slip away into the great digital night: the midwich review pile and nine clumsy haiku offerings

April 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Fells – Menhir (Self Release)

Traven – ЯTLLCTЯNCS (Aetheric Records)

Sad_Rave – Add Red (Don’t Drone Alone)

Algobabez- Burning Circuits (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Ewa Justka – Acid Smut (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Epipohra – Love Songs (Self Released)

Mattin “Songbook #6 (Munster Records/Crudités Tapes/SDZ/Insulin Addicted)

David Greenberger, Glenn Jones, Chris Corsano – An Idea in Everything (Okraïna)

Alan Courtis – Los Galpones (Fabrica Records)

 

Life!  It’s all a bit of a balancing act eh?

On one hand I’ve been bemoaning poor attendance at live shows.  Is a crowd of 6 people at a gig still worthy of the title ‘crowd’?   But, on the other hand the amount of downloads, tapes and CD-Rs that we in the N-AU put out seems to be increasing exponentially.

I get it.  Sometimes getting out the house can take military planning and a frugal counting of pennies.  For many of us life is a careful juggling act with work, family, artistic practice, economics, study and health just a few of the balls in the air at any one time.

Or, leaving the house could even be a very reasonable reaction to world affairs.  Things are so fucking fucked pulling the covers back over my head in the morning sometimes seems to be the only sane thing to do.

For many of us staying in results in getting more done.  There’s more time to plan/plot and record. Using free software to create, edit and distribute your work means a project can move from brain-spark to universally available download in an afternoon.  And while the N-AU has always had a prolific work-rate, releasing something every couple of months is becoming the new norm.

Hoorah and good gravy eh?

But herein lies the rub.  For the last 3 or 4 months we at RFM have been staggering under an increasingly huge listening pile – close to 150 releases.  Try as we might; the regular chipping away from us old hands and even taking on a clutch of talented and exciting new writers is not making a huge difference because each passing day adds another multi-album download or set of (generally wonderful looking) links to the pile.  And of course we’re human too and all juggle work, family, artistic practice, economics, study and health along with this extra listening and writing.

We’ve reached a point where something has to give.

So apologies to anyone who has been waiting 6 months plus for a review – it’s probably not going to happen – but I suppose you guessed that already.  We are going to keep the 50 or so recordings we have personally agreed to, but the rest of the pile will respectfully slip away into the great digital night.

Nothing happens at Midwich Towers without debate and this is not a decision that we arrived at lightly.  But it does mean we can get back to doing what we set out to do: share passionate and energetic writing about the music that matters to us as it happens.

In the meantime here’s some snatches from the notebook hoofed into a clumsy haiku format…

fells menhir

Fells – Menhir (Self Release) tape and digital album

Wonderful breathing:

Granite sighs with great effort.

A bright moon looks on

traven

Traven – ЯTLLCTЯNCS (Aetheric Records) 3” CD-r and digital album

Spanish moss hangs low –

hissing tape, werewolf’s foul breath

no silver bullets…

sad rave

Sad_Rave – Add Red (Don’t Drone Alone) CD-r and digital album

Flickering notes from

a faithful Pisaro score.

Chat.  Sine-wave edits.

algobabez

Algobabez- Burning Circuits (Fractal Meat Cuts) tape and digital album

Real-time coding act.

Beats liquefy into goo,

Brain-melt soon follows.

acid smut

Ewa Justka – Acid Smut (Fractal Meat Cuts) tape and digital album

Sid James – “Haw, Haw, Haw”

dripped with a caustic liquid.

Dancing feet scrubbed up.

epiphora 2

Epipohra – Love Songs (Self Released) non-physical release

Mashed through dark velvet.

Maybe a jealous lover

bent up your best shades?

mattin

Mattin “Songbook #6 (Munster Records/Crudités Tapes/SDZ/Insulin Addicted) 12” vinyl and digital album

Severe warp and fuxx

Genre-free rock played like jizz

Don’t resist – give in!

greenberger

David Greenberger, Glenn Jones, Chris Corsano – An Idea in Everything (Okraïna) double 10” vinyl and digital album

More Duplex stories

Banjo and drum improvise

Lost wisdom and joy.

alan courtis

Alan Courtis – Los Galpones (Fabrica Records) limited edition vinyl LP and digital album

Overlook Hotel.

Evil lives in the walls here.

Guitars drive them out!

Fells Bandcamp

Aetheric Records

Don’t Drone Alone

Fractal Meat Cuts

Epiphora Soundcloud

SDZ Records

Okraina Records

Fabrica Records

-ooOOoo-

 

close to the pylons: joe murray on robin foster, henry collins, leda, arv & miljö, tear fet, troy schafer

August 5, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion (CD-r, LF Records, LF050)

Leda – City/Clear (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB010, edition of 200)

Arv & Miljö – untitled (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB008, edition of 200)

Tear Fet – Blabber (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.333, edition of 40)

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle (3″ CD-r and pin badge or download, aetheric records)

hcrf

Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion  

These two ‘non-guitarists’ play something approaching Kaiser-mash with some extremely damaged fingers.

Two tracks.  One mind/ten fingers a-piece.  You dig?

Spill Lynch yeah!  Guitar-as-you-trucking-lump-it. Totally wrecked non-playing as strings are hammered on and hammered off.  Steel is plucked and pulled and shredded hard with foam mallets.  Rubbery metal is found bounced in the reverse making this a righteous dental dam for pearly whites.

Tiny fists, like Joe Pesci’s ‘pow…ping…pow’, jab into your soft temple raising a bruise and yet… this would be a wonderfully zesty cocktail!  But you add the mangled FX-BOX and goof-timing and you are looking at a particularly sexy beach.  Memory gong ripples out a Daxophone reference but it’s slung as low as a Kev Hopper bassline so figure that captain!

Frostlike yeah! One man spitting canned peas out a tight, puckered gob-hole dribbles cold green bile.  OR has Eddie Van taken the vapours so his ERUPTION is all STAR SPANGLED out a tiny HIWATT about to burst into flames.  It’s like a pissy Morse; a constant chatter of on/off/on/off rattling up through my ribcage and whispering into my fontanel.  It’s machine code on the jibber-jabber somehow rocking a ska rhythm.  It’s barium voodoo and it’s aiming for any hole going.

We Roll tonight to the guitar bite

leda

Leda – City/Clear

Crispy bouncing beats sound like they crept out of Sheffield circa 1979.  A wheexing synth plays a one note melody and twists the pitch up, out of waxy remains, until the thing squeals like a pinched nut.  One dimensional in the best possible way; focused and determined Leda sings a line that blends soft as Egyptian eye shadow.  It does its thing at a totally brisk pace: skip, skip, skipping like a hockey puck over dull scuffed ice.

The flipside proper songs it; imagine shoving a Woodbine into that Vape pen and huffing hard.  Misty organ vamps float like a kite flapping drastically close to the pylons.  Leda sighs as if bad news is arriving soon in a manila envelope.  I’m thinking of Barbara Manning in her total waif days if you’re looking for a mind-crutch.

Wonderfully brief, totally Nu Wave.  Where’s my piano tie dude?

arv

Arv & Miljö – Untitled

The mysterious Arv & Miljö are quite possibly the equally mysterious Matthias Andersson who has jammed a high-quality mic out his neat apartment window to record the big wide world going about its business.

Side A picks up those pesky seabirds all going

CAW CAW SQUEEEEEE CAW

in fine white clarity.  If this was Whitby they’d be fighting over chips but Matthias’ location is totally smorgasbord, all gherkin fresh and sauna-clean toes.

Side B revels in a Swedish downpour. The trebly ‘hiss’ of the rain fills my ears almost whole but gradually subsides into more bassy individual drips (off your peaked cap perhaps) and ends on a fragile bowl ringing making this a super-fucking-classy ride on the vinyl.

blabber

Tear Fet – Blabber

As serious as your life.

This meditation on disease and ultimate loss is pure honest gibber that surfs straight from tragedy.  It’s a pretty unsettling raw disc of vocal jaxx, jammed to tape direct with no discernable dubs or edits.  The 20 minute piece was scored by Fet himself (a Matt Dalby apparently) and then, as the moorings loosen, it breaks free of all reason.

My first few listens marvel at the sheer range of guff coming outta two lips, two lungs and one tongue.

Me?  I’ll carry this like Wisdens… a goddamn almanac of honk.  A how-to guide!

Over the course of the spinning shiney I count the following techniques: slack mouth farts, gulps, wheezing roars, tactile yawns, owl squeaks, slibby gibbers, lip-smacks, jaw creaks, warble and weft, dry huff/wet huff, moans, scones and drones, deep sighs, ribbet-lite, mucus croak, deft saliva manipulation, pinched inhalations, seal barks, wet sucking, coughs (phlegm and tickle), rude burps, careless whispers, dirty slurps, humms, ululation, snivel and whimpers, throat rasp, snivels (without whimpers), throat shred, large cheek inflation, nasal gargles, proper singing, mithering, call and response (solo), repetition and imitation, vibration of fleshy jowls, cavity popping, fake Russian bantz, sinus snort, irregular mucus work, jakey muttering, horse blowing and common or garden slobber. [Editor’s note: Bravo Joe! *claps meatily in approval*]

For students of vocal jizz in all its glorious forms; consider this one essential.

fiddle

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle

A tremendous hot spurting event of a record that moves from God-rattling fists to microscopic blossoms bursting.

Mr Troy here has built his own double fiddle, inspired by Aussie out-violinist Jon Rose, and rammed it through all manner of cheap distortion sawing away raising merrie hell.

The horsehair rips up a storm (x 2), the dragging and pushing astringent as a spilled gin ‘n tonic but still fatly full and all encompassing.  Occasionally things fall apart into an elegant digital-ditch or rusty tape hole; all the better to keep things human and sprightly I say!

Oh my sweet Lord!  There’s something wonderfully elemental about the frenzied bowing, the constant car-crash of sound that’s as bright as a spotlight; a pure unfettered stream of energy and information.

The overtones really play nice with my pink ears, especially on the less noisy moments.  The double movement is shaped like slow geography, a gradual denudation of the bristling sonics turning the abrasive into smooth gold teeth.

Hey!  Conventional wisdom loves a crescendo eh?  A simple narrative that leads to the big pay off, the money shot.  But Troy baffles by moving from Piss Superstition-levels of fuckedness to a no-more-than slightly water-damaged scrape over the course of this beautifully direct record.  The arc in reverse.

I’m so keen you hear this I checked with aetheric and blimey… it’s sold out at source.  Click the download my beauties!

—ooOoo—

LF Records

I Dischi Del Barone

Chocolate Monk

aetheric records

many at their windows: marlo eggplant on ‘an electrical storm’

February 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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various artists – an electrical storm (CD-r and badge or download, aetheric records)

elec

The 1968 album An Electric Storm by White Noise is a sound classic, inspiring avant garde/experimental pop bands such as Silver Apples and Stereolab who aimed to approximate the primitive, vestigial sound experiments curated by American electronic engineer David Vorhaus.

Having attended a lecture given by Delia Derbyshire, Vorhaus joined forces with her and fellow Radiophonic Workshop composer Brian Hodgson and the result of locking themselves away together is this classic psychedelic pop album.  An Electric Storm is playful and cinematic, filled with altered samples and tape spliced salads of circus melodies, special effects, French dialogue, sexual exploits, and screams of hell. The aetheric records 2015 compilation, an electrical storm is a ‘tribute to the experimental spirit’ of White Noise’s masterpiece.

whitenoise

All artists were given a field recording of an electrical storm made by aetheric records’ Alistair Thaw (a.k.a slowthaw.) They could use the track as they wished to create their own compositions. One could reason that conceptually inspired by the White Noise album, this compilation is a celebration of the technique: repurposing sound or ‘tape splicing’. And it isn’t just a bunch of musicians using the sample in similar ways or even using similar procedures. Each track has its own flavour and approach to the initial recording, resulting in a true tribute to ‘how-and-why’ the White Noise album was born.

With a collection of international musicians rolling the dice with the storm, the result is an enjoyable and dramatic film journey accompanied by an unconscious familiarity with the source material.  The tracks are well ordered, leaving the listener enjoying the rain.

elec2

The compilation opens with So There’s xylophones and nuanced, quiet beckonings. White Feather’s Nocturnal Storm leads us into the glowing, pretty space where the listener opens their eyes refreshed. Kek-W‘s STRm walks us on to the train tracks into a dance party, climbing past metal riveters and pulsations. Troy Schafer’s fixed emission makes me seriously homesick for shows back in the States in sweaty spaces filled with unexpected distorted shouts and dark human stimuli. The Revenant Sea’s charge separation cluster is the static that makes the baby hair on arms stand at attention, possibly receiving transmissions from the galaxy. The Heartwood Institute’s aetheric recursion did not remind me of the massage school with the same namesake in Northern California. Rather it reminded me of the The Repo Man soundtrack [Editor’s note: high praise indeed!], the listener being pursued by chain smoking UFO hunters. le pleasure beach by Benjamin Shaw washes one with watery ascending piano ripples.

bshawalarson

April Larson’s decaying dream (electric storm mix) delivers yet another cinematic track, this time with escalating David Lynch eerie suspense. as clouds accumulate by stapperton bounces a rubber ball intermittently walking through rain storms and swarms of whispering cicadas, inducing ketamine flashbacks. black_ops pushes one through a monochromatic static void, repetitive waves of great gravity surround. Echoes …. Leytonstone concretizes one’s senses again putting them into order with shushing reassurance to move through the gap. BURL attaches you to the outer space debris floating through ancient unknown civilizations, all being swallowed slowly into a black hole. One enters another dimension on a single sound. two cars passing by Hollows is a misty-eyed moment of mortality, organs and piano keyboards reminding us that we all grow old. Broken Shoulder’s holiday’s ruined is honing in on almost nautical transmissions and resonance, the ship is brought into port after a long voyage. Coming back to the source, and nature, with the clean, sharp field recording made by slowthaw.

The compilation comes with a badge with the same disturbing, beautiful album art. I recommend listening to an electrical storm late at night with a jug of red wine, lying on a Persian rug and duvet for emotional comfort.

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

the crest of a dune: joe murray on will montgomery, in atoms, slowthaw

December 10, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Will Montgomery – The crystal at the lips (CD, organized music from thessaloniki, t29, edition of 200)

In Atoms – WREATHS (self-released download)

slowthaw – doll cuts (download, aetheric records)

t29

Will Montgomery – The crystal at the lips

Super-brain Will takes not one but two scores from toff-composer Manfred Werder and uses their cryptic instructions to place his hizzing field recordings about the noble Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

I’m a relative newcomer to all this kinda jazz and find the pale austerity a real turn-on.  So, for once, I resist the temptation to listen ‘blind’ and check out a bunch of links that lead me to Werder’s beautiful and inventive scores and a disturbing picture of the other Will Montgomery… a so called Chicago Bear. I’m hungry for context and even beat a path to the straightest RFM bedfellow yet [Editor’s note: you’re on a warning].

So, rigid with excitement, my pink little shrimps pick up the baffling wind and stray electrix easy enough.  I tune in deeper and the sea-birds start caw-cawing (it’s Southampton right) and small-city hubbub of traffic and noisy kids kind of build a bivouac between my hammer and anvil.

Some voice intones ‘honey’ or ‘honning’ or ‘awwney’ or something, adding to the general duck-egg blue fuss in the air between my speakers.  I catch myself squinting as I’m listening with a fierce intensity.  The high heel footsteps clip-clop and are as dubby and regular as a Pole jam from way back.  And then…it’s over.  You know I can’t get enough of this domestic psychedelic sound-world so press play again.

When I finally recover my frothing I check out track two, ‘Filtrate’, which is even better.  It’s an exercise in reduction, redaction and erasure.  Will takes a source field recording from the desk of one Mr Kostis Kilymis and proceeds to rub out all the ‘field’ frequencies.  This delicate slash with the tippex leaves the lucky listener with a transparent ghost of the original recordings.  Beautiful magnetic curves loop out of ether mirroring Sarah Hughes’ spare sleeve design.

I recline awkwardly and close my eyes to concentrate harder.  It’s all just feedback I guess but the tones are so wonderfully grimy and smeared… all soft grey pencil rather than garish fluorescent highlighter and tracing single lonely arcs.  One by one the tones rise and fall in splendid isolation.  And never, until the closing seconds, do they intersect, setting off a sepia-tinted soft blossom.

Crickey!

There’s a calming desolation to these recordings, like watching sand blow off the crest of a dune.

wreaths

In Atoms – WREATHS

A super-classy synth/drone affair in three parts.

  • Pretty dramatic, like Black Beauty, as horses appear out of the mist. There’s a close up of a sweating flank and long-lashed eye.  You can feel the yearning from the saddle.
  • The intro to Sweatloaf (complete with vinyl crackles) but instead of Sabbath riffs we get lovely denuded drum patterns.
  • Gentle floating? A bath of warm cumin seeds; at first a dry slithering over the body but then eczema-like patches form sticking to any protein dampness.

doll cuts

slowthaw – doll cuts

Blissed-out electro/drone summons the unveiling of a leisure centre in Asgard.  All the gods and demi-gods stand proud as the wave machine is turned on for the first time and marvel at the heated floors and lockers you open with a 20 pee piece.   After the frolics they stop for hot chocolate on their way out.

Scene: A horizon scanning meeting in the Department of Transport.  While the interim Accounts Director (the real Director is on sabbatical – yeah right!) outlines our 2016/2017 business plan I track the starlings over Victoria Coach Station.  Huge abstract shapes fold in on themselves.  Murmurations… that’s the word for their psychedelic ravelling my shattered brain reminds me.

Their black-fuzz smears the peachy sky.

It hypnotises me to such a degree I’m absentmindedly rolling my pen across the desk, ‘clack, clack, clack’ it goes.

Anything to add Mr Murray?

The interim Director points at me.

I stammer,

slowthaw.

It’s about all I can manage under the circumstances.

—ooOoo—

organized music from thessaloniki

In Atoms

aetheric records

…but the days grow short when you reach september

September 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree (self-released download)

joined by wire – universe allstars (CD-r, LF Records, LF048)

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash (3” CD-r, aetheric records)

Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR13, edition of 50 or download)

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God (7” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 7”-013, edition of 220)

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air (self-released download)

LM

As I mentioned in the 500th RFM post below, I’ve had some trouble writing about, or even engaging with, music during my recent period of illness. It became like an old friend I’d not seen in a while. You know how it goes: if you see someone all the time you talk at length about each other’s lives, the issues of the day or just bullshit about nothing but once circumstances split you up it’s hand written letters and calls, then emails, then the length of the news dump needed becomes daunting, then it becomes something you ‘should be getting around to’ then months pass and… ah…, hey – an opportunity to be a smart arse on Twitter, I can do that in two minutes whilst lying on the sofa! Don’t look at me like that – you’ve done it too. We are terrible people.

Actually, I can’t feel too guilty. Sure, it is crap that stuff sent our way months ago is languishing unreviewed but it is a coiled-liquorice-turd-in-a-hubcap-full-of-boiled-tramp’s-piss that I lost the use of my, shall we say, ‘higher functions’ for months of this finite and irreplaceable life. Anyway, justified resentment to one side, I am happy that my critical faculties are slowly returning and I find myself listening to racket again and making up nonsense in response. I’ll be revving up with short pieces, anthology posts and other ways of deteetering the review pile. First up: this lot, chosen at near-random.

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

An epic of lone wolf psych rock. Reminds me of teenage afternoons spent lying on my bedroom floor, fried, watching the carpet undulate in time with my heartbeat. The crescendo here is expertly handled – in the second track, ‘Sapling’, before the chugging even properly begins you can feel the reverb being allowed to hang in the air – like plumes of incense in the barracks of some stoned soldier ants, preparing to watch footage – again – of that one time they kicked those fucking termites’ arses. Sweet.

LTjbw -ua

joined by wire – universe allstars

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash

Imagine if the invitation to migrate to the off-world colonies was not a trope of dystopian SF, a cynical attempt to empty an increasingly choked and infertile Earth, but that all the marketing material was literally true. The experience of faster than light travel is an ecstatic oneness with the universe, the colonies themselves are bountiful paradises where the grim hierarchies of our current existence are abolished, the strange physical properties of the planets where they are located give us superpowers and so on. joined by wire and Lost Trail would be the soundtrack to it all. The former accompanying the day’s effort sculpting our new wild architecture. The latter for evenings by the campfire telling wistful tales about the old country whilst our newly tamed alien pets eye each other with suspiciously knowing expressions and idly test the strength of the ropes they are tethered with.

SG

Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith

The first of two tracks begins with a satisfyingly rough-hewn tone/drone which is still but not motionless, like a fishing boat anchored in an otherwise deserted and isolated bay. When some curl, fizz and spit is applied to the sound later in the track it’s as if a bucket of chum has been thrown overboard to enliven an otherwise serene session of dozy, half-cut night fishing.

The first half of the second track documents the awakening of a holidaying Old One who squelches out of its semi-submerged tidal cave and swims under the boat. Sensing there is fun to be had, it belches a warning signal and whilst the mariners panic it eats them and, for good measure, the boat too. This crunching finale is represented by about five minutes of brute guitar skronk. I see where he’s coming from.

TP - fragments

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God

Back in February, Askild Haugland of Taming Power kindly sent me another four of his records. With his typical, understated generosity he did this unsolicited and free of charge just to ‘fill the gaps’ and as a way of thanking me for enthusing about his work (click the tag above for more of my writing on this subject). I was, as you can imagine, profoundly grateful.

His music has been a welcome tonic whilst I was sick. Presenting a variety of dramatic, ego dissolving views – across the frozen lake, scree slopes in the foothills, the emerald green grass of the flood plain – Askild’s work has the same perfect bite as opening your front door onto a December snow scene. I have not written about these releases partly for the reasons given above but partly because the more I think about it, the more perfect it appears. It has the same emotional intensity and efficiency of expression as the best poetry and, frankly, no-one needs my clumsy marginalia.

If I may make one suggestion: this 7″ single is a useful distillation and can be used as a map key to make sense of the atlas that is the Taming Power back catalogue. It is not an exaggeration to say I have listened to this dozens of times.

[Note: picture stolen from the Idwal Fisher blog where you will find a much more enlightening write-up here.]

BL - diagram

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air

Finally, then, we have this requiem for a much missed feline companion.  Brian explains:

This piece was recorded in tribute to our beautiful cat Bob who passed away before his time on Friday 13 March 2015. He deserves more than this, but I’ve struggled with how to express in music just how much he meant to me and how big a void exists in my heart now that he’s gone.

It’s a beautiful ten minute track, constructed with the care and skill anyone familiar with Brian’s work might expect.  It has the taut elegance of a cat trotting along the top of a fence, the magisterial poise of a paw on the neck of mouse and the soulfulness of a moggy sparked out in a sunbeam.  It is (and I mean this as high praise and not a flippant joke) ‘Adagio for Whiskers’ – a glimpse into that edge-world that only cats can see.

Available for free download but donations gratefully received and passed on to the UK charity Cats Protection.

—ooOoo—

Luminous Monsters

LF Records

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

Taming Power (link to previous article with contact and price details)

Brian Lavelle

all that is left: people-eaters, aetheric records and invisible city records

April 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (A5 chapbook, 16pp, with 3” CD-r mixtape, aetheric records)

people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (tape, Invisible City Records, edition of 30 or download)

only thing left to fear tape

people-eaters - fear 2

It amuses me to imagine aetheric records and Invisible City Records sharing premises. I picture a cross between the drawing room in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and the well-appointed lounge where William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki gathers his friends to hear tales of ghost-hunting. The more decadent staff members drape themselves over the chaise longues and, deep in a fug of laudanum and absinthe, lose themselves in painfully thin volumes of German poetry. The more scientifically minded look on disapprovingly and return to their geographical analysis of Eastern European folklore, or a heated exchange as to the properties of ectoplasm.

The pull-back-and-reveal (or ‘then I got off the bus’ moment – cheers Pete) in this scene occurs as the camera follows one of these chaps out of the main door and into… an anonymous, strip-lit corridor in a modern, faceless office building. What gives!? Well, despite my whimsical first paragraph I’d suggest both labels are solidly grounded in the present day and fully understand the ritual and psychological significance of the trappings they have chosen. Alistair of aetheric knows full well that his beloved photographs of spirit activity at Victorian séances are preposterous hoaxes, Craig of Invisible City knows full well that H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of fiction not a documentarian. Both can agree, with a shared wistful sigh, that there is simply no such thing as ‘cat people’ from the ‘old country’…

That said, the certainty that there are no tentacles under the bed is cold comfort. If these things don’t exist then the stories we tell about them are really attempts to explain unpalatable truths about ourselves and our place in an indifferent universe. In the absence of spirits and monsters all that is left is us, an infinity of nothing and the implications thereof. That is the only thing left to fear.

Which brings us through the woods to the album that ties the two labels together: The Only Thing Left to Fear by people-eaters. Released in two versions, on aetheric this comes as an A5 chapbook containing five poems, five automatic drawings and a 16 minute ‘mixtape’ on 3″ CD-r and on Invisible City it exists as a limited edition tape or download. You don’t get the chapbook with the latter but, beefed up with remixes, the amount of music included is more than doubled. Both editions are still available at the time of writing.

The poetry, written by Alistair using the pseudonym ‘slowthaw’, is grisly and bleak – part Baudelaire fever-dream, part Burroughs cut-up, all disgusted with the corporeal. It’s an uncomfortable read.  Some of you will appreciate that.  Regarding the artwork, I’m always tempted to ‘reverse engineer’ automatic drawing, to trace the lines with a fingernail or the tip of a pen and see what, if any, feelings fall out as a result. This time, appropriately enough, I got panicked – as if a spirit was trying to communicate something and getting increasingly frantic as it realised this ‘Ouija board’ had no letters on it, nor did the fleshy mechanism it had appropriated even believe in its existence.

Before accounting for the music, I should mention that all the creative aspects of this project are apparently inspired by the following quote:

Spirit sounds are usually of a peculiar character; they have an intensity and a character of their own, and, notwithstanding their great variety, can hardly be mistaken, so that they are not easily confused with common noises, such as the creaking of wood, the crackling of fire, or the ticking of a clock; spirit raps are clear and sharp, sometimes soft and light… (from The Medium’s Book by Allan Kardec published in 1861)

…as its influence is easier heard than seen. The quote is classic spiritualism – apparently saying something concrete and testable but, on examination, containing enough wiggle room to accommodate a salsa class. people-eaters play it straight, though (well, after an opening that samples a mindfulness meditation tape and thus returned me to early 90s ‘chill out’ ambient nonsense) and present a series of creaks, crackles and ticks drawn out with biomechanical rhythms for our appraisal. Anchor chains are cut and bows scrape against each other in a moonlit bay. Brass cogged difference engines strip oxidised gears. Parasitic organisms are hatched and scrabble at the walls of their red prison, the host animal oblivious.

Ghosts? We are asked. Monsters? Each time we have to look down and shake our heads: no, just us – just you, me and the fuckers on the other side of that bolted door.

Nothing else.

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

the severed tongue, the haunted fog, the family crypt: new from aetheric records

August 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Troy Schafer – Rigid Oppression (business card CD-r with pin badge, aetheric records, edition of 23)

more black then god – 1964 ZEN IN THE DRONES (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 20)

people-eaters – disincarnate (CD-r with stickers and pin badge, aetheric records, edition of 20)

 troy schafermore black then godpeople-eaters - disincarnate

My love of the post is obsessive, bordering on fetishistic. The fact that in exchange for a small(ish) amount of money you can make an object disappear from your presence and reappear elsewhere in the world sometime later is magical to me. Despite grumbling about the continuing ubiquity of ‘stuff’ in these sleek, downloadable times the novelty never seems to wear off.

As you can imagine, running a blog in celebration of a fringe art form created by a taskforce of the unco-opted invites odd correspondence. Many’s the time that the contents of a parcel have caused a raised eyebrow. Always notable, for example, are packages from Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon – the painting/collage encrusted with toenail clippings being especially alarming – but a couple of weeks ago he was momentarily outdone: Alistair of aetheric records sent me a severed tongue.

It wasn’t real, thankfully, just a squishy, sticky, joke-shop toy – the sort of thing a ghoulish pre-teen might throw at his classroom window to gross-out his contemporaries – but it made me jump, then made me laugh. It fit right in with the goth/horror aesthetic of the label too. Sadly, it had leaked a foul, petrol-smelling, oily substance over everything in the envelope but, hey, it’s the thought that counts. It also reminded me that I’d had a couple of his releases on the pile for months now and that I should really dig them out. Now, I don’t want the lesson you take away from this to be ‘send Rob body parts = jump the queue’ but I have to admit it was a diverting tactic…

I mentioned the goth/horror aesthetic. This isn’t the backwoods/back alley grindcore of, say, certain Matching Head/Oracle atmospheres, more a sort of Victorian gothic: dimly lit séances, air thick with incense, charlatans fooling the gullible with fake ectoplasm and stigmata only to be dragged under themselves by offended spirits. Occasionally it reaches a tentacle into the cosmic horror of Lovecraftian weird tales or, in moments of full-on noise, to the tongue-severing schlock of EC Comics. The packaging is artfully realised – sharing a Pennine-corridor affiliation with Crow Versus Crow – and the releases are, by and large, conveniently short.

Presented on a dinky business card CD-r and clocking in at a mere five minutes, Rigid Oppression by Troy Schafer delivers a right kicking. This is the visceral clattering of actual physical objects being violently rearranged. I often find this kind of noise comical at first – like a floppy-fringed teenager ordered to sort the recycling and making as much racket as possible because it’s just not fair – but repeat listens reveal the chaos is contained within a bowed rise and fall. I imagine the breathing of a junkyard Smaug, his heaving chest – lungs ragged from years of smoking – dislodging detritus from the mountain of crap he is splayed across.

more black then god [sic], nom de plume of Sean Derrick Cooper Marquardt, stretches his three tracks to a relatively epic total of 20 minutes. This is the stuff of seafaring nightmare – sodden souls gripping the slippery rail of their ghost ship as it glides into harbour. There is a formal, shot-in-black-and-white, austerity to it too though, as if the haunted fog is rolling in over the manicured lawns of L’Année dernière à Marienbad. Bourgeois hotel guests shift uneasily as they play the matchstick game and order another cocktail. There is a tapping at the window…

disincarnate is the latest from aetheric house band people-eaters and is the longest of the trio at just under half an hour. On the album’s Bandcamp page it is noted that…

This album contains eight threnodies for my late father (1942-2013).

…which I found rather numbed my critical response. There is a passage in Martin Amis’s autobiography in which, to paraphrase, he describes reaching a point in middle age when the only things that have any real importance are births and deaths. I am (un)comfortably within that zone myself now and, as such, my reaction to a dedication like that is to listen to the music in a solemn and contemplative mood. It isn’t conducive to flights of descriptive fancy but I see that, as ever, I am late to the party and reviews rich in the figurative can already be read at heathenharvest, riverrockreviews, forestpunk and musicuratum – all written by talents less psychologically squeamish than me.

What I can say is that I was impressed that the band’s usual atmosphere of dread has not been dialled back in the slightest. This is a wake as desolate as could be described by Poe and, shockingly, the sixth track, ‘me mokutu vakamatea’, contains a poem written by fellow aetheric label mate slowthaw reminiscent of Poe’s translator Baudelaire or maybe something from a ritual hallucinated in a Lovecraftian fever-dream. Given the declared context it is bold stuff. I listened to this album whilst sat in a sun trap created by the concrete geometries of the campus where I work and was transported to a windswept, hillside graveyard where a group of horrified mourners wonder what the hell could have torn the doors from the family crypt…

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

occult technologies: microdeform, ian watson, mother spit

January 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Microdeform – APHELION (C65 tape, zamzamrec, 024, edition of 33 or download)

Ian Watson – Terrestrials gone Tropic With Some Pretty Fancy Animals (CD-r, LF Records, LF032, plus two freely downloadable extra tracks)

mother spit – carve (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 25 or download)

microdeform - aphelionian watson - terrestrials gone tropicmother spit - carve

Older readers will recall that it was once possible to own a tape deck which could sense the gaps between songs when fast-forwarding a cassette.  The stereo I had would find the next track, rewind a second back into the silence then start playing from there.  This took the tedious to-ing and fro-ing out of looking for an elusive moment on, say, a homemade compilation of Peel sessions but was clearly an occult technology indistinguishable from black magic.  Thus, sadly, the machine had to be burnt as a witch, the melted remains rubbed with garlic and the whole sorry lot buried on hallowed ground.  Shame.

Anyway, all true music fans of my era know that any given tape can only contain two tracks: ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’.  Even single-sided tapes have that long, quiet track on the reverse of the noisy side.  Feel free to include a tracklisting if you like but, especially if your music is at all abstract, I’m unlikely to pay it any heed.

This format-invoked, nostalgic whimsy occurred to me as I ‘researched’ the excellent tape Aphelion by Microdeform, that is Liam McConaghy, released in a tiny edition by zamzamrec and also available for download.  Buy it from the artist’s Bandcamp site (where you can find the few remaining physical copies too) and you get an eleven track album, download from the label’s Bandcamp site and you get two half-hour chunks titled ‘side 1’ and ‘side 2’.  I chuckled approvingly, plumping for the latter option.

A persuasive sense of purpose pulls the listener through both sides as various sub-genres of dark electronics run together into a united current.  There are Tangerine, Vangelisian synth-wobs riding over the fuzzed out murk – part science fiction dystopia, part mass for the drowned in a submerged cathedral.  There is thumping industro-grind as machine rhythms emerge from the loops and echoes.  A growing crescendo of tension across ‘side 2’ suggests it isn’t going to end well for the protagonist of this supernatural cyber-thriller.  I picture her looking over weapons she knows to be inadequate with a wry resignation then, coincidentally at the exact moment the Earth is at the furthest distance its orbit takes us from the Sun, the door is kicked in…

Terrestrials gone Tropic With Some Pretty Fancy Animals is the second of Ian Watson’s projects to come my way (see my review of the SWEFN album on hairdryer excommunication here) and is my favourite of the latest batch of releases from the ever-impressive LF Records.  It is a one hour long CD-r comprising twelve untitled tracks and, should that not be enough for you, LF have kindly made two further tracks freely available via Bandcamp to boost it to feature length.  Ian is an illustrator as well as a musician and the cover shows off his considerable chops – take a good, hard look at the chicken thing above, though I’d wait until after lunch if I were you.

The music is mainly electrical, yet there is something squishily organic about it too.  It’s as if Ian were recording impulses in the newly formed nervous system of a giant lump of sentient tofu (its mood = forlorn, as you might expect).  Hmmm… too flip – the situation portrayed is more grave.  Some of this sounds like the trilling and bobbling background noises to be heard on the bridge of the USS Enterprise but smeared-out, slowed down.  Perhaps what we are getting are the tragic attempts of a red-shirted crew member to recombine himself following a devastating transporter accident.  Doomed to haunt the corridors and quarters of the spacecraft, he is not corporeal enough to make an impression on the physical world yet is still ‘real’ enough to avoid dissipating completely.  These tracks are how he hears what we hear.

I found this album to be distractingly compelling.  An attempt to use it as background soundtrack to an afternoon of pottering ended with me sprawled on the bed in the spare room, chores forgotten, staring at the ceiling, as I followed its twists and pulses

carve by mother spit is a single, eighteen minute track housed on a 3” CD-r with the striking cover photograph above, released in a tiny edition by aetheric records (home of RFM faves people-eaters) and also available for download.  Interestingly, the band hails from Sofia in Bulgaria.  Now, I am perfectly aware that this is the modern capital city of a modern European country but, to an unseasoned non-traveller like me, it is the sort of location that will always feel like ‘the old country’, as alluded to in fables and 1940s horror films like Jacques Tourneur’s sublime Cat People (yes, I know the main character was from Serbia, not Bulgaria, but you see what I’m getting at I hope.).

Using a carefully selected palette of eerie, droning electronics the track quite deliberately, and very successfully, creates a cosmically chilling Lovecraftian vibe.  There are three scenes depicted: the warm winds whistling through the deserted, subterranean corridors of the nameless city, the aftermath of a woodland ritual in deepest New England – the celebrants have departed but the ground is littered with still warm torches and a sticky, rust-coloured liquid is drying on the large, smooth rock used as an alter and, finally, the dark, grey interior of a Mi-Go spacecraft on a journey home to Yuggoth (yes, I know they were supposed to fly through the aether using their membranous wings but, having attended the dissection of a captured specimen, I now consider that theory to be unlikely.).  These scenes overlap one another and drift in and out of focus, as if in the crazed mind of an unfortunate soul who witnessed all three.  I can’t stop playing it.

Microdeform’s own Bandcamp site.

Microdeform on zamzamrec’s Bandcamp site.

Ian Watson on LF Records.

Ian Watson’s own site.

mother spit on aetheric record’s Bandcamp site.

sorting the lego part two: more soundtracks for graded tasks

December 4, 2013 at 10:43 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – imprecate (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 20 or download)

ap martlet – A Dream Of The Arrow (self-released download)

SWEFN – Varieties of Anomalous Experience (CD-r and download, hairdryer excommunication)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Changing A Prayer A Little (CD-r, Unverified Records, UN041, edition of 50)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Ovencleaner (3” CD-r, LF Records, LF033)

people-eaters - imprecate

Each time depression rolls around I appear to be allocated one key task that helps occupy my time above all others.  In part one of this series I explained what a ‘graded task’ is and gave a few examples.  What I didn’t mention is that, for some reason I do not understand, any of these ‘jobs’ can become my main depression-fighting occupation during an episode but that the same job will not have the same effect more than once.  Each escape route is backfilled by the disease once it discovers that it has been tricked.  It is perpetually furious and profoundly spiteful.  Thus digging over an allotment helped defeat it one year but when I returned the next I was left sitting on the ground, crying, as I realised that I couldn’t put the blade of my beautiful spade, once my most treasured possession, in the earth even once.  It was denied me.  Likewise this time I can’t see myself stepping on and off the wii-fit board – something I did for endless hours staving off a previous attack – so what now?

I set myself the task(s) of cleaning the house, augmented with some exercise mainly in the form of walking around the neighbourhood (it is an attractive area with parks and woods within easy distance).  To make sure my brain’s capacity was fully engaged I would also listen to, and think about, music from the enormous review pile whilst doing so.  The plan was to write up these musings when and if I had the energy thus linking all these disease-bashing activities – useful work, exercise, creative endeavour, thought to some purpose – into a kind of ‘virtuous circle’.  It hasn’t always worked – I needn’t trouble our sensitive readers with the coolly insane deliberations that left me utterly hollowed out yesterday – but I feel that in general it is a good plan.

Interestingly, what I thought would be the key tasks have flipped roles with the supplementary.  Thus, the listening to, thinking about and commenting on music has become the central tactic and I appear to be using the chores, walking and whatnot in its service.  I’m delighted at this development, as you can probably imagine.  Very convenient for the blog, at least.  So here we go with part two…

—ooOoo—

Until very recently all midwich tracks were produced by being figured out, rehearsed then recorded ‘as live’.  If anything went wrong during the take I had to start all over again.  I was once laughed at in the pub for moaning that completing one nine minute track composed entirely of a single pure tone (hey – it warbled slightly, OK?) took twelve attempts.  “But nothing happens!” my incredulous companions exclaimed.  “That’s the point,” I countered, “things kept happening.”  I suspect that people-eaters understand this urge to perfection exactly.

Well, I say ‘perfection’ but they also understand that the trick is to cut it with a pinch of exotic impurity thereby creating the friction necessary to grip the listener’s attention.  Thus during the two tracks that make up imprecate nothing happens for seven and a half minutes then nothing happens again for nine and a half minutes.  However, this nothing happens in a way which is eerie, involving and wholly satisfying.  Rumbles are augmented with some mildly abrasive ringing filter hiss, presumably as the curse is intoned inaudibly beneath, and that is it.  Like a giant ball bearing forged then left to sing and crackle as it cools, like coins dropped into a speaker cone dancing against one another to a super-low frequency.

ap martlet - a dream of the arrow

I am somewhat in awe of the tracks constructed by David Thomas as ap martlet.  These humble masterworks of electrical engineering often have an enveloping, sensurround vibe and ‘A Dream Of The Arrow’ is especially womb-like.  Listening to it feels like being attended to by the robots in Chris Cunnigham’s video for Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’.  Or perhaps like I’ve been placed into a medically induced fugue state and lowered into a vat of gelatinous slime that will heal whatever ails me.  Or maybe the goo will tweak my DNA a little so that I can grow the tail I have always wanted (Editor’s note: I have always wanted a tail.  Tails are cool.).  Whatever – another marvel of creatively sullied perfection from our Dave.

swefn

Ian Watson, recording as SWEFN for Kevin Sanders’s peerless hairdryer excommunication, takes us a few steps further.  Imagine you are standing in front of a perfect man-made object – a Renaissance altar piece, say, or an antique Persian carpet or an unwrapped but still pristine ream of A4 paper.  You take a photo, compress it and email it to me.  I print out a faded copy on a printer containing an already twice shaken toner cartridge and fax the result back to you.  You take this, fold it in half and leave it tucked under a wiper blade on the windscreen of Ian’s car.  It rains.  He discovers it the following morning, leaves it to dry on a radiator and feeds the crinkly remainder into his machines of musical generation which treat it as a score.  Varieties of anomalous experience is the result.  The album gets angrier, noisier as it progresses.  Perhaps the perfect object is a stolen painting, wrapped in newspapers and inexpertly hidden in a dank cellar.  The bucolic scene it depicts is gradually ruined by smeared, inky images of war and disaster as newsprint is transferred to its surface by the damp.  In case you are in any doubt: I liked this very much.  The packaging is of Kev’s usual high standard: an alien greetings card wishing you an inexplicable emotion on a day from an unknown calendar or the best of luck with an incomprehensible task.  Download from hairdryer excommunication, a few physical copies still available from Ian.

RFM would also like to take this opportunity to wish Kev well with his recent move to the South West (to live in Bristol, work in Bath – la-di-da, eh?).  We were delighted to be namechecked in his ‘farewell to the North’ blog post as one of the institutions thanked for making his time in these parts such a pleasure.  Best of luck with your future endeavours, comrade – I’m sure the cidertronic and Georgian improv scenes down there will benefit enormously from your mercurial presence.

r r-s - changing a prayer a littler r-s - ovencleaner

Finally for today, another couple of selections from the Robert Ridley-Shackleton songbook.  Changing a Prayer a Little, to be released on Unverified Records, sees some syrupy, romantic film music brutally dissolved in an acidic hailstorm of electro noise fuckery.  Most entertaining.  Ovencleaner, a 3” CD-r on LF Records, comprises two tracks the first of which (the title track) is made up of whistling, groaning, stretching noises with stylophone parps.  Like a determined but confused homunculus struggling to rip through a series of taught rubber membranes and negotiate a series of sticky tunnels in order to get itself born.  The second track (‘Transformers’) is just as perplexing.  Imagine the situation described by a nonsensical objection to the theory of evolution – that, given the time span, evolution is as likely as a hurricane hitting a junkyard and constructing a working jumbo jet from the detritus – actually coming to pass.  This track is the sound of the tentative, uncomprehending switch-flicking of the junkyard owner as he explores the cockpit of his newly ‘evolved’ possession and accidentally turns on the electrics…

Robbie’s world sure be odd.

rob takes huge bite, eyes water, grins, attempts to swallow: rfm rounds ’em up

June 28, 2013 at 11:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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people-eaters – hinterland (3” CD-r, edition of 20, or download, Aetheric Records)

people-eaters – vore EP (download, Aetheric Records)

peopling – BULBOUT (download, self-released)

Etai Keshiki – Shit Off (download, self released)

nacht und nebel – downloads culled from five various releases

Colectivo “N” – La Ultima Tocada 06-02-2013 (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE95)

Brian Lavelle – The Night Ocean (download, Dust, Unsettled)

The Subs(Cribers) – Spilling Gravy In The Castle Of unfathomable Terrors (tape, edition of 40, Crater Lake, CL#003)

people-eaters - hinterland

Dear reader, as a fellow music fan, I wonder if you ever feel that you have bitten off more than you can chew?  Do you stare forlornly at a pile of unheard tapes and CD-rs?  Do you scroll guiltily through the overfull menus on your mp3 player?  Do you look at your monthly credit card bill, panic that you have been the victim of some kind of fraud, then realise that all those little Paypal payments are for various microlabel whims?

Heh, heh…

It’s brilliant isn’t it?  What a privilege to have access to so much terrific art and the wonderful people that make it!  I wouldn’t have it any other way: long may I choke.  A case in point: last month through a mixture of hard work, delegation and judicious use of the words ‘no thanks’ I managed to get the review pile here at Midwich Mansions down to zero items.  Did I take the opportunity to sit on the porch and admire the rhododendron flowers?  Did I bollocks.  I touted for freebies, I drifted around Bandcamp, I even paid for a few physical objects with actual money.  Last week the right speaker of my ear buds broke and I had an infection in my left ear that made it painful to listen to music.  Time to take a break?  Not a bit of it.  I ended up ramming the still working left bud into the wrong ear so I could continue getting my groove on, albeit in discombobulating mono – *sighs, grins sheepishly* – I just can’t help myself.  The upshot of all this silliness is that the review pile is now teetering again and a round-up is in order.  I shall point you at some great stuff that can be had cheaply or for nowt and explain with brisk efficiency why you should check it out.  Links at the end.  First up…

people-eaters - hinterland

hinterland by people-eaters comprises two tracks totalling about 19 minutes and is available as a criminally limited 3″ CD-r with lovely cover by Crow versus Crow (a sort of ethereal version of the Black Flag logo), or as a download from that Bandcamp.  The main components of the music are a swell of delicately balanced feedback, some breathy electronics and a low, hissing crackle (monotron?) which sprinkles a pinch of iron filings over the mix.  It has a cool, enveloping feel – as if the frozen wastes are close, but that you are protected from them by a layer of parental skin and hair.  Thus it documents the antenatal experience of a gestating polar bear cub (now there is a pull quote for a press release if ever I saw one: “makes you feel like an ursine foetus” – radiofreemidwich).  It is also beautifully recorded and this attention to detail shows an admirable faith in their own vision.  If you are going to take the trouble to return your listener to the womb then you shouldn’t allow anything to poke the amniotic sac.

people-eaters - vore ep

The vore EP (five tracks, 21 minutes, Bandcamp download) shows a similar level of light but unswerving control.  Minimal elements – an ominous rumble, a voodoo rattle, the splintered reflections from a broken mirror – are slowly rotated to give the listener a chance to appreciate each facet, then dismissed.  There is, dare I say it, a midwichian simplicity to this release: the methods of construction are discretely hidden, the sounds trusted to engage (or not) on their own terms.  I wholeheartedly approve of this discipline and like the results very much.

peopling - bulbout

Coming at things from a different but equally satisfying direction is New York based noisester Ronnie Gonzalez who records as peopling.  His skill is in taking the tropes of power noise – gargling electronics, sulphuric vocal distortion – and by combining them judiciously with more accessible ‘musical’ elements creating something fun and life-affirming.  His latest, BULBOUT, a three track EP totalling seven minutes, has the funk – not a notion much called upon here at RFM.  Older readers may recall the mutant pop of early 90s electro-industro-punkers like Babyland (yeah, if you want ‘played once on John Peel 20 years ago’ references this blog is for you!).  Peopling is the teenage son of that sound: beaming, busting with mischievous energy and clearly spitting out his medication the second the nurse leaves the room.

Ronnie refers to BULBOUT as a ‘digital 7″ single’ which makes perfect sense to me.  One of the strengths of the Bandcamp model is that, within the prescribed site format (ugly but functional enough to be transparent), you are free to present your release how you like.  If your work is complete, coherent and self-contained then why can’t it be an ‘album’, even if it is only two minutes long?  Which brings me to…

etai keshiki - shit off

Shit Off by Etai Keshiki is a one track album totalling an epic 113 seconds and apparently named for an incidental detail in the short film My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117 by Chris Morris (click on thumbnail to enlarge).  It is hardcore fast, rhythmically elastic and very, very angry.  Imagine the camera focussed on someone drowning in a lake, screaming for help as they surface, limbs flailing in the churning froth.  Then the camera pulls back to reveal there are actually four people making exactly the same moves in unison.  This is synchronised, precision flailing.  Freely downloadable but chuck these kids some money if you can as they are always proper anarcho-punk skint.

nacht und nebel - split tape with crimewavenacht und nebel - split tape with lea cummingsnacht und nebel - hronirwasps - nacht und nebel - splitnacht und nebel - 466 days

New to me is the charming Henry Davies who took my left elbow in one hand and with the other gestured to his Bandcamp site where the lazy can find all his recordings as nacht und nebel collected in one convenient location.  I downloaded the newest five – split tape w/Crimwewave, split tape w/Lea Cummings, hrönir, split 7″ with W>A>S>P>S and 466 Days originating on various labels – which takes us from the present day back to October of last year.  Selecting ‘play all’ on my mp3 device accidentally compiled them into an impressively cohesive 11 track, 61 minute ‘album’ of short and shortish noise tracks.

Henry’s sole sound source is, apparently, a cello though there is little that sounds like a Bach concerto here.  Like Chrissie Caulfield’s violin, I suspect his instrument is filtered and processed by a daisy-chain of effects before it reaches our ears.  Most of this is fairly heavy duty electronic noise but it is far from being mere HNW.  Henry has an ear for the rhythmically mechanical and is adept at handling a rolling crescendo – a quality sorely lacking in much overly-static ‘harsh’ noise.  Thus the tracks have dynamism, momentum and are edited for impact.  The rhythmic elements clear some headspace which allows the listener to fully appreciate the atmosphere.  Thus despite being a demanding listen, the work is never wilfully bombastic or alienating.  Very much worth your while.

A word about Henry’s band name, as I was troubled by it.  Nacht and nebel (‘night and fog’) was the Nazi policy of providing no information as to the fate of those taken prisoner by the regime.  It facilitated mass murder, unimaginable horror shrouded behind mute bureaucracy.  Is there anything more nightmarish?  It is also the German title of Nuit et brouillard a profoundly harrowing short documentary film about the Holocaust released in 1955, directed by Alain Resnais.  In short: why the fuck would anyone choose this as their band name?  I put this to him and he replied:

First off, it’s emphatically not a pro-nazi thing at all.

When I started doing this (about 7 years ago, I think?) I had the idea that whatever name I chose for it should in some way reflect the fact that it isn’t obvious that all the sounds originally come from the same source (a ‘cello) – a kind of audio obscurantism, if you like. Around the same time, I happened to be reading Philip K Dick’s The Simulacra, which mentions nacht und nebel in passing, and that it translates to night and fog (but little else, as i recall), which struck me as exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Some investigation at the library later and the awful nature of it was quite striking.

My intention with nacht und nebel musically has always been to evoke an atmosphere of dread more than anything, with suggestions of unsettling and nightmarish things going on that are being hidden from view so you can never quite make them out (seen through a glass, darkly, as it were) and that you have no control over. (Which no doubt betrays my interest in certain kinds of horror) – judging my success or otherwise at attaining such arguably highfalutin goals is no doubt best left as an exercise for the listener. But that all played into the choice of name as well in one way or another – as you say, troubling.

So yes, it’s entirely abhorrent, both for what it obscured and that it enabled ‘across-the-board, silent defiance of international treaties and conventions: one cannot apply the limits and terms of humane treatment in war if one cannot locate a victim or discern that victim’s fate.’ That said, I do find it interesting that ‘band’ names are almost always taken to be a positive thing (a kind of seal of approval) when there’s no real reason for the opposite not to be the case (i.e. the band ebola, for instance, come to mind as an example.)

I was satisfied with this (and, as an aside, that last point is an interesting one).  I suppose my worry about his use of that concept for a band name comes from growing up with industrial noise and power electronics in the 1980s and 1990s.  That scene was overflowing with idiots vying to be the most ‘shocking’ or ‘challenging’ or ‘transgressive’ and I suppose when I found out what ‘nacht and nebel’ referred to I was taken back to those tedious times.  Now I see that is not Henry’s intention at all and, whilst I am still squeamish about the use of such concepts/imagery in this context, I’m happy to acknowledge that he has at least thought this through.

OK, let’s lighten the mood.

colectivo n

Colectivo N is the improv duo of RFM regular Miguel Perez (La Mancha Del Pecado, The Skull Mask) and his compañero Picho.  La Ultima Tocada (June 2, 2013) is the document of their last gig together before Picho moved way over west to that other crazy border town Tijuana.  What we have here is a very entertaining quarter hour of Miguel jaggling the strings (yes I know jaggling isn’t a proper word but you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?) of his guitar whilst Picho wails comically and/or mournfully through a strangulated trumpet.  There are vocals: sardonic interludes and some exaggerated, grunting pastiche of lounge jazz – a bit in the first few minutes reminded me of the scat solo in the immortal ‘mnah mnah’ Muppet Show sketch.  Worth noting that this performance did not take place in the Juarez equivalent of the Fox & Newt in front of a knowing, improv-savvy audience but in a regular bar in front of bemused punters who had little idea what was occurring.  These boys have some big brass balls.  Miguel tells me that the recording cuts out before the applause because… there was no applause.  Which is both hilarious and awesome.

brian lavelle - the night ocean

After all this noisy racket my poor infected ears needed a little balm so, on a whim, I made a visit to the website of long-term friend of this blog Brian Lavelle.  Brian’s work, that is: his own recordings and those made by friends and associates released by him on his Bandcamp label Dust, Unsettled, is uniformly excellent.  To my shame, a quick search of this blog reveals that he has not been mentioned recently.  My apologies – I suspect this is because I rather take him and the quality of his offerings for granted.  Erik Satie once described selections of his own work as ‘furniture music’, meaning them to be used as background ambience, and I have to admit to treating Brian’s back catalogue as a kind of wing-backed leather armchair.  Around Midwich Mansions his music is ‘used’ – as a lullaby, a massage, an exotic holiday, a diverting puzzle – rather than ‘listened to’ as such.  Sounds like a back-handed compliment, I know, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

Take, for example, The Night Ocean a 40 minute, single track album inspired by an atmospheric short story by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow (a pdf version of which is thoughtfully included with the download).  It ripples in the cool offshore breeze, it shimmers with reflected moonlight (‘Yet for me there is a haunting and inscrutable glamour in all the ocean’s moods. It is in the melancholy silver foam beneath the moon’s waxen corpse…’), it fizzes as each stroke disturbs the plankton and triggers a phosphorescent display.  And that is it: no driving forward momentum, no complicated narrative, just a barely perceptible ebb and flow.  By using ‘stop’ or ‘repeat’ this track can be made to last exactly as long as you need it to.  An excellent example of the underrated sub-genre LNW (lovely noise wall).

And finally…

subs - spilling gravy j card

If the concept of ‘goodwill’ could be transformed into a band then the result would be The Subs, such is the regard with which they are held.  The doe-eyed adoration is justly deserved, however, as the duo of Markylooloo (Stoke scene veteran, paragon of virtue) and Mika (the girl who radiates sunshine) produce electro-pop perfection.  The band’s small but exquisite catalogue of songs, crafted in fits of sporadic creativity spanning two decades, is almost overwhelmingly charming.  Cute without being twee, sweet without being saccharine, daft without being stupid – it’s as groovily, refreshingly life-affirming as eating ice-lollies in the park on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Lovely.

—ooOoo—

Right then, here’s where to get all this great stuff:

people-eaters

peopling

Etai Keshiki

nacht und nebel

Colectivo “N”

Brian Lavelle

The Subs(Cribers) – Discogs listing, more info here, no word on the Crater Lake site as yet so email Pete – pete_cann@hotmail.co.uk – for ordering details.

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