Archive for the ‘Tony Gage Albums’ Category
Terrifyingly bleak and irresistibly hilarious. Like so many Tony Gage albums, but perhaps more than any other, Techno Prisoners tells you the truth you don’t want to hear. Stoner rock done against garish general MIDI shades, its genius is all too visible for those who are ready to see it, deftly sewn into an assembly of seemingly second-hand and incomplete drapings others might have discarded. It is dreadful and awesome, monstrous in its half-munched effluence, damning in its über-Kak, arm’s-length indifference.
There’s a gruff, gritty darkfulness to this album (even on upper beat tracks like ‘Bouncer’ and ‘Venus’) that reaches its apotheosis with ‘This Misery Can’t Last’ a muddily disinterested dirge that fails to settle on a groove while roughly cut splices (mostly) of Laura Jesson’s famous lines in brief Brief Encounter that give the track its title. The brilliant matter-of-factness of the instrumental playing’s looseness makes for a tawdrily sardonic retort to Dr Shit’s excessively tightly knotted interplay, especially in the swaggery loy of ‘Bouncer’ or ‘I’m Coming Your Way,’ a partial revision of the Sparrow song of the same name from the same period.
Like the knobbly elbows of birds’ wings, two pieces containing collaged dialogue from The Man With the Golden Gun provide a certain symmetry: the first, ‘My Name Is Scaramanga’ is merely exposition through reference and acknowledgement, before ‘James…’ (on what was the old cassette Side Two) makes anarchic mockery of the very premise of 007 – celebrating, as Gage righteously does, the fact that the only Bond suitable enough to accentuate the role’s inherent ridicule was Roger Moore.
At the time of the album’s original preparation for release, Gage supplied several different images along with the cover art (like those inserted above); no recommendation was given as to how these should be deployed (the most reasonable assumption was that they might be good as part of a CD booklet – Kakutopia were more extravagant in their packaging, sometimes, then), but zip-file downloads now offer the chance to include random surplus content – there’s a third picture in the d-load pack.
3. Decaying Grandeur
4. You Two
5. “My Name Is Scaramanga”
6. Walk In Town
8. This Misery Can’t Last
9. I’m Coming Your Way
13. Sad Crap
14. Woman Blare
Tony Gage – all insts
Tony Gage’s Doctor Shit is a masterpiece of staggering proportions. It registers an account of turn-of-the-century Britain that seizes the DNA of social music and reconstructs it around an aperture of incisively abstract critique. It is sheer.
Genius, here, is seen to emerge from the consistency of a practical engagement that successfully blocks out the paranoia of interpellation and idiot supplication. Using what was already a starkly out-dated sound palette by the mid-90s, Gage seems to court irony and the faux naïf, but his unwavering focus on the music’s subject matter etches the imaginary onto the waxy fibre of ordinary madeness, exposing surreal relief, frigging the absolute.
How does he achieve this? Beats me. Except to say that Gage’s use of the familiar is key, threw out for the r/cats. There are four cover versions (well, that’s if you include ‘Angel of Death’ which is named for the Slayer song as a would-be cover, but completely rewrites the tune – look out for the sung version of this on Bollocks to the Lot of Them for a full explanation), but several songs have ‘covered’ referential passages buried deep inside their narratives: look out for Stereo MCs’ ‘Connected,’ Prince’s ‘Sign O’ The Times,’ and a brilliantly inept dribbling of Dave Brubeck’s rubbish ‘Take Five.’ ‘Into The Stadium’ is an exemplar for a Gage approach that inhabits a mindset (in this case, presumably, enthusiasm for sports) convincingly enough to draw the listener in, before spiking their drink with extravagant hallucinogens that expose the very neurons of spectacular foil.
Doctor Shit is an historic masterclass in MIDI orchestration and counterpoint: the well-programmed sequencer. After the two ‘Sierra Era’ albums, Gage went back to composing with MIDI sequencing in a big way. What he had to work with was the Atari 1040ST/C-Lab Notator® that he and Gwilly Edmondez had used to make Sparrow’s Dirty Willy’s Deep Party (1990) and Europe Yoy (1991), but with only one expander, the Roland U110, to source sounds from. The U110 was good, but it was limited, and besides it would only allow six voices at once, which meant most people (including Gage and Edmondez previously) would generally use it as one of several sound modules. Technically, then, Doctor Shit represents a triumph in timbral resourcefulness and savvy programming, squeezing every last sonic giblet from the entrails of technology that was already hopelessly dated by the mid-90s. So it’s like Bach, but also Mozart, and then also Bartók, then Stockhausen, back to Poulenc, before humiliating all the Fitkin/Bloke tangi-vibrat.
For Gage is the true artist, the artist’s artist as well as the world’s artist and the best’s artistes. Consequently you got this thing going on where a mind and its hands will appropriate whatever materials that are to hand and make something from them that is beyond meaningful, pungently sublime, poignantly irredeembable. Broken hearts are full of art’s holes – taste is a sorry capitulation. This album will change your life.
1. From Russia With Love
2. Angel of Death
3. Mission Impossible
4. Into The Stadium
7. The Prat
12. Dr. Voodoo
14. Mad March
15. Dr. Voodoo
17. Funk It
20. Russ Mix
Tony Gage – everything
Recorded in Roath, Cardiff, 1995
1992-93 is a period that is retrospectively most remarkable for the Radioactive Sparrow movies Deep Cop and Deep Cop 2: Too Deep A Cop. Both movies were written and directed by Tony Gage. Gage is a compulsive and perpetually engaged artist of true genius. He joined Radioactive Sparrow in 1988 over a year after the break-up of Grenade. His first solo album, 4-Track Recordings will be posted on Kakutopia just as soon as the original masters can be digitized and remixed.
This Is It! is the first of the two ‘Sierra Era’ albums and was partly intended as a tribute to early Sparrow: it is almost entirely made with overdubs made by playing back a previous track in front of the microphone of another tape recorder while recording the next track, a standard practice for early Sparrow post-production. The inclusion here of a chunk of Brian Johnson-era AC/DC doing ‘Highway to Hell’ live is a direct reference to the track ‘Genesis’ on The Nicaragua Tapes (1982) which was itself 10 minutes or so straight out of Trick of the Tail.
This Is It!’s centerpiece is the 19-minute ‘JESUS CHRIST’ for which he is joined by Andrew (Bernard) Harrison for part-rehearsed kitchen renditions of songs from Jesus Christ Superstar which they had both listened to avidly as kids.
Tony Gage – all instruments except ‘JESUS CHRIST’ featuring Andrew Harrison
Recorded by Tony Gage in Roath, Cardiff, Autumn 1992.