…but the days grow short when you reach september

September 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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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)

LM

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.

LTjbw -ua

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.

SG

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.

TP - fragments

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.]

BL - diagram

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.

—ooOoo—

Luminous Monsters

LF Records

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

Taming Power (link to previous article with contact and price details)

Brian Lavelle

erotic polystyrene sigh: joe murray on mutual process, star turbine, sindre bjerga

September 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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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 bob

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.

turbine bob

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’.

fugue states

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.

—ooOoo—

Discombobulate

Invisible City Records

screaming party above invisible city: the swift by midwich reissued

May 13, 2015 at 9:34 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Midwich – The Swift (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR11, edition of 40 or download)

swift coverswift tape

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.

—ooOoo—

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…

—ooOoo—

Invisible City Records

invisible city records

April 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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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)

death register

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:

curwen - shunned house

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.

caisson - high rise

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.

death register

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.

The Will of Nin Girima - Two Cycles of Incantation - cover

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.

Black Thread - Autumn Flowers - cover

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.

only thing left to fear tape

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.

culver - abductress

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.

stratospheric

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.

roadside picnic

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.

…and finally:

drawings

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.)

—ooOoo—

Invisible City Records

all that is left: people-eaters, aetheric records and invisible city records

April 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (A5 chapbook, 16pp, with 3” CD-r mixtape, aetheric records)

people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (tape, Invisible City Records, edition of 30 or download)

only thing left to fear tape

people-eaters - fear 2

It amuses me to imagine aetheric records and Invisible City Records sharing premises. I picture a cross between the drawing room in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and the well-appointed lounge where William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki gathers his friends to hear tales of ghost-hunting. The more decadent staff members drape themselves over the chaise longues and, deep in a fug of laudanum and absinthe, lose themselves in painfully thin volumes of German poetry. The more scientifically minded look on disapprovingly and return to their geographical analysis of Eastern European folklore, or a heated exchange as to the properties of ectoplasm.

The pull-back-and-reveal (or ‘then I got off the bus’ moment – cheers Pete) in this scene occurs as the camera follows one of these chaps out of the main door and into… an anonymous, strip-lit corridor in a modern, faceless office building. What gives!? Well, despite my whimsical first paragraph I’d suggest both labels are solidly grounded in the present day and fully understand the ritual and psychological significance of the trappings they have chosen. Alistair of aetheric knows full well that his beloved photographs of spirit activity at Victorian séances are preposterous hoaxes, Craig of Invisible City knows full well that H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of fiction not a documentarian. Both can agree, with a shared wistful sigh, that there is simply no such thing as ‘cat people’ from the ‘old country’…

That said, the certainty that there are no tentacles under the bed is cold comfort. If these things don’t exist then the stories we tell about them are really attempts to explain unpalatable truths about ourselves and our place in an indifferent universe. In the absence of spirits and monsters all that is left is us, an infinity of nothing and the implications thereof. That is the only thing left to fear.

Which brings us through the woods to the album that ties the two labels together: The Only Thing Left to Fear by people-eaters. Released in two versions, on aetheric this comes as an A5 chapbook containing five poems, five automatic drawings and a 16 minute ‘mixtape’ on 3″ CD-r and on Invisible City it exists as a limited edition tape or download. You don’t get the chapbook with the latter but, beefed up with remixes, the amount of music included is more than doubled. Both editions are still available at the time of writing.

The poetry, written by Alistair using the pseudonym ‘slowthaw’, is grisly and bleak – part Baudelaire fever-dream, part Burroughs cut-up, all disgusted with the corporeal. It’s an uncomfortable read.  Some of you will appreciate that.  Regarding the artwork, I’m always tempted to ‘reverse engineer’ automatic drawing, to trace the lines with a fingernail or the tip of a pen and see what, if any, feelings fall out as a result. This time, appropriately enough, I got panicked – as if a spirit was trying to communicate something and getting increasingly frantic as it realised this ‘Ouija board’ had no letters on it, nor did the fleshy mechanism it had appropriated even believe in its existence.

Before accounting for the music, I should mention that all the creative aspects of this project are apparently inspired by the following quote:

Spirit sounds are usually of a peculiar character; they have an intensity and a character of their own, and, notwithstanding their great variety, can hardly be mistaken, so that they are not easily confused with common noises, such as the creaking of wood, the crackling of fire, or the ticking of a clock; spirit raps are clear and sharp, sometimes soft and light… (from The Medium’s Book by Allan Kardec published in 1861)

…as its influence is easier heard than seen. The quote is classic spiritualism – apparently saying something concrete and testable but, on examination, containing enough wiggle room to accommodate a salsa class. people-eaters play it straight, though (well, after an opening that samples a mindfulness meditation tape and thus returned me to early 90s ‘chill out’ ambient nonsense) and present a series of creaks, crackles and ticks drawn out with biomechanical rhythms for our appraisal. Anchor chains are cut and bows scrape against each other in a moonlit bay. Brass cogged difference engines strip oxidised gears. Parasitic organisms are hatched and scrabble at the walls of their red prison, the host animal oblivious.

Ghosts? We are asked. Monsters? Each time we have to look down and shake our heads: no, just us – just you, me and the fuckers on the other side of that bolted door.

Nothing else.

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

the texture of concrete: caisson’s new brutalism

October 30, 2014 at 11:01 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Caisson – High Rise (tape and A7 microzine, Invisible City Records, ICR02, edition of 20 or download)

caisson - high rise

Two releases old and Invisible City Records are already looking indispensable. The inaugural tape, Shunned House, from Lovecraft-inspired horror-drone outfit Joseph Curwen has been making dark, oily waves and will be accounted for by Comrade McKeating on this blog in due course. The second release, High Rise by Caisson, is a near-static, Culveresque, low-level roar with pit-of-stomach troubling bass that effortlessly maintains an atmosphere of unease over a mammoth 45 minutes. It is apparently inspired by JG Ballard, another favourite author of mine (base the third release on Philip K. Dick and ICR will complete the set…) and the harsh geometries of the concrete architecture in which his psychosexual dramas take place.

This tempted me into a little experiment. The campus on which I work – University of Leeds – contains some justly famous instances of Concrete Brutalism so yesterday lunchtime, whilst listening to this piece really fucking loud on my walkman, I strolled around taking pictures as the mood dictated. The harsh, low, unseasonably bright October sun was perfect – making everything seem even more alienating than usual. I listened to it again as I was picking and editing the best of these images and present this ‘photo-essay’ as my review. If a picture paints a thousand words then this is the longest article I have ever written…

100_3165100_3173100_3184100_3180100_3189100_3177100_3194100_3183100_3179100_3191100_3174100_3169100_3186100_3195100_3171

—ooOoo—

Invisible City Records

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