sea, souvenirs, spice: luke vollar on grisha shakhnes, seth cooke and early hominids

January 8, 2015 at 11:28 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Grisha Shakhnes – Distance and Decay (CD, organized music from thessaloniki, t24, edition of 200)

Seth Cooke – Sightseer (3” CD-r, organized music from thessaloniki, t25, edition of 100)

early hominids – palpate (CD-r, zanntone, 000)

grisha shakhnes - distance and decayseth cooke - sightseer

Grisha Shakhnes is a Moscow born, Tel Aviv based individual. I’ve heard of him before as he has a record released on Glistening Examples, the label run by American tape fiddler and conceptualist Jason Lescalleet. There are some obvious similarities between the two as both use obsolete recording devices to blur and confuse what is recorded and what is an artefact of the recording – are we hearing the inner workings of a tape machine or is this a field recording made ghostly with ferric oxide?

There are no details provided with Grisha’s disc just the enigmatic, lovely artwork and title. There are sounds that hang in space as if suspended in water, their movements as slow and methodical as a giant sea creature. Indeed, when I try to put into words the sounds of this disc I invariably end up with an aquatic theme. At one point I imagined a mini-sub coming across a metropolis on the ocean floor, its occupants staring slack jawed at the enormous structures of neon lights and chrome towers churning out geysers of bubbling water. Later I hear a game of snooker played under a waterfall before the sad lament of a female voice in an alien tongue is buried beneath the gloop of machine malfunction. A somnambulant feeling is maintained throughout the 75 minute duration making it an unwise choice for your car stereo but a great soundtrack for full time dreamers.

Seth Cooke presents us with an entirely different beast on his little disc. He lists his tools as:

no recording, recording and no input field recording

No, me neither. Whilst ‘Cape Coast Seashell Bowed On Minster-on-Sea Shore’ informs us of its method of execution, the other titles reveal very little other than a rye [Editor’s note: sic, but what a great typo! I’m keeping that one in] sense of humour: ‘If You Only Listen To One FLAC This Year’ being a prime example. The mood is lonely, with voyeuristic overtones. At one point I could hear Seth releasing a caged pigeon to fly around a dimly lit multi-story car park. In other moments a faceless individual impassively views a seaside location, now devoid of human life. A sense of disquiet is achieved as a recording of, essentially, nothing is gradually enhanced with surgical precision only to be abruptly cut off just as it starts to become uncomfortable then switched for grizzled distortion swiftly followed by ghostly tones receding dimly. I have to say the more I listen to this, the more impressed I am with the craft and thought that has gone into it. Seth has used the format of a 3″ disc to fit in a lot of ideas though it never feels overcrowded.

Both artists make ample use of field recordings and both presumably use some form of processing for further confusion. Where Grisha’s sounds are in no hurry to get anywhere and are blurred by the use of cassette tapes, Seth’s sounds are clear and shrapnel sharp with abrupt editing and unexpected changes in colour and tone. Seth’s espresso to Grisha’s grande latte, if you will.

early hominids - palpate

I’ve seen early hominids, the duo of Paul Walsh and Neil Campbell, play a few times and part of the pleasure is marveling at the collection of noise kit spread before them: a couple of light activated boxes that fizz and crackle in response to strobes, like an angry serpent disturbed from its slumber, and all manner of odd looking stuff, presumably soldered together in a shady basement with the fiendish duo shouting ‘it’s alive, ALIVE!’ as it bleeps itself awake. One show in particular sticks in my mind from a few years ago at the Fox and Newt in Leeds. Paul and Neil created a Technicolor psych noise juggernaut that vibrated the tiny room while threatening to levitate the whole darned boozer into another dimension. It was what I’d always hoped Incapacitants would sound like: noise as the ultimate euphoric wig flipper.

The boys are in a more restrained mood here but their electronic gadgets still stutter and belch as if barely controlled by their probing fingers. Rather than batter us with a relentless sonic barrage the sounds are allowed to rise and fall into pleasingly awkward shapes. As I am hypnotized and my head begins to nod I visualize the two of them face to face over a table of wires and boxes creating a slurry of rich and spicy noise blarts while occasionally reaching for the ever present ale that fuels them. ‘Tis good stuff I tell thee.


organized music from thessaloniki

not sure if the homs CD-r remains available – try contacting Paul via the zanntone bandcamp page or via that Twitter.

eye for detail: the midwich remixes album

August 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Posted in midwich, no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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the archive

The idea of a midwich remix project goes back a fair distance (indeed, the missing-in-action Trademark TM created a version of the second midwich album life underwater – called ‘life underwater in space‘ – back when we were still laughing at bewildered millenarians) but now, finally, its time has come and I am inviting you, dear reader, to be involved.

The story so far is simple: Paul Walsh (foldhead, early hominids) sent me ‘glacier’, a version of ‘stomach lining’ from october in yorkshire that had been knocking about his hard-drive for yonks and discovered in a clear-out.  I liked it very much, mentioned it in passing on Twitter and within minutes had volunteers queuing up to submit their own remixes for an album I had to retroactively call into existence.  That’s what Twitter is like, innit?

So here’s the plan: the album will be called  ‘eye for detail’.  The entire midwich back catalogue is up for grabs, much of which is freely downloadable via the midwich bandcamp page.   Take what you want, do what you want with it and return the results to me ideally in wav format, ideally via WeTransfer (my email address can be found on the ‘about us…’ page).  The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 30th September and it will be released in October as soon as I get it all sorted.  To keep distribution simple and proceeds high the album will be download only via Bandcamp.  The reason for wanting to keep proceeds high is that all money raised will be donated to the Red Cross.

(An aside: this organisation was chosen as it provides immediate medical help to those most in need around this shitty world that we live in.  It has been brought to my attention that some may have issues with the Red Cross.  I’m afraid I’m ignorant of the politics I might be accidentally wading into here, so if you have concerns please email me privately so I can address those concerns or make sure your donation is sent elsewhere)

So far the project has only existed on Twitter and in a few emails but already I couldn’t be more delighted with the response. As well as the foldhead track mentioned above and garnering permission to use existing tracks by Daniel Thomas, ap martlet and Andy Jarvis, brand new work by dsic, Clive Henry, the piss superstition, Yol and Brian Lavelle is jostling in a hard-drive folder.  Others are hard at work.  It’s very exciting and updates are being tweeted on the arrival of each new jewel for the treasure chest.  Of particular note is Joe Murray’s Posset remix of this blog.  Yes, instead of choosing a midwich track to molest he has clipped favourite passages from my more whimsical and/or threatening moments and has created a shadow narrative that sounds like Adam Bohman cutting up H.P. Lovecraft.  Has to be heard to be believed. ‘Cover art’ will be provided by Michael Clough, who may be persuaded to submit some music too.

So: fancy being a part of this?  I flatter myself (as always) but perhaps there seems to be something about the wide open spaces, the jokey bibbling or the simple pulses of my, *ahem*, ‘music’ that invites augmentation or reinterpretation.  You’d be in terrific company and the cause is righteous so why not, eh?  All submissions gratefully received.

wired for sound part 10: early hominids – alkali/dilate (total vermin)

March 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Early Hominids – alkali/dilate (total vermin #38)

Early Hominids are a duo of Paul Walsh and Neil Campbell, who decided to work together after having shared bear-hugs at a ‘Survivors of Smell & Quim’ support group.  This tape, released by the prolific and charmingly named Total Vermin, contains one shortish long track of improv electronics per side.  The cassette itself is as black as the lenses of Lou Reed’s sunglasses.

Much to my amusement, this sounds exactly like what you’d expect it to sound like.  That is: the aural equivalent of giving a couple of demonically-possessed four-year-olds a giant box of crayons and asking them to express how they feel on your living room wall.  Or maybe the thrashing about of a malfunctioning cyborg octopus that has somehow fallen into a vat of boiling chip fat.  Similar to the squigglier side of Neil’s Astral Social Club but with a harder, grimmer edge: speed rather than ecstacy.

A more considered verdict on this release can be read here and Neil’s own account of EH’s working methods plus clips of more recently recorded electromash can be found here.  Visit Total Vermin to buy this tape for £2.50 plus postage.

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