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Archive for the ‘Kraftwerk’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Out of this World: Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from The BBC Radiophonic Workshop (1976).

Neil Gaiman mentions a recording like this in the story.  he says that at a party, the music is like a mix of Kraftwerk and music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

This album came out in 1976.  it was evidently issues on CD in 1991 as Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects Vol. 2.

The album was divided into four sections (two on each side), each representing a different theme: “Outer Space”, “Magic and Fantasy”, “Suspense and the Supernatural” and “The Elements”.

It’s pretty amazing the sounds these people were creating back in the 1970s with the technology that was available.  Some of it sounds a little cheesy and yet most of it is either right-on spooky or has become such a staple of our subconscious that it calls up memories of things like this being very spooky.

I really like that the record credits the men and women who created these sounds.

  • Dick Mills
  • Peter Howell
  • Brian Hodgson
  • Paddy Kingsland
  • Richard Yeoman-Clark
  • Roger Limb
  • John Baker
  • Malcolm Clarke
  • Delia Derbyshire
  • Glynis Jones
  • David Cain

This isn’t something that you would really sit down and listen to (well, I might) but it is fun to pick and choose and to imagine what the creators pictures as they made these sounds.  And I can totally imagine the party music that was  across between this and Kraftwerk,  Cool, man.

Outer Space
A1 –Dick Mills Sea Of Mercury 1:07
A2 –Peter Howell Galactic Travel 0:49
A3 –Brian Hodgson Tardis Take-Off 0:55
A4 –Brian Hodgson Tardis Land 0:22
A5 –Dick Mills Space Rocket Take-Off 0:27
A6 –Dick Mills Space Rocket Land 0:27
A7 –Paddy Kingsland Flying Saucer Land 0:17
A8 –Paddy Kingsland Flying Saucer Take-Off 0:17
A9 –Richard Yeoman-Clark Flying Saucer Interior Constant Run 0:37
A10 –Brian Hodgson Space Ship Control Room Atmosphere 1:00
A11 –Brian Hodgson Space Ship Interior Atmosphere 1:03
A12 –Dick Mills Electric Door Open 0:02
A13 –Dick Mills Electric Door Shut 0:03
A14 –Brian Hodgson Laser Gun, Five Bursts 0:12
A15 –Brian Hodgson “Computer” 0:43
A16 –Brian Hodgson Gravity Generator 0:34
A17 –Roger Limb Time Warp Start, Run, Stop 0:24
A18 –John Baker Venusian Space Lab. 0:50
A19 –Malcolm Clarke Andromeda War Machine 1:10
A20 –Dick Mills Space-battle 0:42

Magic And Fantasy
A21 –Malcolm Clarke Dance Of Fire-Flies 0:43
A22 –Delia Derbyshire Dreaming 1:11
A23 –Glynis Jones Crystal City 1:00
A24 –Dick Mills Enchanted Forest 0:49
A25 –Malcolm Clarke Goblins Lair 0:45
A26 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Take-Off 0:14
A27 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Flight 0:22
A28 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Land 0:12
A29 –Brian Hodgson Magic Flower Grows And Buds 0:12
A30 –Roger Limb Magic Beanstalk Grows 0:09
A31 –Dick Mills Star Fairies 0:38
A32 –Malcolm Clarke Midsummer Elves 0:29
A33 –Malcolm Clarke Fairy Appears 0:05
A34 –Malcolm Clarke Fairy Disappears 0:05
A35 –David Cain Wizard Flies Off 0:09
A36 –Malcolm Clarke Casting A Spell 0:11
A37 –Malcolm Clarke Magic Mushroom 0:03
A38 –Glynis Jones Magic Bird Song 0:30

Suspense And The Supernatural
B1 –Delia Derbyshire Phantoms Of Darkness 1:05
B2 –Dick Mills Uncanny Expectation 0:48
B3 –David Cain Spectres In The Wind 1:02
B4 –Malcolm Clarke Evil Rises Up 1:05
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Threatening shadow”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Moments of terror”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Passing shade”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Psychic fears”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Two terror twangs”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Three terror bangs”
B4 –David Cain – “Terror zing”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Terror glissando”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “‘Thing’ approaches”
B4 –Brian Hodgson – “Roaring monster”
B4 –Peter Howell – “Firespitting monster”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Nightmare forest”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Fiendish shrieks”

The Elements
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Heat haze”
B4 –Roger Limb – “Desert sands”
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Frozen waste”
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Icy peak”
B4 –David Cain – “Snow swirls”
B4 –Roger Limb – “Passing clouds”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Starry skies”
B4 –John Baker – “Electric storm”
B4 –John Baker – “Watery depths”
B4 –John Baker – “Rising bubbles”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Spring tide”

[READ: February 1,2020] How to Talk to Girls at Parties

This graphic novel is an adaptation of a short story that Gaiman had published in 2006.

The illustrators are twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá and they are magnificent–they perfectly complement this story both in style and color choice.

Two boys, a studly blond fellow and a smaller, dark-haired fellow are heading off to a party.  The blond guy, Vic is very excited about it because there will be girls there! The other boy Enn, is more realistic and says that Vic will go off with a girl and he’ll be in the kitchen listening to somebody’s mum going on about politics or poetry or something.

But Vic will not be deterred.

He doesn’t actually know the address.  He wrote it down but forget the paper  at home. However, they’ll just hear the party when they get close.

Enn demurs more but Vic says you just have to talk to girls, they’re just girls, they’re not from another planet. (more…)

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black-daimons SOUNDTRACK: LAST EX-Last Ex [CST107] (2014).

last-exOne of the things I love about Constellation Records is that you often never know what you’re getting.  They used to very specifically release a certain kind of music, but they’re now just releasing interesting and exciting music.  But also, a band name can’t really tell you what to expect from this label.

So who knows what a band like Last Ex will sound like.  And how cool that their first few songs on this are so good.

The disc’s sides are split into Side X and Side XX.

“Hotel Blues” opens with some scattered drums and chords.  It has  vaguely early-Pink Floyd feel to it.  But around a minute in, the synths pick up a repetitive melody and the bass and drums kick in to give it a very Can or Kraftwerk vibe.  The song is fairly straightforward, but there are sprinklings of notes—sometimes slightly off and vibrated that add some very cool textures to this pulsing track. It’s really groovy and fun.  But it’s “Girl Seizure” that I find so strangely compelling.  Again, over simple repetitive drum and bass, the guitar (or keyboards) play warbling notes that are unsettling and yet enticing.  The song quiets to almost nothing and then resumes in much the same way—and you welcome that weird warble and its of Moog feeling.  At just under 3 minutes its just the right length.

“Flûte magique” slows things down with some simple arpeggios.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it is wonderfully soothing as the bass notes tick away and then the guitar notes rise higher and higher.  The song picks up speed as it goes along and leads to a middle section that’s almost stiffly funky, if that’s possible.  The ending gets a little louder as it thuds to a conclusion.

“It’s Not Chris” opens with some static and strange noises and some soaring keyboards.  About a minute and a half in a strange staccato organ melody comes in with a violin sound doing a kind of solo over the top.  It’s all a little strange but it drops out in the middle to a kind of sinister pulsing, and when the melody resumes, it seems strangely comfortable again.  The end of the song has some high-pitched violin notes that sound almost like a theremin.

“Resurrection Drive” is mostly drums and echoed surf guitar chords. After a minute or so some strings are added to the mix.  It’s only 2 minutes long but it introduces some interesting tension.

Side XX has a quieter feel overall.  “Nell’s Theme” opens with acoustic guitars playing a simple, pretty four-note melody.  The song slowly grows more complex as a violin is added to the song. With about 30 seconds remaining, everything drops away save for a mournful violin.

Thudding bass and picked notes echo through “Trop tard.”  It has a slow, spacey feel (like mid-period Pink Floyd).  A guitar is added and it speeds up some but still sounds of the era and then settles back down to a languid pace.  “Cape Fear” is less than 2 minutes of swirling outer space sounding synths—a creepy, lonely feeling.

“Cité d’or” has more slow pulsing rhythms and more echoing surf guitars and the whole thing feels rather tension filled.  Some squealing  feedback intersperses the surf guitar.   “Hotel Blues Returns” for 1:43.  It’s primarily the drumming pattern of “Hotel Blues” with some swirling synth noises (it’s good for headphones).  “Hotel Kiss” ends the disc with sirens and then a slow thudding drum and more noir guitars.  This could be used in a Twin Peaks scene.

So this album is an interesting mix of rocking songs with unsettling noises and mellower songs with cool synth effects.  It’s a great find.

[READ: September 24, 2016] The Black Diamond Detective Agency

I read this book a while ago, but I never posted about it.  And that gave me the opportunity to re-read it and, frankly, to enjoy it more.

This is the third book by Eddie Campbell that I have read.  I have found his stories to be complicated and hard to follow on first read.  They really demand a second and even a third read.  Part of it is that he writes complicated and somewhat intentionally convoluted narratives.  And part is because of his drawing style.

I love the cover of this book, how it is set up to look like an Old West placard: ORPHANS! MAYHEM! TERROR!  “In This the most recent offering from The First Second Quality line of Books.  An epic take of a newly industrialized America as revealed in words and pictures by the inimitable Mr Eddie Campbell.  Based upon  the manuscript of a Kinematographic play by Mr C. Gaby Mitchell.”

And its this last part that I missed when I first read it–that it was based on a screenplay.  And this book does resemble a screenplay.  However, I noted that in my other posts about Campbell that I’ve said of this book: I liked and didn’t like this book.  Well, which is it?

The story is incredibly complicated–with double and triple crosses.  And the visuals call for mistaken identity and hidden identity as well as new characters who all look vaguely the same–like pale photographs of turn of the century urban gangsters. But the story is really interesting. So I liked it, although I think I’d like to see it more as a film. (more…)

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hhftSOUNDTRACK: G.L.O.B.E. & WHIZ KID-“Play that Beat Mr DJ” (Double Dee & Steinski Payoff Mix) (1985).

doubledeeThe original of this song (1983) was simply the drums and simple keyboard riff.  The “Payoff Mix” done by Double Dee & Steinski added the incredibly dense layer of samples that really make this song interesting (actually the samples are more interesting than the rap).

The samples included:

  • Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
  • Play It Sam…Play “As Time Goes By” (Avalon/As Time Goes By) by Humphrey Bogart (dialogue spoken from the movie Casablanca)
  • That’s the joint – Funky Four Plus One
  • Take the Country to N.Y. City by Hamilton Bohannon
  • Don’t Make Me Wait (Acapella) by Peech Boys
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love by Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Rockit by Herbie Hancock
  • Situation 12″ by Yazoo
  • Starski Live at the Disco Fever by Lovebug Starski
  • World’s Famous, Hobo Scratch, D’Ya Like Scratchin’ and Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren
  • Apache by Incredible Bongo Band
  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Indeep
  • I’ll Tumble 4 Ya by Culture Club
  • Speech by Fiorello La Guardia from Reading the Comics – July,1945

Double Dee & Steinski went on to make some other great mashups (and these sound amazing since they were done circa 1985).  I particularly like Lesson 3.

Here’s the one that made them famous:

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 2

This volume picks up right where the previous one left off in 1981.

First we meet Doug E. Fresh who, devoid of records, starts the trend of beatboxing.  We also see The Sugarhill Gang doing a rap over the song “Apache” (while dressed like Native Americans).

The book bounces back to California (Oakland this time) where we meet Too Short, a great high school rapper who is interested in making money from his skills.  We also see a young Ice-T doing his gangland thing

Then it jumps back to Rick Rubin whose love of punk and metal (these goings on are happening at the same time as Black Flag is trying out a young Henry Rollins, and Bad Brains are in high gear–and often times the crowds mix amiably) fuses with his love of rap.  he really wants to be able to capture the rawness of the live sounds of both types of music onto a record (enter the Beastie Boys).  And, strangely enough (although perhaps it should be expected), Malcolm McDowell enters the picture.  We also see Fab Five Freddy making “Change the Beat” which includes a since-very-heavily sampled “Freshhhhh” (more…)

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hhftSOUNDTRACK: “The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” (1981).

grandThis track was one of the first records to mix songs from other artists (yes, we call it sampling now).  It was a chance for Grandmaster Flash to show off his mad mixing skills.  He used three turntables, samples from the movie Flash Gordon (nice) and this songs:

Chic – “Good Times” ; Blondie – “Rapture” ; Queen – “Another One Bites the Dust” ; Sugarhill Gang – “8th Wonder” ; The Furious Five – “Birthday Party” ; Spoonie Gee – “Monster Jam” ; Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band – “Apache” ; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – “Freedom” ; Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” ; The Hellers – “Life Story”

It’s really impressive and it sounds seamless.

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 1

This book came across my desk at work and I was really excited to read it.  I thought I didn’t know all that much about the origins of hip hop.  And while I was largely right, I was also pleased that I knew so many of the big names.

So this is a graphic novel done by Ed Piskor.  Piskor’s style is familiar (it looks like old school indie comics, even though he was born in 1982). Now, I already said I don’t know all that much about hip hop history, so I can’t vouch for the veracity of this family tree (and I certainly suspect that Piskor likes some people and dislikes others), but I assume that this is a pretty accurate story about how hip hop came to be.

It all starts in the 1970s with DJ Kool Herc in the South Bronx.  He spins discs at parties and is hugely successful.  He starts looping records to extend the drum breaks.  His popularity inspires Grandmaster Flash who tries new techniques and Afrika Bambaataa who plays the most obscure records he can find (Kraftwerk, for instance).  Bambaataa was once a gang leader but he channeled his music into a more peaceful gang–Zulu Nation.  This group leads to some other early hip hop groups: The Treacherous Three, The Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four Plus One (the first of the groups to feature a woman) and The Fantastic Five, (more…)

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karl2SOUNDTRACK: BRASS BED-Tiny Desk Concert #339 (February 24, 2014).

brass bedI expected Brass Bed to be a goofy band because of the snapshot image of them singing into toy microphones.  I was initially disappointed by how normal they were, but I was soon won over by their interesting floating sound. They have this overall trippy underwater vibe (which seems to be accomplished by a bowed slide guitar). This is especially notable on “Yellow Bursts of Age” their best song in the set.  Later the guitar solo is echoey and also underwatery. It’s a very wild sound for a fairly simple song.

They tell a funny story about being from Louisiana and encountering Washington DC snow and (of course) not having an ice scraper (although they did have bag of sand).

“Cold Chicory” is an upbeat sounding song musically although it is kind of a bummer lyrically, but again there’s the great sound of the bow on the slide guitar and the echoey lead guitar. “Please Don’t Go” is a slow song—with more interesting effects from singing into that slide guitar.

The plastic mikes do come out in the last song “Have to be Fine” in which they sing into the echoey mikes for the intro (with very nice harmonies).  They sing the intro for about a minute, and then the slide guitar player takes lead vocals on this simple but pretty song (I don’t know any of their names).

At the end, the NPR folks gave them an honorary NPR ice scraper.

[READ: June 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Three

boyhoodI read an excerpt of Book Three just a few weeks ago.  And in the post about it I said I wouldn’t be reading this book for quite some time.  But then the book unexpectedly came across my desk and I couldn’t resist grabbing it while it was here.  So it appears that I will now have to wait well over a year before Book 4 (which is, I think about 1,000 pages–yipes).  I also see that Book Three is fully called “Boyhood Island” in Britain.

At the end of Book Two, Karl Ove was more or less caught up to the present–writing about what he was then up to (with a few years gap, of course).  So it makes sense that this book is about his childhood–showing us how he came to be the man he is.

The book, amusingly enough, starts off with memories that he cannot possibly remember, and he even says as much.  He is using memories of his parents and piecing together pictures from when he was an infant.  In 1970, (Karl Ove was born in 1968) his family moved to the island of Tromøy tromo(and check out the idyllic picture that Wikipedia had).  This is where Karl Ove spent his (rather traumatic) formative years.  Their island is small, so he knows everyone in his school, but there are some amenities around like the Fina station and the B-Max, and there’s lots of soccer to be played and bikes to be ridden.

Things seem normal at first–he runs and plays with his friends, there is ample green space to run around in, and they have boats to sail on.  And we meet two of Karl Ove’s earliest friends: Geir and Trond (so many people are named in the book, I’m very curious to know if any of them remember him).  In an early scene they chase the end of a rainbow looking for a pot of gold (and have a discussion about what happens to it when the rainbow vanishes (the boys even play a prank on Karl Ove that they actually found the pot,a dn while he doesn’t initially fall for it, he is compelled to go back and they tease him).

But the looming figure here and throughout the book is Karl Ove’s father, who, at least according to Karl Ove’s memory, is pretty much a monstrous dick.  He is demanding and exacting, unforgiving and seemingly uncaring.  He is either bipolar or a drunk, jumping from goofy to outright rage in a mater of seconds.  Karl Ove and his brother Yngve fear him unconditionally and, by the end of the book they both seem to hate him.  The scene where their dad tries and fails to teach Karl Ove to swim is heartbreaking, especially when the dad goes home and tells their mom right in front of him “He’s frightened of water.”  There are dozens of instances of fear and intimidation (often accompanied by a wrenching of Karl Ove’s ear).  Like when Karl Ove turns on the TV for his grandparents (he wasn’t allowed to touch the TV but he wanted to do something nice for them).  After a few minutes, the TV fizzed out and, naturally, he was blamed for it and sent to bed without supper (after some minor physical abuse). (more…)

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clockworkSOUNDTRACK: FEU THÉRÈSE-Ça Va Cogner [CST049] (2007).

feu2Bands change sounds from one album to another all the time, but few as radically as this one. From weirdo psychedelic band to French new wave pop band, from 6 minute instrumentals to 2 and 3 minute songs with vocals.

At times the album feels like Kraftwerk meets Serge Gainsbourg (which I know is an unfair reduction, but when your singer mostly talk/sings in a deep French voice, the comparison is apt.  And yet the album is fairly poppy and catchy as well.

“A Nos Amours” opens the disc with three minutes of synth happiness. It even has a section where the music drops out and the bass resumes its place.  Recall in their debut that at 4 minutes of each song something radically different happened.  Now the songs just end. “Visage Sous Nylon” features the more Kraftwerk sound—but it’s an almost organic Kraftwerk (which I know makes no sense but there it is). “Les Deserts des Azurs” has a kind of Tangerine Dream feel with washes of analog synths.

“Le Bruit du Pollen La Nuit” has a weird kind of synthy 70 s rock feel but the music almost drops out entirely (but not quite) while the vocals (in French) are spoken. It feels like it’s mocking and serious at the same time.  It’s also got a discoey chorus singing “You’re just a just a just a pretty boy!”

“Nada” has a synthy almost disco feel.  “Ça Va Cogner” is just over 5 minutes long and consists of various delicate swells of synths.  I kept waiting to hear The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” burst forth from the waves, until about half way in when it turns into a simple delicate melody and a children’s chorus. “Les Enfants” is a simple ditty with hummed lyrics.  It’s poppy and catchy as anything

“Ferrari en Feu Pt. 2” is a fast synth songs with slap bass. (Part 1 was on the debut and sounded nothing like this).  “La Nuit Est un Femme” is a slow synth track with a female backing vocals over a sung male lead. The end of the song adds some loud textures to this otherwise sweet song bringing in some really interesting tensions.  The disc ends with “Laisse Briller Tes Yeux Dans le Soleil,” a synthy instrumental that ends with cheesy charm.

This album is really wonderful–surprisingly catchy and dancey and yet exotic enough to not sound like anything else that (most) people are familiar with.  All of the Constellation albums are streaming on their site, but this one is especially worth checking out.

[READ: April 15, 2014] Tales from the Clockwork Empire Book 1

I was very intrigued by this book because of the steampunk nature and because I have a strange fascination with clockwork ideas–a technology that is precise and interesting yet which never really took off beyond clocks and small toys because other technologies were more powerful

I thought that the cover was kind of interesting with this gigantic metal head holding ball.  But on closer look the man in the ball was very poorly computer rendered and that should have been a tip off.  For all of the people in the book have this same unfinished-rendered look.  It looks a lot like storyboards of unfinished versions of Pixar films.  I mean, really cheesy and really unfinished and really unsettling. This is especially noticeable on the rendering of Napoleon Bonaparte in the “end credits” of the book.

I hate to harp on the graphics, but this is a graphic novel after all.  All of the non human elements looks fine, many look even better than fine, bordering on photo realistic.  But the humans all seem ugh, creepy and stiff and just dropped on top of these scenes.  It is terribly distracting and may even make the dialogue feel stiffer than it actually is.  Because the dialogue felt very stiff and mechanical as well.

It is the kind of story that seems historically accurate in the details and works very hard to let you know that it is accurate.  Indeed, in the end of the book Duerden goes to great lengths to show the accuracies in the writing.  But there’s so little flow in the dialogue that it seems like a lecture.  Basically the entire book feels like, not a first draft, but like the draft before the final draft.  Like the book is going to go back to have a final polish to make the dialogue breezier and make the pictures look better.

This is all a shame since I haven;t eve talked about the story yet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Trans (1982).

By most standards this Neil Young album is a disaster.  It’s so bad that despite updating his entire catalog and releasing all kinds of bootleg concerts, he has never issued this disc on CD in the States.  So, just what’s so awful about this disc?

Well, mostly it’s awful as a Neil Young disc.  Meaning, if you like Neil Young (either flavor: country/folk or hard rock/grunge) this disc is a big fat HUH??  Neil Young has gone all synthy?  And not just synth but computerized synthy–sometimes his voice is utterly like a computer.  It’s a travesty, it’s a shame, it’s an incredible surprise.  Unless you listen to it without thinking of it as a Neil Young record.

But after all that introduction, the biggest surprise is the first song.  You’ve been prepped for this weird album full of computer nonsense and you get the fairly standard (if a little dull) rockabilly type music of “A Little Thing Called Love.”  It’s a pretty standard Neil Young song for the time.  Hmm, maybe the album isn’t that weird.

Well, then comes “Computer Age” and the keyboards kick in.  Interestingly, to me anyhow, this is the year that Rush released Signals.  Signals was the album where Rush fans said Woah, what’s with the keyboards guys.  Similarly, “Computer Age” makes you say, geez, was there a sale on keyboards in Canada?  The keyboards are kind of thin and wheedly, but the real surprise comes in the processed vocals (Rush never went that far).  The vocals are basically the 1980s equivalent of auto-tune (no idea how they did this back then).  Because the song is all about the computer age it kind of makes sense that he would use this weird robotic voice.  Sometimes it’s the only voice, although he also uses the computer voice as a high-pitched harmony over his normal singing voice.

“We R in Control” sounds like it might be a heavy rocker (anemic production notwithstanding) until we get more computer vocals.  Again, conceptually it works (its all about the dominance of CCTV), but it is pretty weird as a Neil Young song.

And then comes yet another shock, “Transformer Man.”  Yes, THAT “Transformer Man,” except not.  This original version of the song is sung entirely in a processed super high pitched computer voice that is almost hard to understand).  The only “normal’ part of the song is the occasional chorus and the “do do do dos.”  It sounds like a weird cover.  Sarah, who loves Neil Young, practically ran out of the room when she heard this version.

“Computer Cowboy (aka Syscrusher)” continues in that same vein.  Musically it’s a bit more experimental (and the computer vocals are in a much lower register).  Although I think it’s probably the least interesting of these songs.

Just to confuse the listener further, “Hold On to Your Love” is a conventional poppy song–no computer anything (aside from occasional keyboard notes).  Then comes the 8 minute “Sample and Hold” the most computerized song of the bunch and one of the weirder, cooler songs on the disc.  It really feels like a complete song–all vocodered out with multiple layers of vocals, not thin and lacking substance like some of the tracks.  It opens with personal stats (hair: blonde, eyes: blue) and proceeds through a litany of repeated “new design, new design” motifs.

This is followed by a remake of “Mr Soul” previously only on Decade.  This is a new vocodered-harmonies version of the song.

The biggest failure of the disc to me is “Like an Inca” it’s nine minutes of virtually the same guitar riff.  The chorus is pretty wonderful, but it’s a very minor part of the song itself.  It is fairly traditional Neil song, I just wish it were much shorter.

So, this travesty of a disc is actually pretty interesting and, for me, pretty enjoyable.  Most of these synthy songs sound kind of weak but I think that has more to do with the production of the time. I’d love to hear newly recorded versions of these songs (with or without the vocoder) to see what he could do with a great production team behind him.

Trans is not a Neil Young disc in any conventional sense, but as an experiment, as a document of early 80s synth music, it not only holds up, it actually pushes a lot of envelopes.   I’m not saying he was trying to out Kraftwerk Kraftwerk or anything like that, but for a folk/rock singer to take chances like this was pretty admirable.  Shame everybody hated it.

[READ: July 5, 2011] Five Dials 19

Five Dials 19 is the Parenting Issue.  But rather than offering parenting advice, the writers simply talk about what it’s like to be a parent, or to have a parent.  It was one of the most enjoyable Five Dials issues I have read so far.

CRAIG TAYLOR & DIEDRE DOLAN-On Foreign Bureuas and Parenting Issues
I enjoyed Taylor’s introduction, in which he explains that he is not very useful for a parenting issue   That most of the duties will be taken on by Diedre Dolan in NYC.  They are currently in her house working while her daughter plays in the next room.  His ending comment was hilarious:

Also, as is traditional at most newsweeklies, someone just put a plastic tiara on my head and then ran away laughing at me.

I resist Parenting magazines, from Parents to Parenting to Fretful Mother, they all offer some sound advice but only after they offer heaps and heaps of guilt and impossible standards.  So I was delighted to see that Five Dials would take an approach to parenting that I fully approve of.  Dolan writes:

Nobody knows what works. Most people just make some choices and defend them for the next 18 to 50 years – claiming nurture (good manners) or nature (crippling shyness) when it suits them best.

And indeed, the magazine made me feel a lot better about my skills (or lack) as a parent. (more…)

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