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. 

credits

Re-releasing ‘Paramusic’, Red Square’s 1975 first album.

We’ve decided to re-release our very first ‘statement of intent’ – the now impossible to find Paramusic tape – back out into the public square again after an absence of many decades. This is the first and only complete re-release of Paramusic in some forty five years*.
Paramusic was originally a self-released (because no record company at the time would touch us with a barge-pole), self-recorded cassette album, sold only at Red Square gigs between 1975 & ‘76.
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 original order of tracks has been preserved, as have many of the original album’s audio idiosyncrasies.
For example, towards the end of track 10, you can hear a friend of the band who was keeping an eye on the tape recorder shouting ‘stop, stop!’ as the tape reel began to run out. On track 8 the sound of me unknowingly treading on the microphone stand, and a door opening and closing as family enter and leave the room, add a nice ‘field-recording’ ambience to proceeding.
There are many others – including Roger casting aspersions on the band’s personal grooming regime of the day, and a guest appearance on vocals by Ian’s dog – which I’ve left in for you to discover along the way.


Some of the original tracks had bizarre fade-ins, others ended abruptly. There is amp-hum aplenty, and the occasional scribble of tape hiss. I’ve preserved all such infelicities in this release. They add a nice element of period charm.
The recording technology we had at our disposal in 1975, and our mastery of it, was pretty rudimentary. There was Ian’s Akai 4000 sound-on-sound reel to reel tape recorder, two mismatched microphones, and one microphone stand, so one of the mikes had to be propped up on a fireplace or on a pile of books on a chair. Unsurprisingly, the stereo imaging of some of the recordings is pleasingly non-textbook. I’ve slightly re-balanced some of these, but sought to broadly retain the feel of the originals.


Part of the determinedly DIY Red Square aesthetic at the time was a reaction to the then-current vogue for interminable, lavishly-expensive, over-produced concept albums. Red Square music was totally improvised and in, and of, the moment, (and so took as long to record as the length of each track took to play), and any shortcomings in our recording techniques added a layer of extra audio interest that was as welcome to us as an expensive new keyboard was to Yes.
Whatever happened in the room went to tape. Oddities of the recording process were retained. Capturing interesting music did not (and still doesn’t) depend on the length of the equipment list in a studio or on the cost of the drums, guitars or saxophones.


The tracks on Paramusic mark the transition from Ian and myself working as an experimental multi-tracking duo (1972-74), influenced by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Terry Riley and dada, (tracks 4, 7 & 8), to our development as a more focused free-music power trio following the addition of Roger’s free-jazz drumming (1974 onwards).

Paramusic is available as a digital download, a facsimile cassette or as a CDr from Bandcamp, or as a facsimile cassette from Discogs.

*Four of the eleven tracks [1, 3, 6 & 10) were included on the 2008 album ‘Thirty Three’, a compilation of Red Square recordings released by FMR Records.

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.

The celluloid dream of the Psychedelic Raiders…….

A very good friend, Colin Harrison, recently took the time and trouble to comp together the following ‘promo’ video for the Psychedelic Raiders. The footage of the band is real enough – captured by Colin one evening at a rather atmosphere-less gig in an Oxfordshire pub – but the artistry is in his cinematic narration of the audience……….

What follows is a promo for the Psychedelics’ new album ‘Cosmic Wheels’, featuring a song that’s not even on the album. As Colin himself noted in the Youtube publishing notes – Warning: this video contains hyperbole, distortions and downright fibs…

Success guaranteed then!

The song, by the way, is a Staples’ original called ‘I Don’t Believe’…….

Death, Decay & Renewal vinyl release……

This is slightly old news. Maybe just a few strands of mould on the loaf kind of slightly old. But you can always pick that off, and it’ll be fine. This is from July 2014, to be exact. So there we are; almost only yesterday, or at least no earlier than the day before yesterday.

We were asked by Steve Krakow, Lush cosmetics packaging art uber-meister and Chicagoan psychedelic skronk loafer extraordinaire, to contribute the bookend tracks from ‘Deathless‘ to a limited-edition double vinyl LP he was compiling to celebrate the launch of a new range of Lush perfumes called ‘Death, Decay & Renewal’.

I melded the two pieces into a seamlessly-segued continuous track by means of Subtle Artifices of Digital Specification and the resultant quite short track (with a quite long title) duly appeared on the album below.

Jon Seagroatt_Lush vinyl album

Bobbie and I also played at the launch event as part of a cut-down version of Comus, which Bobbie rather nicely dubbed ‘Cominus’. This consisted of Roger Wootton, Bobbie, Dylan Bates (Comus’ stand-in violin player when Colin Pearson is unavailable) and me. I also got to do a bit of scronking on bass clarinet with Steve Krakow and Dawn Aquarius as part of their Werewheels manifestation.

I really must find out what skronking actually is one of these days. Steve……?

There’s other news as well, of course: I’ve really got to get a grip and post some of it……..

Red Square @ the 2011 Tinderbox Festival

Here’s a recently re-unearthed two minute extract of Red Square’s 2011 set at the Tinderbox Festival. Due to timing over-runs, we had to cut our set down to twenty minutes, so a lean, spare instrumentation was the order of the day; no electronica, no bass clarinet, no flute. Just guitar, soprano sax and drums.

Boom!

Just like the old days………

Film and visual manipulations by Colin Harrison.

‘Thin Coat’ by the Duffs

Amongst all the metaphorical loose change, bus tickets, dead wasps etc. that I found down the back of the external hard-drive cushions whilst looking for some of the photos / audio for this blog, I found the little gem below. It’s a recording of ‘Thin Coat’ by the Duffs, a fantastic Oxfordshire-based band that I joined in the late ’80s.

The other three members of the band, Peter Franklin (vocals, guitars), Ian Staples (bass) and Pete Gardner (drums) all lived on narrowboats around Banbury. I would drive up from Southend-on-Sea for rehearsals and gigs in a fantastically decrepit, hand-painted, long-wheelbase Transit that burned oil at such a rate that I had to stop every so often and top up the reservoir.

This recording was made by the legendary and greatly-missed Richard Haynes at Dungeon Studio in Ascott-under-Wychwood.