Category Archives: MUSIC

Tim Smith R.I.P.

If there was one band worthy of inclusion in the music magazine The Wires “Epiphanies” section, it should be Cardiacs.
Shunned by the music press for 30 years as being too clever, or quirky, and yet beloved by a huge range of fans across the world and lauded by big stars such as Radiohead, Blur and Faith no More.

There isn’t really any fan of Cardiacs that hasn’t come to them by way of some kind of Epiphany, you just dont/cant like Cardiacs… a bit. You either totally love them, love everything they do, from the stop/start time signatures, the prog yet punk yet ska sound, the virtuosity, perfectionism and professionality of the playing, the crazy, “just out of the asylum” shouty circus freak image and the weird unexplained, carefully created backstory of a sinister organisation that manages and controls them… or… you hate them and don’t get it at all.

My journey with Cardiacs started at a pub in Guildford (details like when or where or guildford, might be inaccurate here, its a bit hazy) when they were supporting the punky Hippy band “Here and Now”. Me and my friends had driven from Petersfield for Here and Now, only to find they had cancelled and the support band stepped up for the the full show.
We stood open mouthed at first, then we jiggled about a bit trying to keep in time with the off kilter rhythms and song structures (R.E S. remains a test of the noob Cardiacs dancer… do you get the extra beats in the chorus right? or look an idiot, stopping on starts and starting on stops?).
By the end, probably during the anthemic and perfectly crafted stadium rock of “Is this the Life?” we, my friends and I were swaying, hands in the air with tears streaming down our faces and grins from ear to ear.

A quick chat with Tim after the show and the last 9 months of me and Nicks video course at Portsmouth college of Art was sorted.
We turned up at a Surbiton Town hall, not a long time later with 2 U-matic video cameras and recorded the whole gig from 2 angles. We made a quick edit, simply synching up the 2 cameras with the desk recording and Tim came down to see.
He tutted and groaned and laughed and considered, and over the course of a month where he came down to supervise every change, every small edit, in a friendly, but firm way. He liked the final result. He was happy and it was deemed finished. But, something was not right, the quality of the cameras (not really good enough in low light) the camerawork (it’s hard to keep a steady shot in a mosh pit) and the audio recording (too dry through the desk but with Nick and me carefully mixing in some live atmos from the camera mikes)… something was amiss.

But we had passed his audition for bigger things as he revealed to us his ideas for “Seaside Treats”. And offered us the job of producing it.

Seaside Treats was to be a mix of performance based pop videos shot in an old Church Hall in Kingston and weird homemade VHS tapes. The details of making it are very hazy, we didn’t really “have a plan” just a location. We knew which tracks would be shot and scoured the hall for shots and angles. It had a stage, and Tim had thought that they would just set up like a band and we would kind of “re-shoot” the Surbiton gig.
But, we weren’t having any of that.
While “A little man and a house” was at least shot ON the stage, but not straight on and with no instruments, “To go off and things” was shot under the stage in cramped conditions along with old packing boxes and rolls of carpet and RES was shot in front of an old kitchen hatch where no doubt many cups of tea and biscuits had been served after weddings, funerals and AA meetings.

And with that, my journey ended rather quickly, with my friend and colleague Nick going on to make “Too many irons in the fire” and a few more things from the VHS outtakes, including the very odd Consultants Flower Garden. I got suddenly busy with my band Cranes and I all but forgot them, which sounds a little hard to do. I bumped into Tim once at that little club in Oxford Street where all the Camden Indie bands hung out, can’t remember the name, and we chatted a bit, but, I was not completely sure if he recognised me. Very shorty after that, after that fateful MBV concert that I might even have been at, Tim was struck down, and the rest is a very very sad history, that just ended a few days ago.
What a waste!

There was never any band quite like Cardiacs, and I doubt there ever will be again.

Rest in Peace Tim.

thOnk Album

I found all my old thOnk experiments on a minidisk, so I made an album. Its noise really… but weirdly good on headphones… if you like that whispering tickling thing… except noisy.

Andre la Fosse rocks…

My second favorite looping guitarist, the amazing EDP expert, Andre la Fosse, has quite un-necessarily cited me at coining the term “unstacking” when referring to an obscure echoplex technique.

It’s not even a technique I use much, more of a side effect of Loop Windowing.

Loop Windowing is where you record a short loop, multiply it longer and add an overdub onto that, now longer loop. You then divide that loop back down to the original (not ness) and hit undo. Instead of peeling off that second layer, as you would expect, it actually starts scanning through the loop in chunks.

So Unstacking is the reverse.

First you record a short loop, then overdub multiple times into it, it gets noisy and full.

THEN you multiply out to multiple lengths of the original loop, then undo.

This has the effect of laying out one after another (as you played them?) all the short overdubs into one quieter loop with only one layer.

Andre produces a bunch of tutorial videos for the EDP.
Here’s the latest about the aforementioned un-stacking (where he also over does his mentions of me.. no need Andre, no need!)


A Modular synth album

This album is recorded over a few years, many modular improvisations, probably intended as bits of a future Electricity album, but never becoming thus.
I have edited and mixed them altogether to make one long playing track. I haven’t deleted errors or bits where things don’t always work, plus you can also hear places where Im tuning up synth modules, or tweaking the sounds before I use it. This is part of using a modular, and are normally not heard on an album, I like those bits, it shows process and give humanity to otherwise electronic sounds.
What about the title? Well it suggests self illumination, the fact that a thing itself can itself reveal some truth about itself, or give light and visibility to other things. I am referring to the above working process, but also my wish to illuminate what Im doing (my self) to the world. A very current need we have, self publishing. Normally these recordings would be private, and be edited out of all recognition, micro-edited, like most (all?) music done on Ableton Live, just sounding perfect, over produced and lacking dynamics.

Anyway, buy it for whatever at bandcamp!

Or you can cheat and just play this… but no, go and buy from bandcamp, than you can put it on your phone and go jogging…

Inescapable animation in video by Jennie Vee

Old friend of the Cranes, Jennie Vee, has released a video with some of my animation in it.
Great song, a collaboration with John Fryer, who coincidentally once engineered a remix by Ivo Watts Russell of a Cranes song.
The animation footage was nicked from an old video for the song inescapable, there’s even a few frames of MY HAND playing the violin in it ha ha.

We first became acquainted with a very young Jennie, when she was to young to get into our gig at Lee’s Palace in Toronto and stood outside the fire exit with her frozen ear to the door.

The Cranes Philadelphia,Pa 3.10.97

Well here’s a gig Id totally forgotten! I was obviously enjoying this one alot, judging by the playing Lilies from the audience and pretty much trashing my guitar during Adrift! It always happened that if I loved a show, you can be sure that Jim hated it, as can be proven when Ali says “this is the last song”, Jim can be clearly heard muttering “…ever!”

And heres the “trashing bit” from Adrift… what a fucking guitar hero!

God I miss it…