Perhaps uniquely, Basil Kirchin‚Äôs appreciators include Broadcast, Coil, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Eno, and Nurse With Wound. Included here is music from his first film score Primitive London (1965) and the gangland movie The Freelance (1971). Kirchin was a pioneering twentieth-century master of texture and mood. His inventive, multifaceted music still sounds light yet off-kilter, eerie yet peaceful, both futuristic and nostalgic.
In 1986, Duane Warr retreated to his trailer home with an 8-track recorder to make an album which turns out to be a bit more than a doom-laden, cartoonish amalgam of the antics of everyone who has played air guitar in just their underwear during a dark night of the soul.
This 1967 recording features an intriguing line-up of alto sax, cello, and two bass players. Since Tyler played on Albert Ayler's Bells and Spirits Rejoice it is no surprise that on his own album he challenges the other musicians to explore restless improvisation and avoid locking into too much of a groove.
This trio's approach is similar at times to the musical cubism of the Magic Band but at others they go into overdrive to create a maelstrom of sound without ever completely abandoning melody and rhythm. The group's name evokes the devil, Freemasonry, and Doctor John R. Brinkley's testicular transplants.
Over the course of ten days twelve railway stations were visited and at each a thirty second sound recording and photograph were taken. During the train journeys, compositions were sketched onto scores and later recorded at one rehearsal evening with The City of Exeter Railway Brass Band. The twelve short tracks reflect those brief encounters, hint at the unrealized possibilities and fleeting nature of human life, and seek majesty in insignificant events. Less than eight minutes long and organized into two sections, a reissue of Twelve Stations is overdue.
Listening to this recording is like walking along a dark street in winter and hearing a band playing in a hall half a mile away, or removing one brick from a wall in a rain-swept cemetery and straining to hear faint echoes of sound trapped for half a century. But my enjoyment of the brass band sounds, the chuff chuff, platform announcements, tracks clattering, unknown sounds fading, and the clever short duration of this piece, is one thing; context is quite another. I hesitate to compare Twelve Stations with Chris Watson‚Äôs El Tren Fantasma, but it can belong in a context also containing Flanders and Swann‚Äôs "The Slow Train"¬†‚Äî that of a lament. David Chatton Baker's effort is a more abstract encapsulation of time passing, whereas Flanders and Swann are specifically lamenting the closure of many small railway stations in the UK as a result of a government report (March 1963):
"No one departs and no one arrives
From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives
They've all passed out of our lives."
Those closures arose from what I refuse to call the Beeching Report since Ernest Marples better personifies the Conservative government, with clear conflicts of interest to road construction projects. who had it drawn up.¬†"The Slow Train" was written in July 1963 and it depicts perfectly the sense of loss which was widely felt. On August 8th, 1963, an equally infamous Great Train Robbery occurred of an overnight from Glasgow to London with 72 people on board sorting the mail by hand. The robbers, who grabbed the equivalent of $75 million, had downed phone lines in the area and escaped in getaway cars. One brave rail-man got off the mail train and onto a passing goods train before raising the alarm at a nearby town. The gang, tuning in on VHF police radio heard "A robbery has been committed and you'll never believe it ‚Äî they've stolen the train!"
It has been twenty years since Laetitia Sadier and Tim Gane formed Stereolab. Sadier's voice remains a classic hypnotic sound and on her first solo record The Trip she meditates on change and loss in a personal response to her life's journey and in particular the death of her younger sister, Noelle.
This terrific debut from Indonesia shows how passion, rage and sorrow translate into any language. It's a concept album reflecting cultural destruction and persistence; echoing Melt Banana, Naked City, and zeuhl before devolving into folk laments with added flute.
Leona Anderson's mock-pompous operatic voice can provoke amusement and nauseous grimacing. Music To Suffer By is as beguiling as a jar of pickled walnuts: nectar for a few people, odd and repulsive to others. Either way, this re-mastered album shouldn't be swallowed in one sitting.
To glimpse the enduring possibilities which some people uncovered in the 1960s you could do worse than listen to the first three or four Incredible String Band records. The group merged folk traditions, personal memories, future hopes, and East/West philosophy with an amazing innocence, sincerity, and flow. The Hangman‚Äôs Beautiful Daughter makes clear some key recording principles: have something worth saying, use your own voice, and get an engineer or producer who can properly document your expression.
Julianna Barwick‚Äôs Florine has an enveloping dreamlike atmosphere built from multi-layered vocals and simple instrumental loops. Her choral abstractions are pretty and affecting but will need expanding or she risks being as musically trapped as a third unknown Cocteau Twin who died as an infant yet gibbers from a buried shoebox.
Ashley Hutchings and John Kirkpatrick caused a rumpus of sorts with Morris On, an audacious electric folk treatment of Morris dancing tunes. Next they created this treasure, a project spanning about seven centuries of dance music in England. They broadened the folk-rock palate by focusing more on traditional instruments such as crumhorn, spinet and viol, and linked musical pieces with historically relevant spoken word passages read by actors such as Sarah Badel, Michael Horden and Ian Ogilvy.
This music was inspired by the words of Italian poet Alda Merini, institutionalized away from her family for much of her life, renowned for the unflinching honesty of her work. Years into this project, when copyright problems forced Silvia Tarozzi to create lyrics of her own, she followed Merini‚Äôs example and drew upon her own experiences and relationships mainly from 2008-2019. During this period, Tarozzi married, had a child, lost family members, and moved to another country, all of which inform this rich, varied, and deeply personal work finely balanced between firm structure and breezy abstraction.
Hungry Shells documents the meeting of two remarkable avant garde spirits. In 2018, Pekka Airaksinen presented Ka Baird with Buddhist parables that had been revealed to him in a mediative state. The result is a glorious recording, as the collaboration dissolves their individual states, their voices, flutes, and synths, into an organic harmonic discord.
In the history of both these artists are signs which led here. From 1967-70 Airaksinen composed as a member of infamous performance group The Sperm, who fell foul of Finnish obscenity laws. After devoting his 1970s to Buddhism, Airaksinen returned in the '80s with a system for translating the names of Buddhas into mathematical forms and then into musical compositions. Ka Baird, under her own name and as an integral part of Spires That In The Sunset Rise, always makes an intriguingly cathartic and genuinely skillful racket. Like a whirling dervish tramp emerging unscathed after an instinctive blindfold dash through a forest of rocks and bogs, she has incredibly never put a foot wrong. Baird's signpost is perhaps STITSR‚Äôs concept album Mirror Cave based on a blend of Italo Calvino‚Äôs (very) short story ‚ÄòSword of the Sun‚Äô and Shinkichi Takahashi‚Äôs After-Images: Zen Poems. The lyrics of "Hungry Shells" also bear a resemblance to elements in that Calvino story.
In 1992, 8-bit samplers were cutting-edge gear. This reissue of Chaleur Humaine by French siblings Danielle and Didier Jean, shows Didier's use of a sampler to reshape and project his sister‚Äôs voice into a memorable, magical-sounding dream world with barely discernible hints of doom under the glossy enveloping surface. At times it is reminiscent of the tracks "Alsee," "Criminie," "Bruma," and " Wask," on Nuno Canavarro‚Äôs Plux Quba (1988). Very different albums in some senses, but in a wildly imperfect analogy, the recognizable voice parts on Plux are like Elizabeth Fraser hiccuping through tubes in an Yves Tanguy surrealist painting whereas Chaleur resembles Virginia Astley and Sheila Chandra harmonizing with helium-high hedgehogs in a symbolist landscape by Marc Chagall.
A poem recurs throughout Chaleur Humaine in a variety of languages, including English, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Vietnamese: "It‚Äôs this force, almost animal, warm, like a kiss, fresh like the morning dew, that we call human warmth" but not even that can derail this sultry cinematic music. Wordless vocalizing is used as glitchy percussive punctuation and haunting backdrop. Spoken word combines with splashes of metallic synth, angelic and robotic gibbering, as Didier digitally accelerates, delays and reverses sound sources to create an ambient landscape across which the imagination may travel. I felt I was in a futuristic sound sauna one minute and the next was at the wheel of a car, filmed from above, speeding across deserts, gliding over bridges, and easing through streets ablaze with neon nightlife.