framing devices: packaged by michael clough, crow versus crow and every contact leaves a trace

March 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Michael Clough – Untitled (CD-r, self-released, edition of 5)

Michael Clough – SKRBL (16 page, A6 booklet, self-published, edition of 10, all unique)

Michael Clough – miniMA (Tumblr account and A7 booklet, self-published) 

Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow – Excommunicado (3” CD-r and booklet, Crow Versus Crow, initial edition of 50, second run of 25) 

Dominic Lash / Will Montgomery – Real As Any Place You’ve Been / Thames Water Live (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Henry Collins – Music of Sound (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Ignacio Agrimbau – Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Seth Cooke – Four No-Input Field Recordings (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

clough - untitled cd-rminiMA inner pagesskrbl coverskrbl inner pagesexcommunicado booklet coverexcommunicado booklet inner pagesevery contact leaves a trace outersevery contact leaves a trace picsevery contact leaves a trace inners

Listen hard, dear readers, can you hear it?  A faint, beguiling, rhythmic patter.  It is the sound of the no-audience underground, in particular those that have submitted material for review, drumming their fingers on the collective kitchen table waiting as patiently as possible for comment on their endeavours.  I jest of course, I can’t imagine anyone really giving a monkey’s about delays and deadlines around here, but occasionally I do feel bad about the length of time it takes me to get around to everything.  In my defence I have been totally bewilderated by the demands of returning to work following a long period of illness.  Also, whilst unable to write much, I have instead made the fifty tapes of the oTo back catalogue available as a (massively successful, I’m happy to say) distraction.  Never mind that CD-r you sent me in January – look over there! – rare Phil Todd stuff!!

Anyway, the muse has poked her head around the door to see how I’m doing and is now helping me uncork the whimsy spout.  Inspired by Joe’s account of a tape that comes packaged in a gnome I have been thinking a bit about the stuff we wrap stuff in and am bundling together some exquisitely presented releases that have recently come my way.

Firstly three objects by the incomparable Michael Clough.  I know the guy is amused and flattered when I start bandying terms around like ‘aesthetic’ but, having been delighted by his work for fifteen years, I can think of few artists more consistent.  His achievements are all the more remarkable for being produced in tiny editions, or hidden on Soundcloud, created in moments snatched from family life.  His erudite and self-deprecating humour disguises a homespun but hardcore conceptual rigour and a Savile Row tailor’s eye for quality of finish.

Take SKRBL for example – sixteen pages of exactly that, photocopied, layered, recopied, stapled into a neat card cover.  The presentation gives these scribbles the air of architectural drawings by a madman, the blueprints of an impossible, nine-dimensional suspension bridge.  The enlargements provoke a ludicrous desire to attend to detail that just isn’t there.  Or is it?  How serious is this nonsense?

miniMA, a very neat A7 booklet with card cover containing 8 photographic plates, is the first physical manifestation of the Miniature Museum of Art, curated by M. Clough.  Presented as a tiny exhibition catalogue with knowing puns and allusions for artist names and picture titles, this is, of course, all his own work.  His Tumblr account contains many more fascinating examples of ‘found art’ framed by his discerning eye and documented with his camera phone.  I’d be happy transferring dozens of these pieces to RFM but they are best viewed in situ and the effect of scrolling through them is cumulative.  Makes me want to get recording purely so I can nab his best for album covers.

The third of these objects is a CD-r packaged in a card, handmade, fold-out sleeve held together by the type of paper sash patented by Andy Robinson for his much-missed label Striate Cortex.  No identifying information is included, no text of any kind, just photographs of light refracted through, I’m not sure, maybe some kind of corrugated plastic then cut into a waveform shape of the sort you might see via some sound-editing software.  It is a genius piece of design – an almost completely abstracted city scape portrayed as nothing but pulse and it fits the music perfectly.  The CD-r contains one untitled track lasting 33 minutes built entirely from layers of electronic throb.  It is as sinuous, mindless and viscerally sensual as an interspecies orgy on a cold, tiled floor following a mass breakout at the reptile house.  Indeed, in reviews I often use the term ‘meditative’ in the appreciative but not wholly accurate sense of ‘thought provoking’.  This piece is ‘meditative’ in the Buddhist sense of aiding in the dissolution of ego.  It is, to put it bluntly, fucking obliterating – marvellously so.

This stuff can be had direct from Clough himself.  Email him at mriclough@aol.com for availability and prices.

Next we have Excommunicado by Caught In The Wake Forever (an alias of Fraser McGowan) and Crow Versus Crow.  The package feels simple, coherent and appropriate but a list of its elements is overwhelming.  I’ll let Andy Crow explain:

‘Excommunicado’ comprises a 10.5 x 10.5 cm 16 page mini art book, containing black and white inkjet prints of Crow Versus Crow’s minimal ink and pencil drawings printed on matte white paper within a 170gsm recycled card cover; four instrumental tracks from Caught In The Wake Forever, on a white-faced 3″ CDr housed within an 8.5 x 8.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope; an insert sheet containing recording and production information; a 35 mm photographic negative; and a dried rose petal, all housed within a 12.5 x 12.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope, sealed with a full colour ‘Excommunicado’ sticker.

OK, perhaps that level of description is bordering on the fetishistic but you get the idea: this is a package.  In a letter to me Andy was coy about the informing idea behind the project as he wanted me to come to it fresh.  Unfortunately, however, he clearly forgot that I was on his mailing list and had received a plug for the first edition of this release in which he told the world that it deals with…

…loss.  Or, more specifically, it deals with the process of coming to terms with loss. I’m sure most people reading this will have got to a point in your life, post-trauma, where you’re confronted with the question, ‘What now?’. Sadness, bitterness, alienation, isolation, loss, nostalgia, hope, glimmers of happiness… all of these come together in a non-linear mess, as you attempt to ‘pull yourself together’, ‘get yourself back on track’ etc etc.

…which is a tough idea to jettison once you know it is there.  I like to think I would have guessed anyhow.  The project as a whole seems defined by absence: the blown pigment outlining a hand shape on a cave wall.  Fraser’s music is a delicately balanced mix of electronics – dragging a cumbersome weight from the past behind it, unsettled in its present, grasping for the future.  It’s like not quite remembering something.  Andy’s drawings are perfectly complementary.  Again, here is art reaching for something no longer there.  The booklet ‘reads’ like the marginalia surrounding an entirely redacted text.

The initial run of 50 copies for this release sold out in a day.  A second edition of 25 is planned.  Please visit the Crow Versus Crow blog for updates and/or to sign up for the newsletter.

Finally then, I am delighted to offer a warm RFM welcome to new label Every Contact Leaves a Trace.  My admiration for the luxuriantly bearded polymath Seth Cooke is well documented to the point of being borderline creepy.  Suffice to say the news that he was starting his own label was gladdening and that these objects were hotly anticipated.

I’d like to get the less positive stuff out of the way first: I’m afraid the split album shared by Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery was not for me, despite some very satisfying passages of subterranean electro-gurgle in ‘Thames Water Live’ by the latter.  Moving swiftly on…

Music of Sound by Henry Collins is an edit of family favourite film The Sound of Music removing all dialogue and music from the soundtrack.  We are left with half an hour (that much!) of footsteps, weather, birdsong, doors slamming, whistles and the like – a celebration of the work of the foley artist.  The worry with this kind of high concept stuff is that the cleverness will come at the expense of engagement, or to put it another way: that the technical accomplishment can be admired without being much, y’know, enjoyed.  However, no need to fret here because Henry has created a surprisingly powerful and emotionally resonant piece.  Subtracting the ‘content’ has also drained away the Technicolor of the original and we are left with a tense black-and-white atmosphere in which the dread of the approaching Nazis is fore-grounded.  If you’d told me it was a version of say, The Third Man, I’d have no trouble believing you.  Also, the insert picturing the alpine meadow from the film’s iconic poster image sans Julie Andrews is genius.

You might, given the amusing title, expect Seth’s own Four No-Input Field Recordings to be very, very quiet indeed.  Instead what we have is twenty minutes of electrostatic roar uplit with digi-squiggles.  I imagine Seth shrunk, with his boom mic and recording equipment, Fantastic Voyage style, and squirted into his kit in order to become the Chris Watson of the sub-atomic.  Listen as herds of crackling electrons stampede along the canyon floor of his mixer’s circuitry.  Marvel at the call-and-response of a quantum-level dawn chorus before us clumsy humans start collapsing the wave function all over the place with our observations.  Very sharp and very entertaining.

Lastly, we have the ominously titled Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust by Ignacio Agrimbau.  It has taken me a while to appreciate just how good this one is.  The first couple of listens left me skating on the meniscus feeling weightless and foiled by the music’s surface tension.  As with After the Rain, the terrific but musicologically intimidating band of which he is one third, I am largely ignorant of the instrumentation used or the traditions and influences from whence it sprung.  This is, apparently, broken music constructed with broken instruments but without Seth telling me this I’d be none the wiser.  Imagine Ignacio as an expert marine biologist explaining his novel theories about the life of a coral reef over video taken during  a scuba dive.  I’m the guy at the back not really taking it in because I’m distracted by the strobing colours and alien patterns.

So, with that in mind, here’s an attempt at a description.  A breathy, muted sound palette suggests the struggles of a pupa within its chrysalis – fluid life reforming into something new.  This is underscored with a near constant percussive urgency that occasionally topples over into a Dada, clattering slapstick – like hieroglyphs sprung to life and leaping from the tomb walls in order to hit each other over the head with grave goods.  Highly compelling stuff which rewards close attention.

The packaging for these four releases is as diverting as the contents.  Before getting to the CD-r the listener needs to remove a bulldog clip, put the embossed card outer sleeve to one side, unfold a paper inner sleeve and note the details handily contained on a separate insert.  Following their appearance on a blog hosted by The Wire magazine (pics above stolen from that source – I don’t like the publication but credit where it’s due: nice work) Seth offered the following explanation on the Bang the Bore Forum:

The idea is that the listener has to reassemble each release every time it’s played. There are lots of possible configurations, each outer cover is a square tile that can be positioned in any direction, or reversed. Each is embossed with a found object rather than embossing plate.

Which brings me neatly to the final point I’d like to make.  Seth also said this:

You can figure most of the ideas behind the packaging out for yourselves, but Ignacio’s might take a little explaining. Iggy’s Anatomy of the Self Volume II is about breakdown – of instruments, of working methods, of relationships, of family, of organisations, of society. He wanted an image of a broken machine, and I initially got hold of some cogs to emboss, but it felt far too mechanistic for the sound of the record. So I got the chance to collect up some 3d printer misprints… the hexagonal hive-style pattern is the exposed inner structure, made that way to save plastic. As it went through the embossing press the piece started deteriorating in fibrous strands or splintering altogether, and some of the relief was so deep that it ruptured the greyboard. So in essence, you’re looking at the product of one broken machine creating another broken machine, a product that’s breaking as it’s repeatedly run through another machine two hundred times, a process that’s also rupturing the medium itself.

…and Andy Crow said this:

‘Excommunicado’ is a collaborative project from Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow that brings together work in the respective medium of both artists revolving around each artist’s interpretation of a single conceptual theme. The works within were produced as a continuous dialogue over a number of months, with various stages of development and articulation being sent back and forth between the artists, until both felt that their contribution was complete.

…making explicit, as if it were needed, that there is another level on which all these objects need unpacking.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, the packaging also involves a metaphysical or conceptual element which acts as a further framing device for the content.  This can be more or less obvious or implicit, more or less important to the listener or viewer’s experience but it is there and it is there because these artists wanted it there.

I am, as ever, in awe of the graft, the seriousness of intent, the lightness of touch, the quality of finish, the expert use of meagre resources, the intellectual rigour and the coherent and fascinating aesthetics that our scene is capable of exhibiting.  You’d think I’d have lost the ability to be amazed, wouldn’t you?  Not a bit of it.

Michael Clough on Soundcloud

Michael Clough on Tumblr

(contact him via the email address in the article above)

Crow Versus Crow Blogspot

Crow Versus Crow Bandcamp

Seth Cooke

Every Contact Leaves A Trace

junked-up broth: joe murray on blue spectrum tapes

December 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 21)

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010) (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal (CD-r in A5 artpack sleeve, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

blue spectrum tapes logo

When I rule the world I’m gonna make it law to include a special ‘forgotten footnote’ button on all BBC4-style music documentaries.  The button will start to throb and pulse when some lame-ass social commentator starts heaping blanket praise on that old phlegmy chestnut Punk.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m a Punk fan (I got a new rose, I got it good) and Punk did some great things but it did not, I say DID NOT, invent D.I.Y. culture.  The forgotten footnote function would butt right in and silence the Morley explaining that, “Punk popularised D.I.Y. culture and even legitimised it to some extent, but freaks have been doing their own thing; records, pamphlets and plays for like…for like forever man.”

And so, it’s with this reclaiming of the history of the private press, I present Blue Spectrum records and tapes.  Simon David Wilson runs this label in a hurricane of activity, putting out over 70 releases in a short 3 years with a very definite outsider edge.  Drumming to no one’s beat but his own this is a very singular take on noise and drone.

Simon’s noise is very human and warm.  It’s more about the enveloping fug or cathartic release than the misogynistic boys-club Noise has sadly become in places.  The drone has its stoner head-nodding moments but rises above the all too common drone clichés by adding a spunky energy, a childlike impatience to the mix.

CD-Rs tend to be short, sharp affairs.  Recorded loud and unvarnished Blue Spectrum is a home for like-minded free-thinkers: The Phosphenes, The Bloodletters, Team Electrics, Knox Mitchell and Simon’s own Blue Spectrum project (along with a host of other travellers).

Releases come in ridiculously small editions.  A run of a hundred would be a MYKL JAXN ‘Thriller’ for Simon.  In fact most discs come in modest batches of 1 to 20.  I get the impression that the small runs are nothing to do with marketing strategies or in-built record-collector-scum mentality but a constant desire to surge forward, move to the next thing…keeping it fresh and spicy.

These discs and tapes are not shoved naked into the world, oh no.  They come swaddled in Simon’s distinctive photocopier art and collage.  More Dada than Punk (natch!) the art tells a parallel story to the cathartic noise and drone, capturing Simon’s domestic detritus and fax smears all grimy.  But I’ll let you check that out for yourselves.

In the spirit of one-person missions like Miguel Perez’ Agoraphobia Tapes or Andy Robinson’s Striate Cortex (Editor’s note: Striate Cortex R.I.P.!) you get a real personality emerging from between the cracks.  A real enthusiastic person, not some business model, is making the decisions here…for better or worse it’s human…and that pre-dates 1977 and the 100 Club ya schlubs!

Here’s a mini-round up of the latest Blue Spectrum releases:

orphanage rats

Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested

Totally zonked-out peals of guitar skunk and doped electronic echoes.  Makes like the mid-period SKULLFLOWER with that washing machine buzz & bumble.  Five untitled tracks plumb the depths of the oubliette with screeds of gun-metal guitar spinning like a Leslie speaker in my skull.  ESSENTIAL MISERY.

light blue empire

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split

Two twenty minute drone/noise pieces on one handy disc.

LC & BS: crumbling noise/drone as heavy as roadworks.  If this kind of music is all about the texture this sounds like an Arran sweater knitted from rusty scrap.  Unflinchingly bullish for a super-saturated 23 mins.

TEOE: altogether lighter.  A slowly accelerating truck the size of a house; and in the cabin, a brutish trucker man turns up Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to the film ‘Sorcerer’.  You tremble, tightly bound, in the path of the beast.

phosphenes momuments

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split

Tape/collage/skronk from The Phosphenes with a pleasing junked-up broth of ‘cruuungggh’ and ‘shoooossshh’ that takes turns in the organic (breathy harmonium) and electronic (amplified cutlery).   Comes with lyric sheet!

Monuments… take pretty harsh noise as a starting point and turns that dial right up to 11, in the red, all the time.  Tracks start in one noisy place and pretty much stay there making very gradual changes in intensity and granularity.  Such stasis is in not at the expense of craft.  No way!  Check out ‘Tonight’ which sound like THE STOOGES played by MONSTER MAGNET at 16rpm.

phosphenes vehscle

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split

Field recordings taken from a Dictaphone tied to the collar of a junkyard dog.  As dog sniffs round the oil-drenched trash the tape picks up Native American Electronic Voice Phenomena (NA-EVP).  Phosphenes, terrified at what they have captured, leave the accursed recordings completely untouched for you to judge.

More accidental tape damage from Vehscle, this time captured from SETI.  Unnervingly sounds originally presented on the Voyager gold disc (Bird song, Dixie Jazz, New York soundscapes) are beamed back from the red dwarf UDF 2457.  Mixed in linear stereo!

knox mitchell

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010)

An anthology of Knox’s singular tape experiments.  Dubbed from gob, guitar, shortwave radio, keyboard, Dictaphone straight to tape, it’s got that familiar mung of crushed frequencies that turn all the beauties brown and snug.

This has a magpie’s eye on methods and techniques taking collage and composition side-by-side and turning both over like a bad clam.   Fans of insect squeals will revel in the familiar sound of waxed wing-pods rubbing over knotty carapace.  Music for prawns.

carl kruger

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal

Are you a fan of granular ripping?  Well look no further than this Lazy Metal disc from Mr Carl Kruger.  Five untitled tracks start with mucho electronic squiggles, rasps and bleats; from a Gameboy perhaps?  It’s certainly video game inspired and riding the waves between harsh noise and broken electronics.  The dub comes out for a while as a cardboard tube is miked up and long springs slither down…all presented through the decaying lens of an overdriven guitar pedal.  With no climax these sounds are eaked out slowly in a very thoughtful, vicious game.

Like all good journeys this one is paced with regular comfort breaks and challenging peaks.  The ender…a needle-sharp introspective drone is all dandy for the mousey eared until a sharp hail of noize tinkles the ear wax reminding you Kruger is leading this expedition from the front.  Don’t get left behind sucker.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Blogspot.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Bandcamp.

joe/murray/on/bjerga/iversen/bandcamp/project

October 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Bjerga/Iversen – various Bandcamp downloads.

b-i - extended techniques b-i - harmonic halflife b-i - endless tapes b-i - maps of electric transmissions b-i - random systems b-i - three units of magentic flux b-i - crumbling layers b-i - divided by zero b-i - dripping galaxies

(Editor’s note: apologies for the delay in comms from RFM – ten days between posts is most unusual.  The silence has been due to your faithful editor taking a short recuperative break.  No music, no email, no writing, no work of any kind save chopping wood for the fire – just time spent with wife and child.  Most refreshing.  He is now back, batteries recharged and arms flailing like the duracell bunny, so hopefully the flow will recommence.  First up: some bullet points from Joe, to follow: the hard word from Scott.  Take it away Joe…)

Bjerga/Iversen are a Norwegian duo who take the long view of things.  Over the last ten years Sindre Bjerga and Jan-M. Iversen have released approximately 125 (according to discogs) CD-Rs, tapes and floppy discs and clocked up almost as many live appearances all over Europe.  Their latest project, over and above their normal avalanche of releases, is to place an album each month on Bandcamp.

So who are these extraordinarily busy men?

If you poke a stick randomly into the tangled mess that is the no-audience underground you’ll not jiggle long until you hit upon the name Sindre Bjerga.  He pretty much is the essence of D.I.Y. avant garde: running Goldsoundz, touring extensively everywhere (recently Russia & Japan and the UK jaunt every October) and releasing a slew of records on every micro-label of note; Discogs lists at least 100 solo releases…and this I fear is a conservative estimate.  He is a solo player and the consummate collaborator; plays in a bunch of semi-regular groups (be sure to check out Star Turbine with Claus Poulsen) and you know what?  He’s a funny, modest and generous chap to boot!  Sindre flits between hazy drone, four-track recidivism, jump-cut dictaphonics and, more recently, rambunctious vocal studies. Sindre is the improviser’s improviser.

When left to his own devices Jan-M. Iversen is almost as prolific, recording solo and with guests, masterminding the drone lounge and also finding time to knock out a tower of ambient/drone videos. A look through his back catalogue is sobering, racking up dozens of remixes, collaborations, solo CD-Rs and tapes culminating in the cheekily titled masterwork ‘Monotonous – A Collection of Drones’ released in a snazzy 10 CD box set emblazoned with Jan’s grinning boat race.  Jan’s solo work mainly digs the rich seam of electronics.

Together they specialise in longform drone and organic interrupted glitch.  On paper the idea of the punk-ass fiddler making show with an electro-boffin seems destined to failure.  But they both bring out a third quality, a more-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts-ness that gently skims over the rough surfaces like weed-drenched plaster.  Time is taken.  And the occasional allusion to Prog Rock fits like a velvet loon.  In an alternate reality I can see Peter Gabriel era-Genesis using Bjerga/Iversen as intro music to stull all the patchouli beards before their theatrical pomp takes the Old Grey Whistle.

Ask them if they are a noise band and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’ but the hallmarks of noise: drawn-out minimal sound sources, clotted notes and the abandoned factory vibe are all here.  They prefer the term psychedelic drone and with such thorough fieldwork who are we to argue.

The concept of ‘ghost sounds’ is visited again and again with mere whispers sneaking through the cracks in the tiling, mould becomes grout and shadows fall where you least expect them.  At times they are the sound of candle light, with the heaviness of felt.  You often get a curious shifting effect too.  This is no clumsy ‘me to you’ approach but more like some old ‘49er panning for gold; sluicing the freezing cold water and gravel to find the dull nuggets with their heavy burden of gravity.

But what does this generous clutch sound like?  In a sloppy-soundbite style, exactly like this…

  • Extended Techniques: Musical saw orchestra in an electric India, arc welding.  The noisiest of the bunch.
  • Maps of Electric Transmission: Magnetic waves breaking on the shore while deep sea divers struggle for oxygen beneath.
  • Three Units of Magnetic Flux: Algebra comes to life!  Force vs Flow…who will win?
  • Divided by Zero: Table Tennis paddle swats steel wool for tin reverberations.  For ex-punks.
  • Random Systems: Stavanger nightlife re-imagined for Tubular Bells.  Seriously pretty.
  • Harmonic Half Life: Almost a found-sound documenting the nightly slosh of an empty accident and emergency room.
  • Crumbling Layers: Featuring a recognisable stringed instrument tugged and bothered among future traffic noise culminating like a Liturgy out-take.  Very beautiful.
  • Dripping Galaxies: Fourth, fifth, sixth-generation tape of a marble being rolled round a Bizen-yaki bowl, played out through crackling Walkman.
  • Endless Tapes: Once a prophesy, now reality.  Keening geese made of lightning weave feedback loops in and out of the negative zone.  Dr Strange looks on and begins the forbidden incantation.

In an ultra generous offer these fine, fine releases are pay as much as you like on the Bandcamp site.  So, if you have a hankering for music that’s “Carving great gestures out of minimal motives: Immersive soundscapes built from naive assumptions” then look no further.  Spare a dime if you can…you know the score.

What’s that?  You want more?  Then be sure to visit Andy Robinson’s fabulous Striate Cortex label for even more future-ethnic drone from these mighty gentlemen.  Bjerga/Iversen…the mark of quality experimentation.

Bjerga/Iversen Bandcamp project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The midwich Bandcamp site.

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

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

a handshake from mexico: simulacro, la mancha del pecado, wehrmacht lombardo

May 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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simulacro – cuatro ep (CD-r or download, registro latente)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Anciano Y Enfermo (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 52, edition of 20)

Wehrmacht Lombardo – Au Convent de Panthemont (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 61, edition of 20)

letter from jorgesimulacro - cuatrola mancha - ancianowehrmacht lombardo - convent

Some time ago I saw an interview with that Thom Yorke from that Radiohead (presumably by accident, I have no more than a passing interest in their work) in which he was asked his opinion as to the meaning of life.  He gave the following answer:

The most essential thing in life is to establish heartfelt communication with others, there’s bugger all else to do.

I thought this impressively robust and, whilst not agreeing entirely with the second clause, found myself nodding in vigorous approval.  As I can’t think of a better way of putting it, I find myself in the embarrassing situation of living by a maxim trotted out by a pop star (of sorts), albeit a thoughtful one.  Oh well, it could be worse: ‘life ain’t nothing but bitches and money’ as Ice Cube once asserted…

Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Yorke’s comment again the other day when a package arrived at Midwich Mansions from my Mexican Cousin Miguel Perez, wrapped, as is his habit, with rolls and rolls of sellotape.  Hacking it open, I found it to contain, amongst other things, two new releases by Miguel himself (see below) and a letter and CD-r from a fellow Mexican previously unknown to me named Jorge Gonzalez.

Jorge could easily have just emailed me but instead he took the trouble to write a (beautifully handwritten – see scan) letter and instead of just sending me his CD-r directly, forwarded it to Miguel to include with his by way of an introduction.  I was charmed by his effort, approach and the sentiment of his correspondence.  This, comrades, is WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT: making connections with far-flung enthusiasts.  That this guy on the other side of the world has been inspired by our meagre endeavours is enormously heartening and I was touched by the method he used to contact me.  I was amused to discover that it took a blog based in the North of England to bring these two countrymen together.  The no-audience underground is like Gentleman’s Relish on hot buttered toast: spread thinly, richly flavoured, not for everyone but delicious to those who have acquired the taste.

So what of his music?  Well, Jorge records under the name simulacro and this CD-r comprises four tracks (hence the title), totalling about 20 minutes, in a colour printed card sleeve.  The opener, ‘hangar 197 X’ is five minutes of free rock that I have to admit didn’t grab me.  Its heart is in the right place but it isn’t my bag.  Track two, ‘nebulizador eterico’ is a slow moving lava flow of drone metal – heavy, viscous, hot enough to make the air shake but spacious enough to walk around.  I like this very much.  ‘escudo ceramico’ is a synth whine overlaid with some ghost jazz guitar.  It kinda works and its oddness has grown on me.  The closer, ‘instruccion clasificada’, is a fitting final track as it draws on elements of the previous three: synth drone, a background rattle of metal guitar, slow sludge rock stabs allowed to bleed out.  So: one track I didn’t like, one I really did, two others that showed interest and promise.  OK, I’ll settle with that for now and look forward to Jorge’s next effort.

Do your bit for international no-audience solidarity and visit his netlabel blogspot where you’ll find details and links to his files at archive.org.  You don’t have to break out the calligraphy pens.

…and speaking of international no-audience solidarity: Miguel Perez, another fine case in point.  My first mention of him and his work was a one-line dismissal of his side of a split tape shared with Culver back in the Summer of 2011.  Undaunted, he got in touch to say thanks for the mention anyway and since then a transatlantic friendship has blossomed that has involved thousands of words sent in emails, the exchange of hours of music via the magic of the internet, many parcels trusted to the worrisome international postal system and collaborations on a couple of releases with more promised for the future.  Partly via radiofreemidwich but mainly due to his own indefatigable spirit he has, for example, ‘met’ Yol and formed the peerlessly strange improv duo Neck vs. Throat, secured releases on excellent labels like Striate Cortex, Molotov and Sheepscar Light Industrial and arranged collaborations with everyone he can pin down.  I’ve heard so much of his work over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve been sitting drinking a coke on his doorstep, listening to him figure it all out in real time.

Whilst his work rate would kill a lesser man, or at least lead to a battle-fatigued drop in quality, the opposite seems to be true of Miguel.  The trick is: he listens.  He reads his reviews, takes it all on board and makes mental notes of things to try next, he learns from his collaborators and, especially recently, he approaches his own solo ventures with a view to refining their quality, concentrating their purpose.  All this whilst already being a virtuoso guitarist having grown up in the metal scene.  He tells me that he is satisfying the hard-plucked improv impulse with his guitar duo Colectivo N (even playing live, winning over bars full of initially puzzled punters) which is allowing him to focus on the majesty of drone with his other projects.

The two albums pictured above illustrate his development perfectly.  Produced in very limited editions, as is typical for this intriguing and prolific American label, they are packaged in DVD style cases and wrapped in some striking photography (even more eye-opening when you find out that the provocatively posed ‘nun’ adorning the inlay of Au Convent de Panthemont is Miguel’s wife Maria!  What can you say to that?!).  The professional quality of the finish is noteworthy considering the tiny number available, but entirely appropriate given the quality of the contents.

Au Convent de Panthemont by Wehrmacht Lombardo is an epic ‘airless drone’ (Miguel’s own description) apparently inspired by the Marquis de Sade’s Juliette.  Whilst I agree that it is claustrophobic, albeit in an erotically complicated way, I’d say its defining characteristic is an ever present throb and that the drone, although heady and intoxicating, is secondary.

After a brief orgiastic opening, for the first half hour this throb plays out aching and distended, gratification painfully delayed, in an atmosphere thick with incense.  Around the 30 minute mark an insistent hiss is pushed to the fore adding a deceptively soothing layer of white noise balm under which the fleshy redness continues to pulse.  With 20 minutes to go the rhythm resolves into a metallic clatter which, in this decadent context, suggests the workings of a flagellating machine into which out hapless protagonist has been strapped.  The last few minutes see the return of the initial throb only to be merged with a final burst of the duelling hiss.  It’s a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion.

The pace of this piece is perfect.  The movements flow naturally from one to another giving it a clear, resolute narrative drive despite its minimal components.  That it remains wholly engaging over a running time of more than an hour is a measure of Miguel’s accomplishment.

Anciano Y Enfermo (‘Old and Sick’) by La Mancha Del Pecado comprises two tracks (the title track is 46 minutes long, the second a mere 25) and is apparently inspired by a freakish snowstorm hitting Miguel’s home town of Juarez.

It is stating the obvious to say that ‘Anciano Y Enfermo’ does indeed sound cold.  I’m not above reaching for clichéd imagery – arctic winds across the tundra, electric blue ice caverns and so on – but a proper account of this track demands a little more effort.  You could consider it purely descriptive but I think it also contains a kind of dread for the future, a middle-of-the-night panic that we are well on the way to making this planet uninhabitable for us humans.  This could be what we have to look forward to: what isn’t on fire is underwater, what isn’t desert is frozen.  I wasn’t entirely convinced by John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road but a few scenes have stuck with me, one of which I thought was a very efficient piece of character exposition.  In a flashback to the start of the civilisation ending disaster, the Viggo Mortenson character looks out of the window at the coming chaos and immediately starts filling the bath with water.  He isn’t going to wash, of course, he realises that the water supply may soon be cut off.  He’s a survivor.  This track makes me want to fill the bath.

‘Tragedia Silenciosa’ has an oceanic feel.  It could be a soundtrack to the recurring nightmare of a shipwreck survivor.  In the dream they are not dragged onto the beach and rescued but instead drown under the wind whipped surf in the howling black of the night storm.  The ‘chk, chk, chk’ noise, an often present artefact of Miguel’s recording equipment, here reads as the superimposed sound of a motor dinghy forlornly searching the bay the following morning for corpses or salvageable jetsam.

A great deal of patience, restraint and concentration are shown in the construction of these long form compositions.  With this release (and alongside some other recent work) La Mancha Del Pecado shrugs off the epithet ‘Culveresque’ and becomes its own creation.  Miguel has distilled his sound from the muddy mixture of his influences and what remains is a clarified spirit.  As Cory Strand, Altar of Waste head honcho, puts it:

…these sorts of records are exactly why I started the label in the first place.  You will not emerge unscathed.  Fucking amazing.

I concur.

Altar of Waste blog, entry on La Mancha Del Pecado, entry on Wehrmacht Lombardo

Altar of Waste shop

More from Miguel

midwich live at ‘the compass points north’, 22-06-2013

April 29, 2013 at 7:55 am | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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compass points at a cow

I will no doubt plug this again nearer the date but for those readers who have busy lives and, y’know, ‘keep diaries’ here’s a chance to get an unmissable gig scribbled on the kitchen calendar.

I have been tempted out of fatherhood-induced-semi-retirement by Dan of Sheepscar Light Industrial with the simple lure of a curry dinner and the prestige of playing with such a monumentally talented line-up.  My set will be the usual 20-25 minutes in length but will be entirely new, possibly based around tracks created for my upcoming release on We’re Gonna Get Fucking Drunk Tonight Boys, possibly featuring ‘field’ recordings of a snuffling infant.  Who knows?  All I can guarantee at this early stage is that by the night itself my performance will be finely honed, rigorously rehearsed and solid gold.

Anyway, add the fact that Uncle Mark Wharton of RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher has appropriated this as his birthday party and there is simply no reason not to come.  Over to Dan for the links, details and whatnot:

Sheepscar Light Industrial presents an evening of celebration, with things to watch and listen to. Featuring performances from;

Aqua Dentata | BBBlood | Hagman | Midwich | Petals | These Feathers Have Plumes

£4 | 7-11pm | Saturday 22nd June 2013 | Wharf Chambers, Leeds

Facebook Event Page

Aqua Dentata |

As Aqua Dentata, Eddie Nuttall has been garnering some well deserved praise of late. Some great releases on Beartown Records, SLI & Feral Tapes, complimented by gigs where the audience “just shuts the fuck up and listens” (Rob Hayler), has meant that an invite back to Leeds was always on the cards. Expect to be consumed by sounds conjured from synths, tapes and bowed miscellany; shimmering, beautiful, throbbing and fizzing…

http://www.aquadentata.org/
soundcloud.com/aquadentata
Aqua Dentata live in Leeds, September 2012
SLI.008 – Aqua Dentata – A Staircase Missing

BBBlood |

Paul Watson, aka BBBlood, is a maestro of noise. Predominantly operating at the harsher end of the spectrum, the depth and consideration in Paul’s approach will have warming to the embrace of even his harshest roar. Following on from a stand-out performance at Pete Cann’s excellent Crater Lake Festival, I’m delighted it won’t be too long until he’s back up in Leeds…

BBBlood
soundcloud.com/bbblood
BBBlood live in Leeds, September 2012
SLI.010 – BBBlood – N 51°33′ 0” / W 0°7′ 0”

Hagman |

Daniel & David Thomas (no relation) are two men with lots of wire. The wire connects pedals, short-wave radios, oscillators, drum machines, synths and home-made Tupperware-tronics. Debut album on Striate Cortex coming in the Spring. “Hagman drift sublimely along a path of beautifully nuanced drone” (Idwal Fisher).

soundcloud.com/hagmanhagmanhagman
Hagman live in Leeds, November 2012
SLI.005 – Hagman – Wormwood

Midwich |

Midwich is Rob Hayler: head honcho of Fencing Flatworm Recordings and Radio Free Midwich‘s longest serving blog-jockey. Having (only very) recently entered fatherhood (congratulations!), Rob is claiming to have re-entered semi-retirement but, after the cracking live sets of the last twelve months and new releases on Kirkstall Dark Matter and We’re Gonna Get Fucking Drunk Tonight Boys (the latter coming soon!), I can only imagine that he’ll be itching to return. Augmented field recordings, deep electronic drone, head-banging.

Radio Free Midwich
Midwich – Single Figures (live in Leeds, January 2013)
SLI.006 – Midwich – Eaves

Petals |

PetalsKevin SandersHairdryer Excommunication. Former Sheepscar neighbour. Nice, shiny shoes. Library operative. Prolific, ebullient, drone-charmer. Deep, warm, crispy, electro-fuzz. Super!

Hairdryer Excommunication
Petals live in Sheffield, February 2013
SLI.009 – Petals – Whether to Drown

These Feathers Have Plumes |

I’ve been attempting to get Andie Brown, who performs as These Feathers Have Plumes, to record something for SLI or play in Leeds since the label began to function. Hence, it goes without saying how pleased I am that she’s joined the line up for this gig. Look forward to deep, textured drones, with contact mic accompaniment and occasional field recording forays. Oh, and wine glasses.

These Feathers Have Plumes
soundcloud.com/thesefeathers
These Feathers Have Plumes live in Nottingham, March 2012
SLI.0?? – These Feathers Have Plumes – ???

Oh, and here’s the usual bumpf about Wharf Chambers:

Wharf Chambers is a members’ club; you need to be a member, or the guest of a member, in order to attend. To join, please visit wharfchambers.org. Membership costs £1 and requires a minimum of 48 hours to take effect.

Awesome.  See you there.

stop the press! introducing the new staffers at radiofreemidwich

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

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

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

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

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

wired for sound part 37: claus poulsen, lord cernunnos, ronzilla, left hand cuts off the right, bad suburban nightmare, the zero map

April 24, 2013 at 11:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Claus Poulsen – Electric Lobby (tape, Matching Head, MH192)

Lord Cernunnos / Ronzilla – Death Cap Drones (tape, Triangle Tapes, TT#5)

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right / Bad Suburban Nightmare (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM007)

The Zero Map – Distant Storms (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM010)

Claus Poulsen - Electric LobbyDeath Cap DronesLef Hand-The Zero Map

A couple of readers have asked me how I’ve managed to keep the blog posts so regular whilst working full time and sharing baby-raising duties with my awesome wife.  To be honest, I’ve surprised myself.  The first thing to say is that I definitely don’t turn to my blog when I’m bored at work.  No, I’d never do that, obviously.  Never.  Secondly, on examination, I appear to have cut away everything extraneous.  I hang with Anne and Thomas the Baby whilst multitasking domesticities, I do my best to keep up with family and friends, I go to work and I think about music.  All the other silliness with which I filled my time has fallen away.  I am knackered, of course, but in a way it has been an invigorating few weeks of priority realignment.  It turns out that this blog, my contribution, is profoundly important to me.  So on with the show, eh?

The tapes pictured above are the last of the review material that arrived around the birth of my son.  Apologies to the artists and labels for the, I hope, understandable delay.

I raised an eyebrow at the discovery of a release by Claus Poulsen on Matching Head.  Now, my love of Lee Stokoe’s legendary label is well documented and its quality could only be doubted by the cloth-eared.  However, even I have to admit that it is a fringe concern and that his tape-only, black-and-white aesthetic is for the hardcore.  Readers of this blog will be more familiar with Claus from his ‘prestige’ projects for Striate Cortex (solo and as half of the duo Star Turbine with Sindre Bjerga) and the duo Small Things on Sundays with Henrik Bagner.  The last time they were mentioned here I was talking about vinyl, no less.  Would the rough kids over at Matching Head beat him up and nick his lunch money?

No.  I needn’t have worried.  Although similar in tone to some of his other work, the new context makes perfect sense and the tape hiss just adds another layer of varnish to the puzzle box.  The Electric Lobby in question is described by an unreliable narrator.  It is furnished with FAX style brooding electronics, which are in turn upholstered with carefully detailed noise textures and discretely lit with loops of what may be field recordings of various human endeavours.  It has an expansive, unreal air of not-quite-convincing artifice.  At one point an unintelligible voice makes an announcement to the suspiciously robotic guests.  It’s as if, just after you sat down next to a guy who looks exactly like Philip K. Dick, the whole hotel is replaced by white space and a slip of paper with one word on it: ‘HOTEL.’  Very good indeed.

Death Cap Drones is a split tape shared between Lord Cernunnos (Andrew Erickson) and Ronzilla (noise scene veteran Ron Rice) and was sent on spec by the charming Marc Roberts of analog evangelists Triangle Tapes (slogan: “Analog rules.  Keep it reel”).  It is a beautiful package: oversized ‘audiobook’ box with separate plastic holder inside to stop the cassette rattling about.  The J-card is a stylish silver-on-black design.  A lot of work for a mere fifty copies – I approve wholeheartedly of this show of commitment.

The Lord Cernunnos side is a series of tracks with a kind of At the Mountains of Madness feel – like excerpts from an audio account of exploring an ancient, ruined alien city, knee deep in snow and rubble, only to find some of the machinery is still warm and working to a forgotten purpose.  At one point a member of the expedition leans against the wall and inadvertently sets off a recording of a strange percussive pattern – like hollow bamboo logs being struck.  I like this very much, the ominous atmosphere of non-specific threat is successfully maintained throughout.  As if to prove it is bad voodoo, I was listening to it on my walkman on a packed commuter bus yesterday morning and no-one would sit next to me whilst it was playing (and, yes, I had washed before leaving the house – har, har – you smartarse).

The Ronzilla side comprises two ten minute tracks of pupils-as-pinholes peaking.  A low end throb jostles with teeth-loosening treble as you try and keep the shivers in check and convince yourself that the red light apparently shining behind the closed eyelids of your sleeping friend Chris is nothing to worry about.  Just the drug – deep breath, ride it out.  This is intense, fried (to use a current favourite word on this blog) and, I suspect, not for everyone but I’ve found myself compelled to return to it several times.  The sort of oddity you want to poke with a stick, just to see what happens.

Finally, we have two tapes from Adam Beckley’s label Armed Within Movement.  The packages are standard: tapes in cassette boxes with black-and-white illustrated J-cards, but no less pleasing for that.  The AWM collection has a satisfying shelf identity.

The music of Left Hand Cuts Off The Right, known to his mum as Robbie Judkins, reminds me of the cassette culture underground that I first came to know and love in the late 1990s (Rob Galpin’s ‘Sunny Days Out’ springs to mind, for example).  Tracks seem to be composed by accumulation of elements, or to coalesce around a sound or an idea – like an egg poaching in boiling water – and we are presented with a snapshot of where the process had got to when Robbie leant on the record button with his elbow.  As such, some of it feels a bit sketchy but it is never less than charming and repeat listens reveal it to be finely balanced, constructed with a chef’s understanding of its ingredients.  A whimsical reaction is hard to resist but doesn’t feel quite right so I’ll limit it to this: the track ‘Habibi’ sounds like an increasingly frantic colony of budgerigars attempting to perform a tune by hovering over a marimba and dropping nuts on it.

The side by Bad Suburban Nightmare, a solo project of Dan Hrekow, begins with ‘Drone Heartbreak’, a slow-picked, desert guitar meditation.  Its minimalism and discipline provide the grateful listener with a contemplative space, cocooned inside a soulful, emotionally resonant atmosphere.  The second of the two tracks, ‘Alchemy’, is genuinely strange: a series of distant explosions take their own sweet time to devastate the next valley over, or perhaps it is the first track again but heard underwater, Ben Braddock style, at the deep end of a swimming pool, or perhaps, given the title, this is what the chemical reactions might sound like if we had molecular microphones and could record lead transmuting into gold.  Mesmerising.

Finally we have Distant Storms by The Zero Map.  I notice that Uncle Mark over at radiofreemidwich’s sister blog Idwal Fisher was grumpily dismissive of this tape a few posts ago.  I can only assume that his faithful manservant had allowed Mark’s glass of Manzanilla to warm to room temperature and the resulting fury led to this lashing out.  ‘Rudderless’ indeed, I ask you!  Alas, it falls to me to set the record straight.  I am a fan of Chloe and Karl’s work and I remain so after hearing this because the fact of the matter is: it is good.

The side long ‘Champagne Awakening’ opens magisterial – all raspberry dawns over the Nile as drug-addled dignitaries take river cruises in opulent barges.  The atmosphere of decadent possibility is tainted when the Pharaoh takes one drink too many and has a vision of the mechanised future.  The air remains full of spices and aromatics but the scene is now, in her head, overwhelmed with searing noise and engine rhythms.  Out of this a tropical guitar emerges and ties it all up with a foot-on-the-monitor feedback conclusion.  Rock!

Side B features four tracks that slide into one another so I’ll treat them as a whole containing different movements.  We begin with some agitated, swirling, popping electronics accompanied with some plucked acoustic guitar and non-verbal vocalisations.  The plucking becomes more purposeful and is augmented with some filtered… what?  The other instrumentation is hard to place: horns, keys, violin?  I can’t tell, it’s hypnotic.  This builds into an improv raga fury over a spiralling, descending roar until we get to a passage of totally balls-out (sorry Chloe – you know what I mean) psychedelic noise.  A low-end engine rumble revs up into a fuzz whine over skittering electronics, sometimes spacey, sometimes subterranean.  There is a calm eye within the maelstrom which we see glimpses of occasionally as the storm tears holes in the clouds.  I imagine Chloe and Karl (and Peter Herring who features on two tracks) sitting there, cross legged, facing each other but with eyes closed, just willing all this into existence.  Cool, eh?

Matching Head

Triangle Tapes

Armed Within Movement

Claus Poulsen

Lord Cernunnos

Ronzilla

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right

Bad Suburban Nightmare

The Zero Map

artifacts of the no-audience underground: crimson rainbow facility

December 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Crimson Rainbow Facility – Unknown Strains (3″ CD-r in handmade packaging, Striate Cortex, S.C.55, edition of 50)

crimson rainbow facilty frontcrimson rainbow facilty cdrcrimson rainbow facilty inserts

Back in the dark days of 2010 when Striate Cortex was a mere mewling babe-in-arms, label-founder Andy Robinson was introduced to the work of Tim Mitchell. When Tim’s CD-r, titled Ch [u47] and recorded under the name Crimson Rainbow Facility, arrived at SCHQ the hand-made packaging and tiny edition (12 copies) alerted Andy to the presence of a kindred spirit. Sure enough the music caught his ear and demanded repeat listens. Shaking himself free of his reverie he fired up Myspace (amazing to think that it was only last year that Bandcamp became truly all-conquering and Myspace was reduced to ‘decaying Victorian graveyard’ status) but Tim had already moved on and left no forwarding address. So that was that for a while.

However, in recent weeks a mutual acquaintance – James Moore of Sapir Whorf – dropped Tim’s name and Andy leapt at the chance to be reintroduced. This belated pairing of Tim’s eerie post-industrial aesthetic with Andy’s unrivalled attention to detail spawned the excellent Impurities by Thossian Process, Tim’s current musical moniker. A package well received ’round these parts.

For the final Striate Cortex release of 2012 Andy has chosen to tie up the loose end that Tim’s disappearance in 2010 left hanging. How satisfying. Unknown Strains is composed of five fragments, totalling 19 and a half minutes, taken from the same sessions that produced the long-gone Ch [u47].

The packaging is a multi-layered treat.  From the inside out: a printed 3″ CD-r in red paper windowed wallet is accompanied by three professionally printed card inserts.  One has the release details on the reverse and a photo of a buttoned down 1950s scientist type on the front – presumably Andy’s reading of Tim’s persona for these experiments – the others have unnervingly unspecific photos of (possibly) bugs, infections, soft tissue and the like.  These objects are tucked into a purple plastic slip which in turn slides into a case of handmade paper. Another clear plastic slip printed with a pattern likely to be microbes or cells or spores or spawn or something equally worrying is the final ornament and the lot is contained within a hygienic plastic wallet.

The music is compelling, eerie, spacious.  Machines emit electronic throbs and skitter.  Bubbles of sound rise and burst releasing snatches of barely audible dialogue from public information films or maybe a videoed record of laboratory life.  It feels like walking around a ruined industrial complex on a frosty morning, taking off your glove to feel the side of a giant centrifuge and, inexplicably, finding it warm to the touch, still humming.  The album and track titles suggest a science fiction tale of escaped contagion, a story compiled from the remaining fragments of the official record but told with the nihilistic, noirish efficiency of Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers.  Hypnotic, immersive, icily calm.

Buy here.

…and let me take the opportunity to congratulate Andy of Striate Cortex on another champion year of terrific releases.  His label is a model of what can be achieved with love, enthusiasm, faith in your own taste, attention to detail and stringent quality control.  All accomplished whilst having pretty much bugger all resources too – he is no trust-fund dilettante: this is all done with graft .  I know that Andy, admirably modest, will not allow artists to thank him on the packaging of his releases so I’m doing it for them here: cheers, man, Happy Christmas and here’s to 2013…

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