Testa Anatomica (1854) by Filippo Balbi.
• The New School of the Anthropocene is “…an experiment. But it is also an act of repair. In partnership with October Gallery in London, we seek to reinstate the intellectual adventure and creative risk that formerly characterised arts education before the university system capitulated to market principles and managerial bureaucracy… (more)”
• “Every once in a while, you come across old music that generates a shock of new excitement.” Geeta Dayal on Oksana Linde whose electronic compositions are being released in a retrospective collection next month.
• More Walerian Borowczyk: Anatomy of the Devil, a collection of Borowczyk’s short stories, newly translated into English by Michael Levy, and with a cover design by the Quay Brothers.
• Washing machines, garden snails, and plastic surgery: A stroll through the Matmos catalogue. Related: “Why scientists are turning molecules into music.”
• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Boogie Down Predictions, Hip Hop, Time and Afrofuturism, edited by Roy Christopher.
• At Spoon & Tamago: Exploring Japan’s historical landmarks and shrines in the middle of streets.
• New music: Adrian Sherwood Presents: Dub No Frontiers, music by female dub artists.
• Winners of the 2022 Milky Way Photographer of the Year.
• A Vision In Many Voices: The art of Leo and Diane Dillon.
• Molecular Delusion (1971) by Ramases | DNA Music (Molecular Meditation) (1985) by Riley McLaughlin | Pop Molecule (Molecular Pop 1) (2008) by Stereolab
This week I’ve been enjoying the Ghost Power album, a collection of groovy instrumentals from Tim Gane and Jeremy Novak. A heavier use of synthesizers and samples than you usually hear from Gane, together with trace elements of his previous project, Cavern Of Anti-Matter. The highlight is the final track, Astral Melancholy Suite, a 15-minute synth odyssey that includes an extended sequencer run of a kind usually associated with the Berlin School.
The comic-book details that decorate the packaging are credited to Samplerman, whoever they are. There’s further continuity here with Stereolab who borrowed graphics from French comics for the artwork on some of their singles and EPs. I’ve never been a fervent collector of Duophonic releases so it was years before I realised that the graphic on this cover for Instant 0 In The Universe…
…was swiped from this page in the fabulously rare Saga de Xam.
Update: Samplerman is here. Thanks, Dave C!
Jam III (2021) by Kotaro Hoshiyama.
• “Powell and Pressburger are peerless in realizing what Orson Welles would term plotless scenes—extra bits that ostensibly do not advance the story, but are a story unto themselves, and aggregate such that they’re vital to how we understand the characters who are living the story.” Colin Fleming says thanks for the Archers.
• A short promo for The Incal: The Movie. Hmm, okay. A film that adapted all 300 pages of the original story without changing anything or trying to explain away the weirdness would be worth seeing. But I doubt that’s what this will be. Read the book.
• “If a single word distills the New Wave aesthetic, it’s plastic…ironically flaunted artificiality became a leitmotif of the era.” Simon Reynolds reviews Reversing Into the Future: New Wave Graphics 1977–1990 by Andrew Krivine.
• Mixes of the week: a mix by Princess Diana Of Wales (not that one) for The Wire, and At The Outer Marker Part I, a Grateful Dead Twilight Zone mix by David Colohan.
• The Bloomingdale Story: read the never-before published Patricia Highsmith draft that would become Carol (aka The Price of Salt).
• At Spoon & Tamago: Multiple panels form collaged portraits painted by Kotaro Hoshiyama.
• New music: Pyroclasts F (excerpt) by Sunn O))), and Loop return with Halo.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: William E. Jones Day.
• Plastic Bamboo (1978) by Ryuichi Sakamoto | Barock-Plastik (2000) by Stereolab | Black Plastic (2002) by Ladytron
Dragon Rising to the Heavens (1897) by Ogata Gekko.
• “Electronic music of the past is often portrayed in a dreamy, magical light—a hazy historical landscape filled with misty, otherworldly sounds. But while the music of a bygone era may seem ineffable, it is not inaccessible.” Geeta Dayal reviews Reminded by the Instruments: David Tudor’s Music by You Nakai.
• Modular Therapy: Mute Records boss Daniel Miller and former snooker champ turned kraut-psych powerhouse Steve Davis discuss their love of modular synthesisers, ill-fated Jools Holland collaborations, commandeering Elton John’s ARP 2600 and more.
• “Some contemporary art is a little bit like an intellectual game…I’m not a big fan of this kind of stuff, because I’m a musician.” Ryoji Ikeda presents: point of no return.
One of the tunnels that Turrell has completed is 854 feet long. When the moon passes overhead, its light streams down the tunnel, refracting through a six-foot-diameter lens and projecting an image of the moon onto an eight-foot-high disk of white marble below. The work is built to align most perfectly during the Major Lunar Standstill every 18.61 years. The next occurrence will be in April 2025. To calculate the alignment, Turrell worked closely with astronomers and astrophysicists. Because the universe is expanding, he must account for imperceptible changes in the geometry of the galaxy. He has designed the tunnel, like other features of the crater, to be most precise in about 2,000 years. Turrell’s friends sometimes joke that’s also when he’ll finish the project.
Wil S. Hylton on an exclusive visit to James Turrell’s astronomical art complex at Roden Crater, Arizona. Related: 147 Orbiting 1 Through 6 for 5, Music for Roden Crater by Paul Schütze (with free download of an excerpt from the 5-hour piece)
• New music: The Black Mill Tapes, Volume 5 by Pye Corner Audio, and Interreferences by Richard Chartier.
• At Spoon & Tamago: Dense pencil drawings of retro-future worlds by Yota Tsukino.
• “‘I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic”.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Lindsay Anderson Day.
• Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s favourite music.
• Volcano Diving (1989) by David Van Tieghem | Crater Scar (1994) by Main | Eye Of The Volcano (2006) by Stereolab
The first pressing of Switched-On Bach with a cover showing a Bach-alike confounded/dismayed by the sounds issuing from the machine behind him. The cover was soon swapped for the one below.
After mentioning the proliferation of Switched-On… synthesizer albums in the previous post, curiosity impelled me to see how many of these things were out there. A lot more than I expected is the answer, almost enough to make this cul-de-sac of novelty exploitation into a sub-genre of its own. As mentioned earlier, it was the huge success of Switched-On Bach (1968) by Wendy Carlos that began the trend. The album had a rare crossover appeal so that it could be sold to classical listeners as well as to a younger audience interested in electronic sounds, those for whom the words “switched on” echoed the druggy/erotic intersection of “turned on”. Carlos had an advantage over other musicians thanks to a long association with Robert Moog which meant she had a head start in exploring the recording potential of the new Moog synthesizer and innovations like Moog’s touch-sensitive keyboard. In 1968 few people could afford a Moog system; those who could usually needed to hire technicians like Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause to help them operate the thing. For a brief while it was enough to simply use the instrument to make strange noises, hence Mick Jagger’s droning score for Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969), and George Harrison’s preposterous Electronic Sound (1969), 44 minutes of very amateurish Moog-doodling. Switched-On Bach sounds a little primitive today—it sounds primitive next to its follow-up albums, The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969) and Switched-On Bach II (1973)—but Carlos and collaborators Rachel Elkind and Benjamin Folkman spent much more time refining their recording techniques than the knob-twiddling horde who rushed to capitalise on their success.
The rules of the Switched-On… idiom are as follows: a title that begins with the words “Switched-On”, obviously, although there’s a subset of the form in which an album may have a different title while a subtitle mentions something about “switched-on recordings”; the music must be cover versions of familiar songs or compositions, originality here is surplus to requirements; and it’s not essential but the cover art often alludes in some way to synthesizer technology and/or “the future”, with the latter represented by Space Age typefaces such as Amelia, Computer, Countdown or Data 70. I’ve not heard many of these albums, and I’m fairly certain that I don’t want to hear most of them, but I’ve heard enough Carlos cash-ins to know that the cover designs are often the best thing about them. The remastered CDs that Wendy Carlos released in the 1990s feature additional tracks that give some idea of the amount of work involved in the creation of each album. The early cash-ins, by contrast, tend to avoid time-consuming multi-track composition in favour of using a synthesizer as though it’s merely an expensive keyboard. The success of these albums musically may be gauged by the lack of reissues. They may be of interest to the so-bad-it’s-good “Incredibly Strange Music” crowd but I prefer to spend my time listening to other things. Beware.
Switched-On Rock (1969) by The Moog Machine.
Switched-On Bacharach (1969) by Christopher Scott.
Switched-Off Bach (1969) by Various Artists.
CBS exploits the success of the electronic album by packaging a collection of earlier non-electronic recordings.
Continue reading “Switched-On… hits and misses”