titassite

Voices vs Mindfulness pt. I.

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We operate so out of synch with reality that we don’t even know if the things that we backlash against are still in vogue, or due for recovery. We operate so lazily that we aren’t even sure that we aren’t backlashing against straw-men that only exist inside our mushy brains.

But no matter. This is after all the internet, the perfect venue for such exercises. Let us begin our collection of micro-essays against Mindfulness with Dr. Joachim Padgell, from the Department in Philosophy at the University of Las Bajas. The floor is yours, Dr. Padgell.

Why am I against mindfulness, you ask? Doesn’t mindfulness help us wrestle control of our cognitive system away from the automatisms with which it reacts to an overwhelming reality? Isn’t it the right tool to perceive the world around us and inside us as they are? A way to acknowledge, and become comfortable with the micro-sensations of which we are made – weight, position, function, pain?

This is all nonsense, I say! Do we encourage the idle youth who wants to forever stay living with his parents to do so? Do we admire the man who eschews the wonders of medicine and culture and runs into the woods, to live in a filthy hut? Do we aspire to become beasts forever existing in the moment, devoid of the conscience that makes us humans?

Yes, there lies the crux of the problem. Conscience – the ability to follow a thread through our existence, the feature of our existence that makes us us – is precisely the thing that we vanquish with mindfulness Can you think while you are being mindful? No, you can’t. You become a hostage to the trivial mechanical noises of your body.

And are you really becoming in some way more directly connected to reality? I think not sir, you are simply switching off the signal processing apparatus that filters out the noise from what you perceive.

This way, you regress in age and history to an idealised, innocent childishness, a wilderness. You go back to your teenage bedroom, to the kindergarten, to the womb even. Some may say that this is a good thing to do, not me sir. I claim that it is a dereliction of your duties to society, a failure to think forward, to imagine and to grow.

I could elaborate on all these points in a great deal of detail, but the owners of this website have only given me limited space to express my views.

I will therefore conclude by saying that Mindfulness is a misnomer. It doesn’t make you more mindful. It fills your mind with irrelevant perceptions, and eliminates the space you have to think. Don’t do it. Or if you do it, think about it the same way in which you think about a night of drugged-up debauchery. Perhaps it is good to “wig out” that way from time to time, but don’t be so insufferably smug about it.

Adieu!

Before leaving our office in a huff because we didn’t give him more time to talk about the themes above, Dr Padgell told us that we should illustrate his micro-essay with some music.

We were happy to oblige, and went for a couple of tunes from the late 1970s/ early 1980s which we think represent quite well the idea of a beautiful conscience (i.e. a melody) surfing through the dizzying sensorial chaos of reality.

One of them is by the Stanford AI Lab graduate, coca-cola sound effect simulator extraordinaire and “Delia Derbyshire of the Atari Generation”, Suzanne Cianni. It is included in her Seven Waves album, which was reissued by Finders Keepers a couple of years ago.

Suzanne Ciani – The Fourth Wave: Wind In the Sea

The other one is by legendary jazz fiddler and cosmic voyager Jean Luc Ponty. It is not a coincidence that it sounds like an electronically enhanced Mahavishnu – he collaborated in a couple of their albums while he was living in LA, and jamming with Zappa. So there.

This song is included in the Individual Choice album, which also features the famous Computer Incantations for World Peace.

Jean Luc Ponty – Individual Choice

As a bonus and prompt, here is a documentary about Breadwoman and Other Tales, the album by Anna Homler and Steve Moshier that RVNG just reissued.

Breadwoman Tales and Trails, by Hazel Hill McCarthy III & Douglas J. McCarthy, is the  black and white intersection of the origin story for that poetic super-heroine, Breadwoman, a detective caper where the principal witness, Anna Homler, tells us what happened during a Cadillac ride through Lynchian LA streets, and the abstract for a research project about the ur-language, the bread-tongue in which Breadwoman sings. It is fantastic, don’t miss out.

It is a prompt because Anna Homler and Steve Moshier are currently performing Breadwoman in the UK. We’ll be at the Cafe OTO show in London on Tuesday, really looking forward to it.

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Show us the face of delusion to uproot the cause of confusion

Featuring : Colored Music

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Last year, Self-Titled Mag published OMG Japan super-sweet mix full of incredible Japanese 1980s pop music, put together by the fine folks at Listen To This!

You should go and check both out, they make the Internet a better place.

One of the stand-out tracks in the mix is Heartbeat, a concrete music jazzy house thing by the enigmatic Colored House, about which the Internet has circa Zero information. We rapidly move to fill that gap, least anything remains mysterious in this era of big data and total information awareness.

So here goes: Coloured Music was a collaboration between a crack squad of Japanese jazz and funk musicians and Arthur Russell. The fingerprints of our favourite avant disco renaissance man are all over the woozy melody (a coy prototype for the synth glyph whence Go Bang launches its infinite drum odyssey), and its piano breakdown (a premonition of Tell You Today’s jaunty optimism). This came out on 1981. The dates check out.

If you wanted to blame CM and AR for providing an inspiration for the acid jazz brigade, you wouldn’t be off the mark, but you would be a fool.

We made the two paragraphs above up. We know next to nothing about Coloured Music. The fact that what we just said could be true, even feels true, is indicative of how incredibly awesome Heartbeat is. Enjoy it.

Colored Music – Heartbeat

Heartbeat was included in Colored Music’s 1981 S/T (only album) and in Computer Incarnations for World Peace, one of the best compilations released this millennium.

Always late to the party

Featuring : Carol

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The fingernail dragging tension of the early 80s was something I’m glad to have lived through only as an oblivious infant.  The collective nervous breakdown of the 70s was giving way to a resurgent conservatism hell bent on rattling the nuclear sabre as some end-game proof of ideological superiority.  Needlesstosay, it also produced some bangers.

Propelled along with a gloriously primitive drum track courtesy of Snowy Red, Carol’s dead-eyed reading of Breakdown is ghostly and taunt.  A love song suffocated with tension and paranoia.  A love that seems to exist only in absence and solitude.  It’s almost a duet with the hyper-minimal synth melody, the words falling in and around the shards of synth.

It’s as if — pushed to a silent, trembling breaking point, the thought of love in this time of cold-war could only be expressed as madness.

Carol & Snowy Red – Breakdown

Serendipitously, while looking for an image for this post I discovered that Weyrd Son Records are re-releasing this on vinyl.  It starts shipping on 20th Feb and there are still copies available.  Go get (cause paying £200 on Discogs is not cool).

 

Repetition and simplicity: an interview with Brian John McBrearty

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The last couple of years have been especially fertile for minimal guitar music. The emergence of new voices such as Tashi Dorji and Richard Dawson have opened up a whole new language for the most overused of all instruments, while Ben Chasny – the go-to experimental guitarist in indie rock for over a decade now – has proved uncontent to rest on his laurels, pushing his musical envelope further and harder than ever before with his Hexadic albums in 2015 and accompanying book of tarot-influenced musical theory.

Alongside The Library of Babel‘s Shane Parish, the next name in deconstructed guitar that you need to remember is Brian John McBrearty. Brian’s debut Bandcamp release, Things I Recall, was one of our most played albums of 2015. Largely simple, repetitive and minimal, Things I Recall weaves hypnotic guitar figures around slowly unwinding ambient drones.

This is elegant and original music, full of restraint and feeling. Listen and be bewitched!

Brian John McBrearty – Second Story Tune

“When I began writing the songs for Things I Recall, I made an effort not to have any preconceived notions about what the music should be like. I think that for a while I had some ideas that were fairly limiting—e.g., that an American primitive-style guitar album had to be all acoustic guitar compositions, etc. Then I saw (Philadelphia guitarist) Chris Forsyth do a set of solo guitar music in which he played an electric guitar in stereo through two amps with a phaser pedal on the entire time. The compositions he played were definitely rooted in American primitive-style type techniques and writing, but when I saw him play a light sort of turned on in my head and I realized that there was no specific set of rules that I had to play by. That was a freeing moment that allowed me to take my compositions in a direction that I might not have before.

“I think the American primitive and ambient/drone styles work well together for a couple of reasons. First, for me personally, I have been listening to those types of music for a long time and my only goal for Things I Recall was to create music that I wanted to listen to. Second, fingerpicked American primitive-style guitar is basically a drone on the lower strings (picked with the right hand thumb) combined with a melody played on the higher strings. If a song involves many chord changes, the drone effect is lessened, but the songs on my album tend to have a relatively static bass figure picked by the thumb, which interacts nicely with ambient/drone textures.

“Touchstones influences for many years have been Brian Eno, Jim O’Rourke, John Fahey and Jack Rose. They are artists that I repeatedly come back to. Recently, I have been diving into the catalogs of Sonny Sharrock, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Rhys Chatam and Glenn Branca. Perhaps not as evident on Things I Recall, but still nonetheless huge influences on my musical point of view are Wilco, Sonic Youth and Explosions In The Sky.

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“I like to think that from a composition or playing standpoint, I try to have no limitations. Obviously, as a player, I have my own technical limitations that I need to deal with, and when I record music I have to deal with the limitations of my recording setup. I like to finish things, so perhaps the only limitation that I impose is that, if an idea or song is not working, I will shelve it for a while and move on to something else.

“Some pieces on the album, such as Shimmering Black Wave, are totally improvised. For that tune, I was playing a 1965 Fender Mustang and really enjoying the particular tone and vibe I was getting at that moment so I hit record. I think I only did two takes of that song. The fingerpicked American primitive-style portions of other songs are composed, but usually those tunes begin from an improvisation or through experimentation with a concept. At the time I was writing for this album, I was reading George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. It is a fairly dense book with a ton of concepts that I have not even begun to explore, but it did get me thinking about, and experimenting with, the Lydian mode, so a few of the songs on Things I Recall incorporate that element.

I was intentionally trying to keep things relatively simple for this record. Although I have recorded a number of group albums at home and in studios, this was my first foray into recording solo guitar-based music and it was a learning experience. So, I think on a practical level keeping things simple allowed me to record this album on my own without pulling my hair out (too much, at least).  I wanted to create music that sort-of washed over the listener and evoked the sensation of controlled deep breaths.

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“I think repetition and simplicity in music can have a spiritual or healing effect. I work a 9-5 office job that I enjoy, but it can also be stressful at times. Playing guitar and writing music, although challenging at times, offers me a way to relieve some of that stress and I view my time spent making music as very special (I hesitate to say “sacred,” but, yes, perhaps in its own way that time is sacred). I think this is something that I appreciate more as I get older and these thoughts and feelings have influenced my compositions.

“I recorded an EP of solo electric guitar pieces in the week between Christmas and NewYear’s. The pieces are all improvised, recorded with one microphone and no overdubs, and the vibe is a bit similar to Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack. I will be mixing those tracks soon and sending them off to be mastered. I am trying to concentrate on playing shows this year, but I am writing tunes for another full length album. Those pieces are still taking shape so I am not sure how similar or different they will be to the tracks on Things I Recall, but I am excited to see where they end up!”

Buy Things I Recall from Bandcamp


Gifs by Volvulent 

I was a teenage beefcat at a pep rally in Compton

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This week, our headspace became a party for audio scientists and frekazoids arrived from the pages of “How to Wreck a Nice Beach” (HTWANB), Dave Tompkin’s  history of the vocoder, recommended to us by Optigram.

Thematically, this is the perfect 20JFG book: cryptography! futurism! breakdancing! science fiction! Can! Alan Turing! H.P. Lovecraft! Laurie Anderson! Vincent Price! Rammellzee!

It tells one of the greatest technology diffusion stories ever heard, the journey of the vocoder from Bell Labs, where it was developed by math nerds to encrypt radio communications between WWII Allied leaders, to the arsenal of weirdo musicians all over, and especially the electroid department of the Afro-space industry.

It shows how technology can be plied by artistic and cultural forces: a system created to vex German Turings became a tool to make humans fail the Turing Test, in a process driven by humanity’s fascination with its voice, the voices of possible machines and aliens, and the possibility that by changing our voice we may acquire super-powers, escape from a fucked-up world into alternative universes of zero-g funk.

The book is a combination of secret history, biography and exploration of conceptual and underground social networks in the style of Pynchon. It efficiently encodes in words the sheer “Sesame Street After the Singularity” craziness of so much vocoder music.

FFS, it contains the expression “I was a teenage beefcat at a pep rally in Compton”

Get it here.

Perhaps the most wonderful feature of HTWANB is that it isn’t a Borgesian review of an imaginary cultural movement (great as that would have been). No, it tells a true story. Its unlikely protagonists and artefacts mostly existed. The fantastic music existed. We can listen to it.

There is a great companion mixtape in the book’s website, and here you have some bonus tracks we particularly like.

The Jonzun Crew – Ground Control

An example of the otherworldliness of vocoder music: a synth epic about some FTL alien psychodeleans headed our way. It sounds like an early noughts Oneida ballad if you replace Barbarians with Cyborgs. Included in The Jonzun Crew’s Lost in Space.

The Fantasy Three – Its Your Rock (Instrumental)

An spectral locomotive beat, MC revenants and a whole grimoire of ectoplasmic sound effects (starting with that eerie droid music-box melody) soundtrack some wobbly chugging through New York streets empty and sad like a level in Dark Souls 2 after being depleted of its enemies.

More info about Fantasy Three here.

The Radio Crew – Breaking & Entering

This is the soundtrack for a documentary about California breakdancing. It collides The Egyptian Lover’s whiplash inducing martial electro beats with John Carpenter paranoid syntheses. Ice T is in there somewhere. If the gang dudes in Assault on Precinct 13 had shot lasers with their eyes and bled neon, it would have sounded a bit like this.

Saturday mixtape : 20JFG Legends of tomorrow

Featuring : Podcast

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It’s taken some work but we finally have what we need. The worst of the worst. There’s rumors, that some of them have… abilities. We have seen things.

We wanted to assemble a mixtape of the most dangerous people on the planet who we think can do some good. And if anything goes wrong we blame them, we have plausible deniability.

XXJFG – Legends of tomorrow mixtape

The Sea Doesn’t Care

Featuring : Alex Smoke

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XXJFG is already blocked by most workplace web filters but just incase we’ve used the Mt. Olympus of NSFW artwork up there.

Fall Out pulls that great trick of lulling you with a looped music box melody before hitting you with a sinister treated vocal.  Thus casting the melody in a newly sinister light.  Which would make for a fine closing album track.  What causes us to skip back and back and back is what happens exactly half way through.

Alex Smoke – Fall Out

The melody and Alex’s voice — thus far forming an uneasy equilibrium — are cast into the midst of a tempest as the synths arrive and take over.  It’s as if a shore line torch song has suddenly been thrust to the top of a great cliff by a wrathful god.  The skies open and the words pour out, paranoid and primal.  Perhaps a jilted, stalking lover or the machinations of a surveillance state.  The sea doesn’t care.

Fall Out is taken from the album Love Over Will on R&S.  You can get the album on digitial / CD / Vinyl from Alex’s Bandcamp right here.