neat as hand stitched brogues: rfm on duncan harrison, downer canada, permanent six flags, secluded bronte, vampyres and death in scarsdale

September 28, 2017 at 6:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Duncan Harrison – Preamble to Nihil (No Label)

Downer Canada – Watson Island English (Reading Group)

Permanent Six Flags – Harping on Units since Forever (Reading Group)

Secluded Bronte – Ten Point Plan to Destroy Astrology (Singing Knives)

Vampyres – Century Scars (Invisible City Records)

Death in Scarsdale – Ruminations (Invisible City Records)

 Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison – Preamble to Nihil (No Label) Limited cassette and digital album

Motherfucking effortless tape-jaxx from Sensei Harrison.

And it’s a right dizzying listen with over a dozen thoughts and techniques presented with a magician’s sleight of hand.

“Look mate…nothing up me sleeve and Hey Presto! “  Every few minutes a new sound wriggles into your earhole.   And a whole new set of sonic vistas and opportunities opens with each canny reveal.

I’m such a fan of this ‘in parts’ approach.  It’s like staring into a fly’s eye; multifaceted and crazily reflective.  The movements come thick and fast collapsing into each other like drunken Henry Moore nudes.   It is god damn ripe my dearest reader.

To give you a sense of the movement and pace here’s a blow-by-blow account of what I’m hearing.

(A1) …pretty-tape-loop-guitar-glitch-pretty-tape-loop-guitar-glitch…

(A2) Clipped vocal barnacles buffer spoken word

(A3) Pastoral relax.  My Auntie’s glass bell collection gathers dust.

(A4) DOMESTIC FLATMATE DRAMA over ‘savage beeping’

(A5) Street scene: part Hovis whimsy – part eye-spy on French teens and a casual ‘Alright’

(A6) Close miked plastic wrenching slides into…

(A7) …dramatic sheet metal scrape that gets occasionally rubbery.

Can I call this an act of Audio Verité?  Jeppers!  I think I just did.  I’m revelling in the damn realness of this tape.  There’s a down-to-earth honesty here – from the most casual slurp to the sweet traffic ‘schoosh’ to the single battered pipe honk.   And if that’s too highfalutin for you?  Just dig the ‘essence of compilation’ feel on this cool-spooler where the lack of linking thread becomes a damn linking thread.

(B1) Tempting mouth-pop / spluttering wetly

(B2) Carefully stitched tape hiss and static crackle

(B3) Trout Mask Clarinet

(B4) A pause.  A subtle pig grunt and pre-language glottals (this one worthy of the admission price alone)

(B5) Recorder solo from ‘Fool on the Hill’ rejected for melancholic reasons

(B6) Grand Prix for steel rats / distorto buzz / shortwave / lead fizz

(B7) Pub scene from 1764 (moist fuxx)

If this is a throw down to all tape-hounds it’s a damn effective one.

Full Nelson.   Advantage Harrison!

Any similarity to TQ zine’s review of Dunc’s pretty white slab is purely, honestly incidental.

 downer canada watson island

Downer Canada – Watson Island English (Reading Group) CD and download

More exquisite hiss from Downer Canada on the extremely classy Reading Group label.

This CD really shoves at the limits of what two crappy tapes can do.  Side one erupts like a tin teardrop rattling an electric beard.  The huss and fuss is almost overwhelming with gob iron shanties blowing dry air into a tiny rum hurricane.

Side two starts with a gentle paddling of water.

Only the most superstitious sailor brings his Dictaphone into his kayak but you’re glad he did as the simple spoken word loop decays and wobbles in the berth.

Like Alvin Lucier copped a ride or something the blunt ‘klack’ of the stop button is buried into this recording like a satisfying comma sub-dividing the loops/loops/loops whistling out of the speakers as a horny milkman would.

As gently gritty as sand in sock but one thousand times more welcome.

 six flags

Permanent Six Flags – Harping on Units Since Forever (Reading Group) CD and download

This act of wonderful sound gathering and organisation from Permanent Six Flags takes on board ritualistic field recordings, found sound, Neil Mills-style Number Poems and tape grot in short snippets and long chunks.

It acts as an ear bath for tiny souls.  In fact the hiss (we are near water at this point – dripping with fat dollops) could be carbonated pop, shook up to remain furiously contained in the bottle.

One of the few non non-musical piece features a really well played…err…clavinet, slack key guitar, broken harp or koto?  You get the gist…it’s difficult to tell what’s going on but eccentric is the style and eccentric is what becomes king right here.

Emily Martin and Derek Baron’s (SPF) best works are the psychedelic domestic recordings; spare banter with each other (or someone else) draped over an instant piano composition all echoing off the brass pots and Italian tiled floor.

The final ensemble piece for single vowels and Flemish speakers is, as you’d imagine, a riveting performance that draws all sense from the ’1’ and promises to send it to bed with no supper.

Like the endless static of space.  PSF stretch out fingers of gravity everywhere they touch.


Secluded Bronte – Ten Point Plan to Destroy Astrology (Singing Knives) Cassette

England’s most polite whirrers and skimmers ingest a Foley artist and barf out chunks fancy as paper doilies.

Listeners!  You are in for a rare treat.  This is a full-spectrum shuffle of delicate micro-skronk and individual ear-grunts presented in a lip-smacking smorgasbord approach.  Snatches of live performance are stitched together with more intimate jams and rehearsals to create a meta-narrative of marvellous BRONTE.

AN OUTSIDER: (whistling like a careless milkman…he wanders into earshot)

THE EXPERIENCE: The gentle ‘clonk’ of various bric-a-brac rustles my lugs. The scour of grey charcoal buffers disembodied voices that cackle right and left.

A PASSING TOT: It’s no-fi, it’s lo-fi.  It’s why-fi!  Revel in the classy scrape and delicious friction punctuated by a haughty silence.  Where else does Milton Babbitt breathe cold fire into a redundant oboe? In a Secluded Bronte! (Arf Arf)

THE EXPERIENCE: all at once they chatter.  The everything-as-incoherent-as-everything-else approach bakes like a nice cake.


A PASSING TOT: What I mean is from lonely eggs, boring old flour and sexy sugar a glorious Victoria Sponge emerges.  Who’d have thought it?  Beauty formed through fancy catering.

AN OUTSIDER: But I can’t make head nor tail of it.  What am I supposed to think?

A PASSING TOT: This is an exercise in reflective submission.  You must turn off the ego but remain alert.  Hook your mind on any passing detail that tickles your fancy.  Follow it through the remaining vash but hold tight.

THE EXPERIENCE: Adam Bohman, Jonathan Bohman and Richard Thomas strike, rub and mutter over the contents of a skip found outside the Royal Albert Hall.  It’s all Kensington Gore mate!  Moments are precious; a bowed wine glass becomes a gentle bell ringing.  The lucky smear of a tape manipulation fades into a brief synth hole to emerge in a fresh mountain stream.

A PASSING TOT: The music of poetry, the poetry of music.  All are born in misty Thornton but transported to modern day Catford.  These players are in most wonderful control of their hot lips and voices.

THE EXPERIENCE: Sherlock Holmes doing a crossword?  Watson’s polished cockney shouts the clues.  Multiple stories snipped from the ‘…and finally’ pile and reconstructed using sticky tape.

A PASSING TOT: See?  No instrumental interlude is ever too long but just right.  A short solo drumming, a nice tape buzz or some detritus shimmer.  These clicks and jitters form a solid structure for the voices to soar.

AN OUTSIDER:  It becomes clear.  I think I see it!  Like Tetris…blocks of sound.  I can almost feel them twist in the air to fit as neat as hand-stitched brogues.

BRONTE!  These bedtime stories are accompanied with a tea cup brimming with laudanum.

p.s. my dumb-ass laptop has issues so that means the image above is not the cover of this funky tape but pic of lovely JB and RT.  If I get shit fixed I’ll change this so you can see the real deal!

vampyres 2

Vampyres – Century Scars (Invisible City Records) Cassette and ‘gasp’ digital album

This ultra heavyweight duo (Lee Culver/Martyn Depletion) invokes the erratic pulse of a faulty jet engine heard through layers of brittle magic shells.

It’s a noisy affair for sure but these four careful hands make sure this is a totally restrained beast – there is no hurtling off willy-nilly into the stratosphere.  Rather, a disciplined and punishing set of parameters are prompted, goaded and prodded into the teetering balance between control and overload.

What I am guessing are analogue electronics provide the dark bubbling adding some lofty vertical to the roiling, earth-scorching, fuzz that’s strictly horizontal on ‘Sacred Lake’.  This is true fist in the air stuff designed for studded leather wrists.

But the lengthy ‘Abruzzo Blood Portraits’ has a melancholic air that’s hard to describe.  A longing ache is coded into the underpinning blast-furnace bluster.  And there’s real sense of loneliness and isolation in the electronic howls.  Gradually these two distinct strands rot into each other to leave a twirling, twisting Azathoth piping foul and unholy horns.  Lost on a moor you better stick to the paths right?

Side two starts with the soaring ‘Breeding Ground’ mimicking a WWII maritime disaster movie hybrid – King Kong versus the Bismarck?  The deep thrum of bi-planes starts the proceedings as they dart nimbly among the rigging.  Soon a powerful fist begins to swat the bee-like swam destroying a half-dozen at a time.  The mid-air explosions are perfectly realised on antique synth.

The final piece is the aptly named ‘Night Creatures’ and a total grim creeper.  Like medieval boiling oil torture becoming music this is complete with red-hot-poker hisses splintering of bone and the chattering of teeth as an innocent recants.

death in scarsdale

Death in Scarsdale – Ruminations (Invisible City Records) Cassette and digital album

Very, very refined tape loop/synthwerk from Dunston’s Death in Scarsdale that nudges the edges of my humble reality.

Side one consists of ‘Ruminations I’, a fifteen minute loop piece that moves at a stately, steady pace. Some sort of reed organ is huffing a tired two-note huff until the delicious ‘klunk’ of the tape splice brings us back in a never ending circle.

A light industrial clatter and simple birdsong is mixed well-down adding a crunchy base-note to the rich and complex loopage.  A brief whattle of Greek tones and smudged voices pinches this side to a satisfying and neat end.

Music to read maps to.

Side two is, you guessed it, ‘Ruminations II’, a more synth-based hum.   Like picnicking beneath electricity pylons a faint crackle exists in the air that you can smell rather than hear.  The hum is in no hurry to go anywhere and bimbles drunkenly; the subtle introduction of some domestic chiff-chaff blends perfectly with the blokes putting up scaffolding outside.

After a time I become aware of the most delicate of melodies that seems to hang in space.  I’m not sure where it came from, or when it started but it’s tweaking a memory lobe labelled A Guy Called Gerald for some reason.  There’s no acid on this wax but definitely some uplifting mojo is afoot!

Confident and meditative, this tape would sit nicely in the never-never land of Round Bale Recordings or the latest old-beard-euro-freak seam mined by Chocolate Monk.


Harrison Hypermarket

Reading Group

Singing Knives Records

Invisible City Records


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