hip hop music

Nine Nickel

i took an interest in hip-hop music when it first came out, but didn’t listen to it that much in earnest until the early 90s.

when tim westwood started doing his rap show on radio 1 at the end of 1994 a unique opportunity arose. looking back one can argue that that time was a peak for the music. some people may even say it had already peaked. some might say the peak was later in the decade. others perhaps believe the peak is still to come – can’t see it myself.

anyway westwood’s radio programme allowed a nationwide audience (worldwide too to a certain extent, though not sure if that was immediate) to hear the best of a music which was at its best, in my opinion. i’m not saying that ’95 was the best year in itself but that it was roughly the centre of the best years – say perhaps a 5 year period 1993-7.

so here are 3 classic tracks from 1995. you know how we do.

this track, whutcha want? by nine was definitely on the first rap show. it comes from the nine livez album.

this one too i think, but not so sure. it’s by mobb deep it’s survival of the fittest from the infamous

finally one that probably didn’t get so much airplay on the early shows as the two above, but it’s a great track and a powerful video (bigger budget than the other two). naughty by naturechain remains from poverty’s paradise


May the 35th

In 1932, 67 years after the publication of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, a German author, Erich Kästner published a book for children, Der 35 Mai (The 35th Of May). I can’t remember exactly when I first read the book, but it would have been sometime in the early 60s. I’m pretty sure that I had already read Emil And The Detectives, his most famous children’s book and possibly some of the others such as Emil And The Three Twins and The Flying Classroom, but The 35th Of May seemed like something different, evoking the world of Lewis Carroll.

In the Carroll books the fantasy world is one of dreams. Both of the Alice books are revealed in the end to be dreams although there are different doors to the dream world, falling down a rabbit-hole in one and passing through a mirror in the other. In Sylvie And Bruno the fantasy world echoes the real world and the transition from one to the other is connected with dreaming or day-dreaming. Similarly in The 35th Of May, there are devices to enter the realm of fantasy and nonsense. Firstly the fact that the date has drifted away from the calendar and then, as an actual portal, a wardrobe is the door to the fantastic lands. CS Lewis used the same device nearly 20 years later in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. As far as I am aware there is no evidence that Lewis copied this idea from Kästner although it seems likely that he did.

The book tells the story of an afternoon in the lives of schoolboy, Conrad Ringel, his uncle and a horse called Negro Caballo.

Conrad’s homework is to write an essay on The South Seas. Negro Caballo rings up the Big Horse from the Circus Horses’ Travel Agency who tells them that

All we have to do is step into the wardrobe and go straight on. Then in two hours we shall be at the South Seas.

The two hour journey takes them through a number of different realms or territories which allow the normal world to be distorted or upset. First of all, the Land of Cockayne, where all the inhabitants are fat and lazy. Anyone weighing less than twenty stone is deported. From there they pass on to the Castle of the Mighty Past, which is full of historical personnages. As luck would have it the Olympic Games are on and they stop for a while to watch some of the events. They get tickets for the stadium but then find that two of their seats are occupied.

Next, after passing through a toy wood where this is one of the scenes

they reach Topsy Turvy Country where the children are in charge and adults are sent to school for re-education. From there it is a short journey to Electropolis – The Automatic City. This allows Kästner to indulge in some futurology. For example,

What impressed them most was the following: a gentleman was travelling along the pavement in front of them, when suddenly he stepped off, took a telephone receiver from his pocket and called a number. ‘Listen Gertrude,’ he said, ‘I shall be about an hour late for lunch to-day. I have to look in at the laboratory. Good-bye, darling!’. Then he put away his pocket-telephone, stepped on to the moving band and rode off, reading a book.

Finally they reach the Indian Ocean where they travel along the equator which is a band of steel about six feet wide that ran out across the water and seemed to be as endless as the ocean itself. This leads them to the Western Gate of the South Seas, where they meet Little Parsley, daughter of a famous South Seas chieftain, who shows them around. Fortunately they meet another chieftain, Skunkadder, who manages to frighten off a whale that is chasing Parsley and who also conjures up Uncle Ringel’s wardrobe so that they can return home. Meanwhile Negro Caballo decides to stay in the South Seas, to give up the circus, to never talk again and to marry a white mare that he met there.

Illustrations by Walter Trier.


Little Song Films & Why Firegiver

If you look on whois domain name search it will tell you that was created in 2008. That’s bollocks. It was first registered in 2000. 2008 is the most recent renewal date. Back around the turn of the century I was mulling over setting up a website. I had the idea of creating some sort of arts channel and back then spent a lot of effort preparing content. I needed a domain name and every name that I felt suitable was already taken. I don’t know how many searches I made but it was a lot. Eventually firegiver occurred to me as an option and miraculously it wasn’t already taken. I bagged it and continued developing the concept I had. At the moment I can’t be bothered to explain exactly why firegiver was appropriate. But in the words of Franz Kafka

There are four legends concerning Prometheus.

According to the first he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his liver, which was perpetually renewed.

According to the second Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with it.

According to the third his treachery was forgotten in the course of thousands of years, forgotten by the gods, the eagles, forgotten by himself.

According to the fourth everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.

There remained the inexplicable mountain of rock. The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.

A little while afterwards, I met Roger Thorp at a dinner party and we got to talk about films and things. He told me of his website idea which he had a name for, Little Song Films. Later we pinned down the essence of the site as being dedicated to the poetics of the moving image. Roger and I got on well and his concept seemed to be much more achievable than the rather broad and vague aims of my proposed website, plus it’s easier to do things in collaboration than by yourself, so I dropped my Firegiver efforts and we registered the Little Song Films domain and produced a first version of this in 2001.

Ten years or so later Little Song Films is in a state of hibernation. It got to the point where we needed to rethink and redevelop the website. We had a few discussions with ideas of how this could be done, but further progress also meant further commitment of time and money which neither of us felt capable of providing. The website still exists as an archive and gets over 100 visits a day, though what proportion of those are genuine individuals watching films as opposed to miscellaneous robotic search engine activity I couldn’t say. Actually when I think about it, it wouldn’t be too hard to find out, but I would have to search through logs for .mov files and look at each one to be sure that it actually had been watched. Another time maybe.

Although was not used for its original purpose I retained the domain name and in 2004 I started to use it for a rudimentary blog which consisted of short films that I made with accompanying music and some explanatory text. They are all still there although nothing links to them so the only way they can be found is via a search engine, so some of them are still accessed from time to time.

I will write a bit more about Little Song Films now and again, but for now here’s one of the first films that we got from a major videoartist, Éder Santos who we fortunately met in Amsterdam in 2003. It’s something he did as a video for the American singer/songwriter, Mark Mulcahy, which was never used. It’s a beautiful song and Éder’s video is brilliant. Thanks to Mezzotint Records for letting us screen the track.

The Way She Really Is

By the way, translation of Kafka’s Prometheus by the mighty Willa & Edwin Muir.


Chilean Baskets

Sometime around 1910 my grandfather took a job in Chile as foreman or manager of a large wood mill. As a result of this there are a number of Chilean artefacts in the family some of which are in my care.

The featured micromuseum exhibit is one such. It’s a useless ornament, possibly a child’s toy, but tells a story of many of hours of skilled labour for probably very little reward. One wonders of the life of the person (or persons?) who made it. And was there a market for such objects outside the European emigrés?

Within the main basket are 11 nested baskets. This is the smallest one…

…and here is one of the larger ones from the bottom…

…that’s all


frost web thing

my frost web video is a forerunner to the amanogawa album which is now pretty much ready except i have to get it on the internet in a downloadable manner before releasing it to the general public because that’s a horse and cart situation that i can understand in a canny sort of way it’s just to besmirch the underlying quotient power of must have some sort of carrying potency

if i don’t make myself clear then all the more so it was selected then rejected predilected then subjected to other sorts of maintenance mainly peripatetic and sojourning in immaculate long phrases

this is the intial launch for the amanogawa album and i’ve many variations to deliver for purely fantastical derivative and heretical presentations designed to leave froissart behind i’m not sure why i said that turned to something else and completely lost the thread

birds music

An Owl Revisited

A few years ago I had an idea to create some sort of low budget video to accompany my song An Owl. I’d never done a storyboard before but I knew that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re serious about making a film. I’m not very good at drawing, but I gave it a go anyway.

A few days ago I came across the result while looking for some lyrics so here it is followed by some detailed comments and then at the bottom there’s a chance to hear a brand new recording of the song which was written over 30 years ago.

My first attempt at drawing the owl’s head was obviously not a success. I’m not sure why I thought an owl should have ears like a teddy bear’s and black holes for eyes. I then seemed to manage a decent drawing of an owl which must have either been copied from somewhere or drawn by someone else.

But by the time I came to draw the frame for the line,

by my luminous face

my attempt to superimpose the owl face on a watch face was obviously so demanding that I reverted to the stick-up ears.

I believe that I excelled myself with my representation of a withered plant, which for me has a Hokusai-like simplicity and strength.

By the time we reach the 7th frame it’s not so much stick-up ears but some sort of dent in the top of the owl’s head.

When we get to the lyric,

I swooped down on some mice

we get this frame

I can only see one mouse here. Unless the others are smaller and are hiding behind the big one. It is quite fat.

The dent in the owl’s head has cleared up but now it looks a bit like ET. The point about ET was that he was an alien but he looked friendly like a bendy, squeezy childen’s toy. But this ET owl isn’t friendly – he’s trying to look evil. The smile is malevolent and the eye on the right is looking into the distance, daydreaming about acts of depravity with a hint of Orson Welles in A Touch of Evil or possibly Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter.

Further sign of laziness in the last but one frame which is supposed to be of a number of parasitical insects. After drawing a few, the word etc asks you to expand the paltry depictions of what are supposed to be bird-ticks in your mind’s eye.

And finally, here is the new recording

An Owl

micromuseum stamps

Buildings Stamps

Time for some more stamps this time of an inanimate nature. The theme is buildings. What type of buildings appear on stamps? Usually there has to be some sort of significance – its picturesque quality. The first example is in my guess a religious building.

The Cuban Palacio de Comunicaciones on the other hand is a boast of modernity. Actually I really like the fact that there seems to be a gigantic brick wall behind it.

And now another religious building. Partly ruined? A ghostly presence drifts through the cloisters while in the light above the LIQ of REPUBLIQUE is that someone sitting in tranquil contemplation or is it a piece of modern sculpture? We have a name H.CHEFFER which is Henri-Louis Cheffer. Some websites think he was born in 1860, others 1880 but everyone seems to agree that he died in 1957.

If only I knew some Greek I would be able to explain what this building might possibly be. Looks like it could be a monastery. I’m more interested in what appear to be houses further up the hillside. They could be just ordinary dwellings and maybe that’s unusual.

And finally, from Japan. This building has probably got some sacred purpose too. So maybe most buildings on stamps have religious significance or otherwise it could be that the stamps I’ve chosen just happen to be that way.


2 new songs

Here are a couple of songs that I wrote recently. These are just my home recorded demos so they’re just sketches not finished articles. I’m not sure whether the songs are good or not. Well I know they’re ok, I can continue to work with them, I’m not going to drop them, but it takes time before you know whether a song is just ok or whether it is something more.

The first one is called waiting for my map and is particularly designed for taking out into small pubs and clubs and presenting as some sort of offering to try and evoke a latterday oracle. Generally that feels like a Sisyphean task, but maybe tenacity is the best thing I have to offer.

Waiting For My Map

Then there is the more recent little crusader, which I can only perform using a loop pedal and haven’t yet done so. One day I may judge an audience to be sufficiently sympathetic to witness it. Actually both these songs are recorded with the use of the loop pedal and that accounts for the occasional strange slightly out-of-time edit. I quite like that.

Little Crusader

There are 2 things that particularly influence my use of the loop pedal. Firstly the things that Terry Riley used to do using a couple of Revoxes to create a delay and then later using more advanced technology to build up repeating patterns. Persian Surgery Dervishes is my favourite example of this. You can hear a bit of that here.

The 2nd thing is hip-hop particularly the great producers of the 90s. Especially DJ Premier. On the subject of out-of-time loops I love what Arabian Knight did for GZA on this track.


quotations 2

Between us and the animals there is a great gulf fixed. The most important thing about man is that he is NOT an animal. He is different, and in this difference lies his ultimate hope and promise. A miracle happened to man when he was an animal. That miracle was the BIRTH OF LANGUAGE. This has made his life incomparable with any animal. We are not concerned merely with the difference to him which this miraculous event has made in the ordering of his life. It is the difference in him that is crucial. For this was the sign of the birth of consciousness. Not of intelligence, but of consciousness. Something broke in on man. It may have evolved, but it is not strictly a question of evolution. It is something outside evolution.

John Stewart Collis

He may not deny his bestial relationship with animals, the invocation of which revolts him: he must make himself its master.

Walter Benjamin

there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.

Hermann Melville

Animals are closer to us than human beings. That’s where our prison bars are.

Franz Kafka