Tags: beautiful, beauty, culver, dirurnal burdens, downer canada, drone, fordell research unit, invisible city records, power moves library, smut, witchblood
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records)
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records)
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records)
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library)
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records) C45 Tape and digital album
Have I told you about my eyes lately? It’s the ordinary story…this old guy keeps gets older, bits keep conking out on me – but my eyes? I need my eyes!
I’m counting out change wrong, I can’t read a bus ticket at all and now these damn tapes have become a blur. I need to rummage for my specs for any meaningful exchange between tape gunk and brain dump.
The reason I’m telling you this is, for a few weeks, this was written up as ‘that black tape’ in my note book. It took me a long time to notice the subtle grey on black lettering on the j-card – something one of you youngsters could spot at 100 meters no doubt.
My ears are sharp as a bat’s however so each time I played this mysterious monolith I was soon enveloped in the deep, smoky fug of what I recognised as an expert dronester.
Was it a secret butter-fingered Robert Fripp jamming with a sleepy Stephen O’ Malley? Were Jazzfinger scooping treats from their legendary tape library?
And then it slowly swam into focus…in a bleary wobbling font…it’s a Fordell joint. Of course!
Things start out damn majestic with a shuddering overture as easy and relaxed as soft breathing in your ear. Cornelia Parker’s flattened brass instruments shuffle themselves into formation on ‘Flying not Jumping’ creating a collapsing house-of-cards effect.
But it’s ‘Heat Death of the Universe’ that shifts these lofty airbourne melodies into pulverising heavy sub-bass Sabbath riffage. A relentless avalanche, cascading down, down, down…and yet somehow it still remains pretty.
I wonder aloud, “How does he do it?” as the cats sit watching me.
But they soon scatter when ‘Frodell Ferox’ digs even deeper. It’s a god-damn canal dredger of a track. Filthy silt is drawn up from a hidden watery grave and held aloft facing an indifferent sun. Jesus – this is epic stuff, but still…you know, beautiful man.
The B side shimmers macro to micro; from the size of a sparkling infinite universe to the dull silver bubbles swirling in my gin and tonic – it’s all here.
The constant now of ‘The Wrong Train’ is a singular vibrating point dragged out into eternity (quite seriously Horizon need to check this out for their science docs) each moment gently circling a central atom of dust.
The closer ‘Shark’ describes the brain collapse that immediately precedes sleep – a deep submission. This night-time plummeting is underscored with a slight feathering, like the flex of a fin as it cuts through the dark water.
Truly immense music that echoes the subtle power of the natural world.
[postscript- it was only when I was jamming this tape later, in preparation to watching FRU in Gateshead, I noticed the sneaky Miles pun of the title. Which reminds me…have I told you about my eyes lately?]
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records) one-sided C70 tape strictly no download
This genius collaboration from Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and Lucy ‘Smut’ Johnson takes simple piano and tape drone and using their collective dark alchemy turn it into the purest gold.
This really is one hell of a tape – the handling of such humble materials is exceptional and each piece strikes a different tone on the melancholic memory gong marked ‘summer heartbreak caught in delicious amber’.
There’s an aching to the sound that’s more than the sum of any hiss or lo-fi tape wobble. It’s the marbled end-papers in a leather-bound book, it’s the smell of cigar smoke on a blue velvet jacket. The sounds are so evocative of longing it is hard for me to not to run off with some Byronesque fancy, all frilly sleeves and a head full of opium.
Example? A moment on the third piece where one tape of piano gently doubles up with another with the most gorgeous dissonance that made me, quite literally, swoon like a regency dandy.
The fragile and opaque piano clusters merge perfectly with the distant tape grot spluttering away yet they seem to swap foreground and background with a subtle magic – one moment I’m picking out ivory notes descending like doomed men. In the next the boiling-ink bluster of the tapes scrubs my frontal lobes clean of any other information.
I flop around foolishly anticipating one of ‘my turns’ again and realise I’ve been gloriously witchblooded.
Limited to 50 only and no download (ever) so move quickly to bag this essential release.
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records) C60 Tape and digital album
Superfuckingheavyconceptdrone from king of the amplified barbecue, Ross Scott-Buccleuch.
The sleeve notes are clear this smudged and grimy sound was created from reel-to-reel, no-input mixer and walkmen etc – but a sit down listen, pumped up pretty loud, suggests something more elemental.
The side-long ‘Inaction’ seems to be composed of low pressure ridges or gigantic boulders howled at by monks. Then things change and become more avian – the magical instinct of migratory birds swooping through thin magnetic fields following graceful arcs of the ocean captured on tape.
It holds that menace of feathers still – a sight to behold but no one wants a quill in the eye!
Flipping it, ‘Extinction’ is slowly decaying leaves: bright reds and yellows leaching their energy back into a grateful Earth. The movements are more delicate and angelic with an emphasis on collapse and euphoric hypnosis as centres associated with freewill switch off one-by-one.
The long-legged rhythms provided by the loops allow this tape to amble in an exploratory mood – looking in your mood cupboards and checking your emotional temperature before slinking out the backdoor leaving the gas on.
The final few movements are a lazy rumble, worn smooth with use, like a pebble picked up from the banks of the Styx.
Heavier than expected but comfortable – but what is that terrible hunger?
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library) CD-r and digital album
Superb gritty tape huss.
Kev Power Moves is really pushing at the boundaries of what is possible in the world of Dictaphone composition right now. The limitations of micro-cassette have become their signature sound: that decaying roar, the wobble of thin magnetic particles and a mid-range fullness smeared like anchovies on hot toast. Kev takes each element and works it over with a purist’s conviction and a scientist’s ear for granular detail.
This two-piece disc starts and ends with some exquisite pause-button juggling that creates small movements of momentum in sweet binary on/off/on/off. A constant tape roar is a busy scuttle – half howling winds of Tuva: half teaspoon circling a rough raku bowl that’s punctuated with the occasional cavernous Dub sinkhole. This negative space punches through the mix like a hypodermic piercing tough skin injecting a rich blossom of carnation red.
This is the sound of the machine itself, not tape as a sound collection medium but tape as an instrument in its own right. And for roughly 20 minutes, that’s it. A confident and unfussy buffering as detailed as the dirty margin doodles in a High School Biology text book. Wonderful!
The second 20 minute piece leads us out of the inner world of Dictaphone mechanics and manipulates real-world sound (all taped of course): water, street noise and rubber-band plucks in a cascade of doppler infinity and shove-button interventions.
The clarity of the plucks decays into an echoing shimmer (Alvin Lucier style) that makes my ear bristles vibrate passionately. New taped-sound (footsteps, 3rd generation hiss) are introduced with care creating the gentle psychedelic effect induced when a loud sound is suddenly turned off and you can hear the oxygen atoms sigh with relief.
Increasing intense, complex and thoughtful music from the essential sound of Dictaphone Canada!