Author Archive

Michael Yonkers Band “Microminiature Love”

Minnesotan, Michael Yonkers recorded his Microminiature Love album in 1968, using an idiosyncratic approach to capture an assembly of original songs. The results are heavy! He and his group (The Michael Yonkers Band, featuring bassist Tom Wallfred & drummer/brother Jim Yunker) unleashed a new and original sound for these recordings – driven by raw alternate guitar tunings, heavy drums, mucho tape delay, unique vocal stylings & homemade electronics. The production is only part of the picture, however – the songs display original craftsmanship and are fueled by dynamic energies, pushing and pulling to high degrees. This album is built to reveal a true (& slightly dark) world inside; each new moment can draw you in deeper & it never really relents. Remarkably, the entire album was recorded in only one hour at Dove Studios in Minneapolis. Even more remarkable, perhaps, the record was not released for nearly 35 years.

Why this record went unreleased for so long is something of a mystery. Sire Records initially expressed interest in releasing it, but (according to MY, as revealed in Iker Spozio’s interview from the excellent MORNING #2 magazine) they wanted Yonkers to move to New York City and re-record the material with studio musicians, something Yonkers wasn’t ready to do. Local label Candyfloss Productions (who had recently released the excellent Trip Thru Hell LP by another MN act, C. A. Quintet) also reportedly expressed interest. Further complicating matters, Michael was still in college at the time & legally unable to sign his own record contract.

Thanks to Clint Simonson & Di Stijl records, the LP was finally released in 2002 as it was intended – seven tracks on vinyl. Sub Pop followed up with a CD release in 2003 that included 6 bonus tracks – all of which sound as if they were recorded at the same 1968 studio sessions (though they were home recorded the following year). Sub Pop did an excellent job selecting & mastering these extra tracks to fit the feel of MML.

A powerful record & one-of-a-kind.

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“My House”

:D CD Reissue | 2003 |Sub Pop | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2002 |De Stijl | search ebay ]

Electronic Pioneers: Louis & Bebe Barron “Forbidden Planet”

Forbidden Planet

In 1956, MGM released the science fiction film, Forbidden Planet. The picture stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Neilson and the brilliant Robby The Robot. How exciting it must have been to experience this film in the theater in 1956! Technically speaking, the film is remarkable, featuring sophisticated visual effects and a visionary musical score.

For Forbidden Planet, married NY duo Louis & Bebe Barron produced one of the very first wholly electronic movie scores. The music was created using custom electronic circuits built by the Barrons, circuitry that they claim was influenced by cybernetics.

Louis and Bebe Barron:

“In Scoring Forbidden Planet – as in all our work – we created individual cybernetic circuits for particular themes and leit motifs, rather than using standard sound generators. Actually, each circuit has a characteristic activity pattern as well as a ‘voice.’ “

These “cybernetic circuits” were used to build multi-musical sound layers, as well as most of the film’s “inorganic” sound effects. This is a wonderful achievement: the basic connection created between the sound effects and the sound music. The SFX and the musical score are interwoven to create a neat, all-electronic union between diegetic and non-diegetic sound.

Tape echo and reverberation seem to be used widely as a sound processor within this production, helping to further a “space-like” or “far-out” atmosphere. All-together, this pioneer production is a fine example of pre-synthesizer electronic music making!

This score might not be the easiest to listen to on its own. I would recommend viewing the movie first, paying special attention to how the electronic music influences the film, and vice-versa. Later, listen to the soundtrack alone, preferably with headphones (there are some excellent uses of stereophonic sound within). I can assure you you won’t be disappointed, or un-moved. This soundtrack is a must have for those interested in early electronic music and electronic music history. A memorable release!

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“Battle With The Invisible Monster”

:D CD Reissue: 1995 | Small Planet Records | Buy From GNP Crescendo ]

Joe Meek & The Blue Men “I Hear A New World”

Hear A New World

What a fine outer space adventure album! Several years before British producer Joe Meek and the Tornados scored an international super-hit with “Telstar,” Meek had composed and recorded his adventurous masterpiece, I Hear a New World, an imaginative musical take at life on the moon.

In 1960, the moon remained very much a mystery and with human spaceflight becoming more and more likely, public anticipation concerning the mysteries of outer space may have reached its peak. Meek stepped forward to create this lunar-inspired “music fantasy” record, technologically and conceptually well ahead of the time. Joe Meek:

“I wanted to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space. At first I was going to record with music that was completely out of this world but realized that it would have very little entertainment value, so I kept the construction of the music down to earth.”

Helping to keep Meek’s compositions “down to earth” was Rod Freeman, the musical director and arranger for the project (the music itself was performed by the Blue Men, formerly the skiffle group the West Five). Freeman, it seems, saved Hear a New World from becoming a stereo sound effects record. Accounts of Meek’s early demos report the tracks were a challenging listen.

The music production and engineering for this recording were unique and visionary. In a pre-synthesizer world, Meek used a wide array of homemade electronics and unique instruments to achieve a signature sound. Most notably, perhaps, was the Clavioline, a three-octave keyboard instrument somewhere between an organ and a simple analog synthesizer. The Clavioline handles many of the lead melodies on this record (as well as on “Telstar”). The Hawaiian guitar was another noticeable go-to instrument on this record. Different types of echo effects (tape echo and chamber echo) are also used liberally and to great effect.  Meek recorded these sessions at his legendary home recording studio in North London, where he produced some of the most unique independent music in English history and sadly ended his own life in a murder-suicide at the age of 37.

I Hear A New World was never fully released until recently. In 1960 a sampler EP was released by Triumph Records, including only four of the twelve original tracks. Recorded in stereophonic sound, the sampler was sent to retail stores as a demonstration of what “stereo” was capable of (then, a young technology).  The 2001 CD release on RPM is well done, with the 12 original tracks, plus 30 minutes of interviews with Meek (probably only appealing to enthusiasts), as well as a brief film clip of Meek from 1964.

There are discernable musical highlights inside this record, however it is recommended to listen to “I Hear a New World” in its entirety at first and with headphones. Meek takes you on a memorable journey around the moon, stopping in to visit different lunar civilizations! Don’t miss it!

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“The Bublight”

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