kosmotroniks: new from michael clough and striate cortex

May 10, 2013 at 7:52 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Ürlich Uhrlich – Kosmotron II (2 x 3″ CD-r in handmade package, Striate Cortex, S.C.58, edition of 50)

Various Artists – SCFREE (CD-r, promotional compilation, Striate Cortex, S.C.FREE 1, edition of 50)

Uhrlich frontUhrlich insideUhrlich insertUhrlich inside insertSCFREESCFREE CD-r

Great to see Andy Robinson’s mighty Striate Cortex back in the conversation.  The multi-zellaby-award-winning label has been quiet of late due to Andy having to concentrate on those tangled processes that exist outside of music (I believe they are referred to collectively as ‘life’) but the wait for his return has been worth it.

Kosmotron II by Ürlich Uhrlich is a double 3″ CD-r (truly the format of champions) housed in an example of the exquisite handmade packaging that Striate Cortex is justly famous for.  The CD-rs are ‘on body’ printed and housed in windowed paper envelopes.  These are held against the cover with sashes, behind one is a pro-printed insert containing (very minimal) release details.  The cover is a gate-fold constructed from handmade card and held shut with its own painted sash.  A remarkable object.

Ürlich Uhrlich is one of several mysterious aliases adopted by Michael Clough.  This guy’s invaluable contribution to the underground scene in Leeds, prior to his treacherous decamping to that London,  has been documented elsewhere (see herehere and here, for example).  Nowadays he will be better known to readers of this blog for recordings under his own name and as one third of synth/psyche supergroup Truant (with Phil Todd and yours truly making up the trio).

However, he also has a long history of creating pastiches, homages and oddities and making them semi-available under assumed identities, often with meticulously plausible back stories for the ‘long lost’ artist now ‘rediscovered’.  Nowt has been said (to me at least) about Ürlich Uhrlich so I’m tempted to have a go myself: I’m imagining a German Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and went on to become a pioneer of electronic music, a genius sound engineer and a shadowy but influential presence both in the foundation of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and in the New York ‘Downtown scene’ of the 1960s…

Andy reckons the music could have soundtracked Tron and, yeah, I can hear that, but I’m tempted to go much further back.  The tightly wound, relentless back-and-forth of these analogue throbs and pulses suggest a kind of teeth-grinding, cheek-chewing, speed-freak non-narrative: ‘and then, and then, and then, and then…’  Perhaps it should accompany Warhol’s Empire?  Or maybe a time-lapse film of a giant copper clad cathedral dome oxidizing and being encrusted with livid green verdigris?

We could even get a little more active.  How about multi-limbed sport-bots thwacking a dozen basketballs at once to each other across an empty floor of an underground car park?  Or, especially during the bibbling sections of the second track, angry artificial intelligences throwing packets of information around in the hope of winning a competition the rules of which our pitiful brains could not begin to grasp?  Yeah, as good as that.

Also worthy of note is the ten track various artist compilation SCFREE.  This artefact is not for sale but will be supplied free of charge alongside paying orders made to Striate Cortex until the edition of 50 is extinguished.  Andy invited submissions stipulating they be about five minutes in length and ambient(ish) in nature.  The idea being to both encourage business and to promote the work of worthy artists with a connection to his label.  Slick.  No midwich track due to, y’know, ‘life’, but there could well be something from me on volume two.

Anyway, even without me it is pretty much all good.  Everything has the chance to engage, nothing has the chance to outstay its welcome, most leaves you wishing it was twice as long.  My favourites are the four tracks that top and tail the album.  The opener, Tim Newman’s ‘Park Page is Empty’, is a lovely, guitar-led see-sawing throb.  The second track, Mark Bradley’s ‘Sacred Musics’ is a Vangelisian curve of precious metal, slightly discordant to keep its edge serrated (a prime example of what an ex-girlfriend of mine used to call ‘wob-wob’ electronica).  At the other end of the compilation, the ninth track, Daniel Thomas’s ‘Heavy Density’, is the kind of refried physics you might hear whilst lying in your garage-constructed time machine, resisting the temptation to crawl out of the box, at peace, trusting the math and waiting for the cycle to conclude.  The final track, ‘Moonship (Phase One)’ is a live piece by Small Things on Sundays which suggests a desert camp fire scene on a sandy planet.  Huge, docile pack animals purr and buzz as they sleep nearby, ornithopters flap overhead, some radio chatter is ignored as the explorers relax.  Beautiful.

Striate Cortex

architects of the no-audience underground: andrew perry knows what he is doing

November 12, 2011 at 10:31 am | Posted in live music, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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  • Andrew Perry / Dead Wood – The Sweetest Meat (Striate Cortex, S.C.04, CD-r, 80 copies)
  • Andrew Perry / King Rib – Split (We’re gonna get fucking drunk tonight boys, CD-r)

As with so many other quality acts, Andrew Perry first came to my attention via Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent.  Joe forwarded a copy of their split CD-r on Fuckin’ Amateurs, which turned out to be literally unlistenable (grumpiness here) then triumphant (happy ending here).  After the party, Andrew wrapped a large creamy slice of his back catalogue in coloured tissue and I carried it home, still feeling giddy from drinking too much pop.

Over the intervening months I have become a fan and was delighted both to meet the man and see him perform at that gig in October I keep banging on about.  Seeing his shtick live really helped coalesce a bunch of previously nebulous thoughts, as did hearing a couple more CD-rs of his that I blagged on the night.

Andrew is a prolific creator of music in his own name, with others – either in collaboration or as part of split releases, and has a label of his own too: the gloriously named ‘We’re gonna get fucking drunk tonight boys’.  The stuff released as ‘Andrew Perry’ is a mix of fuzzed-out 18-tog drone, balls-out noise, guitarish shimmer, lo-fi field recordings featuring snatches of conversation and tickly contact-mic closeness that makes you pull out your earphone and wiggle a finger in your aural cavity.  Indeed, you may get all of this within the same track.

Don’t expect a smoothly stirred cocktail, however, as this is more like a glass lighthouse filled with layers of different coloured sand by a distracted child thinking about ice-cream.  Some of the transitions between styles jar, and sometimes I wish he’d have a little more patience with a groove or blissed-out fuzz that he’s established only to dismiss, but on the other hand nothing outstays its welcome, nothing is allowed to bore, the ‘jukebox’ quality makes it good for repeat listens and the hit and miss ratio of the segments is weighted heavily in favour of the former.  It is really good walkman music and often accompanies me on the route to work, augmented by the sub-bass rumble of the bus idling at junctions.

When in collaboration with others, or under other names, Andrew reins in some of his tiggerish impulses and, whilst painting from a similar palette, long-form tracks are allowed to grow and mutate in a more leisurely fashion.  I am unsure of the personnel involved in Gish, King Rib, Dead Wood etc. but a fairly consistent aesthetic is at work throughout all the stuff I’ve heard and I suspect the diagram of their overlap could be drawn on a page torn from an exercise book.

Meeting the guy helped explain and flesh out his solo approach.  He was bouncily enthused, entertainingly sweary, wary of producing anything longer than 15 minutes for fear of boredom, and seemingly able to tweet on his ‘phone whilst nodding in vigorous agreement and remaining engaged with the conversation.  The performance was likewise: three different segments picked from the list in paragraph three, all performed with equal verve, which left the audience grinning madly.  His instructions to the sound guy: ‘loud as you like’.  The following day he met us for lunch and was wearing the same t-shirt.  Some years ago you might have worried that they guy had ADHD, now he just looks well adapted for life in the modern world…

So, why not cop hold of the two CD-rs above?  The one on Striate Cortex is of a quality and consistency you’d expect from that impeccable label.  Three tracks: 1/a guitar quiver similar to the opening seconds of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ stretched out into a lilting, climbing shimmer, 2/fire blankets of fuzz thrown over the flames, 3/crackling noise that is both spacey (as in open) and increasingly spacey (as in cosmic).  The other one is brand new and can be had dirt cheap via WGGFDTB.  Andrew’s half is an excellent example of the genre hopping I describe above and is balanced nicely by the uncomplicated dronetronics of King Rib.

Musing on the wilfully no-fi, punk-as-fuck packaging for the King Rib split – a photocopy of hand-written scrawl – leads inevitably back to a thought which has occurred to me several times whilst listening to Andrew’s work: “wow, he couldn’t give a monkey’s…”  This is not to say that Andrew dislikes our simian cousins – he may volunteer at a gibbon sanctuary for all I know – I am referring to the well worn idiom meaning ‘he doesn’t care’.  This may seem an odd thing to think as Mr Perry is obviously deeply passionate about his music, his performance, about the network of similar artists that he finds himself a part of, about engaging with the world via his drive to create, and about getting those creations heard – so allow me to explain.

Andrew appears to be refreshingly unconcerned with the twiddly peripherals of ‘finishing’ (meant in a sense akin to how the word is used in interior design) that others like to waste their time on.  The recording is lo-fi and I doubt any of the instruments used cost a fat lot either – I imagine travel to gigs involves backpacks, bubble-wrap and carrier bags, not flight cases lined with wavy grey foam.  Songs occasionally have beginnings but endings are usually arbitrary snips.  Many of Andrew’s track titles are throwaway funny or Dadaist goofy…

(Aside: nowt wrong with that, I suppose, but I can’t help thinking that it sometimes undermines the seriousness, beauty or quality of the music they refer to.  Does it show a lack of faith in the material or an energizing irreverence?  I’m not suggesting that being po-faced would be better – god forbid everything was called ‘Composition No. 112’ or ‘Lament for the Oppressed’ – just that, well, oh I dunno…)

…The biography on his wordpress site reads, in its entirety: “Andrew Perry has had no idea what he’s doing for a very long time.”  Amusingly, at the time I write this, all the events listed in the ‘Future’ section are now in the past.  And so on.  It is an attitude I’ve come to see a lot in what I lovingly refer to as the no-audience underground and it is personified by people like Andrew, like Fuckin’ Amateurs, like Hiroshima Yeah!, like Dex TapeNoise etc.  It’s the idea that the central pursuit – the MUSIC, the WRITING, the ART – is all that really matters and the rest can look after itself.  I don’t share it completely – I’m way too uptight for that – but I love it when I see it.

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