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.

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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.

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Babyslave at the Nightmare Rave Part 2

December 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm (Concepts, extreme music, Hypnotique) ()

Hello chums,

Hypnotique here playing blog triple-header catch-up from Charlie Machine’s part one ATP review.

Babyslave & friends took their first annual away day conference to the splendid All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Butlins, Minehead, Somerset. A kind of busman’s holiday on acid (or more specifically a cocktail of fine port, vodka, amino acids and whiskey smuggled into a Ribena bottle to evade festival security).

It was my first ATP and my first trip to Butlins, and I found the whole experience rather exciting, being used to the more typical Reading/Glastonbury kind of festival involving mud slides and deflating igloo tents (changing into a gothic fairy outfit in such surroundings to play the Poetry Stage at Glastonbury was one memorable gigging experience in 1998).

My two main observations on the ATP ethos thing is that although it is an out-and-out ‘alternative’ event, with a doom/American indie/neo folk slant (see Boris, Om, Sun)))) for terms of reference), hosting it in a holiday camp of contemporary chav dimensions (more Benny Hill than Belsen) presents a transition of the main streaming into the scene in a strange juxtaposition: Mr Wu Tang “Gizzer” Clan proclaiming “Hey Minehead, whazzup?’ being an ironic case in point (how doubly wondrous had he said “Hey Butlins, whazzup?’).
Secondly, everyone is very civilized for a festival. Admittedly they’re an older, tamer crowd than the Download, V or Glastonbury punters, but it lacked that Sunday night excitement of Reading in days of old when the Hell’s Angels would turn up to have a fist fight with the indie kids and turn over a chemical toilet or two. Although our chalet had poor fittings, removing the cistern was sure to involve industrial machinery we did not have to hand. Everyone politely waited their turn on the super-scary Space Bowl flume at the swimming pool and there was no death by drowning, no bottlings, and no crazy chalet parties till dawn. Like music scenes generally, the festival has evolved to become increasingly niche, ensconced in genre and lacking in tension. More of that later.

Day log:

– Friday 7th Dec
Myself and Charlie Machine finally arrived on site after various bus/ Butlins screw-ups having consumed a rather nice bottle of vintage port, sans stilton. Myself and Charlie were surprised to find we were staying in the kid’s room with beds somewhere between the size of a cot and single bed with plastic covers. Handy: wipe free. Joe Ladyboy showing off (as usual) that his chalet was better than ours and had a kitchen and oven and everything. Rock n roll.

– Sat 8th Dec

After a conversation on Friday with Charlie Machine about what a nasty but inspiring genius Stockhausen was, particularly his transition into electronic music because he could not control the performance parameters of acoustic musicians precisely enough, we awoke to hear the fiend had popped off to the great helicopter string quarter in the sky.
Stockhausen is dead: long live Stockhausen.
Synergy, synchronicity or the curse of Hypnotique? We all got mashed then watching Alien in the cinema. Can’t believe the other b-slaves left me in there, when I woke up I was scared rigid and thought I’d been taken into orbit with a giant squid.

– Sunday 10th Dec –

Braced the fierce coastal winds once more for final day of fun – that sad feeling of the holiday over almost before its begun. Made full use of the pool facilities.

– Mon 11th Dec –
Back to work, tired but revived. Just to prove you can’t stop the rock, I wound down by going to see the lovely Thomas Truax (like a modern day cabaret Harry Partch) play with Duke Special (a really charming band featuring a dreadlocked, make-up stained bandmaster from Northern Ireland) on a pirate ship in Bristol. And had by camera pinched by a wicked rogue with all the ATP pics. Feck.

Musical delights:

Portishead – this year’s ATP curators. Their first show in 10 years (where have you been?) after too long holed up in Easton, Bristol, smoking some big fat ones – and debuting material from their forthcoming new album. Shock horror: new material is heavy but upbeat, straying radically from the trip hop sound that became so iconoclastic. Beth Gibbon’s voice is as cracked and mesmerising as her fragile frame. Top Trumps.

The Horrors – big hairdos for big hair anthems. Proper heroin-chic rockstars straight out of a manga comic. Too much fun for this early in the festival!

Chrome Hoof
– more disco less metal than I remember from this year’s Supersonic, and they didn’t have the giant chrome hoof expanding into the ceiling, but they got us onto our pentangled dancing feet. Can you believe they are from Tottenham? I say more bassoons in rock.

Julian Cope – as a life long JC fan, I found this show appalling. Too much rock out, and not enough wall-to-wall classic tunes. I saw him play Nottingham this year and he was witty, tuneful and did some lovely stuff with the melotron. Not so at ATP – complained about the colour of his chalet, said said nothing until the end of the set and musically, compared to the other acts on the bill, played an obvious, bland and unoriginal set. Finally, he started his crowd rousing spiel at the end – too little too late. Copey’s fundamental problem seems to be that he IS the influence for many of the band’s playing: an English eccentric, a trusted curator and an originator – the Cornucopia shows at South Bank in 2000 reviving many classic krautrock and cult bands was inspiring. But Copey cannot BE the new generation of stars he bangs the drum for like Devandra Bernhardt, Om etc. He’s an aging rock star – more Bruce Springsteen than Andy Warhol. And letting down your lifelong fans because you’re in a stroppy mood or don’t like brown M&Ms/bathroom fittings is an unforgivable offence for ANY artist. Boo hiss.

Thurston Moore – it’s not fair that this Sonic genius is nearly 50 and looks 15. He is still cool as f*** and he still rocks. Mr Cope, take note.

Damo Suzuki – jamming with a selection of ATP musos including Geoff from Portishead. Not a long enough set for a proper immersion, but a good one. Damo is so little and lovely and cuddly – I think he is a Japanese Jesus.

Sunn))))
– enjoyed this immensely at Supersonic this year – imagine a deep, multi-layered, ever-growing drone with a man in an incredible outfit (part-Viking, part-giant courgette) lathered in heavy smoke, incanting in Latin in a super woofer bass-heavy voice. Not just a goth thing, but something quite primeval, medieval and transcendental. Not a dry (ice) eye in the house.

Hawk and a Hacksaw – didn’t get into this as much as previous shows, but good fun involving Hungarian fiddles and zithers. Interesting fact: mister HAIH used to be the drummer in Broadcast. Still begs question: how can Hungarian folk music be contemporary alternative music?

Rosie Red Rash – As I’ve been working recently with the music ‘industry’/ community in Bristol, I was keen to check out the many Bristolian pals of Portishead on the bill and ‘discover’ a new local talent. But on all occasions, I was so disappointed – the worst offenders being these ‘ladies’, four schoolgirls attempting punk – with no ability (though the bassist was fantastic) or songs, it appeared – but their fishnet tights were lovely. Sorry Portishead, it’s fine to ‘curate’ to scratch your friends’ backs, but make sure they deserve the platform of this nationally significant festival, as most of these acts seemed like they’d never left their bedrooms before, and should probably have stayed there.

Silver Apples
– Probably my festival highlight – a rare outings from Simeon and his oscillating wildly “Simeon” machine – kind of early invention of drum machines and trance from the 1960s, ferociously ahead of its time. His story is one of tragedy – failed recognition at the time for their two seminal albums, then a tragic accident at a gig during their 90s revival left Simeon predicted to never walk or play again – but miraculously he has, although his partner in crime in the meantime died. But Silver Apples are back, and the sounds are as hypnotic and lovely as before. Doing the groupie bit, I sidled over to his lounge table to give praise and got my photo taken with Mr S.

John Parrish
– piece of advice: write some fucking songs.

John Cooper Clarke – great gags, crap poetry from the Jack Kerouac of punk poetry.

Fuck Buttons – laptop duo who seriously rock. Fun.

Conclusions:
The underground musical future is diverse, healthy and growing its audience. But it seems to me that although some acts here did invent their genres, many are aping others, and there seems to be a dearth of true originality of style/performance. Too much clichéd post-ironic rock posturing or shoe-gazing ‘no performance’. As digital domains collide with real-world experiences, it seems to be that the proliferation of genres/scenes with no over-riding ‘movement’ is creating more homogenisation than originality, the bittersweet irony of globalisation. Maybe pop did eat itself?

Babyslave really should play ATP in 08. Once we’ve refined our 360 degree music/media offering, we will truly be ready to rock on a bigger stage.

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What’s In A Name?

September 10, 2007 at 6:16 pm (Babyslave Music, Concepts)

babyslaveep2-copy.jpg

Or, more specifically – what makes a good band name? A play on words? (Daisy Chainsaw, Captain Beefheart): Something which sounds smart, but ultimately means very little? (The Teardrop Explodes, Jane’s Addiction): Something lifted from literary and/or literal history (The Cure, The Fall or Franz Ferdinand?): Or just plain, understated and non-commital (like James, Can or even Blur?)

Etymology or Bust?

Or is it more about how we come to view these names within the context of the musicians who use them? The BEATLES is (if you actually consider the word itself) one of THE most crass/lazy puns in the history of popular culture, yet the very word “Beatles” (or even the phonetic “Beetles”?) has now become SO associated with that four-piece, popular beat combo from Liverpool that any other meaning or semantics within it (Les Beat, Beetles-with-an-A, a young skiffle band hoping to emulate Buddy Holly and The Crickets) are no longer relevant (just look it up on Google if you can be bothered to wade through 47,300,000+ references on the world wide web alone!).

Likewise: Joy Division Although the term itself comes from Yehiel De-Nur Ka-Tzentik’s 1955 novel “The House Of Dolls”, and refers specifically to the practice within certain Nazi concentration camps where Jewish women were housed for sexual slavery – I would suggest that (to the average man/woman-on-the-street in 2007) that it specifically (and exclusively) refers to the post-punk combo from Salford fronted by Ian Curtis.

Ditto Pink Floyd. Do the words make us think of the two unsung Carolina Bluesmen who inspired the name (i.e. Pink Anderson and Floyd Council), or does it make us think of Dark Side Of The Moon, Crazy Syd and David Gilmour’s (seemingly) endless guitar solos? No contest.

This doesn’t, however just apply to the rich and famous. A fair proportion of the “local” musicians/bands I’ve personally worked with have (initially) awkward names like DoubleJoHnGrey, iForwardRussia!, or iliketrains. Yet (after a time) any intention or reasoning behind/about these names becomes rather irrelevant – they simply refer to the group of musicians in question. Nothing more, nothing less.

And so, to “Babyslave”…

Well………Google (yet again) throws up some interesting answers: First up is a blog called “Master and Babyslave” – which describes the sub/dom lifestyle of two consenting middle age gay men. Nothing particularly shocking here (other than some stunningly dull web-design and naff use of cliched typefaces!)

Likewise www.myspace.com/babyslave – More of the same – fairly textbook Marquis De Sade (lite) – only this time from a heterosexual couple based in Dallas, Texas. “This weekend we went shopping, caught a film and went home and spanked each other whilst watching CSI Miami on Sky”. Well, good for you! Bravo!

More intriguingly, there’s a (rather touching) blog called “Motherhood: The S&M Perspective” written by another American woman about her relationship with her 3 year old son, affectionately referred to as the “little master” due to his constant demands for attention and love.. It’s well written, quite funny in places and has a lot more in common with Sue Townsend than it does Aleister Crowley. It’s also about as risqué as ITV1 on a Sunday evening.

Somewhat less appealingly (if you scroll in about 4 pages into google-search, with all “safety settings” removed) you’ll find just ONE, extremely distasteful piece of narrative, in the form of written paedophilic roleplay. Although I have no desire to recount it’s content here, I do concede that this would be a highly selective and arrogant blog-entry if I tried to deny that the term “Babyslave” also might have unpleasant connotations in relation to the abuse of minors.

HOWEVER…. I would also stress that I have, on my travels found just this ONE, solitary reference to paedophillia – as oppose to 80% of the links provided by Google which refer to a certain post-industrial music project from Manchester and Nottingham, fronted by Miss Hypnotique, yours truly and that-bloke-called-Charlie who used to be in the Monochrome Set. Yes, that’ll be Us then.

The rest of the references – as described above – are either adult roleplay (infantilism, relatively mild fetishism) and a lot of fairly meaningless sub-gothic posturing – not exactly a top-ten entry for “NAMBLA buzzwords of 2007”!

Indeed – if the name “Babyslave” really is a sensationalist example of taste-defying obscenity then what does this say about noted pop classics like “Babylove” (The Supremes) “Baby I Need Your Lovin” (The Temptations) and even cuddly Ronan Keating’s sickly sweet rendition of “Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight”?

Facetiousness aside (and I’m more than happy to debate the point here) – I think it says absolutely nothing. Beauty (or in this case an implication of vile thought or action) lies in the eye of the beholder…

So – what does Babyslave mean to US?

Well, personally, I see it as a reflection of the way socio-cultural expectations are imposed on the individual from birth. Speaking from a semi-priveleged first person perspective, that’ll be white, western, middle class preconceptions of 2.4 children, a mortgage and a steady career. However, this might as well apply to any other raft of global society. We are all (to a greater or lesser extent and for better/worse) defined and compromised by the circumstances of our birth and upbringing.

To me, it’s also about the tedious misuse of the term “Baby” in popular culture – both in terms of lowest-common-denominator lyrical content (yes, that means you again Mr Keating), but also the whole idea of in chauvinistic patriarchy in both the entertainment industry (and, indeed the world at large!)

Cue Little Baby Nothing by the Manic Street Preachers if you want a relevant lyrical critique of the subject.

Another good parallel (in terms of race as opposed to gender) is the debut LP by the late East-Coast rap pioneer Notorious B.I.G.: Ready To Die

Even at the time of its’ release, I was immediately struck by the powerful critical symbolism of it’s sleeve design – a tiny black baby (with all it’s inherent innocence) surrounded by a vast expanse of “white”. It was this kind of simple, yet emphatic visual/titular statement that I’d ideally like to aspire to with our future releases/projects. (n.b. – The fact that “Biggie” himself was shot dead within 18 months of the album’s release, to me underlines the point in the most damning way imaginable).

As for how this “relates” to the actual content of OUR work, I’m not so sure there’s a case for “controversy” here either. Of the four or five vocal tracks we’ve so far put in the public domain – we’ve got stuff about Arabian Nights, Telekinesis, David Icke pretending to be the messiah and a large helping of Naked Lunch inspired random cut-ups and pop trivia.

The rest is almost entirely instrumental and (to my mind) evokes artists like

Volcano The Bear, Fritz Lang, Volcano The Bear, Peter Saville, Throbbing Gristle, Can, Delia Derbyshire,Nurse With Wound, Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, GirlsAloud and Marlene Dietrich

NOTHING to do with literal slavery (be it minors or adults), and certainly nothing to do with Frits Bernard or Gary Glitter.

Interpret as you will…

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