Cecil Taylor never ceases.
Having only encountered Taylor outside of his music through rare interviews and odd transcripts of jazz roundtables during the mid 1960s, I am now congratulating myself for trying to idle some dead time by entering Taylor into a Youtube search. Through his 2006 documentary ‘All The Notes’ Christopher Felver has somehow managed to gain access to his home/workspace, and appears to have given Taylor the space to speculate on his endless interrogation of both the piano and sonic limits.
The short sequence available through Youtube fascinates me, primarily because in it he repeats an intriguing insight on James Brown, the likes of which he has also discussed in other interviews. Despite his most obvious reference points arriving through the likes of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and the conservatory training of his youth, Taylor nearly always also isolates Brown, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin as artists who constantly feed into his work. I read a story somewhere of Taylor warming up for a performance backstage ( I think it may have been at the Lincoln Center, before he was effectively forced out by Wynton Marsalis). Apparently Franklin’s ‘Say a Little Prayer’ was booming out over the speakers, and he was offering an accompaniment by way of his restless polyrhythmic thrashing of the piano. Taylor obviously hears something going on in there, something we perhaps refuse to acknowledge but which he equally refuses to ignore.
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
The winter tree
A cold and dark afternoon, the sun being behind clouds in the west. The landscape is barren of objects, the trees being leafless, and so little light in the sky for variety. Such a day as will almost oblige a man to eat his own heart. A day in which you must hold on to life by your teeth. You can hardly ruck up any skin on Nature’s bones. The sap is down; she won’t peel. Now is the time to cut timber for yokes and ox-bows, leaving the tough bark on,—yokes for your own neck. Finding yourself yoked to Matter and to Time. Not a mosquito left. Not an insect to hum. Crickets gone into winter quarters. Friends long since gone there, and you left to walk on frozen ground, with your hands in your pockets. Ah, but is not this a time for deep inward fires?
Henry David Thoreau
Hard to know where to start with this but Google have taken on the massive task of putting Life Magazine's considerable photograph archive online. There's a bewildering array of topics but it's a fascinating project with some dazzling photographs, from the American Civil War to Vietnam.
Also: I could probably post for another 91 years and not manage to link Joe Frazier and celebrations in London at the end of the First World War...
The End of World War I
The Buddha Machine
Some more glorious woozy drones courtesy of Dave over at Low Light Mixes - perfect for a mildly hungover sombre Autumn afternoon. The guitar pieces he links to are quietly stunning as well. I should also mention the Hydrogen Cafe whose Light Cycles mix has been haunting me for some time now. And on an ambient/drone bent, there's an interesting history of ambient over at FACT magazine (see also their top 20 ambient albums from last year - where oh where are Labradford and Susumu Yokota??).
I see also that there is a new version of the Buddha Machine available. This wonderful little machine is essentially a drone generator, pulsing out a series of randomised oscillations that swell and throb. The new version has added a whole bunch of new loops and you can now adjust the pitch of the drones. You can even hook a few up together and start generating great washes of sound, sound that seems to escape the confines of the space it was meant for, leaking through the walls and moving ever outwards. As Gavin Bryars said of Marconi: 'Towards the end of his life, [Marconi] became convinced that sounds, once generated never die, they simply become fainter and fainter until we can no longer perceive them. Marconi’s hope was to develop sufficiently sensitive equipment, extraordinarily powerful and sensitive filters, I suppose, to pick and hear these past, faint sounds.' Maybe someone just did...
I was given one of the original machines as a present a few years back and I thought I'd lost it. The other night I was woken by my two year old crying in his sleep and I stumbled in the dark to comfort him. As I laid alongside him in the bed, waiting for the soft murmurings to subside and his breathing to slow, I started to sense rather than hear, another sound in the room - almost as if someone where breathing a low thrumming music. It slowly dawned on me what I was hearing and I leant towards the source, following the swell. Between his pillows, the red light on top flickering in the dark, was the Buddha Machine pulsing out its soft glory. I placed it carefully back where I had found it and went back to bed.
You need some Manatees in your life - not a brace of cumbersome marine mammals but this primeval threshing whiplash of a band. They sound at times as if they have been dredged from some ancient quagmire - peat-clagged and fetid - or as if they have been cut from living rock, the massive dry-stone walls of guitars and the lumbering tempos obeying some other hidden geological rhythms. The first untitled album sounded a little like Isis or a lot like Sabbath - but as if they had dug down beneath the surface of that sound to some subterranean vitality, something more gutteral and primal. The EP that followed, WE ARE GOING TO TRACK DOWN AND KILL VINTAGE CLAYTAHH. THE BEARD BURNING BASTARD (I didn't make that up. I couldn't) is something more dangerous. In parts it has an Earth-like stillness and grace it also has moments when things fall apart at the edges: the track with Eugene from Oxbow is like hovering above an exorcism; 'Mêlée Cut' (see track below) threatens to collapse under it's own weight... I beleive they are in the studio at the moment; and if what they're making follows on from these two records it could be astonishing.
Download: Manatees - Mêlée Cut