similarly introverted/greasy feathers: joe murray on final seed, troy schafer, termite acropolis, michael barthel, kent tankred, body morph, matt krefting, jon collin, f ampism and final seed again!March 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: beartown records, body morph, chocolate monk, f. ampism, final seed, joe murray, jon collin, kent tankred, matt krefting, micahel barthel, round bale recordings, soundholes, termite acropolis, troy schafer
Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings)
Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings)
Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings)
Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk)
Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk)
Body Morph – Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes)
Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk)
Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music)
F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records)
Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)
Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings) Very rare tape or download
Rejoice in this super-subtle tape nothingness.
Side A is a perfectly timed 10 minutes that weaves the sound of background hiss-radiation with brief leather-necked gulpings and pre-language garrotte. The sound of the sound of the recorder whirring dumbly is captured in startling clarity. A round off in the cavern of the delay bounces a single blank tone off the squash court wall.
Side B is similarly introverted. What was once a throaty wolf-man roar is pitched right down and super low into a substratum of broken sea-foam. It warbles quietly, paying no mind and, like pouring thick glue over an uneven floor, the sound pools in places making deep ripples, skims the surface in others as light as a pond skipper.
The sense of purpose and dedication to a dream makes this a supremely confident release and an important exercise in listening to the sort of chuff we often ignore, gloss over and palm off.
Read no further and click here for evidence.
Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings) Ultra rare lathe cut 7inch or download
Round Bale describe this as a ‘brain-scrambler’. After listening I’m feeling poached and fried to boot!
Side A. Sepia piano recordings run through a wood-chipper.
Troy’s fingers may nudge the occasional keys gently but his feet hit the pedals with force sending those white and black notes ricocheting through tin and bronze filters that wreak the pretty and gasp with giant violence. What else am I getting (like a wine taster – that’s me!) a lung-rattling wheeze, half-song and memory. You know what? I’m just a sucker for a solo piano. The final 11 seconds promise a new beginning with that build up of blocked, harried notes that rudely snip off. Oh yeah…distinctly classy.
Side B starts with a grunt and then something orchestral is wrenched back and forth through a pinhole. The dry wooden click of a cello (perhaps) mimics a poultry convention; angry clucks and gobbles, that red wattle vibrating with the rough string attack. I hear a woman’s laughter and then Troy launches into more grappling with the horsehair. A dramatic friction. Like looking down a sound-microscope that magnifies each textured sound-bundle a thousand times until it bursts like a turgid cell – spouting information into your lucky earhole.
Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings) sold out tape and download
What an apt name for this ant-city investigation. Miniature tunnels are bored through the hard red earth and filled with dark cardboard clunks and billiard hall knockings.
Powerfully restrained recordings of process with little ornamentation. This is: a bell, a dropped coin, a handful of pocket fluff.
But that’s not to say these are overly simple. Sounds are doused with a gentle condiment (or indeed pickled) until they slush about like a rotting medical exhibit (see: Caricature of the garden) in the bottom of a demijohn.
While massive machines are imagined in ‘Lardworks’, brass pistons pumping and levers floundering in a polished wooden way, it is left to ‘Extinguish the light’ to hurl us into the modern age; a symphony of gates opening and shutting to the beat of the Bontempi.
Title tracks often tell us a little about the intention and drive behind a record or artist. In this case I’m guessing the closer, a nine-minute brining, is a powerful psychic calling card. It’s subtle and refined, relaxed but with a steady guiding hand on the reigns. Delicate and simple tones and clunks rattle around the bagatelle that mirrors your own dainty cochlear. It’s easy to get lost in such dwarf loops as they occur again and again, melting over each other in polite collapse. At around the four-minute mark a constant high-lonely-moan is redoubled turning that sweet milk into smoked cheese marking the start of a watery, pale beauty.
Waiting room music for the hep, hep cats.
Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk) C20 Cassette
Insider bone scrapings and economic scribble.
Side A runs for about 9 minutes and places micro-pieces of clean and energetic German-sounding spoken goof with psychotic milkman-whistle and hissy-Dictaphone-grottage. Oh yes! Michael barks stern his instructions. These blocks of meaning lock as tight as Duplo bricks but instead of the obvious primary colours this is an altogether mistier proposal.
So…rather than tan the glitches Mr Barthel exercises all the edges of his palette. The lion indeed lies down with the lamb with the final few minutes mimicking aching layers of lazy sediment.
Side B starts with off-radio, wrong-phonics and some glorious sepia glossolalia. A hum and whirr of the taping device is left to whittle away adding a tambour-like drone for an amateur age. Gloriously smeared sound leaks like straw-coloured plasma from a bad burn. Oily as balm; dressings are changed for the finale of woollen moans and an almost vaudeville reading of sparse and strangulated word blooms.
It’s a hectic world for sure, but listening to this made me dawdle like a child. Damn…listening to this tape made me a better person. You NEED some!
Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk) C40 Cassette
These ultra-heavy organ manipulations weigh as much a chubby whale loafing about in the viscous and dark brine.
A presence piece that you can, and should, project your reality on to: this is perfect travelling music.
Each organ foldback-loop and full –throated gas-roar is like a cold sun flickering through autumn leaves or watching the savage juxtaposition of a ripped billboard layered with contrasting messages.
- Large pumice boulders skin your elbows and the dead skin falls like dry sleet.
- A microphone is lowered into a crimson oubliette.
- Running into the wind with your mouth open wide until your breath gets caught behind chilly teeth.
This hissing bustle plays well obnoxiously loud and pasty-necked quiet.
Body Morph- Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes) C60 cassette
This tape is an exercise in long-form rustage.
True! Tones from a dying crab get hoofed through the murky, mystic mix at points but mostly it’s a 1000 yard stare of slowly crashing gears.
On side one I’m picking up cheap-casio keys gummed down under years of tape-varnish & mould-hiss. I’m hearing a smeared gossamer touch akin to greasy feathers.
Side two gets all lo-maxxed on a horn of some sort; mournful and cool as the night air. Armenian Jazz Sorrow? The sound of occasional suffocation?
A true listeners tape, this is no ‘slap it on and do the ironing’ cassette. It demands full attention and for this thorough investment you are amply rewarded with layer upon layer of ear –silt clogging yr golden wax deposits.
Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk) C15 Cassette
Ultra-core tape jaxx.
Super-indefinite and lost imaginings.
It’s the softest breath kissing carbon paper; that most delicate and faint purple image as tender as an early morning bruise.
Memory slides smooth as a trombone made of smog and brass fittings.
Half-formed but fully realised. The magic happens in that grey blancmange as you use natural electricity to link the un-linkable, paint the un-paintable.
Matt leaves us mortals a few clues – popping candy in a giant’s gob and infrared tinfoil. Apart from that you’re on your own pal!
Polite yet essential.
Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music) C15 Tape
If I’d got my finger out this tape would have made the 2016 ‘best of’ lists for sure and will no doubt be top 10 material in sunny 2017.
Fahey, Rose and Nugent fan boys/girls must listen…this tape is so charming I coughed up a cream tea and a cheeky goodnight kiss. This tape made me a damn loving fool!
In the old definition this is a fucking splendid tape (shine, be bright) that warms up my cold heart and makes me smile like reading Nicholson Baker details and footnotes.
A real human-sounding solo acoustic guitar probe the damn nostalgia nodes to conjure up an imagined picnic in a cornfield. The colours are vivid. The corn is the creamiest yellow, the sky the brightest blue. Our blanket the deepest red.
The melodies trip some switch that bursts crisp cornflowers out my chest and replace my blood with silver helium bubbles.
Spiritualised? Do me a favour eh? I’m really floating in space here mate. The strums and pickles are complex as spiderwebs but simple as nursery rhymes. The untitled tunes are as familiar as pins and needles and get under my skin in a similar restless and itchy way; it’s like I’ve always known them as they slip out of reach skidding like a deer on ice.
Oh my! Such elegance with chipped nails and calloused hands. The perfect beautiful happiness of aching heart.
F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records) CD
A tasty CD that I’m now re-imagining as a vinyl EP pressed onto seven inches.
“But why format transfer boy? You may ask.”
Because this is a disc of two halves, that’s why doubter. An ‘A’ and a ‘B’. My ‘This Side’ twinned to your ‘That Side’ is strongly suggested to my oatmeal mind.
Let me explain…
A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism. Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof. It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.
The first three tracks, ‘Monaestry and Math’ to ‘Straight Brains’ are alive with exotic Toucan ‘caws’ and Howler hoots. The middler ‘The Joint Capsule’ replays Balinese rhythms among the creaking boats, the lapping waves and call of villagers selling shrimp-based snacks. Gradually a soft tone bubbling erupts in my pocket. Copper pans are dropped overboard and ‘boaab’ drunkenly in the mud-coloured water as they slowly fill, sway, and sink beneath the waves.
All of a piece these three realised constructions suggest organic life with a face tilted towards a red, red sun.
‘Shabada Transmission’ bucks the trend by laying down heavily in the rumpled bed belonging to Detroit Techno – the synthetic strings and xylophone tones as future facing as jet boots and holidays on Mars. And in doing so Ampism revels a new destination and we are already deep in ‘Side Two’ territory.
‘Inner Eyelid’ is made up of spare parts, a lone creak, a dropped calliope yet is patched up in the most un-Frankenstein manner. No flat head no sir! Bolts through the neck? Forget-about-it. Think more like a slim ankle glimpsed or thick auburn curls just begging to be tousled.
The jazz, in all its hot boiling majesty, infests ‘Thrown Jam 1 and 2 ‘ with Pazuzu sitting in on traps while Regan hams on the vintage synth. This duo/solo gets ripe!
And, as all things must, this disc ends. But with a juddering, flustering loop so perfectly placed those plunderphonic dingbats blush crimson and sweat.
Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) C30 Cassette
Witness the drunken bowling alley vibe on this damp-chiller from Final Seed.
Like a diary opened at random one passage might reveal children squeaking, another, the fumbling fingers of a defective chord-organ.
Dark percussive knocks form a rhythm interuptus ladled on thick like broth. Slack-mouthed and slurry, a voice gnarls on with steaming feet. Wonked-out keyboard extrapolations all bothered with hot-electric butter. Broken cassette ghost-capture.
Neat eh? But all the while this is undoubtedly gush from the same mush. Oh my!
This is serious stuff…like the abstract soundtrack to the sound of making a soundtrack each perfect formula of tones, field recordings and manipulations delight by being both utterly novel and head-scratchingly familiar. So while the diary analogy still holds I’m darting from love-sick boy-teen to worried mother to toddler rocking on their plump heels. It’s got charm in punnets, invention in spades!
The best album that chump Eno never made. DEMAND A RESSIUE!!!
Tags: beartown records, bells hill, eastville vending, hardworking families, joe murray, mudguts
Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists (3″ CD-r, Eastville Vending, edition of 60 or download)
Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai (3″ CD-r, Bells Hill, BH 013, edition of 30)
Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN (CD-r, Beartown Records, edition of 50)
Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists
How I love a micro-compilation. Those labours of love that gather together large numbers of wonky artists and put them in a restrictive jacket. They say,
Do your thing… but keep it quick.
Of course this is excellent advice – the forethought and discipline creating a series of unrelated but often complimentary micro-moments coughing and spluttering outta your earbuds.
As ever there is a bit of personal history here. Homemade Grindcore tape-trades and the RRR-500 locked-groove monster (with its 500 individual artists) first alerted me to this fascinating stubby-nub of the ‘various artists’ family tree. Then I found the slightly more breathy Martin Archer Network series with over 100 people playing short pieces over two discs. More recently Sindre Bjerga took up the mantle with his Gold Soundz compilation of 99 international-gonks on the marvelous and irreverent Pissing in the Wind.
But this time the seed was planted by one Neil Campbell to use up all those old 3 inch CD-Rs out there. He reckons 23 minutes is around the maximum amount of music you can cram on one of these little silver discs so 23 x 1 minute pieces makes perfect sense. The Marketing and Research branch of the Eastville Vending Corporation agreed and ‘ta-dah!’ – a new micro-comp is born.
You can slice these things several ways but my favourite tactic is to dive straight in and dig this as a single piece; an ever-changing narrative of moods and themes. Then I realise that it is actually presented as a single 23 min piece so that does help things somewhat and I settle back and l.i.s.t.e.n.
So, where did my 23 minute journey take me?
Laica – Electric dodgems collapse into magnetic tessellations // Kemper Norton – brass rubbing slowed down via architectural trauma // Concrete_Field – watching a séance from inside a wax piano // Revbjelde – slopped balloons, dry spaghetti cracks // Band of Holy Joy – machine code dirty-talk between distant servers // Farmer Glitch – scary news ident // Howlround – confessions from the bristles of a shoe-shine machine // Neil Campbell – the science of dropping things at various angles // Gusset – answerphone message melancholicx – the stilted delivery making this one of the 21st Century’s saddest sounds // IX Tab – no pussyfooting with high-vis jackets // Noise Research Institute – bumplestiltskin – hands in the air! // Runningonair – public enema dub : surprisingly relaxing // Graham Dunning – radiates as multi-coloured auras // Ekoplekz – “A rare moment of calm. The bombs fall on the Eastern District so all I can see is dust.” // Elisabeth Veldon – loop-tronics raid Esquivel to bring a new clarity to damp cardboard // Decadnids – serious bowed-metal-sax reverberations border on the erotic // Xylitol – a clear autumn morning, alone in Kendal // Robin Foster – selective tones filtered by sympathetic shimmering feedback // Foldhead – mighty & dark theatrics // FM3V – chestnut seller hacks oven to play Bollywood themes // Tim Hill – tanned seabirds rejoice the new birth // Assembled Minds – I dropped my water pistol down an echo chamber (smeared surprise coda) // Sarah Angliss – Twins joint memories? Phantom limb pluck and solemn-compression electronics.
Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai
The original Death Eater musik – as banned from the Slytherin Common Room!
Bilious clouds of distemper billow from his holiness Lee Culver and are muddied further by dark mistral Scott McKeating… that’s how Mudguts roll. True believers take note – this cheeky 3 inch is a semi-official offering so even more occluded and forbidden than it’s dark predecessor.*
This disc gets down to business straight away so there is no reason for me not to either.
‘Widowvine’ crashed through a cloud of bad intention and night tremors to become a meditative prescription of bitter herbs and rancid smoke. Parts are reversed Santana, parts are bar room pre-brawl. As a map of psychic disturbances this marks the truly terrifying blank spots with an inky smear.
A one minute masterpiece ‘Split Gorgon’ re-lives the dispiriting experience of tuning into another person’s dream. It’s all falling, falling, falling until the brain juice squirts a different solution and you find yourself becoming Leonard Cohen (or something). Then ‘snap’ it’s over and you are awake.
Then finally, with the most evocative track title of the year, ‘First my Body, Now my Corpse’ sparkles and shudders with an almost glam-rock brightness. But this spotlight is so harsh and revealing it blisters the skin and cooks soft rubbery eyes. At times I’m minded of that Sonic Boom fella if he dug the Darkthrone. But soon enough I shake my head hard enough for them scales to fall from my peepers and I realise I’m on my knees… Mudguts glory has laid waste to my corner of civilisation and rags and half bricks are all that remains.
Phew! You dig it?
*What I’m saying is hit up Scott for a copy at the Bells Hill address!
Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN
HWF approaches this record in pieces: abstracted sauces, performance as code, gristle, electronic manipulation and tape glitch. Forgive me. I’m gunna gush, but Tom (HWF) Bench is a master of the thought and edit school for sure.
This release solves sound problems like a damn dancer would; the old soft-shoe shuffle provides texture while clean accuracy is rustled from the percussive rudiments of tap. All built on sexy muscles the accents are a silvery jet that slips between ear and frames.
This is what I hear…
- Glutch & fromer! A displaced chord organ melts into black-flecked slush. The distant whooping crane places his beak into the shellac grooves on the Victrola.
- “Buff-uddle.” Microphone shuggle in a hair shirt. Constant motion gaffs like an okra bud over Velcro. The hobo orchestra ‘thwack’ old tins and wrestle an egg-slicer back and forth. The ripple of thin metal dances right in my forehead – things coalesce – merge – re-form into steps cut out of bright paper – Matisse becomes instruction. The code is to be cracked but a fair advantage is favoured on the light of ankle. Un-led rhythms shuffle out of this desert storm, moving against each other like lovers, all slither and explore. Tin & rin & rin & tin & tin pop-out plastic eardrums to faint electro influences? The gradual sigh of a bus coming to rest and opening up the wheelchair ramp. Dry energy – like plunging your hand into a bag of uncooked rice – each grain perfect, each cousin similar but individual. Wheat echoes; a fork balances, it’s twines interlaced with a spoon’s surly lip.
- Buttons of rubber depressed by pudgy fingers. They sing in harmonies un-dreamt by Clive Sinclair – each mercurial tone a slack-arsed fart. The washer vibe snips out via polo mint.
- Wooden planks mumble as heavy hands slap until they find a resonant pitch/probing fingers dislodge the lid and keys (the white teeth of shame) are slackened with a tone-wrench/the taught strings are teased and top and sides rubbed with soft beads/a variety of fidelities, each proper in it’s own dissonance becomes partially embedded so rich echo-parlour switches between hi-fi buff and pre-teen noise goofball. I read Miles’ BIG FUN was cobbled together outta oddments. Tom takes a similar stance but each floor-cutting here is as wonderful as an unexpected smooch.
- The opening salvo of dysentery bombs that smoke over the battlefield! It clogs hair and exposed pores – the Angel of Mons offers scant sanctuary.
- An ice-cream headache from Steve Albini’s brow. THAT THE THINK guitar sound shredded through electric fan in a pissing bad mood. Shaking frozen peas out of a Tupperware box, drilling holes into broken glass. Or, if you’d prefer, the barista’s revenge – hot milk battered through dirty filters.
- Free-text box opened up and all the pixels clump together into vague geometric shapes with impudent languor.
All in all, this disc brings an essential vitality into my soft pampered life. It’s wormed into my lugs now. I’m saved ya’ll.
Can you afford to miss this one dear reader? Can your children?? Can your immortal soul???
sliver lizards: joe murray on olivier di placido, fritz welch, kelly jayne jones, ross parfitt, jon collin, yol, culverOctober 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: beartown records, culver, early music, fritz welch, joe murray, jon collin, kelly jayne jones, matching head, olivier di placido, ross parfitt, winebox press, yol
Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – untitled cassette (tape, humansacrifice, HS0010, edition of 75 or download)
Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015 (tape, Early Music)
Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016 (tape, Early Music)
Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)
Culver – Gateshead Soup (tape, Matching Head, MH213)
Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – Untitled
Absolutely no nonsense Technicolor squall and dramatic brokenness from that most hectic of fluffer duos: Di Placido/Welch.
Like stitches in yr lip this stings a little as it wrenches new shapes outta junk-drums and garrotted-guitar. Frantically itchy as scabies it is… the scabby metre has you shuffling on and off the hot foot never quite sure where to hang your hat. But I’m diggin’ it… diggin’ it bad.
I’m listening with an abstracted grin now. I just can’t help it; the reptile part of my brain fair goofs on the hard/soft, fast/slow choices being presented to my dense grey lumps. But at the same time my debonair city-slicker love-node is lapping up the lightening-fast interactions and improvisations between flapping pig skin and eviscerated coiled steel. The perfect music for the metrosexual caveman perhaps? Shit… let’s throw a party to find out. I’m on nibbles.
Is that some post-production fingering I can hear in the backmasked vox that plays us out of this side? Wonderful, wonderful… let’s get some electronics soaking up this gravy to deglaze the nuggets.
The other side* made me squirt like Slaine in full-on berzerker mode such is the slap and clatter, the fizzing rip and hi-hat chit-chit-chit-bash. Like an erotic jazz experience it manages to create that brassy plateau of living a constant high… then stops on a teasing sixpence.
It’s not all hi-NRG jizz-riffles though. One small section’s a right downer of industrial ‘booms’ and ‘crashes’ played out next to a juddering (bass) washing machine that segues neatly into a promise of friction and anatomically crude charcoal drawings. Phewy.
The art of the improviser occasionally gets ladled with faux academic nonsense from highfaluting bodies, boards and authorities. A pox on them. This is vital as hydrogen and alive as a fresh pig because it’s free from any grey-beard permission.
Play this at your next lecture and watch Prof implode!
*I’ve used the rather unhelpful ‘this side’ and ‘other side’ descriptors because there’s nothing as bourgeois as track titles or side demarcations on this babycake. Total Hardcore yeah.
Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015
On seeing the title a ripple of excitement forced me to check last year’s journal and I can see I was right there, in Sheffield, when this piece was recorded.
…firmly camped upstairs for the rest of the show Jon Collin & Kelly Jones played guitar & flute but nary a note was plucked or blown. 99% of the sound came from feedback tones as fresh as a handful of snow down the trousers. Thin and minty… menthol smoke sprouting from the fingers. Control was the watch word and even a dropped e-bow couldn’t interrupt the stately ‘hhiiiimmmmm’…
Listening back to this, in a domestic setting, seems to downplay the austerity and dial up the astringent complexity. The sharp guitar tones (sliver [Editor’s note: I suspect a typo but am leaving it in for the sake of poetry] lizards shimmer across cool marble) mesh perfectly with the breathy feedback/flute (crystallised ginger crushed into powder and applied to the forehead) and create a ritual of pure transcendent beauty.
I’m often lost in the fog of metal or jazz (crashing and slashing) but the paleness and gentle simmering of these mercurial sounds has tickled my mind forever with its frosty bliss.
Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016
It starts with twin guitar plucking, wild and free as a Manx cat, but stretching out time into an almost cosmic nothingness.
However sparse and spectral this recording is though there’s a right-in-your-face attitude with some heavy clarity. Those brushed-steel sounds emerge from the plucks adding an odd gamelan ‘kong’ to the twisting strings, reminding us we are on a journey. From here to where doesn’t really matter but the steady pad of the foot and swing of the arm propels this music constantly forward.
Don’t look back.
A lake of clear water lays still and calm. Birds (too far away to distinguish species) swoop lazily overhead. All is peaceful until the standing stones begin to quiver, small pebbles roll down to the lake sending ripples across the surface drawing patterns that weave and double cross.
A watery maze appears. The walls clear enough to see through but refractions set up a prism effect showing the landscape with a rainbow light. Glorious colours indeed… but what’s that smoke on the horizon?
Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value
Ever wondered what JAZZ would sound like after Yol had had a fair go at it? Wonder no more as ‘Finley Crafted’ kicks like a Sidney Bechet joint with bruised ribs. Yakety-Sax and Ten-to-Two drums are pushed out a porthole but the pulse… the all important swing remains. It’s all syncopated beats and bomb-detonation throat, man. Gosh! This is heady, heady head-est schizz right from the get-go. These ‘live’ recordings are juddering with malevolence and stark contrast. ‘Bleed Mouth Parts’ and ‘Trapped in Portland Works’ are two of the most violent and brutal recordings I think I’ve ever heard. Sorry Extreme Noise Terror. Yol has beaten your usually exceptional ROOAAOOORRROR trump with a single (but scientifically focused) gob, cheap spanner set and polystyrene block.
Real rubble is thrown about for ‘Bird Feathers’ a rare decent into bass with (what sounds like) a fully pressurised deep sea diving suit dragged down a spiral staircase – as you listen, ear cocked against the air tube, it pulses ‘Vuphhhh-chk-hhhoooofff’.
The final boof , ‘A Medium Experience’ brings the hooligan noise back into home territory with the warmness and (dare I say it) comfort of interlocking manacles. Again my jass-ears are focused on the clattering percussion; the tinka-link of scrap metal that divides time like a punk Dejohnette. Do I have to say it? Essential. Essential and life affirming motherfuckers!
Culver – Gateshead Soup
What is there left to say about Culver? The most singular of artists he does his thing with no regard for fashion or favour. You’re into it or you’re not.
This tape (same as the last and same as the next) was picked up at a live show and apparently not available via more ‘official’ channels. What? Less official than a regular Matching Head release… that’s like trying to copyright snowflakes, man.
But what’s it sound like? A slowly emerging landscape of loops that I’ve tried to scientifically represent (a) to (g):
(a) a foul machine heating up and (b) three solitary acoustic guitar notes
(a) with (c) brown organ smear
(c) and (d) foreboding doom rumble
(d) incorporating (e) bleak metallic thunder
(e) gives way to (f) plumes of black smoke rising over the battlefield
(f) gently diminishes for (g) Valium earthquake
(g) x 2 fades out incredibly slowly leaving you praying for a start to the endless nothingness…
Tags: beartown records, daniel padden, drew wright, fragment factory, fritz welch, joe murray, leif elggren, rekem records
Leif Elggren – Das Baank (vinyl LP, Rekem Records / Fragment Factory, rekem 09 / [FRAG36], edition of 300)
Daniel Padden, Fritz Welch & Drew Wright – The Forgotten Voices of Unclean Men (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 50)
Leif Elggren – Das Baank
Spooky bald-head Leif is one of the most out-est of coots around. While your chin-strokers would call this Sound Art I’d wrinkle up my nose, spit out the retort
and dribble into a labelled test tube.
The insert that comes with Das Baank talks about the sin of Usury and various other clues point the concept towards finance and the giant mess it makes of the world. Hey… why not? We’re all being fucked by Das Baank… why not meter out some sonic revenge?
I press play eagerly. I once watched Leif stalk around Brighton a few years ago with his Guds Soner boots on and this cat is smooth like greased milk.
And, while this is more rawkus than I was expecting it’s still a well-composed and measured gift. The intro sounds like a fat kid sitting on a church organ, struggling to get comfortable; huffing out duck-egg farts while angels with wide pores let lazy breath hover between slack mouths. The battle of the airs (massive complex man-made pipes versus weak and corrupt humans) is fought out for five minutes or so, each block of sound hauled up like those Stonehenge Bluestones, until (spoiler alert) it’s the machines that win. Like terminator or something? (A1)
The remainder of side one is made up of meditations on deep iceberg groans (A2) or the sound of my old electric razor uselessly trying to shave potatoes (A3). Yeah. This is one intriguing mix.
Flipping this like a damp pancake I find myself in an altogether more hostile environment. I need to don the goggles for (B1), hastily re-titled in my yeast-bound brain to ‘Flash Gordon’s Rocket Ship’, spitting black lightning from a tin arse. The ambient breather (B2) is the exact sound a ping-pong ball makes when balanced on taut electrified strings. But this time all the electrics happen in a long copper pipe. You dig?!
We get smaller still on (B3), the inside of a lovely leathery accordion where you are a dust-mite battered by the stale whoosh of pressure – very holy and that. Expecting more sound art smears I’m taken aback to hear, on the closer (B4), a field recording of Shane Embury’s bass amp on extreme overload blustering and blistering form before the other chaps kick in. You suffer!
Daniel Padden, Fritz Welch & Drew Wright – The Forgotten Voices of Unclean Men
This is the god-damn BOMB man!
Imagine all this lung-pop and distil it into a Power Trio glass beaker. We’ll ask that Clapton, Bruce and Baker to hang up their psychedelic rags for a minute and embrace the lips, teeth, throat and tongue as you bubble with the Bunsen.
But wait-on. The style is no-way-Jose jowly-flubber! No wet-mouth farts here boss. It’s more of a composed ting with ‘sung’ parts and a manly chorus backing up like goofy Jordanaires.
You want examples eh? Get this… a sick-doofus refrain is launched into the sky and picked up and used as a beach ball while a revolving door of chaps embellish with a wack-wack solo. It’s gloriously entertaining and (dare I say it) fun! In fact… I‘m smiling as wide as a smug old goat while all three cake-holes gibber and hoddle, flap and waddle.
The range of hissing, whooping, ch-ch-ch-ching, yelps and scat sounds is remarkable. It covers the holy shaman in her yurt to the hysterical commuter on the monorail; Laurie Anderson’s ‘ooooooo’ riff to the self-conscious bluffer blowing hot air into a disinterested marketing conference.
All-in-all it’s an all consuming ritual. Both sidelong pieces are wrapped up tight like a Quality Street but a careful listen (and I’ve hoofed this time & time again) makes me think Mr D Padden has been busy with the shears going ‘snip snip’.
You puritans… relax!
The edit is as sensitive and slick as a Nile Rodgers lick. Each voice is perfectly symmetrical to its breathy comrades. Taking a leaf outta the big book D Boon & his Minutemen wrote there is a pure equality; each vocal part is balanced and essential to its partner building up like a tripod… a human pyramid as the babble is kicked like a limp Hacky Sack between each soul in their 60 degree corner.
Can you live another day without knowing what happened when doo-wop sucked a Righteous Oxide cream puff?
You know what to do.
Tags: aqua dentata, beartown records, drone, eddie nuttall, new music, no audience underground, noise
Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus (CD-r, Beartown Records, edition of 50)
No-one in what this blog lovingly refers to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is producing work as consistently brilliant as Eddie Nuttall. The back catalogue of his project Aqua Dentata – growing with the alien beauty and frustrating slowness of a coral reef – contains not a wasted moment. His work – quiet, long-form dronetronics with metallic punctuation – is executed with the patience and discipline of a zen monk watching a spider construct a cobweb.
To listen is to be immediately removed from your surroundings in a kind of rapture, to be placed elsewhere for the duration, then abruptly returned by the inevitable snap cut. His plug-pulling endings are like being thrown through the doors of the TARDIS into… your own kitchen, or the bus to work…
…which is where I first heard this album (for the record: one half-hour-ish track on CD-r, great collage cover and Spirograph-style insert, from those lovely boys at Beartown). I later joked on Twitter that it made my commute feel like a trip to the off-world colonies. Since then though, repeat listens have dunked me into a tank of pink jelly (yes, two gloopy posts in a row). Picture this:
In some future hospital you are recovering from a horrible accident. Within a giant glass vitrine, you are suspended in a thick, healing gel – an amniotic fluid rich in bioengineered enzymes and nanotech bots all busy patching you up. From the waist down you are enmeshed in metal, a scaffold of stainless steel pins keeping your shape whilst the work continues. The first twenty minutes of Eddie’s half hour describes your semi-conscious state of prelapsarian bliss, played out over dark undertones of bitter irony: every moment spent healing is, of course, a moment closer to confronting the terrible event that put you there.
During the final ten minutes the tank empties, bizarrely, from the bottom up. Pins are pushed from healing wounds and tinkle and clatter as they collect below you. Attending staff shuffle nervously but maintain a respectful distance and near silence. As the gel clears your head, your eyes slowly peel open, the corners of your mouth twitch. You look out through the glass at the fishbowled figures in the room. You weakly test the restraints you suddenly feel holding you in place, and with a sickening flash it all comes back and you rememb———
Tags: albert materia, bang the bore, bbblood, beartown records, cestine, clive henry, dear beloved henry, dominic coppola, drone, electronica, hyster tapes, joined by wire, leitmotiv limbo, new music, no audience underground, noise, nothing music, paul watson, psychedelia, rok lok records, sound holes, stamina nudes, stephen woolley, stolen head, tapes, theodore schafer
Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split (tape, Soundholes, #060, edition of 100)
Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM! (tape and 12 page A6 booklet, self-released as part of Bang the Bore Forum tape exchange, edition of 15)
BBBlood – Untitled (tape, Beartown Records)
Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter (tape, Rok Lok Records, #97, edition of 40 or download)
Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER13)
Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT (self-released tape)
Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges (tape, Stolen Head)
Apologies for not writing more reviews over the last couple of months. I’ve been waiting for two things to wear off: the effects of a nasty virus and the novelty of being on Twitter. Both have rather dragged on. Anyway…
As part of this year’s fabulous TUSK Festival Joe Murray agreed to curate a small exhibition of tape label art titled Everyone Loves Tapes These Days. Looking for someone to write a brief wall text Joe reached out to his editor here at RFM and I replied with the following diatribe:
Interesting, and thanks for thinking of me – I’m flattered. However, I wonder if I am exactly the right guy for the job. Dare I say it? OK, deep breath: I’ve pretty much fallen out of love with tapes. I appreciate the determined anti-commercialism that they represent nowadays, and they are a good archive medium, but the format is cumbersome, inconvenient, space consuming and has no sonic advantages over other formats. Those beardies that talk about its ‘unique low end’ are talking out of their own low ends. I suppose I still do like the clacky sound of taking them in and out of their cases but if everything went download/CD-r tomorrow I wouldn’t care. Tapes = the price you pay for being a Culver fan. I might even go a bit further: what used to be a democratic, punk (‘home taping is killing music!’ well, GOOD) format has mutated over the years into a symbol of hipster elitism – maybe not in the context of the no-audience underground but that is what anyone vaguely knowledgeable about music looking in from outside would see. Tape walkmans aren’t as an awful an affectation as manual typewriters but, hey, matter of time…
Heh, heh – ain’t I naughty, eh? So do I actually believe all that or did Joe just catch me in a mischievous, belligerent mood? A bit of both, I think. Some clarifications and addenda are necessary.
Firstly, that bit about being an archive medium is true enuff – they won’t play after the aliens come and destroy civilisation with a massive electro-magnetic pulse but they will last until then which is more than can be said for CD-rs etc. Dude, my Mum has had that Billy Joel tape, like, for ever.
Secondly, I do really like the clacky sound of removing a tape from it’s box and sliding it into the deck. I also think the Tabs Out Podcast twitter feed is really funny. So that’s two tape related things that are good – fair as Solomon, me.
Thirdly, and more contentiously, the determined anti-commercialism/hipster elitism tension. I haven’t closely followed the rise of tape ‘culture’ but I’m sure arguments must have raged/might still be raging about this subject on corners of the internet that I am blissfully unaware of. I don’t have the energy or inclination to take a side. However there is one aspect of the business that I’m tempted to take a hard line on. Now, I have nothing but love for truly tape only noise labels (the ne plus ultra in the UK being Matching Head, of course – a label with no official internet presence, untouched by fashion, driven purely by the uncompromising vision of Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe) but raise an eyebrow at self-described ‘tape labels’ that also offer downloads. Personally I prefer this arrangement for reasons given above – 98% of my musical appreciation is done via mp3 player – but I would argue that by offering downloads you can ditch the word ‘tape’ because yours is just a… label. Catch me in the same mischievous, belligerent mood that greeted Joe’s innocent request and I might say that you were actually a label providing music in the preferred, most convenient format of the day alongside unnecessary physical versions meant to tempt daft hipster object-fetishists – a demographic always keen to reify counter-cultural heft into something that can be neatly displayed on a shelf.
Heh, heh – more naughtiness – comments genuinely welcome. I am open to being convinced otherwise.
So, with that all in mind, my eyes wander to the tape section of the RFM review pile and I decide that a round-up is long overdue. Never mind my misgivings about the format, it’s the content that really matters right? Let’s see.
Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split
Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM!
Boy, have I slept on these two tapes – Stephen of joinedbywire kindly sent me these months ago. Mea culpa.
Clive Henry‘s side of the split tape is like waking from a blackout caused by a blow to the head and piecing together the events that led to the assault. Bursts of vision-blurring pain, repeated verbal tics that refuse to resolve into coherent speech, stumbling. Or maybe it is Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man reassembling itself the morning after falling off that cliff. I like it very much.
Stephen’s side is perhaps not as nostrils-flaring, full-on psych as previous JBW releases admired on this blog but is no less terrific for being dialled down a notch. Instead what we have are a group of multi-limbed clockwork toys of indeterminate form defying the laws of thermodynamics by winding each other up into a clicking, buzzing, writhing mass of mechanical energy.
Available from SoundHoles.
ERA END and/or BAJM! is Stephen’s contribution to a tape-swap project organised via the Bang the Bore forum. I was not involved in this so am grateful to him for sending me this spare copy – the last of an edition of 15. As ever, I deeply impressed with Stephen’s graphic work and faultless attention to detail – see photo for all the elements that make up this package – especially as this was originally only to be seen by the dozen people signed up to take part. The racket this time is up in the red. Thick clouds of noise create an atmosphere of salty feverishness with occasional sinus clearing bursts of stomping distortobeatz. That said, there are passages of relative calm too – imagine some brute devolved remnant of far-future humanity worshipping the one remaining artefact of our decadent age: a broken tape walkman.
BBBlood – Untitled
Paul Watson is a current scene leader in what I’ve always thought of as ‘proper’ noise. That is: a visceral racket created by rough-housing with physical objects, by combining field and domestic recordings and by filtering the lot through a rag-tag tabletop of battered and home-made electronics. However, that is not to belittle the skill and care with which Paul puts these recordings together. The sounds are not ends in themselves but chosen, ordered and edited as a means to establishing an atmosphere. His latest recordings eschew ‘harshness’ almost entirely and the listener is led through a post-industrial landscape of broken glass and burning tyres with, dare I say it, delicacy and finesse.
I can sense the leather-jacket owning section of my readership twitching with unease but don’t worry – I’m not saying Paul has gone all Nick Drake on us. He still get his balls out on occasion – and so magnificent are his plums that it is no wonder the crowd goes fucking apeshit when they are displayed. What I’m saying is the flashes of nad are appropriate and proportionate to the larger task at hand.
Essential, of course. Available from Beartown Records.
Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter
This recording by Cestine, the duo of Dominic Coppola and Theodore Schafer, hovers shimmering between the ‘nothing music’ of Karina ESP I described a few posts ago and the ‘extraction music‘ of Dan Thomas et al that I have been banging on about this year. Two tracks, each lasting fifteen minutes exactly, contain slowly cycling electronics augmented with field recordings – birds, the sea maybe, children – and snatches of whispered conversation, perhaps partially overheard whilst daydreaming, perhaps snatches of radio broadcasts crackling between the stations. It is constructed with a robust attention to detail that allows for deep, repeat listening but conveys a vulnerability, a brittleness too. The contemplative reverie it induces is bitter-sweet and emotionally complicated, like turning over the memory of an important friendship, now long lost. Recommended highly.
Available from Rok Lok Records.
Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split
Hyster Tapes are punk as all fuck – black and white J-card, recycled tapes, photocopied flier advertising their warez (pictured) – and I wholeheartedly approve. Joe grokked the FOUR LETTER WORLD compilation back in March and as a result Heikki of the label kindly sent this too. Gotta keep that goodwill circulating – keeps it fresh and vital.
The Dear Beloved Henry side of this split, one 24 minute track titled ‘Advent’, is one of the best things I’ve heard all year. It is deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations. However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance. It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking. Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended? The result is magical either way.
Sadly the Albert Materia side, several tracks of fractured poetry with piano accompaniment, was not for me. Can’t win ’em all, eh?
Available from Hyster Tapes – email: email@example.com
Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT
Also sent as result of Joe’s FOUR LETTER WORLD review. In ‘Limbo’ Elijah Vartto (umlauts over the vowels – apologies for the limitations of the WordPress editor) conjures an alien souk from the echoed honking of an unspecified wind instrument and stick-in-bucket metallic rhythms. The point of view changes every few minutes and gradually a scene is set, protagonists introduced. This comes together in a surprising burst of new wave pop before retreating to the abstract – a menacing bassy warble dragging us down to an underground bunker full of robot soldiers.
‘Wind Swept’ uses field recordings phased to sound like the fuelling of spacecaft over which mournful, austere jazz blowing accompanies growling, heavily filtered vocals. It’s the blues played by a band whose home-world was destroyed as a display of power intended to tame a petulant rebel princess. Guitar jangles like the rigging of boats. All eventually peters out to a gargling throb.
Comparisons have been made elsewhere to early Cabaret Voltaire. This is apt and, of course, a very good thing.
Available from Elijah himself.
Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges
Finally then, what might be my pick of the bunch. Bryan (whose surname I suddenly realise I don’t know) operates in an adjoining laboratory to meta-musical collage-jockeys Spoils & Relics (indeed, I recently saw him play as a duo with that #KieronPiercy). The shared working method involves isolating sounds, sanding off their contexts and reassembling them into new fragmentary narratives – a perversely delicious anti-archaeology. Here Bryan invokes a dystopian, science fictional vibe but builds in a wry distance that stops it becoming self-important or parodic. The balance and compelling flow he maintains are both very impressive. In summary: I dig this.
This album scores maximum ideological purity points too. It was slipped to me, in person, by the artist, as we sat on a bench, under a tree, in a park, with Dan Thomas, one sunny lunchtime – a clandestine, samizdat-style handover. Now that is tape only.
I’ve no idea in what sense this this might be ‘available’ but you can email Bryan and ask: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: ap martlet, beartown records, cherry row recordings, daniel thomas, dave thomas, drone, electronica, extraction music, hagman, haiku, hairdryer excommunication, kevin sanders, kirkstall dark matter, lf records, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals, psychedelia, sheepscar light industrial, tst, twitter
Daniel Thomas & Kevin Sanders – “I am a moment illuminating eternity… I am affirmation… I am ecstacy.” (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25 or download)
TST – Tsim Sha Tsui (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.026, edition of 50 or download)
Kevin Sanders – A purification of space (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 20 or download)
Petals – upon receiving the ultraviolet light (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Hagman – Number Mask (CD-r, LF Records, LF037)
Petals – I’ve never been very good at retorting narrative tales as I always get lost along the way. So I lie (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 33)
TST – The Spoken Truth (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Daniel Thomas – Enemy Territory (CD-r, cherry row recordings, CRR005, edition of 25 or download)
Daniel Thomas – That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades (2 x CD-r in wooden flower press, edition of 9, 2 x CD-r, edition of 39, or download, Kirkstall Dark Matter)
That Twitter is alright, innit? After stalling for years I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago and can be found @radiomidwich should you be inclined to go looking. Knowing that I was entering a lengthy period of hectic work activity, and that my energy levels are low, I was looking for a way of staying current that was effortless to pick up and just as easy to put down. With apologies to my regular email correspondents, Twitter fits the bill real nice. I have the odd gripe with twittery behaviour already but by and large I’ve been enjoying the shouty-pub-with-six-jukeboxes-and-four-televisions-on atmosphere and the opportunity to crack wise and arse smart. It also gave me an idea of how to scythe through a crop of review items.
Some context: the leading exponents of the sub-genre I’ve defined as ‘extraction music‘ are very busy guys indeed – check out the heaving parentheses in the following sentence. Dave Thomas (solo as ap martlet, half of Hagman, one third of TST, label boss of Kirkstall Dark Matter), Daniel Thomas (solo under his own name, the other half of Hagman, a further third of TST, as a duo with Kevin and label boss of Sheepscar Light Industrial and Cherry Row Recordings) and Kevin Sanders (solo under his own name and as petals, as a duo with Dan, the final third of TST, label boss of hairdryer excommunication) are enjoying a hit rate unrivaled since the glory days of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – the 1980s production trio they have modeled their work ethic on.
What’s a conscientious reviewer to do? Given the exacting quality control, staggering over such a fast growing body of work, the music is deserving of serious contemplation. However, who has time to write the usual 1000+ words about items arriving on a near-weekly basis? Not me. Instead I will turn (again) to haiku, a traditional variety of Japanese poetry in which the idea expressed is distilled to 17 syllables arranged in a five-seven-five formation. Thus, mental energy expended is roughly equivalent to normal but writing time is cut to the bone. It is also an eminently tweetable format – something the spirits of long-deceased masters of this most delicate and disciplined art must be thrilled by – so Twitter is where they got their initial airing.
Below is a compilation of the first nine, properly formatted and illustrated. I’m pleased with these, especially the last two, which are, I hope, impressionistic but accurate – like a portrait by Frank Auerbach. Click on the band name/album title to be taken to appropriate blog post or Bandcamp page. Amazingly, all of this can be had dirt cheap or for free. I recommend the lot very highly – there are potential Zellaby Award winners here – and also recommend you explore the catalogues of these gentlemen on either side of this snapshot.
Terminal thought of
fatally injured robot:
“my blood is on fire”
above the spice refinery.
Inhale: the future!
Yellowed grass, cut paper
– consolations of order –
cut grass, yellowed paper.
fierce entropic beauty,
pebble becomes sand
in an era of magic:
cogs versus witchcraft
self lost to alien flow,
hive mind emerges
Adjust tracking for
artefacts of video:
hot snow, concrete blur…
Sharp, bristled morning
through circadian filters
to uterine fug
Tags: ambient music, beartown records, collage, electronica, hissing frames, improv, new music, no audience underground, noise, open sound group, outsider art, robert ridley-shackleton, rubbish fighting, stuart chalmers, visual art, zines
Stuart Chalmers – Dreaming Butterfly (download, Open Sound Group)
Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol 1 (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 45 or CD, edition of 50, self-released)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Melting All My Years In2 tears (C46 tape, hissing frames, edition of 100)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Rebirth (A5 zine, 18 pages, edition of 100)
On the walk home from work on Friday evening I got into an altercation with the driver of a car who had nearly run me over. I was in the right, of course, and this bloke was an odious knobber. There was plenty of shouting and swearing (mainly on my part) as my foe chose to goad me from the safety of his vehicle. He ignored my repeated requests to step out so the argument could be settled in a physical manner. It ended with me delivering this devastating put down:
You’re like something out of a sit-com, mate, you’re embarrassing. Why don’t you go fuck yourself, you dumb fucking cunt?
…worthy of Oscar Wilde, I’m sure you’ll agree, and him chucking water from an Evian bottle over me before putting his foot down and speeding away. What a shining example of manliness at its most impressive, eh? It’s like Froch versus Groves or something.
I spent the weekend mulling it over. The question wasn’t why it happened – I am mentally ill, highly strung, and haven’t slept properly in a fortnight: go figure. The big question is why did I enjoy the experience so much? Sure, I had that tight, sick, post-confrontation feeling afterwards for a short while but not much remorse. Perhaps doing something so undeniably stupid was an enormous, cathartic release of pressure because usually I am such an upstanding, responsible citizen. Hmmm… evidence of mid-life crisis? Better speak to my counsellor. Or buy a motorbike.
(Aside: I did write up the whole incident with a view to using it as a preamble but thought better of it. Any fans of two-fisted action out there for whom the edited version above is not enough can email me for the unexpurgated story.)
Anyway, as I always do when in need of succour or a contemplative aid, I asked music a few questions and listened carefully to what it had to say. It turns out that my calm, rational side had been sitting in the backyard eating an ice-cream and listening to the albums above. The steaming, bellicose me joined him, cooled off, and soon started nodding in appreciation. These guys are boss.
Each release I’ve heard by Stuart has been better than the last. Interestingly, however, I’ve heard his work well out of chronological sequence. Thus, barring the unlikely possibility that I just lucked out and accidentally heard these recordings in order of quality, my reaction does not run parallel to an artistic progression on his part. Rather, I think, I’ve come to appreciate his music more as I’ve become more familiar with the world it describes, with the vision that produced it. The same happened with Robert – I picked through a vast collection of his releases more or less at random and my enjoyment increased exponentially as I used them to map out the bizarre contours of Shackleton Island.
My reaction to Daydream Empire, a CD-r on LF Records and the first of Stuart’s albums I heard, was puzzling but, in the light of the above, now explainable. I didn’t like it. Weirdly though, especially as I’m a stubborn ol’ bastard utterly confident in the infallibility of my own taste, it felt like it was my fault that I didn’t like it, that I was mistaken. I could hear the quality – the time, effort and care that had been used in its construction – but I didn’t get it. I ended up in the nonsensical situation of apologising to Stuart for this lapse. I don’t do that very often.
Dreaming Butterfly is from the archives, imaginary musicks vol 1 is new, both are beautiful. Stuart’s trade is in collage, mainly warm and fluid but with mysterious currents running under the rippling surface. Any readers as old and snaggletoothed as me will remember the electronica boom of the early 1990s and once or twice I was reminded of experiments in sample-based ambient music from that time. However, close attention reveals that Stuart’s work is not so easily slotted into pre-existing categories.
The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving (relaxing into it I felt a thousand miles away from my road rage incident) but carefully placed ticks – a filter echo, a moment of dictaphonic skwee – bring you back to the surface by foregrounding its artificiality. It’s like a South Sea Islands version of Philip K. Dick’s Time out of Joint. Imagine walking on the golden beach, admiring the dancing palms, looking out over the glassy ocean to the setting sun only for it all to suddenly disappear and be replaced with a featureless white room and a scrap of paper at your feet with the words ‘tropical paradise’ typed on it. As with all the very best stuff: the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it. One or both of these releases will make the end-of-year awards shortlist, f’sure.
I note in passing that Stuart shows an admirable faith is his own work. Rightly proud of imaginary musicks vol 1 he had it mastered by Denis Blackham, who has previously worked with Touch and Nurse With Wound, at Skye Mastering. Fancy, eh?
Regular readers may recall the hefty overview I wrote of Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s back catalogue last year. A super-sized parcel from the guy was emptied onto the kitchen table here at Midwich Mansions and I picked through the contents, fascinated. All together it formed a psychological jigsaw depicting a map of his mental landscape.
The interior of Shackletonia is as exaggerated and brightly coloured as the Arizona-ish rockscapes of a Road Runner cartoon. Coastal areas are more rugged and brooding as beaches of jet black sand fall away into an ice blue sea under sky the colour of spoiled milk. In-between the two you will find strange crystalline formations of uncertain origin and giant sculptures made of compacted landfill – think Wall-E does Easter Island. Offshore, an intrepid scuba diver can visit a submerged cathedral choked with seaweed, where ghosts of drowned sailors perform rites worshipping the Deep Ones. On the surface, the radio of the support ship picks up decades old news reports informing the world of tragic maritime disasters.
To be more specific: Robert’s music contains elements of snarling garage punk, of rinky-dink Suicide throb, of harsh noise wall, of clattering kitchen sink improv, of unfathomable oddness. It is all recorded rough and tinny – as if bellowed down a cardboard cone and etched to wax cylinder with a knitting needle. Best to readjust your acceptable sonic range a full knob twist into the treble.
So, the purpose of this particular tape is to be an answer to the age old question: ‘where do I start?’ Our man has woven together a seamlessly coherent and highly enjoyable best-of compilation from numerous previous releases. It is presented both as a culmination and an introduction and I think it is fucking great.
A few words about the zine/pamphlet, Rebirth, that Robert kindly sent accompanying this tape. I like Robert’s graphic work as much as his music. I think I have mentioned the possible influence of Art Informel before and these photocopies of mixed media pieces call to mind a Catalan womble living in the sewers beneath the Fundació Tàpies in Barcelona. In his lair he creates art from the detritus left by tourists whilst chewing up a copy of the massive Tàpies catalogue raisonné, stolen from the gift shop, to fashion a nest of glossy spitballs.
The one-stop shop for all things Robert Ridley-Shackleton is Hissing Frames, his blog/label/publishing empire. Dreaming Butterfly can be downloaded for free from Open Sound Group here or found on Stuart’s Bandcamp site here. imaginary musicks vol 1 is available as a tape from Beartown Records or as a self-released CD via the Bandcamp site where much of his previous catalogue is also to be found. The picture above (second one down) is the Bandcamp illustration and is neither the CD nor tape cover.