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Roedelius Tape Archives Monolith Cocktail

Our regular motley round up of ‘choice’ singles, knock-offs, albums and EPs, that tickled our fancy recently continues.

 

This week’s chosen few include Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Lukas Creswell-Rost, Junkboy, Nimzo-Indian, Picturebox and Mikey Georgeson.



Hans-Joachim Roedelius  ‘Kollektion 2: Roedelius – Electronic Music Compiled By Lloyd Cole’  &   ‘Tape Archive 1973-1978’   (Bureau B)  Released 24th October and mid-November 2014.



As life story arcs go, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, the former child star actor in 1930’s Berlin turn masseur turn progenitor of organic electronic and experimental music, is one of the most astounding. Still a stalwart figure of innovation in his eighties, he was born at both the right and wrong time, in 1934, on the cusp of the events that would lead to an apocalyptic World War. Moving from the destructive wastes of Berlin to a small village in eastern Prussia with his family, only to be harassed by the invading Russians, before settling in the occupied regions of the Sudentenland, the ever sharp and wryly cynical Roedelius knew bullshit when it was fostered upon him, his indoctrination into the Hitler Youth during the war and then later to the East German army (caught after the war finished on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain) would not make a soldier out of him or endear him to discipline.

Instead he ventured when he managed to escape the clutches of the Stasi (who imprisoned him on one occasion as a suspected spy; his sentence a two-year stretch in the coal mines) to the west, drifting from work as a gardener to waiting tables and everything in between. Thankfully the German avant-garde scene had other ideas, Roedelius hooking up with one of Joseph Beuys’ first art student protégées, Conrad Schnitzler and forming the – so unfortunately termed – Krautrock shrine and incubator, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in the late Sixties. Conrad taught his bedfellow much and from this union of free thinkers and expletory mind-bending sonic adventurers, Roedelius began working with another visionary, his stalwart partner on so many collaborations, Deiter Moebius. All three would inaugurate one of the era’s defining ambient and venerable groups, Kluster (later changed to Cluster of course), and set out on a traversing voyage of discovery. Many incarnations, whether it was as the duo of Roedelius and Moebius working with Michael Rother of Neu! or Brian Eno as Cluster and Harmonia, or separated and solo, album after album followed suit: A rough estimate calculates around 80 albums to date, though there could be more still waiting to appear, left dormant in the vaults in collecting dust (in one of his most prolific periods 2000 – 2001, he released eight albums alone).




An iconic and reverent figure of the new rational and free Germanic spirit, more or less opposed to all ideologies and offended by the misdeeds of previous generations, Roedelius has without fanfare continued to progress his musical ideas over the last five decades. Even now the patriarchal sagacious 80-year-old veteran still creates new music: in partnership with Mateo Latosa and Cesar Gallegos for a photographic exhibition and album music installation, Latitudes, and in 2013 he worked with Lloyd ‘Commotions’ Cole on the Selected Studies Vol. 1 studio album; he has been recording with Onnen Bock under the Qluster moniker since 2011, so far releasing four albums, the last in 2013.

As a celebration the Hamburg record label Bureau B is releasing the moiety Tape Archives 1973 – 1978 and Kollection 02 collections of, both, lesser know obscurities and career highlights from Roedelius’ extensive back catalogue. The first of these peruses his audio sketchbooks, picking out the more sublime and ominous soundscapes from amongst the reams of magnetic tape recorded passages, narratives and “moments of inspiration” that either ended up being stored away or used as templates for finished works of sonic peregrination. Made during his iconic Forst period, in his private workspace, Roedelius between studio times with Cluster, he experimented to his heart’s content, pushing the limits with the tape left running. Using a Farfisa organ, Revox-A77 tape machine, an echo device and a borrowed synthesiser, he would prod and probe, sometimes leaving one-note modulations to fade out on, what sometimes seems, an infinite timeline.

Transferred and digitalized for the very first time, this Ltd. Edition 3-LP or 3 x CD boxset features over 25 studies in sound, rhythm and structure (far too much to take in one go, meant to be explored at leisure), comes complete with full linear notes by the man himself and label founder/artists Gunther Buskies and fellow German composer of avant-garde electronica, Asmus Tietchens.



Redefining classical music for the new age through the method of constant invention, Roedelius’ sketches are full of both the most wondrous of shimmering gladded ambient suites and the most monotonous sine-waves. Delightfully serendipitous style, bouncing through a majestic oriental garden of ‘Berg und Tal (Kurze etüdenhafte Skizze)’ or stretching the boundaries of otherworldly generator-humming minimalism with the lingering ‘Aber warum den nicht (zwei Tongeneratorin im Spiel miteinander)’, the ambient field reports of Roedelius enlighten the composers process and ideas.

Paying homage once again to his collaborator and teacher, Lloyd Cole, who worked with Roedelius last year on their Selected Studies Vol. 1 album, selects an ethereal litany of personal favorites from the solo back catalogue. The second in a series of “Kollektions”, the first released only a month ago and compiled by Stereolab’s Kosmiche fan Tim Gane (which also featured many choice Roedelius and Cluster tracks; a collection that picked from the famous Sky Records archives), this particular suite absorbs his most beautiful, exotic and magisterial gliding works: close your eyes and you could be transported past satellites to an undiscovered cosmos (‘Sonnengeflecht’, ‘Etoiles’) or be whisked away to discover new man-made and natural wonders (‘Staunen im Fjord’, ‘Schöner Abend’).

Renowned for creating a new language in the age of burgeoning electronic music, Roedelius also wistfully recalled the enchantments of a ghostly landscape, lost in the shrouds of time; a city or diorama captured in a capsule and investigated by the technology of the now. A reification mood created with the strange waltz like fairground and boulevard society of a Weimar Berlin envisioned ‘Café Central’, and the Baroque period, via the last scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, harpsichord dream state of ‘Glaubersalz’ – also a Tim Gane favorite, picked for the first volume of the Kollektion series.

Undaunted by the scale of this enterprise, Cole has chosen one of the best and most accessible compilations yet of Roedelius’ oeuvre; a congruous and thoughtful arc of the introspective and marvellous; the ethereal and subterranean. If you were an eager initiate or strapped for cash then this would be a sound starting point. However, those weaned on the stuff and able to tell their Qluster from their Kluster, from their Cluster, or already have the behemoth library of Roedelius material, then the Archive Tapes should sort out your hunger for now.

 

Your humble critic was privileged enough to interview the distinguished Roedelius in 2010 for, what was then, the Krautrock and electronica Vessel blog (now sadly defunct). We discussed his incredible journey from physiotherapist to musician, the early German electronic and arts scene and his back catalogue. You can find it HERE.





Lukas Cresswell-Rost Monolith Cocktail

Lukas Creswell-Rost  ‘Go Dream’   (Plain Sailing Records) Available Now.



Travelling a well-worn highway; tuned into a radio station straight from in-between the 1970s covers of Rolling Stone, Creem and The Village Voice; accompanied by a cast of “misanthropic” characters, the former Leeds troubadour of deconstructed pop Lukas Creswell-Rost dreams up a most sophisticated songwriting opus. His relocation, five years ago, to the creative hive of Berlin has done the artist a world of good, this solid contextual collection of earnest dramas and lamentable episodes from the rock of ages, slowly but surely, unfurling its quality.

Featured on the Monolith Cocktail in the summer, the single from his highly adroit Go Dream album, ‘Warmth Of The Sun’, mistily recalled hints of Steely Dan, Jim O’Rourke and a crooning jazz-y saxophone straight from Young Americans era Bowie. Dappled and woozy, the song lamented the tale of the, touched by sadness, harmony-rich balladeers Bad Finger, as told from the perspective of their far from sympathetic manager, Stan Polley. Leaving them in financial straits, Polley however wasn’t the only bad guy to befall the group (countless individuals and management deals would follow), yet his actions didn’t help, the misfortunate band suffering from two suicides.

These same themes of greed – squeezing until the pips finally pop out – and tribulations that surround the music business like a miasma, are expanded on the album. A left field choice perhaps, Lukas choices to pen not one but two dry-ice atmospheric odes to the million-notes-per-second, bullshit baffles brains, neo-classical heavy mental guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen. I’m not sure if Lukas wishes to elicit sympathy or just found a rich source of ridicule and the worst access of fame in the Swedish rock star. The Prince meets Drive soundtrack 80s moody ‘Ten Dollar Cocktails’, features a tapped transcript of a wired Malmsteen kicking off on a flight after upsetting a female passenger with his lewd and obnoxious comments about homosexuals, which led to her pouring a cold glass of water over his head. The infamous “you’re released the fury” line juts one of his many ill-fought out reactions as he lunged at the protagonist (made into a popular misquote of “unleash the fury”), along with the obligatory threats to kill. Very sad, the “big in the Eighties” malcontent’s slide into obscurity after this 1988 episode is reflected in this and the equally plaintive, 80s sulky ‘Patient Pilot’.



A thoroughly contemporary take on the eras in which his subject’s frequented, Lukas weaves elements of Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Godley and Crème, Wings – hell even some late Fleetwood Mac – with bubbling 80s synth bass, white funk and the odd sequence of drum pads.

Traversing between the romantically acoustic, building to a swell, repetitive warning of “you’re wasting your every minute” ‘Timewaster’ to the Mews like disjointed gait, and heavy drum barrage of ‘Summer Of George’, and the beautifully picked-guitar resigned finale, ‘Stolen Thunder’ – the finale and most brutally honest defense of the misanthropic: “I’m looking out for no one, apart from number one.” -, there’s a rich source of ideas and nuanced material to study.

No serene or lazy trip through memory lane, Go Dream is a highly crafted triumph, each song a contained but also concatenate melodrama; the hooks and melodies purposeful and giving away more on each listen. Lukas pays homage to the lost art of the LP, every action considered and purposeful, and all linked to a subtle nautical leitmotif. Without doubt impressive enough to make our end of the year list next month.



Junkboy  ‘Sovereign Sky’  (Enraptured Records)  Available Now



Attached to an unassuming driftwood platform, the brothers Hanscomb longingly stare past the drizzling and less than tropical horizon of their English south coast home, towards the sunnier climes of an imaginary 60s/70s dreamt California. Making the switch from Southend-On-Sea to Brighton & Hove a while back, Mik and Rich have, with there lushly, understated paeans, for a brief moment, twinned their new home with the Laurel Canyon.

As the unassuming Junkboy the brothers have, sine the late 90s, experimented with a number of styles, their latest fare, Sovereign Sky adopting a relaxed attitude to pastoral, cooing frat-folk and psychedelia. All sung and played through the imbued spirit of breezy introspective early Britpop and at times, sounding like a folksy Stone Roses or the High Llamas deconstructing Harpers Bazaar.

Giving fair voice and a wistfully charmed backing of tenderly picked acoustic guitars, stirring strings and hushed, almost whispered, vocals, to both the pains and loves of entering their thirties, the brothers mellowed tones and introspection offer a mature observation of the world around them: from the opening meandered, optimism of ‘Priory Park’ to the relaxed soulful Love-esque rhythm guitar and lapping tidal reflection of ‘Salt Water’.

You may have to suspend belief of course, but erring towards their enamoured respect and influence of Brian Wilson, the boys do their best to bring the sun-bleached boardwalks and palm tree lined avenues of Californ-i-a home. Subtler than say the Beach Boys imbued work of the obscure and cultish American composer Expo, Junkboy enact, twice or even thrice removed, allusions to the instrumental vignettes and sweetened Tropicana influences found on Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile. And just as the golden state’s favoured sons did before them, they also pay both lamentable reverence and praise to natures elements and phenomena’s.

Despite being tenderly fraught at times, almost missing the odd trembled note and not quite reaching those vocal sweet high spots, their placable demeanour and ambitions make this criticism an irrelevance. File under a softening of the edges.



Nimzo-Indian ‘Nimzo-Indian’   15th October 2014





Touché E2-E4

Opening with the desired chess move of grandmaster and conceptual art progenitor Marcel Duchamp (for those who care about these things in finer detail, it is characterized by the moves: 1. D4 Nf6 2. C4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4), the Nizmo-Indian defense proves a handy moniker for the rambunctious soundtrack experiments of Andrew Spackman. Building his own twisted and odd instruments, from wooden turntables to miniature bass guitars, the former Zoom Quartet maverick clutters through an omnivorous sonic palette of sounds and genres to create something that does its best to wiggle free of classification.

His latest avant-garde and electronic pop instrumentals collection begins with a Ritalin fidget through French-esque Tango, strangled blubbering jazz trumpet, Indian tabla percussion and a garbled version of Massive Attack (circa. Daydreaming), on the jabbering accordion led ‘Airport’. From then on it’s a schizoid soundtrack of randomly stuck together film clips, jostling between early Daft Punk, Soulwax, Aphex Twin, Beck and chill wave, and suiting many moods.

There is an array of multifaceted ideas going on, with many of the tracks changing tact at least twice – ‘Melt Bird’ goes from stuttered funk to cosmic crystallised shimmering, and the finale ‘Tower And The Cobwebb’ going from the caustic generated sound of a disturbed industrial machine to squelchy disco.

Despite the raving pysch-jazz drum workout of ‘Uninvited Guest’, and art critic-makes-an-arse-of-themselves robotically sampled tribute of a sorts to the phantom scribbler ‘David Shrigley’, this album is, surprisingly, a mostly melodic affair – even if it burbles and burps at every other turn.

Though far too distracting to meet the needs of any movie you’d want to see, the Nizmo-Indian is a pleasant and curious oddity.



Picturebox  ‘Graffiti’  (Gare Du Nord Records)  1st December 2014.



Part of the psych and new wave collective that nestle the outskirts of the two capital cities which act as bookends for their Gare Du Nord label moniker train line, Picturebox hail from the musically progressive and acid-folk city of Canterbury. Though hardly an apparent scion of that hazy-eyed scene, mostly active during the late 60s and early 70s and boasting Caravan, Egg, the Soft Machine (of which a respective nod in the direction of their more off-the-scale jazz keyboard and drum freakouts is chucked into the group’s own ‘Giving It All I’ve Got’) and Kevin Ayers; the lo fi experiments sound more in touch with the post-punk pop of the iconic Stiff Records.

Literally sharing duties with the Gare Du Nord label founders own buzzy brand of Liverpool backbeat meets eccentric English popsike, Papernut Cambridge, on a recent collaborative 7” (the Swaps 7”), the group once again rework a number of their fellow peers songs for this latest EP ‘Graffiti’; a teaser in itself for an upcoming LP, The Garden Path. The first of these appropriations is the Denim semi-Glam, monotone robotic Add N To (X) accompanying ‘Giving It All I Got’; penned originally by fellow Canterbury lo fi maverick, Luke Smith.

An even stranger riff on Papernut Cambridge’s eponymous moniker track, turns the original into a music concrete style assemblage piece: chattering crowds in the monkey house mixed with an incessant shaker and warbled vocal, both creepy and mischievous.

The last of these, ‘Bit Part’, leans on the fuzz, paying tribute to the Lemonheads classic. Glowing with a jaunty hint of Belle And Sebastian, the duet features the band’s friend Emily Kennedy filling in for Juliana Hatfield.

Flitting through the quartet of perfect ditties (running time of just under 8-minutes for the lot), the only original Picturebox song, and title track, start’s proceedings with an amiable breeze through a Nick Lowe spontaneous declaration of scribbled love: made more personal in the accompanying video, shot around the Kentish locations of Thanet Way and Herne Bay.

Another fine effort from the Gare du Nord outcasts, who’s humble ranks swell with perfectly crafted pop from the sticks.





Mikey Georgeson  & The Civilized Scene  ‘Bringing Back Rocks From The Moon’  Monolith Cocktail

Mikey Georgeson & The Civilized Scene   ‘Bringing Back Rocks From The Moon’   (Pop-Z)   19th November 2014





Feet on homely terra firma, but head in a metaphysical state of fluxes, Mikey Georgeson breaks rocks on the moon to a Blockheads meets Bowie, pub piano jangled and softened brass backed lament. Less plaintively dramatic than the Thin White Duke’s own isolated misadventures, Georgeson’s inimitable sweetly conveyed musings are far more upbeat and fun; even if the lyrics and nuanced bowed lilting, weepy, strings and twanged yearns suggest otherwise.

Unfurled from the mind of the former David Devant & His Spirit Wife and numerous reincarnated band vessels, ‘Bringing Back Rocks From The Moon’ does however, have a poignant backstory: A couple of years ago Mikey spent a few hours on a spinal board wondering if he was paralysed after the police chased a transit van into his car. It turned out that the van was stuffed with two tons of gold royal wedding coins, many of which glinted on the wet tarmac that fateful night. Bringing Rocks Back From The Moon then is a song about a certain vision of the absurd and the quirks of fate offered up by that night’s dramatic events.”

The congruous bedfellow to ‘Bringing Back Rocks From The Moon’ is the hearty paean to friendship, ‘I’m So Glad’; recorded in the same session. With lyrics from Georgeson’s comrade Harry Pye, this relatively straightforward sweet song is a lushly produced swoon, devoid of cynicism.

On a roll this past year, his Divine Comedy style of self-depreciation pastoral pop and vaudeville has gone down well at the Monolith Cocktail. Both ‘My Heroine’ and the recent featured twee nugget ‘Till It’s Over’, along with the highly acclaimed Blood And Brambles LP, have cheered us up no end.




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