Saturday, 24 January 2015

Journey Through A Burning Brain - Edgar Froese RIP

As you have probably heard by now Edgar Froese, founder member of Tangerine Dream passed away on 20th January 2015. Tangerine Dream were one of the most important bands in the history of what might loosely be termed "rock music", both for their fearless sonic vision, apparent from their very first album onwards, and for their pioneering use of the synthesiser. They have had more influence on the development of electronic ambient music than probably any other band, with the album Zeit often being credited with being the first "dark ambient" record.

Like most music fans of my generation, in the UK at least, we have Richard Branson's Virgin Records to thank for our introduction into this weird universe, courtesy of the Tang's breakthrough album Phaedra, a presence in the sixth form common room almost as ubiquitous as Dark Side Of The Moon or Selling England By The Pound.

A sizeable number of those of us who got into the deep-space grooves of that vast and eerie record ventured on to Virgin's double compilation of the Alpha Centauri and Atem albums and before long we were adrift in space! Phaedra was the band's fifth album, the two "As" numbers two and four. Sandwiched in between those two was the glorious sprawling double album Zeit. Last to be mentioned, but by no means least, was the early post-Syd Floyd-like Electronic Meditation, an album I only came to be aware of decades later in my short but manic record collecting phase. Edgar playing psychedelic guitar on Cold Smoke in a frantic manner comes as quite a shock when you've worked backwards from Phaedra I can tell you!

Leaving the atypical debut album aside, enjoyable though it is, the Tangs were much more than just spacey synthesiser music, as the instrumentation on those albums two to five will show, Featuring vibraphones, string quartets, piano, flute, zither as well as sundry keyboards and guitars, there is always something going on in the sonic spectrum to prevent the listener from drifting off, a trait of a lot of Tang-influenced ambient music it has to be said.

There are of course later albums of merit, although they changed tack completely after the 70s and did not produce much that floated my space junk, but to me those first five sum up what the band were all about.

Turn on and tune in to this little lot, tracks that show how the band developed through those first five groundbreaking records...

Genesis - Electronic Meditation (1970)
The first track from the first album shows the then youthful Germans at their most wilfully experimental.

Ultima Thule - non-album single (1971)
The band pay homage to their Floyd obsession with this enjoyable if somewhat dated wigout. Warning - this is a far louder recording that the previous vid!

Fly and Collision of Comas Sola - Alpha Centauri (1971)
They still used real drums then...Christopher Franke ends this Saucerful-like excursion flailing away like a whirling dervish to great effect.

Birth of Liquid Plejades - Zeit (1972)
The title track of the previous album hinted at it, but Zeit sees the full blooming of the Tangs' unique brand of spacerock. Featuring a cello quartet and Florian Fricke from fellow Kosmische explorers Popol Vuh on yet more synths, this is as mournful as it is simply majestic. It gets you right in the soul.

Fauni-Gena - Atem (1973)
John Peel's album of the year in 1973, it was Atem that brought the band to the notice of one Richard Branson. A more organic sound on this one, let's get introspective to the sound of avian spacerock, baby! Incidentally, the baby in the LP cover picture is Jerome Froese, who would play alongside his dad in the band many years later. The circle will be unbroken.

Phaedra (1974)...the whole darn thing!
Bring on the sequencers, Virgin Records, gigs in cathedrals and international stardom...

Edgar Froese - 6th June 1944 to 20th January 2015 RIP - you left us some great music, for which we are ever thankful...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Audible Light - Radiance

There are simply never enough hours in the day when it comes to discovering new music in the instant access age.

One of the many places I play fast'n'loose with time on that alternately wonderful and awful den of iniquity that is Facebook is a page going under the banner of Nice Enough To Eat, or NETE as it is known to the cognoscenti. Here, a bunch of creaking freaks, and a smattering of mere youngsters post links to progressive (rarely "prog", or I wouldn't be there) and psychedelic music of all hues.

A fellow member is one Jim Tetlow, who, if you know your Krautrock and have spent time in the orbit of Leicester, England, you will no doubt have heard of. One of his seemingly endless musical contributions to that repository for the obscure, aka Bandcamp is this lustrous construct, Radiance by Audible Light.

Jim had not long been a member of NETE when he posted a link to this fine album, and it is my pleasure to publicise it here. Of course, as is the way with these musical discoveries, Jim is uber-prolific and I dare not peek out over the parapet at his no doubt vast discography...there is no time, it has all been stolen.

Back to the task in hand; Audible Light create diaphanous hypnotic soundscapes using exotic instrumentation, looping, and all manner of electronic treatments and trickery. Flowering like a bloom in a Zen garden this is music to lose yourself in as it weaves gossamer-fine silk tendrils around your tired mind.

This is ambient music for folk who glaze over at the prospect, for it is full and busy at the same instance as it is quiet and reflective. Climbing the Penrose Stairs, Aquanaut will pass by in a blink of an eye, or it will suspend time, the choice is yours. Loose and lambent, the flickering sounds dazzle and are gone, all the while a quiet insistence keeps you hanging on in there.

The bass playing on Philtre reminds me of the experimental side of Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, while synth swooshes of Schulzian majesty glide across the sky. This is so much more than mere ambient noodling, and you'd have to be dead set in your ways not to appreciate it.

As is appropriate, Radiance shimmers and plays tricks as it moves in and out of shadow. It is at once a tangible thing and ephemeral as it shifts and shimmies around. All too soon, or after many hours, we arrive Down To A Sunless Sea, where intropsection is illuminated by tinkling piano and reflective bass, and it has been a restful journey through a prism of distilled high quality ambience of a thoughtful and symapthetic kind.

1. Magic Box (12:35)
2. Behind The Mirror (8:10)
3. Aquanaut (18:19)
4. Philtre (17:04)
5. Loft In Space (8:26)
6. Down To A Sunless Sea (7:16)

Total running time - 71:51

Line up:
Andy Atyeo - electric guitar, synthesizer, laptop
Chris Conway – keyboards, theremin, electric 9 string guitar, voice, Irish whistles, kalimba, effects
Les Hayden - bass, ebow, tenori-on
Jim Tetlow – laptop with keyboard, cajon


Zorpin Music

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Kermit - Litoral

Spanish band Kermit released their second album Litoral in spring last year, and I only get round to writing about it now because...well no excuses... ¡Lo siento!

Litoral is a concept album, or, more correctly a tribute album to a Spanish poetry and free thinking magazine first published in 1926 in Málaga that became the journal of an art movement known as the 1927 Generation. Amongst its number were Lorca, Picasso, Dali and other left-field heavyweights. The movement disintegrated with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, with Lorca being murdered, and others jailed or forced into exile.

The word "litoral" translates as coast, tying in with the magazine title Coastal Journey, and the album takes up the artistically progressive mantle of the iconic journal. The band say that after finding their way with their first album Autoficción, they now arrive onshore after that trippy and searching debut. The confidence now apparent in their sound is exemplified by opening track 1926, a track that climbs an infinite staircase to the post-rock firmanent.

The band have developed an intriguing style that inhabits wide open spaces, with a dash of post-rock and spacerock, along with a soupçon of jazz in instinct if not style. Imagine Miles playing guitar in a post-rock band with a fondness for loose cosmic exploration, if you will.

Largely instrumental, there are occasional spoken word interludes quoting from  Spanish and English writers. The album covers many literary and cultural bases, ranging from Magnitizdat, a tune quoting from Orwell whose title refers to an underground Soviet-era Russian cassette music distribution system, to Samhain, a tune for a Gaelic festival that marks the end of autumn and the coming of dark days. That one contains lines from Allen Ginsberg's Howl; "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" is repeated as a tumultuous rhythm presages a tune that takes hold in fast orbit around a distant planet. "Burn cigarette holes in your arms protesting the narcotic tobacco age of capitalism" sneers our narrator as an undulating bass rhythm and keyboard swooshes glide us on the next star.

It's a good trip, for sure, and as there are no gaps between the tracks it makes for a seamless journey through questing minds travelling in space and time. Circumpolares contains a wonderful backwards guitar break that will unknot your synapses in no time at all; then it gets really wiggy!

The post-rock/spacerock collision is most in evidence on Ingeborg, and Magnitizdat is given extra colour by the sax of Álvaro Parada. Concluding track 1927 languidly enters the scene as if gently rising from an afternoon siesta, on the back of some more gorgeous sax work from Álvaro. Eventually cosmic synth and dreamy echoed guitar take over, and for any fan of post-rock and spacerock, admittedly with more of the latter this time, this ticks all the right boxes!

The Bandcamp link below is a "Name Your Price" for the download, so it's another case of nothing to lose...give it a go!

1. 1926 (4:39)
2. Samhain (4:18)
3. Circumpolares (6:03)
4. We-tripantu (4:49)
5. Ingeborg (3:59)
6. Magnitizdat (6:29)   
7. 1927 (11:47)

Total running time - 42:07

Line up:
Miguel Seguí - guitar, synth, sampler
Gonzalo Presa - guitar, voices, sampler, drums
Fco. Trujillo - bass, text (to Circumpolares)
Álvaro Parada - drums, voices, saxophone

Itaca Records



2019, the insanity grows...

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