Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Michael Moorcock's touching tribute to the late, great J G Ballard.


A charity-shop superstore has just opened in Yeovil. It's on the old Keymarkets site where I used to work as a warehouse boy back in the day. It's enormous: there are bunk-beds and sofas and wardrobes in there, as well as a pile of damp cardboard boxes out the back piled high w/ vinyl.

Just as well, 'cos most of the other charity-shops round here are pretty much played-out vinyl-wise. Unfortunately, my friend Steve who's an eBay vinyl dealer got in there first n stripmined it of all the really good stuff, incl. an original 7" of "See Emily Play", some v. early Who singles and some semi-rare early-70s 'Eavy n Prog. Gah!

Still, this one slipped through his fingers - an early 80's LP by the French electronic composer/musician Bernard Xolotl, a guy who went globetrotting in the early 70's and hooked up w/ the likes of Klaus Schulze, Manuel Goettsching, Terry Riley n La Monte Young along the way. In 1980, he made an album w/ Cyrille Verdeaux (of Clearlight/Clearlight Symphony infamy, another Franglophile synth-merchant who is known for his collaborations w/ folks like Hillage, Tim Blake, Didier Malherbe and other assorted Gong-orbiting geezers). "Procession" is the follow-up to the Verdeaux collab. and is essentially a two-man show w/ Xototl (on an assortment of spacey-sounding old-school electronics) and violinist Daniel Kobialka, master of the Zeta Polyphonic Electric Violin (an instrument also favoured by Laurie Anderson in the early 80s).

And very nice the album is too - well, I think so, anyway - recommended for those of you who think Tangerine Dream went off the boil sometime around '76 lol. The title track sounds very stately and, er, processional...with Xototl's synths seeming to solemnly inch their way forward, step by step, thru a dry-ice enshrouded cathedral, tracked by Kobialka's acrobatic Simon House-like violin-chops - and there's even occasional reverb-smeared slo-mo fanfares that sound like ELP's Copeland trib on horse-tranqs. And the string-pads and tinkling, stereo-panned sequencer-lines on "Mirador" certainly pay more than a passing 'omage to Ashra's mid-70's "New Age of The Earth" LP.

'Course, it's a far-cry from the pan-galactic sound-fields and audio-nebulae of early Kosmische - Xolotl's work is more 'tasteful', more melodic; the v. early 80's were the last gasp of first-wave New Age music before it got completely ambushed by digital synthesis, then diluted, repackaged and commodified by various crystal-shop franchaises. RIP old school '70s Head Shops. My God, I could tell ya some stories.

Still, 'tis strange how weirdly, umm, 'contemporary' some of this sounds...mainly cos there's a number of artists and bands retro-reactivating this sort of sound right now - Emeralds come to mind, and Kohn, amongst others - but this is clearly more 'composed'-sounding, less free-form. "Transmutation", for example, has one foot in a quasi-classical tradition as well as the standard synthburble n whoooshes. The music's more 'austere', more structured and formal-sounding, and I'm not sure quite why that should appeal to me right now, but it does.

(I think the Nada Pulse label (motto: "Music for The Interior Life") also released a mid-80's album by ex-Tangerine Dream member Steve Jolliffe - who, I believe might come from Glastonbury/Frome way.)

Early Klaus Schultz, Popul Vuh, etc were arguably loads better than Xolotl, but - for 50p - this is strangely hitting a spot right now.

Shove some dolphin samples on it and Lieven Martens would love this album, I bet.