One man musical genre Ergo Phizmiz recently completed his The Faust Cycle (or, The House of Dr Faustus), writing, composing, performing and producing it all himself – although there’re a number of collaborators, this is clearly the work of a singular visionary.
Where to begin with this – a monumental fifteen hours of radiophonic delight, unravelled through spoken-word, music, song, and sound-collage that’s been at least three years in the planning and execution.
In it, Ergo attempts to deliver a package to the house Dr Faustus and becomes embroiled in a series of surreal adventures inside his vast and labyrinthine house. Whilst I tend to favour the plentiful song-based segments, there’s plenty to recommend in its more ‘improvised’ instrumental passages. Interestingly, the cycle ends with a half hour of what sounds like slightly treated (or played from a vinyl lp) rainforest ambience at dusk – the bewilderingly rich soundscape perhaps a reminder that whatever Ergo can conjure from his fervid imagination, the natural environment is a match for him.
For those unfamiliar with Phizmiz (and there are, sadly, still far too many) for me he’s a 21st century standard-bearer for a long tradition of surrealist sound art, music and – crucially – comedy. Think Duchamp, Milligan, Monty Python, the Bonzos, Zappa, even Flanders and Swann and you’re beginning to get the picture.
And here’re a few of the intruments he plays across the cycle – Foot Harmonium, Indian Harmonium, Tenor Accordion, Toy Piano, Melodica, Balinese Xylophone, Violin, Viola, Banjo, Messiah Box, Ukulele, Euphonium, Harmonica, Voice, Acoustic & Classical Guitar, Bagpipes, Didjerydoo, Desk Bell, Mechanical Birds, Pixiphone, Horns, Recorder, Fife, Tibetan Flute, Kazoo, Autoharp, Cajon, Assorted Drums.
2) We pay a visit to Trimalchio’s next dinner party.
3) Marcel Duchamp learns to rap.
4) Latvian songbird Margita Zalite sings Peggy Lee and makes it her own.
5) To hear the sound of a Moses basket made of gurgling babies in a sewer.
6) A walking gramophone.
7) The regular appearance of an 1832 Debain Harmonium.
8 ) A ukulele song about love and poo.
9) It took three years and nearly made my brain collapse.
10) It can be listened to closely, or allowed to linger in the background.
11) To hear the largest and most ornate bowel movement in history.
12) To hear Pete Um wax lyrical about opera and sing about cassowaries.
13) Where else would you hear a giant exploding pig?
14) To hear a singing child psychiatrist.
15) To hear a mambo duet between God & the Devil.
16) For Helen of Troy’s mime-only version of The Iliad.
17) For Igor Stravinsky’s stand-up comedy show.
18) If you’ve nothing better to do, you can nearly pass a whole day.
19) For Bela Emerson’s gorgeous cello & electronics improvisations.
20) To hear Joseph Cornell speaking entirely through sound-collage.
21) In order to find out what happens when a train comes to a dinner party.
22) Find out what happens with an aroused monkey backstage in an opera house
23) It has no cryptic references to the number 23.
24) Meet Mr Sausage.
25) It’s chock full of brand new pop songs locked within it’s fabric.
26) To hear Angela Valid’s electroacoustic hell kebabs.
27) What does a piano promenading through a sewer sound like?
28) To hear a mechanical doll careering out of control at 80 mph.
29) For a myriad marble runs.
30) For a TR606 improvising with a rainstorm.
31) To hear James Nye’s variations of Erik Satie “An Evening in Hell”.
32) Hear the Four Tops covered by Noel Coward and a Country & Western band.
33) Peer into the Devil’s pantomime kinetoscopes.
34) It’s not created by Simon Cowell. Or is it?
35) To hear me flushing myself down the toilet.
36) Martha Moopette monologues off Cole Porter lyrics.
37) It has no headlice in it.
38) It’s an iPod killer!
39) Hear the world gently, gently crack
40) For a malevolent talking Albatross, of course.
41) For insect recordings by Irene Moon, the singing entomologist.
42) Discover how to be a ventriloquist with no talent for doing so.
43) Hear Erich Von Stroheim over and over and over and over and over again.
44) To put Ergo Phizmiz at rest and give his poor, twittering fingers a break. (Contributed by the great Navia of Vanity)
45) Because Vulnavia Vanity says so.
46) For the 1940s style balloon dance of Emperor Rudolf II of Prague.