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 viperMarch 17, 2017 at 8:37 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: bren't lewiis ensemble, bufms, chocolate monk, crow versus crow, crow versus crow editions, dante's ashtray, donk, dylan nyoukis, faniel dord, fonk, joe murray, seymour glass, skronk, stefan jaworzyn, the tenses, the viper
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)
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
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.
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!
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 & 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.
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!
Tags: amateur shoegaze, cam, constellation tatsu, crow versus crow, dictaphonics, emblems of cosmic disorder, feedback, grey guides, improvisation, joe murray, karl mv waugh, noise, skrat records, slayer, stuart chalmers, tape loops
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 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 – 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 – 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!
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.
Tags: crow versus crow, east of the valley blues, melting, power moves label, staraya derevnya, weakie discs
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Tags: andrew wild, andy crow, collecting, crow versus crow
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
As echoed above, this is a really thought-provoking piece that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a good couple of reads of … 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!  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. 
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. 
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 , but as a constellation of sounds to be continuously re-experienced in light of the newer records that have been included. 
Know what I mean? 
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. 
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.
 Cheers comrade, much obliged.
 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…
 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:
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.
 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.
 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.
 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!
 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.
 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…
Tags: crow versus crow, hissing frames, joe murray, robert ridley-shackleton, sindre bjerga
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince (tape, Hissing Frames)
Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions (CD-r, Crow Versus Crow, edition of 50 or download)
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.]
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.
Tags: andrew wild, ap martlet, cherry row recordings, crow versus crow, daniel thomas, dave thomas, drone, extraction music, field recording, hagman, kirkstall dark matter, new music, no audience underground, noise, sheepscar light industrial
The Thomas Family – Dub Variations (CD, Crow Versus Crow, CVC001, edition of 100 or download)
First, the specifications:
Three seamlessly segued tracks, all around quarter of an hour long (two over, one under), released on a properly pressed CD, in an edition of 100, by Andrew Wild’s Crow Versus Crow imprint. The packaging is impressive and will be accounted for below. The brothers responsible for the content are Daniel Thomas and Dave Thomas (no relation) better known ’round these parts for their duo Hagman, for their solo recordings and for their efforts with the labels Sheepscar Light Industrial, Cherry Row and Kirkstall Dark Matter. Eyes right for links.
Second, the music:
This piece is the tension between delicate epicycles of electronic noise and the ruinous discipline needed to control the technology that produces them. It is the bead of sweat on the brow of the tightrope walker. It is a time-lapse film of dew condensing onto a cobweb. Existing as it does at the point where the needle touches red, it is saved from straying into a squall of feedback by, seemingly, sheer willpower alone. The chaps are only human though and despite (because of?) this effort artefacts still bubble to the surface. For example, around the ten minute mark a silvered ping leapt out of the dark and made me jump, like a face at the window. It is repeated, quieter, and thus possibly becomes music…
Punctuating the rumble are squeaks and trills that I assume are field recordings of avian chatter, though the context suggests poorly lubricated machinery lifting cages full of nervous workers back up a seemingly endless mineshaft. Later these squeaks become the sound of sneakers on a basketball court as two multi-limbed robots square off under gigantic air conditioning units. Each seat of the stadium is occupied by a silent mannequin, head bowed – those on the right, dressed as Dave, those on the left dressed as Dan…
…and then, sometime into the final track, there is the beat. Now, being one of the core members of the ‘extraction music’ elite (the ‘distillate’?) I was privy to an interesting peek behind the curtain. Apparently the Thomas boys had a difference of opinion about this aspect of the album: Dave thought it was unnecessary, Dan was all for it. I shall account for it thus: imagine the mannequins slowly looking up towards the end of the match. Dan’s robot is winning! The Dannequins nod in unison to express their approval whilst the disconsolate Daves shake their heads mournfully from side to side: no, no, no. In doing so the ‘crowd’ adds a percussive pattern to the remainder of the album.
In summary: this is fucking great.
Third, the package:
Quoting Andy, these CDs are
…housed in hand-stamped recycled card ‘no glue’ sleeves, with full colour 24x12cm artwork by Crow Versus Crow…
…which is a humble description of a satisfyingly tactile, beautiful object. It looks like its own future deluxe reissue – fallen to us through a space/time wormhole from an alternate reality where Dan and Dave garner mainstream worship and Pink fucking Floyd have to shoplift CD-rs to put out their shit. The guy has clearly invested a great deal of time, effort and, presumably, money into this project but, admirably, has not let his own highly developed aesthetic sensibilities overwhelm the music. Thus medium and the message are balanced and mutually enhancing.
Fourth, the conclusion:
What we have here is a foundation document, an ur text, for this year’s most talked about sub-genre ‘extraction music‘. The album was recorded way before the term became common parlance on every street corner and was released way after. Hearing it is as mysterious and exciting as finding a previously missing explanatory introduction to the Voynich Manuscript.
A truly essential purchase.
Tags: caught in the wake of forever, crow versus crow, dominic lash, drone, electronica, every contact leaves a trace, field recording, henry collins, ignacio agrimbau, improv, michael clough, new music, no audience underground, noise, seth cooke, tumblr, visual art, will montgomery
Michael Clough – Untitled (CD-r, self-released, edition of 5)
Michael Clough – SKRBL (16 page, A6 booklet, self-published, edition of 10, all unique)
Michael Clough – miniMA (Tumblr account and A7 booklet, self-published)
Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow – Excommunicado (3” CD-r and booklet, Crow Versus Crow, initial edition of 50, second run of 25)
Dominic Lash / Will Montgomery – Real As Any Place You’ve Been / Thames Water Live (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)
Henry Collins – Music of Sound (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)
Ignacio Agrimbau – Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)
Seth Cooke – Four No-Input Field Recordings (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)
Listen hard, dear readers, can you hear it? A faint, beguiling, rhythmic patter. It is the sound of the no-audience underground, in particular those that have submitted material for review, drumming their fingers on the collective kitchen table waiting as patiently as possible for comment on their endeavours. I jest of course, I can’t imagine anyone really giving a monkey’s about delays and deadlines around here, but occasionally I do feel bad about the length of time it takes me to get around to everything. In my defence I have been totally bewilderated by the demands of returning to work following a long period of illness. Also, whilst unable to write much, I have instead made the fifty tapes of the oTo back catalogue available as a (massively successful, I’m happy to say) distraction. Never mind that CD-r you sent me in January – look over there! – rare Phil Todd stuff!!
Anyway, the muse has poked her head around the door to see how I’m doing and is now helping me uncork the whimsy spout. Inspired by Joe’s account of a tape that comes packaged in a gnome I have been thinking a bit about the stuff we wrap stuff in and am bundling together some exquisitely presented releases that have recently come my way.
Firstly three objects by the incomparable Michael Clough. I know the guy is amused and flattered when I start bandying terms around like ‘aesthetic’ but, having been delighted by his work for fifteen years, I can think of few artists more consistent. His achievements are all the more remarkable for being produced in tiny editions, or hidden on Soundcloud, created in moments snatched from family life. His erudite and self-deprecating humour disguises a homespun but hardcore conceptual rigour and a Savile Row tailor’s eye for quality of finish.
Take SKRBL for example – sixteen pages of exactly that, photocopied, layered, recopied, stapled into a neat card cover. The presentation gives these scribbles the air of architectural drawings by a madman, the blueprints of an impossible, nine-dimensional suspension bridge. The enlargements provoke a ludicrous desire to attend to detail that just isn’t there. Or is it? How serious is this nonsense?
miniMA, a very neat A7 booklet with card cover containing 8 photographic plates, is the first physical manifestation of the Miniature Museum of Art, curated by M. Clough. Presented as a tiny exhibition catalogue with knowing puns and allusions for artist names and picture titles, this is, of course, all his own work. His Tumblr account contains many more fascinating examples of ‘found art’ framed by his discerning eye and documented with his camera phone. I’d be happy transferring dozens of these pieces to RFM but they are best viewed in situ and the effect of scrolling through them is cumulative. Makes me want to get recording purely so I can nab his best for album covers.
The third of these objects is a CD-r packaged in a card, handmade, fold-out sleeve held together by the type of paper sash patented by Andy Robinson for his much-missed label Striate Cortex. No identifying information is included, no text of any kind, just photographs of light refracted through, I’m not sure, maybe some kind of corrugated plastic then cut into a waveform shape of the sort you might see via some sound-editing software. It is a genius piece of design – an almost completely abstracted city scape portrayed as nothing but pulse and it fits the music perfectly. The CD-r contains one untitled track lasting 33 minutes built entirely from layers of electronic throb. It is as sinuous, mindless and viscerally sensual as an interspecies orgy on a cold, tiled floor following a mass breakout at the reptile house. Indeed, in reviews I often use the term ‘meditative’ in the appreciative but not wholly accurate sense of ‘thought provoking’. This piece is ‘meditative’ in the Buddhist sense of aiding in the dissolution of ego. It is, to put it bluntly, fucking obliterating – marvellously so.
This stuff can be had direct from Clough himself. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for availability and prices.
Next we have Excommunicado by Caught In The Wake Forever (an alias of Fraser McGowan) and Crow Versus Crow. The package feels simple, coherent and appropriate but a list of its elements is overwhelming. I’ll let Andy Crow explain:
‘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.
OK, perhaps that level of description is bordering on the fetishistic but you get the idea: this is a package. In a letter to me Andy was coy about the informing idea behind the project as he wanted me to come to it fresh. Unfortunately, however, he clearly forgot that I was on his mailing list and had received a plug for the first edition of this release in which he told the world that it deals with…
…loss. Or, more specifically, it deals with the process of coming to terms with loss. I’m sure most people reading this will have got to a point in your life, post-trauma, where you’re confronted with the question, ‘What now?’. Sadness, bitterness, alienation, isolation, loss, nostalgia, hope, glimmers of happiness… all of these come together in a non-linear mess, as you attempt to ‘pull yourself together’, ‘get yourself back on track’ etc etc.
…which is a tough idea to jettison once you know it is there. I like to think I would have guessed anyhow. The project as a whole seems defined by absence: the blown pigment outlining a hand shape on a cave wall. Fraser’s music is a delicately balanced mix of electronics – dragging a cumbersome weight from the past behind it, unsettled in its present, grasping for the future. It’s like not quite remembering something. Andy’s drawings are perfectly complementary. Again, here is art reaching for something no longer there. The booklet ‘reads’ like the marginalia surrounding an entirely redacted text.
The initial run of 50 copies for this release sold out in a day. A second edition of 25 is planned. Please visit the Crow Versus Crow blog for updates and/or to sign up for the newsletter.
Finally then, I am delighted to offer a warm RFM welcome to new label Every Contact Leaves a Trace. My admiration for the luxuriantly bearded polymath Seth Cooke is well documented to the point of being borderline creepy. Suffice to say the news that he was starting his own label was gladdening and that these objects were hotly anticipated.
I’d like to get the less positive stuff out of the way first: I’m afraid the split album shared by Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery was not for me, despite some very satisfying passages of subterranean electro-gurgle in ‘Thames Water Live’ by the latter. Moving swiftly on…
Music of Sound by Henry Collins is an edit of family favourite film The Sound of Music removing all dialogue and music from the soundtrack. We are left with half an hour (that much!) of footsteps, weather, birdsong, doors slamming, whistles and the like – a celebration of the work of the foley artist. The worry with this kind of high concept stuff is that the cleverness will come at the expense of engagement, or to put it another way: that the technical accomplishment can be admired without being much, y’know, enjoyed. However, no need to fret here because Henry has created a surprisingly powerful and emotionally resonant piece. Subtracting the ‘content’ has also drained away the Technicolor of the original and we are left with a tense black-and-white atmosphere in which the dread of the approaching Nazis is fore-grounded. If you’d told me it was a version of say, The Third Man, I’d have no trouble believing you. Also, the insert picturing the alpine meadow from the film’s iconic poster image sans Julie Andrews is genius.
You might, given the amusing title, expect Seth’s own Four No-Input Field Recordings to be very, very quiet indeed. Instead what we have is twenty minutes of electrostatic roar uplit with digi-squiggles. I imagine Seth shrunk, with his boom mic and recording equipment, Fantastic Voyage style, and squirted into his kit in order to become the Chris Watson of the sub-atomic. Listen as herds of crackling electrons stampede along the canyon floor of his mixer’s circuitry. Marvel at the call-and-response of a quantum-level dawn chorus before us clumsy humans start collapsing the wave function all over the place with our observations. Very sharp and very entertaining.
Lastly, we have the ominously titled Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust by Ignacio Agrimbau. It has taken me a while to appreciate just how good this one is. The first couple of listens left me skating on the meniscus feeling weightless and foiled by the music’s surface tension. As with After the Rain, the terrific but musicologically intimidating band of which he is one third, I am largely ignorant of the instrumentation used or the traditions and influences from whence it sprung. This is, apparently, broken music constructed with broken instruments but without Seth telling me this I’d be none the wiser. Imagine Ignacio as an expert marine biologist explaining his novel theories about the life of a coral reef over video taken during a scuba dive. I’m the guy at the back not really taking it in because I’m distracted by the strobing colours and alien patterns.
So, with that in mind, here’s an attempt at a description. A breathy, muted sound palette suggests the struggles of a pupa within its chrysalis – fluid life reforming into something new. This is underscored with a near constant percussive urgency that occasionally topples over into a Dada, clattering slapstick – like hieroglyphs sprung to life and leaping from the tomb walls in order to hit each other over the head with grave goods. Highly compelling stuff which rewards close attention.
The packaging for these four releases is as diverting as the contents. Before getting to the CD-r the listener needs to remove a bulldog clip, put the embossed card outer sleeve to one side, unfold a paper inner sleeve and note the details handily contained on a separate insert. Following their appearance on a blog hosted by The Wire magazine (pics above stolen from that source – I don’t like the publication but credit where it’s due: nice work) Seth offered the following explanation on the Bang the Bore Forum:
The idea is that the listener has to reassemble each release every time it’s played. There are lots of possible configurations, each outer cover is a square tile that can be positioned in any direction, or reversed. Each is embossed with a found object rather than embossing plate.
Which brings me neatly to the final point I’d like to make. Seth also said this:
You can figure most of the ideas behind the packaging out for yourselves, but Ignacio’s might take a little explaining. Iggy’s Anatomy of the Self Volume II is about breakdown – of instruments, of working methods, of relationships, of family, of organisations, of society. He wanted an image of a broken machine, and I initially got hold of some cogs to emboss, but it felt far too mechanistic for the sound of the record. So I got the chance to collect up some 3d printer misprints… the hexagonal hive-style pattern is the exposed inner structure, made that way to save plastic. As it went through the embossing press the piece started deteriorating in fibrous strands or splintering altogether, and some of the relief was so deep that it ruptured the greyboard. So in essence, you’re looking at the product of one broken machine creating another broken machine, a product that’s breaking as it’s repeatedly run through another machine two hundred times, a process that’s also rupturing the medium itself.
…and Andy Crow said this:
‘Excommunicado’ is a collaborative project from Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow that brings together work in the respective medium of both artists revolving around each artist’s interpretation of a single conceptual theme. The works within were produced as a continuous dialogue over a number of months, with various stages of development and articulation being sent back and forth between the artists, until both felt that their contribution was complete.
…making explicit, as if it were needed, that there is another level on which all these objects need unpacking. At the risk of sounding pretentious, the packaging also involves a metaphysical or conceptual element which acts as a further framing device for the content. This can be more or less obvious or implicit, more or less important to the listener or viewer’s experience but it is there and it is there because these artists wanted it there.
I am, as ever, in awe of the graft, the seriousness of intent, the lightness of touch, the quality of finish, the expert use of meagre resources, the intellectual rigour and the coherent and fascinating aesthetics that our scene is capable of exhibiting. You’d think I’d have lost the ability to be amazed, wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it.
(contact him via the email address in the article above)
crow versus crow and sheepscar light industrial present petrels, aqua dentata, max bondi, bbblood and ben gaymer live in leeds 15/09/12September 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: aqua dentata, bbblood, ben gaymer, crow versus crow, drone, electronica, improv, live music, max bondi, new music, no audience underground, noise, paul watson, petrels, sheepscar light industrial, tartaruga records, wharf chambers
An awesome gig is about to occur here in the beautiful garden city of Leeds. My advice is: attend. Apologies for the short notice but it has been widely publicised elsewhere and I’m sure you can rearrange whatever less important thing you had planned…
The incredible line up includes some RFM blog faves and some terrific acts that are, to my shame, new to me. For a full account of the fun ahead see either the Sheepscar Light Industrial blog or the Crow Versus Crow blog both of which have write-ups and copious links. See also my views on BBBlood, possibly the best of the new physical-noisers I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, here, here and here. See also also my review in which the Aqua Dentata album is compared favourably to the best record ever made.
Andy of CvC and Dan of SLI deserve your support for pulling this one out of the bag. I will definitely be there myself so do say ‘hello’ whether or not we’ve already made acquaintance. The social side of this event will be good too, I’m sure. And think of the mouth-watering merch table! Bring money!
Oh yeah: don’t forget to read/act on that bit about Wharf Chambers membership – it is very easy to sort out and helps them enormously.
Right then – see y’all next Saturday, comrades…