slow as eels: rfm on various herhalen artists, mudguts, günter schlienz, hawlimann & stricktschek, nautapes #32

December 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen)

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records)

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes)

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes)

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes)

 herhalen

Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen) Cassette and free digital album

A curious compilation that sits halfway between an all-star remix album and an old-fashioned call and response holla.

The backstory goes like this.  Mark (Concrete/Field) sends a bunch of unfinished, unused but much loved sounds out into the universe and waits for like-minded beards to respond with a reaction.  So what we get is a blur of interpretations and a shimmy of styles from a heady mix of collaborators.

The mood is cautiously optimistic with each collaborator (many new names to me) mining a seam of whistling iron; each piece separate in rusted glory but tied together with strong metallic links.

Cauterized bounce silver balloons with bright electric sparks.  It takes Descent to riff on the itchy scratch favoured by high priests Zoviet:France.  Air bubbles are released into the blood by Elricj with a turkey wishbone used as a funky clave.

What’s this?  A shimmering John Carpenter-style synth all trussed up in black leather? Ladies and gentlemen – introducing Amantra.

We go back in time with Wound’s piece sounding like it was composed on a Casio calculator watch (circa 1987) – a river of bleep.  Then race to the here-and-now for Matt Warren’s Styrofoam rummage and one finger keyboard bee-drone.

RFM fave Kek-W on the brilliantly titled ‘A Fax from Phillip Glass’ creates exactly that.  Four organs battle the inhuman squeal of redundant technology.  Libbe Matz Gang bring the gritty howl they are well known for in these parts.  But watch out! Scutopus’ almost 6 min drone is crispy pancake – not filled with boiling cheese and ham but gently sculpted and rough to touch. Wizards Tell Lies, another scorched earth outfit, juggle tangled loops and fine, filigree crackle.

The gloriously named artist Nude for Satan seem to be riffling through the Necronomicon while listening to copper pipes being clanged (on leaky headphones).

Classy Draaier ends the recording on a tasteful note.  A foamy sea drawing itself through smooth pebbles as the heavens dance overhead.

A perfect balm for this most abrasive of seasons.

mudguts flower girl

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records) Cassette and digital album

Ghostly power-duo Mudguts (Lee Culver on sounds and Scott McKeating on composition) haunt and howl their way through another impressive tape drenched in sticky black ectoplasm.

The opening two pieces ‘Original Mistake Growing Arms and Legs’ and ‘Constantly Slaughtering Something’ seem to exist beneath a level of human perception. Sure, churning voices are suggested and even become corporeal for moments but mostly these are echoes, lost murmurings and hints striving to pierce the veil of human static.

The altogether more boisterous ‘Bat’ is a multi-limbed car wash applying numerous squeegee squeals to your scalp.  The twelve minute ‘Every Single Edge’ truly made me jump with its needle-sharp intro cry.  Imagine a single string soprano violin bowed with fury cutting through an orchestra of damp tissue paper and comb artists.  Picture the clarity of intention over the glum voices of damage!

The balance is restored with the beautiful hum of ‘Carver’ a soul-scratching guitar noodle heard through heavy atmospheric interference.  And the prettiest of the lot ‘Moth’ a one minute mumble, makes me think this really could be the only surviving recording of a wet marimba covered in fragrant peat.

Mudguts once again daub the strange and the beautiful with primitive woad.

gunter

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Totally beautiful synth wig-ins.

Marvellously introspective and slow as eels this tape massages my tired temples and places a warm oiled hand on my knotted shoulders.

Schlienz’ Self Portrait floats in the air faintly glowing all across side one.  The spare notes breathe into each other – a cinnamon-scented wind.

But this is in no way a dumb drift piece.  No Sir!  This is as deliberately approached as your end of year accounts.  The movements are smooth and calm.  A gentle shudder, a close cluster of harmonic moans as discrete as Eno’s Discreet Music.

Side two, ‘Campfire Suite’ takes the whole soft sheebeen outside and clusters around a real life crackling fire (just audible in the mix).  This time things are less obviously soothing and more mysterious – picture an electric loon-bird or stoned sperm whale.

Perfect and peaceful – more most welcome Spam!

hawliman

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Phew!  This hectic duo couldn’t be further removed from Gunter’s plantagenet hoofs.

Side one opens with the mud-popping farts of a bass pipe getting lustily fingered. The wet slurp is part aboriginal dreamtime part steam-driven traction engine busting hot rivets.  Percussion comes in the form of crinked coffee cans, a fistful of dry reeds and shuffling grit under the soles of a clog.  It is truly magical to hear a crisp packet scrunched, up and close to the mic, as loud as Slayer in any given Enormo-dome.

Side two is an almost prehistoric take on Don Cherry’s masterpiece ‘Mu’.  These boyos drag around sacks of cloth, sigh politely and snore, setting the scene before breaking out an ivory horn and badass drum.

We are treated to a walking mix; various beaters and rattles picked up, explored and discarded.  It’s a pleasure, a delight, to hear the invention and thought weaving as voice melts into melodica or balloon squeak tackles a wooden bamboo flute.

Clear the picnic blanket – these scotch eggs are ripe and ready to pluck.

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Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes) Cassette

Gosh knows how many more NAU-Tapes Dave Howcroft has released in the last month but here’s the latest that found its way into my bulging stocking.

Admission corner – I’m breaking form here at RFM by reviewing a tape that I feature on but I don’t see why the other acts here should suffer because of my writing mumps.

And what a set of acts! Posset-Ruus Duo, Dawn Bothwell, Kleevex and Yoni Silver & Ram Gabay all braved five flights of stairs to take up residence in the sun-drenched plaza that is Newcastle’s Northern Charter Space.  Normally reserved for visual artists this wonderful space looks out over the main drag of Newcastle City Centre – a veritable eagle’s nest!

First up new duo – Posset-Ruus (soon to be re-branded The Russets but that’s a different story) take two acoustic guitars, two mouths, two Dictaphones and four speakers in a self-perpetuating loop squeezing scrambled string-action and slack tooth honks via their Dictas in what I believe they call a hot mess.  Described by some as ‘not really music’ imagined by others as Harry Pussy swapping their instruments at half time – WOOF!

Dawn Bothwell’s electronic poetry takes advantage of the view and describes the pre-Christmas rush; all mead quaff and sausage munch.  A looping module takes snatches of voice and spins a ring of bright fire making it sizzle.  Just when you thought you’d heard it all pitches are switched and a booming bottom-end heralds precise and hammering tech-noir squelch.

Keleevx pair up two of the hardest working folk in the Undergronk, Faye MacCalman and Gwilly Edmondez rasping on sax/clarinet and mouth/dicta respectively. Like a couple of daytime drinkers they read each other’s minds ready to place a new conversational nugget or curious honk on the table with practiced certainty. Seeing traditional instruments cozying up to what is basically outdated office equipment fills me with a wonderful sense of hope and I can wax lyrical if you want. But it’s all just breath at the end of the day innit?   The secret is its vital oxygen, life-giving air whistling from Kleevex into my hungry ears.  Dandy.

The brave headliners are polished metropolitan gentlemen Yoni Silver (Bass Clarinet & Violin) and Ram Gabay (half a Drum-set).  I’m not going to beat around the bush here – this is world class improv.  Yoni and Ram are inventive masters pushing each of their respective instruments though ten rounds delivering stylistic K.O’s with grace and regularity.  Yoni’s deep, deep honk is filtered through an enviable technique, rude tongue-slaps on the gummy reed, a foot in the brass bell and plastic filters clattering with the power of sculpted air.

Ram’s drums (a couple of snares, a rogue bass drum and a collection of cymbals and gee-gaws) are cosseted and stroked like old house cats. Skins are thrummed and thowked.  The mixture of texture and timing fill the air with gritty vibrations that are expertly controlled with the occasional sharp ‘crack’ brining us out of our misty reverie and back into the present.  Special mention must be made of the bass drum – a slack and sliding mobile unit skittering at the sight of Ram’s well-heeled boot.

And the interplay between the two is gob-dropping, jaw-smacking.  Nuance unwraps further nuance, in a cluttered Venn diagram alive with microscopic bristle.  This damn tape reminds me why I love improv so much – it just keeps on flowing and reforming until (one brief violin scrape later) it snips to a perfectly neat and tidy close.

As with all other NAU-tapes these are available only from the mighty Mr Dave Howcroft at howcroft.d58@gmail.com for FREE!  *but bung him a few quid eh…it’s Christmas.

 

Herhalen

Cruel Nature Records

Spam Tapes

-ooOOoo-

changes at radio free midwich soundtracked with the full-throated huxx from: sdf, knives, phil maguire and charlie ulyatt

December 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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My dearest RFM stalwarts and most noble readers.  It’s with a heavy heart I announce that in January 2018 I will have to step away from the editor’s chair, close the laptop lid and hang up my headphones.

There’s nothing dramatic going on. It’s just that real life has rather rudely interrupted me over the last few months and will continue to do so for the majority of next year.  Put plainly I don’t have the time to listen as I would like, write as I feel and edit as I must.  Hours in the day innit?

As I’ve mentioned before nothing happens in the People’s Republic of Midwich without debate so me, Rob, Chrissie, Sky High Diamonds, Luke, Marlo, Sophie and Paul all juggled the options and agree we don’t want to let our collective half million words splutter out completely.  But, at the same time, none of us can commit to the weekly task of publishing Radio Free Midwich.

So…we plan to adopt the Idwal Fisher model.  RFM will continue, but as an occasional treat.  We all will write as and when the muse strikes and publish when possible.

But this must mean changes have to be made.  The most drastic will be, from this day forward, we can’t accept any more submissions.

Globally the No Audience Underground has been generous to a fault.  When I stood in for Rob at the start of 2017 he told me to expect a new and exciting relationship with my postman.  He wasn’t kidding!  Trev (we are on first name terms now) rings the doorbell almost daily with another heavily taped-up package in recycled jiffy bags.

“More tapes?” he says, “looks like they’ve come from Italy.”

“Aye…that’ll be the new batch from Tutore Burlato” says I.

It’s been a real honour to listen and a delight to try and capture the essence of this beautiful, inventive, clever, essential and often indescribable music into chunky, informative and entertaining posts for you but I’m afraid that from today the submissions box is now officially closed.

That’s it.  Please don’t send any more tapes, CD-Rs or downloads.

I’ll put a note on the ‘submissions’ page to back this up but I know most of you who kindly send us stuff to review are genuine readers so – you read it here first.

Right now the plan is to write up the last few items in our personal listening piles so expect a few more posts.  In early January we go list-crazy with the hotly-contested Zellaby awards and then we revert to an occasional journal. 

For me personally…I’m really going to miss the thrill of slotting a tape in the player that knocks me sideways.  I’m going to have to get used to the ache that not writing leaves. But most of all I’m going to miss telling new friends and old that RFM have written up your new release and it’s an absolute fucking belter.

At least I know Trev will breathe a sigh of relief.

But until then, let’s crack on with these beautiful organs…

SDF – Alana (Psykick Dancehall)

Knives – The Way People Are (Red Guard)

Phil Maguire – brak (Soft Error)

Charlie Ulyatt – Shifting (Self-Release)

SDF

SDF – Alana (Psykick Dancehall) Cassette and digital album

My goodness! Pure avant-pop from this collective of ruddy beet-makers.

My headphones don’t often get the chance to delve into such bass-heavy electronic frequencies.  And this is all ‘boom-tish’ and square-waved bass poke. Cor!

Recorded in a bamboo-themed nightclub in a Liverpool basement (circa 1987) these are real songs with real backing vocals and weighty lyrics.  ‘Stroke for Stroke’ seems to be about coke or wanking or perhaps coke and wanking.

The digital coughs that introduce ‘My Friend David Don’t Need Rubber’ and dry narration suggest a Storm Bugs vibe but this is as sleazy as casually shrugged off linen trousers.

The erratic tom-tom programming dominates ‘The Fight’, so the swaddled synth wash becomes a sulphurous base note.  It’s heavy without being metallic.  Yet compare this with the gum-popping airiness of ‘4 Men’ as sparkly as Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’.  Two very different visions of the teenage disaster!

It’s not all senseless ecstatic joy though.  Closer ‘All Night Disco’ seems to ram Paul Young’s fretless bass sound into a pre-rave serotonin dump.  The heavily reverb-ed snare sounds echo round the abandoned dancehall.  The last few revellers slumped into human pyramids realise that cold daylight is breaking outside and the dream of temporary release is well and truly over.

The trick SDF pull of is to deal in a rare surface deepness – a delicate trick of the light when the glitterball’s beam hits the chipped Formica.

20171203_174658

Knives – The Way People Are (Red Guard) CD-r and itunes

Fully enveloping darkness from Blyth-born, London-based Knives.

Opener ‘The Idea of Homes’ simple guitar figure repeats, repeats, repeats like a Papa M theme; building tension, creating worlds of simple herringbone.

The occasional field recording (a drip, instinct rattle, spoken words) and keyboard sizzle augment ‘A Fire That Never Goes Out’ that ever-so-gently nudges forward slowly, taking time to revel in each rich, deliberate note.  A beautiful musing that begins to answer itself on what might be a mouth organ.  Rural Post Rocking Chair Music.

The spook gets let loose on ‘Out of Touch’.  As dramatic as opening credits on some 70’s Cold War TV special.  The threat of reds-under-the-bed suggested with sly nods and Pinter-esque pauses.

The lengthy ‘Involving Others’ (an excellent song title – sounds like something from a school report card yeah) involves a powerful throb and a kind of long-spring-in-a-pipe rubberiness last heard on King Tubby’s most ingenious recordings.  The throb builds slowly over twelve minutes growing more and more grubby.  Proving you can take the boy outta Blyth but…

Closer ‘Favourite Friend’ works on the sort of chord progression Britpoppers would carve up their forearms for.  Ever descending notes circle above some late-night radio drek from Night Owls or something warping suddenly into a Star Wars conspiracy/warp drive malfunction.

phil maguire

Phil Maguire – brak (Soft Error) Cassette and digital album

Two intensive five-minute micro studies that contain a galaxy of carbon-rich details.

Side one is the stale breeze that wafts from a recently vacated taxi, the change in air pressure you feel before an electrical storm.  Phil carefully knits these concepts together into a deliberate smear.   Like the careful scrape of a palette knife sounds are revealed, presented and then smoothed over in decisive strokes.  Hum becomes thrum.

Side two plugs my ears with clear wax.  A curved sound (the inside of a porcelain basin perhaps) plays with reverse-thought and distant, high-level atmospheric hisses.

The sudden edits act like the reaction-shot in a slasher pic.  The victim’s eyes are wide and mouth flaps in a wordless scream.  The micro-second before the meathook is revealed an absence opens up in the grainy VHS.  Magnify this one thousand times to watch the red, blue and green pixels dance in random ecstasy.

One for inner-spacers and adventurous tape-heeds.

charlie ulyatt

Charlie Ulyatt – Shifting (Self-Release)  CD, Cassette and digital album

Marvellous solo guitar experi-werks from Nottingham’s Charlie Ulyatt.

The six-stringed workhorse is nothing if not versatile.  From stun-heavy power chords to gentle nylon fingering the guitar speaks loud and long in popular musical debates.

But folk who can take those half-dozen taut strings and do something useful seem to be getting few and far between.

Shifting takes care the boxy resonance of the wooden guitar body is explored as deeply as the shiny metal strings, caustic amplification and decaying effect pedals have making this a full-spectrum experience.

Charlie marries the flinty pluck of a Derek Bailey with the full-throated huxx of a Bridget Hayden in ‘Erasing Angels’ storing energy in dark coils for the bulk of the track to release them in a boiling blur.

‘Ah Moses’ is as fresh as the scrunch of newly fallen snow, pure and blank but with an eye-squinting brightness.   This winter theme is continued in ‘Honeycomb’ a brittle icicle drip and suspicious yellow puddles.

The bowed pieces, ‘Mannering’ being one vital example builds in tremulous clouds.  Think a quivering sample of acrid fog being sucked backwards into a test tube and firmly bunged.

Majestic closer ‘Daisy Chain Burns’ straddles the burnt-out corpse of Dead C with the busy, rolling fx-damage of fellow New Zealander Peter Wright.  Bubbling like a porridge pot; small geysers erupt with yeasty burps while the milk rushes up the side of the pan smelling like new babies.

Psykick Dancehall

Knives / Red Guard

Soft Error

Charlie Ulyatt Bandcamp

-ooOOoo-

you thought festival season was over. you wrong! sheffield’s singing knives present a host of hot lickin’ cockles.

November 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Pirecy

Sippy Cup

Giblet Gusset

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Posset

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Beards and gals at a loose end on Saturday 2nd December are invited to hop the train, hitch a lift or bundle into a rusty van to attend Singing Knives clumper clam-bake of monumental proportions.

A batch of RFM favourites huddle together in a haughty scout hut to honk and bray their way through a mist of all day-drinking and goon-hatching.

Where?   Regather, Sheffield, 57-59 Club Garden Road, S11 8BR

When?  Saturday 2nd December

Like…I mean what time?  Doors open at 3:30pm, and the laffs start at 4pm

How much?  £5  Not even a quid a band.

fampism live

 F.Ampism

“A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism. Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof. It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.”  RFM

LP just out on the ace Ikuisuus label of Finland, but of course you know that already.

nyoukis & piercey
Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

“Dylan Nyoukis’ work exists on the fringe of contemporary avant garde art and underground DIY insurrection. As a leading light in the UK’s tape/CD-R scene, Nyoukis has long functioned as a rallying point for artists working to clear a space for original, non-idiomatic sound and feral performance modes.” Ubuweb

Kieron is in Spoils & Relics yeah and probably carries a blade.  What more do you want eh?

sippy cup 2

Sippy Cup

A two person group; both ying to each other’s yang.  Flim to their flam.  Watch ‘em empty a box of clogs on a table and make the damn things dance.  Total introversion, rattle, squark and dog toys.  Leading lights, oof-architects Kate Armitage & THF Drenching may be involved.

Giblet Gusset

A new name on me but a quick youtube search fessed up a poorly lit scene of folk in masks moaning and rolling cigs.  Sudden peaks of pure chuddering power swept through the scene (by now faintly blue) to punctuate the mossy fiffle and ripe broad cheer.

historically fucked
Historically Fucked

“A four way entanglement. It is trying to make short songs at-once but also to destroy them then too. It is about playing and laughing at playing, and it is about not doing either of those things sometimes. Sometimes it is to do with talking, howling or grunting, and sometimes it is to do with hitting and rubbing. It has to do with some of the four people who do it, who each share the same duties, and whose names in sequence are Otto Willberg, David Birchall, Greta Buitkuté and Alecs Pierce and who would like to be remembered by them, so that when they have finished doing this thing, their names carry on doing other things.” Anon

katz mulk 3

Katz Mulk

“A three piece experimental group based in Manchester made up of Ben Morris, Ben Knight & Andrea Kearney. Ben Knight is a singer, researcher and social worker. He also plays in Human Heads and publishes the Dancehall journal with Hannah Ellul. Ben Morris is a Musician and artist. He records solo as Lost Wax and is in the long running duo Chora. Andrea Kearney is a dancer and graphic designer.”  Singing Knives

posset 3
Posset

“From identifiable vox chop-up to finely-ground tape slurry, with the occasional non-larynx instrument wheeze to brighten the corners.” We Need No Swords

acrid lactations 2
Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

“Joincey is the peripatetic originator of a multitude of solo projects and the member of more bands that if printed here, would make this paragraph seriously unmanageable […] Acrid Lactations are Stuart Arnot and Susan Fitzpatrick […] who one day had Joincey turn up whereupon they made some tea and recorded some songs. Twelve of them. Each one having a different resonance each of them giving me that esemplastic laminal improv feel. Whilst listening I wrote: the Stokie Shaman, gut ache improv, Sun Ra skronk, stories told by someone pretending to be a witch, silence, taut Hitchcock-ian soundtracks, spoken word question and answer sessions…” Uncle Idwal Fisher

poot and harrison
Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Sheffield-based Strepsils abuser. Collaborations with the likes of Adam Bohman, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, Blue Yodel, Ben Knight, Acrid Lactations, Chastity Potatoe, and Phil Minton’s gang of toughs. ‘I just listened to a bit that sounded like a pig pushing weights with a scotch egg in its gob.’ – Stuart Arnot

“Duncan Harrison hails from Brighton and his multi-pronged activities make him a man of diverse artistic peers, including TUSK favourites Ali Robertson, Pascal Nichols and many more. Duncan throws himself at sound poetry, tape use and abuse, electroacoustic improv and often more conceptual approaches. The trajectory of his sets is impossible to predict and can provoke as much aesthetic distaste and downright annoyance as they can pleasure, perhaps depending on how wide your mind is.” Tusk Festival

 

F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis / Kieron Piercy

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Giblet Gusset

Posset

Sippy Cup

Luke Poot / Duncan Harrison

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

-ooOOoo-

woke up with a frog on my tongue: rfm on aftawerks, sophie cooper, yol, ocean floor, anla courtis, robert ridley-shackleton, the slowest lift & f.ampism

November 23, 2017 at 7:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa)

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes)

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion)

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club)

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF)

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus)

 acid waxa

Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

Now I may not know my 808 from my 303 but what I can tell you is that this tape is what I’ve been reaching for when I need to get shit done.

Putting the bins out?  Check.

Going to argue with the teachers at the kids open day? Check.

Completing that application for planning permission?  Check.

For each domestic stretching task I’ve found Aftawerks’ no-nonsense squelch, jaunty computerised bass and pinprick precise beats the perfect mental and physical workout.

I’m in no way qualified to review this with any sense of where it fits into things historically.  Some of it sounds like incidental music on Miami Vice, some of it sounds like the tunes kids blast at the back of the bus with extremely complicated hi-hat and clave patterns.

But whatever it is I’m bouncing and moving.

So…am I cool now?

sophie cooper solo

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

How low can you go?

On this tape Sophie Cooper goes Mariana Trench deep into the wild and weird world of the orchestra’s most misunderstood instrument – the trombone.

Sophie’s ‘bone is not played for yuks.  No sir.  Her Avant Garde drone credentials are writ large on a ‘Tribute to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s OCEANS’.  But at the same time the farting bluster that comes naturally from hot brass is not shied away from.  In fact it is welcomed in a series of breathy improvisations that notch up extra points for unknown textures and intense control.

At times the brass guffs are joined with real-life human breath totally getting that ‘soft and intense’ vibe Miles perfected on Kind of Blue.  On ‘What the fuck was he thinking?’ trumps turn to growls and growls turn to gasps and I’m transported into a world of leather lungs and wax paper aioli, gently expanding and contracting – the rasping hiss as rich in life in a succulent rock pool.

Delicate sound manipulation enters the frame occasionally with ‘Push the Button’s’ double-tracked horns locking together into some hefty warble tone.  A pot is twisted and it gets fuzzier and hissier until it reaches Michio Kurihara’s mythical bliss-out proportions.

As it stands, with its site specific jams and improvisations, this tape would be a winner.  But add to this the sweet narrative charm and you’ve got a keeper, a real put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er.

The fabled dial-a-bone sessions link recordings together and are presented unedited and raw…the phone rings, Sophie answers, she asks what kind of jam the caller wants (loud/soft, short/long) and, BBBBUUURRRRRRRRRRMMMMM, she delivers.  Classic trombone action.

Who you gonna call?

yol on off

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes) Cassette

SIDE ON: JUST FIRE. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE. FEEDBACK SCOURS CLEAN. YOU DID A CRAP WHEELIE IN THE PARK. GIBBER G-G-GIBBER. ROAR AND RUUR AND RAAR. THROAT IS SORE BUT CAN’T STOP. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE.  SSSSSSSSQUEAL – BURN IT CLEAN / CUT IT OUT.  FIRE, FIRE, FIRE ON A LORRY. SCRATCH/BUFFFFFFGGG. SILENCE. TWO DOGS. BACKGROUND CHUNTER ON A TAPE OR SOMETHING. TWO FAKE PLASTIC ROTTWEILERS.  BUMMMMGGGGG—AWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THERE?  EEEEEEEEEEE…SILENCE-CLICK.

SIDE OFF. PROTEST WIG. UGHHH. SCRAPE/SCRAPE. UHHH-GHUUUR. DISEMBODIED WIG HEAD ON THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH.  SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET.  UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK.

ocean floor

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion) CD, Cassette and digital album

These four sublimely beautiful modular synth pieces from one Mr Aonghus Reidy simply ooze out of the speakers like a ripple of ripe camembert.

Opener ‘Airglow’ reverberates round our domestic front room with a poise that turns our little lounge into some ebony-tiled basilica.  A devastating presence wearing the monk’s cowl of humility.  ‘Shadows’ follows with gentle runs of oscillation that wouldn’t be out of place in a schools and colleges broadcast from 1983.

Things wind down a little with ‘Night’ – shimmering like moonlight on a vast lake the melody moving so slowly it almost collapses.  And things are finally put to bed (Ed – groan!) on ‘Slumber’ a real-life lullaby; in equal parts sweetness and sinister.

It’s pretty.  It’s lovely.  What’s your problem punk?

anla courtis

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States) Cassette and download

Clipped and ribbed thribblings.

Yes it’s the bongo drum – beloved of the beatnik and unwelcome midnight-jammer.  But here Alan/Anla Courtis takes the hippie staple and drowns it in several pints of ‘chunng-fhhfhhung’ stretching each dull thud into a warm tropical front.  Elastic thumps collect in wildly unstable clouds; popping and clicking like plastic thunder.

Waxy rolls and smears. 

Two fifteen minute pieces focus on different approaches.  ‘Concept Bongo I’ concentrates on the short-lived resonance that exists in the negative space these drums are designed to hold.  Vibration is carefully controlled and limited to strict, neat parameters.  The tables are turned on ‘Concept Bongo II” a freer, looser jam, sloshed with reverb sounding exactly halfway between an afternoon with Steve Reich and Faust’s most blunted tapes experiments.

The sound of a million blunt fingertips gently striking pigskin. 

The palette of sounds is, understandably, quite limited to these thrilling pops and clicks but this familiarity make me smile nostalgically, like uncovering a well-earned scar when it’s warm enough to wear shorts.

Can I say Bongo Fury?  Guess I just did.

Robert Ridley

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club) 3”CD-r

The Cardboard Prince is pretty much unstoppable on this brief funk workout.  I’m guessing there’s some new kit involved here as RRS sounds deep, heavier and more, well…sexie on this release.

Enough of the preamble – where’s the beef?

  • ‘Eye Just Want 2’ – Chart-ready Brit-funk with indistinct vocals (such a shame I can’t make them out) and an irrepressible squid-beat spurting electric ink.
  • ‘Dancing Under the Table’ – A classic RRS instant composition with a riff on jam sandwiches and death(e), the coiling bass line gradually tweaked till it cries Uncle.
  • ‘Cheater’ –This one is the cream of a particular creamy crop. Lyrics sound like Cheap Trick!  Lyrics sound totally RRS!!  The squelching bass line needs to be wrung out it’s so darn wet.  Many pots are twisted and drum-fills are added with wild abandon as RRS opens his heart to curse all the cheaters out there.

 slowest lift lp

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF) Vinyl LP

This knock-out tag team: Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley (AKA The Slowest Lift) find their spiritual home on veteran freek-retreat VHS for their debut long-player.

Let’s recap.  The Slowest Lift excels in duality.  Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.

The prospect their heaving and groaning fuzz will descend into splintered chaos is always hinted at but generally inches back from the brink guided by a warm sonic-sirocco rebalancing the actors like perfectly carved chess pieces.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is classy but still a psychic bruiser yeah?

Opener ‘Crystal Fracture’ re-imagines something like TOTO’s Africa decamped to the Devil’s Causeway and played by colourful walkers on sharp sticks.

I’m always intrigued by that songs-named-after-the-band/album-titles-named-after-the-band type of thing. Am I to assume that this song ‘The Slowest Lift’ is a mission statement?  A brief track to distil the essence of Cooper/Bradley? If so I can report back T.S.L. are a devastating cocktail of the fizzy and the smeared – think carbonated grease!

Strung-out lines of gruffly-tempered fluff skittering in a beam of yellow sunlight next…it’s ‘Bank Holiday Tuesday’ – a slow boil.  The birth of casserole-core if you will.  ‘Preset’ has the swagger of some undiscovered Ulver back-catalogue gem; cascades of VU-guitar strummage while Transylvanian horns duck and parry.

A lazy hiss of a harmonium fidgets with those darn tachyons shimmering in and out of phase on ‘Hi from the Skyline Swim’. The voice, relatively en clair is delivering a warning of sorts.  Watch out for the grandfather paradox perhaps?

Taking a breather I think what I like most is the unpolished air to this remarkable record.  The ever-so-slightly discernable patina of tape hiss when another instrument adds to the mix, it’s the sound of unfinished business.  ‘EV Plus’ is a great case in point – like two found recordings laid over each other.  T.S.L. make like archaeologists digging for treasure that their painstaking research assures them is just beneath their feet.

Song title of the month, ‘Extreme Cops’ is a sculpted meringue, chemically complex but light as air, ‘The Chauffer’ similarly buoyant   Compare and contrast to closer ‘Punched’.  A concrete overcoat, worn as you sink beneath the dock of the bay.

The Slowest Lift dog-ear a new chapter in ye olde booke of English free-mind collectives.

“SHhvvvHHHuuuhhHHHHHSshsshSShshsSH”

ampism_sleeve

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus) Vinyl LP

A lovingly prepared Petri dish of ripe exotic beans sprouting quivering tendrils that wrap round my pink toes.

A slushy bubbling and melting ripple permeate each of these nine itchy pieces.  Each song a study in Technicolor; detail hanging heavy with Nag Champa and waxy banana leaves.

‘The Loosest Caduceus’ shudders like muscle spasms while ‘Sand/Blood/Glass’ makes me shave my head and begin a Bic-pen trepanation.  An over-reaction from an excited listener you think?  I challenge you not to seep between these vinyl grooves in search of forbidden knowledge. Me?  I napped and woke up with a frog on my tongue.  There’s no escape from the cramps!

But lovers of gritty drama and kitchen sink realism will not be disappointed by ‘Absolute Beyond Ill’ as fucking real as ‘tripping’ down the steps of the police station.

Get merry and totally bronzed with AMPISM!   Essential.

STOP PRESS: Dwellers of Sheffield ! You can watch f.ampism and a whole host of other RFM faves LIVE on Saturday 2nd December at  Regather  57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BUThis all-dayer contains Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercey, Historically Fucked, Katz Mulk, Sippy Cup, Giblet Gusset, Acrid Lactations & Joincey, Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison and some joker named Posset.  Doors open at 3.30pm and the howling starts at 4pm.  Kids welcome.  More info here.

Acid Waxa

Crow versus Crow Bandcamp

Soundholes

Aphelion Editions

Coherent States

Cardboard Club / Hissing Frames

VHF Records

Ikuisuus

-ooOOoo-

a balm on our viral souls: paul margree on john butcher, umbra, brandon lopez, lodz, black hat and elizabeth veldon

November 17, 2017 at 7:12 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume)

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga)

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions)

Lodz- Settlement (Wild Silence)

Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain)

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind)

 

Sniffling through the universe seems to be a seasonal guarantee for me at this time of year, as regular as my pilgrimage to Gateshead to wallow in the freshly-minted outbound sounds at the always-fantastic TUSK festival. Fortunately, the sonic blessings documented here pour down like silver from across the no-audience underground firmament. These artefacts are a balm on our viral souls. Atishoo. Much obliged.

 J-Butcher

John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume) vinyl LP

Originally released on Mark Wastell’s Confront label back in 2008, this is a welcome reissue for this astonishing work of improvisation. It sees Butcher visiting obscure parts of Scotland to play gigs in sites – including an old military fuel tank in the Orkneys with a 15-second echo, as well as an abandoned reservoir, a sea cave, a mausoleum and so on –chosen for their specific, idiosyncratic acoustic properties.

If Butcher’s response to these locations is frequently astonishing – witness the serrated foghorn blasts that moan across the void in ‘New Scapa Flow’– so is the way that these places seem almost to answer his forays. In ‘Wind Piece’, recorded at the Standing Stones of Stenness on the Orkney mainland, the eerie pitch-shifted coos that merge with birdsong and Butcher’s own gurgling breaths could be emanating from the rocks themselves. This is a series of duets, really, Butcher not playing the spaces as much as tussling with them, each performance existing in an ongoing state of modification as he negotiates the different sonic qualities of each of his unusual venues.

And, while there’s a sense of Butcher being nudged constantly out of his comfort zone, there’s an accompanying feeling that he digs the brinkmanship that this requires. Raw and hypnotic, time has only increased Resonant Spaces’ power.

Umbra

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga) cassette and download

Umbra ,aka Serbian sound artist Marija Balubdzic, weaves ghostly vocals over layers of abrasive electronics. Her work balances intricate, melancholy constructions with rougher-edged cuts, all created via a relatively simple setup of voice, laptop and a few pedals. ‘Unglued’ charts these opposing poles in Balubdzic’s aesthetic, casting a mysterious charisma that rewards sympathetic listening.

Occasionally, as on ‘Bear Bone’, Balubdzic resolves her disparate ingredients into a kind of quirky, jagged synth-pop. Elsewhere, her poetic monologues and growling sound design cast dark, nightmarish shapes (‘Self’). At the centre of the album is ‘Bone Madamme’, its overcast beauty like a Nick Cave murder ballad beamed through a cracked mirror. The folkish melody is half-Portishead, half-Blixa Bargeld as it shifts from despairing whisper to full-throated lament, “Don’t let him drown me down,” she implores, a thudding drum machine marking her recitation like the tolling of a funeral bell.

‘Unglued’ is another hit for the Czech Baba Vanga label, whose output encompasses dank, industrial crunches, Muscovite sound art collage and battered, head-spinning techno. Drawing most of their releases from the fringes of the eastern European underground, it’s essential listening for anyone into the global diaspora of weirdo sounds.

Holy Holy

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions) CD and download

I first came across bassist Brandon Lopez as part of Amirtha Kidambi’s amazing Elder Ones band, lending his fluid licks to Kidambi’s ‘Holy Science’, an inspired mixture of classical Indian music and portal-opening jazz. Here, Lopez teams up with drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulman to form a free music perpetual motion machine whose limber voyaging takes in abrasive furrows and airy melodic flights.

Although Lopez provided several composed melodic fragments for these pieces in lieu of a full score, which act as launch pads for the band’s expansive journeys, the trio is given plenty of freedom to take things in any direction they want. The fact that we can’t detect the points of transition only adds to the potency. A highlight comes two thirds of the way through the opening cut ’15.43’, when the trio coordinate in the higher register in a cascading, ululating wail, before hitting a surging torrent that recalls the maximalist swell of The Necks in full live force.

Corsano’s presence is generally an indicator of quality, and Lopez’s pedigree is assured post-Elder Ones, but it’s Yulman who’s the real delight here. His flinty clusters of notes shower ‘8.05’, the album’s closing track, in tough, glittering shards, opening up the trio’s frantic rhythmic glowers to let the sunshine in. His intro to ’21.21’ is dissonant and stately, initially restrained enough to let the other two drift by, then gaining pace to kick off a fractious knees-up. Holy jazz, Batman, this is really free.
Lodz

 Lodz – Settlement (Wild Silence) CD-R and download

Like a photograph of beautiful countryside that on closer inspection reveals a hooded figure skulking in the woods, Lodz – aka musician and philosopher Pauline Nadringy – mixes pastoral calm with spooky unease. Piano and female voice, often signifiers of deeply-felt emotion, are transformed into affectless, skeletal chants that would be disquieting even before grumbling electronics and prickly guitar figures eat away at their frayed edges.

‘Settlement’ offers us 10 of Nadrigny’s otherworldly soundscapes, with several matching reverb-laden piano figures with poems from writers including Guillaume Appollinaire and Hilde Domine. Nadringy’s treatments of these poems is elegant and inventive, often double-tracking herself singing and speaking the lines as well as providing wordless backing vocals. The texts come to us as if through a labyrinth of voices, their exact meaning less important than the sonic qualities of the syllables themselves.

‘Kasper Hausar Lied’ sets the Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet’s text among a subtle cacophony of prepared piano and squeaking electronics, John Cage meets Vashti Bunyan.

‘Que fait la mésange?’ by contrast seems to be aiming for a kind of chamber Troplicalia, with birdsong, children’s voices, toys and flutes cloaking Nadrigny’s murmurations in an agreeable hubbub. The whole thing is reminiscent of ruined Belle Époque ballroom populated by elegantly wrecked ghosts. Time for my quadrille, mon chere.

Black Hat

 Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain) Cassette and download

As Black Hat, Oakland’s Nelson Bean sculpts gummy electronics into viscous, smooth-edged lumps. These glistening pulsations are beatific and mysterious, somewhere between Aphex Twin’s ravey wickedness and Autechre’s crystalline sierras in the firmament of nonconformist electronics.

‘Impossible World’ is Bean’s second release on Chicago’s Hausu Mountain, after 2014’s ‘Thought of Two’. Although ‘Impossible World’ papers over its predecessor’s scuffed mechanics with a dermatological sheen, both albums have a precision-tooled edge that reveals the intricate depths beneath their curvilinear shapes. It’s head music I think, and even the drum-marked cuts such as ‘Cucullu’ that punctuate ‘Impossible World’s’ sticky ambient puddles hold back from full on beat fury, their off-centre cutups setting a flight path for the head rather than the hips.

Bean’s secret is to balance his love of detail on tracks like ‘Headband’, whose spongy synth chords and pastel bloops lock together like the tiny gears of a dayglo wristwatch, with empathy. Thus the soft, beaming explosions that smatter ‘Heliotrope’ add a spacey lyricism to its growling arrhythmia, prompting ever more giggles on each listen. Maybe we aren’t the robots, after all.

EV

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind) Cassette and download

Digital services such as Bandcamp may be better at matching Elizabeth Veldon’s prodigious rate of release – an album every day or so, usually – but this lovely cassette package from Brighton’s Third Kind Tapes is a welcome reminder of the riches that lurk in this prolific artist’s back catalogue.

‘Laika and Other Works ’is a collection of drone based pieces, short piano improvisations and spoken word cuts that showcases both the diversity and quality of Veldon’s discography. It’s all very good, basically, although the two ‘Laika’ tracks (originally released in 2015) are the highlight for me, their slices of gravely, phasing drone coming on appropriately cosmic and ominous. On ‘Like Babies Who Cannot Speak’ a recurring metronomic pulse adds an extra element of tension, as if a squad of militant woodpeckers had taken over mission control.

That things never descend into retro-hipster-kitsch (Russians! dogs! Space! Communism!) is due partly to ‘Work With Animals’, a new spoken word piece. Veldon recites then loops a quote from Oleg Georgivitch Gazenko, part of the Sputnik 2team responsible for Laika’s mission: “Work with animals is a source of suffering for all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it….We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.”

The four sentences get more fragmented with each repetition, descending finally into a kind of heartbreaking digital gibberish. It’s short but powerful and shifts ‘Laika & Other Works’ from being a historical curio to a lament for the forgotten victims of the space race and a despairing castigation of the ways we treat those species with which we share a planet.

 

John Butcher

Baba Vanga

Tombed Visions

Wild Silence

Hausu Mountain

Third Kind Records

-ooOOoo-

shuffling huffer: rfm on cannon bone, ivy nostrum, penance stare, depletion and neil campbell

November 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records)

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label)

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label)

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head)

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk)

cannonbone

Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

Om, Lightning Bolt, Ruins.

Rocking bass and drums duos are thin on the ground eh?  So add another much-needed twosome to this proud duo-pile.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Cannon Bone.

Nottingham-based duo Daniel Murray (bass) and Rich Park (drums) reject the ubiquitous six-string and its ceaseless attention-seeking for a solid, dependable rhythm approach that still blisters like hot Szechuan pepper.

The riff becomes the king, repetition the queen and together they rule a land of lurid flexible strings and tightly wound skins.

Half instrumental / half traditional sung-song the ghosts of Roxy Music, Young Marble Giants and the aforementioned Ruins haunt tunes like ‘Seahorse’, ‘Is that OK?’ and ‘Progressive Dancing Shoe’ respectively.

Such an eclectic mix revels in the invention going back-to-basics requires so detail becomes focused on textures, the quality of the fuzz and the dry crack of a snare.  It’s so easy to get lost in the canyons of fizzing electricity and compressed air each side plays in a sort of deceptive time-puddle.  The more you poke your stick in the deeper it gets.

But all this is mere dressing to the powerfully muscular playing – a rigorous and elemental musical snarl as infectious as Darby Crash’s dental work.

The dynamics are indeed the key here so the punishing pounding is coupled with a delicate tom roll, the explosive bass-harmonix smother a melody that’s perfectly cherry, cherry.

Like a horseshoe in a boxing glove – K.O. to Cannon Bone!

Ivy Nostrum

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label) Lurid pink Cassette

Two side-long constructions pieced together by the fair hand of RFM scrivener Paul Margree.

The helpful sleeve notes say these pieces feature the autoharp (broken), domestic field recordings and free sound among other wonderful things.  But what they don’t say is how damn lovely some of this is.

The autoharp pieces are bright and sunny; each broken pluck becomes a golden beam of light.  The electronic bleats are neither too sharp nor too gritty and seem to be formed instead from fresh pink marzipan being all smooth and almondy.

Side B ‘We Weren’t Really Dressed for the Weather’ features some speech software rattling around like an embarrassed Orac in a ruptured poly tunnel until the autoharp make another Wicca appearance. Lo-impact movements clatter like Tupperware underneath some charming whistling.

But of course…like much musique concrète it’s the placement that makes the thing sing.  I don’t know why a low undulating throb sits so perfectly with human-child chatter and bulbous metallic ringing.  But it does…it most certainly does.

Not sure where you can even grab this pink tape – tweeting @PaulMargree might be a good place to start yeah.

penance stare

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label) Cassette and digital album

Ex-Etai Keshiki and Melting’s, ELN plays all manner of guitars, basses, synths, drum machines and effects boxes to create a super-dark compressed tablet of riffage on the mighty House of Bastet.

A true one-woman-black-metal-band she does what is seemingly impossible and makes a drum machine really swing on awesome closer ‘Bleaken’ as it well and truly admonishes the gas-bloated riffs.   But I’m getting ahead of myself…

These four songs seem to blur the edges between industrial, shoegaze and black metal taking the most interesting elements of each and dousing it with lighter fluid.  For an old duffer like me, who, although a fan, doesn’t listen to metal much anymore this is a breath of fresh air.

Opener ‘Persona Non Grata’ has the heft of Godflesh yet the brutal riffs are played with an almost funk sense of timing – it’s all about the accents and half-spaces; rejecting the 4/4 for a more freewheeling, loose attack.  ‘A Lack of All Things’ and ‘Moon in Scorpio’ , are no-less heavy and feature ultra-disturbed vocals buried way, way deep in the mix so they sound almost like the wind rushing through nude branches.

This tape plays the same on both sides so before long I’m back to that killer fourth track ‘Bleaken’.  And now I’m more accustomed to the black-grammar I can make out the faintest howls under that pulverising thrashing – squaring that circle, lighting the thirteenth candle.

Thanks – Andy Crow for extra journalistic brain-power on this one.

Depletion

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head) One-sided Cassette

Cold psychic disturbance from Depletion all wrapped up in black and grey photocopies.

Never one for pure noise-for-noise-sake Martyn Reid pitches his monochrome tones against each other creating deft occult harmonics.

The opener ‘Intra Muros’ sets up a warm baffling of feathered obstacles.  The soft oily edges soon reveal sharp poisoned barbs but only after you realise your ankles are streaked with blood.

‘Elegy’ appears to be a gradually descending note made of brushed steel that’s being dragged down an underpass.  The heavy throb of traffic makes the concrete rumble until all begins to vibrate in electric unison.

Machine thinking is captured on ‘Synthex 1’.  Let’s be honest…it was never going to be the mechanical clanking predicted in the 1950s but more like this smooth logical curve – effortlessly coiling and unwinding picking up the stray debris of algebra and the universal language of mathematics.   And what does that mean for ‘Synthex 2’?  As this has an altogether more abrasive feel, toothed and barbaric in places even, I guess the machines have discovered capitalism.

The dramatic closer ‘Deaths Door’ finally seems to make sense of the cryptic dedication to Virginia Maskell mentioned on the sleeve.  A shuffling huffer, there is no clean machinery or warm analogue here.  This is the foul breath of an underground tube tunnel; meaty-moist and sweetly overpowering.  The resulting shuddering shakes like a wet dog with arcs of spray as crooked as arthritic fingers.

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

When I was a young teen a dusty, many-dubbed tape circulated my group of friends.  Handed down from an older brother or sister (I forget which) it contained songs by The Very Things, Alien Sex Fiend, Ausgang and The Virgin Prunes. For me this was a Rosetta Stone document.  Being under 18 (and looking it) I had no way into the underground culture of clubs.  Records were expensive and most zines I had access to ignored this fascinating middle ground between the chart pop I’d been brought up on and the weirdness I’d sniffed but couldn’t quite locate.

I’m guessing Neil Campbell had a similar moment but was obviously knocked hardest by The Virgin Prunes.  Hard enough for him to claim them as his favourite band – and I’m sure you can all remember how important and considered that personal accolade is when you are a young person*.

But what does it all sound like? These are ‘re-imaginings and reactions to’ rather than straight covers I’m guessing.  On ‘Political Problems’ Neil’s rich baritone voice intones a set of eldritch lines, at first reading like poetry and then slipping and sliding over each other to end up perilously looped ‘like a crazy singer in a band that’s lost for words’ over Neil’s signature wet electronic squelch.

Teasing us with an almost four minute fade-in ‘Red Metal’ conjures up micro-moments of guitar pick and electric squall in a lovely, lovely drift-piece.  Gradually shifting like winter sunlight this warms up the bones like a good chicken soup and somehow makes me feel pretty darn Christmas-y!

The closer, a Bongwater-esque, ‘No Clouds were in the Sky’ is quite beautiful.  A folk-tinged wriggle of acoustic guitar loops/looped vocals/spoken word/freak-out electricals all writhing like fresh chicks in a nest.

Innocent? You bet.  And with innocence possibly one of the hardest emotions to get right in music I’m sure that Gavin Friday would be delighted.

*I’m assuming you are an oldster like me eh?

Cannon Bone Bandcamp / Cannon Bone World

Penance Stare Bandcamp

Chocolate Monk

-ooOOoo-

nostradamus, quill in hand: rfm on street beers, ali robertson, dopaminos, feghoots, wizards of oi and richard youngs

November 1, 2017 at 9:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk)

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank)

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc)

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk)

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk)

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk)

 street beers

Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Newish jaxx from conceptualist, comic-lover and one half of the mighty Usurper – it’s Ali Robertson’s Street Beers.

A brief two-parter featuring a host of voices (Karen Constance [whose 100-page eye gouge ‘Optic Rabble Arouses’ is currently ripping my retina – search for copies sucka], Tina Krekels, Elkka Nyoukis, Dylan Nyoukis, Collette Robertson and one silent and unnamed Ice Cream seller) this disc meditates on the very British notion of a summer hit by recording a vicious wind blowing into a condenser mic and adding repetitive spoken word riffs via the synthetic marimba parts in Frank Zappa’s Jazz from Hell?  Just like Whigfield did.

A German-speaking / English language  / Scottish dialect text piece takes in mentions of Castle Greyskull and the Eurovision Song Contest in a stream of everyday observations glimpsed from beneath a heavy curly fringe.  Powerful images are run through a clutch of mouths adding the particular emphasis and personal inflection that makes us all individual humans.  It ain’t what you do eh?

In equal parts baffling yet academically vital this cleverly orchestrated confection is interrupted by one of the world’s greatest sounds – a ruler twanging off a desk – that somehow apes the massive and bassy reverberations of Sunn O))) or something.

It’s looped into abstraction.  Captured chatter and accidental singing whirl through the massed ‘bbbbrrrrrrrrr’ in a dense fog.

Who needs dry ice with sounds so gaseous?

ali robeertson and friends

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank) CD-r in a greetings card-style package and free digital album

Three no-star jamz in exotic locations with erotic personnel.

First up it’s a sixteen minute table-top affair from Ali with heavy-hitting guests Alex Drool and Eran Sachs.  Various gentle clutter-movements, simple tape-gasps and the presence of little mouths make this an almost ASMR-style listen.  The crinkly crackle, busy pace and full-spectrum scrape are filling my tiny ears with tiny sounds but top-up my tiny brain with big, big pictures.  Like staring at the Grand Canyon through a polo mint – the detail exists around the fragrant edges.

The cream in the sponge comes courtesy of our host with Manuel Padding and Collette Robertson.   Without any of the oddball yuks this is a beautiful tape/performance piece of gentle clicks and solitary word play.  The whirr of the tape engines adds a 100 tog warmth to the creaks, recorded footsteps and groans.  Each word (Dutch possibly? I dunno) are spoken with the world-weariness of a sleep-deprived parent.  Kindly but devastatingly hollow.  Exactly the sort of thing slow radio was made for.  CLASSIC!

The final hectic jam is a marvel of chunter and small talk.  Pub bantz, motor racing raspberries and inane local newspaper junk is run through some form of goosey phone app by either Mr A Robertson or Mr Drew Wright (take your pick) to create a 5 min melange attempting to answer – ‘what are men actually for?’

dopeaminos

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc) CD and wee booklet and digital album

This mysterious disc was slipped into my hand at TUSK festival by a furtive shadow.

Warned, “It’s a bit of a one off.” I dropped this one into the playing slot as soon as was decent.

These eleven brief tracks of sketchy synth pop are pretty much all formed on some vintage YAMAHA PSS-570 machine found in the back of a leaky cupboard.  This disc takes pre-sets to a new level of ‘fuh’. Digital noise clouds intrude on the bop-a-long rhythm settings, a ‘tiss…tiss…tiss’ snare sound and the ravaged mumble of some laid-back ‘singing.’

But what’s clear is the vision.  A singular approach to wringing all that is good and great out of crappy equipment.  Pushing at the boundaries of what is possible, probable and generally tasteful.

Examples?  ‘Bosch in Crayola’ is a 9 speed-metal pianola on digital time.  ‘Esoteric Voice Research’ could be the ultra-unknown Co Durham bedroom-band Guns R Great, ‘Primordial Soup  Exotica’ the weed-drenched wobble of a teenage Ween.  ‘VWL RMVR’ is undeniably attention-deficit rumba.  But things become perfectly formed on ‘More Confident’ as it gets down and dark with hypnotic self-help tapes battling a twig-dry beat and the sound of men crying.   The ludicrous melody quivers like tangerine jelly melting over hot chips.

File directly between Robert Ridley-Shackleton and Keyboard Money Mark.

feghoots

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

New booty from horror film aficionado and noise-music abbot Pete Cann.

For those expecting dramatic fuzz and explosive squeal you need to re-calibrate your lugs as Feghoots trades in small-scale weird.

Opener ‘Alif Showcase’ features the microscopic wrench of rubber gloves.  Elsewhere a peanut is dropped into a decorative Turkish beaker as Pete opens and reseals one of those stiff Amazon cardboard envelopes (Let Down Hair).

A shifting polystyrene crunch forms the base layer of ‘Shy Vein’ making this the noisiest offer but with owls hooting in harmony over the top any fist-pumping gets strictly Autumn Watch… it’s as mesmerising as lumpy frogspawn sculptures.

Analogue breath clicks through dry lungs on ‘Stirrup Residue’ while your roommate cleans the toaster of congealed cheese slices.  The ill-tempered scrape soon melts into antique electronics and domestic field recordings.

The penultimate piece ‘Tenderloiner’ features the lightsaber sparkle of Atsuhiro Ito with the timing of a bird in the hand.  The flickering and flighty splutters mimic a barista’s recurring dreams of hot steamed milk.  At one point I swear a double bass makes an entrance and I realise I’m getting randy for Feghoots and John Edwards to collaborate. We gotta make this happen my well-connected readers!

A finality is reached on ‘Adze Rotor’ which may or may not be the digital processing of foul water sounds captured in both Leeds and Bradford.  The gently swinging coda sweeps away any unpleasantness to focus on the slow rush of oncoming sleep.

Add a notch – Feghoots makes me nod like a Moorhen.

wizards of oi

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

There’s something about this disc that makes me think of the much-missed kings of otherness Reynols.

Possibly they share the murkiness and free, looseness of that mind-bending crew but what do I know?  It just sounds wonderfully slack to me.

While it is important to mention W.O.O are only two small bears (who ably manage to handle drums, trumpet, swanee-whistle, dirt-guitar, Wurlitzer and gloomy vocals between their four little paws) the songs are studio-enriched with foul chicken drippings.

Effects are fully ladled on to these jams landing exactly between Teo Macero and King Tubby so even the straightest opening ends up in a double valley of rainbow-reverb.  Just try ‘#Trumpets of Jericho’ or ‘#Metal Gardening’ if you doubt me.

But delicious difference is the order of the day with the too-brief ‘#Cool Pizza and a Beer’ sounding like the birth of Ska replayed by Renaldo and The Loaf in a grain silo.

It’s immediately followed by ‘#Thunderbird Glossalia’; a study for squeezed rodent and the Wurlitzer in the sort of time signature that would make Moondog honk.  When the dust clears super-distorted voices chant insistent curses while the boys sharpen their knives on sopping calf’s liver.

There’s no mercy! When stripped back to basics (guitar and drums) like on ‘#Crayolish Oisters’ it kicks no less brittle.  As if 10 Years After lost their fingers in a blues-related accident – this is the sound of the milkman ruefully cleaning up.

Closer, the intricate ‘#Free Jatz’, couples carefully controlled amp-fritz/saxophone bink with a snare-less drum snatch.  All the better for the boom!

Possibly contains a Volcano da’ Bunk or something placing this firmly on the creaking essential pile.

richard youngs

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Richard Young’s work has been a kind of shadow that’s floated around my head for about 25 years.  Every time I think – that’s it – that’s the definitive Youngs he comes out with another idea to top the last.  A chocolate fountain of a man he’s spewed out another rich brown mess too tasty to resist.

I guess this is what some beards would call a process piece.  So RY follows his own instructions…

  1. Record a shortwave radio. I used anywhere on the dial that sounded pleasing.
    2. Imitate the sound of the shortwave radio into a voice to text converter.
    3. Cut and paste the resulting text into a text to speech converter.
    4. Press play and record the result alongside original shortwave. Stretch to fit.
    5. Repeat.

A clever approach for sure but snazzy brains don’t always make great music yeah? (see Brian Eno).

This is of course marvellous.  Like the freakiest number stations or creepiest Electronic Voice Phenomena this exists in the limbo between found sound and dream logic.

Disembodied voices speak an almost-language, part-words form some yet-to-be-unencrypted dialect they pinch a brain node but leave any meaning wanting.  Sweeping from ear to ear they sound like they are warning me of something and make me scratch my pate like Nostradamus, quill in hand, hot to translate.

The shortwave pulses flutter as a jammed signal – pitchy whoops and spelks high in my hearing range.

Imagine a ghost captured on camera but then you find out the ghost that’s been deliberately summoned.

How does that make you feel?  How does that make you really feel?

Chocolate Monk

Giant Tank / Duff & Robertson

Ourodisc

-ooOOoo-

tightly packed egg: rfm tagteam on tradescantia zebrina, swiss barns & queef, various sofia artists, ian watson & rob hayler, lust rollers, of habit

October 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication)

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records)

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records)

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records)

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters)

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte)

 tradescantina 2

Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication) CD and digital album

Mysterious rumbles from the powerfully-coiffured Kev Sanders and comrades Morgan Potts and Siobhán Britton.

Released as a fund-raiser for Trans Health, Housing Action and Not Your Fault this is a master-class in enigmatic sound.

Like a Graham Lambkin joint this reflects the perfect drifting between rooms you sometimes find yourself craving – a hot sonic ear scanning like radar for ripe sound-fruit.  So what if all the apples are withered and brown – no use for a ploughman’s but perfect for chutney!

On this release Sanders’ distinctively polite drone spoons some distant storm clouds and Morgan’s cello that appears to be playing in two rooms at once. The interjection of random slowcrash (think a falling piano slowed down by a factor of 500 perhaps) keeps things both spicy and sweet.

‘Upon Afterwoods’ is particularly poignant and makes me think of Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ the waves of dark repression and longing collapsing into a domestic sinkhole.

But most mysterious is the final track ‘Clippings’ that seems to be a total bumdial. A piece of accidental accident to add a healthy dash of sauce to the proceedings.

Quick like fever.

swiss barns

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records) Cassette full of genuine moss and individual art print and digital album

New improvising duo Swiss Barns sport not one but two slack-string-virtuosos; Jorge Boehringer (AKA Core of the Coleman) and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh (Woven Skull, Three-Eyed Makara, Cian Nugent & The Cosmos) both on viola.

This 20 min side-long jam takes in a whole cornucopia of approaches: hillbilly scrape, pointillist puckering and velvet-thunder drone.  It moves with the flexibility of language, a language of vibration.  But of course – aren’t they all?

Often the off-chug of the voices clash in mid-air making a third vibration that stands proud like a cormorant on the cliffs – wings outstretched replenishing its natural oils.

At other times the slick ‘plunks’ or scrapes rustle like whole peppercorns wrapped up in newspaper; a solitary tune coils like a wormcast on a beach and, as you get your eye in you see there’s another, and another and another.

But each time one of our heroes bows it’s to let out the spirit of some half-mad Pan.  Goat-legged and hell bent on debauchery the strings swoop and flutter, they roil and stab ending on a Bernard Herrmann-esque riff that makes the watching crowd stand up, hands on hips and say ‘Oi!’

Queef! play a melodie derived from a Chinese greetings card to open a set of carefully considered tape-grot and strummed/struck/fondled summatorother.  Like Prick Decay (but older and wiser) got it back together for one last show this Dada Junk Spew flirts with litter, rubbish and trash in all senses of the words. Discarded remnants of sound, found non-instruments and a heavy ticking combine in ways both formless and totally natural.

The ghost of improv haunts some sections, the mid-point reveals the shuffling chains and dropped keys of a Usurper side but soon mutates into electro-frat clowncore – complete with honking horn and what I presume are enormous shoes.

As things move towards resolution my personal favourite – the rubbery wrench of tight balloons – is combined with a spluttering dentist’s drill and the acid squeal of hot air passing through a stretched neck.

A brief countdown ends the piece and those patrons of the Monk and Nun stand up again to crow the legend ‘Oi – Oi!’

12 14 16

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records) Cassette and digital album

A conceptual piece of tape collage/field recording masterminded with the spider-like fingers of Natalia Beylis drawing a bunch of freaky flies into her web.

The trick is (Duke Ellington knew it and Natalia Beylis knows it too) is to surround yourself with quality horns and all you have to do is play the moods.  Here the moods are played with a firm hand and clarity of vision and the horns include heads like Elkka Nyoukis, David Colohan, Andie Brown, Sharron Kraus & Ingrid Plum.

Like all good concepts this one is simple at its root.  Each contributor is asked to record two minutes of ‘something’ from their day’s activities and these moments are stitched together into two, twenty-two minute sides.

So while you’d maybe think this would result in a choppy, highly edited mix you’d be mistaken.  The domestic kitchen noise rustles into traffic ‘schuss’, birds tweet among the cutlery and bus queue politics/tannoy announcements punctuate the random clatter and swish of someone getting ready for work.

Each situation blends into the next and themes (travel, the weather, domestic chores etc) are shared between the pieces, time-zones and countries to create a disjointed yet very human narrative.

As you lose yourself in this music rhythm and texture become all important; for me this turned into an epiphany halfway through side two where some busy fidgeting and dog toy squeak is rammed up against someone lighting the gas on a cooker.  Reader…I jumped up and clapped my hands.

As a listening piece this is both cleansing sorbet and hot sticky fudge-treat.

hayler watson

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records) Cassette and free digital album

As avid RFM readers will know Rob Hayler killed off his longstanding Midwich persona rather publically at October’s TUSK festival in Gateshead.  A final Groovebox throb and hum led to an electronic disembowelling soon to be all over that youtube.  Ever the careful archivist Rob made sure his outpourings would not be stemmed.  Henceforth they gush via his solid and trustworthy everyday name –Rob Hayler.

And in this act of back-to-basics Rob doubles his impact by teaming up with the polymath Ian Watson (artist, drone-lord, electronic heavy) to launch their iron-clad ‘Metronome’.

So forget all you know about the gentle “tuk – tuk – tuk” of those cute polished wood mechanicals.  This 44 minute piece groans like mutant springs; it howls and it blisters.  It wobbles and crashes.

The scant sleeve notes suggest the source material comes from Ian and is mixed by Rob.  I always find this an interesting approach as it asks fundamental questions of the participants – how much do I present?  How much do I leave in and leave out?  Like a slow-motion improvisation the agonising decision making process is dragged from seconds into weeks!  But on ‘Metronome’ such questions are answered in a clear, unhesitating voice – this is a confident piece of duo-ism that sounds to my tin ears the greasy smearing of one decisive mind.

The mood is certainly darkly metallic, and constantly unfurling as if multiple appendages are slowly freeing themselves from a tightly packed egg.  The motion is continuous – mesmerising.  You stare unblinking, afraid to move, not daring to wonder what evil is being unwrapped.

Number one on Megatron’s playlist?

 lust rollers

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters) CD-R and digital album

The Aylesbury based duo of Mark Browne and Daniel Gregory come at ya on their second release with a sound that can and has been labelled non-music and idiot-jazz.

Silence flows through these improvisations like dark chocolate in a Vienetta. Objects are donked, flecked and pilched in unorthodox manners (not sure if there is an orthodox manner to ‘play’ a cardboard box anyways) and ‘real instruments like sax and gong are included.

The pleasure can be found in the laser-like operation your ears are required to perform in order to focus on a dense sound world of motion and decay. The scampering and rustling as the disc starts had me reaching for the volume in the car only to damn near soil myself when an unexpected gong strike erupts from the speakers like Norman Bates from behind the shower curtain.

The spirit of mischief is clearly on the agenda although my journey through grim reflections was more serene meditation then beardy euro-jazz freak out. Whilst listening, uninterrupted at home, I was genuinely shocked to find that forty minutes had elapsed. The loving approach to small sounds has a serenity and purity of intent that moves gracefully like the wind through tree branches and seems to slow down time.

I found its autumnal hues immensely soothing to my gonked-out cerebrum.  (by PUKE VOLLAR)

of habit

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte) Cassette

Gary Myles is one half of sound-confusion dingbats Spoils and Relics.

Here he offers his first official solo outing and what a curious and alluring beast it is. I found myself flipping it like a pancake in my nifty new walkman whilst taking my dog Lola out on a grey October morning.

Gary’s droll Yorkshire commentary runs through both sides like ominous smog. His droll and detached voice carries a ‘scary guy at the back of the bus’ edge that is lulling and a bit sinister. Amid the sedated thud of drum machine and soggy mechanics whirr Gary’s stoic mumbles that allude to scenes of bleak surrealism and urban squalor.

Fans of Spoils and Relics may be surprised by the more err…musical heft of this delicious little tape. There is an arc and a persistence that trudges wearily on across the whole first side, the sad thump of a cheap Casios and dying batteries. The peripheral chirping and rustling underneath the beatz sound like a rusty hospital trolley on a journey down  a corridor that has no end. It also gives a hint at what suicide may have sounded like had they grown up in a Yorkshire mining town with Ken Loach as their svengali visionary.

Side B starts with hollow loops of melody smeared with several layers of tape grime, descending into blackness. As the narration returns, grey oxide drizzle flickers malevolently in the background finding space between breath, teeth and throat. An unlikely samba limps to life briefly before puttering out like a fag end in a puddle.

Magnificent

(by  LUKE VORTEX who advises us this tape, sold out at source is AVAILABLE FROM THE BOOMKAT VAMPIRES)

Tradescantia Zebrina Bandcamp / Hairdryer Excommunication

Sophia Records

Invisible City Records

Structured Disasters Records

Entr’acte

-ooOOoo-

 

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
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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-

london crawling: paul margree on alex ward, onin, yeah you, stephanie merchak, sebastian camens and miya masaoka, zeena parkins and myra melford

October 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Alex Ward Proprioception (Weekertoft)

Onin –Errery (Verz Imprint)

Yeah You – Krutch (Slip)

Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method)

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional)

Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford – MZM (Infrequent Seams)

Given that my initial pitch to RFM was to become the site’s London correspondent, few of the bits and bobs I’ve reviewed thus have any link to the capital. These latest grunts of prose aim to address this imbalance, featuring some London-based artists and labels – as well as others from further afield. Read on, fellow voyagers, and enjoy.

AlexWard

Alex Ward – Proprioception (Weekertoft) CD and digital album

Alex Ward is a busy chap. In the past couple of years alone, he’s contributed to Charles Hayward’s This Is Not This Heat revival, reconciled the formal rigour of composition and the spontaneity of improvisation with group releases such as ‘Glass Shelves and Floor’, and given vent to ferocious jazz-rock-punk utterances in Forebrace. He’s also found time to pop up here, there and everywhere as a roving freelance improvisor.

More recently Ward has been rummaging around at both the micro and macro ends of his practice. With Item 10, he dives into the challenges of working with a large ensemble, again trying to square the circle of improvisational flexibility within a composed framework. But in‘Proprioception’, he focuses exclusively on the clarinet, with two acoustic improvisations and a third featuring amplification and feedback as a counterpart to his own dexterous playing.

The unamplified jams are as fluid and delightful as Ward has played.‘Vestibular’ honks and hoots with terrific, hyperactive energy, its maximalist trills tumbling into sharp-edged discordance, the full-on shredding peppered with tongue slaps and pained squeals. Phew. ‘Tiptoes’ is more languid, but grizzled too, with early scraping around the higher register morphing into gravel-pitted breaths and tubercular whoops.

If the third piece, ‘Chasm’, isn’t quite as assured, the sense of a new path being forged more than compensates. There’s plenty of this kind of stuff available for the saxophone – John Butcher still dominates the field, and Joe Wright (see below) is also worth your time – but switching in the clarinet here yields rewards. Ward uses the horn to taunt his amplification, almost, blowing just enough to trigger explosive, fuzzy yowls. Hollow breaths result in gas clouds of white noise. High-pitched squeaks draw out needling screams. At times, grit-laden globules seem to spew out into the air, claggy lumps of waterlogged ash hosed from a chimney by a crew of Victorian urchins, huffing and puffing as they clamber through the soggy darkness.
Onin

Onin – Errery (Verz Imprint) CD and digital album

 If Alex Ward’s experiments with amplification are provocative, reveling in the chaotic sounds they birth to, saxophonist Joe Wright takes a chillier, more considered approach. Onin, his duo with guitarist James Malone, is architectural in its scope, sketching out dry, empty structures pockmarked with occasional fine detailing that is both enigmatic and essential. Sounds don’t so float free from their moorings as are deployed with utmost precision to an unseen plan, working towards an unknowable, unreachable goal.

The five tracks on ‘Errery’ match dissonant feedback jags and atonal blowing from Wright’s horn with Malone’s reductionist approaches and extended techniques that turn his guitar into a sonic totem, his hollow knocking, ringing plucks and rodent squeaks emerging like background chatter from the aether.The grubby tundra of ‘Dark Star’ is a great opening salvo, Malone’s fibrous clangs echoing over the masses of Wright’s sub-zero sonics with unexpectedly emotional heft. And the album’s title track is full to the brim of things that go bump in the night, its poltergeist racket juxtaposed with almost comic stringy whoops and whistles for a big back of unheimlich fun.

But the highlight has got to be machine shop wallop of ‘Shrike’s Dance’, in which layers of oily syncopation and air-tube rattle jazz about in acousmatic fury. The title may well be a reference to ‘Pharaoh’s Dance’, the opening cut on Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, and you can just about sniff out some that weaved interplay of instrumentation here – although the gassy thumps and drill-whine of an ancient central heating system in the process of being dismantled may be a better image. The physical pulse never goes away and may inspire spot of calisthenics in all but the most sedentary listeners. Work it.

Krutch

Yeah You – Krutch (Slip) vinyl and digital album

 Attention all parents! However you view the messy, complex business of child-rearing, the business of sharing car journeys with those little bundles of joy must, surely, appeal only to the very hardiest. Put a bunch of humans of varying ages inside a metal box for any length of time and friction is almost guaranteed to ensue.

Yet there is a solution, thanks to father and daughter duo Mykl Jaxn and Elvin Brandhi. Instead of arguing about which playlist or radio station commands the vehicular airwaves, Jaxn and Brandi used their car trips as a creative spur,with journeys to the supermarket and further afield becoming opportunities to dream upabrasive bursts of stream of consciousness noise guaranteed to abuse your earlobes with their sheer broken-glass vitriol.

Such formative experiences led inexorably to the birth of Yeah You. And, although the roadtrip jam sessions aren’t so central the duo’s creative process, the acid-bath ferocity of their instantaneous songcraft has lost none of its filthy lustre. ‘Krutch’ is the pair’s sophomore release for the London-based Slip label, after 2016’s astounding and essential ‘Id Vendor’, and the venom remains in full flow. From the pure headache yowzah of ‘Fall Freed’, through to dying seconds of ‘SOIK CHAT video’s’ burnt-circuit blip, this is aural poison of the most toxic kind.

Despite the anarchy, Brandhi’s majestic flow locks perfectly with Jaxn’s soundtrack. Get a load of ‘No More Metaphors, Hold Life Still’, where Brandhi’s distorted chat is all of a piece with Jaxn’s rough synth splatter. Like all good poets – Mark E Smith, YOL – Brandhi knows that the sonic impact of her syllables is as important as their meaning, just as Jaxn feels no need to prioritise her words, her corrosive utterances fighting for space in the titanium shoebox of his soundscapes.

‘Krutch’ is, if anything, even more virulent than its predecessor, whose crunching, trap-inspired beats provided a vestige of structure on which to hang Brandhi’s bottom-of-the-universe misanthrope poetry. “No affirmation needed, no affirmation needed” spits Brandhi on ‘Hair Moats’, her voice pitchshifted with such abandon that individual syllables warp in and out of focus, as scratchy electronic percussion bites like a nest of grumpy ants and thin splurges of atonal synth cast spraycan trackmarks all around. Set phasers to rinse.

Merchak

Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method Records) digital release

All of the pieces on StephanieMerchak’s Collapsing Structures were built from a single glockenspiel melody, reconfigured by the artists into this set of stark, compelling compositions. The way in which Merchak turns self-imposed limitation to her advantage is, frankly, astounding. From relatively humble sonic material, she fashions an array of glossy twinkles, ominous machine murmurs and deep drones, which then act as source material for her assemblages. The mood is sombre, Merchak’s metallic timbres evoking the chilly expanses of the void – although, according to her liner notes, that vast emptiness may lay correspond to inner, rather than outer space, with tracks like ‘Alone In My Head’ summoning the aimless hermetic drift and low-power neuronic glimmer of psychic breakdown as much as they evoke the freezing wonder of interstellar exploration.

If the subject matter is grim, the product of the ruminations is frequently thrilling (indeed, one could hope that focusing on such debilitating mental states provides some therapeutic as well as aesthetic value). ‘Repeated Patterns of Destruction’has a massive, alien heave, its glacial crescendos awe-inspiring and terrifying in turn. ‘Cold and Silent’, meanwhile, is almost anthemic in its wavelike shimmer and battery of clanging resonance.

There are times, for example in the sweeping oscillations of ‘Rupture’ or the layered reverberations of ‘147 Transformations’, where Merchak seems to be pitting herself against computer music heavy-hitters like Roland Kayn. However, unlike Kayn’s more system-based approach, ‘Collapsing Structures’ is very much the product of Merchak’s compositional intelligence, and the intensity and focus of her tracks is a result of her hands-on sound design and clear editorial sense. Still, listening to pieces like ‘Caught In A Loop’, it is difficult to believe that a tabletop full of Eurorack modules isn’t responsible for the multifaceted pulse and throb. That such sub-zero gorgeousness had its roots in an instrument used to teach young children basic nursery rhymes in primary schools across the land is testament to its composers’ talent. Ice cold.

Tan Object

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional) cassette and digital album

Imagine a giant, multicoloured rubber band. Imagine two hands stretching and twisting it. But it never breaks – just gets longer and longer, gnarled into an ever-more impossible geometry. Imagine this as sound, and you’ve got a fair approximation of the nutty squelchfest that is Sebastian Camens’ ‘Tan Object’. Created using a minimal modular synth setup, Camens lays down ten slices of frenetic Dayglo electronica, each one a rabbit punch to the cortex that’ll have you seeing stars as your jacking body crumples to the floor.

Despite there being no drums in these chewy nuggets, ‘Tan Object’ is a stone-cold banger. Each track sees Camens setting up his parameters and letting them fly, the hiccupping, loop-like structures gurning into new shapes as they coil around onto themselves in the perfect combination of repetition and evolution. The upward jerk of ‘Tan Object 2’ has the shroomy hustle of Lee Morgan’s ‘Sidewinder’ after a bout of M25 motorway madness, but it’s the album’s mid-section that hits hardest.  Parts 4 and 5 marshal a motherboard full of Space Invader bleeps and bursts in a hectic, gluey morass. By ‘Tan Object 6’, fuzzy drops of white-hot sound are raining down like planet-wide invasion, ‘War of Worlds’ rescripted by Tomohiro Nishikado.

‘Tan Object’ is the second outing for Camens on London’s Conditional label, after his split release with founder Calum Gunn for the label’s debut, ‘Slant Deviations’. Since then, Conditional has delved deep into the more eccentric ends of experimental electronic music, with rkss’s ‘Brostep In The Style Of Florian Hecker’ – released as a video game and lanyard, format fans – and Ewa Justka’s searing ‘Efhksjerfbeskj’ (created entirely with homemade instruments and effects). But the Conditional release with whom ‘Tan Objects’ shares most of its DNA is Phil Julian’s ‘Clastics’. Like Camens, Julian uses his kit to set up repeating patterns that decompose gradually into bit-scrunched slurry, leaving a bunch of lovely wrecks behind. Take a look. That charred destruction is darned beautiful.

MZM

Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford: MZM (Infrequent Seams) CD and digital album

Artistic freedom can be constricting as well as a liberating. When everything is up for grabs, it takes courage to face down the void. Understandable, then, that many artists don’t, retreating into the niceties of a sonic grammar established back in the day – a problem particularly relevant in contemporary free improvisation.Thankfully, the trio of Miya Masaoka (21 string Koto) Zeena Parkins (electronics, electric harp) and Myra Melford (acoustic and prepared piano)steer a safe passage through these rocky waters. You’d hope they would, of course, given their combined skill levels working in this field. And, although his debut isn’t the first time the trio has worked together, ‘MZM’ retains the sparkiness of an initial meeting of minds, scoring an impressive hit rate despite being rooted in classic improv traditions.

That said, ‘MZM’ takes a little while to get going. The aptly titled ‘Red Spider’ and ‘Bug’, for all their energized swarm, wouldn’t look out of place in a 1980’s Emanem release. But as the radiant hues of ‘Saturn’ beam out, things look to be heading in the right direction. Balletic harp and koto figures execute a courtly dance to subdued piano chords. Hermetic feedback wallpapers the space in glowing hostility, allowing the brittle strings and moody keys to skedaddle nervously across smooth, curvilinear surfaces.

Generally, the cuts named after astronomical features fare better than their entomological counterparts, the chilly spaces offering more opportunities to winkle out refreshing twists and turns. The woody plunks of ‘Spiral’ display an enigmatic loveliness, the crabwalk improved by a piano line nodding just far enough towards Ligeti’s ‘Musica Ricercata II’ to summon some Kubrikian spookiness. Its final third is arrestingly lovely as it morphs into widescreen, creeping dread, with a growling bass drone that casts circling koto and harp motifs into uncompromising relief.

Weekertoft

Verz Imprint

Slip

Silent Method Records

Conditional

Infrequent Seams

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