artifacts of the no-audience underground: joinedbywire

September 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Joinedbywire – 48 Space Platform (Striate Cortex, S.C. 43)

Earlier in the year I wrote at length about how I was giving up downloading music and was instead only going to listen to things I was given or actually paid for.  I was unconcerned with the legal or moral arguments.  Instead, I was dismayed by my addiction to amassing hour upon hour of music that I barely even had time to hear, let alone get to know.  My organs of musical appreciation were atrophying at the same time my access to music was near-infinite.  I thought that maybe squeezing the latter might help the former grow back.

There have been some tough times.  When friends in the pub talk of ‘forwarding this great blog address’ or of ‘flacs’ or of ‘printable hi-res sleeve scans’ I grit my teeth and stare hard into my ginger beer.  For the most part though, as my powers of concentration and overall sense of wonder return, I feel completely vindicated.  Stepping on the ‘content’ firehose has allowed me the luxury of repeat listening, and repeat listening has led to revelation.

This release is an illustrative example.  If, in the bad old days, I had ‘acquired’ mp3s of it then it would have received a half-listen before being dismissed as disjointed and discarded for a newer new new thing.  However, regime change has allowed me to dig it over a couple of weeks and, once I decided to write about it, I’ve looked forward to it accompanying my commute.

What we have here is a 50 minute(ish), 6 track, CD-r housed in a digipack covered with what looks like hand-made yellow paper and spattered with red and green ink.  It looks like a section of the floor of Mos Eisley Cantina following a violent argument between two species of clientele.  It is the sort of high class package I’ve come to expect from the infallible Striate Cortex.  Label boss Andy Robinson is a man of taste and vision who works hard on his releases and deserves your unswerving support.

The set comprises several long tracks of drone and noise interspersed with short tracks of hiss and fizz.  The opener is formed of several movements, each of which mutates from the previous.  Some of these mutations are sudden and alarming – new limbs sprout fully formed and immediately lean their elbows on the keyboard – but this isn’t just a bunch of sketches cobbled together.  Patience reveals a satisfying and surprising whole.  The short tracks are little shards of broken mirror, reflecting a cloudless sky.  The final track is the best as it builds to a glorious, cathartic roar, like dragons mourning the death of one of their number with the fire-breathing equivalent of a 21 gun salute.

Elsewhere on the internet I see that Joinedbywire has been described as a ‘feral Ashtray Navigations’.  Now this is amusing, and I see where they are coming from, but I’m not sure it is accurate for two reasons.  The first is that Ashtray Navigations are themselves the feral Ashtray Navigations: Phil and Mel live in a hedge in Burley Park and only come out at night to knock over bins in search of food and broken Korg Electribes.  Secondly, whilst some of this would be quite at home on an Ashtray CD-r, none of these tracks contain a lengthy guitar or keyboard ‘solo’ which I’d argue is the least you need to be correctly described as Ashnavian.  S’all about the licks, man.

Anyway, should you wish for musical comparisons, some of Astral Social Club might be nearer the mark and the first track isn’t a million miles away from the Eyeballs stuff I raved about a while ago.  The final two tracks call to mind the ‘lost generation’ post rock of bands like Seefeel, and there is an achingly melancholic synth line that, dare I say it, evokes the Aphex Twin of Selected Ambient Works Volume II, albeit cruelly eroded and awash with static and distortion.  In case you were still wondering: this is high praise.

So, setting aside the fact that I am an idiot, why else would the downloading-me have dismissed this as disjointed, especially given that repeat listens reveal it to make perfect sense?  Perhaps I would have been thrown by the varied movements of the first track, or the fact that several of the longer tracks have tacked-on codas that bear scant relation to what preceded them.  I suppose this might grate with the casual listener.  I guess the only conclusion is this: bollocks to the casual listener.

Buy here for a scandalously meagre £5 plus postage.  That link directs you to the Striate Cortex wordpress blog where the action is happening nowadays, details of Andy’s older releases can also be found on the original Striate Cortex website.

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