accidental music: joe murray on richard youngs and ali robertson

August 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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kazoo actionthe other week

Richard Youngs & Friends – Kazoo Action (Union Pole, download)

The charming  Union Pole label have been tweeting about this release for a few weeks and to be honest I’ve been thinking of luddite reasons not to buy it.  Both pieces of the equation sound dandy: a long lost recording of Richard Youngs with A Band associates helping out; a single sound source, in this case kazoos, blasted, blown and banjaxed in a Rhys Chatham style mass orchestra.  Yeah…all pretty spicy.  Originally planned as a 7 inch this is now only available on download.  I may be an old greybeard and I’m not adverse to the odd download, especially if it’s out-of-print whack off or a companion piece to the more present and physical record, tape or CD-R.  But a download only!  Man, this is clear blue waters for yours truly.

So, early one Sunday morning, the rest of the house swaddled in slumber I cough up the $1 (effectively 67p), hit the button and wait an anxious 20 seconds for the internet magic to happen.  The download settles itself into a comfortable position on my hard drive in two dainty parts (a nod to the 7 inchness of the intended release I guess).  There. I’ve done it.

I had enough faith in Richard Youngs to know that this was never going to stray into Temple City Kazoo Orchestra  kitsch.  And for once – I’m right.  The blasts of kazoo are raw and rude for sure, with waves of spittle crashing over each other, ramping up the volume and intensity all over ‘side’ one.  The brash, multiple tones, hum and fizz and shimmer until some synchronised changes in pitch break the cacophony and lend a primitive orchestral air.  In fact it’s the primitive that seems to be celebrated here.  Like some pre-history ritual, all tucked up in the tumulus, slack vibrations of pig skin shudder moist loam into nostrils and ears.  I’ve had a long standing affection for the drawn-out huff of the sheng and its global relations and with this kazoo piece (yes learned reader – I know kazoos are membraphones and more closely related to the drum than it’s free reed cousins but shit man…this honks like a goddamn goose parliament!) Richard & co have captured the sweaty blast of tropical bamboo and then munged it out like Tamazepam shivers in the cold Edinburgh morning.  ‘Side’ two has a Borebetomagus-esque structure of noise on/noise off with scarlet arses bent over and farted in brassy unison.  There’s less structure, more freedom and instead of waves the honking cyclones up, up, up into the hard blue sky.  It all ends with a chummy ‘Bravo…encore…’ that seems to come more from performers than audience, but you know what?  I pressed that button and played the file again as instructed and it tasted gooood.

But now I’ve played and enjoyed the little fella I had to think what I wanted to do with him.  Leave it all binary on the computer or allow him a better life, wild and free.  So I stuck him on a CD-R with some other waifs & strays from that UbuWeb etc.  May I suggest the gorgeous sounds of Dariush Dolat-Shahi and a selection from the superb Excavated Shellac site for company?

Ali Robertson – The Other Week (self-released, tape)

There’s no discernible title on the cover of this handwritten tape but a bit of detective work reveals this missive from Ali Robertson is called ‘the other week’.  I guess the stream-of-consciousness diary entries, describing the recording process could have given me a clue ‘the other week:bought:afour-track recorder:in a pawn shop:on Leith Walk’.  Sharp eyed readers will see Ali’s name and immediately link him with no-input/no-music interlopers Usurper.  Yep.  That’s right: it’s Ali going it solo.

Side one opens with multi-tracked plunking, rather like mice crawling over taut violin strings.  Then we get some trouser-pocket-drop with coins pushed around the sort of glass-topped coffee table last seen in Miami Vice.  Toffee is chewed with saliva squirting out a dribbling mouth as a biscuit tin (with tartan design) shuffles lonely squeaks and dull rattles.  I imagine a midnight trip through the house, heavy feet trying not to wake folk with the occasional explosive stair ‘crack’ and cupboard ‘bong’ in the gloom.  Muted percussion gives way to a milky cornflake munch and twanged ruler solo so careful and measured it becomes instant basic channel dub.  Oh…to hear this through a 2k soundsystem!

Side two commences with the unwanted pissheid salutation. ‘erhm…mate…hear me…mate…erhm’ all chopped and munged to form a beautiful choir of purple tin.  This is worth the price of admission alone.  More quiet rumbles suggest the midnight kitchen again with a nudged spoon gradually coming to rest on a worktop.  Coins add brilliant metallic flares like a mini John Bonham while Robert Plant mumbles off mic, ‘aye, aye’.  The roadies continue the kerfuffle backstage, grumpily comparing string gauges and pyro etiquette simultaneously ripping up polystyrene packaging from the never released boxed set, ‘Zepplin…awkward murmurs and empty breaths’.

This is accidental music.  By that I don’t mean it’s haphazard or thrown together.  It’s like the sort of sound that lives between other musics….a milkman’s improvised whistle or the lavender humming of an old lady darning socks.  This is the unconscious intent and dreaming rattle that unites all humans.

(Editor’s note: the web address for Ali’s label Giant Tank now appears to be squatted by some odd Japanese clickbait.  According to a post on the Giant Tank facebook page the label is being wound down.  Thus I’d suggest contacting the guy via the Duff & Robertson tumblr or facebook pages.  If your life could do with more kazoo – is there ever enuff? – then Union Pole can be found at Union Pole.  Easy.)

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