no, nothing is sacred: radiofreemidwich finally on twitter

August 1, 2014 at 7:41 am | Posted in blog info | 2 Comments
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twitter crab

After years of stalling, I finally caved in and set up a Twitter account.  This was for two main reasons.

Firstly, I often found myself on Twitter anyway – nose pressed against the glass, shamelessly vanity searching and/or asking comrades to tweet on my behalf.

Secondly, I’ve had a few requests recently to plug gigs and the like.  I’ve said ‘no’ because this blog isn’t really a news service – I see it as a flow of opinion on (almost exclusively) recorded music.  That said, I’d like to do my bit and Twitter seems like the place to take it.

So, I won’t be on it that much.  I don’t have time or the kit to do it proper justice (my phone is cheap and built to withstand its use by my son in his Yol tribute act – smart it is not) but will blurt tweets whenever possible.  Many thanks to those who welcomed me to the cult last night and who were gathering around the RFM crab (above) before I even finished setting everything up.

Apologies to Scott who suggested something like this months ago and got a high-handed dismissal from me for his trouble:

Nah, I’m not into that kind of thing.

Hmmm… turns out that I am.

Here’s the profile and I can be found @radiomidwich.  I’ll work out how to put buttons on this site and whatnot in due course.



an inch of time is an inch of gold…

July 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Posted in blog info, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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evidence of the golden age

Status report: despite the number of people interested in this stuff being statistically indistinguishable from zero, the micro-climate that this blog reports on could not be sunnier.  RFM’s lifetime hit count sits at 72,000, increasing at a rate of 2-3000 a month.  The ‘to review’ list is over fifty items deep and a shaming *ahem* ‘several’ months long.  It is very exciting, if a bit daunting.  Evidence that we are living in a golden age for experimental music is literally piling up around me.

I’m delighted to say that our own endeavours have been proving as welcome as a full English breakfast the morning after a day’s yomp too.

Joe Murray’s recent mid-life crisis tour was a blast and his numerous releases as Posset fizz exuberantly in the catalogues of discerning and forward-thinking microlabels everywhere.  Not only that but he is now broadcasting alongside Hasan Gaylani (of Jazzfinger and Popular Radiation) on the lovely Basic FM.  Check that out.

Scott ‘Gru’ McKeating has been quiet of late, true, but he is no doubt hatching an evil plan to harness obsessive Matthew Bower fandom for despicable purposes.  In the meantime, why not catch up with everything he has released on the dormant-but-smoking Bells Hill and its digital counterpart.  Then treat yourself to the unique doomphonics of Black Leather Cop, his duo collaboration with Joe.

My releases this year as midwich have attracted some humbling praise and a couple have sold out their small runs as physical objects.  An uncharacteristic modesty forbids me from saying more.  Anyway, a piece composed for Joe’s radio show is in its larval stage and a gig at the far end of the year beckons.  The Barrel Nut #10 has been compiled and copied and awaits folding and distributing.  Contributions to fill numbers #11 and #12 are in hand.

Enormous fun, eh?  Indeed.  However, seasoned readers are probably expecting a ‘but’.  How perceptive of them, here it is:

But… three aspects of ‘real’ life need to be accounted for and will lead to some tweaking of current procedure.

Firstly, home life and parenthood are both terrific but the boy is in a highly mobile developmental stage, needing hawk-like attention on a near-constant basis.  It is surprising just how many lethal objects and substances we keep at a knee high level in the house, is it not?  And why does bleach come in such brightly coloured and attractive bottles?

Secondly, work life has stepped up several gears.  I work in undergraduate university admissions and the exam results and visa application seasons are well under way.  This will last until the end of September.

Third and finally, sensing that I am vulnerable my illness has positioned itself on my back wheel and is glaring at me whenever I look over my shoulder.  ‘You hate yourself’, the part of my brain that wants to sabotage the rest repeatedly shouts, ‘you want to die’.  This tactic is a ridiculous blunt instrument and can usually be swatted aside with the counter-thought: ‘fuck off, I’m universally loved due to being awesome.’  However, sometimes the endless, grinding repetition of the same ugly thought is enough to provoke a weary moment of doubt, even assent.

In summary then: I have very little spare time and that which I do grab is usually spent hallucinating with tiredness and/or batting off the inner demons.

So, what to do?  I’d hate for anything as magical and life-affirming as the work I put into music and this blog to become a chore, or something to stress about, so some reining in has to be done.  Nothing yells ‘time management’ like an alpha list bullet points:

a) Firstly some apologies: I applaud the patience of those who have submitted material for review and I am afraid that I have to ask for more.  Likewise, my email correspondents will have to put up with tardy and short replies for at least a couple of months.  Soz.

b) There may have to be a discrete cull of the material that has piled up.  I’ve sounded out my comrades about taking some of this stuff on themselves but they have their own commitments and I don’t really want to staunch Joe’s flow as he is doing a bang-up job covering the kinetic poetry/vocal improv beat that mainly leaves your editor befuddled.

c) I will no longer be mentioning zines or the printed word (at least until the backlog is cleared) focussing on recorded music (almost) exclusively.  Thus my apologies to Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon, the final issues of which arrived at Midwich Mansions this week.  May I call your attention to Uncle Mark’s write-up here instead?  Likewise Noness: for thinking people beyond the pale which is a fascinating read and was kind enough to mention The Barrel Nut in passing.  Fans of Ceramic Hobs, Lobster magazine and the like will find much of interest, I’m sure, and it is notable for being one of very few fanzines I’ve seen to feature extensive footnotes.  It’s mother blog, Nobody’s Business is worth regular visits.

d) Some changes in submission guidelines shall be made to streamline matters.  If your release is download only, feel free to send the download link (with a code to dodge payment if applicable).  If your release is download and a physical object, again download link (and code if needed) is fine.  If your release is physical object only then best to send the physical object.  If for reasons of efficiency or poverty you would prefer to sneak me a download then please include a scan of the cover I can use.  I’d prefer you not to send wav files as my walkman is fussy about playing them.  Likewise, I will only use dropbox under duress because, for technical reasons, I fucking hate it.  Preferred methods of getting files to me are via Bandcamp or good quality mp3 files sent via WeTransfer.

e) Adopting a time-management strategy I’ve used before, I may publish more short and group reviews and some more ‘first impressions’ type stuff.  Don’t worry – it will be properly thought out and based on the same close listening as ever, just not as meandering.  I suspect a bit of discipline might be good for me anyway.  I may even crack out some no-audience haiku again, especially for those blog-faves who have been heavily reviewed already.  Here’s the first:

Dan, Kev, Lee, Miguel:

these seventeen syllables

may be all you get…

Snigger.  OK, onwards!  Slowly!  Next up: The Barrel Nut #10, soon: The Piss Superstition on fencing flatworm recordings, after: loads of reviews of heart-stoppingly beautiful, rapture-inducing noise wonders.

Love to you all,

Rob H

rfm goes for a paddle

May 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Posted in blog info | Leave a comment

Thomas's first attempt at a sandcastle

What should one do when faced with an unignorable mountain of responsibility? When taking the smallest break is impossible? When finances are so stretched that any expense seems like an unforgivable extravagance? The correct answer is, of course, to fuck it all off and go on holiday. Thus, following my own sage advice, RFM will be shutting up shop for two or three weeks in order to enjoy some well earned respite. We shall take the boy to the seaside for the first time, eat chips and buy fudge to take back to the office. Glorious.

By the time of our return to Midwich Mansions my crack team of administrative assistants will have emptied the bulging sacks of post, opened every suspicious looking jiffy bag and carefully ordered the review pile according to my own exacting regulations. Other minions will be hard clicking on Bandcamp and doing the same for the digital realm. Industry, industry. Likewise Joe will be combining business and pleasure by dictating reviews to his scribes whilst bouncing on his inflatable replica of Dunstanburgh Castle. Dark burblings may also be heard via whisper-ma-phone from Scott’s undersea lair – what is he doing down there?

In short: plenty to look forward to in the coming Summer season. Long-awaited new releases from me as midwich and in collaboration with Miguel Perez’s The Skull Mask will be upon you shortly. Magnificent work from Adam Bohman, Helicopter Quartet, Stuart Chalmers and many, many other equally deserving folk is being fed into the metaphor generation machine as I type. Labels such as ORL, aetheric, LF, hairdryer excommunication, matching head and the so-new-the-paint-is-still-sticky Emblems of Cosmic Disorder have been giving my postman a hernia and/or gushing product up the internet pipes.

Truly, the Golden Age continues and I’ll look forward to giving it my full attention. In a fortnight.

(Lovecraftian geometric sandcastle by Calvin Seibert.  See more here.)

oTo archive complete

March 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo archive pic 1

About a fortnight ago I announced the launch of the oTo tape archive project.  Today, much to my surprise, I am delighted to declare it complete.  That is: all fifty tapes that comprise the oTo catalogue, originally released in limited numbers more than a decade ago, have been digitized and are available to listen to and/or download for free here on this blog.  Haven’t I been a busy bee, eh?  Actually, hooking up a decent tape deck, via my little midwich mixer, to the laptop has made the task a breeze.  I’ve enjoyed chugging through it very much.

For further information about what this tape label was all about see the preamble on the archive’s own page.  This page is also where you’ll find all the links.  There are many gems hidden amongst the names you’ll recognize so please take the opportunity to dip your toes.  How about a terrific hiss-drone by The Dead Body?  Or the mutation of recordings made during the refurbishment of Leeds Railway Station into a Basic Channel-ish jackhammer dub by TK94?  I could go on: noise, electronics, folk-psych, dada collage – it’s all there for the taking.

May I ask a favour?  I’m usually loathe to ‘promote’ RFM, figuring that the right people will find it eventually, but I’m quite proud of the work done in presenting this bounty.  So… if you find something you like would you mind passing the link on to someone else you think might be interested, or doing one of them tweets or a facebooking?  Many thanks to those that did so following the initial announcement – your support is, as always, much appreciated.

The normal reviews based service you’ve come to expect from RFM will resume shortly with some great stuff dictated by Joe Murray to his children from the bouncy castle he uses as his office.  Scott is up to something calculated and evil in his mysterious undersea lair.  Me?  Well, having begun a phased return to work following my recent bout of depression I find myself in a near-constant state of bewilderment.  The muse is finding this most unattractive.  Hopefully inspiration will return as my energy levels increase as I am looking forward to doing justice to some exceptional releases on the review pile.

oTo archive pic 4

the oto tape archive

March 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | 10 Comments
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo tapes

‘Ordnance, Tape Only’, or oTo to its friends, was a sound-art off-shoot project from fencing flatworm recordings, the micro-label I co-ran with Sean Keeble in the early years of this century.  There were fifty oTo releases, with each release limited to a numbered fifty copies, all on one-sided cassette tapes.  Apart from the artist name and the catalogue number no other information was included.  Inlay cards were made by chopping up various Ordnance Survey maps of this fair country.  Thus you got a random square of Britain, five miles on a side, to look at whilst listening to your near-anonymous tape.  Oh, and it is nowt to do with London’s Cafe OTO, which it predates by several years.

To my surprise, this insane enterprise caught the collective imagination and I had no trouble filling up the 50 slots.  It became a cross section of the UK noise underground at the time (2001-ish) and even attracted the attention of the international experimental jet-set with, for example, Thurston Moore donating some skronking.  Julian Bradley, who encouraged me to get started with the project, had tape number T01 and I took last one.  Whilst chopping up maps I was often left with some wholly blue squares containing just sea.  I kept those to one side and the 50 inlay cards for the midwich tape each cover 25 square miles of water.

In a lengthy interview with me conducted by Bang the Bore (read the whole thing here) I was asked a bunch of questions about oTo including this one:

Are you planning on giving oTo a digital after-life? It seems more suited to that format than the ffr releases, possibly… for one thing you can construct the eternally looping playlist implied by how the original releases were structured. It’s also easy to give it that “check it out then move on” response that you mention.

…and I replied:

Well, I can see the appeal for the reasons you mention but, no, I am not planning a digital reanimation for oTo.  Difficulty in finding the time would be a major hindrance – many of the masters are on tape themselves and would therefore need recording onto my laptop and mastering before acceptable mp3 versions could be created.  The bigger problem though is that I no longer have all the masters.  When ffr/oTo was wound up I offered to return masters to artists so they could reissue their work elsewhere and a few took me up on it.  Phil reissued the Zen Nuns tape (a collaboration he did with Lasse Marhaug) on BWCD, for example.  I realise that most of these reissues are now themselves unavailable but still… I returned this stuff on the understanding that oTo was over.  I’d also not feel happy about releasing mp3s of this stuff without the permission of the artists themselves and I’ve completely lost touch with quite a few of them.  No, reanimating oTo would be a logistical nightmare.  Best just to accept that the moment has passed.

Solid reasoning, I’m sure you’ll agree, but then I found myself shifting a stereo upstairs to the RFM offices here at Midwich Mansions and my thinking began to change…  My current opinion is as follows:

Ahh… fuck it!

So, with that in mind, please see the oTo tape archive page (also tabbed above) for a list of the fifty tapes.  The blurbs are from the original FFR website.  I thought about putting it on Bandcamp or doing something like Jeff did at Union Pole but neither of those options felt quite right.  Let’s keep it a private affair for readers of this blog.

The page is being launched containing a random selection of about half of the catalogue (mainly those I had CD-r masters for) in best quality mp3 format.  In due course I will add more until all, or as close to all as I can manage, are archived here.  Your patience requested – this archive is a work in progress and progress may be glacial.

Apologies in advance if some of the sound quality isn’t crystal sharp – such is the nature of the exercise.  Amazingly, I am digitizing tapes via the Pioneer tape deck that I originally duped these tapes on.  It is still working fine – <appreciative whistle> – they don’t make ’em like that anymore, eh?  Where I’ve created mp3s from a CD-r master there may be multiple tracks, mp3s from tapes will be in one lump.  Playing and/or downloading options are both available.

Comments welcome.  Much more to come…

the first fifty thousand

September 30, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Posted in blog info | 2 Comments
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Ladies and Gentlemen, RFM is delighted to announce this blog has now garnered over 50,000 hits, making it one of the top visitor attractions in the no-audience underground.  We are still lagging behind Julian Bradley’s topiary animal garden but, after that dead pigeon was found in their pretzel mix, we have leapfrogged Hull’s ‘Magical Kingdom of Yol’ theme park.  Get in!

For some reason it appears to be taboo to talk about ‘stats’ so openly.  Like discussing your salary or, unless you are in a GP’s surgery or an advert on daytime television, the consistency of your own shit.  Still, I suspect some of you might be interested in mapping the scope of this micro-empire so here goes.

The monthly average here at RFM is currently 1800-1900 hits, thus making the daily average 60+.  A good day is over 100, popular or ‘controversial’ posts or a Zellaby Awards day might see 200.  The number of unique visitors is around half that so, oddly, each of you tends to make on average two visits a day.  Why is that, eh?  You weirdos.  There have been 320 posts over the four years of RFMs existence (which is a lot more than one a week – I have no idea how I’ve managed that), provoking 294 comments, half of which are by me saying ‘hey, thanks for your comment’.  Aside from enough text to swallow a volume of Game of Thrones, RFM also contains 1018 files – about four fifths images, the rest audio, all freely available.  Aren’t we good to you?

Anecdotally, I understand that a glowing review on RFM can generate as many as two or three sales (thus making it far more lucrative than advertising in The Wire), possibly an offer of trade and, almost certainly, an enthusiastic email from Miguel Perez (ha! MeGaLoLz! Hi Miguel!).  Luckily none of us are in it for the money.  More important are the connections, collaborations and friendships that have been formed following links found here.  About two-thirds of releases submitted get reviewed eventually and turnaround time can be anything from 24 hours to three months due to the arcane and impenetrable rule book governing the mysterious queuing system.

God knows how many hours have been dedicated to the maintenance of this crazy project but it is never a chore.  If you ever hear me complaining, ignore me: I love it.  My heartfelt thanks to the amazing community that makes it possible. Joe, Scott and I are proud to do our bit in documenting all this effort.

buy now! name your price! probably ‘zero’! midwich on bandcamp

July 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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life underwater

Ladies and gentlemen, your faithful editor returns from his holiday week refreshed and bearing good news: RFM is proud to announce the launch of the midwich Bandcamp site.  The initial offering is of nine releases.  Featured among them are running repairs and ‘verdigris’, my contribution to the Victorian Electronics box, both originally released by Striate Cortex and both long sold out.  Also airing is the perpetually-coming-soon october in yorkshire, fished from the wreckage of the scuppered Zanntone label.  More will follow in due course.

As well as new releases, live recordings and rarities previously unavailable in a digital form, I will copy across some back catalogue items that can already be found in mp3 format on this blog’s discography page.  I think this is worth doing because via Bandcamp you’ll be able to get it in any format you like (the wavs sound well nice) and download whole albums at once.  Your convenience is my motivation.

Everything will be offered on a ‘pay what you like’ basis so visitors are able to use the ‘support’ and ‘collection’ functions within Bandcamp (whatever they are.  I’m told those functions get turned off I just select ‘free download’).  Don’t worry though as entering ‘£0’ is fine if you have ‘£0’ to spend.  I won’t be using this as a way of harvesting your email address either.  Donations are welcome, of course, and I pledge that 100% of any money raised will be spent within the no-audience underground either purchasing music by others or diffusing the cost of releasing physical editions of future releases, thus helping keep the flow of goodwill circulating.

Speaking of which, may I cash in a little goodwill in exchange for some quid pro quo?  If you are a reader and/or had your work featured on this blog could I ask that you return the favour by checking this site out and maybe nudge a friend or two in the same direction?  Those more connected than myself – I remain self-excluded from Twitter/Facebook – may wish to alert others via those means.

I would be very much obliged to you all.  I hope you enjoy what you hear.

The midwich Bandcamp site.

…and whilst I’m at it, various other midwich releases can be found elsewhere on Bandcamp.  Check out cut flowers, eaves and single figures too.

P.S.  This is the 300th post on RFM.  Woo!

stop the press! introducing the new staffers at radiofreemidwich

April 27, 2013 at 9:32 am | Posted in blog info | Leave a comment
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typesetting equipment at rfmhq

Radio Free Midwich is delighted to announce the arrival of two new members of staff.

Yes, currently sharpening their pencils are cub reporters Scott McKeating and Joe Murray.  You’ll know the former as the head-honcho of the critically-acclaimed (by me) micro-label Bells Hill and perhaps for his excellent column documenting the outer limits which illuminated The Quietus.  You’ll know the latter as dictaphonic explorer Posset and perhaps for his epic end-of-year round-ups in which tens of thousands of words pickling the year’s musical highlights are emailed to a select elite and then hidden from the general public by being posted on myspace.  You’ll know both as the indescribable doomphonics duo Black Leather Cop.  What I’m saying is that their credentials are impeccable.  They are even both based in the North East.  Perfect.

Some may mourn the passing of the ‘single voice’ era here at RFM but I’d like to reassure my dear readers that the carefully honed aesthetic of this blog is just being augmented, not replaced.  Despite being able to complete a surprising amount of blogging in these post-Thomas-the-Baby times (see opening paragraph of previous post), a hand with the heavy lifting will be much appreciated.  Guest posting was trialled at Christmas with reviews from Joe and then again a couple of weeks ago with Pascal’s account of the Crater Lake Festival and both experiments proved a success.

Having the three of us posting will keep the tempo up and allow us to map some new contours.  I trust you’ll come to appreciate our differing tastes and styles.  Look out for Scott’s account of a returning guitar hero, now self-releasing analogue electronics, Joe writhing in appreciation of Winebox Press and pieces I have planned on Yol, Half an Abortion, The Piss Superstition and new stuff on Striate Cortex.  I may even have time to muse up some no-audience underground theory as well, if you are very lucky.  Much joy to come.

‘midwich’ interviewed for vibrations magazine

October 28, 2012 at 9:02 am | Posted in blog info, midwich, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Leeds based, freely distributed music magazine Vibrations has interviewed me for their online edition.  From their ‘about us’ page:

Vibrations purpose is to cover the home grown music scene in Leeds and its surrounding areas, the centre for one of the most vibrant, creative and diverse city based musical cultures in the UK.

Vibrations magazine is a free, two-monthly printed magazine distributed through record shops, venues, arts centres and other music related locations in Leeds. No person involved in the magazine takes any money from it and any design, printing and distribution costs are covered by advertising revenue.

The purpose of the Vibrations website is to expose the music of Leeds to its widest possible audience, and tap into and help to support the network of city based music scenes throughout the UK and beyond.

A noble sentiment, I’m sure you’ll agree.  My discussion with Tom Bench is brief, good humoured and relentlessly positive.  I chat about the health of noise/experimental music in and around Leeds, how to ‘sell’ it to sceptical friends and colleagues, the self-sufficiency of the scene and so on.  The phrase ‘no audience underground’ is bandied about again, I’m afraid.  Well, it’s catchy, isn’t it?

Amusingly, as there is no introductory preamble (well, a little one on the page that lists their features but not on the interview itself) and as I am referred to as ‘Midwich’ and not by name anywhere it all seems a bit more mysterious than it need be…

Read the interview here.

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