LEAH KARDOS

2022 Reflections

Wire467
As per tradition, The Wire editor Derek Walmsley sent an email to all of the magazine's contributors asking for our 'best of the year' lists, and our personal reflections on how 2022 went. I was quick to respond with my lists:

top ten Releases of the Year
1 Alice Cohen Moonrising (Styles Upon Styles)
2 Björk Fossora (One Little Independent)
3 Brian Eno FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE
4 Helms Alee Keep This Be The Way (Sargent House)
5 Éliane Radigue/Frédéric Blondy Occam XXV (Organ Reframed)
6 Kai Whiston Quiet As Kept, FOG (Lux)
7 Weyes Blood And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow (SUB POP)
8 Nadja Labyrinthine (Broken Spine/Cruel Nature)
9 Coby Sey Conduit (AD93)
10 Die Wilde Jagd Atem (Bureau B)

top ten Archive Releases of the Year
1 Cheri Knight American Rituals (Freedom to Spend)
2 Iannis Xenakis Electroacoustic Works (Karlrecords)
3 Funkadelic Maggot Brain (Westbound)
4 John Tilbury Keyboard Studies (Another Timbre)
5 Denis Dufour Complete Acoustic Works Vol 1 (Kairos)
6 David Bowie Brilliant Adventure (1992–2001) (Parlophone)
7 Sun Ra Arkestra Nothing Is… Completed & Revisited (Ezzthetics)
8 William S Burroughs Ali’s Smile (Paradigm Discs)
9 Scritti Politti Anomie & Bonhomie (Rough Trade)
10 Paul McCartney McCartney I II III (Capitol)

But the deadline for the personal reflection came and went, I just didn't relish the thought of tracing back over what has been a strange, at times extremely shit but occasionally great, year. Then Derek emailed to ask again, and so I responded in the moment from the heart.
Screenshot 2022-12-17 at 15.32.54

Finally, it was so surprising and so so pleasing to see Blackstar Theory listed third in the top ten books of the year. Feeling validated as a writer is a rare sensation, so I'm celebrating this one!
What a time it's been. Everyone I know has been going through something tough this year. Roll on 2023!

The Wire Rewind 2023 Top Books


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I'm doing a free talk at the 2023 Dublin Bowie Festival [Sunday Jan 15]

I'm feeling excited about attending my first ever Dublin Bowie Festival in January! Anyone who knows me knows I love a Bowie party, and I've heard the Irish Bowie parties are the best in the game.

I'll be giving a free talk/presentation/thing about Blackstar Theory: The Last Works of David Bowie at 3:30pm on Sunday the 15th January at Whelans.

I'll also be part of the Aladdin Sane Listening Party on Saturday (14th) at 3pm, on a panel with Gerry Leonard and BP Fallon.

It's going to be a fun time! Tickets available here: https://www.dublinbowiefestival.ie/

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[Event] David Bowie: The Gift of Sound and Vision with Tony McGee and Leah Kardos, 10-01-23 at The Century Club

Heads up, this very cool event is happening on the 10th of January at the Century Club (Soho, London). Tickets available now (at the link below)…

Bowie-McGee
On the anniversary of David Bowie’s death, join photographer & film director Tony McGee, to hear about his life and times working with David, and author Dr. Leah Kardos, who wrote Blackstar Theory. 

McGee, whose photographer career spans over four decades, had unique access to the star thanks to a close professional relationship and friendship. After meeting Bowie at a cocktail party, Tony was drafted in to shoot the publicity for Bowie’s 1983 Let’s Dance tour.  Several shoots followed and Mc Gee’s most famous images of Bowie now reside in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The pair went on to have friendship of more than thirty years and we will hear about the shoots, about how the two worked together, the importance of music in the sessions and stories from their friendship down the years
Dr. Leah Kardos is a composer, musician and author. Her most recent book, Blackstar Theory takes a close look at Bowie’s ambitious last works: his surprise ‘comeback’ project The Next Day (2013), the off-Broadway musical Lazarus (2015) and the album that preceded the artist’s death in 2016 by two days, Blackstar. On the night, Leah will investigate how a man approaching his own death can create art that illuminates the immortal potential of all matter in the known universe.
The evening will be hosted by author and cultural commentator Travis Elborough.
More info and to book tickets here. 
https://centuryclub.co.uk/members-events/bowie-looks-at-us-an-in-conversation-with-tony-mcgee-and-leah-kardos/
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In Conversation with Karl Bartos: Louder than Words Fest: 12th Nov

Karl Bartos in conversation at the 10th edition of Louder Than Words Festival – 12 November 2022

I'm feeling quite excited to be hosting this event at the Louder Than Words festival in Manchester on November 12. I'll be speaking with Karl Bartos about his recently published autobiography The Sound of the Machine: My Life in Kraftwerk and Beyond.

I reviewed the book in the Wire issue 463, and I can't wait to chat with Karl about his writing, his experiences as a member of Kraftwerk's classic lineup, and his life story so far, framed in music.

Tickets and info here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/karl-bartos-in-conversation-the-sound-of-the-machine-tickets-427816018227

Karl Bartos - The Sound of The Machine [front cover]
https://www.karlbartos.com/home.html

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Update: well that was a lot of fun! What a thrill it was to spend some time with Herr Bartos and his manager Rüdiger while staying in Manchester. Isn't it great when you find out your heroes are also excellent humans too? Big thanks to Stylophone Official for gifting me the personalised S1 - I was able to gift it to Karl on stage at the event - a moment I'll never forget.
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Book endorsements back at ya!-----

Analysing Bowie tracks on YouTube

I've been making video blogs of the track analyses from my book. My thinking is it can be easier to understand a musical discussion when you can have examples.

I've been having a fun time with these, learning about content creation as I go. I'll keep adding to this playlist until they're all done.

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Updates

2022 has been an intense year for me so far. Back in January my lovely dad died and I went back to Australia to be with my mum in the aftermath. Then, not long after returning to the UK, and not personally recovered or handling the grief very well at all, my mum got sick and I travelled back to care for her. An only child living very far away from home, this was two of my worst nightmares happening back to back. Then again, actually being back home was amazing in a way. I was able to work remotely due to the strange hybrid-reality of the pandemic. I got to reconnect with old friends and family who I love and miss very much. I got to celebrate my 43rd birthday with a solo trip to Uluru, which turned out to be an extremely special experience for me.

Since being back in the UK (again), life has been a whirlwind of stuff. A lot of it has been really great – the Stylophone Orchestra album did amazingly well, selling out of vinyl copies on Bandcamp. Our tracks were played a number of times on BBC Radio 6 Music. The orchestra performed some live shows in May and June, our first performances since 2019 when we first formed, and we also shot a music video (!) for 'Akoustiki'. I've received some fantastic responses to Blackstar Theory, including reviews published in The Wire and Uncut Magazine. Bigo & Twigetti released some new music that I made on my laptop while in Australia, one a re-work of a Jim Perkins track called 'In The Menagerie', the other a new composition called 'Little Beating Heart'. I've written a chapter for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to David Bowie, and collaborated on an essay about analogue recording with the amazing Isabella van Elferen.

I wanted to post this update to let people know that all is well. New music is happening, a collaborative project with saxophonist Lara James that I'm really excited about. Also, a new book proposal is brewing. But first, a moment to catch my breath.
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Blackstar Theory signed copies [sold out]

[Update: I've sold out of these signed copies now - man they went quick! Thanks everyone for being so supportive.]

Thank you so much to the people who came out to help me launch Blackstar Theory: The last works of David Bowie last weekend at Vout-O-Reenee’s in London. It was such a pleasure being with real live people in the same room, chatting, dancing and loving music together. I hadn’t felt that in so long! More thanks must go to Arsalan Mohammad for hosting the Q&A. I posted a collection of some great pictures people took on the night as a story highlight on Instagram, if anyone's interested.

Also, here's a link to the 4-hour Bowie disco mix (playlist expertly selected and sequenced by Liz Tray).

virtual_book_signing

Supply chain issues and delays meant that my shipment of copies didn't arrive in time and I couldn't sell or sign any books at the launch. So that means I'm doing it here!

[update: these are old sold now].
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Stylophonika reviewed in Electronic Sound mag and Electricity Club

"Stylophonika is a fine tribute to the instrument that also explores its strange future possibilities with love and affection. If you love the Stylophone, then you will adore this album." – Chi Ling Mai's review of Stylophonika for Electricity Club

"
… one of the most heartwarming feelgood albums of the year" - Bob Fischer's review in issue 84 of Electronic Sound magazine

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Blackstar Theory book launch and Bowie disco - 12th Feb 2022

BT–book-launch-feb2022

To celebrate the UK release of the book, published by Bloomsbury, we’re having a launch party at London’s “private members’ club for the surrealistically distinguished” – Vout-O-Reenees! There’ll be readings and a Q&A with the author, conducted by Arsalan Mohammad (creator of the podcast David Bowie: Album to Album), a signing of the book and a Bowie disco where you can dance the rest of the night away (the venue is open til 1.30am).

The event is free, but spaces are limited so RSVP is essential. You can also purchase a book (£20) with your ticket and collect it on the night.

Tickets available here

UPDATE: Holy heck the tickets sold out in 48 hours of announcing. Wow! Thanks to everyone out there who is supporting this thing! xx
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Stylophonika, stylophones & more stylophones...

stylophonika–cosmicswirl
The big news is that my stylophone orchestra is releasing their debut album Stylophonika on limited edition vinyl on the 28th of January 2022, and the album is available now to pre-order and stream via Bandcamp. It's joyful and buzzy and queer and epic and I’m so proud of this group and what they’ve achieved! Also one of the tracks was produced by Tony Visconti, like what? And just look at this beautiful artwork designed by Eric Adrian Lee. Safe to say I'm feeling pretty chuffed about how this thing has turned out.



The vinyl is available in two colour variants - blue/pink 'cosmic swirl' and 'protein pills' in opaque purple. You can order your copy from Spun Out of Control's Bandcamp page. There, you can also read more about how the project came to be.

kusomay2021

In other stylophone news, I was very happy to be involved in the development of Dubreq's limited edition Bowie-themed Stylophone.

bowiestylo


I was appreciative to be given the chance to write the narrative in the booklet, and include some tabs so people can play along. I insisted on the full tab for 'No Plan' because it just felt appropriate, for a project like this, to mark endings as much as beginnings.

noplantab

The last bit of stylophone-related news (which was actually a while back now) is that I made a guest appearance playing the lovely instruments on
Annie Fish's amazing and heroic whole-album cover of Diamond Dogs. My stylophone freakout was performed on a new-model analogue S1 and a Stylophone GenX-1. You can check it out below, though if you knew what was good you'd purchase and listen to the whole dang thing.


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Sparrow



Some new music that's also sort of old music (of mine), this lovely collaboration I was privileged to be part of, where Aussie producer/artist
Tim Shiel took an old piano composition of mine ('Contact Mic') and refashioned it into something new with the beautifully talented vocalist Kaitlin Keegan. So admittedly I didn't do much other than say 'yes' to make this happen, but I'm feeling proud of the results nonetheless.

The track was released as a single from Tim's latest album
Distractions One, which dropped in late October. There is also a piano-only version that appeared on Spotify about a week ago.


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'Black Star' cover with Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq.

Yes Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq. and I covered 'Black Star' (not THAT one, but the other one) to celebrate my book being made available for preorder.

And if you haven’t heard of the magnificent Thomas B Wild before, you can check out his excellent music here: https://tombwild.com/

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Stylo Orch news...

Since we couldn't gig or rehearse in person during most of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the Stylophone Orchestra instead mounted a collaborative 'lockdown' project. The result, our debut album, will be released by Spun Out of Control records in late Autumn 2021.

I don't want to spoil any surprises, so I won't say much more. But here's a recent picture of the group. Such a great shot taken by Marcus Clackson in Visconti Studio back in May, looking every inch like my dream synth band.

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Coming soon: Blackstar Theory

blackstar_theory
Ok it's been a while since I've updated this blog. In addition to generally trying to survive, and staggering through another very strange pandemic-altered academic year, I've also been busy working on this, my first book. It took many, many all-nighters, and has left me with a lingering laptop-related neck-and-shoulder injury. It's been a welcome distraction, and a real wild ride, I don't think I've worked so hard - in terms of energy, effort and care - on anything in my life. I'm desperate for people to read it, but also terrified at the thought of people reading it. Anyway, here's a blurb:

Blackstar Theory dives deep into Bowie's ambitious last works: the surprise ‘comeback’ project The Next Day (2013), the off-Broadway musical Lazarus (2015) and the album that preceded the artist’s death in 2016 by two days, (pronounced Blackstar). The book explores the swirl of themes that orbit these projects from a starting point in musical analysis and features new interviews with key collaborators from the period: producer Tony Visconti, graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook, musical director Henry Hey, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and assistant sound engineer Erin Tonkon.

Together, these works tackle the biggest of ideas: identity, creativity, chaos, transience and immortality. Their themes entangle realities and fictions across space and time; a catalogue of sound, vision, music and myth spanning more than 50 years is subjected to the cut-up; we get to the end only to find signposts directing us back to the very start. They enact a process of individuation for the Bowie meta-persona and invite us to consider what happens when a star dies. In our universe, dying stars do not disappear - they transform into new stellar objects, remnants and gravitational forces. The radical potential of the Blackstar is demonstrated in the rock star supernova that creates a singularity resulting in cultural iconicity. It is how a man approaching his own death can create art that illuminates the immortal potential of all matter in the known universe.

Blackstar Theory: The Last Works of David Bowie will be out in January 2022 (e-pub in Dec 2021) and is now available to pre-order.
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2020 Dissolve

2020_dissolve

Here's my 2020 mix for Juno Daily. New (and new to me) music that made me feel grateful to be alive on Earth this year. Feat. William Basinski, clipping., Arca, Xyla, Daisuke Tanabe, Tangents, Rob Maruek/Exploding Star Orchestra, Kassa Overall, Cassilda and Carcosa and more.

https://www.juno.co.uk/junodaily/2021/01/05/leah-kardos-kicks-off-juno-dailys-in-the-mix-series



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Malio Reprise

A gentle piano moment to ring in the new year. I hope everyone is safe and well.


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Wire Issue 443: One Thing That Got Me Through (2020)

I think this global pandemic could be my fault. Back in April I was burnt out and falling apart and I wished the world would stop and then a terrible miracle happened. The dissonance between the genuine horror at the unfolding situation and feeling such relief marked the first few months of my lockdown experience with profound thriver’s guilt. I’ve been one of the lucky ones who managed to keep their job throughout all of this. Penitence of the fortunate. And then I noticed the birds.

Money I would spend on nights out, ill-advised Ubers and manicures now pays for bird seed, fat balls and meal worms. A new daily structure. Every morning they’re out there on the roof, in the trees and hedges waiting for the day’s buffet. I’ve learned their songs and chirps, and I watched their chicks fledge and change feathers. After a few months I noticed many musician friends were similarly enraptured - new compositions and at-home productions based in bird song, discreet shotgun mics pointed at feeders. The feel-better hit of the summer, if there was any justice they should have given this year’s Ivors award to my local band of wood pigeons.

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Mix for Headphone Commute

It was a honour to curate this mix for Headphone Commute, featuring music from my excellent label mates at Bigo & Twigetti.

"Here are some of my favourite pieces from some of my favourite people who have released music with my label Bigo & Twigetti. I feel very proud to be part of this creative community, and honoured to be asked to sequence this listening experience for you. I hope you might discover your next favourite artist here. The sequence was chosen with the seasonal turn in mind, as it feels like the longest lockdown summer is finally drawing in. Best enjoyed, I think, on a grey day with a favourite cardigan."



Brother Tree Sound - ‘Interstice 2’ from Interstices
Julia Gjertsen - ‘Detached’ from Perceptions
Olof Cornéer - ‘Waves, Breaths and Dead Cities Part 2 (Night Gestalt Version)’ from Waves, Breaths and Dead Cities
William Ryan Fritch - ‘Disproportionate Joys’ from Scale
Jim Perkins - ‘Foundling’ from Constance
Nonsemble - ‘Practical Mechanics Mvt II (Meek Sounds remix)’ - from Go Part 3c
Night Gestalt & Lisa Rydberg - ‘The Sunken Machine’ from Sudden Rituals Vol. 1
Jeremy Keenan - ‘Untitled for Umia’ [excerpt] from Immaterial
Madeleine Cocolas - ‘My Winter Eyes’ from Winter
Heinali - ‘A Glass Island’ from Autumn
Madeleine Cocolas - ‘Riley, Blaze 1’ from Metropolitan
Liam J Hennessy - ‘Flow’ from In The Half Light
Fiona Brice - ‘Mvt. 1 - Holographic Field Rework’ from String Quartet No. 1
Cenes - ‘Approaching’ from Carried
Ed Carlsen - ‘Loom’ from The Exquisite Corpse
Jim Perkins - ‘Held (Holographic Field Re-work)’ from Pools Re-Works
Luca Longobardi - ‘Autumna’ from Autumn
Various Artists - ‘Detachment’ from Variables
Brother Tree Sound - ‘Interstice 1’ from Interstices
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Electronic Sound [Issue 69]

Big thanks to Ben Willmott for this short feature in issue 69 if Electronic Sound magazine!
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Perceptions - 'Retracing Your Lines'

I have a new track out this week - 'Retracing Your Lines', a layered piano recording performed and produced at home during lockdown in April 2020. You can listen to it here, paired with a video of my artist friend Kristian Purcell creating a pencil sketch of Greta Garbo.



It was one of the final singles in the Perceptions series from Bigo & Twigetti, a compilation exploring different approaches to creating music for piano. There's so much beautiful music here, one of my favourites is 'Detached' by Julia Gjertsen. Worth a listen!



Finally, here's a live performance of 'Retracing Your Lines' - I'm using a looper with Ableton, piano and an old Yamaha Ps20 organ.







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