eat local part one: rfm gorges on new produce from sheepscar light industrialSeptember 16, 2013 at 11:07 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: andie brown, daniel thomas, dave thomas, drone, hagman, leeds, new music, no audience underground, noise, seth cooke, sheepscar light industrial, these feathers have plumes
Hagman – TKT and TMS (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.019, edition of 50 and download)
Seth Cooke – Run For Cover (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.020, edition of 50 and download)
These Feathers Have Plumes – Untitled (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.021, edition of 50 and download)
The 22nd anniversary of my move to Leeds is fast approaching. Numbers such as these mean less and less as I get older – my nipple piercings reached the age of majority in 2011, for example – but occasionally the change in the seasons, the ripening of the blackberries or the pressing of releases like the above into my sweaty palm make me look with renewed appreciation at my adopted home city.
I don’t need to sing its praises at length – it ain’t that type of place. Leeds supports a dedicated, self-sufficient noise scene brimming with talent, good-humoured respect and a thoroughly punk-rock suspicion of hype. Unlike our hipper big brother over on the wrong side of the Pennines the Leeds scene does not need the approbation of the wider world (though it is nice when we get it occasionally). No-one has any money; the only motivation is satisfaction in the work. Knuckle down – put the hours in – keep the quality control tight – have fun.
Leeds based microlabel Sheepscar Light Industrial is run very much in this spirit. In fact, despite its roster being drawn from all over the place, it could be said to represent this spirit distilled to its essence, as it were. Whilst I can’t agree with Uncle Mark over at Idwal Fisher that SLI has never dropped a stinker, I have nothing but respect for the refined and definite taste of label boss Daniel Thomas. His ears are golden. So what of the latest trio of releases?
First up is Untitled by These Feather Have Plumes. These two tracks by Andie Brown (of that London), totalling about 16 minutes, have already garnered plenty of super-superlatives from my peers who write about these things. Allow me to add my own: this work is clearly informed by a profound respect for and connection to the human condition. Andie uses an organically sourced sound palette – bells, gongs, singing glass, (possibly) field recordings (I hear the sea at one point, I may be imaging it) – discretely looped and treated. The whole created manages to be both earthy and ethereal at once. She has harnessed the kami of these objects to draw forth a music with the homespun grace and human-scale emotional pull of a roadside hokura. Amazingly though, I’m afraid this release only wins the bronze medal today.
In second place is TKT and TMS by Hagman, the duo of Dave Thomas (ap martlet) and Daniel Thomas (no relation). When Dan handed this over he proudly claimed it to be the best Hagman recording yet. I humoured him much as I might a toddler displaying a crayon scribble and added it to the playlist that accompanies my daily chores. During the first couple of listens I didn’t grok this at all – 20 minutes of industro-drone, change of scene halfway through, some nice crescendo management – but choosing it as a lullaby one night and listening to it closely in a state of otherwise sensory deprivation revealed what a dolt I’d been. There is a lot going on. Their daisy chain of pedals, synths and homemade tuppertronics emits a satisfyingly grainy low end throb. Into this field recordings are sunk and suspended. These augmentations give the vibe a sense of location, albeit intriguingly unanchored and vaporous. This factor – place – really lifts work of this kind to the next level (see, for example, the cartographic back catalogues of Petals and Culver) and with this recording Hagman join the ranks of those explorers who have figured out that ‘X’ marks the spot.
Finally then, we have Run For Cover by Seth Cooke (lately of that Bristol) which ‘bolts’ (Ha! ‘Bolt’! Like that guy who is good at running!) past the competition so comprehensively that he is already being photographed cheekily biting his gold medal whilst the rest of us are taking off our tracksuits. I have, like, totally, a crush on Seth. Not only is he the owner of the most strokable beard in improv (a hotly fought category, as you can imagine) but he is a family man, musician and improviser of rare talent, writer, thinker and co-curator of essential web-resource Bang the Bore. I know: swoon, right?
An example: Seth realises that the BtB forum has been a bit quiet recently and wants to chivvy up a little activity. However, instead of kicking off a bunch of obviously crowd-pleasing threads he starts this – a fascinating account of his upbringing in the charismatic Christian community, neuro-linguistic programming, the missing person report process that forms part of his employment, the television series Neon Genesis Evangelion and how he may try and link it all that together in a piece of creative endeavour. I’d have just been rude about The Wire magazine or something. He thinks differently.
The real cool thing though is that, unlike most theorists, his music rocks too. Whilst it is wrong to call Run For Cover unprecedented (I know a bit about Seth’s influences and working methods) it is certainly, and gloriously, refreshing. The spec is simple enough, a single track of about fifteen minutes in length, but its ingredients are tricky to separate out. I suspect the noise that sounds like a swarm of angry wasps flying into a juddering extractor fan may be a vibrating implement set upon a drum skin. The buzz is malevolent – like tapping the glass of a giant tank full of insects only to have them all turn in unison, give you a hard stare and then start working together to get the tank’s lid off… Some abrasive electronics are then set loose in order to scour and gouge the source noise whilst a bucket of low end catches the swarf. The concluding crescendo is visceral, tough and as sparkling as your peripheral vision after a sharp smack to the back of the head. Yeah: awesome.