Skillzy – 2004

skillzy2004 was the year when the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra started to find its feet. Of the original cast, Tim continued to play with us for the duration of the band’s existence; Deo played with us for a few more gigs but as the band became noisier, amplifying his tablas adequately became more difficult and his frustration at getting heard caused him to leave. Jim didn’t play any gigs after the first one; his flight back from Cork was delayed and he missed the second gig, which was being organised by Mark Pilkington, who joined the band to fill his place. In a similar fashion, Al Robertson, who had put us on at Brixton Alive, became our regular bassist. Of the old Platform Five(5) posse: Richard and Seth were regular players in the Stellas. The other Richard, Richard Guest, was another regular, as was Giles Narang, who was mostly drumming with Now at the time.

Richard and I established The Drones Club at The Eye in Stoke Newington, and the Stellas became the house band, something which I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about. Then again Richard put in most of the hard work in organising these nights; I did little more than come up with the name, the ethos and the first poster. Many of the Stellas, both Richards and Mark, were also involved in the Kosmische club.

While the Stellas was an exciting project, I often had misgivings about the musical results of the experiment and I lacked the experience, and perhaps the charisma, to fully communicate how I would like the band to develop. So, once again, the Skillzy album, or to give it its full name, Skillzy Krishna & The Vorticist Bar Combo Featuring The Original Entropy Circus All Stars, became a vent for this frustration. Indeed one of the key tracks on the album, Raga Jalfrezi, would become the blueprint for my first solo gigs later in the year.

383607968_c1a6e6abb0_oThe key element of Raga Jalfrezi is the Jerry Jones Baby Sitar. This instrument is a high grade reproduction of the Danelectro Sitar built by the Nashville based luthier, Jerry Jones. It has a guitar neck and a jivari bridge rather than a standard guitar bridge. The jivari is lower than a guitar bridge and is angled to coax harmonics out of the strings; the sitar tone of the instrument is entirely mechanical. Raga Jalfrezi is a fake raga played against tabla loops from Cool Edit and electronic bubbles from the Red Sound Darkstar. It is the logical conclusion of many drone based guitar experiments that I had made over the years; I had the action on my Danelectro set particularly low to get some of this harmonic twang.

The Baby Sitar appears on three tracks on this album: Raga Jalfrezi, Baba Drone und der Mittlesex Fuzz and It Was The Day of the Dagenham Prawns. In addition, the humbucker sound of a Daisyrock flower-shaped guitar features on many of the rockier tracks here. The opening track, Lord of the Air, takes its cues from the proggier Sabbath Bloody Sabbath compositions by Black Sabbath, with a touch of Can in the mid-section. Lyrically it is a gnostic take on Paradise Lost from the viewpoint of Satan. It’s at least fifty per cent tongue in cheek.

There are also two reinterpretations of the motorik final section of Headkickers Revival Church here. These are both quite short and make a feature of tightly filtered frequency ranges in the mix, as well as surface glitches in the output from my laptop’s soundcard. There are two other instrumental rock-outs here: Riffin’, which is largely a set of piss-takes on pentatonic rock posturing, and Complex Heavy Place, which is a more serious examination of rock dynamics of the Mixolydian mode. Complex Heavy Place was named after a genius loci that Jim and I had discovered near the Lea Bridge Road.

The new version of Piece’o'Shit, originally from Paddington Hardstare five years earlier, is perhaps the key indication of my dissatisfaction here. There were things that I couldn’t do in the larger context of the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra, a band that was growing faster in terms of quantity of members than in terms of musical competence. I remember complaining at a band meeting that I wanted to be able to do “all that pretty shit” and the wall of sound, that the band had become, made that near impossible.

The title of the album was partly derived from my nom de guerre in the band. I had adopted the name Skillzy Stella after finding the word Skillzy sprayed on a wall near the river in North Woolwich. The implied multitude of players, The Vorticist Bar Combo and The Original Entropy Circus All Stars, was clearly an ironic comment upon the ever-expanding drone orchestra.

By the winter I would be playing Raga Jalfrezi solo anywhere that would take me. It was often a terrifying experience getting onto a stage without a gang behind me. Sometimes the results were unsatisfying but I was in a constant, rapid process of improvement, gaining confidence and experience so that I could feel that I had the authority to explain my ideas in a live context. For this and many other reasons, it would be another four years before I completed another album.

Skillzy Krishna & The Vorticist Bar Combo Featuring The Original Entropy Circus All Stars can be downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Nand Gate.

Royal Free Electric – 2003

6835562290_f6907bc364_oAfter the first Stella Maris Drone Orchestra gig in September it was almost five months before we regrouped for another gig. Becoming impatient I decided to record another EP, or mini-album. Royal Free Electric, like Stella Maris before it, was not explicitly an Entropy Circus project. I had seen the three words adjacently to each other on my desk. They reminded me of the title of Gila’s first album, Free Electric Sound. Royal Free Electric was intended as a love letter to 1971: pushing the krautrock envelope, but not necessarily in the fashionable beat driven sense of the Kosmische Club.

The opening track Hekababa opens with a twelve-string and an electric guitar meandering around each other, exploring the Dorian mode and building up density. The second half of the track finds a military drum tattoo, borrowed from the first Amon Duul II album, accelerating ever faster as a synth tone howls higher and higher against fuzz wahed guitar. Gradual timestretching across the track allowed me precise control over the tempo change.

The middle track, Dieter Doppelwah & His Swinging Elektronische Pseudokraut Band Start Up, is a metronomic number built on the foundation of a blunt bassline with shifting repetitions. The dopplewah of the title refers to the use of a Crybaby wah and the autowah on the Korg Pandora in tandem, making the fuzz guitar break up into filthy glitches. This track probably epitomises the idea of krautrock adhered to by most critics, and the fact I heard it playing at the Kosmische club one time makes it even more certainly generic.

97995850_50294ee964_bThe final track however represent a sort of krautrock that was little represented by the club or by critics at the time. It is modelled upon Amon Duul II’s Sandoz in the Rain from the fourth side of their Yeti album. Herr Sandoza’s Plaint wails through delirium at a Strindberg-like knot of family anxieties. It is drenched with cavernous reverbs which it eventually dissolves into.

The cover of this EP is significant for several reasons. It is, for the first time, based upon digital photo; scanned images that been used for all of the previous CD covers. The mirrored abstraction of the front cover is merely iconic, a glyph to represent the contents; while the on the back cover Marx and Engels, against glitched Commodore 64 graphics on a television, vanish away into space. The inner fold shows a Photoshop recoloured view of the pergola at Golders Hill Park on one side, and glimpses of Telephonecomplex Studio on the other. Five years later I would move to Golder Green. Perhaps this was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, or the desired prize in a cave painting.

Royal Free Electric was recorded very quickly; in less than a week. Working quickly allowed all sorts of intuitive processes to take the foreground. The Stella Maris EP and Royal Free Electric, both recorded in this year, used more compact and direct methods of recording. I returned to this format several times over the years. The length of an album is in many ways a relic of historical carrier media; the standard length of the album being set by the capacity of 33rpm vinyl and then extended by compact disc. I found with these two shorter projects that working on the basis of limited attention span could be far more efficient.

Royal Free Electric can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Skillzy.

Stella Maris LP – 2003

6835562204_76cb90df11_oBefore the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra was formed another set of recordings was completed. The Stella Maris LP, The Entropy Circus Present Stella Maris, brings the new recording techniques using Cool Edit to a more typical Entropy Circus album. The gliding dronescapes of the Stella Maris EP only really recur in the first section of the fifteen minute closing track Headkickers Revival Church, which is more notable for complex jump-cut edits in the middle section which brings in a fully motorik groove, which in spite of its Mixolydian major tonality employs significant chromaticism.

Elsewhere there are more songwriterly tracks occurring: Wah Wah Baker deploys a melodic structure reminiscent of Elizabethan madrigals during the verse part and during the chorus, which explicitly references Boney M’s Ma Baker, it crunches into what is possibly the most metal thing that I had recorded thus far.

The metal is back in two sections of Attar, here accompanied by Moogish riffing on the Red Sound Darkstar, in a groove which was clearly inspired by Kling Klang; I had met Joe Klang on KRMB and had seen them play several times when they came down to London from Liverpool. The other part of Attar is a loping 3/4 number, not unlike You Don’t Bring Me Fishes on Quails Are Given. It is a hazy, broken narrative of loss which cannot decide whether it is taking place during snow or a shower of roses. It is also in strong contrast to the Moog metal section of the track. The two halves are bolted together almost arbitrarily and the frame of the title Attar holds them in place.

9038931843_a1a72feded_kThe other song on this album, Juggernaut, is a chiming drone pop complaint: “every day is a juggernaut that’s bearing down on me”. There are hints of Indian folk music on here which suggest the Lord of the Universe, Jagganatha, who is etymologically implied by the juggernaut. The lyrics however reference CS Lewis and the Jehovah’s Witness kingdom hall in Stamford Hill. I’ve attempted to play this one several times live and some of the lines are difficult to sing in conjunction with one another; the places where one would usually breathe are sometimes absent. I suspect that I might have recorded the vocals in several takes and then patched it together.

The two other instrumental here are a mixture of old and new. On The Lighting Panels Are Full of Insects, the lead guitar is filtered through the Darkstar; a fast LFO fluttering its overdrive with strange vibrato. And The Last Overcoat Made in Walthamstow attempts to fuse bossa nova with the mood of Slow Plough from Paddington Hardstare. The playing however feels brittle on this. My technique didn’t feel up to the challenges of this piece. Either the way that I had played the original was no longer in my repetoire or some indefinable alchemy that had allowed me to record Slow Plough was now lost.

But there was a lot of good new material arriving, and there were new techniques developing as I got to grips with Cool Edit. And while drones were present, especially those generated by timestretching single notes, there was a lot of melodic material here which was a definite move away from the Stella Maris EP. So, by the time that the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra happened in the autumn I was already doing quite different things.

There is one hint of the sleevenotes which may account for the importance of engaging with live music: “this album is dedicated to the memory of Denise Fontenoy”. My maternal grandmother had died earlier in the year and my my grandfather would follow her in a few months. This had acted as a sort of memento mori. It felt important to do things and do them now, and going out into the world and playing music in front of people felt like one of those urgent things that I had to do. Unfortunately, at least at first, it wouldn’t develop quickly enough.

Stella Maris LP can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Royal Free Electric.

Stella Maris EP- 2003

stellamarisThe new Warner Flat, this time on the ground floor, was quickly established with a new studio, Telephonecomplex. I acquired my first virtual analogue synth, a Red Sound Darkstar and a new, more powerful laptop, but it took around six months to settle to making any new music that I was satisfied with. There were odds and ends of experiments but nothing was completed until the early months of 2003.

Even though Stella Maris was only two tracks, it was a crucial moment. Using Cool Edit Pro on the new laptop, I moved away from quarter inch tape recording. Quite apart from the convenience of hard disk recording, tape was relatively expensive and not widely available. Cool Edit would allow me to manipulate loops with far greater sophistication than ever before.

Stella Maris One, is a relatively short drone piece, which is densely composed around a melody in the Sephardic Freygish scale. I had been toying with this riff for several years and here with looped tablas, Darkstar warbles and a drone constructed from two seconds of guitar, timestretched to several minutes, it turns into a potent machine.

The second track, Stella Maris Two, is a longer piece, more freeform and improvisational. Again it uses tabla loops, and timestretched drones, but here there is far more freedom. The wah bass and the brittle guitar dance around each other, while a tight synth pans on the beat from hard left to hard right.

In some ways these are not very different from things that I had recorded before, but the focus and the editing are far more controlled. The emphasis on drone was clearly something that was in the air at the time because I was asked by several people, including Mark Pilkington, about playing Stella Maris live. I turned them down because there was no band, this was a recording project. There is no clear indication whether Stella Maris was a new and distinct band from the Entropy Circus or whether this was just the name of the EP. I had seen the name Stella Maris on a church in Hastings one weekend, but it had also appeared in a piece from the 14th century El Llibre Vermell, that I was listening to a lot at the time. The whole editing process came to me during that weekend, and two stones I found on the beach became the cover images for the sleeve.

8661928029_f82163e913_oI had moved onto another set of recording, called Entropy Circus Presents Stella Maris, that autumn when Al Robertson, whose Brixton Alive night I was designing posters for, asked me whether I could put on Stella Maris live. This time for some reason I said yes. In Chewton Road my friends Gyrus and Grufty Jim were living over the road. Jim, Tim and Deo were enlisted into the band, playing acoustic guitar with a fan, jew’s harp and fiddle, and tablas respectively. I was playing twelve string acosutic Since there were already at least two bands called Stella Maris – one from Israel, the other from Bosnia – I decided to call the band The Stella Maris Drone Orchestra.

It was the first gig that I had played since Platform Five(5)’s cataclysmic debut at the Klinker in 1999. It was entirely acoustic and we were playing to a lively Brixton audience. We played an extended improvisation modelled upon Stella Maris Two. It was absolutely terrifying but somehow it came off.

Stella Maris can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Stella Maris LP.

p00 – 2002

6835562022_d888a75e02_oBy mid-2001 I was becoming restless with my projects online. Radio KRMB had probably said everything about krautrock that could be said, the fictions on Narcotic Transmissions continued but with less of the urgency of the pre/post Y2K era, and my website often looked very pretty but was lacking in fresh content. In search of new directions I toyed with the idea of building a gallery site dedicated to the work of the illustrator Mal Dean, who died in the mid-70s. While trying to find his widow Libby Houston, I contacted various New Worlds writers from the period. Michael Moorcock put me in touch with M John Harrison.

As it turned out Mike Harrison couldn’t tell me how to contact Libby Houston but he did need help with building his website. In working on Mike’s site I came in contact with writers, editors and fans accumulating around The Third Alternative forums, where the originally discussions on the development of the New Weird took place. Amongst a host of people who I came into contact with on this period was the painter David Lloyd, whose covers appeared on the Night Shade books editions of two of Mike’s books. I visited David several times while he was living in Whitstable and one day he asked if I would like a cover for my next album.

The cover of p00 is an early iteration of one of his paintings. He sent me the photo, I scanned it and then pasted a photo from the grounds of the Milennium Dome into the background. By the time I was doing the cover, I had acquired my first laptop, a chunky refurbished Packard Bell, ostensibly for website work and writing.

However, while this machine wasn’t powerful enough for what we called at the time “hard disk recording”, it was powerful enough for sampling. I downloaded Madtracker, a PC descendent of the old Amiga tracker programs that I used in the 90s. There was something tentative about my early experiments with sampling on this scale. I could now sample whole riffs and loop them and process them to within an inch of their life. It didn’t feel quite legitimate. It was exciting but I was a little afraid of the apparent inauthenticity of the process. Making drum machine parts with Madtracker was fine but looping my guitar felt unmusicianly; it was a qualm that I would grow out of as time went on.

97992708_8cfab4ad06_oThe two tracks that use extensive sampling and looping on this album, Upside Down (Inside Out) and Inside Out (Upside Down) are perhaps the least satisfactory pieces on this album. The playing on them is fine and the integration of the technology works but I forgot to record anything particularly interesting. Far better are the tracks that make use of Madtracker in more a tangential fashion: Massy Palaiseau, Baby p00 and The Media’s Darling II.

The Media’s Darling appears in three versions on this album. It is a cover version of a track by Zebulldada, a collective that Ian Price was involved with. I knew Ian from KRMB and we were also doing a transatlantic recording project together called The M00nm0ths. The Media’s Darling was actually a Joe Baker number. I changed one line from the original: “local boy makes good on this threats at you” becomes “Ian Price makes good on this threats at you”. The first version of the track is quite delirious and ethereal, while the second is harder and angrier. Joe liked the second version better. I used Madtracker to construct a drum machine part for this but found that it sounded too clean when recorded straight to the Fostex A8 reel-to-reel, so I dirtied up the sound by recording the laptop speakers directly with a microphone.

The long track on this album, The Analeptic Kings Play The Bistro Californium, was a direct reference to M John Harrison’s Viriconium novels. Amongst other sounds on this track, there are emulated Commodore 64 and Amiga synthesizer programs. One of the other things that the laptop was good for was software emulation of older computers. One of the Commodore 64 tape emulation formats was called “p00″ which was the first of the reasons for the name of this album.

After Bozz Bozz had died the previous winter, we had adopted another cat, from Judy, a colleague and friend from the library where I was working. This large, neurotic black and white cat was originally called Shadow, but we decided to rename her Qwertyuiop Poltroon, but she was also addressed by other names such as Trimphone, on account of some of her strange noises, and Poo. The album ends with a close recording of the cat purring and making one of her strange noises.

p00 isn’t an altogether successful album. There are many new techniques on there, and there are individual tracks that I like; the blowsy melodic shoegaze pop of The Trees feels very much in the spirit of a David Lloyd painting. But maybe the album is uneven because I wasn’t quite comfortable with the new technology and its implications at the time. The album was mixed down in early 2002 and a few months later we were forced to move flat when the landlord decided to sell. We found another Warner flat, nearer to Blackhorse Road, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I managed to complete any satisfactory new material.

p00 can be streamed and downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Stella Maris.

Fritware Painted With Lustre – 2001

6835561900_18f12a4107_oFritware Painted With Lustre was born at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I had taken Tim Orff, a long time member of Platform Five(5), to the V&A for his birthday, and while we were looking at the ceramics of the Muslim world, he drew my attention to a particular item. “No, not the pot, look at the label: fritware painted with lustre!” The race was on to use this title for a project first.

This title wasn’t the only influence that Tim had upon this album. Earlier in the year I had borrowed a big VHS video camera from work and had lugged the device around the Tottenham Marshes in search of the genius loci. While playing back the footage, we found a shot where a fly had landed on the lens; the bright summer sun catching its wings; Tim christened it “rocket assed fly”, and the name was duly used for a joyful, chiming tune on this album.

In spite of the relative isolation of Eight Leggy DeLongy studio in Walthamstow, Fritware Painted With Lustre is full of the traces of other people: (Ain’t Got Much Money You & Me But Baby We Got) Toiletries was originally written back in 1997 in Kanchi’s kitchen, while I was visiting her at film school in Surrey; Richard’s “saturation bombing” synthesizers soak the background of the several parts of Air Supremacy; and on Messages Fourteen & Sixteen, a guitar melody accompanies answerphone messages from two friends: Pia, asking if we want to come to the pub, and Melanie, apologising for not calling back and then describing her pregnant delirium. Meanwhile on the opening track Dee Dee Meets Bozz Bozz, a sample of Deo playing the tablas is looped over a collage that calls forwards and backwards across the album, somewhat in the manner of many of the experiments on Monorail.

P5BOUZThe Benelux of the previous album, Quails Are Given, had given way to The Benelux Circus. While The Benelux had focussed on songwriting, I had felt it was occasionally too focussed; I felt genuinely concerned that I might not be able to improvise or make noise anymore. The Benelux Circus brought the new open space that I had found using my new recording processes on the Fostex A8 reel-to-reel recorder to a wider range of practices. There are songs here: When You Go To The Sea, which appears in two iterations, and (Ain’t Got Much Money You & Me But Baby We Got) Toiletries have both been played since in live solo sets, and The Sinking of the HMS Mathilde combines the sequenced K1 composition of the VEDiC/VEDA albums with a lyrical tale of loss in far flung, exotic places glimpsed on the front of a take away menu.

On the version of Come O Come Emmanuel on Fritware I exploit tape speed pitch-shifting rocesses to turn myself into a four part choir, in an apocalyptic reading of the carol which focusses on “ransom captive Israel” as the nexus of an endless cycle of conflict. The transformed biblical landscape is also present here in the yearning anthem Caesarea Philippae where the devotee awaits the return of his messiah from the stars; there are shades of Philip K Dick here, whose Valis and Radio Free Albemuth I would have read during that winter.

And while many of the instrumentals, Blues For Bozz Bozz, Zoologischer Garten and Domingo Sonntag’s Mistress, exploit moveable 7th chords which would later become the basis for my modal system of playing, the heaving drone of Holloway Road pulls in an altogether more primitive direction. Bozz Bozz, incidentally, was an old cat who we found on top of a wall, who lived with us for a few months before succumbing to cancer. And Zoologischer Garten features field recordings from Berlin earlier in the year. There were so many people, places and instruments coming into the mix.

Once again here Solomon Kirchner and Sally Kitchener are credited, as well as Luther Blissett and Maurice Donne, who is credited along with BG Ramachandra for the Hoog Synthesis System, which in reality consisted of a Casio SK-5 played through a Korg Pandora. The cover here was the only time I ever designed for a CD jewel case. It is printed onto orange paper and features a portrait in ASCII-art on the reverse. The original photo had been taken by Richard and scanned at work. I still had neither a digital camera nor a scanner. The planets on the front and inside sleeve have been borrowed from Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory of the Universe (1750).

Golden Ages are often imagined in retrospect, but Fritware Painted With Lustre was probably the most confident album of this period. Innovations continued but it would be a few years before I hit my stride again.

Fritware Painted With Lustre can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: p00.

 

Quails Are Given – 2000

6835561790_9ce730161c_o“Do you remember a bloke called Derek?” is the question that opens this album. Derek was real. I had met Derek in a pub in Minster on the isle of Sheppey. He had asked me whether I followed the football. When I said I didn’t, he decided to launch into a digressive monologue about the current developments in the game, which inevitably moved into the territory of “some of my best friends are black but…” I finished my pint, made my excuses and left.

Since 1997 when I first visited Dungeness, I had been taking the train to places around the Kent coast, Southend too, to take the sea air, investigate the land, and follow the derelict sea forts out in the estuary. The sea and the coastal towns, from here to St Ives, breathe through the album Quails Are Given.

The Benelux had been established as a project to “break out of the straitjacket of the Entropy Circus”. Where the earlier project had been suggestive of decay and ever decreasing cycles of kipple, The Benelux, other than referring to Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, could be read literally as “bene” and “lux”: The Good Light. The album was entirely made up of songs, and was the first to be recorded on the Fostex A8 eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, which was a vast improvement in sound quality and clarity.

studioMerrick Godhaven, who used the track Pizza & Beer on volume two of his Moving On compilation described the album as sounding like Belle & Sebastian on acid. It’s a very English seasidey sort of vibe. The Hovercraft Rescue Services praises the “selfless girls and fearless guys” of this imaginary organisation, and You Don’t Bring Me Fishes is a song of loss and longing from the viewpoint of a cat, while The Mixture As Before evokes strange magic found on the shoreline; the line “mother Mary came to me” foreshadows the appearance of Stella Maris in three years time.

But it’s not a coherent coastal concept album: Hook of Holland follows long trajectories across telephone networks and An Anglican Lovesong, possibly the only song to ever use the words “quinquagesima” and “septuagesima”, references the supertrams of Sheffield, which I had visited on a regular basis while Bridget had been studying for her masters degree. And London had not been entirely neglected here either; after a murder is committed The Trial of an Ugly Man, the mob retire for “a buffet is a Hoxton loft apartment”.

The album also features my first cover version since the scrappy Hawkwind Masters of the Universe that was my first four track recording. I had been in contact with Phil Turnbull through KRMB for two or three years at this time. He would send me tapes of music, including gems from his years in the Sydney post-punk scene of the early 80s. His last project, No Night Sweats, had been a sort of quirky electronic cabaret duo, and The Goodbye Song, connects this album with another coastal town, Woolongong, on the other side of the world.

As a songwriterly album, Quails Are Given is unconventional. My voice often imitates the plaintiff tones of Robert Wyatt, but there are often discordant backing vocals pitchshifted by adjusting the tape speed during recording. On the track Stalker the tape lurches to a sudden stop midway to open a hole in the fabric of spacetime before resuming as if nothing had happened. Zanzu The Girl From Eridu borrows its words from a poem in a Jack Vance novel and its surface is fractured by a random note generator program that I had written on the Amiga in the 80s.

Sally Kitchener and Solomon Kirchner appear here for the first time as my accomplices. Kirchner had been the protagonist of a serialised story that I was writing at the time, and was a kind of Jewish alter ego; similarly Sally Kitchener was my female counterpart, possibly a Jungian anima. Kirchner has recently put out his first solo single, Finchley in the Rain, and hopefully Sally will come out of my shadow in due course and release her own material.

Quails Are Given can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Fritware Painted With Lustre.

Hoog – 2000

6835561736_316970dc8d_oCassettes, for all their perceived charm as a retro format, were for the first ten years of recording the only format that was available to me. By the beginning of the new milennium I had acquired a CD recorder and I could finally put out material in a digital format and without significant signal loss, although for the time being my four track originals were still being recorded to cassette. Also: Hoog was, once again, the final Entropy Circus album.

I had moved to Forest Road, just opposite Walthamstow police station. It was also my first Warner flat; a type of purpose-built flat characteristic of the area and built between the turn of the last century and the twenties. They have arched doorways with two, typically green, doors; one goes to the upstairs flat the other one downstairs. We were in the upstairs flat. My semi-hermetic lifestyle in Walthamstow had not been significantly affected by Bridget; she was possibly the most-antisocial person I have ever met, and my studio at the front of the flat, named Eight Leggy DeLongy, had immediately become a productive place to work.

The material on Hoog is similar in spirit to Paddington Hardstare. Some of the instrumentals are a little more sparse: Ribble Manilla is all parched mathematics, with slide guitar and an Indian harmonium, an instrument that I had found in the local Cash Converter; and At The Terebinths of Mamre is informed by Ali Farke Toure’s desert blues. In other places though: Theme From “Helicopteur Police” and Benelux, there is a romped up, slapstick quality to the playing.

In terms of songwriting, Villejuif Metro Song, with its cry of “why must you pass me by?” is a significant piece of drone pop. Gatport Airwick, described by Dag Luterek in his review in Freq as having a “galloping teaspoons beat”, is a playful homage to the faux-operatic style of Amon Duul II’s Soap Shop Rock. But it’s on the closing track, The Royal Theodesic Dome, where the eschatological sense of finality is established. The Entropy Circus is over, long live the Entropy Circus. The sea sounds on this track were recorded in St Ives in Cornwall, a location that I would return to again and again, and all of these tracks refer to fictionalised locations. Even if Villejuif is a real place in Paris, and Gatport Airwick is merely a spoonerised version of a real place, they have all been transformed in the songwriting process into unreal worlds. The project of finding another city immanent behind the London we know was no longer so desperate as it was when I was recording Monorail; Walthamstow held the keys to many new worlds.

subcolorHoog, or Go Hoog, was never intended as a coherent album. By the time I had enough material to go onto the CD, I had acquired a Fostex A8, an eight-track reel-to-reel machine, which would revolutionise my recording processes, and rather than mix the old four track cassette material with the new sound, I decided to clear the decks for a new project. Having said this, the tracks on Hoog are at least as solid as those on Paddington Hardstare, and perhaps its lack of intentionality is part of its charm.

Recording onto CD for the first time freed me from the idiosyncracies of designing for a cassette case. Perhaps it is for this reason that I also decided to free myself from the restrictions of the CD jewel case, and devised a simple fold of two pieces of paper which would not require adhesive. I printed the design, which was still black and white, straight onto heavy buff-coloured paper. The image on the front is of a library colleague, Sergio, for no really good reason other than that it was a good picture. On the back, some shadowy figures that I photoshopped onto the background of a Moscow metro station are represented as the Entropy Circus: Spiro Arker, Archie Donkor, Jerry Cornelius and Zali Krishna.

Hoog can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Quails Are Given.

Paddington Hardstare – 1999

6835561680_8109c185fd_oThe nineties internet was like the Tao, a passage through which miracles arrived. As well as the Krautrock Message Board (KRMB), I had built the first iteration of my iotacism website. Websites were less pragmatic than there are now. Back then they were follies and cathedrals of light. Another cathedral of light that had come to my attention was The Dreaming Satellite, which was the homepage of an entity known variously as Septimus Warren Smith, Septimus Warren Peace and Septimus 7. There was an online forum connected to this site, called Narcotic Transmissions, which was less rigidly defined in purpose than KRMB. On there Sep, Lilly Novak and various other characters wrote tangentially related stories.

Another miracle that arrived through the Tao was Parasol Post. This was actually a physical zine; several pages of photocopied ephemera on utopian, psychogeographical and situationalist themes, collated irregularly and connected with the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA). Rob Parasol had contacted me via my iotacism site and I had started writing short pieces for the zine. Rob also photocopied a collected edition of my Art, Muzak, Poetry & The Land of Four Stilts stories which had originally appeared on KRMB and which formed the basis for many of my narratives on Narcotic Transmissions.

The cover art for Paddington Hardstare first appeared in the pages of Parasol Post: Photoshopped Zali-Paddingtons gliding on umbrellas over French watertowers. The sleeve of the cassette claims that the Entropy Circus consists of Zali Krishna, Maurice Donne, Luther Blissett, BG Ramachandra and Craig Moulinex. Donne and Ramachandra were recurring characters in my Narcotic Transmissions posts, Luther Blissett was a multi-user persona deployed by Italian anarchists, AAA operatives and the like. Craig Moulinex was a pseudonym from the Medway era. Paddington Hardstare was a persona of this new milieu.

419114690_aea68a25f7_oThree new acquisitions were important to shaping the sound of this album: a Danelectro DC-59, a Casio SK-5 and a Casio RZ-1. A few years earlier the Evets Corporation had bought up the Danelectro brand and was putting out classic 50s and 60s Danos at low prices. The DC-59 was a replica of the 3021 made famous by Jimmy Page, mine is “peachy keen” and has its action set very low both for speed and tone. I still use this guitar regularly. The two Casios that I acquired this year were an RZ-1 drum machine, to replace the one that I had sold five years before, and an SK-5 sampling keyboard. The SK-5 is like the keyboard equivalent of the RZ-1; small keys, lo-fi PCM sounds. I had recorded short samples of favourite keyboard sounds from the Amiga onto the minidisc so that I could access them easily for sampling. I liked the inexactness of its looping and how it would glitch the flow of the notes. My other favourite technique with this machine was to run it through the autowah settings on the Korg Pandora multi-effects unit to make dirty gurgling noises. I’ve never heard anyone else using this technique.

1114488640_15d46f24e2_oI some ways Paddington Hardstare might claim to be a concept album. It is bookended by two tracks which suggest that it chronicles the rise and fall of the Blackhorse Lane flat and the cyclical nature of nomadic metropolitanism. The first track, Reconstructing Home, opens with the line “it seems this town is not built on solid ground/ I know a place where we can go”; the final track, Piece o Shit, was recording while I was packing to move out of the flat, and in response to the disarray of boxes around me I wrote “there’s a piece o shit and it’s on the floor and I really don’t think I give a toss anymore about that.” And so I had to unpack the Tascam and record the song before it was lost.

Between the two of these there are several instrumentals with the RZ-1 rattling along; what Rob Parasol described as a “clockwork drum machine” tone, and the twangy reverbed Danelectro playing something between surf and jazz. There are tracks on here, Slow Plough and Kite Festival in Paperwhite Parc, where I am not sure how they were played without a fully systematic modal technique. Instinct will often carry ignorance.

But it is on songs like Mr Soleil and The Granular Decay of the Nation States that I really started to create personae to sing through. Granular Decay in particular comes out of reimagining the conflicts in former Yugoslavia in a downriver London setting, but crooned by a parrot with a slightly Bowiesque delivery. The Ferry Lane Estate, on the second side of the cassette, is possibly the closest to punk I have ever come, and while it may not predict the riots that came out of the police shooting of Mark Duggan twelve years later, I can’t help feeling that there were future ghosts in that place.

As might be imagined, the spirit of place is all over this album: The Blackhorse Road Circuit leaps and glides over field recordings of the ticket hall and escalators of Blackhorse Road tube station, and on The Noble Goose, geese from the River Lea honk against Amiga saxophone on the Casio SK-5. Even more so than The Goats & The Peacock, Paddington Hardstare is a Walthamstow album. It is also the last album that was distributed as a cassette.

By the time that I completed the mixing of the album, at my next Walthamstow flat, on Forest Road, Septimus 7 had taken his own life. It turned out that he had been a Californian, producing his own electronic music and married to Lilly Novak, or the person behind that other Narcotic Transmissions avatar. The colourful tumble of characters that had fallen through the Tao of the nineties internet informed everything that happened on this album: I lived as much in Walthamstow as in the Red Republic of Parasol or Radio KRMB or on Narcotic Transmissions. There was an elation about this new world, but also a great sadness that someone had gone before I had even had a chance to really know them.

Paddington Hardstare can be streamed of downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Hoog.

The Goats & The Peacock – 1998

6981686947_47b9721b78_oThe Goats and the Peacock was recorded over two years and in two consecutive locations: a shared flat in Dunsmure Road and my first flat on my own in Blackhorse Lane. After moving out of Tottenham I moved back to Stamford Hill with a few friends – Mark, Mysiak and Deo – to a large flat coincidentally next door to the one that I had lived in when I had first returned to London in 1992. There were regular Platform Five(5) sessions in my room, which had some of the character of therapy sessions, and which were attended by, amongst other people, Dag Luterek.

Dag lent me some Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen albums and there was something I found in the dionysian jazz-folk of Buckley that I felt I could use, in spite of having considerably fewer octaves to my voice than he did. Another thing that impressed me at the time was The Danielson Famile, whose weird Christian folk-rock reminded me of The Holy Modal Rounders. I bought myself a Fender acoustic twelve-string, a decision which may have been more influenced by Damon & Naomi than Tim Buckley, and found myself engaging properly with songwriting in the first time since my very early recordings.

There are at least eight actual songs on The Goats & The Peacock and the words are far better than my teenaged efforts. Naturally there are some break up lyrics in there but not to any maudlin degree, and in the song Papal Bull the emo quality of “burnt your letters in the yard/and some old stupid birthday cards” is tempered by tangential references to California Dreaming and the absurdist “the pope and Vatican decree/that you must stay away from me”. If it’s a little too knowing, it’s certainly far more playful than many other songs of love and loss.

My mixing of the vocals on this album have often been criticised for being too quiet. This was partly an aesthetic decision to make the vocals an integral part of the music; embedded within it rather than apart from it, but it was also partly just fashionable. The most extreme case of it is on The Great Masturbator, a song which references the Dali painting of the the same name as well as Hitler’s invasion of Poland while explicitly reimagining He’s Got The Whole World In His Hand as an onanistic anthem. The heavy shoegazing style of this number is also quite a departure; borrowing dirty fuzz bass textures and a swarm of delays from Flying Saucer Attack and Yo La Tengo.

In contrast with this, the ridiculous Playing Guitar With Shiva was the first track to have been directly inspired by a dream. The only difference between the song and the dream was that I was on a train rather than “in a bar” with Shiva, but as far as I recall the “eight necked Gibson with a whammy bar” was taken directly from the dream. Also noteworthy on here is the funky wah bassline. Colourful improvised melodic basslines against more structured chiming guitar lines were characteristic of the next few years of my recordings.

Elsewhere the focus became increasingly psychogeographical. Burnt Sienna is a depiction of a Ballardian landscape with a tip of the hat the Jimmy Webb’s Witchita Lineman, and on The Clouds Hide All The Light Away “telephones of desks in dull commuter towns” perhaps recalls Phillip Larkin, and of course Dashanka Junction is almost certainly more of a place than a song. But even in the more instrumental material such as Stonebridge Lock, there are field recordings of the lock machinery in the mix and various bird noises but chiefly the crows which also recur on Crowsfoot Stomp and The Heron & the Hassid.

In some ways there are two interpenetrating albums here: the more songwriterly tendency of the Dunsmure Road recordings and the psychogeography of the Blackhorse Lane recordings, which are informed by my investigations of my new environment in Walthamstow and mapping the Lea Valley up towards Ponders End where I was working at the time. Having said this, these divisions are not so definitive: Prufrock on the Tube is TS Eliot’s The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock as a pop song over a recording of noises from a tube journey on the Victoria line, and the title track The Goats & The Peacock employs a cut up of a poem about the animal enclosure at Clissold Park and the Y2K vibe of “Milennium Dome building”.

10059558274_4433e88303_bThis cut up was made with the other key technology of this period, a blue Sony portable minidisc recorder. I used this for field recordings and it was key to the mastering process, but I had also discovered that the shuffle play on it is near seamless, so a text read into it could be randomly remixed into unlimited variations. As a testimony to the build quality of this machine; I still own it and it still works perfectly. I very much doubt that many mp3 players will still be functioning in eighteen years time.

Between the Dunsmure Road sessions and those at Blackhorse Lane, I had left the job at the examination board, taken on an evening reception job, which allowed me access to the internet for the first time, and then started working at a university library, where I met Bridget. Bridget and I didn’t live together during this period; she was completing her masters in Librarianship in Sheffield whilr I moved to Walthamstow. Everything was changing: neighbourhood, work, relationships. I had also moved from a busy social scene,  living with other people, to a near hermetic existence in the Lea Valley hinterlands. Back then, no-one came to Walthamstow. Most of the people I knew in Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill seemed barely aware of where it was. Things are very different in that respect now.

But in spite of my relatively secluded life on Blackhorse Lane, through the internet I was encountering new people around the world. Social media, in its shopping mall form that we live in these days, didn’t exist at the time; small forums representing interest groups were more the norm. I engaged with and then took over running the Krautrock Message Board (KRMB) amongst other things, this expanded the distribution of cassettes of my music to the Europe, the United States and Australia.

I was still putting out this material as cassettes. The sound quality had been considerably better since the time of Monorail and the adoption of the DCC machine for mastering, but now between the DCC and the minidisc recorder I could bounce tracks back and forth without too much signal loss. And if I had taken an interest in networked computers, the Amiga was now starting to take a backseat in my affections: a comical sequenced pattern propels the closing track Where Do We Go From Here? but the Amiga has largely been neglected.

429204275_96d0f48ba3_oThe cover design was also the first in many years not to be designed on the Amiga. While the text was arranged using Word on the office PC, I did not have access to a scanner yet, so the cover image of my passport photo distorted by massive photocopier enlargement was then collaged with wheels containing the seventy-two names of God and the whole thing pasted together by hand and then photocopied onto an orange paper backing. As well as paying the rent, at the time I regarded work as important in that it provided computers, photocopiers and telephones. Initially I didn’t even have a telephone at my Blackhorse Road flat until I was bullied into getting one by Seth and Alaric.

The strange thing about The Goats & The Peacock is that since I uploaded it to archive.org in 1996 it has had over 13500 downloads. I like the album and think that it represents and important pivotal point between what I was doing in my early twenties and what I am doing now, but that many downloads seems excessive. I only know of one blog that has recommended it and I’m not sure that it recieves enough traffic to account for all of these downloads.

The Goats & The Peacock can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org

Next: Paddington Hardstare.

Embroiderystitchaircraftwing – 1996

ECboxFour Station DeLongii dissolved some time in early 1996. Caroline and I moved into our own flat a little further back along Green Lanes. It was too large and too expensive and didn’t last long, but it was a very nice flat. Again it was above a shop and on several levels, and on the top floor in a smallish room I set up Boccioni Parkway as my new studio. Recording continued seamlessly from Monorail although things had changed for me in several important ways: I was no longer a student; before I had completed my final exam I was working at a Bloomsbury based examination board full time.

The daily commute into London, the monotony of the nine to five, the noise of the traffic outside; all of these lurk beneath the surface of this album. I wanted to discover another city immanent within the quotidian; a more fundamentally real city. It could be glimpsed tangentially in the liminal states. Falling out of sleep, a dream voice metamorphoses into the snarl of a car accelerating up Green Lanes.

My time was more precious and at the time it felt that becoming part of the workaday city was hardening and brutalising my playing. There are fewer conceptual jokes on Embroiderystitchaircraftwing. Things drift and merge but are more clearly conceived: many of the conventionally musical pieces are tightly structured and composed. There are also several tracks that are almost songs.

6815785076_0f9bfe94f1_oOn the first part of the Interlude section, which is actually over nine minutes long, a snippet of a recording session with Kanchi Wichmann begins and falters before the riff itself comes in and she joins the harmony with a wordless ullulation. Kanchi had been one of the key players in the Platform Five(5) sessions that were still going on, on a fairly regular basis. We were also attempting to write some songs together as Doner und Blitzen. On An Alternative Accident we duet in a spoken word narrative about boredom, fake accents and car accidents over a tightly rhythmic composition. The song ends with a repeated refrain of “don’t talk: eat!” which was the slogan from a Buitoni ravioli advertisment in the 70s.

Also in the early parts of the VL Town there is a song comprised mostly of “doo-doo” and “doo-dah” over a descending major ostinato but it is definitely intended as a sung vocal line. I remember recording my voice in a built-in cupboard in the corner of the room, which had become my defacto vocal booth. There is still however a lot of back-masking, shortwave radio, feedback and other noise over the surface of the material. As with Monorail, many of the mixes were jammed together with multiples tape decks and other devices played into the DCC machine in real time.

The longest track, External Realtime, strongly resembles slower Neu! tracks; hissy white noise blows across it like seaspray in the wind. The Blakean yearning for a transfigured city is at its strongest here. It breaks into another faster, more melodic and exotic rhythm midway, amidst radio noise; new heaven and new earth arriving in the firmament, before dissolving back into the original theme. The whole situation is fragile and flawed.

The cover design for Embroiderystichaircraftwing was possibly the most high maintenance of this period. The background layer was printed onto heavy coloured paper, and four windows, containing three segments from an Amiga animation resembling a Futurist cityscape and another with an Entropy Circus yantra, were printed into different coloured papers; these were glued to the background in a mix and match fashion to make each copy unique. The word “Entropy Circus” reappears here for the first time since v5.0. I don’t remember specifically why I decided to allow it to return.

Boccioni Parkway could not last. It was too expensive to maintain, and we sublet and flat in Tottenham from a friend of a friend for a time, which was a disaster. This amongst other factors brought things to a crisis, and things ended between Caroline and I. The next album would take two years to finish.

Embroiderystitchaircraftwing can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: The Goats & the Peacock.

 

Monorail – 1996

monorailcoverMany of the innovations on the v9.0 album are the result of a new recording technology. On all of the previous albums the multitrack parts on cassette were mixed down to another cassette deck resulting in two stages of signal degradation, and a further stage when the cassette was copied to another cassette. This muddy warmth with a hissy background is only really desirable on a nostalgic basis as a lo-fi aesthetic. Sometime in late 1995 I acquired a Philips DCC recorder which improved the sound quality, at least at the mastering stage.

DCC or Digital Compact Cassette was Philips CD quality digital recording format. A few albums were released commercially on this format. It was the same size as compact cassette and the machines were actually capable to playing regular cassettes. To differentiate DCCs from other cassettes they had a sliding shutter over the tape head opening reminiscent of a 3.25 inch floppy disk.

2015-11-08 10.43.12As well as the four track recordings on the Tascam Porta One, other sound sources, such as computer tapes played on a personal stereo and samples played directly from the Amiga were added to the mix in real time during the mastering process to give the album many layers; a collage effect inspired by The Faust Tapes. This effect is used on the opening track Theme From Monorail to create a tape panorama: guitar drones played backwards emerge out of the high pitched howl of the Tascam’s mixer section feeding back on itself and a patchwork of second long segments from the Platform Five(5) archive jumpcut across a channel surfing multi-lane space. While the internet did exist at the time I didn’t have access to it until about a year and a half later.

Monorail is a set of games played with mixing. At its most extreme, the conceptual joke Meditation On Arrangment features a close-miked clock ticking on one side of the stereo, while a toilet flushes on the other side. The message is that music is shit that happens over time. In other places the tracks are more conventionally musical: Boccioni Parkway is a dry thrash of triumphant major key riffing which abrades sparks off scuzzy dissonances. The transforming chords at the heart of this track are intuitions into ideas that I would much later formalise as a fully modal approach to guitar, but not for about another twelve years.

And where Monorail is musical it is largely guitar based, sometimes accompanied by drum machines, sometimes unaccompanied or played with less conventional rhythmic devices; found pieces of metal, radiators, spanners. There is no Kawai K1 on Monorail. I can’t remember specifically why I decided not to use the K1 or midi sequencing on the album, perhaps it was that I had experimented with it so extensively on the VEDiC and VEDA tapes that I felt that I wanted to find other ways to manipulate sound.

The feedback generated by wiring the aux return of the Tascam back into itself recurs throughout the album, as well as samples of a recording of myself running from the bottom of the flat to the top; the flat was above an off licence, and was on several levels. Making this sample was a way to play the whole enviroment. It appears speeded up to various degrees, clattering and grinding across the mix. Similarly there are close recordings of radiators ticking away as they heat up. Perhaps I neglected the K1 on Monorail because I wanted to turn the recording space – Four Station Delongii, the corridor outside, the bathroom along the corridor, the stairs – into a species of synthesizer.

The packaging was similar in spirit; dot matrix printed black coils printed onto random pieces of paper: forms, documents, whatever came to hand. The word “monorail” appears twice on the spines of the fold in black and in white, so that it can be be arranged in the cassette case as either. A hand torn strip of paper describes the album as “MONORAIL ecV9.0″ along with recording data and an ambiguous track listing. Beneath the track listing there is a quotation from Eliot’s The Waste Land: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

Monorail does not specify whether it is an Entropy Circus album, a VEDiC or VEDA album, or something else altogether. In some ways it feels like it is impatient to transcend itself: always not this, or not just this. It bleeds out into the world: it’s cannot be content with being a recording of music by a band, it has designs upon becoming everything.

For all of this, Monorail is anchored in time and space by the track Nostalg2. In the background of this track there is a dictaphone recording of a walk to Alaric’s house on a Sunday morning; cars drive by, the wind blows on the microphone; I knock on the door, Alaric answers, I enter the house; Alaric’s mother Margaret and I discuss the weather.

Margaret died several years later, and this voice on a Sunday morning, haunts the album. Then again, all recordings are haunted by the people who made them, and presumed to use them as a device to manipulate time and memory: making time move backwards, slow down, speed up; falsifying or reinventing memory in its own image.

This was the last album recorded at Four Station DeLongii.

Monorail can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org. (There is an alternate cover design on the archive.org page)

Next: Emboiderystitchaircraftwing.

Metrognomon – 1995

VEDA (2)Metrognomon claims to be the first concept album of the series, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that it claims to be the first album conceived as a single unit. The sleeve notes explain that it is “an urban song cycle and as such may complement noise found in metropolitan areas”. Furthermore, I explain that “this recording may be played at any speed in any direction whilst remaining in essence the same music” because “relative distance of oscillations is more important than accurate reproduction of original frequencies”. This extreme modal attitude is perhaps unrealistic given the technology available to most listeners at the time, but at least suggests an emerging attitude towards sound as gestalt.

Once again the brand name shifted, here from VEDiC to VEDA, Vitreous Enamel Development Authority. I don’t remember exactly why, the abbreviation was perhaps more pleasing to my comparative religion scholar aesthetic at the time. The title on the cover appears as VEDA – Metrognomon – VEDiC at Four Station DeLongii and then over the fold EC v8.0.

The conceit of concept album, with regards to Metrognomon, mostly holds together in a number of tracks with titles that signpost their common theme: Metro A, Gnomon (Metro), Trogno (Memon), Metro B and Metrognomon. Of these, Metro A & B introduce the Metrognomon leitmotif in sketch form, while Gnomon (Metro) and Trogno (Memon) have no obvious musical relation to this theme.

Gnomon (Metro) is singular in that it deploys a 5/4 meter, as far as I can recall this played out using a grid of twenty so that counter-rhythms of four and five could grind against each other. This is mostly sequenced using a K1 connected via midi to the Amiga running MED, accompanied by a downshifted vocal intoning “gnomon” between a squall of sampled noises that suggest urban noise and car crashes. Trogno (Memon) is a loping bass-driven track which exploits the portamento fireworks of the K1, it is competent but only relevant to the Metrognomon theme tangentially, if at all.

Metrognomon itself is based upon a simple major key piano ostinato, with some sequenced electronics and vaporous guitar textures gliding over the top. The word “metrognomon” is pronounced by an Amiga speech synthesizer, which also says the words “voe” and “ev heg”. Voe was a reference to Sullom Voe in Shetland which was in the centre of an Ordnance Survey map that I found around the time and “ev heg” was a chant from a short story by M John Harrison. It all works fairly well together, although some slack rhythmic playing occasionally lets it down.

platcom copyApart from these tracks most of the rest of the album is made up of extended post-rock instrumentals; Planerunner 94 in particular referring back to a series of pieces going back to the v3.0 album and making the claim that the Entropy Circus had ever ended increasingly tenuous. Amongst the other tracks, Fruhstuck makes an appealing play on the pastoral ends of the Kraftwerk spectrum, Lateral attempts a full-on untheorised atonalism and Mass Pile dives deep into found samples over a drone. To what extent this grab bag can be called a concept album largely depends on the audiences perception of the frame.

Framing was something that I was interested in at the time. If you put a frame around anything it acts as an authority which claims that everything within it is intentional. In a way just to say that anything is an album rather than a set of tracks placed in sequence is a framing device. The sleeve here acts as an adhesive to hold these tracks and ideas together: a fold of heavy paper with dot matrix print on it, and then a second fold with sleeve notes demanding a conceptual underpinning. The artist has the authority to say what is and isn’t an album, whether a track is complete or incomplete, and the rhetoric of the title and the cover art act as a frame to stop it from drifting into its component parts.

v8.0 was the last album of the series to be mastered to analogue cassette. v9.0 would be about transcendence on many levels.

v8.0 can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Monorail.

Keystations -1994

6981686685_e180537d19_oLooking back, it would appear that 1994 was a year full of recording. I recorded and mixed down a total of three ninety minute cassettes of material. Four Station Delongii clearly worked as a creative environment. Richard was also recording his Drift of Signifieds material in our small studio and regular Platform Five(5) sessions took place in the living room. I’m not quite sure how I continued to study for my degree on top of all of this, but my grades at the time were fine and there was never an issue about my attendance.

The third cassette of the year, v7.0 Keystations, was a far more assured set of tracks than its predecessor. The idea of moving away from guitar music, that had ostensibly been the motive behind VEDiC, had been quietly forgotten and instead what we hear on this album is a smoother amalgamation of electronics and guitar.

As was fashionable at the time, dub influences inflect some of the tracks, the opener Vementry in particular. The RX-5 drum machine had individual outputs for each drum track, and given this opportunity it would have seemed churlish not to put big echoes on one or two of them. There were two Boss digital delays in the studio, and their rather cold tone gives an On U Sound vibe to tracks which are otherwise not particularly reggae influenced.

I remember wanting to find a style that was halfway between Motorhead and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and while I don’t think that was ever achieved, some of the less rhythmic tracks, such as Texture Map and Tactiles are clearly influenced by Gyorgy Ligeti. Up near the top end of the sinewaves on the K1, if the pitchbend was forced into extremes the signal would break up revealing glitchy digital microtones. This along with the industrial ambient textures, what was occasionally called “illbient” at the time, seemed to have become the logical conclusion to what I occasionally described as waiting room music.

While I certainly was not on the point of returning to songwriting at this time, one track simply entitled Song attempted a flat minimalist statement by simply repeating the “words” and “lyrics” barked over a thrashy number that was in equal parts Big Black and Kraftwerk. For a conceptual joke it mayhave been a little long at over eight minutes, and I remember that my throat certainly felt the strain afterwards. Perhaps one of those moments where it became clear to me that I was not suited to becoming a punk vocalist.

Other developments include the first specifically psychogeographical track: Silvertown Blues refers to an area of London near the flood barrier. I lived in North Woolwich, up the road from Silvertown for several years in the 80s. The desolate cityscape overlooked by the Tate & Lyle factory informs the mood of this piece recalling the declining dockyards of the Thatcher years before London City airport had been built.

Another notable track, Overlap 8.7.94, is built on a midi sequenced routine using the K1 and the Amiga in tandem over a backdrop of audio from television programmes that were showing at the time channel surfed as a sort of divinatory commentary to the music.

v7.0 was full of innovations, as was its predecessor but here I feel that I was coming to grips with the technology more fully. The music and the conceptual conceits are more successfully integrated and the cover design is one of my favourites from this period. The dot matrix printer that I was using was still black and white but here for the first time I printed the design onto heavy tan coloured paper. I was probably inspired by the first Tortoise album cover and the result had a pleasing texture.

I made a large number of copies of the cassette and as well as distributing it to friends and family, copies of it were available in the Covent Garden Rough Trade shop. As ever, things had to keep moving and the Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation gave way to the Vitreous Enamel Development Authority or VEDA.

Stream or download v7.0 from archive.org.

Next: Metrognomon.

Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation – 1994

6981686597_8b18b8d8fc_oThe Entropy Circus ended in 1994. It ended again sometime around 2000 and I ended it last year in 2014 too, but 1994 was the first time that the Entropy Circus ended. There was a specific reason for ending it: I had lost interest in playing guitar music. This malaise was probably in some way connected with the fact that I bought my first substantial synthesizer in 1994.

The Kawai K1 is a digital additive synthesizer. Patches are made by combining four waveforms which can then be tweaked quite deeply and then these can be stacked up into blocks of sixteen patches, each of which can be controlled through its own separate midi channel. In terms of what can be done with it using a sequencer it is very powerful, or at least it was compared with anything that I had used before. The waveforms develop from simple sine, triangle, square and so forth through to pianos, strings, horns and other instruments sampled from the real thing. Effectively I had a small orchestra.

$_86It was here that I found the dissonance between what I had been doing up until now and what I felt that I had the potential to do. The K1 was so much cleaner than everything else. I was still recording to four track cassette using the Tascam, and while this machine was far less hissy than the Vesta Fire tape recorder that I had started with, the tape noise really noticed against a pristine sinewave. To an extent I had used the lo-fi quality of the Tascam with my guitar to make it sound filthier; a lot of my overdrive tone was generated by pushing the input levels while recording rather than through using pedals.

And so, in the face of a technological paradigm shift, and unable to afford a DAT machine or a professional tape recorder, frustrated for the first time by the distance between the potential of the K1, midi sequencing and what I could actually achieve at the moment, I did what anyone would do under the circumstances and changed the name of the project. The Entropy Circus was dead, long live the Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation.

I had seen a curious V shaped logo and the name Vitreous Enamel Development Council on the back of cleaning products during my childhood. For some reason this obscure madeleine inspired the name change. It didn’t improve the quality of my recording equipment, and I was actually still putting guitar parts on quite a few of the tracks, but it was now the Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation, or VEDiC, and that signalled a new dawn.

The cover art for the v6.0 cassette announces: Platform 5 Archives Presents Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation (VEDiC EC v6.0). The cover is another mess. It’s at least as bad as the v4.0 cover and there some blurb on here about the shift from the literature of the Vedas through to the Upanishads. It seems that when I am uncertain about what I am doing, bad mystical imagery and bad design arrive on cue to save the day.

Not everything on v6.0 is bad. A track called Moosetrap, for no reason that I can remember, seems to be a remnant from the pre-synth era and is probably the finest guitar and drum machine track that I recorded in the 90s. Really fluid contrasts between clean and fuzz guitar, possibly the headless Hohner G2T which I exchanged for the K1 keyboard, in addition to the twin drum machine combination of Yamaha RX-5 and Casio RZ-1, the latter also being part of the exchange deal I had made for the synth. In fact this track represents everything that I had sacrificed for the vitreous enamel future.

Where the new material worked, as in Lunaroom, it could resemble quiet, piano based material from the hinterlands of a Neu! album. It’s actually quite pleasant. Also, the track Tetrabasso, near the end of the second side, does some interesting things with multiple sequenced basslines, without drums, carrying the music forward on caterpillar legs; possibly inspired by Philip Glass. And here the fuzz guitar almost works in its new, more decorative role. Platform Five(5) are once again used as a background feature on this track: a field recording of a train journey on the way to an anti-nazi demonstration in south London.

Where the material doesn’t work I make no apologies. This was a highly experimental period and I was trying a lot of new things out. And here the Platform Five(5) ethos, that “music doesn’t have to be good”, is at its most liberating. I was probably fully aware of this at the time because as far as I recall I made no further copies of the v6.0 cassette.

v6.0 can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Keystations.

 

Four Station Delongii – 1994

6981686455_0a6cedf438_oThings shifted, divided and reformed in 1994. Caroline moved to London and the flat in Stamford Hill dissolved: Seth and his partner Lisa moved into a flat with my brother and his girlfriend; similarly Caroline and I found a flat to rent with Richard and Melanie. The Stamford Hill flat had divided and reamalgamated into two couples’ flats. The new place was located above an off license on Green Lanes, almost opposite Clissold Park and the pumping station folly popularly known as the castle. There was a small spare room which Richard and I established as a studio. It was called Four Station Delongii, the name on a fan heater that we found in the flat.

In Four Station DeLongii we had two Amigas, a bass amp and a Vox V15 guitar amp as well as a shifting constellation of speakers and other accessories. The living room was also large enough for extended Platform Five(5) sessions. A key accessory which changed the way that I worked during this period was a midi interface for the Amiga: this allowed me to sync tracker software, such as MED, with drum machines and the like.

The opening track from v5.0, Luftstadt, showcases this technique: sequenced samples resembling a Mellotron melody synchronised with the Yamaha RX-5. Individual sounds could be faded in and out of the mix. It was a far larger palette than had previously been available, and orchestral timbres added colour above and beyond the rather harsh guitar tones that I favoured at the time. The first track from side two of the cassette also featured this arrangement, MED played a melodic motif based upon a faux-Jewish folk theme that I had sketched on the Fostex four track when I had first acquired it.

Not all was well with the Fostex however and the ailing machine had to be part exchanged for a vintage Tascam Porta One which was a far superior tape recorder and which I continued to use for the next six years.

Quite apart from the midi sequencing on this album there is a far greater fluidity of playing and more space and light in the tracks, especially Gausshammer and Harlequin 5, the latter being an evolution of a track from the first Vesta Fire recordings in 1989. Another unimaginatively titled track, Phased Gallop, synchronised two drum machines with midi, the Casio RZ-1 and the Yamaha RX-5, and exploited the individual channel outputs so that particular drums could be filter through different effects. The guitar playing on all of these feels lighter yet more assured than anything that I had recorded before.

Having said this, one track called Greyn was an ill-advised attempt at a pastiche of Archangels Thunderbird by Amon Duul II but comes out sounding more like a particularly industrial iteration of Loop, in a bad way. It wasn’t like I couldn’t put a foot wrong, but listening back on this material, it was working more often than it wasn’t working.

The other innovation of v5.0 was the return of vocals, although only on two tracks and in both cases unconventionally. Language Base 1 has a repeated vowel motif. The letters AEIOU are repeated over an avant funk rhythm. This sort of examination of the fundamentals of language would recur throughout the Entropy Circus. Another, simply titled Announcements, includes a full account of the recording details of the session through an antique pilot’s mask microphone and a lot of distortion. Amphetamines may have been involved.

1915869_143902346119_586333_nThe other important guest vocals on v5.0 are some geese from Clissold Park in the background of a track called Linear Accelerator. This was the first but certainly not the last time that I included honking geese and other birds on recordings. Linear Accelerator is also interesting technically because the guitar signal is split so that a dry tone plays through a lot of echo while its twin signal is fed through an aggressive fuzz. The fuzz was a Dod Vintage Fuzz, for those who take an interest in such things. I still use this fuzz on a lot of recordings to this day.

Although there is less of Platform Five(5) as a background component on v5.0, the track Impromptu near the end of the second side is a trio jam session with Seth and Richard in Four Station Delongii. In some ways it prefigures the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra sessions of the 00s, but more about them in several album’s time.

The cover of v5.0 was, as was usual at the time, dot-matrix printed in black and white from a Deluxe Paint design. The circular motif is pleasing to look at but not specifically symbolic of anything but is certainly less of a mess than the v4.0 cover, which is perhaps true of the whole album. Once again, it weighs in at ninety minutes in length and so in vinyl terms might be considered a double album.

The new environment of Four Station Delongii had allowed me to move beyond the revelations of v3.0 and there was a sense that there were new territories out there. My studies continued at university but there are no specific references to literary or religious subjects that I was studying, which might indicate that I had successfully relaxed into London living. Perhaps it is also noteworthy that this cassette had no name other than v5.0. The Entropy Circus had perhaps become confident enough now to be about itself rather a reference to something else.

And of course this was exactly the right time to end the Entropy Circus for the first time.

The v5.0 album can be downloaded or streamed from archive.org.

Next: Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation.

Defenestration – 1993

6981686305_41430121cc_oMy years at university weren’t particularly debauched. I didn’t meet many people there; that wasn’t why I was studying, and besides I already knew people, so I didn’t really need to meet more of them. I mostly encountered deities and archetypes: I became interested in Gnosticism and Hinduism. Although Alaric and I had already borrowed from Wyndham Lewis’s Blast in our manifestoes for Platform Five(5), I took the opportunity to study Eliot, Pound and Joyce. The hinge between pantheism and high modernism had replaced science fiction in my affections.

The cover of v4.0 Defenestration features a representation of the Kabbalistic tree of life as well as a curious triangular spiral glyph that would appear on telephone doodles, lecture notes and anywhere else that my unconscious might unload itself. It’s not the best designed cover and in many ways this cassette was attempting to live up to the revelations of its predecessor; a phenomenon that I have encountered several times since. When new ideas blossom and emerge as a fully formed and satisfying whole, they are often followed, like a younger sibling, by an attempt to grow out of their shadow and become something other.

Two pieces of new equipment which characterise this period are the Yamaha RX-5, another huge monster of a drum machine, and the Hohner G2T guitar, a licensed copy of the headless Steinberger guitar. The G2T was far more exact than the heavy Vox Standard 25 which I had been playing for many years, in some ways it feels more like a piece of sports equipment or a precision tool than a musical instrument. It also has a crazily bendy locking tremolo system.

The opening track of v4.0, Labyrinth, plays on the strengths of both of these instruments: the drums on the RX-5 can be reprogrammed at a quite deep level and the quality of sound is considerably better than the Casio RZ-1 that I had used for most of v3.0. There are also G2T tremolo dive bombs all over this track.

3704317735_379f864b45_zSome of the other tracks are more like the longform guitar squalls of v3.0 but with increasingly confident musicianship, playing with the unrelenting exactness of electronic drums tightens your rhythm up considerably, although there may be a feeling that I was perhaps a little bored. This has been a problem often since then when I am playing something that I am familar with. Attempts on v4.0 to break out into new ways of thinking are not entirely successful, on a track called Over His Shoulder(Shoulder(Shoulder))) I have tried to become more compositional in my programming and the result feels unenergetic.

As ever there are elements of Platform Five(5) here in ethos and in person. A field recording from Kwik Save in Chatham suggests that the cord between Kent and London still hadn’t been broken. The track Flat Batteries does what it says on the tin: drones wobble and falter played back on a tape recorder with dying batteries. It’s a characteristically Platform Five(5) cheap conceptual conceit. The closing track, Pluralizer, features Richard on bass and Seth on sax. It is also a noisy and not entirely unsuccessful attempt at using 3/4 time.

I didn’t distribute v4.0 very widely. I could tell that it was a stage on the route to somewhere rather than a destination. Perhaps some of my attention was elsewhere with my studies and new areas of interest.

Download or stream v4.0 from archive.org.

Next: Four Station DeLongii

Structures – 1993

6835560738_acbe2c9783_oThe infrastructure behind the recording of v3.0 Structures, moving to London, acquiring new techniques and technologies, had been a process that had been going on for three years. In the later parts of 1992 a key recording from The Stamford Hill Noise Explosion tape, Diaboli, broke the mould using industrial rhythms programmed on MED which were phased to sound like knives cutting through meat. Over this a simple three note chromatic motif and a minor improvisation suggested abandoned Soviet satellite technology. I remixed the track several times during the night while everyone else in the flat was asleep, finding new things revealed by the overdriven offboard effects with each new mix. The abandoned corridors of the flat felt like a set from Solaris.

But it was the Casio RZ-1 that I acquired at the beginning of 1993 that pushed the recordings into deep new territories. The RZ-1 is an early sampling drum machine. The four sample pads are 8-bit and only around half a second in length. In addition the RZ-1 features a full range of onboard PCM drum sounds – kick, snare, cymbals and so on – and crucially, separate faders for each track, which makes it an excellent machine for jamming with; I could bring up and down different drum parts spontaneously and develop rhythmic combinations spontaneously. The lo-fi quality of the sound also allows it to cut through the densest mix with ease. The RZ-1 changed everything.

The v3.0 cassette was recorded quickly in the early part of 1993. I was unemployed at the time, and having my own four-track I could record at any time day or night. A few months before moving to London I had been invited up to Konk Studios in Kilburn to record a track by a friend from Kent who was working at the studio. I hated the whole experience. All of the processes took too long, decisions were taken out of my hands; it felt sterile and artificial. The friend was also clearly more impressed by his new metropolitan lifestyle than I was, and be spent most of the weekend being an arsehole to his girlfriend.

The ethic of lo-fi and guerilla technology was very appealing to me. I loved the sound of things you could just intuit together with yr own resources bleeding out through the speakers of the kitchen stereo. But if the recordings were raw they weren’t lacking in sophistication: most of the tracks were played diatonic major or minor keys rather than in the pentatonics that are more typical of rock’n'roll. I’d build up chords across different instruments, improvised counter melodies and cross rhythms. Whatever this was, it was not punk rock.

I had also chosen not to put any songs onto the tape; no lyrics, only instrumentals. The only words come through from field recordings and Platform Five(5) sessions which had been layered onto the background. One track uses a dictaphone recording of a train journey from Kent to London; two old style train doors slam exactly in time with two guitar gestures. I was starting to learn the value of serendipity; it wasn’t necessary to control everything. To do so would be to deny possibilities from opening up and miracles from entering the space. It was all about opening things up.

1915869_143759611119_5594147_nLondon was still not fully home. The ongoing Platform Five(5) sessions were vigorous and noisy and Seth, a ex-schoolfriend who I was living with, played clarinet on one track on v3.0. His sax often added free jazz to the melting pot. I was still making frequent excursions to Kent and back, as the dictaphone recording reveals, and now that didn’t feel like home either. The flat in Stamford Hill was on several floors above a hardware store in a Hassidic Jewish neighbourhood. My brother had commandeered the largest room in the place and would have moodswings, slamming doors and playing The Jesus & Mary Chain loudly, which could suggest that he was either happy or angry; he didn’t really communicate anything very effectively.

Seth, Richard and I played a few gigs as Omnihedron in venues in Camden during this period, mostly nights connected with Plankton Records. It was all dark, heavy and noisy. An audience member told me at the end of one set that the sound made him feel like he was on heroin. I don’t think that this was intended as a criticism.

Hallucinogen induced recording sessions were attempted. But mostly it made it very difficult to concentrate on what you were supposed to be doing, or whether these were your hands, or what a fretboard was for. Richard and I also constructed low resolution computer animations using Deluxe Paint on the Amiga 500. These usually involved a lot of strobing and op art effects. These computer art techniques fed into the design of the sleeve for the v3.0 cassette. Repeating motifs which broke the words of the title into incoherence. It was printed using a dot matrix printer in stark black and white, because nothing else was affordable at the time, but the result looked like an artifact from deep elsewhere; not psychedelic in any kitsch sense.

Time stretches and threatens to break in v3.0: repeating echoes, ambiguous machine rhythms. A favourite technique was to play two very fast digital delays against each other to make a moiré smear out of the guitar sound. Track lengths were often extended; the third and fourth sides of Amon Duul II double albums were a precedent, as was Ligeti and Robert Hampson’s Main. v3.0 was recorded on both sides of a 100 minute cassette: these were cheaply available at Woolworths at the time, and the length was appealing in its arbitrariness.

I started my degree as a mature student later in the year.

The full v3.0 album is available for free download or streaming from archive.org.

Next: Defenestration.

Some Principles of Sublight Speed Astrogation – 1992

6981685953_be1355b1f2_oThere were properly speaking two Entropy Circus cassettes in 1992. Both featuring some combinations of the same tracks. The concept of using version numbers for projects, borrowed from programming, was initially intended in something closer to the original sense, rather than as a catalogue number. The cassette v2.0 included the 45 minutes of v1.0 on the first side with an additional 45 minutes of new material on the second side, but this kept expanding and the previous year’s recordings were jettisoned for another cassette labelled v2.1 Some Principles of Sublight Speed Astrogation.

Parallel to the ongoing work on multitracking as the Entropy Circus, I started a project called Platform Five(5) with Alaric Pether and whoever else we could recruit, “music by any people in front of any tape recorder anywhere”. We tacitly annexed the entire history of recorded music and manifestoed widely. We listened to Stockhausen and Schoenberg. We hit burned out cars that we found in the woods with branches and recorded the result. We announced that “music doesn’t have to be good”.

1915869_143828756119_422239_nThis spirit of free play informed by Can’s studio technique fed into the Entropy Circus. My technology had improved slightly, I had acquired a Vesta Fire digital delay, and tracker software had become more sophisticated with Teijo Kinnunen’s MED and OctaMED programs.

After completing my last examination at Mid Kent College I embarked upon a series of new recordings the next day. The first track, Windmill, was my first attempt at composing in 3/4 time and was actually very bad. I also recorded a dub reggae requiem mass, or at least the principle parts of one; this was also very bad. Slightly less bad was a cosmic rock opera called Meltdown featuring the horrible couplet “I can see the sky on fire/ My celestial funeral pyre”. My songwriting remained definitively adolescent.

The instrumental material, such as a spryly melodic number called The 41st Flange Hussars and another which accidentally discovered parallel tonality, were more satisfying, and there were also a number of tracker based rhythmic experiments which I generically labelled as “armoured car reggae”. And perhaps this term suggests something of the siege mentality of the house in Elaine Avenue where I lived at the time.

At some time during this year I woke up hungover in a front garden after a party and found petals in the pockets of my jacket. I later discovered that this meant that I had a girlfriend. So in spite of my academic failures, I had walked away from Mid-Kent College with a single A level in English Literature, things were starting to improve for me.

Also, later in the year I moved to London, Stamford Hill specifically, where I expanded the Platform Five(5) franchise to include everyone I lived with and pretty much anyone I met. I bought a Fostex X-18 multitrack recorder, which sounded considerably better than Alaric’s Vesta Fire machine, and featured auxiliary returns, which allowed me to route effects over existing tracks in the final mix.

Regular jam sessions were initiated in my room, and new Entropy Circus recordings, as well as sessions from Platform Five(5) and Chunt, which featured Alaric Pether and Richard Fontenoy, and also Richard’s Drift of Signifieds, became a compilation called The Stamford Hill Noise Explosion. There are only single copies of each of the cassettes from this year, but all of these developments were crucial to the first truly satisfying set of recordings: v3.0.

Next: Structures

Analog-Digital Interface – 1991

6835560464_a447e38340_oWhile I had already composed electronic music using a Commodore Amiga 500 before the first multitrack recordings, it wasn’t until the cassette Analog-Digital Interface v1.0 in 1991 that I integrated computer sounds into the recording process. I had made several attempts to do so before, using melodies transcribed onto Deluxe Music and Aegis Sonix, but the problem with both of these packages was that they needed to be programmed classically, that is to say in terms of musical notation onto a stave. I was capable of doing this but the results came out stilted and awkward-sounding.

Some time in 1991, I don’t remember specifically when, a colleague of my flatmate, who also owned an Amiga, brought me some disks containing Soundtracker, Protracker, Fasttracker and a couple of disks of samples for them. Tracker programs, which were all available in the burgeoning public domain scene, differed from Deluxe Music and Sonix in that they displayed a continuous loop of four parallel tracks into which samples could be sequenced.

1915869_143892716119_1548033_nTwo bands that I first heard in this year, Front 242 and Big Black, used drum machines in aggressive manners, quite unlike either acid house or techno, which were popular at the time. Also, the combination of unapologetically electronic drum sounds with guitars in Big Black was instructive as well as convenient to someone who had neither the space nor inclination to play drums.

Of course these two bands weren’t the only influences on me when I was adopting this technology. I already knew The Sisters of Mercy and Yello, but I also remember being intrigued by, of all things Killer by Adamski. In the combination of these things I could feel the seeds for a new kind of music.

My first attempt to distill this sound was in the cyber-space-pop anthem Set Phasers to Stun, which was remarkably embarassing but highly ambitious. Being able to record four tracks of samples as well as a vocal and a guitar track expanded the sound vastly. Unfortunately my lyrical and songwriting skills didn’t match my ambition and perhaps the awkward lyric “die before you’re twenty-one” in this track was the last awkward howl of my teenage years.

The album was forty five minutes long: so that it could appear whole on both sides of a C90 cassette for “greater direct access”. The sleeve was hand drawn in stark black and white and photocopied. I gave copies to friends and left a stack for sale at Recollect, a secondhand record shop in Strood, where I had also bought my first guitar to impress the ex-girlfriend from the previous episode.

There was a cyberpunk sensibility to the whole endeavour: the opening track was called Chiba City Blues in reference to Neuromancer and the title of the cassette, v1.0 Analog-Digital Interface, was consciously referencing software numbering protocols as would all of the cassettes until 1997.

But there were still other references in the mix: Behold the Man referred to Michael Moorcock’s novel of the same name and Lightship (Fractal Edge of Relativity) was inspired by James Gleick’s Chaos. None of these references were deployed with any great facility of subtlety, but they give a sense of the world that I felt I inhabited at the time.

I was continuing to fail romantically and academically at the time and I’m not sure that too many friends understood why I was doing this rather than making dance music. I remember telling relatives at the time that this was “my one chance to do something”, which was inaccurate and probably baffling, but suggest to me a depth of monomania and inarticulacy which are probably common at that age.

Next: Some Rudiments of Sublight Speed Astrogation.