don’t trust those pillows: sky high diamonds on ian j cole, stuart chalmers and the committee for sonic research

May 14, 2017 at 9:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ian J Cole – The Clifton Hotel, Bristol 1 & Bristol 2 (for Cello and Moog) (Self Release/Pocklington Music)

Stuart Chalmers – Poetry of Decay (Self Release/Strange Rules)

Various Artists – The Committee for Sonic Research 33 1/3 (TCFSR)

 Ian J Cole

Ian J Cole – The Clifton Hotel, Bristol 1 & Bristol 2 (for Cello and Moog) (Self Release/Pocklington Music) CD digital album


Bristol in the rain

Torrential storm above me

Drown in surround sound

stuart chalmers

Stuart Chalmers – Poetry of Decay (Self Release/Strange Rules) Sold out cassette and CDr and digital album


Trapped in a film reel

A trophy for your time here

Poems warp and die


Various Artists – The Committee for Sonic Research 33 1/3 (TCSR) Double Vinyl Extravaganza and digital album

The first vinyl release on TCFSR is a double album of tracks by TCFSR artists British Experimental Rocket Group, Dental Drill Slips, Lone Cosmonaut, Occult Science Foundation, Schmaidl, Trixie Delight and WarpCensor.

This is the type of vinyl that I dreamed of owning as a young teenager first buying records in the 80s.

Caressing the big shiny square and admiring it’s dimensions I just know that this will be placed delicately onto my turntable only when the time is right. I can’t even imaging peeling off the shiny seal enveloping the sleeve at this stage.

It’s a breathless moment; I am sure some readers understand this intimately. It’s not just the physical smoothness of the outside packaging, like a really large brightly coloured sweet, but once unpeeled I know that the insides will contain that rich black and smooth shiny vinyl.  And when the needle hits that first groove for the very first time and the sounds seep through the static fuzziness…anything can happen.

“This is for you!” Trixie smiles warmly at me as my eyes quietly take in the montage of images, the squeaky shiny feel and the list of artists and tracks on this wonderful gift. Some names are immediately recognisable to me so I elicit a squeal (slightly muffled as we are in a public place) of delight…. a squeal of Trixie Delight.

Not that this compilation features an abundance of Trixie’s input and work, however, her presence is not superficial. Two of her most prominent tracks, ‘No Surprise’ and ‘Submarine’ are featured on sides one and two and she unites with both tourmaline hum and WarpCensor for two tracks on side four: ‘Frozen’ (a Trixie Delight remix) and ‘Camden Doughnuts.’

With Schmaidl’s track ‘Love’, Trixie can be heard counting melodically in several different languages. Finally, The Occult Science Foundation features a subtle and brief sample of Trixie’s vocal from ‘Submarine.’

Already, it can be seen that I am a strong supporter of Trixie’s varied musical output. Her vocals are warm and delicious at all times and her choice of instruments and avant-garde styling of sounds have grabbed me from the outset.  Hearing that ‘No Surprise’ has been featured on the BBC’s Late Junction recently, came, as well, no surprise whatsoever.

Overall, the collection oozes an intricate mechanical feel, from the subtle music box twists, turns and twangs in ‘No Surprise’, through to the static yet repetitive mechanical elevator sounds from Dental Drill Slips in ‘Elysium Extraction’.

Blending in however, are several tracks with an uplifting, spiraling and hugely melodic presence from Lone Cosmonaut’s ‘Code’ and the British Experimental Rocket Group’s ‘Catching Raindrops’; driving, powerful, and spirited, these artists bring a strong sense of robust posture to the compilation.

Simon Lewry, the albums producer explains the sequence development,

“The aim was to get about 16 minutes of audio on each side, and not more than 18 minutes, so that maximum fidelity could be obtained from the grooves. We tried to create four self-contained sides, rather than range across the entire double album.  You should feel a rounded musical experience if you listen to one side only.”

So, who are these artists and what do they bring to TCFSR?

Schmaidl’s music is “driven by moods, experimentation, and by time spent in nature” and this context pervasively emanates through his upbeat and distinctively developmental tracks. ‘River 1997’ transports the listener into a climate of intertwined beats, twists and turns, pushing forward, pulling back, harsher sounds undercurrent the surface textures but that beat keeps hammering away very decisively.

‘Love’, develops slowly but becomes a powerful discursive insight on love.  The Peace Prayer of St. Francis, that bleeds interestingly in to “please flip to side B”, reminding the listener of the multiple intertextual contexts available that are currently seeping through contemporary electronic experimental music and sound art.

A US based German citizen, Schmaidl’s  latest, and first physical release, ‘Hangouts’, is due to be released at the end of May in a limited CD run.

tourmaline hum is Lewry and Steve Tree, original members of Except Buses whose current focused interest is in purely electronic processing. Their opening track ‘Cranes’ on side one is an interesting mix of dark introductory tones, which settle quickly into a melodic formation whilst still carrying the heavy precise beats that developed the track from the outset.

The lightly spirited and spiraling track, ‘Fioritura’, is a short, concise instrumental piece but pre-empts the more experimental vibe of Bletchley Park Lurker, which is much edgier and has a deeper sub-bass selection of intermittent wind sounds in a call and response style, like sea creatures calling out to each other.

It is interesting to experience these two tracks from the same artist, one after the other, however; one is distinctly more experimental which brings me quickly to an interesting tangent in this selection.  ‘Rain Song’, on side two, offers a tribal approach with rich tender wooden xylophone sounds, a choir, and sensual beats, throwing forth an upbeat vibe of positivity and perseverance and is the ideal follow-on track from WarpCensor’s ‘Past Started’, which is distinctly positive and a catchy upwards swirl of melody and beats, gorgeously warm and precise. ‘Past Started’ is a visually and aurally uplifting track from Richard Zarywacs who is the last member of tourmaline hum (Lone Cosmonaut/Dental Drill/WarpCensor) to release solo work, but according to Lewry,

“he’s well in to his stride now.”

On side four I find ‘Frozen’, also a tourmaline hum track and an elegant remix of Trixie Delight’s track ‘Sleep’. The introduction is absolutely stunning and engages me immediately with its lusty and muscular beats. Trixie’s understated yet powerful vocal delivers a melody that accompanies the listener into a drifty, dreamlike state, an invitation to dream and relax intensely through harmony, melody and rhythm, but “don’t trust those pillows, pillows” and the accompanying harmonious backdrop suggests an ominous undercurrent may sweep the listener away if sleep is experienced too deeply.

I am aroused from Trixie’s slumber-induced state with alertness and a jolt-jarring thud as I am thrown into the next track from Dental Drill Slips. The industrial world is also wide awake and clanging mechanically, repetitively, overwhelmingly, so there is no sleep to be had here, regardless of Trixie’s previous dreamy siren call.  ‘Elysium Extraction’ shatters any ideas of a peaceful rest. Dental Drill Slips explains more about his approaches on his website.

”My audio work has always been about boundaries, using sound differently, devising compositions from a sparse palette (for example, a trio of compositions using only a sample of a single wave that was 0.0094 second long), molding audio from novel, often unmusical sources.”

The mechanical vibe threatens to continue with the British Experimental Rocket Group’s track ‘Catching Raindrops’ but draws with it a poetic and melodic interlude, which breaks away suddenly and then returns to regain a presence, like a battle between internal sounds and the external worldly currents that drag and pulse the listener through time and space.

‘Winnerton Flats’ on side three is an eerie landscape laid out for the listener, like a film score it sets the scene for a misty rural atmosphere, purely instrumental, perhaps creeping towards a horror themed film or psychological thriller. The British Experimental Rocket Group transcends conventional instrumental offerings by presenting “sonic experiments and synthetic compositions” as explained by Lewry, “selected tracks and recovered excerpts are being heard for the first time.”


Occult Science Foundation describe themselves as,

“Artists Provocateurs. Witnesses. Investigating the present through the capricious cracked lens of the past.”

‘Morality Cycle’ on side three is from their album Urban Witchcraft and consists of warped tones and jagged beats that seem to hold the waning and warped tones together. The interesting background melodic sample from Trixie’s ‘Submarine’ lists delicately under the surface, threatening to emerge but holds itself intriguingly back.

Lone Cosmonaut is Tree, half of tourmaline hum, archivist of British Experimental Rock Group and is also in partnership with Dental Drill as Bizarre Love Children. Lone Cosmonaut is a solo project of indeterminate duration, consisting of electronic, experimental and ambient music. Tree explains,

“Lone Cosmonaut is my solo project, where electronics, field recordings and found sounds come together with software and hardware in perfect disharmony.”

‘Code’, on side three is an expansive, spacey soundscape that sweeps in and out again but stays just long enough to entrance the listener with its presence. More of Tree’s work can be found here.

Trixie Delight’s ‘Submarine’ is both delightful and curiously hard to listen to because of its strange juxtapositions. She takes the words of the artist Frida Khalo and enmeshes them into an immersive watery soundscape where the listener feels like they are drowning…

“I want to be inside your darkest everything”

… is repeated in Trixie’s luscious velvety tones, a multi layered, looped, delicate simplicity arises out of the murky foreboding. This track is all about hope, and love, and sincerity between two lovers that know that they love in a watery darkness. ‘No Surprise’ has a wondrous deep double bass vibe contrasting with the trinket sounds of miniature mechanics and music boxes. Trixie’s vocal here is strong and almost touching on a recognisable blues – jazz style of Nina Simone with these gorgeously strong melodic tones. I can hear Trixie’s breathing between the words and I like that rawness of breath as the melody appears and disappears, rising and falling, circling backwards and forwards through the ticking and whirring delicate thimble sounds. Utterly exquisite.

I love the versatility of Trixie’s work on this compilation as well as on her SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages, as she explains,

“ I sing, I play street signs with a cello bow, I play the guitar, and I love hardware hacking & circuit bending.”

She has recently been involved in raising awareness and money for refugees through her music and combined with The Sporz (Baltimore) to raise money for the ‘Phone Credit For Refugees And Displaced People’ charity.

“It allows them to keep in touch with loved ones and support services. It also provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable, unaccompanied minors, to protect them from child trafficking, sexual assault and violence.”

So, sadly, I reach the end of this four-sided vinyl album and choose to leave the vinyl spinning so that the static fuzziness continues through my battered old speakers. This, for me this highlights the context for the album, and demonstrates how vinyl adds another layer to the production and the presentation of these artist’s hard work.

Also, the how and why of each artist bringing with them their own sense of nostalgic history and experiences through music into a present context is highlighted for me here. A context, however, that is fascinatingly warped and ruffled through sound experimentalism and postmodern blurs, dysfunctional dissolving, breaking itself consistently down into beats, sounds, jolts, solo words, hums, ticks, clacks and clicks, so I let the record spin through its grooves on its fuzzy static ecstatic and ever cyclic journey.

There’s nothing like a decent piece of vinyl to remind me of the everlasting spirals of life.


Ian J Cole Bandcamp

Stuart Chalmers Bandcamp

TCFSR Website / TCFSR Bandcamp


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