insistent as history: rfm on dale cornish, yol, anorak

May 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dale Cornish – Aqal (Entr’acte)

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release/Bandcamp)

Yol – Cancelled Chicken Regatta (Self Release/Bandcamp)

Anorak – If they are OK, then it’s you / The Hum (Self Release/Soundcloud)

dale cornish

Dale Cornish – Aqal  (Entr’acte) CD and digital album

DC’s most recent works have documented the careful unravelling of structure and asked important questions of placement.  Why does that have to go there?  What happens when tension flows backwards into release?  When is too little too much?

And while these territorial grids are remapped the basic building blocks of sound have not been left un-considered.  Sparse blocks are modelled in plastic forms that flow like warm liquid; components are tweaked tightly or merged into unholy couplings.

And yet it all makes perfect sense. There’s nothing in this world that doesn’t sound as if it’s not in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

OK – that’s enough of the history lesson.  What about this modest disc eh?  On first listen Aqal is by far the most rhythmic session I’ve heard from Dale’s laboratory.  But repeated excavations suggest the whole idea of time is under the microscope here.

The inner sense of timing seems to resonate like a struck bell through each ‘Aqal Pattern’, lulling a lazy reviewer like me through a gradually decreasing sense of control.  The seconds stretch into minutes and that internal body clock (the nodding head, the tapping toe) that metronome our life gets reset on each and every intervention.

My notebook is full of sloping scribbles.

“(AP#1) Full, full, surprisingly full, saucily placed submarine pings and crisp machine-logic handclaps. Get them oars in sync! (AP#2) Ear-cuppingly intimate, a conversation between bass-crustacean, measured in bright bubbles and underwater static (if such a thing is possible). (AP#3 )Brutal dull thumps on slack flesh – a shotgun discharged – cartridges full of indigo snowflakes. (AP#4 )Tubular bells wrapped in downers and sticky bacon –Like something on the Philips label, catalogue number  4FE 8503 (1967).

(AP#5) Shuddering, soaked to the skin, a slow slipping away – drowning in an inch of water/or/ positive athleticism, chrome-plated hurdler, effortless leaping.”

You get the gist.

The final three patterns really seem to shrug themselves free of all that has gone before to emerge unblinking into a brave new world of un-time.  So…Aqal Pattern 6 introduces a succulent throb, a pulse without thought, generating waves like a stone lobbed into a lake.

Aqal Pattern 7 lopes in a graceful ellipse occasionally hurling ballast from the basket to rise ever higher.  Closer, the Aqal Pattern 8 steals a dream from Milt Jackson and replays it through unreliable nylon and bronze pipes: a slow and steady manifesto.

Are you ready for a new platform? Time 2.0?

Editors Note: If you’re tickled you’ve got to move quick.  The Entr’acte CD sold out at source – at time of posting only 7 left on Dale’s bandcamp.

yol wanting less

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release) recycled cassette and free digital album

Two exceptional 2016 live sets from Yol on this (now sold out) back-to-basics, DIY to the core, tape.

Picking Grit is a tight 11 minutes where vocal repetition ratchets up the urban hysteria to new levels of swivel-eyed tension.

I suspect Yol is using his patented, homemade ‘modual synth’ here.  Created from an aluminium mess tin, bowed yogurt pot and a viciously deployed metal fork it keeps the sound-movements smaller and friction, rather than gravity, focused.

More rubbing / less dropping.

The relatively sparse instrumentation is itchily uncomfortable and claustrophobic.  Couple this with the caustic word-pictures being painted and it’s no wonder the crowd are reverentially quiet. Either that or they’re bloody terrified.

Angry.

The jovial crowd chatter that opens ‘Hi Vis’ is soon silenced with a gentle pattering of wooden blocks and then one almighty blood-curdling scream from a fizzing Yol in fine voice.

The ‘modular-synth’ is left in its canvas tote bag in favour of the more orchestral bin lids and balti bowls giving this side a flatter, wider sound.  The vocal’s are positively deranged in subject matter and delivery ragging on a consumerist sheep-mentality that end with us,

“sniffing marker pens and buying granite worktops.”

The ‘liveness’ just oozes out of this side with a clearly mobile Yol, stalking the venue as the audience mumble and gasp.  The carefully controlled mayhem, the steel toe-capped attack and shuddering decay sprints though the ten minute set.  But as the balti bowls are hurled about for one last time, and in the instant before the cheers begin, one set of booted feet swiftly exit stage left.  Their work cleanly and precisely done.

Angrier.

yol chicken

 Yol – Cancelled Chicken Regatta (Self Release) non-physical download witchcraft

Like Miles and Dylan before him – Yol goes electric!

But no fucker dare shout “Judas” you dig?

Heavily amplified percussion and feedback that’s only just held back from a total war situation colour this download-only non-physical release.

The dull ‘klongs’ and harmonic swoops of feedback melt into an abstract/urban diatribe, a kinetic poem as the recording seems to collapse and implode before your ears.  Yol mentions Gustav Metzger’s self-cancellation concept in the notes and of course he’s nailing this exactly between the eyes.

So the question must be asked.  Has any of this mysterious percussion instrument* survived the performance?  Will my ears ever be the same again?  And of course…who throws bags of dog shit up into a tree?

As ever Yol leaves us all with another bundle of awkward questions to contemplate as the world around us crumbles.

Angriest?  Oh yes – very much the angriest.

*And what exactly is this percussive noise maker?  As the track progresses I’ve moved away from my initial idea of an amplified ice-cream carton (2 litre of supermarket vanilla), to a bubble-wrapped baseball bat being thumped with increasing force against a circa 1985 smoked-glass coffee table (chrome frame still sparkling).  Am I right?  Does it matter?

anorak

Anorak – If they are OK, then it’s you / The Hum (No label/Soundcloud) streamed digital album

Anorak is the perfectly buttoned-up moniker for one dazzling Noah Roth.

Fans of solo guitar + (and more of that ‘+’ later) will totally goof on these plucky tunes that sweep down the heart-tugging chord progressions John Fahey used to such great effect.

What I’m saying is there’s a melancholy built into the DNA of the songs that adds an authentic dustbowl twang, a thirsty longing glance between the acoustic notes and noise interjections.

This Soundcloud stream is made up of two 10 minute songs. ‘ If They Are OK, Then It’s You’ cranks up like some vintage Jim O’Rourke outtake with pure electronic waves playing alongside a steel-string acoustic guitar exploring hillbilly tunings and tumbling over itself in an attempt to stand up straight.

Of course this haste and mess is a ruse to set you up for a cascading waterfall of descending cadenzas played in the delicate style of one Cian Nugent or Tom Scott until the whole thing slips beneath the digital waves.

The real gem is saved for last, ‘The Hum’ a clear stream of harmonic pings and rich-fingered plucking, as insistent as history, guides the listener into a Ed Crawford-style circular riff.  And damn! The story-telling, personal and ever-so slightly abstract, strikes such a fIREHOSE memory-gong I’m transported back to my teenage years: lovelorn and awkward in a single note.

But of course beautiful playing needs some ugliness to react against and the ending minutes – a computer-crashing crescendo, cleverly underlines the nine minutes of prettiness you have just enjoyed.

It’s a wonderful thing readers.

Dale Cornish Aqal

Yol Bandcamp

Anorak Soundcloud

-ooOOoo-

languidly hedonistic: keir neuringer and matthew wright, dale cornish, spoils & relics

April 14, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Keir Neuringer and Matthew Wright – Speak Cities (Extra Normal Records)

Dale Cornish – Cut Sleeve (Halcyon Veil)

Spoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep)

keir neuringer matt wright Keir Neuringer and Matthew Wright – Speak Cities (Extra Normal Records) CD-R

Saxophone and turntable duo reaching into the soul of improvisation.

I’ve been wary of electro acoustic pairings for a little while now – as ever my beef is with technology – so the acoustic seemed to get swamped with the electro and it all became noodling with knobs on.

Not so here on this project from Keir Neuringer (saxes) and Matthew Wright (turntable, computer) that gets the balance perfectly right: Keir’s saxophone is both warm, edgy sighs and full-on honk, joyous and bulbous – with a touch of Ayler’s gospel roots.  Matthew’s turntables imaginatively compliment, re-work and suggest rather than smother in cloying digital sauce.  There’s a light touch and time travelling element as sounds run backwards and repeat on the decks.

Based on improvisations recorded as a duo in Brooklyn then re-sampled and worked on in Canterbury by Matthew the opener ‘Above the Clouds’ is a proud statement of intent – a slowly mutating virus of brassy air and electricity.

The long pieces (three are around quarter of an hour in length) are stuttering slick birdsongs with thin gassy overtones.  They mutate slowly and gracefully, folding in clicks and snitches; iron breath hissed through Talos’ immobile pursed lips.

As ever the devil is in the detail.  Moments of clarity when the busy-fidget swooshes the curtain to one side and presents with an open palm.

“Here.  Look at this…”

…it seems to say, as a new vista is revealed, a fresh clean perspective peering out of the mist teeming with life and insect-scurrying detail.  These brief calm moments create a map of these ornate tessellating sound-pieces.

The sense of movement is palpable.  Like watching leaves jerk in a strong wind, sounds are whipped back and forth with the flexibility afforded by young sap and evolution’s unarguable wisdom.

Bridging the gap between beatnik buzz and technician’s overcoat – perfect dinner party music pre-lift off!

dale cornish

Dale Cornish – Cut Sleeve (Halcyon Veil) sold-out tape and digital download

Sound-placement king and baron of the almost-there; Dale Cornish’s Cut Sleeve sold-out-at-source in a blink of an eye to a switched-on audience.

Both politically angry and languidly hedonistic this ultra minimal slice could have been designed to soundtrack some glistening sci-fi thriller if not foreshadowed by the opener ‘Status 2016’ where a wrecked-electric voice tells us, “In 2016 it is illegal to be gay in approximately 75 nations and regions around the world.”

From then on each sound wobbles with history and heavy intention.

This is a brief record.  No track clears the 3 minute 30 mark but this brevity comes with a deepness and sturdy attention to detail.  ‘LW’ spirals down a wormhole with its one-note bass and endlessly brassy high-hat shimmer.  As if to compete ‘Infix’ introduces a one/two/one/two rhythm-collapse highlighting tiny details in the metallic decay built, or rather knitted, like scabs around the central theme.

Almost a third of ‘Vauxhall’ is a single thin whistle through minty teeth.  Then the milkman is interrupted with haunted snare pops; some electronic damper making each bong hit dank and sticky.

This EP ends with one of Dale’s most impressively warped vocal pieces.  The slo-mo slurp of some repeated phrase slops about between my ears poked through with bright handclaps, occasionally arranged in duos, triplets and quartets.  The ‘Emperor Ai’ of the title is described – perhaps in a cautionary fable but so cunningly and comprehensively mashed I’m left rewinding again and again.

Does this track really end suggesting “rather than buy blubber awake” or are sarcastic laffs that echo in my headphones meant for me?

Breathless am I.

THREADBAREADULTLIFESpoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep) 4 x cassette tape

Damn inscrutable non-music from that most considered of trios – Spoils and Relics.

But before I disappear into a black hole in trying to describe music that denies narrative (see RFM 19th Feb 2014 for Rob Hayler’s excellent thoughts on S&R) a few words on what we actually have here.

If you buy one limited edition, multi-tape boxset this year surely this is the one to grab.  The four lengthy cassettes are groaning with eight full sides of sonic spoils dating back to 2005 (possibly).  The handsome box holds these tapes snug as possums, the insert is cryptically poetic and the weirdly unfathomable artwork is just super-dandy on my rheumy eyes.

Tape one, ‘Rose Tinted (Works 2005 – 2008)’ is a wander by the canal.  Old lock machinery is rusted shut, bright green moss grows up the walls of an underpass; the court buildings are surrounded with smokers and lone men shouting into mobiles. I suppose what I am trying to say here is this is an urban sound, a human sound teeming with busy life in all its forms – from the wild ecstasy of teenage girl-gangs to the yellow finger-nailed grimness of the loner outsider.  A concentrated listen is rewarded as the disparate action-painting (in sound) comes together in peaks – an 8 mm film projector’s delicate and patient click, a voice interrupted or a rush of organ swell.

The spooks of tape are revealed on ‘Packhorse Re-view’, the second cassette that is altogether more spectral than its feisty companion.  Things are left to grow slowly, virus like, as taped interjections (fast forward scree, gritty capstan rattling, earphone socket crackle) are smeared liberally between my sensitive lugs.  The sound of the sound comes to the fore creating layers of sweet hiss and miniature thunder-rumble.  There’s a genius hand on the edit button here by the way – with some movements ending in an abrupt click and others mashed together building a complexity of huss until it all fades to the sound of sweeping leaves.

The power of the indistinct is celebrated on ‘Forgotten Four Way ’ as a thin quavering tone struggles to keep itself from breaking up.  Almost-sounds flitter in and out of focus, partial and half-formed, nothing is allowed to settle for too long.  A constant churn of soft and gentle, an avalanche of chinchilla fur, envelopes an unsuspecting listener warming the cockles like a fine brandy.  But that’s not to say this third cassette is without jeopardy.  Side B starts out with some expert tape-juggle and pretty goofy vocal jaxx that fades into a bloody accordion!  Decorum is quickly restored as super-fast-but-smooth edits reference grandfather clocks, swirling drains, old-style Hollywood and descending keyboard shifts.

Typically there is no conclusive judder to ‘Assembly of Mansfield’ the fourth and final tape in this quartet.  To my ears it seems more voice-based mimicking the sigh of soft breath and pink-squelch of an oesophagus without recourse to amateur endoscope violation.  The timing is sharp as Harold Lloyd’s with each ‘click’ and shuffle exactly in the right place.  Side B reveals some curious slapstick with a dry panting being commented on, “is that a dog?” a deadpan voice declares as we become buried in a malfunctioning toy sending out  sporadic hisses and electronic spurts.

The final few minutes of this tape are almost a montage of everything you’ve heard already but cut shorter and in decreasing level of volume so electronic ‘pips’ and tones melt into milkshake slurp then peter out like the tiniest vinyl crackle.

After listening to such a lengthy and intense set of recordings I’m not sure I can think of any colourful or witty general theme – this is music that simply ‘is’, or if you choose not to, ‘isn’t’.  It doesn’t use fancy equipment or rely on difficult technique – it’s about ears and fingers and the interplay between confident players who trust each other.

And then it dawned on me! What could have been dry, bloodless academic music – something that aspired to musique concrete aspirations is refreshingly removed.  This is No Audience Punk to the New Wave of the pre-packed, non-threatening experimental gravy train.

Neat Neat Neat.

Extra Normal Records

Halcyon Veil

Second Sleep

-ooOOOoo-

tin apples: joe murray on kiko c. esseiva, sisto rossi, dale cornish, phil julian, murray royston-ward

November 10, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Kiko C. Esseiva – Zenith Larsen/Nadir Larsen (tape, SPAM, spam20, edition of 50)

Sisto Rossi – Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin (tape, SPAM, spam19, edition of 40)

Dale Cornish and Phil Julian – Laughing Out (7″ vinyl, The Wormhole, WHO#07, edition of 123 or download)

Murray Royston-Ward – My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House (2 x 32 page booklets and CD-r, edition of 80, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Language is a Virus (16 page booklet and CD-r, edition of 30, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Improvisations 2014 (28 page booklet, edition of 50, privately published)

kiko

Cologne’s SPAM tapes introduces me, yet again, to a bunch of whacked-out sound-goats who’ve been chugging on at this lark for ages.  I’m blind and I’m humbled!

Kiko C. Esseiva, a Swiss/Spanish electro-acoustic artist is first out of the traps with a mysterious pot of gunk inlaid with grease, buzz and tin apples.

The two sidelong pieces (‘Zenith Larsen’ and ‘Nadir Larsen’) crackle with a fairly dark energy, juggling taped grot with live (or live sounding) interventions on cracked gongs and bicycle wheel.

Like eavesdropping on a light machinery workshop the sounds move to their own logic, cutting out and starting up when the unseen controller sees fit.  You’ve just got to keep your fingers clear of the whirling blades eh?  But this never sounds grim… almost at the end of side one there’s a glorious smear of ant-noise and cyborg humming that makes me click my fingers like I’ve remembered an old magic trick.

Side two (‘Nadir…’) is a thoughtful huff on brass pipe and fingernail tap until some unholy voice-jugger/vibrating clam starts a magnetic earthquake in my stomach. Gosh!  This is warped and holy.  Magnificent and almighty! I’m having a bit of an experience here as I dash about looking for my headphones to inject this straight into my hungry holes.

Of course, the unseen hand turns a dial and we are left in a land of shingle, mournful keys and wretched whirring. Hey… there are worse ways to spend an afternoon right?

sisto

Harsh Noise thinker and instrument builder Sisto Rossi (AKA Wallkeeper) wins today’s prize for evocative tape title with his Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin.

What would you expect from a tape like this reader?  Claustrophobic screams? Stiff-armed wriggles and cramped-leg stomps? Bloodied fingernail scratch?  Yeah… me too.  But I have to report this tape, while stunningly intense and full-on, is almost nihilistically detached in its approach.

Sure the buffering roar of noise is filtered into your skull along with the odd broken-crockery rattle but it’s all constructed with a feeling of impotent dread, a slackness, a ‘lost cause’ lassitude that’s strangely affecting.

While occasional electronic squalls add a high-end to the relentless churning and asphalt-grazing thunder the base-note is those personal dark thoughts; those repetitive nightmares made so real you can smell the damp earth.

The closing moments capture the last fleeting thoughts of expiration – part relief and part regret; bright as 1000 fires but burning out to dead ash in micro-seconds.

The sound of lying broken, six feet under and simply giving up.

dale-and-phil

From grimy analogue hopelessness to bright digital cleanliness with Dale Cornish and Phil Julian on their super snappy li’l seven-incher Laughing Out.

The title side absolutely crackles with the sort of power and energy that winds up in a filthy-dirty joke told in the Vatican.

Shared electronics spit goat fat.  It’s dripping wetly on hot coals while Dale sneers it out.

It’s a guffaw in cuisine

he snarls, leading the dear listener on a hectic goose-chase around slack-littered city streets and the hidden canyon of dreams we project onto whatever our reality is right now.

But this is in no way ‘dream-y’ readers.  The poise and shimmer is as solid as a beard trim and ultra-sarcastic like the very best Glam Rock.  There’s still a pair of hobnail boots beneath all that glitter, eh?

The ‘b’ side offers us two shorter ham-slaps.  ‘For Vocal’ mimics the shattering of optic nerves, made of bruised ice, against a brass pitchfork.  Yeah!  Very brittle, incredibly sharp and super-cold.

The closer, ‘Palazzo’, starts with a dark pulse but soon morphs into a mini mystery play for baritone voice and tight crime-beats.

Can you hear? Can you hear?

The whole thing, sides ‘a’ and ‘b’, clock in at under 6 minutes; the perfect brevity of a paper cut or punk gob.

neighbour

Taken as a piece of found-sound-art-off-the-pile Murray Royston-Ward’s My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House is an impressive enough document.

It shudders and ripples, it pops and whines in all the right places.  But add to this the rich Bangladeshi field recordings data in the accompanying booklets, outlining Murray’s journey from leafy Nottingham to the other side of the world, and you’re adding another peppering of intention and understanding.

On ‘A Very Small Guernica Facing a Rather Large Mona Lisa’ these augmented recordings (a rethinking of what silence actually is) feature the constant urban horn section of tuk-tuks and taxi cabs punctuating Murray’s iron-coated dragnet like exploding garlands.

Let’s be clear, Murray’s a master of the clink and rattle: on ‘Topos of Intrusive Sound’ the carefully placed metallic object, dropped shoe or Pringles tube shuffle in and out of your earhole with a customary jolliness.  Murray’s top trump has always been his inclusion of careful humour into this sometimes stuffy improv world.

But the mood darkens (unsurprisingly) at the ‘Slaughter Livestock Festival’; excited crowds chatter while suspicious cows gingerly cotton on.  Every sound becomes pregnant with meaning. A quite innocent washing makes me think of thick red blood sluuushing down the dusty street, a metallic ‘shing-g-g’ the sharpening of a blade.  At twelve minutes this is an unbearably tense listen.

language_is_a_virus

Language is a Virus, a 28 minute spoken word/reportage collage, concerns the myths, prejudices and reality of Ebola; not only the disease itself but its socio-political impact.  What makes this hit even harder is the fact source material was gathered by Holly Royston-Ward, Murray’s wife, during her work as a nurse in Sierra Leone.  Harrowing, thought-provoking and informative.  No smart Alec remarks from me (for once), all I’m going to say is check this out here.

improvisations

Finally, an honourable mention goes out to Improvisations 2014, an artist book of photographs, locations, timings and instrumentation for imagined improvisations.  An interesting experiment, it invites the ‘listener’ to imagine combinations: spring, metal chain, cassette player, prayer cymbal, bait packaging (for example) with no recorded sound to back it up.  I’m getting a plink/boing/screee/crackle from this list.  What about you?

Take a trip with Murray but be sure to flick through images of a 70’s Alan Whicker to get the dislocation vibe spot on.

—ooOoo—

SPAM

The Wormhole

Murray Royston-Ward

falling over and over and over: joe murray on dale cornish, these feathers have plumes, isnaj dui, sarah hennies

May 4, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dale Cornish – Ulex (vinyl LP, Entr’acte, E190, edition of 200 or download)

These Feathers Have Plume / Isnaj Dui – untitled split (tape, Was Ist Das?, edition of 75)

Sarah Hennies – Gather & Release (CD in hand sewn packaging, Category of manifestation, KIND_3)

190

Dale Cornish – Ulex

Ya fucker!  I had one of them Airfix models yeah.  Harrier Jump Jet and all that, it was the Falklands and shit and I pure built the fucker up from like about 200 parts.  Fucking V/STOL engines and undercarriage and the little fucker that flies it in his own little ejector seat.  It took me, like, hours and hours to glue the bastard together, smoothing off the excess glue, filing down the rough edges and shit.  Even longer to paint it all.  Navy colours yeah, as a result of it being part of the Task Force and what have you.

Consider that Harrier Jump Jet Dale Cornish’s Ulex; an evocative piece of miniature machinery.  Then, in a moment of glorious enlightenment, Dale strips off the paint, slices open the fuselage and lays each grey piece out all naked and alone.

This act of separation (pieces pinned like a butterfly under glass) lends a steely intensity and purpose to each sound, the distillation of thoughts and deeds become pure essence. It goes like this…

  • Ulex Pattern 1. The steel pan revenge plan; a falling over and over and over into endless insect Gamelan.  Donkey kick drum, once then twice… then that’s it.
  • Ulex Pattern 2. Bamboo rattles in a magnetic hole. Invisible forces snatch and grab at any vibrations causing a stretching of each dry, brittle note.  Sufi mystic collapse.
  • Ulex Pattern 3. She’s lurching, dragging a sandbag over bright pink coral. I tap the side of my canoe with an outstretched palm and bail out the overflowing rice with an old soup can.
  • Ulex Pattern 4. Fog demons breathe over mangrove roots to haunt the islanders with deep booming warnings. The earwigs glassy cascade becomes relaxed antiseptic counterpoint.
  • Ulex Pattern 5. I’m slightly shocked as the spare crackle of needle hitting vinyl is overwhelmed with a distorted voice all meshed up and jaxxed, rolling in three dimensions like some forgotten Fylkingen piece.  My inner Agatha Christie picks up a little something though.  I might be old but I’m crafty.  All I’m saying is Alright Duckie!
  • Ulex Pattern 6. Steelies penked off a copper plate.
  • Ulex Pattern 7. The longest rippling.  Distant fireworks ignition in slightly off-kilter realities, the original cucaracha stepping on echo-bugs ‘till each pops like dark ink.

Ulex is deconstructed so completely it’s almost empty.  Some of these tracks are so spare they make regular minimal look messy.  It’s so damn pure and yet, tied up in silver-plated knots.  Jagged and fresh but never sharp.

whatchyalookingat?

tfhp-id

These Feathers Have Plume / Isnaj Dui – untitled split

Oh.  The synchronicity!

Planning the previous Dale C piece I came upon a tweet from Andie Brown (AKA These Feathers Have Plumes) explaining her next tape would feature that Dale on spoken words.  That’d make a neat journalistic link I thought and contacted the most excellent Sophie Cooper, a known accomplice, to help me locate it.  Like clockwork a download code arrived (cheers Ned) and I plugged in my earphones all ready to get swept away in the foaming clouds of glassy tones.

These Feathers Have Plumes carry me to three specific places on those rusty wings.

For this is music of the sea.  The boom of the swell against the groyne; the ever-churning motion of salt-water loops.  The sneaky shifting creep of dunes, the ‘sshhhussshhh’ of shingle dragged across a beach.  ‘Return II’ moves from pregnant ringing blossoms, all rounded and warm, into the nightmare sound of ice cracking beneath your feet as you dash across the fiord.

This is music of the city.  The huge-wine-glass clang is as full and broad as Spitalfields’ Christ Church.  Field recordings slide into the mix: the chatter of taxi cabs and metallic shudder of shopping trolleys; the stark staccato clack of stiletto heels that chitter over cobbles.  Brandy balloons writhe and wobble on ‘Soho Living Room’ with Dale’s dry crackle striking teenage memory gongs while Joincey, the sinister ice cream man, packs something wicked into his 99’s xylophone dubs.

This is music of the sky. ‘You can’t burn my dreams’ swoons like lovesick chem-trails, a thousand feet above, streaking deep white scars across the palest Springtime blue.

The impeccable Isnaj Dui responds with ‘Answers at Dawn’ a noble and ancient wisdom.

I’m transported to a cloud kingdom.  The children are piped into the barren courtyard with ornate horns.  Curved downwards, the sound bounces from the terracotta tiles to echo around the courtyard setting up a matrix of slow breath. 

They dance in staccato movements, each limb stiff and mechanical.  At first in unison, then falling slowly out of phase, each arm, each leg fluttering in stroboscopic effect. 

From above miniature bronze bells are hung from prayer flags.  The gentle tinkle is accompanied by each child, now armed with reed-end sheng randomly puffing like the crickets they keep in tiny cages.

Silently the children are marched back to their solitary cells to sleep until the ritual is repeated tomorrow.

KIND_3-cover

Sarah Hennies – Gather & Release

I first came across Sarah’s work via a wonderfully head-tilting vibraphone piece Settle and did the usual bit of cyber-sleuthing to see what’s up. When I usually do this I find I’m so far behind the curve my ‘new’ discovery is wrapped up shroud-wise and I’ve been dozing 25 years too late (example: François Dufrêne – we could have made such sweet music together!). So I was super thrilled to find a new Hennies release was, like… imminent.  I paid my pal and waited…

This nifty package turned up a week or so later with a real needle and thread sewn into the cardboard sleeve (ha ha) evading customs (ho ho). The two lengthy tracks make up almost an hour’s worth of extraordinary music that left me giddy; brain fizzing and fingers tingling.

‘Gather’ is 27 minutes and 56 seconds of exquisite minimal hiss.  A real recording of a distant waterfall apes a prickly electronic cascade; a shy, wavering tone blends into a constant tide of warm and wooden.  It continues…

The sharp change at 21 minutes makes me sit bolt upright.  We are edging a corner and the salty gush is revealed.   The chromed larynxes of the Sirens are dancing across the wide stereo field – a psychic Doppler Effect.   Droplets of steel-gray water gather on stiff riverside grass.  They quiver, slowly recovering from their thunderous journey.

The final 30 seconds of HNW/H2O-NOISE is shatteringly complex and then bursts into hollow silence.  Oh…consider me gathered!

‘Release’, unrolls another half-hour or so of gentle movements… an eruption in slo-mo.

Felt, the most underused of elements, patters great pools of molten copper.  The swell and its decaying negative unlock the rhythm in simple sets – ( )  ( )  ( ) – brackets of time in which tension is folded.

Hard wood pitches between ears now softened up (creamy like butter) making my lanky frame a pendulum that swings (tick, tick); a nervous clock.

It seems like the air is trembling with glass beads.  And yet… forgotten memories of a music box, complete with plastic ballerina doomed to twirl forever, enter my skull clear and bright.  A gruesome poem is drowned in a racket as pure as the scar on my skinny wrist.  Justice’s violins are wrecked.

A soft canvas bell / a fudge clapper.  Both marking out a dusty life; school to work to retirement to death.  Brief shreds of joy peal gently.  But the rhythm never falters: byenn-boom, byenn-boom, byenn-boom.

(sotto voce) when it stops all things around me judder.

—ooOoo—

Entr’acte / download

Was Ist Das?

Category of manifestation

crater lake festival 2015

March 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

crater lake poster

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!

—ooOoo—

(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.)

workshop 1 workshop 2 workshop 3 workshop 4 workshop 5

The workshop

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!

Tom and Jerry, I mean Dale

(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!)

Mel 1  Mel 3 Mel 4  Mel 6 Mel 7

Mel O’Dubshlaine

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.

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Yol & Posset

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.)

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Stuart Chalmers

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.

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Kay Hill

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.

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Dale Cornish

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.

I said,

What.  All of it?

She said,

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).

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

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.)

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Charles Dexter Ward

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.)

5-6ths of RFM take 1

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.

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Stephen Cornford

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)

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Culver

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!)

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Evil Moisture

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.)

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Rudolf Eb.Er

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…

—ooOoo—

…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.

—ooOoo—

Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM

turkey

cables: untangled by marlo eggplant and benjamin hallat

March 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

rammel club flyer

[Editor’s note: roving reporter marlo eggplant performed at this event and offers the following insider account.  Having more humility than her self-aggrandising editor she has chosen not to write about her own set, instead enlisting the help of Mr. Benjamin Hallat (of the excellent KIKS/GFR label, performs as Kay Hill) to cover whilst she was otherwise engaged.  Over to M & B:]

All day events are tricky. In my personal experience of attending and performing at these long days, it sadly tends to be a crapshoot. Even if you are enthusiastic about the performances, one can’t help but remember events that lacked hospitality, a cohesive vision, or even clean bathrooms. Sometimes you end up feeling corralled into a tight space with poor ventilation and bad sound systems; elbow to elbow amongst the once excited, now hungry and tired audience members. By the end of the night, you escape outside as soon as possible in order to recover both your hearing and your sanity.

Simply put – in order to sustain the attention of an audience, participants/attendees must be well fed. I say ‘well-fed’ in the sense that one should not need to go elsewhere for sustenance.  Memorable events need several elements in place: good curation around interesting concepts and ideas, an appropriate space that is suitable and comfortable, a framework for the happenings of the day, and – importantly – refreshments to keep the hypoglycaemia at bay.

Two Nottingham organizations, the Rammel Club and Reactor Halls, got together to create an event that provided just such a balanced diet of aural and visual stimulations and the result, Cables, succeeded in being well planned, thought provoking, and fun.

Celebrating the definitions and uses of ‘the cable’, the organizers provided this text:

A cable is more than a mere length of wire. It is a trail to be followed, tracing a line between two points, or a meshwork of interwoven threads. The cable carries the pulse of electricity or light in response to a trigger. Cables are bookended by ‘plugs’, affording an abundance of possible connections. Some connections will be recommended for you in the user guide. But why stop there?…

Indeed a collaborative and connective spirit flowed through the day. From the availability of open improvisational spaces led by Abstract Noise Ting, to Murray Royston-Ward’s contact mic workshop, to the sound/performance kinetic installation by Experimental Sonic Machines, the audience was nourished.

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The event took place at Primary, a former schoolhouse converted into several artist studios and exhibition spaces. Workshops, installations, and performances were placed throughout the building, keeping one from feeling claustrophobic by the full programme. The overall aesthetic of the day was well curated and was followed by an evening of provocative performances that played with sound, intention, and improvisation.

[D-C]- by pieterLastIMG_2826

The first performance was [D-C], comprising two local musicians: analogue improviser Jez Creek [Modulator ESP] and Benjamin Hallatt [Kay Hill] providing tape loops. I heard a racket in the performance space as I entered the building and threw my gear aside. I love a good racket but that is too simplistic a description for the dynamics of their improvisation. They played together, reacting and interacting with each others’ sounds.  There was an overall meteorological sensation to the collaboration – I felt tribal drums leading to low rumbles. Punctuated at times by high whistle emissions, the accompanying visuals enhanced the feeling of being in a silo, lifted by the brutal whimsy of a storm [Editor’s note: not in Kansas anymore?]. The performance ended with trailing robotic sounds…

johnmacedo - by pieterLast johnmacedosetupIMG_2861

John Macedo followed. I do love looking at set ups that appear more like a rummage sale then actual preparation for sound art. The arrangement of small transmitters, drinking glasses, and speaker heads looked like the workbench in a hi-fi repair shop. His laptop seemed a bit out of place on the table, yet Macedo does not confine himself to his seat. Exploring spaces and placement, he circled and travelled the performance area playing with resonance and tone. Glass tapping and static transmissions, volume played with value. Silence had its place. At no point did the sounds feel saturated. It felt focused and intentional with a light touch across a minimalist acoustic playground. I enjoyed watching objects vibrate in cones. One comes away with the feeling of being witness to something ritual or holy.

[Editor’s note: Ben takes over at this point…]

Well, to follow Marlo America’s lead, I have to say that I am happy to be able to review these sets as they were two highlights for me, but this needs a bit of context which I shall elaborate on in due course. It is true that these all day events can be long and arduous but in this case the ingredients made for a fun buzz long into the night.

ianwatson-by pieterLast

I wandered into Ian Watson’s set just after I had finished packing up after my own collaboration, so it was a welcome first chance to sit down just when I needed it. Ian played in a separate large, darkened hall.  The light outside had almost completely faded by this point leaving a dull purple glow in the high windows. I walked into the room and thought

hmm, ok, a sort of tinny drone, sounds ‘ok’-ish!

But as I sat down and began to settle into the room and the darkness I found myself settling into the sound too. Ian’s set up was a really nice two turntable affair, playing his own custom resin 7” drone recordings. These vibrated a pair of cymbals that were further amplified with a couple of guitar amps. As the records spin they catch on the various imperfections, creating accidental loops and details. Within five minutes I was not exactly absorbed but simply letting my mind wander, calmly taking in the room, space and details of the sound, feeling quietly present with the fellow listeners dotted about the place! This was a lovely set for me and just what I needed.

marloeggplant - by pieter lastIMG_2880

As I remember, Ian’s set signalled the brief dinner break and up first after this was Marlo Eggplant, who also caught me, I guess, at a good time. All the sound checks I had been keeping an eye on were over and pizza had been scoffed on the fly, so I settled in for the first evening performance and opened up a beer. I was taken by surprise by this set immediately, as I had not heard Marlo before and I was expecting something more ‘crazy’ or ‘playful’,  let’s say. However this was a really peaceful emotive set utilising an autoharp and subtle building of delays and drones. Being not too drunk at this stage to appreciate the subtleties of sound I was totally immersed, gently floating about in the well orchestrated ebbs and flows of the set as a whole. I was really impressed with how well paced out this set was and its evolution, building to subtle voice expression later, coming to a timely conclusion and leaving me absolutely content! Yeah, it was good!

I just got drunk after that!

[Editor’s note: and on that happy note, back to marlo…]

Dinner break was an artisan pizza party – amazing smells erupting from the multiple pizzas topped with caramelized onions and butternut squash. The kitchen did a magnificent job of feeding everyone cake as well. I put this in the review of the event because that was a total pro move. Well played, organizers!

dalecornish - by pieterLast

After I put my gear away, I prepared myself to watch Dale Cornish’s set. I was looking forward to seeing him play as I had previously only heard his recordings. The only note I took during the set was:

party music

With a laptop on stage, you pretty much only have two choices. You can try to deny that you look like you are checking your social media or you can own it. Cornish made no qualms about standing behind a laptop, often hamming it up with eye contact and charming face. The music, in its own right, was fun, rhythmic, and dynamic. And I really wanted to dance. Amen to the set that makes you want to shake it.

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Phantom Chips is the visionary project of Tara Pattenden. Her passion for noise and hand-crafted electronics is well matched with her gleeful expression as she skronks through the performance.  Her set was well chosen for the event. Pattenden, using fabric lines with transducers, corded off the audience. Throwing sound conductive dinosaur parts [Editor’s note: wait, what?!?] into the audience, we were forced to have a taste of the sonic madness. Audience participation is integral to her playful aesthetic. I think at this point my notes may been delirious. Regardless, I wrote this in response to her circus:

Goofballs. I am trapped in an arcade. Squished sounds. Crunchiest sounds of the night. Throws meatballs at the pasta crunk collective. Beta bites of crunch. Decimated manual noise. Serious overdrive.

mel by Pieter LastIMG_3068

My fellow Leeds-ian was up next. Watching Melanie O’Dubhshlaine’s [Editor’s note: not sure about that spelling, but that is how it is on the poster] performances is like having the privilege of watching a scientist in a sound laboratory. One would not be able to tell that the source material of her sounds was spoken text if you were not sitting there watching her speak into her whacked out dictaphone/microphone processors, appearing to be reading aloud to herself. Her minimal movements work well with the sound. Using an electronic wind instrument, she plays the strangest clarinet solo set ever. Actually, it doesn’t sound like a clarinet but it doesn’t even really sound like an instrument. The overall experience is of sounds working themselves out in front of you; your brain’s attempt to recognize and categorize the inputs hampered by insufficient associations. It is interesting work that makes you think.

philjulian by Peter K rollings phillyj

I am not sure if the curators intended this but Phil Julian proceeded to keep the audience pensive. Sitting in this dark room, he steps behind a laptop and begins to play with notable focus. Julian’s work is well paced. Even without any visuals, his music feels like a soundtrack. Both recorded and in live performances, there is a cinematic quality to his work and a patience that comes with confidence and knowledge. His face does not reflect the tension of being a performer.  Perhaps his experience of playing in different spaces allows for an exploration of his own notions of process and result. Regardless, his focus and overall performance energy is noteworthy.

trans-human

Trans/Human had the pleasure of performing the final set – perhaps the most difficult slot to fill. I, personally, find it quite difficult to be the last on the bill. How does one do something memorable when one has had to sit and watch every act? Have you had too much to drink? Do you need food? Adam Denton and Luke Twyman did not seem to have any of these issues as they went old school. In my favourite duo positioning – facing off across tables filled with electronics – they went full throttle. It felt like they were trying to release the demons from their gear out through the speakers. Their set was a celebration of volume and provided much needed catharsis for a day filled with creative questionings. A perfectly good way to end the evening.

So, there you have it. Thanks again, Rammel Club and Reactor Halls. Nottingham sure is lucky to have you.

—ooOoo—

With thanks to Pieter Last and Peter Rollings for photographs – much obliged to you both.

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