18 June 2018

Trevor Barre's "Convergences, Divergences & Affinities" Book Review

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I know that this review of this (yet another) great book by Trevor Barre is very late in the game of review-dom as it was published about a year ago. This is because I only got round to diving into it just. Understand that the book, together with its predecessor - Beyond Jazz are now out of print! Well done for two invaluable resources on one of the least commercialised and under-documented music genres, free improvisation aka free improve or simply Improv.

A few things about the book:
1.       Sprawling (in a good way) – instead of a more linear narrative like its prequel, Barre opted for a more critical and sidewinding approach. Myriad interconnections to the larger political-socio-economic contexts, a-thousand-plateau like networked threads joining the especially creatively/musically promiscuous (in the best sense of the word) 2nd generation practitioners like Beresford, Toop, Coxhill and Day with the worlds of punk, post-punk, world and what-have-you parallel musical micro-verses from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Open-mindedness stood out as a most commendable trait of these chaps especially back before the whole idea of human decency in the forms of racial and sexual equality were still in their nascent stage as Rock Against Racism and Spare Ribs were still struggling upstream to be seen, heard and absorbed into the minds of people. Perhaps musical openness is a requisite prerequisite for open-mindedness in general?

2.       Sectarianism – well on the other hand, the uglier side of human nature reared itself quite apparently as well. Barre’s tracing of the various squabbles amongst the first gen, second gen and inter-gen via the making/breaking of collaboration (Incus Records), joint venture (Musics magazine) and even gigging came out strong and pungent too. No criticism on the chaps then, as it is human, all too human. But with historical hindsight, it is good to be aware and beware of such trappings as the devotees and practitioners were struggling with contextual challenges, creative and aesthetic flag-staking in the quicksand of the moment as well as the shaping of such a revolutionary then new genre when it was still trying to decide if it should remove the shackles of its history or to maintain some sort of a begrudging nodal link to the past. Tough.

3.       Affirmation – The book is after all, an affirmation of the genre/musical movement/creative conception as it is still around with us today. Its reach global, its fans manifold (relatively) more, its practitioners diverse and cross-generational. The fact that the book is now out of print physically speak volume of the above situation. Just like one of its closer neighbouring genres, Noise or noise, depending on one’s standpoint, the definition of what free improvisation is is illusive and constrictive simultaneously. But Barre pins it by attributing the UK as one of the key source springs of the genre/movement and kudos to him and all the practitioners and more.

My ending notes come in a singular question:
Will there be a book three a la a trilogy tracking the development of free improvisation in the 1980s and even the 1990s? I hope so…

03 June 2018

HARRY PUSSY "A Real New England Fuck Up" Not a Review but a Redress

Was blasting Harry Pussy’s A Real New England Fuck Up LP recently. And I was indignantly wondering: “Where the hell are the raving reviews for this brain-melting live document of one of the most irreverent and severely underrated groups of all time? Where is David Keenan? Where is Byron Coley? Where are the saliva dripping, mentally retarding and reflexes halting descriptions about how great the band was in those two gigs which they once again annihilated those present and those who has the fortune to blast it in their home systems?”

Side A’s “T.T. Bears, Cambridge, MA 1996” is a blistering bluster from start to finish. With a grossly pissed off Adris Hoyos over her drum kit missing or something like that prior to getting on stage to set it ablaze. It didn’t seem to matter as she was in negative adrenalized top form with extra vitriolic bile thrown in for good measure. Free jazz meets Hardcore? Free Hardcore? Or simply what Hardcore should be like in an alternatively perfect world where Minutemen should be kings, Husker Du should be kings and Flipper should be changeling princes like Loki?

Flipping the vinyl over and barely recovering from the almost asthma like kinda hyperventilation, Side B’s “WUOG, Athens, GA 1994” just takes you to the ultra zone of free-for-all. Hoyos rules but Bill Orcutt is the champ on this side. Buzzing guitar sprays of inhumanity taking the listener for a ride. Gravity-defying blitzkrieg of atonal futurism which Marinetti and Russolo could only have dreamt of in their deepest recesses of their sub-consciousness.

It baffles me that I have not come across any reviews on this slab of molten lava hot piece of plastic. It baffles me that they were so underappreciated when they were around and long after they were gone. Hipsters might be googoo gaga over Orcutt’s solo outings in the recent decade and rightfully so but to me Harry Pussy were the real frigging and freaking deal of 1990s skulduggery. May they blitz on in an alternative universe and cleanse it of all the idiots and dunkheads who populate the real world we are sadly living in.

08 March 2018

Flux Us Record Shop SG Recent Mentions...

More than thirteen years ago, the impulsive author of this blog set up a hole-in-a-wall record shop in Singapore with his partner-in-crime, Harold Seah. Situated on the top floor of the still-standing Peninsula Shopping Centre in town, it was supposed to be a hole-in-the-wall operation. We wanted to sell stuff which were not carried by all, if not most other local record shops here (yes,there were quite a lot back then; and we stocked quite a fair bit of vinyl too, before the mini-renaissance of vinyl in the recent decade).

Then we started hosting in-store gigs for musician friends and friends of friends on the suggestions of our friends who helped much in the set-up of the shop (who chipped in in terms of design work, paint job, manning the store behind the counter, running the in-store gigs and so forth). Jazkamer, Lucas Abela, Zai Kunning, Kevin Guoh, Leslie Low, Goh Lee Kwang, Lawrence English (I might have misremembered some and left out some here...).

We also did a gig at the Victoria Theatre thanks to our friend who was a manager there which hosted the NZ musicians Antony Milton and Birchville Cat Motel.

We made many new friends and deepened existing friendships. It was, as the cliche goes, a trip...

Recently there were two mentions of this modest operation of us in two quite different contexts. The first was related to the death of Jóhann Jóhannsson's death. Our friend, musician Ricks Ang paying a tribute to Jóhann Jóhannsson which he started off with where he first heard the music of this musician

The second mention is part of the liner notes to the recent release of another two of our friends, musicians Lasse Marhaug and Yuen Chee Wai.  Support them and buy a copy... good stuff there. Yuen, by the way, was the designer behind our store logo, flyers, posters and visuals. 

Brings back some memories... 

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18 December 2017

Z'EV & Sunny Murray R.I.P.

Another year, another passing of the old avant-guards. Two influential and vital artists who happened to be in the field of rhythms passed on within days of each other's departures.

First, Sunny Murray, who was one of the key percussionists, who revolutionised and liberated the sense of time and movement in jazz back in the 1960s and continued to exert an undeniable impact on jazz and many forms of modern music genres. In the company of illustrious giants like Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor, Murray's pulses were integral to the modern music.

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Next, Z'EV, who had always been associated with the early Industrial music movement but he was more. A poet, a writer, a modern composer, field recordist and a polymath. When I first got hold of his seminal anthology, 
1968-1990: One Foot In The Grave
 back in the early 2000s, I was deeply shocked and moved by his wealth of ideas and creativity exhibited in the plethora of projects he was in since the 1970s. By turns esoteric, expansive, spiky, inquisitive and sensitive, he continued this relentless creativity of his up to his last days.

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27 November 2017

Best of 2017

A year of nonsense and intolerable global happenings... musically it has also been lacklustre but a few releases captured my audial attention to make this year bearable...

Keiji Haino/Jim O'Rourke/Oren Ambarchi - This Dazzling, Genuine "Difference" Now Where Shall It Go?

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Damien Dubrovnik - Great Many Arrows

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Run The Jewels - 3

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Bjork - Utopia

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Die Krupps - Stahlwerk Requiem


Godflesh - Post Self

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Jasss - Weightless

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My Top 3:

3. Tanya Tagaq - Retribution

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2. Converge - The Dusk In Us

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1. Pan Daijing - Lack

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These are my two favourite record labels for the past, maybe, 18 months or so?

Buh Records (Peru)

Modern Sky Records (China)

Re-issues of the Year:
3. Brother Ah
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Brother Ah- Sound Awareness

2. Lou Reed
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1. Cosey Fanni Tutti
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1. Husker Du
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09 October 2017

AMM's Lou Gare, RIP

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1939 - 2017

Another very important musical figure passed on recently: Lou Gare of seminal free music ensemble, AMM.

AMM have been a very important node in my journey through the multiple fields of experimental/avant garde music for the past two decades. First hearing their "laminar" (as coined by Evan Parker, another free music great) music in the form of their mid 1970s duo album, To Hear And Back Again was a head scratching but deeply enthralling experience. It was either 1998 or 1999 when I heard it. Needless to say it confirmed my resolve to look for other albums from the group, especially their first, AMM Music and the sort-of career retrospective, Laminal.

The rapid passing of many such pioneers in recent years means that we need the next generations to step out and up. John Butcher and Seymour Wright keep it up and I hope to see more such talented artists in the years to come.

17 September 2017

Holger Czukay (CAN) & Grant Hart (Hüsker Dü) R.I.P. and some humble and humbling thoughts

Two great, visionary bands, from different decades but influential nonetheless, lost a member each from their esteemed rhythm section. Holger Czukay from the Can...

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and Grant Hart from Hüsker Dü

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I do not think I have much to add to the torrent of words in honour of them since the news broke of their passing. It just that my recent posts consist of obituaries of such. As a counterpoint that, I have not really raved about newer heroic acts in this space. Either I am getting old or there is a need to rethink what it means to be exciting new music in the current era.

I am still pretty stoked about Jasss or  Let's Eat Grandma in recent months but my main strokes of satisfaction or excitation come mainly from revisiting older but still ignored stuff from the jazz, free improv, extreme metal, tape scene and modern classical fields. When I receive the latest issue of The Wire, I usually zoom in at the Boomerang and Print Run sections rather than the general reviews. Anyone wants to enlighten me on this?