“What?!” I hear you ask, “Two episodes?! A finale? What the hell?” Well, unfortunately, the time has come to wrap up Heavy Vanguard. Scott and I were planning on putting the series on hiatus due to some upcoming life events, but I’ve also decided to leave the Heavy Blog staff, and…
We’ve covered a lot of ground with Heavy Vanguard, from improvisation to sound art, and nearly ever genre someone has ever played around with, but you might notice there isn’t a whole lot of diversity in terms of nationality. Most of the acts we’ve gone over have been American or European. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course—good art is simply good art, and we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on the person creating the music as opposed to the music itself—but music knows no borders or boundaries, and this counts exponentially so for the avant-garde. There are free jazz scenes all over the world, and radical music being created in every country. This is why we finally decided to cover one of the countries best known for their experimental music, Japan, with one of the country’s best experimental rock bands ever, Boredoms.
We’ve been dragging our feet a bit in talking more about avant-garde metal; since we at Heavy Blog cover the likes of Gorguts and Dodecahedron quite a bit, Scott and I wanted to find something that wasn’t as well-known but still well-regarded. So, Scott found Pan.Thy.Monium—a side project of Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity) that checks a lot of avant-garde ticks off with their final album Khaooohs and Kon-Fus-Ion.
Free improvisation is hardly a new subject on Heavy Blog; Scott and I have written extensively on the subject. However, we haven’t touched on some of the more interesting modes inherent in the genre—namely, EAI, or electroacoustic improvisation. The definition of EAI, along with most avant-garde “genres”, is murky at…
We’re going to take a tiny detour off our safari of weird music and talk about minimalism. First off: what the hell is minimalism? We throw that term out a lot here on Heavy Blog, with Scott and Nick in particular being fans of post-minimalists like Tim Hecker and Colin Stetson, but there isn’t…
We’ve talked about John Zorn before on Heavy Vanguard (and everywhere else too), but not much about the project he’s most famously associated with: Naked City. Founded in 1988 and featuring a handful of the New York Downtown scene’s best players (Wayne Horvitz, Henry Cow’s Fred Frith, Bill Frisell, Joey Baron, and, later, Japan’s own Yamatsuka Eye) Naked City was on a quest to test the limits of a rock band format through a sort of free jazz/grindcore hybrid that played through nearly every style of music ever, all within a matter of seconds, referred to as “miniatures”.
So, twenty episodes, and we’re still kicking…I guess that’s something to be proud of! Anyway, when we come to special numbers of episodes, Scott and I like to pick an album that’s had a huge effect on us and talk about it without worrying about the thirty-minute timer. For our tenth episode we covered Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and we again dive into jazz territory with Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz.
One cannot talk about glitch music without at least giving German electronic project Oval a nod. Before becoming the solo project of Markus Popp (ending with 94 Diskont, strangely enough), Oval was infamous for their methodology—physically damaging CDs and destroying digital audio to extract the skips and distortions created, which were then used to create music. As a result, 94 Diskont is full of clicks and whirrs where said damage was created, and this album in particular is credited with being a pivotal release for glitch music.
Avant-garde classical music took a huge leap forward in the 50s and 60s when a handful of composers (including John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among others) began to play around with simply wild ideas in terms of composition, beyond anything that the likes of Schoenberg or Webern had done in the past. One of the minds essential to this period was one Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect who applied the same mathematical concepts he used to to make buildings to compose music, eventually coining the term “stochastic” music to refer to the mathematical, statistical, and physical principals being applied to music. While he’s perhaps not as well remembered as Cage or Stockhausen, Xenakis was nonetheless an important composer, and an early adopter of electronic music, with this compilation today being a collection of his earliest musique concrète compositions. (The term musique concrète was a French term coined by Pierre Schaefer, whose early experiments with tape recordings essentially laid the foundation for the future of electronic music.)
Krautrock was a musical movement with roots in Germany during the sixties and seventies, with key focus on psychedelia, musical experimentation, and a heavy focus on repetition. Bands like Faust, Neu!, Kraftwerk (in their earlier years), and, of course, Can, were integral in pioneering this sound. However, Can’s adherence to the typical krautrock sound was short-lived, with this album as proof of that. While Tago Mago has krautrock elements in it (especially on the first half of the album), the band ultimately went beyond what others in the genre were doing and created something amazing and out there, full of experimentation with delay effects and tape music, among other things. It’s a long, dense listen that grows more difficult as the minutes go by, but it’s ultimately a rewarding experience that has proven to be a huge influence on modern music. Artists like Radiohead (specifically Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood), Primal Scream, The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Public Image Ltd all have cited inspiration from Tago Mago. And, of course, this is one of our favorite albums as well! So, have fun!