4 Pieces of Experimental Music I Like

Someone once said there’s no such thing as experimental music – what we hear are the successes the experiments left on the cutting room floor.

*does a quick google*

*can’t find source of quote easily and gives up*

I suppose I would define the music I’m posting here more as “music made with unconventional instruments with a strong concept behind it”. “Art Music”, maybe? Anyway these are interesting to listen to and think about.

Steve Reich – Come Out  (1966)


I first heard this on Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone several years ago and was fascinated by the sound  created by the manipulation of two tape reels and one voice. I’d listen to it every few months for several years and then finally stumbled upon the reason why it was created in someone’s “a cool video every day” youtube list.
After the Harlem Riot of 1964 , where one person was murdered, six black youths were arrested for a crime that only one of them committed. This is a sample of one of these non guilty youths, explaining how he had to cut open a bruise to convince police he had actually been assaulted. Reich was commissioned to make this piece to be performed at a benefit for the “Harlem Six”.

Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Out_(Reich)

In a weird piece of synchronicity I noticed yesterday this piece is sampled in Madvillain’s eponymous album; today I played Trout Mask Replica in the car and Beefheart sings lines from the piece in “Moonlight on Vermont”.

Alvin Lucier – I Am Sitting In A Room (1969)


Again, this is one phrase repeated over and over again. This time, the phrase is recorded and played back, each time with the resonant frequencies of the room it’s recorded in boosted and the others falling away. Eventually it becomes a fascinating piece of noise reflecting the contours of the room it was recorded in.

This is all explained in the actual words of the phrase (or lyrics of the “song”, if you prefer). Whilst this is all very intellectually pleasing (you’re hearing the sounds of a room but not a room you’re in etc.), it’s the emotional part that really resonates:

Lucier suffered from a stutter. Once all the edges are taken out of his voice it sounds just like any other. There’s a yearning there that’s both melancholy and beautiful.

Read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Sitting_in_a_Room

John Cage – Water Walk (1960)


Unlike the other pieces here, there’s no deep emotional part to this but it’s great because of both the high fallutin’ concept behind it and the acknowledgement of the inherent comedy of the piece. Cage walks around a room and makes “music” from a variety of objects. I think it’s best represented here on “I’ve Got A Secret” – a show where a panel have to guess someone’s unusual talent (Salvador Dali is also on a episode this show bizarrely/not bizarrely).

The host says “he takes it seriously, I think it’s interesting, and if you find it funny you may laugh”.

William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops (2001)


This is more obviously “music” than the other pieces but would still probably qualify as “experimental” in it’s original, non-narrative heavy form, due to it’s repetitiveness. Apart from anything else it’s a stunning piece.

The story goes -and this whole piece is very, very heavy on story – that Basinski recorded some looped music in the 70s. In the early 00s he decided to transfer it from the tape he’d originally recorded on to a digital system. During the intervening years the original tape had corroded, changing the sounds and making some of the music fade and warp. This added an extra element to  he composition –  one of decay – that made the music sound gauzy, nostalgic and whistful.

On top of this, it is claimed, Basinski finished this project on September 11th 2001. He filmed the Twin Towers from the roof of his Brooklyn apartment. This became both the video and the art work for the series and made the music a lament for a New York that was forever gone.

The story might be taken with a pinch of salt but makes the whole piece incredibly moving.

Pretentiously yours,



August 14


The Best Captain Beefheart Song…

… on each album. Or what I consider to be an official album. It gets murky. These are my favourite from each little slab of Don Van Vliet’s musical career. No stunning insights, just some great tunes. There’s lots of excellent live versions of these too…

1. Here I Am I Always Am – The Legendary A and M Sessions

Released way after it was recorded this song is far more “straight forward” than most of the Cap’n’s output, lyrically and musically but still manages to sound ummm  odd. The lead guitar sounds a bit like a banjo. It switches time signature, Beefheart’s voice is incredibly full of yearning. A wonderful piece of R n’ B.

2. Sure Nuff ‘n’ ‘Yes I Do – Safe As Milk

I like Safe As Milk, don’t Get Me Wrong but just not as much as a) other people do and b) as much as the later albums. That being said sure nuff n yes i do, theNew Minglewood Blues  quoting song, is a great blues song and the performance in Cannes is fantastic to watch. They’d just started to get “weird”, you can see Jeff Cotton looking decidedly odd.

3. Tarotplane – The Mirror Man Sessions

20 minutes long? Mantra like lyrics based on robert johns terra plane? Sure. Awesome though. apparently john French’s drum sticks were too heavy and he hurt his hands. I like it.

4. Kandy Korn – Strictly Personal

The end of Kandy Korn is a pure joy. Chiming guitars working together with a super sweet melody slightly off. Hypnotic.  The lyrics are dumb but i think that’s the point?

5. Moonlight On Vermont – Trout Mask Replica

The least outré track on Trout Mask Replica, recorded prior to the main sessions. I used to think “how amazing would Trout Mask Replica be if they’d had all the songs like this”, i.e. a bit weird but not too weird. I’m glad the record’s as odd as it is. This song is still amazing though.

6. Dr Dark – Lick My Decals Off, Baby

Apparently Lick My Decals Off Baby was composed in the same way as Trout Mask but arranged differently – and by a different band member (Zoot Horn rather than Drumbo). You can kind of tell. The songs have a much different feel. I have to be in the mood for them. I like this one.

7. Grow Fins – The Spotlight Kid

Beefy goes Souly! Kind of. This song is goofy and a box set was named after it. I love Don’s (I’ll call him Don cos he was my mate) voice on it.

8. Big Eyed Beans From Venus – Clear Spot

Possibly the best Beefheart song. The drumming at the end is the best drumming ever. The put it in space. Well they should have.

9. Upon The My Oh My – Unconditionally Guaranteed

Best track on worst album. Next.

10. Observatory Crest – Blue Jeans And Moon Beams

This is from “The Tragic Band” era. It should be awful – songs cowritten, entirely new band but I have grown to love the record. Jack White likes it to. this song is great. Mercury Rev covered it.

11. Owed T’Alex – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

After a hiatus of a few years, a Frank Zappa album here, an aborted Bat Chain Puller there, the Cappers released this. The title is making amends with his old guitarist Alex Snouffer (back here), the solo is amazing. I like to shout “Party time with the Jones”. Yes.

12. Dirty Blue Gene – Doc At The Radar Station

People like this album but they don’t love it hard enough. PJ Harvey put most of this song into one of hers for some reason. The bit where the guitar drops out and comes back on genetically mean is the best bit in music. Just generally. Well done.

13. Evening Bell – Ice Cream For Crow

The end. I like the instrumentals so here’s one of them. Goodbye.

Top 5 Songs of 2013

Last year, on Christmas day, I did my top five songs of 2012. This year, 5 days before Christmas Day, I’m doing my top five songs of 2013. It’s interesting; fascinating even.

Before you read you should also look at Adam’s exhaustive 2013 list.


Hey Sandy by Polaris

This is the theme tune from Pete and Pete. I never really watched Pete and Pete but became obsessed with this song. Steven J. Kirk knows the singer. Fliss Webb doesn’t like this song but I make her sing the “aye, aye, aye” bit.

It’s 90s indie-(pop)-rock. So I likes it.

Sligo River Blues by John Fahey

I know this sounds almost exactly the same as “Hey Sandy” but I’m a sucker for a good hook. Butseriouslyfolks John Fahey’s awesome. I just wish when I ripped his 2 cd best of onto my computer back in ought’ seven it hadn’t put those annoying clips in.
This is beautiful.

Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny

I remembered this song from 12 Monkeys – in fact I kept on searching for “Hawaiian Music” to find it. They’re not Hawaiian. This is the song they play when you die and you’re waiting around watching everyone still alive.

My Girl by The Temptations

I used to sing this song on my paper round when I was 14. I got hit by a car on my paper round when I was 14 cos I used to cross the main road with my eyes closed. My ears weren’t all I thought. The best thing about this song is you sing the riff when you’re asked to sing it.

I Fucked My Aunt by  The Lonely Island

I’m  not going to bother writing about this. Apart from that.

John, Dec 13.

Ever Wondered What The Alphabet Means?

Here it is! Wonder no more! The alphabet defined – as it goes along..

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Answer The Questionnaire

1. Who’s fault is it?

a) Your fault.

b) Their fault.

2. You’re Hungry. Do you:

a) eat


3. Everyone you know, some day, will die. I

a) know this, but don’t believe this.

b) believe this, but don’t know this.

4. Would you rather live without:

a) oxygen

b) adulation?

5. If it’s your parents fault, what about their parents?

a) it’s their fault.

b) they’re your grandparents.

6. Humans are animals. Is this:

a) the best thing about us?

b) the worst thing about us?

7. Does the Universe differentiate between life and not life?

a) no, but God does.

b) no, but Life does.

8. When you stop, does everything stop:

a) yes

b) no

9. Who’s fault is it?

a) Their fault.

b) Your fault.

10. Does a dog have Buddha nature?


Mostly a’s – You exist!

Mostly b’s -

New Album (Dry Humps) out today


Quick note – new album “Dry Humps” is out today.

Get it here


pay what you want, anything you do pay goes to Mencap.

The covers so far…

We have a new album out in 2 weeks. Oh boy!

Yeah, we’re hitting GBV levels of music releasing.

To get you ready here are the videos we shot for the covers of our friends songs we’ve done.

Joanne isn’t here as it was too lascivious.

Here goes:


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