rooting for barnacles : rfm on power moves library, stef ketteringham, sun skeletons and star turbine

July 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists  – (Excavation Series 7) You/In/Be/Arc (Power Moves Library)

Stef Ketteringham – More Guitar Arrangements (Crow Versus Crow)

$un $keletons Get It Up Yers Trio – In Pink Dust (Doubledotdash?)

$un $keletons Get It Up Yers Trio – Permanent Powers (Doubledotdash?)

Star Turbine – Night Sky Isolation (Invisible City Records)

power moves

Various Artists  – (Excavation Series 7) You/In/Be/Arc (Power Moves Library) sold out cassette and free digital album

Hard-hitting, gut-punching, brain-scrambling missive from the collective history of mankind.

Once again Power Moves Library act as curator and editor to bring you, dearest listener, a carefully compiled recording with brains, taste and soul.

This time it’s Kev Cahill who has sourced all his sounds from youtube, vimeo and ubuweb.  A simple method that explodes the myth of the wise crate-digging grey-beard (with a full wallet) into a completely open-source, DIY approach that we can all get behind and ape like monkeys.

The mixtape as revolutionary act!

Of course the genius is not in the rarity of the sources or the skill of the mixing technique (like…yawn man) but in the notion of what sounds go perfectly with what – gamelan and ocean waves –Beckett and Indian Raags – it’s all totally ham & eggs!

For those of you that like a little more detail (spoiler alert – read no more of this chapter if you are a blind-eye voyager) expect the poetical anger of Amiri Baraka, gentle spoken French (?), gospel and blues moans, lone xylophone ‘plongs’, Billie Whitelaw’s whispering, Harry Bertoia’s vibrations in and amongst found sound and environmental recordings.

As I’d expect from a fine guitarist/curator the six-stringer appears in various forms (most notably on side two) showing the breath of the Flying V from drone, skronk to chamber-quartet ecstasy.  The balance is provided with springy tabla, Orca whoops and Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange’s spooky dream recordings.

The magpie visits anger, anxiety, bliss and desperation in a stream so emotionally deep I’m a little wrung-out on listening.  These recordings elicit a response from all my feeble chakras making this one of the most human things I’ve listened to in ages.  Gosh!

Like that gold record they sent up into space on Voyager; a recorded message of humanity’s desperate need to make sound, to communicate in the most natural way possible – to make music.

Get another rocket ready NASA – Power Moves gotta message for the cosmos.

stef ketteringham

Stef Ketteringham – More Guitar Arrangements (Crow Versus Crow) cassette and digital album

These semi-improvised guitar pieces might be loosely arranged but are played with a bright fury and focused intensity that I’ve not heard in years.

Stef spanks this plank with a canyon-wide spectrum of feeling.  At one end we have ‘suspicious man who’s never even seen a guitar before’ to ultra-precise and mathematically measured ‘ZOOT HORN ROLLO-isms’ that chime like cold stars.

The busy froth of twang on side one paints several pictures in my head.  The tangled wood and barbed wire of ‘If and When’ become the clotted metre-wide micro-environment seen from a moving train where weeds rule supreme.  A snatch of sung melody sweeps down the embankment, unconcerned with the swirl of notes above.  Dust collecting on old bookshelves is the 3D brain-image summoned by ‘Divide’s’ spacious and geometric riffs.    I’m particularly taken with ‘That’ all arthritic knuckles and sunburned hands, shiny as polished chestnuts with its ham-fisted flamenco flourishes bruising the strings.

This is most certainly hardcore!

Side two is a more melancholy affair and starts with the heart-lurching pressure you feel when you know he/she’s leaving forever (refer to ‘Churchgoer’ dear listener).  This empty ache is enflamed on ‘Killing Flaw’ an eruption of post-blues as poignant as that exploded shed thing.  My mind flips open on the final piece ‘Cry & Sing 3’ where the heavily amplified guitar is rattled and ‘poinged’ with a metal ruler making gilded rivers run from the bone speakers.

The real genius here lies in the two versions of ‘Grimes/Cargill’ a snaked-hipped blues taken in two different directions: one lyrical and melodic played with an early-morning vigour, the other, an end-of-the-day hung-over stubble.  Both feature the ‘slap-slap’ of Stef’s sparely deployed bass drum cleverly punctuating the movements.

Telepathic art from Crow Versus Crow summarises the process of composition and recording (unpretentious rehearsal room/stray cat isolation/crisp sellotape stains) making this the perfect package.

sun skeletons in pink dust

$un $keletons Get It Up Yers Trio – In Pink Dust (Doubledotdash?) cassette and digital album

The wonderfully named $un $keletons Get It Up Yers Trio are indeed a three piece.  But that’s where their similarity to beards like Cream or The Experience ends.

Employing Drums, Saxophone/Electronics and Shahi Baaja these Thames Valley jokers get all IN A SILENT WAY on your ass with the sidelong ‘Workin’ The Church Shift.’

The focus is on blank space, placement and long-form growth.  So this improvisation grows like moss over a log; carefully seeking out nooks and crannies to take hold, working in sympathy with their fellow organisms, leaving blanks on the sour ground.

It’s a drifter, the forlorn lines of saxophone become long exhalations, the shimmering Shahi Baaja a heat mist, the subtle and sparse drums a slowing heartbeat as you become hypnotised by the horizon.

Side two probes the sensitive ‘Solar Plexus’ like it’s rooting for barnacles in a rock pool.  Each instrument gently wanders into each other, soft-edge collisions that slowly merge into one ur-drone.

At times it’s hard to tell what’s what with percussive sax, textural drum skins and melodic Shahi Baaja; each voice subtly moving into the foreground for some lazy stretch then retreating back into the collective fug.

With nothing as crass as a solo this is true groop-mind aktion – threeways.

sun skeleton permanent powers

$un $keletons Get It Up Yers Trio – Permanent Powers (Doubledotdash?) cassette and digital album

More long-form lichen jams from the Thames Valley trio.

‘That’s Fine, It Doesn’t Matter’: A mighty slow swing to this one like the world’s longest pendulum swooping east to west across the globe.  Time is punched out with simple double-hits on the snare, a dulcimer-like melody and the shallow soaring of hot breath.  The Get it Up Yers Trio explore these moments rolling them like mandarin segments in the palm of the hand – wondering who’s juiciest.

‘Life is a Joke’: This time the spirit of Jan Garbarek is channelled through an almost military snare shudder; sheer plucked ‘banjo’ to mash up the theme tune to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with a Krautrock Cowboy!

The final moments spice up the motorik with a wailing horn as wild as Giora Feidman.

RFM EXTRA

  • Ahead of the game for once you can actually catch this lot live soon on their weedender weekender tour with the mighty WOVEN SKULL: 21st July (Gateshead) 22nd July (Middlesbrough) 23rd July (Todmorden).
  • Introduce yourselves to: Breadman (drums), Crinkil (alto sax/electronics), Krang (shahi baaja).
  • The super-pretty glitch flower art work on ‘In Pink Dust’ is designed by the unstoppable Crow Versus Crow
  • They dig the late Chet Baker!

star turbine

Star Turbine – Night Sky Isolation (Invisible City Records) cassette and digital album

Star Turbine bring their unique improvisers vocabulary to the UK again gracing the N-AU with coiled ‘skoinks’ and leathery ‘whuffs’.

Working backwards from the sound to the source becomes a futile exercise – it could be tape, radio interference, highly-processed computer files or bowed vinyl records.  All have a place in the Star Turbine arsenal; but if course it’s not how impressive your tabletop looks, it’s how you swing it.

And swing it they do.  This mature duo (Sindre Bjerga & Claus Poulsen) have been working together for around 6 years and I count at least 21 releases on their Discogs page.  This familiarity with each other’s approach leads to top class performances on both sides of this live tape

Gateshead’s Soundroom is a glitchy, almost funky performance with complex set pieces including: smeared gob-rot from Sindre and sooty coughing textures from Claus.  Both meld into an undeniable wholeness, an organic fullness of sound and presence.

Moods shift fast like clouds on a windy day; they scud quickly – one moment dark and crumpled, the next breezy and slapstick.

We move south to Brighton’s Coachwerks for side two.

  • It’s a rumbler! A cacophonous tearing of found-sound opens the set.
  • It’s a thumper! Felt-headed mallets beat a lowly tattoo alongside sharp metal cracks.
  • It’s a lurker! Strange stains appear on the carpet, an oily filth fills the air. The electric crackle of bad vibes and virus make me clap my h*nds over my e*rs.

And while improvisation often gets a drubbing for being highfalutin’ or overly-academic this is music that is rooted in real life.  Fingers and mouths, elbows and knees wrenching uninvited sounds from the magicians sleeve.

Power Bliss!

Power Moves Library

Crow Versus Crow

Doubledotdash? / $un $keletons Bandcamp

Invisible City Records

-ooOOoo-

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

erotic polystyrene sigh: joe murray on mutual process, star turbine, sindre bjerga

September 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Mutual Process – (untitled) (tape, Discombobulate, BOB006, edition of 50)

Star Turbine – White Lines Across the Void (tape, Discombobulate, BOB005, edition of 50)

Sindre Bjerga – Fugue States (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR15, edition of 50 or download)

mutual bob

Mutual Process – (untitled)

North-eastern gook-wizards, the venerable Sean Cotterill and golden majestic Adam Denton, link up electric oddments with greasy string and tobacco-stained sellotape in a classic table-top approach.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch the Mutual Process conduct and project live many times in various squats and attics so this tape becomes part of the open-ended conversation.  Follow me…

untitled is a tape performance in three parts.

  • Hard-to-quantify squeals fog outta the speakers to start off. Next a broken, backwards TV fizzes listlessly, circuits click open and off with a feline ‘pop’.  The sound of Bertoia’s metal rods being manipulated rise out of the mist as graceful as silver-backed Gorillas and with the same barely restrained violence.
  • Then it gets quiet… A titanium wind blows.  The chicken bones in the trees, gathered by sneaky children start to rattle, shaking off all the trappings of modern life (mobile phones, reality TV etc) to make the sort of sound I last heard during my time at the Phillips Research Laboratory (1956 – 63).  The hiss and whistle of the earlier movement is overtaken by a deep-dive into electronic sound arts.  Tony Stark himself would goof-off on the reflective magnetic!
  • Redundant repulsor rays seem to form the carrier wave to some jittery cipher that tips a hat to the unbreakable Meskwaki code talkers in the third and final movement. Gritty ceramics get bowed with a rat-tail file, cheese graters get bent across a leather clad knee and spanked hard.

Mutual Process: the Marvel-style team up you N-AU heads have been waiting for.  Nuff said, true believer.

turbine bob

Star Turbine – White Lines Across the Void

Two live pieces from that great Dane Claus Poulsen and the James Brown of the Underground that is Sindre Bjerga.

Star Turbine are one of those remarkable duos that take two very different approaches and create a very different third wheel; so buckle up buttercup!

Side ‘A’.  Pinched nip tweaks give way to that kind of chugging (kof-kof-kof)  riff that you find in both 80’s Thrash Metal and late 90’s Italio-House.  Before long a canard paddles up the Tyne (this was recorded in Newcastle’s Mining Institute – a scant hop from the sleepy river) with its booming fog horns and belching smokestacks. We travel it’s feathered back to Belize (or somewhere) where electric drizzle cascades down waxy green leaves. Claus and Sindre stoke the fires in the engine room, shovelling dense peat into the orange-mouthed furnace, until sweat beads on brawny forearms, brows and backs.  A scat of brittle C90 crackle ends the performance with gentlemanly style.

Side ‘B’ Another live set opens with kissy-kissy intimate ‘pings’ and an erotic polystyrene sigh that almost makes me blush dear reader!  This is a superb recording; the up-close micro-sounds are raw in my pig-pink ears.

And the fidelity becomes a player in the game.  It draws me deeper into the slobbering honks (fresh like cabbage), field recordings (the heavy links of rolling stock) and dainty metal strokes (innocent as Hans Christian Andersen) layering these orphaned sounds into sonic béchamel.

A cello recorded beneath a mantle of Williams’ Flubber adds a lovely rasp, all cosy and warm, to accompany those cheeky poly-styrenes who begin to squish Galaxians beneath a giant thumb.  The bright colours run under the pressure and leak out the loop, whorl and arch spilling onto the scrubbed linoleum.

Both sides were recorded approximately 239 miles apart.  Keep on truckin’.

fugue states

Sindre Bjerga – Fugue States

Live at Ryan’s Bar (London) opens with some awesome tape fuckery executed with extreme prejudice.  I had to keep leaping out of bed to check the Cheap-o Hi-Fi wasn’t chewing this innocent tape to little tiny bits!

It’s a kind of a dancehall sound that’s getting mangled here; think Notting Hill Carnival slipping down a gritty wormhole as things slowly, slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y  get more Solaris-on-yr-ass.  An acapella voice sings some middle-of-the-road ditty/euro-disco pumps/fireworks briefly flare in the cold black sky…

Gosh…this is seriously warped.  The stretched tape sounds under immense pressure, like geological pressure, man, as smeared voices try valiantly to drag themselves over the welcoming polished tapeheads.

The cognitive planet vibe starts to bulge my eyes out slightly.  An unnatural intelligence erupts as the compact cassette reaches cognition!  A perfect 17 minutes.

Side two, live at Kveil #3 (Bergen) opens with an ever-so-slightly polite fistful of tape messin’ that can carry a sustained hiss as easy as I can pinch 3 pints together into a beer-pyramid [Editor’s note: with bag of crisps held between clenched teeth too I hope].  The general pace is super-relaxed with ‘humms’ and ‘whirrrs’ sloshed about like grey undercoat on a corporation bench.

Rather than mash tape into iron-rich paste the manipulation has a more benevolent hand, guiding firmly but with an ear for collaboration.  So when voices crackle through the dead air I’m looking for a Radio Ham who recently turned on.

I wonder.  Ham?  Amateur? Ham-ateur? Well whatever term we choose to use the signals picked up by Sindre’s aerials add honest human peaks to some stereo-spring ‘clunk’ that paves the way for a  Bjerga classic hiss-drone.  Thin like gruel it is until the whole thing clots like blood pudding, lumpy and painful…and ‘click’ the tape finishes.

Recorded in 2015 (Side A) and 2014 (Side B) approximately 1,262 miles apart.

—ooOoo—

Discombobulate

Invisible City Records

bouncing off the tuning pegs: joe murray on david somló, panelak and gold soundz all-stars

June 30, 2015 at 9:40 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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stuart chalmers/henry collins/sindre bjerga/claus poulsen – split (tape, gold soundz, gs#127, edition of 25)

David Somló – Movement (CD mounted on plate with hanger and booklet or download with pdf, self-released)

Panelak – The Om Tragichord (CD-r, LF Records, LF046)

gold soundz split

Stuart Chalmers/Henry Collins/Sindre Bjerga/Claus Poulsen

Side one of this groovy wrapped-up tape hosts tape goons and sonic adventurers Stuart Chalmers and Henry Collins.  This fine duo give excellent value for money by combining the riotous pop and snap of speed-of-thought tape manipulation with more considered glassy processing.  The seven poke-in-the-eye interjections are short (all under 3 mins except the slightly longer ‘tskimdo’) and as fresh and wriggly as a landed rainbow trout.

Things work as a wonderful whole, individual elements constantly forming and deconstructing, but with an overall purpose and flavour.  There’s a damp frittering to some of these sounds as they rush like a fleshy thumb over a plastic comb… frrriiiiiiipppppppp!  The energetic glitching is fancy like boiling mud; all thick clay-like plops and flubbers.  Stuart handles his Dictaphone with aplomb; FFW skipping some guitar improv, the Bailey-esque lurches in volume diving dramatically down a brown worm-hole.  A drum loosely appears between the squark and squelch.  This reminds me to mail David Sylvian with a pithy comment about his Manafon.  The whirling capstans get almost too much to bear until a singular tone calms the magnetic beast.  Friends of more relaxed pastimes will tune in to the especially jaxxed ending to this side – clockwork chimes and distorted reverberations making it all nice and irie.  Praise Jah!

Side two starts off with a live Sindre joint ‘choking on splinters’ and is a right messed-up tape culture statement.  Various soft rock/power ballad tunes are mangled with generous amounts of ironic sauce.  The sound then gradually coalesces (like sonic grease pudding) for a road-menders drone section, soon to be replaced by wet slapping and vocal jaxx, stiff hessian ripping, number station melodies and dry-twig crackle.

And things start to get serious.  The last few minutes of this set are dramatically violent with poor old tapes getting seriously duffed-up, warped, stretched and fondled so the base-sound becomes thickened and rubbery.  Blimey – with no applause to contextualise the sound this naked aggression sounds directed to me personally.  Eek!

Claus Poulsen ends the tape with a short Sindremix.  With thousands of hours of prime material to choose from Claus must have had quite a job settling down to this.  To my mind he’s chosen wisely, concentrating on Sindre’s drone works to come up with a curiously melancholic three minutes of tear-stained swoons and rusty croaks.   Beautiful like bruised fruit.

somlo

David Somló – Movement

Hungarian guitarist David Somló’s incredible debut album.  Strong in concept – it comes with a plate you can hang on the wall and strong in execution – David is a fucking KILLER guitarist, movement is a dusty 27 minute recording that’s positively crackling with tense, nervous energy.

Recorded in the open air things start off with the sloppy-slops of lazy footsteps on leaf litter then launches into an outrageous guitar solo.  Very much experimental but encased in desperate, haunting harmonies this takes on board the clear spaciousness of Jon Collins, the rusty twang of Bill Orcutt and the pitted grime of Manuel Mota.  Yeah I know comparisons are bullshit but painting an accurate picture of this flapping into my lugs is a tricky one. It’s all over the place.  Styles are spun on a penny.  My scrawled notes say,

soars and swoops like a swallow skimming over a pond/pensive like Tom Verlaine, edging towards an unknown something/smooth but brittle texture – Hapsburgian in its decay and posture/clouds of notes knot like bees or Loren Connors.

And this pattern is repeated:

·         Excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo

·         Sudden pause (a shift in the way David is sitting perhaps?) or the crackle of a bonfire, or the twitter of Hungarian birds

·         Another excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo.

These solos erupt out of the shimmer of nature only to fall back once all the trills and runs have been had… and they seem so natural and right.  Not precise and worked until all the blood is leached but as improvised as a stolen kiss, the late afternoon light bouncing off the tuning pegs as another slick idea is fingered out on the rosewood frets.

Finally – if you are thinking this sounds just a little too guitar hero remember the field recording feel, the cloudy ripple of background voices and feet crunching on gravel that make this feel even more homespun and relaxed.  I urge you readers to toast the official guitarist of the Psychedelic Domestic!  Hail Somló!

A ‘must have’ for all Hank Marvins.

omtragi frontcover final

Panelak – The Om Tragichord

ROAAOOOOORRRR!  This is a blisteringly intense record from Pascal Ansell’s Panelak.  Back in the old days they called this kind of rich, crunchy noise Computer Music.  And while I have no doubt Pascal is using a computer at some point in the process of making his music it would be doing this a disservice to label something so vibrant; so effusive and physical with a non-human tag.

‘Hikikomori’ grinds like Tony Hawk or something; all gritty granular shredding until a daytime TV voice adds a sobering touch.  ‘Sarcomere’ is a more thoughtful cousin, standing at the sidelines of the bowl watching the boys show off.  She’s thinking up minimal melodies beamed into the ether that charm their way into your skull.  Was that a brief snatch of strings there?  I’m not sure as the relentless alien squawk has started to recalibrate my hairy ear ‘oles.

The tooth-loosening ‘Quisqualate’ shimmers as separate lines of electric drone, fizzing glitch,  squashed cowbell and high-tension guitar string plait themselves together only to unwind slowly leaving you with no handhold or ledge.

It seems unusual to have a title track these days.  Are they supposed to be a potted-meat representation of the whole? I dunno man.  But, as it happens, ‘The Om Tragichord’ does sum up the approach and aesthetic let loose tonight.  Imagine some late 70’s video game (Tennis, Tank Commander, Pong etc) re-routed through a daisy chain of spluttering effects pedals.  A giant foot stomps down repeatedly and sets things off in an eccentric order, closing off and opening up signals in a juddering and aggressive manner.  Then mirror plate this and listen backwards.  You get the picture eh?

Closer ‘BactoGrail’ takes some of that sweet guitar and jams it through my speakers in varying degrees of fuckedness.  A Hammond does it shimmy, voices chatter like a mystery radio gone feral.  After a time of simple twittering the acoustic keeps things steady while an electric calliope blusters like a wound-up drunk preparing for a fight.

Like the old Queen says:

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening!

That’s for sure…plugging Panelak into your ears is like waiting for the dark cloud to hurl a killer stroke.  Guaranteed to blow your mind – anytime!

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

David Somló

LF Records

the radiofreemidwich random tape grab-bag experiment, or: joe murray empties his bulging sack

March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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joe's bulging sack

[Editor’s note: Joe Murray, our resident beat prophet, has convinced his skeptical editor to temporarily abandon the usual formatting for reasons that will soon be apparent.  Thus there are no release details up front, pictures will follow reviews and links will be found where they lay.]

Like all my RFM comrades I have a teetering bunch of tapes to review.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It’s a privilege and an honour to hear so many dispatches from the No-Audience Underground.

But sometimes I feel I’m doing you a disservice my friends.  It’s the same old, same old format: slot tape in, listen thrice, make notes, look at any other internet gubbins, write up final copy, post to Rob and await his judgement a’ tremble.

But today I want to spice things up baby.   I’m going 50 shades on this shit.

So, in  order to make things (hopefully) more entertaining and experimental in spirit for you, my dear reader, I chucked all my review tapes into a drawstring bag and will pull them out, randomly, sight-unseen ready to slap into the cheap-o hi-fi.  No prior knowledge, no prejudice etc.

Mystery Tape One.  The first thing I notice is an ambient hiss, growing and forming, covering all the other electronic ‘chunk-ka-kuh’ like Spanish moss.  Things get less rhythmic and more drawn out (elongated gong strikes / trapdoor creak) creating a soundtrack feel with some floating voices chattering.  There’s a synth or something humming giving this a very European feel… a dark Froese perhaps?  Now there’s electricity in the air as the test tubes fizz and pop; a scientist twitches and mugs singing snatches of opera in a cracked voice.  Somehow the radio picks up their brain waves: forgotten memories of the seaside and music hall?  An Anthony Caro sculpture comes to life with deep space moans.  Blimey.  Who’s this?  I pop out the tape and check it.   Bless my soul.  It’s the ever lovely Claus Poulsen with Collected Dreams on Skrat Records.

claus poulsen - collected dreams

Mystery Tape Two.  OK…so far so good.   I fumble in my bag and pluck out the next offering.  It drops neatly into the wide-mouth slot and kicks off some dark rubbery knockings, slurm residue and spurks-thumb.  Oh yeah man…this is tremendous stuff!  There’s a treacle-like bubbling and whomping, like some living salt-water lake throbbing dangerously, searching out new tributaries with its briny fingers.  This is pure sound abstraction that builds layers of thick, dark sound-paint until a giant glove smears the oily pickle.   The noxious mixture spreads thin, lightening the hue and spreading the sticky mixture over frame, wall, floor and ceiling until we are all covered with the stuff – a burnt Rothko orange.  Side two opens up with a fling of ducks all ecstatically hawking and honking.  These sounds are passed though some electronic doo-hickery that seems to split and repeat certain quacking frequencies so sections of the greasy reverberations get plucked for presentation with a sheen and glimmer.  The water fowl retreat to roost as we dip our ears below the slick surface of water to luxuriate in music for rowing boat hulls; wooden creak and swollen pop.  Gosh, this tape is really hitting the spot.  Who do I have to thank?  I should have known…it’s ‘The Ambassador’ Tom White with his Reconstruction on Alien Passengers.

tom white - reconstruction

Mystery Tape Three.  This tape starts off with some nice tape gunk that moves unhurriedly between half-tunes played on fuzzed-out organ.  A female voice with the smoky cadence of William Burroughs tells a tale about some sci-fi travel (or something) while Working Men’s Club beats (tiss-be-be-bon-tiss…) flit in and out of the organ tunes.  And then found sound and field recordings get thrown into the mix.  Not in a haphazard manner, no sir, this is finely tuned and tweaked like the exact halfway point between a Radiophonic performance scored by the late great Broadcast and waking up from a particularly vivid dream.  I have to be honest with you readers… I’m stumped here; I have no idea what or who or when this is.  It’s certainly more lyrical than the usual shimmy but the narrative and structure are all over the shop giving this a delightfully Victorian psychedelic edge.  I can’t wait any longer; I crack under the pressure of not knowing and check the cover.  Ahhhhh….it’s that beautiful and wonderfully eccentric duo Winter Family who are playing here with their How Does Time tape on Psychic Mule Records.  It is indeed a play, a play designed to be listened to on a very particular train journey between Besançon in France and  La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland for very particular watch makers.  The ultimate commuter listen.

winter family - how does time

Mystery Tape Four.  Your typical Northern pub chatter sets the scene with clattering bottles and knowing laughter.  An on-stage introduction welcomes you and says, ‘This is for d boon’ before a proper guitar riff chugga-chuggas.   OK…that’s a reference to the wonderful Minutemen  – I get that; are we jamming econo?  Is this gonna be some tour spiel dude? But, at the same time I’m expecting some tape collage work to start up, a wonk-move or gurgled gob etc.  Some music concrete shit and all that doings.  But no…this is pure UK hardcore, recorded very, very  live, possibly from some archive with guitar/bass/drums and an angry attitude.  Think Heresy or something but with a bit more of ‘baseball bat to the face and neck’ feel.  The songs come in short, sharp blasts.  Three or four in a row – chunka – chunka – cheer – crowd babble – chunka- chunka.  It’s invigorating stuff and seems to get looser and more chaotic as the tape goes on (always a bonus for me).  I’m totally lost here.  No idea who it is or even how it crept into my review pile. Shall we look readers?  OK…it all comes flooding back.  This is Battery Humans on Fuckin’ Amateurs with their For D Boon tape.  It is recorded live and recently: 6th September 2014 to be precise and features one Guy Warnes AKA Waz Hoola, the unsung hero of the northern drone scene, on drums.  The usual F#A! standards of presentation apply with anarchy inserts, random gaffer tape sculpture and art fliched from Viz Comic.  Side B is another live recording but this time from Scurge in 1991.  You want rage?   You got it.

battery humans

Mystery Tape Five.  I press ‘play’ and an undulating, chemically insistent, flute trills with the sort of chaotic abandon that pins Old God MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI into a restful slumber.  A thousand chaffed lips puff noxious gas through human thighbone pipes while the jester dances merrily on (like he’s posing for a Marillion album or something).  Gosh…this is pretty intense.  The next track saunters by sounding like that crap ‘pre-computer’ computer game Simon hooking up to Terminator’s Skynet and crashing civilisation as we know it into a frosty digital sludge. Blimey…there’s a hard stop as I turn the tape over but as soon as I click things into life the holy racket starts again.  This time I’m getting something like a rouge Funkadelic jam; real cosmic slop rejected by Mr Clinton for being too out-there as layers of keyboard fuzz and squealing huff pile up and up and up.  A brief moment of calm (the keys ape Vangelis in blade runner tights) lets me breathe again before I’m pushed out a 30 storey window (metaphorically, dude – don’t panic, man) and, as I tumble, I catch snippets of Mexican TV, Concrete Noise, psychic experiments and terrible quiz shows as I hurtle past the apartments spinning dangerously out of control.  An uneven gravity pocket spares me a sticky end and I land, gracefully and precisely, into a pair of oxblood Doctor Martins – the world’s kindest bootboy.  Crows cackle around me, applauding with electric beaks.  I check the details, no wiser of this tapes provenance but washed clean by its synesthetic high, to find out it’s my old Papal Bull buddy Jon Marshall and noise-nudist Pascal Ansell cavorting under the No Thumbs banner.  This beauty’s called Slug Birth and is available from the brand-spanking-new Tutore Burlato label.  If TB is a new name on your radar the quality hallmark of its founder, one Ezio Piermattei, should seal the deal.

no thumbs - slug birth

Mystery Tape Six.  A hawking ceilidh – all X-ray gingham and a skilful cheek-slapping solo.  Reet…now there’s some ‘brum-t-t-tuh’ ursonating richly, fupping my sonics.  Gosh…this is a tasty oyster to be gulped down whole.  A general Scottishness takes hold with gristle and blum; stiff wire wool scraping and beautifully played Dictaphone garble.  I almost trip over my big feet in my rush to turn it over as I’m aching for side two.  And that’s where my experiment has to end.  No system is perfect.  It’s darn near impossible to ignore the fact a voice immediately states…

I’m Ali Robertson

…in Ali Robertson’s voice, soon to be joined by a variety of other familiar burrs. This side is one long ‘game’ of read personal biographies all overlapping (stop-starting) set to strict rules that our cuddly despot is keen to enforce.  Waves of casual voice and chatter settle into strange rhythms – probably some mathematical fractal shit, interlocking as neat as a Rubik’s satisfying ‘click’.  So yeah…durrrr…it’s Ali Robertson and his handily titled Ali Robertson & Friends tape on the always brilliant Giant Tank label.

ali and friends

So my excellent friends, I hope that worked for you?  Me?  I’m refreshed and re-born!  My ears are prickling with cleansing static and expectation.

But tell me: how are you doing?

—ooOoo—

the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyes

March 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer (tape, Gold Soundz, GS#125, edition of 25)

Star Turbine – Alterations (CD-r, SKRAT Records, skr-017)

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter (CD-r or download, self-released)

RFM Poulsen_Klapper 2

Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer

I picked this beauty up from the Goldsoundz gaucho himself Sindre Bjerga during his recent half-term jaunt to the UK with Claus Poulsen.  I’m always up for a trade but was doubly delighted to see the name Martin Klapper splashed across the carefully folded collage cover.  For me Martin’s sounds were an important entry point into an underground alternate reality where toys take a seat in the orchestra and accident holds an unreliable baton to conduct.

I asked Claus with my eyes ashine:

How did you hook up with the Klapper man?

and

Martin?  He lives round the corner from me,

…came the nonchalant reply from Claus.

Good golly!  I almost ran home to jam this silvery prize right there and then but resisted like a good human and took my time.

The seven short tracks from Klapper/Poulsen are total knockabout junk-core of the highest order. No moment is left un-squirmed.  The pace is busy like a chicken-pox itch with layers of ‘huzzzzz’, ‘hok-ko-kok’ and ‘charrrr’ expertly mixed so it’s almost tumbling into chaos but pulls itself back from the brink every time.

The attendant floppings are not in any way naive or frivolous.  Using toys, doo-dahs and soft furnishings in your music is no easy option.  You’ve got to search the possibilities as lovingly as any extended technique merchant.

The stop-start, juddering of micro-musical moments ticks my Tom & Jerry box in thick black marker.  It’s delightful to surrender to the ‘quacks’ and belches letting my brain process this particular Technicolor moment, and another, and another, and another until the grey stuff is left panting and fagged out.

I will never tire of this approach.  It’s the very sound of spontaneous invention for heaven’s sake!  It gives me the same warm glow as discovering that the sonorous snoring behind me is actually the start of a vintage Usurper or Drenching jam randomly selected for my rusty earbuds.  Turn on, Tune in, Flop out.

Rogaland Hot Club are another name I’ve wanted to catch up with for a long while now.  A Norwegian super-group (Sindre Bjerga, Anders Gjerde and Pål Asle Pettersen) made up of only Ginger Bakers this 21 minute collage of live/non-live jams all smeared together is a master class in group improvisation.  Most of us agree that music is a social activity and, as a result, the interactions between individuals in groups are one rich area of both business and pleasure.

The Hot Club play on the skronk, the sound of overloaded equipment peaking redly and knead it into unselfish group moaning and caterwauls; a King Midas of agonies hawked out by specially trained sea lions, so close you can almost smell their fishy rewards.

At the 9 mins 30 mark exactly the scene changes to a surviving audience recording of Suicide’s only Scandinavian date.  Those tricky voltage differences pitched all their Casio beats too low for a US crowd but it was perfect for the winter walkers who break out the hjemmebrent to dance like their sensible shoes are covered in foul-smelling glue.   A paddle-puddle-battle takes the place of an interval until the show gets closed by the cops, hauling in their own sound system playing Barrington Levy at ear splitting volume – backwards – as they take turns to ‘singjay’ the pages and pages of overtime claims in a newly discovered Atlantian dialect, incomprehensible to us land dwellers.

One lone voice remains, spoiling the ballots in a confused tone.

Gosh…this is one heady rush.  Available in tiny quantities; there’s only 25 copies in the whole wide world.  Move swiftly my dear reader, move with sureness and speed or let this opportunity pass you by forever.

RFM Star Turbine

Star Turbine – Alterations

This upstanding duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen have come a long way in the last few years. Their collective name Star Turbine is well chosen as their first set of recordings were very much the sound of the ion drive, the Dylithium raga and ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’ omni-chord workouts.  But all things change, even in the field of deep space research, and in 2015 we hear a very different sound-world pumping from Claus and Sindre’s sci-fi drone pipes.

The two live pieces that make up this ‘tour only’ disc are real heavy journeys into the unknown.  The lengthier ‘Leiden’ starts in the foothills of some imagined country and hikes carefully up a frozen mountain.  Electrick brooks, bubbling happily down below, become ferocious and dangerously sly underfoot the further you climb.  The pretty, crisp frost gets deeper and sloppier until each boot crunch sends up explosive plumes of fine white dust, peppering the air with paranoia and panic spores.  The trees, naturally, become spare and sparse.  The odd rough limb points skywards, blackened against the snow pointing an accusing finger to some jealous deity in the clear night sky.

And then… it’s all calm.  The occasional goat bell chimes mournfully and echoes across the valley.  Your shortwave radio picks up astronaut interference; they could be reciting poetry or sending a panic-flaming SOS, but you’re too worn out from the day’s exertions to really care.  The ‘clicks’ and ‘burrs’ of speech just manage to fight through the static, lulling you to sleep to dream of Spanish guitars played with lobster claws and melting butter.

‘Dawn Voyage’ seems to pick up the journey mid-dream with that familiar ‘same but different’ trick my subconscious loves to play on me.

Skip loads of the river bed silt are brushed and combed by some gently purring machine.  For hours it labours, occasionally letting out a gasp of steam or erotic sigh of pleasure.  By morning the silt has all gone, processed away and the machine slowly unfolds, like a lotus flower, to reveal a small statue of Niels Bohr shimmering like some solid state disco ball.  Steve Lacy asks to borrow my headphones then complains loudly they are not the Beats he expected.  I wake up with a question on my lips…

forest of eyes - leaf litter

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter

If you check out the link to this beguiling new record from Forest of Eyes you’ll notice Mark Wardlaw’s mission statement for his FoE project:

Rescuing folktronica from the blahs

After a good old listen to this collection of songs and environments, at home and on the move, I can conclude that ‘yes’ Mark has accomplished this mission.  Folktronica consider yourself rescued!

But Leaf Litter does so much more than that.  Forest of Eyes has re-engaged the underground ‘folk’ debate to such a new level he demands a fresh chapter in Electric Eden.

Sure enough you have the sound of wide skies, painful loneliness and horizontal grey sleet recorded direct to mobile phone.  Yup…you’ve got medieval instrumentation: your dulcimers, your fiddles your concertinas and of course your good old bowed psaltery.

But this very ordinary looking disc takes the sonic disturbance of folk (the jarring frequencies in voice and subject matter, the stubby finger in the ear) and overlays them with a carefully attuned appreciation of the everyday noise of life.  It does this in two distinct ways.  Firstly there are the songy-songs tinkered with gently, ribbed for your pleasure.

But a new world is opened with the longer pieces.  They tip their hat to the traditional song form of course but quickly kick its shins with a steel-toed clog.  But it’s not leg pain that keeps you awake at night; it’s the mead-based Mickey that you can’t quite forget.  The deft shift of brain waves that calls you back for more over the freezing hills.

So first the songs: the scene is set with an apocalyptic instrumental ‘Regeneration Scheme Cancelled’ – a choir of thin keening tones played on a tortured dulcimer and pipe contraction (the atomically powerful bombard perhaps) making medievalists weep with its delicious modern primitive style.

You want a murder ballad?  Well all you Nick Cave types take note to check out ‘Edward’, a cyclical tale that sets a new low for misery with its plaintive verse over a deep breathing drone.  Both beautiful and disturbing.

And the father’s lament ‘Weary Cutters’ is sung a capella with a forlornness that’s magnified by its cliff hanging ending.  There’s no happy ever after feeling… it just tails off into an agonising emptiness.

So what’s left?  These are the meaty chunks…

Riot batons crash against police shields in a direct act of provocation to open ‘Strike Breaking Bastards’ a stunning, but very grimy, very cellular song-within-a-song that seamlessly incorporates the traditional Blackleg Miner with the sort of clank you’d expect on a Prick Decay record and the aforementioned politically-tinged faux field recording.  This is brave work!

A brief noise interlude that begins ‘Poachers Killing Police’ clears the head with a sharp and creaking concertina and explosive machine-breaking, then words courtesy of North Yorkshire Police add a social commentary that’s far more powerful and thought-provoking than any Dog-on-a-string nonsense. (Baton down the hatches Ed – that’s bound to upset the punk primadonnas [Editor’s note: not fussed]).

I’m pretty sure this is turning out to be a god-damn IMPORTANT record before I even sip on the final, black psychedelic slush of ‘Mouldering Vine’.  This is an hypnotic and nauseously overlapping tune that’s as truly twisted as a Sun City Gurls ram-jam spliced with Richard Youngs’ innocent weirdness (Lake era).  The killer fade-out, like a pale sun disappearing over a damp horizon, is the perfect melancholic masterstroke.

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)

Forest of Eyes

fizzing blue stars: joe murray on ksds, acrid lactations, smear campaign & poulsen/harrison/watson/bjerga

February 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.294, edition of 66)

KSDS – Black Abba (CD-r, T-Shirt and stickers, stars, dots and the “new” junk, Starsdots016, edition of 15 or download)

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule (tape, Total Vermin, #88)

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour (tape, Total Vermin, #36)

blind dates

Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates

A note on construction: these two duos; Duncan and Claus, Paul and Sindre played live to an audience in single figures in London’s free and easy Olive restaurant last year. These remarkable first-time duos were recorded and expertly mixed by Claus Poulsen and released in an edition of 66.

Duncan and Claus serve up a hubbling, bubbling mixture of tension and texture.  Drawn-out scrapes and moans open the piece until loose cheeked ‘pops’ cut some slack and open up the landscape for Duncan’s concrete word-dub.  Meanwhile a rich acoustic ripping rolls out of Claus’ fingerless gloves as he jingles a vintage synth with his toes.  The button marked ‘sexy robot talk’ is fingered to start up a hot conversation that would make Louis and Bebe Barron blush beetroot red!  A satisfying climax is sculpted out of decaying polystyrene blocks and Viking horns – classy!

Paul and Sindre begin inside a peach, pulling out chunks of juicy flesh and dropping it noisily to the floor.  Sindre starts his onyx panther purring while Paul plays an egg-slice by caressing it with red Tudor brick.

Next they turn their attention to soundtracking a rowdy bout of Olympic wrestling.  I can clearly picture the slap of stinging-pink flesh on the crash mat and feel the astringent whiff of liniment in the nostrils.  A cub reporter gets in close with the Dictaphone but fluffs the buttons (screee…) and a disco plays, thump, thump, thump in one unfortunate head until you bail and cry ‘UNCLE!’  Chucky Cheese is hosting a sugar-frenzied birthday party for Sky Saxon and the electricity keeps cutting out like Norman Collier is controlling the Black Ark.

Then things get serious.  A sound like giant granite blocks being slowly moved around the chessboard is overtaken by Wu Tang Killer Bees (swarming) then descending into the insect-o-cutor to die spectacularly as fizzy blue stars.

All this furious invention makes me ponder the position of the improviser in 2015.  It used to be a point of pride for grey beards to master the jizzle, skin or hornpipe until they could play inside out.  Listening to a record like Blind Dates makes me remember that a collection of eggs, dried seaweed and a typewriter can transform just as spectacularly in the hands of a select goon.  Ears are of the highest importance.  Imagination is gold dust.  Courage is the epaulette earned through practice and concentration.

Hold up your heads gentlemen…you join the pantheon along with yr average Derek, Evan or Han on this blow-out piece.

black abba

KSDS – Black Abba

This is a cheeky one alright.  Mocked up to ape the Sabbath classic Master of Reality this disc by KSDS might be free of all inverted crosses but it’s still a heavy trip (man).

Fans of Kosmische-leaning keyboard action pay attention!  This is whirling like a day-glo electric galaxy.

In some places heaviness comes from clustered chords held down until grim fingers bleed.  In others (‘Cosmic Radiation’ for instance) crude beats lend weight and sound like the ghost of Jacob Marley took up the drums, rattling his rusty chains.  ‘Hammer of the North’ is as claustrophobic as an oft remembered family car journey with a similar sense of tension and restrained anger; the shifting banks of delay sculpting something almost dancefloor friendly that would sit neat and tidy in the Opal Tapes catalogue.

And just when you think you’ve got the measure of things a tune of pure loveliness (‘With Anger’) swirls like some green and pleasant church organ gone up the silk route for hash and adventure.

But it’s on ‘The Stack’ that things get totally sepia-tinted kraut.  Sounding like mid-period Cluster simple lines overlap building up layer upon layer until the tinniest beat (high hats spitting like a drowning man) keep strict tempo with a military bearing.

tv2

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule

More strung-out edge-of-consciousness skronk from that most singular of duos, Acrid Lactations.

Following in the footsteps of The Who, Iron Maiden, Kiss and Johnny Cash, Acrid Lactations release their version of that record industry classic – THE LIVE ALBUM.  For many bloated groups it was a stop-gap, a cynical filler to be snorted up between tour and studio.  But for some (hopefully the old beards named before) the live album becomes more than just a different version of the same old shit.  It’s a chance to stretch out and rediscover the energy and vim that brought you together in the first place.

This collection of jams recorded between 2012 and 2014 is so live you can chew on the humus breath of the audience.  You can sniff the peculiar brew in the air and feel the starchy knit of a woolly jumper necessary for the unheated venues of the no-audience underground.

But what do you get from the Lactations in a freewheeling live space?  I sense a willingness to push things even further in these recordings.  I mean…this is performance right?  Honest entertainment for cold hard cash yeah?  Stuart and Susan know the value of a dollar and play right up to punters letting new gasses fly.  There’s a strong brass presence with the familiar Arnot trumpet joined by a whole selection of metallic blowholes from Sue (pipe, whistle, ocarina perhaps).  An old accordion is humped and huffed with a lazy foot, tattered voices mesh, taped squalls blabber and a metallic shiny sheen shimmies.

Yet it’s the very dualism of a two piece group that makes the strongest impact here.  With only four hands between them there is a delightful limitation to what can be done.  You can only juggle with what you have eh?  Sonically there’s a ‘to-you-to-me’ that’s so much more than basic call and response…it’s an appreciation of what needs to be left out, rejected, un-attempted to concentrate on the pure reaction/expression/reaction that flows like warm milk.

Most of the recordings are high energy affairs, skipping slightly quicker than your beating heart, but on occasion a delightful interlocking calmness occurs making a high tide mark in the performance journey.

Someone draw a plimsoll line so we can see how high we all got!

Another fine Acrid tape on the goddamn essential Total Vermin.

tv1

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour

The word on the street is that this ruby red tape is based on old hip hop vinyl found in Glasgow’s charity shops.  The Fly-girls and B-boys among you will perhaps notice the play on words in the title barfing up memories of your favourite gold rope wearing sexist Tone Loc.

So can you expect block rocking beats on your boombox?  Errrrrrr…not really.

Side one starts off with what sounds like a huge bath full of agricultural slurry being thoroughly mixed…a flexible hose runs from the bottom of the steaming vat to your ears so you can better hear the liquid brown churn.

Soon metallic voices start to spar and dart (could this be our Anthony?).  The distinctive ‘schliip’ and ‘f’wip’ of  turntable melts into the dull consonants like a seasoning, bringing out the highlights, shining the vowel.

Side two opens with some percussive bumming as rusty sponges are rubbed together.  A brief spurt with some human air is soon battered like a pork medallion with swathes of medieval feedback.  Yet still the lip, teeth and tongue flip and stutter like a malfunctioning mp3 file.

This minimal judder strolls seamlessly into an altogether more hellish movement of tightly bound-up humming and rubbery percussion, stretching out across all points of the compass before ‘snick’ the sound stops and the tape pops.

Having said all that (and yes I know I was starting to become really cryptically verbose before) this is all done with a sense of reverence to the source material.  This is certainly no ‘look at those people in the past, they stoopid cuz they clothes different’ schtick but a real act of honest sonic ecology.

Recycling done with no turntables nor a microphone.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

stars, dots and the “new” junk

Total Vermin (now nearly two years since a blogspot update but Stuart is clearly still active.  Be resourceful)

the medicinal quality of northern noise, its alloys and compounds

May 13, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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posset – friction rivers (tape, Singing Knives Records)

sindre bjerga / posset – split (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#123, edition of 25)

star turbine / inseminoid / fordell research unit / xazzaz – nundungeon (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#122, edition of 25)

I, Torquemada – The Book, The Eye, The Scourge (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE106)

Oppenheimer – Oppenheimer (CD-r, molotov, 26)

oppenheimer – js/ls/ms, js/ls/ms/mks (tape, Matching Head, mh202)

Inseminoid – Vanessa Howard’s Night Light (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.022, edition of 50 or download)

posset - friction rivers

Surprisingly perhaps, given my status as long-term noise aficionado, I suffered my first ever migraine last week.  Silver worms squirmed into the top right of my peripheral vision, wriggling downwards until their glistening made it impossible to read the newspaper I was holding.  Then the left hand side of my face, upper jaw to receding hairline, seized up completely – as if a phantom of the opera mask was held clamped in place over the affected area.  The pain made me feel nauseous but, in denial about what might be occurring, I decided that a few painkillers and a lie down would be sufficient treatment.  The worst of it lasted about three hours.

During the following week my face and scalp remained ‘tight’ – the muscle under my left eye twitching like an oyster dripped with lemon juice.  Worse though was a near constant state of seasickness which had me imagining I was swaying from side to side and made it difficult to sleep, to stomach food or to concentrate on everyday tasks.  I took some time off work and visited my GP who was sufficiently concerned to prescribe some medication and insist that I saw her again if anything changed.  My Dad suffered a minor stroke when he was about my age so we all wanted to make sure my brain wasn’t exploding.

Unfortunately, things deteriorated over the weekend and I reported even more, even stranger symptoms – a sunburnt feeling on my arms and hands being the weirdest – to my GP yesterday morning and she referred me immediately to Accident and Emergency at Leeds General Infirmary for a neurological assessment.  I was at the hospital for six hours, four of which were spent waiting in A&E.  I’ve been before in the evening and seen the bloody, alcohol-soaked horrorshow but the daytime parade of elderly patients rubbing numb limbs whilst spouses laughed nervously, each trying not to let on how frightened they were, was even more upsetting.  Anyway, I eventually saw a bunch of doctors, had my noggin sliced with X-rays and got the all clear.  Nowt wrong with me that a few painkillers and a lie down won’t see to.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, it explains why I’m sat here typing instead of being out gallivanting.  Given that all has not been well between my ears, medical opinion (and common sense) suggests that I should probably not press ’em up against the speakers at Wharf Chambers.  The timing is heartbreaking as this week sees sets in Leeds from Neil Campbell, Popular Radiation, Spoils & Relics, BBBlood and RFM comrade Joe Murray as Posset.  It would, of course, be a glorious way to go out – to have my head literally explode at the peak of a Paul Watson racket-crescendo, say – but my worried wife would much rather I was around to, y’know, help with the baby n’ all that.  Thus here I am in Midwich Mansions, self-medicating my sulk with doses of noise from Tyneside, Edinburgh and Norway.

sindre and joe split

First then to my man Joe and his nom-de-gurgle Posset: a cassette monograph on the ever lovely Singing Knives and shared credit for a split with the ubiquitous Sindre Bjerga on the latter’s Gold Soundz imprint.  Between the pair of them we are treated to a symphony for spittle and poorly-lubricated door hinge, a Punch and Judy show as performed by the inmates of Charenton Asylum directed by the Marquis de Sade, a fleet of aquatic budgerigars trilling, gargling and discussing the price of kelp, trainers squeaking on a basketball court during a game played by the anthropomorphic animal croquet teams from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, a wheelie bin full of post-midnight, soggy gremlins plotting mischief and a chipped vinyl Oliver Postgate storybook LP playing forlornly on a faulty wind-up gramophone.  Occasionally in Sindre’s tracks some drone bleeds in as if his million other projects are leaking through a badly aligned tape head.  Tremendous stuff, full of verve, exuberance and humour as well as a surprising and touching emotional range.

nundungeon

Speaking of Sindre’s million other projects: Star Turbine, his excellent duo with Claus Poulsen, leads off a compilation that could well have been curated with me in mind as the ideal listener.  Four bands: Star Turbine, Inseminoid, Fordell Research Unit and Xazzaz – all favourites of mine – each donate a single 10(plus) minute track to a CD-r celebrating that line up playing the exquisitely named Nundungeon in Edinburgh earlier this year.  The Turbs are in a playful mood, bringing Sindre’s current solo style to stamp gleefully around in the space afforded by their usual spacey drone.  Inseminoid I will be coming onto shortly thus my later comments can be slotted in here: ‘______’.  Fraser Burnett of Fordell Research Unit simply cannot put a foot wrong and his confident, expressive drone work is as satisfying as remembering there is an uneaten Easter egg still in the cellar head.  Mike Simpson of Xazzaz is capable of exactly the same level of customer service but does it with added pedal-stomped, bristling loudness.  Sindre had this one for sale on his recent jaunt ’round the UK – you better drop him a line to see if it is still available.

i, torquemada - the book, the eye, the scourgeoppenheimer - molotov 26oppenheimer - mh202

Mike Simpson also plays a part, I think, in both I, Torquemada and Oppenheimer – the former being a duo of Frater J (Jamie of Wrest?  Jerome of Charles Dexter Ward?) and Frater M (Mike, probs), the latter being mainly a quartet of Jamie, Jerome, Mike and RFM heartthrob Lee Stokoe of Culver and Matching Head.  I’m sure the omniscient Scott McKeating will set me straight if I have the details wrong.  Both acts perform an industrial strength improv noise rock, or free punk, or doom skronk or harsh guitar wall or whatever – subgenre post-it notes won’t stick to this surface caked with filth.  There is a perverse relish in referencing the Spanish Inquisition or the Manhattan Project with your band name and a dark, hopeless abandonment is certainly celebrated with the music too.  It’s as morbidly beautiful as the glistening wings of a sea bird caught in an oil slick, as terrifyingly faceless as a coin eaten smooth by a corrosive fluid.  I am reminded, quite purposefully I suppose, of the famous quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer following the Trinity test:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

These Tyneside nihilists would have been amongst those laughing.  They see the big – the biggest – picture.

inseminoid - vanessa

Inseminoid, the duo of Lee Stokoe and George Proctor (of Mutant Ape and Turgid Animal), are connoisseurs of horror cinema, vintage porn and exploitative art in general but their heavy drone pieces are importantly different to the gore-splattered gusto of their colleagues above.  They curate a carefully sustained atmosphere of unease, understanding that true terror is often found not in the act but in its consequences, not in the situation but in its implications.  Repeat listens brought to mind haunting, half-remembered, dream-troubling passages from my own limited experience with horror fiction.  For example, I always found the reveal in Ringu 2 that Sadako was actually alive and sealed in the well for thirty years before dying to be as viscerally nauseating as any of the deaths portrayed.  Or how about a scene from one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood stories where a guy foolishly pokes a seemingly dead monster and has his hand bitten off?  In a moment of genius, Barker steps back from the gore for a couple of sentences to let us in on the shock and dismay this moment of idiotic bravado has caused.  We see the awful, disproportionate consequences and are appalled.  This is what Inseminoid are up to: cool, considered, implacably hostile – absolutely compelling.

—ooOoo—

Singing Knives

Gold Soundz

(Editor’s note: there are various Gold Soundz resources revealed by a quick Google/Discogs search but none seem current.  As such, I’ve linked to Sindre’s own page and you can ask him about these releases directly.)

Sheepscar Light Industrial

Oracle Netlabel

Molotov

Matching Head

wired for sound part 37: claus poulsen, lord cernunnos, ronzilla, left hand cuts off the right, bad suburban nightmare, the zero map

April 24, 2013 at 11:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Claus Poulsen – Electric Lobby (tape, Matching Head, MH192)

Lord Cernunnos / Ronzilla – Death Cap Drones (tape, Triangle Tapes, TT#5)

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right / Bad Suburban Nightmare (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM007)

The Zero Map – Distant Storms (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM010)

Claus Poulsen - Electric LobbyDeath Cap DronesLef Hand-The Zero Map

A couple of readers have asked me how I’ve managed to keep the blog posts so regular whilst working full time and sharing baby-raising duties with my awesome wife.  To be honest, I’ve surprised myself.  The first thing to say is that I definitely don’t turn to my blog when I’m bored at work.  No, I’d never do that, obviously.  Never.  Secondly, on examination, I appear to have cut away everything extraneous.  I hang with Anne and Thomas the Baby whilst multitasking domesticities, I do my best to keep up with family and friends, I go to work and I think about music.  All the other silliness with which I filled my time has fallen away.  I am knackered, of course, but in a way it has been an invigorating few weeks of priority realignment.  It turns out that this blog, my contribution, is profoundly important to me.  So on with the show, eh?

The tapes pictured above are the last of the review material that arrived around the birth of my son.  Apologies to the artists and labels for the, I hope, understandable delay.

I raised an eyebrow at the discovery of a release by Claus Poulsen on Matching Head.  Now, my love of Lee Stokoe’s legendary label is well documented and its quality could only be doubted by the cloth-eared.  However, even I have to admit that it is a fringe concern and that his tape-only, black-and-white aesthetic is for the hardcore.  Readers of this blog will be more familiar with Claus from his ‘prestige’ projects for Striate Cortex (solo and as half of the duo Star Turbine with Sindre Bjerga) and the duo Small Things on Sundays with Henrik Bagner.  The last time they were mentioned here I was talking about vinyl, no less.  Would the rough kids over at Matching Head beat him up and nick his lunch money?

No.  I needn’t have worried.  Although similar in tone to some of his other work, the new context makes perfect sense and the tape hiss just adds another layer of varnish to the puzzle box.  The Electric Lobby in question is described by an unreliable narrator.  It is furnished with FAX style brooding electronics, which are in turn upholstered with carefully detailed noise textures and discretely lit with loops of what may be field recordings of various human endeavours.  It has an expansive, unreal air of not-quite-convincing artifice.  At one point an unintelligible voice makes an announcement to the suspiciously robotic guests.  It’s as if, just after you sat down next to a guy who looks exactly like Philip K. Dick, the whole hotel is replaced by white space and a slip of paper with one word on it: ‘HOTEL.’  Very good indeed.

Death Cap Drones is a split tape shared between Lord Cernunnos (Andrew Erickson) and Ronzilla (noise scene veteran Ron Rice) and was sent on spec by the charming Marc Roberts of analog evangelists Triangle Tapes (slogan: “Analog rules.  Keep it reel”).  It is a beautiful package: oversized ‘audiobook’ box with separate plastic holder inside to stop the cassette rattling about.  The J-card is a stylish silver-on-black design.  A lot of work for a mere fifty copies – I approve wholeheartedly of this show of commitment.

The Lord Cernunnos side is a series of tracks with a kind of At the Mountains of Madness feel – like excerpts from an audio account of exploring an ancient, ruined alien city, knee deep in snow and rubble, only to find some of the machinery is still warm and working to a forgotten purpose.  At one point a member of the expedition leans against the wall and inadvertently sets off a recording of a strange percussive pattern – like hollow bamboo logs being struck.  I like this very much, the ominous atmosphere of non-specific threat is successfully maintained throughout.  As if to prove it is bad voodoo, I was listening to it on my walkman on a packed commuter bus yesterday morning and no-one would sit next to me whilst it was playing (and, yes, I had washed before leaving the house – har, har – you smartarse).

The Ronzilla side comprises two ten minute tracks of pupils-as-pinholes peaking.  A low end throb jostles with teeth-loosening treble as you try and keep the shivers in check and convince yourself that the red light apparently shining behind the closed eyelids of your sleeping friend Chris is nothing to worry about.  Just the drug – deep breath, ride it out.  This is intense, fried (to use a current favourite word on this blog) and, I suspect, not for everyone but I’ve found myself compelled to return to it several times.  The sort of oddity you want to poke with a stick, just to see what happens.

Finally, we have two tapes from Adam Beckley’s label Armed Within Movement.  The packages are standard: tapes in cassette boxes with black-and-white illustrated J-cards, but no less pleasing for that.  The AWM collection has a satisfying shelf identity.

The music of Left Hand Cuts Off The Right, known to his mum as Robbie Judkins, reminds me of the cassette culture underground that I first came to know and love in the late 1990s (Rob Galpin’s ‘Sunny Days Out’ springs to mind, for example).  Tracks seem to be composed by accumulation of elements, or to coalesce around a sound or an idea – like an egg poaching in boiling water – and we are presented with a snapshot of where the process had got to when Robbie leant on the record button with his elbow.  As such, some of it feels a bit sketchy but it is never less than charming and repeat listens reveal it to be finely balanced, constructed with a chef’s understanding of its ingredients.  A whimsical reaction is hard to resist but doesn’t feel quite right so I’ll limit it to this: the track ‘Habibi’ sounds like an increasingly frantic colony of budgerigars attempting to perform a tune by hovering over a marimba and dropping nuts on it.

The side by Bad Suburban Nightmare, a solo project of Dan Hrekow, begins with ‘Drone Heartbreak’, a slow-picked, desert guitar meditation.  Its minimalism and discipline provide the grateful listener with a contemplative space, cocooned inside a soulful, emotionally resonant atmosphere.  The second of the two tracks, ‘Alchemy’, is genuinely strange: a series of distant explosions take their own sweet time to devastate the next valley over, or perhaps it is the first track again but heard underwater, Ben Braddock style, at the deep end of a swimming pool, or perhaps, given the title, this is what the chemical reactions might sound like if we had molecular microphones and could record lead transmuting into gold.  Mesmerising.

Finally we have Distant Storms by The Zero Map.  I notice that Uncle Mark over at radiofreemidwich’s sister blog Idwal Fisher was grumpily dismissive of this tape a few posts ago.  I can only assume that his faithful manservant had allowed Mark’s glass of Manzanilla to warm to room temperature and the resulting fury led to this lashing out.  ‘Rudderless’ indeed, I ask you!  Alas, it falls to me to set the record straight.  I am a fan of Chloe and Karl’s work and I remain so after hearing this because the fact of the matter is: it is good.

The side long ‘Champagne Awakening’ opens magisterial – all raspberry dawns over the Nile as drug-addled dignitaries take river cruises in opulent barges.  The atmosphere of decadent possibility is tainted when the Pharaoh takes one drink too many and has a vision of the mechanised future.  The air remains full of spices and aromatics but the scene is now, in her head, overwhelmed with searing noise and engine rhythms.  Out of this a tropical guitar emerges and ties it all up with a foot-on-the-monitor feedback conclusion.  Rock!

Side B features four tracks that slide into one another so I’ll treat them as a whole containing different movements.  We begin with some agitated, swirling, popping electronics accompanied with some plucked acoustic guitar and non-verbal vocalisations.  The plucking becomes more purposeful and is augmented with some filtered… what?  The other instrumentation is hard to place: horns, keys, violin?  I can’t tell, it’s hypnotic.  This builds into an improv raga fury over a spiralling, descending roar until we get to a passage of totally balls-out (sorry Chloe – you know what I mean) psychedelic noise.  A low-end engine rumble revs up into a fuzz whine over skittering electronics, sometimes spacey, sometimes subterranean.  There is a calm eye within the maelstrom which we see glimpses of occasionally as the storm tears holes in the clouds.  I imagine Chloe and Karl (and Peter Herring who features on two tracks) sitting there, cross legged, facing each other but with eyes closed, just willing all this into existence.  Cool, eh?

Matching Head

Triangle Tapes

Armed Within Movement

Claus Poulsen

Lord Cernunnos

Ronzilla

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right

Bad Suburban Nightmare

The Zero Map

grins, nods, shrugs shoulders and points: small things on sundays, ap martlet, helicopter quartet

February 3, 2013 at 10:53 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Small Things on Sundays – Searching For (vinyl album, Skrat Records, skr-011)

ap martlet – a tabletop mountain (self-released download)

Helicopter Quartet – Helicopter Quartet (self-released CD-r or download)

small things on sunday - searching forap martlet - a tabletop mountainhelicopter quartet

Regular readers will know I am sometimes prone to flights of whimsy.  Daniel Thomas – friend, comrade, astute cultural commentator – went as far as to coin the neologism ‘haylerise’ (ha! I just clicked on ‘add to dictionary’ when the spellchecker underlined it!) which he defines as:

Verb: the spontaneous creation and attribution of a narrative as a response (usually involuntary) to an audio recording.

I was so touched and flattered by this amusement that I promised myself that I’d never be so vain as to mention it on this blog.  Ah.  Oops-a-daisy.

Anyway, whilst Dan’s joke does describe my reaction sometimes (indeed my response to certain artists is a kind of ‘narrative synaesthesia’), it isn’t always the case.  Occasionally something is so engaging, so entertaining, such a good fit to my taste that the only option when it is over is to immediately press play again.  Never mind making up stories – expending mental effort in that direction is wasting energy that could be better spent just enjoying what I am hearing.

When I finally escape this reverie I find myself in an evangelical mood: wow, I think, people gotta hear this!  But paradoxically these releases are often the most difficult to write about.  All I want to do is grin, maybe throw some horns during the heavy bits and make that tip-of-thumb-touching-tip-of-forefinger-whilst-nodding gesture that means ‘yeah, OK!!’ during the beautiful bits.  I want to play it to someone else and watch as their eyes open comically wide and they start grinning and nodding too.  It’s a bit visual for a wordy blog like this.  I suppose what I can do here is implore you thus: folks, if you take anything I say seriously then perhaps you should check at least one or two of these items out.  Look: I’ve got my earnest, sincere face on and everything.

First up is Searching For, the new vinyl album by Small Things on Sundays.  These guys and their label – Skrat Records – are impressively organised: this was sent to me a month before its official release date (19th January) with a helpful full page press release that I’ll be trying not to crib from too much.  Those with eagle-eyes and elephant-memories will have noticed the format is ‘vinyl’ and will remember the last time I was sent something on this heritage medium (LPs from Molotov/Fuckin’ Amateurs) I had to guess at the contents due to my turntable not working.  Well, since then it has had a stern talking to, has been threatened with the business end of a screwdriver and has grudgingly agreed to cooperate.  Thus I’ve given this platter multiple spins, even with my beloved wife in the room.

Yes, you read that right: officially sanctioned by the whole Hayler household and I reckon the baby will dig it too.  The duo of Henrik Bagner and Claus Poulsen have garnered favourable reviews here before (Small Things: here, Claus solo: here, Claus as part of Star Turbine: here) but this is probably the lightest and most accessible of their recordings that I have heard.  Is it noise?  Yes, of an ambient, airy, spacious nature.  Does this mean it is insubstantial?  Absolutely not.  It has been constructed with charm and love and the interplay of the various elements (press release sez: “The basic sounds on the LP are derived from live improvisations, using turntables, bowed guitar, toy keyboard, viola and laptops.”) is subtle and sophisticated.  Technically it is detailed, balanced and yet unselfconscious and transparent.  It can burble happily as background drift or, should the volume be tweaked upwards, immerse you in its slow-moving fluidity.  Very lovely.

Next is a tabletop mountain, the latest chewy treat freely downloadable from ap martlet, the solo project of Dave Thomas (otherwise to be found sparring with Daniel Thomas in Hagman).  This one is an entire Summer’s day spent fried on acid – getting sunburnt, eating ice cream, laughing at bees – squashed down to a delirious ten minute summary.  Or perhaps the orgiastic climax of a drunken party held by a buzzing gang of animate hairclippers, come alive Toy-Story-style after the barber has gone home for the night.

I remain amazed that Dave just sneaks these modest masterworks of electrical wrenching and tweaking onto Soundcloud.  If I ever came up with stuff as good as this then I would organise a parade with elephants in feathered headdresses.  My dream would be to find someone with the vision (and money) to release, say, four of Dave’s best 10-15 minute Soundcloud tracks as a 12″ double pack – mastered in muscular fashion on vinyl as thick as manhole-covers – then batter the world over the head with it until it topped the best-of-the-year lists in every publication from radiofreemidwich to Total Carp Magazine.  C’mon, patrons!

Finally, there is the self-titled debut by Helicopter Quartet, the duo of Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synth) and Michael Capstick (guitar, bass) augmented by their gigantic collection of effects pedals. This is available as a donations welcome/free download from that Bandcamp or a snazzy CD-r made up to look like a dinky vinyl LP (pictured above) from the band in person. It has four tracks, lasts about 33 minutes and is awesome.

I was lucky enough to be on the bill with Chrissie at the Hogwash gig where I played my final pre-fatherhood midwich set (coming soon: more about forgets who also played that night).  I was mesmerised by her command of her kit: violin and a bewildering array of effects pedals (about 20 by my reckoning).  The shifts in tone from high-modernist drone-screech to grime-caked sludge metal to wistful, ambient folk were so assured they suggested rigorous rehearsal yet so fluid as to seem entirely improvised.  Fuck, I thought, gobsmacked: follow that.

(Aside: Chrissie’s recorded solo stuff is as good.  I wholeheartedly recommend, for example, Outside which is freely downloadable from her own Bandcamp page.  It is a collection of augmented field recordings made around Leeds and is an engaging, accomplished, delight.)

Chasing things up after the show led to me downloading the Helicopter Quartet album from Bandcamp and falling in love with it in the heady, two-week, whirlwind romance that followed.  There are passages as austere and fragile as the most accomplished 90s post-rock, there are moments of abrasive heaviness deep enough to take down anything Swans are up to nowadays, but most importantly it is thick with beauty.  Not anodyne prettiness, not superficial attractiveness but beauty as awe-inspiring force of nature.

By the time Friday 25th January rolled around, the date of the next HQ gig, I was a fan.  As I excitedly waited for the bus into town the weather was inclement but not distractingly so.  By the time I got to Wharf Chambers, however, it had deteriorated to white-out blizzard.  Sadly, this occurring during the crucial deciding-whether-or-not-to-leave-the-house hours led to the gig being poorly attended.  This was disappointing, of course – I imagine money was lost – but even if the room had been packed out (as it should have been you lazy good-for-nothings!  What’s a little snow compared to ART, eh?) I think my experience of their set would have been just as latched-on and unmediated.  They were terrific.

Despite also enjoying the ethereal folk of headline act Lost Harbours, I decided to leave a few minutes early on the off chance of getting a bus.  The weather remained awful but, amazingly, they were still running.  God bless public transport.  The ride – surrounded by giddy drunk people, mostly on the wrong side of the road, at speeds of around five miles per hour – was a pleasant blur and I did something that I haven’t done in years: listened to the band I’d just been to see on my walkman as I journeyed home.  My righteous determination to attend has been rewarded handsomely.

Here’s the Bandcamp link again.  A copy of the CD-r can be borrowed from the UML.

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