new vistas of nada: luke vollar on jake meginsky, ben gwilliam, gold soundz all-stars

February 11, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Jake Meginsky – Kasper Struabe Stencil Cycles (tape, Mantile Records, #029, edition of 50)

Ben Gwilliam – Breakdownspedup (tape, Mantile Records, #030, edition of 50)

Various Artists – Magnetic Decay (recycled tape, Gold Soundz, GS#128, edition of 25)

kasperstruabestencilcycles

Jake Meginsky – Kasper Struabe Stencil Cycles

The excellent Mantile Records takes a side-step out of the noise ghetto for a hunk of sweetie pie that has one loafer on the dance floor and the other in the electro-acoustic treasury club. It’s the kind of furtive brain music that brings to mind the mighty Autechre; swoops of silvery bloop disappear down a rainbow precipice to emerge body popping in peacock finery, too dazzling to behold without shades. The strobing percussives towards the end are really something. No word of a lie – I am presently nodding my head and NOT stroking my chin.

breakdownspedup

Ben Gwilliam – Breakdownspedup

Various recordings made by placing Dictaphones inside freezers until the cassette slows and the mechanism seizes. Remember that bit in Shallow Grave when the bad guys finish off another guy by casually sticking him in a chest freezer and leave heavy sacks on the lid which make it impossible for him to escape? Brr, still gives me the heebie jeebies now. Thankfully this isn’t a recording of a human being stopped with low temperature (don’t even think about it transgressive readers) rather the impassive sound of a small machine slowed by inertia, a different type of nothing: from grainy speckles of frost-gripped audio to bassy and glacial hum. But, just as I’m preparing to stick this artifact into the ‘interesting experiments’ section, the recording morphs into a complex strata of textures as the freezer and the Dictaphone seem to sing to each other like whales in a vast ocean, mournful and melancholy. Flip it over and we’re in a chilly no mind zone witnessing the birth of a new micro genre: cold noise wall (CNW?)

magnetic decay

Various Artists – Magnetic Decay

More fertile goosh from the cold lands of Norway (good link eh?) and the mecca of all things no-audience: Gold Soundz.

No idea who Håkon Lie is, I’m presuming he’s not the Norwegian politician who passed away in 2009 [Editor’s note: Google journalism at its finest there]. Live tape manipulations are extrapolated into new vistas of nada while battery operated toys are triggered with buttocks. Recognizable chunks of popular music are fed into the belly of the beast and coughed out as garish and slightly frightening splats of wha?? An American instructional tape finishes the set by intoning:

we become what we think about

…followed by a smattering of applause.

Ian Watson next with some suitably oppressive grey drizzled doomscapes; sound art that sticks to your fingers like clay. It has the same inexplicable feel for lonely English landscapes as Xazzaz. My favourite track is the last one, ‘times wiped’, which sounds like a tape loop of wind chimes excavated after being buried in the wet earth for a long while.

F. Ampism is a Brighton based beard who has been knitting intoxicating ear brews for a number of years now. By being excellent and largely ignored he makes for the perfect dinner guest at RFMHQ. Whilst an electronic and tape concoction is present, so too is a bewildering arsenal of clunks, rattles and bubbles left to bob merrily amongst the purple blueberry foam. As huge goblets of the strange but delicious cocktail are handed out by pink elephants we make our way downstream through the dense jungle as the chatter of wildlife becomes a thrum of forward motion, centipedes as big as a horse, amphibians playing thumb pianos… you get the picture.

The compilation is closed by label head-honcho Sindre Bjerga, a guy who seems to literally spend his entire life soaking up spilt beer with his trousers whilst horsing about with his collection of outdated and redundant stuff: tape players, tiny microphones and the like.  He makes something out of nothing and does it spontaneously brain-to-hand-to-gob-and-back-to-brain.

Whilst I can’t lie and say that I’m unconcerned about the impact his floor based activities will have on his joints in advancing years (‘noise knee’ can now be found listed as a genuine ailment in up to date medical journals) he should be commended for his ceaseless activities. ‘They’ say that to be truly great at anything (or at least to stand a chance) you have to do it a lot. So I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Sindre is the goddam Hendrix of the Dictaphone and this is another fine addition to his humongous back catalogue.

What a splendid compilation, procure yourself a copy at once.

—ooOoo—

Mantile Records

Gold Soundz [Editor’s note: good luck…]

the 2015 zellaby awards

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

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

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

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

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

Fleshtone Aura

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

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

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

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

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

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

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

Sabrina Peña Young

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

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

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

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

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

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

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

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

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

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

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

tessellation

…and I say:

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

SPY1

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

Sof ponders:

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

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

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

No doubts from Joe:

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

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

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

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

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

robbie7

…and I say:

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

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

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

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

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

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

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

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

Luke picks an outlier:

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

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

Yeah baby!!!

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

Joe rallies the troops:

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

…and I say:

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

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

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

posscat

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

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

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

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

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

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

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

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

cclub

…and I say:

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

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

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

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

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

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

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

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

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

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

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

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

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

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

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

Originality is the theme of my list –

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

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

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

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

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

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

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

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

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

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

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

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

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

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

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

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

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

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

ineluctable

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

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

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

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

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

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

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

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

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

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

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

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

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

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

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

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

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

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

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

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

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

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

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

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

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

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

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

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

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

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

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

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

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

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

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion…

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

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

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

blistered, glistening: releases by ian watson and kevin sanders

April 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ian Watson – Caermaen (CD-r, Dust, Unsettled, DU09, edition of 50 or download)

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations (2 x CD-r in gatefold sleeve, self-released, edition of 50 or download)

ian watson - caermaenwatson and sanders

Ian Watson – Caermaen

Dunno why I’ve slept so long on this one.  An intriguing album of heavy electrics by the second most charming guy in noise released by the most charming guy in noise – you’d think I’d be all over it, wouldn’t you?  My apologies for the inexplicable tardiness.  Allow me to make amends.

What we have here is a four track CD-r (long gone – sorry) or free download (still available – woo!) by Ian Watson – artist, polymath – released on Dust, Unsettled, the label run by definitive good egg Brian Lavelle.  It was composed using ‘cymbals and feedback’ manipulated through bosky layers of electrics and is apparently inspired by the writing of Welsh mystic and Lovecraft influence Arthur Machen.  So far, so perfect.

A satisfyingly viscous low end and a refreshingly untamed crackling at the top act as river banks containing the current’s flow.  Could that be a torrent of fluorescent ectoplasm combed clean by the bones of skeletal fish?  Sure, if you like.  I can certainly imagine Ian’s kit producing a cool, flickering, ghostly green light:

Brian: err… is that supposed to be happening?

Ian: mate, it isn’t even plugged in!  Perhaps we should leave the room…

Brian: press ‘record’ first though.

Ian: oh yeah, of course, NOW RUN!

…but what this called to mind for me were happy times I’d spent as a teenager staring at a lump of dirty metal.

One of my first jobs was operating a solder bath in a factory that manufactured printed circuit boards.  Boards were loaded onto a conveyor belt, subjected to a terrifying liquid that cleaned the copper (so corrosive that I dropped two pence coins into it to see the queen’s face dissolve), covered in slime to help the solder stick, hung on a hook by me, dunked into a bath of liquid metal about three feet deep, blasted with air blades on the way back up, then placed on another conveyor belt.  Repeat for eight or nine hours with frequent breaks to sit on chemical drums outside and smoke cigarettes.

On Fridays we would be paid in cash in little brown envelopes around 11am.  At lunchtime I’d race to the nearest pub, drink as much as possible, smoke a spliff on the way back and spend the afternoon cleaning this machine – heated to 250 degrees centigrade – in my shirtsleeves because, y’know, it was too fucking hot for overalls and a certain amount of scar tissue looks manly and suggests character doesn’t it?  The spray and overflow of hot solder dripped down into the guts of the machine and coagulated there into something magical.

This mass of waste solder – the size and shape of a child’s torso, almost too heavy to carry – was a mesmerising landscape of clustered globules, of organic micro-castles blistered with irregular crenellations, of needle sharp, filigree wire work.  All glistening a muddied silver, hopelessly polluted with the scorched scum that boiled from the boards as they were dunked.  These random accumulations of melted metal remain some of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen, even accounting for how stoned I was at the time.  Something about this album took me back to that sight and that made me very happy.

Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations

Also available from a neighbouring stable is this two hour long, two track, two CD-r set, by two collaborators: Mr. Ian Watson (as above) and Mr. Kevin Sanders (see below).

Imagine a large ruined house in a forest, swamped in ivy – each luscious leaf as deep green as cooked spinach, as shiny as patent leather.  Now imagine the root severed and the gradual death of the above ground plant, its draining vitality and increasing brittleness.  A high quality digital camera is making a time lapse film of this process.  Once complete the memory card is removed and Kev and Ian bath it in a a cool, flickering, ghostly green light.  This ‘develops the film’ with an occult power that reveals the usually invisible creatures of woodland folklore that live around the ruin: dryads, fairies, elves, horrifying, robotic horseshoe crabs, their scrabbling legs the stuff of nightmares, their carapaces as black as a dominatrix’s whip, and so on.  Now play the film in reverse and compose a soundtrack to it using just rust and magnets.

This: that.

—ooOoo—

Ian Watson

Dust, Unsettled

hairdryer excommunication

cables: untangled by marlo eggplant and benjamin hallat

March 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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rammel club flyer

[Editor’s note: roving reporter marlo eggplant performed at this event and offers the following insider account.  Having more humility than her self-aggrandising editor she has chosen not to write about her own set, instead enlisting the help of Mr. Benjamin Hallat (of the excellent KIKS/GFR label, performs as Kay Hill) to cover whilst she was otherwise engaged.  Over to M & B:]

All day events are tricky. In my personal experience of attending and performing at these long days, it sadly tends to be a crapshoot. Even if you are enthusiastic about the performances, one can’t help but remember events that lacked hospitality, a cohesive vision, or even clean bathrooms. Sometimes you end up feeling corralled into a tight space with poor ventilation and bad sound systems; elbow to elbow amongst the once excited, now hungry and tired audience members. By the end of the night, you escape outside as soon as possible in order to recover both your hearing and your sanity.

Simply put – in order to sustain the attention of an audience, participants/attendees must be well fed. I say ‘well-fed’ in the sense that one should not need to go elsewhere for sustenance.  Memorable events need several elements in place: good curation around interesting concepts and ideas, an appropriate space that is suitable and comfortable, a framework for the happenings of the day, and – importantly – refreshments to keep the hypoglycaemia at bay.

Two Nottingham organizations, the Rammel Club and Reactor Halls, got together to create an event that provided just such a balanced diet of aural and visual stimulations and the result, Cables, succeeded in being well planned, thought provoking, and fun.

Celebrating the definitions and uses of ‘the cable’, the organizers provided this text:

A cable is more than a mere length of wire. It is a trail to be followed, tracing a line between two points, or a meshwork of interwoven threads. The cable carries the pulse of electricity or light in response to a trigger. Cables are bookended by ‘plugs’, affording an abundance of possible connections. Some connections will be recommended for you in the user guide. But why stop there?…

Indeed a collaborative and connective spirit flowed through the day. From the availability of open improvisational spaces led by Abstract Noise Ting, to Murray Royston-Ward’s contact mic workshop, to the sound/performance kinetic installation by Experimental Sonic Machines, the audience was nourished.

IMG_2776 IMG_2777 IMG_2782IMG_2793 IMG_2798

The event took place at Primary, a former schoolhouse converted into several artist studios and exhibition spaces. Workshops, installations, and performances were placed throughout the building, keeping one from feeling claustrophobic by the full programme. The overall aesthetic of the day was well curated and was followed by an evening of provocative performances that played with sound, intention, and improvisation.

[D-C]- by pieterLastIMG_2826

The first performance was [D-C], comprising two local musicians: analogue improviser Jez Creek [Modulator ESP] and Benjamin Hallatt [Kay Hill] providing tape loops. I heard a racket in the performance space as I entered the building and threw my gear aside. I love a good racket but that is too simplistic a description for the dynamics of their improvisation. They played together, reacting and interacting with each others’ sounds.  There was an overall meteorological sensation to the collaboration – I felt tribal drums leading to low rumbles. Punctuated at times by high whistle emissions, the accompanying visuals enhanced the feeling of being in a silo, lifted by the brutal whimsy of a storm [Editor’s note: not in Kansas anymore?]. The performance ended with trailing robotic sounds…

johnmacedo - by pieterLast johnmacedosetupIMG_2861

John Macedo followed. I do love looking at set ups that appear more like a rummage sale then actual preparation for sound art. The arrangement of small transmitters, drinking glasses, and speaker heads looked like the workbench in a hi-fi repair shop. His laptop seemed a bit out of place on the table, yet Macedo does not confine himself to his seat. Exploring spaces and placement, he circled and travelled the performance area playing with resonance and tone. Glass tapping and static transmissions, volume played with value. Silence had its place. At no point did the sounds feel saturated. It felt focused and intentional with a light touch across a minimalist acoustic playground. I enjoyed watching objects vibrate in cones. One comes away with the feeling of being witness to something ritual or holy.

[Editor’s note: Ben takes over at this point…]

Well, to follow Marlo America’s lead, I have to say that I am happy to be able to review these sets as they were two highlights for me, but this needs a bit of context which I shall elaborate on in due course. It is true that these all day events can be long and arduous but in this case the ingredients made for a fun buzz long into the night.

ianwatson-by pieterLast

I wandered into Ian Watson’s set just after I had finished packing up after my own collaboration, so it was a welcome first chance to sit down just when I needed it. Ian played in a separate large, darkened hall.  The light outside had almost completely faded by this point leaving a dull purple glow in the high windows. I walked into the room and thought

hmm, ok, a sort of tinny drone, sounds ‘ok’-ish!

But as I sat down and began to settle into the room and the darkness I found myself settling into the sound too. Ian’s set up was a really nice two turntable affair, playing his own custom resin 7” drone recordings. These vibrated a pair of cymbals that were further amplified with a couple of guitar amps. As the records spin they catch on the various imperfections, creating accidental loops and details. Within five minutes I was not exactly absorbed but simply letting my mind wander, calmly taking in the room, space and details of the sound, feeling quietly present with the fellow listeners dotted about the place! This was a lovely set for me and just what I needed.

marloeggplant - by pieter lastIMG_2880

As I remember, Ian’s set signalled the brief dinner break and up first after this was Marlo Eggplant, who also caught me, I guess, at a good time. All the sound checks I had been keeping an eye on were over and pizza had been scoffed on the fly, so I settled in for the first evening performance and opened up a beer. I was taken by surprise by this set immediately, as I had not heard Marlo before and I was expecting something more ‘crazy’ or ‘playful’,  let’s say. However this was a really peaceful emotive set utilising an autoharp and subtle building of delays and drones. Being not too drunk at this stage to appreciate the subtleties of sound I was totally immersed, gently floating about in the well orchestrated ebbs and flows of the set as a whole. I was really impressed with how well paced out this set was and its evolution, building to subtle voice expression later, coming to a timely conclusion and leaving me absolutely content! Yeah, it was good!

I just got drunk after that!

[Editor’s note: and on that happy note, back to marlo…]

Dinner break was an artisan pizza party – amazing smells erupting from the multiple pizzas topped with caramelized onions and butternut squash. The kitchen did a magnificent job of feeding everyone cake as well. I put this in the review of the event because that was a total pro move. Well played, organizers!

dalecornish - by pieterLast

After I put my gear away, I prepared myself to watch Dale Cornish’s set. I was looking forward to seeing him play as I had previously only heard his recordings. The only note I took during the set was:

party music

With a laptop on stage, you pretty much only have two choices. You can try to deny that you look like you are checking your social media or you can own it. Cornish made no qualms about standing behind a laptop, often hamming it up with eye contact and charming face. The music, in its own right, was fun, rhythmic, and dynamic. And I really wanted to dance. Amen to the set that makes you want to shake it.

phantom chipsIMG_2987

Phantom Chips is the visionary project of Tara Pattenden. Her passion for noise and hand-crafted electronics is well matched with her gleeful expression as she skronks through the performance.  Her set was well chosen for the event. Pattenden, using fabric lines with transducers, corded off the audience. Throwing sound conductive dinosaur parts [Editor’s note: wait, what?!?] into the audience, we were forced to have a taste of the sonic madness. Audience participation is integral to her playful aesthetic. I think at this point my notes may been delirious. Regardless, I wrote this in response to her circus:

Goofballs. I am trapped in an arcade. Squished sounds. Crunchiest sounds of the night. Throws meatballs at the pasta crunk collective. Beta bites of crunch. Decimated manual noise. Serious overdrive.

mel by Pieter LastIMG_3068

My fellow Leeds-ian was up next. Watching Melanie O’Dubhshlaine’s [Editor’s note: not sure about that spelling, but that is how it is on the poster] performances is like having the privilege of watching a scientist in a sound laboratory. One would not be able to tell that the source material of her sounds was spoken text if you were not sitting there watching her speak into her whacked out dictaphone/microphone processors, appearing to be reading aloud to herself. Her minimal movements work well with the sound. Using an electronic wind instrument, she plays the strangest clarinet solo set ever. Actually, it doesn’t sound like a clarinet but it doesn’t even really sound like an instrument. The overall experience is of sounds working themselves out in front of you; your brain’s attempt to recognize and categorize the inputs hampered by insufficient associations. It is interesting work that makes you think.

philjulian by Peter K rollings phillyj

I am not sure if the curators intended this but Phil Julian proceeded to keep the audience pensive. Sitting in this dark room, he steps behind a laptop and begins to play with notable focus. Julian’s work is well paced. Even without any visuals, his music feels like a soundtrack. Both recorded and in live performances, there is a cinematic quality to his work and a patience that comes with confidence and knowledge. His face does not reflect the tension of being a performer.  Perhaps his experience of playing in different spaces allows for an exploration of his own notions of process and result. Regardless, his focus and overall performance energy is noteworthy.

trans-human

Trans/Human had the pleasure of performing the final set – perhaps the most difficult slot to fill. I, personally, find it quite difficult to be the last on the bill. How does one do something memorable when one has had to sit and watch every act? Have you had too much to drink? Do you need food? Adam Denton and Luke Twyman did not seem to have any of these issues as they went old school. In my favourite duo positioning – facing off across tables filled with electronics – they went full throttle. It felt like they were trying to release the demons from their gear out through the speakers. Their set was a celebration of volume and provided much needed catharsis for a day filled with creative questionings. A perfectly good way to end the evening.

So, there you have it. Thanks again, Rammel Club and Reactor Halls. Nottingham sure is lucky to have you.

—ooOoo—

With thanks to Pieter Last and Peter Rollings for photographs – much obliged to you both.

IMG_3190

occult technologies: microdeform, ian watson, mother spit

January 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Microdeform – APHELION (C65 tape, zamzamrec, 024, edition of 33 or download)

Ian Watson – Terrestrials gone Tropic With Some Pretty Fancy Animals (CD-r, LF Records, LF032, plus two freely downloadable extra tracks)

mother spit – carve (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 25 or download)

microdeform - aphelionian watson - terrestrials gone tropicmother spit - carve

Older readers will recall that it was once possible to own a tape deck which could sense the gaps between songs when fast-forwarding a cassette.  The stereo I had would find the next track, rewind a second back into the silence then start playing from there.  This took the tedious to-ing and fro-ing out of looking for an elusive moment on, say, a homemade compilation of Peel sessions but was clearly an occult technology indistinguishable from black magic.  Thus, sadly, the machine had to be burnt as a witch, the melted remains rubbed with garlic and the whole sorry lot buried on hallowed ground.  Shame.

Anyway, all true music fans of my era know that any given tape can only contain two tracks: ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’.  Even single-sided tapes have that long, quiet track on the reverse of the noisy side.  Feel free to include a tracklisting if you like but, especially if your music is at all abstract, I’m unlikely to pay it any heed.

This format-invoked, nostalgic whimsy occurred to me as I ‘researched’ the excellent tape Aphelion by Microdeform, that is Liam McConaghy, released in a tiny edition by zamzamrec and also available for download.  Buy it from the artist’s Bandcamp site (where you can find the few remaining physical copies too) and you get an eleven track album, download from the label’s Bandcamp site and you get two half-hour chunks titled ‘side 1’ and ‘side 2’.  I chuckled approvingly, plumping for the latter option.

A persuasive sense of purpose pulls the listener through both sides as various sub-genres of dark electronics run together into a united current.  There are Tangerine, Vangelisian synth-wobs riding over the fuzzed out murk – part science fiction dystopia, part mass for the drowned in a submerged cathedral.  There is thumping industro-grind as machine rhythms emerge from the loops and echoes.  A growing crescendo of tension across ‘side 2’ suggests it isn’t going to end well for the protagonist of this supernatural cyber-thriller.  I picture her looking over weapons she knows to be inadequate with a wry resignation then, coincidentally at the exact moment the Earth is at the furthest distance its orbit takes us from the Sun, the door is kicked in…

Terrestrials gone Tropic With Some Pretty Fancy Animals is the second of Ian Watson’s projects to come my way (see my review of the SWEFN album on hairdryer excommunication here) and is my favourite of the latest batch of releases from the ever-impressive LF Records.  It is a one hour long CD-r comprising twelve untitled tracks and, should that not be enough for you, LF have kindly made two further tracks freely available via Bandcamp to boost it to feature length.  Ian is an illustrator as well as a musician and the cover shows off his considerable chops – take a good, hard look at the chicken thing above, though I’d wait until after lunch if I were you.

The music is mainly electrical, yet there is something squishily organic about it too.  It’s as if Ian were recording impulses in the newly formed nervous system of a giant lump of sentient tofu (its mood = forlorn, as you might expect).  Hmmm… too flip – the situation portrayed is more grave.  Some of this sounds like the trilling and bobbling background noises to be heard on the bridge of the USS Enterprise but smeared-out, slowed down.  Perhaps what we are getting are the tragic attempts of a red-shirted crew member to recombine himself following a devastating transporter accident.  Doomed to haunt the corridors and quarters of the spacecraft, he is not corporeal enough to make an impression on the physical world yet is still ‘real’ enough to avoid dissipating completely.  These tracks are how he hears what we hear.

I found this album to be distractingly compelling.  An attempt to use it as background soundtrack to an afternoon of pottering ended with me sprawled on the bed in the spare room, chores forgotten, staring at the ceiling, as I followed its twists and pulses

carve by mother spit is a single, eighteen minute track housed on a 3” CD-r with the striking cover photograph above, released in a tiny edition by aetheric records (home of RFM faves people-eaters) and also available for download.  Interestingly, the band hails from Sofia in Bulgaria.  Now, I am perfectly aware that this is the modern capital city of a modern European country but, to an unseasoned non-traveller like me, it is the sort of location that will always feel like ‘the old country’, as alluded to in fables and 1940s horror films like Jacques Tourneur’s sublime Cat People (yes, I know the main character was from Serbia, not Bulgaria, but you see what I’m getting at I hope.).

Using a carefully selected palette of eerie, droning electronics the track quite deliberately, and very successfully, creates a cosmically chilling Lovecraftian vibe.  There are three scenes depicted: the warm winds whistling through the deserted, subterranean corridors of the nameless city, the aftermath of a woodland ritual in deepest New England – the celebrants have departed but the ground is littered with still warm torches and a sticky, rust-coloured liquid is drying on the large, smooth rock used as an alter and, finally, the dark, grey interior of a Mi-Go spacecraft on a journey home to Yuggoth (yes, I know they were supposed to fly through the aether using their membranous wings but, having attended the dissection of a captured specimen, I now consider that theory to be unlikely.).  These scenes overlap one another and drift in and out of focus, as if in the crazed mind of an unfortunate soul who witnessed all three.  I can’t stop playing it.

Microdeform’s own Bandcamp site.

Microdeform on zamzamrec’s Bandcamp site.

Ian Watson on LF Records.

Ian Watson’s own site.

mother spit on aetheric record’s Bandcamp site.

sorting the lego part two: more soundtracks for graded tasks

December 4, 2013 at 10:43 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

people-eaters – imprecate (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 20 or download)

ap martlet – A Dream Of The Arrow (self-released download)

SWEFN – Varieties of Anomalous Experience (CD-r and download, hairdryer excommunication)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Changing A Prayer A Little (CD-r, Unverified Records, UN041, edition of 50)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Ovencleaner (3” CD-r, LF Records, LF033)

people-eaters - imprecate

Each time depression rolls around I appear to be allocated one key task that helps occupy my time above all others.  In part one of this series I explained what a ‘graded task’ is and gave a few examples.  What I didn’t mention is that, for some reason I do not understand, any of these ‘jobs’ can become my main depression-fighting occupation during an episode but that the same job will not have the same effect more than once.  Each escape route is backfilled by the disease once it discovers that it has been tricked.  It is perpetually furious and profoundly spiteful.  Thus digging over an allotment helped defeat it one year but when I returned the next I was left sitting on the ground, crying, as I realised that I couldn’t put the blade of my beautiful spade, once my most treasured possession, in the earth even once.  It was denied me.  Likewise this time I can’t see myself stepping on and off the wii-fit board – something I did for endless hours staving off a previous attack – so what now?

I set myself the task(s) of cleaning the house, augmented with some exercise mainly in the form of walking around the neighbourhood (it is an attractive area with parks and woods within easy distance).  To make sure my brain’s capacity was fully engaged I would also listen to, and think about, music from the enormous review pile whilst doing so.  The plan was to write up these musings when and if I had the energy thus linking all these disease-bashing activities – useful work, exercise, creative endeavour, thought to some purpose – into a kind of ‘virtuous circle’.  It hasn’t always worked – I needn’t trouble our sensitive readers with the coolly insane deliberations that left me utterly hollowed out yesterday – but I feel that in general it is a good plan.

Interestingly, what I thought would be the key tasks have flipped roles with the supplementary.  Thus, the listening to, thinking about and commenting on music has become the central tactic and I appear to be using the chores, walking and whatnot in its service.  I’m delighted at this development, as you can probably imagine.  Very convenient for the blog, at least.  So here we go with part two…

—ooOoo—

Until very recently all midwich tracks were produced by being figured out, rehearsed then recorded ‘as live’.  If anything went wrong during the take I had to start all over again.  I was once laughed at in the pub for moaning that completing one nine minute track composed entirely of a single pure tone (hey – it warbled slightly, OK?) took twelve attempts.  “But nothing happens!” my incredulous companions exclaimed.  “That’s the point,” I countered, “things kept happening.”  I suspect that people-eaters understand this urge to perfection exactly.

Well, I say ‘perfection’ but they also understand that the trick is to cut it with a pinch of exotic impurity thereby creating the friction necessary to grip the listener’s attention.  Thus during the two tracks that make up imprecate nothing happens for seven and a half minutes then nothing happens again for nine and a half minutes.  However, this nothing happens in a way which is eerie, involving and wholly satisfying.  Rumbles are augmented with some mildly abrasive ringing filter hiss, presumably as the curse is intoned inaudibly beneath, and that is it.  Like a giant ball bearing forged then left to sing and crackle as it cools, like coins dropped into a speaker cone dancing against one another to a super-low frequency.

ap martlet - a dream of the arrow

I am somewhat in awe of the tracks constructed by David Thomas as ap martlet.  These humble masterworks of electrical engineering often have an enveloping, sensurround vibe and ‘A Dream Of The Arrow’ is especially womb-like.  Listening to it feels like being attended to by the robots in Chris Cunnigham’s video for Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’.  Or perhaps like I’ve been placed into a medically induced fugue state and lowered into a vat of gelatinous slime that will heal whatever ails me.  Or maybe the goo will tweak my DNA a little so that I can grow the tail I have always wanted (Editor’s note: I have always wanted a tail.  Tails are cool.).  Whatever – another marvel of creatively sullied perfection from our Dave.

swefn

Ian Watson, recording as SWEFN for Kevin Sanders’s peerless hairdryer excommunication, takes us a few steps further.  Imagine you are standing in front of a perfect man-made object – a Renaissance altar piece, say, or an antique Persian carpet or an unwrapped but still pristine ream of A4 paper.  You take a photo, compress it and email it to me.  I print out a faded copy on a printer containing an already twice shaken toner cartridge and fax the result back to you.  You take this, fold it in half and leave it tucked under a wiper blade on the windscreen of Ian’s car.  It rains.  He discovers it the following morning, leaves it to dry on a radiator and feeds the crinkly remainder into his machines of musical generation which treat it as a score.  Varieties of anomalous experience is the result.  The album gets angrier, noisier as it progresses.  Perhaps the perfect object is a stolen painting, wrapped in newspapers and inexpertly hidden in a dank cellar.  The bucolic scene it depicts is gradually ruined by smeared, inky images of war and disaster as newsprint is transferred to its surface by the damp.  In case you are in any doubt: I liked this very much.  The packaging is of Kev’s usual high standard: an alien greetings card wishing you an inexplicable emotion on a day from an unknown calendar or the best of luck with an incomprehensible task.  Download from hairdryer excommunication, a few physical copies still available from Ian.

RFM would also like to take this opportunity to wish Kev well with his recent move to the South West (to live in Bristol, work in Bath – la-di-da, eh?).  We were delighted to be namechecked in his ‘farewell to the North’ blog post as one of the institutions thanked for making his time in these parts such a pleasure.  Best of luck with your future endeavours, comrade – I’m sure the cidertronic and Georgian improv scenes down there will benefit enormously from your mercurial presence.

r r-s - changing a prayer a littler r-s - ovencleaner

Finally for today, another couple of selections from the Robert Ridley-Shackleton songbook.  Changing a Prayer a Little, to be released on Unverified Records, sees some syrupy, romantic film music brutally dissolved in an acidic hailstorm of electro noise fuckery.  Most entertaining.  Ovencleaner, a 3” CD-r on LF Records, comprises two tracks the first of which (the title track) is made up of whistling, groaning, stretching noises with stylophone parps.  Like a determined but confused homunculus struggling to rip through a series of taught rubber membranes and negotiate a series of sticky tunnels in order to get itself born.  The second track (‘Transformers’) is just as perplexing.  Imagine the situation described by a nonsensical objection to the theory of evolution – that, given the time span, evolution is as likely as a hurricane hitting a junkyard and constructing a working jumbo jet from the detritus – actually coming to pass.  This track is the sound of the tentative, uncomprehending switch-flicking of the junkyard owner as he explores the cockpit of his newly ‘evolved’ possession and accidentally turns on the electrics…

Robbie’s world sure be odd.

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