We are overjoyed to introduce a list of favorites of our close friend Izabel Caligiore in the Red Light Radio x Sonos Liner Notes series. The young polymath moved to Amsterdam just over a year ago and has brought a great addition to our collective musical minds ever since, as she’s been introducing lyrical works and personal ideas in a very inspiring way, particularly through her Lullabies For Insomniacs imprint.
Izabel has an explorative character, with the habit to study music profoundly. She finished her sound and music studies in Melbourne, the city where she grew up. During this time, she developed a hunch for exploring musical history. She notes her musical depth comes from a number of things, “my experience and understanding of music whilst in Melbourne was accelerated by many factors. Community radio, a group of crazy music lovers, record stores, peers, teachers and dance floors at 6 am”. Shortly after the completion of her studies, Izabel traded Australia for Amsterdam, were the Red Light family adopted her.
In this mix, Izabel selects some records from her home country, which offers us a great introduction into Australia’s underground music scene in the 80’s. Her musical, audio-tech and cultural fascinations reflect well in this podcast. Now let’s dive in…
- Track 1SanctusRon Nagorcka
Izabel starts in the city center of her hometown. Not only the New York based St. Patrick’s cathedral is a dramatic building, it’s namesake in Victoria’s capital Melbourne is a pretty impressive, spacious Gothic place too, with a huge tower penetrating the sky. The series “Reverberations” originated from a spectacular performance at the cathedral in 1972, where musicians were invited to explore the sonorities available within this large building.
The composer Ron Nagorcka (born 1948) has been an influential composer, performer, and naturalist, who spent much of his childhood exploring music and the natural world on a sheep farm in Western Victoria. In the seventies, Nagorcka founded the influential Clifton Hill Community Music Centre as his investment in a healthy contemporary music climate in Melbourne. Their `no finance' principle pushed a few things to the fore. The first was a healthy and inventive participation in the low-budget ethic.
Nagorcka wasn’t entirely sure that “Sanctus” would be in place: “Sounds – especially those produced by human beings – exist in a cultural context. Didgeridoo, pipe-organs, voices, electronic devices and cathedrals all produce sounds with specific and unique cultural identities. Hopefully the attempt to blend them into a mere sonic compatibility does not destroy the ambiguities resulting from their juxtaposition, nor in anyway belittle the immense significance of the didgeridoo in the culture of its origin.”
- Track 2KřuskyOldřich Janota
Izabel transforms the sonic atmosphere with Oldřich Janota’s (born 1949) intimate guitar play and lowering, calm, but penetrating voice.
This theatrical piece was written by a renowned Czech avant-garde guitarist, vocalist and poet. He was perceived as a folk singer, but he didn't think of himself as such. "[…] I think that true folk musicians have a really direct relationship with their audience. Their lyrics matter not only to themselves, but to all the people around him", he says in an interview. Janota has been active since early seventies, worked with Czech New Wave drummer Luboš Fidler and with guitarist and composer Pavel Richter – two protagonists in new music at the time.
- Track 3The TemptressSpell
Izabel shares a poetical spell that’s ‘nor esoteric, cold or mushy’. At least, the record is kind of introduced in this way. “I found this while digging in Japan”, she comments. “Joe made contact with me after I posted a Youtube clip online, he was curious about how I found the record. Truth is, I was lucky to find two copies while in Tokyo. I didn't know it at the time but the sleeve caught my eye - the liner notes were great. Joe is working on a reissue of the record.”
The Temptress’ “Times Waves” is a private press from Jacksonville, Florida, March-May, 1979. Composed by Jack Tamul and Joe Deihl, produced for the Alexander Brest Planetarium. The records liner notes by Patrick Hinley say: “Joe and Jack are primarily keyboard artists, but synthesizer technology has given them a virtually orchestral range, and they make use of the potential with grace, wit and good taste. That is a rarity these days, when synthesizers are as easy to come by as refrigerators. […] With their first album, they have woven six intricate – and intimate – tapestries, which will carry you as far as you allow. So much new music is said to be ‘esoteric, cold or mushy’, but that doesn’t apply here. Jack and Joe are wary of putting labels on what they're doing, I did get this much out of them ‘American romanticism’. It fits, but doesn’t cover completely and that’s ok, because trying to discover music through words is sort of like performing Shakespeare in Morse code. […] As electronic instrumentation moves from controversial infancy to early childhood, I think the artistry of people like Jack and Joe will guide this Pandora's box closer to a healthy adulthood. Most of the music is pretty, All of it is beautiful. To my mind the boogie is here between the ears and it feels good" Izabel continues: “The duo didn't release another album on wax, which is a shame. The album has many great ideas and is executed well.”
- Track 4Total Space→ ↑ →
→ ↑ → made this soundtrack for an experimental video by Robert Randall & Frank Bendinelli. It was produced with the financial assistance of the creative development branch of the Australian film commission. “Phillip Brophy, a member of the band and one half of Innocent Records, was a pivotal figure in the Melbourne electronic music and performing arts scene throughout the late seventies and the eighties. In 2014, I was in his class, ‘The Modern Soundtrack’ at RMIT. He’s been affiliated with the University since the eighties, teaching various media related studies”, Izabel comments. Both Phillip and his band members were part of the Clifton Hill Community Centre, founded by Ron Nagorcka, which is explained earlier in this article (see the first track).
- Track 5Fa Fa FaFreshly Wrapped Candies
Roz and Wade Hall, started the group with Chris Haaga from Alhambra, CA. Not much later, two video artists jumped on the bandwagon. Marsha Mann and R. Pera joined from 1987 to 1991 to perform live psychotronic video at their shows. Mann & Pera are now considered part of the band and produced an excerpted concert video "The Sheep of Things to Come" in 1989, which was distributed by Ralph Records the San Fransisco based label run by The Residents, who also released Yello and Tuxedomoon’s music.
- Track 6L=E/RMopsie Beans
Izabel introduces us to a remarkable Australian duo with a track that starts with sassy 8-bit sounds. Shortly after, the music becomes more distant with Mopsie’s vocals, which have a strong Australian accent and are accompanied by dreamy strings. The short love song establishes the duo Mopsie (real name: Elizabeth Ward) and Jerry Beans in this mix - the eccentric duo that formed an ongoing partnership from the ‘70ties onwards. The song is taken from their sole “Appearances” album. An album review teaches us that the pair was genuine iconoclast, especially in Sydney's western suburbs, around which they'd lug their own PA and set up DIY performances. Initially, Mopsie would sing and play live with keyboards and drum machines; later, backing tapes were introduced, allowing her to pursue an ever more theatrical performance style.
Izabel continues with a self-release by the short-lived Grey Pavilion outfit. Although the band are pretty electrifying, they released only one four-tracker. The musicians are pretty amazing, but there’s no information of them recording more music. However, luckily there’s enough to find about the guitarist and drummer, who really stand out in this track.
The Cline brothers from Los Angeles are guitarist Nels and drummer Alex. Nels’ renowned improvisational character implies how this band could be so brilliant and ephemeral at the same time. The project seems to have been the result of proper spontaneity.
Nels worked with many, varying from the late jazz bassist Charlie Haden, to Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth. He even started the experimental jazz-funk act Banyan with Mike Watt of the Minutemen and Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction, touching jazz, punk, noise, funk and rock and roll. He is a riffmaster, known for his use of effect pedals and looping devices. “I am primarily an improviser. This means that I am driven to and nourished by collaboration”, he explains in an interview.
Brother Alex Cline’s discography is impressive too. The drummer and percussionist has been active in US West Coast jazz and new music scenes since the late '70s. His group Quartet Music, for example, was an award-winning '80s band.
The Scottish Electroscope duo released 104 titles in only four years, in a recorded attempt ‘to bridge the gap between Joe Meek and the United States of America’. Not sure what this means, but it’s a fact that Joe Meek was a mind-blowing character. The British producer pioneered in using overdubbing, sampling and reverb, using these techniques in the early sixties. Meek’s ideas were limitless in his search for the perfect sound.
Joe Meek is portrayed on the inside cover art of the Electroscope album, which implies a hint to what the Scottish duo is doing on Homemade. However, they didn't attempt to recreate Meek’s music (though they do title one track "Joe Heard a New World"). Gayle Harrison and John Cavanagh instead conjured with many different musical ingredients.
Izabel introduces us to another eccentric Australian movement with a mission, this time in the form of a label, operated from an Australian house. ‘M Squared’, the label that released “No Threat”, was founded in 1979: “It was us against the big record companies, with their ideas of ‘Oz Rock’”, the label write on their website. “The seeds were sown with the formation of the band Scattered Order by self-taught musician/ex Barons, Michael Tee and self-taught sound engineer/ex art school, Mitch Jones. Equipped with a bent sense of humor, ideas were formed, manifestos written and the good ship M Squared officially launched.”
Information on The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast seems to be absent. Band member Shane Fahey studied acoustics at the University of New South Wales in 1983 and 1984 and has worked as an acoustic engineer ever since M Squared stopped in 1984, setting up his own company, Megaphon Acoustic Design, in 1988.
The “Terrace Industry” compilation offers a good introduction to the particular Australian rock contra-movement M Square was affiliated with, holding tracks by The Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast as well as Scattered Order, a band that have been associated with various other Australian punk and post punk bands, such as Severed Heads, X, Pel Mel, The Limp, Lime Spiders, Thought Criminals, The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast, and Tactics.
"These recordings were made in the studio of Geoffrey Landers, a mysterious character also from Denver who made some incredible music,” Izabel comments. “Through his work I discovered this band." The Spray Pals was a short-lived US garage, new wave, goth band from Denver, Colorado, lead by singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Susanne Lewis, and with Kirsten Gushurst on keyboards. The formation recorded a single in 1982, and shortly after the release, they did a few shows around Denver with Bob Drake on drums, and Mike Johnson on bass.
In the early 90's while living in LA, Bob Drake engineered projects for many popular artists including Ice Cube, Lily Tomlin, Shirley McLaine and Quincy Jones, and toured the world as live sound mixer with American director Peter Sellars' controversial adaptations of "The Persians" and "The Merchant of Venice".
“Gopinatha” is featured on a Hare Krishna psych compilation from New Zealand. The Hare Krishna movement is an offshoot of vaishnavism and hinduism, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Praphupada in 1966 in New York City.
There’s not much known about this record. “I found this in the record store near my family’s home in Melbourne,” Izabel comments. “Apparently, it was released by devotees from the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON), in the early seventies.” The record preaches the science of Krishna consciousness and spreads the holy names of Krishna. The front cover art and inlay tells of the story of king Prthu, and the back cover the story of king Dhruva.
Izabel plays “Guitare Blesse”, sounding gracefully lazy and calming but dramatic, slightly reminding of Manuel Göttsching, and of Robert Fripp’s,“Frippertronics”. Claude Perraudin (1948 - 2001) was a Parisian composer, guitarist and conductor who arranged for a variety of French artists of caliber such as Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. He produced most of his solo albums in the seventies and eighties. This record is of significance to Izabel as she recalls it as one of the first records she got at Red Light Records.
Another intriguing troop in this mix… For this release, Elodie Lauten worked with Arthur Russell and Peter Zummo on an affecting opera piece. The song starts softly with Russell’s velvety cello play and is quickly accompanied with Elodie Lauten’s Fairlight, harpsichord, Trine alto and contralto, Bill Rayner’s electric guitar and Zummo’s trombone. “Vision” is the celestial, organic Terry Riley-ish act in Lauten’s 1987 opera “The Death of Don Juan”, in which she combined feminist tract and Zen meditation. It was one of the major post-minimalist works of the eighties. Elodie Lauten (1950 - 2014) was a composer, described as postminimalist or a microtonalist. A writer of operas, theater pieces, orchestral, chamber and instrumental music, she is recognized in North America and Europe as a pioneer of post-minimalism and a force on the new music scene.
Izabel continues with a piece for marimba by Michael Askill, taken from his self released “Australian percussion” album. Askill commented at the time: “Omphalo Centric Lecture is composed by my friend and great Australian composer Nigel Westlake in 1985. This piece is a great favorite amongst percussion ensembles around the world.” The piece is composed for four marimba players playing on two marimbas. Askill’s recording is a multi-track version of all four parts played by him. He recorded his version with Westlake in Sydney. “In the past we even did versions with African drummers and also the great Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu - there is a recorded version made with my percussion group Synergy with additional percussion overdubs.”
Joan La Barbara is an American vocalist who specializes in the extended vocal technique. Her biography is extensive – she’s worked with the likes of Phillip Glass (she was in the premier of Einstein on the Beach at Avignon, France 1976), John Cage, Morton Feldmen, Mel Powell and Roger Reynolds.
The beginning of “Cathing” is recorded in Amsterdam, during a live radio interview broadcast that took place at the intermission of Joan La Barbara’s Holland Festival concert. “The speaker is a professional singer, I excerpted 20 phrases - some verbatim, some realigned - distributed them over a period of seven minutes and altered them electronically”, La Barbara explains. “The sung elements include several tracks of held patches, microtonally tuned to create beats in the sound waves, so that the underlying natural rhythms and the clear pitches that cause them form the foundation of the composition. The split tones, glissandos, high flutters and various kinds of vocal percussion all contribute to the sonic fabric that is both stable and shifting.” When La Barbara started composing, she was fairly conscious of not wanting to imitate the people she was working for: “People would associate my music with that of Steve Reich and Phil Glass; it was a natural association because of working together. They would say I was coming from a minimalist tradition and it took a while before they could actually separate out the music and ideas of performers who worked with composers who's reputations were further along than ours. Jon Gibson, Dicky Landry and I all did solo concerts when we were working for Phil and there was a certain consciousness, on my part, of not wanting to do pattern music, for example. Over the years, I've recognized that there are certain things that are a part of why I was attracted to those composers in the first place. I've allowed a certain amount of the influence to come through and then given it my own spin."
For her last track, Izabel takes us back to the area where she now resides with a record she found while on a trip to Groningen.
Belgium’s Nico de Haan’s “Variations Sur Thème En-Am” is featured on “Trans Atlantic Overdub”, a compilation released by the Dutch, Zwolle based De Fabriek imprint/band. The compilation tape features Dutch boss Das Ding, German electronics legend Conrad Schnitzler (who was Kluster, together with Roedelius and Moebius), the Italian Giancarlo Toniutti and many more.
De Fabriek (The Factory) was founded by Richard van Dellen and Andries D. Eker in the late seventies. Not considering themselves a regular band (for one thing, they are a label too) they present The Factory as some sort of workmen-union, and the musicians they work with as laborers. Their idea was to create music through workman tools and machinery.