Monthly Archives: February 2009

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Tom Dowd

Tom Dowd was an American recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records. He was credited with innovating the multi-track recording method. Dowd worked on a virtual “who’s who” of recordings that encompassed blues, jazz, pop, rock and soul records. At age 18, Dowd was drafted into the military with the rank of sergeant. He continued his work in physics at Columbia University. He worked on the Manhattan Project contributing to the atomic bomb. The purpose of the work was unclear until 1945. Dowd planned to obtain a degree in nuclear physics when he completed his work on the Manhattan Project. However because his work was top secret the university did not recognize it, and Dowd decided not to continue, since the university’s curriculum would not have been able to further his physics education. His research for the military was more advanced than the academia of the times. He soon became a top recording engineer at Atlantic Records and recorded popular artists such as Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Ruth Brown, and Bobby Darin (Dowd recorded the legendary “Mack the Knife”) and captured jazz masterpieces by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonius Monk, and Charlie Parker. His first hit was Eileen Barton’s “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d a Baked A Cake”. It was Dowd’s idea to cut Ray Charles’ recording of “What’d I Say” into two parts and release them as the “A” and “B” sides of one 45 rpm single record.

Dowd worked as an engineer and producer from the 1940s until the beginning of the 21st century. He recorded albums by many artists including: Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart, Wishbone Ash, Cream, Lulu, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Bonamassa, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Harris, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, The Drifters, Otis Redding, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Arlan Feiles, Joe Castro and Ruth Brown.

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Theory of Surveillance: The PANOPTICON

The PANOPTICON was proposed as a model prison by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a Utilitarian philosopher and theorist of British legal reform.

The Panopticon (“all-seeing”) functioned as a round-the-clock surveillance machine. Its design ensured that no prisoner could ever see the ‘inspector’ who conducted surveillance from the privileged central location within the radial configuration. The prisoner could never know when he was being surveilled — mental uncertainty that in itself would prove to be a crucial instrument of discipline.

French philosopher Michel Foucault described the implications of ‘Panopticism’ in his 1975 work Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison —

“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.”


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Prefuse 73

It’s hard to think of a name that carries as much weight in both hip-hop and avant-rock circles as Prefuse 73, who in the past year alone has been asked to remix ‘TV On The Radio’, Pelican and Cornelius, not to mention his early collabs with School of Seven Bells and Battles. These interactions have clearly helped to shape the evolving Prefuse 73 sonic aesthetic.

This year will see Guillermo Scott Herren comfortably stretching sonics across a new Prefuse 73 album ‘Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian’ plus a new project named ‘Diamond Watch Wrists’ in collaboration with superstar drummer Zach Hill (Hella, Marnie Stern, etc.).

For the 29-track Prefuse album, Herren rejected the idea of straight digital recording and instead went the much more intensive route of recording to analog Ampex tape, giving the album the sound of a lost tape of exploratory studio musicians from the not-too-distant past. In addition to the recording process, Ampexian also differs in its composition, existing as a tapestry of tracks of varying lengths and moods, albeit with a remarkable linear flow and, of course, unmatched rhythmic bump.

From the drum machine prog of ‘Parachute Panador’ to the driving noise jam ‘Violent Bathroom Exchange’, it’s easy to deduce that Prefuse 73 is comfortably stretching out musically. ‘Nature’s Uplifting Revenge’ sounds as if broadcast from a pirate radio station equally enamored with Animal Collective and J Dilla, while ‘Simple Loop Choir’ is anything but simple – an expansive robo-ballad, featuring a vocoded chorus of Herren’s voice and clouds of analog debris.

The uncommon reach of the album also serves as an oddly appropriate introduction and companion to Guillermo Scott Herren’s newest musical incarnation, Diamond Watch Wrists, and the album Ice Capped at Both Ends. Created with superstar drummer Zach Hill (Hella, Marnie Stern, etc.), DWW shows an entirely new form of Herren creations, organic songs featuring Guillermo’s plaintive vocals, guitar and studio wizardry, Hill’s singular drumming as well as previously unheard nods to 60’s European acid-folk, classic American singer-songwriters and krautrock.

from warp records


The Iron Heel

”They, as a class, believed that they alone maintained civilization. It was their belief that if they weakened, the great beast would engulf them, and everything of beauty and wonder and joy and good in its cavernous and slime-dripping maw. Without them, anarchy would reign, and humanity would drop backward into the primitive night out of which it had so painfully emerged…….This was the beast to be stamped on, and the highest duty of the aristocrat was to stamp upon it. In short, they alone, by unremitting toil and sacrifice, stood between weak humanity and the all-devouring beast; and they believed it, firmly believed it.”

When it comes to accolades for the most lauded prophetic dystopian satirical novels of the early twentieth century, there’s no doubting which are the big two. The hyper-Stalinist all-surveillance paranoid nightmare of Orwell’s 1984, and the distorted DNA-as-play-doh playground of Huxley’s Brave New World. Occasionally Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We gets a look-in as a curio, a minor precursor to both, appearing as it did in 1920, long before that of Huxley (1932) and Orwell (1949). There is one however which always gets passed over, despite being written before both the others, way back in 1908, and overlooked, despite being written by one of the most widely revered American authors of all time. That novel is Jack London’s The Iron Heel. In and out of print for decades, The Iron Heel has finally been republished in the last couple of months by Penguin UK.

Orwell’s warning about the grotesque parody of socialism offered by Stalin and his acolytes which plagued the twentieth century, and the grim auger from Huxley on the eugenic, anaesthetic aesthetic threatened by scientific consumerism which stalked both this century and the last have been analysed, critiqued and celebrated to death. There is, however, a third more straightforward great evil of the modern age. The rich crushing the poor, the propensity of the forces of capital – when vicious push comes to deadly shove – to react with the most monstrous and tyrannical violence against the organised labour which seeks to grab more of its fair share from them. The evil that led to the bloody regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and their tin-pot descendants. This was prophesised just as uncannily in Jack London’s long-neglected novel.

The action of the book begins in the years immediately following when it was written. Labour relations in the USA are plunging as rapidly as the economy, while the thuggery of big-business against the unions increases in turn. Goons break limbs at picket-lines as families go hungry. No fiction there. Poverty spreads apace, and slower but just as surely does the Socialist movement of America (strange fantasy it may seem now, but as London wrote, the US Socialist Party, led by Eugene Debs, was growing rapidly, at one point gathering over a million votes even as its leaders were being jailed.) – Spikemagazine

Jay Reatard

Solo debuts aren’t supposed to be this good. Jay Reatard has been kicking around Memphis since a teen, starting in the 1990s with the dirty-word punk of The Reatards, and lately in the thrashy synth-centered Lost Sounds. The brilliant Blood Visions falls somewhere in between – rambunctious and roaring, jerking nervously all the way. Tons of highlights here – tons of them – hitting on just about every style that’s had the word “punk” thrown at it as an epithet. It adds up sounding closest to the not-quite-new-wave rock that bounced between ambitious indies and majors around 1980; it resembles the twisted naiveté of the era, before bands realized that building a hook around “I will kill you” was going to keep them off the airwaves.

Jay, of course, knows better. Naiveté went out with the Carter re-nomination, and somewhere along the way delusions of grandeur gave way to festivals of failure. Hence, he’s got no problem building a hook around “I will kill you.” He delivers it nonchalantly, in a stiff diction that sounds like an American imitating a Brit, or vice versa. Later, in robot cadence, he sings “Minus puppet man / in a garbage can / drinking piss from a jar.” He’s got no expectations. Kids in bands like the Rezillos or the Weirdos riffed on the uncharted territory of Patti or the Pistols; career suicide was the furthest thing from their minds. Twenty-five years later, Jay puts himself on the cover with blood dripping off his love handles. Getting stocked at the department store isn’t a consideration.
-Dusted Review



Suzuki spent the late 1960s wandering around Europe, often busking, during which time he would only have been a teenager.

When Malcolm Mooney left Can after recording their first album Monster Movie, Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit encountered Suzuki singing on a street in Munich, Germany whilst the two were sitting outside at a street café. They invited him to join the group, and he did, performing with them that evening.

Suzuki was with Can from 1970 to 1973, recording a number of well-regarded albums such as Tago Mago, Future Days and Ege Bamyasi. Suzuki’s first vocal performance with Can was “Don’t Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone” from Soundtracks His freeform, often improvised lyrics, sung in no one particular language gelled with Can’s rolling, psychedelic sound.

Suzuki converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith when he married his German girlfriend, who was also a Jehovah’s Witness, after the release of the album Future Days, and retired from music in 1974.

He returned to music in 1983, and currently leads what is known as Damo Suzuki’s Network – as he tours, he performs live improvisational music with various local musicians (so-called “Sound Carriers”) from around the world, thus building up a ‘network’ of musicians with whom he collaborates. As far as more recent recorded material is concerned, Damo is featured on electronic/hip-hop producer Sixtoo’s album, “Chewing on Glass and Other Miracle Cures” (Ninja Tune, 2004).


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