Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Tenant

Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. It tells the story of a new tenant (played by Polanski himself) in an apartment previously occupied by a woman who has recently committed suicide. It soon becomes apparent to the man that the other lodgers (as well as the physical building itself) are conspiring to drive him insane and towards suicide, as they had done to the previous tenant.

Not only does it bare a strong resemblance to Polanski's own Rosemary's Baby but also Abel Ferrara's (who also cast himself in the lead) Driller Killer. Perhaps the biggest debt is owed to it by David Lynch, who's Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive show strong traces of The Tenant in their DNA.

Phillippe Sarde's perfectly adequate soundtrack went straight through me upon first listen. It wasn't until it made an appearance later, albeit in reworked fashion that it really caught my ear.

What is essentially a fairly smooth jazz pop-rock reworking of the main theme opens the composition up beautifully - deemphasising the orchestral density but maintaining the harmonic complexity, the spartan drums given a perfect rush from subtle dub effects - all in service of a serene yet  unsteady, and uncertain minimalism. Perhaps a foreshadowing of some of Radioheads (amongst others) later works - where both jazz and orchestral  concepts compete within a rock idiom?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Body Double

I had a lot of fun watching Brian De Palma's Body Double the other night. It serves as very nice companion piece to his 1981 film Blow Out. (which itself nods knowingly at Antionini's Blow Up amongst other films) Both serve as a love letter of sorts to the very mechanics of film and film making. Whereas Blow Out explores the medium of sound and sound recording as it pertains to the moving picture, Body Double focusses on the jobbing actors, extras and stand-ins working within the B-grade or horror movie genres, while successfully and comfortably occupying both categories itself.

A suitably sleazy soundtrack is provided by Pino Donaggio (A De Palma regular). Its synth arpeggiations, ambient keyboards, airy vocals and reverbed vibroslaps perfectly accompany the seduction and voyeurism taking place on the screen.

What is particularly stiking is its similarity to Felt Mountain era Goldfrapp and how wonderfully these sounds were repurposed by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp to soundtrack their unique alpine wonderland.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Letters II

To his parents

Rome, 24 June 1831

... I went to Tivoli last Saturday, at two in the afternoon, in the middle of the dusty heat. There were two of us. We got three quarters of the way there but then felt exhausted and hailed a passing carriage. It's fifteen miles from Rome to Tivoli. we arrived at half past eight, and the next morning got up at four and went staight off exploring. I've never seen anything so exquisite: the waterfalls, clouds of powdery spray, the smoking clefts, the fresh cool river, the cave, the innumeral rainbows, the olive groves, the hills, the country houses, the village - the whole thing is enchanting and unique. The people there are very handsome, but they beg even more than they do in Rome; only, their begging hasn't the unpleasantly debased quality of the Romans'. They do it quite brazenly - they name the sum they want and laugh as they do so, as if it were a joke between you. Some young men and women aged between twenty and thirty, who were harvesting and saw us go past, shouted out: "Hey, sir come on, give us half a paolo (five sous), baiocco (one sou), what's it to you?" ...

The evening before last, I felt some emotion for the first time in our convent. There were four or five of us sitting in the moonlight round the fountain on the little staircase which leads to the garden. We drew lots for who would fetch my guitar, and as the audience consisted of the few fellow-students whose company I can bear, I did not need any pressing. As I was beginning an aria from Iphigeneia in Tauris, M. Carle Vernet appeared. After a couple of minutes he began to weep and sob out loud, then he fled into his son's drawing room, crying out in a choked voice: "Horace, come here!" "What is it, what is it?" "We're all in tears". "Why, why, what's happend?" "M. Berloiz us some Gluck. Oh, how right you are (turning to me), it's overwhelming. You know, you're a melancholy man, I understand you, I do, there are people who -". He couldn't finish. But no one laughed. The fact is we were all moved. I was in the mood, it was night, I felt quite free from anxiety beneath that resonant porch, and I let myself go as if I had been alone...

Hector Berlioz

A Selection of his Letters

Selected, editted and translated by Humphrey Searle



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Théorie du signal et transmission de l'information

All images:

Vibrations and Waves
AP French
Chapman and Hall

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Outer Tumbolia in Richard Haslop's Best of 2009 List

Richard Haslop, he of the insightful record reviews during the 80's in South Africa's only legal girlie magazine, SCOPE, has made his 'Best of 2009' list available. Ok, that's not a fair introduction at all but it was the first time I came across his name and SCOPE did open my eyes, er ... introduced me to a couple of hard to track down muscial gems in an otherwise bleak cultural desert of top 40 80's radio pop.

Richard continued to educate the masses on radio on SAFM's now much missed Roots to Fruits show where all manner of indie, jazz, americana and africana got a rare airing and is also a contributer to online 'zine Perfect Sound Forever where he exposed, to a larger online community, the likes of Not Even the TV  and Kalahari Surfers.

Amongst entries for BLK JKS, Califone amd Tinariwen, here's what he had to say about Outer Tumbolia and Strung Like a Compound Eye coming in at number 34.

"One of the few givens in any South African music year, other than the fact that, by and large, it’s likely to disappoint most people listening outside a fairly narrow box (it’s a lack of opportunity to hear what’s worth hearing, unless you know someone who knows where to find it on the Net, and who to find, that causes this, rather than an absence of anything worth hearing), is that pretty much anything Cape Town experimental guitarist Righard Kapp releases, on whichever is the latest of his impossibly obscure imprints and no matter how limited the edition, will be worth getting, and getting into.

2009 was no exception – Kapp’s own ‘Strung Like A Compound Eye’ makes a terrific fist of what are broadly the three strings to his musical bow, namely the fine acoustic guitar instrumentalist, the ever inquisitive sonic investigator and the affecting songwriter, none of which ever quite ends up where you expect it to.

Ramon Galvan is a likeminded soul who used to be in the excellent Blackmilk; his refusal to be pinned down stylistically, his unwillingness to treat his wonderful voice as a conventional rock instrument and his lively musical imagination have led to a kind of quietly compelling, meticulously wrought, unexpectedly addictive folk/jazz/chamberpop artsong hybrid that keeps serving up surprises."
This is expected to be published in print over the next two issues of Audio Video Magazine.

Speaking of 'Africana' it was particularly thrilling to see Pieter Hugo's photographs of Konono No.1 in the April 2010 edition of Wire Magazine.

A more fitting marriage of photographer and subject I cannot imagine!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


To the Publisher Pleyel

La Côte-Saint-André, 6 April 1819


I have several pieces of music of my composition which I wish to have engraved. I am therefore writing to you in the hope that you will be able to realise my ambition. I would like you to take on the publication, with full rights, of a medley for six solo intruments on selected airs, the instruments being flute, horn, two violins, viola and cello. Please be good enough to see wether youc an do it, and how many copies you can let me have. I would be greatful if you would be so kind as to reply as soon as possible telling me how long it will take you to engrave it, and whether it is necessary to register the parcel. I have the honour to be your obedient servant.

Hector Berlioz

Pleyel replied with a refusal on 10 April: Berlioz had already written in similar terms on 25 March to the publishers Janet and Cotelle, with the same result.

Hector Berlioz 
A Selection of his Letters
Selected, editted and translated by Humphrey Searle

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Coat of Arms

A Coat of Arms
A sea of snakes
A crown of knives
One for each mistake

This eagle is a buzzard
so run and tell your mother
This lion is a Griffin
Stabbing through the ribbons
I hear the souls descending
Coat of Arms is neverending

A Coat of Arms
A sea of snakes
A crown of knives
One for each mistake

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Viola in My Life - Morton Feldman

Feldman often spoke of his intention to create in music the sonorous equivalent of the 'flat surface' present in the contemporary American painters whom he admired and knew so well; in particular Mark Rothko and Philip Guston. Throughout his music, there is an awareness instrumentally  and texturally of composite sound. The role of instruments is to contribute unique timbres for the sake of unity. Seldom is Schoenberg's concern for 'hauptstimmer/nebenstumme' (primary voice/ secondary voice) evident. For this reason the viola's relief against other instruments in The Viola in My Life is remarkable.

The search for a musical flat surface led Feldman to explore very subtle differentiations in speech and the interactions of intruments. This is one reason why his music is quite soft; it is only at low dynamics that seemingly contradictory timbres (as in False Relationships and the Extended Ending) can achieve a union. He was fond of the expression "room noise" which are the ambient sounds made by and during music performance, when describing his orchestration. Feldman's percussion writing in particlar, like the drum and timpani sounds in The Viola in My Life 1, is a form of room noise not unlike Ive's concept of 'shadow counterpoint'

Nils Vigeland
Excerpt from Liner Notes to Morten Feldman's The Viola in My Life
New World Records

Monday, April 5, 2010

Charcoal & Soda

Charcoal and Soda

Can you believe,
We are older?

The only thing I ever got from you
Was a camera
And two large shells
(bullet shells)

It's not that you owe me something
You don't owe me something anymore

As the light rushes in
As the fire gushes out

He was a photographer from Angola
Breathing Egypt in
Through charcoal and soda

Thursday, March 25, 2010 coverage

No Rest was one of a number of featured South African artist MP3's on last week.

What they said:

"Reclusive singer songwriter gives avant-folk rock fans their fix with this abstract impressionist guitar and thumb-piano filtered tone poem off his bewitching debut solo album, Outer Tumbolia."

I guess I need to get out more!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Super Legs

Super Legs

I've got super legs
On super feet
They take me where
I need to be

And all my teeth
They talk to me
Tell me to 'shush!'
And when to speak

But there are secrets
That they keep
Well that would be
The genius of teeth

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Being somewhat on the periphery in terms of involvement on a project involving shadow puppetry,

Blackmilk Music video for 'Kimono Dragon'

and then to a lesser extent on one involving the proto-stop-animation of a mutoscope,

'Girl & Rabbit' short film

I think I can take part in the collective slapping of palm on forehead after seeing this beautiful marriage of the two concepts into something delightfully original and bewitching.

Dialogue by Kumi Yamashita 1999 Light, Motor, Styrene, Shadow

Although strictly speaking not constructed as flip-books, I can't help imagining an asynchronous flipping of these 60 installations would make for a wonderful aleatoric ambient soundtrack somewhat akin to György Ligeti's Poème Symphonique For 100 Metronomes.

Speaking of ambient soundtracks, watching these anonymous profiles baring their most intimate secrets keeps reminding me of the misheard whispers of Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dead Brine

Dead brine,
You know I need it

A rich wine
From a lake I brewed it

Crushed the 'rushes
And the mud
And the sick of the ducks
And the tears that I get
When the words come out

I tilled it, father
And I muddled it, mother
We're not getting any younger
No you don't
No you don't

Oh black basin
To quiet things down
It precedes conversation
On the things that matter
So I take some with me
In a flask for drinking
But the dead floats upwards
It's what my lips are kissing

I tilled it, father
And I muddled it, mother
We're not getting any younger
No you don't
No you don't

On and on
I took to swimming through
On and on (the sentry)
Pulled me back to shore
It's a deeper well
It's a sad farewell

(I paint a picture 'cos it's real)
On and on
(I choose a fiction 'cos it's fair)
On and on
Why don't you sing me something
Just a tune then we're something
Or just a word.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Then and Now II

The JEW'S HARP or Jaw's harp is widely distributed among primitive and civilised peoples. At its simplest it is a strip of bamboo cut in the shape of a comb with only one tooth; when made in metal, the tooth or tongue is a separate piece soldered to the frame. In each case the instrument is set between the player's teeth, and the mouth cavity amplifies the sound made by plucking the free tongue of the "harp." It is essentially an instrument for the player's pleasure, being hardly audible to anyone else.

Plate 133 152 Plates from Bonanni's 18th Century "Gabinetto Armonic" Antique Musical Instruments and their Players 1964 Dover Publications N.Y


Daniel AIU Higgs interview and performance with Jew's Harp

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Refillable / Recargable

If ever I fall
You catch me
It's not a reflex
You catch me

If I come out fighting
You dispatch the winning blow

Oh, the price you paid
All the drinks you bought
I wish they were 

Oh, the price you paid
All the drinks you bought
I wish they were 

It's such a crime
All the drinks you bought
I didn't think to go outside 
and check on the supplies

Is this one mine?
I'm never really sure
I'll grab another from the pile
Its inexhaustable

Oh, the price you paid
All the drinks you bought
I wish they were 

I'm building a tower to a fat man
With a fat wife
They're fat lined
And super kind
When the bough breaks
The words I speak
Are a fat whine!

I'm building a tower to a fat man
With a fat wife
They're fat lined
And super kind
When the bough breaks
My cradle speak
Is a fat whine!

And a tendril out of nowhere
It keeps me alive!

Ask me and I'll tell you everything
One small window to discover everything

I'll explain my hate,
Explain it away
Refill my cup
And I'll tell you anything!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Soap & Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum

Soap & Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum

Soap & Skin is the musical alter ego of 19 year old Austrian, Anja Plaschg. Although comparisons with Nico are unavoidable due to her very germanic vocal delivery and her use of European classical musical styles within her songs, her compositions are a lot more concise and focused.

Essentially Lovetune for Vacuum comprises of piano based songs augmented with Warp-like laptop textures, synth, strings and Anja Plaschg's vocals; sometimes amassed, sometimes very naked, making a virtue of their flaws and limitations.

The opening Sleep makes Plaschg's intentions clear. Its confessional, confrontational and stark tone playing with atonal, and hushed elements drawing the listener into the minutiae, only to fire a gorgeous bunch of ugly at you for getting too close, while the very pretty Cry Wolf with its clockwork-like elements, nursery rhyme melody and playful vocal processing beats Sigur Ros at their own pastoral game.

An influence worth discussing is that of Xiu Xiu. Like Jamie Stewart, Plaschg wields her vocals in a way that is both tender and embarrassing. Something similar to Stewart's popular style of vocal ejaculation such as the one in fan favourite I love the Valley OH! gets an airing on album highlight, the fable-like Spiracle. This is particularly evident and impressive in live renditions of the song. Elsewhere her use of synth noise, angry blasts of recorder and whistle and physical unmusical textures within a song exposes the influence further.

Similar in title though not in sound to Xiu Xiu, Mr. Gaunt Pt 1000 gives way to Marche Funèbre which is composed mostly of clipped orchestral samples and imagines a nightmarish meeting of Coil and Enya!

On DDMMYYYY Plaschg perhaps gives in a little too much to one of her influences, Autechre, but the results are very pleasing.

Brother of Sleep closes the album with a pleasant albeit innocuous sounding lullaby, but sinister textures right upon closure indicate that everything is not always as it seems

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Its not clear
What Mr Winter wants
I'm pretty sure
What he wants, he gets

I pushed the middle
And you pressed the metal
And we made an arrowhead

Yeah, I pushed the middle
And you pressed the metal
And we made an arrowhead

But the rod's all but rotten
And I've simply forgotten
How to attach it anyway

A limber rod
So show your stuff
You're pretty quick
Are you quick enough?

Do do do do

I pushed the middle
And you pressed the metal
And we made an arrowhead

Yeah, I pushed the middle
And you pressed the metal
And we made an arrowhead

But the rod's all but rotten
And I've simply forgotten
How to attach it anyway

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Magic IV

Believe it or not, most magicians try not to lie. they resist not out of any particular morality or an effort to compensate for their deceptions. Audiences anticipate lies from magicians, and tend to challenge their statements. A lie often works against the deception, so the performer will often avoid making statements that invite challenges or plant dangerous suggestions. If a magician starts his routine by holding up a glass and saying "an ordinary, everyday, unprepared drinking glass," it sounds preposterously dishonest. Isn't every glass ordinary? Why would he say this glass is unprepared? How could it be prepared? Once the audience begins thinking along those line, they might wander dangerously close to the truth.

Because of this, when magicians give accounts of their own tricks, there is usually a code to what they will say as well as what they won't say. If a listener is aware of the code, there is a lot that is revealed by a magician's statements. A performer will invariably dance around dishonesty, rather than embrace it, indulging in a series of tiny untruths, not big lies.

Hiding The Elephant

How Magicians Invented the Impossible

Jim Stein Meyer

Arrow Books 2005

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hip Gnosis and Haunting of Interster

In the early 1980's, one of apartheid-era South Africa's ripostes to the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world on them was an investment in homegrown entertainment. An attitude of "whatever we are missing out on, we can do better" combined with a significant financial injection produced a number of films and television series with relatively high production values. The heights of which, are still being rescaled in some ways. The lifting of sanctions and the subsequent rescaling and reallocation of the previous financial investments as well as the access to a wider and richer international media has also called for a recalibration of so-called international standards versus the perceptions of yore. All the while South Africa strives for an identity and a best relative fit in terms of production for those stories yet to be told.

One of those productions was a television series called Interster. This was very much in the vein of Gerry Anderson's science fiction series of the 60's and early 70's featuring marionettes, such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Set in a future Cape Town, South Africa (who had and still has no real space program to speak of) Interster was an inter galactic space trading company the apparent de facto centre of an international earth defence. No reference whatsoever is given to any super power nations as fortress South Africa alone defended all against a ruthless alien enemy.

While the older Anderson puppet shows were used as a template, some other ideas seem to have been pilfered from the more recent Buck Rogers in the 25 Century TV series. Characters like the robot Piki seem a direct lift from Buck Rogers own Twiki and the female protagonist Lydia and paternal Professor Zed are also both eerily familiar. Technologically, Interster was understandably a good decade ahead of Anderson's marionettes, employing Apple II computer controlled servo-puppetry and silicon rubber based skins as well as a wig maker credit! Somehow in it's search for realism and life like appearance the characters stumbled on their servos, trundling awkwardly into the dreaded Uncanny Valley.

Comparisons can certainly be drawn, in a fairly superficial way, with the musical hauntology concept mapped out by Simon Reynolds and others, as Interster does have a number of old-timey soundtrack delights:

Wide-screen analogue synthesizers scream out upon a bed of urgently strummed acoustic guitars punctuated by the dramatic dull thud of syn-drums during the title sequence.

Halcyon synth pop sounds perfectly canned and subtly piped out while the Interster staff relax in white, silken robes at the local nightclub Astra (which is alarming fitted with an intercom to receive orders from headquarters).

'Switched on Bach' turned up to 10 on the speed dial scurries around in the offices of traitor Dr Gorman's asteroid lair, all bedecked with fish tank and Beethoven busts, perfectly mirroring his calculating yet manic evil genius. All very 'Nintedo-esque'

Elsewhere, incidental music, often just warm, unstable analogue tones made even more irresistible by the noticeable billowing and aging due to the 'wow and flutter' of the original tapes, could often be mistaken for a Boards of Canada interlude.

Certainly, these are all good examples of the type of musical fodder employed by the aforementioned Boards of Canada and other similar artists in their musical re-imagined past and memory of an expected future.

However, deeper still than the music or quaintness of the future world is the menace or 'haunting' and this is where Apartheid-era South Africa's persecution complex takes center stage.

Firstly, our protagonists are not entirely sure who their real enemies are. Is it the humanoid but racially ambiguous Krokons, or is it the treacherous and self serving Dr Gorman, and what affiliation does he have to the so-called "freedom fighters"?

In fact there is in one episode a rather disturbing conversation between two of our heroes on the subtle differences between "freedom fighters" and "terrorists" and mention is made to a more universal objective treatment of these terms by the "Interplanetary League", who have also condemned Interster's cold war with the Krokons.

At this point, it feels as if for a brief second the fabric of 'Planet South Africa' is about to rupture and the producers could not quite decide whether they were making a piece of propaganda for children or an altogether more subversive bit of media.

Small hints at hidden agendas are quickly dispelled when you look at a number of far less subtle signifiers:

A lead character called Buks de la Rey

Spaceships directly referencing the Impala jets, as if to reassert the might of the South African armed forces.

Contact is made during another episode with a powerful sentient being, a giant hydrogen atom, the apparent physical manifestation of a radio active planet's consciousness (much like in Solaris) . This entity deems the South African earthlings more worthy and just than their enemies, the Krokons. This somehow manages to reinforce South Africa's nuclear program while at the same time displaying their righteousness in the eyes of a superior being or deity.

Interster's haunting comes from its history and its future. Not just the time in which is was made but the future it imagined for South Africans: Paranoid, persecuted, isolated and alone in the universe.

Happy Hunting...

All images taken from video stills from various Interster episodes Series 1 Part 1 viewed through an Educo(tm) diffraction lens and photographed with a Ricoh digital camera

Interster is available for purchase here


Great article here with screencaps, links to video clips

Friday, January 15, 2010

Outer Tumbolia in Isolation Blog's SA Albums of 2009

Outer Tumbolia made it onto Isolation blog's list of favorite South African albums of 2009.

This blog is maintained by Lloyd Gedye, a music writer from Mail and Guardian

This is what he said:

"This debut solo album from Ramon Galvan is a grower, that has many treasures for the patient listener"

Righard Kapp's Strung Like a Compound Eye also makes the list as well as offerings from BLK JKS and Dear Reader amongst others.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Outer Tumbolia CD and Digital Purchases

Happy 2010 to all.

A couple of commercial announcements

Outer Tumbolia digital sales:

distribution via Believe Digital

with sales and/or streaming via:


Rhythm Online Music Store






Physical CD sales online at SETCOM

Available at the following stores

The Book Lounge

Mabu Vinyl

EDIT: Copies also available at Other Music NYC