Rock music series
Anthony Moore born 65 years ago, in 1948. Because in this show I present the following musics.
Anthony Moore – Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom
Two great missing links in the incredible history of Uwe Nettlebeck’s productions at Wumme, Germany. Slapp Happy founder Moore recorded PIECES a month after Faust cut their debut LP (fall 1971) and SECRETS a month before their second (with SH’s debut SORT OF following in May ’72 and Tony Conrad/Faust in October). Indeed, Faust’s Werner “Zappa” Diermaier and Gunther Wusthoff both contribute to PIECES, which is not a krautrock or artrock LP but a bona fide minimal classic.
Pieces From the Cloudland Ballroom belongs to his “composer” side instead of his “songwriter” one (as with the group Slapp Happy). The album is comprised of one 20-minute piece and two more of approximately ten minutes each.
Side one is “Jam Jem Jim Jom Jum” which as five singers chanting that mantra while Moore plays these odd, repeating chords underneath. More’s idea was to create musical palindromes, i.e. pieces that come full-circle, creating a mirror image of themselves that can be “read” in both directions. Palindromes are structures that can be read forwards or backwards such as ‘Satan oscillate my metallic sonataS’ or ‘?Was It a car or a cat I saW?’. This is a palindrome that takes nearly 20 minutes to complete based on the odd numbers 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. Imagine a waltz, that is 3/4 time, superimposed at the same tempo over a piece in 5/4. The lowest common denominator of 3 and 5 is 15. This means that on the 16th beat, two pieces will re-synchronise, completing a circle of departing and approaching, a mirror image. To these two, add the further patterns of 7, 9 & 11 beats. “Jam Jem Jim Jom Jum” has five vocal parts in 3/4, 5/4, 7/4, 9/4, and 11/4, all at the same tempo. Each singer sings a different syllable (“jam,” “jem,” etc.), accentuating his/her first beat. All five will come back to the same “first beat” (and thus back to their starting point) after 3 x 5 x 7 x 9 x 11 beats (the lowest common denominator), and that takes about 20 minutes.
The first piece on side 2, “Ma Na H-uile Ni a Shaoileas Iad”, sounds uncannily like Richard Young’s ADVENT with its quiet, delicate two-note piano motif and piercing bowed metal stings, while “A.B.C.D. Gol’fish” throws together harpsichords and percussion, it could almost pass for the trance rock classic that Moondog never got around to recording.
1. Anthony Moore – Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom (2002, CD, Blueprint (Voiceprint) – BP327CD)
1. Jam Jem Jim Jom Jum
2. Mu Na H-Uile Ni A Shaoileas
3. A.B.C.D. Gol’Fish (1967)
Anthony Moore – Secrets Of The Blue Bag
The follow-up, Secrets Of The Blue Bag, is three pieces for strings and voice all based on the same 5 note melody. It’s more “classical” than its predecessor. Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom is the superior LP, but both are essential if you have any interest in the genre, period, or principals involved.
The one hundred and twenty different combinations of the first five notes of the diatonic scale are combined and recombined. It is a homage to the coding/decoding engines of early computer history and their tireless labour. In 1971, when the piece was written, I had just come across Raymond Lully and his rotating encryption device (Lullian Circle) which consisted of moveable concentric rings, a mechanical system for the treatment of information developed in the late 13th century. This inspired the idea of Secrets of the Blue Bag. Incidentally, the Blue Bag was an early Chinese expression for the sky, or universe.”
2. Anthony Moore – Secrets Of The Blue Bag (2002, CD, Blueprint (Voiceprint) – BP328CD)
1. Secrets Of The Blue Bag 1
2. Secrets Of The Blue Bag 2
Slapp Happy was a German/English avant-pop group consisting of Anthony Moore (keyboards), Peter Blegvad (guitar) andDagmar Krause (vocals). The band formed in Germany in 1972. The band members moved to England in 1974 where they merged with Henry Cow, but the merger ended soon afterwards and Slapp Happy split up. Slapp Happy’s sound was characterised by Dagmar Krause’s unique vocal style.
What is Sapp Happy?
The word, ’Slapp Happy’, is derived from Greek term meaning ’punch drunk’; but in current popular usage many different ideas are involved in the ways we employ the term.
Sometimes we mean by ’Slapp Happy’ an attitude towards certain activities, as when one says ’I approve of your Slapp Happy way of doing business’ or ’I am not voting for her because I do not approve of her Slapp Happiness.’
Again, we talk about being ’Slapp Happy’ when we mean taking a long-term, detached view of certain immediate problems. When one is disappointed, we suggest to him that he ought to be more ’Slapp Happy’.
In still another sense we think of Slapp Happy as an evaluation or interpretation of what is important or meaningful in life.
This usage may indicate by the story of 2 men who were drinking greek wine together.
One of them held his glass to the light, scrutinized (serutinized) it thoughtfully, & then observed, ’life is like a glass of Retsina’.
His companion looked up at the glass, turned to his friend & asked, ’Why is life like a glass of Retsina’?
’How should I know’, he answered, ’I’m not Slapp Happy’.
(Retsina is a Greek white (or rosé) resinated wine.)
Slapp Happy – Acnalbasac Noom
The history of this album is a bit complicated. It has had numerous releases on many different labels, with different track listings/mixes, etc. “Acnalbasac Noom” was Slapp Happy’s second LP, was originally recorded in Germany in 1973 with members of Faust, and engineered by Kurt Grauner, in Faust’s legendary Wumme Studio. Like the first it was produced by Faust’s svengali Uwe Nettelbeck.
Originally titled Casablanca Moon, it was recorded for Polydor in 1973, but Slapp Happy’s label , Polydor, refused to commercially release the album, so the band moved to England, and signed with Richard Branson’s blossoming Virgin label. Their first Virgin’s album released in 1974 and was an entirely re-recorded version of the same material, although it was entitled Slapp Happy when released. (N.B: The Virgin 1974 LP version omits the track “Charlie ‘N Charlie”, and a track entitled “Haiku” is included.) To compound the confusion, the Virgin version was retitled Casablanca Moon when it was reissued on CD in 1993 (on a single-disc release that also included their 1974 Virgin album Desperate Straights). The original mix was finally released in 1980 as Acnalbasac Noom, on Recommended Records. Acnalbasac Noom is the original, 1973 recording of the Casablanca Moon material, and not a mere archival curiosity; it’s quite worthy on its own merits. “Acnalbasac Noom” is not an easy album to categorize, but its an amazing work of original compositions by Peter Blegvad, Anthony Moore, and Dagmar Krause. The group’s songwriting had improved since their debut, and Krause’s German chanteuse-influenced vocals found catchier, more rock-oriented settings. The arrangements, production, playing, and vocals by Dagmar Krause are superb. Krause’s vocals have a unique beauty. Her alto voice is well suited to the songs on “Acnalbasac Noom”, and her vocals contribute immensely to the quality of this album. The songs are whimsical, catchy, and very clever. The lyrics are witty and oddball without being pretentious. Tracks like “Mr. Rainbow” recall Yoko Ono’searly-’70s song-oriented material, with an important difference: Krause’s vocals are much better than Ono’s, while just as distinctive. “The Secret,” with its almost girl-group-worthy catchiness, and “Charlie ‘n Charlie,” with its nifty surfish guitar riff, even sound like potential commercial singles.
This edition includes four bonus tracks.
3. Slapp Happy – Acnalbasac Noom (1990, CD, ReR Megacorp – ReR SHCD)
1. Casablanca Moon
3. Mr Rainbow
11. Slow Moon’s Rose
Peter Blegvad – Alcohol
One-sided 7″, side B has etching of grapes.
Alcohol was recorded as a demo for the Slapp Happy/Henry Cow album Desperate Straights in 1974 by Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore.
Slapp Happy – Casablanca Moon / Desperate Straights
Shortly after recording ‘Unrest’, Henry Cow entered into a merger with label mates Slapp Happy. Slapp Happy comprised Dagmar, their German vocalist who would later win great acclaim for interpretations of Brecht, Peter Blegvad, American born but raised and educated in England, played guitar and wrote most of the lyrics and would later contribute the unique strip cartoon Leviathan to the Independent, and Anthony Moore, English pianist who wrote most of the music and who would later work with the post Waters Pink Floyd. Together they produced a kind of skewed pop awash with literary and artistic references. They had recorded 2 albums with Faust, the second of which was re-recorded with session players for Virgin. 2 albums would come from this merger; Desperate Straights (Slapp Happy with Henry Cow) and In Praise Of Learning (Henry Cow with Slapp Happy).
Desperate Straights recorded at Virgin Records’ Manor studios in November 1974 and it was released in March 1975. It was the first of the joint ventures to be recorded, and the union of Henry Cow’s avant rock with Slapp Happy’s warped pop was both challenging and accessible. Almost all of the album comprises Slapp Happy composed material. The majority of the songs were built around a piano/bass/drums accompaniment, with other instruments adding extra colour where needed. Tim Hodgkinson’s clarinet is deployed as an instrumental foil to Dagmar’s unique voice to superb effect, particularly on the opening song Some Questions About Hats. Elsewhere, The Owl features Dagmar accompanied solely by horns and Europa has some superb percussion from Pierre Moerlen – all the arrangements are highly original and well thought out. Peter Blegvad takes the lead vocal on Strayed and does a neat pastiche of Lou Reed’s drawl. Excerpt From The Messiah is a snippet of Handel as though played by a 70s glam metal band like Slade. There are 2 instrumentals, the title track which is a short, off kilter foxtrot, and the closing track, a lengthy piano/clarinet piece which features the 2 instruments playing scales very slowly. Caucasian Lullaby isn’t bad at all, and would have been a superb addition to one of Eno’s Obscure label releases, but it is somewhat out of keeping with the rest of the album.
5. Slapp Happy – Casablanca Moon / Desperate Straights (1993, Virgin – CDOVD 441)
12. Some Questions About Hats
15. Bad Alchemy
19. Apes In Capes
Dagmar Krause, Anthony Moore, Peter Blegvad – Camera
An unusual one-off project by three musicians usually known as Slapp Happ. ‘Camera’ was originally written as an opera for television, was recorded in 1991 and first screened in 1993. However it was not released on CD until 2000.
Slapp Happy fans may be in for a shock if they haven’t paid careful attention to the liners before slapping on this CD. The first impression is that either Peter Blegvad or Anthony Moore has gone through quite a vocal transformation — into an operatic tenor, no less. Well, of course it’s neither Blegvad nor Moore, but rather tenor John Harris in the role of Forecast, a tax collector. Forecast is one of several key characters in Camera, a television opera, with an occasionally lush orchestral score by Moore, a libretto by Blegvad, and a major performance from Dagmar Krause as the character Melusina. Camera is a magical domain where the laws of nature and society do not apply, and where Melusina resides in utter separation from the world.
Forecast is sent to Camera by Hardwicke (Nicole Tibbels), head of the tax office, to collect back taxes from Melusina. However, Forecast is transformed by his visit to Melusina’s world and becomes sympathetic to her, which leads to fateful and mysterious turns of events when the cold-hearted Taft (Quentin Hayes) is dispatched by Hardwicke to Camera, charged with succeeding where Forecast failed. There are intriguing concepts and philosophical underpinnings to this work — for example, did Melusina create Camera or vice versa — and the sometimes compelling music of this modern opera is well-suited to the dramatic exposition as it unfolds (most, but not all, of the libretto is printed in the CD booklet). Also, as expected, Dagmar is tremendous; she has proven her wide range as a vocalist in both avant-garde and pop recordings, and now excels in this operatic role. With a richer, deeper, and fuller voice than during her earlier days and, as Melusina, not asked to adopt any over-the-top mannerisms, Dagmar walks a line that would seem to appeal to both pop and art music listeners. That’s probably not true for the other singers, however, who possess undeniable skill but whose traditional, emotive operatic style may strike Slapp Happy fans as a bit stilted and uptight. In short, Dagmar can walk that line but, on the evidence here, Harris and the others cannot. It would seem better suited to join Dagmar in giving life to Blegvad’s libretto. As for the libretto, Blegvad has found words that are usually poetic and only occasionally awkward, and his existential metaphors are consistently thought-provoking. But perhaps Moore presents the greatest surprise, particularly for those only aware of his work as a solo artist and member of Slapp Happy (including the collaborations withHenry Cow). Moore has, however, studied Indian classical music, composed film soundtracks, and also experimented with tape and sound manipulation during his adventurous and multi-faceted musical career. With Camera, he demonstrates compositional mastery with an extended-form thematic work performed by five singers, the Balanescu Quartet, bassist Chris Laurence, and woodwind and brass sections, with subtle use of experimental sound textures. Moore composed the music in 1991 and Camera was broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K.; of course, the visual component is entirely missing from this CD.
It’s not really an effort by Slapp Happy the band, which should be apparent as soon as John Harris opens his mouth soon after Camera starts spinning.
1. Who, How, Where, When, Why?
2. That Morning
3. Please Step Quickly In (When You Enter This Room / Thirty Years Ago)
4. Your Exemption Isn’t Recognised (For Thirty Years)
5. I Have Given Up Trying To Decide (A Delectable Breeze)
6. I’ve Come Into A Country
7. It’s Been Night In Here For Years*
You can listen here (beginnings from 0:39):