A re-release appears momentarily amidst the global blizzard of output from our Stakhanovite cultural workers……

I used the above as a social meeja header recently to announce the reissue of Red Square material from the ‘70s.

I like this sort of tone much more than the too often seen ‘really excited to share’, or the really, REALLY horrible ‘This’.

It sidesteps the breathless faux-excitement of ‘brand ambassadorship’, but contains an often-shuffled-off-into-an-unregarded-corner kernel of truth. Namely that there really IS a blizzard of creative output that has been made apparent by the arrival of self-publishing platforms.

However, in almost every way this is (a) good and (b) only to be expected, given what clever little monkeys we are.

Let’s face it, creativity is about the only thing we’ve ever been any good at. There have always been things out there with bigger teeth, faster limbs, greater strength, or a pair of fangs brimful with venom. What we’ve lacked in those departments, we’ve had to make up for by combining together, and asking questions such as ‘what can we do about those big buggers out there with the massive teeth?’ Instantly, creative solutions would be proposed; ‘Saaay, what about dancing round in the manner of one of the massively toothed ones in order to become a massively toothed one in spirit oneself. Would that help…..?’

‘Well, it might just distract the massively toothed one long enough for the rest of us to make a run for it…. So, yeah, why not? Give it a go’.

Once the creative dancer had been satisfactorily consumed, the rest of the ancestors would once again put their heads together, and come up with some new creative ideas…….

Anyway, the result of so much stuff being produced by so many people across the globe means that your particular bit of stuff is likely to appear and be gone in the blink of an eye. One mote amongst billions….

Having a few archival things to upwhaft to Bandcamp at the moment, I just couldn’t resist using the Stakhanovite trope again for another release, this time with a jolly Photoshopped illustration:

On hearing of the release of ‘NeverNeverLand’ by Red Square Electric, the global battalions of cultural workers briefly pause their ceaseless toil in the culture mines to hold a 15 millisecond March Of Comradely Joy’.

By the bye, if you happen not to be a Soviet-era Kremlin watcher, you might be unfamiliar with the term ‘stakhanovite’. Here’s a bit of useful Wiki regarding the celebrated Soviet worker, Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, and the movement that he inspired.

Re-releasing ‘Circuitry’, Red Square’s live album from 1976.

To complement the recent re-release of our 1975 album Paramusic, we’ve also re-released our 1976 second album ‘Circuitry’ in full too.
Like Paramusic, Circuitry was originally a self-released, self-recorded cassette album, sold only at Red Square gigs.
This is the first and only complete re-release of Circuitry in over forty five years*.
The album is a recording of our set from a 1976 arts festival concert in Southend, where we supported Henry Cow and Lol Coxill.
This complete re-release has been newly edited and mastered by me from digital transfers of the original stereo reel to reel master tapes.
The front cover of this release is a facsimile of an original 1976 Circuitry cassette.
The original order of tracks has been preserved, but I’ve edited out all of the between-tunes applause apart from after the very last track, where you can hear a bemused local radio compère, clearly totally at sea with the kind of music he was hearing, say ‘well there we are, ladies and gentlemen; Red Square’. The term became a favourite catch phrase of ours; the common expression, ‘well, there we are’, once spoken being inevitably rejoined with ‘ladies and gentlemen; Red Square’.

By 1976 Red Square was probably at its zenith as a power-improv trio. We had retained our commitment to total improvisation, but the violin, soprano sax, toys, bells & whistles that were present on Paramusic had all been discarded. I was by this time playing (amplified) bass clarinet exclusively. It was still a pretty unusual instrument in 1976. There was a very small roster of well-known players (John Surman, Eric Dolphy), and there was me. I frequently spent some time post gigs explaining to interested parties that, no, the instrument actually wasn’t a really unusual sounding, weird-looking type of sax, but was, in fact, an unusual sounding, weird-looking type of clarinet stuck through a very big speaker via a Reed-mounted Barcus Berry transducer.

The first piece in our set that evening, Circuitry 1, began with a taped playback of Paramusic 1, into which we planned to gradually interweave our live instruments. However, the sound engineer took some moments to get the levels balanced, so please note that there is a distinct increase in volume around the 2:50 mark!
One of my favourite things about these recordings is that every so often you can hear children’s voices in the audience talking (and facing-off!) in the quieter sections. One of the children is Roger’s son, Jake, who grew up to be a much in demand, London-based sax player. He also regularly guested with us in a much later project called Single Field.

Circuitry is available as a digital download or CDr from Bandcamp.

*Five of the six tracks (2, 3, 4, 5 & 6) have been included on either the ‘Thirty Three’ (2008) or ‘Rare & Lost’ (2016) compilation albums. 

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Red Square 1976

Red Square - Queen's Hotel 1976
Two pictures of Red Square have recently come to light, courtesy of Graham Burnett, showing us in action in one of the tower rooms of the Queen’s Hotel, Westcliff-on Sea in 1976.
For a while, whilst the future of the Hotel was under review, we played a regular gig there – possibly weekly – until it was closed for good and demolished.
I’ve artfully combined the two together to produce one, spectacular – OK, weirdly-perspectived – action shot.
I was alarmed to note my old Selmer bass clarinet wobbling precariously atop the combo next to me…..and then surprised and intrigued to realise that my first bass guitar was propped up against the speaker cab. I have no recollection of playing it on gigs at this time, but the photograph suggests otherwise……
This is what the Queen’s looked like (before being turned into a car park). We used to play in the first floor tower room;
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Bobby Wellins…

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I’m not much given to OMGs and RIPs, generally preferring the ‘Batman slapping Robin response’ beloved of social media cynics everywhere. But I’d like, briefly, to mark the death this week of the Scottish tenor saxophonist, Bobby Wellins.

I can’t remember when I first heard ‘Starless and Bible Black’, part of Stan Tracey’s ‘Under Milk Wood’ suite, but I’ve never tired of listening to it for Bobby Wellins’ brilliant, understated solo; achingly well constructed, limpid, fiercely economical and with an outro of slowly repeated major thirds that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Had Kirsty ever had the good sense to invite me to share my pensées and playlist with the nation from her celebrated desert island, ‘Starless and Bible Black’ would have been at the top of the list; it’s right up there with Archie Shepp’s ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ and the Ben Webster / Gerry Mulligan version of ‘Chelsea Bridge’.

Textbook solos all.

Every time I pick up a hooter, one or another of those three songs plays out somewhere in my mind; which may perhaps come as a surprise to anyone who has survived an encounter with Red Square…..

Anyway, in tribute, from 1965:

 

Tracking hooters and hitters…..

 

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I’ve spend some of this week salted away in the Vendhaus (above), recording parts for two very different projects.

The first was a challenge from the grand maven of everything ’60s, Rosie Cunningham (in her Purson persona), to come up with some ‘Christmas party sax’ (with a dash of Wizzard) for a new Purson song, ‘Chocolate Money’.  I tracked tenor and baritone sax horn section lines and a bit of flapping about on the flootie during the bridge. Roll over, Roy Wood, and pass me that face paint.

The second project is for Chicago’s uber sludge-psychedelicist Steve Krakow (AKA Plastic Crimewave).  Steve asked both Bobbie and me to contribute to a song for a forthcoming album. Steve’s direction was to ‘do whatever’….so that’s what I’m doing. Tracks include Comus-darkened darabuka and ancient-skinned, rusty-jingled tambourine, vibes, tenor recorder, baritone sax and bass clarinet and possibly a further dash of flootie once Bobbie has recorded her vocal parts. I’m a right little Mike Oldfield on the quiet. Or perhaps that should be Roy Castle  😀  (look him up in Guinness’s book of famously fatuous and unnecessary ‘records’).

The Vendhaus vibraphone is a wooden framed 1920’s Premier set. Many moons ago – and long before I acquired it – the resonators would have been driven by a clockwork motor, now, alas, gone. So I suppose that it’s more of a straight metallophone now, lacking the characteristic woo-wooing of a properly tooled-up set of vibes.

Here to finish are a couple more shots of some of the denizens of the Vendhaus.

The Comus recording tambourine, as featured on ‘Out Of The Coma’. God only knows where I got it from. We are actually talking here about a tambourine with a deeply sinister sound…..very Hoxton shamen, I’m sure.

The non woo-wooing Premier vibes (and a pleasing pair of Beyer M201s).

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A bevy of reviews sashay into view…..

Guerssen’s release of Red Square’s ‘Rare & Lost ’70s Recordings’ has elicited a crop of pleasing and melodiously worded reviews, including from ‘Jazzwise’ and ‘Wire’, august organs of the cognescenti both. Our thanks to Dan Spicer and Stewart Smith.

There have also been a couple of nice on-line pieces from Joseph Neff at ‘Graded On A Curve‘ and Derek Anderson at ‘Derek’s Music Blog‘.

 

A playlist…….

Having recently found, to my surprise, that, between them, the tunes on my Soundcloud page have now had over 5000 plays, I had a look to see which of the tracks had been played the most.

I’ve now compiled a playlist of these (see below). There’s an interestingly heterogeneous mix of styles in the list from avant electro-acoustic, through free-jazz, to weird folk, EDM and anarcho-syndicalist situationism.

Nice to see Red Square, Miramar, the Colins of Paradise & Deathless all making the list…..!

I’ve played on all of the tunes, written or co-written a number of them and mixed and produced (or co-produced) all of them.

The kindness of strangers…….

Over the course of the last year or so, Colin May, a writer for Oxford’s Nightshift magazine, has come to various gigs that I’ve been involved in around Oxford. He wrote a very nice review of  the live debut of some of the pieces from ‘Deathless‘, and, last time I saw him, I gave him a complementary copy of the album as a ‘thank you’ for the live review.

Colin has taken the trouble to review the album for this month’s edition of Nightshift, and this is what he wrote:

“It’s doubtful whether any local band release will be as mired in blood as this one. Its inspiration is the Minotaur myth as re-imagined by Steven Sherrill in his novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, which has the Minotaur escaping the Labyrinth and living in a down-at heal trailer park having suppressed his appetite for a diet of Athenian virgins.

So we’ve got the original legend, Sherrill’s re-telling and Seagroatt and Staples’ take on that re-telling. The pair are renowned improvising musicians, so there’s free improv which is then manipulated and mixed until there are more layers than William and Kate’s wedding cake. You’ve also got a CD that can pose questions about compassion, redemption and forgiveness. Or you can forget about all this and just enjoy the music.

What Seagroatt and Staples have created is 
an album of instrumental and manipulated
sound without any obvious tunes or hooks.
 It’s bookended by a couple of short vocal
 pieces, beautifully sung by Bobbie Watson, which describe and comment on Asterion the Minotaur’s situation. On most of the ten tracks
 in between Seagroatt’s magnificently lugubrious and pure soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute dominate. There’s almost none of the high-speed parping associated with free jazz, not even on the track ‘The Minotaur Sits Exhausted, Knuckles Skinless, Toes Sticky With Blood, Head In Hands’, a title which seems heaven sent for a bit of parping. Instead Seagroatt, like the late great fellow multi-reeds player Eric Dolphy, dazzles with plaintive lines which he never lets become the musical equivalent of limp soggy lettuce.

Seagroatt’s reeds and Staples’ sparse but 
richly atmospheric guitar are integrated with an ominously echoing, rumbling drone soundscape which, like Ariadne’s thread in the Labyrinth, runs through the CD. On a casual listen tracks might seem to be samey, though this would be to ignore the nuances and how the atmosphere builds track by track. To get the max out of this album you probably need to get the headphones on and close your eyes.

This clearly been a labour of love, and Jon Seagroatt has created something that in its way is magnificent in conception and execution, and perhaps unique in the local music landscape”.

How nice is that….? Well very nice indeed. Thanks once again to Colin May.

Deathless‘ is available for £10 plus p&p from us via Paypal here, or for £8 you can download the digital version from Bandcamp. You can also listen to a clutch of tracks right here on Soundcloud.

Just bought some vinyl………..

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…..a 12″ LP….haven’t heard it in years………

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I bought it on Discogs…….

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…from someone in Spain……

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I used it on mixtapes and DJ’ed it at parties in the 70s…….

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This stuff is the bomb, hepcats……….

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I had a grimy cassette copy, and from the notes I made on the cassette cover, I’ve managed to track down a copy of THE ORIGINAL VINYL that I borrowed from Southend Library all those years ago.

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Don those berets, whip out those shades and let’s WIG OUT!

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Gabrielli, Giovanelli & Grillo; Venetian Polychoral Music from the 1600s……..

………..über-cool.

(all finger-poppin’ hepcats above courtesy of the great Jules Feiffer)