Saturday, 26 June 2010


Now for some Auditory Integration Training.
Otologists explain (and they should know), that "Hearing is not the same as listening", because hearing is passive and listening is active. A wee reference for later.
So, in 1989, Dundee improvisers and sound manipulators, Novus, put on a show at the DRCU up the Hulltoon.
Band line-up was - Mike Kane - Gerry Mitchell - Paul Smith - Brem - Ewan - Kevin L Guthrie.
Doing away with any thought of rhythmic and melodic structures, they set about downplaying personal expression in favour of the collective process, a method which also included swapping instruments during the performance.
The sound you encounter at first on the footage below, appears to be a bit of a hubbub with them all "soloing" together, but that's your cue to allow your ears to go roaming around the stage. You'll discover all sorts of interesting things going on in there, and then just as you settle on one instrument for a moment, something happens elsewhere that sets your ears off on a different instrument to find out what's cooking further along. It's actually good fun.
It's a bit like going to a market with all the stallholders bawling, trying to grab your attention - there's no need to feel intimidated by it, just relax, have a wander about, and you never know, you may even stumble upon a tasty treat for your efforts.
The song Gerry sings at the start I recognised as a segment of "Desire", a tune they brought out as a single, but it is just one of many bits & bobs going on in the mix.
The clip is only a few minutes long, taken from a piece that went on for around an hour or so.
The thing is, getting back to my intro - are you willing to make the effort to listen...or are you gonna turn a deaf ear?!
The choice is yours.
Thanks to MK


  1. Who filmed this? Doesn't look like anybody else was watching.

  2. I don't actually know who the cameraman was but there was an audience present. The camera does zoom in on a few faces in the crowd during a different sequence in the footage.

  3. same as vex- pointless, humerlous & self indulgent

  4. the cameraman was Joe Jordan (the bear in retro land) may have been "pointless, humerlous & self indulgent" but it was a fucking great backdrop hand painted by gerry , if you dont like the music admire the art !
    as for same as vex ...etc..of course its self indulgent ! why would I bother otherwise , do you not see the fucking effort involved in putting a show like that on years ahead of its time , that would probably now be given a huge grant to perform at DCA or some other wank shite venue - maybe i should have gone to art school and done conceptual / time based art or shite like that !!!

    mike kane

  5. Anon at 16:34 - can you recall what you were doing back then? Sitting at home watching Dynasty perhaps?!

  6. i posted the pointless comment.
    2 questions
    1/ in what way was it "years ahead of it's time"
    2/ what came later that was an extension of this and was credible?
    also if it was deliberately self indulgent, is that not what music of that time set out to eradicate ie the self indulgent twaddle that was elp, yes etc.
    boo hooray and aaga did a lot of innovative stuff-vex and novus; utter nonsense.
    and to retro dundee; no never watched dynasty-what was it like? har har- i prefered to make music then and now.
    what a (wonderful) life!!

  7. Now Anon, if you had expressed the first comment that way, I think it would have been more acceptable and less antagonistic. There are a lot of people who use the "Anon" option as a shield to hide behind and to chuck rotten tomatoes from!
    Guilty? Not guilty?
    Anyway, I can't actually answer either of your 2 questions. I know the likes of Derek Bailey and a few others played this type of music in the 70's.
    It's difficult to agree on a general definition of "self indulgent". The prog-rock criticism was because of the pompous "look at me, I'm a god" kind of performance. I wouldn't say Novus is that.
    I think Mike would have to answer these 2.
    Afraid I can't reply to your 3rd question either as to what Dynasty was like. I haven't the foggiest. Never saw an episode in my life!
    Would you care to share any music output you were involved in back then, with Retro? GG

  8. retro-
    sorry the first 2 questions were to vex, and the original comment was based on peersonal experience.
    not guilty- wasn't throwing rotten tomatoes, only expressing an opinion. for me that's what makes a healthy debate.
    vex has already admitted it was self induldgent ergo contrived, which to me is pointless, and it was absolutely humourless which is backed up by vex's response.
    so rather than my comment being antagonistic, which is ironic, it was honest and has been confirmed as being accurate.
    neither was my comment a personal atack- most of the people i met then are decent folk including the guys in novus.
    it'll make this post more intriguing if i remain anonymous. suffice to say i've been involved with a number of things already on this site. some good, some not so good!
    this hasn't half brightened up a dull sunday!!
    and you won't believe it, but dynasty is on sky ch 149 right now!!

  9. anon
    1. when i said years ahead of its time I meant no one else was doing what we were doing locally , now you get lots of free form improvised music around , timid notion in dundee , , Le weekend in stirling , Instal in glascow all similar events.
    2. what became credible was the festivals i have mentioned above, I watched Thurston Moore improvise with 2 sax players in Stirling and everyone was in awe , we did it 10 years earlier and the audience left.
    I may not be as articulate as you , not having a go just a fact ! but I meant that I think all people expressing them self to the public must be in some way "self indulgent" could be wrong , could be right ? - think there is a song there !
    not sure if this clears up anything , I am just a guy who owns guitars and played in a few bands, but was pretty good at it !
    - a bit of humour !!!!

    mike kane

  10. I suppose that there is another issue here. I have been (and for that I think I now apologise) one of the people on this forum who have regularly said "if you didn't do anything creative, etc" during the 60's, 70's, 80's then somehow you shouldn't have a voice.

    I actually don't think that's right anymore. I did things because I wanted to. And I suspect that Mike, etc did too.

    This blog and this forum is great because, generally speaking, GG doesn't judge.

    It might be a better forum if the carpers and nay sayers still have their opportunity to comment and that, perhaps, the long ago perpetrators saw it as that - lovely, but long ago and far away.


  11. Hey, who cares if it's called self-indulgent twaddle. There's a million tunes going on in there and that's what makes this sound so good. It's like the big bang, so many possibilities evolving from that creative explosion.

    The mic must have been too close to the guitar amp but it just goes to show what was happening way back in the nothing 90's. A nice record of people not trying to be pop stars, not following the trends, but doing their own thing. Yesterdays cutting edge is tomorrows standard.

  12. For the record, no I think this is not good.

    Mike did loads of brilliant stuff in aaga, Wilderness Children, etc. So for godsakes stop thinking comment is an attack on him.

  13. 26 square yards of shagpile please Ewan.thanks.
    behar carpets indeed, can you remember the name of the supermarket it turned into, one of the most difficult shoplifting venues in the whole of Dundee.
    oh aye novus live, frightening for the uninitiated but once you got used to them you could sing along, with any tune/words you fancied.:)
    but no bass please.
    it's all getting a bit wordy you guys. is this something to do with the literary festival that's happening at the moment?
    the bear

  14. In response to "It's like the big bang, so many possibilities evolving from that creative explosion."
    What a load of pretentious hyperbole!!
    Wordy enough?

  15. I remember at school when I was aged about 14, getting pelters fae a' meh classmates when the English teacher asked what an onomatopoeia was, and I was the only one in our class who knew! Since then, I've known not to show off!!

  16. I didn't much like Mike's stuff at the time, but there's no doubt AAGA et al were a huge part of the local scene back then. Even finding myself not enjoying it gives me a wee pang of nostalgia. Anonymous is missing the point completely.

  17. To Retro
    I made the "pretentious ..." comment but it was actually meant as a joke, albeit i realise it was a bit obscure.
    It was in response to the "big bang" and "yesterday's cutting edge.." comments, which i thought were in jest- they weren't serious were they?!

  18. Well I assessed the "Big Bang" comment as serious, and your "hyperbole" reply as a light hearted bit of banter. Nothing wrong with either comment in my opinion!

  19. very interesting mix of audio and visual its as if this is trying to tell us something about touch smell and taste being the ultimate seasoning of sensation, delicious but not always required or available.

  20. utter pish...

    I was a member of novus...
    the problem was there wasn't enough silence...

    when there was silence.. it was a thing of beauty. it just didn't happen very often.

    I also don't think we were ahead of our time.. what we were doing was incredibely obvious... i.e.trying (yet failing) to be free. nothing new in that.

  21. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed being in Novus...

    We just didn't give ourselves enough space. Too much going on all at the same time. The comment about being like a market is quite accurate in a way.

    This is what I wrote abuut Novus a few years back:

    "This (improvisation) mainly appealed to me since you never had to practice. We recorded about four or five epic albums, all on tape from four track, mostly unlistenable, a bit like 'sun ra' meets 'the shaggs', however there were moments of intense beauty, on reflection probably not quite enough. We produced a 7' ep and at one point were being interviewed for some art magazine (can't remember the name)The high point (for me)was at a gig in Cafe Club. It was Saturday night and packed. We had been playing for only five minutes when the local chapter of a biker gang came on stage, threatened violence if we continued (we later found out it was 'their' club). They literally cut the leads to the P.A. so we couldn't continue. It was the best gig of my life."

  22. Hi Reverbaphon (Paul)

    was slightly disappointed in your "utter pish " comment , Novus was (for anyone who is interested) a group that was formed by me ... inviting Ewen and Kevin to reform my old band VEX , then, after time asking Gerry , Brem and yourself then Derek to be involved , and renaming the band Novus (which was Ewens idea), I for one was totally excited / committed to the idea that we never rehearsed , never even knew what instrument we might play , just made "Music" for years I was convinced this was the only way forward, then I left the band , bored by people "forming experimental bands" and then I went on to form the Gerils , not as experimental ,but still not conventional and Novus split and we all went our separate ways .
    we have all gone on to make "music" and i hope you are having great success at this.
    cant believe you wrote "utter pish"

    mike kane

  23. my utter pish comment
    was reffering to the musicology comments which were made previously to my comment.. definitely not to the musical content or band.

    sorry for the confusion... I wouldn't have stuck with the band had I thought they were pish.

    on the contrary, I had a great time playing with all you guys and I truely believe we did some times produce remarkable and beatiful music.

    I still think there should have been more space for the music to get out though.

    I’ll be more careful with my wording next time

    all the best Mike

  24. Hi Paul

    slightly embarrassed that i did not read your comment properly and noticed it related to the previous post !
    I also enjoyed the time and the music Novus performed and was therefore confused by your comment (that I misunderstood) you know me , always react without thinking first !
    It was , for me , a wonderful and interesting time that I am proud of and think we produced music that was "different" but still assessable and enjoyable !
    hope you are well



  25. No worries Mike.

    Just thinking about the gigs. The technology couldn’t take the saturation. Most of our gigs were sound engineered by someone who didn’t really get what we were doing so didn’t really care what we sounded like. It was the old story of sounding completely different (worse) after the sound check. That’s why I always wreckoned we should have allowed more space. More separation to compensate. These days (as you say – install etc) we’d have more chance. There was one gig though Caf√© Club. The sound was just great. Probably luck or maybe the acoustics of the space. The visuals were great too. Then the finale, five minutes after we started. The Dundee version of ‘the rite of spring’. That’s why I think we weren’t doing anything new. What we were doing was timeless. That’s what was so exciting about Novus.