Demdike Stare

Author: Colin | Published: 30/4/10

I like this a lot. Suits Demdike’s eery amd rather wonderful music (stripped down bass music at the junction of dubstep, dub, Ghost Box soundtracks and so on). Check out samples and buy if you’re so inclined on Boomkat.

Hard Format is 3 years and 2 days old…

Author: Colin | Published: 24/4/10
Previous Art Bears – The Art Box Next Demdike Stare

Damn – missed the anniversary again!

Hope you’re enjoying Hard Format. I’m not sure I ever thought it would go on for this long, but I’m still glad to be doing it. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask a few things:

Many thanks!


Colin (and Justin, who’s been on extended sabbatical from the site, having surprisingly found that other activities pay better…)

Art Bears – The Art Box

Author: Colin | Published: 24/4/10
Previous Miles Davis – On The Corner Next Hard Format is 3 years and 2 days old…

Artist Art Bears
Title The Art Box
Label ReR Megacorp
Year 2003
Designer Tim Schwartz
Music Art Bears
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Notes It’s a pleasure to introduce this guest post by bass player extraordinaire and good friend Peter Marsh whose blog How Much Is The Fish is well worth a read:

This 6 CD box contains the three albums made by avant prog trio Art Bears between 1978 and 1981, plus a bunch of remixes, live recordings and other material. As with all the releases on Chris Cutler’s Recommended Records label, it’s a lavish, idiosyncratic package and carries the hallmarks of a labour of love.

The same went for the original three vinyl albums, whose sleeves and accompanying booklets formed an indispensable part of the Art Bears aesthetic and were made by a team of artists closely associated with the label, This was difficult music, as you may have expected from a band formed from the ashes of Maoist prog superstars Henry Cow. Their texts were allegorical, allusive and often deeply political, their music a dense and angular blend of  studio-concocted stretched rock, folk and industrial noise that was fantastically and sometimes oppressively atmospheric. Their first album took its title from a quote by a 2nd century Assyrian rhetorician; Genesis this wasn’t.

The band’s most obvious political statement was 1981’s The World As It is Today, the back cover of which wouldn’t have been out of place on a Crass album and is the only thing about the band that places them in the time of Reagan and Thatcher.The record itself was as dark as pitch, noisy, desperate and angry in a way that left most of the political post punk crowd sounding feeble. The accompanying booklet was festooned with nightmare images of smoking chimneys, strange aeroplanes with human faces and Cutler’s lyrics (all handwritten). The effect was more like a political tract by a haunted 18th century visionary than anything else, and it scared the crap out of me way more than any ‘Protect and Survive’ leaflet ever did.

Cutler’s texts for the Winter Songs album were inspired by a set of carvings from Amiens cathedral. Its cover (credited enigmatically to ‘Art Bear IV’) is a benevolent, maybe even slightly kitsch, landscape within a painted frame decorated with birds and flowers; the rear more like Chagall on acid – figures huddled in a violent red landscape. Beauty and a slight sense of unease siy snugly together. It’s perhaps this album where image and music are most inseparable. Fittingly, it’s an image from it  (‘The Winter Wheel’) that adorns the box, which features some rather nifty visual ‘remixes’ of the original sleeves as well as the music itself.

My favourite image is probably from the back cover of their debut album Hopes and Fears. It’s a seemingly innocuous landscape, though it has a brooding, magical quality that’s haunted me for years.. I’ve always associated it with the last song on the album, ‘Piers’.

When I lay on Malvern Hills
To sleep,
I dreamed of you, Piers,
Walking in the world.
I saw you passing through that
FAR FIELD unbeknown.
I heard you say,

When all treasures are tried

Miles Davis – On The Corner

Author: Colin | Published: 18/4/10
Previous Wow! Barbara Wojirsch Next Art Bears – The Art Box

Miles Davis - On The Corner

Miles Davis - On The Corner

Miles Davis - On The Corner

Artist Miles Davis
Title On The Corner
Label Columbia
Year 1972
Designer Cover paintings: Corky McCoy, inside cover photo: Allen Morgan
Music Out of this world
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Notes Miles was allegedly aiming for the youth market hence, perhaps, this cover design. Corky McCoy’s work would also be seen on the follow up live double album. If you haven’t heard On The Corner you really should. One of my desert island choices. I love the disjunction between the imagery and the atonal acid funk attack of the music.

See also:

Miles Davis – Agharta
Miles Davis – Pangaea
Miles Davis – Tutu

Wow! Barbara Wojirsch

Author: Colin | Published: 14/4/10
Previous Jimmy Giuffre 3 – 1961 Next Miles Davis – On The Corner

The brilliant ECM designer Barbara Wojirsch, with whom the label has lost touch, can be seen here in a rare sighting from about 4:40 onwards.

Thanks to Peter Marsh!

Jimmy Giuffre 3 – 1961
ECM design page

Jimmy Giuffre 3 – 1961

Author: Colin | Published: 10/4/10
Previous Autechre – LP5 Next Wow! Barbara Wojirsch

Artist Jimmy Giuffre 3
Title 1961
Label ECM
Year 1961
Designer Barbara Wojirsch, photos: Herb Snitzer
Music Essential
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Notes I’m a huge fan of the late Texan clarinettist Jimmy Giuffre, particularly the three studio albums that he recorded with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley. They made music informed by jazz and composition which reached deep into silence and the blues to create an atavistic music that sounds absolutely vital and remains highly contemporary half a century later.

1961 is a two disc reissue of the trio’s albums Fusion and Thesis. I’m not sure why it was renamed 1961, I prefer the original titles, but otherwise this release is wonderful. Herb Snitzer’s photography is stunning, particularly that last image of the three men walled in by baffles and framed by microphone booms. Each image conveys the sense of thought and introspection out of which the music must surely have been born. And the space and clarity of Barbara Wojirsch’s layout – most visible on the front and back cover – is a perfect visual accompaniment to the music.

1961 is available from ECM on vinyl as well. If I had too much (enough?) money I’d own both. I’m still unsure whether the CD was the right decision. Having said that, and although there are precious few jewel cases featured here on Hard Format, I do feel a certain affection for the confident functionalism of the double width CD case.

I managed to find two small images of the original covers (though on second thoughts, the Thesis cover looks like it may be a later Verve reissue):

If you hear and enjoy the music on these albums then Free Fall, the final studio recording by the trio is absolutely essential. Likewise the double live set, tragically long out of print, on Hat Art: Emphasis & Flight 1961 and the Graz 27 October 1961 bootleg.

See also:
Designers: ECM, Barbara Wojirsch, Dieter Rehm
Rare sighting of Barbara Wojirsch

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