art imitates life imitating art in the barrel nut issue #9!

May 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Posted in art, no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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the barrel nut #9 cover

Comrades, castaways, fellow members of the gutter elite! Radio Free Midwich proudly boasts of finding issue number 9 of The Barrel Nut stuffed down the back of art’s sofa: a momentary delight for those of heightened aesthetic awareness but sorely limited attention span.

We begin strong with two pages of pavement photography from Eddie Nuttall of Aqua Dentata. He is a contemporary master of the well-tempered drone – each piece by him a comfortably warm iceberg – and his visual art has a similar austere intensity. Here he proves, alas, that the streets of London are not paved with gold but instead awash with suspiciously milky discharge…

The centrefold contains another hilarious four panel gag strip from Uncle Mark Wharton of the essential Idwal Fisher blog. This time the bald heads of noise enjoy a night in the pub doing what they like best: talking bollocks about music whilst quaffing the ale. That’s you that is – just show this to your partner and they will nod in rueful recognition.

Finally, we have a tag team effort from the brothers of Hiroshima Yeah! fanzine. Gary Simmons provides a photograph of life literally imitating art – and what life! What art! – whilst Mark Ritchie follows it with some sage advice for the working stiff presented in compelling collage form.

Cracking stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.  For anyone new to this party (you’ll have to refill the chip-‘n’-dip, I’m afraid) here’s some reheated explanatory blurb:

The Barrel Nut is a microzine – a single sided, single sheet of A4 paper cleverly folded to make an eight panel, A7 pamphlet. Paper copies will be distributed to anyone who wants one, or who has expressed an interest in the past. I’ll bring some to gigs I attend and a bunch will be passed around by those with a similar love of the post.

Should you be so inclined then you are very welcome to download and print out your own. Links to the latest issue in jpeg and pdf formats are below (you’ll need to trim the print-out a bit down one edge to make it fold properly). Some more context, assembly instructions and previous issues can be found on The Barrel Nut’s own page (tabbed above).

Should you wish to contribute artwork then I would be very grateful indeed. Submissions need to look OK when reproduced as a black and white photocopy and be 7cm by 10cm in size (or scalable to roughly those dimensions). Good quality scans attached to an email are fine, originals sent in the post ideal. Please get in touch.

As ever, I’m proud to bring this to your attention. Contributors and subscribers will be receiving copies in the post in due course. Links to downloadable versions below, as promised.

I shall finish by repeating my customary plea: leaving aside a dwindling stockpile of stuff by the regulars I am in need of submissions for future issues. If you like this little project then please feel free to send me something.

The Barrel Nut issue #9 as a pdf file

The Barrel Nut issue #9 as a jpeg file

Thomas 'reads' issue 9

the 2013 zellaby awards

January 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Ladies and gentlemen, dear readers all, welcome to the hotly anticipated Zellaby Awards for 2013.  The show, in its third annual outing, is presented in association with Radio Free Midwich and hosted by the editor from his comfortably-appointed padded cell in the basement of Midwich Mansions.

In previous years the awards have formed part one of a two part round-up of cultural highlights.  However this year I can easily roll what would usually be part two into this preamble.  Why?  Three words: Thomas James Hayler.  The birth of our son in March was an epoch-defining, paradigm-shattering, life-forever-altering event for all of us – I’m sure you’ll remember the moon turning a fire red that evening – but looking after the kid (y’know: issuing orders to the nannies, sorting through the mountains of flowers, cards and teddy-bears left at the gate of the estate, that kind of thing) has rather cut into the time and energy afforded to culture in general.

It was interesting to experience how looking after a baby pares life down to the essentials.  I now do my bit to help with Thomas, I look after my wife Anne as best I can too, I keep up with my friends and family (more or less), I go to work (when healthy) and I think about music.  That’s all I have but, crucially, it is all I want.  Sure, we could do with more money and better health – who couldn’t? – but establishing this balance has been refreshing and revelatory.  I can sincerely state, all joking and archness to one side, that Thomas joining us has made 2013 the best year of my life so far.  By some distance.

Thomas at Xmas 2013

<stares wistfully into middle distance, wipes tear from stubbled cheek, returns to business at hand>

I did get to read a handful of books, of which HHhH by Laurent Binet, about a 1942 mission to assassinate Richard Heydrich, chief of the Gestapo, was the most compelling, original and intriguing.  I even stole a line from it to use in a review.  I think I read the entire of Museum Without Walls, a collection of essays and television scripts by polemicist, architecture critic and commentator Jonathan Meades.  I say ‘I think’ because it was mainly done in sleepy five page chunks in the middle of the night.  Otherwise I kept my membership of the bourgeoisie fresh by reading the London Review of Books and took my news mainly from Private Eye which, despite its many faults, holds power to account at least some of the time thus making it unique in the mainstream.  I pretty much gave up on film and television aside from using the boy as an excuse to watch Regular Show and Adventure Time on Cartoon Network.  Oh, and Game of Thrones series 3 was fun too if you like that sort of thing.

Down here in the no-audience underground I devoured, as ever, anything posted by Uncle Mark over at the essential Idwal Fisher blog and cover-to-covered the no-less essential Hiroshima Yeah! the moment it arrived in the mail.  Congratulations to the latter on reaching its 100th issue this year, no mean feat with one of its two editors in prison…  Also in the realm of the self-published, a pamphlet of poetry by my good friend and comrade Nick Allen has been on my bedside table since he surprised me with it at work one morning and has been well-thumbed and repeatedly enjoyed.

It has been another golden year for music, both live and recorded.  A couple of my all-time favourite gigs occurred in the last 12 months and my ‘long list’ for best album contained 34 contenders!  Never mind those bullshit ‘end of year’ polls you see in print magazines that you know were proofread over ice-creams in August, never mind those ‘best albums of the last fifteen minutes’ you see on internet based blogzine snore-fests.  This is the real deal: compiled whilst the New Year is still bellowing after being slapped into life.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we need to trot through a few methodological points, then the ceremony can commence.

Firstly, the music mentioned below may not have been released in 2013, although most of it was.  To qualify it had to be heard by RFM for the first time in the calendar year 2013.  Secondly, releases featuring the staff of RFM (me, Scott McKeating, Joe Murray) are excluded.  Modesty is not a virtue I can be accused of but awarding ourselves prizes is a bit much even for me.  Thirdly there are the same five award categories as last time (although one has had to be renamed…).  Should an artist win big in one of them they may appear overlooked in others.  This is deliberately done in the interests of plugging as much excellence as possible and thus no-one should get the hump.  Finally, I did invite the aforementioned Scott and Joe to contribute nominations but the final decisions are mine.  Think of me as a benign dictator listening carefully to his advisers before passing judgement.

OK, shush now – the house lights are dimming…  Time for the first category!

—ooOoo—

5.  The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award goes to…

Lucy Johnson

smut - piano one

(with honourable mentions for Joe’s choice: WANDA GROUP, “the absolute master of steamy hiss and non-linear edit”)

Here’s a extract from the lengthy overview of Lucy’s back catalogue that I posted back in July:

One of the refreshing things about what I playfully refer to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is that it is not full of self-aggrandising blabbermouths.  There are a few – me, for example – and an acceptable level of self-absorption is common, but many artists quietly get on with producing excellent work mainly, it seems, for their own gratification and the pleasure of their circle.

This situation allows for the gradual discovery of that most mysterious of creatures: the unsung hero.  Names are pencilled in – an aside from the omniscient Scott McKeating, a credit on a Matching Head insert, say – then repeated until they become underlined in bold and further investigation becomes inevitable.  Such has been the case with Lucy Johnson.

I had, of course, already praised Space Victim, her duo with Mike Vest, to the hilt (they featured in RFM’s best of 2012 list) and more recently did the same for the Witchblood tape, her duo with Lee Stokoe, on Matching Head.  A comment from Miguel Perez led to me picking up her tapes as Smut and hearing those led to me finally paying some proper attention. Over the last few weeks I have been putting two and two together via Discogs, the Turgid Animal site and various other rune-casting activities and have been gathering up examples of her work.  She records solo as Smut and Esk, is half of the aforementioned duos, is the vocalist for black metal band Rife, and is also in the bands Obey and Dark Bargain (as reviewed by Scott below).  Her artwork adorns covers and T-shirts and has recently been made available to buy as prints.  Most of this stuff is available from the label and distributor Turgid Animal which (according to that same review by Scott) she co-runs.  Blimey, eh?

Can’t wait to hear what comes next.  There is at least one more Smut tape to pick up and the Obey album to look forward to as well…

Next is…

4.  The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up goes to…

Robert Ridley-Shackleton

r r-s - butterfly farm

(with honourable mentions for Kevin Sanders whose consistency proves awe-inspiring, Bjerga/Iversen’s album-per-month Bandcamp project, Joe’s choice Hapsburg Braganza and, of course, Lee Stokoe, who was also Scott’s choice)

Given that I went from not knowing who he is to hearing/seeing around 50 objects produced by him during the course of a few months Robbie was odds-on favourite in this category.  That said, I realise that it is a controversial choice as ‘quality control’ may not be an entirely appropriate concept to apply to this gushing, unstoppable flow.  I suppose one man’s drivel fountain is another man’s exuberant exploration of an outsider vision.  As I wrote in my first overview piece about his stuff:

Call it an ‘aesthetic’, a ‘vision’ if you like, but it becomes clear during the perusal of these artefacts that this is Robert’s world – a dimensionless jiffy bag containing a wonky, distorted universe – and that the rest of us are tourists within it.

For what it is worth, The Butterfly Farm, the tape pictured above released by Beartown Records, is as good a place to start as any.

On to…

3.  The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award goes to…

Joe Murray and Scott McKeating

posset - my hungry holesscott

(with honourable mentions for Dan Thomas and Miguel Perez who both understand what friendship is really about.  Cheers fellas.)

Obviously.  In May Scott offered to help out, I bit his hand off.  This gave me the idea of asking Joe, who bit my hand off.  Once these appendages had been sewn back on we shook them vigorously and got down to the typing.  I like to think that the house style at RFM sits somewhere between the jazzed exuberance of Joe and the more meticulous, journalistic work of Scott.  Thus between us we offer a comprehensive ‘three bears’ account of this remarkable scene.  Being able to lean on these guys has kept the porridge at a perfect temperature during some pretty distracted times, especially baby- and illness-related, and I am beyond grateful for their contributions.

Now we have…

2.  The Label of the Year Award which goes to…

Memoirs of an Aesthete

Half an Abortion - Drowsy Seepage

(with honourable mentions for, well, see below…)

This was a very, very hotly disputed category.  I was tempted to be perverse and, in the style of Time magazine’s mirror cover, proclaim label of the year to be ‘self-released’.  Certainly, in this Bandcamp enabled age the idea has to be considered seriously.  But that ain’t much fun is it?  Let’s have an argument instead!  Joe stepped up for Winebox Press:

Jon Collin’s labour of love has presented some amazing music this year (Vampire Blues, Lost Wax, and his own gorgeous schizzle)  all nailed to hand-sanded wooden chunks.  This extra detail might make things difficult to file but the soft hand-feel makes me return again and again to these loose spools of joy.

Scott proclaimed Matching Head, natch:

Same as every other year. Lee Stokoe keeps it prolific, adding new regulars to a strong cast of returning cassette-friendly noise/drone/wtf artists.

Both excellent choices, of course, but what of the Sheepscar Light Industrial, last year’s runner up, or Kirkstall Dark Matter – a blood feud between Leeds postcodes?  Or is the glorious return of Sanity Muffin gong-worthy?  Speaking of returns, was any more welcome or surprising than that of Union Pole which made a long-gone 76 item back catalogue available to download for the total of one dollar?  Or what about Hissing Frames or hairdryer excommunication, the content-pumps of Robbie and Kev respectively?

The choice seemed impossible so I left the scribbled lists and did a couple of those things that you only see people do in the movies: splashed my face with water then stared into the bathroom mirror, took a cold can out of the fridge and held it against my cheek etc.  Soon clarity was restored.  For not putting a foot wrong, for never having even a single hair our of place, it had to be Memoirs of an Aesthete.  Phil Todd’s label has released one belter after another this year and has probably clocked up more minutes playing time in Midwich Mansions than any rival.  If it has Phil’s seal of approval on it then you should buy it.  Simple really.

…and finally…

1.  The Album of the Year Award

Risking accusations of hyperbole, I have claimed once or twice over the course of 2013 that we were living in a golden age.  Revisiting the releases I heard during the year I feel absolutely vindicated.  Add my long list to the short lists provided by Scott and Joe and you have a total of over 40 titles without even counting much not-really-released-as-such-but-still-magnificent work such as the soundcloud presence of, say, ap martlet.  Scott mentioned…

Black Sun Roof4 Black Suns & A Sinister Rainbow (Handmade Birds) – Davies and Bower make noise ritual a rhythm thing.

Skullflower / MasterySplit (Cold Spring) – Black metal soundtracks.

Joe added:

Duff/Nyoukis/Robertson/ShawAcetate Robots (Giant Tank) – Soft Scottish mumble, sweet as tablet.

Poor MouthS/T (Total Vermin) – Stream of consciousness wonk-out in proud Estuary English.

Lost Wax – My Sore Daad Heap’d (Winebox Press) – Environmental sounds lashed into a bivouac as the sun rises.

ID M Theft AbleBabb’s Bridge (Veglia, King Fondue, Zeikzak, Taped Sounds) – Like Manson’s internal monologue as knives get knotty.

Blue Yodel & Lovely HonkeyPoppies & Cocks (Chocolate Monk) – Mooooggg, hummm…voosh. Boo-fffff.

Both lists pleasantly indicative of the interests of my comrades, I think.  Take note.  Right then, as I did last year I have whittled my choices down to twenty with the first half presented in no particular order, linked to the original RFM reviews.  Here we go:

Witchbloodspoils and relics - angelsplurals sli 018Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerkaqua dentata - ten thousand wooden faceshalf an abortion - quandarystarlite coffins - medicine eagleGalena - Buried Finchpeople-eaters - imprecate

Every one a winner.  Click on the above for further thoughts and for contact/purchasing info.  Now on with the top ten, in reverse order…

10. Xazzaz – Untitled (Molotov 20)

xazzaz - 'untitled' molotov 20

This was reviewed twice on RFM this year.  Firstly Joe said:

…a melodic pitch-shifting that recalls those tremolo-heavy vibes from MBV…except this time the jazz electricity comes via belt sanders, floor polishers and hammer-action drills rather than sappy guitars.  The crashing continues, churning up plankton and hurling it on the zinc-coated rocks until, at around the 11 minute mark a large rusty anchor is thrown overboard and is dragged nosily (sic – it was more fun to keep the typo than correct it – RH) across a rocky sea bed.  Grrrgrgggrgggrgghhhhhh!   After a while your ear hairs can bristle no more and I had to settle back to accept this Black Metal take on Frippertronics as an astringent lullaby…

…then I pitched in with:

Mike’s music causes my edges to crumble, then crevaces to open, then huge thoughtbergs to calve from my mental glaciers.  He isn’t averse to roar, of course, and can stamp on pedals if need be, but it is the subtleties and nuance that make it so compelling.  He listens patiently, he understands what is going on.  He knows what to do.

Check out the Molotov catalogue now distributed by Turgid Animal.

9. Shareholder – The Backwards Glance volumes 1, 2 and 3

shareholder 1

Joe turned me on to this one.  He wrote:

The Backwards Glance is ten god-damn years of recordings all wrapped up in beguiling drawings, elastic bands and creepy collage work.  Sandy has taken the Faust approach and jams are cut-up hard against each other so you lurch between approaches, styles, themes and moods … My advice is to block out a few hours in your schedule, settle yourself in your preferred listening area and drink this special brew in deep.  As in the dog-eat-dog world of high finance the Shareholder is always looking for a unique selling point.  This USP for these clever little tapes is their god-damn addictiveness!

8. Culver/Somália ‎– Split

culver-somalia

Joe also beat me to this one too and came up with the best simile of the year, damn him:

Culver is a master of the dark art of static movement.  In the same way smoke will fill a room to the corners, too thick to see thorough but fragile enough to part with the wave of a hand, Culver plays that hard/soft, full/empty, maximal/minimal dichotomy like Erich Von Daniken’s  ancient astronauts. Always working on the edge of being there and not being there this piece, this relatively brief drone called ‘seven human hairs’ is like watching ink boil … Somália is some mysterious Portuguese music maker who, on ‘das cordas’ takes a melancholic Satie riff (Gnossienne No. 1 I think) and loops it over and over again with a grimy patina of tape murk.  That’s it.  No speeding up or slowing down. No descent into beats or basslines.  Just a gradual fade into the muck collected round the capstans.  Super simple and super effective.  It works at times (and I have to point out here I have played this tape a lot!) like dark canvas, swallowing the light but freeing up the subconscious.  This is dreaming music.

7. Seth Cooke – Run For Cover

seth cooke - run for cover

The spec is simple enough, a single track of about fifteen minutes in length, but its ingredients are tricky to separate out.  I suspect the noise that sounds like a swarm of angry wasps flying into a juddering extractor fan may be a vibrating implement set upon a drum skin.  The buzz is malevolent – like tapping the glass of a giant tank full of insects only to have them all turn in unison, give you a hard stare and then start working together to get the tank’s lid off…  Some abrasive electronics are then set loose in order to scour and gouge the source noise whilst a bucket of low end catches the swarf.  The concluding crescendo is visceral, tough and as sparkling as your peripheral vision after a sharp smack to the back of the head.  Yeah: awesome.

6. Yol – Four Live Pieces

yol - four live pieces

Joe is a true believer:

I think it was the mighty Stan Lee/Jack Kirby axis that came up with the Incredible Hulk to explore the untamed, brutish side to mankind.  The trick Yol has turned is to take this Yahoo Hulk and transplant it into the damp and bland world of Northern Britain – 2013.  This is no Marvel Universe magic realism but the dark perverted land of a bent cop, conflicted priest or overworked teacher.  It’s a post-Saville world where celebrity corrupts and no one can really trust each other.  Yol gives a voice to the bitter and bleak, the misplaced righteousness and revenge that most of us keep buttoned up tight.  The inner struggle is played out in vivid crimson, choked out, spat into the gutter and stamped on with spite.

5. Shoganai –  ショウガナイ

shoganai

The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied … Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

4. Helicopter Quartet – Where have all the aliens gone?

helicopter quartet - where have all the aliens gone

Their sound (‘drone rock’? ‘dark ambient’? I don’t know) is dense and rich, each element absorbing in its own right, all contributing to a mysterious but coherent whole.  It is like finding an ornately inlaid wooden casket containing a collection of exquisitely handcrafted objects: what might be a bear, carved from obsidian, a female form cast in an unplaceable grey/green metal, an abstract pattern, possibly even unreadable script, scrimshawed onto yellowing bone.  All irresistibly tactile, all fascinating, all revealing aspects of the character of the unknown and long dead collector who gathered them together.

It is cliché to describe simplicity as ‘deceptive’ and efficiency as ‘ruthless’ but both phrases are perfectly apt in this case.  There is no waste, no let up, the emotional demands of this music are unmistakeable.  Despite the jokes about torturing aliens on its Bandcamp page, this is a deeply serious music but it is epic on a human scale.

3. Various – Knurr & Spell

knurr and spell

Four tracks, each about twenty minutes long, by four different solo artists.  First is veteran Leeds scenester Shem Sharples, recording as his robotic alter ego Shemboid, who kicks things off with ‘myths of the prehistoric future’ – a Ballardian pun well suited to this blistering, splintering track.  Shem is an aficionado of the garage psych sound and his skyscraping fuzz/wah guitar illuminates the rubble like harsh Californian sunshine.

Next is ‘bontempi bastet’ by Ocelocelot, Mel O’Dubhslaine’s noise/drone endeavour.  The track is remarkable: an ectoplasmic gumbo, a thick electronic soup spiced and seasoned to make the corners of your eyes twitch.  Or is it an evocation of heaven?  Mel is a serious artist quietly and brilliantly re-purposing music to serve her own mysterious ends.  She does this with good humour and modesty and I think she might be my hero.

Third is ‘no forks’ by Moral Holiday, Phil Todd’s affectionate homage to first wave industrial music. The backing is brittle, unforgiving, stark.  Phil has taken the bucolic feel of the most utopian electronic Krautrock, frogmarched it to a grimly urban setting and then recorded it amongst the glass and concrete, mutating to fit its new surroundings.

Finally, we have ‘taser delerium’ (sic) from Paul Walsh’s foldhead.  Perhaps you could imagine spiking the punch at a convention of shortwave radio enthusiasts then getting the fried participants to improvise a jam using nothing but the guttering warbles of atmospheric interference.  Life affirming stuff – joyful noise wall.  Like an intruder appearing at the foot of your bed, paralysing you with a swift injection to the sole of your foot, then draping his cock across your forehead as you lie prone and immobile, it is a perversely calming experience.

In summary: this album is damn near perfect.

2. Ashtray Navigations – Cloud Come Cadaver

cloud come cadaver

Previous winners come oh-so-close once more.  I wrote a lengthy psychedelic ramble accounting for each track in turn which you can read by clicking on the title above.  For now I need only quote the final remarks:

It’s like a ‘Comfortably Numb’ for the psych/noise underground but defiant, without a trace of self pity.  It could accompany the ‘ages of man’ sequence at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Did I mention that Ashtray Navigations are my favourite band?  This is why.

Absolutely magnificent.

…and finally, the RFM Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2013 goes to…

1. The Piss Superstition – Vocal Learning

vocal learning front

Back in May I had a moment of prophetic clarity:

The music suggests systems gone wrong, like some guy pushed in a punch card upside down and then went to lunch leaving everything running.  Yet heavy, juddering electrics describe arcane symbols as they spiral through the iterations of this garbled instruction set.  Something truly wierd is being revealed.  The serrated buzzing suggests saw mill equipment escaping its moorings and consuming itself as one bladed machine vibrates into the path of another.  But again, there is nothing random about this movement.  All is being conducted by an unfamiliar intelligence for some unknowable purpose.  In the end though, all metaphors, similes, superlatives and whimsy just slide off this band or, at best, get caught in the gears and mashed – such is the beauty, mystery and power of their output.  They do not sound like anyone else and yet, somehow, it turns out that this sound is exactly what I wanted to hear.  Its value can only be calculated by fumbling with an alien currency, glinting strangely in my palm.

Thus: Vocal Learning is the best album of the year so far.  Why?  Because it is – I said so.

…and there we have it.  The End.  Well, not quite.  There is a prize should the winners wish to claim it: a release on the fabled fencing flatworm recordings.  Yes, in a tradition stretching all the way back to one year ago I decided to reanimate my legendary label to issue one release a year which could only be by the winner of the Best Album Zellaby Award.  So, JB & Paul, how about it?  Drop me a line if the idea tickles you both and we’ll talk turkey.

RFM’s ongoing account of the no-audience underground’s creative endeavour will continue shortly.  We wish you all a very happy New Year!

documents of the golden age: new from ashtray navigations, aqua dentata and helicopter quartet

July 29, 2013 at 7:30 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 7 Comments
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Ashtray Navigations – Insect Descent (CD-r, Obsolete Units, OU-042, edition of 100)

Aqua Dentata – Ten Thousand Wooden Faces (CD-r, Echo Tango, etc02)

Helicopter Quartet – Where Have All The Aliens Gone? (self-released download)

ashtray - insect descentaqua dentata - ten thousand wooden faceshelicopter quartet - where have all the aliens gone

Musing on the quality of the releases above, and on the methods by which they found their way to me, led me to revisit some comments made by Simon Reynolds in that speech we talked about last year.  In particular, the bit where he seemed to champion the freedoms won by punk whilst being suspicious of the freedoms allowed by the internet.  He also bemoaned the lack of an audience for the avalanche of creative endeavour that is instantly accessible nowadays.  He worried that all this production needed validating by sufficient consumption and that the required level of consumption just wasn’t there.  Hence his reference to my notion of the ‘no-audience underground’.

Regarding the first worry, well, of course we should all be grateful to punk for wresting the means of production (partially at least) from the majors of the mainstream.  It showed that the music ‘industry’ could be run by and for fans and artists.  May I cheekily point out, however, that all the elements that made up the mainstream music industry were retained by punk: releases, tours, press, promotion etc.  Even, in some cases, old-school bullshit like management and contracts.  The fan/artist (stage/pit) divide was made more permeable but wasn’t eliminated.  That these means were co-opted by people who weren’t godawful wankers and who really cared about the music and the politics is not the same thing as jettisoning them altogether.  I realise that I am being naughtily revisionist in doubting the ‘Year Zero’ status of punk but you know what I mean.

In contrast, the freedoms offered by the internet are greater by orders of magnitude.  Via services like Bandcamp any sound at all can be made available to anyone on the planet with an internet connection, at no unit cost to either the artist or the listener, within minutes of it being completed.  Punk couldn’t compete with that: it’s as transparently democratic, anarchic even, as it is possible to be in a ‘music-related’ context.  Sure, engage with traditional elements if you like (running a label, for example, is a fun thing to do and still one of the best ways of organising a cluster of artists who share similar objectives) but you don’t have to.  The extent to which you commit yourself is entirely your own concern.  You don’t have to sound punk either, or cop a snarling attitude.  Simon Reynolds, betraying an old-fashioned punknosity, suggests the underground should define itself in opposition to the mainstream.  Quaint, eh?  In turn I’d suggest that it is far more radical to ignore it.  The machine loves to be raged against – what it can’t bear is to be shrugged off as irrelevant.  Which, of course, it is.

The second worry seems to be based on a misunderstanding of why we do what we do.  If we instead take as read that the primary purpose of most worthwhile creative endeavour is self-expression then this concern just dissolves.  ‘But where are the fans?’ Simon says, ‘what do you mean ‘fans’?’ I reply, looking up from the keyboard and glancing nervously over my shoulder.  It is lovely to have an appreciative audience, I understand this – I’m as vain and needy as the next guy, but this is a secondary concern.  In fact, aren’t we supposed to be suspicious of ‘art’ created with the audience in mind, that is, with an eye on the market?  Isn’t that what we call ‘product’?  Not very ‘punk’ is it?  Sure, I’ll settle for market-driven pabulum if I find myself in an undemanding mood but I’m equally sure that the stuff featured on this blog is created without any concern for how many ‘units’ it might shift.  We all appreciate the occasional reward – we work hard – but no one here needs a fist-pumping crowd to validate what they do.  A friend joked the other day that the ratio of artists to listeners on Bandcamp is 10 to 1, then was careful to add: which is how it should be.  I agreed, laughing.  The production of all this work is, in and of itself, a terrific thing.  What should we be doing instead?  Passively consuming CDs recommended by veteran cultural commentators presumably.  Ugh: boring.

So why rake over these coals again?  Well, these three releases nicely illustrate three choices about levels of commitment to the process, and give three crystal clear examples of the majesty that can be achieved by people following their vision irrespective of whether or not it will ‘sell’.  All are also expansively psychedelic, albeit in different ways, and thus suitable listening during the recent heat.

Ten Thousand Wooden Faces by Aqua Dentata comprises five untitled tracks totalling about three quarters of an hour.  They are presented to us by Eddie Nuttall himself via his ‘echo tango’ imprint on CD-r in the stylishly minimal, ‘wood grain’ print cover pictured above.  Once again I am impressed with his exquisite discipline.  This is electronic noise as tai chi performance: poised, muscular, subtle, focussed.

The first track features not much more than a tone hovering at midriff level whilst a rolling rattle seesaws to and fro around the stereo field.  I have no idea what the sound source for this liquid clatter might be but it calls to mind happy hours from my early childhood spent dropping endless marbles down a homemade run constructed from bits of cardboard and sellotape.  The six year old’s equivalent of meditation.  The second track is almost modernist in its austerity but I find this drone soulful and not the slightest bit academic or aloof.  It is like a Beckett play – formally minimal, intensely human.  The third track finds the gradual smearing of an early morning burglar alarm reconceptualised as the centrepiece of Eddie’s album.  Context is everything – sat here it is perfect.

The main event is the fourth track: an 18 minute stretch so magnificent that I feel compelled to coin a new sub-genre to account for it.  I used the phrase ‘tethered crescendo’ in the piece I wrote about Lucy Johnson but would like to flesh it out here.  What I mean is the type of piece that exists in an uneasy stasis and gives the impression that it could roar into chaos if it wasn’t being held delicately but firmly in place by the guiding hand of the artist.  I picture Eddie struggling with a sack full of drunken wasps or holding his hands stock still over a crackling, multipronged, malignant-looking, sentient Theremin.  We end with a short coda of dangerously wet electrics which, inevitably, short circuit and leave us in ozone-scented darkness…

Where Have All The Aliens Gone?, the new album by Helicopter Quartet also comprises five tracks totalling about three quarters of an hour, this time self-released as a pay-what-you-like download via Bandcamp.  It is fair to say I swooned over the first Helicopter Quartet album and I have been quivering with anticipation since hearing that the duo of Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synth) and Michael Capstick (guitar, bass) were recording their second (y’know, in a studio and everything, like a real band).  Expectations were high and I’m happy to say that they have been comfortably exceeded.

Their sound (‘drone rock’? ‘dark ambient’? I don’t know) is dense and rich, each element absorbing in its own right, all contributing to a mysterious but coherent whole.  It is like finding an ornately inlaid wooden casket containing a collection of exquisitely handcrafted objects: what might be a bear, carved from obsidian, a female form cast in an unplaceable grey/green metal, an abstract pattern, possibly even unreadable script, scrimshawed onto yellowing bone.  All irresistibly tactile, all fascinating, all revealing aspects of the character of the unknown and long dead collector who gathered them together.

It is cliché to describe simplicity as ‘deceptive’ and efficiency as ‘ruthless’ but both phrases are perfectly apt in this case.  There is no waste, no let up, the emotional demands of this music are unmistakeable.  Despite the jokes about torturing aliens on its Bandcamp page, this is a deeply serious music but, like Aqua Dentata above, it is epic on a human scale.  Allow me an anecdotal illustration.  The other day I found myself walking home from work chewing over some difficult news.  No need for specifics – suffice to say that aged 41 years old I find myself surrounded by young children, elderly relatives and am occasionally (still) shocked by mortality and frailty in my peer group. In short: I am now a grown up.  This album was playing on my walkman at the time and it resonated so perfectly with my mood that at one moment – it could have been the violin’s entrance in the title track, maybe the guitar in ‘Hunter Gatherer’ – it pulled at me so irresistibly that my mental jenga pile collapsed and I found myself crying, hard, whilst waiting to cross a road at Sheepscar junction.  Remarkable.  I think HQ can consider that a standing ovation.

Finally, we have Insect Descent by Ashtray Navigations, a pro-pressed CD-r in full colour digipak lovingly produced in an edition of 100 by American label Obsolete Units.  Yet another five track album but this one is a monster 73 minutes long.  The music herein was recorded by Phil solo (can I make the ‘on his todd’ joke?  Hah! – I just did!) back in 2008 but, mysteriously, has languished unreleased since then.  I don’t know the story but no matter – all’s well that ends well and we should thank Obsolete Units for doing their duty in making it available.

We begin with ‘The Trail Of The Long Wet Mystery Fruit That Dropped Into The Lion’s Mouth’, two minutes of scene setting psychic alarums – the kind that might go off in your head when you realise you’ve just taken twice as many magic mushrooms as you originally intended.  We are then launched into ‘Insect Descent Trajectory’ which is 12 minutes of orgiastic delirium.  Picture a neon-lit pit full of writhing, multi-limbed, demigods wearing nothing but day-glo body paint.  Every protuberance is for fucking with, every crevice and orifice is to be fucked.  Yeah, Phil uses the medium of the guitar overdub to paint a vivid scene.  The bip-bop, electronic percussion track that accompanies the squalling is hilariously strutting, bad-ass, daring you to laugh at its rinkydinkyness.

The wet electrics that ended the Aqua Dentata album resurface as the main component of ‘One Million Pleasurecards All Painted White’ – 23 minutes of guttural rumble, like the drainage system of a large, Northern, post-industrial city attempting to clear its throat before announcing something important.  This growling throb is leavened by guitar occasionally bobbing to the surface – giant fuzzy dice emerging miraculously unsullied from an oil-slick filled bay.

By the time we get to ‘Fake Aeroplane’ the mushrooms from earlier have well and truly kicked in and you find yourself fried and sitting on a park bench at 4.30am. “Up!” you murmur and the bench launches into the air, “vroomm!!” you suggest and the bench flies you towards the raspberry dawn.  “Somewhere nice please,” you politely request and, after fifteen minutes of blurred landscape below, you land gently in the setting for the final track. ‘Sweeping Song’ is a masterfully sustained 20 minutes of blissed-out heat, tropical but made comfortable by a sea breeze.  It is the aural equivalent of laying on your back, spread-eagled, on a beach and slowly working your fingers and heels into the sand.  The rhythm track that starts, somewhat surprisingly, at around 14 minutes marks the dawning realisation that this might be the most awesome afternoon of your life…

So there we have it: three album of the year contenders in one blog post.  One available direct from a terrific microlabel, the others direct from the artists concerned.  You don’t even have to pay for the Helicopter Quartet album if you have nowt spare (though please bung ’em something if you can – it is well worth a donation).  All done for the love of it, because the drive to do it is irresistible.  All created outside of any commercial concerns and with little, if any, reference to ‘the mainstream’ at all.  Never mind the music industry, here’s the life affirming genius.

Truly, people, we live in a golden age.

Aqua Dentata

Helicopter Quartet

Obsolete Units

the compass will always point north

June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Sheepscar Light Industrial Presented:

‘The Compass Points North’

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

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, Saturday 22nd June 2013

01 hagman hands

Dan Thomas is to be congratulated.  Again.  The latest of his biannual gigs, themed (more or less) around his microlabel Sheepscar Light Industrial, took place last Saturday and was, without quibble, a triumph.  Background and biographies of the acts that played can be found via the numerous links Dan worked into the original publicity so I’m not going into much context here.  All I want to do is give a brief and immediate impression of what was a terrific, life affirming evening (this will be accompanied by my usual terrible photojournalism, which this time gets all arty part way through when I decide to forego the flash).  The gig was also appropriated by Mark Wharton of RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher as part of his 50th birthday celebrations.  More on him in the section about my set.

Being the model of efficiency that he is, Dan has already edited, mastered and posted freely downloadable mp3s of each of the six performances.  These can be found zipped up in rar files on mediafire but you lot can’t be arsed with that can you?  Thus I’ve taken the liberty of hosting unzipped mp3s here in the cavernous RFM vaults too.  Listen by clicking on the little arrows you’ll see below or download by right clicking on the links and saving the digital goodness.

Due to childcare commitments I couldn’t be part of the committee welcoming our three guests from London: Andie Brown (These Feathers Have Plumes), Eddie Nuttall (Aqua Dentata) and Paul Watson (BBBlood) so I met up with them, Kev Sanders (Petals) and Dan at Wharf Chambers sometime just gone 6pm.  Setting up and soundchecking was in full swing and Dan had thoughtfully dragged my usual table and standard lamp into my preferred position.  Kibe (apologies – I don’t know the spelling, it was pronounced Key-Bee), our soundguy, was super helpful and accommodating and asked a question I have never heard someone doing his job ask in all my years of droning:

Would you like it to be louder?

I knew right there the evening was going to be a belter.

So here’s us setting up, tabletop electronics is a breeze, eh?

02 setting up

Once all was in hand we retired to the Wharf Chambers beer ‘garden’ to relax and listen to the gathering crowd of ecstatic noise-fans chanting our names as they waited outside to rush the doors as soon as they opened.  Here’s Andie and dapper Eddie rockin’ his trademark mod look.

04 and andie and eddie

… and here’s Paul and Kev, synchronising their Sam Smith intake.

03 chillin with paul and kev

That bit about the baying crowd was a joke obviously.  For some time the first and only paying punter was the mighty Pete Cann.  Looks well excited, eh?

05 premiere paying punter pete

So come 8pm a respectable crowd was gathering but many jaded regulars were alarmed to find that the gig was going to start (and run throughout the night) on time.  Dan needed to run a tight ship to keep it afloat.  He did.  First up was Petals.

06 petals prepares

Picture shows Kev indulging in a little liquid preparation.  The esteem in which I hold this guy’s work is second to none and the sheer quality of his set made me want to simultaneously a) lie face down on the floor, eyes closed, palms up and b) accost the general public, grab lapels and thrust Petals releases into the pockets of the bewildered.  Putting him on first is a crime really, but it set the bar almost comically high for the rest of us.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/01-petals.mp3]

Download Petals

Next was Eddie:

07 aqua dentata one08 aqua dentata two

After championing his release March Hare, Kraken Mare this time last year I have been following the Aqua Dentata story with an almost unhealthy interest.  Eddie’s music has a quiet but unswerving sense of purpose and is constructed with such patience and confidence that its simplicity becomes exhilarating.  Like a clear blue sky, like a perfectly sharp knife.  This guy knows what to leave out and, in so doing, makes anything other than rapt attention impossible.  Smart dresser too.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/02-aqua-dentata.mp3]

Download Aqua Dentata

Then Dan had to relinquish his organisational duties for half an hour and take to the stage…

09 the solo hag man

Hagman, the duo of Dan Thomas and Dave Thomas (no relation) was exactly 50% short as the latter was not in attendance.  Due to Dave enduring an attack of ‘real life’ type stuff Dan had to play solo.  An intriguing start of cross-clattering rhythms (field recordings from his recent travels to Hong Kong?) gave way to the pressurised roar of a sleepless night in an aircraft cabin, augmented by the pots and sliders of the kit jumble you see above.  It was muscular but delicate too.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/03-danielthomas.mp3]

Download Hagman/Daniel Thomas

…and then something really magical happened:

10 andie's giant wine glasses11 andie in action

To my shame, I wasn’t up to speed with Andie’s work as These Feathers Have Plumes before.  Suffice to say I am now a fan.  She used the three giant glasses (vases? punchbowls?) pictured above, part filled with water, to produce gorgeous, haunting, tones by rubbing a moistened thumb around their rims (titter ye not).  This augmented a carefully underplayed selection of field recordings – birds, weather, water – to create an effect that was, in short, perfect.  Usually, the act before I go on is a blur as I pace around retching and coughing with nerves but Andie’s music held me transfixed.  The artist Joan Miro once described his life’s project as to ‘conquer simplicity’.  I’ve always been quite taken by that notion, despite the machismo of ‘conquer’, and was envious of Andie’s obvious and natural understanding of the idea.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/04-these-feathers-have-plumes.mp3]

Download These Feathers Have Plumes

My turn.  I didn’t take any photos of me performing, for the obvious reason, and my attempts to photograph the crowd at the beginning of my set were too rubbish to be used.  No matter, you can see my set-up at the back of the photo of Dan – sparkly scarf used as glamour table cloth, standard lamp, grumpy old mc-303.  The first of my two tracks was a version of the title track from inertia crocodile, my soon-to-released CD-r on WGGFDTB, and is mainly constructed from a rave stab noise filtered until it gets seasick and starts tripping over itself.  The second track is a new piece, as yet unnamed, in which a recording of Thomas the Baby drinking his bottle of milk is used as a rhythm track under a dense drone ‘lullaby’.  I was very pleased at how it turned out – good and loud and thick.  Now, I am a vain, self-regarding man and will shamelessly fish for compliments after a set but, to my delight, people I didn’t even know wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me.  My spoken intro got a laugh and most seemed charmed by my indulgent use of Thomas recordings.

I dedicated the set to Mark Wharton who, as mentioned, was there celebrating his birthday.  As well as being a friend, a comrade and an all round good egg, Mark has been an important influence on me over the years.  In a sense he taught me noise – no Idwal Fisher (and its predecessors) = no radiofreemidwich.  I’ve written about this before so I’ll just wipe the tear from the corner of my eye and leave it there.  He seemed touched by the gesture, which was my intention.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/05-midwich.mp3]

Download midwich

OK, time for Paul Watson to step up and obliterate this soppiness…

12 bbblood13 bbbloodier

Finally: BBBlood.  A performance by Paul is always a treat and an eager throng gathered, vibrating in anticipation, as he kicked off.  The first section was all scabrous electro-mechanical rhythms, building in intensity until the appearance of his handheld noise-o-tron (a tobacco tin with a mic in it) indicated that the point of no return had been reached.  Paul then flung himself into it, clattering his sound source onto/under the long suffering furniture and fiddling viciously with the pots and sliders of his patch lead orchestra.  Totally joyous: we all went fucking crazy and when the noise dropped for a burst of pop funk many audience members, notable Kev, couldn’t resist busting a move.  There was even an encore of sorts as a ‘highly refreshed’ Andie wanted to shout into the microphone.  A dizzying, nostrils-flaring, grin-inducing end to a great night.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/06-bbblood.mp3]

Download BBBlood

Post-gig, the atmosphere of drunken revelry was such that leaving the venue was like leaving a wedding party: all hugs and promises.  The rain didn’t dare touch me as I ran for the last bus.

More on Sheepscar Light Industrial

More on Idwal Fisher

reminder!! midwich live this weekend at ‘the compass points north’

June 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

compass

Yes, on Saturday I have the pleasure of performing as part of the terrific line-up above.  I’ve no doubt the date has been circled in red in your diaries for some time but I thought it best to post a reminder just in case.  This unmissable gig, assembled by the tireless Dan Thomas of the peerless Sheepscar Light Industrial, has also been co-opted by Mark Wharton of Idwal Fisher as the end point of a Leeds-based pub crawl to celebrate his 50th Birthday.  You are all invited.

Full details of the gig here.

Facebook event page for the gig here.

Facebook event page for Mark’s debauchery here.

Huzzah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook Event Page

Aqua Dentata |

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

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

BBBlood |

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

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

Hagman |

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

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

Midwich |

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

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

Petals |

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

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

These Feathers Have Plumes |

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

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

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

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

Awesome.  See you there.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: the rest of aqua dentata

October 18, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aqua Dentata – Seventh Past The Umbrella (C35 cassette, Beartown Records, BTR029)

Aqua Dentata – Lesbian Semiotics at a Jewellery Table (CD-r, Echo Tango, etc01)

Well, hasn’t this lad made a good impression?  Since Eddie Nuttall came to my attention via a charming email and the gift of his remarkable album March Hare Kraken Mare I’ve seen write-ups in other journals of record, including RFM’s sister publication Idwal Fisher, I’ve marvelled at the marvellous A Staircase Missing on Sheepscar Light Industrial, and even had the pleasure of his company over dinner when he and Paul ‘BBBlood’ Watson trekked up from that London to administer two of the sharpest live sets I’ve seen this year.  Eddie’s performance was a masterclass in control; a lesson in fire-walking for those more delicate artists who struggle with the hubbub of a traditional gig venue.  Hypnotize the audience with something as good as this and they simply have no choice but to shut the fuck up.

Aqua Dentata’s body of recorded work is still small enough to cradle whilst cooing at its perfection.  Each release is ‘of a piece’ with the others as Eddie works through the implications and nuances of a disciplined, minimal aesthetic.  Anyone who has read my many worshipful posts regarding Culver will sense me nodding in approval at this approach.  Complaints that ‘it all sounds the same’ are for the barbarous and uncouth.  Four releases are listed on the Aqua Dentata website: the two aforementioned and the two I am about to discuss.

The recording of Seventh Past the Umbrella is dated to 2001 which makes it a fascinating developmental step towards Eddie’s current activity.  Why the decade long break in between this recording and the recent releases?  I’m intrigued.  Anyway, the aesthetic ‘vibe’ is already in place but, as you might expect from a first attempt, the sound is rawer, less cut.

What you get are two side long fuzz/drone pieces multi-layered from tooth-loosening top-end to slack-flapping rumble.  These elements slide over each other with the firm grace of a Turkish masseuse kneading a sumo wrestler’s back.  This is fleshy, satisfying fare: quivering in its own jelly, glistening with delicious juices.  Or if the metaphors are getting too meaty for you (and I am being deliberately naughty here ‘cos I know Eddie is vegan) how about this?  It is the sound of the thoughts of a super-organism, expressed by the beating wings and chittering mandibles of the millions of pseudo-individuals that make up the colony.

Lesbian Semiotics at a Jewellery Table (some kind of gender politics set-to at a craft fair?  I daren’t even ask), recorded last year and released on Eddie’s own Echo Tango imprint, is fashioned from the same material as March Hare Kraken Mare and A Staircase Missing.  That is: another recording documenting the sounds emanating from the central chamber of some occult power station.  In this vast room energy is produced by giant metal discs sliding over each other lubricated solely by their own sheen, or occasionally with a dab of fragrant, grainy, wax-like grease.  It is multistable: both calming and unnerving at the same time.  Quietly magnificent.

Remarkably, at the time of writing it appears that all four items in the Aqua Dentata catalogue are still available for sale – though budding completists should note: not in great quantities.  You’ll need to scamper over to the releases page of the Aqua Dentata website where you can buy Lesbian Semiotics… direct from Eddie and follow the links there to Beartown Records and Sheepscar Light Industrial for the rest.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: petals, aqua dentata, andrew jarvis on sheepscar light industrial

October 5, 2012 at 5:58 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Andrew Jarvis – Cardigan Arms

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.007, edition of 50 and download)

Aqua Dentata – A Staircase Missing

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.008, edition of 50 and download)

Petals – Whether to Drown

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.009, edition of 50 and download)

…and now because the show must go on.

Listening to these three releases on Daniel Thomas’s Sheepscar Light Industrial called to mind a passage from Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond’s book The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way). Published in 1988, shortly before The KLF’s reign of world domination, it now evokes a prelapsarian idyll of Top of the Pops, 7” singles and the like but, leaving the nostalgia aside, it remains enormous fun, of historical interest to the pop connoisseur and brimming with wisdom. On my bookshelf the dinky 1998 reissue sits alongside Notes on the Cinematographer by master of austere cinema Robert Bresson – another tiny format book full of gnomic utterance but, ironically given its Frenchness, comparatively lacking in joie de vivre.

In the former volume, after some initial instructions and having spent Sunday evening listening to the Top 40 on Radio 1, the reader is directed to spend Monday evening…

…round at some mate’s house. See if he has any records worth borrowing. More importantly, tell him what you are up to and see if he has any great ideas worth using. It is a little known fact, but when it comes to creative ideas the majority of people are creative geniuses. Your mate is bound to be one of them.

Heh, heh: ‘records worth borrowing’, charming isn’t it? Still, the substantive point is delicious, timeless and absolutely true. However, the next sentence…

It’s just that all these folks never dare to translate their creative brilliance into reality.

…doesn’t apply to the people I know, the people I write about here. None of us (apart from Neil Campbell perhaps – ha, lolz!!) dream of having a bestselling pop single, which is fortunate given the abject lack of interest in our endeavours, but neither are we afraid to create and to present those creations to others. On the contrary (as I am driven to mention time and again) we are driven to do so even when our time might be ‘better’ spent more ‘usefully’.

Am I saying that my everyday life is full of friends and acquaintances who are creative geniuses, compelled to express that genius as best they can given the resources available to them? Yes, I am. Need proof? Listen to this little lot.

I am not going to say much about the music (dawn chorus on the island of mecha-godzilla, shadows of sea-monsters, cleansed by internal forest fire – that will do) for two reasons. The first is that you can hear all of this for yourself and/or download it and/or purchase dirt-cheap physical instances of it via the admirably user-friendly SLI Bandcamp site. The second is that today I’m not discussing the detail, I’m discussing the phenomenon.

You’d think I might take it for granted by now but I never do. Sometimes the joy is buried under fatigue, sometimes I may be distracted from it by sad and difficult events, but it is always there. Holy fucking shit, I think, I can’t believe I actually know these guys! Let’s take, for example, today’s three artists and their label boss: Eddie is a relatively new acquaintance but we hit it off during his recent visit to post-industrial Yorkshire and his music is terrific, the presence of Andy or Kev at an event will always draw a big grin from me as I look forward to the evening’s performance and conversation and my continuing bromance with Dan is the talk of the no-audience underground. But this isn’t a sniffy elite of insiders. If you don’t already know them you can just say hello, buy a CD-r, express an interest, like them on facebook and all that. No-one will mind, they’ll say ‘hello’ back. Amazing isn’t it?

All three of these discs/downloads are marvellous and will enormously enrich your day should you let them.  SLI marches on: Dan works fast, keeps the product cheap and the design functional so he can expend all remaining effort on quality control.  It shows.

Listen/download/buy here.

crow versus crow and sheepscar light industrial present petrels, aqua dentata, max bondi, bbblood and ben gaymer live in leeds 15/09/12

September 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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An awesome gig is about to occur here in the beautiful garden city of Leeds.  My advice is: attend.  Apologies for the short notice but it has been widely publicised elsewhere and I’m sure you can rearrange whatever less important thing you had planned…

The incredible line up includes some RFM blog faves and some terrific acts that are, to my shame, new to me.  For a full account of the fun ahead see either the Sheepscar Light Industrial blog or the Crow Versus Crow blog both of which have write-ups and copious links.  See also my views on BBBlood, possibly the best of the new physical-noisers I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, here, here and here.  See also also my review in which the Aqua Dentata album is compared favourably to the best record ever made.

Andy of CvC and Dan of SLI deserve your support for pulling this one out of the bag.  I will definitely be there myself so do say ‘hello’ whether or not we’ve already made acquaintance.  The social side of this event will be good too, I’m sure.  And think of the mouth-watering merch table!  Bring money!

Oh yeah: don’t forget to read/act on that bit about Wharf Chambers membership – it is very easy to sort out and helps them enormously.

Right then – see y’all next Saturday, comrades…

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