aniseed and turpentine: joe murray on woven skull, petals, köhnAugust 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: deserted village, hairdryer excommunication, joe murray, jurgen de blonde, köhn, kevin sanders, kirigirisu recordings, petals, woven skull
Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues (tape or download, Deserted Village, DV51)
petals – enactment & advocacy (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, edition of 50 or download)
Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues
Two seventeen-minute pieces that sound jammed on the fly… but deeper inspection reveals some careful meshing with historical recordings.
‘Fat Baby Blues Part 1’: Dawn chorus guitar strums along with a misty moor drum pattern (locked like Liebezeit) summoning up some Summer Isle ensemble. The rural ritual is played out as simple structures emerge; green shoots springing from black loam. They unfurl like ferns revealing the mathematical complexity of fronds, the solemn beauty of autumn leaves.
But this is no sepia-tinted back-look to Fairport, String Band etc. The wooden ‘clunk’ of the gamelan folded into the end of ‘Fat… Part 1’ adds a whole-world-weirdness that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sun City Gurls joint.
‘Fat Baby Blues Part 2’: A deeper vibe. Free reeds huff and drones are musty like cumin. It reminds me of the great Jazzfinger; weaving sumptuous washes of sound from broken amps. This fades into a damp techno where field recordings spar with shrimp synth tones.
The Woven Skull and their folding-in method becomes an exciting, bubbling tributary to the overcrowded field recordings debate. Book an appointment with the Skull Doctors, pull up a chair and listen.
petals – enactment & advocacy
I’ve never knowingly listened to Kevin Sanders’ Petals project but it’s a name I’ve seen about loads. Or is that Plurals? Or Petrels? Jeepers N-AU it’s hard to keep up at times! Alls I know is that I plugged this baby in zooming through York and didn’t pick my head up until Peterborough. Proper heeds-down drone action as they say in Newcastle.
This disc (or ‘load’ is probably more accurate) consists of two lengthy tracks: ‘enactment’ and ‘advocacy’.
Super-heavyweight organic machines thrum deeply on ‘enactment’, pumping dark waste-gas through a grotesque puckered orifice. There’s a real sense of musicality and movement to this track although it’s glacially slow. You could certainly pick out the notes on a piano (slowly) as they descend through a scale with the flutter of an enormous damselfly – if you were that way inclined. Being as tasty and uniformly stratified as a top notch lasagne your sonic nourishment is then deconstructed! Eventually the layers are gradually faded out one-by-one to reveal the truth; the individual parts of this symphonic insect hum are simple electronic tones slathered with varnish and endlessly tweaked.
A war of attrition becomes the image-totem for my listening during ‘advocacy’. Two forces: one weak but constantly modulating with plucky underdog energy, the other one stronger but erratic, bloated and unfocused. Pitted together they are evenly matched creating a neutral stalemate position.
Plucky underdog seems to weaken further and play dead lulling bloated and unfocused into a sense of superiority. Bloated and unfocused advances with speed, tactically over-stretching itself; snapping out at an enemy that doesn’t exist, chasing shadows until it changes shape entirely becoming dangerously shallow and all-encompassing.
Slowly, gradually, plucky underdog whispers an echo that’s almost impossible to pick up. At first mimicking bloated but taking its time, gradually overpowering the once bloated and now almost transparent signal.
And so this listen ends, as it began, with two opposing forces pitting themselves endlessly against each other. The balance of power has changed, that is true. But at what cost?
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.
– George Orwell, Animal Farm (1944)
Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road
A three-track synth/organ/keyboard meditation from one of Gent’s finest, Jurgen De Blonde.
Track one, ‘Alwatis is Alwateris’, is a static, stately almost regal drone that seems to look backwards (Logan’s Run jumpsuits) and forwards (thought transference and soul download) in time simultaneously across its eighteen minute span.
Where Petals were carbon-dense this is hydrogen-light, fixing to float away until moored by the occasional luscious Rhodes Piano-type tones making this as swooningly lovely as that Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd album I remember from incense-fuelled bedsit fumbles. But it’s not all anxious eiderdown arranging; the fake-locked groove ending made me cough up a cola cube with a genuine LOL.
‘Nu-uN’ wears it’s Flemish heart on its sleeve with that slightly wonky 1980’s animation feel. Monster organs float in the upper atmosphere, pipes the diameter of small cars pumping out sky-music to the primitive creatures below. At least that is what I’m hearing.
But it’s the final track ‘Albeit’ where I lose my shit [Editor’s note: I love this track too]. There are pin-prick tone clusters to start; all bright dazzle but with a peculiar flavour – I’m getting aniseed, I’m getting turpentine.
Then my slow mind thinks,
this is not the sort of stuff you normally listen to…
and I start feeling the excitement of a new vista opening up between my ears. My slow mind says
…this is Autechre repainted in primary colours, all textures softened with practical linoleum.
This is no Drake-style diss-track. The optimism and hope that flows through ‘Albeit’ is a joy. Music moves me every day. It makes me twist and shout, throw the horns, stroke a chin…even fall in love, but very rarely do I feel so goddamn charmed by a piece of music that’s simply going about its business without any fuss or expectations.