Friday, 11 December 2009

When Doves Cry

When I started recording solo, I had a tendency to record covers and my first two albums had about four songs written by other people which I tried to fit into the album along with my self-penned material. I thought they fit well into the loose concepts of the album, the general feel and more importantly, the running order.
When I did my third album Absolutely, it featured all original material. When I played it for one of my friends he complained that there were no covers on it. The way he saw it was that it was characteristic of my albums to have about four covers sprinkled around the original material. By this time I was having a creative streak and didn't feel like recording other people's songs and I haven't since.
I will start posting these cover versions of mine on here periodically, mainly because they won't let me put them up on myspace (yeah, blame it on them again, you say). This is because I obviously don't own the rights to these songs. But there's no harm in posting them up here so you can download them for free. It's not like I'm making any money off of them. It's not like I'm making any money from the songs I do own the rights to either...
Anyway, so this is one of them. It's "When Doves Cry" by none other than the mighty purple one. It's taken from my second album, Sky High: The Sound of Shy-Fi, which actually featured two songs by Prince. He'd always been a hero of mine and somehow I had the gull to put two of his songs on my album. Then again to give an example, Scott Walker had various Jacques Brel songs on his albums, didn't he? So I'm not alone there.
Anyway, this was recorded about five years ago and I'm not particularly proud of it, but some friends like it, so maybe some other people might.
Expect more old cover versions to pop up here in the future including my other Prince cover.
Memo butchers Prince part 1.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Trip Mosaic 4

So... I know I said last time I made a Trip Mosaic that the next one would follow shortly. I still had that stack of records piling up and only got around to doing it last night. So here it is. This one seems to flow like a hip-hop mixtape of sorts, although I wouldn't categorise it that way at all; it's just the flow of it.
It starts off with some Mesmerizing Eye that continues with what I call the "Valerie Suite": about 10 minutes of the main theme from "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" in different variations, including the Broadcast track of the same name that they aped from the original score, interfered with bursts of Czech numbers stations.
Towards the end you get a bit of what I like to call "New Trip-Hop". That track by Blue Daisy may be what people consider to be chilled dubstep, but I just see this trend as being a modern version of what Massive Attack were doing in the early to mid 90s, although some of that old west country shizzle has aged well, I must say.
The set concludes with an obscure "Remain In Light" outtake. I can see how it didn't make it to the album proper (a classic in every sense, if you haven't got it), but it's still a hypnotic, groovy gem.
Trip Mosaic no. 4

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Unfinished Suite

Here's an old one I came across recently. I'd forgotten about it despite all the hard work and all the time it took me when I was recording it a couple of years ago. At the time it was to be my most ambitious work. I think I'd tired of making 4-5 minute "songs" with a discernible structure, so I figured I would make an album with 4 long, sprawling, epic, proggy tracks just as a sort of "fuck you" to everything else I'd done in the past.
I think it was precisely that which put me off ever finishing it, even though it was nearly there (just some vocals, as I seem to recall). I just spent too much time and energy that I got bored of it and moved on to something else. I think now I see why we never got a follow up to "Loveless" and why the Beach Boys' ill-fated "Smile" never saw the light of day until Wilson re-recorded it about 40 years after the fact.
Moral of the story: it's all well and good to be a perfectionist, but there are certain limits. You do need to settle at some point and allow yourself to be more spontaneous.
You may look back at it in the future and say, "Oh, now I wish I'd changed that, or spent a bit more time on that bit", but at least you'd have finished something. And that's good enough for some people. It's certainly better than just abandoning the project.
Anyway, maybe one day I'll finish this. Unfortunately all the files were lost in a devastating computer crash, so there's not much tweaking I can do except maybe record the vocals on top of it. It would be a shame to just leave it in the past, as it is a worthwhile piece of work, in my opinion. It surprised me when I came across it recently, so that must mean something, right? Obviously I've changed a lot in the last couple of years and so much has happened in that time span. It's amazing what a couple of years will do to a man...
So here you have it: a sprawling epic that starts off like something Air might have done, but then gets all proggy, thus pushing my own musical abilities. Then it goes Disco: a bit funky and a wanky guitar solo like it was emanating out of Prince's purple guitar. Then you get some interesting soundscapes and you get all the elements you had heard up to that point being warped into strange new shapes, only to resolve in the last part of the suite: a pretty pop song about near-accidental death from drowning in alcohol in frustration, only to wake up in hospital bed and laughing it off. I'm not sure if it was going to be a concept album of some sort, and since I never recorded vocals for the first part of the suite, I just called it "Unfinished Suite". I never gave it a proper name. I also never came up with a good vocal melody for it, or if I did I just never recorded it and now I've forgotten it, so if anyone out there has any ideas they would be most welcome! Help me finish this and put it out there once and for all!
Another good reason to upload it on here is that it's too long for myspace (wankers!).

Monday, 9 November 2009


My mate put me on to this magnificent track by the mighty Roxy. It's the B-Side to their 1975 club-banger "Love Is the Drug". In his own words (,kind of): "an excellent Bryan Ferry electronic composition that predates the To Rococo Rot sound we all know and love". Spot on!
While Ferry is mostly known for his quirky and clever songwriting, clearly Eno wasn't the only one into Cluster, as this track proves.
So anyway, I got this 7" off of some dude on Discogs. Why he would want to get rid of such a gem is beyond me, especially at the bargain price of £4 including postage!
My mate asked me to digitise it and upload it so that he could have it.
I've always loved Roxy, but now I'm obsessed with their singles, as the B-Sides are always quite interesting. They show an expansive, more experimental side than their album tracks or pop singles could offer, as groundbreaking as they were during their first five or six albums. Check out the exquisite B-Side to "Pyjamarama" for further proof! The B-Sides gave them a chance to go beyond what the hit-parade expected of them. This is a side to the seminal glam-pop group I wasn't well aware of until recently. Bowie who? Bolan who? Fowley who? This lot are the real deal, folks. For fuck's sake, if the "For Your Pleasure" LP isn't enough of a statement to you, then you have no business even visiting this blog... ...or just dig deeper into their B-Sides. I promise these were really made "for your pleasure", so do yourself a favour.
This one's for you Paul.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Mosaic Electronique

I was planning to do another "Dance Mix". I picked some dance-y records, but as I was spinning these and picking what the next record should be, it became apparent that this wasn't strictly a "Dance Mix" per-se, but rather just an electronic music mix. I guess it was just the mood that I was in at the time. I guess I didn't really feel like dancing that much. You still get some micro-house, acid and techno thrown in, but in this instance it mingles with ambient, disco and minimalist electronica. I opened the mix with the last track I produced (see last post) and it proved to be a good mood setter for what's to come.
The mix closes with perhaps my favourite Spacemen 3 record, "Big City". Come to think of it, I find it a bit odd that my favourite Spacemen 3 record is not one written by Jason Pierce, although I do quite like the Sonic Boom stuff and EAR as well as Spectrum (Check out that album he did with the Silver Apples and the stuff he did with Delia Derbyshire!). Kember is a pretty smart, if perhaps somewhat drug-damaged dude. Anyway, that record ("Big City") is absolutely brilliant: about 9 minutes long, and all it's got is a huge chorus that repeats, with some NEU!-esque instrumental passages that act as verses. You could sing that chorus forever, you could drift in its rising-sun-at-6 a.m.-pill-come-down-psychedelia for hours, repeating that brilliant chorus. It's a long record as it is, but I could do with an even more extended mix!

(Working On My) Levity

The other day at work I was out having a fag with one my colleagues. He asked if I was alright or something and somehow (I can't remember) we got into a conversation about levity. I said I needed to "work on levity. But how does one go about working on one's levity?", I asked him.
His response was rather surprising. He suggested that if I didn't have any plans this weekend (which I didn't), the best way to work on my levity was to spend the weekend writing a piece called "Working On My Levity". So essentially, I'd be working on "Working On My Levity".
I took this as a challenge and I promised him that by Monday I'd return with a finished piece called "Working On My Levity", a piece meant as therapy to er, work on my levity, you know, not be so serious and uptight, but a bit more cheerful, light and likeable. People don't like people that lack levity, I've come to realise.
I don't know that making this piece has helped, but I'm definitely pleased with it! It was nice setting limits to myself and giving it a deadline. It made me a bit more spontaneous, which is what excites me about making music. Sometimes I dwell too much on one idea in the hopes that I will make it better, but it is not always the case.
So here you go Duncan, my friend, this is one is for you because of you. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Just a quick one, then:
My partner Jessica and I have got into the habit of making CD-Rs with sketches, advances or previews of material that we have been working on with our group, Encounters. We take them to gigs and give them out to people. They are very DIY and always contain different versions, track listing and artwork courtesy of Jessica.
We recently went to a Dirty Projectors gig. They were ace, in case you were wondering. That's not the point. We didn't get a chance to give one of these CDs to anyone in the band, so I ended up giving it to out friend Laura (not our drummer) who came to the show with us. The thing is, the new version of one of the tracks was a bit longer, so it would not allow space for the last track, a ten minute pop song that goes by the working title of "Meek".
Jessica had already written down the track listing on the insert and it included this track which didn't fit in the CD, so I just scribbled "available as a free download in").
Of course the track had not been posted, so here it is.
It's not finished yet. We plan on recording some vocals and some other stuff on it. It was recorded nearly a year ago, or at least it seems that way. I was (again) going through a Joe Meek phase and this was my intent at trying to make a tune that approximated the general sound and vibe of some of his records. I'm not sure if I succeeded or not, but whatever, I think it's sounding good so far and maybe one day we'll finish it.
So here you go Laura, this is up here because of you. I hope you enjoy it.

Memo / Polle Van de Gash Stoned Mixtape

I know I've been away from the blogosphere (again) for quite some time. I just didn't find anything worth posting... ...until now!
My psychedelic, cosmic, red guru friend Paul has been hassling me for a while now to upload this, so that he can put it up on his fantastic blog as well, I suppose.
One time he came over. I'd just come back from Mexico, where I endured two months of casualties, legal issues, soul searching and generally trying to find myself. I had a broken arm from a car accident I was in whilst there. I was to play a gig with my mates in Austin, TX the following night. Some little shit was going the wrong way on a one way street. He was a minor, probably didn't even have a license and was driving recklessly. I was on my way to my mate's flat to go over the music we were performing the following night.
Long story short, I couldn't make it to the gig as I had to spend the week in hospital, which I was deeply frustrated about. It was sounding ace at rehearsals!
I flew back to London with two large suitcases, one of which was full of records I'd brought over from Mexico. That particular suitcase was heavy as fuck and I had to pay a ridiculous overweight fee to the airline to take it across the Atlantic. Screw you Continental! No, that's not fair. Other airlines are even shittier! Never fly with Air France! They basically guarantee they will loose your luggage and I certainly didn't want that with the luscious gems I was carrying.
Again, long story short: Paul came over to see me and was dumbfounded by the state I was in. Drunk and stoned, as per usual, with a thick cast covering the whole of my left arm... Anyway, we caught up and then did what we usually do: roll a few spliffs and spin some records. Only this time, we ever so carelessly recorded our fun on to a tape cassette (remember those?!?! TDK D-60 for life, bitches!). I'd recently found this big-arse case, akin to a coffin. It's got two turntables and a dual-tape deck, complete with an in-line mixer. It is in near-perfect working condition. Even the lamp works! That's a fucking good find if you ask me! Some stupid plank left it outside his/her flat for anyone to take. I guess they'd figured they'd get an ipod and get rid of this cumbersome but beautiful piece of gear.
As soon as I spotted it, I asked my neighbour Mario and his reluctant sister to help me carry it home (I've only got one working arm, so chivalry was not an issue).
This particular piece of machinery has been my best friend ever since. It's given me a new tool to record music: on to tape. It just gives it so much character, hiss, bass and tape compression. I have been making music on it. I shall soon post these tracks for your aural pleasure.
And I find myself rambling and droning on again, so to the point: we got high and freaked out to the records I'd brought over. We had a super groovy time and now it's here in all it's imperfect glory for you good, everloving sons of Jah!
It's (predictably) all over the place and it's got its fair share of fuck ups, record skips, clips and the like.
Most noticeably, it's got some absolute beacons of Mexican popular culture, rubbing shoulders with the usual psych/prog-cum-everything-else shizzle you know us for. We didn't realise at the time, but as I was playing it back I noticed we innocently followed "Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)" by "Ave Maria": so, a secular piece that got a lot of shit for sounding almost church-like, with its organ motif juxtaposed with its infamous sexual content - followed by a religious piece of music. Then I believe there are some rain chants in there somewhere.
See you soon!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Polle Van De Gash's Library Mixes

Hey all. I know I've been away from the blogosphere for a while, two months to be just about precise. A lot has happened in that time. I've been away, sorting shit out, sorting myself out, and then coming back with a broken arm i got from a recent car accident. I'm typing with one hand. It is not easy and a bit frustrating.
I have been keeping busy though. I'm happy to be back and doing the blog circuit again. I can't mix very well with one hand either, it's difficult, so don't expect a lot of action until I recover.
But this post is not about me. It's about my good friend Polle Van De Gash, who has just uploaded two mind boggling mixes of library music goodness on his previously recommended blog.

You can get them here:
and part two from:

Some cracking stuff on there.
Polle was actually round mine last night. I'd just found this coffin with twin turntables, a mixer and a double TEAC tape deck that worked perfectly just outside a block of flats (this is common practise here in London: if people want to get rid of something they just chuck it outside and a passerby may be interested. This is how I've acquired most of my furniture and even my television). I guess whoever chucked it out decided to buy an iPod or something. What a find!
So we just got smashed and picked a pile of records and started having a back to back session which I recorded onto the tape machine. I'm currently digitizing it so you can download it from here. Expect it soon!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Memo's Party Mix 1

So I've started a new series of mixes. I guess the Dance Mixes are also party miexes in a way, but not as blatantly as this. I mean you get stuff like "All Over My Face" and "My Prerogative" on here among other party starters. So you can play this at your next house party or any other social gathering to break the ice. That's sort of the idea about these mixes. Dig!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Trip Mosaic 3

ha, didn't have to wait too long for the next one. here you go...
and the next one is on the way... shouldn't be long at all, i've got a pile of records selected for it...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Trip Mosaic 2

oh, the anticipation! i've done a new trip mosaic for you all. i think it's as good as, if not more interesting than the last one. it was a lot of fun to make, and i think it's a fun ride in general. it was a... er, trip making it...
this one's got it all: rare electronic pop from the Lollywood vaults, library music, noise from the New York underground, psych and prog madness, a bit of Stereolab and Broadcast, some more Can, some ambient passages and oh! "Les Mannequins", the French version of "Showroom Dummies" only to close gloriously with some Meek followed by the most beautiful, gentle jam Boris ever recorded. And a lot more, bitches!
check this shit out.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Blog of the Week: PHROCK Blog

nice blog i was recommended by a mate. it's got all sorts of little known psych / prog albums for download.

Monday, 4 May 2009


I've finished a track. Finally. It feels good to finally say something is finished. You see, I used to be able to just bang out an album in no more than a couple of weeks. I worked quicker then. I also had more time on my hands. Gradually, it started taking me longer and longer just to finish one track, especially as they kept getting a bit more complex and I started getting a bit more anal about detail.
I listen back to my old stuff and it's alright for what it is, but if I were doing them now I would obsess a bit more over small details. The trouble with my current method is that by the time I get back to working on an unfinished track, most of the time I find, I can't get into it as much as when I'd started it and was really pumped up about it and was full of ideas. Sometimes I have to stop a creative session for whatever reason and say to myself "right, so next time I need to do this and that" and by the time I get around to it, I sort of loose track of what it was that I intended initially. You'd me amazed at the amount of unfinished stuff I've got. One day I'll come across one of those tracks and realise that it's got potential and I'll hear it with fresh ears and complete it. It's hapenned before.
So this is why you should not expect me to post new stuff that frequently these days.
Anyway, so this track: It was done that day in London where we had the freak snow storm out of the blue in March. It was very beautiful, I'd never seen London that covered in snow. It was unrecognizable. I decided I was a bit inspired so went down the shop for a bottle of wine and started to record without having a very clear idea of what I wanted. But the flow was right and after a few hours I had a very good sketch to work with. I was quite pleased with the result. I think the mood of the track mirrors my environment at the time. I find it very blissful.
Of course then it took me a couple of months to complete it. To be fair, it's a ten minute piece and I started adding these small details to spice it up. Then I tried mastering it and something went horribly wrong and fucked the entire project up. Luckily I still had the audio files saved, but naturally it took a bit of strength to get it back to where it was. But it's finally done. I do hope you enjoy it.

Dance Mix no. 2

So I've done a new dance mix. I need your help though. I need to think of a good name for these mixes. I've got "Trip Mosaic" for the other mixes, and a plain and generic "Dance Mix" is a bit boring. You know how any mix done by a dj is released as part of a series (ie. Fabric, Watergate, Berghain, Secret Sundaze, Back to Mine, LateNightTales, etc)? They're not just called "Villalobos' Techno Mix" are they? True, many of these are released by the club of their residency, or an established monthly party (I haven't got a residency anywhere at the moment), or in the case of Back to Mine and LateNightTales, the concept is pretty clear. Anyway, I don't want to just call them "Memo's Dance Mix no. 2". that's boring. any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Get my generically titled "Dance Mix 2". It does what it says in the tin.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Blue Milk

So I was browsing through Deerhunter/Atlas Sound/Lotus Plaza's blog the other day and came across a post by Bradford Cox ("An Appreciation for Stereolab's "Blue Milk") where he basically praises the infamous 12 minute minimalist piece form "Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night". I have to agree with the guy. The "Cobra and Phases" record is one of my favourite Stereolab albums and I think that "Blue Milk" is a bold statement and an interesting proposition from the "Groop".
So in his post, Bradford mentions that in a conversation with Tim Gaine, Gaine told him that the track was originally a 40 minute piece that was later edited to 12 minutes for the album. Cox then tells us that the LP version contains the track as a longer, fuller 20 minute edit in a dedicated side on the double LP set. [SUPPORT VINYL!!]
He requested that if anyone has a copy on vinyl, could they rip the track and upload for him to download and so he "can space out to it on repeat for hours in the van. I WILL BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL."
So here's your lucky day Brad! I've got a copy of the album on vinyl and I've ripped the full version so you can trip to it. Hey, I certainly did while I was ripping it. It was like high school times all over again!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Peth: Golden Mile

No, this is not my record of the week by any means. I just had to comment on the incredible art work. I mean, check this shit out. Take a minute to take it all in. So we've got some bloke getting sucked off by some bird in a toilet. You can see his bum cheeks, except his bum cheeks are actually a pair of man-boobs. The fellator (is that a word?) is wearing a blouse with a raccoon smoking a spliff. This is probably the best part, i mean, who doesn't love a raccoon with a spliff. and he's wearing a bandana! Cute as fuck. I need a t-shirt like hers.
Remember that scruffy Welsh dude in Notting Hill? Yes, that dreadful movie with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. I actually watched that shit. Probably with my mum. Anyway that geezer is Rhys Ifans, and this is his space rock band that he and a couple of his Supper Furry mates do as a pisstake. Or at least I hope it's a pisstake, I mean the album has got a track called "69 Fanny Street".
So yeah, it's done in shockingly bad taste, and it's a bit overwhelming.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Records of the Week: Inner Space, Vainica Doble (Wah Wah Records)

Last week I got two newies from Barcelona's ever-reliable Wah Wah Records (cheers for that Paul!). Usually I'd just post my Record of the Week, but this week there were two of them. Both of these pretty much made my week. I won't upload vinyl rips of these as both are still in print (they've just come out, in fact). So support a great label by purchasing them. I urge you to check them out.

AGILOK & BLUBBO - The Inner Space

This is the first time this music has ever been released, so extra points to Wah Wah Spain for sorting it out. It was originally the score to the German film of the same name (circa 1968) composed by the dudes who would later go on to become the seminal Kraut band, Can (at this time ex-students of Karlheinz Stockhausen having a go at the emerging acid rock scene). This bad boy has got it all: Jazzy work-outs, spacey freak-outs, German chants, fuzz guitars, some brilliant flute work, and ethnic music influences. A must for any Can completist.

Vainica Doble - (S.T.)

This is the self-titled 1972 debut of Spanish pop duo Vainica Doble. Carmen Santonja and Gloria Van Aerssen met while at art school and went on to write songs and jingles for film and Spanish telly. They made a name for themselves and eventually recorded this album with Spanish rock band Tickets as their backing band and a children's choir. It's a very dreamy and pastoral psych-folk record. By this time Santonja and Aerssen started getting heavilly influenced by prog-rock and the Mothers of Invention. The lyrics are whimsical and surrealist at times, albeit with a "head in the clouds, feet on the ground" sort of attitude (themes are often about the mundane and the ordinary, which would in turn influence pretty much any of the Spanish indie pop bands of late 90's Elefant Records). Another recurring theme is dreams, and the music and lush arrangements certainly gives it that quality. It's nostalgic and reminds one of another time and place, one that we've only experienced in dreams. It's got other hippie-isms such as themes of astrology, escapism and child-like fantasies. I wonder if Juana Molina is aware of this record...
You can stream one of the album highlights here.

Wah Wah Records website.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Lost Experimental Recordings: 1970 ~ Twink

John Charles Alder
(born 29 November 1944), better known as Twink, is an English drummer, singer and song writer who was a central figure in the English psychedelic movement, and an actor. [Wikipedia]

His solo debut, "Think Pink" is a great record which I thoroughly recommend. These are some far-out recordings he did shortly after in an experimental session at his mate's studio. They were never released at the time until a few years ago, when Get Back got a hold of the tapes and contacted Twink himself to remind of him of their existence. He had completely forgotten about these sessions and was quite pleased with the recordings when he heard them after all those years, so they finally saw the light of day.

I've made a rip from my vinyl copy. It's not tracked, but I think it plays quite well as a whole, not really knowing where a track ends and another starts. Expect a lot of synth noodling and some very meaty, fuzzed out rockers. The only potential turn off would probably be some of the J.R.R. Tolkien references, but it's well worth a listen.
Note: this record is out of print, as far as I'm aware. This is why I've taken the liberty of posting it (with the only purpose of sharing it with you). If you really dig it, getting a used copy should be fairly easy to do on ebay or discogs.

Blog of the Week: Amateur Athletics

My mate Paul maintains this blog. Paul is my merchant of psych, among other things. He always sorts me out with the good shit (I mean records, not illegal substances) and I can always count on him to turn me on to new (for me, anyway) shizzle. I thought of uploading his excellent mixes on here, but everything in the blog is worth checking out, really, so i'll just post the link up here. there's all sorts of goodies and mixes by other good people. leave him a nice comment. and buy records off of him (y'all still buy records, i hope?). you can always rely on the man's impecable taste, so ask him to recommend something from his shop.
check it:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Trip Mosaic 1

Here's the first installment in what will be a series of mixes that I do called "Trip Mosaics". These are a different kettle of fish altogether from the dance mixes. These take a much freer approach and anything goes: from psych to jazz to ambient to noise, through to electronic, hip hop, folk, funk, world and classical, and some pop - an hour and a half freak out that shoots in all directions, essentially. More of these to come. Hope you enjoy it.
Get in!!!

[lovely artwork by the lovely akkia.neko]

Monday, 20 April 2009

Dance Mix no. 1

Here's the first installment of what will be a series of "Dance Mixes" that i post up here. It does what it says in the tin, basically. These mixes consist of me getting back from work with some new records in my bag, pouring myself a drink, and spinning said records on the er, decks (duh), to wind down from another draining day. They basically go through some techno, disco and deep-tech house grooves with bits of noise, ambient and a few classics thrown in for good measure. I do hope you enjoy these. and by the way, if you are the rightful owner of any of the recordings i post up here, and would rather not have his/her shit up on some blog for free, contact me and i will remove it with immediate effect (even though i physically distribute these records in this country). i'm not making any money off these mixes in any way, i'm just spreading the love, because i enjoy these records and would like to share them with other people who would enjoy them as well. that's the whole point. i mean, i myself am giving my own music away for free here as well. it's all about sharing good music, to me anyway. mix 1.mp3
anyway, expect more of these to come. hopefully they keep getting better with each installment. i'll also be posting a different series of mixes i do. i've called these "Trip Mosaics", and well, just look out for them in the very near future. No need to tell you what those are about now...

Monday, 13 April 2009

everything, etc.

this is the first time i upload one of my tracks and put it up for download here. this is not one of the new ones we've been working on (I'll upload those later as we finish them), but i thought I'd post one just to have something up here for now. I hope you enjoy it. please feel free to comment on it.
download here.
by the way, if you like this you might want to visit where you can listen to, and download some of my earlier stuff. if you like it a lot you can even buy the cd albums by clicking on the buy now links via paypal.

Record of the Week

Kevin Drumm; Daniel Menche: "Gauntlet"
[Editions Mego; 2007]

Beautiful noise. It's a 28 minute drone piece that puts you in a trance. start with some textural noise and a distorted guitar motif. different noisy elements drift in and out of the mix as it progresses and becomes more abstract every time. it's just really nice to put on and drift to. i always play music when i go to bed, although rarely noise music as this doesn't help me go to sleep. this didn't help me go to sleep either, but it certainly made me feel like i was dreaming, visualizing every sound behind my closed eyes. by the time it ended i was surprisingly relaxed, for some reason and drifted to sleep...
Listen to samples here: and if you like it, support the artist and label by purchasing the record.

about the curious practices of experimental music...

By memo guerra
Tony Herrington is the editor of The Wire, a magazine dedicated to some the most interesting and cutting edge music. I’m an avid reader of said publication myself and so I thought I’d write him an email to ask if he would kindly spare an hour of his time for me to conduct an interview for the purpose of this research [the thesis i had to write for uni last year].

He wrote me back granting me the interview and gave me a time and date for me to come by the Wire offices. After 15 minutes of minor difficulty trying to find said offices, I was in the lounge with Tony. I asked if he would mind me taping the conversation to which he consented. I started the Dictaphone and introduced the purpose of this interview:

Is experimental music really a genre, and if not, what is it?
Well, there certainly are people who think it’s a genre. For me, it’s not a genre. For me it’s more like an attitude, an approach to [making] music. There are a lot of historical precedents for it. Michael Nyman wrote a book called Experimental Music in the mid 1970s, which was basically about contemporary composition after John Cage, post-war onwards. It also talked about the minimalist composers at the time like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a lot of lesser-known composers; but also a lot of European composers like Xenakis and Stockhausen, and Americans like Morton Feldman, British people like himself and his contemporaries, Gavin Bryars…
That was a very strict definition of experimental music; it was kind of coming out of the post-war European Avant Garde, really. That’s one kind of definition of experimental music, but it’s a very narrow one. There are other people in the improvised music community who would maintain that their music is experimental music and there are others who claim ownership of the word experimental. They are charlatans because the way they operate is by methods that have been set in stone for decades, writing notes on paper and getting other people to play them to their instructions.
The idea of experimental is all about an attitude and an approach to producing, making and recording music. It’s about trying to kick against convention and trying to express ideas in ways that are new and provocative; trying to engage audiences with new ideas, new ways of thinking; not producing music or art that settles into very easily observable patterns and so on. That’s my idea of what experimental music is, and if you have that kind of definition, then experimental music can exist anywhere. It can be in an East London club with people playing dubstep, kicking against the conventions of dance music or club music culture and trying to bring new things [to it]. In that context, they think they might be experimental because they’re trying out new things. It can happen in rock music, obviously. A group like Sonic Youth who came out in the mid-eighties… they were totally a rock band, into the Stooges and the Velvet Underground but they were also familiar with improvised music and minimalist composers like LaMonte Young and they were trying to feed those ideas to a classic rock line-up and playing that kind of stuff to big crowds. That’s another example of experimental music in a context that isn’t necessarily what academics would recognise as experimental music, perhaps.
I did read Nyman’s book. It’s actually one of the main sources for this project.
Yes, Nyman’s book was interesting when it came out because he was trying to pin down an approach to making music and trying to make it slightly more accessible to people. [He was] also writing about composers that existed on the cusp of the classical music establishment. So people like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, whatever they’ve become now, in the late sixties and early seventies they were playing places like the Kitchen in New York. They weren’t conducting orchestras in the Lincoln Centre in New York. They had their own seven piece bands making a hell of a racket in art spaces. And that’s what Nyman did as well. He had his own band and they played gigs, basically, but the way they were operating was coming out of a tradition of classical composers writing scores on paper and giving them to musicians to perform. He was writing about people after Cage and contemporary composition, because it is composition, even though a lot of those composers investigate chance operations, indeterminacy and other possibilities [to composition].
I think experimental music can exist in all areas of music, not just in the academically defined ideas of [what] experimental [music is], basically.
This brings me to my next question, which is: is it still experimental if the production or compositional process simply follows the experiments already applied or pioneered previously by other experimental artists? For example, you mentioned indeterminacy and random choice operations. I think of Cornelius Cardew composing a piece by the roll of dice, Eno’s oblique strategy cards and so on. I can think of an example: The Beatles; “Revolution no. 9” being basically musique concrete that the likes of Pierre Henry and especially Pierre Schaeffer had done before. Can we still say that’s experimental?
I think so, yes. I think it’s about context, really. What the Beatles were doing was definitely experimental and they were using their position, which was obviously a massively privileged one at the time. They were curious about the whole thing. John Lennon was going out with Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney was sponsoring avant-garde art galleries in London. They were actively involved in the counter culture, the emergence of new ideas and so they started feeding that into the world that they lived in, which was three-minute pop songs, the top 20 hit parade and stadiums full of screaming fans. We can talk about musique concrete: Pierre Schaeffer hits on this idea of how to go about organising sound in a new way in Paris, 1948 with cutting and splicing tape… I think Schaeffer was inspired by collage, montage and visual art. He was taking an idea from one medium, transferring it to another and twenty years later the Beatles took Schaeffer’s idea and took it to another space and did something new with it within the context of their world.
Context is very important, I think. Musique concrete is a good example. It’s an academic approach to making music, which now covers a huge amount of activity. Obviously some people can replicate procedures without adding anything new to the process. I think it’s when people pick up on ideas and expand on them – like Eno expanding on Cage’s ideas of indeterminacy with, like you say, the oblique strategies cards. That was just chance elements and introducing randomness to what can be a very locked down process. That’s the difference between novelty and [actually] experimental, I think. Novelty is just something that burns brightly and briefly for a moment but [eventually] burns out. Generally experimental ideas last a very long time and they still have a cache many years after they were first brought in.
What do you think makes a certain work fall into the category of experimental music and not another?
If you hear something that knocks you sideways or takes you aback and catches your ear, there is something happening within that. It is either just a brilliant track or someone can just be a sensational singer or [it has] a fantastic riff, lick or beat, just done really well and it sounds great… But often it’s not that; it’s something new that you haven’t heard before. Again, it’s about ideas and making you think, without sounding too pompous about it.
It’s basically about presenting interesting, provocative notions about the world and how we live in it, about music and art. And like I said, that can happen anywhere: it can happen in a reggae single, a concert hall, an art gallery or a banging hardcore club. Certainly a lot of people still do define notions of experimental music historically and they link it to particular practices as the ones you mentioned before: chance operations and free improvisation. Free improvisation is a classic example. It was an idea that emerged in the 1960s and it was an incredibly radical idea. You basically just play anything freely and avoid all references to any idiomatic, generic tics. This is a very radical approach to music. Of course that approach very quickly started to produce a certain type of music that sounded a particular way: the sort with pizzicato, alien, abstract, itchy-scratchy sounds that would start very quietly well up to a climax and then in the coda they sort of fall away. And so that became a very established way of making music. Free improvisation became recognisable as a genre very quickly, actually. Forty years after the first pioneers started playing it, there are still people who are playing it exactly the same way; you know exactly what it’s going to sound like. So I think it’s a reasonable question to ask: is this music [actually] experimental or is it purely generic? And I think that music is purely generic, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a bad thing if the people making it maintain that it is experimental and that it is better than anything else; better that pop music or whatever. There are certain experimental music practices which have become so embedded that they do become generic, it does become a recognisable genre and that’s where it becomes problematic: what’s experimental about this anymore? Are you not just rehashing ideas that have been in the air for a very long time; you’re not doing anything new with it.
That’s not to say that all improvised music is like that. There are lots of free improvisers who are trying new ideas. They realise, “Yes, we improvise freely; we try and avoid genre and idiom. But what does that allow us to do as musicians?” The general preconception about improvisation is no one is allowed to play chords or a beat. If you suddenly introduce a chord or a beat into a free improvisation… that’s quite shocking, actually. That almost becomes the experimental action within that performance. If you suddenly start banging out E chords in the middle of some really quiet improvised thing, or you start playing a funky drumbeat, you’d probably get booed of stage.
Can any music sounding of a wayward nature be defined as experimental music?
Not necessarily, no. I don’t think so. It’s not experimental but if you look at it culturally or socially, people who make music that is way outside of most peoples’ idea of what music is (non-mainstream music, marginal, underground, alternative or leftfield music) are making a statement by making that music. [For example], to people who don’t get it, noise music is probably the most offensive, horrible racket, like Merzbow and Whitehouse. But they’re certainly making a statement with that music. It might not be experimental anymore because the techniques they use have been tried and tested many times, so there’s not a huge amount of experiment left in it or in them. But they’re making a social and cultural statement saying “we don’t want to be part of mainstream society. We are in opposition to you. We make this stuff to say that we are outside of mainstream ideas. We position ourselves away from you.”
“We’re Outsiders.”
“We’re outsiders,” yes. Which is a totally valid position to take. It’s a valid way to signal your outsider status. And also, a lot of people [simply] like it.
Sure, it’s got its…
It has its own aesthetic. Certainly most of the music [that] I’m into doesn’t have any of the qualities that most people would look for in music. It’s got no melody, it’s got no beat, you can’t hum along to it, and it sounds horrible. I really like it. It’s not a pose. I actually like it. It comes down to taste, really, but aesthetically I like the sound of it.
But does the compositional or production process need to result from experiments, or does the process itself need to be an experiment in order for the music to be considered experimental?
I think it can be both, really. The process can be experimental. Lots of music emerges without the artist having any idea of what it will sound like, and it does emerge because the processes are random, wayward, not controlled. The parameters are set really wide and anything can happen. Me and you could be sitting here and suddenly decide to make music in here, saying “right, we’re going to drag these chairs all around the place.” I have an idea of what a chair sounds like when you drag it across the floor, but if you contact mic it and plug it to a row of effects boxes, who knows what would come out of that process? The actual thing about dragging a chair across a room is not experimental at all, but the process is random and wide open. You would probably have a good idea of what would come out. You’re not going to get Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds (laughs) or any other sort of raison-based thing. You know you’re going to get some kind of horrible noise, possibly, or you can treat it to make it sound less horrible. People may say “that’s not an interesting or experimental idea, to do just that. It’s something that people do all the time.” but the process makes it into something that can throw up new sounds and new ideas. That happens a lot in lots of music that is improvised or that use electronics. You try something and discover that this is what happens when you do x, y and z. You can then expand on that.
That kind of random process can give rise to more coherent practices and methods, which can then be used to build further into more coherently organised sound. You can take a standard string quartet reading off a score, and if that score is presenting composed music that has never been presented before, then that is also an experimental approach, obviously. Nam June Paik is the perfect example for that. His material is basically violins and cellos, but he would get people to play them in the most outrageous ways [with] weirder, extended techniques and add-ons. Within the performance aspect, people played naked and so on, just to thrown those traditional music practices completely out of kilter, if you like. Those things are still valid approaches and can still throw new and exciting stuff.
Do we perhaps throw the term around too much to any unconventional sounding music?
Yes, I think that does happen. It’s become a slightly meaningless term. Experimental music in certain areas has become a generic name for certain practices whether it’s free improvisation or certain [other] approaches to composition. It’s a bit too easy to label it. But labelling things is really just the shorthand. Let’s face it: it just allows people to communicate that much quicker. If I said to you “Avant-rock”, you probably have an idea of what I might have in mind. It’s just a phrase; it’s not a genre. It’s just the shorthand description so that we all have a general idea of what we’re talking about without having to go through long, convoluted descriptions of what particular musical genre it might be, or what approach to making music it might be. And [with] experimental music it’s the same. I think it gets thrown around too much without people really thinking about [sic] “are these ideas experimental? Is this stuff experimental? What is it doing that justifies that kind of tag? Are we simply applying it because it sounds like John Cage” or whoever – and John Cage obviously epitomizes experimental music.
You were mentioning artists trying to make a statement. What are some of the things aimed at and achieved by experimental music?
It’s all about ideas and engaging people, exciting them, making them think differently about the world. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about illuminating the world. People say art is like life only better or that art is life magnified. It’s about excitement and elevating your life. The idea is to get the blood running through your veins and getting the air to vibrate around you. It’s life-affirming stuff. It confirms that you are alive and the world is an amazing place, basically.
That kind of idea would go against lots of peoples’ ideas of what they think experimental music is. They think it’s a bunch of bearded men sitting in very quiet rooms listening to someone blow a trombone into a bucket of water or something like that. That’s a cliché, obviously, that it’s all very quiet and reverent, although those situations exist. You can still get interesting experiences in the concert hall or in very antiseptic surroundings, art gallery spaces and so on.
It’s got to be about ideas and expanding the world through art and music. It’s also about transference of ideas from one person, which is the composer to the other, which is you, me or whoever is observing.
The least interesting music renders the world as a grey and familiar place [as if] we know everything there is to know. It just makes it boring, with the instant hit or thrill that has no lasting impact or lasting value. That can be Jazz or improvised music. Classical music can do that as much as pop music.
Speaking of which, in what ways might experimental music influence popular music, or the general culture around it?
I think it does, or it should do. For me, the most commercial ideas have always been the most original ideas, the new ideas. It doesn’t matter where it is, in every area of life: design [and other] media… it doesn’t matter, really. Original ideas are commercial ideas. I think that original ideas should feed into the capitalist mainstream and should be used up. Sorry, I kind of drifted out there… let me rewind and start again… (pauses)
I think it happens less now because everything has become much more locked down in terms of how art and music gets out to the world. Only ten, twenty and thirty years ago you had popular groups like David Bowie, Roxy Music and later Public Image Ltd. who were all in the top ten, but they were taking ideas from all over the place. As artists, they were just people who were interested in the world and so they were grabbing ideas [from] everywhere. Roxy Music is the best example [of that]. We all know about Eno, but then [there was] also Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzanera with their backgrounds in art school, weird and minimalist composition and free improvisation… they pulled all of these ideas and somehow managed to package it into this amazing pop group who were one of the most popular bands of the time. I think that’s what’s missing a bit today, which is strange considering that everything is within arms reach for everybody now. You can learn about all this different music with the Internet and download it immediately and so on. It should be easier to incorporate more into the popular music of today.

The tape ended at that point, but we carried on talking for the next fifteen minutes. Tony was saying that - in a nutshell, and to answer some of my previous questions – the best ideas always remain with us. I agreed with him in that if there is still life in something, there’s no reason not to revisit it. But more importantly, it should give more of a reason to re-evaluate it, look at it closer and from different angles and re-examine it in order to take that particular idea even further and expand on it.


Hello, whoever you are. I'm new to this blog thing. This is my very first entry, so I thought I'd welcome you and tell you a bit of what sort of thing you'll find here.
I started this blog mainly to have some sort of platform where I can share ideas with like-minded people and like, you know, make the world a better place or whatever.
My mind tends to run at a million miles per hour sometimes, and it's nice to be able to put some of those thoughts to written words. So this is a place where I can occasionally post my thoughts on a particular subject; it's a place where I can post pictures; I can upload unfinished music that you can then comment on or give suggestions on; I can upload mixes for my friends; I can write reviews for gigs, records, exhibitions or musical gear; make playlists for different occasions (as a proper music geek this is one of my pathetic hobbies); tell you what my record of the week is, tell you what my youtube video of the week is and use this as some kind of diary (without getting too personal); etc...
So basically it's a blog dedicated to these sort of things and the discussion thereof. It's just kind of neat to have a place where you can see and share all your favourite things with friends and interesting, creative people in general. Feel free to add comments to any of my posts, to challenge or support my views. I would be happy to hear from you. Welcome to my blog.