Such Stars As This Are Not For Me

Silver Surfer was Norrin Radd, the young man from the planet Zenn-La who saved his home world from Galactus, the planet devourer, by agreeing to act as his herald. This resulted in Norrin flying through the cosmos announcing to various planets that they were about to be destroyed. He later turned on his master, defending the earth. Exiled to the blue planet he spent much of his time shaking his head, ruminating on existence and despairing at the inhumanity of mankind.

Silver Surfer first appeared in a Fantastic Four comic in 1966. When drawn by Jack Kirby a completely silver humanoid with no genitals on a surfboard sweeping through the cosmos, his speech coming from Stan Lee’s scripts with him speaking in a kind of Shakespearean English, makes perfect sense.

Here’s some beautiful minimal ambient-techno from Aphex Twin.

Actium

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Low Frequency Oscilator

You could use all kind of superlatives to describe this record. Released in July 1990 it is a landmark British house record in the same way that Voodoo Ray is, a British version of a sound from elsewhere that could only have come from British bedroom and backroom producers fired up by the scenes of 1988-90. Warp Records was supposedly formed specifically to release this record, heavy on bass and bleeps, rattling drum machines and the voice intoning ‘L.F.O.’. Warp would go on to release further great records in the aftermath of this one- Testone, Tricky Disco, Tuff Little Unit, other records by LFO- but they are all somewhat in its shadow. It was also a genuine hit, reaching number 12 in the chart (at a time when that meant selling tens of thousands of records).

L.F.O. (Leeds Warehouse Mix)

Join The Future

Almost everything I’ve posted here recently, except for the Ride song at the weekend, has been bleeps and squiggles, 303s and 808s, and I had every intention of sitting down to write a post with guitars in it but then I read Michael’s comment on one of my Warp posts last week where he mentioned Join The Future by Tuff Little Unit. Released on Warp in January 1991 this is a superb techno record, a deep wandering bassline, clattering drumbeats and some lovely sinuous synthlines. People often say techno is cold and austere but this is warm and inviting and in the words of a commenter at Discogs way back in 2002 ‘you can feel the hidden euphoria of a new generation in it, a tune for the after hours’. Perfect.

Join The Future (12″ Mix)

Squeaky

I mentioned LFO yesterday so it seems appropriate to follow up with something from their back catalogue. LFO were a Leeds based duo (Jez Varley and Mark Bell) who put out bass heavy techno and bleep ‘n’ bass on Sheffield’s Warp Records. This track is a monster, the first track on their 1991 ep What Is House? Not as sparse as yesterday’s Testone, Squeaky has a long, winding, descending synth noise, tough drums and lashings of sub-bass. Pretty abstract and in many ways quite extreme.

Squeaky

Jez left in 1996 leaving Mark on his own as LFO. He went on to work extensively with Bjork, remixing her and becoming part of her band for her Homogenic and Volta tours. This remix of Possibly Maybe chops up and distorts Bjork so much it bears little relation to the original song. Sadly, Mark Bell died in 2014.

Play The Five Tones

One of the many very specific offshoots of the acid house revolution of 1988 was bleep ‘n’ bass, an almost exclusively northern sub-scene. The first bleep ‘n’ bass record came from Bradford (Unique 3’s The Theme) but after that Sheffield and Warp Records became the home of a style of dance music pretty much defined by its name- pocket calculate bleeps with deep, heavy, sub bass over a drum machine. A vocal sample to complete. Minimal, intense, British techno. Between 1989 and 1991 a load of great bleep ‘n’ bass records were made, best heard at full volume in pitch darkness with a strobe flashing away (but home listening will do too).

Sweet Exorcist were from Sheffield, a duo of Richard Kirk (of Cabaret Voltaire) and DJ Parrot (Richard Barratt). Their first record, in 1990, was Testone- made using some test tones and a vocal sample from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It is absolutely essential. Only LFO came close to this.

Testone

The video was directed by a certain Jarvis Cocker, pre-fame, and is a classic of its kind too.

Various Artists

Twenty five years old recently Warp’s Artificial Intelligence compilation was a deliberate attempt to make a dance music compilation that wasn’t for dancing to but for listening to at home. It also led to the creation of IDM, a term I still find a bit mystifying and pointless. This is machine music, techno and ambient combining, with groove and melody. The list of artists is second to none, a double vinyl example of Warp’s finger being firmly on the robotic pulse in 1992- Autechre, Speedy J, B12, Richie Hawtin (as UP!), Black Dog (as I.A.O.) and Aphex Twin stand out.

The opening track came from the magic hands and brain of Richard D. James- calling himself The Dice Man with a track called Polygon Window (he’d soon go on to release as Polygon Window just to check people were keeping up ). Even among the high quality of the various artists work on A.I. and his own back catalogue at this point Polygon Window stands out, fizzing and buzzing with ideas and invention. What’s more, you could dance to this if the mood took you.

Polygon Window

Holmes

Friday- and thank fuck for that. It’s been a long and trying week. I’ve got my computer back and it seems to have survived the experience despite the best efforts of the staff at the shop who were borderline incompetent, had no customer service skills whatsoever and didn’t even seem to think an apology was due when I listed the multiple let downs in service they’ve provided me with over the last four weeks.

Today’s tune to lift the spirits is a follow on of sorts from Drew posting LB Bad’s New Age Of Faith last week, the starting point for Sabres Of Paradise’s  1993 classic Smokebelch. David Holmes took Weatherall and co’s track and added a tumbling house piano guaranteed to set the hairs on the back of the neck up straight and a majorette style drumming section. Breakdowns and build ups, and end the of the night has come too soon.

Smokebelch II (David Holmes remix)

If you haven’t yet heard Holmes’ Late Night Tales compilation you really should do so as a matter of urgency, whatever your current tastes. It is much more than a mix cd or compilation. It is an expertly put together and seemless mix of songs to guide you through the small hours, taking in psyche, folk, the weirder end of rock and roll, a children’s choir, ambient and found sounds, the spoken word and some songs recorded by Holmes specifically for this album. It takes in the words of Seamus Heaney, the music of strange bedfellows like BP Fallon, Jon Hopkins, David Crosby, Buddy Holly, The Children Of Sunshine and Moine Dubh’s Barry Woolnough. It tracks a journey through life, complete with loss and love and redemption. It is quite magical and proves that light always finds its way through the dark.

The two covers are kind of the inverse of each other aren’t they?