Cabaret Voltaire on La Edad de Oro, 1983

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Cabaret Voltaire appeared on Spain’s La Edad de Oro music show a few months after Tuxedomoon in November 1983. This was three months after I saw the Cabs at the Haçienda in Manchester, a concert you can see yourself in terrible sound and picture quality on a Cherry Red DVD. (Granted, the Haçienda video recordings were never intended for public sale but that taping looks particularly poor.) So it’s good to find this Spanish broadcast capturing the band performing songs from their recently released The Crackdown album. As with many of the other British groups given a slot on La Edad de Oro, this was a much more generous showcasing than was allowed by the UK’s music shows of the period, most of which tended to favour safe pop or rock acts. One reason Cabaret Voltaire formed their own video label, Doublevision, was to provide an outlet for visual works by groups that the major TV channels were ignoring. The tenth release on the Doublevision video label happened to be Tuxedomoon’s Ghost Sonata film.

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The drummer for the Spanish broadcast, as on the Cabs’ albums, was Alan Fish, and the performance is mixed with shots of the band’s vaguely ominous film and video material. Both this show and the Tuxedomoon performance have translated lyrics running over the screen, a strange thing to see with Cabaret Voltaire who never printed their lyrics.

By coincidence a new Cabaret Voltaire compilation album has just been released, #7885 (Electropunk To Technopop 1978 – 1985), which Eugene Brennan reviews here. I’ve already got everything on it but it’s a good overview of the group’s evolution from post-punk weirdos to a formidable electronic-dance outfit. (Although the full-length 12″ tracks are the essential versions.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Weekend links 214

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San Francisco Sound (1967). Art by Wallace Studio, Seattle.

• RIP gay porn pioneer Peter de Rome. BUTT posted de Rome’s surprisingly daring Underground (1972), a film in which two men have an unfaked sexual encounter on a New York subway train. That film and others are available on the BFI’s DVD collection. Related: Brian Robinson remembers a director of films whose supporters included Andy Warhol, William Burroughs and John Gielgud.

• “My stuff is implicitly critical of television as it is now,” explains Jonathan [Meades], “Television used not to be as openly moronic as it has become…” A lengthy and typically pugnacious Meades interview with Remy Dean.

Thurston Moore remembers the Burroughs-themed Nova Convention staged in New York in 1978. William Burroughs 100—Nova Convention is a retrospective exhibition running at Red Gallery, London, next month.

How are we expected to take seriously…any work which appears to have engaged less than the whole passionate attention of its author? To be fobbed off, at the last, with something which we feel to be less true than the author knew it to be, challenges the importance of the whole art of writing, and instead of enlarging the bounds of our experience, it leaves them where they are.

Katherine Mansfield was also a book reviewer.

• JG Ballard’s Crash is reissued in August by Fourth Estate with an introduction by Zadie Smith. There’s a tantalising extract from the intro at the NYRB or you can read the whole thing if you’re a subscriber.

• “Between 1959 & 1980 Shirley Collins changed the course of folk music in England & America. Thirty years after disappearing, she’s back.”

Photos by Anne Billson of one of the more attractive Parisian arcades. Related (in a flâneur sense): Christina Scholz‘s Vancouver dérive.

• “Why did Borges hate soccer?” asks Shaj Matthew. Related: George Orwell on the same subject.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 447 by Forest Swords, and Programme 13 from Radio Belbury.

• At Dangerous Minds: Roland Topor’s cheerfully violent illustrations from Les Masochistes.

• Rainy Day Psychedelia: Ben Marks on Seattle’s neglected 1960s poster scene.

• Strange Flowers looks at Oskar Schlemmer‘s Triadic Ballet designs.

• A Journey to Avebury: Stewart Lee interviews Julian Cope.

It’s All Over Now (1963) by The Valentinos featuring Bobby Womack | It’s All Over Now (1964) by The Rolling Stones | It’s All Over Now (1974) by Ry Cooder

Power Spot by Michael Scroggins

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I was going to post this anyway but there’s a coincidental connection with yesterday’s post in the person of Richard Horowitz whose keyboards can be heard on the soundtrack. The music is Power Spot, the opening number on the album of the same name released by ECM in 1986. Also present on the album are Brian Eno (who co-produces with Daniel Lanois), Michael Brook and others. I’d tell you that Power Spot is a great album but then I like everything Hassell does so I’m rather biased. But it is a great album.

Michael Scroggins’ video was commissioned to accompany the release of the album, and if it looks of its time today it’s still an impressive piece, not least because Scroggins says it was created through live improvisation. That puts it in a different class to earlier abstract accompaniments for music which are either animated frame-by-frame or created independently with the music added later. (Thanks to Paul Schütze for the tip.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney

Made To Measure

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When you’ve sated yourself on a group’s back catalogue there’s always the solo albums. In the case of Tuxedomoon there are a number of these to choose from, thanks to several of the band members being both multi-instrumentalists and talented songwriters. Some of the more offbeat solo outings may be found among the albums released as part of the Made To Measure series, an offshoot of the excellent Belgian record label, Crammed Discs. Crammed have been Tuxedomoon’s label for some time, and seem increasingly unique in a world where independent labels tend to cater to narrow genres and small, select audiences. Crammed’s roster of artists is extremely eclectic, ranging from the expected Euro-pop and dance releases to a wide range of traditional and contemporary music from around the world.

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Made To Measure Vol. 1 (1984). Painting by Fernand Steven.

From 1984 to 1994 the Made To Measure series released over 30 albums that represent the more esoteric side of an already fairly esoteric label. All of the early releases were numbered, and Tuxedomoon happen to be on the first release, Made To Measure Vol. 1, together with Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, and Aksak Maboul. The series title refers to all of the music being “made to measure” some pre-existing work—film, theatre, dance performance, etc—although some of the later releases were simply an excuse to put out new music by an established Crammed artist. In addition to the first release, Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger, Peter Principle and Steven Brown were regular contributors to subsequent albums. Two of the Steven Brown albums, A Propos D’Un Paysage (MTM 15, 1985) and Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour (MTM 16, 1988) are marvellous instrumental collaborations with Benjamin Lew that are very different in tone to Tuxedomoon but well worth seeking out. Brown also recorded a soundtrack album, De Doute Et De Grace (MTM 22, 1990), with readings by actress Delphine Seyrig. The series has been discontinued in recent years but the MTM numbering was resurrected for the latest Tuxedomoon album, Pink Narcissus, which is MTM 39.

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Desert Equations: Azax Attra (1986). Photography by Georg Gerster.

I’ve still not heard all of the Made To Measure series, and I don’t like everything I have heard—I have to be in the mood for Hector Zazou’s quirkier moments. Aside from those mentioned above, the notable releases for me would include Desert Equations: Azax Attra (MTM 8, 1986) by Sussan Deyhim (here credited as Deihim) & Richard Horowitz, an album that led me to acquire almost everything Sussan Deyhim has recorded; If Windows They Have (MTM 13, 1986) by Daniel Schell & Karo; Nekonotopia Nekonomania (MTM 29, 1990) by Seigen Ono; Water (MTM 31, 1992) by David Cunningham; Sahara Blue (MTM 32, 1993) by Hector Zazou; Glyph (MTM 37, 1995) by Harold Budd & Hector Zazou. Sahara Blue exemplifies in miniature the eclecticism of Crammed Discs, being a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud featuring (among others) John Cale, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Gérard Depardieu, Khaled, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Lisa Gerrard, Sussan Deyhim and Tim Simenon.

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For those wishing to explore further without shelling out on mysterious, unknown quantities, I’d recommend The Made To Measure Résumé (1987), a compilation of tracks from the first 16 MTM releases, and an ideal introduction to the series.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Tuxedomoon designs by Patrick Roques
Pink Narcissus: James Bidgood and Tuxedomoon

Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon

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Subterranean Modern (1979). Sleeve art by Gary Panter.

As often happens, one post leads to another, and the next thing you know there’s a themed week happening, so here’s something more about Tuxedomoon. Subterranean Modern was a compilation album released by The Residents on their Ralph Records label in 1979. The idea was to showcase The Residents along with three other groups from contemporary San Francisco, all of whom were underground acts, hence the “subterranean” title. Three of those groups—Chrome, Tuxedomoon, The Residents themselves—have since developed cult followings; hard-rock outfit MX-80 Sound seem a little ordinary and out-of-place in this unique company but then that’s the nature of the compilation album. The Residents wanted each group to provide an interpretation of I Left My Heart In San Francisco but none of the others were very interested; Chrome’s offering, which lasts all of 27 seconds, is hilariously contemptuous of the idea, a squall of riff and vocals that fades in then quickly fades away. Cartoonist Gary Panter illustrated the cover which is also given the Rozz Tox seal of approval. For more about Rozz Tox, whose enigmatic presence can be found on other Ralph Records releases, see this.

I’d already heard Chrome and The Residents when I bought Subterranean Modern but this was first place I encountered Tuxedomoon’s music. Chrome, who appear on the back cover wearing their Clockwork Orange droog outfits, contribute two tracks that are as good as anything on their early records, Anti-Fade and the chugging Meet You In The Subway for which they made a video filmed on the city’s BART platforms. I listened to those tracks, and the Tuxedomoon ones, much more than the rest of the album. With the exception of the pieces by MX-80 Sound, everything on the album has since been reissued on other compilations (Tuxedomoon’s tracks are on the Pinheads On The Move collection).

The following is a two-page feature about the album and the four bands from the NME for 17th November, 1979. I don’t know whether this was Tuxedomoon’s first UK interview but it says it’s the first interview given by Chrome which gives it some vague contemporary relevance. Helios Creed recently re-formed Chrome, and played a show in London earlier this month. There’s also a new Chrome album, although for me Chrome proper requires Damon Edge, and he died in 1995. (Thanks to Gav for saving the pages!)

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I LEFT MY ART IN SAN FRANCISCO

Checking out the West Coast’s Avant Garde by Michael Goldberg

ralph.jpgSAN FRANCISCO—The true avant-garde is never accepted, barely tolerated. The public has no use for ideas which challenge society’s preconceptions.

Certainly the outright hatred which was heaped on The New York Dolls and, later, The Ramones and Sex Pistols—all groups who spat on the status quo of their times—attests to the difficulty of pushing a radical concept on the public. And those groups were merely returning to the basic, raw values which great rock and roll has always maintained.

So imagine the difficulty of developing and maintaining a style of music which has little, if any, solid tradition to fall back on. In San Francisco, a city where the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship and Steve Miller can sell out the largest of stadiums, an avant-garde underground has been hanging on, etching out the meagrest of niches so that it can continue a dogged pursuit of rock experimentation.

Carrying the torch for “outre” music is San Francisco’s Residents and their parent companies, Ralph Records and the nebulous Cryptic Corporation. For nine long years, the Residents have relentlessly persisted, bowing to no one as they explore a sonic universe of their own devising.

In the wake of The Residents’ relative success—though the group is still practically unknown in their hometown, they have been received by a rather large cult spread out across the U.S. and Europe—other equally unique and esoteric groups have been attracted to San Francisco.

Realising that there is strength in numbers, Ralph Records gathered together three of the most uncompromising bands in San Francisco (and possibly on the West Coast): Chrome (with roots in L.A.), MX-80 Sound (who migrated from Bloomington, Indiana, last year), and Tuxedomoon (whose core members came from Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois), and convinced them to join The Residents (originally from Shreveport, Louisiana) in a joint project. The project is a compilation album, Subterranean Modern (Ralph).

Continue reading “Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon”