Tags: dale cornish, extra normal records, halcyon veil, Keir Neuringer, matthew wright, second sleep, spoils & relics, spoils and relics
Keir Neuringer and Matthew Wright – Speak Cities (Extra Normal Records)
Dale Cornish – Cut Sleeve (Halcyon Veil)
Spoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep)
Keir Neuringer and Matthew Wright – Speak Cities (Extra Normal Records) CD-R
Saxophone and turntable duo reaching into the soul of improvisation.
I’ve been wary of electro acoustic pairings for a little while now – as ever my beef is with technology – so the acoustic seemed to get swamped with the electro and it all became noodling with knobs on.
Not so here on this project from Keir Neuringer (saxes) and Matthew Wright (turntable, computer) that gets the balance perfectly right: Keir’s saxophone is both warm, edgy sighs and full-on honk, joyous and bulbous – with a touch of Ayler’s gospel roots. Matthew’s turntables imaginatively compliment, re-work and suggest rather than smother in cloying digital sauce. There’s a light touch and time travelling element as sounds run backwards and repeat on the decks.
Based on improvisations recorded as a duo in Brooklyn then re-sampled and worked on in Canterbury by Matthew the opener ‘Above the Clouds’ is a proud statement of intent – a slowly mutating virus of brassy air and electricity.
The long pieces (three are around quarter of an hour in length) are stuttering slick birdsongs with thin gassy overtones. They mutate slowly and gracefully, folding in clicks and snitches; iron breath hissed through Talos’ immobile pursed lips.
As ever the devil is in the detail. Moments of clarity when the busy-fidget swooshes the curtain to one side and presents with an open palm.
“Here. Look at this…”
…it seems to say, as a new vista is revealed, a fresh clean perspective peering out of the mist teeming with life and insect-scurrying detail. These brief calm moments create a map of these ornate tessellating sound-pieces.
The sense of movement is palpable. Like watching leaves jerk in a strong wind, sounds are whipped back and forth with the flexibility afforded by young sap and evolution’s unarguable wisdom.
Bridging the gap between beatnik buzz and technician’s overcoat – perfect dinner party music pre-lift off!
Dale Cornish – Cut Sleeve (Halcyon Veil) sold-out tape and digital download
Sound-placement king and baron of the almost-there; Dale Cornish’s Cut Sleeve sold-out-at-source in a blink of an eye to a switched-on audience.
Both politically angry and languidly hedonistic this ultra minimal slice could have been designed to soundtrack some glistening sci-fi thriller if not foreshadowed by the opener ‘Status 2016’ where a wrecked-electric voice tells us, “In 2016 it is illegal to be gay in approximately 75 nations and regions around the world.”
From then on each sound wobbles with history and heavy intention.
This is a brief record. No track clears the 3 minute 30 mark but this brevity comes with a deepness and sturdy attention to detail. ‘LW’ spirals down a wormhole with its one-note bass and endlessly brassy high-hat shimmer. As if to compete ‘Infix’ introduces a one/two/one/two rhythm-collapse highlighting tiny details in the metallic decay built, or rather knitted, like scabs around the central theme.
Almost a third of ‘Vauxhall’ is a single thin whistle through minty teeth. Then the milkman is interrupted with haunted snare pops; some electronic damper making each bong hit dank and sticky.
This EP ends with one of Dale’s most impressively warped vocal pieces. The slo-mo slurp of some repeated phrase slops about between my ears poked through with bright handclaps, occasionally arranged in duos, triplets and quartets. The ‘Emperor Ai’ of the title is described – perhaps in a cautionary fable but so cunningly and comprehensively mashed I’m left rewinding again and again.
Does this track really end suggesting “rather than buy blubber awake” or are sarcastic laffs that echo in my headphones meant for me?
Breathless am I.
Spoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep) 4 x cassette tape
Damn inscrutable non-music from that most considered of trios – Spoils and Relics.
But before I disappear into a black hole in trying to describe music that denies narrative (see RFM 19th Feb 2014 for Rob Hayler’s excellent thoughts on S&R) a few words on what we actually have here.
If you buy one limited edition, multi-tape boxset this year surely this is the one to grab. The four lengthy cassettes are groaning with eight full sides of sonic spoils dating back to 2005 (possibly). The handsome box holds these tapes snug as possums, the insert is cryptically poetic and the weirdly unfathomable artwork is just super-dandy on my rheumy eyes.
Tape one, ‘Rose Tinted (Works 2005 – 2008)’ is a wander by the canal. Old lock machinery is rusted shut, bright green moss grows up the walls of an underpass; the court buildings are surrounded with smokers and lone men shouting into mobiles. I suppose what I am trying to say here is this is an urban sound, a human sound teeming with busy life in all its forms – from the wild ecstasy of teenage girl-gangs to the yellow finger-nailed grimness of the loner outsider. A concentrated listen is rewarded as the disparate action-painting (in sound) comes together in peaks – an 8 mm film projector’s delicate and patient click, a voice interrupted or a rush of organ swell.
The spooks of tape are revealed on ‘Packhorse Re-view’, the second cassette that is altogether more spectral than its feisty companion. Things are left to grow slowly, virus like, as taped interjections (fast forward scree, gritty capstan rattling, earphone socket crackle) are smeared liberally between my sensitive lugs. The sound of the sound comes to the fore creating layers of sweet hiss and miniature thunder-rumble. There’s a genius hand on the edit button here by the way – with some movements ending in an abrupt click and others mashed together building a complexity of huss until it all fades to the sound of sweeping leaves.
The power of the indistinct is celebrated on ‘Forgotten Four Way ’ as a thin quavering tone struggles to keep itself from breaking up. Almost-sounds flitter in and out of focus, partial and half-formed, nothing is allowed to settle for too long. A constant churn of soft and gentle, an avalanche of chinchilla fur, envelopes an unsuspecting listener warming the cockles like a fine brandy. But that’s not to say this third cassette is without jeopardy. Side B starts out with some expert tape-juggle and pretty goofy vocal jaxx that fades into a bloody accordion! Decorum is quickly restored as super-fast-but-smooth edits reference grandfather clocks, swirling drains, old-style Hollywood and descending keyboard shifts.
Typically there is no conclusive judder to ‘Assembly of Mansfield’ the fourth and final tape in this quartet. To my ears it seems more voice-based mimicking the sigh of soft breath and pink-squelch of an oesophagus without recourse to amateur endoscope violation. The timing is sharp as Harold Lloyd’s with each ‘click’ and shuffle exactly in the right place. Side B reveals some curious slapstick with a dry panting being commented on, “is that a dog?” a deadpan voice declares as we become buried in a malfunctioning toy sending out sporadic hisses and electronic spurts.
The final few minutes of this tape are almost a montage of everything you’ve heard already but cut shorter and in decreasing level of volume so electronic ‘pips’ and tones melt into milkshake slurp then peter out like the tiniest vinyl crackle.
After listening to such a lengthy and intense set of recordings I’m not sure I can think of any colourful or witty general theme – this is music that simply ‘is’, or if you choose not to, ‘isn’t’. It doesn’t use fancy equipment or rely on difficult technique – it’s about ears and fingers and the interplay between confident players who trust each other.
And then it dawned on me! What could have been dry, bloodless academic music – something that aspired to musique concrete aspirations is refreshingly removed. This is No Audience Punk to the New Wave of the pre-packed, non-threatening experimental gravy train.
Neat Neat Neat.