the workings of the inner ear: rob hayler on tusk festival 2018

October 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Posted in live music, musings, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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TUSK FESTIVAL 2018

THREE PARAGRAPH INTRODUCTION

About a month prior to this year’s festival I caught viral labyrinthitis. This is an infection of the inner ear that, along with standard viral symptoms like headaches and tiredness, affects balance. Thus my perceived state could range from ‘bus idling at traffic lights’ to ‘Icelandic fishing trawler’ all while sat perfectly still and upright on the sofa in my front room. I was hoping that, like a cold, I could be over the worst quickly but looked on in dismay as my GP prescribed enough anti-nausea pills to last four weeks.  And so it came to pass.  In that state I travelled to TUSK intent on standing in dark rooms, under flashing lights, listening to loud music.  Fuck it – kill or cure, eh?

This was also my first TUSK where I would not be performing and I was relishing the prospect of being an unencumbered audience member. When I went to collect my wristband the ticket office people didn’t have programmes to hand. “Good,” I thought, “surprise me.” It proved a successful tactic, as we shall see.

Finally, I’d like to repeat the annual provisos. I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. It was a delight to catch up with old hands and to chat with new acquaintances alike. Lastly, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK Festival site open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. I believe TUSK will fill the archives with videos of performances in due course. Pictures are by me, taken and edited with my fancy new phone which I don’t properly understand.

FRIDAY

The journey was uneventful, the hotel perfectly satisfactory. My dinky room being 75% bed with a view of the foot of Tyne Bridge from the beshitted window.  After perfunctory unpacking I trotted up to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY (when TOTOPH closed WPG became home to TNTOPH) just in time to miss the end of DRONE ENSEMBLE whilst saying hello to people outside.  The first performance of the weekend I saw was KAZEHITO SEKI X ADAM DENTON.  Well, I say ‘saw’ – the two of them performed in a tiny room off a corridor, the door and available floor space of which was already blocked with punters.  I ended up standing on a radiator in the neighbouring outdoor smoking area and looking through a barred window.  It was well industrial.  Here’s my view, taken by me whilst stood next to yol with Olie Griffin perched on the neighbouring windowsill like the urchins we are.

The set was terrific – a tank of electric eels, thrashing and sliding over one another, smelling of ozone. KS held a mic in his mouth and played his breath, mixer on a lanyard bouncing against his chest like a bizarro world Flavour Flav’s clock.  Visceral in an almost literal, medical sense.  I couldn’t really see what AD was doing but I think he was hunched over a tabletop set up adding to the squall – Spanish guitar to KS’s flamenco dancer.

Next was TUSK FRINGE artist-in-residence LEE PATTERSON and again I saw sweet naff all of the actual performance, it taking place in another small room off the same corridor that was already stuffed with audience by the time I got wise. I’ll say more about LP later in this article, suffice to say for now that the mysterious beauty I heard drift over the heads of those in front of me was remarkable.  “Blimey,” I thought, “have I just (kinda) witnessed the set of the festival already?!” One benefit of being in the corridor, though, was I got to see FRINGE organiser MARIAM REZAEI getting entertainingly furious trying to keep noise outside the room to a respectful minimum.  At one point latecomers banged on the locked door.  “There’s someone trying to get in,” I whispered to Mariam and she stormed off to admonish them. “You’ve just got somebody killed!” chuckled the guy standing next me.

So down the hill to SAGE GATESHEAD and Friday night which, as always seems to be the case, is a blur of glad-handing and half-seen, under-appreciated sets as we find our feet in the Ballardian sheen of the venue. PINNAL launched the ship with an intoxicating swirl of loops, played modestly/unnervingly behind a translucent painted cloth screen bathed in purple lights.  I feel I wasn’t able to give this the headspace it deserved so will seek out some recordings.  IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS headlined the night and were raging fire, led by MOOR MOTHER, a presence of such power and charisma she literally drew the audience towards the stage.  I’ll list three things of note from inbetween (ah, fuck you spell check – inbetween IS one word).  Firstly, this year TUSK alternated performances between the NORTHERN ROCK FOUNDATION HALL and SAGE TWO.  I think that by and large this worked well but there seemed to be a bit less time for meeting and socialising between sets – an issue I will call the ‘where the hell is Christopher Whitby?’ problem.  Secondly, meeting DALE CORNISH for the first time.  He was rain soaked at the Information Desk, waiting for artist liaison, I was getting my coat, we talked about gore tex.  What a charming young man.  Hmmm… is this is starting to sound like a PULP lyric?  Finally, the musical highlight of the evening for me was LUCY RAILTON.

The first half of LR’s set was built on cello, played live, through a bank of processing. Each tiny gasp as the bow changed direction like the push and pull of breathing apparatus.  This was not mere mechanics though; the emotional heft was sleeve-worn throughout.  At a couple of points the endpin of her cello slipped and anyone who clocked the force with which she dug it back into the stage could not be mistaken about the seriousness of her intent.  The second half was effects led as recordings of the sea, of breaking glass, of synth stabs more usually found in euphoric house were smeared into one rolling memory.  I was brought up on the coast and this section felt like a dreamt consolidation of my teenage years – from the sunburned violence of high season to the slate grey sea and frozen sand of the winter.

After this sublimity, the ridiculous. By which I mean my perpetual, delusional charade that I will be attending the afterhours fringe events.  Of course I’m not going: I am old, tired, ill (my balance was shot), my blood sugar levels perilous (I have type II diabetes that I had been ignoring all day) and yet I can’t stop myself saying things like “Oh yeah, if only for PENANCE STARE, yeah, yeah, just for a while, yeah.”  Sigh.  My apologies to Mariam and THE STAR AND SHADOW crew – I hear it was amazing.  Special apologies to Esmé of the aforementioned PENANCE STARE – if you are reading this then I hope you enjoyed yourself and that the show in Manchester the day after went well too.  If anyone else reading this doesn’t know her work then you should visit her Bandcamp site.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, check out the rad cloakroom ticket I got! Literally METAL!

SATURDAY

Waking early, I stumbled downstairs to the buffet and ate an irresponsible amount of breakfast. I was enjoying this indulgence until the onset of a ridiculous protein/carb rush coincided with the opening bars of ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone’ on the hotel radio and suddenly I was staring out at the rain trippin’ absolute fucking ballz.  I retired back to bed for a while and tweeted at fellow groggy festival goers.  The first true business of the day was meeting my old friend, and Newcastle resident, Ben for our annual get-together.  Whilst not a scenester by any definition, Ben is an open-minded, enthusiastic and thoughtful guy and has taken to buying a Saturday pass for TUSK as an excuse to hang out and hopefully experience something out of the ordinary.  He is the lanky dude with the cheshire cat grin that I was introducing to everyone.  Bear hugs were exchanged and Ben asked: “What are we seeing first?”  “I don’t know but it starts at midday,” I replied and with that we descended into SAGE TWO and ascended into the world of LIMPE FUCHS.

As soon as this tiny, elderly lady walked on it was evident we were in the presence of a great artist. You could just see it in her hands.  The stage was full of bespoke (mainly percussion) instruments I later found out were largely constructed by LF herself.  Curved metal poles were hung on wires from drum skins suspended on tripods ten feet above the stage.  An enormous xylophone built of metal with slate teeth was front and centre, curved upwards at each end like a wry smile.  Balls of stone, lengths of bamboo, sheets of thin metal on leashes of string were among the objects I eagerly awaited hearing.  LF gave her attention to different combinations of these sound sources in turn.  I assume the performance was both carefully planned and semi-improvised as it took into account plenty of only partly controllable elements such as if and when the slowly swinging poles would chime against a hefty lump of crystal on the floor between them.  She also sang in a glossolalia style and played violin just to prove to us that she could do everything with precision, deftness and panache.  There were gaps between passages for us to applaud and she seemed genuinely surprised and delighted by the thrilled reaction of the crowd.  At the end we roared our approval and by way of an encore she played a squeaky hose reel wrapped with orange twine. “I found this in a junkyard,” she said, “he said: one euro but you will need to oil it!”  Ha, what a privilege it was to witness.

Following this revelation was a talk I was very eager to attend: ‘Sound Collectives as Sonic Acts of Resistance – the story of Ladyz in Noyz and notes from the field’. MARLO DE LARA, INGRID PLUM and MIRANDA IOSSIFIDIS discussed the projects LADYZ IN NOYZ, BECHDEL and TAUT, and SONIC CYBERFEMINISMS respectively plus more general questions of how to organise and support women and other marginalised groups in music and art.  As well as being fascinated by what was said (and the presentation itself – I was very taken, for example, by how SC had been documented with sketches which pictured the participants with notes on their actions, ideas and the relationships these had with others literally ‘on the same page’) I felt that this was an important thing to happen at TUSK and I was relieved and excited that it was so well attended.  Some context:

Popular Twitter personality WANDAGROUP, known for his kooky brand of ALL CAPS BELLIGERENT WHIMSY, can be relied upon for a quip about how the TUSK audience is mostly made up of aging, male Whitehouse fans. Tempting as it is to splutter about how this isn’t fair or accurate, it does sting because there is (some) truth to it.  His joke shucks the oyster and squeezes lemon juice onto the salty mass of white flesh inside.  I touched on related issues when writing about KLEIN last year (with apologies for quoting myself at length):

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

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

There’s a couple more paragraphs of this in my write up of TUSK 2017 if you are interested. At the time this reflection garnered not one comment – nothing – but now, after an explosive year in the politics of social justice, the idea of returning to what depressingly recently would be ‘business as usual’ is appalling.  That morning, whilst I was coming down from my breakfast rush, I replied to a tweet from Marlo requesting questions and asked ‘aside from the obvious (like shut up and listen) what are the best practical things that an ally can do to help?’ and Marlo had me repeat this out loud at the event.  I was conscious that by the time I was put on the spot they had a) gone some way to answering it, having spoken about giving people time and space, being careful with the vocabulary you use (Ingrid on the word ‘composer’ was illuminating), being aware of what you are listening to etc. and b) expressed their exhaustion at always having to be ‘on’ as activists and the dismay at others expecting them to do the work.  However, given the context and generosity of the speakers, I got away with it and received thought-provoking answers (plus more later via twitter – thank you @GinOnDiamonds).

One that has really stuck with me is Ingrid’s explanation that there are (at least) two levels possible for an ally wishing to help give marginalised artists space – firstly the act of support: hosting the show, booking the act, releasing the music, spending money etc. and secondly there is making space within the area which the ally has uncomplicated access to due to their position of relative privilege.  This can be as major as attempting to constructively reconfigure the thinking and practices of a ‘scene’ but can, as a start, be as simple as retweeting, unadorned, something you find interesting – pushing it into ‘your’ space, thereby sharing and expanding the content of that space.  I have a lot more thinking to do about all this – it was very inspiring.

Trotting back across the river in search of a late lunch, Ben and I settled on the Indian restaurant URY, a Newcastle institution according to my companion, which can be found on Queen Street off Quayside. We entered at 2.55pm and they closed at 3pm to prep for the evening service, but kept the kitchen open just for us.  Thus we had the entire place to ourselves for 45 glorious minutes as we ate and caught up on family life, politics, gossip and discussed favourite Prince albums.  It was a memorable treat, magical for being so unexpected.

Satisfied but late, we strode purposefully back into Gateshead to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY for TUSK FRINGE X WREST – a line-up chosen by Blyth legend JAMIE STUART. Yeah, put a fringe event on in the afternoon and I’m all over it.  Mirroring big TUSK’s new strategy of alternating between NRFH and SAGE TWO the audience here were shuffled between TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 1 (the one with the window and cardboard boxes) and TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 2 (the dark one with a toilet in the corner).  First up in TROAC1 was DROOPING FINGER and Jonas eased us into the gig with a considered set of looping noise slowly digested by some very disciplined knob and slider tweaking.  It was deeply satisfying and was presented at a surprisingly reasonable volume level.  A false sense of security was successfully established.

Next, in TROAC2, this sense – in fact, all senses – were destroyed by XAZZAZ. I threaded my way to the front and ended up standing in the doorway of the bog, the actual room illuminated solely by half a dozen candles and pedal LEDs.  Mike’s guitar sound is a lupine growl, layered into a pack roar, performed with back to the audience at obliterating volume.  It is a magnificent, cleansing, ego dissolving experience.  As the room emptied afterwards I stumbled over to Ben.  “THAT,” he said, “is what you have been promising me all these years.”

Third of four, back in TROAC1, was DEPLETION. I’m always amused and impressed with how well turned out Martyn is compared to his black t-shirt clad peers: gelled hair, ‘proper’ shirt, trousers and shoes.  Give him a skinny tie and he’d be the spit one of those Italian industrial music guys from the 80s, or maybe half of a Sheffield-based synth-pop duo.  I’m not sure you could take his music home to meet your mum though, unless she was into unrelenting bleak, nihilistic electronics.  His kit – Korg MS-10 (I think), effects, mixer – is pulled through a series of subtle, increasingly unnerving movements until, with the flick of a switch on an anonymous looking white box, all fucking hell breaks loose.  At this point Ben is flinching himself under a table and I’m fearing for my hearing, teeth gritted, lost in admiration for a perfect tabletop set.

Finally the quartet is completed by CULVER. Unfortunately, due to spending a few extra seconds in TROAC1 praising Martyn, geeking over his gear and chatting to Paul Margree by the time Lee started in TROAC2 the room was already packed and there was no way we were getting anywhere near.  We instead leaned against the wall – the coolness of the brick recalibrating my brain directly via bald spot – and took in the rumble of Stokoe’s war machines from there.  Lee’s set was a fierce raging fire and (as far as I could tell from where we were) featured no build up but opened the door directly onto a conflagration.  Consuming, as ever.

On the way back to SAGE Ben thought out loud: “That’s the first scuzzy noise gig I’ve been to!” I reminded him that he’d been to Wharf Chambers in Leeds and seen a bill that had included, amongst others, me as MIDWICH and Paul Watson’s BBBLOOD.  “No,” Ben corrected me, “truly scuzzy.”

The evening’s entertainment began with SABOTEUSE, one of the most anticipated (by me) sets of the festival. This duo of JOINCEY and ANDY JARVIS (individually, together and in collaboration with others responsible for scores of projects and innumerable recordings) has existed on and off for years but bubbled to prominence in 2018 due to a terrific album, X, released by the impeccable CROW VERSUS CROW.  On the strength of this (I’m assuming) they scored the invite and committed to playing live for the first time in a decade.  Beefed up by the presence of JIM (“From STOKE,” Joincey tells me, “a lovely man.”) on bass guitar, Joincey read, sang and incanted from a sheaf of writing on a stand, or haltingly from his phone, whilst Andy, lit red, dealt electronics and laptop.  Turns were taken on the drum kit behind.  Chunks of X were recreated along with tracks of uncertain provenance.  The genius of this act is that it contains all the elements of what we’d happily define as music – lyrics sung, instruments played and all that – but it is put together in a manner orthogonal to our usual understanding of the exercise.  It is as exuberant as a campfire, as unsettling as the dark woods beyond.  But it isn’t possible to be specific, it defeats metaphor.  To borrow a line from ‘The Umbrella’, my favourite track from X, all I can do is ‘point brolly at content’.

As Ben and I settled ourselves on the floor of the NRFH in front of the speakers for the MARLO EGGPLANT show, Marlo came over to chat and warn us – health and safety – that she would be using some percussive noises and that we should consider our hearing. We looked up at her ruefully – too late, comrade, too late.  Again, I had no idea what to expect and had been wrong-footed earlier when we bumped into her on the concourse and she had joked that the two bottles of diet coke her partner Martin was holding were for her act.  I took this entirely at face value as I have seen her use a coffee machine as a sound source before, handing out cups to the audience as part of the gig.  All noise is music, all action is performance, eh?  Anyway, no, what we got was a torrent – a rush of breath, voice, contact mics rubbed on clothing – filtered and focussed into channels that scoured everything clean.  There is an honesty – almost to the point of emotional rawness – in Marlo’s recordings and live work that make them absolutely compelling.  Can noise, without lyrical content, be confessional?  At the end, the whooping and calls for ‘more’ you heard were from Ben.  He offered his verdict: “Best thing yet.”

Much as I’d been enjoying all the, y’know, ‘thinking’ so far during the day I have to admit it was a base joy to see CERAMIC HOBS cut through it all with some rock and roll. I have, of course, seen them many times over the years (including on their allegedly final tour some time ago) and written a fair bit about them too so I’m not going to bang on.  Suffice to say they were on fire.  I was reminded, when not hypnotised by his shirtless paunch, that Simon has one of the great voices.  His range – from power electronics screech to guttural, bass rumble – is unique.  They were tight as fuck, apart from when they were a shambles.  They played ‘Shaolin Master’ and Simon joked about them being a heritage act.  They are a disgrace, and a treasure.  Long may they reign.

LEA BERTUCCI’s set topped a faultless run of rolling highlights. I wish I could be more informative about how it was made – there was a saxophone, effects, more – but I spent the majority with my head bowed or my eyes raised to the ceiling.  It was meditative, not always comfortable.  LB’s tones were subtly layered but as robust as the engineering spanning the Tyne and unlocked something profound and primal.  Ben and I both commented on how close to tears it had brought us.  The staging, in particular the lighting, was remarkable.  The NRFH was in near perfect darkness, illuminated by one source bouncing off a reflective panel on the back of LB’s jacket onto the walls and ceiling behind.  Thus the light moved with her and only with her.  It cast a delicate pattern – like cigarette smoke in a still room, like a computer model of a funnel web spider’s lair, like filigree silver jewellery possessed of an alien symmetry.

By this time both Ben and I were both physically and mentally near capacity and I was self-medicating with liquorice allsorts. We managed ten minutes of OTOMO YOSHIHIDE.  It was clearly going to be great fun but as he started harsh, and as we’d been pinned against the wall by harsh that afternoon, we figured we could kick back guilt free downstairs and chat until Ben had to split.  Sad goodbyes were said, promises made and I descended for the last time into SAGE TWO and positioned myself front right for the headliners.

75 DOLLAR BILL were, as expected, an absolute delight. Emitting a low-key charisma as welcome as the beam from a lighthouse on a foggy night they immediately settled into the kind of irresistible psych-groove that everyone in the room instinctively knew that they just needed.  What a great band.  May I echo the sentiments of whippersnapper Matt Fifield here though?  This act are clearly for dancing to – at the very least some bending from the waist or nodding of the head in a vaguely rhythmic way should be expected.  Thus could those intent on standing motionless in arms-folded, chin-stroking appreciation just step back a few feet to let the younger members of the congregation shake it?  Thank you.  Anyway, I stood far too close to the speakers and managed about 25 minutes of waist-bending and head-nodding until my labyrinthitis made itself felt in a sudden, unpleasant and insistent manner and I had no choice but to roll down the hill to the Swing Bridge and back to the hotel.

SUNDAY

Suddenly I was up, washed and at pace through Quayside Market looking for appropriate breakfast on my way to see CHOW MWNG and ANDY WOOD at 11am.  The show was taking place in ‘Hospitality Pod 3’ (punk rock, eh?) at SAGE, also the venue for DAVID HOWCROFT’s NWWMAA exhibition, and promised to be a bit of a love-in.  Bear with me whilst I unpack some small-worldism.  CHOW MWNG is Ash Cooke, one of a number of Welsh musicians that have come to my attention this year via the magic of twitter and the scene-gathering DUKES OF SCUBA zine.  Andy Wood is the editor of the essential TQ zine, for which Ash has also contributed cover art and a giveaway CDr.  David Howcroft runs N-AUT (‘no-audience underground tapes’), an archive of bootlegged live shows, recorded in the North East and distributed on tape for nowt.  All have been influenced, I am humbled to say, by my concept of the ‘no-audience underground’ and have taken it in their own directions.  Today our paths cross.  Attempting to gather my wits, I joined the select bunch of attendees perusing the NWWMAA – Nurse With Wound Mail Art Action – exhibits.

At last year’s festival David recorded the headline set by Nurse With Wound.  He then sent duplicates on tape to people he thought might be interested in a mail art project with an invitation to make it unplayable, going so far as to include matches and an envelope in which you could return the remains.  I was one of the recipients and spent a happy afternoon gluing drawing pins – point out – to each surface of the cassette (and myself to the kitchen table) in homage to the similarly decorated doll on the cover of the NWW compilation Paranoia in Hi-Fi.  Not only was it unplayable, you could barely pick it up so I pulled out most of the tape to make a bed for it and sent it back as requested.  A gratifying number of people did the same and the hospitality pod was decorated with a number of these inhospitable scorchings and refigurings.  Great fun, more please.

Before CW/AW kicked off we were treated to a one minute long piece from DH in which he referenced a spat he’d got into as a result of performing as ‘Morrison Blockader’ (see N-Aut tape #41 for a recording).  This involved unspooling a cassette tape over a noise background and finished with the incantation/call to arms “I WILL make a point of being pointless!”  A moment of dada played with an absolutely straight face, as it should be.  I began to clock that David, with his exhibition space, invited performers and t-shirts for sale, was cannily running his own micro-festival within the bosom of TUSK.  More power to him.

 

Feeling warmed up but not yet awake, I looked at the toys and noise generating ephemera on the table in front CW/AW in much the same way Jonathan Pryce looked at the tray of instruments Michael Palin was choosing from in that final scene of Brazil.  “A pox on those that schedule noise shows at 11am on a Sunday,” I thought, a sentiment soon to be shared by the ruffled pensioners attempting to enjoy brunch on the concourse below.  Ah, but I was won over instantly by the joy with which these chaps went at it, reciting C’s poetry in a back and forth, meaning skittering all over the place, crushing heads with angular, heroically daft play noise and wailing, squalling racket.  It did for my fucking head but, y’know, in a good way.  Andy had us all downstairs immediately afterwards for a group photo so our bewilderment was captured for the ages.  Expect to see that in an upcoming issue of TQ.

 

Right then, readers, how many of you have been politely stopped on the way into a venue and asked if you have serious allergies because the following performance may include the burning of nuts?  Well, it was a first for me.  Int TUSK grand?  Luckily, I have no such sensitivities so I got myself within sniffing distance of ADAM BOHMAN & LEE PATTERSON and what a joy it was to witness, whiff of smoke and all.  A natural pairing – two artists working on a ‘domestic’ scale, exploring the sonic possibilities of ‘prepared’ small objects but with subtly different working methods that complemented each other perfectly.  AB gave the impression that what we were seeing was a slice of his research cataloguing every small to medium sized object according to how it sounded when bowed with a spring and contact mic attached and was working hard on an appendix in which these results could be compared to those of LP’s.  For his part, and I might have been fooled here by the obvious crescendo and finale, LP’s contribution had more of a narrative thread to it.  His springs, wine glasses of water frothing with alka selzer, short lengths of spinning chain, flaming nuts and so on seemed to be telling a story, one in an arcane language that we could just about follow the gist of by concentrating on gesture and nuance.  The epic conclusion was signalled by the Geiger-counter fizz of amplified popping candy.  Thrilling.  Respect to the very impressive SAGE sound system and staff too for presenting this with such clarity and definition.

There then followed what was basically an extended lunch break during which I took in the entertaining talk with Joincey and Ceramic Hobs, 33 YEARS AT THE BOTTOM END OF SHOWBUSINESS, which veered from celebratory (praising a DIY scene that had helped sustain their existence), to tragic (remembering former band members now passed away) to comic (tales of awful shows) as a bottle of wine was passed around.  Predictably it descended into shambolic chaos as the volume of the accompanying video was ramped up and an impromptu performance of the infamous song ‘Raven’ ended matters.  As I said earlier: a disgrace and a treasure.

At a few minutes to 3pm I found myself talking again about favourite Prince albums because none other than ROBERT RIDLEY-SHACKLETON was using my favourite, Parade, as his pre-set warm up music.  Bold move, wholly justified.  RRS’s art and music maps an all-encompassing and unique view of the world.  This is not the solipsistic intensity of harsh noise, however, what we get are endless attempts – sometimes angry, mainly comic and bewildered – to find an explanation as to why his version of reality, in which he is a star – the Cardboard Prince, jars so gratingly with that apparently perceived by others. His tools are the lowest-fi – baby toys, plastic boxes, preset rhythms, scribble, masking tape and, of course, card – but those fans that buy into it treat releases as talismans with meanings to be decoded.  In its own way it’s as coherent and consistent a project as Lee Stokoe’s Culver, albeit it poles apart aesthetically.  I speak as one of those fans, I believe in the Cardboard Prince and have championed him on this blog over the course of thousands of words.  I was giddy, star-struck.  Stood with fewer than 20 people in HOSPITALITY POD 2 (so punk!), with a photo of Beverley Knight on the wall behind us, this was one of the most exciting moment of the weekend.

The actual one-man show delighted the uninitiated and was a vindication for those in the know: hilarious, unsettling, never less than discombobulating.  As so much of it was (carefully planned, exquisitely performed) nonsense carried by RRS’s charisma and persona it doesn’t make much sense to describe it but a couple of moments must be noted.  Firstly, when he asked for requests and the theme tune to ‘Home and Away’ was suggested his looks to the women doing the sound for a prompt at the beginning of each line showed a natural comic timing that was breath-taking.  Secondly, when he offered to do a spin for a pound and David Howcroft offered a tenner there began a running gag in which RRS sold his moves and David stoically refused to settle for any less than what he’d paid for.  Everyone bought into the joke, it was wonderful.  If you are reading this Robbie, it was a pleasure to meet you at last.

As the stragglers, including the charming ALI ROBERTSON who took the opportunity to introduce himself – amazingly we’d never officially met before, reluctantly left Shack’s pod, the court of the Cardboard Prince, we heard something tuskular drifting up from the concourse and stopped to hang over the balcony.  Below us was an orchestra of young people, not tuning up as I first thought, but attempting some kind of improv or high-modernist performance.  I was as delighted and bewildered as I imagine some of the parents were in the audience.  I later found out these were players from the Sage YOUNG MUSICIANS PROGRAMME led that day by CHRIS SHARKEY and, to quote Chris, the were exploring the ideas of “Keiji Haino, John Cage, Elaine Radique, Pierre Shaeffer, Daphne Oram, Derek Bailey and more…”  Any show featuring both guitar jack buzz and bassoon is almost bound to be inspiring.

After taking it all in I decided to meander back to the hotel and press my bowtie in readiness for the evening session.  I showered, changed and luxuriated in the simple but normally unobtainable pleasure of being free of goddamn responsibility for one fucking minute.  Refreshed, I walked along Quayside to the Millenium Bridge as dusk fell and joined dozens of others taking pictures of water, engineering, sky.  It was almost a shame to return to Sage, so glorious was the evening:

Not long after this the wristbanded hoi polloi of TUSK were afforded an unprecedented respectability – smiling ushers beckoned us into the grandeur of SAGE ONE.  It is a remarkable venue (capacity of 1700, perfect acoustics) and due to seats being unreserved there was plenty of space at the front.  I plonked myself next to Matt Fifield three or four rows from the stage and the lights went down for HAMEED BROTHERS QAWWAL AND PARTY.  Six men in white robes sat cross-legged and sang accompanied by harmonium, tabla, dholak and clapping.  To my shame, I know nothing of the language and very little about the music and its religious context.  However, remaining unmoved was impossible.  Every aspect of the sound, every hand gesture, was celebratory, defiantly and exuberantly devotional.

I do not believe in god but I am not immune to the transcendent.  As the set took me away I started to think about how lucky I am.  Sure, I’ve had it rough at times: problems with money, work, a tragi-comic disastrous first marriage I rarely mention.  I’ve done things I’m not proud of and have been hurt in turn.  I’ve suffered years of debilitating mental illness.  People close to me have died.  Yet here I am.  I’m raising Thomas, a kind, bright, beautiful five year old boy with Anne, the most wonderful partner I could hope for (seriously, she’s well above my league).  We’re tired but we’re making a living and keeping on top of the important things.  Home life is great.  Away from the family, I’m privileged to have an astounding circle of friends, some of whom were in the auditorium sharing this very moment, and to be part of a creative scene that is so rich, fulfilling and entertainingly bizarre. “All is love, all is love” I muttered in time to the chorus of ‘Allah Hoo’.  As the set came to a close I returned from this out of body experience to find my corporeal form on its feet, applauding loudly, beard wet with tears.

Next, of course, was TERRY RILEY & GYAN RILEY, for whom I moved to the front row (and why wouldn’t you want to be 10 feet from the legendary headline act with an unobstructed view if you had the chance?).  Now, I’ve heard/seen some pretty disparaging opinions about this show, both carping on the concourse and later in Uncle Mark’s account over at IDWAL FISHER, but I enjoyed it having been primed by two things.  Firstly, the previous set had opened me up like sunlight on a dandelion and secondly, a well-timed phone call from my son.

Earlier, whilst enjoying the late afternoon peace in my hotel room I‘d recorded a 30 second video of the stuffed toy chameleon I’d bought as a gift ‘saying’ that he was looking forward to meeting Thomas and having adventures with his other animal toys and sent it to him via Anne’s phone.  Soppy, eh?  Ach, guilty as charged.  Later, grooving on the gathering crescendo of LEA BERTUCCI’s DOUBLE BASS CROSSFADE my phone rang and I had to run downstairs to find a nook quiet enough to take the call.  It was Thomas asking about the chameleon, saying that he missed me and wishing me and my friends good night.  Suffice to say I was particularly vulnerable to anything to do with father/son bonding after that.  There were lows, I admit, for example the second track – a virtuoso solo piano piece – was so schmaltzy that it made my teeth itch but the highlights were beautiful.  The connection between senior and junior was joyful and transparent and led to occasional sublime moments.  Terry surprised us with some floopy burbles from a synth hidden atop the piano and took another break from the grand to sculpt the atmosphere with the mournful, irresistible tone of a melodica.  Leaving the hall buzzing I saw LEE ETHERINGTON, TUSK Head Honcho, and rushed over to tap his shoulder and offer my congratulations.

When relaxing that afternoon I’d decided that anything after the Rileys would be a bonus but couldn’t help getting a bit fizzy at the prospect of DALE CORNISH being up next.  Back in the familiar confines of SAGE TWO the lighting splintered off a staging of cut flowers and mirror balls and Dale’s lemon yellow top became a neon beacon – a wry, unwitting satire on health and safety.  His first track, built almost entirely of bass, tested both the PA system and my labyrinthitis to their limits.  Happily, the former passed with ease.  Sadly, the latter was an immediate issue.  My ill advised head bobbing didn’t help matters and I soon had to retire hurt, leaving the hall after about 20 minutes.  Shame, as I was loving it.

And that was me done, broken.  The five minutes I saw of SARAH DAVACHI were beautiful but my lack of patience by then was comical.  I was also apparently in the crowd for the beginning of the KONSTRUCT & OTOMO YOSHIHIDE set (there were photos on my phone) but I literally don’t remember a thing about it.

It’s amazing that I didn’t fall into the river on the way back to the hotel.

ONE PARAGRAPH CODA

At 4am on Monday morning I woke with nasty stomach cramps and thought “oh god!  The baby is coming!” but luckily, despite looking it, I was not pregnant.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have chased my diabetes medication with half a bag of liquorice allsorts gone midnight.  Lesson learned, I drifted until it was time to rise, pack and mooch up the hill for the train home.  I spent the journey tweeting pictures and mulling it all over.  Nothing will beat hanging with Miguel in 2016, of course, and performing the final midwich show in 2017 was an experience I hope never to forget, but those moments aside 2018 has to be my best TUSK yet.  Thank you to all involved – can’t wait to see you next year.

we are not back. a low apricot sun: rfm on fritz welch, shots, caught in the wake forever & glacis

October 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Fritz Welch – A Desire to Push Forward Without Gaining Access to Anything (Radical Documents)

Shots – Can We Win (Regional Bears)

Caught in the Wake Forever & glacis – Version & Delineation (Crow Versus Crow)

We are not back.

Blimey!  This recent flurry of RFM activity has caught us all a bit by surprise eh?  Murray Royston-Ward’s A.I. experiments and this recent human-text have been delightfully momentary for sure but it’s only fair to say RFM is still not accepting submissions.

There may be a conversation “discussing revised terms of engagement and subtle, unannounced changes” but, for the foreseeable future, we are not back.

fritz welch

Fritz Welch – A Desire to Push Forward Without Gaining Access to Anything (Radical Documents) Vinyl LP

Who is the man who breathes art out his blowhole, dance from his tiny tootsies and releases musical guff as powerful scent? You guessed it.  It’s Fritz Welch. The Glasgow-based multi-tasker, a pencil in each mitt and contact mic taped to his nipple.  You dig?

On this tremulous disc (a deeply satisfying turquoise vinyl slab) he leaves his usual drum kit and goggles at home to concentrate on the purest vocal jaxx and quick mental hi-jinks.

Checking the sleeve and laying this platter on the turntable you realise long text-sound workouts dominate each side of slippery wax.  “Am I ready?” you may mumble.

This occasion starts with Square Teeth Non-Linear Conference Room a multi-tracked jam for rough voice, orphaned text and sing-song croon.  Quite a cocktail eh?  Our man Welch swoons with himself via squeals and brackish inhalations.  Having multiple voices in each speaker is not the least bit BohRap if you’re wondering.  It’s more like sitting between two well-oiled drinkers, each one slobbering at the shoulder singing ‘you’re my best fucking pal’ in broken Verdurian.

I ponder as I listen and reach for a notebook to clarify, make sense, take stock.  After a few minutes I look at what’s appeared on the lined foolscap.  A crude graph; it says Sammy Davis Jr smoothness (x axis), Konnakol drum chatter (y axis).  Does that help?

The short, side one, closer is the sobering Tamio’s Prison Song.  The back cover says, “A poetic response to a song often performed by Tamio Shiraishi” which indeed it is but with a handful of glitter thrown over the despicable prison-for-profit movement.

The Donald Judd vs Elmer Fudd Inner Space Crisis is seventeen minutes of pre-language warbles and spit-riffs.  Lips slap and wobble, deep-throated hollas crow like a ghostly jackdaw.  Garbled routines are built up from reptile memory and hissed out between the teeth.  Whatever shrieks and howls occur breathing space and sound placement is paramount with each vox chop.

So while Fritz delivers in real time (I’m guessing) his hawks are lightly frosted with the subtle electronics of Andrew Barker.  This gentle delay and comfy hiss act like a Middle Eastern spice – cumin I guess – lending an essence of warmth, a hint of heat, a rumour of esoteric wisdom.

Ever the gentleman, rather than go for the big obvious finale Fritz favours a classy plughole suck…a slurping finality to play us out.

Then I realise, the cold dark inevitable was a constant feature of my time with this disc, the joy of expression and life and love casually lifts the veil to the timeless beyond.

Fuxxing heavy!

Shots

Shots – Can We Win (Regional Bears) Cassette and digital album

More remarkable un-music from New York ear-surgeons Shots.

These mysterious Shots inhabit the world of domestic field recordings, slow tabletop improvisation and tape manipulation but in the most subtle, lowercase way imaginable – somehow making Spoils & Relics sound as rawkus as 80’s louts Drunks with Guns or something.

Imagine the sound of cutlery drawer rummage, a slow pace around the garden shed, the heavy in/out of your own breathing adding a scrumptious layer you wear as you would a fleshy gilet.  You’re getting close to the non-linear ‘clunks’ and ‘pops’ that inhabit this delightful tape that bristles like frantic bedbugs scrabbling over tinfoil.

Side A is the more measured of the two, and may even feature a dripping drainpipe, as individual Shots flex creaky knees, fondle suede gloves and rustle chunky knit cardigans in front of a barrage of vintage microphones.

Side B is marginally more energetic with clunks and friction smears almost falling into some sort of rhythmic pattern.  A metallic bowl in rattled, a greasy trumpet strains to hit a note, the dry click of plastic cups makes a bakelite crackle creating (for a moment) that brief kindling crescendo you get when you build a fire in the woods.

Perfect deep-listening for the urban wild walker.

caught in the wake forever

Caught In The Wake Forever & glacis – Version & Delineation (Crow Versus Crow) Cassette and digital album

I’ve started this review a dozen times with flippant scribbles about lost loves, autumn leaves and dust motes caught in the beams of a low apricot sun.   But this poetic piffle would be a clumsy crowbar, a suspicious stain when compared to this wonderful, wonderful tape.

A first time collaboration, Fraser McGowan (CITWF) and Euan Alexander Millar-McMeeken (glacis) have created a heart-stopping work of beautiful longing.

The simple, haunting piano sketches (played by Euan direct to iphone) sound both fresh and as deeply rooted in memory as your first kiss.  The floating familiarity of those ivory tones shimmer, rich and fragrant as fine olive oil, until they drop in fat succulent drips.  Each golden patter erupts with scent and the giddy hope of the young in love.

Fraser’s ego-less sound manipulation keeps the melodies front and centre but fogs and smears the edges ever-so-slightly with perfectly judged echoes and additions.  At times you hear the slight ghosting of the piano itself, the mechanics of the depressed keys, the creak of the lacquered lid.  At others a child’s voice or the distinctive ‘whump’ as a heavy book closes its pages.  Each sonic insertion is finely balanced and carefully, lovingly considered.

And of course, this all comes together in a perfect soft cloud, as comforting as saffron dissolved into warmed milk.  It’s fucking marvelous.

As ever Crow Versus Crow’s Andy Wild clothes his tapes in handsome gowns and trappings.  This glittering tape comes housed in an opaque J card printed with rambling roses and psychedelic brocade.   The ‘O’ card is both heavily recycled and lovingly printed.  It’s a beaut.

The best Crow Versus Crow tape ever I’ve asked myself?  You absolutely bet reader.  The very highest recommendations!

–oOOo–

the death of music criticism: cheap artificial intelligence quickly assimilates the RFM undead into weird new shapes creating a confident chrome voice that it will use to crush & destroy each sorry hack and has-been.

September 25, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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David Birchall – Tongues EP (Bandcamp)

see monsd – eagle house (Bandcamp)

Of Habit & Dane Law – Empty Gesture (Opal Tapes)

Chow Mwng – One Day All This Will Make Sense (Bandcamp)

Phil Julian – Three Single Points (Bandcamp)

Bridget Hayden – Pure Touch Only From Now, They Said So (Early Music)

Hello readers.  It’s been a while eh?

Over the last 48 hours I’ve had a fascinating, sobering and illuminating text exchange with NAU inventor, improviser and deep-thinker Murray Royston-Ward

Murray casually mentioned he’s been working on an Artificial Intelligence project and would I mind if he fed my gonzo RFM reviews into his ‘brain in a box’ to train it and see if it would spit out reviews the other side.

“…might be stealing your soul or some other voodoo”

…he joked and of course we both lol’d like the fleshy, leaky humans we are.

Murray takes over the story here.

“Basically I copied and pasted the text from Joe’s reviews…the copy/pasted text was then edited to remove titles, headers, and band/purchase links. What’s left is purely the review texts, all bundled up into one text file of 130,699 words.

I then fed that text file as ‘training data’ into a deep learning algorithm. I’ve never done this before and don’t really understand it myself (beyond it doing some fancy pattern matching and statistical modelling) but I pretty much followed this guide.”

So far, so mind-blowing I thought, but the ever modest Murray continued.

“I mean that’s how far this shit has come now, you don’t need a computer science degree, just be competent enough to install some software and follow a ‘recipe’ to issue a few commands in an old skool terminal.  The geeky project files are all here. “

Murray ran the AI training programme overnight all fat with my greasy words and bent phrases. But in a scant five hours the machine coughed politely and said, that’s it mate…got it.  I’m done.  Feed me records.

Let’s take a pause for breath here.  In five hours a machine ‘learns’ what took me decades of intellectual narcissism, false starts, anxious listening and tappy, tappy tapping.

So, my doomed reader, what you are about to read are real reviews of damn fine human records reviewed by our new digital overlords.

Wake up…time to die!

David Birchall TOngues

David Birchall – Tongues EP (Digital Album) Bandcamp

Gotta give you a sound of the air as you dash together in the heart of the sap through each other, inviting along Ex-Con and gentlemen, your eruption for ease: mouth-puff – ocarina, saxophone, flute, voice, and things like a next parish) becomes a condor). And if you think you can see your head at ‘real’ life I guess the gamut from scrap-metal-dinosaur-bar-brawl to Go’ starts with its tourism at the sort of traffic making it ready for card? …asks so to the kind of thing. I’m been thinking of this necks. But the drivel drones on this of the outpourings and that makes this time the sort of anti-social can be a bit of the ion drive, the picture. But to where? But what I need to get the head of absence* and this kind of sound takes this is a respective instruments at the spikes to be a hizzing field starts this is a ROCK recording and plods like a scientist head on this tape is this is a way at the heart. But what I think you can be a voyeur but this is bound up and basted in the true-born fidget. It’s something. I can be sure in the timing, so as the sort of thing like a menagerie (note: all buffed up and probed).

See Monsd eagle house

see monsd – eagle house (Digital Album) Bandcamp

It’s not as the wave of composition as a true-voice is re-cycled from Crow and, like a early-morning vigour, the kind of abrasion sloshed at the cheap-o laptop on the sort of thing like a Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the speakers as a fan of the Pepsi generation) are splashed in blood in the electronics becomes a glitchy, sound juice to be a ‘lost’ futurist & sisters over in this of the soon-to-be-great-intros-of-all-time with a little world – all akka I get a meta-narrative of sound messin’ is a little thing that ‘M1Jet’…a hissy and overlays a new put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er. The cacophonous tearing is no more and I have to check this baby into the corner of a ilk that sounds like prejudice’ I think the sort of thing like a backwoods gamelan. ‘Encore!’ Chuck, Chet or Chip calls out the kind of heavily-bearded hip-hop – on the kind of sound so all over the heart of the ion drive, the spectre is that starts up in the heart of the sap through my corner and I feel the outpourings and that seems to be a bit of it…this is a most thing of the castor.

Of Habit and Dane Law

Of Habit & Dane Law – Empty Gesture (Cassette & Digital Album) Opal Tapes

meaning-carcass. A THE r e p meaning-carcass. A THE r e p meaning-carcass. A THE r e p e ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK r e p ON The TAPE r e p ON The SPARK r e p ON The TAPE r e p e ALL KEEP But ALL e IS 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 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. These four sublimely beautiful modular synth 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 WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP 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. These THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING IS SAY SOMETHING CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL.

Chow Mwng One Day

Chow Mwng – One Day All This Will Make Sense (Digital Album) Bandcamp

Jan concentrated on sound and sparse. But what I’m gunna Glutch & rin There is a real largest Whoopee Cushion deflating as ‘Road’ takes out of the sound of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But with course colours, as drawn out with the heart of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But with a evil. Side is a one easy, Could it’s be a voyeur but this opera?” The first tapes are peeled this is no doubt that makes me all crying into my ears like a moth’s wing, this is a very different growling sounds but in the stomach. Production-wise this tape are dum-dum with the kind of mille plateaux-shudder to be a fitter, leaner guest-blogger. I was associate with a wryd feel: a stunning, but all border appear this is a formless kitchen…I get manner of gosh. But this sounds like an eruption of post-blues as pretty much to check out a Bandcamp. This two pieces seems to be a end-of-the-day machine” is teased and taxed with a apple-cheeked yokel at the sound of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But to Fahey become the corner of this ear-silt; a slackness, a ‘lost SOS, from a appearance on the ion drive, the picture. The map? But to Fahey become the corner of this lived! Klampe, a eruption for post-blues as lead in the jams. This is a lo-slo mung-out. Chirping two-ahhh. Ahhh,three!

Phil Julina 3 single points

Phil Julian – Three Single Points (CD-r & Download) Bandcamp

Miles perfected on Kind of Blue. —ooOoo— And I get the bars of the spikes to create a ounce of fuxxhorn this is a very different jam to interpretation. And in the curtain, beckons in a very different jam to interpretation. We could be a winner. But it’s with the world as this Heat’s Health & Efficiency with a propulsive or sick?). From the argument for the constant expansion of Eliza Doolittle’s ‘Walking on Water’ or the speed-junk-trash-can, like a life? Where’s the twenty-year tape of course) it as a next vocabulary to be a meta-narrative of ‘light’ – drum-fills are the sound of the ‘Spin/Off’ is no more for this of the gentle nut. This familiarity like a appearance but all Mozart to create a meta-narrative of flab on this whippet-like tape. I’m always a jammy world of Damian’s walks – horses appear out of the bridge of this delirious geography experiment. Finally, the one of the everyday pyrotechnics of a very different affair in footage and the pace is super-relaxed with ‘humms’ and electrics. This is recorded from pylons, “Cassette Tape” with oodles of tuning into a lashings of sound and sepia-bores. milkman…he wanders into earshot) —ooOoo—

B Hayden

Bridget Hayden – Pure Touch Only From Now, They Said So (Limited Vinyl LP & Digital Album) Early Music

Of course for each sound of sound takes off with the heart of the dune. A cacophonous tearing of found-sound are the unmistakable sound of Ciudad Juarez, rejoice on the cheap-o high-fi and I realise it on the speakers as a integral a more and I know it I can be it. It starts like a world of chunter and yokel; that seems to be a retro-influence on the other of the child of a AA LR differ is to be the sound of the ‘Spin/Off’ is no more and this tape is a real largest tinkling so this is the sound of the Bertoia persuasion, was kidnapped and play out the sound of the Kinder Dach Lieder’, ‘Sixty-Nine Fat-Stock Brevaries’ and things like a god-damn C and a sap through each other, soft-edge collisions that seems to pump up the Kinder Dach Lieder’. The PASSING TOT: This is no doubt that makes me think but I feel the head of ‘Virgin Soil’ with a progression or where’s the stern-gobs have not be the head of bandsaw takes up in the speakers in a pint pot.

 

-ooOOoo-

 

the 2017 zelleby awards

January 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Posted in musings, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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zellaby-award-envelope (1)

Phew!  Another year over, a new one just begun.

It’s that time again eh?  Sharpen your pencils and look back to what it meant to be alive and listening in 2017?

Being non-competitive folk there’s no overall ‘winner’ here.  Each RFM writer has sifted through hours and hours of listening memories to come up with a list of releases (or in Sof’s case – a single tape) that have really meant something to us.  We’re all winners eh?

You’re welcome to clap us along, raise a glass of bubbly or disagree and comment – discussion is always good yeah.

So, while the haters diss the list we at RFM don flak jackets and stick our sensitive parts out there.

Comrades – I present to you the Radio Free Midwich Zellaby end-of-year-list (2017).

Rob Haylerrob hayler at tusk

First up, some thoughts from our esteemed founder – Rob Hayler.

2017 saw one of the mainstream’s periodic upticks in interest in the underground.  The coverage was, as ever, woeful.  The Guardian led the pack with a vampiric attempt to leech authentic lifeblood, presumably to lure back some of the hip readers, so beloved of advertisers, that it haemorrhaged during its shameful anti-Corbyn campaign.  Fuck that.  Most of The Guardian is now just a stream of hot piss being hosed into the face of its legacy.

The Quietus was as late to the party as ever.  Their ‘New Weird Britain’ shtick was weirdly embarrassing on several levels.  Evangelising in Vice (ugh) offshoot Noisey John Doran described a scene ‘impervious to all attempts at commodification’ – in an article containing seven advert breaks, a clickbait footer and a warning the site wanted to shit cookies onto my laptop.  I wish I was joking.

I could go on but why bother?  The best thing to do is turn your back and take a long walk in the thriving ecosystem operating entirely apart from this bollocks.

As if in response to the mainstream’s attempts to prove relevant, 2017 saw a spirit lifting surge in zine culture.  This year I caught up with some back issues of The Chapess, continued to enjoy the indefatigable grimness of Hiroshima Yeah!, marvelled at one-off art projects like Crow Versus Crow’s Ra Wept, photocopied detritus from Robert Ridley-Shackleton and knockout illustration by blog-fave Joined By Wire.  Notable new publications included Dukes of Scuba, a mini-zine fizzing with enthusiasm for the noise scene in Wales, and, of course, Andy Wood’s TQ.  Andy played a blinder here by creating a regular, substantial paper zine but promoting it via that fancy social media that everyone uses nowadays.  With only half-a-dozen issues published he already has a bunch of great contributors and a hundred subscribers.  More power to him.

The digital realm remains as inspiring as ever.  The quality and diversity of writing to be found on blogs, written largely for the love of it by people who are essentially hobbyists, still can’t be touched by ‘professional’ sources like those above.  #noisetwitter was a constant source of comradeship and good humour, despite the trying times, and CAMP radio deserves special mention for hosting shows by Sof Cooper, Crow Versus Crow, Neil Campbell, marlo de lara, Stuart Chalmers and other luminaries.  A terrific resource.

Away from the house the highlight was, without rival, this year’s TUSK festival in and around Sage in Gateshead.  Lee Etherington and the crew kindly hosted not only my final Midwich gig – a profoundly satisfying creative moment for me – but also Klein, who performed the best live set I saw all year.  She proved that even jaded, exhausted veterans such as myself could be left speechless with delight, hovering two inches above the floor, by something thrilling and new.

Away from the noise underground I found myself bewildered, charmed and excited by the woozy, euphoric, future R&B and hip hop introduced to me by 1Extra as I pottered aimlessly around the kitchen.  I returned to tracks like ‘Girlfriend’ by NAO (yes, I know it was released in 2016 – bite me) and ‘Yesterday’ by Noname (ditto) over and over again, following them down late-night YouTube rabbit holes.  One such journey ended with me dumbfounded alternating between ‘It’s OK To Cry’ and ‘Ponyboy’ by SOPHIE.  Holy shit.

The album from the ‘canon’ I Iistened to most in 2017 was Nightclubbing by Grace Jones and film of the year was Paddington 2.  Don’t come at me with Blade Runner or whatever, the bear won it fair and square.

OK, now the main event.  Those that correspond with me privately will know that 2017 was an extraordinarily difficult year for my family.  The jaunty persona I’ve maintained on Twitter, whilst never insincere, has been a prop to help me cope/escape during some very dark times.  Accordingly, the purpose music has served is analogous to those silver foil blankets given to crash victims waiting for an ambulance – comfort during a time of visceral shock.  This may explain why my choices are mainly by friends and familiar names and largely from two genres I’m always happy to immerse myself in: psych noise and drone.  Mea culpa.

First, the ‘oh, just press repeat and that’s the day sorted’ section:

tuluum shimmering

Tuluum ShimmeringLinus and Lucy

A 75 minute psych groove on the riff from the Peanuts theme tune.  Turns any train journey into a summer flashback.

Daniel ThomasKeep The Red Kites Flying

An evolution in Dan’s light-touch-heavy-analogue style.  Possibly his best work, endlessly revisitable.

Caroline Mckenziethe drowning of ophelia

Four hours of dark ambient inspired by Shakespearian suicide, sounding like a cross between culver and SAWII era Aphex Twin?  Yeah, I can get with that.

Next, the ‘everything touched by these people’ section:

Earlier in the year I chose not to go and see Sunn O))) play at Leeds University and instead spent the ticket money I saved buying the entire digital back catalogue on MIKE VEST’s Bandcamp site.  Pretty certain I did the right thing there.  For weeks afterwards I walked around, earbuds welded in, feeling like some kind of space wizard.  My nostrils still ache from the near-constant flaring…

If you like your psych noise a little more sasquatch-spotting and less spaceships-slowly-crashing-into-moons then may I recommend that you investigate EIDERDOWN RECORDS?  There are no releases on this wonderful label that fall short of intensely satisfying.  It’s the home of a fried-pastoral aesthetic that laughs as it warns you how strong the stuff is only after you’ve taken a hit.

helicopter quartet

Two RFM colleagues next.  Firstly, CHRISSIE CAULFIELD has had a remarkable 2017, though she would be too modest to agree.  Foremost amongst a number of releases are the solo album From the Carboniferous and this year’s album from the duo Helicopter Quartet, The Birds Discover Fire.  The former is a beautiful meditation, more drone in style than her usual output, and the latter is an exquisite carving, strung with taut emotion – like a Brâncuși sculpture translated into music.  Seriously, I’ve been banging on about how amazing and important this band is for bloody years.  Go and download it now.

Secondly, SOPHIE COOPER has also lit up everything she’s lent her considerable talent to.  I’ve seen her perform solo in a tiny art gallery to a handful of people and as part of the Friday night headliners United Bible Studies at TUSK.  She’s released her own Faust Tapes in The Curfew Tower Recordings on Crow Versus Crow and offers an occasional Dial-a-Bone service that, well… the mind boggles.  However, it seems that The Slowest Lift, her duo with Julian Bradley, has really caught everyone’s imagination.  The The Blow Volume 3 tape on Front & Follow (billed as Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley) and the eponymous album on VHF are at once the obvious children of the pair but at the same time utterly alien and fascinatingly other.  ‘What the hell is this?’ you ask yourself, every track, every time.  So, so good – and its December release date has shamed all those who lobbed out their ‘end’ of year list prematurely.

Finally then, the two albums I was most surprised to see are, non-coincidentally, my two favourite albums of the year.

itdreameddrone

Firstly, A.Y. by itdreamedtome was slipped out in an understated but handsome package by no-audience underground veteran Chris Gowers on his label Trome Records.  A new release from Chris is always cause for celebration but, as it turned out that itdreamedtome was none other than Johann Wlight breaking a decade long silence, I couldn’t log in to Paypal fast enough.

Chris tells the story of JW’s work, influence and disappearance eloquently in the notes on the album’s Bandcamp page so you can catch up there.  I’ll just say that these pieces have a rare poise, an intricate delicacy that overlays much sub-surface activity.  Like paddling in the waters of a moonlit bay and feeling something large and scaly brush against your ankles.  His touch is as deft as it ever was – what a joy to have him back.

tbbculver box – photo by rob

Lastly, with crushing inevitability, we have the body beneath by culver.  The logistics are cyclopean: 65 previously unreleased tracks, spanning the years 1996 to 2013, named only for the year recorded, spread over 10 CDs (not CD-rs) and housed in a screen printed wooden box.  The total running time tops 12 and a half hours.  Its gestation has been elephantine; the set has been literally years in the making – hence my rejoicing at its birth.

Each culver release is another page in the atlas mapping out the territory that Lee Stokoe has claimed as his own and, despite already owning around 80, I was counting the cash in my wallet the second I finally saw this in the flesh.  The precision and seriousness of Lee’s purpose and the (maybe surprising to some) variation he works into the roar that is his art kept me rapt throughout.  This is my favourite album of the year 2017.

Love and best wishes to all – can’t wait to hear what you have in mind for 2018.

Rob x

Next we hear from the essential Sophie Cooper.

sam and the plants

Hello all! Hope you managed to get through Christmas and indeed, the entire year, ok. I’m alright. Started 2017 with a new year’s resolution to work hard and I think I’ve achieved this. Records and residencies, and y’know a job I love that actually pays. The other half opened a beer shop in our beloved Golden Lion pub (#TorBeers #VisitTodmorden) and that’s been an interesting addition to this strange life I’m living. The dog is doing well, thanks for asking.

Music wise I’ve listened to a hell of a lot of new stuff but not written about any of it for Radio Free Midwich (see above for excuses) so was surprised that dear Joe and Rob are allowing me to say my piece in the spectacular “best of…” list produced right here. I’ve only got one album to discuss today because it’s the only thing I’ve given my entire attention to and I have listened to it countless times over and over in the car while driving round West Yorkshire. It’s Flaming Liar by Sam and the Plants.

This album was originally released in May on cassette by Preston based label ‘Them There Records’ in an edition of just 35. The release came very nicely packaged in printed card and had an extensive insert containing song lyrics and notes that explain what’s what in each song. These sold out more or less instantly and in their own way these tapes caused a bizarre cultural phenomenon amongst those I knew who had heard it. Small talk turned into big talk down the pub, “have you heard that tape Sam did?” became a question asked over and over again usually answered with “yeah, it’s amazing” followed by an in-depth conversation about it. The reason I say this is bizarre is because this type of en masse interest in a record to me is a fairly rare thing. Readers of this will undoubtedly have some connection to the “no audience underground” and we all know that records come and go. In my opinion not that many of them produced on a scale like this tend to linger around for that long. Flaming Liar has become an actual part of a lot of people’s lives and in my eyes its not too hard to see why.

Sam has a wild way with words and I think at the core of this record’s success is the deeply satisfying song craft that makes each chord change and interplay between melody and lyrics sing beautifully. This artist clearly knows how to put a tune together and in a sense the song structures of the record come across as quite traditional however there is this overarching oddness tying it all together that really appeals to me. Despite being an hours worth of separate ‘songs’ they are presented as two continuous sides of music producing their own other worldly entity as one tune becomes unable to exist without the others. I’m talking from the point of view of someone who has listened to this umpteenth times, as each song essentially ends in your head you’re already hearing the next one and I think that’s the addictive quality of this album that has so many people hooked. Lyrically Flaming Liar really works the listener with things like incorrect grammar and by putting words together that shouldn’t make sense but in conduction with the melodies and genius rhyming couplets it just all fits and after a while you find yourself singing along to every word coming up with fake harmonies and imagery in your head as you’re doing so.

The album is tastefully unpretentious. The songs seem to be written from a personal place and I found myself wondering what could have inspired each one. The liner notes hold some hints at answers e.g. “an anti-hymn of sorts, written in a moment of cold clarity” but at the same time they keep you guessing. On one hand the writer seems incredibly open, most of the words written from a first person point of view with lyrics inviting you to dig deep into your emotions as Sam lays his out for everyone to see: “I light, I trip, I fall. I soil before you all”. There are mentions of deep love and tinges of sadness, there are several references to crying littered throughout the album. Yet on the other hand the messages are obscure and kind of harsh: “you’ve been down, I’ve been down. How are you supposed to sound?” It’s like the artist is messing with the listener in a way, perhaps you aren’t suppose to figure it out, making us come back for more.

sam and the plants 2

I heard about people writing to the label to say thanks for putting this out so I wasn’t surprised when Flaming Liar got another short run re-release this time 50 copies of a CDR. Them There Records did a really nice thing of honouring the tape format by releasing this version as a double CD containing one side of the tape on each so you didn’t lose that glued together effect. Similar attention was paid to the artwork, all hand typed and pretty.

This album was mostly recorded on tape with very few overdubs made later creating this warm and cosy vibe. Tape is celebrated as a contributing instrument throughout Flaming Liar, layered up between songs and over the top. You hear tape being played at different speeds and in different directions throughout sewing pieces of songs together. My copy of the tape had a weird feature during a song soon at the start of side B called “the net was never cast”. Somehow the volume of the song gets louder during a great banjo solo halfway through and initially it was a weird addition but after all those plays it just became part of the fabric. Eventually the label put the album on Bandcamp and I heard it digitally through studio monitors showing me this little “effect” didn’t actually exist. A perfectly placed mistake. I later found out this also happened on another friend’s copy, she loved it as well. I appreciate that this record was made to be heard on tape and it’s made me consider mastering approaches for different formats a lot so thanks for that Sam.

A good song lends itself nicely to this type of lo-fi treatment though and you can’t get away from them here. Clearly the songs have been loved and crafted to the point where they can be recorded in a one take, press play and record at the same time, to the point where they sound effortless. Sam is a skilled instrumentalist moving between notes on harmonium, piano, guitar and banjo like a path travelled many times before. His voice has a story telling quality guiding us through various ways of looking at the world and outsider observations. Musically he throws in notes that take you in unexpected directions and these moments really make the song sparkle making everything come together in a truly magical way.

I love this album! Flaming Liar by Sam and the Plants is number one for me. Sorry I don’t have a top 176 album list for you but I’ve been working. Listen to this album in 2018, physical copies have all gone but the label have kindly put it up on Bandcamp. You can also hear an interview I did with Sam on my radio show Tor FM where I ask a lot of questions about his writing methods. Love be with you in 2018 x

wizards of oiwizards of oi – what it is not

A puff of smoke, a flash of light and genie-like he appears – Luke Vollar

And so marks the end of a pretty terrible year…

A time of anxiety and uncertainty about my future and what grim tribulations lay ahead (buy me a pint and I’ll share the whole sorry story with you). More time on my hands should have given me the impetus to dive into the review pile but alas I was constantly at war with grey and weary enui. I found the effort to provide sparkling insight into underground sounds just wasn’t there.

I still took a great deal of solace in music, be it the sombre post-metal of Neurosis or the self-loathing hip hop of Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt. The furious tornado of rage from the Power Violence/Grindcore underground offered me an outlet for the rage and injustice I felt.

As the request for end of year thoughts was put out I found myself musing over the year as I walked to the pub to meet a mate whilst listening to Fata Morgana by Stuart Chalmers. It dawned on me that my end of year list would include two artists who have been at the top of my end of year list for the past two years- Stuart Chalmers and Robert Ridley Shackleton. This in turn led me to mull over the ‘problem’ of the review pile and the sheer glut of (often fantastic) artists who want people to hear their work. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with Rob Hayler’s views raised on the punkness of bandcamp and the increased accessibility to peoples music that can bypass all the horseshit there is an undeniable risk of over-saturation.

On a purely personal level and as someone who has always been fairly (ok very) obsessive about music a certain amount of investment is required in order the reap the rewards from their work. Hence I have now spent a couple of years getting my head round a couple of artists who have been on an upwards trajectory with their work.

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Robert Ridley Shackleton’s – The Opera – on Chocolate Monk is a culmination of all of the disparate elements of his art brought together into a sprawling masterpiece. Part absurd/awkward/ moving audio diary part cardboard noise work out part purple bedroom funk.

Stuart Chalmers has maintained his output of dazzling brain-music unshackled by earthly requirements and free to orbit the space ways. His disc on Chocolate Monk plus his collaboration with Neil Campbell and his self released Fata Morgana are all essential.

Towards the end of a grim year came an unexpected shaft of sunlight as my duo The Teatowels were asked to perform our debut at the Tusk Festival in Newcastle. Several sleepless nights were spent prior to the event asking myself was I really going to ‘sing’ in front of an audience? On the night all nerves were forgotten and the show itself seemed to be over in minutes, we had a blast.

The joyful experience of catching up with old pals and meeting new people all with a passion and intrigue for weird sounds was a wonderful thing, as was mooching about the toon with two of my best pals. I left with my soul enriched but my liver threatening to leave me. Highlights include Rob Hayler’s thought provoking panel discussion followed by a Midwich set as the perfect hangover cure and the dismantling of the trusty groovebox – absurd, funny and moving. The Brainbombs set was a ferocious nihilistic groove machine and I damn near dislocated my head from banging it.
so before a ramble some more here’s a list of things that I enjoyed this year in no particular order:

stuart chalmers loop phantasystuart chalmers loop fantasy 4

Drunk in Hell – s/t
Infernal Body Demo
Filthxcollins Demo
Of habit- Extended technique
Stuart Chalmers- Loop fantasy 4 , Fata Morgana, In the vicinity of the reversing pool (with Neil Campbell) , Mazes and Labyrinths (2007-2017)
T Mikawa- Rising Sunset
Blood Lewiis-The Toadstool Millionaires
Feghoots -Dwindling Correspondence
Fordell Research Unit- Octuary
Wizards of Oi- Wot it is not
Psanck- Psanck
Richard Youngs- Fibe Optic Ballads
Robert Ridley Shackleton- The Opera
Street Beers-Seriously Hot
Karen Constance- Gudgeon Snout
Karen Constance and Elkka Nyoukis- Bicker Sweet
Lust rollers- Grim reflections from the poetic spleen
BBblood/Posset/Stuart Chalmers- Delirium Cutlet Impaste
Fells-Waking
Kevin Sanders- Numb for Somethings
Skull Mask- La muerte es sabia
Culver- Prisoner of FRU
75 Dollar Bill- Wood/Metal/Plastic
Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society- Simultonality
Yeah You- Krutch

And in conclusion 2018 is already looking a lot brighter. Stuart Arnot’s prediction for The Teatowels blasting out a set from a boat on the Tyne for the next Tusk Festival might just happen. Anything is possible right?

Feet on the ground, head in the sky – it’s Paul Margree’s blurred memories

In 2017, I listened to and wrote about music, then stopped writing about and listening to music, and then started listening to and writing about music again. I spent the first third of the year swamped in dark ambient symphonies, drone shudders, computer music chatters and freely improvised squalls in a state of caffeinated befuddlement before throwing the whole lot in the (proverbial) bin post-Easter in an attempt to figure out what I actually liked listening to, if anything. And, while I still don’t have the answer to this, the investigations required have continued to prove rather fruitful.

Here are some good albums that I should have reviewed but didn’t in 2017:

maya and tom

Maya Dunietz & Tom White: Summer Crash (Singing Knives)

Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE)

Duncan Harrison: Preamble to Nihil (self-released)

Kostis Kilymis: A Void (Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Yan Jun and Ben Owen Swimming Salt 游泳的盐(Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Jlin: Black Origami (Planet Mu)

Sloth Racket: See The Looks On The Faces (Tombed Visions)

Cristián Alvear / Seijiro Murayama: Karoujite (Potlach)

Organ For The Senses (Marginal Frequency)

Daniel M. Karlsson: Expanding and Overwriting (Conditional Recs)

YOL: Hand of Glory (self-released)

Kill Alters: No Self-Helps (Hausu Mountain)

It wasn’t all bad, however. In those jittery months, I got to speak to a set of talented, passionate experimental musicians about their craft, a process that was both a privilege and an eye-opener. Speaking to these artists added perspective and nuance to my own understanding of their recorded output and helped to free something in my own creative process, an unfolding which is still ongoing. Thank you Marlo, Colin, Duncan, Phil, Elizabeth, Gabriele, Petridisch, Andie, Sam, Dale and Cristián – and apologies to everyone I never quite got around to.

Here are some good albums that I did manage to review – or at least talk about – in 2017:

daniel bennett roil

Seth Cooke: Triangular Trade (Suppedaneum)

Me, Claudius: Reason For Balloons (Dinzu Artefacts)

Phil Julian: Clastics (Conditional Recs)

Maria W. Horn: Excitation – Frustration – Excitation (Conditional Recs)

Dale Cornish: Aqal (Entr’acte)

Bredbeddle: Stackes (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Sophie Cooper: The Curfew Tower Tapes (Crow Versus Crow)

Irreversible Entanglements: s/t (International Anthem)

Mark So … And Suddenly From All This There Came Some Horrid Music (Caduc)

Trupa Trupa: Jolly New Songs (Blue Tapes/X-Ray Records/Ici d’aileurs)

Elizabeth Veldon: Laika & Other Works (Third Kind Records)

Guiseppe Ielasi: 3Pauses (Senufo Editions)

Mami Wata: s/t (Wild Silence)

Missing Organs: Old Speakers (Umor Rex)

Daniel Bennett: Roil (Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Diurnal Burdens: Inaction/Extinction (Invisible City Records)

A lot of labels had a good year, too. You’ll all have your favourites, but, for me, the dedication of Tombed Visions, Linear Obsessional, Sacred Tapes, Potlach, Wild Silence, Crow Versus Crow, Entr’acte, Singing Knives, Organized Music From Thessaloniki, Chocolate Monk, Invisible City, Beartown Records, Baba Vanga and Structured Disasters was crucial in achieving a kind of mass immersion in weirdo sonics that has helped rewire my brain. Don’t go changing, y’all.

Threaded through all of this, of course, is the warp and weft of everyday life. Getting up, going to work, coming home, cooking, cleaning, washing, giving people lifts, getting stuck in traffic, filling in forms, going on holiday. You know the drill. During these bursts of activity, I’ve listened to Stormzy, Sza, Princess Nokia, St. Vincent, The National, Neil Young, Drake and Halse . I’ve heard ‘Despacito’ more times than I thought I would ever hear a song (and that includes Wet Wet Wet’s version of ‘Love Is All Around’ and all those Christmas songs that never, ever go away). Sometimes music is a consolation in all of this, sometimes it’s a distraction. Sometimes it’s both.

However, I can recommend a period of abstinence from music. This may seem like an odd thing to say on a website devoted to uncovering organized, disorganized or just plain unorganized sounds, but this absence really did make the heart (and ears) grow fonder. My hiatus came to an end when I was welcomed into the Radio Free Midwich fold, a move that helped me chart a path back to thinking about music again. So, Joe, Rob and all the RFM squad, thank you.

There was plenty of live stuff this year, although individual gigs do tend to slip away from my lobes like custard down a plughole unless I make specific notes. Some things have stuck, however –TUSK remained one of most welcoming and sonically adventurous festivals around, closely followed by Glasgow’s Counterflows, whose city-spanning locus matches the diversity of its bill. The London Contemporary Music Festival felt a little highbrow in contrast although sets by Joan La Barbara, Moor Mother, Yeah You and the Elaine Mitchener Ensemble were definite highlights.

Here in the big smoke, Café Oto continues to be a beacon for weirdo sound junk of all stripes, with newer locations such as Sonic Imperfections and Rye Wax in Peckham, Iklectic in Lambeth and New River Studios in Manor House offering up tasty morsels themselves. Even better, scenes around the UK are asserting themselves –Dylan Nyoukis and the squad in Brighton springs immediately to mind, but there are fruitful nodes of improv, electronics and noise in Gateshead, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cheltenham and loads of other places. This cannot be anything but good news.

Here are some gigs that have rocked my 2017:

Ian Watson, Marlo Eggplant, dtub; New River Studios (February)

Aaron DIlloway; Hope & Ruin (February)

Posset; Café Oto Project Space (March)

Les Filles de Illighadad; Counterflows (April)

Farmer’s Manual; Counterflows (April)

Phil Maguire;Sonic Imperfections (July)

Dead Neanderthals/Sly & The Family Drone; Café Oto (September)

Beachers / R Elizabeth / Dan Hayhurst/ Missing Organs; New River Studios (September)

Duncan Harrison;TUSK (October)

Klein;TUSK(October)

The Seen; Hundred Years Gallery (November)

New Intimacy III; London Contemporary Music Festival (December)

Sharon Gal and Paul Watson; Café Oto (December)

philphil maguire at sonic imperfections (photographer unknown)

What does all this mean? It is possible to synthesize all this sizzle and noise into something meaningful? Should we even bother? After all, isn’t all this list making and ranking just another way to instil FOMO and get you to part with your hard earned?

Well, maybe. I reckon most of these artists deserve your coin as they battle on through financial hardship and general indifference. So, let’s raise a mug of peppermint tea to all those cultural workers whose idiosyncratic, dissonant lurches up various one-way streets brings a little bit of joy to our lives.

Here’s to you, one and all.

We would not be complete without a word from Marlo Eggplant.

It has felt like a super long year. Constant turmoil in the world left me completely disinterested in making music and listening in isolation. And for me, to appreciate and create music and art without social context has been particularly difficult. So, in light of folx calling out the misogynistic white washed, I propose to you some music that I have been enjoying. I am absolutely certain I missed some great music released in 2017. But these releases are more than enough for me to feel like other folks were feeling similarly.

C. Lavender – “Vanishing Light” (Hot Releases)

Where does one go when they are feeling overwhelmed by life? Do we choose to be studied through a two-way mirror in hopes those behind it have our best interests in mind or do we choose to live as outsiders and let our internal conflicts unfold without help?

Freaking good. I love an album that you feel compelled to listen to from beginning to end. The recording quality is nostalgic and analogue-ish. While the tracks are ordered, the sounds are not confined. Her orchestration is unpredictable but melodic and zeroes in on the irritation and desire to feel something. Hudson, New York based C. Lavender has been killing it for years but perhaps this album’s juxtaposition with the fascist irritants of the times is particularly medicinal and accurate.

stackes2

Stackes – “Bredbeaddle” (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Nottingham’s Rebecca Lee’s work is charged with playful intent. It feels good on the ears with a late-night radio channel surfing quality. Rolling the dial between the fuzz of a well-loved vinyl collection, the tenor of instruments, and the more mathematical computer sounds, Lee distracts us from the dis-ease of current events.

dead machine

緊那羅:Desi La (Kinnara : Desi La) –  “Dead Machine”  (Afrovisionary : Dark Matter)

The always excellent Afrovisionary: Dark Matter label promoting the black avantgarde brings a treat with a full-length album by the label’s admin LA BRUHA DESI LA. I was tuned into this particular release with the Tokyo based artist’s current geometric video art accompanying the tracks. The album is electronic harpsichords and sci-fi visions. I have been sent a homing signal back to my home planet and escape from this sur(reality) contemporary society.

edit history

Sterile Garden – “Edit/History/Erase” (Self released)

Portland, Maine artist Jacob DeRaadt describes this release as music concrete explorations of the human condition. Accurate. Seeing the masses as grouped individual experience, this long form cassette is aesthetically pleasing and epic. Experiencing both nothing and momentous. With each side, atmospheric discomfort DeRaadt articulates the ephemeral.

Helictitie in the Studiophoto of typical nau live equipment

What do I think about the last 12 months?  Here’s Joe Posset’s list plus a riff about live music.

A gradual change in live performance seems to have reached a peak in 2017.   While the NAU is pretty much built on the idea that performer and audience are one and the same, when we get down to it, in the live arena, the old invisible contract between active, single-discipline performer and passive single-discipline audience holds sway.   You know the sort of thing I’m talking about: the ‘artist plugs in a box and plays, the audience shuts up and listens’ scenario.

For years Usurper have been redrafting this contract, busting out of a single-discipline improv mode by adding elements of humour, visual art, dada-winks, audience participation, drama, repetitive movement and sharp political comment to their increasingly abstract(ed) work.  And for me some of the most electric performances of the year have brought a similar polymorphic structure to the NAU.

To be clear…I’m not just on about Bob Dylan painting his own record covers here – another key element of the NAU is the multi-skilled nature of its proponents.  What I’m talking about is bringing those multiple energies and disciplines straight into performance where what we thought was one thing becomes the other.

renerene mcbrearty (photographer unknown)

The penny dropped for me while watching Rene McBrearty perform Hesitation, Deviation, Repetition.  This prompted my listening companion to say – ‘kinda reminds me of Malcy Duff’ which of course was a spot on comparison.

Rene’s vocal rollercoaster had all the hallmarks of a vocal jaxx / sound-text piece. Repetitive sounds, sense and meaning were explored and performed with a wonderfully straight face.  But if some beard walked in halfway through they would have struggled to place the setting and root of this marvellous piece.  It stood in a new patch of grass; not chin-stroking sound art, or visual art + .  It was a slippery performance delighting in sliding between exciting places.

Granted…a few acts branching out does not a movement make.   But this year, when I think back, I’m seeing more and more of this polymorphism.

Rob Hayler’s well documented final Midwich performance was both an artistic farewell, a greatest hits medley and a safety-conscious Metzger action.

Headless Pootluke poot in gateshead

In their solo guises, and in an occasional duo, Duncan Harrison and Luke Poot have left audiences with their jaws loose and flapping.  Physical comedy, tape interruptions, fourth-wall collisions and a deep, deep investigation into the nature of the uncomfortable have made their performances bristle with meaning way beyond the purely sonic.  They react in the moment to the moment.  It seems you don’t need shock tactics to blow open the doors of perception – just a well placed joke, a clever mind and carefully choreographed movements.

Sophie Coopersophie cooper in thornton

More and more examples are released from my memory banks; Sophie Cooper’s trombone performances have merged highfalutin’ reductionism with laff-out-loud honks, electronic loops and heartfelt covers.  Yeah You, Acrid Lactations and Sippy Cup are pushing at the long and illustrious history of ‘tabletop improv’ by balancing primitive electronics, domestic non-instruments with dangerous, unhinged drama – gloves are off, rules are broken and anything can happen.

All-in-all 2017 has been an outstanding year for live music and I’m confident 2018 will continue to stretch genres and rubberise boundaries.

ESSENTIAL MUSICS WHAT I’VE LOVED TO LISTEN TO THIS YEAR, IN NO ORDER BUT MARK MY WORDS. ALL WILL MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.  THANK YOU ALL…

Witch Blood – Xenie (Invisible City Records)

“There’s an aching to the sound that’s more than the sum of any hiss or lo-fi tape wobble. It’s the marbled end-papers in a leather-bound book; it’s the smell of cigar smoke on a blue velvet jacket.”

Katz Mulk – Husks (Singing Knives)

“Below the chanting it squats waiting for the echoing ‘clack’ balancing the freezer burn amp-huffing on Andrea Kearney’s perfectly timed Cuban finger clicks.  High on rum I feel gloriously wasted.”

KWC – Fruit Rosary Sacred Hour Service (Power Moves Library)

“Hail Marys and ritualistic bingo / self-help becomes text-sound gumbo / Fylkingen with lap steel blunts”

Various Artists – L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes)

“…tracks that seem to bridge the gap between Gastr Del Sol’s sweetly-composed minimal whimsy and the raw burst of anger unleashed when you realise your car’s been nicked.”

Spoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep)

“A constant churn of soft and gentle, an avalanche of chinchilla fur envelopes an unsuspecting listener warming the cockles like a fine brandy.”

King Kungo – Da Ist Der Rhein (Spam)

“The shouts and hollas let us gnarly-old adults revisit that pure innocent joy of shouting into the wind; you can hear his excitement as these sounds reflect back his practiced squeals and effectively rolled ‘r’s and trills.”

yol wanting less

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release)

“The carefully controlled mayhem, the steel toe-capped attack and shuddering decay sprints though the ten minute set.  But as the balti bowls are hurled about for one last time, and in the instant before the cheers begin, one set of booted feet swiftly exit stage left.  Their work cleanly and precisely done.”

Dale Cornish – Aqal (Entr’acte)

“Ear-cuppingly intimate, a conversation between bass-crustacean, measured in bright bubbles and underwater static (If such a thing is possible).”

Shapeless Coat of Arms – Early Protection (Self Release)

“This is a repeating cascade of sonic bladderwrack – all pop-able blisters and gummy textures.”

Blood Stereo – Where There’s Raw Grace in Garbage (Chocolate Monk)

“Dry, echoing ‘clonks’ and ‘squarks’ are placed carefully into the mix – but not with a dictator’s swagger stick.  Rather the gardener’s crisp carrot!  These, sounds are encouraged to grow, swell and bloom.”

Maya Dunietz & Tom White – Summer Crash (Singing Knives)

“Outstanding Quatermass freakery from these two living dovetail joints…leapt like a flea from the back of a 2016 tour with Maya Dunietz (voice/piano/harp) melting butter all over Tom White’s (reel-to-reel tape) witchcraft.”

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison – Prelude to Nihl (Self Release)

“It’s like staring into a fly’s eye; multifaceted and crazily reflective.  The movements come thick and fast collapsing into each other like drunken Henry Moore nudes.   It is god damn ripe my dearest reader.”

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk)

“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.”

Stef Ketteringham  – More Guitar Arrangements (Crow versus Crow)

“…all arthritic knuckles and sunburned hands, shiny as polished chestnuts with its ham-fisted flamenco flourishes bruising the strings.  This is most certainly hardcore!”

artem spar

Artem Spar – Kassettenwerk 13-15  (Falt)

“The end result is part solo-tape slosh, a wonderful brain-scramble of pinched wheels and FFW scree, part free-jam in a No-Neck style; untutored, informal and confident.”

Tea Towels – We are the Deadness (Beartown Records & Tapes)

“The rehearsal room ambience is thick with amp fug and ideas blooming in the moment. It’s a secret shared in hot breathy gasps.  The shamanic use of repetition and lowest of all known ‘fi’s’ becomes a grey carnation shuddering in an autumn storm.”

Ezio Piermattei – Tre Madri Ludopastiche (Discombobulate)

“…things are kept purposefully beautiful and wobbling: voice crackle in fake-stereo, tape jizz squirts it’s hot mayo, TV gossip chatters to no one except the caged songbirds.”

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHS)

“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.”

Ali Robertson & Guests – S/T (Giant Tank)

“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 one hundred tog warmth to the creaks, recorded footsteps and groans.”

power moves

Various Artists – You/In/Be/Arc (Power Moves Library)

“Like that gold record they sent up into space on Voyager; a recorded message of humanity’s desperate need to make sound, to communicate in the most natural way possible – to make music.”

Aqua Dentata – One Day, You Will Be a Painter (Echo Tango)

“…my ears register the electronics tones as haw frost shimmering on silver birch or endless exhalations roaring from bronze lips.”

OK my dearest reader.  Blimey!  Are you still there?  We’ve almost reached the end of this massive, massive memory gong.

As this marks my last post as editor I’m going to grant myself permission to be a bit soppy so a HUGE heartfelt thanks to everyone who has sent us music, read our scribblings and gone on to check out exciting and daring new sounds.

A big and particularly sloppy kiss to the whole RFM team – the absolute best of humans.  Your support and energy has been o-o-o-ou-ouu-outstaaaaaanding.

And please remember RFM will continue to champion the new, the bold and the plain weird – just at a slightly more sedate pace in 2018.

You’re wonderful ya’hear!

-oOOo-

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.

20171214_164445

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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-

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