corn toes throb: rfm on diatribes, yearning kru, sophie cooper & julian bradley, sam andreae/david birchall/otto willberg and kay hillApril 27, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: david birchall, diatribes, heavy petting, invisible city records, julian bradley, kay hill, luke vollar, mantile records, mappa editions, otto willberg, sam andreae, sophie cooper, strange rules, the slowest lift, vernacular recordings, yearning kru
Diatribes – Sistere (Mappa Editions)
Yearning Kru – Swumpengelf (Mantile Records)
Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley – The Blow Volume 3 (Front & Follow)
Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willberg – Hair in the Chimney (Heavy Petting/Vernacular Recordings)
Kay Hill – ANARAK (Invisible City Records)
Kay Hill – Summit Tapes pt 2 (Strange Rules)
Diatribes – Sistere (Mappa Editions) Handsomely-boxed C40 tape and digital album
A new-to-me name, Diatribes, are a Swiss improvising duo – D’incise & Cyril Bondi – who offer us two damn-fine, side-long, ritualistic explorations.
‘Tabi-Tabi’, this woozily hypnotic twenty-minute rhythm workout starts like a boredoms drum-circle with a handful of percussion (bells, shaker, bamboo claves, half bag of rice and those damn shell contraptions) round a campfire and stays near enough in that vein for the duration. Off-kilter electronic fingering appears around the edges and new shaken textures begin swooping in over the central heartbeat.
A lazier reviewer would play the Steve Reich card but this seems in no way minimal. Sure there’s not much in terms of shifting sonic content but the arrangement and variety of dryness verses simple clattering brass is filling my soft head with little tinkles like I done an ASMR youtube marathon.
The pulse never changes…but just when I think “I’m about to leave my earthly body, swooped to heaven with winged heels…” a series of thin ringing tones guides my soul back into this slumped form on a silver wire.
I’m a cotton-mouth shaman!
The contrast of ‘Utsara – Utsara’ couldn’t be more pronounced. Double-deep floor-tom beats in half-time with a sultry resonance. It sounds human-played with deft smears and deep-red ringing.
Imagine your favourite gamelan record slowed down and ironed out to a single fragrant strike repeated over and over again while something lurks behind the mix hissing and spitting.
This is the music of waiting for bad things to happen and listening is an uneasy, spiritually distant experience – there is no euphoria in the repetition – just slowly creeping dread like the crops failed and goat milk has gone sour. Why’s everyone looking at me?
I’m a cowering villager!
Yearning Kru – Swumpengelf (Mantile Records) tape and download
What the Dickens tape-mulch that sounds like a super-high-gloss production being ruined by an unexpected plutonium pulse and scrambled forever.
This tape is such a delight because of it’s extremely twisted DNA. No sound is left unmolested for a moment – each digital bang or gritty slump is smothered in maximal oddness, then wrung out, then laid out on another freakish griddle.
I’ll try to make sense of it for you but I fear I’m too old…
- Swooshing, the colour of Vogue Magazine – all fleshy beige (Canisters in the Marsh). A three-part structure is implied but never enforced: smeared samples, a clock ticks backwards drips behind, smashed glassy tinkles blink.
- Unpleasant whalloping (Gulping Boulders) and dropped iron vases. Corn toes throb.
- Beamed direct from Hell (Nightbrightener) as Dante attempts to sing his way out over a barrage of malfunctioning bass machines and melting RAM.
- One recognisable mbira is a brief oasis (Tattoo (Petrol)) until my bratty breath is looped (The Address) like no human mouth could ever, ever, ever…it ends in desperate scratchin’.
- This is no conventional medley (U Neva Glissend) but a hint of Sunday School organ gone random while the bad kids glitch and moan in the pews.
[Ed’s not: despite the computer-led approach, Cronx’ Yearning Kru leads directly to Hull’s Yol on my why-aye-player and the segue into gritty, real demolition sounds perfect – hey people – let’s make it happen!]
Fans of Guttersnipe and Autechre form a queue please…
Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley – The Blow Volume 3 (Front & Follow) tape and digital album
RFM’s very own Sophie Cooper and his Excellency the Julian Bradley have been creating soft bubbles of weirdness for many years ploughing fuxxed-electronics, vocal grease and guitar-moff in a variety of solo trips, swift duos and long-lived freakbands. Pledging their troth to the way-out they formed The Slowest Lift (check press for details) but on this fayre tape they play under their own names. No less sloe! No less lifting!!
OK…that’s the scene set. What you’ve got here is two sides of ferric huss that runs the gamut from ‘thundering whale barnacles’ to ‘cardamom fueled intoxication.’ The controls are jammed into the red from the off with maximum distortion, reverb and delay of a type so strong it begins to punch through the fog that obscures the river bank that I’m squatting beside.
Tracks like ‘Wish Me to Forget You’ a gruff-electronic-folk-sonnet wonders what became of the hangman’s beautiful daughter. ‘The Body’ considers the mysteries of the fallow field. Full of shuddering wormy detail and slowly rejuvenating with essential nitrates!
Super-slow and re-imagined ‘Greenhead’ is as catchy as Under Mi Sleng Teng and fair forms a crust with them steel-pan clonks that count it out…5,4,3,2,1.
The three-part movements of ‘Nowhere from the Water to Go’ starts with (1) misty-eyed spirals of multiple guitars picked in the spirit of Portugal’s Manuel Mota – rugged plucking looped over thumbs like cat’s cradle – until (2) all sin is washed clean with thick, bassy waves of caustic tone spitting like a red-hot poker plunged into rough cider. The coda (3) haunts in its brevity – a pickled pepper of all that’s gone before.
Up-to-the-minute tape-scroll and scratch-jaxx infects the short neighbours ‘My Muscles’ and ‘The Mirror’. The former a black-dark fustering of synth-tones, dragged copse and dislocated voice the later a bona performance of séance gymnastics. Lo!
The spookiest of the bunch, ‘Congratulations,’ showcases floating twin vocals becoming an almost-ghost. No doubt a terrible tale is being told over a tune as loose as a Bardo Pond jam from way back.
Seriously delightful, yet quivering with restraint. Sort of like sweeping an experienced hand over the powerful flanks of a gelding.
Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willberg – Hair in the Chimney (Heavy Petting/Vernacular Recordings) CD
Ecstatic three-way improv shunting with many fingers.
That idea of complex gets a bad rap eh? In a world where simplification and convenience are sleepwalking us into some sort of human stasis we often shove anything difficult or involved on to tomorrows ‘to-do’ list.
Those real-gone physics-beards have got the right idea though. They claim even the thorniest, knottiest equation can be beautiful. A problem so complex so wide and deep and long that most of us mere mortals can’t even understand the damn question gets wrapped up and buffed into a solution all brief and balanced – achieving beauty.
So along with the Prof Yaffles: Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willburg invite us to smudge their chalky equation with our fresh ears.
Hair in the Chimney is an ultra-complex, lovingly-layered and nuanced peak into a virtually infinite system of sax, guitar and double bass techniques.
Don’t get your Zappa out! These techniques are a million miles from prog’s privileged meanderings (and for that matter refreshingly free of improv cliché) and almost telepathic as any squeak, belch or ‘boing’ travels from sax to guitar to bass in a second.
There’s three lengthy pieces here, long enough to get dug in and explore an ever changing landscape of some new improv patois. The textures move from brittle and broken to bulbous and ripe over the course on each imagination.
And though you might expect that with two string-bringers there’s an overreliance on pluck. Not so! The guitar and bass are as happy to hum and wobble as the sax is evidently delighted to quietly pop from time to time.
Of course it’s not all about speed and mimicry. The sympathetic support of each instrument and player is super-palpable as each voice is selfless enough to bring out the best in each other. Be that a slow dripping, almost Sonic Youth-style, electric gamelan or a razor-sharp ladder of tones, each essential to the overall sculpture.
Floats as easy as lubricated conversation.
Kay Hill – ANARAK (Invisible City Records) C20 tape and digital download
A welcome return from Ben Hallatt. A fine player who first ruffled my feathers a coupla years back at the glorious Crater Lake festival – then proceeded to gently massage my shoulders, taking great care to conceal a syringe of potent sedative that could be plunged into my neck when least expected via a slew of marvelous releases.
Here under the Kay Hill moniker he continues with what I previously described as eerie-urban-horror with muted synth and tape work.
On the mysteriously illusive ‘ANARAK’ (no info save from the artist and title) Ben offers two sides of insistent minimalism that flick with cold urgency like Morse code distress signals. The stately and austere construction of these pieces nudges Ben further away from the noise-dingus camp into a zone of bespectacled academia and ultra-minimal electronics with the implied threat of early Wolf Eyes/American Tapes/Hanson releases.
I guess the rotating orbs we hear are reels of analogue tape floating with thudding rhythms that are offset by smears of static gristle and clunk. Ben constructs his tracks like a plate spinning exercise of noises, his timing and flair for adding and subtracting sounds at the right time is impeccable. (Luke Vollar)
Kay Hill – Summit Tapes pt 2 (Strange Rules) C20 and digital download
‘Summit Tapes pt 2’ continues the engrossing drama with high lonesome tones smooshed with low key grunk and fleck.
The forlorn, barely-there conclusion of the first side sounds, for all the world, like the slow journey through an underground cave-river to an unknown conclusion. A dim light illuminating the craggy rock and the knowledge that you may well be facing the end alone.
The subtle and eerie unraveling of the second side has a slow and steady whistle rising like Doctor Octopus’ steely tentacles within a claustrophobic vortex . I keep going back to horror as a comparison but it does seem appropriate with Kay Hill as he has a gift for building tension and dread that, like the best horror films, focuses on the drawn-out suspense and fear – not the grisly climax.
So it’s fitting that there is no grisly climax to be found on either of these Hill tapes; and as the muted keys whir and crunch, half remembered voices play out ‘side b’ like a waterlogged fifth-generation tangerine cassette.
I am again extremely impressed. (Luke Vollar)
Heavy Petting / Vernacular Recordings
Tags: beautiful, beauty, culver, dirurnal burdens, downer canada, drone, fordell research unit, invisible city records, power moves library, smut, witchblood
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records)
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records)
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records)
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library)
Fordell Research Unit – Etches of Pain (Invisible City Records) C45 Tape and digital album
Have I told you about my eyes lately? It’s the ordinary story…this old guy keeps gets older, bits keep conking out on me – but my eyes? I need my eyes!
I’m counting out change wrong, I can’t read a bus ticket at all and now these damn tapes have become a blur. I need to rummage for my specs for any meaningful exchange between tape gunk and brain dump.
The reason I’m telling you this is, for a few weeks, this was written up as ‘that black tape’ in my note book. It took me a long time to notice the subtle grey on black lettering on the j-card – something one of you youngsters could spot at 100 meters no doubt.
My ears are sharp as a bat’s however so each time I played this mysterious monolith I was soon enveloped in the deep, smoky fug of what I recognised as an expert dronester.
Was it a secret butter-fingered Robert Fripp jamming with a sleepy Stephen O’ Malley? Were Jazzfinger scooping treats from their legendary tape library?
And then it slowly swam into focus…in a bleary wobbling font…it’s a Fordell joint. Of course!
Things start out damn majestic with a shuddering overture as easy and relaxed as soft breathing in your ear. Cornelia Parker’s flattened brass instruments shuffle themselves into formation on ‘Flying not Jumping’ creating a collapsing house-of-cards effect.
But it’s ‘Heat Death of the Universe’ that shifts these lofty airbourne melodies into pulverising heavy sub-bass Sabbath riffage. A relentless avalanche, cascading down, down, down…and yet somehow it still remains pretty.
I wonder aloud, “How does he do it?” as the cats sit watching me.
But they soon scatter when ‘Frodell Ferox’ digs even deeper. It’s a god-damn canal dredger of a track. Filthy silt is drawn up from a hidden watery grave and held aloft facing an indifferent sun. Jesus – this is epic stuff, but still…you know, beautiful man.
The B side shimmers macro to micro; from the size of a sparkling infinite universe to the dull silver bubbles swirling in my gin and tonic – it’s all here.
The constant now of ‘The Wrong Train’ is a singular vibrating point dragged out into eternity (quite seriously Horizon need to check this out for their science docs) each moment gently circling a central atom of dust.
The closer ‘Shark’ describes the brain collapse that immediately precedes sleep – a deep submission. This night-time plummeting is underscored with a slight feathering, like the flex of a fin as it cuts through the dark water.
Truly immense music that echoes the subtle power of the natural world.
[postscript- it was only when I was jamming this tape later, in preparation to watching FRU in Gateshead, I noticed the sneaky Miles pun of the title. Which reminds me…have I told you about my eyes lately?]
Witchblood – Xenie (Invisible City Records) one-sided C70 tape strictly no download
This genius collaboration from Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and Lucy ‘Smut’ Johnson takes simple piano and tape drone and using their collective dark alchemy turn it into the purest gold.
This really is one hell of a tape – the handling of such humble materials is exceptional and each piece strikes a different tone on the melancholic memory gong marked ‘summer heartbreak caught in delicious amber’.
There’s an aching to the sound that’s more than the sum of any hiss or lo-fi tape wobble. It’s the marbled end-papers in a leather-bound book, it’s the smell of cigar smoke on a blue velvet jacket. The sounds are so evocative of longing it is hard for me to not to run off with some Byronesque fancy, all frilly sleeves and a head full of opium.
Example? A moment on the third piece where one tape of piano gently doubles up with another with the most gorgeous dissonance that made me, quite literally, swoon like a regency dandy.
The fragile and opaque piano clusters merge perfectly with the distant tape grot spluttering away yet they seem to swap foreground and background with a subtle magic – one moment I’m picking out ivory notes descending like doomed men. In the next the boiling-ink bluster of the tapes scrubs my frontal lobes clean of any other information.
I flop around foolishly anticipating one of ‘my turns’ again and realise I’ve been gloriously witchblooded.
Limited to 50 only and no download (ever) so move quickly to bag this essential release.
Diurnal Burdens – Inaction / Extinction (Invisible City Records) C60 Tape and digital album
Superfuckingheavyconceptdrone from king of the amplified barbecue, Ross Scott-Buccleuch.
The sleeve notes are clear this smudged and grimy sound was created from reel-to-reel, no-input mixer and walkmen etc – but a sit down listen, pumped up pretty loud, suggests something more elemental.
The side-long ‘Inaction’ seems to be composed of low pressure ridges or gigantic boulders howled at by monks. Then things change and become more avian – the magical instinct of migratory birds swooping through thin magnetic fields following graceful arcs of the ocean captured on tape.
It holds that menace of feathers still – a sight to behold but no one wants a quill in the eye!
Flipping it, ‘Extinction’ is slowly decaying leaves: bright reds and yellows leaching their energy back into a grateful Earth. The movements are more delicate and angelic with an emphasis on collapse and euphoric hypnosis as centres associated with freewill switch off one-by-one.
The long-legged rhythms provided by the loops allow this tape to amble in an exploratory mood – looking in your mood cupboards and checking your emotional temperature before slinking out the backdoor leaving the gas on.
The final few movements are a lazy rumble, worn smooth with use, like a pebble picked up from the banks of the Styx.
Heavier than expected but comfortable – but what is that terrible hunger?
Downer Canada – Ares (Power Moves Library) CD-r and digital album
Superb gritty tape huss.
Kev Power Moves is really pushing at the boundaries of what is possible in the world of Dictaphone composition right now. The limitations of micro-cassette have become their signature sound: that decaying roar, the wobble of thin magnetic particles and a mid-range fullness smeared like anchovies on hot toast. Kev takes each element and works it over with a purist’s conviction and a scientist’s ear for granular detail.
This two-piece disc starts and ends with some exquisite pause-button juggling that creates small movements of momentum in sweet binary on/off/on/off. A constant tape roar is a busy scuttle – half howling winds of Tuva: half teaspoon circling a rough raku bowl that’s punctuated with the occasional cavernous Dub sinkhole. This negative space punches through the mix like a hypodermic piercing tough skin injecting a rich blossom of carnation red.
This is the sound of the machine itself, not tape as a sound collection medium but tape as an instrument in its own right. And for roughly 20 minutes, that’s it. A confident and unfussy buffering as detailed as the dirty margin doodles in a High School Biology text book. Wonderful!
The second 20 minute piece leads us out of the inner world of Dictaphone mechanics and manipulates real-world sound (all taped of course): water, street noise and rubber-band plucks in a cascade of doppler infinity and shove-button interventions.
The clarity of the plucks decays into an echoing shimmer (Alvin Lucier style) that makes my ear bristles vibrate passionately. New taped-sound (footsteps, 3rd generation hiss) are introduced with care creating the gentle psychedelic effect induced when a loud sound is suddenly turned off and you can hear the oxygen atoms sigh with relief.
Increasing intense, complex and thoughtful music from the essential sound of Dictaphone Canada!
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.