26 November 2008

Reports of a Cabaret Voltaire reunion are regrettabily unfounded. However, it looks like Richard H. Kirk will be reactivating the name for some solo gigs and possibily a recording project. In the meantime, check this wicked live recording of the Cabs at the height of their powers...

23 November 2008


"The '60s "were an incredibly fertile period in American (electronic) music", but the music of the times was not documented because publishers wouldn't produce books about it and record companies wouldn't release recordings. The true music history of that era, Bob claimed, only exists in composer's file cabinets like mine, all over the United States."
Thom Holmes, speaking to composer Robert Ashley in the introduction to his book Electronic And Experimental Music (Routledge, 2nd edition, 2002)

I've long suspected the same might apply here in the UK, albeit on a much smaller scale. The established history of British '60s culture and musical innovation generally ignores anything that doesn't fit within the framework of Rock and other more accessible genres. Ask anyone about British electronic music of the period and maybe they'll mention the Dr.Who theme and other worthy examples of the Radiophonic Workshop's output, perhaps they'll discuss Joe Meek's extraordinary methods of recording space-age pop, or cite the later psychedelic improvisations of the Pink Floyd and their offspring. And some extremely boring people would probably talk about The Beatles.

I've taken issue with Paul McCartney's attempts to boost his cutting-edge credentials before, but here he is once again trying to make us all believe that he was the most avant-garde member of the Fab Four. Recorded evidence of this is non-existent. All the most sonically innovative Beatles tunes were John Lennon things like "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Revolution 9", not to mention solo outings like "Two Virgins". Even George Harrison, who Macca reckons "disparaged sonic experimentation" managed to make a solo album of experimental electronics. But apparently we should all be getting down on our knees and worshipping Sir-bloody-Paul just because he managed to coax his colleagues to "just wander round all of the stuff and bang it, shout, play it" for 10 minutes. Big deal. AMM were doing that long before he was.

But of course the legion of fans are dying to hear this racket, and I suppose its only right and proper that they should have the opportunity to do so. But I personally would be much more curious to hear some more recordings by the true electronic pioneers at that legendary festival - Unit Delta Plus, and specifically the work of Peter Zinovieff, who at that time was developing one of the most advanced privately-owned electronic studios in the world: EMS in Putney.

Whilst other British luminaries of the era (Daphne Oram, Tristram Cary, John Baker...) have had significant portions of their work anthologised over the years, I'm unaware of any major Zinovieff retrospective. The only things I've found are a vinyl album of his electronic realisation for Harrison Birtwhistle's "Chronometer" (1971), and "Agnus Die" cropped-up on a Space Age Recordings compilation a while back. Oh, and a couple of very short excerpts on an EMS promotional flexidisc (which you can listen to here). Presumably the guy must've built-up quite a large body of work during the decade or so that he was active, but where's it all gone?

Did you know that Zinovieff once tried to donate his studio to The Nation? Apparently, The Nation didn't want it and it ended up literally rotting away in storage in the dungeon basement of the National Theatre. But I digress...

"Unit Delta Plus once shared a bill with Paul McCartney at a "Million Volt Light and Sound RAVE - Dancing to Mystic Rock Groups" held in early 1967 at one of London's most hip venues, the Roundhouse. At the time, McCartney was deeply involved with electronic music (Stockhausen is one of the figures on the cover of Sergeant Pepper) and was a regular visitor to Peter's studio. As the swinging sixties started to unfold around Peter, he displayed an almost studied indifference to the rock musicians who became interested in electronic music. The world of rock stars, drugs, and counterculture was not really Peter's world. He was bemused by the EMS secretaries swooning over the famous musicians who came to visit, but for Peter it was business as usual."
Trevor Pinch, from the book Analog Days (Harvard, 2002)

I love that image of the slightly remote, aristocratic mad genius, completely unimpressed by the attentions of all those rock star 'hangers-on', stubbornly refusing to 'get hip' or creatively interact with popular musicians. But by remaining aloof in the world of classical composition and research, Zinovieff ultimately doomed himself to obscurity. His legacy lives on in the classic synths he helped design - EMS VCS3, Synthi AKS, etc - but for now I guess his own work must languish in another damned filing cabinet somewhere, along with early work by Dave Vorhaus' Kaleidophon Studio and other mysterious figures like Fred Judd.

But back to Macca. If he really was so 'deeply involved' in electronic music back then, why did he never put his enthusiasm to good use? And if he did, where's the proof? A bunch of hairy Liverpudlians banging a few rocks and sticks together with a bit of echo added doesn't really cut the mustard as far as I'm concerned...

20 November 2008

Hate to tell you, Martin, but when it comes to Google search referrels, you tend to reap what you sow.

Last 20 Searchengine Referrels For Gutterbreakz
Unique Visitors
20 Nov, Thu, 21:35:40 Google Images: LADY SOVEREIGN
20 Nov, Thu, 21:36:44 Google Images: lady sovereign
20 Nov, Thu, 21:38:35 Google: blogariddims bok bok
20 Nov, Thu, 21:43:17 Google: grime sound module
20 Nov, Thu, 21:51:46 Google: download death OR for OR life "death by stereo"
20 Nov, Thu, 21:51:47 Google: blogspot.com soundboy's gravestone
20 Nov, Thu, 21:57:34 Google: boards of canada Korona youtube
20 Nov, Thu, 22:02:16 Google Images: peverelist
20 Nov, Thu, 22:06:06 Google Images: lady sovereign
20 Nov, Thu, 22:07:12 Google Images: krush house arrest
20 Nov, Thu, 22:13:14 Yahoo: female sampled it takes two
20 Nov, Thu, 22:16:37 Google Images: skream
20 Nov, Thu, 22:18:04 AOL Search: fucking monkeys (eh??)
20 Nov, Thu, 22:20:23 Google: soundboys gravestone blogspot
20 Nov, Thu, 22:29:04 Google Images: lady sovereign
20 Nov, Thu, 22:35:07 Google: Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals blogspot
20 Nov, Thu, 22:46:14 Google Images: house session photo
20 Nov, Thu, 22:53:57 Google: Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated blogspot
20 Nov, Thu, 22:55:45 Google: funky worm sheffield shuffle
20 Nov, Thu, 22:57:21 Google Images: who's that girl madonna (eh??! - oh, yeah now I remember)

16 November 2008


Good to see that John Eden has found time to do another RSI Radio podcast. It's a very specialist reggae t'ing but never less than interesting especially with John's informative commentary. Also of interest is Ed DMX's Radio Show, which is now in it's second installment. It's basically Ed playing a load of old records that mean a lot to him, but he's very good explaining why he likes these records, how they influenced him and so forth. For me, it's like a catalogue of my own record buying experiences, particularly the '80s stuff - clearly we were into a lot of the same things - Mantronix, Kraftwerk, Chaka Kahn, even the Pointer Sister's "Automatic", which I still think is a brilliant record. Ed is slightly younger than me, so he was getting into 12" mixes and studying the building blocks of rhythm and sound when he was about ten, whereas I was about 14 before I started doing that. We were learning about music and developing our tastes via the same set of records at about the same time ('83 onwards) , it's just that he was evidently a more precociously gifted and mentally advanced child than me, lol!

I must admit these guys are almost inspiring me to try doing something similar. I used to do my Gutterbreakz FM thing a few years back, but that was more of an attempt to emulate the format of pirate radio. But the idea of doing a more sedate 'John Peel'-style show, with unmixed tracks and a bit of chat inbetween isn't something I've tried before. The thought of getting near a microphone again doesn't really enthuse me, but it would enable me to play a wider variety of musical styles without worrying about bpm rates etc. It's something to think about, anyway...

15 November 2008


Thursday, March 10th, 2005. A small crowd gathers in the backroom of The Croft in Bristol for a Context 'dubstep special' - a rare opportunity to witness some seriously exclusive dubplate action outside the confines of the scene's minuscule Croydon heartland. Presiding on the decks: Loefah of DMZ infamy, back-to-back with Skream, a young almost completely unknown producer making his first appearance in Bristol. This wasn't the first dubstep event here, but it was my first, and it had a major impact on me - I wrote about it here.

Context was an occasional event run by a local dj and early dubstep adopter called Pinch (above, left). I'd corresponded with him previously by e-mail but this was the first time I met him in the flesh. It was also my first meeting with Shackleton (above, centre) and Appleblim (above, right), who were at this point simply keen followers of the scene, although I was aware that they were working on some music of their own, having heard a cd-r of their projected first Skull Disco release "I Am Animal/Mystikal Warrior". It was an exciting time, but the excitement was all generated by the music coming out of Croydon; there was no inkling yet that Bristol would develop it's own sound, or that these people I had just met would go on to have such a huge impact on the international scene.

Of course, there was one other notable character absent that night: Tom Ford, soon to become widely known as 'Peverelist', was away and unable to attend, although I'd known him for a couple of months already, since becoming a regular customer at Rooted Records where he worked. He too would subsequently become a hugely respected producer and dj.

The funny thing is that, for a little while in 2005, I was probably more 'famous' than any of them, but as their stars have ascended, mine has dwindled, and I blame no-one but myself. I've spectacularly failed to consolidate on the blog's popularity, in fact I've been actively distancing myself from the scene which I used to be a focal point of, plus I've found it increasingly hard this past year to balance the demands of earning a crust and raising a family with my 'hobbies' (blogging, clubbing, djing, producing, etc). I honestly intended to finish this blog forever, rather than let it limp-on as a mere shadow of it's former self, but here I am once again, tapping furiously on this bloody laptop when I should be getting on with something more 'important'. Why? Well basically because people have been sending me stuff. Which people? The ones mentioned above. The people who have completely outgrown any publicity a lowly blogger like me could give them. They don't need me anymore, but they haven't forgotten me, and I'm deeply touched by that fact. And that's why I back here: to remind any straggling readers about the excellent music these people are still releasing.

First came a 12" white label of the latest Peverelist offering on Punch Drunk. The a-side is called "Clunk Click Every Trip", a title which might be suggestive of psychedelic undertones, though if memory serves it was actually a catchphrase for a television advertising safety campaign about wearing seatbelts, presented by Jimmy Saville many years ago (a quick check on Wiki confirms this). I haven't asked Tom why he's adopted the slogan here; I think some things are best left a mystery. The track is the most m*n*mal thing I've heard from him yet, almost entirely constructed of beats, with liberal use of metallic delay effects weaving in and out of the mix. Then, just when you least expect it, a huge, glistening block of synth-pad chords swoops in and dominates for a few bars before promptly departing once more, leaving me slightly disorientated and wondering what the hell happened. The flip is called "Gather", and is also somewhat unexpected for entirely different reasons. It's a slice of downtempo dubwise atmospherics, coming from a similar sonic palette as some of Rob Smith's RSD material, with echoes of Renegade Soundwave circa "In Dub" - not the sort of thing you'd expect from the Pev at all, but obviously he likes to keep everyone guessing about where his muse is going, and he's certainly got my undivided attention with this one. It's in the shops now, so go buy it.

Then came an e-mail from Pinch with some MP3s of his new release on Tectonic, "Midnight Oil c/w Joyride". It's interesting to note the parrellel progress between Pinch and Peverelist at the moment - it's almost like they're in a micro-genre of their own: complex beats with galloping kick drums, a de-emphasis on basslines (no more than a one-note subsonic undertow), experimenting with weird fx that materialise and discorporate in the mix, heavy use of synth-pads to drive home the melodic 'argument', though Pinch's choice of pad textures are more eerie/atmospheric. Always that hint of Techno, a slight tint of Berlin, but never too overstated. Of course, they live in the same house so I guess it's inevitable that they're influencing each other...imagine sitting at the top of the stairs in their house, listening to the sounds drifting down the landing from their respective rooms, pushing the air around, blending and morphing. Two friends on a sonic voyage. Nothing unusual about that, except that in this case the world is listening in anticipation. Well, maybe bits of the world at least. Ummm, forgot to ask when this is coming out, but I'm sure it'll be quite soon.

Then, this morning, the postman brought me this...

...and I nearly chocked on my Fruit 'n Fibre in surprise because I thought those guys had long since abandoned me. The package came via S.T. Holdings, so I'm not sure who it was put me on the mailing list for this, but they have my eternal gratitude. This is the second Skull Disco CD anthology, called "Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals". Disc 1 collects all the tracks since "Vansan/You Bring Me Down", so you get all those awesome Shackleton tunes like "Death Is Not Final" and "The Rope Tightens", along with Appleblim & Peverelist's "Circling/Over Here" on CD for the first time. Then disc 2 features a bunch of remixes, from the like of T+++, Bass Clef, Pole, Brendon Moller and Gieom, that twist the Skull Disco catalogue into all sorts of new mindbending shapes. I didn't get a press sheet with this, so can't say exactly when it's coming out (and Appleblim's not answering his phone as usual) but I think it should be in the shops in the next fortnight, so start saving your pocket money kids - this is the fucking business.

Intermittent service is resumed, though if you want to know what's really going down on the underground scene in Bristol and beyond, you'd be better off checking the Highrise Clothing Blog.