We were actually going to post a track from this album anyway, but to celebrate the announcement yesterday that XXJFG’s proposal on Eduard Artemiev’s Solaris has been shortlisted for publication as a 33 1/3 book, we’ve shuffled this deep cut from Artemiev’s lesser-known 80s oeuvre to the front of our ‘to blab on about’ list.
Birth of Earth is the opening track from Warmth of Earth – a 1985 non-soundtrack album by Tarkovsky’s main score composer. It is a must-listen for any fans of genuinely weird music. Synthy, operatic, symphonic, ambitious and irreverent to rules, Warmth of Earth has moments that prefigure The Knife or Add N To X – or that echo fragments of Rick Wakeman’s White Rock analogue synth burnout soundtrack to the 1976 Winter Olympics* – but mostly just sound like little else.
Fans of the Solaris or Stalker soundtracks will be surprised but delighted upon checking this one out. Oneohtrix named it has one of his 13 favourite albums in a 2011 Quietus piece, to give you some idea of the kind of nerd this synth delirium might appeal to.
Who knows whether our Solaris idea (technically written by just one of us, but is likely to be done with so much assistance and support from the other three JazzFunkers that it will be practically a co-write) will achieve fruition, but, right now, it’s an honour to be considered among classics of music crit such as John Darnielle’s Master of Reality, Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love and – indeed – Drew Daniel’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats.
Many of the other proposals on both the long and shortlists look amazing too (When The Haar Rolls In, Kimono My House and Lulu to pick just three), though that hasn’t stopped certain people from acting like total fucking crybabies over their pitches not being accepted. Not a good look, guy.
*Interestingly, Artemiev would go on to score the opening ceremony of the controversial 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
He started out his musical career as a guitarist in rock bands, though that isn’t obvious by the apocalypse-strength acid techno in evidence on Johnny Superglu’s Rambo Village LP.
We caught up with Mr Superglu himself for a quick chat on what a rambo village is and whether or not his music can be defined as “Belgian skweee.”
“i found that those two words,Rambo and village put together side by side just sounded great to me, also it brings lots of images to mind ..for me, it s the imaginery place that we can reach by listening to the record, with red masked poeple dancing forever
“Soundwise, everything can be done with only a computer nowadays, but i still prefer messing around with hardware cause it makes me feel less lonely.
“I like peace of gears with sequencer included cause a sequencer is basically like a musician, it can brings unexpected ideas that will sometimes unlock what i’m stukked into
“I usualy record and edit in ableton or logic
“Skweee is the name for the chiptune funk scene..it’s a swedish producer named daniel savio who found the name. get the most with the less! you have to squeeze the life out of your synth to have the best from it. The cool thing is that when you name something it allows it to exist. when i started to produce around 2010 i found out that what i was doing was related to that scene . it was a good way to be more visible, better than sayin , yeah im doing funky tunes with cheap synthesizer.
“and belgian skweee was my way of skweeeing
“I still play guitar and guitar is still part of my music altough people dont necesserally hear it.. cause everybody expects guitar to sound like acoustic folk chord or distorded powerchord..for me it’s just a piece of wood with strings that makes sounds
“but anyway it s something that doesn’t matter anymore..
“with all the effects you put after, guitar can sounds like a synth and synth like guitars…
“i tend to see it like an interface to play sounds whatever it’s synth, drums, bassline…or even guitar sometimes!”
We asked Johnny to list the tracks that define him best as a musician and a human. He came back with:
Among many other things, Solaris is an account of humanity’s attempt to understand scientifically the alien of its own mind. This is an effort destined to paradox, because understanding the mind requires stepping outside of it, which is not possible for us.
Perhaps this is the reason why the discovery of Solaris creates such excitement among academics. Finally an opportunity to study a mind from the outside. The difficulty is to interpret the phenomena being observed, especially after they become entangled with the act of observing. Solaris responds to the human presence around it, perhaps even uses their presence as an opportunity for a bit of psychic research of its own.
Several chapters of the book overview the scholarly debates that ensue. Instead of participating on those, we have decided to get our surfing boards and get immersed in Solaris, participant observers in an act of xenography for which the songs below provide a most suitable soundtrack.
The Host’s Esalen Lectures represent a moment of pure wonder after our immersion in a dazzling ocean, just before our cognitive frameworks kick in to give the whole thing some structure. We experience the baroque coral constructions, the lightning bolts of refracted sun-light shooting from above and the strikingly patterned life-forms dancing their delicate ballet as a unique hyper-connected whole by which we are engulfed and purified.
Jungle to us always represented an effort to impose progress on the stasis of London’s circulatory grid, as well as an eerie prophecy of its high-tech cityscape.
Trust Image’s Rory’s World maintains that sense of energy, direction and flow, but unfolding above the immaculate jungles of a cosmic nature reserve, in a sleek hover-bike probably designed by Moebius.
Flatliner hit that 80s action sci-fi horror hybrid thing with the sort of gay abandon usually reserved for the Fight Supervisor on said 80s action sci-fi horror hybrids.Getting in those combos early: synth washes under murderous melodies; stabby, stabby.Above, our Lord and Saviour J.Carpenter haunting the sky.
Our collective 80s becomes an intersection of Prog and Electro and Punk and Industrial and New Age in some unholy mess. A times a brutal intersection of the fascism of ‘on and off’ and the nostalgic primitivism of the handmade and lung powered. Disjointed and with their (imagined) connections all muddled.
Although we were barely there so how could it be anything else?
The era of supply side Jesus and the painfully slow death of the communes (and the idealism that went with them) beckoned for the the otherworldly brutality of the culture that sprang up to serve it — we always got the Arnold we deserved.So why do we produce and devour the synths once more?
Maybe…#cue voiceover-guy#…it’s here from the past to remind us of the terror our present sprung from.
This could be the real lo-fi funk. A clockwork, underwater funk that isn’t quite as danceable as it thinks it is, but instead magics up all kinds of hallucinatory thoughts about dancing in your mindbrain.
I Want To Believe by Project Pablo has perhaps unexpectedly proved to be one of the albums of 2015. Its submerged disco is loved by music fans across the board – from tape ‘heads’ to lovers of more ‘proper’ dance music.
Although it might seem weird for a blog that used to bill itself as “Not jazz or funk or great, sorry,” to feature an exclusive interview with the free jazz musician of the 21st Century, Mats Gustafsson – a man that is probably terminally referred to as “saxophone virtuoso Mats Gustafsson,” when what he should really be referred to as is “saxophone motherfucker Mats Gustfasson,” but read on.
We’ve previously told you about Mats’ astral big band, Fire! Orchestra, and the collaboration between his band The Thing and Neneh Cherry was one of our albums of 2012. One of the most ass-kicking records of 2015, meanwhile, is Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper – a fierce collaboration between Mats, Thurston Moore, Merzbow and Balasz Pandi.
Mats is a master of transcendental noise, and his place in the pantheon of this cosmically-inclined blog is inarguable.
As such, we grabbed a chat with him about his feelings on electronic music, beauty, the saxophone and his next release – two side-long pieces quite unlike anything else the musician has put his name to in his long and illustrious career. Called Piano Mating, the album consists of two incredibly pure, simple-sounding and slowly-ascending drones that feel convincingly like conveyor belts for the soul.
It is spiritual music for heathens, and came about because the label Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records asked Mats to record an album using an instrument he’d never played on an album before. What he worked with wasn’t his usual mind-toy, the saxophone, but a long-forgotten curio by Stylophone-makers Dubreq called the Piano Mate.
Intended to be a sort of quasi-synthesiser “add on” for the piano common to the living rooms of many 1970s homes, the Piano Mate basically turned your gran’s piano into a giant stylophone! Perhaps one of the weirdest and least flexible instruments ever, Mats found a way to get an expressive, unique sound out of the machine – not attaching it to a piano or other instrument, but manipulating the device on its own to create the minimalist sonic prayers of Piano Mating.
This is what Mats had to say about the instrument and the record:
“I first discovered the Piano Mate in a great music instrument shop in Vienna: Flash musik. You can find incredible vintage stuff there still. In the basement they had this ‘weird’ amp. As they called it. I was on tour with Fire! and we went to look for vintage mics and amps, having this particular shop recommended by great sound wiz and guitar player Martin Siewert. We went down in the basement. Loads of old stuff. Locating the ‘weird’ one in a blink. I opened the lid of it… and found a pair of keyboard ‘handles’ in there and just couldn’t understand what kind of instrument this was. Trying it out in the shop…and I immediately fell in love with it.
“‘Microtonal electronic maracas is perhaps an apt description? Ha ha!
“I brought it with on the ongoing Fire! tour and had some great fun with it, watching the European ‘ jazz beards’ in the audience go upset with it… as everybody were expecting me to play my usual stuff on my horns.
“It is just a totally different beast compared to anything else I ever played.
“Not really controllable. In the same way as some of the electronics I am using, from the UK based Bug Brand company. All filled with touch and light sensors and shit. Reacting to humidity and temperature and creating a lot of unexpected noises and sounds.
“As well as those instruments, the Piano Mate does whatever it wants really. But I can control pitch and volume and detune it while playing. The microtonal clusters that it offers are highly inspirational to work with and really something that is quite hard to achieve on the saxophones.
“And I just love the sound of it. That color really kicks my mind and ass.
“I made no modifications. Just cleaned it up. It is all microtonal in itself, because of the pitch shifter. You can move that along as you play. It is a truly weird invention. Why would you – in the name of Freja – like to add such a thing to your normal piano? To have an additional synthetical organ sound, on top of your piano…. Ha ha! Why would you like such a thing?
“Anyway – I use it without a keyboard. The handles are supposed to sit on top of the keyboard. Maybe I use it in a way it is not supposed to be used? Ha ha! But it fits me well.
“To play drones…. Is really all you can do when you use the Piano Mate the way I do, ha ha! My idea was basically to focus on the two separate ‘handles’s on each side of the album. A & B. Low frequency and high respectively. And play with the sounds coming up. It depends all on how you angle the ”handles”… tricky shit. During the 5 month long theatre project we did with Fire! in Stockholm I had plenty of time to work on the techniques with this amazing instrument.
“And, during the recordings, I had additional help of some local seagulls flying outside, over the studio room. You can hear it in the beginning and the end of each side. Yeah – the Mate were guiding me.
“It is all about limitations and restrictions. Music and art is always about that.
When you create. That is what you have to deal with.
“And the Piano Mate is quite limited, yes it is! It is a mysterious thing.
“What is musical beauty is up to anyone to judge of course. What I think is noise is for someone else musical beauty of poetic qualities. I love rough sounds… on the edge of distortion. Or just completely distorted, though I prefer analogue distortion. Digital sounds…are not really for me… I love layers of undefined sounds and noises…when frequencies interact and create something new. Something unheard. Not definable. And if you try to ‘rub’ people any direction…. You ‘rob’ them from a true and honest experience.
“You can’t really lead people into what they ‘should’ experience. People have to decide for themselves what to think and enjoy.
“Making this music was a lot about creating a specific state of mind. Letting the music take over. Letting the sounds create the music. Slow. Listening for it and going for it. Never pushing it. Hard to describe actually. And of course part of the mystery of it all.
“How to explain? Why explain? It is all there.
“And you hear what you want. What you need. But if listen close enough… things could change. At every given moment, things might change.
“I really hear very different things every time I listen back to these recordings. I found them still very surprising and funny enough very inspirational to me. In my sax playing, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to the piano mate.
“One thing feeds the other. How it feeds… is always a mystery. The mystery.
“I m always a bit uncomfortable listening back to my own recordings after they made it onto vinyl. When it is done – it is done.
“But I have to say that the piano mating sessions still thrills me. And yeah – it has really given me some good ideas about how to approach my different sax axes.
“And of course there is a huge difference in the fact that Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper is a shared experience w 3 others. And at least I can enjoy what they are doing, ha ha. It is hard to listen back to my own playing, as I said… but, a good fact to realize over and over again… that my music can always gets deeper and better. There is still a long way to go.
“I am a sax player. I decided for the sax as an axe early on. When I was 14 and heard Sonny Rollins live for the first time something really changed! It was a revelation. I had played flute and electric piano in various punk and jazz-rock units in my hometown Umeå… but by changing to the sax…it all changed for me. Dramatically. I could identify with something. And I am happy that I walked the long road – figuring out the mechanics on my own, I made a huge amount of initial mistakes, but learnt some useful techniques along the road that aren’t taught at the conservatories
“By playing other instruments, such as live electronics, keyboards and the Piano Mate I can learn a lot for and in my own sax playing. Shit feeding each other. I am addicted to practicing the sax. I cannot wait to find the new sounds and techniques on my horns. A never-ending process (thanx Tor and Odin) – you will never be done. There are always stuff to learn and research. I will now try to find a way to play Piano Mate techniques on my horns… it will probably take a while to finish that project…
“I have a new sax being developed by my sax tech in Sweden…that looks and sounds very promising. Especially when it comes to copy some of the Piano Mate insanities! I only dislike the fact that I don’t have time enough to practice enough on my saxes. I love my saxes.
“And I love my Piano Mate! – there should be one in every household!!!”