Good Music We Can Know

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cerebral Escapades: Chick Vekters- Travelogue (2014)

Hey, I'd like to thank all of you for tuning into Explorers Room last Thursday!  Oh how I'd love it if you dropped in again this Thursday.  For those of you that missed it, I'd like you to feel warmly invited to check out the archived version here.  It's pretty good, for a first show.  In the future, I'll announce all shows here on the day of, and keep a link to the archives over to the right, in the sidebar there.  Now, on to the business of the day.

Several months ago, a little record fell into my inbox from a fellow who goes by the name of Chick Vekters.  Entitled Travelogue, it was a strange little album with a globetrotting structure familiar to exotica or library music, and the skeletal, alien-electronic sounds of a Raymond Scott or Dissevelt/Baltan record.  Of course, I immediately liked it.  But repeated compulsive listens have brought me around to loving it, and I find myself filled with a profound admiration for its tonal and aesthetic achievements as a piece of art, a feat of stylistic synthesis and a unique, progressive pastiche.  It's amazing, is what I'm telling you.

I asked Vekters if he'd mind my doing a post on it, and inquired for some further info.  As it happens, this is his first album, and like a classic auteur he seems to have driven every aspect of the recording and performed every instrument himself, including an exquisite 1951 Univox Jennings synthesizer (an instrument very similar to the Clavivox, most recognizably used on "Telstar").  The Univox is pretty much the signature sound of the record, but is employed in harmony with a variety of interesting sounds, including other synths and all manner of instrumentation run through interesting treatments, distortions, musique concrète strategies, and tape manipulation.  For example, "Sayonara" features, as Vekters explained to me, "a Japanese 'typewriter-harp' (Taisho Goto) run through a Roland Space Echo, temple blocks, and a slowed down baby grand piano."

This record was made in 2014, but it has the indelible sound and the innocent thrill of invention and innovation that you get listening to a record from 1950s, when electronic pioneers and avant-gardists seemed to be reinventing music from scratch from the cluttered laboratories and workshops of inventors and tinkerers.  Add to that that it has the international and fantastical element of Atomic Age exoticism/futurism, and it's really a very exciting recording – not only in the weird, wonderful way it transports the listener from the islands to the moon, from the depths of the subterranean world to Baia, but also in the studied specificity of the sonic palette it uses to make those places up.  It situates itself squarely in a certain time period, but rather than pursuing rote mimicry, it quietly incorporates everything that's happened in the interim between then and now, and mutates its influences into something profoundly, yet barely perceptibly, new – like a much slyer take on the the strategies employed by The Residents for their own bit of exotica-forgery and ethnologic surrealism, EskimoTravelogue is not yet available in its entirety (I wish it was – I've heard it all and it's really grand when taken as a whole), but you can hear a goodly portion of it here on Vekter's Soundcloud.  Check it out, you won't regret it. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Explorers Room with Flash Strap This Thursday on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio

HELLO, ALL: I am very pleased to make the announcement that I have joined WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio stream, and that my first show will be this Thursday, 7-9 (Eastern time). 

So please tune in to Explorers Room with Flash Strap!  This Thursday night!  RIGHT HERE!

We will be, more often than not, delving into exotic waters; pack your pipe, pour a drink, and situate yourself in your most powerful armchair.  As I come into your own explorers room, hi-fi den, or inner sanctum from the sanctity of mine, away we shall fly, bound together by sound, deep into the jungles of the mind.  This Thursday, and every Thursday, 7-9 EST.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Toward the Sunlight, For the Sake of Us All: Kim Jung Mi- Now (1973)

This record has been around for long enough that most of you have probably heard it, but I recently received a request for it and figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to post it.  As the demon of time turns over his hourglass and declares a new year of infinite tortures, as cities burn and death rains from the sky, as we scrabble to the bars and peer out from our cages only to see a neverending matryoshka of larger encapsulating cages, what better balm for the torment–what brighter beacon to shine into the wall of storms–could there be than the righteous beauty of Kim Jung Mi and Shin Joong Hyun's masterpiece, Now?  With clarity of vision and perfect execution, these songs fill the air with sensuality and strength and all the pure beauty of spirit we so often imagine humanity to possess and so rarely see evidence of.  "Your Dream Like a Stream" sounds to my ears like a call of defiance issued into the devil's foul yawning maw, a fist shaken in the air at the audacity and arrogance of anyone who might judge us from his seat in the sky.  Kim Jung Mi's voice creates a calm spot in the rain of blood and ash where one can breathe; it re-orients the universe to align itself with her at its center.  Because when "Toward the Sunlight" or "My Beautiful Land" is playing, when that voice sounds out (and is risen on the gorgeous structures of Shin Joong Hyun's guitar and arrangement), god damn it then something is right with this monstrous unfinished creation we call existence.  Happy New Year, I love you all.

NOW/Wind (192)

I have also included a Kim Jung Mi record called Wind, which I can't remember anything about and which has the same basic tracklist as Now, with some exceptions, but which I have always liked having as well.  Both are sadly no better than 192.  Feel free to educate me on the particulars of these releases, and/or upgrade the quality while you're at it.  This post is for Adam first and all others in a very close second.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sound Box of Dreams: Janko Nilovic - Percussions Dans L'Espace (197?)

Hello.  Sorry I've been away so long.  Oh, how I've been busy.  Indeed, I've just returned not long ago from expedition to Bali.  I've also been preparing to start up a radio show on WFMU's own phenomenal Give the Drummer Radio (set to commence in mid-January, more details to come).  So, once again, let me explain my absence as one due to activity rather than inertia, and please accept my pledge that there is much more activity to come from the shadowy offices of Flash Strap.

Let's just get back into the swing of things with something so good, I don't really have to say much about it.  Janko Nilovic, Montenegrin master,  is another of those prolific Library wizards beloved by collectors of the stuff, one of the biggest names out there.  I've never been the biggest fan, actually; the first few albums of his that I had heard weren't my cup of tea (as is the case with nearly all his cohort, Nilovic is necessarily stylistically all over the place, and can be hit-and-miss as a result).  This rather unfortunate introduction temporarily obscured for me the wonders of a truly magical artist, and one of the major turning points in my opinion was this marvelous Montparnasse 2000 LP, likely dating to the '73-75 period, Percussions Dans L'Espace.

It is rarely the case, and thus always worth mentioning, when a Library album is "all killer no filler," so to speak.  This is one such album.  Throughout, there is a strong interplay between outrageously satisfying, fat-sounding, bold drums and the more delicate, haunting percussions of vibes, xylophone, and piano, highlighted with chimes, gongs, and nature sounds.  It's an aesthetic that Nilovic excels in, and the whole album comes off as well-realized, cohesive, atmospherically engrossing, and eminently re-listenable.

It's also pretty exotic.  This is clear in tracks like "African Dream" and "L'Ocean" (both just monstrously good selections) but manifests more subtly throughout.  Just the use of percussive contrast in the instrumentation is reminiscent of the formal elements of the Exotica approach; throw in the sea and jungle sounds, exotic percussive accents, shadowy echo effects, Ballet Russes-esque Eastern European elements, vibraphone-jazz, and general nature-documentary vibe, and the album almost functions as a stealth Library-Exotica piece.  Perfect examples of this vague but indelible effect can be heard on  two of the LP's major highlights, the dreamy, enigmatic "Sound Box" and the enveloping safari of "Flock."

The only dud on here is "Free Combination", but that's more due to the imperfection of the rip than the music itself (though, either way I suspect it would have been the lower point of the record).  It is more than pulled out of the mire by the following track, however, the arresting "Ballet Dans Le Cosmos."  If you do have a superior rip, please consider sharing.  This one came to us through the overwhelming, wonderful, Maio Library.

Ok.  Enjoy.  More to come, I assure you.

Percussions Dans L'Espace (256)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dreams in the Wind: J.P. Decerf- Magical Ring, Out of the Way, Publipot (1977)

The the deeper you venture into the disorienting world Library music, the more you start to recognize particular names beginning to emerge from the vague mists of anonymity, pseudonymity, and mystery.  Jean-Pierre Decerf is one such figure whose name begins to call attention to itself through repetition and excellence.  Once his name is in your head as "one to look out for," his ouvre reveals a pattern of distinguished and sublime works.  Some of the best music in the Library canon belongs to Decerf, but despite this, I confess I know very little of the man; but such is often the case with these subterranean wizards, these luminaries without awards, these marvelous librarians.

Today we'll have a look at some of Decerf's better LPs, starting with the delightful Light Flight/More and More, a Chicago 2000-label Library record credited to "Magical Ring." Somewhat uniquely, Light Flight/More and More seems to adopt a vague impression of a 1970's prog/psych album (hence the fake-ish band name).  Decerf is credited as the composer of all the tracks here, with an additional collaborator or two (from a stable of six total) listed for each one as well.  While it's not exactly a true psych concept album, it actually does pull off something of a cohesive effect, making it one of those special Library efforts that insists on its album-ness (rather than serving as a repository of grab-bag selections for you to sift and pick from), and truly rewards a straight-through listen.   Of course, it helps that all the compositions have Decerf's distinctive stamp, and that they're almost uniformly excellent.

The album opens with the truly unique and odd "Light Flight", a very Decerf-y synthscape with a lumbering Pink Floyd bassline (straight from Meddle, really) and some basic gnarly electric guitar, all ruled over by a deep intoning voice, vampyrically delivering lines like "Yet, in such a brand new discovery, my mind aches... it lingers through the night... the earth and the mysteries of a brand new GALAXY."  This befuddling vocal figure is backed up by Deep Purple-esque rock-harmonizing, painting vague apocalypticisms of "visions of white horses" and other such things (most of which I can't make out at all).  It's a great, almost hilarious, opener; and perhaps not so surprisingly, it's actually a lot better and weirder than most of whatever it's pastiching or drawing its influences from.  One of the greatest pleasures of Library music is the way it seems to present dimension-X versions of fairly conventional music idioms, weird dark mirrors of the familiar.  "Light Flight" sounds like someone shot Uriah Heep through a wormhole and just recorded whatever doppelgangers came back out again.

The next track is "Fire Zone", a very krauty drum machine/ripping guitar duet with an unmistakable "movie music" vibe (quite similar to Irmin Schmidt's Filmmusik).  "Sight on the Sea" follows; an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, one of those truly great Library miniatures that's so arresting, evocative, and compositionally immaculate that it's sort of like gazing into a painting (Caspar Friedrich's foggy seascapes come indelibly to mind).  "Dreams in the Wind" continues the incredibly strong vein begun by "Sight on the Sea", reintroducing the guitar sound while maintaining the enigmatic foggy sound-vistas and aquatic synthesizer burbles.  It doesn't stop there: "Spatial Feeling" is good until it reveals its true purpose of greatness and engages a heart-in-your-throat swelling finale that actually lasts the majority of its runtime (the build-and-repitition of this track reminds me a lot of Sun Araw's repetition-laden avant-psychscapes). "More and More" goes back to that Meddlesome bassline and repeats "Light Flight" as a wonderful instrumental.  "No Words" is actually just so-so, sort of a pastoral whiff... but it sets the stage for one of the greatest single tracks in the whole history of Library.

"Black Safari" is a monster.  A legend, a Jabberwock.  Opening with a deeply artificial sounding collage of animal sounds (they may very well be real animal recordings, they just sound like warped plastic), a devastating drum&drum-machine rhythm skitters onto the scene and then takes off with mechanical determination, with you along for the ride.  Synthesized bird/monkey squalls-and-calls surround you as organ and guitar take turns making the safari increasingly threatening and alien.  This track is an unimaginable treasure, an aesthetic triumph for its genre.  It's followed by "Wakemania", a very enjoyable bit of cinematic organ&guitar psych in manner highly reminiscent of Bo Hansson (though presumably intended as an homage to Rick Wakeman, who was rarely this straightforward or enjoyable, at least when working for himself).  The whole deliriously enjoyable affair comes to an end with a bit of slightly soulful, entirely bizarre, sexy funk-psych in "Touch as Much."  Here, the deep-voiced singer of the opener returns to growl in an Arthur Brown-meets-Isaac Hayes croon: "Touch... as much.  As much as lust... Keep yourself loose... as loose as the wind."

This is one of the best there is.  A Library masterpiece in no uncertain terms, full of psych, synth, exoticism, and all-around greatness.


That same year (1977), Decerf did another LP (in collaboration with Gérard Zajd, at least for all but two tracks) for the CAM label called Out of the Way.  I don't know which came first (I've heard it was this one, in fact, but I can't be sure), but there's substantial overlap between the two.  Out of the Way opens with "Sight on the Sea", followed by "Spatial Feeling", and also features "Dreams on the Wind" and, yes, "Black Safari."  So the deck is stacked in its favor from the get-go, but it's not just another LP with those great tracks on it.  It's essential in its own right, and every track is a winner.  "Make Believe Advance" is another great slab of Hansson-esque psych (it would fit right in on his Lord of the Rings album); "Reaching Infinite" recycles the rhythm from "Black Safari" for a more sci-fi colored iteration and ends up sounding like unusually good video game music, but with a really unexpected, awesome surf guitar; "Funkadelic Again" is another superb drum-machine&psych guitar workout; "Fourth Level" is synth with a glaring spaceship gleam until it's interrupted, as though by Flash Gordon's more earthy Earth-ways, by a gritty guitar solo; and "On the Tenter" and "Static Man" are slightly unhinged little cityscapes, overcaffeinated slices of demented movie music.  It's one of the absolute best LPs in the Library universe.


That very same year, Decerf released another album on CAM (this time with M. Baroty as his collaborator), entitled Publipot.  It is an outrageous, dizzying delight in the same vein as the previous two, and no less great.  Publipot is amazing.

The opening track, "Sea Spell", is another in Decerf's series of seaside sublimities – and one of the very best at that, innocent, nostalgic, and utterly mysterious, with its rolling waves, burbling sound effects, and building harpsichords.  Every other track is a knockout (except perhaps the clownish "Musing on Children", which is still very good).  I won't go over them all, but I'll single out a few: "Gladsome Moments" is another riff on the "Black Safari" structure, a little less distinguished than the other two but still great.   "Phantasm in the Night" is pretty amazing; I don't want to seem unimaginative, but it actually really does sound the way Phantasm looks, at least at the film's best moments – sort of a baroque, other-dimensional horrorscape.  "Brain Project", is about what you'd expect at this point, big synth washes, pastoral seaside evocations, and stubby little organ notes counterpointing long eerie ones.  It's wonderful.

The closer is "Brazilian Ballad", one of my all-time favorite tracks, a transcendent piece where Decerf's compositional and aesthetic tendencies (at their best here) are brilliantly juxtaposed against a weird Brazilian rhythmic structure.  The result is a surprisingly affecting, wistful composition full of beauty and nostalgia and deep undercurrents of melancholy.


Hey, what are your favorite Decerfs?  I'm curious.  Talk to me about it. 

ALSO: I'd like to issue a profound thanks to the original rippers and uploaders and predecessors of any sort.  Thank you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Long-Buried Racial Memory: Alfred Newman and Ken Darby- Ports of Paradise (1960)

The prospect of a big band-style vocal Exotica record is always a dubious one.  The likes of Norman Luboff and dozens of lackluster Hawaiiana LPs have made me wary, at any rate.  The appeal and function of Exotica has a great deal to do with its serving as a more flexible vehicle for fantasy, and so it is better played out in the form of enigmatic instrumentals and soundscapes; on the other hand, a room full of forty white people intoning in church harmonies and literalist language about the beauty of the islands or what have you hardly stirs the romantic in the soul.  The latter method, even at its best, doesn't leave enough room for enigma (unless it's something poetic and visionary like Eden Ahbez, which is a whole different kettle of fish anyway).   

I present to you today a record that I actually like a lot – despite it having these very drawbacks – by Hollywood A-list legends, Alfred Newman and Ken Darby: Ports of Paradise. A deluxe voyage to the South Seas.

This record is full of Hollywood cinematic bombast and saccharine oversaturation; it oughtn't really work as exotica, but somehow, in its best moments, it sort of does.  This must be due to the sterling pedigree of its creators, but you know, it's not as though I sit around listening to Newman and Darby's work on the film scores for South Pacific or The King and I.  Regardless, this LP has its moments of wonder: the bookends in particular ("Ports of Paradise" and "To You Sweetheart, Aloha") have the sweeping ambition of Wizard of Oz and the shabby, overblown Technicolor majesty of a lesser (but still fascinating) film like Journey to the Center of the Earth; with relatively interesting lyrics, to boot.  "The Enchanted Sea" is another particular highlight (you may have heard it on a Jungle Shadows mix), with its dichotomous structure, attempts made at "native" chanting, and brooding arrangement all managing an effectively mystical atmosphere and an exquisite, original interpretation of a common composition.  The similar "Whispering Wind" has a deep sense of ocean-bound longing and evokes a dark night of warm salt breezes and cold stars.

Mavis Rivers, the esteemed Samoan jazz singer, is given two showcases in "Isa Lei" and "My Little Grass Shack"; both vocal performances are very straight-ahead and a little underwhelming in my opinion, but the tracks have intriguing arrangements (the former lush and tinged with darkness, the latter ornamented by swirling strings and an agreeable chanting in the background vocals) and I could imagine them being quite effective in the proper setting.  The rest of the selections are a fairly bland, with the odd exception of "Madonna of the Flowers," featuring a lightly gonzo baritone vocal turn from Bill Lee (doing something like Bing Crosby in Christmas mode) that highlights a bit of Hawaiian-style Catholicism and is both bizarre and a little boring, like the Christmas sequence of Three Caballeros.  You often see, throughout the history of exoticist works of art, a sort of "return" to Western values, particularly religion, after a period of fetishization of the exotic Other; these moments also serve to underscore the value of Western presence in the colonies, demonstrated by the effects of religious proselytizing.  This track is that moment in the album's narrative structure.

This album has more to enjoy than just its songs, however!  Indeed!  It also comes with a "16 page brochure in full color," which I would love to share with you now, one page at a time:

Like many, many Exotica and/or Hawaiiana LPs, Ports of Paradise was part of an overt, synergistic relationship with aspects of the tourism industry.   This strategy is often used to promote specific Hawaiian resorts or package deals offered by travel agencies; in this case, there's some hard-to-pin-down but nonetheless explicit connection to Matson Navigation Company, "whose luxurious passenger liners are regular callers at the Ports of Paradise" (Matson being a shipping company founded in 1882, a major player in Hawaiian popular tourism and the founders of the Moana Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, among many other things, and to which Ken Darby may have been connected by marriage, though I can't quite tell).  The sequence of songs (with regards to their geographic referent) is loosely based on the itinerary of two of Matson's ships at the time, an interesting album structure illustrated on the map above.

Also, a bit of trivia: Darby was the voice of the mayor Munchkinland in the film of Wizard of Oz, as well as the composer of "Love Me Tender", which he actually credited to his wife, a Vera Matson. Is she Vera Matson of the Matson shipping family?  I can't tell.

"The Ports of Paradise... faraway islands in a blue, blue tropical sea... and they are only one step away – from shore to waiting ship.  One step – but with it, you leave one world and enter another.  A bright, beautiful, floating world...." 

Ken Darby's purple prose – most evocative of Michener's blockbuster style, but with just a shade of Conrad in Nigger of the Narcissus mode – sets a literary stage for the songs.  It's all travelogue escapism (so mythicized it resembles the Odyssey, but without conflict) and fuzzy pop-anthropology with a strong emphasis on primitivism and timelessness.

 (I am highlighting certain passages, but you can easily read the rest for yourself if you enlarge the images).

"The land recedes behind your gleaming ship, and before you, in endless moving mystery, lies THE ENCHANTED SEA.  You feel it turn and roll beneath a warming sun.  Upon its vast, turquoise mirror are caught and reflected the faint echoes of Polynesian voices, until, at last, over the cloud-haloed horizon, rises TAHITI, first Port of Paradise.  
Through the twilight air swells a great shout of welcome – awakening in your blood a long-buried racial memory of primitive excitement – and there before you lies your dream, under an unbelievable BLUE TAHITIAN MOON."

Whew! That's just the first section, the first "port."  The rest is just as likely to rip your postcolonial bodice, and as such I highly recommend giving it a read.  Much like Loti, the absolute king of precisely this sort of exotic prose, Darby can't resist peppering his achingly florid scenic passages with problematic ethnological commentary (later, he describes the Fiji Islands as "only 75 years removed from primitive man"); all the better, as it makes for especially rich and revealing reading, and spruces up an otherwise too-sugary exercise in exoticism with some dark, spicy notes of imperialist bullshit.

The next page opens up to these two exquisite images:

The first, a fern grotto in Kauai; the second, a "fern-tree idol" in Oahu.  These two pages fold out to reveal even more imagery and textual delight.  First, a wide-angle view of paradise (a "moonlit" beach scene):

 Followed by a continuation of Darby's liner notes, which wraps up the voyage narrative:


The next spread details the narrative of the album's production, against the backdrop of Newman and Darby's demanding careers as in-demand Hollywood music personalities (composing "Moon of Manakoora" for The Hurricane, working together on all the Rodgers and Hammerstein film adaptations, etc.), with special emphasis on the two men's shared affinity for vacationing in Hawaii.  On the left are vacation photos from "the Newman family album."  Newman is described as nearly an honorary Hawaiian; not only did he "win the aid of shy elder Hawaiians," making them "his lifelong friends" ("they gave him their love, and they gave him their islands"), but he also earned himself a Hawaiian name: "Kalani Haaheo (Ken's modesty prohibits translation!)"

"Part of the vast collection of percussion instruments used in this recording" 

Anyway, that's the whole package.  I hope you enjoyed looking at it with me.  Listen to it on your own, let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lyman on Film: Taboo, Taboo Tu, Quiet Village

I'm back.  The show went wonderfully, thanks for asking.  We packed the house and drank all the rum.  Thanks to those among you who attended, you wonderful people. 

I look forward now to getting more posts out in the next few days, but for now, here's a little something delightful to get us back in the game: a pair of Arthur Lyman live television appearances, performing "Taboo" and "Taboo Tu."  It's really astounding to me, watching the Lyman quartet in action, like a perfect little music box of artifice, restraint, and professionalism, conjuring up a flawless aural illusion of the exotic.  Check them out!  (And thanks to Mr. Schulkind for hipping me to the second video!)  Sorry for the links, embedding has been disabled for both videos.


Taboo TU

Oh, and just for kicks and the sheer beauty of it: here's a third video of Lyman playing "Quiet Village" solo on the vibes.  It's pretty much exquisite, I highly recommend it.


More to come, very soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

EXPEDITION: An Evening of Armchair Exoticisms


I'm particularly excited this morning to share this with you all:  Next Thursday, September 4th, at Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, I will be presenting EXPEDITION, an exotic evening of art and armchair travel.  Come and embark on a journey to the heart of timeless darkness and beyond; embrace the numinous monolith of the exotic immensity.

Check out the event site for all the information you'll need.   Or here is a facebook thing. An event page.  Share it, if that's the thing I want to say.  

Also!  Please watch the exactly delightful trailer below (put together by the incredible Mr. Zev Deans, who also put this whole show together, made the flyer, these gifs, and arranged for there to be tiki drinks in dinosaur cups on the night of the show):


Expedition's program will consist of three parts:

1: Millions of Years Ago: A Primeval Bolero
(Concerning the Origins of Man and the Savage Early Days of the Earth)
For the Edification and Pleasure of the Audience: In Order to Please the Eye and Excite the Imagination

A trio of educational video tapes of stop-motion dinosaurs subjected to extensive re-edits and fitted with a new soundtrack of exotica, library music, and cosmic synthesizers.  Saturating themselves in the exotic fiction and repetitive tropes of the dinosaur narrative as it is so often presented, the videos display: a pseudo-science-fiction fantasy wherein thunder lizards occupy a primeval, godless, and thoroughly exotic landscape of the sublime (an apocalyptic out-of-time zone where human life is horrifically/paradisally nonexistent) and are ultimately martyred so that mammals may live.  Beneath the volcanic, eschatological skies of the First Judgment, the Noble Reptilian Savage necessarily expires, making way for the dominance of the imperial rat.

2: Expedition:

Expedition is a collage book, two years in the making, loosely following an archetypal expedition narrative and its ultimate descent into dissociative breakdown. Employing juxtaposition through the literal and symbolic act of collage, it delves into unapologetic fantasy while offering a sort of critique, explicating a surrealist-ethnographical culture-history of Western exoticism.  Each page has dozens of collaged components, genuine artifacts of authentic exoticist 20th century culture, drawn from a vast collected archive; all of which are detailed (along with their sources and original context) in the book's dense index.  The book will be presented as an analogue slide show (with a soundtrack elaborately comprised of exotica music and field recordings).

 3: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (Ports of Paradise):

A recut of a 1965 Hollywood recut (entitled Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, with a well-shoehorned-in Basil Rathbone) of a 1962 Soviet science fiction film, Planet of Storms (using also some additional footage from a further 1968 B-picture recut, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women).  The film follows an expedition to Venus, an exotic planet populated with dinosaurs, carnivorous plants, and mysterious native women.  The film is re-edited (in chronological order, but greatly shortened, with redesigned sound) to reveal the classic expedition narrative at its core, with a preference for the sensory over the sensical.  The result is a woozy narrative more in line with dream-state story-telling, surrealist strategies, or the psychedelic logic of midnight movies. 

COME TO THE SHOW! I'LL BE THERE!  WE CAN TALK ABOUT EXOTICA IN THE SAME PHYSICAL PROXIMITY!  WE CAN DRINK FROM DINOSAURIC VESSELS TOGETHER!  If you can't come to the show, and you are reading this from one of the almost infinite locations that are out of reasonable reach of New York, then please do know that your presence will be sorely missed.  Perhaps recommend it to a friend, if you have one in the area.  Or invite me to your town to do the show there!  I'd come, probably!

Last thing before I go: I know I've mentioned this before, but distributable copies of the book are coming soon.  There should be more information before September draws to a close.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Flash Strap Presents: Bibliothèque Exotique Volume 5 – Tropicosmic (Synthesized Exotica and Electro-Primitivism)

Here we go.  Volume 5.  The last in this series, for the time being.  The infinite nature of the library world means that I could conceivably do this whole thing again ten times over, if I had access to every library LP in existence, but for now I have done all I can.  And I'm very excited about this temporarily-terminal installment, as it's the biggest yet, a seething, pulsing 2 and a half hours of cosmic jungle washes and bright plastic synthi-time rituals du sauvage.

This set runs a gamut from sterling electronic avant-garde (of a sort) to some rather more crass (but awesome in its way) e-music material, but they're all part of the same continuum, all speaking the same basic language of exoticism.  In this case, the gulf between the linguistic portal of the track's title and the formal elements of exoticism as evidenced by the music itself is as wide, or wider, than ever.  It's a fascinating thing about synth music: if you title an ambient sequencer-driven track "Neptune," then the listener unavoidably pictures an icy celestial body, imagery on a planetary scale.  If you title that same track "Jungle," then the listener conjures exotic visions of a rainforest, perhaps with a sci-fi/UFOlogical twist, or hot hazy shades of deep antiquity.  Neither experience would be more or less intrinsically authentic or perceptive than the other; you're just responding to the stimulus with which you've been provided—and besides, what does exotica, of all things, have to do with fidelity to fact, tradition, or formal rules, anyway?  If a track says it's exotica, then by gum it sure as hell has to be, doesn't it?

Many of the selections in Tropicosmic do lean particularly, even exclusively, hard on that paratextual tension to achieve their take on exotica.  But it's a spectrum: many others go all in for overt signifiers, classic genre hallmarks, and/or formal tropes of exoticism, all while employing the synthesizer palette to transform, mutate, or update the idiom.  There's all sorts here, even if nearly half of the selections employ the words "jungle" or "Africa" in their title—the most interesting thing is the variations and repetitions of strategies. 

David Toop referred to Exotica (in his book, Exotica) as "fabricated soundscapes in a real world."  He could scarcely have said it better, and it's as applicable a phrase now as ever.  Please enjoy this panorama of the synthesized exotic universe, as I hope you have enjoyed the broader panorama of the library-exotica landscape throughout the run of Bibliothèque Exotique.  I thank you for following along with me on this odyssey.

Tropicosmic: Synthesized Exotica and Electro-Primitivism

1. Kolibri (sunrise in the djungle); (Kuckuck & C. Brull Ltd.: Soundtrack)–Georg Deuter
2. Barimpa (Montparnasse: Interfrequence)–Ariel Kalma
3. Exotique (RCA Media: Robot Bleu)–Roland Bocquet
4. Panama (Coloursound Library: The Now Generation (Percussive Underscores))–Peter Lüdemann & Pit Troja
5. Brazilian Ballad (CAM: Publipot)–J.P. Decerf & M. Baroty
6. Yapaga Cova (Disc Go: GO 1003)–J.C. Pierric ?
7. New Tropical Safari (Montparnasse: Translation)–C. Hauterive & M. Saclays
8. Black Safari (CAM: Out of the Way [with Gérard Zajd, Tony Cerona]; also released on Chicago 2000: Light Flight More and More [as the artist Magical Ring])–J.P. Decerf
9. Black Power (Bota Fogo: The Easy Listening Group Vol.1)–Deschidado & Miniello
10. Slave March (Afrodisia: Black Goddess OST)–Remi Kabaka
11. VoodooTronics (StudioG/Trunk: G-Spots)–James Harpham
12. African War (Cenacolo: Grandangolo)–Amadeo Tommasi
13. African Délirium (CBS: April Orchestra Vol. 48, Présente FR2)–Francis Rimbert & Frederick Rousseau
14. Electronic Africa (TeleMusic: Automation Vol. 2)–Sauveur Mallia
15. African Break (TeleMusic: Percussions Modernes Vol. 1)–Sauveur Mallia
16. Mission Africa (TeleMusic: Music Force)–Swing Family (Sauveur Mallia)
17. Akili Mali (Palm Records: Colours)–Ralf Nowy
18. Tribal Ceremony (Sonimage: Safari)–Jean-Michel Hervé
19. Jungle Lovers (CAM: Construction)–Aldo Tamborrelli & Massimo Ruocco
20. Jungle Juice (De Wolfe: Push Button)–Rubba (Karl Jenkins & Mike Ratledge)
21. Jungle Caravan (Magicabus: Hypnosis)–Yan Tregger
22. Jungle Command (Amphonic: Sound Stage 18- The New World)–Anne Dudley
23. Synthetic Jungle (Sam Fox Productions: Deserted Palace)–Jean Michel Jarre
24. Jungle (Sonimage: Fusion)–Armand Frydman
25. Jungle (Sky: Inventions)–Adelbert Von Deyen & Dieter Schutz
26. Inca (DeWolfe: Stretch)–Simon Park
27. Rain-Forest (Selected Sound: Environment)–Claude Larson
28. Arabian Era (Montparnasse: Sound)–J.P. Decerf
29. Wizard (Montparnasse: Sound)–J.P. Decerf / M. Saclays
30. Oasis (Montparnasse: Interfrequence)–Ariel Kalma
31. Oasis (Cetra: Oasis)–Il Guardiano Del Faro
32. East Looks West (a); (KPM: A Higher State)–Andy Clark
33. Asia (RCA Media: Robot Bleu)–Roland Bocquet
34. Far-Off Lands (Themes International: A New Age)–Rod Argent & Robert Howes
35. Strange Paradise (Musax: Planant)–Gérard Gesina
36. Serengeti (Sonimage: Balance)–Martin Wester & Bernhard Hering
37. Savannah (Selected Sound: Environment)–Claude Larson
38. La Recreation du Kangourou (Disques Magellan: Patchwork Orchestra 5- Cosmic Sounds/China Moods)–Roger Davy
39. Ritmo Pampa (Globevision: I Grès vol. 2)–I Grès
40. Andean's Shepherd (Sonimage: Safari)–Jean-Michel Hervé
41. Sombrero (Montparnasse: Hypothese)–D. Labarre & F. Schnetzer
42. Exotic Guide (TeleMusic: Spatial & Co Vol. 2)–Sauveur Mallia
43. Tropic (Koka Media: Eureka)–Armand Frydman
44. Tropical (PSI: Turbulences)–Joël Fajerman
45. Atoll (Montparnasse: Hypothese)–D. Labarre & F. Schnetzer
46. Pink Island (Selected Sound: Rainbow Sessions)–Mike Moore Company
47. Lagon Tropical (Patchwork: Aquarius)–Pierre Dutour
48. Hymn To A Peaceful Island (Coloursound Library: Into The Wind)–Klaus Weiss
49. Hawaian et Fizz Guitars (CBS: April Orchestra Vol. 31 - Claviers Electroniques)–Caravelli
50. Hawaiiana (Coloursound Library: The PR TV Group - Contemporary Group Vol. 2)–Andre Mikola
51. Sea Holiday (Hawaii); (Forever Records: Mondial Folk Synthesizer III (Estremo Oriente-Africa))–Marcello Giombini
52. Treasure Island (Chappell: Atmospheric - Sea/Water)–Gouriet & Phillips