I’ve been re-reading and reviewing quite a lot of stuff that’s quite central to the way I think about music, art, culture, etc. Following a deep delve into Luigi Russolo and the Futurists I somehow made my way to overhauling what I knew (or thought I knew) about electronic music in Germany. Following a brief mention in David Stubbs’ superb Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany, I chased down this wonderful piece of music which, unbeknown to me, I already sort of knew (see below).
Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 is just so good on so many levels. The same two chords for nearly an hour. No explicit melody to speak of. Sequenced. Improvised. Technological and synthetic but wholly organic. Ambient but great to dance to. It even has a long guitar solo, and, man, I can’t tell you how far I would usually go to avoid one of those. But the track just feels great.
The icing on the cake for me is this, taken from the sleeve notes:
At the end of 1981, when I came back from a long tour (with Klaus Schultze) I still felt ‘in a concert mood’ for a few days and so one evening I gave a ‘Manuel Göttsching solo concert’ in my studio, just for myself. I luckily had the reflex to press the red ‘record’ button on the tape machine.
When I listened to the recording afterwards, I was somewhat confused. The music flowed in total balance and even after listening again and again I couldn’t distinguish any flaws or breaks. There weren’t even any of the usual technical glitches such as crackling, dropouts, distortion, or abrupt level changes.
Nothing was too loud or too quiet. Over the years I’d made many session recordings in my studio, but none of them had produced such a perfect and rounded result over this duration and breadth. I found it almost uncanny. And a problem.
After my last release […] I had resolved to produce a new solo LP. I had envisaged an all-encompassing composition for which I had planned a whole year from the development to the finished production. I had already developed a whole range of themes, but they were all loose ends of pieces: the greater overall work was still a long way off.
And here I was with a finished, faultless recording, which I had written, played, and produced within the space of one evening.
What a great story. Any musician would figuratively give their left arms to have this type of wonderful experience. To be in the zone. Not consciously creating, just creating. Letting it just come pouring out. So satisfying, so sweet…
And the reason I already sort of knew it, one of my favourite dance tracks from (ahem) “back in the day”:
Let’s just keep this short: I was not at all impressed with Rachel Whiteread’s work. I found the show to be like wandering through a large and utterly soulless superstore, some surreal marriage of B&Q and Ikea, truly hideous in its lack of emotion.
My comment on the day: one trick pony.
So, leaving my companions cooing and purring behind me I hastily departed for pastures anew. Like the lonely cloud, I wandered romantically and oh so wistfully through the Tate for the next hour or so:
Unknown Artist: The Cholmondley Ladies c.1600-1610
On its last day we managed to catch the Dalí/Duchamp exhibition at the Royal Academy. It wasn’t an entirely satisfying visit—it was pretty busy, there were a lot of exhibits crammed into a relatively small space, and photography was forbidden—but worth it nonetheless.
Firstly because it was an interesting idea to present the work of these two artists together: firm friends in real life but with remarkably different approaches to the artistic endeavour and diametrically opposite strategies for maintaining their public personas.
Secondly, because any opportunity to see The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even should not be spurned (even if this is the Richard Hamilton recreation):
For me, the work of Marcel Duchamp is crucial to understanding the development of art in the twentieth century and beyond. However, I’m not ready to write that piece just yet. Suffice it to say that his work continues to delight, baffle, and infuriate in just about equal measure.
Salvador Dalí is perhaps easier to take the measure of. Looking at the shockingly bad photo above that I took in the RA on Wednesday (under clandestine conditions, I hasten to add), could I direct your attention away from The Bride… to the Dalí painting we can just see toward the upper right-hand corner. This is a small part of his 1958 Madonna, which looking at it now we can see clearly prefigures many of the later developments in Op-Art and Pop Art. Note the “sheet of paper” painted in the top-left corner with a pull-cord hanging from it: even at this distance it looks believably three-dimensional. The painting as a whole is a stunning tour-de-force of optical effects. What ever else we say about him and his weird landscapes, deformed figures, and crazed deviant sexuality, Dalí is a technically brilliant painter!
Also in the show, his Still Life Moving Fast is almost like a sampler (in the old sense of the word), a demonstration of complete technical expertise. Beautifully painted folds in cloth that match any Renaissance master, glass and liquid suspended in mid-air the equal of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, the stunningly lifelike hovering bird and baby cauliflower.
Typically, the question with Dalí is whether the deployment of all this technical skill adds up to anything meaningful…
To kick the New Year off, here’s a New You promo video dating from (gulp!) 1987. I’ve had this sitting around for ages, most obviously in need of a serviceable audio track: as you’ll be able to see time has taken its toll.
Marie Malone: vocals.
Paul Hazel: guitar, keyboards, percussion.
David Westmore: bass.
Ian Cleverley: drums, vibraphone.
[There was also a whole bunch of people playing acoustic guitar in the choruses. Can’t remember who exactly…]
Video filmed and edited by David Stonestreet.
The New You logo and backdrops designed by the Bleach Boys.
Video transferred from VHS tape. The original audio track has been replaced with a recording from the 45rpm single: one pass of noise reduction has been applied.
Song written by Willson/Hazel/Malone.
Produced by Paul Hazel.
Engineered by Martin ‘Crazy’ Pavey.