Archive for the ‘Esoterica’ Category

Death to the traitors, death to the traitors, death to the tra-ai-tors.

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Canadian Cultural Worker’s Committee: “Death to the Traitors” from The Party is the Most Precious Thing, 1979.

This album is a real thing that exists, and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) was officially Hoxhaist and aligned with Albania. The “traitors” in question are “revisionists”. (I know way too much of the jargon for someone who hasn’t ever been a commie.) This song may or may not quite be the perfect counter to neo-Nazi influence in neofolk.

It’s the sort of thing WFMU used to post to their marvellous esoterica blog. They never posted this one, though they did post Jack Paar on “fairies and communists”. HT donjuan-auxenfers.

Scott Walker and the freedom to go seriously weird.

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Listened to Scott Walker’s 1984 comeback Climate of Hunter again recently. It’s a strange record, but Scott went strange pretty much as soon as he could. After his early pop hits with the Walker Brothers, he took the chance to make his individual vision obvious by the time of Scott 3 and Scott 4 in the late 1960s. He tried consciously mainstream records in the early ’70s that nobody bought, followed by an abortive Walker Brothers reunion, so Climate of Hunter has that “fuck it” that so often signals something good.

Even stranger is that someone at 96fm — the most popular, definition of mainstream radio station in Perth at the time — liked it enough to put “Track Three” into rotation. Next to the hourly Cold Chisel and Supertramp and Foreigner and Chicago. (I’m guessing Des Shaw or Steve Gordon, they were two DJs who notably actually liked music and would just drop weird shit into the rotation.)

I mentioned this on Facebook a while ago, and it turns out Pat Monaghan knew the A&R guy at Virgin who signed Scott. They were sincerely expecting Walker Brothers-style accessibility, and were more than somewhat disconcerted at what Scott delivered. To their credit, Virgin did actually try pretty hard to push it, fillum clip for “Track Three” and all. Here’s Scott on British television trying to be a helpful and friendly pop musician and looking a bit out of place.

He was dropped from Virgin in pretty short order and did nothing for a decade. Then an album in 1995 and an album in 2006, with one every few years since. These records are finest “holy shit what the fuck is that” from note one. Just the way we like it.

Edit: Steve Gordon notes: “I think that was before I got there David, so we can give Des the credit for that one (he was the Music Director). He did occasionally surprise with something weird. I had pretty much lost hope in Scott after those bloody awful Engelbert Humperdinck-like albums from the ’70’s that you mentioned.”

The original song for the worst hold music ever has been found.

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

The original song the ultimate hold music was built around has been found. It’s called, of course, “Picture Perfect”.

He told me that this song was so good, that he’s going to be very rich and planned to break up with his girlfriend right away … I ended telling him I never heard anything like it, and it was unique.

(If I’m being super-generous I can hear what the guy’s trying to get at. Kurt Cobain could probably have done a version that wasn’t a complete abomination, for example. Why he would is another question.)

And, as a YouTube commenter notes, “If you sound the sound to at 1.5 times speed it sounds lik Pink Floyd.”

The ultimate hold music.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Spotted in The Register:

I get 20 sales calls a day at least, as our organization is relatively large. All of them are unsolicited, and they use shady tactics to make it past the receptionist.

So yesterday, in the middle of a team meeting, an emergency call came through the IT support hotline, interrupting our meeting. One of our help desk guys picks up and it’s a sales guy claiming that he had just been chatting with me, the IT Director, and wanted to be transferred through so he could “finish the conversation.”

This was obviously untrue, as I had just arrived in the office, and I don’t take sales calls. The help desk guy asked if I wanted him passed through to my voicemail, and I said: “I’d prefer that you transfer them straight to hell instead. In fact, we should have a special queue called Hell, playing the most obnoxious music over and over again.” The guys start joking: “It could be playing Barney.” “It could be playing ‘The Song that Never Ends’.” “It could be playing a detuned or desynchronized version of a Smash Mouth song.”

Our seasoned help desk vet says: “I have just the thing!” and plays the most god-awful song I’ve heard in my life. Everything in the department stops, and then everyone busts out laughing. We are actually a well-oiled IT team – we’ve worked together for years. My background is in film soundtracks and audio production, and my senior network admin’s is in broadcast radio audio engineering.

We all just suddenly started working on it like we would any other problem – our help desk guy is converting the song to WAV, our senior netadmin is logging into the phone system and downloading some audio editing software, and I started working on the synthetic voice. I had actually been writing an automation the day before using PowerShell, Microsoft’s built-in management scripting engine. I had found a speech synthesizer module built into every version of Windows, and I had been running it against groups of remote computers so that they would all begin speaking at once – it was kind of creepy.

I pull up that script from the day before and started creating the text that would be turned into the voice you hear in the recording. We were sending material back and forth, and our senior netadmin was handling the sequencing and mastering. Literally every person in our department was contributing in one way or another – it was really a team effort, and I’m proud to have built such a strong collaborative, business-oriented team (haha). We decided to start off with the audio at one-quarter volume, and then we ran it a 100 times through an amplifier plugin in order to break the digital clipping barrier and create that “nails on chalkboard” effect.

We edited and snipped the audio, pitched shifted a few things, and generally set out to make literally the worst recording ever. Once finished, we uploaded it to the phone server and created the queue to repeat eternally. We assigned it extension number 666. Once in the queue, any button you press once in this queue restarts the recording. Our new department policy is: when sales people call they are to be transferred straight to hell.

I’m working on a follow up script that will notify us via email when someone breaks a record for holding the longest – we’ll see which companies want our business the most, and I only hope that I can reach out and touch these salespeople in the same way that they touch me every day. We threw this up on Reddit, but also shared it with our friends.

Extension 666 was the extension used most in our office yesterday.

I’ve spent thirty years listening out for the most obnoxious and intolerable sounds available. The music that will ruin your world in thirty seconds. I like to think I know a thing or two about this general field of endeavour, if you will. I’d mark this as a contender. Be sure to turn it up.

Today’s links.

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Doctor Who goes disco. Delia, we are so very sorry.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

The Doctor Who theme has of course been done in every possible style. Today we have disco versions from Space Disco and Mankind. But the most instructive example is by Ron Grainer, the original composer. The version we know and love was of course arranged by Delia Derbyshire, who did so well with it that Grainer tried to get her a co-credit. But on this record, The Exciting Television Music of Ron Grainer (1980), we finally get to hear what Grainer would have done with the theme given a free hand. It’s … remarkable.

After that, you’ll probably want to cleanse the skull palate with Bill Bailey’s “Belgian Jazz” take.

(HT donjuan-auxenfers and ambiguations)

Alvin and the Chipmunks at 16rpm.

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Retrospectively obvious, but this is what Alvin and the Chipmunks sound like at 16rpm: normal vocals with GRIND CORE DEATH SLUDGE DRONE music. That being how they were actually recorded. I think we’ve uncovered Sunn O)))’s secret past.

This is pretty awesome, but playing records at 16rpm generally is. Quite a lot of pop music benefits markedly from this. When I first bought “Blue Monday” (in 1983 at age 16) I played it multiple times a day for several months … at 16, 33, 45 and 78. Wore out my copy. (Then sold it second-hand at UWA to some poor bugger.) 16rpm “The Beach” (the B-side) is twenty minutes of top notch death disco. “Computer Games” by Mi-Sex also works amazingly well. (That link’s full speed, but I’m sure you can do the obvious with it.)

You can do this in Audacity with the transcription toolbar. Load your victim, double-click on the playback thing, set it to play at 0.37 of full speed, hit the green triangle next to it.

(I wrote this and started playing “The Beach” at 0.37x and seeing how long before the wife killed me. Made it to 7:00 on the original! Which is 19 minutes of this stuff. Longer than I expected. Dead now. But so worth it.)


Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Links links links.

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Today’s links.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Links for your delectation.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

The Church of Scientology has its own kiddie pop groups.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

As if the Scientology rap wasn’t enough, Tonedeaf gives us Kids Of Today For A Better World. “In time we’ll become the leaders of the brand new world.” You weren’t using those ears for anything, were you?

Why we love repetition in music.

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains. Do anything repeatedly and it is music. And even if you consciously avoid repetition, listeners in studies consistently rate the same piece with a bit of repetition inserted higher than the version without.

The levels of musical appreciation.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

From The Dark Side Of The Room. I’ll note that Rocknerd has already reached the later levels. HT Ms45.

Macaulay Culkin has formed a pizza-related Velvet Underground tribute band.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

That is all. Available on Bandcamp.

Black MIDI is not as cool as it sounds, but is still pretty cool.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

When presented with a new musical technology, the first question that occurs to a certain sort of mind is “what happens if I press all the buttons?” People used to do this with pianola rolls (particularly Conlon Nancarrow and his studies for player piano); now they do it with piano-sound synthesizers, controlled by hand-tweaked MIDI files. “Black” because that’s what the manuscript rendering looks like.

The current wave was started by kakakakaito1998 on YouTube; now it’s a scene. Unfortunately, much of what you hear in the result is artifacts of synthesis; it would be interesting to hear some of these on a physical player piano.

Update: Of course, some are not fans.

Beethoven’s 9th on Russian doll theremin.

Monday, September 30th, 2013

From NPR: So here’s Beethoven’s 9th played on 167 theremins built inside Russian dolls. Oh, and wait for the boogie, about 1:20. HT Liam Proven.

The Twinkle Variations.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Scott Bradlee takes you through the history of recorded music, as expressed via “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.

A Lord Horror timeline.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Well, that was certainly a thing. I was a teenage Joy Division/New Order obsessive, and for many years I’ve found covers of them inherently hilarious. There were two legendary obscurities that could not be found in the record shops at the far edge of the world under any circumstances, and still remain so obscure you won’t even find copies on YouTube. I present for your delight the Savoy Hitler Youth Band combining “Blue Monday” with Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” and the shuddering majesty of P.J. Proby’s truly remarkable take on “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. You can thank me later.

(The tracks are from an interview with David Britton of Savoy Records by Simon Sellars, one of the three greatest J.G. Ballard fans in the world and compiler of the superb Extreme Metaphors, a just-released book of Ballard interviews that pretty much everyone should read.)

The struggle for existence.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

So much for the argument from design. Computational biologist Bob MacCallum at Imperial College had too much time on his hands was inspired to push back the boundaries of musical knowlege, so set up a system to generate random sinewave tones, then run it through public opinion testing at DarwinTunes. “The higher-rated loops get to have sex and make baby loops.” After three thousand generations, it even evolved a kick drum. He’s got it into Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Evolution of music by public choice”.

Now this is just silly.

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Feel like brushing up on your Beatles, but don’t have all day to listen to all 226 recorded tracks? Ramjac has helpfully put together all the tracks playing simultaneously, sequenced in order of lengths, with the longest starting first and all 226 tunes ending together.

The world’s ugliest 88 notes.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

An earnest attempt to construct the world’s mathematically ugliest music. (Several minutes intro, then the tune.) Personally I think this fails to correctly ascertain what constitutes “ugly”: it fails to precisely jar against all human thinking. Though past attempts along those lines have resulted in works that have been hugely influential despite their superpowers of making people hate them. I was playing Metal Machine Music at work today, ‘cos it’s perfect for keeping the workplace jibber-jabber at bay.

UbuWeb is your finest cultural value.

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

UbuWeb is an archive of avant-garde text, music and film operating on the basis of putting up unavailable stuff and taking it down as and when asked. They don’t take donations or sponsorship and serving is donated by various universities.

And you can guess what happens: artists decide they really want to be there even if their stuff is commercially available. There’s some controversy over this, but on the whole it’s loved and accepted. And as he says, if they asked permission for everything it wouldn’t exist. Go there and download to your bandwidth cap and beyond.

And now there’s a lovely interview with the founder, New York poet Kenneth Goldsmith, who says: put up more UbuWebs and make this one irrelevant. He’s right. Why aren’t you? Why aren’t I?

WFMU launches the Free Music Archive.

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

WFMU is a fine New York-based “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT”-format public radio station. They have a blog with a fine selection of the weird goddamn shit they broadcast. And now, they have, in collaboration with a few likeminded radio stations and organisations, launched the Free Music Archive: “It’s not just free music, it’s good music.” Go forth and get downloading like a bastard.

Artist’s shit.

Monday, April 27th, 2009

This week, the cheap shitty MP3 player is filled with improvised noise. I have entirely too high a tolerance for this sort of thing if it’s the right genre, in this case early industrial — all those albums from the eighties released in limited editions of a few hundred for the Artist’s Shit market.

Artist\'s Shit by Piero Manzoni

You might be suffering from Artist’s Shit if:

  • you’ve bought a box set of anything ever, particularly ten or more live recordings by one band.

  • you have MP3s of twenty remixes of any single song.
  • you have over twenty gigabytes of MP3s you haven’t listened to yet, and if you do it’ll be once in your life and probably never again.
  • you bought all the Damage Manual remix albums Martyn Atkins is pushing on eMusic.
  • you bought the supar l33t everything edition of Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails.
  • you have a copy of “The Laughing Gnome” for any reason other than to sell it on.

Recovery involves realising (a) you cannot buy souls on a record (b) you wouldn’t want to if you could.

Some music was much more fun to make than it will ever be to listen to. “Oh no, the Tombliboos are under the delusion they’re Miles Davis or equivalent! You are not Miles Davis and nor are these people.

p.s.: the NWW list contains vast vistas of suction by any sane measure.

Bullshit 3¼.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Today’s music is Bullshit 3¼, a 1970 psychedelic prog album in Hebrew (with titles in English) by Danny ben Israel. The music is deeply fucked up and smoking remarkable quantities of crack in all sorts of ways. It could be just what I needed.

Update: In lab tests, this album really, really annoys Lady Gaga-loving teenagers when you put it on as housecleaning music.

Ich habe der fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn blues.

Friday, July 18th, 2008

A pile of tapes by Delia Derbyshire — that’s Miss Blind Lemon Radiophonic Workshop herself — have shown up retrieved from her attic. Proper electronic music, from back when you needed to build the damn thing before you played it — “I think she got a bit disheartened and a bit bored with it all when the synthesizer came along and it all became a little too easy.” The tapes are being prepared for wider release.

The dream world of Dion McGregor.

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Dion McGregor was the most prolific somniloquist in recorded history. A somniloquist, or voluble dreamer, is a person that talks during their sleep. Dion is unique due to the way in which he sleep-talked. Rather than mumbling random incoherent words like most sleep-talkers, Dion narrated his dreams eloquently at a conversational tone, making them an incredible and surreal experience for the listener.

Through the 1950s, Dion McGregor’s roommate Mike Barr got up at seven o’clock every morning and taped Dion’s surreal narrations; in March 1963 he passed on 150 tapes of material to Nancy Green, who in turn played them to her husband Jules L. Green. Struck by the surreal yet coherent nature of the material, Green sold the idea to Decca of releasing the material as an album; and in 1964 Decca released The Dream World Of Dion McGregor (He Talks In His Sleep).

Out of 150 tapes’ worth of material, 10 tracks made it onto the album – and you can download the tracks as MP3s here. There is also a MySpace page.