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

the 2014 zellaby awards

January 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

The deliberations are over, the ballots are burning.  White smoke billows from the chimney here at Midwich Mansions.  Ignore the salty wave of ‘best of 2014’ lists you saw prematurely ejaculated over an appalled December – here is the real thing. ‘Never finalised prior to January 1st’ – that’s the Zellaby pledge.

And what a conclave it has been!  Scott turned up early and presented his nominations as a hyperlinked series of Discogs listings – he spoke using a vocoder throughout and would only answer our questions if we assigned them catalogue numbers.  Joe’s effervescent enthusiasm remained undimmed despite a trip to Accident and Emergency following a foolhardy attempt to gargle Christmas tree baubles.  New kid Luke seemed happy to fetch and carry despite our hazing pranks – oh, how we laughed sending him to Wilko’s for a tub of left handed CD-rs!  All I had to do was sit in my wing-backed leather chair, fingers steepled, and pass Solomon-style judgement.  My beautiful Turkish manservant took copious notes during procedures, of course, and whilst those are being transcribed I’m afraid I must begin with some sombre news: the underground is dead.

An article making this claim by David Keenan was published in the December issue of The Wire magazine and caused adverse weather in the crockery.  Having finally read it I can confirm that it is, by and large, laughable.  The friend who sent me a copy included this note:

Here it is.  I will look forward to reading your response as it would be great to see his flimsy, self-obsessed nonsense getting torn apart.

Hmm, yeah, tempting as it is to to embark on a comprehensive rebuttal what does it really matter?  I hate to disappoint but engaging with the wilful fucknuttery to be found in publications like The Wire is like arguing about the properties of phlogiston – it might be of vague historical or semantic interest to those with too much time on their hands but is ultimately pointless.  My favourite response has been Tom Bench‘s (@TJDizzle) satirical summary of Keenan’s disdain, tweeted in reply to some genuine outrage from Duncan Harrison (@Young_Arms):

yr not tru underground because u have friends and sometimes talk to them about music

Lolz.

Some of the fallout has been quite interesting though.  Just before Christmas, RFM started getting hits from an Italian language music site that was, on investigation, carrying an interview with Keenan in which he is asked specifically about the idea of the ‘no-audience underground’ as popularised by this blog.  In his short response he manages to invent a barely recognizable straw man version of the notion, take a swing at it, miss, then step back as if he’d actually landed a punch.  Admittedly, Google Translate may have knocked some nuance out of his answer but, as I was able to read it, it was good for a hearty chuckle and fuck all else.

Phil Smith, currently researching the history of Termite Club for a book chapter, wrote a thoughtful piece largely agreeing with Keenan that contained the following tragicomic scene:

One of the saddest moments of the year for me (on a lovely day) was Neil Campbell & John Tree talking about whether there was ever in our lifetime likely to be a music revolution like (say) punk again (one which Keenan seems to want), & shaking their heads in total ‘of course not’ resignation, the required kidz soaked in computer games & all manner of other entertainment drips & (I suppose) music, whatever it signifies to people, only ever welling up in such a way as part of a business move anyway.

I laughed out loud reading this.  Not only have these rueful old geezers forgotten at least one revolution we’ve already had since punk (rave culture – musically game changing, actual laws passed to disrupt it) but the internet enabled golden age is orders of magnitude more significant than punk.  Here’s a piece from yonks ago which begins to explain why and, for good measure, here’s another from double-yonks ago about why The Wire is hopeless too.

Neil Campbell, emboldened by Keenan’s piece and nostalgic memories of poorly received gigs unearthed in response to Phil’s Termite research, ramped up his usual silliness.  On Twitter he lamented the lack of confrontation nowadays and took the piss with his #realnoaudienceunderground hashtag.  I was interested to find out if there was any substance behind his bravado so devised an experiment.  After waiting for Twitter to move on, I called Neil out on some random nonsense in a deliberately antagonistic manner.  As expected, fight came there none.  Indeed, after explaining what I was up to both publicly and via direct message (the latter, I admit, did contain the phrases ‘full of shit’ and ‘you ol’ fraud!’) I found myself unfollowed.  Ah well, so much for confrontation.

(Aside: Neil has form for practice/preach discrepancy.  After hearing him proclaim several times that he’d rather read a bad review than a good one I took him at his word and minced three Astral Social Club releases including the album Electric Yep.  I did this with heavy heart and even ran it past Neil before posting.  He replied with a jaunty ‘hey you know me, go ahead’ but after I did he deleted the RFM link from the list of friends on his Astral Social Club blog and has not submitted anything at all since.  I was amused to find myself excommunicated for heresy.  Ah well, so much for bad reviews.)

I get the impression that Neil might be a bit uneasy with his current status as universally loved sacred cow.  Or maybe he digs it and is frustrated not to be a Wire mag cover star?  Who knows?  I love the guy, have done for about fifteen years, and hate to jeopardise a friendship with a shameless ad hominem attack over something so inconsequential but… dude has clearly forgotten how to take a kick to the udders.

So, in summary: those that say they want confrontation don’t, or rather only want it on their own terms or at a safe distance, those that lament the lack of revolution need only to open their eyes to what is happening around them and those that proclaim the underground dead are talking pish.

Before moving on a word about terms of engagement.  Whilst I’ve enjoyed a few physical fights in the past (yeah, I may be short and out of shape but I’m fucking mental), I find this kind of swaggering jaw-jaw to be boring, childish and unproductive.  Comment if you like but unless what is posted is novel, substantial and engaging I am unlikely to respond.  I won’t be tweeting about it under any circumstances.  I have washed my hands and will need an irresistible reason to get ’em dirty again.

—ooOoo—

BOY!  WHERE ARE THOSE NOTES?  Oh, thank you.  Have a shortbread biscuit.  Right then, shall we crack on with the fun bit?

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents The Zellaby Awards 2014

Thank you for bearing with us.  Firstly, an apology: due to, y’know, austerity n’ that, this year’s ceremony will be taking place on the swings in the playground at the muddy end of the estate.  Nominations will be scratched into the paint of the railings and refreshments will be whatever cider Luke can prise from the grip of local vagrants.

Secondly, 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 2014.  It does not need to have been released in 2014.  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 any of my own releases, nor any releases that I had a hand in, er…, releasing (with one notable exception this year).  My three comrades are free to ignore these rules and write about what they like.  The price paid for this freedom is that I, as editor, have final say.  Thus the awards are the product of the idiosyncratic taste of yours truly with input from my co-writers along the way.

A couple of omissions explained.  Long term readers may be shocked to find no mention of previous winners Ashtray Navigations or the piss superstition.  Phil and Mel have been preoccupied this year with moving house, full time unenjoyment and various celebrations of the AshNav 20th anniversary and have not been as prolific as nutcase fans such as myself would like.  There has been one cassette of new material, Aero Infinite, which, to my shame, I only became aware of recently and do not yet own.  Believe me, the pain is fierce.  Bookies have already stopped taking bets on their planned four-disc retrospective winning everything next time out.

Julian and Paul have shared a split live tape with Broken Arm and had a CD-r, The Dialled Number, The Bone-Breaker, The Heavenly Sword, out on Sheepscar Light Industrial but, in my humble opinion, their defining release of 2014 was getting nothing to appear on the developed film, a mighty album which is sadly ineligible for this year’s awards because it was released by me on fencing flatworm recordings as their ‘prize’ for winning album of the year last time.  See, complicated isn’t it?

There are also many releases on the guilt-inducing review pile that I suspect could have been contenders had I found time to digest them properly: apologies to Ian Watson, Prolonged Version, Troy Schafer, Seth Cooke etc. and thanks for your continued patience.  For the first time, two entries in this year’s poptastic final chart are previously unreviewed on RFM.  Mysterious, eh?

OK, enuff with the preamble.  The first category is…

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

Joe votes for Yoni Silver:

I heard Yoni Silver play a solo bass clarinet set on November 1st this year. Over the course of 20 minutes I blinked repeatedly and snapped my fingers; my mouth hung open like a codfish and eventually my eyes filled with hot tears. I’d emerged from a jazz-hole that ranged from barely-there, reductionist ‘hummmm’, to wet-chop dribble/spittle outta the brassy pipes, to full-bore Ayler-esque gospel skronk. It was so good I didn’t just clap and holla…I vowed to start a record label to immediately box this shit up. Yoni’s discs are thin on the ground but live shows with proper jazz cats and beards like PWHMOBS are gathering pace. Watch out!

Luke goes for Botanist:

Ever fantasized about a forest dwelling black metal troll singing songs about plant life on drums and hammered dulcimer only?  Me too.  Well, fantasize no longer: he exists. Just when your jaded ears smugly tell you they’ve heard it all along comes the Botanist.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

…but anyone paying attention will have already guessed that the winner this year is Taming Power.

I might have indulged in some ill advised Campbell-baiting above but I am profoundly grateful to Neil for taking the time to introduce me to the world of Askild Haugland.  This quiet Norwegian has amassed a sizeable back catalogue of tape and vinyl releases on his own Early Morning Records, most of which were recorded, edited and annotated around the turn of the century and have remained largely unheralded since.  His work – created using tape recorders, cassette players, shortwave radios, electric guitars and the like – is perfection viewed from shifting angles, filtered through prisms.  His patience and dedication to uncovering every nuance of his processes are truly inspiring.  It has been an enormous pleasure to promote his music to a (slightly) wider audience – exactly what this blog is all about.  The chap himself seems lovely too.  Read more: Neil’s accidental guest post, reviews, more reviews, Early Morning Records catalogue.

…and when you return we can move on to…

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

Joe makes a compelling case for the Peak Signal 2 Noise broadcasts:

If Cathy Soreny and her Sheffield-based gladiators had released ten 25 minute compilation tapes in a year featuring the creamy froth of the N-AU we’d stand to attention and sing a rousing song. To create ‘visual cassettes’ for your telly and computer screen and navigate the machinations of the community TV industry and come up with such a thoroughly curated, imaginatively shot and god-damn funny series is just the bee’s knees. PS2N has opened another glossy window into the N-AU.

Luke keeps it pithy:

The Stokoe Cup should clearly go to Lee Stokoe.  ‘The underground is dead ‘ announces David Keenan in The Wire this month ‘shut up you prat’ is the reply from Radio Free Midwich.

Scott agrees:

Predictable enough, I HAVE to say Lee Stokoe. Browsing my discogs list for 2014 acquisitions it’s virtually all Matching Head tapes – either the new ones or tapes from the 90s that I didn’t already have. Its consistent to the point of sheer ridiculousness.

daniel thomas - that which

However, the editor has other ideas.  This year’s winner is Daniel Thomas.

Dan’s output in 2014 has been prodigious.  He even wins in two categories that don’t exist: ‘1016’ the opener on Enemy Territory is my track of the year (go on, play it whilst reading the rest of this article) and the ‘flower press’ edition of That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades put together by Dave Thomas (no relation) for its release on Kirkstall Dark Matter wins packaging of the year too.  The latter album is perhaps the definitive expression of ‘extraction music‘ – the sub-genre I defined as a way of herding the work of Dan, Dave, Kev Sanders and other fellow travellers into a manageable fold of headspace – and one of at least three projects involving Dan that could have been album of the year.  For the record, the other two are Hagman’s Number Mask on LF Records and the remarkable Dub Variations by The Thomas Family in another beautiful package hand crafted by Crow Versus Crow:

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.

Dan shows no signs of slowing, nor of relinquishing his choke-tight quality control.  I cannot wait to hear what he has for us in 2015.

…and now a favourite moment for the editor:

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Scott goes for a far-flung ambassador:

It has to be Miguel Pérez.  For making RFM a global concern, and being full of passion, he’s the man.

Joe, as ever, finds this a tough one to pin down.  He suggests…

…we should say a thank you to all the readers and contributors … to everyone who has waited patiently for a review/carried on reading without sending us hate mail…

…which is a sentiment I share, of course, but this year I think one particular set of contributors has to be recognized in this category.  God knows how 27 different acts are going to share the gong though because the winners are…

Michael Clough - eye for detail cover

The artists who submitted tracks to eye for detail – the midwich remixes album:

Andy Jarvis (Vile Plumage, NIHL), ap martlet, Aqua Dentata, Breather, Brian Lavelle, Chrissie Caulfield (of RFM faves Helicopter Quartet), Clive Henry, Dale Cornish, Daniel Thomas, devotionalhallucinatic, DR:WR (Karl of The Zero Map), dsic, foldhead (Paul Walsh – who accidentally started it all), Hardworking Families (Tom Bench), In Fog (Scott McKeating of this parish), John Tuffen (of Orlando Ferguson), Michael Clough (who also provided cover art), Michael Gillham, Neil Campbell (Astral Social Club), Panelak, Paul Watson (BBBlood), posset (Joe Murray also of RFM), Simon Aulman (pyongyang plastics), the piss superstition, Van Appears, Yol, and ZN.

This year I finally joined Twitter which, as a wise-cracking, smart-arse, mentally unstable narcissist with self-esteem issues, turned out to be a perfect platform for me (though for those exact same reasons I think I’ll have to exercise a bit more caution with it in future).  One of the first things that happened was a throwaway comment about a midwich remix project ballooning into an actual album that had to be retroactively called into existence.  The final release six weeks later contained 27 re-workings of tracks from my back catalogue and lasted a total of 3 hours 40 minutes.  The process was humbling, exhilarating, joyful and unprecedented in my personal experience.

The album remains available here (along with more detail as to its construction).  If you don’t already have it, I recommend you treat yourself with that Christmas money from Gran.  I’m charging a fiver for the download and all dough raised is being given to The Red Cross.  The total donated so far, after PayPal and Bandcamp fees, is something like £180.  When I reached a ton I had a giant-cheque-handing-over-ceremony, again following whims blurted out on Twitter.

Many, many thanks to all involved – you are elite members of the pantheon of the righteous.

—ooOoo—

BOY!!  DIM THE LIGHTS.  What?  Oh yes, we’re outside aren’t we.  Fetch me a shortbread biscuit then.  What do you mean there are none left?  Well, just give me the one you are holding.  Gah!  The impertinence!  Anyway, finally we come to the two main categories…

—ooOoo—

2. The Label of the Year Award

Joe goes for No Basement is Deep Enough:

You could easily mistake No Basement is Deep Enough’s tape goof for a zany Zappa-esque prank. But peel away the layers; brush the fringe to one side, open that single plush tit and you are rewarded with some amazing music. Almost like a wonky Finders Keepers NBIDE have unveiled some new ghouls and re-released some remarkable old gizzards (Alvaro – The Chilean with the Singing Nose, Ludo Mich and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson) in frankly outrageous packaging. Old or new, experimental classicists or gutter-dwelling hobo these gonks are pure trippin’ for ears.

Yeah, I’ve been involved as a one of these gonks this year but I think that means I can give you an extra bit of insight into how curator Ignace De Bruyn and designer Milja Radovanović are such wonderful human beings. I told them about getting some mentions in The Wire (Ed – you’ll love this) and they didn’t give a shit. “Ha, we always get mentioned in The Wire without any clue how, what, where, when” said Ignace, “and let’s keep it like that” he chortled into his waffle.

Luke narrows it down to two:

Beartown Records.  A consistent champion of no audience sounds and nice and cheap, they sent me a parcel addressed to Luke ‘ the sick’ Vollar which contained a postcard with ‘sorry just sorry’ written on it.  For this reason they are my label of the year.

Also a mention for Altar of Waste.  I find it comforting to know that somewhere in North America there is a guy called Cory Strand transforming his favourite films / TV programmes / music into insanely limited and lovingly presented sets. Twenty disc drone interpretation of Harry Potter limited to five copies!? He also releases loads of drone/HNW discs that are lovely items to look at and listen to including my album of the year [SPOILER REMOVED – Ed]

Scott apologises:

Sorry, Matching Head again.

Luminous worthies, for sure, but I reckon my choice has been phosphorescent:

kevin sanders - ascension through apathy

The winner is hairdryer excommunication.

The solo venture of Kevin Sanders has released, I believe, 26 items in the calendar year 2014.  Unbelievably, during the same time, he has also had his creations released by other labels, has played live, has moved house and job along a lengthy diagonal line from North to South and has let fly with a gazillion opaque tweets.  This guy’s heart must beat like a fucking sparrow’s.

But never mind the girth, feel the quality.  Kev’s hairdryer excommunication sits alongside Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head as an absolute exemplar of the no-audience underground micro-label as expression of personal vision.  Each release is a new page in the atlas mapping the world he is presenting to us; each trembling drone, each nihilistic/ecstatic scything fuzz is a contour line.  Like all great labels, hXe is greater than the sum of its parts and only gets more compelling as those parts collect and combine.  I appreciate that this might appear daunting for the newbie so here’s five to be starting with – you’ll thank me for it.

Now you see why I have to strictly enforce my ‘win allowable in only one category’ rule.  I could have created a top 40 (!) that just contained releases by, or involving, Askild, Dan and Kev.  Astonishing.  So, leaving those guys sat chatting under the climbing frame, we finally come to the blue riband, best in show, gold medal event:

1. The Album of the Year Award

Woo!  Lists!  Click on the album title and you will be taken to the original RFM review (if such a thing exists) or another applicable page (if not) where you will find details of the release (label, whatnot) and, most importantly, how to go about hearing/purchasing these marvels.

First to the lectern is Mighty Joe Murray:

It’s taken a real effort to whittle this down but here’s my top 5 in order:

faint people

1. The New Band of the Faint People – The Man Who Looked at the Moon

Keep yr Wounded Nurse. These micro-pieces are stitched together with a domestic hand juggling fly agaric.

2. Rotten Tables, Golden Meat – My Nose is Broken

This cheeky release opened a new stomach pouch and gassed itself in…yeasty and fruity. Biggest smiles of the year.

3. Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House

It goes, “tk tk tk tk tk …. po/po/po – ping.” Blistering like hot metal pipes; fragile like seaweed.

4. Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget

Stream-of-consciousness becomes conscious itself…a living, breathing music as fresh as green parsley.

5. CKDH – Yr Putrid Eyeballs/Fungal Air Creeping Adders

The most violently restrained listen of the year by a long shot. Needle sharp. Music to break radios.

Scott briefly interjects:

skullflower - draconis

Skullflower – Draconis

As sylph-like a heavyweight as you’re ever likely to hear.

Now over to the office junior Luke:

Album of the year…

midwich - the swift cover

Midwich – The Swift

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness. [Editor’s note: ha! What is more shameful? Luke sucking up to his editor or me for publishing it?  Yes, I know its me – shut up.]

The rest:

Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget
culver & posset – black gash
Skullflower – Draconis
Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus
Robert Ridley Shackleton / Werewolf Jerusalem / She Walks Crooked – April Fools
Ashtray Navigations  – Aero Infinite
Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg
Dylan Nyoukis – Yellow Belly
Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

..and last of all, to your faithful editor.  I have chosen twenty items (well, twenty three including cheats).  The first half are presented in no particular order, the second set in the traditional ‘top ten run down’ ending with the actual, objectively verified best album of the year.  In my opinion.

10. NIHL / Female Borstal / Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia

female borstal nihl splitdear beloved henry

The perils of the split tape, eh?  I dug the Female Borstal side of the former, sadly didn’t get on with Albert Materia on the latter.  However the sides by NIHL and Dear Beloved Henry were bloody marvellous and, if they’d appeared on the same object would have rocketed up these rankings.  So I’m imagining an ideal world in which they did.  NIHL got a haiku:

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.

Praise for Dear Beloved Henry – equally heartfelt, less formatting:

…deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations.  However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance.  It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking.  Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended?  The result is magical either way.

9. Helicopter Quartet – Leading Edges

helicopter quartet - leading edges

 …the album expresses a profound vision with an austere but soulful beauty.  Imagine a slate-blue version of Ashtray Navigations psychedelics or a restrained take on the intensity of, say, Swans without the self-loathing bombast. The band may jokingly self-describe as ‘semi-melodic mournfulness’ but this is a deeply serious music with, I think, plenty to say about the difficult, forlorn, wonderful, awe-inspiring condition we find ourselves in.

…Helicopter Quartet are, to my tired ears, a near-perfect example of how musicianship can be harnessed in a noise context.  Chrissie and Mike balance their considerable skills with an understanding of how to use noise to pluck the soul of the listener and have it vibrate with a slightly discordant, emotionally complicated, seriously intended, profoundly satisfying resonance.

8. Sophie Cooper – Our Aquarius

sophie cooper - our aquarius

 

When I wrote in the RFM Christmas message to the nation…

To be transported by a work of art – to be lifted from yourself, your surroundings and placed elsewhere for the duration – is a profound experience and, as someone who has trouble with self-sabotaging mental illness, one that I greatly appreciate. Catch me right and the bus to work is swapped for a magic carpet skimming the treetops. Find me in a susceptible mood and waiting at a pedestrian crossing becomes standing at the bedside of an elderly relative, brimful with a mixture of love and trepidation. Listening to music pans the muddy water sloshing inside my head, nuggets of gold and squirming, glistening creatures are uncovered. It – thus: you – is a constant source of revelation, of insight and of inspiration.

…it was no coincidence that I had been listening to this album a lot.  My apologies to Sof for not getting around to reviewing it but, hey, Uncle Mark did over at Idwal Fishers.  The cad suggests that it is ‘by no means a flawless release’ but if he dare repeat that in my vicinity I shall strike his cheek with my glove.

7. Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol. 1

stuart chalmers - imaginary musiks vol 1

The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving but carefully placed ticks – a filter echo, a moment of dictaphonic skwee – bring you back to the surface by foregrounding its artificiality. It’s like a South Sea Islands version of Philip K. Dick’s Time out of Joint. Imagine walking on the golden beach, admiring the dancing palms, looking out over the glassy ocean to the setting sun only for it all to suddenly disappear and be replaced with a featureless white room and a scrap of paper at your feet with the words ‘tropical paradise’ typed on it. As with all the very best stuff: the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it.

6. The Skull Mask – Nocturno Mar / Sunburn

skull mask - nocturno marskull mask - sunburn

Another terrific year for the prolific Miguel Pérez, RFM’s Mexican cousin.  From the bloody-minded free noise of his improv duo ZN to the incense-and-bitumen ritual drone of The Will of Nin Girima (released on new label-to-watch Invisible City Records), I doubt a week has passed without me spending some time in his company.

My favourite of his projects is The Skull Mask and these two recordings were released either side of Miguel’s return to acoustic guitar.  The former is made of enveloping, tidal drones containing half-submerged reversed vocals.  It can prove oppressively menacing or hypnotically soothing depending on your mood as you encounter it.  Just like the night sea it is named for.  The latter is ravaged, desert psychedelia improvised with raw acoustic guitar.  There is no shade under which Miguel, or the listener, can hide – this is completely exposed music and is riveting.

5. Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg

yol - headless chicken

From the preamble to a review by Joe:

For the uninitiated Yol has carefully and modestly created his own footnote in the frantic world of kinetic poetry.  Imagine tiny fragile words battered with broken bottles.  Innocent syllables and posh sibilance swashes getting clotted and clumped together.  Those classy phonics all chopped up and smashed; ground out like spent fags and stuttered wetly in a barely controlled rage…

Musical accompaniment is of the most primitive and brutal kind.  Forget the chest-beating Harsh Noise dullards, this is frighteningly naked and exposed.  Short blasts of destruction come from broken machinery, sheared plastic shards, bits of old hoover and burnt cutlery.  A more dicky commentator would say recordings are made in carefully selected site specific locations.  The truth?  Yol’s breaking into empty factory units and shouting his rusty head off.

4. Spoils & Relics – Sins of OmissionEmbed and then Forget

spoils and relics - sins of omissionembedandthenforget

The closest the RFM staff come to ‘critical consensus’.  I can’t decide which of these releases I prefer so you are getting ’em both.  From my review of the former:

Their music denies narrative … The palette used is a largely abstract selection of found, domestic and field recordings as well as sound produced by the various electronic implements that make up their ‘kit’.  The source of any given element is usually (and presumably deliberately) unclear.  They are examining the innards of everything, poking around where noise happens and taking notes.  It is more akin to the meta-musical experiments of AMM and their progeny.

Don’t be scared off – this music is not dry and scratchy, it is layered with humour (ranging from the wry raised eyebrow to banana skin slapstick), tension and a whip-smart self-awareness that speaks of the telepathic relationship between the band members when performing.  A piece by Spoils & Relics is about sound in the same way a piece by Jackson Pollock is about paint.

From Joe’s review of the latter:

There is a constant flow of ideas all itchy with life; reminding me of a similar feeling – running your finger over a gravestone, nails gouging the names.  I’m caught up in a multi-sensory melting of meaning into a constant ‘now’ … Listeners who favour that hi-fidelity will be delighted.  Beards who dwell in the no-fi world of clanking tape jizz are going to be entranced.  Skronk fans will be be-calmed.  Zen droners will wake up refreshed and sharp.

3. Ap Martlet – Analog Computer

ap martlet - analog computer

The title is perfect – it calls to mind a room-sized, valve-run difference engine humming with contented menace.  These three tracks seem less compositions than iterations of an algorithm set in motion by a wonky punchcard being slotted into the machine upside-down.  ‘Comdyna’ and ‘Thurlby’ are both rhythmic in an abstract sense – the latter being a low impact step aerobics class for retired ABC Warriors, the former an exercise in patience and discipline as a series of low-slung tones are held until they start to feedback, then released, then repeated.  The final track, ‘Heathkit’, is a coruscating, brain-scouring, fuzz-drone.  It is the kind of sound that in a workshop you would wear ear protectors to dampen but here it is presented for our contemplation and admiration.

2. culver – plague hand

culver - plague hand tapes

[Editor’s note: a sudden attack of prudishness has stopped me from reproducing the covers of this release.  Scans can be found accompanying the original review.]

I need to account for Matching Head catalogue number 200: plague hand by culver, a twin tape set containing four side-long tracks totalling, you guessed it, 200 minutes.  Each of these four untitled pieces (the sides are labelled a,b,c, and d and that’s all you get) is a sombre Culvanian documentary: a long, wordless panoramic camera sweep taking in the scenery with an unblinking 360 degree turn.  Each is different from the last, all are wholly involving and will have the attentive listener crowing ‘aww… man, I was digging that!’ and reaching to flip or rewind as soon as the track ends.  I say ‘attentive listener’ but really there is no other kind because you have no choice in the matter.  This isn’t background music – allow yourself to get caught and your ego will be dissolved like a fly in a pitcher plant.  It is a masterwork and a fitting celebration of the numerically notable point it represents.

[Editor’s second note: Lee later told me that this is in fact all one track with various movements.  Just so as you know.]

…and the winner of the Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2014 is:

1. Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus

aqua dentata - cygnet procambarus

My review took the form of a science fiction (very) short story.  Eddie’s music does that kind of thing to your head.  Here it is:

In some future hospital you are recovering from a horrible accident. Within a giant glass vitrine, you are suspended in a thick, healing gel – an amniotic fluid rich in bioengineered enzymes and nanotech bots all busy patching you up. From the waist down you are enmeshed in metal, a scaffold of stainless steel pins keeping your shape whilst the work continues. The first twenty minutes of Eddie’s half hour describes your semi-conscious state of prelapsarian bliss, played out over dark undertones of bitter irony: every moment spent healing is, of course, a moment closer to confronting the terrible event that put you there.

During the final ten minutes the tank empties, bizarrely, from the bottom up. Pins are pushed from healing wounds and tinkle and clatter as they collect below you. Attending staff shuffle nervously but maintain a respectful distance and near silence. As the gel clears your head, your eyes slowly peel open, the corners of your mouth twitch. You look out through the glass at the fishbowled figures in the room. You weakly test the restraints you suddenly feel holding you in place, and with a sickening flash it all comes back and you rememb———

No-one in what this blog lovingly refers to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is producing work as consistently brilliant as Eddie Nuttall. The back catalogue of his project Aqua Dentata – growing with the alien beauty and frustrating slowness of a coral reef – contains not a wasted moment. His work – quiet, long-form dronetronics with metallic punctuation – is executed with the patience and discipline of a zen monk watching a spider construct a cobweb.  Best dressed man to feature on this blog too.

—ooOoo—

So, that is that.  Eddie’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for Aqua Dentata to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2015.  I’ll keep you posted on negotiations.

Oh, and should any of you be interested in how this blog does – y’know, number of hits and all that – I’ve made the annual report provided by WordPress public and you can see it here.

Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.  All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2015.

 

tension, balance, possibility: the thomas family’s dub variations

November 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Thomas Family – Dub Variations (CD, Crow Versus Crow, CVC001, edition of 100 or download)

thomas family completethomas family under constructionthomas family insert

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.

—ooOoo—

Crow Versus Crow

framing devices: packaged by michael clough, crow versus crow and every contact leaves a trace

March 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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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)

clough - untitled cd-rminiMA inner pagesskrbl coverskrbl inner pagesexcommunicado booklet coverexcommunicado booklet inner pagesevery contact leaves a trace outersevery contact leaves a trace picsevery contact leaves a trace inners

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 mriclough@aol.com 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.

Michael Clough on Soundcloud

Michael Clough on Tumblr

(contact him via the email address in the article above)

Crow Versus Crow Blogspot

Crow Versus Crow Bandcamp

Seth Cooke

Every Contact Leaves A Trace

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