…but the days grow short when you reach september

September 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree (self-released download)

joined by wire – universe allstars (CD-r, LF Records, LF048)

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash (3” CD-r, aetheric records)

Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR13, edition of 50 or download)

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God (7” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 7”-013, edition of 220)

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air (self-released download)

LM

As I mentioned in the 500th RFM post below, I’ve had some trouble writing about, or even engaging with, music during my recent period of illness. It became like an old friend I’d not seen in a while. You know how it goes: if you see someone all the time you talk at length about each other’s lives, the issues of the day or just bullshit about nothing but once circumstances split you up it’s hand written letters and calls, then emails, then the length of the news dump needed becomes daunting, then it becomes something you ‘should be getting around to’ then months pass and… ah…, hey – an opportunity to be a smart arse on Twitter, I can do that in two minutes whilst lying on the sofa! Don’t look at me like that – you’ve done it too. We are terrible people.

Actually, I can’t feel too guilty. Sure, it is crap that stuff sent our way months ago is languishing unreviewed but it is a coiled-liquorice-turd-in-a-hubcap-full-of-boiled-tramp’s-piss that I lost the use of my, shall we say, ‘higher functions’ for months of this finite and irreplaceable life. Anyway, justified resentment to one side, I am happy that my critical faculties are slowly returning and I find myself listening to racket again and making up nonsense in response. I’ll be revving up with short pieces, anthology posts and other ways of deteetering the review pile. First up: this lot, chosen at near-random.

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

An epic of lone wolf psych rock. Reminds me of teenage afternoons spent lying on my bedroom floor, fried, watching the carpet undulate in time with my heartbeat. The crescendo here is expertly handled – in the second track, ‘Sapling’, before the chugging even properly begins you can feel the reverb being allowed to hang in the air – like plumes of incense in the barracks of some stoned soldier ants, preparing to watch footage – again – of that one time they kicked those fucking termites’ arses. Sweet.

LTjbw -ua

joined by wire – universe allstars

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash

Imagine if the invitation to migrate to the off-world colonies was not a trope of dystopian SF, a cynical attempt to empty an increasingly choked and infertile Earth, but that all the marketing material was literally true. The experience of faster than light travel is an ecstatic oneness with the universe, the colonies themselves are bountiful paradises where the grim hierarchies of our current existence are abolished, the strange physical properties of the planets where they are located give us superpowers and so on. joined by wire and Lost Trail would be the soundtrack to it all. The former accompanying the day’s effort sculpting our new wild architecture. The latter for evenings by the campfire telling wistful tales about the old country whilst our newly tamed alien pets eye each other with suspiciously knowing expressions and idly test the strength of the ropes they are tethered with.

SG

Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith

The first of two tracks begins with a satisfyingly rough-hewn tone/drone which is still but not motionless, like a fishing boat anchored in an otherwise deserted and isolated bay. When some curl, fizz and spit is applied to the sound later in the track it’s as if a bucket of chum has been thrown overboard to enliven an otherwise serene session of dozy, half-cut night fishing.

The first half of the second track documents the awakening of a holidaying Old One who squelches out of its semi-submerged tidal cave and swims under the boat. Sensing there is fun to be had, it belches a warning signal and whilst the mariners panic it eats them and, for good measure, the boat too. This crunching finale is represented by about five minutes of brute guitar skronk. I see where he’s coming from.

TP - fragments

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God

Back in February, Askild Haugland of Taming Power kindly sent me another four of his records. With his typical, understated generosity he did this unsolicited and free of charge just to ‘fill the gaps’ and as a way of thanking me for enthusing about his work (click the tag above for more of my writing on this subject). I was, as you can imagine, profoundly grateful.

His music has been a welcome tonic whilst I was sick. Presenting a variety of dramatic, ego dissolving views – across the frozen lake, scree slopes in the foothills, the emerald green grass of the flood plain – Askild’s work has the same perfect bite as opening your front door onto a December snow scene. I have not written about these releases partly for the reasons given above but partly because the more I think about it, the more perfect it appears. It has the same emotional intensity and efficiency of expression as the best poetry and, frankly, no-one needs my clumsy marginalia.

If I may make one suggestion: this 7″ single is a useful distillation and can be used as a map key to make sense of the atlas that is the Taming Power back catalogue. It is not an exaggeration to say I have listened to this dozens of times.

[Note: picture stolen from the Idwal Fisher blog where you will find a much more enlightening write-up here.]

BL - diagram

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air

Finally, then, we have this requiem for a much missed feline companion.  Brian explains:

This piece was recorded in tribute to our beautiful cat Bob who passed away before his time on Friday 13 March 2015. He deserves more than this, but I’ve struggled with how to express in music just how much he meant to me and how big a void exists in my heart now that he’s gone.

It’s a beautiful ten minute track, constructed with the care and skill anyone familiar with Brian’s work might expect.  It has the taut elegance of a cat trotting along the top of a fence, the magisterial poise of a paw on the neck of mouse and the soulfulness of a moggy sparked out in a sunbeam.  It is (and I mean this as high praise and not a flippant joke) ‘Adagio for Whiskers’ – a glimpse into that edge-world that only cats can see.

Available for free download but donations gratefully received and passed on to the UK charity Cats Protection.

—ooOoo—

Luminous Monsters

LF Records

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

Taming Power (link to previous article with contact and price details)

Brian Lavelle

blistered, glistening: releases by ian watson and kevin sanders

April 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ian Watson – Caermaen (CD-r, Dust, Unsettled, DU09, edition of 50 or download)

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations (2 x CD-r in gatefold sleeve, self-released, edition of 50 or download)

ian watson - caermaenwatson and sanders

Ian Watson – Caermaen

Dunno why I’ve slept so long on this one.  An intriguing album of heavy electrics by the second most charming guy in noise released by the most charming guy in noise – you’d think I’d be all over it, wouldn’t you?  My apologies for the inexplicable tardiness.  Allow me to make amends.

What we have here is a four track CD-r (long gone – sorry) or free download (still available – woo!) by Ian Watson – artist, polymath – released on Dust, Unsettled, the label run by definitive good egg Brian Lavelle.  It was composed using ‘cymbals and feedback’ manipulated through bosky layers of electrics and is apparently inspired by the writing of Welsh mystic and Lovecraft influence Arthur Machen.  So far, so perfect.

A satisfyingly viscous low end and a refreshingly untamed crackling at the top act as river banks containing the current’s flow.  Could that be a torrent of fluorescent ectoplasm combed clean by the bones of skeletal fish?  Sure, if you like.  I can certainly imagine Ian’s kit producing a cool, flickering, ghostly green light:

Brian: err… is that supposed to be happening?

Ian: mate, it isn’t even plugged in!  Perhaps we should leave the room…

Brian: press ‘record’ first though.

Ian: oh yeah, of course, NOW RUN!

…but what this called to mind for me were happy times I’d spent as a teenager staring at a lump of dirty metal.

One of my first jobs was operating a solder bath in a factory that manufactured printed circuit boards.  Boards were loaded onto a conveyor belt, subjected to a terrifying liquid that cleaned the copper (so corrosive that I dropped two pence coins into it to see the queen’s face dissolve), covered in slime to help the solder stick, hung on a hook by me, dunked into a bath of liquid metal about three feet deep, blasted with air blades on the way back up, then placed on another conveyor belt.  Repeat for eight or nine hours with frequent breaks to sit on chemical drums outside and smoke cigarettes.

On Fridays we would be paid in cash in little brown envelopes around 11am.  At lunchtime I’d race to the nearest pub, drink as much as possible, smoke a spliff on the way back and spend the afternoon cleaning this machine – heated to 250 degrees centigrade – in my shirtsleeves because, y’know, it was too fucking hot for overalls and a certain amount of scar tissue looks manly and suggests character doesn’t it?  The spray and overflow of hot solder dripped down into the guts of the machine and coagulated there into something magical.

This mass of waste solder – the size and shape of a child’s torso, almost too heavy to carry – was a mesmerising landscape of clustered globules, of organic micro-castles blistered with irregular crenellations, of needle sharp, filigree wire work.  All glistening a muddied silver, hopelessly polluted with the scorched scum that boiled from the boards as they were dunked.  These random accumulations of melted metal remain some of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen, even accounting for how stoned I was at the time.  Something about this album took me back to that sight and that made me very happy.

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations

Also available from a neighbouring stable is this two hour long, two track, two CD-r set, by two collaborators: Mr. Ian Watson (as above) and Mr. Kevin Sanders (see below).

Imagine a large ruined house in a forest, swamped in ivy – each luscious leaf as deep green as cooked spinach, as shiny as patent leather.  Now imagine the root severed and the gradual death of the above ground plant, its draining vitality and increasing brittleness.  A high quality digital camera is making a time lapse film of this process.  Once complete the memory card is removed and Kev and Ian bath it in a a cool, flickering, ghostly green light.  This ‘develops the film’ with an occult power that reveals the usually invisible creatures of woodland folklore that live around the ruin: dryads, fairies, elves, horrifying, robotic horseshoe crabs, their scrabbling legs the stuff of nightmares, their carapaces as black as a dominatrix’s whip, and so on.  Now play the film in reverse and compose a soundtrack to it using just rust and magnets.

This: that.

—ooOoo—

Ian Watson

Dust, Unsettled

hairdryer excommunication

the sky a mirror: karina esp and nothing music

September 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Karina ESP – A Single Moment, Repeated (3” CD-r, Hibernate Recordings, Postcard Series No 21, edition of 100 or download)

karina esp - a single moment, repeated

Manifestos, slogans, attempts at snappy self-definition – it can be tough to resist the lure of such indulgences. The opportunity to be a smart arse whilst parading punker-than-thou credentials is one of the perks of being involved with a fringe art form. Chest-puffing does seem a bit unfashionable now in these post-everything end times but back at the turn of the century, when I was co-running fencing flatworm recordings, there was no-one keener than me.

‘Loss leaders of the neo-radiophonics’ was the tagline for the label – not bad, eh? A little self-deprecating humour to mask the smugness. I described the music of midwich as ‘contemporary urban improvised acid’ which was a piece of satirical nonsense poking fun at some pomposity I can’t even remember now. I also used the phrase ‘Yorkshire nothing music’ which was more genuine. The term ‘no-audience underground’ was coined by me around this time too so at least something stuck…

I was reminded of the term ‘nothing music’ the other day when contemplating a handful of otherwise unrelated releases waiting patiently on the review pile. Some explanation: I do not mean ‘music during which nothing happens’, though it might seem that way sometimes to the untrained ear. It’s more like ‘music extrapolated from the smallest details’, or ‘music unafraid of stillness’ or ‘music for dissolving the self.’ I guess the stuff I have in mind is usually long-form augmented electronics and its precursors include those Eno albums, obviously, the no-input, accidental genius of Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy for Lilith, the synth washes of early 90s ambient etc. Contemporary purveyors include, say, Brian Lavelle and Eddie Nuttall’s Aqua Dentata.  It is rarely ‘harsh’, nor need it be an endurance test, so noise wall stuff and monolithic, minimalist composition can step aside for now.

It is not without movement – it may crackle at a micro-level under the surface sheen and/or it may contain macro-level tectonic slides that are revealed by close, consciousness-slowing repeat listens. It is not without content – it can be elegiac, poignant, blissful. The purpose is to sustain a mood, an emotional atmosphere. It is music as object of reflection, or as a meditative tool to help remove that reflection. The method and purpose I am trying to explain is brilliantly captured in the title of a recent(ish) piece by Karina ESP: A Single Moment, Repeated. Perfect.

Karina ESP is Chris Gowers, a comrade from the turn of the century CD-r underground.  We shared a lovely split album on the (long lost) Trademarked Industries label (my half re-released here) and Chris released natural wastage by midwich on his own imprint evelyn records.  Thus we have a bit of previous.  The aesthetic overlap is fairly hefty too.

Recently I was delighted to discover (via Twitter, natch) that Chris is still active: with Karina ESP, with his label The Remains Of My Estate (hereafter TROME Recordings) and with albums released by fellow travellers such as morc tapes.  Well, I say ‘active’ – the guy’s output is carefully considered and, shall we say, ‘unhurried’:

Sorry I’ve been missing

…he deadpans on the TROME Recordings website, thereby accounting for an absence measurable in years.  Being of a similar vintage to me, Chris doesn’t mind a bit of manifestoish self-definition either.  Here’s a fascinating clip from the demo submissions section of the same site:

…generally we like slow, introverted, understated quiet music and art that examines the intricacies of being human.  Above all, we are interested only in artwork that is authentic.

The key word is ‘authentic’, of course, but gotta love that ‘only’ – what an iron fist in a velvet glove, eh?  This list of requirements successfully and succinctly fleshes out what I was trying to get at with the notion of ‘nothing music’ above.  The mixture of Zen and punk ideals also calls to mind projects like John Porcellino’s King Cat Comix and Stories in which lessons from the minutiae of everyday existence are drawn with a clean, heartfelt, almost hypnotic simplicity.  I know that Brian Lavelle and I are fans, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Chris dug it too.  Suffice to say this is a condition of art that I connect with profoundly and have aspired too, with greater or lesser levels of success, many times in the past.

So what to say about this particular iteration, the 21 minutes in question today?  Metaphors do come to mind – it is like plunging your hand into the warm, loose sand of dune face and your fingertips brushing against the carved surface of a mysterious buried object – but maybe best to say as little as possible.  It is what it is: a koan, a mirror, the sky.  Nothing happens – a lot – exquisitely.

—ooOoo—

Karina ESP on Bandcamp

Karina ESP on Tumblr

TROME Recordings

morc tapes

eye for detail: the midwich remixes album

August 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Posted in midwich, no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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the archive

The idea of a midwich remix project goes back a fair distance (indeed, the missing-in-action Trademark TM created a version of the second midwich album life underwater – called ‘life underwater in space‘ – back when we were still laughing at bewildered millenarians) but now, finally, its time has come and I am inviting you, dear reader, to be involved.

The story so far is simple: Paul Walsh (foldhead, early hominids) sent me ‘glacier’, a version of ‘stomach lining’ from october in yorkshire that had been knocking about his hard-drive for yonks and discovered in a clear-out.  I liked it very much, mentioned it in passing on Twitter and within minutes had volunteers queuing up to submit their own remixes for an album I had to retroactively call into existence.  That’s what Twitter is like, innit?

So here’s the plan: the album will be called  ‘eye for detail’.  The entire midwich back catalogue is up for grabs, much of which is freely downloadable via the midwich bandcamp page.   Take what you want, do what you want with it and return the results to me ideally in wav format, ideally via WeTransfer (my email address can be found on the ‘about us…’ page).  The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 30th September and it will be released in October as soon as I get it all sorted.  To keep distribution simple and proceeds high the album will be download only via Bandcamp.  The reason for wanting to keep proceeds high is that all money raised will be donated to the Red Cross.

(An aside: this organisation was chosen as it provides immediate medical help to those most in need around this shitty world that we live in.  It has been brought to my attention that some may have issues with the Red Cross.  I’m afraid I’m ignorant of the politics I might be accidentally wading into here, so if you have concerns please email me privately so I can address those concerns or make sure your donation is sent elsewhere)

So far the project has only existed on Twitter and in a few emails but already I couldn’t be more delighted with the response. As well as the foldhead track mentioned above and garnering permission to use existing tracks by Daniel Thomas, ap martlet and Andy Jarvis, brand new work by dsic, Clive Henry, the piss superstition, Yol and Brian Lavelle is jostling in a hard-drive folder.  Others are hard at work.  It’s very exciting and updates are being tweeted on the arrival of each new jewel for the treasure chest.  Of particular note is Joe Murray’s Posset remix of this blog.  Yes, instead of choosing a midwich track to molest he has clipped favourite passages from my more whimsical and/or threatening moments and has created a shadow narrative that sounds like Adam Bohman cutting up H.P. Lovecraft.  Has to be heard to be believed. ‘Cover art’ will be provided by Michael Clough, who may be persuaded to submit some music too.

So: fancy being a part of this?  I flatter myself (as always) but perhaps there seems to be something about the wide open spaces, the jokey bibbling or the simple pulses of my, *ahem*, ‘music’ that invites augmentation or reinterpretation.  You’d be in terrific company and the cause is righteous so why not, eh?  All submissions gratefully received.

rob takes huge bite, eyes water, grins, attempts to swallow: rfm rounds ’em up

June 28, 2013 at 11:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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people-eaters – hinterland (3” CD-r, edition of 20, or download, Aetheric Records)

people-eaters – vore EP (download, Aetheric Records)

peopling – BULBOUT (download, self-released)

Etai Keshiki – Shit Off (download, self released)

nacht und nebel – downloads culled from five various releases

Colectivo “N” – La Ultima Tocada 06-02-2013 (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE95)

Brian Lavelle – The Night Ocean (download, Dust, Unsettled)

The Subs(Cribers) – Spilling Gravy In The Castle Of unfathomable Terrors (tape, edition of 40, Crater Lake, CL#003)

people-eaters - hinterland

Dear reader, as a fellow music fan, I wonder if you ever feel that you have bitten off more than you can chew?  Do you stare forlornly at a pile of unheard tapes and CD-rs?  Do you scroll guiltily through the overfull menus on your mp3 player?  Do you look at your monthly credit card bill, panic that you have been the victim of some kind of fraud, then realise that all those little Paypal payments are for various microlabel whims?

Heh, heh…

It’s brilliant isn’t it?  What a privilege to have access to so much terrific art and the wonderful people that make it!  I wouldn’t have it any other way: long may I choke.  A case in point: last month through a mixture of hard work, delegation and judicious use of the words ‘no thanks’ I managed to get the review pile here at Midwich Mansions down to zero items.  Did I take the opportunity to sit on the porch and admire the rhododendron flowers?  Did I bollocks.  I touted for freebies, I drifted around Bandcamp, I even paid for a few physical objects with actual money.  Last week the right speaker of my ear buds broke and I had an infection in my left ear that made it painful to listen to music.  Time to take a break?  Not a bit of it.  I ended up ramming the still working left bud into the wrong ear so I could continue getting my groove on, albeit in discombobulating mono – *sighs, grins sheepishly* – I just can’t help myself.  The upshot of all this silliness is that the review pile is now teetering again and a round-up is in order.  I shall point you at some great stuff that can be had cheaply or for nowt and explain with brisk efficiency why you should check it out.  Links at the end.  First up…

people-eaters - hinterland

hinterland by people-eaters comprises two tracks totalling about 19 minutes and is available as a criminally limited 3″ CD-r with lovely cover by Crow versus Crow (a sort of ethereal version of the Black Flag logo), or as a download from that Bandcamp.  The main components of the music are a swell of delicately balanced feedback, some breathy electronics and a low, hissing crackle (monotron?) which sprinkles a pinch of iron filings over the mix.  It has a cool, enveloping feel – as if the frozen wastes are close, but that you are protected from them by a layer of parental skin and hair.  Thus it documents the antenatal experience of a gestating polar bear cub (now there is a pull quote for a press release if ever I saw one: “makes you feel like an ursine foetus” – radiofreemidwich).  It is also beautifully recorded and this attention to detail shows an admirable faith in their own vision.  If you are going to take the trouble to return your listener to the womb then you shouldn’t allow anything to poke the amniotic sac.

people-eaters - vore ep

The vore EP (five tracks, 21 minutes, Bandcamp download) shows a similar level of light but unswerving control.  Minimal elements – an ominous rumble, a voodoo rattle, the splintered reflections from a broken mirror – are slowly rotated to give the listener a chance to appreciate each facet, then dismissed.  There is, dare I say it, a midwichian simplicity to this release: the methods of construction are discretely hidden, the sounds trusted to engage (or not) on their own terms.  I wholeheartedly approve of this discipline and like the results very much.

peopling - bulbout

Coming at things from a different but equally satisfying direction is New York based noisester Ronnie Gonzalez who records as peopling.  His skill is in taking the tropes of power noise – gargling electronics, sulphuric vocal distortion – and by combining them judiciously with more accessible ‘musical’ elements creating something fun and life-affirming.  His latest, BULBOUT, a three track EP totalling seven minutes, has the funk – not a notion much called upon here at RFM.  Older readers may recall the mutant pop of early 90s electro-industro-punkers like Babyland (yeah, if you want ‘played once on John Peel 20 years ago’ references this blog is for you!).  Peopling is the teenage son of that sound: beaming, busting with mischievous energy and clearly spitting out his medication the second the nurse leaves the room.

Ronnie refers to BULBOUT as a ‘digital 7″ single’ which makes perfect sense to me.  One of the strengths of the Bandcamp model is that, within the prescribed site format (ugly but functional enough to be transparent), you are free to present your release how you like.  If your work is complete, coherent and self-contained then why can’t it be an ‘album’, even if it is only two minutes long?  Which brings me to…

etai keshiki - shit off

Shit Off by Etai Keshiki is a one track album totalling an epic 113 seconds and apparently named for an incidental detail in the short film My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117 by Chris Morris (click on thumbnail to enlarge).  It is hardcore fast, rhythmically elastic and very, very angry.  Imagine the camera focussed on someone drowning in a lake, screaming for help as they surface, limbs flailing in the churning froth.  Then the camera pulls back to reveal there are actually four people making exactly the same moves in unison.  This is synchronised, precision flailing.  Freely downloadable but chuck these kids some money if you can as they are always proper anarcho-punk skint.

nacht und nebel - split tape with crimewavenacht und nebel - split tape with lea cummingsnacht und nebel - hronirwasps - nacht und nebel - splitnacht und nebel - 466 days

New to me is the charming Henry Davies who took my left elbow in one hand and with the other gestured to his Bandcamp site where the lazy can find all his recordings as nacht und nebel collected in one convenient location.  I downloaded the newest five – split tape w/Crimwewave, split tape w/Lea Cummings, hrönir, split 7″ with W>A>S>P>S and 466 Days originating on various labels – which takes us from the present day back to October of last year.  Selecting ‘play all’ on my mp3 device accidentally compiled them into an impressively cohesive 11 track, 61 minute ‘album’ of short and shortish noise tracks.

Henry’s sole sound source is, apparently, a cello though there is little that sounds like a Bach concerto here.  Like Chrissie Caulfield’s violin, I suspect his instrument is filtered and processed by a daisy-chain of effects before it reaches our ears.  Most of this is fairly heavy duty electronic noise but it is far from being mere HNW.  Henry has an ear for the rhythmically mechanical and is adept at handling a rolling crescendo – a quality sorely lacking in much overly-static ‘harsh’ noise.  Thus the tracks have dynamism, momentum and are edited for impact.  The rhythmic elements clear some headspace which allows the listener to fully appreciate the atmosphere.  Thus despite being a demanding listen, the work is never wilfully bombastic or alienating.  Very much worth your while.

A word about Henry’s band name, as I was troubled by it.  Nacht and nebel (‘night and fog’) was the Nazi policy of providing no information as to the fate of those taken prisoner by the regime.  It facilitated mass murder, unimaginable horror shrouded behind mute bureaucracy.  Is there anything more nightmarish?  It is also the German title of Nuit et brouillard a profoundly harrowing short documentary film about the Holocaust released in 1955, directed by Alain Resnais.  In short: why the fuck would anyone choose this as their band name?  I put this to him and he replied:

First off, it’s emphatically not a pro-nazi thing at all.

When I started doing this (about 7 years ago, I think?) I had the idea that whatever name I chose for it should in some way reflect the fact that it isn’t obvious that all the sounds originally come from the same source (a ‘cello) – a kind of audio obscurantism, if you like. Around the same time, I happened to be reading Philip K Dick’s The Simulacra, which mentions nacht und nebel in passing, and that it translates to night and fog (but little else, as i recall), which struck me as exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Some investigation at the library later and the awful nature of it was quite striking.

My intention with nacht und nebel musically has always been to evoke an atmosphere of dread more than anything, with suggestions of unsettling and nightmarish things going on that are being hidden from view so you can never quite make them out (seen through a glass, darkly, as it were) and that you have no control over. (Which no doubt betrays my interest in certain kinds of horror) – judging my success or otherwise at attaining such arguably highfalutin goals is no doubt best left as an exercise for the listener. But that all played into the choice of name as well in one way or another – as you say, troubling.

So yes, it’s entirely abhorrent, both for what it obscured and that it enabled ‘across-the-board, silent defiance of international treaties and conventions: one cannot apply the limits and terms of humane treatment in war if one cannot locate a victim or discern that victim’s fate.’ That said, I do find it interesting that ‘band’ names are almost always taken to be a positive thing (a kind of seal of approval) when there’s no real reason for the opposite not to be the case (i.e. the band ebola, for instance, come to mind as an example.)

I was satisfied with this (and, as an aside, that last point is an interesting one).  I suppose my worry about his use of that concept for a band name comes from growing up with industrial noise and power electronics in the 1980s and 1990s.  That scene was overflowing with idiots vying to be the most ‘shocking’ or ‘challenging’ or ‘transgressive’ and I suppose when I found out what ‘nacht and nebel’ referred to I was taken back to those tedious times.  Now I see that is not Henry’s intention at all and, whilst I am still squeamish about the use of such concepts/imagery in this context, I’m happy to acknowledge that he has at least thought this through.

OK, let’s lighten the mood.

colectivo n

Colectivo N is the improv duo of RFM regular Miguel Perez (La Mancha Del Pecado, The Skull Mask) and his compañero Picho.  La Ultima Tocada (June 2, 2013) is the document of their last gig together before Picho moved way over west to that other crazy border town Tijuana.  What we have here is a very entertaining quarter hour of Miguel jaggling the strings (yes I know jaggling isn’t a proper word but you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?) of his guitar whilst Picho wails comically and/or mournfully through a strangulated trumpet.  There are vocals: sardonic interludes and some exaggerated, grunting pastiche of lounge jazz – a bit in the first few minutes reminded me of the scat solo in the immortal ‘mnah mnah’ Muppet Show sketch.  Worth noting that this performance did not take place in the Juarez equivalent of the Fox & Newt in front of a knowing, improv-savvy audience but in a regular bar in front of bemused punters who had little idea what was occurring.  These boys have some big brass balls.  Miguel tells me that the recording cuts out before the applause because… there was no applause.  Which is both hilarious and awesome.

brian lavelle - the night ocean

After all this noisy racket my poor infected ears needed a little balm so, on a whim, I made a visit to the website of long-term friend of this blog Brian Lavelle.  Brian’s work, that is: his own recordings and those made by friends and associates released by him on his Bandcamp label Dust, Unsettled, is uniformly excellent.  To my shame, a quick search of this blog reveals that he has not been mentioned recently.  My apologies – I suspect this is because I rather take him and the quality of his offerings for granted.  Erik Satie once described selections of his own work as ‘furniture music’, meaning them to be used as background ambience, and I have to admit to treating Brian’s back catalogue as a kind of wing-backed leather armchair.  Around Midwich Mansions his music is ‘used’ – as a lullaby, a massage, an exotic holiday, a diverting puzzle – rather than ‘listened to’ as such.  Sounds like a back-handed compliment, I know, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

Take, for example, The Night Ocean a 40 minute, single track album inspired by an atmospheric short story by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow (a pdf version of which is thoughtfully included with the download).  It ripples in the cool offshore breeze, it shimmers with reflected moonlight (‘Yet for me there is a haunting and inscrutable glamour in all the ocean’s moods. It is in the melancholy silver foam beneath the moon’s waxen corpse…’), it fizzes as each stroke disturbs the plankton and triggers a phosphorescent display.  And that is it: no driving forward momentum, no complicated narrative, just a barely perceptible ebb and flow.  By using ‘stop’ or ‘repeat’ this track can be made to last exactly as long as you need it to.  An excellent example of the underrated sub-genre LNW (lovely noise wall).

And finally…

subs - spilling gravy j card

If the concept of ‘goodwill’ could be transformed into a band then the result would be The Subs, such is the regard with which they are held.  The doe-eyed adoration is justly deserved, however, as the duo of Markylooloo (Stoke scene veteran, paragon of virtue) and Mika (the girl who radiates sunshine) produce electro-pop perfection.  The band’s small but exquisite catalogue of songs, crafted in fits of sporadic creativity spanning two decades, is almost overwhelmingly charming.  Cute without being twee, sweet without being saccharine, daft without being stupid – it’s as groovily, refreshingly life-affirming as eating ice-lollies in the park on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Lovely.

—ooOoo—

Right then, here’s where to get all this great stuff:

people-eaters

peopling

Etai Keshiki

nacht und nebel

Colectivo “N”

Brian Lavelle

The Subs(Cribers) – Discogs listing, more info here, no word on the Crater Lake site as yet so email Pete – pete_cann@hotmail.co.uk – for ordering details.

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.

quick review haiku

April 10, 2010 at 11:44 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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no time for blog posts

wedding all encompassing

normal service soon

1. culver – surgical memory

fragile, warm beauty

gradually overwhelmed

by unending heat

2. astral social club #21

metal kaos funk

industrial jigs and reels

funny photo!  Rarrr!

3. Brian Lavelle – Lambent

wires, bowed metal

stirred by glacial winds

hut on the tundra

4. Ohrca – Ohrca

melancholy fuzz

robo-dragonflies skitter

compressed history

  1. Sun Sea Sky Productions (free download)
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