woke up with a frog on my tongue: rfm on aftawerks, sophie cooper, yol, ocean floor, anla courtis, robert ridley-shackleton, the slowest lift & f.ampism

November 23, 2017 at 7:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa)

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes)

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion)

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club)

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF)

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus)

 acid waxa

Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

Now I may not know my 808 from my 303 but what I can tell you is that this tape is what I’ve been reaching for when I need to get shit done.

Putting the bins out?  Check.

Going to argue with the teachers at the kids open day? Check.

Completing that application for planning permission?  Check.

For each domestic stretching task I’ve found Aftawerks’ no-nonsense squelch, jaunty computerised bass and pinprick precise beats the perfect mental and physical workout.

I’m in no way qualified to review this with any sense of where it fits into things historically.  Some of it sounds like incidental music on Miami Vice, some of it sounds like the tunes kids blast at the back of the bus with extremely complicated hi-hat and clave patterns.

But whatever it is I’m bouncing and moving.

So…am I cool now?

sophie cooper solo

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

How low can you go?

On this tape Sophie Cooper goes Mariana Trench deep into the wild and weird world of the orchestra’s most misunderstood instrument – the trombone.

Sophie’s ‘bone is not played for yuks.  No sir.  Her Avant Garde drone credentials are writ large on a ‘Tribute to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s OCEANS’.  But at the same time the farting bluster that comes naturally from hot brass is not shied away from.  In fact it is welcomed in a series of breathy improvisations that notch up extra points for unknown textures and intense control.

At times the brass guffs are joined with real-life human breath totally getting that ‘soft and intense’ vibe Miles perfected on Kind of Blue.  On ‘What the fuck was he thinking?’ trumps turn to growls and growls turn to gasps and I’m transported into a world of leather lungs and wax paper aioli, gently expanding and contracting – the rasping hiss as rich in life in a succulent rock pool.

Delicate sound manipulation enters the frame occasionally with ‘Push the Button’s’ double-tracked horns locking together into some hefty warble tone.  A pot is twisted and it gets fuzzier and hissier until it reaches Michio Kurihara’s mythical bliss-out proportions.

As it stands, with its site specific jams and improvisations, this tape would be a winner.  But add to this the sweet narrative charm and you’ve got a keeper, a real put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er.

The fabled dial-a-bone sessions link recordings together and are presented unedited and raw…the phone rings, Sophie answers, she asks what kind of jam the caller wants (loud/soft, short/long) and, BBBBUUURRRRRRRRRRMMMMM, she delivers.  Classic trombone action.

Who you gonna call?

yol on off

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes) Cassette

SIDE ON: JUST FIRE. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE. FEEDBACK SCOURS CLEAN. YOU DID A CRAP WHEELIE IN THE PARK. GIBBER G-G-GIBBER. ROAR AND RUUR AND RAAR. THROAT IS SORE BUT CAN’T STOP. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE.  SSSSSSSSQUEAL – BURN IT CLEAN / CUT IT OUT.  FIRE, FIRE, FIRE ON A LORRY. SCRATCH/BUFFFFFFGGG. SILENCE. TWO DOGS. BACKGROUND CHUNTER ON A TAPE OR SOMETHING. TWO FAKE PLASTIC ROTTWEILERS.  BUMMMMGGGGG—AWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THERE?  EEEEEEEEEEE…SILENCE-CLICK.

SIDE OFF. PROTEST WIG. UGHHH. SCRAPE/SCRAPE. UHHH-GHUUUR. DISEMBODIED WIG HEAD ON THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH.  SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET.  UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK.

ocean floor

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion) CD, Cassette and digital album

These four sublimely beautiful modular synth pieces from one Mr Aonghus Reidy simply ooze out of the speakers like a ripple of ripe camembert.

Opener ‘Airglow’ reverberates round our domestic front room with a poise that turns our little lounge into some ebony-tiled basilica.  A devastating presence wearing the monk’s cowl of humility.  ‘Shadows’ follows with gentle runs of oscillation that wouldn’t be out of place in a schools and colleges broadcast from 1983.

Things wind down a little with ‘Night’ – shimmering like moonlight on a vast lake the melody moving so slowly it almost collapses.  And things are finally put to bed (Ed – groan!) on ‘Slumber’ a real-life lullaby; in equal parts sweetness and sinister.

It’s pretty.  It’s lovely.  What’s your problem punk?

anla courtis

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States) Cassette and download

Clipped and ribbed thribblings.

Yes it’s the bongo drum – beloved of the beatnik and unwelcome midnight-jammer.  But here Alan/Anla Courtis takes the hippie staple and drowns it in several pints of ‘chunng-fhhfhhung’ stretching each dull thud into a warm tropical front.  Elastic thumps collect in wildly unstable clouds; popping and clicking like plastic thunder.

Waxy rolls and smears. 

Two fifteen minute pieces focus on different approaches.  ‘Concept Bongo I’ concentrates on the short-lived resonance that exists in the negative space these drums are designed to hold.  Vibration is carefully controlled and limited to strict, neat parameters.  The tables are turned on ‘Concept Bongo II” a freer, looser jam, sloshed with reverb sounding exactly halfway between an afternoon with Steve Reich and Faust’s most blunted tapes experiments.

The sound of a million blunt fingertips gently striking pigskin. 

The palette of sounds is, understandably, quite limited to these thrilling pops and clicks but this familiarity make me smile nostalgically, like uncovering a well-earned scar when it’s warm enough to wear shorts.

Can I say Bongo Fury?  Guess I just did.

Robert Ridley

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club) 3”CD-r

The Cardboard Prince is pretty much unstoppable on this brief funk workout.  I’m guessing there’s some new kit involved here as RRS sounds deep, heavier and more, well…sexie on this release.

Enough of the preamble – where’s the beef?

  • ‘Eye Just Want 2’ – Chart-ready Brit-funk with indistinct vocals (such a shame I can’t make them out) and an irrepressible squid-beat spurting electric ink.
  • ‘Dancing Under the Table’ – A classic RRS instant composition with a riff on jam sandwiches and death(e), the coiling bass line gradually tweaked till it cries Uncle.
  • ‘Cheater’ –This one is the cream of a particular creamy crop. Lyrics sound like Cheap Trick!  Lyrics sound totally RRS!!  The squelching bass line needs to be wrung out it’s so darn wet.  Many pots are twisted and drum-fills are added with wild abandon as RRS opens his heart to curse all the cheaters out there.

 slowest lift lp

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF) Vinyl LP

This knock-out tag team: Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley (AKA The Slowest Lift) find their spiritual home on veteran freek-retreat VHS for their debut long-player.

Let’s recap.  The Slowest Lift excels in duality.  Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.

The prospect their heaving and groaning fuzz will descend into splintered chaos is always hinted at but generally inches back from the brink guided by a warm sonic-sirocco rebalancing the actors like perfectly carved chess pieces.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is classy but still a psychic bruiser yeah?

Opener ‘Crystal Fracture’ re-imagines something like TOTO’s Africa decamped to the Devil’s Causeway and played by colourful walkers on sharp sticks.

I’m always intrigued by that songs-named-after-the-band/album-titles-named-after-the-band type of thing. Am I to assume that this song ‘The Slowest Lift’ is a mission statement?  A brief track to distil the essence of Cooper/Bradley? If so I can report back T.S.L. are a devastating cocktail of the fizzy and the smeared – think carbonated grease!

Strung-out lines of gruffly-tempered fluff skittering in a beam of yellow sunlight next…it’s ‘Bank Holiday Tuesday’ – a slow boil.  The birth of casserole-core if you will.  ‘Preset’ has the swagger of some undiscovered Ulver back-catalogue gem; cascades of VU-guitar strummage while Transylvanian horns duck and parry.

A lazy hiss of a harmonium fidgets with those darn tachyons shimmering in and out of phase on ‘Hi from the Skyline Swim’. The voice, relatively en clair is delivering a warning of sorts.  Watch out for the grandfather paradox perhaps?

Taking a breather I think what I like most is the unpolished air to this remarkable record.  The ever-so-slightly discernable patina of tape hiss when another instrument adds to the mix, it’s the sound of unfinished business.  ‘EV Plus’ is a great case in point – like two found recordings laid over each other.  T.S.L. make like archaeologists digging for treasure that their painstaking research assures them is just beneath their feet.

Song title of the month, ‘Extreme Cops’ is a sculpted meringue, chemically complex but light as air, ‘The Chauffer’ similarly buoyant   Compare and contrast to closer ‘Punched’.  A concrete overcoat, worn as you sink beneath the dock of the bay.

The Slowest Lift dog-ear a new chapter in ye olde booke of English free-mind collectives.

“SHhvvvHHHuuuhhHHHHHSshsshSShshsSH”

ampism_sleeve

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus) Vinyl LP

A lovingly prepared Petri dish of ripe exotic beans sprouting quivering tendrils that wrap round my pink toes.

A slushy bubbling and melting ripple permeate each of these nine itchy pieces.  Each song a study in Technicolor; detail hanging heavy with Nag Champa and waxy banana leaves.

‘The Loosest Caduceus’ shudders like muscle spasms while ‘Sand/Blood/Glass’ makes me shave my head and begin a Bic-pen trepanation.  An over-reaction from an excited listener you think?  I challenge you not to seep between these vinyl grooves in search of forbidden knowledge. Me?  I napped and woke up with a frog on my tongue.  There’s no escape from the cramps!

But lovers of gritty drama and kitchen sink realism will not be disappointed by ‘Absolute Beyond Ill’ as fucking real as ‘tripping’ down the steps of the police station.

Get merry and totally bronzed with AMPISM!   Essential.

STOP PRESS: Dwellers of Sheffield ! You can watch f.ampism and a whole host of other RFM faves LIVE on Saturday 2nd December at  Regather  57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BUThis all-dayer contains Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercey, Historically Fucked, Katz Mulk, Sippy Cup, Giblet Gusset, Acrid Lactations & Joincey, Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison and some joker named Posset.  Doors open at 3.30pm and the howling starts at 4pm.  Kids welcome.  More info here.

Acid Waxa

Crow versus Crow Bandcamp

Soundholes

Aphelion Editions

Coherent States

Cardboard Club / Hissing Frames

VHF Records

Ikuisuus

-ooOOoo-

The RFM tag team special: Chrissie Caulfield on Vera Bremerton and Joe Posset on Stuart Chalmers and Three Eyed Makara

September 3, 2017 at 8:20 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Vera Bremerton – Songs of Apostasy EP (Self Release)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No 4 (Chocolate Monk)

Three Eyed Makara – Moonmilk Roof (Crow Versus Crow)

vera bremerton

Vera Bremerton – Songs of Apostasy EP (Self Release) CD and digital album

I first encountered Vera Bremerton when I was looking for people to play a gig with my band CSMA in London a couple of years ago. Vera’s submission was an early one but I knew at once she’d got the job. Here was someone with high-end musical skills in composition and performance, and theatricality in spades.

The performance she gave that day was electrifying (I heartily recommend the video I made of it) and I was sorry that she didn’t have anything recent on Bandcamp for me to review for the good readers of this blog. There were releases on her Bandcamp site, but they all dated from quite a bit earlier than I was writing for.

Well now she has a new EP out. And it’s as amazing as I’d hoped, though sadly it’s only 3 tracks long. The solution to this is, of course, to play it twice.

Tracks 1 and 4 open with a quiet industrial beat which draws you in gently before hitting you flat in the face. It’s total distorted headbanging stuff, and this is before the vocals have even started. Once they do, the two voices (both Bremerton of course) provide a fascinating and disturbing narrative. There’s the powerful, diabolical alto voice and the gently, tortured soprano who disappears from the song totally, and disturbingly, in the middle.

The thing this most reminds me of is Schnittke’s Faust Cantata. The tonality is of a similar style as is the two opposing voices being played off against each other – sadly the great man was not so much into industrial beats. The double-voice effect is something Vera does amazingly well live as you will have seen if you took my advice and watched the video I mentioned above.

This is Amy Winehouse teamed up with Björk in Scrapheap Challenge (don’t ask me who they’re playing against, probably Bananarama, who stand no chance) and it’s utterly glorious.

Tracks 2 and 5 are a less frenetic affair. I do love the opening to this, to me it sounds like a household object being tortured. This eases you gently into the main body of the track, but the rattle of the opening comes back to ‘rattle’ you at regular intervals (sorry, couldn’t resist). The distorted beats of the first track are still there but they provide more of a menacing ostinato for Vera to sing a longer line over. The words here are less distinct (though that might just be my ear infection playing up). Regardless, I don’t think there are any until around 2 minutes in [subs: please check this].

A version of the rattling from the beginning brings the track to a temporary halt around 2:40, it’s a lovely moment of potential calm as the reverb tail dies away, but then the whole thing comes back in, harder than ever. More layers are added to both the vocal lines and the beats, with that terrifying knocking coming back harder than ever. Sit tight in your seat for this one.

Tracks 3 and 6 have a much longer, calmer opening. Though ‘calmer’ is probably not the right word. Yes I chose it … and now I regret it. Sorry. Spooky would be much nearer. There’s a gentle synth drone with occasional punctuations from what sounds like an infernal machine winding up to perform some terrible function. The lyrics “Do what you will ….” increase the discomfort until the track explodes into ultra-violence at around 2:10. Despite the re-occurrence of the ‘spooky’ section after this and the words ‘mangled and torn, my body …’ there IS more violence to come. Luckily for the listeners, we only get torn apart emotionally.

The track’s coda is an almost normal-sounding drum beat that dissolves into the final verse that sounds as though it’s supposed to be more optimistic, but really you’re not so sure about that, I suspect it’s more ‘death as final release’. An extract from a Dido’s Lament for the 21st century.

In short – (and this EP is too short) I’m totally in love with this music. There’s sensitivity and subtlety even in the more violent sections. You can hear the care that has been taken over the production, even on laptop or phone speakers the intensity is enough to ensnare you and pull you totally into Vera’s amazing world.

More please.

stuart chalmers loop phantasy

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No 4 (Chocolate Monk) CDr and digital album

Fantasy jam indeed!

At first I thought the King of the Loops was creating an homage to veteran loopers: Terry Riley, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.  An audacious loop experiment bringing old beards up-to-date and squealing back into the Underground after years of Sunday Supplement worship.

But no…not a note, fizz or drone comes from these id-wrinklers.  This is a total Chalmers jam and even more the special for it.

Imagine shifting colours of sweet sparkle or the greasy swoop of a bird’s wing.  That’s ‘Rainbows Dancing in Your Head’ a sound so perfectly concave it mirrors the chilly impression made by a neat ice cream scoop.  Cup your palms together to visualise the roundness of sound.  Place them over your ears to hear the sea-shell-sloshing. It’s a celebration of all things wave-like and flowing.

Naked loops, complete with old-school tape-stutter, starts off ‘Flying Dervishes of the Recycled Choir’ – the mid-note cut-off forms a spooky base over which pumping organs throb warm, wet air.  The choir moves from baritone to soprano (probably) with the novel swivel of a pitch wheel.  Upping the creepy ante – is this the new music for The Omen?

‘Bedroom Hypnotica’ takes a single point of shining metal (a captured droplet of cymbal crash?) that is pushed and pulled into a <><><><><><><>< shape.  Opening and closing – it’s a grown up tinkle…like glitter had a noise.  A disco ball seen through mediaeval stained glass: a million points of light reflecting from across those dark centuries illumining the very human need for elevation.

Phew!

After all that sparkle things get gritty on, ‘Yorkshire Folk Song Played and Sung by the Cloud Forest Nomads’, uncovered field recordings of nasal bamboo flutes played in God’s Own Country.  The reedy wheezing soon becomes part of the Chalmers palette to be spread thick with supple knife and greasy fingers. A double-loop quality makes this bounce like a basketball with a rich orange resonance.   The coda darkens the edges of the frame with an unknown quality, a pensive ‘what’s going on?’ that balances the lightness perfectly.

‘Unfurl’?  Classic Frippertronics being fed through the most agreeable Metal Machine Music filter: sounds pop and warble, meshing as tight as fibers becoming colourful felt.

But this sweet Phantasy is brought to a close with the strident ‘Refuseniks Austerity Levitation’, an interrupted drum loop submits to the treatment building extra arms and legs, kicking and punching like Prince Paul hired Hal Blaine for a De La/Chalmers jam.

And if that’s not swollen your pocket I’m giving up!  Carve these letters on a laurel leaf and place firmly behind the ear  – S.C.  K.O.T.L.

Those in the know will wink their glazzies for sure.

three eyed

Three Eyed Makara – Moonmilk Roof (Crow Versus Crow) Cassette and digital album

Collective wood-music from a travelling band of hoiks and bawdy villains!

This honk, clatter and scrape feeds directly into my spine hole pushing out all the bad-vibe juice and letting a fresh-flowing sunlight course though the bones.  It’s a liquid loving that nourishes and warms me.  A marzipan manna that fills my soul and sweeps the bitter tears from my eyes!

I hear you…get back to the typewriter man for some sensible descriptions of what the devil is going on.

Strictly speaking I’d file this under group-think free improvisation with contributions (this time) from:

Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh – Viola
Djuna Keen – Saxophone
Natalia Beylis – Mandobird & Electronics
Willie Stewart – Snare & Floortom & Gong

It steers a path that’s well beyond the jazz zone and creeping into something far more rootsy and dew-scented.  Like silver-edged ferns these pieces untangle themselves from tightly coiled buds and shudder into rude life – proudly standing tall among the scrabbling weeds.

The mixture of primitive and modern is deftly balanced.  Open-throated sax honks battle the drumming menace on ‘Half Blind Valley’ in a jam that could have graced a crusade (or something).

But ‘Oolite and Pitch’ sounds like the Company Week crew took the whole darn show out of the city and into a mushroom circle to play for the assembled fire-sprites.  A manic sawing is the thing that swings, loosening my rivets, as I duck and swerve the brass knuckles and soft drum implosions.

It’s a dance of familiar textures but sewn together in a new way, a patchwork if you will, that can be comforting and saucily intimate.  It turns hollow around the 11 minute mark.  All that bluster and howling, all the defiant bomb-like snare work begin to shuffle round a tree stump like sodden campers.   The final minutes are shrouded in electronic mist (lost White Noise tracks discovered in an old tin can?) that makes each rattle and bleat glow like menacing eyes viewed through a grimy window.

Before I know it the moss is growing through my toes…

Vera Bremerton Bandcamp

Stuart Chalmers Bandcamp / Chocolate Monk

Crow Versus Crow Superstore

-ooOOoo-

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-

scything threshers harvest plastic babies: luke vollar on filthxcollins, rob lye, bbblood, posset & stuart chalmers

June 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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FILTHxCOLLINS – Demo 2017 (No label)

Rob Lye – Ink (Stairwell Editions)

BBBlood/Posset/Stuart Chalmers – Delirium Cutlet Impaste (Crow Versus Crow)

 filth collins

FILTHxCOLLINS – Demo 2017 (No label) digital album

FILTHxCOLLINS are a couple of scamps from Nottingham who play an extremely condensed, bastardized, version of Hardcore Punk and Death Metal –  Powerviolence.

Free of all excess baggage Powerviolence is the cross eyed cousin of Grindcore. Songs are very short and very fast with screamed or growled vocals, generally ending as abruptly as they start.

On a personal note I have been on a most enjoyable journey towards the rapidly beating heart of Grindcore and Powerviolence, getting a big kick from the espresso-like quality of hard and heavy music as lean and fat-free as a whippet and as cleansing as a full immersion in an icy plunge pool.

On a purely practical level, being able to take in an entire album in the car on the way to the supermarket has been supremely gratifying for the insatiable music fiend with not enough lounging time.

I bring my wholehearted recommendation of the FILTHxCOLLINS demo as a guy who has waded deep into the murky waters of extreme(ly fast) metal.  I have discovered some gems and I have inevitably come across some drek; heck like any genre it can get a bit samey but to me at least FILTHxCOLLINS have the X factor.

One of them does deep guttural vocals like a volcano with an ulcer while the other has a midrange shriek that makes him sound as if he is literally on fire. They both batter hard at their instruments but with the deadly precision of a venomous snake: alert, lithe and ready to fight. A sudden change in tempo or direction and then POW! The song is done.

There is a track called ‘Cameron’s Britain’, seven seconds of compacted fury that gives a fair idea of how the mood is on this miniature-masterpiece: pissed off.

I hope they have plans to do some t-shirts…I would love to see them live.

rob lye

Rob Lye – Ink (Stairwell Editions) cassette, limited-edition print and digital album

Rob Lye is at the nucleus of the English group Chora – a project that takes in junkyard-gamelan, rollicking communal freak-outs and head-hunting trance rituals.

Rob and I have history.  Back in the day Chora and my old group, Lanterns did a lot of gigs together in the UK and abroad: we shared a split CDr and did a number of collaborations. We once spent a night post-gig drinking whiskey and listening to records until the small hours. But before I drift off into misty-eyed reverie let’s take a look at this new lump of plastic from Rob following what has been a period of relative quietness musically.

Now given my preamble you may suggest that I would be biased due to my fondness for Rob as a person to which I would retort:

  1. a) I was a Chora fan before I was friendly with them and

  2. b) the no audience underground is literally crawling with nice guys and galls. A point our editor in chief has made much more eloquently in these pages previously.

So as wrist (i) and (ii) start with laps of tidal wash before bumping into crisp arpeggiated vanilla essence I opt for a track by track dissection:

  • Leaning. Loops of blue piano that advance and retreat like the tide on a secluded beach

  • Nape. Makes like an eddy in a downstream current or a chorus of bulbous toads languidly belching sunny tones

  • Off. A shaker is extrapolated beyond the realm of the circadian ant people

  • Lip. Wisps of candy tones, frayed at the edges drift like buoyant seeds ready to give new life on fertile land

  • “You’ve bought a curse to the table.” The processed ivories beat like the wings of a moth that has settled on your sleeping face

  • Ink. the mirage of a water wheel in sunlight, casting rainbows

  • ‘sham. sleepy head fuzzballs of obscure melody that have the same rapt sun warmed backwoods grace that has defined this fine debut

    delirum cutlet impaste

BBBlood/Posset/Stuart Chalmers – Delirium Cutlet Impaste (Crow Versus Crow) Sold out CDr with trippy fold-out collage and digital album

A triumphant three-way release from Crow Versus Crow by three gents with a fine body of work behind them. Knowing that they’re in intimidating company our trio of NA-U heavy-weights turn in exhilarating examples of fermented cerebrum boogie!
BBBlood – Absent Lottery

Paul (BBBlood) Watson presents a slow burning start.  Incidental sounds and background chatter slowly morph into grim corridors from which there is no exit. Watery sounds, static chunder and a strong ‘What’s behind the filthy curtain?’ vibe.

Bubbling and sizzling, an unsafe experiment involving Bunsen Burners and glass funnels crusted with white resin; the cavernous reverb and the scooter exiting the underground car park. A hasty retreat after a highly illegal cook up?

Scything threshers harvest plastic babies, the sinister breathing apparatus of a dead eyed humanoid or the haunting song of memories beneath damp soil.

More creepy field recordings, a sinister figure observing you from behind the hedge. A vortex of cogs and switches becoming more ghastly as it settles into its appalling form. A symphony of sickly frequencies expertly woven into a bruised tapestry of anti music.

Spellbinding.  Best enjoyed on cans.

Posset – What’s going on?

Double voices: the beautiful voice from foreign tongue (Bulgarian?) fed through the Posset machine, mumbles and murmurs.  Then oxide-rich saliva dribbled into the Posset cauldron with tongue-wagging vocal jaxx goes:

dodoliddleliddleow

A motley collection of sound-events chucked together like pick and mix. Robotic voices croak in unison, the voices are reversed, the pause button is sweaty. Joe is micromanaging the tiny soldiers that spring from the battery operated machines (Editor’s note: Like General Jumbo?).

He should be commended for his fine work within the sacred circle of the unfathomably odd.  Lips that soar like eagles, teeth that prowl like lions and an epiglottis that just won’t quit

Stuart Chalmers- Birth of the Bamboo

Bamboo sounds begin in hushed reverence, the sonics are deftly manipulated with pause and delay.

Forth-world exotica sheds its brightly-coloured feathers and increases the intensity. Patterns of stretched tape scree resulting in ear-throbbing thrum.  The lysergic quality makes it appear as if reality is slipping in and out of focus, the jungle idyll has turned into a feverish kaleidoscope of luminous algae and swivel-eyed reptiles.

A step down and change of gear; floated tones rise from the ground like mist as a lone flute plays us out…

So…by the time I’ve got my ass into gear to review this the CDrs are long gone, proof that just keeping up with underground music is a challenge.  But fear not – the digital version is available!

I’d say this would justify a fancy-pants heavy vinyl release such is the quality within, but heck, what do I know, right?

 

FILTHxCOLLINS

Stairwell Editions

Crow Versus Crow

-ooOOoo-

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

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

Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray)

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

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

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

 states 3

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

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

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

State/states/state…

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

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

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

States/state/states…

CVC states

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

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

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

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

cvc states 2

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

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

 

faniel dord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fans of Derek and Clive take note and click.

nyoukis etc (1)

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

Shock!

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

Stunning!!

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

Astonishment!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Whisper your answer in my hot pink shell.

the tenses

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

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

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

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

…and who am I to argue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Blood!

the viper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t fear the Viper!

 

Crow Versus Crow Editions

Dante’s Ashtray

Chocolate Monk

BUFMS

-ooOOoo-

 

kerry king’s amp fizz: joe murray on stuart chalmers, karl m v waugh, grey guides and cam

February 17, 2017 at 7:24 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)

Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)

Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)

CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)

 stuart-chlamers

Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download

Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions.  Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint.  You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.

Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill.  But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.

Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.

The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery.  “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?”  They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.

I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader?  The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’.  It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs.  It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.

There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort.  And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.

OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths).  It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions.  It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.

karl-m-v-waugh

Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download

Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.

Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth.  It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).

Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring .  The disembodied voice offers no comfort.

Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.

A statement? Perhaps.  A coping mechanism? Very much so.

Plug in and remain alert!

grey-guides

Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download

Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.

The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate.  The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.

The instrumentation is sparse.  A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’

The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness.  Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery.  A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.

‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.

Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind.  It’s heady like good brandy.

Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2).  The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.

I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder.  “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “

Yeah it is?

Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!

cam

CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.

It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.

Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit.  CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.

The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.

The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.

  • Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
  • More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices.  The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat.  But what’s that I hear?  The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
  • Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes.  The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
  • Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
  • Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
  • Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover.  Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.

OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.

 

Constellation Tatsu

Emblems of Cosmic Disorder

Crow Versus Crow Universe

SKRAT Records

-ooOOOoo-

clipped moustache, ragged heart: joe murray on melting, staraya derevnya, east of the valley blues

April 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Melting – Dusk (tape, Crow Versus Crow, CVC002, edition of 50 or download)

Staraya Derevnya – Kadita Sessions (tape, Weakie Discs, edition of 13 or download)

East of the Valley Blues – eotvb (self released tape, edition of 100 or download)

melting

Melting – Dusk

Where’s the bass in my life?

Where’s the soft heart-beat thump that warms like amber sun?

Being a student of glossy tape-gonk and spidery improv my listening is wonderfully rich in detail and dynamics.  I’ve got yucks and texture a’plenty for sure but it tends to be high-end mosquito-frequency stuff.  That’s my bag and I’m very happy to dig it; but sometimes I get a fancy for a bit of the other, something less scratchy that I can lose my damned black soul in.  Sometimes only a bit of bass will do.

It was in one of these moments of longing that guru and taste-maker, Crow Versus Crow’s Andy Wild, came to the rescue (again) with a tape of gloriously deconstructed & blunt hip-hop beats from the mysterious Melting.

And when I say mysterious I’m not just referencing the notoriously publicity shy Melting’s ghostly persona.  I mean mysterious in approach and result.

Now I know I’m woefully under-educated in this kind of beat-led music but the one thing I do know is the importance of repetition, of patterns being introduced, developed and then slowly taken apart.

Melting bucks this trend royally, making things full of decay and rot right from the off.  Sure the beats are as neatly clipped as any military moustache.  The occasional high-hat or woodblock snaps sharp and bright like a polished medal.  But there’s such a wonderful oddness to the timing, it seems free of the usual 4/4 prison that privileged westerners like me unconsciously fall into.  I’m searching for classy metaphors but only have my rusty jazz dictionary to hand.  Like Miles would holla:

It swings like a motherfucker!

But beats are only part of the story.  The samples man!  The samples are smeared as thick acrylics.

So, the base materials tend to be dark and gritty.  Moulded into roughly cylindrical forms and stacked in irregular patterns.  A greasy tarpaulin is overlaid to form a 3D landscape in this delirious geography experiment. Finally, the bass is a broad sluggish river, bubbling slowly like sweet Arabic coffee.

Soon things get itchy like a tremor, freaky like a fever.  On ‘Sleep’ a broken vocal sound, a single explosive ‘nweh’ is woven round a calliope caught in a steamy glitch.

And things get sadder (heartbreak sequenced and sampled) as ‘Road’ makes it with the Rhodes piano sorrow-chords and a broken ‘wha-ba-whep-whup’ spoken refrain.  My inadequate mind is looking for things to compare this to.

Errrrr

I stutter,

Errrr…Burial, made of black soapy mould (there’s a slight antiseptic wince to this) or even Coil without the tin hats.

A slithery guitar sample, wriggling like Robin Guthrie’s beard, grouts ‘Trick’, and ‘Sigh’ with its brisk celery chomp and Orac-crackle takes me back to those old Street Sound compilations but buries the sunny US vibes in stinging Yorkshire sleet.

This saucily packaged tape (it’s hand stitched, a touch lacy and excitingly black) ends with a very real ‘Slump’.  Four minutes of dubbed-out ‘ah, oh, ah’ that struggles to keep awake until it collapses under its own weight.

Melting, the sound of dozing by an industrial radiator and waking up with blood sores.

weakie

Staraya Derevnya – Kadita Sessions

A group-think collective of felt hats and bright woollen familiars.

I’ve always been a fan of a good intro, you know the sort of thing; the precise, delicate hopscotch of ‘Then He Kissed Me’ or the spectral icicle ring heralding the permissive ‘60s in ‘Hard Day’s Night’.  When you get off on the good foot you’ve done most of the hard work.  You’ve got your people on board.

On ‘Hram’ this singular Israeli/UK collective, who seem to have been operating on the fringes of freak-folk for years, warble one of the soon-to-be-great-intros-of-all-time with a wonderfully unhinged beefheart-ian howl.  Oh yes, I’ve climbed on the Staraya Derevnya Express and I’m waiting to get my ticket clipped without waffling my blanket at all.

Intros aside, Staraya Derevnya seem to be drinking a mead-based cocktail that’s equal parts Richard Dawson (in his Eyeballs incarnation), Kemialliset Ystävät and Ø+yn.  No ice, no lemon!

Little instruments are brought out of duffle bags, carefully unwrapped and laid on the polished wooden floors.  A small bowl of cloudberries appear out of a pocket for nourishment and all are encouraged to pick up and play, jamming on the one, riffing off the misty morning.  So it’s all gentle bells and plaintive whistles, a dusty harmonium, warm metallic mbira and urgently strummed guitars – the sound of many playing without ego, building a collective sound that shimmers like moonlight on a lake.

But Staraya Derevnya are no strict caretakers of convention, the picket fences and genre boundaries have been kicked over with fuck-off boots or subtly undermined.  Even the folk DNA is spliced with suspicious reggae on ‘Lordan’ and coffee-house down-tempo jazz fusion mixed with Black Metal insect narration on ‘Het’.  And with three separate participants contributing ‘cries and whispers’ the dismal mutter becomes as crucial as the guitar and shuddering percussion to propel this grooviest of covens.

I take a breather as ‘Sages’ starts… this is an almost straight REAL WORLD ethno-jam, but then the sheer bonkers singing disappears upwards into the kind of grating metal-on-metal and feedback hawking that would keep a New Blockaders fan happy.

Blimey, all this genre-hopping is backed up with a typically internationalist view; an Israeli collective, mixing their sounds in London, releasing tapes on Polish label (only 3 left!) and named after a stop on the St Petersburg Metro.

N-AU worldwide!

eotvb

East of the Valley Blues – eotvb

Wonderful!  Wonderful, wonderful!

This tape was playing when the first rays of Spring sunshine shot like misty timbers through my window and the jazzy daffodils belched out warm yellow hugs.  And no, I don’t think that’s any coincidence brothers & sisters.

This tape is a truly innocent joy.  Why?  Firstly, it’s the simplicity.  We’ve got two guys, two Power Moves brothers, sitting on that metaphorical back porch finger-picking like the late great Jack Rose, improvising with a sibling’s sensibility at that slightly ragged speed we all associate with the beating heart in love.

Secondly, we’ve got notes that shimmer in a cascade; I’m getting nylon waterfalls as things tumble and tremble, roil and buckle as ten calloused fingertips gentle rustle the strings.  This is all about the movement, the restlessness of a leaf caught in an eddy, the churn of water spilling from a red hand pump.

Finally there’s that slight sense of anticipation, a yearning that’s probably something technical to do with the key it’s all played in.  But for a goof like me it just tweaks my memory zone; this music looks backwards at endless summers and looks towards bouncing grandchildren on the knee.  This is music of time, its passage and its baggage; the highs and lows, the dusty wrinkles and the fumble in the sheets.

And am I noticing a slight change in the way time is behaving around me?  Not so much time stopping but stretching, those strict minutes becoming supple like a cat’s arching back.  Maybe reader maybe.

Lovers of this plaintive guitar-pick often yell out a challenge:

So… can I play this next to Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s sublime A Meeting by the River?  Does it hold its own beans compared to Phil Tyler’s exquisite banjo snaffle?

Me?  I’m lost in the buttery light right now, light-headed with Beat road dreams,

If you heard it you wouldn’t have to ask… click the god-damn link and get heavy in the valley.

—ooOoo—

Crow Versus Crow

Weakie Discs

East of the Valley Blues

the 2015 zellaby awards

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

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

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

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

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

Fleshtone Aura

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

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

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

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

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

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

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

Sabrina Peña Young

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

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

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

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

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

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

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

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

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

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

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

tessellation

…and I say:

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

SPY1

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

Sof ponders:

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

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

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

No doubts from Joe:

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

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

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

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

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

robbie7

…and I say:

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

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

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

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

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

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

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

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

Luke picks an outlier:

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

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

Yeah baby!!!

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

Joe rallies the troops:

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

…and I say:

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

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

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

posscat

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

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

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

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

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

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

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

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

cclub

…and I say:

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

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

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

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

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

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

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

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

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

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

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

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

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

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

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

Originality is the theme of my list –

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

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

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

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

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

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

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

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

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

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

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

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

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

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

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

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

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

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

ineluctable

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

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

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

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

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

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

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

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

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

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

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

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

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

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

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

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

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

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

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

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

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

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

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

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

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

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

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

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

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

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

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

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

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

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

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion…

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

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

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

you still can’t own music: some thoughts on not collecting, part two

November 13, 2015 at 8:28 am | Posted in musings | 4 Comments
Tags: , , ,

more rekkids

The large volume and high quality of feedback I’ve received following my post ‘you can’t own music: some thoughts on not collecting‘ has been most gratifying. Always fun to learn I’m not just barking into the void. However, most substantial comments were in broad agreement with my position – that many of the great aspects of being a music fan can be enjoyed independent of, and are not necessarily connected to, owning and accruing the objects on which music is stored. Some who left comments were prepared to admit to ambivalence, or perverse resignation:

It seems to be madness and sanity all in one mystifying bundle.

…wrote Mark Wharton of Idwal Fisher, for example, but where was the robust defense of the physical? It was left to Andrew Wild, known to all as Andy Crow of multimedia empire Crow Versus Crow, to pick up the gauntlet. Andy is in some ways the perfect foil – he runs a radio show and podcast, he is an immensely skilled visual artist and designer and his record label has a small catalogue of high quality releases packaged with a hand-tooled attention to detail that borders on the fetishistic. Here’s his own description of a CvC release by Caught In The Wake Forever:

Excommunicado’ comprises a 10.5 x 10.5 cm 16 page mini art book, containing black and white inkjet prints of Crow Versus Crow’s minimal ink and pencil drawings printed on matte white paper within a 170gsm recycled card cover; four instrumental tracks from Caught In The Wake Forever, on a white-faced 3″ CDr housed within an 8.5 x 8.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope; an insert sheet containing recording and production information; a 35 mm photographic negative; and a dried rose petal, all housed within a 12.5 x 12.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope, sealed with a full colour ‘Excommunicado’ sticker.

Blimey, eh? Well, this is what he said in reply to my post. I’m going to quote it in full, bury some numbers in it and respond accordingly with Stewart Lee style mega-footnotes

Hey Rob,

As echoed above, this is a really thought-provoking piece that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a good couple of reads of [1]… however much I can’t get my head around some of the points within!

What I found interesting was the (seemingly) consistency of approach to experiencing music that came through your listed examples, a kind of ‘experience – digest – excrete’ relationship. That might be a little crass as an analogy, but y’know… Please correct me if that’s wrong, by the way! [2] As an extreme, without a record collection or the masses of streamable material available online, such an approach doesn’t seem to really cater for repeated experiences of a record; each listening experience, perhaps straddling years, shifting with and filtered through the life experiences a person has picked up throughout that time. [3]

Also, what about the tactile and visual experience of a record? The art work and visual presentation of a record (which you know I hold in such high regard!)? Such experiences of a record develop and shift over time in the same way the audible parts do, for me… the waxy smell of the booklet, poring over the liner notes, soaking in the visuals, joining the dots between subjects and concepts. Maybe that’s veering into fetishistic territory there, but from my own experiences these experiences are valid parts of a whole aesthetic experience of a record. [4]

Plus, completely detached from any macho posturing of the size of your member, I mean, record collection in measurable square feet…a personally curated, unique to an individual, record collection is a fucking beautiful thing! An almost organic, living thing that grows entwined to your life. Not a dead archive of your past, a semi-abstracted diary of your life in collage form [5], but as a constellation of sounds to be continuously re-experienced in light of the newer records that have been included. [6]

Know what I mean? [7]

I’m still processing all of this myself and have spewed out my initial response with much less revision that I probably should. This article and what it throws up within me will stick around for a little longer methinks. Excellent work as ever, Rob. [8]

All’t’best,

Andy x

Great stuff, right? He has a beautiful and persuasive turn of phrase. OK, let’s get on with it – I’ve got stories to tell.

[1] Cheers comrade, much obliged.

[2] Ah, nope – he ain’t wrong. Should we follow through (no pun intended) with the gastric analogy then, of course, experience-digest-excrete is the only healthy state of affairs and much preferable to constipation, obesity and the like. Freudians might have something to say about collecting too, using a similar analogy. However, moving away from the gut, I’d argue that it is possible to separate the experience from perpetual ownership of a physical token of that experience. For example…

[3] In 1987, aged 15, my love of music was re-focussed by my prematurely switched-on friend Tim and fueled over the next few years by reading Melody Maker. Everyone likes to think that the music produced whilst they were a teenager was special but, y’know, by any standard this was a notable era.

My corner of this exploding world was comprised mainly of the whole Blast First roster, Napalm Death and other thrash and skate punk, Nth generation psyche by Spacemen 3 and the like, po-faced, high camp electronic body music by Skinny Puppy etc., various head-spinning uncategorizables like The Young Gods and Butthole Surfers and a thousand other things with techno and Nurse With Wound waiting in the wings. Much of this was championed by a weekly music press that would routinely put bands from the fringes on their covers. Remarkable times.

When Sub Pop crossed the Atlantic it fit right in. We enjoyed the slurred, balls-out sound and, as skate punks, we already had the skinny jeans and Converse baseball boots. It was a cinch to grow our hair and add a lumberjack shirt.  Here’s me at the Reading Festival in 1989, aged 17:

1989

What a charming young man.

(Aside: I was once beaten up for having long hair, although admittedly I did start the fight. On the walk to school some kid shouted

GET YOUR HAIR CUT!

…which was a daily occurrence but I decided I wasn’t having it. I crossed the road, asked

Is that the best you can do?

…and punched him as hard as I could square in his stupid face. That was my major contribution to proceedings – my arse was then handed to me. I arrived late, and was greeted by a knowing silence. I cleaned up in a PE changing room then dripped blood from my nose onto the mock exam paper I sat that morning. What can I say? I’d been upset that day because I’d just heard Hüsker Dü had split up.)

The greatest band in that scene was – and is – Mudhoney but I also saw Nirvana at least three times (I have claimed five but I think that is an exaggeration – during their breakout Reading performance I was almost certainly in my tent too stoned and/or drunk to move) – once at Portsmouth Poly, third on the bill in a crowd of less than 200.

Now, I have been an insufferable prick about music a million times but something I have never done is grudge a favourite band massive popularity. I’ve always seen it as vindication of my exceptional taste. And so it was when Nirvana’s second album and major label debut Nevermind blew up. I remember walking around town the weekend after it came out and, gloriously, everywhere seemed to be playing it. The album’s ubiquity coincided with my first year at university and I remember abandoning drinks and spilling onto the sticky dance-floor of student bops whenever the intro to ‘…Teen Spirit’ or ‘Lithium’ cut through the fug. Tracks from that album remained part of the background radiation for years.

I was, of course, profoundly saddened, angered and confused by Cobain’s suicide in 1994. It might have been the first time I cried over a death unrelated to my family. It forever altered the way I looked at the work and, when I was diagnosed with depression for the first time in 1997 and had my own suicidal feelings to deal with, it was an event I would think about from time to time. Now, as a married, (fairly) responsible 43 year old I thought about it again in the wake of the birth of our boy and again when the recent documentary about Cobain came out (which I haven’t had the strength to watch).

So here we have an album I know pretty much off by heart, hearing tracks from which reminds me of happy times discovering myself through music (‘heh, remember when we had to sleep under a pier after seeing Killdozer ‘cos we missed the last train?’) and a scene that I LITERALLY SPILT BLOOD to be part of. My experience of it also has a sombre undercurrent due to tragedy and illness that has only deepened and got more complicated as the years have passed. If 6Music play ‘Come As You Are’ whilst I’m washing up I don’t know quite what state I’ll be in by the end of it. And yet…

I’ve never owned a copy.

[4] Hmm… I’m not entirely discounting this, just mostly. Harking back to my teenage years again I remember being shocked and impressed by the day-glo nihilism of Big Black’s Songs About Fucking cover (front and back), complementing the bone-dry humour/horror of the white on black liner notes/stories (Atomizer is even tougher – the album opens with a song about a town where the gang rape of children had been normalised, a true story, and the cover features a cartoon invitation for the listener to blow up the entire world. Who needs Whitehouse and their dinky little winky, eh?). I also remember picking up the Dead Kennedys compilation LP Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death and spending hours examining the giant newsprint insert featuring collage by artist Winston Smith. I kinda learned how to be punk from that album and to say it changed my life would not be an exaggeration.

These are rare exceptions, however, and of their time. In more recent years I’ve seen packaging as a necessary evil useful only in keeping delicate objects, themselves largely unnecessary, from being damaged and for helping distinguish one from another. I’m coming ’round to the idea that unless you have something truly special in mind – like No Basement Is Deep Enough – then discussing packaging is like discussing what font a poem is published in – of marginal-to-no interest and of little relevance to the content (I mean Andy, mate, ’nuff respect and all that but ‘170gsm recycled card’ – lolz you perv!). As for the appreciation of the aesthetic aspect ‘shifting and developing’ over time, well, the smell of a basement second hand record shop is intoxicating, but I don’t think Andy is talking about mildew. Most good album design has punch to it, sure, but even the best is sorely lacking as an object of truly sustained contemplation. I’d like to conclude that all standard vinyl discs, compact discs, cassettes, sleeves, cases, inserts, j-cards, merzcars etc. serve the same purposes and are thus, functionally at least, indistinguishable but that is some 36th level shit I haven’t quite reached yet. I’m not far off though.

[5] I respect Andy for dismissing the ‘it’s like a diary’ argument as I’ve always thought it was rubbish. The idea that we can be defined by the objects we own is profoundly depressing for many reasons. Hoarding is anti-life – Marx said that (well, something like it – I’m sure one of the erudite followers of this blog can point me at the real quote). Surely we are the sum of our circumstances and our decisions – like the decision I made to sell a bunch of records one afternoon so I could afford to go out that evening with someone I ended up having a years long relationship with. Can’t even remember what those records were now but I can remember the events of that night in unpublishable detail. Heh.

[6] An attractive notion but I’d be genuinely interested to hear from people as to how much this actually happens. When I was in the worst of my collecting phase I had mp3s of over 2000 releases (more than 20,000 individual files) plus maybe half that again as physical objects. Thus I’d have had to listen to (approximately) eight different releases every day just to hear each one once a year (or, say, two a day for four years) – and that is without repeating any, or accounting for any new acquisitions. A percentage of any collection, possibly more than you’d like to admit, is never revisited in any meaningful way – the activity of collecting can easily overtake the dictates of sense. Whenever I read on Twitter someone say ‘hey, dug this out for the first time in 20 years and it still sounds great’ I always think ‘you’ve carried that around for 20 years just on the off chance?!?’ and the inevitable inclusion of a YouTube link makes me bang my head on the table. I’m not immune to nostalgia – I’ve humancaterpillared chains of YouTube videos that have taken me from World Domination Enterprises to Joyce Sims – but I never think ‘damn, I wish I’d bought that/not given it away’. That the internet hive mind has found a place for it is more than enough and, whilst acknowledging the musical education I’ve picked up along the way, I judge music new to me against who I am now, not what I’ve acquired in the past. Onwards!

[7] Not only do I know what he means but the thoughts and experiences he describes governed my own relationship with music and its objects for many years. I’m not denying these pleasures, just embracing ways of thinking differently about it.

[8] Aww, shucks.

…and that is more than enough for now, I think. Anyway, now the house is empty the urge to listen to that thing that Graham Dunning sent me again is making it difficult to type…

more phil

—ooOoo—

the cracked paving stones: joe murray on robert ridley-shackleton and sindre bjerga

June 3, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince (tape, Hissing Frames)

Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions (CD-r, Crow Versus Crow, edition of 50 or download)

cardboard prince

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince

The problem with creating your own universe is you need to have something to fill it with.  If you are going to play God you’ve got to have God’s balls!

Luckily our Robert Ridley-Shackleton has the minerals to populate the great waste with planet-sized swirls of smart ideas and novel approaches.

On this new tape, The Cardboard Prince (referring to a cut-out Prince Rogers Nelson perhaps), RR-S travels nearer to Around the World in a Day than the The Black Album with a richly psychedelic mixture of slub-slub pop, troglodyte bass and camp hand-claps.

The distance covered by his almighty hand is vast.  Of course RR-S represents with his trademark ‘pocket jazz’ on ‘Royal Goo’ – born of a canary-yellow cagoule if I’m not much mistaken.  But damp-electronics grate against the ‘Nasty M.F.’ with a shopping list to add Technicolor tones to the grey pulp.  And that dusting of frivolity, the gleeful rapping and broke vocals, add what my mate Tony used to refer to as ‘pop-sparkle’ to the proceedings.

Pop indeed sparkles on the ‘proper’ songs that see-saw all rinky-dink like roiling pepper or disappear down the corridors of a leisure centre into chlorine-scented silence.  And just when you think this is a cynical push for acceptance in the straight world RR-S heaves in a true conceptual piece, a screwed-up paper jam that parties in the palm; A4 warped and folded until it squeals.  Or check out ’18 and over’ a true unconscious blather, a between-the-thoughts ramble that shines a light on the day-glo soul.  Hidden like a B-side gem it makes the songs shine all the brighter.

Hey.  If RR-S gave me an apple, I’d take a bite.  What about you?

ADDITIONAL FEATURES:  This set of songs comes on a recycled tape.  My host tape was originally bible stories for children, dreadfully overacted with some sick new age synth work.  Damn lemony. [Editor’s note: on my copy Shack’s recording cuts out just as someone on the bible tape says: “…and he is inside you.”  Well creepy, or well Prince-like, or both.]

listening fictions

Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions

I open the envelope carefully and pull out the oversize sleeve.  Doubly-exposed roses on the outer sleeve, and busy hydrangea on the inner, hint at the richness of urban decay and natural beauty.  Imagine sunny-yellow weeds pushing up through the cracked paving stones.  And, like rhododendrons growing unashamed on a roundabout, the beauty lies in secret just waiting to snag your piggy eyes.

Sonically this disc presents two live sets from the hardest working man in the NA-U, Sindre Bjerga, and recorded live in South Korea if you please.  Blimey, there must be something in the water as he’s firing off sweet shots like a blunderbuss all over this marvellous looking disc.

A meditative Bjerga approaches the first set like a salmon monk, scales of pink a’glimmer.  He carefully fades up dark purple washes of swoon (MBV through a kinked hose) and overlays fruity Dictaphone scree.  The scene is well and truly set.

Dove-grey drone is carefully blended into the canvas until a rude microphone ‘bristly fumble’ changes pace to prep the surface for slowed-speech-mung.  Tim Rice gets few props on these pages but his inexplicably popular dirge ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ gets a going over, Sindre style, until the ghostly beat, a cold-lamping knock leads the amplified ‘tank’ game for the Atari (circa 1986) to a false end.  The real end?  It’s a very fucking jaxxed-up tape warble…wonderfully noshed.

The second set presents us with a blockier sound but it’s ever so wet and choppy.  Hey man – the first minutes are worthy of the great Henri Chopin with that contact-mic-lodged-down-his-French gullet sound.  Bliss in a pillow case.

After this organic shredding things get really violent with the sort of anti-social ripping back and forth you’d expect from a teenage DJ’s bedroom – heavy on the crab cakes.  Flash Gordon’s rocket ship buzzes like New Year fireworks spitting green sparks onto your New Monkey tapes while you spank the thigh of the tin man (all hollow echo coz of lack of a heart I guess).  Wire-wool scrapes things clean, the fibrous tendons reaching deep into muscle tissue.

As the music snips off you’re left clamping that glossy sleeve with sweaty fingers, jaw gently chewing and eyes wide.

—ooOoo—

Hissing Frames

Crow Versus Crow

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