pick-up truck vocabulary: joe murray on crow versus crow, faniel dord, stefan jaworzyn/dylan nyoukis/seymour glass, the tenses & bren’t lewiis ensemble and the viper

March 17, 2017 at 8:37 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray)

Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk)

The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk)

The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS)

 states 3

Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions) 3 inch CD and 20 page art-zine photo booklet

This beautiful package comes sandwiched between plain grey heavystock card; the sombre plainness a reaction to the vibrant colour inside perhaps?

I’ll start with the sound.  The disc contains 17 minutes of the real Americana collected by Andy Crow on his 2016 road trip to southern states of the USA (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia – fact fans).  As you’d imagine there is a rejection of any field recording cliché – this is pure extraction music with no toothless fiddle or Grand Ole Opry in sight.

State/states/state…

It’s a subtle and slow movement for sure: the opening static crackles makes way for a woven pattern of cicada’s rhythmic rustle and the liquid whoosh of passing cars. An occasional maraca-shake could be a deadly rattlesnake.  The  ‘tich-th’ of the owl a hi-hat sizzle that reeks of baked desert heat and sonic shimmer.  But rather then present this slack-jawed and unexamined the mix builds a hidden momentum through increasing the thread count and rippling the fabric with a deft thumb.

The final movement drags lazy ears into unapologetic high-performance mode.  A lonely buzzard calls out across the valley – the sound of the air around the recorder fizzes with unknowable purpose.  An excitable preacher (my guess is via battered radio rather than a gaudy TV) adds the sort of paranoid verbals African Head Charge favoured era Songs of Praise.

It is of course a suggestion piece – with no literals to hang your baseball cap on the imagination picks up tiny clues and builds a personal narrative from the crumbs.  My reality is not Mr Crow’s but what we now share is a gas station dream, a pick-up truck vocabulary.

States/state/states…

CVC states

But as well as his ears he’s brought his eyes.  Eyes that spy detail in the trash and the unloved, beauty in the unused and plain old decrepit.

It’s almost impossible to look at the booklet without adding today’s awful political charge and context but a deep breath helps to remember a time before this extra ladle of madness soup soured what was the American dream.

People are absent, but the hands of the hardworking and decent, the just making do, are all over these gorgeous images.

As Crow’s lens is drawn to the weather-beaten and well used the inference is communal – we are joined by the codes of work and play.  And even when the work has gone and the players drifted home the traces we leave are still good.  Not necessarily grand or initially impressive but honest and modest and well-intentioned.

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Railway tracks vanish to a point, exposed brickwork bakes in the sun and corrugated metal rusts like soft brown blooms.  A single word ‘sorry’ is inked onto a door frame.

States shows a land waiting for interpretation, a mythology waiting to be written.

 

faniel dord

Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray) CD-R

The Scouser Sun City Girl deals us a full-deck of deranged approaches on this tasty self-titled release.

Micro-songs are played on dodgy keyboard, beer-stained piano and battered guitar then dripped though a lo-fi studio set up that adds a delightful scruffy edge to these enigmatic pieces.

Some arrive fully-formed; dripping with sarcasm and uncomfortable political questions like a Mersybeat Porest.

Others riff –out a tune that has always seemed to exist somewhere behind my ear until the mighty Faniel has just shucked it out with a blunt knife (for evidence see My Bowl of Skulls).

The shadow of Edward Lear inhabits Dord’s world in both word and deed.  A lover of scatological shock and the innocently odd –  both ends of the stick are jammed in the jellyfish mouth until the protoplasm pops.

But of course it’s not all yuks, ‘Zaidida’ concludes in deep Rembetika sorrow after a frantic three minutes and ‘Medusa’s gone Digital’ warns the Gorgons and their ilk the dangers of modern life – something I don’t think we do quite enough of.

Fans of Derek and Clive take note and click.

nyoukis etc (1)

Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

Shock!

I never expected Jaworzyn, that long-haired, six-string Ascension/Skullflower wire-wrangler on this kinda gob-jaxx (see Nyoukis) / tape-huss (see Glass) melange.  But more fool me eh? The iron banjo adds some rich, metallic DNA to this most lovable of three-ways.

Stunning!!

Opener ‘Frozen Tombs of Siberia’ is a medium-sized panic attack; part elephant seal growl, part rattling coffin nails, but all Skippy the Kangaroo incidental music.  As you’d expect from these experienced heads the pace is stately, elements of bubbling vowel or chopped-to-john-o-groats guitar placed in a sonic Battenberg with a similar marzipan roughness.  The closing seconds of this jam re-imagine a Tardis’ asthmatic ‘whump-whump’. Calling all BBC commissioning editors – get these lads in – you’ve been warned!

Astonishment!!!

Song title of the week is well and truly won by ‘Dirty Owl Teat’ and works like one of them Scandinavian open sandwiches.

  • (rye cracker base) slow-mould guitar wrench, harmonic pimples and drumlins, a yeast of amp hum…
  • (smoked herring topping) an expression of joy hissed through side-mouth bibbles, coughs and spaniel-like panting.  Occasional v-words are the glace cherry.

And the Smorgasbord analogy still holds for ‘Slowest Emergency Team’ with oodles more tape-frot.

But it’s the closer ‘Gang-related Sneezing’ that really quivers my liver.  This modest track is a stop-start-stop-start wrecking ball of un-sense tape-slivers.  Neatly delivered in finely measured bursts that defy any conventional rhythm; pretty soon my arms and legs are tied up in Twister-esque contortions.

A test-card for the mind or an essential document of new solutions?

Whisper your answer in my hot pink shell.

the tenses

The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

Two long, long, long pieces of near psychic jam make up this extra-value 60 min disc.

A whole platform of players (note ‘em: Oblivia, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Lucian Tielens, Sylvia Kastel, Leroy Tick & Gnarlos) strike bowls, press buttons, crank up turntables and rattle cutlery in an infinite variety of ways.  The label says…

 ‘spontaneous sound collage, bent improv, non-musical weirdness’

…and who am I to argue?

Of course it’s the group-think that makes this disc hover in an unnatural manner.  The linkage of brown ideas and soupy ingredients interweave in an effortless stew.

And where ‘Authentication of Ancient Chinese Bronzes’ is a pointillist pin-prick on tightly ruled graph paper ‘Heroic Armor of the Italian renaissance’ is more of a flexible lake or a fake puddle.  The difference is startling yet understated, like putting sugar in the salt cellar.

As I lay back and let ‘the music take me’ I picture several conflicting images: emoji torture, dry goods being bagged, the gritty feel of a military mess kit.  But that’s just me!  You may picture the red stone of Bologna or the broad green leaves of Portland but that’s the point innit?  From a base of gentle tinkles and sound-scurf we make our own reality.

And at this point I start to doubt the sanity of reviewing such a subjective sound environment and ask you to point your finger here to listen to an extract and write your own damn review.

But, dear reader that wouldn’t be the RFM way eh?

Another couple of spins in different environments (making dinner, jogging through the park) reveal the onion layers.  The surface complexity is really a carefully constructed chicken-wire framework to hang the softer, more feather-light sounds.

So…the clear-edged ‘clonks’ and ‘smaks’ punctuate the more ghostly ‘heshhh’ and ‘vumpf’ until, before you realise it a thousand bicycle bells are ringing you through The Arc De Triomphe.

Sacred Blood!

the viper

The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS) CD

Vintage tape experiments from one Mr Richard Sterling Streeter and his long-suffering family and friends.

What strikes me first is the application of the universal language of mucking about.  You know what I’m talking about; that finger heavy on the play/pause button, that snotty ‘la la’, the classic chopstick-on-margarine-tub click.

Are these early tape experiments (made between the years 1978 to 1982 according to my terrible maths) any less worthy for that?  Well of course not.  As a listener I’m humbled to be let in to this world and nostalgerise my own (now thankfully lost) juvenilia.

But before I get too comfortable and misty-eyed our old friend progress rears its head and the later tracks (for all are arranged chronologically) dig deeper into the heart of echo, reverse reel-to-reel wonk and real-live violin scraping.

Music Concrete is an old maid on ‘Ollidarma’ an infectious riot of bright stereo blossoms. Raw sound becomes the source itself as it whips though the tape heads smeared by speed or plummets down a wormhole of creepy reverb.  I’m treated to a whole dossier of tape wonk with added ‘accidentals’ that seem to come from the 1940’s via a haunted dancehall and a coffee-jinxed auctioneer until the white-coated engineers start pulling chunks out the Revox machine creating whirring thrums and empty pings while George Harrison wheedles away his yolk-less omelette in the main studio.

The almost traditional instrumentation of ‘In a Garden’ makes be bark like a dog.  Piano, bass, shuffling snare and lonely violin tug on those melancholic heartstrings like a Midnight Doctors jam.  Pure longing and loss gets bowed out across the cat-gut until hot tears snake down my cheek.  Crikey!

‘Dreams of Glipnorf’ the energetic closer starts rough-hewn like a callous but ends up boogieing like that Canned Heat out-take where Blind Owl really starts to lose his mustard.

Don’t fear the Viper!

 

Crow Versus Crow Editions

Dante’s Ashtray

Chocolate Monk

BUFMS

-ooOOoo-

 

similarly introverted/greasy feathers: joe murray on final seed, troy schafer, termite acropolis, michael barthel, kent tankred, body morph, matt krefting, jon collin, f ampism and final seed again!

March 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings)

Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings)

Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings)

Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk)

Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk)

Body Morph – Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes)

Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk)

Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music)

F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records)

Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)

 final seed round bale

Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings) Very rare tape or download

Rejoice in this super-subtle tape nothingness.

Side A is a perfectly timed 10 minutes that weaves the sound of background hiss-radiation with brief leather-necked gulpings and pre-language garrotte.  The sound of the sound of the recorder whirring dumbly is captured in startling clarity.  A round off in the cavern of the delay bounces a single blank tone off the squash court wall.

Side B is similarly introverted.  What was once a throaty wolf-man roar is pitched right down and super low into a substratum of broken sea-foam.  It warbles quietly, paying no mind and, like pouring thick glue over an uneven floor, the sound pools in places making deep ripples, skims the surface in others as light as a pond skipper.

The sense of purpose and dedication to a dream makes this a supremely confident release and an important exercise in listening to the sort of chuff we often ignore, gloss over and palm off.

Read no further and click here for evidence.

troy schafer round bale

Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings) Ultra rare lathe cut 7inch or download

Round Bale describe this as a ‘brain-scrambler’. After listening I’m feeling poached and fried to boot!

Side A. Sepia piano recordings run through a wood-chipper.

Troy’s fingers may nudge the occasional keys gently but his feet hit the pedals with force sending those white and black notes ricocheting through tin and bronze filters that wreak the pretty and gasp with giant violence.  What else am I getting (like a wine taster – that’s me!) a lung-rattling wheeze, half-song and memory.  You know what? I’m just a sucker for a solo piano.  The final 11 seconds promise a new beginning with that build up of blocked, harried notes that rudely snip off.  Oh yeah…distinctly classy.

Side B starts with a grunt and then something orchestral is wrenched back and forth through a pinhole.  The dry wooden click of a cello (perhaps) mimics a poultry convention; angry clucks and gobbles, that red wattle vibrating with the rough string attack.  I hear a woman’s laughter and then Troy launches into more grappling with the horsehair.  A dramatic friction.  Like looking down a sound-microscope that magnifies each textured sound-bundle a thousand times until it bursts like a turgid cell – spouting information into your lucky earhole.

Crikey Troy!

termite acropolis round bale

Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings) sold out tape and download

What an apt name for this ant-city investigation. Miniature tunnels are bored through the hard red earth and filled with dark cardboard clunks and billiard hall knockings.

Powerfully restrained recordings of process with little ornamentation. This is: a bell, a dropped coin, a handful of pocket fluff.

But that’s not to say these are overly simple.  Sounds are doused with a gentle condiment (or indeed pickled) until they slush about like a rotting medical exhibit (see: Caricature of the garden) in the bottom of a demijohn.

While massive machines are imagined in ‘Lardworks’, brass pistons pumping and levers floundering in a polished wooden way, it is left to ‘Extinguish the light’ to hurl us into the modern age; a symphony of gates opening and shutting to the beat of the Bontempi.

Title tracks often tell us a little about the intention and drive behind a record or artist.  In this case I’m guessing the closer, a nine-minute brining, is a powerful psychic calling card. It’s subtle and refined, relaxed but with a steady guiding hand on the reigns.  Delicate and simple tones and clunks rattle around the bagatelle that mirrors your own dainty cochlear.  It’s easy to get lost in such dwarf loops as they occur again and again, melting over each other in polite collapse.  At around the four-minute mark a constant high-lonely-moan is redoubled turning that sweet milk into smoked cheese marking the start of a watery, pale beauty.

Waiting room music for the hep, hep cats.

michaelbarthel choc monk

Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk) C20 Cassette

Insider bone scrapings and economic scribble.

Side A runs for about 9 minutes and places micro-pieces of clean and energetic German-sounding spoken goof with psychotic milkman-whistle and hissy-Dictaphone-grottage.  Oh yes! Michael barks stern his instructions. These blocks of meaning lock as tight as Duplo bricks but instead of the obvious primary colours this is an altogether mistier proposal.

You what?

So…rather than tan the glitches Mr Barthel exercises all the edges of his palette.  The lion indeed lies down with the lamb with the final few minutes mimicking aching layers of lazy sediment.

Side B starts with off-radio, wrong-phonics and some glorious sepia glossolalia.  A hum and whirr of the taping device is left to whittle away adding a tambour-like drone for an amateur age.  Gloriously smeared sound leaks like straw-coloured plasma from a bad burn.  Oily as balm; dressings are changed for the finale of woollen moans and an almost vaudeville reading of sparse and strangulated word blooms.

It’s a hectic world for sure, but listening to this made me dawdle like a child. Damn…listening to this tape made me a better person. You NEED some!

kent tankred choc monk

Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk) C40 Cassette

These ultra-heavy organ manipulations weigh as much a chubby whale loafing about in the viscous and dark brine.

A presence piece that you can, and should, project your reality on to: this is perfect travelling music.

Each organ foldback-loop and full –throated gas-roar is like a cold sun flickering through autumn leaves or watching the savage juxtaposition of a ripped billboard layered with contrasting messages.

Other observations?

  • Large pumice boulders skin your elbows and the dead skin falls like dry sleet.
  • A microphone is lowered into a crimson oubliette.
  • Running into the wind with your mouth open wide until your breath gets caught behind chilly teeth.

This hissing bustle plays well obnoxiously loud and pasty-necked quiet.

Oof!

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Body Morph- Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes) C60 cassette 

This tape is an exercise in long-form rustage.

True!  Tones from a dying crab get hoofed through the murky, mystic mix at points but mostly it’s a 1000 yard stare of slowly crashing gears.

On side one I’m picking up cheap-casio keys gummed down under years of tape-varnish & mould-hiss.  I’m hearing a smeared gossamer touch akin to greasy feathers.

Side two gets all lo-maxxed on a horn of some sort; mournful and cool as the night air.  Armenian Jazz Sorrow?  The sound of occasional suffocation?

A true listeners tape, this is no ‘slap it on and do the ironing’ cassette.  It demands full attention and for this thorough investment you are amply rewarded with layer upon layer of ear –silt clogging yr golden wax deposits.

mattkrefting danger

Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk) C15 Cassette

Ultra-core tape jaxx.

Super-indefinite and lost imaginings.

It’s the softest breath kissing carbon paper; that most delicate and faint purple image as tender as an early morning bruise.

Memory slides smooth as a trombone made of smog and brass fittings.

Half-formed but fully realised.  The magic happens in that grey blancmange as you use natural electricity to link the un-linkable, paint the un-paintable.

Matt leaves us mortals a few clues – popping candy in a giant’s gob and infrared tinfoil.  Apart from that you’re on your own pal!

Polite yet essential.

Jon Collin

Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music) C15 Tape

If I’d got my finger out this tape would have made the 2016 ‘best of’ lists for sure and will no doubt be top 10 material in sunny 2017.

Fahey, Rose and Nugent fan boys/girls must listen…this tape is so charming I coughed up a cream tea and a cheeky goodnight kiss. This tape made me a damn loving fool!

In the old definition this is a fucking splendid tape (shine, be bright) that warms up my cold heart and makes me smile like reading Nicholson Baker details and footnotes.

A real human-sounding solo acoustic guitar probe the damn nostalgia nodes to conjure up an imagined picnic in a cornfield.  The colours are vivid.  The corn is the creamiest yellow, the sky the brightest blue.  Our blanket the deepest red.

The melodies trip some switch that bursts crisp cornflowers out my chest and replace my blood with silver helium bubbles.

Spiritualised? Do me a favour eh?  I’m really floating in space here mate.  The strums and pickles are complex as spiderwebs but simple as nursery rhymes.  The untitled tunes are as familiar as pins and needles and get under my skin in a similar restless and itchy way; it’s like I’ve always known them as they slip out of reach skidding like a deer on ice.

Oh my!  Such elegance with chipped nails and calloused hands.  The perfect beautiful happiness of aching heart.

fampism

F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records) CD

A tasty CD that I’m now re-imagining as a vinyl EP pressed onto seven inches.

“But why format transfer boy? You may ask.”

Because this is a disc of two halves, that’s why doubter.  An ‘A’ and a ‘B’.  My ‘This Side’ twinned to your ‘That Side’ is strongly suggested to my oatmeal mind.

Let me explain…

A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism.  Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof.  It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.

The first three tracks, ‘Monaestry and Math’ to ‘Straight Brains’ are alive with exotic Toucan ‘caws’ and Howler hoots.  The middler ‘The Joint Capsule’ replays Balinese rhythms among the creaking boats, the lapping waves and call of villagers selling shrimp-based snacks.  Gradually a soft tone bubbling erupts in my pocket.  Copper pans are dropped overboard and ‘boaab’ drunkenly in the mud-coloured water as they slowly fill, sway, and sink beneath the waves.

All of a piece these three realised constructions suggest organic life with a face tilted towards a red, red sun.

‘Shabada Transmission’ bucks the trend by laying down heavily in the rumpled bed belonging to Detroit Techno – the synthetic strings and xylophone tones as future facing as jet boots and holidays on Mars.   And in doing so Ampism revels a new destination and we are already deep in ‘Side Two’ territory.

‘Inner Eyelid’ is made up of spare parts, a lone creak, a dropped calliope yet is patched up in the most un-Frankenstein manner.  No flat head no sir! Bolts through the neck?  Forget-about-it. Think more like a slim ankle glimpsed or thick auburn curls just begging to be tousled.

The jazz, in all its hot boiling majesty, infests ‘Thrown Jam 1 and 2 ‘ with Pazuzu sitting in on traps while Regan hams on the vintage synth.  This duo/solo gets ripe!

And, as all things must, this disc ends.  But with a juddering, flustering loop so perfectly placed those plunderphonic dingbats blush crimson and sweat.

finalseed chocolate monk

Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) C30 Cassette

Witness the drunken bowling alley vibe on this damp-chiller from Final Seed.

Like a diary opened at random one passage might reveal children squeaking, another, the fumbling fingers of a defective chord-organ.

Dark percussive knocks form a rhythm interuptus ladled on thick like broth. Slack-mouthed and slurry, a voice gnarls on with steaming feet. Wonked-out keyboard extrapolations all bothered with hot-electric butter.  Broken cassette ghost-capture.

Neat eh?  But all the while this is undoubtedly gush from the same mush.  Oh my!

This is serious stuff…like the abstract soundtrack to the sound of making a soundtrack each perfect formula of tones, field recordings and manipulations delight by being both utterly novel and head-scratchingly familiar. So while the diary analogy still holds I’m darting from love-sick boy-teen to worried mother to toddler rocking on their plump heels.  It’s got charm in punnets, invention in spades!

The best album that chump Eno never made.  DEMAND A RESSIUE!!!

Round Bale Recordings

Chocolate Monkey

Soundholes

Early Music

Beartown Records

-ooOOOoo-

the sweet jelly is in the deft cut: joe murray on david birchall/nicolas dobson/javier saso, dylan nyoukis & friends, plastic hooligans and acrid lactations & gwilly edmondez

March 3, 2017 at 6:00 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil (Soundholes)

Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk)

Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)

Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk)

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David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil  (Soundholes) C30 cassette

Super-charged scrimple-skriffle improv coming at you mixed in, depending on your view, (almost) mono or 3-way stereo.

But what’s going on?

Dave Birchall plays granite-flecked guitar in the left speaker, Javier Saso spills slippery, silvery lapsteel in the right speaker and Nicolas Dobson sprays wild, wild violin all over the place.

Side one is a string piece for three players and it waxes happily, darting in and out of focus like a lazy eye would.  Contributions are in part clotted and meshed (like a scab) and independently driven.  Imagine walking three energetic hounds, each with their own digging, burying, pissing mission.  Their colourful leads are soon a wrapped-up maypole binding your arms and hands.  Got it?

Now replace the noble hounds with these three improv-dudes and the dog-specific missions with group-mind blankness and collective musical mischief and you’ve got the perfect picture!

While the pace is athletic there’s always room for a ruminative cul-de-sac, a wet sniff about a single tone or blunt-thumbed technique.  And as I listen I pass through several phases myself: chin-stroking on the non-idiomatic tip but also horn-throwing on the sexy electric eruption.

On side two I briefly land in a thoughtful strung-out lake but get distracted by amp-pops and bright lead-crackle.  The tension mounts as our three players riff on the giant nothingness that exists right at the point of the horizon; saw, saw, sawing away, whipping up a gentle typhoon that bursts with bloated rain.  It doesn’t take long to plinkety-plonk and things end with that ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ intro-played inside out and over ice.

This is what it sounds like when Slash cries.

dylan-nyoukis-and-friends

Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

Popular wisdom suggests that there is nothing more boring than other people’s drug tales.

Ha! Popular wisdom is a duff grey lie.

On this re-imagining of Dylan Nyoukis’ Fae Ma Bit Tae Ur Bit radio show various sub-underground lads and lasses ‘fess up their first or otherwise notable drug experiences.  Imagine Radio 4 has been snorting and huffing all night long (or something) with Dub Naughty on the controls.

They talk, in soft mumbles and gentle whispers; ‘it was like this…’, ‘we took a taxi…’, ‘I started to feel strange…’

Recorded up close it’s an intimate listen.  Breathy and in your ear(s) – you sense the memories being dragged from that grey-matter prison and forced out into the open (in some case decades later) with all the added memory moss and drama a bit of distance provides.

D-Nyoukis works like a psychedelic Foley artist, twisting the background.  Adding an addled ‘whuff’ or stoned ‘skofff’ to the voices that are dropping cautionary, ecstatic and, in some cases heart-warming tales of sweet, sweet intoxication.   Subtle it is, in the way a shimmering hallucination first grabs you and makes you say “wha?”  But it’s a flanger-free zone yeah?

So…anyone want to split this bottle of Cherry Lambrini? I’m thinking about getting it on now anyhow.

See ya on the other side travellers!  YEAH!

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Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

The aptly named Plastic Hooligans are gentle souls wrapped up in retro Adidas and Fila.

But an obsession with the Arabic world introduces ritualistic field recordings in a primitive electronic cloak.  With a sparse, shady touch, loops are played via old reverb units and malfunctioning oscillators ramping up the potency of these already fairly ‘loaded’ sounds.

The shivers come in four waves.

  • A xylophone tinkles in a French-speaking colony. Delicate as a music box found among boiled chicken’s feet.
  • Moroccan tapes get fed through the mincer. The ‘boing’ of the overdriven hand-drum and voice pinched sonically to release only the most important tones.
  • Rubberised machinery clunks away as a giant horn is blown roughly but slowly. Deep reparative hums.
  • A hiccough bounced across eleven cryptic reverb-drenched minutes. The sort of mind-loop you feel on waking from a cumin-scented dream.

alge-1

Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

The exact Reuleaux triangle-shaped intersection between modern classical, goofy wonk and hardcore improv. Oh yes!

History Lesson #1: The Acrid Lactations have been humble key-players of the untranslatable wonk scene.  Really, really, really free players smiffy that non-idiomatic improv by adding an indefinable ‘something’.  I’ve pondered this conundrum long and hard and the best I can come up with is that ‘something’ might be their slight unhinged quality; a willingness to go the extra mile, wherever that trek will take them.

History Lesson #2: Gwilly Edmondez has ploughed a similarly deep furrow.  A Dictaphone high-priest, instant composition stalwart and one half of those rising stars YEAH YOU!  [The UK’s only father/daughter slack-hop duo pop-pickers.]  Gwilly, the tallest man alive, is a selfless player, an encourager, a persuader whose full-frontal yet ego-less schtick seems to be able to connect with that artistic blank space where anything becomes possible.

Taking this babycake as a whole I’m shocked by the time-shifting quality to these suckered gobbles, hazy trumpets and clogged electronics.

The lumps are bigger yeah! For 20, possibly 30 seconds you could be listening to Pharaoh Sanders (Impulse Era), or Morton Subotnick and then it could be nothing other than the good ole AL & GE.  Things are so precarious I’m on a mental zip-wire sporting a psychic g-string baby.

But readers, it’s the edit that’s the thing here.  In a similar way to the exceptional Hardworking Families latest disc the sweet jelly is in the deft cut taking these pretty much wonderful recordings and carefully layering, stripping and selecting the ripest cheese.

And this editors ear not only multiplies this trio but forges new links and allegiances between sound-nodes.  Put simply; a ‘clunk’ recorded one day now spoons a sexy sigh recorded another and lo!  A whole new thing starts a’going on.

The sounds?  A dignified sniffle and pre-language burrs make up a respectable percentage but add to that bamboo pipes that ape the breath hissing down a human neck, disturb-o-moans and high-octane heffer on brass and tin.  We’re talking “Seriously munged magic” (Nyoukis 2016)

But I’m throwing in a deep balloon-rubber ripping, a damp Dictaphone squelch and a goff-keyboard going electronically slow & low.  Not only but also, the relaxing humming of social insects (ants probably) discuss their complex legal system.

To sum up I’ve got (consults notes, adjusts spectacles and frowns) three quarters goat-legged- spry and muscular, one quarter lazy liquid.  So that’s something for everyone then; time for dreamers to collect themselves and activists to get-up-offa-that-thing.

Right-o.  Discussion proposition?  Dub opened a new door for Reggae.  Teo Macero projected Jazz into an alternate future state.  What about this N-AU versioning then readers?

Like…whoa man.  Makes you think  and shout “welcome to the world Keir J Arnot.”

Soundholes

Chocolate Monk

-ooOOOoo-

my bloody ventolin: joe murray on star turbine, robert ridley-shackleton, sindre bjerga

October 13, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To (CD, Frozen Light, edition of 300 or download)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.338, edition of 42)

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins (DVD-r, Goldsoundz, GS#130, edition of 26)

nothing-should

Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To

This canny duo of Claus Poulsen & Sindre Bjerga have now been together for about 6 years – that’s longer than The Beatles live-performing career.  And in that time they’ve moved from loveable moptops (read: hessian cloaked druids) to Abbey Road sophisticates pulling sounds from a cosmic-scurf fortress and mixing them cleverly with improvised crackles and hopped-up speech interventions.

On this disc they reach deep into the hard drive and present, in the main, truncated live performances; the bacon in the bap, hurling you straight into their fully articulate sound cavern.

It starts as you’d imagine – mice invest dollars in sonic-grip technology, aiming their blunderbuss straight at you for the duration of ‘An/Auf’.  It feels sort of sticky and thick and on the verge of panic.  I feel much more comfortable if I keep my breath even and calm.

Grey-rubber ripping shakes a tail on ‘Hearing Voices’ among some seriously screwed vocals and inter-planet hum.  The rushing of tape grot adds a complimentary momentum pulling your ears in different directions; microscopic insects rearrange your nerve endings.

Some sort of My Bloody Ventolin wash creeps through the recording, ‘Looking For the Centre’ a heady rush of airbrakes and panpipes bleeding into a, into a bloated walrus gas pouch?

[worried reviewer checks sleeve notes in panic]

Don’t worry. It’s my bad.  No sea mammals were harmed in the creating of this particular jam… it’s just the ‘Fractal  Zoom’ piece unpicking  my learning centres and scrambling early illustrated encyclopaedia memories.  Gosh!  The tape work on this is black as tar and twice as difficult to remove.

The cherry on the pie belongs to the wonderfully titled ‘Ape Escape’ that sounds as if IRCAM released its answerphone message recorded after a rather noggy Christmas party.  OR… photocopying your arse and sending it to Dick Raaijmakers.  You my dear listener will have to work that one out yourselves.

Closer ‘Alef 0’ sees Claus take a sharp mallet to Sindre’s basic recordings and goof them up good and proper.  How he’s managed to turn this herring into a Tangerine Dream I’ll never know but it’s heavy as bad news (never BAD NEWS) and rich as freshly ploughed soil.

Despite this recent Euro-nonsense (AKA Brex-shit) the Star Turbine will be back in your town soon.  Pull your canoe out the mud and set a course for their cleansing murk.

tupperwave

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave

Fifty minutes of RR-S starts with a respectful tweak on NWA’s collective nips and then gets exponentially odder by the minute.  The trademarked pocket jazz sound is still in effect but over a longer duration this is embedded and augmented with child-like interactions, tangent-shearing thoughts and bakerlite ring-tones of the mind.

Question.  But just what is Robert Ridley-Shackleton?  An effortless creature of spoken wordisms, a stream of consciousness half-thought jester, a purple pretender, a dry-rattler extreme?  Or perhaps he is the new plastic messiah?

As an excitable, hyperbolic fanzine-style reviewer it’s almost too much to take in.  Do I describe the actual sounds coming out my headphones?  Oh… I do, do I?  Here goes…

…scratch, hiss, crackle, sniff, sex-rap-brit-funk, casio-donk, sniff, meandering monologues, scratch, clonk, harsh noise sock, house keys, humming & mugging…

…but what a thousand tapes with similar components don’t do is pose a really important question.  With a comedian’s nicotine-fingered timing RR-S unravels what it means to entertain and what it means to be entertained?

There’s a long tradition of artists pushing and pressing at the limits of acceptable entertainment.  And I don’t mean that violent or sexist bullshit, that wreckers of civilisation cul-de-sac, but the more fundamental – how far can I go unwrapping to find the very essence of my own personal music?  Family favourites like Gwilly Edmondez, Hugh Metcalfe and the Shadow Ring have been there and chipped out their own answers in the No Audience Mount Rushmore but our very own RR-S has a bag of chisels too and he is already tappy-yappy-tapping incoherent pictograms at the base of the cliff.

The whiffle and flounce feel like a diary of instant conversation created in the moments between a late tea and bed.  The Illuminati and God get equal footing to Mr Poo and Mrs Wee as mistakes, pre-thoughts and apologies are sent direct to you in a monologue of seemingly endless imagination.

Oh yeah… there is much rattling and shaking with the texture of Quaver’s eggs.

One of the ‘traditional’ musical pieces, a 5 minute keyboard funk jam, ends with the sound of brittle punnets being crushed (it’s sound art – listen!).  The other (a 3 minute keyboard funk jam) launches into a discogs/format paranoid rant backed with static/analogue card-noise war and a riff on taking apart the post-creative process re: publishing.

I’m happy with myself I think

RR-S concludes.  As well you might be – the most singular record of the year.

sbtourdvd

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins

A what? A DVD-R?  That most neglected of formats gets a swift brush up and plane ticket to Japan for this super-charming documentary.

See! Sindre (and brother Jorn) explore downtown Japan and creep through the narrow streets looking for the off-off-map venues played on our Norwegian friend’s first visit to the home of the mighty Budokan.

Marvel! As Sindre sets up his trusty yellow Dictaphones, echo tube and tape mess in cramped bars, tiny arts spaces and a beautiful elephant temple; blowing hot steam through his cobbled-electronics, bristly mouth parts and drone-boxes.

Watch!! Various ex-pat goofs and clean-cut Japanese fellows captured doing their own damn thing: solo keyboard hums, circular clarinet, chromed electronics, theatrical goon impressions and electric- fan-versus-acoustic-guitar living sculptures.

Shade’s camera is a friendly traveling companion; always present with a pack of tissues; clear, bright and attentive but never in-your-face.  The downtime of a tour is captured with a practiced eye as attractive, vibrant shows are interspersed with sleepy train rides, airport snoozes and the gentle panic of being lost in an unfamiliar city.

Proving the No-Audience Underground, although sparse, is strategically placed on a global scale the gig-goers lap up Sindre’s approach to tape manipulation in a very physical way; lobbing projectiles at him during an instruction piece and (incredibly politely and gently) scything miniature cymbals across the room to topple Bjerga’s constructions of WalkMan/Dictaphone/steel resonator.

But of course this wouldn’t be a trip to Japan without a session in a silk robe and Sindre rocks his white-patterned shortie like a motherfucker!

Like all Gold Soundz releases this is super-limited so I’d make a bee-line for this quick to feast those peepers.

—ooOoo—

Frozen Light

Chocolate Monk

Gold Soundz

close to the pylons: joe murray on robin foster, henry collins, leda, arv & miljö, tear fet, troy schafer

August 5, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion (CD-r, LF Records, LF050)

Leda – City/Clear (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB010, edition of 200)

Arv & Miljö – untitled (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB008, edition of 200)

Tear Fet – Blabber (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.333, edition of 40)

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle (3″ CD-r and pin badge or download, aetheric records)

hcrf

Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion  

These two ‘non-guitarists’ play something approaching Kaiser-mash with some extremely damaged fingers.

Two tracks.  One mind/ten fingers a-piece.  You dig?

Spill Lynch yeah!  Guitar-as-you-trucking-lump-it. Totally wrecked non-playing as strings are hammered on and hammered off.  Steel is plucked and pulled and shredded hard with foam mallets.  Rubbery metal is found bounced in the reverse making this a righteous dental dam for pearly whites.

Tiny fists, like Joe Pesci’s ‘pow…ping…pow’, jab into your soft temple raising a bruise and yet… this would be a wonderfully zesty cocktail!  But you add the mangled FX-BOX and goof-timing and you are looking at a particularly sexy beach.  Memory gong ripples out a Daxophone reference but it’s slung as low as a Kev Hopper bassline so figure that captain!

Frostlike yeah! One man spitting canned peas out a tight, puckered gob-hole dribbles cold green bile.  OR has Eddie Van taken the vapours so his ERUPTION is all STAR SPANGLED out a tiny HIWATT about to burst into flames.  It’s like a pissy Morse; a constant chatter of on/off/on/off rattling up through my ribcage and whispering into my fontanel.  It’s machine code on the jibber-jabber somehow rocking a ska rhythm.  It’s barium voodoo and it’s aiming for any hole going.

We Roll tonight to the guitar bite

leda

Leda – City/Clear

Crispy bouncing beats sound like they crept out of Sheffield circa 1979.  A wheexing synth plays a one note melody and twists the pitch up, out of waxy remains, until the thing squeals like a pinched nut.  One dimensional in the best possible way; focused and determined Leda sings a line that blends soft as Egyptian eye shadow.  It does its thing at a totally brisk pace: skip, skip, skipping like a hockey puck over dull scuffed ice.

The flipside proper songs it; imagine shoving a Woodbine into that Vape pen and huffing hard.  Misty organ vamps float like a kite flapping drastically close to the pylons.  Leda sighs as if bad news is arriving soon in a manila envelope.  I’m thinking of Barbara Manning in her total waif days if you’re looking for a mind-crutch.

Wonderfully brief, totally Nu Wave.  Where’s my piano tie dude?

arv

Arv & Miljö – Untitled

The mysterious Arv & Miljö are quite possibly the equally mysterious Matthias Andersson who has jammed a high-quality mic out his neat apartment window to record the big wide world going about its business.

Side A picks up those pesky seabirds all going

CAW CAW SQUEEEEEE CAW

in fine white clarity.  If this was Whitby they’d be fighting over chips but Matthias’ location is totally smorgasbord, all gherkin fresh and sauna-clean toes.

Side B revels in a Swedish downpour. The trebly ‘hiss’ of the rain fills my ears almost whole but gradually subsides into more bassy individual drips (off your peaked cap perhaps) and ends on a fragile bowl ringing making this a super-fucking-classy ride on the vinyl.

blabber

Tear Fet – Blabber

As serious as your life.

This meditation on disease and ultimate loss is pure honest gibber that surfs straight from tragedy.  It’s a pretty unsettling raw disc of vocal jaxx, jammed to tape direct with no discernable dubs or edits.  The 20 minute piece was scored by Fet himself (a Matt Dalby apparently) and then, as the moorings loosen, it breaks free of all reason.

My first few listens marvel at the sheer range of guff coming outta two lips, two lungs and one tongue.

Me?  I’ll carry this like Wisdens… a goddamn almanac of honk.  A how-to guide!

Over the course of the spinning shiney I count the following techniques: slack mouth farts, gulps, wheezing roars, tactile yawns, owl squeaks, slibby gibbers, lip-smacks, jaw creaks, warble and weft, dry huff/wet huff, moans, scones and drones, deep sighs, ribbet-lite, mucus croak, deft saliva manipulation, pinched inhalations, seal barks, wet sucking, coughs (phlegm and tickle), rude burps, careless whispers, dirty slurps, humms, ululation, snivel and whimpers, throat rasp, snivels (without whimpers), throat shred, large cheek inflation, nasal gargles, proper singing, mithering, call and response (solo), repetition and imitation, vibration of fleshy jowls, cavity popping, fake Russian bantz, sinus snort, irregular mucus work, jakey muttering, horse blowing and common or garden slobber. [Editor’s note: Bravo Joe! *claps meatily in approval*]

For students of vocal jizz in all its glorious forms; consider this one essential.

fiddle

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle

A tremendous hot spurting event of a record that moves from God-rattling fists to microscopic blossoms bursting.

Mr Troy here has built his own double fiddle, inspired by Aussie out-violinist Jon Rose, and rammed it through all manner of cheap distortion sawing away raising merrie hell.

The horsehair rips up a storm (x 2), the dragging and pushing astringent as a spilled gin ‘n tonic but still fatly full and all encompassing.  Occasionally things fall apart into an elegant digital-ditch or rusty tape hole; all the better to keep things human and sprightly I say!

Oh my sweet Lord!  There’s something wonderfully elemental about the frenzied bowing, the constant car-crash of sound that’s as bright as a spotlight; a pure unfettered stream of energy and information.

The overtones really play nice with my pink ears, especially on the less noisy moments.  The double movement is shaped like slow geography, a gradual denudation of the bristling sonics turning the abrasive into smooth gold teeth.

Hey!  Conventional wisdom loves a crescendo eh?  A simple narrative that leads to the big pay off, the money shot.  But Troy baffles by moving from Piss Superstition-levels of fuckedness to a no-more-than slightly water-damaged scrape over the course of this beautifully direct record.  The arc in reverse.

I’m so keen you hear this I checked with aetheric and blimey… it’s sold out at source.  Click the download my beauties!

—ooOoo—

LF Records

I Dischi Del Barone

Chocolate Monk

aetheric records

stretch out the ermine: joe murray on dan melchior, arturas bumsteinas, bas van huizen, jake blanchard

June 29, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dan Melchior – Seaslime (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.336)

Arturas Bumsteinas – Organ Safari Lituanica (CD, Intonema, int019, edition of 200)

Bas van Huizen – Waanzintraan (CD, Moving Furniture Records, MFR032, edition of 200)

Jake Blanchard – Shade (lathe-cut vinyl, Was Ist Das? / Tor Press, first edition of 30, second edition of 20 or download)

seaslime

Dan Melchior – Seaslime

Total goose-work and tape-munch.

In parts, it’s throbbing synth and cut-ups that are, in the best possible way, all over the fucking shop.  Grunt speech gets all wrapped and folded so the vowels come out backwards/sideways.  There’s some nice radio interference and guitar (?) played with cheesy feet.  Nuf said?

But the main thread seems to be ‘no thread’; logic takes a holiday and the unconscious mind takes over.  Dan talks of…

the ebb, flow and convergence of sound/noise/information that the human receptor experiences when passing through the urban (specifically) grotto

OK… I’ll take that signpost and waltz merrily through this bohemian neighbourhood.

It’s dandy of course with ripe colours and complex shapes vying for my mallow eyes.   But what I like most is the low-moaning-multiple-vocal-drone that peppers this steak and opens ‘Seaslime Part Two’.  Thick slices of

ohhhh

and

ahhhh

are piled high.  Conjure up a trio of backing singers on mogs trying to drown out Tin Turna or one of them turkeys.  Got it?  That’s wor Dan!

Not so much the dainty Faberge egg; more a Kinder Surprise stuffed with psychic confusions.

arturas

Arturas Bumsteinas – Organ Safari Lituanica

Three wonderfully rambling organ recordings that wander between full-blown religious ecstasy and porridge-fingered fumbles.

Previously it was Ligeti’s Volumina that set my personal benchmark for Organ-oddity.  I’m no organ aficionado, see, so I have to rely on the helpful sleeve notes to read that these haunting recordings are captured, field recording style, in a variety of Lithuanian locations.

But this doesn’t seem to be an act of UNESCO-sanctioned preservation.  It sounds more like, with the greatest respect, a group of goofs (like me… like you) getting their grotty mittens on the thick ivories and making up gaseous routines just for the jaxx of it.

It’s a truly glorious, immersive event.  At times I feel Arturas’ hand gently twisting in a shadow of reverb but mostly it’s the overlaying of short lyrical pieces played on variety of organs to create a much longer whole.

So, from steam powered fairground calliope to massive church-lungs; from street corner grinder to experimental pipe deconstruction my cloth ears are picking up ‘in the moment’ experiments and cul-de-sacs.  You’ll get a straight run at one idea (forearms on upper keyboard) single note squeals on the lower or a finger-jarring arpeggio; then deep boom and lyrical honk – the sustained drones with one hand and spidery exploration with the other.  At points the tones are working against each other howling at the edge of the wind, coupled with tiny metallic bells.

Lovely though this breathy miasma is you’d be right in asking,

Wot… just blessed organ jaxx for over an hour?  Count me out fella!

But what you’d be missing is the ‘lostness’ the feeling of being tossed into a sea of huff, powerless in the current.  Not to get too hot in these shimmering pages but it’s a submissive act of listening that I’m riffing on right now.

And… as an extra bonus fondle there’s an exquisite hiss and click to these recordings.  Frenzied organ-ing comes with the occasionally ‘clunk’ of a dropped prayer book or rubber plimsoll squeak; the cluttering mechanics of pulleys and foot pedals that make a brittle accompaniment.

There’s a story about Cecil Taylor (or Sunny Murray or Ornette Coleman) where some guy asks him to sit in on the bass during a smoky after-hours jam.  The dude says,

I don’t play bass, man

which is exactly the right approach when dealing with a jazz-colossus.  Yeah…compared to you I don’t ‘play’ anything.  But this was not just a cautious piece of self-depreciation.  The guy couldn’t play a note and bent Cecil/Sunny/Ornette’s form and chops up like a crushed stubbie.  Like Cecil/Sunny/Ornette said, this cat tested him in ways none of the ways a schooled player would [Editor’s note: yeah, this story sounds familiar – anyone got a citation?].

Listening to this ghostly honk is testing my improv-worn ears in the same way!

bas

Bas Van Huizen – Waanzintraan

My good gosh!  I’ve not heard a racket like this for years.  Never a clubber I took my rave-powders seated in a comfortable armchair, headphones on, twisting my DNA to Autechre and the like.

It seems like so long ago but Bas Van Huizen transported me back to that armchair (long since unstuffed and burned for firewood!) as quick as a wink.

Not saying this apes any of those hollow-cheeked rascals with their granular glitch.  But this has that similar heady rush, like a powerful jet of silicon/seawater mix, spraying over the dancefloor in a weighty arc and into the ruined back street behind the club.  It’s littered with rusty junk and piles of broken brick and that’s just fine by me.

These excursions are uneven in length adding further angularity.  You’ve just got your head round something like ‘Jichtjager’ (explosive contact-mics swimming in restaurant grease. I’m busting sick moves (in my head) as each concussive bolt whacks my ear drum) or ‘Stoppermot’ (smeared orchestra pit confined to petri dish, each bacterial horn and violin grows mutated limbs to blow and bow in erratic timings) when another jam comes along and buffers your fluffer.

Take ‘Veldverachter’ for example… the sonic equivalent of ripping off a manky plaster, bath-moulded to your ankle. Ouch!

The longer pieces (our title track for instance) are no place for napping though as ideas are burned through at dizzying speed.  Channelling my inner-Goolden I’m getting, iron ravens sarcastic caw-caw, the static fizz of turned milk and clouds alive with electric shrimp.  But the extra time gives Bas a chance to stretch out the ermine and get fucking regal man.  Opening credits of Blade Runner regal.

To put it another way this is the rice-shaped sliver of the Venn diagram where intense pressure meets slick humidity.

So get boiled brothers & sisters.

shade

Jake Blanchard – Shade

Watch out lightweights, there’s super-heavy intention on these five tunes.

Multi-talented Jake’s colourful designs have graced poster, book, beer bottle and even a skateboard or two.  But today the easel is packed down and beret thrown to one side as a musical outing is on the agenda.

Things start with the lengthy reed-breath-piece ‘Submerged’, all Conrad-esque drone shimmering like celestial orbs, gravity surfing in warp space.

‘Unmarked’ mimics Rodger Daltry’s speed-mod stutter with some chopped ‘thug guitar’ and gritty slide all taking off into the hard desert sky.  But despite the groaning blues this is truly music to build magnificent pyramids to.

Wobble-out a Saz vibe as ‘Pollination’ meshes several Middle Eastern cultures and runs them through a Copycat (or something) to create a wet-lipped smacking and the kind of unhinged fretboard gymnastics Richard Bishop would highlight in orange marker pen as Rem-fucking-betika.

This Greek 3rd Man theme continues on spy-thriller ‘Ill Advised’, kooky-keys rattle among plates of fresh octopus and we get brought back, full circle for ‘Stoney Nova’, a drone piece as soul-mirror.  Ghostly reflections make a flat glassy image repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, re peat, repea  t, re  pe at, repe   at, re peat, r epeat, rep eat, repea     t, rep   eat, r ep  eat, r e  p   ea   t, re     p       ea     t, r   e   p    e    a    t,            r       e          p             e                 a                    t                                                  and        r                                            e                                                 p                                                                    e

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

Intonema

Moving Furniture Records

Jake Blanchard via Tor Press

Jake Blanchard via Bandcamp

samizdat territory: joe murray on blood stereo, hair & treasure, aaron dilloway, thomas bench, dylan nyoukis

May 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Blood Stereo / Hair & Treasure – Split LP (vinyl LP or download, Discrepant, CREP29)

Aaron Dilloway & Dylan Nyoukis – Dropout Elements (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.328B)

Thomas Bench & Dylan Nyoukis – Dylan Thomas (tape, Chocolate Monk, choc.330, edition of 50)

Blood_Treasure

Blood Stereo / Hair & Treasure – Split LP

The Blood Stereo: a photograph album with all the eyes scratched out.

This side is an incomplete memory guide.  The abstract is re-stitched as finest tapestry. It’s never about the destination but always the in-the-minuteness, the total immersion that acts as inauthentic spirit guide.

Again, the domestic (snotty snores, child chatter) is nestled up to improv clank / clatter and holy minimal organ meditations.  But the BS still kick it hard and surprise just like a Jodorowsky Box Set from Auntie Gladys at Xmas.  The wrenched tape / throat glots are fresh and salty as any shucked oyster as the KOFFS and SKWAA bounce between my 5am ears.

Hey you! This complexity is exquisite – multi-layered like a dream, each piece pregnant with meaning and freaky symbols.  Even without the snatches of fuxxhorn this is a distinctly Ellingtonian piece from the pebbles.  Take the fucking A Train pal!

But the B-Bop doesn’t stop things getting a little spooky.  The final third is measured out in soul weights; scant grams but super dense.  Curious backwards propulsion becomes the perfect background for Lewis Carroll’s LSD-flecked Victoriana; starched petticoats and cheeks stuffed with mushrooms.  The final few seconds take us into Samizdat territory, but I realise, slowly, slowly, slowly that this is not an ending but merely a new beginning in an ongoing BS continuum.

It’s like ∞ man.

Hair & Treasure; those guys deliver! And they rub out not one but two pieces on their carefully scratched side.

Part one takes Table Electronics (?) or Tape Manipulation (??) or Computer Enhancement (???) and crispy dries it.  The crackles and clicks are set with poise and deliberation becoming an ornate gilt frame.  They say:

These are the new boundaries.  Pay attention and look deeply.

Hoofing yoghurts are pitched against Bollywood dancers weak with fever so every finger snap and coquettish glance is damp with sweat.  It’s musical collage as Curiosity Cabinet.  Small shelves and alcoves filled with err… hair and treasure?  But instead of your withered Monkey’s Paw or violet Amethyst you’ve got foreign-language dubs, whooping cough rhythms and fake farm-yard bleats.

But when all is shown, the ‘ooohhhss’ and ‘aaaahhhhhsss’ are extracted from our audience until it gets serious with the Basic Channel sound leaking from one speaker.  The deep throbs and gristly bass wash over me submissively and I realise it’s only the Dictaphone ‘scccccvvvv’ that’s keeping H&T off the front of Mixmag or something.

Part two is a knockabout – a lightener, but with damn fine loops chicanery.  Imagine Tom Recchion/Stuart Chalmers/Klaus Fillip goofing over your tape collection of handmade loops.  You diggin’ it?  Short and precise… it ends with marvellously sick coughing.  Seek help! Get better…

a and d

Aaron Dilloway & Dylan Nyoukis – Dropout Elements

A sold-out tape version of this gunk led to a pretty swift CD-r re-release.  But ditherers take note: this mung moves quicker than shit through a goose so make plans, make plans.

Modus Operandi? Four pieces of roughly equal tape glitch and loop menace.  And, like Guru Josh in a trench-coat, this disc showcases the power of gentle squeezing, gradual release and deferred gratification.

These are ‘process pieces’ so the source material is just a starting point in the sonic flowchart.  It’s what they’ve done with it that tightens the plums.  I’m riding the gradual rise & fall of sound as AD & DN reveal themes, cryptic, like scraping moss off a rock.

Some parts lay exactly halfway between goof-gravy and M25 Acid Squelch (Untitled I) others play with the very idea of ‘realness’.

Let me explain:  A Mongolian horse-head fiddle recorded on a University-sponsored field trip?  It’s an HD recording and fully annotated with extensive notes (English & German) yeah.  OR it’s a broken violin recorded in a sweat-lodge back room, bounced on the crappiest MP3 across the Atlantic.  Does it matter when my ears rotate and my hair levitates? I’ve not quoffed the Reindeer urine cocktail – I favour the metrosexual Soy Latte – but the result baby… the results are the same (Untitled III).

Take four notes from any Cosmic Psychos thug-anthem, reduce to the two nastiest and distill until it becomes the memory of a too-loud night ringing in your ears.  Rushing and repetitive, a whooshing loops through the hippocampus so you twitch and drool in yr sleep (Untitled IV).

What did Dolly say?  If life gives you lemons, make super-strength headfuck juice!

dylan thomas

Thomas Bench & Dylan Nyoukis – Dylan Thomas

Two sides of the same coin?  Hardworking Tom and indolent Dylan take a recent live set made in brotherly togetherness and rip it apart like a ripe tangerine.

Side Tom – Astral Travel grants transparent eyes! All the colours become visible, so as long as I peer into the bubbling BenchMix I can re-live these total colours and shades.  Gems are hidden like Easter surprises –both glittering and sweet, familiar and faintly chalky.  Deeply knotted, a suspicious slopping occurs halfway through broken down into a hiccough/doorbell loop that’s pure Vision On!

In fact the vibe of Schools & Colleges leaps like a leaky thermos; it’s a crispy pancake flicking a zippo lighter.  No thumbs!

Side Dylan – Single moments (hiss, consonant blip) chopped and kneaded together.  It’s pretty fucking wild and twice makes me rip out the ear bugs – ‘who said that?’

I’m goofing on the pause-button choke that makes all words and sounds slippery when pizzicato turns tardo.  I end my listening lustily – insect porn narrated with heavy emphasis on the gasps and snarls.

Don’t tell mum.

—ooOoo—

Discrepant Records

Chocolate Monk (or via Tom’s Hardworking Families)

the tin skeleton: joe murray on blood stereo, luke poot, lovely honkey, gate

February 16, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.320, edition of 47)

Luke Poot/Lovely Honkey – Shame 3  (CD-r or download, Angurosakuson)

Gate – Saturday Night Fever (12″ vinyl, MIE, MIE036, edition of 600)

Gurp frontGurp back

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

A selection of mini-trax that hiss as natural breath: in and out, in and out.

B. Stereo leave the long-haul jam behind for this one and concentrate on a smorgasbord of lung expand and a coy pinkie on the tape head.  In their on-going campaign of pitching formal versus informal sound, the wooden spoon is spun thrice round the bowl in heavy, sugary swipes.   Can I lick the spoon?  Yeah man, why not!

Moves are dramatic and executed with confidence in bold smears (a palette knife spreads ruddy ochre across smooth glass) so things are very well defined but not necessarily primary in colour.

As a result melancholy haunts certain corners.  Examples?

‘Huntiegowk’s Return’ soundtracks that most modern of ills, the loneliness of crowds.  This rumble is handled with a touch as light as mushroom spore.  The title track scoffs and mutters while a Chelsea Pensioner polishes his brass buttons, rum-scented wind whistling out of stiff pink nostrils. Ever tried to catch a memory?  They often move too fast for your fingers and dissolve on contact anyway.  For this study of Tantalus tune into ‘The Hand That Will Not Cup’ and follow the psychic instructions.

But the best example of this sepia-tinted longing erupts on ‘Gob & Soupy’, the Shipping Forecast through a post-ecstasy downer.  Or it’s hippy Elvish.  One of the two.

Whilst never regular church-goers, Blood. S are adept with the dusty church torpor that settles on dull Sunday worship.  That blanket-heavy hum that sucks away at your vitals but buffs the rusty brain like you ate up double portions of sleepy lettuce.   I swear I’m transported back to Methodist Ministries with the ‘rambient’ (random/ambient) churn of heavy organ keys pushed to release grimy gas.

And if I can hear the twitch of a goatee from the under-represented jazz-cat, I worry not.  Everyone’s favourite bass-clarinettist, Yoni Sliver’s damp fluttering is taken apart in a super skilful way (and I should know- I’ve tried it) to re-build into a B&W herky-jerky chorus making Korky the Cat jiggle and swing – on the yip!

The No Audience-Underground is often criticised for being amber-stuck, uncritical and self-satisfied.  Silly goose I say!  Check out this latest BLDSTR infotainment disc (complete with pics, sleeve notes and collage or something) to hear a stretching out and cheeky toe wiggle.  Its new territory marked out with heady musk.

If this doesn’t make those plants grow I’m calling you Percy Thrower.

shame3

Luke Poot / Lovely Honkey – Shame 3

I’m feeling a bit Top Trumps.

Name: Luke Poot

Avant Schtick: Tape farmer, ideas basket, office stationery re-claimer

Distinguishing features:  Mighty colourful beak & ‘sad’ eyes

Hidden Weakness: Feared of magicians

Luke Poot’s singular furrow has been ploughed across the sub-toilet circuit for the last five or six years and often leaves the casual listener in need of a new fold-out map and clearly defined landmarks.  Listen to this without basecamp support and a Sherpa or two and you risk being lost in a white-out of pro darts, taped slurp interruptions and heavy breathing  all delivered with the expert timing of a 60-a-day stand-up comedian (circa 1977).

But back to the map.  Two live recordings bookend some Manchester-born radio sessions that sound unusually strapped inside my skull; like Poot is playing from the inside out – a most disconcerting osmosis.  More of this later…

‘I Wanna Be a Cape (Live in Notts)’ is a brief 6 mins of prepared tape, infrequent muttering and embarrassed silence.  A total environment is carefully laid out but exists just out of reach, making me miss whatever fetid dungeon this was first crouched in.

The three radio pieces occur as part of an equipment breakdown. The first is a classic mouth/tape recorder duet where prior planning only accounts for half the excitement.  The seat of the pants call and response milks some strange teats indeed, some half-got football reference adds to the sickly approach, like watching Noel’s House Party running a sweaty fever. Part two features the half-explosive screams Poot has become famous for…being both powerful and polite, more like an abortive sneeze I suppose.  They are certainly becoming increasingly nasal as the track goes on and I feel like ticking off the severity on a Beaufort scale.  And at last, it had to happen, Richard Harris gets his first oblique mention in the fabled Poot-ography.  Part three is a study of failed whistling gibbers and gobbles with what sounds like some very real throat damage as fleshy tubes get pinched sharp.  There is a discernible story arc (again football related) but bearing no relation to Roy of the Rovers.

‘Happy, Yeah? (Live in Sheffield)’ follows no such narrative and seems to be a secretly recorded tape made of John Cale walking his favourite lady out on a date.  The sun is starting to set and everything is relaxed in buttery yellow light.  They pass hang-outs and cherished restaurants.  Poot is following behind the couple with an outstretched hand.  He gives the command and Sea Lions spout out of the man-hole covers (it’s New York right?) clattering them aside and, in fishy unison, chant and honk a Backstreet Boys version.  All whiskery naturally and over in five brisk minutes.

I recommend this highly.

Gate_-_Staurday_Night_Fever_cover

Gate – Saturday Night Fever

It seems to be a universal truth that most humans can’t bear to hear their own voice on tape.  You’re instantly confronted by your worst self-image without the filter of selected hearing or (in my case) regular oblivious dumbness.

Once you join that vocal jaxx brigade you’ve got to get used to your strangulated vowels and plummy neck pretty darn sharp.  It’s not pleasant but you get used to it.  You dig?

But what really makes me knock-kneed with fear is the prospect of capturing an image of myself dancing.  It happened once and what I viewed was an almost evolutionary wrongness.  Like a gin-soaked St Bernard reared up and deciding ‘four legs bad’ I folded myself into 6 foot 3 inches of tangled limbs and chin-drenched shaking.  I’m not a dancer.  I’m a grotesque.

I think it’s for this reason I’ve steered clear of so much ‘dance music’ in my life.  I love the idea of euphoria blossoming up from your feet and gushing out your blowhole.  I love the concept that freedom of movement unhitches my brain for a few blessed minutes until the lights and sound replace the fetid sump oil of my soul.  I like watching people dancing but shudder at the thought of actually doing it myself.

So it’s with clammy hands I pick up Michael Morley/Gate’s new record, an exploration of disco’s glittery fulcrum – Saturday Night Fever.

It’s a 12 inch, of course it is… the ultimate dance format, with four extended loop-driven swoons, smooth as Calpol.

Horns! Horns unapologetically honk brassily from the front end of ‘Asset.’ MMorley tells me I should be dancing (did you not read that last bit mate?) and, despite myself, I begin to twitch a little until all things buckle under Dead C-heavy guitar clouds.  As the kids say…

pretty sweet.

Are those palm trees?  Rich coconut oil drips from swollen husks. I’m ‘on the strip’ with Vince Neil and the boyz.  The sunlight is blinding as something by Circle plays on the AM radio and the Wolfman Jack cries ‘Licker’.

Fucking ‘ell Vince,

I say,

this rawks!

Vince just winks and flashes a gold molar.

The shortest track, ‘Caked’, is still over 9 mins long and boxy and shallow.  This is no creepy insult; I mean it’s all jittery surface, like a frozen lake.   The action takes place at your eye level and concentrates on wild wobbling and heavy keys.

OK… things have been pretty great so far but the closer ‘Hijack’ might just be an example of bright-shiny-footloose perfection.  A nagging set of bells/parping vocals loop in tight little circuits building up a mesh of rhythms.  Our Mr Morley’s hang-dog singing (he’s a 21st century Jona Lewie for sure) is gravy on the steak but the real genius is revealed in the fade out (almost half the length of the track) that strips away dance floor to focus on the reinforced mechanics, the tin skeleton I’ve been raving on for the last 10 minutes.

Like fluff on a needle it’s a beautiful static ruffle: pffft… pfffft… pfffft.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

Angurosakuson

MIE

who is lance? joe murray on odie ji ghast, thf drenching and the damian bisciglia mystery

January 13, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Odie ji Ghast & THF Drenching – Angy is You (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.321, edition of 50)

Damian Bisciglia and Friends – Volume One: The 1980s (CD-r, Ri Be Xibalba)

Damian Bisciglia and Friends – Volume Two: The 1990s (CD-r, Ri Be Xibalba)

angyangy 2

Odie ji Ghast & THF Drenching – Angy is You

There’s no lead-in or gentle border zone on this crispy disc.  This one heads straight for the sweet meat right from the get go.

Ultra-soprano & goof-scat-artiste Odie ji Ghast (relax: it’s the very proper Greta Butikute in an all-in-one moth-suit) goes

ohohohooo

and

ah ah ah ah

on it like some Ono swallowed the Auto Tune.

THF Drenching (resplendent in matching orange) uses the Dictaphone to tap into and release a very peculiar energy this time, it’s very thin and metallic and flexible like an iron garden hose… on it!  I think it smells a little of voodoo… more on that later.

They duo it all together, bringing hot jazz chops of their very own making.  I’m a man of the world; I can picture Blue Note doods sucking a tooth at this lot.  But, make no mistake this is as Charlie as it is Mingus, as Gerry as it swerves into the crew-cut Mulligan.

But, as ever, the placement and setting of simple voice jaxx and Dictaphone (with the occasionally snippet of daft field huff) is all important.  These jams seem to move to different corners of the room.  At one point the haggling ‘la la’ from Odie comes from the ceiling above the door.  At others Drenching is accompanying on dog-toy and feedback-whine from behind me.  I’m pretty sure we don’t have cinema surround-sound secreted about the place so the next logical assumption is that this is bloody witchcraft.

Like that Wanda Maximoff they freak with the fingers casting slow-release incantations.  At first I’m lost in a high-pitch snitch-jam, next hippy guitar thrums and the deep Manc burr of THF mutters ‘choreography’.  There’s more than one way to haunt a guy.  I got your number!  Plant that dancing suggestion then steal my pumps in the night… or something.

The whirl of pinch builds up and up and up until the sound palette is a wash of the finest cool blues and sea greens, incidentally making this a perfect kayak record.  And that’s before the closing Inuit twist sent me off as happy as an otter.

OJD & THFD… Just ‘on’ it.

db outerdb inner

Damian Bisciglia and Friends – Volume One: The 1980s

Damian Bisciglia and Friends – Volume Two: The 1990s

These two mysterious discs plopped through my door with no note or nothing.  The return address quotes one ‘Lance Lincoln’ and the tongue-wrenching cipher ‘Ri Be Xibalba

It’s a rum do for sure.  Opening up these plain discs I see the name Damian Bisciglia and am instantly reassured.  I’m sure readers will be aware of Damian’s impressive, inventive and essential discography along with the tragic facts of his recent death… no need for me to go into that here.

These two compilations of Damian’s work are split into two decade-long chunks; the 1980’s and 1990’s and highlight his huffing and puffings with Dinosaurs with Horns, Points of Friction and all manner of short-term, one-off, knee tremblers with an assortment  of gawky-goons (Adam Bohman, Joseph Hammer, Rick Potts, Tim Alexander etc).

I slip the silvery 1980’s disc in first and I’m gently spooned by some vocal hi-jinks (‘The Gods Speak…) that although being clearly labelled as germinating in January 1981 could easily be a Skatgobs or Noize Choir joint coughed out last week.  The soft blubbers and whispers start to form into almost-words and then decay with each syllable rotting internally like an over-ripe fig.  The similarly structured ‘A-E-Ahh-O-Ewh, Closed-Eye Baby Swiss’ has a logic straight outta the South Coast poetry scene.  This is so damn ‘now’ sounding it’s scary.

The instrumental pieces take a leaf out of Martin Denny’s book and go for that exotica feel but rather than a tacky Tiki Bar we’re pulling up a pew in a domestic diner or campus bookshop.  Whip-smart ideas float between plucked and rubbed strings or pittery-pattery percussion.  A music box tinkles for a while; tape loops float like smoke rings, snippets of field recordings (a bus transfer station?) are overlaid onto the ticking of a tin box and rubber drums.

The tape-collage is never far from your shell-like and shorter pieces like ‘Do You?’ and ‘Balloons’ get in quick, do their thing and fuck off leaving you with a grimy ear-worm as rich and itchy as golden river silt.

Suitably warmed up I place the 1990’s disc into it’s snug laser carriage.  The decade between these recordings seems to have smoothed things – a little like when the tide polishes nasty glass fragments into beautifully scuffed sea-green pebbles.  The ‘Excerpts Of Various Improvisations’ might sound pretty self explanatory yeah.  But what you can’t pick out is the magpie-like pick and approach: pinch and then a peck, a dribble then a dash.  I’ve always been a fan of this approach to music making since hearing The Faust Tapes at an impressionable age and sort of wondered why all music wasn’t made like this.  Sure thing Stevie Wonder, write a song if you have to, but don’t expect me to listen to it all in the right order man.

But the bulk of this 1990’s affair is made up of humble experiments on turntables, guitar and zither.  Simple ideas are played out in real time… again this ‘single-approach’ style is another notch on my bedpost and a welcome sorbet to the sonic blancmange that assaults me on a daily basis (especially at Christmas).  It’s focused and precise but allowing enough elbow room for dropped cues, fumbled skips and relaxed smears to make my wee brain pulse with a sickening ‘bada-boom-bada-bing’.

The closer ‘Improvisation On Wire Mesh Sculpture’ becomes a ‘whammo’ from a Batman fight scene; primary and bold, right between the eyes with a wonky smile.

The programming of these discs is wonderful with a reliance on clear placement and thoughtful juxtaposition.  There’s not no attention-seeking noise or dumb macho splutter.  It’s essentially a sound-diary being opened at random for sure; but with this Pepys of this freaky-invention you get a Great Fire on each page.

OK… so you’ve read my spiel.  I’m hoping you feel informed and curious yeah?  But that’s not the end of the story.

As I mentioned before there was something not quite right about the way these turned up so I checked out the Ri Be Xibalba site.  There’s no mention of these discs at all!  I manage to find a (fairly well hidden) contact address for Lance.  I dropped him a line and, the next day a puzzler appeared on the in-box…

Who is Lance? I run Ri Be Xibalba as a one man operation and my name is Eric. I have never heard of these CDRs until yesterday. Apparently whoever did this is sending out copies for review, but I can’t find anything else about them. I don’t understand why someone put my label name on these releases.

Curious eh?  Me and Eric corresponded some more and it seems like someone has gone to great lengths to make these recordings look as if they have come from Eric and his Ri Be Empire.  With label mates like No-Neck Blues Band and Sun City Girls it seems like a comfortable home for sure.

Copies were sent to the one-and-only Frans De Waard who wrote it up in his Vital Weekly (1012) and me and, who knows who else?  Eric points out that ‘Lance Lincoln’ is some Buffy the Vampire Slayer character so that slaps extra egg on my face!

So what next?  It seems like these are genuine Bisciglia recordings and as such deserve a wider listen.  What’s beyond question is that this is some good shit and I think you’d like to hear it.  But how?

Will the real Lance Lincoln please step forward.

I guess I could just put them on the Internet Archive or something and let people make their own minds up.

Hey, we’re a collective Hive Mind right.  What do you think my most supple and reflective reader?

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

Ri Be Xibalba [Editor’s note: yeah, I know, but where am I supposed to link to in these weird circumstances?]

the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.

tessellation

…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.

SPY1

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.

robbie7

…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.

posscat

[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.

cclub

…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

Bridget Hayden and Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”

ineluctable

What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

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