Now, aren’t these months just speeding by now? And finally, I’m managed to return to some live performances after almost two years. Now, even writing that down seems rather absurd now!
I’ve just returned from Berlin where I performed live at the former Tegel Airport for the Sonambiente Festival. Tegel was once the primary international airport of this fine city, but saw its last flight in November 2020. Apparently, the airport’s grounds are due to be redeveloped into a new city quarter dedicated to scientific and industrial research named Urban Tech Republic, which is to retain the airport’s main building and tower as a repurposed landmark.
It was remarkable to stand outdoors in this vast location and present new music I composed for the occasion before a generous audience of listeners, sheltering from the rain unfortunately. Indoors were installations from Blixa Bargeld, Laurie Anderson, Susan Philipsz and Emeka Ogboh. How wonderful it was to walk around this hexagon and marvel as people stood there listening to the works and remembering times spent in this place.
At the very end of the night, after the public and all the security had left, I was walking out of the building with Festival Director Matthias Osterold and looking at the former Arrivals/Departures screens when we noticed that they were gently flickering into life, as if wanting to go somewhere, to offer us a destination to follow, but sadly that will never be the case again.
Travelling for the first time with Covid and Brexit restrictions was certainly a challenge though, and one I hope will balance out in the future. The level of administration in our lives is becoming quite overwhelming for even the simplest of joys it seems!
Earthbound Transmissions officially came out at the end of August on Australian label Room40. This album features selections of my 4-track tape recordings from the 1980s. The resurgence of cassette tapes is something that many of us was certainly never expecting. To read that by mid-June 2020 some 65,000 cassettes were sold in the UK is simply astounding. That’s a rather staggering leap of 103% from the previous year!
I have no intention of trying to fathom out why this might be. I only know that I have tapes that have travelled with me since about 1975, and still play and function just as well as today. Cassettes were indeed unique at the time, given their portability, accessibility and price. You could pick up a blank tape at any local shop for mere pennies and record and re-record over it, as many times as you wish.
I’ve just written an extensive piece about my history with tapes and how they offered an entry point into a sonic world I could share with others. Albeit some 30+ years later! I slid made a little video that incorporates footage of me from back in those days in my London flat where I made this work, featuring excerpts from the album itself.
A new work with my finest old sonic pal, American sound artist Stephen Vitiello, can now be heard online for free. We both read this book The Image is the Soundtrack by Ming-Yuen S Ma, and created a sonic response to it. And then chatted with the author Ma about our work, our approach and ideas. You can listen to our conversation here, and watch a film that I made, using the same soundtrack.
It’s now over twenty years ago now that I began my alternative Scannerfunk project in the 1990s, inspired by all the amazing dance music I was hearing at the time. I had long been a listener of this style of music, in particular the kind of electronic music that saturated the dance floors of the 1990s. At the time, I would obsessively listen to radio shows from Colin Dale and Colin Faver on Kiss FM in London, where they championed underground music. Always inspired by the wildly inventive music they played, I would spend hours in obscure record shops, searching out gems that I had written down to check out in my pocket notebook. Indeed, back in 1991, I vividly remember picking up a white label of Analog Bubblebath Vol.2 by a fresh young artist called Aphex Twin in a tiny record store in Camden Town, having heard it on the radio the night before.
Very light hearted and in positive spirits, I added ‘funk’ to the Scanner name, and released my debut album, Wave of Light by Wave of Light in 2000. There are countless recordings that have never been released under this alter ego and perhaps they will see the light of one day. In the meanwhile, I’m just released Technorama (2001) which was originally a library music album, commissioned by a commercial company.
I was conscious that it needed to be as accessible as possible, and like many library albums quite unsubtly nodded towards other artists of this genre. I mean, no prizes as to ‘Daft’ was inspired by! According to account statements over the years the music appeared in insurance videos, a popular TV car show and even a series of erotic yoga videos. Most unfortunately, I have never seen any of these productions. Then again, perhaps I don’t want to! Technorama will be available at Bandcamp on Friday 3 September. Buy it here then, and read more about the history and context here.
Fibolae will also be released on the same day in a limited-edition multi-panel CD edition, with an additional track that could never fit onto the original vinyl edition. The limited edition poster (40 copies) accompanying this release is also still available.
Now, back to live shows. And yes, it gives me great joy to be able to speak of such rare things these days. September will be my busiest month in the social calendar in two years, so here’s some more information.
September will begin with Nanocluster in Brighton UK. This is my new project with my old friends Colin Newman of Wire and Malka Spigel of Minimal Compact, plus other special guests. This time that means Tarwater, Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Ulrich Schnauss (Tangerine Dream).
We are launching the album on Saturday 4 September with an interview and DJ night in The Rose Hill in Brighton. It’s free to anyone who wishes to come along. From 19.00 to 20.00 there will an album playback & chat with writer & Slack City DJ Nick Roseblade, streamed live on Slack City, then a chat with everyone else and finally some DJ sets. Fun for all the family! Buy the album here. I will be joining in via a video link as unfortunately I can’t travel there.
Then on Saturday 11 September I’m returning to London to play my first live show there in over two years at Iklectik. The lovely sound artist Kate Carr will also be performing new work that night, and as ever my set will be improvised, entirely live, such that even I don’t know what to expect. I’m super excited about this night!
Then I’m off to The Netherlands for the Rewire Festival for this very special show on 18 September with The Gareth Davis Group. We will be performing Aus Den Sieben Tagen, a work by the legendary German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. It’s a very open interpretative score, and as such we will be rehearsing for four days in preparation. We take these things very seriously you know!
With barely time to catch my breath, and most importantly, take yet another Covid test, I’m off to Spain to perform my audio-visual work Mass Observation in two performances on 23 September, at LEV Matadero, Madrid.
This show uses technology to explore the pitfalls of social media, and the mass observation of society as viewed through the all-seeing-eyes of CCTV. Accompanied by a film that features surveillance footage and images taken from hidden cameras the performance uses live radio signals, dehumanised communications, abstract textures, mixed into a contextual electronic score. Unseen radio frequencies hang in the air. Domineering pylons stand like leviathans, occupying the fields. Live radio transmissions are brought into the show to offer a real time picture of the local atmosphere. It’s going to be a dark night in Madrid, for certain!
Home for a week, then it’s back to Spain on 2 October for the Modulartec Festival for a lovely modular synth festival in A Coruña, northwest of Spain. It takes place at the Castillo de San Antón (a XVI amazing building where the Archeological and Hostiry Museum of A Coruña now is now located ). This looks set to be a wonderful festival indeed!
And for those of you who can’t catch me live then there will be another Bandcamp Live show in the next month. And you can listen back to a special live performance of mine on The Magic Window for free, where I performed for their farewell show.
For anyone in London on 24 September the magical film Staging Silence (3) (44 minutes, 2019) will be shown at Tate Modern as part of their Lates Event for free. This is the film directed by Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck that I scored and is now available on limited vinyl and digital. It’s a hypnotic and truly mesmeric work! Buy the full soundtrack here. I hope some of you can make it along to this free screening!
Bandcamp continues to be the essential place to pick up music and projects I’ve been working on and I’m continuing to expand the library of materials, to include rare releases and plenty of unreleased material. And as ever, it’s never too late to join up, as for just £5.00 a month you get every single new release and a host of back catalogue items, and of course, these exclusive Fan Club only releases.
You can still pick up The Magician’s Hat Vol.2 Beats, the follow up to Vol.1 Ambient, which is a free introductory collection to my catalogue. I’m quite aware that it’s rather overwhelming to know where to even begin with my music, so this series is a way to help, at no or little cost.
So, wishing you well in these continuing strange times, and hope to see some of you in the months to follow in the real world too!
::: listen :::
Keith Rowe: Absence (Erstwhile)
Anna Meredith: Bumps Per Minute 18 Studies for Dodgems (Moshi Moshi)
VA: Intermission (Unsound)
Pierre Henry: Galaxie (Decca)
::: read :::
Philip K. Dick: Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (Orion)
Genesis P Orridge: Nonbinary (Abrams)
Bob Nickas: Slang King (At Last)
Samuel Beckett: The Shorter Plays Theatrical Notebooks (Faber)
::: watch :::
Apples: Christos Nikou
Citizen Ruth: Alexander Payne
What Time is Death?: Paul Duane
Censor: Prano Bailey-Bond