Saturday, October 18, 2008

Minutes LTM V:XV

While we are on the subject of James Nice and LTM - I'll also offer up Minutes, a compilation which only James could describe adequately so I will allow his words to do so:

was intended as a modern literary and 'intellectual' review combining spoken word and music, and owed a heavy debt to early Crepuscule collections such as From Brussels With Love and Fruit of the Original Sin. At the time I think I fancied that I was bringing high culture to the masses. Today I struggle to find any rationale to the project at all...

Both Richard Jobson poems were taped live in Holland with Steven Brown of Tuxedomoon guesting on piano, and in fact the musical accompaniment to
Anonymous is a Tuxedomoon piece, Lowlands Tone Poem. Jobson also provided a tape of the two Jean Cocteau poems, recorded with the Dan Parrish Jazz Orchestra in 1929, which had in turn come from Bill Nelson. The Winston Tong track was culled from Like The Others (then a limited Crepuscule cassette-only release long deleted), which combined skewed versions of Euro ballad Going Out of My Head with (apparently) the Yardbird's For Your Love. A cross-channel trip to collect the mastertape at the end of 1986 marked my second visit to Brussels, and my first encounter with Michel Duval of Crepuscule. A lesser influence was the el label, whose Mike Alway proved a constant source of help, inspiration and amusement. The Louis Philippe track had already appeared as an el single, and served to add to the European flavour of the project, whereas Bid of the Monochrome Set offered a choice of three spare tracks. For some inexplicable reason I passed on a live take of The Lighter Side of Dating and an unheard demo track (Something About You) in favour of a distinctly ropey accapella track, written (if you please) by their sound engineer. Since neither Philippe nor the Set were writers I can only assume that they must have been intellectuals.

The treated Burroughs tracks had previously appeared on a Fresh Sounds flexi issued with a US magazine called Talk Talk, while the Jacques Derrida section was little more than a conceptual joke. In July 1986 the seminal modern philosopher and deconstructionist had appeared at a seminar at Glasgow Strathclyde University, the organisers of which had made a tape of an English language Q&A session. Having seen Ken McMullen's impenetrable film
Ghostdance I guessed correctly that Derrida would consent to a fragment appearing on vinyl, and edited down an exchange in which an Australian academic become increasingly lost in the corridors. Derrida had no idea why I should want to include him on record, and in truth neither did I.

The sleeve was the first commissioned by LTM from a professional designer, namely Thomi Wroblewski. Thomi had a studio in Soho above John Calder Publishers, and was then working steadily both for Calder and for el. According to my diary, February 23rd 1987 saw me 'round to Thomi's studio in Brewer Street to finalise sleeve designs, me rejecting his favourites in favour of one he considered "far too obvious"'.

Disaster struck on release in April 1987. Although 1000 copies had been ordered from the pressing plant, just 500 were delivered to Rough Trade Distribution. This passed unnoticed until the first run had sold out, with the result that by the time the error was corrected (and the album re-pressed) the initial momentum had been lost.

Minutes failed to sell out, the presence of Derrida and Burroughs sparked considerable press interest. The NME puzzled over a 'bizarre compilation of contemporary and archive material', the overall conception of which was 'difficult to decipher', while Underground praised 'a strange collection gathered round a teetering coffee table to impress the intelligentsia' and Blitz 'one huge plane-crash of a record'. For once the reviews had been fair.

proved to be the last release on LTM for more than two years, since in June 1987 I moved to Brussels, and began working for Crepuscule two months later. Futurism and Dada Reviewed, on which I had been working for some time, was eventually licenced to Sub Rosa. Nevertheless, in 1988 the album was revamped and re-issued as Minutes to Go! on Interior Music, becoming more of a hommage to William Burroughs. Louis Philippe, Jobson and the Monochrome Set vanished, to be replaced by Cabaret Voltaire, Tuxedomoon and The Anti Group. A CD version was licenced to German label Interphon, together with the Hommage a Duras set."

James Nice, June 1997.

listen to Minutes

Friday, October 17, 2008

Varous Artists: Hommage a Duras

Interior Music (1987)

Interior Music was run in close association with Crépuscule by James Nice (Les Temps Modernes).

James Nice founded LTM Publishing (Les Temps Modernes) in 1984. His earliest releases championed the work of Section 25, Happy Family, The and Crispy Ambulance, among others.

In 1987 he moved to Brussels and began work at Les Disques Du Crépuscule, handling their mail
order operations. His role expanded swiftly into being, in his words, "a full-time job as a gofer for [Crépuscule boss] Michel Duval". His work was rewarded with his own sub-label, Interior Music.

Hommage a Duras was released on Interior Design. The sleeve lists Jobson's The Kiss, The Dance And The Death instead of India Song. Note that most
song titles are titles of novels by Margueritte Duras. The LP was previously released in different form and different sleeve in 1985 on CREPUSCULE AU JAPON (SC 1009-L).

In 1988, James Nice switched from Crépuscule to a position at Play It Again Sam (PIAS), and in 1990
decided to reactivate LTM. This second phase of his label really hit its stride when Nice started licensing and reissuing classic, long-deleted Factory and Crépuscule albums.

listen to Hommage a Duras

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Graham Kerr: A Festive Occasion Just For You

The Galloping Gourmet
Freemantle Records, 1971

Almost anyone who grew up in the 70's remembers Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet. Writer, performer, designer, Kerr managed to capture romance, fun and enthusiasm for food on his unusual ad-lib cookery shows which won him world-wide fame.

Graham Kerr would sprinkle his cooking teachings with great understated humor and cynicism. This album presents Kerr as instructor, poet and comedian. I challenge Martha Stewart to describe a "turgid ripping open of aluminum packets" or even just to use the term turgid as powerfully as Kerr. The album starts with Kerr explaining exactly how to create a top-notch menu for a "festive occasion" including recommending washing out the ashtrays "unless you are the type who will use the empty oyster shells". The first half of the album continues with Graham reading fan letters - including a note from a 82 year old woman who explains how Kerr's tight pants are not sexy and how she feels sorry for how uncomfortable he must be. The first half finishes up with him yucking it up with his "spicy stories".

The second half of the album is a Kerr-picked selection of music, perfect for any festive occasion. Just in case you need to create this outstanding, fantastically festive dinner the LP includes all the recipes in the liner notes.

"May you have good coffee and good company above all else" - Graham Kerr

learn to be festive with Graham Kerr

Screamers Original Soundtrack by Luciano Michelini

Whenever a movie has more than six names you have to start to worry a little bit - and sometimes even more so about the quality of its elements. That may not be so with Screamers, Sergio Martino's 1979 fantasy-horror-adventure (AKA L'Isola degli Uomini Pesce The Island of the Fishmen, Island of Mutations and on and on and on).

Luciano Michelini is probably more known right now for his contributions to the soundtrack to Curb Your Enthusiasm but previously has been known as one of Rome's busiest cinema musicians. Michelini started his career in the early 1960's when he scored many of the "sword and sandal" films. He has also been known to arrange background msuic for top Italian singers and voal groups.

Album coordinator Jim Wynorski's notes on the back cover of this album says it best ...

"But enough's about time to slip this record onto your turntable, turn up the volume, and let your ears take the mind on an incredible, unforgettable journey. But be wanred: SCREAMERS music may actually turn you inside out."

listen and be turned inside out

Charles Ives: Sonate No 1 - Three-Page Sonata - The Anti Abolitionist Riots - Etude No. 20

Accord Musidisc (France)

I am going to continue in the theme with another French release from 1990/91. Charles Ives' first sonata was started in 1901 and composed over the course of 8 years and was not performed for the first time until 40 years later. The sonata itself is best described in the liner notes:

"More than Schoenberg, Bartok or Janacek, Ives, in relative isolation, broke with the conventions and with the very language of the piano. The intensity, boldness and organic force of this score, its wild experiments, diversions and detours, its lack of propriety, still have all the pugnacity and insolence."

Other pieces included on this recording were written during the time when Ives was completing Sonata No 1. Many of the similarities between these pieces provide insight on the composer's state of mind at the time; " particular his delight in experimentation and the use of unheard of devices demolishing the romantic piano and creating a vernacular for American popular music."

listen to the Charles Ives works

Friday, October 10, 2008

Markus Schmickler: Onea Gako

Odd Size Records - Paris
Released 1993

Just about 15 years ago my friend Laurent Pernice, overlord of Odd Size Records, whom I have not seen since, had stayed in my home for - well - quite some time. He had somehow gotten a hold of a bottle of Chateau Margeaux which he shared with us on his final night and it will probably be one of the few I ever drink in my life. Upon polishing off that lovely bottle of silky wonder, he handed me this release from his label which had somehow escaped us the entire time he stayed in our home.
While he was with us that year Laurent, myself and my wife went to raves, live techno, old school noise shows, rock bands - you name it. We were pretty much out in the clubs every night taking in something. Laurent liked everything and I know that's why he released this album. This album is as much ambient as it is industrial, as it is classical, as it is metal, as it is prog. There are a fistful of genres explored here that's for sure - and it freakin' rocks. Trombone, viola, double bass, drums, clarinet - and it rocks and in an entirely different way than you would expect. Holy crap on a pita! This release was actually way ahead of its time even in 1993 - and if released today would probably garner some attention. If you consider that the grunge era was pretty much ushered in at this point and think back to what you were listening to and hearing at the time this may surprise you a bit. Of particular interest also is the inclusion of C-Schulz in the lineup who at about the same time appeared on Extreme Records with some fairly intriguing work of his own.

listen to Onea Gako here

Slap: Bed of Nails

An Index of Abstract Electronics
Duotone Records (DUO-08)
Originally Released 1987

Stephen Nester co-founder of The Happiness Boys, known for their relentless instrumental electronic music that eschewed commercialism, eventually evolved his work into SLAP. Between the years of 1984 and 1987 Nester worked on his solo project SLAP with minimal support from others. There are appearances by others on his albums but these are primarily solo works. One notable collaborator however would be Vicki Richards - violin - whom many may recognize for her work with the Florida based band Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Nester introduced Richards to the band whom she collaborated with multiple times and whose appearance on this compilation of tracks adds a haunting measure similar, if not more dissonant, than her work with BTFABG. Bed of Nails serves as somewhat of a diary of Nester's work during this period in the 80's. One could easily site many influences, from ultra pop electronic pioneers to lesser known acts such as Tuxedomoon. The elements of deep emotional soundtracks are sometimes suppressed by the limitations of the equipment used for electronic music at the time, however, this still serves as a missing link of sorts in the electronic, experimental, industrial, post punk music era. If you find this interesting I would highly recommend exploring - that reads as purchasing - ARC00012 Ghost Stories CD (Projekt: Archive, 1982-94) from Projeckt Records.

listen to SLAP - Bed of Nails