26 August 2014

Billy Corgan - AEGEA

AEGEA by Billy Corgan

AEGEA is a private press release from Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan. The version that I have is the third pressing, which is a lavender coloured 12 inch record with music on both sides of the vinyl. The third pressing is a one disc release as opposed to the a two-disc set that the previous versions where. The first two pressings where on aqua and red coloured vinyl, respectively. My third pressing of AEGEA is numbered 680 out of 1000. 

Interest in the record could be registered via the Smashing Pumpkins website, and then an email was sent to those who had registered containing a link to a webpage where the record could be ordered from. The record was sold and distributed via Billy Corgan's teashop in Chicago called Madame Zuzu's Tea House. 

AEGEA by Billy Corgan

This release really has been a DIY effort and may be a direction Billy Corgan will want to pursue for releasing music in the future - keeping the production and distribution in-house and delivering it directly to fans without the need to go through record labels. 

After placing my order I had to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive as it was being posted to the UK. 

The music was recorded by Billy Corgan in 2007 during a period of recording that took place just before the reunited Smashing Pumpkins made their first live appearance (22 May in Paris) after they originally split in December 2000. 

AEGEA by Billy Corgan

Consisting of pieces of experimental electronic music, the focus of the tracks is on creating textures and moods rather than actual melodies or what could be called 'proper songs'. It is ambient and ghostly, with notes drifting, shifting shape, before evaporating in to nothingness. There's a meditative quality running throughout and it feels like the music is moving along organically and not being forced in to any particular direction. 

Is it indulgent? Of course it is, this is Billy Corgan we are talking about. I'm not really sure who this will appeal to apart from Billy Corgan/Smashing Pumpkins fans who want to collect everything that he puts out. This is a very niche sounding record and is far removed from his work with Smashing Pumpkins (and Zwan) as you can imagine. But I admire him for releasing something (however limited) in to the wider world that is so uncharacteristic of the music that he is more commonly known to make. 

AEGEA by Billy Corgan

Apologies for the quality of the photographs that I have uploaded here. I've posted them for reference and my iPhone lense is shamefully dirty. 

If you wanted to listen to the music of AEGEA without trying to get your hands on a copy of the record, it has been uploaded to YouTube accompanied by some appropriately murky visuals. You can view/listen below:

Billy Corgan Facebook
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25 August 2014

Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany

Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany
My own introduction to Krautrock probably came via listening to Kraftwerk. Like The Beatles, Kraftwerk's music has always felt like it has always just been around, as if it has always existed and appeared fully formed not attached to any kind of time or place; their robotic tentacles have infiltrated and shaped so much modern music, that it's hard to escape their influence. 

It's Kraftwerk whose presence looms large over this book as one of the very few Krautrock bands from 1970s Germany to break out of the scene and make it internationally during their hey-day. Many of the other bands at the time didn't really gain any kind of recognition, aside from a few music press types, until 20 or 30 years later. 

Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany by David Stubbs charts the the rise of a certain type of experimental band that cropped-up throughout Germany in the late 1960s and early 70s who became tagged as 'Krautrock' by the Western music press. 

Stubbs attempts to frame the movement within a social and historical context, and although this does make for some meandering narrative at times (the overwhelming length of the prologue is enough to put you off from reading the rest of the book), the book does make a worthy effort to try and understand just how these bands came about and why it too so long for their influence to take hold. 

The book is divided into chapters that focus on individual bands or scenes. Therefore we get sections that focus on Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Duul 2, Faust, Neu!, Cluster, the bands of the Berlin scene such as Tangerine Dream, plus David Bowie's involvement and interest in much of this experimental German music at the tail end of the 70's, with Stubbs explaining in a very enthused way how these bands came about and just how different and exciting their music was. 

The music that became known as Krautrock was unlike anything else that came before it and was unique to Germany - which that was the point. As Future Days goes in to great detail explaining, all of these bands came about because the musicians wanted to create a new culture, a fresh-identity for a post-war Germany, one that didn't take from the West, specifically America. 

What was also unique about Krautrock was that it wasn't a scene based around particular city, venue or sound. Many of these bands formed independently from one another, but everyone involved happened to have similar mindset and goals - To create something new. 

Stubbs explains how these disparate groups created their unique music, fitting the groups in to the culture of the times, while drawing a line to much of the popular modern music we listen to today and how it has been shaped by the gradually percolating influence of Krautrock. If this does make the text and narrative somewhat cumbersome at times, you do feel that there is too much attempting to contextualise at points, the book does a rewarding job of explaining where this music fits in to modern musical culture. 

This is a well researched book, Stubbs getting time to speak to many of the people who are involved in this music first hand, and his passion for the music is obvious throughout. From a personal point of view, the chapter on Kraftwerk is some of the best writing about Kraftwerk I've ever read, and he eloquently states just how much their music changed the music landscape creating the foundation for modern pop and hip hop. 

The text and narrative may feel sprawling in places, but David Stubbs makes a good effort of a difficult task - explaining the rise of these various groups who were very different from each other. For a good overview and introduction to a scene whose influence wouldn't break through in to the mainstream conscious until 30 years after it came and went, it feels like an essential read and will no doubt become a standard text for people wanting to learn more about Krautrock alongside Julian Cope's influential Krautrocksampler. 

Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany by David Stubbs is out via Faber & Faber. 

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22 August 2014

LeftLion Kickstarter Campaign

I have been involved with LeftLion since 2005 when I started penning gig reviews and interviews as something to do when I returned back to Nottingham after university. It was a great way off re-introducing myself to what the city has to offer, as well a good way to continue writing since I had been involved in my uni magazine and wanted to continue to do something similar. LeftLion gave me that opportunity. I eventually got more involved and ended up as Music Editor, a role that I have held with the magazine since roughly October 2008 (I think) - dates are a little bit blurry and I think there was a gradual 'easing in' process. 

LeftLion does a remarkable job of promoting Nottingham culture to a wider audience, and myself, along with loads of other much more talented contributors, have worked our balls-off for nothing and often working around full-time jobs to put it together.

The magazine is distributed for free around the city and up until this point has been published every two months. But from the next issue (which will be issue #61) onwards we plan to take it monthly. To go monthly LeftLion needs a helping hand. 

To mark 10 years as a magazine (LeftLion was founded in 2003 and the website has been going since then, with the magazine coming a year later) we have launched a Kickstarter campaign to give us a helping hand in going monthly. 

We are looking to raise £10,000 to help with the costs of producing an extra five magazines over the next year. Not a penny will be going to anyone involved in the mag, it'll all be going towards the printing and distribution. 

You don't need to give loads of money. If everyone who read the magazine simply gave a quid to the campaign it would easily make its target. 

There are loads of rewards available, from a simple mention on LeftLion's social networks through to loads of signed goods, a band playing in your living room, being on the cover and even becoming honourary 'LeftLion President' if you stump up the big figures. 

As I type this, there has been 135 backers and £4,629 raised with 29 days to go. 

Please take a look at the LeftLion Kickstarter page.


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Quoted By The Fish Police

This is exciting and very rarely happens. One of my gig reviews have been used as a quote by the band I was writing about. Currently, The Fish Police are using a banner on their website that uses a quote pulled from my review of their show at Nottingham Contemporary on 4 April this year

The Fish Police are a hugely entertaining band and were touring thanks to an organisation called Constant Flux who work with and create opportunities for learning disabled musicians on the UK's DIY music scene. 
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