Featuring : Five or Six


Things XXJFG has learned this week:

  • Nicholas Fairbairn, the Tory politician that labelled Throbbing Gristle the “wreckers of civilization” (and thus inadvertently named the wonderful book on COUM and TG) has been implicated in historic child sexual abuse.
  • The Contino Sessions by Death in Vegas is worth a few quid on Discogs.
  • Around five years after the Prostitution show at the ICA that caused Fairbairn to protest too much, we were fully into Post-Punk (not literally – this XXJFGer was barely alive).  And a group called Five or Six were putting out a 7″ called Another Reason.
  • About 18 years later Death in Vegas would be sued (according to Wikipedia) by Five or Six for nicking various bits from Another Reason for their the first track on The Contino Sessions, Dirge.

Five or Six  – Another Reason

Another Reason is all phase shifted Americana bar room haze and sing-speak London accents.  There’s an end of the world/pier feel to the piano that stalks alone throughout.  Much like its late(r) twentieth century namesake, it is a dirge; a fall through muted confused rooms.  It’s a mood Portishead would latch onto, that gloriously sad/comforting/creepy element of faded power that the British have made their specialist subject.

You can grab the 7″ off Discogs or go all in and get the Best Of… compilation from Cherry Red right here.

Smudged-out details


We included Jenny Hval’s excellent Innocence is Kinky album in our Best Of 2013. In all probability, it’s not unlikely that her album released this year – a collaboration with Susanna of ‘and Her Magical Orchestra’ fame – might also creep into a Best Of 2014.

Their Rune Grammofon label mate, noise supremo Deathprod, also contributes production.


Jenny Hval & Susanna – I Have A Darkness

It’s impressively ‘dark’ sounding music – not in the generic ooheviltransgressive way, but in a near-photographic graininess. These are beautifully underexposed torch songs. The sharp, high-contrast of their dueling voices burnt into the frame, distracting from the smudged-out details in the backgrounds. The shadows.


Buy Jenny Hval & Susanna’s Meshes of Voice

Bonus track from 2013:

Julianna Barwick – The Harbinger

(photography is by Rebecca Cairns)

Get into that future faster: An interview with Stuart Argabright

Featuring : Black Rain


Stuart Argabright scans the present for the future, finds some patterns, pulls some rhythms, strings poems with them. You can find those in Ike Yard, Death Comet Crew (feat. the late Rammellzee), Dominatrix and Black Rain.

To celebrate the release of Black Rain’s second Blackest Ever Black output, Dark Pool, we had the honour of interviewing him.

If you are into the future, if you are a cyberpunk, if you like cool set scenes and reality augmentation via strange layers of sound, we think you are going to enjoy this thing.

Get Dark Pool here, and read more about it here.

Dark Pool is inspired by Edge of Human (a sequel to Blade Runner which I haven’t read) and The Wind-up Girl (a biotech dystopia set in a world that ran out of oil). How does this inspiration operate? 

Some context: Over the years since we were in contact with author William Gibson there were many ideas & plans to do movies based on his work.  Johnny Mnemonic was the one that came into being.

I had been working with director Robert Longo as de facto music director. We worked up that one for years as co-deciders , tech consultant , music composers and in near final stage, music editor up in Toronto.

There was a particularly intense stretch of ‘cyber’ projects I set out on with friend & partner William Barg after meeting at The Palladium in 1985.

William was trying to get shows for Survival Research Labs at the time, Japanese anime and CG was booming, the tech moving daily.

For some time, there was going to be Gibson story ideas project with Russian director Rashid Nugmanoff that involved author Jack Womack (Ambient and many other greats ) writing it. For this the Black rain four-piece concocted music such as Nuclear Village and got the director and Jack down to CBGB’s for a look / listen.

Since 1984 there had been a few directors wanting to do Neuromancer and in the moment we did meetings with the first team a.k.a The Cabana Boys and later we consulted with Director Chuck Russell.

We developed a nice sized film project to be directed by Sogo Ishii (Halber Mensch, Sogo’s Einstürzende Neubauten docu-fantasy, Crazy Family) as written by Gibson and to be co produced by us and the Japanese side.

My wife Noyuri had a chance meeting with Sogo after a screening in Tokyo and we ended up meeting the next year in Tokyo. We had a good idea and ran with it to the point we met with producer Ed Pressman at the Imperial Hotel.

And by 1995, after the NY screening of “JM” (as the Japanese cut of Johnny Mnemonic with our remaining track included was called), William, Jack and I shuffled down the street and I thought “We can make another, better movie”.

That would have been an anime with one of the Akira animators.  Never got past idea stage, some parties were willing, one agent in Tokyo was not!

Sometimes the best projects just don’t come together.  But you want to try.

[NB here you have more info about Black Rain’s “lost” cyberpunk soundtracks]

Black Rain – Lo Tek Bridge

Black rain Scan 113420001

In 1996 while working in LA at a game developer’s house i was able to meet Blade Runner Two author KW Jeter at a signing and stayed in touch. KW has written many great ones from the classic Dr. Adder to Farewell Horizontal and also did many novelizations. The ideas presented in “Two” conflate the original book by PK Dick and movie version and do it well.

With slim chance of making an actual movie of the piece , I kept eye out for ways to bring the work out to that BladeRunner loving crowd.

Preparing for Black rain Europe tour fall 2012  I was after a suitable read for the 2 months out and The The Windup Girl was just right.   Discovery, digestion, projection and execution over the course of many pages & 20 cities.

How does the music in Dark Pool relate to these sci-fi books? Is it inspired by specific scenes, the characters’ mind states, the worlds represented in the books, something else?) 

All of the above. Having scanned, grazed or absorbed so many science & tech projects, news, imaginings over the years I still want to get there into that future faster.

In process of arranging the Dark Pool pieces as logically linked scenarios, the post humans of Bladerunner Two and Windup Girl  were calling loudly.

I had stated online we were setting about to make an Album of Sci-fi / Sci-fact  that would be ‘ better then”Elysium” or  “Oblivion.” By that I simply meant more imagination and hopefully better realised then those $75 to $100 million entertainments. Even as audio only.

On the album we have the opening Dark Pool with Sean Young – Ms. Rachel Tyrell, the replicant herself, checking off tech Tyrell might be looking into. By the time the album reaches Profusion II one hears the implosion- explosion and collapse of the Tyrell Pyramids, just as in Jeter’s fine novelization.

In between there is a quick sketch representation of what it might feel like to be a New Person out exposed on the street North of Bangkok in New Chiang Saen. Thai opening, thin crowd at twilight, old neon signage.

We didn’t want to go any deeper then that for this record.

And are happy the author likes it too!

In the Windup Girl (by Paolo Bacigalupi) the reader gets into the mind of Emiko , a New Person construct made in Japan, later abandoned by her owner in 23rd century Bangkok.

We all know well the immortal lines in Bladerunner the movie, we do not know the interior thoughts of artificial people as well… I wanted to work on that. We may be meeting them soon enough : )

The way you describe the music makes it sound almost like a virtual reality for these post-human characters – and by proxy, ourselves as listeners.

There are two aspects to this which I found very interesting. (a) there is the future external setting and landscape, and (b) there is the way the characters themselves perceive and interact with that environment. Could you describe the process you follow to go from the idea of a scene to its music?

For example on Xibalba Road Metamorph once I pulled the first and second parts of the title from the Black Rain word pool, matched and sequenced them the character and it’s environment began to come clear. Made a drawing of the long road curving left from the horizon.


Filled in power points or transmitter wires along on edge of the road – this is where the stalking birds take up post, talk amongst themselves when they spy something coming from a good distance off.

What tried to pass there?  Black brown, humanoid in shape is wandering between corporate Compound where it was born and the surrounding open, low stubbled fields.

What did it leave behind?  A pair of bloodied lab technicians caught in mid reach near the KILL button’ shroom? A hole gnawed in the outer fence, friends and allies made the hard way upslope from the watering hole.

What does metamorph sound like?   We hear it as the track begins – this one is female, the first cry blast is of dismay.

Where to go next – which way? I can’t go any faster then this… the metalized terror birds are squawking so loud can barely think.

They will wake everything up. The sun is coming up now…  got to move.

The second time we hear her – mid track – she has tripped some light beam, particle weapon or a single , stealthy helicopter has taken to the air far behind her.

So … once key pieces are together, scenario, title, characters situation all flow directly.

Black Rain- Xibalba Road Metamorph

For Watering hole I am imagining a free – for – all zone where bioengineered creatures come to drink. The corp cannot simply set up a row of troughs for these manufactured beings and expect them to get in line quietly.

Sonically I locate the waterline, zone of buff, battered dirt-like recycle surrounding the ‘water’, how far back is the treeline.

And beyond that what? Fake or real sun…

I can make out a tempo for the piece, fingers on table surface.

Regarding the perceptual and sense-making aspects of post-humans/new persons, these would be different from our own. Do you consider explicitly how as you create Dark Pool, and if so, how does this impact on its sounds, filtered as it were, by this post-human sensibility? 

Yes, sometimes. Time is one constraint :)

Xibalba Road – the Black Road – suggested a high-heat shimmery surface, fumes hanging close.

And seen through sensor slitted ‘eyes’. Not sure what is really out there. What we are seeing until she calls – barks suddenly so close.

Night in Chiang Saen opens with gong hits inside Thai temple. People file back and forth, footsteps of a child flip fop past.

Humans. New People with bad experiences with humans can begin to sweat when there are too many around.

In a remix, I would make more of the heat shiver of the initial beat stirring, make it all shedding heat like you get North of Thailand.

The music is the street one then walks through the night slum. A piece of riphop from inside a Jeep by. Startled squeak as you turn a corner.

These below the surface impressions were part of what made this a satisfying album to string together. Working w new engineer, recorder and co producer Oliver Chapoy allowed me to focus on getting details correct.

Not every piece got or deserves the minutest detailing, in the end we got to all that called loudest.

The futures represented in Johnny Mnemonic, Blade Runner and The Wind-Up Girl are mixed up. In macro terms, they are dystopias: societal collapse, environmental disaster, human suffering. But they are also awesome, exciting, full of weird beauty. It is scary, but I want to go there. I think this is really captured in your music for those futures. 

What is your position on the societal implications of the technological developments (biotech, cybernetics, robotics, virtual reality etc.) coming our way? 

Industries like tobacco, Coke, Pepsi have gotten rich selling us things that are have never been good for us. Banks, guns First Amendment nuts & NRA, Governments intel gathering since 9/11 and the industrial defense complex business have all gone too far. Now it seems there is always another sector getting disrupted.

As we seem to move faster towards 24 hour globalization we see how it cuts both ways.

Genetics . Biological. Science Fact & Fiction.

Bruce Sterling had the idea of humans evolving – or being made to evolve one or two ways:

Towards a Shaper mentality and persona  using brainwave & biological systems upgrades.

Alternately expressing themselves as more Mechanist, perhaps choosing to replace a limb with a new prosthetic model one at a time.

Somewhere in between we had the kids with microchip plug ins behind an ear in order to learn a new language or operate a Black Ops helicopter as we saw in Gibson’s Neuromancer

Continually advancing robotics should give us in – home help for when you are old and by yourself (maybe a little pleasure too)

The downside for home care workers is that robots move into some jobs humans used to do.

VR immersion into worlds so good you don’t ever come out? we may have to go through that neomania to see what possible lifestyles, directions come of it.

Is dystopia inevitable?  

Well, we could be in a delicate and dangerous period or sequence, with some real downers ahead . For one, systems are beyond breaking point in many areas.

And we keep seeming to set ourselves up to be clever. At some point we will get bit. We could be only 2- 3 – 4 disasters away from mega series at near any time these days. Let’s look at the what we have…

The planet’s tectonic plates seem to be more active; Pacific Ring of Fire having quakes off Alaska, SF, West Coast US  down to South America, across to Japan on back to N America again. We know now that events that have happened once or more then once over history – have a good chance of  coming again in cycles or waves .  There are climate changes to factor in as across the planet different regions will be seeing different effects.

Historically are we at another post Cold War  “End Of History” global recombination?

Politically we are into another phase, with possibilities of movement apart (say Russia and EU / US) and same time movement of things converging together  – or converging apart in the case of the Euro ?

Can we rein in the negative aspects of these technologies? Is that a naïve/anachronistic way of thinking about them? 

Humans keep pushing limits. There are many more of us now. Think about the next say, decade- how many more?

For all the new science and tech that follows patents,  we have seen again and again – thinking of the US’s making and supplying weapons – the war tech always comes back to bite us again .

Same time, some of the same organisations made early moves towards the Internet and the still unknowable future that has co spawned.

Whether we will poison or somehow nuke ourselves before the water runs out we just have to see.


And here are a few forthcoming Black Rain European Dates in the coming weeks. Don’t miss out.

  • Nov.10 Brussels @ Bozar w Fennesz, Helena Hauf, Ninos Du Brasil, Shxcxcxcxsh: Info
  • Nov. 15 Berlin BEB night : with Cut Hands , RAIME DJs,  Nina,  Diat: Info
  • Nov. 21 Hamburg Golden Pudel: Info
  • Nov. 23 Moscow  : w Clock DVA, Ben Frost: Info
  • Nov. 28 Stockholm +++ TBA
  • Nov. 29 Paris :  w Orphan Swords: Info
  • Dec.6 LA Mount Analog Nuit Noire w : Silent Servant , Ancient Methods, Marshstepper, Henning Baer + dvs -1

PODCAST: Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky

Featuring : Podcast

K 03

Earlier this week we ruminated on the Glass/Reggio visual poem Koyaanisqatsi.

This podcast is an audio time capsule of what other sounds were being made around the time of that masterpiece:

XXJFG – If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster

Don’t ask for track list! We ain’t gonna give you it. Stick it yourself into that comments box!

Blood and lasers

Featuring : Xunholm


Skrot up deposited a feast of unholy delights on us recently which we’re still trying to process.  No doubt a few more will crop up on the blog over the coming weeks.

But it’s Halloween so not going with a track called Blood in her Mouth just wouldn’t be…right.  Whose blood is in her mouth, remains unresolved.

We’re in full on Giallo territory here.  Propulsive percussion that mirrors the heart, pumping blood, from a wound to the neck, as you run, and the blood-loss causes you to hallucinate impossible geometry.  It’s that horror synth sound that is all adrenaline and terror rather than jump-scare and gore.  If terrified people running through backlit foggy streets  was a sport, this would be its theme.

Xunholm – Blood in her Mouth

Blood in her Mouth is taken from Xunholm’s album, Asleep in the Shattered Mirror.  It’s out now and you can order the tape / digital editions right here.

Side note: Xunholm is Jason Sublette who played in the fantastic Chicago group Ga-an who we’ve covered in these very pages.

If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster

Featuring : Philip Glass + Terry Riley


Godfrey Reggio’s crew urged him against using Philip Glass to provide the music for what would become Koyaaniqatsi. “They said, ‘He’s the master of the broken needle,’” the director recounts. “‘Why would you choose someone like this when you could choose Beethoven or Mozart? Vivaldi? And have the great music of the world?’”

Reggio’s response was that, as beautiful as that music is, none of it was written for the elaborate visual poem he was plotting. Having discovered Glass’ music via a piece – North Star – included in a documentary on the sculptor Mark di Suvero, he narrowed his composer options to a list of two: Philip Glass or Terry Riley.

On one level it’s strange that, out of the two, he ended up with Glass. Glass was opposed to the notion of providing music for cinema (somewhat ironic given his later career, where he would score dozens of Hollywood products – the current count is around 50 – from Candyman to The Truman Show), whereas Riley had already composed several soundtracks.

Despite Glass and Riley forming two points of the quintessential minimalist triangle – with Steve Reich – and to many casual observers not hugely different in style or substance, it’s hard to picture Koyaaniqatsi with Riley’s music in the place of Glass’ trademark arpeggio computations.

Try playing the film with the audio muted and a contemporaneous recording of Riley’s – Shri Camel, for instance – playing. Although the beautiful images by Reggio and stellar cinematographer Ron Fricke do not lose any grace in the translation, something doesn’t sit right beyond the obvious issue of the music not being composed specifically for those images.

Terry Riley – Anthem of the Trinity

Sure, those delicate, repeating figures aren’t massively dissimilar to Glass’ one-hand keyboard motifs in content (in the same way that, for instance, there isn’t a massive difference between the sounds of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith), but the numbing, blissed-out meditative aspect is totally at odds with Reggio’s vision. Riley’s music seems deliberately thought-emptying – musical mantras to assist decluttering your consciousness, an aid for achieving maximum transcendentalism.

Koyaaniqatsi is not meditative. If anything, Reggio’s film is angry. It is a piece of work that, though presenting the world operatically, is essentially rooted to the grit and grime of the everyday rather than simply providing an escape from it.

Reggio himself says he elected Glass because Riley’s music was “quintessentially spiritual” wheres Glass’ music “was more structured, and had more form, and that that would be very important to the film.”

samsara mecca

This is important because Glass’ involvement went far deeper than the usual composer-for-hire role that he would later adopt in his Hollywood work. In truth, Koyaaniqatsi – and its sequels, Powaaniqatsi and Naqoyaaqatsi – are the product of an ongoing 30+ year conversation between Reggio, Glass and Fricke, their statuses as director, composer and cinematographer blurred to say the least.

It’s fair to say then, that as co-author of the trilogy, if Glass was replaced by Riley – or any other musician – the films would not only sound different, they would quite likely look different form they do now, move at entirely different speeds and to different rhythms, even be thematically different.

Rather than taking existing footage and interpreting its themes sonically, the collaborations of Glass and Reggio begin with literal conversations that at some point shift into creative conversations, with words replaced by sounds and images.

“He talks and I listen – that’s the conversation,” Glass told Sam Adams of The Dissolve. “Now, he needs a listener—he doesn’t do well talking at a wall – and I often have been the listener, and it has kept me alert and aware to the nuances of his thinking. But he went into ideas about society and technology and nature, which I wasn’t particularly connected to. But he was very actively seeking out writers and people who would help him with his thoughts. I empathized with that. I was not a leader in his thinking, but I benefited from it and participated in it, with full awareness and knowledge of what he was doing.”

Glass says that Reggio provided a strong political, social and ideological foundation for the qatsi trilogy, that came with its own fully-formed visual language and was supplemented with books, articles and lectures to illustrate its ideology.

The film language Reggio communicated to his collaborator was a visual depiction of “life out of balance” – the translation of the Hopi term Koyaaniqatsi. This involved what the director called “different modes of viewing,” expressed through accelerations and decelerations of extreme time-lapse sequences and “greatly accelerated real-time movements.”

Although the film came with its own pre-formed visual language, however, it did not have a defined structure. Glass has conceded that Koyaaniqatsi, as an assemblage of images, “doesn’t have a clear-cut beginning, middle or end,” and that you could rearrange its elements in various ways.

After swapping various elements about, almost randomly, the pair realized that “some kind of order” was required. Interestingly it wasn’t so much Reggio as a filmmaker who provided this order, but Glass’ experience in ballet and opera, “where dramaturgical concerns underlie the structure of the work. So when we applied that concern to a non-verbal film, what we were looking for was some kind of dramatic shaping of the kind one would find in an opera or ballet.”


Taking the various ‘movements’ of the film devised by Reggio, Glass – before writing any music – scripted the film into a visual opera, drastically reconfiguring the structure of the film with the director.

Beginning quietly, the film endures a series of crescendos – dramatic sequences that provide crucial gear changes in the energy and momentum of the film – before concluding with a long, quiet epilogue.

Each segment of the film was worked on in collaboration by Reggio, Glass and Fricke on a scene by scene basis.

“We did it reel by reel,” Glass explained. “Godfrey would show me an assemblage of images; the editor hadn’t really cut it, but I knew what the subject would be. For example, it might be a whole section of clouds; I didn’t know exactly how it would be cut, but I knew the subject was clouds and it would be seven or eight minutes long.

“Sometimes I was able to go far ahead of the process; I knew Godfrey would be shooting the opening images at the Serra Pelada mine in northern Brazil, and I wrote 10 minutes of music to fit Serra Pelada; then we recorded a demo of that, and then went to Serra Pelada, and the cinematographer was listening to the music when he was filming. I began to understand that the synchronization of music and film can happen in many different ways, not necessarily the way that we normally do it.”

Editing provided another chance for Glass to be influential on the process. Not only did his score often determine the editing choices – timing, sequence of shots, pacing – but his experience in opera and ballet was again crucial in providing creative solutions.

“Well, this kind of process is actually my specialty,” he said. “This is what I am best at, probably because I’ve been working in the theatre for so many years, and also working with visual artists. I’ve learned to develop musical-visual interactions whether the context is balletic or operatic. I’ve even written music for sculpture. So this is one of the situations I’m very experienced with.”

Of particular influence to Glass, in his unspoken role as co-author of the Koyaanisqatsi text, were Julian Beck’s Living Theatre and working on theatre projects with John Cage and Merce Cunningham. He has talked of their dance/music projects having meaning only where it is “inferred” by the viewer, rather than having implicit content of its own.


“Early on in my work in the theater,” he told Charles Merrell Berg, “I was encouraged to leave what I call a “space” between the image and the music. In fact, it is precisely that space which is required so that members of the audience have the necessary perspective or distance to create their own individual meanings. If you didn’t have that space there, if the music were too close and therefore immediately on top of the image, there wouldn’t be anywhere for the viewer to place himself. In that case, it’s like what you end up with commercials. That’s why television commercials end up looking more like propaganda than art.”

What Glass calls the “placement” of music, he is fetishistic about. In the combination of music and visuals he thinks about their arrangement spatially. For Glass, music can either be “under the image,” “on top of the image,” or “next to the image.”

This dimensional view of sound and picture cues for Glass what information it is that his brain his processing. It’s essentially an expanded view of what some composers and directors might call “going with the image” or “going against the image.”

In Glass’ methodology, the music can sometimes be the subtext of what is on screen. By his definition, here he is talking about musical analogy being “on top of the image.”

A favorite example of this can be four in the “large, slow-moving clusters of brass” that Glass uses to represent the clouds in the central “cloudscape” scene of Koyaaniqatsi.

While the notion of providing an aural counterpart or counterpoint to cinematography is not radical, perhaps where Glass confounds is in the individuality of his sonic decodings of image.

“One artist will say, ‘clouds sound like brass to me,’” he offers. “Another artist will say, ‘they sound like strings to me.’ But, still, that’s an important issue to consider because it involves the ways in which we, as individuals, personalize these things. It’s not really important that clouds sound like brass to me, but rather that I make the use of the brass a convincing artistic decision. That’s what’s important.”


Perhaps paradoxically, although Glass hints that he selected brass to insinuate the gravity of clouds (“In a way, I regarded the clouds like I regarded the music, as a huge mass of forms which actually have no physical substance. And yet at times, the clouds as well as the music, did have a sense of artistic weight, and… gravity”), he verbalized the film’s near-menacing sequence of a Boeing 747 take-off with voices, because he thought of the plane as being lighter than air and wanted to emphasize that with music that had a quality of “lightness.”

He describes it as a “poetic metaphor,” but is it really just inverted literalism  that he elects “heavy” sounds for clouds – which are light, and float – and “light,” floating sounds for jumbo jets – which are heavy, and can only fly with the aid of jet propulsion?

As Glass himself suggests, it doesn’t really matter. It only matters that his use of sound is convincing. But it is only through precise sequencing of these convincing moments – which in isolation are beautiful, but ambiguous – that some sort of reading of the text is possible. The real quandary with Koyaanisqatsi is that, throughout, narrative – meaning – is something that Reggio and Glass appear to simultaneously lust after and find distasteful.

Generally regarded as being an environmentalist critique of modern society, the deliberate vagueness of its message has seen Koyaanisqatsi lambasted by some as fodder for “unconstructed hippies” and “New Agers, who like blissing out to lulling music and pretty pictures and don’t care about ‘meaning.’”

Even modern classical authority Alex Ross was – initially – biting of the project’s artistic success:

“When I saw “Koyaanisqatsi” in college, I dismissed it as a trippy, slick, MTV-ish thing, to which some well-meaning soul had attached hippie messages about the mechanization of existence and the spoliation of the planet.”

Though, interestingly, when Ross saw a live performance of Koyaaniqatsi – one of the occasional tours Glass and Reggio do of the film and live orchestra – he “understood it as something else altogether – an awesomely dispassionate vision of the human world, beautiful and awful in equal measure… For all the deliberate coldness of some of Glass’s writing, “Koyaanisqatsi” is deeply expressive; its blistering virtuosity is often the only sign of emotional life on display, excepting a few wan smiles on the faces of pedestrians who hurry through Times Square.”

But even that ambivalence can be claimed by Koyaaniqatsi’s authors as some kind of strategy, or at least a useful side effect of the project. It could be argued that Koyaaanisqatsi is a living text – if there is one recurring criticism of it it is precisely that people’s feelings about it tend to change on a viewing-by-viewing basis.


Not only that, but viewers’ interpretation of Koyaanisqatsi has a tendency to shift on a similar basis, or – as with Alex Ross described – depending on the context in which it is experienced. Others have suggested that its meaning is time-sensitive, and fluctuates according to the times we live in.

Berg put it to Glass himself that a recent viewing of the film had left him with a completely different experience to previous viewings. “Now the film’s critique of modern society is almost secondary. The images of the 747s, the skyscrapers, even the traffic, have a vitality, and a sense of beauty, experiences that are more typical of the experimental film or the more poetic forms of the documentary.”

“Exactly!” enthused Glass “You did notice that. Good. I, too, am very struck by that dimension. Four years ago, for example, we thought Koyaanisqatsi was a very political film. Now, it doesn’t look that way at all to me.”

Philip Glass – Koyaanisqatsi

One point at which Reggio and Glass opinions did diverge was in the translation of the Hopi prophecy at the film’s conclusion, which is the only literal text in the film, and which was converted – in its Hopi form – to music by Glass, who carefully studied the rhythms and syntax of the music to preserve a sense of authenticity to the message.

Glass felt it over-literalised the film, but Reggio felt that – working with film, a relatively accessible artform, despite Koyaanisqatsi’s gnomic overtures – they had a chance to push one message out to a wide spectrum of the population.

“If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.

Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.

A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky which could burn the land and boil the oceans.”



This is how we scroll

Featuring : Omar S

Strider cover

By the time you read this, 20Jazzfunkgreats will have completed their physical jack across the halls of The Hydra, guided by one Detroit superstar DJ Omar S.

As part of this effort, we expect that we will have had the opportunity to do our Turing machine dance, scrolling down a 16-bit Siberian tapestry, beatin’ up Cossack cyborg dogs and hammer and sickle wielding centipede politburo people, to the merciless crescendo of Strider’s World.*

But this is the anthropomorphic way of thinking about.

Maybe it will be the other way around. Maybe 20jazzfunkgreats will be the tape being processed by a Turing machine whose program is contained within the furious robo-lyrics of Strider’s World.

Each pulse of the joystick, each siren beep, each beat of the relentless drum and each note of the quasi-religious melody instructions being punched into us by a boss intelligence we can fathom but we can’t see.

This is how we will have become nodes in a new emergent construct we energise with our imperfect dancing, and feed with our irrational dreams.

This is how we scroll.

Omar S – Strider’s World

You can buy the record here. And here is a nice fan video.


*Which is just a fancy way of writing, erasing and modifying symbols in the not-quite-infinite tape where this tapestry is stitched.