tape weather: sophie cooper on rosemary krust, sam mcloughlin and david chatton barker

November 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust (tape, Washy Tapes, WSH007)

Sam Mcloughlin and David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches (tape, forthcoming on Hood Faire)

krust akrust b

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

I’d never heard of this band before buying this tape but I trust the taste of Washy, a tape label operating out of the kitchen of a beautiful and intensely creative family living in the countryside outside of Newcastle. The overall aesthetic of the label is really nice: usually plain cardboard cassette covers with ace minimalist design.  The cover of this album just shows two faces, one decorating each side. Rosemary Krust are a duo so at a guess these could be the band member’s faces. They look a bit freaked out – like they’ve been watching a creepy old movie, safely terrified.

Side A opens with ‘Age 13’ – an absolute banger of a tune. This is the one that I heard featured on the Washy Tapes soundcloud page and what encouraged me to purchase. It starts with a fairly straightforward drum and guitar line but quickly this awesome fuzzed out vocal line kicks in following the minor key melodies of the guitar and that’s what got me. It’s really moving hearing how the singer pelts out the song and it has a great MBV hazy thing going on. I want to say “post rock” but I’m not sure I can properly explain what that means, is this music post post rock? Something like that.

Neil Campbell once told me that when it comes to making music it’s a good idea to…

look obvious in the eye and go for it

…and it seems like this band understand the sentiment. As a side of tape, it’s not surprising at all – you can kind of guess where it’s going but this only works to its advantage: really familiar and lovely. This music has really hooked me in, especially the first track, I just love it.

Side B is a lot weirder. I think the opener was recorded live and again the singer seriously bangs out the vocal. It’s far from perfect but I think that’s the point here. She sings in this over the top operatic style, a bit like Heather Leigh does, but loads of the notes just miss being perfectly in tune. Purposefully or not, I’m honestly not sure and it did bug me a little on first hearing, but second time round it made a lot of sense especially within the lo-fi production context. The performance throughout this tape is so real and emotional that being note perfect  really doesn’t matter

The rest of side B lost me a little when it moves into a more noise jam like area and gets a bit more unfocused [Editor’s note: sounds fine to me.] but it doesn’t spoil the overall experience of this cassette, which is really great. I’d love to see this band sometime, I imagine they’re really affecting.

sketches 1sketches 2

Sam Mcloughlin and David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on throughout 2015 is the YouTube channel of Sam Mcloughlin.  Sam, from Rochdale, is fairly well known for his musical work as Sam and the Plants and his horror soundtracking as N.Racker. The videos he produces and uploads to YouTube on a fairly frequent basis don’t seem to be getting the attention they deserve, probably because Sam doesn’t ‘announce’ them every time he puts one up (despite referring to these videos as his “promos”). He’s just getting on and making them and honestly, the stuff he is just getting on with is so out there creatively I just had to mention them before talking more about this tape.

The videos document his studio experiments as well as capturing visual elements from his day to day life which he fuses together in a montage style. You may see, for example, strange percussive machinery with branches reaching out to create odd melodies using objects placed nearby and then shots from a rotating funfair ride. There are close up of hands as they drum microphones onto various surfaces, short portraits of people who take part in Sam’s life, beautifully edited shots of West Yorkshire landscapes, I’m completely addicted. Check them out. [Editor’s note: agree wholeheartedly – this stuff is great.]

This tape seems to me to follow on from the videos. Sam and long time collaborator David Chatton Barker (who runs Folklore Tapes) go through old cassettes they have recorded over the years on Dictaphones and montage interesting selections from them into 45 minute collages, one on each side. I’m told they worked on a side each but it’s so hard to differentiate between them as the content sounds quite similar (also the tape isn’t marked – I’m forced to guess who’s side belongs to who). The pair have been friends and making music together for a long time so it makes sense that their work would inform each other, a natural evolution of collective sounds. You can hear both Sam and David on both sides of the tape talking and singing which shows that they must have spent a lot of time in each other’s company while these tape diaries were being created.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter who is responsible for which side because the context is all really fascinating. Like the videos that Sam makes, on this tape Sam and David both share elements of their lives.  What’s quite interesting is there’s a really strong sense of geography going on through the sounds. On one side the sound of the tape being played forward and backwards between voices and short pieces of unfinished music becomes a crucial element creating this great texture that reminds me of bad weather. The ‘tape weather’ sets the scene and the sound of chatting northern voices cut through. I’ve never heard field recordings worked like this before, it’s quite ingenious. It sort of reminds me of those Sublime Frequencies releases – Radio Java etc. – but this tape is a lot more personal than them. Listening to it we are living in the pockets of the creators, getting to know their half formed thoughts and songs. Philosophies are interspersed throughout the tape; a gorgeous northern accent sings and advises us (or himself?) to go this way and that. The music contained in the daily experiences of these two just bleeds from the tape, it’s incredibly thoughtful and wonderful.


Washy Tapes

Hood Faire

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