stop the press! introducing the new staffers at radiofreemidwich

April 27, 2013 at 9:32 am | Posted in blog info | Leave a comment
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typesetting equipment at rfmhq

Radio Free Midwich is delighted to announce the arrival of two new members of staff.

Yes, currently sharpening their pencils are cub reporters Scott McKeating and Joe Murray.  You’ll know the former as the head-honcho of the critically-acclaimed (by me) micro-label Bells Hill and perhaps for his excellent column documenting the outer limits which illuminated The Quietus.  You’ll know the latter as dictaphonic explorer Posset and perhaps for his epic end-of-year round-ups in which tens of thousands of words pickling the year’s musical highlights are emailed to a select elite and then hidden from the general public by being posted on myspace.  You’ll know both as the indescribable doomphonics duo Black Leather Cop.  What I’m saying is that their credentials are impeccable.  They are even both based in the North East.  Perfect.

Some may mourn the passing of the ‘single voice’ era here at RFM but I’d like to reassure my dear readers that the carefully honed aesthetic of this blog is just being augmented, not replaced.  Despite being able to complete a surprising amount of blogging in these post-Thomas-the-Baby times (see opening paragraph of previous post), a hand with the heavy lifting will be much appreciated.  Guest posting was trialled at Christmas with reviews from Joe and then again a couple of weeks ago with Pascal’s account of the Crater Lake Festival and both experiments proved a success.

Having the three of us posting will keep the tempo up and allow us to map some new contours.  I trust you’ll come to appreciate our differing tastes and styles.  Look out for Scott’s account of a returning guitar hero, now self-releasing analogue electronics, Joe writhing in appreciation of Winebox Press and pieces I have planned on Yol, Half an Abortion, The Piss Superstition and new stuff on Striate Cortex.  I may even have time to muse up some no-audience underground theory as well, if you are very lucky.  Much joy to come.

rfm attends to recent downloads: cthulhu detonator, deceiver, orange annihilator, seth cooke, petals

March 8, 2013 at 10:41 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Cthulhu Detonator – Infernal Machines (self-released)

Deceiver – I Will Always Be Dead Inside (Bells Hill Digital)

Orange Annihilator – Scrub (Bells Hill Digital)

Seth Cooke – Intercession (Impulsive Habitat, IHab065)

Kevin Saunders / Petals – various back catalogue items (Hairdryer Excommunication)

cthulhu detonatordeceiverorange annihilator - scrubseth cooke - intercessionpetals - nautical almanac

My lack of willpower regarding downloads has been extensively documented on this blog before and explains my general attitude of wariness towards this most tempting aspect of modern musical appreciation.  Not all music stored on physical objects is good, of course, but to present it as such does indicate a faith in the work and acts as an initial filter to limit an otherwise unprocessable torrent.  My preference is to sit with my back to the firmly secured floodgates and listen to them creak as I open my post.

However, what is a boy to do when approached by charming artists touting interesting sounding projects that are only available on that Bandcamp or via netlabels?  Or if a known favourites make experiments or long forgotten back catalogue available via the same means?  I would hardly be a conscientious editor if I just ignored these leads, now would I?  In that spirit there now follows a series of ‘in brief’ accounts of some clickable goodness recently brought to my attention.  *Sigh*, one thing no-one dares mention when warning you of a slippery slope is just how much fun it can be to slide down it…

First is Infernal Machines by Cthulhu Detonator.  I know what you are thinking: “how dare this impertinent rascal imply that our master, Lord Cthulhu, is the sort of thing that can be detonated?!”, right?  Well, I’ve sent this disrespectful heretic an oddly cut purple crystal in an anonymous package and if he looks into it he is fucked.  That’ll teach him!  Ai, Ai!

Anyway, blasphemy aside, this album is very entertaining.  Perhaps, like a lot of debut albums, it is a little over full – RFM recommends keeping it to a tight 40ish minutes and saving the offcuts for an accompanying EP – but who am I to fault exuberance?  This is from the computer-constructed/electronica end of noise: ten distinct tracks working through aspects of a coherently defined sound.  There is a momentum, a squelching bounce, that is gleefully pummelling interspersed with quieter moments spent exploring cyclopean ruins with faulty batteries in your torch.  Nicely balanced and engaging throughout.  Ideal background music for an evening spent flicking through your dog-eared copy of Unaussprechlichen Kulten.

Second are two cuts from the recently formed Bells Hill Digital.  I Will Always Be Dead Inside by Deceiver is as grim as its title suggests.  Part I is a three minute harsh noise blow-out, a planet wide, corrosive hailstorm pitting the black surface of an inhospitable world.  Part II is an almighty eleven minute conflagration.  About halfway through a mournful tone attempts to rise above the roar – like the one building miraculously left standing in an area otherwise devastated by carpet-bombing – but is soon vandalised, deliberately destroyed by the same spiteful fire.  It is utterly without hope and, in my humble opinion, remarkable.  Please investigate.

Scrub by Orange Annihilator is so irresistible that I listened to it ten times in a row the other day, non-stop, on my commute to work.  No, my bus wasn’t stuck in a snow drift, nor have I been seconded to Aberdeen.  The reason this feat was possible is that this five track album is in total three and a half minutes long!

It is electronic noise, best heard at ear-splitting volume for maximum nostril-flaring effect.  Plenty happens but this is not a frantic gonzo cut up.  Segments are allowed a toehold, are established fleetingly, then tumble into the void and are instantly replaced.  Its efficiency and brevity are refreshingly classy.

I think this is a clever example of what imaginative types can do with the Bandcamp model.  I’d argue that this really is an album – it is coherent, complete, self contained – but its length makes it very difficult to present physically.  A 7” single maybe?  Expensive to produce, difficult to distribute.  A credit card CD-r?  A fiddly format that has never really caught on.  Neither of these formats suggest ‘real’ album anyway.  However, on Bandcamp its format is just the same as for everybody else.  Brilliant.

Next is Intercession by Seth Cooke released on intriguing netlabel Impulsive Habitat.  This is one 21 minute track constructed with Seth’s customary attention to detail from sound sources found ‘singing in the wires’ at his place of work.  It starts with a frantic chirruping and buzzing – an orchestra of locusts conducted by Steve Reich – before settling into a shifting pattern of hums, ticks, throbs and gentle feedback tones.  It suggests the micro-climate of self-storage warehouses, server farms, aluminium tubing, ducts in the crawlspace.  In the last five minutes birdsong and traffic can be heard alongside a scything overload in the cables, reminding us of the natural world replicated by the landscaping of the science park outside.  I find this intensely absorbing.  It has a kind of fractal geometry that pulls the listener into the recording.  Despite being as cool as air conditioning and as alienating as fluorescent light I’m sure I can hear a very human yearning behind the machine buzz too.  Exemplary.

Finally, I need to mention the archival project ongoing at the hairdryer excommunication Bandcamp page.  Kev is making as much of the Kevin Sanders / Petals back catalogue as he can find freely available via this resource.  I guarantee that any fruit you pick from this vine will be delicious.  The more I hear of Kev’s work, the more I want to hear and there is no higher praise than that.

All this stuff is freely downloadable:

Cthulhu Detonator

Bells Hill Digital

Impulsive Habitat

hairdryer excommunication

bells hill digital and george ferguson mckeating vol. 2

February 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – George Ferguson McKeating Vol. 2

(download, Bells Hill, Bells Hill Digital 2)

gfm 2

Scott McKeating’s Bells Hill, like other noise labels based in the North East such as Molotov, Matching Head and Fuckin’ Amateurs, prefers to keep it on the down-low. No need to advertise, no need for a flashy and substantial web presence, no clamour for ‘press’. Just dedicated fans and artists distributing releases amongst themselves and to a handful of grateful outsiders who have discovered their work. There’s nothing elitist or wilfully insular about this behaviour: these comrades simply don’t give a monkey’s about the trappings of ‘breaking big’ and are realistic about the limited appeal of their (mainly dark, metal and/or psych inspired) noise. They know that the curious will gravitate to them eventually. The unhurried self-sufficiency of this scene is a constant source of inspiration to me.

Some can’t help themselves, though. The indefatigable Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent, is filled with evangelical zeal and heart-bursting enthusiasm and his dispatches from the frozen wastes of Newcastle have won many converts. Scott’s approach is more reserved. The guy is clearly omniscient in matters of North East noise. If you need to know a name, an email address or the ‘phone number of Mike Vest’s tailor then a one-line email or blog comment will quietly appear from him within hours of you mentioning this gap in your knowledge. In fact, the only time I have seen Scott in effusive mood is when valiantly defending the principles of this blog and the wider no-audience underground in a facebook discussion following that Simon Reynolds thing.

Likewise, packages containing stuff from Bells Hill arrive with little fanfare, despite the quality of their contents, and are thus guaranteed to be a pleasant surprise.  The announcement of the new digital arm of Bells Hill, located inevitably on that Bandcamp, was a similar unexpected treat.

At the time of writing there are four releases to be found there.  I shall talk a little about the one pictured above.  Scott founded Bells Hill in order to release a compilation album to raise money for The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.  Pancreatic Cancer is a particularly vicious and fast moving variant of the disease and almost always lethal.  Sadly, it took Scott’s father.  Hence the simple title and poignant cover photograph.  Some brief thoughts from me on the first volume can be found here.  The possibility occasioned by Bandcamp has spurred Scott on to complete a long planned second volume.

Happily, I can report that – as with Vol. 1 – this is excellent throughout and would be an essential purchase even without the cause behind it.  It satisfies all criteria for a successful compilation.  It is sequenced in a coherent, flowing way but is varied enough to create some lively juxtapositions.  The quality control is consistently fierce so there are no barren patches to skip over.  Many of the tracks – all of which are exclusives – are beautifully self contained and are eminently rewindable.  The artists are a mixture of safe hands (for example: Brian Lavelle, Richard Youngs) and the mystifyingly new (to me, at least) that will have you scrabbling around the search engines looking for more.  There is glittering shimmer, monastic spirituals, haunting atmospherics, apocalyptic noise metal, ecstatic bubble drone, even a couple of actual songs – y’know with lyrics and structures and everything – and very lovely they are too.  What more is there to want?

The album is available in return for a donation to the PCRF.  For full instructions of how to do this and secure your download code visit Bells Hill Digital here.

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