Dark Rococo

silver002Yesterday, I found myself looking at some Rococo silverware in a showcase I had designed. This is not the kind of thing that usually interests me but the spectacle of all that glittering detail was dazzling; the drawn lines of natural form pushed to extremes.

Later in the day at Cafe Oto after a virtuoso display of extended saxophone playing by John Butcher and Seymour Wright, I found myself immersed in the shock and awe of a duet by Russell Haswell and Kevin Drumm. Last week I spent another hot night in Cafe Oto being assaulted by high volume sound played by men dressed from head to toe in black…the weather making the uniform particularly incongruous. Last week’s version was the Franco-Japanese pairing of Makoto Kawabata and J. Francois Pauvros…a barrage of relentless and exhilarating effect-laden guitar work. For the Drumm/Haswell duo an additional 4 speakers had been set-up enclosing a square space and from the start the possibilities of this surround sound were exploited with noise crossing diagonally across the space, circling and switching from back to front. As the music continued the layering became denser and picking out individual cadences among the squalls and sliding shrieks became more difficult…and I was reminded of the Rococo silverware I had looked at in the afternoon. The sound was creating a peculiarly 2-dimensional field in which no one theme or line could be picked out. So my mind drifted from thinking about the sound of warfare to thinking about this as the aural equivalent of dense, overlaid, endless pattern. And this suggested to me that this packed sound-environment was actually ‘content-less’ and, even, ‘decorative’. I have never considered this immersive and often brutal music in these terms before and I suspect that it is not the way the musicians think about it (?) but I do not think it takes away from the pleasure of loosing oneself within the endless labyrinth of this music. I even began to consider the chosen black dress code and the performers’ passivity as part of this ‘field’. Instead of being a negation of persona in the visual presentation of the work, these attitudes become at one with a swirling, Rococo surface.

Russell Haswell & Kevin Drumm

Russell Haswell & Kevin Drumm

Radio 201.4 [JN]

Since the beginning of this year I have been making one compilation CD each month. The tracks on each mix come from CDs from charity shops (mostly from my local one) and I exclude music bought elsewhere…that is the only constraint. The mixes tend to be combinations of the popular and the obscure so include jazz, pop, noise and anything else that I like. Many of the charity shop CDs are bought on spec so I am never sure if they will make the cut…sometimes only one track will work in the context of the mix, sometimes none. I send the CDs to various friends who I think might enjoy them. Think of this particular compilation as being in the spirit of a mixtape…specifically a C60. It almost works as two 30 minute sides with ‘run out’ as the last track on Side 1. All the cuts here come from recent (as in this year) 7”s…not all singles or 45s…there are some tracks from EPs and some play at 33 1/3 rpm. The same constraint applies…all are from charity shops but on this occasion a good few come from an Oxfam in Slough.


Track 1. From about 1967…the summer of love.

Track 2. I didn’t know that The Red Flag shared its tune not just with Oh Tannenbaum but also with the State song of Maryland. How far was Ken Colyer’s tongue in his cheek when he said this was an arrangement of Maryland, My Maryland? Just what were Colyer’s political affiliations and/or sympathies?

Track 3. More tongue in cheek?

Track 4. This is from one of those Melody Maker EPs that came free with the paper. Also on the side with the Fall is a track by Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. The other side, which features the Cocteau Twins and Hollywood Beyond has been given a coat of white emulsion by its previous owner. Why would you do that?



Track 5. The B-side of Shipbuilding.

Track 6. Never heard of ‘Big Toe’…slightly awkward…especially that slurping/breathing sound that runs throughout.



Track 7. The B-side of Superstition. The single version fades out with about a minute to go and before the redemptive line…’you’ll have it good girl…’ Sad.



Tracks 8 and 10. Six separate tracks over two sides of a ‘single’.

Track 9. The run-out groove from Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s But I Do.

Track 11. From a flexidisc issued by the RSPB. 1976.

Track 12. See Track 3

Track 13. Thank you Steve Winwood.



Track 14. This came in a sleeve for The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe –No 1. So it is neither Wonderful Copenhagen nor Like Someone in Love.



Track 15. From an EP The Art of Lotte Lenya, Vol 2. With Orchestra conducted by Roger Bean.

Track 16. Dundee’s answer to Scott Walker.

Track 17. Didgeridoos!

Track 18. From a record on the Stagesound label…so scratched that it has been a long time since it convinced anyone.

Track 19. A short mix based on the record that was inside the sleeve of the RSPB flexidisc. Open University catalogue number P912, The Pre-School Child, Disc 2 Making Music.