garden of forking paths: chrissie caulfield on stuart chalmers and tlön

March 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol.2 (CD-r or download, Blood Diamond Music, BDM 005)

Tlön – Truth in the 13th (tape and download extras, Birkhouse Recordings, BIRK.007)

Imaginary Musicks2

I’m not even going to try and guess what instruments, objects and bent circuits Stuart Chalmers has used in his second volume of Imaginary Musicks. The range of sounds involved is quite remarkable and his grasp of the techniques of bending existing sounds to his will is better heard than analysed. If I describe sounds in this review it’s not necessarily what was used to make the noise, just what it sounds like to me [Editor’s note: no worries, that’s the RFM way].

That said, I think I’m on fairly safe ground (looks down expecting quicksand) in stating that this is substantially a Musique Concrète album, though that doesn’t really begin to describe the breadth of experiences it contains. There are sumptuous drones, beats made from household objects, tape noises and the occasional sax solo. If there is a track on here that you don’t particularly like, then simply skipping to the next one will bring something different for you to try. That’s not to say there is no consistency, there is; perhaps think of it as an aural version of the 1990s TV programme The Crystal Maze: buzzing with wild contraptions, bizarre puzzles and an enigmatic host – Chalmers himself.

Personally, the album had my full attention from the opening track ‘Breaking Chains’. After some gentle scratching and scraping it explodes into a glorious Ben Frost-like festival of noise that assaults the ears, with heavy drums, tortured saxophone squeals, delay feedback and all manner of shrieking and buzzing. If ever an album started with a…


…call, this is it. ‘Breaking Chains’ lasts just three and a half minutes but I wanted it to go on longer. This is typical. Chalmers never outstays his welcome with anything on this album, the tracks are about the length of many popular songs but with far more originality. Like Richard O’Brien at his most frenetic, he opens a door, gives you a three or four minute puzzle and then whisks you onto something new.

There is a love here, that I share, of industrial and mechanical noises [Editor’s note: see Chrissie’s own excellent Mechanisms, as she’s too modest to mention it herself]. Chalmers drops you into a room of ghostly clocks in ‘War on Nature’, there are car horns and squeaky gates in ‘To Be Lost is To Be Found’ and ‘Abandoned Cities’, then you are required to grapple with motors in ‘Wax & Wane’. There are probably all sorts of other things that I’m sure I’ve missed either because they’ve been heavily processed or secreted beneath layers of other interesting sounds but that just adds to the puzzles that repeated listens will, possibly, reveal. Chalmers leaves you few clues – sometimes the titles seem as though they are descriptive, other times they merely add to the confusion.

‘Wax & Wane’ is another favourite of mine, partly because it’s another noisy one, but also because of the way the dense textures here are so careful constructed. The motor sounds provide a basis for cheesy organ and distorted guitars (see disclaimer above) as they fade into swirling synths and gurgling. It’s like you’re locked inside the body of the engine, trying to find a way out.

Each piece on this album is a single idea in its own right and that is both it’s beauty and, possibly, its weakness. There are wonderful tracks, but also several that feel as though they should be developed rather than stopping and moving onto the next idea. That would make it a different experience, of course, and the simplicity of those pieces definitely has appeal – always best to be left wanting more.

Truth in the 13th

I enjoyed this album but I have to say that Chalmer’s other release, a collaboration project with Liam McConaghy [Editor’s note: of the excellent Microdeform] called Tlön was even more to my taste. Truth in the 13th is much more synth-based and is comprised of slightly longer pieces which gives the music more chance to breathe and go through a little more development.

Again, the opener is a blinder. ‘Crepuscular’ begins with dark beats and haunting synths. Listening to this you definitely feel like you’re walking through an overgrown and dangerous forest at night – Crystal Maze’s entrance to the Aztec Zone with the lights switched off and alligators added to the pond. You get buzzed by giant insects early on, and later there are growls from larger animals that become quite terrifying in the manner of Ben Frost’s By The Throat.

Unlike Imaginary Musicks, the titles of the tracks on this album seem to be much more descriptive of what you’re going to get – or maybe I’m just very suggestible. ‘In Accordance With Divine Laws’ sounds to me like some sort of spooky, scratchy church service, complete with indistinct singing – though over what sounds like heavily distorted guitars. ‘Ancient Ruins’ takes you from the undergrowth into the full Aztec Zone in bright light where you can explore the buildings left after centuries of neglect.

As with the solo Chalmers album, this one is packed full of manipulated recorded samples and things that sound like vinyl scratches and radio noises – and here we also have even more powerful guitars and yet more synths added to the mix to give a generally thicker, often quite oppressive, sound. It’s highly risky to second guess the roles of the artists in a collaboration, these relationships are always more complex than you think, but for my money the influence of McConaghy adds something to Chalmers’ quirky puzzles that lifts them to a different level.

For me, the least appealing track on Truth in the 13th is the title track. The simple snare rhythm quickly gets boring and distracts from the otherwise good things happening around it. The two remixes of the track that are included, quite sensibly, play this down.

So, if you fancy a trip round the Aztec Zone, Mechanical Zone, the Futuristic Zone and others, I can recommend these releases to you. Personally, I’d still like to be whisked round them by a young Ed Tudor-Pole, but that’s probably just me.


Stuart Chalmers on Bandcamp

Blood Diamond Music (via Blue Spectrum Tapes)

Birkhouse Recordings


wrenching brittle, litmus dub, tron’s sleeping cock: joe murray on the orbit of blue spectrum

March 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Blue Spectrum – Trash Sculpture Desert Skull EP (CD-r or download, Savant Tard Records, STR001)

Blue Spectrum – Live Phosphenes aka Never Again! (CD-r, Blue Spectrum, edition of 4)

Various Artists – Minimalism & Juxtaposition Vol 2 (download, Swamp Circle, SW-034)

Peer Group – Pubic Cubism (CD-r or download, Blue Spectrum)

blue spectrum - desert skull

The Blue Spectrum – Trash Sculpture Desert Skull EP

Plug this shit in … a broken digital dump of out-takes from Simon Spectrum’s enormous back catalogue.

Now I love the idea of a Spring Clean, me – “out with the old, in with the new” and all that – and yet, despite rumblings from some quarters of the underground that there’s too much stuff out there, I say a sturdy…


…I wholeheartedly disagree.  I think it’s good and right and proper to get your stuff out from yr respective bedsits and in to that big old world.  Do you make music to sit as dumb ‘ones’ and  ‘zeros’ on a hard drive?  Or are you going to give that Frankenstein shit LIFE?!

And Simon Wilson’s Blue Spectrum is pretty life affirming stuff – high pitched squeals and glassy rips; circuit-bent nonsense and the occasional environmental recording.  There’s loads of colours from  the Spectrum rainbow to delve into here but for me the stuff from ‘Glass and Bells’ and ‘Candid Tape Splicing’ is particularly immersive with a rich and clunky aftertaste that’s hard not to love.

Jad Fair’s seminal rock band Half Japanese would boast,

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like our songs or not coz another one will be along in less than a minute.

Blue Spectrum applies this ‘less is more’ philosophy with some tracks bristling with static-electrik power despite being a mere 18 seconds long. Amid the skronk and blackened noise, however, honks a moment of whimsy which arrives on the final track ‘Accidental Tape Loop’, sounds like some 7 second snatch of in-store Christmas music and becomes naggingly oppressive over its 9 minute career.  Ho Ho Ho Spectrum Go Go GO!

blue spectrum - live phosphenes never again

Blue Spectrum – Live Phosphenes aka Never Again!

Underground fabulous!  This twitchy disc is 16 minutes of classic tape loop, metallic scraping and darkly oppressive vibes with the unchanging grind being a real piece of art in itself.

Apart from slight changes in tone, tape wobble and hiss it takes over ten minutes to add any more gravy to these particular spuds.  By that time I’ve calmly finished my tax returns, washed the dog and meditated awhile so the Wu-Tang-style ‘triiiiing’ – so unexpected and polished! – that ‘sore-thumbs it’ makes my ears peak instantly into the red.

This sonic landmark ushers in more wrenching of brittle plastic and door-hinge squeak busying those bristles into the gentle fade out.  Cor … a master class in No Audience Loop-tronics.

min juxt

Various Artists – Minimalism & Juxtaposition Vol 2

A brave and clever compilation of well-medicated tracks that are not afraid to slap on the blusher and pretty it up like an underground Tigertailz.  You certainly can’t accuse this bunch of hiding behind veils of ‘none-more-black’ distortion; these electric sounds come out smelling of Snakebite and cheap hairspray.

The working method here is well worth noting.

Artists were asked to submit pieces of original minimalist experimental compositions, subjecting them to being layered with others’ submissions at someone else’s discretion. The mixing and matching, done by the label, results in new, multi-brained pieces. These pieces could not have come together in the way they did without each piece being composed in it’s own place, at it’s own time, without the knowledge of the others.

And who is the guiding hand behind this venture?  Why, it’s our old friend Justin Marc Lloyd from his Rainbow Bridge empire that’s running things proper here.  This is a real ‘must listen’ readers, you can find it on the old Bandcamp for free and it’s totally suitable for work.  Goof off!  Go on…stick it to the man.

Here’s your handy Radio Free Midwich track-by-track guide:

  1. (AN) Eel & Caucasians & Mark Bradley & Rest in Satin Silence: One channel of ambient swooning another of metallic ‘clink’ and the unmistakeable sound of bottling up (a cheeky reference for all you bar staff out there).  A spooky whisper in my right ear says “Everything is fine”…I’m not altogether convinced they are truthin’.
  2. Nyhos & Scraple Flock & August Traeger: The inner workings of those 2p machines you find at the seaside that push mountains of pennies over the edge of a drop.  No one ever wins but you don’t really care as this is soooo zonked out.
  3. Pines & Jonathon Cash & Ross Baker: Like some lost This Mortal Coil outtake.  It’s lovely as honey yet heaped with an aching loneliness as dreamt by zinc-plated grasshoppers.  Extremely classy shit!
  4. Salad with Ganesh & S.C.O.A.N: Tron’s sleeping cock!
  5. Caaldrunn & Blood Rhythms: AM Radio DJ talks over 80’s Metal compilation Leather & Lace through spiky solar interference.
  6. Fyarl & Chefkirk & Simon Magus: Coffee Table Electronics.  Heavy whiskey tumblers get all wired up and vibrated.  The glass-on-glass tinkle almost overwhelms the jumping frog toy…but not quite.
  7. Carl Kruger & Dr Mmm & Lackthrow: That episode of The Jetson’s where Martin Denny makes a guest appearance…as a xylophone-playing living gas!  With no digits to handle the beaters Judy & Elroy become unwitting puppets for digital exotica.
  8. Zebra Mu & Loopool & World of White Ice: Jammin’ Unit crossed with Hot Butter’s Popcorn.  The deep squelch of an 808 [Editor’s note: yes, I know that 808s don’t squelch – leave Joe alone: he’s jazz.] is tweaked to an intense degree; translation services for breeds unknown.
  9. Zalheitzli & Arvo Zylo & Granite Dolphins: Seafloor rumbling with pressure waves compressed into lactic explosions, pitched as high as a seal’s sneeze.  Evokes the desolation of an A1 service station at 3a.m. – perfectly.
  10. Silver Moult & Blue Spectrum: More maritime frolics but this time we’re closer to the shore.  Waves are breaking over seagull skulls…but wait.  The whole beach is constructed of bleached bones.  Holiday makers crunch over the brittle shore.  No one notices except you.
  11. Big Sad & Bedwetter & Rag Lore: Hardanger Fiddle played down a long thin wire.  The occasional ‘pop’ and ‘kooof’ pepper the busy drone like fine sensimilla.

ARTWATCH – I’m assuming our esteemed Editor will cut n’ paste a picture of the cover over this here review [Editor’s note: of course, see above].  As you can see for yourself it’s a colourful confection for sure.  Me?  I think there’s something of the Church of the Sub-Genius baiting the Watchtower about this one; it managing to be both creepy and antiseptic at the same time.  Nice work Justin!

peer group - pubic cubism

Peer Group – Pubic Cubism

My original hand-written notes for this disc said…

Untitled – Unknown (?) (Blue Spectrum?) Fucked up dub??

…as I can’t decipher anything on this very lovely and professionally packaged disc from Blue Spectrum (the label).

This rubbish description made old J. Jonah Jameson laugh out loud with its unreadable underground credentials so I thought I better do some digging to find out who in the blazes made this odd little disc once and for all.

Professor Google confirms that those responsible are Mr Justin Marc Lloyd (again) and Mr Carl Kruger at the helm here for some sonic sound collage, loopage and floaty wooziness that I’m now calling ‘litmus-dub’.

It’s all very…well…nice with partial tunes engaging and releasing, building up and falling over with an almost calming-with-an-edge of sweet digital discharge.  Picture a Macbook on fire spouting lavender smoke or something.  It’s truly pretty stuff and I’m loving it…it’s just come as such a surprise to be listening to pleasant and lovely music that I’m a trifle discombobulated.

I know it’s only March but this has to win the ‘RFM – music most likely to turn up in a Perfume Advert’ Award that I have just this second invented.  Get your nostrils to twitch!

Oh yeah…here’s an early tip for Christmas.  Simon turned me on to this festive compilation from DJ Insect Repellent.  I played the arse out of this over the festive season but have a strict seasonal Xmas song policy, ‘let no bells be jingled unless it’s December.’  Of course there is the possibility that you are not as furiously uptight as me with these kinda things so here’s the link to a Bandcamp version.  Just thought I’d pass this on.


Blue Spectrum Tapes

Swamp Circle

Peer Group

junked-up broth: joe murray on blue spectrum tapes

December 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 21)

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010) (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal (CD-r in A5 artpack sleeve, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

blue spectrum tapes logo

When I rule the world I’m gonna make it law to include a special ‘forgotten footnote’ button on all BBC4-style music documentaries.  The button will start to throb and pulse when some lame-ass social commentator starts heaping blanket praise on that old phlegmy chestnut Punk.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m a Punk fan (I got a new rose, I got it good) and Punk did some great things but it did not, I say DID NOT, invent D.I.Y. culture.  The forgotten footnote function would butt right in and silence the Morley explaining that, “Punk popularised D.I.Y. culture and even legitimised it to some extent, but freaks have been doing their own thing; records, pamphlets and plays for like…for like forever man.”

And so, it’s with this reclaiming of the history of the private press, I present Blue Spectrum records and tapes.  Simon David Wilson runs this label in a hurricane of activity, putting out over 70 releases in a short 3 years with a very definite outsider edge.  Drumming to no one’s beat but his own this is a very singular take on noise and drone.

Simon’s noise is very human and warm.  It’s more about the enveloping fug or cathartic release than the misogynistic boys-club Noise has sadly become in places.  The drone has its stoner head-nodding moments but rises above the all too common drone clichés by adding a spunky energy, a childlike impatience to the mix.

CD-Rs tend to be short, sharp affairs.  Recorded loud and unvarnished Blue Spectrum is a home for like-minded free-thinkers: The Phosphenes, The Bloodletters, Team Electrics, Knox Mitchell and Simon’s own Blue Spectrum project (along with a host of other travellers).

Releases come in ridiculously small editions.  A run of a hundred would be a MYKL JAXN ‘Thriller’ for Simon.  In fact most discs come in modest batches of 1 to 20.  I get the impression that the small runs are nothing to do with marketing strategies or in-built record-collector-scum mentality but a constant desire to surge forward, move to the next thing…keeping it fresh and spicy.

These discs and tapes are not shoved naked into the world, oh no.  They come swaddled in Simon’s distinctive photocopier art and collage.  More Dada than Punk (natch!) the art tells a parallel story to the cathartic noise and drone, capturing Simon’s domestic detritus and fax smears all grimy.  But I’ll let you check that out for yourselves.

In the spirit of one-person missions like Miguel Perez’ Agoraphobia Tapes or Andy Robinson’s Striate Cortex (Editor’s note: Striate Cortex R.I.P.!) you get a real personality emerging from between the cracks.  A real enthusiastic person, not some business model, is making the decisions here…for better or worse it’s human…and that pre-dates 1977 and the 100 Club ya schlubs!

Here’s a mini-round up of the latest Blue Spectrum releases:

orphanage rats

Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested

Totally zonked-out peals of guitar skunk and doped electronic echoes.  Makes like the mid-period SKULLFLOWER with that washing machine buzz & bumble.  Five untitled tracks plumb the depths of the oubliette with screeds of gun-metal guitar spinning like a Leslie speaker in my skull.  ESSENTIAL MISERY.

light blue empire

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split

Two twenty minute drone/noise pieces on one handy disc.

LC & BS: crumbling noise/drone as heavy as roadworks.  If this kind of music is all about the texture this sounds like an Arran sweater knitted from rusty scrap.  Unflinchingly bullish for a super-saturated 23 mins.

TEOE: altogether lighter.  A slowly accelerating truck the size of a house; and in the cabin, a brutish trucker man turns up Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to the film ‘Sorcerer’.  You tremble, tightly bound, in the path of the beast.

phosphenes momuments

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split

Tape/collage/skronk from The Phosphenes with a pleasing junked-up broth of ‘cruuungggh’ and ‘shoooossshh’ that takes turns in the organic (breathy harmonium) and electronic (amplified cutlery).   Comes with lyric sheet!

Monuments… take pretty harsh noise as a starting point and turns that dial right up to 11, in the red, all the time.  Tracks start in one noisy place and pretty much stay there making very gradual changes in intensity and granularity.  Such stasis is in not at the expense of craft.  No way!  Check out ‘Tonight’ which sound like THE STOOGES played by MONSTER MAGNET at 16rpm.

phosphenes vehscle

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split

Field recordings taken from a Dictaphone tied to the collar of a junkyard dog.  As dog sniffs round the oil-drenched trash the tape picks up Native American Electronic Voice Phenomena (NA-EVP).  Phosphenes, terrified at what they have captured, leave the accursed recordings completely untouched for you to judge.

More accidental tape damage from Vehscle, this time captured from SETI.  Unnervingly sounds originally presented on the Voyager gold disc (Bird song, Dixie Jazz, New York soundscapes) are beamed back from the red dwarf UDF 2457.  Mixed in linear stereo!

knox mitchell

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010)

An anthology of Knox’s singular tape experiments.  Dubbed from gob, guitar, shortwave radio, keyboard, Dictaphone straight to tape, it’s got that familiar mung of crushed frequencies that turn all the beauties brown and snug.

This has a magpie’s eye on methods and techniques taking collage and composition side-by-side and turning both over like a bad clam.   Fans of insect squeals will revel in the familiar sound of waxed wing-pods rubbing over knotty carapace.  Music for prawns.

carl kruger

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal

Are you a fan of granular ripping?  Well look no further than this Lazy Metal disc from Mr Carl Kruger.  Five untitled tracks start with mucho electronic squiggles, rasps and bleats; from a Gameboy perhaps?  It’s certainly video game inspired and riding the waves between harsh noise and broken electronics.  The dub comes out for a while as a cardboard tube is miked up and long springs slither down…all presented through the decaying lens of an overdriven guitar pedal.  With no climax these sounds are eaked out slowly in a very thoughtful, vicious game.

Like all good journeys this one is paced with regular comfort breaks and challenging peaks.  The ender…a needle-sharp introspective drone is all dandy for the mousey eared until a sharp hail of noize tinkles the ear wax reminding you Kruger is leading this expedition from the front.  Don’t get left behind sucker.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Blogspot.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Bandcamp.

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.