from ibiza to samalayuca: new by midwich/the skull mask/midwich

June 11, 2014 at 11:09 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Midwich – Inertia Crocodile (CD-r, Cherry Row Recordings, CRR003, edition of 50 or download)

The skull mask and Midwich – Six angles (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25 or download)

Midwich & The Skull Mask – Six Angles (CD-r, Cherry Row Recordings, CRR004, edition of 25 or download)

midwich - inertia crocodilesix angles - kevsix angles - dan

Returning from a refreshing break I am delighted to find the garden in full bloom.  New reviews from Joe kick a ball about whilst awaiting my editorial attention, intriguing parcels and emails squabble about whose turn it is to go to the off license and, most excitingly, two new midwich releases bask in the sunshine.

I will account for these shortly but first a brief word of thanks regarding the brunt. I self-released this half hour long, single track midwich album about a month ago via Bandcamp charging a minimum of £1 for the download.  The idea was to raise a few quid to help cover the minimal costs of this stupid hobby and, as ever, I have been touched by your generosity.  Cheers comrades.  Much to my great satisfaction, I also heard that its vibrations helped loosen a stubborn bout of writer’s block over at Idwal Fisher.  OK, on with the new stuff…

inertia crocodile was recorded at the request of Andrew Perry, noise-tigger and label boss of We’re gonna get fucking drunk tonight boys.  I was aware that Andrew has a pretty fluid notion of ‘time’, thus delay would be inevitable, but I couldn’t resist the lure of having a CD-r out on a label with that name.  Well, not at first.

There then followed a year during which I would occasionally send passive/aggressive, elbow-nudging emails trying to chivvy the dude along.  Response came there none.  I worried for his health but having been assured by a mutual friend that he was OK my uptightness got the better of me.  An ultimatum was issued.  On the due date RFM’s ninja squadron broke into Andrew’s central London penthouse, liberated the master tapes, passed them to a waiting courier and melted into the night.

Daniel Thomas of Sheepscar Light Industrial was aware of these shenanigans and had expressed an interest in releasing the album on Cherry Row Recordings, his SLI offshoot label for releases longer than 22 minutes.  Thus within what seemed like half an hour of the courier unzipping her black leather catsuit inertia crocodile was a Bandcamp sensation.

The album is unlike my more recent stuff.  It is not extraction music – not overly dronish, no field recording and the only sound source is my Roland MC-303.  I guess these three tracks comprise a sort of love letter to that increasingly worn and temperamental machine.

The title track is clattering, clockwork rave – neon stabs trip and pile up over a central throb in an atmosphere choked with dry ice.  It is a badly smeared fax of a photocopy of a fax of the type of music the 303 was designed to produce.  ‘Piped’ is one of those short, mood-puncturing bibbles that I used to insist on peppering midwich releases with.  An analog squelch is allowed to run its course through the filters and that is about it.  As satisfying as the viscous ripples formed when pouring honey onto porridge.  The main event is ‘The Sure’: fifteen minutes of juicy pulses sliding over each other in a perversely fleshy, amply lubricated manner.  It has a swaggering bounce that I hope will have you nodding your head.  Dan coined the term ‘abstract Balearic’ to describe this which is amusingly apt.  To borrow a phrase that Neil Campbell used to use to describe everything he released: ‘this is my disco album’.

No need to take my word for it though.  Another opinion can be found here, as friend of RFM Forestpunk put together a terrifically flattering account of my music (and further musings about my writing and the underground in general) within a day of the album’s release.  Much obliged to you, man.

Six Angles is a thoroughly collaborative affair involving myself and Miguel Perez (doing the music) and Daniel Thomas and Kevin Sanders (doing the releasing).  I’m very proud to be part of it.  As might be expected with a transatlantic effort like this, the process has already been documented in email correspondence, blog posts and Bandcamp blurbs so I’m going to tell the story with a bunch of quotes.  Shameless, yeah, but efficient.  To start, here’s me from an email on recording and editing the two tracks:

‘five angles’ – This is made up of five components: two guitar pieces and an organ drone by Miguel, two synth drones by me. Originally I wanted to layer these all together but it didn’t work so I have stretched them out end to end, one after the other, so now they can be examined in turn and tell a little story.

‘written in sand’ – This is the sixth angle and is made up of four components – guitar and organ drone from Miguel and two more synth drones from me. The guitar and organ are in alternate layers with a crescendo of synth running for twenty minutes underneath, everything comes together a few minutes from the end then gradually drops out. I wanted it to be an overwhelming, psychedelic alarm. It works.

Here’s Miguel expressing his satisfaction on the Oracle Netlabel blog:

This is totally special :
a) Is my first collaborative effort with my good friend Rob Hayler (Midwich) a total supporter and kick to get the name around UK
b) Is my first release to be out not in one, but TWO labels at the same time!
c) These labels are no other than Dan Thomas’ own Cherry Row Recordings that is starting to get fire with some AMAZING drones and is dedicated to more long form releases aside from his totally successful Sheepscar Light Industrial
d) The other label is Hairdryer Excommunication, providing some of the best drones of the world via Kev Sanders and his own Petals project and lately under his own name.
e) This is the return of The Skull Mask after a somewhat unwanted hiatus.
Featuring Midwich on electronics and The Skull Mask on organ and guitar work, this took LONG to be finished. It was like an idea on the air. There was a planned release with Smut (that hopefully will see the light one day) and the tracks remain unused. Some emails back and forth and the proposition was made to work with Rob Hayler. After our successful split (that you can find HERE) this is the first time we collaborate together.

He sent me the work finished and just can say that this is nothing short but AMAZING…please taste the sand and let yourself fly out there!!!!

…and now Kev on the unusual decision to release it on two labels at once, from the hairdryer excommunication blog:

This is the sort of thing that happens in the no audience underground. Rob and Miguel will offer you some material to release which is amazing. So amazing, in fact, you want to more people to share in the fun of being involved in the release and getting more people to hear it.

This being the case, who could have been more perfect than Dan over at Sheepscar Light Industrial/Cherry Row Recordings? We’ve all pretty much worked together in some way in this game o’ sound and community… it was just too good of an opportunity to miss.

Dan’s put 25 copies out through his Cherry Row Recordings imprint and hairdryer excommunication have done the same thing, with us both hosting it electronically: No modes of exclusivity here.

Yeah, there’s a charge for the physical version, but we’re doing our best to refute capital, exclusivity and all that shit. Low cost, handmade releases (£3 plus p&p) and free electronic access: You , dear participatory listeners, can’t go too far wrong  with our collective ways of organising this sort of thing, right?

In homage to the People’s Republic of DIY, the hXe physical version is adorned with a rather miserable looking Yorkshire Terrier with a crown on.

This is an international release of manipulated acoustics, synth and electronics. It is one of my favourite listens of the year and has come together in no time. Perfect stuff.

…and finally Dan explains, in an email to me, the joss paper that features in his packaging of the piece (Tatum is his Cantonese teacher):

…it’s an offering paper; something that you would burn to send good wishes etc to family, friends, ancestors etc … As expected, the text works very well: Tatum just sent me this;

“The overview of the text is “after life” (reincarnation) money; these texts were repeated several times with the five elements: Gold, wood, water, fire, earth and others such as Heaven and moon etc.”

Fits very well with the vibe and atmosphere of the pieces.

Don’t it just? In summary: Miguel sent me two lengthy improv pieces, an organ drone and a desert guitar shimmer, I edited and augmented these to create the album’s two tracks and Dan and Kev decided, in an act of mischievous, exuberant novelty, to each release half the run with two sets of entirely different packaging containing identical music. Contemplating the wonderful absurdity of all this is giving me goosebumps. As Kev says: this is the sort of thing that happens in the no audience underground. Cool, eh?


Inertia Crocodile on Cherry Row Recordings

Six angles on hairdryer excommunication

Six Angles on Cherry Row Recordings

artifacts of the no-audience underground: recent petals

January 21, 2013 at 8:52 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Petals – where textus became textus, and how I operated within (CD-r, WGGFDTB)

PETALS – Aposiopesis (3″ CD-r, LF Records, LF026)

petals – silvered alumnus (C22 cassette, Armed Within Movement, AWM006)

petals - where textuspetals - aposiopesispetals - silvered alumnus

Fresh from his category-winning triumph at the 2012 Zellaby Awards Kev Sanders, recording as Petals, has marched directly into 2013 and thrown down some glorious warez thereby consolidating his position at the top.

How does he do it?  What’s the secret to the irresistible Petals ‘vibe’?  My latest guess is that it may be something to do with the way it is recorded.  Anything recorded ‘clean’ or straight-to-hard-drive is difficult to place. It just exists, in your head, as you are listening to it. However, Kev’s stuff seems to be recorded ‘live’ with a microphone somewhere in the room/space where the noise is happening. This gives it a definite physical location but one which is, ironically, mysterious and unplaceable. I suspect this is why I have reached for the metaphor of cartography so often when talking about his work – he produces maps of invisible coastlines, unreachable foothills.  By way of example, here are three releases gracing labels other than his own (the ever-fascinating hairdryer excommunication).

where textus became textus and how I operated within is a single track spanning 40 minutes and thus is one of the lengthier volumes in the Petals cannon.  You don’t feel it though – it whistles past – and so persuasive are its arguments that I was entirely distracted from the blizzard I happened to be walking through when I first heard it end to end.

The track begins with a short, steep incline.  What follows appears at first to be a plateau but soon reveals its own subtle gradients.  All is crescendo here.  We battle through an increasingly bosky thicket as unseen wildlife twitters nervously, sensing that we are traipsing in a dangerous direction.  Eventually, shockingly, we come to a clearing and are met with the fizzing, crackling clatter of an angry troll testing the electrified fence that is keeping him captive.  Kev busies himself with the stuff he had us lug up the hill – it turns out to be some kind of troll monitoring equipment.  The monster, now knackered and scorched but amused by our presence, sits down and listens to the amplified findings of the machinery along with the rest of us.  Really great.

Available dirt cheap from Andrew Perry’s label We’re Gonna Get Fucking Drunk Tonight Boys and packaged in his functional, effective, black and white text-based graphics.

Buy here.

(…interlude: welcome to ‘jokes about obscure terms from literary analysis’ corner!  This week: ‘aposiopesis’.  Me: “I say, I say, I say, Kev – what does aposiopesis mean?” Kev: “well, Rob, I could tell you but then I would have to….”  He trails off.  Silence.  We both stare mournfully at the setting sun and think about death.  Join us next week for another laff riot!  OK, back to the advertised programme…)

Aposiopesis is half the length, filling a 3” CD-r, but seems equal to the above as it is pitched at much higher level of intensity.  The track has a bassy, dense, subterranean feel.  The rumbling throb is ominous and pleasantly uncomfortable at silly volume.  Kev is shining his powerful torch at features of note in a giant underground cavern: here is a rock formation that looks like a rasher of bacon, here is a Palaeolithic painting of a horse, here is his left hand resting lightly on your shoulder, gently steering you away from the suspiciously fresh blood stains on an altar-shaped boulder…

Again this is available for not much from Greg at the (shamefully) new-to-RFM LF Records.  Packaged in a very neat full colour sleeve.  More to come from LF in future reviews but for now…

Buy here.

Finally for today there is silvered alumnus a C22 tape on the much fancied Armed Within Movement label (see here for previous praise).  This was slipped to me, samizdat style, by Kev tucking it into my hot pants as we danced euphorically to Tubeway Army in the Fox and Newt bar.

Side A features an angry buzz augmented by a slow rolling pulse: the former presumably the noise made by units of a hive population as they carry out their pheromonally determined tasks, the latter being the hive mind’s ‘brain’ wave as consciousness appears, an emergent property of the system as a whole.  The rest of the track is this new unified presence developing self-awareness and deciding on a plan for the destruction of all life outside the hive.  Luckily a family of hungry anteaters are in the area and we are saved.  Side B features the kind of alarums! that might accompany the Id monster from Forbidden Planet escaping out into a stormy night on Altair IV.  The rain crackles as it strikes the invisible creature, tracing its outline in steam.  Also great.

This tape can be had for inconsequential loose change and is packaged in a standard cassette box with a stylish and pleasantly minimal black and white J-card.

Buy here.

“our way of shaking hands”: trades and largesse in the no-audience underground

November 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Posted in art, musings, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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I wonder: does my telling you to ‘buy here’ ever result in you buying there?  Anecdotally, I’ve heard that a little money has changed hands as a result of my wittering, which is very exciting, but I suppose the answer is usually a sheepish ‘no’.  Hey, don’t sweat it – I’m just the same myself (and I still think that my ‘articles written to purchases made’ ratio is probably better than The Wire).  I read thousands of words about music in an average month and how much of it leads to commercial transactions on pay day?  Almost bugger all.  This state of affairs is only partly to do with my poverty or apathy, however.  I rarely have to spend much money as I ‘earn’ my trinkets through ‘contributing to the scene’ or benefit from the generosity of my talented friends.  Allow me to expand…

Joe Posset, RFM’s North-East correspondent, recently completed a sell-out tour in which he took his improv-dicta-madness to the alterno-stadia of the UK (Posset live in Café Oto can be heard here).  After returning home and enjoying a vigourous rub down from his Ukrainian masseuse, Joe lit a cigar and relaxed by catching up with the RFM articles he’d missed whilst on the road.  My comment quoting Andrew Perry on trades – “it’s our way of shaking hands” – really rubbed his Tibetan singing bowl and he dictated the following to his beautiful Turkish manservant:

As ever, I read your last post with interest.  Perry has a knack of hitting things bang on eh?.  The trade thing is a bit like  ‘our way of shaking hands’.  It’s also a great way to keep the filthy lucre out of the equation.  I sold one CD-R on that last tour.  Just one; and if I ever find out who bought it I’ll give them the next posset slop report just for showing so much faith.  But I came back with a stack of CD-Rs, tapes and vinyl the height of medium sized milk jug through trades with other bands, DIY labels and well-prepared punters.  They will keep me spinning & smiling until December and I’ve spread the p-word to a bunch of homesteads and families across the UK.  Everyone is a winner.

I found myself nodding in vigorous agreement and murmuring assent.  I mentioned that I have become one of those ‘well-prepared punters’, already in the habit of slipping a few midwich/Truant CD-rs into my pocket before venturing out.  Joe replied as follows:

Sociologically ‘alternative economy’ is one of the many interesting things about the n-au.  I know this is a wild stereotype but how come everyone is really clever too?  I’ve seldom met a thick or obnoxious n-au participant. They tend to be clever, well read, open-minded, polite polymaths…but usually skint too.  The trade off between riches (or at least the established ideas of success) and building up a killer collection of tapes and CD-Rs.  Ah…maybe that’s why we trade!!!

Leaving aside the self/scene-congratulation (momentarily – I’ll be coming back to it), and the shortening of ‘no-audience underground’ to a groovy academic acronym, Joe is obviously on to something.  Trade is, of course, the lifeblood of the scene in both of the senses that Joe uses the word: ‘trade’ to mean barter and ‘trade-off’ to refer to the choice between different standards of success.

The swapping of object for object is only the most straightforward type of barter/trade.  It saves everyone involved money and provides a risk-free way of picking up something new.  For punters it is a reward for generosity and open-mindedness, for distributors a way of circulating stock.  More interesting is the object for services rendered trade.  For example, the promoter of a successful gig may be ‘tipped’ by a grateful act with a pocket full of product.  Likewise, sometimes I have written about something I like on spec only for the artist to get in touch offering a no-strings selection from their back catalogue.  This is a good example of the joy and reciprocity in the scene: an attentive and appreciative punter is worth nurturing.  To be a member of the family all one has to do is express kinship.

It ain’t exclusively prelapsarian bliss though – sometimes this exchange is more calculated.  “Hey I dig your blog,” says label boss, “would you be interested in receiving a parcel of our stuff with a view to writing a label review?”  “Sure,” I reply, “on the understanding that I only write about what I like,” and we shake on the deal.  This is as close to ‘promotion’ as it gets but there is, hopefully, no possibility of it creating rancour as expectation is managed and, crucially, no money changes hands.

If there is a currency in circulation amongst us it is goodwill.  A certain amount of goodwill capital can be amassed but it can’t be hoarded in Scrooge McDuck-style coffers.  It needs to be fed and nurtured otherwise it will shrivel and wither.  Maintaining a stock of goodwill is more like tending a garden.  Thus, for example, when Rob Galpin tells me he created his charming tape ‘Like a Diamond in the Sigh’ by Crochet with the express purpose of using it for trade I get exactly what he is up to.

So why is goodwill so important?  Because money isn’t.  And here we need to consider the idea of trading off the standard indicators of success against others which may be more philosophically interesting.  Fame and wealth, as commonly understood, are not available to those pursuing fringe interests.  There is no screaming mob of fans to be milked dry of their pocket money with Astral Social Club 2012 calendars, there are no oligarchs wishing to be our patrons and, annoying as it may be when the rent is due, I suspect we sort of like it that way.  It means our ‘art’ and our ‘scene’, for the want of better words, can groove their own way uncompromised by non-artistic concerns.  I don’t want to come over all Bill Hicks here but money does tend to corrupt what it touches and its influence is insidious.  Whilst it would be nice, of course, to be able to sell-out a meagre run of CD-rs, if only to fund the next forlorn project, garnering the commendation of our peers can be way, way more important and satisfying.

Now on to us (almost) all being ‘clever, well read, open-minded, polite polymaths’.  Again, and at the risk of sounding incredibly self-serving, Joe is correct.  I think the only time I have encountered anyone really unpleasant and/or with money is at the power-electronics end of things which, especially on Continental Europe, seems to attract dilettantes and would-be decadent trustafarian idiots who feel they have to put on an air of misanthropy to impress their inexplicably beautiful, porcelain-skinned girlfriends.  Otherwise drone/improv/noise/whatever seems to be full of exactly the type that Joe describes in such flattering terms.  There is plenty to find maddening if you are the easily maddened type: individuals may be ripe with preciousness, woefully disorganised and/or ambitious to the point of delusion but I don’t consider those flaws to be unforgivable.  Much noise is the sound of its participants struggling to chew the unwieldy lumps they have bitten off and there is something hilarious, charming and heroically noble about that.

So why are there so few arseholes?  My guess is that there isn’t that much in the scene that an arsehole would be attracted to, or get off on.  There is no fame to abuse, no hierarchy to enforce, no money to waste, no club full of beautiful young things* to enthral with shallow glamour.  Not much room for an arsehole to really flex its sphincter.  Now, it would be wrong to say the scene is without vanity but prestige and respect are earned from a down-to-earth crowd of hard-working and dedicated artists and punters and any attempt to assign it prematurely, or hype it up to unwarranted levels, will be met with a scoff.  Ridicule is used to puncture pomposity but not in a sneering, back-stabbing, hipster way.  Instead wry amusement is used to call shenanigans on any attention seeking behaviour.  In short: our standards of success are unfathomable to the average fuck-knuckle and instead attract the fine, upstanding citizens who see the value in sharing their book-smarts and fancy-pants ideas with other fine, upstanding citizens.

Don’t it make you feel proud, eh?


*Aside: our Mexican cousin Miguel – of Oracle Netlabel and La Mancha del Pecado – has been perusing online photographs of eminent participants and has noted a no-audience underground equivalent of the Innsmouth look.  He wondered, tongue in cheek, if there could be such a thing as ‘genetic drone disorder’.  Admittedly this notion is hilarious, almost irresistible, but I don’t think that there is a biological reason for us being a bunch of oddballs.  I suspect instead that if we were all tall, handsome and cut like a freakin’ steak we’d be too busy being idiots and/or ruling the world to worry about booking the Fox & Newt and struggling to get a nine volt battery into that fuzz pedal…

architects of the no-audience underground: andrew perry knows what he is doing

November 12, 2011 at 10:31 am | Posted in live music, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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  • Andrew Perry / Dead Wood – The Sweetest Meat (Striate Cortex, S.C.04, CD-r, 80 copies)
  • Andrew Perry / King Rib – Split (We’re gonna get fucking drunk tonight boys, CD-r)

As with so many other quality acts, Andrew Perry first came to my attention via Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent.  Joe forwarded a copy of their split CD-r on Fuckin’ Amateurs, which turned out to be literally unlistenable (grumpiness here) then triumphant (happy ending here).  After the party, Andrew wrapped a large creamy slice of his back catalogue in coloured tissue and I carried it home, still feeling giddy from drinking too much pop.

Over the intervening months I have become a fan and was delighted both to meet the man and see him perform at that gig in October I keep banging on about.  Seeing his shtick live really helped coalesce a bunch of previously nebulous thoughts, as did hearing a couple more CD-rs of his that I blagged on the night.

Andrew is a prolific creator of music in his own name, with others – either in collaboration or as part of split releases, and has a label of his own too: the gloriously named ‘We’re gonna get fucking drunk tonight boys’.  The stuff released as ‘Andrew Perry’ is a mix of fuzzed-out 18-tog drone, balls-out noise, guitarish shimmer, lo-fi field recordings featuring snatches of conversation and tickly contact-mic closeness that makes you pull out your earphone and wiggle a finger in your aural cavity.  Indeed, you may get all of this within the same track.

Don’t expect a smoothly stirred cocktail, however, as this is more like a glass lighthouse filled with layers of different coloured sand by a distracted child thinking about ice-cream.  Some of the transitions between styles jar, and sometimes I wish he’d have a little more patience with a groove or blissed-out fuzz that he’s established only to dismiss, but on the other hand nothing outstays its welcome, nothing is allowed to bore, the ‘jukebox’ quality makes it good for repeat listens and the hit and miss ratio of the segments is weighted heavily in favour of the former.  It is really good walkman music and often accompanies me on the route to work, augmented by the sub-bass rumble of the bus idling at junctions.

When in collaboration with others, or under other names, Andrew reins in some of his tiggerish impulses and, whilst painting from a similar palette, long-form tracks are allowed to grow and mutate in a more leisurely fashion.  I am unsure of the personnel involved in Gish, King Rib, Dead Wood etc. but a fairly consistent aesthetic is at work throughout all the stuff I’ve heard and I suspect the diagram of their overlap could be drawn on a page torn from an exercise book.

Meeting the guy helped explain and flesh out his solo approach.  He was bouncily enthused, entertainingly sweary, wary of producing anything longer than 15 minutes for fear of boredom, and seemingly able to tweet on his ‘phone whilst nodding in vigorous agreement and remaining engaged with the conversation.  The performance was likewise: three different segments picked from the list in paragraph three, all performed with equal verve, which left the audience grinning madly.  His instructions to the sound guy: ‘loud as you like’.  The following day he met us for lunch and was wearing the same t-shirt.  Some years ago you might have worried that they guy had ADHD, now he just looks well adapted for life in the modern world…

So, why not cop hold of the two CD-rs above?  The one on Striate Cortex is of a quality and consistency you’d expect from that impeccable label.  Three tracks: 1/a guitar quiver similar to the opening seconds of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ stretched out into a lilting, climbing shimmer, 2/fire blankets of fuzz thrown over the flames, 3/crackling noise that is both spacey (as in open) and increasingly spacey (as in cosmic).  The other one is brand new and can be had dirt cheap via WGGFDTB.  Andrew’s half is an excellent example of the genre hopping I describe above and is balanced nicely by the uncomplicated dronetronics of King Rib.

Musing on the wilfully no-fi, punk-as-fuck packaging for the King Rib split – a photocopy of hand-written scrawl – leads inevitably back to a thought which has occurred to me several times whilst listening to Andrew’s work: “wow, he couldn’t give a monkey’s…”  This is not to say that Andrew dislikes our simian cousins – he may volunteer at a gibbon sanctuary for all I know – I am referring to the well worn idiom meaning ‘he doesn’t care’.  This may seem an odd thing to think as Mr Perry is obviously deeply passionate about his music, his performance, about the network of similar artists that he finds himself a part of, about engaging with the world via his drive to create, and about getting those creations heard – so allow me to explain.

Andrew appears to be refreshingly unconcerned with the twiddly peripherals of ‘finishing’ (meant in a sense akin to how the word is used in interior design) that others like to waste their time on.  The recording is lo-fi and I doubt any of the instruments used cost a fat lot either – I imagine travel to gigs involves backpacks, bubble-wrap and carrier bags, not flight cases lined with wavy grey foam.  Songs occasionally have beginnings but endings are usually arbitrary snips.  Many of Andrew’s track titles are throwaway funny or Dadaist goofy…

(Aside: nowt wrong with that, I suppose, but I can’t help thinking that it sometimes undermines the seriousness, beauty or quality of the music they refer to.  Does it show a lack of faith in the material or an energizing irreverence?  I’m not suggesting that being po-faced would be better – god forbid everything was called ‘Composition No. 112’ or ‘Lament for the Oppressed’ – just that, well, oh I dunno…)

…The biography on his wordpress site reads, in its entirety: “Andrew Perry has had no idea what he’s doing for a very long time.”  Amusingly, at the time I write this, all the events listed in the ‘Future’ section are now in the past.  And so on.  It is an attitude I’ve come to see a lot in what I lovingly refer to as the no-audience underground and it is personified by people like Andrew, like Fuckin’ Amateurs, like Hiroshima Yeah!, like Dex TapeNoise etc.  It’s the idea that the central pursuit – the MUSIC, the WRITING, the ART – is all that really matters and the rest can look after itself.  I don’t share it completely – I’m way too uptight for that – but I love it when I see it.

architects of the no-audience underground: andy robinson and more from the striate cortex back catalogue

November 6, 2011 at 11:33 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • Plurals – Six Eyes (Striate Cortex, S.C.20), CD-r, 100 copies
  • Pink Desert – Recorded By Friends At Three Speeds (Striate Cortex, S.C.16), CD-r, 100 copies

Down at this end of things, where 20 people is an excellent mid-week turn out, especially on a miserable rainy evening, a gig can be as much about the social as it is about the music.  Especially for a blabbermouth such as your correspondent.  Don’t worry, I’m not one of those fools who talks during the performances (though I am foolish enough to shout a bit during the applause if overexcited) but I will gadfly about in-between turns, ingratiating myself and blagging ‘merch’.

At the gig at the Fox and Newt on October 12th (mentioned already in relation to The Piss Superstition) I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Sindre Bjerga – Norwegian polymath and all-round force-for-the-good, Andrew Perry – tousle-haired noise-tigger (of whom more anon) and Andy Robinson – heroic mastermind of blog-fave CD-r label Striate Cortex.  In the flesh Andy was thoughtfully enthusiastic, quiet without being at all reticent.  I was impressed.  We did all that ‘thank you’, ‘no, thank you‘ business then I asked the obvious questions: “do you make all that lovely packaging yourself?  Don’t you have a squad of elves to help?” and as he answered “yes, no,” I stood there marvelling, once more, at his dedication to the cause.

(Aside: in a later email exchange I insisted on sending him a freebie Truant CD-r after he expressed some daft desire to pay for it.  He said “but I’d like to contribute something.”  “Dude,” I reminded him, “you do nothing but contribute.”)

As is customary on such occasions many CD-rs were swapped (Andrew Perry made a comment along the lines of this trade being ‘our way of shaking hands’ which is almost movingly exact) and I was delighted when Andy fished out a scrumpled up Poundland carrier bag and produced from it… treasure.  This booty took the form of a batch of CD-rs from the Striate Cortex back catalogue, two of which I am now going to talk about and one of which may feature in a future article.

First up, Recorded By Friends At Three Speeds by Pink Desert.  Clocking that I dug their track on the recent Concentric Spaces Vol.2 compilation Andy kindly passed on this full length album.  Commenting on the comp track I praised its ‘subtle force’ and ‘elegant coherence’ and declared it to be ‘a lesson in discipline and structure’ for those working with long form drones.  I’m happy to report that these qualities remain present in abundance and undiluted at a running time of 45 minutes.

Well, I say ‘drones’ but that isn’t entirely accurate.  There is very little fuzz; no comforting harmonic blanket to suck your thumb under.  There is also little in the way of groove.  Aside from one elongated cymbal crash and a few echoing snaps percussive noise is entirely absent.  Leaving these easy ways of engaging our attention to one side, Pink Desert present us with some serious, focussed electronics constructed with the sense-sharpening clarity of a frosty morning in the Dales.

This precision is not academic, however, nor is it politely ‘new age’.  These tracks shimmer with a low-key but efficiently realised emotional resonance and Pink Desert are happy to let it drift into the red if appropriate, as on stand out track ‘For Dorothy’.  Looking for something to put on after having listened to this I have, more than once, shrugged my shoulders and just pressed ‘play’ again – it is an album that both demands and repays your attention.

As you’ve come to expect from Striate Cortex, the packaging is noteworthy.  The pink desert, and the cloudless sky above, is represented by a flap of handmade paper embedded with pink thread and splashed with silver which folds out to reveal a spray paint starscape.  The reverse of the sleeve is wrapped in a shimmering copper brown cloth.  It all fits the music just so.

The packaging is equally impressive for Six Eyes by Plurals (which is such a smart name for a band that I wish I’d thought of it myself – great logo on the insert too).  A CD-r speckled with spray paint and a hand-painted insert are housed in a cardboard sleeve decorated with segments of dried leaves.  The album comprises two tracks, ‘Replica Universe’ and ‘You Are Horses’ – both around the 20 minute mark, and is one of the most striking things I’ve heard this year.

The ‘build’ that is constructed in the first ten minutes of ‘Replica Universe’ is terrific: a mournful wind instrument (clarinet?  I dunno, could be way off) heralds a gathering swarm of drones.  Underneath, a slow marching riff (which I might be partly imagining) drives things forward towards some grisly inevitability and above are curious percussive knocks and some spacey, gruff electronic trilling and squiggling.  The wind instrument returns to honk the riff over a nodding-out-Todd guitar doing the same at half speed, the drones empty out and a swaying groove takes us up out of the clouds into a pink-orange dawn sky.  Magnificent.

‘You Are Horses’ is perhaps a little more straightforward but no less impressive.  The sound palette is similar, the pace is magisterial, the mood mysterious, the atmosphere allowed to coalesce in its own time.  Here you are sitting outside a bar in the souk, again it is very early – or very late depending on how you look at it – and you are drinking sweet, syrupy coffee in an attempt to stave off the worst effects of insomniac exhaustion.  Will the ‘contact’ arrive at the designated time?  Have the code words been changed since your source smuggled out the last set?  The bar owner is on the ‘phone and keeps looking nervously in your direction.  What would they say at Sarratt, eh?

These two albums are both neat illustrations of Andy’s near-impeccable discernment.  That both are of a high quality is obvious from the first encounter but their ambition and depth are only properly revealed by repeat listens.  As they are back catalogue items I’m not sure if they are available, or how much they will cost you, so I recommend that you contact Andy via Striate Cortex and make urgent enquiries.

posset and andrew perry, slight return

May 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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An unadorned and playable copy of this CD-r arrived for me yesterday (thank you Joe, you are a gentleman) and I am now in a position to comment on the music.  Here goes: it is great.  More?  OK, how about this:

Picture a charming old-fashioned toy shop full of music boxes, pull-my-string-and-hear-me-speak dolls, and other delightful noise-making products made to enchant grateful children.  Now picture a Geordie lunatic pouring petrol through the letterbox and torching the place.  He hides around the corner, waits for the Fire Brigade to soak everything, then sneaks back and steals the sodden, carbonised remains of these toys.  He then lays ’em all out on the floor of his garage, presses record on his dictaphone and gets to work.  The resultant glorious racket is the sound of Posset.

Andrew Perry’s ‘hope is for the weak’ – a single 23 minute track in several parts – is a revelation.  There is some proper noise, presumably a field recording of the burning toy-shop, overlaid with some shimmering astralness, a bit that sounds worryingly like an attempt to machine-wash pebbles, a purring cat, and some pushed-into-the-red loopy droning adorned with guitar sparkles.  It is engaging, uplifting and, ironically, full of hope.  I loved it.

Since the initial post I’ve established that Martin of Fuckin’ Amateurs can be contacted via  Also, a list of their back catalogue can be seen at discogs – well some of it at least: there are ’29 submissions pending’!  Blimey – I feel like I’ve peeked into what I thought was a little cupboard and discovered the North-East Improv equivalent of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark…

artifacts of the no-audience underground: posset and andrew perry

May 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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andrew perry and posset

posset (23 minutes, 3 tracks) and andrew perry (23 minutes, 1 track), CD-r in slimline DVD case, fuckin’ amateurs #52

Always nice to come home from work and find an unsolicited jiffy bag on the doormat.  This one was sent by RFM’s Newcastle correspondent Joe Posset and contained a split CD-r he shares with the equally prolific Andrew Perry.  A short review of the music, courtesy of imaginary Aussie fanzine Sensory Vexations, can be read on Joe’s blog here.  However, my listening pleasure was hampered by the following silliness…

This CD-r came with a puffy letter ‘E’ stuck to the non-playing side (or numeral ‘3’ depending on your relative position) which sits proud of the surface by a millimeter or so.  Not much, but just enough to make it unplayable on my laptop.  An attempt to do so led to an alarming grinding noise (no, that wasn’t the music) and crashed two different bits of ripping software.  There are other CD players in the house but, as I wish to maintain a state of marital bliss, most of my music appreciation is done via walkman/mp3 player.  As such this remains unheard.  I can’t pick the bloody ‘E’ off and, frankly, if a release requires me to find a chisel then I lose interest pretty quick.

Fuckin’ Amateurs are aware of this issue.  The insert contains the following information:


Discovering this provoked a serious grump: “what a studenty affectation of carelessness,” I said out loud to no-one in particular, “what a waste of everyone’s time.”  Such was my discontent that Joe sensed it all the way up in Newcastle and immediately leapt to their aid:

Martin (& Jamie who run F#A!) did say the stick-on letters were, in retrospect, a mistake…hence the disclaimer.  I guess a lot of these things depend on context.  I’ve been aware of F#A! for 3 or 4 years and I have to say they run their affairs with the sort of integrity and dogged determination of Dischord/SST/Shimmy Disc/Choc Monk.  Most discs are given away for free, many come with badges, photos, booklets all realised on a less-than zero budget.  I totally understand the frustration of not getting the disc to work, I know F#A! want you to hear it and don’t want you to knack your laptop. 

Now all this sounds great doesn’t it?  I’m a sucker for an impassioned defence.  Even before I hear the ‘clean’ copy that Joe has promised me I just know that it is going to be good.  Fuckin’ Amateurs are too punk to put contact details on the packaging so, should you have faith in the robustness of your CD player, this release can be had direct from Joe ( for £3.

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