Supplementary data provided to ease digestion of Wednesday’s post on Takehisa Kosugi.
Image: Theory of Something by Ignotus the Mage
There were a lot of action movie game tie ins in the 8-bit era. Loads. Thanks Ocean! Aside from your pixilated Arnold you also got maudlin chiptune re-imaginings of themes while you contemplated which joystick to use. There really wasn’t anything quite like the ennui deployed in service of an 80s* action movie tie-in.
As if preparing a generation wide sleeper cell, many of the musicians behind these videogame soundtracks where deeply into Krautrock. Deeply. And thus, a generation of kids (your writer included) were programmed to devour as much Cluster as possible once the floodgates of available German experimental music were made available in the late 90s (about the time the children of the 80s had some spending power). And thus the great Teutonic-Spectrum Industrial Complex reaped its rewards.
Our favourite track on Copy’s new album sounds like this:
And why, you surely aren’t asking, did we go on a tenuous secret history of crass commercialisation in videogame tie-ins. Why? Because Why Does It? is akin to layering decades of synthetic love atop one another at right angles until a huge fucking cathedral is constructed to worship at the altar of maudlin little expectronic sounds. As if we rush from Stockhousen to Riley though Spiegel, fly over Eno and Cluster and Ralf and Florian, down past the minimal bands, wave at Chris and Cosey, Carpenter and the gang and explode in crystaline shards of joy.
Because we hear a bit of the euphoric genius of Wut, one of the saddest whole-club-loses-its-shit tracks we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. Because that shuffling drum beat creates a gyroscopic momentum that prevents the many layers of synths from crashing to the ground. Because at just over three and a half minutes long it’s like the Parallax View** of 20JFG loves.
Why Does It? is taken from the album Chalice Agenda which is out on 15/5/15 on Audio Dregs. You can find out more here.
*I know it’s 1990 but this sneaks in as part of a Hobsbawn-ian ‘long 80s’
** We understand that Marvel no longer considers this canon.
Delay like bubbles each one dispersing a new fraction of your self. You percolating there, all water dreaming of being steam, thoughts of heaven.
That hand on your face pushing you further and further into the black can only be your own. Your thoughts sound metallic now. Echoing loudly in what used to be your ears. Down into the silt goes the flesh and from it beautiful things will rise and evaporate and cease to be.
from Catch-Wave (1975)
Davis was 47 years old when he was asked to play Carnegie Hall in 1974, which followed four years of relentless touring. He had played the venue numerous times before and recorded a live album there in 1961. By 1974, Davis had been dealing with depression, cocaine and sex addictions, and several health problems, including osteoarthritis, bursitis, and sickle-cell anemia. He had also lost respect with both critics and his contemporaries because of his musical explorations into more rockand funk-oriented sounds. Influenced by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Davis wanted to avoid individual songs and instead record extended movements that developed into a different composition. He played his trumpet sparsely and became less of the focal point for his band, whom he allowed more freedom to improvise and with whom he rarely rehearsed, so that the young musicians he enlisted would be tested to learn and play together onstage.
In 1935, the political climate in Italy (under Mussolini) became unacceptable to Escher. He had no interest in politics, finding it impossible to involve himself with any ideals other than the expressions of his own concepts through his own particular medium, but he was averse to fanaticism and hypocrisy.
Music journalist Erik Davis compared Davis’ trumpet sound to “a mournful but pissed-off banshee“, and Cosey, Lucas, and Gaumont to “somewhere between and beyond James Brown and Can“, amid “quiet percussion passages [that] emerge like moonlit clearings”.
In his early years, Escher sketched landscapes and nature. He also sketched insects, which appeared frequently in his later work. His first artistic work, completed in 1922, featured eight human heads divided in different planes. Later around 1924, he lost interest in “regular division” of planes, and turned to sketching landscapes in Italy with irregular perspectives that are impossible in natural form.
In a retrospective review for JazzTimes, Tom Terrell said that the album’s kind of music would never be heard again and described it as “tomorrow’s sound yesterday … a terrifyingly exhilarating aural asylum of wails, howls, clanks, chanks, telltale heartbeats, wah wah quacks, white noise and loud silences.” According to Down Beat, the frantic burbles of congas on “Moja” and “Tatu” predated oldschool jungle by 20 years, while Spin magazine’s Erik Davis found its anguished, ferocious music extremely impressive, especially when listened to loud. He contended that the group improvisation on tracks such as “Wili” foreshadowed the drum ‘n’ bass genre: “Miles was invoking the primordial powers of the electronic urban jungle”.
Around 1956, Escher explored the concept of representing infinity on a two-dimensional plane. Discussions with Canadian mathematician H.S.M. Coxeter inspired Escher’s interest in hyperbolic tessellations, which are regular tilings of the hyperbolic plane. Escher’s wood engravings Circle Limit I–IV demonstrate this concept. In 1959, Coxeter published his finding that these works were extraordinarily accurate: “Escher got it absolutely right to the millimeter.”
In the background, on a gray wall, these human figures increase their mutual contrast toward the center. One white and one black representative of each kind detach themselves from the wall surface and walk into space, carefully avoiding a tumble into the circular hole in the floor. Thus going round, they can’t help meeting in the foreground. During the whole way, up to the end, the black pessimist keeps his finger raised in a gesture of warning, but the white optimist cheerfully comes to his encounter, and so they finally shake hands.
From “The Regular Division of the Plane”, one of the lectures that were never given by M.C. Escher, 1964.
Escher on Escher: Exploring the Infinite, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., NY, 1989.
Zone Démersale’s Figura makes us think of the oceanic abyss of the Benthos, that weird community of organisms adapted to extreme pressures and absolute darkness, devouring each other and the dead from above in an elegant and grotesque ballet.
Also of the vast conceptual expanses that philosophers and psychonauts have explored over the ages, full of strange zones that induce obsession, and threaten sanity. There be epistemological monsters here, says a shrill wave of synthetic noise.
Its eeriness is the same we find contained by certain M.R. James’ paragraphs, just before the shadow becomes a horror, and by specific drones in John Carpenter, monolithic structures whose elusive and awful truth we are not designed to comprehend, like a binary Necronomicon.
We float in Figura’s pool, surrounded by these things, we admire their flickering fuzz and their magnificent poise, the power with which they displace the strange liquid where we are suspended, enthralled and appalled by the possibility of revelation.
Daniele Ciullini, an Italian ‘mail-artist’, may have been active at the tail end of Throbbing Gristle’s (first) existence, but in his use of primitive, hypnotic electronics and the art-by-mail network…they had a few things in common. Although I do hope he fared better at the hands of the Italian Post Office than GP-O did with the GPO.
Flowers in the Water seems playful enough, with its tape hiss, innocent bassline and a drum machine that sounds like it was made out of fuzzy felt. But then that mournful synth appears as mournful synths are want to do.
And suddenly we’re looking at the damp white walls of a summer holiday hotspot in the depths of winter. Thick grey clouds taking up the substantial sky that stretches off to who knows where. As if some of Hull had found its way to Northern Italiy and the resultant matter / antimatter explosion had released a cloudburst of ennui over a country poised to release Italo on the world [thanks for that btw].
Ciullini described his music as ‘sonic Polaroids’. Fragments of his life in sound. Over thirty years later and that lone synth’s power remains heartbreaking.
Domestic Exile (Collected Works 82-86) came out on April 6th on Ecstatic Recordings. It’s sold out in most places but you seem to still be able to grab a copy here.
This has to be one of the best blasts of aural information we’ve heard come off a cassette in a while. Playful, noisy, weird – a mostly indefinable mess of squirmy ugly sexiness. Ratkiller doesn’t sound much like what you’d expect someone called Ratkiller – grindcore? goregrind? gorecore? – to sound like, and is therefore totally the most appropriate name for this project.
Tape artwork features eyes, chessboards, melting fingers and blasts of colour. So does the music.
Buy Ratkiller’s Comfortably Declined from Baba Vanga
Gif by n-lite