Archive for the 'incredibly strange music' Category

The Master Musicians of Jajouka II – live in the USA

The Master Musicians of Jajouka II - live in the USA

Made during Jajouka’s first U.S. tour in 1995 1996-97, this live recording appeared on Psychic TV’s U.S. label, Temple ov Psychick Youth. Place, date of recording and date of release unknown.

Tales of Joujouka, 1975 book coverOriginated from Morocco’s Rif Mountains, the Master Musicians are said to have emerged at Bryon Gysin and Mohamed Hamri‘s 1001 Nights Tangiers restaurant during the 1950s, a place attended by a Western audience and hence called Interzone. As far as I understand, the repertoire they play, infused by Sufi mysticism and paganism, is the kind of music that would be played during Aid el Kebir, the festival that ends the yearly Ramadan. Jajouka’s music is dominated by hypnotic percussion and the nasal tone of the rhaita, a kind of oboe, usually played in unison. Other instruments include the gimbri, a stringed instrument, violin and flute, plus the occasional vocals. Powerful music, in any case.

01 Part I (20:25)
02 Part II (25:24)
03 Part III (6:42)
04 Part IV (17:20)
05 Part V (15:28)

Total time 85:19
Cassette released by Temple Ov Psychick Youth, USA, late 1990s


The veil of trance
Image above from Bireysel Kişi blog.

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Anonymous [Le Kiosque d’Orphée]

Anonymous 10'' front cover
Anonymous 10'' back cover
Anonymous 10'' side 1

By far the weirdest record in my collection, this Kiosque d’Orphée oddity is both the most amateurish effort ever put to tape and the most sincere and unceremonious way to present the listener with a slice of real life in the countryside. The fact the recordist and performers are uncredited on the cover or elsewhere (such was the rule if you chosed the standard Kiosque d’Orphée LP cover, instead of paying for the optional personalized, printed cover) only adds to the mystery and striking impact of these sounds.

♫ An awkward montage of various recordings gathered during a family meeting, the “music” is a cornucopia of interviews, unaccompanied, solo singing, traditional folk songs and Musette accordion. Close to aural exhibitionism, these sound snapshots were recorded in a rural place in the South of France, presumably, the Pyrénées, in the mid-1960s. In this kind of traditional farm, the pigs and other cattle can freely enter the kitchen where they are treated with old vegetables, rotten apples and food leftovers. Therefore, animal sounds appear almost constantly during the recordings, be it birds, pigs or cocks. The record starts by an interview with the elder grandmother, conducted in Occitan language, followed by casual conversations and various amateur performances. Involuntary technical flaws and errors abound: unwanted editing noises, tape running at the wrong speed, distortion, recorder hum, etc. Needless to say, hi-fi freaks need not apply.

Defying categorization, this puzzling release leaves one with more questions than answers. After all, what are we to do of an uncredited, undated sound document like this one?

01 [Anonymous] Side 1 (11:56)
02 [Anonymous] Side 2 (10:16)

Total time 22:12
10in released by Le Kiosque d’Orphée, France, 1960s


Other Kiosque d’Orphée releases:
Situations Sonores ’76 >
Francisco Semprun & Michel Christodoulidès
Madhya Méditations sur le Seuil >

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Bananafish issue #12

Bananafish issue #12 cover
Bananafish issue #12 CD

Seymour Glass started Bananafish magazine in San Francisco, California, in 1987. The name was inspired by J.D. Salinger’s 1948 short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish, one of several stories of this period including a character named “Seymour Glass”. The Bananafish zine (1987-2004) included articles on weird artists, experimental and far out music, found art (like leaflets, handbills or grocery lists) collected in the street, telephone interviews, correspondence with artists, as well as record reviews and complimentary record. But the writing was certainly the most striking feature, somewhere between stream of consciousness, psychotic digressions and plain nonsense. For its keen ear towards Japanoise, American mavericks and general Absurdism, Bananafish is somewhat comparable to Patrick Marley’s Muckracker magazine (ca.1993-98) to which Seymour Glass was also a contributor/reviewer, but also to some of Al Ackerman‘s strangest publications. The last issue of Bananafish, #18, appeared 2004. In 1992, Seymour Glass formed Glands of External Secretion, his duo with Barbara Manning, formerly of The World of Pooh, 1989-93.

Seymour Glass & Barbara Manning

♫ The compilation CD is anything if not varied, but 2 major genres emerge throughout. Low fi noise explorations, on the one hand, include free improvised noise by the Nihilist Spasm Band, freaking noise by Justice Yeldham, Witcyst , Crank Sturgeon, and free noise-rock by Sufi Mind Games and Mike Boner. Ambient tracks, on the other hand, include: wonderful Asian field recordings by the Climax Golden Twins, Kosmische Musik a la Tangerine Dream by Japanese Monde Bruits, electroacoustic-cum-harmonium by Stilluppsteypa. Iancu Dumitrescu‘s amazing electroacoustic composition Ouranos belongs to both genres. The disc ends with a Neil Hambuger prank phone call.

See also:
Selections from Bananafish #1-4 >
Bananafish #7 >

01 Climax Golden Twins Locations (4:02)
02 Nihilist Spasm Band No Bananafish (5:26)
03 Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device Funky Love Blast vs. Funky Anal Humor (8:45)
04 (In Spite of Flaming Creatures) & Deepkiss Branches of Contortionism (3:30)
05 Monde Bruits Do (4:47)
06 Stilluppsteypa An Example of Measurements Stated First (6:58)
07 Iancu Dumitrescu Ouranos (10:09)
08 Sufi Mind Game Blue Kachina (6:38)
09 Witcyst Excerpts From Missing! (4:38)
10 Crank Sturgeon Footpocked y Kettlehole: The Story of My Drink (4:45)
11 Mike Boner Figure Skating Dog (3:32)
12 Neil Hamburger Comedy Fated From The Stars (4:41)

Total time 67:00
Magazine+CD released 1998, San Francisco, Ca.


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Various – Mémoire Musicale des Iles Seychelles

Mémoire Musicale des Iles Seychelles LP front
Mémoire Musicale des Iles Seychelles LP back
Side A

This 1978 LP on French label Expression Spontanée documents vernacular folk music from the Seychelles Islands, North of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The two main artists, Boboï and Tonpa, respectively 74 and 75 years old, sing in a particular version of Creole language. The LP’s liner notes dub them “the last story teller-musicians” as the writer fears the tradition will be lost in the archipelago after them, not to mention the then recent invasion of neighbor Mauritius’ sega music. All songs are traditionals, even if Tonpa clearly elaborates his own, personal version of a song like Jellelo et Anne-Marie. Accompanying himself on the Zêze, a bowed instrument with a gourd resonator used to provide a steady rhythm to the narration, Tonpa delivers a stunning, mostly spoken, vocal performance, halfway between Harry Bellafonte’s whispered lullabies and Keiji Haino’s raucous shouts. Boboï’s performance is more intimate and melodic. He plays a simple bowed instrument without resonator called a Bombe.

Mémoire Musicale des Iles Seychelles

01  La Première Parole (3:16)
02 Jellelo et Anne-Marie (13:34)
03 Katounou (3:52)
04 Le Moutia (2:53)
05 Kandou (2:45)
06 Toc, Mon Cateau Nosibé (2:14)
07 Ça Qui Pour Moi, Pour Toi (2:38)
08 Contre-Danse (a) (2:38)
09 Contre-Danse (b) (2:28)
10 Contre-Danse (c) (2:46)
11 Contre-Danse (d) (2:42)

Total time 41:50
LP released by Expression Spontanée, ref. ES62, France, 1978


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Post-scriptum on Expression Spontanée:

There were several Marxist record companies in France during the 1970s (Le Chant du Monde, for instance), but Expression Spontanée was almost Stalinist in its approach to record releases. Their first records, starting 1968, were German and Italian Communist songs like the ones pictured below:

Luckily for music lovers, label founder Jean Bériac [+] got tired of Class struggle and started releasing folk songs, Feminist songs, film soundtracks and good music. The most famous Expression Spontanée release is the Mai 1968 sound document LP. Their only venture into avantgarde was the collective, free-jazz improvisation Opération Rhino, 1976, featuring Jac Berrocal and Pierre Bastien for the first time on disc.

Expression Spontanée released very few ethnic music, one exception being Gérard Dole’s ‘Bayous de Louisiane – Le Melodeon’ and the present ‘Mémoire Musicale des Iles Seychelles’.

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Gertrude Stein and Al Carmines ‘In Circles’

In Circles LP front cover
In Circles LP back cover
In Circles LP side B
Al Carmines

Gertrude Stein‘s writings have been a goldmine for composers of the past 50 years, if we are to judge from the innumerable examples of her texts set to music, yet a Broadway musical is, to my knowledge, a unique case among more Avantgarde settings. ‘Gertrude Stein is an index for us’, said composer Al Carmines (Reverend Alvin Allison Carmines, 1936-2005) who, as a minister at New York’s Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park between the early 1960s and 1982, promoted contemporary theatre and dance performances inside the Church itself. A gifted pianist, he also wrote some of the music used in these shows, to the point of composing several musicals, often with stage direction by Larry Kornfeld. Premiered in 1967, In Circles is based on A Circular Play: A Play In Circles, a collection of short texts Stein published in 1920, infused with an obsession for circular forms typical from this writer. The ’67 stage version was such a success it was transported Off-Broadway to Cherry Lane Theatre the following year. In Circles uses the elliptic, short texts of the original book as the basis for a collection of joyous numbers for small ensemble and voices, with Carmines at the piano and the voices of 10 singers. The ensemble includes tack piano, celesta, cello and drums. The irresistible melodies cover many genres, from lullaby to ragtime, romantic love song to spiritual, and what liner notes call ‘barbershop quartet’. At some point in the early 1970s, Juilliard School student Charlemagne Palestine was hired by director Jayne Mooney Brookes (see here) to write a piano+voice score of In Circles, as a proper written score was not available from Al Carmines. The LP might have more to do with Minimalism than meets the eye – after all, the title starts like In C.

In Circles:
01 Side 1 (24:55)
02 Side 2 (23:50)

Total time 48:45
LP released by Avant Garde Records, Inc., NY, 1968


See also:
Marian Seldes reads Gertrude Stein >
Heiner Goebbels Hashirigaki >

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Southern Tropical Harmony Steel Band ‘Limbo Party’

Limbo Party front cover
Limbo Party back cover
Record in polyetheylene bag

US producer Sidney Frey (1920–1968) created the Audio Fidelity record company in 1954 and eventually released the 1st stereo LP in 1958: The Dukes of Dixieland Volume 1, ref.# AFSD 5823 (the mono version had appeared in 1957). Strangely enough, side B had railroad sound effects. An example of AF’s mastery technique is available on WFMU’s blog, in a post about their Stereophonic Demonstration Record. On ‘Limbo Party’, Sidney Frey offers recordings of a steel band playing American standards and a few traditionals. I’m not able to assess if Frey actually had the technology to go to the Trinidad & Tobago Carribean Islands for location recordings or if the tracks were recorded in a US studio. Anyway, the music is lively and expertly recorded, carrying a great sense of immediacy and ‘out-of-the-speaker-ness’. While side A is a fine collection of standards played by a steel band, the B-side really stands out, a 14-mns tour de force of precise, obsessive rhythm and intoxicating steel drums. Not being credited to any US composer, the spectacular ‘Limbo’ is possibly a genuine Carribean classic – for those who can hear the difference, that is.

Sidney Frey01 Cachita 2:55
02 Pepe 2:25
03 Look for a Star 3:25
04 Never on Sunday 2:10
05 Pachanga 2:30
06 Caramelos 2:10
07 Limbo 14:15

Total time 30:50
LP released by Audio Fidelity, USA, 1962


Francisco Semprun & Michel Christodoulidès ‘Mondes Incantatoires et Espaces Carnivores’

'Mondes Incantatoires et Espaces Carnivores' front cover
'Mondes Incantatoires et Espaces Carnivores' side 1

Le Kiosque d’Orphée was a French record company launched by Guy Batard in the late 1950s. At first a mere pressing plant printing covers on demand, it became a proper folk music label during the 1970s. They released a wide range of music genres, from pop songs to folk and traditional music, from Masonic music to regular stage music (see discography here). They also produced artist-funded, private releases of small run discs (sometimes as few as 50 copies), and Mondes Incantatoires et Espaces Carnivores (Incantatory Worlds and Carnivorous Spaces) is one of them. Spanish-born Francisco Semprun and Greek-born Michel Christodoulidès are both Parisian, incidental and stage music composers, working on their own or as a team during the 1970s. They mostly composed for film soundtracks and theater, including several Ionesco plays (see list below), as well as music for dance and mime theater, or physical exercise known in France as ‘expression corporelle’, with several LP releases during the 1970s (Choréo-Rythmes, Espaces Dynamiques and Métamorphoses) on the French Unidisc label. As a daily job, they improvised during dance and theater workshops.

Pinok et MathoThis disc compiles various tracks composed by Semprun and Christodoulidès for clown and mime plays by two French women named Pinok et Matho, real name Monique Bertrand and Mathilde Dumont. They created their pioneering Paris corporeal mime school called TEMP (Théatre Ecole Mouvement et Pensée) in 1962, where many French actors attended workshops in the 1960s and 70s. They wrote several books that were widely used in France by school teachers. The b&w photos below come from their 1976 book ‘Dynamique de la création : le mot et l’expression corporelle’, published by Librairie Vrin. The book mentions several mimes they created along the years like Le Sacrifice, Cadeau de Noël pour Anna, F1 F2 HLM, with soundtracks included on this disc, while pictures illustrate their 1970 Espaces Carnivores series, including Temps Distillé and other mimes (date from Métamorphoses LP back cover). Pinok et Matho’s style apparently encompasses clown, theater, gymnastics and mime, and they say some of their gestures were close to that of insects (‘proches des mouvements de certains insectes’). Semprun and Christodoulidès later Espaces Dynamiques and Métamorphoses LPs on Unidisc were also composed for the Pinok et Matho duo. I posted a 1962 Lasry-Baschet 7” single from Unidisc before.

Espaces Carnivores IEspaces Carnivores IIEspaces Carnivores III

Semprun and Christodoulidès  play acoustic instruments in a reverberant acoustic space, reminding a stage, as opposed to a studio facility. They use a variety of percussion sounds from darbuka, xylophone, marimbas and plucked guitar sounds, the latter reminiscent of Giacinto Scelci’s Ko-Tha/Three Dances of Shiva for guitar, 1967 (esp. on #5 Thanatos). Elsewhere, the pseudo-primitive rhythms recall Harry Partch’s Ballad for Gymnasts, 1961, or Moondog’s first albums, like The Story of Moondog, 1957. The other instruments, mainly flute, zither and acoustic guitar, create timeless melodies evoking Ancient Greece or imaginary ethnic music, though playing technique is often unusual – like a solo flute based on overblown harmonics only or a guitar played with a glass stick. Occasionally (in the table top guitar playing of #11 Gravats, for instance), the music gets quite weird and ambiguous, in a way that would suit Henri Michaux’s film on LSD and mescalin effects, Images du Monde Visionnaire, 1964 (see Ubuweb).

Note: record is dirty, so you’ll have to cope with a little sizzling.

Francisco Semprun & Michel Christodoulidès
‘Mondes Incantatoires et Espaces Carnivores’

01 Temps Distillé (2:49)
02 Sacrifice (2:12)
03 Aubépine (2:04)
04 Chop Suey (2:05)
05 Thanatos (2:32)
06 Cadeau de Noël pour Anna (2:12)
07 Mirologue (3:26)
08 Oiseau Lure (2:22)
09 H.L.M. F1 F2  (2:43)
10 Escargot de Brume (2:45)
11 Gravats (2:30)

Total time 27:40
10” released by Le Kiosque d’Orphée, France, 1970


.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Francisco Semprun:
1974 Les Deux Mémoires, film soundtrack
Improvisations LP (percussion), Le Kiosque d’Orphée KO/103
Improvisations LP (piano), Le Kiosque d’Orphée KO/104
Etudes dynamiques LP, Le Kiosque d’Orphée KO/204

Michel Christodoulidès’ stage music:
1972 Macbett, by Ionesco, (w/ Francisco Semprun)
1973 Ce Formidable Bordel, by Eugène Ionesco
1973 Le Médecin Malgré Lui, by Molière
1975 Le Zouave, by Claude Rich

Discography as a duo:
1970 Mondes Incantatoires Et Espaces Carnivores (10″), Le Kiosque d’Orphée
Choréo-Rythmes LP, Unidisc
Espaces Dynamiques LP, Unidisc [+]
1974 Métamorphoses LP, Unidisc [+]

Dakar 1966 – 1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres

'1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres' LP front cover'1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres' LP back cover'1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres' spread'1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres' side 1Dakar1966 Festival posterCheikh Anta Diop (left) and Alioune Diop, Paris, 1950sDiop, Senghor and Cissé Dia, Dakar 1966Senghor at Musée Dynamique, Dakar 1966

01 Evocation du Spectacle Féérique de Gorée (24:06)
(Gorée Island Enchanting Tale)

Petite Musique de Cour des Rois Mandingue et Balante
(Ancient Court Music of the Mandingue and Balante Senegalese Kings)
02 Improvisation Pour Une Fête (kora and balafon) (2:55)
03 Air pour une Fiancée (balafon solo) (3:18)
04 Nocturne pour une Reine (kora improvisation) (2:03)

Songs of New Nations,
sung by the De Paur Chorus (New Jersey)
05 Ghana (2:54)
06 Nigeria (4:16)
07 Congo (2:11)
08 Nigeria (3:12)
09 Ghana (2:55)

Total time 47:40
LP released by Philips, France, 1966


Alioune DiopThe idea of a World Festival of Negro Arts (1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres, aka FESMAN) was proposed at the Conference of Black Writers in Rome, 1956, organized by Alioune Diop (1910-1980), director of the ‘Présence Africaine’ journal in Paris, and publisher of African Literature and History books. A fellow Senegalese, poet Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001) took part to this conference and, as soon as he was elected President of Senegal when the country proclaimed its independence in 1960, he offered Dakar, the capital, to host the festivities. Diop would be the Festival’s artistic director, with help from writer and négritude [+] champion Aimé Césaire and 2 assistants: Swiss anthropologist Jean Gabus (1908-1992) [+] and Cameroonian Jesuit priest and Art historian, Engelbert Mveng (1930-1995) [+]. But Senghor definitely wanted to use the event as a political lever and a négritude flagship, especially since North African countries rejected the concept in favor of Pan-Africanism [+], a doctrine aiming at a fierce independence towards Western countries.

On April 1st, 1966, an international conference (with funding from UNESCO) opened the Festival which was to last until April 24th. A new art museum called Musée Dynamique (again with UNESCO funds) was build in Dakar to exhibit the numerous folk art and ceremonial objects sent by invited countries. For the first time in Africa, folk art was to be examined as Art, and cultural objects on display were compared to each other. The exhibition was shown in Paris as well, 6 months later. A theater was also build in Dakar, called Théatre Daniel-Sorano, to give the African premiere of La tragédie du Roi Christophe, a play by Aimé Césaire. Guest artists to the Festival included: historian Cheikh Anta Diop (1923 -1986); Arthur Mitchell and Alvin Ailey (of the American Negro Dance Company); Mestre Pastrinha, a Capoeira troupe from Bahia; Duke Ellington; Marion Williams; singers Julie Akofa Akoussah and Bella Bellow; writers Aimé Césaire, Langston Hughes, Wole Soyinka, Amiri Baraka and Nelson Mandela. In any respect, this Festival is a key event for Postcolonial studies.

This LP was presumably published by Philips in France in 1966, though the record itself has no proper release date. It looks like mere lip service from some French officials (namely, André Malraux) to Senghor, a loyal ally in Senegal, where the Total Group had been doing extensive oil business since 1954. It comes as no surprise the 2009 Paris exhibition (see below) is sponsored by Total. The first side of this LP, ‘Evocation du Spectacle Féérique de Gorée’,  is a 24mn narration of the history of Senegal, Gorée Island and the slave trade, the birth of Dakar and independence of Senegal. It sounds like Ronald Reagan narrating the American Revolution – nation building produces more or less always the same sounds, regardless of continents –, complete with various songs, excellent percussion interjections, incidental music, environmental sounds and noises. Senegal’s national anthem, composed by Senghor, is a paean to kora and balafon, the national instruments. Their inclusion on the B side of this LP could only please Senghor.

Original impetus and basic information for this post come from the exhibition ‘Présence Africaine: A Forum, a Movement, a Network’ , held in Paris from Nov. 10, 2009 to Jan. 31, 2010 (see English press release PDF). Extensive use has been made of several articles from the catalog, especially by Eloi Ficquet and Lorraine Gallimardet. The LP itself is neither on display at the exhibition, nor mentionned in the catalog.

Paris, Quai Branly exhibition, 2009Exhibition catalog, Gradhiva, November 2009


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