Friday, 31 January 2020

Portsmouth Sinfonia ‎– "20 Classic Rock Classics" (Philips ‎– 9109 231) 1979


Released in the same year as Throbbing Gristle's "20 Jazz Funk Greats", the Gavin Bryars and Brian Eno-less Portsmouth Sinfonia's "20 Classic Rock Classics" probably had the same result, as in luring the wrong kind of person to buy this uncomfortable music by mistake.
Whereas the Jazz Funk enthusiast would have been appalled at Throbbing Gristle's challenging non-musick, the  average easy listening punter was certainly more likely to accept 20 Classic Rock Classics as just the badly  played real thing.
I'm sure you are now familiar with the original concept of mixing musicians with non-musicians playing instruments they were unfamiliar with;A noble attempt to free music up for the masses & get to the heart of popular composition.
Whereas the first two albums,which focused on Classical music, were far more upbeat and joyful,this one,lacking the guidence of originator Gavin Bryars,and the cred of Brian Eno (who no doubt had better things to do by 1979?),they come across a little melancholic and dismal sounding, like a bad community band unfortunately captured on record whilst the air is let out of them.
It lacks that atonality,and the joke wears rather thin by the time we get to the best track,the Stones' "Satisfaction".
Nonetheless, this gives the rock and pop dinosaurs,not so much a kick,but a mild slap of the testicles.Truly in keeping with the Punk era's intended Raison d'Etre.
Its like an almost capable school orchestra playing James Last,but without that famous James Last,ist funky ja, rhythm section.
Somewhat disappointing.

Tracklist:

1.Pinball Wizard
2.Apache
3.Leader Of The Pack
4.A Whiter Shade Of Pale
5.You Really Got Me
6.Uptown Top Ranking
7.Glad All Over
8.Heartbreak Hotel
9.Telstar

10.Bridge Over Troubled Water
11.Nut Rocker
12.Don´t Cry For Me Argentina
13.(We´re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock
14.You Should Be Dancing
15.It´s Only Make Believe
16.Nights In White Satin
17.My Boy Lollipop
18.God Only Knows
19.(I Can´t Get No) Satisfaction
20.A Day In The Life

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Portsmouth Sinfonia ‎– "Hallelujah - The Portsmouth Sinfonia at the Royal Albert Hall" (Transatlantic Records ‎– TRA 285) 1974



 "Without the arts and sciences,and without music especially,life would be a dreadful mistake.Music begets happiness,and music begets peace;and its through peace that we arrive at the truth and goodness which makes life meaningful and unveils its highest values." (Michael Bond 1974)

I couldn't have put it better myself, maybe missing a few expletives, but essentially, therein, lies the meaning of life.
I've mentioned the sheer Joy this music can invoke in even the most miserable of old sods,and thats some kind of inexplicable magick, is it not?(Check out the first audience-less album Here!)
I have sat through an hour or so of  some unremembered classical renditions surrounded by a sparse audience of the self-elected elite,in their best bib and tucker, frowning at the musicians,while i was stifling yawns. For one it wasn't fucking loud enough,and as far as i could see they were just playing the notes,which is only 10% of any music.No Magick.......(yeah I know....there are classical musicians who do have the 'magick',but not where i live there ain't!)
The main theme of this project was to make this music 'inclusive' rather than exclusive,for everyone rather than just the 'Elite'.A more popularist,less uptight, version of assasinated avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew's  'Scratch Constitution', for musicians and non-musicians alike, which was basically a recipe for controlled anarchy, written by Cardew and published in the Musical Times in June 1969. Its aim was to bring music out of the ivory tower and to involve large numbers of untrained people in making music.Very similar to the Sinfonia and the effect Punk Rock had on Rock and Pop music.
When Wagner's Ring is being performed, there's never enough laughter from the audience.Lets be honest, most of Wagners work is as patently ridiculous as any comedy music,however deadpan it is.If there were laughter or sniggering of any sort, the perp's would be first the victim of agressive 'Shushing", (there's even an audible 'Shhhhhhh!' from an audience member on this recording?), and futher inflagrations would result in their expulsion on the end of a door operatives shiny jackboot.
Never forget there were classical orchestra's at all the Operation Reinhard camps and in every Ghetto under arch-wagner uberfans, the Nazi's.If there was a Treblinka Sinfonia, I have mass grave doubts they would have been allowed to finish the first section of 'Ride of the Valkyries' before they were bundled into the nearest poison gas facility......theoretically anyway,as the jury is now officially out as to whether there were any gas chambers at all,or even a camp at Treblinka......but,if there was,please let there have been an equivalent to the Portsmouth Sinfonia sheparding the victims joyfully to meet the choir invisible;and may the Choir Invisible be somewhere near approaching the skill levels of the Portsmouth Sinfonia Choir doing Handel's Messiah. What a way to enter heaven!? Maybe the prospect of eternal paradise isn't so boring after all?
I'd love to hear The Portsmouth Sinfonia do a version of "The Sinking Of The Titanic" by the man who started all this madness, Mr Gavin Bryars. I can just imagine the doomed proles in steerage being consumed by the icy black waters, laughing hysterically as the Titanic Sinfonia played an atonal version of 'Nearer my Lord to Thee' as they joyfully gulped down their last breath.
Apparently Drowning causes a feeling of euphoria as your brain shuts down.We just need something for that transition period when one is inhaling the brine.......we now have the answer.

Music is Joy,and Joy is life and life, can be, forever?
The eternal NOW!

Tracklist:

1.Mr. Michael Bond's Address 1:05
2.From The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a - March 1:57
3.From The Karelia Suite, Op.11 - Intermezzo 3:54
4.Marche Militaire In D Major 5:33
5.Piano Concerto No. 1 In B♭ Minor, Op. 23 10:38
6.Overture 1812 10:28
7.William Tell Overture 2:21
8.From The Messiah, Pt. 2 - Hallelujah Chorus 6:02


Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Portsmouth Sinfonia ‎– "Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays The Popular Classics" (Transatlantic Records ‎– TRA 275) 1973


Most of the Obscure Records mob could be found on this album by
the self-proclaimed "world's worst orchestra",there were in fact many much worse,or few better,The Portsmouth Sinfonia.Which was founded by Gavin Bryars of "Jesus' Blood" fame, in 1970, when he was lecturing at the Portsmouth School of Art....hence the Portsmouth bit.
Bryars wanted to engage the masses,thats 'us' by the way, with classical music,largely thought previously to be fucking boring by the target audience, and sought a way to liberate the form from the pomposity of its largely stuck-up Toff heavy audience. His idea was to form an orchestra of the 'people'....er that's still us by the way,.....I don't feel patronised, do you?.... Anyone could join, regardless of skill,even you!?

The orchestra comprised of known musicians,which included most of the UK avant-garde crew,as well as Brian Eno (clarinet), playing instruments they had no previous knowledge of. Virtuoso players and ordinary-ish folk who had never played an instrument in their lives,played side by side.The music would be played by ear so no sight-reading skills were therefore required. The virtuoso players kept everything vaguely within the realms of what might be called a tune, with the other players reaching for (and missing) notes nearby. The result was a fascinating atonal mess, a noise which was considered profound by several of Bryars classical contemporaries.
They sound not unlike a school orchestra,hiting that mysterious tone that compells one to laugh uncontrollably no matter how many times you hear it. I was once a witness to my nephew's school orchestra,he was one of the violinists,and as soon as the first few notes rebounded off the walls like Freddie Kruger's fingers sliding down a blackboard, me and my Girlfriend had unstoppable hysterics.The proud parents that surrounded us displayed a mixture of disgust,awkward acceptance,and slight annoyance....i just couldn't stop! Amid the giggling i managed to explain the joy i was feeling as tears streamed down my face,and that it was nothing to do with the awfulness of the playing.It was the sheer charm and innocence of it all.....it was JOY that we were expressing.....JOY...understand?
Although this project had an interesting central concept,it quickly caught the public's attention as strictly a comedy turn.
As the personel included most of The Scratch Orchestra,and AMM,as well as Eno and Steve Beresford among others, this certainly had plenty of serious experimental musicians involved.
Somehow, I can't imagine the equivalent happening in the contemporary classical/minimalist scene in the United States.In the UK one cannot be seen,or heard, to be taking oneself too seriously,and always have the obligation to make fun of ourselves.....even the Avant-Garde ones.
The Bonus track, "Classical Muddley" is a parody of those 'Hooked on Classics' records which also tried to introduce 'the Classics', to the great unwashed proletariat by placing a disco beat behind a mix of popular classical works. Us factory fodder types were obviously too thick to appreciate the finer things in life without a bit of dumbing down.
The results of this experiment led to the Portsmouth Sinfonia's records being pitched at the comedy market which earned them a cult following, enough for them to be selling out the Royal Albert Hall by 1974!?

Tracklist:

1.From Peer Gynt Suite No. 1:"Morning" 3:23
2.From Peer Gynt Suite No. 1:"In The Hall Of The Mountain King" 3:00
3.From The Nutcracker Suite:"Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" 2:18

4.From The Nutcracker Suite:"Waltz Of The Flowers" 4:05
5.Fifth Symphony In C Minor, Op. 67 6:18
6.William Tell Overture 2:00
7."Also Sprach Zarathustra" Op. 31 (Excerpt) 2:06
8.Blue Danube Waltz Op. 314 4:36
9."Air" From Suite No. 3 In D Major 4:37
10."Farandole" From L'Arlesienne Suite No. 2 4:05
11."Jupiter" From The Planets, Op. 32 (Excerpt) 4:28
Bonus Track:
12. "Classical Muddley" 3:19

Michael Nyman ‎– "Decay Music" (Obscure ‎– obscure no. 6) 1976


These two works by a thirty year old Michael Nyman, "1-100" (composed in 1975) and "Bell Set No. 1" (1974) are built around the musical concept of decay.Which can also apply to the human being from the moment they are born,both physically and mentally."1-100" is played at half the speed it was recorded to further extend the decay of the tentative sounding chords that Nyman taps out on his piano,although it sounds like he would have benefited from the use of Charlemagne Palestine's imfamous Bosendorfer Grand,as the decay of the notes seem pretty short to me? It was written for Peter Greenaway's film of the same title but rejected because it was too long,which is what most people say about Greenaways films, so he's got a nerve! 
Nyman, of course ,made his name as the soundtrack composer for all of Greenaways films,which are rather pretentious,but enjoyable examples of the moving image.I rather like "The Daughtsmans Contract "out of all of his films,which features a emulation,by Nyman, of the Baroque classical music of Henry Purcell,rather than anything neo-classical,or minimal. Which shows that Nyman is at the least, very versatile.
This one does tend to sound like a recording of someone trying to write a tune on the piano and failing;but you can't beat a bit of looooong decaying notes rattling around an empty room of an evening.

Tracklist:

A 1-100
B Bell Set No. 1


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

John White / Gavin Bryars ‎– "Machine Music" (Obscure ‎– OBS 8) 1978


John White was in the Scratch Orchestra as far as i'm aware,but apart from that this was his obscure moment in the murky moonlight. In my local cheapo shop there's a nasty brand of aftershave called "Murky Moon",and if it was ever advertised on TV the perfect soundtrack to the drunkards aroma of choice would be John White's eerie "Drinking And Hooting Machine",played out on a bunch of empty beer bottles.Whether the beer was snaffled by our Avant-Garde heroes is another unanswered question .I'd like to think that, yes, is the answer.You can't get more avant-Garde or as inspired as a drunk artist.Even as I type i have a beer in hand to accompany my beret and sandels to complete my avant-gardist cred.
The rest of the tracks don't live up to the bottle blowin'one which would probably be the avant version of 'the Single' from the album?
There's not much actual machine music involved which is a relief,as the modern day yoof (sic) listen to nothing but 'machine music',as slowly we are replaced by thinking 'feeling' robotics.No robots on this,just greats that will never be replaced like Fred Frith, Derek Bailey and Brian Eno;who all play guitars on the Gavin Bryars side. A tune which also appears, bizzarely on Bailey's first solo guitar album from 1971.
Oh Yeah.....the minimalist bit (yawn) is track two,which is a Steve Reich-a-like piano number....very nice,but this is a better album than any of Steve's because its less up its own fucking arse!?

Tracklist:

A1 –John White Autumn Countdown Machine
A2 –John White Son Of Gothic Chord
A3 –John White Jew's Harp Machine
A4 –John White Drinking And Hooting Machine

B –Gavin Bryars The Squirrel And The Ricketty Racketty Bridge


Gavin Bryars ‎– "The Sinking Of The Titanic" (Obscure ‎– obscure no.1) 1975


On the last post i suggested that you should play this simultaneously with Phill Niblocks 'A Third Trombone'...but to save you the bother i've mixed them together HERE for you.....don't say I never do anything for you!
Well the album is a classic of modern minimalist composition,on Eno's faultless Obscure label from 1975. I suppose this gets dumped in with the Ambient lot because of the Eno connection,which is not entirely unfair,but it does move minimalism away from the in-crowd of the manhatten avant-garde and introduce late 20th century neo-classical composition to the pop audience,thanks to  Brian Eno's ability to straddle both.......how's that for sentence construction?
The second side is probably more well known than the 'Titanic' side, mainly because of that re-recording Gavin did with Jesus Blood' fan Tom Waits, who insisted on singing along with the tape loop of the now long dead Tramp,and subsequently ruining it.
This is the definitive recording, featuring Michael Nyman and the late great Derek Bailey!
The loop for "Jesus' Blood" was copied in the music department of Leicester Polytechnic (now called after 13th century Jew-Hater Simon De Montfort,who banned jews from Leicester for eternity before he got killed in France and had his severed genetils stuffed into his big mouth,so naturally they called it De Montfort University!!!???);just across the road,in 1975, was an 11 year old Zchivago at Gateway Grammer school,most likely in the Metal Sculpture dept,where i learned how to make the products from which i still make a meagre living(no I don't sell meagres!).
Allegedly Bryars left the room to get a coffee while the tape loop of the singing tramp was being copied.On his return he found the students in the room subdued and some were even quietly weeping in the corner.This was the moment he thought that he might be onto something!.....in fact both of these tunes have the ability to turn even the uppest of persons into a well of melancholy within twnty five minutes of either side.
The "Titanic" side is the greatest recreation of a sinking ship,and or, Tragedy, that has ever been created in the medium of music.It involves a repeated section from the last tune the band on the Titanic allegedly played,"Nearer my lord to thee".Played at a snails pace above the droning strings of the double bass,it slowly disappears into the murky strings of the 'Cockpit Ensemble' as this tragic vessel slips beneath the waves and fades away with the music..all interspersed with dialogue samples from Titanic survivours......Hmmmm didn't Steve Reich do that over a decade later for "Different Trains"?
Plagarism aside,I'm fighting back the tears here!.....I can't go on.....boo-hoo-hooooo.


Tracklist:

A The Sinking Of The Titanic (24:26)

B Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (25:57)


Monday, 27 January 2020

Phill Niblock ‎– "Nothin To Look At Just A Record" (India Navigation ‎– IN 3026) 1982



We've heard long drawn out saxophones,viola's,violins,Bosendorfer Piano's,flutes, tape loops, fruit loops,you name it, someone with Avant-Garde pretentions from the lower east side has made a droning artistic statement with every instrument imaginable......but,hang on!.....what about the noble Trombone?
That's right, Phill,with two 'L's, Niblock, finally got around to it in 1982,which was just about the peak of poularity for minimalism.A bit like the Green Day of minimalism;whereas Green day are the Brown day of Punk,except that Niblock isn't quite the same shade of shit brown,maybe more an electric magnolia.
Turning from photography to music,a transition last achieved by Linda Eastman McCartney to questionable effect; Niblock seems to have achieved a most unlikely sucess. However, even a toilet cleaner can make an avant-garde drone epic if he was so aware of its possibility.I don't think anyones made a minimalist symphony on Kazoo yet,if they have,it wasn't done by a toilet cleaner?Or maybe it was? Maybe Niblock was a toilet cleaner at one stage in his pre-'art' career? And what's wrong with that?
The faux-modesty of the cover and the title tends to put one off listening to this from the outset.That, coupled with the bandwagon jumping nature of the project,and the crater filling amount of drone epics out there,tend not to fill one with excitment;but, I have listened to this, and i like the rasping interaction of the two Trombones sine waves as they weave together in and out of phase like two jousting fog horns luring innocent oil tankers onto the last living coral reef on the planet Earth.
When the third horn is added for side two,it takes on a new maritime quality,of a slowly sinking ship in the fog.
Play this simultaneously with Gavin Bryars' "The Sinking Of The Titanic",and you've got the missing link between minimalism and Ambient.......(In fact i've done it for you, just click HERE!
Tracklist:

A A Trombone Piece 22:15
B A Third Trombone 21:00


Dickie Landry ‎– "Fifteen Saxophones" (Northern Light Records ‎– FSA 87003) 1977


Here's another Philip Glass Ensemble member having a go at this minimalism fad; jazzy Saxophonist Richard "Dickie" Landry. Here he goes for the sustained tone, overdubbing himself fifteen times with the aid of Glass right-hand man Kurt Munkacsi.
Anything with a Saxophone in it automactically gets the 'Jazz' tag as the lazy librarians default position.Here Dickie manages to fully de-jazz these three compositions nicely, except for a few short free jazz solo's on track 3,or track free.
Dickie's normal setting,when he's not employed by Philip Glass is the standard Downtown Jazz stuff that never fails to invoke a yawn or two;but on this record he's falling back on the jazz musicians' need to show that he can do that other stuff,and do it better than you.
He can play more than one instruments too! Another standard Jazz behavioural trait.Some have even been seen wearing several sax's hung around their neck at the same time. No, Dickie doesn't play all fifteen saxes, or sax's, at the same time.With studio trickery he doesn't have to be five Roland Kirks at once...we have overdubs to allow Dickie's need to make a minimalist Drone epic of his very own,and the only one to have done it on a Saxophone,or Saxophonzzzz, so far,so there?

Saxes or Sax's?

Tracklist:

A1 15 Saxophones 10:35
A2 Alto Flute Quad Delay 9:45
B Kitchen Solos 21:46


Sunday, 26 January 2020

Jon Gibson ‎– "Two Solo Pieces" (Chatham Square Productions ‎– LP 24) 1977


There ain't no-one in the world of minimalism that Jon Gibson hasn't played for....
Steve Reich, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, Philip Glass,you name it.He was even in the Theatre of Eternal Music!?

Let out from Glass Ensemble duties for the second time,Gibbo has gone all LaMonte Young on us and composed a drone for Organ(Cycles).
I like a nice relaxing drone to aid my burnout syndrome, but i sure as shit don't need anybody else to do it for me,I can do it for myself thanks.I could also invent some sonic science,Charlemaine Palestine stylee,for it.No doubt there's some thought about the interaction between the droning notes that makes this the work of a proper experimental composer and not some bedroom beethoven such as moi,but basically who cares?......Its a drone
Side B,another version of "Untitled",is rather a more pleasing flute piece that wouldn't have been out of place as the soundtrack for a Ken Loach film or a BBC Play for Today* from 1971.Maybe Ken will be in touch for his next socialist spiked kitchen sink movie that the French call "Réalisme Anglais",don't you just love the French?

(* i recommend that you watch this Dennis Potter play,"Blue Remembered Hills",it sure is powerful,cruel, cruel stuff)

Tracklist:

A Cycles (1973) 22:49
B Untitled (1974) 18:15


Saturday, 25 January 2020

Jon Gibson ‎– "Visitations" (Chatham Square Productions ‎– STEREO LP 12) 1973


Erstwhile multi-instrumentalist and Philip Glass Ensemble stalwart, Jon Gibson, also had a go at this minimalism lark. Produced by his mate, Philip Glass's official number 2,Kurt Munkacsi, "Visitations" sounds more like a backing tack to an Alice Coltrane, or Pharoah Sanders album than a minimalist drone epic,which begs the question of, When does the minimalism tag end and experimental composition begin?
Gibson gets in because he was in the Philip Glass ensemble, and he uses tapes in his pieces like Steve Reich does.But like most genres,notably different pieces of work all get lumped into one box.
Basically there are two types of minimalism it seems, the repetitive type, and the Droney type.Whereas Charlemagne Palestine sits comfortably in two camps, i don't think this fits in either.....but who cares, its good.Relying on a constant barrage of percussive noise,with recordings of oceans and bird-song, backing up the plaintive howl of a wooden flute; it represents the ever quieting scream of nature as humankind, or human unkind, slowly asphyxiates the stuff that give us life and a reason for being.
I saw a documentary on our impending doom, and it visited a Eucalyptus plantation in a former part of the Amazon Rainforest(they are good for making toilet paper apparently!?),and the host,after complaining about these out of place alien trees from another world (Australia) living where they shouldn't be, like a 'Visitation';he pointed out the most disturbing thing about it all,.... it was totally Silent! No birdsong no nothing could be picked up by the microphone.Dead.
This record is the sound of survival,and for me, it is far too optimistic.The real sound of the future is more like one of the quieter minimalist pieces.One of those Alvin Lucier single electronic tone things,but we are nearing the end of side four.
We are just visiting after all it seems?

Tracklist:

1. Visitations Part one (21:01)
2. Visitations Part Two (20:11)

DOWNLOAD the sound of an unspoilt planet HERE!

Friday, 24 January 2020

Charlemagne Palestine ‎– "Four Manifestations On Six Elements For Bösendorfer Piano" (Sonnabend Gallery) 1974




Like some kinda sound alchemist, Chuck Palestine began his crazy  more avant garde than thou creative life by blending sonic elements over and over again through years of non-chemical 'research',(read that as fucking about), searching for the so-called, 'Golden Sound'.Similar to the search of the thirteenth note,thus reducing sound to the essence of the chord or harmonic structure itself.
The resonant Bösendorfer allows Palestine to create a complex variation of tones, intervals, overtones and rhythms. "One Fifth" evolves by reinforcing the fundamentals of a fifth with their higher octave(it says here!?).....my brane 'urts! Each performance of this work is different as Palestine reinterprets these simple elements listening within them for variations of amplitude, mixture and inertia at the moment of the performance. "One + Two Fifths" deals with the way a rhythmic sonority sounds when the sustain pedal of the piano is not used, thus focusing on the rhythmic aspect. Gradually by adding the sustain pedal the external rhythmic pattern begins to internalize becoming an inert part of the whole tymbral fabric(wow!)- a piece expressing the battle of rhythm versus timbre for dominance.

Thats the technical shit out of the way.Basically track one and six are drones produced by the resonant capabilities of The Bosendorfer Grand with the sustain pedal fully engaged.The rest are more rythmic and repetitive without the Sustain pedal,which is slowly introduced to create waves of resonance that submerge the rythmic pulse somewhat. The final note takes an age to decay,and sometimes with this digital technology one can hear it being cut off before it ends on the recording....tut tut tut!
If you're caught in a situation when your clever than you work acquaintances request some Chalremagne palestine at your networking gathering in uptown manhatten, don't panic!Just moemorise the first paragraph wot i wrote above....They won't know what the fuck you're going on about and think you're some kind of intellectual Thresher Shark,nod wildly feigning complete and utter understanding,and concurrance.
Christ, humans are pathetic!?......"Hmmmmmm,yes, yes, genius....and what are your thoughts on Glass(Philip)?".....thats when the next batch of stuffed olives appears,along with some specially imported French cheeses.
"What are your thoughts on Clayderman (Richard)?"
It must be great to be Sofisticated? 
Pina Colada anyone?

Tracklist:

A1 Two Perfect Fifths, A Major Third Apart, Reinforced Twice (1973)
B1 Perfect Fifths In The Rhythm Three Against Two For Bösendorfer Piano - One (1973)
B2 Perfect Fifths In The Rhythm Three Against Two For Bösendorfer Piano - Two (1973)
B3 Perfect Fifths In The Rhythm Three Against Two For Bösendorfer Piano - Three (1973)
C1 Sliding Fifths For Piano (1972)
D1 Three Perfect Fifths, A Major Second Apart, Reinforced Twice (1973)

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Charlemagne Palestine ‎– "Strumming Music" (Shandar ‎– 83517) 1974

Born around at the same time that Moondog first stood on the corner of 54th street and 6th Avenue, Charlemagne Palestine, or Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine ,or, Charles Martin......so we'll just call him 'Chuck'.....was from the school of the streets, rather than some high Falutin School of Music. Early in life he fell victim,willingly, to the same Guru that grabbed LaMonte Young and Tony Conrad,
Pandit Pran Nath,who taught them the sheer thrill-less-ness of the Drone. 

That single note had the sheer bejesus squeezed out of it in the ensuing years,decades after 1965, and still gets a hammering today.
Somehow Chuck managed to get a foolish philanthrope to buy him, as he says in the sleeve notes, "the Rolls-Royce of Pianos", a Bosendorfer Grand from Vienna.They cost somewhere in the vacinity of two hundred grand,or thereabouts.
Most people, yes pianists are people too, would take full advantage of the 9 extra notes on the Bosendorfer Grand, and show off their dextrosity using most of those 97 keys...but not Chuck, oh no.....he plays one note,or one chord and holds it until your eyes bleed, and your ears have a specific hole burnt in their sonic spectrum.
Hit a key on a piano with the sustain pedal pressed down,especially with the extra resonance of the Bosendorfer, and you’ll hear the struck string ring out unencumbered. Add another note to make a chord, and the undamped strings will begin to resonate with each other and those around them, creating ethereal harmonics that ghost over the notes being struck by the hammers. Repeat in rapid succession for fifty minutes. This is the principle behind Strumming Music.
If you're looking for a nice melody,this one isn't for you.If you wanna zone out while the music resonates with the alpha waves in your brain, then this is the tool for you to switch off that troubled organ and be one with the oscillating wave forms transmitted by a quarter of a million bucks worth of kit......it's a hard life being a musician ain't it?

Tracklist:

A Strumming Music 25:10
B Strumming Music 24:40


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Moondog ‎– "Moondog 2" (Columbia ‎– KC 30897) 1971


Looking at Moondog on the sleeve of this album, he looks like he knows something that we don't. That's not saying much, as we, humanity, tend to know Fuck All about anything. His music seems to come from a universal consciousness that we disabled normals are too far up our own arseholes to detect.
Our Disability is that we're not disabled or terminally ill to appreciate life without the dense sump oil leaking from this awful machine that we've created to make our pitifully short existence in this domension worse than torture.
Moondog lost his sight due to a bizarre accident with Dynamite in his teenage years. Without that wonderful event this incredible music would never have happened, leading to a future world without Reich and Glass,or The Residents?...Perhaps,but as we've seen in many a science fiction story, the slightest change in history can result in a vast difference in the cause and effect results in the future. No Residents would have meant that man who invented the perfect intelligent android clone for humans wouldn't have been distracted enough not to invent our own replacements. So Moondog saved human civilisation?......in that case maybe young Louis shouldn't have been blinded and become as idiotic as us. A different alternative scenario exists for Glass and Reich, probably involving hypnotising the populus to blindly elect  thee stupidest president ever to grace the oval office and start world war three,the last war.....not the war to end war,but the war to end existence. In that alternative future, it would be essential that Moondog be blinded. Now it gets complicated. so its Moondogs fault we got Trump, but ......i dunno, fuck it...there is only NOW!..as that wise old sage Chuck Manson used to say.
Bacically, I love this album, and I love Moondog. This is pure music,channeled from somewhere we ordinary fuckers could never comprehend.So listen and enjoy and don't think too much.


Tracklist:

A1 Bells Are Ringing 1:19
A2 Voices Of Spring 1:47
A3 What's The Most Exciting Thing? 2:31
A4 All Is Loneliness 1:16
A5 My Tiny Butterfly 1:12
A6 Why Spend A Dark Night With Me? 1:09
A7 Coffee Beans 2:10
A8 Down Is Up 1:07
A9 Be A Hobo 1:09
A10 Remember 1:52
A11 I Love You 1:08
A12 Nero's Expedition 1:52
A13 No, The Wheel Was Never Invented 1:20
B1 With My Wealth 1:35
B2 This Student Of Life 1:24
B3 Some Trust All 1:28
B4 Wine, Woman And Song 2:23
B5 Sadness 1:22
B6 Maybe 2:03
B7 Each Today Is Yesterday's Tomorrow 1:37
B8 Imagine 2:16
B9 You The Vandal 2:08
B10 Trees Against The Sky 1:18
B11 Behold 1:27
B12 Sparrow 1:37
B13 Pastoral 2:42


Moondog ‎– "Moondog" (CBS ‎– 63906) 1969



Anyone who wears a cloak,a horned vikings helmet,and carries a spear, has gotta be given a chance to make a major label album in my opinion.
Moondog, aka blind bloke Louis Hardin, from his perch on the corner of 54th or 55th street and 6th Avenue,was not a homeless begger,but a revered pioneer on the avant-garde/minimalist scene in New York.Working as a street musician since the late forties,he was a regular sight on his pitch until he moved to Germany in 1972.As he shared the same fascination with the nordic myth as did Wagner and Hitler.Moondog had an idealised view of Germany ("The Holy Land with the Holy River"), where he settled until he died in 1999.There's a Moondog statue spmewhere in Munster apparently!?
"The Viking of 6th Avenue" ,as he was known by the less clued up members of the public, had developed a revolutionary attitude towards composition and melody that was much lauded,and influenced such eminent contemporaries as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. There's also an obvious influence on the Residents,whether thats the similarity to the works of Harry Partch,or not,i dunno,but its there.Only the blind can truly see.

Tracklist:

A1 Theme 2:35
A2 Stamping Ground 2:36
A3 Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) 5:51
A4 Symphonique #6 (Good For Goodie) 2:45
B1 Minsym #1 5:45
B2 Lament I, "Bird's Lament" 1:42
B3 Witch Of Endor 6:29
B4 Symphonique #1 (Portrait Of A Monarch) 2:36


Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Steve Reich - Kronos Quartet / Pat Metheny ‎– "Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint" (Elektra Nonesuch ‎– 9 79176-2) 1989



I notice that these minimalist posts have caused controversy and stimulated conversations,then lets see if we can up the ante as This is my Third (steve)Reich post........just one badly constructed sentence in and i've done it...a Nazi reference!...And why not? The main theme of 'Different Trains' is Shoah related,comparing the role of the railways in the holocaust to their more positive peacetime job.
One of the most insideous roles of the railway in modern times would be taking one to a Pat Methany concert. Such a pospect would have me munching down  Zyklon B by the tin and filling my lungs with the sweet relief of cyanide fumes. I've never really listened to the Methany side of this album,but side one is one of Reich's greatest hits. Recreating the relentless journey to the death factory, as played by the Kronos Quartet, interspersed with dialogue samples from Holocaust Survivors. Not that there were many Survivors from Treblinka for example....67 out of approx 900,000......as we are told.The actual figures have been in a state of flux ever since the liberation of Auchwitz, in order to get that magical six Million number as prophesized in Jewish folklore which would precipitate the creation of the Jewish homeland. Auchwitz was rounded down by a couple of million,Majdanek's victims were altered from one million to 78,000 today. Many unanswered questions remain about Treblinka. How did they asphyxiate so many people with just one captured Soviet tank diesel engine.Its notoriously hard to gas even one person with Diesel fumes(which contains quite a lot of deadly...Oxygen!?) nevermind upwards of 3/4 of a million people......no Zyklon B,not even for delousing, at Treblinka.
Oh Christ!Before i'm labelled a poundshop David Irving,No i'm not denying that the so-called Holocaust happened (bla-bla blah!).There's plenty of evidence that it most certainly did. Its just the massaging of the figures and facts of the 'Extermination' camps that one has issues with.Most of it was for post-war anti-nazification reasons,and some was to build pressure for the creation of Israel.....History needs to be revised.....Bla-Bla-Blahhhh!...i'll shut up now.I'm starting to bore myself even more than if I was at a Pat Methany concert at the edge of Hell.Holocaust fatique is also a real problem.
I dunno why the Nazi's bothered with poison gas at all.All they had to do was play Methany's back catalogue and all the camp inmates would have thrown themselves alive into the cremation pits to escape the suffering.
Well you gotta write about something haven't you?
Apart from the sheer joy of liberal baiting,I haven't been called a Nazi for a long time now, so its about time the anti-anti semite mob turned their attention away from Jeremy Corbyn and organised a boycott of this blog. I have also yet to see any evidence of any Anti-Semitism in The UK Labour Party either.There's plenty of anti-semitism in the Israeli government, as Palestinians,you know the ones on the other side of that massive wall,the ones whose kids get bombed, are actually 'semites' too, believe it or not!? And their lives are the exact same value as that of their semetic cousins on the other side of the wall.Wait and see if Steve does a composition about that human tragedy in the near future....i think not.No-one gives a shit, because they're arabs,and you won't get the funding.

And to think this is the redacted version?I removed the part about how hard it is to burn a corpse.....i could write a minimalist opera about that one.

Tracklist:

Different Trains
1 –Kronos Quartet America – Before The War 8:59
2 –Kronos Quartet Europe – During The War 7:31
3 –Kronos Quartet After The War 10:20
Electric Counterpoint
4 –Pat Metheny Fast 6:51
5 –Pat Metheny Slow 3:21
6 –Pat Metheny Fast 4:29


Steve Reich ‎– "Four Organs / Phase Patterns" (Shandar ‎– SR 10 005) 1970


My diseased mind habored a cruel fantasy that Glass and Reich were vicious minimalist rivals, often seen bitching about each other, during lonely drunken tantrums, throwing darts at their nemisis's mugshots,and favorable press cuttings.
It seems that my fantasy will stay just that, a fantasy, fermenting in the mind of this bitter and vindictive crypto journalist until his grave.(Oh Shit I've started talking about myself in the third person...Help me!)
Yes, Philip plays one of the four organs in the title piece,alongside minimalist chum,Steven Reich, unless,that is, they were having an 'organ-off' that accidentally got recorded.......who won is open to debate, but it sounds like it was all written down and interpreted accurately enough for it to be one of Reich's most seminal pieces. I would have thought that Reich would have allocated the role of Maraca shaker to his not so-bitter rival, but no, Glass got to play one of the actuel organs!?
If you don't know what it could possibly sound like, then download it.If you wanted any clues beforehand,and rightly so, its repetitive,out of phase in swelling waves like the cover photo, with harsh sounding organs.Its takes no prisoners,and could result in anger directed at the listener from those innocent parties who are not ready for such challenges to musical convention.....mainly WAGs*

* a footballing term for 'Wives and Girlfiends',most famously blamed for the failure of the England Squad to win the World Cup sometime in the noughties......the real reason was that they were just crap!

Tracklist:

A Four Organs 15:35
B Phase Patterns 16:35


Monday, 20 January 2020

Steve Reich ‎– "Early Works" (Nonesuch ‎– 979 169-1) 1987


We all feel rather too clever by half when we add some recorded dialogue to our homemade experimental miesterwerks don't we? Well,it may automatically qualify you to call yourself 'Avant-Garde' but this tactic has been around for as long as pop-art itself. In 1965 the not-so-young Steve Reich discovered that if he played one tape slightly slower than an other tape playing the same thing,it would slowly become out of phase and we get a jumbled up confused mess abstracting the meaning of the original to the point of the nonsense that it is. So Steve could just set the tapes running and sit back to let the music,or non-music, write itself. Another idea that Eno nicked,but in his case he used tape loops which eventually came back into to phase momentarily before slipping back out of phase again.
Reich wasn't the first to mess around with recorded dialogue of course. As far as I can assess that honour goes to Brion Gysin, followed diligently by William S. Burroughs, who were a direct influence on such Industrial types as Cabaret Voltaire, and Throbbing Gristle,before it was dumbed down by the availability of the Fairlight Sampler.This started a separate thread leading to Paul 'N.n.n.n.n.n.n.Nineteen' Hardcastle, and a flood of "Ah Yeah's" on yer kiddie-pop hits like Timmy Mallets version of "Teensy Weensy Yellow Polka-dot Bikini"......follow that with samples of Colonel Kurtz mumbling "The Horror....The Horror!"
So the moral behind this ugly truth is that no matter how avant garde you think you are, there's always some intellectual minnow who are gonna show your genius up for the sad cliché it has become,as it becomes inclusive rather than exclusive. Timmy Mallet...the great leveller.
Naturally, Steve Reich was messing with dialogue well before it became an Industrial Cliché,but his main innovation was his out of phase compositions, as represented here by his "Piano Phase" piece for two piano's.The discipline involved for two pianists to play at slightly varying tempo's is a thing of awe for me. I often struggle to play constantly in 4/4 time,so when my tempo wavers its incompetence rather than skill. This is the piece from where the Steve Reich style sprung from,and which launched a thousand Philip Glass compositions. Terry Riley was an influence it is said, and also, allegedly, Moondog (coming up soon).
There you go, I managed to write about Steve Reich without a single reference to anything  Nazi.....i am now patting myself on the back.Just you wait for my take on "Different Trains"...I can't wait!

Tracklist:

A1 Come Out 12:54
A2 Piano Phase 20:26
B1 Clapping Music 4:39
B2 It’s Gonna Rain 17:31


Sunday, 19 January 2020

Philip Glass / Robert Wilson ‎– "Einstein On The Beach" (Tomato TOM-4-2901) 1978

The first 'Minimalist' Opera, was bizarrely, the birthing music selected selected by my then significant other, for the difficult birth of my daughter back in 1999,long with the "Songs of the Humpback Whale" and Holgar Czukay's "Movies"....so no wonder she didn't want to come out.
In fact she had to dragged out with the Ventouse,which is basically a plunger. 
If i had played something a bit more 'fun' she may have made more of an effort to enter this troubled world, maybe Plastic Bertrand or The Ramones? But no, she got this po-faced neo-classical minimalist opera,with words replaced with chanted numbers,and some mumbled narration.
I knew there was something amiss when I played Joy Division during her gestation period and she started to kick and squirm in the womb like the alien that punched its way out of John Hurts chest.She also had the privilege to attend a Fall gig, which instigated a similar violent reaction.
I don't even know what music she listens to now, if any, 'cus like all of the millenials, she's constantly plugged in,or as Cliff Richard called it, "Wired For Sound". (If I could, I'd have a make over and look like Cliff in that video as a refreshing image change!...honest?)
You all know what this album sounds like surely?.....think of any Philip Glass music you know,if any(?),stretch it out and add the cast of 'A Chorus Line'(Who says they don't make funny music anymore?) to the equation chanting 1,2,3,4, over and over again at varying speeds and you end up alongside Einstein, on a beach.
There are few occassions I have stood open-mouthed with no words, witnessing a spectacle that is beyond my comphrehension,.....nooooo NOT Glass's Einstein On The Beach......I'm talking about Richard Attenboroughs film version of "A Chorus Line".....shockingly baaaad,but equally hilarious.
If we played the soundtrack of "A Chorus Line"(Download HERE!) at my daughters birth I think she'd still be in the womb to this day!....Life IS HELL!

Tracklist:

Knee Play 1
Act I, Scene 1: Train
Act I, Scene 2: Trial
Knee Play 2
Act II, Scene 1: Dance 1 (Field With Spaceship)
Act II, Scene 2: Night Train
Knee Play 3
Act III, Scene 1: Trial/Prison
Act III, Scene 2: Dance 2 (Field With Spaceship)
Knee Play 4
Act IV, Scene 1: Building/Train
Act IV, Scene 2: Bed
Act IV, Scene 3: Spaceship
Knee Play 5


Saturday, 18 January 2020

Philip Glass - "Early Works (1969-70) (Nonesuch-NONE161) 2008


The sheer volume of Philip Glass music since the late sixties is mind boggling,but, its the first ten years that were the most experimental and had the greatest impact,so, guess what?.....then wait for the inevitable posting of 'Einstein On The Beach'.....y'see even bloggers are as predictable as a minimalist composer,or that a director will use something from Glass's popular 1982 album 'Glassworks' for her* Documentary.

*(I purposefully cast the role of the director as a 'she' to highlight the woeful lack of women nominated at OSCAR type ceremonies....she would also have to be Black too i suggest!?...In fact there aren't too many Black or female neo-classical/contemporary composers on the block either!?...oh f'shame!).

Tracklist:

1 Music In Contrary Motion 15:35 (1969)
2 Music With Changing Parts (Edited) 45:37 (1970)
3 Music In Similar Motion 17:11 (1969)


Friday, 17 January 2020

Philip Glass ‎– "Music In Similar Motion / Music In Fifths" (Chatham Square Productions ‎– 1003) 1971

They certainly have snazzy titles don't they these 'minimalist' composers? Music with this, and Music in that, its like bottom shelf supermarket products.Biscuits are called Biscuits,chocolate biscuits are called Biscuits with chocolate, and so on.
Minimalism is certainly economical,but in a different way to budget econo-brands in the supermarket. Its the economical way they, the 'Minimalists', use instrumentation and melody that differentiates these compositions from such over-composed show offs like Mozart.
I nearly nodded off listening to this as i wrote earlier on,so forgive me if this sounds like the stuff of nonsense.This music does have a hypnotic effect,and makes time scurry by exposing it for the illusion that it is.I could listen to this all day,or is that for just a few minutes,such is the time distorting effect that Glass's music induces in its unwitting victims.


Track Listing:

1. Music In Similar Motion (17:12)
2. Music In Fifths (23:23)

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Philip Glass ‎– "Music In Twelve Parts - Parts 1 & 2" (Caroline Records ‎– CA 2010) 1976


Before 1977,nearly all of Virgins best albums were released on their budget 'Caroline' offshoot, and for many this was their first exposure to Philip Glass's take on structured minimalism......although Glass himself doesn't agree with that definition of his music. It certainly a more academic and considered form of Minimalism than most of his contemporaries, except maybe later Steve Reich, with no room for musicians to be let off the leash at any point.
I certainly play Glass's music more than any of the other 'minimalists',probably because its more accessable, and melodically more interesting.
Only one piece was originally written, which was called "Music in Twelve Parts" because it was originally intended to have twelve lines of counterpoint harmony, but when Glass played it to a friend, she asked him what the other eleven parts would be like. He found the misunderstanding interesting, and wrote another eleven parts over a period of three yearsThe thing about Music in Twelve parts, is that this album contains the greatest hits of the actual 12 parts that were eventually released in the 90's. Part one is a wonderfully medetitive piece, backed up by more uptempo classic Glass....it repeats but each phrase has a subtle change that slowly transforms the melody into something different without the listener really noticing.......part 3 is ok,but its downhill from there;so stick to the original album I say!...I can take 20 minutes at a concert and forty minutes on an album before my mind starts to wander.So be satisfied that the original concept was just 'Part One' and relax. Glass should have just left it at that too,maybe calling it "Music in Twelve Part,Part One",and never composing the other eleven;rather like the non-appearance of the Third part of the Residents' "Mole Trilogy", or Schuberts 'unfinished Symphony?

Tracklist:

A Music In Twelve Parts - Part 1 16:07
B Music In Twelve Parts - Part 2 16:21


Thursday, 16 January 2020

Tony Conrad With Faust ‎– "Outside The Dream Syndicate" (Caroline Records ‎– C 1501) 1973



Everyone had this didn't they? It was cheap on the Virgin Records budget Caroline imprint(Just look at that fucking outrageous label!?...bloody hippies!), but  Faust were on Virgin proper,with their loss-leader 49p album the 'Faust Tapes', which failed to break them in the UK.All anyone ever needs is one Faust record anyway,so get the cheap ones, right?So that's how I ended up with two albums with Faust on.The first one was a rather irritating mix-up of cutting room floor material in two side long tracks. It sounded like they were trying to be weird,which is always a turn off. 
Now with Conrad  doing his trademark monotonous violin scraping over Faust's rhythm section,cleverly underplaying, this is Fausts best album of the 70's.I bet Fripp ,Eno,and Bowie were livid that Tony never came to them for his rock crossover album. It might have had something to do with the fact that none of them were on Virgin at the time.
This is as close as Conrad came to selling out.If it wasn't such a slow burner it may have entered the lower reaches of the British charts.
This is the expanded,unedited version from 2002, and an argument that all albums shouldn't be longer than 40 minutes.

Tracklist:

1.1 From The Side Of Man And Womankind 27:16
1.2 From The Side Of The Machine 26:21
2.1 The Pyre Of Angus Was In Kathmandu 3:38
2.2 The Death Of The Composer Was In 1962 3:16
2.3 From The Side Of Woman And Mankind (Complete Version) 31:11


John Cale & Terry Riley ‎– "Church Of Anthrax" (CBS ‎– S 64259) 1971


Bongwater did a song called "David Bowie Wants Ideas", and the place to find them was usually in the Avant Garde arena. John Cale wasn't slow in coming forward with misappropriating ideas from the avant classical mainstream and trying to bend them into shape for the record buying public. Amid his lengthy back catalogue of truly terrible mild rock albums, this one actually stands up as vaguely interesting.
It should have actually been a three track album of minimalism/rock crossover tunes, but obviously the Record company must have uttered the classic phrase....."Its great,but I'm not hearing a single?"
So a three minute hippy folk tune sung by a guest vocalist was inserted,and a short rocky instrumental B-side was added to bring the album to a limp close. Among the three minimalist inspired tracks,the 'single' sticks out like an enormous carbuncle on a bare arse.I dunno if it was ever actually released as a single, but,whoever bought the album on the strength of it,would not have been happy.
Bowie,Pop,Fripp and Eno, were endlessly prowling the musical underground to steal Ideas,but Cale beat them all to Terry Riley.....mainly because he knew him from his days in LaMonte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music.
In fact, despite the praise dished out for this album, it ain't that good,and relies heavily on the uncredited drumming of one David Rosenboom to hold it together;and i'm struggling to hear much minimalism on this either.Its neither Rock or minimal,or even a sucessful mix of the two,but its an interesting attempt to do something....er....different? These guys were under pressure to deliver remember? File under Prog.

Tracklist:

A1 Church Of Anthrax 9:00
A2 The Hall Of Mirrors In The Palace At Versailles 7:55
B1 The Soul Of Patrick Lee 2:47
B2 Ides Of March 11:03
B3 The Protege 2:47


Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Terry Riley ‎– "Reed Streams" (Mass Art Inc. ‎– M-131) 1967



Here's some early Riley,performed and recorded,live, on November 4th and 5th 1966 in Riley's New York studio. Introducing some of the standard Minimalist tools of repitition,out of phase accompanying tapes,and playing against tapes of yourself/selves.
It was inevitable that the 'Minimalists' would not only use repeating phrases in their compositions,but that they would end up repeating themselves.The way out of the blind alley, was, melody, which Steve Reich and especially Glass,found out for themselves. Riley would flirt with Pop and drift dangerously close to New Age and ambient.
Maybe it would have been a purer Minimalism to actually repeat oneself until you disappeared up one's own arse.A lot of this scene disappeared up their own arses well before the music did however,but without ego we'd have no art, would we?....Discuss,using as few words as possible,and endless reiteration without explanation.....bonus marks are available for mindless pretentiousness.

Tracklist:

A Untitled Organ 20:10
B Dorian Reeds 14:55


Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Terry Riley ‎– "In C" (Columbia Masterworks ‎– MS 7178) 1968


With a name like a North Yorkshire mechanic, Terry Riley, otherwise known as,'The Godfather of Minimalism" ,it was inevitable that he would slip down the minimalism pecking order behind the more exoticly named Steve Reich, and Philip Glass;but, he was certainly there at the year zero of  repetitive structures alongside his californian chum, LaMonte Young.....which one was the actual 'Godfather of Minimalism' is up for conjecture,but i'm in the LaMonte court.Both were disciples of Indian classical vocalist Pandit Pran Nath,and both moved to New York around the same time."In C"is often cited as the first minimalist composition,though La Monte Young's drone compositions preceded it by several years....but,as for repetitive rythmic minimalism,with 1964 scribbled on his CV, he's in with a shout.Although it was Steve Reich introduced the idea of a rhythmic pulse to Riley, who accepted it thirstily, thus radically altering the original "In C" composition,which had no rhythm.....just like yer average white man.
Riley quickly slipped into the hippie meditation music genre,grew his hair and beard,and was responsible for many of these unwashed future wall street wolves, sitting cross legged in the lotus position for hours,only getting up to turn "In C" over to side two every half an hour or so.
If you listen to the 1964/1970 version of "In C", there's very little minimalism in it so far as instrumentation is concerned, and even gets a bit James Last towards the end, with some  groovy silver-haired Discothéque bass playing that the master of 'easy' would have killed for.Going on to conclude that never completed Minimalist Medley he was working on before his death!
Written in 1964, it says here,but It wasn't until 1968 that Riley began to sound like the work that Steve Reich would become famous for.Then he started dabbling with underground pop stardom, and hanging out with Cale,Bowie, Fripp and Eno. That kind of behaviour rightly demoted him to the semi-serious composer ranks,leaving the chin-stroking spoils for Glass and Reich to reap.
At least he was one of the few of the LaMonte Young crew that wasn't in the Velvet Underground at some point.Lucky escape.

Tracklist:

1. In C (41:57)

Bonus Track:
2. In C (1964&1970) (29:27)

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