachiko M, Fushitsusha, High Rise, Tokyo Kid Brothers, Tetuzi Akiyama, KK Null, Boris, Ruins, Corrupted, Les Rallizes Dénudés, Otomo Yoshihide, Food Brain, Toshimaru Nakamura, Boredoms, Ghost, The Jacks, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Overhang Party, Musica Transonic, Taj Mahal Travellers, Magical Power Mako, Mono... I could go on forever. And the finest thing of all: all these artists do have an enormous amount of releases to investigate, a lot like the free and freakfolkers from the USA or those crazy Fins, but on a much more enormous scale.

It is like a neverending ocean you can dive in and not knowing when you are going to be able to quit swimming. More important is of course the fact that these people are always pushing boundaries, destroying artificial walls set up between genres, in other words, doing exactly what the fuck they want, mostly because they look at life and this universe in general in an entirely different way compared to us.

And then I am not even talking about the fertile collaborations they have set up with Western artists. Derek Bailey, Peter Brötzmann, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Peter Rehberg, Fennesz, David Sylvian, Stephen O'Malley, Alan Licht, Oren Ambarchi... the list is again pretty endless.

I fear that I have become addicted for life. I need to go there urgently. Fuck the fact that - as they always say - you will as a Western person never be really able to understand these people. Fuck that! You can at least try.

Anyway, I am thinking of starting up a new blog that would then be exclusively dedicated to Japanese music. Do not know for sure though, because keeping two blogs concurrently is eating up your time and I am in dire need of that already. Most probably it will end up with a compromise, where I will from time to time present you with my findings about these rising sons and daughters. En avant!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Telegram Sam (4)

1. Carl Craig: Hush: Even his leftovers are pure genius. You can find this one on a Japan-only collection. Sounds like 69-era Craig. And that's good, right? 2. P.G. Six: The Dance: Heartbreaking first song of Pat Gubler's newest longplayer on Dragcity. Out in february. 3. The High Llamas: The Old Spring Town: Woodstock never ended if you got to believe this happy bunch. Pure pop music like they don't make them any more. Brian Wilson will cream himself over this song. Out in february. 4. Rufige Kru: Beachdrifta: I actually cried when I heard this one for the first time. Probably my favourite d&b track ever. No, not probably, pretty sure. 5. Rob and Goldie: The Shadow: "Shadow: a patch of shade, a dark figure projected by anything which intercepts rays of light" And this must be my second favourite d&b track ever. Old skool darkness without any mercy. 6. Mercury Rev: Back to Mine: The perfect Sunday morning mixtape. Say no more. 7. Burial: Versus: The best track on Warrior Dubz and, if I'm being honest, superior to everything on his already pretty brilliant debut cd. The best of Detroit techno and d&b in one neat package. Fookin' genius! 8. Clipse: Hell Hath No Fury: Long time since I heard such a fine in-ya-face hiphop album. It's all about selling coke, crack and brown sugar. Never mind if it's delivered like this. Welcome back Neptunes! 9. Tetuzi Akiyama: Don't Forget to Boogie: On endless repeat for weeks now. One man, one ridiculously distorted guitar, lots of riffs. That's it and it's enough. 10. Fat Freddy's Drop: Cay's Crays (Digital Mystikz Remix): Digital Mystikz prove once again that they're the undisputed leaders of the dubstep pack. Bass, bass, bass. And then some bass.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Merzbow/Gore Beyond Necropsy

Can you believe that I never heard one note of Merzbow before? Since there is a wealth of more than 300 cd's to choose from, I opted for one with a funny title. Rectal Anarchy (I leave interpretations to your perverted minds) was made with a Japanese bunch who call themselves Gore Beyond Necropsy and the second I put it on I already had to diminish the volume by half, in fear of an earache beyond repair.

Gore Beyond Necropsy's website put it like this, in a shrudely understated manner, I might add: "Their shared album with notorious Electro-Anarchists MERZBOW ‘Rectal Anarchy’ was far from subtle". Far from subtle? You are talking about a singer who sounds like he swallows gigantic turds for a living. By the way: the picture above is not actually the original cover. The original cover sported (yeah, you have guessed it!) an ass with a mike attached to it. So much for leaving something to the imagination. You would think those Japanese were a little subtler.

Now do not misunderstand me. I adore noise, sludge, grindcore and what do I know, because it has a certain cathartic quality to it. But this is too much. Luckily the cats seem to sleep right through it. Merzbow is of course also known as a animal rights activist and a fervent anti-whaling kinda guy. What I do not understand is why Greenpeace does not use his music to keep the whales away. Or, more to the point, to deafen the whalers themselves.

Can someone point me to a more accessible portion of the man's discography? Pretty please.

Cuts like a Hand

Don't know why I did not mention this earlier, but the seemingly tireless Joris has set up a label. So start looking out for upcoming releases by Machinefabriek, Graveyards, Family Underground and The Julie Mittens, to mention a few.

Monday, January 08, 2007

God only knows

I do not know what kind of mind-numbing poison is being distributed via the Polish drinkwater to the general population, but it must be some heavy shit. On the other hand, it might also be the hard drug called religion.

A few weeks ago a group of Polish members of parliament wanted to declare Jesus Christ "King of Poland". Now a Polish bishop who was to be sworn in yesterday had to admit that for years he was a spy for the communist government. Nonetheless the people wanted him to stay, declaring it was all lies, though the guy himself admitted it before them.

And of course abortion, divorce and homosexuality are still near-capital offences in that so-called civilized country. And then Turkey should not be allowed in de EU? Man, oh, man!

You would be inclined to think that after being eaten up by Prussia, Russia and the Habsburgs in the 18th century, and then afterwards, in the 20th, being used by the Nazis as a laboratory for the worst crime this world has ever seen, and then still afterwards having been subjected to communist rule for the next forty years, these people would at least have grown some brains as to what exactly discrimination and intolerance can do to your country.

How many more principles are we about to give up in the name of economic progress? Who said again that everyday we wake up "on the wrong side of capitalism"? I would like to add that everyday I wake up on the wrong side of religion.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Some Sachiko's

I've discovered this week not just one but two Sachiko's.

First there was, at the instigation of Joris The Noisecutter, Sachiko, with the mystical ambient noise of You Never Atone For. Quite a shock when the misty ambient of 'Raijin Song I & II' suddenly explodes into the unholy noise racket of 'Fire Yith', thereby almost eclipsing similar experiences I had in 2006 with Hair Police and Wolf Eyes.

And then there was Sachiko Kanenobu, with her achingly beautiful folky Misora. The record is actually from 1972 and was produced by one of the YMO guys. They often refer to her as the Japanese Vashti Bunyan and comparisons are also drawn with Joni 'Boring' Mitchell, while I am myself more inclined to compare Misora with Linda Perhacs's heavenly Parallellograms. Comparisons aside this is one of those forgotten singer-songwriter pearls-for-swines that keep resurfacing in recent years. And it is totally, completely sung in Japanese. Which is a plus at my house because I am a total sucker for all things Japanese.

A more interesting fact about her is that it was one Philip K. Dick who encouraged her to get back into music in the early eighties, after meeting her in New York and hearing Misora. He even payed for the sessions of what was to be her first English-sung album. Unfortunately he died and the record never saw the light of day. Anecdotes, I love them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Read motherfucker!

After having finished Bruce Sterling's amusing but sometimes a little too multitudinal on the ideas front Schismatrix I stood there in the bookshop today, trying to make a choice between Zizek's Interrogating the Real and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

I chose The Road eventually, because I had been impressed to the bone by his No Country for Old Men and because I have been reading way too much Zizek already the last few weeks, Lacanian dynamics always wearing me out in the long run. Of course, it helps when Burial (And now I wanna know who that Burial guy really is!) and Steven Shaviro both like The Road too.

The new mammoth Pynchon was, as always, tempting, but for the time being, I will pass and wait until I hear some yeah-saying from the Omar-front.

Guilty as charged

Burial mentioned this album in the last Wire-issue. It is quite a strange attraction, Todd Edwards. I know that he has been a huge influence on the 2step scene - and thus on dubstep too - and I am pretty sure a lot of producers adore him (I read somewhere that Daft Punk just love his stuff). The thing is: you always feel a little dirty after having listened to Todd Edwards, a bit like having a quick wank over Pamela Anderson.

His music is sooooooo fluffy, soooooo immaculately produced, with the lyrical content and the titles ('Next to You', 'Where Are You', 'Far Away') never rising above the adolescent musings of R&B, that at first you will consider him the epitome of glibness. But all his tracks are so catchy and so sweet that after all you do not mind one bit, most of all because he is so inventive in his productions. He is also really what you would call a producer's producer. You can imagine Daft Punk (the vocoders!), Masters At Work (the percussion!) or MJ Cole (the strings! the harpsichords!) dissecting his records in their own studios. Guilty pleasure if there ever was one.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

And 2007 will not be the year of...

...LCD Soundsystem for one thing. Sound of Silver, their newest, is not only an exact copy of the debut and the singles, but, even more deplorable a fact, the group has opted to inject even more blatant influences into their music. More than one song just screams "I just adore Bowie's Berlin trilogy". Yeah! Who didn't? In 1980! Time to change out of that Future Days T-shirt, James, because this sounds like days past and it smells a bit too (of Hunky Dory, on the zum kotzen abomination that is 'New York I Love You'). Of course it will undoubtedly be a huge hit because all tracks sound catchy as hell. Luckily their live shows - they were quite stunning when I saw them - might compensate. But not much.

(I am actually a little torn up by this judgement, because James Murphy is one of the most sympathetic guys I ever talked to. But, hey, fuck it, he should have made a good record then.)

...Bloc Party, for another thing. A Weekend in the City smells even more of the copier. In certain circles 'The Prayer' may pass for invention and innovation, but to me it reeks of trying something new because you are a one-trick pony (the 'one trick' then being the fine singles trilogy Banquet-So Here We Are-Helicopter). Worse is that not one song on the new album equals those fine, urgent singles. Though you got to credit the group for the - too much absent in contemporary pop music - guts of coming up with a protest song like 'Hunting for Witches', it is a shame that the song behind the title does nothing much. As they say: the sophomore album is the true test. They fail. Au suivant!


If there ever was one good reason to go dust off your undoubtedly quite rusty knowledge of the Dutch language, then it is because De Kift made '5'.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

0: Scott Walker - The Drift

You got singers.
And you got Scott Walker.

You got songs.
And you got experiences.

You got a top ten of the best records of 2006.
And then you got The Drift.

Monday, January 01, 2007

1: Villalobos - Fizheuer Zieheuer

It must have been late August. Omar pointed me to a dj set by Villalobos, recorded live at the Awakenings festival. He had divided the set into neat 12-minute pieces and I quickly noticed that the last two pieces (ca. 24 minutes) contained only one track. Who was the auteur of this stunning minimal space opera, constituted by the seemingly endless tweeking of just one loop?

Later it turned out it was Ricardo Villalobos himself, of course. And the song was in fact more than 36 minutes long, so long that it constituted two sides of a 12". I have literally dreamt about this song, I even bought the vinyl two times. There has been not a day since I bought it that I have not played this track.

'Fizheuer Zieheuer' has, in just a few months time, become one of the most important records ever in techno. Following the ever forward continuum of minimal techno, Villalobos has dared to take it to its conclusion. "If Richie makes one long track out of countless loops, why not make a track of about 40 minutes long, but one that is made out of only one loop?" That's what he did and techno will never be the same again. Lots of guts equals lots of glory.