Friday, March 2, 2018

Midori Takada - 1983 - Through The Looking Glass

Midori Takada 
Through The Looking Glass

01. Mr. Henri Rousseau's Dream
02. Crossing
03. Trompe-l’œil
04. Catastrophe S

Recorded January 27-28, February 3, 1983 at AOYAMA STUDIO 302, Tokyo

Midori Takada: Piano, Cowbell, Marimba, Harmonium [Reed Organ], Marimba, Gong, Cowbell, Recorder, Bells [Wood Bell], Ocarina

In a perfect world, Japanese composer Midori Takada and her works for percussion would be as revered and renowned as that of Steve Reich. Much like that world-renowned American composer, Takada drew influence from a study of African drumming and Asian music, and surmised how these sensibilities dovetailed with that of minimalism, serving as means to break with the Western classical tradition (she originally was a percussionist in the Berlin RIAS Symphonie Orchestra at the Berlin Philharmonic). But with only a handful of works to her name and all of it long out of print—be it with her groundbreaking percussion trio Mkwaju Ensemble, the group Ton-Klami or the three solo albums she released across nearly two decades—her music has been impossible to hear since the early 1990s.

Only last year did two pieces from Takada’s Mkwaju Ensemble appear on last year’s crucial More Better Days compilation, revealing Takada’s singular approach to spartan yet euphoric percussion pieces. Touching on gamelan, kodo, and American minimalism (Takada founded the trio in part to perform the works of Reich, Terry Riley, and other 20th-century percussion pieces), each one built carefully to sublime effect. When Visible Cloaks’ member Spencer Doran released his influential mixes of Japanese music, selections from both Mkwaju and Takada’s solo percussion pieces appeared at crucial junctures.

The rarest of all of Takada’s works though was her 1983 solo effort, Through the Looking Glass, never released on CD and fetching ludicrous sums online for an original vinyl copy. Unable to financially sustain Mkwaju, Takada disbanded the ensemble and entered the studio by herself to realize this music. Over the course of two days, she put to analog tape all four of the extended performances here as well as laying down the overdubs, producing and mixing (with help from an engineer) the album on her own. An astonishing feat in and of itself, Looking Glass is one of the most dazzling works of minimalism, be it from the East or West.

“Mr. Henri Rousseau's Dream” is an assured opening, one that moves at its own slow, hushed pace. Takada astutely layers marimba, gongs, rattles and other ambient bits of chimes, recorder, tam-tam and mimics bird calls with an ocarina. In its understated pulsing of marimba, it brings to mind Gavin Bryars’ work from the same era, most notably Hommages on the Les Disques Du Crépuscule imprint. There appears to be little in the way of linear development as Takada instead crafts and sustains an entire landscape of these small sounds, letting them all levitate in mid-air for twelve heavenly minutes.

With “Crossing,” a bit of momentum builds up from a single struck cowbell. Takada goes back over the original clonk and starts to layer interweaving lines on marimba, each successive line increasing the complexity of the lines. More cowbell comes in and suddenly Takada begins to simulate the ornate polyrhythms of Reich’s Drumming all by herself in the studio. And with the introduction of a crossing marimba pattern and the drone of a harmonium some five-and-a-half minutes into the piece, it moves into its own rarefied space.

“Trompe-L’oeil” moves at a more relaxed pace, with Takada’s harmonium lines swaying like an accordion and her use of a Coke bottle as both reed and percussion giving the piece a playful air about it. It’s a breather before the finale of the album, the fifteen-minute pressure cooker of percussion, “Catastrophe S.” Using the harmonium to create a darker mood, Takada focuses on tom-tom, bongos, cymbal and a bit of piano to ratchet up and sustain tension over the course of the piece. There’s a breathlessness to the piece as it gathers momentum that makes it one of the most thrilling percussion pieces of its kind.

While her American influences always had an exploratory aspect to their most famous works, there’s never a moment on, say, “Music for 18 Musicians” where you feel like Reich lets loose his rein even a millimeter. There’s something about Takada and the joy of creating this album that fully emerges in this last quarter-hour, as she builds energy up with her drums, her harmonium and that ever-present cowbell. In the liner notes to this reissue, Takada explained just what she learned in her studies of African and Asian music that led her to abandoned Western classical music as a pursuit way back when. “As a performer, this music asked you to personally examine your own physical transformation and to confirm and share this transformation with your counterpart, group or tribe,” she said. “The music stops short of imposing sovereignty or nationality.” And even as the finale builds to a glorious climax, it too stops short. Takada pulls it all away at the last possible moment, a thrill that allows her listeners—nearly thirty-five years on—to soar to a space well within themselves. It’s a space well worth rediscovery.

Mkwaju Ensemble - 1981 - Ki-Motion

Mkwaju Ensemble

01. Wood Dance 7:18
02. Maximum a 7:10
03. Ki-Motion 6:27
04. Angwora Steps 6:38
05. Hot Air 8:15
06. Zindo Zindo 6:14

Drums – Shuichi "Ponta" Murakami
Percussion, Marimba, Vibraphone – Midori Takada, Yoji Sadanari
Synthesizer – Shuichi Chino

Recording: 13th July - 18th August 1981
Nippon Columbia Studio No. 1 & No. 2

The group’s second effort, Ki-Motion, featured neither Hisaishi nor Matsutake. Recorded over a one month period in 1981, Ki-Motion is slower and more sparse. Where Mkwaju looms dynamically, Ki-Motion focuses on atmosphere. A standout in this respect, “Hot Air” augurs the sound Takada would explore further on her solo album Through the Looking Glass, eschewing electronic instrumentation entirely in favor of organic percussion and woodwinds. 

Mkwaju Ensemble - 1981 - Mkawju

Mkwaju Ensemble

01. Mkwaju 6:17
02. Shak Shak 3:19
03. Lemore 5:53
04. Tira-Rin 4:23
05. Pulse In The Mind 5:41
06. Flash-Back 12:37

Computer [Programming] – Hideki Matsutake
Keyboards, Producer – Joe Hisaishi
Marimba [Bass], Gong, Tom Tom – Yoji Sadanari
Marimba [Mitla] – Junko Arase
Percussion [Latin] – Pecker
Vibraphone, Gong, Marimba, Tom Tom – Midori Takada

Recording: Nippon Columbia Studio No.1 - February 6-7, March 12, 1981

A tamarind tree is called 'mkwaju' in Swahili. Having its origins in the sub-Saharan region of Eastern Africa, a mkwaju is large, adaptable and drought-resistant. It produces a strong, sturdy wood that sourced the very first mallets and marimbas. It's been described as the 'prize' of the Central African grasslands, having importance in the culinary, medicinal and musical realms of society.
Naturally, Mkwaju Ensemble takes their conceptual inspiration from this tree. The ensemble explores minimalism in a highly creative, energetic way - drawing from African percussive structure and the ethereal ways of African nature to manifest a sonic dissertation of heavenly rhythm.
Using bamboo percussion and synths amongst their re-creation of more traditional percussive outlets, Mkwaju's ambitious visions come to fruition in not one, but two albums released in 1981. Contrast within the polyrhythmic subtleties of the orchestrations are key to experiential authenticity of African culture, being metaphorical to love, synchronicity, struggle, and an eternal 'oneness' amongst the human race.
A Japanese trio comprised of Midori Takada, Joe Hisaishi, and Hideki Matsutake. Supposedly, Joe Hisaishi is usually the main attribution to Mkwaju, the LP cover on KI-Motion, their second release, credits other collaborating percussionists.
There's a duality to their albums. Their self-titled release is quite focused on the rhythmic complexities of their concept, and it was recorded in the spring of 1981. The aforementioned follow-up was recorded in one month during the fall of 1981, and was focused more on atmospheres and textures. There is an irrevocable importance on mentioning the specific recording months of these albums, for the resonance of 'spring' and 'fall' leave massive imprints on their respective albums.
I post both albums as one cumulative 'dual-review' simply because one cannot be heard without the other. This music is extremely sensitive, exemplifying the connection that a human soul has to nature. It gives the essence of my being relief and awe, in this way it works to epitomize the musical equivalent of love. It transforms your listening environment into a wondrous nirvana of gentle fascination, resulting in a testament to human accomplishment in music (to me, at least).
Give it a listen, especially if you're looking for a new take on either minimalism or beauty in general.

Sonia Rosa with Yuji Ohno - 1974 - Spiced with Brazil

Sonia Rosa with Yuji Ohno 
Spiced with Brazil

01. Garota De Ipanema
02. Here's That Rainy Day
03. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
04. Secret Love
05. Corcovado
06. Casa Forte
07. Atras Da Porta
08. You Make Me Feel Brand New
09. Chove Là Fora

Sonia Rosa_vocal, guitar
Yuji Ohno_keyboards
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto_acoustic piano (track 6)
Akira Okazawa_electric bass
Isoo Fukui_acoustic bass
Takao Naoi_Gut & folk guitar
Tsunehide Matsuki_electric guitar (tracks 3 & 8)
Kazuyoshi Okayama_drums
Larry Sunaga, Pepe Anai & Fujio Saitoh_latin percussion 
Keiko Yamakawa_harp
Gaishi Ishibashi_oboe

Sonia Rosa recorded her first album with Chiquinho De Moraes in 1967, before she left Brazil for Japan at the age of 20 years old, Spice With Brazil is her best-known album. She had the opportunity to sing on various Yuji Ohno's albums as Space Kid (1978) and more recently, on original soundtrack of TV Special 'Lupin III Episode 0 First Contact' (2002), whose some songs will appear later on Lupin The Third [JAZZ] : Bossa & Fusion album. She's surrounded by a large ensemble of musicians featuring future members of You & The Explosion Band (Akira Okazawa, Larry Sunaga, Pepe Anai, Tsunehide Matsuki), plus backing vocals supported by Time Five. To approximate the typical sound of the famous Bossa Nova productions released under the Verve label during the sixties, Ohno recruited a set of string instruments gathered in the Ohno Group and conducted by himself. Titles include classics of Bossa Nova from Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Chico Buarque & Edu Lobo, jazz standard of Jimmy Van Heusen (Here's That Rainy Day) and pop covers by James Taylor (Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight) and Linda Creed (You Make Me Feel Brand New). Others titles include also some solo performances by Tsuyoshi Yamamoto with great piano improvisations, alongside Ohno, on the classic of Edu Lobo, Casa Forte (and Sonia Rosa's scat singing likewise). All tracks arranged and conducted by Yuji Ohno except Chove Là Fora by Sonia Rosa.

Ann Young & Yuji Ohno Trio - 1975 - As Well Be Spring

Ann Young & Yuji Ohno Trio 
As Well Be Spring

01. Old Devil Moon 3:47
02. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Life? 6:05
03. Speak Low 5:00
04. It Might As Well Be Spring 5:30
05. Autumn In New York 5:15
06. There Is No Greater Love 5:00
07. Don't Explain 5:53
08. I Only Have Eyes For You 4:43

Recorded on 6,7 May 1975 at Nippon Columbia Studio.

Bass – Yoshio Ikeda
Drums – Yasuyoshi Okayama
Piano – Yuji Ohno
Vocals – Ann Young

Yuji Ohno (Ono Yuji , born 30 May 1941 in Atami, Shizuoka, Japan) is a Japanese jazz musician. Ohno is principally known for his musical scoring of Japanese anime television series, of which Lupin III, specifically the 1977 series Shin Rupan Sansei and the feature film The Castle of Cagliostro are his most well known works. Later anime series scored by Ohno include Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, the 1979 Toei series Captain Future (known as Capitaine Flam in France) and the 1982 series Space Adventure Cobra. He has composed scores for live-action films, namely Toei's tokusatsu series Seiun Kamen Machineman

An unknown and beautiful american jazz voice, supported by the Yuji Ohno Trio featuring Yoshio Ikeda & Kazuyoshi Okayama. Her career has mainly developed in Japan, where she was former vocalist for pianist Masao Yagi. As Well Be Spring consists of a selection based on various popular jazz standards & cover songs from the forties and the fifties, including Old Devil Moon (from the 1958 notable version performed by Chet Baker), Speak Low, There Is No Greater Love (sung by Billie Holliday in 1947) or I Only Have Eyes For You (written for the movie "Dames" in 1934, best known version from Peggy Lee). All tracks arranged by Yuji Ohno.

Masaru Imada - 1980 - Andalusian Breeze

Masaru Imada 
Andalusian Breeze

01. Andalusian Breeze 7:00
02. Morning Dream 4:49
03. Gulf Stream 6:40
04. Touch And Go 8:37
05. Samba Del Centauro 3:19
06. Nowin 7:12

Bass – Mitsuaki Furuno
Drums – Shinji Mori
Electric Piano – Masaru Imada
Guitar – Kazumi Watanabe
Percussion – Yuji Imamura

A beautiful little record, with some of the slight exotic touches you might expect from the title – as the group features Kazumi Watanabe on acoustic and electric guitar, and Yuji Imamura on percussion – both musicians who help open up the sound of the trio core into much warmer territory! Masaru Imada plays piano with a sharply sparkling tone, but also a strong sense of rhythm – one that's often amplified by the excellent bass work of Mitsuaki Furuno, who may well be the real star of the set – given his subtle talent for moving things forward. 

Masaru Imada & George Mraz - 1977 - Alone Together

Masaru Imada & George Mraz 
Alone Together

01. Alone Together 6:48
02. Poppy 4:48
03. Stella By Starlight 5:04
04. Blue Road 6:04
05. Blue Rain 7:26
06. Remember Of Love 3:20

Bass – George Mraz
Piano – Masaru Imada

Recorded October 24, 1977 at Onkyo House

A native of the Czech Republic, George Mraz was born in 1944. He began his musical studies on violin at age seven and started playing jazz in high school. He attended the Prague Conservatory in 1961 studying bass violin and graduating in 1966.

While studying at the Prague Conservatory Mraz was deeply moved by the Voice Of America radio broadcasts of Willis Conover, who was his connection to a vast new world of possibilities across the ocean. "The first jazz I ever heard was actually Louis Armstrong when I was about twelve years old. They had an hour of his music on one Sunday in between all these light operettas and stuff they played on the radio in the Czech republic (then Czechoslovakia). Then the strange voice of Satchmo singing was quite a shock. 'How can he get away with a voice like that?' I thought. But by the time the hour was over I decided I liked it better than anything I heard that day, so I started looking into jazz”.

"The Voice Of America came on midnight for an hour or so, and my listening equipment wasn't so great, and it was hard to make out the bass. So I was listening to all the instruments, and how it all worked together, rather than just focusing on the bass. I've really been influenced by everything I've heard, but of course I paid special attention to Ray Brown, Scott LaFaro, Paul Chambers, and Ron Carter." Mraz just naturally gravitated towards the music, and became a seasoned veteran of the clubs where he could perform the music that consumed his imagination almost every night. While studying at the Prague Conservatory, George was performing with the top jazz groups in Prague. 

After graduating from the Prague Conservatory, George went to Munich and played clubs and concerts throughout Germany and Middle Europe with Benny Bailey, Carmel Jones, Leo Wright, Mal Waldron, Hampton Hawes, Jan Hammer and others.  In 1968 George Mraz came to Boston on a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music and played at Lennie's on the Turnpike and the Jazz Workshop with such artists as Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Joe Williams and Carmen McRae.In the winter of 1969 George got a call from Dizzy Gillespie to join his group in New York. After a few weeks with Dizzy, George went on the road with Oscar Peterson for about two years. After that he worked with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra for the next six years. In the late seventies George worked with Stan Getz, New York Jazz Quartet, Zoot Sims, Bill Evans, John Abercrombie and for over ten years with Tommy Flanagan.

George Mraz has a profound gift for the acoustic bass. And while this musician's musician has been a stalwart presence on the modern jazz scene practically from the moment he first landed on these shores from his native Czechoslovakia, in the eyes of the general public his work is still somewhat undervalued. Perhaps because the self-effacing qualities he brings to the bandstand mirror the quiet character of the man stage left-onstage or off, he eschews the spotlight.

With his customary selflessness, Mraz allows as how he never demurred from approaching projects as a leader. "I always wanted to do some kind of projects on my own," Mraz insists, "I just never got around to it." And given the who's who of jazz masters who've made him their first call bassist for three decades (including the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry, Stan Getz, Slide Hampton, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, and Joe Lovano among many others), that's hardly surprising. After leaving Flanagan, George went on to work with Joe Henderson, Hank Jones, Grand Slam (Jim Hall, Joe Lovano, Lewis Nash), DIM (Directions In Music with Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Roy Hargrove), Mc Coy Tyner, Joe Lovano , Manhattan Trinity, Hank Jones and others.

He also has lead his own quartet with pianist Richie Beirach, drummer Billy Hart, and the lyrically riveting tenor man Rich Perry. (The quartet may be heard on Mraz's Milestone debut Jazz; Beirach and Hart are on the trio date My Foolish Heart, and Perry on Bottom Lines, the 1997 Mraz session featuring favorite works by fellow bassists Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Marcus Miller, Charles Mingus, Buster Williams, and Steve Swallow, plus George’s originals. "George always plays the exact right note you want to hear," says Beirach, "and he plays the bass as though he invented it." But Mraz does so without drawing attention to himself, and while he is hardly an invisible presence, his sense of what's appropriate is so sure, he can make himself positively translucent. "Even when he's doing nothing more than walking four to the bar, his choice of notes is so perfect, it's like he's telling a little story in back of the soloist," enthuses his producer Todd Barkan.

George Mraz has recorded with Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Hank Jones, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, NYJQ, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Toshiko Akioshi, Kenny Drew, Barry Harris, Tete Montoliu, Jimmy Rowles, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis, Richie Beirach, McCoy Tyner, Adam Makowicz, Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Art Pepper, Warne Marshe, Phil Woods, Grover Washington Jr., Archie Shepp, Dave Leibman, Joe Lovano, Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Kenny Burrell, Larry Coryell, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Knepper, Bob Brookmeyer, Jon Hendricks, Carmen McRae, Helen Merrill, Elvin Jones and many others.

Masaru Imada Trio +2 - 1975 - Green Caterpillar

Masaru Imada Trio +2 
Green Caterpillar

01. A Green Caterpillar 11:24
02. Straight Flash 10:27
03. Blue Impulse 10:28
04. Spanish Flower 11:15

Bass – Isoo Fukui
Congas, Percussion – Yuji Imamura
Drums – Tetsujiro Obara
Guitar – Kazumi Watanabe
Piano – Masaru Imada

Recorded on January 20 and 22, 1975 at AOI Studio, Tokyo

One half of ‘Green Caterpillar’ is the sort of in your face smooth sexual funk Jazz was finding itself lovingly wrapped in by this time, nothing that could ever be criticised when it’s material like 'A Green Caterpillar’ and 'Straight Flash’ slithering up trouser legs with distorted electric piano riffs exiled from Blaxploitation flicks. Flick over, and it’s a settled conservative route, though not routine - 'Blue Impulse’ and 'Spanish Flower’ aren’t yet stuck to that 1930s colonial cocktail bar safety net act 1980’s 'Andalusian Breeze’ would demonstrate; here it is a solid musicianship that goes on semi-improvised personal forays until venturing back before nightfall, considerate but willing to have fun of its own for the heck of it. Not its genre’s most noteworthy example, its duo of dichotomies do present elements of both rough and smooth to keep you enthralled for long enough before biting on bigger fish…

Harald Grosskopf - 1980 - Synthesist

Harald Grosskopf 

01. So Weit, So Gut 5:24
02. B. Aldrian 4:51
03. Emphasis 4:55
04. Synthesist 7:34
05. 1847 - Earth 6:43
06. Trauma 6:37
07. Transcendental Overdrive 5:03
08. Tai Ki 4:09

Harald Grosskopf / keyboards, drums & percussions

In summer 1979, Harald Grosskopf-- a drummer who lived in Berlin and had appeared on recordings by Klaus Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers, and others-- holed up in the apartment of a friend in Krefeld, Germany, to record his debut solo album. In the flat he had a Minimoog, a primitive sequencer, an 8-track reel-to-reel recorder, and a lot of time alone. Over the course of several weeks, Grosskopf wrote and recorded the material that wound up on Synthesist, which was eventually released on the venerable Hamburg-based kosmische imprint Sky. RVNG has reissued the album, which is held in high esteem among early synth enthusiasts but is not widely known, along with an additional disc of re-workings by some of the record's admirers (Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro, Arp, etc.) Between the original record and the new versions, Synthesist offers an endlessly listenable introduction to Grosskopf's music that also serves a fascinating window into the sound of a specific time and place.

In the liner notes to the set, Grosskopf writes of how maintaining the Minimoog in the apartment was a nightmare, and that the pitch would go flat or sharp depending on warm and cold it was in the space. He eventually figured out that if he placed a 60-watt light bulb near the synth, he could regulate the temperature enough to keep the instrument sounding good. This image-- of new breakthroughs in sound-making technology having difficulty being used because of the of their surroundings-- is a nice snapshot of where music technology was in the days of analog electronics. These were the sounds of the future, but they still existed in the physical world, where things like air temperature mattered. Sounds hadn't yet been broken down into 1s and 0s, where they could be endlessly manipulated without degradation. So Grosskopf's future music was confronting the same problems that had vexed instrumentalists for centuries-- how to keep the damn things in tune.

The music on Synthesist hovers in an intriguing middle ground between instrumental synth-pop in the vein of early Kraftwerk and more free-form space-drone explorations popularized by Schulze and Tangerine Dream. The tracks are mostly compact and tend to hum along to a pop-friendly electronic pulse, but they aren't tied into any sort of verse/chorus structure. Because of this, the music has a floating, airy quality, always in motion but untethered by song, which puts even more focus on the glorious analog textures.

The record is divided neatly into two distinct halves. On the first side are the more tuneful tracks. "So Weit, So Gut" hovers in a space between Giorgio Moroder's theme from "Midnight Express" and a Jan Hammer interlude for a montage on "Miami Vice"-- there's a dark undercurrent pulling the bubbly keyboard percolations into some kind of nocturnal dread. "B. Aldrian" in contrast twinkles with nostalgia, with gently shifting keyboard drones that seem designed to soundtrack a narrative about the benevolent wonder of outer space. The title track, with its "Popcorn" bass sequence and overlapping melodies, overwhelms with its simple beauty and naive charm. There's a sense of lightness and optimism permeating the tracks on the first side, which forms a sort of argument that the electronic future was going to be a wonderful place.

The second side shades that outlook and delves more in the realm of dystopian sci-fi. "1847 - Earth" is built around a metallic drone that establishes a sense of anxiety that is furthered when percussive keyboard sequences come in signaling something tense, almost frantic, while "Trauma" sounds like something fizzing up from an underground cavern, the reverb on the synths bringing to mind the dark ambient spaces Robert Rich and Steve Roach would explore a couple of years later. Between the two halves of the record, Synthesist offers a complex array of feelings and settings, but it flows together and feels complete. Throughout, is a sense of joy, wonder, and playful exploration, even when the music leans dark, as it often does on side two.

The various versions on Re-Synthesist ask a simple question-- what happens when we translate these textures and ideas into the present? The biggest differences have to do with the presence of steady 4/4 kicks and a tendency to favor his moodier material. So Brooklyn duo Blondes take "Synthesist", give it a steady beat, and add a harsh alloy to the keyboards. Oneohtrix Point Never's "Trauma 2010" has a dramatic drone encircled by orbiting clusters of static and noise. JD Twitch from Optimo locks the synths into tight little phrases that border on the techno that would come a few years after Synthesist's release. And James Ferraro's hypnotic "Wishmaster (Transcendental Overdrive Zone)" strikes an imaginative balance between repetition and small, incremental change.

For the most part these versions are reverent, which gives the record a nice flow for a disc from various artists set. It's almost hard to imagine a more coherent and logical remix/re-work companion, since nearly all of these artists are already drawing heavily from the world Grosskopf inhabited in 1979. And while I can't imagine reaching for Re-Synthesist very often when Synthesist is handy (Grosskopf's drumming is especially missed), I am glad it exists. It's a bunch of artists celebrating a fantastic record that was a direct precursor of where they are now. They should be celebrating the original record, given how much their music now owes to it and work like it, and so should anyone else interested in the sound of the electronic music that ushered in the 80s.

You - 1986 - Laserscape


01. Passing Landscapes 6:17
02. Can You Tell Me Where I Am 5:22
03. Changing Rooms 13:07
04. Travelling Hologram 9:22
05. Scanned Noises 6:37
06. Curious Phenomena Part I 5:30
07. Curious Phenomena Part II 4:48

- Albin Meskes & Udo Hanten / Synth & electronics

Laserscape by this German electronic combo YOU really took me by surprise. Mainly because it came out in 1986, certainly not a favorite time period, musically, for me.
angerine Dream's Underwater Sunlight from the same time I felt was pretty mediocre. Laserscape is much better! This is how I felt electronic music should have went in the '80s. By 1986 it was clear electronic music had either went synth pop or New Age. YOU refused to go that way. Here they use lot of digital synths and samplers, but what's shocking is they use Mellotron on this album and puts it to good use here! It's really difficult to find recordings from the mid 1980s using the tron because everyone preferred the convenience of digital synths, which were widely available by '86. They even use sequencers which Tangerine Dream had abandoned by this time. What I love is they often conjure up an eerie and ominous atmosphere, something that Tangerine Dream lost by this point (to be honest, Underwater Sunlight sounds pretty harmless, that's why I'm not a fan of it). I'm usually not a fan of how many artists in the '80s were using digital sampling, but these guys take a rather interesting and creative use of it. The cover makes it look like you're getting another typical sterile, soulless '80s type of album, but I'm happy to say that's not what you get here. Quality control really went awry in the '80s, so obviously I didn't have high expectations with Laserscape. I was expecting an Underwater Sunlight type of album, and instead got something much better and pleasing, the way I felt 1980s electronic music should have been like. Plus the presences of Mellotron sure helps! I am generally not a fan of digital sounds, but this group did it in a way to make it sound very appealing.

You - 1984 - Wonders From The Genetic Factory

Wonders From The Genetic Factory

01 Axis (6:07)
02 Isotopic Moments (5:56)
03 Europe Transfer (4:33)
04 Future Generation (3:20)
05 Sampling Dance (2:20)
06 Yourovision (24:20)
07 Koyaanisqatsi Xmas (Bonus Track) (24:24)

- Albin Meskes & Udo Hanten / Synth & electronics

Recorded December 1983 to January 1984 at the YOU Studio.

Instrumentation: Memorymoog, SCI Prophet-5, Minimoog, Spacemaster Modular System, Oberheim Xpander, Micromoog, ARP Sequencer, MFB 601, Spacemaster Digital Event Generator, Novatron 400, Doepfer Sound Sampler, Aphex Aural Exciter, Quantec QRS, Böhm SynLab, Böhm Digital Drums rhythm computer. Video Grafics by Udo Hanten, back cover photo by Christine Otto, Tinting by Albin Meskes

"Wonders From The Genetic Factory" was You's third album originally released on vinyl in 1984. This is the remastered CD edition from 1996 featuring the addition of one bonus track. 
The music is more joyful than in the former albums and rather inequal. Yet, the overall is still good.
With "Wonders From The Genetic Factory", You searches new ideas in the evolving landspace of the 80's, but, with no significant novelties. Anyway, an enjoyable album for german electronic school fans. 

You - 1983 - Time Code

Time Code

01. Time Code 3:15
02. Future/Past 5:31
03. 20/11/28 6:22
04. Deep Range 3:09
05. Taurus-Fantasia 2:32
06. Metallique 3:39
07. Live Line 9:02
08. Bluewater Dream 2:10
09. Mission: Possible 5:22

- Albin Meskes & Udo Hanten / synth & electronics

Recorded during 1982 at the YOU-Studios.
Mixed February 1983 at MTK with Bardo Kox.

Instrumentation: Memorymoog, Prophet-5, Prophet-10, Spacemaster Modular System, Minimoog, Micromoog, Moog Model 15, Novatron 400 SM, ARP Sequencer, Spacemaster Digital Sequencer and Digital Event Generator, SRV 66 Vocoder

"Time Code" is the second album by YOU and the probably their best. As an electronic German band born in the late 70's, they were much influenced by their elders. Recorded in 1982, released in 1983, the material is the lines of what TANGERINE DREAM was doing at this period with Johannes Schmoelling. Yet, the music is slightly more melodic, with a touch of KRAFTWERK-ian synthetic rhythms.
YOU's various influences are clearly exposed in the first half of the album. The first two tracks, "Time Code" and "Future/Past" are rather robotic and cold (special mention for the dreamy ending of this song), with patterns in the vein of KRAFTWERK's "Showroom Dummies". "20/11/28" and "Deep Range", are cosmic and meditative, whereas "Taurus-Fantasia" sounds like an old-fashioned oriental electronic sound. The second half of the disc oscillates between calm passages and fast sequencer-driven moments. The highlight here is undoubtedly the mini-epic "Live Line", where the duo fully demonstrates its talent and variety. The record ends with "Zone Black", ambient and mysterious.

In conclusion, YOU offers with "Time Code" enjoyable quality tunes in the direct legacy of the Berlin school. Nothing revolutionary, but a very good acquisition for 70's sequenced electronic music lovers!

You - 1980 - Electric Day

Electric Day

01. Electric Day 5:51
02. Magooba 6:30
03. Son Of A True Star 5:03
04. Sequential Spectrums Part 1 2:01
05. Sequential Spectrums Part 2 0:45
06. Slow Go 11:56
07. Zero-Eighty-Four 8:36

Drums – Lhan Gopal (Harald Grosskopf)
Electric Guitar – Ulrich Weber
Synthesizer – Udo Hanten
Synthesizer – Albin Meskes

Recorded May-July 1979 at Spiegeltraum and Panne-Paulsen Studios.
Mixed August 1979 at Panne-Paulsen Studio, Frankfurt, Germany.

The tail-end of the seventies was a confusing time musically. In many ways you could say that the progressive scene, be that the rock, electronic or both coupled up together - came together in a very homogeneous way that foretold the sonic soap operas of the impending decade. Music got slick and smooth, and a certain metallic and industrial tone had suddenly infected the different recording studios. The sounds of the synthesiser are testimony to this hypothesis of mine. Having spawned from the vibrant and vivacious drive masterly conveyed on classic electronic records such as Alpha Centauri and Blackdance - now those synths took on the very thing that people associated them with: Robots.

You is a fine example of this evolution. They produced their first album in 1979 with the gift of hindsight and the ability to choose from whatever slice of Germanic electro history they saw fit. With the add on of Harald Grosskopf, I guess the group naturally leaned towards that ever so floating Klaus Schulze universe. Remember Grosskopf played with Schulze on the Bodylove soundtrack as well as Moondawn. Still, like I said, the feel of the music is one of order and metal. The recording techniques had revolutionised themselves so as you finally could purchase an album without all of the inappropriate 'noise'... Needless to say(mostly because I keep saying this....) that I've always thought of noise as half of the music. Those ambient oscillations emanating from instruments that take up the invisible room of any recording are priceless and irreplaceable - but whatever you do - don't kill 'em.

Now whilst some sections on this debut album feel somewhat close to the great oceanic textures of the aforementioned electronic guru and pioneer, you also sense a devout and knowledgeable act that know their way around musicians like Moebius, Froese, Schnitzler and Hoenig. The one thing You manage to slap onto the proceedings here that set them slightly apart is speed. The first cut illustrates just how brilliantly and innovatively they do this - sounding like an amphetamine fuelled Berlin school track with a motorik groove that goes faster than anything else from the scene I've come across before.

Other than that, you are facing sequencers up the wazoo, the occasional mellotron as well as those soapy synths that pre-dated the whole 'new age' scene by a couple of years. Real acoustic drumming courtesy of Monsieur Grosskopf and last but not least: Edgar Froese guitar stylings, which incidentally just means David Gilmour butter fingers fondling up the odd guitar string now and again.

I think the tracks on this debut all are pretty good. I actually find some of them quite refreshing and successful, and I'll happily recommend this one to anyone seeking a way into the German electronic scene. I would think the combination of guitar and drums eases the rock fiend's relentless cravings.

If you enjoy the late 70s electronic scene - the moment before the wave broke and flooded the lands with plastic and marshmallow antics, then you should probably take a chance on this recording. Sure, you get a lot of the usual sonic suspects, but there is a charm and warmth to some of these cuts that are as welcome and innovative to the scene as a metallic elbow on your forehead, yet somehow this thing works

Francis Monkman - 1981 - The Long Good Friday

Francis Monkman
The Long Good Friday

01. Main Title 1:50
02. Overture 6:02
03. The Scene Is Set 2:17
04. At The Pool 2:31
05. Discovery 3:13
06. The Icehouse 4:51
07. Talking To The Police 3:08
08. Guitar Interludes 5:54
09. Realization 2:47
10. Fury 5:56
11. Taken 2:46

Bass Guitar – Herbie Flowers
Drums – Hal Fisher
Guitar – Kevin Peek
Percussion – Tristram Fry
Piano – Tommy Eyre
Keyboards – Francis Monkman
Saxophone – Ron Aspery, Stan Sultzmann
Trumpet – Jan Hammer

Recorded at CTS Studios December 12, 18 and 20, 1979.

By turns emphatic in its pulsating structure and spooky in the icy suspended tones that Monkman uses, this underscore album might well leave the listener wondering why Monkman (formerly keyboardist with Curved Air and Sky) did not do more film scores. Monkman's music was a key component of the film, a 1981 British gangster piece starring Bob Hoskins (also providing creditable vocals on "Talking To The Police") and Helen Mirren, particularly notable at the end of the film as Hoskins, grimacing silently, is driven away to his doom while Monkman's score tightens the tension to the screaming point. We are never shown what happens to Hoskins' character - likewise, Monkman never provides a conclusive release of the tension. Masterful work.

Francis Monkman - 1981 - Dweller on the Threshold

Francis Monkman
Dweller on the Threshold

01. The Dweller
02. The Glamour of Emotions
03. Forgive
04. The Glamour of Nations
05. Learning to Live
06. The Glamour of Material Possession
07. The Glamour of Magnetic Attraction
08. The Angel
09. Psalm 23

Francis Monkman - lead vocals, bass, keyboqards, guitar
Andy Latimer - lead guitar
Dave Dowle - drums
Graham Laydon - second male vocals
Julia Rathbone - female vocals

Guest musicians:

Darryl Way - violins
Tristan Fry - percussion
Brian Ferry - bass, voices

A solo album of the well-known multi-instrumentalist (Curved Air, 801, Sky), one of those underestimated works of the early 80s, the darkest time in the whole history of progressive, a time of the reign of the punk and disco stuff. The contributors also include such famous people as Andy Latimer of Camel and Julia Rathbone - a permanent female singer for Monkman's solo. Also, on Monkman's latest album of 1998 the lead vocals are from the two of them (by the way, their voices haven't changed for all those years: a kind of severe vocal from Maestro himself and a light, dramatic Julia's voice). As it is the case with the most progressive performers at the time, Monkman did add the modern electric sound. However, contrary to the prog musicians that turned to that path, the bright, fashionable synth flashes and accentuated rhythm guitar riffs here don't disappoint, quite conversely, they bring forward openly progressive themes and arrangements.

The Dweller beginning with the vocoder and effects quickly turns into a fast, slightly dark song with remarkable rhythm section and strongly present synth intrusions. Stylistically very similar to Abacab from Genesis album of the same title, except that Dweller was written actually before it.

The second also opens with the vocoder and gives way to a fast theme not unlike the predecessor, but Francis is joined now by Julia's celestial voice. The Glamour of Emotions, the name, totally reflects the music, for there's here the glamour of the characteristic early '80s sound, coupled with the magnetic attraction that emanates from it. Parallels can be found in "Levitation", a very good Hawkwind's album of that period. Originality rests upon the vocals, that are made up of usual male and female plus a choir, which gives a pathetic atmosphere. Nearing the end, the song transforms to cristal keys supporting high vocals.

Forgive is a sort of ballad with a brought in bass and two vocals.

The Glamour of Nations is a kind of march featuring military drumming. Very uplifting, pathetic.

Learning to Live strikes the imagination with the strength and impression of the whole sound as well as fine arrangements. A lot of subtle oriental melodies with Francis singing and guitar passages from Andy Latimer. A real killer.

The next track is full of changing moods from light and rhythmic in the first part that slides into a bit slower, melancholic but energetic part with eccentric vocals that range from deep to ironic to screaming. The vocal stories unveils along with original keys themes, that then end up by a massive, overwhelming organ. The instrumental piece features more than one theme where a solemn one prevails. Psalm 23, the last track, touts only Francis' voice and synth without the others.

Summary. Dweller is a pretty typical representative of the prog of the start of the '80s but with its strong original vein. Especially impressive are the processed oriental melodies that fit in perfectly with the rest and also a successful use of wonderful female singing. Sadly though, another pearl from the crown of the prog of the 80s is virtually lost, as if it never existed. This is my answer to those proggers who lost their ears under the rush of punk and new wave. Now I understand how much a name weighs, if this album were to appear by the name of Genesis or Sky, etc. the effect would be quite different, that is, all would know this good album.

Francis Monkman - 1980 - Dynamism

Francis Monkman 

01. Francis Monkman Dynamism 1 3:03
02. Francis Monkman Dynamism 2 0:29
03. Francis Monkman Dynamism 3 0:24
04. Francis Monkman Dynamism 4 0:05
05. Francis Monkman Transit 5:05
06. Francis Monkman Propulsion 1 3:16
07. Francis Monkman Propulsion 2 0:37
08. Francis Monkman Propulsion 3 0:05
09. Francis Monkman High Density 3:56
10. Paul Hart Superman 3:31
11. Paul Hart Superfine 5:08
12. Paul Hart Superfine Alt. End 0:07
13. Paul Hart Superspeed 2:07
14. Paul Hart Superama 3:27
15. Paul Hart Supercharge 3:32
16. Paul Hart Superlative 3:40
17. Paul Hart Superscene 1:28

Francis Monkman: Keyboards and Synthesizers

Francis Monkman - 1980 - Classical Odyssey

Francis Monkman 
Classical Odyssey

01. Classical Odyssey 4:55
02. The Great Advance 3:39
03. Lydia (A) 2:28
04. Lydia (B) 2:28
05. Contrapunkt 5:30
06. Aria 3:44
07. Up Front 2:44
08. Lynx Slinx 3:43
09. The Rock Light Orchestra 3:00
10. Vivaldi Lullaby 3:33
11. Zoot Suit 4:30
12. Cat Suit 3:56

Francis Monkman: Keyboards and Synths

Side A - Arrangements, adaptations and original compositions incorporating elements of classical and contemporary styles. Side B - The contemporary use of a string orchestra to provide complete rhythmic textures

Francis Monkman - 1979 - Predictions

Francis Monkman

Part 1

01. Passajig (A) 3:00
02. Passajig (B) 0:19
03. Passajig (C) 0:16
04. Passajig (D) 0:30
05. Prelude (A) 2:33
06. Prelude (B) 0:27
07. Prelude (C) 0:26
08. Prelude (D) 2:09
09. Prelude (E) 1:04
10. Island Universe 4:25
11. Hyperdrive (A) 3:03
12. Hyperdrive (B) 0:58
13. Hypercharge 3:00
14. Starbirth (A) 3:02
15. Starbirth (B) 0:47
16. Leading The Field (A) 3:37
17. Leading The Field (B) 0:35

Part 2

01. Wings Of The Sun 2:37
02. Inner Peace 1:04
03. Prophet 2:17
04. Faith In The Future 1:05
05. Orion (A) 2:13
06. Orion (B) 2:10
07. Time Tunnels 1:30
08. Illusions 1:09
09. Subterrain 0:57
10. Celestial Carillon (A) 1:56
11. Celestial Carillon (B) 0:30
12. Minuteman 1:00
13. Leviathan 1:17
14. No Man's Land 0:38
15. Remembrance 0:28
16. Past Echoes (A) 0:35
17. Past Echoes (B) 0:52
18. Union 0:32
19. Light Years 0:17
20. Lift Off 2:00
21. Electromechanic 2:52
22. Dark Star 2:16

Francis Monkman - 1979 - Classical concussion

Francis Monkman
Classical concussion

01. Release Of Energy (A) 2:14
02. Release Of Energy (Link) 0:11
03. Release Of Energy (B) 1:15
04. Power Pulse 1:14
05. Power Pulse (Link 1) 0:19
06. Power Pulse (Link 2) 0:13
07. Classical Concussion 2:32
08. Sheer Release (A) 1:51
09. Sheer Release (A) 0:54
10. Sheer Release (Link) 0:20
11. Air Streams (A) 3:12
12. Air Streams (B) 1:40
13. Classical Peace (A) 2:28
14. Classical Peace (B) 1:32
15. Classical Revival (A) 2:22
16. Classical Revival (B) 0:37
17. Power Games 4:34
18. Risk Runner (A) 3:41
19. Risk Runner (B) 0:24
20. Risk Runner (C) 1:42

Francis Monkman: Keyboards

Classical Concussion – a set that's maybe not nearly as "classical" as you'd guess from the title, even though Monkman uses a nice batch of strings in the instrumentation – but working with cool elements that often have a 70s film action sort of vibe – not entirely funky, but often upbeat and soaring – with some nice electric instrumentation in the grooves! Some titles are presented in shorter snippets with a few variations, some in one longer take

Francis Monkman - 1978 - Tempus Fugit

Francis Monkman 
Tempus Fugit

01. Strident Theme
02. Strident Theme (Alt. Ending)
03. Speed
04. G Force
05. Live Action
06. Daredevil
07. Stress
08. Getting Ready
09. Stargazing
10. Stargazing (Alt. Ending)
11. Mystique
12. Starlight
13. Art And Science

Francis Monkman: Keyboards

Tempus Fugit comes from a phrase that means “time flies”; and this record, billed as a collection of contemporary electronic music as is par for the course for Bruton’s BRI series, gives that impression, at least from the first three tracks. Every song in this collection was composed by Francis Monkman, one of the more gifted composers of the Bruton Music stable. A number of these songs have been seen in other selections reviewed here, such as BRL 1 Auturbine and BRD 5 Fragrance, but the ones that haven’t, are some of the best in the Bruton catalog. The sinister “Daredevil”, and the well-sequenced “Stress” are but a taste, but the real reason for having this collection starts Side B. “Getting Ready” is an all-keyboard affair with a slow, but still killer groove, and one of those songs that keeps people hooked into library music in the first place. “Mystique” is another slow-burner that takes a killer turn somewhere midway in the song. As the rest collected here, in particular the calm and tranquil “Starlight”, are of a high quality, this is easily one of the better Bruton collections out there, made even better by compiling some of the best work of one of their best composers.

Francis Monkman - 1978 - Energism

Francis Monkman 

01. The Dawn Of An Era (Realisation Of Unlimited Possibility) 3:10
02. The Endurance Of Man (Expenditure Of Energy) 2:58
03. Perpetual Motion (Unceasing Energy) 3:56
04. Perpetual Motion (Alternate Cut Off End) 0:14
05. The Achievements Of Man (The Determination To Achieve Great Heights) 3:28
06. The Achievements Of Man (Alternate Tail End) 0:25
07. Man & Superman (The Endless Turmoil) 3:30
08. Man & Superwoman (Power With A Feline Structure) 3:16
09. Female Of The Species (A Study In The Female Infra-structure) 2:57
10. Bionics (Power Without Suppression - The Eternity) 2:07
11. The Ascent Of Man (The Power Within Us) 1:59

Bass Guitar – Mo Foster
Drums – Barry De Souza
Percussion – Tristam Fry
Keyboards – Francis Monkman

Keyboardist-composer Francis Monkman's Energism is one of the most extraordinary albums in the Bruton Music library. Featuring an exciting blend of conventional rhythm section Barry de Souza (drums), Mo Foster (bass guitar) and Tristan Fry (percussion) with synthesizers programmed and played by Monkman, it ranks alongside the work of such electronic music pioneers as Vangelis, Tomita, and Tangerine Dream. By 1978, when Energism was recorded, Monkman was already well established in both classical and rock music circles. He was a founder member of early '70s prog-rock groups Sisyphus and Curved Air and in 1979 formed part of the original line-up of guitarist John Williams all-conquering classical-rock band, SKY. Energism also proved to be one of Bruton's most successful albums, its music used extensively in films and documentaries and on television and radio. It's remarkable to think that the futuristic grooves of tracks such as The Achievements of Man, The Dawn of an Era and The Ascent of Man were recorded in the late 1970s; they reveal Monkman as one of the era's unsung electronic music innovators. 

Malcolm Ironton & Francis Monkman - 1978 - Pictures in the mind

Malcolm Ironton & Francis Monkman 
Pictures in the mind

01. Slow Wave
02. Freefall
03. Dark Side Of The Sun
04. Sands Of Time
05. Sands Of Time (Effects)
06. Mother Earth
07. Silver Wings
08. Mountain Stream
09. Sun Giver
10. Wild Flight
11. Country Mellow
12. Fruits Of The Earth
13. Last Days Of Summer

Composed By – Francis Monkman (tracks: A1 to A5), Malcolm Ironton (tracks: A1 to A5), Richard Harvey (2) (tracks: A6, B1 to B7)

Francis Monkman & Malcolm Ironton - 1978 - Contemporary Impact

Francis Monkman & Malcolm Ironton
Contemporary Impact

01. Dangerous Games (A)
02. Dangerous Games (B)
03. The Winners
04. Starfighter
05. Wildfire
06. City Sunrise
07. Rock City
08. Spider Walk (A)
09. Spider Walk (B)
10. Impetus
11. Hot Stomping
12. Expansion (A)
13. Expansion (B)
14. Tough Schedule
15. New Dawn

Composed By – F. Monkman (tracks: A1 to A3, A5, A7, B1 to B6, B8), M. Ironton (tracks: A1 to A3, A5, A7, B1 to B6, B8), P. Kelly (tracks: A4, A6, B7)

Various - 1978 - Auturbine


01. John A. Coleman Main Endeavour 1:38
02. John A. Coleman Endeavour 1:43
03. John A. Coleman Planned Endeavour 1:46
04. John A. Coleman Planned Endeavour End 0:15
05. John A. Coleman Pressing Endeavour 1 1:40
06. John A. Coleman Pressing Endeavour 1 0:28
07. John Fiddy Super City 1:53
08. John Fiddy Auturbine 2:04
09. John Fiddy Regeneration 1:46
10. John Fiddy City Skyline 1:36
11. I. Martin / B. Dee Light Manufacturing 1:40
12. Francis Monkman G-Force 2:36
13. Alan Hawkshaw Fuel Injection 2:49
14. Alan Hawkshaw The Speed Of Sound 2:48
15. Francis Monkman Work On 3:32
16. Francis Monkman Oblique Action 2:49
17. Francis Monkman Tubular Tubes 2:31
18. Francis Monkman Art And Science 3:04

One of the best and most sought-after records on the Bruton Music label, Auturbine is the first in the BRL series; the album cover evokes the image of a modern city where high-speed rail is the main mode of transportation. Indeed there is something upbeat and urban about this album, and it all starts with the work of John A. Coleman. The “Endeavour” suite is uptempo in the right places, with a real driving feel. John Fiddy balances the funky with the sublime; expanding on work presented on previous volumes, we get “City Skyline”, whose opening chords are rewind-button triggering, and ending notes leave you wishing for more. Francis Monkman’s work, some of which is seen in much later Bruton entries, is broken up by the much-welcomed combo of “Fuel Injection” and “The Speed of Sound”, two of Alan Hawkshaw’s best works (and apparently, some of the most aggressively shopped).