Various Artists - MERZfunder & Antoine Chessex / Apartment House / Jérôme Noetinger

A 114 track compilation? Don't be ridiculous - or in this case - do, because it's for a good cause, the upkeep of Kurt Schwitters' Merzbarn, no less, but there'd be little point gathering so many tracks if most of them weren't good and you might be surprised to learn (as I was to hear) that on the whole this is a high quality selection, ranging across the spectrum from beats to sort-of 'rock', plunderphonics, glitchiness, grunge glitch, ambienthop, hauntography, scratchbreak (all right, that's enough). M.NOMIZED's  Henpapi Collage jumped out as I made part two of the trip because some Trad Jazz is embedded in the beginning before things go, well, everywhere. idle potentiate's sic map phase drops a great squelchy bass amid the Echo Step excellence and Security's Intestinal (Shiver Mix) evokes the old school electro-Punkindustrial days of the late-70s. Got to be the Compilation Of The Year. 

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Top drawer collaboration between Swiss composer Antoine Chessex, French electronic artist Jérôme Noetinger and the UK ensemble Apartment House recorded at Cafe Oto in 2014 and worth every penny if you feel like treating yourself (go on, for Xmas, although it won't be the family choice on the morning of the 25th, unless your family are very avant-garde in their taste and reject Phil Spector or whoever in favour of this). But, christ, it's a magnificent melange of classical-electronic-noise, both pieces being written for the ensemble but totally transformed, enlarged, deepened by Noetinger's engagement with the material. With great variation in the sections, it never lapses into cliche or aimless meandering but rather shifts seamlessly in degrees of tension and weight. First class. Sample and buy from Bocian Records.

Iancu Dumitrescu & Ana-Maria Avram at Cafe Oto

Iancu Dumitrescu is talking to me, but thankfully not about phenomenology (which he's studied) because it would kill the conversation right there. No, we're having a chat in Cafe Oto just like a couple of mates, over a beer, because I found out he's that kind of fellow; amiable, friendly and unpretentious.  

"Life is long, art is short," he said, confounding me for a few seconds because I thought he was starting to get deep. Turns out he was subverting an old saying but I'd never heard the original. Then he chuckled. It wasn't the first joke we would share. "Excuse me," he said. "But French is my first language, not English", which confused me even more because he's Romanian. His main language, however, must be music, although it's not one many would understand. 

The compositions of Dumitrescu and his wife, Ana-Maria Avram, may confound those unaccustomed to what is known as 'spectral music' but I doubt it would leave them unresponsive. The theoretical side apart, when the Hyperion Ensemble act according to the composers' dramatic gestures you must listen, either straining to catch the minute detail of breaths through brass and fingers scuttling lightly across strings, or the wall-demolishing eruption of everyone going full throttle.

He didn't mind that I was a relative newcomer to his music. Why would he? Still, I felt ashamed at confessing as much, but relieved when he expressed delight at hearing from a recent convert. He was genuinely pleased. Perhaps, despite having composed and performed for decades, it still surprises him that he should be so welcomed. He has, after all, come in from the 'cold' of a communist regime which has surely left its mark, to the warmth of loving arms (albeit those of a minority) around the world. I bought the book of their scores...

...he gladly signed my copy...'s available now from ReR Megacorp.

You may be wondering what the performances were like but there's little point me describing anything because many are available on YouTube; suffice to say both Iancu and Ana-Maria are compelling performers in their own right as they conjure sounds from the ensemble with dramatic gestures, expressions and wiggling fingers. They seem to communicate in codes only known to the orchestra but the breadth of sounds they create and their impact in the room can be understood and appreciated by anyone fortunate enough to be there.


African Head Charge - Return of the Crocodile

Onulp133 ahc crocodile 480

On-U Sound in the they used to say - yes, a mighty fine collection of cranky instrumentals on Return Of The Crocodile; almost as wigged-out as The Upsetter himself but somehow distinctly wired for (and by) UK ears, meaning Black Arkestral attitude viewed through post-Punk goggles, if you like - all aboard starship Africa! As if motorik rhythms got sidetracked and saddled with percussion and horns, African Head Charge's trips are compelling, mesmeric excursions filled with horn chants, sax solos and effects placed perfectly in the mix by Adrian Sherwood. At times, as on Low Protein Snack, the brass is reminiscent of legendary genre mutants Rip Rig & Panic, with that off-kilter Jazz atmosphere wailing throughout. Great alternate version of the classic Off The Beaten Track too, named here as Further Off The Track, which sums up where African Head Charge went on these sessions. Get it here.

These classical punks: Vienna 1908-1914

Good find in the charity shop today, Vienna 1908-1914 for £1.99. I should know the art used on the cover because I recognise it but can't name it...what the hell it makes a fine sleeve. As you know, record labels were fond of using modern art for their 'modernist' classical releases. It remains a mystery, though, as to why they're relatively scarce in charity shops compared to the big guns like Beethoven, Bach etc. perhaps it's simply a matter of less people buying them in the first place resulting in less in circulation today. The music's fantastic, of course. Comparing the two, Dorati does a much better job of creating the drama of the Schoenberg pieces than Simon Rattle. I only know because I just compared them. Speaking of their music, Schoenberg extolled the virtues of 'extreme expressiveness' and 'extraordinary brevity' - amen to that. In such brevity (as opposed to lengthy, Romantic grandeur) this music still packs a punch akin to that landed by The Ramones in a time of long-winded Prog Rock awfulness.

Hal Raglan / Gloria Gloucestershire - Split Cassette

Hal Raglan (aka Black Mountain Transmitter's J R Moore) and Gloria Gloucestershire (Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz)(christ, enough pseudonyms already)(me, Robin Tomens aka That Fool Who Insists On Blogging Even Though It's So Last Decade)...where was I? This is as good as you'd expect if you know anything of either man's work and probably even better, what with 'Gloria' stretching her canvas (stop giggling at the back) to over 18mins in length (hold on, a 'canvas' can't be 18mins long, what am I talking about? Never mix metaphors) - anyway, stretching out like Bootsy's rubber band, minus the funk, but no less wonderful, a long space-age voyage in perfect Martian pop mode. Raglan, on the other hand, is a damned sight darker, like Gloria's evil alter-ego (thus they make a perfect pair) but thankfully rather than test the limits of noise distortion for nearly 20mins he morphs things halfway through and melts your mi-i-i-i-nd. Quite brilliant but having sold out as a limited cassette you can only hear it on Bandcamp now. 

MICHEL REDOLFI - Desert Tracks

Now here's something. An album. Electroacoustic music. Don't go away. This really is special and showcases what can be done with the right equipment, that being ears as finely tuned as Michel Redolfi's and the ability to organise sound the way he does. All you need is a pair of ears. Do you have a pair? One isn't as good, but might suffice.

Even a close listen won't tell you what you're hearing, exactly, but such is the joy of acousmatic sound. For instance, I think a voice interjects during the first track, Opening. You also hear what sounds like ball bearings trickling through your speakers along with a chain being rattled...and the voice become more distorted, alien, whilst the calm foundation continues. It's both relaxing and unsettling. 

One might expect a desert-themed album to be New Age-style peaceful, yet Redolfi's creation is more akin to a trip across the sands with Brion Gysin in The Process. The sonic landscape is hallucinatory, disorientating; a place of clanging bells, ominous rumbles and sudden interruptions. Too Much Sky can be awe-inspiring or intimidating (we feel so small) and as with nature, Redolfi's music evokes wonder along with a sense of disquiet. A classy reissue from Sub Rosa.   

Living in a Winter Wonderland...with Demdike Stare

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I like a bit of do you, I know - so do Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker who, in case you'd forgotten, are Demdike Stare. You might have forgotten. It's been so long since they made an album. Of course you hadn't forgotten. They were a big thing for a few years, back during...I've forgotten. Anyway, I always liked their releases for being a bit more tasteful, rather more selective in what they sampled than your average imaginary Horror score artists.

A friend says he's heard it's more 'techno'. That's one way of looking at Wonderland; the wrong way. It's more lively than most of what they've done, album-wise, but more to the point, chops up 'street' rhythms into things of their own making...jumpy things, jagged, grindy, Grimy things. At this point I'd reference the exact genres they've been sniffing at but I know nothing of current street music, preferring to avoid the street when at all possible because it's filled with people on their mobiles, wearing tracksuits, hoods and talking hybrid patois between mouthfuls of fast I've heard.

FullEdge (eMpty-40 Mix) is the kind of 'techno' that gets me going....swaying this way and that as it does, with counterpoint percussion, tectonic rhythms, beats brought up in the mix, then down - big tune - and a bit 'street' with the warped vocal sample in there - relentless too. Hold on, I'll crank up the system for Sourced - BOOM! - that's it, right there - it's kinda drum'n'bass-y but then somewhere else, like Doc Scott on steroids. The way D&B used to sample Rap or Ragga vocal snippets is deployed here to great effect. I reckon, whilst they've been 'away', Demdike Stare have spent a lot of time listening to street music, which is great because someone has to do it for me, then take what they like and turn into something as good as this.

I mentioned 'rough' at the start. Well, that's one of the pleasures of Wonderland, a rough place where bass is distorted, beats crushed, swift cuts compressed, sabre-like 'scratches' scorch the mixing desk and everything is constantly mutating.

Skanking Easy (and cheap) with Augustus Pablo

The Essential Augustus Pablo

Confession time: I didn't have any Augustus Pablo on vinyl or CD until yesterday when I picked up this dble CD comp for a quid. Yes, £1. Who-o-o-oe-e-e! I'd urge you to get it but to my surprise it seems pricey on Amazon, but hold on, cheaper on Discogs from Euro sellers. What do I mean, 'Euro sellers'? Isn't the UK part of Europe? Yes, it still is, you know (conversation with self). I don't have to tell you how great Augustus Pablo is, do I? No.  

Nothing here now but the perfume / Jim Haynes - Throttle and Calibration

For the wild boy in your life. I can't quite believe this is a real product...and to my shame, I'd actually like the box for Christmas! I'd wear it ironically, of course. Imagine someone asking what you were wearing then replying "Junky", or "Beatnik". Is this what it's come to; all those years rebelling against the 'square' world, living alternative lifestyles and writing books that broke boundaries? Yes.



"It burns" are the first words spoken on Jim Haynes' new album for Cronica, but I don't think they refer to the above perfume when applied to a shaving cut, although they could, of Beats here, but abrasive noise, your ears soundblasted in a magnificent fashion and once again, even more severely, my little speakers truly tested for distortion...It Doesn't Matter...that must be the recording, surely. Please. Unlike some noise merchants Haynes is not out to test our limits of endurance but instead create tonal subtleties within the turbulence and on Kirikulaul enter a strangely Zen-like zone of industrial strength quasi-choral bliss, the kind which one might experience having witnessed an apocalyptic A-bomb event, survived and decided that the world will renew itself and become a garden of heavenly delights. Another quality release from Cronica.

Collage / Boris Hauf - Clark / Iancu Dumitrescu

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More art here


New speakers for the new PC - thing is, playing Boris Hauf's Corona from the Clark album, I don't know if he's built distortion into the sound or the speakers are rubbish - 'DUFF!-DUFF! DUFF!-DUFF!' If you read this, Boris, let me know. Really, they cost a whole £25. And as this track goes through nuclear meltdown towards the end I'm slightly worried as to which it is, the speakers or him.

Well, whatever, at first I thought 'OK, clean Techno generic, fairly good' but playing it over the last few days my opinion is changing towards 'Techno generic but twisted just enough to make it interesting'. I like the clean minimalism, which is the overriding impression, but that's ignoring the distortion mentioned above...and the storm of electro-static washing over Mind Tapes, which really takes it to another level and, as it progresses, creates the impression of being whipped up in a sonic tornado. Non-Stop Flight's crackle and persistent brain-phasing texture, which barely allows the subdued beat to take hold, is also nicely done. Clark is rising in my estimation with every play. It's reissued by Shameless.  


I'm going to see Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana Maria Avram at Cafe Oto on the 27th - yes, I'm actually having my slippers surgically removed in order to traverse the mean streets of London, at night, which is quite some effort on my behalf I can tell you. The book, Cosmic Orgasm, is highly recommended if you want one about him. I don't think there are others to choose from. I bought it on a mad whim whilst browsing in Housmans a few months ago, based on nothing more than faint recollections of what his music is about and no idea whether any resided on my hard know what it's like, these days, the plasticity of our brains being what it is, our minds are constantly being re-shaped by multitudinous input from The Screen....that's my excuse anyway.

Turns out Dumitrascu is a brilliant composer - you may already know, but since buying the book I've been catching up. He is also deeply into philosophy and theory but finds that attempts to expand on ideas by talking to musicians about them doesn't work, they 'simply stiffen up'. He tells them to forget what he was talking about and gets better results. The same could be said for listening to his music. One may know, or learn about, phenomenology or the Pythagorean monochord (!) but my total ignorance of either does not hinder my appreciation of his music. Like the players, I find it more helpful to relax, be open-minded and free from intellectual baggage. This approach suits my basic inability to grasp anything much beyond the bare facts of life, such as having to get up every morning, sleep at night and maybe do a few things in between.

Still, I'm looking forward to hearing them both, as Avram puts it, 'solicit the maximum force of the performer' at Cafe Oto.

Here To Go: Column One

So after this concert Column One will cease to exist - bad news, but I'm assured there will be new projects in the future. Meanwhile, savour the artwork by Robert Schalinski, presumably, for the final show. His collages have featured in many booklets and flyers for Column One and I'll be sharing some of them in the near future.

Sun Ra - The Definitive 45s Collection (Strut)

Fresh coffee - 
85% cocoa chocolate - 
Sun Ra

Orbitration is needed after that political shock - no doubt lots of people wishing they could board Rocket Ship #9 to Venus and never come back - still, the next best thing to physical escape is the musical variety and who better to provide it than Sun Ra?

Evidence released a singles collection but this goes further, deeper and is therefore essential even though they share some tunes. Take I Am An Instrument for starters, literally and the tone is set, as if you don't already know the tones for mental therapy Sun Ra gave us. Spoken word, first accompanied by harp, then on the second take, piano; classic Ra poetry - "I no longer have respect for hate...I am stronger than hate..." - quite appropriate in Donald's brave new world, so let's embrace love...and stop hating he who is going to make America great again...(ha-ha).

"Zoom, zoom up in the air"...Spaceship Lullaby, Ra was no stranger to recycling lyrics and tunes, so here we get early versions of what would later become set standards (as much as there were such things) and regarded as Ra classics. That Sun Ra produced doo-wop tunes came as a shock to me a few years back before I schooled myself. Now, listening to Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie sung by The Cosmic Rays (clue about the shape of things to come) from the 50s, they sound even stranger, not because of their content, but the very fact that these straight genre pieces featured the hand of Ra. But everyone has roots in something and Ra's are brilliantly explained on Transparency's Eternal Myth Revealed.

A fresh visitor to planet Ra playing Disc 1 might wonder what all the fuss was about - "He's not that weird!" - but the great thing about a chronological collection like this is the trip through changes as the gradual shifts towards the Outer Realms take place. By the time you're well into Disc 2 you can hear echoes of the future leaking through, in solos, in Ra's piano, in strange brass charts and weird keys.

Appropriately, Disc 3 starts with The Bridge, a blast of 'Free' horns and more defiant, cosmo-poetry - quite brilliant, of course. "THEY MUST WALK THE BRIDGE!" Yes, they must, crossing it to the Other Side of Ra. Great version of Rocket #9 here that I'd not heard before, (the earliest one, presumably?) a looser, funkier take, with completely different music to the better known version. There are no dates on my promo copy so I can't say when this one was made. 

Blues On Planet Mars is totally amazing, a psyched-out instrumental in which Ra makes the keyboard sound like a guitar, accompanied only by bass and congas. Mayan Temple, Disco 2021, Cosmo-Extensions, Outer Space Plateau - the hits keep coming! Hits, that is, in an alternate universe. Not forgetting the classic Nuclear War. If you didn't appreciate the breadth of Sun Ra's greatness before hearing this collection, you will afterwards. Absolutely essential.


Sell! Buy! The Art Of Typewriting, Jeff Nuttall's Performance Art / Ben Vida's Damaged Particulates

A conundrum, isn't it? To sell or buy or sell and buy or just sell or only buy - dilemma of the Western material world - discuss consumerism in the 21st century (existential angst of), report & write back. No, don't...

Sold stuff for £120 today, which is more than I expected to get for the CDs and vinyl - "Mmm, nice," said the shop assistant, holding Goldie's Timeless (dble vinyl) - yeah, "OK, so what? I've got the CD, don't you know there's a CD revival?" I never said, because as you know vinyl gets premium prices these days and I'm only too willing to exploit the fact.

So I mosey on down the road and come across one of those book warehouse outlet places where The Art Of Typewriting is sitting on the top shelf to my right as I walk in...£12 - result! The work is taken from the Sackner archive. You can see a film about Ruth and Marvin here

Here's a piece by me called Bourgeois Common Sense...there's a lot more vispo of mine here...

Re-reading Jeff Nuttall's classic, Bomb Culture (PDF file here) as I have been recently, it was a fine coincidence to come across Performance Art Scripts in the charity shop later - from dipping in, it looks like a great read...


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New from Shelter Press, Ben Vida's Damaged Particulates, two long form pieces which extricate seemingly infinite potential from sonic waveforms of grand variation in tempo and density as opposed to adhering to singular moods as many producers do - so good - you have to play the title track several times to even begin to appreciate the ebb and flow, the trickles, squiggles, ripples, dips and flights. It's reminiscent of pioneering computer music in it's clean, crisp, exuberant exploration of what a machine can do. The second piece maintains a steadier mood, classically building from delicate tones to a deeper, sustained texture.

Art / Xenakis vs the builders / Editing the novel / Malcolm Pointon comp, Electromuse

Dedicated To America's Defense (detail), RTomens

Monday - burn Iannis Xenakis' Persepolis to disc and try out the new blanks, which work, thankfully - I didn't know because I dont know much about technical stuff so I gambled on a cheap stack of 100. His noise competes with that made by the builders next door - they're big Polish men who I can't tell to fuck off, or even be quieter because they're just doing their job, the sound of which Xenakis is doing his best to counteract although, weirdly, not by drowning out (haven't got it on loud) but by imitating the buzz of their saws, consequently nullifying them, like a form of white noise - well it is noise made by a white person...


The Big Edit of Shadows (working title), a cut-up 'novel' comprising of texts collected over several years, gets under we see the author reading the first few pages and no, there hasn't been a power cut, he is outside at night...


Swap Xenakis for the Malcolm Pointon comp, Electromuse, on Public Information - obvious similarities between the first track and Xenakis, although Pointon probably never stretched a creation to an hour in length. But it is a fine kind of noise and we have top UK vintage electronics archaeologist Ian Helliwell to thank along with Public Information. Pointon began his tape music voyage of discovery in 1969 having been inspired in part by Stockhausen. He had worked for the BBC, doing what, I don't know, but I wonder if it's coincidental that the same organisation should have spawned it's own school of tape music pioneers earlier in the 60s. Whatever, this is a great collection, not basement tape excavation for the sake of obscurity.  Then Wakes The Ice is as good a piece of tape trickery as I've heard, complete with chopped vocals that William Burroughs would have been proud of, play it all back...backwards too. As a bonus, in keeping with what is almost a tradition in these kinds of collections, we hear Malcolm introducing Symbiosis and describing the kit in a typically English 'BBC voice'. First class release.

Miles Davis San Francisco 1970 vinyl / Ekoplekz' Cryptik Stepperz

Fopp shopping on Tuesday, came across this in their ever-expanding vinyl section ('Vinyl Is Killing MP3s' as the stickers plastered around the shop say) because it's so fashionable right now. Fopp are and always have been waging war on the idea of no-space-needed (except on your hard drive) storage, as I know to my cost. The shop's been responsible for many a CD/DVD bargain sitting on my shelves.

A new vinyl LP now costs almost as much as my first weekly wage back when it was the only thing (apart from tapes). I've watched it swing from near-extinction to mass secondhand, cheap availability to where it is now, a mixture of shiny new extravagance, extortionately-priced Indie albums and if you're lucky sensibly-priced s/h.

Miles Davis - San Francisco 1970 on Let Them Eat Vinyl (you can't, otherwise I'd never have sold all those Blue Note albums back when I was on the dole) was only £12 so with reservations I shelled out - reservations regarding whether I actually had these tracks or not. The 'Classic Radio Broadcast' subtitle lead me to believe I didn't have them, although you know what it's like collecting these days, all that stuff on your drive.

Back home I checked, relieved to find the tracks aren't on the Fillmore West dble CD. These tracks are from the extra four-night Fillmore run booked by Bill Graham, probably when he saw how well Davis was going down the with longhairs. Must say it's a novelty putting the needle on a newly-purchased Miles Davis vinyl album. Haven't done that in decades. From the opening of Honky Tonk all doubts (about the sound quality) dissolve as my admiration for The Man, especially this period, rises up once more, flooding my senses, almost, a tingle, a gut feeling, a head feeling as, to coin a Parliament phrase, I 'Let the vibes flow through', this sort of Jazz not only moves, it can remove, dig?

Honky Tonk is such a....groove...sorry, I can think of no other word...that slow burn lit by Michael Henderson's stunning bass and him again on What I Say - ! What can I say? Turns out this night has appeared on a bootleg CD but I don't care, it's new to me. Have you tried keeping up with all the Miles Davis boots? Ridiculous - loads of very poor sound quality too.


Ekoplekz springs to life again by announcing Cryptik Stepperz yesterday - not new material but who cares when it's this good. He always was if not Above then Aside somewhere, apart from the pack and pushing a unique brand of digi-dub (!). These are leftovers (but some released on a limited cassette) from 2012. Listening again, allowing for his take on rhythm, I do put him Above many others, the common herd. At one point, around the time of these tracks, perhaps, he overloaded us all, coming at every angle with cassettes, split release, albums - too much of a good thing? It's possible, so it's good to be made aware once more, from the distance of his hibernation, how skilled Nick is at blending space-age radiophonics with ruff rhythms...

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