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Book Review: Bangkok - Angelic Allusions

by Lang Reid

Architect Barry Bell has written and photographed a new book on the nation’s capital, Bangkok. Called Bangkok - Angelic Allusions (ISBN 1-86189-157-1), and from the outset, let me assure you it is like no other book on Bangkok, and goodness knows there have been plenty! It was written during 2002 and published this year through a UK publishing house and was printed in China.

It is divided into chapters covering such diverse sections as roofs, canals, streets, river, etc, interspersed with esoterically named chapters such as Bangkok: Formless City, Floating City or Angelic Emissaries. Most pages have very high quality photographs as illustrations, though many do not appear to relate directly to the text.

Architect turned author, Barry Bell has tried to get inside the character of Bangkok, to a depth no other author has tried. In doing so, he has taken a novel approach to the subject, but just where this book sits is difficult to imagine.

The ISBN nomenclature probably gives the best clue to the reason for this book, being catalogued under the heading Architecture/Travel. It attempts to look discerningly at Bangkok and dissect its very being through architectural examination; however, this indiscriminate use of architectural assessment does not, for me at least, quantify Bangkok, its current form or explain the reasons for its sociology.

The narrative is a collection of paradoxical paradigms, if you will forgive my confusing, yet convergent use of language - but that is how this book is written. Take the description of the sois, given as “Spatial hybrids, inhabited in strange ways. Places of distinction in the urban field.” “The perpendicular passages establish a rhythm along the main avenue, measuring out its linear extension in regular intervals of diverse events.” Or try the following descriptive narrative on the sea to the south of Bangkok, “The sea is a disruptive element in the psychological geography of the historic capital. An alien character of compelling difference or the replication of a forgotten dream?” Oh my giddy aunt!

With this text, which at times defies description in its convoluted imagery, it is not a book that can be read through, but rather, I found I was having to re-read to try to attempt to understand the meaning of the contradictory phrases. If this were a university textbook trying to stimulate undergraduate minds to explore the endless possibilities of life outside the cloistered halls, then perhaps (and a very big perhaps) this book would be more understandable.

The photographs are generally excellent, but for some reason, author Bell has not titled them, but reserves this for a List of Illustrations found at the back of the book. This means repetitive turning of pages and becomes eventually a chore of annoyance and not a voyage of discovery.

Oh yes, I almost forgot - there are a couple of maps at the end of the book as well. Unfortunately none of the roads have been given names!

At an RRP of B. 1,250 I cannot see this getting on the best-seller list. It certainly won’t make it onto my library shelves. The review copy was made available by Bookazine.

Mott's CD Reviews: Tangerine Dream - Zeit

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

4 Stars Rating ****

After the relative success of Alpha Centauri, Tangerine Dream were soon back in the studio to record their third album. The underground music scene, now suitably impressed, waited for the band’s next move.

So Dream main man Edgar Froese did what he always did - and again changed the line-up.

Organist Steve Schroyder was fired for freaking out once too often. Schroyder promptly joined fellow Krautrockers Ash Ra Tempel where freaking out was par for the course. Their ‘Seven Up’ album was an acid-spiked cosmic trip lead by the hallucinogenic guru himself Dr. Timothy Leary.

To replace the talented Schroyder, Froese drafted in the equally gifted Peter Baumann who had been playing organ in a band called The Ants. The fact that he was also a fan of surrealist fine art, which was a passion of Froese, might well have helped.

With Baumann in place on a kind of come-and-go basis, the most stable and creative of the many Tangerine Dream line-ups was in place - and for the next five years would take electronic music to new mind-altering heights.

After the electronic rock-based format of the first two albums, what came next was a total surprise. Their new opus was a double album with one track per side. Zeit was not an album you could freak out to. It almost seemed that nothing was happening - no thrashing drums or screaming psychedelic guitars, just lots of strange pulsating synths and a few creepy cellos.

Zeit, which means ‘time’, was based on the strange if somewhat pretentious philosophy that time was in fact motionless and only existed in our own minds. To many people in the early 1970s who were listening to the likes of Leary this was probably a perfectly rational explanation, although some of the less than enthusiastic reviewers would have liked a bit more rock and roll with their time.

Holed up once more in The Dierks studio in Cologne, the band enlisted the help of a cello quartet, which included members of the medieval folk group olderin, and the call also went out to Schroyder to join the sessions.

The first track, or movement, is the splendidly titled ‘Birth of Liquid Plejades’, an epic soundscape that slowly wakes and emerges from the speakers as a drone of cellos. For seven minutes the quartet play a tuneless dirge that occasionally changes and is entwined with a slowly oscillating synthesizer.

The cellos give way to several minutes of classic Tangerine Dream, courtesy of the big Moog synthesizer which is played by Florian Fricke from the group Popol Vuh. His haunting lines are backed by a somber organ which eventually rises to take over proceedings.

The Moog was a vastly expensive piece of equipment that resembled a small telephone exchange, and it required a serious amount of knowledge and patience to make it work. It obviously impressed Franke as it soon became part of his on-stage set up and he was never seen without it.

A few seconds short of 20 minutes, the piece ends with the organ gradually fading into the ether. It’s almost as if the engineer had said ‘that’s enough’, as I am sure the musicians could have just carried on and on.

‘Nebulous Dawn’ sounds like it was recorded in the bowels of some vast electrical power station. Dark slowly brooding synths fade in and out and occasionally build in speed and volume. Then at around the six-minute mark there is a brief snatch of the pulsating rhythms that will define so many of their future releases. Perhaps Franke had finally got the hang of the Moog only to lose it again before the return of the strange industrial noises that bubble and vibrate their way through the most non-musical piece the band had yet recorded.

The usually dominant guitar playing of Froese at last makes an appearance during the beginning of the third movement, Origin of Supernatural Possibilities. He barely strums the strings for a few brief minutes before an almost living synthesized pulse fills the room - this is headphone music par excellence. It’s as if some vast primitive amoeba is crawling in the basement trying to escape. It isn’t, of course, but if you were on acid in a Berlin bedsit in 1972 it must have come pretty close.

The amoeba makes a couple more attempts to get out before giving way to the almost soothing drones of the cellos or more synths, or some ancient sound generator put through an old echo unit? Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is making the strange ghostly noises that bring this living collage to a close.

The album ends with the title track, which also points the way ahead with several ideas and sounds, that both the band and Froese as a solo artist would later use. It’s also the track during which almost nothing changes, gentle drones gradually drift in and out punctuated by the occasional high pitched squeal.

Zeit is where the whole of time stands still, the theory actually sounding credible. Just as something is about to happen, it doesn’t. Then 17 minutes have gone by and the piece is over.

As an album, Zeit can be played over and over and still never be fully heard. It sounds slightly different every time, which is possibly the notion Froese, Franke and Baumann had during a timeless ten days in Cologne.

The cover artwork is once again a combined Froese effort. Edgar’s total eclipse continues his fascination with the universe, while his wife Monique’s strangely disturbing photography always seemed to suit the mood of the album.

Without doubt Zeit is a Krautrock master work still capable of surprises without having to shock. The album which took the band to the edge of international recognition, still sounds timeless 30 years on.


Edgar Froese
Peter Baumann
Chris Franke

Track Listing

1. Birth Of Liquid Plejades
2. Nebulous Dawn
3. Origin Of Supernatural Probabilities
4. Zeit

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]