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

Night Music in two parts

Night Music One by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music I
The Hafler Trio – Soundtrack To “Alternation, Perception, And Resistance” — A Comprehension Exercise (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 4/1 (Hankie) (1994)
Michael Brook – Earth Floor (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 10/1 (Tree) (1994)
Biosphere – Startoucher (1994)
Black Lung – Rex 84 (1995)
Biosphere – Biosphere (1992)
Holger Czukay – Radio In An Hourglass (1993)
Rapoon – Rains (1993)
Clock DVA – Memories Of Sound (1992)

Night Music Two by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music II
Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia – Dust (At The Crossroads) (1994)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 2/2 (Parallel Stripes) (1994)
Harold Budd – The Gunfighter (1986)
Divination – Errata (1993)
Coil – Dismal Orb (1992)
Biosphere – Mir (1994)
David Toop and Max Eastley – Rising Up Before Us Like Things (1994)
Angelo Badalamenti – Night Life In Twin Peaks (1990)
Coil – The Sleeper II (1992)
Jon Hassell – Empire II (1983)
The Grid – Virtual (1990)
Biosphere – En-trance (1994)

After signing up to Mixcloud earlier this year I’ve only managed to compile one mix so here’s an unseasonal attempt to compensate.

Night Music was a bona fide mix on cassette tape that I put together in 1994, intended as a response to Kevin Martin’s double-disc compilation from the same year, Ambient 4: Isolationism. The three previous entries in Virgin’s Ambient… series were fairly routine reworkings of the label’s back catalogue, collections of more-or-less ambient material with light electronica. Martin’s compilation concentrated on the darker, doomier end of the musical spectrum, and also pulled in music from outside the Virgin fold. It arrived as a considerable tonic after several years of diluted techno and psychedelic clichés being marketed as “ambient”.

Night Music is much more of a genuine DJ mix than Ectoplasm Forming. I didn’t have any proper mixing equipment at the time so had to record every other track onto stereo videotape then play back the tape while fading the rest of the tracks in and out from the CD player. The whole thing was recorded live to a C-100 cassette. Rather than run the mix as a single track I’ve kept the two sides separate; both sides were programmed with beginnings and endings so work better this way. I transferred the mix to CD several years ago, and still listen to it every so often. There’s a little too much Biosphere but apart from that I wouldn’t alter the track list.

As usual I’ll be away for a few days so the { feuilleton } archive feature will be activated to summon posts from the past below this one. Enjoy your wassail.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming

Thursday Afternoon by Brian Eno

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Cover painting by Tom Phillips, design by Russell Mills.

A post for a Thursday.

Brian Eno’s ambient music receives a lot of playing time here, especially Music for Airports, On Land, The Shutov Assembly and, when something really minimal is required, Neroli. But it’s Thursday Afternoon that receives the most attention. Recorded at the request of Sony Japan in 1984, Thursday Afternoon is a single piece that originally accompanied seven of Eno’s “video paintings”, each of them showing Christine Alicino warped and blurred by ultra-slow motion and video noise. Like his earlier static views of the New York skyline, Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan, filming vertically means that proper viewing can only be achieved by turning the TV on its side. The soundtrack is a beautifully rendered composition which uses Eno’s customary process of letting a number of looped phrases form a shifting musical moiré.

Compositionally, Thursday Afternoon belongs to the family of works which also includes Discreet Music and Music for Airports. Like them it is an even-textured, spacious and contemplative piece in which several musical events appear and recur more or less regularly. Each event, however, recurs with a different cyclic frequency and thus the whole piece becomes an unfolding display of unique sonic clusters. Eno has characterised this style of composition as “holographic”, by which he means that any brief section of the music is representative of the whole piece, in the same way that any fragment of a hologram shows the whole of the holographic image but with a lower resolution. (From the album notes.)

Daniel Lanois, Roger Eno and Michael Brook were all involved in the creation and production of Thursday Afternoon and the piece works as well played very quietly as it does at louder volume. When played louder more of the background detail becomes apparent, including some very faint birdsong which is most discernible at the end when much of the music has faded away. Perfect for colouring the atmosphere of a room whilst reading, working or talking with friends. It’s also a favourite of mine for playing in the bedroom with someone special.

Thursday Afternoon was released on video cassette then appeared on CD in 1985. As a single track of 61 minutes, this was one of the first original recordings which made specific use of the extended running time of the CD format. The cover painting was by {feuilleton} favourite, artist Tom Phillips, with design by artist and designer Russell Mills. Ten years earlier, Eno had used a detail of Phillips’ painting After Raphael on the cover of Another Green World.

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All of which is a long-winded way of saying that you can now see the original sound and vision version of Thursday Afternoon at Ubuweb. Not ideal by any means but it gives you an idea of the complete work rather than the trunctated versions on YouTube. Eno’s video paintings, Thursday Afternoon included, are now available on DVD should you require them in higher quality. Just be prepared to turn your TV on its side.

Update: Eno’s ambient processes have now reached the iPhone with the Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers app, Bloom.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tiger Mountain Strategies
20 Sites n Years by Tom Phillips
Generative culture
Exposure by Robert Fripp
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts