by Daevid Brock
On October 28, the late Doug ‘Dr Synth’ Walker would have turned 68. In honor of his birthday and memory, I selected a tape to revisit from the massive Alien Planetscapes catalog. I wanted a set that showcased them in one of the ‘big band’ formats, so chose Radio Special Volume X, released in 1993 by Carl Howard’s audiofile Tapes label. Typical of the membership roller coaster that characterized/plagued Alien Planetscapes throughout its history, these two CBGB shows feature somewhat different personnel that were dramatically different in terms of instrumentation.
Side A features a humongous 8-piece band performing on December 20, 1992: Doug on synthesizers, sequencers and flute, Ernest Boyd on drums, Kevin Mapplebeck on guitar, Louis Boone on synths, LG Mair on bass, Valleri Popov on tenor saxophone, Darryl Little on alto saxophone, and Jon Cordes on violin, mandolin, and synth.
After an extended intro, the band launch into a free-wheeling blend of space rock and free-jazz. The saxophones wail, the flute sails, and the band rocks, cranking out high powered noisy, cosmic, space-jazz. I love the parts with dual blazing horns and ripping Robert Fripp styled guitar licks, sounding like Ornette Coleman and King Crimson hijacking Hawkwind’s Space Ritual. At other times the band sound like a blend of Soft Machine and Gong. These guys are tight as a knot and occupied a truly unique spot on the space/jazz/progressive axis, weaving in and out of hard rocking free-jazz and cosmically trippy passages. This is full band Alien Planetscapes at their very best.
Recorded five months earlier on July 21, the Side B performance is a 6-piece with Doug, Ernest Boyd, Kevin Mapplebeck, Louis Boone, Reginald Taylor on bass, and Mitch Markowitz on guitar.
Minus the saxophones and violin, this is a more purely space rocking performance, though with an Alien Planetscapes prog-jazz aesthetic that makes for some intricately interesting jams. The synths and electronics are more front and center, keeping the vibe firmly in space, as the guitars and rhythm section at times go molten volcanic tightly wound caustic ROCK. The second song opens with beautifully ethereal flute, soon launching into a steadily rolling deep space jazz-prog instrumental, with plenty of acidic noisy bits to keep the mood both lusciously melodic and tastefully edgy. This segues smoothly into a deliriously wailing multi-layered keyboard/synth led rocking assault, accompanied by stinging and swirling guitar licks. But there are also peacefully ethereal passages, making for a varied set of high-octane space rock and meditative bliss.
Happy Birthday Doug, wherever you are!!!
by Daevid Brock
Various Artists – Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
This 2-LP set compiles American artists who saw opportunity in the proliferation of affordable recording equipment, synthesizers, and drum machines, to create impressive and wonderfully eccentric soul/funk/disco. These artists were not ‘homemade’ in the cassette culture networking sense. They released vinyl singles and LPs on their own homegrown or tiny regional labels, sought wider distribution, acclaim, and most likely record company attention. Nevertheless, this is a fun compilation that is chock full of cool and strange songs and is brimming with homemade charm. Here is a tour of the set. Oh yes, there will be drum machines…
Remember those old Wurlitzer stores in the malls with the cheesiest sounding music? Jeff Phelps’ ‘Excerpts From Autumn’ instrumental sounds like one of the demonstrators from those stores, but someone who really knows how to use it and takes it into soulful space. Phelps gets a second entry with ‘Super Lady’, which uses the same instrumentation, though it’s more intricately arranged and includes vocals.
Guitar Red’s ‘Disco From A Space Show’ is propelled by a tap-tap-tap-tap metronomic beat, wildly swirling synth lines, and a cool grooving space-soul vibe.
Jerry (J.G.) Green’s ‘I Finally Found The Love I Need’ sounds like it was recorded in the bathroom, and is characteristic of some of the 70s most almost-hit pop-soul tunes.
The lyrics on Key & Cleary’s ‘A Man’ is brimming with Black/civic pride, has a beautiful rhythm guitar pulse and fidgety electronic drums.
I love the darkly tense but cool grooving vibe and crafty use of dissonance and effects on Spontaneous Overthrow’s ‘All About Money’.
Cotillion’s ‘If You Give A Dance’ is pure soul for the disco dancefloor. Think K.C. and the Sunshine Band for the Motown crowd.
USAries’ ‘Are You Ready To Come? (With Me) Pt. 1 (and later in the set Pt. 2)’ is Sex-eeeeeee! It lays down a lazy strolling funk-blues vibe, sounding like The Temptations singing to the Shaft theme. Really good vocals and harmonies on this one.
Johnnie Walker was one half of the duo that comprised USAries, and his ‘Love Vibrator’ is a bouncy funk- soul instrumental. (With a title like ‘Love Vibrator’, I’m surprised there were no lyrics.)
‘Don’t Challenge Me’ by Makers is passionately sensual, with excellent vocals and carried along by a cheesy drum machine beat and Casio-ish keys. Regardless, the arrangements and sound are pretty darn good.
T. Dyson and Company’s ‘It’s All Over’ is a great mixture of disco and soul, with a cool variety of synths and keys, and more really good vocals and lyrics. I love the combination of spacey synths and jazzy ivory tickling keys.
Starship Commander Woo Woo’s entry is ‘Master Ship (excerpt)’, and the music is just as freaked out as the band name and song title. The orchestral keys are from the most celestial regions of space and the song is colored by effects galore. This is an oddball entry on this set, being more 80s space-age, experimental synth-pop than funk/soul/disco.
Deborah Washington & the Astros’ ‘Shortest Lady’ relies heavily on its mundane drum machine, but everything else about it is strangely interesting. The female lead vocals are saucy, the male backing growls are creepy, there’s a spacey edge to the song, and I love the over-the-top cheesy funk pulse.
Steve Elliott’s ‘One More Time’ is a fairly straightforward 70s styled sexy soul love song. It’s a got a nice flute solo, good lead and backing vocal arrangements, and spacey synths.
The New Year’s ‘My Bleeding Wound’ is one of the most cool and strange experimental tracks of the set. The music is dominated by a repetitive stinging guitar pattern, later joined by a minimal bass riff. And leading the way are outrageously spaced out James Brown-ish vocals.
Otis G. Johnson’s ‘Time To Go Home’ sounds like it was recorded with a shoebox cassette recorder, but it’s a beautifully heartfelt religious song with a nice melody.
Personal Space was released in 2012 by Chocolate Industries. I couldn’t find any info on the label but it was distributed by The Numero Group, who have been releasing/distributing the most esoteric of reissues/compilations for years. The songs on this set are all over YouTube.
by Rafael González
Thanks to Hal McGee I have had the privilege of hearing a preview of "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)" by Joseph Nechvatal, which is released in cassette format by Pentiments Records and also available digitally on the label's Bandcamp page.
What did I find in "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)"? Something really very inspiring and very precious to me!
Joseph Nechvatal is an American artist known among other things for being the co-founder, in 1983, of the avant-garde electronic art music audio project Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine. I greatly regret having never previously heard any of his sound works because of the enormous surprise and pleasure that I have experienced after listening to his sound creations contained in this wide-ranging collection, which includes complete pieces and excerpts of works from the 80's to the present time: live radio mixes, musique concrète, synthesizer and guitar noiseworks, plunderphonics and cut-ups, excerpts from cassette releases, simulated audio viral attacks, tape and computer manipulations, radio plays, and much more.
Many of the readers and friends of Electronic Cottage tend to nostalgia for cassettes, analog instruments and other old gadgets. At least this is my tendency sometimes because all of those lovely things of the past are still very funny and they provide beautiful aesthetic experiences. Listening to Nechvatal's recent works contained in this collection I have had the same pleasure and enjoyment as I might have felt in the 80's or 90's, and listening to his works of those earlier times gave me the feeling that they could have been made yesterday. Because the theme, the substrate remains today. Perhaps the very good remastering of the old pieces has helped to get this feeling, but I haven't had the feeling of listening to a relic. Now all that flow of pop music, noise, news, interference and announcements reaches us via digital, in much greater quantity, it is true, but it doesn't make much difference. If in his early works he used tapes, vinyl, radio and guitars… and in more recent times he uses software, digital information and computer viruses, the conceptual idea underlying the tracks compiled in this release is the same, in my opinion.
It is also very interesting to pay good attention to Joseph Nechvatal's visual works, since they keep a strong interrelation with his sound production, as we can also perceive in the cover of the release of which I am making this small review.
The best summary I can give of what you will hear on this cassette or in its digital edition is … Warning to lovers of cut-ups, no wave, sound collages, musique concrète, radio art, sound poetry and digital noise... you're going to love this release!
by Daevid Brock
rADio eND is the work of Ed End, an artist who is new to me, but comes by way of my old friend Charles Rice Goff III, home recording veteran and ship commander of the Taped Rugs Productions label. For Salvator Salvandus, Charles took Ed’s source material and modified it, blended in his own original recordings, plus assorted mutational fun.
‘Salvator Salvandus Alpha’ opens the set with spacey swirls, heavenly washes, and cascading bell/chime effects, all propelled by a rickety washboard kind of rhythm. In the last couple minutes, the rhythm recedes, and we float to the finale on waves of high-octane space-scapes and a jaunty cosmic toy piano sounding beat.
‘Inner Transmission’ is next and…. really interesting rhythmic work on this album. There’s a strange kind of electronic ‘drumming’ and wavering drone pulse that drives the action, and it’s surrounded by a succession of intensely delirious, spaced out sound waves. In the last minutes there’s a thematic shift as we come in for a landing with a brief angelic chorus, followed by a multi-layered glom of electronic space rocking, hippety-hoppety vibes.
‘Etheric Body’ sounds like a blend of cosmic choir, SETI alien transmissions, throbbing martial beats, and battalions of insect saucers revving their engines. Later in the track things quiet and a voice says…. “The squirrel’s granary is full!” (At least that’s what it sounds like??), and we’re now buzzing around in an eerily ambient yet head-spinning spiral of sound.
I like the combination of clattering bells and machine-like soundscape waves that open ‘Aether Particles’, before settling into a gently intense, ambient roar (with an electrode charged robot voice interlude). At nearly 12 minutes the piece gradually evolves, including traces of Berlin school electronica, various interestingly concocted rhythmic bits, garbles of voice samples, and much more.
‘luva Te, luvabit Te Caelum’ is a grinding and clattering rhythmic rant, the harsh vibe offset by playful horns, effects and voice samples.
Finally, the 10+ minute ‘Salvator Salvandus Omega’ closes the set in deep meditative space, sailing through a cosmos inhabited by spectral beings, alien transmissions, whimsical melodies, and colored throughout by a parade of freaky effects.
I’ve probably listened to this gem a half dozen already. LOTS to discover and digest over repeated listens!
Free download with detailed album notes
Contact through, but also spend time at the Taped Rugs Productions web site
For an index of nearly 300 original audio recordings available at the Internet Archive, produced by or co-produced by Taped Rugs Productions, go here:
by Hal McGee
As part of our ongoing exchange of art items through the postal mail, Heather Chessman and Roger Smith sent to me a CD copy of their recent release on the Besperech`label (Russia), Deep as a depthless pond. JUICE MACHINE break out into new territory on this release, foregrounding field recordings of natural sounds, with their minimal electronics serving as a backdrop. I was a little surprised by this strategy, but it works well and the results are pleasing. There are no doubt hundreds of albums that utilize a similar approach, but this kept my attention throughout its three tracks totaling 64 minutes. I found this audio art to be as suitable for active, attentive listening as for letting it melt into the background as I did chores and straightened up my apartment. The electronics and natural sounds blend together so well that it is difficult to tell the difference. Some of this does get very intense, and I love all of the details that keep my mind busy. It sounds GREAT on headphones!
I really do not want to say much more, because my job as a reviewer is to point you toward recordings that I find interesting that you might find interesting too. You should listen to Deep as a depthless pond yourself and make it an experience of your own, and you can do so on the Besperech`page on Bandcamp, as well as purchase a download. You can also order a copy of the gorgeous four-panel digipak CD for €10. I love the look of my copy so much that I affixed it to my mail art wall along with all of the other awesome visual art that I have received in recent months.
Please also visit Heather and Roger's JUICE MACHINE page on Bandcamp where you will find 37 of their albums of no-input feedback and minimal electronics. They have a new release, charnel ground, which is available as a C-90 cassette and download. It's all about audio adventure and going places with the sounds.