the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyes

March 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer (tape, Gold Soundz, GS#125, edition of 25)

Star Turbine – Alterations (CD-r, SKRAT Records, skr-017)

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter (CD-r or download, self-released)

RFM Poulsen_Klapper 2

Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer

I picked this beauty up from the Goldsoundz gaucho himself Sindre Bjerga during his recent half-term jaunt to the UK with Claus Poulsen.  I’m always up for a trade but was doubly delighted to see the name Martin Klapper splashed across the carefully folded collage cover.  For me Martin’s sounds were an important entry point into an underground alternate reality where toys take a seat in the orchestra and accident holds an unreliable baton to conduct.

I asked Claus with my eyes ashine:

How did you hook up with the Klapper man?

and

Martin?  He lives round the corner from me,

…came the nonchalant reply from Claus.

Good golly!  I almost ran home to jam this silvery prize right there and then but resisted like a good human and took my time.

The seven short tracks from Klapper/Poulsen are total knockabout junk-core of the highest order. No moment is left un-squirmed.  The pace is busy like a chicken-pox itch with layers of ‘huzzzzz’, ‘hok-ko-kok’ and ‘charrrr’ expertly mixed so it’s almost tumbling into chaos but pulls itself back from the brink every time.

The attendant floppings are not in any way naive or frivolous.  Using toys, doo-dahs and soft furnishings in your music is no easy option.  You’ve got to search the possibilities as lovingly as any extended technique merchant.

The stop-start, juddering of micro-musical moments ticks my Tom & Jerry box in thick black marker.  It’s delightful to surrender to the ‘quacks’ and belches letting my brain process this particular Technicolor moment, and another, and another, and another until the grey stuff is left panting and fagged out.

I will never tire of this approach.  It’s the very sound of spontaneous invention for heaven’s sake!  It gives me the same warm glow as discovering that the sonorous snoring behind me is actually the start of a vintage Usurper or Drenching jam randomly selected for my rusty earbuds.  Turn on, Tune in, Flop out.

Rogaland Hot Club are another name I’ve wanted to catch up with for a long while now.  A Norwegian super-group (Sindre Bjerga, Anders Gjerde and Pål Asle Pettersen) made up of only Ginger Bakers this 21 minute collage of live/non-live jams all smeared together is a master class in group improvisation.  Most of us agree that music is a social activity and, as a result, the interactions between individuals in groups are one rich area of both business and pleasure.

The Hot Club play on the skronk, the sound of overloaded equipment peaking redly and knead it into unselfish group moaning and caterwauls; a King Midas of agonies hawked out by specially trained sea lions, so close you can almost smell their fishy rewards.

At the 9 mins 30 mark exactly the scene changes to a surviving audience recording of Suicide’s only Scandinavian date.  Those tricky voltage differences pitched all their Casio beats too low for a US crowd but it was perfect for the winter walkers who break out the hjemmebrent to dance like their sensible shoes are covered in foul-smelling glue.   A paddle-puddle-battle takes the place of an interval until the show gets closed by the cops, hauling in their own sound system playing Barrington Levy at ear splitting volume – backwards – as they take turns to ‘singjay’ the pages and pages of overtime claims in a newly discovered Atlantian dialect, incomprehensible to us land dwellers.

One lone voice remains, spoiling the ballots in a confused tone.

Gosh…this is one heady rush.  Available in tiny quantities; there’s only 25 copies in the whole wide world.  Move swiftly my dear reader, move with sureness and speed or let this opportunity pass you by forever.

RFM Star Turbine

Star Turbine – Alterations

This upstanding duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen have come a long way in the last few years. Their collective name Star Turbine is well chosen as their first set of recordings were very much the sound of the ion drive, the Dylithium raga and ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’ omni-chord workouts.  But all things change, even in the field of deep space research, and in 2015 we hear a very different sound-world pumping from Claus and Sindre’s sci-fi drone pipes.

The two live pieces that make up this ‘tour only’ disc are real heavy journeys into the unknown.  The lengthier ‘Leiden’ starts in the foothills of some imagined country and hikes carefully up a frozen mountain.  Electrick brooks, bubbling happily down below, become ferocious and dangerously sly underfoot the further you climb.  The pretty, crisp frost gets deeper and sloppier until each boot crunch sends up explosive plumes of fine white dust, peppering the air with paranoia and panic spores.  The trees, naturally, become spare and sparse.  The odd rough limb points skywards, blackened against the snow pointing an accusing finger to some jealous deity in the clear night sky.

And then… it’s all calm.  The occasional goat bell chimes mournfully and echoes across the valley.  Your shortwave radio picks up astronaut interference; they could be reciting poetry or sending a panic-flaming SOS, but you’re too worn out from the day’s exertions to really care.  The ‘clicks’ and ‘burrs’ of speech just manage to fight through the static, lulling you to sleep to dream of Spanish guitars played with lobster claws and melting butter.

‘Dawn Voyage’ seems to pick up the journey mid-dream with that familiar ‘same but different’ trick my subconscious loves to play on me.

Skip loads of the river bed silt are brushed and combed by some gently purring machine.  For hours it labours, occasionally letting out a gasp of steam or erotic sigh of pleasure.  By morning the silt has all gone, processed away and the machine slowly unfolds, like a lotus flower, to reveal a small statue of Niels Bohr shimmering like some solid state disco ball.  Steve Lacy asks to borrow my headphones then complains loudly they are not the Beats he expected.  I wake up with a question on my lips…

forest of eyes - leaf litter

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter

If you check out the link to this beguiling new record from Forest of Eyes you’ll notice Mark Wardlaw’s mission statement for his FoE project:

Rescuing folktronica from the blahs

After a good old listen to this collection of songs and environments, at home and on the move, I can conclude that ‘yes’ Mark has accomplished this mission.  Folktronica consider yourself rescued!

But Leaf Litter does so much more than that.  Forest of Eyes has re-engaged the underground ‘folk’ debate to such a new level he demands a fresh chapter in Electric Eden.

Sure enough you have the sound of wide skies, painful loneliness and horizontal grey sleet recorded direct to mobile phone.  Yup…you’ve got medieval instrumentation: your dulcimers, your fiddles your concertinas and of course your good old bowed psaltery.

But this very ordinary looking disc takes the sonic disturbance of folk (the jarring frequencies in voice and subject matter, the stubby finger in the ear) and overlays them with a carefully attuned appreciation of the everyday noise of life.  It does this in two distinct ways.  Firstly there are the songy-songs tinkered with gently, ribbed for your pleasure.

But a new world is opened with the longer pieces.  They tip their hat to the traditional song form of course but quickly kick its shins with a steel-toed clog.  But it’s not leg pain that keeps you awake at night; it’s the mead-based Mickey that you can’t quite forget.  The deft shift of brain waves that calls you back for more over the freezing hills.

So first the songs: the scene is set with an apocalyptic instrumental ‘Regeneration Scheme Cancelled’ – a choir of thin keening tones played on a tortured dulcimer and pipe contraction (the atomically powerful bombard perhaps) making medievalists weep with its delicious modern primitive style.

You want a murder ballad?  Well all you Nick Cave types take note to check out ‘Edward’, a cyclical tale that sets a new low for misery with its plaintive verse over a deep breathing drone.  Both beautiful and disturbing.

And the father’s lament ‘Weary Cutters’ is sung a capella with a forlornness that’s magnified by its cliff hanging ending.  There’s no happy ever after feeling… it just tails off into an agonising emptiness.

So what’s left?  These are the meaty chunks…

Riot batons crash against police shields in a direct act of provocation to open ‘Strike Breaking Bastards’ a stunning, but very grimy, very cellular song-within-a-song that seamlessly incorporates the traditional Blackleg Miner with the sort of clank you’d expect on a Prick Decay record and the aforementioned politically-tinged faux field recording.  This is brave work!

A brief noise interlude that begins ‘Poachers Killing Police’ clears the head with a sharp and creaking concertina and explosive machine-breaking, then words courtesy of North Yorkshire Police add a social commentary that’s far more powerful and thought-provoking than any Dog-on-a-string nonsense. (Baton down the hatches Ed – that’s bound to upset the punk primadonnas [Editor’s note: not fussed]).

I’m pretty sure this is turning out to be a god-damn IMPORTANT record before I even sip on the final, black psychedelic slush of ‘Mouldering Vine’.  This is an hypnotic and nauseously overlapping tune that’s as truly twisted as a Sun City Gurls ram-jam spliced with Richard Youngs’ innocent weirdness (Lake era).  The killer fade-out, like a pale sun disappearing over a damp horizon, is the perfect melancholic masterstroke.

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)

Forest of Eyes

minty magma: joe murray on ezio piermattei, forest of eyes and sindre bjerga

May 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.284)

Forest of Eyes – Winter Wakeneth (CD-r, self-released)

Sindre Bjerga – Dig Your Own Hole (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.275)

ezio piermattei

Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

Our Dental Tourist, Ezio Piermattei presents sun-dappled sonic environments for all you butter and beer lovers.

At a brief 30 minutes in total these untitled pieces combine and divide like a string of fizzing sound-sausages.  The somewhat sparse details on the back cover cite the dexterous shuffling of ‘voice, objects, instruments, tapes, electronics etc’; but that doesn’t really give you a clue about what’s going on here.

The structure has become the star.  The sound of the sound itself is the Diva.  Sure the bricks and mortar recordings are just dandy (door bells, balloon scrape, guitar/piano dollop, Nonna & Mamma voices) but this disc is as much about editing and sound sculpture as it is about creating goofy noises.

This bunch of sounds is moulded into a Devil’s Tower pile of mashed-up spuds; each part occupying a unique space stuck together with starchy ‘baaah’ or church bells or humming zooks.  But (and here’s the trick) nothing trips over itself or peaks into the red.  Sounds are allowed to play out on their own; distortion and volume are seen as showy and unnecessary with such a clear and deliberate palette.

Environments are precisely described: a cool drawing room with beautiful parquet floors, the busy school science festival, a tense family gathering to celebrate an ill-advised wedding.  All these imagined places as real to me, the listener, as the poorly-ventilated bedroom in which I type these very words.

Ezio does that great Southern European thing of being fun, clever and serious in equal measure.  It’s the restraint in these pieces (subtly harking back to a l-o-n-g tradition of avant-garde music in Bologna) that staggers.  Maybe it’s coz they get more sun or something but there is a real lightness of touch to this… Nothing affected or clichéd – just a joy in turning simple sounds into something new and exciting.

the terrified horses

Forest of Eyes – Winter Wakeneth

I’ve known Mark Wardlaw as feature of the Newcastle sub-underground for a good few years.  With an encyclopaedic knowledge of Black Metal, Noise and Durty [sic (or sick?) – Ed] Southern Hip-Hop he’s always a great person to bump into and shoot the shit.  A new hat he can now add to that freshly shaven head is ‘traditional folk guru’ with his furtive Forest of Eyes project.

I’ve seen Mark’s create merry hell in bands Pills from America and Wasp Bombs and witnessed his countless collaborations (ranging from teeth-looseningly dangerous to loftily high-brow) but this one knocked me for six.

“Why’s that?” I hear you cry.  “Is it too much for you old man?  Too crazy and wild for your Guardian-reader’s cardigan and rheumy old blood?”

Not a bit of it…this is a beautiful record.  But, on first listen, it’s just about as removed from obnoxious noise rock as I can imagine.

There are two distinct threads going on here.  Very proper, yet darkly pagan, unaccompanied folk tunes (some from the 16th Century) which I am guessing skirt round the ideas of Sacred Hart singing.

I said pagan before but of course that’s tosh…these are Christmas songs.  Holidays are definitely not coming for Forest of Eyes.  These songs hang on the cruelty and indifference of the season for serf and yokel; the freezing wind howling over the sands, fingers frozen, food sparse and the terror of the long night.

Yet with a strange twist it’s utterly modern.  Recorded with a pragmatic innocence on mobile phone and sung in an unassuming Northumbrian burr these tunes are relentlessly lonely, with a sense of 21st Century anomie.  They are a willing rejection of values and aesthetics.  In their own slow way they are as firm a ‘No’ as one created from an overdriven effects box or shredding guitar solo.

Phew!

Between each dismal tune Mark teases out an abstract sketch on Appalachian Dulcimer or bowed Psaltery.  What could be an awkward palette-cleanser becomes a sound-picture of winter.  The thin string tones are sparse and crackling like frost.  They have a fragility matching the intricate fern patterns ice makes on wet windows.  Even the crunch of fresh snow makes an appearance on ’11’.

Make no mistake…Forest of Eyes is no backwoods luddite.  He’s all computered up with his Bandcamp page if you please.  Drop him a line and ask for a song.

(Editor’s note: the image above is not the cover – it has none that I know of – it’s just the first thing that Google Images came up with when asked to search for the band name and album title.  Cool, eh?)

sindre live

Sindre Bjerga – Dig Your Own Hole

On first spying this disc I felt a twinge of nostalgic excitement.  Could Sindre really be recreating the awful Gaye Bykers on Acid flick Drill Your Own Hole in some perverted tribute?  Gosh no.  But reputations remain intact as Sindre presents two very powerful sets from 2013.

Track one is recorded at Oslo’s Polyfokt Festival and starts off almost dubby or industrial or something with stabbed-up metal clank.  Soon a rough-ass drone takes over like seriously pissed bees erupting into whale blowhole hiss and skeech.  Citizen’s Band (CB) radio interjections ride the valuable ambergris floating on the ocean as waves turn to glass and rub harmonically, filling the world with fat bulbous tones.  Prawns and shrimp crackle beneath the reflective membrane, scratching quietly to freedom.

Track two is recorded in the historic Klinker Club a few days later.  Maybe it’s the London influence but this one seems a bit more sharp-elbowed. The deep-sea drone is choppier, the shrimps more restless.  Their polite crackles have become guttural ‘ch-luncks’ and ‘hupps’ lurching in a dangerously drunken manner.  Machines misfire and malfunction.  Levers and pistons jam in their cylinders making the whole engine judder and splutter leaving me high and dry at 7 minutes in.  Woah…I envy the punters what got to see this as it all erupted like minty magma.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

Forest of Eyes

Sindre Bjerga

bells hill digital and george ferguson mckeating vol. 2

February 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – George Ferguson McKeating Vol. 2

(download, Bells Hill, Bells Hill Digital 2)

gfm 2

Scott McKeating’s Bells Hill, like other noise labels based in the North East such as Molotov, Matching Head and Fuckin’ Amateurs, prefers to keep it on the down-low. No need to advertise, no need for a flashy and substantial web presence, no clamour for ‘press’. Just dedicated fans and artists distributing releases amongst themselves and to a handful of grateful outsiders who have discovered their work. There’s nothing elitist or wilfully insular about this behaviour: these comrades simply don’t give a monkey’s about the trappings of ‘breaking big’ and are realistic about the limited appeal of their (mainly dark, metal and/or psych inspired) noise. They know that the curious will gravitate to them eventually. The unhurried self-sufficiency of this scene is a constant source of inspiration to me.

Some can’t help themselves, though. The indefatigable Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent, is filled with evangelical zeal and heart-bursting enthusiasm and his dispatches from the frozen wastes of Newcastle have won many converts. Scott’s approach is more reserved. The guy is clearly omniscient in matters of North East noise. If you need to know a name, an email address or the ‘phone number of Mike Vest’s tailor then a one-line email or blog comment will quietly appear from him within hours of you mentioning this gap in your knowledge. In fact, the only time I have seen Scott in effusive mood is when valiantly defending the principles of this blog and the wider no-audience underground in a facebook discussion following that Simon Reynolds thing.

Likewise, packages containing stuff from Bells Hill arrive with little fanfare, despite the quality of their contents, and are thus guaranteed to be a pleasant surprise.  The announcement of the new digital arm of Bells Hill, located inevitably on that Bandcamp, was a similar unexpected treat.

At the time of writing there are four releases to be found there.  I shall talk a little about the one pictured above.  Scott founded Bells Hill in order to release a compilation album to raise money for The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.  Pancreatic Cancer is a particularly vicious and fast moving variant of the disease and almost always lethal.  Sadly, it took Scott’s father.  Hence the simple title and poignant cover photograph.  Some brief thoughts from me on the first volume can be found here.  The possibility occasioned by Bandcamp has spurred Scott on to complete a long planned second volume.

Happily, I can report that – as with Vol. 1 – this is excellent throughout and would be an essential purchase even without the cause behind it.  It satisfies all criteria for a successful compilation.  It is sequenced in a coherent, flowing way but is varied enough to create some lively juxtapositions.  The quality control is consistently fierce so there are no barren patches to skip over.  Many of the tracks – all of which are exclusives – are beautifully self contained and are eminently rewindable.  The artists are a mixture of safe hands (for example: Brian Lavelle, Richard Youngs) and the mystifyingly new (to me, at least) that will have you scrabbling around the search engines looking for more.  There is glittering shimmer, monastic spirituals, haunting atmospherics, apocalyptic noise metal, ecstatic bubble drone, even a couple of actual songs – y’know with lyrics and structures and everything – and very lovely they are too.  What more is there to want?

The album is available in return for a donation to the PCRF.  For full instructions of how to do this and secure your download code visit Bells Hill Digital here.

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