The Wire


AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams has died

US pianist, composer and educator died on 29 October

Pianist, clarinetist, composer, educator and founder of the AACM Muhal Richard Abrams died on 29 October. He was 87 old.

Born in Chicago on 19 September 1930, he began studying music in 1946 at Roosevelt University. But dissatisfied with the music covered on the course, he decided to leave and teach himself how to play the piano, compose and write arrangements.

He began working in the post-bop era around Chicago, performing and writing alongside the likes of Eddie Harris, Walter ‘King’ Flemming and MJT + 3. In 1961 he started The Experimental Band, a loose workshop-type context for players on the South Side to find new ways of working. Roscoe Mitchell came into the orbit of this group around 1963. In George E Lewis’s A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM And American Experimental Music, Joseph Jarman remembers that Abrams “was into herbology, astrology, painting, all this mystical stuff,” and he and his wife Peggy opened their basement apartment into a forum where “young musicians [could] explore musical, cultural, political, social and spiritual ideas”.

It was from this mileu that the game changing Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and, later, the Art Ensemble Of Chicago sprang. Abrams founded the AACM, along with Jodie Christian, Steve McCall and Phil Cohran, in 1965, with Abrams as the first president. The organisation, which was quickly awarded non-profit status, was dedicated to nurturing and supporting original music, and would see Abrams mentoring and working with a wide range of members such as Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, George Lewis and others. They also founded a youth music education programme. Abrams's 1968 debut album Levels And Degrees Of Light, alongside Roscoe Mitchell’s 1967 debut Sound, was a key document in introducing the jazz world to the AACM and the Chicago scene, and Abrams appeared on albums by Anthony Braxton and Joseph Jarman the same year (still credited at that time as Richard Abrams). The title of a 1975 album, Things To Come From Those Now Gone, exemplified a lifetime’s belief that education and historical study could help push music into the future.

In the late 1970s he moved to New York where he became involved in the loft jazz scene. He formed a crucial relationship with the Italian label Black Saint records around this time, and in 1983 founded the AACM New York City chapter. He continued to record regularly while in New York, blurring the lines between jazz, composition and free music. His 1989 album The Hearing Suite, with an 18 piece orchestra, was described by Andy Hamilton (The Wire 350) as one which “stands as the summit of his achievement as a jazz composer”. Albums became less frequent in the 2000s, but 2001’s Visibility Of Thought, released on Thomas Buckner’s Mutable Music label, was the first recording of his chamber compositions, and a 2007 release Vision Towards Essence presented three lengthy piano improvisations. His final album as leader was 2011’s SoundDance, with George Lewis and Fred Anderson. In 2010 Abram was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by New York City's Vision Festival. He died at his home in Manhattan.

Phew makes album from nothing but her voice

The Japanese punk pioneer turned analogue electronics improvisor pushes her vocal cords to extremes on Voice Hardcore

Japanese musician Phew has just released a new album on her own BeReKeT imprint. Called Voice Hardcore, the music is made entirely out of her own vocals – edited, treated and reworked into a nine track suite.

“This album is an attempt to make a new reverberation that I have never heard before by using only my body,” explains Phew on Facebook. “To test these things, I needed a private environment.” And so Phew found herself working on and recording the whole album in her room with an effector pedal and the same headset mic she uses in her live shows. It was then mixed and mastered by Hiroyuki Nagashima.

“I thought that I could make an album with only voice after I recorded my first solo single “Finale” in 1980,” states Phew, discussing the thought processes behind her new record. “When I dubbed my voice, a completely different world emerged that can not be described in the context of melody, harmony, rhythm, acoustic technology... It made me think that I could draw a picture by voice.

“Of course, I have not been thinking about it for 37 years! Every time I make a recording or play a live gig, that idea has been updated through the erasure method. For example, at one time, my throat rang accidentally during the live show. My body has found a stable way of outputting lower harmonics. Also, through experience I learned that I could train myself to listen to complicated melodies and to high-pitched voices that I could not put out when I started singing.

“It is simply nice to be able to do what I could not do before,” she continues. “This idea has been warming for a long time. But what inspired me directly to start producing this album was that I lost my physical condition during touring this year. I could not carry heavy equipment and it was difficult to set up, so I asked myself whether I could just make music with my own body.”

Phew’s Voice Hardcore is released on 1 November in Japan. It follows her Light Sleep analogue electronics LP, which was released by New York label Mesh-Key earlier this year. That same label also has plans to release the vinyl edition of Voice Hardcore in January 2018.

Digelius Music founder Ilkka ‘Emu’ Lehtinen has died

Finnish DJ, producer and Avantgardeyö radio show host Matti Nives remembers Helsinki's famed record shop owner

Born in 1947, Ilkka ‘Emu’ Lehtinen was the founder and owner of the Helsinki based record shop Digelius Music. He was a much loved figure in Finnish adventurous music circles, influencing several generations of musicians and music lovers through his shop. Digelius has served as a key meeting point in the Helsinki scene since it was opened in 1971.

The young Lehtinen initially set out for a career in architecture, but in 1970 he landed a job in the Helsinki record shop Tunnelin Levy. Shortly after he and some of his co-workers founded Digelius Music, which during its heyday in the mid-70s, boasted three separate locations in the city, each of them focused on a different genre.

Lehtinen was best known as Emu by his clientele and friends – a nickname he was given due to his childhood interest in ornithology. He diligently kept note of customers’ album wish lists, steering seekers towards deeper discoveries in whatever their musical interest might be. He never talked down to his customers, regardless of their level of knowledge. In the process he created an immensely inclusive shop environment for musical discoveries outside of the mainstream.

In a 2016 interview Lehtinen reports that one of his favourite customer questions was one that usually came from the tourists who frequented his shop more and more as Digelius’s international reputation increased. “Could you give some advice on Finnish jazz and folk music?” is a line he never tired of answering, offering an important connection to countless Finnish underground labels and artists.

The unique atmosphere at Digelius Music was documented in the 2003 TV series Jazzia Viiskulmassa (Jazz At The Five Corners), aired by the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle. In addition to its everyday record shop activities, Digelius regularly served as a platform for performances and talks. On 10 October, as one of the last events of the Lehtinen era at Digelius, the shop dedicated the entire day to playing records by Thelonious Monk in order to celebrate the jazz great’s 100th birthday – a fine example of Lehtinen’s “gently educational” approach to shop keeping, in the words of journalist Harri Uusitorppa.

In 2011 Digelius Music celebrated its 40th birthday with an anniversary concert in Helsinki. The group photo of the event’s attendees hangs on the wall of the shop, spanning a veritable 170-strong who’s who of the local music scene. Most of the people pictured had entered Digelius as customers, but posed in the photo as members of Lehtinen’s vast circle of friends – a testament to his philosophy of the store as an open platform of interaction for all visitors. Impromptu percussion jam sessions with local children sat comfortably side by side in its agenda with performances by noted musicians.

“I have had the pleasure of getting to know four generations of music lovers,” Lehtinen said, while declaring “the second 40 year period of Digelius Music” officially opened. During the same year, Lehtinen was named the Jazz Digger Of The Year by the Finnish Jazz Musicians’ Union.

One of the key features of Lehtinen as a record dealer was his solid belief in the future of music and the record business. He was never one to complain about dwindling album sales or the evolution of the formats in which the music was sold and heard. Buying a rare record from Lehtinen, usually at well under the Discogs average price, often led to a heartfelt discussion regarding the bright future of the valued discovery “in a good home”. Lehtinen was well aware of the going rates for particular records, but internet’s secondhand marketplaces did not affect his thinking when it came to Digelius’s price tags.

Until the very end of his career as a record shop owner, Lehtinen usually arrived at Digelius’s home in Viiskulma (Five Corners) at around 7am and left at 6 pm, except on Wednesdays when he’d leave early to play volleyball for the team Laajasalon Voima.

At the time of his sudden passing on 22 October 2017, Lehtinen was busy planning for the fall season’s jazz festivals, which he attended annually with his record stand. To everyone who asked how the shop was doing, he always offered the same answer: “You’re welcome to come over and have a look.”

From Turkish psychedelia to crime fiction

The Wire contributors Daniel Spicer, Tony Rettman, Philip Freeman and Rob Young all have new books in the pipeline

A number of Wire contributors are publishing new books in the coming months. Daniel Spicer’s The Turkish Psychedelic Music Explosion: Anadolu Psych 1965–1980 (Repeater) tells the story of the Turkish musical movement that was brought to an end during a right wing coup in 1980. This month also sees the publication of Tony Rettman’s Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History (Bazillion Points). Meanwhile longtime Wire contributor Philip Freeman has just published his first crime cum music novel Fifty Foot Drop. Finally, Contributing Editor Rob Young’s long awaited biography of Can is set to be published by Faber in early 2018 – he remembers the late Holger Czukay, who died in September, in The Wire 405.

Supernormal takes a break

Braziers Park's family friendly experimental music and art festival will assess its current financial position during its year off

Supernormal has announced it won’t be running a festival in 2018. The independently funded underground music event normally takes place in August, with attendees able to camp onsite in the grounds of Braziers Park community in Oxford.

“Supernormal is a year-round endeavour; once the festival is cleared away, the loose ends tied up and the books tallied we're straight back to planning our activities for the following year and the next festival,” reads the festival statement. “After eight years of working at this pace we have made the decision to take a year out to slow down and have a much needed rest, take stock of how far we’ve traveled and explore for what the future of Supernormal could look like.

“We will instead be taking the time needed to explore strategies for ensuring Supernormal can be a financially sustainable organisation in the future, one that supports and invests in the communities we engage, the work we present and us as organisers better in the future.

“We would like to extend a very warm SUPER HUGE MEGA THANK YOU to our supporters and the widespread community that has been forged over the past eight years, who have championed the festival as it has grown,” concludes the statement. “Supernormal will always keep true to its roots and values and continue to forefront the experimental and the alternative, the underground and the DIY, the new and the strange, as we move forward into new and as yet unknown territories with possibility and excitement.”

Art Zoyd box set to be released by Cuneiform this November

44 ½ features 12 CDs and 2 DVDs presenting live and unrecorded material from the archive

French avant-garde progressive rock collective and member of Henry Cow's Rock In Opposition movement, Art Zoyd are the subject of a major retrospective box set compiled by Cuneiform Records. Consisting of live performance audio recordings and footage (a lot of which is previously unreleased), various film, TV and theatre works, this monumental document racks up at 12 CDs and 2 DVDs and covers the groups output from their formation in 1969 up until their 44 ½ birthday concert at RIO festival, in Le Garric, France, 2015.

Contents includes: eight CDs of live recordings made between 1972–2004 and four CDs of studio recordings, sketches and outtakes from 1980–2005. One DVD is a recording of an historical television appearances and the other is footage from the aforementioned Rock In Opposition Festival in 2015. There will also be two booklets featuring archival photos, interviews and a two-page spread on the bands history.

44 ½: Live & Unreleased Works will be released on 24 November via Cuneiform Records.

David Grubbs to publish new book Now That The Audience Is Assembled

Records Ruin The Landscape author turns to poetry in order to explore live performance and improvisation

Following the 2014 publication of Records Ruin The Landscape: John Cage, The Sixties, And Sound Recording, author, musician and lecturer David Grubbs now takes a look at the live performance of improvised music. Still coming in at 160 pages, this long form prose poem explores performance, text scores, and the fate of the composer of experimental music, through a fictional musical performance which has an unnamed musician improvise the construction of various instruments during a night-long performance.

Now That The Audience Is Assembled is to be published April 2018 via Duke University Press.

Kenneth Anger & Brian Butler’s Technicolor Skull release new cassette

The second album from Hollywood Babylon author and underground film maker Anger’s music duo comes in a limited edition of 666 tapes

New York record label Arcana Machine launches into existence with a new recording from Technicolor Skull, the duo consisting of Kenneth Anger on theremin and Brian Butler on guitar and electronics. Called Mark VI, the album is released in cassette form, and like Technicolor Skull’s self titled debut LP from 2011, it’s available in a limited edition of 666 copies.

You can watch an album preview trailer below. The release party will take place on Halloween night at the Black Rabbit Rose in Hollywood and you can buy a copy via Arcana Music.

London Contemporary Music Festival returns to Ambika P3

LCFM 2017 premieres Pauline Oliveros's feminist porn film The Sluts And Goddesses Video Workshop – Or How To Be A Sex Goddess In 101 Easy Steps, among other UK firsts

The sixth edition of LCMF will take place in December. Returning to London's Ambika P3, where it hosted its 2015 edition, the festival’s premieres include a presentation of Ragnar Kjartansson's seven hour epic An Die Musik, alongside Pauline Oliveros’s previously unseen 1992 porn picture, in an adventurous programme of music and sound works, films, Artificial Intelligence, electronics, installations, and more.

Other highlights are a performance by Joan La Barbara; a new multimedia work by Juliana Huxtable; Sam Ashley and Apartment House presenting European premieres of Robert Ashley’s Tap Dancing In The Sand (2004) and Public Opinion Descends Upon The Demonstrators (1962); Elaine Mitchener performing the music of Jeanne Lee, Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp and Joseph Jarman as part her Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde project; plus contributions from Philip Corner, Yasunao Tone, Moor Mother and Pan Daijing.

Another festival strand includes a three night investigation of the personal, haptic and voyeuristic nature of music and film, conducted via Kajsa Magnarsson's Strap On And Electric Guitar, and music by Oliveros, Pan Daijing and the Wandelweiser group. Plus, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, from Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab will premiere Somniloquies, following its showing at Documenta 14.

LCMF 2017 takes place at London’s Ambika P3 from 3–10 December. More information can be found via their website.

Roony Keefe's epic grime film anthology to be screened via Boiler Room

Watch The Best Of Risky Roadz via the music TV app from 2 November

Boiler Room TV will stream Roony Keefe's The Best Of Risky Roadz grime documentary from 2 November. The film brings together some of the best footage from the legendary grime series founded in 2003 by Roony ‘RSKY' Keefe and fellow Rhythm Division record shop employee Sparkie. Running to an epic two hours’ worth of clips, it showcases some of grime's main players spitting bars in various locations around London and beyond, plus scenes filmed inside the recording studio or on air, and an interview with RSKY himself, as he discusses the rise of the genre and how the series came to fruition.

MCs featured include Kano, Bashy, Hyper, Lethal B, Ghetts, Wiley, Roachee, Alias, Danny Weed, Target, Rosco, Chunky Bizzle, Chipmunk, Devlin, JME, Manga, Tinie Tempah, Mike Skinner and many more.

You can watch an exclusive trailer and a clip of Wiley, Skepta, Ghetto and Wretch 32 freestyle below. The full version will be available from 2 November online and via Boiler Room's TV app. The Best Of Risky Roadz was reviewed by Daisy Hyde in The Wire 404. Subscribers can access the full review via via Exact Editions.

Wiley, Skepta, Ghetto and Wretch 32 freestlye