hymns clog up the internet of things : joe henderson on every contact leaves a trace

September 16, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Helen White – Solar Wind Chime (Every Contact Leaves a Trace)

Simon Whetham – Drowning Electret (Every Contact Leaves a Trace)

 Marvin Tate & Joseph Clayton Mills – The Process (Every Contact Leaves a Trace)

 Bang the Bore Artists – Twelve Tapes (Every Contact Leave a Trace)

 Henry Collins – The Masters (Every Contact Leaves a Trace)

 

The day is Thorsday the Fifth of September. I am going to start anywhere.  And I am not going to tell you he’s running thru a field.

 This is The Bardo. The Brighton Bardo, that he was born into and that I now return. I’m not wiping away the liquid that my eyes are producing. I want him to feel a little light rain on his luminous coat that reflects and absorbs the sky like a Pegasus half horse half angel. Captain Blue Bear, is what I call him, to describe as accurately in pig-English his unique sky-tones and grizzly nobility. I tear away a piece of the outbound ticket to construct my smoke. Funny how the return was taken away. Funny how we entrust our intimacy to so-called beasts.

Robo-cop has to decide whether he’s human or a machine. It’s a lot easier to be cold and sociopathic. You don’t need to suffer anymore. But sometimes some Thing gets under your skin that forces you to feel. What a heartless bastard you would be to take a different road otherwise.

These are the sounds of The Brighton Bardo (Locational. AKA: Seven Lies. Where all roads lead back in and there is no escape). A place for the mad and the sick and the walking dead. A transient place where no one lives, just passing thru. An annex of Londinium, the Greatest City on Earth, connected by artery and blood.

I am sitting on the soiled, rat-stained carpet at The Asylum Hotel trying to figure out which rune is blood branded on a wad of beard I have stashed in my ear-phone pouch. I have connected the listening apparatus to the music transmitter and am attempting to connect the listening apparatus to my own ear so that I can join all the dots and roll with the reality. My listening ear is clogged up from high volumes but it’s okay ‘cause the earphones are broken too. I use my one good ear together with the one good earphone and now we’re dialing him in. That’s how we roll. He loves the radio. Keeps him company. He loves our soft husky girl voices too. Let’s bring him home gently. Let’s turn on the sounds of The Brighton Bardo, finally. ‘Cause it’s been about seven years already. Why is it so painful to connekt?

Is it the black lodge?

Solar-Wind-Chime

Helen White – Solar Wind Chime (Every Contact Leaves a Trace) CD and digital album

It is the solar wind chimes that burn my ear. I tone it down; at any moment someone could come in and disturb these natural instruments and this placid balance. Must be some fast-paced currents in there. I keep forgetting, I’m in there. It’s an effect on the ear. I know that the ear is the last to go, but I didn’t realize that memory worked this way. I keep forgetting I’m here already. In The Bardo. Probably ‘cause it’s too painful to remember. Which is why we have burial rites and why you should never utter a curse in to the dead. The solar storms. That’s interesting. You can pause in The Bardo and check your oracle or library.

The solar storms. He was like a beached whale. Large solar storms. Trapped and lost on European beaches (insert no other, tell the truth). Autopsies showed they were disease-free (I am no longer talking to you, but him). There are climactic changes ‘round here. They drive prey into the North Sea. We need to eat at some point, Boy. The Mariners follow to their doom. That’s not where we’re going, Buoy. Although we are attracted to the huge quantities of squid found in those colder waters, we can’t get stranded. We’ll be lost in the desert forever. We are eight-armed and forever. We are blue. We will eat you. Young males like us head North. We are Snow-Wolves with loyalty to our Master. We learn to read anomalies like you learn to read the contours on maps.

This is The Bardo.

Dominated from midnight by large-scale solar storms, like the ones we flew thru. I take you everywhere with me. The persistence of memory is the true suffering of us. Storms full of charged particles and radiation is the air we breathe in The Bardo. A wasteland of cold, distorted, powerful lights. We are in the sea now. We are lost. Communications and satellites have been damaged. I don’t think anyone can hear us back home. But if there’s anyone I would rather be with on the edge of the world – it’s you. It’s raining again, and I’m sorry if it’s toxic. I said that I was Artemis, long ago, and that you are forgiven. I take that back. The rain is toxic and it’s burning our eyes. We want to find these magnetic mountains, because you and me both are wrong, and that’s why I love you and I’ll go with you. They call it the ‘Guard-rail’ and we are curious about that because you are a bouncer and no-body puts baby in the corner. He howls all night. We’ve been given advice that the mountain range is rendered invisible now in 2017 and that means that we are allowed to swim into the North Sea. So, that’s where we’re heading. Stranded after the storm. We swim into a desert. The gate has been left open. For the first time in Seven or so years. In fact, the gate has been dismantled. And left by the front door. There is no need to close it anymore. All is empty. All is quiet. A longing for intimacy that will pile upon itself until I am removed from this place and put out of my misery. No more suffering. A quiet death. No more pain. Swirling colours stop. There’s no sound. Or Chaos. The Northern Lights Stop.

You see it keeps going back ‘round again if you do not shout STOP

Drowning-Electret

Simon Whetham – Drowning Electret (Every Contact Leaves a Trace) CD and digital album

We pause for a moment. He is thirsty, so I hydrate him with my eye waters. I’m not turning the tap off for anybody. Not when we need it. His black lips and eyes pay the wages of Avon ladies with black lip-gloss and eyeliner. He is the black-faced annihilator.

It’s relatively quiet at The Asylum Hotel when I abandon him. Only planes overhead and a crack from a girl a few minutes ago. Time doesn’t work the way you think it does. But you already know that.

So let’s go back.

Chanting. We don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes it’s overtaken by cars. But somehow it persists. Could be music. Could be the beach. I’m coming back, don’t woof.

How do you do it? How do you kill?

I ask quite clearly with no expectation of an answer.

They say I’m cold ‘cause I bonded with a machine. Down here we try not to dwell on it. But when I return to The Bardo it is memory that is the air we breathe. I’m not allowed to put my heart on the line except for in The Bardo. Here, we talk. We say you’ve lost your intimacy-machine. Let me massage you.

I hesitate to Drown.

I’m going back when the present is still, present. She talks of the calm and the peak. It’s too late, as usual. We are now together again talking about drowning and we seem to know more about that than we like to admit. We are water-creatures. Water-creatures don’t talk about drowning. That’s like a fish saying to his buddy “I’m sorry mate, but I just wet myself”.

We are passing thru a place where people leave us alone. That is good. The trains sound like trees and the trees jangle. We are moving. That is good. The Drowning Electret hurries into some metal shape forms and builds railroads and pylons for us to move in. That’s where you will find us, ultimately. In the tin can rolling down the street. Amplified by some lonely guy. Transmitted to aliens on earth. Aliens, like flies, and dogs. And Octopi. And Earth. And Things that just ain’t human. Like cars, and bits of metal. And plastic. And dead-mans blood.

The transmission breaks up. Which is usually a sign for me to go. I’ll stay with you tho. You are passing thru The Bardo. Alone. And you will come back to me, but chances are I will be so world-weary-stressed that I will not recognize my Brother. And we shall pass by each other not even knowing. Whilst caressing twigs, like kids.

I am now alone. We have become separated. This break-up is aesthetically interesting. But, what is more interesting to me is finding you. I know it could take years. But I don’t want to draw it out that long and I’d rather have you by my side NOW. Your senses are superior to mine, and I need you to survive. It’s a break-up. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information. Describe it for you all? It sounds like a radio transmission. Breaking up. By an individual who calls themselves “Simon Whetham”. It sure is wet. We are drowning and lost.

We are starving. Or so that is how you always feel.

I’ll eat for you Brother.

And accidently tread on flies for you.

To help you sleep.

 

We are in The Bardo again.

Things are breaking up. Transmission flimsy.

It’s cold. But I think that’s normal. You are a Snow-Wolf. I laid two blankets upon you. It’s not the height of human accomplishment to be warm.

We are gonna find it tricky to navigate in these conditions. You are wild.

Your yelp grew softer. I was rarely frightened of you. Now we walk side by side, together. The only thing that can make me leave you is fear of death. And how can I fear loving what is dead.

There’s nothing really on the airwaves. It’s an absence. A static persistence. Pleasurable for some reason. Reasons such as 1) That it holds a deeper meaning that can be accessed thru deviant means. 2) That it is so devoid of meaning that the listener can transpose whatever they like into it and literally make these sounds their own. 3) That there is nothing there, which gives a lot of space to create worlds.

I guess it’s the sound of him disintegrating into the void whilst I heat a probably rotten meal in the oven to nourish myself. It has to be done, but you can’t help but think of alternatives. It’s breaking up. There’s nothing there. Has Question Time started again? (To go into another). I’ll come back. [I’m getting lost again – The maps are fizzling]

[TIME]

The-Process

Marvin Tate & Joseph Clayton Mills – The Process (Every Contact Leaves a Trace) CD and digital album

I’ve woken up. My thumb and my bed are on fire. The seagulls are screaming. The only problem is the siren.

It’s breaking up again. Feedback & noise. Lashing. THE PROCESS.

Voices. Memories tryna find a groove, a channel, a vessel. Radio.

Vacuum. Storm shutters down. I think we’ve been here before, the other night of fire. It’s a different day, a different reality. Different feet plodding thru the fog and filthy air. Senile and pleasant. Glitches, samples. I think we have come to the memory space. Processors. Fragments. Cyber-edited. Internal. No acoustics. Layers of Cycles. Regret. Hymnal. Cut grass. Whistling doppelgangers melting into a suburb. Erased. Memos. Night terrors of not recognizing this new room. Can’t reconcile. Archival. Snippets. Kreng-like. Cotton wool, dirty brainspace. Slowly snapping spine. Head tipped backwards, waking up mid-lobotomy. Is this the place where we forget. Eternal sunshine. Intruders, unknown presences, scrubbed out and shadows sanded down from the door frames. Mechanically dysfunctional neuroses. Backed into a corner, a collage of hyper-auditory-impressions. Distilled into a time-frame before silence and snow crunch. We are in the radio-space now. Meddled by winds and far-away gusts. Distant commune. Transmissions clearer. Pounding, haunted, rippling. Deep, depth tones emerging like liquid spirits. Total disorientation. Sweet little motives rising up from time to time like butterflies with the same colour as your loved one – something beautiful to catch a glimpse of before utter disintegration. Always fleeting. Paused dialogues and rain. Wet again. My rain soaked skin has its own memory. All the times we’ve been here before. We look for something outside. Particularly voices are soothing and we are listening out in this rain battered territory. Hymns clog up the Internet of Things. We can’t see the bigger picture, we are in fly-mode. Bondaged. Unfinished sentiments. Flecks of semantic recognition. Smashing a piano. A Time Machine. Argument. Nothing is rubbed out. Nothing is not heard. Running up and down the stairs. Walking thru the snow. Everything you’ve ever heard. Everything you’ve ever said. Everything you’ve ever heard said. Documented. In a cloud. When the cloud comes near – noise. The betrayal of coherence. You are longing for them. The things you have lost. Walking thru the snow. The sounds of the Northern Lights low enough that they touch your ears. You become a rowboat. Paddling thru serenely. With your wolf at your side. Watching out across a horizon that wants no end. Strangers now. Playing pool in a church hall. The ground has turned solid and you are alone. Watching from the other side. Unable to remember when you were here before. A gnawing deja vu. Stumbling often. Looking thru to some scene you can’t understand. Acoustic engulfment. STOP.

Twelve-Tapes

Bang the Bore Artists – Twelve Tapes (Every Contact Leave a Trace) CD and digital album

Whiskey nights over we wake up to this new storm. Buildings swaying like chewing gum and a sense of evacuation before the Leviathan.

I take my hat and shades off. Wipe my eyes. And focus on the Outside again. This fresh apocalypse. Check my seismometer.

I’m going to take Twelve steps forward and no more.

  1. Everything stopped.
  2. The eye was blue
  3. I smell my finger. It smells of burnt flesh.
  4. Opiate
  5. The power is cut to my respirator
  6. Images of red circles flowing outwards
  7. The mangled cars at the feet of Beachy Head
  8. Flowing under the ocean floor
  9. Jerk
  10. Angels swaying violently
  11. A calm television
  12. I can hear screaming through the walls. The room becomes a boat.

I’m turning you on now. I’m flipping my memory-switch to ‘Forget” for a moment to take this Thirteenth step.

I put my coat on, dig in. My one good ear. It’s 7am. Passing the underground car-park at the foot of Bear Road, where that old railway line used to hover above, now hovering in memory ‘cause it’s gone and things move so fast these days you gotta watch your back for the speed. Click ON. There’s no auditory simulation round here, this is the best we’re gonna get. No perfection. Raw perception, whether you like it or not. Too hot, take it off, too cold, put it on. Revolving door Brighton Bardo. There’s something about car-parks at this time of the morning. The silence and seagulls and high-pitched coins and bankcards and exhaustion. Transient scores to settle. We’ll go anywhere to get the business done. Facial recognition tells me that this one is coastal and that tells me it comes with its own cacophony. The noise of the sea. A constant thread that links these places. And out-sources others. It’s a time capsule in here. The outside world has toned itself down and made quick. A vault. An arena. This prolonged anxiety on a thread. An electric beam. I’m so upset, for no reason. I claw back at the rope. The snow-blizzard exercise at the Antarctic. A crude drawing of a face scribbled on to my bucket-head. The sine-wave safety line. Burning up. Persisting. The constant persistence of grit. Molded into vaults and safety chambers. To store yer car. And keep ‘em out. And move you. And kill you. Is it a saber. To drive into the heart of the void. An empty car-park. With all those homicide outlines of cars that died ages ago. Only one victim per bay. Each victim pays the toll. And the toll paves the way. Is it a purification. To make strange the mundane. A true Lynchian shape. Exotic birds come out for a sec. Escaped birds. The horrible sound of a person’s voice, so buried that it could be machine. It’s burning up. The voices. Black metal and noise and nihilism at dawn. The problem is these birds hide out here. Things don’t work the way they should do. You just hear the burning blistering breakfast symphony of the transience. No one lives here, no one lives here, just passing thru. I am amplifying dust. The constant stream of a singularity. Cutting thru the waste. Lending a hand to consistency AKA: TIME. Installing some statue with its finger pointed at you or away from you like a sundial. Depending on how deep the cellar goes. I’m fucking up tremendously and there’s only so many hours in the day I can squeeze all these errors in. When the landscape become black I kinda feel like there’s either no one playing or the greatest player on earth has just taken the stage. Either way. The silence has just reverse fizzled. And gone. Cheerz Seth, that’s truly masterful werk from the contact sheet. (Lucier bound)

The-Masters-Cover-Possibility-1

Henry Collins – The Masters (Every Contact Leaves a Trace) CD and digital album

Four days in. Reminiscent of something sinister. And loss.

Thwang.

Repeatedly.

Impersonalized.

Watching someone else do something you don’t understand.

Searching for the next rabbit-hole.

Phazer.

Shifting.

Plates of terrain. Flat-lined.

Micro.

Tetris blankness.

At the end of the driveway.

You are supposed to be here.

Thwang.

On the day we feed your young fellas.

Drinking water with Ice Valley

Iron clink.

Lawn-mower thorax miniature bird thing

I can see this plain is one of many

Quite a long way to go

We must stop time

Thwacking soft wet grass

Digital Robin

Mar-A-Largo is flattened

He emerges from a bunker in the Virgin Islands.

This smacking between zones, flittered. Chopped.

Humid butchery.

Sigh aviation

Dead man walking

Trace in the reflection

Flicker.

Chopped up bird & grass mixture

All the moments that flank and escape commentary

Knocked out of range

You’ve got to slow down.

You’ve missed them.

Shift some more snow.

This was an account of our movements thru The Bardo whilst the world collapses. Sound tracked by the sound, text & images of ‘Every Contact Leaves a Trace’ artists.

Street Editions (August/September)

SUNFLOWERS

 

 Every Contact Leaves a Trace

 -ooOOoo-

 

 

close to the pylons: joe murray on robin foster, henry collins, leda, arv & miljö, tear fet, troy schafer

August 5, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion (CD-r, LF Records, LF050)

Leda – City/Clear (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB010, edition of 200)

Arv & Miljö – untitled (7″ vinyl, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB008, edition of 200)

Tear Fet – Blabber (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.333, edition of 40)

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle (3″ CD-r and pin badge or download, aetheric records)

hcrf

Henry Collins / Robin Foster – Spill Lynch Corrosiveness / Frostlike Neighbourly Aversion  

These two ‘non-guitarists’ play something approaching Kaiser-mash with some extremely damaged fingers.

Two tracks.  One mind/ten fingers a-piece.  You dig?

Spill Lynch yeah!  Guitar-as-you-trucking-lump-it. Totally wrecked non-playing as strings are hammered on and hammered off.  Steel is plucked and pulled and shredded hard with foam mallets.  Rubbery metal is found bounced in the reverse making this a righteous dental dam for pearly whites.

Tiny fists, like Joe Pesci’s ‘pow…ping…pow’, jab into your soft temple raising a bruise and yet… this would be a wonderfully zesty cocktail!  But you add the mangled FX-BOX and goof-timing and you are looking at a particularly sexy beach.  Memory gong ripples out a Daxophone reference but it’s slung as low as a Kev Hopper bassline so figure that captain!

Frostlike yeah! One man spitting canned peas out a tight, puckered gob-hole dribbles cold green bile.  OR has Eddie Van taken the vapours so his ERUPTION is all STAR SPANGLED out a tiny HIWATT about to burst into flames.  It’s like a pissy Morse; a constant chatter of on/off/on/off rattling up through my ribcage and whispering into my fontanel.  It’s machine code on the jibber-jabber somehow rocking a ska rhythm.  It’s barium voodoo and it’s aiming for any hole going.

We Roll tonight to the guitar bite

leda

Leda – City/Clear

Crispy bouncing beats sound like they crept out of Sheffield circa 1979.  A wheexing synth plays a one note melody and twists the pitch up, out of waxy remains, until the thing squeals like a pinched nut.  One dimensional in the best possible way; focused and determined Leda sings a line that blends soft as Egyptian eye shadow.  It does its thing at a totally brisk pace: skip, skip, skipping like a hockey puck over dull scuffed ice.

The flipside proper songs it; imagine shoving a Woodbine into that Vape pen and huffing hard.  Misty organ vamps float like a kite flapping drastically close to the pylons.  Leda sighs as if bad news is arriving soon in a manila envelope.  I’m thinking of Barbara Manning in her total waif days if you’re looking for a mind-crutch.

Wonderfully brief, totally Nu Wave.  Where’s my piano tie dude?

arv

Arv & Miljö – Untitled

The mysterious Arv & Miljö are quite possibly the equally mysterious Matthias Andersson who has jammed a high-quality mic out his neat apartment window to record the big wide world going about its business.

Side A picks up those pesky seabirds all going

CAW CAW SQUEEEEEE CAW

in fine white clarity.  If this was Whitby they’d be fighting over chips but Matthias’ location is totally smorgasbord, all gherkin fresh and sauna-clean toes.

Side B revels in a Swedish downpour. The trebly ‘hiss’ of the rain fills my ears almost whole but gradually subsides into more bassy individual drips (off your peaked cap perhaps) and ends on a fragile bowl ringing making this a super-fucking-classy ride on the vinyl.

blabber

Tear Fet – Blabber

As serious as your life.

This meditation on disease and ultimate loss is pure honest gibber that surfs straight from tragedy.  It’s a pretty unsettling raw disc of vocal jaxx, jammed to tape direct with no discernable dubs or edits.  The 20 minute piece was scored by Fet himself (a Matt Dalby apparently) and then, as the moorings loosen, it breaks free of all reason.

My first few listens marvel at the sheer range of guff coming outta two lips, two lungs and one tongue.

Me?  I’ll carry this like Wisdens… a goddamn almanac of honk.  A how-to guide!

Over the course of the spinning shiney I count the following techniques: slack mouth farts, gulps, wheezing roars, tactile yawns, owl squeaks, slibby gibbers, lip-smacks, jaw creaks, warble and weft, dry huff/wet huff, moans, scones and drones, deep sighs, ribbet-lite, mucus croak, deft saliva manipulation, pinched inhalations, seal barks, wet sucking, coughs (phlegm and tickle), rude burps, careless whispers, dirty slurps, humms, ululation, snivel and whimpers, throat rasp, snivels (without whimpers), throat shred, large cheek inflation, nasal gargles, proper singing, mithering, call and response (solo), repetition and imitation, vibration of fleshy jowls, cavity popping, fake Russian bantz, sinus snort, irregular mucus work, jakey muttering, horse blowing and common or garden slobber. [Editor’s note: Bravo Joe! *claps meatily in approval*]

For students of vocal jizz in all its glorious forms; consider this one essential.

fiddle

Troy Schafer – Amplified Double Fiddle

A tremendous hot spurting event of a record that moves from God-rattling fists to microscopic blossoms bursting.

Mr Troy here has built his own double fiddle, inspired by Aussie out-violinist Jon Rose, and rammed it through all manner of cheap distortion sawing away raising merrie hell.

The horsehair rips up a storm (x 2), the dragging and pushing astringent as a spilled gin ‘n tonic but still fatly full and all encompassing.  Occasionally things fall apart into an elegant digital-ditch or rusty tape hole; all the better to keep things human and sprightly I say!

Oh my sweet Lord!  There’s something wonderfully elemental about the frenzied bowing, the constant car-crash of sound that’s as bright as a spotlight; a pure unfettered stream of energy and information.

The overtones really play nice with my pink ears, especially on the less noisy moments.  The double movement is shaped like slow geography, a gradual denudation of the bristling sonics turning the abrasive into smooth gold teeth.

Hey!  Conventional wisdom loves a crescendo eh?  A simple narrative that leads to the big pay off, the money shot.  But Troy baffles by moving from Piss Superstition-levels of fuckedness to a no-more-than slightly water-damaged scrape over the course of this beautifully direct record.  The arc in reverse.

I’m so keen you hear this I checked with aetheric and blimey… it’s sold out at source.  Click the download my beauties!

—ooOoo—

LF Records

I Dischi Del Barone

Chocolate Monk

aetheric records

bouncing off the tuning pegs: joe murray on david somló, panelak and gold soundz all-stars

June 30, 2015 at 9:40 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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stuart chalmers/henry collins/sindre bjerga/claus poulsen – split (tape, gold soundz, gs#127, edition of 25)

David Somló – Movement (CD mounted on plate with hanger and booklet or download with pdf, self-released)

Panelak – The Om Tragichord (CD-r, LF Records, LF046)

gold soundz split

Stuart Chalmers/Henry Collins/Sindre Bjerga/Claus Poulsen

Side one of this groovy wrapped-up tape hosts tape goons and sonic adventurers Stuart Chalmers and Henry Collins.  This fine duo give excellent value for money by combining the riotous pop and snap of speed-of-thought tape manipulation with more considered glassy processing.  The seven poke-in-the-eye interjections are short (all under 3 mins except the slightly longer ‘tskimdo’) and as fresh and wriggly as a landed rainbow trout.

Things work as a wonderful whole, individual elements constantly forming and deconstructing, but with an overall purpose and flavour.  There’s a damp frittering to some of these sounds as they rush like a fleshy thumb over a plastic comb… frrriiiiiiipppppppp!  The energetic glitching is fancy like boiling mud; all thick clay-like plops and flubbers.  Stuart handles his Dictaphone with aplomb; FFW skipping some guitar improv, the Bailey-esque lurches in volume diving dramatically down a brown worm-hole.  A drum loosely appears between the squark and squelch.  This reminds me to mail David Sylvian with a pithy comment about his Manafon.  The whirling capstans get almost too much to bear until a singular tone calms the magnetic beast.  Friends of more relaxed pastimes will tune in to the especially jaxxed ending to this side – clockwork chimes and distorted reverberations making it all nice and irie.  Praise Jah!

Side two starts off with a live Sindre joint ‘choking on splinters’ and is a right messed-up tape culture statement.  Various soft rock/power ballad tunes are mangled with generous amounts of ironic sauce.  The sound then gradually coalesces (like sonic grease pudding) for a road-menders drone section, soon to be replaced by wet slapping and vocal jaxx, stiff hessian ripping, number station melodies and dry-twig crackle.

And things start to get serious.  The last few minutes of this set are dramatically violent with poor old tapes getting seriously duffed-up, warped, stretched and fondled so the base-sound becomes thickened and rubbery.  Blimey – with no applause to contextualise the sound this naked aggression sounds directed to me personally.  Eek!

Claus Poulsen ends the tape with a short Sindremix.  With thousands of hours of prime material to choose from Claus must have had quite a job settling down to this.  To my mind he’s chosen wisely, concentrating on Sindre’s drone works to come up with a curiously melancholic three minutes of tear-stained swoons and rusty croaks.   Beautiful like bruised fruit.

somlo

David Somló – Movement

Hungarian guitarist David Somló’s incredible debut album.  Strong in concept – it comes with a plate you can hang on the wall and strong in execution – David is a fucking KILLER guitarist, movement is a dusty 27 minute recording that’s positively crackling with tense, nervous energy.

Recorded in the open air things start off with the sloppy-slops of lazy footsteps on leaf litter then launches into an outrageous guitar solo.  Very much experimental but encased in desperate, haunting harmonies this takes on board the clear spaciousness of Jon Collins, the rusty twang of Bill Orcutt and the pitted grime of Manuel Mota.  Yeah I know comparisons are bullshit but painting an accurate picture of this flapping into my lugs is a tricky one. It’s all over the place.  Styles are spun on a penny.  My scrawled notes say,

soars and swoops like a swallow skimming over a pond/pensive like Tom Verlaine, edging towards an unknown something/smooth but brittle texture – Hapsburgian in its decay and posture/clouds of notes knot like bees or Loren Connors.

And this pattern is repeated:

·         Excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo

·         Sudden pause (a shift in the way David is sitting perhaps?) or the crackle of a bonfire, or the twitter of Hungarian birds

·         Another excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo.

These solos erupt out of the shimmer of nature only to fall back once all the trills and runs have been had… and they seem so natural and right.  Not precise and worked until all the blood is leached but as improvised as a stolen kiss, the late afternoon light bouncing off the tuning pegs as another slick idea is fingered out on the rosewood frets.

Finally – if you are thinking this sounds just a little too guitar hero remember the field recording feel, the cloudy ripple of background voices and feet crunching on gravel that make this feel even more homespun and relaxed.  I urge you readers to toast the official guitarist of the Psychedelic Domestic!  Hail Somló!

A ‘must have’ for all Hank Marvins.

omtragi frontcover final

Panelak – The Om Tragichord

ROAAOOOOORRRR!  This is a blisteringly intense record from Pascal Ansell’s Panelak.  Back in the old days they called this kind of rich, crunchy noise Computer Music.  And while I have no doubt Pascal is using a computer at some point in the process of making his music it would be doing this a disservice to label something so vibrant; so effusive and physical with a non-human tag.

‘Hikikomori’ grinds like Tony Hawk or something; all gritty granular shredding until a daytime TV voice adds a sobering touch.  ‘Sarcomere’ is a more thoughtful cousin, standing at the sidelines of the bowl watching the boys show off.  She’s thinking up minimal melodies beamed into the ether that charm their way into your skull.  Was that a brief snatch of strings there?  I’m not sure as the relentless alien squawk has started to recalibrate my hairy ear ‘oles.

The tooth-loosening ‘Quisqualate’ shimmers as separate lines of electric drone, fizzing glitch,  squashed cowbell and high-tension guitar string plait themselves together only to unwind slowly leaving you with no handhold or ledge.

It seems unusual to have a title track these days.  Are they supposed to be a potted-meat representation of the whole? I dunno man.  But, as it happens, ‘The Om Tragichord’ does sum up the approach and aesthetic let loose tonight.  Imagine some late 70’s video game (Tennis, Tank Commander, Pong etc) re-routed through a daisy chain of spluttering effects pedals.  A giant foot stomps down repeatedly and sets things off in an eccentric order, closing off and opening up signals in a juddering and aggressive manner.  Then mirror plate this and listen backwards.  You get the picture eh?

Closer ‘BactoGrail’ takes some of that sweet guitar and jams it through my speakers in varying degrees of fuckedness.  A Hammond does it shimmy, voices chatter like a mystery radio gone feral.  After a time of simple twittering the acoustic keeps things steady while an electric calliope blusters like a wound-up drunk preparing for a fight.

Like the old Queen says:

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening!

That’s for sure…plugging Panelak into your ears is like waiting for the dark cloud to hurl a killer stroke.  Guaranteed to blow your mind – anytime!

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

David Somló

LF Records

the 2014 zellaby awards

January 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

The deliberations are over, the ballots are burning.  White smoke billows from the chimney here at Midwich Mansions.  Ignore the salty wave of ‘best of 2014’ lists you saw prematurely ejaculated over an appalled December – here is the real thing. ‘Never finalised prior to January 1st’ – that’s the Zellaby pledge.

And what a conclave it has been!  Scott turned up early and presented his nominations as a hyperlinked series of Discogs listings – he spoke using a vocoder throughout and would only answer our questions if we assigned them catalogue numbers.  Joe’s effervescent enthusiasm remained undimmed despite a trip to Accident and Emergency following a foolhardy attempt to gargle Christmas tree baubles.  New kid Luke seemed happy to fetch and carry despite our hazing pranks – oh, how we laughed sending him to Wilko’s for a tub of left handed CD-rs!  All I had to do was sit in my wing-backed leather chair, fingers steepled, and pass Solomon-style judgement.  My beautiful Turkish manservant took copious notes during procedures, of course, and whilst those are being transcribed I’m afraid I must begin with some sombre news: the underground is dead.

An article making this claim by David Keenan was published in the December issue of The Wire magazine and caused adverse weather in the crockery.  Having finally read it I can confirm that it is, by and large, laughable.  The friend who sent me a copy included this note:

Here it is.  I will look forward to reading your response as it would be great to see his flimsy, self-obsessed nonsense getting torn apart.

Hmm, yeah, tempting as it is to to embark on a comprehensive rebuttal what does it really matter?  I hate to disappoint but engaging with the wilful fucknuttery to be found in publications like The Wire is like arguing about the properties of phlogiston – it might be of vague historical or semantic interest to those with too much time on their hands but is ultimately pointless.  My favourite response has been Tom Bench‘s (@TJDizzle) satirical summary of Keenan’s disdain, tweeted in reply to some genuine outrage from Duncan Harrison (@Young_Arms):

yr not tru underground because u have friends and sometimes talk to them about music

Lolz.

Some of the fallout has been quite interesting though.  Just before Christmas, RFM started getting hits from an Italian language music site that was, on investigation, carrying an interview with Keenan in which he is asked specifically about the idea of the ‘no-audience underground’ as popularised by this blog.  In his short response he manages to invent a barely recognizable straw man version of the notion, take a swing at it, miss, then step back as if he’d actually landed a punch.  Admittedly, Google Translate may have knocked some nuance out of his answer but, as I was able to read it, it was good for a hearty chuckle and fuck all else.

Phil Smith, currently researching the history of Termite Club for a book chapter, wrote a thoughtful piece largely agreeing with Keenan that contained the following tragicomic scene:

One of the saddest moments of the year for me (on a lovely day) was Neil Campbell & John Tree talking about whether there was ever in our lifetime likely to be a music revolution like (say) punk again (one which Keenan seems to want), & shaking their heads in total ‘of course not’ resignation, the required kidz soaked in computer games & all manner of other entertainment drips & (I suppose) music, whatever it signifies to people, only ever welling up in such a way as part of a business move anyway.

I laughed out loud reading this.  Not only have these rueful old geezers forgotten at least one revolution we’ve already had since punk (rave culture – musically game changing, actual laws passed to disrupt it) but the internet enabled golden age is orders of magnitude more significant than punk.  Here’s a piece from yonks ago which begins to explain why and, for good measure, here’s another from double-yonks ago about why The Wire is hopeless too.

Neil Campbell, emboldened by Keenan’s piece and nostalgic memories of poorly received gigs unearthed in response to Phil’s Termite research, ramped up his usual silliness.  On Twitter he lamented the lack of confrontation nowadays and took the piss with his #realnoaudienceunderground hashtag.  I was interested to find out if there was any substance behind his bravado so devised an experiment.  After waiting for Twitter to move on, I called Neil out on some random nonsense in a deliberately antagonistic manner.  As expected, fight came there none.  Indeed, after explaining what I was up to both publicly and via direct message (the latter, I admit, did contain the phrases ‘full of shit’ and ‘you ol’ fraud!’) I found myself unfollowed.  Ah well, so much for confrontation.

(Aside: Neil has form for practice/preach discrepancy.  After hearing him proclaim several times that he’d rather read a bad review than a good one I took him at his word and minced three Astral Social Club releases including the album Electric Yep.  I did this with heavy heart and even ran it past Neil before posting.  He replied with a jaunty ‘hey you know me, go ahead’ but after I did he deleted the RFM link from the list of friends on his Astral Social Club blog and has not submitted anything at all since.  I was amused to find myself excommunicated for heresy.  Ah well, so much for bad reviews.)

I get the impression that Neil might be a bit uneasy with his current status as universally loved sacred cow.  Or maybe he digs it and is frustrated not to be a Wire mag cover star?  Who knows?  I love the guy, have done for about fifteen years, and hate to jeopardise a friendship with a shameless ad hominem attack over something so inconsequential but… dude has clearly forgotten how to take a kick to the udders.

So, in summary: those that say they want confrontation don’t, or rather only want it on their own terms or at a safe distance, those that lament the lack of revolution need only to open their eyes to what is happening around them and those that proclaim the underground dead are talking pish.

Before moving on a word about terms of engagement.  Whilst I’ve enjoyed a few physical fights in the past (yeah, I may be short and out of shape but I’m fucking mental), I find this kind of swaggering jaw-jaw to be boring, childish and unproductive.  Comment if you like but unless what is posted is novel, substantial and engaging I am unlikely to respond.  I won’t be tweeting about it under any circumstances.  I have washed my hands and will need an irresistible reason to get ’em dirty again.

—ooOoo—

BOY!  WHERE ARE THOSE NOTES?  Oh, thank you.  Have a shortbread biscuit.  Right then, shall we crack on with the fun bit?

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents The Zellaby Awards 2014

Thank you for bearing with us.  Firstly, an apology: due to, y’know, austerity n’ that, this year’s ceremony will be taking place on the swings in the playground at the muddy end of the estate.  Nominations will be scratched into the paint of the railings and refreshments will be whatever cider Luke can prise from the grip of local vagrants.

Secondly, 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 2014.  It does not need to have been released in 2014.  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 any of my own releases, nor any releases that I had a hand in, er…, releasing (with one notable exception this year).  My three comrades are free to ignore these rules and write about what they like.  The price paid for this freedom is that I, as editor, have final say.  Thus the awards are the product of the idiosyncratic taste of yours truly with input from my co-writers along the way.

A couple of omissions explained.  Long term readers may be shocked to find no mention of previous winners Ashtray Navigations or the piss superstition.  Phil and Mel have been preoccupied this year with moving house, full time unenjoyment and various celebrations of the AshNav 20th anniversary and have not been as prolific as nutcase fans such as myself would like.  There has been one cassette of new material, Aero Infinite, which, to my shame, I only became aware of recently and do not yet own.  Believe me, the pain is fierce.  Bookies have already stopped taking bets on their planned four-disc retrospective winning everything next time out.

Julian and Paul have shared a split live tape with Broken Arm and had a CD-r, The Dialled Number, The Bone-Breaker, The Heavenly Sword, out on Sheepscar Light Industrial but, in my humble opinion, their defining release of 2014 was getting nothing to appear on the developed film, a mighty album which is sadly ineligible for this year’s awards because it was released by me on fencing flatworm recordings as their ‘prize’ for winning album of the year last time.  See, complicated isn’t it?

There are also many releases on the guilt-inducing review pile that I suspect could have been contenders had I found time to digest them properly: apologies to Ian Watson, Prolonged Version, Troy Schafer, Seth Cooke etc. and thanks for your continued patience.  For the first time, two entries in this year’s poptastic final chart are previously unreviewed on RFM.  Mysterious, eh?

OK, enuff with the preamble.  The first category is…

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

Joe votes for Yoni Silver:

I heard Yoni Silver play a solo bass clarinet set on November 1st this year. Over the course of 20 minutes I blinked repeatedly and snapped my fingers; my mouth hung open like a codfish and eventually my eyes filled with hot tears. I’d emerged from a jazz-hole that ranged from barely-there, reductionist ‘hummmm’, to wet-chop dribble/spittle outta the brassy pipes, to full-bore Ayler-esque gospel skronk. It was so good I didn’t just clap and holla…I vowed to start a record label to immediately box this shit up. Yoni’s discs are thin on the ground but live shows with proper jazz cats and beards like PWHMOBS are gathering pace. Watch out!

Luke goes for Botanist:

Ever fantasized about a forest dwelling black metal troll singing songs about plant life on drums and hammered dulcimer only?  Me too.  Well, fantasize no longer: he exists. Just when your jaded ears smugly tell you they’ve heard it all along comes the Botanist.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

…but anyone paying attention will have already guessed that the winner this year is Taming Power.

I might have indulged in some ill advised Campbell-baiting above but I am profoundly grateful to Neil for taking the time to introduce me to the world of Askild Haugland.  This quiet Norwegian has amassed a sizeable back catalogue of tape and vinyl releases on his own Early Morning Records, most of which were recorded, edited and annotated around the turn of the century and have remained largely unheralded since.  His work – created using tape recorders, cassette players, shortwave radios, electric guitars and the like – is perfection viewed from shifting angles, filtered through prisms.  His patience and dedication to uncovering every nuance of his processes are truly inspiring.  It has been an enormous pleasure to promote his music to a (slightly) wider audience – exactly what this blog is all about.  The chap himself seems lovely too.  Read more: Neil’s accidental guest post, reviews, more reviews, Early Morning Records catalogue.

…and when you return we can move on to…

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

Joe makes a compelling case for the Peak Signal 2 Noise broadcasts:

If Cathy Soreny and her Sheffield-based gladiators had released ten 25 minute compilation tapes in a year featuring the creamy froth of the N-AU we’d stand to attention and sing a rousing song. To create ‘visual cassettes’ for your telly and computer screen and navigate the machinations of the community TV industry and come up with such a thoroughly curated, imaginatively shot and god-damn funny series is just the bee’s knees. PS2N has opened another glossy window into the N-AU.

Luke keeps it pithy:

The Stokoe Cup should clearly go to Lee Stokoe.  ‘The underground is dead ‘ announces David Keenan in The Wire this month ‘shut up you prat’ is the reply from Radio Free Midwich.

Scott agrees:

Predictable enough, I HAVE to say Lee Stokoe. Browsing my discogs list for 2014 acquisitions it’s virtually all Matching Head tapes – either the new ones or tapes from the 90s that I didn’t already have. Its consistent to the point of sheer ridiculousness.

daniel thomas - that which

However, the editor has other ideas.  This year’s winner is Daniel Thomas.

Dan’s output in 2014 has been prodigious.  He even wins in two categories that don’t exist: ‘1016’ the opener on Enemy Territory is my track of the year (go on, play it whilst reading the rest of this article) and the ‘flower press’ edition of That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades put together by Dave Thomas (no relation) for its release on Kirkstall Dark Matter wins packaging of the year too.  The latter album is perhaps the definitive expression of ‘extraction music‘ – the sub-genre I defined as a way of herding the work of Dan, Dave, Kev Sanders and other fellow travellers into a manageable fold of headspace – and one of at least three projects involving Dan that could have been album of the year.  For the record, the other two are Hagman’s Number Mask on LF Records and the remarkable Dub Variations by The Thomas Family in another beautiful package hand crafted by Crow Versus Crow:

It is the bead of sweat on the brow of the tightrope walker. It is a time-lapse film of dew condensing onto a cobweb.

Dan shows no signs of slowing, nor of relinquishing his choke-tight quality control.  I cannot wait to hear what he has for us in 2015.

…and now a favourite moment for the editor:

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Scott goes for a far-flung ambassador:

It has to be Miguel Pérez.  For making RFM a global concern, and being full of passion, he’s the man.

Joe, as ever, finds this a tough one to pin down.  He suggests…

…we should say a thank you to all the readers and contributors … to everyone who has waited patiently for a review/carried on reading without sending us hate mail…

…which is a sentiment I share, of course, but this year I think one particular set of contributors has to be recognized in this category.  God knows how 27 different acts are going to share the gong though because the winners are…

Michael Clough - eye for detail cover

The artists who submitted tracks to eye for detail – the midwich remixes album:

Andy Jarvis (Vile Plumage, NIHL), ap martlet, Aqua Dentata, Breather, Brian Lavelle, Chrissie Caulfield (of RFM faves Helicopter Quartet), Clive Henry, Dale Cornish, Daniel Thomas, devotionalhallucinatic, DR:WR (Karl of The Zero Map), dsic, foldhead (Paul Walsh – who accidentally started it all), Hardworking Families (Tom Bench), In Fog (Scott McKeating of this parish), John Tuffen (of Orlando Ferguson), Michael Clough (who also provided cover art), Michael Gillham, Neil Campbell (Astral Social Club), Panelak, Paul Watson (BBBlood), posset (Joe Murray also of RFM), Simon Aulman (pyongyang plastics), the piss superstition, Van Appears, Yol, and ZN.

This year I finally joined Twitter which, as a wise-cracking, smart-arse, mentally unstable narcissist with self-esteem issues, turned out to be a perfect platform for me (though for those exact same reasons I think I’ll have to exercise a bit more caution with it in future).  One of the first things that happened was a throwaway comment about a midwich remix project ballooning into an actual album that had to be retroactively called into existence.  The final release six weeks later contained 27 re-workings of tracks from my back catalogue and lasted a total of 3 hours 40 minutes.  The process was humbling, exhilarating, joyful and unprecedented in my personal experience.

The album remains available here (along with more detail as to its construction).  If you don’t already have it, I recommend you treat yourself with that Christmas money from Gran.  I’m charging a fiver for the download and all dough raised is being given to The Red Cross.  The total donated so far, after PayPal and Bandcamp fees, is something like £180.  When I reached a ton I had a giant-cheque-handing-over-ceremony, again following whims blurted out on Twitter.

Many, many thanks to all involved – you are elite members of the pantheon of the righteous.

—ooOoo—

BOY!!  DIM THE LIGHTS.  What?  Oh yes, we’re outside aren’t we.  Fetch me a shortbread biscuit then.  What do you mean there are none left?  Well, just give me the one you are holding.  Gah!  The impertinence!  Anyway, finally we come to the two main categories…

—ooOoo—

2. The Label of the Year Award

Joe goes for No Basement is Deep Enough:

You could easily mistake No Basement is Deep Enough’s tape goof for a zany Zappa-esque prank. But peel away the layers; brush the fringe to one side, open that single plush tit and you are rewarded with some amazing music. Almost like a wonky Finders Keepers NBIDE have unveiled some new ghouls and re-released some remarkable old gizzards (Alvaro – The Chilean with the Singing Nose, Ludo Mich and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson) in frankly outrageous packaging. Old or new, experimental classicists or gutter-dwelling hobo these gonks are pure trippin’ for ears.

Yeah, I’ve been involved as a one of these gonks this year but I think that means I can give you an extra bit of insight into how curator Ignace De Bruyn and designer Milja Radovanović are such wonderful human beings. I told them about getting some mentions in The Wire (Ed – you’ll love this) and they didn’t give a shit. “Ha, we always get mentioned in The Wire without any clue how, what, where, when” said Ignace, “and let’s keep it like that” he chortled into his waffle.

Luke narrows it down to two:

Beartown Records.  A consistent champion of no audience sounds and nice and cheap, they sent me a parcel addressed to Luke ‘ the sick’ Vollar which contained a postcard with ‘sorry just sorry’ written on it.  For this reason they are my label of the year.

Also a mention for Altar of Waste.  I find it comforting to know that somewhere in North America there is a guy called Cory Strand transforming his favourite films / TV programmes / music into insanely limited and lovingly presented sets. Twenty disc drone interpretation of Harry Potter limited to five copies!? He also releases loads of drone/HNW discs that are lovely items to look at and listen to including my album of the year [SPOILER REMOVED – Ed]

Scott apologises:

Sorry, Matching Head again.

Luminous worthies, for sure, but I reckon my choice has been phosphorescent:

kevin sanders - ascension through apathy

The winner is hairdryer excommunication.

The solo venture of Kevin Sanders has released, I believe, 26 items in the calendar year 2014.  Unbelievably, during the same time, he has also had his creations released by other labels, has played live, has moved house and job along a lengthy diagonal line from North to South and has let fly with a gazillion opaque tweets.  This guy’s heart must beat like a fucking sparrow’s.

But never mind the girth, feel the quality.  Kev’s hairdryer excommunication sits alongside Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head as an absolute exemplar of the no-audience underground micro-label as expression of personal vision.  Each release is a new page in the atlas mapping the world he is presenting to us; each trembling drone, each nihilistic/ecstatic scything fuzz is a contour line.  Like all great labels, hXe is greater than the sum of its parts and only gets more compelling as those parts collect and combine.  I appreciate that this might appear daunting for the newbie so here’s five to be starting with – you’ll thank me for it.

Now you see why I have to strictly enforce my ‘win allowable in only one category’ rule.  I could have created a top 40 (!) that just contained releases by, or involving, Askild, Dan and Kev.  Astonishing.  So, leaving those guys sat chatting under the climbing frame, we finally come to the blue riband, best in show, gold medal event:

1. The Album of the Year Award

Woo!  Lists!  Click on the album title and you will be taken to the original RFM review (if such a thing exists) or another applicable page (if not) where you will find details of the release (label, whatnot) and, most importantly, how to go about hearing/purchasing these marvels.

First to the lectern is Mighty Joe Murray:

It’s taken a real effort to whittle this down but here’s my top 5 in order:

faint people

1. The New Band of the Faint People – The Man Who Looked at the Moon

Keep yr Wounded Nurse. These micro-pieces are stitched together with a domestic hand juggling fly agaric.

2. Rotten Tables, Golden Meat – My Nose is Broken

This cheeky release opened a new stomach pouch and gassed itself in…yeasty and fruity. Biggest smiles of the year.

3. Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House

It goes, “tk tk tk tk tk …. po/po/po – ping.” Blistering like hot metal pipes; fragile like seaweed.

4. Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget

Stream-of-consciousness becomes conscious itself…a living, breathing music as fresh as green parsley.

5. CKDH – Yr Putrid Eyeballs/Fungal Air Creeping Adders

The most violently restrained listen of the year by a long shot. Needle sharp. Music to break radios.

Scott briefly interjects:

skullflower - draconis

Skullflower – Draconis

As sylph-like a heavyweight as you’re ever likely to hear.

Now over to the office junior Luke:

Album of the year…

midwich - the swift cover

Midwich – The Swift

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness. [Editor’s note: ha! What is more shameful? Luke sucking up to his editor or me for publishing it?  Yes, I know its me – shut up.]

The rest:

Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget
culver & posset – black gash
Skullflower – Draconis
Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus
Robert Ridley Shackleton / Werewolf Jerusalem / She Walks Crooked – April Fools
Ashtray Navigations  – Aero Infinite
Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg
Dylan Nyoukis – Yellow Belly
Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

..and last of all, to your faithful editor.  I have chosen twenty items (well, twenty three including cheats).  The first half are presented in no particular order, the second set in the traditional ‘top ten run down’ ending with the actual, objectively verified best album of the year.  In my opinion.

10. NIHL / Female Borstal / Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia

female borstal nihl splitdear beloved henry

The perils of the split tape, eh?  I dug the Female Borstal side of the former, sadly didn’t get on with Albert Materia on the latter.  However the sides by NIHL and Dear Beloved Henry were bloody marvellous and, if they’d appeared on the same object would have rocketed up these rankings.  So I’m imagining an ideal world in which they did.  NIHL got a haiku:

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.

Praise for Dear Beloved Henry – equally heartfelt, less formatting:

…deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations.  However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance.  It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking.  Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended?  The result is magical either way.

9. Helicopter Quartet – Leading Edges

helicopter quartet - leading edges

 …the album expresses a profound vision with an austere but soulful beauty.  Imagine a slate-blue version of Ashtray Navigations psychedelics or a restrained take on the intensity of, say, Swans without the self-loathing bombast. The band may jokingly self-describe as ‘semi-melodic mournfulness’ but this is a deeply serious music with, I think, plenty to say about the difficult, forlorn, wonderful, awe-inspiring condition we find ourselves in.

…Helicopter Quartet are, to my tired ears, a near-perfect example of how musicianship can be harnessed in a noise context.  Chrissie and Mike balance their considerable skills with an understanding of how to use noise to pluck the soul of the listener and have it vibrate with a slightly discordant, emotionally complicated, seriously intended, profoundly satisfying resonance.

8. Sophie Cooper – Our Aquarius

sophie cooper - our aquarius

 

When I wrote in the RFM Christmas message to the nation…

To be transported by a work of art – to be lifted from yourself, your surroundings and placed elsewhere for the duration – is a profound experience and, as someone who has trouble with self-sabotaging mental illness, one that I greatly appreciate. Catch me right and the bus to work is swapped for a magic carpet skimming the treetops. Find me in a susceptible mood and waiting at a pedestrian crossing becomes standing at the bedside of an elderly relative, brimful with a mixture of love and trepidation. Listening to music pans the muddy water sloshing inside my head, nuggets of gold and squirming, glistening creatures are uncovered. It – thus: you – is a constant source of revelation, of insight and of inspiration.

…it was no coincidence that I had been listening to this album a lot.  My apologies to Sof for not getting around to reviewing it but, hey, Uncle Mark did over at Idwal Fishers.  The cad suggests that it is ‘by no means a flawless release’ but if he dare repeat that in my vicinity I shall strike his cheek with my glove.

7. Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol. 1

stuart chalmers - imaginary musiks vol 1

The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving but carefully placed ticks – a filter echo, a moment of dictaphonic skwee – bring you back to the surface by foregrounding its artificiality. It’s like a South Sea Islands version of Philip K. Dick’s Time out of Joint. Imagine walking on the golden beach, admiring the dancing palms, looking out over the glassy ocean to the setting sun only for it all to suddenly disappear and be replaced with a featureless white room and a scrap of paper at your feet with the words ‘tropical paradise’ typed on it. As with all the very best stuff: the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it.

6. The Skull Mask – Nocturno Mar / Sunburn

skull mask - nocturno marskull mask - sunburn

Another terrific year for the prolific Miguel Pérez, RFM’s Mexican cousin.  From the bloody-minded free noise of his improv duo ZN to the incense-and-bitumen ritual drone of The Will of Nin Girima (released on new label-to-watch Invisible City Records), I doubt a week has passed without me spending some time in his company.

My favourite of his projects is The Skull Mask and these two recordings were released either side of Miguel’s return to acoustic guitar.  The former is made of enveloping, tidal drones containing half-submerged reversed vocals.  It can prove oppressively menacing or hypnotically soothing depending on your mood as you encounter it.  Just like the night sea it is named for.  The latter is ravaged, desert psychedelia improvised with raw acoustic guitar.  There is no shade under which Miguel, or the listener, can hide – this is completely exposed music and is riveting.

5. Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg

yol - headless chicken

From the preamble to a review by Joe:

For the uninitiated Yol has carefully and modestly created his own footnote in the frantic world of kinetic poetry.  Imagine tiny fragile words battered with broken bottles.  Innocent syllables and posh sibilance swashes getting clotted and clumped together.  Those classy phonics all chopped up and smashed; ground out like spent fags and stuttered wetly in a barely controlled rage…

Musical accompaniment is of the most primitive and brutal kind.  Forget the chest-beating Harsh Noise dullards, this is frighteningly naked and exposed.  Short blasts of destruction come from broken machinery, sheared plastic shards, bits of old hoover and burnt cutlery.  A more dicky commentator would say recordings are made in carefully selected site specific locations.  The truth?  Yol’s breaking into empty factory units and shouting his rusty head off.

4. Spoils & Relics – Sins of OmissionEmbed and then Forget

spoils and relics - sins of omissionembedandthenforget

The closest the RFM staff come to ‘critical consensus’.  I can’t decide which of these releases I prefer so you are getting ’em both.  From my review of the former:

Their music denies narrative … The palette used is a largely abstract selection of found, domestic and field recordings as well as sound produced by the various electronic implements that make up their ‘kit’.  The source of any given element is usually (and presumably deliberately) unclear.  They are examining the innards of everything, poking around where noise happens and taking notes.  It is more akin to the meta-musical experiments of AMM and their progeny.

Don’t be scared off – this music is not dry and scratchy, it is layered with humour (ranging from the wry raised eyebrow to banana skin slapstick), tension and a whip-smart self-awareness that speaks of the telepathic relationship between the band members when performing.  A piece by Spoils & Relics is about sound in the same way a piece by Jackson Pollock is about paint.

From Joe’s review of the latter:

There is a constant flow of ideas all itchy with life; reminding me of a similar feeling – running your finger over a gravestone, nails gouging the names.  I’m caught up in a multi-sensory melting of meaning into a constant ‘now’ … Listeners who favour that hi-fidelity will be delighted.  Beards who dwell in the no-fi world of clanking tape jizz are going to be entranced.  Skronk fans will be be-calmed.  Zen droners will wake up refreshed and sharp.

3. Ap Martlet – Analog Computer

ap martlet - analog computer

The title is perfect – it calls to mind a room-sized, valve-run difference engine humming with contented menace.  These three tracks seem less compositions than iterations of an algorithm set in motion by a wonky punchcard being slotted into the machine upside-down.  ‘Comdyna’ and ‘Thurlby’ are both rhythmic in an abstract sense – the latter being a low impact step aerobics class for retired ABC Warriors, the former an exercise in patience and discipline as a series of low-slung tones are held until they start to feedback, then released, then repeated.  The final track, ‘Heathkit’, is a coruscating, brain-scouring, fuzz-drone.  It is the kind of sound that in a workshop you would wear ear protectors to dampen but here it is presented for our contemplation and admiration.

2. culver – plague hand

culver - plague hand tapes

[Editor’s note: a sudden attack of prudishness has stopped me from reproducing the covers of this release.  Scans can be found accompanying the original review.]

I need to account for Matching Head catalogue number 200: plague hand by culver, a twin tape set containing four side-long tracks totalling, you guessed it, 200 minutes.  Each of these four untitled pieces (the sides are labelled a,b,c, and d and that’s all you get) is a sombre Culvanian documentary: a long, wordless panoramic camera sweep taking in the scenery with an unblinking 360 degree turn.  Each is different from the last, all are wholly involving and will have the attentive listener crowing ‘aww… man, I was digging that!’ and reaching to flip or rewind as soon as the track ends.  I say ‘attentive listener’ but really there is no other kind because you have no choice in the matter.  This isn’t background music – allow yourself to get caught and your ego will be dissolved like a fly in a pitcher plant.  It is a masterwork and a fitting celebration of the numerically notable point it represents.

[Editor’s second note: Lee later told me that this is in fact all one track with various movements.  Just so as you know.]

…and the winner of the Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2014 is:

1. Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus

aqua dentata - cygnet procambarus

My review took the form of a science fiction (very) short story.  Eddie’s music does that kind of thing to your head.  Here it is:

In some future hospital you are recovering from a horrible accident. Within a giant glass vitrine, you are suspended in a thick, healing gel – an amniotic fluid rich in bioengineered enzymes and nanotech bots all busy patching you up. From the waist down you are enmeshed in metal, a scaffold of stainless steel pins keeping your shape whilst the work continues. The first twenty minutes of Eddie’s half hour describes your semi-conscious state of prelapsarian bliss, played out over dark undertones of bitter irony: every moment spent healing is, of course, a moment closer to confronting the terrible event that put you there.

During the final ten minutes the tank empties, bizarrely, from the bottom up. Pins are pushed from healing wounds and tinkle and clatter as they collect below you. Attending staff shuffle nervously but maintain a respectful distance and near silence. As the gel clears your head, your eyes slowly peel open, the corners of your mouth twitch. You look out through the glass at the fishbowled figures in the room. You weakly test the restraints you suddenly feel holding you in place, and with a sickening flash it all comes back and you rememb———

No-one in what this blog lovingly refers to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is producing work as consistently brilliant as Eddie Nuttall. The back catalogue of his project Aqua Dentata – growing with the alien beauty and frustrating slowness of a coral reef – contains not a wasted moment. His work – quiet, long-form dronetronics with metallic punctuation – is executed with the patience and discipline of a zen monk watching a spider construct a cobweb.  Best dressed man to feature on this blog too.

—ooOoo—

So, that is that.  Eddie’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for Aqua Dentata to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2015.  I’ll keep you posted on negotiations.

Oh, and should any of you be interested in how this blog does – y’know, number of hits and all that – I’ve made the annual report provided by WordPress public and you can see it here.

Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.  All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2015.

 

framing devices: packaged by michael clough, crow versus crow and every contact leaves a trace

March 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michael Clough – Untitled (CD-r, self-released, edition of 5)

Michael Clough – SKRBL (16 page, A6 booklet, self-published, edition of 10, all unique)

Michael Clough – miniMA (Tumblr account and A7 booklet, self-published) 

Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow – Excommunicado (3” CD-r and booklet, Crow Versus Crow, initial edition of 50, second run of 25) 

Dominic Lash / Will Montgomery – Real As Any Place You’ve Been / Thames Water Live (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Henry Collins – Music of Sound (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Ignacio Agrimbau – Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Seth Cooke – Four No-Input Field Recordings (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

clough - untitled cd-rminiMA inner pagesskrbl coverskrbl inner pagesexcommunicado booklet coverexcommunicado booklet inner pagesevery contact leaves a trace outersevery contact leaves a trace picsevery contact leaves a trace inners

Listen hard, dear readers, can you hear it?  A faint, beguiling, rhythmic patter.  It is the sound of the no-audience underground, in particular those that have submitted material for review, drumming their fingers on the collective kitchen table waiting as patiently as possible for comment on their endeavours.  I jest of course, I can’t imagine anyone really giving a monkey’s about delays and deadlines around here, but occasionally I do feel bad about the length of time it takes me to get around to everything.  In my defence I have been totally bewilderated by the demands of returning to work following a long period of illness.  Also, whilst unable to write much, I have instead made the fifty tapes of the oTo back catalogue available as a (massively successful, I’m happy to say) distraction.  Never mind that CD-r you sent me in January – look over there! – rare Phil Todd stuff!!

Anyway, the muse has poked her head around the door to see how I’m doing and is now helping me uncork the whimsy spout.  Inspired by Joe’s account of a tape that comes packaged in a gnome I have been thinking a bit about the stuff we wrap stuff in and am bundling together some exquisitely presented releases that have recently come my way.

Firstly three objects by the incomparable Michael Clough.  I know the guy is amused and flattered when I start bandying terms around like ‘aesthetic’ but, having been delighted by his work for fifteen years, I can think of few artists more consistent.  His achievements are all the more remarkable for being produced in tiny editions, or hidden on Soundcloud, created in moments snatched from family life.  His erudite and self-deprecating humour disguises a homespun but hardcore conceptual rigour and a Savile Row tailor’s eye for quality of finish.

Take SKRBL for example – sixteen pages of exactly that, photocopied, layered, recopied, stapled into a neat card cover.  The presentation gives these scribbles the air of architectural drawings by a madman, the blueprints of an impossible, nine-dimensional suspension bridge.  The enlargements provoke a ludicrous desire to attend to detail that just isn’t there.  Or is it?  How serious is this nonsense?

miniMA, a very neat A7 booklet with card cover containing 8 photographic plates, is the first physical manifestation of the Miniature Museum of Art, curated by M. Clough.  Presented as a tiny exhibition catalogue with knowing puns and allusions for artist names and picture titles, this is, of course, all his own work.  His Tumblr account contains many more fascinating examples of ‘found art’ framed by his discerning eye and documented with his camera phone.  I’d be happy transferring dozens of these pieces to RFM but they are best viewed in situ and the effect of scrolling through them is cumulative.  Makes me want to get recording purely so I can nab his best for album covers.

The third of these objects is a CD-r packaged in a card, handmade, fold-out sleeve held together by the type of paper sash patented by Andy Robinson for his much-missed label Striate Cortex.  No identifying information is included, no text of any kind, just photographs of light refracted through, I’m not sure, maybe some kind of corrugated plastic then cut into a waveform shape of the sort you might see via some sound-editing software.  It is a genius piece of design – an almost completely abstracted city scape portrayed as nothing but pulse and it fits the music perfectly.  The CD-r contains one untitled track lasting 33 minutes built entirely from layers of electronic throb.  It is as sinuous, mindless and viscerally sensual as an interspecies orgy on a cold, tiled floor following a mass breakout at the reptile house.  Indeed, in reviews I often use the term ‘meditative’ in the appreciative but not wholly accurate sense of ‘thought provoking’.  This piece is ‘meditative’ in the Buddhist sense of aiding in the dissolution of ego.  It is, to put it bluntly, fucking obliterating – marvellously so.

This stuff can be had direct from Clough himself.  Email him at mriclough@aol.com for availability and prices.

Next we have Excommunicado by Caught In The Wake Forever (an alias of Fraser McGowan) and Crow Versus Crow.  The package feels simple, coherent and appropriate but a list of its elements is overwhelming.  I’ll let Andy Crow explain:

‘Excommunicado’ comprises a 10.5 x 10.5 cm 16 page mini art book, containing black and white inkjet prints of Crow Versus Crow’s minimal ink and pencil drawings printed on matte white paper within a 170gsm recycled card cover; four instrumental tracks from Caught In The Wake Forever, on a white-faced 3″ CDr housed within an 8.5 x 8.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope; an insert sheet containing recording and production information; a 35 mm photographic negative; and a dried rose petal, all housed within a 12.5 x 12.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope, sealed with a full colour ‘Excommunicado’ sticker.

OK, perhaps that level of description is bordering on the fetishistic but you get the idea: this is a package.  In a letter to me Andy was coy about the informing idea behind the project as he wanted me to come to it fresh.  Unfortunately, however, he clearly forgot that I was on his mailing list and had received a plug for the first edition of this release in which he told the world that it deals with…

…loss.  Or, more specifically, it deals with the process of coming to terms with loss. I’m sure most people reading this will have got to a point in your life, post-trauma, where you’re confronted with the question, ‘What now?’. Sadness, bitterness, alienation, isolation, loss, nostalgia, hope, glimmers of happiness… all of these come together in a non-linear mess, as you attempt to ‘pull yourself together’, ‘get yourself back on track’ etc etc.

…which is a tough idea to jettison once you know it is there.  I like to think I would have guessed anyhow.  The project as a whole seems defined by absence: the blown pigment outlining a hand shape on a cave wall.  Fraser’s music is a delicately balanced mix of electronics – dragging a cumbersome weight from the past behind it, unsettled in its present, grasping for the future.  It’s like not quite remembering something.  Andy’s drawings are perfectly complementary.  Again, here is art reaching for something no longer there.  The booklet ‘reads’ like the marginalia surrounding an entirely redacted text.

The initial run of 50 copies for this release sold out in a day.  A second edition of 25 is planned.  Please visit the Crow Versus Crow blog for updates and/or to sign up for the newsletter.

Finally then, I am delighted to offer a warm RFM welcome to new label Every Contact Leaves a Trace.  My admiration for the luxuriantly bearded polymath Seth Cooke is well documented to the point of being borderline creepy.  Suffice to say the news that he was starting his own label was gladdening and that these objects were hotly anticipated.

I’d like to get the less positive stuff out of the way first: I’m afraid the split album shared by Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery was not for me, despite some very satisfying passages of subterranean electro-gurgle in ‘Thames Water Live’ by the latter.  Moving swiftly on…

Music of Sound by Henry Collins is an edit of family favourite film The Sound of Music removing all dialogue and music from the soundtrack.  We are left with half an hour (that much!) of footsteps, weather, birdsong, doors slamming, whistles and the like – a celebration of the work of the foley artist.  The worry with this kind of high concept stuff is that the cleverness will come at the expense of engagement, or to put it another way: that the technical accomplishment can be admired without being much, y’know, enjoyed.  However, no need to fret here because Henry has created a surprisingly powerful and emotionally resonant piece.  Subtracting the ‘content’ has also drained away the Technicolor of the original and we are left with a tense black-and-white atmosphere in which the dread of the approaching Nazis is fore-grounded.  If you’d told me it was a version of say, The Third Man, I’d have no trouble believing you.  Also, the insert picturing the alpine meadow from the film’s iconic poster image sans Julie Andrews is genius.

You might, given the amusing title, expect Seth’s own Four No-Input Field Recordings to be very, very quiet indeed.  Instead what we have is twenty minutes of electrostatic roar uplit with digi-squiggles.  I imagine Seth shrunk, with his boom mic and recording equipment, Fantastic Voyage style, and squirted into his kit in order to become the Chris Watson of the sub-atomic.  Listen as herds of crackling electrons stampede along the canyon floor of his mixer’s circuitry.  Marvel at the call-and-response of a quantum-level dawn chorus before us clumsy humans start collapsing the wave function all over the place with our observations.  Very sharp and very entertaining.

Lastly, we have the ominously titled Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust by Ignacio Agrimbau.  It has taken me a while to appreciate just how good this one is.  The first couple of listens left me skating on the meniscus feeling weightless and foiled by the music’s surface tension.  As with After the Rain, the terrific but musicologically intimidating band of which he is one third, I am largely ignorant of the instrumentation used or the traditions and influences from whence it sprung.  This is, apparently, broken music constructed with broken instruments but without Seth telling me this I’d be none the wiser.  Imagine Ignacio as an expert marine biologist explaining his novel theories about the life of a coral reef over video taken during  a scuba dive.  I’m the guy at the back not really taking it in because I’m distracted by the strobing colours and alien patterns.

So, with that in mind, here’s an attempt at a description.  A breathy, muted sound palette suggests the struggles of a pupa within its chrysalis – fluid life reforming into something new.  This is underscored with a near constant percussive urgency that occasionally topples over into a Dada, clattering slapstick – like hieroglyphs sprung to life and leaping from the tomb walls in order to hit each other over the head with grave goods.  Highly compelling stuff which rewards close attention.

The packaging for these four releases is as diverting as the contents.  Before getting to the CD-r the listener needs to remove a bulldog clip, put the embossed card outer sleeve to one side, unfold a paper inner sleeve and note the details handily contained on a separate insert.  Following their appearance on a blog hosted by The Wire magazine (pics above stolen from that source – I don’t like the publication but credit where it’s due: nice work) Seth offered the following explanation on the Bang the Bore Forum:

The idea is that the listener has to reassemble each release every time it’s played. There are lots of possible configurations, each outer cover is a square tile that can be positioned in any direction, or reversed. Each is embossed with a found object rather than embossing plate.

Which brings me neatly to the final point I’d like to make.  Seth also said this:

You can figure most of the ideas behind the packaging out for yourselves, but Ignacio’s might take a little explaining. Iggy’s Anatomy of the Self Volume II is about breakdown – of instruments, of working methods, of relationships, of family, of organisations, of society. He wanted an image of a broken machine, and I initially got hold of some cogs to emboss, but it felt far too mechanistic for the sound of the record. So I got the chance to collect up some 3d printer misprints… the hexagonal hive-style pattern is the exposed inner structure, made that way to save plastic. As it went through the embossing press the piece started deteriorating in fibrous strands or splintering altogether, and some of the relief was so deep that it ruptured the greyboard. So in essence, you’re looking at the product of one broken machine creating another broken machine, a product that’s breaking as it’s repeatedly run through another machine two hundred times, a process that’s also rupturing the medium itself.

…and Andy Crow said this:

‘Excommunicado’ is a collaborative project from Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow that brings together work in the respective medium of both artists revolving around each artist’s interpretation of a single conceptual theme. The works within were produced as a continuous dialogue over a number of months, with various stages of development and articulation being sent back and forth between the artists, until both felt that their contribution was complete.

…making explicit, as if it were needed, that there is another level on which all these objects need unpacking.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, the packaging also involves a metaphysical or conceptual element which acts as a further framing device for the content.  This can be more or less obvious or implicit, more or less important to the listener or viewer’s experience but it is there and it is there because these artists wanted it there.

I am, as ever, in awe of the graft, the seriousness of intent, the lightness of touch, the quality of finish, the expert use of meagre resources, the intellectual rigour and the coherent and fascinating aesthetics that our scene is capable of exhibiting.  You’d think I’d have lost the ability to be amazed, wouldn’t you?  Not a bit of it.

Michael Clough on Soundcloud

Michael Clough on Tumblr

(contact him via the email address in the article above)

Crow Versus Crow Blogspot

Crow Versus Crow Bandcamp

Seth Cooke

Every Contact Leaves A Trace

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