only the squad survives: wnns joins rfm, then squints at laurie tompkins, giant claw and dikeman / serries / aquarius

August 20, 2017 at 6:59 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes)

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records)

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions)

 

Hey. Nice to see you. Come in. Draw up a cushion. Relax. Have a drink.

We may not have formally met before. I spent some time writing a blog called We Need No Swords. You know it? No? Ah well. It happened, for a while. And then it didn’t. Have a look at it, if you have time. You might like it.

But I’m here at RFM now, sort of, for a little while. You’ll probably see me popping up every few weeks or so. It takes a while, y’see. To get the words out the murk and onto the screen.

So, well, if you’re settled, let’s begin. Are we rolling? Ok.

laurie tompkins

Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes) cassette and digital album

It seems only fair and logical to start this new adventure in a spirit of continuity rather than rupture. Regular readers of RFM will have enjoyed Marlo Eggplant’s fantastic exploration of the recent output of the Slip label, in particular co-founder Laurie Tompkins’ Heat, War, Sweat, Law, which Ms. Eggplant described as ‘pure play, touching objects, feeling surfaces, and hollering at friends.’

45thGeneration Roman & European Bob is a companion piece to Heat, War, Sweat, Law, sharing the latter’s anarchic spirit, non-existent musicianship and gestural physicality to create ungainly lumps of intuitive, defamiliarized sound-making.

In reality that means showers of yelps and grunts accompanied by wandering organ lines and the clacking splutter of someone banging a flowerpot. The overriding impression is of Tompkins and collaborators Sam Andreae, Suze Whaites and Owen Roberts stumbling across a ruined landscape, picking at the shattered remnants of musical forms, their attempts to remake them hindered by the fog of some post-traumatic amnesia. The yowls, patters and parps are a kind of post-catastrophe music making in a territory for which the maps are long gone.

However, if that’s true, why does it sound so much bleedin’ fun? Heat, War, Sweat, Law, although similar in approach, was immersed in an ambience of frustration, Tompkins wrenching fragments of Heaven 17’s The Height Of The Fighting into a series of despairing modernist anthems. The reference point this time around is The Streets’ ‘Turn The Page’.

“Turn the page on the day/Walk away/Cause they’re sensing what I say/ I’m 45th generation Roman/But I don’t know ‘em.”

Not that you’d recognize any of Mike Skinner’s geezer melancholy in the lines of these cracked mosaics.

Yet although the aesthetic is similar the vibe is completely different, Tompkins and his mob enacting a bizarrely celebratory set of rituals, a prelude to a primitivistic bacchanal. The overlapping hoots and hollers of ‘Fifth’ are a bewildering rush, drama-school posturing mixed with Dionysian abandonment in a proper WTF mash-up. ‘ER’ goes even more dissonant, with faux-clumsy keyboard spurts and bashed flowerpots chiming a stop-start backdrop for Tompkins’ vocal fulminations.

Time to embrace the bonkers, flower children.

giant-claw

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records) vinyl and digital album

Giant Claw is the sound of your old Windows XP machine being sliced to ribbons by malware, opening up a backdoor for digital housebreakers to riffle through your iTunes library and Amazon wishlist in a vain search for anything valuable – or at least, ahem, compromising – before giving up in disgust and sauntering off leaving a pile of soiled wreckage in its wake. That all this digital carnage is strangely comforting when served up as safely packaged entertainment for lovers of electro-jolt everywhere is testament to Giant Claw mover and shaker Keith Rankin’s cunning ability to create joy from sonic catastrophe, shredding wholesome nuggets of technological capitalism into itchy blankets of enervated jitterbug soup.

This kind of byte-scrabbled mess won’t be unfamiliar to anyone versed in the Oneohtrix Point Never school of production, which recasts the artist as a kind of hyperspace flâneur  kicking through virtual junkyards until they’ve gathered enough glitchy detritus to hack together lumbering automatons of cyber-rusted manure. But Señor Claw is a bit of maestro at this sort of thing, his two previous albums of hiccupping abrasion – 2014’s Dark Web along with Deep Thoughts from a year later – wearing their compositional nous lightly, the fused nodes of their distorted bloops, vocaloid shards and attention-addled jumpcuts only gradually revealing themselves as the delicately woven threads jig insouciantly past.

And so it goes with Soft Channel, Rankin’s latest missive from his empire of blown soundcards. Released on Rankin’s own Orange Milk label, its frenetic asymmetry may well prompt much gnashing of teeth from those not down with the Giant Claw ethos. After all, if one wanted to hear one’s laptop melting down, one wouldn’t have renewed one’s antivirus subscription, eh? But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Those chunks of circuit board gloop transition gradually into gleaming, impossible shapes, like sculptures altering their dimensions each time you see (hear) them. Ineffable snatches of alien choirs nudge up against scrolling vistas of spontaneous composition, their fraggy soundscapes smeared with streams of machine lingo fresh from the droid-brain.

The trebly pixel bursts of ‘Soft Channel 02’ make for particularly refreshing listening, their irregular blurts morphing into a prickly ooze of anime moans and hard-panned stutters. Things get double-caffeinated later, with ‘Soft Channel 006’s’ cello plucks tessellating into modem babble like some Benny Hill hack into the traffic-light mainframe.

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody ports off.

Day Realms

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions) cassette and digital album

David McLean’s Tombed Visions label continues to mine a rewarding seam of mutant sounds that combines fire music’s euphoric blowing with the protean spontaneity of free improvisation. Here he hooks up stateside exploratory reedsman John Dikeman with Belgian guitarist-cum-sound artist Dirk Serries and Dutch powerhouse drummer René Aquarius, for a transatlantic jam that sets a determined course for the far reaches of the universe, the trio losing themselves in gorgeously tangled chains of silvery honk and glassy deep-space glister.

Dikeman, Serries and Aquarius are part of a resurgent wave of free jazz that gathers up players from Europe, the US and UK in a cross–cultural throng. Tombed Visions released the first outing from this trio, Night Realms, in 2016 (it’s also provided on the flipside of this tape for any heads who may have missed it) – and players with a similar worldview, such as Andrew Cheetham, Otto Wilberg, David Birchall, Colin Webster and Sam Andreae, have also been represented, in various combinations, by McLean over the years. Of this lot, the ABC Trio’s two releases come particularly recommended, the threesome of Andreae (tenor sax), Birchall (guitar) and Cheetham (drums) locking together in an astringent yet weirdly groovy manner that’s sure to get anyone that’s interested in non-dogmatic free improvisation foaming at the gums.

Night Realms walks a jazzier line than the spittle ‘n’ leather of the ABC squad, its blissful candour creating a beatific cocoon of sound whose radiance doesn’t let up for the 40-odd minutes of its runtime. René Aquarius, whose muscular, arrhythmic chops for Dead Neanderthals are a major contribution to the duo’s seismic force, lets loose with flurries of cymbal and percussive snare and kick-drum jolts, driving forward his partners’ explorations in tidal surges. Serries is on good form too, with circling mantras whose textural sheen are evocative of In A Silent Way-era McLaughlin.

Together, Serries and Aquarius form a taut mesh through which Dikeman slithers with riverine guile. His playing is fluid and melodic, but tough too, his curling riffs building up into a brassy lung-busting cacophony that transforms Day Realms’ opening quarter of an hour into a joyful overture. It proceeds through a series of peaks and troughs after that, although the rhythm rarely feels contrived. At around 20 minutes, Serries drops out and Aquarius moves to toms, freeing up the higher register for Dikeman to blast out in a reedy, squealing tantrum. Serries edging back in with an extended single-note drone adds another layer of hypnotism, yet the tension is allowed to dissipate, oozing out in a series of desultory splashes and plunks, before the trip gird their loins for cathartic final-minute splatterfest.

Bring the cloths, you’re gonna need to clean up around here.

Sacred Tapes

Orange Milk Records

Tombed Visions

-ooOOoo-

2 Comments »

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  1. […] I’ve started writing for the fantastic Radio Free Midwich website. It’s an honour and a privilege to join Rob, Joe and the squad, all of whom have provided […]

  2. It’s a delight to have you on board sir!


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