The RFM tag team special: Chrissie Caulfield on Vera Bremerton and Joe Posset on Stuart Chalmers and Three Eyed Makara

September 3, 2017 at 8:20 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Vera Bremerton – Songs of Apostasy EP (Self Release)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No 4 (Chocolate Monk)

Three Eyed Makara – Moonmilk Roof (Crow Versus Crow)

vera bremerton

Vera Bremerton – Songs of Apostasy EP (Self Release) CD and digital album

I first encountered Vera Bremerton when I was looking for people to play a gig with my band CSMA in London a couple of years ago. Vera’s submission was an early one but I knew at once she’d got the job. Here was someone with high-end musical skills in composition and performance, and theatricality in spades.

The performance she gave that day was electrifying (I heartily recommend the video I made of it) and I was sorry that she didn’t have anything recent on Bandcamp for me to review for the good readers of this blog. There were releases on her Bandcamp site, but they all dated from quite a bit earlier than I was writing for.

Well now she has a new EP out. And it’s as amazing as I’d hoped, though sadly it’s only 3 tracks long. The solution to this is, of course, to play it twice.

Tracks 1 and 4 open with a quiet industrial beat which draws you in gently before hitting you flat in the face. It’s total distorted headbanging stuff, and this is before the vocals have even started. Once they do, the two voices (both Bremerton of course) provide a fascinating and disturbing narrative. There’s the powerful, diabolical alto voice and the gently, tortured soprano who disappears from the song totally, and disturbingly, in the middle.

The thing this most reminds me of is Schnittke’s Faust Cantata. The tonality is of a similar style as is the two opposing voices being played off against each other – sadly the great man was not so much into industrial beats. The double-voice effect is something Vera does amazingly well live as you will have seen if you took my advice and watched the video I mentioned above.

This is Amy Winehouse teamed up with Björk in Scrapheap Challenge (don’t ask me who they’re playing against, probably Bananarama, who stand no chance) and it’s utterly glorious.

Tracks 2 and 5 are a less frenetic affair. I do love the opening to this, to me it sounds like a household object being tortured. This eases you gently into the main body of the track, but the rattle of the opening comes back to ‘rattle’ you at regular intervals (sorry, couldn’t resist). The distorted beats of the first track are still there but they provide more of a menacing ostinato for Vera to sing a longer line over. The words here are less distinct (though that might just be my ear infection playing up). Regardless, I don’t think there are any until around 2 minutes in [subs: please check this].

A version of the rattling from the beginning brings the track to a temporary halt around 2:40, it’s a lovely moment of potential calm as the reverb tail dies away, but then the whole thing comes back in, harder than ever. More layers are added to both the vocal lines and the beats, with that terrifying knocking coming back harder than ever. Sit tight in your seat for this one.

Tracks 3 and 6 have a much longer, calmer opening. Though ‘calmer’ is probably not the right word. Yes I chose it … and now I regret it. Sorry. Spooky would be much nearer. There’s a gentle synth drone with occasional punctuations from what sounds like an infernal machine winding up to perform some terrible function. The lyrics “Do what you will ….” increase the discomfort until the track explodes into ultra-violence at around 2:10. Despite the re-occurrence of the ‘spooky’ section after this and the words ‘mangled and torn, my body …’ there IS more violence to come. Luckily for the listeners, we only get torn apart emotionally.

The track’s coda is an almost normal-sounding drum beat that dissolves into the final verse that sounds as though it’s supposed to be more optimistic, but really you’re not so sure about that, I suspect it’s more ‘death as final release’. An extract from a Dido’s Lament for the 21st century.

In short – (and this EP is too short) I’m totally in love with this music. There’s sensitivity and subtlety even in the more violent sections. You can hear the care that has been taken over the production, even on laptop or phone speakers the intensity is enough to ensnare you and pull you totally into Vera’s amazing world.

More please.

stuart chalmers loop phantasy

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No 4 (Chocolate Monk) CDr and digital album

Fantasy jam indeed!

At first I thought the King of the Loops was creating an homage to veteran loopers: Terry Riley, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.  An audacious loop experiment bringing old beards up-to-date and squealing back into the Underground after years of Sunday Supplement worship.

But no…not a note, fizz or drone comes from these id-wrinklers.  This is a total Chalmers jam and even more the special for it.

Imagine shifting colours of sweet sparkle or the greasy swoop of a bird’s wing.  That’s ‘Rainbows Dancing in Your Head’ a sound so perfectly concave it mirrors the chilly impression made by a neat ice cream scoop.  Cup your palms together to visualise the roundness of sound.  Place them over your ears to hear the sea-shell-sloshing. It’s a celebration of all things wave-like and flowing.

Naked loops, complete with old-school tape-stutter, starts off ‘Flying Dervishes of the Recycled Choir’ – the mid-note cut-off forms a spooky base over which pumping organs throb warm, wet air.  The choir moves from baritone to soprano (probably) with the novel swivel of a pitch wheel.  Upping the creepy ante – is this the new music for The Omen?

‘Bedroom Hypnotica’ takes a single point of shining metal (a captured droplet of cymbal crash?) that is pushed and pulled into a <><><><><><><>< shape.  Opening and closing – it’s a grown up tinkle…like glitter had a noise.  A disco ball seen through mediaeval stained glass: a million points of light reflecting from across those dark centuries illumining the very human need for elevation.

Phew!

After all that sparkle things get gritty on, ‘Yorkshire Folk Song Played and Sung by the Cloud Forest Nomads’, uncovered field recordings of nasal bamboo flutes played in God’s Own Country.  The reedy wheezing soon becomes part of the Chalmers palette to be spread thick with supple knife and greasy fingers. A double-loop quality makes this bounce like a basketball with a rich orange resonance.   The coda darkens the edges of the frame with an unknown quality, a pensive ‘what’s going on?’ that balances the lightness perfectly.

‘Unfurl’?  Classic Frippertronics being fed through the most agreeable Metal Machine Music filter: sounds pop and warble, meshing as tight as fibers becoming colourful felt.

But this sweet Phantasy is brought to a close with the strident ‘Refuseniks Austerity Levitation’, an interrupted drum loop submits to the treatment building extra arms and legs, kicking and punching like Prince Paul hired Hal Blaine for a De La/Chalmers jam.

And if that’s not swollen your pocket I’m giving up!  Carve these letters on a laurel leaf and place firmly behind the ear  – S.C.  K.O.T.L.

Those in the know will wink their glazzies for sure.

three eyed

Three Eyed Makara – Moonmilk Roof (Crow Versus Crow) Cassette and digital album

Collective wood-music from a travelling band of hoiks and bawdy villains!

This honk, clatter and scrape feeds directly into my spine hole pushing out all the bad-vibe juice and letting a fresh-flowing sunlight course though the bones.  It’s a liquid loving that nourishes and warms me.  A marzipan manna that fills my soul and sweeps the bitter tears from my eyes!

I hear you…get back to the typewriter man for some sensible descriptions of what the devil is going on.

Strictly speaking I’d file this under group-think free improvisation with contributions (this time) from:

Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh – Viola
Djuna Keen – Saxophone
Natalia Beylis – Mandobird & Electronics
Willie Stewart – Snare & Floortom & Gong

It steers a path that’s well beyond the jazz zone and creeping into something far more rootsy and dew-scented.  Like silver-edged ferns these pieces untangle themselves from tightly coiled buds and shudder into rude life – proudly standing tall among the scrabbling weeds.

The mixture of primitive and modern is deftly balanced.  Open-throated sax honks battle the drumming menace on ‘Half Blind Valley’ in a jam that could have graced a crusade (or something).

But ‘Oolite and Pitch’ sounds like the Company Week crew took the whole darn show out of the city and into a mushroom circle to play for the assembled fire-sprites.  A manic sawing is the thing that swings, loosening my rivets, as I duck and swerve the brass knuckles and soft drum implosions.

It’s a dance of familiar textures but sewn together in a new way, a patchwork if you will, that can be comforting and saucily intimate.  It turns hollow around the 11 minute mark.  All that bluster and howling, all the defiant bomb-like snare work begin to shuffle round a tree stump like sodden campers.   The final minutes are shrouded in electronic mist (lost White Noise tracks discovered in an old tin can?) that makes each rattle and bleat glow like menacing eyes viewed through a grimy window.

Before I know it the moss is growing through my toes…

Vera Bremerton Bandcamp

Stuart Chalmers Bandcamp / Chocolate Monk

Crow Versus Crow Superstore

-ooOOoo-

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