Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gil Scott-Heron

And so to the end.
A friend of mine played one of Gil's albums in the car while we were out on a job last year. I knew about Scott-Heron, but mostly for his reputation, and musically only for his spoken-word work: important work, the dawnings of rap etc. And although the spoken word material is good, it is quite austere. What I hadn't realised until the CD came on was what a fantastic singer Gil was as well. Nor had I known how soulful his music could be. I can't pretend I know his discography very well - I have one compilation of his music from the 70s - but Gil was clearly an important musician. And he was still producing strong work as well - work that Jamie XX used to such unsettling effect earlier in the year.
Now he is gone.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


No idea who Wols are, but came across this unheralded track by them just now - only 46 views in a month on youtube - and thought: this is something more people should know about.

Friday, 20 May 2011


This is just such a relentlessly brilliant piece of music. Nothing seems to happen, but at the same time everything is taking place. Spellbinding. If only I could afford to buy this - extremely rare - album to enjoy the sound of Stinson a little more.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The unkillable music

Some things die. Some things don't.
I was casually drifting through the net tonight when I came across this remix of Dominik Eulberg's Sansula. It's the first I had heard of Eulberg. The remix in question is by Max Cooper, a low key producer of no great fame.
Another remix of another track. Nothing new there. But beyond the anonymity of the artists - even the use of real names seems to point to colourlessness - there is something rather haunting about the track. The ingredients - soft swirls of synths, clunky cowbells, and a weird, distant moan like a foghorn. The music - straightforward house beats, a constant pulse underneath the track. Techno, basically - or house, or tech-step, or whatever people call it nowadays.
This music is dead though, isn't it? So I thought to myself as I had a listen.
Then I listened again. It really is a dead genre, I thought.
But then it struck me that perhaps I might be wrong.
This music has been a constant on the electronic scene since I was a teenager, and indeed well before that. It began, in a different guise, with disco in the 1970s. Then people like Larry Levan helped transmute it into something else. By the late 80s, we began to see a proliferation of different takes on the four-to-the floor sound: Detroit techno and acid house among them.
By the time I started seriously listening to music in the early 1990s, rave culture had adopted the beats and spun, smashed and shredded them into something more brazen. But the basic recipe was the same.
Once my twenties and the 2000s came around, I somewhat forgot about techno - and about artists like Orbital and LFO who had dominated my youth.
And yet, as I listened to this remix, I thought: today, the four to the floor beat is as ubiquitous as ever.
People like Carl Craig and Richie Hawtin are still making music - indeed, are lauded as "legends" of the genre. And artists like Pantha Du Prince, John Roberts and Shed are still being heralded by the critics.
It strikes me as perverse in a way. Surely genres die, don't they? Grunge died, reggae died, 2 tone died. At least I thought they had. But the house beat, the four-to-the floor beat, is resolutely still with us.
The question of course is why. But there I am unsure. If I was pretending to be David Foster Wallace, my anthropological interpretation would put it down to the innate desire for the tribal drum. If I was pretending to scientific wisdom, I would put it down to the correlation between these beats and the human heart. And if I was Foucault, perhaps I would see in it some perverted human need for regulation and control.
But I am none of these people, and I can think of nothing penetrating to say about it whatsoever.
All that occurs is to suggest that this music is the unkillable music.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Artificial Intelligence II and British electronic music in the 1990s

Many albums have a claim to being the best compilation ever put together. But whatever other people might say, Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence II is, for me, the finest of them all. It highlights a key moment in the evolution of Warp and, indeed, in the development of modern British electronic music. And yet, despite its totemic status, it remains relatively unhailed. But in my view, with contributions from Autechre, Global Communication, Black Dog and Aphex Twin, this is possibly the album that set the tone for electronic music in the 1990s.

At certain points in musical history, everything comes together at just the right moment. The 60s saw the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and others rise to prominence at about the same time. The 90s - for good or bad - saw the emergence of a string of Britpop bands all clamouring for attention. Not all of them have stood the test of time - indeed, perhaps most of them definitively have not - but the period did at least signal the vibrant fertility of British music in that period. Ironically, Britpop’s ascent served to overshadow what I think is unarguably one of the most interesting eras in modern British music: a movement of electronic artists whose sound has had a lasting impact on the direction of popular music.

People will argue about when it began, but for me Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is a convenient starting point. Released in early 1992, the album was one of the first really coherent long-players constructed by an electronic artist in the UK in the post-acid house era. It came out at a time when rave culture was at its peak, when bands like The Prodigy and Utah Saints were storming the national pop charts. And its release helped to dispel the notion that electronic musicians - so often working in a culture of the 12” single - could not make albums. While breakbeat culture, with its insistence on the blare of the siren and the snare drum snap, ruled the airwaves, this album revealed a quieter, more involved side to electronic music - and pointed the way towards something far more nuanced. While the beats were still there, the focus now was on sound, on melody and on the treatment of melody - and not just on quick-fix klaxons and drum-kicks.

Albums by other bands working at the same time could equally stake a claim to have kick-started the period that followed. Among them, Future Sound of London’s Accelerator, Orbital’s Green and The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld - all released in 1991 - showed that electronic music was capable of great breadth, depth and creativity. Again, all used many of the same tools being employed by artists on the breakbeat scene - the acid sound, the delight in sampling - but to very different ends.

This was music for music’s sake, and nothing more. It had its antecedents in Detroit techno, Kraftwerk, the 80s hip-hop scene, Eno and Tangerine Dream - but slowly the emergence in the early 1990s of these and other bands who were looking to make serious electronic music helped firmly stamp the sound finally and permanently in the nation’s culture.

It was against this backdrop that Warp Records began its Artificial Intelligence series in 1992. The label bosses described the sound the series was aiming for as “electronic listening music”. The very first Artificial Intelligence release - a compilation of music by people like The Orb’s Alex Paterson, the Aphex Twin and the Black Dog - even had a man sitting relaxedly in his armchair, as though to make perfectly clear that this wasn’t music designed for the dancefloor. The series saw the release of six albums, as well as two compilations of material by them and others on the scene. Those involved included Aphex Twin, Autechre, Global Communication and Black Dog. Today, it seems astounding that all of these artists were working on the same label at the same time. Aphex Twin - who even by 1992 was being hailed as a revolutionary musical innovator - was the label’s pin-up, a personality figure whose conspicuousness gave the sound a public face. Others were far less media-friendly, with Black Dog going so far as to refuse to have their photographs in the press. Yet the two both worked together on the same label, and released long-players as part of the series that are among the finest of their era - Richard D. James with Polygon Window’s entrancing Surfing on Sine Waves, and the media-shy Black Dog with Bytes. Autechre’s Incunabula was also released - beginning a relationship with the Warp label that stands to this day. The series also featured subtle, spacey, but more dancefloor friendly albums - B12’s Electro-Soma, a meditation on Detroit techno, FUSE’s - aka Richie Hawtin’s - Dimension Intrusion and Speedy J’s gorgeous Ginger.

Yet it was the contributions of Aphex Twin, Black Dog and Autechre that really set the series alight. Each of these albums were clever, complex, polished artefacts - works that easily stood comparison with the great electronic records that had come before them: albums by Model 500, Eno, the Art of Noise and others.

Incunabula, Bytes and Surfing on Sine Waves were, in their different ways, major milestones for Warp Records. Incunabula’s sound was rich, textured and took time to reveal itself. Bytes hinted more strongly at a Detroit influence, but Black Dog infused it with their own warmth. And Surfing on Sine Waves was singular and unnerving, by turns offering up Aphex-branded ambient techno, Eno-esque soundscapes and percussion-led frenzies.

But it was the Artificial Intelligence II compilation that was, I believe, the high-point of the series. Apart from Hawtin, everyone who had released an album in the Artificial Intelligence project contributed. The album also saw participants who would later go on to big things in their own right - including Seefeel, Global Communication and Beaumont Hannant. And it saw less permanent fixtures on the electronic music scene produce what were perhaps their most interesting moments.

Unlike the great majority of compilations, this record had its own very definite sound, a mood of detached, austere melancholy that is adhered to throughout the album, but one that allowed each producer to make their own mark.

It opens with a Beaumont Hannant remix of a track by Mark Franklin, a man who has since fallen almost entirely off the musical map. Hannant’s effort - a mesmerising mix of bass and breathless vocals - is an extraordinary opener that revealed the kind of music he could produce when at the height of his powers. And, with its weightless sense of beauty and delicacy, it set the tone for what followed.

The Higher Intelligence Agency’s contribution, Selinite, matched it for potency - offering up flickering twists of melody wrought over sauntering tribal drum effects. It was another from an artist not working on the Warp label - but again served to illustrate the pool of talent then emerging on the British electronic music scene.

Global Communication - who within a year would release the brilliant Pentamerous Metamorphosis and go on to produce the classic 76:14 - remixed one of their own tracks, while Autechre explored glitch at length for the first time on Chatter, a track that accurately sums up the band’s pre-Confield sound.

Seefeel, who would later release the stark and haunting Succour on Warp, pointed towards a different kind of electronics on Spangle, a track whose jagged, distorted guitars pre-empted the work of people like Fennesz and Tim Hecker by several years.

Black Dog’s piece - the driving, melancholy Parasight - plumbed depths of emotion even they would struggle to match again, while Speedy J and B12 produced what might be their finest efforts with the haunting Symmetry and Scriptures respectively.

Hannant - another prodigious electronic musician of his day who would vanish almost without trace within two years - also chipped in with Utuba, which mixed dark, low-toned synths with brittle kettle-drums to powerful effect. And there were contributions from Darrell Fitton - who would later work at Skam as Bola - Detroit star Kenny Larkin and renowned audio experimentalist Scanner.

But perhaps the most surprising moment on the album is the contribution from one-time Cabaret Voltaire member - and ceaseless musical innovator - Richard H. Kirk. While the rest of the contributors were in the early stages of their careers, this was a man who had already been involved with music for more than a decade and helped Warp get up and running with early releases as part of Sweet Exorcist. And the success of Reality Net, his beautifully delicate piece for the compilation, highlighted the label’s historical continuity with other electronic musicians working in the years before them.

All in all, the album revealed the incredible musical richness of the electronic music scene at the time. Some of the artists would go on to have celebrated careers, while others would slide into anonymity. Aphex Twin and Autechre have since become probably the most successful performers to have ever worked for Warp. Indeed, they pretty much created the label’s trademark sound. And Black Dog, although later splitting up as a trio, continue to make music as Plaid, and have themselves enjoyed considerable acclaim.

After 76:14 and a number of influential side projects, Global Communication broke up by the late 90s, but the duo of Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton are still high-profile performers and DJs today. Seefeel had slipped off the radar by the mid-90s, but critics have since showered garlands on debut album Quique. They even returned last year with an impressive, self-titled album on Warp.

Hannant, who released four LPs and a string of other pieces, was hugely productive for a couple of years in the early to mid-90s, then effectively vanished from the music industry. His story is as much of a mystery as any in modern music.

The Higher Intelligence Agency lasted a little longer, continuing to release music throughout the 1990s, and collaborating on more than one occasion with Biosphere, but now seem also to have disappeared without a trace.

Their fates may have differed, but there is case to be made for saying the compilation they worked on was the high watermark for Warp Records, and, in that era, perhaps for electronic music itself.

Where is Woebot?

There is a good piece on the Wire site at the moment about the merits of lists. We all know these can often be trite and pointless. Indeed, lists in many publications tend to closely echo one another. Certainly that is the case with mainstream magazines like Q or Mojo - but then does anyone with any taste really look to them to find out what they should be buying? As Derek Walmsley argues in the Wire article, lists can actually broaden our horizons. He cites the massive, near 300 artist list featured on Nurse With Wound's first (and I think second) album. He also refers to Thurston Moore's free jazz list, which was something I was unaware of. Was I alone in being unaware that the Sonic Youth frontman was even interested in music like this?
Anyway, the best list Walmsley refers to is Woebot's peerless 100 Greatest Records Ever, which it has become harder and harder to find on the net. I caught on to Woebot towards the end of his blogging period, but was amazed and bewildered by the breadth and scope of the music he wrote about. What is so frustrating today is that his posts are no longer available. This seems to have happened since Woebot turned to making music. Does Matthew Ingram, the author of the blog, intend to publish his writings from the site? If not, I can't understand why they are no longer around - for they perfectly counter the argument some will offer that the internet is a source of cheap, quick-fix information (a la Wikipedia) and not a place for intellectual or artistic discovery. Woebot, bless him, offered just that - now where the hell can I look at his musings again? All I've been able to get out of him since being added to his mailing list are PR plugs for his music releases. And, if you're interested in his music, don't expect to sample it on youtube or spotify first. It's not there.
Indeed, the only thing of Woebot I can find anywhere on the net any more are his Woebot TV shows. I've only watched one - about the hidden merits of prog music. It was interesting - especially his championing of Gentle Giant - but not as engaging as the blog. Also, presumably in the interest of anonymity at the time, he insisted on wearing a TV on his head. Which is just daft.
Anyway, the 100 greatest records list is still kicking about on the net, and if you haven't seen it, take a look - you'll be blown away.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The death of chillwave

Is chillwave dead? The rumours grow louder by the hour. It is rare to visit a website these days without someone reading the last rites.
Chillwave was the buzz genre of about 18 months ago, but has since fallen into abeyance as a critical term - even though some of the pioneers of the movement are still making music. Toro Y Moi has gone big time, Washed Out has a major new album on the way, Neon Indian is still around, and bands like Teen Daze, Memory Tapes and Memoryhouse remain in the game.
So, apart from having a silly name that I'm pretty sure Carles from Hipster Runoff invented for a joke, what's wrong with this movement?
It seems pretty healthy to me.
Exhibit number one is this glorious piece by Blackbird Blackbird.

According to discogs, this group (this artist?) has put out a whole string of music in the last year or so, often self-released and often, it seems, on cassette. This sort of approach is familiar with chillwavers - if that's what we're still calling them.
This piece, again by Blackbird Blackbird, demonstrates well the ethic of the movement - lo-fi, 80s in feel, with hazey electronics and inaudible vocals a common-place.

Is there a difference between chillwave and Hypnagogic Pop? If there is, I can't discern it. Wire critic David Keenan defined the latter as consisting of "hallucinatory landscapes", of a kind of music that "fetishes the outmoded media of its infancy". The only true difference I can spot is that Hypnagogic Pop is a clever term invented by the Wire, and chillwave isn't.
Keenan himself went into great detail to unearth the meaning of this new movement - call it what you will - by looking in the summer of 2009 at some of the artists involved in its production. At the time, he highlighted the work of James Ferraro and Spencer Clark, and quoted their views on the subject at length.

These artists seem to have paved the way for others, despite receiving only a modicum of attention in the mainstream press. Part of the problem may have been the mystic intellectualisation they sought in Keenan's piece to give to the then embryonic movement. At one point, Ferraro tries to explain his outlook on his music.
"I've always viewed my music as just sort of plugging into a matrix of human-alien culture, through plugging into a world broadcast of media entities that jump out of the screen and merge with life via people internalising them as soundtracks for life temples," he says, impenetrably, at one stage.
Keenan's piece dwells at length on such mysticisms, which alas serves to undermine the intellectual credibility of the movement he was then trying to profile.
He better articulates the music's meaning in his own words, when he talks of the sound occupying a netherworld of unexplored critical territory - namely, naff 80s synth pop - that is ripe for serious investigation by serious musicians:
"Without a serious critical agenda to dictate how it is 'supposed' to be interpreted or received, a decade's worth of 'worthless' art and culture is ripe for hallucinations, interpretations and the plundering of idiosyncratic personal canons."
His point seems legitimate in my eyes, although it's questionable how conscious any of the movement's artists would have been of this before Keenan pointed it out to them.
Others Keenan looked at have fared better than Ferraro and Clark in breaking into the critical mainstream, including Ducktails, Pocahaunted and Zola Jesus.

Indeed, some of these artists now seem to have moved away from the movement's origins, with one-time Pocahaunted member Bethany Cosentino now grinding out bubblegum surf pop as Best Coast, while Zola Jesus and Ducktails both seem to have moved away from their musical roots with recent releases.

But the movement still seems vibrant, as a quick trawl of Altered Zones will reveal. Today, as I write, music by How To Dress Well and Nite Jewel is in focus - both artists who exhibit many of the key tropes of Keenan's Hypnagogic Pop.
So perhaps talk of the music's death is exaggerated. Indeed, if we cast the net as widely as Keenan does in his article, there is every argument for saying that the movement is near apotheosis - with both Oneohtrix Point Never and Emeralds (each name-checked, presciently and percipiently, in his piece) among the major players in electronic music and, indeed, popular music being made today.
Keenan's article invited derision in part through the typically Wire-esque po-facedness with which it approaches its subject. The term itself - designed to highlight the music's dreamlike quality - is for many music fans a deadeningly wooden catchphrase almost designed to attract opprobrium. But the essay itself is important and appears to have fired the starting gun for a movement that has now seeped its way into the very heartlands of popular music.
As Keenan himself points out, its lineage is historic - and has helped give new meaning to forgotten pop records of the 1980s that had once seemed beyond critical redemption.
What this will mean for the royalties of Don Henley - whose Boys of Summer is extensively referenced in the article - is anyone's guess. But when you next hear the track at a wedding or on a jukebox, don't be totally surprised if a half-thought dimly tells you this is one of the most pioneering records of its generation.

Steve Roach

Stumbled across this from Steve Roach on youtube. Could almost be a new release from Oneohtrix Point Never.
I only know bits and bobs by Steve Roach - his name does sound far too much like Steve Reich, really - but I've always found it rather pleasant. Not sure where he stands in critical opinion. Might be too gauche or new age or whatever. But this piece is really interesting, and it has great visuals as well from Denise Gallant and Brian Samuels.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Washed Out's new album

Stereogum have reviewed the new Washed Out album. "The guy can actually sing," they say. The lovely Eyes Be Closed and You and I both feature. After Feel It All Around, the trail went cold for a while, so it's good to see that Greene is still at it. From what I've heard of the album, I suspect it will place highly in the critic charts at the end of the year.
Here is the sweetly intimate cover art.

Richard H. Kirk

Came across this as I was flicking through youtube subscriptions. For someone so low-key, it's amazing how much good material Richard H. Kirk has released.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Omni Trio: Living for the Future (FBD Project remix)

Drum and bass has almost run its course as a musical movement now. Indeed, for a while, it threatened to become a bit of a joke. Did popular exposure and concomitant enervation lead to its demise? Was the formula too rigid to last? Did the scene lack star quality? I'm not sure. But I'm still weirdly fascinated by it - even more so than I was at the time, in fact. For one thing, when ever I get drunk, drum and bass records are not far away. And that's an important sign for a lush like me.
And this piece by Omni Trio is just one of 50,000 pieces I could have picked out to illustrate the point.
One day, I suspect critics will look back on drum and bass with much more regard - and not just as street music, DJ music or dancefloor music.

1,000 Films To See Before You Die

I have spent many hours this year making my way through the Guardian's 1,000 Films To See Before You Die. The list itself, which came out in 2007, is the sort of naff thing I would normally strive to avoid. Nothing so erroneously populates our TV screens on a Saturday night as another "best 100 things ever" list. But in this case, at least the list is pretty good. It does have a lot of the obvious material in it that you would expect - no surprise omission for The Godfather - but there are hundreds (in my case, at least) of movies in the countdown that I have never seen, and many dozens that I have never heard of.
Of the 1,000 films on the list, I reckon I've seen close to 60 per cent. Now my aim is to chip away through the rest of the list over the next couple of years.
Some of the pictures I have watched recently I would never have looked at but for this list. In some cases, this is a bad thing - did I really need to watch Evil Dead? - but in others, it's been very healthy, as films such as Bagdad Cafe (above) have been a delightful, and wholly unexpected, treat.
This is what I have seen so far this year (one or two are not on the list). It's either a proud monument to cinematic erudition, or a shameful waste of human time.

Scarface (1983)
Rogue Trader (1999)
The King's Speech (2011)
Batman Begins (2005)
Children of Men (2006)
Sleeper (1973)
Casino Royale (2006)
The Big Heat (1953)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Silkwood (1983)
Never Let Me Go (2011)
Rushmore (1998)
Amelie (2001)
Kes (1969)
Last Days (2005)
In This World (2002)
Quadrophenia (1979)
Paul (2011)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Evil Dead (1981)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Memento (2000)
Brick (2005)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Edge of Love (2008)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Giant (1956)
Bagdad Cafe (1987)
Gigi (1958)
Touching the Void (2003)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
Hairspray (1988)
Infernal Affairs (2002)
Wall Street (1987)
Laura (1944)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Victim (1961)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
La Regle Du Jeu (1939)
P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Before Sunrise (1995)
Carry on Cleo (1964)

Of these, the worst have been Evil Dead and Enter the Dragon. Hairspray was pretty weak as well - another of those films that makes you wonder what some critics are on about. The best, surprisingly, have been the British ones - Chariots of Fire, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Seeing them made me remember how good British cinema once was. Where did we go wrong?
And the 1939 Renoir film La Regle Du Jeu is outstanding. When I saw the year of release, I feared the worst, but the depth of the characterisation in the film would be remarkable today - and I can well see why it is so well-regarded.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

µ-Ziq: Salsa with Mesquite

I bought this EP back in the summer of 1995 in a very decent record shop in Aberystwyth. When I got home and had a listen, I was astonished at the sheer cacophonous violence of this, the first piece on the EP. It was more jagged and unsettling than almost anything so-called IDM artists were making at the time - even (Ventolin excluded) Aphex Twin himself.
Today, it came up on my iPod as I was jogging, and it still has the capacity to grab my attention.
A lot of people haven't heard the first track on the EP, but, all in all, I think it's very close to being the best thing Mike Paradinas ever wrote.
The disappointment for me in the years that followed was that Paradinas never really emerged from the shadow of friend and one-time colleague Aphex Twin to become a major musical force in his own right. All of his albums have very good moments, but for me they always struggle for consistency. Even his brilliant Makesaracket is only really masterly in patches.
Nowadays, he is arguably having more success as head honcho of Planet Mu. Certainly his involvement in the footwork and dubstep scenes has been significant.
I just wonder whether the Bangs and Works producers in the US who have worked with Paradinas actually realise the quiet, bespectacled label boss is capable of making music this ear-splitting.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A Hard Day's Night

I saw this film yesterday, one of a great number I am watching as I trudge through the Guardian's mammoth 1,000 Films To See Before You Die. The film is very well-regarded by critics - it is in the BFI top 100 - and is remembered today for playing a key part in the development of techniques now commonly used in music videos.
It also gives some insights into what life must have been like for the members of the band during the hectic days of Beatlemania.
But while there is great music and a terrific opening sequence, the narrative now seems thin and the acting very definitely wooden.
The film charts a two-day period in the life of the band as they journey from Liverpool to London by train for a TV show.
And on this basic premise, the entire film hangs.
Although there is a script, a lot of the banter seems off-the-cuff - but in a way that seems ill-planned and not very amusing.
There are a number of in-jokes that even at the time must have seemed perplexing, but now just seem tired.
Constant references to Steptoe and Son's dirty old man Wilfrid Brambell as a "clean" sort are about as funny as the screenplay gets. Indeed, his inclusion in the film as McCartney's grandfather seems contrived, as though a producer had insisted on him being there for light relief.
Which is odd, because despite not being able to act, the band members come across quite well. When the story escapes the paper-thin knockabout comedy it too often aims at, they seem like ordinary people who just happened to be in a group that was hugely, massively successful. And it would have been much more interesting to me if the film had been a documentary about them, instead of a rather weak comedy.
What did astound me was just how good their early music was. I had almost dismissed the albums before Rubber Soul as being juvenile bubblegum pop. But songs such as And I Love Her and All My Loving, which were unknown to me, are a revelation.
All in all, the film fails on most counts, but I suspect it persists in the common memory for its unique depiction of the Beatles at their height.