Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P005 – Ambient special

Head over to Scanner FM for the latest show which is an all ambient special! A few beats in some tracks, but nothing worth locking up your daughters for, even if one of the artists is Xhin who you might expect to lay it on heavy.

There will be another ambient show in a couple of weeks, but I confess to lying accidentally at the end of the show, when I say that next week will be back to beats. Looks like a coup instead for the Spanish speaking contingent as I have an interview with Christian Pascual, director of the Beefeater In-Edit International Festival of Music Documentaries, that was the foundation of the previous show and will be now at the centre of the next one with the interview at heart, but the beats will return.

Also, anyone curious about listening on mobile devices, there will be a major overhaul of Scanner FM in the near future and you will be most impressed with the new direction, new programming and new flexibility, so stay tuned and be patient for now.

For supplements, here is a little film on Actress’s "R.I.P" album by Pierre Debusschere. The concept of the album may be loosely John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, but little mention is given to the title with its two and not three points at the end of the letters. My personal take on it would be that the “I” in the centre is meant to be read as “I” or self and you are meant to place yourself into the story. Another possibility is that the “I” is almost a mirror or a portal where one has “R” and “P” on opposing sides, almost reflections of each other. I haven’t read Milton as most of us haven’t, but maybe there are more clues there.


Mohn (the project of Jörg Burger and Wolfgang Voigt) has also had several video treatments, but none for the self-titled track I use in the show that closes the album. This track falls just before it and its “negative view” of the world is somehow metaphorical of ambient music and its absence of daily rhythms.



Finally, I mention in the show the websites of ASC and Australian artist Kane Ikin, in particular, and here are some nice mixes from the two. Check out their websites though for much more and of course plenty of useful information to boot.


ASC mix:


Kane Ikin mix:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P004 – In-Edit special

I promised when I named the show Cabeza de Vaca that we would cross uneven and unexpected terrain and so it is that we end up playing almost all punk and no electronica in the most recent show! Well a couple of tracks anyway.

All the tracks on the program today were chosen to coincide with the 10th edition of the Beefeater In-Edit International Festival of Music Documentaries  held this time every year in Barcelona (last year’s review can be found by clicking here). Because of the local nature of the festival I chose to do the program in Spanish this time, a first, and more difficult than I thought, but then it was late and I was tired and I am always rushing with preparation. Not a perfect example of the language, but not too shabby either. But apologies for saying repeatedly that Paul Weller was from The Clash and not from The Jam… I had one ear/eye already on Joe Strummer and The Clash. But That’s Entertainment!

The origins of the show actually came from an idea to do one about LCD Soundsystem’s track “Losing my edge” which I will still probably do in the future when the promos and new releases dry up a bit. Their track doesn’t need too much more introduction other than the film itself which will be eagerly awaited by many:

As part of the LCD show I had wanted to play the Talking Heads track “Cross-eyed and painless” from “Remain in light” as it always reminded me of LCD Soundsystem, even though it doesn’t feature on the official list part of “Losing my edge” that was to be the basis of the show. That said, neither does Can appear, perhaps the other critical group for triangulating the LCD sound, although Can does get a more official mention in the main lyrics. Looking forward to seeing the full feature of “Stop Making Sense” which seems to be one of the more pioneering live concert films ever made for different reasons, including staging, lights and so on.

The punk stuff in the show we have more or less dealt with serendipitously in different posts including the one on punk  and the second show which dealt with Tresor, Berlin and Detroit.
The only things additional to report here, especially for the English speakers who won’t catch me saying it in Spanish are the fight between Paul Weller and Sid Vicious over the Sex Pistols use of the bass guitar riff from “In the city” in “Holidays in the Sun”. The damage done by Weller on Vicious was apparently permanent (at least until his death not long after) with the irony being that Vicious had been incensed that Weller had dare claim that the riff was stolen, when all and sundry knew it had been, but he’d felt it worth fighting for anyway.

I chose to put in the live version of “New York” recorded at Chelmsford Prison, one of the only prison gigs I know of, except for Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”, Johnny Cash in St Quentin’s prison in 1958 and The Cramps playing, of all places, California State Mental Hospital on June 13, 1978.



“Somebody told me you people were crazy, but you seem alright to me”
- Lux Interior
There is a great joke and insult by Johnny Rotten at the end of the track where he says

“Best captive audience I ever played for. Boring, you’re boring me. I bet you all have piles from sitting down too much”

Joe Strummer has two films about him, the more well-known Julien Temple film “The future is unwritten” as well as a Spanish film “Quiero tener una ferreteria en Andalucía” (y no “Quiero hacer una ferreteria en Andalucía” like I say in the show – lo siento mucho).

Finally, in the Joy Division track (another track from Jon Savage’s compilation) you can apparently hear the group eating crisps (patatas) at the start of the track, well drenched in reverb by Martin Hannett.

The Ice T track was chosen as it relates to the three films that he stars in, or appears in in the festival this year that relate to Hip Hop.

“Planet Rock: The Story Of Hip Hop And The Crack Generation”,


“Something from Nothing The Art of Rap”

And finally “Uprising: Hip Hop and The LA Riots”
The track “New Jack Hustler” from the “O.G. Original Gangster” album of 1991 is also one of the first examples of gangster rap, but was also used in soundtrack to the Mario van Peebles-directed film “New Jack City” starring Wesley Snipes as well as Ice T and Chris Rock amongst others.

Those with a keen sense of humour might also see the irony in the use of the term “O.G.” for “Over gold”, a syndrome by which African Americans die in ghettos from wearing too many gold chains a-la Mr T in the blackploitation comedy “I´m gonna get you sucka” which also stars Chris Rock as well as Isaac Hayes and was directed by the Keenan Ivory Wayans of “Scary Movie“ and more fame.


The classic scene with (young) Chris Rock and Isaac Hayes:

Rest of the tracks don’t need too much explanation, though arguably you shouldn’t mix Sigur Rós with The Doors too often, but, as Paul Weller says, “That’s Entertainment”. Enjoy the festival and the show!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Burn baby, burn – Disco Inferno

“What kind of place are we in where nobody cares?”

-       Disco Inferno (D.I. Go Pop)


Despite the many beautiful voices and tracks on this weeks Cabeza de Vaca show at Scanner FM, the stars are undoubtedly Essex group Disco Inferno who are enjoying a belated and most deserved moment in the spotlight.

The catalyst for this attention is the release of “The 5 EPs” compilation on One Little Indian that as its name implies, colletcs together five singles of almost all non-album tracks from the period 1992-1994.


The CD version came out last year and its success prompted the release of a double vinyl edition that has kept the group clearly in the consciousness. One suspects a certain amount of guilt in this, since the group were clearly overlooked in their time, something that is both surprising and sad since back in quiet little Perth in Australia at the beginning of the 90s it seemed that everyone owned and loved “In Debt” released on Ché Trading back in 1992.


The liner notes to the vinyl release by David Howell of the Fat Cat label and Obsessive Eye fanzine are fascinating and complement a lot of the other recent material made available on the group. Check out also a review of “The 5 EPs” at FACT and the brilliant interview at the Quietus conducted late last year and a brief article in the Guardian .


Si hables español hay unas entrevistas en castellano en el sitio web de Afterpop y en el sitio web de El destilador cultural .


In addition to learning that Daniel Gish of Bark Psychosis fame was once a member of the group, Howell’s liner notes demystify how the group made their sounds, describing in detail the gear that Disco Inferno started using and the problems it caused:


“Principally inspired by My Bloody Valentine’s dense swirl, by The Young Gods Wagnerian, sampler-enhanced post-industrial rock, and by Hank Shocklee / The Bomb Squad’s sample-heavy, pressure-cooker productions for Public Enemy, they dismantled their conventional indie set-up in one subversive, resolutely non-rock gesture. Pulling back from the idea of being entirely sample-generated, [vocalist and guitarist Ian] Crause replaced his standard guitar pickup with a hexaphonic Roland GK2 MIDI version (outputting separate signals for each string), which fed into a Roland GI10 (a guitar-to-midi interface that could track pitch). [Drummer Rob] Whatley bought a set of MIDI drum pads [and later a full electronic dDrum kit), and the combined output of this and the guitar data fed into a Philip Rees MIDI merge, and then a Roland S750 sampler. Unable to afford the switch to MIDI, [Paul] Wilmott’s bass remained unmediated and – like that of Joy Division’s Peter Hook or PIL’s Jah Wobble – came to the fore as lead instrument, functioning as a stable anchor and often the sole point of obvious melody. Recording as a live band with guitars and drums triggering a MIDI-based sampling system, the results came to resemble some chaotic studio explosion. Notes, chords and beats were abstracted into shifting blocks of sampled sound. Each piece of Whatley’s kit, each string of Crause’s guitar could be wired to a separate sample (with each fret affecting its pitch or pan position), unleashing in real-time a limitless flood of sound: the burst of fireworks, dripping water, breaking glass, peeling church bells, crashing cars, screeching gulls, clicking camera shutters, revving engines.”

The equipment was not without its problems. The old Atari computer used for the recordings would endlessly crash and playing live was frought with difficulty for the same reasons. Crause later described it as “vaguely amusing nightmares of malfunctioning and crashing equipment.” It is arguably this reason above all others that might have led to the group’s downfall. Media praise had, after all been genuinely positive, if not as prolific as the group might have like, but their inability to gain momentum on the road and also to enter into any scene perhaps cost them the most. Disco Inferno were forever outsiders, embracing sampling and technology at a time when indie, surprisingly, turned its back on the burgeoning “baggy” scene, while Crause’s obvert political lyrics may have been too much for many.


"Foreigners get hushed-up trials
And you're waiting for a knock at the door
Which would tell if you spent the next few years
Free from life attacked by petrol bombs
The price of bread went up five pence today
And an immigrant was kicked to death again."

Wilmott explained the bands position clearly to Howell in an interview:


“We appeared to exist within a bit of a bubble. The guitar kids didn’t like us because they thought we were weird. The electronica people didn’t connect with it. The art crowd weren’t really sure about us either… we existed in this strange never-space where we sat outside looking at the Venn diagram and wondering why nobody liked us…”


There are some post-Disco Inferno curiosities floating around, more than I have briefly collected here, including several unreleased tracks that might see the light of day again soon, and surely there is now a call to re-release the early material on vinyl or even CD as well, as even the CDs are fetching high enough prices on Discogs?

To start, an unreleased Disco Inferno track from the “Technicolour” sessions:

A BBC 3 live radio session was post-humously released as “The Mixing it session” by Tugboat in 1999.


After leaving Disco Inferno, Ian Crause recorded two solo singles, one for Tugboat and another for Spanish label Aquarella. Crause’s politics apparently also led him to Bolivia.


Psychogeography is a term that seems to come up a lot in terms of music these days (see also the previous post on Punk and Jon Savage) In particular, Patrick Keiller’s films are hailed a big influence on the politics and sound of Disco Inferno and blend in with Crause’s left-wing politics.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P002 - Deep house and Manuel Tur

New radio show is now available at Scanner FM. All deep house this week with a focus on Manuel Tur. No need to say too much more, but I previously posted on a lot of these tracks recently if you need more information.


Next show will be a mixture of post-punk influenced electronica, some trip-hoppy sounds and more, but details once it is posted next week.


England’s Dreaming

“A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined.”

Norman Mailer


There is a line in the Introduction to Jon Savage’s exceptional history of the Sex Pistols and punk rock, “England’s Dreaming”, which neatly summarises the underpinning philosophy of the movement and marks its protagonists with the certainty of tragedy:


“The central problems thus remain for those who want to question the basis of society: how do you avoid becoming a part of what you are protesting against? If everything exists in the media and you reject it, how do you exist?”


The questions are essentially the same as Albert Camus’s “The Rebel”, where he preaches the caution necessary for any revolutionary action. Overthrowing and system and usurping the power is to make yourself the dictator against whom you rallied; is to contradict the pure motives of the uprising once assuming the burdens and freedom of the newly gained power. One is thus forever locked into a cycle of revolt.


Savage also makes reference to a haunting quote by Joseph Campbell, from the essential book “The Hero with A Thousand faces”


“If the hero, like Prometheus, simply darted to his goal (by violence, quick device or luck) and plucked the boon for the world he intended, then the powers that he has unbalanced may react so sharply that he will be blasted from within and without – crucified, like Prometheus, on the rock of his own violated consciousness”


The Sex Pistol revolt is clearly complicated. Their album contains the track “E.M.I.” written about the record company who famously dropped them after releasing the “Anarchy in the U.K.” single, with the lyrics:


“and you thought that we were faking
 that we were all just money making
 you do not believe we're for real
 or you would lose your cheap appeal?”


Yet the knife cuts both ways (sic: see below). John Lyndon, for example has recently given a mixed message  about the recent “Never mind…” deluxe edition  perhaps still all too aware that the mere presence of Sex Pistols product, and worse in luxurious “wealthy” version, somehow undermines the authenticity of the groups struggle. Anti-capitalist lyrics were rife in early punk and became the foundation of post-punks philosophy. Lyndon himself played the game to great effect with Public Image Ltd and their carefully designed releases. Incidentally, for those who may have missed it, PiL have a new album out as well:


As he unravels this conundrum, Savage also joins the gap between punk and Nirvana, who followed the same path in many ways, only in a different media landscape. He also draws in the imagery of Nicolas Roegg’s “The man who fell to earth”, where David Bowie, playing the alien Thomas Newton is confronted by walls of TV screens emitting white noise and imagery that is both “simultaneously exciting and terrifying”, the two polar extremes of punk. Savage also invokes the “blank generation” of replicants in Blade Runner, quipping “They don’t have feelings, but recognize their necessity.”


The source of the blankness is as fascinating as the violent upheaval that broke its control. “Britain’s postwar decline began in wartime British dreams” Savage quotes. The end of the post war boom in England saw rising unemployment (particularly in youth), a collapse of the financial system that nearly triggered an IMF bailout and the aforementioned rise of media saturation which only enhanced the extremities between consumer desire and consumer reality. The psycho-geography of the time also is paramount as he reveals in this short interview to accompany an exhibition of some of his photos from the period. His poignant last words here are “J.G: Ballard: High Rise and Crash.”


At the heart of the book then is this terrible anxiety and nervousness, the terror of watching John Lyndon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and variously Glen Matlock and Sid Vicious, and those who entered their slipstream, unravel society by confronting it with taboos, by breaking the 20th Century’s symbolic language and undermining the power of authority by holding up a mirror to its hypocrisy and denouncing its commercial materialism. Indeed, the commercialization and thus the disempowerment of the hippy ideal and its setting in the voided landscape both within and without meant that only direct confrontation would do. The real horror comes when society turns back, its bluff called and the thin veneer of “civilized society” broken. The group are frequently attacked in the streets, particularly Lydon; the debunking of fascist imagery somehow spirals into a rise in fascism and the National Front; anti-authoritarianism becomes the iron rule of law and eventually Thatcherism. All the while, the media makes its money turning their lives into a soap opera while banning performances of the group, appearances in the charts and essentially trying to erase the official mark of the group on the unfolding history.


Malcolm McClaren in particular comes across rather poorly, doing his best to encourage the conflict (which in the end was the product). In particular, his intentionally poor planning of the US tour was what broke the band already falling to pieces after 18 months of aggression, drugs, failing relationships within the group and media pressure. Rather than choosing marquee venues to milk the fame and reputation of the band, he instead chose to send the group to the south where conservative attitudes were more likely to provoke violence, which is what happened.

Watch Sid swing his axe at the end of the set.


The death of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious are also worth bringing up again as one of the great rock n roll stories. Depending on your territory, you should be able to watch this documentary “Who killed Nancy?”


The differences between the findings of the film and the book are startling.


“[Rockets] Redglare’s [a policy informer and methadone addict who apparently dealed to Nancy] policy testimony conflicts with the account given to journalists immediately after Nancy’s death by Neon Leon, a black guitarist who lived down the hall. In this version the pair came over at midnight: Sid showed him a five inch knife Nancy had bought him on Time’s Square, to protect himself from frequent beatings. Then Viscous gave Leon his leather jacket and his newspaper clippings, repeatedly saying that he was nobody, that he had no self-confidence. A few days after the story Leon disappeared.”


Leon has in any case has not disappeared in the documentary and is almost the main testifier. Parts of his story ring true and consistent down the years, although his excuse of having a tooth ache and having to return to the Chelsea Hotel on the fateful night seems somehow improbable. In the documentary, it is an unknown dealer form the hotel who did it and who did disappear never to e seen again. The books conclusion seems to fall more with the hypothesis that it was Sid who killed Nancy, using a knife that he was known to possess. In one version of the story, the knife is identical to one given to Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys by Dee Dee Ramone. The procurement of an arm was not, apparently, strange at the time, especially amongst junkies who had seen a tough and often violent intrusion into their world of deals and hits. Ironically, it was a fight over drugs and Nancy’s failure to score that is the lasting impression given by Savage, although he treads a careful non-judgemental path around the evidence. It is not Sid’s death that is the subject of the book, but the death of punk and, in a way, the death of society itself.

Sid and Nancy were clearly in a very poor state by the end as this sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking “heroin” interview shows.


Heroin had apparently entered the popular mythology of the scene via Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers and the New York Dolls (Nancy would come to London where she would meet Sid as the girlfriend of the Dolls Jerry Nolan).. While Keith Richards will attest to heroin’s availability before this time, it was the more brazen projection of the myth in lyric and lifestyle that softened the inhibitions.

“Somebody called me on the phone
They said hey, is Dee Dee home
Do you wanna take a walk
Do ya wanna go and cop
Do ya wanna go get some chinese rocks”

If there was any more need of evidence of Johnny Thunders potent ability to act as a gateway for the drug, then look no further than a banned Swedish broadcast from 1982.

“Punk is dead, Disco is what is happening now…”