ARP is back with a new eleven track instrumental album entitled ‘Zebra’.
The moniker of New York based multi-instrumentalist Alexis Georgopoulos, things have been quiet for ARP over the last couple of years, although there was a collaborative album with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma under his own name. ‘The Soft Wave’ in 2010 proved to be ARP’s breakthrough release and featured the wonderful kosmische melodies of ‘High Life’, the beauty of ‘Summer Girl’ and the progressive clustered sonics of album opener ‘Pastoral Symphony_ I. Dominoes II. Infinity Room’.
2013’s ‘More’ ventured into primarily song based territory and Georgopoulos’ own Eno-esque green world with ‘Judy Nylon’ coming over as the ultimate homage to the art rock of ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’. The cassette album ‘Inversions’ from 2016 explored ambient via Moog and violin, as well as arpeggio driven rhythmic trance.
Never one to sit still and keen not to brand himself with any particular style, Georgopoulos continues his aural exploration and like the zebra itself, his latest work sees him revelling in contrast and duality, using a wider spectrum of musical colours than previously.
With the minimalistic air of Terry Riley and Steve Reich, the gorgeous ‘Halflight Visions’, held together by a marimba arpeggio and some tinkling Fener Rhodes, sets the scene for ‘Zebra’.
Meanwhile the African flavoured ‘Nzuku’ continues use of the marimba derived backbone with a live percussive swing, guitars and an assortment of buzzy synths for a jam of extended cosmic jazz. Using tribal drum mantras, ‘Flourescences’ and ‘Folding Water’ both continue on the theme.
The combination of sweeping synths and marimbas gives ‘Parallelism’ a distinctly spacey vibe while the two minute long ‘Ozu’ adds flutes and string bass to the soundtrack. At nearly nine minutes, the piano laden ‘Reading A Wave’ ventures into avant jazz and perhaps overindulges.
Utilising the Fourth World tremors of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno, ‘Fiji’ combines a variety of textures including snatches of double bass, shimmering string machine and bleepy electronics for a pleasingly hypnotic ride to the terminus.
Eclectic to say the least but less instantly engaging and melodic than ‘The Soft Wave’, ‘Zebra’ sees Georgopoulos continue his path towards jazzier territory.
Those who preferred the pan-European overtures of ‘The Soft Wave’ might be disappointed, but those in for the long haul on the ARP journey will appreciate the ambition, the musicianship and the masterful quality of its production.
‘Zebra’ is released by Mexican Summer on 22nd June 2018 in double vinyl LP, CD + digital formats
Avant garde trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell is best known for his collaborations with Brian Eno and David Sylvian.
Coining the term “Fourth World” to describe his style as “a unified primitive / futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques”, his contributions can also be heard on recordings with TALKING HEADS, TEARS FOR FEARS and 808 STATE. His ‘Fourth World, Volume 1: Possible Musics’ with Brian Eno from 1980 is now considered a landmark in ambient and world music, combining airy electronic treatments on his trumpet with drones and sombre percussive colours often derived from ancient ghatams.
Meanwhile his two 1984 co-writes ‘Weathered Wall’ and ‘Brilliant Trees’ with David Sylvian placed the Fourth World ethos into a song format, albeit an unconventional one while signalling the former JAPAN front man’s departure from pop and into more experimental climes.
Hassell actually criticised Eno’s subsequent album ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ with David Byrne to Andy Warhol for being too commercial and although it was hardly ‘1989’ by Taylor Swift, it showed the integrity of the man and how still he very much lives for his art at the age of 81.
Very much a sound painter, Hassell’s new album ‘Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One)’ introduces his idea of Vertical Listening to “what’s happening NOW” and “letting your inner ears scan up and down the sonic spectrum, asking what kind of ‘shapes’ you’re seeing, then noticing how that picture morphs as the music moves through Time.”
All very thoughtful and with this album, fans of Brian Eno and David Sylvian’s more esoteric work will not be disappointed. Ambient soundscapes proliferate and Hassell’s distinctive signature trumpet sound is very much present on a fair number of the tracks. The steadily rhythmic ‘Al Kongo Udu’ develops on the Fourth World concept from its opening percussive pulses into glitchy 21st Century electronica while being trumpet free. However, it makes its welcome first appearance on the appropriately titled ‘Dreaming’.
The jazz inflected ‘Manga Scene’ also adds some atonal interference and random bleeping for an abstract sound sculpture, but the title track is almost conventional in comparison despite the cut-ups and its almost arbitrary percussive generation. The clattering passages of ‘Pastorale Vassant’ are filled with treated piano and ring modulation while more noise driven, ‘Picnic’ occupies a similar aural playground.
Closing with ‘Slipstream’, the album is bookended with another development of Hassell’s classic Fourth World concept, its overtones eerie but simultaneously escapist.
Like many albums of this type, this won’t be for everyone but for anyone who has ever enjoyed the collaborative aspect of Hassell’s previous work, there are a number of accessible entry points in this artful sonic installation.
The vast career of electronic innovator and ambient godfather Brian Eno has crossed genres, styles and instrumentation.
Ranging from his solo work with his use of simplistic keyboards and snake guitar to major rock productions and motivational techniques such as his famous ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards, Eno’s theories and thought processes have shaped the pop, rock and avant garde worlds.
“Anything that’s strong enough will stand up to any amount of analysis” Eno said profoundly.
While starting out in art rock with ROXY MUSIC as an EMS VCS3 wielding non-musician, a car accident in early 1975 left him temporarily immobile in a hospital bed. Ever the thinker, it allowed him to explore the possibilities of environmental music.
Inadvertently, he had discovered the sub-genre of ambient. One of his best known early compositions of this type was the short instrumental title track of his 1975 opus ‘Another Green World’ which combined voxless and vocalled tracks in equal measures; the track later became the opening title theme to the BBC2 arts programme ‘Arena’. He focussed on this wordless aesthetic, producing acknowledged ambient classics such as ‘Music for Airports’, ‘Thursday Afternoon’ and ‘Neroli’. His recent album ‘Lux’ on Warp Records continued this quality tradition.
Following his acclaimed solo album ‘Before & After Science’ in 1977, he largely steered clear of conventional vocal led material until 2005’s excellent ‘Another Day On Earth’. However, he maintained a presence within the pop and rock sphere as a producer with ULTRAVOX! and later acts such as DEVO, TALKING HEADS, U2 and JAMES.
“Being a record producer is the best form of cowardice. Producers often get praised but they have to do a really bad job for anyone to criticise them” he said of his occasionally hands-off approach, “The way I work is to try to find out what isn’t being done that ought to be done. Sometimes that means somebody ought to make the tea. Sometimes it means somebody ought to re-write the whole bloody song”.
Such is Eno’s magic, he even managed to steer COLDPLAY into making their most bearable track ‘Viva La Vida’! Eno’s influence in the studio has been significant, even when not actually behind the desk.
Photo by Christian Simonpietri
While often miscredited as the producer of David Bwoie’s Berlin trilogy ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’, he was paramount in directing Bowie’s train of thought towards a new school of pretension beyond conventional rock ’n’ roll. The result was half instrumental tracks such as ‘Sound & Vision’ and doomy neo-classical electronic pieces such as ‘Sense Of Doubt’, while both the ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ albums were conceptualised into vocal and instrumental sides.
Other Eno collaborators have included HARMONIA, LARAAJI, ICEHOUSE and SUEDE as well as John Cale, Jah Wobble, Leo Abrahams, Jon Hopkins and Karl Hyde among many. Scouse pranksters HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT even sent up this artistic rite of passage in a song called ‘Eno Collaboration’. Eno’s catalogue is far too extensive to summarise in a short synopsis.
So what material would serve as an introduction to his varied career as a recording artist, producer, remixer and collaborative muse? Here are eighteen affectionately chosen examples. As with all previous Beginner’s Guides by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, the list is not definitive, presented in chronological order and limited to one track per moniker, project or artist. The intention is to act as an oblique strategy to inspire further investigation…
ROXY MUSIC Ladytron (1972)
‘Ladytron’ was a gloriously arty adventure; the inclusion of otherworldly sonic manipulations on Andy MacKay’s oboe and sax alongside Eno’s striking VCS3 sourced electronics signalled a futuristic vision that was later to reveal itself in the New Romantic scene. But Eno’s tenure in ROXY MUSIC wasn’t to last; tensions had been running high at Roxy gigs.Following Roxy’s second album ‘For Your Pleasure’, Eno was gone!
While Eno’s solo debut ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ followed a trashy, energetic guitar led style inspired by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, his sophomore offering took in more esoteric approaches and an interest in Chinese Communism. The skippy waltz of ‘Back In Judy’s Jungle’ with percussion played by Phil Collins headed towards the 38th Parallel as a wonderfully infectious guitar melody (borrowed from a Korean folk tune) took hold alongside various whistles and electronic effects.
Prog rockers KING CRIMSON shared management with Roxy and Eno; their guitarist Robert Fripp made his first collaboration with Eno in 1973 on ‘(No Pussyfooting)’. Comprising of two long spiky improvisations, it used a live tape loop technique christened Frippertronics which allowed Mr Toyah Wilcox to layer guitar sounds. This was put to good use on ‘Evening Star’ which had more accessible melodic components compared with ‘(No Pussyfooting)’ and gentle harmonics.
‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the post-war tensions in West Berlin without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the soldiers in the East Berlin watch towers could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.
Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records
Using Eno’s Minimoog with a knob marked with a sheep sticker to indicate it made woolly sounds, Billy Currie’s classical sensibilities combined with John Foxx’s detached dissatisfaction to effectively invent Gary Numan on ‘My Sex’. Despite being accorded joint billing with Steve Lillywhite and the band in the ‘Ultravox!’ album’s production credits, drummer Warren Cann later revealed that Eno had only worked on four tracks and had not been quite the accomplished studio technician the band hoped he would be!
Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ultravox!’ via Universal Music
While the 1976 sessions with cult German band HARMONIA featuring Michael Rother of NEU! remained unreleased until 1997, collaborations with two of the collective Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius aka CLUSTER proved to be more successful. With a wonderful ambient collection ‘Cluster & Eno’to their name, their second album ‘After The Heat’added Eno’s contemplative voice to the experimentation, the best of which was the gentle sequencer led beauty of ‘The Belldog’.
With ‘Music for Airports’, No1 in his Ambient series, the concept had been to create soothing pieces for inducing calm in those who had a fear of flying. Unlike ‘Music For Films’ which consisted of short musical fragments, ‘Music For Airports’ comprised of four extended sketches utilising piano, synths and vocal tape loops. Very much a product of the studio and the possibilities opened up due to quality improvements of public address systems, ‘1/1’ was a magnificent 17 minute calling card that was “ignorable as it is interesting”.
Strangely enigmatic, Hassell’s muted avant garde trumpet playing and use of Prophet 5 processing in partnership with Eno on ‘Delta Rain Dream’ from ‘Fourth World Vol 1 Possible Musics’ provided a backdrop for a type of percussive primitive futurism where it was envisaged what indigenous tribes would have done if a solar powered synthesizer had been dropped in at the beginning of time and become their instrument of choice. ‘Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Vol 2’ was recorded by Hassell solo in 1981.
Eno had produced and issued Budd’s ‘Pavilion Of Dreams’ on Obscure, but didn’t directly collaborate on a full album project with the American self-taught pianist until ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’; ‘First Light’ was typical of an Eno collaboration where the musician of the partnership was allowed to breathe and build tension before Eno’s magical layers of synthesizer appeared in the final quarter. The approach could be compared to Eno choosing a tie for Budd’s shirt and suit…
‘Once In A Lifetime’ may have been the hit but ‘Crosseyed & Painless’ was the key track from ‘Remain In Light’, TALKING HEADS’ third album with Eno. Incorporating funk rhythms alongside assorted instrumentation modulating around a very basic repetitive chord structure, there was tension within the dance as David Byrne preached like an inebriate evangelist. The credit “All songs written by David Byrne, Brian Eno and Talking Heads” said it all as Eno tried to turn TALKING HEADS into his backing group.
Recorded simultaneously during the ‘Remain In Light’ sessions, ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ was the playroom that nearly drove TALKING HEADS apart. This influential album used taped speeches by personalities of assorted faiths effectively as lead vocals. Featuring the found voice of Lebanese mountain singer Dunya Yusin, ‘Regiment’ was mildly funky and its assortment of rhythmical clarity, synthetic atmospheres and sustained guitar textures proved to be a forerunner of JAPAN’s ‘Tin Drum’.
BRIAN ENO, DANIEL LANOIS & ROGER ENO Deep Blue Day (1983)
The ‘Apollo’ album was recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the mission to the moon. Its intention was to react against the newsy manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Feelings of weightlessness were captured among the collection’s aural clusters and atmospheres. ‘Deep Blue Day’ with its accessible countrified twang from Lanois was used in the infamous ‘toilet’ scene of the film ‘Trainspotting’.
Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Apollo’ via Virgin Records
It seemed a most ludicrous union at the time… the flag waving over earnest rock group teaming up with the thoughtful, ambient egghead! With Bono and Co doing their best ‘New Gold Dream’ period SIMPLE MINDS impression, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ captured the harrowing trauma of Hiroshima in layers of Yamaha DX7 and Fairlight as Eno pushed the Irish quartet into a more esoteric mind process to counter their naturally bombastic tendencies. He continues to work with them today.
Brook was a studio engineer who could see the possibilities of stretching out the timbres and textures of the electric guitar. His experiments led to his development of the Infinite Guitar. Co-produced by Eno, ‘Hybrid’ was the first album to fully exploit this instrument and the title track very much followed the percussive possible musics of Eno’s ‘Fourth World Vol 1 Possible Musics’ collaboration with Jon Hassell. This wasn’t entirely surprising as Brook had played live with the duo in 1981.
Available on the MICHAEL BROOK album ‘Hybrid’ via Virgin Records
After their ‘Seven’ album, JAMES were accused of heading down the U2 route so in a replicant move, Booth and Co secured the services of Eno for ‘Laid’, which was released in Autumn 1993. While driven by frantic acoustic guitar, the lead single ‘Sometimes’ benefitted from Eno’s input by steadily building and adding glistening ambient synths. A most gloriously harmonic vocal section towards the conclusion appeared for yet another lift when it was least expected… pure Eno!
Available on the JAMES album ‘Laid’ via Mercury Records
Using the percolating bass sequence and chilling stabs from the original album version plus slices of Martin Gore’s backing vocal, Eno’s Apex Mix of this highlight from ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ was almost Zen-like in its meditative qualities. Legend has it that while Martin Gore was playing this version in his car, he had to turn it off as it was sending him to sleep! In true Eno style, the backing built slowly and made the most of the song’s inherent tension, something which Butch Vig’s rocked up single mix failed to do.
Available on the DEPECHE MODE CD single ‘In Your Room’ via Mute Records
The first co-write between the two former sparring partners with perhaps some nostalgic lyrical reference to the fledgling days of ROXY MUSIC, ‘Wildcat Days’ was the best track from Ferry’s arduous ‘Mamouna’ project, the original sessions of which had started as far back as 1989 under the working title of ‘Horoscope’. Lots of weird noises, detuned swoops and a seasoned supporting cast including Andy MacKay, Chester Kamen and Steve Ferrone combined for this marvellous slice of electronic art funk.
Available on the BRYAN FERRY album ‘Mamouna’ via Virgin Records
BRIAN ENO & J PETER SCHWALM From This Moment (2001)
For his project with German DJ and percussionist Schwalm, Eno took a more rhythmically colourful approach to his ambient philosophies that coincided with the emergence of chill-out rooms within the club scene. Certainly, ‘Drawn From Life’ possessed more accessible entry points for those who maybe found works such as ‘Music For Airports’ too sedate. The album’s opener ‘From This Moment’ was great soundtrack music, bolstered by live percussion and strings.
Available on the BRIAN ENO & J PETER SCHWALM album ‘Drawn from Life’ via Virgin Records