More mp3 blogs

A couple of recommendations (thanks again to Gav and Jay):

Magic of Juju. More vinyl rips, music from around the world this time.

Insect & Individual. “an assortment of kraut, prog, free jazz, avant, diy punk, and uncategorizable recordings highlighted by nurse with wound on the legendary/infamous nww list.” Includes the impossible-to-find The Way Out by L Voag. Now you’ve found it.

For those who missed it, here’s the original blog list. Once again, this isn’t definitive by any means, there are loads of these things out there.

Fauni Gena Music Webbernet. Mainly ambient or quiet electronic releases.

À bientôt j’espère. Er…hard to describe, you’ll just have to go and look.

Lost-In-Tyme. Obscure psychedelia for the most part.

Swen’s blog – Artists mentioned in The Wire. What it says on the tin. Very useful if you’re a Wire reader.

Improvisie. Improvised music with an emphasis on the jazz spectrum. Not much there yet but may be worth watching and worth a visit solely for the insane Paul Bley synth album.

Grown So Ugly. “A home for musical gems from the past fifty years, decidedly biased in favor of acoustic instrumentation. From the easily accessible to the challenging listen, quality is the sole requirement for our sharity. We encourage community participation.”

Krautrockteam. Best of the lot where my tastes are concerned. More obscure (that word again…) German music than you can shake an Archangel’s Thunderbird at.

Thomas Köner


If Main (subject of this earlier post) provide the ideal ambience for hot weather, then winter demands the chill breath of Thomas Köner. Once again, lack of decent interviews means resorting to Wire back issues which is a sign of laziness on my part and an indication of that magazine’s continued importance. For those who may have puzzled over the soundtrack list in my Haunter of the Dark book (which includes Köner’s Teimo), here’s an introduction to a unique sound artist.

The Big Chill

The arctic wastes of Siberia are a burning desert compared to the cryogenically-frozen music of Thomas Köner. Biba Kopf meets a musician whose work redefines our notions of cool.

APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH, it snows the day Thomas Köner arrives in London. If anyone deserves a white carpet welcome, it is this German composer, who dedicates his music to reversing the processes of global warming. Köner’s stunning or perhaps that should read numbing debut, Nunatak Gongamur, describes the last moments of Scott’s ill-fated polar expedition. Its successor, Teimo, takes as its model the cooling molecular structure of the body after death, while his third disc carries the self-explanatory title Permafrost.

Granted, Köner’s new CD Aubrite—meaning a non-terrestrial mineral—is housed in a bright yellow jacket and is intended as a partial relief from the cold spell, but it does include a track called “Nuuk”, after the capital of Greenland.

“It’s my passion, this area where the cold slows down all movement,” explains Köner, who punctuates his conversation with a laugh so infectious he ought to can it and sell it to TV sitcom producers. “The process of slowing down and reaching this border between movement and absolute stillness is, for me, the process of simultaneously becoming very sharp and very unfocused, and that, for me is like a very excellent drug.”

This makes me think of Köner as some kind of flatliner getting off on his own near-death experiences.

“It’s a kind of design question, this temperature thing. In a cold environment, everything slows down, and everything is going towards a stop event. And that is my favourite area in sound—just before it stops. It’s an interesting border. It’s the same when people, during kind of philosophical evenings, think about life and its end. That’s also a kind of border where things stop. It’s a deep movement for me, this feeling.”

The development of Köner’s music from disc to disc is as minutely graded as the pieces they contain. The desolate blizzard-swept arctic wastes of Nunatak are created by miking-up gongs, then rubbing, scraping and electronically treating the sounds to the point where their origin is unrecognisable. Teimo is more felt than heard, you don’t so much listen as immerse yourself in it. As your ears become accustomed to its silences, you begin to pick out shapes, the shadowy aural equivalents of towering rock formations just about visible through the storm. They don’t exactly hold the promise of shelter, but they are useful coordinates to fix on to find your way into the music’s desolate beauty.

Exactly where does Köner’s music exist? His press kit carries a glowing endorsement from an Australian Buddhist, but, despite the music’s progress towards silence and nothingness, Köner denies any religious motivation. On the contrary, this confessed non-dancer, who admits the rhythms of his works are far removed from dance culture, feels closest to Techno, which has blasted contemporary music wide open to the point where any extreme goes in its chill-out interzones. Köner evidently feels enough common ground between Techno’s BPM blizzards and the snowstorms of his own music to act as sound designer on the recent Basic Channel related project Porter Ricks, on the appropriately-titled single “Port Of Transition”.

Köner has described the guiding principle behind his work as an Ästhetik der Untergang, or aesthetic of decline, a term Einstürzende Neubauten used to apply to their early performances. Unsurprisingly, Köner applies the aesthetic differently. For him it has to do with the way the natural decay of sound resembles decay in nature. The former leads to silence, the latter to death. In both cases they leave an afterglow that imprints itself on the memory. Köner’s acceptance of the process is not only personally liberating, it frees his music from the futile sense of entropy that pervades much post-Industrial Ambient stuff. Even so, Köner reports that the rare visitors to his Dortmund home see some affinity between the post-Industrial sites of a city that has seen better days and their host’s music.

“They walk around Dortmund and say that it sounds a bit like my music,” says Köner. “There are vast areas where there are no used roads, but you always have a distant railroad or a distant highway, creating an envelope of diffused sounds, so when you walk through these abandoned industrial fields, there is this silence, but with very powerful motorised sound reproducing units in the distance. And I would not give up this. I would never move to the country. Well, it’s sometimes nice to visit; but after three weeks I have to go to the nearest town, sit down and get some good diesel engines and scraping metal sounds. It’s a big pleasure for me.”

The Wire, issue 145, March 1996.

See also:

SAJ again


Yes, it’s that magazine again, the perfect thing to feed your head for the new year.
Mark P and SAJ are profiled in the latest Wire.

Ken Hollings rides the world’s subcultural currents mapped by London’s Strange Attractor.

The Wire #275, January 2007

Strange Attractor is well named. There’s really no escaping it. Starting out as a series of live events, it has slowly transmuted into an annual publication, set up an online clearing house for the weird and the wonderful and recently made its first move towards establishing itself as a publishing house. “Strange Attractor celebrates unpopular culture,” runs its mission statement. “We declare war on mediocrity and a pox on the foot soldiers of stupidity. Join us.” Who could possibly resist such a challenge? Sooner or later you have to get involved. (In the interests of full transparency: the writer of this article has taken part in a number of Strange Attractor evenings and is a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal.)

With orders for the Strange Attractor publications coming in from all over the world, and mainstream media like The Independent On Sunday praising it for producing “one of the most weirdly beautiful, beautifully weird magazines of the past hundred-odd years” a bigger problem presents itself. How do you celebrate unpopular culture without losing its unpopularity?

“There’s certainly no business plan,” admits Strange Attractor Journal‘s publisher and chief editor, Mark Pilkington. “We’re really making it all up as we go along. I hope that Strange Attractor‘s approach to culture is simultaneously that of the archaeologist, the ethnographer, the anthropologist, the occultist, the showman and the curator.”

It’s a heady mix. The first two issues, both book-sized anthologies running to more than 200 and 400 pages apiece, have presented material ranged across such elusive topics as mind control experiments, mould art, hair sculpture, cargo cults, neglected gods and forgotten waxworks. Such a list limits more than it clarifies, however. Strange Attractor Journal is concerned less with the unexplained than with the unexpected. You never know what it will cover next.

“I think Strange Attractor is refreshing to people in that it manages to straddle several cultural channels while still following its own agenda,” Pilkington admits, “and it’s one not driven by the same obvious memes. But at the same time it’s important that it doesn’t become obscurantist for its own sake—some things are lost for a reason, others will only resurface when the time is right.”

Strange Attractor‘s wayward eclecticism dates back to a series of monthly events begun in the summer of 2001 by Pilkington in collaboration with artist John Lundberg and continuing over the next two years. Staged at London’s Horse Hospital venue, they gave an early indication of the loose network of experimental enterprises that was starting to come into existence, linking outsider artists with cultural anthropologists, textual hackers and practising occultists.

“We’d mix talks, films, music, presentations, each night being themed around a different topic,” Pilkington recalls. “I rather pretentiously called them ‘information happenings’. Subjects ranged from conspiracy theory to theremins, Esperanto to magick, hoaxes, illusions and psychic deceptions: basically anything that interested us and could draw people that we liked or wanted to meet into one place.” Highlights included a live and bloody demonstration of psychic surgery, sci-fi movie themes played on vintage electronic instruments and a live Lovecraft-influenced Chaos Magick ritual with a soundtrack performed “by a band who couldn’t see what was going on.”

After Lundberg enrolled at the National Film and Television School, Pilkington went solo but eventually grew tired of doing regular live events, deciding instead to do something that would last longer: hence the Journal.

The notion of outliving the moment, of being around for more than just a quick cultural fix, is very much a part of SAJ‘s overall look and feel. The first thing you notice is that the front and back cover of each issue is devoid of text or title, which only appears on the book’s spine. If you want to know who the contributors are, you’ll have to look inside.

“For me, it was about giving as much space as possible to striking images and therefore making them stand out on the bookshelf,” Pilkington explains. “I imagined people being aware that something was wrong with the cover but perhaps not being able to put their finger on it.”

The absence of cover copy also binds together the Journal‘s various contributors in the anonymity of a collective endeavour. “We’re lucky enough to live in an age where we can clearly trace the influences of the past on our present,” Pilkington continues, “and it’s not always today’s most celebrated ideas, musicians and writers who will be remembered. This notion of timelessness is very important to what SAJ is and does. I’d like the books to be as irrelevant to a reader 100 years in the future as it would be to someone 100 years in the past. It’s a re-manipulation of the notion of built-in obsolescence.”

The Journal‘s pages teem with old woodcuts, antiquated typefaces and intricate layouts, giving the impression of having been produced in some parallel past: one that runs counter to established tenets of historical development. Having previously worked as a journalist for periodicals as varied as Fortean Times, Bizarre and The Guardian, Mark Pilkington remains keenly aware of what’s going on around him.

“There’s a particularly vibrant, very loose cultural network in London at the moment,” he remarks, “one that incorporates music and sound, ideas and information, visual arts and almost anything else you’d care to imagine. It’s inevitable that these people, places and events all bounce off and influence each other in a kind of subcultural Brownian motion.”

As well as working closely with designer Alison Hutchinson, readying volume three for publication, Pilkington has also been getting Strange Attractor Press up and running. Its first book to date, The Field Guide: The Art, History And Philosophy Of Crop Circle Making by Rob Irving and John Lundberg, is a particularly cerebral blend of art theory, paranormal phenomena, hoaxes and speculations, ruggedly bound and designed to fit snugly inside your knapsack while out exploring the British countryside. Conventional wisdom says it shouldn’t work, but Strange Attractor‘s own particular blend of parlour magic proves that it does.

“I sometimes see myself as a medium,” Mark reveals, “a channel for all the material that has formed Strange Attractor. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the amazing contributions the Journal has attracted so far.”

There’s no escaping it. Strange Attractor really is well named.

Strange Attractor Journal Three, and The Field Guide: The Art, History And Philosophy Of Crop Circle Making by Rob Irving & John Lundberg, are available now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Strange Attractor Journal Three
How to make crop circles