sat at the end of a long room: chrissie caulfield on r.a.n

September 1, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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R.A.N – Her Trembling Ceased (CD, download or stream, Partapart Records)


I am very conscious of the fact that Sof and marlo and I were taken on to redress the male dominance of Radio Free Midwich, and that since that day I, at least, have only reviewed releases by men. I am not impressed with myself. This is one reason I’ve been too quiet here, I felt uninspired to write even about male releases I particularly liked until I had at least started to fix the imbalance. I know there are women making good music that’s out of the mainstream, though the ones I know personally tend to be making videos or installations rather than CD or download releases that would be reviewed in these pages.

Through the newly formed Yorkshire Sound Women Network I heard of the female:pressure website and mailing list, which I joined as performer/composer. I then sent a short email to the list asking for people to send me their work. As you might imagine this elicited a huge response which will take me some time to work through … a very happy result indeed. I’m hoping the sheer quantity, as well as the very high quality, of releases I have been sent will get me going again, so be prepared for a lot of writing from this source. [Editor’s note: *huge grin, fist pump!*]

One of the very first emails I was sent contained this gem from Hüma Utku from Istanbul now living in Berlin and performing as R.A.N (Roads At Night). The moment I put it on I could tell I was going to like it.  It opens with powerful, widely panned synth noises that sound a little like an old Dr Who effect from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, this then dissolves into dramatic chords and ultimately an all-embracing pulsing that, if you put it on loud enough – and you should – will consume your very being.

Described on her website as…

a journey of transformation from chaos to order

…the album is primarily recorded on synthesizers with occasional appearances from guitars and piano. The reverby piano is a particularly favourite feature of mine as I’ve heard it deployed on synth-heavy albums before but rarely with this amount of panache and compositional clarity. Just listen to ‘Secrethings’: it start with rain noises and a pulsing bass ostinato and you think you know what’s coming, then the piano comes in you’re sat at the end of a long room with a ghostly pianist at the other end – rain beating heavily outside. Those dark chords become absolutely bloody terrifying – scarier than any horror soundtrack I’ve ever been accused of making. And when the bass disappears and the piano runs into heavy vibrato my fight or flight instinct goes into total overdrive and I want to find an ottoman (do they still exist?) and hide in it.

The track that follows this has the climax that you might have been expecting from its predecessor and takes us running away from the ghosts (don’t ask me how I got out of the ottoman, I’m too scared to remember). This track, ‘Driven By Demons’, is Kraftwerk meets hip-hop with a touch of an 80s synthpop breakdown in the middle – how can you not like that? So you see, not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.

‘I’m fine, go away’ sees the return of the reverby piano. Solo this time, heavily compressed and with a very audible noise gate opening and closing adding a lovely pulsating hiss to it. Definitely the sort of music that I used to play on my violin when I would say

I’m fine, go away

to anyone who came near me. Of course, I wasn’t.

This album manages to do something I find inexplicable, it’s made me really like some music with a 4/4 beat. The skill here is, I believe, texture management – something very close to my heart. Rarely are the beats here especially complex but they are aways… right. The textures on the synths and guitars are so beautifully marshalled that you forget to go 1-2-3-4 (as I always do when listening to lesser beat-driven music) and just go …. yyeeeaaaahhhh!

As the album calms down, from its earlier, alternately frentic and terrifying opening tracks, I can physically feel my body relaxing. By ‘Dig Two Graves’ even the piano feels borderline welcoming though with just that subtle undertone of menace to keep you wary.

The album closes with its title track, here we’re supposedly at order from the brain-scrambling chaos of the early stages and into what might even be called ‘ambient’ if that moniker hasn’t been totally ruined by too many “New Age” artists with Tibetan bowls. This is gentle synthage, still with a dark undertone washing around. Just when you start to feel it’s all going to be nice again, alien voices punctuate the calm and have you scrambling around, reaching for the light switch. Oh and there’s a twist at the end, which I won’t spoil.

My only complaints about this release are technical and not musical. Firstly there’s a slightly annoying fizz at the top end a lot of the time, I suspect this is down to either under EQ’d softsynths or over-hot inputs when recording. Also my Bête Noir: some synth strings opening the otherwise wonderful ‘Subtractions’. The effect here is of a swarm of wasps coming towards you, but they are not (for my, violinist’s, money) processed enough to remove the stain of a less than stellar sample.

I’m insanely grateful to all the wonderful women at female:pressure who replied to my email. I’m not mad enough to think they will all be to this standard (though quickly listening to some other tracks I’ve been sent, the quality is very high) or precisely to my taste. But I’m going to have a lot of fun listening to all this new music and I fully expect more preconceptions and expectations to be challenged. Yes, there are women making good experimental/weird/noise music and it’s stunningly good. It’s now my mission to bring it to you.



Yorkshire Sound Women Network



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