Tags: drone, fells, guitar, hairdryer excommunication, handwritten, invisible city records, kevin sanders, luke vollar, miguel perez, ritual, skull mask
Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records)
Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication)
Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records)
No filthy typewriter, or flimsy keyboard for our Luke Vollar. He presents his vision scrawled in ink, direct to page. With the filters removed, the truth bleeds through…
Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records) C120 Cassette and Digital Album
Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication) Digital Album
Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records) C40 Cassette and Digital Album
a quivering lake of iron: joe murray in the invisible city: stuart chalmers, yes blythe, black threadJuly 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: black thread, invisible city records, joe murray, stuart chalmers, yes blythe
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5 (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR22, edition of 50 or download)
Yes Blythe – Arieto (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR21, edition of 50 or download)
Black Thread – Seeping Pitch (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR20, edition of 50 or download)
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5
The King of the Loops is back with another instalment of his magical Imaginary Musicks collection. Whilst recent Chalmers releases have been brimming with that space-age bachelor-pad sparkle this tape delves into a fascinating pop direction, making me think about folk like Talk Talk and The Associates for the first time in a decade.
What I liked at the time about those mid-80’s chin-strokers was they brought clever (but rarely clever-clever) themes and textures into a mighty pop tune; combining pre-millennial angst and longing with something the milkman could whistle. No mean feat, eh?
And Mr S Chalmers is bringing this high-concept dance-ability back to my cheap-o stereo with little more than the contents of a reusable canvas shopping bag: 3 cassette tapes, pedals, synth and Tascam 4 track.
But don’t get the idea that this is in any way lightweight. Check out the goat-herder playing solo Dicta-mung on ‘Brute’; the beasts chew contentedly, deconstructing an orchestra around a close-miked baritone sax. Or that nagging, insistent lop-sided beat that’s half Wu Tang and half Lewis Taylor’s ‘Bittersweet’ named ‘Harbinger’. Side one closes with ‘Warped’ (yeah… that title just had to happen) as a clutch of classical guitar notes get dragged back and forward across the tape head whipping up a quivering lake of iron.
Weepy piano tones shimmer all over ‘Nightscape’, whipping out a Kenny G for a couple of mordant moments that almost suggests Stuart is a fretless bass solo away from an ECM recording contract!
We dig deeper still on ‘Gothic’ (a padded envelope of volatile lady-squeal to be held in ginger paws) and ‘Psychosis’ (radio waves dotted with gritty human endeavour – a history of the world in realtime) to end on the heavy-tape heavyweight ‘Vista’ a masterclass of pregnant pause and elegant New Age smear.
The stoner pace and 3D sound mushrooms make side two as heady as an illicit joss-stick burning down to its thread core in my teenage bedroom.
OK you crossword fans. Take the ‘U’ out of Stuart and you are left with a START! Action is calling. Put down that greasy pencil and dial up some Chalmers therapy.
Yes Blythe – Arieto
Listening to Yes Blythe; sight unseen, un-googled and without any background braindumps I’m inclined to place them in the Northern European tradition of Scandinavian analogue throb.
The pulsating synth/electronics are pensive antiques and wheeze with an ääkköset limp. It’s clean and pure as wood-panelled sauna-life followed by a snowy thrashing with birch branches.
But of course, I’m wrong, wrong, wrong. Hailing from damp Manchester Callum Higgins seems to be Yes Blythe in its foggy entirety and here he presents two side-long pieces that play with space and time.
‘Tonal’ (side one) is pretty skunked-out, man; like the heaving of a giant’s shoulders as he chokes down a massive bong hit. The vibrations extend out beyond the body and infect the detritus of the afternoon: the table a riot of glasses, cassettes leaping free from their cases, glossy magazines splayed on the sofa, half-read, paper legs akimbo.
Slight and delicate clicks keep a lazy time, stretching and contracting, across the occasional soft shudder from a groaning brass gong. Smoke forms a flexible membrane that hangs across the room at chest height, the sun picks out one thousand motes, an everyday miracle revealed.
‘Tønal’ (side two) takes two notes snipped from the ghost of a Rhodes piano and plays them back into a busy restaurant. Diners dine as cutlery clicks pepper the mix and conversation links the condiments. Oil and bread rattle, eyes meet and there is a pause… hearts interlock.
The night progresses and the twin notes slowly bounce off each other with no diners to observe. The sound plays for its own amusement as bodies twist in the sheets.
Minimal psychedelic? Oh Yes Blythe!
Black Thread – Seeping Pitch
Just a thought…
For many N-AUndergrounders the release you hold in your hand and wrap your ears round is often the result of months of work and years of practice. But despite the hours that go into that tape, CD-R or download it is rarely a final statement.
In fact one of the key signifiers of N-AU activity is the restless work-in-progress nature of what we do. Those tapes just keep on coming. And why? Because there is more to uncover, more to explore…the individual idea seam may be heavily mined but the practice is part of the work; the work becomes the practice.
Black Thread, another new name on me, is unusual in that it feels fully realised and complete; a perfect string of polished beads.
Xangellix strides into the back room of a Working Man’s Club (Spennymoor circa 1987).
He throws his cape to one side and sits regally at the club synth. Plump fingers pump the keys releasing grainy wafts of melancholic ‘huhhgghh’.
Drinkers drain pints and slow light breaks through the grimy window. Sound wraps like a shroud around the disassembled crowd.
It’s like layers of electronic silt being deposited on the sea bed
one drinker squawks guiltily as he nurses his half of Peculiar Brew.
Another lifts his cap and hisses through teethless gums,
Foddle! I’m picturing gases rolling and churning through a clay pipe. They fill each cavity with the sound of damp longing. It’s fair set off my shrapnel ache here,
and he points a withered finger at his thigh.
Whippets moan in their sleep. It sounds like they whisper
through their narrow jaws as Xangellix plays on.
Boards of Canada lurk outside with a Dicta lifting new sound-cobbles for their witchy releases. The cads!
The Meat Raffle sweats in the corner wrapped in bleeding cellophane. As the final powerful chords fade into the mould-scented mist Xangellix notices the red stain on the lino.
he offers as a commentary and strides out, an engagement at The Top Hat beckons.
the rfm lunchtime recital programme #1: black_ops, grant evans, dag rosenqvist, kevin sanders, club sound witchesJanuary 15, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: awkward formats, black_ops, club sound witches, dag rosenqvist, grant evans, hairdryer excommunication, invisible city records, junk mnemonic, kevin sanders, lunchtime recital programme
black_ops – perdition (self-released download)
Grant Evans – Silent Refusal (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR16, edition of 50 or download)
Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels (12″ clear vinyl, Awkward Formats, AF08)
Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 10 or download)
Club Sound Witches – Uprok (tape or download, Junk Mnemonic, JM#4)
A new tactic. The lunchtime recital programme will be a series of short reviews published in batches approximately once a fortnight. This is me laying down some spontaneous thoughts following one or two listens as I commute or enjoy a midday stroll. Hopefully, this will fill gaps between my less frequent, lengthier reviews and op-ed pieces and act as a kind of regular jet-wash for my brain. Right then, off we go…
black_ops – perdition
The ominous pulse-breath of RED war machines idling on the Culverian tundra is naturally reverbed by a nearby crevasse. An injured BLUE soldier finds himself trapped there listening, delirious. The distorted synth washes of the final, title track have the tragic/grandiose feel of the conclusion to a SF dystopia movie of the 1970s – maybe the suicide scene of the disgraced BLUE general. The claustrophobic scrabbling added right at the end being his feeble attempt to clutch at his meaningless medals.
This release is: short, bleak, good.
Grant Evans – Silent Refusal
Evans, a new name to me, presents the sort of high quality, richly textured, characterful drone that sets my metaphor engine spinning. It is balanced with the gravity defying tension of a snail sliding along the jagged edge of piece of broken glass. It has the inexorable, hubris exposing/destroying momentum of a lava flow rolling over a car park full of military vehicles. It’s as compellingly unnerving as a slow-motion film of a giant octopus escaping into open water via an impossibly small hole in a glass tank. Another belter from Invisible City Records.
Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels
Make sure your ear buds are in snug as these exquisite crescendos of hiss are carried on a tidal wash of bass. Like fellow blog-fave Joined By Wire, Dag Rosenqvist appears to sculpt from slabs of raw emotion. Thus, despite clearly being the product of great craft, patience and ambition, the experience of listening to these pieces bypasses the cerebral and vibrates heart strings directly.
I admit the Vangelisian sheen of the final of these four tracks lost me a little but I appreciated the relatively positive vibe it ended on. Difficult to find fault with the prior three tracks though – not only did they press my buttons, they leant an elbow on them and used their free hand to clutch my shoulder reassuringly. I would, of course, love to see the dance performance that this music was composed for – the mind boggles.
Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us
18 minutes of utter nihilism in three movements. The first section is a six minute panic attack – a decision has been taken, the consequences are hurtling towards us but all attempts to change gear or direction are useless. Keys spin in locks, nothing has any grip. The second, shortest, section is the moment of violence itself. A hive is kicked over, split – the swarm inside gathering fury. The frayed tether of a snarling dog finally snaps. Raskolnikov looks down at the axe in his hand. The final section, maybe half the total running length, settles into an existential resignation – the slowing heartbeat of an injured and freezing mountaineer, the blood’s retreat.
Christ, Kev – what the hell do we do with this, eh?
Club Sound Witches – Uprok
When this began I had my doubts but after a few minutes I began to tune in to its wonky charm. The scrunching loops, pulses of grating hiss, synthy pops and noodles, nee-naw rhythms of battery-bled toy instruments combine into a playdoh monster greater than the sum of its neon coloured parts. Listening is a surprisingly intimate experience, not entirely comfortable, but there is something… I dunno… naughty about it. It’s like being the recipient of a clumsy, affectionate massage – complete with accidental inappropriate touching – from a friend trying to hide just how drunk they are…
Tags: anla courtis, g.j de rook, id m theft able, invisible city records, joe murray, no basement is deep enough, the pink chunk
Anla Courtis – Microtonal Drifts (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR18, edition of 50 or download)
The Pink Chunk – Unearthed (“C20 Tape in a pink and green bulbous swelling”, No Basement Is Deep Enough)
g.j. de rook – a and bla (“C25 Tape in a chunky letterist bundle”, No Basement Is Deep Enough)
ID M THEFT ABLE – Jowls Without a Face (“C25 Tape in a felt-lipped plush purse”, No Basement Is Deep Enough)
Anla Courtis – Microtonal Drifts
I’m such a brain-doofus I wouldn’t know a microtone if it bit my pooter but I can fairly say this tape is some splendidly jiggering fux.
On side one a skittering hand limply flaps nylon guitar strings whispering new vibrating words in my ear like…
Chid-duh-duh-duh; kunnnn-unnng. Douw. Douw. Douw.
I’m guessing the ex-Reynols professor is nudging a wooden guitar with layer upon layer of rubbery notes. A mixture of electronic effects and intelligent fingering makes each single tone wobble brightly and then gradually build up into an incredibly satisfying jelly. It neatly swerves the dreaded grey-goo approach by revelling in the human touch. The occasional stray string-buzz or delicately lacquered slap adds an artisanal edge, like stone worked smooth.
If that all sounds a little light and pretty for you side two uses the exact same methods (canny fingering, electric magic and fretboard slide-rules) but roars out the speakers like an acid-etched excursion by Xazzaz.
Picture a freezing sleet storm dashing horizontally across a bleak valley.
The stings howl in some Quatermass dialect, harsh and pissy, among never-ending metallic squeals. Thin abrasive sounds slowly peak like waves of shale, reaching a precarious tipping point then shatter noisily among cracked debris.
Imagine the world’s largest blackboard and the world’s longest finger nail.
The shush/slush/shush is polished with a finer grain and, just when you think you have the measure of this misty beast, the tape snaps off with a rude ‘click’.
Crickey! After a pause and pat down I feel like my ears have fallen down the stairs, hubbity-bubbing down each soft step but my body is still paused, taught and alert on the landing. I’m breathing hard and black-coffee wired. Thank you Invisible City for a darn-near perfect tape experience!
The Pink Chunk – Unearthed
It’s a NBIDE joint so that means you’ve plugged into some pure outsider trash right from the start yeah? The sleeve notes hint this is some forgotten classic, pressed originally to 45 way back in the day. I’ve learned to trust pretty much nothing Ignace says but the heft of the beardy voices and sunny collapse of the recording switch my dial to 1979 pronto.
As ever the NBIDE design budget is pushed hard with this Pink Chunk being delivered to me in a blinking Pink Chunk! 35/83?
The ‘Louie Side’ unwraps rock’s dumbest moment and gives the Kingsmen a right royal rodgering.
But it’s the cheeky dub effects that took me by surprise; at times I can hear Lee Perry plotting revenge on Chris Blackwell among the sloppy verbal poncing, smashed tunes (including a vamp on Ellington’s classic ‘Caravan’) and edge-of-the-mind juxtaposition.
Like a couple of Zappas with the smart-arse kicked outta them these partial-tunes/melodies and approaches collide in an unschooled mix. The Guru Gwilly Edmondez seems to be a retro-influence on some of the outpourings and that makes this a darn peachy effort in my book.
The ‘Kitchen Side’ starts with a Kitchen Cantata (natch) and dissolves into multi-speed stoopidity as quick as a wink. Playing purely for yuks can make a listener grudgeful, but no fear – dramatic crystalline metro-gnomes polish my pleasure node good!
Fake Inuit vocals hinge back and forth and have that cabin fever feel. In fact it’s all a bit infected with chipmunk squeals, frontiersmen accordion and, on occasion a ‘residents-plays-the-beatles-plays-the-residents’ hum than feels like I’m looking into an infinite mirror, reflecting, reflecting, reflecting…
What can you rely on? The unreliability, man.
g.j. de rook – a and bla
The phenomenal pulsating brain that is Gerrit Jan de Rook [poet, curator and artist] comes wrapped up in a unashamedly descriptive package of giant A,B,L & A again.
In the early 70s Gerrit Jan concentrated on sound poetry but has been active in publishing, mail art and all manner of edgy performance across the decades. Recently, all old and grey, he’s been roping in them Bloody Stereos for Rotter-fun. He’s a groovy uncle for sure; and as my kids would say…
Gerrrit… he’s legend.
I’m almost trembling as I slide this modest grey tape into the player and soon get jaxxed by some quiet yet fiercely determined vocalese jibber- jabber.
Side one is surely as pure as snowy white towels. There’s no electronics, no hawking-throat phlegm, no burst-sinus koff, no birdcall whittering or flutter but real text/sound meshes that sit as calm as a rose-scented balm.
The gentle undulations of language get gradually unpicked and unravel in a glorious slow-plosion. It flits and stutters but never breaks character or pauses for breath. At over ten minutes the sweet unconscious babble (yet fully scored and annotated I’m guessing) becomes a marathon of vowel sounds, repeated to reduce meaning, necessitating an automatic, animal response.
Those simple base syllables are stretched and re-modelled like putty to create unnatural tensions and networks. Yet, if I listen at a distance this yammer blends with the domestic hum of our house so perfectly they cancel each other out and space becomes transparent.
I have to sit back a little to ponder on what I’ve heard. Such wondrous play makes the ache in my knees vanish and an amber glow of energy snake up my spine. I’m transported to a more innocent time of long walks and toxic Tip Top drinks. This is music as time-travel provider!
Side two starts with super-gentle rounded phonics (all ‘ohs’, ‘ehs’ and ‘ahs’) but soon turns a corner into whispered ‘shiffing’ with a faint whiff of studio reverb.
The volume increases and pace quickens like a gushing tap until we’re in the midst of some demented horse racing commentary. Lips are slapping speedily as neurotic whimpers whistle through the fatty gob tissue. The occasional deft pause is dropped like a Gene Krupa rim shot. The sudden, off-beat, smack drawing you back into the moist melange as the thunder rumbles on.
I’m struck by the stamina and chutzpah that keep such a human mouth swinging with such fruity aplomb.
I surrender completely. Join me in slack-jawed praise.
ID M THEFT ABLE – Jowls Without a Face
MORE PURE KLUNK from the frizz-hair mountain that is THEFT ABLE.
Shit… props are most definitely due to SKOT as the absolute master of this kind of super-fast cut up jaxx and lippy bluster. This couldn’t be more different from the cool natter of de Rook. You can’t measure ID M’s punk-a-delic Truman’s Water to de Rook’s stately P Glass; his gilded Rococo mouldings to Rooky’s cool IKB 79. Apples and oranges man.
But before I go off like a jizz-rocket I must report its sheer chance that interrupts reason on the super-classy opener ‘don’t keep your feelings a secret’ as THEFT ABLE sings Hallmark platitudes in an uncomfortably high soprano. Like in his classic tape Babb’s Bridge found words become the jam in his porridge to gloop down tasty
Girdles rip as ABLE ‘poings’ energetic springs and screws up tape FFW scree to salt lake flats speeds on ‘TRY IT IF IT’S ELECTRIC’. Never a throaty singer, this is all front-of-house style vocal-jaxx with spittle being squirted between flat white teeth and rubbery uvula.
Mid-review note: The lips and cheeks play a fundamental part in ID M’s sound, as key to him as what those jazz-beards will riff over Dizzy’s groovy bullfrog impressions. Like Diz, ID M builds up such an impressive air pocket that other vocal improvisers lay gasping on all fours, all blacked out and nauseous. Yeah…these chops are deeply impressive and singular.
It’s delicious to get lost as side one continues to bluster and poke. Electronics fight it out with radio-thumbing and DJ mumble. The whole construction is whipped up, ever changing and jagged with energy; like a fidgets dream yeah!
But just when you’ve busted your last move and need a little breather ABLE brings out his Beatle-bones to jagg about playfully on xylophone and piano until it sounds like George Martin’s thrown down his headphones screaming
You fucking Scousers drive me batty.
Side Two introduces a multi-choir of massed nonsense. Partial songs jostle with instant composition, the brain-pauses keeping it cute.
Then things devolve into electronic stew // marimba destruction in a matter of minutes. With the clunk-a-bout wooden ‘dong’ being one of the most pleasant sounds this blender of soniks is cosy and comfy. Voices are pitched fairly high so that ‘meoooo’ thing doubled on twin tapes becomes a thick-grey wash, the odd words bubbles through are ‘vain’ or ‘fame’ or maybe both.
I could go on about the disembodied carping, the tuneful scratch, the dub-like ‘boof’ of dropped soup mix. But it would just be more words. If I’ve not convinced you to click on a link or check out this hipster’s profile [Editor’s note: woah, Joe is reclaiming the word ‘hipster’! Ballsy move!], I can do no more.
It’s over to you my most luscious reader.
Tags: aetheric records, askild haugland, brian lavelle, idwal fisher, invisible city records, joined by wire, lf records, lost trail, luminous monsters, shredderghost, taming power
Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree (self-released download)
joined by wire – universe allstars (CD-r, LF Records, LF048)
Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash (3” CD-r, aetheric records)
Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR13, edition of 50 or download)
Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God (7” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 7”-013, edition of 220)
Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air (self-released download)
As I mentioned in the 500th RFM post below, I’ve had some trouble writing about, or even engaging with, music during my recent period of illness. It became like an old friend I’d not seen in a while. You know how it goes: if you see someone all the time you talk at length about each other’s lives, the issues of the day or just bullshit about nothing but once circumstances split you up it’s hand written letters and calls, then emails, then the length of the news dump needed becomes daunting, then it becomes something you ‘should be getting around to’ then months pass and… ah…, hey – an opportunity to be a smart arse on Twitter, I can do that in two minutes whilst lying on the sofa! Don’t look at me like that – you’ve done it too. We are terrible people.
Actually, I can’t feel too guilty. Sure, it is crap that stuff sent our way months ago is languishing unreviewed but it is a coiled-liquorice-turd-in-a-hubcap-full-of-boiled-tramp’s-piss that I lost the use of my, shall we say, ‘higher functions’ for months of this finite and irreplaceable life. Anyway, justified resentment to one side, I am happy that my critical faculties are slowly returning and I find myself listening to racket again and making up nonsense in response. I’ll be revving up with short pieces, anthology posts and other ways of deteetering the review pile. First up: this lot, chosen at near-random.
Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree
An epic of lone wolf psych rock. Reminds me of teenage afternoons spent lying on my bedroom floor, fried, watching the carpet undulate in time with my heartbeat. The crescendo here is expertly handled – in the second track, ‘Sapling’, before the chugging even properly begins you can feel the reverb being allowed to hang in the air – like plumes of incense in the barracks of some stoned soldier ants, preparing to watch footage – again – of that one time they kicked those fucking termites’ arses. Sweet.
joined by wire – universe allstars
Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash
Imagine if the invitation to migrate to the off-world colonies was not a trope of dystopian SF, a cynical attempt to empty an increasingly choked and infertile Earth, but that all the marketing material was literally true. The experience of faster than light travel is an ecstatic oneness with the universe, the colonies themselves are bountiful paradises where the grim hierarchies of our current existence are abolished, the strange physical properties of the planets where they are located give us superpowers and so on. joined by wire and Lost Trail would be the soundtrack to it all. The former accompanying the day’s effort sculpting our new wild architecture. The latter for evenings by the campfire telling wistful tales about the old country whilst our newly tamed alien pets eye each other with suspiciously knowing expressions and idly test the strength of the ropes they are tethered with.
Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith
The first of two tracks begins with a satisfyingly rough-hewn tone/drone which is still but not motionless, like a fishing boat anchored in an otherwise deserted and isolated bay. When some curl, fizz and spit is applied to the sound later in the track it’s as if a bucket of chum has been thrown overboard to enliven an otherwise serene session of dozy, half-cut night fishing.
The first half of the second track documents the awakening of a holidaying Old One who squelches out of its semi-submerged tidal cave and swims under the boat. Sensing there is fun to be had, it belches a warning signal and whilst the mariners panic it eats them and, for good measure, the boat too. This crunching finale is represented by about five minutes of brute guitar skronk. I see where he’s coming from.
Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God
Back in February, Askild Haugland of Taming Power kindly sent me another four of his records. With his typical, understated generosity he did this unsolicited and free of charge just to ‘fill the gaps’ and as a way of thanking me for enthusing about his work (click the tag above for more of my writing on this subject). I was, as you can imagine, profoundly grateful.
His music has been a welcome tonic whilst I was sick. Presenting a variety of dramatic, ego dissolving views – across the frozen lake, scree slopes in the foothills, the emerald green grass of the flood plain – Askild’s work has the same perfect bite as opening your front door onto a December snow scene. I have not written about these releases partly for the reasons given above but partly because the more I think about it, the more perfect it appears. It has the same emotional intensity and efficiency of expression as the best poetry and, frankly, no-one needs my clumsy marginalia.
If I may make one suggestion: this 7″ single is a useful distillation and can be used as a map key to make sense of the atlas that is the Taming Power back catalogue. It is not an exaggeration to say I have listened to this dozens of times.
[Note: picture stolen from the Idwal Fisher blog where you will find a much more enlightening write-up here.]
Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air
Finally, then, we have this requiem for a much missed feline companion. Brian explains:
This piece was recorded in tribute to our beautiful cat Bob who passed away before his time on Friday 13 March 2015. He deserves more than this, but I’ve struggled with how to express in music just how much he meant to me and how big a void exists in my heart now that he’s gone.
It’s a beautiful ten minute track, constructed with the care and skill anyone familiar with Brian’s work might expect. It has the taut elegance of a cat trotting along the top of a fence, the magisterial poise of a paw on the neck of mouse and the soulfulness of a moggy sparked out in a sunbeam. It is (and I mean this as high praise and not a flippant joke) ‘Adagio for Whiskers’ – a glimpse into that edge-world that only cats can see.
Available for free download but donations gratefully received and passed on to the UK charity Cats Protection.
Taming Power (link to previous article with contact and price details)
Tags: adam denton, claus poulsen, discombobulate, invisible city records, joe murray, mutual process, sean cotterill, sindre bjerga, star turbine
Mutual Process – (untitled) (tape, Discombobulate, BOB006, edition of 50)
Star Turbine – White Lines Across the Void (tape, Discombobulate, BOB005, edition of 50)
Sindre Bjerga – Fugue States (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR15, edition of 50 or download)
Mutual Process – (untitled)
North-eastern gook-wizards, the venerable Sean Cotterill and golden majestic Adam Denton, link up electric oddments with greasy string and tobacco-stained sellotape in a classic table-top approach.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch the Mutual Process conduct and project live many times in various squats and attics so this tape becomes part of the open-ended conversation. Follow me…
untitled is a tape performance in three parts.
- Hard-to-quantify squeals fog outta the speakers to start off. Next a broken, backwards TV fizzes listlessly, circuits click open and off with a feline ‘pop’. The sound of Bertoia’s metal rods being manipulated rise out of the mist as graceful as silver-backed Gorillas and with the same barely restrained violence.
- Then it gets quiet… A titanium wind blows. The chicken bones in the trees, gathered by sneaky children start to rattle, shaking off all the trappings of modern life (mobile phones, reality TV etc) to make the sort of sound I last heard during my time at the Phillips Research Laboratory (1956 – 63). The hiss and whistle of the earlier movement is overtaken by a deep-dive into electronic sound arts. Tony Stark himself would goof-off on the reflective magnetic!
- Redundant repulsor rays seem to form the carrier wave to some jittery cipher that tips a hat to the unbreakable Meskwaki code talkers in the third and final movement. Gritty ceramics get bowed with a rat-tail file, cheese graters get bent across a leather clad knee and spanked hard.
Mutual Process: the Marvel-style team up you N-AU heads have been waiting for. Nuff said, true believer.
Star Turbine – White Lines Across the Void
Two live pieces from that great Dane Claus Poulsen and the James Brown of the Underground that is Sindre Bjerga.
Star Turbine are one of those remarkable duos that take two very different approaches and create a very different third wheel; so buckle up buttercup!
Side ‘A’. Pinched nip tweaks give way to that kind of chugging (kof-kof-kof) riff that you find in both 80’s Thrash Metal and late 90’s Italio-House. Before long a canard paddles up the Tyne (this was recorded in Newcastle’s Mining Institute – a scant hop from the sleepy river) with its booming fog horns and belching smokestacks. We travel it’s feathered back to Belize (or somewhere) where electric drizzle cascades down waxy green leaves. Claus and Sindre stoke the fires in the engine room, shovelling dense peat into the orange-mouthed furnace, until sweat beads on brawny forearms, brows and backs. A scat of brittle C90 crackle ends the performance with gentlemanly style.
Side ‘B’ Another live set opens with kissy-kissy intimate ‘pings’ and an erotic polystyrene sigh that almost makes me blush dear reader! This is a superb recording; the up-close micro-sounds are raw in my pig-pink ears.
And the fidelity becomes a player in the game. It draws me deeper into the slobbering honks (fresh like cabbage), field recordings (the heavy links of rolling stock) and dainty metal strokes (innocent as Hans Christian Andersen) layering these orphaned sounds into sonic béchamel.
A cello recorded beneath a mantle of Williams’ Flubber adds a lovely rasp, all cosy and warm, to accompany those cheeky poly-styrenes who begin to squish Galaxians beneath a giant thumb. The bright colours run under the pressure and leak out the loop, whorl and arch spilling onto the scrubbed linoleum.
Both sides were recorded approximately 239 miles apart. Keep on truckin’.
Sindre Bjerga – Fugue States
Live at Ryan’s Bar (London) opens with some awesome tape fuckery executed with extreme prejudice. I had to keep leaping out of bed to check the Cheap-o Hi-Fi wasn’t chewing this innocent tape to little tiny bits!
It’s a kind of a dancehall sound that’s getting mangled here; think Notting Hill Carnival slipping down a gritty wormhole as things slowly, slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y get more Solaris-on-yr-ass. An acapella voice sings some middle-of-the-road ditty/euro-disco pumps/fireworks briefly flare in the cold black sky…
Gosh…this is seriously warped. The stretched tape sounds under immense pressure, like geological pressure, man, as smeared voices try valiantly to drag themselves over the welcoming polished tapeheads.
The cognitive planet vibe starts to bulge my eyes out slightly. An unnatural intelligence erupts as the compact cassette reaches cognition! A perfect 17 minutes.
Side two, live at Kveil #3 (Bergen) opens with an ever-so-slightly polite fistful of tape messin’ that can carry a sustained hiss as easy as I can pinch 3 pints together into a beer-pyramid [Editor’s note: with bag of crisps held between clenched teeth too I hope]. The general pace is super-relaxed with ‘humms’ and ‘whirrrs’ sloshed about like grey undercoat on a corporation bench.
Rather than mash tape into iron-rich paste the manipulation has a more benevolent hand, guiding firmly but with an ear for collaboration. So when voices crackle through the dead air I’m looking for a Radio Ham who recently turned on.
I wonder. Ham? Amateur? Ham-ateur? Well whatever term we choose to use the signals picked up by Sindre’s aerials add honest human peaks to some stereo-spring ‘clunk’ that paves the way for a Bjerga classic hiss-drone. Thin like gruel it is until the whole thing clots like blood pudding, lumpy and painful…and ‘click’ the tape finishes.
Recorded in 2015 (Side A) and 2014 (Side B) approximately 1,262 miles apart.
Tags: altar of waste, cory strand, domestic recording, drone, field recording, invisible city records, joe murray, luke vollar, midwich, new music, no audience underground, noise, screaming party, shameless self-congratulation, swifts, tapes
Midwich – The Swift (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR11, edition of 40 or download)
RFM is delighted to announce that The Swift by Midwich has been reissued by the essential Invisible City Records and is available as a beautifully packaged tape or convenient download.
The album was originally released as one 65 minute track on CD-r, presented in another beautifully designed cover in a tiny edition of 15, by highly-regarded American noise label Altar of Waste. Here is the very flattering blurb written by AoW head-honcho Cory Strand:
Gorgeous and tidal cascade of gentle droning sounds that become something akin to a crushing roar from the between the cracks in the sky and the broken limbs of trees, Midwich’s epic construction “The Swift” is a piece that flirts with both natural ambience and HNW severity without fulling giving over to either. Created from field recordings of swarms of swifts procured by the artist, the sounds here recall both the bleak pastoral harmony of the English landscape and the encroaching rumbles of black clouds swarming the sky. Similar in tone to the work of Richard Skelton with a goodly dose of Daniel Menche’s and Clive Henry’s approaches to manipulated field recordings, “The Swift” is an amazing composition that demonstrates both the awesome power of the natural world around us and the possibilities inherent within electronic manipulation. An incredibly creative work that blurs whatever genre lines you’d care to draw.
Altar Of Waste is very pleased to release this latest missive from one of the UK’s finest practitioners of underground drone. Succumb to the swarm and feel the tense beating of thousands of wings buzzing around you. Breathe in the awe.
My colleagues here at RFM dug it too. Joe said:
The Swift is a single hour long piece in three distinct movements.
Movement one: It starts like the soundtrack to ‘Evolution…The Movie’ as grey gloop is replaced by lazy cellular dividing and static, internal egg-memories. Things settle on Mothra’s mating ritual – long drawn-out breaths gradually moving out of synch as feathery lungs push huge volumes of air through Sperm Whale baleen.
Movement two: A rhythmic ticking and the clatter of ghostly forklift trucks start to creep in. The Swifts chirrup, skittering in the air warmed by the horny Mothra. Listeners note: this section accompanies the flock of stately wind turbines near Chesterfield spectacularly.
Movement three: The final five minutes heave like the tides, slowly encroaching on an abandoned city; washing through the deserted streets, clearing the human junk for a stronger, fitter civilisation floating slowly through the brine.
No question this is Rob’s most immersive and ambitious piece of Midwichery yet. You gotta have it!
..and Luke made it his album of the year:
Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?! Madness.
Teacher’s pet, eh? The lad will go far. Positive comment written by those outside the RFM ‘office’ can also be found but, you may be surprised to learn, there are limits even to my vanity. You get the picture: it was well received and I am proud of it.
Despite the eye-watering cost of shipping copies from the USA, the edition sold out sharpish. I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and, after falling in love with North East noise label Invisible City Records, I just couldn’t resist reaching out to label boss Craig Johnson and planting a seed. Given the catalogue already amassed it seemed like the perfect home for The Swift and, to my delight and relief, Craig agreed. The track has been carefully halved to accommodate the change in format and the new artwork captures the atmosphere of the piece exactly. It is a high quality item and, in my entirely trustworthy, un-conflicted, un-self-interested opinion, an essential purchase.
Finally, a word to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy of the original edition. If you are among that elite please forgive me for diluting the experience with a reissue and remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year. I’ll sort you out proper. If you are mad enough to buy both editions then as well as the Aqua Dentata CD-r I’ll see if I can secure you a freebie of the next midwich project which, in stark contrast, is likely to run 18 minutes and contain 12 tracks. Punk rock, eh? More news as it breaks, but for now…
Tags: black thread, caisson, craig johnson, culver, death register, drone, electronica, invisible city records, j.c. meraz, joseph curwen, lee stokoe, miguel perez, new music, no audience underground, noise, people-eaters, philipp bückle, roadside picnic, saturn form essence, tapes, the will of nin girima
Death Register – Phonaesthesia (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR03, edition of 40 or download)
The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR04, edition of 30 or download)
Black Thread – Autumn Flowers (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR05, edition of 30 or download)
Culver – The Abductress (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR07, edition of 60)
Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR08, edition of 40 or download)
Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR09, edition of 24 or download)
Philipp Bückle – Drawings (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR10, edition of 50 or download)
I may have asked this question before but, fuck it, it’s worth asking again: if given a choice between listening to a release new to you or to one that you are familiar with and know is good which do you choose? Apart from when I’m repeat listening prior to writing a review, for me it is the former nearly 100% of the time.
I’ll go further: by ‘new’ in this context I don’t just mean ‘previously unheard’ but also mean ‘recently produced’. I’ve been a music fan for over three decades now, including many years patrolling the fringes and an overlong stint as a variation on the type of insufferable asshole I am soon to describe. Sure, there remain gaps in my knowledge – some vast – but I’m past caring. I’ve heard enough of the classic, the important, the ephemeral, the popular, the unduly overlooked etc., etc. to justify an opinion, an opinion backed by thousands of hours of ‘study’. I still spend every moment allowable listening to music but, y’know – for now at least, I think I’m done with the past.
Box sets and reissues nauseate me (apart from the two I’m personally involved with at the moment, of course, which are rad) as does collector/completist culture. With a couple of noble exceptions – I recommend the transcendental journey documented by Phong Tran via the @boxwalla twitter account, for example – every ‘have you heard <old recording X>?’ conversation or twitter thread just reminds me of a certain curly-haired obsessive that became the bane of Termite Club nights around the turn of the century. This nut – I’m not naming him, slowly incant the Nurse With Wound list and he shall appear – would limpet onto an unfortunate attendee and engage in the most tedious yes-but-have-you-heardism only stopping at 3am when him yelling ‘yes, but what do you think of Lemmingmania?’ through their letterbox was the final straw and the police were called. I exaggerate for comic effect of course, but not by much – ask Michael Clough about it.
Whilst I’m being fussy, newness in the two senses above isn’t enough on its own. For example, I recently purchased one of them proper CDs they have now by an actual band on the recommendation of a friend whose tastes do not map onto mine but whose judgement is trustworthy. The album is brand new and by a respected metal act with an unimpeachable DIY ethos but, with each episode of crushing riffage telegraphed bars in advance, I found myself struggling to get through it twice. It’s newness was more than offset by it being structurally boring.
That said, innovation on its own isn’t enough either. Safe to say that I’ve never heard anything quite like current darling act <name redacted because I can’t be arsed arguing with disciples wounded by my blasphemy>, for example, but my opinion as to the worth of that work is, shall we say, in the minority. Whilst I cherish moments when a gleeful smile cracks my grumpy visog and I wonder out loud ‘what the fuck is this?’ I have nothing in principle against tropes, conventional sound-palettes, standard instrumentation and so on.
So what do I want? I want something previously unheard by me and recently produced, ideally in an uncompromised DIY manner. Surprises and innovation are always welcome but not necessary, genre conventions can be absolutely fine as long as they don’t lead to a formal dullness that drags me away from the experience. In short, I want something that transports me to a different place. It does happen – surprisingly frequently – and over the last few months the place I’ve been taken to has often been the Invisible City.
Following the sad demise of Tyneside’s Basic FM last year, Craig Johnson – host of RFM-on-the-radio-type show Unknown Surroundings – started Invisible City Records partly as a way of plugging that hole. The guy has an irresistible, and wholly laudable, urge to plug the music that he/we love and chose to continue doing so using the now almost standard ‘business model’ of limited edition tapes for the remaining object fetishists and pay-what-you-like downloads for the sane. Yes, yes, I know I got the hump with this approach a few months ago but hypocrisy is the least of my crimes and, hey, quality content conquers all.
ICR specialises in long(ish) form drone/noise with a penchant for fuzzed out entropic decay and dystopian synth soundtracks. Releases are not without moments of wry humour and the odd jump scare but all have an attention to detail and seriousness of intent that makes for an immersive and transporting experience. It is a tough label to use as background music for chores and many’s the time I have found myself sprawled out, staring at nothing, task forgotten as one of these visions unfolds. The catalogue already features several RFM regulars: Culver, of course, people-eaters, Miguel Perez (alongside J.C. Meraz as The Will of Nin Girima) and releases reference literary house favourites like Lovecraft, Ballard and (to my delight) the Strugatsky brothers. Tailor made for me, eh? It is even based in Gateshead. Perfect.
OK, given the exemplary quality control already exhibited by Craig I could just say: ‘go buy the lot’, give the link and await your expressions of gratitude. But that would be a dereliction of duty. Instead here’s a summary of the ICR story so far:
ICR01 Joseph Curwen – Shunned House was due to be reviewed by ex-staffer Scott McKeating but unfortunately he fell into a non-Euclidean angle between walls whilst exploring an Antarctic archaeological site. Alas.
ICR02 Caisson – High Rise inspired me to put together a review-as-photo-essay featuring pictures of celebrated concrete brutalism taken on the campus where I work.
ICR03 Death Register – Phonaesthesia comprises three tracks of drawn out ragged synth lines propelled by loops of machine hum. The final track, ‘R’, is seventeen minutes of augmented dream state which calls to mind Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II and is more or less perfect.
ICR04 The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation is a duo of Miguel Perez and J.C. Meraz and is quite possibly the finest recording that Miguel, my good friend and inspiration, has been involved with. A series of six ‘dark ambient’ rituals, it has scope, ambition and imagination and its lengthy running time just flashes past. Unlike most noise of this type it also contains passages that are genuinely unnerving too. Terrific.
ICR05 Black Thread – Autumn Flowers is a short, beautiful album of loops eroded into noise. Yes, I understand this process will be familiar to many readers but this is a fine instantiation, full of emotional content. Like a time-lapse film of a cherished wind-up toy thrown into the ocean, destroyed by salt and the motion of the tide.
ICR06 people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear got the treatment by me not long ago in a piece about the terrifying, nihilistic idea that there are no such things as monsters. It can be found here.
ICR07 Culver – The Abductress is another schooling from the master Lee Stokoe. Following a pattern familiar from several recent releases, melancholy guitar is swamped by a gathering electrical storm of fuzz drone noise. However, this descent is more distressed/distressing than usual. This is less Ballard – ultimately accepting of the entropic drowned world, more Wyndham – a fight against the alien forces causing the rising waters. ‘ruby ford’, the last of the three tracks is such an epic, all you can do is admire its teeth from a safe distance.
ICR08 Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower is a work of special power. Via a series of sculptures crafted from brooding analogue electronics it conveys the gargantuan, unclouded patience of a planet-wide AI that just knows it has this fucking right. If we could hear the ‘music of the spheres’ it would sound like this: implacably hostile, utterly indifferent to your existence.
ICR09 Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned provides a whole bunch of those ‘what the fuck is going on?’ moments. Comprising two tracks totalling about an hour and a half, we have movements (too leisurely to be called ‘collage’ I think) incorporating, amongst other things: heavily filtered scrabbling, pastoral tropicalia and electronics that range from the soothing wail of a slowed down, pitched up alarm to the chirrup and whirr of robotic insects. It would be a great soundtrack to an adaptation of that famous children’s story about rabbits. You know the one where prehistoric rabbits find a monolith and fight each other, then find another one on the moon thousands of years later, then go on a space mission with a mad computer that deliberately gives the astro-rabbits myxomatosis. Yeah, that one.
ICR10 Philipp Bückle – Drawings which was released today as I wrote this! Haven’t heard it yet but you gotta admit the streak is hot. Here’s your quote Craig: ‘This album is great!’ – Radio Free Midwich. Fuck it, why not?
So that’s it. Well, not quite.
Whilst not wanting to steal Craig’s thunder I think I might know what ICR11 will turn out to be. Y’see early last year the American noise label Altar of Waste released ‘the swift’ by midwich in a criminally limited (and quite expensive due to shipping costs) edition of 15 with no digital version available. It was well received, I was proud of it and I was very grateful to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy. I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and just couldn’t resist reaching out to Craig and planting a seed. What a recommendation, eh? This label is so good that I found a way to be on it.
More news as it breaks!
(…and if you are one of those kind purchasers of the original edition please forgive me. Remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year – I’ll sort you out proper.)