resin and paprika: joe murray on dario lozano-thornton, field recordings from the caucasus

October 6, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dario Lozano-Thornton – 42 Rokeby Terrace (self-released, CD-r edition of 30, ‘Slightly Deluxe’ CD-r edition of 20 or download)

Various Artists – Kazbek: Field Recordings from the Caucasus (2 x tape, Early Music, EM102, edition of 70)


Dario Lozano-Thornton – 42 Rokeby Terrace

Well-scrubbed and softly spoken, Dario Lozano-Thornton shuffled onto the North East Dictaphone scene a few years ago as the random egg-nog in multiple electronic/improv pick up groups under the performance name Unvoiced Velar Plosive.

While I could see Dario had greasy fingers in tape manipulation I had no idea he was an axesmith too.  That was until I saw his Sonny and the Sharrocks extreme free-jazz; the chops rattling bones in an Italian restaurant (for real).  So when he passed me this disc, reeking of blues and nostalgia, I booked some quality time with myself to drink sweet moonshine in a single intoxicating gulp.

The back-story here is that each tune (music and lyrics) is built out of first time improvisations and recorded with the luscious intimacy only a home recording can provide. It features a cast of characters (indeed the new cream of Newcastle’s music scene) and a Midnight Doctor or two.

This is darned remarkable stuff that leaks a new kind of wax out of those old blues records you don’t play as much as you really should.  This is no ‘I-got-up-this-morning’ pastiche but a neat rosewood cabinet.  Each little polished drawer opens with a satisfying smoothness and contains a delicate song-ling yawning and stretching as you wake it from hibernation.  These things are carefully folded and scored and reveal delicate treasure made of muscle, gut, breath and bone.

Examples?  The effortless smoke of drag your sentences becomes an erased Tom Waits with only the wood grain remaining.  Caustic streaks of violin that capture the universal dustbowl on another’s woe build (along with that stray spectral mbira) a stark bony construction.  Beefheartian (yes!) Zoot Horning, but with the sorrow bar whammed, on electric coles, holds a magic mirror to cut outs; a beautiful bruise of sound – harp, guitar, strings, oboe (?) and musty Dictaphone.

The pace is slow and deliberate.  There’s no sense in rushing as volcanic sand gets stuck in your plimsolls.  Things follow a natural flow: a guitar line bleeds into a vocal, a vocal blossoms into a saxophone wail or mbira pluck.  The songs are short – a minute, a couple of minutes in the main proving, yet again, that brevity is an end in itself.

Think it, say it, get out.


Various Artists – Kazbek: Field Recordings from the Caucasus

Beautiful recordings of some of the planet’s most wonderful music.

A few years ago Jon Collin’s award-winning Winebox Press released this in a deluxe 4 cassette-and-handmade-box edition that was a joy to weigh in the palm.  I had the pleasure of exhibiting it (and a bunch of other Winebox releases) at the ‘Everyone Loves Tapes These Days’ exhibition.  But, close though I was, I never managed to snaffle one of these earthly delights.  Since then my days have been marked by a raincloud until… Jon launches a new edition on the soon-to-be-essential Early Music label.

Format-junkies can still swoon over the double-pack-cassette-on-minty-green complete with grainy pics of an awld gadgie and wifey but for me the music is the draw, neatly compartmentalized across four generous sides.

I’m no musicologist but the rise and fall of the gruff voices on the VOCAL ENSEMBLES side meshes the harmonies my pampered western ears have grown accustomed to.  So this is all about the clash of sick tones, rich as paprika; whether the swoops come from a group lurching; their voices like a car speeding over a hump-back bridge (the kind that leaves your stomach fizzing) or solo muff aching with sadness [Editor’s note: Wait, what?! Oh, I’ll let it go…].

The sweetness of the SONGS AND ENSEMBLES include the truly wonderful Ashiq Nargile and move from ‘blues’ conversations over slinky strings to someone that sounds like Fergal Sharkey holed up in the cheese caves.  These recordings are informal in the best possible way and littered with start-up strums, coughs and genial asides.  There is no clinical Real World shit here but genuine, squat-on-a-carpet ambiences.  Oh yeah… the woodblock accompaniment to the rasping, gasping accordion set is pretty mesmeric.

Gentle ducks at the wrestling festival opens WINDS AND REEDS where squealing and greasy pipes get a thorough work-out.  Reed organs crackle with eccentric tunes, popping and parping like the magical mouse-organ.  Then we get soft flutes – overblown split bamboo in some eye-watering Eastern jazz –  to groups that sound totally Morocco with dissonance overlaid in patterns as old as memory tiles.

And there is no let up on the final side INSTRUMENTAL STRINGS – raw as neat spirit infused with spruce resin.  These tunes are plucked with a rural urgency, the unmistakable sound of people who need to get shit done before the sun goes down.   I’m all speed-freaked by the business until a dulcimer tune transports me back to 1980’s Tales of the Unexpected with its mysterious off-klang.

If you’re looking for some real genuine direction take up these two tapes, listen and bury at the cross roads.  I swear your head will never be the same again.


Dario Lozano-Thornton

Early Music

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