Felix Kubin and the artless of Nottingham

March 23, 2008 at 9:57 pm (Concepts, Hypnotique, live reviews) ()

By Hypnotique

OK, here’s an experiment in words, perhaps not of the calibre of William Burroughs, but acting as something of a brain dump of some of my thoughts & emotions surrounding the show I saw in Nottingham this weekend by the marvellous Felix Kubin.

Felix Kubin, military wear

Mr Kubin is a Rennaisance man of impecible gifts, after my own heart, whose activities, according to his website, “comprise futurist pop, electroacoustic and chamber orchestra music, radio plays, performance projects, lectures, workshops and his own record label Gagarin Records.”

This hip Hamburger (Hamburgerin?) makes darn funky and twisted Deutsch techno rock using analogue synths and was a member of Blitzkrieg. In a word: he is a legend.

If you just check one thing to get a flavour, may I recommend this fine animated video about the ghost of Myra Hindley. Check out the excellent Podcast by the You Are Hear gang for the full set of the Corsica Studios London show with Silver Apples. And here’s a needless picture of me with Simeon from Silver Apples (Q – but who looks more like the pop star?):

Hypnotique with Simeon from Silver Apples

I was tempted to head down to it, for surely it would be a double-bill of mighty mana, but given he was coming to my home town that week it made sense to wait it out.

But therein lies the problem: Nottingham is perhaps not the best city for electronic experimentation, as my own (non-existant) low profile atests. It’s hard for me as Nottingham is my home town and I have all the usual home town loyalties (I’m even a fan of the ever-failing Nottingham Forest boys) but one has to admit it’s not exactly a cultural metropolis – and I personally found it a disheartening downshift to move from London (the global cultural city) to a place with an entire county population of 1million, limiting the catchment audience for any kind of niche or subversive cultural activity, and indeed the acceptance of being niche, subversive or cultural. Unless you’re a goth, then strangely you’re one of many. And (sigh), now remembering why I was happy to leave the first time age 18.

But the outlook is a faint shade of rose: there are some good promoters growing loyal audiences with the likes of Damn You! rocking out American indie or Brit equivalent bands and Johnny Scarr’s Mantile nights in ‘Chameleon Cafe’ – a truly bizarre former tea room site overlooking the municipal square putting on experimental noise, electronic, prog, doom and sometimes even more unexpected touring bands from all over the world. (last night’s Burial Hex show was a good ‘un. Forgive my bleary-fingered typing but Flemish support band Silvester Anfang – all nine of ’em – were sleeping in my living room last night – like most pissed blokes – boy did they have bad music tastes 🙂 ) It’s generally always good stuff, but a bit heavy on the bearded, long greasy-haired male afficionado types. But (sigh) you aint in the cultural metropolis now, dahling.

The Music Library and other events organised by the Via Vaudeville art collective were easily the most daring and quietly interesting nights, but as often happens in this transcient town, people move on (to London, mainly).

So back to the plot (remember that?). Whilst I applaud Ricky Haley’s Liars Club for hosting the divine Mr Kubin, a bit of publicity wouldn’t have gone amiss, given I had to make Sleuth-style enquiries to find out what was happening that would make Laurence Olivier and Michael Cain proud (but not Jude Law in that bloody awful remake). OK so lots of people go to Stealth, but has the average 18-yr-old got any interest in esoteric electro-analogue dada-rock?

Still it’s the first time in while I’ve been propositioned by a 23-yr-old who said “I’m only asking for my mate, he’s 20”. I got to use one of favourite “Carry On” catchphrases: “I’m old enough to be your mother!” (note: use in inappropriate contexts mainly, e.g. with persons older than self). Cradlesnatcher Hypnotique is definitely not. I’ve always been more partial to the beautifully maturing wane artistic male, preferably of a continental persuasion (thus perhaps my affinity for aforementioned Mr K, however, I’m even more prone to wax lyrical on the artist merits of any old Arian Berliner. Perhaps there is no objectivism in my cultural reviewer status. But let’s face it, it’s not much of a review so far).

Anyway, the set started v. late, but we’re off and myself, Johnny Scarr, Pieter and Jude held the micro-fort for refined audience appreciation. Mr K was resplendent in a modish tailored suit and two tone shoes, but clearly troubled by limited audience recognition. If, after all, you are a STAR then you wish to shine as such. I languish in obscurity so know no better. He kicked off and the kiddie-winks were curious. Their tiny teenage ears had never heard such SOUNDS where analogue synths crunch a beat, squelching in and out of sync, mice running up and down the sound spectrum with chants of “Hit Me Provider!” in fantastic Germanic tones Uber-alles. And that was before he brought out the BOLTS OF LIGHTNING (prop, not GWAR/Kiss style stage effect).

Oy vey baby! This is Hypnotique audio heaven. If only all night clubs were this da da da. A dangerous kind of fun. I danced like a mad cat, but the kids were suspicious, many choosing to stay in the suberclubs other rooms (which actually hosted a fairly tasteful selection of indie-pop (not too naff), house and later some fun and bubbly techno). Finally, people realised the action was happening on Mr K’s dancefloor. Or maybe they were all coming up. Or the other rooms closed. Who knows, but toward the end of the set people started flocking in and grooving, which lifted Mr K’s spirits and made it more like the event it should have been.

Afterwards we had a little shouting chat with him above the typical club din. The man was crippled, this was no night to end his UK tour and I felt ashamed of my shallow little hometown. I questioned (again) my own presence here – could I create something of my own where there is nothing, or is swimming against the tide the path to drowning? Anyway, I know you won’t be back Mr K – just as every other fantastic and unexpected performer who passes through and does a half-arse half-empty show never will. Another one bites the dust.

But just to say I adored what felt almost like a personal show purely for my own pleasure, and that’s gotta be worth something. I’m listening now to his 2004 album Matki Wandalaki. Lovely stuff, and who’d have thought Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” could ever sound so romantic. I once had a bad experience when I worked at Universal Music when a Lionel Ritchie gold disc fell on my head. That was a bad day in the office.

So I look forward to seeing another Kubin show another time, a better place.

Advertisements

Permalink 2 Comments

Jean-Jacques Perrey and AV Festival review

March 17, 2008 at 4:13 am (electronic music, Hypnotique, live reviews) ()

AV festival logo

On my Hypnotique blog I flagged up that I would be at the AV Festival with the posse for Jean-Jacques Perrey. Here’s a mini review of the couple of bits I saw of the North East’s AV Festival, an international festival of electronic arts, music and moving image. I went to two days of the 10 day event (1st and 2nd March).

Saturday 1st was really a day of catching up with, appreciating, and wigging out to the crazy new electronic pop sounds of Jean-Jacques Perrey with his new musical partner (and biographer) Dana Countryman as part of the Radiophonia day.

I last saw Jean-Jacques and the extended clan one very snowy and icy February in Berlin for the 2006 Transmediale festival. A crazy all-night club-night saw colourful costumed ravers doing some serious partying to the 1960s sounds from the man they call ‘the father of techno’.

Gateshead was surreal and similar – at the elegant The Sage concert hall, stretching on the banks of The Tyne across from Newcastle like a beached giant armadillo. The afternoon was a sedate lecture (which I was priviledged to introduce, stating that if it wasn’t for the 1960s electronic music pioneers we just wouldn’t have the rich audio landscape today, and I for one would probably not be an electronic musician.) Jean-Jacques demonstrated a little of his tape loop technique with splicing block, followed by the debut screening of Mal Meehan‘s excellent interview film “Life Laughter and Loops” (available to buy soon!).

We retired for dinner in the city filled with stag and hen revellers in bunny costumes and nun’s costumes, a surreal setting for equally surreal conversation with Dick Mills who claims more people are interested in his specialist knowledge of tropical fish than his legacy as the director of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.

jean jacques perrey live Dana with CD

The evening show was marvellous – a mixture of classic old and new tunes including ‘Strangers in the Night’ and ‘E.V.A‘ with wacky and disturbing tape loops. What amazed me was the spirit and energy of the audiences – all kinds of people of all ages – can-can-ing, grooving to this crazy, catchy music. There were some very young (18-20) folks, perhaps discovering this ‘ancient’ music through BitTorrenting, Wikipedia and other amazing means of transfering knowledge and music today – before their parents came to collect them. (How rock n roll is it to go to a gig to see someone your granddad’s age?!).

jean jacques perrey live

Here’s some videos I took (on YouTube) to give you a flavour of the atmosphere from the floor, at appalling low quality!!

E.V.A.:

Cat In The Night:

Crazy Russian dance song (not sure title):

Sunday 2nd March:
In whistlestop fashion, I took in a few highlights including artist talks about the Broadcast Yourself exhibition and a yummy brunch at the fantastic community run Star and Shadow artspace and cinema. The exhibition concerned the historic context of arts in broadcast television, of which there are painfully few examples. In included clips of ‘art sabotage’ taking over the broadcast airwaves in guerilla fashion in USA and South America, and discussion of new works including a community TV project in a Mumbai market by Shaina Ananad and Nottingham’s own Active Ingredient discussing their fun new work for Make TV “Fantasy A-List Generator”, decontextualising celebrity interviews whilst encouraging the exhibition viewer to dress up in a disguise and become a fake celebrity.

I must admit that in the manner of many discussion by ‘serious’ artists, a lot of the debate traversed my non-art PhD bear-like brain like a passing corcorde, but it’s interesting to note that the nature of broadcast media is radically changing, offering new platforms for pure art visual content, yet meaning that the impact caused through wider distribution of visual fine arts will be lost. This exhibition will simply not exist in 10 years.

I scooted by ‘Works for Television’ inside a caravan on the high street, looping art works with industrial, textural themes in a cosy, nano-complex, en route to the outstanding Baltic art gallery, a Tate-style contemporary gallery serving as exemplar of Newcastle’s amazing regeneration. I was struck this visit just how gentrified and dynamic the city is today. John Cage’s Variations VII for various industrial sound-reproducing equipment had been recreated and rerecorded for the festival and was presented in both its original and new recording, which are striking different, I guess as result of the combination of a) a new interpretation and b) the variations of new, digital devices.

An evening show by Warp lovelies Autechre (after a very windy, cold circular journey where my destination was always ‘just left and left again’ according to the always accommodating locals) rounded off my visit. But I didn’t get it: it was more chin-scratching dance music that no one was dancing too. Something has gone wrong here that child-like electronic music from the 60s have the old and young up and grooving, whereas so called intelligent dance music has people densely thinking and not dancing. And maybe not even thinking.

So there you have it. Just a sample, but the programme of AV Festival was jam-packed with art and audio goodies across the North-East and would have definitely warranted a longer stay. I very much look forward to checking out the next AV Festival in 2010.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Bullshit and The Brits

March 9, 2008 at 10:24 am (Concepts, music industry) ()

I recently had the misfortunate to watch a little of the 2008 Brit Awards on TV – the annual back-patting/collective-snorting where the mainly major labels in UK get all self-congratulatory about how great British music is (despite year-on-year plummeting of sales and declining market share of British artists in international territories). The mechanism for the ‘awards’ is that mostly the industry vote for each other based on their own share of the market, thus the only artists ever likely to win are signed to mega-daddy Universal Music.

This year was particularly grotesque and was, for me, the final nail in the music-industry coffin. God know what they’d put in the pre-awards wine, but every artist performing, presenting or collecting an award was totally trollied, in particular Vic Reeves who forgot what award he was presented and was lambasted by Sharon Osbourne who hit him shouting ‘You Pissed Bastard’, or words to that affect. Who says standards are declining on TV? The most sober beneficiary was, ironically, Amy Winehouse, who has more experience than most of holding her ale, muddling through a dreary tuneless rendition of one of her tedious songs.

The icing on the amphetamine cake was Paul McCartloads, anguish on his face from the High Court divorce trial, nodding his way through sabotaging Hey Jude while the session musos in his band have smug looks on their faces as if to say, ‘yeah even I know this is shite but I’m earning loads!’

Watching pissed people when you’re stone-cold sober is never nice, but when they’re supposed to be the successful ones in the ‘industry’ who are ‘living the dream’ it’s even more painful. It reminded me of my own Cinderella Brits story: in 2000 I worked for Big Daddy Universal Music on an agency contract. Not being staff, I was the only one out of 100s in the company who didn’t get a comp ticket to the awards and after-show party. By 4 O’Clock, I was still chained to my desk while all the others got dressed up and left. The next day they all rolled in late, hungover, full of stories of meeting Bono and Gail Porter at the Universal after-show.

What these stories illustrate is that now the life of a musician who considers themselves an artist is further removed than ever from those who are celebrities, and perhaps whose original passion for voice, melody and words has been squeezed to a limp-lifelessness through the sausage machine of the music industry. I have no loyalty to my former paymasters: I welcome the demise of the formal music industry and the rise of the artist as plethora stars in the diverse, ginormous musical galaxy.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Rebellious Jukebox launch and free Babyslave track ‘Cadavers’

March 9, 2008 at 9:58 am (Babyslave Music, Babyslave recordings, Rebellious Jukebox) ()

Rebellious Jukebox, the new un-label music collective, which Babyslave are honoured to be one of their inaugural founding members, is now open for business after a Jap-pop fuelled launch in Manchester in February.  Check out the Rebellious Jukebox website, where you can download (for free, non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license) a jam-packed 10 track sampler of musical goodies, which features a brand new exclusive Babyslave track ‘Cadavers‘.   This was recorded as a spontaneous 3-way authoring and composing collaboration in one day between Sir Lucifer, Ms Hypnotique and Charlie Machine, with the pre-ordained subject of medical corpses.  It tells the cut-up tale of a romance between a trainee physician and the evil spirit of his cadaver.  Enjoy!

Permalink 1 Comment