Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P009 – Deadbeat and Danuel Tate interview

A new Cabeza de Vaca show already at Scanner FM!!! This week a short interview backstage of BeCool with Scott Monteith aka Deadbeat and Danuel Tate aka Danuel Tate. The focus on the interview is on playing live and a little at the end on being Canadian since the rest of the show is some newish Canadian music and also the show was to celebrate the new Micro Mutek line-up which is partially announced. More details can be found at the Official Mutek Site.

Click here for a partial transcript of the interview.

Some points of discussion arose from several things that appeared on Resident Advisor recently. Scott mentions the Blawan interview and was aghast in particular at the following answer from Blawan:


Q: You made the move from using a laptop at first on this project, then on to a completely analogue set-up, right? Why? What is the appeal?

A: We were so frustrated by the writing process on a computer, I think I was coming to the limits of what I could do with a computer because I felt like, not in a big-headed way, but that I knew the software that I was using, Ableton, well enough that I could do anything. I didn't really like that.”

I also mention a few comments from the recent Critics Round Table podcast  with guest Kirk Degiorgio who mentions something that Scott interprets to be Alexkid’s Insta-Haus a Max for Ableton device while one of the other journalists enthuses over the recent set of Bass Clef at The Wire Magazine’s recent Rewired night at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

There are several contradictions here, rightly pointed out by Scottt and Danuel all to do with the technology fetish. Bass Clef plays without a computer and it is credited as amazing when many groups made electronic music for many years with no computers. Similarly, Blawan’s comments come across as somewhat extreme too, ditching the computer for lack of creative potential when it is likely that it is his use of the computer that has become static. However, the other side of this is that the analogue machines these people use are essentially “stupid computers” as Scott says. So what is the difference? Alexkid shows here how his Insta-Haus set up for Ableton works and indeed it seems quite a simple set-up but one could easily find limiting creativity at a certain point.


However, it may be that Kirk Degiorgio was also talking about something like this Vintage House Construction Kit which has helped all the Rush Hour et al. artists to sound the way they do. I am most definitely not familiar enough with the technology to know its limitations and how it really works, but having thought more about it in the interview, it does seem true that the man vs machine debate is far from over, but it nonetheless has been a hot topic in 2012 especially after Deadmau5’s comments earlier in the year  in Rolling Stone  about pressing play.

Scott and Danuel also talk about the Pure Data (PD) visual programming language developed by Miller Puckette for making music.


Peter Brinkmann has also been credited with bringing PD to Android devices that I also do not fully understand, but it is perhaps these kind of things that Scott was saying that Mathias Aguayo was using?


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P008 – Industrial techno and Factory Floor

“I shouldn't mind learning why--why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike, [...] but that's what books will not tell me.”

- Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Latest Cabeza de Vaca show is up at Scanner FM  after a few delays with FTP.

A couple of extra things that are worth pointing out. Most obviously is the connection between Sasha Grey of aTelecine and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle/Carter Tutti Void and more fame. The fact that both worked in the pornographic industry and, in Tutti’s case, also in sexually-orientated performance art (and more) as part of Genesis P. Orridge’s COUM Transmissions brings the relationship of sex with industrial and noise music back into focus.

Click here for a Cosey Fanny Tutti interview.

One of the problems of the genre has been the weakening of the symbol of bondage imagery by over use and of course a more male-dominated perspective of it. The two women in question bring the uneasy relationship with sex and gender back to a more personal level. One’s interest is one thing, but public participation (performance) is another and is much more important than elevating symbol to the echelons of art. It is a form of acting, after all, to appear in a pornographic movie which has its own symbols and extended culture, including its version of the Oscars system, of which aTelecine’s Sasha Grey has won several. In her case one hopes it does not become the only talking point in a fledgling career yet one full of releases that suggests a real dedication. Certainly she drops enough names that she might enjoy the odd piece of literature too, as well as a bit of industrial music. The appearance of aTelecine at this year’s Unsound Festival in Krakow, Poland also heralds well. Coincidentally, Sasha Grey also features as a guest vocalist on the just-released "Desert Shore/The Final Report" album by (Ex) Throbbing Gristle, minus Genesis P. Orridge, originally envisioned as a tribute to the Nico album of the same name as well as being the final TG album. Due to the untimely death of Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson during the album's preparation it has also come as something of a homage to his life and work as well. Yet returning to the point, one cannot ignore the sexual elements either since it is forever entwined in the mythology and DNA of the music and culture. Let us hope that Grey and Tutti can continue to bring new and real perspectives to it.

The sexual element of DH Lawrence’s scene from “Women in Love” (1920) is also important. The black metal train and the green English countryside are obvious elements, but it is the metal on flesh image again, as Gerald Crich unleashes his stirrups on the trembling red Arabian mare (a female horse of course), that is more open for interpretation. Some have likened the drawing of blood to loss of virginity and even rape since he uses force. It is then easy to move back to the train and see its shuddering, throbbing gait to be phallic.

“The connecting chains were grinding and squeaking as the tension varied, the mare pawed and struck away mechanically now, her terror fulfilled in her, for now the man encompassed her; her paws were blind and pathetic as she beat the air, the man closed round her, and brought her down, almost as if she were part of his own physique.”

Read the full chapter here.

The book is also famous for the scene in which Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin, played by Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, respectively, in the 1969 Ken Russell film version, wrestle nude in front of a fireplace.

Shown here from 8:20 onwards.

The homosexual image is integral whether intended or not, but the scene must also be seen as something merely animalistic, more innate, just men, after all. There are more complications, however. The movie also features a scene where Birkin, a thinly disguised Lawrence himself, shows an aristocratic audience at a grassy luncheon how to unfold a fig like a vagina. Birkin also runs naked through the long grass and woods to absorb its scent. Thus, the symbols have always been confused it seems, man and machine, terror and pleasure, nature and creation.

The fabled magician Aleister Crowley seems to have understood this contradiction deeply. The fervent optimism of Crowley’s piece generates its own intensity from within and is meant as a ritual, a transformation, at worst, theatre.

“Ever worth the passion glowing to distil a doubtful tear.
These are with me, these are of me, these approve me, these obey,

Choose me, move me, fear me, love me, master of the night and day.
These are real, these illusions: I am of them, false or frail”

- Aleister Crowley

Click here for full text of the ritual.

Interestingly the stage design includes plans for a swastika. It is somewhat ironic that the Punk’s intention to undermine the power of the swastika by wearing it, and thus wearing it down, bears similarity to the way that the bondage/fetish image has also faded in power with the same scene and its off-spring by over dissemination. But Crowley is forgiven of course as the piece “The Rite of Jupiter” from “The Rites of Eleusis” dates from 1910. It is probably only for this reason that he also uses the phrase

“Of the East and all its splendour, of the West and all its peace”

 One wonders what his attitude to industrialization really was? Certainly Lawrence is much clearer, yet both seem like they should come from similar perspectives on nature in many ways. It seems somehow fitting that Emptyset, by their mere geographical sitting in Bristol and via their recordings in the nearby countryside also invoke images of Stonehenge in nearby Wiltshire, the place where Thomas Hardy’s famous heroine Tess of the D’Urbervilles met her end, in the arms of nature and paganism.

The subtitle of the book (published first in 1891) is “A pure woman faithfully presented” and given the story, brings to mind the films of Lars von Trier. Yet the major theme is the same, the anguish at the growing segregation of man and nature.

“Beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”

- Thomas Hardy

Factory Floor also keep the sexual question alive and open in their video for “Stereotype”, their collaboration with the Pop Group’s Mark Stewart. The androgyny of the protagonists recalls the cult film Liquid Sky while the fashion is slighter more cyber and Blade Runner-punk style.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P007 – Prologue special

Latest Cabeza de Vaca show is up at Scanner FM featuring a lot of atmospheric techno and a special on the Prologue label. Not much else to say except please enjoy and share!


To make the later slightly easier I have started a Facebook page as loathe as I am to do so. The address and link is here: Please like, shae, and all those other silly Facebook things. It is still a bit primitive as I am not a fan of social media and haven’t much time, but I will add all the program links and more as we go, though here the blog should be the main port of call.


The Scanner FM website will also undergo a massive overhaul in the next week or two as well, but more on that when it becomes available.


Next show will either be some industrial and noise flavoured techno or another special program, but I will not spoil the surprise.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recent Gigs – Ben Klock, Nurse With Wound and the Mercè Festival

I am a bit behind on everything these days, especially blogging, for multiple reasons. One is doing the radio show is more priority than blogging in big swathes, sadly. Another is I essentially also have two jobs to cover the 35% reduction in salary enforced by the Spanish and Catalan governments to pay for the financial crisis.
"I'm just trying to remember / the days of wine and roses"

But somewhere in there have been plenty of gigs, many of them free and, ironically, paid for in some way with the money taken from me and given to the governments.


Ben Klock – Razzmatazz October 2012

It seems a long time since Ben Klock’s “Compression session” came out and except for a few remixes here and there, some of which turned up on his recent Fabric 66 Mix, there is no signs of anything much substantial coming our way soon on wax.


While Klock may excel more than his colleague Marcel Dettmann in the studio at least, the two are on equal par still in the club. Klock’s arrival in Barcelona only a week or two after Dettmann’s return has meant another long run of techno dominating the big clubs, a change that has been evident for several years now. It is worth mentioning that Len Faki also played Razzmatazz the week after Klock and that the hunger for techno has been attributed to by many the cliché of Spanish feistiness and the Latino lust for the fast and furious.


Klock’s set was consequently and unsurprisingly pretty intense, with driving rain outside and the labyrinthine halls and corridors of Razzmatazz rammed to the rafters until the bitter end. After a hard days drinking it seemed like it took him an age to start, but once he was on, time seemed to stand still for long periods. The only sense that it was passing at all came from a slowly building feeling of intensity and abandon manifest in the shifting lights as the lasers came on and scanned the sea of fists rising from the crowd and in the more raucous dancing that the music seemed to elicit as the knowledge of the end became more palpable. God knows what he was playing though. It always seems so hard to tell in the club, but it always surprises me how different a set seems to a mix CD for example (more on that later).

One thing that was evident in his style, however, was a sense of purity and simplicity. A lot of DJs now feel they need to blend styles to keep it interesting. Indeed, dubstep was a Godsend for average DJs as it meant an easy way to avoid monotony by dropping in a break beat section that still retains the steel and dub saturated palette of techno, while often also giving a shift in BPMs. Klock, however, was doggedly fixed only on heavy techno, not resorting to house subtleties or any break beat modernity. On the Fabric mix, for example, Floorplan’s house-influenced “Never grow old” starts the ease down into the closing tracks, but such delicacies were not on offer at Razzmatazz.

Perhaps this is the key to the feeling of timelessness? Klock’s sets act like a double time clock/Klock to which you adapt your metabolism to. You can measure past, present and future, extending out in all directions simultaneously. That said, towards the end of the set there was a number of structural shifts. Big, monolithic breakdowns started to come into play and just before he wound down he layered one together that seemed like it lasted for nearly half an hour or so. By monolithic I mean the employment of the type of track that you often get on a 12” that can seem abrasive and staccato when listened to out of context at home. They are almost funkless these passages, but this is why they are so brilliant. If you take a step back and look at it from an outsider’s point of view it must seem insane to subject such a large crowd to abrasive, abstract music and see them respond with such fervor. One example is almost Dettmann’s “Allies” which sits in the centre of the Fabric mix.


As far as his mix goes, there is a lot more detail there than in the club and the feeling of shifting between platforms almost, like in a video game, rather than flowing as he does live. There are also plenty of highlights in the as-yet unreleased edits, especially Josh Wink’s “Are you there?” from 1996 and the aforementioned team-up with girlfriend Nina Kraviz.


A curiosity as well of the mix is its use of a more electro and experimentally tinged sound that also doesn’t come across so directly in the club. The starting couple of tracks for example are almost robotic, glitchy even. It is worth here comparing it to Norman Nodge’s recent "Berghain 06" mix which goes even further down that path, almost as if he was self-consciously staying as far away from straight techno as a way of making a personal statement or to keep it fresh. The opening of Oni Ayhun and Mokira is pretty challenging in the sense that these kind of tracks can often feel better in the middle to weird you out, rather than laying down a dirty and fragmented doormat to enter into proceedings. Similarly, the track by Patrick Gråser may be undercut by a rollicking beat, but its anti-melody and feel a little twisted if you aren’t in the mood or want something a little more sensual.


A side point to this is that the Delta Funktionen album was harshly criticized  earlier this year for sounding electro, when in fact it seems a fairly common DJ tool/style to use. But worse perhaps was a certain inherent hypocrisy in labeling the album too retrospective looking and too close to Drexciya when the last years has seen far too much retro-house that sounded too close to Chicago for its own good.

Nodge’s mix is a good counter point to Klock’s more friendly mix, but perhaps it suffers from coming down a bit too soon with Radioactive Man’s “Nastyradio” feeling like a sudden breaking rather than an ease down. Similarly, the spidery, searching feel of "Berghain 06" requires a little more investment to get the return than "Fabric 66".

Nodge, also a lawyer by day, spoke recently to Little White Earbuds  about his mix, GEMA and his upbringing in East Germany.


L.E.M. Festival – Nurse with Wound

The same night as Ben Klock I was supposed to see Arbol (Miquel Marin) play with Julia Kent at the L.E.M. Festival, but by the time we arrived it was sold out. One earlier show I did make it to however, was Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles who played in the small auditorium beneath the MACBA, the literal underground of the Sonar Day venue. The room is essentially a half circle with strategically placed speakers to give the feeling of three dimensional sound space. Drones were already playing when we entered the room, although the duo had not yet appeared. The room filled and still nothing happened. One man at the front stood up and became quite irate at the attendants who shrugged their shoulders. Then, as if homing in on the man’s negative tension, Stapleton and Liles appeared. Stapleton stayed close to his mixing desk, looping small sounds and playing a small bowed instrument to start with. Liles was initially the more physically active of the two, changing instruments, singing into a microphone and performing all sorts of tricks to distort whatever sound they made. The trajectory of the music was essentially an arc, coalescing, darkening and growing in intensity. At its peak the two seemed to become more unhinged from each other, or in a sense, from the drone that had remained beneath the sound all the while. They shifted, moved and changed with increasing frequency. To hear better and I closed my eyes, letting myself get drawn in. I could hear Liles voice from time to time, but the rest was unrecognisable and constantly shifting. It began to lighten to glide as if layers were peeling off the surface and being torn into a void where they would disappear. There was a sanguineous warmth to the music suddenly, as if an inner heat was pressing out against the rain I knew was battering on the ground above the ceiling. The darkness started to run inwards. Suddenly I was awake, eyes open. The drone had stooped. Stapleton and Liles had gone and the room was applauding the empty stage.


I bought two CDs from the stand after the show. From Nurse With Wound I bought their “Echo Poem Sequence No. 2” from 2005, essentially a long cinematic track of processed female voice and electronics. As expected, it is unsettling as the cover art suggests and can make you nervous, especially after many minutes listening.


From Liles I bought an album called “Mind Mangled Trip Monster” from 2010 which bears many similarities with the “Echoe Poem” although it is more spoken word than sung.


Mercè Festival – September 2012

Going to a few of the free concerts for the annual Mercè Festival reminded me of one thing I had forgotten, though perhaps shouldn’t have: that people don’t like weird music and that all music is essentially weird to most people.

Friday night saw San Francisco punk rockers from the Paisley Underground,  The Dream Syndicate, play in Plaça Real. I had somehow whipped myself into something of a frenzy for the show, listening almost obsessively to “The Days of Wine and Roses” album in the lead up, it’s rough edges and feedback solos as well as its more innocent touches seeming perfect for the optimism of the moment. It was a somewhat disappointing gig in a way, the tougher, quick playing of the album sounding decidedly grungy and dated. Things weren’t helped by being with a group of people who weren’t really interested at all in the music not to mention a show that was too long to hold the interest. The strangest thing is the group do not really seem to be in a kind of revival either at the moment, with the show as part of the Mercè Festival being an apparent one-off. Time will tell perhaps.


Things weren’t much better the second night in terms of crowd. Plenty of people thought that Madrid Krautrockers Lüger were too heavy. While I can see there was a metal tinge to their propulsive and utterly brilliant performance, I would hardly call it heavy. The perspective of familiarity is all so important it seems. Had the group been Nirvana and played the same I am not sure the criticism would have been the same. In any case, their show was one of the best of the year. Utterly bewitching high octane space rock with genuine psychedelic edges reminiscent of Acid Mothers Temple, without being so technically proficient or overloaded. There is a lot of groove in their music too which would be perfect for an underground club.



End of the night was left for Black Dice that was something of a PR disaster for everyone for different reasons. Way too weird for most people, they just seemed to annoy in the way that everyone had to start checking phones and convince everyone there was a better show somewhere else, yet nobody would leave as they knew the time to get there it would all be over. Even for me I found it a little pointless. Not enough texture or synchronicity in the playing, just a mess at times that also seemed to try too hard to be self-deprecating as if it was a safety net for not scaring people too much. Goofy and fascinating, but hardly satisfying. And perhaps something to have better see alone than with a fastidious crowd not really curious enough to learn something. I am glad I didn’t pay for that though, except if that is where my tax money is going.


Cabeza de Vaca P006 – Crtistian Pascual interview

Another Cabeza de Vaca show on Scanner FM  to coincide with the the 10th edition of the Beefeater In-Edit International Festival of Music Documentaries. Again, all in Spanish, but instead of music, a lot of talking. I was lucky to be able to get an interview with Cristian Pascual, the director of the festival which took place in the morning in Hotel Pulitzer. Its is a shame the non-Spanish speaking audience cannot hear as Cristian is clearly very intelligent and very well spoken, making for a fascinating conversation. For those who do speak Spanish, apologies for my crappy accent and I was waffling a bit afterwards due to tiredness and a bit of pressure as there was a manifestation outside the study which meant many retakes. Please enjoy anyway!