It's important to Fluid that we showcase the internal interests, passions, ramblings and inspirations from our creative team. In pursuit of this we have spoken to our in house creatives about some of the wonderfully weird or obnoxiously obscure art that lead them down the creative path.
When we decided to do this occasional Paradigm Shifts blog post, I wanted to avoid just posting about art and music I really really liked (although I do really really like the following tracks) - I wanted it to represent the times where seeing or hearing something was a complete revelation where your forced to rethink your preconceptions about what has gone before - so with no more ado first off is:
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Owed T’Alex (1976)
As a teen in the 70’s I never ‘got’ Metal or Punk (all sounded like pub rock to me) - So was listening to a lot of prog rock at the time and a big Frank Zappa fan, I kept on seeing the name Captain Beefheart mentioned in the music press as he was an infrequent collaborator with Zappa.
This was pre-internet days so you had to physically track down any non-chart music “Owed T’Alex” was the first Beefheart track I heard (by accident on John Peels late night radio show..) On first hearing, it was the audio equivalent of having the rug pulled from under my feet and being kicked down the stairs at the same time.
The guitars sounded out of tune and all over the shop, played in a clumsy artlessly brutal way, Of course, I had heard slide and lap steels guitars played before in blues and country music - but here the ‘players’ seem to be trying to actively break there instruments… about as far as you as you could get to the slick 70’s rock 1/2 hour guitar solo I was used to… and was that a trombone playing the bass part????!?
My first thought was “those guys aren’t even trying to play in time or in tune” / but then it all of a sudden everything flew into place and then just as suddenly shattered into a million pieces.. and came back again
But I was Beefheart's ‘voice’ that got me - He seemed to be winding himself up into a ball of toxic nervous energy which he would suddenly spit out with levels of totally unexpected intensity - and no rhyme nor reason what he was signing about either, (not a love song and that's for sure)* - just some kind of weird free form blank verse / beat poetry (and what was going on with the demented laugher awards the end…)
Left me nonplussed and confused but I’ve loved Beefheart from that moment and ever since - all contemporary Post Punk / No Wave / Math Rock / Grunge / Post - Rock / and Drone Core all draw a line back to the good Captain (and his Magic Band)
*found out years later it was about a friend how died in a motorcycle accident.
Steve Reich – Drumming (Composed 1972)
I discovered the work of the American minimalist composer Steve Reich more or less by accident. In Birmingham, there was an Arts Lab (which closed in the early ’90s) where you could go and see independent film/fringe theatre as such like. Coming out of a film I noticed a poster for Steve Reich “Drumming” I imagined It was for a single drummer and expected an evening of drum solos or something - intrigued I bought a ticket...
On the night I walked into the theatre space and the seating was arranged into a semi-circle around one line of 10 tom tom drums / one line of Marimbas / and line of Vibraphones / and at the back a line of 3 mic stand some amplification and a guy at a mixing desk.
I didn’t know what to expect - but it wasn’t going to be an evening of drum solos that was for sure.
The lights went out and the stage light lit up the line of tom-toms / one performer stepped out and banged out a single repeated beat / another performer came out and did the same, then another, then another and gradually something strange happened, it was like my mind was being gradually turned inside out, the rhythm was gradually shifting and changing constantly morphing into new shapes and patterns - My only reference was snatches of African drumming I had heard but this didn’t have the ‘swing’ or ‘funk’ of African music, Jazz or Blues… This was cool / European almost mechanical feel but always in flux always changing - like a swirling vortex of deep water you could dive down deep into...
Gradually the musicians moved away from the drums, to the mallet instruments bringing in melodic elements and eventually joined by three vocalists who sang wordless tones and a flutist giving a final wash of sound.
I was left totally stunned by being exposed to a totally new form of music, and a new way of listening to music to boot, not by being led from one musical event to another - but experiencing music as an evolving process or landscape of sound - I went to to explore other works by Riech and other Minimalists such as Phillip Glass / Terry Riley / John Adams / La Monte Young over the years but none had the impact of that first concert.
Can – One More Night (1972)
After the political upheavals across Europe in 1968 / A group of German Bands such as CAN, Neu, La Dusseldorf, Cluster, Harmonia, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh emerged, not wanting to be seen to be playing traditional “pop” and rejecting traditional German music, but also rejecting British and American blues-based rock, rhythm and blues, forged there own path often utilising electronics/noise/ Music Concrete and Minimalism to form a totally new musical form - The British music press coined them (rather dismissively) Krautrock the Germans themselves preferred to used the term Kosmische Music (Cosmic Music)..
I was (and am) a massive Krautrock fan - and the first Band I really got into was CAN, the core was Holger Czukay (Bass, Electronics) Irmin Schmidt (Keyboards) Michael Karoli (Guitar) Jaki Liebezeti (Drums) and Damo Suzuki (Vocals)
What I really liked was they moved like a solid unit - like a smoothy oiled machine and completely dumped the verse chorus verse chorus verse chorus (break) long guitar solo verse chorus and end.. I was used to
I fact one interview they denounced solo’s as ‘decadent’
Central to the sound was Jaki Liebezeti drumming, Liebezeti was one of Germany's top free Jazz drummers in the 60’s But rejecting this he developed rhythmic drumming patterns would become the foundation for the “Motoric” drumming style (as it was reminiscent of the feeling of zooming down an endless autobahn in a powerful car).. Further developed by Klaus Dinger of Neu
Most bass player simply marked time but Czukay bass playing was super low subsonic, economical and minimal but moved around like a sneaky snake, Michael Karoli guitar parts was the antithesis to the amateur dramatics of the average classic guitar hero, his style was super stripped down to the bare essentials but always right on the money, and always hit home.. Irmin Schmidt used his keyboards more to generate pulses of rhythm and washes of electronic noise than conventional melodic lines.. and finally the Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki, Damo would improvise lyrics on the spot and would never rehearse or wright thing down…always working totally in the moment; Often repeating one line till it became almost a musical element in itself meshing seamlessly with the rest of the group...
“One more night” from the 1972 album Ege Bamyasi still sounds super minty fresh even after 50 years… still one of my fave rave albums which I still return to after all these years in between now and having my mind blown as an art student (with a bit of an attitude problem) in the early 80’s.