Monday, January 13, 2014

Sayonara Kyoto - Midwinter parts 1-9 (Kickstarter comment 3)

The third project I backed was Sayonara Kyoto's album Midwinter.

This one is more of a long shot. Chris Sheldon has some basic tracks for the album, but needs a significant injection of funds to master the album. This means he is looking for 3500pounds. At this stage he is a long way off, and suggested to me he was going to pull the project, but got a new burst of wind.

To me targets like this seem really hard for small, unknown artists to garner. Considering the maths, as I did in a message to Chris, a 5pound pledge gets you a download and beyond that you get additions like being on the liner notes, personal thanks etc. The 5 is likely to be the most common pledge, which means that you need to find 700 backers. Which would be decent sales for many small label CDs I would think where 500-1000 is common for limited editions (such as Muslimgauze).

I hope that Chris can find the funds or the means to get the album released - it is a strong album in the beated ambience field made popular by groups such as Tangerine Dream. The samples which are on the Kickstarter page indicate where the music is going and suggest that there would be a market for it - I just wish there was a way Chris could finish it for a little less! (But I don't understand the costs). He also mentions Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Michael Jarre, Enigma - which sounds about right: and the last two have heardtracks and responded positively.

One other thing, the image that Chris used for Kickstarter is probably not strong enough - again, I don't know what WILL pull the punters, but the photoshoped text doesn't seem like a real eyecatcher. But then I did get past it, so it worked on me!

There is enough on the kickstarter page that allows you to hear how good the music is. Fingers crossed!

(just to note - my only connection to this project is as a backer, and as I was the first Chris has offered me a copy of the sound files if it is not successful & something else [such as a mention in the cover] if it is)

DUENDE - Bethseda Requiem (Kickstarter comment 2)

The next album I supported was DUENDE's Bethseda Requiem.

I actually backed this before hearing any of it because the description of it was intriguing - ambience built around sounds from the day of the assasination of JFK (it is actually part of a larger project) and (again) the relatively small target (200 pounds).

I then went to the bandcamp page where the album can be listened to or downloaded (I hope people listen to it, then pledge and then get a digital download when the target is reached rather than just buy it so that the limited edition CD does get released).

I got the album when there was a brief window of free download - and have kept my pledge. And my initial interest has been demonstrated to be valid.

This is a dense dark album that covers the events of that day and subsequently by judicious use of radio, television and police recordings which merge into the ambience which seems to be built from industrial and electrical samples - it washes across as a psychic recreation of the events and moods of the day. The tone of the spoken voices is reflected in the music, before the track titled Zapruder there is an optimism (though the future is pressaged in the elegaic opening A time to be born...). We know what will happen, but we are still transfixed and overwhelmed. 

I can sort of remember where I was, though as a Britain Winston Churchill's death and funeral has a higher impact factor. But the resonance around the world of the event, whatever we think of the reality of the JFK presidency and its actions, and the reiteration of it in other events keeps this a strong subject. 

This is an intense album. Even if you don't want to back it through Kickstarter get the download. It shows how music and documentary recordings can work together in a powerful and evocative way. 

(just to note - my only connection to this project is as a backer)

TimHeld - Alb(L)um (kickstarter comment 1)

Surprisingly my post about kickstarter late november has got the highest recent hit rate - anyway I am going to update 3 projects.

First, Tim Held was looking for $200 to help promote his album - and he achieved it. So iun addition to some stickers and other stuff, it now has offical release and is available through iTunes & probably elsewhere, such as soundcloud and bandcamp.

The thing that really attracetd me to the album is the cover - it is fantastic. The album title is annoying - I can't parse it at all - just one of those tricksy playful impossible to pronounce names (Update - have modified the post title to reflect the capital L in alb(L)um, was lower case)

But the music is great. He has crafted each track from sound samples with some voice pieces in there. There are some crazy beats, some intense sounds, some melody but primarily finely crafted tracks.

Trying to triangulate the music, acts that come to mind - in closest proximity are
Severed heads - not the very earliest cliffird stuff but a bit later, emphasis on the sounds integrating with spoken samples, interested in beats but not driven by them. Same sense of humour.
Snog - mainly the beaty sample stuff.
Eno/Byrne - a touch of the Bush of Ghosts in here, just a whiff.
A few of the tracks have thumping bass lines, others are more discreet, but none are very long - and in fact probably too short!

This is a really good album and highly recommended.

In terms of kickstarter it worked I think because of the striking image - something must draw you in to read more - and the modest target.

(just to note - my only connection to this project is as a backer)

Kissing The Pink

I am not sure when I first heard Kissing The Pink. I have a vague memory of them being on a TV show or perhaps JJJ. But I do remember buying their first album in one of the Impact sales. 

I doubt it was just the price and the intriguing cover that led me to buy Naked - I am sure I knew one or two of the songs. Released in 1983 it was part of the New Wave. What makes the album memorable is the eclectic mix of instruments and styles - sax, keys, strings. A lead singer who intones with a lovely rounded sound rather than sings, a beautiful female voice. It opens with The last film an anthem that returns in hymn form. Mr Blunt is rousing, Love lasts for ever should have been a hit single. The big man restless (so relentless), elegiac Watching their eye - and more. A complex and varied album, apparently they wanted Eno to produce it which is intriguing. I played it a lot & can sing many of the songs, but...

They weren't high in my consciousness - I didn't note the names of the members or who played what. They released 3 more albums & though I recognise the third one didn't buy any. They fell into that grouping of music you like but don't get immersed into collecting. 

And then, when the internet was still young, I found (no idea how or why, probably random search on obscure groups I was interested in) Jeff Grote's Kissing The Pink site ( - definitely the last word on the group (their Wikipedia entry is brief). I minimally added to it - if you go to lyrics, the Naked ones are a scan of the Australian inner sleeve which uniquely included them all. 

In addition to the information Jeff has a myriad of sound files - all four albums, remix albums, 2 live BBC sessions, outtakes alternatives and demos. You email Jeff for access to this - I am not sure how careful he is (perhaps more so as the music is now available as purchaseable downloads - the first 3 albums are on iTunes), but. Anyway, I now have nearly 150 tracks by them. 

The second album, What Noise, develops the sound and style of the first - more mature, political (Greenham, for those who remember for example), mixed moods. The other side of heaven could have been a single, but as with the first album, the overall package it what impresses as the songs weave their varied courses, which may be the problem. 

With Certain Things Are Likely they became KTP and perhaps closer to a dance mainstream. Another great album but it didn't break through. 

The swan song Sugarland develops the sound, retains a little quirkiness and again didn't find success. I imagine the third and fourth albums lost the fans of the first (true Cliffords, to mix bands) and didn't spark with new listeners. 

So here we are, 30 years on from the first album - why this post? Well it's my blog so.... Perhaps it's nostalgia, but groups from this period (like Blancmange) often get a play when I need something jolly - it is just really good music. Plus it shows the change in the music industry. They got support, backing, distribution from a label but also pressure to create a hit sound. These more independent days mean you can go your own way more easily, make music more easily, but find it harder to get heard and a decent audience. I don't know how much Dave Stafford makes from sales (now mainly bandcamp I think) but he hasn't quit his day job. And kickstarter is not easy for many (a post on that later). Plus you have old farts like me spending time with decades old music (but hey I do listen to some now stuff). 

And don't get me started (too late) on the focus on tracks: Naked is an ALBUM a sum of its parts. Yes some tracks are more immediately accessible but the variety and selection is what counts. 

Anyway, a group whose sound has lasted. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TIMR 24: John Foxx and The Maths: Rhapsody (UPDATED)

John Foxx - one of the more un-centred parts of my music history - important but more tangential or something. Perhaps, to explain....

I missed Ultravox! - I am sure that Hiroshima Mon Amour was on Countdown and the link with Eno was there, but their time and mine did not fit (recently have gone to those early albums and enjoy them).

After the split obviously Vienna and the new romantics were about and more prominent and while Underpass was a small hit for Foxx, the album didn't reach me. Then Impact Records in canberra sand its siren song to me and I picked up some 12" single in sales and eventually got the four Foxx albums - Metamatic, The Garden, The Golden Section and In Mysterious Ways. My favourites were 4, 2 , 1, 3 by the way.

Then he went quiet.

On a trip to England in 2005 in a small record shop I found the double album of the first two Cathedral Oceans albums - beautiful ambient emerging from The Garden. There was also a live album there - I think it was the Omnidelic - but I didn't pick it up - another missed opportunity.

Anyway, a few years later something nudged me & I looked into him on the web and found the resurgence with Louis Gordon in the late 90s/early00s. This developed his older material and also included some wonderful new albums.

His career has continued since - there have been more ambient albums; ambient collaborations with Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie; songs with Belbury Circle and Jori Hulkkonen this year; some great resissues and compilations; 

And most recently teaming up with Benge to form The Math - Rhapsody is their most recent release. There shared love of analogue synths provides great warm sounds to go with Foxx's still subtle and always striking voice, often half spoken.

Throughout this long career Foxx has revisited past material and released it in live and studio albums: Rhapsody is another in that line. It takes ten songs from Ultravox! onwards and re-records them, live in studio before going out on the road with them. These aren't radical reworkings but rather presenting the music with the current lineup, modified slightly and subtly tweaked.

As I say, Foxx (perhaps because he dropped out after 4 great albums) was never central in my music world, but those albums got a lot of play and still do, and the newer ones are also high in my mind when I want some joyous electro or thoughtful ambient. It is great he is back.

Caveat - there is one album of his I don't like: a collaboration with Theo Travis (flute, sax) and to me it is too close to New Age: I have also avoided Travis's collaborations with Fripp.

A great discography is at

And Foxx's own page is pretty great

UPDATE: Foxx's album A New Kind Of Man which is Metamatic, the first solo album, plus other tracks from the same period performed live in 2007 is now available from townsend records for pound1.99 - great buy, great bargain