wired for sound part 17: new luddism’s luddite deficit tapes – high speeddddd tapists!

September 11, 2011 at 11:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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I have written at length, and on several occasions, about my love for the fanzine DDDD and its founders Simon and Pippa.  Click on the ‘dddd’ tag above for evidence.  Years ago I mourned its death in hard copy.  As a papery entity it appeared through the letterbox rolled and taped into a tube, ready to be used to swat away the irrelevancies of everyday existence.  When I started this blog I was overjoyed to find its unlikely web presence: vast scans of resolutely unsearchable cut-and-paste collage, the most unwieldy blog on the internet.  Simon’s writing is/was a constant source of thought-provoking inspiration for me and has, on occasion, been genuinely life changing.  For example, my current stance on downloading, music appreciation and the ill effects of the former on the latter was worked out in a series of blog posts ‘in conversation’ with him.

Recently, however, DDDD imploded again.  In a breathtaking act of self-immolation, the entire online archive was pulled overnight.  All of it – gone, apparently forever.  Not one for half measures, our Simon.  This time though I was prepared.  I didn’t start wailing and gnashing my teeth, I just stood in front of the cave with my arms folded, a wry smile on my face, and waited for the boulder to roll back.

In due course it did, but I have to say the form of the resurrection caught me somewhat by surprise.  I returned home one day after a gruelling session of hardcore clerking to the welcome sight of a hand-addressed jiffy bag on the right side of the letterbox (avoid giving me the hump by checking its dimensions before sending me anything – see ‘about me and this blog’ page).  In it were the first two luddite surfeit tapes and a letter informing me that Simon had forsaken writing in order to produce music instead.

The working method remains consistent from tape to tape: a) clip section(s) from piece(s) of music, b) loop and layer, c) repeat until enough generated to fill one side of a C90, d) subject to a little light editing/mashing using Audacity.  And that is it: the basic compositional tool is repetition.

Simon’s choice of source material is eclectic.  Pick three tapes at random and a crystalline shard of Wolfgang Voigt could follow some austere chamber music which in turn jars with some digital splatterpunk from Bomb 20.  This makes for an interestingly varied listening experience.  Depending on your mood you could be in for 45 minutes of blissful reverie, or nostrils-flaring catharsis, or you could be scrabbling to ‘review’ the tape in question with a claw hammer after 90 seconds…

Still, no matter, as another one will be along in a minute.  I have received, I think, 19 releases in this series in a period of less than two months.  I note half of them are deleted already.  “High speeddddd tapists!!” indeed.  In a letter accompanying the latest package Simon claims:

As you might be starting to twig, the N.L. ambition is to make music faster than it is humanly possible for one person to hear it – 30 hours of music per day is the target.”

Mad lolz, of course, but the work rate reveals this is only a half-joke.  Simon’s approach to his creative endeavours is always all or nothing.  He also isn’t afraid of showing his working out as I get the impression that the process of creating is probably more important for him than actually presenting the finished product.  After receiving about 8 or 9 tapes, I asked him how many of each he was sending out.  Simon replied sheepishly that I was the only recipient. This might sound insane – I briefly felt like I was in the no-audience underground equivalent of a Charlie Kaufman film – but on reflection it makes perfect sense according to the logic of the project.  What do you do after you’ve made some music?  Package it up.  What do you do after you’ve packaged it up?  Release it.  What does it mean to release it?  Give it to someone who isn’t you.  Boxes ticked with the minimal amount of fuss, now on to the next one…

I now know that at least one other person (hi Lee!) is getting this stuff, and I have permission from Simon to mention it here on RFM, so I am free to recommend you give NLT a try.  Amusingly, some of these ‘tapes’ have been made available as downloads via the New Luddism website so there is no excuse not to go visit and dip your toe into the torrent.  Should you desire the physical objects – tapes packaged in magazine illustrations and eerie old photos with hand-typed inlay info or scribbled-on CD-rs – then you will need to contact Simon at newludditetapes@gmail.com with an address, a note and the dimensions of your letterbox.  No money changes hands, no trades accepted, no promises made – you just have to wait and see.

dddd is dead, long live dddd!

July 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Posted in musings, no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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Those of you that use this page as a one-stop portal for all things fringe and no-audience may have noticed that the link to DDDD fanzine has disappeared.  Well, that is because the thing it linked to has disappeared too: it is with great sadness that I announce the passing of the DDDD website.  I was gobsmacked to find it online in the first-place – in all its luddite, cut-and-paste glory – and am now gobsmacked to find it gone.  No half measures or scaling back with Simon: he decided that he’d had enough of the internet and, in a gargantuan attack of ‘burn the diaries!’ scorched-earthism, deleted the lot.  I’ve no idea if he has kept the original hand-assembled text and collages, but I can’t help imagining him and Pippa whistling merrily as they stoke a bonfire in the back garden…

As a brief eulogy, allow me the indulgence of quoting from an email I sent to Simon a while back.  In response to kind comments he made about this blog, I said:

…Would it sound too fake if I said the feeling is reciprocated?  The aspects of DDDD that you so often bemoan: the indecision, the incoherence, the repetition, the self-loathing are essential parts of what makes it, well, essential and are as crucial as the enthusiasm, the wit, the bloodyminded tenacity.  Yours is a voice that screams “I AM HUMAN AND I NEED TO BE LOVED, JUST LIKE ANYBODY ELSE DOES” with all the heartbreaking contradictions that entails.  It is a cool stream in an otherwise arid desert of the boring and the witless and the cocksure.

I’ll miss it.  At the risk of ludicrously inflating my own part in this, I can’t shake un uneasy feeling that I’m partly to blame.  Simon’s downloading addiction had reached such a hysterical pitch that it appeared to be affecting his mental health – the evidence was in the writing – and I staged an intervention (which, thinly veiled, can be read about in a previous post below).  I wonder if that planted the seed?  Hmmm… nah, just my monstrous ego playing up: Simon did say that he felt it would peter out eventually so I suppose that’s just what happened.

But, but – hang on a minute – what’s that?!?  Dry your eyes!  There is news!  Perhaps sometime in the future DDDD will be returning in paper form to a letterbox near you, or, even better, that letterbox could open to reveal Simon’s eyes as he shouts “I know you’re in there!”.  See the mysterious New Luddism Wikispace for details…

the cost of free things part three: serenDDDDipity

January 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Posted in musings | Leave a comment
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(quick addendum to part two: just pre-ordered the Galena CD thereby not only paying for something but paying for it weeks before it is released.  Feeling super-smug up here on the moral high ground.  OK, on with the show…)

As mentioned in part two, the finest consequence of my initial post in this series has been the response it provoked in the mighty DDDD.  Simon’s piece was not entirely in agreement with mine but chimed absolutely with what I was getting at and expanded eloquently on a couple of things I’d merely touched on or left unsaid.  I asked if he fancied providing a precis as a guest post for RFM.  He respectfully declined, saying:

…believe it or not, but experience has taught me that these hyper-fast-speed-written ddd rants are things of fragile beauty and if they’re meddled about with afterwards they collapse…

This is, of course, perfectly reasonable so I find myself feeling a bit sheepish for making the request.  Like showing my enthusiasm for a large action painting by asking the artist to point out the ‘best bits’.  How gauche.  Simon has indicated that he may comment further in future so, in the meantime, I will groove on three ideas he introduced: serendipity, investment and the nature and use of reviews.  Yes, I have shamelessly ripped out some quotes but don’t you dare use that as an excuse for not going to read his whole bit in situ.  


Defined as “a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated” and is a joy that has been flattened by infinite accessibility.  Simon says:

The pleasure to be had from digging in the crates is one that I had entirely forgotten, as is the discipline of selecting from a limited choice.  I realise that I had completely fallen for the ersatz serendipity of ‘inspired by your browsing history’ or ‘customers that bought this item also bought this’.  Why this apparently harmless and helpful service is actually hateful is that it is a mechanically generated marketing tool.  Worse, it is endless – the crate is bottomless and always full.  Click on any of the ‘recommendations’ and get six more.  A few clicks deep and you’ll find that buying more or less anything will lead to you being punted almost anything else.  Perhaps there is a new variation of six degrees of Kevin Bacon to be played via Amazon with a prize for whoever links Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing to The Circus in the fewest steps.

But is not the contemporary equivalent of digging in the crates searching the blogs for rare and otherwise unavailable goodies?  Well, yes, I feel the temptation but this is what leads to the amassing of ridiculously girthsome archives.  Leaving legality to one side, downloading involves no investment.  That will be the subject of the next bit.

Gotta do my homework now – school tomorrow.

epic interview with yours truly at dddd

April 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Posted in blog info, midwich, musings, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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As my pre-wedding radio silence continues, why not visit the remarkable DDDD ‘blog’ instead?  There you will find an only slightly edited transcript of a two hour telephone conversation that I had with Simon a few weeks ago.  He asks about midwich, flatworm and the no-audience underground.  We then go on to talk about, amongst other things: music, films, how I cry at everything, and the growing of vegetables.  It is truly a Texan-sized portion of meaty goodness.

Be patient while this loads and be patient with the anti-format – you just have to make the window full screen and pretend it is one of those magazine things we all used to read.  Amazingly, the interview has been typed on a manual typewriter, chopped up, glued to a collage in a true punk fanzine stylee, scanned and slapped up on internet with a refreshingly luddite lack of concern for the medium.  All links are handwritten.

Check it out here

dddd and the new new digi-luddism

February 15, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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Holy crap!  Now there’s something I wasn’t really expecting to see: DDDD fanzine has a website!  Those who are familiar with the champions of new luddism will share my astonishment and pleasure in finding it.  Those not in the know will need the following primer:

I don’t know how long it was published for, or how many issues it ran to (though it was more than 70), but I do know that DDDD, defunct in paper form, was a PROPER fanzine.  That is: written by two people (Simon and Pippa?) on a manual typewriter, then chopped up, stuck over a vandalised pop culture collage, photocopied, stapled and sent in the post curled up into a tube.

The writing is a tumbling torrent interspersed with moments of beauty and poignancy whenever they managed to grab hold of something on the cliff-face, slow the fall for a second and catch a breath.  This unselfconscious technique was used to spin, say, an article on the etiquette of car boot sales into a nihilistic tirade of misanthropy before veering, via a hairpin u-turn, into a blissed-out account of how Joni Mitchell kissed it all better.  None of this was done with a punk-rock sneer and cynicism was almost wholly absent.  All of it, even the contradictory stuff, was absolutely heartfelt.  It read as a genuine attempt to reject a world both terrifying and (even worse) boring and build something better instead…

Continue Reading dddd and the new new digi-luddism…

holding our treasure aloft: thoughts on facebook, rfm and the d.i.y. underground compiled by rob hayler

March 21, 2017 at 7:42 am | Posted in musings, not bloody music | 5 Comments
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facebook satire 2

On Friday 3rd March, as I was enjoying the opening of the Crow Versus Crow/Malorymaki art exhibition in Bradford, Joe Murray (who had been invited down to play at the event) mentioned to me that new RFM staffer Sarah Gatter (known ‘round these parts as Sky High Diamonds) had offered to create a Facebook page for RFM.

Without thinking too hard about it I gave my blessing.  By lunchtime on Monday 6th March the thing existed.  Blimey.  As the dust settled there began a lengthy and involved discussion amongst RFM colleagues about the merits, or otherwise, of Facebook and other social media.  This has proved so interesting that I have returned briefly from my sabbatical to compile these thoughts (edited to remove repetition, small talk and logistical stuff) and add some of my own.

Let’s start with Sarah and the rationale:

A brief online chat with Rob and Joe over the weekend suggested that an RFM Facebook page would be a good idea as it would exist as a ‘go to’ site for interested parties to get a rundown on RFM and the latest blog reviews. I am happy to manage this page but if any of you are Facebook users and would like to be added as admin (meaning you can then also upload the RFM blogs, add photos, monitor, add and remove posts, including posts or comments from other people etc.) then find me on FB and I can add you as admin.

As agreed with Rob & Joe this page will be a ‘copy’ of the RFM WordPress blog in its use of words and images, both of which will simply be an echo of the already published blog info. No new material or personal posting to exist here as it then gets confusing.

All business, right?  Nowt to worry about, eh?  Well… Marlo kicks it off:

Woah, really?! I think Luke, Chrissie, and I use it.  Both Joes, Rob, and Sophie don’t.

I was thinking RFM was purposely avoiding that platform…. Times are a-changing…

Rob and Joe, can I ask why? I mean, it isn’t really harmonious with what I though RFM mission statement? Or is it?

Chrissie is pragmatic:

I’m very much a semi-detached user of Facebook these days but I think the idea of a page is OK provided it doesn’t distract from the blog.

Is the plan just to post links to the RFM reviews when they appear on the Facebook page? This seems like the best way of doing it to me and allows for people to possibly discuss the reviews and share them easily on FB.

Sof then voices unease:

Know what you mean Marlo. I came off FB because I got so sick of everyone relying on such a massively corporate website to find out about underground DIY gigs etc (including Tor Fest – winds me up so much).  Don’t see why everything needs to have a FB presence to exist these days.

…which allows Marlo to expand her point:

Thanks Sophie for understanding. I feel torn myself constantly cause I cornered myself into the FB for Ladyz in Noyz back in the day and am stuck now or take the risk of losing the international audience. I should have just done a proper page in the past. Myspace to FB…sheesh…

I know it isn’t a collective and whatever Rob and Joe feel is right, I go with [Editor’s note – heh, heh].  Just wanted to see why the shift?

I will be here either way!

Time for me to weigh in:

I wasn’t involved in any discussion as such but Joe M did mention at the show on Friday that Sarah had offered to mirror RFM on Facebook and I said sure, if she’s willing to do the work then let’s try it.

I have never had any personal desire to be on FB, nor have I ever had an account, but since the blog’s inception the majority of referrals have been from FB links (twitter is catching up but FB still in front) so, like it or not, a lot of our traffic has come from that direction.  Thinking about the ubiquity and omniscience of FB makes my stomach flip but it is only one aspect of the corporate global evil that we are using for our purposes.  PayPal, Google, Apple, Twitter – bleurgh – even Bandcamp takes a hefty rake and WordPress charges me more for keeping the site ad-free than it does for hosting our actual content!  We wade waist-deep through the shit holding our little box of treasure aloft so that it doesn’t get caked in crap too.  ‘Twas ever thus.

Also, should you be concerned about such things, the numbers are down.  Mostly, I think, due to the breaks in regular posting last year caused by my burn-out/’real life’ issues, 2016 was the first year since RFM’s birth that number of visits didn’t increase.  I’m not fussed about a plateau – this is a niche concern after all – but this was quite a dramatic drop (2015 = 32k, 2016 = 23k) and I’m not above a bit of rattling the stick in the bucket.  Calling attention to your fine work is noble, and can be even if the format is grisly.

That said – some suggestions/requests.  Firstly, I’m not sure I want that photo of (some of) us from Crater Lake to be so prominent.  Makes me a little uncomfortable.  Secondly, I don’t want the text of posts just reproduced on the FB page – pictures, lists of artists featured, little summaries like those we tweet are fine but I want people to visit RFM to do their reading (or subscribe to the blog and get each post emailed to them directly – currently over a 100 people do this).  I don’t want the FB page to replace the blog.  I see that posts are being made as I type [Editor’s note: Sarah was cracking on]!  The format is fine like that I think.

facebook satire

Over two emails Sarah doubles down for practical reasons and stresses it can be a collaborative effort:

The page is easy to delete if having second thoughts. I personally think it is a good idea as FB really is the ‘go to’ site for getting information. Also, those of us on FB can like and repost the blogs (as we do on Twitter) giving each blog a bit more of a following and a bit more oomph and clout. Also, when blogs are just in a newsfeed (as on both Twitter & FB) they are easily lost and many people (myself included) don’t have the time to fully read a review, or even scan through it, when leisurely (or frantically) scrolling through a news feed.

However, if people are aware that there is a permanent page storing these blogs with a link to a whole heap of other blogs, then that instantly makes all of the blog posts more accessible.

I’m happy that everyone gets a say about layout and content and happier that there are many admin involved, also to make sure that everyone’s happy!

At this point Joe Henderson offers a forthright, brain-stirring intervention:

Will briefly say my piece. I think that, for me, the magic is instantly lost when Facebook gets involved in anything – to be honest. Given my own experience of it and the flow of research surrounding well being & social media I make a concerted effort to stay away.

I don’t mind using the word ‘poisonous’ to describe my attitude towards Facebook, however, I’ve seemed to deal a little better with Twitter, although I still have yet to use it myself (I went on there to get another News source other than the BBC, turns out I can’t get the app anyways on my old iPhone, so I haven’t ended up using it anyway).

Can I make a request that none of my articles are re-posted to Facebook?  And on a far stronger note – I do not want any of my writing to be subject to Facebooks content codes and control.

Part of the charm of things like Radio Free Midwich is their unwavering principles in the face of peer pressure.

Sophie, I know what you mean about lazy promotion. I came to think of Facebook promotion as really exclusionary – like, that you could miss out on so much by not being in a link or social loop. I have no solutions, but I think in general… good old hand-made posters and nerdy art stuff like that appeals to my DIY, punk sensibilities more. Things shouldn’t be eazy..

I’m happy to hang back for a bit and maybe see how things pan out.  Very sceptical right now, but open minded for y’all.  My first article should be out this week (given a little tweaking in the mean-time).  Am happy for it to go out on the website but please don’t put it on FB – I hate that place and it’s toxic, damaging glare.  But, of course am happy for you guys to go ahead and frollick (in the dust & mirrors)


Oh, is that Sarah wavering a little? <winking emoji>


I also think that hitting the delete button on the FB page would be weirdly very satisfying, and quite anarchic, at this early stage of gaining a few ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’

“Now you see us, now you don’t.”

Not sure what else to say!

Joe Murray shouts encouragement from the window of a moving train:

For me this is all about spreading the word. No more.  I think we are a valuable piece in the no audience crossword so a few more clues (like FB) help folk connect.

But still…we all have to be comfortable with it. I guess we can self-destruct this channel whenever we feel the need.

It’s always good to debate and have different views.  Let’s keep an eye on things and review in a month or so.

All our viewpoints matter.

Speak soon, and if I may gush for a second…we goddamn rule!

Respect as always…

Sarah, like all good academics recognizes grist for the mill when she sees it:

I’m loving this debate, currently attempting to put a PhD proposal together on this very stuff- the relevance of social media to DIY, so the varying perspectives on how we use and control/are used and controlled by social media platforms is intriguing. Many of the artists I know go through long/short periods of deactivating profiles and deleting entire pages of personal data and then coming back to social media on their own terms and for their own agenda when it suits them, I like that.

Sof, bit now firmly between teeth, questions the stated purpose:

Slightly related / aside – I saw this band in London last week and at the end of their show they made a massive statement that “clicks get gigs” find us on Facebook! If we have loads of likes then we’ll get more shows!  What a load of bollocks. Talent gets gigs not some website. People who work hard at what they are doing get gigs. It doesn’t make any personal difference to me if RFM has a FB page or not I’m just saddened that this is the way people think you have to be nowadays. I know it is the go-to for loads of people, the company I work for get loads of work via it but what a lazy state of affairs.  As if the Internet doesn’t make it easy enough for people already why not condense the info in to one accessible website ? Twitter is just as bad – argh! Please meet me down the pub or the library / send me a letter for further ranting opportunity!

I’m actually in talks with a web developer to create a sort of Cops n’ Robbers website [Editor’s note: for non-UK readers Cops n’ Robbers is a legendary Yorkshire-based listings zine with oodles of DIY and N-AU swagger]that would cover West Yorkshire (and maybe nationally) gigs as an alternative ‘go-to’ site instead of FB. For this gig I did on Sunday just gone I really wanted to just advertise without FB but actually got a complaint! Forced Jake to make a page – made it more legit I guess. Fairly confident that most people who showed up were at Pelt a couple of weeks before and picked up a flyer but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

Clearly a Luddite technophobe over here, where are my DDDD copies?

P.S.  I really like Twitter btw. Not as personal.

evil twitter

In her typically quiet but laser-sharp fashion Chrissie makes the point that…

Contacts get gigs mainly – in my experience at least. It doesn’t matter how talented or brilliant you are, if no-one has heard of you then you don’t get gigs*. Facebook is just one of many places that can possibly be a help there. Ignoring it is a choice, of course, but you are cutting off a potential source of people. The platform on its own may, or may not, be evil. But the people on it mostly aren’t (with some exceptions).

* I’m not saying my band Helicopter Quartet are either talented or brilliant [Editor’s note: they are, both, in spades], but we don’t get any gigs because we don’t have any contacts and both of us are so painfully shy we never make any.

At this point Marlo and I both start thinking ‘there’s an article in this’ and ask if anyone wants to make a more formal contribution.  Marlo suggests:

Perhaps we could all string something together around the question:

How do different social media platforms feed or weaken the ‘underground’? What associations do different social websites bring to the table? What is lost or gained in ‘opening the floodgates’?

Chrissie responds first:

One of the nice things about social media is that it can bring together people of niche interests together – it’s largely what I do on twitter – in a way that’s almost impossible or very difficult to do in other ways.

Yes –  you can start your own website but how do you get people to use it in the first place: twitter/Facebook etc. are the funnel through which you can get access to people who might want to go there. Of course, there are all the arguments about centralisation and monopolies and I’m not happy about those things either. But principally I’m a pragmatist and that’s how these things are structured at the moment. To some extent they always have been, it’s just that the ownerships change over time.

As to ‘opening the floodgates’ – it doesn’t happen. Despite what I just said above, adding RFM to Facebook isn’t going to triple or even double viewing figures (if it does, please buy me a hat to eat).  It’ll bring in some new readers, yes. But it’s not a magic potion and it doesn’t make you popular overnight or even ever – it’s a small help.  I have Facebook pages for my two main bands, nothing has ever happened because of them.  That’s partly down (as I said in a previous email) to the need to be ‘present’ to chat with people on there and make contacts, and partly down to having contacts on the IN THE FIRST PLACE to bring in others.

For my personal opinion, I hate Facebook (for non-political reasons), and I only use it to publicise (unsuccessfully) band things and chat in some obscure synth groups where it feels more cosy and safe. I don’t post personal things on my timeline any more, but plenty of people still do and I have chatted with lots of interesting people there.

Luke puts his head around the door to add:

Hey folks – well for what it’s worth I use Facebook every day.  It has its drawbacks and I’ve sworn off it a few times.  Having said that it does allow you to keep in contact with groovy people chat about music, films, books, gigs etc. I guess it’s about making it work for you and keeping it real. I can’t be doing with Twitter.  So I guess I’m saying if RFM hits face-ache. I’m cool with it.

zucker 2

…then Sarah offers a more fleshed out statement of her position

My continued interest in the electronic DIY underground/no audience culture stems from the DIY rave movement of the mid 80s and early 90s.

I see the current No Audience Underground, as an extension of this movement and I am still fascinated by how it was documented through film footage, photography, music, art and printed/published writings by those who protested for the right to squat empty buildings, resist fox hunting, gather for music events etc. etc.  I did attend some events back then however, it was always pot luck to get to those events due to no social networking and reduced publicity (for obvious reasons) except for well organised word of mouth-those guys were good!

Those DIY activists made thorough use of the tools that were available to them at that time to promote their beliefs, ideas, celebrations and defeats into a wider consciousness and I believe that without those wonderfully documented processes (e.g. the wibbly-wobbly film footage of squats being raided, dancers in the street protesting the CJA etc.) this representation, and therefore a current understanding and contextualisation of that scene, would not be available to us today.  I see this as a cultural mapping of those times and I see social media as a contemporary tool available to us now to continue that cultural mapping.

Social Media is a site of production and reproduction but in many ways it responds to the DIY ethos in that it is free (most of the time), accessible (to the majority) and can be used to promote the individual, it is not entirely corporate like other sites of production and reproduction. However,  I like to think that at some point DIY will turn away from social media and re- ground itself into a less available scene, but I would be happier with this only once much documenting has been achieved and exists in some kind of accessible form.

Things that nag me are: Does the DIY underground movement become less ‘exclusive’ and therefore less underground when its documentary style footage is available to all to access online? How do the ideas of audience/participation/spectacle/active and passive viewing fit in with this? We are all passive audiences when viewing footage/sound/writing of the underground through social media. I also ponder how an attraction to a much larger and wider audience may well undo the emblematic DIY underground counter culture status, such as witnessed in the growth of the Glastonbury Festival, as well as contribute to a more general and overwhelming saturation of the arts.

In summary: For me, social media is currently a way of culturally mapping the continued growth of the DIY movement and is a tool available for us to use (and abuse) right now, but I am not entirely sure that it should or will have a monopoly on documenting the DIY movements for the long term.

I propose that we find a way to occupy the dark web!

…and that was that until over the weekend of the 11th and 12th when Joe and I received the following volte-face from Sarah:

Hi, I was in two minds about RFM on Facebook.

  • It seemed like a good idea to make use of it as a tool and to support the artists, whom I think want reviews about their work publicised.
  • It might be free, it might be accessible but it is a limiting platform and I am beginning to agree with Joe H, it makes us lazy and passive.

This has been echoed within another group that I am involved with [Editor’s note: The Unexplained Sounds Network] who have today proposed ‘silence’ in order to find new ways to communicate and collaborate other than Facebook.  I am in agreement with them.  DIY must mean DIY and Facebook takes that away through its controlled use of data, amongst other things. I did say in my last email that we need to find new ways and jokingly suggested the dark web but I am starting to feel that more needs to be done with searching for new and less lazy & passive ways. Sorry for the complete 100% U turn!!!


Heh, heh – the irony that this doubt as to the appropriateness of one form of social media was sent via a twitter DM was not lost on me.

So, where are we now?  Firstly, let me just comment on the loveliness of my colleagues – a multiway discussion carried out over the internet that remained civil and useful for an entire week.  Have you ever heard the like?  Secondly, it strikes me that there are three questions to consider with answers to the first two informing the answer to the third.  I’ll begin with a stab at the moral/political question: is Facebook evil?  Next, the pragmatic question: does it actually work as promotional tool?  And finally, the overarching question of whether it is ‘appropriate’ for our slice of the DIY underground to use it.

Despite not holding an account I have, of course, spent plenty of time dodging the demands to sign up in order to see gig info or otherwise lurk.  If RFM is being discussed then the hits coming from FB feel like a partially heard conversation happening in a room with the door ajar.  I’ve never been tempted to walk in, however, because what I hear about Facebook outside of Facebook is predominately negative.  I don’t doubt that there are lovely people using it (like those members of Chrissie’s synth discussion groups) but friends talk about it with exasperation, torn as to whether to cut ties as you might with a needy and bullying family member.  The final straw for a mate of mine was when he was disinvited from a stag do following a row caused by him daring to confirm his attendance with, y’know, his actual voice and not via Facebook.  It’s become like shopping in a supermarket, or reading The Wire – something none of us actually enjoy but which we grudgingly accept as part of modern life.  Imagine spending the evening in a gigantic, soulless, city-centre chain pub, one which has an unsmiling bouncer on the door demanding ID before letting you in.  The beer is crap, the décor unpleasant, neighbouring tables are full of braying idiots but, hey, it’s here that we have agreed to meet.  Evil – on a personal, individual level?  Probably not.  Fuck that shit? On balance, yes.

That’s not to say that the information you provide to Facebook can’t be used for straight-up evil though.  As these thoughts were congealing in my head I read this article, published on The Guardian website on February 26th.  I’m genuinely concerned that if I name names bots will be released, like flying monkeys, to come and destroy us but the gist is that an off-the-radar software company is busy analysing hundreds of millions of FB accounts and using that data to target propaganda furthering the hard-right agenda of their billionaire backer:

These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. […], the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says […].

This team worked both with the Leave campaign and with Trump.  Was it enough to swing both elections?  Maybe us complacent liberals wouldn’t have laughed so hard at those ‘dumpster fire’ campaigns if we’d known this Black Mirror style PSY ops was occurring in the background.  Evil – on a worldwide, political level?  Yeah, I’d say so.  Fuck that shit?  Absolutely.

But, the pragmatist asks, does it work?  Leaving aside the moral qualms and given that everyone is in the crap pub, what happens if we put our poster up on the noticeboard?  I think I’m with Chrissie on this one – the answer is: nowt much.  The reason is, I think, to do with the size and structure of the scene and not where the noticeboard is located.  In an article I wrote five years ago about the, *ahem* ‘economics’ of the no-audience underground I said:

OK, leaving London to one side as it has its own rules, experience has shown me that most UK conurbations of city-ish size can rustle up 20 people interested enough in the type of experimental music RFM covers to turn up to gigs.  10 or less if you are unfortunate, 30 plus if your scene is thriving.  Should you wish to perform in this ‘arena’ then these people are your audience: the subset of this crowd who can turn up on that evening.


Marketing and promotion do little to alter these numbers.  This is because music of this type will always be a fringe interest (ignoring little blooms of hipster popularity every now and again) but that fringe is well-informed and inquisitive.  As long as the gig is plugged in whatever the usual places are (for example in Leeds we have the essential Cops and Robbers) then the cognoscenti will find out about it and do their best to roll up.

…and, despite the Facebook gig listing becoming ubiquitous in the meantime, I still think this is about right.  Had I been stood next to Sof when that band made their ‘clicks mean gigs’ announcement I would have groaned but at some level I guess it might make a difference nowadays – just not at our level.  Chrissie is right about contacts to a certain extent too – those who hustle for shows do generally get more shows – but within the no-audience underground any attempt at hype or unwarranted self-promotion is usually met with at least a raised eyebrow if not all-out hilarity.  Given the absence of money, the unit of currency ‘down’ here is goodwill and it is earned, exchanged and repaid through being active in the scene.  Perhaps this is our equivalent of <dry boke> ‘networking’ <coughing retch> and it strikes me that this can make more of a difference than any particular means of spreading the word – look, for example, at the love showered on Crater Lake or Tor Fest (“Call something a festival,” says Jake Blanchard, mystified, “and people just turn up.”).

For us, Facebook is now one of the ‘usual places’ where we find stuff out but its prominence has not noticeably affected attendance numbers either way.  When not specifically concerned with discussing Facebook itself I think most people consider the format transparent and ‘see through it’ to the information itself in the same way you don’t consciously think ‘this is a poster’ but instead just register the date, venue etc.  To be honest, I’d have been grateful to have it back in the Termite Club days when I was stuffing envelopes with flyers (<Noel Fielding voice> Imagine that!) to send to a postal mailing list or badgering magazines knowing full well that their attention was far less important than whether or not it rained on the night of the show.

To the last question then: given that we are at least justified in having misgivings about using Facebook and that as a promotional tool it is little better than other means (necessarily so given the nature of the scene we are part of) how appropriate is it to use it at all?


Firstly I’m going to dismiss a couple of related concerns more or less out of hand – that it is inappropriate because it is ubiquitous or ‘mainstream’ and that it is inappropriate because it ‘makes things easy’ – then I’m going to end the whole thing really abruptly.

If something so nebulous and subjective as ‘mainstream’ culture can be usefully defined (I’m not sure it can, but that is for another day) then Facebook is unarguably part of it.  Your mum is on Facebook right now, discussing her favourite tracks from the Stormzy album.  I don’t care.  One of the great strengths of the no-audience underground is that is does not define itself in opposition to ‘mainstream’ culture but largely just turns its back to it and cracks on with the work.  The belief that DIY culture needs to be antagonistic to popular culture is a quaint stained-glass window surviving in the Church of Punk – very pretty, but I can’t help thinking it is orders of magnitude more radical to not engage with popular culture at all.  I’ve rehearsed these arguments several times over several years (starting here) so I needn’t say any more right now.

evil facebook

I also have absolutely no time for the argument that Facebook, or any other form of social media, ‘makes it easy’ or ‘lumps it all together’ as if that were a bad thing.  I’d be delighted if access to everything we do was made as easy as possible so that anyone who is interested could find it at their fingertips.  When I think of the golden age we live in now and compare it to the time and resources I had to spend as a teenager getting even part-way sound-literate I could cry at the waste.

For example: I grew up in a small seaside town called Littlehampton on the South Coast of England, near enough to Brighton for me to misspend much of my youth there.  As a teenage fan of Spacemen 3 and Loop, Can loomed large in legend.  My fellow heads and I did what we could to track down stuff from libraries, second hand shops and borrowed stuff from the rich kid whose dad bought him the first batch of CD reissues.  In that way we built up a patchy knowledge of the band and their context.  Contrast this to the situation in January of this year when Jaki Liebezeit sadly passed away.  In celebration of the man and his unique achievements links to YouTube clips went flying around twitter and anyone could listen to hours of the band’s music for free whilst reading exhaustive accounts of its history and influence via Wikipedia and innumerable blogs.  May I respectfully suggest that anyone who thinks the former situation is preferable to the latter (not with regard to Jaki’s passing, of course, I’m talking about access to the material) is, at best, misguided.  There is a tendency, especially amongst middle aged beardies, to cry-wank over their box-sets and pristine collection of Melody Makers from the late 1980s whilst whimpering nostalgically about finding a copy of Fun House under a hedge and ‘discovering’ The Stooges.  Jesus wept.  I could go on but I presume my feelings about anything that could be perceived as ‘gatekeeping’, or the raising of artificial barriers, are perfectly clear.

But what about RFM?  Reading through the above I see much of what I’ve written is fairly abstract or from the perspective of gig promotion.  Does it help answer the question as to whether a blog dedicated to documenting weird music produced by a fiercely independent d.i.y. scene should have a presence on Facebook?  Well, much as I understand Sof’s frustrations, Joe H’s reticence and the personally negative feelings shared by me, Chrissie and others I’d hesitate to say, as Joe H does, that Facebook drains the magic from everything it touches.  I don’t find it fun, for sure, but I’d like to think that the magic of the art we cover (and, let’s not be too modest, our descriptions of it – we are part of all this) shines through the murkiness of the medium.  If we proceed with caution then …nnnnggghhh… OK.

We are camped way uphill from the floodgates, a few signposts can’t hurt.




you can’t own music: some thoughts on not collecting

October 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Posted in musings | 16 Comments
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On the 9th of October 2015, John Toolan – Leeds based radio show host, music obsessive and all-round egg of the highest order – posted the following tweet:

I’m really glad I got rid of the record collection I built up as a teenager …… said no one, ever

That John would express such a sentiment is no surprise. His Twitter account is a very entertaining mix of enthusiasm for recent musical discoveries, deluxe reissue fetishism, self-deprecating asides about how much he wants to spend on King Crimson merchandise and groan-inducing dad-jokes. This window into (what I presume is) his lifelong passion is never less than charming.

I wasn’t having it this time though. Something in me bristled at the idea and I found myself returning to the thought repeatedly. Before we get into anything (*ahem*) ‘philosophically’ interesting let’s spend a moment on the logistics…

Imagine, if you will, being a middle aged music fan: responsibilities, baggage, worrying gristly pellets developing under your skin in random places and so on – shouldn’t be much of a reach for some of you. Now imagine carting about an unthinned collection of objects, each one a physical token of some decision you made more than half your life ago. All that plastic and card bought because its contents were on the radio, or mentioned in Melody Maker, all the plastic and card picked up from second-hand shops on spec despite the card being torn, all the plastic and card you paid big money for at the record fair, all that plastic and card you unwrapped at Christmas or traded with your mates, or shoplifted whilst stoned, all the plastic, card and clacky little plastic boxes that you transferred the contents of the plastic and card you borrowed from friends and libraries into. All that surprisingly heavy plastic and card sliding over itself and cascading onto your bedroom floor. Now imagine having to drag all that with you forever. I’m not speaking metaphorically – you’ve moved house, you know what I mean – that stuff has to physically accompany you, occasionally demanding your attention, until THE END. Exhausting thought, eh?

Aw, come on Rob, you may be thinking – you are being disingenuous making it sound soulless and mechanical. What about the joy of discovery? The glorious awakenings? The increasingly confident relationship with musical history? The knowing looks exchanged between friends co-experiencing a life changing evening? The spontaneous tears the first time you heard [insert your equivalent of Spiderland here]? The unsurpassed moment of pure art, the pinnacle of human endeavour, that is Coltrane’s entrance on ‘A Love Supreme, Part II – Resolution’? I needn’t go on, we could each list dozens, hundreds of examples. Nor do I wish to deny it: this magic carpet ride is true and beautiful and important and life-affirming and soul-nourishing (or whatever the opposite is for you Black Metal/Harsh Noise weirdos).

However, my conjecture is this: all these great aspects of being a music fan can be enjoyed independent of, and are not necessarily connected to, owning and accruing the objects on which music is stored. Put simply: there is no need for a record collection. Yeah, yeah, you may already be thinking: ‘woah, the internet, YouTube, Bandcamp, awesome’ and all that. We’ve spent the last twenty years getting increasingly bored by comment pieces marvelling at the coming (but never arriving) death of the physical. However, that isn’t quite the tack I’m going to take. I’m interested in foregrounding ways of engaging with music that don’t involve measuring it in footage of shelving or gigabytes of storage. I’ll explain what I mean using three case studies: an old friend, a fleeting but influential acquaintance, and a reformed obsessive.

The old friend is Simon Herbertson, who will be known to many of you for his fanzines DDDD and New Ludddism, the it-would-never-load-properly-due-to-be-stuffed-with-bandcamp-and-youtube-links Pyongyang Plastics blog (now defunct) and for his own prolific musical endeavours under various names, most recently Simon Aulman. We became aware of each other when that scamp Neil Campbell sent him my first two CD-rs fifteen years ago. At the time Simon was vociferously anti-internet (‘new luddite’) and Neil knew that me only listing an email address by way of contact details would give him the hump. And so it played out on the pages of DDDD. I wrote back with my usual charm and we have shared an intermittent but heartfelt correspondence ever since. When he finally did ‘get’ the internet he jumped in with both feet and, if I remember correctly, was reprimanded by his service provider for bandwidth abuse. After various incarnations and reincarnations (Simon is prone to occasional grand gesture mega-deletions) his zines and blogs seem to have boiled down to the diary entry/comment pieces that accompany his frequent postings to Bandcamp. Simon’s writing is, it is fair to say, as unique as the world view it describes. I may profoundly disagree with him on various points but there is a shared history between us and a reason why he is one of only two writers whose work I hasten to read.

Earlier this year Simon cared for his wife Pippa at home during the final stages of motor neurone disease. In the months following her death he has dealt with the period of grief and recalibration in various ways, one of which is decluttering the house they shared. The text accompanying the album try to succeed to please (intensely repetitive series: 1), released via Bandcamp on 6th July, reads as follows:

Keeping busy has been a big help, and so has decluttering. My “record collection” now consists of about 40 CD(R)s. That’s it. That is the only physical manifestation of my love of music. Now that I’m trying to rebuild my life and make new friends and new lovers, the big worry is that people will want to see proof of my professed love of music. And there really is nothing.

I’ve never been much interested in the facts/stories around music, so it’s not as though I can make up for lack of physical objects by talking knowledgeably about music. All I have are these 40 5-inch placky albums. Around 15 of them are (very loosely) “classical” – Tippett, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Copland, Bartok, Finzi, Debussy, Howells …. oh & I’ve forgotten that little boxed set of all of Dowland’s works – so that’s up from about 15 to about 27.

The remaining 25-ish albums are all “”rock” – about 6 by Joni – Travelogue, Don Juan, Wild Things, Mingus, Hejira … about 4 by Prefab Sprout (Jordan plus several Best-Ofs), 2 by Wire (Pink Flag, 154), 2 by the Cocteau Twins (Victorialand, 4 Calendar Cafe), 2 by Richard Harris (Slides, Webb Sessions), 2 by Nick Drake (2nd & 3rd), and then odds/ends by e.g. John Martyn (Sapphire) & Roedelius (Selbstportrait 1) & David Sylvian (Beehive) … These are the albums that a lifetime loving music have distilled. Nothing that is remotely “experimental” – there just isn’t enough time left anymore. There is only one album that was made within the last quarter-century – White Denim’s Fits. There is no evidence that I ever listened to much music. I have no evidence that I ever did fanzines. There is no evidence that I ever owned a tape.

There is no evidence that I ever bought or owned an LP or 7″ single. There is no evidence that I ever bought a music mag/paper in my life. There is no evidence that I have ever been to a gig. There is no evidence of all the years (decades) that I spent blitzed out on whisky and cider and gin playing music over and over weeks at a time. There is no evidence that I ever really liked music at all. Can I be considered a music fan ? If not, then there is really no evidence that I ever even existed. Cos music was nearly everything. And now I’ve reduced it to nearly nothing. Even the stuff I make – nothing. And the closer it all gets to nothing, the more perfect too – it’s all becoming so small and quiet and repetitive and like someone has clicked on fade-out and is waiting for it to happen.

Apologies for quoting at such length but I find the implications of this piece fascinating. We could argue about our own ‘desert island’ choices of course, but to do so would be to miss the point. To pummel it home: Simon self-published hand-typed, punk collage, photocopied fanzines on a regular basis for *years* in which he championed plenty of what I now call the ‘no-audience underground’ as well as music of the type listed above, he scoured the boot sales, he ripped the internet onto his hard drive and waded through sparsely populated areas of Bandcamp and YouTube in order to present dozens and dozens of links with an unsinkable enthusiasm. Of course he can be considered a music fan – one of the greatest I have known – and that is what gives the thought he expresses here such power and heaviness: being a music fan is not about what you own, or even what you know, it is who you are. Many of us mistake the ownership of objects for the experience of their contents. Simon not only offers a way of decoupling the two in your head but actually carries the thought through into the world. Dude.

The fleeting but influential acquaintance was a guy my friend Chad knew at art college in the late 1980s. I spoke to him a few times and, infuriatingly, can’t remember his name (sadly, Chad is no longer with us and so cannot be asked). What I do remember is that he was crazy for music – he had few other topics of conversation, he listened to John Peel, he pored over the weekly music press, he was that guy, y’know, that is front-left of the stage at every show (possibly the reason why that is where I always seem to stand). His zeal was refreshing, never overbearing, and his evangelising made converts. I never visited his flat but imagined a shrine/cave stuffed with tape and vinyl. Nope. According to one incredulous visitor this lad owned, in total, one item of recorded music: a copy of “SuGarShit SharP” by Pussy Galore. A cracker, no doubt, but when asked where the rest of it was he just shrugged. He wasn’t interested in amassing a collection – music wasn’t what he owned, it was who he was. I was impressed, still am. Huh, you may have scoffed at Simon’s story above, easy to be a Zen master and chuck it all when any decision you make can be rectified with PayPal and Discogs – well here it was done in the pre-internet era.


The reformed obsessive is me. As the son of a librarian the urge to shelve was perhaps hardwired and from the age of about 10 through to my thirties I collected comics, books, films and music – most media that came in rectangular packages. For example, I once had every published word by Philip K. Dick including foreign language editions and pulps from the 1950s (I even had a Geocities site dedicated to the exercise), I once had every bleep by Aphex Twin (his recent Soundcloud splurge made me feel a bit queasy when I remembered the lengths I went to with Usenet tape trading), I once had every squawk I could find by Miles Davis lovingly archived on scores of tapes, I taught myself the history of Japanese cinema via DVDs bought from eBay and so on and so on…

But – there came a time in each obsession where I started to get uneasy and, usually following a tipping point like moving house that made me confront the objects, I would sell, dump or give away this previously precious collection only for it to be replaced by some new interest soon after.  I didn’t understand this bulimic behaviour until I started to get a handle on my mental illness a few years back.  I realized that whilst each obsession began with a genuine love of its subject matter it was eventually overtaken by an urge to control and simplify at least one aspect of a chaotic and complicated world – this urge is part of my illness and obsessive behaviour is how it is expressed.  The desire to accrue these connected possessions became more important than the art they contained.  And that’s just fucking perverse, right?

From then on the idea of collecting, or even the amassing of objects in general, has made me a little anxious – associated, as it is in me, with periods of feeling out of control.  With one or two exceptions (Culver, natch) I’m now happy to take things as they come.  Mr Toolan may despair at how little of my teenage collection I still have to hand but via the internet we all now bathe in a constant flow of mind-blowing brilliance and I have near-instant access to a thousand times more music than I could ever have dreamed of owning.  More importantly, though, being a music fan is not necessarily connected to owning a collection of objects on which music is stored, nor is it even about having access to the internet’s ridiculous archive.  You can be a lifelong obsessive like Simon and remain so even after thinning your belongings to near nothing, you can engage with music wholeheartedly in every other respect like my mysterious past acquaintance, or you could give up on the notion of collecting (almost) entirely, as I have tried to do for the sake of my health.

Let’s face it – you can’t own music can you?


Coda about this blog:

Throughout this difficult year, plagued by illness, I’ve had a strained relationship with RFM and with music.  I have, of course, written brilliant reviews and scintillating think pieces that have earned gasps of appreciative amazement from loyal readers but I’ve also sent a lot of emails apologizing for delays and spent many hours feeling underwhelmed by the task at hand.

Then, a thought started to form as I sat on the cold floor of Wharf Chambers listening to Eddie Nuttall’s Aqua Dentata set a few weeks ago.  I drifted, eyes half closed, my semi-meditative state only interrupted by the chafing of gristly pellets under my skin.  Towards the end I realised I had fully, and without any provisos, enjoyed a piece of music.  I hadn’t been thinking about what I was going to say/write, nor was I nervously looking at the ‘date received’ column on my ‘review pile list’ document (yes, such a thing exists).

As I started writing this piece I mulled over that experience and I suddenly saw the similarity between my uneasiness about collecting and my recent uneasiness about the business of RFM.  Was RFM a collection?!?  I thought back to my celebration of reaching 500 posts.  Nnnngh!  It IS, isn’t it?  Or at least that is how it came to seem due to illness stopping me engage properly with the subject matter.

OK, now I’m feeling a lot better you’ll excuse me if I put my mp3 player on and go for a walk – never mind the rain – I better lose myself for a while.


scunnered, holding a pickle: joe murray indulges with chocolate monk

February 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dylan Nyoukis – Scunnered at Breakfast (CD-r and text inserts, Chocolate Monk, choc.299, edition of 50)

Blood Stereo – Rid Raw (tape, Chocolate Monk, choc.300, edition of 20)


Dylan Nyoukis – Scunnered at Breakfast

This booby is 25 mins long and formed of two waxy-cream hemispheres. Dylan kicks off in balls-out Holy-Mystical-Roller mood with a lulling and lowing, slightly shifting, accordion loop that puts a stoner nod on your basic livestock (goats, cattle, llama etc).  Cud-scented breath busily excites the brittle reeds with a ‘whhuuuuuuhhh – whuuuuuuuhhh’.  Gosh!  It’s like accidently tripping over some classic organ piece; Psych Mouldfield’s Tubular Balls or something as eventually flutters of speech and slivers of stomach-ache gas right in through the swollen yellow belly.  I’m goofing off over the stretching that’s going on here and it takes me right back to a fragrant memory-bomb: thinning bright oils with stinky turpentine, just like it was yesterday.  After approximately 8 minutes of kneading this pale wash a whole bunch of crispy characters get an invitation to the dusty rodeo.  Familiar faces rub their paws together with some names new to me.  So (koff koff) on the mike, it’s head-cheese from…

Hitomi Arimoto, Marco Cazzella, Seymour Glass, Paul Kirk, Ludo Mich, Angela Sawyer, Norman Shaw and Erkki Sinnemaki

…all magi-mixed with a steady hand on the capstans.

Scunnered.  The guest’s sounds turn to speech, words fracture meaning.  Scunnered.  Slowed talking stories from assembled heads, multiple-layered voices, pinched taped squall.  Scunnnnered.  Placement plays with sense & non-sense; reptilian repetition leaks into my gut.  My brain (eager to please) takes these sleazy pieces and stitches together a map with key designed by Flavor Flav and Sen Dog.  Skunnn-nered.  I follow the contours and with the handy charts supplied work my way through the (SKUNNE’RRD) text,













mouthing along with the international word-set, puckering my lips in a dry whistle and filling my neck pouches with greedy air to bellow a long and low mewl. That thing happens when sibilant hisses all come together like an MC5 jam, riffing on the chord, and building intensity around a single abstract moment.  The source doesn’t matter so much…it’s the heart with which you execute the exercise.  Scuuuuunnnnnurrreeeeeddddddd.

Phew.  My Kelman-flaps flicker.  Let’s get this shit on the National Curriculum, eh?!


BTW…the random Radio Free Midwich quality check suggests that while I score high on gonzo it’s far too low on eyeball-scrape.  I’m all about the soundz (man) so often forget to mention the rusty packets this shit gets sent in.  No more!  Attached are pics of this whole goofy package.  You can sing–a-long my friends and gaze at our knighted host.  See…I listen!

rid raw

Blood Stereo – Rid Raw

This ruby red tape holds the accolade of being Chocolate Monk 300.  Think about it.  That’s Three Hundred soft-tissue missiles delivered on target.  Three hundred brain-pans re-tuned and soured.  And three hundred beautiful objects to line up and believe in when you’re up against the mundane cruelty of early 21st Century life.

Blimey…I’m getting all emotional…I better just talk about the music eh?

It’s tape in two parts right?

(a) futtle-the-pin It goes “Kuff, Kuff.”  There’s street noise and lavatorial water-gurgle.  This is pieced together like a Junk Opera where two layers of sound overlap each other, two layers of consciousness leak into one omni-strata.  The arresting ordinariness of some of the sounds – cat’s crying, bird song and distant traffic ‘shooosh’ play like a new exotic into the Dr Who tape melt.  Then a slammed cell door makes this a dub and I understand the dread that runs beneath this whole side.

(b) outen-under starts with strange kissing cousins: a violent choking and Chinese flute that’s just about the most uplifting sound ever.  A strange under-the-duvet recording of deep lungs wraps itself up in a gentle clanking (the mechanism for a dry dock pumping out oily water perhaps) like a sweet spring roll; crispy on the outside, gelatinous within.  The Chinese theme continues, tinting the air in my dank writing corner, refreshing and fragrant as freshly picked jasmine with the insistent electronic bubbling adding a splash of vinegar!   Then the weird gets spread about like tick-cream and the lost voices/spooky keys/frog-goff starts to resemble a future dream I might have tomorrow –   faceless bodies hum and vibrate, hair sprouts out of palms.  An old horse-drawn carriage clip-clops down the forest track, led by nuns lashed to the bridle.

Sick of reading my shit yet?  You wanna one-liner eh?  It’s the best bloody Blood Stereo side for ages man…go find it doof!

Oh yeah…I made a promise to mention the art.  The cover art seems to be penned by the same hand as Scunnered with thick, black lines carving out an image that would have fit nicely into 2000AD’s Cursed Earth landscape.  Their Muties were genuinely disturbing man…and this bugger’s holding a pickle.


Chocolate Monk

[Editor’s note: alas, both releases now sold out – frequent visits to CMHQ recommended to avoid disappointment.]

i will have influences on your brains: a year in the work of robert ridley-shackleton’s hissing frames

August 5, 2013 at 11:14 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt (3” CD-r, March 2013)

The Sad Lake Land (3″ CD-r, June 2013)

Stud (CD-r, June 2013)

The Good Castle (3″ CD-r, July 2012)

 Melting all My Videos into Toxic Waste (C15 tape, June 2013)

The Peaking Hills (C15 tape, May 2013)

Judy Garland (C15 tape)

Mr. Demo (C15 tape)

Sex U Up (C30 tape, May 2012)

Positivity (C15 tape, July 2012)

Light years of Sodom, God and Splat (C20, May 2012)

Split w/Non Ferric Memories – Horefans (CD-r, October 2012)

Split w/Lee Riley – Split (CD-r, March 2013)

Split w/Kommissar Hjuler Und Frau – Big Sass (C58 split tape, September 2012)

 Holes (A5, 2012)

Space Between the Slits (A5, 2013)

The First Man (A5, April 2013)

No More Twilight (A5, June 2013)

Fingers On His Hands (A5)

Two further untitled booklets (A5)

A Quest for Rest (folded A4 sheet)

Large printed postcard (A5)

Dad’s Diary No. 1 (A6 comic)

Robert Palmers Beautiful But Sometimes Cocky Plug Socket (A6 Comic)

3 x A7 photo-collage booklets

robert r-s on paperrobert r-s cardrobert r-s cdrsrobert r-s tapesrobert r-s mini cdrs

There are three questions I routinely ask the moment I step through the cabin door and set down my axe after a hard day’s work: “how is he?”, meaning my baby son Thomas, “how are you?”, meaning my beautiful wife Anne, and finally: “any post?”

My love of the post is unconditional: opening regular correspondence or a fulfilled order is a fundamental pleasure.  However, the finest post-related experience is a little more mysterious, rare and sophisticated.  Once in a while I tip the contents of a package onto the kitchen table and am stunned into a moment’s silence as I examine each artefact in turn, gradually realising that what I have received is documentary evidence of an another world.  It happened with those first parcels from Gary of Hiroshima Yeah! and Dr. Steg of Spon, for example.  It happened recently with Sandy Milroy’s Shareholder tapes and it happened – in spades – when Robert Ridley-Shackleton sent me the gubbins above.  “The bulging jiffy bag as portal to an alternate universe” – discuss.

The story so far is a simple one: having heard a couple of things by him, I found myself intrigued by all his other lo-fi, scratchy looking releases and publications.  I dropped him a line and offered to paypal a token amount of dough his way in return for a representative sample of his work.  He responded enthusiastically – perhaps sensing that a positive write-up on RFM is a winning short-cut to fame and riches – and spent nearly every penny I sent him on extravagant recorded delivery postage for a ludicrously generous parcel.  The contents are listed (and partially pictured) above.  All these items were created within the last year and pushed out in tiny editions via his blog/label/publishing house Hissing Frames.  ‘Prolific’ hardly seems to cover it.

So what have we got?  More than two dozen objects mapping the contours of a ramshackle(ton) realm.    They range in content from the daft, full of improvised whimsy and dada silliness, to the deadly serious, which are as accomplished as anything you might read about here.  All are clearly regions of the same land, ruled over by a Lear grown indistinguishable from his fool.   Regarding the music, two reference points that might be of use are (early) Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide: trebly electronic organ, pitter-patter percussion, breathy and/or distorted vocals.  Thus industro-futurism but filtered through a grumpy bedsit fug.  Another may be the lo-fi tape scene of the late 1990s – Rob Galpin’s sunny days out label, DDDD zine and all that – for the kitchen sink clatter and dictaphonic recording quality.  The vibe is replicated exactly in the graphic work which runs from dense, brooding photo-collage through to scrawled nonsense and playground jokes.

Let’s start with the stuff on paper, which I am going to deal with en masse.  We are presented with a collection of self-produced booklets containing photocopied reproductions of artwork in various media, collages and neatly typed, crudely illustrated stream-of-consciousness writing.

The art includes some exciting, palette scraping action painting and some bold, immediate, head-bypassing, two-fisted mark making.  Should you wish to get all art-historical about it then I could mention the inexplicably praised scribbles of Cy Twombly, the far more impressive grim abstractions of Antoni Tàpies and, obviously, the Art Brut of Jean Dubuffet.  The less charitable might dismiss the lot as the efforts of a 12 year old with ADHD who, having flicked through  a couple of books, can’t believe how easy this ‘modernism’ lark is.  Not me though, this stuff puts me in a good mood – I think there are some quality images to be found within.

The collages come in two main varieties: junk and photo.  The former is constructed from scraps of envelopes, masking tape, receipts and other rubbish.  Kurt Schwitters via the daycare centre.  The latter are dense with images, generally dark, with plenty of forced connections to consider and layers to chisel apart.

The doodles are not the type of outsider art championed by Raw Vision.  This is more like the marginalia purposefully scribbled by that scraggy looking bloke who rides the #2 bus, muttering to himself whilst circling letters in his tatty wordsearch puzzle magazine, picking out phrases in his own private language.  They feel like psychic circuit diagrams.  A recurring claw/fork/connector motif suggests relations between the elements but nothing actually touches, no socket is plugged.  A scattershot, disjointed world is partially mapped – grandiose notions of alternative universes graze banal everyday reality.  Oddly compelling.  If you are wondering where to start then Holes, the first of those listed, is nicely representative.  Or do what I did: offer money and say “surprise me.”

OK, now some audio.  I’m not going to go into immense detail about fourteen different releases – for the sake of everyone’s sanity – so here are some comments about a sample drawn more or less at random after having heard the whole shebang.

Melting all My Videos into Toxic Waste begins with a slow chugging that becomes a gooey mess of noise and smeared vocals, spread to and fro like tile adhesive being applied with one of those wide-toothed plastic comb things.  Side two is made of a simple sky-scraping organ riff, a brutalist one-two rhythm and indecipherably echoed lyrics.  It has a terrific, corroded garage punk vibe.  Each side ends with a burst of ‘real’ music – something classical badly received over the radio, something poppy played backwards.

The Sad Lake Land feels like an audio document of a maritime disaster: distress signals, funnels being dragged underwater, somehow broadcast over its own memorial service and picked up by a crystal set radio on the other side of the world.  Bursts of solemn music struggle to be free of the swaddling static.  The Peaking Hills is a personal favourite.  An agreeably bristling throb is immersed in an expansive guitar crescendo, the spirit of Elvis then yodels incomprehensibly as the cloud on which he is sat adds electrical discharges to the howl.

Stud and Sex U Up find Robbie in an amorous mood and at his most Suicideish.  He groans, pleads and exhorts over rinkydink rhythms and cheap, blue, burbling synth riffs.  Urgent, dank, entertainingly creepy.  Positivity is all harsh, gargling electrics and detuned radio garble.  A stringed instrument is tortured and its worthless confession is celebrated inappropriately with a burst of beatboxing.

Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt seems to be a key release, straddling as it does the daft ones and the noisy ones.  In-between bursts of engaging scratchiness Robert moans about his kit not behaving, being bored and the closure of the post office in Witney (his home town) meaning there will be nothing left to do there (the mind boggles).  Now, I appreciate that some of you reading this would rather chew through your own tongue than listen to something like this but the fact that others might find it annoying just drew me closer to it.  I listened rapt and gawping, wallowing in the delicious thought: “what the fuck is he playing at?”

I have to mention the anti-packaging.  This release is the last of those pictured above – a 3″ CD-r in a plastic wallet adorned with masking tape, torn fragments of envelope and handwritten scrawl.  However, on the Hissing Frames blog we see a different but similarly clothed copy and are told this was released in an edition of twelve.  Thus what initially looks like thrown together detritus salvaged from the bin turns out to be a repeated ‘design’ of sorts with consciously chosen elements.  What is going on here?  Outsider art?  A Dubuffet-style appropriation of outsider art by a ‘real’ artist?  A cheeky dismissal of the pomposity of ‘limited edition packaging’?  Lazy fraud by a charlatan?  Junkyard genius?  I dunno, though as you can probably tell by now, I’m veering towards the latter.

A word too about the well chosen collaborations.  All are interesting and act in pleasing counterpoint to the accompanying shackleness.  Lee Riley’s patient, brooding, low end electronics are a perfect foil to the mania of Robert’s Valentine’s Day performance (“What’s that noise?” <synth burble> “My Mum playing tennis!”).  ‘Horefans’ by Non Ferric Memories is an exceptional noise collage filled with interest, rhythms, beautifully timed changes of pace and clever uses of an unusual sound palette.  If I wasn’t glossing over it in a piece focussed on Robert’s work it could easily warrant an article to itself – do get hold of this one.  Thus Robert’s taste appears pretty sharp too.

Call it an ‘aesthetic’, a ‘vision’ if you like, but it becomes clear during the perusal of these artefacts that this is Robert’s world – a dimensionless jiffy bag containing a wonky, distorted universe – and that the rest of us are tourists within it.  On a whim, I looked up Witney on Wikipedia and discovered that it is the constituency of the balloon-headed moron David Cameron, our current Prime Minister and abject moral failure.  Who can blame Robert for overlaying these appalling circumstances with his own reality instead?  That he has done so under the breathing slits of this vile, reptilian establishment is, I think, profoundly satisfying.  His work is beautiful illustration of the kind of no-audience underground process I was talking about in my last piece: done because he is driven to do it, self-distributed in the weirdly contradictory totally public/utterly samizdat style that the internet allows.  I recommend that you pay him a visit.

Hissing Frames

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