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Harmonic Rooms guitar diary (November 2012)

Harry Wheeler of Harmonic Rooms spends a week in November in the company of some of the current greats of the acoustic guitar, and reflects on the enduring legacy of John Fahey and Robbie Basho.

Steffen Basho-Junghans and Cam Deas in OuseLast November, I spent over a week in and out of the recording studio with my trusty video camera and two explorative guitarists, Cam Deas and Steffen Basho-Junghans. Part of the appeal of getting these two guys together was the cross-over in their respective styles and approach to their instruments (primarily 6 and 12 steel-string guitars), combined with their difference in age. With Cam being in his early twenties, his playing has a youthful passion and vigour to it which also contains high energy and real sparkle, while Steffen, being in

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Ectogram – Exo-Celestial

Turquoise Coal/Pure Pop for Now People

Ectogram Exo-CelestialAn LP put out by both Turquoise Coal and Pure Pop for Now People and due for release on the day of the lovingly-hyped Mayan fauxpocalypse*, Ectogram‘s seventh album finds the band on fine avant-indie form. They’ve always managed the trick of melding their love of melodic songs with the further reaches of the weird and wonderful, but in Ectogram’s case it’s apparent that these are no mere extraneous noises (and who can resist a Mellotron?) thrown in to make their music sound kooky, but an integral part of how they live and breathe as a band.

This liberated sense of where their music can go, of pushing within the parameters of rock’n’roll until the boundaries crumble, has been

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Gary Numan (live at The Forum)

London 7 December 2012

Picture copyright (C) Emerson Tan 2012It’s cold outside… but nice and cosy warm in The Forum, where the throng of Numanoids, all wonderfully resplendent in black, have gathered to hear the music from the master. While the intro music plays the anticipation and tension mounts. Crys of “NuuuuuuMaaaaan!” ring out around the venue. Then suddenly the lights go out and a massive roar goes up from the crowd as the stage set is revealed. Two synthesizer players sit either side of a drum kit surrounded by their keyboards, all three atop a platform that has cold white lights shining from inside. This design reminded me a little of his ’79 Living Ornaments set, and it was perfectly in keeping because tonight

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Alien Sex Fiend (live at The Batcave)

The Dome, London 1 December 2012

Picture - (C) Ben Guiver (ben-guiver-photography.blogspot.co.uk)Picture - (c) Ben Guiver (ben-guiver-photography.blogspot.co.uk)Thirty years ago, thirty years ago to the very day, the original power couple of electro-goth, Nik Fiend and his wife, erm, Mrs Fiend, first unveiled their psychedelic horror show for the first, and for what they admit they believed would also be the last, time. And somehow they’re still here, thirty years on. And it’s time for a party.

Onto a stage festooned with cobwebs, skulls with glowing eyes and all the usual Sex Fiend malarkey capers Nik, seemingly dressed as every

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Jesus on Mars – Jesus on Mars

Dissolving

As synthesized sci-fi goes, this does a really good job, drawing its inspiration from a Philip José Farmer novel of the same name. That Seventies Panther pulp cover of scarred red and Space 1999 data font of the inlay warming you to this homage to those late ’60s/early ’70s explorations into the electronic unknown. A distinct doff of the cap to Tangerine Dream‘s pioneering vision, this is like a Zeit/Alpha Centauri hybrid, sans cello and oozing a great interplanetary vibe, all analogue whorls and ribbonised welds, a climbing helix of synth throwing out stark contrasts to the jet-black vacuum of space.

It starts with a gentle dronic ambience, celestial waves trapped in undulating infinities. Half-heard murmurs eerily located outside the headphones, twisting with tapering whirly jigs

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Palais Schaumburg – Palais Schaumburg

Bureau B

I first came across this album in a particularly smelly charity shop in the middlings of the ’90s. Sandwiched between some mouldering ’70s fodder, the massive sans serif Palais Schaumburg red of the slightly worse for wear cover, screaming out 2buy me now, or you’re gonna regret it!” I didn’t know anything about them at the time, my expectations were for some noisy, at the best slightly squiffy, post-punk shenanigans, some half-arsed assumption that was thankfully shattered for the better by the quirky goo that jig-jagged out of my speakers. A comedy of clattering off-kilter angles and retracted drum beetles that sounded more like a Greek plate smashing the further into the album you went. The accompanying Holger Hiller vocals

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Lean Left – Live at Café Oto

Unsounds

The Ex has been around on the edge of Dutch punk and improv since 1979, veterans in the explorations of sounds and music on the wide outer side of mainstream. So when the modern energetic avant-jazz-improv duo of the US saxplayer Ken Vandermark and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, who has been performing together since the year 2000, meets up with The Ex guitars of Andy Moor and Terrie Ex, expectations of sonic fun rises above most gigs, at both separate punk or jazz venues can present to their audience. Café Oto being one of the busiest improv or avant-garde spots in London (and a friendly place it is!), makes for bands wanting to record their performances there. Lean Left did not come as a

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Richard Pinhas/Merzbow/Wolf Eyes – Victoriaville Mai 2011

Les Disques Victo

The meeting of five titans of noise and experimental music onstage at the Victoriaville Festival in May 2011 was an occasion for a well-formed on the hoof composition from the five performers involved: Richard Pinahs of Heldon fame; Merzbow; and Wolf Eyes. While the latter have frequently been lauded as being in the same league as Throbbing Gristle, their albums and live shows have been sometimes less than impressive, and often failed to actually live up to the expectations heaped upon them at the time of the music press’ rekindling of interest in all matters noisy and oblique over the last decade or so.

However, all that is changed here. It’s not particularly easy to determine who is playing what in the

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