“I married Isis on the fifth day of…” Oops, sorry, wrong song, wrong place. I was trying to reach ICES 72, when my lines got crossed. Hang up and dial again: in this issue you can find Julian Cowley’s excellent piece about the International Carnival of Experimental Sound, the extraordinary, unprecedented two-week celebration of avant garde art and music that took place 40 years ago this August at London’s Roundhouse. Featuring 300 participants from more than 20 countries, the ICES programme today reads like a rollcall of the 20th century’s most significant minds, some of them then still at the fledgling stage: Charlotte Moorman, AMM, Annea Lockwood, Taj Mahal Travellers, David Rosenboom, Steve Beresford, Jacques Bekaert, future Crass members Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher, and so many more.
Unorthodox to the last, ICES began with a big bang show by John Cage, whose prestige/notoriety guaranteed enough media exposure for its inaugural event to sell out, only for every other ICES concert to play out before rapidly dwindling audiences. Not only did it end in financial disaster leaving a good many artists who’d travelled from afar to take part bruised and out of pocket, organiser Harvey Matusow’s original grandiose plans to commemorate ICES with a series of TV films and recordings were put on ice, so to speak, when he returned to America after exhausting the goodwill of all the photographers, recordists and film makers he’d brought in to document it. The lack of readily available documentation about ICES makes Julian’s piece about it all the more remarkable, the result of hundreds of hours of detective work spent tracking down so many of the festival’s surviving protagonists and then talking them through their longburied memories. His article reminds us, if only for a moment, of an age when Utopia was just a dream away. Message over, hang up, dial again.
Next, a brief long distance call to West Berlin 1967–69, confirms that similar utopian arts laboratory experiments, albeit on more manageable human scale, were going on at Zodiak Free Arts Club, founded by the late Conrad Schnitzler and Cluster’s Hans-Joachim Roedelius, where early Tangerine Dream could electronically road-test their cosmic quests in a conducive atmosphere where anything so bourgeois as a conventionally structured song was seriously frowned upon. It so happens that the Zodiak was based at a theatre in Kreuzberg now known as HAU 2. I’d tell you more, but long distance calls are too expensive for history lessons. Hang up, dial again. Lines crossed, back to the here and now of HAU in December 2011, where a grown man in his mid-fifties is singing, “I think I am a telephone/A romantic little telephone”, in the needling voice of a teenager used to getting what he wants, over a garage surf melody so cute he just knows no one will refuse him. And indeed, the packed house gives in to his wishes, joining in on the song’s choruses in a perfect reenactment of pop communion. Zodiak’s former clientele would no doubt be turning in their graves at this approval of a three minute pop song. But this being Palais Schaumburg’s first concert in 30 years, things were bound to get emotional, especially when you take into account the circumstances of their breakup.
Holger Hiller and Thomas Fehlmann formed Palais Schaumburg in Hamburg in 1980 with the intention of reinventing German song after decades of post-war neglect. Hiller had laid the first foundations on a pair of solo singles; Palais Schaumburg simply accelerated the construction process, reinforcing the punk rock principle of creating socially inclusive music playable by non-specialists with elements of teaching music picked up from their studies of pre-war modernists like Hindemith. The group went through a few changes before settling on the line-up of Hiller on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Fehlmann on trumpet and keyboards, Timo Blunk on bass and Ralf Hertwig on drums. For all the complex thoughts invested by Hiller in particular in their new German song designs, Palais Schaumburg converted them into fantastic pop music brimming with invention. They became enormously popular in West Germany, signed to a major label and got David Cunningham to produce their stlll astonishing debut album, Palais Schaumburg (1981). It was barely out when Hiller told the others he was quitting. 30 years later in Berlin, the reformed Palais Schaumburg finally delivered. Chris Bohn
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Issue 336 February 2012 £4 ISSN 0952-0680
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Words Steve Barker, Mike Barnes, Dan Barrow, Clive Bell, Marcus Boon, Michael Bracewell, Britt Brown, Nick Cain, Philip Clark, Byron Coley, Julian Cowley, Alan Cummings, Sam Davies, Brian Dillon, Phil England, Kodwo Eshun, Mark Fisher, Phil Freeman, Louise Gray, Andy Hamilton, Adam Harper, Jim Haynes, Richard Henderson, Ken Hollings, Robin Howells, Hua Hsu, William Hutson, David Keenan, Rahma Khazam, Biba Kopf, Tim Lawrence, Alan Licht, Dave Mandl, Marc Masters, Bill Meyer, Keith Moliné, Will Montgomery, Brian Morton, Joe Muggs, Alex Neilson, Andrew Nosnitsky, Ian Penman, Richard Pinnell, Edwin Pouncey, Nina Power, Simon Reynolds, Nick Richardson, Bruce Russell, Peter Shapiro, Chris Sharp, Philip Sherburne, Nick Southgate, Daniel Spicer, Joseph Stannard, David Stubbs, Dave Tompkins, David Toop, Dan Warburton, Val Wilmer, Barry Witherden, Matthew Wuethrich
Images Thomas Adank, Jon Baker, Dusdin Condren, Mauro D’Agati, Tara Darby, Jonathan de Villiers, Glen Erler, Jason Evans, Jason Fulford, Jamie Hawkesworth, Pieter Hugo, Jak Kilby, Heinz Peter Knes, Armin Linke, Benjamin McMahon, Tom Medwell, Jason Nocito, Niall O’Brien, Shawn Records, Beth Rooney, Savage Pencil, Jaap Scheeren, Michael Schmelling, Bryan Sheﬃeld, Ben Stockley, Eva Vermandel, Kai von Rabenau, Jake Walters, Jeremy & Claire Weiss, Val Wilmer