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‘Colossus’: Andrew Liles’ 42-hour opus reimagines 50 years of pop, a DM premiere


Andrew Liles on the cover of his ‘Diario de un Monstruo’ LP, 2017

Sometimes it was a man that sang and sometimes it was a woman, and sometimes the one who sang it did it so well that two or three of the people who were there fell to the ground shrieking and tearing with their hands.
                                        —Arthur Machen, “The White People”

Andrew Liles—collaborator of Nurse With Wound and Current 93, remixer of the Groundhogs, producer, prolific recording artist, “regarded by some to be the funniest man” (Tony (T.S.) McPhee)—turned 49 yesterday, March 11. He marked the beginning of his 50th year by releasing 20 hours and 50 minutes of music: the first half of his new work Colossus, which will eventually comprise 50 tracks of 50 minutes each, one for every year of his life to date.

Each track is named after a song that was number one in the UK chart on Liles’ birthday, and all feature a guest narrator; on Colossus Part One (1969-1993), Liles is joined by members of Faust (Jean-Hervé Péron), the Legendary Pink Dots (Edward Ka-Spel), Renaldo & the Loaf (Brian Poole), Comus (Bobbie Watson, Jon Seagroatt), and Mayhem (Maniac), along with Benjamin Louche, James Worse, Karen Pittis and Steve Pittis. It’s a completely insane vision of 25 years of life and 25 years of pop music, and I loved every single minute.

Colossus is conceptually related to Liles’ “extensions” of classic songs, such as his 50-minute elaboration of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” his 30-minute edit of Slayer’s “Angel of Death,” and, most recently, his 47-minute mix of “When the Levee Breaks.” But, crucially, all the music on Colossus is original work. Liles’ method:

The music is either in the same key or with the same notes played but in a different order, backwards or inverted. Further music and notation has been added by myself. They are absolutely nothing like the originals.

Additionally, the words to the songs are formed from the lyrics to every Number One hit from the last 50 years. But with a twist.

I have adapted the lyrics by using the William Burroughs cut up method and further changed them to make some kind of structure, but they remain predominantly abstract and nonsensical.

 

via Andrew Liles
 
Head above the heavens, feet below the hells, Colossus spans the sublime and the abject. There are passages of exquisite beauty, and there are parts that make your bowels cramp and your teeth hurt. You really have to put in 20+ hours to appreciate its range. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine anyone’s parole officer, spiritual advisor or grandma objecting to the boys’ choir on “If,” or the tinkling music-box arpeggios that make up the gentler parts of “Chain Reaction.” On the other, the martial pomp and mortal terror of “Wuthering Heights,” the total nightmare James Worse makes of “Chanson D’Amour,” and Brian Poole’s reading of Bread’s “Everything I Own” (number one for Boy George in ‘87) in an industrial setting all demand courage (and probably headphones) on the part of the listener.

There is no useful way to categorize this monstrous, perverse work, which, Godzilla-like, lays waste to all genres, supremely indifferent to their partisans’ cries. For instance: passages in “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” suggest stately art music, the Residents, Goblin, Wendy Carlos, Krautrock, circus organ, David Lynch soundtracks, and power electronics; and yet, somehow, it’s still “Billy Don’t Be A Hero.” The feeling emerges that you’re not listening to the song so much as visiting the mental space from which it originated, skrying the Paper Lace’s stage outfits on the Tree of Life.

Or maybe you’re confronting the shambling, undead specter of the song, as is the case with “Jealous Guy.” Musically, Liles’ composition is more Bernard Herrmann than John Lennon, and the scrambled lyrics, read by Maniac, become like a soliloquy Frankenstein is delivering while he pursues you into the bathroom, arms outstretched:

I mean to hurt you
I made you past control
Beating hurt
I’m mean

I don’t know how to summarize these 21 hours of music except to say that the feeling of being haunted came up repeatedly. On “Wand’rin’ Star” (another Maniac vocal), it’s as if Lee Marvin’s shade is trying to communicate by Ouija board, and he can only use words from his Paint Your Wagon hit, and he does not bring good news.

You should let Colossus transform your life. Let its ominous chords suffuse your changeless routine with dread; let its heroic themes exalt your soul. And be grateful that, at last, there is a version of “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” Dangerous Minds readers can be proud to sing at karaoke.

Below is “99 Red Balloons,” Liles’ selection for Dangerous Minds, narrated by James Worse. Get Colossus Part One (1969-1993) on Bandcamp.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
There’s a 50-minute version of the Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ for the song’s 50th anniversary
A half-hour version of Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’ celebrates 30 years of ‘Reign in Blood’

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.12.2018
10:13 am
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‘Ethel Merman of the apocalypse’: Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke’s mind-blowing Faustian bargain
08.12.2013
07:49 pm
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Russian composer Alfred Schnittke’s chaotic modern classical music, a style he called “polystylism,” became widely known to Western audiences in the 1980s. He is considered by many to be among the ranks of the very most important late 20th composers.

From The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross.

In the cantata Seid nüchtern und wachet of 1983, a setting of the 16th-century History of Dr. Johann Faust, the gruesome scene of Faust’s going-under is delivered by a Satanically amplified mezzo-soprano: in the BIS recording, Inger Blom presides over a hectic cabaret orchestra like some Ethel Merman of the apocalypse.

It may not amount to “ordinary rock-music,” as the composer intended, but it manages to dumbfound listeners all the same. This cantata, one of Schnittke’s most viscerally thrilling pieces, will furnish material for an upcoming opera on Faust themes.

Schnittke said:

“Faust is the theme of my whole life, and I am already afraid of it. I don’t think I shall ever complete it.”

He did, although it took more than a decade (due to a stroke, Soviet travel restrictions and poor health generally) before Schnittke’s Historia von D. Johann Fausten was finally completed. It premiered in Hamburg in 1995. Alfred Schnittke died in 1998.

The clip below of the Faust cantata (VII. Es geschah (“It came to pass”) is taken from the BBC documentary The Unreal World Of Alfred Schnittke directed by Donald Sturrock in 1983. The performance is by the Malmö Symphony Chorus and Orchestra with Inger Blom, conducted by James DePreist
 

 
Thank you Michael Backes of Los Angeles, California!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.12.2013
07:49 pm
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Where will Frank Zappa, Faust and other progrockers go when Tokyo wax museum closes?
07.23.2013
06:47 pm
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In an area of Tokyo known as “Foot Town,” a G-rated entertainment neighborhood for tourists, there sits the Tokyo Tower’s Wax Museum, the world’s greatest (only?) collection of progrock and krautrock wax figurines—but not for long. On September 1, the museum will be closing due to losing its lease as the Tokyo Tower building undergoes updating.

Exhibits on display in the wax museum include the improbable figures of Ash Ra Tempel’s Manuel Göttsching, Klaus Schulze, Mother of Invention Don Preston and members of Faust, along with the better-known faces of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, ELP’s Keith Emerson, Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa. The majority of the wax figurines there have nothing to do with krautrock, prog or music in general.

It is not known what will happen to the wax figures, which are owned by Gen Fujita, the son of Den Fujita, the multi-gazillionaire who originally brought McDonald’s to Japan.
 

 

 
Via The Wire/Thank you kindly Nick Abrahams!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.23.2013
06:47 pm
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Krautrock legends Faust performing a live soundtrack to the US Presidential debate!
10.19.2012
05:57 pm
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Faust at The Comet, Seattle, 10/15/2012 by Ian Buck

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I was going to see Faust play and I said “No” and then I saw this apocalyptic footage of Tuesday night’s show at The Comet Tavern in Seattle and I think I might change my mind!

Emily Pothast writes on the translinguistic other blog

“HAVE YOU EVER PARTICIPATED IN A GENOCIDE?” a wide-eyed Jean Hervé-Péron asked a roomful of enraptured onlookers. “YES,” he answered himself, with a near-maniacal grin. “AND SO HAVE YOU.”  As the improvised cacophony swelled around him, abstracted, acid-damaged images of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama arose and melted away like candied phantoms emerging from a zig-zagged field of processed video feedback.

I’m admittedly biased, since I had something to do with coaxing the event into existence in the first place, but I’m fairly certain that I just witnessed history being made.  Faust—yes that Faust, the sublimely absurdist German “krautrock” band—just performed a concert that opened with an improvised soundtrack to a live feed of the US presidential debates, psychedelicized by Hair and Space Museum (the multimedia duo comprised of David Golightly and myself.)

The happening happened at the Comet Tavern, a Seattle dive bar that barely accommodates 150 patrons (a far cry from the music halls that Faust has commanded in Europe for decades). It came together at the last moment as the result of a half-joking fantasy about how to best spend the day off that Faust had to kill between scheduled Seattle and Vancouver shows.  (My band Midday Veil played both shows with Faust. I am infinitely humbled by the opportunity to spend time with these amazing artists.)

If it weren’t for Faust, many people in the room would have probably been at a regular bar watching the debates for real, myself included, but I think this actually may have been the more informative way to experience them. There was a moment during the set, when Jean-Hervé was singing into the cement mixer, the sound of gravel nearly drowning out his voice as a horrific, hot-pink Romney floated ominously overhead, when I thought to myself, “Huh. This may well be the single most inspiring artistic performance I’ll ever witness.”

What the hell was I thinking? Faust play tonight in Los Angeles at REDCAT and tomorrow night at CalArts.
 

 
Thank you Chris Musgrave of Lumerians!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.19.2012
05:57 pm
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Krautrock: The Rebirth Of Germany
12.14.2009
03:39 pm
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Since Dangerous Minds seems to be trading the Stones for Krautrock (thanks, Brad Laner!), I thought I’d chime in with this BBC documentary, Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany:

Between 1968 and 1977 bands like Neu!, Can, Faust and Kraftwerk would look beyond western rock and roll to create some of the most original and uncompromising music ever heard.  They shared one common goal—a forward-looking desire to transcend Germany?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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12.14.2009
03:39 pm
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What’s The Perfect Krautrock Jam For A Rainy Weekend ?
12.11.2009
05:13 pm
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The ebulliently minimalist classic “It’s A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” by Faust, naturally. Enjoy !

  

video bonus: the only footage I’ve ever seen of the original line up of Faust at play in their communal home/studio in W?ɬ

Posted by Brad Laner
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12.11.2009
05:13 pm
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Jessica Harper, Superstar

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In Part II in what’s shaping up be my ongoing series devoted to underpraised American women (Part I here), today brings us Jessica Harper.  Familiar to many as “Suzy Bannion” in Dario Argento‘s Suspiria, and “Daisy” in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, it’s her “Phoenix” in Brian De Palma‘s Phantom of The Paradise which compels my (all too) frequent revisiting of that film. 

For those of you who’ve yet to see it (queue it up, already!), Phantom’s an updating of the Faust tale, where composer Winslow Leach (played by early De Palma muse William Finley), seeking to have his great “cantata” realized, sells his soul to a devil-in-disguise Swan (played, with Sterling Holloway slipperiness, by the film’s composer Paul Williams).

Typical for De Palma, the film offers up an art-versus-commerce parable that’s as bleak as it is unsparing.  But beyond its easy, showbiz cynicism, it’s Harper’s wonderfully committed performance that elevates Phantom into the realms of tragedy and heartbreak. 

Harper plays muse and soulmate to Leach.  But then, as these things happen (though less so, these days), Leach is horribly disfigured in a “record pressing mishap.”  Newly reborn as “The Phantom,” he makes an agreement with Swan to audition singers for his cantata.  This is where Harper slips in, and pretty much runs—or struts, really—off with the movie.

Beyond the forgettable Inserts, Phantom was Harper’s first feature role.  And in this clip here (newly added, raw footage outtakes—the actual clip has been scrubbed from YouTube), you get a definite sense that she’s not just auditioning for Swan, she’s auditioning for the rest of her life.

In fact, as the song goes along, you can actually see Harper finding her voice, as an actress, a person.  Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to this film—this clip.  It doesn’t seem like Harper’s acting at all.

Fortunately, after Phantom, Harper found her way to not just Allen and Argento, but into the relatively secure (by Hollywood standards) arms of Tom Rothman (co-chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment), where she’s now a wife, mother, children’s book author, occasional actress, and, of course, still special to me.

 
Jessica Harper Audition Scene: Special To Me

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.04.2009
03:29 pm
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