Tags: autumn appreciation society, dear beloved henry, debt of nature, grey park, hissing frames, hyster tapes, r.s.t, robert ridley-shackleton, techno, zoe polanski
Zoe Polanski – Inertia. Music from the Motion Picture (Hyster Tapes)
Various Artists- L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes)
Robert Ridley Shackelton – Atlas Banghouse (Cardboard Club)
Robert Ridley Shackelton – 0800 NEW CARD (Cardboard Club)
Zoe Polanski – Inertia. Music from the Motion Picture (Hyster Tapes) C40 one-sided & recycled tape
Real film vs fake soundtrack // fake film vs real soundtrack // real film vs real soundtrack // fake film vs fake soundtrack
I started to ponder this conundrum and then just gave up. This may or may not be a Zoe Polanski or a further pseudonym – Bela Tar – but what this is, 100% truthfully, is one damn fine tape of pushed-out synth/sampler swoop with the buttons taped down on the ‘ecstatic strings’ option.
Imagine taking one split micro-second of 10CC’s ‘I’m not in love’ and smearing that Brummy ‘ahhhhhhh’ all over 20 minutes of atmospheric and recycled tape. Imagine catching a drip of MBV’s sampler-drek ‘hhuuuhhuuu’ and coating your atmos with that saucy ferric message.
Like an endless happy yawn the constant dragging of the orchestra pit makes me sleepy and lightheaded…but for such a brief soundtrack, moods and motifs keep emerging so I’m also on caffeine-soaked red alert.
The two note breathy faux-voice crops up hystering across the mix like a sea cow or something in ‘Mother’s Theme’. A sepia-stained, 6th generation dub of (perhaps) a smoke-filled cinema organ adds rhythm to the beautiful yet creepy ‘TV Nightmare’.
Various Artists- L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes) C20 recycled tape
More ultra-lo-fi tape scrapings from the House of Hyster.
My copy is taped over a ‘Pallo Punainen’ release but sounds excellent and full and wobbly, especially as DEAR BELOVED HENRY hawk out a couple of wonderful untitled tracks that seem to bridge the gap between Gastr Del Sol’s sweetly-composed minimal whimsy and the raw burst of anger unleashed when you realise your car’s been nicked.
No clues as to what turns on DEBT OF NATURE – bird sounds and cicada-menace haunt their dismal keyboard slouch like teenagers forced to go to Sunday School. They may tit about in the kitchen but the leavings are pure Lambkin.
Irregular tappings and knocks play us out the first side with R.S.T. seemingly rattling some old rubber-junk while a tape of Max Roach gets more and more distorted in one ear.
Old school hock-rockers GREY PARK reveal a decayed piano tune that doesn’t even reach the 3 minute mark but for me could have continued all afternoon – abstract ivory plonk – what’s not to love?
Without a single Ray Davies riff the AUTUMN APPRECIATION SOCIETY sweep up a baffling collection of grim found sound and added scuzz-electronics. If this is an autumn scene in Finland then it seems to be heavily industrial Snow-Plows clunking apart to transform into gilded robots.
You looking for proper Northern European, DIY, no-audience, no-frills tape action reader? Be sure to check out the Hyster.
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Atlas Banghouse (Cardboard Club) C30 tape and digital album
It’s no wonder Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s recent move to the thrillingly vibrant city of Bristol has accelerated a change in his distinct ‘pocket-jazz’ sound. Bristol has long since produced hip outsiders and wierdos to bother the mainstream; now the N-AU get’s a new Bristol lickin’.
In recent conversation with the Cardboard Prince he spilled that Techno was a great and deep love and I’m delighted to report this banger is technological with a distinct hissy twist.
Thin claves and handclaps are a shifting matrix for some pretty heavy squelching and hollow plastic thumping. In particular ‘No Peaking’ moves jigsaw pieces of rhythm so they fit neat and tight – then wrench them apart so the percussive tabs and blanks get bent out of shape and deformed.
Side two opens with ‘Don’t Worry’ – a donk, most certainly, ‘on it’ bleating in the sort of time signature Sunny Murray would love as the pots get twisted, letting soft grease flood the headphones.
Fans of the RRS old-school sound need not worry as the subtle and strangely euphoric sounds of the inside of his tape recorder and stressed fruit punnets are writ large on ‘The Ohh Ahh and ‘Duplo goes Chatty Crazy.’
But it’s the closer ‘Birthday Card’ that melds the fine granular huss of classic RRS with the nu-skool beats in new and dangerously exciting ways.
“I think it’s about 140 BPM I think…if you were wondering.”
The Prince helpfully tells us as a feeble clip-clop-clip-clop makes this more paranoid-Fall-album-interlude than filthy-Detroit-floor-filler.
Crackle, crackle…scooouuurrrrrr….hummm (with added sniff).
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – 0800 NEW CARD (Cardboard Club) tape and digital album
Seven new tracks from the Cardboard Prince. In praise of the skeletal style a skeletal review.
- 0800 New Card – Brittle drum machines are back / Phat keytar is back / Sex Rap is back
- Eye Gonna B Rich – Sweet and low tech-experiment-no. The ‘whump’ gets progressively deep
- Oh Lord – Stream of consciousness, back-room clutter clearance – of the mind. “A microchip or some shit.”
- My Fashion – 45 seconds of jerry-rigged funk with popgun accents
- Call me up, Tell me how U feel – delay reaction techno with an ‘I like to party’ baseline
- Cuz I’m Cool – wrapping party wrench from a sleepy RRS. Dream-logic-plea for Power Rangers
- Waltz 2016 – Reluctant Jazzie B soundcheck.
Dig a fucking pony!
Tags: crow versus crow, hissing frames, joe murray, robert ridley-shackleton, sindre bjerga
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince (tape, Hissing Frames)
Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions (CD-r, Crow Versus Crow, edition of 50 or download)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince
The problem with creating your own universe is you need to have something to fill it with. If you are going to play God you’ve got to have God’s balls!
Luckily our Robert Ridley-Shackleton has the minerals to populate the great waste with planet-sized swirls of smart ideas and novel approaches.
On this new tape, The Cardboard Prince (referring to a cut-out Prince Rogers Nelson perhaps), RR-S travels nearer to Around the World in a Day than the The Black Album with a richly psychedelic mixture of slub-slub pop, troglodyte bass and camp hand-claps.
The distance covered by his almighty hand is vast. Of course RR-S represents with his trademark ‘pocket jazz’ on ‘Royal Goo’ – born of a canary-yellow cagoule if I’m not much mistaken. But damp-electronics grate against the ‘Nasty M.F.’ with a shopping list to add Technicolor tones to the grey pulp. And that dusting of frivolity, the gleeful rapping and broke vocals, add what my mate Tony used to refer to as ‘pop-sparkle’ to the proceedings.
Pop indeed sparkles on the ‘proper’ songs that see-saw all rinky-dink like roiling pepper or disappear down the corridors of a leisure centre into chlorine-scented silence. And just when you think this is a cynical push for acceptance in the straight world RR-S heaves in a true conceptual piece, a screwed-up paper jam that parties in the palm; A4 warped and folded until it squeals. Or check out ’18 and over’ a true unconscious blather, a between-the-thoughts ramble that shines a light on the day-glo soul. Hidden like a B-side gem it makes the songs shine all the brighter.
Hey. If RR-S gave me an apple, I’d take a bite. What about you?
ADDITIONAL FEATURES: This set of songs comes on a recycled tape. My host tape was originally bible stories for children, dreadfully overacted with some sick new age synth work. Damn lemony. [Editor’s note: on my copy Shack’s recording cuts out just as someone on the bible tape says: “…and he is inside you.” Well creepy, or well Prince-like, or both.]
Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions
I open the envelope carefully and pull out the oversize sleeve. Doubly-exposed roses on the outer sleeve, and busy hydrangea on the inner, hint at the richness of urban decay and natural beauty. Imagine sunny-yellow weeds pushing up through the cracked paving stones. And, like rhododendrons growing unashamed on a roundabout, the beauty lies in secret just waiting to snag your piggy eyes.
Sonically this disc presents two live sets from the hardest working man in the NA-U, Sindre Bjerga, and recorded live in South Korea if you please. Blimey, there must be something in the water as he’s firing off sweet shots like a blunderbuss all over this marvellous looking disc.
A meditative Bjerga approaches the first set like a salmon monk, scales of pink a’glimmer. He carefully fades up dark purple washes of swoon (MBV through a kinked hose) and overlays fruity Dictaphone scree. The scene is well and truly set.
Dove-grey drone is carefully blended into the canvas until a rude microphone ‘bristly fumble’ changes pace to prep the surface for slowed-speech-mung. Tim Rice gets few props on these pages but his inexplicably popular dirge ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ gets a going over, Sindre style, until the ghostly beat, a cold-lamping knock leads the amplified ‘tank’ game for the Atari (circa 1986) to a false end. The real end? It’s a very fucking jaxxed-up tape warble…wonderfully noshed.
The second set presents us with a blockier sound but it’s ever so wet and choppy. Hey man – the first minutes are worthy of the great Henri Chopin with that contact-mic-lodged-down-his-French gullet sound. Bliss in a pillow case.
After this organic shredding things get really violent with the sort of anti-social ripping back and forth you’d expect from a teenage DJ’s bedroom – heavy on the crab cakes. Flash Gordon’s rocket ship buzzes like New Year fireworks spitting green sparks onto your New Monkey tapes while you spank the thigh of the tin man (all hollow echo coz of lack of a heart I guess). Wire-wool scrapes things clean, the fibrous tendons reaching deep into muscle tissue.
As the music snips off you’re left clamping that glossy sleeve with sweaty fingers, jaw gently chewing and eyes wide.
Tags: bob tale, cardboard club, duplo chat, faniel dord, hissing frames, improv, joe murray, lathe cut, luke vollar, mutant pop, new music, no audience underground, noise, outsider art, picking speeds, picking speeds g.o.l., robert ridley-shackleton, smithers, tapes
Picking Speeds G.O.L – Shirty Shorts (tape, Cardboard Club, CC01, edition of 10)
Duplo Chat – Just Chattin’ (tape, Cardboard Club, CC02, edition of 7)
Bob Tale – Toxic Shock Demo (tape, Cardboard Club, CC03, edition of 5)
Smithers – Is Ure Carpet Right? (tape, Cardboard Club, CC04, edition of 12)
Picking Speeds – Afternoon Vans (7” lathe cut vinyl, Cardboard Club, CC05, edition of 10)
faniel dord / Picking Speeds G.O.L – Who can I help? / Back is Block? (tape, self-released)
[Editor’s note: a parcel from blog fave outsider artist Robert Ridley-Shackleton is always a treat. Tipping its contents onto the kitchen table affords a view into another world, existing orthogonal to our own, in which Robbie has become a giant star by mimicking, satirizing, collaging or obliterating the cultural detritus he finds slung out by, well, everyone else. He is a noise-womble. Shortly before Christmas he decided his label Hissing Frames was no longer a large enough pouch to hold his prodigious output and the sub-label Cardboard Club was born. Being a generous guy, he sent copies of the half-dozen initial releases to me, Joe and Luke (this was just before the new era of gender equality at RFM) and so we decided to write a joint review in which we’d each begin at a corner and chew our way in until we met in a perverse Lady-and-the-Tramp-eating-bolognese-style three way. Here goes. Joe first:] Picking Speeds G.O.L – Shirty Shorts This slinky tape is a single-sided wormhole, a backwards trip through the looking glass.
…he says. And as a veteran loop/noise/collage/mungtape operator, who are we to argue with Mr Picking Speed G.O.L.? As a whole this tape serves as a map of several territories. Across 45 minutes or so we visit a number of kingdoms and principalities. As you’d expect it’s a Babel of languages and customs, but the seasoned underground traveller is quick to pick up the meaning behind the semi-industrial clatter and howl. As tasty as a bowl of salty olives we find ourselves listening to a squid inexpertly fitting the lid on a Tupperware box, the sinister whisper of a faraway ghost, spoken word fribulation and the all-to-human cut/jaxx organ hiss-pokery that makes the heart sing. But of course these groovy individual parts build up into a more complete picture. The very fractured nature of the edit leaves clues regardless – a lo-fi gentleness, a light touch with the FX, a funny-bone caress [exhibit A: a jalopy take on the lone toker’s ‘Wake me up before you Go-Go!’]. The last 10 minutes or are a gentle comedown with the warm, soft rattling of one of my favourite Dictaphone techniques – smooth pocket jazz. Being a trainspotter type I like to have a flutter on the hardware involved. My guess? It’s the Olympus PearlCorder S701 in the left hand pocket of a Navy blue Duffle Coat. As Picking Speeds G.O.L goes about his daily business play and record are surreptitiously engaged allowing said Dictaphone to pick up all the tweedy scratching but nothing more. It’s a sonic buffering of which I never tire. Now me:
Duplo Chat – Just Chattin’
Bob Tale – Toxic Shock Demo
Smithers – Is Ure Carpet Right?
faniel dord / Picking Speeds G.O.L – Who can I help? / Back is Block?
[Editor’s note: as my much loved/horribly abused walkman is finally broken beyond repair, my ability to listen to tapes is currently very limited. In order to get through the above I had to listen to them in a row one afternoon whilst off work with a heavy cold. I think this was a pretty good way of experiencing them but, on re-reading, my notes are brief and don’t make much sense. Mea culpa.]
So, both Luke and I got copies of Just Chattin’ and both of us were left scratching our heads. It appears to be a full tape of what Luke described as ‘quiet HNW’ – like a tabletop of clockwork noise makers, overwound and recorded with the levels in the red and then mastered so as not to wake the neighbours. Towards the very end I think I started to understand the itchy scrabbling of it all but this one wasn’t for me.
Toxic Shock Demo by Bob Tale is a short performance by Robbie’s lip-curling, Elvis-channelling, bequiffed, Alan Vega impersonator. His breathy squawks slide over a trilling, pitter-patter (more treble than) bass line. I’d be disappointed if he didn’t record this wearing a leather cat suit. Duped onto tapes recycled from The Children’s Talking Bible which means that as Robbie cut out a mellifluous voice said
…who should he see walking towards him but Elijah!
…which in my fragile state made me laugh pretty hard. Then cough.
Is Ure Carpet Right? by Smithers (‘Jon & Rob’) begins with some brute radiophonics – all wabwabs and squiggly pot-flipping with poorly earthed pylon fuzz and 8-bit cheat mode flicker – then a storm of harsh noise gathers over which protestations are groaned. In amongst the gurgle loops I think I heard:
In your dreams!
We’re not dead, we just look it!
…but who knows? Outdated methods of communication – Morse code, fax machines – struggle to be understood over noise whipping like tent fabric in a blizzard. And then it’s done. More Children’s bible:
…before the cock crows, Peter…
Lastly from me: the split tape Who can I help? / Back is Block? by faniel dord (which I’ll go out on a limb and suggest is a pseudonym of Daniel Ford) and Picking Speeds G.O.L (no, I don’t know what the acronym stands for either).
The faniel dord side is something completely unexpected: actual, y’know, music played on actual, y’know, instruments. Over the course of five songs guitar and ukulele are picked and twanged with aplomb, lyrics are sung in a clear and decipherable manner and a dog joins in for added down home, back porch authenticity. It is funny and charming and an absolute pleasure.
…which is also how the Picking Speeds G.O.L. side could be described, though for very different reasons. Reminding me of 2013’s Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt, this is a similar stream of consciousness recording seemingly allowing unmediated access to core Robbieness. Is this what it’s like being him? Could be. We hear pocket scrabbling dictaphonics, details of surreal errands (returning socks to the butcher), bursts of mutant electro pop and in-character-with-husky-voice musings on traditional Christmas decorations (from which this article takes its title). Whilst acknowledging that to some this must sound like inane self-indulgence, I can’t get enough. If there was such a thing as Robbiecam I’d have it on constantly in a little box at the top right hand corner of my laptop screen. What is he playing at?
…and finally Luke on:
Picking Speeds – Afternoon Vans
I will get right to the grit of it and declare that this is a straight up shazzy slice of drizzly English weirdness: we get the junk foraging, we get the two note laments on knackered keyboards, we get looped synth squelch with sleazy crooning and we get untamed scree blurts all slapped across the platter with much gusto and flared nostril.
I can almost picture Robert finding a £5 keyboard in his local charity shop, selecting the preset ‘sex grind’ and frightening the old dears with pelvic thrusts before getting booted out for making cyber growls and dog bothering feedback. I guess this mental image is fed by the knowledge that the guy can carry off a purple leather jacket – not something you can say for most people. [Editor’s note: heh, heh – bang on. This criminally limited lathe cut is boss cracked and a high point on which to end our tour of Shack’s Cardboard Club.]
Tags: dictaphonics, hissing frames, joe murray, luke vollar, new music, no audience underground, noise, posset, richard ramirez, robert ridley-shackleton, she walks crooked, vomir, werewolf jerusalem
Posset / Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Untitled Split (CD-r, Hissing Frames, edition of 12)
Werewolf Jerusalem / Robert Ridley-Shackleton / She Walks Crooked – April Fools (CD-r, Hissing Frames, edition of 22)
‘Robert Ridley-Shackleton’ – a name for the stage if ever I heard one. It conjures up images of a dandy striding purposefully about town: a bounder, a cad, maybe even a rogue! A quick search on that internet reveals him to be nothing of the sort; rather a hirsute, occasionally shirtless, fella with a red bass guitar. I have been curious about his work for a while mostly due to coverage on this very blog. I had read about the large and expanding back catalogue of insanely limited discs and tapes on his Hissing Frames label, his wild veering between micro genres and even genres that he’s stumbled upon by himself (‘no audience funk’ anyone?) but I had not stuck any Robert in my ear until a little box arrived recently containing, amongst other delights, a split between Robert and RFM’s very own posset a.k.a Joe Murray.
So: posset first. A small wobbly tape hum gives way to full on mouth gubber and it seems that for this session Joe has given his dictathumb the night off. Instead, on tracks one and two Joe sounds like he’s using the dictaphone to brush his teeth, doing a reverse baboon impression and flapping his wet cheeks into a demented frenzy like Dylan Nyoukis singing Van Halen after a bottle of Buckfast. On track three he goes for ‘Tibetan gong ritual on pan lids’, the singing metal feeding back nicely into the portable recording device while background life occurs. I really like Joe’s music: it’s fun, inventive and unpredictable. This is another beauty for my collection.
The ‘what is happening?’ vibe continues with Robert’s tracks, his studied junk rattling most immediately reminiscent of those usurper lads but with some disobedient electronics included. A deeply curious and weird atmosphere pervades these recordings. I found my brow furrowed in deep concentration trying to figure out what the heck it is that he is up to. It sounds very serious, whether he’s wrapping his kitchen in cellophane, constructing a testicle scratching device from forks, teaspoons and elastic bands or plugging an old radio into his microwave while sawing the ironing board in half. And roller skating on gravel.
Suitably impressed I dropped Robert a line wanting more Shackleton in my life. Along with the Melting All My Years In2 Tears tape reviewed earlier in these pages [Editor’s note: terrific self-selected ‘best of…’ and great place to start with RRS] I obtained the split disc with Werewolf Jerusalem and She Walks Crooked. An aside on Harsh Noise Wall…
[Editor’s note: imagine screen wobbles and fades to Luke recollecting…]
…a few years ago when I found myself in a small cold church in Skipton with a black bag over my head having a bit of an epiphany as the coruscating blast from French man VOMIR filled my head. There was no change, no development just a a dense static roar. It was loud, inhuman, weirdly beautiful and intensely psychedelic. Afterwards I felt cleansed – as if my brain had been rebooted – noise was exciting again. It seemed to me like a logical progression from the anti-everything rhetoric of The New Blockaders; a stubborn and unrelenting two fingers up to everyone and everything. Also a motionless man with a black bag on his head stood in front of his noise box but never touching it is pretty chuffing hilarious if you ask me. Thus started my vomir obsession, I amassed a ton of recordings all of which sounded the same but different and enthused about his noise to anyone ‘prepared to listen’ (meaning smile politely whilst edging towards the nearest exit)…
[Editor’s note: *clicks fingers* aaaand… back in the room]
…here I am welcoming another HNW disc into my life. To start we have Werewolf Jerusalem whom I hold in as much awe as vomir. Records like Black Chapel and the box set- Confessions of a Sex Maniac are stone cold classics. Richard Ramirez has been bringing the noise for donkeys years now in the equally brilliant Black Leather Jesus and a slew of other projects. On the first track he gives us around nine minutes of popping crackling noise as crisp and clean as a mountain stream. To crank it up is to discover an alien sound world teeming with a wealth of detail. His mastery of his gear ( antique sports radio and a few pedals) is evident as subtle touches guide the tracks progression.
Next up is Robert who gives us a fine chunk of high end scree overlaying a bass whubbawhubba. Some of these HNW types prefer to sit back and let the kit do the talking but Robert reaches for his gear throughout the track giving it a nice tactile quality, as if the noise is a wild stallion that he is trying to control.
We end with the curiously monikered She Walks Crooked who unleashes (sorry boss [Editor’s note: s’ok]) a blackened torrent of dense noise overload, strongly reminiscent of vomir but with its own personality and just really really good.
I’ve had some shitty times at work recently and this little disc has done wonders on the drive home in helping me forget my worries and embrace the abyss. In conclusion, I hope that Robert Ridley-Shackleton will continue on his strange journey and continue to share it with the world. I will certainly be paying attention from now on.
Tags: ghetto naturalist series, hissing frames, improv, joe murray, new music, no audience underground, noise, pipe noise, robert ridley-shackleton, tapes, velfaerd
Velfaerd / Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Wind Damage (3″ CD-r, Hissing Frames, edition of 12)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Dinky Donuts (C15 tape, Hissing Frames, edition of 5)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Untitled (C32 tape, Ghetto Naturalist Series, GNS-050, edition of 50)
I hereby christen Velfaerd with the sub-sub-sub genre taxonomy ‘Pipe noise’. Why? Imagine a copper pipe a couple of meters long but only 5mm wide. Blow energetically and continuously down this pipe into a grasshopper’s ear. The resulting ‘whiiiiisssshshhhhhh’ is exactly what Velfaerd is playing with here; except this gentle roar is buffeted about in a tropical storm, clanging wet sparks.
Robert Ridley-Shackleton takes glitch-core to its logical extreme with a popping candy/mic rubbing/slo-mo bubble-wrap rip stretching out into all the right places. Like water it moves to fill any crevice, finding a level and sitting there – furiously bubbling and crackling. The occasional squelch adds some depth to the sound, pitching it exactly like Swarfega sluicing through broken knuckle joints.
Collectively these pieces are the very essence of Wind Damage. Apt title chaps!
This lovely looking petite disc (wrapped in Robert Ridley-Shackelton’s trademark colourful junk-collage) is a peach and limited to twelve, I repeat, twelve copies. Move swiftly my friends!
The tape Dinky Donuts is a rarer beast still. My copy is one from an edition of five and comes in a clear plastic bag with mini-masking tape sculpture and handwritten sleeve notes. Side one reveals a more acoustic route being taken with crypto-violin paired with what sounds like a Scalextric (1950’s touring cars edition) over a slippery goose-honk loop.
Side two crackles with the kind of recorder grot that accumulates on rubber spools: part melted plastic, part household dust, part septic earwax. The bimble of scruffy forward motion keeps things lively; a badly tuned radio chatters away to no one. But what really makes me sit up and listen is what I think is the sound of the tape recorder mechanism itself being roughly fingered – moving from a whirring roar to a limp and fractured click clack. An intriguing collage that’s messing with the tired tradition of anticipated crescendo.
Robert’s untitled tape on the very exciting looking Ghetto Naturalist Series is a different kinda animal again. A kissin’ cousin to the noise genre, side one sounds like rusty road-mending equipment being kick-started ready for a heavy day of backbreaking toil.
But at the same time it manages to sound a little…well, funky. I read something once by the Average White Band (no I have no idea who they are either) who said that funk was all about space; the gaps you leave, the essence of absence* and this tape takes its space placement very carefully. The lava-lamp electronic bubbling is not at all tie-dyed but more Dr Zarkov as rocket ships plunge towards Arboria. A howling Public Address system mimics the wired-dislocation I’ve experienced through exploratory Tia Maria binges. In short this is quite the trip.
I’m imagining that side two is the kind of thing Eno used to dream about. Magnesium sparks showering over bare shoulders; leaving the velvety dark of the nightclub and emerging into the harsh purple dawn. It’s kind of like Glam on a downer with some vicious guitar power-chords thrummed with the stately majesty of a baronet. The reverb becomes a coy tease.
Abstract keyboard melodies are played with elbows and feet building up the feeling of a jam occurring while the background ‘scoooouuuuurrrr’ rambles on, mumbled voice grumbling, bass heading out to Orion on its single-minded pulse.
PROOF READER’S NOTE: Just noticed some very odd product placement in this review. Keep your letter box monitored for leaking packages Ed! (Editor’s note: Ugh, not again. Can’t you mention something nice like jaffa cakes?)
*Mrs Posset to thank for that particular couplet.
Tags: ambient music, beartown records, collage, electronica, hissing frames, improv, new music, no audience underground, noise, open sound group, outsider art, robert ridley-shackleton, rubbish fighting, stuart chalmers, visual art, zines
Stuart Chalmers – Dreaming Butterfly (download, Open Sound Group)
Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol 1 (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 45 or CD, edition of 50, self-released)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Melting All My Years In2 tears (C46 tape, hissing frames, edition of 100)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Rebirth (A5 zine, 18 pages, edition of 100)
On the walk home from work on Friday evening I got into an altercation with the driver of a car who had nearly run me over. I was in the right, of course, and this bloke was an odious knobber. There was plenty of shouting and swearing (mainly on my part) as my foe chose to goad me from the safety of his vehicle. He ignored my repeated requests to step out so the argument could be settled in a physical manner. It ended with me delivering this devastating put down:
You’re like something out of a sit-com, mate, you’re embarrassing. Why don’t you go fuck yourself, you dumb fucking cunt?
…worthy of Oscar Wilde, I’m sure you’ll agree, and him chucking water from an Evian bottle over me before putting his foot down and speeding away. What a shining example of manliness at its most impressive, eh? It’s like Froch versus Groves or something.
I spent the weekend mulling it over. The question wasn’t why it happened – I am mentally ill, highly strung, and haven’t slept properly in a fortnight: go figure. The big question is why did I enjoy the experience so much? Sure, I had that tight, sick, post-confrontation feeling afterwards for a short while but not much remorse. Perhaps doing something so undeniably stupid was an enormous, cathartic release of pressure because usually I am such an upstanding, responsible citizen. Hmmm… evidence of mid-life crisis? Better speak to my counsellor. Or buy a motorbike.
(Aside: I did write up the whole incident with a view to using it as a preamble but thought better of it. Any fans of two-fisted action out there for whom the edited version above is not enough can email me for the unexpurgated story.)
Anyway, as I always do when in need of succour or a contemplative aid, I asked music a few questions and listened carefully to what it had to say. It turns out that my calm, rational side had been sitting in the backyard eating an ice-cream and listening to the albums above. The steaming, bellicose me joined him, cooled off, and soon started nodding in appreciation. These guys are boss.
Each release I’ve heard by Stuart has been better than the last. Interestingly, however, I’ve heard his work well out of chronological sequence. Thus, barring the unlikely possibility that I just lucked out and accidentally heard these recordings in order of quality, my reaction does not run parallel to an artistic progression on his part. Rather, I think, I’ve come to appreciate his music more as I’ve become more familiar with the world it describes, with the vision that produced it. The same happened with Robert – I picked through a vast collection of his releases more or less at random and my enjoyment increased exponentially as I used them to map out the bizarre contours of Shackleton Island.
My reaction to Daydream Empire, a CD-r on LF Records and the first of Stuart’s albums I heard, was puzzling but, in the light of the above, now explainable. I didn’t like it. Weirdly though, especially as I’m a stubborn ol’ bastard utterly confident in the infallibility of my own taste, it felt like it was my fault that I didn’t like it, that I was mistaken. I could hear the quality – the time, effort and care that had been used in its construction – but I didn’t get it. I ended up in the nonsensical situation of apologising to Stuart for this lapse. I don’t do that very often.
Dreaming Butterfly is from the archives, imaginary musicks vol 1 is new, both are beautiful. Stuart’s trade is in collage, mainly warm and fluid but with mysterious currents running under the rippling surface. Any readers as old and snaggletoothed as me will remember the electronica boom of the early 1990s and once or twice I was reminded of experiments in sample-based ambient music from that time. However, close attention reveals that Stuart’s work is not so easily slotted into pre-existing categories.
The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving (relaxing into it I felt a thousand miles away from my road rage incident) 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. One or both of these releases will make the end-of-year awards shortlist, f’sure.
I note in passing that Stuart shows an admirable faith is his own work. Rightly proud of imaginary musicks vol 1 he had it mastered by Denis Blackham, who has previously worked with Touch and Nurse With Wound, at Skye Mastering. Fancy, eh?
Regular readers may recall the hefty overview I wrote of Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s back catalogue last year. A super-sized parcel from the guy was emptied onto the kitchen table here at Midwich Mansions and I picked through the contents, fascinated. All together it formed a psychological jigsaw depicting a map of his mental landscape.
The interior of Shackletonia is as exaggerated and brightly coloured as the Arizona-ish rockscapes of a Road Runner cartoon. Coastal areas are more rugged and brooding as beaches of jet black sand fall away into an ice blue sea under sky the colour of spoiled milk. In-between the two you will find strange crystalline formations of uncertain origin and giant sculptures made of compacted landfill – think Wall-E does Easter Island. Offshore, an intrepid scuba diver can visit a submerged cathedral choked with seaweed, where ghosts of drowned sailors perform rites worshipping the Deep Ones. On the surface, the radio of the support ship picks up decades old news reports informing the world of tragic maritime disasters.
To be more specific: Robert’s music contains elements of snarling garage punk, of rinky-dink Suicide throb, of harsh noise wall, of clattering kitchen sink improv, of unfathomable oddness. It is all recorded rough and tinny – as if bellowed down a cardboard cone and etched to wax cylinder with a knitting needle. Best to readjust your acceptable sonic range a full knob twist into the treble.
So, the purpose of this particular tape is to be an answer to the age old question: ‘where do I start?’ Our man has woven together a seamlessly coherent and highly enjoyable best-of compilation from numerous previous releases. It is presented both as a culmination and an introduction and I think it is fucking great.
A few words about the zine/pamphlet, Rebirth, that Robert kindly sent accompanying this tape. I like Robert’s graphic work as much as his music. I think I have mentioned the possible influence of Art Informel before and these photocopies of mixed media pieces call to mind a Catalan womble living in the sewers beneath the Fundació Tàpies in Barcelona. In his lair he creates art from the detritus left by tourists whilst chewing up a copy of the massive Tàpies catalogue raisonné, stolen from the gift shop, to fashion a nest of glossy spitballs.
The one-stop shop for all things Robert Ridley-Shackleton is Hissing Frames, his blog/label/publishing empire. Dreaming Butterfly can be downloaded for free from Open Sound Group here or found on Stuart’s Bandcamp site here. imaginary musicks vol 1 is available as a tape from Beartown Records or as a self-released CD via the Bandcamp site where much of his previous catalogue is also to be found. The picture above (second one down) is the Bandcamp illustration and is neither the CD nor tape cover.
i will have influences on your brains: a year in the work of robert ridley-shackleton’s hissing framesAugust 5, 2013 at 11:14 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: hissing frames, improv, lee riley, new music, no audience underground, noise, non ferric memories, robert ridley-shackleton, tapes, visual art, zines
Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt (3” CD-r, March 2013)
The Sad Lake Land (3″ CD-r, June 2013)
Stud (CD-r, June 2013)
The Good Castle (3″ CD-r, July 2012)
Melting all My Videos into Toxic Waste (C15 tape, June 2013)
The Peaking Hills (C15 tape, May 2013)
Judy Garland (C15 tape)
Mr. Demo (C15 tape)
Sex U Up (C30 tape, May 2012)
Positivity (C15 tape, July 2012)
Light years of Sodom, God and Splat (C20, May 2012)
Split w/Non Ferric Memories – Horefans (CD-r, October 2012)
Split w/Lee Riley – Split (CD-r, March 2013)
Split w/Kommissar Hjuler Und Frau – Big Sass (C58 split tape, September 2012)
Holes (A5, 2012)
Space Between the Slits (A5, 2013)
The First Man (A5, April 2013)
No More Twilight (A5, June 2013)
Fingers On His Hands (A5)
Two further untitled booklets (A5)
A Quest for Rest (folded A4 sheet)
Large printed postcard (A5)
Dad’s Diary No. 1 (A6 comic)
Robert Palmers Beautiful But Sometimes Cocky Plug Socket (A6 Comic)
3 x A7 photo-collage booklets
There are three questions I routinely ask the moment I step through the cabin door and set down my axe after a hard day’s work: “how is he?”, meaning my baby son Thomas, “how are you?”, meaning my beautiful wife Anne, and finally: “any post?”
My love of the post is unconditional: opening regular correspondence or a fulfilled order is a fundamental pleasure. However, the finest post-related experience is a little more mysterious, rare and sophisticated. Once in a while I tip the contents of a package onto the kitchen table and am stunned into a moment’s silence as I examine each artefact in turn, gradually realising that what I have received is documentary evidence of an another world. It happened with those first parcels from Gary of Hiroshima Yeah! and Dr. Steg of Spon, for example. It happened recently with Sandy Milroy’s Shareholder tapes and it happened – in spades – when Robert Ridley-Shackleton sent me the gubbins above. “The bulging jiffy bag as portal to an alternate universe” – discuss.
The story so far is a simple one: having heard a couple of things by him, I found myself intrigued by all his other lo-fi, scratchy looking releases and publications. I dropped him a line and offered to paypal a token amount of dough his way in return for a representative sample of his work. He responded enthusiastically – perhaps sensing that a positive write-up on RFM is a winning short-cut to fame and riches – and spent nearly every penny I sent him on extravagant recorded delivery postage for a ludicrously generous parcel. The contents are listed (and partially pictured) above. All these items were created within the last year and pushed out in tiny editions via his blog/label/publishing house Hissing Frames. ‘Prolific’ hardly seems to cover it.
So what have we got? More than two dozen objects mapping the contours of a ramshackle(ton) realm. They range in content from the daft, full of improvised whimsy and dada silliness, to the deadly serious, which are as accomplished as anything you might read about here. All are clearly regions of the same land, ruled over by a Lear grown indistinguishable from his fool. Regarding the music, two reference points that might be of use are (early) Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide: trebly electronic organ, pitter-patter percussion, breathy and/or distorted vocals. Thus industro-futurism but filtered through a grumpy bedsit fug. Another may be the lo-fi tape scene of the late 1990s – Rob Galpin’s sunny days out label, DDDD zine and all that – for the kitchen sink clatter and dictaphonic recording quality. The vibe is replicated exactly in the graphic work which runs from dense, brooding photo-collage through to scrawled nonsense and playground jokes.
Let’s start with the stuff on paper, which I am going to deal with en masse. We are presented with a collection of self-produced booklets containing photocopied reproductions of artwork in various media, collages and neatly typed, crudely illustrated stream-of-consciousness writing.
The art includes some exciting, palette scraping action painting and some bold, immediate, head-bypassing, two-fisted mark making. Should you wish to get all art-historical about it then I could mention the inexplicably praised scribbles of Cy Twombly, the far more impressive grim abstractions of Antoni Tàpies and, obviously, the Art Brut of Jean Dubuffet. The less charitable might dismiss the lot as the efforts of a 12 year old with ADHD who, having flicked through a couple of books, can’t believe how easy this ‘modernism’ lark is. Not me though, this stuff puts me in a good mood – I think there are some quality images to be found within.
The collages come in two main varieties: junk and photo. The former is constructed from scraps of envelopes, masking tape, receipts and other rubbish. Kurt Schwitters via the daycare centre. The latter are dense with images, generally dark, with plenty of forced connections to consider and layers to chisel apart.
The doodles are not the type of outsider art championed by Raw Vision. This is more like the marginalia purposefully scribbled by that scraggy looking bloke who rides the #2 bus, muttering to himself whilst circling letters in his tatty wordsearch puzzle magazine, picking out phrases in his own private language. They feel like psychic circuit diagrams. A recurring claw/fork/connector motif suggests relations between the elements but nothing actually touches, no socket is plugged. A scattershot, disjointed world is partially mapped – grandiose notions of alternative universes graze banal everyday reality. Oddly compelling. If you are wondering where to start then Holes, the first of those listed, is nicely representative. Or do what I did: offer money and say “surprise me.”
OK, now some audio. I’m not going to go into immense detail about fourteen different releases – for the sake of everyone’s sanity – so here are some comments about a sample drawn more or less at random after having heard the whole shebang.
Melting all My Videos into Toxic Waste begins with a slow chugging that becomes a gooey mess of noise and smeared vocals, spread to and fro like tile adhesive being applied with one of those wide-toothed plastic comb things. Side two is made of a simple sky-scraping organ riff, a brutalist one-two rhythm and indecipherably echoed lyrics. It has a terrific, corroded garage punk vibe. Each side ends with a burst of ‘real’ music – something classical badly received over the radio, something poppy played backwards.
The Sad Lake Land feels like an audio document of a maritime disaster: distress signals, funnels being dragged underwater, somehow broadcast over its own memorial service and picked up by a crystal set radio on the other side of the world. Bursts of solemn music struggle to be free of the swaddling static. The Peaking Hills is a personal favourite. An agreeably bristling throb is immersed in an expansive guitar crescendo, the spirit of Elvis then yodels incomprehensibly as the cloud on which he is sat adds electrical discharges to the howl.
Stud and Sex U Up find Robbie in an amorous mood and at his most Suicideish. He groans, pleads and exhorts over rinkydink rhythms and cheap, blue, burbling synth riffs. Urgent, dank, entertainingly creepy. Positivity is all harsh, gargling electrics and detuned radio garble. A stringed instrument is tortured and its worthless confession is celebrated inappropriately with a burst of beatboxing.
Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt seems to be a key release, straddling as it does the daft ones and the noisy ones. In-between bursts of engaging scratchiness Robert moans about his kit not behaving, being bored and the closure of the post office in Witney (his home town) meaning there will be nothing left to do there (the mind boggles). Now, I appreciate that some of you reading this would rather chew through your own tongue than listen to something like this but the fact that others might find it annoying just drew me closer to it. I listened rapt and gawping, wallowing in the delicious thought: “what the fuck is he playing at?”
I have to mention the anti-packaging. This release is the last of those pictured above – a 3″ CD-r in a plastic wallet adorned with masking tape, torn fragments of envelope and handwritten scrawl. However, on the Hissing Frames blog we see a different but similarly clothed copy and are told this was released in an edition of twelve. Thus what initially looks like thrown together detritus salvaged from the bin turns out to be a repeated ‘design’ of sorts with consciously chosen elements. What is going on here? Outsider art? A Dubuffet-style appropriation of outsider art by a ‘real’ artist? A cheeky dismissal of the pomposity of ‘limited edition packaging’? Lazy fraud by a charlatan? Junkyard genius? I dunno, though as you can probably tell by now, I’m veering towards the latter.
A word too about the well chosen collaborations. All are interesting and act in pleasing counterpoint to the accompanying shackleness. Lee Riley’s patient, brooding, low end electronics are a perfect foil to the mania of Robert’s Valentine’s Day performance (“What’s that noise?” <synth burble> “My Mum playing tennis!”). ‘Horefans’ by Non Ferric Memories is an exceptional noise collage filled with interest, rhythms, beautifully timed changes of pace and clever uses of an unusual sound palette. If I wasn’t glossing over it in a piece focussed on Robert’s work it could easily warrant an article to itself – do get hold of this one. Thus Robert’s taste appears pretty sharp too.
Call it an ‘aesthetic’, a ‘vision’ if you like, but it becomes clear during the perusal of these artefacts that this is Robert’s world – a dimensionless jiffy bag containing a wonky, distorted universe – and that the rest of us are tourists within it. On a whim, I looked up Witney on Wikipedia and discovered that it is the constituency of the balloon-headed moron David Cameron, our current Prime Minister and abject moral failure. Who can blame Robert for overlaying these appalling circumstances with his own reality instead? That he has done so under the breathing slits of this vile, reptilian establishment is, I think, profoundly satisfying. His work is beautiful illustration of the kind of no-audience underground process I was talking about in my last piece: done because he is driven to do it, self-distributed in the weirdly contradictory totally public/utterly samizdat style that the internet allows. I recommend that you pay him a visit.