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I Am The Cosmos: Listen to the whole of their superb debut album ‘Monochrome’

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I Am The Cosmos was the title of a beautiful and groundbreaking album by Chris Bell, originally recorded in the mid-1970s, but not released until 1992 - fourteen years after Bell’s death in a freak automobile accident. While I Am The Cosmos is now recognized as a cult classic - the name I Am The Cosmos is now fast becoming more associated with a brilliantly talented duo from Dublin, Ross Turner and Cian Murphy.

Since their formation in 2010, I Am The Cosmos have been making considerable impression with their music. From their first release “Dislocate”, they have been cautiously producing material of such quality and originality that it promised I Am The Cosmos would one day release a masterwork. And now it would appear this day has come early, with the release of their sublime debut album Monochrome. I contacted I Am The Cosmos to find out more about Ross and Cian, theri backgrounds, what brought them together, and how they wrote and recorded their brilliant debut Monochrome.

Paul Gallagher:  How did you first meet and what drew you together as musicians?

Cian Murphy: ‘Ross [Turner] is a drummer by trade and was involved in the Dublin music scene from quite an early age, so I was a fan of bands he played with long before we started making music together. We would meet at gigs, or he would come into where I worked and buy records and we would talk about music. There was always a mutual interest in what the other was up to musically.

‘When it comes to making music, I think even though the desired outcome is the same, we do have different approaches. I would tend to be a little more gung-ho with my ideas while Ross is more restrained. There are times when Ross will tell me to keep it simple and not throw so much at a song, and he’s always right! Wherever that balance is struck - that’s usually where the good ideas are. There are similarities too though - we both love a good melody and wanted to explore the notion of songs being quite melodic while still being something people can dance to.’

Ross Turner: ‘Cian [Murphy] and I had mutual friends growing up when we were teenagers - we lived pretty close to each other on the outskirts of Dublin. Usually bumping into each other at parties or in “discos”, spending most of our time talking about very similar tastes in music.  Time passed along and some growing up took place before we actually did anything together, although I think we had always wanted to do something together musically. I was gifted the amazing opportunity to work out of and run a great studio space in Dublin, the owners had moved away for a short spell. When this came up I got in touch with Cian straight away to see if he wanted to come along and mess around with some music I was working on. Just previous to this Cian had done a remix of a very early version of “Look Me In The Eye” under the name Leisure Wear. I really liked what he did with the song, so I was eager to develop something after that.

‘The fact that our tastes are so similar we moved quite quickly into a process of putting tracks together.’
 

 
Previously on Dangerous MInds

I Am The Cosmos: EXCLUSIVE premiere of their album track ‘Lost Rhythm’


 
With thanks to I Am The Cosmos and John Kowalski
 
More from I Am The Cosmos and ‘Monochrome’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Elegantly wasted’: Stool Pigeon’s A-Z guide to music journalism bullshit
01.30.2013
04:37 pm

Topics:
Media
Music

Tags:
bullshit
Stool Pigeon
music journalism


Is this what “elegantly wasted” actually looks like?
 
My god, I fucking LOVE Stool Pigeon. Amid a sea of mediocre freebie music press in the UK, Stool Pigeon stands out for being wildly opinionated (like the classic music press of yore, where debates about class, politics, gender and sexuality would routinely erupt) and steadfastly NOT subservient to PR companies and their demands. And make no mistake, PR companies do have a lot of sway in the world of street press.

I have seen friends’ reviews in free music publications changed and upgraded, as a bad review would put the mag in a promo company’s bad books, and risk removal from any future mailing list or free concert opportunities. In effect, opinions have had to be brought in line with a PR company’s wishes, and any real self-expression or valid counter-opinion has had to be neutered. Not only does this smack of the worst kind of corporate whorism—which, granted, exists in many media spheres—it seems illogical to me that a publication that doesn’t rely on a paying consumer audience to survive could treat its readers (and the artists it covers) with such ridiculous condescension.

Once upon a time music journalism was a necessity, a valuable tool for keeping up to date with your favorite acts, and for finding out about emerging talent. For gig listings, for records and concert reviews, for keeping in touch with other fans, for bitching out people and music you really hate. But the Internet has made the printed music press irrelevant, another out-moded business model within the music industry, yet another middleman whose role is not necessary any more. So why is everyone playing it so safe? Well-written and researched debate and opinion pieces should be a free paper’s USP, no?

Which brings me back to Stool Pigeon. It seems to give its writers free reign to write whatever they want, without sacrificing non-mainstream opinion at the altar of “edginess.” It’s not desperate to seem “relevant” or “on it” like so many publications, and it doesn’t try to be so alternative-to-the-alternative that it ends up being square. No, it’s simple really. It’s just written by people who are passionate and really care about music and its reportage. 

In fact, so good are they on calling out crap, Stool Pigeon has put together a handy A-Z Guide To Music Journalism Bullshit. You know, tired old cliches that make your eyes bleed. This kind of thing:

Whiskey-soaked vocals

Which translates as:

English lit polytechnic graduate, now based in Warrington, seriously wishes he was Tom Waits

Here are some more of my favorites, all beginning with “S”:

Set the blogosphere alight” — Well done! Your innovative blend of Fleetwood Mac, nineties R&B and Sade — a singer you’d never even heard of before The xx started banging on about her — has “set the blogosphere alight” with your brand new track, featuring artfully NSFW video. That Pitchfork BNM’d is surely in the post.

Sixth-form poetry — Snarky put-down reserved for artists whose literary aspirations are perceived to be shallow or juvenile. Which might almost be fair enough, if ‘music critic’ wasn’t a job that could only be considered cool by people under the age of about 15.

Songstress — As opposed to what, ‘songster’? Reading between the lines, this faintly kinky usage is a subliminal reflection of male music hacks’ rampant castration fear. See also: chanteuse.

Sophomore — Ridiculous, US collegiate term used as a stand-in for “second” when describing albums, e.g. “The Stone Roses’ second album The Sophomore Coming was a let-down for many.”

It’s about time somebody did this, and with your help it could well become the definitive list, as Stool Pigeon are asking readers to submit their own worst music journalism cliches. I would like to add these two:

Number 1 in an alternate universe” - made irrelevant by the theory that there are infinite alternate universes, hence any song ever recorded is number one in an alternate universe somewhere.

Year Zero” - as applied to any and every genre from punk rock to acid house to dubstep, but surely the correct term should be “Year One”?

If you have any music journalism bullshit to add to the list (and I know you do!) you can write it on the Stool Pigeon Facebook wall, or leave it in a comment here.

You never know, you might set the blogosphere alight.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
David Bowie: Extracts from his first TV drama ‘The Looking Glass Murders’

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When his debut album flopped in 1967, David Bowie thought his pop career was over. The years of practice and ambition had sadly delivered nothing but the indifference of the public (who preferred The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s) and the bewilderment of critics, who could not quite understand this young singer (who sounded like Anthony Newley) and delivered such diverse and original songs. Bowie had discovered the width of his talent, but not its depth. Understandably, disheartened, Bowie considered packing it all in and becoming a Buddhist monk at the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, but fate played a hand and he soon found himself under the influence of a charismatic fan - the brilliant dancer, performer and choreographer Lindsay Kemp.

Kemp loved Bowie’s first album, and used one its tracks “When I Live My Dream” for one of his shows. Kemp offered Bowie a new career - as dancer, actor and member of Kemp’s dance troupe

On 28 December 1967, David Bowie made his theatrical debut in Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise or, The Looking Glass Murders at the New Theater in Oxford. Bowie wrote and performed the music, and co-starred as Cloud, alongside Kemp’s Pierrot, Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, and Annie Stainer’s Columbine.

The production was still in rehearsal when it played for its one night at the New Theater, which perhaps explains why the Oxford Mail described the show as “something of a pot-pourri,” though it highlighted Bowie’s contribution for praise:

David Bowie has composed some haunting songs, which he sings in a superb, dreamlike voice. But beguilingly as he plays Cloud, and vigorously as Jack Birkett mimes Harlequin, the pantomime isn’t a completely satisfactory framework for some of the items from his repertoire that Mr Kemp, who plays Pierrot, chooses to present….

...No doubt these are shortcomings Mr. Kemp will attend to before he presents Pierrot in Turquoise at the Prague Festival at the invitation of Marceau and Fialka next summer. No mean honour for an English mime troupe.

The mime told the story of Pierrot and his attempts to win the love of his life, Columbine. Of course things are never simple, and Columbine falls for Harlequin, and is then killed by Pierrot.

After a few tweaks, Pierrot in Turquoise or The Looking Glass Murders opened at the Rosehill Theater, Whitehaven, before its proper run at the Mercury Theater, and Intimate Theater, both London, in March 1968….
 

 
More on Bowie & Kemp in ‘The Looking Glass Murders’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Soundtrack for a Suicide: Marc Almond’s musical masterpiece, ‘Torment and Toreros’


 
When asked to name my top favorite albums of all time, Torment And Toreros by Marc and the Mambas, Marc Almond’s early 80s Soft Cell side project floats effortlessly into the top five, although to be honest, it’s not something I play often. Come to think of it, I may not have even played it at all in the past five years.

There’s a reason for that: Torment And Toreros is one of the most harrowing—yet exquisitely gorgeous and lush-sounding—listening experiences you could ever hope(?) to have. It’s the sound of a nervous breakdown captured in music, as Almond himself has remarked about the record.

You wanna talk about BLEAK? Torment And Toreros is the bleakest, darkest, most depressing album, probably of all time. It makes Lou Reed’s Berlin or Joy Division sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. If ever there was a soundtrack to slitting your wrists to, this is it, especially “Black Heart,” now regarded as one of Almond’s signature tunes. It’s probably the best song ever to listen to on repeat when you’ve really been fucked over badly.
 

 
Quite an anguished cry from the heart, ain’t it?

Marc Almond has always been a little bit of a “love him or hate him” proposition and even gay male friends of mine who like what he stands for, still seem quite divided on the matter of his voice. Me, I think he’s one of our greatest living vocalists, bar none. It’s how he sells the song. It’s about the emotional wallop he’s capable of delivering. The personality that comes through every note he sings.  He’s the ultimate male diva, the torch singer of torch singers. Who else could even come close? His voice is as unruly as it is under his firm control. He can sound anguished like no one has since Jacques Brel. If you’re into Judy Garland, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Cher, not to mention Scott Walker, how can you possibly resist Marc Almond? And Torment And Toreros is his masterpiece.

Instrumentally, Torment featured a lot of instrumentation not typically heard in such outre post-punk outings, including Annie Hogan’s stunning grand piano work and the string section of The Venomettes (Annie Stevenson and Gini Ball). Future Banshee Martin McCarrick and The The’s Matt Johnson are also present. There’s a really sophisticated musical vision going on, incorporating elements of camp cabaret, flamenco, classical music and showtunes (Torment ends with an unhinged version of “Beat Out That Rhythm on a Drum” from Broadway’s Carmen Jones).

I’ve been a lifelong fan since the Soft Cell days and have paid fucking ridiculous amounts of money for Soft Cell and Marc bootlegs ‘back in the day’ (In fact, the most I ever spent on a record was a fan club only 12” of Marc and the Mambas’ “Sleaze”). The material of his that I find the strongest is not actually what he did collaborating with David Ball in Soft Cell—as brilliant as it is—but the range of albums he made with Annie Hogan (seen in clips with bleach-blonde teased up hair on piano) as his musical director. They must have had a major falling out because how otherwise to explain that a musical partnership this profound could dissolve, irreparably?

The brilliant Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons has said Torment And Toreros was an important influence on his own work and it definitely shows. When Antony curated the Meltdown festival last year, he was able to convince Almond to do the album in its entirety—which I am sure was just an astonishing performance—at the Royal Festival Hall, but sadly (and I do mean, sadly!) it wasn’t professionally videotaped, at Almond’s request.

That’s what makes Three Black Nights of Little Black Bites, a limited edition CD/DVD combo release of Almond’s three-night stand at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1983 all the more essential. Shot with a VHS camera by the later Peter Christoperson (Throbbing Gristle, Coil) the document is somewhat ragged, but still quite watchable. Musically, the band seem under-rehearsed, but nevertheless, were such talented, passionate musicians that it holds together in a very interesting way, almost like like Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, on another end of the musical spectrum. (My only real complaint is the one guy loudly singing his background vocals so out of tune, but he only ruins a few numbers. The sound man must have given him his due, I guess…)

In his liner notes, Almond takes great pains to point out that the quality is what it is, basically, and I can surely understand why he feels that way, but for a fan of Torment and Toreros for some thirty years—god, I’m getting old—this release is nothing short of a reason to jump for joy. Admittedly, I’m firmly in the target audience, but if you trust my taste in music—and especially if you’re presently nursing a badly broken heart—take a chance on Torment and Toreros, I think you’ll be extremely glad you did. I suspect that of the (brave) readers who do opt to try that album on for size, a subset of them will go on to become total fanatics for Torment and will also want a copy of Three Black Nights of Little Black Bites (be warned, I read that they only pressed up a thousand copies).

Although in the CD booklet Almond says that Peter Christopherson’s videotape was the sole visual representation of the band, maybe of an entire concert, but there are some pretty tasty clips of Marc and the Mambas on YouTube, provenance unknown.

A bravura take on Jacques Brel’s “In My Room”:
 

 
After the jump, more Marc and the Mambas…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Notes From The Niallist: That’s so CVNT, a ‘Future-House’ voguing mix
01.25.2013
12:30 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music

Tags:
NFTN
house music
voguing
CVNT
Future


 
I have a new house music project, and it’s renewing my faith in this whole “making music” malarkey.

It’s called CVNT TR4XXX, or if you don’t mind bad language, CUNT TRAXXX. If you;re wondering why I chose that name, the c-word has been used in drag and gay circles for quite a while as a compliment, and CVNT (for short) is dedicated to VOGUING and the culture that surrounds it, which is heavily gay, trans and femme. 

As the picture I use as a logo states:

CUNT: (adj) a term used in gay slang to describe someone who is impressive, original or fantastic in regards to style or demeanour.
 

 
This week the London-based fashion label Long Clothing have uploaded a CVNT mix I put together showcasing some of my sounds, and a lot of others who operate in roughly the same ballpark.

For too long, house music has been perceived as a European-dominated scene (which it is to an extent) but it’s important to remember the roots of this music, and that it was born in the ghettos of Chicago, produced mostly by black and queer kids messing around with drum machines and boxed-up synth modules.

Not to mention house music’s spiritual home of New York City, the town that gave birth to voguing, and that, in the early 90s at least, spearheaded an assault of queer/black/latino/drag culture on the popular consciousness. Madonna didn’t start that shit, you know.

For those of you who don;t know, voguing was not just a fad, it was and still is a unique and complex culture in its own right, and it lives on, stronger than ever. That’s the real inspiration for starting CVNT, watching clips of various new way vogue dancers competing on YouTube and dreaming up a soundtrack to make them go wild to.

There’s some other kinds of house on this mix too, most notably “Jersey Club”, which features a distinctive 5-kicks-to-the-bar rhythm, a little bit of a “B-More”/Baltimore influence (similar to Jersey Club but with breakbeats) and “ballroom”, which is essentially house music for new way voguers and combines elements of B-More and Jersey Club with a heavy dose of 90s diva realness.

I call all this stuff “future house” because these genres are taking house music in a different direction, but one that is still very much connected to the black/gay undergrounds where they started. This music has got very little to do with dub, or spending hours tweaking a synth patch to sound good in a k-hole. This is defiantly DANCE music, designed to make you MOVE. Most of it is based around the rhythm, cutting up tiny samples of speech and music and arranging it around quick-fire patterns. This is music from the MPC generation, where you don’t get money for anything, but the synths are free.

Besides, I’m SICK of boring bloody minimal, ploddy bro-step and electro-house! As “EDM” takes more and more of a foothold in the American consciousness it’s worth reminding people that YOU GUYS INVENTED IT. You still have PLENTY of homegrown talent pushing these genres forward right on your own doorstep, but possibly not in the places you’d expect to find them. 

If I can point anyone in that direction, then it’s a start.

Here’s the mix for Long Clothing, which you can download from their website. The tracklist is here.
 

 
BONUS!

Here’s a couple more tracks for good measure, from the Death Drops EP:
 

 

 
You can hear more productions on the CVNT TR4XXX SoundCloud page.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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