Tags: beautiful, beauty, culver, dirurnal burdens, downer canada, drone, fordell research unit, invisible city records, power moves library, smut, witchblood
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records)
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records)
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records)
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library)
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records) C45 Tape and digital album
Have I told you about my eyes lately? It’s the ordinary story…this old guy keeps gets older, bits keep conking out on me – but my eyes? I need my eyes!
I’m counting out change wrong, I can’t read a bus ticket at all and now these damn tapes have become a blur. I need to rummage for my specs for any meaningful exchange between tape gunk and brain dump.
The reason I’m telling you this is, for a few weeks, this was written up as ‘that black tape’ in my note book. It took me a long time to notice the subtle grey on black lettering on the j-card – something one of you youngsters could spot at 100 meters no doubt.
My ears are sharp as a bat’s however so each time I played this mysterious monolith I was soon enveloped in the deep, smoky fug of what I recognised as an expert dronester.
Was it a secret butter-fingered Robert Fripp jamming with a sleepy Stephen O’ Malley? Were Jazzfinger scooping treats from their legendary tape library?
And then it slowly swam into focus…in a bleary wobbling font…it’s a Fordell joint. Of course!
Things start out damn majestic with a shuddering overture as easy and relaxed as soft breathing in your ear. Cornelia Parker’s flattened brass instruments shuffle themselves into formation on ‘Flying not Jumping’ creating a collapsing house-of-cards effect.
But it’s ‘Heat Death of the Universe’ that shifts these lofty airbourne melodies into pulverising heavy sub-bass Sabbath riffage. A relentless avalanche, cascading down, down, down…and yet somehow it still remains pretty.
I wonder aloud, “How does he do it?” as the cats sit watching me.
But they soon scatter when ‘Frodell Ferox’ digs even deeper. It’s a god-damn canal dredger of a track. Filthy silt is drawn up from a hidden watery grave and held aloft facing an indifferent sun. Jesus – this is epic stuff, but still…you know, beautiful man.
The B side shimmers macro to micro; from the size of a sparkling infinite universe to the dull silver bubbles swirling in my gin and tonic – it’s all here.
The constant now of ‘The Wrong Train’ is a singular vibrating point dragged out into eternity (quite seriously Horizon need to check this out for their science docs) each moment gently circling a central atom of dust.
The closer ‘Shark’ describes the brain collapse that immediately precedes sleep – a deep submission. This night-time plummeting is underscored with a slight feathering, like the flex of a fin as it cuts through the dark water.
Truly immense music that echoes the subtle power of the natural world.
[postscript- it was only when I was jamming this tape later, in preparation to watching FRU in Gateshead, I noticed the sneaky Miles pun of the title. Which reminds me…have I told you about my eyes lately?]
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records) one-sided C70 tape strictly no download
This genius collaboration from Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and Lucy ‘Smut’ Johnson takes simple piano and tape drone and using their collective dark alchemy turn it into the purest gold.
This really is one hell of a tape – the handling of such humble materials is exceptional and each piece strikes a different tone on the melancholic memory gong marked ‘summer heartbreak caught in delicious amber’.
There’s an aching to the sound that’s more than the sum of any hiss or lo-fi tape wobble. It’s the marbled end-papers in a leather-bound book, it’s the smell of cigar smoke on a blue velvet jacket. The sounds are so evocative of longing it is hard for me to not to run off with some Byronesque fancy, all frilly sleeves and a head full of opium.
Example? A moment on the third piece where one tape of piano gently doubles up with another with the most gorgeous dissonance that made me, quite literally, swoon like a regency dandy.
The fragile and opaque piano clusters merge perfectly with the distant tape grot spluttering away yet they seem to swap foreground and background with a subtle magic – one moment I’m picking out ivory notes descending like doomed men. In the next the boiling-ink bluster of the tapes scrubs my frontal lobes clean of any other information.
I flop around foolishly anticipating one of ‘my turns’ again and realise I’ve been gloriously witchblooded.
Limited to 50 only and no download (ever) so move quickly to bag this essential release.
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records) C60 Tape and digital album
Superfuckingheavyconceptdrone from king of the amplified barbecue, Ross Scott-Buccleuch.
The sleeve notes are clear this smudged and grimy sound was created from reel-to-reel, no-input mixer and walkmen etc – but a sit down listen, pumped up pretty loud, suggests something more elemental.
The side-long ‘Inaction’ seems to be composed of low pressure ridges or gigantic boulders howled at by monks. Then things change and become more avian – the magical instinct of migratory birds swooping through thin magnetic fields following graceful arcs of the ocean captured on tape.
It holds that menace of feathers still – a sight to behold but no one wants a quill in the eye!
Flipping it, ‘Extinction’ is slowly decaying leaves: bright reds and yellows leaching their energy back into a grateful Earth. The movements are more delicate and angelic with an emphasis on collapse and euphoric hypnosis as centres associated with freewill switch off one-by-one.
The long-legged rhythms provided by the loops allow this tape to amble in an exploratory mood – looking in your mood cupboards and checking your emotional temperature before slinking out the backdoor leaving the gas on.
The final few movements are a lazy rumble, worn smooth with use, like a pebble picked up from the banks of the Styx.
Heavier than expected but comfortable – but what is that terrible hunger?
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library) CD-r and digital album
Superb gritty tape huss.
Kev Power Moves is really pushing at the boundaries of what is possible in the world of Dictaphone composition right now. The limitations of micro-cassette have become their signature sound: that decaying roar, the wobble of thin magnetic particles and a mid-range fullness smeared like anchovies on hot toast. Kev takes each element and works it over with a purist’s conviction and a scientist’s ear for granular detail.
This two-piece disc starts and ends with some exquisite pause-button juggling that creates small movements of momentum in sweet binary on/off/on/off. A constant tape roar is a busy scuttle – half howling winds of Tuva: half teaspoon circling a rough raku bowl that’s punctuated with the occasional cavernous Dub sinkhole. This negative space punches through the mix like a hypodermic piercing tough skin injecting a rich blossom of carnation red.
This is the sound of the machine itself, not tape as a sound collection medium but tape as an instrument in its own right. And for roughly 20 minutes, that’s it. A confident and unfussy buffering as detailed as the dirty margin doodles in a High School Biology text book. Wonderful!
The second 20 minute piece leads us out of the inner world of Dictaphone mechanics and manipulates real-world sound (all taped of course): water, street noise and rubber-band plucks in a cascade of doppler infinity and shove-button interventions.
The clarity of the plucks decays into an echoing shimmer (Alvin Lucier style) that makes my ear bristles vibrate passionately. New taped-sound (footsteps, 3rd generation hiss) are introduced with care creating the gentle psychedelic effect induced when a loud sound is suddenly turned off and you can hear the oxygen atoms sigh with relief.
Increasing intense, complex and thoughtful music from the essential sound of Dictaphone Canada!
Memories reworked and remembered again: Sophie Cooper on Anla Courtis and Vollar/Murray Tag Team on Culver versus Fordell Research UnitFebruary 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: alan courtis, anla courtis, argentina, culver, drone, field recording, fordell research unit, heavyness, joe murray, luke vollar, noise, sophie cooper
Anla Courtis – Antofagasta (Beartown Records) CD
I’ve wanted to listen to the music of Anla Courtis for ages after reading that big article about him in The Wire, so I was thrilled to see this new CD by him on the Midwich review pile released by Beartown Records.
And a bloody good job of it they’ve done too!
I know Beartown for their distinctively packaged tapes mostly; high contrast photography, photocopied in black and white sleeves and this packaging carries on this artistic precedent but takes it to a very pro looking level. The artwork features Courtis’ own blurry shots of scenic views, which I assume, are of the area of Argentina that the music is concerned with.
The CD comes with a sweet ‘cut out and keep’ style individual photograph and a nice reworking of one of Courtis’ images treated with the Beartown technique. Really great work, I’m surprised they only printed 50 of these but anyway…
The music contained within this lovely packaging has been created using Courtis’ cassette-made field recordings dating back to 1998. According to the sleevenotes these were then sat on for almost 10 years, made into something else, and then were left for almost another 10 years until Beartown released them. Lucky for us that they did.
Recorded in an area of Argentina called Antofagasta these 4 long tracks depict intricate and meditative recollections of place. I was thinking it must be really interesting to come back to recordings made of a place so long after the event and then try to rework them into something totally different. For me, sound evokes memory. If anything is going to transport you back it’ll be a sound (or a smell, I’ve experienced this once or twice) and I wondered how much of the original trip Courtis would have actually remembered aside from what he heard on these tapes.
After such a long time does memory have anything to do with it anymore? Can the sound just be treated as what it is, a sound, or would the memories come rushing back and be important enough again to inform the piece? The track titles are named after the area, 1, 2, 3 and 4 . Are we to imagine Antofagasta based on this music?
Don’t get me wrong though, these are not postcards, nor are they straight-up field recordings. Interesting elements of the recordings have been weeded out, changed and manipulated into retellings of events. On the 4th track Courtis has utilised every field recordist’s nightmare, wind, and transformed it into a whirling sound tornado, a windy nightmare!
It’s not all nightmarish however, scraps and pulls of objects layered up and played back repeatedly form lush sonic dreams, track 3, in particular, is beautiful. From an outsider’s perspective, the 1st track is the one most likely recognised as an original event. You can make out man made noises: vehicle sounds, revs of engines and distant voices.
As the CD progresses it feels as through you slowly lose a sense of reality as those first recordings become more fragmented and obscure.
Memories reworked and remembered again.
Culver: Prisoner of F.R.U (Know Your Enemy) Limited edition cassette and Bandcamp Download
My Word! This collaboration tape from Edinburgh’s Fordell Research Unit messing freely with and augmenting Gateshead’s Culver was always going to be a heavy example of neat sarcophagus music – but I wasn’t expecting 4AD-levels of such beautiful fullness.
It is not the first time that Culver and Fordell Research Unit have joined forces; indeed Fraser Burnett (FRU) has made no secret of his admiration of the deep influence that Culver has played in his own music. As someone who has followed both acts for some time now I would propose that this is (if it ever was) not an unequal balance, Lee is no longer sensei to Frasers clumsy roundhouses, more of an equal partner who can stand back, solemnly running his fingers through his beard as Fraser executes an impeccable routine of high kicks, deadly punches and overall karate Zen whilst illuminated in the copper glow of a setting sun.
Fraser is joined on this project by sometime member Grant Smith, another Edinburgh gonk serving times in Muscletusk (Yeah!) and Shareholder (Hell Yeah!). It has been told that the two pored over the encrypted texts from the North East whilst enshrouded in intoxicating vapours, being sure to keep their chalices full at all times.
And so as the mission was passed onto Fraser so must it now be passed onto Grant if he is ever to grasp the weight of this devotional music. Whether in collaboration with Fraser or by himself; what we hear is Fraser standing back in admiration as the young Jedi levitates a series of metal bowls and discs in a room of deep red velvet amidst shrouds of sandalwood incense.
Sowatchyahearin’ ‘Torch Needles’ is a ripe fig glistening with fragrant, sticky juice // OR // It’s the silvery snakes in Donny Darko plunging through an eggy Turner painting. With a slow rudeness they show off their blubbery muscles. What we left with? A very flexible riot!
‘Weak Will’ and ‘What Does She Watch?’ are touched by a delicate vapour trail petrified then doused in dark glitter. Light is reflected back for sure but at eccentric, unnatural angles illuminating the dusty corners and forgotten stairwells of a cross channel ferry: a periphery of sound construction as dangerous and inviting as the below deck engineering.
The grim maritime theme continues in ‘Telepathic Torture’. A creaking nameless ship cuts through a freezing fog, as vile oily water laps mockingly at the crumbled veneer of the battered vessel. What remains of the crew stare with haunted and stricken eyes. They are little more than walking carcasses starved and half mad from many sea-bound days of cold misery. As the yellow acrid fog starts to part they see land in the distance, strange and unfamiliar but land none the less, perhaps it is here that the crew will find salvation though they know not where they are and how they came to be there…
Yikes! My first ever drone raga is revealed in the backwards-metallic-skullfuck of ‘Shark’. Those bass-clouds are looming, heavy and pregnant and once again the epithet ‘devotional’ stands out clearly. A submission to the one true god of drone!
But the enveloping hiss of ‘Head Serpent’ is a gentle closer. Soft tape micro-scribbles pepper and voosh about the place; presently an aching tone is gingerly inserted like a steel cannula until, in the dying seconds, it’s rudely wrenched out and the claret starts to drip, drip, drip.
A wise man once said,
“To understand the sounds that nourish the mind is to study the true path, to know truly what it is that you need, and what you don’t need, and to shed off the layers that weigh you down.”
sliver lizards: joe murray on olivier di placido, fritz welch, kelly jayne jones, ross parfitt, jon collin, yol, culverOctober 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: beartown records, culver, early music, fritz welch, joe murray, jon collin, kelly jayne jones, matching head, olivier di placido, ross parfitt, winebox press, yol
Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – untitled cassette (tape, humansacrifice, HS0010, edition of 75 or download)
Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015 (tape, Early Music)
Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016 (tape, Early Music)
Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)
Culver – Gateshead Soup (tape, Matching Head, MH213)
Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – Untitled
Absolutely no nonsense Technicolor squall and dramatic brokenness from that most hectic of fluffer duos: Di Placido/Welch.
Like stitches in yr lip this stings a little as it wrenches new shapes outta junk-drums and garrotted-guitar. Frantically itchy as scabies it is… the scabby metre has you shuffling on and off the hot foot never quite sure where to hang your hat. But I’m diggin’ it… diggin’ it bad.
I’m listening with an abstracted grin now. I just can’t help it; the reptile part of my brain fair goofs on the hard/soft, fast/slow choices being presented to my dense grey lumps. But at the same time my debonair city-slicker love-node is lapping up the lightening-fast interactions and improvisations between flapping pig skin and eviscerated coiled steel. The perfect music for the metrosexual caveman perhaps? Shit… let’s throw a party to find out. I’m on nibbles.
Is that some post-production fingering I can hear in the backmasked vox that plays us out of this side? Wonderful, wonderful… let’s get some electronics soaking up this gravy to deglaze the nuggets.
The other side* made me squirt like Slaine in full-on berzerker mode such is the slap and clatter, the fizzing rip and hi-hat chit-chit-chit-bash. Like an erotic jazz experience it manages to create that brassy plateau of living a constant high… then stops on a teasing sixpence.
It’s not all hi-NRG jizz-riffles though. One small section’s a right downer of industrial ‘booms’ and ‘crashes’ played out next to a juddering (bass) washing machine that segues neatly into a promise of friction and anatomically crude charcoal drawings. Phewy.
The art of the improviser occasionally gets ladled with faux academic nonsense from highfaluting bodies, boards and authorities. A pox on them. This is vital as hydrogen and alive as a fresh pig because it’s free from any grey-beard permission.
Play this at your next lecture and watch Prof implode!
*I’ve used the rather unhelpful ‘this side’ and ‘other side’ descriptors because there’s nothing as bourgeois as track titles or side demarcations on this babycake. Total Hardcore yeah.
Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015
On seeing the title a ripple of excitement forced me to check last year’s journal and I can see I was right there, in Sheffield, when this piece was recorded.
…firmly camped upstairs for the rest of the show Jon Collin & Kelly Jones played guitar & flute but nary a note was plucked or blown. 99% of the sound came from feedback tones as fresh as a handful of snow down the trousers. Thin and minty… menthol smoke sprouting from the fingers. Control was the watch word and even a dropped e-bow couldn’t interrupt the stately ‘hhiiiimmmmm’…
Listening back to this, in a domestic setting, seems to downplay the austerity and dial up the astringent complexity. The sharp guitar tones (sliver [Editor’s note: I suspect a typo but am leaving it in for the sake of poetry] lizards shimmer across cool marble) mesh perfectly with the breathy feedback/flute (crystallised ginger crushed into powder and applied to the forehead) and create a ritual of pure transcendent beauty.
I’m often lost in the fog of metal or jazz (crashing and slashing) but the paleness and gentle simmering of these mercurial sounds has tickled my mind forever with its frosty bliss.
Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016
It starts with twin guitar plucking, wild and free as a Manx cat, but stretching out time into an almost cosmic nothingness.
However sparse and spectral this recording is though there’s a right-in-your-face attitude with some heavy clarity. Those brushed-steel sounds emerge from the plucks adding an odd gamelan ‘kong’ to the twisting strings, reminding us we are on a journey. From here to where doesn’t really matter but the steady pad of the foot and swing of the arm propels this music constantly forward.
Don’t look back.
A lake of clear water lays still and calm. Birds (too far away to distinguish species) swoop lazily overhead. All is peaceful until the standing stones begin to quiver, small pebbles roll down to the lake sending ripples across the surface drawing patterns that weave and double cross.
A watery maze appears. The walls clear enough to see through but refractions set up a prism effect showing the landscape with a rainbow light. Glorious colours indeed… but what’s that smoke on the horizon?
Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value
Ever wondered what JAZZ would sound like after Yol had had a fair go at it? Wonder no more as ‘Finley Crafted’ kicks like a Sidney Bechet joint with bruised ribs. Yakety-Sax and Ten-to-Two drums are pushed out a porthole but the pulse… the all important swing remains. It’s all syncopated beats and bomb-detonation throat, man. Gosh! This is heady, heady head-est schizz right from the get-go. These ‘live’ recordings are juddering with malevolence and stark contrast. ‘Bleed Mouth Parts’ and ‘Trapped in Portland Works’ are two of the most violent and brutal recordings I think I’ve ever heard. Sorry Extreme Noise Terror. Yol has beaten your usually exceptional ROOAAOOORRROR trump with a single (but scientifically focused) gob, cheap spanner set and polystyrene block.
Real rubble is thrown about for ‘Bird Feathers’ a rare decent into bass with (what sounds like) a fully pressurised deep sea diving suit dragged down a spiral staircase – as you listen, ear cocked against the air tube, it pulses ‘Vuphhhh-chk-hhhoooofff’.
The final boof , ‘A Medium Experience’ brings the hooligan noise back into home territory with the warmness and (dare I say it) comfort of interlocking manacles. Again my jass-ears are focused on the clattering percussion; the tinka-link of scrap metal that divides time like a punk Dejohnette. Do I have to say it? Essential. Essential and life affirming motherfuckers!
Culver – Gateshead Soup
What is there left to say about Culver? The most singular of artists he does his thing with no regard for fashion or favour. You’re into it or you’re not.
This tape (same as the last and same as the next) was picked up at a live show and apparently not available via more ‘official’ channels. What? Less official than a regular Matching Head release… that’s like trying to copyright snowflakes, man.
But what’s it sound like? A slowly emerging landscape of loops that I’ve tried to scientifically represent (a) to (g):
(a) a foul machine heating up and (b) three solitary acoustic guitar notes
(a) with (c) brown organ smear
(c) and (d) foreboding doom rumble
(d) incorporating (e) bleak metallic thunder
(e) gives way to (f) plumes of black smoke rising over the battlefield
(f) gently diminishes for (g) Valium earthquake
(g) x 2 fades out incredibly slowly leaving you praying for a start to the endless nothingness…
Tags: culver, joe murray, la mancha del pecado, lee stokoe, midwich, miguel perez, mp wood, neck vs throat, the soundroom, tusk festival, xazzaz, yol
Dark Tusk, Saturday 15th October, 2016
I’m delighted to be playing at the above event, taking place as part of the fringe of TUSK Festival, 2016. Here’s the blurb from Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe:
With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.
Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…
Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.
NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.
Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.
Plus sound installation by MP Wood.
2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.
Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.
Way cool. I’m still figuring out what my set will consist of but whatever I play will be called ‘NADA/ROTO’ which is cribbed from a tweet by Miguel and describes his daughter’s reaction to his music. Once I post this I’m going to blow the dust off my MC-303 and edit some recordings of the faulty strip light in my cellar plinking and buzzing. Sounds exciting, eh?
See you all soon!
Tags: culver, inyrdisk, jamie wrest, joined by wire, lee stokoe, matching head, wrest
wrest – dark green (tape, Matching Head, mh212)
Culver – Seven Eyes (3” CD-r in DVD jewel case, self-released)
Culver – It Bleeds (CD-r, Inyrdisk, iyd126, edition of 30)
Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen (self-released download)
Recent experience settles in drifts, in piles – like folded blankets in a cupboard, like books angled into inadequate shelving. It fills space, imperfectly.
Some is good: the chocolate buzz of my son Thomas’s third birthday celebrations, the marathon runner’s pride felt when my wife Anne’s hard earned promotion was confirmed. Some is tough: a journey diagonally down and to the West for the funeral of my Grandmother. No tragedy: she died aged 96, in her sleep, well looked after. On the train back up I stared at sodden countryside and thought about what I’d heard.
Imagine a little girl, the legs of her bed sat in jam jars full of disinfectant. A forlorn attempt to stop creatures crawling up into the mattress. Imagine sleeping with that smell, imagine rinsing out the drowned and poisoned in the morning.
Details like that lead me to reassess what is ‘consequential’. Aside from my family and my health (to which it seems inextricably linked) my relationship with fringe music is the most important thing in my life. Yet the numbers are statistically indistinguishable from zero: 20 people came to the show, 40 people bought a tape, 80 people read a blog post. Almost literally no-one cares but despite this – and because of it – when the pilot light is extinguished it can be really fucking hard to get it going again. I press the boiler’s red button and panic because all I can hear is the hiss of gas and the impotent tang, tang, tang of the ignition mechanism.
Nothing for it is there? The only choice is to chuck everything off the single bed onto the floor (that isn’t another metaphor – the tape deck is in the spare room), open the window and start with something reliable. I wonder what Stokoe is up to?
wrest – dark green
You can’t blame me for being surprised – I’d assumed that this shortish, single sided offering from Jamie Wrest on Lee Stokoe’s ever-reliable Matching Head tape label would be balls-out noise-metal of a North-Eastern variety. It’s not. Instead we hear a recording of a rainstorm outside accompanied by a simple, evocative, melancholy guitar and… that’s it. I was moved.
Imagine standing in the kitchen of an elderly relative – it’s curling up at the edges, it smells of its corners. In the back garden is an overgrown castor oil plant, its leaves a brilliant dark green in the rain. As your relative – half the size he used to be, hands shaking, absolutely delighted to see you – pours two mugs of tea you remember digging the hole for that plant with him when you were a child. You take your tea and turn back to the window so he can’t see you crying.
I’ll be with you in a minute, you go sit down.
Culver – Seven Eyes, It Bleeds
To Lee himself. Seven Eyes appears not (at the time of writing) to be ‘officially’ released but rather is being distributed under the counter to those addicted to his particular brand of Mugwump juice. Submit yourself to the same humiliating rituals that Scott McKeating and I have done and maybe you’ll get on the list. It runs to 22 minutes or so, is indistinguishable from previous offerings to all but the most attentive acolyte, and is completely obliterating. This rumbling conflagration cancels thought – its bloody-minded nihilism makes any kind of higher function irrelevant. To comment further would be like engaging in polite philosophical discussion whilst attempting to escape the choking smoke of a factory fire.
It Bleeds, released on CD-r in a tiny edition by the excellent Inyrdisk (I’ll say nowt about the cover art. My prudishness at Lee’s prurience is well documented and he clearly doesn’t give a shit anyway), runs to around 37 minutes in two parts. The first follows a typical Culveresque structure: contemplative intro swallowed by entropy, lengthy panic-inducing roar, initial theme resurfacing drained by the experience. It is a time-lapse film of an abandoned, decaying cabin in the woods, played in reverse until it almost appears habitable again. The dried blood on the axe left on the porch deliquesces, glistens. The second part is harder, brittle. ‘Melancholy’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe the vibe – here we have someone wet-eyed, jaw-clenched, about to make a tough decision as they listen to their neighbours play black metal at abusive volume and police helicopters throb low overhead.
Yeah, compelling stuff. Now what else is there on the review pile?
Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen
Ah, Stephen Woolley’s Joined By Wire (or ‘joined by wire’, or ‘joinedbywire’, or ‘JBW’ depending on typographical whim) project has always been a favourite nephew here at RFM. Albeit it an emotionally intense nephew with a worrying glue habit. Stephen himself may be as calm as a zen cow of course, but this racket brings to mind the mutant stepchild of Ashtray Navigations and a fax machine, fidgeting at dinner all moon-eyed and gabbling about how green the peas are. Here’s an extract from the notes accompanying this release:
./You (sing.) survival or caution or ghost house Mr Robot brains 100% on off. On Monday reach a peak of the highest level of the lowest level of between … and … to …, two million warning warning, you are here. 1 2 3 4 5 6 I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but, We can’t. CALL 0800-MAGIC PORTAL. Great Galaxalaxies, immense as the space through “light-years” stop this way 15 000 000 15 million million tons Pulsed light ellipse intense. Default energy x Actual energy JxBxW -re -length zzz soft places our solar system. The central plane of the galaxy, the myriads of stars, vast formations of cosmic dust, Ace ace I use the power and authority I have to make others comply, y My enthusiasm is contagious 49 00,59,01 duet turbine-harp cooool. Our solar system is somewhere here. Road captain X riders 1% riders biker Take some!!! Yes Touch Here view even if I told you I can’t see anything here No Touch Here RRRR 1000 1000 TRAX trax…
Bracing stuff, eh? Anyway, 2015 is an album of two halves. The first six months are full-on thug-psych, a gloriously exuberant over-clocked riot and possibly the noisiest JBW so far recorded. Percussive elements hidden under piles of splintered mirror suggest that these were once songs, now shredded beyond recognition by Cenobites driving agricultural machinery. The second six months are a change of pace. I raised an eyebrow at the relatively sedate ‘Midsomer Titan’ but soon swooned over its epic scope and irresistible charm. I listened sitting on a bench, back against a cool stone wall, sunglasses on and challenged myself to remain absolutely still and do nothing but watch the clouds and absorb every detail of these liquid fireworks.
What a privilege, I thought, as the pilot light in my head relit with a satisfying ptouf.
Matching Head (no official online presence, contact details via Discogs)
Tags: culver, la mancha del pecado, lee stokoe, matching head, miguel perez, narcolepsia
la mancha del pecado and culver – “collaboration vol. 5” (tape, Narcolepsia, narco 039, edition of 80)
Culver – Saps ’76 (tape, matching head, matching head 210)
Ah, Lee Stokoe and Miguel Perez – two old friends of your humble editor and of this blog. What have they been up to I wonder?
Well, it appears Miguel has been conjuring a no-audience attracting, improv noise racket as one half of the duo ZN, has been recruited as bassist for proper (corpse paint, cowls – the lot) black metal band Funereal Moon, has retired his labels Oracle and Agorafobia (over a hundred releases! Many still available via Archive.org – be resourceful), started a new one dedicated to harsh noise called Collants Noirs Releases (NSFW – unless you work in a sex dungeon, I suppose), engaged in numerous collaborations, rethought his major solo projects – Wehrmacht Lombardo, La Mancha Del Pecado and The Skull Mask and maintained a release schedule that would give Sindre Bjerga heartburn. Oh, and he has two new, excellent tracks on this compilation raising money for the Syrian refugee crisis – a cause well worth your donation. Despite all this Miguel assures me he is following some advice I gave him a while ago: to slow down. Heh.
…and Lee remains Lee. Solo as Culver, or in collaboration with others, released by his own label Matching Head, or elsewhere, Lee is the truly underground musician I sometimes wish I could be. Indefatigable, unruffled, he continues to explore the contours of a rigorous, uncompromised aesthetic. He dupes tapes, he sends handwritten letters, he shows a disdain for digital culture that has gone past anachronistic, through wilfully perverse and become almost heroic. His work – a distant but ever present ominous rumble – attracts a handful of acolytes (myself included) who tend their ridiculous collections with obsessive care. The newbie should not be intimidated, however – you can start raking the sand anywhere. Here will do.
I first encountered this fifth (of six?) collaboration between the two early last year when an overexcited Miguel sneaked me a preview via the magic of the internet. I reviewed it thus:
#5 is 38 minutes of scouring radio static as heard in the cockpit of a single propeller aeroplane surveying the bomb damage inflicted by Wehrmacht Lombardo’s war machines.
[Editor’s note: quote taken from a pair of articles posted 9th and 12th February, 2014. Wehrmacht Lombardo being Miguel’s hardest noise project – see links for context. Also, whilst inlay card states this is narco 038, internet says: narco 039]
…and, yeah, I’ll stand by that. Interestingly, despite being almost entirely static there is an attention-diverting rasp that stops it becoming mere background. The listener (well, this listener at least) is not allowed that ‘warm bath’ ease that the experience of much ‘harsh’ noise quickly devolves into. Even when played quietly, volume knob dressed to the left, it still sounds like incidental atmospherics from the tension building corridor scene in an otherwise relentless gorefest.
Saps ’76 has a (relatively) elaborate four part narrative structure that describes a (more or less) upward trajectory. There ya go – that’s the sort of classy musicological analysis you read RFM for, eh?
The first section is muscular and discordant guitar abuse. Imagine a laboratory set up deep in the Martian caverns of Abomi to study the vampire jelly creatures that slither the walls there. Alas, these nightmares have figured out how to melt through the helmets of the scientists, have affixed themselves to their hapless heads and have dissolved everything from the nostrils up. Now bloated on this broth of brain, bone and hair they urge their new host bodies to smash up the lab’s equipment.
[Editor’s aside: if you don’t know ‘The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis‘ (1932, also known as ‘The Vaults of Abomi’ in an extended, restored version) by Clark Ashton Smith then settle down for a treat. It’s a brilliant Lovecraftian weird tale with a disgusting schlock finale.]
In the second section, led by a simple, melancholy synth riff, horror-struck colleagues lock, bolt and brick up the lower levels knowing that no-one down there can be saved. Later, those that are able to sleep will wake sweating and screaming but for now the only thought is of escape.
The third section is a grey rumble – more felt than heard – experienced by passengers in the cramped elevator to the surface. The sound is partly the grinding of overloaded lifting machinery, partly the roaring of blood in their ears.
The fourth and final section opens out with the return of the guitar – this time it is keening, psychedelic. The landscape the survivors stumble out to is crepuscular, desolate. The air is thin, cool. People breath as heavy as it will allow and glance around, silently noting who is here and who isn’t. The first nervous laugh is cut short when the doors of the empty elevator close and the ‘down’ arrow is illuminated. Who called it?
Matching Head (no internet presence as such but contact details for Lee can be found on this Discogs page)
Tags: black thread, caisson, craig johnson, culver, death register, drone, electronica, invisible city records, j.c. meraz, joseph curwen, lee stokoe, miguel perez, new music, no audience underground, noise, people-eaters, philipp bückle, roadside picnic, saturn form essence, tapes, the will of nin girima
Death Register – Phonaesthesia (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR03, edition of 40 or download)
The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR04, edition of 30 or download)
Black Thread – Autumn Flowers (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR05, edition of 30 or download)
Culver – The Abductress (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR07, edition of 60)
Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR08, edition of 40 or download)
Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR09, edition of 24 or download)
Philipp Bückle – Drawings (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR10, edition of 50 or download)
I may have asked this question before but, fuck it, it’s worth asking again: if given a choice between listening to a release new to you or to one that you are familiar with and know is good which do you choose? Apart from when I’m repeat listening prior to writing a review, for me it is the former nearly 100% of the time.
I’ll go further: by ‘new’ in this context I don’t just mean ‘previously unheard’ but also mean ‘recently produced’. I’ve been a music fan for over three decades now, including many years patrolling the fringes and an overlong stint as a variation on the type of insufferable asshole I am soon to describe. Sure, there remain gaps in my knowledge – some vast – but I’m past caring. I’ve heard enough of the classic, the important, the ephemeral, the popular, the unduly overlooked etc., etc. to justify an opinion, an opinion backed by thousands of hours of ‘study’. I still spend every moment allowable listening to music but, y’know – for now at least, I think I’m done with the past.
Box sets and reissues nauseate me (apart from the two I’m personally involved with at the moment, of course, which are rad) as does collector/completist culture. With a couple of noble exceptions – I recommend the transcendental journey documented by Phong Tran via the @boxwalla twitter account, for example – every ‘have you heard <old recording X>?’ conversation or twitter thread just reminds me of a certain curly-haired obsessive that became the bane of Termite Club nights around the turn of the century. This nut – I’m not naming him, slowly incant the Nurse With Wound list and he shall appear – would limpet onto an unfortunate attendee and engage in the most tedious yes-but-have-you-heardism only stopping at 3am when him yelling ‘yes, but what do you think of Lemmingmania?’ through their letterbox was the final straw and the police were called. I exaggerate for comic effect of course, but not by much – ask Michael Clough about it.
Whilst I’m being fussy, newness in the two senses above isn’t enough on its own. For example, I recently purchased one of them proper CDs they have now by an actual band on the recommendation of a friend whose tastes do not map onto mine but whose judgement is trustworthy. The album is brand new and by a respected metal act with an unimpeachable DIY ethos but, with each episode of crushing riffage telegraphed bars in advance, I found myself struggling to get through it twice. It’s newness was more than offset by it being structurally boring.
That said, innovation on its own isn’t enough either. Safe to say that I’ve never heard anything quite like current darling act <name redacted because I can’t be arsed arguing with disciples wounded by my blasphemy>, for example, but my opinion as to the worth of that work is, shall we say, in the minority. Whilst I cherish moments when a gleeful smile cracks my grumpy visog and I wonder out loud ‘what the fuck is this?’ I have nothing in principle against tropes, conventional sound-palettes, standard instrumentation and so on.
So what do I want? I want something previously unheard by me and recently produced, ideally in an uncompromised DIY manner. Surprises and innovation are always welcome but not necessary, genre conventions can be absolutely fine as long as they don’t lead to a formal dullness that drags me away from the experience. In short, I want something that transports me to a different place. It does happen – surprisingly frequently – and over the last few months the place I’ve been taken to has often been the Invisible City.
Following the sad demise of Tyneside’s Basic FM last year, Craig Johnson – host of RFM-on-the-radio-type show Unknown Surroundings – started Invisible City Records partly as a way of plugging that hole. The guy has an irresistible, and wholly laudable, urge to plug the music that he/we love and chose to continue doing so using the now almost standard ‘business model’ of limited edition tapes for the remaining object fetishists and pay-what-you-like downloads for the sane. Yes, yes, I know I got the hump with this approach a few months ago but hypocrisy is the least of my crimes and, hey, quality content conquers all.
ICR specialises in long(ish) form drone/noise with a penchant for fuzzed out entropic decay and dystopian synth soundtracks. Releases are not without moments of wry humour and the odd jump scare but all have an attention to detail and seriousness of intent that makes for an immersive and transporting experience. It is a tough label to use as background music for chores and many’s the time I have found myself sprawled out, staring at nothing, task forgotten as one of these visions unfolds. The catalogue already features several RFM regulars: Culver, of course, people-eaters, Miguel Perez (alongside J.C. Meraz as The Will of Nin Girima) and releases reference literary house favourites like Lovecraft, Ballard and (to my delight) the Strugatsky brothers. Tailor made for me, eh? It is even based in Gateshead. Perfect.
OK, given the exemplary quality control already exhibited by Craig I could just say: ‘go buy the lot’, give the link and await your expressions of gratitude. But that would be a dereliction of duty. Instead here’s a summary of the ICR story so far:
ICR01 Joseph Curwen – Shunned House was due to be reviewed by ex-staffer Scott McKeating but unfortunately he fell into a non-Euclidean angle between walls whilst exploring an Antarctic archaeological site. Alas.
ICR02 Caisson – High Rise inspired me to put together a review-as-photo-essay featuring pictures of celebrated concrete brutalism taken on the campus where I work.
ICR03 Death Register – Phonaesthesia comprises three tracks of drawn out ragged synth lines propelled by loops of machine hum. The final track, ‘R’, is seventeen minutes of augmented dream state which calls to mind Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II and is more or less perfect.
ICR04 The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation is a duo of Miguel Perez and J.C. Meraz and is quite possibly the finest recording that Miguel, my good friend and inspiration, has been involved with. A series of six ‘dark ambient’ rituals, it has scope, ambition and imagination and its lengthy running time just flashes past. Unlike most noise of this type it also contains passages that are genuinely unnerving too. Terrific.
ICR05 Black Thread – Autumn Flowers is a short, beautiful album of loops eroded into noise. Yes, I understand this process will be familiar to many readers but this is a fine instantiation, full of emotional content. Like a time-lapse film of a cherished wind-up toy thrown into the ocean, destroyed by salt and the motion of the tide.
ICR06 people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear got the treatment by me not long ago in a piece about the terrifying, nihilistic idea that there are no such things as monsters. It can be found here.
ICR07 Culver – The Abductress is another schooling from the master Lee Stokoe. Following a pattern familiar from several recent releases, melancholy guitar is swamped by a gathering electrical storm of fuzz drone noise. However, this descent is more distressed/distressing than usual. This is less Ballard – ultimately accepting of the entropic drowned world, more Wyndham – a fight against the alien forces causing the rising waters. ‘ruby ford’, the last of the three tracks is such an epic, all you can do is admire its teeth from a safe distance.
ICR08 Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower is a work of special power. Via a series of sculptures crafted from brooding analogue electronics it conveys the gargantuan, unclouded patience of a planet-wide AI that just knows it has this fucking right. If we could hear the ‘music of the spheres’ it would sound like this: implacably hostile, utterly indifferent to your existence.
ICR09 Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned provides a whole bunch of those ‘what the fuck is going on?’ moments. Comprising two tracks totalling about an hour and a half, we have movements (too leisurely to be called ‘collage’ I think) incorporating, amongst other things: heavily filtered scrabbling, pastoral tropicalia and electronics that range from the soothing wail of a slowed down, pitched up alarm to the chirrup and whirr of robotic insects. It would be a great soundtrack to an adaptation of that famous children’s story about rabbits. You know the one where prehistoric rabbits find a monolith and fight each other, then find another one on the moon thousands of years later, then go on a space mission with a mad computer that deliberately gives the astro-rabbits myxomatosis. Yeah, that one.
ICR10 Philipp Bückle – Drawings which was released today as I wrote this! Haven’t heard it yet but you gotta admit the streak is hot. Here’s your quote Craig: ‘This album is great!’ – Radio Free Midwich. Fuck it, why not?
So that’s it. Well, not quite.
Whilst not wanting to steal Craig’s thunder I think I might know what ICR11 will turn out to be. Y’see early last year the American noise label Altar of Waste released ‘the swift’ by midwich in a criminally limited (and quite expensive due to shipping costs) edition of 15 with no digital version available. It was well received, I was proud of it and I was very grateful to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy. I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and just couldn’t resist reaching out to Craig and planting a seed. What a recommendation, eh? This label is so good that I found a way to be on it.
More news as it breaks!
(…and if you are one of those kind purchasers of the original edition please forgive me. Remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year – I’ll sort you out proper.)
Tags: benjamin hallatt, charles dexter ward, crater lake festival, culver, dale cornish, dictaphonics, drone, dylan nyoukis, electronica, evil moisture, improv, jerome smith, joe murray, kay hill, kieron piercy, lee stokoe, live music, luke vollar, marlo eggplant, matching head, mel o'dubhslaine, new music, no audience underground, noise, pete cann, phil todd, posset, psychedelia, rudolf eb.er, shameless self-congratulation, sof, sophie cooper, stephen cornford, stuart chalmers, tapes, vocal improvisation, yol
Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.
This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now. I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…
<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>
OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.
In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.
Right then, let’s go!
(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)
Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors. I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.
We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?
There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!
(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)
Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet. The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice. Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end. Ke-tung!
Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder. About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours. My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.
Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!
Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK. The end.
Cor. That felt good.
Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.
Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way. Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity. Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.
(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)
Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart. The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada. Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones. Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.
Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside. Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)
I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it
…one geezer remarked.
He was playing a zither thing!
I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.
Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape. A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style. All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.
Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).
Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.
Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside. Marie said to me,
It sounded like the 90’s.
What. All of it?
Sure, in Belgium.
I’m no flat pancake!
Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles. Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).
Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones. By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.
(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)
Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU. Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings. Guess what? Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.
What do you think about when you’re playing?
Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.
I don’t think on stage. I feel,
came the raspy reply. Nuff Said.
Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.
Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle. It was cyclopean. Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?
(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains. Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over. Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)
Rob: The evidence! Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra. Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.
Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),
Long live the New Flesh!
I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.
Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic. They may have succeeded. I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.
(Rob: Sof, Sof! Where are you? I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)
Joe: Rich sarcophagus music. Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika. Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.
Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.
Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.
Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set. There will be a reckoning. A RECKONING!
(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)
Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM). Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd. With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.
Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.
(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone. I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle. Ahh, occupational hazard.)
Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable. Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way. In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement. However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion. My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.
Joe: It had been a very long day. Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy. All my notes say is:
good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.
I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…
…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end. Alas, that is that for another year. Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen. It was a terrific day. See y’all next time.
Agata Urbaniak: performers
Sophie Cooper: workshop
Mark Wharton: Team RFM