Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Forced Nostalgia

Casino versus Japan - Bound By Your Smile

Most years when I was growing up, my Mum and Dad used to take my brother and me and whoever else was around, to the Steam Fair held in Stourpaine, a village in Dorset not far from when we lived. As an event, it seemed to symbolise the end of the summer, held as it was over the last weekend in August. The dreaded back to school was looming, but memories of camping holidays in Cornwall or France were still fresh in the mind. It was often good training for future excursions to the Glastonbury Festival, as it always seemed to piss with rain and be a stodgy mud bath, with puddles capable of sucking your wellies clean off.

As it’s name suggests, the fair was a meeting point for steam powered contraptions from all over England and Europe, including traction engines, locomotives, steam rollers and ploughs. Sounds thrilling, eh? Well, in a bizarre way it was. Being surrounded by steam monsters belching out smoke and ear-shredding noise was an exhilarating experience, and there was even proper a fun fair and that meant candyfloss and dodgems. However, the real highlight for me was the huge collection of fairground organs that used to attend. If you’re not sure what I mean, the above photo is of one of them. Varying in size, they were powered by the steam engines themselves, and featured a vast array of pipes, emitting different pitches from trombone blasts, trumpet parps and flutey high notes, to many different organ sounds. As well as the pipes, there was an extensive range of percussion. The pipes were built into garish front work and surrounded by various statues, many of which moved in time with the music that was created in a similar way to those pianos that play themselves. I still don’t really understand how they work, but as a kid I thought they were operated by ghosts straight out of Scooby Doo.

Anyway, what’s all this whimsical steam babble got to do with an mp3 blog? Well, not a great deal actually. Apart from the fact that the reason why I started thinking about all this is that every time I listen to any music by Casino versus Japan (aka Erik Kowalski) I start thinking about fairground organs and how good his music would sound pumping out of one. His melodies play a sort of ‘forced nostalgia’ trick on me. I feel like I’ve heard them somewhere before, buried way back in my childhood, and they start evoking memories that aren’t connected to the music as it hadn’t even been made at that time. Am I making sense? It doesn’t really matter. Just listen to ‘Bound By Your Smile’. Immense woozy organs envelop an exquisite plinky plonky melody. It’s like a soothing opiate blanket wrapping itself around you. Bloody lovely. Where does it take you?

Visit Casino versus Japan website
Casino versus Japan at My Space
Find out more about Casino versus Japan at Wikipedia
Buy Casino versus Japan from Norman Records
Visit the Great Dorset Steam Fair website
A few mp3’s from fairground organs can be downloaded here


1 comment:

2fs said...

Two amusing facts about Erik Kowalski and me: (1) He was in a writing class I taught once, and he works (worked?) at my favorite record store; (2) The name of his British label is my surname (no relation).