speechless: on not writing about taming power and ashtray navigations

June 21, 2016 at 11:55 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Taming Power – Selected Works 1996-97 (7” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 7” – 001, edition of 100)

Taming Power – Three Pieces (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10” – 015, edition of 111)

Taming Power – Six Pieces (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10” – 016, edition of 110)

Taming Power – Twelve Pieces (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10” – 017, edition of 525)

Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica (12” vinyl LP plus CD, VHF, vhf#138)

Ashtray Navigations – Ashtray Navigations presents The Mechanical Abrasions Of (volume one) (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, moa1-2016, edition of 100)

Ashtray Navigations – Ashtray Navigations presents The Mechanical Abrasions Of (volume two) (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, moa2-2016, edition of 100)

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, edition of 100)

a shimmering replicathree

Regular readers will know of the respect I have for the work of Askild Haugland.  Click on the ‘taming power’ tag above and you will find a guest post by Neil Campbell introducing him to me and thus, inadvertently, to radiofreemidwich, a catalogue annotated by Askild himself (with ordering details – Taming Power and his label Early Morning Records have virtually no online presence) and a bunch of reviews in which my usual tools of swagger and whimsy fail to express just how special this music is. The world described is unique, the methods used are simple but unfathomable, the results achieved are various angles on perfection.

Regular readers will also know of the swooning love I have for the music of Ashtray Navigations. Click on the ‘ashtray navigations’ tag above and you will find thousands of words telling stories of the deep blue interstellar Buddha, of edible sound, of military machinations, of 1960s gangsters yachting off the Amalfi coast – my usual tools of swagger and whimsy singing like a wind chime made of knives. The reason I write is, to a large extent, to describe the kind of life-affirming, psychedelic synaesthesia evoked by Phil Todd and Mel O’Dubhshlaine. No one does it better.

So why have these releases been languishing undescribed, many months after being received here at Midwich Mansions? Partly for the same reason a tweet is easier to write than an email, which in turn is easier to write than a letter, which in turn is easier to write than a proclamation painted in foot high letters with hand-ground pigment on a chalk-white cliff-face. When something feels important and it is clear I don’t have the time or energy to do it justice, it is easy to put it to one side and wait for the ‘perfect time’ which, of course, never comes.

My silence on the matter is partly fear of failure too. I realise that writing about music is, ultimately, a futile business (‘dancing about architecture’ and all that) which is why I’ve never done it. What I do is write about the response I have when listening to music – that ‘once removed’ step acknowledging the subjectivity of the exercise and freeing me from the obligation of ‘judgement’. Ugh, nothing more tiresome than some bollock awarding marks out of ten on Pitchfork is there? Still, I appreciate this ‘have cake/eat it’ stance has its limitations and the artifice tends to collapse entirely when confronted with music that I love so sincerely, that I engage with so wholeheartedly. I have to patch my burst ego and re-inflate it with a foot-pump before my wittering seems anything other than utterly unnecessary. In short: faced with the releases listed above what the hell am I going to say?

Thus this time I’ve decided against wittering and I’ve put swagger and whimsy to one side. Instead you’re getting an illustrative anecdote at second hand. The other day I was listening to the episode of Adam Buxton’s podcast in which he interviews Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. They chat and stroll around Lyon the afternoon before the band play a show in the Roman amphitheatre there…

(an aside on Radiohead: I was dismayed to see the outburst of snarkery on social media that accompanied the release of their recent album. I’m not a huge fan but recognise they are an important band and have created some very fine music indeed. Plenty of their output is strange and interesting but is also engaging enough to have acted as a ‘gateway drug’, ushering thousands of kids into more esoteric galleries. I also admire the ‘have cake/eat it’ relationship they have with corporate music: being part of it but largely, it seems, on their own terms. To those who feel the urge to take the piss I say: fuck off. There must be some Velvet Underground box set you could wank over instead. Go peel your banana.)

…and at one point their conversation is interrupted by a fan. The guy is a perhaps a little earnest, but not at all creepy, and wishes to express how important the music of Jonny’s band is to him. He says the same thing several times, phrased slightly differently each time, like we do when excited and tongue tied and Jonny thanks him. Adam takes a picture of the two of them together after the inevitable struggle to make the camera work. I was touched by Jonny’s graciousness but found the slight catch, the slight warble in the fan’s voice instantly recognizable and, to my surprise, profoundly moving. I found myself welling up. Yes, I thought, yes – that is what it is like. To be so taken with something, for something to mean so much to you, that its presence makes rational expression almost impossible. So, with respect to that Radiohead fan in France, here is my complete review of four releases by Taming Power and another four by Ashtray Navigations:

This music is so, so important to me.

I’m not being flippant. What I’m saying – arms outspread, nervous (but huge) grin on my face – is that if you have any interest at all in the stuff covered by this blog then you must investigate Taming Power and Ashtray Navigations. It’s wonderful.  This music, and the reaction it provokes, is the reason this blog exists. Seriously, how can you not be intrigued by something that leaves a notorious blabbermouth like me speechless?

—ooOoo—

RFM post containing Early Morning Records catalogue with ordering details – please email Askild before sending money.

Ashtray Navigations

(Taming Power picture nicked from Uncle Mark’s proper review over at the ever-wonderful Idwal Fisher blog.)

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