alien menagerie: rfm catches up with oracle, kevin sanders, north east noise and shoganai

August 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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ErosM – Demo II (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE97)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE99)
Crown of Bone – Children of the Corn, a Tribute (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE100)

Seth Cooke / Kevin Sanders – split (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25, or download)
Kevin Sanders – heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”) (hairdryer excommunication, download)
Petals – Salivate Stone (tape, Dirty Demos, edition of 30)

Suburban Howl/Mutant Ape – split (tape, Turgid Animal)
Sindre Bjerga – foreign tongues (tape, Matching Head, mh195)
Culver/Xazzaz – split (tape, Matching Head, mh196)

The Truth About Frank – Live 10/04/13 Hogwash 6 Fox and Newt Leeds (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 310513 (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 121012 (self-released download)

Shoganai –  ショウガナイ (self–released download)

shoganai

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that since joining the organisation in May RFM’s new staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting.  As they frolic – sweating, bare chested, rearranging the rockery in the grounds of Midwich Mansions – I close the window to avoid breathing in their heady, powerfully erotic musk.  There, behind closed curtains in the cool darkness, I mumble into the whisper-ma-phone that links my property to Idwal Towers and discuss possible sightings of an absent muse with Uncle Mark.

She was here until recently: the Summer season has seen (*ahem*) ‘major’ articles by me about Lucy Johnson, Robert Ridley-Shackleton and the purported golden age of internet-enabled uber-punk amongst other things, a dozen (re)releases plastered up on the midwich Bandcamp site and the publication of the first two issues of North Leeds most popular noise/art microzine The Barrel Nut with much more to come.  Not bad, eh?

And yet… in the face of a review pile of over thirty items, some received more than two months ago, I feel guilt-stricken.  It’s an oddly masochistic response as I have every reason to take things at my own pace.  This is ‘only’ a ‘hobby’ after all and I have, to put it mildly, a lot on.  However, it still pains me to see quality pile up whilst I don’t have the energy to attend to it.  Leaving aside my own musical fumblings, writing is how I pay my way but, despite being thrilled by a lot of what I am hearing, my organs of musical appreciation are currently worn to sorry nubs, my powers of whimsical metaphor generation flummoxed.

So what to do?  It don’t seem right to sleep on so much good stuff so I’m going to embark on a desk/head clearing news round-up and see what happens.  I apologise to those kind enough to submit their work recently – you may not be getting the 1000 word flight of fancy you were perhaps hoping for – but I call on the discerning readership of this flagship blog to do their duty and check this gubbins out.

crown of bone

First then: RFM offers heartfelt congratulations to our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez and his comrade-in-arms Pablo Mejia on the occasion of the hundredth release from their netlabel Oracle.  A remarkable achievement, an admirable dedication.  Number 100 itself is Children of the Corn, A Tribute by Crown of Bone.  From the off this is ruthlessly pummelling – watch where you have the volume set prior to pressing play – and until a change of direction in its final minutes (during which the soundtrack of the film that inspired it is sampled, I’m guessing) is like screaming into a hurricane.  You already know if you like this kind of thing – check it out if you do, it’s a great example.

Other noteworthy recent releases include Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer by Miguel’s own La Mancha Del Pecado.  This is a feature length (96 minutes!) rumbling drone which sits static in a culveresque way, like some machinery of war idling as a mechanic fine tunes the engine, before exploding with speaker-challenging bass in an all too short final section.  I was so amused by this that I imported the file into Audacity and, as expected, the wave form looks like something that you’d use to unblock a sink, or bash someone over the head with.  At the other end of the spectrum we have a four track, 21 minute EP titled simply Demo II by ErosM.  This music is sombre and delicate, weighty and expressive.  It shows discipline, ambition and a seriousness of intent that makes its short running time all the more remarkable.  Those of you into Geordie drone/noise should be tempted across the Atlantic to pick this one up.

seth and kev outsideseth and kev inside

Closer to home, we find a split release on hairdryer excommunication featuring field-recording-based tracks by label boss Kevin Sanders and bearded polymath Seth Cooke.  I’m saying nowt about Seth’s effort here because (spoiler alert) I’m going to proclaim his genius (again) in a soon come review of his latest for Sheepscar Light Industrial.  Kev’s ‘side’, a piece of augmented atmospherics titled ‘Eight aisles (for Truro Court)’, brought on an irresistible attack of vanity on my part as I thought I could hear the influence of my very own ‘eaves’ in its construction.  It’s a largely domestic recording buzzed up with accompanying fuzzy drift.  I put on a Christmas cracker paper crown saved for such occasions, proclaimed myself King of Drone and strutted up and down the hallway.  Then I listened to his latest work, heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”), four tracks of entirely lovely, glittering brilliance constructed from nothing but a ukulele and a fuzz pedal.  I was, all joking and whimsy aside, moved.  Once I’d finished gawping I tore up my pathetic headgear in a fit of jealous rage.

petals - salivate stone front

Also well worth getting hold of is Salivate Stone by Petals, Kev’s usual nom de plume.  This tape has been released in a perilously limited edition by Dirty Demos and comes lovingly cocooned in a bed of tissue paper within an oversized case.  The content is spring-loaded, high tension, balanced, held by the slightest of catches.  Spiralling screws lift a heavy vibe upwards whilst friction heats the barely greased moving parts until they throb and grind against one another.  Birds tweet.  Clearly, he is the King.

suburban howl-mutant ape sleevesuburban howl-mutant ape tape and insertculver-xazzaz mh196

Whilst I’m on interestingly packaged noise tapes, I have to mention the Suburban Howl / Mutant Ape split on Turgid Animal.  Here you will find two sides of unnerving catharsis housed on a neon orange cassette safety-pinned into a hessian bag painted in camo colours (shades of TG’s industrial 7″s) and accompanied with an exquisite mini-comic detailing a suicide by self-butchery.  The object as a whole has a satisfyingly doom-struck, hopeless aura.  Two new tapes on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head label are dressed in his standard livery of black and white sleeves with the minimal information provided typewritten by hand.  The Culver / Xazzaz split sees Lee’s giant robot square up to Mike’s lizard monster in a contest to decide who wins the North East.  An honourable draw is the all-too-predictable outcome and both end up side by side, content to stamp on the false noise pretenders that dare challenge them.  foreign tongues by Sindre Bjerga documents three involving live sets from his travels in 2012.  Has he now got something released on every noise micro-label in the world?  He can’t be far off.

Others are content to release their own live stuff.  I know nothing about The Truth About Frank other than what can be gleaned from their Bandcamp site but suffice to say that a friend of Hogwash, that is the admirably eclectic and regular experimental music evening hosted by Dave, Noah and Benbow, is a friend of radiofreemidwich.  My own single figures was recorded at one of their gigs.  TTAF’s set is a three stage affair – a shuffling beat, looped, layered barely intelligible voices, orchestral stabs to finish – that I found engaging and entertaining.  They don’t try and do too much in their twenty minutes, each idea is allowed time to breath.  They also submitted a bonkers photoshop collage to The Barrel Nut #2 – guys, check your email!  I’m waiting on a postal address so I can send you a few paper copies!

charles dexter ward

Also to be found on Bandcamp are two live sets by Charles Dexter Ward performed at the Cumberland Arms and Morden Tower respectively, both to be found in that Newcastle I keep going on about.  These pieces are beautiful.  There is fuzz tone shimmer with enough bite to chew your ego to mush.  There are chopped and filtered loops heavy enough to anchor the vibe yet sinuous enough to let the groove flow and build.  They do the thing that a successful live recording must do: make you wish you’d been there.

Finally, then, we have the album of the year.  Well, maybe – it is certainly a contender.  ショウガナイ by Shoganai was one of those out of the blue ‘hi, let me introduce myself, would you like to hear my album?’ surprises that makes this ‘job’ such a joy (the cover is the pic that heads this article).  The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied.  More evidence of the golden age, should it be needed.

Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

I’m imaging (the muse! she returns!) one of these creatures sitting patiently in a tree, humming and carving intricate patterns in the bark with an impossibly sharp talon.  Earlier it was furious having found itself caught in a snare – the indignity!  It freed itself immediately, of course, and is now waiting for the return of the witless hunter that set the trap.  The unsuspecting fool is going to be disembowelled for his trouble.  The creature trills to itself, musically…

…and on that happy note, I call ‘enough!’  Plenty of links within the body of the article – go hear for yourselves.

new midwich product! ‘single figures’ on kirkstall dark matter

March 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | 5 Comments
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midwich – single figures

(3″ CD-r, edition of 49 with handmade insert or download, Kirkstall Dark Matter)

midwich - single figures - frontmidwich - single figures - back

Wow, things move fast nowadays, eh?  I’m late for my own party here!  This was released in the early hours of Wednesday morning and, thanks to the wonders of facebook and the like, is already old news to all the little william gibsons out there.  A very flattering account has already been posted to inaugurate the new reviews and interviews section of Miguel Perez’s Oracle blog.  Go check it out then return here and settle down with me in the study.  I know certain members of my constituency are of a more, shall we say, pipe-smoking inclination so I’ll explain what has occurred at a leisurely pace.

Dave Thomas, half of Hagman and the whole of ap martlet – both lavishly praised on this blog, recently felt the urge to start a microlabel.  It comes to us all and he isn’t to be blamed for it.  In cheeky homage to Sheepscar Light Industrial he has chosen the moniker Kirkstall Dark Matter for his endeavour.  Soon, no doubt, each district of Leeds will have its own microlabel, allegiances will shift and bloody wars will break out with a Game of Thrones style ferocity.  For now though all is calm.  Dave asked me if I would like to submit something.

Around that time I was winding down my year-long return to the live ‘arena’.  Over the course of half a dozen gigs I proved (if only to myself) that a bloke wigging out to his own drones can be entertaining and rediscovered that the natural volume for midwich stuff is trouser-flappingly loud.  However, I find performing live, even for twenty minutes and with a set-up that fits comfortably in a rucksack, quite a commitment.  I was privately glad to use impending fatherhood as an excuse to return to semi-retirement.  But I get ahead of myself.

Before Christmas I revisited the sun-burnt, suburban heat-haze of ‘augmented field recording’ eaves – my smash hit Summer single – and thought it was time to try something similar but colder.  Using the dictaphone function on my mp3 player (slipped into the turn-up of my woolly hat) I recorded the walk home along Chapeltown Road during a wet, dark evening rush hour.  The rise, rumble and fall of the traffic, unedited and pleasingly oceanic with plenty of sub-bass, leant itself perfectly to an accompanying slow pulsing drone riff and ‘seasonal adjustment’ was complete.  Not only did it fit as a companion piece to eaves but there was a link back to the workaday alienation that informed the very first midwich stuff such as ‘every day is the same’.  Ooo.. hark at me, eh?  Check out the fancypants artistic vision!  Smell the integrity!

‘penny dropped’ started life as another dicta-recording, this time of a cake tin lid rocking back and forth on our kitchen work surface.  It’s a noise I find strangely soothing, despite its proximity to the sound of sharpening knives, and it seemed an obvious bookend to a shorter, more vigorous drone piece.  Rebranded as single figures (parts one and two), these tracks totalled twenty minutes: a new set!

Just before Christmas I premiered this ‘Winter’ version at a gig organised by my old mucker Matt Robson and it got a second outing at the Hogwash night on 9th January.  The latter gig was where I played alongside forgets and Chrissie Caulfield and thus has already been extensively documented on this blog (and also reviewed here).  A recording was made by improv-tigger Pascal Ansell, given to Dave and you can now hear it too courtesy of KDM (complete with that scamp Phil Todd shouting ‘get off’ before I even begin: his comedic reaction to my news that I didn’t have any guitar effects pedals at all, following two acts that may have had 30 between them).

The physical edition (of 49 copies) comes recorded on games console-style CD-rs with black mirror playing surfaces.  Each disc is packaged in a unique wraparound insert made of an adulterated page taken from a copy of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos – the book from which my band name is lifted.  A hand printed strip, similar to what would be found in a library book back in the days of the card index, contains the details.  All is protected by a robust plastic wallet.  It is carefully thought out, winningly executed and very satisfying.  For those unconcerned with objects, or who otherwise miss out, a download can be nabbed on a pay-what-you-like basis from the same Bandcamp page.

Buy here.

there’s no code for this: stories by forgets

February 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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forgets – and my equal vegetates for her boy (self-released download)

forgets – Bedroom​/​Redboom (self-released download)

forgets – we are joke man (self-released download)

forgets – Everybody Limps Here (Live At Hogwash 3) (self-released download)

forgets - and my equalforgets - bedroom-redboomforgets - we are joke manforgets - everybody limps here

Y’know, I haven’t touched a drop in some time. Whilst changing medication a couple of years ago I noticed that the accompanying advice also changed to the sternly worded ‘avoid alcohol’. ‘Hmmm…’, I thought, ‘surely moderation in all things, eh? A little whistle moistener won’t do any harm…’ But I was wrong. That little experiment was over quickly and the results were conclusive. Ugh. After some thought, I decided to use the circumstances as a reason to just stop drinking alcohol completely. Best to keep it simple, no exceptions to the rule.

I haven’t missed it really. Well, there have been one or two fraught occasions where a bit of social lubricant would have oiled my squeaky hinges, but other than that: good riddance. I was a lousy drunk: overbearing, unpredictable, prone to bouts of nihilistic irresponsibility. Sure, fun at the time (for me at least, if not those around me) but for a sufferer of depression the hungover self-loathing following a weekend of ‘self-medication’ was dangerously close to unendurable. I don’t think I ever had a problem with drink, as such, but I lived on the same street as the problem for a while and it isn’t a happy neighbourhood. I suppose that there is a possible world not too far from our own where I ended up as an incidental character in a track by forgets…

I first encountered the duo of Kroyd and Mitch (words and guitar respectively, stage names – natch) at the Hogwash night where I last played as midwich.  What with Chrissie Caulfield also on the bill that gig proved a revelation.  Props again to Dave, Noah and Benbow for organising things.  May I encourage my dear readers to support their ongoing endeavour.

Over Mitch’s improv noise guitar – filtered through an impressive daisy chain of effects pedals – Kroyd told us a story, off the top of his head, of how repeated exposure to a song by Ronan Keating led him to jack in his job and instead roll up at Wetherspoon’s at 8am each morning instead.  There he helped defuse a tricky situation between the staff and two other early bird punters.  It’s a love story.  Kinda.  In-between chapters Kroyd read poetry/stories/routines from a sheath of notes.  These fell to the floor as he scrabbled through them one handed, his other busy with the mic or a large glass of red wine.  It had the dishevelled drama, the nervous shaky energy of someone who will ‘be alright once I’ve got this down me.’

I loved it.  In fact I’d loved ‘em since the soundcheck when Kroyd checked the mic line by reading his asthma clinic appointment letter whilst Mitch’s guitar gruffly weeped.  Others weren’t so sure.  A highly regarded comrade of mine told me ‘I don’t like someone talking when the guitar is talking.’  At first I dismissed this objection as daft, pretentious even, then I thought about it and… dismissed it again.  It is bloody daft.  The arrangement seemed appropriate to me.  A hip New York beat poet can have a double bass player picking out the rhythm.  Thus a poet from Yorkshire documenting the pitiful consolations, pyrrhic victories and gallows humour of a life, shall we say, not steeped in luxury can have a noise guitar emphasising his own ebb and flow.  It makes perfect sense.

My friend’s comment also underestimates, in my humble opinion, the extent to which the band really is a duo.  They were clearly listening to each other and reacting accordingly, both altering tone and tempo as the narrative required.  Anyway, this performance was recorded and has surfaced on the forgets Bandcamp page so you can listen and judge for yourselves.

After the gig I hastily followed things up and downloaded the other albums available.  Kroyd himself described this work to me as hit and miss but he is unnecessarily self-deprecating (he admits on one track to being passive-aggressive – which is a classic passive-aggressive double bluff, of course).  Yeah, the recording is raw but I don’t care about that.  The noise comes in two basic flavours: an agreeably spacious post-punk boom and rattle or an actual-punk anarcho-chug which wouldn’t seem out of place in a black-and-white wraparound sleeve.

The writing/storytelling is ramshackle or tightly controlled or improvised or carefully thought out or very funny or chokingly bleak – often all at once.  we are joke man has its moments but I’m going to discuss a few examples from the other two: Bedroom/Redboom – a 22 minute epic with instrumental coda – and and my equal vegetates for her boy – an album containing 19 tracks all titled with words beginning with the letter ‘D’.

The latter describes a battle-scarred past, a banal, bureaucratic present and a militaristic, totalitarian future. The songs and stories share themes and are linked with repetitions and reprises. Sometimes a passage that appears to be a gushing stream of consciousness is repeated word for word in another context. This gives the unnerving impression that all this is happening at once, now, or is waiting just around the corner.

The opener, ‘Divide’, is a harrowing report of protesters slaughtered at a checkpoint. But we are not allowed the luxury of imagining this is happening in some far-off land. The leader of the demonstration is a taxi driver from Doncaster, a grocer from Leeds helps with the banner. What has happened that has led to this? ‘Doors’ describes a group of strangers gathered mute and motiveless outside Kroyd’s house. It’s part Tubeway Army-style paranoia, part ‘Shadow Over Innsmouth’ dread and part delirium tremens. The closing ‘Duke #2’ ends with a bitter lament for all the ‘war mad little boys.’

I realise that by now you are probably thinking ‘whoo boy, tough listen’ and, well, yeah, in parts it is but, crucially, it is really good. As well as the doom there is drama (see ‘Disc’ about an ex-boy band star stealing a song from the narrator’s garage punk band) and a lot of humour (see ‘Donkey’ a joyous account of cheering up an emo horse). There are plenty of lines and images to make you guffaw on the bus too – even in this Orwellian future ‘robots cook your tea’. Ah, not all bad, eh?

‘Bedroom’ is framed with a semi-prepared story of Kroyd being visited by Death.  This set-up made me laugh (Death can’t be bothered explaining it all, just mentions A Christmas Carol and hands Kroyd a scroll of terms and conditions to read) and, like the gig recording, is interspersed with poetry and sub-routines throughout.  One of these routines is a long list of things that scare Kroyd – basically everything – which starts off as amusing but becomes electrifying as the impotent rage and despair at the ridiculousness of it all boils into a shouted fury mirrored by Mitch’s increasingly violent accompaniment.  This peaks, breaks and mutates into a beautiful poem – ‘we invented death’ – that is disarmingly profound.  It is a terrific, stomach-flipping moment.  The first time I heard this I was on my walk to work and realised that even at my dawdling pace I was going to reach the office before it finished.  So I stopped, leaned on a convenient wall, ignored the suspicious glances of fellow commuters and heard it out.

I suggest you download all this, get your coat on, find a suitable wall or bench yourself and do the same.  Maybe we can meet in the pub later to discuss it.  Just a coke for me, thanks.

forgets at Bandcamp.

final chance to see midwich live before semi-retirement recommences: fox and newt, leeds, 09-01-13

December 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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hogwash 3 flyer

Hey holiday revellers!  All going well with your festive season?  Good, good – glad to hear it.  Me?  Us?  Ah, not so much.  Both myself and my lovely wife are ill with variations of the bug that is ‘going around’ and the week has been less than celebratory.  Apologies to those awaiting the RFM end-of-year round-up or responses to personal emails.  I’ll be back on it as soon as is feasible.

In the meantime, here’s something to stick in the leather-bound filofax that Santa brought you for Christmas.  The blurb:

This is the line up for Hogwash 3, Ojud and Horrible Injury’s night of ambience, spoken word, electronics, noise, whatever you fancy.

This month we have Leeds no-audience noise stalwart Midwich, Chrissie Caulfield, who in her own words is “currently exploring the possibilities of octave violins that are tuned in the cello range” and epic spoken word, guitar noise from Forgets, featuring Wind-up Birds’ Kroyd.

£3 in, doors around 8:15pm, and Hogwash Djs playing all sorts between the acts.

Web stuff:

Event Facebook Page
Midwich
Chrissie Caulfield
Forgets

Cool, eh?

Hogwash is a monthly programme of interesting oddness that deserves your support and I was flattered to be asked by Noah to be part of it.  I’ll be performing a version of the critically acclaimed set (“best midwich set ever” – Phil Todd) that I played at Matt Robson’s night a couple of weeks ago.

This will also be the last midwich gig for a while – my year of ‘playing out’ is over.  Our first child is due to be born at the end of February and I intend to embark on a lengthy period of semi-retirement until I’ve earned enough husband/father points to sneak out again.  I think that is how it works…  The blog will continue, as will my recorded efforts, baby permitting.

See you all there!

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