In January 2008 I put together an album of photographs and posted them on that very well known social network. Thinking about this group of pictures lead eventually to this blog…an edited version of one of them provided my ‘profile’ picture. Passing that particular site recently I noticed that the sign had gone and the shopfront had been stripped back. This prompted me to revisit the photographs and their sites. Some things have changed round here since 2008 and, luckily, others have not. Here is the first part of the two parallel albums.
In the absence of some substantial piece of writing:
I did this drawing at Vortex Jazz on 4th February…it’s Stephan Crump of the Rosetta Trio:
…wondering how I might integrate it into a different kind of drawing, I redrew it using the same technique (looking at the subject but not the object – i.e. the drawing on which I was engaged). Then I built/drew a frame around it and it has come out like this (so far):
On Sunday as I walked home I found this CD on Kingsbury Road next to the Jewish cemetery:
2. Head Slash Bauch (2002). AGF. I got this in Oxfam back in the summer. Fragmentary and unresolved music that I kept coming back to for the rest of the year. At the end of the year I picked up a BBC sound effects CD for 49p in the same Oxfam…’Trains BBC CD SFX 041’…just as unresolved and compelling on one listen but with less ‘depth’ I guess. Still…here from the ‘Trains passing’ section is Track 42 ‘Single diesel locomotive passes under a bridge.’ (with unidentified birds).
3. The sound of the wind passing through metal fins on the top of the world’s second highest outdoor viewing platform on the world’s fourth tallest building, Taipei 101 Tower.
4. All Comes to an End with Disco in Hell. This was one of a number of compilations that I made last year…mostly the content defined by which CDs I had picked up in charity shops. The title was a gift and now I can’t remember where from (though I know that Russia and Chris M were involved and maybe he can point me in the right direction). I have a sentimental attachment to cassette compilations and have carried this through to these. I even like that they have their physical manifestation in those much-unloved and derided slender silver discs…
5. That impromptu gig in Belo Horizonte…see https://likeahammerinthesink.wordpress.com/2013/09/
6. ‘Listening evenings’…an indulgence. Three or four times a year I get together with 2 friends and we listen to recorded music together. In strict rotation we play our tracks in the hope of surprising, educating, delighting. We usually get through about 30 tunes in an evening…almost too much but a pleasure from beginning to end.
7. Innocence is Kinky by Jenny Hval (2013). A great album and a stunning performance with her band at the Vortex in May.
8. Keith Tippett solo at Oto…see: https://likeahammerinthesink.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/keith-tippett-cafe-oto-30-iv-13/ But also so many other Cafe Oto gigs: Marc Ribot solo and Trio, Thurston Moore with John Edwards, Fire!, Little Annie and Larsen and on and on. And more in 2014…
9. The Necks generally…the new album ‘Open’ and 2 nights at Oto.
10. The Sixteen at Christchurch, Spitalfields, 17th December. For the space and a programme of Poulenc and Britten.
11. Musica Electronica Viva…Oto again. (Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum, Frederic Rzewski). Because I should have known about them but didn’t and went along ‘blind’. http://cafeoto.co.uk/mev.shtm
12. Pictures of Sound; One Thousand Years of Educed Audio: 980-1980. (Dust to Digital 2012) Patrick Feaster. I have not really made my mind up about this yet…the CD is made up of sound ‘image’ (sometimes notation) translated into actual sound – hence the ‘educed’ bit. So as sound it can be elusive and as translation, somewhat melancholy. The book explains the process of doing all this and the author claims these are ‘ways you should be able to duplicate yourself…’ Hmmm. Here are some samples: http://www.firstsounds.org/sounds/
13. The last record I bought and the last record I listened to in 2013. (Complete with the cover it came in.) The over-familiar suddenly fresh and alive again and now stuck in my head still on the 3rd January 2014.
A rather wonderful sound installation called ‘Phantom Railings’ by an organization called Public Interventions on Malet Street on the wall of a small (private) park. The railings here (like many other sites) were removed during the Second World War to be melted down and re-used as guns or tanks…can anyone confirm that lots were dumped in the North Sea as they were the wrong sort of iron? Anyway, electronic eyes track passing pedestrians sounding out the absent railings as if they were being hit by a stick – so passers-by can make a mix by walking back and forth along the pavement. Seeing the Vimeo films on the website almost spoil the accident of finding this…but as Kurt Vonnegut used to say: ‘So it goes’.
Leafing through Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (as you do) my eye was caught by the word ‘gramophone’.
‘4.014 A gramophone record, the musical idea, the written notes, and the soundwaves, all stand to one another in the same internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world.
They are all constructed according to a common logical pattern.’
A complaint: at Cafe Oto this week for two nights to hear the Marc Ribot Trio (with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor). These were fantastic gigs full of inventiveness, virtuosity, attack and a bunch of other superlatives. There was both wonderful ensemble playing and great solos from all the musicians. I am for enthusiasm and I believe it is important that audiences convey their enthusiasm to the performers when the music has finished. Oto till now has been (mostly?) free of that old convention of applause for solos but on Tuesday and Wednesday nights I was thrust back into jazz club days where the flow of musical invention and development was interrupted by a lot of clatter from the audience. Neither ‘so it goes’ nor ‘fair enough’ apply in this situation.
Hard to keep to my idea of not writing ‘reviews’…and wondering why anyone would want to read anything else (or even that)… still…what an odd experience the Denovali Swingfest was. It meant being incarcerated in a dark dancehall in Kings Cross for the weekend,. And this was a weekend that turned out to be the closest that London had got to spring in the course of 2013. But maybe the other celebrants were not worried about this. What we were attending was after all a kind of Masonic meeting for the obsessed. I’ve been there before of course…recently Touch organized a similar (if more diverse) affair in the homelier Beaconsfield Arts Centre and ECM orchestrated a shrine in the form of a museum exhibition and a whole series of gigs in Munich. I didn’t realize I was in thrall to labels this way. And I’m not sure if I was really aware of Denovali until I happened upon this event. This was, in its way, more intense than either of these other events though…us listeners, the audience, needed more stamina and had to exhibit more commitment to the doctrine.
Saturday was something of an onslaught of guitars and decibels. The audience was quite prepared to stand for the duration – about 10 hours from the Pirate Ship Quartet through to Andy Stott (though this is guess work on my part as I bowed out at around midnight before Mr Stott made an appearance). It all began with dry-ice and maybe there should be legislation to prevent the use of dry-ice before 8 pm…and while we are at it someone should introduce a ban on certain guitar poses. I am thinking particularly of the one foot on the monitor position. Along the way there was fantastic noise/sound/music call it what you will. Body shaking bass form the Bersarin Quartett and a teeming wall of sound from Fennesz.
As if everyone had already read the script, Sunday’s audience immediately sat down and proceedings were more acoustic, quieter, and, from time to time piano based. If Saturday was relentless then the sound of Sunday was more reflective. The dub card was played with thrilling conviction by Greg Haines, complex polyrythms were provided by Poppy Ackroyd, resonating 12 string was served up by James Blackshaw and icy landscapes were evoked by Thomas Köner. I was left wondering why almost no one addressed us the audience (apart form Poppy Ackroyd…the sole women on stage for the weekend…coincidence? I think not).
I find it hard to separate the sound-space and the experience of that space from the making of the music. The Scala’s particular penumbral resonances made for a sometimes uncomfortable musical environment. By way of contrast my companion and I sought solace (more than once) in the unlikely surroundings of an ersatz pub newly arrived in Kings Cross Station… a ‘parcel yard’ miraculously re-instated on the first floor above the station platforms. This is a comfortable staging post for some on the way back to Hertfordshire and for us was a respite from the nether world of those dark dance hall days. Considerably better beer than the Scala…but when you sign up for a cult it is not usually for the quality of the refreshments.
The running order for both days was:
The Pirate Ship Quintet (UK)
Omega Massif (GER)
Bersarin Quartett (GER)
Andy Stott Live (UK)
Carlos Cipa (GER)
James Blackshaw (UK)
Greg Haines (UK)
Thomas Köner (GER)
Poppy Ackroyd (UK)
William Basinski (USA)
I don’t normally go to church…an occasional carol service and, once. the Pearly Kings and Queens Thanksgiving service at St Martin-in-the-Fields. But last week I found myself attending mass at the Church of the Holy Touch. This took place in a large cold room with a single ocular window at the Beaconsfield Arts Centre in Vauxhall, South London. I felt like a spy among the devotees who were attending a two-day celebration of thirty years of Touch.
Jon Wozencroft, the co-founder with Mike Harding, kicked off proceedings with an eloquent exposition of the Touch ethos talking about a triangular relationship between sound, the visual and the social of which this event was an expression. Sadly, the sound element of the next few hours let the equation down as various speakers struggled to be heard over the squeakiest floorboards I have ever experienced, the scraping of chairs and the low noise of trains passing immediately outside. All this felt rather ironic as the subject of much of the conversation was on the technicalities of dealing with recorded sound through mastering, changing formats and multi-channel playback. The more I heard of these discussions the more anxious I became and I wondered if anyone was going to rumble me as an imposter.
How do I listen to music? In the kitchen, through 2 cheap speakers, the sounds of the street creeping in, with a background of cooking noises and with occasional conversation interrupting. On an iPod through in-ear buds – never really isolated from external sound but insulated from it. On a computer through quite small powered speakers. On an evolved (rather than planned) hi-fi with ok components but with speakers positioned too high on top of bookshelves. The room in which this system is installed is the noisiest in the house. The sound from the road outside doesn’t just creep in here it crashes through the ill-fitting windows, a collage of traffic, human voices and sirens. In the car on a clapped-out cassette player. So I never hear recorded sound at home in anything like ‘ideal’ conditions. The formats for all these listening experiences are numerous: MP3 and all its digital cousins, 7” singles and LPs on vinyl, CDs, radio waves, cassettes and even, in extremis, shellac and, once in a blue moon, reel-to-reel tape. It is all whatever I can get my ears on.
As I sat in the big cubic room at Beaconsfield listening to the talks I thought back to the visit I made in the morning to Tate Britain on my way to the Touch event. I went to see and hear the Turner Prize winning installation by Elizabeth Price The Woolworths Choir of 1979. It fuses sound in the form of a cut-up version of Out in the Streets by the Shangri-Las, finger clicks and hand claps with a series of still and moving images of gothic church architecture, 1960s girl groups and dancers and documentary footage from the fire in a Woolworths’ furniture shop in Manchester. These incongruous elements are edited together into a coherent and moving near-narrative and the sound is loud and immersive. This was the opposite of how I usually hear recorded music and, in its degree of scripting and control, at odds with how I experience most live music too.
Back at Beaconsfield the Touch events moved into another phase in the evening with performances in a brick-vaulted room situated immediately below the train tracks. This was the payback space for the big white echoing box upstairs where the talks had taken place. The pieces performed here were all punctuated by the sound of the trains passing overhead and this random element gave the performances an open-endedness that I had felt, with a different emphasis, in the Woolworths Choir installation. These moved from beautiful mixes of voice and cello (Hildur Gudnadottir) through a rich and elaborate turntable collage (Philip Jeck), a restrained and poignant audio-visual sequence (David Toop), a four-channel playback of field recordings (Chris Watson) to an immense ‘wall’ of effect and electric guitar (Fennesz).
So here was the culmination of the first day’s proceedings…something for both the faithful and the unbelievers. And on the second day (talks this time with amplification in the upstairs room and yet more enveloping sounds in the railway arch), Wozencroft ended the pilgrimage with a very lo-fi story of broadcasting on pirate radio in the 1980s with his friend Jon Savage and then launched into an improvised acapella version of Blue Monday. I felt this, at least, was in the spirit of my own listening habits.