In today’s transient net-driven culture, where the secret stuff you like now is aborted as bad taste as soon as it hits the mainstream tomorrow, it’s nice to go back to the classics:Red planet: LBH-6251876 / Listen to this in a poly Prada shirt and parachute boots sipping ginger juice watching NBA on a projector
In the 80s, rap became a recorded product, as cutups of the hole history of music flashed by with a cornucopia of slang on top. The Bomb Squad production crew took that game to the next level, and peaked on the third album, Fear of a black planet. Music history was hacked and atmospheric layers of atonal noise pulled from funk classics, quotes from Black Panther speeches, heavy 808 sub-bas kicks, off-center beats, militant drum rolls and horn blasts made a overload of sonic information and builded a monumental soap box for Chuck D to unfold his wordplay sounding like a triumphant basketball anchorman stiving to raise the consciousness of the masses. As the sugar on the often bitter pill, Flaver Flav was his crackhead clownish antidote. Topics include Hollywood, drugs, police violence and race/class – but in a new humorous funky arty format. The sound was dense and raw, made of samples from scratched 70s vinyl thru 8 bit Emu and 12 bit Akai samplers mixed on a broken analoge Neve mixer by hand, no computer – with absolutely no dead air – making a cinematic experience unmatched even today. Even stoner Spike Lee used Public Enemy as soundtrack to “Do the rigth thing”\’b4s final riot scenes. The album is the peak of the sampladelic era, and as the lawyers smelled money and stopped this creative metod spurred on by a oversampled James Brown, unwillingly provider clones and spare parts for the hiphop industry. Its estimated that today this album would cost Public Enemy double the shelf price pr. album just in sample and publishing clearances. Fear of a black planet was the crossroad where hiphop turned into adult danceable retro-futuristic avant-garde noise, hail the prophets of rage!
Jon Hassel: Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two / Listen naked in a silky waterbed, stoned in the twilight, trying to read Kilton Stewart´s book on the Senoi tribe.
After his highly lucrative work building sound cathedrals for the awful Jesus-freak Bono, producer Brian Eno is seen as a pretentious sellout villain coasting in posh galleries. But in the 70s he was the godfather of hip, and after his glamourous work with Roxy Music, he sort of invented ambient music, our generations answer to classical, or muzak? Ambient is music with beats, vocals, solos and even ego removed, long floating abstract, often soothing tape-loop soundscapes to tint reality playing in the background, made using vast amounts of synthetic reverb and echo, like a very white dub with no soul or body. Eno explored this anti-rock concept for a couple of albums, but he needed a lead voice to foreground his vinyl landscapes: enter Canadian trumpet magician Jon Hassel, who already crafted a sonic fiction on albums evoking a unreal ethnic futuristic “fourth world” headspace. A couple of sensual masterpieces, Possible musics 1-2 was the de facto soundtrack in the 80s to play stoned and naked making your bed a space capsule floating downstream in a uncharted area. Eno then reversed-engineered these tactics and used them on nerdy and the clubfooted post-punk Talking Heads kidnapping them to the same Compass Point studios in Nassau Grace Jones used, crafting their only masterpiece, Remain in light – adding a more african trance rhythm approach and the hallmark spacious treatments, to their arty-farty cut-up ramblings, with cameos from Hassel, who continued to churn out high quality maps for nonexistent exotic futures in a unreal ahistorical place like a reverb soaked white Miles Davis. Later in the 1980s, The Orb and the chill-out generation reinvented ambient using turntables and samplers as a meta-pastiche on every vinyl collectors beetles stoner gems, and now, even in the extremely conservative jazz world, Hassel proceeded tone is widely imitated, as Eno ambient sound now is a Hollywood stable, but as always, check the originals.
Psychic TV: Dreams less sweet / Listen to this a trance ritual fully erect inspired by Crowley´s “Magic In Theory and Practice” , wearing a grey catolic shirt (shaved head optional) or during weapon training.
Someone must make a big Hollywood movie of Psychic TV´s main man Genesis P.Orrigde’s life: first, he was a fluxus hippie making avant-garde performance body-art, before he turned into the evil Elvis of his self invented Industrial music genre, spearheaded the mythologic Throbbing Gristle. They provided the most uneasy listening ever, taking stoner drone space post-rock into a bad trip diving into our collective nightmares, historical failures and primitive impulses, in a macabre cabaret of noise, toying with images of fascism. Genesis P.O. assumed his preacher role, evoking daemons like a modern Alister Crowley, chanting mantras and barking army commands in an attempt to discipline the audience into a critical, higher consciousness. TG split at the peak of success due to internal erotic tensions, and G.P.O. regrouped with master sound alchemist Peter Sleazy Christofferson, conning a huge advance from major label Warner, crafting a string-ladden album verging on muzak, but filled with subliminal occult references. This was the fundraising and propaganda wing of their new Temple of Psychic Youth (TOPY), turning fanboys into a uniformed chaos magic global network, receiving personal ritual instructions for magical tantric sigils, performed on the 23 every month worldwide. Their second album, Dreams less sweet, is the tour de force, recorded in locations chosen for their occult history with a dummy head instead of a microphone for a 3-d effect. Quotes from cut-up beat godfather and author William S. Burroughs, imprisoned hippie cult leader Charles Manson and suicide cult shaman Jim Jones make a tapestry of ideas soundtracked by oboe, wolf howls, uzi and cellos, shifting between bittersweet folkish emulator pop and naturalistic musique concrete weirdness, complete with tibetan thighbone solos. After this, Peter Sleazy Christofferson formed Coil, intensify his sound design and post-gay psychedelic journey until his untimely death. G.P.O. transformed into a third gender, complete with silicon and steel teeth. Go investigate yourself.
Yello: Stella/ Listen to this puffing cigars in a tailor-made suit in a highstreet gallery, browsing thru painting and models with a black book with own poetic musings in inner pocket near your heart or lounge on a vintage yacht feeling lonely reading Lyotard.
Yello is the Swiss maximalist cousin to the dry stark minimalism of Kratwerk. Founded by conceptual artist, painter and writer Dieter Meier and the lovely named sonic genius Boris Blank, they continue to churn out lush dramatic ear movies using the broadest of brushes. Blank is self-taught non-musican, but a master of equalizing and space and the daft playful collage, juxtaposing odd samples. After a few albums, he finally tamed his Fairlight keyboard and the SSL mixer to an seemingly hyperreal level, making even Frankie Goes to Hollywood producer Trevor Horn tremble in envy. Thematically, and contrary to the bleak black and white postpunk and electropop of their opponents, Yello dived full on into the good life, emulation a Raymond Chandler-like universe of postmodern desire, crime and seduction in cars, bars, and aircraft with a distinct Cannes yacht feel. A cosmopolitan Memphis-styled mix of crooning, latin percussion, guitar hysterics, b-movie horn riffs, divas and field recordings integrated to make perfect pop singles and clubby yet stylish kitchy 12″ vinyl. In the middle of it all was Dieters vocal, a tuneless dark patinated instrument better suited for storytelling than for singing. After “Stella“, they infiltrated the world of advertising jingles and soundtracks and became their own cliche, copying themselves endlessly like a electropop equivalent to the Stones. It´s still a nice formula, but the new not so mad adventures feels more like a souped up Audi TT than pieces of art today. Use their app and make your own Yello music now, or take Stella for a spin.Kraftwerk: Computerworld / Listen on epo on a very expensive racing bike
The German sound fetishists – that made rock feel outdated in the late 1970s – took electronic music out of the ghettos of the conservatory studio labs, put Beach Boys-inspired vocal harmonies on top, added Bach-like melodic elegance and Stockhausen´s virtual sonic manipulations and set it to a funky James Brown-inspired but sweat less syncopated robot-beat. This approach was a virtual revolution in post rock, more like a animation, not a live recording of a band in a room, and during the 70´s they refined their unique avant-garde-pop formula, reaching the unlikely US marked with their very European ode to the Autobahn (1975) and the Trans Euro Express (1977), originally constructed by the Nazis, shaking off the whole German guild complex of the second world war in superb style and cover art, mixing Russian constructivism with camp deadpan humor on The Man Machine (1978). Their absolute peak was their prophetic Computerworld album, where they invented electro, later sampled by Afrika Bambaataa and jazz genius Herbie Hancock, giving birth to electro boogie, Miami bass, Ghettotech and Electronic Body music – inspiring a zillion mutations from Detroit Techno to The New Romantics – and designing a set of drum kits that are a standard preset in digital instruments even today. 1981´s crystal-ball-like Computerworld even addresses net-dating, the reduction of a globalized world to numbers and pre-echoes the home-computing cottage industry – as well as hand held music devices – 30 years before musical iphone apps – presented in one long mix forecasting the endless beat of dj culture. Kraftwerk balances between hopes of a promising future and an Orwellian dystopia here – a digital world ruled by secret services and megabrands – Deutsche Bank und CIA. The following Albums, the minimalistic MTV-hit Electric Cafe (1986) and their latest, Tour de France (2003) – show that the pioneers are not ahead anymore – especially after the means of production, affordable samplers and computers, hit the marked in the late 80´s – but the sheer quality of the albums stand the test of time like an old Audi Quattro, a Hasselblad camera or a Luger gun. Bowie and Jackson begged for tracks for their own solo albums, but Kraftwerk politely declined. Today they are trapped in their own retro-futuristic vacuum, playing MOMA, Tate and Roskilde festival this summer – in 3D, arguably another dead medium, like Kraftwerk themselves? Kraftwerk stand still, even on stage, as the man machine music motoric elements is removed from the bands performance, only appearing as body effects in the audience by the flick of a switch on customized sequence controllers running Cubase. But the audience, often dressed in red shirts and black LED ties, sing along and break-dance, like a weird old school sci-fi global folk ritual. And maybe Kraftwerk will use their users data from their app to generate future tracks, like netflix used data to generate the House of cards series. And when the final surviving member dies, holograms will probably take over from the mencn-machines. Go investigate yourself. Rhythm & Sound : Rhythm & Sound / listen in a vast concrete Berlin coffee shop
The development of post Kraftwerk music is like a pendulum between increasingly advanced post analogue sound design and stripped down post-song structures – its sometimes feels like the producer-auteurs try to remove music’s original raison de entrée, pitch and harmony. The controlled information and limited images emitting from Kraftwerk´s Klingklang studios was a brand building masterpiece. The next generation took this information-minimalism and reduced it to mere abstract graphics and serial numbers in an almost autistic isolationist anti-marketing strategy. A series of legendary loopy and dusty minimal 12″ vinyl surfaced in the early Berlin techno scenes hub, Hardwax on the Basic Channel label. Nobody could figure out how the deep mystery sounds where made, at once both starkly modern yet vintage, as it was recorded thru a matrix of tube compressors, space delays, and analogue modules and pitched down on reel to reel tape. The tracks arrangement structure was inspired by the minimalism of second wave Detroit producers like Robert Hood and Jeff Mills, but with a more airy warm feel, reduced to just a ambient atmosphere and a very imitated synth stab being tweaked in endless shades and variations of grey, erasing time, very fascinating but without ANY hummable or memorable hooks or vocals. The records sounded pre-scratched, the grooves integrating the sounds of worn vinyl, skipping in and off-beat. The sound of glitch-dub was born, inspiring a host of quality artists like Monolake and Vladislav Delay and mutated further on labels like Chain Reaction. The sound probably reached it´s peak with the release of the Buddha Machine gadgets. In a retro-futuristic move, the mysterious crew lead by Moritz Von Oswald returned to the origin of bass music – Jamaican reggae, and collected the post-club results on the this fantastic compilation, probably inventing European digi-dub in the process, spiced by toasters like Savage and propelled by the deepest baselines in the business, sometimes even removing the instruments for the pure poetic buzz of malfunctioning gear. Today, Von Oswald is investigating live electronic jams with his trio, playing his trusty Prophet keyboard to the processed percussion of Sasu Ripatti and torn apart by Sun Electrics live mixmaster Max Loderbauer in an smoke screened improvised attempt to marry a odd couple: freeform ambient and live dub.