menace of feathers: fordell research unit, witchblood, diurnal burdens, downer canada

April 8, 2017 at 5:50 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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?

ares downer canada

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!

Invisible City Records

Power Moves Library



human knotty complexity : joe murray on katz mulk, daniel carter/george lyle/fritz welch, downer canada and brb>voicecoil

March 27, 2017 at 6:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes)

Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records)

Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library)

brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza)


katz mulk

Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes) C30 Cassette


A new project from N-AU stalwarts Ben Knight, Ben Morris and Andrea Kearney* should make the most cynical of listeners burp – but I can report back from my comfortable trench that Pepto Bismol is not, repeat not needed.  This Mulk slips down easy as sherry trifle.



Knight continues his imagineer work for a darker-Disney building a domestic palace of half-song and chant.  He adds delicate plonks with increasing grace and moves the air with a palm, then a knee.  And Morris knits these materials into a thread-bare tapestry that celebrates the tiny, the small and the microscopic. Kearney provides the graphic score…

katz mulk 2


Side one: truth bandits, engaging rumble of an outboard motor, the squished goose honk of decaying electronics and wet hiss of traffic.  A voice says ‘squeal, squeal’, a bell rings and tinfoil gets crushed underfoot, a plate spins. Alligator goodbyes!

Side two: roar of a space heater, hectic metallic scrape, a voice battles sense against ripped rubber electronics, taped blister pack wrench overlaid by gentle footsteps. The plumber’s mate fouls up the pipes leading to complex knocking (at the7 min 30 second mark) that is both wet and dry, hard and soft, immediate yet attached to memory.

The end is heralded with the kind of repetition pin-ball/gong-strike/marble rolling I could listen to forever.

(iv)Outcome & Impact

The rare art of listening is engaged in this most rewarding of tapes.  I’m guessing this is a patchwork of ‘live’ and ‘studio’ jamz with the idea of sparse pushed through a nozzle, so the language bacteria grows in a dish; the rattles of accompaniment become as real as altitude ear-pop.

One to catch in a butterfly net no matter what!

*a most fortuitous bumping into Andrea enlightens me that her presence on this tape is purely graphic score construction rather than future-ghost player.  But FFW to the planned Katz Mulk disc on Singing Knives coz itsa trio of all-three-players-playing!

carter lyle welch

Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records) CD

Real-proper JAZZ chips from this sax/piano, double bass, percussion trio and sadly the last ever recording from Glasgow bass-face George Lyle.

The dials are set for human knotty complexity rather than eviscerating fire and that is all super-smashing-great for me.

It’s like this.  My simple mind is pulled in several directions at once.  George saws an undercurrent of resin-soaked wood so it glows like a fire biding its time.  Fritz supplies the sizzle of gentle rain on the griddle – a liquid bada-bing!  Sax sings for the brassy siren then Daniel moves to a dusty piano playing all the in-notes outwards.

But each piece tightens the jewels further, like when you find the bite on an old socket set and each bolt and nut clicks an extra few revolutions.  This is true open-jaw music that plays the lush valleys between the craggy peaks.

Even the most casual listen reveals ear-gems and brain worms: the guilt marimba, felt ravioli all come seeping out a blowhole and begin rolling around my feet.

But weirdest of all, the closing minutes of ‘News Loom’ seem to suck god-save-the-queen backwards over all the rippled sonic scree.  That can’t be right eh?

Shit! What more do you want me to say?  This threesome are impressive enough as lone gadgies but the sum is most definitely more when all those ears and fingers (and feet) get warm and busy.

Bop it!

downer canada full

Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library) CD-r in classy envelope and free digital download

This slim CD-r is packaged between two pieces of thick card and makes me think that the music is being coddled in some way – like it’s a delicate thing that needs protection from my fat, greasy fingers.

But when played ‘Snarl like a Poem’ is surprisingly robust – a full frequency exploration of brushed steel flux and hissing radiators.  It knocks like the ancient plumbing attached to your old head (a gaseous ghost in the pipes, hurtling through copper joints , whipping right and left) until you are not quite sure what’s going on.

And then…a feedback suite; a feeble keening smooth as marble.  Limp Morse that rolls as a cylinder would over a deep ice puddle yet fuzzy at the edges like someone just smeared my glasses with Vaseline – most agreeable!

Tones on the edge of collapse send oily ripples through my ear canal, a lo-tech Eliane Radigue, until things blister, bubble and pop.

Dry mouth sounds… ‘kah’ and ‘schah’ and ‘khow’ reveal dusty language roots.  Is this the lost speech of the sand-encrusted pharaohs?  Or perhaps a sound poet’s secret  library hiss?

What was once ultra-minimal collects the grit of a classic Dictaphone approach with each surface filled and smoothed-over with fizzing huss.

It fills my head with sweet drizzle!


brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza) C25 Cassette and digital download

The perfectly dank sound that joins the dots between classic long-form drone, field recording and musique concrete.

Kev Wilkinson’s bands Drill, Big Road Breaker and the more recent brb>voicecoil, have been stalwarts of the Newcastle noise/drone scene for as long as I can remember. After years of steady, underground activity his brb>voicecoil delighted a whole new generation in a triumphant performance at last year’s TUSK festival.

This cool-looking tape is the next instalment in an epic story.

Using source material recorded over an 8 year period the side-long title track ‘Cloth White Skin’ weaves an arcane industrial process (cast-iron rollers flattening bone fragments / blast furnace being stoked with terrible energy / huge tumbling spikes) with the spluttering of cold liquid metal and the distant thunder of Xipe Totec .

But it’s not all spitting-bluster.  The final short movement is an introspective shudder, a ‘someone’s-just-walked-over-my-grave’ uneasiness of rusty tin slowly coming to rest.

The itchy rhythm of ‘Crack Vessel’ mimics exactly the enamel rattling of a child’s tooth in a jam jar.   The accompanying offset, slopped-shunts of sound remind me of dancers limping after brutal rehearsals, all sore toes, ripped calves and swollen ankles.

The closer, an aptly named ‘Vent 2’ treats us to a Heath-Robinson industrial scene.  Grey gas escapes under enormous pressure from cracked terracotta pipes.  The hullabaloo flips a series of leather coated buttons to perform an organic, irregular beat.  The surrounding soundscape is crisp with busy electric crackles and fades into one lone drummer drumming.

A taste of the grim future?  Automation gone loco?

Regard the prophetic warnings of brb>voicecoil!

Sacred Tapes

Iorram Records

Power Moves Library

Muza Muza


chasing the unnatural: joe murray on graham stewart, brendan mcgeever, 21st century band, downer canada, graham dunning, tom white

November 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho007, edition of 41 or download)

21st Century Band – Dinner Free (tape, no label – or not, see editor’s note below)

Downer Canada – Hieronsong (microcassette, tape, Power Moves Library, PMLibrary 010, edition of 5, edition of 11 or download)

Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature (tape or download, Fractal Meat Cuts, initial edition of 10 with hand-printed lasagne sheet)


Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions

It’s the tradition for hacks like me to drop them Blade Runner references coz it’s such an N-AU universal [Editor’s note: as a life-long PKD fan and former PKD obsessive, I think Blade Runner is shite, not a patch on the existential masterpiece it is ‘inspired’ by].  Blah, blah, blah – Replicants and Vangelis yeah!  But for once I want to tweak the paradigm and re-imagine the rainy streets and heavy manners for a pastel-smeared over-the-rainbow, Studio Ghibli version.  In my imagining folk are retired with a big hug, the noodles come with a side order of foam bananas and the massive Greek gets turfed out the studio to allow Stewart and McGeever to tinkle on the slack plastic keys [Editor’s note: that would be better, f’sure].

What we gets here is a set of micro-songs and themes all played lightly on the Roland System 100 Model 101 and Korg Poly 800 exactly in the middle of 2004; predating Oneohtrix and his goons by 8 seasons at least (by my cheesy reckoning).

Soft and delightful.  The wobble floats upwards, the digital purring of a cat shifts into a light sprinkle of icing sugar dusting your cheeks.  A brave world is glimpsed through the cotton candy fug, orange and pink and red, the colour melts onto your tongue chasing the unnatural.  A most gentle voice, tones almost under the threshold of my hearing, instantly turning the instrumental studies into something approaching the Scottish Air!

Zoinks!  It’s rare I listen to anything so self-consciously pretty.  Sure, there is rough and fragile beauty a-plenty in ‘da scene’ but these deliberate constructions of a blunted, golden sunlight chimes perfectly with me on a cold autumn morning.  My word!  These warm pools of analogue colour splodge with a tranquillity rare in this day and age; the hopscotch skipping makes my toes jolly ranchers.

While critics goof on that arch Stranger Things parade… the coolest boys in school have been digging out the archive and pulling out the real thing.

Get lucky.


21st Century Band – Dinner Free

[Editor’s note: as this tape was chucked directly into the rabbit warren where Family Posset live I have never actually seen it.  The discogs listing gives that name and title and says it is without label.  However, almost every picture the internet associates with it suggests it could also be called ‘Masochism’ and be released by Vitrine with the catalogue number VT18 in an edition of 100.  As we are diligent journos here at RFM I demanded photos from Joe and received the above.  Unused J-cards being recycled?  In-joke?  ‘Art’?  Who knows, eh?  Those scamps!]

I’m guessing you sound-sorcerers ken THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS yeah?  All that booming echo that explodes outta nowhere yet still casts a circular shadow?  Ever imagined THE MYSTERONS washing up, fixing a bicycle tyre or rattling around just for the jaxx of it?

21st Century Band (or perhaps it’s Masochism, also mentioned on the tape sleeve) taps right into this Martian telekinetic vibe and sets up a broadcast of damp clanging and the glug-glug-glug of a jug-band decanting their tear-stained blues.

Events are fractured from their reality belt.  Without an eye we are left rather loose in our understanding and this, my dearest reader, is what makes Dinner Free so gloriously slack and comfy.

I can project any sordid thoughts onto this soft creamy expanse of recorded fuh.  So much so, when the one-note keyboard pads like the soft foot of a toddler I’m so deep, I’m so immersed it all sounds natural and right.  The plastic flute – natural and right.  The brief Hawaiian TV snappet – natural and right  (Side A – ‘New Sensations’).

Side B – ‘Kyoko on Yoko’, makes even less sense.  Someone is reading a Dennis Wheatley novel and acting out the opening ritual scene which would be scary if the Satanists weren’t so damn posh.  Who’s ever been spooked by a dandy Satanist?

But, I have to admit, the squeal of the wheel has a swing like Jaki Liebezeit – even the tugboat horn solo could be a cowbell.  Even the juddering machine soundz could be floor toms slapped with rubber teats.

A real tickler (‘Hidden Tracks’) rigs up the exact sound of an English back-bedroom; cracked pipes (laid out on a wooden chair) and Woolworths guitar with that distinctive watery treble. It fair takes me back to the smell of fanzine ink  – Grim Humour and the Kent massive!


Downer Canada – Hieronsong

Hyper-real tape pieces from the multi-limbed Kev Cahill that came out on a damn micro-cassette! It’s sold out now, in this rarest of formats, but there’s no excuse not to point a squeaky mouse at the download option.

We’re talking 30 minutes of delicious hiss and human breath here.

Part one sounds like a lo-fi take on Steve Reich classic ‘Come Out’ recorded on a cross channel ferry.  The

speaking, dreaming, lucid, vision

refrain loops incessantly, folding back on itself, building up layers of meaning then squeezing them flat like word toothpaste out from a tube.  The listening experience is strangely comforting, your mind wanting a rhythm to settle but edgily excited by each new juxtaposition thrown up the wonderful (dis)symmetry of loop-music.

Part two fuzzes deliciously for a third of its lifespan; there’s nothing much happening apart from the busy fizz of magnetic tape buffering across the simple mechanics of dual tape players and the sound of a real live room.  But as I’m getting settled into a Jazzfinger frame-of-mind multiple wooden flutes parp with jittery menace across the landscape. These ‘pipes of pan’ induce a real panic, a loss of control and feeling of unease that’s hard to shake.  Not sure if it’s the tone or the collapsing logic that is so unsettling here but I breathe out again only when a firm finger presses ‘stop’ and the ritual clicks off.

File under shipping-forecast-peyote-trip music.


Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature

A magpie-eyed borrower and reel-to-reel druid are joined by saucy neophytes on both ‘crisps’ and ‘rice spill’ for ‘Battle Overall Perspectives’, a lengthy vexation that takes up all of side one.

Rattle-hula and rimple-roll eh?

That’s right!  Simple crackle and rippage is run across slack mag-heads while CO2 is bubbled through warm milk (blub,blub,blub) making the edge of it smell suspiciously fruity.  There’s a pet lip protruding as the nimble fingers tackle crispy potato snacks and mash sticky rice with gummy mouths.

The sound-scape runs between ‘impossibly busy’ to ‘sparse and spooky’ like an inner city carpark over the course of its stale concrete day.  And it’s these movements; the transitions that make me roll over and cry ‘Uncle!’  Such plastic crackles are not uncommon in the N-AU (see Robert Ridley’s latest Tupperwave ) but the damn languor of the knuckle pops is glorious.  Glorious ya hear?

Interlaced: stray moments of crowd noise, a piano, more crisps and knotty knocks… then an ill wind blows.  We’ve moved to a very different terrain.  The ‘fi’ is shoved up high into your face and the dry and brittle becomes sleek and oil-filmed.  I’m seabird drowning in black gold.

If there’s not an ecological message I’m damn well chalking one up.  My slow-brain ruminates on nasty packaging and unnecessary filling, those string bags for oranges, tin pie dishes and the grot you have to wrench off a jar of Dolmio before you can douse your pasta in that crimson gloop.

The gummy mouths strike back in ‘Raking Leaves on Black Top’ (side B) with a filthy nosh of sloshing, rushing and warped crotchets.

A studio piece, this revels in heavy echo and thick textures creating a sly narcotic effect potent as Scientist’s Space Invaders dunked into a frothing burn, brook or beck.

And while I’m typing away, the increasingly unhinged ‘flup, flupp, puppp… whirrrrrrr, flup,pup, pup’ of mangled tape really starts to fidget at the edges of my vision.  I get audio hallucinations; I see a tunnel and my lips tremble.  A wheelbarrow of melons trundles by, scarlet ivy grows up my trouser leg.  This really is some Live at the Filmore East joint.  My gosh!

But this psychedelic vibe is well and truly bummed on closer ‘Reville Bugle Call’ by pitting those ‘Sounds of Death and Horror’ sound effects el-pees against the incidental Foley from an episode of Space 1999 with all their sexy catsuits and leotards.  I’m sat up straight and paying strict attention as the vortex of shrieks and damp piano sustains my crystal plumage.

Dunning & White.  Jokers maybe, explorers for sure – but watch out for the sharpened key hidden between the fingers.  I said watch it!


21st Century Band / Vitrine – Be resourceful.

Piped-in From Head Office Records

Power Moves Library

Fractal Meat Cuts

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.