Posts Tagged ‘Faust’

Power Pill

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Listen: Pac Man (Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill
Pac Man (Mickey Finn's Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill

How strange was that Grammy award acceptance speech from Dave Grohl a few weeks back? Dear me, he doesn’t at all seem comfortable that his Foo Fighters rock music possibly needs a fresh breath to creatively compete with newer genres, much more reflecting the sound of technology and instincts of a younger generation. This either minutes before or after an embarrassing attempt to musically collaborate with Deadmau5.

Yes, he proclaimed some rather curious mentions about singing into a microphone, learning to play your instrument, implying as long as that instrument isn’t a computer, one’s heart, imperfections and all, will prevail with better music resulting.

Huh? I guess to him, his band’s processed and polished output, to these ears at least, all apparently now recorded in his garage then tweaked to old school sonic perfection in a most high end mastering facility, is the real deal. Rock’s new soul. To each his own I suppose.

Point being, soulful music can be made on machines just as with traditional instruments if the creator has the heart he was mentioning, and the talent. His comments were not unlike Mitch Miller dismissing Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones in the early 60′s. Quite disappointing from a guy known to be supportive, friendly and a comrade.

Case in point, Power Pill. This one-off side track from Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, has more relevance today than many of the current metal posing as punk tunes being force fed down the pike by totally tuckered guitar playing 40 somethings. Check the timeline, the ‘Pac Man’ single is twenty years old.

The early 90′s, even the late 80′s, were indeed the formative periods for electronic music’s stronghold beginnings, finally surfacing in the DNA of a generation whose parents opened their ears and record shelves to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Neu, Can, Henry Cow and many more.

Released by Roger Ames’ brilliant FFRR label, you need both the 12″ and the desperately hard to find 7″ of this one. My favorite version, Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum mix, miraculously made it to the 7′s B side in edited form.

I first heard ‘Pac Man’ on a BBC Radio 1 John Peel evening session program, driving around in Gary Crowley’s car after a rather late night at Jake’s. Never mind. I made it to the Oxford Street HMV that very next morning to scarf one of the five copies in their rack. I know, very short sighted leaving the other four behind.


Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

TomitaUSA, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Tomita, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Arabesque No. 1 / Tomita TomitaArabesque.mp3

Born in 1932 and still active today, Isao Tomita began composing for film and television as early as ’55. By the late 60′s, he turned his attention to electronic pieces after hearing Walter Carlos, whereby he performed classical music on the Moog synthesizer. Isao acquired a Moog III and began building a home studio. He started arranging Claude Debussy’s pieces for synthesizer and, in ’74, transformed those works into SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. When the album was released; it became a worldwide success, even in the US.

Corinne and I worked at Discount Records on the Syracuse University campus then. She ended up overseeing the classical department. This was in the day when record stores, particularly Discount, stocked very deep catalog titles. Classical music collectors are as eccentric as we pop hoarders. They would come in daily, she had a real following, almost groupie-like. I was never intimidated though. Talk about nut jobs – one guy was even a priest and super hysterical. With a sense of humor like no other, he made constant fun of the nuns, and had us round the parish a few times for some home cooked dinners. We scraped by in those days, preferring to spend cash on drinks and of course records. Those invites were God-sends, so to speak. It was a real blast of a summer though.

During that period, Tomita’s album started to gain traction. There was always a diverse in-store playlist variety going on. Everyone employed was a record crazy of some sort – all with extreme and bizarre musical tastes, yours truly included.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the RCA salesman came in and handed me a bunch of Tomita 7′s, on red vinyl, a real anomaly in those days. All those sales guys gave me their promo singles, NO ONE else wanted singles. It was heaven.

TomitaSnowflakes, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Snowflakes Are Dancing / Tomita TomitaSnowflakesAreDancing.mp3

She started spinning SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING, and that baby would fly out of the shop as a result. A bunch of us were into Tangerine Dream and Faust, Amon Duul II, Can and of course Kraftwerk.

Think about it, ‘Autobahn’ was a hit single then. Would that happen on crap US radio now? And we thought it was bad then…anyways, Tomita fit right in. Everyone was content, which many times wasn’t the case, particularly as the night hours wore on and we all started getting buzzed.

This guy was, well still is, amazing. In 1984, he released CANON OF THE THREE STARS, featuring classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. Rightly so, he credits himself with inventing The Plasma Symphony Orchestra, a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonics of that album.

Tomita has performed a number of outdoor Sound Cloud concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in what else, a ‘cloud of sound’. He did a serious ass concert in ’84 at the annual Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria called Mind Of The Universe, get this: mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people.

He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue Of Liberty centennial (Back To The Earth) as well as one in Sydney for the ’88 Australian Bicentennial. That performance was part of a $7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest ever fireworks display at that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems — one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter — for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times.

His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in ’97 featuring guest performances by Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.

Of course we knew nothing of any Tomita history back in ’74. We just loved SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. Hopefully he’ll come back to New York one more time. We will not miss it.