Saturday, June 8, 2024

It Began in Anglika (slight return)

 



1980!

The theme to Tomorrow's World  - popular BBC show devoted to new technologies, gadgets, inventions, appliances, breakthroughs etc etc. 



Now, along with bolstering the counter-narrative about technotronica's origins, this BBC Radiophonic creation is also a classic example of what I call "friendly futurism

i.e the electronic future emerging first not out of pop's vanguards (art-pop or street) but from the middle-aged and the middle-of-the-road  - radio and TV themes, musik for advertisements, , novelty pop, background music, easy-listening, etc

Raymond Scott, Jean-Jacques Perrey, this chap... 



In part because who else could afford to use the gear at the start? 







Monday, June 3, 2024

The Deep Ark

 Now here's something extraordinary... 


                            


Built by The Arkiteket - an enigmatic figure, known to some on this circuit, but for this project self-shrouded in mystery.

Years in the making,  The Deep Ark  consists of three elements. 

The core is a mix - an extended (8 hour plus) odyssey through 1990s  Electronic Listening Music (to use the term originally deployed by Warp Records).  

It's more like a remixtape than a selection of tracks segueing seamlessly one after the other. More often than not, the components have been partially disassembled - moving parts rejiggered, tempos tinkered, keys tweaked--before being jigsawed back into perfectly annealed alignment. 

Listening to the entire length and breadth of The Deep Ark, you get a powerful sense of the music of this era as a single gigantic living organism. Each track is individually distinct while also webbed within an ecosystem of reciprocal influence and mutual inspiration. The balance between genius and scenius, the auteur and the collective, is ever-shifting.

Download the whole mix here here (where you'll also find the tracklist) or listen to it at YouTube.



As the word "Ark" suggests, this ultramix is a vessel in both senses: something that takes you on a voyage, and a container. A sacred repository, a canister for the future, an archive, a memorial.

Not so much separate levels or extensions of the mix, but plateaux in parallel, the two other components of The Deep Ark are visual and textual: a website and a book.



The site contains images, commentary about each track that features in the mix, and an in-depth meditation on the whys-and-wherefores of the project, cast as a dialogue between The Arkiteket and an unknown interlocutor. 

Here's a snippet, discussing how The Deep Ark has been informed by the ideas and impulses of Romanticism:

"... I’m really thinking in the painterly sense here...  an emotive, individualist representation of landscape and memory that touches on the darker aspects of the sublime... . We see this contradiction at work within this genre as a whole; Aphex Twin, an oneiric visionary in the mould of Blake, instantiating his dream music through sleep deprivation and the induction of hypnopompic and hypnagogic states, and Autechre, with their obsessive relish for intricately detailed sound design and their construction of these deeply evocative, hymnal, hyper-textural sonic sculptures, like scribes solemnly illuminating a testament to human emotion.... I think romantic is the best description of this intensely individualistic and emotional music, full of yearning, sadness and beauty. 

Credited to The Arkonautsthe 238-page, lushly illustrated book juxtaposes nature photography with prose-poetic writing-as-reverie. 

The photographs are doctored documents of a landscape-turned-dreamscape - a real place that has served for many years as a site for ritual adventures, journeys to the end of the night.  Images have been remixed in ways that parallel the techniques applied to the musical components of The Deep Ark.  Photographs were altered, overlaid, colorized, mutated or outright generated via AI.  

The result is a form of hallucinatory hauntology - a monument to an Area of Outstanding (Super)Natural Beauty. 

 



A powerful and deep world of sound
filled with the vibrations of nature.

Music to match the wave patterns,
selected and transmitted to harmonise
with each cycle of this guiding line.

An unusual mental space where you can experience
the sweet beginnings of life itself.

To truly grasp the spirit of the dream tide




More about The Deep Ark from the Broken Sleep Books website

A psychedelic odyssey that plunges the reader into a mythic exurban world of wonder, ritual, folly & friendship, The Deep Ark blurs the lines between the imagined, the real and the invoked. Moments of tenderness, humor, grief, joy and revelatory intensity combine to form a fragmented narrative of quiet lyrical beauty, suffused with an abiding reverence for the music, memories, community and landscape that inspired it. Check the forecast one last time, put your headphones on, open The Deep Ark and get lost.

Praise for The Deep Ark

Gnarled, airy, and vibrantly psychedelicized, The Deep Ark is the kind of organic artifact that not only satisfies aesthetically, but draws you into the magical traces of its own production… a visionary and desperate bid to rediscover the animist potential still humming, even as you read in this, in the actual landscapes around us.

— Erik Davis, author of High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies

The Deep Ark is an extended meditation on the periphery of the state, represented in the social unit of the collective… the actual geography of heathland, golf courses, hills, and quarries… and in the UK’s melancholic electronica of the nineties

— Matthew Ingram, author of Retreat and The "S" Word





A rave review at International Times by Rupert Loydell:

"This book is a technicolour atlas, a shamanistic guidebook, an augmented mixtape, a multimedia experience, a natural high. It is primary experience mediated through photography and lyrical songs, evocative poems and secular hymns, emotional outbursts, cosmic wonder and everyday dirt. Techno-pixelations and long-exposure night photos enhance our reading of the words, just as the text changes what we see. Everyone of us is lost but together we can not only find each other but also ourselves"


And (effectively) a preview printed in The Wire about 18 months ago, by Michaelangelo Matos



And more raves from those who know: 


Philip Sherburne, from his Futurism Restated substack 


"Mix of the week, or possibly the entire year"

John Coulthart{ feuilleton }







^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


An (almost) completely unconnected track - hypnagogic pop rather than electronic-listening-music -  but that seems to come from a similar oneiric-psychogeographic wellspring. 




Another project without much surface resemblance but with a kinship at core




Wednesday, May 29, 2024

White Dove Mourning

An interesting review of One Dove's Morning Dove White by Matthew Schnipper, as part of Pitchfork's Sunday Review series of belated reviews (in this case because the site didn't exist when the album came out in 1993). The score of 8.7 is higher than anything it would have received at the time.

At the time, the album was felt to itself be belated -  one of those anticipated albums that takes too long to be made....  (The delay came from a struggle with the record company, who pressurized them to put out more poppified version of the tracks, with radio-friendly mixes).

Reviewers in the UK as I recall felt the album, when it did arrive long after the initial buzz wave, to be underwhelming.... 

Certainly there didn't seem to be anything else on it as amazing as the single “White Love", which appears twice, in the Guitar Paradise Mix and as a reprise.





“White Love” stalled just outside the Top 40.

(They did have a small hit with “Breakdown” after the album’s release).

Listening again, I heard some really lovely tunes that sit somewhere between Saint Etienne and Seefeel – "My Friend”, "There Goes The Cure", “Transient Truth”.




A certain too-pure dream of perfect pop, a distillate of essences too rarified to survive the commercial rough-and-tumble of actual real-world pop…. meets dubby-clubby sounds… wisped through with ultra-breathy ethereal-girliness that places the group near shoegaze. (One reviewer described them as "Cocteau Twins just back from Ibiza").

Part of that Weatherall  moment in UK pop (wasn’t there an initiative called the 98 bpm Movement  slowing the music down from house tempo to a reggae-ish sway?... which would also make it a fellow-traveler with the Bristol sound. *



And then there’s Dot Allison’s voice….  Airy …. almost Medieval at times… a devotional sigh drifting through the cloisters of an abbey....  a sound that joins the dots between Lisa Gerrard and Kirsty Hawkshaw



“Whiteness” is the word.

Despite the dub and house elements, One Dove always seemed a supremely blanched sort of sound

Maybe that’s partly auto-suggestion, from titles like “White Love” and Morning Dove White

But it’s also Dot's pure-as-snow tones.












And it’s also the whiteness of Dot herself...

She looks like she’s made of snow...

A reminder that Scotland is nearer Scandinavia than the South of England.







Talking of the colour white

I can find no confirmation of this out there, but I continue to believe – I wish to believe – that the group are named One Dove as a sly nod to White Doves: an Ecstasy pill of ultra-blissy repute... the kind of pill that makes veterans of a certain era go all “ooh gosh” wistful, pursing their lips and exhaling with the memory rush


                                       As well as "White Doves", there were also Pink Doves and Speckled Doves. According to this drug awareness postcard, though, the Dove wasn't among the highest of MDMA content pills around then.  Perhaps it was just uncut with other things like speed, so it was a purer, cleaner sort of 'classic Ecstasy' lovey-dovey feeling. 


White Dove / "White Love"

Morning Dove White / White Dove Morning…. 

This was music for the afterglow… that 6AM dawn-after-the-rave feeling…. no one around… the city deserted and silent… and you tingling still...  feeling translucent… unbodied... hollowed out by ecstasy

And then the other druggy connotation of “white” would be the “whitey” – a white-out... swooning,  fainting, falling on the floor ….  a pill too strong… or one pill too many

The chorus in “White Love” -  if you can even call that wordless gaseous shiver-shudder a chorus -  sounds like a whitey.... an internal avalanche of bliss...  a deathgasm.

A voice coming, and coming – apart at the seams. Saint Teresa in the throes.**  

Sampled as opposed to sung, this kind of erotic-cosmic oozy-woozy feeling was all over rave tunes  of the era - wordless diva cries and moans, looped into bliss-spasms -  like Shades of Rhythm’s “Sound of Eden”. 



The bliss-spasm isolated / intensified even more on this tune by Pseudo 3



 




That's where the track titles, the sound, and the look (not just Dot's complexion and hair, but on the album cover she's dressed in white too), all these things converge - a meld, or braid, of spiritual and  erotic.  

Songs like sexy psalms




The idea of "purity" seems to nestle somewhere beneath all this - pure love, pure devotion, a pure dose, the perfect prescription. 

Edinburgh's techno temple Pure. 





The cover could be a morning-after-the-night-before tableau - Dot the sleeping beauty... unable to keep her eyes open, her head from drooping... the Other Chaps wasted and drowsy.

Talking of music for the afterglow....

One Dove's "Fallen" featured on this compilation from a few years ago put together by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs: Fell From the Sun: Downtempo & After Hours 1990-91

A whole bunch of 98-bpm-or-thereabouts tunes described by the label by the label as "comedown downbeat, sunrise indie-dance and woozy morning moods".

 Tracks like The Grid's "Floatation", BBG's Satie-laced "Snappiness", The Aloof's  ‘Never Get Out Of The Boat’, Sheer Taft's "Cascades (Hypnotone Mix)", Moodswings's "Spiritual High".















The comp's timespan – 1990-91 – shows how past-their-moment One Dove were when they finally dropped Morning Dove White in 1993. 

Fell From the Sun fits the Icarian theme of having flown too high, starting to crash... a still glowing ember.  ("Higher Than The Sun" by the Primals is on there). 

The compilation's title though appears to come from the Opal song, as also recorded by Pale Saints. (The latter's name fits the blanched-by-bliss theme).



Not on the Fell from the Sun comp but partaking of the vibe of that time 


That Creation / indie-dance / post-Madchester / UK house nexus 









 







Afterglow is the name of the first of Dot Allison's - six? seven? -  solo albums.





I did a little interview with her around it for Spin. 

"I Wanna Feel the Chill" was one tune that stood out on a record that otherwise felt a bit subdued by its own good taste.  The eerie guitar lick is sampled from Tim Buckley's "Dream Letter." 



"Chill" - in either of its meanings - again shows an understanding of her thematic matrix.

Exaltation of Larks, from 2007, is another evocative title.

Her latest album Consciousology is on the shoegaze label Sonic Cathedral. 


* Well, I could swear someone telling about a 98 Bpm Movement started by Paul Oakenfold.... but it must have got mangled in the memory: Movement 98 was in fact a Paul Oakenfold project, centered around Carroll Thompson's vocals, and which scored a small UK hit in 1990 with the mid-tempo soul of "Joy and Heartbreak", with melodic elements borrowed from Satie's "Les Trois Gymnopedies".



Odd fact: Rob Davis, formerly the guitarist who wore women's clothing in Mud - was involved as a writer. Later he would make millions as the co-writer of Kylie-smash "Can't Get You Out of My Head".


**
Teresa of Ávila, 16th Century mystic  - a nun of noble birth, she became famous for her visions and raptures (sometimes involving levitations). Jacques Lacan, French Freudian theorist, wrote about Bernini’s sculpture of Teresa. Malcolm Bowie, paraphrasing Lacan, writes about “an unlocalisable and ineffable pleasure-spasm” that inspires Teresa’s enraptured contortions. 


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Futuremanic trax (3 of ?)

 



"this is the future crusade"

on the label Things To Come Records

from the same camp 


This I always misremember as "Dark Future"




Sticking to the theme 









Changing the vibe (and the label) completely - 















PFM = Progressive Future Music