I’m sitting here by a warm fire, listening to many of the new records I picked up recently, from David Sylvian, Demdike Stare, Colin Stetson, and Mary Jane Leach and enjoying a moment to reflect upon the last month and into the next. Mass Observation (Expanded) was released on Room40 and has been very well received, with some recent reviews commenting:
In our dark and seemingly politically regressive age, Scanner‘s music has never been more relevant, playful in its experimentation but carrying meanings so thunderous as to be deafening. Scanner’s music literally taps into the paranoia of the age, broadcasting private secrets and one-on-one phone calls. A Closer Listen
Open circuits, fragile textures, broken frequencies. Beyond (elusive) narrative this is one of those truly activated listening experiences where the unexpected is explored in depth. A true original. Toneshift
The CD is available at many retail outlets as well as directly from the label here. If it’s digital you are looking for then the best way is to use Bandcamp, which actually pays artists significantly better than any other digital service. You can buy the album here, including the sleeve art and in any format from MP3 to WAV that you might want.
To complement this new unreleased mix, the original Ash 1.7 Mass Observation release has also been remastered by Lawrence English, and to offer listeners something rather more special I added over 30 mins of rare and unreleased music, including the classic tune Safety, which was originally released on Darren Emerson (Underworld) + Alex Paterson (The Orb) TEXtures (Volume) album in 1996, and a special collaboration with Flying Lizard’s David Cunningham. I also added archival press features to the package. These extras are only available exclusively at Bandcamp, and for less than the price of a pizza! Of course, the usual places such as iTunes, Spotify and Deezer will also be stocking these recordings but you’ll miss out on the special gifts!
In the experimental techno uprising of Britain in the mid-1990s this work proved controversial and memorable. Bjork sampled Mass Observation controversially for her Possibly Maybe single, whilst Coil and Aphex Twin bought radio scanners and introduced these found voices into their recordings, whilst I continued to create work in this grey area of ambient sound. It’s work that still carries great meaning for me, opening up possibilities with sound and introducing the human voice back into experimental electronic music. So, it’s your chance to pick up a piece of history here.
I also made an expansive interview with A Closer Listen, in which I speak about surveillance today, the development of voyeurism of the internet, and most significantly about the Robin Rimbaud Arts Foundation. Unfortunately, I won’t be around to appreciate this once it happens, as it only initiates once I return to my alien planet, but it does means all of my archives, music studio, vinyl and CDs, book library, will be used in supporting others in their positive futures, and the wonderful building I live in will continue as a hub of creativity. So perhaps your children or grandchildren will benefit one day!
Backtracking for a moment, October was another super busy month, surprisingly so. I was over in the truly beautiful city of Antwerp in Belgium to perform a unique set at Festival Solair, featuring reworked music from Kirikou and Karaba that hadn’t been heard since 2007, and then as a guest on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb to speak about failure. Failure is not a word that many find appealing. Suggesting a sense of doom and gloom, it can strike fear into many. For me it’s never been far away from my thoughts, especially creatively. Indeed, it’s often been said that if you are too afraid of failure then you will never try to achieve anything. It’s about the act of experimentation itself, the moment when you are walking the tightrope without the net beneath you to catch you should you fall.
You can now freely download the entire show, featuring my fellow guests Kate Fox, Mohammed Hanif, and Bryony Kimmings. I also created a special playful new work focusing on broadcasting failures over the years, including an absolute classic AC/DC competition fail!! I can guarantee you will never think about the name of the band in the same way again! Listen here for this absurd moment.
Most controversially, I wrote a blog post in response to a very tricky professional situation, when I was approached by a large music technology company to perform live and give a workshop about their creative tools, which ordinarily is something I would be keen to support. However, the issue here was a company worth around £40million, with their Chief Creative Officer worth £150million, wanted to pay me with beer and food. Not exactly the most enticing deal I felt. So, I wrote this piece which you can read here and well, things simply went ballistic from there.
With well over 200,000 shares and comments on Twitter and around 1000 a people a day reading the post for the first few weeks meant a huge level of feedback around the issues. To follow up on this I’m speaking this month at BBC Introducing on a panel with the Musician’s Union, playfully entitled ‘Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down.’ Please read the article if you haven’t already. It has significant meaning for all creatives.
So, onto November and with some very intriguing broadcasts ahead. Many of you may be familiar with the popular British television series Grand Designs, which features unusual and often elaborate architectural homebuilding projects. Well, I’m appearing in a forthcoming episode, bookmarked for 21 November on Channel 4 TV in the UK, speaking about experimental sound and music in a very special segment of the show connected to a very unique project I worked on in London,Vex. It’s part of their House of the Year series of shows so tune in to hear some genuine musique concrete in action. The date could potentially change so check beforehand of course.
Earlier this year I premiered a new commission to celebrate the life and work of British composer David Bedford, in what would have been his 80th year, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was a thrilling experience, sharing the stage with the BBC Concert Orchestra and performing A Little Bit of Everything to a capacity crowd. Well, now finally everyone can get to hear the work as it’s going to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Tuesday 13th November. And in addition, you also get to hear his orchestration of Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells, featuring my old pal Steve Hillage on guitar, playing the same piece he did on the premiere back in the 1970s! Let’s hope this magical event might be repeated another day too!
The soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange film is most certainly a classic of its genre, and much of this is down to the original and diverse work of Wendy Carlos. Interestingly for the time Carlos used Moog synthesizers to created much of the soundtrack, expanding themes by Beethoven and Elgar, and juxtaposed with the images in the film created a very sinister atmosphere indeed for spectators. Now, I was recently approached by the very fine British music magazine, Electronic Sound, to contribute to a special release out this month, that accompanies the new publication. ‘New Clockwork Music’ is an album featuring Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle, Gabe Gurnsey of Factory Floor, Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto, Finiflex, Kumo and many others.
And time for a few musical films. One, just a little too late for Halloween, but a very light-hearted video exploring the possibilities of using a single low price synth to show what was possible, but guised as a terrifying horror film. Another is a response to a wonderful gift from Qu-Bit Electronix in the USA, a modular synth module, customised just for me. Scanned, or ‘Scanner’ as they wittily called my module, is an organic wavetable oscillator, which essentially means it creates new electronic sounds, not replicating acoustic instruments, and can produce vast evolving timbral landscapes of sound. Watch here to see what I mean.
Patch & Tweak, a massive colourful and beautifully designed tome on modular synths finally came out last month and I’m honoured to feature inside the book. The photo below was taken in my studio with Kim Bjørn who is a part of the team who put this wonderful publication together.
My recent live performance in the Hangar space at Modular Day Barcelona has just gone online and a good opportunity to listen to a completely improvised live set, where in between the sexy table humping that I can do so well, there are moments of glory. Watch it in full here.
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