Recorded in Tokyo over a few days in January 2017, Some People Want to Live Forever, I Just Wanna Die Now by Stock Photography is available now via Bandcamp.
Thinking about alternative anthems for Japan, I turned to my obsession with Japanese store jingles. Nearly every chain store in Japan has an incredibly catchy song that plays in the shop. After listening to and sampling from countless selections, I settled on making a piece based upon my first love, the Bic Camera song.
Mike played it during the second half of the show, but you really should listen to the whole episode. In addition to closing with a piece of his own making, he presents selections from Lasse Marhaug, Jana Winderen, Chris Watson, Geneva Skeen and more.
Over 18 people have died as over 40 inches of snow fell on the eastern seaboard of the United States. It was the second largest in New York City, where over 29 inches fell, since 1869… This recording was made in Williamsburg, Brooklyn using a Zoom iQ6 microphone and iPad Air 2.
My debut episode of Touch Radio was released today. A 25+ minute field recording of the winter storm Jonas, this was recorded inside my apartment whilst snow battered the window in front of the microphone.
Please visit the Touch Radio site to download this episode: http://www.touchradio.org.uk/touch_radio_121.html
Since early October, Mike Harding (Touch) has been presenting Long Wave, a radio programme on London’s Resonance 104.4 FM. Mike kindly gave me the opportunity to produce an entire episode of the series, which I naturally took. My episode, Long Wave 12 – The Cap Report, airs on December 24, 2013 at 10.30 p.m. GMT (5.30 p.m. for my NYC friends, 4.30 p.m. for my Chicago friends and so on).
The Cap Report features a selection of field recordings that I collected in Japan during September and October 2013, as well as an extended freak out on the Otamatone and the Korg Monotron Duo. What started out as an intention to present a few of my field recordings along with a DJ mix, turned into an entirely original 90 minute audio piece. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed producing it.
Whilst I encourage you to listen live on Resonance 104.4 FM (which you can do online) with your friends and family as you await the arrival of Krampus, the episode will be made available on the Long Wave site in the near future. I’ll also be sure to upload it to various dark recesses of the internet so that it may haunt your nightmares for years to come.
I’ve been so remiss in posting lately that I’ve not only had the honor of contributing a photograph to Touch Radio 64, but the just-released Touch Radio 74 as well. The former is a fascinating field recording of the songs of wolves by Yannick Dauby, whilst the latter is a piece by one of my favorite electronic musicians, CM von Hausswolff.
Please take the time to listen and enjoy these recent instalments in a fantastic podcast series. You can subscribe to Touch Radio via iTunes or you can stream all episodes directly from the Touch iPhone app (which I helped make—sorry that I still haven’t posted about that!).
Many thanks to Mike Harding for his continued encouragement of my artistic pursuits as well as to Jon Wozencroft for always having been a visual inspiration to me.
Do you like pubs? I like pubs. Who doesn’t like pubs?
When I lived in London, I spent most of my time in them. As you do.
The good people at Touch have just released the latest installment in their exceptional Touch Radio podcast series, Pub. They were kind enough to pay me the honor of using the above photograph of mine as the visual counterpart to this episode. As a longtime follower of their always brilliant releases, I am massively thrilled to have my work presented alongside theirs.
The recording is of secret origin, but I do know one thing that I am permitted to tell you: it was recorded in a London pub. It’s Friday, so have a pint of ale, listen to Pub and allow yourself to enter this pub. It’s a friendly, lively place.
Another pint of Adnams, please!
October turned out to be quite a busy live music month for me. Covering more than two gigs in any given week is a bit overwhelming, but this past month had almost the perfect amount of activity: enough to make me feel like a healthy, socially functional member of society, but not so much so that I fell behind on Boardwalk Empire.
From the classic indie sounds of The Vaselines to the plodding terror of Swans and from the dark new wave pop of Gary Numan to the 1-bit electronic minimalism of Tristan Perich, a diverse range of talent passed in front of my lens. Although I shot all these events for Gapers Block: Transmission and my photographs appear in the respective reviews there, here’s a quick look back at the highlights:
It wasn’t long after returning to Chicago that I found myself wanting to shoot gigs again. Whilst living in London, I had the pleasure of reporting on a wide range of music events, including the Melvins, Fennesz, Dan Deacon, Gravetemple and Philip Jeck. Some of these I covered in words and all of them I covered in pictures. The main focus of my photography isn’t gigs by any means, but as a life-long music lover, it inevitably became a part of it.
I’ve always been a fan of the venerable Chicago blog Gapers Block, so when the opportunity arose to join the staff of their music section, Transmission, I jumped at it. Technically I’m part of their photography staff, as I joined to shoot gigs and let others write about them. When there are, however, events about which I’m so passionate that I also must say a few words, I wear both caps. Such was the case with the first annual Sónar Chicago this past weekend, where in the end I produced three reviews and a handful of snaps. They are all up on the site now, so please do have a read and a look. Cheers!
“Vanity Records in Osaka was one of the unforgettable hallmarks of the early Japanese underground music scene of the late-70’s. This label was founded by Yuzuru Agi, the music critic/editor of ROCK MAGAZINE. Agi was a sort of alternative visionary with a superb talent to assess new musical modes at a time when blues and West Coast-style rock still dominated the local music scene. He was also responsible for cloning the Japlish term “techno-pop” – which he used to describe Eno-produced bands like Talking Heads and DEVO – that later became internationally known via Yellow Magic Orchestra. Inspired by punk and the flood of indie labels that swept New York and London, Agi started Vanity Records in 1978, releasing 11 LPs, 3 singles, 12 flexis, and 6 cassettes between ’78 and ’82 (each release limited to 300-500 copies).”
– Satoru Higashiseto from Music No. 2, 1998.
If you’ve ever extensively scoured the outer limits of a musical genre, then you understand the fear that one day you’ll run out of new discoveries from your chosen obsession. Long ago I thought I’d reached that point with late 70s / early 80s electronic music and post-punk, but thanks to a handful of brilliant blogs, I was recently proven wrong.
Every single track I’ve heard on Vanity Records is fantastic, which is more than I can say about even Factory or Rough Trade. Minimal, electronic and anxious, the closest contemporary of theirs that I can think of would be Germany’s Ata Tak, although Vanity’s releases feel colder and more alien than that. Had Raster-Noton existed in 1980, this might be what they would have sounded like. It’s a tragedy that no current label has begun a proper reissue campaign covering all of their releases, but thankfully some dedicated individuals have made vinyl and cassette rips available.
Since I had to spend several hours tracking each of these albums down across several sites, I thought it would be helpful to assemble a master list here for anyone looking to explore this remarkable label’s discography. I’ve refrained from posting the direct Rapidshare/Mediafire/etc links and instead direct you to the original posts, because each of these blogs deserves your time and, after this, I’m sure you’ll count yourself among their regular readers.
I haven’t found any of the flexis, but you’ll find links to the 11 LPs, 3 singles and 6 cassettes below, which will keep you busy for quite some time. If I find the flexis, I’ll update this post with links, but if you find them first, please tell me in the comments. I’ve also included links to a few records that weren’t on Vanity, but are related enough to deserve your attention.
Please note that I didn’t write the descriptions below, rather they were taken from Satoru Higashiseto’s feature in Music No. 2. I found them in the comments of Mutant Sounds‘ post on the Aunt Sally LP, and I’m not even familiar with the original magazine they were found in. If you have a copy or can point me to some further information about it, I’d love to check it out.
DADA: JYO (Vanity 0001/LP/1978) Drawing inspiration from German electronic music, Fripp & Eno and Heldon, Dada (Kenji Konishi and Mutsuhiko Izumi) infused synth and guitar driven sounds with gagaku-inspired drones to achieve a sort of Oriental lyricism. The band subsequently released the album DADA (King ’81) before splitting. Meanwhile, Konishi formed 4D, shifting his direction towards techno dance music, while Izumi joined the jazz-rock group Kennedy, and later After Dinner.
SAB: CRYSTALIZATION (Vanity 0002/LP/1978) A 19-year-old Sab produced this spacey-electronic music almost entirely by himself using multiple recoring and such instruments as guitar, synth, and various electronics. Here, Sab creates crystal-clear electronic music comparable to Magical Power Mako, Kitaro, and the Sky label. Pre-new age music. Since this talented musician went to India, nobody has known his whereabouts.
AUNT SALLY: AUNT SALLY (Vanity 0003/LP/1979) Aunt Sally’s debut album incorporates waltz and tango into rock, evocative of pre-war European nostalgia with excellent literary lyrics. This high school band consisting of three girls and two boys had an idiosyncratic presence in the local Osaka punk/new wave scene. After the band’s brief existence, the vocalist Phew went solo and released several albums including: PHEW (Pass ’81), OUR LIKENESS (Mute ’92), BLIND LIGHT/ABSENCE OF TIME (Alida ’94).
TOLERANCE: ANONYM (Vanity 0004/LP/1979) The sound of this artist duo (Junko Tange and Masami Yoshikawa) from Tokyo was abstract and monolithic, using electronics, guitar, piano, and vocal. Nurse With Wound supposedly took the phrase, “To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl,” from this album sleeve for the title of their second album.
MORIO AGATA: NORIMONO ZUKAN (Vanity 0005/LP/1980) Morio Agata is a folk-rock singer, known for his “Red Elegy” which became a huge hit in 1972. Joined by various musicians – including Phew, Yukio Fujimoto, Jun Kitada (Inu), Taiqui (Ultrabide/pre-Hijokaidan), and Chic [Chie] Mukai – Agata produced electro-pop music fused with his unique song world. Low-tech, yet experimental, this musical project was sort of similar to Neil Young’s TRANS. Agata is now active as a film director and actor, as well as a musician. Takehisa Kosugi played violin for his album EL JAGUAR DEL BANDONEON.
RNA ORGANISM: R.N.A.O Meet P.O.P.O (Vanity 0006/LP/1980) Receiving a cassette tape from RNA Organism by air-mail, Agi mistakenly thought that they were from overseas and highly acclaimed the band in ROCK MAGAZINE; however, it was a clever ploy from by Kaoru Sato from Kyoto. This album is amazing dub music with funky bass, noise guitar, trumpet and rhythm machine – sort of like a heavier version of Andy Partridge’s TAKE AWAY. Subsequently the group changed its name to EP-4, which became known for its guerilla live performances as well as simultaneously releasing its debut album from both major and indie labels. Meanwhile, Sato disappeared from the music scene in the mid-1980s.
SYMPATHY NERVOUS: SYMPATHY NERVOUS (Vanity 0007/LP/1980) Using a self-designed computer system called “Universal Character Generator,” Sympathy Nervous produced an interesting fusion of industrial noise and dance music. The music sounded low-tech, but it was full of interesting ideas and imagination. Analogous to Daniel Miller’s Normal and Thomas Leer & Robert Rental, Sympathy Nervous was prototypical of “bedroom techno.” Along with the techno upsurge of the 1990s, they reentered the music scene, releasing their music from the Belgian KK label.
B.G.M: BACK GROUND MUSIC (Vanity 0008/LP/1980) Similar to ESG and Liquid Liquid this high school band played new wave garage funk. As with Sympathy Nervous, the leader of the band Takayuki Shiraishi reappeared to the techno scene of the 90s under the name of Planetroid, releasing Detroit techno influenced works.
NORMAL BRAIN: LADY MADE (Vanity 0009/LP/1980) Normal Brain was a project of Yukio Fujimoto, using electronic gadgets like analog-synth, rhythm machine, and Speak & Spell. His music was intelligent and witty, traversing the fine line between modern art and pop. Fujimoto’s minimalist approach also had a child-like playfulness and elegance, conceptually paralleling the music of early-Kraftwerk or Eno. Currently, Fujimoto is active as sound artist, producing sound objects and installations.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: MUSIC (Vanity 0010-11/2LP/1981) This box set includes a two LP compilation of various home-recorded materials, in addition to a postcard and numbered armband. It features 13 groups – Pessimist, Unable Mirror, MR, Anode/Cathode, Kiiro Radical, Tokyo, Daily Expression, Plasma Music, Nose, New York, Arbeit, Isolation, Nectar Low – that were totally anonymous and obscure. Most of the selections are low-fi electronic music with lots of interesting ideas, which are quite entertaining as well.
TOLERANCE: DIVINE (Vanity 0012/LP/1981) Tolerance, the only band that released a second album from Vanity, continued the musical explorations of their debut album on DIVINE. Driven by their uniquely female sensibilities, they produced an interestingly mysterious sound. Soon thereafter, Tolerance/Junko Tange disappeared from the scene. Incidentally, Agi picked this album as his favorite from the label.
Flexis (Supplement to ROCK MAGAZINE)
Max V. Mathews: “The Magnetic Fields of The Earth” (Vanity 2001/’79)
Brian Eno: “The Voice of Brian Eno” (Vanity 2002/’79)
Morio Agata: “Koi No Radio City” (Vanity 2003/’80)
Normal Brain: “Frottage” (Vanity 2004/’80)
Tolerance: “Today’s Thrill” (Vanity 2005/’80)
Hovlakin: “Pelakin Girl” (Vanity 2006/’80)
Kurt Schwitters: “Phone Tisch Poesie” (Vanity 8101/’81)
System: “Love Song” (Vanity 8102/’81)
B. C. Gilbert & G. Lewis: “Cross, Grow, Prayer” (Vanity 8103/’81)
Die Krupps: “June 6, ’81, Krefeld” (Vanity 8104/’81)
Furious Pig: “June 3, ’81, The Venue, London” (Vanity 8105/’81)
Related releases not on Vanity Records
Sympathy Nervous: Apple Head – (cassette tape, 1995, Japan, 150 copies)
Symapthy Nervous/Anemic Session: OUTPUT Vol. 1 7″ (Out Put D-0001, 1981)
MLD: Perpetual Motion 7″ (Kitchen Records DRUM 2, 1983)
Various Artists: Foam (YLEM YDL 0000, 1981)
If you love electronic music, Twitter and OS X, you need to download Tweet-a-Sound immediately. It’s a MAX/MSP-based synthesizer for OS X that’s tricked out to tweet! It’s a not sonic Twitpic, either. Rather than simply turn your creation into an audio file and linking to it, it sends it as text. If someone wants to hear the sound you’ve made, all they have to do is copy it from their web browser or Twitter client and paste it into Tweet-a-Sound. The application uses this long and rather cryptic string of numbers to set the appropriate parameters on the synth and play it.
You can produce sounds that last anywhere from 0.1 seconds all the way to a full minute. When you’re finished fiddling with frequencies and your waveform is ready for transmission, you can either send the tweet straight from Tweet-a-Sound or copy it and paste it into the Twitter client of your choice. Messages are prepended with #tas so that other synth geeks can find your work easily with a simple search.
I made a few sounds with it, the source of which you can also find with a Twitter search. I’ve also made mp3s of two of them if you’d just rather listen here.
The first sound is exactly how Tweet-a-Sound plays it, I only boosted the volume slightly in post-production.
Forecast For You From 127a [audio:forecast127a.mp3|titles=Forecast For You From 127a|artists=Dave Knapik]
For this next one, instead of making the sound and then playing it back once to record the direct output, I used Tweet-a-Sound to restart its playback periodically. I also changed parameters on the synth whilst it was playing. This audio file cannot be expressed in a tweet, of course, as only its initial settings can, but it shows that you can use the application for more than its main intended purpose.
The Dragon Kills St. George [audio:theDragonKillsStGeorge.mp3|titles=The Dragon Kills St. George|artists=Dave Knapik]