KAKUTOPIA

Radioactive Sparrow – Hägar Brünes (1988)

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If Radioactive Sparrow are to be considered a truly great band in the eventual biblical account of rock & roll in the year 4,000 or something (when the great truths purged of marketing will finally be cast in the implausible bronze of unsound testament –  alongside Slayer, Beefheart, the Fall and Dog Faced Hermans), then it will be for the band that it became in 1989, when its core trio of Bill Bargefoot, Heaving Stews and Tony Gage became permanent. 1988, then, was the year of delicate shifts and looming transitions, Brooce Boyes’s Long Goodbye, and glimpses of a promised, cacophonic, cacotopian land.

It’s funny how, when you’re young, the tricked played by turning over the page with a different year number coupled with January’s harsh, frosty austerity can still give you a sense of new beginnings and clean slates. Following the ugly tangle that was You Keep A Rockin, Hägar Brünes breathed a renewed, though restrained, vigour that restored the joy of Kak to the recording process. Essentially it’s the Preswylfa sessions that define the album; in compiling it, Bargefoot and Boyes saw fit to fill it out with two songs from the late-’87 trio Hut session (with Owen Powell) that had yielded the previous album’s ‘Black Eye Blue.’  Although it is easy to see why: ‘Fishmonger’s Daughter’ and ‘Simon Says’ provide a satisfying (albeit bloated) reverb-drenched change in texture and scale from the baroque tussles of the Preswylfa material, sequenced as they were at the mid-point of each side of the original C-60 cassette.

The opening two tracks, ‘Don’t Shave Me Bald’ and ‘Eddie Asked Me To Stay,’ introduce a whole new working dialogue between Bargefoot and Boyes. At some point during the previous weeks, they had managed to once again procure the loan of the Mattel Synsonics drum machine from Ceri Davies. When last used in 1985, they had made very little use of its considerably open sequencing/programming facility, preferring instead to simply bash the rubbery grey pads as a surrogate kit. What they now discovered, to their unbridled delight, was that you could programme mistakes and awkward rhythmic stutters into a beat. ‘Don’t Shave Me Bald’ doesn’t overdo this, however, and its gawkishly stilted jut induces in the guitar vs. bass of Bargefoot/Boyes a fascinatingly gnarly contrapuntal duel, each egging the other on to increasingly disjointed dyads that recall nothing so much as coarse shapes and cruxes drawn in competingly antagonistic graphite and charcoal pursuing the same lines. Suddenly we have a cerebral Kak that goads the distinction between ludic wrongnesses and avant poeticism. The contrapuntal fantasy continues in ‘Eddie Asked Me To Stay,’ this time in pursuit of a hoppity pegasus in modal blues.

The most significant thing about Hägar Brünes, however, is the introduction of Emma 100-Fingers [above], a figure so important to Sparrow’s legend that it’s easy to forget that she was a full-time member for barely a year. From the very first sessions her joyful subversion of a technical facility on the keyboard acquired through years of childhood piano lessons breathed into the band a renewed spirit of playful invention that has remained with them ever since. It’s absurd how rarely one comes across the kind of unbridled, joyous musicality that is necessary for plunging into the instantaneous history-craft of Kak performance, but Emma 100-Fingers possessed this in spades, able to tap into a mellifluous fantasia cantabile that would leave the rest of the group looking positively wooden. This facility announces itself, bursting into the continuity on ‘Breakaway’ with an exuberant attack on the Yamaha DX-9 (which the band had borrowed from Owen Powell) where her left hand pounds out a stomping bass, while the right twists a standard blues lick into fluorescent warble.

Preswylfa sessions in early 1988 also feature Simon Jacobs on drums and guitar (he had no training or experience in either), one of those bizarre characters in Radioactive Sparrow’s story who appear and then disappear without the rest of the band knowing who the hell they were or where to ever find them again. His highly distinctive contribution will be discussed later when we come to Twixt Brackla & Chicago and Skorpion Sundy Rising.

Tracklisting:

  1. Don’t Shave Me Bald
  2. But Eddie Asked Me To Stay
  3. Face In Pocket
  4. Fishmonger’s Daughter
  5. New Know How
  6. Hägar Brünes
  7. Breakaway
  8. Simon Says
  9. Catch Up Boyes
  10. Get Valentine
  11. Recipe For Disaster

Personnel:

Bill Bargefoot
Brooce Boyes
Emma 100-Fingers
Simon Jacobs
plus Owen Powell on 4 & 8

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Written by Gustav Thomas

May 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Gwilly Edmondez/Bloomin’ Caroline/Ludal Le Chacal – I Fucking Love That! (2009)

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On Friday 13th November 2009, Gwilly Edmondez, Bloomin’ Caroline and Ludal Le Chacal performed as live vocalists and situational improvisors in the Sound of Aircraft Attacking Britain presentation The Velvet Lantern, a four-hour video/performance installation programmed as part of the Cardiff performance art festival Experimentica 09. The performance took place in Chapter Art Centre’s roomy Stiwdio space; the logistical complications were such that SAAB’s Richard Bowers and Ian Watson spent pretty much the whole day setting up and eliminating problems arising. Outside the rain pounded the Welsh capital in the heavy and relentless way that is particular to South Wales and the South West UK; the trio would probably have spent the day drifting around Cardiff city centre, seeing sights and wasting energies on anodyne distractions. But with the flooding deluge outside, they were instead confined to the studio control room above the performance space where their habitual noise-making inevitably evolved into an actual recording session using the only means they had, the mono mic on the Boss BR-1 that Edmondez was travelling with.

The session that emerged relates with real intensity the stir-crazy cabin fever that infested their collectivity that afternoon and was subsequently sweetly packaged and art-worked by Ludal. The weird thing is that November 13 2009 remains the only time this exact trio have performed; this album leaves you begging for more, and Kakutopia hopes very much that somehow the trio can reconvene in the not too distant future to pick up where they done left off.

Tracklisting
1. Ouverture – I Fucking Love That… It’s Like Rick Wakeman
2. Act 1, scene 1- Psychiatric nursery
3. Act 1, scene 2 – I’m so sorry… bitte d’ane
4. Act 1, scene 3 – Jo the fucking taxi…c’est toi la tapette
5. Act 1, scene 4 – It’s actually Caroline’s voice
6. Act 1, scene 5 – One more time
7. Intermezzo
8. Meanwhile in Siberia
9 Meanwhile in Ilton Joan’s bedroom
10. Act 2, scene 1 – May somebody answer the damn phone
11 Act 2, scene 2 – Toi t’es pas beau, t’es pas mignon
12. Act 2, scene 3 – KGB Headquarters…really
13. Act 2, scene 4 – Je veux ma maman
14. Intermezzo2
15. Meanwhile inside culture lab’s printer
16. Meanwhile in Tatooine
17. Act 3, scene 1 – Organization
18. Act 3, scene 2 – Mikado train…are you allright
19. Act 3, scene 3 – Dog on acid
20. Act 3, scene 4 – Grand Finale

Personnel
Gwilly Edmondez
Bloomin’ Caroline
Ludal Le Chacal

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Written by Gustav Thomas

May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Tony Gage – Techno Prisoners (1999)

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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.

TRACKLISTING
1. Scraper
2. Venus
3. Decaying Grandeur
4. You Two
5. “My Name Is Scaramanga”
6. Walk In Town
7. Bouncer
8. This Misery Can’t Last
9. I’m Coming Your Way
10. Supermarket
11. W.I.C.
12. “James…”
13. Sad Crap
14. Woman Blare

Tony Gage – all insts

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Written by Gustav Thomas

April 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Tony Gage Albums

Tony Gage – Doctor Shit (1995)

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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.

Tracklisting

1.     From Russia With Love
2.     Angel of Death
3.     Mission Impossible
4.     Into The Stadium
5.     Bjork
6.     Funky
7.     The Prat
8.     5/4
9.     Substitute
10.  Magic
11.  Candle-Wax
12.  Dr. Voodoo
13.  Interval
14.  Mad March
15.  Dr. Voodoo
16.  Space
17.  Funk It
18.  Glass
19.  Piano/Piss
20.  Russ Mix

Personnel
Tony Gage – everything

Recorded in Roath, Cardiff, 1995

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Written by Gustav Thomas

January 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Tony Gage Albums

Gwilly Edmondez – Song Birds (1987)

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When Gwilly Edmondez bought his first 4-track recorder in 1984, he was already four years old as a player in the Radioactive Sparrow odyssey wherein total improvisation was the sole prescription. Inevitably, perhaps, he deployed the same method for solo studio projects, improvising four tracks (or more bouncing down) separately, building a song’s internal logic through each overdub’s increasing familiarity with the material. That every recorded performance comprised first and only takes of each part was not observed on principle, then; rather it was the absence of any notion that another approach might be worthwhile.

Like almost all Gwilly’s solo albums (with the exception of 1986’s Bigger Geddy Numbers) prior to 1990’s unaccompanied rock singing epiphany, Song Birds is mostly made up of songs whose content and intent is socio-emotional – expressions pitched at specific people and personal experience, even including love songs. ‘Baby, Please Don’t Leave Me’ plays on the narcissistic self-pity the spurned indulges bordering on real insanity. The title track is probably the only song Gwilly ever made about his dad. ‘Blow Job’ ham-fistedly tries to tell the tale of a fraught relationship’s unraveling from the point of view of a girlfriend herself. ‘Who Is They?’ uses a favourite technique of assembling voice overdubs as an auto-choral rabbling, drunk on the euphoria of total self-identification, astonishingly re-observed by Gwilly on encountering a group of ecstatic winos in York one day during an early 21st C heatwave, snapping it briefly to dictaphone for inclusion on the eventually finalled On On On On Any Edmondez (2003-?).

Rather than mining the original masters in the hope of yielding fresh inversions benefiting from 21st C hindsight, this upload is a direct digitization of the edition that did narrow rounds upon the album’s original completion. A glance at the cortex revealed by a visit to the separable archive, in the now, shows that the voices on ‘Ysette Monroe’ are actually quite loud – their subsumption deep into the mix here, therefore, would suggest an intention to weave them like neighbouring colours into the manically overbearing keyboard lines.

Anyone familiar with the Sparrow oeuvre would notice the title ‘Mong’ with a bemused recognition. However, the song is named for the woman whose voice is heard throughout the track: Edmondez was given the cassette and was given to understand that the person singing on it was a Thai prostitute called Mong – on the tape’s label was scribbled ‘Mong singing.’ So there you go. Gwilly seems to have lazily Eno-Byrne’d the objet trouvé into what winds up working in a gay star-shone derive through gently soporific dog hair, setting the precedent for the following year’s more earnest ventures into collage/improvisation on Group Portrait Laughing and Nonchalance In Vain.

Tracklisting

1.     Baby, Please Don’t Leave Me
2.     Song Birds
3.     Blow Job
4.     Ysette Monroe
5.     Mong
6.     Who Is They?

Personnel
Gwilly Edmondez – all sounds, except for…
Jason Davies – mandolin on ‘Mong’

Mong – vocals on ‘Mong’
Casio keyboard borrowed with thanks off Owen Powell of Ogmore
Yamaha synth borrowed with thanks off of Jane Powell of Llandaff (no relation)

Recorded in the Shed, Ewenny, Bridgend, Summer 1987.

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Written by Gustav Thomas

January 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Make Property History Show 4: Beefheart Tribute & Blue Rinse Report

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The title obviously speaks for itself. This was recorded in Ewenny, near Bridgend, South Wales, in a cold attic room.

Playlist

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – ‘Hey, Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat’
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – ‘Doctor Dark’
Marion – ‘Untitled’ (live at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 16th December 2010)
Bradfield – ‘Untitled’ (Excerpt from 30-min set at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 16th December 2010
Boundy-Mannequin-Ludo-Edmondez – ‘Untitled’ (Excerpt from set at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 16th December 2010)
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – ‘Sheriff of Hong Kong’
JFK (Ludo Bunel – v/John Pope – b/Jon Clark – d) – ‘Untitled’ (Excerpt from set at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 16th December 2010)
Wellington Boot & Mr. Blazey – ‘Untitled’ (I forgot the name and
Pawn Flex – ‘Untitled’ (that is, I have lost the name, and now the Hub’s gone I can’t go and check)(Excerpt from set at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 16th December 2010)
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – ‘Flash Gordon’s Ape’
Brown Torpedo – ‘You Can Stick That Job’ (live at Blue Rinse, Barkollo, 17th December 2010)

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Written by Gustav Thomas

January 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Radioactive Sparrow (Hors Série) – Dusk At Barry Island (1989)

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In 1989 (which, as you’ll see later in the Radioactive Sparrow story being brought to you online by KAKUTOPIA, was their biggest year) on a hungover Sunday late afternoon, the core trio of the band went to Barry Island fun fair, a traditional jaunt to try and deal with the chemical after-effects of aimless self-abuse in Kildare’s, Radliffe’s, the Stage Door, Four Bars Inn, Sam’s Bar etc. See, on a weekday, the standard procedure would be a couple of bottles of Lucozade followed by Full English at Servini’s. But Servini’s never opened on a Sunday, so Barry Island became a regular last resort for some sea air, donuts (a 6-pack each) and chips.

There was another reason to go there, though. To play video games in the arcades. It was amazing, because they kept everything there, even old ones like Space Invaders I, Defender and Galaxion/Galaga. And Sparrow favourites Marble Madness and Paperboy. And that one with trucks racing round a dirt track. Obviously, being composers and improvisors, their favourite part of all these treats was the music and sounds. So, on this particular Sunday, they took the trusty Panasonic Radioacassette (on which everything was recorded until it shot out the back of the van in the notorious Alton lanes head-on collision returning from France in 1990) in order to record their favourite games. The idea was that each member would go off and record 10-15 minutes of games and whatever other sounds. Except Heaving Stews didn’t share this passion, so his track is a recording of him walking along the beach (eventually arriving in a different arcade), something he didn’t tell the other two, his non-cooperation only revealing itself on playback. The cover image features Tony Gage standing before Barry Island’s much-loved Log Flume ride, which was also to give the Eurydge singer/guitarist his name… Of which more in a later episode.

Also tacked on here are two acoustic tracks that Stews and Bargefoot recorded at Bill’s Cathays flat onto the same cassette; they don’t belong anywhere else, so they might as well get bundled into this post.

How many games can you name?

Tracklisting

1.     Robocop “Drop-It” Intro
2.     Bill Bargefoot
3.     Heaving Stews
4.     Tony Gage
5.     All Three Random Finale
6.     Gate Open/Gate Shut Slut
7.     Untitled Heaving Stews Track

Personnel
Heaving Stews
Bill Bargefoot
Tony Gage

Recorded Barry Island Fun Fair, one dusky Sunday late afternoon in Autumn 1989.

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Written by Gustav Thomas

January 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm