Finally, the inertia of delay has broken for a spell, and suddenly, I have a few new pieces of work to report back about. It’s a good feeling. Actually, I needed this feeling, and I especially needed it right now. This week’s photographs were taken in Oslo (November 2019) on 35mm film with a Olympus MJU II. I’m not sure what sort of film it was. Anyway, please enjoy.
WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING:
A yearningly romantic suite of lushly arranged lounge music, Glad To Be Alive is the first and only album from the long-forgotten premier Detroit wedding band, Carousel II. Originally self-released in 1978, the album arrived on the back of twelve years of hard graft. Underappreciated at the time, in the forty-three years since it was first released, Glad To Be Alive has aged like a fine wine, revealing a startling emotional depth and resonance within the band’s rose-tinted reflections on love. Last week, New York’s Frederiksberg Records reissued this cult classic and I was lucky enough to write the liner notes.
Once a month for the last eleven months, XIII.Collective, the social outreach arm of XIII.R&D, has coordinated GLOBALOCAL, a monthly soundcloud mixtape series. GLOBALOCAL focuses on local music cultures from the far reaches of this wide world. This month, they called me up. I put together a wide ranging mix of psychedelic folk music, post-punk, noise, post-disco, jazz rock, boogie and, ambient and lounge music recorded in Aotearoa during the final decades of the 20th century.
In 1980, the singer-songwriter, guitarist and visual artist Guy Maxwell headed to the Netherlands to record a remarkable AOR album with the guitarist and composer Serge Maillard, and the open-eared Chilean funk-rock group Santiago. 41 years later, Outside My Window has been reissued by Hamburg’s Growing Bin Records. I interviewed Guy for Test Pressing. You can read the full story here.
Thanks to demand (a couple of people), I’ve been actively investigating different photo printing processes and selling a few prints lately. So that’s a thing now. Right now, my prices are very reasonable - and will probably stay that way until the whole thing becomes too complicated and frustrating. I’m sure some of you know what I mean.
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:
Hii Mag: Recitations and Chants: An Aural Perspective of Islam & Hinduism, by Nyshka Chandran.
For centuries, humans have used sound-based rituals to explore our earthly existence. Whether in healing ceremonies or moments of joyous communion, the expression of certain vocal noises is seen as a means of communicating with divine spirits. These revered traditions encompass chants, prayers, sermons, poetry, humming, moans and even screaming but regardless of their form, each expression pushes individuals to acknowledge the higher energies in their lives. Nyshka Chandran tackles the big topics here beautifully. Even better, this article is available in an audio version as well. More details here.
Bandcamp: Martina Topley-Bird Makes a Statement With “Forever I Wait”, by John Morrison.
“I felt like the records I’d made [in the past] were not deliberate artistic statements—they were explorations, finding my nose and instincts and publicly trying out things. With this record I realized that I had to have my full artistic statement. There’s a lot to chew on in the record. Lots of voices and stories. I’m fairly thrilled with how it turned out.”
London-born singer-songwriter Martina Topley-Bird first came to prominence as the lead vocalist on Tricky’s 1993 single “Aftermath.” A remarkable track in which hip-hop and soul music collided to create a powerful new hybrid, the song’s instrumental is built around a slow, pitched-down sample of the bassline and distorted electric piano of Marvin Gaye’s “That’s The Way Love Goes.” When the colossal drums on “Aftermath” kick in, Topley-Bird emerges. John Morrison speaks with her about her career and her new record. Read more here.
Mixmag: Unorthodox Event Is Leading The First Queer Movement In Drum’N’Bass, by Becca Inglis.
“When I did that first post, although there was a lot of homophobia, it was also the point at which a lot of people felt they could open up,” says Nathan. “There are messages like, ‘I went to an Andy C concert, wore a bit of eyeliner and I got loads of abuse hurled at me’. I realised it wasn't just me. There were a lot of people who felt like in that scene they couldn't express themselves.”
A queer movement within d’n’b is well and truly bubbling. Becca Inglis gets the lowdown at the party combining breakneck sounds with drag, sparklers and a campy aesthetic. Read more here.
Bandcamp: Revisiting the Romantic Sounds of Toni Parera’s ‘80s Ambient Cassettes, by Phil E. Bloomfield.
“I’m working more with feelings, I try to capture my feelings at the time… I’ll go for a walk, in the Collserola [an expansive natural park in the hills above Barcelona], I’ll see the trees, the sea, a sunset, and when I come home, that picture, I’ll try to capture it on my keyboard.”
“I thought, ‘Finally, it’s come out!’ Thirty years later and someone’s finally interested in the music,’” says Toni Parera, recalling the moment when Jordi Serrano, then running Domestica Records, approached him about releasing his music on one of his label’s compilations of Spanish underground cassette music. Phil E. Bloomfield tells the story of the return of Toni Parera. Read more here.
WHAT I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO:
Crack: Podcast: Drill politics with Ciaran Thapar & AM, hosted by Nicolas-Tyrell Scott.
The complex connections between music, violence, austerity and censorship are up for discussion in this Supporters Talk. Brixton rapper AM, a vanguard of the UK drill movement alongside his regular collaborator Skengdo, is joined by youth worker and journalist Ciaran Thapar, author of Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City, to talk about the streets, schools and scenes that birthed a genre. Listen here.
Deep South Podcast - 083 - Ivy Barkakati.
Yet another excellent DJ mix from a chill, low-key great. Ivy Barkakati is an American DJ and producer based in Barcelona. Her solo music has been released on Modern Obscure Music, SOS Music, and Butter Sessions, and her vocals have featured on tracks by Cardopusher, Furious Frank, and Roza Terenzi. In 20201, IVAN, her project with the Venezuelan producer Phran self-released their EP Delicious Fantasy. Ivy is also half of another duo, Proceed, with the Basque producer Eneko Balzategi. In 2020 their debut EP was released through Haus of Beats. From 2016-2021 she presented the radio show Casa da Crega on dublab.es. Ivy might make a lot of mixes, but they’re always a lot of fun.
Roland Kayn, Cybernet AS & TLS (Bandcamp)
If you were going to draw a through line across German electronic composer Roland Kayn’s decades along career, it would be his depth engagement with cybernetics as a compositional practice. In this sense, even considering the electronic explorations that were occurring across Germany, France and elsewhere in the 60s and 70s, he was very much - a man alone. This month, his estate have unveiled two pieces from 2003. In terms of framing, the Cybernet suite, “pays explicit homage to that strain of 20th century thinking defined by Norbert Wiener as, the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” As with many of Roland’s works, the listener is dropped gently into a unique sonic landscape. Herein, narrative is intuitive, but events and their placement exist beyond definition.
I’m thinking about recording a global New Jack Swing mix. Over the last few months, I’ve been picking up some bits and pieces from Japan, France, Spain, Australia and Brazil. It’s been hard going, but I’m getting there.
Something something, Susumu Yokota, something something, coming soon.
Once upon a time, I wrote for VICE. Here’s a directory of some of the articles I put together for them. The pieces on 70s/80s New Zealand disco-funk, jitwam, and Surly are particular favourites of mine. Read more here.