dense as blood: rfm on maalem mahmoud gania, baccam/chayer and broken shoulder, ij, grey guides and steven ball

October 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind)

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings)

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings)

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label)

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings)

 colours of the night

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind) double vinyl LP

Here’s a thing.  While the N-AU may be set in staunch opposition to some elements of popular musical culture some slices of the pie enjoy a quiet and respectful gravity.

So while the baldheads and grey beards carefully stack their noise tapes they also gently tend record collections that bulge with what was rather antiseptically packaged as World Music back in the 1980s.

But of course things have moved on since Real World or Sterns’ opened the ears of the £50 man.  Smaller, more intimate labels; Excavated Shellac, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Sublime Frequencies and Power Moves recent Excavation series have been setting heads nodding for a decade.

But be sure to add Hive Mind to your ‘must check’ list.  This new label has released a handsome album of mystical Gnawa and is a real labour of love. Brighton resident Marc Teare spent years researching and travelling in Morocco ultimately working with Mahmoud Gania’s family making sure their maiden release was done just right.   Down to the cleverly understated artwork Hive Mind has the feel of a family affair; putting pure love and deep knowledge into the weighty album you hold in your hands.

The eight generous tracks (all are between seven and ten minutes long) feature Mahmoud Gania’s   rubbery Gimbri exploring a tone that’s warmly plucked and deliciously toasted.  Small motifs are played through like scientific equations with a crisp balance between the deeply funky repetition and free-flowing fingering.   There’s a chaotic tumbling to this playing.  The earthy notes churn like a plough cutting deep into the field and turning over fertile soil. Each run reveals a perfectly formed micro-world shot through with woody detail in rich orange and brown.

An insistent, gritty percussion is skittering underneath. Like a wave of sweltering motion this tinny crackle shimmers and shudders like sunlight on a lake or the glaze on a raku pot – each tiny thread spitting into another hundred veins of rhythm.

The call-and-response vocalising lifts an already head-spinning trip into the rusty red sky on a plume of resinous smoke.  Sung in a lip-smacking mixture of Peul, Bambara, Hausa and Arabic there’s a dangerous slurring on ‘Foulani’ where Mahmoud Gania’s  authoritative declarations are repeated back by a slack throated choir, lovingly slurping over each line.

The Gimbri playing on the ten minute ‘Bala Matimba’ is as dense as blood, descending from a mightily complex riff into a smear of bass tones that bounce like magnetic bubbles constantly repelling and attracting.

Keeping things authentic ‘Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi’ features an additional drone keyboard part and marks the semi-permeable membrane that divides ancient and modern which is of course a typical western construct.

But it’s the sheer velocity of these tunes that keep me coming back again and again.  Like the joy of watching a wagon almost leap the tracks.  To my un-tutored ears this all sounds dangerously, wonderfully brittle and could rattle apart at any second – but of course it doesn’t.

The matter is in a master’s hands so the illusion of imminent collapse is a thrilling, intoxicating thing.  Me?  I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth and loving every single second.

Apparently available copies are almost down to single figures so be sure to check this out now at Hive Mind!

 broken shoulder

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

This split between Montreal’s Baccam/Chayer and Japan-based Broken Shoulder is uncommonly weighty and carefully binary.

Our Canadians syringe sweltering electronic pops and gristly-noise-rattle through my ears.  It’s like some sort of sieve has been taken to a fever dream and all that falls out are ragged scraps: fuzzy disconnected images and a neck-clawing panic.

The machine-made frightened squeals add that ghost-in-the-machine quality that I love in this kind of racket; the closing minutes of track one crack like parched lips with salty, scarlet blood staining the teeth.

Track two is a lo-slo mung-out.  Chirping figs clatter unholy toothy-pegs on one level while tracked beneath an over-stretched boil of rubber strings are bubbling merrily in a trail-battered billy can.   Huge coughs of noise splutter like the last thick green hockle of Iron Man before he starts Sweet Leafing.

Is that some sort of calliope buckling under atmospheric pressure?  Who takes a steam-organ into a bathysphere?  Baccam/Chayer have gone totally Jacques Cousteau on this one – silvery bubbles ripple though the deep as a steel piano is found on the soft sea bed.

For the wonderfully-named Broken Shoulder it’s all about technique.   He starts by spilling glue on an old keyboard and then dousing it in cold tea.  The resulting death spasms are recorded on an unreliable mini-disc swiped with funky electrons.  You go to such lengths and something remarkable is bound to happen like on this ‘Hot Wind’

‘Keep on Believing’ takes the jam to the aviary matching each colourful cheep and trill with a pulsating ur-groove.  Two notes of hope, two notes of wonder, two notes that yaw across a scaffold of just goddamn loveliness.  I can’t listen to this without a smile skimming across my ugly mug and good, wholesome thoughts drive out the bad ju-ju in my noggin.  Musical chicken soup!

More sweet and gentle air wafts through ‘Make Sure all the Doors and Windows are Open’ another wonderful tone-painting as soft as duck down in blues and pinks.   The sister-track ‘Piss Boat’ does an Eno/Fripp and seems to reverse the original sucking us back in time.  Marvellous yeah!


IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

Inge van den Kroonenberg & Jürgen De Blonde are a loved-up couple of mountain goats and therefore have a soft pad within their polished hooves.  This malleable surface provides extra grip on the sharp rocks and 5cm ledges on which they thrive.  On ‘Calling the Heard’ IJ develops their own evolutionary extension (a reversible air-sac, a throat pocket?) to plunge deeply into a world of hollow-horn drone. Impressive eh?

But extra mind-balloons are thoroughly inflated on the peerless ‘Expanding Rainbow’ a study of super-sparse mbira clicks and organ-loops.  Like a growing anxiousness each flutter of reverb sets off a small chain reaction of impish huffs that glisten like vapour trails – always too far to reach out and touch.

The ghost of reverb haunts ‘Frozen Highway’ as frisky as a tumbleweed skitter.  More breathy organ notes are stretched over the event horizon but for me the real jazz is played out in the snatches of faint conversation/street noise that blisters like paint under a blowtorch, lifting medallions of oily pigment in a beautiful rash.

grey guides 2 

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label) CD-R and digital album

Morley (near Leeds) greatest hobos bum a fag from ex-members of This Heat.

Like.  Not literally of course.  But these pieces of swollen tape-noise and crushed sonics could be a backing-tape from Cold Storage or something.

The stressed-out guitars in ‘Lame Duck Alchemist’ throb and thrum like useless string ghosts.  The cascade of puckered notes are sour to taste and wobble gingerly like a tipsy aunt.  A hussing/hishing (that’s the pucker again – this time a pair of red lips) swooshes over lazy chants and crow impressions.  This really is a blunted reality.  Anything you want to tell us lads?

But then ‘Kev’s Temple’ is a firm Dr Phibes palm on the keys with muffled grunts fighting to get heard over the filth.  The cinematic theme continues on ‘Venus-in-Furness’* that makes like a montage scene trying to convey the sense of morbid fascination one has with re-visiting locations of previous heartbreak.  The nervous system is close to collapse but continues to make bad decisions.  A two-note hum struggles to make an entrance around the wire wool messiness.

As ever there is a finger on the FFW button all through this glorious construction so playing speeds are arbitrary (See ‘New Experimental Wheelchair’).  Smears are the new clarity and act as ear-cataracts.  Only the most messed-up and bleached sound can cut through the soft tissues.

But this is by no means a grim affair. No sir!  A doubled-up whine shimmers becoming a fly trapped in a test tube.  Its furious buzzing is muted by the firm rubber bung on ‘Last Feast of Harlequin’ which could also ape Ligeti’s ‘texture music’.  Take that Gramophone!

Yet again the Grey Guides have dug deeper than most to unearth layer upon layer of groovy silt/loam/compost.  It may stink to high heaven but nourishes countless pretenders on its rich, vital nitrates.

*contender for NAU pun of the year


Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings) CD and digital album

This Mr S Ball is a long-time man.  Spending decades in Storm Bugs this is the first solo album that I’m aware of and certainly his first full album for the wonderful Linear Obsessional group.

Classy from the uncluttered front cover art to the spare arrangements for instruments and voice – this is a disc as bracing as an arctic northerly blast.

This collection of real songs is unfussy and focused.  Steven’s voice never raises much above a conversational hum, a sing/speak that’s both comforting and hypnotic.  The very normality of his vocal approach makes this an arresting enough listen – but couple this with the barely-there arrangements and you are on to a winner.

Like the Wu-Tang on their 36 Chambers best Steven practices the secret art of sticking to one distinct, lopsided sample/loop and letting it breathe.  There’s no smothering hiss on this finely recorded disc and spare bass, guitar or piano (but rarely playing at the same time) create a soft scaffold.   ‘Inside’ showcases this approach wonderfully with a handful of descending bass tones capturing a whole suitcase full of moods.

An emphasis on structure and organically developing themes makes the 15 min ‘Of the Yard (after Terry Ball)’ an exercise in deeper listening and repetition.  Sort of like a kitchen sink version of ‘There was an old lady that swallowed a fly’ cribbed from unpublished poetry notebooks (which the notes suggest it was).

Less esoteric matters are discussed on ‘Garage/Band’.  What could be a withering snark at underground poseurs ‘pretending to be bored’ Steven delivers with a kindly wink, and avuncular sigh – we’ve all been there eh?

The missing link between reductionist improv and the intimate breathy song cycles of a Robert Wyatt.

Hive Mind Records

Kirigirisu Recordings

Grey Guides Bandcamp

Linear Obsessional


perfect gnashers: joe murray on broken shoulder and psst! wanna buy a record?

March 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Broken Shoulder – Biwa (self-released download)

Various Artists – PSST! Wanna Buy A Record?  (Vinyl LP and 16 page Risograph booklet with A3 Xerox insert, no label, edition of 300)


Broken Shoulder – Biwa


This patient approach is a dying art so, delight heaped upon delight, the wonderfully named Broken Shoulder gives us his take on CASIO-trauma over four well-paced tracks.

First up is ‘Large Man on a Small Motorcycle.’ The engaged tone on a beefed-up trimphone is angrily stirred with a bunch of stinging nettles. Eventually the moon rises bathing everything in its milky light, smoothing and soothing like dock leaves.

The brief ‘AM Cement Mixer’ simmers with the malevolence of a toddler hell-bent on trouble.  It brings to mind the strange gravity bumps a gyroscope detonates on your outstretched index finger until it ends as neatly as a magician palms the Queen of Hearts.

There’s emergency room rattle on ‘Wing Spiker’.  Harried medics tend to a fallen Minotaur (“he’s full of tubes”) as the oxen heart begins to race in amphetamine-jagged leaps. It’s a constant battle between conflicting meds to balance the disruptive beast until the heavy eye-lids flicker and open wide.  His fists are already clenched!

Things get particularly poignant on the 10 minute closer ‘From Whisper to Whiny/Big Wicker Ventriloquist’ where our Mr Shoulder introduces well-oiled castors running effortlessly over a marble floor.  Shimmering Netsuke squeal their approval and call into being a jawbone harp spluttering blue electric teeth.  Each canine and incisor holds a hefty charge that sizzles your lips as they fall in impossible numbers; wave after wave of perfect gnashers.

psstVarious Artists – PSST! Wanna Buy A Record?

Sometimes this reviewing lark can really throw you a knotty conundrum, a puzzler, a right crooked enigma.

And this PSST! compilation is one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking records I’ve listened to for a long while.  It’s made me think and question and dig in the old grey memory box for long forgotten sounds and smells.

So… why all this navel-gazing yeah?  This is an old record, a re-release; nothing unusual in that.  We do a fair bit of looking back at RFM.  But it’s the perfect 80s aspic surrounding PSST! that’s so hard to ignore.  The sound quality, rhythms, lyrical content, composition and even the darn accents used while singing all scream mid-80’s underground.  It’s really hard not to listen to this underground Polaroid and compare it to a modern-day JPEG.

And in a time when the (very excellent) This Heat are close to being canonised it makes sense to dig deeper into the sonic time capsule.  Are you with me?

Firstly this takes me back to the grim realities of 80s economics.  Making a record in those days, even an underground record, was way out of my league and the league of all my fellow oiks.  Home studios, four-tracks whatever, were a rarity and this meant saving up megabucks for a ‘proper’ studio where some mullet-headed hack would ‘tut’ and shake their bleached mane in disgust at anything that wouldn’t engorge Bruno Brookes’ pooter.  I did my best as a listener for sure and tried to sup as deeply as possible using Peel, zines and Snub TV for life-rafts.  But, all the same, the sense of distance between me (the oik with a paper round) and them (real folk making records) was a vast and precarious canyon. Just to hammer it all home: I remember reading some ‘How to make a Record’ article in NME at the time and the first line was

Can you afford to lose £1000?

The answer then and the answer now is a pained,

you joking fella?

And it’s with the sense of ‘how on earth did they manage to afford to do this?’ that this attaches itself to my pink ears.

The second thing is the singing.  A fair chunk of 80s underground music, and let me make this clear I’m speaking as a fan here, was appallingly sung.  Take that Ron Johnson stuff for example.  It cleared the scales from my eyes and made me leap like a vibrating salmon.  It filled my heart with energy and my brain with extra dimensions and possibilities.  Those sharp, angular guitar lines made me check out that guy they would always name check in zines… that Captain Beefhead or something?  For that alone Ron Johnson I stand erect and salute you.

But gosh… what a lot of horrible howling those singers made!  Was it a nervous reaction? Not wanting to commit to a real bit of vocal passion?  Was it a tongue-in-cheek anti-fashion thing?  A statement?  I never figured it out but that over-enunciated, faintly home counties, ‘if I don’t take it too seriously it’s gotta be art yeah’ mumble and waffle is in full-effect on PSST!

Finally there is an 80s sense of purpose about these songs.  Lots of the music I remember listening to back then was message driven.  It could be a political message – and of course there is an important place for political music with a capital ‘P’.  Some bands wanted to hoof a more oblique lifestyle address: we dress this way, we dance this way, we are against this and for that because we are [insert popular youth cult here].  Sometimes it was just to make you laugh; its purpose was to poke fun at dumb social mores and closed-minded conventions.  All great if you are in on the joke, not so much when it’s as forced as a Half Biscuit.

One of the things I like about underground music these days is that it doesn’t have to mean anything.  It just is.  The empty joy of a drone, the mindless scribble of improv; you just take it at face value in each wonderful, glorious unique musical moment.  In short, you just shut up and listen.

[Editor’s note: Joe was concerned about his vocabulary in the paragraph above. He wrote in an aside to me:

Have I got this over right?  Take it out if you think it will upset folk.  I’m not saying improv is ‘mindless’, not saying drone is ‘empty’ it’s just the way I listen to it… my mind is a jumbled blackboard – Drenching/Culver/Yol etc. clear it in one wonderful swipe… then I can breathe again.

I get it, it’s more or less what I mean when I use the term ‘ego-dissolving’.]

And I think it is this sense of purpose – this is music for something – that magnifies it’s ‘out-of-time-ness.’

OK, you’re thinking.  This isn’t the usual RFM puff-piece.  Has Rob relaxed his cast-iron guarantee of positive reviews? Of course he hasn’t [Editor’s note: presumably Joe hadn’t read the Keenan piece at this point].   I blinking love this record.  It just arrived in our house with such a huge amount of baggage I had to clear out the hallway first.

The Lenin Lads take up a fair chunk of this comp with their dry clarinets, wooden guitars and off-kilter rhythms.  My favourite is the hilarious ‘Dunlop’ that brings together The Residents’ ghostly swoop with the kind of ditty favoured by the Vulcanised Rubber Marketing Board.  It’s an ode to Green Flash trainers – stylish footwear for the terminally skint!  They experiment with hillbilly banjos and music concrete bottle washers, dub melodicas, primitive drum machines… all at the same time.  Like The Holy Modal Rounders if they lived in a shed in Welwyn Garden City or something.

I vaguely remember the name Bing Selfish from way back then and with his positioning at the start of side A and B it makes me think he’s a head honcho fella.  Bing promises,

A brilliant kaleidoscope of beautiful melodies and breath-taking arrangements

and still finds time to deliver a very lovely acoustic guitar & clave number that sounds like a Spanish Richard Youngs.

The rest of the artists perform under such colourful names as Los Delectantes, The Murphy Challengers and the plain stoopid The Tennis Ball is Bigger than the Golf Ball.  At this point, even without the handy guide I’d read in FORDAMNING zine and the attached PDF of the original sleeve inserts, comix & Foto Love I would have my suspicions that these folk are interrelated to the point of sharing the same toothbrush.  Los Delectantes, a brilliant Terry Day/Alterations impression, that’s both winsome and muscularly threatening.  The whole tennis ball/golf ball thing sounds uncannily like Vic Reeves’ club singer using a really old sampling keyboard, rocking the pre-sets and ending in frog croaks – always a great outro.

Proving the hipsters have always been with us Lepke Buckwalter could be Keyboard Money Mark in distress as you thieve his collection of vintage Kangol moon-pie hats.  Now there’s a thought!

But it’s El Narciso that win the prize as toppermost of the poppermost with a totally brilliant Residents/Kurt Weill pastiche named, ‘Pass the Buck’, as disinterested as the B-side of M’s Pop Music (but played in negative-chorus/reverse-gender).

So where are we now then?  I’ve whinged a bit and got all that history out of my lungs.  This is a great little comp and a genuine, real and important window into the No-Audience Underground when the artist/audience boundaries were drawn up neat like a picket fence.  I’ve told you what I think.  But what about all you Millennials out there?  What the Dickens do you think of this kinda ramble?

Answers on a postcard pur-leeese!

Oh yeah.  For a more balanced and ultimately more informative take on this and the whole It’s War Boys/Bing Selfish/Gus Coma scene pleased be to check out this guff and the excellent FORDAMNING (number 8), the charming print zine.


Broken Shoulder

PSST! Wanna Buy A Record?

many at their windows: marlo eggplant on ‘an electrical storm’

February 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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various artists – an electrical storm (CD-r and badge or download, aetheric records)


The 1968 album An Electric Storm by White Noise is a sound classic, inspiring avant garde/experimental pop bands such as Silver Apples and Stereolab who aimed to approximate the primitive, vestigial sound experiments curated by American electronic engineer David Vorhaus.

Having attended a lecture given by Delia Derbyshire, Vorhaus joined forces with her and fellow Radiophonic Workshop composer Brian Hodgson and the result of locking themselves away together is this classic psychedelic pop album.  An Electric Storm is playful and cinematic, filled with altered samples and tape spliced salads of circus melodies, special effects, French dialogue, sexual exploits, and screams of hell. The aetheric records 2015 compilation, an electrical storm is a ‘tribute to the experimental spirit’ of White Noise’s masterpiece.


All artists were given a field recording of an electrical storm made by aetheric records’ Alistair Thaw (a.k.a slowthaw.) They could use the track as they wished to create their own compositions. One could reason that conceptually inspired by the White Noise album, this compilation is a celebration of the technique: repurposing sound or ‘tape splicing’. And it isn’t just a bunch of musicians using the sample in similar ways or even using similar procedures. Each track has its own flavour and approach to the initial recording, resulting in a true tribute to ‘how-and-why’ the White Noise album was born.

With a collection of international musicians rolling the dice with the storm, the result is an enjoyable and dramatic film journey accompanied by an unconscious familiarity with the source material.  The tracks are well ordered, leaving the listener enjoying the rain.


The compilation opens with So There’s xylophones and nuanced, quiet beckonings. White Feather’s Nocturnal Storm leads us into the glowing, pretty space where the listener opens their eyes refreshed. Kek-W‘s STRm walks us on to the train tracks into a dance party, climbing past metal riveters and pulsations. Troy Schafer’s fixed emission makes me seriously homesick for shows back in the States in sweaty spaces filled with unexpected distorted shouts and dark human stimuli. The Revenant Sea’s charge separation cluster is the static that makes the baby hair on arms stand at attention, possibly receiving transmissions from the galaxy. The Heartwood Institute’s aetheric recursion did not remind me of the massage school with the same namesake in Northern California. Rather it reminded me of the The Repo Man soundtrack [Editor’s note: high praise indeed!], the listener being pursued by chain smoking UFO hunters. le pleasure beach by Benjamin Shaw washes one with watery ascending piano ripples.


April Larson’s decaying dream (electric storm mix) delivers yet another cinematic track, this time with escalating David Lynch eerie suspense. as clouds accumulate by stapperton bounces a rubber ball intermittently walking through rain storms and swarms of whispering cicadas, inducing ketamine flashbacks. black_ops pushes one through a monochromatic static void, repetitive waves of great gravity surround. Echoes …. Leytonstone concretizes one’s senses again putting them into order with shushing reassurance to move through the gap. BURL attaches you to the outer space debris floating through ancient unknown civilizations, all being swallowed slowly into a black hole. One enters another dimension on a single sound. two cars passing by Hollows is a misty-eyed moment of mortality, organs and piano keyboards reminding us that we all grow old. Broken Shoulder’s holiday’s ruined is honing in on almost nautical transmissions and resonance, the ship is brought into port after a long voyage. Coming back to the source, and nature, with the clean, sharp field recording made by slowthaw.

The compilation comes with a badge with the same disturbing, beautiful album art. I recommend listening to an electrical storm late at night with a jug of red wine, lying on a Persian rug and duvet for emotional comfort.


aetheric records

from kanazawa to west yorkshire: marlo eggplant on kirigirisu recordings on tour

December 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Asuna, Sonotanotanpenz, Broken Shoulder – Kirigirisu Recordings Tour Compilation

(CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, edition of 100 or download)


Winter in the Yorkshires is a pensive, slow, moody time with weather shifting, all in the direction of foreboding downtime [Editor’s note: yes! Glorious isn’t it?]. Musical interludes are greatly appreciated in order to avoid the abrupt shortening of daylight and growing durations of pure darkness. Captain Hayler made a call out for reviews and in my usual fashion, I clamoured for the opportunity to hear compilations from labels which I had little familiarity with. I like to think of compilations as curated soundtracks from strangers, intended to take one away from daily living into the logic and minds of others.

Kirigirisu Recordings Tour Compilation released in October of 2015 is an excellent example of such a voyage. I had never heard of the Tokyo based label before nor any of the projects [Editor’s note: though it isn’t entirely new to RFM – see Sof’s piece here]. A precursory enquiry into the label revealed that it was assembled by Neil Debnam, dealt in limited edition CD-rs and had previously released the work of Core of the Coalman.  This four track mini-album is an audio archive of the first day of a tour featuring label-mates Asuna, Sonotanotanpenz, and Broken Shoulder.


Sound artist Asuna’s track ‘South Pine School’ opens with a melodic train of folk-like quality. The organ sounds mix with recordings of a crowd and church bells, blending into a musical toy exploration. The toy sounds are articulated into a sonic arcade game where the player struggles to move to the next level. Saved by glitches and a guiding musical line with slight percussive bells, the listener is taken safely across. Progressing with slight electronic accents, the crowd recordings, and symphonic elements, Asuna disrupts and guides with song. Sonically it forces the listener to imagine visualizations of distance and varied ecospheres. Samples and instrumentation hold hands as one is safely delivered to another land.


Sonotanotanpenz is made up of Hitomi Moriwaki & Hitomi Itamura, two women who banded together in 2012 in Fukouka, Japan. Their performances are playfully theatrical. The project has fluency and connectedness, demonstrating their practice/experience as consistent collaborators. The two tracks are instrumental travel layers. The first has stringed instruments and small percussions, a slightly psychedelic improvisationally free space . The unclear spoken voice in the second track takes us into an astral plane with low electrical melodies. There is an insistence of movement in the use of rhythm and a sense of wandering. I most certainly want to see this project play live.


Broken Shoulder is the project of Neil Debnam (Fighting Kites) who describes his origin as “Holloway to Tokyo”. I know I should probably be familiar with this artist. The track opens with an urgent pulse. An electronic message must be delivered. It reminds me of old time ticker tape and early computers. A descant of trio of notes builds across the top of machine sounds becoming more complex as it progresses into harmonies. Like a swelling orchestra, the melody is warming and enclosing the listener. Yet the electronic pulse does not die away till what sounds like an electric guitar washes us on the shore.

Maybe this review is more just me wanting to go on a holiday or get away from this dreary weather [Editor’s note: you mean bracing weather, of course]. This compilation though is cheaper than a flight and a dreamy way to feel hopeful in this grey climate.  Three more compilations to come…


Kirigirisu Recordings

amphibious, joyous, recorded in a cupboard: sophie cooper gets inside kirigirisu recordings

February 17, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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Core of the Coalman – Amphibious Radost (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, kgr004, edition of 50 or download)

Broken Shoulder – 300 Bicycle Seats (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, kgr003, edition of 50 or download)

Sonotanotanpenz – 3 (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, kgr002, edition of 50 or download)

kirigirisu recordings logo

[Editor’s note: who’s that banging on the door with a bottle in each hand!?  Yes, party people – say hello to Sophie Cooper, the third and final new member of the RFM crew.  As well as being an artist and musician of quiet brilliance, Sof has a proven track record of making rad things happen in her home town of Todmorden under the name Tor Bookings.  I couldn’t be happier to have her here and am delighted that she is already making intercontinental friends as a result of the music slid her way.  Over to Sof…]


I should start by saying a big ‘TA DUCK!’ to Rob for getting me involved in this blog of his. I’ve been a fan of RFM for a long time now and I guess what draws me to it is the fact that the writing is honest and positive. Simple things but they float my boat. [Editor’s note: *blushes again*]

For my first assignment I have been tasked with reviewing a handful of albums from Tokyo based label Kirigirisu Recordings run by Londoner, Neil Debnam. According to their Facebook page:

There is no label sound, the thing that ties the releases together is the enthusiasm of the label founders to present the music to a larger audience and the independent spirit of the musicians.

…meaning the guy puts out music that he likes, right on. I had a natter with him about the label and found out that it’s been going for about a year now and that Kirigirisu means ‘Cricket (or grasshopper)’.

coalman - radost

Core of the Coalman – Amphibious Radost

First up is music from Jorge Boehringer and his release Amphibious Radost. What struck me on first listen was how very visual this recording is.  I imagined myself sitting next to a pond, mid-summer, listening to the rhythmic dripping of a water feature. If I’m honest, the cover featuring a few amphibians in a pool did help conjure this vision somewhat but still… the music is very evocative of the scene. I asked Jorge if the music was what happened if you licked one of the frogs on the cover and his response was that he wouldn’t recommend anyone actually tried it because:

…that stuff isn’t tested.

The release is one track, almost 50 minutes long, consisting of ongoing repetition of short phrases working together in layers. These aren’t looped though. The simple viola lines are labouriously played over and over, dropping in and out, and you do notice subtle differences as the work unfolds. The phrases of viola are at different paces and lengths resulting in varying combinations of the same sound flowing in an incredibly relaxing, mantra like, way.

This piece is successful particularly because the layers don’t build up to a massive audible climax, instead remaining subtle throughout.  However, perhaps because of the length of time you remain involved in the music, it does become something quite large and tangible. In Jorge’s words the sound patterns end up looking like a wave, kind of like a Bridget Riley painting.  A beautiful piece of music.

broken shoulder - 300

Broken Shoulder – 300 Bicycle Seats

Broken Shoulder is the solo project of label owner Neil Debnam and listening to this made me realise why he would choose to put out Amphibious Radost because the two albums have very similar feels to them, both warm and upbeat. The record is interesting because it incorporates a lot of different instrumentation on each track, with the focus on which is ‘lead’ instrument shifting, yet the welcoming mood stays the same throughout.

On ‘Aqualine’, we hear a song with minimalist leanings, there’s an overt synth pulse over far away organ sounds and field recordings. Then in the next track ‘Rotary Planes / Thirteen More’, Neil plays major key fuzzy guitar over a repetitive synth bass drone line and it’s the sort of song I could listen to on repeat, it’s just so joyous and uplifting.

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Sonotanotanprez – 3

I’m instantly sold after hearing just a few seconds of this record, this is pretty much my favourite kind of music! It’s made by two women from Japan singing and talking over super simple keyboard accompaniment, pre-made beats, hand bells and quiet guitars. Wish I knew what they were singing about but that doesn’t matter too much because it sounds like it was recorded in a cupboard well after bedtime was suppose to happen and one track is barely audible.  These are things I like a lot.

The album is a mixture of crazy jams and well composed songs all delivered in a lo-fi style. I imagine the recording sessions were a case of stick the recorder in the corner and go for it, you can even hear the occasional cough from one of the performers. To me this is the best type of music, it feels incredibly genuine and away from influence or worry about what’s fashionable.

I often refer to this type of music as “small music” meaning I could imagine being myself becoming really small, and then crawling into it for a nice lie down.

In conclusion: Kirigirisu Recordings, seek out and enjoy! I’m going to be keeping a tab on how the label develops for sure.


Kirigirisu Recordings

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