A few days ago, I stumbled across photographer Tony Sleep’s amazing black & white documentation of “Frestonia,” the 1.8 acre “free state” of London’s Notting Hill area, that attempted to (or did, depending on how you look at it) secede from the UK in 1977. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on the Internet in some time.
Since the early 70s, Freston Road, a run down street with several condemned and empty buildings, had become the one of the city’s epicenters of the squatters movement. Many of the buildings housed artists who needed a place to work. In October of 1977, the Greater London Council made plans to raze the derelict buildings of Freston Road but met with rioting from the hippies and the punks who lived there.
Led by Nicholas Albery, approximately 120 squatters living on the street declared themselves the “Free And Independent State Of Frestonia” (the similarity to the kingdom of Freedonia in the Marx Brothers’s Duck Soup was not coincidental). The residents of the squatted buildings took on the adopted surname “Bramley” so that the GLC would be obliged to accommodate them, in the event of a successful eviction, en masse, as one family. It was simultaneously a PR stunt inspired by the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico, a crafty legal maneuver and poetically-inspired anarchism in action.
Poet, actor, playwright and graffiti polemicist, Heathcote Williams (who later appeared in an episode of Friends) served as Frestonia’s ambassador to the UK and dwarf actor David Rappaport-Bramley (who played Randall, the leader of the dwarves in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and “Markoff Chaney” in Ken Campbell’s stage play of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s lluminatus! trilogy) was made Foreign Minister. The Frestonian postage stamps had no price and bore the face of “Guy the Gorilla.” The Minister of Education was a two-year-old, Francesco Bogina-Bramley. A major part of Frestonian communal life took place at The People’s Hall, where films were shown and plays staged. It later became a recording studio. The Clash famously recorded their Combat Rock album there in 1982, perhaps looking to soak up some revolutionary, and authentically countercultural, inspiration.
The Frestonians annoyed the GLC for a few years before many of the original squatters simply moved away, replaced by folks who were less committed to the poetic ideals of an Albionic anarchist collective and more committed to shooting smack and having someplace free to live. Some of the original squatters and their offspring still live in the area, but the buildings (which had been condemned since the 1950s) are mostly gone now, except for the People’s Hall building, which still stands.
Squatting is a subject I know something about. From early 1983 until the end of 1984, I lived in several different squatted buildings in the Brixton area of London, and in the infamous (and huge) Wyers squat of Amsterdam. I’ve never seen better documentation of what it’s like to live in a squat than in these amazing photographs by Tony Sleep, who was himself a resident of Frestonia. It’s a glimpse at what now appears to be a lost world. With the last vestiges of squatting are being stamped out all over Europe (Holland’s strict anti-squatting laws passed in the Summer of 2010, effectively ending what was at one time the most vibrant squatters movement on the continent) this way of life will no longer be there to inspire, and to assist and help others who want to drop out of the rat race as much as possible, or who simply need a safe place to sleep at night.
If there are empty buildings, it should be legal for people without homes to live in them. Figure it out later, but find the poor and the indigent somewhere to stay first, that’s what I say. Self help housing should be legalized everywhere.
Below, a Hugh Laurie-hosted documentary on the post-apocalyptic performance art troupe, Mutoid Waste Company, who came out of Frestonia’s “Car Breaker Gallery.”
Part 2 after the jump…
If you love Patti Smith and like antique French porcelain, then you’re certainly going to dig the Patti Smith plate from Etsy seller Beat Up Creations.
This plate can be used for dining. I recommend washing by hand to preserve gold. Great display item as well. Wonderful alternative to traditional framed art.
The plate measures 6” in diameter and sells for $42.00.
With all the talk of “krautrock” on here today, I thought I’d point out that the phrase has its roots in the British slang term “kraut,” a derogatory word for a German dating back to World War One. While the term has been used by some German musicians, many others find it highly offensive and prefer to use the term “kosmiche.” Though I do use the word “krautrock” on occasion, I prefer “kosmiche” as it is less loaded and more onomatopoeiac.
Of course, the word “kraut” itself means “cabbage,” so you could say that “krautrock” actually means “cabbage-rock.” But somehow I don’t think people would be quite as accepting of terms like “curryrock,” “spudrock” or “beanrock,” right?
Again, no amount of “sincere” breathing is going to win her an Oscar.
Designed by Roger Linn and released by the Japanese company Akai in 1989, the MIDI Production Center or MPC has proven to be the backbone of hip-hop production. Its 16-pad interface allows for 64 continuous sample tracks, and has provided producers with some of the intense sound-granulating control that you’ve heard in the genre’s last 20 years.
The MPC has been around for pretty much all of Providence, R.I.’s Abraham Orellana’s life. So it makes almost cosmic sense that Orellana—who does business under the puzzlingly given name of AraabMuzik—has a masterful way of pounding the pads. He came to most peoples’ attention as the man who produced this summer’s “Salute,” the reunion track for Harlem’s Dipset crew (after the jump). Personally I think the kid’s talent far outclasses Dipset’s extreme-swagger stance, but whatever.
Here he is in raw form in the studio with his buddy the MPC-5000…a visual treatment of his virtuosity to follow…
Better yet, keep your Italo disco. Here’s some actual Krautrock. Yes, It’s the Sauerkraut synthesizer, the work of one Gordon Monahan.
Gordon Monahan’s Sauerkraut Synthesizer is an experimental synth, built around fruits, vegetables, and a jar of sauerkraut as voltage controllers for a software synthesizer, built with ppooll-max/msp and an Arduino interface.
The video captures a live performance on the Sauerkraut Synthesizer at the Subtle Technologies Festival, on board a cruise ship in Toronto Harbour, June 5, 2010.
The Sauerkraut Synthesizer is based on a technical prototype using lemons (The Lemon Synthesizer), developed as a collaboration between Gordon Monahan, Akemi Takeya, and Noid, in Vienna, March, 2009.
Witness the majesty of the Lemon Synthesizer after the jump…
Everyone loves lists, and everyone loves music, right? So here a few different “Best of 2010” mixtapes that combine both, and give an insight into the kind of music I am going to be posting about here in the coming months.
THE JOIZE OF NOIZE
Let’s get the heavy shit out of the way first. Andy Brown is the drummer in Glasgow noiseniks Divorce, as well as bong rock champions Remember Remember (also see this post). He has put together his top 24 noise-rock tracks of the past 12 months via Soundcloud. Think 7inch records with paper inserts, gigs with bleeding ears and crushed toes, bands like AIDS Wolf, Action Beat, Comanechi, Daughters, Neon Blud and lots more you have never heard of.
THE NIALLIST Best of 2010
From the other end of the spectrum is my own run-down of top tunes from the oh-ten. This comp has a bit of a “synth” vibe, with a lot of synth-based electronica (SIlverclub, Dam Mantle, Goldfrapp, Detachments) and disco (LCD Soundsystem, Lindstrom & Christabelle, Space Dimension Controller, Brassica), and dashes of hip-hop, skwee, witch house and a track from Divorce. I will be covering some of the acts on here in more depth very soon. More info here.
FOUND pres ComputerScheisse Vol 5
Also on the UK’s longest running internet radio station Radio Magnetic is Chemikal Underground’s FOUND, who describe themselves as an art collective/experimental pop-band. They have compiled their 2010 favorites into one almost-seamless mix under the guise ComputerScheisse. It takes in hip-hop, folk, indie, retro and a smattering of pop. This is highly recommended, and not just for the exclusive cover of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” by Malcolm Middleton (of Arab Strap) over a J Dilla beat - check out the intro and outro skits.
You can have your Krautrock. Give me Italo disco!
Vivien Vee was discovered by Italian keyboard player Claudio Simonetti in 1978 when she 18 years old. Simonetti who composed the monolithic electronic score for George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead and played in the legendary Italian cult band Goblin achieved his biggest commercial success with Ms. Vee. The chemistry was cooking.
In my opinion Simonetti is every bit as good as Giorgio Moroder and in the soundtrack work he did for Dario Argento created something far darker, more atmospheric and to me more satisfying than Moroder. But I like the gothic stuff.
“Higher” is straight ahead Italo disco. But the zombies-on-meth head-jerking of the back up dancers (the only way to stop them is to shoot them in the head) propels the video into the realm of the ridiculously sublime. “Blue Disease,” which appears after the jump has an edgier Goblinesque feel that will probably resonate with German rock enthusiasts.
“Blue Disease” after the jump…