I have to confess that I’m listening to this on my iPod right now. Don’t judge me – I bought the vinyl, but I also got a free download when I purchased it and I simply haven’t gotten around to cracking the seal on it yet. That means that I’m listening to this out-of-sequence, because for whatever reason the play order on the download is different. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I always get a bit twitchy when I don’t listen to stuff in album-order. First world problems.
But I can’t feel anything but relaxed listening to these Carter Tutti remixes. The download opens with “Lost Bliss”, a track that I can only describe as effervescent. It’s like an early evening glass of champagne – bubbly, a bit crisp, and holding the promise of an interesting night ahead. It’s definitely not a mimosa, lacking the sweetness and bright colors; this isn’t the day getting started, it’s the evening getting started. By the time “Retrodect” is almost finished we’ve switched it up and moved on to vodka and Red Bulls. We’re on the dance floor, grooving, sliding, pulsing. And “Obession”? <sigh> Cosey still has it, that’s all I have to say as I let the sound waves cover me like a warm blanket on a cold night. Let’s not even talk about “Sin”, because things are getting downright strange and overtly sexual.
It’s hard for me to think of Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti as having been long-time members of Throbbing Gristle, as their collaborations are light years different from their earlier avant garde proto-industrial work. I strongly recommend Tutti’s autobiography Art Sex Music – not only is it an interesting look at her musical career, but also her artistic one. I find her endless fascinating.
Alone is Serb electro-wizard Nikola Vitković. He’s performed under a variety of names over the last three decades or so, but Alone appears to be the most prolific. As near as I can tell Unyou is his most recent effort, a cassette-only release on Chondritic Sound in a limited edition of 100.
Unyou is some trippy stuff. According to Nikola’s website, with the exception of some drum patterning on “Prison Built of You” there are no studio tricks here – it’s all basically recorded live with his hands on the synths and pushing the buttons to make it all happen. Musically it’s a combination of dark and spacey. The songs have flow and structure to them, a liquid mercury kind of consistency, something that is both liquid and solid at the same time, but really neither. The vocals, which I believe are in both Serbian and English, have an exaggerated haunting quality to them, feeling theatrical like the way a person might sing on stage in a musical or an opera as opposed to more typical album-oriented vocal approach. I initially took this to be a bit of camp, but the more I listen I get the sense that it’s both very intentional and very sincere.
“X-Ray of Dorian Gray” is the densest track on Unyou, the synths taking on a stabbing quality and bringing sharp edges to the song that aren’t found elsewhere. The vocals are brought to the forefront (and in English on this one) and carry a moaning quality to them. Whereas much of Unyou takes on a dark ambient feel, your brain won’t allow “X-Ray of Dorian Gray” to fade off into the background. Something deep inside at an unconscious level forcibly pulls your attention toward what is coming out of your speakers.
The album is available for streaming at the Chondritic Sound Bandcamp page HERE, and it appears that at the time of this post they still had a few copies of the cassette available for sale as well. Note the cassettes are hand-painted and stenciled, and my copy came with a download card as well. I’d also encourage you to check out Nikola Vitković’s website HERE, as he has a lot of info about his other releases.
I initially dropped the needle on Matters of Life and Death with my Rega set to 33 1/3 rpm and thought to myself, “huh, this has a bit of a Tangerine Dream quality to it”. Then I realized it was meant to be played at 45 rpm (♠) and started over.
It doesn’t sound that much like Tangerine Dream any more.
OK, so the synths could be Tangerine Dream-ish, though at the proper speed they’re much more deliberate and less dreamy. The vocals, however, are very insistent, like shouting from a distance, straining the vocal chords but not overwhelming to the listener. While the synths are a bit retro, the complete package has an IDM kind of urgency to it, particularly “The Task At Hand”.
This is another title from the batch I recently bought from Chondritic Sounds. It’s available online HERE for listen and purchase. I have the gray version of the vinyl (edition of 200), which sounds great. I can’t speak to the other two pressings, white (100 copies) and black (300 copies).
(♠) Why oh why do they sometimes not tell us the record is supposed to be played at 45 rpm? It’s been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.
I’d been keeping my eyes out for a reasonably priced, nice condition copy of the Thief soundtrack, and I finally found one the other day in the New Arrivals bin over at Easy Street. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been wanting this other than knowing the music is by Tangerine Dream and the film is a gritty and brilliant crime noir classic. Ironically later that same evening I was flipping through the channels and what did I land on? That’s right, Thief. Which was followed by the original Rollerball as part of some kind of James Caan retrospective. Needless to say, I watched both.
I’ve never been a soundtrack guy, especially not soundtracks that are comprised primarily of scores as opposed to previously released songs. Having listened to a few over the last couple of years, though, I’m kind of intrigued, as this strikes me as a very different way of writing music. You can feel an emotional flow to the compositions on Thief, an underlying base mood that is nuanced and transformed by the soundscape. The musicians are writing to align their art with someone else’s art, and when it’s done correctly the results are magical.
The music is a defining element in Thief, just as it is in most Michael Mann directed films. He could have just as easily scored the album with rock songs and it would have given then entire thing a totally different feel. Same scenes, same dialogue, different emotional content. In fact, Mann originally intended to score it using Chicago Blues songs. It’s hard to imagine what that version of the film would have been like, though the final track “Confrontation” may give us just a hint, the only guitar-based number on the album.
Thief stands on it’s own fairly well. If you’re into Tangerine Dream and similar electronica, it’s a perfectly enjoyable stand-alone album. It’s hard for me to separate it from the film in my mind, but it’s not a major leap by any means.
I just started reading Fight Your Own War: Power Electronics and Noise Culture, and it’s a complete coincidence that one of the first artists I came across in the book was Ramleh, a project that includes one Anthony DiFranco, who also happens to be the solo mastermind behind JFK and who’s album Nganga has been on my To Listen To shelf now for a few weeks. Sometimes it’s a very small world.
While I enjoy industrial, I admittedly lean towards the more musically structured (and dare I say commercial) artists. JFK is not that. At all. JFK is tearing the paint off the walls of the room that is your consciousness, that little safe place you hide deep within your ego. JFK kicks in the door, hoses the place down with turpentine, and throws a road flare in on his way back out. I can’t get into all of it, but “Machinen” and “Nganga” may have altered my consciousness in such a way that I’m no longer entirely sure what constitutes “music”. My favorite track is “Zarathustra”, which sounds like Vangelis working with Tangerine Dream while the whole lot of them are tripping on ayahuasca, spacey and with the electronic buzz of high-voltage power lines right above your head and the occasional beats that will make you think the Hueys are coming in for another pass at Charlie’s beach.
This was one of the titles I picked up recently from the label Chondritic Sound, and if it’s any indication of what I’m in for, it should be an interesting ride. You can listen to all six tracks on the JFK Bandcamp page HERE, as well as purchase the vinyl, which is also available directly from the label HERE.