Sunday, October 04, 2020

Storm Bugs - A Safe Substitute on CD

Continuing the 40th anniversary of all things Snatch Tapes out this week on Compact Disc is the Storm Bugs A Safe Substitute cassette from 1980. The release is on Klanggalerie re-uniting the Bugs with the label who released the Bugs are Back EP in 2002. Rather than hype up the release myself here are a few words on A Safe Substitute. Firstly from the much missed Mutant Sounds blog

"…this is everything a fan of left field D.I.Y. song structure perversion (U.K. stylee) could hope for. Much of what's heard on A Safe Substitute (fragments of which would re-appear elsewhere) were generated from that great old British analog beast, the VCS3 synthesizer, a machine used to more tonal ends by the likes of Franco Battiato and Pink Floyd and here providing swaying pendulums of corroded bloop, greyscale warble and hollowed out rhythms triggered from filter fucked arpeggiations, upon which they graft passages of alternately morose and plangent song structure fragmentation."

..and from the Idwal Fisher Blog 

On “Hodge” a shortwave jamming signal is fed through the VCS3 with the LFO chopping up the remains. The result is a thudding beat in which radio waves float in and out of hearing range, the beat becoming louder as the signal fades “Blackheath Episodes” uses three synths to produce a rhythm track in which varies modes of the beat are tweaked whilst the two VCS's provide background drones. Over on side one is where we find the vocal treatments. On an eerie “Mesh of Wire'” vocals are fed through two reel to reels, with a background of plodding ritualistic thump. On “Objective'” the thump becomes a slowly sequenced funeral beat with the addition of a haunting cornet and a drifting voice extolling the virtues of beans. The hard to dislodge tape murk covers the whole release like a fine film of gauze but its not a distraction. Early 80s cassette releases will always carry with them the aura of lo-fidelity and as such this gives Substitute a patina of dirt that the passing thirty years has failed to shift. Wiping the muck of this release would be like polishing up and old master. It doesn’t really need it.

Accompanying the original recordings on the CD are three bonus tracks. The first is the soundtrack to the Table Matters film shot on Super 8 by Steven Ball in 1980. The CD sleeve images are all taken from the film which was recently transferred to digital and can be seen here.  The second bonus track is "333" an alternate version of "Nein Nein Nein" and lastly there is "He Rose up Again".

 A Safe Substitute is available from all good outlets such as Rough Trade, etc. 

The Snatch Tapes Website is Back - No No No No

When the first Snatch Tapes website was put together in the early noughties it was largely historical focussing on the 1978-82 period and the first Snatch Tape releases. The number of re-issues and new releases since 2000 means that it was time for an update. So here it is with new 'useful' sections like a chronology of releases, but with the original DIY html style intact.

To coincide a couple of releases have had a wipe over with a damp cloth (as in a subtle remastering) and are now available on Bandcamp. Namely "Lay-By Lullaby", my year 2000 hom-age to the boys from Dusseldorf, and No No No No a back to basics one-take album from 2016.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Rumble of the Ruins - Reviews

A couple of nice review of Rumble of the Ruins are in. Firstly a review by Ed Pinsent form his Sound Projector.

Last heard from Philip Sanderson with his very good LP On One Of These Bends, lovingly presented as a vinyl edition in an expensive jacket by Séance Centre of Canada. Today’s Sanderson item is Rumble Of The Ruins (SNATCH TAPES TCH 2020), a Bandcamp-only thing with a cover featuring a painting by the man himself – he seems to be making a venture in exploring the history of 20th-century European fine art on his own terms, turning in a mysterious tableau that contains faint traces of Paul Klee, Léger, and de Chirico. 

Musically, Sanderson is getting back to what he does so well – songs and electronica, a form of synthop with drum machines and treated vocals, produced in a very eccentric DIY post-punk manner. This is quite different to the lush, soundtrack-y productions we heard on On One Of These Bends, and there’s a lot to be said for the immediacy of these concise and assured ditties, most of them clocking in at traditional pop-song length of three minutes. Sanderson may make it seem easy, almost throwaway at times, but I suspect there is a lot of craft underlying these songs, both in terms of composition, lyrical content, and sheer effort spent programming and overdubbing (or however he created it). Each song sounds both jaunty and slightly unsettling in equal measure; I’m not sure what is causing this impression, but while the rhythms are upbeat and foot-tappingly catchy, the melodies keep veering towards a darkened minor key, and the song delivery has a strange urgency to it. 

That’s not to mention the lyrics, which today strike me as fairly bonkers (in a good way) – like an update on the king of balmy, red wine-soaked laissez-faire, Kevin Ayers. If I explored this pathway any further, we might end up making a case for situating Philip Sanderson in a line with other 1970s English songwriting eccentrics, such as Robert Wyatt, Eno, Pete Sinfield and Peter Hammill. I mention this as I think it’s a dimension of Sanderson’s considerable skillset which isn’t spotlighted too often, as he’s more often pegged as a cassette band / post-punk / noise artist. Personally, I also prefer his song-based work to the all-instrumental music of records like Seal Pool Sounds (2005). From 15th January 2020. 

Review by Neil Kulkarni from The Wire September 2020. Part of a longer review which also includes Pillbox and releases by Steven Ball and Crumpsall Riddle

How odd l was listening to Hood's Cold House the other day and it's amazing how close Rumble Of The Ruins by Storm Bugs' Philip Sanderson shears to that period of post-rock where underground rock fans admitted they loved both Justin Timberlake and Disco Inferno. There's a similar fondness for startlingly poppy textures, a similar pleasure in the detournement of those sounds for determinedly art rock ends. 

Sanderson's voice- check out the Canterbury via Medway psychness of "Window Sill" - now has a wonderfully unmannered, conversational feel, and the same talents in collage and subtle derailment of sources that he's made so evident in his Storm Bugs work are still present. It's the decision making within that process that's key, and Sanderson knows what to treat and what to leave untouched. So the poppiest choruses get deliberately amplified until they get glassy eyed and unsettling, the strange sonic detritus that populates these songs always executed and jettisoned before anything can detract from the melodic strength. "The Elephants Eye" and “Raven Row (You Know How It Goes)" deliver a flavour of what Kevin Ayers might cook up if he were alive and forced to work with the Residents.

Hear the Rumble here 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Pillbox by Ice Yacht

Snatch Tapes is pleased to announce its first new cassette release since 1981. Pillbox by Ice Yacht contains two long and two short instrumental tracks recorded by Philip Sanderson during the spring of 2020. The lockdown created the perfect conditions for Pillbox’s production with solitary forays out on Romney Marshes to capture ‘wild sound’, be it rusty gates, distant warehouse activity on the river Rother, or shortwave radio signals. Back home in Hastings these recordings were badly treated and manipulated before being fed into feedback loops. The resulting sonic palette is a bridge between Sanderson’s more industrial work in the early days of the Storm Bugs, and Ice Yacht’s exploration of frozen auditory terrain on the 2015 release Pole of Cold. The first edition of the tape is limited to 25 numbered copies and is available from Bandcamp.   
Get your copy here.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reprint by Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey 40th Anniversary

Continuing the series of blog entries about the 40thanniversary of 1980 the ‘golden year’ for all things Snatch Tapes and Storm Bugs brings us to the Reprint cassette by Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey. The tale of Thomas & Vezey has been told a number of times and is a good yarn, indeed such a good yarn that it often threatens to eclipse the music on the tape so in this retelling I shall try to balance the two.  

Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey fist appeared on Snatch 1 in 1979, and were one of many pseudonyms/band names under which I released music at the time. Along with Claire and Susan there was Vote Police, Vivien Devoy, and Ice yacht. Quite where the idea came from for a female alter ego or egos I can't recall - possibly it was a nod to Duchamp’s Rrose SÈlavy? The names were plucked from a page in a newspaper with the two surnames being swapped over.

The Thomas and Vezey track on Snatch 1 was entitled “Under Press of Sail” and was the first of a number of occasions when sailing terminology has been used for my track titles - despite having always being resolutely land bound. The piece was recorded using two VCS3s. One being triggered by a 32-step sequencer to provide the main propulsive rhythm and the other self-triggering something akin to a backward string sound. A few have commented that “Under Press of Sail” is like an early precedent for techno music. I don’t really know enough about Techno to comment in an informed fashion, but it does share the idea of a music based primarily not around chord progression or melody, but rhythmical patters that change tonally with parts dropping in and out. The track was recorded, as was most of Reprint in one take direct to tape.  

“Under Press of Sail” might have been the first and last we heard of Vezey and Thomas but in 1980 I recorded two long VCS3 tracks again using the sequencer, however this time with the output fed into a tape delay system using two Revox tape recorders. On machine one the signal is recorded before the tape then passes across the room to a second machine where it plays back. The distance between the machines determines the length of the delay. If the signal is fed back to the first machine long echoes of 2-5 seconds are created.  

The tape delay system entered into the fringes of the mainstream rock music consciousness with the two Fripp & Eno LPs No Pussyfooting (1973) and Evening Star (1975) along with Eno's Discrete Music (1975).  Tape delay systems had however been around for well over a decade originally pioneered by Terry Riley (amongst others) who christened the apparatus as a “time-lag accumulator”. Unlike contemporary digital loop pedals in which it is relatively easy to set up snappy rhythmical loops (as used by any number of contemporary pop acts), the tape delay system is by its nature far less precise and lends itself to the building up of long languid evolving passages - adding single note or phrases that gradually fade away. This fading is aided not just by the signal becoming quieter on each repeat but that it in a sense decays having been recorded and played back several times. The tape and the circuitry apply a kind of filtration. Characteristically on a two Revox set-up the bottom or bass end frequencies gradually roll off so the audio becomes progressively thinner as it becomes quieter. Use domestic reel-to-reels and the sound turns quite quickly into white noise.         

My intention on Reprint was to use much faster sequencer patterns than Fripp and Eno so as to build up a chattering and more percussive interplay. To highlight the colouring of the sound that takes place on each repeat a graphic equaliser was placed on the return signal between the second machine and the first so as to emphasise different frequency bands. The result is more akin to polyrhythmic electronic tap dancing than the soothing sounds often associated with tape delay.

The music was almost more of an academic study than the usual Storm Bugs sound and so the fictitious female knob twiddles were once more called into action as authors. Somewhat parodying the materialist approaches being used during the 70's in a number of art forms the short description on the sleeve of the cassette refers to the tracks as "a study in repetition and change using two different sources and two different treatments".

Credence to the existence of Claire and Susan was given by the fourth track on the tape “Bright Waves”. Over the summer of 1980 a friend of a friend Nancy Slessinger came to stay at the Snatch Tapes basement HQ in Paddington. Nancy’s musical tastes were more mainstream but one evening she talked about being in a choir and her love of Thomas Tallis, and I suggested we record a few phrases of her singing onto my old valve Revox. The next week I took the tape into the studio and put it through the tape delay set-up resulting in the layered drifting vocals one hears on “Bright Waves”. In contrast to the two “Reprint” tracks this was far more in keeping with how tape delay systems were traditionally used. The title was meant as part-celebration part-pastiche of the more ambient tape delay. One can see hear an early manifestation of the Sanderson desire to be both post-modernist and anti-illusory.

With all four tracks completed the tape was released in the late summer of 1980. The sleeve design made in collaboration with Steven Ball shows an ink drawing by him that has a floating wistful feel.  To accompany the release a press release was conjured which cast the pair as a Pre-Raethelite synthesizer duo with robes flowing as they strode across Blackheath. It was intended that the whole thing be a fairly transparent spoof. A small display board made by David Jackman with three Snatch Tapes cases was mounted on the wall in the Rough Trade shop in Notting Hill where it came to the attention of a young A & R man from Cherry Red. 

I received a letter from Cherry Red and it was suggested that 'Bright Waves' be included on a proposed  forthcoming compilation LP - Perspectives and Distortion with an LP by Claire and Susan to follow. I really should have come clean at this point but kept up the pretence. The A & R man became keen to meet Claire and Susan and I had to come up with ever taller tales of them being on a theatre tour in America and so on. Eventually it became clear that Claire and Susan would need to show themselves and as Nancy was still living in the flat it was suggested to her that she meet with the A & R man - after all she was singing on one of the tracks so there was some small slither of truth. I don’t remember if Nancy was Claire or Susan but one thing followed another and she found herself being invited by Cherry Red to tea with Quentin Crisp and meals out in Notting Hill. Interestingly I was excluded from these trips and it became clear that the A & R man intended to lure Thomas and Vezey away from Snatch Tapes. However one evening and after a glass of wine or two Nancy understandably couldn’t keep the pretence up any longer and broke the truth.  The next day I had a rather fractious phone call with Cherry Red, the LP was not surprisingly off though the inclusion of Bright Waves on Perspectives and Distortion was so far advanced that it went ahead and indeed “Bright Waves” opens the LP.  Technically it should be “Bright Waves 2” as those with keen ears will note it is a different mix to that on the original Reprint cassette.  

A small number of copies of Reprint included a fifth track; a ring modulator cassette tape loop piece by Philip Sanderson and Steven Ball entitled "Nein Nein Nein". This was included on the CD re-issue of the Reprint cassette by Anomalous in 2003 (NOM23). “Bright Waves” is the opening track on the On One Of These Bends LP released by Séance Centre in 2018. "Under Press of Sail" was included on Snatch 3 (1981) and the Vinyl on Demand Snatch tape compilation LP Snatch Paste (2006).  

As mentioned at the outset the Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey story threatens to overshadow the music on the tape and I still get the odd message outlining somebody’s disappointment on discovering after 40 years that they don’t exist. “Bright Waves” intended as part parody is of course the most popular track from the tape. You can hear the original Reprint tape in digital format here. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Table Matters by Storm Bugs 40th Anniversary

 The front and back sleeve of the Table Matters EP

1980, 40 years ago was a highpoint for all things Storm Bugs and Snatch Tapes. Cassette wise the Snatch 2 compilation, A Safe Substitute (Storm Bugs) and Reprint (Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey) were released, and on vinyl the Storm Bugs Table Matters EP.  The 7-inch was the first of the bunch to be released in May. 

The Rachel McMillan Halls of residencies Creek Rd with the power station behind

Having moved to London in September 1978 to attend Goldsmiths College I was holed up in a halls of residence on Creek Rd in Deptford. There was a coal-fired power station on the Thames just behind the building and as a result the halls was allocated twice the number of cleaners of other halls. The cleaners and I soon reached a mutual agreement however that they wouldn’t bother with my room as I had so much kit in there. From my parents house in Strood I had brought a motley collection of domestic reel-to-reel recorders and various rewired radios and cassette machines. 

Revox G36 valve reel-to-reel machine 

With the help of a student grant I was able to nip up to Charring Cross rd and buy a Kay/Teisco guitar, a Coloursound tremolo, bongos, xylophone and other assorted noise-making paraphernalia. I was already making use of the electronic music studios at Goldsmiths, but even though that was often empty during the day I couldn’t get in there more than once or twice a week so in parallel I was running a bedrooms ‘studio’. In early 1979 I was able to buy a reconditioned G36 Revox, an old tank of a thing with glowing valves, which had apparently been used, in some top-flight recording studio in London as a tape echo machine. As a favour an engineer reconditioned it with new heads, nonetheless it still cost £120, which was quite a sum in 1979. The Revox’s top speed was 7 ½ IPS but it was a quantum leap forward from the Philips domestic reel-to-reels. Aside from straight recordings you could make loops and bring to bear a range of tape editing and musique concrete techniques. 

In the Goldsmiths electronic music studio I was recording instrumental tracks using their range of EMS equipment (two VCS3s and a Synthi A). In the coal fired power station studio it was far more DIY with the somewhat random electronic noises produced by the Sythi Bug – a circuit bent radio with switches and potentiometers attached at various points and scratched records. It was probably finding some naturally occurring stuck groove in my poorly cared for record collection that led me to then take a scalpel to various discs to intentionally create what carelessness had previously done. Having the Revox I could have recorded and then looped sections on tape but there was something both fetishistic and sacrilegious about taking a sharp blade to black vinyl. Making a record partly from other records had a pleasing circularity to it. Scratched records by the Sex Pistols, Peter Baumann, and Lou Reed were all used to make Table Matters.

Scratched discs produce a click or thump as the needle jumps and I hit on the idea of feeding the sound through an old speaker on top of which was a biscuit tin lid with nut and bolts which would jump and rattle on the beat. Feed a guitar through at the same time and one had a fuzz percussion unit.

We have then the basic ingredients for the recording of  most of Table Matters aside from the vocals.  I hadn’t thus far written any songs and the process, which I still use to this day, was to record an instrumental track and then vocalise over it until some form of song like structure emerges. The microphone used was a cheap stage mic and copious amounts of echo from the Revox were added. The lyrics were a take on high street consumerism ‘Eat Good Beans’, ‘Cash Wash’, ‘Make Customers Matter’ a track inspired by a tape I had found in the store cupboard of a bookshop during a summer job in 1979. The tape was intended for the instruction and training of staff of WH Smith bookshops with a view to ensuring that they tried to make their shop the “favourite one in the town”.  

Rather than reflect on the tracks here is a review by Ed Pinsent from: the Sound Projector 16th Issue.

The 'Table Matters' EP was released on vinyl by Loop Records in 1980; it's five tracks of.      edgy, clattering mayhem, made with a combination of electronics, radios, guitars, tape loops, percussion and much more. Effectively a Sanderson solo set, this EP displays wild and rugged invention compressed into short bursts of electrifying genius; four of the cuts are only two minutes apiece. Using found spoken word tapes and warped voicings, Storm Bugs deliver something that is not so much a critique of consumerism, as a semi-nightmarish distorted view of shopping in England in 1980, replete with Kwik-Save signs, shoddy goods, and futile attempts to keep customers happy. ‘Table Matters’ is almost their Santa Dog; it's a perfect cryptic statement, almost inexhaustible in content, transpires in less than 15 minutes and leaves you feeling troubled for days. Great!

The tracks were finished in the autumn of 1979 and then mastered up at the Goldsmiths studio where touches of ring modulation were added or in the case of 'Our Main Objective' a VCS3 and sequencer pattern. The record was cut at Porky Prime Cuts in Portland Place. George Peckham had cut many of my favourite singles by the likes of T.Rex and was famous for squeezing as much volume onto a lacquers possible, and for his cryptic comments etched into the run-out grooves. Rather than today when often as not records are anonymously cut by a technician with the help of a computer, back then one could attend the cutting session, and though Porky didn’t seem overly excited by the material he did a great job. 

The lacquers were sent off in late 1979 to the Linguaphone Institute in Slough. Yes that same Linguaphone who had originally made language records but who were known for their high quality pressing plant. The record then entered something of a black hole. I would ring the factory in Slough once a week from a call box to try and ascertain progress only to be told that the disc was in the system. It wasn’t until early 1980 that the records appeared. 

 The screen printed and photocopied sleeve designs 

The record has been recorded and pressed on a shoestring basically by using money from my student grant and a summer job. The budget hadn’t stretched to labels or a cover. This was however where Steven Ball who was back in the Medway Towns came in. Steven convinced his landlord who ran various businesses to print a sleeve - free of charge or more accurately in return for acting as unpaid messenger boy. Steven came up to London and we went down the Charring Cross Rd where he took various black and white photos. From these the collage design for the cover was pasted together and the camera ready artwork prepared. Weeks went past with no sign of the sleeve and keen to get the record out and get some funds in, a number were sold with one-off photocopied collages I made. My then girlfriend over the Easter holidays went to a printing workshop in the Bristol and designed and screen printed some A3 poster sleeves, which  folded around the record. Finally in mid 1980 the ‘proper’ sleeves arrived (see top of page). 


Then it was off to Rough Trade who in the utopian spirit of DIY would at that point take a box of 25 copies of any new single pretty much without question. I had built up quite a few contacts through putting together the Snatch Tapes compilations and the associated listings in the NME and Sounds and so perhaps another 50 or so were sold that way. As Storm Bugs didn’t play live and indeed as has probably been gathered from the above were not really a band at all but in this iteration was just a keen nineteen year old and a tape recorder selling the remaining copies proved more difficult. Kris Needs in Zig Zag reviewed the record favourably and Rough Trade took another box for the UK. Surprisingly somebody in a Rough Trade affiliate in America had heard the record and wanted 50 copies.  It was these copies that were to enter in the collections of American aficionados of all things English and post-punk and which led to the inclusion of ‘Cash Wash’ and ‘Eat Good Beans’ on the I Hate The Pop Group compilation LP 20 years later and started the process of re-issuing the Storm Bugs material.

Though the promotion of the EP was somewhat haphazard there was an accompanying film made by Steven Ball on Super 8 shot in Chatham High Street for which I did a special remix of some of the music. Only a handful of people saw it back then but it has been recently transferred to video in a high resolution scan and can be seen here. 

Copies of the Table Matters EP with the ‘proper’ sleeve can be had for as little as £70 or as much as £400, ironically the rarer early sleeves can be less expensive as people aren’t always sure what they are. In terms of re-issues the 2007 Storm Bugs LP Supplementary Benefit on Vinyl on Demand includes both sides of the EP mastered from the original vinyl. Digitally the tracks are available via Bandcamp and for the 40th anniversary with the addition of instrumental versions of two of the numbers plus a live rendition of 'Window Shopping' from 2012. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Re-made Readymade (Re-edited)

An edited version of a blog entry originally published Tuesday, August 30, 2005

All of Marcel Duchamp's original readymades were lost during his travels from France to America and back. For the Galleria Schwarz exhibition in 1964 they were re-created in limited editions using the photographs that existed of them as guides. These then are the urinals, bicycle wheels, and snow shovels one sees in museum collections around the world, not readymades, but re-made readymades. But what are the issues surrounding this process of recreation, can indeed the readymade be re-made and still survive?

Duchamp always denied that his readymades had any intrinsic aesthetic qualities. The process of selecting (even if not for aesthetic reasons), and then reframing through the giving of a new thought is integral to the creation of the readymade. As readymade the object's original purpose no longer remains its primary raison d'êtrebut it cannot be said to disappear, it lies subdued in favour of the new thought. Exactly what that new thought might be in Duchamp’s readymades is unclear, it can be little more than the title, often a pun or word play. For example the snow shovel is called In Advance of the Broken Arm

In the process of re-making the readymades as limited editions the marriage of thought and object was arguably reconfigured. The 'easy’ aesthetic of the original mass produced item becomes replaced by the weighted and purposeful hand crafting of the object. The object is now made from start to finish for the sole purpose of art. What was previously readymade then becomes prepared and full of intention, in short made, and something of a contradiction as the tension between thought and object is lost.

Duchamp was no doubt aware of this, but the desire to exhibit may have swayed his better judgement for the integrity of the readymade would arguably have been all the greater had they remained lost - À la recherche du readymades perduperhaps? However this simple act of remaking, this small slippage, for which many museums are now grateful, created a stress fracture that runs through much contemporary art in which the inclusion of seemingly readymade (but actually carefully handmade) elements is commonplace.

The new thought denies the object its original purpose, cloaking it and generating artistic purpose, but to an undefined end other than its own transubstantiation. This tension creates what can best be described as a void between the readymade and its new thought/title. The space has a conceptual air but must remain empty so as to keep thought and object juxtaposed for their mutual survival in the endeavour. 

Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Michael Landy, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum - the list of artists employing handmade readymades is almost a who¹s who of contemporary art. Unintentionally Duchamp began a process whereby artists seek to invoke the spirit of the readymade but by recreating them loose the tension between thought and object. 

Semi-Detached (2004) by Michael Landy is a case in point, A 1:1 replica of his parent’s house it is part of a poignant installation that focuses on his father’s life following an industrial accident. There is a pleasing juxtaposition between this replica of modest English vernacular architecture and the background of Tate Britain. Beyond the spectacle of the set design however there is no tension or space between thought and object. The space found in Duchamp’s original readymades is instead here filled with the pathos of the narrative of Landy’s father life. Similarly Tracey Emin’s My Bed(1998) becomes more memento mori or relic than readymade. Such practice perches precariously on the fault-line of Duchamp¹s slippage created by his remaking of the readymade.

[1]Marcel Duchamp, "Apropos of 'Readymades,'" talk delivered by Duchamp as a panel member of the "Art of Assemblage" symposium at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 19 October 1961. Published in Art and Artists, (July 1966), 47, and reprinted in Salt Seller. The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand du Sel), ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973).

[2] Marcel Duchamp, from an interview with Calvin Tomkins, New York, 1964. Published in Marcel Duchamp, ed,Calvin Tomkins and Adina Kamien-Kazhdan Gagosian Gallery, 2014.

[3] Marcel Duchamp in The Blind Man (issue 2)), eds, Henri-Pierre Roché, Beatrice Wood, and Marcel Duchamp May 1917.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rumble of The Ruins

So I have a new album out. Whilst listening to your copy the following notes may bring some elucidation. 

1. Rumble of The Ruins 02:23
In 2012 I bought on ebay a one-chip synthesizer, the  SN76477 or "complex sound generator". Released in 1978 the chip was used in a variety of early arcade games and has a single VCO, LFO, noise generator, noise filter, an envelope (of sorts), and a variety of modulation options.

The circuitry needed some attention before it would make any sound, and was always a little idiosyncratic, but was pleasingly crude and a surprising number of tracks were conjured from it including pieces on the Ice Yacht cassette, and The Storm Bugs Certified Original and Vintage Fakes release. The Rumble of The Ruins track was originally intended as part of a collaboration with the Vas Deferens Organization Mutant Sounds boys called the Office Abandoned, but as that project has been put on hold (or even abandoned) for a number of years I decided to record a new version of the track for this release.

Don’t fade don’t fall 
Let the rumble of the ruins calm your storm 
As you sail bye-bye 
There’s a glory hole gaping in the sky 

Red crimson is the flow 
As urban conurbations teem and grow 
For sale, for rent 
Anointed teenage bodies bored and spent

The lyrics nod towards T.Rex (King of The Rumbling Spires) and the William Burroughs novel Cities of The Red Night.

2. Window Sill 02:18
An early version of this track appears on the Linear Obsessional 2017 Christmas compilation A View From a Hill loosely inspired by the supernatural (or should I say eerie) tales of MR James. This version was as they say fleshed out with guitar, shortwave radio, and percussion.

Walking in the woods one day 
I thought I heard a maiden say

Pushing through the bramble hedge
I saw her flaming ginger head

From the comfort of your window sill
You saw the outline of the hill
Climbing up to reach the tor
From the tangled bedclothes on the floor
He rose

Dipping in the stream that night
Under eel pool electric light

Walking down the wind worn path
Into the contours of the past
He rose

From the comfort of your window sill
You saw the outline of the hill
Climbing up to reach the tor
From the tangled bedclothes on the floor
He rose
There is another echo of Bolan in the opening line shared with his song The Wizard, and of course borrowed by him from many a traditional folk song and/or poem.

3. Au Coin du Jardin 04:34
The synthesizer, percussion and voices were recorded live on Ed Pinsent’s Sound Projector Radio Show in March 2019. The synthesizer is the custom made soft VCS3 app built in Max/MSP, I have been tweaking for nigh on seven years. Gradually it gets more character just like the original, but with more routing possibilities, and the ability to save presets, so in many ways it is ‘better’ than the actual, but would I swap it for the real thing - of course I would.  The treated voices describe a famous case of faux archaeology, the Glozel case. Just Google Glozel and find out. To the Sound Projector Radio Show track I added over phased guitar, it is a little tribute to Cosey who is the master of this kind of slide.

 4. Raven Row (You Know How it Goes) 03:06
In some alternate universe this is a sure fire hit from 1986 or thereabouts, but we are in 2020. A draft was played live by The Storm Bugs back in 2012, this version has slowly matured with ever more layers of guitar, strings, vocoder, and what have you added to the simple synth sequence played on the Nanozwerg and RotaSynth. File under London songs.

A lookey-likey lover whilst working undercover 
Took a liking to the brother of someone else’s mother 
He texted her each hour, even from the shower 
Pictures of his manhood hidden by a flower 

You know how it goes from Ealing to Bow 
You know how it goes down Raven Row 
You know how it goes from Strood to Soho 
You know how it goes down Raven Row 

A sea salty sailor said he’d catch you later 
Had to have a drink with a curious undertaker 
Formaldehyde hot toddy coursed around his body 
Rendering his manhood, limp and floppy 

You know how it goes from Ealing to Bow 
You know how it goes down Raven Row 
You know how it goes from Strood to Soho 
You know how it goes down Raven Row 

Searching for a top-up in a backstreet lock-up 
Ending up instead with a petal pink pop-up 
She inhaled briefly, kept on smiling sweetly 
Thinking all the while that this was kind of creepy 

You know how it goes from Ealing to Bow 
You know how it goes down Raven Row 
You know how it goes from Strood to Soho 
You know how it goes down Raven Row
5. The Elephant's Eye 03:00
The repeated synth sequence over which I first started singing had a touch of the Velvets about it, and though not a VU song Nico’s words from We’ve got the Gold came to mind -We've got the gold, we do not seem too old. This somehow morphed into - Please bring me silver, please bring me gold/ Tease me with your memories of being young and bold. Once the opening line was set the other words followed, a song for turning sixty too. Another influence is to the Faces Ooh La La, but the intent of the lines - I wish that I knew what I know now/ When I was younger/ I wish that I knew what I know now/ When I was stronger, is reversed so that it becomes - If only I knew now what I knew before/ When thought was just an impulse and love was something more.

Please bring me silver, please bring me gold 
Tease me with your memories of being young and bold 
Go fetch my suitcase, don’t forget my hat 
I left it sleeping under a Persian cat 

When you’re inside the elephant’s eye 
When you’re inside the elephant’s eye eye 

You might think it risible, you might think it a joke 
I’ve lost all direction, my head is full of smoke 
The trees gather round and beat their drums 
The wind claps and howls and blots out the sun 

When you’re inside the elephant’s eye 
When you’re inside the elephant’s eye eye eye eye 

If only there was a way out of this labyrinth of caves 
A jaunty little melody that rises up the staves 
If only I knew now what I knew before 
When thought was just an impulse and love was something more 

When you’re inside the elephant’s eye 
When you’re inside the elephant’s eye eye eye eye

 6. Funicular Freedom 04:11
A fellow Hastings resident was getting married at the De La Warr Pavilion in late 2018 and I had envisioned this track with its clanging vibes and sedentary procedural pace as some kind of celebration of the event. There are no lyrics per se as this is the first draft of the vocals. This is how I write all the songs just singing along forming words as one goes. There is then usually lots of revision. Pen and paper come out and over a couple of days ‘proper’ lyrics emerge, but in this instance I left things at the first stage with our lead character floating around on the West Hill watching the funicular going up and down. The title is a sly nod to Elton’s Philadelphia Freedom.

7. Funny Money 03:35
In 1976 when I should have been starting my A-Levels at the Grammar school I made a very ill-advised trip to London for a couple of weeks. The lyrics are inspired by this AWOL excursion but any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Musically we are appropriately enough in Pet Shop Boys homage territory. West End Girls being their finest moment.

Eleven fingers, seven toes, metal dentures, plastic nose 
Never happy, ever sad, take your Mandrax, call a cab 

Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Funny money let’s burn and spend 
Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Bunny money in the West End 

Down the Dilly nine o’clock, on the meat rack, pick me up 
Smells like honey, tastes like cream, petroleum jelly in your machine 

Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Funny money let’s burn and spend 
Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Bunny money in the West End 
Bunny money in the West End 

Never happy, ever sad, take your Mandrax, call a cab 
Tastes like honey, smells like cream, petroleum jelly in your machine 

Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Funny money let’s burn and spend 
Funny money won’t you be my friend 
Bunny money in the West End 
Bunny money in the West End

8. If You Take a Table 02:31
Found my old punky voice in the corner of the cupboard gasping for air, gave it and the old guitar a stroll and a breather.

If you take a table, and nail it to a chair 
Make your calculations on a follicle of hair 
A mystical analysis of alien underwear 

Then I don’t mind you wasting all my time 
Conservative affirmative, so absolutely blind 
No I don’t mind you cribbing all my lines 
Affirmative conservative, so absolutely blind 

If you take an astronaut, and pin him to the moon 
Decompress his chamber, and fill it with perfume 
And cushion your desire with a little red balloon 

Then I don’t mind you wasting all my time 
Conservative affirmative, so absolutely blind 
No I don’t mind you cribbing all my lines 
Affirmative conservative, so absolutely blind 

If you take a table, and nail it to a chair 
Make your calculations, pin him to the moon 
Decompress his chamber, and fill it with perfume 

Then I don’t mind you wasting all my time 
Conservative affirmative, so absolutely blind 
No I don’t mind you cribbing all my lines 
Affirmative conservative, so absolutely blind

9. The Golden Fleet 04:12
Another track recorded live on Ed Pinsent’s Sound Projector Radio Show in March 2019 with added guitar. Every time I search on Ebay for that elusive Rotherex jacket it always comes back with "0 results found for rotherex, so we searched for rother" and up comes al the Krautrock gems.
10. Broken Morning 06:58
What better way to end than on a long drone, using my own patent granular stretching system, with swooshes of shortwave radio. It is a bleak affair, I had in mind the 1977 Gilbert & George Red Morning series. This is my favourite G & G phase when their work resembled the style of Penguin politics and social affairs books from the 1970s.