Where does one note begin and another end. Think about Pierre Boulez when he greets you with Sonatine for Flute and Piano, Op. 1 (1946; revised 1949) as danger dances in the air mere moments after the end of the Second World War. Why should music remain the same. The safety of nostalgia never seemed so tempting. The intensity is almost terrifying, yet completely engaging and thrilling.
The accompanying booklet contains a number of quotes from the composer whose defiance is both parts refreshing and informative. Likewise the notes expand and inform on the story of this iconic, disruptive figure in full. In ways the music spanning his early works feels found somewhere in-between the expression of black and white and the explosion of technicolour. While each story is being told it is constantly caught off-guard. His experiments with magnetic tape conjure up a whole other abstraction that is as timeless as it remains radical: Deux études de musique concréte For Magnetic Tape (1951-2). However these words do little justice to the sheer exhilaration of pieces like La Symphonie mécanique musique concrète, for a film by Jean Mitry (1955) as his involvement with France’s Groupe de Recherches de Musique Concrète testifies.
As an addition this brilliant four disc compilation includes music from other composers who occupied a similar orbit, as well as his work as a Conductor – a word that perhaps best describes Pierre Boulez.
I meant to review this before its release, must have been distracted by unseasonal sunshine here in the UK. It’s a real pleasure to listen to this collection of Jamaican sounds spanning 1972-1973 produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs well before his masterpiece Chapter Three. Still containing that cutting skank from Ska the brew of words had already began to contain more message in the music. The deeper feelings expressed on the soulful end of things like The World Is on A Wheel by The Mediators seem as timeless then as now. While the Dub explorations seem just as spaced and revolutionary as More Dub by Joe Gibbs & The Professionals proves. The roll call of names appear from the breadth and depth of Augustus Pablo, Big Youth, Dillinger, Delroy Wilson and of course Denis Brown whose signature Money In My Pocket still exceeds expectation. There’s much more to discover than that though when paced alongside the sleeve notes detailed by Tony Rounce guarantee a continuing essential experience.
If you’re going to do a boxset then do it right, make it big. Totalling eight discs charting their album releases over the course of 1975 to 1980 this pays testament to the enduring legacy of the band in the national consciousness. While the final album Stepping Out succumbs to the schmaltz and musical clique characterising a lot of mainstream R&B as it drifted into the 1980’s it’s time to turn to that initial run of five albums which provided a wealth of soulfully charged, incendiary passion with songs such as the meaningful Love Epidemic contained on their debut. 1975 is of course a great place to start proceedings as the sounds of what became Disco had become well and truly established as the instrumental Trammps Disco Theme eloquently testifies. The legendary Zing Album contains the timeless Hold Back The Night and the rather beautiful Tom’s Song. But its perhaps by their third album that the band’s sound truly matures with numbers such as the exuberant title track Where The Happy People Go and Can We Come Together, alongside the quietly smouldering Love Is a Funky Thing.
The Trammps III released in 1977 contains one of my favourite tracks of the era, The Nights Went Out crystallising Early Young’s signature drumming alongside the powerful instrumentation and soaring vocals by Jimmy Ellis. More often than not The Trammps wrote about love and heartbreak but this song was about the Electricity blackout the same year. And it’s songs like these which give the band real depth of meaning. It is also well worth reading the sleevenotes by MOJO and Record Collector’s contributor Charles Waring for the bigger picture.
Where to begin. Like forever calling this collection of exemplarily works celebrates all that was worthwhile of the twentieth century, denoting times, evoking memory, lives lived and lost. Spanning four discs of undeniable pleasure living in the moment is cast aside as history is rewound spelling out the story of humanities rites of passage tuning into a panoramic view of Art, sound and all that that was radically exciting in its wake. If the needle got stuck on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) from 1894 who would complain. Breathing life. Igor Stravinsky’s challenging intensity follows suite featuring a collections of bombastic light and shade making you feel lost in a Hitchcock or expressionistic drama of dark celluloid. Contrasts are always informative and no less so than the sonic collages from Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer who proceed to delve into unimaginable depths of the soul pulling out incendiary fragments. Then complimented by John Coltrane’s superlative live version of My Favourite Things performed in 1961.
Listening to Edgard Varèse’s incredible 1954 World Premiere of Déserts must have seemed like aliens landing less than a mere ten years after the Second World War. However, music of a different passion is also featured providing that all important light relief in the shape of Vicente Alvarez and his Tropical Orchestra – Tango Argentino. A number of these lighter, seemingly more conventional tracks intersperse the playlist working well as distractions that make the impact of the revolutionary all the more potent. Compositions and interpretations by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman are also present, while mere words can’t really do justice to hearing Allen Ginsburg recite Howl in all its brutal, shining glory. The wonderful Daphne Oram is here too.
The third disc is primarily given over to the poems by Edith Sitwell accompanied by the music of William Walton, a step too far perhaps but then again. Or the delicate sound of melting hearts care of Bill Evans, My Foolish Heart featuring the eloquent bass playing of Scott LaFaro sounding just like the cinema of life never changes. By the fourth CD energetic heartstrings are played Gustav Mahler’s incredibility poignant Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor IV. Adagietto, getting lost in a please don’t ever end moment this must be one of the finest ever compositions. Then, John Cage happens. From 1951. And you think radical music just happened. Out of nowhere. On the music travels.
There are a whole host of other artists not mentioned so far but isn’t that the pleasure of discovery. If you find music a serious exploit then do try this for yourself. You might get a little shocked or even surprised in the process but not dulled by disappointment. Music of genius can be said to be timeless and with release the point is correct.
Who doesn’t love the drama of crime? Then again you doesn’t love Jazz. This late 50’s sizzling combo is inescapably awe-inspiring featuring a feast of Film Noir scores across the roulette of excellence taking you into worlds unknown. This is real close your eyes and you are there stuff. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t make music quite as evocative as this anymore. I’m listening to Warren Barker’s cool Harlem Nocturne and the details are exquisite but then you also have The Man With The Golden Arm amid the sassy swing of Henry Mancini’s Son Of Raunchy conjuring up all sorts of naughtiness. Or Miles Davis hauntingly beautiful Générique or even Andre Previn’s snappy Like Blue. This is very much about late night encounters spread across the unrestricted, uncontained unreality of wonderful Jazz. The artists you will recognise, as much as the wonderful array of films whose scenes are adorned throughout. I really can’t recommend this highly enough for all sorts of reasons but after all time is timeless.
Sometimes it feels like we have never left the 80’s, or even escaped the 90’s for that matter. Being tied to history because it might seem safer or more familiar is a better place to live out life instead of processing the fraught airwaves of current reality. Maybe the decade did actually in fact begin and almost end via (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, although give me Gina X Performance – No GDM anytime, or Yello – Bostich all the time.
Following on from the first instalment, Musik Music Musique 2.0 now delves into the full flavour of 1981 charting the radical aftermath of Punk with this selection of readymade electronic pop, which quite rightly also touches its various edges, while capturing the essence of what defined the year. So ok, some of this sounds wonderfully/ dreadfully dated as seminal moments and memories get relived across the movement of Fashion and Chris And Cosey’s sizzling – This Is Me as if electricity had just been discovered pointing fast-forward into the future. It’s likewise recommended that besides the inclusion of Spandau and Duran Duran if you’re looking for something more meaningful you also try the tense delights contained within the third CD such as from Naked Lunch, AK-47 and Zeus Cowboy’s low-slung – On The Beach. However, if you’re after the breeze of lighter melodies there are plenty of those available too from all the big hitters. Finally the sleeve notes written by the most knowledgeable Mat Smith from Electronic Sound Magazine detail the relish, covered in depth to enhance the aural experience.
Part of the reason this is all so exciting is that I have very little idea of what it actually is. Described neatly as, ‘exotica, space age bachelor pad music and the weird side of easy listening’, is quite frankly about as tempting as it can get. Transporting you to somewhere else entirely like a magical dance these sounds feel that they might have a secret to revel. Lost in the heat of a celluloid dream located sometime in the 50’s or 60’s this whirlwind of shimmering exuberance is nothing short of a joy to behold. In many ways this is simply a beautiful compilation of heart-warming music as it is occasionally, very slightly odd. Some of artists involved will may be familiar with such as Martin Denny and Henry Mancini but in ways this fusion of playful Latin, Jazz and cinema is all about experiencing the journey, crisscrossing the wonder of sight and sound, rhythm and sassy slink. Any track on here could be a personal favourite but I’m easily drawn towards Ahmed Abdul Malik’s African Bossa Nova, plus Martin Denny’s 1958 masterpiece Primitiva. Selected by The Cramps’ Lux & Ivy so you can of course expect the unexpected all wrapped up in a sea of mildly camp, technicolour hysteria. Yes Please.
Startling and stunning in equal measure it is exciting, certainly necessary to get shaken up once in while out of the security of familiarity. As the title of this latest collection of terse, far-out and exotically challenging sounds collide creating a template for you to do so, this is a fast-forward journey into the provocative and evocative. The junction and spirit of inspiration interlinking between Pop Culture And The Classical Avant-Garde is well documented, as indeed are the accompanying sleeve notes here, and this selection of composers, artists and sound manipulators is spread across four cd’s of undoubtable thrills. From Stockhausen to Coltrane extending the hotwire of radical improvisation to the twenty munities of Ravi Shankar’s mystically charged Raga Bilaskhani Todi, from the humanity of Debussy to Bill Evans emotive Jazz this literally plays out like a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Private Dreams and Public Nightmares, created before the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was established in 1958, highlighting (again) the importance of Daphne Oram alongside Desmond Briscoe and Norman Bain with a cut-up of sight and sound is to be found here. The full 27 minutes of Pierre Henry’s Orpheus, the first major work of symphonic concrÃ¨te music, is included too. All of which merely scratches the surface of a less conventional appreciation of what collections of noise are capable of, just as the beauty of Classical notation likewise ignites the soul. Things and perspective might not quite feel the same after you listen to thisâ€¦
Listening to the opening numbers from A Certain Ratio and 23 Skidoo confuse the very idea of post-punk recasting it more as post-funk. It was always an odd expression to begin with anyway, slightly ill-fitting yet also neatly apt to describe the flame of inspiration which fuelled Punk’s ethos while defiantly creating something altogether new in its wake. Almost as quickly as Punk became an expression it became a clique some could not escape from and in many ways this excitable, radical fusion of all things past, present and future was/ is all the more satisfying in retrospect. Bill Brewster’s thrill-seeking journey throughout the timeframe sees a perfect collision of guitars, synthesizers and political theory all rolled into one. So much so it’s hard to imagine now that contemporary music was once quite so varied, so experimental, so anti. As today’s industry feels like an industry in itself, a never ending spin on its own refection. There is something uniquely refreshing going on here.
John Cooper Clarke’s Post War Glamour girls is an all-time favourite for all sorts of reasons, as is Vicious Pink’s Cccan’t You See (thank you John Peel). Fashion, Modern Romance, Visage, The Surface Mutants, The Pop Group, Glaxo Babies, Fun Boy Three plus a whole host of the wired and wonderful, supremely funky, alongside the seditious collectively inspire and define what happened somewhere in-between 1978 to 1984. Those repercussions still echo. The final track from Family Fodder – Disco Purge says it all in under 2.30 minutes (listen below) also listen to Visage – Frequency 7 feed into Techno in 1981! A brilliant, inspiring listen that will tempt you into doing something elseâ€¦.
1978 felt like the year dot for me. Imagine hearing The Stranglers intoxicating 5 Minutes, The Outcasts crystalline You’re A Disease, Magazine’s Touch And Go or even The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet for the first time. And that’s only from cd one. Previously I got excited by Sweet, Sparks then Alex Harvey and an assortment of bubble-gum probably best forgotten. But the cross-section which this year signified saw the excitement of music evolve in differing directions from Sham 69’s Borstal Breakout to the slow introduction of synthesizers, creating the feeling that something else was about to happen. It was a good thing the Sex Pistols exited that year, they said all they had to by that stage.
The next cd opens with Poly Styrene’s X-Ray Spex epic The Day The World Day-Glo which christens this compilation, and that’s one of things I remember most that year was the searing colour of everything from the clothes to the music and words. And yes that was even in Belfast too. Kung Fu International resolutely spat out by John Cooper Clarke is here, the crazy beauty of Ultravox’s Slow Motion as well. UK Subs – Live In A Car plays like a fiery rock n roll flipside to it all, there to remind you about the energetic nihilism still fizzing away.
Disc three begins with what the defining musical moment from that year Public Image Limited’s – Public Image which said so much in a precise three minutes it left you stunned, while proceeding to transform the landscape into what happened next. Then comes Stiff Little Fingers, Alternative Ulster and Scritti Politti 28/8/78 both stretching out politically charged guitars into the ether. One of the most beautiful songs ever written, You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory by Johnny Thunders follows. The Fall contrasts almost everything else, while The Jam’s In The Crowd feels unexpectedly twee in comparison now. 10.15 Saturday Night by The Cure is another forward pointer which meant everything to me that year, though it was the following year I got to see them live at the Ulster hall supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees. Not all of the music may be wonderful but that is also down to personal taste, however what still shines remains excellent. This being Cherry Red you also get fantastic sleeve notes highlighting all that vigorous fun plus the detail of insight this time from the hand of David Wells.