Today the second post on the man who wanted to be able to slide and bend notes as I'd learnt to do with the violin and so decided to take all the frets off the bass guitar. He brought the ultimate background instrument to the foreground in a wide range . .... N'Joy
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Born Anthony Michelides, July 24 1958, Mick Karn emigrated to London as a Greek Cypriot when he was 3 years old and from an early age was looking for ways to express himself. He began with the chromatic mouth organ at the age of 7 and then the violin when 11, both lasted just 3 years before he was offered the chance to take up the bassoon with the school orchestra and later chosen as a member of the London School Symphony Orchestra. After a big concert, which was broadcast on Radio 4, the bassoon was stolen from him on the way home. His school refused to buy him another, and in anger at their decision, he bought a bass guitar for £5 from a school friend.. And so ended Mick's career in classical music.
By this time, he had already made friends with like-minded teenagers David Sylvian and younger brother, Steve Jansen who were coincidentally both learning their own instruments, David an acoustic guitar and Steve, bongos. It seemed a natural progression that David move on to an electric guitar, and if Steve were then to progress to drums, they could form a band together and escape the confines of south London. That was the plan and a month later they performed for the first time as Japan on June 1st 1974 when Mick was 15. Over the next two years, they each concentrated on developing their own styles, rehearsing their own music together every day.
MK: "I wanted to be able to slide and bend notes as I'd learnt to do with the violin and so decided to take all the frets off the bass guitar. I also began playing bass directly after the bassoon which, although a bass instrument, often plays lead melodies, both of these factors were major influences in shaping the way I play.
Mick bumped into Richard Barbieri one morning (another school friend) who he invited to one of their daily rehearsals. Richard instantly wanted to join the band. They needed a keyboard player and weren't too worried that Richard had no experience with music because more importantly, he had a steady job working at a bank, and so became our main source of income for the band's equipment. Japan were now a four piece and ready to advertise for another guitarist (Rob Dean) and management, which led on to their first record contract with Ariola/Hansa in 1977 and subsequently, their first album release.
Punk rock was at it's peak and as a reaction to it, Japan decided to not be seen as part of the fashion and so went in the opposite direction, creating their own look with long dyed hair and make up. Tours in Europe and the U.S. saw them playing to hostile audience, they were not well received, with the exception of one territory, Japan, where they instantly became the number one foreign act and remain to this day a lasting influence, both musically and visually. By the time of their third album release Quiet Life in 1979, punk was no longer dominant and Japan's sound had altered drastically. Mick brought saxophones and clarinets into the arrangements, and there seemed to be a string of lookalike/soundalike bands emerging in the U.K. Japan were heralded as innovators of a new sound and era in music, the New Romantics. For Japan, this simply meant it was time to, once again, move on leaving the others behind. No-one could have foreseen the direction they would take with their fifth album Tin Drum in 1981, a blend of Chinese pop music with their own distinctive mood making it a truly outstanding and original work. Nor could anyone have predicted it would be Japan's last studio album.
By now, Mick Karn had most certainly been heard and released his first solo album Titles on Virgin in 1982. His unique style had musicians from all types of genres wanting his contribution to their own work, from Jeff Beck to Gary Numan. That same year, he was chosen by Pete Townshend to be part of a supergroup to perform for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in celebration of their engagement. Mick left a marked impression at the event, which later led onto collaborative work with Midge Ure and recordings with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading.
Karn had also surprised the art world by holding his first sculpture exhibition in 1981 to outstanding critical acclaim, with many reviews and features in columns and magazines not usually frequented by musicians. Proving himself as an accomplished artist with his often disturbing works of art, he has held 5 exhibitions in London, Japan and Italy. The next project was to be a trio with vocalist Pete Murphy (Bauhaus) and drummer Paul Lawford. Dali's Car released The Waking Hour in 1984, with all instrumentation written and played by Mick, an experiment in stripping music down to it's bare minimum, whilst retaining a strong mood and Middle Eastern flavour. A taste from which he'd picked up from his mother who used to listen to it.
1987 saw Karn's 2nd solo release Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters. Relying heavily on his classical beginnings, using woodwind and brass more extensively as well as harmonica, accordion and even choirs to complete it's haunting themes, as well as Steve Jansen on drums and in the producer's chair. Truly a step away from the expected rock genre and into a field of it's own. By now, Mick's bass guitar had reached the world of Jazz and the next few years saw him working with some remarkable players. An experimental project, Polytown, saw Karn work with David Torn and drummer Terry Bozzio. There then came another surprise decision and a sojourn from solo work as Japan reformed for a one off album under the new name of Rain Tree Crow in 1991. The recording held no reference at all to where Japan had left off, but rather showed a distinct maturity amongst the members. Mick decided to play an unfamiliar five string bass to differentiate his playing from the style listeners had become accustomed to, and in some cases left the bass out altogether, concentrating on bass clarinet as the lead instrument.
Through the associations he'd made within the Jazz world, Karn recorded his next album Bestial Cluster in 1993 for German Jazz label CMP . Co-produced with David Torn, who also played the guitars, Steve Jansen on drums and Richard Barbieri on Keyboards, a Bestial Cluster tour with the same line-up of Europe and dates in Japan followed. CMP also signed Polytown to their label. The album Polytown was written recorded and mixed in three weeks and released in 1994. A staggering feat for any group of musicians, improvised, heavy and far from Jazz. Karn recorded another album for CMP in 1995 - The Tooth Mother, with Natasha Atlas on Middle Eastern vocals. This was to be Karn's most ethnic CD to date and, curiously, also his most funky, drawing on both of those early influences to enhance the ever present dark moods.
Mick's work with Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri decided to form their own record label Medium Productions as an outlet for collaborative work independent of limitations set by major labels. Forming their own unit JBK, they recorded several CDs together (Beginning To Melt, Seed, _ism ) including a live recording "Playing in a Room With People" taken from some rare shows in Tokyo and London . Included on Mick"s discography for Medium is a collaboration with Japanese Drum and Bass artist Yoshihiro Hanno, Liquid Glass released in 1998. Mick's next solo recording was to be for the Medium Productions label in 2000 and took a distinct step away from the last two CMP albums. Eye a Path was to be Karn's most introspective and personal of albums, drawing on troubled past experiences as it's source of inspiration. However, he was delighted to see the response from fellow musicians lead to an eventual remix album in 2002 entitled: Each Path a Remix, the contributors being Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Torn, Richard Barbieri, Paul Wong and Claudio Chianuro.
Mick then shifted gear again, this time towards what can only be described as instrumental pop. More Better Different was released in 2004 by Invisible Hands Music and reviews certainly agree with the sentiments in the title. 2005 Karn released a EP called Love's Glove and released his 7th solo studio recording, Three Part Species as well as going on an own extensive tour later that year. In 2007 he released Selected a compilation from his own hand. Karn had left London in 2004 to live in Cyprus with his wife and son, financially enabling himself to keep working as a musician/artist.
In 2009, Karn also released his autobiography, titled Japan & Self Existence, available through his website and Lulu, which details his music career, his interests in sculpture and painting, his childhood, relationships, and family. The next year he released The Concrete Twin, basicly a soloalbum , he renewed contact with Peter Murphy his former Dalis Car partner and it was agreed to do another Dalis Car album. The project was cut short, however, as Karn had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He died on 4 January 2011. Five of the tracks they did record were released on 5 April 2012 as an EP entitled InGladAloneness.
In June 2010, Karn announced on his website that he had been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer, though the specific type of cancer was not mentioned. According to David Torn, Karn's cancer had apparently already spread and he was undergoing chemotherapy. The website announcement stated that Karn had been struggling financially for some time, and appealed for donations to help pay for his medical care and provide financial assistance for his family. In addition, several people Karn has worked with, in particular Midge Ure, Porcupine Tree, and Masami Tsuchiya, announced concerts in support of the appeal. According to a website update dated 3 September 2010, the funds raised by the appeal enabled Karn and family to move back to London where Karn received treatment. However, the cancer had spread beyond the possibility of treatment, and Karn died at home in London on 4 January 2011.
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Released on a few labels over a short period of time, Liquid Glass first appeared in 1998 on Flavor of Sound (Japan) and Medium Productions (U.K.). The album is the result of a collaboration between Mick Karn and Yoshihiro Hanno. If the British bassist's signature fretless sound dominates throughout, this is nonetheless the Japanese techno artist's project first and foremost. Hanno composed the pieces and programmed the tracks, and added keyboards, guitars, and samples. Then Karn put in his riffs and solos, played extra clarinet and bass clarinet, and recited a few words that were later embedded in the final mix. This ranks among Hanno's most mainstream releases (he would do much more avant-gardist music just a few months later, starting with April). Rhythms alternate between dreamy ambient techno and driving drum'n'bass. The fast-paced tracks remain tasteful, thanks to varied arrangements, a flair in keeping the mixes crystal-clear, and of course Karn's bass, seductive as ever. The softer numbers, such as "Seafall" and "Lunette," provide the best moments, simply because both artists benefit from having more room to stretch. Kosei Yamamoto adds a touch of soprano sax on these two titles, too. The album is tied up with a marine theme reflected in the track titles, but it hardly makes an impact on the music itself (with the exception of a fog horn in "Sail and Wind").
Mick Karn & Yoshihiro Hanno - Liquid Glass (flac 245mb)
01 Traveler's Diary 7:11
02 Seafall 6:20
03 Primitive Water 5:48
04 A Boy With Wings 6:17
05 Dialogue I, II, III 8:37
06 Stereoscope 2:11
07 Lunette 5:32
08 Sail And Wind 5:25
Mick Karn & Yoshihiro Hanno - Liquid Glass ( ogg 99mb)
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Karn's fifth keeps things basic, yet thanks to some accomplished technology, complex. After the travelogues of Japan, Latin America, Arabesque and Greek treatments of past works, this is an English album - and very much a solo one (he never works with more than two people on the same track). Each Eye examines both the funky elements of Tooth Mother and simple bass, synth and clarinet notepads of Titles and Dreams of Reason. Up To Nil at first sounds like an out-take from Jean Michel Jarre's Zoolook. Nil has some brilliant lyrics (I must be vile with a girlproof smile) but Karn uses them as a mumble but for its funky hand clap chorus Karn not intentionally sounds Bowiesque while Maya adds some finesse with a simple 'Yeah.' The most memorable pieces are the ones resembling art film soundtracks. Two examples are The Night We Never Met and The Forgotten Puppeteer - a beautiful piece of twinkling keys and clarinet. Among the slow there are a couple of contemporary grooves in Angel's Got A Lotus adding a dash a cool amid drum programming and murmuring bass, and Venus Monkey. Both Latin Mastock and My Mrs T look to the electronics of Hector Zazou and jazzier shades of Ryuichi Sakamoto. The washed out Serves You Rice continues the Oriental iconographies of old. Good for a rainy day, in a good way.
Mick Karn - Each Eye A Path + Remixes ( flac 375mb)
01 Up To Nil 3:53
02 The Salmon Of Knowledge 2:46
03 Latin Mastock 5:41
04 The Forgotten Puppeteer 3:00
05 My Mrs T 3:32
06 Angel's Got A Lotus 2:49
07 Serves You Rice 4:18
08 The Night We Never Met 6:17
09 Venus Monkey 6:10
10 Left Big 4:01
11 TFP (Rmx Yoshihiro Hanno) 3:27
12 Hong Kong Mastock (Rmx Paul Wong) 6:46
13 Knowledge Suspended (Rmx Claudio Chianura) 4:02
14 Re-Nil (Rmx Yoshihiro Hanno) 6:16
15 Big Left (Rmx Ryuichi Sakamoto) 5:40
Mick Karn - Each Eye A Path + Remixes ( ogg 155mb)
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Three Part Species is a rich delight of ethnic beats and ambient swirls perfect for enjoying chill-out cocktails as you lie back and savour the musical and sartorial debt we owe him. It’s no less an achievement than his previous efforts but it is clear that he doesn’t particularly need to push the envelope any more.
The result is lush and rich, relaxed and confident. Opening track Of & About delivers haunting swirls over a slow percussion that gets trancier as it goes along, backed by a steady beat that holds everything together in a warm embrace. This is followed by Twitchy Hand Mover, one of the dancier tracks, and like the other gems you’ll find here, it’s mostly instrumental. The remaining eight vary from repetitive beats and resonating bass to the deep, sinking down under woodwinds of I’ll Be Here Dreaming.
There’s haunting strings and piano melodies on tracks such as Chocolate Was a Boy and economically rationed vocals throughout the album, used sparingly and to great effect. Female whispers echo in and out of All You Have, while a male counterpart booms out with gravelly horror narration on The Wrong Truth, by far the album’s best track. With its paranoid, sinking and trancy feel and incongruous cymbals, it comes across like an imagined score to a gloriously shot film noir, dubbed into a language you don’t quite understand but like to look at nonetheless. Beautiful.
Mick Karn - Three Part Species ( flac 296mb)
01 Of & About 6:25
02 Twitchy Hand Mover 6:58
03 Floating Home 3:43
04 All You Have (Voc.Becky Collins) 6:05
05 I'll Be Here, Dreaming 4:10
06 Red Film 4:13
07 Chocolate Was A Boy 4:28
08 Pitta Pop 5:05
09 The Wrong Truth 5:45
10 Regretted 5:21
Mick Karn - Three Part Species (ogg 115mb)
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previously, Rhotation 49
Mick Karn - Titles (ogg 91mb)
Mick Karn - Titles (flac ^ 251mb)
Dalis Car - The Waking Hour (ogg 180mb)
Dalis Car - The Waking Hour (flac 185mb)
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