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november 2002
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Signs & Symptoms     sound

3. how did it sound?

( Get the album at bandcamp )

We did a couple of such improvised continuous tape-long sessions, in the summer of 1980, and took the resulting tapes to a 4-track recording studio, where we selected ten extracts, of which we then somewhat narrowed the extreme left-right instrument separation of the original tape, to obtain a more middle-of-the-road stereo-image.
Also, to one or two of them, we added a slight touch of percussion and some vocal sounds.

The series thus obtained we named 'Signs & Symptoms', after the returning paragraph title in a guide to 'Survival in the City' (written by Anthony Greenbank, edited by Wolfe Publishing Limited, London, 1974), an amusingly curious book of which both of us had a copy, and piles of which were to be had for several years at one of the major Amsterdam used & remainders book stores.

SS audio cassette, front
SS audio cassette, inside

The 'Signs and Symptoms' were that what characterized each of the sixty distinct types of 'Big City Losers', as described by Greenbank in his guide: "those who are the most probable victims of mugging, robbery, rape, mutilation, coshing, murder, burglary, pocket-picking, street accidents or molestation by the pervert who picks on someone to sit next to in the cinema".

'Frippertronics' often is associated with so-called 'ambient music', as it does easily enable one to set in motion a quasi-automatic process for creating slowly evolving timbres with minimal shifts of accents within a steady stream of 'waves of sound' that, as Eno writes in the liner notes to his 'Discreet Music', can be listened to "as part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of the rain [are] parts of this environment".
But of course it doesn't need to be put to use in just that way.
Listening to 'Signs & Symptoms' you'll soon enough realize that most of what you are hearing is far from being 'ambient'. Indeed, it was not intended to be. At the time of recording we were hardly interested in 'ambient' types of music, even less keen on producing them.
We wanted to be heard. A lot.
And whereas an 'ambient' use of 'Frippertronics' aims at less, by minimizing the performer's interference with 'the system', we rather turned to the machines in order to get more, using the feedback mechanism to, say, 'maximize' our output, and approach that of a 'full blown instant band' ...

We made and distributed a (very) limited number of audio cassettes containing the ten 'Signs & Symptoms'-tracks, with hand made 'covers', as shown in the picture.
Needless to say that 'Signs & Symptoms' has been 'unavailable' ever since...

We therefore created, late 2002, for our archiving as much as for your listening pleasure, a special 'Signs & Symptoms'-page at mp3.com, which enabled you to stream tracks from the original cassette-release, either in lo-fi (mono, 28Kbs) or in hi-fi (stereo, 128Kbs) real audio format. The complete series moreover was available as an mp3.com-CD, with a brand new cover.

[Since at december 02, 2003, 'good old' mp3.com closed down, this 're-release' has become itself another 'collector's item'. You can (as of february 2006), listen to Signs & Symptoms at Last.fm ... A digital high quality audio version of the album is (as of july 2010) available from bandcamp. ]

thank yous || some links

Thanks to Michael Peters, who provided some of the details on the history of 'Frippertronics' through his article 'The Birth of Loop', available at 'Looper's Delight', a web site dedicated to loop based music.
A 2015 version of Michael's article on the history of looping in music, lavishly illustrated, on the 'Prepared Guitar' blog: The Birth of Loop by Michael Peters.
Thanks also to Colin Robinson, of Big Block 454, a 'semi-amorphous post-modern / situationist neo-dada cross-platform compositional construct' from Manchester, England, for confirming some of the technical details of doing 'Frippertronics' with Akai reel-to-reels, wiping the dust of ages of off his old machines ("one with faulty heads; the other with major wow-and-flutter"), asking them to pose with him to show us 'how it looked like' and providing details on his own adventures in 'Frippertronics'. ("
I used to have the two decks as far apart as possible, and also swapped the stereo on the feedbacklink, so that each repeat swapped channels.  I would then touch the tape to get wild wow and flutter!")

[ edited 2003 : apr 06, nov 22 | edited 2005 : nov 15 | edited 2008 : jan 14 | edited 2009 : june 1 | edited 2010 : july 31 | edited 2015 : september 5]

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