Mysterious Vee calls from a telephone booth in rural Punjab, Indian, and brings another collection of artists and tracks, some well known and some not so. Her theme in this episode of Lost In a Wide Open Field is an exploration of artists, some known and some not so, who have utilised the honourable synth.
Sometimes you’ve just got to acknowledge you are late getting to a party. The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83 is just an excellent concept and most importantly backed up with some truly exhilarating music. The narrative goes, “for the first time since it was recorded in East Berlin over 30 years ago, the music of Martin Zeichnete can finally be heard. A disciple of the Kosmische Muzik of the likes of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! that was drifting across the Wall from the West, Martin’s idea of using the motorik, hypnotic beat of krautrock in the training of athletes was taken and exploited by the DDR’s Olympic Committee.”
My introduction, I have several memories that are managed over the years to blend together into a romantic melting pot of musical discovery. It is difficult to separate truth from fiction now, but the timing is pretty much self-evident. I know it was during a period of school exams, so I’m guessing it was around 1976 when my ears first discovered what I would get to know as Krautrock. That genre of experimental music, which had emerged in Germany in the late 1960s drawing influence from psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk, minimalism, jazz improvisation, and world music styles.
I know some of the punk bands I was starting to listen too had referenced the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu and Can. My music teacher, Mr Bell had given me a copy of one of Kraftwerk’s early albums, which I still have to this day. Maybe, I’d subconsciously developed a liking for Krautrock as I listened to John Peel show on my radio while preparing for exams.
How my admiration for Krautrock developed I guess I will leave to my fond memories, no matter how clouded they increasingly become. Today, I’m happy to just stay behind the illusion of the Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83. I did start to do some research, but you know what? As we continue to consume ourselves a little piece of escapism, which transports us back in time to a period where things seemed a little bit simpler, black and white, may not be an altogether bad thing now and again.
In the crowded world of music production, I’m always on the lookout for artists and bands promoting their wears in an innovated way and with this in mind, the Arthr project recently caught my ears and eyes. The project is ‘born from a love of live performance, electronic and experimental music, alongside animation. The character Arthr represents the imagery, ideas, and creative identity behind the project, placed into real-world environments where he explores themes of nostalgia and time.’
The latest Arthr release is Whisperings of the World (featuring King Colobus), which also came in an elaborate limited edition cassette format (20 copies). Each cassette comes with a little self-made Arthr figure attached with only four (at the point writing) remaining for sale. You can see more information of this release by clicking here
The trials, tribulations, and frustrations of creating the little Arthr figures are captured in a recent blog message from the project, which you can read by clicking this link. You can also catch up on Arthr’s journey through nostalgia and time at the official You Tube where you can also see some of the creative background work going into building this fascinating project and concept, including live performances. Take a look, listen and Join the journey.
The snap of the letter box and a cassette lands on the doormat following my latest purchase from Bandcamp, which is the first cassette I’ve bought in many years. There is something subversive about cassette music, which can either label you a pretentious anorak or the member of a cool club. Whatever your preference I feel like a member of the cool club today. I find myself in Canada on the next stop of my adventure and I have arrived at the delicate ambient haze of Chuck Blazevic and Alice Hansen better known as You’ll Never Get to Heaven. They have recently issued the EP Adorn on a limited cassette format release, as well as download.
You’ll Never Get to Heaven are from London, Ontario and like the name sake on this side of the pond London is a melting pot of creative energy and influences. To the east we find New York, to the west Detroit to the north Toronto. London, Ontario is no stranger to musical innovation being home to the rather brilliant and eccentric Nihilist Spasm Band. A band with the ability to make the listener excited, laugh, cover their ears and appreciate all at the same time. Think of Captain Beefheart’s classic album Trout Face Replica in warped condition, playing backwards, at the wrong speed and you start to get the picture. I mention this purely to draw attention to the rich tapestry and creative environment You’ll Never Get to Heaven inhabit, which must surely provide immense influence.
You’ll Never Get to Heaven are the type of electronic band I enjoy greatly, but I must start with my prejudices. Having lived through the 1980s and the onslaught of synth drums infused in over produced medico music. At best this was highly regrettable, but thankfully quickly forgettable. For every Joy Division sat a myriad of New Romantic lost souls who sought self indulged enjoyment from wearing stupid customs, donning silly haircuts, trained like monkeys to press a few buttons rather than create music that would be savoured beyond its immediate sell by date. It is true the likes of Gary Numan, Orchestra Manoeuvres in the Dark and the Human League provided some initial interest, but you can only pretend to be a droid for so long until people start treating you like an elaborate teas-maid.
My key contention is aimed at the producers of the time who simply sought to replicate traditional instruments and song structures rather then use new technology to innovate. The effects of this bastardisation left scars in my psyche resulting in me instantly rejecting electronic music as a serious force other than Kraftwerk, Eno, Rodion G.A, Harold Budd, etc. Rightly, or wrongly my record collection would occasionally submit to the odd electronic based track, but nothing substantial. There was little change in my mindset until Aphex Twin’s sublime 1994 Selected Ambient Works Vol 2, which went on to unlock my ears to groups like Autechre.
More recently the increased accessibility to make electronic music with little effort through most computers has delivered a variety of outcomes from the sublime to the largely predictable. In this democratisation of music production it is refreshing to stumble across bands like You’ll Never Get to Heaven whose influences can be seen and heard, but importantly do not simply seek to replicate what has gone before.
The gentle distorted soundscapes, twisted samples and warped beats create a dream like platform for Alice Hansen’s fragile vocal to drift aimlessly like a child exploring a lost magical world. Firstly the influences I hear in their music. My record collection includes a variety of early Brian Eno albums and given the Adorn release makes reference to Eno this would be a rather lazy reference to make. Vocally I hear hints of early Elizabeth Fraser (The Cocteau Twins) or Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl), especially the tracks Thorn recorded with Massive Attack for the Protection album. The overall production I find interesting because whilst the aforementioned bands utilised more traditional beat and melody structures to create catchy pop songs You’ll Never Get to Heaven have ventured down a different lane. The result is creative tensions, which provide the freedom for the duo to roam, explore and experiment endlessly.
Lurking under the soundscape structures I find fragmental influences from the Boards of Canada (Geogaddi album) and early Sigur Ros (Lek album), which leans more to the structures of classical music than pop. Beats are deployed with intelligence, sometimes sparingly leaving silence to contribute effortlessly to the overall effect (especially when listening through headphones). Via my trusted laptop and the powers of email I managed to hook up with Chuck Blazevic and presented him with the Old Man Adventure questions.
JK: What was the main influences behind the album?
CB: We’re often inspired, either directly or indirectly, by the music we listen to on regular basis. We highly enjoyed listening to the following artists at various points during the making of Adorn: Jeunesse D’ivoire, Anna Domino, Antena, Brenda Ray, Ennio Morricone, Belong, X-Ray Pop, Durutti Column, Chromatics, & Cleaners From Venus.
JK: Which is favourite track and why?
CB: ‘Caught in Time, So Far Away’ is the most recent track on the EP, so, in this respect, it feels a bit more exciting to us than some of the older tracks on this release.
JK: If you could have a guest artist to appear on your next venture who would it be (dead or alive) and why?
CB: We’d love to work with Brenda Ray (of Naffi/Brenda and the Beachballs) if given the opportunity. She has the best vocals and her productions often strike that delicate balance between raw immediacy and ornate elegance.
You’ll Never Get To Heaven – Adorn
The Adorn EP opens with Caught in Time, So Far Away with its carefully crafted synth drum beat, textured layers and pitch perfect vocals make this a mighty and clever pop laden introduction. Whilst the track is highly enjoyable it also misleads the listener into a false sense of ease as we enter the deeper material contained on the EP.
By This River is a slower and more thoughtful piece all together. Simple and devastatingly in delivery. Unravel takes us deeper down like a gramophone record playing effortlessly in a cabin on the sinking Titanic. Adorn is a magnificent, dense textured 4.25 minutes of shoe gazing brilliance. The beat plays perfectly with the vocals to leave the listener slightly disorientated. Enfantillages Pittoresques: Berceuse is an intoxicating music box with slightly out of synchronised keys. Derived from the Erik Satie’s piece, which can also be found on the David Bowie ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ film. The result is truly haunting and beautiful.
The EP comes to an end with Closer, which is a further 2.44 minutes of soundscapes, but on this occasion the Titanic sits broken on the seabed until its discovery some 73 years later. Together this is one of the most beautiful set of tracks I have heard in this genre for a long time. Almost impeccable in making the listener warm, distant and slightly disorientated. It comes highly recommended from this adventurer.Buy it now.