Monday, 20 February 2012

Little fluffy thanks to The Orb's Alex Paterson

Actually, big fluffy thanks goes out to The Orb's Alex Paterson. Alex has very kindly taken the time out to write a great little piece for my book. As with so many DJs and electronic musicians he recognises the genius of E2-E4 and the importance it has had on the genre to which his music belongs.
To have Dr. Alex contribute to the book is very special for me. Being of a tender(ish) age my first experiences of listening to ambient music came not from Brian Eno, but from listening to the The Orb's UFOrb album, back in my student digs in 1993 (coincidentally I was also listening to Gong's Angel's Egg during the same period - thanks, Steve Hillage). Anyway, I can still remember listening to UFOrb's opening track, O.O.B.E. at dusk in my room, my Doc Marten boots rested on my desk, as I grappled with what was a new musical vocabulary for me. At first I was a tad puzzled. There was no discernable tune in a conventional sense but I knew there was something more than intriguing....patterns and textures that kept me coming back for more. In the end I got to know every twist and turn of the album and then moved on to Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and was similarly absorbed. Memories, memories.......

I've followed The Orb's music through the years and their latest project, C Batter C, is a CD/DVD package, contained in mini-hardback book format. The music and visuals are based around footage of Alex's father, captured on camera by his aunt Lil on a journey from Battersea to Greenwich and back in 1956. A sort of meditation on the fragility of memories, this is moving stuff.
Thanks, Alex for your words towards the book. As with Steve Hillage's contribution this means a great deal to me.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Postcards from NYC

Hi all. Here, revealed, is the reason I couldn't make it to Berlin for MG's show a couple of weeks ago: last weekend I flew out to New York. With that trip looming large I simply couldn't afford to visit Berlin as well, which is a pity but I'll be there in summer for the Ashra show - no question.

After three-and-a-half days of non-stop walking in NYC here are a small collection of some of the highlights - from Grand Central Station to Central Park, Times Square to the top of the Empire State Building at night and finally Battery Park and its view of Liberty Island. Right...I'd better go. I've got a book to finish writing. Back soon.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

With thanks to Steve Hillage!

Big thanks to Gong and System 7 legend Steve Hillage, who has very kindly taken the time out to write a lovely piece for the book. In this he discusses his appreciation of Manuel Gottsching's art and an enduring friendship that stretches back to the '70s. As many of you will probably know Steve and Manuel were label mates at Virgin Records back then and Ashra and System 7 subsequently played on the same bill in Japan in 1997. Most recently, in 2010, Steve helped Manuel to play his Inventions for Electric Guitar album live in Japan.
I'm really grateful to Mr. Hillage for adding to my project and as a little personal way of showing my thanks I'm playing his Green album as I type this. Perhaps later on I'll play a bit of System 7 too. Cheers, Steve!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Haus Musik - MG live in Berlin, February 2012

As most fans will know this weekend saw Manuel Gottsching's first live concert appearance of 2012 as a part of the Transmediale Festival at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the Cultures of the World) in Berlin. This was probably a nostalgic show for Manuel, as he previously performed at the venue in November of 1979, providing the soundtrack for a fashion show titled Big Birds, which was organised by the famous designers Claudia Skoda and Tabea Blumenschein. See a clip from that amazing event here.
The Haus der Kulturen der Welt, also known as the pregnant oyster, because of its distinctive design collapsed just six months after the Big Birds show in May of 1980 and was subsequently rebuilt, reopening in 1987.
Given Gottching's previous appearance at the venue it seems fitting that he should want to resurrect Big Birds, one of his great unreleased pieces, along with other music from the same period for this performance. The Joshua Light Show, known for providing legendary psychedelic visuals at the Fillmore East and West concert venues in the late '60s and early '70s were also in attendance and presented some suitably stunning backdrops.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the concert on this occasion (for reasons that will become clear soon - nothing too dramatic) but saw much of the show via live streaming from the house of my parents, out in the countryside. This wasn't entirely without hitch and it took me a short while to get the stream to run smoothly but I got there. Thanks to a few clips posted on YouTube I've now managed to see the entire show and all I can say is that I'm extremely disappointed not to have actually been there. This really was one not to miss. By the way, in case you're wondering I took many of the pictures in this post from the live concert feed as it happened.
The concert opened with Big Birds, a piece that is just crying out for release, perhaps in its original form, possibly in its new, contemporary arrangement but ideally in a package including everything together. As with Niemand lacht Ruckwarts (please forgive the absence of umlauts there), originally recorded in the same year, this is a dense and intense, multilayered track that makes use of sequencers to provide mesmerising patterns of sound and was clearly another stepping stone in the direction of the seminal classic E2-E4.....but more of this in the book.
The lengthy Dream, from the superb Dream & Desire album came next. In stark contrast to the opener this meditative track uses relaxed and rather cosmic electronics as a backing for one of Gottsching's most gentle and graceful guitar performances.
Continuing in the same vein of lengthy late '70s pieces, and also delivered with more than a passing reference to the analog era, Lotus, from the Blackouts album rounded off the body of the main set. Offering more of the meditative mood established by Dream, this classic never fails to deliver and it should come as no surprise to read that the performance was sublime.
Now I must confess that the encore was a bit of a mystery to me. Was this a radical reworking of an earlier recording, another extract from Big Birds or a new piece? Perhaps all will be revealed in due course.....
Whatever the origins of this techno-infused piece, which concluded with a guitar work out, it was a spectacular way to finish a great show. I'm going to say it again: I wish I was there...but in a few weeks time you will know why I wasn't!
Regarding the book I came back to Newcastle late this afternoon to find a couple of very exciting e-mails in my inbox. The project just keeps on growing with more and more contributions from important figures in the Manuel Gottsching story. I will update the blog with more information about this very soon.
In the meantime I hope you enjoy these pictures from Saturday's show. If you were there I'm very jealous of you indeed and if you weren't you'll probably be joining me in hoping for a CD or DVD release and maybe even the whole of Big Birds at some point in the not too distant future.....or should I say the deep distance?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Nearly there...I think

Time for a quick update: after quite a bit of work last weekend I'm now just 11 pages from the end of the fourth draft. I've got a busy couple of weeks coming up but after that it's time for a very brief round of tweaking and I then need to turn my attention to thinking about how I can get my work in to your hands. Yes, readers, I'm talking about publication! The end of this project is now in sight. Dare I say that this is the final straight....Expect to hear a lot more from me very soon.