artifacts of the no-audience underground: the zero map – live @ spirit of gravity 2011

May 22, 2012 at 6:01 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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I’m not sure many in the no-audience underground set out with the intention of creating something ‘charming’.  As a description it doesn’t feel very cool or hip or punk or challenging does it?  Despite that, I consider it to be a much underrated quality that takes some skill to achieve.  To be charming a piece must be sufficiently subtle, gentle and engaging without being overly fey, whimsical or insubstantial.  It has to convey its intention with just the right level of self-awareness: too much is arch and mannered, too little is childish and naive.  The knack is in maintaining the balance.  It is not easy.

Even before I heard the music, The Zero Map, a duo of Chloe Wallace and Karl M V Waugh (two middle initials, eh?  Class), had got it right.  Karl sent me a polite email reminding me that I had liked a previous release of theirs (I had, very much) and wondered if I might consider a new thing of theirs for review.  I said sure, of course, and a few days later the 3” CD-r above arrived at Midwich Towers.  I was charmed by its handmade cover (pictured) and handwritten ‘press release’ (for want of a better term).  C&K are model correspondents.

The 21 and a half minutes contained on this CD-r document a performance recorded in their hometown of Brighton in September of last year.  It begins with a section in which (what may be) thumb pianos and the like slowly overlay one another, via ladles of delay, into a crescendo of picking and plinking.  Imagine a cabinet of Victorian toys – tin soldiers, china-headed dolls, music box ballerinas – being possessed by the spirit of Sun Ra.  There then follows a slightly uneasy middle section where a cool feedback tone threatens to smother the detail but this is a transitional moment and forgivable in a live setting.  Finally, the feedback becomes a drone which gently granulates into noise with added keyboards and feline ululations.  This last section has a pleasantly mysterious feel.  I mentioned The Cats of Ulthar in my previous review of The Zero Map – is this a muezzin call to fetch them back from the moon?

I like this: it is considered without being overly polished, fun without being daft and engaging enough to encourage repeat listens.  It is charming.  Details of how to get hold of this – £4 plus postage – can be found here.

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