Weekend links 534

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Beautiful night – moon and stars, Miyajima Shrine (1928) by Kawase Hasui.

• One announcement I’d been hoping for since last summer was the news of a second box of Tangerine Dream albums to follow the excellent In Search Of Hades collection. The latter concentrated on the first phase of the group’s Virgin recordings, up to and including Force Majeure. This October will see the release of a new set, Pilots Of The Purple Twilight, which explores the rest of the Virgin period when Johannes Schmoelling had joined Froese and Franke. Among the exclusive material will be a proper release of the soundtrack for Michael Mann’s The Keep (previously a scarce limited edition), together with the complete concert from the Dominion Theatre, London. Also out in October, Dark Entries will be releasing a further collection of recordings from the recently discovered tape archive of Patrick Cowley. The new album, Some Funkettes, will comprise unreleased cover versions, one of which, I Feel Love by Donna Summer, is a cult item of mine that Cowley later refashioned into a celebrated megamix.

• “Did you know that Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by a JG Ballard story?” asks Molly Odintz. No, I didn’t.

Casey Rae on the strange (musical) world of William S. Burroughs. Previously: Seven Souls Resouled.

• “And now we are no longer slaves”: Scott McCulloch on Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden at fifty.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Frank Jaffe presents…Dario Argento and his world of bright coloured blood.

• At Wormwoodiana: The Serpent Calls. Mark Valentine on a mysterious musical instrument.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Long-Exposure Photographs of Torii Shrine Gates by Ronny Behnert.

• Mix of the week: mr.K’s Soundstripe vol 4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• Rising sons: the radical photography of postwar Japan.

• The illicit 1980s nudes of Christopher Makos.

• RIP Diana Rigg.

Garden Of Eden (1971) by New Riders Of The Purple Sage | Ice Floes In Eden (1986) by Harold Budd | Eden (1988) by Talk Talk

Edgar Froese, 1944–2015

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“I was a big fan of Kraftwerk, Cluster and Harmonia, and I thought the first Neu! album, in particular, was just gigantically wonderful,” admits Bowie. “Looking at that against punk, I had absolutely no doubts where the future of music was going, and for me it was coming out of Germany at that time. I also liked some of the later Can things, and there was an album that I loved by Edgar Froese, Epsilon In Malaysian Pale; it’s the most beautiful, enchanting, poignant work, quite lovely. That used to be the background music to my life when I was living in Berlin.”

David Bowie, Mojo magazine, April 1997

Epsilon In Malaysian Pale was Froese’s second solo album released in September 1975. That month David Bowie was in Los Angeles recording his Station To Station album, the opening of which features phased train sounds that are strikingly similar to those that run through the first side of the Froese album. I’ve never seen this similarity mentioned by Bowie scholars but if there was an influence it’s a good example of the degree to which Tangerine Dream infiltrated the wider culture as much as Can and Neu! (Kraftwerk remain in a league of their own.)

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All you need is Zeit. Cover painting by Edgar Froese.

The influence of Tangerine Dream’s albums on the Ohr and Virgin labels is now so widespread that it’s difficult to compile a definitive list of those who’ve either paid homage or copied the group’s trademark style of extended sequencer runs and phased chords. Offhand I could mention the Ricochet-like tracks on Coil’s Musick To Play In The Dark Volumes 1 & 2; the many moments on the early Ghost Box albums, one of which samples from Alpha Centauri; and some of Julian Cope’s more out-there recordings from the late 1990s. There’s also all the releases by a group of loosely affiliated musicians dedicated to maintaining the 70s sound of Mellotrons and bouncing sequencers; many of these I’ve yet to hear but I’ve enjoyed the albums by Node and Redshift.

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Tangerine Dream have been a continual fixture in my music listening since I was a teenager; I drew most of The Call of Cthulhu to a soundtrack of Rubycon and Jon Hassell’s Aka/Darbari/Java album. I kept up with them after they departed from Virgin then jumped ship in 1986 after Johannes Schmoelling left the group. The albums continued to proliferate in recent years to an extent that even the Freeman brothers only follow the discography (with some exasperation) up to 1990 in their redoubtable Krautrock tome The Crack in the Cosmic Egg. Navigating a late career is a tricky business for a popular musician so you can’t blame Froese for carrying on the project. Those early recordings are the important ones, and he was a crucial component in their creation.

There’s a lot of Froese and TD on YouTube. If you like the early material these are some of the better moments:

Bath Tube Session, 1969: TD in psych-freakout mode. Klaus Schulze on drums, and lots of German heads looking bemused/bored.
Ossiach Lake, 1971: Playing outdoors for the TV cameras.
Paris, 1973: Footage of the group improvising in the manner of the Atem album.
Coventry Cathedral, 1975: Tony Palmer’s film of one of the cathedral concerts which caused them to be banned by the Pope from playing in churches. The original sound on this one is lost so the YT version has edits of the Ricochet album as the soundtrack.
London, 1976: Great film of the Ricochet period. Total synth porn.
Thief, 1981: The opening scene to Michael Mann’s thriller, and one of their best soundtrack moments. In The Wire this month John Carpenter enthuses about the TD score for Sorcerer but I’ve always felt Mann’s crime drama was a better match for their sound.
Warsaw, 1983: A Polish TV recording of the concert documented on the Poland (1984) album.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Synthesizing
Tangerine Dream in Poland

Tangerine Dream in Poland

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The conjunction this month of the Sorcerer reissue and Celestite, the latest album from Wolves In The Throne Room, has had me listening to a lot of electronica from the 70s and 80s. This in turn led to the discovery of a Polish TV broadcast of the concert Tangerine Dream played in Warsaw on 10th December, 1983, the end of a lengthy world tour which included a date in Manchester on 1st November, 1982, that I was fortunate enough to see. Anyone familiar with the Johannes Schmoelling period of the group will probably know the Logos album, a recording of the concert played at the Dominion theatre, London, a few days after the Manchester gig. At this point the group was playing the same set (with minor variations) at each performance. The Poland event, by contrast, was a special concert taking place in what was still a part of the Soviet bloc for which the group composed over two hours of entirely new music. The full concert was documented on a double-vinyl set, Poland, released a year later, an album I used to play regularly, so it’s fascinating seeing the first half hour being performed here. Also good to see the Schmoelling line-up in action; there’s a fair amount of film of the group from the 1970s but this is the first substantial footage I’ve seen from the 1980s. The TV producers seemed a little confounded by how to present this unorthodox music, so between shots of the group there are cutaways to showroom dummies (shades of Kraftwerk), Polish street scenes, and a woman dancing around in a manner that seems hopelessly naive to a jaded Western viewer. The blue triangle stage set was a nod to the White Eagle album sleeve.

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Tour programme.

Poland was the last Tangerine Dream album I enjoyed wholeheartedly. The final studio release with Schmoelling, Le Parc (1985), had some high points but was more like one of the soundtrack albums the group were producing in increasing numbers at the time. I saw them perform again in 1986 when Paul Haslinger had replaced Schmoelling and the concert sent me to sleep for a minute, after which I decided that it was time for Tangerine Dream and I to go our separate ways.

Winter music

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Kjendalskronebrae, Nordfjord, Norway (c. 1900). From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division via Wood s Lot.

Are you suffering list fatigue yet? I certainly have been, especially from the apparently endless “best ___ of the decade” catalogues which would have you believe that the significant cultural products of the past ten years have been thoroughly sifted, reviewed and appraised. So yes, there’s a degree of hypocrisy in adding to the list surplus but, as with the Halloween music lists, it’s difficult to write about an area of listening without compiling something like this. As it happens, my Halloween playlists proved briefly popular this year when they were noticed by Stumbleupon users so someone appreciates them.

The present selection is music to complement the season and its chilly weather which in our part of the world has been colder than usual and laden with snow. It might also serve as a suggested alternative to the dreary plague of Christmas songs. This isn’t definitive, of course, and I could have added more than ten. I kept the choices in the electronic spectrum but there’s a whole other list which could be made of winter-themed folk songs, folk music of all kinds being sensitive to the changing seasons.

Sonic Seasonings (1972) by Wendy Carlos.
Between her electronic transcriptions of Baroque music and the score for A Clockwork Orange, Wendy Carlos released a collection of four long pieces of electronic atmospherics blended with natural sound recordings, with each track dedicated to a different season. The album may not have had the formal intent of Brian Eno’s ambient albums but ambient it certainly is, preceding Eno’s Discreet Music by three years whilst predicting much of what would become over-familiar during the 1990s. The Winter track is the one which concerns us here, a droning Moog landscape of echoed notes, tinkling ice, distant wind and Rachel Elkind’s lupine howls. Carlos and Elkind carried the synthesised chill into their opening music for The Shining a few years later, and Carlos returned to the theme with the digital improvisations of Land of the Midnight Sun, included as a bonus on the Sonic Seasonings CD.

Eskimo (1979) by The Residents.
A conceptual masterpiece, and an album which still sounds as strange and timeless as it did when it first appeared. Eskimo is the first and (one presumes) only example of what might be labelled “Eskimo exotica” since the whole work is more Eskimo-esque than an authentic musical rendering of the world of the Inuit people. Like Wendy Carlos’s Winter, these are shifting soundscapes augmented by ritual chants and synthesised animal sounds. For those who found the album to be musically inaccessible the group released Diskomo, a segue of the musical themes matched to a thumping dance beat.

Iceland (1979) by Richard Pinhas.
Another far north concept album and the third solo release from the Heldon guitarist who subdues his Robert Fripp impersonations in favour of synth arrangements. The CD version includes a 22-minute bonus, Winter Music.

Victorialand (1986) by Cocteau Twins.
Much of the Cocteau Twins’ chiming and reverb-drenched output would suit the colder months but Victorialand in particular takes its title from a region of Antarctica, and many of the track titles—Whales Tails, How to Bring a Blush to the Snow—point in that direction. Another timeless work.

White Out (1990) by Johannes Schmoelling.
Schmoelling was a member of Tangerine Dream in what I consider to be their last worthwhile incarnation from 1980 to 1986. His third solo album also takes Antarctica as its theme and while some of the music tends to a jaunty blandness at its best it manages to evoke the isolation of the continent through lengthy synthesiser pieces. When the Polydor release went out of print, Schmoelling re-worked the album slightly for reissue on his own label.

Songs from the Cold Seas (1995) by Hector Zazou.
Many of the late Hector Zazou‘s albums were concepts of some kind, often involving a roster of guest artists. Songs from the Cold Seas follows this pattern with singers from around the world delivering a variety of songs from the world’s colder regions. For a contrast to the Residents’ ethnological forgeries, Song of the Water is a chant by Inuit artists Elisha Kilabuk and Koomoot Nooveya. Among other highlights there’s Björk who restrains her vocal gymnastics for once with a delicate Icelandic lullaby, Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu.

Polar Sequences (1996) by Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere.
A collaboration between Bobby Bird of HIA and Biosphere‘s Geir Jenssen, recorded live with sounds sourced in and around Jenssen’s home town of Tromsø at the Arctic Circle. I much prefer this to the other HIA releases which lack its detailed textures. One track, Meltwater, sounds just as you’d expect, all running water and crackling ice.

Substrata (1997) by Biosphere.
Still one of the finest Biosphere releases (although Nordheim Transformed is probably my favourite) and included here for its chilly and mostly beatless atmosphere which includes further samples from the far north.

La Marche de L’Empereur (2005) by Emilie Simon.
I still haven’t seen La Marche de L’Empereur (March of the Penguins) but the soundtrack for the original French release is a fantastic collection of songs illustrating the survival struggles of the film’s penguins. Emilie Simon is frequently described as “the French Björk”, a lazy label which only connects the pair because they’re female singers who also happen to be “foreign” and users of unorthodox electronic arrangements. The recordings here feature glitch-inflected rhythms and glass instruments which means they were far too interesting for the American release of the film. The Hollywood version dropped the songs in favour of a traditional orchestral score.

Alaska Melting (2006) by Monolake.
The latest album from Monolake, aka Robert Henke, was released earlier this month. Silence has a winter scene on the cover and a track entitled Infinite Snow but winter isn’t a predominant theme. While the music is up to Henke’s usual high standard, it’s a lot less urgent than Alaska Melting, a one-off release on 12″ vinyl with two slices of vibrant techno that foreground Henke’s environmental concerns. The most uptempo and abrasive work on this list.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Cristalophonics: searching for the Cocteau sound
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
A cluster of Cluster
Fragment Endloss by Robert Henke
Another playlist for Halloween
Thomas Köner
A playlist for Halloween