tightly packed egg: rfm tagteam on tradescantia zebrina, swiss barns & queef, various sofia artists, ian watson & rob hayler, lust rollers, of habit

October 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication)

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records)

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records)

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records)

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters)

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte)

 tradescantina 2

Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication) CD and digital album

Mysterious rumbles from the powerfully-coiffured Kev Sanders and comrades Morgan Potts and Siobhán Britton.

Released as a fund-raiser for Trans Health, Housing Action and Not Your Fault this is a master-class in enigmatic sound.

Like a Graham Lambkin joint this reflects the perfect drifting between rooms you sometimes find yourself craving – a hot sonic ear scanning like radar for ripe sound-fruit.  So what if all the apples are withered and brown – no use for a ploughman’s but perfect for chutney!

On this release Sanders’ distinctively polite drone spoons some distant storm clouds and Morgan’s cello that appears to be playing in two rooms at once. The interjection of random slowcrash (think a falling piano slowed down by a factor of 500 perhaps) keeps things both spicy and sweet.

‘Upon Afterwoods’ is particularly poignant and makes me think of Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ the waves of dark repression and longing collapsing into a domestic sinkhole.

But most mysterious is the final track ‘Clippings’ that seems to be a total bumdial. A piece of accidental accident to add a healthy dash of sauce to the proceedings.

Quick like fever.

swiss barns

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records) Cassette full of genuine moss and individual art print and digital album

New improvising duo Swiss Barns sport not one but two slack-string-virtuosos; Jorge Boehringer (AKA Core of the Coleman) and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh (Woven Skull, Three-Eyed Makara, Cian Nugent & The Cosmos) both on viola.

This 20 min side-long jam takes in a whole cornucopia of approaches: hillbilly scrape, pointillist puckering and velvet-thunder drone.  It moves with the flexibility of language, a language of vibration.  But of course – aren’t they all?

Often the off-chug of the voices clash in mid-air making a third vibration that stands proud like a cormorant on the cliffs – wings outstretched replenishing its natural oils.

At other times the slick ‘plunks’ or scrapes rustle like whole peppercorns wrapped up in newspaper; a solitary tune coils like a wormcast on a beach and, as you get your eye in you see there’s another, and another and another.

But each time one of our heroes bows it’s to let out the spirit of some half-mad Pan.  Goat-legged and hell bent on debauchery the strings swoop and flutter, they roil and stab ending on a Bernard Herrmann-esque riff that makes the watching crowd stand up, hands on hips and say ‘Oi!’

Queef! play a melodie derived from a Chinese greetings card to open a set of carefully considered tape-grot and strummed/struck/fondled summatorother.  Like Prick Decay (but older and wiser) got it back together for one last show this Dada Junk Spew flirts with litter, rubbish and trash in all senses of the words. Discarded remnants of sound, found non-instruments and a heavy ticking combine in ways both formless and totally natural.

The ghost of improv haunts some sections, the mid-point reveals the shuffling chains and dropped keys of a Usurper side but soon mutates into electro-frat clowncore – complete with honking horn and what I presume are enormous shoes.

As things move towards resolution my personal favourite – the rubbery wrench of tight balloons – is combined with a spluttering dentist’s drill and the acid squeal of hot air passing through a stretched neck.

A brief countdown ends the piece and those patrons of the Monk and Nun stand up again to crow the legend ‘Oi – Oi!’

12 14 16

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records) Cassette and digital album

A conceptual piece of tape collage/field recording masterminded with the spider-like fingers of Natalia Beylis drawing a bunch of freaky flies into her web.

The trick is (Duke Ellington knew it and Natalia Beylis knows it too) is to surround yourself with quality horns and all you have to do is play the moods.  Here the moods are played with a firm hand and clarity of vision and the horns include heads like Elkka Nyoukis, David Colohan, Andie Brown, Sharron Kraus & Ingrid Plum.

Like all good concepts this one is simple at its root.  Each contributor is asked to record two minutes of ‘something’ from their day’s activities and these moments are stitched together into two, twenty-two minute sides.

So while you’d maybe think this would result in a choppy, highly edited mix you’d be mistaken.  The domestic kitchen noise rustles into traffic ‘schuss’, birds tweet among the cutlery and bus queue politics/tannoy announcements punctuate the random clatter and swish of someone getting ready for work.

Each situation blends into the next and themes (travel, the weather, domestic chores etc) are shared between the pieces, time-zones and countries to create a disjointed yet very human narrative.

As you lose yourself in this music rhythm and texture become all important; for me this turned into an epiphany halfway through side two where some busy fidgeting and dog toy squeak is rammed up against someone lighting the gas on a cooker.  Reader…I jumped up and clapped my hands.

As a listening piece this is both cleansing sorbet and hot sticky fudge-treat.

hayler watson

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records) Cassette and free digital album

As avid RFM readers will know Rob Hayler killed off his longstanding Midwich persona rather publically at October’s TUSK festival in Gateshead.  A final Groovebox throb and hum led to an electronic disembowelling soon to be all over that youtube.  Ever the careful archivist Rob made sure his outpourings would not be stemmed.  Henceforth they gush via his solid and trustworthy everyday name –Rob Hayler.

And in this act of back-to-basics Rob doubles his impact by teaming up with the polymath Ian Watson (artist, drone-lord, electronic heavy) to launch their iron-clad ‘Metronome’.

So forget all you know about the gentle “tuk – tuk – tuk” of those cute polished wood mechanicals.  This 44 minute piece groans like mutant springs; it howls and it blisters.  It wobbles and crashes.

The scant sleeve notes suggest the source material comes from Ian and is mixed by Rob.  I always find this an interesting approach as it asks fundamental questions of the participants – how much do I present?  How much do I leave in and leave out?  Like a slow-motion improvisation the agonising decision making process is dragged from seconds into weeks!  But on ‘Metronome’ such questions are answered in a clear, unhesitating voice – this is a confident piece of duo-ism that sounds to my tin ears the greasy smearing of one decisive mind.

The mood is certainly darkly metallic, and constantly unfurling as if multiple appendages are slowly freeing themselves from a tightly packed egg.  The motion is continuous – mesmerising.  You stare unblinking, afraid to move, not daring to wonder what evil is being unwrapped.

Number one on Megatron’s playlist?

 lust rollers

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters) CD-R and digital album

The Aylesbury based duo of Mark Browne and Daniel Gregory come at ya on their second release with a sound that can and has been labelled non-music and idiot-jazz.

Silence flows through these improvisations like dark chocolate in a Vienetta. Objects are donked, flecked and pilched in unorthodox manners (not sure if there is an orthodox manner to ‘play’ a cardboard box anyways) and ‘real instruments like sax and gong are included.

The pleasure can be found in the laser-like operation your ears are required to perform in order to focus on a dense sound world of motion and decay. The scampering and rustling as the disc starts had me reaching for the volume in the car only to damn near soil myself when an unexpected gong strike erupts from the speakers like Norman Bates from behind the shower curtain.

The spirit of mischief is clearly on the agenda although my journey through grim reflections was more serene meditation then beardy euro-jazz freak out. Whilst listening, uninterrupted at home, I was genuinely shocked to find that forty minutes had elapsed. The loving approach to small sounds has a serenity and purity of intent that moves gracefully like the wind through tree branches and seems to slow down time.

I found its autumnal hues immensely soothing to my gonked-out cerebrum.  (by PUKE VOLLAR)

of habit

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte) Cassette

Gary Myles is one half of sound-confusion dingbats Spoils and Relics.

Here he offers his first official solo outing and what a curious and alluring beast it is. I found myself flipping it like a pancake in my nifty new walkman whilst taking my dog Lola out on a grey October morning.

Gary’s droll Yorkshire commentary runs through both sides like ominous smog. His droll and detached voice carries a ‘scary guy at the back of the bus’ edge that is lulling and a bit sinister. Amid the sedated thud of drum machine and soggy mechanics whirr Gary’s stoic mumbles that allude to scenes of bleak surrealism and urban squalor.

Fans of Spoils and Relics may be surprised by the more err…musical heft of this delicious little tape. There is an arc and a persistence that trudges wearily on across the whole first side, the sad thump of a cheap Casios and dying batteries. The peripheral chirping and rustling underneath the beatz sound like a rusty hospital trolley on a journey down  a corridor that has no end. It also gives a hint at what suicide may have sounded like had they grown up in a Yorkshire mining town with Ken Loach as their svengali visionary.

Side B starts with hollow loops of melody smeared with several layers of tape grime, descending into blackness. As the narration returns, grey oxide drizzle flickers malevolently in the background finding space between breath, teeth and throat. An unlikely samba limps to life briefly before puttering out like a fag end in a puddle.


(by  LUKE VORTEX who advises us this tape, sold out at source is AVAILABLE FROM THE BOOMKAT VAMPIRES)

Tradescantia Zebrina Bandcamp / Hairdryer Excommunication

Sophia Records

Invisible City Records

Structured Disasters Records




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



the rfm lunchtime recital programme #1: black_ops, grant evans, dag rosenqvist, kevin sanders, club sound witches

January 15, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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black_ops – perdition (self-released download)

Grant Evans – Silent Refusal (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR16, edition of 50 or download)

Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels (12″ clear vinyl, Awkward Formats, AF08)

Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 10 or download)

Club Sound Witches – Uprok (tape or download, Junk Mnemonic, JM#4)



A new tactic.  The lunchtime recital programme will be a series of short reviews published in batches approximately once a fortnight.  This is me laying down some spontaneous thoughts following one or two listens as I commute or enjoy a midday stroll.  Hopefully, this will fill gaps between my less frequent, lengthier reviews and op-ed pieces and act as a kind of regular jet-wash for my brain. Right then, off we go…


The ominous pulse-breath of RED war machines idling on the Culverian tundra is naturally reverbed by a nearby crevasse.  An injured BLUE soldier finds himself trapped there listening, delirious.  The distorted synth washes of the final, title track have the tragic/grandiose feel of the conclusion to a SF dystopia movie of the 1970s – maybe the suicide scene of the disgraced BLUE general.  The claustrophobic scrabbling added right at the end being his feeble attempt to clutch at his meaningless medals.

This release is: short, bleak, good.


Grant Evans – Silent Refusal

Evans, a new name to me, presents the sort of high quality, richly textured, characterful drone that sets my metaphor engine spinning.  It is balanced with the gravity defying tension of a snail sliding along the jagged edge of piece of broken glass.  It has the inexorable, hubris exposing/destroying momentum of a lava flow rolling over a car park full of military vehicles.  It’s as compellingly unnerving as a slow-motion film of a giant octopus escaping into open water via an impossibly small hole in a glass tank.  Another belter from Invisible City Records.


Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels

Make sure your ear buds are in snug as these exquisite crescendos of hiss are carried on a tidal wash of bass.  Like fellow blog-fave Joined By Wire, Dag Rosenqvist appears to sculpt from slabs of raw emotion.  Thus, despite clearly being the product of great craft, patience and ambition, the experience of listening to these pieces bypasses the cerebral and vibrates heart strings directly.

I admit the Vangelisian sheen of the final of these four tracks lost me a little but I appreciated the relatively positive vibe it ended on.  Difficult to find fault with the prior three tracks though – not only did they press my buttons, they leant an elbow on them and used their free hand to clutch my shoulder reassuringly.  I would, of course, love to see the dance performance that this music was composed for – the mind boggles.


Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us

18 minutes of utter nihilism in three movements.  The first section is a six minute panic attack – a decision has been taken, the consequences are hurtling towards us but all attempts to change gear or direction are useless.  Keys spin in locks, nothing has any grip.  The second, shortest, section is the moment of violence itself.  A hive is kicked over, split – the swarm inside gathering fury.  The frayed tether of a snarling dog finally snaps.  Raskolnikov looks down at the axe in his hand.  The final section, maybe half the total running length, settles into an existential resignation – the slowing heartbeat of an injured and freezing mountaineer, the blood’s retreat.

Christ, Kev – what the hell do we do with this, eh?


Club Sound Witches – Uprok

When this began I had my doubts but after a few minutes I began to tune in to its wonky charm.  The scrunching loops, pulses of grating hiss, synthy pops and noodles, nee-naw rhythms of battery-bled toy instruments combine into a playdoh monster greater than the sum of its neon coloured parts.  Listening is a surprisingly intimate experience, not entirely comfortable, but there is something…  I dunno… naughty about it.  It’s like being the recipient of a clumsy, affectionate massage – complete with accidental inappropriate touching – from a friend trying to hide just how drunk they are…



Invisible City Records

Awkward Formats

hairdryer excommunication

Junk Mnemonic

the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada


Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.


Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.


Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.


…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.


4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]


Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?


Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.


…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.


3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.


[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.


Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.


Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.


…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]


1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.


2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.


Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]


Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

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

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015


…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual


Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”


What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3


Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.


I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica


A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels


Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo


Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.


the edge of the tar pit: haiku on selections from the hairdryer excommunication catalogue

September 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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kevin sanders – reducing ideas to words (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.) (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Marlo Eggplant – Jutted (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – Sounds of separation (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 11 or download)

Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders (tape or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Seth Cooke – Christ of the Abyss (business card CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 100 or download)

Hardworking Families – Happy Days (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Kevin Sanders – hyperhypercritical (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)


1. reducing ideas to words

Scratching the paper,

we trade precision smears

for hard company.


2. the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.)

Albino lizards

lick the air – cavers approach!

A feast of tanned flesh…


3. Jutted

Brine, creosote, blood –

stir with rusting screwdriver.

Cut tethers, start work.


4. Sounds of separation

Waking innocent,

like it had never been said.

Then we remember.

kay kev

5. Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders

From edge of tar pit

to aeon-bled exhibit –

petrified moment.


6. Christ of the Abyss

Petri dish culture

of tainted agar reveals

face of the prophet.


7. Happy Days

‘Sit on it, Winnie!’

says Fonz, buried to his neck.

Sammy feeds the shark.


8. hyperhypercritical

Each tide’s rasping breath

a fraction of Moon’s release,

or: “saying goodbye.”


In summary…

Prodigious output:

teeth, gears grinding

– reflected in silver bullets.


hairdryer excommunication

aniseed and turpentine: joe murray on woven skull, petals, köhn

August 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues (tape or download, Deserted Village, DV51)

petals – enactment & advocacy (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, edition of 50 or download)

woven skull

Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues

Two seventeen-minute pieces that sound jammed on the fly… but deeper inspection reveals some careful meshing with historical recordings.

‘Fat Baby Blues Part 1’: Dawn chorus guitar strums along with a misty moor drum pattern (locked like Liebezeit) summoning up some Summer Isle ensemble.  The rural ritual is played out as simple structures emerge; green shoots springing from black loam.  They unfurl like ferns revealing the mathematical complexity of fronds, the solemn beauty of autumn leaves.

But this is no sepia-tinted back-look to Fairport, String Band etc. The wooden ‘clunk’ of the gamelan folded into the end of ‘Fat… Part 1’ adds a whole-world-weirdness that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sun City Gurls joint.

‘Fat Baby Blues Part 2’: A deeper vibe.  Free reeds huff and drones are musty like cumin.  It reminds me of the great Jazzfinger; weaving sumptuous washes of sound from broken amps.  This fades into a damp techno where field recordings spar with shrimp synth tones.

The Woven Skull and their folding-in method becomes an exciting, bubbling tributary to the overcrowded field recordings debate.  Book an appointment with the Skull Doctors, pull up a chair and listen.

petals - enactment

petals – enactment & advocacy

I’ve never knowingly listened to Kevin Sanders’ Petals project but it’s a name I’ve seen about loads.  Or is that Plurals? Or Petrels? Jeepers N-AU it’s hard to keep up at times!  Alls I know is that I plugged this baby in zooming through York and didn’t pick my head up until Peterborough.  Proper heeds-down drone action as they say in Newcastle.

This disc (or ‘load’ is probably more accurate) consists of two lengthy tracks: ‘enactment’ and ‘advocacy’.

Super-heavyweight organic machines thrum deeply on ‘enactment’, pumping dark waste-gas through a grotesque puckered orifice.  There’s a real sense of musicality and movement to this track although it’s glacially slow.  You could certainly pick out the notes on a piano (slowly) as they descend through a scale with the flutter of an enormous damselfly – if you were that way inclined.  Being as tasty and uniformly stratified as a top notch lasagne your sonic nourishment is then deconstructed!  Eventually the layers are gradually faded out one-by-one to reveal the truth; the individual parts of this symphonic insect hum are simple electronic tones slathered with varnish and endlessly tweaked.

A war of attrition becomes the image-totem for my listening during ‘advocacy’.  Two forces: one weak but constantly modulating with plucky underdog energy, the other one stronger but erratic, bloated and unfocused.  Pitted together they are evenly matched creating a neutral stalemate position.

Plucky underdog seems to weaken further and play dead lulling bloated and unfocused into a sense of superiority.  Bloated and unfocused advances with speed, tactically over-stretching itself; snapping out at an enemy that doesn’t exist, chasing shadows until it changes shape entirely becoming dangerously shallow and all-encompassing.

Slowly, gradually, plucky underdog whispers an echo that’s almost impossible to pick up.  At first mimicking bloated but taking its time, gradually overpowering the once bloated and now almost transparent signal.

And so this listen ends, as it began, with two opposing forces pitting themselves endlessly against each other.  The balance of power has changed, that is true.  But at what cost?

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.

– George Orwell, Animal Farm (1944)


Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road

A three-track synth/organ/keyboard meditation from one of Gent’s finest, Jurgen De Blonde.

Track one, ‘Alwatis is Alwateris’, is a static, stately almost regal drone that seems to look backwards (Logan’s Run jumpsuits) and forwards (thought transference and soul download) in time simultaneously across its eighteen minute span.

Where Petals were carbon-dense this is hydrogen-light, fixing to float away until moored by the occasional luscious Rhodes Piano-type tones making this as swooningly lovely as that Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd album I remember from incense-fuelled bedsit fumbles.  But it’s not all anxious eiderdown arranging; the fake-locked groove ending made me cough up a cola cube with a genuine LOL.

‘Nu-uN’ wears it’s Flemish heart on its sleeve with that slightly wonky 1980’s animation feel.  Monster organs float in the upper atmosphere, pipes the diameter of small cars pumping out sky-music to the primitive creatures below.  At least that is what I’m hearing.

But it’s the final track ‘Albeit’ where I lose my shit [Editor’s note: I love this track too].  There are pin-prick tone clusters to start; all bright dazzle but with a peculiar flavour – I’m getting aniseed, I’m getting turpentine.

Then my slow mind thinks,

this is not the sort of stuff you normally listen to…

and I start feeling the excitement of a new vista opening up between my ears.  My slow mind says

…this is Autechre repainted in primary colours, all textures softened with practical linoleum.

This is no Drake-style diss-track.  The optimism and hope that flows through ‘Albeit’ is a joy.  Music moves me every day.  It makes me twist and shout, throw the horns, stroke a chin…even fall in love, but very rarely do I feel so goddamn charmed by a piece of music that’s simply going about its business without any fuss or expectations.


Deserted Village

hairdryer excommunication

Kirigirisu Recordings

restless language: luke vollar on stuart chalmers and anla courtis

July 16, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4 (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 30 or download)

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore (CD, Yogoh Record, YGH004)


Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

First off big apologies to Stuart for the delay in getting this review done: house move, kids, work – aghh – but enough of my lame excuses. It’s not that I haven’t listened to it, on the contrary it’s been an exemplary soundtrack to work a number of times and by God it’s made the trees greener and the sky a darker, more cosmic hue, as if the heavens are about to part to reveal the belly of a gargantuan space craft.

Previous instalments of Stuart’s music have left me slack jawed and this is no different.

So what, like, instruments does he use?

…you ask innocently enough…

The freaking world, man!!

I respond.  Like a fine gourmet chef, Stuart selects sound morsels (via mouse click, or from his collection of strange instruments and whatnot) and cooks up an exquisite gumbo. We have string pluck, ghost breath, buried voices of the dead, machinery learning its language, gamelan on silver bubbles, whale bone pipes, gongs from undersea temples and the recorded rituals of the aquatic humanoid beings who use them. What’s remarkable is how uncluttered the disc sounds considering the amount of ingredients thrown into the pot. Take ‘Moonlight through trees’ a meditation for piano and tape scree as eerie as it is gorgeous. In ‘Requiem’ we get to hear Deckard from Blade Runner listening to a banal English sports quiz while making his way across the skyline, the slooowed synth gloop highlighting the inherent sadness of existence once the earth is on its final orbit.

On the final track, ‘Memory’, there is a muted recording of what sounds like an intimate gathering with fireworks popping and lots of oohs and aahs . The muffled organ tones that accompany this make it almost unbearably affecting.

While I normally wince at the phrase ‘experimental music’ it strikes me that this may be the best description for Stuart’s work. There is a restless drive to cover new ground or to go deeper into sound, never dry or academic but lush, wide-eyed and full of joy, pathos and awe.  Just incredible.

B-rain Folklore-cover

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

A new disc by ultra-prolific, pint-sized Argentine Anla Courtis [Editor’s note: recorded 2005-2008, mixed 2009, mastered 2013, released 2014, brought to our attention 2015.  Blimey].  This guy has left a vast trail of work in his wake, his travels encompassing numerous solo and collaborative projects. Whether gonzo rock, conceptual wonk or many tentacled improv his only consistency is a restless urge for new sounds, approaches, instruments, people, places, ideas. The true experimental spirit is within him, as with Stuart Chalmers.

The notes accompanying B-rain Folklore list a dizzying array of instruments that were used to create it, many of which I’ve never heard of, which adds to the usual uncertainty as to what to expect from a Courtis record.  Happily, this one sees Anla constructing organic tapestries of percussion, string horns and more that seem to rise from the forest floor, offering a herbaceous paw and beckoning you to follow them into the verdant realm. Kinda reminds me of the excellent Finnish group Pavinsade as it has the same earthy smell about it.

Towards the end ‘Isla de Qomo’ sees the deep thrum of an acoustic guitar pattern offset by vibrant smears of light trying to land on its mossy body. Further onto ‘Wuqueltehue’ and we’ve licked the belly of the bright orange frog and are watching the canopy of the forest swirling in concentric loops. The final track is a lovely guitar and violin lullaby played over the humming bustle of a field recording from Anla’s time in Japan. It is a fitting end to an album that seems to rest on your skin like a morning dew and wash all the grime away.


hairdryer excommunication [Editor’s note: sold out at source but Stuart still has copies himself here.]

Yogoh Record [Editor’s note: Discogs listing because yogoh.com isn’t working at time of writing]

your face and the concrete: luke vollar on benjamin hallatt

June 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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S C K E – Disclosure (tape, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 50)

Kay Hill – TESSELLATION A/B (tape, Strange Rules, RULE-087, edition of 36 or download via ANTI)

Kay Hill – IN-GRAIN (2 x tape or download, ANTI, ANTI004)

Kay Hill – Cold Title (CD-r or download, ANTI, ANTI003)

in-grain tape b

Some background: I first came across Ben Hallatt at the wonderful Crater Lake festival.  Completely oblivious to the man, I wandered into his set, ale in hand, to be immediately engulfed in a living breathing sound. There was Ben stood on stage looking at his reel to reel machine. It felt like there must’ve been some fancy pants sound system set up, as the sounds seemed to throb out of every corner of the room. From the machine came a depth of obsolete sepia loveliness like so many layers of rust that was, to my ears at least, beautiful. I found myself a corner and sat with a sloppy grin on my face for the remainder of the performance. It was a fantastic day but Ben’s set really stood out for me and I didn’t hesitate to seek out what I could online. My delight was completed when Ben hit up a RFM comrade for my details so as to send me some more goods [Editor’s note: see, it pays to write for RFM – albeit not in money, of course].

scke disclosure

S C K E – Disclosure

Whilst the label, hairdryer excommunication, advises…

…this is certainly one to be enjoyed alone in a dimly lit room, possibly with a scotch based cocktail for company…

…I have opted for a wheat beer.  Analogue synth action on this tape – only the kind of ‘action’ you’d expect from a snail on valium. Eerie whirring and rising hiss make for spooked late night listening, the kinda tape to jam in your car whilst driving around the city at night, occasionally stopping to stare with malevolent intent, only half your mug illluminated. There is an obsessive attention to detail that can chill the bones of yer. Much as Hungarian film maker Bella Tarr can bring mundane details into woozy focus with oblique, deadly slow panning so does Ben with sound, like some kind of understated urban horror. The blinking indicator on a ruined car on it’s side, illuminated with orange light, the wind screen wipers thudding with the steady drizzle. This isn’t waterfalls and oceans, man: this is your face and the concrete.



We’re onto the Kay Hill moniker next and I’m happy to report that the accident wasn’t fatal. While severely battered and bruised, with time and expert care a full recovery is guaranteed. Dunno how long I’ve been out for but the staff in this place seem to literally glide by with cool efficiency, their smiles and willingness to help unfaltering and unending. It’s not like any hospital I’ve ever been in. The calm and the pristine comfort of the place makes me want to stay here forever. As I lie here a cylindrical object is placed next to me and attached to my arm. The chambers within the cylinder rise, fall and turn, radiating a blue glow that seems to throb in time with my pulse. I feel… epic.

in-grain tape a

Kay Hill – IN-GRAIN

Peering into the granular gruel of Tape B of the two tape set IN-GRAIN (that’s right I put B on first, is that a problem?) I see the last flicker of a cobwebbed analogue television, a loop of rusted audio degraded beyond repair.  Further evidence of singing junk on the flip as cardboard boxes are fed through the serrated teeth of a reel to reel machine. Ben nudges up the malevolent intent with sinister bumps and hissing in the background, like a silky New Blockaders. The noises merge into a grey/green river of sludge.

This bloody minded minimalism is maintained on Tape A, the hum of the machine pushed to the forefront whilst scudding tape noise sounds from the bottom of a well. A more varied palette on the flip. The bumps and coarse granulated morass made lighter with singing feedback cutting through the murky waters like a torch.

cold title

Kay Hill – Cold Title

The final piece of the puzzle – another set of tracks that maintain a fascinating and hypnotic aura with the rudimentary equipment used. Like peering through a grimy window trying to figure out the shapes inside, the first track rouses a curiosity and then a cold sweat as it becomes apparent that those shapes are human. Further on and we’re atop a grey scrub of featureless land whilst an industrial Mecca several miles away hums relentlessly.  Exposed vegetation produces subdued cracks and pops as it is played by the wind. Longer tracks are broken up with very short fizzles of gloop as if briefly nudged into life before dying back abruptly.

This is music of quiet intent, and understated brilliance. Less is most definitely more. And more. And more


S K C E on hairdryer excommunication

Kay Hill / ANTI

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

hairdryer excommunication

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.


hairdryer excommunication

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