In Rotation: Hikashu – At the end of the 20th century

Some day I’ll get around to posting a mini history of early Japanese new wave, but for now, this may well be the actual, best reason, for the invention of the internet.

Knowing singer Makigami Koichi later collaborated with John Zorn and Masonna amongst other noise merchants, helps make everything make a little more sense.

In Rotation: Morrissey: Maladjusted – Las Vegas Friday 11/25/11

Highlight of the night. Perfect sound in the Chelsea. The Cosmopolitan continues its streak of concert excellence. Thankfully Moz’s set list was robust and upbeat. An emotional repeat of his 2007 performance of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want would have just destroyed the place. (see below)

“Oh Christ, another stifled
Friday night !”

Maladjusted. 1997

Thanks to the YouTube uploaders.

And a well-informed review in the Las Vegas Sun.

Mystery Solved: Aphex Twin On The ZX81

Aphex Twin likes to tell lies. Maybe Richard James does too. I do know when he assumes the mantle of Aphex Twin to meet the press, you’ll probably net a bushel of porky pies. Over a century ago it was called ‘showman’s privilege.’ Richard James has more going on upstairs than your average interviewee, but it’s still a shame he bottles it up on the rare occasions he comes up for air.

So, Aphex has let slip over the years that maybe he has hundreds of songs stockpiled. Maybe owns a submarine. Has a studio is in this power station in the Elephant & Castle. Drives a Ferret Armored Scout Car; (although that’s rather tame when stacked up against Stephen Morris-Joy Divison/New Order and his personal collection of militaria.)

Stephen Morris

I don’t care if any Aphex rumors are true. Except in one instance. From the Aphex Twin Wikipedia page

Richard claims to have produced sound on a Sinclair ZX81 (a machine with no sound hardware) at the age of 11:

    When I was 11, I won 50 pounds in a competition for writing this program that made sound on a ZX-81. You couldn’t make sound on a ZX-81, but I played around with machine code and found some codes that retuned the TV signal so that it made this really weird noise when you turned the volume up

Two things. 1) 50 quid was 50 quid back in 1982. That was real money. And computer magazines were still marginal publications in 1981. Big prize to hand out. That struck me as odd & out of place.

But more-so 2) I bought the magazine that published this program. I typed this program into my ZX81. I played sounds with this program. Aphex Twin did not write this program.

Clive Sinclair’s ZX81 was a micro computer. Made affordable for the masses. You can read about it here.  You could play Flight Simulator. You could buy a magazine and type in script for hours and then you could play Breakout. To run a game you hooked up a cassette tape deck and played tapes into the computer. There was no external sound. Every thing on the screen was black and white. RAM was 16k. Not 16 megabytes. 16K. It wasn’t the future. It suggested the future.

ZX 81 magazine ad. This was EVERYWHERE.

.

Solving the mystery: ZX81 was released in, surprise, 1981. In April 1982 the next generation of Sinclair’s computers was released: The Spectrum. That’s about six additional months for programmers to work on the old model before they got wowed by the Spectrum’s 48k RAM. And color. And sound. (Pete Shelley, then solo from the Buzzcocks, had a program for the Spectrum on his great XL1 cassette. The one with the rather good, long dubby mix on the flip side.)

So I trawled through the amazing collection of computer magazines scanned over at the internet archive for that time frame. I had kind of a sense memory of what I was looking for. Typing on the ZX was a pain. You really had to want to do stuff on this slab of plastic. And I had wanted a synthesizer. For free.

Took a while, but I found it. Titled Organic Tunes. Which is very nice. Wish I remembered what the suggested riff sounds like.

ZX 81 Organic Tunes part one

ZX 81 Organic Tunes part two

It turns your ZX into a very buzzy, very poor man’s Stylophone. However, it did not make you John Foxx.

.

The only way this program works, and it does, is to tune your TV slightly off signal.  Obviously this requires old analog, rabbity-ears TVs. So doubtful in my mind if a modern emulator will make it work. And like Aphex says, you have to also crank the volume.

The program was written by G. N. Owen. A-ha, a pseudonym I thought at first. No. Next issue he’s back as Garry Owen. And his listed home in Leamington Spa is a long way from the Cornwall of Richard’s youth. Mr. Owen received 6 pounds for his contribution. A long way from the 50 pounds Richard claims he won.

There are other sound producing features and programs published during that year, ie Your Computer of March & September 1982. They have some complex code-speak. And Aphex was 11. At the time, this was a rare program that was practical & simple and created sounds from a soundless machine. I know. I was looking. I believe Richard James was too.

Three follow ups.

1) Would be amiss to not mention the much missed Frank Sidebottom/Chris Sievey had a ZX81 program on the b-side of an 1983 single. I had no idea about this. Little Frank never it mentioned in interviews.

And just so I don’t imply James doesn’t know his tech.

2) Aphex Twin Ascii.

3) And leaving hidden visuals to be accessed via spectrogram is just plain ridiculous.

To end with some music. A nice soul put an HD dupe of Come to Daddy up on youtube. Still astonishes.


In Rotation: Nick Waterhouse – Is That Clear?

Single of the year. Easy. And it just shouldn’t be. This is not my scene. Not my bag. But this is the single of the year.

.

As John Peel used to say of fellow retro-immersives, “a singular vision.”

Nick Waterhouse played Las Vegas in October. Six shows at the Cosmopolitan’s Book & Stage. I attended the first slot. I’m a big fan of Cosmopolitan’s music bookings and have had some great times in concert. But Book & Stage is an odd duck. The sound is great, yet the bands are at an angle and are always in a minor tussle with the casino and patrons for attention. Waterhouse and gang could easily swing a residency here in town. It just felt too shiny and open. I need some locational compression. The band needs to be able to make you sweat.

On Nick’s blog he’s written that the following clip defines what he’s all about. I think its like his personal life’s Instagram-filter is part North Beach Kerouac-sepia and part sunny Newport 1958. Its a good thing.

In Rotation: Kitchen’s Floor – Look Forward to Nothing (2011)

More songs. Building. And food –

Look Forward to Nothing, the 2nd album from Brisbane’s Kitchen’s Floor appeared in October. Lazy, derivative and drowning in heaps of slack. None of that necessarily a bad thing. Still remains one of the most annoyingly addictive collections of the year. They probably cry themselves to sleep at night praying for a time-wormhole to take them to 1988. I hope they get one for Christmas.

Here’s a link to the very fine opening number:

“No Love”

And this video for Regrets is just pitch perfect. Kids today. Bless ’em.

In Rotation: Mark’ll Sink Us-rev ed. 2011

Clocks roll back. Time for a new Fall. Mark E. Smith’s 29th album proper they tell us. Over and over. We are aware.

Ersatz GB production feels thin. The reediness of a Peel Session prevails. The microphone sounds cheap. Snarly Mark. Testy Mark. One take and done it sounds. Couple of stompers. Nate Will Not Return is a worthy winner by a nose.

A live version herein.

.

Always different. Always the same. This is The Fall.

And now there’s news Mark is back to old tricks. 35 minutes into a Cardiff gig he takes a powder, never to return.

Next year another album. 30 is such nice round number. And nice young lads can head up to Prestwich. Coverage for the Sunday color supplements. Grand day out. First round on you though, cocker.

“The opposite applies.”