only the squad survives: wnns joins rfm, then squints at laurie tompkins, giant claw and dikeman / serries / aquarius

August 20, 2017 at 6:59 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes)

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records)

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions)

 

Hey. Nice to see you. Come in. Draw up a cushion. Relax. Have a drink.

We may not have formally met before. I spent some time writing a blog called We Need No Swords. You know it? No? Ah well. It happened, for a while. And then it didn’t. Have a look at it, if you have time. You might like it.

But I’m here at RFM now, sort of, for a little while. You’ll probably see me popping up every few weeks or so. It takes a while, y’see. To get the words out the murk and onto the screen.

So, well, if you’re settled, let’s begin. Are we rolling? Ok.

laurie tompkins

Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes) cassette and digital album

It seems only fair and logical to start this new adventure in a spirit of continuity rather than rupture. Regular readers of RFM will have enjoyed Marlo Eggplant’s fantastic exploration of the recent output of the Slip label, in particular co-founder Laurie Tompkins’ Heat, War, Sweat, Law, which Ms. Eggplant described as ‘pure play, touching objects, feeling surfaces, and hollering at friends.’

45thGeneration Roman & European Bob is a companion piece to Heat, War, Sweat, Law, sharing the latter’s anarchic spirit, non-existent musicianship and gestural physicality to create ungainly lumps of intuitive, defamiliarized sound-making.

In reality that means showers of yelps and grunts accompanied by wandering organ lines and the clacking splutter of someone banging a flowerpot. The overriding impression is of Tompkins and collaborators Sam Andreae, Suze Whaites and Owen Roberts stumbling across a ruined landscape, picking at the shattered remnants of musical forms, their attempts to remake them hindered by the fog of some post-traumatic amnesia. The yowls, patters and parps are a kind of post-catastrophe music making in a territory for which the maps are long gone.

However, if that’s true, why does it sound so much bleedin’ fun? Heat, War, Sweat, Law, although similar in approach, was immersed in an ambience of frustration, Tompkins wrenching fragments of Heaven 17’s The Height Of The Fighting into a series of despairing modernist anthems. The reference point this time around is The Streets’ ‘Turn The Page’.

“Turn the page on the day/Walk away/Cause they’re sensing what I say/ I’m 45th generation Roman/But I don’t know ‘em.”

Not that you’d recognize any of Mike Skinner’s geezer melancholy in the lines of these cracked mosaics.

Yet although the aesthetic is similar the vibe is completely different, Tompkins and his mob enacting a bizarrely celebratory set of rituals, a prelude to a primitivistic bacchanal. The overlapping hoots and hollers of ‘Fifth’ are a bewildering rush, drama-school posturing mixed with Dionysian abandonment in a proper WTF mash-up. ‘ER’ goes even more dissonant, with faux-clumsy keyboard spurts and bashed flowerpots chiming a stop-start backdrop for Tompkins’ vocal fulminations.

Time to embrace the bonkers, flower children.

giant-claw

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records) vinyl and digital album

Giant Claw is the sound of your old Windows XP machine being sliced to ribbons by malware, opening up a backdoor for digital housebreakers to riffle through your iTunes library and Amazon wishlist in a vain search for anything valuable – or at least, ahem, compromising – before giving up in disgust and sauntering off leaving a pile of soiled wreckage in its wake. That all this digital carnage is strangely comforting when served up as safely packaged entertainment for lovers of electro-jolt everywhere is testament to Giant Claw mover and shaker Keith Rankin’s cunning ability to create joy from sonic catastrophe, shredding wholesome nuggets of technological capitalism into itchy blankets of enervated jitterbug soup.

This kind of byte-scrabbled mess won’t be unfamiliar to anyone versed in the Oneohtrix Point Never school of production, which recasts the artist as a kind of hyperspace flâneur  kicking through virtual junkyards until they’ve gathered enough glitchy detritus to hack together lumbering automatons of cyber-rusted manure. But Señor Claw is a bit of maestro at this sort of thing, his two previous albums of hiccupping abrasion – 2014’s Dark Web along with Deep Thoughts from a year later – wearing their compositional nous lightly, the fused nodes of their distorted bloops, vocaloid shards and attention-addled jumpcuts only gradually revealing themselves as the delicately woven threads jig insouciantly past.

And so it goes with Soft Channel, Rankin’s latest missive from his empire of blown soundcards. Released on Rankin’s own Orange Milk label, its frenetic asymmetry may well prompt much gnashing of teeth from those not down with the Giant Claw ethos. After all, if one wanted to hear one’s laptop melting down, one wouldn’t have renewed one’s antivirus subscription, eh? But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Those chunks of circuit board gloop transition gradually into gleaming, impossible shapes, like sculptures altering their dimensions each time you see (hear) them. Ineffable snatches of alien choirs nudge up against scrolling vistas of spontaneous composition, their fraggy soundscapes smeared with streams of machine lingo fresh from the droid-brain.

The trebly pixel bursts of ‘Soft Channel 02’ make for particularly refreshing listening, their irregular blurts morphing into a prickly ooze of anime moans and hard-panned stutters. Things get double-caffeinated later, with ‘Soft Channel 006’s’ cello plucks tessellating into modem babble like some Benny Hill hack into the traffic-light mainframe.

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody ports off.

Day Realms

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions) cassette and digital album

David McLean’s Tombed Visions label continues to mine a rewarding seam of mutant sounds that combines fire music’s euphoric blowing with the protean spontaneity of free improvisation. Here he hooks up stateside exploratory reedsman John Dikeman with Belgian guitarist-cum-sound artist Dirk Serries and Dutch powerhouse drummer René Aquarius, for a transatlantic jam that sets a determined course for the far reaches of the universe, the trio losing themselves in gorgeously tangled chains of silvery honk and glassy deep-space glister.

Dikeman, Serries and Aquarius are part of a resurgent wave of free jazz that gathers up players from Europe, the US and UK in a cross–cultural throng. Tombed Visions released the first outing from this trio, Night Realms, in 2016 (it’s also provided on the flipside of this tape for any heads who may have missed it) – and players with a similar worldview, such as Andrew Cheetham, Otto Wilberg, David Birchall, Colin Webster and Sam Andreae, have also been represented, in various combinations, by McLean over the years. Of this lot, the ABC Trio’s two releases come particularly recommended, the threesome of Andreae (tenor sax), Birchall (guitar) and Cheetham (drums) locking together in an astringent yet weirdly groovy manner that’s sure to get anyone that’s interested in non-dogmatic free improvisation foaming at the gums.

Night Realms walks a jazzier line than the spittle ‘n’ leather of the ABC squad, its blissful candour creating a beatific cocoon of sound whose radiance doesn’t let up for the 40-odd minutes of its runtime. René Aquarius, whose muscular, arrhythmic chops for Dead Neanderthals are a major contribution to the duo’s seismic force, lets loose with flurries of cymbal and percussive snare and kick-drum jolts, driving forward his partners’ explorations in tidal surges. Serries is on good form too, with circling mantras whose textural sheen are evocative of In A Silent Way-era McLaughlin.

Together, Serries and Aquarius form a taut mesh through which Dikeman slithers with riverine guile. His playing is fluid and melodic, but tough too, his curling riffs building up into a brassy lung-busting cacophony that transforms Day Realms’ opening quarter of an hour into a joyful overture. It proceeds through a series of peaks and troughs after that, although the rhythm rarely feels contrived. At around 20 minutes, Serries drops out and Aquarius moves to toms, freeing up the higher register for Dikeman to blast out in a reedy, squealing tantrum. Serries edging back in with an extended single-note drone adds another layer of hypnotism, yet the tension is allowed to dissipate, oozing out in a series of desultory splashes and plunks, before the trip gird their loins for cathartic final-minute splatterfest.

Bring the cloths, you’re gonna need to clean up around here.

Sacred Tapes

Orange Milk Records

Tombed Visions

-ooOOoo-

kerry king’s amp fizz: joe murray on stuart chalmers, karl m v waugh, grey guides and cam

February 17, 2017 at 7:24 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)

Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)

Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)

CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)

 stuart-chlamers

Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download

Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions.  Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint.  You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.

Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill.  But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.

Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.

The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery.  “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?”  They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.

I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader?  The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’.  It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs.  It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.

There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort.  And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.

OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths).  It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions.  It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.

karl-m-v-waugh

Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download

Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.

Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth.  It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).

Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring .  The disembodied voice offers no comfort.

Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.

A statement? Perhaps.  A coping mechanism? Very much so.

Plug in and remain alert!

grey-guides

Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download

Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.

The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate.  The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.

The instrumentation is sparse.  A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’

The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness.  Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery.  A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.

‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.

Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind.  It’s heady like good brandy.

Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2).  The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.

I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder.  “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “

Yeah it is?

Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!

cam

CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.

It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.

Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit.  CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.

The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.

The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.

  • Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
  • More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices.  The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat.  But what’s that I hear?  The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
  • Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes.  The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
  • Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
  • Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
  • Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover.  Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.

OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.

 

Constellation Tatsu

Emblems of Cosmic Disorder

Crow Versus Crow Universe

SKRAT Records

-ooOOOoo-

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