More big news to finish off the year with a bang!
Two new titles to report – one from each of my greatest musical inspirations.
The first is John Higgs’ new book – THE KLF: Chaos, Magic, and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds.
To quote DJ Food, who just blogged about the book at the end of October:
“If there’s one event that the book centers on it’s the burning of a million pounds and from there he draws clear lines to Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea, Alan Moore, Ken Campbell, the number 23, Dr Who, magical thinking, The Dadaists, the Devil, Discordianism, the assassination of Kennedy, Wicker Men and the banking crisis of the late 20th Century.”
This is definitely not your average KLF biography.
The book went into print just last September, so I was happy to create an entry for the title on Goodreads and to provide its first review.
I’m 3/4 through this brilliant book and with each new chapter I am amazed how much this humble little paperback reveals about global events and cultural responses of the 20th century.
For example, Chapter 12: Undercurrents examines the quiet death of 20th century culture – the forgettable early-to-mid 90s.
The chapter summarizes the beginnings and endings of cultural climates, citing key events beginning with Darwinism’s impact on the pillar of faith in the late nineteenth century to The Great War, the conflict of the 40s, the conformity of the 50s, the liberation of the 60s, the hedonistic self-indulgence of the 70s, and the shift toward material wealth in the 1980s.
All of this lead to the 90s – the point where culture simply burned out. “They were out of ideas.” Slacker became the iconic low-culture film of 1991. Nihilism peaked in 1994 with Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the KLF’s burning of a million pounds, and the death of Bill Hicks.
And with these events, Higgs declares, “this was the point when the constant creation of new musical genres that had characterized the 20th century came to an end.”
Higgs refers to 1991-94 as the “Age of Extremes,” bracketed by the end of the Cold War and by the birth of first popular web browser.
The chapter also touches upon Surrealism, Situationism, Anti-capitalism, Communism, Fascism, Dadaism, The Cabaret Voltaire, Generation X, Tony Blair, George W Bush, The Spice Girls, and how all of these lead us to the new millennium.
Other chapters are equally rich in content. Chapter 4: Magic and Moore, (specifically pp 80 – 89) examine the nature of consciousness, Carl Jung, Alan Moore’s concept of “Ideaspace,” and reality, itself.
A thoroughly exciting book, I had to put it down mid-chapter just to collect my thoughts.
One thing is for certain – Higgs’ book will give you more insight into the mysterious entity that is the K-Foundation than you could ever have asked for.
And I was absolutely delighted when I received a record from my other great inspiration in the post – the first solo recording from Underworld-frontman Karl Hyde.
For those who aren’t aware of my history with Underworld, the debut record of Underworld Mk II – Dubnobasswithmyheadman was the very first album I heard which wasn’t top 40 radio pop.
The album set me on a path to discover the progressive and cerebral sounds of the avant-garde and the history of electronic music. And the album’s packaging, designed by Karl Hyde and his design company, Tomato, inspired me to pursue my degree in graphic design.
In the 35 years since two gents from Cardiff sold their first single out of the boot of their car, Underworld has gone on to write floor-stomping anthems, to collaborate with Danny Boyle on Trainspotting and more recently, the Frankenstein play with Benedict Cumberbatch, and to score the 3-hour opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
They’ve produced experimental works with Brian Eno and created ambient installation pieces for their Tomato art collective.
And now, in 2013, Karl Hyde has released his first-ever solo LP at the age of 57.
Edgeland is an elegant and ethereal experimental record – an appropriately sophisticated first solo venture for the man who has been pioneering the electronic genre for decades.
There are subtle but clear elements of inspiration sprinkled throughout the record which Karl’s life-long fans will surely detect. The last 40 seconds of “Final Ray of the Sun” for example contains a few notes from a muted, compressed harmonica. The sample comes from a single titled, “Big Mouth” released by Karl back in 1995 under the moniker, Lemon Interupt. The single received little press or radio play, but true Underworld fans will smile contentedly when the harmonica begins to play on “Final Ray.”
The percussive piano loop which comprises the opening 10 seconds of “Out of Darkness” serves as a subtle nod to Terry Riley’s genre-defining minimal masterpiece, “In C.”
Furthermore, the fragmented instrumentation of “Dancing on the Graves” and the mechanical vocals of “Cascading Lights” are musical elements one might suspect were lifted from Brain Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
Even if not for those particular samples, Brian Eno’s collaborative impact is certainly evident in Karl’s trademarked stream-of-consciousness vocals. It is a mature, contemplative record and a triumph for Karl Hyde.
The release of this new LP inspired me to take on a large project. This evening I set myself to the task of downloading the largest compendium of Underworld’s work – all in 320CBR quality and merged it with my own UW library, twice the size of the web-sourced archive.
In four hours’ time, I had constructed a 27GB network of 393 sub-folders and over 2,500 tracks. I applied uniform naming conventions to the entire set to establish the first archival-quality library of their extended catalog.
Each folder is prefixed with the year of release, and suffixed with its respective catalog number. Albums are sorted into folders such as ALBUMS, DEMOS & PROTOTYPES, INTERVIEWS, LIVE RELEASES, SINGLES, SOUNDTRACKS, etc, etc.
I plan to spend the remaining evenings of the year tagging the entire network of files to match the folder structure.
And I will enjoy every minute of it.
Thanks for tuning in for 2013 and I’ll see you next year!