19 Jan 2017

Playlist: Sean O’Hagan’s top Basil Kirchin tracks

Sean O’Hagan, the man behind avant-pop outfit The High Llamas, navigates his way through Kirchin’s groundbreaking back catalogue.

Don’t miss We Start Counting – Sean O’Hagan’s cinema-inspired opening event of Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story. Discover why this forgotten genius has influenced Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, Evan Parker, The Specials’ Jerry Dammers and more – Hull City Hall, 17-19 February.

Where do you start with Basil Kirchin’s music? A lifelong musical experimenter, Kirchin’s back catalogue takes innovation to the next level – but he’s not always the easiest artist to introduce yourself to.

This playlist, from multi-instrumentalist and Kirchin fan Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas, Microdisney) is a brilliant place to start. Taking in Soho-inspired documentary soundtracks, proto-funk and delicate library music, this overview of Kirchin gives you the chance to get to know this quiet man from Hessle Road.

Sean’s notes below talk through the instrumentation and influence behind each of these tracks, giving a sense of what they each mean to him. Share your thoughts on what these tracks mean to you in the comments below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

The Wondrous Basil Kirchin – Sean O’Hagan

The Freelance tracks on this playlist come from the soundtrack to a British thriller Freelance 1971 starring Ian McShane and directed by Frank McGaughy. The trademark trumpet is the lead melodic instrument with the sustained organ holding the chords. The arrangements weave in and out of space and structure. It’s cue music, which is telling a visual story, so at times it’s very improvisational. Sound texture is important in the more experimental moments, but music is never far away from a moment of sublime beauty which gives away to a classic Sixties Brit groove.

The music from Charcoal Sketches is from 1968, released only in the last few years by Trunk Records. These are experimental sketches for work that would later become the better known- World Within Worlds and Quantum. The music partners State Of Mind – a soundtrack to a short film about medical disorders. Sketches is more musical, featuring a lot of bird sound, harpsichord, vibes and flute.

The music from Primitive London is strange in that the sublime beauty of the flutes and vibes contrast with the subject matter of the Shoc Doc it soundtracked back in 1965. The film invited us into the sleazy London underworld of Soho porn, scrap yards in Battersea, grim night-time streets and bomb damage yet to be cleared after the Second World War.

I Start Counting is the lovely, almost fragile title track to the movie I Start Counting which features Jenny Agutter.

The KPM Series is Library Music, which Basil recorded with John Coleman in 1968. Sweet, slowly grooving cellos, organ and brass.

The Dice IS Cast, from the very experimental Particles, is a rapid arpeggiated string piece which follows a modular journey. Very recognisable as Basil, despite the absence of trademark instrumentation.

Silicon Chip sessions. Recently unearthed and now-released recordings from 1979. Keith Herd recorded Basil’s venture into robo-funk seemingly almost as a response to Kraftwerk’s Computer Land. It stands up beautifully all these years later.

Book your tickets for Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story.

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