dense as blood: rfm on maalem mahmoud gania, baccam/chayer and broken shoulder, ij, grey guides and steven ball

October 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind)

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings)

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings)

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label)

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings)

 colours of the night

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind) double vinyl LP

Here’s a thing.  While the N-AU may be set in staunch opposition to some elements of popular musical culture some slices of the pie enjoy a quiet and respectful gravity.

So while the baldheads and grey beards carefully stack their noise tapes they also gently tend record collections that bulge with what was rather antiseptically packaged as World Music back in the 1980s.

But of course things have moved on since Real World or Sterns’ opened the ears of the £50 man.  Smaller, more intimate labels; Excavated Shellac, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Sublime Frequencies and Power Moves recent Excavation series have been setting heads nodding for a decade.

But be sure to add Hive Mind to your ‘must check’ list.  This new label has released a handsome album of mystical Gnawa and is a real labour of love. Brighton resident Marc Teare spent years researching and travelling in Morocco ultimately working with Mahmoud Gania’s family making sure their maiden release was done just right.   Down to the cleverly understated artwork Hive Mind has the feel of a family affair; putting pure love and deep knowledge into the weighty album you hold in your hands.

The eight generous tracks (all are between seven and ten minutes long) feature Mahmoud Gania’s   rubbery Gimbri exploring a tone that’s warmly plucked and deliciously toasted.  Small motifs are played through like scientific equations with a crisp balance between the deeply funky repetition and free-flowing fingering.   There’s a chaotic tumbling to this playing.  The earthy notes churn like a plough cutting deep into the field and turning over fertile soil. Each run reveals a perfectly formed micro-world shot through with woody detail in rich orange and brown.

An insistent, gritty percussion is skittering underneath. Like a wave of sweltering motion this tinny crackle shimmers and shudders like sunlight on a lake or the glaze on a raku pot – each tiny thread spitting into another hundred veins of rhythm.

The call-and-response vocalising lifts an already head-spinning trip into the rusty red sky on a plume of resinous smoke.  Sung in a lip-smacking mixture of Peul, Bambara, Hausa and Arabic there’s a dangerous slurring on ‘Foulani’ where Mahmoud Gania’s  authoritative declarations are repeated back by a slack throated choir, lovingly slurping over each line.

The Gimbri playing on the ten minute ‘Bala Matimba’ is as dense as blood, descending from a mightily complex riff into a smear of bass tones that bounce like magnetic bubbles constantly repelling and attracting.

Keeping things authentic ‘Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi’ features an additional drone keyboard part and marks the semi-permeable membrane that divides ancient and modern which is of course a typical western construct.

But it’s the sheer velocity of these tunes that keep me coming back again and again.  Like the joy of watching a wagon almost leap the tracks.  To my un-tutored ears this all sounds dangerously, wonderfully brittle and could rattle apart at any second – but of course it doesn’t.

The matter is in a master’s hands so the illusion of imminent collapse is a thrilling, intoxicating thing.  Me?  I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth and loving every single second.

Apparently available copies are almost down to single figures so be sure to check this out now at Hive Mind!

 broken shoulder

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

This split between Montreal’s Baccam/Chayer and Japan-based Broken Shoulder is uncommonly weighty and carefully binary.

Our Canadians syringe sweltering electronic pops and gristly-noise-rattle through my ears.  It’s like some sort of sieve has been taken to a fever dream and all that falls out are ragged scraps: fuzzy disconnected images and a neck-clawing panic.

The machine-made frightened squeals add that ghost-in-the-machine quality that I love in this kind of racket; the closing minutes of track one crack like parched lips with salty, scarlet blood staining the teeth.

Track two is a lo-slo mung-out.  Chirping figs clatter unholy toothy-pegs on one level while tracked beneath an over-stretched boil of rubber strings are bubbling merrily in a trail-battered billy can.   Huge coughs of noise splutter like the last thick green hockle of Iron Man before he starts Sweet Leafing.

Is that some sort of calliope buckling under atmospheric pressure?  Who takes a steam-organ into a bathysphere?  Baccam/Chayer have gone totally Jacques Cousteau on this one – silvery bubbles ripple though the deep as a steel piano is found on the soft sea bed.

For the wonderfully-named Broken Shoulder it’s all about technique.   He starts by spilling glue on an old keyboard and then dousing it in cold tea.  The resulting death spasms are recorded on an unreliable mini-disc swiped with funky electrons.  You go to such lengths and something remarkable is bound to happen like on this ‘Hot Wind’

‘Keep on Believing’ takes the jam to the aviary matching each colourful cheep and trill with a pulsating ur-groove.  Two notes of hope, two notes of wonder, two notes that yaw across a scaffold of just goddamn loveliness.  I can’t listen to this without a smile skimming across my ugly mug and good, wholesome thoughts drive out the bad ju-ju in my noggin.  Musical chicken soup!

More sweet and gentle air wafts through ‘Make Sure all the Doors and Windows are Open’ another wonderful tone-painting as soft as duck down in blues and pinks.   The sister-track ‘Piss Boat’ does an Eno/Fripp and seems to reverse the original sucking us back in time.  Marvellous yeah!

 IJ

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

Inge van den Kroonenberg & Jürgen De Blonde are a loved-up couple of mountain goats and therefore have a soft pad within their polished hooves.  This malleable surface provides extra grip on the sharp rocks and 5cm ledges on which they thrive.  On ‘Calling the Heard’ IJ develops their own evolutionary extension (a reversible air-sac, a throat pocket?) to plunge deeply into a world of hollow-horn drone. Impressive eh?

But extra mind-balloons are thoroughly inflated on the peerless ‘Expanding Rainbow’ a study of super-sparse mbira clicks and organ-loops.  Like a growing anxiousness each flutter of reverb sets off a small chain reaction of impish huffs that glisten like vapour trails – always too far to reach out and touch.

The ghost of reverb haunts ‘Frozen Highway’ as frisky as a tumbleweed skitter.  More breathy organ notes are stretched over the event horizon but for me the real jazz is played out in the snatches of faint conversation/street noise that blisters like paint under a blowtorch, lifting medallions of oily pigment in a beautiful rash.

grey guides 2 

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label) CD-R and digital album

Morley (near Leeds) greatest hobos bum a fag from ex-members of This Heat.

Like.  Not literally of course.  But these pieces of swollen tape-noise and crushed sonics could be a backing-tape from Cold Storage or something.

The stressed-out guitars in ‘Lame Duck Alchemist’ throb and thrum like useless string ghosts.  The cascade of puckered notes are sour to taste and wobble gingerly like a tipsy aunt.  A hussing/hishing (that’s the pucker again – this time a pair of red lips) swooshes over lazy chants and crow impressions.  This really is a blunted reality.  Anything you want to tell us lads?

But then ‘Kev’s Temple’ is a firm Dr Phibes palm on the keys with muffled grunts fighting to get heard over the filth.  The cinematic theme continues on ‘Venus-in-Furness’* that makes like a montage scene trying to convey the sense of morbid fascination one has with re-visiting locations of previous heartbreak.  The nervous system is close to collapse but continues to make bad decisions.  A two-note hum struggles to make an entrance around the wire wool messiness.

As ever there is a finger on the FFW button all through this glorious construction so playing speeds are arbitrary (See ‘New Experimental Wheelchair’).  Smears are the new clarity and act as ear-cataracts.  Only the most messed-up and bleached sound can cut through the soft tissues.

But this is by no means a grim affair. No sir!  A doubled-up whine shimmers becoming a fly trapped in a test tube.  Its furious buzzing is muted by the firm rubber bung on ‘Last Feast of Harlequin’ which could also ape Ligeti’s ‘texture music’.  Take that Gramophone!

Yet again the Grey Guides have dug deeper than most to unearth layer upon layer of groovy silt/loam/compost.  It may stink to high heaven but nourishes countless pretenders on its rich, vital nitrates.

*contender for NAU pun of the year

subsongs

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings) CD and digital album

This Mr S Ball is a long-time man.  Spending decades in Storm Bugs this is the first solo album that I’m aware of and certainly his first full album for the wonderful Linear Obsessional group.

Classy from the uncluttered front cover art to the spare arrangements for instruments and voice – this is a disc as bracing as an arctic northerly blast.

This collection of real songs is unfussy and focused.  Steven’s voice never raises much above a conversational hum, a sing/speak that’s both comforting and hypnotic.  The very normality of his vocal approach makes this an arresting enough listen – but couple this with the barely-there arrangements and you are on to a winner.

Like the Wu-Tang on their 36 Chambers best Steven practices the secret art of sticking to one distinct, lopsided sample/loop and letting it breathe.  There’s no smothering hiss on this finely recorded disc and spare bass, guitar or piano (but rarely playing at the same time) create a soft scaffold.   ‘Inside’ showcases this approach wonderfully with a handful of descending bass tones capturing a whole suitcase full of moods.

An emphasis on structure and organically developing themes makes the 15 min ‘Of the Yard (after Terry Ball)’ an exercise in deeper listening and repetition.  Sort of like a kitchen sink version of ‘There was an old lady that swallowed a fly’ cribbed from unpublished poetry notebooks (which the notes suggest it was).

Less esoteric matters are discussed on ‘Garage/Band’.  What could be a withering snark at underground poseurs ‘pretending to be bored’ Steven delivers with a kindly wink, and avuncular sigh – we’ve all been there eh?

The missing link between reductionist improv and the intimate breathy song cycles of a Robert Wyatt.

Hive Mind Records

Kirigirisu Recordings

Grey Guides Bandcamp

Linear Obsessional

-ooOOoo-

the exact sound of the place: sophie cooper on steven ball, amanda feery and michael tanner

May 29, 2015 at 11:41 am | Posted in new music | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

Steven Ball – Collected Local Songs (self-released download)

Amanda Feery and Michael Tanner – To Run the Easting Down (forthcoming, Awkward Formats)

steven ball - collected local songs

Steven Ball – Collected Local Songs

Last time I saw Steven Ball was when he came to a gig I was playing in London and he told me then that he was working on a collection of songs. Being a fan of Ball’s music and ‘songs’ [Editor’s note: you’re fired!] I was instantly intrigued and now, six months or so later, Collected Local Songs has become my favourite release of 2015 so far.

Ball is best known as half of Storm Bugs who were one of my favourite acts performing at Nottingham’s Rammel Festival in 2012.  We met then and after this I’d quite often bump into him around the New Cross/ Camberwell / Deptford areas of South London so hearing an album from him that retells sounds and experiences specifically from around that area makes a lot of sense to me.

The mood of this record is really laid back. Minimalist loops of echoing guitars and bowed strings set the pace over which Ball’s impressive vocals sing miniatures describing the smallest observations – a neighbour taking time to smoke a cigarette out of the window, how the smell of weed casually wafts through the air of a street he has walked down a hundred times before, the high rises that have appeared next to the river… It’s emotive music and on listening I was transported back to London imagining myself on a night bus crossing the Thames back to the South. Ball’s vocal delivery is just gorgeous, there’s a similarly to Scott Walker about them, and lines from each song are layered together in lush harmonies.

There’s a literalism about this album that really sucked me in. The songs are like perfect postcards picturing small details of everyday life seen through an appreciative eye. There’s a brilliant inclusion of a field recording taken at Deptford Flea Market and, rather than it being ambiguous, anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting will recognise it as the exact sound of that place. Two market stallholders blasting out some kind of music with beats (forgive me, not my area of expertise!) – it’s just what you’re likely to walk pass on a Sunday before stopping for a rummage through a box of broken Hoover parts and swing music LP box sets (true story). The title, Collected Local Songs, is perfectly apt and the sincerity felt on listening to these songs is quite special.

Amanda Feery and Michael Tanner – To Run the Easting Down

Due to a problem at the plant (the curse of Record Store Day – a side note: this clever marketing idea has screwed up so many of my friends’ album releases. I love the idea of supporting independent record shops but folks should just go nip into the shop and buy an album on payday, that’ll help independent music far more) I’m not sure if this album has a release date yet but I do know that it’s coming out on a label called Awkward Formats as soon as it’s possible.

Three long tracks composed over three years, Feery and Tanner stitched a lot of this release together using transatlantic delivery methods (boats?) but you really can’t tell. The production on this release is so slick – at times you are tricked into thinking Feery’s beautiful voice must have been split into several pieces or that the duo hired in voice doubles. The layered vocals on the first piece, ‘Squarepushers’, come across as a wonderful choral effect with enough reverb to make the listener feel as though they have come to church to hear this. Which church would that be? The Church of Drone, of course! Following on from the choral vocals are massive, dark, murky drones offset with light bell sounds and an emotional solo violin. I felt weirdly sentimental on hearing this first piece but not sure what for.

A similar feel carries on throughout the other two pieces, a combination of light and dark contrasts between drones and additional instruments. There’s a lovely piano part played on the second track with buckets of reverb added creating a serene aural landscape, a muted pallet of sounds. Lie back and relax, let your thoughts go where they want to go, listen to this album if you need to escape into the drone zone for a while.

—ooOoo—

Steven Ball

Awkward Formats

Excerpts from To Run the Easting Down

the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.

tessellation

…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.

SPY1

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.

robbie7

…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.

posscat

[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.

cclub

…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

Bridget Hayden and Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”

ineluctable

What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

have cake/eat it: rob hayler on tusk festival 2017

November 4, 2017 at 11:34 am | Posted in midwich, musings, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags:

TUSK Festival 2017

[Note: for part one of this year’s TUSK story, in which I talk about the year past, how I blagged onto the bill, what I planned to do and what it meant to me, see here. This part is about the festival itself and begins on the morning of Friday 13th October. Also, I’d like to repeat the same provisos as last year. Firstly, I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. Secondly, I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. Finally, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK website open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. TUSK will fill the archives with videos of all performances in due course. If no credit is given then pictures are by me, apart from the last one.  OK, enuff – on with the show.]

FRIDAY

If I am not at least 10 minutes early then I feel late. Stir that perfectly rational compulsion into a gumbo of stress and excitement and it is no surprise that I was at Leeds railway station a full hour before the departure time for my train. I took the edge off by chatting to an amiable, middle-aged, Glaswegian rocker – all Chrissie Hynde bang and black and white spandex leggings. Her phone rang and the tone was the opening bars of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. Beautiful. Once the train arrived, 40 minutes late due to ‘police attention at Sheffield’, I’d been sat there for longer than the journey would actually take.

But – ahh! – who doesn’t enjoy staring wistfully out of a train window listening to crystalline electronic music whilst pretending to be in a European art movie? Alas, this Kraftwerkian reverie was impossible. The carriage was packed, the seat cramped, the luggage rack a stack of cases as unviable as a jenga tower made of dog chews. Even a soundtrack of A480 by KARA-LIS COVERDALE couldn’t gloss the snores of the drunk bloke in front. Luckily the hotel was mere steps from the station and I was able to get there, check in and throw my stuff down in minutes. My dinky single room, with ensuite wet room and surprisingly large telly, was pleasantly functional, like a prison cell for hipsters. I imagine it’s like where you’d end up if you were convicted of burning down Scandinavian churches.

The reason I was in a hurry was that I wanted to get to Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead in time for the FESTIVAL IS SUDDEN performance at 3pm. I splashed into a cab (such rock and roll decadence!) and was there with mere minutes to spare. The show, organized by Giles Bailey and CIRCA projects (Dawn Bothwell, Adam Denton, Sam Watson – more on Dawn and Adam anon) was the opening event of their MY PART OF YOUR HOME exhibition and the de facto beginning of TUSK weekend. I’m afraid I clocked little of this compact, elegant gallery, or its contents, as I was too busy glad-handing and being overexcited beforehand, then too busy being engrossed by the ritual unfolding.

It was a very smart idea, perfectly executed: six artists, set up in different parts of the building, performed for ten minutes each. Dawn carried a cylindrical, portable speaker – emitting bird song – which she placed in front of the performer when their time was up, we then followed the chirping to the next station. Each segment seemed full, but not rushed, which was amazing as they included, for example, slowly evolving drone from CULVER (pictured) and two dance performances, one from BIANCA SCOUT framed within beautiful piano pieces and one from VICTORIA GUY in which she didn’t stop spinning even during a costume change. The experience as a whole was deeply satisfying and (this is not a bad thing) emotionally draining. After snatching brief ‘hellos’ with Dawn and some of the other stragglers/organisers I joined those ushered out into the sun so the gallery could close. I walked back through a bright, blustery afternoon, being nearly run over at every junction, burning my mouth on delicious fish and chips as I trotted in more or less the right direction. A knot I’d been carrying between my shoulder blades for who knows how long seemed to unravel. I found myself very, very happy.

Back at the hotel I had time to sort out my gear and despair at my useless packing. Given that I’d done nowt but think about TUSK for weeks how on earth had I managed to bring so few shirts and so much underwear? I mean DUNCAN HARRISON is a very beautiful young man but I wasn’t expecting to literally wet myself with excitement in his presence. Ach, no matter, time to stumble down the hill, across the swing bridge over the Tyne and up the other side to Sage.

I arrived to find DRONE ENSEMBLE in full flight on the concourse and, disgracefully, paid them absolutely no attention. Instead I wandered about saying ‘hello’ to people, shaking hands, babbling into ears – mainly those of long-suffering gentle giant Joe Murray, RFM editor and one of TUSK’s organisers, and Paul Margree formally of We Need No Swords, now plying his trade with RFM and anywhere else words meet noise…

…I even clapped at the end as if I’d been listening. What an arsehole, eh? Heh, heh. As I topped the stairs Duncan rushed past on his way backstage and I pressed a package into his hand. I shivered with pleasure as Joe helped me secure my Artist/Crew weekend wristband and, as it contained an introduction written by me, bagged three copies of the programme.

The evening’s entertainment in the prestige venue, Sage Hall 2, started with a right good kick up the arse. The expectant crowd were confronted with four – occupied – body bags and the performance began with a nightmarish sequence as the members of SWARM FRONT screamed, groaned, clawed and cut their way out. The remainder of the set was a theatre of cruelty: lines were intoned, sung, bellowed (“Get this into your thick fucking skull”, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”) and melons bearing the faces of Gateshead councillors were violently despatched whilst a power-electronic soundtrack rearranged my viscera.

Looking for clues in the programme (“…here with the intention to weaponize the banality of liberal institutions…”) and talking to Dawn afterwards suggested this was a protest/curse focused on those responsible for the imminent closure of important, much loved Gateshead venue The Old Police House and/or the faux progressive credentials of the Sage itself (bit more on this later). Fucking strong start.

DUNCAN HARRISON prepped his gear as the stage crew mopped up blood and melon pulp (ha, c’mon, being able to write sentences like that is why I’m in this game). I was pleased to see the present I’d given him – a framed photo of John Cage (explanation unnecessary) – looking over his table full of noise-making detritus. His set was a lesson from a virtuoso on how to collage subtlety and humour with mallet-to-the-knackers noise. The opening section of real-time tape rec and scruffle was masterful, the glugly pop and repeat vocals charming and intimate and the hard noise – a bunch of tinnitus enhancing key chain alarms laid out like a Pueblo clown’s protecting chalk circle – suitably punishing. The audience, including me, was rapt, delighted.

There was just time for a little professional jealousy before THE TEA TOWELS rocked up. This duo of Gavin Montgomery and RFM staffer Luke Vollar, both ex of no-audience underground legends Castrato Attack Group, happened to be in the right ear at the right time when SHAREHOLDER pulled out so two tapes and no gigs into their ‘career’ here they are filling a prime Friday evening slot at TUSK! Bollocks to that – 18 bloody years, I (half) joked and I had to beg my way into a Saturday bloody lunchtime show in a glorified school assembly hall! Huh, showbiz is cruel, eh?

Anyway, my inner David Van Day was banished as soon as they started playing. I was hooked, grinning at the guileless lo-fi thump and groove. I wrote a long list of possible influences but pretty much anything can be poured into the rubber jelly mould these chancers were using as a template. I had Bongoleeros as the sponge fingers at the bottom, rising to Camberwell Now as the sprinkles on the top with the intervening trifle liberally laced with crushed co-codamol and dark rum. You might as well just grab a big spoon and enjoy it. They went down a treat.

At this point tiredness, over-excitement and anticipation of a full-on Saturday began to smear my focus. I understand VALERIO TRICOLI was a festival highlight for some, but for me ten minutes sufficed and the rest of his set provided a handy break for socialising outside before headliners UNITED BIBLE STUDIES.

(Top pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I’ve had an interest in UBS and affiliated label Deserted Village for years (check out Gavin Prior’s Always Summer Somewhere – one of my favourite albums of recent times) and was looking forward to being transported by these veterans of cosmic and free folk. The experience was sure to be enhanced too by the presence in the line-up of Sophie Cooper – genius musician, daring promoter, RFM alumni, all-round enthusiast and glorious credit to the species – on vocals and trombone. I have to admit to sniggering a bit at the ‘misty forest’ nature of the lyrics – never been able to take that seriously – but what I did see was presented with care, skill and passion. I’m sure if I’d been in a fitter, or perhaps more altered, state it would have been transcendent. As it was I had to admit that it wasn’t for me – or, more accurately, that I wasn’t for it – and slink away back to the hotel, feeling like a ghost as I picked my way unheeded through the chaos of chucking out time on the Newcastle side of the river.

SATURDAY

My artist info sheet requested my presence at the venue at 11am on Saturday morning so, of course, I was settled in Sage at 10. I sat at a window table on the concourse and distractedly tried to revise my notes. After about fifteen minutes of stress induced gastric tightening I risked lifting a cheek for what I hoped would be a discreet puff but instead I let rip with possibly the loudest fart of my entire life. Ricocheting off the plastic chair it reverberated around the vast atrium like the whole of yesterday’s DRONE ENSEMBLE set condensed into three wet seconds. I mention this event for two reasons. Firstly, it was well funny. I couldn’t help laughing, as did the bloke sitting three tables away from me. I was, after all, a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Viz comic. Secondly, it was one of those beautiful bodily sensations – like a hot shower after a day’s walk, like listening to Aqua Dentata, like eating a really good fish finger sandwich – that leaves you feeling absolutely content and in tune with the universe. Sure, I’d still be nervous but I knew the day ahead was going to be just fine.

At about ten thirty I trotted upstairs and over the next two hours I met the lovely Orchi and David the stage manager who were going to help me through the afternoon, had the great pleasure of shaking hands with ANDREW LILES, said hello to the ever-accommodating Joe who was to be my beautiful assistant during the show later, plugged in my midwich set up FOR THE LAST TIME…

(Pic by Duncan Harrison, @Young_Arms)

…and was bear-hugged by my old mucker Ben Young, university friend and Newcastle resident who had a day pass to hang out. I also chatted to Lee Etherington, TUSK head honcho, who was exhibiting his tidy knack of appearing at exactly the right moment to exude an air of relaxed confidence and say helpful and reassuring things. He is the Mr Benn’s shopkeeper of the avant-garde. I sloped out of ANDREW LILE’s satisfyingly chewy set at the halfway mark to meet up with my panellists and, all of a sudden, it was time for the WHAT HAPPENS UNDERGROUND discussion.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

We settled into our comfy chairs, toyed with the microphones we’d been given and I started proceedings by reading a round of introductions:

My name is Rob Hayler and I’ll be your host for this hour (Aside: yes, I did write down my own name – I can usually remember it, true, but I thought it best not to tempt fate in this high pressure situation). For the last 18 years I have performed and recorded as midwich and my LAST EVER SHOW using that name will follow this talk. I also founded the radio free midwich blog and coined the term ‘no-audience underground’ to describe the largely self-sufficient noise scene that some of us here are part of.

Next is Soo Fitz, or Susan Fitzpatrick as her Mam might insist. As well as performing as Joyce Whitchurch and as half of Acrid Lactations, Soo lectures in Geography and has written on such topics as the spatial politics of DIY gigs and the ways the term ‘community’ gets deployed and politicised in the context of urban mega events such as the European Capital of Culture. My RFM colleague Joe Murray described her as “one of the most frighteningly pure improvisers I’ve had the joy to watch.”

Hopefully everyone here will recognize Duncan Harrison from his gobsmacking performance in Sage 2 last night (Aside: I wrote that before Duncan’s performance, of course, but luckily he had smacked our gobs). Duncan is a skilled collagist in both visual and audio art and we love his work because as well as being properly thought through it never fails to be thoroughly entertaining. He’s no stranger to academia but is happy call out bollocks when he hears it and to get dirt under his fingernails with us no-audience scuzzbuckets.

…and here’s Dawn Bothwell. Dawn should be well known ’round these parts, not least for her performance in Hen Ogledd with Rhodri Davies and Richard Dawson at last year’s TUSK and for her other musical projects such as Pentecostal Party. She also curates for CIRCA Projects and The Northern Charter and those that visit The Shipley Art Gallery here in Gateshead during the festival can see the My Part Of Your Home exhibition that CIRCA Projects put together. Yesterday’s Festival is Sudden event there was a great kick start to this year’s TUSK too.

Finally, Adam Denton. A musician and researcher with a background in guitar noise and releases on many very smart labels, Adam plays solo as Swan Hunter, is half of the duo Trans/Human and has worked extensively with Nicole Vivien Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre. Joe Murray’s one sentence account of his work runs as follows: “generally has a load of gear on the table and makes it all sound pretty gnarly.” (Aside: Adam groaned afterwards at how out of date this account of his activities was so I recommend interested parties get busy with Google to catch up.)

Interesting bunch, eh? I began by asking each panellist in turn for some ideas as to what it means to be ‘underground’ nowadays and we took it from there. As I have no notes or transcript it is safest to wait to hear what was said for yourself once it is available via the TUSK archive. I’ll just talk a bit about the experience and some thoughts that occurred to me as a result. Firstly, having a microphone and a large room full of people waiting to hear what you have to say isn’t entirely alien to me but I haven’t done it for years, nor have I ever had to do the cat-herding needed to keep a five-way, real-time discussion on track in front of an audience. I had, naively perhaps, imagined a light, celebratory hour during which we praised each other’s efforts, made recommendations, told d.i.y. stories and slapped a few sacred cows on the arse, and there was some of that, but there was also plenty of darker and more serious stuff about the appropriation of ‘culture’ and ‘community’, suspicions as to the motives and competence of funding bodies and concerns about the availability of venues and the overall future for d.i.y. art and music.

The topic that has stuck with me is the question of the availability of venues. What with the Old Police House being closed after TUSK weekend and the actions of Gateshead Council clearly causing anger and frustration – see Friday night’s SWARM FRONT performance for one righteously furious spin on it – this issue is currently an open wound. It seems to me that running a venue is not something I have given sufficient thought to in my, *ahem* ‘theorising’. As a promoter I follow the ‘Dan Thomas method’: work out what you can afford to lose on the event, plan accordingly, find ways of getting it done. As an artist I don’t think I’m owed a damn thing, not even by the very few people who give a monkey’s about my ‘work’. However, the lass from building regulations will not be satisfied with a vegan curry and taxi fare, nor can the electricity bill be settled with £20 from the door and a sofa to sleep on. This seems to be the place where all my punkish nobility and integrity gets bloodied by grim reality.

That said, there does always seem to be somewhere. In the decades I’ve been attending shows here in Leeds, for example, many venues have been and gone, or remain and go through phases of welcome or hostility depending on changes in management (The Adelphi – once a Tetley draymen’s pub and spiritual home of Termite Club is now a place where beardos nod approvingly at how reasonable ten quid is for a burger). One of the benefits of there not being many of us is that we don’t need a giant box to sit in. Adam suggested, in a despairing tone, that the future might be gigs in people’s houses but I think, well, yeah, on a temporary basis whilst we sort stuff out, why not? One of the finest shows I’ve seen in recent years was Ocelocelot in Kieran Piercy’s basement… We survive, like the rats we are.

But I digress…

At the end of the hour Sophie Cooper, sat out front, piped up with a glorious gush of love and enthusiasm for music, her friends and the scene and that gave me the opportunity to end on a high. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Soo, Duncan, Adam and Dawn for being game and joining me – I’m sure we could have gone on all afternoon once we’d got warmed up. It was a great thing to be part of and I’ve been pleased that reaction to the debate has been positive with many commenting that it provided food for thought.

One last thing: I promised Lee Stokoe that there would be some biting of the hands that feed us and, aside from swearing at The Guardian, I feel bad for wimping out on that. So, for the record: fuck The Guardian (again) for its sudden and pathetic ‘interest’ in the underground, that rag has become a disgrace to its legacy. Fuck The Wire for being an unreadable, soulless, joy vacuum. Fuck The Quietus for being even worse: a relic of an irrelevant critical empire, a black hole of boredom. Fuck Sage for being a ‘liberal arts’ funding-hoover whilst hosting UKIP and licking up corporate vomit in return for sponsorship money. Fuck the Arts Council for, whoo boy, where to even start with that hive of corruption, that shameful gibberish factory? And finally, fuck TUSK for… heh, heh – nah, TUSK is alright. Sand in the vaseline, innit?

Up next was midwich. Excuse me quoting myself from my previous post…

Anyone who has spoken to me before or after any midwich gig of recent years has heard me complaining about the growing unreliability of the Roland MC-303 Groovebox that has been (almost) my sole instrument since 1999. It’s a remarkable machine but it has been hammered to the point that getting what I want out of it involves an ungainly combo of cajoling and brute force. I have long spoken of a ‘final’ performance. This would be a ‘Greatest Hits package’ ending with the tearing up of the manual and the dismantling of the machine, handing out keys, pots and components to audience members as souvenirs. What more satisfyingly perverse way could there be to end a long term man/machine relationship than with a ritual disembowelment at a prestige venue?

…as this is pretty much what happened. I took my boots off, announced what was to occur and pressed play on a recording of seagulls over Chesil Beach.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I was having my cake and eating it here – sounds of the sea are a ridiculous ‘ambient’ music cliché but, even so, it does still set the mood and it is a lovely piece. When I was ready I slowly faded up into a drone and started wigging out to the rhythms emerging from it. The sound was perfect (hey, it can always be louder), the vibe immersive, the lighting sympathetic, the room full. Much to my amusement I even had a smoke machine. I was very, very happy – in the moment – enjoying myself hugely.

(Pic by Joe Murray, @joeposset)

As an interlude I used Joe’s piece as posset from eye for detail, the charity fundraiser album of midwich remixes. ‘a moment of stillness’ is a selection of my writing for this blog, read by Joe then subjected to his dictaphonic jinking. From this I began a version of the title track from Inertia Crocodile – this throb, collapsing in on itself, was the pan sonic tribute part of the set and, I thought, a fitting last track to play live on this beautiful, soulful machine. It ended with a crescendo as I used both hands and my forehead to hold down every key – this was my ‘A Day in the Life’ moment – before the final hands off.

(Above Joincey, @joincey, below Joe, @joeposset)

OK, now the theatre. I pressed play on my little mp3 walkman again, this time the brunt, a favourite lengthy drone I was going to use as cover and – because I thought it would be funny – put on a white crime scene investigation overall that I’d lifted from a murder mystery themed works away day, comically struggling to get my right arm in. As Sophie wailed…

DON’T DO IT!

I flipped the box and got busy with the screwdriver. The screws were tiny, black and fixed into a black backplate so under the dim stage light and with wildly shaking hands it took a moment to get started. For the obvious reason, I couldn’t rehearse this so I was going off some half-remembered service-and-repair pictures I’d seen on the internet. I had planned a gentle and respectful demise – surgery not butchery – but, as I couldn’t find a couple of hidden screws, I resorted to force to yank out the ribbons and snap the circuitry. It felt… good, complicated. Whilst this was going on Joe distributed the torn pages of the manual in school assembly style (“Take one and pass them along please, I’m afraid you’ll have to share.”). I slipped a couple of bits – including the volume control, bane of our relationship – into my own pocket and lined up the rest of the pieces on the floor in front of the stage.

(Pic by Joe, @joeposset)

To everyone’s amusement, David the stage manager lit them with a swirly lighting effect. And that was that: 18 years of midwich, done. I faded out the soundtrack, took a bow, dug the applause and invited all comers to snatch a souvenir. It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying moments of my involvement with music, with the ‘underground’, with all of this.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey, note Andy of TQ fanzine in the foreground making off with a massive chunk.)

Fortunately, no other act was following me in the hall so I had a few precious minutes to gather myself together and pack up with the house lights on. David Howcroft of No Audience Underground tapes (see review below) took the entire contents of the bin I’d dumped my CSI suit into so look out for some interestingly packaged tapes from him. I walked out feeling triumphant and shamelessly fished for compliments amongst those milling around on the balcony (although I did make sure and ask Mike Xazzaz if he liked it because I knew that surly bastard would be honest and say ‘no’ which, of course, he did. Heh, heh – I love him so much). When sufficient approbation had been collected I wandered back across the river to the hotel with my pal Ben. At this point I began to notice the blood and cuts all over my hands.

Ben and I met at university in Leeds in 1991 where we shared digs and both studied philosophy. I will be forever grateful that being around the insufferable bell-end that I was at the time (can you imagine me in my early twenties? I shudder at my former twattitude) didn’t put him off me for life and was delighted when we rekindled contact a few years back after he discovered this blog. Now a Newcastle resident and the father of a young lad himself we had arranged to cane Saturday together, albeit in a gentle, tired, middle-aged manner.

The original plan was to go to everything, including the afternoon show at The Old Police House to see LUSH WORKER, but once we sat down in a hipsterish pizza restaurant (it had a full size model of a horse, painted gold, looking out of the doorway – its arse in line with two pizza ovens inside) it was clear we weren’t going anywhere. Ben listened graciously to me babble on about what had just happened – I was beginning to feel a little shaky as the buzz subsided and was replaced with a diabetic hypo – then we caught up on life, parenthood, the world at large. Ben’s unimpeachable politics and the thoughtful, generous way he deals with the insanity surrounding us is an inspiration. His company was perfect.

Eventually we hauled ourselves out and back to Sage for an evening of socializing, showing off my workplace injuries and one damn musical highlight after another. Aside from greatly missing our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez whose appearance had made last year such an unforgettable event (I understand he watched the livestream of my set – bless you, comrade!) the 2017 line-up felt much stronger and more consistent throughout the weekend than that of 2016.

Take, for example, KINK GONG. Laurent Janneau – looking cool as fuck in this wonderful photo by Joe – presented a forty minute collage of chopped and layered field recordings, ebbing and flowing in a near-psychedelic audio approximation of culture shock, of travelling far outside your comfort zone. He also invited us to sit down and relax at the beginning of the set which was very polite. I welcomed the opportunity to stare at my shoes and concentrate entirely on the music though looking up revealed that rarest of exotic birds: a lap top artist who looked genuinely transported by what they were doing. He stared intently, smiled, closed his eyes, nodded to a favourite rhythm internal to the cacophony. It was a beautiful, charismatic performance.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Following that was one of the highlights of the festival, one of those joyous ‘what the fuck?’ moments that are la spécialité de la maison chez TUSK. STARAYA DEREVNYA, a collective of Russian/Isreali anarchists, played in near-total darkness in order to shift our attention from their strange collection of instruments, some clearly home-made or adopted (a rocking chair?), to the work of the artist using iPad software (an app called Tagtool apparently) to create and animate a visual accompaniment projected onto the screen above. I later found out that the band had pre-planned beginning, middle and end points and the rest was improvised, albeit rehearsed in a very disciplined way for a week beforehand. The visual side was sometimes a prompt or spur for the music, sometimes an interpretation of or reaction to what was being played.

At the time, stood in the dark, I knew nothing of these logistics and was simply and absolutely rapt. It was psychedelic and truly dream-like in a way that so little art described as ‘surreal’ gets anywhere near. It was fluid and varied in tone but consistent in atmosphere and never felt unsure of itself. Their was something folkloric about the vibe – like listening to a recording of your great great grandmother telling stories about what lived in the woods on the outskirts of her village in the old country, slipping in and out of a forgotten dialect as she reached back for the details. Ben and I chatted to the lovely Gosha, STARAYA DEREVNYA’s head honcho (for want of a better description), afterwards and he was humble and gracious as we gushed with praise.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Decades of involvement with noise have left me cynical and suspicious of costumes (likewise mess. As a former promoter I rarely enjoy it – this weekend’s melon pulp excepted, of course – as my first thought is ‘oh great, someone is missing the last bus to clean up that crap.’). There seems to be a zero sum relationship between the elaborateness of the set-up and the generic averageness of the actual music: ‘oh great, Mr. Blobby has heard a Merzbow CD’. With that in mind I stood at the back near the stairs for HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET but I needn’t have worried – it was ace.

Their squalling racket had an exuberant bounce to it, the rubbery al dente texture of a highly processed, alarmingly coloured food stuff, allegedly of ‘natural’ origin but about eight times removed by the laboratories of food science. The outfits – they were basically dressed as a gingerbread village – suggested the same folkloric setting as the tales interpreted by STARAYA DEREVNYA but this time described by a four year old after binging on cheese strings.

Finally then, Saturday was topped by BRAINBOMBS. At this point I was grey with tiredness and all set to split but the most un-TUSK-like behaviour of the crowd spiked me with something I remembered from my teenage years as a skate punk. There were a lot of people, mainly serious looking dudes in black t-shirts, intent on getting to the front. This was clearly a much anticipated event and when they started playing people moshed, shook fists and (unique in my experience of TUSK) threw a drink at the band. Blimey! This last led to the frontman making a twat of himself by walking off for a comically short time. Aside from the trumpet player looking a little nervous the rest of the band didn’t even stop playing. They were loud, heavy and fortunately the lyrics were inaudible but I’d had enough after three songs.

Walking through Newcastle at that time on a Saturday night proved pretty spicy. Nowt worrying – the only threatening behaviour I saw was one bloke challenging two coppers who were hassling a homeless guy. Good for him, I thought, as I scuttled past – it’s just that I’ve never seen a crowd so pissed. Everyone seemed distressingly young too. It was like walking through a Little Mix video but with all the participants drunk to the point of being unable to stand.  And screeching.

Back at the hotel I bathed my stinging hands, retired to bed and stared at nothing until well into the early hours, unable to sleep, processing the day.

SUNDAY

Sunday I woke early and raw – head thumping, hands aching – but in a buoyant mood. Needing air, I headed to the railway station shops for supplies, skipping merrily over the broken glass, discarded chips and pools of vomit that were already being swept up and washed away by weary looking council guys in a fleet of Scarab street cleaners.

I’d arranged to meet Ben again, this time with his partner Kadie and two-year old son Wynn, so was soon weaving my way through Quayside Market (clocking all the hipster-bait street food stalls with an eye out for my future lunch) and parking my arse on a railing. It was another glorious, blustery day and as I sat waiting I enjoyed the view and the satisfying whirr and clatter of bikes crossing the river using Millennium Bridge. We adjourned to Sage to indulge in more politics/parenthood chat over expensive flapjack before exchanging farewells. I had to hurry to get to Workplace Gallery in time for CLUB PONDEROSA LIVE at midday.

As I stood at a pedestrian crossing, mentally absent, my reverie was punctured by a fellow Tusker, later introduced as Emma, telling me that she’d enjoyed my set of yesterday. I considered this an inspired opening to a conversation and was instantly impressed by her taste and credibility. Indeed, my step got springier as I realised this event might have attendees that I hadn’t already milked for praise. On our arrival it appeared that things were running late, presumably due to the presence of jazz musicians, so pockets of support hung around outside chatting bollocks and wishing each other ‘good morning’. You must have noticed that the first event of a festival day is always considered the ‘morning’ whenever it occurs.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

Following herd instinct, there came a point when we knew it was time to crowd in and succumb to the all-enveloping embrace of BRB>CULVER. Kev (Wilkinson, crouched) and Lee (Stokoe, hunched) brought forth a roar of such depth and profundity that I don’t hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’.  This kind of thing is a shortcut to nirvana for me – time and desire are obliterated, I want nothing but to be here now experiencing this noise.  It is primal, without scale, yet full of detail – like the sea pulling a beach down the coast one wave at a time, every pulse dragging uncountable pebbles over each other.  That the pair magicked this into being with such (seeming) nonchalance was too much for me.  I lost my shit.

(Aside: coincidental accompaniment for the performance was a projected slideshow of photographs taken by JOINCEY, which were being shown as part of the TUSK/Workplace Gallery CLUB PONDEROSA exhibition.  JOINCEY’s beat is the beshitted pavements of crap town Britain and his deadpan documentation of the depressingly ridiculous, the comically underwhelming and the occasional, surprising moment of beauty or symmetry is brilliant.)

As nothing was going to follow that (with apologies to ARCHIPELAGO, who did) I let me stomach lead me back to the market, scored some sort of authentically Spanish/Geordie chicken wrap and warmed another of Newcastle’s fine railings with my backside.  Forgetting the film programme and enjoying the clement weather I decided to wander the city centre for a couple of hours.  I was looking at Batman outfits in Primark when I realised that it was time to return to the art.

At 5pm two of Saturday’s favourites got together for a collaboration in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.  Playing again in darkness, and again accompanying / accompanied by live animated painting, STARAYA DEREVNYA and HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET (this time without costumes) pooled resources to return us to a dream of staircases in the forest.  I can’t tell you much about it for the same reason I can only guess at what was passing through my mind as I fell asleep last night.  However, beforehand people sat behind me were discussing William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and this performance was a glove-like fit for the hypnagogic experience of losing yourself in that surreal masterpiece.  It was great – we stumbled out onto the balcony discombobulated, refreshed.

During KARA-LIS COVERDALE’s skittish and distracting (in a good way) set I found myself getting increasingly skittish and distracted (in a bad way) as I couldn’t find my wallet.  After checking every pocket in my clothing and every flap and cranny of my bag ten times during an extended self-fondle I resigned myself to an unwelcome walk back to the hotel.  It was there, of course, where I’d left it – an indication of how blown my mind was by this point of the weekend.  I arrived back at Sage in time to be ushered out again due to a fire alarm.  I would have really enjoyed a bellowing siren bouncing around that atrium but all we got was:

mahwahbwahmawahbawahanaamahwah

…only quieter and less distinct, which was either some early-NWW sub-vocalising or a safety announcement made through an inadequate PA.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Anyway, fuck all that shit because next for me was KLEIN.  She had a microphone, two metal lecterns – one for a laptop and a mixer on the other – and played with beer can in hand, parka hood (mostly) up.  The set was a rush of disorientating cross chatter, of glistening bubbles and of high velocity, jolting noise.  If KINK GONG had summoned the nature of travel, KLEIN held up a punched mirror to contemporary existence right where we stood.  It was arresting, beautiful, hilariously deadpan, unfathomable.  I grinned, helpless.  During one section – a shining glass pyramid built from shards of techno pop – I felt myself welling up:

THIS IS THE FUTURE!

…I thought.

Afterwards I was buzzing, hyped, gobsmacked, hovering two inches above the floor and all conversations descended immediately into teenage hyperbole:

Me: HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE THAT? IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!

Hapless Tusker: Yeah, it was pretty g…

Me [interrupting]; NO!! YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS: THINKING IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER OR BEING WRONG!!!

Heh, heh <deep breath>…

OK, whilst putting this piece together, I’ve been torn as to whether to talk about KLEIN being a young, black woman and, if so, what to say.  But I think I have to.  Reading reviews of her recent EP for Hyperdub on sites such as Resident Advisor, her being young and black is not discussed, or even much remarked on, because in a dance music context being young and black is unremarkable.  Unfortunately, in the context of experimental music, especially ‘noise’, it is still unusual.  Looking around at the audience to make sure everyone was appropriately delighted, it occurred to me that KLEIN might be one of only a handful of young, black women in the building, possibly the only one.

Back when dominant trends in noise included leather-coated idiots screaming on about serial killers and race hate the absence of BME voices was entirely understandable – I didn’t really want to be part of it myself – but now, as that side of things has waned, or that anger refigured in more politically and artistically interesting directions, the lack of diversity is more puzzling and shaming.  I think that ‘we’ are a welcoming, open minded crowd with positive, progressive politics but then I would say that wouldn’t I?  I’m white, male, middle-aged, middle-class (more or less) and cis-gendered – and it is probably base assumptions still held by even well-meaning libtard snowflakes like me that are the problem.

For example, one of the most thrilling things about KLEIN’s set had been wondering where the hell it had come from.  I’m not usually fussed about biography but I couldn’t help wondering what influences and experiences led to her expressing herself in this manner.  I began thinking in dad-who-listens-to-1Xtra-when-he’s-washing-up clichés: R’n’B, YouTube, minicabs, pirate radio (showing my age there – is that even still a thing?) because it couldn’t be ‘the canon’ could it?  Then I took a step back and was embarrassed – I don’t know a thing about KLEIN (her hilarious, deflecting blog is no help with ‘facts’ either).  She could spend her evenings discussing plunderphonics and listening to Throbbing Gristle bootlegs, who knows?  Not me.  Sexism and gender bias is in there to.  In the programme notes I described KLEIN’s music as:

…cut-up soul futurism – all silk and pinking shears…

I meant to convey, in a quick and entertaining way, the idea that her smooth source material is chopped into jagged pieces then layered and rearranged by whatever processes she uses to compose.  So why did I use an analogy to dressmaking?  Fucking hell, I’ve got some thinking to do.  Would I have been so stoked had the same set been performed by a middle-aged white guy?  Probably not – I think the music was objectively exhilarating but I’m certain that it was given an edge by the feeling that I was witnessing something new and forward looking.  Mulling it over afterwards, that edge has only been sharpened.  I’m going to use it to cut away some of my mental flab.

By now I was pretty much delirious and sprawled out downstairs with Joe and friends wondering where the energy for the rest of the evening would come from.  Luckily, at that exact moment Joe received a message via the TUSK politburo whispa-ma-phone alerting him to a pizza delivery for the crew.  Using his magic lanyard, he whisked us backstage where we shamelessly stole food from the lovely staff and volunteers who had spent all weekend helping us.  For some reason this moment of naughtiness has stuck with me – a funny little irreverent highlight.  The sustenance was very welcome too.

I surfed the carbs and fat rush to the final set of the festival…

(Above pic by Mike Winship, @MikeWinship, below pic by Kevin Geraghty-Shewan, @deadheaduk)

So, at 11.30pm on a Sunday night in Gateshead I stood at the lip of the stage (no unseemly Brainbombs-style moshpit today) and watched NURSE WITH WOUND. There’s James Worse, dada prophet reciting his own twisted psalms and incantations. I feared the theatricality of his performance might prove hammy but, ach fuck it, his physical gusto – and terrific facial hair – won me over. There’s Andrew Liles, exuding confidence and adding some rock and roll swagger. I don’t know if the stance is ironic – his Bandcamp picture suggests it is – but he is charismatic enough to pull it off in any direction. There’s Colin Potter, co-responsible for Salt Marie Celeste, one of the most-listened-to-albums of my adult life. He looks as jittery as he did when performing a wonderful solo set at a disastrous, poorly attended Termite Club festival years ago (yeah, sorry about that Colin). His frantic concern that everything is working just so, even under huge swathes of clamour, is as charismatic in its way as Andrew Lile’s nonchalance. Finally, there’s Steven Stapleton, the main man, an unassuming presence on the left quietly getting on with his part in the racket whilst a slideshow of his collages is projected above.

I’ve already written about what this act means to me here so I’ll leave that largely to one side. The set itself was a swirling ball of poached noise coloured blood red, concrete grey and the iridescent green of graveyard moss by psych/dada elements. One particularly satisfying all-in tethered crescendo was a highlight. I dug it, it left me satiated. The applause at the end had that multi-faceted meaning it always does when you are in the same room as your heroes, as living legends: relief that they didn’t disappoint (c’mon, you know that is always a worry), congratulations on the actual set and, most importantly, thanks for the decades of work that led to this point.

We also clapped for TUSK – a fitting end to a terrific, beautiful, exhausting weekend. Thank you so much to all that made it happen.

CODA

Despite being a Monday there was a much more cheerful vibe on the train home: better seat, secure luggage and good eavesdropping:

Did you open your presents this morning?

Didn’t get any.

WHAAAT?! NOT EVEN A TUB OF HEROES?!!

Heh, heh.  Once everyone settled down I put Tuluum Shimmering’s Linus and Lucy on my mp3 player, a glorious 75 minute kraut/psych groove on the Peanuts theme tune, and stared backwards at everything that had just happened.  Finally it seemed time to give some serious thought to the question I’d been asked over and over again since Saturday afternoon:

What next?

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

employees of the month: joe murray on hardworking families, jon seagroatt and ian staples with bobbie watson, stuart chalmers, ramleh, robert ridley-shackleton

December 19, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger (tape, don’t drone alone, edition of 50 or download)

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless (CD, Future Vinyl, CD1501 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.1 (CD-r, Must Die Records, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.2 (CD-r in fold-out sleeve, Ono, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview) (self-released download)

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind (7″ vinyl, Format Supremacy)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP (7″ vinyl, Cardboard Club, edition of 100)

worse

Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger

My most favouritely-named artist in the No-Audience Underground offers us a tape woven like a friendship bracelet. This time the grubby threads are replaced with electric-pylon-hum and carbon-monoxide-alarm-shriek, backed with sparse bristling gristle.  It moves like folded towels; the texture flexes and changes under stress.

‘Bryantwood Road, Washington Street’ swells with double intensity in places then turns back on itself, revelling in its own knock-kneed skinniness. Serious knob-twiddling releases the kind of low bass throb that gives your tin-pot dictator a wet dream as they disperse an angry mob. But the icing on this beefy cake is the see-saw panning of a single sickly tone that wraps itself, like a possessive lover, round your brain stem in three dimensions.

Side two introduces us to the ‘Pasternoster’ an augmented field recording made in some brutalist concrete nightmare – it’s pretty darn cavernous!  Rubberised breadsticks get rattled in a quiver as assembled umpires discuss furniture polish (quietly).  The sweet swish of Air Max on a dusty floor makes dry circles in my ear buds while some joker miked up the fire escape.  And, to add a point of detail, these recordings are reconstructed without electronic condiments, they are never rushed or fudge-sticky.

The dull thud of capitalism is gradually tuned out… but not before Hardworking Families is decorated as employee of the month.

deathless

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless

We’ve got used to imaginary soundtracks for films; so what about a record of a book?  Jon Seagroatt, Ian Staples and Bobbie Watson  must have bloody loved Steven Sherill’s 2004 novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break because they’ve based their immaculate playing ’round its 313 leathery pages.

Jon and Ian play a particular flavour of experimental music that’s as charming as the soft ‘plonk’ of a well-lobbed shuttlecock.  It’s sparse and serene with a gritty undercurrent of processed drones/electronics over a keening flute (and probably other woodwind family members).

In parts it’s as English as teabags and disappointing caravan holidays, but there’s something that keeps me thinking of the Rune Grammofon back catalogue with its clear sound and chilly cadence.

The croaky swell of hot breath pushed through copper pipes nestles well with the shimmering slide guitar and post-production twiddling.  Bobbie’s minimal vocals (there’s only a couple of minutes worth on the whole disc) are kept back as a secret weapon and hauntingly warped like silvery raindrops.  It’s a very classy listen.

But what’s going to make you uncles and aunties sit up and click on the links is the connections this band are mixed up in.  Check this out: the dark-folk of Comus, spooky beards Current 93, power-improv legends Red Square and, strangest of all The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra?  These folk were no-audience before many of us were born.

Sit up straight, turn off that god damn phone and listen to this in flickering candlelight.

lp1lp2lp3

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, Loop Phantasy No. 2, Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview)

Ya’ll know I steer clear of the dreaded hyperbole.  I’m not one of those ‘BEST BAND EVER’, ‘THIS SHIT CHANGED MY LIFE’, ‘I WAS BLIND AND NOW I CAN SEE’ kinda zine-writers (Ed – feel free to add sarcastic comment here) [Editor’s note: I’m saying nowt].

But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS.

From the Stone Age goof with lovely sounding rocks to James Brown’s well-drilled fonk to Larry Levan’s sweaty yoga-stretch to Prince Paul’s magpie fingers we all love a loop.  The act of repetition does something to that brain/body connection.  We smile, we twitch… we bust a fucking move.  And with that repetition comes the delicious recognition of the eventual slip, the change, the move out of the established pattern that leaves us all grinning at our cleverness – we spotted it first!  We picked up on that micro-change that slid away from the beat like a rubber Mungo Jerry.

You want examples? Hard data yeah?  Take ‘Loop Phase 4’ on Loop Phantasy No. 1.  A single xylophone reverberation and gated piano-hammer strike, plays with a gentle jarring.  It starts to overlap.  It returns on itself and sets up an internal rhythm and logic cell that mutates gently over four sweet minutes. A final few seconds of digital crunchiness brings us to a shuddering climax.

And while …No. 1 and …No. 2 are definitely more swoony and dreamy …No. 3 employs the kind of up-tight funk cut-up David Byrne dreams of in his SoHo loft space.  What’s that?  More evidence?  OK… slurp this up: ‘Pop Plunder 20‘ is equal parts Van Jackson/Dicta-frottage and wonky thumb.  Jeepers.

Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

ramleh and rrs

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind

This is real treasure!  A box of stash from 1994 has been recently opened up for the N-A U. Naughty noiseniks Ramleh are in full-on thug-rock mode here with a guitar, bass, drums and electronics line-up shattering the song format by being so astoundingly belligerent.

‘Welcome’ is a one-riff-then-lurch-into-electronic-breakdown sort of thing.  The twin guitars are bone-crushingly heavy and swing dangerously like a bowling ball rocking about in a wet cardboard box.  The cymbal crashes are worthy of a separate mention as they sizzle like Bonzo walloped them with his heavy oaks.  The overall sound is pretty bloody angry… pissed wasps taped into an empty jam jar.  It’s buzzing.

On the flip ‘Pristine Womanhood’ is even more exposed and unconstructed.  It starts and ends with a menacing closing-time choir howling something threatening.  In between this terrace chant the electronics shift up a gear to give Theremin-style whoops over duelling twin-guitars; less Judas Priest and more Deliverance decamped to damp, dirty Cumbria.

But how do you get a copy of this heavy, heavy slab?  Although the Format Supremacy label is now pretty much defunct, sending a reasonable £4 in the UK (inc postage) or £7 for anywhere else in the world (inc postage) via Paypal to hasan.gaylani@btinternet.com will secure a fresh copy of this oily sump-jam.

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self Titled EP

The singular Mr Ridley-Shackleton takes his trademark scuff-jizz and lays it on some hot wax, man.  I’m totally delighted to say that the gritty Dictaphone feel is in full effect with no attempt made to clean up this shit for the fussy pants vinyl crowd.  Some people are forever cassette souls.

I’ve spoken before about the RR-S ‘pocket jazz’ sound and this is still evident in big fucking lumps.  But in his duffle coat he’s sneaked in a Hall & Oates that play fragging keyboards and warm-whumping beats.  The delivery, classic RR-S; part polite hip-hop MC/part loose-soul-maverick, makes me think of Guru Gwilly Edmondez and imagine what a dream duo these two would make.

It’s time to Kross up the Kriss, Kriss up the Kross

and

Oh baby! Hold me

leak out slowly like mercury from a fractured thermometer.

Over the five tracks the texture gradually moves from limp AM radio jam to stiff grogram shuffle.  By the time we get to ‘No Grey Area’, this seven-inch-closer, minute hairs are a riffled burr on the bright tape.  They bristle like magnets.

Your generous ears will no doubt latch onto the construction and form here. I know it’s going to sound like highfalutin crit-jizz but RR-S sculpts his music; building things, not so much in blocks but in the thin layers he uses in his postal art. This thin layer becomes a second skin, a grimy bandage on your wrist, spare ends flapping in the wind.

Where can you pick this hep-platter up?  Try the unstoppable Cardboard Club blog for £4 of direct action.

—ooOoo—

don’t drone alone

Jon Seagroatt

Stuart Chalmers

– on Must Die Records

– on Ono

Cardboard Club

rancid fridge imploding: joe murray on knives, osmiroid, pain jerk, justin marc lloyd, duncan harrison and hyster tapes

March 19, 2014 at 9:26 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Knives / Osmiroid – Stars, Dots and the “New” Junk (tape, Stars, Dots and the “New” Junk, starsdots007, edition of 50 or download)

Pain Jerk – Inflammable Material (CD-r, English as Apples)

Justin Marc Lloyd – I’m Sorry for the Thoughts Assigned to My Name (C29 tape, Wasted Capital Since 2013, WC6, edition of 50)

Various – FOUR LETTER WORLD COMPILATION (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER17, edition of 50)

Duncan Harrison – Ogre Neon (CD-r, Beartown Records)

knives - osmiroid

Knives/Osmiroid – Stars, Dots and the ‘New’ Junk

The little seaside town of Blyth UK has been churning out some of the murkiest noise that my little ears have ever feasted on.  So, it was with the grim anticipation of a solemn kicking I unwrapped this Blyth-related tape from the excellently named ‘Knives.’  I make the distinction of this being Blyth-related as the hipsters may know Knives as Blyth ex-pats, refugees who left their fabled mist-drenched home for the bright city lights of London.

These dark Knives take the guitar/drum/bass/tape set up you’ve shook your head to for all them years and set the controls for glistening tinnitus.  On ‘Days of ancients’ finesse is treated with distain…this is a ROCK recording and plods like an undiscovered Birthday Party sound check while Nick’s round the back kinging his wretched ink.  The unctuous rhythm leaves guitar free to dive-bomb, swooping and crashing into gasoline-scented balls of flame. Track two ‘Ancients of days’ starts off with the leaden bully-boy stomp of The Cosmic Psychos or Slub or something and disintegrates into a sheer hellish miasma of scorched electric gravy…steaming, dangerously fizzing.

Osmiroid sounds less like a band and more like a couple of heavily-bearded dudes with tapes, modulators and laptops playing evil dragging noise.  Imagine a splintered, heavy cable hauled over a gravel pit of broken bottles.  That’s the kind of abrasion pouring into my ears right now.  The modulators give a fowl hoot every now and again.  Another god-damn Australian makes an appearance but this time it’s Rolfy Rolfy Harris hawking his never-popular Stylophone.  Yup.  This makes no sense at all and is all the richer for it.

You can try before you buy at Bandcamp.

pain jerk - inflammable

Pain Jerk – Inflammable Material

Real life, honest to goodness, retro Japanese noise from Kohei Gomi aka – Pain Jerk.  But before we dive into this shiny beast there’s some back story.  Jamie Wrest takes it from here.

Initially this Pain Jerk album was meant to get issued as a cassette 18 years ago.  But it just never happened because of one thing or another.  I was handed the DAT by Steven Middleton who was first sent it by Pain Jerk in 1996.  Next I paid a visit to my friend M.P. Wood who runs the Soundroom studio in Gateshead.  He worked his MAGIK on the recordings and now here they are in all their nasty glory after all these years.  So enjoy whoever you are…

OK.  The scene is set…but what does it all sound like?  If you’ve never experienced Pain Jerk this is a pretty great place to start.  With the first piece ‘Spiral Dragon’ you get unhinged-blackened-noise whipped-up like the mother of all howling storms.  But there’s also some brief interludes of squelching electronic bird-song (possibly the base material for these improvisations) that sneak through the brutal tidal hammering.  The white noise hiss gets turned up beyond any levels of common decency and, in parts, become a static floating thing, a gauze cloud perhaps?  But any temporary prettiness is soon shouldered aside by the very physical jerks of metallic paintwork all scratched and peeled; wire wool in the tumble dryer, a rancid fridge imploding.

Track two ‘Right Angled Air’ is even more aggressive with less bass and more hi-fi harsh roar.  There’s very little let up from the caustic scouring except a herky-jerky knob twiddling towards the end that temporarily dulls the sharpness for a moment, but of course brings things back at double export-strength…and then it just ends without no fanfare or crescendo.  Phwoar!  What a listen.

No idea where you can get this.  English as Apples is the ultra-underground, hand-reared, barely legal bootleg label run by Blyth’s most beloved son Jamie Wrest.  You could try the man himself, a fixture at most North East noise shows.  For readers based outside Geordieland an email to the ever-helpful Turgid Animal label might help…possibly.

justin marc lloyd

Justin Marc Lloyd – I’m Sorry for the Thoughts Assigned to My Name

Described as ‘Globular Vocal Mass’ on the handy Wasted Capital site this neat looking tape from  Justin Marc Lloyd caused me a bit of a foggy-brained confusion.  I know, pretty much for certain, that Mr Lloyd is a born and bred American.  From over the pond and all that.  So why does this tape remind me so much of the late 1990s Essex-bwoy sound of  Ceefax Acid Crew or Chaos A.D.?

It could be the sound quality which is busy and precise but ragged as dogtooth check. It could be the speedy, buzzing energy; manic as a teenage oik on Frosty Jacks.  It could be the obnoxious clots of ‘globular vocal mass’; derived as easily from a rusty Commodore Amiga as a mucus-drenched throat.

“So much for the overall feel of the tape you hippy.”  I hear you snort.  “What about the edited highlights man?”  OK…I know you’re busy people.  Here’s the skinny version.

Side One contains the future-hit ‘Sub-dermal Thirst for Bland and Christian-like Suburbia’ and has a ‘wasp-in-a-crisp-packet’ buzz about it with some crunching ‘beats’ sounding like heavy mortar fire hitting the next village.  Real Apocalypse Now shit.  It ends with the superbly brief ‘Comfort of One’s Own Innocent Lover’ which appears to be some sticky-palmed sigh lasting for exactly 26 seconds.

Side Two starts with a see-sawing motion, and a Vocoder bleat like some ‘Rockit’ era outtake and segues into the sound lampposts make in a buffeting high wind (a kind of bruised and lonely temporal clicking) on ‘Perimeter Scan with Faulty the-world-is-shit Filter’ until a rise-of-the-robots synth alarm crushes other sounds beneath its primitive metallic chime.  The final piece is an homage to the Wasted Capital/Hideous Replica brothers where objects, things and stuff gradually get folded round the sort of gloriously limp guitar loop last heard on a Kemialliset Ystavat record.  Wow…that’s some ground covered; Chelmsford to Tampere via Chicago.  Booyaka! (Editor’s note: yes, Joe did really write ‘Booyaka’ – I shall deflate his bouncy castle immediately as penance.)

hyster comp tape

Various Artists – FOUR LETTER WORLD COMPILATION

Hyster is a Finnish label specialising in the more austere end of the no-audience underground.  Artwork is from the photocopied greyness & musty collage school.   The tape releases are recycled and lovingly battered.  The artists tend to be Northern European beans sweeping round the iron-filings factory.  So far it’s all pretty dope.  This simple little tape opens my ears to a few unfamiliar names and presents the ever-wonderful Yol in a new context.  Here goes…

Crap sampled horn and heavy dub effects over a skronky-ass scribble open the proceedings with a piece from LEITMOTIV LIMBO.  Then there’s a gap…and then the slum-horn strikes up again.  It’s all over in under 3 minutes and I love the off-handedness of this.  There’s a serious ‘I don’t give a fuck’ to the way it’s shaped and presented.  Like the slouching teenager outside the off-license…he doesn’t even want you to go in and buy some Special Brew for him…he just wants to see you squirm like a middle-class liberal.

GREY PARK are a perfectly named project for this kind of gristle.  There’s a bone-freezing dawn mist outside.  But, pulling on warm socks and boots, you crunch through the most beautiful field of silver-frosted grass; each blade a perfect pewter shard.  Looking back you see your own heavy footprints creating rhythmic dark patches like rough stitching on a blanket.

Breeze block rumble and the cough-glotty howls from cattle baron YOL opens side two.  This ‘disappointing human-head pulled out’ kinetic-poetry and furious violent honks are artfully tempered with some real subtle tin-tapping, stone grumble and an almost hissing scat coda from our man from Hull.  Six minutes long and over in a flash.

The mid-1980s synth tone mumble over record-player-run-out-groove ‘schhhhlip, schhhhlip’ and recorded babble make %20 come across like Tangerine Dream got a bonk on the head.  Recorded live in Chomsky Bar, Riga it says here.  I picture this played on Newcastle’s Diamond Strip at closing time.  Tottering heels and big-armed boys slow the dance from which all dances come, the hen-night quietens to silence and all take stock of bitter lives lived.  No one returns on Saturday.

Two Euros plus postage.  50 copies.  Trades welcome. Weirdness distro and ‘zines too… plaa@pcuf.fi

 duncan harrison ogre neon

Duncan Harrison – Ogre Neon

I’m over a year late reviewing this god-damn essential clutch of sonic-chuff from Brighton’s Duncan Harrison.

The general mood is confident.  Unhurried and relaxed; this is no sweating beard scrabbling at the lock.  And while Hanover Mist might open with close-miked domestic chutter it’s the kinda-blue bicycle-bell sample that makes this as refreshing as pink grapefruit.

Pretty much all approaches are fair game, so: loops, vocal jizz, noise interruptions, kraut-inspired repetition and crackling ambience all play a part in building up the lumpy canvas on ‘Rattles in the North’ with its heavy closing meditation on the three words…

Let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again…

…that becomes pregnant with hidden intention and meaning.

But again I keep coming back to the relaxed hand on the tiller.  There’s no hurry to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ at all.  A limp finger dangles in the water as the punt floats imperceptibly through the bull rushes.

A simple two-note bass riff creates the backdrop for ‘Dust from the Artists Quarter’, the building ‘sceeeeee’ sine wave thing giving this a medical vibe – music for dentists perhaps?   At any rate it’s starched and white for sure.  ‘The Shadows Cast by the Bottom of Photoframes hung on Gallery Walls’ is a fuzzy-logic vocal piece with that expressive Dictaphone smear all over the plosive and consonant knocks that goes something like this…

n..n..NN..Ssss…S’t..nN..ssh

…with the occasional blurt of dicta FFW klonk for three blissful minutes.

Now the the chasers are necked, and the hors d’oeuvres munched, the main event occurs.  A weighty 20 minutes, ‘Upstairs in Infinity’ squeezes the tubes marked Pierre Schaeffer depositing the chalky paste ready to spread.

Things gently toast with some concrete turntable frittering and intimate bottle breathing (this captured like some Mongolian shamanistic ritual, the low tones echo the desolation of the high plains via Cream Soda) until slo-mo, dicta in pocket reportage, takes us on a trip though the sort of antiques shop last seen on Tales of the Unexpected.  Stark lighting and swift edits make the stuffed birds all sinister and beaky.  The old busted violin squawks like a Harpy.  Single notes drift as dust motes in the pale afternoon sun.  But what’s that scratching come from the old tea chest?  It sounds like something’s try to GET OUT!  Cue credits and daft titles.

If this sounds like your kinda schizzle check out Duncan’s Bandcamp for this and a whole bunch of other essential releases (hint…2012’s Young Arms is his ‘On The Corner’).  As Rob always says, ‘give what you can.’

Afore ye go…check out the excellent Beartown Records site for more related mung.

Over and out comrades!

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.