Tag Archives: Constellation Tatsu

A library music fit for our times

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Library music is the functional art par excellence, a utilitarian backdrop for other media – TV, adverts, radio shows – to do their thing. It should be flourishing in our hyper-mediated, information-rich, marketing-infested age, but it sadly isn’t.

When we think of contemporary library music, almost only bad things come to mind: the faux gamelan and revolting banjos of tech commercials, TED talks and storytelling podcasts, the plasticky electro music of science documentaries (Horizon, we’re looking at you), the sub-Moby (!) bombast that tries and fails to pound us into amazement when we run the insta-grammatical gauntlet of adverts at the movies. And then there is the general replacement in ads, TV and films, of library music with songs originally intended for other purposes, in transactions that taint the original song and ill-fits its new host.

This depressing state of affairs is a far cry from some decades ago, when Suzanne Cianni produced jingles for Coca Cola and Atari, Sven Libaek soundtracked trippy underwater documentaries, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop invented a thousand impossible genres, and populated a thousand children nightmares What would be today’s equivalent? Holly Herndon composing music for adverts? Hieroglyphic Being producing a techno-symphony about neuroplasticity? Hyperdub on a BBC Radio retainer?

We think this would be awesome for several reasons:

First, and contrary to what many of you may contend (“are you calling for these wonderful artists to prostitute themselves commercially, you 20JFG fiends?”), we feel that the best library music can and should capture the spirit of its times in a way that transcends its immediate utility, and enlightens its audiences both now and in the future. In short, it can be art, and also political. In the 1960s and 1970s, library music captured society’s fascination with the possibilities of science and technology, new types of leisure, mass holidays, sex and drugs. In the same way, a library music fit for our anxious times would reflect their illusions and worries (more on that below).

Second, the secondary role of library music as background for other media gives it a license to be experimental, weird and spooky. If in doubt, check Ron Geesin’s synth oddities and tape manipulations for headache tablet adverts. Creative submission creates opportunities for creative subversion, and we would like to see those explored and realised.

Thirdly, and more pragmatically, we are sure that a new revenue stream for musicians would be welcome in these days of business model turbulence and uncertain micro-transactional and gig economics.

So now that you are all convinced, how do we get the neo-library music revolution started?

As with almost anything else, the BBC is a good start. Hereby we call the Beeb to replace the non-descript drivel it often uses in its content with high quality sounds. An Oneida/Mary Beard collab would be a good start.

We also call brands and advertisers to recognise that nothing spells “innovation” like a music jingle offering a glimpse into the status anxiety of tech consumers whose lifestyles and identities are constantly “disrupted” by new products, services and experiences. Getting Burial to produce the ad for the next Apple Watch would show self-confidence and self-awareness, it is the way to go.

We think that new, non-linear media like social media, web, video games and augmented and virtual reality are ripe for musical exploration – the new frontier for a reclaimed music library genre. The possibilities are endless.

Here you have three examples:

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Unfollow’s new cassette in Blue Tapes is pretty great. Shy techno for introspective cyberpunks, futurism shrouded by a fog of distortion devoid of aggression. If Demdike Stare adopted a puppy, this would be its dance.

In the press release for the record, Unfollow refers to it as good for “3am on the dancefloor when everyone’s drugs have run out and all the poseurs have taken Uber rides home.” We agree with the sentiment. We also think that its aura of mystery intermingled with recognisability would provide the perfect backdrop for a documentary about the future of jobs, or even more appositely, a fishing expedition into the job boards of the Internet, to look for new and strange occupational species resilient to the advent of mass automation.

Half Blu makes us think of cyclical delusions after a day working on an assembly lines for 3-d memes.

Unfollow – Half Blu

Get Blue Twenty-One from Blue Tapes.

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We already told you about the majestic post-punk, red-cold skronk of JD Twitch’s So Low compilation. The remixes are similarly brilliant, specially Helena Hauff’s transformation of Klinik’s Moving Hands into a furious, fast-moving mechano-snake which could perfectly soundtrack one of those reality shows about brits getting blasted in Mediterranean resorts, its luridly epic synths and electro aggression a metaphor for their desperate, impossible joint search for control/oblivion, perhaps a glimpse into flares of stroboscopic violence that are unavoidable whenever a segment of society has so little to lose, even if it hasn’t realised yet.

Klinik – Moving Hands (Helena Hauff remix)

Get the So Low Remix EP here.

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We conclude with Dang Olsen Dream Tape, whose ectoplasmic harmonics vibe mellow like a collection of Ariel Pink dub remixes, or Peaking Light dissolving into the primeval soup of our eternal summer.

We think this music captures perfectly the friction-less flow of tech utopia:

The placid waves of humankind’s collective intelligence getting itself linked up and ready to go.

The soft staccato of nano-orgasmic endorphin hits from a barrage of likes saluting our virtual personas.

Sipping on cocktails in the penthouse of a cookie-cutter creative city, while we wait for the singularity.

Can’t wait to see the advert.

Dang Olsen Dream Tape – Thumper

Thumper is included in DODT’s forthcoming Zonk cassette, in Constellation Tatsu.

Artwork: Emily Falling in Library

The Thousand Sounds of Stellavista

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“The first PT houses had so many senso-cells distributed over them, echoing every shift of mood and position of the occupants, that living in one was like inhabiting someone else’s brain”. (JG Ballard, the Thousand Dreams of Stellavista)

We are all full-time psychonauts, rambling non-stop down the pathways of other people’s brains. We do this when we enter the external projection of these people’s ideas, in an exploration that can be physical (walking inside a building), visual (watching a movie), intellectual (reading a book, parsing an idea) or social (living inside an organisation or polity).

Video games combine many of the senses above in an all-encompassing creative medium. They could provide the ultimate psychonautic tool, but this potential is rarely fulfilled because they are constrained by commercial imperatives, or by a slavish desire to represent consensual realities, instead of subjective ones.

There are of course exceptions which we love, such as Hidetaka Miyazaki’s nightmarish hallucinations, or the game we wanted to briefly tell you about today, Jonathan Blow’s The Witness.

In The Witness, you wander the biomes of an abandoned island, solving abstract puzzles which open up access to new areas. And that’s that, at a purely functional level. Which is a bit like saying that Crash is a book about car accidents.

There is much more.

Emotionally, the Witness feels very intimate. You are inside Jonathan Blow’s brain, exploring his passions, his obsessions and his ambitions. When you complete a set of puzzles, you connect a synaptic network mapped on the geography of the Island, creating an external representation of ideas in his mind, ideas that are becoming embedded in yours as you gain fluency in the game’s geometric language.

You are communicating non-verbally with Blow, and learning through play. This is a beautiful process, like a flower blooming, or a melody revealing its structure.

You eventually leave the island, but the island will not leave you.

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The Witness doesn’t have a story or music. This makes sense. These things would get in the way, distract you from its abstract purity and its hidden lessons (for example, sound can help you solve some of the puzzles).

However, if we had to give it a soundtrack, we would use the elysian compositions in H Takahashi’s Where to Be Vol 2. tape. It is not a coincidence that this is ambient music at its purest, or that H Takahashi is a professional architect.

Like all good ambient, the songs in this tape are fractals, particles of sound knit into a delicate pattern that transforms chaotic reality into harmony.  They are also spaces full of light and clarity, like the windows of a conservatory opening into a pastoral sight, the placid shapes in the cover for Another Green World, or the zen gardens frozen in space and time through which we wander lost in thought, in The Witness.

H Takahashi – Cave Temple

The tape is sold out, but you can buy the digital album for Where to Be Vol. 2 from Where To Now’s bandcamp.

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Last time we featured Thousand Foot Whale Claw in 20JFG, they provided the musical context for visions of horror during our daily commute.

In the first half of their latest tape for Constellation Tatsu, Cosmic Winds, TCFW’s synthetic explorations remain eerie, but in a way that is colder, more removed, as if they were capturing the gravitational echoes of some distant catastrophe, or summarising the universe’s indifference towards us, the fact that its infinitesimal shift of a single physical constant would make our existences impossible. Less Carpenter, more Lovecraft.

With Cassini, the album starts a transition away from this awesome bleakness. It is a Kosmische filigree wrapped in shrieking waves of synthetic noise,  perhaps a metaphor for its namesake probe, a delicate product of human intellect and craftsmanship fired into the cold universe, so that we can learn more about it, start making it our home. In the magnificent sci-fi rhythms and blissful drones that follow, we sense success, expansion, and growth, a flash of intelligence illuminating the universe before it dies and the eternal cycle starts again.

Thousand Foot Whale Claw – Cassini

Get Cosmic Winds from Constellation Tatsu.

A mumuration, a sunset: an interview with Hakobune

Featuring : Hakobune

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Hakobune makes music that describes the incremental change of seasons in simple huge rushes of melancholy or joy, or something that is a bit of both – something that is perhaps closer, therefore, to lust; but desexualised and not humanised and instead just a thing that is – a smear of sound in the atmosphere, a murmuration, a sunset.

Hakobune is Takahiro Yorifuji, who resides in Tokyo. He has released dozens of Hakobune albums on supra-cool imprints such as Constellation Tatsu, Patient Sounds, Sacred Phrases and many more.

We chatted to Taka about his music, why he makes it and what it means to him.

You have made punk, hardcore, grindcore and powerviolence noise music as well as the gentler and more intimate ambient/minimal music – have you ever attempted to combine the two, or is it important to keep these two halves of your musical identity separate? What do they individually bring to your life?

I like both noise music and ambient music but I’d never thought of combining the two. There are other artists who already do this kind of stuff so I don’t bother to do the same. I want to form a band again someday, if I have an opportunity, but as it stands now, it’s not too realistic to produce and play music with multiple people.

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What feelings do you think are expressed most in your music? Where does it send you emotionally, either when playing or listening? What images do you visualise?

I get inspiration from landscapes, books, and movies, as you do. I hope my music makes listeners have many images in their mind.

Who are your favourite musicians working in Japan currently? What do you wish you could emulate about their work?

We are from completely different genres but DJ NOBU is the artist whom I shared stages the most with in 2015. He is a leading artist of the Japanese underground techno scene but he always keeps himself open to various genres of music, and the music he mixes makes me thrilled all the time.

Is there anything in music you have always wanted to do, but have found beyond your abilities, or that you have attempted but don’t think you are ready for others to hear yet?

Juke

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Of all your many releases, which is your favourite, and why? What do you feel you achieved with that release that the other releases did not?

This is my 1st album “Sense of Place”. I wrote all the tracks in my teenage years and completed in a technique different from now. It’s not feasible to produce in the same style today.

If you could pick one piece of music by another musician that summed you up completely as a human being and composer, what would it be?

Bach

Your music feels very colourful to me – what colours do you associate with it?

I can’t specify one single colour. I compose by building up many layers of sound as impressionist painters use various colors.

Hakobune – Landfall

Buy Love Knows Where by Hakobune from Constellation Tatsu
There are a staggering 57 releases by Hakobune available on Discogs!


Images from Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (Masahiro Shinoda, 1975)

 

VOTE FOR VLISS

Featuring : 555

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We are watching the messy scrap that is the UK political campaign with a grimace underpinned by feelings that are hard to describe.

They are hard to describe because, at least in paper, they sound like the sort of destination we aspire to reach:

  • The dark epiphany that descends upon the Lovecraftian hero as he realises that humanity is but a defenceless baby babbling away in a cradle rocked by slimy monstrosities.
  • The unhinged violence lurking under the monotonous, allegedly rational grid of a Ballardian autobahn.
  • The moment when Roddy Piper dons his visor and gazes at the crowd around him, and detects those skeletal invaders getting on with their day, amidst an unsuspecting (or complicit) humanity.

Those are the scenarios of our favourite fiction, the ones we (botchedly attempt to) represent in this blog of yours.

They are also an exaggerated version of our feelings when we read the papers and we watch the news, when we see the army of grimacing clones levitating through empty industrial parks, surrounded by mannequin-like people blandishing placards with facile slogans, when we ponder that our society might be as paranoid and nasty as one might infer from the things this well-informed army campaigning for their vote is peddling.

Are “we” really like that? If that’s the case, then the awful truth that slowly dawns upon us is that we are in fact the Monster, a standard ending in the Lovecraftian opus. Burn us with fire, trap us with the Elder sign!

We don’t want it.

And when we are optimistic, we don’t believe it either. We think that we can do better. This is why we have started working on the manifesto for our own political movement, one that we will get kick-started as soon as we are done with Bloodborne, sadly not in time for this general election, but maybe for the next one.

Our vision is thus: while the political mainstream is appealing to fear of the outsider, nostalgia for the past and dread about the future, we shall call for the opposite. An embrace of the outside, policies to overcome the puny boundaries of this Island and expand in all directions: under the seas looking for Leviathan and Atlantis, into space, past the veil of reality itself, crashing through astral planes to liaise with the spirits of our past, the post-human scions of our future, and even the fair peoples of Europe.

Our ultimate goal is to leave this fair land to the pixies, turn our nation into a roving caravan of psychedelic gypsies marching down the axes of an invisible Tesseract, blasting from their speakers blissful jams such as the ones we are posting today.

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Whenever we run into the countryside, it is looking for the confluence of feelings and the spiritual healing contained in Calidonia County’s The Ghosted Years.

It conveys with its subtly undulating harmonies the feeling of serene joy with which the walker beholds the fields expanding into the horizon, from a vantage point reached after a day of hard marching. The irregular, organic drip-drip of its rhythms could represent the flow of the streams, or the pace of her progress, as she accumulates the loveliest of all tirednesses in her bones, as if the hand of a benevolent God itself was nudging her towards an afternoon nap under the trees of its Garden.

Calidonia County – The Batteries in God’s Hands

Go and get this tape for Moon Glyph (again!).

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555’s Swan River Yogue is based in a live performance at New Orlean’s Swan River Yoga.

Consistent with our vision of the future, and also with the sounds and sights of Calidonia County, the mood is of exploration, openness and possibility, but taking place in an abstract ocean over which stretches a Proteus-like archipelago.

Each of its islands represents an essential concept around which we orbit in a dream-like daze, grasping, if only for a moment which is enough, the oceanic undercurrents, migratory flows of colourful birds, and trade in gifts that binds these things together, and us with them, in a graph of astounding beauty.

555 – Twin Verses

Get the tape from Constellation Tatsu. Here is 555’s Patreon page.

(We nabbed the artwork above from Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky gallery).

Everything repetitions

Featuring : Kara-lis Coverdale

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Constellations of tones blinking on and off in the purest and most simple patterns. Singing as soft, slow breathing. Everything repetitions.

One day – after innumerable attempts at planetary destruction and utopian/dystopian rebuildings – this is what our night sky will be like. Full of gorgeous post-nuclear light pollution and atmospheric tics.

Kara-lis Coverdale – A479

This sound soothes irradiated internal organs. It should be available on prescription. Even in our pre-armaggedon history, there is little other music this immersive, necessary and soulful.

A479 is from Kara-lis Coverdale’s A480 tape, available from the mega Constellation Tatsu

(gif is radialgrad_06.gif by Abill Miller)

Ex Medici

Featuring : Jonas Reinhardt

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Welcome back Jonas Reinhardt.  Welcome back to 20JFG, where we’ll attempt to describe your music, ethereal as it is.  And this time you’ve bought a friend.  And that friend is a moon.

We’ve slept on this one a bit — somewhat fittingly as our ability to post music is occasionally measured on a planetary timeframe.  But here we are with an album that accompanies a feature length film.  A film about Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter that may well support life under its icy surface.

Malevolence In Blue comes towards the end of the album (you can hear the final track, Lox Moon coming in at the end).   It’s a rare moment of momentum on an album largely focussed on texture.  A moment of consciousness within the watery maelstrom of nature that occupied the other tracks.

Jonas Reinhardt – Malevolence In Blue

Malevolence In Blue is taken from Jonas Reinhardt’s album + film, Ganymede.  You can pick up a copy of both right here.

Spaced-out Soul

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In space, no one can hear you scream. But what about in time? In fiction, space is usually depicted as an empty, cold, haunted place – full of fear. Stories involving time travel, though, are not fearful but full of melancholy.

As the fandom-loathed BBC Cardiff’s in-house bombast meister Murray Gold outlives yet another regeneration of the Doctor (his fourth, since the show itself regenerated back in 2005, when this blog was still a mewling infant of a thing with a Dalek and a naked lady in its masthead), we would like to make our official nomination for Rachel Evans aka Motion Sickness of Time Travel to be the new resident composer for Doctor Who.

Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Song of Zenana

Full of spaced-out soul, her electronic scores have all the eerieness and majesty of Delia Derbyshire and the prime Radiophonic Workshop ‘special sound’. Song for Zenana is just a sliver from Rachel’s epic split cassette with Aloonaluna.

Buy the Aloonaluna/Motion Sickness of Time Travel split from Constellation Tatsu