moderate hiss and wobble included at no extra charge: sky high diamonds on dunning, webster, underwood, rutger hauser and ian stonehouse

February 28, 2017 at 7:14 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Dunning, Webster, Underwood / Rutger Hauser  – Viol of Acetate (The Lumen Lake)

Ian Stonehouse – Voyage en Kaléidescope (The Lumen Lake)



Dunning, Webster, Underwood / Rutger Hauser  – Viol of Acetate (The Lumen Lake) limited edition split cassette

The recording of ‘Viol of Acetate’ took place on May 2016 at Café Oto, which was a night hosted by the independent London label Adaadat and is a documented journey of six live improvisations. The Lumen Lake is an artist-run label for new and adventurous music from South-East London.

On the A side, the artists Graham Dunning, Colin Webster and Sam Underwood are “drawing on free improvisation, drone metal, jazz and noise.” On the flip, Rutger Hauser is blending the digital with the acoustic to perform improvised and experimental rock music.

Dunning, Webster and Underwood deliver the sounds of a baritone sax (Webster) and a tuba (Underwood) woven into a tapestry of human voices generated through a digital backdrop (Dunning).

[Editors note:  Graham explained the digital backdrop is “actually all produced with analogue things: a turntable, some dubplates of field recordings, some spring reverbs.”]

A call and response relationship develops between the two instruments, which are not offering traditional musical interludes, but are wrestling to find their place within the backdrop of industrial and urban living. The first track, ‘Stabharvesttreasure’ emanates a tribal feel, suggestive of a procession or a dance, and a key change resonates with the call and response effect, lifting the breathy sounds up and out, whilst pausing and searching for a reply, which is always returned.

The second track, ‘Gutsplankslime’ brings more narrative meanderings of a conversational nature between the two instruments. Again, the dialogue is non harmonious and it is interesting to appreciate how these instruments have been repurposed for these explorations. Peaks, dips and tail offs appear to mimic human vocal interactions and create sounds that could incite feelings of disturbance and discomfort. At times the breaths, as released through the instruments, are delivered like beats, shorter and ‘poppier,’ and their bitty presence emphasises the longer drawn out sounds, which come close to shrieking at times.

The third track, ‘Crustlocuskopf’ is also conversational, it enters into its own diatribe of vituperation, fighting to be heard, one sequence of sounds overlaying the other, emanating squeaky balloon noises that could be uncomfortable and producing a static sound, with an intriguing ‘nails down a chalkboard’ effect. A blend of long drawn out intonations with shorter tip-tapping interactions provides a dialogue of events. Natural sounds are also incorporated as a storm breaking is indicated in the digital backdrop whilst at times the instruments mimic low vibrations akin to bees, wasps and flies buzzing gently around in a borborygmus rhythm.

A formulaic development utilising the leitmotif is mirrored throughout Side A, and the applause of a live audience clapping appreciatively over the silence at the end of each track reminds the listener of the context of a performative ‘liveness,’ which provides an atmospheric quality. Tracks A1 through to A3 entice deep listening as the attention shifts throughout each track from background to predominant foreground sounds then back again with a continuous pendulum motion between the two.

Over to Side B and I find Rutger Hauser performing ‘Ladders Over Ladders’ where birdsong and drums interact, evolving into a spacey vibe, that is reverb intense, emanating echoes and providing a rhythmical sense of distance. This is a strangely melancholic track that becomes more and more cosmic as it disintegrates bit by bit. Haunting tuba sounds penetrate, and human voices indicate their presence, with the occasional digital suggestion of ‘foggy’ non-distinct words.  The smothered human voice is enveloped in sound and now transcends the natural landscape that was initially indicated at the opening of the track. Chaos is implied but never truly takes over as sounds diminish into a breakdown of harmonious musical communications. Scratchy noise and generic hip-hop sounds suggest a further patternation under the drum rhythms and instrumental developments. This is a captivating live improvisation that peaks at numerous times and encourages all of the varying sounds to audibly break through before being plunged back into the sound pool.

‘The Hundred And Fifty Or So Dogs’ re launches the listener straight back into a cosmic and spacey atmosphere although the opening notes inspire the tuba-baritone communications again. For me, the most noticeable sounds are reminiscent of a childhood TV animation in that they are definitively Clangeresque. The drums are the threads of this piece and interact with the barely audible astronautically laced voices. Melancholic melodies are indicated, never become fully formed, but left hanging, stunted. The track dissolves into silence very slowly and delicately, occasionally challenging to re emerge.

A different change of mood kicks in with ‘-n-n-n-n-n’ where a psychedelic and potentially Krautrock environment imbued with depth and volume dismantles itself alongside a punk rock vocal. This is a high energy, cathartic and self-evaluative track that the Café Oto audience clearly appreciates.

This 6 track album is a tacit reminder of the enchanting context of live improvisation and is an exquisite blend of sonic alliterations that spin from static spitting sounds that crackle like fire and offer a primitive relapse into an ancestral past, whilst merging synchronously with a modern day industrial landscape, where new interpretations of instruments murmur and collide with an alchemic force.


Ian Stonehouse – Voyage en Kaléidescope  (The Lumen Lake) limited edition cassette


For Stonehouse the world is fundamentally sonic and this premise is absorbed into his album, which takes the listener on a variety of sound walks through an urban landscape. He addresses the idea of re-sampling sonic ready-mades and incorporating them, one after another into a steady stream of visual identities for the listener to experience. ‘Vitriol’ opens the album into a looping system of decontextualised sound segments derived from a combination of natural and manmade environments. This track very much predicts the audio trail that lies ahead.

“If you would like to be the next sample in my life leave me a message after the tone.”

‘Annihilation of the Ogres’ entices with a musical introduction, corrupting into disparate sounds, both musical and non musical, then merging again with a sonic landscape of static fizz, distortion and decomposing structures for at least 5 minutes, and until the listener is left immersed in a puddle of white noise.

‘Dog Morrow’ begins with a definitive sense of walking and physical motion. Pavements, walls, footsteps, dogs and passersby are all present through sonic suggestion.

‘The Three’ offers a discourse on the state of being entirely out of control within noise, like someone obtrusively and loudly messing with incoherent radio stations in a confined space. Static fuzz plays an important role in anticipating a sense of disintegration, as does the abrupt denouement of the voice sample.

Track 5, ‘Solve et Coagula’ is an ironic invitation into a world of the mechanical techno beat. Initially it feels familiar, structured and coherent, paced at a faster bpm than any of the preceding tracks, but it gathers an enormous intensity, and serves as a reminder of the impossibility of this kind of musical composition from ordinary instruments. This track can throw the listener into a divergent thinking tangent about its place in this collection.

‘Sunday 12.27 in Soho,’ unravels itself in a documentary style. Stonehouse invites public voices to be recorded and then sampled. How participants interact with his proposition is delightfully captured, their confusion and their mockery is among the diverse samples. Eventually, the dissolution of voices fragments into natural sounds leading to a resolution for the track and culminating in the loss of the voice entirely. The sounds of rain, a potential storm breaking, which emerges and then later re emerges, highlights a powerful juxtaposition between nature and man, which is present throughout. This track appears to sum up what Stonehouse seems to be mapping, a disparate place for the human voice and a decaying sense of self within the natural and urban soundscape.

Track 7, ‘Allegory of the Fountain,’ offers a nostalgic dancehall vibe of looped swing samples that eloquently build. Yes, this is music, traditional music even, but it has little sense of place or time in this album context, revealing a clever play on words on how music can be used to transcend the urban sounds of everyday life.

‘Moribund Deck Five Moon’ offers a blend of both industrial and musical sounds, mainly harmonious and rhythmically concordant (initially), but the potential for breaking down, sound by sound, to disrupt and corrupt any sense of place is always present. Zig-zagging and bubbling effervesce with little sound hierarchy or sequencing, and this track begins to lose all sense of personal space. It feels somehow socially inappropriate, so has therefore located and claimed its very own disparate place and spontaneous sense of belonging right here.

‘Muted in the Broken Unresponsive Garden’ opens with an already decomposing narrative sample, a story mildly threatens to unfold but Stonehouse won’t allow that. The disintegration is rapid; there is little opportunity to feel comfortable with this track as it reels backwards and forwards into various contexts that hint at a sense of musical and historical documentary.

‘Erasure of Birds’ presents a sonic idea of a record playing, alongside a distant flurry of singing birds. A beat kicks in through the ‘stuckness’ of the record, offering a sense of rhythm through its repetitive pacing and opens very gradually into a stronger more recognisable beat. Yes, there is a context here, albeit momentary. Each beat becomes gently more mechanical and it is hard not to relax into this sense of rhythm and time. This is music, of sorts, that flows, almost, for 8 minutes. But, the listener is caught in a wheel, the spokes of circular motion that keep brushing past at many rpm and demonstrating how this track has complete control of its own evolution. Urban sounds are experienced aesthetically, as continuous yet dislocated, in an identifiable musical rhythm.

This album offers a sonically collaged journey through a discordant and un/familiar world of non hierarchical sounds, implying that there will always be a hint of musical foundation to reach for, but that it’s definitely best not to get too comfortable with that idea. The album was released on 12th December 2016 and limited cassette and digital versions are available.  Ian Stonehouse is also a member of the improvising experimental rock band Rutger Hauser.

The Lumen Lake


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