Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Sparticus Stargazer : Old Hank Schultz / One Nest Rolls After Another

I'm unaware as to the oldest ever person to have made a record; my copy of the excellent The Guinness Book Of Recorded Sound doesn't appear to supply said information, although it does mention that Eubie Blake was recording on his own label into his nineties. I can remember George Burns having a major U.S. hit late in life with I Wish I Was Eighteen Again. Almost certainly, The Sparticus Stargazer could be added to the list of the top dozen; she was ninety when this seven-inch was released by her grandson Ian (a.k.a. DJ Ordeal, and Beef; no surname, by request), on his Sparticus Stargazer imprint (SPARTY 006 - didn't Arista have "SPARTY" as a prefix too ?). Ian's gran's real name was Mary Susannah DeCramer (nee Laughton), called Sue by her friends. Ian enjoyed listening to her speak, thought her accent was interesting. He felt it would satisfy his family to have a recorded snapshot.
The A side is a poem written by Peggy Lee, discovered in her 1990 autobiography and here read to an insistent percussive effect followed by what might a loop of guitar-based music (Ian says that the sounds were extracted from a flamenco and Hawaiian tape); the second track is a Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) poem found on the sleeve of the reissue of Mirror Man, augmented by wiggy electronics and a cuckoo clock (according to Ian, the sounds are instrumental fragments from work by Tino Rossi and The Four Tops). That's one of many Beefheart poems Ian's gran recorded - "I believe she captured the spirit of them superbly." Poem : http://www.freewebs.com/teejo/odd/daypoem.jpg.
Ian brought out two other 45s simultaneous with this release, all with black labels with white stars around the edges and housed in the same lovely die-cut card sleeve showing colourful Russian sweet wrapper designs.
Amongst Ian's numerous wonderful projects have been an extremely limited (ten) vinyl round-up of recordings by singing actors, an area Ian's very partial to and knowledgeable about; a plunderphonics-esque excursion utilising stitched-together fragments of orchestral parts pilfered from Johnny Mathis tracks; a handful of minuscule-edition Supremes-related pressings for diehard completists only; and an L.P. of his own crooning, backing courtesy of one of those play-along discs where one instrument's absent, requiring the listener to fill in. Ian also uses easy listening album sleeves as the basis for his visual art, temporarily masking out the women who so commonly feature on the front sleeves and painting over the text-printed backgrounds against which they pose seductively, luring the prospective purchaser.

Interviews with Ian here : http://www.robotsandelectronicbrains.co.uk/interviews/interviews/dj_ordeal.html
and here : http://www.erasingclouds.com/wk2106ordeal.html.

This is the only image I can find to link to : http://pan.priceminister.es/photo/497690314_M.jpg.

Many thanks to Ian for extra information.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Stock, Hausen & Walkman : Buy Me / Sue Me

Hot Air label, SPME 2.

Silver-labelled and clear-sleeved, this uncoloured see-through 33-revs seven-inch from 1997 comprises eighty-four locked-to-infinity grooves, each a fragment extracted from a larger work - an isolated sung or spoken "me", in fact.
Some sounds are sufficiently distinctive for straight-off identification : there's Ashes To Ashes; Ian Dury's ...Rhythm Stick; the unmistakable voice of Ivor Cutler; The Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard; Television's Marquee Moon; Magazine's The Light Pours Out Of Me; The Beatles' Help and Come Together. Other locks are irritatingly familiar, real tip-of-tongue-sters : we're teased, tantalised but never presented with enough sonic information for that magical brainbox click we so desire.
Whilst I'm in the dark as to S,H & W's motivation behind the forging of this wonderful plaything of a record, this Pop Quiz gone awry, I'd hazard a guess that it's a sarky comment upon the egomania present in much of popular music - the very me, me, me of it all, if you like. Then there's that age-old question of how literally we take the narrator - should we have belief in them, view their words as autobiographical; or is what's in the grooves all just pretence, stuff which presses all the required emotional and consequently commercial buttons ?
I very much enjoy listening to these locks - in particular, the little shard of Marquee Moon has an incredible relentless energy when on ad infinitum repeat. Quite a contrast with the dynamics of its original near-ten minute parent.
I notice that this is the third record in this journal thus far featuring The Beatles, Favorite Recorded Scream and the Roger Miller release being the others, though the latter only incorporates pre-track crackle from a Fabs disc.

Images : http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=209384.

EMI open day souvenir seven-inch

Another unplayable record (see Denkmal write-up :
http://steviecurates.blogspot.com/2009/10/denkmal-old-dog-no-tricks.html
).
This one was pressed (in what quantity ?) by EMI as a special souvenir to commemorate the owner's visit, on their Silver Jubilee year open day, 28th and 29th May 1977. One to file alongside the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen, perhaps, the single is housed in a thin card sleeve which is die-cut, and plain white save for a small Union Jack in the top left hand corner on the front.
One label has a detail of said red-white-and-blue, with the info on the other alongside the crest for The Queen's Silver Jubilee - and two flags, one with the Nipper (dog and gramophone) trademark and the other bearing the boxed EMI logo. The flag label side has some very nice scroll lettering which goes halfway round, informing the recipient of EMI's Hayes, Middlesex address. The reverse also has etchings - three of the Nipper trademark with three unidentified pieces of music interspersed, the significance of which I've no idea : perhaps one was from the first ever item pressed at EMI ?
The only sound on each side is a short warning beep at the start, followed by a long continuous one (so that you really know you're in trouble); the pictorial side has a little more groove available to hear before the stylus-mangling etchings intrude.
A really aesthetically pleasing if purely decorative, non-functional giveaway. definitely designed not to be auditioned, whereas the Denkmal single could be tried out to whatever extent with an old, outgoing needle. Interesting to compare these two records each of which has been made to be unplayable though with a different motivation for that.

Nipper

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Hayley Newman : Roundabouts

This numbered, signed picture disc, a 300-edition release by Work & Leisure International (W&LI-BWJ 702) was one of three singles issued in conjunction with the Band Wagon Jumping exhibition of seven-inch vinyl (http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/culture/vinyl_7.shtml).
Recorded by Matt Wand on 20th August 2002, the two pieces (both on the same side of the disc) document Ivan Sampson playing a large brass instrument called a helicon, a member of the tuba family. First, a microphone was taken by Matt onto a revolving fairground ride whilst Ivan was playing from a fixed position; then the musician took the ride with Matt standing still holding the mic. The colour photograph on the record's playable side shows the roundabout in question with large pink, yellow and blue teacups in which the riders, Ivan included, are sitting, with parasols overhead. The music's in the foreground, then it gradually fades, and becomes prominent once again. Kids are heard cackling, and there's the whirr of machinery.
I don't know what the first piece of music is, but the second's definitely the Bill Haley And The Comets hit Rock Around The Clock, which Ivan plays at an increasingly rapid pace.
The disc's reverse shows Hayley's idea on lined paper, including the possibility of a trombonist, and a version of Round Midnight. I guess that one and Rock Around The Clock were selected for the appropriate "round" in their titles. The Doppler Effect gets a mention too, defined by my Oxford Concise as, "an increase (or decrease) in the frequency of sound... waves as the source and observer move towards or away from each other."

Link : http://www.hayleynewman.com/artworks/show/18.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Joan McElfresh : The Dewey Rap

Earlier this year I was scouring eBay for decimal currency-related vinyl, particularly seeking Wilfred Brambell's The Decimal Song, and Sebastian's D.E.C.I.M.A.L., to join Max Bygraves' Decimalisation in my collection of records about events and trends. Up popped this 1987 single-sided cassette, which I won with zero competition. Written and performed by practising school librarian Joan McElfresh of Covington, Kentucky, The Dewey Rap, which comes with a seven-sheet lyric book, puts across the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System in simple and catchy fashion, with a young audience in mind.
Appropriately, my copy of this eight-and-a-half-minute gem is ex-library (Springdale, AR). Over a synthesized instrumental backing, and with assistance from a couple of singers, Ms. McElfresh introduces us to each section of the system, hundred by hundred, starting with, "Oh, oh, oh to oh ninety-nine", taking us from encyclopedia sets through philosophy, religion, social sciences, language, natural sciences, applied sciences, recreation and the arts, and literature, right up to history, geography and biography in the "nine, oh, oh"s.
I don't have an enormous number of rap releases; this cassette joins oddities like Cypress City's The Cajun Rap Song and Evolution Control Committee's ingenious splicing together of Public Enemy and Herb Alpert, as well as a rap take on The Archies' Sugar, Sugar (complete with samples of the original) and a Top Cat cartoon cash-in.
No label name for this self-release, though Ms. McElfresh's address and other contact details are provided.

Lyric : http://www.ih.k12.oh.us/esmedia/Lessons_with_MrsWelsh/Dewey_Rap__by_joan_mcelfresh.htm.

News story : http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19880421&id=2DcSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ne8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4976,3546012.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Denkmal : Old Dog./ No Tricks.

Label details : Graphic Death Industries J.D. 0024. Year : 1992.

An unusual release from Denkmal, a.k.a. Andru Clare of I'm Being Good. The b&w Xeroxed paper sleeve is printed inside and out and claims that the disc's a limited run of 500, "pressed on recycled vynil", though I'm not certain how many were actually made, how many other folk were damfool enough to purchase one... I know my friend Hassni has a copy.
For this, Andru used singles discarded from the record library at our local BBC Radio station (not sure what it was called then, due to various name changes - Radio Sussex; Sussex and Surrey; or Southern Counties), discovered in a skip outside Marlborough House, Brighton. He hand-painted the labels black, and scratched a Red Cross-style cross in outline into each side, inscribing the words "ONE" and "TWO". Each side was gouged by hand on top of the existing music using a Swiss Army knife.
It's an interesting mixture of multiple and one-off : each copy has an identical sleeve save for the number within the edition (mine's 003), yet each disc was not only a different record to start with but has been individually carved. A record designed to wreck one's stylus should one decide to give it a spin just to see how it sounds. The inside of the sleeve has what I take to be a fake German address, and mentions a "vynil neutralisation device", giving spoof technical details. Denkmal are described as, "introducing current re-cycling trends into the recording industry and helping to preserve the world's diminishing vynil reserves."
Unfortunately I'm unable to identify the single used to create my copy of Old Dog./ No Tricks. as it's just too well disguised, though I'd guess from the big "4" (of "45") visible beneath the paint that it's an EMI release (matrix on side one reads "45 - something R 4533-1"). Lots of jumping around, as you'd imagine, with several sticks providing obstacles to the stylus's journey on the topside; with the flip causing the needle to traverse the surface nimbly, in a matter of seconds, before it reaches the end and is hurled back again and again. This single is very satisfying to the touch, and might give different effects depending on the equipment used to play it on... if you dare.

Edit, Saturday 24th October 2009 : Research shows that for my Denkmal single Andru used a copy of Gene Pitney's Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love (Stateside SS 420), the matrix number of the top side being 45KR-4533. I tried to work it out from the matrix numbers on another Stateside single I had, and was wondering if it really could have been a rare Mary Wells 45 (SS 415), which I'd quite liked to have had in its own right. Studying a label discography today after trying to find a photo of the label of that one, it seemed more likely to be something far more common with a catalogue number not far off the M.W. record. eBay photographs confirmed that it was the Pitney 45. Hassni says that his copy was originally a Julie Covington record.

Detail of groove on one side of the Denkmal single : Denkmal single

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Roger Miller : "POP" Record/Evolving

A 1998 release on RRRecords (RRR-104), though the label says "Fleetwood" (of Revere, Mass.) and "Fun World Product 003". RRRecords is the label notorious for bringing us the two classic locked groove compilations RRR 100 and RRR 500.
In contrast to the Son Of Pete Silent Night 7", this is a record consisting of lots of surface noise, the sound of assorted run-in and inter-track grooves in all their scratch, crackle and pop glory. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp and John Cage (the latter complained about the fixed nature of recorded performances), Miller had the idea for this back in February 1984, assembling the tape on 25th July '85. The New World Product issue of December of that year was an edition of just one, an acetate.
Miller : "I made a recording of record surface noise... and had this cut to acetate, which is notorious for wearing away quickly. (Although vinyl does not degenerate as rapidly as acetate, the process is essentially the same.) The result is a record which constantly evolves and never gets any "worse." The degeneration - old pops wearing away and new ones appearing as the acetate/vinyl breaks up - becomes regeneration, solving Cage's problem with "static" recordings as well."
Pleasingly, Miller lists his sources : James Brown (who also turns up on Leroy Stevens' Favorite Recorded Screams), Sinatra and The Ink Spots rub shoulders with Xenakis, Black Sabbath, Billie Holiday, The Lone Ranger (not the reggae star), Doris Day, Miller's own band Mission Of Burma, and - inevitably - The Fab Four. Plus surface noise is taken from, "Assorted records found on the street in China-town, Boston" as well as a Japanese sci-fi disc, their titles unreadable by Miller.
I guess the idea is that the more one listens to this record, and mishandles it, then one's own history of use will be superimposed on top of the recorded surface noise - an extra, personal layer. My copy has a v-e-r-y slight hairline scratch, but whether it's something audible or just a surface mark, I can't tell as I can't pick it out from the surrounding noise.
Miller doesn't mention how much he played the single acetate copy made using his taped surface noise, so I've no idea how much of the noise on the RRRecords issue is from the source material and how much from his own use of his one-off copy.
It'd be rather nice to keep a played-once, near-pristine copy and have a second copy to play every day for a year or more, and compare the two.
The B side has a lovely etching of hand-scrawled bars of music - J. S. Bach's Fugue XIV.

Photographs :
http://bp3.blogger.com/_SKxpV2g1luE/SAwJqygW0OI/AAAAAAAAAEE/oHezCC0831c/s1600-h/miller+1.jpg; and
http://bp0.blogger.com/_SKxpV2g1luE/SAwJrCgW0PI/AAAAAAAAAEM/Dl_4ImYJNfM/s1600-h/miller+2.jpg. Source : Locales For Ecstacy's Blogspot.

Footnote : After writing this entry I discovered that there's a third RRRecords locked groove compilation, RRR 1000 (twenty-five different artists with fifty locks apiece).

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Son Of Pete : Silent Knight

Following on from Jonty Semper's field recording single of a commemorative silence, a seven-inch of complete silence, of nothing, dated 1976 - one of the more obscure releases on the label (Beserkley; number : B-5746) which brought us Jonathan Richman, Earth Quake, The Rubinoos and Greg Kihn. A U.S. issue I found in a charity shop years ago and bought for the Jonathan connection ("remix" was by Glen Kolotkin, Jonathan's producer), not suspecting it was silent. This 45, arranged by one R. Bimber and with production by Tom Lubin (http://tomlubin.blogspot.com), came in a b&w picture sleeve with the same image printed on both sides - an illustration of a knight (chess piece, i.e.) in the snow, with an icicle hanging from its snout. The lettering is seasonally snow-capped. I guess this was put out as a joke Christmas gift. Interestingly, the silent flipside, Disco Party, Part 2 clocks in at two seconds longer, at 3:01. (On the Marcel Marceao (sic) L.P., however, both sides are exactly the same - one can tell from the matrix number; the applause at the end of each otherwise silent side should have been different, really, to eliminate the possibility of the record's slightly shoddy feel.) Son Of Pete was Beserkley Records' founder, Matthew "King" Kaufman, who was also Rose Bimler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_King_Kaufman).
My copy of Silent Knight is in pretty nice condition - how often would its previous owner have needed to play it ? With numerous listens and the right degree of carelessness, neglect in sleeving the disc immediately after hearing it, the "silence" would eventually have scratches and scuff sounds superimposed upon it. The "silence" is already compromised a little by the pressing process, the inevitable bit of crackle which is usually drowned out by music but which is all too apparent on this record.
I'm not certain how many other singles of complete silence were made, though I've knowledge of one for use in conjunction with jukeboxes, to provide three (?) minutes' respite from constant sound (on Hush Records). There was a silent record on sale in the Grot shop (a business venture deliberately designed to fail spectacularly), in the BBC Television series The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Perrin, though, alas, said record was never marketed as a cash-in.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jonty Semper : The One Minute Silence From The Funeral Of Diana, Princess Of Wales

The first of two releases in Jonty Semper's Kenotaphion project, this clear vinyl seven-inch (Locus +/ Charrm; matrix numbers : DFI 08/01; 06 09 97 - 1) is a field recording of the commemorative one-minute silence recorded on 6th September 1997 during the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in Hyde Park, where people watched BBC Television's live coverage of the ceremony on a large screen.
For the second part of Kenotaphion, Semper researched, located, and finally assembled a double CD (KENO1) of all the existing newsreel and broadcast archive recordings of the Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday silences from the Cenotaph in Whitehall, dating back to 1929.
Though the notion of broadcasting silence might appear a strange one initially, commemorative public "silences" are not at all devoid of interest : there is plenty of ambient sound to focus upon; plus, on the recordings from the Cenotaph, Big Ben can be heard striking eleven.

Link to essay on silences at public remembrances : http://www.locusplus.org.uk/sempess.html
The Guardian : http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/nov/09/maevkennedy

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Matt Wand : Blowdown : Inside & Out

Having stood for thirty-five years, twenty-two-storey, 66 metre Liverpool building Kenley Close (in the city's Shiel Park area) was demolished at midday on 12th May 2002. Matt Wand, formerly of Stock, Hausen & Walkman, managed to place a stereo microphone inside the condemned structure two days earlier, as well as installing a telephone conversation tape recorder on the building's roof. Blowdown (Work & Leisure International W&LI-BWJ 701), a three-hundred-edition single (one of three commissioned for the Band Wagon Jumping exhibition of seven-inch vinyl (http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/culture/vinyl_7.shtml), is a documentation of Kenley Close's last five minutes. On one side we hear the evacuated building's interior, silent save for a warning siren partway through the recording. The second side is a simultaneous recording made by Laurence Lane of the expectant crowd gathered to witness the change in their familiar skyline : we hear conversations, laughter, traffic sound, kids, a motor horn, whistles, coughing - and shrieks as the explosion occurs; an exclamation : "Look at the birds !", and more laughter as the startled and displaced pigeons defecate.
The b&w cover photograph shows the structure with Controlled Demolition Group Ltd.'s banner hanging at the top : "Now you see it, now you don't" : http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=709151.

Link : http://www.implosionworld.com/15structures4.htm.