Sunday, 28 August 2011

RIP Conrad Schnitzler 1937 - 2011

Just found out about the death of seminal German composer Conrad Schnitzler on August 4th from pancreatic cancer. Very sad about it, RIP Con. 74 is a good age, but stomach cancer is a horrible way to go.

Schnitzler Live 1971

Schnitzler in costume on the streets of Linz, Austria, 1979

Probably best known for his early work with Tangerine Dream and Kluster, he went on to release nearly 100 solo albums in his lifetime, a prolific outpouring by anyone's standards. A pioneering architect in electronic music, ambient, kosmische  and new age.

Also Con’s role as founder of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab shouldn't be overlooked, the club went on to host bands such as Kluster, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Temple, Klaus Schultze and Agitation Free. He played an absolutely pivitol role in the birth of the Berlin krautrock scene, and without his presence, it wouldn’t have coalesced the way it did.

It's always a funny thing to be touched by someone you've never actually met, but whose creative presence has been a part of some of the best parts of your life. I hope his end was peaceful and painless.

Song of The Day - 'The Orch - Kenny The Snake'

Found this on the end of an old compilation and have been spinning it since I woke up several hours ago (don't you hate working weird hours, no such thing as a lie in).

Great piece of observational poetry over sparse beats and acoustics

On certain 'scene', everyone knows a 'Kenny', we certainly knew our fair share.

The Orch are Mick Conroy, Phil Hayes and Damian Ashcroft, and they began performing and recording together in the early nineties, releasing some tracks on a Factory Records compilation before calling it a day.

Following their split, Conroy released two fine albums and recorded a Peel session with Superqueens before The Orch re-formed, to the great delight of several Dandelion DJs, and released the Small Times album on the Skinny Dog label in 2010.

Characterised by pulsing electronica overlaid by Conroy's gritty East Lancastrian spoken word lyrics, The Orch appeared in session for Andy Morrison at the end of 2010. 'Kenny & The Snake', which appears here, finally gave The Orch their first festive fifty entry that year.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tim Blake - Crystal Machine (1977)

On first hearing this several years ago, I pondered on how acid house/techno didn't happen sooner than it did, as all the seeds were in place way before the first true blossoming's of the genre.

Hell even Pink Floyd had an early prototype on 'Dark Side of The Moon' fer god's sake.

In 'Crystal Machine' you can hear hints of all those future classics by Jaun Atkins and Model 500 to name just two. Arpeggiated sequences and and lush keyboard refrains dominate much of the record, with great synth 'drifts' of sound to accompany you on your journey. The music gives a heavy nod to 'Phaedra' era Tangerine Dream and those Krautrock pioneers, but with a great ear for melody too, this really is something you've gotta HEAR if you haven't already.


The 'gear list' reads like an analogue nerds dream, and goes something like this...

"2 EMS Synthis A´s, Minimoog, EMS Frequency Shifter, MXR Flanger, Sony TC 850 Tape deck echo, Sony Mix 12, ELKA Rhapsody"

Mmm, now if only I had another morgage, I might be able to afford some of it.

Tim Blake 1976

To be honest, I don't know a whole lot about Tim Blake. I've read he was a member of Anglo-French acid freaksters 'Gong' from 1971-75 before departing to move to France and form/ make Crystal Machine with Patrice Warrener. But Crystal Machine is a stone cold killer of the genre, which is sadly much overlooked.
I can't comment on his other releases, as I don't own them, and have yet to track them down, but I'm sure it would take something pretty special to sound better than this.

Crystal Machine Live 1977

Here's a review from All Music Guide which just about sums it up.

"Too many synth artists of the early to mid-'70s seemed more interested in demonstrating their dexterity with their instrument than actually showing why it was worth being dexterous with in the first place. The reason Tim Blake is important is because he took the opposite approach entirely. Schooled in Gong and soon to dignify Hawkwind, Blake is a composer first, a technician a very distant second. And if New Jerusalem, his solo debut, represents a peak which electronic rock in general has yet to top, Crystal Machine is at least equal to the task. In maintaining the earlier album's application of melody over mood, Blake totally separates himself from the ranks of sallow, clever souls who let their machines do all the talking -- a lesson which, by year's end, both Jean Michel Jarre and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" would both have translated into worldwide chart-toppers. More importantly, however, Blake also liberated the synth from the showroom and showman. Two tracks -- "Last Ride of the Boogie Child" and "Synthese Intemporel" -- were drawn from live concerts, an arena where very few onlookers are listening in on headphones and even fewer care how clever the musician is. The fact that flying bottles, cans, or coins interrupts neither performance testifies to that. There is nothing here which packs the sheer visceral energy of "New Jerusalem" itself, of course, but that's a point which Blake himself confirms, by confining the title track this time to a scant minute or two of oscillation, then slipping it nicely into a stick groove at the end of the vinyl. If listeners let their attention wander for a moment, it could play on forever." (Written by AMG contributor  Dave Thompson)

I got sent this by a pal in Canada, who knew I was a sucker for all things 'Electronic and Kosmische' and that I was also a massive early Hawkwind fan (he was a member briefly from 1979-80'), and as the price of this disc is still ridiculous over on Amazon and Ebay, he kindly sent me  a copy.
Apparently Tim Blake has returned to the masked ranks of Hawkwind in recent years and is still going strong touring and playing live. Can't wait till he comes near me to finally check him out.

Downtime in the Malvern's

Don't get much time off in my current career, so when I do, I gotta grab it with both hands (hence a dearth of blog posts, sorry). Last weekend I needed a countryside fix, so headed out to the Chase End area of Malvern in Worcestershire/ Herefordshire.
If your not familiar with the Malvern Hills, Chase End is the Southern most tip of the escarpment, the place furthest from the 'honey pot' of British Camp and Worcester Beacon, and is a beautiful quiet backwoods of a place. On an otherwise busy Saturday on the major hills, I pretty much had Hollybush Hill and environs to myself. I Even managed to find the fabled ancient oak tree mentioned here and on the Woodland Trust 'Ancient Tree Register' having passed nearby on several previous occasions unaware of it's presence.
It's girth of 7.7 meters could indicate it's nearly 800 years old, which is astounding.

The oak seems be a place of attraction for those of a 'new age' nature, but it's a pleasant and peaceful place nontheless, so I can understand the attraction. The best bit is it's completely hollow, so if your brave enough, you can climb down into the heart of the tree and sign the visitors book. I spent an hour or so just hanging and taking photo's

Had a great (if tiring) tramp about, and found some of the sweetest blackberry's I've ever tasted down a wonderful country lane with 'proper' wildflower hedges.

Anyhow, if your interested, here's a few photo's of the day.

Atop Holly Bush Hill Looking SW

Gate House on the Bromsberrow Estate

If I did The Lottery, This Is The House I'd Like (If I Won Of Course)

A Well Stocked Hedgerow (with yummy blackberry's)

Ancient Oak, near White Leaved Oak

Ancient Oak

Some of the 'offerings'


View from tree to Eastnor Park Obelisk

Inside The Oak

Where's Puck?

View to the West

Elephant Skin

View up the outside

more tinkets

Home time

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lost bands of the Camden Scene - Elevate

Hiya, not forgotten ya, and sorry about the delay in posting new stuff. Just started a new job with rather unsocial hours and I'm not getting much webtime.

Anyhoo, dug these two crackin' albums out of the CD rack after not playing them for years and remembered how much I liked them back in the day.

Yet another bunch I first heard on the John Peel show in the early 90's and became slightly obsessed with for a short while. I never found out much about them, and info on the web is still a little sketchy, but their music could best be described as part Fall, part Slint, part Sonic Youth with a dash of Pavement, and a drop of Shellac. (All fine bands in their own right as well).

Here one of a number of clips from You Tube of the band Supporting Debut record 'Bronzee'.

Here's a brief overview of Elevate.

"Elevate were a short-lived but inventive guitar-based band, formed in London in 1993. They released two albums (Bronzee, 1994 and The Architect, 1996) and several singles on Robin Proper-Sheppard’s Flower Shop Records. Musically, they sit somewhere between The Fall and Slint, while always ploughing their own very particular, and very British, furrow. Elevate bring out the grimmer aspects of indie-noise in comparison to the likes of early Sonic Youth and Girls Against Boys. The band split up in 1997.

Members were Tim Ward (Lord Ward NYC), Graham Miles, Paul Collyer MBE (of Championship Manager fame) and James Elkington (now of The Zincs)"

 First album 'Bronzee' is best described by the review I filched from All Music Guide, have a nose at it.
 And you can listen to the album at the same time Here .

Elevate - Bronzee (1994)

"Willfully embracing a cryptic public image approach that reads like an even more combative version of early Fall sleeves -- band members are credited simply as drummer Flamingo, singer/guitarist Cuckoo, guitarist Crane and bassist Swallow, while hand-scrawled notes and cut-out photos are everywhere -- Elevate makes a fine splash with its debut album. The inspirations come through clearly enough -- besides the Fall, members had clearly been spinning the likes of Girls Against Boys and the Jesus Lizard on their systems. For all that the sonic connections can be traced, though, Elevate makes a righteous enough noise that their pleasures, while derivative, still sound great upon listening. Produced by Flower Shop label head Robin Proper-Sheppard -- no stranger to loud noise via his work in the God Machine -- Bronzee rocks hard without apology, but with plenty of off-kilter angularity. Rhythms stop-start on a dime, melodies per se are eschewed in favor of repetitive, trancy chords and riffs, and vocalist Cuckoo prefers to deliver his slightly whiny rasp against the grain and flow of the songs. "M'Statue," which would surface more than once later as a single and on American releases, deserves the higher profile it has. Cuckoo's wickedly funny and very Mark Smith-inspired drawl of "Splintered spi-ine..." over the charging crunch of the music makes for good listening, a slow burn, and explosion of feedback. The band knows the virtue of variety here and there -- "1/2 Painted Chair," for instance, has just slightly stinging acoustic guitar and Cuckoo's murky, boxy vocal making up the track, resulting in a fine tension waiting for an explosion that never comes. Then there's the sometimes loud sometimes not semi-trudge of "Priceless Water/Victim No. 12," ending on an ominously calm note of low, repetitive bass notes, or even the banjo on the concluding "The Train Journey."
 (Review Ned Raggett - AMG)

Elevate - The Architect (1997)

 The second album 'The Architect' is my favourite, rather than going for the jugular 'noise-wise' they add a little more space to the sound which for me adds a little extra depth lacking in the debut.

Have a listen Here .

Here's another review from All Music Guide.

"As the singer says with smart passion at one point, "I ridicule the mainstream!" -- always a worthy goal whenever the mainstream is particularly rotten, and 1996 was as bad a year as any. Having won a variety of comparisons -- and understandable ones at that -- to Girls Against Boys, Elevate neatly thumbed its nose at the critics by going right ahead and recording its second album with that group's key sound sculptor, Eli Janney, in Maryland. The band members chose even more cryptic monikers this time around -- Hair, Legs, Clothes, and Shoes, this time not even specifically identified with a particular instrumentalist. Obscure imagery aside, Elevate continued its just abrasive enough vision of rock tension, with a little more spite and fire this time -- not that Bronzee didn't have plenty of that, but lyrics referring to "testosterone eyes" and "two rivals need no abuse excuse" are again delivered with Fall-touched bile. The Architect differs from Bronzee in that, if anything, the off-kilter approach that both bands share is even more clearer here - Janney certainly wasn't out to persuade Elevate to try something different, if anything he helped it sound even better than ever. The same thick but tight playing approach remains for the quartet, but even at its most blasting there's a clear separation in instruments, combining impact with individual detail. "General Purpose," with a snarling initial bassline and almost metallic percussion clatters to recommend it, and the heavily distorted vocal roars halfway through the aggro strut of "Tuxedo Mouthpiece" show that Janney knew how to record the band for maximum impact. Quieter numbers conjure up images of moody film noir scenarios where threat and inviting shadow combine -- "The Resin World" almost glides with weirdly relaxed edginess, effortlessly swinging.
(Review Ned Raggett - AMG)