MAGIC MIX

Balearic . Yacht Rock . New Age . Downbeat

WEEK STARTING 15 Feb

Genre pick of the week Cover of Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 by Various Artists.
Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series continues with Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, an unprecedented overview of the country’s vital minimal, ambient, avant-garde, and New Age music – what can collectively be described as kankyō ongaku, or environmental music. The collection features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, as well as other pioneers like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the indisputable giants of these genres.

In the 1970s, the concepts of Brian Eno’s “ambient” and Erik Satie’s “furniture music” began to take hold in the minds of artists and musicians around Tokyo. Emerging fields like soundscape design and architectural acoustics opened up new ways in which sound and music could be consumed. For artists like Yoshimura, Ojima and Ashikawa, these ideas became the foundation for their musical works, which were heard not only on records and in live performances, but also within public and private spaces where they intermingled with the sounds and environments of everyday life. The bubble economy of 1980s Japan also had a hand in the advancement of kankyō ongaku. In an attempt to cultivate an image of sophisticated lifestyle, corporations with expendable income bankrolled various art and music initiatives, which opened up new and unorthodox ways in which artists could integrate their avant-garde musical forms into everyday life: in-store music for Muji, promo LP for a Sanyo AC unit, a Seiko watch advert, among others that can be heard in this collection.

Kankyō Ongaku is expertly compiled by Spencer Doran (Visible Cloaks) who, with a series of revelatory mixtapes as well as his label Empire of Signs (Music For Nine Postcards), has been instrumental in shepherding interest in this music outside of Japan. Together with Light In The Attic’s celebrated anthologies I Am The Center and The Microcosm, Kankyō Ongaku helps to broaden our understanding of this quietly profound music, regardless of the environment in which it’s heard.


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Now, while the Japanese ambient revival has been going on for some years (check out essential reissues on Palto Flats, WRWTFWW, 17853) Light In The Attic steal a march on their competitors with this sublime compilation of obscurities from the Land of the Rising Sun. Wonderfully packaged, presented and curated, "Kankyo Ongaku" is a fitting companion to "I Am The Center" and the "Microcosm", exploring the New Age and ambient sounds of 80s Japan. Minimal, relaxing and utterly beautiful, this music is almost heavenly.

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xDeluxe CD Info: 2xCD housed in a custom 7”x 7” hardbound book.

3xLP Box Set Info: Triple black vinyl LP with deluxe Stoughton “tip-on” jackets and slipcase.

Performing throughout the 1980s as Art Carnage to the gloomy hipsters of Portland, Attilio Panissidi III decided he needed a vacation. The result of his creative escape became Art Takes A Holiday, an album of fabricated FM synthscapes and MIDI environments that embrace elements of smooth jazz, new age, and pop.

Attilio had been playing in bands since he was thirteen, and had opened live shows for countless acts, from The Shangri-Las to Bruce Hornsby. The experience of producing, performing, as well as years spent writing for local music magazine The Downtowner, earned Attilio a gig to score a commercial film for a home security systems company. The opportunity allowed him to explore softer elements in his writing, and he created a suite of songs much deeper than the commission warranted. These instrumentals caught the attention of Marlon McClain (Gap Band, Shock), who invited Attilio to produce and release the music on his fledgling Nu-Vision label. Thus "Art Takes A Holiday" found its commercial release on cassette and CD in 1989. Although originally intended as soundtrack music, the album retains its own momentum, narrative and evocative imagery that betrays Attilio’s years of crafting songs. Attilio found a perfect ambience on this mythic retreat, somewhere between William Aura’s summer cottage on Half Moon Bay and DJ Alfredo’s Balearic island getaway.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Originally released in the era when New Age and new technology found a perfect synergy, “Art Takes A Holiday” is a killer set of exotic synth suites, future primitive grooves and esoteric dancers, each of which could have graced the soundtrack of a late 80s film about cops, surfing and computer systems.

'"White Shadows In The South Seas" is the title of a book written in 1919 by Frederick O’Brien as part of a trilogy he wrote based on his experiences living in the Pacific islands in the early part of the 20th century. His book was taken as the starting point for a film to be directed, initially, by Robert Flaherty (famous at the time for his groundbreaking documentary / fiction film Nanook Of The North) with W.S.Van Dyke as his support. The film, ultimately, apart from the title, had little to do with O’Brien’s book and Flaherty left the film after a few months leaving Van Dyke to finish it. I purchased O'Brien's book, along with many others, from Basement Books, a secondhand bookstore in Melbourne/Australia. Part of my 'Islomania' and ongoing fascination with all things Pacific. When I discovered there was a 1929 silent film based on the book I sought it out and started to present it as part of my 'Live Music/Silent films' repertoire. Tabu by Frederick Murnau, which coincidently also had Flaherty as co-director originally, was the first film I ever wrote / improvised a score for and presented as a live film/music performance. My repertoire extends to over 23 films now.

My eclectic and diverse musical and artistic interests extend into 'Hawaiian', ‘Exotica’, ‘Ambient’ and 'Electronic' Music.

"White Shadows In The South Seas" features some of the music presented in my live screenings of the 1929 silent film. '

- Mike Cooper

Mike Cooper plays – Electric and acoustic lap steel guitars / electronics / Zoom Sampletrack / Kaos Pad / Casio SK1 / Korg Drum Machine / Self Made Instruments.

It also features field recordings made on Pulau Ubin by Mike Cooper during a month as Artist In Residence for The Artist Village / Singapore.

All music written and played by Mike Cooper PRS/MCPS - except Po Mahina (trad. Arr. Cooper) and Hilo Hanakahi (trad. Arr. Cooper)

Recorded and Mixed at the Steelworks in Rome 2012/2013.


FORMAT INFORMATION

2xLP Info: In silk-screened sleeves, with metallic ink.

You've heard of Baldelli & Loda right? Well, while Fabrizio Fattori might not have scored the same international acclaim for his work behind the turntable, the Italian did kill it in the studio, and this seven track set brings together the Afro-cosmic magic from his 1985 releases on London Records. Perfect for zero gravity dancing, eyeball licking and your next vision quest.
Sweatband carefully placed on the brow, that swift bathroom speedball pulling you this way and that, we begin. "Running On The Nile" condenses everything you love about the Cosmic / Balearic scene into five flawless minutes of loose limbed passion. Tribal shouts and tumbling drums, chizzed up basslines, faux brass, mallets and a seriously euphoric chorus! The pace drops a little for the scat-heavy fusion frenzy "Leg Pulling", a mutant cousin of "Stop Bajon", before "Black Babe" locks into slo-mo fist pumps and sax-led swooning across two versions. (N.B. the last time I went tops off in a club was when I heard Baldelli drop this in Milan - Patch)
Slow-jam unlocked, Fabrizio keeps the magic coming, cooking up the totally tribal Stargate tackle "Bara-Hum-Ba", a break-fuelled exotic stomper with ace pianos and chanted vox. In dub form "Leg Pulling" is imbued with new, ultra-Balearic powers while the cinematic, dramatic and dreamy cosmic thrust of "Babihe" sounds like the first time you came up. Bliss!

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Best Records continue to smash it out the park, following a recent string of essential Italo and boogie reissues with a heavy LP combining Fab Fattori's two in-demand cosmic EPs with a little bit of unreleased material. Perfect for tops off dancing in a mirror tiled room.

Ishmael Ensemble

Severn Songs 3: The River Feat. Yazz Ahmed

Hot-on-the-heels of their performance on BBC 6 Music, for Gilles Peterson's ‘UK Jazz Special’, at the hallowed Maida Vale studios (alongside Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones and Fatima), Ishmael Ensemble bring their Bristol-inspired "Severn Songs" project to a triumphant finale. "Severn Songs 3" pays homage the mighty river itself, in both title and mood. Field recordings from the banks of another iconic river - the Ganges - made by keyboardist and co-writer Jake Spurgeon meander in and out of focus, whilst celestial percussion ushers in the full-bodied tone of celebrated jazz trumpeter Yazz Ahmed's horn. The track climaxes in true Ishmaelian fashion with a whirlwind of pulsating synthesizers, crashing drums and hypnotic brass flurries, before easing back into the dulcet rhythm of oars lapping through water.

On the flip, a reprise takes the listener on a much gentler ride. However, the tension and dynamics of this twin version are still very much apparent. Throughout the release, an array of new instruments open up in Cunningham's armoury; most notably bass clarinet, alto-flute and the sarod – leaving the listener just a few strings shy of a full orchestral experience.

As a whole, the "Severn Songs" project has seen Cunningham develop an already diverse palette into something more focused. Tiptoeing between the current British jazz boom and Bristol's rich musical ancestry, the group have found a truly unique and refreshing voice.

"Severn Songs 3" follows media praise, radio airplay and DJ support for the first two 7”s in the series from the likes of Dan Snaith (Caribou), Gilles Peterson, Tom Ravenscroft, DJ Mag, Complex, Self-Titled, The Vinyl Factory and XLR8R.

Musicians:
Pete Cunningham: saxophone, synths, keys
Jake Spurgeon: modular synth, keys, sarod
Yazz Ahmed: flugelhorn
Ross Hughes: bass clarinet, alto flute
Rory O'Gorman: drums
Stephen Mullins: guitar
Jackson Lapes: percussion


STAFF COMMENTS

Emily says: The Ishmael Ensemble craft a hypnotic groove with rich brass motifs, crashing drums and shimmering percussion. While reminiscent of middle eastern tonality and the spiritual jazz tradition, the undulating synth lines bring it firmly into the realms of new UK jazz.

Well they got the title right on this one didn't they: "Confuse The Marketplace" brings together the three CD bonus tracks from "45:33", but all have also been previously released on vinyl too - yes, you knew you'd seen them somewhere before. The EP kicks off with the brilliant "Freak Out" (on the flip of Harvey's mix of "All My Friends") - a better tribute to Edwin Starr's "Get Up Whirlpool" you will not find. Here's the difference though, where as the original mix was blended into "Starry Eyes" here you get a little break so the drum solo won't mess up your mix. Over on side-B we have the Onastic Dub of "North American Scum" (previously promo-only) and last up is the absolutely brilliant "Hippie Priest Bum Out" ("North American Scum" B-side cut). Out of press for a decade, but still fresh as it gets. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Long live LCD. Just days after I had the pleasure of their recent "Electric Lady Sessions", New York's finest repress this classic EP of B-sides and remixes. "Freak Out / Starry Eyes" is as good as anything they've recorded, that Onanistic Dub is a triumph of kraut-laced nu-disco and "Hippie Priest" is full on live-jam Fall tackle. Ace!

Payfone

I Was In New York / A Prayer For Maya Angelou

Payfone bring a double header of NYC styled heat for the inaugural release on their newly launched Otis Records. Marrying modern boogie and classic R&B, with cosmic leanings and Balearic touches, Payfone manage to keep all the essence of the early days whilst bringing a contemporary swagger to the floor.

Each element in "I Was In New York" gets the space it deserves. Palm muted guitars and sashaying synth echoes flutter over the top of a strutting slap bass courtesy of Giulio Granchelli. A simplicity that sings - simultaneously giving your mind the space it needs to drift off into a daydream of sunsets over cityscapes. Introspective, meditative and innocent, Dayna Talley’s spoken word vocals lull listeners into memories of tranquil times. Set to be one of 2019’s standout songs, its refreshingly original and sure to cut through the noise.

The B side, "A Prayer For Maya Angelou" takes a Balearic boat out across calming seas. Gravitating around a metallic, pulsating synth, modulated to bounce at points and brood at others, mystic flurries drift in the distance, as pads wash across the horizon. Len Xiang’s melancholic tale reverberates throughout, with those sweet sax sounds from Billy Brooks Paul and a spring reverbed guitar riffing off into the ocean - elevating this into pure paradise.


The Chi Factory

The Mantra Recordings

Dedicated to the life and work of Robert Lax (1915-2000), the American poet who lived on Patmos, Greece, as a self-exiled hermit since the sixties. Jack Kerouac called Lax 'one of the great original voices of our times, a Pilgrim in search of beautiful innocence'.

His great minimalistic poetry became a source of inspiration for the "Mantra Recordings". His life on Patmos was far away from public attention - quiet and always surrounded by the skies, seas, cats and birds. Lax was a real dreamcatcher.

As has become the norm for Chi Factory on Astral Industries - a veritable smorgasbord of all things esoteric, ambient and ritualistic, gelled together with a chloroplastic binding that emanates a natural, biotic nature. If you've ever wondered what'd be like to visit the region in Terrence McKenna's 'True Hallucinations' novel, this could well take you halfway there... Recommended. 


Zero 7

Aurora / Mono

Zero 7 return with a sublime new 12” featuring two new tracks. On the A-side ‘Mono’ sees the debut collaboration between the band and new vocalist Hidden. On the B-side ‘Aurora’ sees the band team up with their long standing collaborator Jose Gonzalez.


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