Sex Power
April 27, 2008

The following video – evidently a clip from the obscure 1970 film Sex Power by French director Henri Chapier – manages to combine female near-nudity, erotic choreography, a group of black men, a gigantic, leering strangely inflexible cobra and a soundtrack by Vangelis into one seriously Freudian extravaganza. Words fail me:

…and in the interests of gender equality, here’s a rather catchy little number from Turkey’s gift to the world of pop music, the seriously swivel-hipped Tarkan

…and in an attempt to give this post a veneer of cultural respectability, here’s a traditional interpretation of the same piece of classical Ottoman music…

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In the beginning…
March 7, 2008

As we approach Sunday-week’s 700th broadcast of UT, I thought it might be a good time to answer a question that many people have asked me over the years: how did you first become interested in ambient music?

Well… a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a 16 year-old schoolboy named George. One Thursday “activities day” afternoon, George was listening to the radio while painting a mural on the wall of the art room at De La Salle College, the school he was attending in the southern Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.

Suddenly George’s attention was seized by the sounds of an extaordinary piece of music, the likes of which he’d never heard before, emanating from the speaker and swirling around the room; music that consisted of a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated the strange, nonsensical words of an ethereal female vocalist. George was entranced.

Then, 3 minutes later, the song finished, and he soon forgot all about it.

Three years passed. It was now 1985. George found himself at university in Wagga Wagga, where he spent orientation week making many new friends.

Returning from a trip to town on the hot, overcast Saturday afternoon immediately preceding the beginning of semester, one of George’s newfound friends pulled an audio cassette out of the glovebox of his car, inserted it into the cassette deck and hit the play button.

Suddenly the vehicle was filled with – you guessed it – a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated an ethereal female vocal.

George quickly discovered that his friend not only knew the name of the artists responsible – but owned a huge collection of recordings by them – and other similar artists as well. It was the beginning of an infatuation with electronic, ambient and related atmospheric music that continues unabated nearly a quarter of a century later.

So what was the piece of music that started it all? See (and hear) for yourself…

And in case you’re wondering, the “female vocalist” is former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson – who is and always has been – a dude.

El Greco and Blade Runner
March 3, 2008

Coming up this week on UT 699 is the Australian radio premiere (yes, another one!) of the newly-released extended 3-CD soundtrack to Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, by the lord of the symphonic ambient cosmos – Vangelis Papathanassiou – who coincidentally celebrate his 65th birthday this month. Here’s a tiny sample of what’s in store…

…and as if that wasn’t enough to get you quivering with delight, Nev will also be serving up a selection of pieces from the Vangelis soundtrack to the new historic epic about the life of another famous child of the HellenesDomenicos Theotokopoulos – known to history as El Greco. The film promises enough heaving bosoms, evil inquisitors, passionate artistic histrionics and fabulous Baroque dancing to satisfy just about anyone with a pulse…

God is God
February 25, 2008

I’ve long been fascinated to hear how different artists interpret the same piece of music, and stumbled across these two examples of a track called God is God in my recent travels around YouTube.

This one’s by Laibach, a Slovenian experimental industrial music and performance art group that’s been around since 1980…

…and this is a very different version from Juno Reactor (aka Ben Watkins and friends), who among other things was responsible for the soundtrack to The Matrix – possibly the most pompous, over-rated science fiction film of all time. It features the voice of Natacha Atlas along with footage borrowed from The Color of Pomegranates, the extraordinary, gorgeously surreal 1968 film by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov

UT enters the blogosphere
February 22, 2008

Welcome to the official Ultima Thule blog.

The UT team intend to use this forum to bring our listeners regular updates from across the ambient universe – including new release information, reviews, interviews and lots of other interesting stuff that we can’t, for one reason or other, put to air on the show itself.

We hope you enjoy it, and look forward to your input.

To kick things off, here’s a sample of funky middle-eastern now-sounds from world citizen Natacha AtlasLeysh Natarak? (Why are we fighting?)…

…and a classic 1960s concert performance by the great Egyptian singer Om Kalthoum; popularly known as “the Star of the East”, 4 million people thronged the streets of Cairo for her funeral in 1975, and her albums still outsell those of many contemporary performers nearly 40 years later.  The track is entitled El Ghazaly…