Freshly Framed – A Touch of Zen

Freshly framed and hanging proudly in my home are the four watercolor lithographs included with original UK pressings of Brian Eno’s Before and After Science. These were painted by Peter Schmidt who worked with Brian Eno to develop the legendary Oblique Strategies deck designed to help artists break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.

I’ve wanted these for many years and they add a touch of Zen-like charm to my home that I’ll enjoy for years to come.

Brian Eno - Before and After Science Watercolor Lithographs by Peter Schmidt (The Framed Final Piece) 01-26-18

Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound (a review)


Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound by Eric Tamm is the author’s dissertation drafted while studying under Robert Fripp. The work certainly reads as an exhaustive thesis. Musicological terminology abound, one chapter alone discusses pandiatonicism, ethnomusicological scholarship, Phrygian modality, the principle of timbral heterogeneity, improvisatory roulades, Brahmsian modulation, temporal articulations, diatonic grandeur, inner melodic differentiation, and likens one Eno track to Xenakis as being characteristically “monistic with internal plurality.” By the work’s conclusion even Tamm, himself is decisively spent, and in his final statement, he pleads to his professors, “Amen. And may I now have my dough, please?”

But academics aside, the text is a tremendously satisfying read. Tamm provides a contextual and informed perspective seldom witnessed in the province of rock, and his mastery of the subject is warmly welcomed and appreciated. Tamm examines each of Eno’s incarnations over the course of his career and explores his compositional methodology and his musical philosophy at each new turn. I found myself highlighting entire sections of useful analysis to the point where my notes consumed nearly a hundred pages on their own, as every chapter is brimming with valuable insight. While no single excerpt exemplifies the depth of information presented in the full text, the closing segment titled The Music’s Beauty offers a thoughtful observation about Eno’s catalog:

Music deals with time and exists in time, and may be seen as a sacred observation of the mystery of time. Whether through classical symphony, Renaissance mass, reggae dance, jam session, or ambient soundscape, time marked by music is set aside, consecrated. Music concentrates time, making us aware of different levels of temporal magnification, from immense historical vistas to momentary transitions. It enhances and focusses our ability to perceive changes, fluctuations, and developments in an overall state. Music is paradoxical: profoundly unnaturalistic, presenting an abstract temporal tableau, it may nevertheless poignantly evoke not only realms of common, everyday experience, but images of the grandeur of eternity. Eno’s music is capable of thus transforming time, for those who would listen.

I find this to be an elegantly concise, and almost poetic description of the artist.

Electronic Love

I’ve just received the most WONDERFUL Christmas gift from one of my oldest and dearest friends. If every you’ve asked yourself, “what is the perfect gift for the audiophile who has everything?” this is precisely the sort of gift you should consider.

This is the Electronic Love Blueprint: A History of Electronic Music by the Dorothy design collective – an electrical schematic of a theremin mapping 200 inventors, innovators, artists, composers spanning the entire history of recorded sound. Key pioneers featured include Léon Theremin, Bob Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin.

It loosely groups genres, from the obscure Musique Concrète (Pierre Schaeffer) to the better known Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Can, Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Faust, Cluster, Harmonia and Amon Düül II) Synthpop (Gary Numan, Human League, Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Pet Shop Boys) and Electronica (New Order, The Prodigy, Massive Attack, LCD Sound System and Daft Punk). There are also references to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop and favourite innovating record labels Mute and Warp.

This metallic silver screen print on 120gsm Keaykolour Royal Blue uncoated paper measures 60 x 80cm and will be the pride of my listening room.

I’ve ordered a UK frame and can’t wait to display it!


Worthwhile Dilemmas

Today I am delighted to have become the proud owner of a deck of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s infamous Oblique Strategies cards.


Subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, these decks were first published in 1975 and are currently in their fifth edition. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists and musicians overcome mental blocks by encouraging lateral approaches to their creative works. The cards feature instructions such as:

  • Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
  • Towards the insignificant
  • Give way to your worst impulse
  • Tape your mouth
  • Do something boring
  • Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
  • Work at a different speed



Personal photo of my newly-received deck


The letterpress printed cards are housed in a black box with gold reflective lettering. There was also a limited edition of 500 boxes in burgundy rather than black issued in 2013.

While early editions command hundreds or even thousands of dollars on eBay, (there are at present two autographed first edition decks listed for $2,499.00 and $3,299.00 respectively), I was very pleased to find decks of the latest edition available from for about $46 including shipping to the United States. It really is a small price to pay for such an influential and inspirational cultural artifact.



Autographed and numbered first edition deck from 1975 currently for sale on eBay


Brian Eno has been one of the most instrumental figures in my creative development. I’ve been following his visual works, his music, multimedia installation pieces, and his philosophy for the entirety of my adult life. In 2009, I created an infographic of his work as a writer, artist, and producer titled, Enography (The Grand Unified Theory of Contemporary Music). It really is a privilege to finally have claimed one of these decks for my own.


Underworld: A Guided Tour

Underworld has been producing music, art, and film for nearly 40 years.With over 500 albums, EPs, and singles, newcomers to their work might find their catalog daunting. If you are just such a listener, this is for you.  So you know “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” from Trainspotting, but are wondering where to venture next.

Born Slippy Nuxx.jpg

Many listeners might be inclined to snatch up one of their compilations or anthologies. In 1999 they released a 3CD Singles Box Set, but it is not an ideal entry point as it focuses too heavily on Darren Emerson’s contributions and is heavily saturated with alternate mixes which do not showcase the band’s true talents.


The next compilation issued was in 2012. A Collection’s opening track is a strange choice – a song by High Contrast featuring Tiesto and Underworld, which few fans associate with Underworld. And track 03, “Bebop Hurry” is a collaboration between Karl Hyde and Brian Eno taken from the Underworld vs the Misterons’ Athens LP.

A Collection.jpg

 Unfortunately neither function well as introductory material, nor are they representative of their artistic style. Still, the other tracks on this compilation are the meat and potatoes of the band. The majority of their biggest hits are here, but for the sake of constricting it to a single disc, all of the tracks have been edited down to radio-friendly durations, sacrificing the ethereal and progressive characteristics which occupy the minutes which have been trimmed away. New listeners would benefit far more if they were to take in the tracks in their original form.


That same year, a 3-disc collection was issued called, The Anthology: 1992 – 2012.  Interestingly, this set does not serve as an off-the-shelf hits collection but instead is comprised of b-sides and odd tracks which act as snapshots of the band’s development. This made it a rewarding purchase for fans who already owned all of their major LPs.  It also presents the content in a chronological setting. Disc 1 is material from their Mk 2 phase around the recording of their massive breakthrough hit album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Disc 2 showcases recordings from around the Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish era, including their non-album mega-hit, “Born Slippy (Nuxx)”.  The fan-favorite concert closer, “Moaner” is here as well.  Disc 3 offers more rarities like “The Hump”, “Minneapolis”, and “Why Why Why”, and includes a few uptempo selections from the series of non-radio, meditative EPs released exclusively via during the early 2000s.  

So without an easily-digestible compilation, how is a new listener to approach the band’s staggeringly large discography? Underworld is best experienced in album form. They are not a singles artist. Each record adds a contextual value to the tracks which each stand well as a packaged project of their own. My advice is to begin with Dubnobasswithmyheadman. The record marked the second incarnation of the band after its synthpop beginnings in the 80s (and a one-off garage punk single in ‘79). Dubnobass was incredibly progressive given the sound of techno and house in 1994. It contains eternal hits like “Cowgirl” and “Dark and Long”.


If you like what you hear on this album,  explore their evolution into their next two records which complete the Darren Emerson trilogy before he parted from the group. These albums are Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish, best known for singles like “Pearls Girl”, “Cups”, “King of Snake”, and the aforementioned epic, “Moaner”. But it’s their more explorative tracks which reveal the most about the band. The opener to Second Toughest is “Juanita: Kiteless : To Dream of Love” – a monumental piece which engages the listener for over 16 minutes. And the mellow, downtempo rhythm and effect-laden vocals of “Winjer from Beaucoup Fish will never see radio airplay, but is a fantastic and atmospheric tune.



This era concluded with Everything Everything Live: The Definitive Underworld Experience.  Pick up the DVD – it captures the incredible energy of the band performing live at the peak of their popularity in 2000.


If you’re interested in going deeper to explore their more intimate and cerebral work, it began in 2002 with A Hundred Days Off.  Every track contributes something unique to the set. “Two Months Off” was the radio A-side but the deeper cuts are far more rewarding.

a hundred.jpg

At this point in their career, the duo embarked on a side project of web-only albums dubbed, “The Riverrun series”.  These include:

(2005) Lovely Broken Thing
(2005) Pizza for Eggs
(2006) I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and This is my Horse


Filed under ambient techno and progressive trance, these artful projects reveal a more intimate and contemplative side of the band.  And a series of singles from this series offer even more experimental b-sides worthy of listening.

2007 marked their return to the commercial market with Oblivion With Bells. This album features the hit, “Beautiful Burnout” and the startlingly ambient “To Heal” which was redubbed “Capa Meets the Sun” for the film, Sunshine.


The 2010 album, Barking is their least popular record. “Always Loved a Film” and “Bird 1” saw some airplay and there was an art film of video vignettes for each track. Not their most essential work, but even Underworld’s worst ain’t bad.


For years thereafter there was silence. Rick released his first solo album, Bungalow with Stairs in 2010. Karl soon followed with his own solo debut, Edgeland in 2013. It was wonderful stuff. Then he surprised and delighted fans by releasing not just one but two collaborative albums with fellow genre-defining artist and producer Brian Eno in 2014. The artists had worked together a few years earlier as members of the improvisational concert project, This is Pure Scenius!  “DBF” from their first collaboration titled, Someday World was energetic and complex and instantly fascinating.  Their follow-up, High Life further refined the duo’s sound with an album full of brilliant tracks. As a dedicated fan of both gentlemen’s work, these records were a dream come true.


In 2014, the band released a special anniversary edition box set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, newly remastered and featuring all of the odds and ends from the era, some of which were issued on The Anthology. Another remastered box set appeared the following year, this time of Second Toughest in the Infants.  And further anniversary remasters are expected in the years ahead.

Then in 2016, Underworld released their first new album as a band in six years. It was an absolute triumph of a record, proving to the world that these aging ravers still had what it takes to produce rich and exciting new sounds nearly 40 years into their career. With each new listen to the album, Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Future, it becomes more and more rewarding an experience.


So there you have it – a brief tour through the catalog of Underworld. Of course, not everything worth sampling is mentioned above.  With 510 releases, as well as a library of short films, art installations, and publications for both print and web from their art collective, Tomato, it would be impossible to highlight them all. But hopefully, this guide will serve sufficiently as an introduction to their work.

Happy listening.


A Tour of the Listening Room!

My birthday is fast-approaching, and as you would suspect, I am impossible to shop for.  Despite this challenge, my fiance has successfully surprised and delighted me with her creative gifts more and more with each passing year.

This year I had more than once wondered aloud how much I would love a 2-row record bin to flip through my collection record store style.  But, as other household expenses have always taken precedence, I’d never gone ahead and ordered one.

But yesterday, my fiance with her thrifty eagle eye spotted a wood-framed beer cooler roadside with a large rectangular aluminum-lined cavity that, as luck would have it, measures precisely wide enough for two deep rows of polybagged LPs!  It even has an additional shelf underneath for oversize box sets!

It’s been so long since I’ve done a video, and this new acquisition seemed the perfect opportunity for an updated tour of my listening room.

Note: I neglected to mention in the video – Underworld’s quintessential album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman is not missing from the collection I present – it is framed on the wall opposite the Eno • Hyde Someday World art print!

A few of the unmentioned items featured include:

Atop the Bookshelf:
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops Box Set
Cyril Ritchard Reads Alice in Wonderland + Facsimile Clothbound HC of the first edition
Tangerine Dream – In the Beginning…
Tom Waits – Orphans
Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman Super Deluxe Anniversary Ed.
Underworld – Barking Super Deluxe Ed.
20 Years of Jethro Tull: The Definitive Collection
The Motown Story: The First Decade
Miles Davis at the Fillmore Box Set
Harmonia – Complete Works

Atop the Jazz/20th Century Avant-Garde/Funk & Soul/Blues/ and Proto Electronic Shelf:
Klaus Schulze + Pete Namlook – The Dark Side of the Moog Vol I-IV
Music From Some Guys in Space (Fan-Made Box Set)
FAX +49-69/45046 / Carpe Sonum – Die Welt Ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook
Lemon Jelly –
Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons
Lemon Jelly – ’64-’95 DVD box
The KLF Recovered & Remastered Collection (with new titles I’ll be featuring soon!)
and the Buckner & Garcia – “Pac-Man Fever” square pic disc

As for the contents of the record bin; I think I covered each of these in the vid… but let me know if you’re wondering about any titles in particular!

Thanks so much for watching and extra-special thanks to my dear fiance for doing the impossible year after year!


Published in: on June 4, 2016 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  
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At It Again – New Works from Brian Eno and Underworld’s Karl Hyde

Friday saw the debut of Brian Eno’s latest album – The Ship following the release of ts epic 21-minute self-titled single.

DSC06858.JPGThe Ship accompanied by an official postcard from Eno • Hyde

Like so many of Eno’s albums, this record serves more to inspire thoughtful consideration and reflection than it does casual enjoyment. Unlike Discreet Music or Airports, this is not sonic wallpaper or furniture music, though it resonates a similar ethereal sonic quality. The Ship has a somber and harrowing essence, serving as a dire reflection on the Titanic disaster and the horrors of WWI. But the record maintains a meditative and cerebral tone rewarding to any listener who’ll give the album their full attention.

The double LP includes more of Eno’s art prints. The works are semblant of the visualizations from his 77 Million Paintings generative software. Not particularly inspiring, they function better conceptually rather than visually.

Also this week, Eno’s recent collaborator Karl Hyde released a short art film of an installation he produced for Underworld’s latest album, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future. I found the fervent and tactile quality of Hyde’s work more engaging than the static nature of Eno’s prints.

Hyde’s Tokyo Street Poem features Soundscape by Underworld’s other half, Rick Smith and was exhibited at Parco, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan in March 2016 as part of the Tomato 25th Anniversary Exhibition.

Underworld also recently premiered a choreographed dance film for the album’s track, “If Rah”, but once again, I believe the concept was better executed by other artists in years prior.

Amelia: A Film by Edouard Lock With La La La Human Steps (2002) features David Lang’s cover of “I’m Waiting For My Man” with choreographed dancers Mistaya Hemmingway and Jason Shipley-Holmes. The film is striking and visually captivating.

Sigur Ros produced an equally effective film piece for their valtari film experiment – a collection of 16 short films made for the valtari album. The 2012 film features Ekki múkk, Valtari, Rembihnútur and Varúð. It is a passionate and emotive work.

If you missed my feature on Underworld’s latest album, check it out!  And I’ll be back next Saturday with my latest culturally-inspired creative and research projects.

Stay tuned!

A Momentous Discovery and a Wish Fulfilled

The last two weeks of January have been beautifully inspiring.  A further exploration of choral works at the recommendation of a fantastic fellow classical connoisseur led me to revisit Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem.

Harmoni Mundi - Arvo Part - Da Pacem

I was instantly enamored by the sacred sounds of The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the fantastic production quality of the recording.  And I was duly delighted by the discovery that the release was issued by the Harmonia Mundi label (from which I’d recently acquired the 20-volume CENTURY I and II early music catalogs).  This remarkable music set the stage for a brilliant musical revelation – one that carried with it emotive and intellectual majesty I’ve not experienced since my first listen to Eno’s Airports.


The revelation arrived in the form of a fated discovery of Germany’s Harmonia – the supergroup of Dieter Moebuis of Cluster (synthesizer, guitar, electronic percussion, nagoya harp, vocals), Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster (organ, piano, guitar, electronic percussion, vocals), Michael Rother of Neu! (guitar, piano, organ, electronic percussion, and vocals), and eventually, Brian Eno (synthesizer, bass, vocals).

Their small but influential discography was produced by Conny Plank, who produced works by Neu!, Cluster (almost becoming a member of the band), Ash Ra Tempel, Can, and Guru Guru.

In December of last year, Larry Crane interviewed Michael Rother for and discussed the formation of Harmonia, their work, but it was an article published January 20th of this year in The New Yorker titled, The Invention of Ambient Music that first introduced me to Harmonia.  The article cites a video interview from 1997 in which Bowie named some of his influences, including Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Harmonia.

An inspiration good enough for the Thin White Duke is certainly one worth exploring, so I wasted no time in queuing up Harmonia’s first album, Musik von Harmonia, released in 1974 on the classic Brain label.

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Instantaneously I knew I’d found something exceptional.  The tracks were united in a consistent theme – instrumental exploration of subtle, ever-shifting sonic textures – an electronic realization of Satie’s vision of furniture music.

On the surface the work might initially appear uneventful, dull, and lacking in focus or direction.  There are no lead vocals and no primary melodic structure. However these seemingly detrimental characteristics are precisely what contributed to their greatness and lasting-influence in the world of ambient music and beyond.  

Eno has stated that Harmonia was “the world’s most important rock band” in the mid ’70s.  Daniel Dumych elaborates in his article for “Perhaps Eno’s reason for praising Harmonia so highly was that their music fit the requirements of ambient rock. Its music was equally suitable for active or passive listening. The careful listener found his/her attentions rewarded by the musical activities and sounds, but Harmonia’s music was also capable of setting a sonic environment.”

In John Cage’s classic Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music (Folkways FT 3704, 1959), he observes:

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”


Cages words accurately describe a first-listen to Harmonia’s music, (only I was instantly receptive to the “subtle, ever-shifting sonic textures” to which I alluded above.)  Headphones donned and eyes closed, I laid in bed and soaked in every note of the Harmonia catalog.  By its conclusion, I’d scoured the web for information on available recordings in a vinyl format and was astounded and elated to learn that only three months prior (to the day, in fact), a massive deluxe 6LP box set celebrating Harmonia’s complete recordings had just been issued by Grönland Records in Germany!

The teaser video for the set:

The set, titled Complete Works, contains all the released material from 1973 to 1976, including their 1976 collaboration with Brian Eno and four unreleased tracks (Documents 1975).  Also included are a 36-page booklet, a concert poster, a pop-up, and a digital download code.

harmonia set
Overcome with excitement at this fateful cosmic alignment of circumstance, I sprang from my bed, and quickly dialed my contact for German import vinyl and limited edition recordings.  The set was not intended for distribution in the US, and copies had already sold out from the Grönland Records website.  Thankfully, my contact came through for me and within a matter of minutes I’d secured a copy for my library.  It just arrived in the States and I couldn’t be more delighted.  

Below is a video of the unboxing of this wonderful box set.

It’s truly remarkable to experience this sort of exhilaration over a newly-discovered artist.  As an archivist with well over 100,000 recordings in my library, there are moments when I fear I’ve exhausted the 20th century of all its surprises.  But, like I was by my first experience listening to Harry Partch, I am once again awakened to the magnificence of our greatest century of cultural artistry.

Harmonia 01

Harmonia 02Harmonia 03Harmonia 04Harmonia 05Harmonia 06Harmonia 07Harmonia 08Harmonia 09Harmonia 10Harmonia 11

Midnight on Mars: Ambient Worlds

Checking in for the Playlist of the Day! Tonight – Midnight on Mars: Ambient Worlds.

The list comprises the work of 1300 artists and clocks in at 2,794 hrs 29 mins. It’s a collection of the finest LPs from nearly a century of ambient music.

NP: Fripp & Eno’s “The Heavenly Music Corporation (Reversed) Pt 1”

A Bit of Eno

I’m so very excited – just a few days ago I was browsing Discogs and by a sheer stroke of luck happened upon the newly-released first-ever vinyl pressing of Fripp & Eno’s Equatorial Stars.

Recorded in 2004, the album marked a 30-year reunion for the two musicians, who last collaborated on the Evening Star LP in 1975. Evening Star was the follow-up to their premiere frippertronic album – the monumental classic, (No Pussyfooting).

My Eno LPs to date…

Eno Collection 1Eno Collection 2Eno Collection 3

Brian Eno is an incredible hero of mine. From his genre-defining masterpiece, Music for Airports to his 77 Million Paintings project, from his zen-like Oblique Strategies deck to The Long Now Foundation, I’ve been following his work for more than 15 years and loving each new discovery.

One of my favorite (and sadly lesser-known) works by Eno was his January 07003 / Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now which features chimes for a timepiece that operates with minimum human intervention for ten millennia.

I’m still missing a few of the albums from Eno’s primary discography on vinyl, such as Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, Music for Films 2 and 3, and Thursday Afternoon, but I do maintain a 64-album digital discographic archive for added accessibility.

Eno’s recent collaborative projects with my other hero, Karl Hyde were a dream come true. Both are highly-acclaimed visual artists as well as musicians and have been wonderful inspirations for my own creative ventures.

Their collaboration drew inspiration from the repetitive minimalism of my other favorite composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, and from the polyrhythmic music of Fela Kuti and funk.  For those who missed my post from the album’s debut, check out the fractured groove of “DBF.”

At age 66, Eno has no intention of slowing down, and I look forward to his next innovative project.