Lee Negin is an eccentric genius. Not content with just (!) being a university professor and a globe-trotting life – Negin has lived in Japan, India, Poland and, currently, South Korea, since leaving America 21 years ago – he has spent over three decades producing experimental music to the point of (near) perfection. His new album ‘Hungry Ghosts’ – released February 7th – is a mad masterpiece.
Considered by many as a pioneer in the new-wave era of the 80s – he is listed as an influential artist in ‘The International Discography of the New Wave’ – his musical voyage began with the 1979 release of his single ‘Wired for Sound’. Negin’s music is entirely his own – an extended part of his person – and has been from the start; he handles all aspects of writing, production, instrumentation, engineering and, occasionally, the vocals.
‘Hungry Ghosts’ is the first of two albums – the second being ‘We Wei’ – Lee Negin plans to release this year through his own label Passing Phase Records. Thirteen atmospheric, leftfield compositions ranging from electronica and rock to world music, all fused with a unique ambience. It’s so unconventional that according to Negin’s website NME declined to review the album, claiming it was “a bit too off the wall” for them.
After kicking off with an intro consisting of disturbing noise, ‘The Saga of Cheeze’ introduces the listener to the Lee Negin’s fantastical musical landscape – an erratic, grumbling funk number. The album features an eclectic mix of styles – there’s the minimalist 80s vibe of ‘Let Go’, the haunting Indian instrumentation of ‘Not Knowing Mind’, and the operatic vocals and understated orchestration on ‘Siddhartha’s Smile’. The two tracks featuring vocalist Sulene Fleming – ‘Pas De Deux’ and ‘Mahayana’ – are arguably two of the more accessible tracks available, but they come with their fair share of quirk, particularly the latter – a song that shifts from pop ballad, to electro rock, to what can only be described as noise.
There are a few heavier moments on the album, such as the robotic electronica of ‘One & Only True Manhood’ and the pumping German techno of ‘Cheeze Takes On The NAN ites’, complete with yelping Japanese girls. ‘The Dance’ is an electro club-banger with a middle-eastern guitar sample intertwined throughout. There’s even a hint of Massive Attack on the trip-hop laden title track, which closes the album menacingly with nightmarish whispers. The standout is perhaps the boundary-pushing ‘Masks’, where hypnotic, industrial metal meets an oriental mid-section – think Trent Reznor’s instrumental work Nine Inch Nails mixed with Asian instruments.
‘Hungry Ghosts,’ however, is not an album that’s designed to be split up into different components. The majority of the tracks don’t really work as individual songs – it’s only when they are listened to in the broader context of the whole, sonically layered album that their ingenuity is comprehendible. Negin’s production and engineering skills are faultless, but the one area that could be improved on is his singing – his vocals aren’t all that inspiring, and he really doesn’t add anything to the few tracks he lends his voice to.
In his press release Negin stated “This is new world music”. Although that’s a rather pompous assertion, he may be onto something. Despite NME’s dismissal, ‘Hungry Ghosts’ isn’t an inaccessible record. Negin’s trick is to lull you into comfort with one genre then shock you by changing the tone and tempo. It may all be a bit chaotic and uneven, but his experimentalism is never unlistenable or frustrating. Quite the opposite – it’s addictive and blissful.
Author: Clive Rozario
Lee Negin: Press
This week's guest is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, synthesist, vocalist, producer and recording engineer. He was a pioneer in the international DIY/techno/indie/new wave movement of the 1980s, and his recordings have received (are receiving) airplay around the world. He is listed as an influential artist in "The International Discography of the New Wave." He has a brand new album that came out on February 1st called "Hungry Ghosts". Please welcome to the Phile... Lee Negin.
Me: Hello, Lee, welcome to the Phile. How are you? That's a great name by the way, Lee. I have two middle names and one of them is Lee, named after Johnny Lee Hooker.
Lee: Hello. Thank you for having me. My name has nowhere near the 'coolness' factor as your "Lee." Your parents must have been pretty hip. John Lee Hooker!! Wow!
Me: I have been listening to a lot of your music, Lee, and you come up with some cool sounds and interesting music. when did you first start to write music and become a musician?
Lee: I started studying music formally when I was about 7. Trumpet was my first instrument (formal lessons, bands, orchestras). I started playing in rock and jazz bands when I was 12, first as a vocalist, then as a drummer. I started playing professionally (i.e., making money) at about 15, playing in bars and clubs on weekends. I started to seriously write music when I was about 22. I had the original analog synthesizers (Minimoog, ARP 2600, Linn Drum, Prophet, Yamaha DX-7, Roland TR-808, Roland Vocoder, Serge Modules, Korg PS-3100, etc.), and coupled with my electric and acoustic guitars and basses, trumpet, drums and percussion, I was able to replicate the sounds that I was hearing in my head. The technology caught up with my aural vision.
Me: A lot of your music doesn't have lyrics. Do you prefer just doing instrumentals?
Lee: No preference. However, lyrics (words) tie the music to the composer's vision and cultural milieu. Words are very limiting--they are symbols with connotations, very limited representations--mental constructs. If I say "ice cream,' immediately that conjures up images and memories in your mind. But, the words are not the reality. Better to taste the ice cream; then you 'get it.' Reality is experiential, not verbal. With many of my pieces ("songs"), I want the listener to be able to construct their own vision. A notable exception--i.e., a vocalist trying to get around words' constraints-- to this was Elizabeth Fraser in the "Cocteau Twins,' who sang in made-up languages. However, even when listening to her, most people strain to make out intelligible words. Songs with lyrics and without are like the difference between realistic and abstract, or impressionistic art. I endeavor to create impressionistic music, so I am more influenced by Monet, Van Gogh, and Chinese/Japanese brush painting than music these days (which, incidentally, greatly influenced Monet and Van Gogh, who both had large collections of Japanese prints, which I have seen in Monet's house in Giverny and the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam when I was there. I also lived in Japan for 15 years). In addition, words have cultural connections that are not universally shared. If I sing in English, how can a person in Peru or Iran connect? Music is the universal language.
Me: One of my favorite songs of yours is "The Saga of Cheeze". I am sure it has a deep meaning, but I can't figure it out. What is the meaning?
Lee: Better I hear your take on it. That would be interesting. Cheeze is a recurring character, the protagonist of a narrative I will be expanding in a large-scale work I am currently developing and will hopefully record this summer, in 5.1 surround, and which I want to release on a blu-ray, with a movie and concert tour to follow. No one can fault me for lack of ambition! He appears twice on "Hungry Ghosts." At once he is my alter-ego, but also an everyman and a no-man. He is the Cheeze!
Me: This year you are releasing not one but two albums and a few EP's, right? What made you want to release so much music in one year?
Lee: Narcissism! After my extended hiatus from creating music, there seems to be a lot of stored up concepts and noise that are oozing out. Once again, with current digital technology, the tools have caught up to my vision and allow to me make manifest concepts that before wouldn't have been possible or if possible, financially prohibitive.
Me: You've been recording for a long time, but took a break, right? Where you tired of making music?
Lee: No, never. Creating music/visuals/poetry, etc. has always given me great joy. My history in the music sphere has been cyclical, as history is. In the past, I reached a certain level of "success," then the hideous music business encroached, and I escaped. I could recount horror stories of sitting in offices of music business executives in Los Angeles, while they were snorting cocaine and offering to make me a ''star" if... But, I have told these stories elsewhere, and it's not important. With the Internet, the whole paradigm of the music business has changed, for better and worse (again, the duality).
Me: Where are you from originally, Lee? You currently live in South Korea, is that right?
Lee: Originally, I am not knowing. However, this time I was born in the States, but left for good 21 years ago. I have lived in India, Japan, UK, Poland and now Seoul. I have traveled extensively, spending time in over 40 countries on 5 continents.
Me: You are a Professor at a University? What do you teach?
Lee: I am very fortunate in that I work for the Department of General Studies at a prestigious university, meaning I teach all majors. The common factor is I teach in English. It varies by semester, but I have taught (in my current job) Media, Culture, Presentation Skills, Academic Writing, Literature, Business Skills, etc.. When I first came to Korea, I was hired by the government to train working teachers--how to better teach English and Culture. My graduate work was in Education, so I am primarily a teaching methodologist (I can hear your readers nodding off). For the past few years, I have been teaching undergraduates again. My Korean students are lovely.
Me: Why would you move out there? You sure like to travel. You lived in Japan and Poland? What makes you get around?
Lee: "Hungry Ghosts." "Hungry Ghosts" (the name of my new CD--plug, plug) are desires that can never be fulfilled, keeping us enslaved and miserable. People always change their external circumstances, blaming their unhappiness on things outside of themselves. So, they change partners, or jobs or cities or wardrobes or hairstyles. It is easy to change your shirt, but hard to change your thinking. Being quite thick, I had to learn from personal experience (not just words from a book or a guru) that only by changing my thinking could I attain any contentment, not by changing locations or jobs. "If you don't like the world, change yourself." Wherever I went, there I was! Always looking for an 'ideal' place to live. Silly me! As Lao Tsu said, "The wise person sees the whole universe without ever leaving their front gate." My extensive travels are proof positive that I'm not very wise!
Me: Where was your music recorded? Did you travel for that as well?
Lee: I have a studio in Seoul (I live in it). I recorded the basic tracks for "Hungry Ghosts" in my home studio. I recorded "Wu Wei," my video soundtracks and my new EP 100% in my home studio (meaning, I recorded and mixed it all in Seoul). For "Hungry Ghosts," I mixed it and did more recording of vocals, trumpet, acoustic drums, guitars and processing in the UK, in Yorkshire at a world class studio.
Me: Okay, let's talk about your new albums, Lee. "Hungry Ghosts" which just came out, and "Wu Wei" which you just mentioned. How are the two albums different?
Lee: "Hungry Ghosts," which was released February 1, contains shorter, perhaps more accessible pieces which are still quite eclectic, mixing electronica-jazz-world-metal-pop-techno-funk-trance-psychedelic, etc., sometimes in the same song. "Wu Wei," which will be released in the summer, contains longer, ambient/electronica/chill out/dreamscape work.
Me: And what does Wu Wei mean?
Lee: "Wu Wei," which is Chinese, is a Taoist concept that can translate as "no effort." In Christian parlance, it is said "Let go and let god." Or, as Yoda would say, "Feel the Force, Luke. Surrender to the Force." (tm Lucas Films) The "force" is the Tao. To talk about it is not the Tao! Words are the antithesis of the Tao--which goes back to my answer about songs with lyrics. You see, it's all cyclical!
Me: One of your songs "Piercing the Veil" has an India influence which makes me want to eat Indian food when I hear it. It's something George Harrison would like I am sure. Are you influenced by music from all around the world?
Lee: Hmmm... my music goes well with a nice curry, nan bread and mango chutney!? Bot acha! (Hindi for 'very good.' Sorry, I'm a show off). Most people say my music goes well with herbal tea and wild mushrooms. Yes, I have a very catholic (not the vatican voodoo) taste in music. I studied tabla drums in India with a music master from All India Radio as well as jazz drums with Alan Dawson (Dave Brubeck's drummer). I listen to everything from Persian Ghazals to Miles Davis to Bach to AC/DC to The Ramones to ABBA to John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Frank Zappa to Hendrix to Japanese Kabuki Music (koto and shakuhachi) to Korean Pansori to Chinese Opera to Indonesian Gamelan to James Brown to Senegalese drumming to Louis Armstrong to Segovia to Django Reinhardt . I play several instruments and like to mix all of my influences into a cosmic cocktail.
Me: Who are your influences anyway, Lee? When I first heard your music I thought of Howard Jones, who I tried to get on the Phile last year. Are you a fan of his work?
Lee: Howard Jones is a contemporary, not an influence. The above answer gets into some of my influences. My influences are a wide variety of music and musicians from the world over, as well as graphic art and artists, life experiences, nature, literature, entheogens and great mystic/spiritual traditions and teachers.
Me: I was surprised to see you worked with Jon Astley and Simon Humphrey who both have amazing careers as mixers and engineers and worked with so many people. Did you hear of them before you worked with them? I bet both men had cool stories.
Lee: Of course I was very familiar with Jon's work. He produced The Who's "Live at Leeds," which is a favorite of mine. The list of people he has produced/engineered and/or mastered reads like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (George Harrison, Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, The Rolling Stones, etc.). I spent a day with Jon in his lovely home on the Thames River in the suburbs of London. The house used to belong to Pete Townshend, his ex-brother-in-law. The room we sat in and drank tea, Jon's studio overlooking the Thames, was the room that was Pete's studio, where he wrote ''Tommy", "Who's Next", etc. He recorded Thunderclap Newman in that very room, "Something in the Air," a classic. As a big Townshend fan, that was cool (you can see pictures on my website of me with Jon, and me holding the original master tapes of "Who's Next" with Pete and Glyn Johns' handwritten notes on the boxes). Yes, it was very enjoyable hanging out with Jon and Simon in August. Simon mixed "Hungry Ghosts," and I was even able to cajole him into making some guitar squeals (feedback) on one song. Simon has worked with Jeff Beck, Hans Zimmer, The Beach Boys, The Clash and Culture Club (he mixed "Karma Chameleon"!). We have since become dear friends, and we communicate often. We are now discussing my new project, which I might record with him again in the UK. I exchanged New Year's greetings with Jon, who I also consider a friend. Lovely gentlemen, with amazing careers. I am fortunate that they want to work with me. Furthermore, my main publicist in Los Angeles is Bobbi Cowan, who has represented Michael Jackson, Prince, Cream, YES, Sonny and Cher, Spinal Tap (she did the movie), etc. And now me! We talk all the time--she's got very cool stories, to say the least. So, since returning to the music business in 2009, at the urging of a German record label in Berlin, I have been fortunate to work with some giants.
Me: Isn't Jon Astley related to Rick Astley? Or am I just an idiot?
Lee: Are you Rick rolling me??!!
Me: What's this with you being a mountain climber? I never understood why anybody would want to mountain climb, Lee. When did you start to do this?
Lee: About 8 years ago. When I took my breaks from making music, I threw myself into other diversions, such as photography, academia, globetrotting, martial arts and mountain climbing. Mountain Climbing is a samurai discipline. It is moving meditation, forcing you into a state of "mushin." Mushin is a Japanese Zen Buddhist term, meaning "No Mind." No thinking... that quiet space between thoughts when you are truly alive, at peace, at one with the cosmic doodah. When you climb, the type I do (mixed alpine = rock, ice, glaciers, etc.) you have to stay absolutely focused, in-the-moment. If your mind wanders off, even for a nano-second, the results could literally be death, which happens all of the time. When climbing frozen waterfalls in Switzerland or Alberta (Canadian Rockies), I experienced moments of absolute clarity and mindfulness; again, the goal of meditation. Samurai sports! Same as when I whitewater rafted in New Zealand and Colorado, or swam underwater with a pod of wild dolphins, etc. Moments of eternity!
Me: What is the highest mountain you climbed?
Lee: The highest Alps mountain, Mt. Blanc near Chamonix, France. " It rises 4,810.45 m (15,782 ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. It is also sometimes known as "La Dame Blanche" (French for "The White Lady")." (Wikipedia).
Me: Is there a mountain you haven't climbed but want to?
Lee: Everest might be fun.
Me: I watched some videos you made on your YouTube Channel, Lee. Do you like making videos as much as you like to make music?
Lee: Yes! Seeing music and hearing visuals.
Me: You worked a few times with a guy named Red Hawk. Tell the Phile readers who he is.
Lee: Red Hawk, SpecialOpsDarkAngel is a Native American visionary artist, medicine man and shaman who currently lives in the south of France. He is 'legally blind,' so he relies on his third eye to create images. I have an international team of artists which I founded called The League of Interplanetary Neo-Psychedelic Artists (LINPA) (tm). I collaborate with them (members come and go) on some projects, such as the visuals I used on the covers of "Hungry Ghosts" and "Wu Wei," and some of my videos.I am the noise-maker. I currently have a project in progress with a great visual artist in Switzerland, Seelenflug. I already completed the soundtrack, and she is working on the visuals. We plan on a March release to coincide with a major art show she is doing in Zurich. Our video will be the centerpiece of the show. I might pop in for the occasion and do my best Salvador Dali routine (Reporter to Dali: "Mr. Dali, do you use drugs?" Dali Responded: "My dear boy... I am drugs.").
Me: When did you two first meet?
Lee: First? Probably 300 years ago in what is now called Montana (have to check with him for details). This time around, we met online about one year ago. Since that time, we have made 5 videos together.
Me: In your career I am sure you have worked with many known artists, Lee. is there anybody you haven't worked with that you would like to?
Lee: Not living. On second thought, perhaps: L. Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Faye Wong, Sa Dingding... If you are reading this, contact my peeps!
Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile, Lee. You are a musical legend, sir. Is there anything you want to say before I let you go?
Lee: Thank you so much for this great opportunity. I really appreciate it. I hope my blah blah blah proved somewhat amusing to your readers.
Me: Go ahead and plug your website and anything else you wanna. Thanks again, and when your second album comes out this year, wanna come back? Take care, and be safe if you climb a mountain in the near future.
Lee: Check out my new CD, "Hungry Ghosts," available at Amazon, iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, etc. Check me out at: leenegin.com, passingphasemusic.com, www.youtube.com/user/passingphasemusic, myspace.com/leenegin
www.facebook.com/pages/Lee-Negin/107325125953937, reverbnation.com/leenegin, jango.com/music/Lee+Negin, leenegin.bandcamp.com, amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field;-keywords=lee+negin&x=20&y=14 I would love to "come back" anytime you'd care to have me. "Wu Wei" will be released this summer, and several EPs and videos will be released in 2011. Let me know! The pleasure is mine. Be happy!
"Hearing this artist's expertly produced work is to experience a vision aimed beyond the realm of pop. ...Negin never offers the same sound twice, employing singers as ensemble instruments and working with sounds in a way that reminds us at times of Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and Wendy Carlos."
- Music Connection Magazine, April 2011
"No Western musician has found so much of the formless energy at the core of Eastern music as Lee Negin has with his new CD, Wu Wei!"
- Billy Sheppard, Music Critic and Sheep Counter, Billy's Bunker Music Reviews
"Negin effortlessly forges through the uncharted waters of musical Zen and cleverly orchestrates sound into a vibrant, visceral experience."
- Lee Crisman, Pluto Radio
"Wu Wei is a deeply textured, melodic exposition of contemporary electronic music."
- Chris Costantino, Musician/Founder, SonicTribe
"(Lee Negin has) composed and created 21st century classical music here. Very cool."
- John Scott G, noted Los Angeles publisher, author and publicist
"Lee Negin has returned, like a long lost treasure of the ambient arts."
- DJ Readman - Music Revolution Promotion, DJ on Music World Radio (UK)
See Link (extensive review/interview)
HUNGRY GHOSTS LIVE!! In the new edition of Blip-Blop magazine, my CD "Hungry Ghosts" received 4.5 stars (5 being the top)!! The reviewer said, "Yeah! I love this stuff. ...it's like William S. Burroughs meets Kraftwerk meets Funkadelic meets Laurie Anderson meets Frank Zappa! Another recommendation-only if you are open minded!" Now on sale, along with "Wu Wei," a CD of ambient/electronica/experimental work, for only $5.00 apiece. Support indie music and stop the demise of the CD! http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/LeeNegin www.blip-bop.com
32. Hungry Ghosts – Lee Negin (Passing Phase)
Brain-teasingly original electronic brain-scrapings from eighties Peel favourite.
Review by Gianmaria Consiglio
(translation by Tony Lawson)
Way back in the 60’s, Dr Timothy Leary started preaching, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Today, almost fifty years later, Lee Negin says: “Be happy now or you never will be!” Negin defines himself as a “Sound Sculptor” (or “Noise Maker/Producer”). The slogans change, the words change, the methods change (in the first case hallucinatory drugs, in the second case hypnotic electronic music “based on the opening of the chakras and the corresponding vibrational frequencies”, often accompanied by psychedelic images), but the substance remains the same. In fact Negin’s research is characterised, like that of Leary, by an introspective nature that reaches out towards an ideal universal harmony but at the same time is tempered with a measured dose of irony and madness.
Establishing himself in the world of music towards the end of the 70’s, Negin has become something of a cult figure in recent years, considered as an important precursor of the new-wave and punk scene of the 80’s. Born in the United States, Negin left the town of San Francisco at the age of 21 and started travelling all around the world, taking up residence in Japan for fifteen years, as well as in India, Warsaw and Seoul where he has now been living for the past four years, working as a university professor. Then, all of a sudden, after a long period of “hibernation”, he officially bounced back into the musical limelight in 2010, self-producing an impressive quantity of material, all top quality, through his own record label passingphasemusic. Notwithstanding the proposals of a number of established record labels, Negin has chosen the road of the independent artist, the most difficult but also the freest, because through his own personal experience he has ascertained that operators in the music business are perfect “idiots” as he points out in an amusing video interview currently available on YouTube.
The music that Lee Negin composes today is primarily electronic and psychedelic and is based on a very wide concept of perception which has as its principle the idea of synesthesia. In fact, his sonic paintings are often conceived in correlation with equally visionary videos in which the three-dimensional nature of the images is a perfect counterweight to the three-dimensional nature of the music. In this way colours, shapes, and sounds all become part of a single powerful vibration.
Although it may not be evident on a superficial level, Negin has a very precise method of composing which has little or nothing to do, however, with typical western composition. First and foremost, it is neither linear, thematic nor “narrative”, but is rather a sort of vortex which develops as the track progresses and gathers momentum. The aim of this increasing momentum is to progressively open, section by section, the listener/viewer’s chakras, starting with the first, known as the “root”, and arriving at the last, known as the “crown” and which, according to Indian philosophy, is the source of illumination. Moreover, Negin, unlike most other western musicians, does not use the logical/rational sphere to compose but the intuitive sphere: the one which leads most directly, most freely and most fluidly to a real and genuine understanding, without distortions, continual mind-changing or the exaggerated use of elaborate stylistic devices.
The strength and creative wealth of Negin lie in the fact that his musical formation started with traditional western classical music, learning to play the trumpet at the age of seven, and then studying musical theory. At a later stage he moved on to the drums playing rock music and jazz (the genre that in his opinion gave rise to the “trinity”: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis). Later still he started to study a wide range of instruments: the vibraphone, the tabla, the tampura, the Indian sitar, the koto and the Japanese shamisen.
It is for this reason that the artistic and cultural influences of Negin are so wide-ranging. If you read the comments that he adds to his tracks you will find references to the Maya calendar, to shamanic rites and rituals, to the idea of acid trips as a means of self-discovery, to the bases of certain oriental cultures with which he has been in contact for many years – in particular Zen and Taoism – to Meditation as a form of Awakening, to fragments of the Industrial culture that developed towards the end of the 70’s, to Van Gogh and to Claude Monet, the “master of light”, he who, Negin says, has influenced his music more than anything else and to whom he has dedicated his musical landscape Giverny, named after the place where the painter lived the last years of his life and died.
Negin’s albums are excellent examples of the concept of solo artistic expression, or “do-it-yourself” productions, in that they are composed, played, recorded and produced entirely by the artist himself, with only occasional very rare cases of external contribution. His musical influences range from new-wave to techno, together with all the other electronica sub-genres that have developed from the end of the 80’s to the present day.
And his recent album, eloquently entitled “Technodelic Transmissions”, would seem to sum up perfectly all that the artist has produced since his official return to the world of music. “Cheeze”, an intriguing character invented by Negin and presented for the first time in two tracks on his previous album “Hungry Ghosts”, continues his “saga” in Cheeze Goes E-Mmental, the electro-erotic-space-noise-funky-rock groove that opens the album. But the echoes of distant universes and phenomena do not finish here. In fact we also find the psychedelia of Syd Barrett, the space rock of Hawkwind, Gong and the Ozric Tentacles in their album “Pungent Effulgent”, the noise of Sonic Youth and Tibetan rituals in the ironically entitled Jimi Plays Lhasa. And then there is the ambient, trance and chill-out music of the early 90’s in From Whence We Came. And more, the best electro-pop from the second half of the 80’s mixed in with a rock guitar kick in the enigmatic Yubune de Onara. And, as if this were not enough, out of the blue we get Indian ragas, “technocharmed” and “disturbed” like Just So about which all one can say is that it is “just so”; electronically modified noise, oscillating between the tonal and atonal systems in an alternation of chiaroscuros that puzzle the listener and is called, understandably, Ripples, Waves; the middle-eastern drone over some simple but suggestive, disturbing and effective maqamat in The Shattered Moon, The Dancing Stars; the ironic and multidimensional Yankee Goes To Bollywood whose name plays on the well-known band from the 80’s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, almost as if Negin wishes to underline the sidereal distance, both temporal and stylistic, that now separates him from the new wave and pop of the 80’s; the homage to traditional Chinese music entitled Yin Yang Yo Yo; and to finish up, the sound layers of Tears In The Fabric that gasify the notes to a point where they are no longer recognisable, and that merge into a nebulous cloud that seems to originate somewhere in Mongolia.
The key to Negin’s music lies in the very title of this illuminating album: it is “technodelic” music (electronic + psychedelic) which is not so much played as telepathically transmitted to the listener.
Meanwhile, on 19th September 2012, Negin, in an unstoppable burst of creative energy, published yet another “sound trip” entitled “Views From The Outer Rim” which can be purchased along with all his previous albums from any of the major online music sites.
This means that many of the releases that have appeared this year haven't received due comment, and they now sit like unborn children within my laptop, the aural relationships that yielded them destined never to receive a full consummation in print or text. Among them is Lee Negin's Technodelic Transmissions, which arrived as a blaze of psychedelic electronica, something that anyone familiar with Lee's work will be well acquainted with.
Fortunately, we have a second chance, because Lee Negin has blessed us with that all two rare thing, a second album in a calendar year. Not only that, but this is that even rarer beast, a second album in a year that manages to be even better than the first. Views From The Outer Rim has been assaulted me through my headphones for some weeks now with unabashed technodelic splendour, its electronic washes and experimental sideways leaps representing nothing less than some of Lee's best ever work.
The titles give you some idea of what to expect. The promised spacey bombardment of 'Decaying Orbit' spreads itself over eight minutes plus of expansive mind-splurge. 'Virtual Reality' combines hypnotic rhythms with worldy beats and sonic flourishes, forcing themselves into your brain and then subsiding to be replaced with something else just as evocative. In my November show, which will be streaming from next Thursday at Dandelion Radio, you'll hear my personal favourite 'Beyond The Planes', an insistently swarming piece of electro-amazement that starts as a swirling, woozy glimpse at another realm only to rise on the back of fleshy beats and swooning vocals as the second half of its four minutes kick in.
Don't be fooled. Early listens to Views From The Outer Rim may suggest a lightness of touch where, after several listens, you find instead the seductive grip of blank icy space clasping your consciousness into a submission whose origins are entirely brutal. It's this harsh seduction that lies in the best of Lee's work. I'll take the opportunity to say that you'll find it in Technodelic Transmissions too, but here, in this most recent 2012 release, is Negin at his mind-bludgeoning atmospheric best.
Go to http://leenegin.com, grab a copy of both of these releases and find out for yourself.
Posted by Mark Whitby at 09:55
With a glorious past behind him which saw him anticipate the arrival of new wave and post-punk, and after turning into something of a cult figure notwithstanding a lengthy silence, Lee Negin reappeared in the music world as an independent artist, and through his own record label ‘passingphasemusic’ he has self-produced an extraordinary quantity of material, all top quality and highly evocative. Negin, who can justly be defined as an across-the-board artist, having travelled practically all around the world, absorbing the influences of all the cultures he came across, has been living for the past five years in Seoul. Those who have been following him for a while and are familiar with his visionary, cosmopolitan and technodelic (electronic+psychodelic) world, are already familiar with the unexpected twists and turns that every new album reserves for its listeners. Even so, it is no easy task to keep up with his rapid evolution, especially as a certain length of time is required to fully absorb his multifaceted and three-dimensional music.
The feeling that is suscitated on listening to his latest offering The Lunar Collection, published on 9th March 2013, is that Negin has pressed on the accelerator in order to push himself beyond everything he has produced so far, towards more ambiguous, more obscure, more strictly cosmic and less reassuring destinations. Thus while with the album Views from the Outer Rim (September 2012) he appeared to have taken stock of the situation, now he can be found in a completely different dimension. In fact if his music could already be considered indeterminate, influenced by every kind of genre and style, mystic, psychedelic, ironic, pictorial, ambient and disorienting, now it is even more rarefied and ineffable, and to some extent disquieting, as is clearly shown by the cover art, all of which makes it difficult to speak or to write about in an appropriate and effective way.
Thus right from the very first track, Commute, we find ourselves in an underground station in Seoul, the one that Negin uses every day to travel to the university where he teaches. And the journey is apparently not a pleasant one, and leads nowhere, taking place as it does amidst unsettling, disturbing and whirling sounds, noises of every kind, laboured breathing, whispered voices overlayed and electronically filtered, without a centre and without gravity, where the foreground and background blur, the diegetic and the extradiegetic blend, the “real” sounds of the carriages travelling on the tracks, the voices announcing the arrival of the trains in four different languages (Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese), the breathing, and the people talking, all become “unreal”, while that which ought to represent the background, the musical comment, the soundtrack of the scene, on the contrary emerges and imposes itself upon it, becoming an integral part of it.
With Spare the Rod we enter another dimension, which we could define as ambient house. The title has a number of meanings: it could refer to a cudgel for hitting people, a pistol (which in old American slang was referred to as a ‘rod’) or a penis. We find a rhythmic element which to some extent gets our feet back on the ground, but all the rest continues to express a total and chaotic disharmony: the relentless overlaying of voice samples taken from old American propaganda films, a heavily filtered atonal double bass, a synth that timidly hints at the embryo of a theme made up essentially of four notes, and a squawking sound which, supported by the thrashings of the electronic drums, seems to deride both the listener and the composer himself. But what is being derided above all is the America of warmongering, of financial speculation and of puritan hypocrisy that demonizes the free expression of sexuality, as is evident in the video that accompanies the track.
A first breathing space opens with the following track, The Eve of Flight, where everything is suspended and gasified – through the use of mechanisms that are very similar to that used by Brian Eno in his “ambient” phase in the second half of the seventies and the early eighties – and flows into the surroundings, the walls, the furniture, the plants, the plates, the tables and the chairs. But the enchantment does not last long, because with Cosmic Ooze we find ourselves once again wrapped up in a disturbing, unsettling and decidedly destabilizing turbine of sounds, without even the hint of a base harmony. And so instead of coming back down to solid ground, after the flight, we continue to float in a disconnected way, without a destination, and without a centre of gravity, in a murky and uncertain space. But that’s not the end of it, because everything blurs and becomes even more complicated with In the Lighter Moments, which has little that is “lighter” and even less that is comprehensible. In fact, here East and West try to communicate with each other and find a compromise, but the synthesizer that reproduces a timbre very similar to the Japanese koto, doped with echo, delay and feedback effects, together with other sounds - a bass guitar, an ehru (a kind of Chinese violin), geese flying over a lake and even a walk across snow - hypnotic and at the same time destabilizing, all meet and clash with a sampled and vaguely free jazz drum, that appears to have as it only objective that of a further increase in the state of chaos that the listener has fallen into. The next track, Cheeze Sticks, sees the return of Cheeze, a weird character invented by Negin who has already appeared in two of his previous albums, Hungry Ghosts and Technodelic Transmissions: a character who, according to Negin, “continues to travel through the Universe, recording events for the amusement of the reptilian aliens”, repeating in a robotic voice and in different languages: “What the hell’s going on around here?”, and who, in his three-quarters electronic/industrial and one quarter ethnic attire, does little more than to confuse us even further.
Once again the air becomes more rarified with Blue Period, and breathing it makes us feel at ease, even if the Planet Earth is a million miles away, but then in a flash the colour (and consequently also the state of mind) changes from blue to gray (In the Gray) and the doubts and the disorientation return in a sort of interstellar storm. And finally the madness before the final shock arrives. It is the moment of Reinheitsgebot (which in Germany is the so-called “law of purity of German beer”), where in a disconnected and illogical manner Negin alternates phases of breakbeat/techno minimal (a clear homage to Kraftwerk), a kind of crazed polka (which brings to mind the sausages and buxom waitresses at an Oktoberfest) and something which could be defined as trance swing, added to which is the sample of a woman having an orgasm in a Japanese porn film (used before by Negin on the track Cheeze Takes Off) and an inverted rendering of the German national anthem, modified in speed and with effects. The aim of all this is to deride the “Reinheitsgebot” - which, according to Negin, would appear to have the same attitude towards beer as Hitler had to the “pure Aryan race” – and more in general to make fun of the folly and weaknesses of the human race.
In this way one arrives prepared, but never enough, at the conclusive Things Left Unsaid, which right from the beginning puts our minds in a state of alarm, with police car sirens leading us to imagine a chase and heart rending bleats that sound as if they come from a slaughterhouse. All this is followed by the vocalizing of a female voice manipulated with a reverse reverb effect - followed by the voice of Negin himself filtered through a vocoder and inverted so that is sounds like the recital of a Mongolian psalmody - voices balanced on the suspended notes first of a piano and then of a tenor horn, scattered, spread out and repeated by a delay effect. And once again we find ourselves dangling, in an almost total absence of gravity, with no centre, unsettled and lost.
Lee Negin, with this “lunar” collection, which seems to be fundamentally a celebration of the universal entropy, has once again shown himself capable, if there was still a need to do so, of changing and evolving constantly, while still maintaining an instantly recognizable imprint, and of possessing a natural ability to take even his most faithful listeners by surprise, always giving the impression at the end of every album that he wants to keep the level of expectation high for what will happen next, as if superimposed, after the end credits, runs the subtitle “to be continued...”.
"Lee Negin's 'The Cheeze Chronicles: Volume V' is not a conventional collection of album tunes. In breadth, it is operatic. In scope, it is mesmerising. The mind is dragged from one sonic experience to the next, sometimes feeling it's been dragged into the depths of space and sometimes back to earth with a rhythmic bang. It's Lee Negin's most ambitious work yet. It draws together all the bits that go into making his work so transcendent and mesmerising and slots them all together in one shuddering whole. This is music for the brain, the guts, the feet and anything else you've got." - Mark Whitby, Dandelion Radio (UK)