From our Bay to Norway - Page 7

A trip beyond space disco through the super sounds of Oslo and San Francisco
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Arp's Alexis Georgopoulos
Photo by Alexander Warnow

While a 17-minute remix by Prins Thomas adds club elements, the original version, with its hallucinatory, starlit varieties of arpeggio, makes for an ideal personal soundtrack. Hatchback's next 12-inch release on This Is Not an Exit, a track called "Jet Lag," is funkier yet similarly majestic, layered, and emotive. In both cases vocals would be a pointless distraction — synthesizers seem to sing to one another, becoming increasingly, endearingly creaturelike by song's end. "Friends chide me for not knowing the words to songs I've heard a thousand times," Grawe says after testifying to his love for the film scores of Vangelis, Piero Umiliani, and Francis Lai. "But often a little synth part [in a song] is more interesting to me."

Grawe sings on some of the Windsurf songs that he and Judd have recorded for Prins Thomas to release on Internasjonal. Windsurf allows him to tap into a longtime interest in duos and groups ranging from the many projects of Yellow Magic Orchestra's Haruomi Hosono and Neu!'s Michael Rother (Grawe recently contributed liner notes to an upcoming reissue of Rother's first solo album, 1977's Flammende Herzen, by Oakland's Water) to ... Steely Dan. "To a lot of people they embody what's wrong with music," Grawe says of the last. "But to me they embody everything that's right. Not only is their music well crafted, but some of their lyrics, to me, are on a par with [Bob] Dylan."

As for Oslo and San Francisco, Grawe — who recently created a Venn diagram for Mike Bee of Amoeba Music that illustrates the fusion of influences within Sorcerer, Hatchback, and Windsurf — welcomes the growing, glowing galactic prism formed by artists from both areas who have an affinity for one another's music. "I think it's interesting that all these records happened without [the people involved] ever meeting in person or sometimes even talking on the phone," Grawe says. "It's all been through the Internet. It was great to finally see [Thomas] when he came to town and hang out, have dinner, and play records. We connected instantly."

I HEAR A NEW WORLD

To trace musical connections between a pair of geographical areas is reductive. The artists I've written about love music from a number of other countries (Germany and Brazil, to name just two) and cumulatively have friendships with contemporary musicians from all over the globe. But in focusing on sonic signals being sent forth between Norway and our Bay, signals that have yielded some of my favorite recordings of the past year, I also discovered unexpected commonalities that open into new words about — and worlds of — sound. Almost all of the San Francisco musicians I spoke with also write about music, and three of them are journalists, for example. It seems the divisions between writers and musicians continue to blur, leading to the formation of a new music of the spheres.

When Joe Meek composed and recorded I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy (RPM) in England in 1960, his intense, obsessive love of music and sound resulted in the audio equivalent of what is called visionary. But he remained isolated. Today it's great to see — and hear — figures such as Meek and disco innovator Arthur Russell living on, their spirits floating through many people's songs and being revived in upcoming documentaries. Meek heard a new world of sound, calling him and haunting him. He couldn't tell what was in store for him, but his new world of sound has arrived. It spans from Norway and our Bay to the farthest reaches of inner and outer space.

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