employees of the month: joe murray on hardworking families, jon seagroatt and ian staples with bobbie watson, stuart chalmers, ramleh, robert ridley-shackleton

December 19, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger (tape, don’t drone alone, edition of 50 or download)

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless (CD, Future Vinyl, CD1501 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.1 (CD-r, Must Die Records, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.2 (CD-r in fold-out sleeve, Ono, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview) (self-released download)

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind (7″ vinyl, Format Supremacy)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP (7″ vinyl, Cardboard Club, edition of 100)

worse

Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger

My most favouritely-named artist in the No-Audience Underground offers us a tape woven like a friendship bracelet. This time the grubby threads are replaced with electric-pylon-hum and carbon-monoxide-alarm-shriek, backed with sparse bristling gristle.  It moves like folded towels; the texture flexes and changes under stress.

‘Bryantwood Road, Washington Street’ swells with double intensity in places then turns back on itself, revelling in its own knock-kneed skinniness. Serious knob-twiddling releases the kind of low bass throb that gives your tin-pot dictator a wet dream as they disperse an angry mob. But the icing on this beefy cake is the see-saw panning of a single sickly tone that wraps itself, like a possessive lover, round your brain stem in three dimensions.

Side two introduces us to the ‘Pasternoster’ an augmented field recording made in some brutalist concrete nightmare – it’s pretty darn cavernous!  Rubberised breadsticks get rattled in a quiver as assembled umpires discuss furniture polish (quietly).  The sweet swish of Air Max on a dusty floor makes dry circles in my ear buds while some joker miked up the fire escape.  And, to add a point of detail, these recordings are reconstructed without electronic condiments, they are never rushed or fudge-sticky.

The dull thud of capitalism is gradually tuned out… but not before Hardworking Families is decorated as employee of the month.

deathless

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless

We’ve got used to imaginary soundtracks for films; so what about a record of a book?  Jon Seagroatt, Ian Staples and Bobbie Watson  must have bloody loved Steven Sherill’s 2004 novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break because they’ve based their immaculate playing ’round its 313 leathery pages.

Jon and Ian play a particular flavour of experimental music that’s as charming as the soft ‘plonk’ of a well-lobbed shuttlecock.  It’s sparse and serene with a gritty undercurrent of processed drones/electronics over a keening flute (and probably other woodwind family members).

In parts it’s as English as teabags and disappointing caravan holidays, but there’s something that keeps me thinking of the Rune Grammofon back catalogue with its clear sound and chilly cadence.

The croaky swell of hot breath pushed through copper pipes nestles well with the shimmering slide guitar and post-production twiddling.  Bobbie’s minimal vocals (there’s only a couple of minutes worth on the whole disc) are kept back as a secret weapon and hauntingly warped like silvery raindrops.  It’s a very classy listen.

But what’s going to make you uncles and aunties sit up and click on the links is the connections this band are mixed up in.  Check this out: the dark-folk of Comus, spooky beards Current 93, power-improv legends Red Square and, strangest of all The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra?  These folk were no-audience before many of us were born.

Sit up straight, turn off that god damn phone and listen to this in flickering candlelight.

lp1lp2lp3

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, Loop Phantasy No. 2, Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview)

Ya’ll know I steer clear of the dreaded hyperbole.  I’m not one of those ‘BEST BAND EVER’, ‘THIS SHIT CHANGED MY LIFE’, ‘I WAS BLIND AND NOW I CAN SEE’ kinda zine-writers (Ed – feel free to add sarcastic comment here) [Editor’s note: I’m saying nowt].

But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS.

From the Stone Age goof with lovely sounding rocks to James Brown’s well-drilled fonk to Larry Levan’s sweaty yoga-stretch to Prince Paul’s magpie fingers we all love a loop.  The act of repetition does something to that brain/body connection.  We smile, we twitch… we bust a fucking move.  And with that repetition comes the delicious recognition of the eventual slip, the change, the move out of the established pattern that leaves us all grinning at our cleverness – we spotted it first!  We picked up on that micro-change that slid away from the beat like a rubber Mungo Jerry.

You want examples? Hard data yeah?  Take ‘Loop Phase 4’ on Loop Phantasy No. 1.  A single xylophone reverberation and gated piano-hammer strike, plays with a gentle jarring.  It starts to overlap.  It returns on itself and sets up an internal rhythm and logic cell that mutates gently over four sweet minutes. A final few seconds of digital crunchiness brings us to a shuddering climax.

And while …No. 1 and …No. 2 are definitely more swoony and dreamy …No. 3 employs the kind of up-tight funk cut-up David Byrne dreams of in his SoHo loft space.  What’s that?  More evidence?  OK… slurp this up: ‘Pop Plunder 20‘ is equal parts Van Jackson/Dicta-frottage and wonky thumb.  Jeepers.

Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

ramleh and rrs

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind

This is real treasure!  A box of stash from 1994 has been recently opened up for the N-A U. Naughty noiseniks Ramleh are in full-on thug-rock mode here with a guitar, bass, drums and electronics line-up shattering the song format by being so astoundingly belligerent.

‘Welcome’ is a one-riff-then-lurch-into-electronic-breakdown sort of thing.  The twin guitars are bone-crushingly heavy and swing dangerously like a bowling ball rocking about in a wet cardboard box.  The cymbal crashes are worthy of a separate mention as they sizzle like Bonzo walloped them with his heavy oaks.  The overall sound is pretty bloody angry… pissed wasps taped into an empty jam jar.  It’s buzzing.

On the flip ‘Pristine Womanhood’ is even more exposed and unconstructed.  It starts and ends with a menacing closing-time choir howling something threatening.  In between this terrace chant the electronics shift up a gear to give Theremin-style whoops over duelling twin-guitars; less Judas Priest and more Deliverance decamped to damp, dirty Cumbria.

But how do you get a copy of this heavy, heavy slab?  Although the Format Supremacy label is now pretty much defunct, sending a reasonable £4 in the UK (inc postage) or £7 for anywhere else in the world (inc postage) via Paypal to hasan.gaylani@btinternet.com will secure a fresh copy of this oily sump-jam.

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self Titled EP

The singular Mr Ridley-Shackleton takes his trademark scuff-jizz and lays it on some hot wax, man.  I’m totally delighted to say that the gritty Dictaphone feel is in full effect with no attempt made to clean up this shit for the fussy pants vinyl crowd.  Some people are forever cassette souls.

I’ve spoken before about the RR-S ‘pocket jazz’ sound and this is still evident in big fucking lumps.  But in his duffle coat he’s sneaked in a Hall & Oates that play fragging keyboards and warm-whumping beats.  The delivery, classic RR-S; part polite hip-hop MC/part loose-soul-maverick, makes me think of Guru Gwilly Edmondez and imagine what a dream duo these two would make.

It’s time to Kross up the Kriss, Kriss up the Kross

and

Oh baby! Hold me

leak out slowly like mercury from a fractured thermometer.

Over the five tracks the texture gradually moves from limp AM radio jam to stiff grogram shuffle.  By the time we get to ‘No Grey Area’, this seven-inch-closer, minute hairs are a riffled burr on the bright tape.  They bristle like magnets.

Your generous ears will no doubt latch onto the construction and form here. I know it’s going to sound like highfalutin crit-jizz but RR-S sculpts his music; building things, not so much in blocks but in the thin layers he uses in his postal art. This thin layer becomes a second skin, a grimy bandage on your wrist, spare ends flapping in the wind.

Where can you pick this hep-platter up?  Try the unstoppable Cardboard Club blog for £4 of direct action.

—ooOoo—

don’t drone alone

Jon Seagroatt

Stuart Chalmers

– on Must Die Records

– on Ono

Cardboard Club

1 Comment »

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  1. Many thanks for the ‘Deathless’ review, Joe, and nice to be in the excellent company of Stuart & Robert, both of whom I’ve gigged with.
    Absolutely agree with you that Stuart is THE man for scavenged & re-purposed tape loops!


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