Category Archives: vangelis

Heartbeat Concept

midnight express

(Following up our recent post on Blade Runner and its mooted sequel, here are some thoughts about that soundtrack’s contemporaries, in particular Midnight Express.)

Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express won the Academy Award for best Original Score of 1978. An Oscar. It’s one of those things that seems vaguely absurd in retrospect, like O Superman getting to number 2, or The Jesus Lizard having a Top 40 hit. Not because it didn’t deserve to win (although it did well against Ennio Morricone’s Days of Heaven), but because we’re so used to the modern idea of ‘our guys’ – Moroder, Vangelis, Goblin – being considered by the mainstream as at best a kind of highly-skilled novelty, and something that therefore exists outside of the usual critical discourse.

Moroder’s 1982 score for Cat People is even better, but although the ferocious Bowie-and-Moroder title theme did get a Golden Globe nomination, the Oscar for best score of 1982 went more predictably to John Williams for ET. Midnight Express was made by a lionised director (Alan Parker) and Cat People was the kind of ‘so bad it’s good’ horror movie remake hokum that this kind of music is meant to contend with.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCgdi28fLbU

Which makes me wonder a little if, during the period from Midnight Express clinching the gold in 1978 to Cat People four years later, there had been some sort of a perception shift in the industry on the subject of all-electronic movie scores. What maybe seemed futuristic and majestic in the Moog orchestras of A Clockwork Orange in 1971 had become a tad faddish. Blade Runner was released in 1982, too. The incredible synaesthetic success of that film indelibly associated the synthesizer with the dystopia, and by extension, sci fi. Genre film-making.

Parker’s deicision to use Moroder – primarily, up to that point, a disco producer – for his adaptation of a drug mule’s bleak autobiography creates some cognitive dissonance. Especially because the opening track, Chase, stands alongside I Feel Love and From Here To Eternity as A-grade Seventies Moroder, and is one of the all-time great space disco tunes.

Based around a prowling, mid-paced arpeggio, Chase gestures initially towards some of the moody, minor key synth themes from John Carpenter. But where Carpenter’s themes are stark and minimal, Moroder seems unable to restrain himself. Chase builds and builds, bearing down in ever-tightening circles on an almighty disco groove, and erupting into a spacey, celestial fanfare when it reaches its prize. Its relationship to Midnight Express seems tangential now, but maybe it tinged Moroder’s garish pop art sensibilities with a hint of cosmic darkness.

Giorgio Moroder – Chase

On other album cuts, Moroder grapples more explicitly with the bleak and sinister – Cacophoney is the closest he dares  come to musique concrete, all threatening, hallucinogenic burbles and scraping, slamming metal – although he sometimes sounds as though he’s trying to talk in a language he doesn’t quite understand.

This is made literal in the Istanbul Opening theme, where he seems to be trying to approximate some traditional Turkish makam mode, using the pitch bend on his synthesizer to claw at the unfamiliar intervals, but it sort of sounds a little cheesy rather than unheimlich. Was Parker interested in using electronics to provide a cultural counterpoint? The score is made out of the sounds a young, drug-using, gay American man in the late Seventies like the film’s central character would be familiar and instantly identify with, but which his Turkish jailors, the film perhaps presumes, would find alien-sounding. (The film was also heavily criticised for its regressive portrayal of Turkish people.)

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“It would have been very easy to simply use Turkish music that was indigenous to the story, as we did at the film’s beginning,” Moroder told Feature Magazine in 1979. “But since drugs are the core of the story, and since drugs are somewhat related to the kind of space created with electronic music, I felt it was appropriate. It also added an immense contrast to the film to have the ancient setting of the story punctuated by electronics.”

Or maybe synthesizers were just too in vogue at that time to ignore, and the inclusion of Moroder was approved by the producers as a necessary gimmick. Certainly Midnight Express adheres to a popular template employed by late Seventies/Early Eighties electronic soundtracks. There’s the tense, throbbing opener, the schmaltzy love theme, the period piece genre diversion (a 12-bar blues on Midnight Express), and the vocal ballad – all appearing in more or less the same sequence as the components of the Blade Runner or Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence soundtracks.

Vangelis – One More Kiss, Dear

David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours

But Moroder saw the pulsating discoscape he tapped with I Feel Love as offering something unique and honest to his first film score: a heartbeat, one that throbs continually throughout the emotional journey of the film.

“Unlike the emotional detachment usually associated with electronic music, we wanted a sound that would enhance the emotional impact of the situation,” explained Giorgio. “For Sorcerer, Tangerine Dream did not even see the film before they scored it and gave the director a spacey electronic canvas on which to impose his film. For Midnight Express our first concept was to give the film a recurring center – a natural heartbeat that could be subtle at times and then build up to an urgent pounding. This was the impulse behind using a synthesizer. The heartbeat concept worked very well – adding excitement to the chase sequence or even romantic undertones to the shower scene.”

It’s been said that Giorgio grew sections of the score out of the six notes in Cry Me A River that form the “Now you say you love me” lyric. Hans Zimmer would try a similar tactic in 2010 for Inception, using Edith Piaf’s Non Je Ne Regrette Rien as the source code.

Deborah Harry – Rush Rush (from Scarface)

Midnight Express wasn’t the last time Giorgio would dally with the Academy – both What A Feeling! from Flashdance and Take My Breath Away from Top Gun would clinch the Best Original Song gong for Moroder as writer-producer. But post-Cat People he moved away from synth-scores, sticking mostly to catchy end credits anthems (The Neverending Story, Electric Dreams…) – and even crafting an entire Greatest Hits-quality album of irrepressible hi-NRG pop for Scarface that felt more consistent with his history as the author of bouncy near-novelty hits such as Looky Looky and Son Of A Father.

Cityspeak

Featuring : vangelis

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It is a well-established fact that the most commonly used words on 20JFG are ‘runner’, ‘blade’, and ‘Vangelis’ – I just counted, and they feature even more than ‘and’ and ‘the’. And so why your brain might be telling you that you’re sick of hearing about this stuff already, we should qualify it by pointing that, actually, we’ve never posted a track from Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack ever! Well, apart from Memories of Green back in 2008, but that doesn’t count because it was already on a Vangelis solo LP pre-BR anyway.

And while in a perfect world we shouldn’t be needing to tell anyone about how great the Blade Runner soundtrack is in 2013, hey, we don’t live in a perfect world. There are no hover cars. No giant Japanese lady faces projected into the smogscape above Piccadilly Circus. The Tannhauser Gate doesn’t even exist yet! Whatever it is. No, that’s all to come in 2019, and until then we’re polishing up our ‘Cityspeak’ (ok, Hungarian) and preparing for the oncoming gorgeous dystopia.

In the last issue of Empire magazine, Vangelis broke rare cover and declared that he officially wants in on the sequel Ridley Scott is currently developing. This HAS to happen.

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Sure, we’re as uneasy about the prospect of a sequel as anyone. Nobody wants Blade Runner & The Crystal Skull. But a Vangelis score could secure Ridley some rare and much-need credibility, following the mixed reception to Prometheus.

Anyone in any doubts over whether Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou has still got the chops for a Blade Runner film needs to check out the amazing three-disc Blade Runner Trilogy 25th anniversary set, released in 2007. Alongside the two discs crammed full of cues from the original film (and still, incredibly, a large chunk of the soundtrack has never been officially released) is a third CD of new, Blade Runner-themed Vangelis compositions.

That music flows seamlessly from the skyscraper-hard grandeur and abstract yearning of the original score.

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Sweet Solitude is one of those pieces. The first thought upon listening is that Vangelis picked up a few tricks from Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks scores along the way, until you remember that the original Love Theme from Blade Runner pretty much handed Badalamenti his soft focus, a-dream-of-jazz template on a plate.

Vangelis – Sweet Solitude

So far all we know about the new Blade Runner film is that it’s a sequel – not the Prometheus-style prequel initially mooted – that shooting begins this year, and that the original cast are unlikely to be involved. Scott is apparently still looking for a writer to sort the script out (dude, Rutger Hauer is surely available and he ‘wrote’ [improvised] the best bit of the entire first movie!).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_saUN4j7Gw

Hell, it could even work as a silent movie – just lingering, loving tracking pans of Scott’s future noir cityscapes – and let the only narrative come from Vangelis’ widescreen synth romanticism.

Buy Blade Runner Trilogy at Boomkat

Burrowing deep into the fabric of the creative economy

Featuring : Shantelle + vangelis

20jazzfunkgreats has, over its seven years of operation, groomed a ‘mole’ in the offices of CENTRAL, the super-intelligence group that delivers total awesomeness to the attuned few. Our sneaky spy has lain dormant, waiting for a moment of desperation where his services (and indeed, his life) may be required. That moment is now.

{Note that the use of the masculine in the previous paragraph may be aimed at confusing you – our mole could actually be a she, or even an it. There are many ‘Its’ working in CENTRAL, FYI.}

And why would you, usually cautious and surreptitious and subterfugeous comrades of the 20jazzfunkgreats network, activate this agent now, and not before or later, say, when the sources you tap for musical magicks have dried, and you lay in your pestilent chambers, like the stroke-afflicted, lunacy inflicted forgotten bolshy old men dropping off the crest of the wave of the ever-evolving blogosphere that you will become, if you aren’t already, you ask.

{You’d never get that sentence in a proper music journalism outlet}

Enter the modern penchant for ‘premiering’ slices of underground culture in selected outlets that your 20jazzfunkgreats curmudgeons are slowing losing their appetite for, seeing as these ‘premieres’ are so often mentioned in the e-mails that gather at their gates like barbarian hordes seeking to spill their seed over the pristine ‘cup cake recipes style theme’ lands which they call home.

{You can totally tell they are losing it when they start talking about themselves in the third person. Not on.}

This because we hate the whiff of pressure, songs ticking and tocking in our inbox like munitions ready to detonate least we premiere them NOW!

This because we always like the long and weird songs, not the ones that anyone wants to premiere!

Not that we’d get to even listen to the long songs, you know, absorb music in the wider context (an EP, an LP etc) whence it belongs, because we only get to listen to the mp3 meant to be premiered!

Because we have become the potentially eager pawns of a promotional strategy!

So yes, we wallow in our petty discontent, grumble across the halls of Gormenghast-lite, and then we remember our mole at CENTRAL, let us call him Pablo. Pablo operates outside of the conventional coordinates of space and time, doesn’t he? He has access to all the awesome music that ever was, ever is, and ever will be, doesn’t he? Maybe Pablo could pass on some tunes for us to feature in the blog in parallel and beyond the crazy premiering cycle? Give us time to digest these tunes before their time is nigh, and then write beautiful, nuanced and truly hyperlinked poems about them, and what they are deep inside when all their artifice and nowness are left to whither, what they in fact mean in the context of the wider culture, yes?

The possibilities!

Trot back to the communications chamber, code up the messages, send them across the astral pipeline, await for Pablo’s response most impatiently. Perchance a snippet of new genres that don’t yet exist, incredible exertions of mankind’s future soul, things that are so ahead of our time that modern usage may be unfit for their description & classification? No – just a pithy one-liner, reading thus:

“Topicality is always suspect”

And two tunes from legendary times of yore. Pablo knows. Or maybe if Pablo sent us stuff from the future, this would kick off a total paradox when it was listened to by the people who were meant to produce it, maybe even influencing them in an infinite loop of weirdness. Faced with the risk of destroying the universe, Pablo may have gone native. He’ll pay for his disloyalty but, in all honesty, the tunes he sent us to kickstart the post-premiere revolution are total tunes. There you go.

First, our totem Vangelis, the chubby toga-clad olympian who punched the torso of the cosmos like that gnarly sorcerer in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to extract from its steaming rib cage the heart of all that matters to us,  and all that underpins matter. If there’s something missing from the modern new age/kosmische revival, it is cheesiness, that epic vibe, as if you were making the video game soundtrack for a hardware platform that hasn’t yet been imagined, that epic vibe, that willingness to soar. He had it in spades, and in my house we don’t call it cheesiness, we call it the way things should be. Get real.

Vangelis – Pulstar

As opening the Albedo 0.39 LP.

Then, something apparently distant but actually rather close in its utter effervescence, another Love Attack (yo Ferrara!) that makes us swoon like the theme ballad for a John Hughes hallucination chopped and screwed by a malfunctioning squad of emotionally gifted zulu borgs running on a bootleg Kraftwerk Operating System. It makes these days’ attempts at ‘boogie’ feel rather feeble, alas.

Shantelle – Love Attack (Dub Version)

Get informed at das Discogs.

Xenoclassic Studies

Featuring : Gila + vangelis

Good morning friend, open your eyes and awake into a world where all sounds have been mashed together into a nutritious drone that makes the plants grow tall so they can tingle the magenta sun with their powerful sentient limbs, and endows three out of every four children with a wide array of psychic powers, the rest die, but don’t be sad, they always come back. It wasn’t always like this, in the old days before the Big Splatter sounds used to be discrete things that had to be carefully arranged into specific shapes to achieve the desired effects.

But the Big Splatter put an end to this unfortunate situation, you know, there’s nothing like a good surge of Zenta Rays to change the physical conditions of our environment, alleviating the constraints that kept us from achieving our full potential. Ever since then, sound has become a glowing pool of primeval liquid floating above, around and through us. Thus substance we can manipulate, stretch and mold with extreme facility. The first generation had to use their hands, their kids did it with their minds, their grandkids did it subsconsciously, their grand-grandkids do it genetically.

We do in any case hold in great esteem those pre-splatter masters who through their sheer adventurousness, zen-like focus and, our reministorians suspect, fledging parapsychic capabilities, manipulated sounds using the mechanical instruments at hand to produce mighty vistas which, in their heart-rending grandiosity challenge the cathedrals of music under whose domes we transition right now, and which our children built. You should tell me more about them, this Vangelis, we choose to bring you here to tell us of him, we want to hear more, what, blinding lights and the birth of a dragon you say? And your ears bled as you approached the mountain of light which was all sacred hum and glorious thunder? Tell us more, tell us more, we want to know everything, so that our children can learn how they did it in the old days.

Vangelis- The Dragon

This Byzantine Banger is included in ‘Who Killed the Dragon’, where Finder Keepers have compiled the until-now-only-available-as-bootleg outputs of Vangelis/Alpha Beta’s legendary BYG sessions.

Imagine yourself an alien in a far away galaxy, tracking down the sounds of mankind through  the ethereal footprint of its sonic projections into the atmosphere, sound waves and utterances you can’t understand but nevertheless feel in your bizarrely configured guts.

Imagine having to make sense of the creative explosion that was what the good dudes at Soul Jazz have decided to refer to as ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ in their last double double vinyl compilation, without an awareness of the context where it took place, that is, imagine you had an n-dimensional graph of sounds evolving in Germany throughout the 20th Century, suddenly a blip like a bull supernova in the enlightenment market, how would you explain this if you didn’t know of the horrors of a war before, the madness and pain, the revolt against forgetfulness and repression, the availability of cheap technology and the development of new social forms, communes and free universities, the miscegenation and cross-pollination across outfits, and the drugs?

Wouldn’t you think there had been some sort of collective awakening produced by a cosmic outburst in one of the galaxies closest to the Solar System which had endowed young men and women across this little tract of land with special powers whose exertions we feel to this day? Sure you would, sure you would. Like it once happened to your race.

Gila- This Morning

Deutsche Elektronische Musik does a good job taking into account how difficult it is to, in the case of this scene, disentangle songs from the (usually) conceptual albums where they were embedded. It’s got a bunch of classics in it which your good 20jazzfunkgreatsters had just about managed to wear off in their original records, and as such it offers a great replacement to play out and such. In doing so, it will work as a great introduction to the canon for those novices out there. But additionally, and as it happens, there are also a few gems in it that we had never heard. Perhaps the biggest surprise was ‘This Morning’ by Gila, an euphoric prog anthem which simmers with the same timeless hippie vibes as Aphrodite’s Child best output. Do get it, and rock out.

Science Fiction Double Feature

Featuring : tangerine dream + vangelis

Hands down, above all else that has been and ever will, ‘See You Later’ is by far the best Vangelis album to ever exist. In its expanded deluxe version, it has punkish electronic bleeps seething throughout with Battlestar Galactica faux tosca beats on ‘My Love’, desert sands made of small grains of disintegrated circuit boards on the slow motion ‘I Can’t Take It Anymore’, the tale of a spaceship race to a crashing emotional finale on ‘Gestation’ and then a track by Plastics if they’d of been androids replicas of the principal cast of Liquid Sky on the closer ‘It Doesn’t Matter’. All this comes complete with those mental synth wails that sound like strings on a violin that stretch from Neptune to Pluto with comet trails as the bow.

Stuck bang in the middle is this odd little instrumental piece, ‘Memories of Green’.

Vangelis – Memories of Green

A piano’s dying lament to the Moon’s reflection in the seas coupled with melting computer sounds and cardiac monitors dutifully beeping in a dark and empty warehouse that stands wind battered on a beach with Saturn rising in the moonlight. This was used in Blade Runner, but its delicacy was somewhat lost with the barrage of millenial noir imagery, imprisoned behind the stark shadows cast by LA shining through the blinds. Still, when listening to tracks like ‘Tears In Rain’, ‘Blade Runner Blues’ and ‘Rachel’s Song’ from the soundtrack you can tell that ‘Memories of Green’ was the blueprint to the whole thing.

I’m guessing a lot of people have not seen The Keep. The director himself, Michael Mann, has specifically requested that studio Paramount refrain from reissuing it on DVD because he is so embarrassed by the whole affair. Now, 20JFG in general have a blatant fetish for cheap and nasty (therefore awesome!) horror films, but while said film is a classic, its a classic for all the wrong reasons. It has that Lovecraftian cosmic horror element to it – castle keep in deepest, forgotten Europe harbours a great evil that lies hidden in a vast cavern of monoliths behind a shining silver cross embedded in the cold stone wall – but when the evil makes its presence known the resulting “effects” are akin to a dodgy film student’s movie.

Tangerine Dream – Ancient Powerplant

Good then that cosmic wizards of rhythm Tangerine Dream are on hand to provide the soundtrack, thus lending the crap dry ice and latex visuals a kind of ethereal beauty that they don’t really deserve, but get anyway.

On ‘Ancient Powerplant’ the brooding menace that heralds the energy ball of light that flies from the monolith cluster through the dark tunnel and shreds the top half of a carelessly curious nazi soldier, is steadily replaced by a classic Krautrock beat that makes Harmonia reach for the hotline to they’re lawyers. Odd then that this track, along with all but three others, do not appear in the film at all.

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May we also please draw your attention to this promotional video for the awesome cineatic masterpiece that is the new Quiet Village LP?

[youtube]http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uQvGWQ04LfY[/youtube]

phone numbers finder

A mystery inside an enigma

A synth spell, or a velvet fist cast in analogue electronica sends your puny 20jazzfunkgreats types spinning into another dimension of mystery, magic and romance noir slash murder, you know how blood and sex are tightly interwoven and the suchlike. Life is a bitch, heh?

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The new cloud edits 12” comes packed with analogue delights, Vangelis and Claude Larson no less. We are going to go for the former today because as you know we haven’t featured any burly Greek gods in this puny blog of yours for a while. Well, let us rush, least we incur the wrath of the pantheon of master synth-makers who float in the obsidian sky surrounded by an electrified theremin cloud, they have been known to incinerate shepherds with a merciless moog bolt, just for entertaining the idea of buying a laptop. ‘Thou shan’t digital’, it says so in the Bible, yeah, one of the pages at the back. The one where the Thesalonians sell out.

The song we are bringing to your ears today is called ‘Multi-Track Suggestion’, and as far as I can understand seems to be a ballad about Vangelis’ love affair with his music processing equipment. Of course this is a prosaic way to put it, but then it is hard to do justice with words to the genius of this man, the sensual, almost lascivious, psychedelic dream-like glorious vibrations he extracts from his machines, effortlessly like a colossus squeezing milk of a stone with his bare hands, pure bliss sends our souls flying into the air like a silver dove gliding between the monolithic skyscrapers of Neo-Tokyo, or something to the same effect.

Vangelis- Multitrack Suggestion

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Sonar Kollektiv are releasing a second part of Computer Incantations for World Peace. You know how the first part drowned us in a delightful sea of utopian electronic soul vibrations. Well, now you have some of the best wizards in the block, including Todd Terje, Smith and Mudd, Brennan Green, Maurice Fulton, Chateau Flight , Prins Thomas or Daniel Wang getting down and dreamy into a orange zone of dubbed out disco and smooth cosmic soul and balearic remixes circumscribed with steady pulse by Jazzanova and Gerd Janson.

Here you have a taster, Al Usher builds the sonic equivalent of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia shining under the sun of early Barcelona summer if only it was made of glass and gold and silver, and God was blowing between its spires to make the hearts of the populace down there soar with unexplicable happiness at the glittering sounds therein created, now that’s our kind of religion, Aeroplane plays the organ in this church you know.

Al Usher- Lullaby for Robert

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Our pal Joey Casio has been doing stuff with Portland’s Loose Control, again we find mystery music covered in a frail and beautiful lattice of synths, sonic fireflies drawing lights vague like the ghosts of lights in a dark den full of abandoned mementoes arranged in the shape of a question mark which finishes a sentence that could have been perfectly uttered by Chromatics adding some marginalia on the technological grimoire written by Kraftwerk, the only possible response is a sigh, a wry smile, sleight of hands, a collaboration with Jonny Jewel is apparently on the cards, and I don’t wonder why.

Loose Control- Accidents (featuring Joey Casio)

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Mogg and Naudascher amazed us with the melodic warmth burning inside the gelid cage of techno beats that Moon Units Pt. 1 and 2, released by Supersoul Recordings last years, were. Well, they are back with a vengeance, and what should become the theme tune for doomed lovers in the coming storms of late winter and early spring. This vocal version of Moon Unit pt. 4 featuring Rosalind is frankly stunning, a electronic pop torch song which vibrates with the same sort of tonal evocative glamour of Chris and Cosey or The Knife, projecting laser rays of melancholy into the black sky, stare for too long and they will burn your retina into cinders, you’ll be left to roam aimless amidst the haunted ruins of a collapsed heart, unforgettable.

Mogg and Naudascher- Moon Unit Pt. 4 (featuring Rosalind)

SXSW TYPES


In addition to El Guincho and the DeathbombArc/Load Records party. you should go and check out the Upset the Rhythm label showcase this Thursday, you know we utterly love these London DIY Party stalwarts, they have a killer rooster bringing the place (Habana Annex Backyard (708 E 6th St Austin) down, this includes John Maus, Death Sentence: Panda!, Hawnay Troof and Hands on Heads, Kit, High Places and No Age amongst others, absolute winner.