Tag Archives: Tangerine Dream

May 4th – August 2nd, 2016 (Twenty first “week”)

Almost three months since the last entry. For what it’s worth, I think I finished listening to all these records almost a month ago, but writing something substantial about them required more time. Also, school as well as other things had gotten busy. I don’t know why I’m explaining myself to… myself.

Sort of strayed a little bit from Krautrock. There’s Joy Divison here, as well as Autechre and Plaid, and Chuck Brown. I think the next “week” will have more Kraut in it.

1. Kraftwerk – Autobahn [1974]

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I’m reading David Stubbs’ Future Days, which as you can guess from the name, is a book about krautrock. I’ve been trying to listen to the music of the bands he talks about as I’m reading the book, and some of them I’ve been familiar with, but now he’s spending a lot of time on Autobahn which I never listened to before in its entirety, so that’s why I’m here.

I listened to the title track before, maybe it was a decade ago, and I wasn’t impressed with it, even though the refrain (fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn”) has been in my head since.

It’s interesting to read what Stubbs writes about the motivation for Autobahn, like how it’s Kraftwerk’s version of an idyllic Germany (or even the whole world?). I don’t know how much I buy into all of it, but I will say that the track Autobahn definitely gives the feeling of driving on an empty highway. What’s funny is that on this first listen, Autobahn is my least favorite track. It’s good, but the second side of the record is a lot more interesting to me, and things really come alive in Kometenmelodie 2 onward.

2. Tony Konrad – Four Violins [1964]

Almost self-explanatory from the title. Four distorted electric violins that drone and sound mostly like screeching doors. I like the droning part of it, but it’s hard to sit in front of the speakers and listen to four screeching doors. If I stand far back, or do something else when this is in the background, then it becomes easier to listen to, and sometimes it sounds like bagpipes playing and not violins. However, I’m right in front of the speakers as I’m writing this, and there are are subtle changes that I’m not sure I’d catch if I were in the kitchen making food.

This is a recurring theme in a lot of the avantgarde music I’ve been listening to. On one hand, it’s tough to sit in front of the speakers for 30-45 minutes and listen to the music because it’s literally not an easy listen. But then if I step back and avert my attention to something else, I also lose a lot of the subtlety of it.

3. Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri [1971]

Alpha Centauri came right before Zeit and it is very obvious that it is the precursor to Zeit. It has a lot of the same elements that Zeit has – slow buildups and eerie melodies, a lot of synths, and very few actual drums. It’s not as epic as Zeit, but it’s a good alternative when I don’t have the time to listen to all of Zeit.

4. Stereolab – Not Music [2010]

This record, like Transient Random-Noise, etc. was a slow burner. The first few listens didn’t leave any impressions on me. It was neither good or bad. It was mostly long (still is). But now I’m starting to open up to it and things are clicking.

This record is whimsical – a lot of toy-ish and retro sounds and noises, but at the same time the songs themselves are serious, so it doesn’t sound like Jean-Jacques Perrey, but definitely has his sonic influences. I think this band has found a musical niche and have been exploring it since then. What I mean is that I don’t think they’re straying very far from where they started. If you listen to Transient Random and Not Music you would know that it’s the same band, where with some bands you wouldn’t know, because the circles around their origins are much wider.

5. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures [1979]

My familiarity with Joy Division is anecdotal. I remember watching the live video of She’s Lost Control (you know which one) maybe 10 years ago, and I was totally into it. Then I listened to the record and that song sounded nothing like the live version. I don’t know if that alone turned me off to the rest of the record, or if it’s the fact that the record sounds similar is what turned me off to it. Anyway, here I am again listening to it a decade later.

Even now as I listen to it, I think that the production detracted in some ways from the songs. I like the production, and I know it was revolutionary (still is in some ways), but it reigned in the aggressiveness of some of the songs. It works for some, like New Dawn Fades, but it totally messed up a song like She’s Lost Control. The production makes the album a slow burner for me, because it takes me a while to uncover the songs under Martin Hannett, but at the same time I enjoy his radical ideas for a rock band.

6. Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose [1979]

So the other day my wife and I were watching TV and then this commercial comes on and it has the best groove, I jump out of my seat and ask her to rewind and she’s like “Uhh, that’s Nelly’s Hot In Herre”, and like yeah I think I heard it before, but don’t really know it. So I spent a few days listening to Nelly’s Hot in Herre, and then I moved on to the song that sampled it, and that’s Chuck Brown’s Bustin’ Loose.

So Bustin’ Loose, the song, is awesome. The record is almost split between ballads and more up-tempo grooving songs. I like the up-tempo songs better because the slow stuff isn’t hitting the spot for me. It’s not like a slow Curtis Mayfield song. The up-tempo ones are good, but keep in mind that they’re not hard hitting grooves. They’re more mellow. Still a good record that I should listen to a couple more times, I think.

7. Kratwerk – The Man-Machine [1978]

I accidentally skipped over Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express (I’m going to go back to them), and it’s amazing to hear the difference four years made in this band. This record has less experimentation and more songs, as in verse and chorus and singing (although sometimes vocoderized).

The last two tracks, Neon Lights and The Man-Machine, are more experimental and “meandering” like the old records, and for now, after listening to this record once, I prefer them over the songs.

8. Plaid – The Digging Remedy [2016]

Can’t find an angle with this record. I have stuff to write, but I don’t think I get this record. It’s not an abstract record, so it shouldn’t be hard to get – I just don’t. Here’s what I have:

The only other Plaid record I know is Double Figure, which is fifteen years old, but I don’t feel like The Digging Remedy is that different. Some songs on this new one sound like they could have been made during the time they made Double Figure. The songwriting and a lot of the sounds they get (even though their process now is different) are the same. This disappoints me a bit because I keep holding every record to this ridiculous bar that it has to be groundbreaking. This record isn’t groundbreaking, and it has a few good songs (Do Matter, CLOCK, Yu Mountain, Reeling Spiders), but these songs don’t pull me back like a bunch of songs on Double Figure did. I think if it had more songs that I deemed good I probably wouldn’t complain about how innovative it is (or isn’t).

 9. Autechre – Tri Repetae [1995]

I read this interview with Autechre a few weeks ago, and it made me want to keep delving into their discography. These guys are cool. I like how they can talk about what they do without being “my art” kind of people. It’s a good interview to read if you’re at all interested in electronic music and how it’s made today.

I picked this record because in the interview they say how the one before it was the first “weird” record they gave Warp, and Warp loved it and it sold, so then Tri Repetae is where they let loose and do whatever they want. At this point I’ve listened to this record at least ten times, and I still don’t have something substantial to say about it. I like the sounds. It’s very intricate, like a painting with million little details. I also enjoy how some of the sounds are annoying. “Here’s this high pitched buzz/rattle that maybe not everyone is going to like”, but it’s interesting. The tracks themselves don’t floor me. I do like Leterel, Stud, and Rsdio, but the rest leave me ambivalent. It’s frustrating because I like a lot of the sounds and I keep constantly feeling like I’m just missing something crucial. So I want to keep listening to it, but it’s also over an hour long.

10. Can – Soundtracks [1970]

My first listen to this record left me bitter. It didn’t sound like a Can record! It sounded like schmaltz except for maybe a couple of songs. So on my second listen, along which I was writing this entry, I came in trying to defend that bitterness.

The first song is from the movie Deadlock and has the same name. It’s actually a pretty good song that maintains the Can-ness that I’m used to, but it’s pretty short compared to their other songs like it. Tango Whiskeyman, the second track (also from Deadlock), is where I’m reminded of my bitterness. It’s got good groove, but the actual melody is very schmaltzy. Then the chorus comes in and I’m really surprised that they went for this low hanging musical fruit. I tell myself that seeing how two of them were students of Stockhausen and one was a free jazz drummer, it was probably a conscious choice. The song does have a good break in the middle, though. The last song, She Brings the Rain, is also very out of character of Can. It’s a faux jazzy ballad that has no place on a Can record. I mean, I get that that was their thing – they were experimenting and seeing if they could do something like a jazz ballad and make it sound interesting. It’s fine, but I’m not into it.

The only reason I bring up these two songs that I’m not into is to circle back to my previous bitterness – the record is book-ended by them and that’s probably what left a bad taste in my mouth. But most importantly, I think I had a sprout of personal growth here. I didn’t like the record at first and I started writing with the intention to defend my dislike, but then halfway through listening I realized that maybe I just wasn’t listening very closely the first time around. So instead of defending my position before, I decided to open my mind. Cool.

So why is this record great? Because of all the other songs. Mother Sky is a perfect and quintessential Can song, and the others are succinct Can songs. I can see why some people think of it as the best Can record. (I disagree and would probably go with Tago Mago, but that’s for a different post on a different blog.)

March 3rd – May 3rd, 2016 (Twenieth “Week”)

Exactly two months! I didn’t plan for that to happen! I actually finished listening to all these record maybe two weeks ago, but didn’t have time time to write about them until now.

So far this is working really well for me. I get to listen to a lot of new music while going back to stuff. There’s no rush, but there’s always the motivation to find more new music.

1. Faust – Faust So Far [1972]

I’m writing this as I’m listening to this record a third time. It’s not as catchy as IV, which isn’t to say that IV is poppy! What I mean by catchy is that IV has more songs, and they’re weird songs, but they’re songs. So Far has fewer “songs”, and it’s mostly sort of jams that are reminding me American psychedelia. So my point is that it’s not as easy to get hooked on this record as it was with IV. Also, I think that the “songs” songs weren’t as good.

One thing I noticed is that they use I’ve Got my Car and my TV in Faust IV (Picnic on a Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableaux), but it’s way goofier here.

 2. Morton Subotnick – The Wild Bull [1968]

I re-watched I Dream of Wires a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed hearing Subotnick talk about the first Buchla and some ideas he had (and still has) about music. He didn’t just want to expand the vocabulary of music, but also to make music accessible to people who aren’t musicians. He talks more about these ideas in this interview. The video is great, but it’s worth anyone’s time to read the full text.

As far as the record itself, it continues what he started with Silver Apples of the Moon. Definitely broadening the musical and sonic vocabulary, but I think this one might be a tiny bit more approachable in the sense that there are more rhythms and sometimes even melodies. The beginning of Part B is great in that sense, but the whole record is fun to listen to. Also, full sonic spectrum on this record. Ridiculous low end and a lot of popping high frequency noises.

3. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Self-Titled [1963]

This is a Facebook recommendation. From the way people talked about it, and I think phrases like “opened my mind” were thrown, I thought this will be a very different record – free jazz, but maybe bridging the gap between what people view as jazz and free jazz. I thought also that Johnny Hartman is a piano player, but he’s a crooner. That probably tells you what kind of a record this is!

Because I totally misread the conversation about this record, I was a little disappointed that this is an easy-listening/soft jazz record with crooning vocals, but it’s been growing on me with each listen. The solos are pretty good, and Johnny Hartman has an amazing voice, although the crooning definitely puts a time-stamp on the whole thing, so I enjoy the solos a lot more than when he sings.

4. Tangerine Dream – Atem [1973]

I keep wanting to compare this record to Zeit, and that’s unfair. I mean, they probably didn’t try to make the same record again, and why would they? But still, Zeit is amazing, and I want more of it, but not exactly more like it. Also, these two records were released a year apart.

Zeit has certain finesse to it that Atem is lacking. Zeit builds up so slowly, almost excruciatingly slow, but there’s always enough progression to keep the listener hooked. It’s kind of difficult to explain this without listening to Zeit. The timbre of Zeit is also unique, because the cellos mix in with the synths to create this one complex sound. Atem has interesting elements, but it lacks the finessed progression and timbre uniformity. The title track has a lot of layers that are introduced at once and feel detached from one another, but not in the sense where they don’t fit, but in the sense that they don’t intertwine as well as they do on Zeit.

The rest of the record has a lot of what I always call “sounds of the forest” (did I use that before? probably), and those sounds truly do sound like sounds from a forest, and it’s cool because it was new back then, but I feel like there’s not a lot behind it. I might be wrong in saying this, but I think they might have gotten caught up in the equipment and lost track of the music. They play a lot with where sounds are panned, and there are weird sounds on, and a lot of synths, and it all amounts to something, and that something isn’t bad, but also doesn’t really floor me.

(God damn, this turned into a review AND a comparison to Zeit.)

5. The Necks – Vertigo [2015]

These guys are playing Chicago this week (not the week when this post will finally be finished), and I never heard of them before so I decided to check them out.

My understanding is that their performances and records are just them continuously improvising for about an hour without a predefined theme. Or maybe there’s a theme that they know about, but the point is that the listener doesn’t hear a melody or a chord progression that is then improvised on. However, they do resurrect themes within the piece, but never in a reprise kind of way. Even though it’s all improvised, musically it’s not jazz, unless we broaden the definition of jazz, and it’s actually kind of closer to krautrock.

EDIT: I saw them live. It was really good and a much different experience from just listening to the record. The drummer was really fun to watch. He never once played a beat or hit the snare with a stick. During the second set he played the hihat in a way I never heard anyone play it. He was sort of riding it but was getting these crazy resonances out of it. A truly unique drummer. Both sets were different from each other and different from the record, and I really won’t do it any justice by trying to describe it. I also take back what I said about it being jazz. This is what jazz sounds like in 2016. It’s improvised, it has the same instruments that jazz music has (bass, drums, piano), so I’m calling it – it’s jazz.

6. Eliane Radigue – Vice Versa, etc. [2009]

If my understanding is correct, Eliane Radigue made those pieces for an installation. Later she pressed a few copies of it, and in 2009 they were reissued as a 2xCD thing.

These pieces are described as “feedback on magnetic tape”, and what I believe this means is that she fed one tape machine into another, and then back into the first, so they naturally started oscillating and feedbacking, and she was controlling it with input/output level potentiometers on the machines. At least I think that’s what she did. Basically, it’s a drone.

I like that it’s a step further from Western music, and I like the way it sounds, but it’s impossible to listen to it while doing anything else. If I don’t let myself be enveloped by the music, then a lot of the minute details are lost. I’m also not sure it makes sense to always sit through all eight of the tracks, because while they’re somewhat different, they’re still conceptually the same, so I keep thinking, “what did she achieve in one track that she didn’t achieve in another?”

I decided to try and answer that question so I googled this record, and I stumbled across a Pitchfork review of it. In it it says that the eight pieces are really one piece, played at four different speeds, and backwards, and that Radigue meant for the listener to choose the order of the pieces and which ones to play together. So, yeah, I totally missed the point!

(I gotta try and mix and match the pieces!)

 7. Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra [1972]

I only listened to this record once, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s kind of vanilla, and doesn’t fit with any of the krautrock I listened to so far. It just doesn’t sound very experimental. For instance, the first half of the record is guitar, piano, and sometimes a female vocalist. The guitar is playing sort of blues-y stuff, the piano is, eh, I don’t know, doing its mellow thing, and the singer is la-di-da-ing over it. She’s not pulling a Renate Knaup (who later joined Popul Vuh). If krautrock is counterculture music (which it is), then this record sounds like a later Pink Floyd record more than anything. I guess it’s neither Schlagger or American or British “blues” rock, but it’s also not pushing the envelope, really.

Maybe it’s a matter of expectations, and that soured my opinion. Maybe now that those false expectations are out of the way I’ll get what this record is about.

8. Charlemagne Palestine – Strumming Music (For Piano, Harpsichord, And Strings Ensemble) [2010]

Charlemagne Palestine is another musician I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while now, and after the Necks’ first set (see earlier in this post), I was talking to my friends who also went and one of them mentioned how the piano playing was reminiscent of Charlemagne Palestine. That was enough to get me to try and check him out.

I’m not sure how to describe what’s going on here, so I’ll start with the basics that can be figured out with googling. There are three tracks and they’re all in the same “style”. However, the first track is solo piano played by Palestine himself, while the second is harpsichord (not played by CP), and the third is played by a string ensemble. All the pieces, of course, were written by Palestine, which is weird because I thought Palestine improvised more. Also, I have no idea how one write a 50 piano piece like the one on this record. Anyway, the piano piece was recorded in the 70s and I believe it was released on its own, and this reissue (and maybe a few earlier ones?) include the other pieces.

So the solo piano piece is ~52 minutes long and it’s an incredibly unique slice of music. Even though the Necks were sort of similar in some ways, the two are still quite different and Charlemagne Palestine sounds just as fresh to me. Yet, I still don’t know how to describe what’s going on there. If you ever listened to music that was done with loops that are going in and out of phase, then it kind of sounds like that, except it’s not loops and he’s playing everything himself live. There are a lot of resonances going on and just sitting in front of the speakers I start hearing things that aren’t there. At times it sounds like there’s another piano playing, but then when I shift my focus I can tell that it’s only one piano.

Like I said earlier, the other two tracks are similar, but they don’t hit the mark quite as well as the solo piano piece.

9. Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe [1980]

As my interest in krautrock is splitting into minimalism, I asked a friend to recommend some minimalist music. He recommended Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe.

Spiegel created all these tracks while she worked at Bell Labs in the 70s, but I’m not sure at what capacity she worked there (programmer? music/technology researcher like Max Matthews?), but she created these four tracks, and a bunch more that came out when the record was reissued in 2012.

Musically, I really like this record, but the sounds drive me nuts. What I mean by that is that the synthesizer sounds are all very cliche, and almost 8-bit sounding. I’m sure this was by design because Laurie Spiegel doesn’t look like someone who would consider the sounds as an afterthought, but it is really grating to my ears. The last track, The Expanding Universe, has better sounds although they’re also a bit cliche. It is also my favorite piece on the record (original issue, not the reissue).

10. Tony Conrad with Faust – Outside the Dream Syndicate [1973]

Tony Conrad just passed away and I had no idea who he was until now, so I asked a friend to recommend a few of his works. He said I might find his with collaboration with Faust self-indulgent, but I still had to check it out because it’s with Faust. His description was, “you know ‘It’s a Rainy Day’ from So Far? so imagine that, but slower and with a violin drone”. It’s a pretty good description,because it is similar in that way to “Rainy Day”, but it’s so much more than just that. There are subtle changes in the drums and bass, and the violin playing is quite amazing – obviously inspired by the Tanpura that’s used in Indian music, but different enough where I don’t think it’s just some dude trying to play classical Indian music.

The second track, From the Side of the Machine, offers more variation in the drumming and bass playing than the first, all the while still maintaining violin drones. Oh man, this track also has a lot more weird noises that just pop up on either side of the stereo all of a sudden. It kind of feels like they were warming up with the first track and then jammed this one out. Yowza!

I think that the similarity between this and Faust (what I know of their catalog) ends with the drum beat, but from what I know about them, it seems like this was absolutely up their alley.

February 11th – March 2nd, 2016 (Nineteenth “Week”)

Got this one done pretty quickly! I actually finished listening to all the records on Friday, February 26th, but took some time to re-listen to things and edit. There’s more krautrock here and some more music that is a little out there, as well as totally “normal” stuff, like Liz Phair.

1. Chris Walla – Tape Loops [2015]

I’m not too familiar with tape loops music. I listened to the four Ambient records Eno did, and that’s pretty much it, and that’s the extent of knowledge I have when it comes to ambient music. I should actually listen to the Eno records again because it’s been a while.

I really like the idea of tape loops. Looping in the digital realm seems like cheating. It’s a lot more impressive when there’s a machine that can be tricked into playing the same section of tape over and over, and I like how the loop goes outside the machine and through everyday objects in the studio (or home). Chris Walla’s record is interesting to me from this aspect (and he talked about the technical side of recording it and making the loops in Tape Op #111). Musically, I find it hard to relate to, partially because it sounds a lot like Eno’s ambient records, and in fact Walla said in that Tape Op interview that one track is actually him trying to reverse engineer an Eno piece.

I only listened to it once twice so far. In an interview I watched with Terry Riley he said that loops reveal more of themselves and change the more you listen to them. So far it hasn’t revealed much, and a part of me wonders if the fact that he made it with old technology (tape) cornered him into making something that’s already been done.

2. Conrad Schnitzler – Con [1978]

This entry is edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

It took me a couple of listens to start understanding this record, and since those couple of listens I’ve listened to it probably 20 times. There’s something about this record that even if you don’t initially get it, you want to go back to listen to it. For me, I think what kept drawing me to it was the sounds. It just has really amazing electronic sounds, so I kept going back to listen just for the way it sounds more than anything. I think that the sounds are still my main fascination with the record, but I also enjoy the rhythms and melodies in here.

Schnitzler was in Tangerine Dream (briefly) and in Kluster, and originally I thought this record will sound like Cluster (because Cluster was Kluster minus Conrad Schnitzler), but that doesn’t make sense. Kluster sounded nothing like Cluster, but at the time I initially wrote it, I barely got Kluster. It wasn’t until recently that their records started to click for me. So the point of this detour is to say that Con is actually a continuation of Kluster’s music more than it touching on anything Cluster did. Con is an abstract record, and the tracks don’t have a clear theme. There are melodies and beats, but they are sparse and they’re not meant to drive a song as much as they’re there to drive a feeling or a moment. I’m not sure that makes sense. When I first heard the record it actually reminded me of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (see Week 11) in the sense that both are broadening the musical vocabulary. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that musically similar.

3. Tangerine Dream – Zeit [1972]

This entry is also edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

Originally I said that I couldn’t figure out what to write about this record, and to be honest, I still don’t. I have listened to this record multiple times, but it’s a double album and I don’t always have the time to listen to it all in one sitting, so I end up not listening to it as much as I want.

Musically, I don’t know what to call it. It’s not the krautrock of Neu!, or Can, or Faust, or Kraftwerk. I’m not sure what people mean by kosmische musik (“cosmic music”) but my feeling is that this record falls into this category. The best way I can describe it right now is that this record is like watching a storm. It’s like being somewhere very open, like a field, and watching a storm slowly heading towards you. At first it’s just an image from afar, but then the winds are getting stronger, then the sky is turning grey and the light turns a different color. Then it seems like it should start raining at any moment and maybe there’s a bit of a drizzle, but all of a sudden the storm is gone. It takes a turn right before getting to where you stand and goes in a different direction. That’s what this record feels like to me. There’s a great, long build up, but it’s not really building up to anything big or pompous, it just takes a turn and quiets down.

There’s not a lot more to say about this record except that the instrumentation is pretty cool. No drums (I’m pretty sure), just a bunch or synthesizer and something like four cellos.

4. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville [1993]

I read an interview in an old TapeOp with Brad Wood who recorded this record (produced it too?) He worked with a lot of Chicago rock bands that I like or are related/similar to bands I like. Anyway, it was a cool interview, and I decided it’s finally time to check out Liz Phair.

From what I understand, the record is a response to Exile on Main Street (which I never listened to), a very 90s response in the way the songs are written, recorded, and the way her voice sounds. It didn’t really grab me on a first listen (it’s also very long), but after listening to it I was humming a few songs, so there’s that.

I want to say that I’ll listen to it again, but it is very long, so I doubt it would happen. I do like Liz Phair’s voice, though.

5. La Düsseldorf – La Düsseldorf [1973]

La Dusseldorf is Klaus Dinger’s band (he was in Neu!) with his brother. Of all the krautrock labeled records I’ve been listening to recently, this one jives with what I always thought is considered kraut the most. It’s similar to Neu! but a little more rocking and goofier, but not as intricate.

I’ve listened to it two or three times and I can’t tell if there’s anything else that will reveal itself or if this is it.

6. Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel [1971]

Amboss starts off sounding like Tangerine Dream’s Zeit (see above), but then it turns into a “freakout” jam, or whatever you want to call it. Essentially, it’s a 15 minute guitar solo, and while I love guitar solos, this one is a little uninspiring.

Same thing with Traummaschine, the second track. Starts abstract and ominous, and then after 10-15 minutes there’s the long guitar solo again.

7. Damaged Bug – Cold Hot Plumbs [2015]

This record was mentioned in a thread about krautrock a while back (different from the one I was referring to in the Conrad Schnitzler entry), and I listened to one song and was intrigued.

I would describe this as “current krautrock”. There are other influences in here, some of them I can’t put my finger on exactly, but the drums are all motorik or a variation of it, and every song has a synthesizer playing along. However, the sounds they’re getting, especially out of the synths, are leaving me a little cold. I feel like they went with the first sound you could get out of a Mini Moog. I feel like it would be a whole different record if the sounds were more messed up.

I will have to revisit this one a few more times for those other influences to kick in.

I’d like to mention here that I listened again to Stereolab’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements again, and man oh man, I really dig it now. It didn’t click the first few times I listened, but I’m totally in now. I just thought I’d mention it here since I consider Damaged Bug to be modern/current krautrock, and so is Stereolab.

8. Manuel Göttsching – Inventions for Electric Guitar [1975]

I was talking to a friend about how I’ve been listening to krautrock and early electronic music and he suggested I check out Manuel Gottsching’s record New Age of Earth. As I was looking Gottsching up, I saw that he was in Ash Ra Tempel and that he also made the record I’m writing about right now – Inventions for Electric Guitar. Being someone who’s always interested in music that pushes the guitar further, I decided to check Inventions first.

Inventions for guitar is a good way of describing this record. The guitar playing itself isn’t different (and he’s not doing any prepared guitar stuff), but the processing of the guitar – lots of delays and loops and arpeggios, that is different. It’s interesting but I’m also conflicted about it. First, the sounds are sounds you could get out of a synthesizer, and like I said the playing isn’t different than “regular” playing in any meaningful way.

Musically, I don’t know if you ever played around with a guitar and a looping pedal, but it’s easy to corner yourself into boring patterns, and that happens a lot on this record. However, some moments are cool, like from 12:30 until around 17:50 in Pluralis. Quasarsphere as a whole is pretty good.

9. Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry – Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul [1950]

This is a musique concrete record, and if you don’t know what it is, then go read on Wikipedia because it’ll do better job of explaining it than me. Basically, it’s music that is composed with found sounds and existing music, so essentially it’s a collage. I think it’s easy to discredit it from today’s perspective, because we can record whatever, and then load it into whatever DAW and organize it the way we want. However, this record came out 66 years ago, and all they had were mono tape machines, so it took a lot of foresight and tape splicing to put together each piece. I don’t think it’s wrong to call that composing. It’s just that they were composing with already existing sounds.

Even though this isn’t my first exposure to musique concrete, it is the most avant-garde record I have ever listened to. What makes it so extreme for me is that I cannot follow the narrative. I don’t even know what is the narrative! I think music always has narrative, and this idea is very instinctual (just thought of it) for me and not something I can put into words yet, so I won’t even try. But anyway, music always has a narrative, and it’s not the lyrics or a narrative the listener can follow like a story. It’s something about the song that keeps it propagating. Sometimes I start listening to something and I want to know where it’s going, because the narrative seems interesting and I’m not familiar with it. Sometimes I start listening to something and I know where it’s going so I turn it off – the narrative is boring. With this record, I don’t know what is the narrative, but I believe there is one for two reasons. One is that from what I read Schaeffer was a smart guy, so he probably didn’t just whip something together without giving it much thought. The second is that the technology of the time was so limiting that there’s no way someone could compose something like this without a clear idea of what they’re doing.

I think that intent is what separates avant-garde from fake avant-garde. Everyone can hit random keys on a piano and say “here, I made an avant-garde recording”, kind of like Mirror Father Mirror. You can program a computer to do that. But when there’s intent to stretch boundaries, and there’s a particular process for stretching those boundaries, then it becomes interesting.

So yeah, no idea what the narrative is here, but I’ll keep listening.

10. Perry and Kingsley – Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight On The Moog [1971]

As I was finally getting Stereolab last week, I read about about Transient Random-Noise Bursts and it mentioned something about this album. I think they sampled something from it. Anyway, I know some of Jean-Jacques Perry’s music so I jumped in.

This is electronic music in the sense that it’s music being played with synthesizers. The actual music, though, isn’t different from pop music of the time, and in fact most of the tracks on the record are covers of famous songs. This is the same criticism that the west coast synthesizer people (San Francisco Tape Music Center) had for Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach. Playing classics on a synthesizers isn’t expanding music.