mardi 1 avril 2008

NON - Pagan Muzak (1978) (repost)

Originally released in 1978 and then re-released in 1981 and 1999, also released as a boot titled "Live & "Pagan Musick" in 1984 with side A featuring a live track from 1984, and side B which featured Pagan Muzak and a "disco remix" of something.

The original 1978 release features a One-sided 7" in 12" cover. Contains 17 loop grooves, playable at any speed. Also has second hole for off axis playback. First pressing contained one side with grooves, the other blank.

The 1981 reissue release features has the same lock grooves on both sides.

The 1999 reissue release is identical to the 1978 release.

Here is the write up from the Mute web page, I edited it down because some of it bored me;

Boyd Rice is too wise to the ways of the world to start plea-bargaining now about the impact, for good or evil, of NON's early noise purges. Then, he doesn't need to, the timely reissue of Pagan Muzak speaks volumes. First released in 1978, Pagan Muzak is a 7" vinyl long playing record housed in a 12" sleeve. It consists of 17 locked/looped grooves, each of them containing a different noise. A second axis hole drilled off-centre doubles the number of tracks; and as it can be played back at up to four speeds - 16, 33, 45 or 78rpm - working out just how many tracks Pagan Muzak effectively offers the listener involves complicated calculations of all the different playback combinations of axis choice, turntable speeds and the grooves themselves. The mind boggles, yet when it was sold as a long playing record, some buyers thought they'd been short-changed by at least five inches. Boyd recalls, "Because it came out as a 7" record in an album sleeve, people used to go,[in a whining voice] 'It says LP on here. . .' 'Well,' I said, 'LP means long player, and this is the longest player you are ever going to find'."

Between the record's peculiar format and the noises contained in its locked grooves, Pagan Muzak clearly anticipated the sound and shape of many music practices to come. Rice's radicalisation of vinyl reversed the listener's usual passive relationship with the record as a sound carrier. To listen to it meant first of all making 'musical' choices regarding pitch and tempo, dependent on playback axis and turntable speed. In this sense, putting on Pagan Muzak was a kind of rehearsal of a near future, when DJs and turntablists would play records as a musical instrument. 1978 - when Pagan Muzak was originally released - was coincidentally the year breakbeats first broke out in the Bronx, with DJs scratching the stylus across the grooves to intensify a climax in the same way rock groups would play guitar solos. However, the first HipHop and rap records featuring breaks, such as The Fatback Band's "King Tim III" and Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", only started coming out a year later. Over on the other coast, in his hometown San Diego, Rice had been exploring similar ideas, albeit from a completely different angle.

"I did stuff with turntables in the 70s," he says. "I took apart a bunch of different ones and tried to get weird sounds by having the needles removed from the arms and ran them into the grooves, but it just sounded so hokey, it sounded so obvious, I thought. I was looking at the time for noises, where people would say where did he get that sound from? But with this kind of technique, it obviously sounds like a record going 'Eecchuurgh, eecchuurgh'. . . So I stopped, then five or ten years later I started hearing all these people going eecchuurgh."

The idea for Pagan Muzak arose as a response to something said by the late John Cage - whose Cartridge Music was the first composition to feature records and players as musical components. Boyd explains, "I guess I got the inspiration for Pagan Muzak when I read some interview with John Cage. He said he didn't want to make records because the format was too fixed. Well I immediately thought that's ridiculous, nothing is too fixed. You can set something on the table and look at it from four different angles and it will look like four different things. And it is the same with records, you can play them at any different speed, you can put a second hole in them, play them off centre. That's where I got the idea for doing Pagan Muzak. "I made my first record playable at all four speeds. And on Pagan Muzak, I did the looped grooves, the locked grooves, and to my knowledge at that time, I didn't think that anybody had ever done a whole record of just locked grooves, though I have since been told that Linguaphone or somebody did them, 'Parlez vous francais, monsieur? Parlez vous. . .' You know, you repeat it until you got it. And somebody told me that the BBC had some looped groove records, which they used for sound effects in radio plays. But I didn't know about that. Since I was doing minimalist music that I just want people to be able to listen to it all day, it seemed logical to make a record with looped grooves."

It is fitting, then, that Mute's reissue of Pagan Muzak coincides with the revival of the vinyl record as a specialist format for vinyl lovers and DJs. As specialist records go, they don't come more special than Pagan Muzak. Possibly out of a reaction to the digital perfection of the compact disc, a strain of contemporary music from electronica through to post-rock has been working vinyl's scratches, glitches and deteriorating sound quality into a kind of minimal music, treating vinyl's surface crackle as a texture or processing sticking needle sounds into rhythm patterns. The medium's common defects, which Rice factored in to Pagan Muzak as special listening features, have become the very stuff of the music promoted by such glitch-worshipping minimalist labels as Ontario's Minus, Cologne's Kompakt and Vienna's Mego, among countless others around the world.

Meanwhile, a 'spray-on distortion/crackle' software tool has been designed to cater to a digital age nostalgia for the lost vinyl listening experience, allowing artists to bestow on their music the warm glow and authority of antiquity (for starters, check releases by Tarwater and Warn Defever). As its title implies, Pagan Muzak was also about using the vinyl record as an aid to engendering different moods and atmospheres. The name is both a description of the record's contents and a homage to Hawaii-based exotica pioneer Martin Denny, composer of environmental mood music that embraced such seemingly irreconcilable components as easy listening, unusual instruments, natural sounds and dissonance. Along with Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman, Denny became a hero to the so called Lounge/Space Age Batchelor Pad movement of the early 90s. "I was influenced by Martin Denny," Boyd confirms. "He was doing this stuff that was like muzak but it had these heathen overtones. I liked the idea of paganism and I thought it was like pagan muzak, because it was music to change your environment, fill it up with noise, fill your brain with noise, and I thought that was really a pagan concept.

Did Boyd have any particular functions in mind when he was laying down the locked grooves of Pagan Muzak? "I've heard from people working in record stores who say, 'We love your record. At the end of the day, we just have to put it on and it clears the store'. People have said it is good for housework, and other people have said it is good for sex. It is a very functional record. . . "If someone is getting too noisy upstairs, I put the record on. After you have had the noise going for an hour or so, it creates an artificial silence. You don't even realise it is there. It is like creating solitude, blocking out all the noises which really are distracting, which infringe on your consciousness. A girl I knew was pissed off with her neighbours, so we put this record on, locked the door and went up into the mountains, so the neighbours would have to listen to this for, like, 48 hours."

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