artifacts of the no-audience underground: concentric spaces vol 2

October 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Concentric Spaces Vol 2 (Striate Cortex S.C. 42)

Another beautiful package from Andy Robinson’s infallible label Striate Cortex.  This time you get a digipak decorated with spray paint and sealed with a hand-painted sash (pictured above – there is a delicious ‘turpsy’ smell when you open the protective plastic sheath).  Inside is the CD-r printed with a psychedelic (third eye?) iris design, a fold-out card containing the track listing and a separate A4 sheet of luxurious yellow paper containing a short statement and/or contact details for each of the artists involved.

It’s a labour of love, obviously, as are all of Andy’s releases.  His dedication is evident from the effort he puts into creating these objects and I have nothing but respect for his conviction.  I’m hoping that if I apologise in advance – I am truly, very sorry – then you will forgive me for this pun: his heart is on his sleeves.

*Ahem*, OK – moving swiftly on…

This is a compilation of ten pieces, most around the five minute mark, each by a different act.  The majority are from the fuzzed-out end of ambient or the meditative end of noise.  This is a stair on which I like to sit.  As a whole the compilation is nicely illustrative of the Striate Cortex aesthetic and its sound.  It is pretty much all highlight but, for brevity’s sake, I am going to focus on a trio of cleverly sequenced tracks that I keep coming back to.  Numbers 7, 8 and 9 are, respectively ‘Gone Way Up’ by Pink Desert, ‘And They Crawed Up Inside Her’ (sic) by Spaces Between and ‘The Silence Woke Me’ by Seabuckthorn.

Pink Desert are new to me, I’m ashamed to say, but I may well investigate further after hearing this.  Over a cool seven minutes the crackling roar of distant conflagration, or maybe a giant furnace in the basement, is extinguished by a gathering crescendo of layered tones.  And that is more or less it.  Don’t let the simplicity of the tale fool you, however, as it is told with subtle force and elegant coherence.  This track is a lesson in discipline and structure for those artists, myself included, who are tempted to overstretch a drone.

Spaces Between have been praised on RFM before.  The name is perfectly apt as their sound is evocative of the cosmic gulfs between stars, or between two strangers sitting tight against each other on the train.  This time the fuzz and pulse is created largely by two flavours of guitar: an unhurried, pedal-drenched picking – like a geologically slow Durutti Column – and a heart-breaking, sky-scraping sheen.  Music for watching glaciers crumble.

Andy tipped me to Seabuckthorn earlier in the year and the terrific album ‘A Mantra Pulled Apart’ has not left my walkman since (and I do cull stuff – I’m an impatient scroller so keep my files to a minimum).  It combines the high-altitude fragility and emotional rawness of the emptiest Ry Cooder film scores with the rolling intensity of Swans.  It’s a neat trick.  I feel bad for not writing about this before, and at length in its own article, but I’ve been rather struck dumb by its brilliance.  This guy should be some kind of giant star, I think.  That ‘A Mantra…’ is available to download for £4 is almost comical.  Go and get it won’t you?  I’m glad this review has given me the opportunity to mention it at last.  Anyway, ‘The Silence Woke Me’ (great title) is four minutes of a twanging ‘one two, one two’ riff played on steel-stringed acoustic guitar and stress tested with various implements that were to hand.  This could have been a dry exercise in improv but the sureness of touch makes it hypnotizing, moving even.

So this terrific little sequence goes: fuzz – fuzz/guitar – guitar.  Clever, eh?  Yet more evidence of the thought that goes into Striate Cortex releases.  I needn’t say any more.  Limited to 150 copies and available to buy here for an astonishingly reasonable fiver.

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