Geoffrey Landers – Many Hands Make Light, 1987

Guest post by Jonny Garciamons (NTS)

Many Hands Make Light, the last of four releases from the elusive Cauhaus Records, is an un-genrefiable conclusion to the mysterious solo discography of American artist Geoffrey Landers. With design appearing to be an independent family affair–jacket layout and cover artwork done by Kelley Jo and Benjamin Landers respectively–the 8-track album was released exclusively on CD in 1987. Written and recorded solely by Geoffrey Landers during what seems to have been the end of the Cauhaus era, this is the only of his three albums to credit no other collaborative efforts.

Being heavily involved in the Denver industrial/punk/new wave scene, Landers was inspired to create a recording studio “available to artists regardless of their financial circumstances.” He thus opened The Packing House Studio in 1981 at the site of a former slaughterhouse in the Denver stockyards. The analog 8-track recording facility was active until 1984, with the studio releasing recordings from only a few credited artists and groups, most notably Allen Ginsberg. It was during this time that Landers released his first two records, Habitual Features & The Ever Decimal Pulse, as well as his only single, a 7” titled Breedlove.

Cauhaus Records, Landers’s only label, was an “entertainment subsidiary” of Local Anesthetic Records. They appear to be the only two labels to have released music recorded at The Packing House, aside from a small cassette-only label named Endemic Music. Landers is credited with mixing on one of the releases on Local Anesthetic’s releases, which suggests that Landers might have mixed for Local Anesthetic in exchange for production and handling of his imprint Cauhaus (the name of which seems like a nod to the studio’s slaughterhouse history).

The silent years in Geoffrey’s discography span from 1984 to 1987 — with ’84 being the year in which output from the both The Packing House and Local Anesthetic seem to die down. This leaves me wondering what happened in those three years to prompt a final release from such a unique musical trajectory. Was this his final go at production after years running The Packing House? Does this release serve as a demo compilation of tracks from the studio’s golden era? Did this record take three years to make? Why was it only released on CD only? The questions are infinite, but the result is truly a masterpiece.

New wave guitars, voice pads, resonant post-punk bass lines, hip swingin’ drum loops–this thing has it all. The stand-out should-have-been-pop-hits come in “Camella” & “Say You’ll Say So,” the former of which is a unique DJ-friendly new wave infused boogie jam with a HUGE snare drum hit sure to light up any day party. The nostalgic feeling induced by tracks “Body Angel,” “The Alluring Pause,” “1 by 1,” and “Carry Me Off” lead me to believe that Many Hands Make Light is in some way a tribute to the golden years of The Packing House, with the title serving as a humble thank you and tribute to all the many hands making light at the studio and label.

A very special thank you goes out to Flo for introducing me to Geoffrey’s music earlier this year.

“It takes time, I — I know that you know I’ll get to you”

Note that while this is long out of “print,” Music From Memory is about to release a compilation of Landers’s work which includes most of the tracks from Many Hands Make Light, and, if the track they’ve previewed on YouTube is any indication, features some gorgeous remastering. With the hope that you’ll pre-order the compilation, I’ll be removing this mp3 download link after a few days.

download

Linda Cohen – Leda, 1972

Gorgeous minimal classical guitar on the first of three full-lengths from the largely self-taught Linda Cohen. Her fingerpicking pulls from folk, baroque, and blues, and given that she opened for Joni Mitchell, John Fahey, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at Philadelphia’s Second Fret in the late 60s, I would imagine these were influential artists for her. Though she was an active musician through much of her life, Cohen was most passionately a teacher, teaching classical guitar for 35 years at the Classical Guitar Store in Philly, where she was a fixture in the music scene. Her life was sadly cut short by cancer in 2009.

Leda is an exercise in restraint. Meticulously fingerpicked, just barely fleshed out with synth, theremin, celesta, tapes, and percussion. Much of the additional instrumentation is so subtle that it might not register without headphones–this is very much acoustic guitar music. Warm with room tone and (at least on this rip) crackling vinyl pops, it’s also prime cold weather, indoor listening. It includes instrumentation and effects from Charles Cohen (no relation), among others; with cover art by Milton Glaser. Sparse and masterful. Thank you Chad for the tip!

buy / download

Hiroshi Yoshimura – Wet Land, 1993

A less-heard but very deserving later work from the master, Hiroshi Yoshimura, by multiple requests. Though you’ll recognize a familiar fascination with water sounds, here the focus is on synth rather than piano. A love for pastoral, rolling keyboard motifs is still very present. If anything, by 1993 Yoshimura had burrowed even further into the tension between the natural and the artificial: though Wet Land is clearly preoccupied with visions of nature, here they’re rendered in hyper-synthetic, heavily produced language, and are all the more beautiful for it. Though this is busier than his earlier material, much of it feels in keeping with the hope Yoshimura and his peers had for “environmental music”–which, according to Ashikawa, was

…music that could be said to be an object or sound scenery to be listened to casually. Not music which excites or leads the listener into another world, it should drift like smoke and become part of the environment surrounding the listener. In other words, it is music which creates an intimate relationship with people in everyday life…Also, [it] is not the music of self-expression or a completed work of art; rather it is music which by overlapping and shifting, changes the character and the meaning of space, things, and people.

This is long out of print; however, if you’re interested in Yoshimura’s work, his Music for Nine Post Cards (the first installment in the Wave Notation series) was recently reissued by Empire of Signs and is available for purchase here.

download

Nkono Teles – Fiesta Dancin’, 198?

Guest post by Josh Permenter

Nkono Teles was a Cameroonian-born multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Nigeria. He worked under numerous pseudonyms on projects that spanned multiple genres, from disco and reggae, to work with huge artists like King Sunny Adé and Fela Kuti. Fiesta Dancin‘, his first solo record, stands alone as a superb African synth disco masterpiece, on which Teles was responsible for bass, drum machine, electric piano, organ, guitar, synth, lead vocals, production, and writing. Every song is bubblegum roller boogie perfection, guaranteed to fill any dance floor with irresistible electro joyfulness.

A note that this really suffers on laptop speakers, so save it for better speakers or headphones please!

download

Mix for The Le Sigh

I was lucky to have a very sweet conversation with Hayley at The Le Sigh, a website dedicated to the work of female-identifying and non-binary artists. We talked about early electronic music, the rise and fall of the album download blog, and the politics of music writing, among other things. I also made a 90 minute minute mix of music made by women (though to be clear, men contributed to many of these songs in different capacities). As you can imagine, this was way too much to fit into one mix, so I focused mostly on synth pioneers, experimental, and new age, with a few wildcards thrown in. The mix opens with Wendy Carlos giving a verbal walkthrough of some technical aspects of her synth process, and ends with Nina Simone ripping our hearts out. If you’d like to download it, I’ll be sharing an mp3 download in a week.

Tracklisting:
1. Wendy Carlos – Electronic Pointillism & Hocketing (from Secrets of Synthesis) / Sonata in G Major, L. 209/K. 455 (Scarlatti)
2. Phew – Expression
3. Delia Derbyshire – The Wizard’s Labratory
4. Pauline Oliveros – Wolf
5. Michele Musser – In The Air
6. Pauline Anna Strom – The Unveiling
7. Laurie Spiegel – Drums (Excerpt)
8. Deutsche Wertarbeit – Auf Engelsflügeln
9. Virginia Astley – I’m Sorry
10. Laurie Anderson – Kokoku
11. Miyako Koda – A Story Teller Is The Sun
12. Björk – Come To Me
13. Kate Bush – Delius
14. Bridget St. John – Many Happy Returns
15. Joanna Brouk – Winter Chimes
16. Alice Coltrane – Er Ra
17. Claire Hamill – Winter: Sleep
18. Suzanne Ciani – The Third Wave: Love In The Waves
19. Gal Costa – Volta (Live)
20. Nina Simone – Don’t Smoke In Bed (Live)

[RIP] Uku Kuut – Santa Monica, 2006

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of musician and producer Uku Kuut on September 22nd at the age of 51. Kuut was the son of Marju Kuut (aka Maryn E. Coote), a prolific Swedish-Estonian jazz singer, and while the two had important solo careers in their own right, they shared a long and fruitful collaboration, including a record that they made together. Quite a few tracks in this collection feature contributions from his mother by way of flute, vocals, keys, and co-writing credits. I don’t know exactly when these songs were recorded, but I know that at least some of them were made between 1982 and 1989.

Santa Monica is a showcase of Kuut’s brilliant breed of quirky and atmospheric electronic jazz-funk. Given his propensity for generating work in response to locations, it also feels like a moving tribute to a city in which he lived for many years (while also including a few nods to Estonia and Sweden).

Out of respect for his family, I’ll be removing the download link in a few days. Though I always encourage you to buy records that you love, in this instance there are a couple useful ways to support the artist. You can purchase Santa Monica from CDBaby below; you can purchase Maryn E. Coote’s excellent collection Maskeraad via PPU here, with proceeds going towards ALS research; or you can make a direct donation in Uku Kuut’s name to the ALS Association here. Thank you for everything, Uku–you will be missed.

buy / download

Soul Connection – Rough & Ready

The first of two full-lengths from Toyin Agbetu and Earl Meyers. Toyin Agbetu was the owner of four independent dance labels, including Intrigue, the label who released all of Soul Connection’s output; and between his work with these labels and his work as a musician and producer across a slew of groups, he’s been a defining figure of UK street soul. Still, his Wikipedia page doesn’t even mention his musical body of work, as he has risen to global prominence as a Pan-African human rights activist, artist, author, filmmaker, and community educator.

Rough & Ready is an unusual instance of ballooning rare record prices on Discogs that feel somewhat justified. It’s consistent and excellent all the way through, with slinky R&B grooves, housey drum loops, and slick vocals courtesy of Thomas Esterine. Some have called this an ideal makeout soundtrack, but personally I think it’s night time driving music: discrete, minimal, tasteful, monotonous (in a good way), and although it’s technically dance music, it never picks up too much speed.

Update: Thank you PAM for sharing a higher quality rip!

download

Nuno Canavarro – Plux Quba: Música Para 70 Serpentes, 1988

One of the hardest and best parts about writing this blog has been running up against records that feel impossible to write about, avoiding them for months or even years, and then eventually writing about them anyway. This is exactly that kind of record, and fittingly I’ve been putting it off since day one: its influence is too far reaching to properly recount, it’s too elegant and precise to accurately describe, and I feel too gooey about it, too pierced, to possibly set my feelings aside and attempt objectivity. I think that’s all ok, though, because Plux Quba is too perfect not to share.

The story starts with a familiar format that, coupled with incredibly prescient music, feels like the foregrounding for a hoax. In 1991, Christoph Heemann brought a copy of 1988’s Plux Quba to (from what I gather was) an informal listening session with Jim O’Rourke, Jan St. Werner, C-Schulz, Frank Dommert, and George Odjik in Köln, Germany. It was music without context, laboriously made with just an Ensoniq Mirage, a Fostex 8-track tape recorder, and an early 8-bit sampler loaded with pre-recorded, highly modified samples of things like television, radio voices, and the melodica. The story goes that everyone present was floored by it; O’Rourke so much so that when he launched Moikai, his label dedicated to minimal and electronic music, Plux Quba was his first (re)release, remixed and remastered by Portuguese guitarist and composer Rafael Toral. Since then it’s been reissued a few times, most recently by Japanese label Inpartmaint Inc, and while it has had incredible bearing on two decades of experimental electronic music, it seems that Plux Quba hasn’t yet received the widespread acclaim it’s due.

Several reviewers have said that Plux Quba takes inspiration from Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing. I don’t know if that’s directly true, but I like to think of this record as hermetic, like the music of Charanjit Singh or Woo, bearing the kind of brilliance that often does write its own spontaneous language. It’s much too deliberate to be called an accident–Canavarro was already a well-seasoned musician by this time. And yet despite being recorded at home on very dated, simple equipment, it seems to exist outside of time. Having witnessed the subsequent deluge of glitch music and its offspring, this still sounds truly alien–more exploratory, a kind of sonic alchemy. It’s more abstract than what I typically post, so if you typically gravitate towards things that are more lyrical or poppy, I would absolutely encourage you to start here, preferably in headphones–though, for what it’s worth, Canavarro himself instructs on the back sleeve that this record must be heard “1. through speakers that are as far apart from one another as possible, and 2. starting from A-5, at a low volume (‘Wask’ and side 2).”

It explores similarly incandescent territory as Canavarro’s remarkable split with Carlos Maria Trindade, often employing the same textural palette and manipulations of vocal samples–slicing them up, stacking them precariously, drawing them out into ghost whispers, and running them backwards. But with a longer playtime and no collaborators, Canavarro is able to more fully world-build, perhaps to even create something that feels more circular and complete. Comprised of 15 vignettes, mostly between one and two minutes long, not all of this record is unabashedly beautiful. Parts are deliberately jagged (“Alsee”), faltering (“Untitled 1”), or shrill (“O Fundo Escuro De Alsee”), but it’s precisely their inclusion that allow the record to reach sublime, sparkling heights. The stumbling, out-of-tune baroque of “Crimine” comes to mind–even here, after two and a half minutes of uncertainty, the song abruptly shifts to a perfect, crystalline music box lullaby. The record most perfectly exemplifies its own restrained breed of heartbreaking on the final track, Untitled 8. Slowly building, gently pulsing synthetic marimba, a veil of processed, indistinct whispers, a faraway oboe, and a ship’s bell that, when fully faded out, leave you perfectly positioned to restart the record.

If you’re interested in learning more about the recording process: in my Googling I found out that Fond/Sound has lovingly translated a rare interview that Canavarro gave to Fernando Magalhães into English. You can read it here.

buy / download

Veetdharm Morgan Fisher – Water Music, 1985

Morgan Fisher, a London-born musician and photographer, has had a long and dense career in which he’s covered a lot of ground–both literally and figuratively. You can read about it in detail here, but some highlights include touring with Queen, building an ambient music studio in Japan (at which Water Music was recorded, among others), and working with Hosono, dip in the pool, Roedelius, Yoko Ono, Yasuaki Shimizu, and Julee Cruise. He is still very active.

It seems that he’s acquired many names over the course of his life, and I can’t find any information about the origin of Veetdharm, under which this and a few of his other releases are listed on Discogs, but my guess would be that it was given to him either during his time living in India or in Medina Rajneesh, a Suffolk commune of Osho disciples housed in a giant mock-Tudor manor.

Water Music is immediately reminiscent of Yoshimura’s Surroundthough it predates it by a year. If anything, it’s slightly denser and more piano-driven, but aside from an obvious thematic interest in water, the two records share a delicacy and a proclivity towards synth pads that seem to evaporate rather than decay. As I understand it, the entirety of this record was improvised and recorded over the course of two days on synthesizer, piano, tape delays, bowed guitar, and shell chimes. The original was released on the legendary Cherry Red label; this extended version is from a CD-reissue released in, I believe, 1997. It’s very, very beautiful. Thank you, Ian, for bringing me here!

buy / download

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 17

Here’s my latest mix for NTS Radio. End-of-summer balearic, Latin textures, 60’s-inspired lounge, a bit of funk, and Bill Nelson doing his best proto-Enya impression. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version here.

Also, I know it’s been quiet around here–I’m knee-deep in a few projects right now but am looking forward to sharing more music soon!

Tracklist:
1. Junko Ohashi – テレフォン·ナンバー
2. Ichiko Hashimoto – Le Beau Paysage
3. Quarteto Em Cy – Vida Ruim
4. Il Guardiano del Faro – Lei
5. Yoon Sin Nae – 이 밤을 즐겁게
6. Yukihiro Takahashi & Steve Jansen – Betsu-Ni
7. Sonia Rosa – Te Quero Tanto (I Love You, So)
8. The Slipstream Group – Bygones
9. Zabadak – Butterfly
10. Lena D’Água – Jardim Zoológico
11. Lydia Lunch – Spooky
12. Steely Dan – Do It Again
13. Maryn E. Coote – One Who Cares (Original 82-14)
14. Bill Nelson – Realm Of Dusk
15. Nuno Canavarro – Wask
16. Claire Hamill – Autumn: Leaf Fall