The techno home-listening list is percolating at the moment, but it shall return early next week. In the meantime, lets rifle through the last.fm stats and pick out some recently played songs (what was my life like before every aspect of it could be converted into readily accessible empirical data? My eyes strain in the fog... I see... I see something... a young lad dancing to Blur on a grey shore?... nope - it's gone).
MP3: Ravi Shankar-Raga Kirwani
Fuck knows what they are singing about on this track, but we can assume it is reddy brek for the soul as it is a raga chant. The best part of this song starts from about 2.10 mins in, where there is a call and-response between the group raga bit and each contributing solo voice/instrument, all singing a wriggly refrain that sounds like a snake coming out of a basket.
MP3: Raymond Scott-Little Miss Echo
MP3: Raymond Scott-The Happy Whistler
Once upon a time, long before the balding keyboardist from Roxy Music became human shorthand for pioneering electronic music, there was this fella. Raymond Scott was born in 1908, which would make him a dusty 103 if he were alive today. Raymond (not his real name, he was originally Harry) made his fortune from composing bits of music for the original Looney Tunes cartoon clips. But his real passion was the embryonic field of electronic music. Back in those days even the most basic sequencer music required stacks of equipment that not only looked like the inside of the space shuttle or a cold war nuclear lab, but cost the same too. The cartoon soundtracks must have generated a bit of bread because he bought the works. What did he do with all this sci-fi equipment... compose a teenage symphony to God? Not quite. He made a series of albums designed to send babies at various stages of their development to sleep. I shit not. He called it the 'Soothing Sounds for Baby' series.
I seriously doubt if many babies crossed over to the land of nod listening to the (often quite piercing) sounds of Raymond Scott's albums but, regardless of how they succeeded in their original intention, the records have experienced a cultish afterlife as weird auguries of modern electronic music. Actually, auguries makes them sound like curiosities. The truth is, they are much more robust than that. Once you get over the astonishing earliness of them, the 'Soothing Sounds for Baby' records stand alone as trend-resistant ambient music.
Hmm, it just so happens that I could test out the original function of these records. I have a six week old nephew, Karl, son of Storkboy, son of Tommy, son of Gammygee the Feeble. I might play him 'Soothing sounds for Baby Volume 2 (for two month olds)' next week, and see if the little champ either nods off to sleep listening to it or gets annoyed. I'll report back to the 'heap with the results.
MP3: Arp-Pastoral Symphony I. Dominoes II. Infinity Room.
When I was a child I was extremely sensitive to weird stuff. Even if it frightened the living shit out of me (which it often did), weird stuff hooked me. Yet I never managed to be a fully fledged weirdo. I was too uptight to take the plunge and fully embrace weirdness. I either just appreciated or got frightened by the uncanny from the sidelines - whereas other youngsters with similar aesthetic sensitivities probably became pagan or ran away with the travelling amusement arcade or some shite. Oh, fie! Such a cage of adolescent torment! Too square to be weird, and too weird to be square *sigh*.
One of the things my nascent weird barometer sniffed out pretty quickly was an insert that RTE1 used to play odd evenings in the mid-to-late eighties. It was a proggy animated clip of Kraftwerk's Autobahn (a supreme moment of what-the-fuckery on our national broadcaster's part, I'm sure you'll agree). I am not sure how many times they actually played it; it may have been only twice, but it might as well have been a million, so badly is the clip burned into my mind. Actually, screw that, it is radioactively frazzled into my id, and my brother's too - we've discussed it.
In the clip - broadcast just before the angelus - a lean and naked blue alien swims and jogs through an amniotic world full of tubes and endlessly replicating versions of itself to the tune of Autobahn. I'd watch this through my fingers, on the verge of puking, feeling simultaneously appalled and engaged.
Mufti day was always a little unusual in Navan Mercy Convent
Now when I read books, look at paintings or listen to music, I often crave the strength of the responses I originally had to things like that particular clip, even though such things might have once scared me. There is a deliciousness in any deep response to a work of art, even if that response is being weirded out.
So, um yeah Arp then. That MP3 sounds a bit like Autobahn doesn't it? I was well up for describing it, but it looks like I picked up my tin whistle and took ye all on a merry dance down tangent street. Woops.