magnetic stones: joe murray on lost harbours and common objects

May 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun (tape, Cruel Nature Records, CN040, edition of 50 or download)

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines (2 x CD, Another Timbre, at85x2)

lost harbours - sun

Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun

Shove your hipster Mordant Music/Boards of Canada/Giallo soundtracks etc.  This is the real deal with a wryd feel: a skinned vole left on a post by the farmer, the lonely boom of the fells when a second set of shallow footprints appear next to your own.

Wind-blown tape-loops wobble over grey-sky synths and chilly field recordings.  The mood is respectful, not quite sombre, but with a doesn’t-suffer-fools gait; a rustic Culver in a Barbour jacket, the tang of rich dubbin flickering ’round the nostrils.

With no whizz, bang, look-at-me theatrics this is listen for a long haul.  I needed to take my time, to let it fill up my earholes with black moss.

And, of course, the rewards are many.  The super-deep richness is an almost tactile thing.  It throbs in and out of phase like a sleeping beast, gently massaging the air on either side of room, making things shimmer like slinky minx graphite.  ‘Rings’ even manages to open up a small tear in the hiss to let through a galleon drawing stars in it’s wake.

But it’s the vocal tracks that make this an essential release.  ‘Idumea’, written by Charles Wesley in 18th Century is sung in that gentle voice we reserve for the very young and the very old.  A natural and unaffected true-voice that meshes entirely with the loop/synth/electronic backing that, in an earlier time, might have been a barren fiddle, earlier still – the gush of the wind.

The final track, ‘The Lovers’, is a traditional Orkney tune.  This time the true-voice is overlapped and woven around itself, dubbed and floating.  The vocal lines get more and more intertwined and complex until a static machine tunes them out, and all we are left with is the huss of magnetic stones.

It’s no surprise this banger has sold out at source (although you may find a copy at Lost Harbours live shows) but that doesn’t mean you should stop reading right now.  The download lasts forever right?

common objects

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines

Hurtling through the Yorkshire countryside with my snazzy new headphones, the pre-breakfast sun is already sharp and hot.  Common Objects become my perfect travelling companion as I settle down for almost 100 minutes of gritty group-think.

There are two lengthy live sets from these Heath Robinsons offered here.  Disc One – ‘Cup & Ring’ is a composed piece, realised via a graphic score whipped up by Rhodri Davies – beard wearer, harp supremo and all round good egg – based on ancient cup and ring marks.  Carved by prehistoric peoples these gnarly scratches in the rock have no discernible purpose.  Could they be border markers, religious offerings to the wolf in the sky or early communications?  Hey, I don’t know… this is not that sort of blog buddy.  But what is clear is that they have formed a rallying point for Common Objects, a most singular group made up of the already mentioned Rhodri, Angharad Davies (violin), John Butcher (saxophone) and Lee Patterson (amplified devices).

This being a cadre of first-class improvisers the sounds are ingenious (sick whistles blend into viscous burrs to finish off crumbling varnish) and carefully placed.  And it’s the winding up and release that’s the thing; the slow shift and shuffle that conveys a compelling narrative arc.

I revel in the rich peaks, plump as a Ptarmigan – converging hiss, burr and bummmnnn nestled next to a haunted pause.  But as my train judders shakily towards Leeds I sink deeper into the genteel placement of texture: burlap sack, waxy candle and discarded orange peel.

My mind drifts to these hairy caveman carvers (my image of the caveman is pretty much based on 1950’s ladybird books so admittedly probably not 100% historically accurate) and I reckon they would dig this kind of music.  Why?  Well it sounds vital, honest and, in a very good way, obvious.

You can see how the music is made with lip and finger. A vibrating gadget attached to strings sounds like a vibrating gadget, a set of short, popping breaths on the reed sound like short popping breaths.  A solitary twanged spring sounds like…you get my drift yeah.  As I drift further into the city the pops and drones translate into blue-black clouds skimming over a full moon, bullrush rustle and a toad’s wet burp.

Disc Two’s ‘Repose and Vertigo’, a group improvisation, is fizzier and bubbling with ideas; rich like calligraphy and clever as Braille.

I’m listening at home now, covers pulled up to my chin, when the violin takes centre stage (about 10 mins in) the sloppy plops and trills, pings and scratches sound like hornets swarming, foaming with  life.  But this business is answered with a gong-like recess, all keening pipes and slack string sawing.  Pregnant drones start to push up from the seabed toppling hastily-erected cities constructed of coppery small change.

Later a Hong Kong traffic jam is felt through steamy windows, your fingers sticky with hot Pork Bun.  A librarian type plays that new Sunn O))) record high up on the 33rd floor and your strain your ears to hear above seabird caw-caw and TV static.

The final third of this disc is a dream sequence for some hardboiled detective. It’s obviously a stakeout scene (a dissonant background furze punctuated by sharp sound sprigs) and superbly matches that combination of tension and irritability readers will associate with overnight close surveillance.

Eventually the disc whirrs to a skittering stop and within minutes the vivid hallucinations have begun to fade. Good golly; Common Objects play music to look at.


Cruel Nature

Another Timbre

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.