london crawling: paul margree on alex ward, onin, yeah you, stephanie merchak, sebastian camens and miya masaoka, zeena parkins and myra melford

October 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Alex Ward Proprioception (Weekertoft)

Onin –Errery (Verz Imprint)

Yeah You – Krutch (Slip)

Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method)

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional)

Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford – MZM (Infrequent Seams)

Given that my initial pitch to RFM was to become the site’s London correspondent, few of the bits and bobs I’ve reviewed thus have any link to the capital. These latest grunts of prose aim to address this imbalance, featuring some London-based artists and labels – as well as others from further afield. Read on, fellow voyagers, and enjoy.


Alex Ward – Proprioception (Weekertoft) CD and digital album

Alex Ward is a busy chap. In the past couple of years alone, he’s contributed to Charles Hayward’s This Is Not This Heat revival, reconciled the formal rigour of composition and the spontaneity of improvisation with group releases such as ‘Glass Shelves and Floor’, and given vent to ferocious jazz-rock-punk utterances in Forebrace. He’s also found time to pop up here, there and everywhere as a roving freelance improvisor.

More recently Ward has been rummaging around at both the micro and macro ends of his practice. With Item 10, he dives into the challenges of working with a large ensemble, again trying to square the circle of improvisational flexibility within a composed framework. But in‘Proprioception’, he focuses exclusively on the clarinet, with two acoustic improvisations and a third featuring amplification and feedback as a counterpart to his own dexterous playing.

The unamplified jams are as fluid and delightful as Ward has played.‘Vestibular’ honks and hoots with terrific, hyperactive energy, its maximalist trills tumbling into sharp-edged discordance, the full-on shredding peppered with tongue slaps and pained squeals. Phew. ‘Tiptoes’ is more languid, but grizzled too, with early scraping around the higher register morphing into gravel-pitted breaths and tubercular whoops.

If the third piece, ‘Chasm’, isn’t quite as assured, the sense of a new path being forged more than compensates. There’s plenty of this kind of stuff available for the saxophone – John Butcher still dominates the field, and Joe Wright (see below) is also worth your time – but switching in the clarinet here yields rewards. Ward uses the horn to taunt his amplification, almost, blowing just enough to trigger explosive, fuzzy yowls. Hollow breaths result in gas clouds of white noise. High-pitched squeaks draw out needling screams. At times, grit-laden globules seem to spew out into the air, claggy lumps of waterlogged ash hosed from a chimney by a crew of Victorian urchins, huffing and puffing as they clamber through the soggy darkness.

Onin – Errery (Verz Imprint) CD and digital album

 If Alex Ward’s experiments with amplification are provocative, reveling in the chaotic sounds they birth to, saxophonist Joe Wright takes a chillier, more considered approach. Onin, his duo with guitarist James Malone, is architectural in its scope, sketching out dry, empty structures pockmarked with occasional fine detailing that is both enigmatic and essential. Sounds don’t so float free from their moorings as are deployed with utmost precision to an unseen plan, working towards an unknowable, unreachable goal.

The five tracks on ‘Errery’ match dissonant feedback jags and atonal blowing from Wright’s horn with Malone’s reductionist approaches and extended techniques that turn his guitar into a sonic totem, his hollow knocking, ringing plucks and rodent squeaks emerging like background chatter from the aether.The grubby tundra of ‘Dark Star’ is a great opening salvo, Malone’s fibrous clangs echoing over the masses of Wright’s sub-zero sonics with unexpectedly emotional heft. And the album’s title track is full to the brim of things that go bump in the night, its poltergeist racket juxtaposed with almost comic stringy whoops and whistles for a big back of unheimlich fun.

But the highlight has got to be machine shop wallop of ‘Shrike’s Dance’, in which layers of oily syncopation and air-tube rattle jazz about in acousmatic fury. The title may well be a reference to ‘Pharaoh’s Dance’, the opening cut on Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, and you can just about sniff out some that weaved interplay of instrumentation here – although the gassy thumps and drill-whine of an ancient central heating system in the process of being dismantled may be a better image. The physical pulse never goes away and may inspire spot of calisthenics in all but the most sedentary listeners. Work it.


Yeah You – Krutch (Slip) vinyl and digital album

 Attention all parents! However you view the messy, complex business of child-rearing, the business of sharing car journeys with those little bundles of joy must, surely, appeal only to the very hardiest. Put a bunch of humans of varying ages inside a metal box for any length of time and friction is almost guaranteed to ensue.

Yet there is a solution, thanks to father and daughter duo Mykl Jaxn and Elvin Brandhi. Instead of arguing about which playlist or radio station commands the vehicular airwaves, Jaxn and Brandi used their car trips as a creative spur,with journeys to the supermarket and further afield becoming opportunities to dream upabrasive bursts of stream of consciousness noise guaranteed to abuse your earlobes with their sheer broken-glass vitriol.

Such formative experiences led inexorably to the birth of Yeah You. And, although the roadtrip jam sessions aren’t so central the duo’s creative process, the acid-bath ferocity of their instantaneous songcraft has lost none of its filthy lustre. ‘Krutch’ is the pair’s sophomore release for the London-based Slip label, after 2016’s astounding and essential ‘Id Vendor’, and the venom remains in full flow. From the pure headache yowzah of ‘Fall Freed’, through to dying seconds of ‘SOIK CHAT video’s’ burnt-circuit blip, this is aural poison of the most toxic kind.

Despite the anarchy, Brandhi’s majestic flow locks perfectly with Jaxn’s soundtrack. Get a load of ‘No More Metaphors, Hold Life Still’, where Brandhi’s distorted chat is all of a piece with Jaxn’s rough synth splatter. Like all good poets – Mark E Smith, YOL – Brandhi knows that the sonic impact of her syllables is as important as their meaning, just as Jaxn feels no need to prioritise her words, her corrosive utterances fighting for space in the titanium shoebox of his soundscapes.

‘Krutch’ is, if anything, even more virulent than its predecessor, whose crunching, trap-inspired beats provided a vestige of structure on which to hang Brandhi’s bottom-of-the-universe misanthrope poetry. “No affirmation needed, no affirmation needed” spits Brandhi on ‘Hair Moats’, her voice pitchshifted with such abandon that individual syllables warp in and out of focus, as scratchy electronic percussion bites like a nest of grumpy ants and thin splurges of atonal synth cast spraycan trackmarks all around. Set phasers to rinse.


Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method Records) digital release

All of the pieces on StephanieMerchak’s Collapsing Structures were built from a single glockenspiel melody, reconfigured by the artists into this set of stark, compelling compositions. The way in which Merchak turns self-imposed limitation to her advantage is, frankly, astounding. From relatively humble sonic material, she fashions an array of glossy twinkles, ominous machine murmurs and deep drones, which then act as source material for her assemblages. The mood is sombre, Merchak’s metallic timbres evoking the chilly expanses of the void – although, according to her liner notes, that vast emptiness may lay correspond to inner, rather than outer space, with tracks like ‘Alone In My Head’ summoning the aimless hermetic drift and low-power neuronic glimmer of psychic breakdown as much as they evoke the freezing wonder of interstellar exploration.

If the subject matter is grim, the product of the ruminations is frequently thrilling (indeed, one could hope that focusing on such debilitating mental states provides some therapeutic as well as aesthetic value). ‘Repeated Patterns of Destruction’has a massive, alien heave, its glacial crescendos awe-inspiring and terrifying in turn. ‘Cold and Silent’, meanwhile, is almost anthemic in its wavelike shimmer and battery of clanging resonance.

There are times, for example in the sweeping oscillations of ‘Rupture’ or the layered reverberations of ‘147 Transformations’, where Merchak seems to be pitting herself against computer music heavy-hitters like Roland Kayn. However, unlike Kayn’s more system-based approach, ‘Collapsing Structures’ is very much the product of Merchak’s compositional intelligence, and the intensity and focus of her tracks is a result of her hands-on sound design and clear editorial sense. Still, listening to pieces like ‘Caught In A Loop’, it is difficult to believe that a tabletop full of Eurorack modules isn’t responsible for the multifaceted pulse and throb. That such sub-zero gorgeousness had its roots in an instrument used to teach young children basic nursery rhymes in primary schools across the land is testament to its composers’ talent. Ice cold.

Tan Object

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional) cassette and digital album

Imagine a giant, multicoloured rubber band. Imagine two hands stretching and twisting it. But it never breaks – just gets longer and longer, gnarled into an ever-more impossible geometry. Imagine this as sound, and you’ve got a fair approximation of the nutty squelchfest that is Sebastian Camens’ ‘Tan Object’. Created using a minimal modular synth setup, Camens lays down ten slices of frenetic Dayglo electronica, each one a rabbit punch to the cortex that’ll have you seeing stars as your jacking body crumples to the floor.

Despite there being no drums in these chewy nuggets, ‘Tan Object’ is a stone-cold banger. Each track sees Camens setting up his parameters and letting them fly, the hiccupping, loop-like structures gurning into new shapes as they coil around onto themselves in the perfect combination of repetition and evolution. The upward jerk of ‘Tan Object 2’ has the shroomy hustle of Lee Morgan’s ‘Sidewinder’ after a bout of M25 motorway madness, but it’s the album’s mid-section that hits hardest.  Parts 4 and 5 marshal a motherboard full of Space Invader bleeps and bursts in a hectic, gluey morass. By ‘Tan Object 6’, fuzzy drops of white-hot sound are raining down like planet-wide invasion, ‘War of Worlds’ rescripted by Tomohiro Nishikado.

‘Tan Object’ is the second outing for Camens on London’s Conditional label, after his split release with founder Calum Gunn for the label’s debut, ‘Slant Deviations’. Since then, Conditional has delved deep into the more eccentric ends of experimental electronic music, with rkss’s ‘Brostep In The Style Of Florian Hecker’ – released as a video game and lanyard, format fans – and Ewa Justka’s searing ‘Efhksjerfbeskj’ (created entirely with homemade instruments and effects). But the Conditional release with whom ‘Tan Objects’ shares most of its DNA is Phil Julian’s ‘Clastics’. Like Camens, Julian uses his kit to set up repeating patterns that decompose gradually into bit-scrunched slurry, leaving a bunch of lovely wrecks behind. Take a look. That charred destruction is darned beautiful.


Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford: MZM (Infrequent Seams) CD and digital album

Artistic freedom can be constricting as well as a liberating. When everything is up for grabs, it takes courage to face down the void. Understandable, then, that many artists don’t, retreating into the niceties of a sonic grammar established back in the day – a problem particularly relevant in contemporary free improvisation.Thankfully, the trio of Miya Masaoka (21 string Koto) Zeena Parkins (electronics, electric harp) and Myra Melford (acoustic and prepared piano)steer a safe passage through these rocky waters. You’d hope they would, of course, given their combined skill levels working in this field. And, although his debut isn’t the first time the trio has worked together, ‘MZM’ retains the sparkiness of an initial meeting of minds, scoring an impressive hit rate despite being rooted in classic improv traditions.

That said, ‘MZM’ takes a little while to get going. The aptly titled ‘Red Spider’ and ‘Bug’, for all their energized swarm, wouldn’t look out of place in a 1980’s Emanem release. But as the radiant hues of ‘Saturn’ beam out, things look to be heading in the right direction. Balletic harp and koto figures execute a courtly dance to subdued piano chords. Hermetic feedback wallpapers the space in glowing hostility, allowing the brittle strings and moody keys to skedaddle nervously across smooth, curvilinear surfaces.

Generally, the cuts named after astronomical features fare better than their entomological counterparts, the chilly spaces offering more opportunities to winkle out refreshing twists and turns. The woody plunks of ‘Spiral’ display an enigmatic loveliness, the crabwalk improved by a piano line nodding just far enough towards Ligeti’s ‘Musica Ricercata II’ to summon some Kubrikian spookiness. Its final third is arrestingly lovely as it morphs into widescreen, creeping dread, with a growling bass drone that casts circling koto and harp motifs into uncompromising relief.


Verz Imprint


Silent Method Records


Infrequent Seams


clicking down the delta: paul margree on mikroton recordings

September 10, 2017 at 6:05 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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MKM – Instants//Paris (Mikroton Recordings)

Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Küchen / Paul Vogel -Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

Ease – No No No, No (Mikroton Recordings)

Alfredo Costa Monteiro / Miguel A. Garcia – Aq’Ab’Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt – Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

The Holy Quintet – Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

 Kurt Liedwart’s Mikroton Recordings has been broadcasting dispatches from the outer realms of aural voyaging since 2008. Its discography takes in luminaries of abstract improvised sounds such as Keith Rowe, Jason Kahn and Burkhard Beins, as well as newer voices such as Lucio Capece or Miguel A. Garcia.

Mapping the label’s aesthetic would probably encompass the slow ruptures of Crypt-era AMM, the bruising subtleties of Berlin Echtzeitmusik and the glacial intensity of reductionism and its adherents. Electroacoustic improvisation is the phrase you’d reach for, I guess. But take a few steps into this Moscow label’s back catalogue and it becomes clear that this term is about as useful as mapping the ever-widening delta of these musicks as a paper cup is for boiling an egg.

Keeping up with Liedwart’s release schedule can be exhausting. But it’s rewarding, too. Time spent with a Mikroton release opens your brain and ears to the wonders of unconventional sound. Everyday objects are reconfigured into talismanic sonic generators and the orthodoxies of conventional instrumentation are subverted. Hurricanes in the bathtub. Prickles on the skin of a bubble. Scuffles in the grey dawn.

Most of the releases under review here came out earlier in the year. There have been several more since. But as entry points into Mikroton’s fascinating discography, they can’t be beat.


MKM – Instants//Paris (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

Back in 2012,the Swiss trio of Jason Kahn, Günter Müller and Norbert Möslang assembled in Paris for a lively session of hustle and grind. It wasn’t the first time they’d played together – their debut release was back in 2008 – but sufficient vitality remains here to counter any familiarity.

Kahn has since put his analogue synth and radio setup to one side in preference for longform vocal extemporizations, but this performance never feels like a museum piece. His contributions lock together with Müller and Möslang’s cracked consumer electronics to produce bursts of junkshop argy-bargy in which individual contributions are subsumed into the overarching grey drizzle.

Early sections are a bustling farrago, the collection of gritty burps and high, needling tones not dissimilar to ‘Valentine’, Kahn’s head-to-head with Phil Julian from a year or so back.

It’s chewy, tangible stuff, the irregular bursts of noise like some slo-mo Super 8 footage of a trio of dune buggies carving up the terminal beach. The crew swerve away from any kind of crescendo or manipulative sonic topography, instead allowing the vicissitudes of their kit and caboodle to create natural peaks and lulls. They can’t help building up a head of steam towards the end, though, with a full-spectrum chunter that would give a factory full of boiling kettles a run for its money, before cutting out for an appropriately deadpan finale.


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Küchen / Paul Vogel – Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

An allusive take on multidimensional improvisation from this collection of veterans, most of whom exist as points on the Echtzeitmusik/reductionist/electroacoustic axis.

Where ‘Instants//Paris’ was rough-edged and impolite, ‘Fracture Mechanics’ is enigmatic and considered. Long, breathy saxophone hoots waft across a jittery bed of interference. Glottal clicks rattle between glassy tones like a spittle flecked metronome in a temple. In ‘Pebble Snatch’, two saxophones – Capece on soprano and Küchen on tenor – moan in prehistoric lament. ‘Pendentive’ sets a cavern of ritualistic percussion against lattices of frowning gurgles and hand-bell tinkles.

There’s a lot going on under these unruffled surfaces. A wide-ranging array of equipment – the usual speakers, iPod, radios and objects you’d expect from this milieu, plus saxophones, hand oscillators, e-bowed zithers, monotron, snare drum and, best of all, ‘air from another planet contained in terrestrial glassware’ – yields a rich matrix of effects, but the space is never crowded. Restraint is as important as variety, the cumulative experience of the four players giving them an intuitive sense of when to hold back and when to push out.

Recorded in Ljubljana in 2014, ‘Fracture Mechanics’ is a prime example of the Mikroton aesthetic, with the slow-burn epic of ‘Transmogrification’ a highlight. An ear-rinsing squeal is a low-decibel, high-frequency endurance test, its groan as insistent as a fridge left open in the middle of the night. Godzilla rumbles drag themselves across a vast plain. Its 30-minute runtime resembles an aerial flythrough of a sleeping hive mind, occasional neuron flashes lighting up the dreaming nerve-centre. When it ends, you awake, refreshed.


Ease – No No No, No (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

I have a soft spot for handmade or custom-built instruments. They force innovation through defamiliarisation. Lacking history, tradition, convention, players have to bend their usual techniques into new shapes, or adopt new ones.

In electronic music, where easy-to-use interfaces combined with infinite variety results in comfort zone-produced cliché, self-made or hand-coded systems are an essential part of keeping things fresh.

And so it goes with ‘Ease’, a Viennese duo of Klaus Filip and Arnold Haberl, aka Noid. The pair uses ppooll, an open-source software tool, to create eerie and minimal computer soundscapes. Both musicians are programmers and are deeply involved in ppooll’s development community (indeed, Filip was one of the founders of the system) and so both are adept in manipulating their system to achieve astounding results – the compositions here are elegant, dense and compelling, moving with the unpredictable implacability of a weather system across a mountain range. There’s an occasional resemblance to fellow countrymen Farmer’s Manual’s live-coded suppleness in the constant, gradual shifts of these two long tracks. There’s also a gritty edge, recalling Kevin Sanders’ briefcase synth cosmologies.

In fact, of all Mikoton’s recent releases, ‘No No No, No’ is the one that fits best into the No-Audience Underground or Extraction Music taxonomies. It’s thanks mainly to the way in which Filip and Haberls’ individual contributions come together – the former moulding sine waves and high tones into beautiful forms, like a glassblower creating a set of skeletal, numinous sculptures, while the latter processes field recordings and natural sounds into rough, low-end rumbles and soft beachy huffs. An addictive, immersive recording.


Alfredo Costa Monteiro / Miguel A. Garcia – Aq’Ab’Al (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

If that all sounds a tad refined, Aq’Ab’Al might just be aggressive enough to whet your whistles.

These four chunks of intense cyborg aggression from this Iberian duo balance driller-killer vibrations with a seismically-potent low-end, all rendered in terrifying hi-definition clarity. Skynet tone-clouds meet earthmover grumbles in abrupt, dystopic visions of posthumanity. It’s thrilling, visceral stuff, brutal enough to shatter the gallery politesse of much art-music, yet retaining sufficient detail and ideas to keep you interested through repeated exposure to its tungsten surfaces.

The title comes from Mayan astrology and refers to opposites, change and renewal. While it is strange that something so unnervingly futuristic should take an ancient religion as its touchstone, Monteiro and Garcia are only the latest in a line of experimental artists reaching back through the past for inspiration. Think of Eliane Radigue’s ‘Song of Milarepa’, (inspired by the teachings of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist scholar), Morton Subotnik’s ‘The Wild Bull’(the title comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh) or Milton Babbit’s ‘Philomel’ (based on a myth from Ovid’s). In any case, listeners familiar with Mayan ideas about the end of the world – remember 2012? And Mel Gibson? – won’t have to try too hard to find the duo’s high-velocity screeches and catastrophic thunderclaps appropriately apocalyptic. These guys have seen the future. And it is murder.


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt – Hjem (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

The ppooll system makes another appearance here, this time in the hands of label boss Kurt Liedwart, in a trio with Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt and St Petersburg violinist Andrey Popovskiy.

This is quiet noise of a superior kind, Taxt and Liedwart ganging up to create laminal extended horizons through which Popovskiy scratches rough and ready paths. Taxt’s tuba is great, its long brassy parps calling out like the mating calls of mysterious sea monsters, the affectless playing unable to banish the final traces of the instrument’s characteristic pathos. Liedwart’s electronics fizzle and splutter in parallel, muddy splatters morphing into frothy sploshes before emptying into micromanaged arpeggios.

If this were a duo, this would all be rather too symmetrical for me. Fortunately, Popovskiyis a wild card, his viola, electronics and objects adding welcome wayward notes to the meditative jam. At one point, a sound like a rusty gate cuts through the cool drones, soon followed by a load of bashing and banging, as if the janitor of the Dom Cultural Centre in Moscow (where this was recorded) has chosen the worst possible time to repair the central heating system. It’s a cue for things to get scrappier, with various rustles and clonks prodding Taxt into exhausted, erratic honks, while by nervy gusts of electronics chatter their support.


The Holy Quintet – Borough (Mikroton Recordings) CD and digital album

 Recorded in the Welsh Congregational Chapel in Borough, southeast London, this quintet of Johnny Chang (Viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular and radio), Dominic Lash (double bass), Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither) and David Ryan (bass clarinet) takes on an appropriately spectral quality as their manifold creaks, strikes and crunches fade in and out of hearing.

Like a lot of Mikroton releases, the link between the players, their instruments and the sounds that we hear on the record are mysterious. Here the disconnect is even more pronounced. Sure, those stringy bumps could be Dominic Lash’s bow bouncing across his cello strings and that hollow, silvery tone could David Ryan’s bass clarinet. But, on the whole, sounds float free from their moorings, sonic manifestations divorced from their physical aspects. As a result, these two sets exist somewhere between possession and haunting, the personnel mimicking a Victorian spiritualist meeting, the attendees channeling the ghostly music of the aether even as they’re taunted by cheeky, restless spirits.

The uncredited sixth player in this quintet is silence. There’s a talk a lot about silence in the experimental music world – how much of it to allow in a performance or a recording, whether we can ever achieve true silence, how to banish it, even.  Yet we rarely acknowledge that silence is not a fixed, immutable entity. It can be blissful, mysterious, meditative, depending on the context. Here it is oppressive, claustrophobic, bearing down on these ghostly voices like a force field. Absence becomes presence, and sound becomes a last barrier against oblivion.

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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
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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
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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


private ritual: luke vollar on fells, kevin sanders and skull mask

February 24, 2017 at 11:46 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records)

Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication)

Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records)

No filthy typewriter, or flimsy keyboard for our Luke Vollar.  He presents his vision scrawled in ink, direct to page.  With the filters removed, the truth bleeds through…


Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records) C120 Cassette and Digital Album




Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication) Digital Album




Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records) C40 Cassette and Digital Album





Invisible City Records

Hairdryer Excommunication



Memories reworked and remembered again: Sophie Cooper on Anla Courtis and Vollar/Murray Tag Team on Culver versus Fordell Research Unit

February 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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anla_courtis__antofagasta_cdAnla Courtis – Antofagasta (Beartown Records) CD

I’ve wanted to listen to the music of Anla Courtis for ages after reading that big article about him in The Wire, so I was thrilled to see this new CD by him on the Midwich review pile released by Beartown Records.

And a bloody good job of it they’ve done too!

I know Beartown for their distinctively packaged tapes mostly; high contrast photography, photocopied in black and white sleeves and this packaging carries on this artistic precedent but takes it to a very pro looking level. The artwork features Courtis’ own blurry shots of scenic views, which I assume, are of the area of Argentina that the music is concerned with.

The CD comes with a sweet ‘cut out and keep’ style individual photograph and a nice reworking of one of Courtis’ images treated with the Beartown technique. Really great work, I’m surprised they only printed 50 of these but anyway…

The music contained within this lovely packaging has been created using Courtis’ cassette-made field recordings dating back to 1998. According to the sleevenotes these were then sat on for almost 10 years, made into something else, and then were left for almost another 10 years until Beartown released them.  Lucky for us that they did.

Recorded in an area of Argentina called Antofagasta these 4 long tracks depict intricate and meditative recollections of place. I was thinking it must be really interesting to come back to recordings made of a place so long after the event and then try to rework them into something totally different.  For me, sound evokes memory.  If anything is going to transport you back it’ll be a sound (or a smell, I’ve experienced this once or twice) and I wondered how much of the original trip Courtis would have actually remembered aside from what he heard on these tapes.

After such a long time does memory have anything to do with it anymore?   Can the sound just be treated as what it is, a sound, or would the memories come rushing back and be important enough again to inform the piece? The track titles are named after the area, 1, 2, 3 and 4 .  Are we to imagine Antofagasta based on this music?

Don’t get me wrong though, these are not postcards, nor are they straight-up field recordings. Interesting elements of the recordings have been weeded out, changed and manipulated into retellings of events. On the 4th track Courtis has utilised every field recordist’s nightmare, wind, and transformed it into a whirling sound tornado, a windy nightmare!

It’s not all nightmarish however, scraps and pulls of objects layered up and played back repeatedly form lush sonic dreams, track 3, in particular, is beautiful.  From an outsider’s perspective, the 1st track is the one most likely recognised as an original event. You can make out man made noises: vehicle sounds, revs of engines and distant voices.

As the CD progresses it feels as through you slowly lose a sense of reality as those first recordings become more fragmented and obscure.

Memories reworked and remembered again.


Culver: Prisoner of F.R.U (Know Your Enemy) Limited edition cassette and Bandcamp Download

My Word!  This collaboration tape from Edinburgh’s Fordell Research Unit messing freely with and augmenting Gateshead’s Culver was always going to be a heavy example of neat sarcophagus music – but I wasn’t expecting 4AD-levels of such beautiful fullness.

It is not the first time that Culver and Fordell Research Unit have joined forces; indeed Fraser Burnett (FRU) has made no secret of his admiration of the deep influence that Culver has played in his own music. As someone who has followed both acts for some time now I would propose that this is (if it ever was) not an unequal balance, Lee is no longer sensei to Frasers clumsy roundhouses, more of an equal partner who can stand back, solemnly running his fingers through his beard as Fraser executes an impeccable routine of high kicks, deadly punches and overall karate Zen whilst illuminated in the copper glow of a setting sun.

Fraser is joined on this project by sometime member Grant Smith, another Edinburgh gonk serving times in Muscletusk (Yeah!) and Shareholder (Hell Yeah!). It has been told that the two pored over the encrypted texts from the North East whilst enshrouded in intoxicating vapours, being sure to keep their chalices full at all times.

And so as the mission was passed onto Fraser so must it now be passed onto Grant if he is ever to grasp the weight of this devotional music. Whether in collaboration with Fraser or by himself; what we hear is Fraser standing back in admiration as the young Jedi levitates a series of metal bowls and discs in a room of deep red velvet amidst shrouds of sandalwood incense.

Sowatchyahearin’  ‘Torch Needles’ is a ripe fig glistening with fragrant, sticky juice // OR // It’s the silvery snakes in Donny Darko plunging through an eggy Turner painting.  With a slow rudeness they show off their blubbery muscles.  What we left with?  A very flexible riot!

‘Weak Will’ and ‘What Does She Watch?’ are touched by a delicate vapour trail petrified then doused in dark glitter. Light is reflected back for sure but at eccentric, unnatural angles illuminating the dusty corners and forgotten stairwells of a cross channel ferry: a periphery of sound construction as dangerous and inviting as the below deck engineering.

The grim maritime theme continues in ‘Telepathic Torture’.  A creaking nameless ship cuts through a freezing fog, as vile oily water laps mockingly at the crumbled veneer of the battered vessel. What remains of the crew stare with haunted and stricken eyes. They are little more than walking carcasses starved and half mad from many sea-bound days of cold misery. As the yellow acrid fog starts to part they see land in the distance, strange and unfamiliar but land none the less, perhaps it is here that the crew will find salvation though they know not where they are and how they came to be there…

Yikes!  My first ever drone raga is revealed in the backwards-metallic-skullfuck of ‘Shark’.  Those bass-clouds are looming, heavy and pregnant and once again the epithet ‘devotional’ stands out clearly.  A submission to the one true god of drone!

But the enveloping hiss of ‘Head Serpent’ is a gentle closer.  Soft tape micro-scribbles pepper and voosh about the place; presently an aching tone is gingerly inserted like a steel cannula until, in the dying seconds, it’s rudely wrenched out and the claret starts to drip, drip, drip.

A wise man once said,

“To understand the sounds that nourish the mind is to study the true path, to know truly what it is that you need, and what you don’t need, and to shed off the layers that weigh you down.”

Nuff said.


Beartown Records

Know Your Enemy


screaming party above invisible city: the swift by midwich reissued

May 13, 2015 at 9:34 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Midwich – The Swift (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR11, edition of 40 or download)

swift coverswift tape

RFM is delighted to announce that The Swift by Midwich has been reissued by the essential Invisible City Records and is available as a beautifully packaged tape or convenient download.

The album was originally released as one 65 minute track on CD-r, presented in another beautifully designed cover in a tiny edition of 15, by highly-regarded American noise label Altar of Waste.  Here is the very flattering blurb written by AoW head-honcho Cory Strand:

Gorgeous and tidal cascade of gentle droning sounds that become something akin to a crushing roar from the between the cracks in the sky and the broken limbs of trees, Midwich’s epic construction “The Swift” is a piece that flirts with both natural ambience and HNW severity without fulling giving over to either.  Created from field recordings of swarms of swifts procured by the artist, the sounds here recall both the bleak pastoral harmony of the English landscape and the encroaching rumbles of black clouds swarming the sky.  Similar in tone to the work of Richard Skelton with a goodly dose of Daniel Menche’s and Clive Henry’s approaches to manipulated field recordings, “The Swift” is an amazing composition that demonstrates both the awesome power of the natural world around us and the possibilities inherent within electronic manipulation.  An incredibly creative work that blurs whatever genre lines you’d care to draw.

Altar Of Waste is very pleased to release this latest missive from one of the UK’s finest practitioners of underground drone.  Succumb to the swarm and feel the tense beating of thousands of wings buzzing around you.  Breathe in the awe.

My colleagues here at RFM dug it too.  Joe said:

The Swift is a single hour long piece in three distinct movements.

Movement one: It starts like the soundtrack to ‘Evolution…The Movie’ as grey gloop is replaced by lazy cellular dividing and static, internal egg-memories. Things settle on Mothra’s mating ritual – long drawn-out breaths gradually moving out of synch as feathery lungs push huge volumes of air through Sperm Whale baleen.

Movement two: A rhythmic ticking and the clatter of ghostly forklift trucks start to creep in.  The Swifts chirrup, skittering in the air warmed by the horny Mothra.  Listeners note: this section accompanies the flock of stately wind turbines near Chesterfield spectacularly.

Movement three: The final five minutes heave like the tides, slowly encroaching on an abandoned city; washing through the deserted streets, clearing the human junk for a stronger, fitter civilisation floating slowly through the brine.

No question this is Rob’s most immersive and ambitious piece of Midwichery yet.  You gotta have it!

..and Luke made it his album of the year:

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness.

Teacher’s pet, eh?  The lad will go far.  Positive comment written by those outside the RFM ‘office’ can also be found but, you may be surprised to learn, there are limits even to my vanity.  You get the picture: it was well received and I am proud of it.

Despite the eye-watering cost of shipping copies from the USA, the edition sold out sharpish.  I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and, after falling in love with North East noise label Invisible City Records, I just couldn’t resist reaching out to label boss Craig Johnson and planting a seed.  Given the catalogue already amassed it seemed like the perfect home for The Swift and, to my delight and relief, Craig agreed.  The track has been carefully halved to accommodate the change in format and the new artwork captures the atmosphere of the piece exactly.  It is a high quality item and, in my entirely trustworthy, un-conflicted, un-self-interested opinion, an essential purchase.


Finally, a word to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy of the original edition.  If you are among that elite please forgive me for diluting the experience with a reissue and remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year.  I’ll sort you out proper.  If you are mad enough to buy both editions then as well as the Aqua Dentata CD-r I’ll see if I can secure you a freebie of the next midwich project which, in stark contrast, is likely to run 18 minutes and contain 12 tracks.  Punk rock, eh?  More news as it breaks, but for now…


Invisible City Records

internalising the experience: sophie cooper on recent releases from fort evil fruit

May 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF036, edition of 100)

The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF034, edition of 75)

Extnddntwrk – By (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF035, edition of 100 plus download only extra tracks, second edition of 100 in preparation)

Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF033, edition of 75)

potter and hayden

Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child is a new collaboration between author Claire Potter and musician Bridget Hayden that gives a voice to text from Potter’s 2014 publication Mental Furniture. On this tape, extracts from the text are read by Potter, combined with sounds from Hayden and the results are fascinating. This deeply considered union works to produce a very whole sound and together they inform the narrative rather than it being a straight forward ‘words read over the top of music’ approach. On ‘Still Woman Cold’ Potter reads the text in hushed tones and creaking floorboards are heard in the background giving the impression that she is hiding from whoever is making those sounds happen. It’s a difficult and unsettling listen but uniquely compelling.

Potter and Hayden address trauma and deflection during Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child. It’s hard to discuss trauma, both your own experiences and those of others. It’s difficult because in some cases people are so quick to hide what they are actually feeling rather than address things that are not OK, choosing to internalise the experience and protect others from hearing it, which is an easy way to hide from judgement. The track, ‘Brendan Brady’ is named after a tragic character from the soap opera Hollyoaks. Brady is a murderer, a drug dealer, an abusive partner, a typical bad guy who the writers of the show later revealed was the victim of incestual abuse. The album takes this, and other examples from the show, as source material through which to deliver the topic of trauma and projection of unknown events. In addition to the words, static, aggressive guitar and incidental sound are included maybe to mask the story and stuff it down the back of the sofa.

Given the topic, it’s not an easy listen. Someone described this tape as “distasteful” on Rate Your Music (my most hated music website) and although I disagree I can understand why they might have written that because bringing up subjects like abuse are considered distasteful by some. This is an uncomfortable subject but this tape doesn’t worry about that. I congratulate Potter and Hayden for broaching this issue and for creating one of the most intriguing and thought provoking recordings I’ve ever heard.


The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile

The concept behind the creation of this release is really interesting. The story is that UK folk musician, C. Joynes, during one of his many travels round the world spent some time in Sudan where he recorded a weekly Sufi Dervish conference. These recordings provided the basis for this release which were dubbed over by two groups – Side A by a curious sounding improvising collective that operates as part of a commune in East Anglia called The Restless Dead and Side B by ever evolving Austrian free folk and drone collective Bird People. Bird People, for those who don’t know, are ‘fronted’ (I’m sure he wouldn’t like that word but for want of a better phrase…) by founder of Feathered Coyote Records, Ulrich Rois. Feathered Coyote and Fort Evil Fruit share a lot of common interests in the artists they work with (and the managers even look alike!) so the partnership makes sense.

Side A is probably the more successful in achieving a seamless collaboration between the Sufi recordings and the UK artist’s contributions. Listening carefully you can pick out additional out of tune guitars (I suspect homemade versions), drums, repeatedly bowed strings and percussive elements jamming along to the original recordings. The recording is respected and the ebb and flow of the piece is considered well within these jams resulting in a great, but not ragged, clatter.

Side B sees Bird People take the recordings and make something quite different with them, which I’m into. We hear gorgeous Indian instruments produce drones that accompany the Sufi singers but also come into their own throughout the 23 minute piece. At one point the drones perfectly match the volume of the original recording rising and falling then eventually leading to a point of silence before coming back to the vocalists, this time with even more drones and an audible banjo solo. This is brilliant and thoughtful music.


Extnddntwrk – By

Extnddntwrk, aka Andrew Fearn, is now best known as the guy who makes the music for Sleaford Mods but he has been making music since well before he joined Jason Williamson.  I’m really pleased that he has started to release his own solo music again including this new one on FEF.

This huge collection of songs spans about an hour and a half (if you include the bonus tracks from the digital download) and a lot of ground is covered in that time. My first thought on hearing it was that it would make an excellent soundtrack to a futuristic horror film and in the way that some great horror soundtracks, like Marc Wilkinson’s Blood on Satan’s Claw for example, have an overarching theme running throughout so does By. This is seen not least in the track titles, which all have the word ‘by’ contained in them, but also in the grim, downbeat, and sometimes outwardly scary atmosphere these pieces conjure. I want to be the first to be told when the film to accompany this tape comes out.

On By Fearn employs a range of acoustic instrumentation and high quality production to evoke dark imagery. His computer generated beats are of a subtle brilliance that provide a base for a variety of other components including piano, harp, bells and worked-in field recordings to name just a few. Some of the tracks such as ‘By Myself’ sound like they could have been generated by lo-fi software. This track has a weird and unsettling melody line that wouldn’t be out of place if found in an early version of the video game Doom (wow, the memory of that game just made me shiver!). In another moody track, ‘Death by’, Fearn plays subtle guitar lines that complement light keys. I can’t get over how delicate this release is and what a stark contrast is it to the music Fearn makes in his other band! This is very intense work and shows Fearn to be an accomplished musician and producer.


Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos

Rastrejo is a new artist to me but a quick look at Jose Guerreo’s back catalogue reveals he has been involved in several projects in Valencia, Spain for a long time. Rastrejo serves as his experimental dance project and this release is really toe tapping. It’s a short but sweet affair, totalling only 19 minutes.

Guerreo uses stark drum machine patterns and sings in a dramatic way on ‘Malgastando’ before launching into a wild, droney, synth solo that all works really well. The fully-fledged songs that involve singing are definitely this album’s strongest point and these are sandwiched between other musical ideas. I kind of wish the release was a bit longer because the last track ‘Mercader de Sencillos + Ballesta sin Fisuras’, which seems be influenced heavily by Talking Heads particularly in the vocal delivery, is a real banger and it feels like the album really takes off at this point. Oh well. I’ll be checking out other music by Rastrejo for sure.


Fort Evil Fruit

blistered, glistening: releases by ian watson and kevin sanders

April 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ian Watson – Caermaen (CD-r, Dust, Unsettled, DU09, edition of 50 or download)

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations (2 x CD-r in gatefold sleeve, self-released, edition of 50 or download)

ian watson - caermaenwatson and sanders

Ian Watson – Caermaen

Dunno why I’ve slept so long on this one.  An intriguing album of heavy electrics by the second most charming guy in noise released by the most charming guy in noise – you’d think I’d be all over it, wouldn’t you?  My apologies for the inexplicable tardiness.  Allow me to make amends.

What we have here is a four track CD-r (long gone – sorry) or free download (still available – woo!) by Ian Watson – artist, polymath – released on Dust, Unsettled, the label run by definitive good egg Brian Lavelle.  It was composed using ‘cymbals and feedback’ manipulated through bosky layers of electrics and is apparently inspired by the writing of Welsh mystic and Lovecraft influence Arthur Machen.  So far, so perfect.

A satisfyingly viscous low end and a refreshingly untamed crackling at the top act as river banks containing the current’s flow.  Could that be a torrent of fluorescent ectoplasm combed clean by the bones of skeletal fish?  Sure, if you like.  I can certainly imagine Ian’s kit producing a cool, flickering, ghostly green light:

Brian: err… is that supposed to be happening?

Ian: mate, it isn’t even plugged in!  Perhaps we should leave the room…

Brian: press ‘record’ first though.

Ian: oh yeah, of course, NOW RUN!

…but what this called to mind for me were happy times I’d spent as a teenager staring at a lump of dirty metal.

One of my first jobs was operating a solder bath in a factory that manufactured printed circuit boards.  Boards were loaded onto a conveyor belt, subjected to a terrifying liquid that cleaned the copper (so corrosive that I dropped two pence coins into it to see the queen’s face dissolve), covered in slime to help the solder stick, hung on a hook by me, dunked into a bath of liquid metal about three feet deep, blasted with air blades on the way back up, then placed on another conveyor belt.  Repeat for eight or nine hours with frequent breaks to sit on chemical drums outside and smoke cigarettes.

On Fridays we would be paid in cash in little brown envelopes around 11am.  At lunchtime I’d race to the nearest pub, drink as much as possible, smoke a spliff on the way back and spend the afternoon cleaning this machine – heated to 250 degrees centigrade – in my shirtsleeves because, y’know, it was too fucking hot for overalls and a certain amount of scar tissue looks manly and suggests character doesn’t it?  The spray and overflow of hot solder dripped down into the guts of the machine and coagulated there into something magical.

This mass of waste solder – the size and shape of a child’s torso, almost too heavy to carry – was a mesmerising landscape of clustered globules, of organic micro-castles blistered with irregular crenellations, of needle sharp, filigree wire work.  All glistening a muddied silver, hopelessly polluted with the scorched scum that boiled from the boards as they were dunked.  These random accumulations of melted metal remain some of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen, even accounting for how stoned I was at the time.  Something about this album took me back to that sight and that made me very happy.

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations

Also available from a neighbouring stable is this two hour long, two track, two CD-r set, by two collaborators: Mr. Ian Watson (as above) and Mr. Kevin Sanders (see below).

Imagine a large ruined house in a forest, swamped in ivy – each luscious leaf as deep green as cooked spinach, as shiny as patent leather.  Now imagine the root severed and the gradual death of the above ground plant, its draining vitality and increasing brittleness.  A high quality digital camera is making a time lapse film of this process.  Once complete the memory card is removed and Kev and Ian bath it in a a cool, flickering, ghostly green light.  This ‘develops the film’ with an occult power that reveals the usually invisible creatures of woodland folklore that live around the ruin: dryads, fairies, elves, horrifying, robotic horseshoe crabs, their scrabbling legs the stuff of nightmares, their carapaces as black as a dominatrix’s whip, and so on.  Now play the film in reverse and compose a soundtrack to it using just rust and magnets.

This: that.


Ian Watson

Dust, Unsettled

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steel gaze: joe murray on recent releases by kevin sanders

April 26, 2015 at 8:52 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – a study in pink (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – live in berlin, 2015 (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 9 or download)

ks - aladdin

Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh

High-in-the-mix scraping, like I’m scooping the last remaining smears of thick yogurt from an earthenware bowl, beckon me into Kevin Sanders’ felt yurt.  I remove my shoes and adopt a cross-legged pose to match my host whose steely gaze has not left mine.

His intensity is replayed in the heavy fugging drone that sweeps gently over the initial scrape.  Two notes are lazily fingered, ‘AHHHhhhhhhhhhhh OHHHhhhhhhhhhhh’ – a cosmic call and response to a distant god.

All the while a ball of tangled steel wool is unravelled at a snail’s pace.  Watching the slim pale hands move with purpose, but without fussy haste, manipulating the thin wire, unwinding, untwisting and smoothing it out is…making me….s…l…..e…….e………p………….y.

Dreams, so often a blessedly heavy velvet vacuum, are now full of distant howls of creatures yet-imagined.  The fear of the fear jams my mouth open and eyes wide.  Roaring voices pour from my throat as I am the vessel of the lost souls.  Each life left in limbo protests limply at being held like a fly in amber.  But the numbers!  The countless number of them leave my throat sore as the last snivelling heckle dribbles down my damp chin.

But all things must pass and I awaken beneath the poplar trees, glittering with marvellous frost.

ks - pink

kevin sanders – a study in pink

This is no-nonsense stuff.  Some electro cardiogram briefly splutters and we’re catapulted into a see-sawing sinewave swoon.  It’s dogtooth check rough up close but smooth as alabaster from a distance.

And that’s the stand-out thing about this 3 incher.  There really is so much going on in here you can, in the right state of mind, project yourself into the landscape, stand among the slowly peaking waves of static or ride the rolling ocean of thundering grumble like a tiny Norrin Rad.

The space analogy gets stronger as about half way through this 19 minute piece planets and stars begin to hurl themselves about, bending gravity and swooping perilously close to each other.  The solar whoosh of the near miss is felt as gentle pressure on the balls of the feet.  The last two minutes slowly unfold like some docking sequence; two rusty old Soyuz modules that got pimped-out by Grateful Dead fans to better honk the Dark Star-brand kif pipe, kiss silently with a sigh of compressed air.  Two become one.

ks - berlin

Kevin Sanders – live in berlin, 2015

OK readers.  So far we’ve had two different approaches, two different moods showing two different sides to Mr Kevin Sanders.

But this micro-diskette, recorded in a flat on Sonnenallee is my personal pick of the bunch. The notes say:

A broken organ in the flat was used to create two tape loops which were processed.

This all seems simple enough eh?  But the super-exciting thing about this 21 minute set is that the process is left clear and unadorned.  The tape loops are cut with confidence and make an extremely satisfying gristly crunch each time they turn back on themselves.  This becomes both rhythm and off-kilter melody as the singing-bowl-ring builds in intensity in the background.

Overtones become undertones become slumber-tones.  Each successive loop, as bright as copper, slides down a shapely neck to rest on lightly furred shoulders.  They collect in metallic piles on top of each other, shifting with faint tinkles.

By the 14 minute mark everything gains a superheavyweight quality.  What once was sunny and bright becomes black like lead with a similarly dark purpose.  What seems like the dawning of a dark inevitability eventually plateaus out into a shimmering crystal desert.  Geysers spew their hot dust, the polished sand flickers with heat haze.  The organ spits its last dirty electric cough and sadly clicks off.


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