Friday, March 27, 2015

concert/reading in Vienna

My current music projects include a new collaboration with writer Ines Birkhan for a series of concerts/readings - and we premiere a new one, called Dosenpfirsich (Canned Peach - it's in German but we plan to make an english version at some point), tomorrow. 

It's more than a reading over a music background, as text and music were conceived together, and I'm very happy with the result - it's not singing, it's not theatre, it's not exactly spoken words, it's a new attempt at creating a strongly evocative art work with minimalist means. The result is promising, we will keep developing this in the coming times for stage and video...

For this quiet solo project I need a more subtle sound than with my very noisy bands - so no accumulation of dirt pedals! My favorite pedal of the moment is the Boss OC-3 octaver, I never practice without it for weeks, and it makes me play some unusual funk lines - both bass and guitar! 

And since I'm playing at low level I start using the overdriven channel of my Fender Champion 100 - something I never thought I'd do (I bought it in emergency last year as I needed a new concert amp and couldn't afford a tube one - and used only the clean channel since), and it has very nice warm sounds that I can't get out of any of my pedals, and I couldn't have at this level with a tube amp I guess…

Monday, March 23, 2015

in mixing studio

Instead of enjoying the beautiful Viennese spring in parks and cafés like normal people, I've spent the last days in a studio with Martin Siewert (a.o. from acclaimed Austrian band Radian) and members of the Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna - we've been mixing eight songs picked from what we recorded in RadioKulturHaus last September. The plan is to look for a label and release a vinyl album soon - it's optimistic but we've been lucky so far with the residence and the recording, so why shouldn't it go on? And frankly, what we do is rather unique, so our music has to be heard! 

It was great to work with Martin, it's not obvious to find such a good sound guy that is also an experimental musician and has an immediate understanding of what people like us may ask, however bizarre or noisy the music. His studio combines digital and analogue machines (so far I only worked in 100% computer studios) and is cramped with diverse racks, old boxes and pedals (not to mentions plenty of amps, synthesizers and guitars, including extremely cool vintage european ones). I observed his work and tried to learn more about mixing, because sooner or later I'll have to go back to it if I want to go on with my new projects...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

more sketches

music of the week: lately I've been listening a lot again to what we recorded last fall with my band Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna, as we start mixing our first album today (actually right now I'm in the studio, having a break while some file are uploading). 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Daevid Allen has reunited with the Great Cosmic Mother

Today is a sad day, one of my music heroes, Mr Daevid Allen, just passed away. I've been listening to Gong all my life, and Angel's Egg was one of the first LPs I ever bought as a young teen - when it was badly out of fashion. I was always playing his music to my friends, even when everybody (including me) was only listening to punk, post-punk, industrial music and later techno or noise - and they always ended up loving it against all the odds. Now I play Gong to my child (whose name is the title of a Gong song - post-Allen Gong so he's not called Pothead Pixie nor Zero the Hero) and we dance to it… And lately - since I got me a wah pedal effect - when I play guitar with the Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna, I have reminiscences of Steve Hillage and try to just let go… (BTW Soft Machine was another band created by Daevid Allen).

Gong probably heavily influenced my later eclectic tastes in music, mixing rock, jazz, electronic music, trance, asian traditional music, sonic experimentations... - I also listened a lot to Daevid Allen's solo work with sounds cut-ups including William S. Burroughs' voice, and one of his sentences is haunting me since: 'you never existed at all'.  Few people are ever able to not take serious their own genius the way Daevid Allen did. You can easily overlook the poet and the composer and just remember him as a silly hippie clown, but maybe it's not bad this way… Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to see him on stage, even if I was living in Amsterdam on and off at the time of the Gong Unconvention. But I met him in his music and I'll meet him again and again, and spread his blessing.

Daevid Allen was one of the persons I wanted to thank for making my life better...

Dirty Primitives new EP

I just received Dirty Primitives' new EP and I'm not disappointed at all - their energy and creativity keep up to the standards they set in their first album (reviewed here), and they even go a step further -  their music sounds deeper and more focused to me. 

Here again Dirty Primitives manage to create a coherent sound while proposing very different songs - from the lengthy techno-blues Run Run Run with its abrasive minimal guitar riff supporting big vocals harmonies and dissonant solo guitar exploration, to the illbientesque Hold me and its combination of voice samples and acoustic noises on a slow tempo. These two songs like the others make this EP a manifesto stating that distorted guitar can be much more that just brutal - though they can do that too - but a perfect and sophisticated tool to dig into our emotions.

Because they respect nothing, Dirty Primitives also brilliantly cover Led Zeppelin's Dazed and Confused in a stripped down post-punk way - no more big voice and epic guitar effects and soloing, mostly just droning fuzz and spoken words - until the song shrinks to just one note and one beat - but the right note and the right beat! Much more fitting to my taste than the original to be honest, but hey, it's just me! And you'll also find No Pop Music, their 2013 exuberant tribute to David Bowie's Berlin phase, that was not released on CD so far. 

 You can listen to Dirty Primitives' EP - and buy it - here. And because you need to hear them live, you can contact them through their website to propose concerts - these guys must tour!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

more sketches

music of the week: I've been listening avidly to Africa Express's version of Terry Riley's In C performed in Bamako by malian musicians - with some prestigious guests like Damon Albarn and Brian Eno… Absolutely beautiful! I wish I could buy this music on CD because I still don't want to buy just an audio file - I'm a collector...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

the end of Custom 77...

I was very sorry to learn a few days ago that French guitar company Custom 77  - one of the best new guitar companies in Europe to me - suddenly decided to stop their activities. Though in the last years they developed very interesting original models, reached little by little a worldwide distribution network and caught the attention of musicians (including Lee Ranaldo) and guitar lovers, they just can't manage to go on as no bank seems to find that an European electric guitar company is a sustainable business worth supporting. So they chose to call it quits rather than risking bankruptcy - we can just hope that this means that the two guys behind Custom 77 plan to create a new company someday, something they couldn't do if they had to pay debts for the rest of their lives… 

Custom 77 Roxy Raw Power
Those who followed my posts on the Guitar Blog may remember what I wrote about Custom 77's Roxy when it was released in 2011 - I really fell in love with the sexy minimal design of this guitar. I really didn't need a new guitar a the time, but in the last weeks I was hesitating between buying a G&L telecaster and a Roxy Raw Power - the solid body single P90 version of the Roxy (I need a single coil guitar for my new project). Well it seems that I hesitated too long, and I will never have it (they sell their stock for cheaper price right now but you have to go to their shop in Lyon, they won't send it to Austria)…

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

more sketches

I know, I forgot to draw the tuning system on B - I planed to make it headless and changed my mind. I still like the body shape, I regularly make variations on it, and I know that one day I'll have it built! Would be cool with a Flyte-style  triangle headstock, of a Flying V to be shorter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna will play in Fluc, Vienna

I'm playing in two days in Fluc with the Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna - that's where our band made its first concert one year ago… We've been playing several shows since, in Vienna and around, and recorded an album (mixing starts next March)… It's not easy to find concerts for a 10 + members guitar-based very noisy improvisation orchestra, it's expensive to transport so many people and so many amps, but we are looking for more shows, in Austria and abroad, and hope we will play some festivals this summer - if you're interested to program us please contact me... 

This short trailer was actually shot last december in Einbaumöbel, a small underground club in Vienna ; the stage was too small for us but we found a strange disposition on 3 levels, like in a 1960s British TV show - we should do that each time!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

more sketches

music of the week: I recently discovered a great album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp by Giles, Giles and Fripp - you may never have heard of this band but they would later rename themselves King Crimson after a slight personal change. This album released in  1968 had very little audience, probably too bizarre, but it's a real gem, I strongly recommend it.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

more sketches

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

concert pictures

with Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna in Interpenetration Festival, Stadtpark Forum, Graz.
Solo in das Werk, Vienna.
with Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna in Einmöbelbau, Vienna.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

more sketches

Friday, November 28, 2014

gearing up for coming concerts

I will have a few concerts in the coming weeks - solo and with the Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna. Here is my pedal line for my improvised solo act next week - as you can see I added an EHX Holy Stain multi-effect to the line, that might surprise some people if you've read some bad reviews this pedal has online. I got it first to add reverb and distortion to my Volca Bass, then it was very convenient to put it in my bag when I go jamming at the Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music - it replaces 3 of my basic pedals: fuzz, tremolo and reverb… Then for the same reason I started to use it for rehearsals until I mastered it enough to put it in my pedal line.

People often dislike the harshness of its fuzz and overdrive, that is true that they are not for the fainthearted, but they suit me, also the deep reverb and harsh tremolo. I even get along well with the pitch shifter, that I use either as a detuner or set on max where its bad tracking gives painfully artificial squeaky sounds. I like this a lot! I've even learned lately that you can upgrade the pedal by tweaking its chip and get a chorus and a flanger - and split the control for reverb and effect… There again my lack of knowledge in electronics prevents me from doing it myself, so I will be looking for someone to do it for me here in Vienna (would be even better if it could have a gain control…)

Actually I do need some more electronic help for I ruined my Sovtek Big Muff - I pulled off a wire of the battery connection then tried to replace it with a power jack and now it doesn't work at all… I almost dumped it to buy a EHX one but I like it - and if I have it fixed I will also ask for some mods and changing the input/output jacks positions - I favor efficiency over authenticity… 

So for now I went back to use my Boss FZ-5 - and here again the very bad reviews that pedal has feel like pure snobbery: compared to other fuzzes I have it sounds very powerful and rich. Maybe it doesn't sound how it's supposed to and all authentic and shit but I don't really care about that. 

 4 guitar solos in das Werk (T. Aumann, Bertram D, Ms Mutt, Torùn)  Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna in Einbaumöbel  Interpenetration Festival | Graz

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

more sketches

music of the week: 2 completely different things I enjoyed lately: PJ Harvey live in 1995 with the great John Parish and his terrific guitar sound… And the crazy album of Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal Sol Niger Within - yes jazz metal means something 

I hope that's not because I'm getting old but I think that music in the 1990s was so fucking good, and there's always more to discover of it!

Friday, November 7, 2014

more sketches

Friday, October 24, 2014

more sketches

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Swans in Arena Wien | concert review

Swans is not a band I'm familiar with, for some reasons I missed them all these last three decades - maybe because for me post-punk was mostly British, and no wave was more on the side of free-jazz or contemporary music…

Anyway, some (younger) musicians I'm playing with strongly advised me to listen to Swans and to go to their concert last friday, and they were right! It was an intense and inspirational concert, and probably a landmark in my life as a musician and music lover. Their unique combination of minimalism and maximalism, fueled by rock energy but ruled by contemporary music strategies, allows them to break the boundaries of their art as much as the emotional ones of their audience!

Fronted and powered by guitars (ES-335 Lucille for Michael Gira and telecaster for Norman Westberg - not the guitars you'd expect for such a noisy act), Swans' rich sound owes a lot to the lap steel of Christop Hahn that creates beautiful distorted textures and the percussions of Thor Harris (gong, tubular bells, vibraphone, cymbals…) - who also played trombone, clarinet and what seemed to be a homemade silicone string bass similar to an Ashbory bass, but that he also played with a bow, I have to learn more about that (actually it's a pity that the mix at the Arena Wien didn't do justice to Harris' presence and put the guitars really on top of everything). And of course Phil Puleo's powerful drumming is the bedrock of this  musical architecture.

Since I didn't know their songs and didn't expect anything, I could really just dive into the music and let myself go in their repetitive patterns and thunder drones, carried by mere sonic bliss. My only reservation was that Swans is very brainy, with a kind of macho self-consciousness that prevents their music to become really emotional and reach the plasmatic creative chaos that would have really blown my mind - I don't know if  this Viennese concert was not their best or if it's just what they are…

Friday, October 17, 2014

more sketches

Music of the week: can't stop listening to David Bowie's new song - Sue (or in a season of crime) - his best work for decades in my opinion, finally at the level of his genius. I often think that for some great musicians, pop music is too restricted and after a few albums they should switch to more ambitious music - and Bowie should definitely move to opera now. 

Unfortunately there won't be a full album in that vein, it will be one extra song on a greatest hits album, but one can hope that this song is the starting point of some chef-d'oeuvre to come.

Friday, October 10, 2014

more sketches and more stuff

More tracks from the past! Back in 2002 I collaborated with butoh dancer Oguri for the series of performances Chisel In. Label Even Stilte proposed me to record the soundtrack in a studio and released it in 2004. It's the only time I used a computer for live music - combined with electronics, mostly diverted guitar effects - and I didn't like it so much, it's a great tool to do studio music but I'm much happier now with my rudimentary analog machines. Originally there was also a part improvised on an Ashbory bass but I  didn't record it. 

So here are two tracks from the CD.

Friday, October 3, 2014

more sketches and stuff

Last week I was invited to perform with new improvisation band Trio Klaustroratio at Zuckerlfabrik, the atelier of Viennese visual artist Barbara Anna Husar. We played some unusual music - at least for me -, a kind of improvised ambient with slowly developing atonal repetitive patterns, with tints of folk and support of electronics. Put on top of that an enthusiast hostess and a cool and attentive audience and it was a pretty nice evening!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10 000-year headache

Last year I had to spend a few days at the hospital, and I was high on meds so I was in a writing and composing frenzy - though too confused to achieve anything… This song is the only coherent thing I made and a few weeks ago I finally mixed it and voilà!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

more sketches

Music of the week: one of the musicians who influenced me the most is Marc Ribot. I saw him on stage in the early 1990s - a little bit by chance, all I knew about him was that he was playing for Tom Waits - and he blew my mind: it was like nothing I ever heard before, not rock, not jazz, a bit of everything and a unique sound, something really freeing for someone like me who was still looking for his style (shortly after I would drop composed music and shift to impro). 

Most of the music played at that concert was released later on the live album 'Yo! I Killed Your God', that I listened to yesterday again - I have a concert tomorrow and I like to refresh my inspiration by listening to good stuff.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

more sketches

Music of the week: early september, Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna had a 3-day residence in RadioKulturHaus, in the studios of the Austrian national radio, and we improvised for many hours… So the music I hear the most these last days is a rough mix of what we played, because we plan to release a record of this music and there is a lot of work ahead of selecting, editing, mixing, producing, etc… I went through half of it so far, and when I'm fed up I go to YouTube hindu worship channels to listen to endless mantras, such as this one...  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

more sketches

My next collaborative project is probably a headless guitar - not my immediate choice but interesting in term of ergonomics.

Alain Bashung - L'Imprudence : I never listen to French pop music, and I even find it irritating when they play some in German or Austrian cafés like it is trendy to do! I can listen to classic French chanson, but as much as jazz combined beautifully with French poetry and inspired genius songwriting as early as in the 1930s - from Charles Trenet to Claude Nougaro via Georges Brassens -, rock never really worked for France. It was actually introduced in the 1950s, but as a parodic genre, by Boris Vian and Henri Salvador who were genuine jazz musicians and thought that rock was mere a fad - and bad music. It never went over that I'm afraid, and doing first degree French rock is almost impossible, and often pathetic. 

But French people like me - and like everybody in the world - still grew up listening to English and American rock and pop, and that's what influences them when they want to make music. It's just extremely difficult to create something specific and authentic combining two cultures both foreign and very close. Alain Bashung was one of the few who could do that - and I remember that he was the first to bring post-punk sounds in the early 1980s in France. At some point he became such an institution in France that it was impossible to listen to his music anymore, but he was vey talented for self-sabotage and in 2002 he released L'Imprudence

In this radical album clearly inspired by Scott Walker, you hardly have real songs anymore, often no tunes, no verses, no choruses, just half chanted, half spoken words of his trademark tongue-in-cheek obscure poetry, on top of atmospheric but melodious music mixing electric guitars (played by Marc Ribot or Arto Lindsay), big orchestra, percussions and his heartbreaking harmonica. The album is a bit too long but Bashung's voice is very emotional, that allows him to go a step further than Walker (in my humble opinion).

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