Liner Notes 08: Phuong-Dan

Phuong-Dan recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of his Gatto Musculoso residency at the Golden Pudel Club in his home town. His years of ‘working experience’ might explain why he is such an exciting, open-minded, courageous DJ.
The curious artist suits the adventurous, as his mixes are built from an artistic narrative. Each mix is a story on its own, presenting a wonderful, far-out collection of music. Especially Phuong-Dan’s listening mixes are a sensuous cinematic trip, creating a dramaturgy with changing moods, always with a coherent tale in mind. “I am open to, and interested in a lot of different kinds of music, rather than trying to focus on, and limit myself to a particular genre”, he clarifies. “When I make listening-mixes, which I love doing most, I can totally fall back on my collection and create new, loosely intuitive narrations with diverse material.” Phuong-Dan tells how his mixes arise: “Ideally, I have the first record on my mind. Plus some titles I think would fit. The rest is actually a spontaneous ride. Ordering additional records in the process, rejecting great records because they don´t suit the story… My current personal mood has a big impact on the direction of the mix as well of course.”
For his episode in the Red Light Radio x Sonos Liner Notes series, Phuong Dan has a different plan in mind. “This is a particular one”, he says. “First and foremost; I want to select music that has a personal meaning to me. But I take also in account that this series gives opportunity to highlight some presumably unsuspected music. Music that I feel a broader audience should get introduced to. And last but not least; all tracks should be arranged with the personal claim to create a coherent story which could be listen to as a such. I don´t have a clue if i made it, haha!” Well, we think he did.

  • Track 1Requiem (For Violin and Magnetic Tape)Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

    Phuong-Dan sets the tone with a dissonant drone song by multi-instrumentalist Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. The title of the piece “Requiem (for violin and magnetic tape)” implies that the play wasn’t improvised, but written by Cantu-Ledesma for musicians. For this recording, Tony Cross played the piece live on violin at The Headlands Centre For The Arts in San Francisco, in Spring 2013.
    Cantu-Ledesma is a contemporary San-Francisco based artist who has been involved in a variety of projects, that also involve multidisciplinary art. His acclaimed drone/ambient label, Root Strata, has an extensive catalog that includes artists such as his Tarentel group, and Grouper, Yellow Swans, Charalambides, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Oneohtrix Point Never.
    Phuong-Dan discovered “Requiem” when he was co-curating a program at the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof in his hometown Hamburg, in October 2015: “The program was about auditive publications in the context of visual arts. Next to the lectures, panels and live performances, we exposed a temporary collection of publications (mostly on vinyl), supported by artists, art and cultural institutions. During our research, we found the book/edition label "Infinite Greyscale" from Dusseldorf, which became part of that collection. The label release limited editions of 10 inch records with music on the a-side and a silkscreen-print on the flip. I really like the endless force and patience in Cantu-Ledesma´s piece.”

  • Track 2KatrinaChris Dooks

    An airy, sweet voice occurs, talking physical elements repetitively, alleviating Cantu-Ledesma´s dramatic violin music. The song is written by multidisciplinary artist Chris Dooks, whose delicate personal drive shines through his art, hence he occasionally hopes quietly to serve people’s personal lives with his works. The Scotland-based artist is primarily occupied in the fields of photography, film and audio-art. He worked for art platform Furtherfield in a project called 5+5=5 in 2005-6. Back then, Furtherfield introduced him as an ‘inquisitive and playful mind […], engaged in exploring across different forms of personal agency, as well as redefining his practice in relation to the world he exists in, and the people he comes across in connection to various projects’. This gleaming characterization makes sense when we read Dooks’ motivation for this song, which is printed on the back of the record sleeve: “Chronically ill people, like any other stratum of society, may be inspired by hearing about the latest discoveries of the universe. But many sick people find the consumption of this kind of information overwhelming. Even the way a television documentary presents it may prove to dense. One way I’ve been trying to help overcome this disadvantage, at least in a tiny way, is to locate very short strands of information that are easy to process but are still full of awe. […] Initially i was going to record statements like these with music, in the hope that the words became more memorable. Writes like Oliver Sacks have researched the power of music as a ‘squatter’ – in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, who often recall, verbatim, tunes and songs from decades ago, yet are unable to recall their own name, for example. I became so interested in this as a research method that I will be pursuing a separate release in the future regarding this phenomenon.”
    Chris Dooks impressed Phuong-Dan when they met at the ImageMovement store for art films in Berlin: “My friend Andreas Reihse of Kreidler fame introduced us. He told me about his work, and his approach sounded really interesting to me”.

  • Track 3Hot AirMkwaju Ensemble

    Phuong-Dan picks a jewel out of the Japanese box called Better Days. Recorded in the early eighties, when the country’s economy was flourishing, and the recording budgets seemed limitless. A time when a plethora of sonically adventurous records popped up.  
    The Mkwaju Ensemble, lead by Japanese percussionist Midori Takada, recorded two albums in those prosperous years. “Hot Air” is a lengthy, spiritual song, created with organic instrumentation for their first album, “Ki-Motion”. The music sounds breathy and has the subtle sounds of wood. The mkwaju spirit is obviously notable in their music, as we read a Hipinion forum contributor (via “The tamarind, known as “mkwaju” in Swahili, is a large, adaptable, drought resistant tree native to Sudan and tropical Africa. A dense, durable, insect-resistant wood, mkwaju is used in the production of furniture, wheels, planking, tools, and musical instruments. Prized also for its horticultural, culinary, and medical uses, mkwaju is essential to the life and identity of the Central African grasslands. Taking their name from the tree whose wood was used to produce some of the very first mallets and marimba, Mkwaju Ensemble’s rhythmic, minimalistic work draws on the region’s music and culture. In a brief six month span, the ensemble combined a wide array of talent and instrumentation to explore syncopation, repetition, and silence in new and ambitious ways.”
    Both of Mkwaju Ensemble’s LP’s are released on Better Days, the imprint that’s responsible for quite a few great, exciting releases from the eighties, by artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mariah and Yasuaki Shimizu.

  • Track 4StarfishesRoberto Musci & Giovanni Vernesta

    After Dook’s stars and Mkwaju Ensemble’s warm breeze, Phuong-Dan takes us to a fascinating sound composition, which loopy, organic collage somehow sounds like patchwork. We hear a dusty voice scatting in an unfamiliar language. The song is a collaboration between Roberto Musci & Giovanni Vernesta. Two composers with complementary backgrounds, who worked together in various projects. Born in 1961, Giovanni Venosta is an Italian composer who specializes in sample based compositions (mainly taken from ethnic music) and live improvisation. Roberto Musci is an Italian music composer, performer, saxophonist and guitar player, born in 1956 in Milan. Traveling extensively across Asia and Africa between 1974-1985 to study music, Musci made many field recordings and collected many instruments on his travels which he would then combine with synthesizers and electronics.
    On “Starfishes”, Venosta plays electric piano, and Musci acoustic guitar, EMAX and tapes. The duo use the Tanzanian sanza, and feature Australian Aboriginal vocals and Mongolian bifonical chant.
    This beautiful track comes with exciting news: we will soon be introduced to unearthed, previously unreleased Musci works. A compilation called “Tower of Silence” is set for release on the Amsterdam based Music from Memory imprint in September 2016.

  • Track 5Dream ClockMichele Musser

    Another piece by a multi-disciplinary artist in Phuong-Dan’s podcast: “Dream Clock” is taken from Michele Musser’s chased after “Eye Chant” LP. This eight-track album is fascinating all the way trough, going from minimal synth to spoken word and ambient music.
    There’s not so much known about the artist. Musser surprisingly acted in, and composed soundtracks to several Dutch art house movies by Paul de Nooijer and was married to film actor and director Jerry King Musser. Next to “Eye Chant” (keep an eye out for the LP, it has great sleeve artwork!) and her soundtracks, there’s not much more, but a very intriguing cassette entitled “A Cast of Shadows”. The LP will get the reissue treatment, is the word on the street…

  • Track 6The Legendary GertieShoc Corridor

    Musser’s clock strikes at the end of her song become dreamier and more undefined, as if they become the portal to our new reality. Shoc Corridor picks us up where we are left, and we move on, guided by their lazy, reverbed drum programming. The electronic band was formed in West London in the early 1980s by lyricist and vocalist Paul O’Carroll, Andy Garnham (who had previously played in a band with Steve Luscombe of Blancmange), and the love couple Chris Davis and Nogi Prass. They named the band after the Sam Fuller film from 1963 and rehearsed and recorded in Garnham’s home studio in Notting Hill. Because they were more interested in studio experimentation than live performance, the band only played a handful of gigs. After two releases on Shout Records, Davis and Prass left and were replaced by Paul Humphries and Sarah Panton. The band in its new form disbanded in 1984, after the suicide of Humphries. “Anthology”, a retrospective CD, was released on the Belgian Classix label in 1993.

  • Track 7Children´s MindSjunne Ferger´s Exit

    Phuong-Dan continues with a amazing, dazzling track by Swedish jazz and blues drummer Sjunne Ferger. He didn’t know of Ferger until he got introduced to “Children’s Mind“ in France. A track that’s not so jazzy or bluesy… “Macadam Mambo’s Sacha Mambo brought the 7 inch from a trip to Sweden and played it to me at his place in Lyon after our gig on the night before”, Phuong-Dan comments. “It completely blew my mind - we were celebrating it a lot! The way it slowly starts, and then surprises with its impulsive warped drums, subtile percussion and that voice…”
    Despite Sjunne Ferger’s versatile character, the drummer was foremost linked to jazz and blues. Together with his mother, he ran a locally influential jazz and blues club called Powerhouse. During his musical carrier he was affected by a wide spectrum of artists, varying from Don Cherry (who he met) to John Cage. Although he was a renowned drummer, he didn’t become financially very successful as a jazz artist.
    Sacha Mambo wasn’t familiar with the artist, until a little while ago, when he ran into his music in Sweden: “This guy was pretty unknown to me, until Albion showed me his “Mind Games” LP. Since then, I am discovering his involvement in many jazz bands, plus his production works for the Swedish new-wave band the Lix, and Yugoslavian bands such as Dorian Gray and Boa. I have dug really deep into his stuff since then.”

  • Track 8GondwaniaRüdiger Lorenz

    Phuong-Dan is very attached to this record. He shares his personal story: “A few years back I went to Golden Pudel for this particular edition of the club’s regular sunday night, called MFOC. There was this raw, dark music filling up the room, based on modular synthesizers, the Korg Polysix, Korg Vocoder, with Roland TR-808 drum programming… I had to know what track it was, so I went straight to Tim (he hosts MFOC together with Ralf Köster, the booker of the club) who was DJing. He just laughed and answered: ‘It´s my father!’ So… Tim Lorenz kindly went through the back stock and gave me one copy of all releases that where left over. Much appreciated!”
    Rüdiger Lorenz was a German pharmacist and synthesist known for his large collection of analog synthesizers and his prolific output of albums featuring them. After many years of musical education, hearing a Moog synthesizer made him addicted to electronic music the late sixties. Lorenz died at age 59, and at the time he owned 38 synthesizers, including three large self-built modular ones. He was one of the pioneers of the DIY movement, not only building his own synthesizers and effects but creating and distributing his own music label, Syncord Records, on which he published his music.
    For “Gondwania”, featured in Phuong-Dan’s podcast, Lorenz used the DSS-1 sampler, the DX-7, DW 6000, CZ 3000 and Polysix poly-synths. As a modular system he used the 100M, PPG, Formant, BME and custom built modules. Sequencers: Steinberg 24, PR-300, CSQ-600, MC 202, PPG 314. Vocoders: DVP-1, VC-10, VP 330 and drums & percussion: DDD-1, WERSI CX-5, MR-16, DDM 110 + 220, TR-808.

  • Track 9WinterlandschaftRauchquarz

    This is a record from Phuong-Dan’s home town, by the musicians Manfred Asmus and Wolfgang Harder. The duo released their music under a few monikers - Rauchquarz was one of those.
    Their “Uferböschung” album, where “Winterlandschaft” is taken from, was recorded and mixed by the French electronic and instrumental music artist Serge Blenner in his studio in Hamburg. Blenner moved to Germany in 1975 to study at the Mulhouse conservatory. His first set of electronic music performances (1980) got picked up by the incredible Sky Records - a main outlet for German electronic, ambient, and krautrock music - which remained the label for Blenner’s output.
    Rauchquartz’ “Uferböschung” LP was Lamplight label’s debut release, and was also Harder and Asmus’ first collaboration LP. The duo’s musical friendship remained, as they worked together in various projects in the eighties and nineties.
    This track implies another Swedish connection in this podcast, as Manfred Asmus was also a member of the band, Bal Pare, which released their “Metamorphose” LP on the Swedish Krautrock Records.

  • Track 10Posession & TreasuresF.P. & The Doubling Riders

    F.P. probably stands for Francesco Paladinoare, & The Doubling Riders were born out of various new-wave and experimental folk outfits active in Italy during the early eighties. This record involved a lot of international talent, such as the French group, Vox Populi!. It largely started as the mail-art project of Paladinoare, with multi-instrumentalist Pier Luigi Andreoni. With further records, now featuring Riccardo Sinigaglia and a more stable band, The Doubling Riders became a totally unclassifiable, genre hopping outfit, at the forefront of Italian new-music.
    “Posession & Treasures” was Auf Dem Nil records’ debut release. The label’s focus was to offer new experimental music, and was established by ADN Records in 1985. CD reissues of most titles were planned around 1991, but none ever showed.

  • Track 11YetiClaudio Cojaniz

    Claudio Cojaniz is a pianist, keyboardist and composer. After his academic studies, the Italian musician carries out a wide range of (awarded) compositions. In 1985, Radio France recorded his piece for vibraphone and 15 instruments, performed at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome.
    “Yeti” is taken from his “Ramo Ramo (Ypnosisetnomuzik)” album, released in 1989 on the Italian Fonit Centra imprint. The LP is quite unusal in comparison to his other works – it’s really experimental, abstract, electronic and kind of dark. He plays the percussions on this LP.

  • Track 12April´83Robin Taylor

    Phuong-Dan rounds up his mix with another Scandinavian eccentric: Robin Taylor. “Mikkel Brask (who also added a podcast to the Liner Notes series) recently hooked me up with this record, because he assumed I would appreciate it. It is a super diverse and interesting Danish record. Almost all tracks are great, weird and all are different.”
    Robin C Taylor is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, sound manipulator, arranger, producer and label owner, born to English/Danish parents in Copenhagen in 1956. He started playing electric guitar at the age of 12, influenced by The Beatles – and by the psychedelic rock group Cream in particular. At that age, Taylor’s life long interest in the rock progressive movement (soon followed by jazz-rock groups) started, and he remained a dedicated follower ever since. Without any formal musical training, Taylor learned by heart, from listening to many records, as well as attending concerts.“April 83” is taken from Robin Taylor’s debut album, “Essay” (1991), for which he had to “fight and conquer the ghost of the machinery” together with his fellow musicians, such as Jan Marsfeldt among others. After going through a period of ‘disillusion’ in the mid eighties (where visual arts were his main object), Robin returned to music with fresh inspiration. At that point he was determined to improve his home-recording facilities with the purpose of releasing his very first album. Due to various hindrances, it didn’t materialize until 1991, when “Essay” was released on Danish underground label, Pingo Records.