apfrod and aphasia: a review, a story, a request

November 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground, not bloody music | 4 Comments
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As I am fond of mentioning, one of the great rewards for writing this blog is to have someone I once knew stumble across it, get click happy trawling through it all, then drop me a line to re-establish contact.  Paul Money is the latest to do just that.  Paul was an associate back in the fencing flatworm days and contributed two oTo tapes to that crazy project: T10 freshwater angling in britain (‘a robot menagerie documented with electro collage’ I wrote at the time) and T19 bla (‘four/floor techno as she was supposed to be’).  He also ran the short lived but high quality micro-label Blank Audio which presented, amongst other things, more frenzied, hilarious, collage noise by Le Liberateurs and The Argos Fiasco (a band name that still makes me laff now).

Paul tells me that he is still involved in music, now mainly under the name apfrod, and also writes games and apps for them fancy iThings too – more on that in a minute.  The badly-in-need-of-updating apfrod SoundCloud page contains some entertaining tweaks, variants and homages to various sub-genres of bass music.  May I recommend ‘Ken u Bleep‘ which is a loving and accurate recreation of one of my favourite moments in the history of UK techno.  If it doesn’t make you smile then I can only throw my hands in the air, roll my eyes theatrically and exclaim: “gah!”

He has also recently ventured onto that Bandcamp and posted a rather lovely album of drifting electronics called Fog Caching.  I’m very taken with this title and the impossibility it describes, like trying to file smoke.  It captures the difficulty of expressing reality via art or, indeed, the more humble exercise of writing about music.  Like what I do.   The music is dense, bassy but not heavy – it passes through billowing clouds but without ever becoming waterlogged.  It is robust enough to survive being listened to on the walk home in the rain but delicate and nuanced enough to reward a bit of close listening in more comfortable surroundings.  The central track ‘Draft Capture’ is a nine minute epic of tuned-down, quarter-speed, clockwork rave.  It is basically a glorious pull-back-and-reveal as the clouds part and you realise that throughout the album you have been the guest of Lando Calrissian.  I recommended you check it out.

Another of Paul’s projects that might be of interest to readers of this blog is his musical instrument app ShapeSeq.  However, before going any further with that I need to change tack and tell a story.

In the Summer, my friend Rob had a very serious stroke.  Aged 28 and apparently fighting fit this was shocking and unexpected.  One week he was helping us move house and taking part in lengthy fun runs, the next he’s collapsing at work.  Given that the condition was life-threatening and that he was subject to a near-miraculous, experimental medical intervention in the early hours of his treatment, his recovery so far has been remarkable.  As well as having a team of experts, friends and family swarming around him much credit must be given to his (heavily pregnant) partner Sarah and to Rob himself for the determined way he has tackled the consequences.  No-one knows the limits of his recovery but, being realistic, I suspect he’ll never be back to exactly how he was.  The situation has changed irrevocably and it is up to us to negotiate and redefine what is ‘normal’.

Relevant to this story are two issues that need accommodating: Rob’s right arm and hand do not work and Rob has aphasia.  Aphasia is a common consequence of brain injury and entails difficulty with language and with communication.  It appears that all the knowledge of language that Rob had prior to his stroke – his vocabulary, his unique web of associations that gives words the meanings they have for him – is still there.  He just doesn’t have any kind of easy access to it.  Reaching for a word is a frustrating, occasionally fruitless business for him.  He must feel like he is trying to file smoke, to cache fog.

With this in mind, I’d been thinking of things we could do together.  He is a big music fan, well into electronics, Krautrock etc., and has always been interested in midwich so I invited him over to do some recording.  It was a very pleasant, non-verbal (well, for him – I talked non-stop) activity where we could communicate by laughing, nodding and pointing.  I thought beforehand about what I could do with three hands at my disposal, rather than two, and we got busy with the MC-303 and duelling monotrons.  The results were genius, obviously, but rather too guided by what I’d already planned to be a proper collaboration.  He has an iPad, I thought, I wonder if we could shift some one-handed/aphasia friendly software on to it that he could play with in my absence and then bring to the party the next time we got together.  If only someone had recently emailed to point me at just such an app…

But they had!  Serendipity, no?  Paul’s app ShapeSeq totally fits the bill and was apparently downloaded and enjoyed by both Rob and Sarah (although Sarah has understandable misgivings about Rob now being bleep-enabled).  I asked Paul for recommendations of other apps that might be suitable and he suggested the following:

Singing Fingers might be good. Also Nodebeat (very ambient), Sampletoy (very glitch), Figure (very techno). Figure is by Propellerheads (Rebirth) and pretty much makes techno for you when you hit it.

…which I’ve passed on and now I’m asking you lot the same.  Any ideas?  Just think: with one small comment you could amuse my friend, annoy his missus and possibly even contribute indirectly to a new midwich sound…


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  1. Anything by this chap: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/nc81/iphone.html is recommended, but my favourite music app is definitely Jasuto, a wonderful sort of Max/MSP lite in your pocket, with the obvious plus of touch screen and portability.

    • Cheers Pete – I’ll forward the details on and check ’em out. I’m gonna have to get one of them iPhones one day… R x

  2. Korg ims20. Not cheap but hours of fun. http://www.korg.co.uk/products/software_controllers/iPad_iMS20/sc_ipad_ims20.php

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