a quivering lake of iron: joe murray in the invisible city: stuart chalmers, yes blythe, black thread

July 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5 (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR22, edition of 50 or download)

Yes Blythe – Arieto (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR21, edition of 50 or download)

Black Thread – Seeping Pitch (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR20, edition of 50 or download)

mucks

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5

The King of the Loops is back with another instalment of his magical Imaginary Musicks collection.  Whilst recent Chalmers releases have been brimming with that space-age bachelor-pad sparkle this tape delves into a fascinating pop direction, making me think about folk like Talk Talk and The Associates for the first time in a decade.

What I liked at the time about those mid-80’s chin-strokers was they brought clever (but rarely clever-clever) themes and textures into a mighty pop tune; combining pre-millennial angst and longing with something the milkman could whistle.  No mean feat, eh?

And Mr S Chalmers is bringing this high-concept dance-ability back to my cheap-o stereo with little more than the contents of a reusable canvas shopping bag: 3 cassette tapes, pedals, synth and Tascam 4 track.

But don’t get the idea that this is in any way lightweight.  Check out the goat-herder playing solo Dicta-mung on ‘Brute’; the beasts chew contentedly, deconstructing an orchestra around a close-miked baritone sax.  Or that nagging, insistent lop-sided beat that’s half Wu Tang and half Lewis Taylor’s ‘Bittersweet’ named ‘Harbinger’.  Side one closes with ‘Warped’ (yeah… that title just had to happen) as a clutch of classical guitar notes get dragged back and forward across the tape head whipping up a quivering lake of iron.

Weepy piano tones shimmer all over ‘Nightscape’, whipping out a Kenny G for a couple of mordant moments that almost suggests Stuart is a fretless bass solo away from an ECM recording contract!

We dig deeper still on ‘Gothic’ (a padded envelope of volatile lady-squeal to be held in ginger paws) and ‘Psychosis’ (radio waves dotted with gritty human endeavour – a history of the world in realtime) to end on the heavy-tape heavyweight ‘Vista’ a masterclass of pregnant pause and elegant New Age smear.

The stoner pace and 3D sound mushrooms make side two as heady as an illicit joss-stick burning down to its thread core in my teenage bedroom.

OK you crossword fans.  Take the ‘U’ out of Stuart and you are left with a START!  Action is calling.  Put down that greasy pencil and dial up some Chalmers therapy.

arieto

Yes Blythe – Arieto

Listening to Yes Blythe; sight unseen, un-googled and without any background braindumps I’m inclined to place them in the Northern European tradition of Scandinavian analogue throb.

The pulsating synth/electronics are pensive antiques and wheeze with an ääkköset limp. It’s clean and pure as wood-panelled sauna-life followed by a snowy thrashing with birch branches.

But of course, I’m wrong, wrong, wrong.  Hailing from damp Manchester Callum Higgins seems to be Yes Blythe in its foggy entirety and here he presents two side-long pieces that play with space and time.

‘Tonal’ (side one) is pretty skunked-out, man; like the heaving of a giant’s shoulders as he chokes down a massive bong hit.  The vibrations extend out beyond the body and infect the detritus of the afternoon: the table a riot of glasses, cassettes leaping free from their cases, glossy magazines splayed on the sofa, half-read, paper legs akimbo.

Slight and delicate clicks keep a lazy time, stretching and contracting, across the occasional soft shudder from a groaning brass gong.  Smoke forms a flexible membrane that hangs across the room at chest height, the sun picks out one thousand motes, an everyday miracle revealed.

‘Tønal’ (side two) takes two notes snipped from the ghost of a Rhodes piano and plays them back into a busy restaurant.  Diners dine as cutlery clicks pepper the mix and conversation links the condiments. Oil and bread rattle, eyes meet and there is a pause… hearts interlock.

The night progresses and the twin notes slowly bounce off each other with no diners to observe. The sound plays for its own amusement as bodies twist in the sheets.

Minimal psychedelic?  Oh Yes Blythe!

pitch

Black Thread – Seeping Pitch

Just a thought…

For many N-AUndergrounders the release you hold in your hand and wrap your ears round is often the result of months of work and years of practice.  But despite the hours that go into that tape, CD-R or download it is rarely a final statement.

In fact one of the key signifiers of N-AU activity is the restless work-in-progress nature of what we do.  Those tapes just keep on coming.  And why?  Because there is more to uncover, more to explore…the individual idea seam may be heavily mined but the practice is part of the work; the work becomes the practice.

Black Thread, another new name on me, is unusual in that it feels fully realised and complete; a perfect string of polished beads.

Xangellix strides into the back room of a Working Man’s Club (Spennymoor circa 1987).

He throws his cape to one side and sits regally at the club synth. Plump fingers pump the keys releasing grainy wafts of melancholic ‘huhhgghh’.

Drinkers drain pints and slow light breaks through the grimy window.  Sound wraps like a shroud around the disassembled crowd.

It’s like layers of electronic silt being deposited on the sea bed

one drinker squawks guiltily as he nurses his half of Peculiar Brew.

Another lifts his cap and hisses through teethless gums,

Foddle! I’m picturing gases rolling and churning through a clay pipe. They fill each cavity with the sound of damp longing.  It’s fair set off my shrapnel ache here,

and he points a withered finger at his thigh.

 Whippets moan in their sleep. It sounds like they whisper

audio Soma

through their narrow jaws as Xangellix plays on.

Boards of Canada lurk outside with a Dicta lifting new sound-cobbles for their witchy releases. The cads!

The Meat Raffle sweats in the corner wrapped in bleeding cellophane. As the final powerful chords fade into the mould-scented mist Xangellix notices the red stain on the lino.

Schoof

he offers as a commentary and strides out, an engagement at The Top Hat beckons.

—ooOoo—

Invisible City Records

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