Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s New Biography and Orbscure Recordings Label

It’s a red-letter day at Innerspace Labs! Just arrived from England is a wonderful new treasure – an autographed copy of the newly-published biography on Alex Paterson of The Orb, along with an exclusive 12-track album showcasing music he intends to release on the new record label he’s started to feature up-and-coming ambient artists from around the world!

From The Orb’s official announcement:

New Biography – Babble on an’ Ting

Always steered by Alex Paterson, The Orb were the mischief-making pioneers of the late 80s acid house revolution. Inventing “ambient house”, they took it to the top of the charts, before continuing its idiosyncratic flight path through subsequent decades, battling meteor storms en route.

Published 28th May via Omnibus Press, Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s Incredible Journey Beyond the Ultraworld with The Orb, is the first full account of his life story. Written by close friend and music journalist Kris Needs, the book reveals Alex’s astonishing journey from traumatic Battersea childhood through punk, Killing Joke and KLF to starting The Orb in 1988, then the five decade roller coaster that followed. Moving, shocking, hilarious and inspiring, at the heart of this story lies a true survivor doggedly following their musical passion.

First-hand interviews include those with Youth, Andrew Weatherall, Primal Scream, Jah Wobble, Jimmy Cauty and a parade of friends, collaborators and starship mechanics.

“I decided to do a book now as I have reached one full human cycle – 60. Also, to tell my side of stories and to set the record straight on planet Orb,” says Alex. “Working with Kris was seriously brilliant fun. We have been friends and allies for decades now. He’s a beautiful man with a deep knowledge of all things secret and actually lived through some of the stories together.”

The book’s title, of course, is a reference to a Victor Lewis Smith prank call sampled by The Orb on their number one album UFOrb

And of the new record label, they announced:

New Label – Orbscure Recordings

Always keen to collaborate, ever prolific, and with his creativity as flowing as ever, Orbscure Recordings is a new vehicle for Paterson’s impressive quantity of output in different groups which runs parallel to his continued music within The Orb. Set up under the Cooking Vinyl umbrella at the suggestion of label head Rob Collins, Orbscure will also be an outlet for new music from artists from around the world.

“The name is a play on the Obscure label Eno set up on Editions EG in the 1970s. Orbs Cure. Clever parrot-Orbscure! Orbscure! Orbs Cure for all ills. Orbs Cure made 2 chill” states Alex.

Having helmed the Orb collective for over 30 years, releasing music on other people’s labels in partnership with various label managers/A&Rs, Alex now finds himself in the driving seat, coordinating an even wider group of talent. Picking up from his past experience as an A&R for the legendary EG Records, there is already a raft of new releases in the pipeline with three albums set for release this year. The label will feature artists from Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, Japan and America with further collaborative projects to follow.

Paterson’s initial new musical project adopts the moniker, Sedibus with a full-length LP titled, The Heavens. From the official announcement:

The first release on Orbscure Recordings is Sedibus ‘The Heavens’, released 28th May an astonishing collaboration between Alex and original Orb member Andy Falconer who engineered/co-wrote the ambient sides of the Ultraworld album back in 1991. 30 years have passed since that seminal release when the two were last in the studio together.

Kris Needs is a British author and music journalist. The author bio from the official press statement for Babble on an’ Ting notes that Needs started his career writing for the seminal monthly magazine, Zigzag in the 70s, becoming editor while writing for NME and Sounds. The 352-page adventure is issued in paperback by Omnibus Press and special signed copies autographed by Paterson, himself were bundled with the 12-track sampler CD of upcoming tracks from Paterson’s new record label.

The tracklist for the Orbscure Recordings Sampler is as follows:

  1. Intro – Roney FM
  2. Unknowable – Sedibus
  3. Wow Picasso! – OSS
  4. Home – Chocolate Hills
  5. Squirrels In Jumpsuits – Roland & Albert
  6. Shika – Mawe
  7. Latchmere Allotments – The Orb
  8. America Is Unavailable – Transit Kings
  9. Turn Right – Cripps Said Mason
  10. The Librarian – DF Tram
  11. Fara – Nick Neutronz
  12. Here For Beer – High Frequency Bandwidth

Curiously, while the TownsendMusic Ltd website’s copies of the autographed book bundle, priced at just $30 plus shipping, dispatched the day before official public release on May 28, 2021, Amazon’s regular unsigned copies of the book without the Orbscure Sampler album are priced at $24.99 and will not ship until September 9th. Though Americans paid $31.50 in postage for DP US Direct Tracked shipping from the UK, the TownsendMusic Ltd offer was still incredibly alluring, especially for an historic release such as this.

I’m honored to have been able to claim a copy of this special bundle. Paterson is an ambient veteran and pioneer of an immeasurably influential genre of music – one of the most treasured artists in my library. It is a joy to see, even at the age of 60, that Alex still has fresh new ideas and is taking an active role in pushing new and emerging ambient electronic artists from around the globe to the fore.

Orbscure Recordings will be a label to watch in the months and years ahead.

The Future Starts Here – John Higgs’ Latest Cultural Exploration

This is the third and latest of Higgs’ works on cultural criticism to enter my library, following The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds and Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century and is surely his most exhaustive to date, dedicating nearly 400 pages to examining the first 18 years of the new millennium. 

I discovered the book by chance while hungrily searching for cultural examinations of post-postmodernism / metamodernism and media culture. Higgs’ previous works are some of the most insightful and contextual writings on contemporary culture I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, so the news of a new book was an absolute thrill.

Acquiring this text was a challenge amid the COVID-19 outbreak as at the time the book was only available from UK distributors in its first hardcover run, but thankfully I was able to secure a copy internationally from The Book Depository.

While his KLF book primarily examined culture through the lens of the band, Stranger Than We Can Imagine provided greater insight into global culture as a whole, so the announcement of this new book inspired immediate action on my part. I’d found my eagerness increasing with each successive chapter of Stranger Than We Can Imagine, while Higgs ushered his readers from one decade to the next. By the time I reached postmodernism (expertly described in the context of Super Mario Bros) and the pivotal transition from the hierarchical absolutist worldview to the communal network culture of the millennials, I was on the edge of my socio-cultural seat. It was a brilliant read, and just as satisfying and informative as his book on The KLF.

Eager for information on his latest book, I found that Greg Wilson published a review of it on his blog and noted that Higgs counters “the dystopian narrative that’s generally thrust upon our thoughts of the future by the various media we encounter, in favour of a much more hopeful and holistic tomorrow that makes better sense of the metamodern world in which we reside.”

The first few pages of the introduction outline how, in the 1930s, all visions of the future, like the World’s Fair, depicted a marvelous utopia where mankind is free from work and want. That dream, Higgs explains, ended in the 1980s. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is cited as the last attempt at a utopian vision in mainstream culture. Back to the Future Part 2, The Walking Dead, and Children of Men painted a far more bleak image of what was to come. Higgs notes that films no longer had to preface the audience as to why the world had fallen into disarray, as it became increasingly more believable. Higgs writes:

As the American writer Adam Sternbergh has noted, ‘the biggest problem with imagining dystopia seems to be coming up with some future world that’s worse than what’s happening right now.’

And prophetically, Higgs then states:

If we judge by the stories we’re fed by film and television, then our current civilization can feel like a crime novel with the last page ripped out. We don’t know exactly the identity of the murderer, but we do know that the story is about to come to an end. Perhaps a new antibiotic-resistant disease will erupt into a global pandemic and wipe us from the face of the Earth.

That last sentence was all the more alarming as the book was published just a few months before COVID-19 shook the planet.

Each chapter of The Future Starts Here examines a facet of rapidly-changing culture and technology and frames their impact on psychology and sociology and the human race as a whole. Most of these chapters could stand well on their own as essays on their respective topics, but Higgs is an expert at demonstrating the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate subjects to paint a contextual image of cultural influence.

Much of the text examines the nature of artificial intelligence, but Higgs also dedicates a potent and impactful chapter to a comparative analysis of generational culture. I was fascinated by how he demonstrated the origins of the contrasting value sets of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Generation Z. This was what I was most looking forward to from his latest book after enjoying the author’s prior comprehensive critique of twentieth-century culture. Higgs effectively outlines the causes and effects of these generational value sets, perhaps best-demonstrated by depicting Gen Z’s reaction to the John Hughes film, The Breakfast Club.

A later chapter surveys both fictional and factual phenomena of space exploration and the conflicting characteristics of various Star Trek series and films, specifically differentiating those sanctioned by and contested by Gene Roddenberry. This chapter also highlights the technological impact of Elon Musk before emphasizing the importance of the universes yet to be explored right here on Earth.

The subject matter is deeply explorative. A chapter beginning with the technological advances in virtual reality quickly reframes the potential consequences of the technology, both positive and negative, and examines it comparatively to phenomena like Skinner boxes, ‘redpilling,’ Gamergate, Russian troll bots, cultural Marxism, tribalism, and other psychological influencers of social imprinting, while also touching upon its potential for medical benefits and its usefulness as a proponent of social empathy. The chapter goes on to reference VR in contemporary cinema, (e.g. WALL-E and Ready Player One), as well as the Oculus VR company and its acquisition by Facebook. The chapter concludes with an examination of augmented reality, Pokemon Go, and Google Glass, and looks ahead to the potential of virtual pets and personal AI assistants, as well as the moral and ethical implications this technology would bear. As always, Higgs’ writing is richly contextual.

Another chapter, fittingly titled, “Psychic Pollution,” cautions against the dire consequences of our collective addiction to social media and the disinformation it so often spreads. Higgs parallels Facebook algorithms to the history of psychologically predatory advertising and twenty four hour alarmist and sensationalist news networks. He outlines the nature of our biological addiction to dopamine and how these phenomena prey on our need for a neurochemical hit.

But not all of the twenty-first century is so dismal and worrisome. The penultimate chapter, “Fixing Things” poses the potential benefits of the American biologist E. O. Wilson’s Half Earth initiative and of implementing Universal Basic Income. Higgs is certainly not without hope. From James Surwillo’s feature on the book:  

Higgs calls for a new pragmatic optimism because history has shown that there is always a new story in the “circumambient mythos” as he calls it, which is different than the one that those of us who grew up in the prior era are able to interpret. That potential is a very real phenomenon of the world of the 21st century. It is the idea that we have matured to the point that it is possible to become “meta”, or to psychically remove ourselves from a time and place and review a new and pragmatic position. This potential frees up post-millennials to introduce a more mature version of meaning itself.

The closing chapter, “More Than Individual” explores American anarchist author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Immediatism and Brian Eno’s scenius as examples of the interconnectedness of the twenty-first century culture. Higgs concludes his examination of the early years of this new millennium with hope and optimism. He notes that, for much of the twentieth-century, “the job of advancing what it meant to be human fell to the avant-garde and the counterculture.” Contrastingly however, “since the emergence of the internet in the mid-90s,” “…the work of evolving and improving the human experience falls to everyone.”

The Future Starts Here is an engaging and exploratory venture into the culture and mindset of the new millennium. It’s an inspiring, informative, and contextual perspective I’m grateful to have read.

Brian Eno Collection Milestone

Today I’ve proudly reached a milestone with my Brian Eno collection. In addition to the dozens of art prints, books, lithographs, 85 digital releases, and other miscellanea I’ve acquired, I’ve now successfully built a sizable library of most major releases issued in the vinyl format by the artist. 

While there are still a number of bootlegs and collaborative efforts, as well as titles from Eno’s catalog originally issued in the 90s now being released for the first time on vinyl, my library comprises 40 of his best-loved works totaling 64 discs of content, including the highly sought-after Music For Installations 9LP limited edition box set.

This feature will showcase the most noteworthy elements of my collection to date. I’ll begin with the LPs, themselves. It was quite a challenge to photograph 40 12” multi-disc releases all in one shot, particularly without photographer’s lamps and other equipment, but I’ve done my best using the trusty digital SLR I received from my family when I first started art college twenty-two years ago.

Here are the LPs:

01 Brian Eno Collage LP Vinyl Collection sm for web

Next, for some art, here is the “Electric Love Blueprint – A History of Electronic Music” theremin schematic created by the Dorothy design collective. The infographic “celebrates over 200 inventors, innovators, artists, composers and musicians who (in our opinion) have been pivotal to the evolution of electronic music, from the invention of the earliest known sound recording device in 1857 to the present day.” Of course, Brian Eno’s name appears typeset in the largest point size of any pioneer cited among the layout.

The 60 x 80 cm art print is printed with metallic silver ink on 120gsm Keaykolour Royal Blue uncoated stock. It was gifted to me by a dear friend and hangs proudly in my listening room.

Next is a limited edition oversized promotional art print for Eno’s 77 Million Paintings exhibition at Moogfest in 2011.

And just for fun, I had a t-shirt printed up with the art from one of the most influential early Eno solo albums, Before and After Science.

I also made sure to track down an original UK pressing of that very album specifically for the large lithographs exclusive to that edition painted by Peter Schmidt. I had the lithographs professionally framed for my dining room.

I also secured both original and remastered pressings of Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. The Extended Edition includes the For All Mankind bonus LP and I was among the first 250 to order which got me a handsome 42cm x 59cm poster of the Apollo cover artwork which I had framed as well.

I was similarly inspired by Eno’s pioneering ambient effort, Music For Airports, so I prepared a framed print of the sheet music of the album’s score.

Then there is the DVD collecting Eno’s experiments with film, Thursday Afternoon (1984) and Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan (1981)

I’ve previously shared my excitement when I learned that Eno had collaborated with one of my other musical heroes, Karl Hyde of Underworld. I framed the pair of postcards included with their two album releases.

There was also an art print included with original pressings of Eno and Hyde’s first collaboration, Someday World, which I’ve framed in my listening room.

And while working as a designer, I independently produced a 24” x 24” oversized PVC-mounted vinyl print of a graphic I designed mapping a chronology of all of Eno’s creative works both as an artist and as a producer. Here is a web-friendly downscaled copy of the artwork with a magnified sample of an area of text.

Of course, what Eno collection would be complete without an edition of the Oblique Strategies oracle deck? 

And finally, here is my library of thirteen books examining the mind and the art of Brian Eno. It was great fun compiling them all, including a copy of Eno’s own diary, A Year With Swollen Appendices.

That is the collection to date. I know that it is far from complete. My research reveals an additional 14 vinyl releases far more rare than anything I have and nearly 2,600 releases with Eno named in the credits, but I made sure to collect all of the titles which were of great significance to me, personally. 

Thank you for permitting me to share my love for great music. Eno and his work are an unparalleled inspiration in my life.

Enography: The Collected Writings of (and about) Brian Eno

I’ve been reading texts on artist, producer, and self-proclaimed “non-musician” Brian Eno for years, and thought it might be a good idea to start tracking all of the books examining his work in my library. I extracted a list of all Eno-related texts from moredarkthanshark.org and added a few other rare titles from my own archive. Referencing data from my Goodreads account I built a spreadsheet to catalog which texts I’ve read, which I have in physical form, as well as the ones I have as ebooks. I then used an aggregate book search engine to secure physical copies of most of the texts I was missing to build as complete a library as I was able. There are three titles I’ve yet to claim, but they command higher prices than I was ready to import to the States for this first stage of the project.

Pictured below are thirteen of my favorite titles on the subjects of Eno’s work, and ambient and generative music in general. There was a week delay in the project after book #13 was lost in the post and I had to order another copy, but at last I have them all.

I was particularly excited to secure a copy of Sound Unbound published by MIT Press, which compiles essays on sample/mashup/remix culture collected by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and which features a Forward by Cory Doctorow, my favorite essayist on the subjects of digital rights activism and copyleftism. And like the Moondog book I recently ordered, it is packaged with a companion compact disc of the works discussed.

Pictured are the following:

Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports by John T. Lysaker
Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music by Christoph Cox
Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds by David Toop
A Year With Swollen Appendices by Brian Eno
Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond by Michael Nyman
Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound by Eric Tamm
The Ambient Century by Mark Prendergast
Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture by Paul D. Miller
On Some Faraway Beach: The Life And Times Of Brian Eno by David Sheppard
Another Green World (33 1/3 Series) by Geeta Dayal
Brian Eno: Visual Music by Christopher Scoates
Brian Eno: Oblique Music by Sean Albiez
Music For Installations (companion book to the ltd ed. 2018 9LP vinyl box set) by Brian Eno

as well as the official Oblique Strategies deck Eno produced with artist, Peter Schmidt.

Also read but not pictured: 

Music Beyond Airports – Appraising Ambient Music by Monty Adkins

I really look forward to diving into the yet-unread titles from this indispensable collection. These books will be wonderful company through the chills of winter and shall serve as an intellectually stimulating start to 2020!

02 Brian Eno Book Collection (sm for web)

The Ultimate Index v3.0 – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook is LIVE!

It’s been a magnificently productive day at Innerspace Labs and we’ve reached what is to date our most prestigious milestone. I published a feature last March about the evolution of my life-long list-making of sound works, cinema, and literature that I’ve been meaning to explore. These lists also served to touch upon some of the special collections in my archive.

In the previous article I described how this process began with leather pocket journals, and as the scale of my library grew I began to publish annual print editions itemizing large collections.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

These efforts were radically transformed several years ago when I migrated to Google Drive. But as the years passed and spreadsheets and documents multiplied, it rapidly became apparent that I needed to consolidate all of these various lists into a single, deep searchable index otherwise countless lists would be forgotten and disappear into the digital void of my Google Drive.

Thus began the Innerspace Labs Master Workbook project this past spring. Though this venture posed several new dilemmas. As the workbook grew to nearly 200 tabs, I received this error stating that Google Workbooks are limited to 5 million or fewer cells.

Google Error 5 Million Cells Spreadsheet Workbook.png

And it quickly became evident that navigation of all those tabs was painfully arduous in the mobile environment, as was its loading time. Thankfully, after careful research into various potential solutions, I’ve implemented a system of scripts and formula expressions which make navigating this large workbook a snap and its interactive response time nearly instantaneous.

By combining over 200 named ranges, and incorporating a primary dynamic drop-down and a dependent secondary drop-down field, along with an “=INDIRECT(CONCATENATE” expression calling named ranges based on user input, I’m now able to hide and lock all but one master sheet and made the entire workbook navigable from that single homepage.

The home sheet offers the user a primary drop-down of LITERATURE, SOUND, or VIDEO, which in turn controls a secondary dependent drop-down to populate and auto-alphabetize a list of all related content for that category.

I’ve also employed a script which is triggered by Google Clock to rescan the entire workbook for newly-added lists and to automatically incorporate them into the search fields alphabetically and by category as the workbook continues to grow.

I understand that it may not have significant value to anyone other than myself, but it’s intended to serve as a reference document along with the over 200-pages of archive summaries I’ve drafted in a companion Google Doc. With this easy-to-reference Workbook, I can pull up a list in seconds and start exploring. My hope is that the project helps introduce me to some spectacular content and that it helps me rediscover forgotten areas of my library.

The next phase of the project is to apply uniform formatting to all lists, as these were drafted independently over the course of nearly a decade, so I apologize for the crudity of its present format. And of course, there may be errors or omissions among the lists. But you know that I’ll work tirelessly to make this project as accurate and accessible as I can.

Here is a link to a copy of the latest version. It showcases and attempts to organize ~26,000 of the most noteworthy elements of my personal library and related subjects of interest. All cells are locked for editing except the two dynamic drop downs, which is sufficient for general users to explore and interact with the document. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a labor of love that I will continue to work on and which I hope will enrich my life as it continues to expose me to some of the greatest works of the ages.

Professor Cory Doctorow – Essential Texts on Free Culture

Cory Doctorow Books 08-10-19 Content Context and Information Doesn't Want To Be Free

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger, as well as the co-editor of Boing Boing, and a contributing writer to Wire. He worked for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and helped establish the Open Rights Group. Doctorow was also the keynote speaker at the July 2016 Hackers on Planet Earth conference.

He is the originator of Doctorow’s Law: “Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.”

Common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, and the digital economy.

I’ve read and re-read his articles numerous times after downloading his DRM-free ebooks from his Craphound dot com website, and decided these were essential titles for my physical library so I’ve purchased printed copies and am enjoying reading them all over again.

Here are Content, Context, and Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free. Highly recommend as an insightful, brilliant, and funny collection of his infamous articles, essays, and polemics on the state of copyright and creative success for content creators in the digital age.

These are essential works on Free Culture, Open Source, Creative Commons, Free Software Foundation, Copyleft, and the post-scarcity economics. I’d greatly welcome recommendations for other related films and literature for my library.

 

Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports book by John T. Lysaker

Brian Eno's Ambient 1 - Music For Airports by John T Lysaker 06-30-19

When I learned that Oxford University Press had just published a volume of its Keynotes series wholly dedicated to examining Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports, I raced to secure a copy.

The keynote was written by John Lysaker, the William R. Kenan Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department. Researchgate.net reports Lysaker’s project goal with the book was to provide “a 30,000 word study of Eno’s seminal album. This short study will explore the nature of ambient music, situate the album in 20th century avant garde music practice, and consider multiple forms of listening.”

Lysaker outlines the origins of this exploration in the Acknowledgements:

I test-drove some early thoughts at a meeting of the American Philosophies Forum. This was a great prod in the right direction, and comments from other participants proved useful as the project developed, as did the opportunity to concretize those remarks in an article, “Turning Listening Inside Out” which appeared in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.

(He also acknowledges) the writings of Geeta Dayal, David Sheppard, Cecilia Sun, Eric Tamm, and David Toop (and included) the titles of their books alongside others in the section called Additional Sources for Reading and Listening. (He also thanks) the tireless laborers that maintain two websites: MORE DARK THAN SHARK and EnoWeb. Each has gathered numerous interviews that are resources for scholars and fans alike.

The Introduction quickly frames the tasks undertaken by the book:

This short study is for listeners who want to think and reflect on what Eno’s LP has to offer, and in a way that deepens future listening rather than replaces it with scholarly prose.

Five chapters and an afterward follow. They blend musical and historical analysis with occasional philosophical reflections on what “music” means in a context as provocative as the one convened by MFA.

Chapter 2: Music for Airports and the Avant-Garde touches upon a number of pivotal composers and works which paved the way for MFA. David Toop’s Ocean of Sound is discussed, as are Debussy, Ives, Schoenberg, Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique, Michael Nyman, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room, David Tudor, Cage, and Riley’s In C. Lysaker demonstrates how each of these predecessors provided an environment for Eno’s composition and he concludes the chapter by succinctly identifying the properties and musical concepts embraced by Music for Airports:

…in a short book, one is forced to make choices, and I elect to provide what I consider MFA‘s most immediate context… …Rather, I’ve been marking conceptual, technological, and sonic shifts that helped make a record like MFA possible, and we’ve encountered several.

  • Music can be built around something other than a motif, or basic musical phrase.
  • Microtones and the dissonances they introduce can be musical.
  • Traditional harmony (and even harmony altogether) neither exhausts nor is required for a musically legitimate arrangement of sounds.
  • Any sound is suitable material for a musical composition.
  • New technologies for the generation and reproduction of sound are not only welcome but necessary.
  • The presence of unintended sounds, i.e. noise, is an acceptable (and inevitable) part of a musical work.
  • Musical works can productively interact with the sonic environment in which they are produced.
  • Single tones and chords are musically complex and interesting, particularly when sustained for lengthy periods of time or subjected to extended repetition.

Chapter 4: Ambience explores the nature and function of the general umbrella of various ambient musics. Satie’s musique d’ameublement (“furniture music”) is examined, as is divertimenti music of the eighteenth century. Lysaker goes on to contextualize Cage, La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening album, Moby, Aphex Twin, Thomas Köner, Wolfgang Voigt, Robert Scott Thompson, Max Richter’s Sleep, William Basinski, Stars of the Lid, and FSOL, as well as a brief history of Muzak and the 1950s Capital Records “Moods in Music” series.

Lysaker quotes Eno’s description of MFA‘s movement “away from narrative and toward landscape” and says that “MFA‘s somewhat amorphous and discontinuous sonic material seems to suspend its listeners somewhere in the space between hearing and listening.”

He describes the state of reverie induced by MFA, and suggests that it “enters life differently – obliquely, gently, but nevertheless, at least on occasion, transformatively.”

The final Chapter 5: Between Hearing and Listening – Music for Airports as Conceptual Art effectively summarizes the conceptual nature of MFA:

At one extreme, futurists like Russolo tried to humanize those sounds, creating compositions that strove to translate the sounds of the world into an expanded but nevertheless fully realized musical idiom. At the other extreme, Cage sought to let sounds be sounds through compositions that removed as thoroughly as possible his taste, judgment, and skill as a composer.

When interpreted conceptually, the approaches of Russolo and Cage create an opposition: either (a) art absorbs nature in the self-enlarging process, versus (b) art exposes nature in a self-effacing one. The former offers us culture over nature, whereas the latter labors to displace human activity from an emerging culture-or field-of sounds. MFA eludes this opposition, seeking neither a denatured culture nor an ascetically cleansed field of sounds. Instead, it enacts itself as one aspect of the world operating on another. By working with its world, and by clarifying itself with theories that naturalize the human desire to make art, it presents itself as nature unfolding, taking nature, cybernetically, as a dynamic system of interactions that includes its (and our) own efforts.

Lysaker presents and describes various forms of listening, including background listening, foreground or performance listening, aesthetic listening, adequate listening, and regressive or narcissistic listening. He then offers a metaphor for the reader to consider the type of listening warranted by MFA through a different “lens” of prismatic or immersive listening.

He goes on to observe the subtle differences between listening to MFA across different media formats, from compact disc to vinyl, and then explores the vastly different texture, spaciality, and sonic palette offered by the instrumental realization of the album by Bang on a Can which displaces the monochromatic character of “2/2,” effectively enlivening and humanizing the track.

The book concludes with an Afterward framing the enduring influence of MFA, and the author closes with a brief list of further reading and listening materials. Additionally, Oxford University Press created a website to accompany the book that features audio clips of many musical passages discussed over the course of its chapters.

The short text was a delightful and engaging read, and the philosophy explored by the author is never lost to overly-academic pomp. The book is a thoughtful and knowledgeable reflection on a critically influential work of music which continues to influence and inspire musicians and listeners alike over forty years after its release.

The Ultimate Index: The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

February has been a whirlwind of productivity and I’m excited to share the results of my efforts. Thus far I’ve introduced five projects. First I discovered that the disk snapshot solution I’d been employing for my server would no longer work at its current scale, so I had to research and implement a new solution. Once that was a success, I set myself to the task of merging and updating two music database systems I’d created years apart on two different operating systems. That was an incredible challenge.

The next three projects were featured here at Innerspace Labs – first the Nipper RCA “His Master’s Voice” project, then the six-hour drone high-fidelity ambient experiment with Eno’s Music For Airports, followed by the Fred Deakin archive update. But it was the sixth subsequent undertaking which would consume countless late night hours as the latest project continuously exploded in scope and scale, each time introducing new challenges to test my problem-solving skills.

For as long as I’ve been breathing, I’ve been compiling and organizing lists of all manners of subjects. I thrive creating order from chaos – chronicling and curating media of the 20th-century. As a young man, I penned lists in leather pocket journals but was frustrated by the fixed and static state of the data one committed to the page. I quickly graduated to Microsoft Office and then to LibreOffice, and by 2013 began self-publishing books of collected lists and spreadsheets to document the progress of my archive.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

But the true game-changer came when I adopted the Google suite of apps, most notably Google Docs, Sheets, and the Google Keep task manager. These applications introduced undo history, increased accessibility, and most importantly, shareability to my list-making efforts.

Still, the seamless convenience of Google Drive came with a caveat – scores of lists once generated were quickly forgotten, and the sheer number of them made Google Keep and Google Calendar reminders cumbersome and an ineffective method of managing them at this scale. What I came to realize was that dozens of quality sets of information were disappearing into the digital black void of a Google Drive overrun with lists.

That’s what inspired this latest project. I decided to survey my entire history of list-making, compiling databases created in a wide array of formats and constructed on multiple platforms over the years, and to merge them all into a single workbook on Google Sheets. It was an incredible challenge, as the formatting of the data varied tremendously from .M3U to .PUB to raw .TXT to .XLS to proprietary database systems built for Windows XP (OrangeCD), to web-based database systems like Discogs and Goodreads which each offered .CSV exports.

To depict folder-structure-based organizational systems, (commonly employed for artists and label discographies), I utilized tree -d list.txt for large libraries. To extract %artist% and %title% metadata from RYM toplist playlists I’d constructed, I developed a spreadsheet combining four formulas to pull nth row values and to truncate “#EXTINF:###,” expressions and file paths from .M3U lists outputting a clean list of tracks.

In October of 2017 I’d authored The Innerspace Labs Journal: A Listener’s Guide to Exploration in Google Docs as a contextual survey of my larger collections. It spans eighty-four pages and includes an active hyperlinked TOC with an X.XX indexing structure and served my needs well for the past two years, but for simple down-and-dirty lists a spreadsheet seemed like a more accessible format.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Journal A Listener's Guide to Exploration

And so I constructed this latest effort – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook – a cloud-based 180-tab set of spreadsheets combining all of my list data into a single, searchable, sharable index with a hyperlinked Table of Contents for easy navigation. The interface is intuitive, it loads lightning fast on even the most modest of systems and across all browsers and platforms, is mobile-friendly, and it will continue to grow as new content is introduced to my library.

The TOC is segmented into four primary themes:

  1. Literature and Essays
  2. Cinema and Television
  3. Sound Pt 1: Music Surveys, Best-Of Lists, and Guides
  4. Sound Pt 2: Artist Discographic Chronologies, Audiobooks, and Old-Time Radio Dramas

While a few of the tabs contain hyperlinks to lists from multi-page sites which do not send themselves well to text extraction, I’ve done my best to embed as much of the information as possible locally in the workbook, itself and to keep the layout consistently uniform to facilitate navigation and clarity.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

Unlike the self-published books or the somewhat daunting length of the Journal, this workbook is simple and localizes the data a viewer is most interested in exploring to a single, plaintext sheet for quick and easy reference. The shareability is key to aiding curious listeners/viewers in finding quality content relevant to their interests, and it is simultaneously a tool to empower me to delve into the many areas of my own library which I’ve yet to explore.

This is a milestone for Innerspace Labs, and I will continue to refine and expand the project into the future.

Christmas in February – Loads of New Content from Fred Deakin!

Fred Deakin is best-known as half of the playfully eclectic downtempo duo Lemon Jelly, as well as one of the founders of the enormously successful and innovative design studio, Airside.

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Airside’s client base included Coca-Cola, D&AD, EMI, Greenpeace, Live Earth, Mastercard, MTV, Nike, Panasonic, Sony, Visa, Vodafone, the Pet Shop Boys and The Beatles and their iconic style is instantly recognizable.

02 Airside.jpg

Deakin also founded Impotent Fury, Lemon Jelly’s own label, (which was also the name of an infamous club night run by Fred where the music genre was chosen by the spin of a wheel.) The label issued 46 official releases plus a few non-label deluxe custom-packaged boots due to uncleared samples issued with Fred’s telltale typeface. These boots have since become highly-sought-after collectibles among Jellyheads.

The first was 2001’s Soft/Rock, a 7″ blue vinyl single in a screenprinted modified denim sleeve constructed from pairs of jeans with a flavored condom in the pocket. The single was limited to 1,000 copies, 15 of which featured hand embroidery by Laura Lees. The singles contained uncleared samples by Chicago and Black Crowes, hence the private release.

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Then in August of 2003, another self-release surfaced titled Rolled/Oats. The single was spray painted gold and screenprinted once again with the classic Jelly font and housed in a hessian (burlap) sleeve. “Rolled” samples “Feel Like Making Love” by Bad Company and is based on “The Curse Of Ka’zar” from their Lost Horizons double LP. “Oats” uses elements of “Closer” with a sample of George Michael’s “Heal The Pain”.

04 Rolled Oats

Lemon Jelly initially issued three EPs, later collected on the beautifully-packaged lemonjelly.ky double LP in 2000.

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This was followed by their debut full-length LP, Lost Horizons in 2002. Each album featured striking packaging design named among countless “greatest album art” lists as well as being featured in Grant Scott’s book, The Greatest Album Covers of All Time. Both of these releases showcased the duo’s spirited, whimsical, and ultra-chilled downtempo style.

06 Lost Horizons - Poster Print.jpg

In 2005 a box set of four 10″ LPs was issued titled ’64-’95, with each track prefixed with the year of the sample incorporated into the single. The album is rather different from their previous two releases in that it has a darker sound and is influenced by more modern sounding music. To avoid confusion over the matter, the band included a sticker on the sleeve stating, “This is our new album, it’s not like our old album.” The album closer, “Go” featured vocals by William Shatner.

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Fred also produced over one hundred mixes and DJ sessions during and after his time with Lemon Jelly, many of which were featured by BBC 6 Music and the Breezeblock. Each set seamlessly wove together deep cuts and musical oddities of Balearica, funk, hip hop, soul, dub, reggae, swing, and an array of leftfield oddities which always kept the listener engaged and guessing as to what was around the next sonic corner.

An official release of this nature was eventually issued in 2007 by Impotent Fury – Fred Deakin Presents: The Triptych, a three-CD set of everything from folk rock to break/broken beat, jazzdance, country, deep and Euro house, neo-soul, gospel, and more.

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And the following year, a two-CD set premiered titled Nu Balearica packed with Balearic Beat and Nu-Disco choons.

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I spent the early 2000s compiling about one hundred and ten of the various mixes and sessions Fred had touched, right down to the demo cassette he’d recorded in the late nineties when running the club Impotent Fury. And in 2011 and 12 Fred resurfaced under the pseudonym Frank Eddie (once again due to uncleared samples) and issued five limited 7″ singles in geometrically designed screenprinted sleeves.

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The complete set was issued as a CD album called, Let’s Be Frank in 2012.

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Fred also applied the Frank Eddie moniker to a special remix of English boy band, East 17’s “Stay Another Day” for a heartwarming farewell music video to mark the retirement of their Airside design company. A gorgeous 296pp coffee table book, Airside by Airside was published by Gestalten telling the story of their evolution and is certainly on my wish list for this year.

12 Airside by Airside book

This project tapered off after the Jellyhead forum went dormant and things quieted down for a few years, until a few days ago when, on a whim, I revisited Fred’s page on Rateyourmusic.com. There I noticed a curious title I’d not previously encountered – Come Dance With Me Sweetheart dated 2016. I did a little searching around and by the day’s end, (thanks to a fellow Jellyhead who has been archiving all Lemon Jelly material from the source tapes for nearly two decades), had 19 additional DJ sessions which had surfaced since I’d last stopped collecting. It was like Christmas! I quickly assembled a 25-hour playlist of all the new-to-me Jelly content and am having a blast exploring it all!

And revisiting The Triptych, I began to research the deeper cuts from the mix and found one funky track, Billy Hawk’s “O’ Baby (I Believe I’m Losing You)” appears on a sublabel comp of BGP (Beat Goes Public) Records. The label has issued three series that look worth a listen.

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Super Breaks is a set of six double LPs and albums showcasing essential funk, soul, jazz samples, and breakbeats. There is also the SuperFunk series of twelve releases and a third set of four albums branded as Funk Soul Sisters. These might be just what I’m after for more deep cuts.

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Another of my favorite classic Jelly mixes, Breezeblock – 20th September 1999, includes the Public Enemy / Herb Alpert mashup, “Rebel Without A Pause (Whipped Cream Mix)” which a quick search revealed was by The Evolution Control Committee, Mark Gunderson’s plunderphonics project. Mark collaborated with The Bran Flakes on the Raymond Scott Rewired project issued by Basta Records which I absolutely must check out, along with a deeper exploration of other related artists like Emergency Broadcast Network, Escape Mechanism, The Tape-beatles, as well as my complete archives of the works of Negativland, John Oswald, and selected works from People Like Us (who collaborated with Matmos and Wobbly).

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It’s truly remarkable to live in a time when a few simple Google searches yield days of rewarding listening. Here’s my Lemon Jelly and related album collection to date, in addition to the 129 digital albums and DJ sessions I’ve collected that are so generously shared among fellow Jellyheads.

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17 Lemon Jelly and Sundae Club Collecton (2 of 2).jpg

A Look at Ethan Hayden’s 33 ⅓ Book on Sigur Ros’ ( )

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Ethan Hayden is a linguistics expert, composer and performer who received his Ph.D. in music at the University at Buffalo, US. I had the pleasure of attending one of his performances of his work, “…ce dangereux supplément…” in April of 2015. The work is a set of phonetic studies for voice, video, and electronics in which Hayden makes a wide range of vocal sounds, none of which are coherent expressions of any known language. After the event I blogged most enthusiastically:

“…ce dangereux supplément…” is a dynamic and engaging piece for live and recorded voices. Hayden stepped up to a podium with several sheets of what appeared to be a random spilling of pronunciation symbols and odd scribblings. They were, in fact, intricate experimental notation in the classic form of musique concrete. For the next eight minutes, he stood, wearing a headset microphone, and produced a captivating performance of furious jabberwock-speech, tongue clicks, grunts and pops. Both his energy and skill were truly mesmerizing, and for nearly ten minutes he made an incredible amount of noise without once venturing near what anyone could call a coherent sound. His performance ended with thunderous applause – surely one to be remembered.

Hayden is a fitting author to tackle Sigur Ros’ ( ) album for an edition of the popular 33 1/3 book series. The parenthetical album is sung entirely in the nonsense Hopelandic language created by the members of Sigur Ros.

So what does one write about an album with no discernible theme or statement? And how would one begin to describe the nonsense sounds of the Hopelandic language? Over the course of 150 pages, Hayden expertly addresses these questions and presents both a critical analysis of Hopelandic and a philosophical perspective on the recording itself. The book adds a fascinating critical dimension to the album and aims to help listeners approach the recording with a greater sense of understanding.

At the outset of the book, Hayden endeavors to outline the fundamental principles of language and nonsense.

From 1: Nonsense: Language and Meaning (pp13-16)

It would seem, at first, that the very idea of a nonsensical language is inherently paradoxical. One of language’s defining features is its ability to communicate meaning, to transmit specific concepts from the mind of one person to the mind of another. Since language is the medium through which meaning is communicated, surely one could not take meaning from a language and still call it language any more than one could drain the ocean of water and still call it an ocean.

But to equate language with meaning is short-sighted and problematic. Language consists of several distinct elements, which are entwined with each other to create an intricate and multifaceted structure: semantics (meaning), syntax (grammar), lexicon (words), phonetics (sounds), prosody (phrasing), and pragmatics (context). In our everyday language, the language you and I are communicating right now, these elements are interwoven and work together in an amazingly complex manner to communicate a wide variety of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (To revise the ocean metaphor: an ocean is more than just water, it has salt, currents, tides, and a vast ecosystem full of various life-forms; an ocean made of just water wouldn’t be an ocean at all, just an oversized puddle.) But it is indeed quite possible for these elements to exist in isolation from one another, or in incomplete combinations.

Since semantics is concerned with meaning, any combination of these elements that omits or obscures semantics, can be referred to as “nonsense,” and it turns out that Hopelandic is just one of many possible varieties of such nonsensical combinations. In fact, as we will see, Hopelandic contains all of the aforementioned elements, with the singular exception of meaning. Therefore, it is only one step away from being a fully functioning and understandable language, and is still fundamentally linguistic.

And Hayden never shies from the metaphors inherent to the album.

From 1: Nonsense: Vaka

…This Melody, which is repeated several times at different pitch levels, is in fact a palindrome. The first part of the line, “yu sy no lo,” is heard and then immediately played backwards, reflecting back onto itself. Thus, it is perhaps better to transcribe the syllables as “yu sy no longer – ol on ys uy.” The first half of the phrase is a mirror image of the second half, the two together mirroring the relationship between two opposing parentheses; and thus the Melody could be seen as an introduction to ( )‘s own bilateral symmetry, acting as both a microcosm and a foreshadowing of the album’s bipartite structure.

The rest of the chapter delves deeper into the nuances of language and communication, and the rich contextual history of nonsense. Hayden touches upon onomatopoeia, Aristophanes’ satirical parody of Socratic philosophy, the Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s subversion of language and semantics with his asyntactic and echolalic parole in libertà, and Fortunato Depero’s “onomalingua.” He also visits Susan Sontag’s essay, “Against Interpretation,” Scheerbart’s 1914 work, Glasarchitektur, Hugo Ball and the Dada poets’ mystically incantatory lautgedichte, and Schwitters’ reading of Ursonate (later sampled by Brian Eno for the 1977 track, “Kurt’s Rejoinder.”) Hayden briefly examines Tolkien’s “glossopoeia” language-creation and other science fiction constructs like Dothraki, Na’vi, and Klingon.

Later segments of the chapter explore the musical xenoglossia, echolalic phonosymbolism, and phono-erotic lyrics of the French progressive rock band, Magma, Burroughs’ critique of language through glossolalia, and how Hopelandic contrasts to each of these. In closing the chapter, Hayden describes Hopelandic as, either “a quasi-echolalic xenogloss with phono-erotic tendencies or a glossolalic vocalise producing nonsense from the innermost roots of language,” and calls it “welcoming, even celebratory.” “In the end, all that we are left with is the excess of non-semanticity, the concrete material of Hopelandic itself: voice and melody.”

2: Voice outlines the critical significance of voice over other sounds of the natural world.

In the words of the Slovene psychoanalytic theorist Mladen Dolar, “What singles out the voice against the vast ocean of sounds and noises […] is its inner relationship with meaning. The voice is something which raises the expectation of meaning, the voice is an opening toward meaning.”

Another psychoanalyst – Julia Kristeva is introduced, noting the dialectical tension between voice and meaning and the opposing elements of the symbolic and the semiotic. “Nonsense,” he explains, “aims toward purely semiotic expression.” Hayden offers Carroll’s classic Jabberwocky as outlining the contours of meaning – a semantic silhouette.

After addressing the question of whether or not music can bring sense to nonsense, Hayden returns to the album and examines “Samskeyti” – the record’s one voiceless song. He describes the Sonic texture and progression as a cyclical, circular logic and how it evokes a sense of stasis: “beautiful, elegant, and ultimately uneventful.” And when visiting “Njósnavélin,” Hayden quotes Simon Reynolds’ commentary on the modus operandi of post-rock:

.“With its droneswarm guitars and tendency to melt into ambience, post-rock first erodes, then obliterates the song and the voice. By extension, it also parts with such notions as the singer as storyteller and the song as narrative, source of life-wisdom, or site of social resonance. […] A band’s journey through rock to post-rock usually involves a trajectory from narrative lyrics to stream-of-consciousness to voice-as-texture to purely instrumental music.”

Though Hayden notes that, instead of dispensing with voice, Sigur Ros “magnifies it, exploding out the residue until it becomes the essential substance of the music. The Hopelandic voice is not a mere texture; it is not simply a dash of color tinting the ambience. Instead, it is the embodiment of ( )‘s music, its very corporeality.”

3: Space opens with a quote from Pauline Oliveros who said, “Any space is as much a part of the instrument as the instrument itself.” Hayden notes that Sigur Ros initially intended for the album to be recorded in a decommissioned NATO tracking base on a mountain in Iceland, but that they found it too ice-ravaged to be usable. Instead, they opted to record at a space in the town of Mosfellsbær containing an emptied swimming pool. He explains, “The pool’s high ceilings allow for a very resonant space” contributing to the expansive sound of the record. Hayden points out that the musical properties of each song enhance this effect, such as the bowing of Jónsi’s guitar, the music’s slow tempos, and the long durations of each piece.

4: Hope

The final chapter frames the hopefulness of ( ). Hayden presents the failures, caveats and imperfections of the world’s languages, their inconsistencies, sources of miscommunication, and the quest of man to reclaim our original (or to construct a new and more perfect) language. He notes that Sigur Ros lacks the apocalyptic sensibility of their post-rock contemporaries and instead “lean more on the jubilant, celebratory, and the inspiring” and that while ( ) may be the darkest of Sigur Ros’ output, that the music remains fundamentally hopeful. Hayden takes great care not to over-interpret (and thus compromise) this work. “Perhaps the best approach,” he suggests, “is not to interpret it at all. To do so tries to bring the album into the very real it resists as a work of art; to do so would be to force it to name the Name. Perhaps gaps are most useful to us when they are empty, as there is so little in the world that is empty.”

Hayden closes with a brief but poetic and philosophical afterward, titled, “).” He highlights the importance of emptiness, and of play for play’s sake. His final words are the most potent of the entire text:

For this reason, perhaps it is better to leave gaps unfulfilled, to leave spaces uninhabited, to let the parenthetical surround an empty void. Instead of staring into a mirror and meeting the gaze of my own boring reflection, I would rather stare into the abyss, and have it stare back into me. Such would be far more terrifying and beautiful and fun. I would rather let nothingness be nothingness, let nonsense be nonsense, and let gaps be gaps.

Befittingly, just like Sigur Ros’ album, Hayden’s text serves as an important reminder in this postmodern world to stop and just enjoy the beauty of art, and of life, itself.